Monday, March 31, 2008

Am I hallucinating? Heidi a "feminist hero?"

I thought that I would have nothing to report on tonight - until I read on Us Weekly's site that someone at the New York Times called Heidi from the Hills a feminist hero. I thought I was drunk or hallucinating when I read that. That has to be a misprint but sadly it's not.

Heidi is many things, such as a poster-child for boob jobs, too much mascara, bee-stung lips and slutty clothing. All of those things come to mind when I think of her. But feminist hero, somehow that seems like a a long shot.

The paper applauds Heidi for kicking Spencer to the curb (of course we know is not true because they're back together) and for climbing to a bigger position at work (which she is absolutely not qualified for and likely got because of the MTV cameras). And for anyone who watches the show regularly, you're not really "moving on" from the guy if you keep talking about him to anyone who will listen. But the real part of the article that caught my eye is that they applauds her for doing all this and "getting herself home on time." Is that something that a 20-something year old woman needs to be commended for? I'm pretty sure anyone who is at least slightly responsible and coherent can handle that.

But this has gotten me to think that I'm a feminist hero too! I mean, according to this article, I've done the following things that they've called out "fake boobs" Montag for achieving: kicked a guy to the curb (yes it's been awhile but I've done it), moved up at work and I get myself home on time every night. Phew, that last one is tough though, trust me. Getting on the CTA bus, scanning my card and watching for my stop while successfully exiting the bus - that is such a challenge day in and out. It's hard to be me - superhero me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Party time!

Last night the full Chicago Team Hamster group (Liz, Mike, Ryan and me) went out to celebrate Liz's belated birthday at Tarascas on Wrightwood and Broadway.

First off, it took about an hour for me to decide what to wear and then when I was ready on time, my counterpart Ryan was pokey, thus making us 30 minutes late. We were the last to arrive and Liz was already halfway into her jumbo margarita with an umbrella. Ouch.

Tarascas boasts a certain charm, such as being crushed in the restaurant like sardines, sitting on cheap, plastic lawn chairs and viewing a wall-sized mural of a topless woman with six-pack abs. But with a pitcher of margaritas on the rocks between Ryan and me, it is all irrelevant.

As a note, when ordering your margarita pitcher, don't ask for the house tequila - ours had a "gamey" taste that makes you wonder if you're actually drinking rubbing alcohol. But after the first round, that is irrelevant too. Also, my chicken enchiladas were awesome and Liz's birthday flan wasn't bad either, although it did look a lot like cheesecake at first.

Once I crawled over the table to get out, rubbing my butt awkwardly against the people crushed next to us, we headed into the bitter cold to Mickey's, who decided to "class" up their plastic tent with a $5 cover. No thanks. So after walking by a Starbucks, where the intoxicated version of me saw a woman working on a white Macbook (my baby) I yelled at the woman through the window that I loved her computer. She seemed scared, but then it was off to the Tin Lizzie.

There we were treated to another sign of spring - the first slutty summer top with tacky plastic bra straps! Three women came in for a champagne cocktail and preceded to begin gyrating their hips and swinging their arms in the air to Kayne and Justin Timberlake at the bar. They might have been confused that it's a bar and not a dance club. Ryan and Mike were quite surprised yet hypnotized by this, but nothing tops Mike turning back to us while the girls were having a hip-swiveling seizure and saying, "wow those girls have to be so high on coke." Love this guy.

Another night out in the city and another day of waking up with a "sock-like" tongue and a wicked headache. Unfortunately, during my margarita haze, I slipped to the group what my Macbook's name is. So while they know, everyone else will have to wait until I see her next weekend.

Friday, March 28, 2008

(Late) Top Chef recap

Top Chef Week 3: Hangin' in the Chicago 'hoods

So the Lincoln Park Zoo ate Valerie alive last week. Time to kick the carcass to the side and put the group on the chopping block again.

Quickfire Challenge: Classing up the taco
First off, if I was at an upscale restaurant, I sure as hell would pick a fillet over taco. No matter what.

So Rick Bayless from Frontera Grill and Topolobampo (?) is the guest judge and his face appears to be pulled tighter than a sheet which I notice while watching him look visibly nervous on camera and while Andrew looks like he's having a seizure with the other contestants. Rick is sounding like he's going through puberty as he talks about serving "tacos with a twist!" in his fine dining restaurants. I thought your voice was supposed to drop when you're in your teens. Plus he handles his silverware like a girl, no offense.

Manuel suddenly became very Latin with his inflection - but the cactus leaf was a great touch. Too bad Robert's jicama shell (also genius) kicked his ass. Spike was keeping it "old school" with his food and K-Fed impression, rocking the fedora like a pimp while Mark is scratching his head like an ape thinking "what's these crazy Americans up to now?" And yet again, Erik looks like he's covered his food in poop (see week 1 and 2). If that plate came out to my table, I would send it back, even if it was free.

Elimination Challenge: Catering a block party (what neighborhood were they in?)
So it's a pantry-raid this time, where two teams have to cater a block party with food only from the neighbors kitchens.

Blue team mutters like they're challenged and Andrew is confused because he's acting like Borat.
Erik's corn dogs still have a poop-like presentation (on a stick!) but the smore bites on a stick and the kabobs looked really good. At the block party, Rick Bayless is back and he looks like he's enjoying his opportunity to "slum" it outside of River North or the Gold Coast to mix with "real people" but with a very cosmopolitan shirt.

In the end, the blue team won, by a narrow margin and Andrew, who still appears to still be having a seizure, is sassy at Judges Table, along with Spike (K-Fed). But Erik went home because of his limp corn dogs and I have to agree that he should go because he works with corn dogs at his restaurant and he should have known better.

