The Last Night

by Jenn (eating bender) on January 4, 2009

I can’t believe my winter break is over already! It’s times like these that I am envious of all of you who are on the semester system. My school has trimesters, so our winter breaks are always so much shorter! To top it off, this is probably my last winter break…ever. For those of you already out in the working world, what was it like the first time you realized you wouldn’t have more than a couple of days off around the holidays? I’m sure it’s going to take some getting used to!

Bittersweet Celebration


He looks pretty happy in this picture, doesn’t he? Last night we went to dinner to celebrate Papa Bender’s birthday! He doesn’t look a day over 25, right? πŸ˜‰ His birthday is actually on January 11, but I wanted to be a part of the celebration, so we got started a little early.

We went to our favorite Italian restaurant, Constantino’s. Unfortunately, the lighting was not conducive for food blogging, so I decided to make some of the pictures black and white to make them look a bit better. I’m switchin’ it up a bit! First off, we have the bread basket, which is incredible. My favorite is the sesame seed breadstick, so I immediately snagged 1/2 of one and spread it with some olive tapenade (the little blob on the plate).


We also ordered a bottle of red wine because Papa Bender loves it (if you couldn’t tell from my wine-filled nights over break). It was called La Montesa – superb. I thought this picture was worthy of color because the light from the candle captured the image better.


As an appetizer, we started out with the mussels and calamari. My brother is a big fan of the calamari so we let him rule there (it’s the plate in the background), but the rest of us are huge fans of the mussels (foreground), especially the wine sauce that they are served in. We saved a couple of pieces of bread for dipping!


As for my entree, I went the soup and salad route. I had a bowl of Parmesan Brodo which was basically a parmesan broth with Italian couscous on the bottom and herbs on top.


My salad was the Tricolore, which was served with romaine lettuce, blue cheese, kalamata olives and shrimp and topped with balsamic vinaigrette.


Then it was time for the main event – singing to my dad! There was even a guitarist there to play “Happy Birthday” and my dad was presented with a gorgeous plate of tiramisu, complete with a chocolate drizzled message…


Don’t worry, my dad’s name is Stephen, not Steph πŸ˜‰ The tiramisu was amazing! It’s one of my all-time favorite desserts, so it’s always a treat to have a bite (or 2, or 3, or 4) when we are out at a nice restaurant. Oh, and I may have had some of that chocolate drizzle, too! It was a great way to end my break while simultaneously celebrating my dad’s special day, which is exactly one week later!


Before the birthday festivities, my family and I squeezed in another morning golf round. I might have accidentally woken up 20 minutes before we needed to leave (darn alarm clock!), so my breakfast was really rushed. I made a mug of Coffee Cocoa and a slice of Arnold toast with peanut butter.


It was a bit chilly out there at first, but the clouds quickly cleared and we had another pleasant day on the course. Another bittersweet moment as I head back to the winter tundra also known as Chicago. After the round, we came back and made another easy lunch, starting with another plate of cheese and crackers (same as yesterday). Just like before, I stuck to the gouda and greyΓ©re cheeses with yummy tomato and cracked pepper Triscuits. I had about 8 or 9 crackers with cheese.


We also split a container of Costco’s Dim Sum (one of my favorite meals from Costco ever). I had two potstickers, two shrimp dumplings and three “clam” dumplings. The clam dumplings aren’t really seafood, but they look kind of like clams, so that’s what I’m calling them. There were also some peapods and leftover caprese salad on my plate, but I didn’t eat the caprese because it was a little off after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days.


The rest of the day was spent reading Breaking Dawn and exercising. My family and I went to the gym in the late afternoon and I did 20 minutes on the Cardio Wave, 20 minutes on the treadmill (alternating between 6.0, 6.5 and 7.0 in three-minute intervals at 1.5% incline) and a lunge workout – I’ll post the exact details on the Workouts page soon.

Random Question

Which shoe do you put on first?