Next week, Ryan is still hot, Richard Roeper is on and Andrew thinks he's Toulouse Lautrec this time.

No I don't want to see the label:
So in this season the blatant branding is driving me insane. Maybe I'm more sensitive to it because I work in communications but if I have to see the GE Monogram logo ONE MORE TIME as they're cooking or the Hill Valley Ranch dressing that "magically" is in the fridge and gets a flavor mention on camera or the Barilla pasta, Velveeta (which looked horribly unappetizing) and Kingsford charcoal - I might scream. Hey during Judges Panel the contestants were relaxing with Michelob, I hope they remembered to name-drop it or get a good shot of the label so Anheuser-Busch gets it's full ad value.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Big scary me

Tonight an older woman who emigrated from the Soviet Union (during the "not-so-fun" time) told me that she is afraid of me. And it made me feel like a total bitch.

Since I've moved in to the condo that I rent, I've had an issue with the woman who lives above me, specifically the television on at all hours of the day and night - loudly. So after some complaints to the condo board we end up at a noise complaint hearing, which I was not looking forward to. While I can present a good case, I'm not the best at confrontation.

The meeting started out fine until Natasha (who I will refer to this woman as) came down with her Russian sister-in-law and started in on me and the board. Rambling on...and on...and on...and on. And while I was trying to pay attention and our audience started gathering, I somehow ended up with three old women ganging up on me, telling me that this was my fault and I didn't know what I was talking about. After a lot of chasing around and me wishing that I could have a cigarette (I don't smoke) or drink, we came to some kind of a negotiation, even though I still felt like I got the short-end of the stick.

So when the head of the condo board asked Natasha a question about me, she said that she is afraid of me - a petite girl from Wisconsin. Apparently I'm worse than the Cold War and communist Russia. That actually scares me a bit.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Update: Bridesmaid invite done by mass e-mail

In February, I posted that a friend of mine was invited to take part in her close friend's wedding by mass e-mail. The e-mail also informed the five potential bridesmaids that one of them would be selected at a later date to be the maid of honor. Since many of you shared in my horror about this story, I'm pleased to say that I have an update.

My friend informed me tonight that she, unfortunately, did not make the "maid of honor - Survivor" cut. This did not surprise or disappoint her, but apparently the bride-to-be did not get a good reaction from the way she asked these women to be part of her wedding, so she recently made the "I'm sorry I asked you to be in my wedding by mass e-mail" tour around the city to personally ask each of them to take part. Apparently though, for the bridesmaid who was chosen to be the maid of honor, it was too late. She turned the "role" down, and honestly, I don't blame her. So now one of these remaining girls will be asked as a sloppy second.

It appears as though the wedding, which will be held next year, is going with a 50s Hollywood theme, including satin, pearls, French twists and Audrey Hepburn glamour. From the few times I've met this woman, I'm sure there will be a good amount of "50s Hollywood gawdy" that will be thrown in too.

My poor friend also received, with her verbal bridesmaid invite, a list of what she will be required to wear and get for the wedding, including the following:
  • #2 MAC faux eyelashes
  • Her hair in a Breakfast at Tiffany's twist, with bump on the crown of the head
  • A "delicate" pale pink dress that is knee-length and with a huge bow in the back
  • White satin shoes and matching purse

She had more to add but I couldn't write it all down fast enough because I was laughing too hard.

Another portion of this story consisted of the bride-to-be refusing to speak with her divorced parents because they informed her that they cannot pay for part of her "deal" wedding. When they told her that their financial situation didn't allow them to help pay for it, she became enraged with them because "they've had 30 years to save for this." While it doesn't surprise me that she reacted this way, it did irritate me that she was so selfish about this.

Trust me, when you grow up with not a lot of money, you learn not to expect anything and to be grateful for what you are offered. I think the issue really is that she expected them to pay for this and found out that wouldn't be the case. And we all know what happens when you ass-u-me things.

If I get married, I have no expectations that my parents will help pay for it. Of course, if they could offer some help, that would be great, but honestly I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What to do when you see a co-worker naked at the gym

First - don't panic

Second - only make eye matter what

I go to a gym near my office, where I'm fortunate enough to have a corporate discount. So from time-to-time, I go into the gym after work and without paying attention, walk into a row of lockers and I'm greeted with the sight of a woman I work with who is buck naked getting ready to work out.

Now it would be rude to gasp and walk away so if I've committed to the row of lockers with my naked co-worker, I tend to offer a smile (so it's not awkward) and do not engage in conversation. Sometimes, if I know the person well, we'll engage in small talk while keeping our backs to one another (like in gym class), otherwise we do not acknowledge each other at all and play dumb.

Of course it's a little odd the next day, when I run into them in the lobby while getting water or in the kitchen because I can't help but think, "huh, I saw her naked yesterday, " and then go on with my day. As I said, this doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's always an interesting experience.

Monday, March 24, 2008

More things I don't understand

I've resigned myself to that fact that while I am smart, there are things that I will never understand.

One of the things I never understand is why women "settle" for the bad relationship and/or why some of my friends who are in these bad relationships, choose to stay in them.

I bring this up because an old college friend and I were catching up on AIM when she announced that she and her ex-fiance are dating again - and I was so mad I nearly screamed out loud in my apartment. My friend is smart and funny with a great personality and the thought of her being back with this loser guy who emotionally abuses her and makes her pay for everything makes me ill. It's only a matter of time now until I get a wedding invite and I don't know what I"ll do if that happens.

I believe that people can genuinely change, but somehow, I don't think this guy has. I think he and my friend both want to be with someone so badly that they can forgive certain aspects of their personalities so that they can manage each other daily. Personally, I would never go back to a guy who called me a "f*cking bitch" or "whore" to my face or in front of my parents. My dad would kill him if he did and then me for staying with him.

In high school, I saw my friend date a loser guy, who had no future or goals (outside of smoking weed), and she ultimately got pregnant by him and was beaten by him in front of her mother (who was waiting in the car). My friends and I begged her to leave him and she didn't, which is how she ended up pregnant and with no financial support. I've been fortunate that guys I've dated never have raised a hand to me - and I would pity them if they did.

So while I sometimes lament being single, I realize that it could always be worse. I've dated a few guys who were not always that nice to me, including one who made me feel like I was ugly and that everything I did was wrong. But then that ended and while the break-up was excruciatingly painful, I eventually moved on.

And now, after hearing this news from my friend, I still declare that I would rather be single forever than unhappy in a relationship with someone who doesn't realize how fabulous I am :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What did I learn this weekend?

Thank goodness - I'm finally back in Chicago. I never thought that I would be so happy to see the city, even if it's blanketed in snow. Of course, my bag from Atlanta did not arrive on the plane that I was on this morning, instead it arrived about 45 minutes later on another flight and was totally covered in snow and dirt. Why would things end on a positive note??

So while napping in the cab and doing nothing other than balancing my checkbook and laying on the couch all day, I've reflected on the last 72 hours and compiled a list of the things I've learned from this experience.

What I've learned (March 20-22):
  • Always trust your gut - even if what it's telling you to do isn't all that appealing at the time
  • Never check a bag at the airport, especially if you're only going to be gone for 48 hours
  • Stop being so vain - leave some of the makeup stuff at home - no one will judge you
  • Continue to resist the urge to tell an airport worker, who claims "I'm incapable of understanding" an answer to her question, where the f*ck to shove that question
  • Even when everything is going wrong, there will be one nice person who will take pity on you and help out
  • Realizing that certain things are out of your control is hard, but once you realize that, it's a lot easier to handle
  • Finally, I am way too old to wear PINK from Victoria's Secret

I know the last bullet is a bit crazy, but I was tortured at the gate this morning by "college spring break" preppie sorority girls, who were decked out in PINK and Lily Pulitzer colors while eating bagels and cream cheese (which they didn't skimp on applying to the bagel) while talking about how "fat" they are, starting all of their conversations with "you will never believe...." and laughing and eating in unison. Kill me. Fortunately they were not on my flight, but rather I was treated to about five members of the Wisconsin baseball team.

Hel-lo boys. Who wants to help a girl carry her bags?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Where's Jess now? Hint: It's not the Midwest

Hey y'all. Yes, I'm keeping my Southern drawl for one more day. Why? Because I'm in Atlanta, instead of Wisconsin, and no this was not by choice.

After another bright and early start today (4:30 a.m. this time). The horrible snow in the Midwest, especially in Illinois and Wisconsin, has stranded me in Atlanta and made me feel like a horrible mother. I say this because my Macbook is still in Wisconsin - where I will not be going now this weekend. Now my baby girl and I won't be together for two weeks. Tear. I was so looking forward to that. I had a name picked out for her and everything!

See below for the full explanation of how I got here (to the airport Sheraton). It's an interesting read.

The saga of how I ended up stuck in Atlanta
By: Jessica

This morning started off great. I blissfully flew from Pensacola to Hot-lanta, and even arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule! Beautiful! Then dad starts calling with weather updates and that the weather in Wisconsin is really not good, but the airport gate manager assures me that we'll be able to take off and land. More beautiful! Then we board the plane, even though I'm sitting across from this woman with two devil children and am beginning to relax...until the pilot tell us that conditions in Wisconsin no longer allow us to fly right now. So we're delayed about 1.5 hours, no biggie. I work a bit, do some's all good.

Then comes the announcement - our flight has been cancelled. Panicking, everyone runs over to the ticketing booth to reschedule and I call dad in a panic. After a mild fight, resulting in me hanging up on him, I get on the first flight they can confirm me for...tomorrow, but hey I can get my bag back so it's okay. I now head over to the baggage area to claim my bag and I find out that the bag will not be pulled for the claim because it's still headed to Wisconsin on a later flight. Much fighting, name calling and arguing start and I finally start to have a minor meltdown. After about three hours of back-and-forth (including some woman telling me that I am not capable of understanding the full answer to a question, which is why she is giving me the "PR" answer), I get a hotel reservation for overnight and resign myself to the fact that a) I'm spending Easter alone in my apartment and b) I will not get my computer this weekend, but rather in two weeks when I go home for a wedding shower. So now I start to cry (from exhaustion and disappointment) and take one last look for my a fleeting hope that something will go right. And to my horror (pleasant horror) I see it standing next to a security guard. I scream and claim it, with her providing me helpful directions to the hotel shuttle area. I would have given her an awkward hug if I could have then.

So I checked in at the hotel (painless) and a nice man carried my luggage upstairs. Suddenly the tummy starts rumbling so it's room service and then a traditional "lay down" because now I may as well force myself to stay awake. Whatever I did to deserve this...I'm sorry. It takes a lot for me to say that.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Welcome to Pensacola!

Yes, Everyday Adventures is live in Pensacola, Fla. tonight and ready for bed! The cab pick-up at 4:30 a.m. was painful but fortunately the flights down here were painless. At O’Hare, I was sitting far enough forward in the plane that I could see the baggage handlers putting the luggage on the plane. Anxiously waiting for mine, I smiled when I saw her getting ready to be loaded on the conveyor belt, until an angry worker got frustrated with her and slammed her on the belt, cursing and looking at it as though the suitcase had Anthrax. Shocked, I tapped on the window and pointed menacingly at him. That is a TravelPro suitcase jackass, don’t be so mean to it! Just because you hate your job don’t take it out on me!