I laughed when I found this question because it’s one of those things you never really think about until someone asks you. But after imagining myself putting on several different pairs of shoes, it seems I always start by putting my right foot in first. Do the Hokey Pokey!

I might be MIA for a day or so as I get settled back at school. But don’t worry, I’ll be back soon enough! I hope you all have a fabulous Sunday :)

1 VeggieGirl January 4, 2009 at 9:40 am


Hang in there with saying goodbye and flying back to school, girl!!

As for the question = I never think about it either (haha!!), but USUALLY the right shoe.

2 sweetandnatural January 4, 2009 at 9:51 am

Happy birthday to Papa Bender! Have a safe trip back to school Jenn!

3 Heather Eats Almond Butter January 4, 2009 at 10:01 am

Great black & white shots – great idea with the bad lighting! Your family seems so close, and I’m glad that you got in some golfing, good eats and gym time with them today. :) Papa Bender – Happy Early Birthday!

Ugh, I remember when it hit me that I would no longer have long breaks at Christmas and over the summer. My first year in the “real world” without a spring break was tough! Chris and I now try to schedule a vacation every year in March or April and call it our “Spring Break” Keeps us young. :)

Hmmm, shoes? I think I always put my right one on first…never thought about it. Funny.

4 jenngirl January 4, 2009 at 10:02 am

Wonderful farewell/birthday celebration Jenn! Happy early Birthday to Papa Bender!!

Good luck moving back to school and starting your final term!

I think I put on my right shoe first too! haha I love questions like that!

5 Andrea (Off Her Cork) January 4, 2009 at 10:11 am

You know, by the time I reached senior year of college I was ready to be done with school and start “life”. So I wasn’t really sad about being done, I wanted to get started already! LOL

I put on my right shoe first except if I am putting on my running shoes. Then I put my left on first. My right shoe sometimes makes my socks slide off, so I have to fiddle with it more, hence doing it last. πŸ˜€

6 Sarah January 4, 2009 at 10:17 am


dinner looks soooo good, mmmmmm.

i love this question! i couldn’t remember so i went and put on some shoes. i put on my left shoe first but i tie the right one first. weird, huh!

have a safe trip back to school!

7 K January 4, 2009 at 10:35 am

Ahh!! That soup sounds AMAZING!


I’m not sure which shoe I put on first – I think my left?! I’ve never noticed before haha

Have a safe trip back!!

8 marafaye January 4, 2009 at 10:56 am

Safe flight back!!!!
See, I’m a teacher, so even though I’m not in school anymore, I still get winter, spring, and summer break!!!!

9 carolinebee January 4, 2009 at 10:56 am

Gouda is my allll time fave cheese! My friend is Dutch so he has always has a stockpile πŸ˜€ Hmm..i think I do right first..i should switch it up! I heard somewhere (random) that doing stuff like brushing your teeth w/your left hand if you usually use right, could *possibly* prevent alzheimer’s?? Ha try it it’s hard!! πŸ˜€ Have fun back at school, omg your last semester will fly but you will have such a blast!

10 glidingcalm January 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

aww such deliciousness as always bender!!

cheese and crackers are my favvvvvvv..and im lovin that dim sum!!!

happy early birthday to Papa B!

and ugh, I don’t even want to think about starting school again! yikes!!!

have a safe flight back to Chicago!!!!

11 Marisa January 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

Thanks for stopping by my blog and for giving me your Coffee Cocoa recipe! I can’t wait to try it!

Great birthday celebration for your dad! The food looks amazing – even in black and white!

12 Erica January 4, 2009 at 11:16 am

That cake plate for your dad is just so cute! Love the drizzle message!

As far as not really having breaks in the working world, its sort of a give and take. For one thing, when I come home from work…I’m home- no homework (MOST of the time). This makes working feel easier than school. Not having long vacations does…well it sucks but its nice to be an “adult”. Make real money, have your own place, make your own decisions! Makes you feel very accomplished.