Then, on my flight from Memphis to Pensacola, which was on a “regional” plane (which means its private jet size), I was LOVING that I sat in the front row, (because there is no “first class”) until Brandi, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted to demonstrate to the other passengers how to use the oxygen mask. Mildly stunned for a second, I said no because I have been fortunate enough not to have to use it just yet. She laughed but later as we descended on Pensacola, we flew right over the water and for a second, I thought I would end up like the survivors on Lost and hopefully would not be recruited to be an Other.

Then, I have been reminded today why I love to drive and why I don’t drive while living in Chicago. Fortunately, I did not run a Stop sign or a red light again, but rather I got ridiculously lost twice because of the Garmin that Budget gave me. I love Garmin but this evil little devil took me so far out of the way to my work function that I was screaming in the car for people to “go, go, go faster!!!” Fortunately, I arrived on time but the Garmin decided that it wasn’t done punishing me yet because after the function I got lost again because of it. Bastard. And it was judging me when I couldn’t make a turn in time because it was “recalculating.” If I would not be charted $499 for damage to it, I would have tossed that Garmin into the ocean. Fortunately, after some angry Twitter-ing, I am preparing to work from the hotel a bit while I mentally prep to return to the Midwest tomorrow, where I hear we’re supposed to get snow. Huh. If I’m trapped in Atlanta, watch on the news for stories about a crazy woman freaking out at the airport there. I might need a stiff drink…before noon!

Attached are some pictures of my hotel room. Ordering dinner tonight was a challenge, considering the hotel doesn’t have room service and no one around here delivers. Bastards. First the Garmin, now room service. Time to pack it in and call it a day. Later y’all!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Top Chef, CVS going high end and very not happy

Top Chef: Week 2 - bring the flavor!
So it's week two of this show in Chi-town and now that whiny Nimma is gone, let's see who is next to go!

Quickfire Challenge: Green City Market (yay) - recipes with only 5 ingredients
Great challenge. First off, I used to live near Green City Market so I had a mini joy-gasim at the though that Top Chef was near where I used to live. And what was up with Mark being all up in the vendors grill? Lamb? This isn't Whole Foods, and digging in the vendors stuff, not proper etiquette.

My winner was Ryan, with the steak, potatoes and greens. Classic and solid choice. Oh and Andrew adding another ingredient? Ew someone wasn't paying attention. But that guy is funny and game for anything so good for him!

In the end, Mark was the final winner, which kind of surprised me. Honestly Ryan was my guy :)

Elimination Challenge: Catering a cocktail party of 200 at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Wow we're spending this entire episode in Lincoln Park. Maybe Lakeview next time? At least they shop in my hood, something is better than nothing, but we all know a episode at Wrigley Field is inevitable too.

Ouch and Lisa slipped too in the produce department. Lawsuit! Sue! Nikki whining about table decor was a good call, even if her eyebrows are plucked within an inch of their life.

Very interesting presentation by Team Lion too, everything in the main part of the spoon. Very different and easy to eat in a party. Mark's anchovies was also a bold choice, ballsy! By the tone of the music, you could tell that Team Gorilla was in trouble but the contestants this year are good about pulling dishes that won't work rather than serve them anyhow. The banana bread from that team did look awesome though, made me want some.

In the end, Andrew won, which made me happy. I would not eat his dish but it was creative and honestly that guy is just too hilarious to vote off now. And unfortunately Valerie had to go because of her soggy, ill-prepared dish. I thought Nikki would go, especially when she wore the freaky glasses to panel.

CVS going high end?
Tonight while entering the CVS on Michigan, I noticed a sign on the revolving door that says that CVS now carries Bumble & Bumble products, which caught me as a surprise. Somehow I don't see CVS and Bumble & Bumble together, especially when B&B starts at $25 a pop. Getting my Coconut shampoo with corn nuts? As convenient as it is, I'll stick with getting it at the salon, where it's tax-free! Wee!

Dead to me
I'm ashamed to say that I have a quirk that is very unattractive. Fortunately it's not a drug habit, but actually I can be very judgemental to the point where items I buy can be considered "dead to me." This means when I buy something, like a shirt, I won't buy it if it has a "pull" in the fabric, discolor or spots. When I buy a handbag, I inspect it like an airport screener to make sure there are no "nicks" or wear on the leather or suede. It's a nasty habit but I'm trying to ease up a bit on it.

So my dad told me tonight that my computer arrived via Fed Ex and he split open the box to make sure it was in there. Fortunately he didn't take out the computer (and I might have been short tempered at this point) but I flew into a rage about him opening it before me, especially considering I paid for it. So I told him that before I arrive home on Friday that the box has to be resealed (yes even though the computer was not touched) and it had to look like it wasn't opened at all. It still irks me tonight but I'll just try to wipe that comment from my memory. My computer, which I love already, has a flicker of "deadness" to me. So sad.

Finally...Everyday Adventures is hitting the road again! Yes tomorrow I'm flying to Pensacola for a work trip so watch for a thrilling entry from my hotel room tomorrow night. Oh my fingers are crossed for a good story.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Unrealistic relationship expectations thanks to Disney

First off, happy birthday to my buddy Liz. I dedicate this post to you birthday girl! In fact, you were the inspiration for it.

Tonight after work I went to Borders, wrestled past some tourists and grabbed the third-last widescreen edition of Enchanted. Yes, I am in my 20s and I bought a Disney half-animation film. But as "dead inside" as I may be, I am still a hopeless romantic who swoons at fairy tales. See my previous post about Jane Austen movies, that should have been a hint.

Who could resist the thought of Prince Charming riding up on a horse to rescue you or falling madly in love with someone in one glance and give up everything to be with him. And the fashion! I'm not a fairy-tale hoop skirt kind of girl but there's something about ballroom dancing in a big dress, holding up the hem as you glide around a dance floor that sounds romantic.

Yeah, then I wake up, I'm in my 20s and I have unrealistic relationship expectations because of the crap Disney put in my head as a kid. What Jaws did for the water, Disney did for relationships.

Now it's not all of Disney's fault. I'm a dreamer, I'm a romantic, so I eat this stuff up like a cat does milk. In fact, when Liz and I saw Enchanted on our "friend date" aka "frate" at Christmas, we both laughed so hard at the animation and Amy Adam's brilliant live-action interpretation that it was Liz who said Disney gives women of our generation unrealistic relationship expectations, which got me thinking, and made the mom in front of us cover her daughter's ears.

I guess I choose to be single, but as multiple other friends have commented, I have "high expectations" for a guy that I would consider dating. I don't consider having a job and no criminal record "high expectations," but part of me still looks for my own Prince Charming, who might not ride up on a horse (maybe in a cab or Vespa instead?) or rescue me from an evil witch (maybe just a woman who threatened to beat me up in front of CVS?) and maybe the ball gown isn't overly realistic either (although I am a bridesmaid in May so I have a floor-length dress) but part of me still hopes for the fairy tale, which is probably why I am still single. And part of my problem might be that as I get older, the hope stays around while the reality sorely evolves.

But maybe fairy tales aren't all bad. I have to admit, having a great voice to sing on tune at a given moment and having animal "helpers" to clean my apartment would be awesome. And if they can cook, I would be more than content with just that.

So in the end, Disney might be partially to blame, but it's still nice to indulge that side of me once in awhile. Maybe Disney didn't directly cause my singledom but it sure gave me some ideas that turned out to be a bit of a letdown in real life.
However, Enchanted did open my eyes to the hotness knows as McDreamy. I do not like him on Grey's but somehow in this he was downright ador-able!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The cute picture of the day

So I think it's time to change my contacts because I have been having these horrible headaches all day. They are awful and they make work a bit more challenging.

But, I cruised by Cute Overload's Web site today to see if they have any more bunny pictures that I can privately gush at from the privacy of my desk. On another pet-related note, Ryan mentioned this weekend that I should have a cat to help me be "not as dead inside," but then he realized the cat would serve more as an "evil henchman" for me, as I stand in the window of my apartment laughing menacingly and stroking the cat like a haired-Mr. Bigglesworth.

Anyhow, I don't care for cats and dogs aren't practical for my work schedule in the city so I find my pet-joy in bunnies. The cutest-wittle-things ever! Included for your pet-joyment today is a classic bunny picture from Cute Overload, one that makes me gush every time I see it. I just want to pick it up and hug it and kiss it and love it forever! Enjoy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chicago, St. Paddy's style, and Top Chef!

St. Patrick's Day celebrations. My first year in Chicago, dad and I stumbled upon the river dyeing by accident, and now it's another yearly tradition for me, much like the Michigan Avenue tree lighting. Nothing says St. Patrick's Day like Starbucks, being up very early on Saturday morning and seeing a lot of green downtown.

It's also funny to see the "commercialization" of the event as well. When I first went to the river dyeing, Jameson was not a sponsor of it and the Jameson "brand ambassadors" were not walking around giving still flags for attendees with the company's logo. Who knows what will happen next year? Maybe Guinness will get in on the action and do sampling!

This is a 40-year plus tradition in the city and every year, I go and love it, just like a tourist. There's something about watching the crowds, which grow every year, file downtown to watch the murky green river turn the color of day-glo green. The people-watching is great too. Yesterday two people on milk crates were taking up a lot of space to "frame" up a shot of their Lord of the Rings books against the green river. Interesting. Fortunately, when they weren't paying attention, I kicked one of the milk crates out of the way so I could sneak up to the front. I had to shove a little kid a bit too, but he's fine, toughen up!

Top Chef Chicago!
Top Chef is one of my favorite shows. Ceviche, fennel and shallots, oh my! Before this show, I never knew about "layering" flavors and honestly I only know about 10 percent of the time what they're talking about, but damn does it sound good. And this time they're in Chicago!

Quickfire Challenge: Chicago deep-dish pizza
Not a bad first challenge, bit predictable though.

My faves for this challenge: Richard with the peaches on the pizza, genius, and Ryan with the butternut squash. Very interesting choices and both looked great.

I was surprised to see some chefs struggle with the dough and how much to put in their pans. Nikki's looked beyond awful and was about 95 percent dough, same with Andrew, but he's hilarious so I'll forgive him. Nimma also struggled, not only with being unable to mention all of the mushrooms in her dish, but her confidence and presentation were greatly lacking.

Even chefs who don't "make deep-dish" frequently, I'm sure they've worked with dough before and should have known better about how much it will rise.

Elimination Challenge: Dish-off
Genius first challenge, make chefs cook their interpretation of a classic dish against one another and the judges pick which is the best, in front of the chefs, and the winner is safe, while the other is up for elimination.

Tough guest judges too, Anthony Bourdain and Rocco DiSpirito (tool) , so the criticism is extra honest and harsh. To me, Stephanie's duck spring rolls for the reinvention of duck a l'orange looked beyond nummy while Nimma (again) failed in her overall presentation of shrimp scampi and Erik's cheese souffle with some awful brown sauce on the plate (which looked like scraped poop) did not look appetizing or get high marks at all. Ick.