Enjoy your last little bit at home!

13 Ricki January 4, 2009 at 11:25 am

Happy Birthday to your Papa! Looks as if you had a wonderful celebration. As to you last day of break. . . don’t worry about the working world. It totally depends on the job you have–my hubby’s office gave everyone time off between Xmas and New Year’s because they were so close together, and then the weekend after new year’s added up to an entire week off!

14 Shelby January 4, 2009 at 11:31 am

Happy Birthday to your Dad! It looks like you had such a great time!

For the breaks…I’m dreading going back to school tomorrow! Eww, plus I have this huge project to do tonight.

I think I always put on my right shoe…but I could be wrong. haha I’ve never thought about it. I love these random questions!

15 Mel January 4, 2009 at 11:52 am

Your dad’s birthday dinner looks awesome! I love me some italian food.

As for your question, I always put my right show on first.

16 elise January 4, 2009 at 11:56 am

happy bday. im a pretty consistent reader, but i had to comment on the holiday time off. this was my first year not being in school, and since i am a nurse, we obviously still have to work on holidays. enjoy it now. this year was rough, since i am new, i had to work the 24, 25, 26, and the 1st…i managed to fly home for the few days in between, but it was not the same huge relaxing break i was used to

anyways, i love your blog, i enjoy getting ideas from your daily eats all the time. keep it up!!

17 Raspberry Runner January 4, 2009 at 12:01 pm

You actually caught me with that question right as I was trying to stop reading blogs and put on my running shoes….and the right one goes first!
That looks like an incredible dinner you had!

18 sarahannmatheny January 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I always put Leftie on first, not sure why!

You were cracking me up with the “Steph” thing. My husband’s name appears as “Christophe” on our insurance card(he’s Christopher, really), so the doctor’s office always asks if that is his name! Uh, yeah, he’s French! πŸ˜‰

Hope you get back into the swing of school quickly!

19 Eliza January 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I’m on a trimester system too…ahh! i really don’t like it. the vacation has been so much fun!

its actually funny to think about the shoes–i always put on my right one first…

20 Kelly Turner January 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm

everything looks so great!

I cant get into tiramisu- im not a big fan. but those mussels look delish!

Kelly Turner

21 Marianne January 4, 2009 at 12:40 pm

It’s not so bad being a grown up and not having long breaks. Like someone else said, once you are done work, you go home, and that’s it – no homework, you have your own time. Plus depending on where you work, you may have more flexible schedules or the opportunity to take extended periods of time off (I took all of June off to travel for a month). And you can decide when you take your time off at any time of the year!

22 Rose January 4, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Aw, so glad you got spend time with Papa Bender on his birthday. The dinner out looks great!

Good luck getting settled back into school!

23 Kristie January 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm

I can’t believe the break is almost over either. WAY too fast. I also can’t believe you’re almost finished though. What a scary thought eh? I still have a couple years to go so I’m not even thinking about transitioning into the working world yet but by the way time moves so darn fast, it’ll be here before I know it. Ack!

Happy (early) Papa Bender birthday! What a nice night spending it all together. His dessert is beeeeautiful.

As for shoes, I honestly don’t know! Pretty sure it’s mostly the right foot first but I’m also pretty sure it switches up sometimes. Next time I’m going to pay special attention to it though haha

24 Sharon January 4, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Wow, what a delicious time you had~
Tasty eats and great celebration together!

As for shoes, I have no idea!

25 Krista January 4, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Ha! Now that I think about it, I put my left shoe on first. Weird, because I’m right handed.

Tiramisu is my fave dessert, also!

26 Fit Bottomed Girls January 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Happy birthday Papa Bender! I love the black and white photos too. Very chic. πŸ˜‰

27 Quinn January 4, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Dim Sum AND Triscuites with cheese = my favorite party plate. Happy Birthday to Papa Bender!