In the end, Nimma was voted off because of her awful dishes. Honestly, she was kind of a whiner and a Debbie-Downer so no loss there. But my eye is on Andrew, who not only works at Le Cirque in New York, but also swears like a trucker. He's funny.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It's hard

So word of my promotion has spread within my group of friends and last night, a few members of Team Hamster and I went out to! And I was ready for it.

Pre-partying with wine (2 bottles between three people) and trail mix lead to a four-hour rally at a tapas restaurant in East Lakeview. Arco de Cuchilleros on Halsted received good reviews on Yelp so we headed over, pretty buzzed and lookin' for food.

Ryan tried to convince me and Liz that somehow I should pay for dinner because I got a raise, but that was quickly shot down. No thanks. All I wanted was sangria, which we managed to finish two pitchers of (with me rallying for the group), and I was impressed with this little tapas place in my 'hood. The prices are reasonable, and generally are around the $8-$10.95 range.

We sampled a varity of hot and cold tapas on the menu and at the end of the night, everyone had their favorites. Mine was the alcachofas con panceta (artichoke hearts sautéed with panceta), Ryan was digging the datiles con bacon (bacon wrapped dates in a brandy cream sauce) while Liz preferred the patatas a la brava (sautéed potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce) which was very spicy, fortunately the sangria helped soothe the mouth.

And along with a ton of laughs and stories, Team Hamster, my first friends in the city, raised several glasses to toast my good news. Normally I don't like being the center of attention but I let that go for a night :)

Then about 12:30 a.m. we stumbled home and yes, I woke up this morning with a pounding headache, which was solved with a Starbucks hot chocolate and blueberry muffin. That is my yearly "we're going to see the river being dyed green" breakfast and it didn't fail me again. Pictures of the annual Chicago St. Patrick's Day celebration are coming tomorrow.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Great day

So today was a pretty good day. It was sunny outside, warm in Chicago (a balmy 50!) and this morning, the elevator in my office building ran express right to my floor. I walked out of the elevator at 8:15 a.m. with a smile. For those in the Aon Center, especially on the high floors, going directly to your floor in the elevator is a big deal because is not an everyday thing.

Then, I got really good news from work :) That plus a good workout at the gym and news that my Apple-baby has shipped via Apple-stork. I can't complain. There was a brief moment of worry when my iPod froze and I could not restart it, but fortunately it was fixed (in case you were worried.)

So now I'm off to enjoy some Cheerios and watch the Colbert Report. Love that show.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'm going to be a mama!

Not literally, figuratively. My feelings toward motherhood and my applicable skills for that role are topic for another time.

Yes, next week the stork is coming to see me, the Apple stork :) Oh my heart swells at the thought of my little bundle of joy being delivered to my door, with excellent decoration and my name on it. Sent via UPS with T-L-C. I'm all a flutter trying to Apple-proof my house, getting her resting place all ready, making sure my place is clean and dusted so that I can devote enough time to her when she arrives.

Names have not been decided yet but I am taking suggestions. And while I won't have a proper shower, I am "registered" at, and my new little girl would look beyond precious with the Universal Dock for her first toy, an iPod. Bose speakers or an adorable little case for her first toy would be greatly appreciated, maybe something that starts with "c" and ends in "-oach" or starts with "k" and ends in "-ate spade?"

I'll be sure to post pictures once she arrives, I promised myself that I wouldn't cry! But for now, here's a picture of her in the "Apple hospital." My girl is the one in the front.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bonding with my credit report

Right now I'm in the middle of reading Suze Orman's new book, "Women & Money," which won Oprah's endorsement and crashed her Web site server because the book was offered free online for download. That's good enough of a recommendation for me.

I did not go the download route, primarly because my computer would start smoking from the size of the file or it would take two days to download. Anyhow, the book, much like Cathie Black's book, was another good reading choice by my dad and a nice little present in the mail. I have no idea how he heard about it, but it's definitely been thought provoking.

The book stressed that women should have a copy of their credit report and know their credit score. Sadly, I have been very lazy in taking care of this, even though I know a woman at work who had her identity stolen. So while I was home sick for several days about two weeks ago, I went to a Web site Suze recommended in her book and requested copies of my credit report. Yay, another step toward being a full adult! So now my credit reports are rolling it and so far so good. Of course I have to go back to buy the credit score, which was not clear when I ordered it, but baby steps. That is on the "to do" list for later this week.

Reading the reports are pretty easy, but it's more interesting to see what's on there, specifically bad decisions from 1999 and 2000 of opening store credit cards to save that 20 percent on shirts or pants that I don't wear anymore. Ah memories.

Now tonight I will be going through credit report #2 to make sure there are still no surprises and closing store credit cards that were bad impulse decisions.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

If I were only slightly taller

Being 5'3", I firmly believe in the phrase, "good things come in small packages," because I did!

Unfortunately, while this may be the case, the reality is, that being petite has its challenges. You get used to standing on objects to reach things, all of your pants need to be shortened and although some stores are introducing a "petite" line, inevitably it's more expensive and less vast in options.

My recent petite challenge is my closet, where the string that I use to turn the light on/off has snapped, just about an inch from the actual light fixture. Today I spent about an hour mentally concocting ways to try and re-attach the string, which has proven to be more difficult than I thought it would be. I tried using my dining room chair, folding chair and bedroom chair, all in vain to try and re-attach this string. I had no idea that a piece of yarn would mentally beat me, considering I have a B.A. in two fields. So despite my best efforts, I'll have to break down and ask a friend who is at least two inches taller than me to assist in this issue. Very demoralizing.

Also, my back-up plan of climbing on my shelves wasn't going to work because compressed wood is not actually sturdy. So for now, my closet light is not working and the string sits on my buffet table, mocking me. It has won the battle, but not the war!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Misty water-color memories

So Google Maps peaked my curiosity again tonight and the "street view" option took me for a long trip down memory lane. After sharing the street view of my parent's house with my buddy Ryan, I opted to dive a bit deeper into my memory, finding, after some extra work, the house I grew up in. What started with laughing as I scrolled down the street, caused me to pause when the house finally appeared.

Again, the house I saw before me wasn't the one in my memory. The one in my memory had a dark brown exterior instead of beige, the porch that was added on in my early teens was wood stained instead of painted brown. And the cement stairs that lead down to the driveway, where my dad helped me ride a bike that I received on Christmas Day as a kid, when it was an unusual 70 degrees outside, replaces the several large and small stones that made up the stairs that I remember. I even zoomed in to see the garage door and slab of concrete that I used to bounce a tennis ball against for hours in the summer, entertaining myself with stories while my mom would yell out, "who are you talking to?" I think one of the strongest memories I have from that house was Christmas Day mornings, when my brother and I, in our pajamas, would wait anxiously in the kitchen for my mom and dad to prompt us to come down into the living room, where presents and stockings waited. My dad would borrow lighting from his school to make sure our home movies were perfectly lit and looking back, I always said that the basement on those mornings, when we were so excited that we could burst, looked like heaven. Which might sound corny, but to a young kid, that's what it looked like.

My mind could have continued to wander but I stopped it, opting instead to jump ahead 10+ years to see my old apartment in Minneapolis. I laughed at the sight of the family homes on the street I used to live on, remembering chasing a UPS truck down that street and watching my car nearly be towed due to a city snow emergency. And even though I couldn't see our exact apartment window, I laughed remembering the bat that got into our apartment and the frog that somehow ended up in our shower. That is the first and that will be the only time that I will live in a garden apartment unit. For sure.

So after tonight's version of "this is your life" courtesy of Google, I'm ready to leave the "street view" feature alone for a bit, not that the view of me with non-braced teeth running around the yard and learning efficiently to parallel park on a Minneapolis street, was unpleasant. But how it made me feel was a bit unexpected.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is there something in the water?

So the verbal feedback that I received on the "overheard at the gym" blog post was pretty funny. Those who mentioned it to me said it was hilar-ious and some even asked if I've heard anything else from the gym gossip ladies. Sadly, the answer is no, but I will keep you posted since many of you asked!

Now that I'm back at the gym regularly, I've noticed that a lot of the post-work crowd appear to be in heat. I guess being prompted for a PC Load Letter and arguing with vendors gets them hot and bothered. First it was the conversation I overheard earlier this week and tonight a young couple was cuddling on the weight-training floor (interesting choice to nuzzle) and the girl actually helped her male friend "adjust" himself. In front of everyone. I could not believe it and looked away in horror. Both seemed sheepish about it afterward, which they should, and the girl left but that is an image burned into my head, that I wish, pray will go away. *shudder*

That is my side of the seat
Traveling on the CTA is always challenging in winter with the combination of bags, heavy coat, etc. Recently, I've had a few "encounters" on the bus where people I sit next to exceed their allotted seat space. This irritates me beyond belief because when the bus is packed, especially in the morning, the last thing you want to feel like is a caged, trapped animal between a woman who is "festively plump" and a guy with a ton of bags on his lap, which are now partially in yours.

I even had a man once force me to sit in a small seat with two pillows from Pottery Barn and two bags on my lap so he and his loser friend could talk about the latest Dungeons & Dragons level they reached. Personally, I was amazed these guys knew how to talk to a live woman without offering their credit card to her, but the fact that they have ventured outside of their mother's basement is exciting enough for them. I wouldn't want to them to achieve all of their life goals in one day. That's no fun.

So my note to all CTA riders reading this is: be mindful of the people you're sitting next to. Acknowledging that you might be exceeding your space with a "sorry" or attempt to move your stuff really is appreciated it. We'll get through this...together.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My other single-girl kitchen

I am not a cook. My mom is a cook, my stepmom and grandma are cooks too, but not me. I justify this because, well, I'm single. By the time I get home from work I don't want to scour the fridge and come up with something to eat. I want to eat, eat now and then relax. My stepmom and several friends find comfort and relaxation in cooking but personally I do not. I get wound up because I want to impress people and prefer to play the ultimate hostess and ensure a flawless presentation.

Tonight I hosted my 20-something women knitting group (yes we do actually knit) and while playing host, a fellow knitter, who is a wonderful cook and huge foodie, saw my single-girl fridge, which consists of many of the same items: apples, carrots, chicken, eggs, soda (for weekends), cheese sticks and yogurt. Playfully, she teased me about it and it's okay because I'll admit, it is kind of sad. But I'm single. I don't hide that I'm not a cooker but looking at my sad little fridge now, it feels like the bastard stepchild who doesn't get enough attention from it's mama (aka, me.) Then she dove for the freezer and I almost shut the door on her hand.

Honestly, I don't see my fridge growing into recognizing its full potential. Because I'm watching what I eat, I need to be smart about how I use my calories each day, while getting the right nutrients. Yes, it sounds like I'm spewing key messages from my job and maybe I am, but that doesn't mean that there is not some truth to it :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Brett Favre retires...a cheese state mourns

So if you somehow haven't heard the news, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre will not be returning to the Packers this fall. It was the "news heard round the Midwest" today, seeing as the man is treated, rightfully so, as a god in Wisconsin.