28 Lindsay January 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm

happy bday to your dad! it looks like you had an awesome time at dinner – i love tiramisu as well :)

yeah it’s definitely no where near as exciting when summer or holidays come in the working world… in school i used to get so excited for breaks, now we get JUST the holiday off, but it has its advantages regarding vacation time… this year i simulated my own holiday break by taking the two weeks off using vacation time :)

29 Aimee January 4, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Good luck going back to school! Stay warm!

30 Hangry Pants January 4, 2009 at 9:27 pm

“what was it like the first time you realized you wouldn’t have more than a couple of days off around the holidays?”

I am not going to lie. It’s absolutely horrible.

Happy early Birthday Pappa Bender.

I don’t put on my shoes in a specific way.

31 Heather January 4, 2009 at 10:09 pm

1) Lucky for you, this week in Chicago it’s supposed to be in the 20s! Heat wave! (saaaaarrrcasm) :-)
2) I think this year was the I first realized that winter break was no longer really a break but a long weekend (I graduated in spring 2007). Last year I was able to work from home so I was back in Michigan for over a week. This year I work for a new company was barely home 4 days! (which was actually fine because my parents were driving me nuts.) You get used to it though…and there are some perks to having a job over being in school. However, I miss being in school like crazy so I won’t lie and tell you it’s all roses! Enjoy this last bit of senior year as much as you can!!!

32 Caroline January 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Ugh–I go back to school tomorrow too, and we’re ON the semester system! Oh well, at least I get a super long summer:) I remember one of the first things my sister complained about once she entered the working world was not having weeks off for Christmas (she shares my love of Christmas!). I will be savoring next year’s break, for sure.

It looks like you had a fabulous celebration with your dad. Happy Birthday to Papa Bender!

33 bobbi January 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm

mmm love the black and white food:) Man I guess I put the right on first I ll have to get back to you tomorrow on that.

34 Amanda January 5, 2009 at 1:29 am

Oh, definitely the right shoe. But I’m right-handed. Probably has something to do with it.

Midnight Sun — have you read it? I know I’m ruining my future reading of the published/finished novel, but it’ll be interesting to see how it develops from draft to finish.

35 lauren January 5, 2009 at 9:11 am

i dont think i even know what shoe i put on first – will have to pay attention next time. ha.

have fun getting back to school and enjoy those breaks. life in the real world is no fun with days off – summertime is the worst.

36 Marisa January 5, 2009 at 9:14 am

jenn- I tried your Coffee Cocoa this morning. mmm…mmmm! Thanks so much for the recipe!

37 Erin January 5, 2009 at 9:48 am

Happy birthday Steph! ;D Your dad’s face makes my heart melt. He just looks like such a sweet cutie patoot. Him and your brother! Heartbreakers. :)
HA! I think I put the right shoe on. Yup, I do. Is it because I’m right handed?!

38 HeatherBakes January 5, 2009 at 11:00 am

Happy birthday to your dad!!!

Did I tell you that I hit up Costco when we were in SC specifically to find that dim sum you’d blogged about? They didn’t have it :( Booooo.

Good luck back at school! So do you have even trimesters? We used to have 2 twelve-week terms (fall & winter) and a 6 week mini spring term.

39 runjess January 5, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I put on my left shoe first.

Looking over your past few blog posts…your family eats so well! You must come from a great tradition of appreciating cooking and food. That’s great! I’m jealous, having come from a tradition of frozen lasagna myself. πŸ˜‰

40 Maggie January 5, 2009 at 7:43 pm

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to no breaks! It majorly stinks! I had to take 4 vacation days just to visit my family over the holidays :(

I alternate which foot goes in first. Yes, I’m a bit OCD about it.

41 Brittany January 5, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Happy Birthday to PAPA Bender!! I really want to try the dim sum from Costco – I’ll have to check for it next time I go to the mad house.. aka Costco. For some reason mine is always sooo busy with such long lines.

42 Foodie (Fab and Delicious Food) January 7, 2009 at 1:26 am

Happy Birthday to your dad!

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