The Journal-Sentinel site carried the first "official word" from Favre's agent and it crashed the site. Apparently it needs to invest in better bandwidth. It treated his retirement like a national day of mourning, encouraging fans to write about their Favre memories and featured a banner that said "Brett Favre 1992-2007." I thought at first that he had actually died and not retired. My brother and I traded frantic IM's this morning, trying to find out what's the actual story and then, when we heard, my Buccaneers-fan-brother was able to share his joy fully. Personally, I'm not a Packers fan, but rather am a "supporter." I am disappointed to see he wasn't returning, but if it was me, I'd rather go out on a successful season than come back, have a bad one and end it that way. Leaving on a high note is always the best way to go, even if that high note didn't result in a Super Bowl win.

Later on the paper's site, I saw that Packer's fans were gathering at Lambeau Field to listen to the news and "mourn." Again, did he die or retire? But to be fair, it would be hard for people within Green Bay where the town actually owns the team. That's something rare nowadays.

At the gym, ESPN was heavy into Favre-coverage, including his brief cameo in the movie, There's Something About Mary, which still cracks me up. But apparently his appeal isn't that wide-spread because a girl I work with (who I promised not to name publicly) asked me today who Brett Favre is! You can imagine my reaction (comforting) but the shocked look on my co-worker's face did make me laugh.

So in closing, let's take a moment of silence to honor this Wisconsin legend, who no matter what, will always be a hero there, much like Barry Alvarez, but on a much bigger scale.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Overheard at the gym

So in my first trip back to the gym in a week, I overheard j-u-i-c-y girl talk in the row of locker's next to me.

Before we get going, I'll give you a list of tonight's cast of characters:
-- Judgemental girl: main speaker

-- Passive aggressive girl: offers shallow support and chimes in on occasion

-- "Uh huh" girl: doesn't say anything but "uh huh" to comments to Judgemental girl. She might venture out to say " no way," or "really?" as well

My editorial comments are in bold below.

Women's gym locker room

Judgemental girl's friend (who is not present) is dating a guy that "she really likes" but has some communication issues with. Don't we all! Apparently while "hooking up" this weekend, the guy informed her that he didn't like to or want to wear a condom. This comment chilled the romantic mood between them and they proceeded to argue about why using a condom is important, which he turned into an argument about her "not trusting him." You're right, it is a trust issue, actually it's more of I don't want herpes issue. So Passive aggressive girl and "Uh huh" girl are providing background comments of, "really? no way," and "wow I cannot believe that," as Judgemental girl continues on with her story and I meanwhile slow down in dressing for the gym to listen more.

Now, as Judgemental girl continues her conversation, several more women in the locker room have stopped to listen, under the guise of tying their shoes in a prolonged manner. Judgemental girl continues to say that her friend basically was given the choice of: sex without a condom or no sex at all. I'll give you a guess as to what her choice is....and sadly it was the former. Come on honey, don't give in, it's can't be that good. And now Judgemental girl says her friend did not take a morning-after pill and was not on the pill herself and fears now that she might be pregnant. Awesome and well done at being prepared and strong. With a laugh, I finally finished tying my shoes (after three "unsuccessful" attempts) and headed up to the elliptical trainer.

Some of these girls just crack me up and they reminds me why I would rather go without than with the fear of an unwanted pregnancy.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Birthday celebrations - then and now

So last night friends, former colleagues and people I don't know all that well gathered in Lakeview for Ryan's belated birthday celebration.

And this year, rather than dinner out at a restaurant with the inevitable awkwardness about dividing up the bill, my heterosexual life partner decided to serve chili, wine, appetizers and cake at his place and then go out to a neighborhood bar, the Gingerman. Financially, I liked this decision and once we got to his apartment and relaxed with a drink, it was really a nice change of pace.

Sadly, gone are the days of kid parties, goodie bags and oodles of presents, and now, as an adult, you find yourself making a different kind of birthday fun. While sitting at the Gingerman last night, exhausted by midnight, I started comparing birthday celebrations as a bona fide adult with those from college, when things were cheaper and a bit more carefree. I've even compiled a brief comparison of this evolution below:

Birthday parties: College
-- Dorm room paties with as much illegally bought liquor as possible
-- Drinking games, involving a lot of beer spilling on the college-supplied carpet
-- Sharing college drinking stories, starting with, "I was so wasted last night/week, etc."
-- Stumbling to whatever college bar is closest
-- Wearing super tight jeans with high heels and small tops that you know your parents wouldn't approve of
-- Drunkily screaming, "Happy Birthday to me," followed by kisses and squeals of joy from your girlfriends
-- Breakfast the next morning in the college commons, laughing about the previous nights adventures
-- Clean up: sneaking bottles to the recycling bins on the dorm floor

Birthday parties: Present
-- Dinner or a pre-party at home with legally bought wine and spirits
-- Frantic apologies if red wine spills on the carpet or a lack of coaster-use on the coffee table
-- Sharing college drinking stories, starting with, "Remember in college when..."
-- Finding a bar close to the pre-party or dinner site (street parking availability is a bonus)
-- Squeezing in your "skinny jeans" with a "flashy" work top and tennis shoes for comfort
-- Becoming embarrassed and uncomfortable during your rendition of "Happy Birthday," smiling and wondering if you will be able to actually blow out the candles
-- Unable to move in bed the next day until at least noon, promising not to drink as much next year
-- Clean up: sponge, cleaner and multiple trips to the garbage chute

Fortunately, my birthday is less than six months away, so I have plenty of time to stock up on coasters for my place.