Sunday, November 30, 2008

Key learnings, food comas and holiday shopping

I still am full from Thanksgiving. Is that even possible? Although, I did eat more in 24 hours than I normally do in a week, so that's probably why I feel like a beached whale. But it's the holidays, so it's time to get the elastic waist pants on and relax.

And here are some of the key learnings I experienced this holiday weekend. I do love going home to enjoy the non-city way of life :)

Key Learnings:
  • In Wisconsin, Packer gear and Virginia Slims are frequently seen accessories
  • It's okay to nap between Thanksgiving dinners when you have more than one in a single day
  • Pushing shoppers to get to the last Gap thermal long sleeve shirt in your size is okay
  • When starving while shopping, it's acceptable to hit the free Ghiradelli samples more than once (saves money)
  • Booze is a requirement at Thanksgiving. No booze means people are less uninhibited and conversation can be more forced
  • Driving is a lot of fun, especially when you don't have a car in the city
  • Squirrels are evil
  • My neighborhood is like an episode of Animal Planet. Possums walking down the street and fat squirrels, oh my!
  • Putting cooked food outside overnight is equivalent to putting it in the refrigerator, except animals can move around it
  • Staying with your parents is not like living alone in a bigger apartment. Close the bathroom door when it's in use and cover yourself up more
  • Whenever I go home, I will never get to relax right away. Within 10 minutes of arriving at home, I always hear "Jess time to do chores, put your shoes on"
Overall, my four-day weekend was a mix of productivity and relaxation. As I mentioned earlier, I have two Thanksgivings in one day. I go visit my grandparents around noon and then have dinner with my dad and stepmom in the evening. Thanks to some pre-holiday overeating and stomach stretching, the second meal wasn't too bad, but two big meals in one day, is a lot for me to handle. It's so good but doesn't feel so good when your stomach is totally overfed.

Fortunately, grandma did not insult me this year. Rather, she said I'm very pretty, which is sweet. Things at my evening Thanksgiving got a little ugly, with the traditional family fighting, which lead to me hiding out upstairs watching a movie with my piece of pie. Some things never change.

The rest of my four-day relaxing weekend was focused on getting my Christmas list all ready for dad (including links to specific items and style numbers, if appropriate) and getting ideas for people on my list this year. I have gift ideas for just about half the people on my list, but I have not found a gift for everyone just yet. 

Of course, my shopping bug from Friday hasn't deteriorated and with deals like, "buy one, get one 50 percent off," I'm more than supporting the economy. But I'm ready to stop focusing on me and getting gifts checked off my list. I think once the list is filled in, I need a day off to knock everything out. Once I get started, I hate to stop midstream.

Here's a picture of the new berry-colored Coach gloves that I bought on Friday. They are super soft and I really love the color. I will be breaking them out this week!

So how was everyone else's long weekend? I hope everyone travels safe, especially in the Midwest, where we're supposed to get six inches of snow tonight. Ick.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Making Black Friday my b*tch

One of the reasons I love shopping is the thrill of the hunt. Using your wits to find what you want and the gratification of having it for yourself (or to give to someone else for Christmas)

And Black Friday is the best example of "the hunt" for me. Thanksgiving weekend is when I list out who I'm buying for, how much I'm spending and gift ideas for everyone on my list. But despite this list, I reserve Black Friday to shop for me before all of my money goes toward others. Of course, if I see a gift for someone at an incredible deal, I will get it, but it's still about me :)

Every Black Friday, my dad, stepmom and I head to the Kenosha outlet mall, but beforehand, dad and I plan out our shopping attack, like we're playing a game of Risk. Circulars are tabbed and organized in the order we will visit the stores. 

Because of the economy, we're scaling back a bit this year, but I surveyed our loot from today and I think we did a pretty good job. I normally don't have a lot of luck with sale items, but this year, I did okay.

Here are a few highlights from my shopping trip:
  • Best deal: JCrew Factory Store charcoal gray corduroy pants - final price: $13.97 (no alterations needed - amazing)
  • Unexpected find: Puma women's Roma suede shoes (I have been wanting another pair of these shoes and could not find them anywhere until today)
  • Potential buyers remorse purchase: JCrew argyle socks 
  • Unnecessary indulgence: Coach Factory Store berry lambskin gloves with cashmere lining
  • Most practical purchase: Restoration Hardware Factory Store dish brush and anti-bacterial soap for the bathroom
So after an early morning and plenty of fresh air at the outlet mall, I'm ready for an afternoon laydown before dad and I decide if we're going to see the new James Bond movie tonight or tomorrow. 

Oh and here is a picture of my parent's loot. My shopping bags are not represented in this pile but imagine about 3-5 more bags in the front of the stack.

Did anyone else brave the stores this morning? Any big deals to share? 

How was everyone's Thanksgiving? My recap is coming with this weekend's key learnings, but I am still full from two major meals in one day.

Reader note: Sorry if yesterday's early tweet, when I reposted about things I'm grateful for, confused everyone. I should have clarified the repost in my tweet. I just wanted to put it out there because I'm still thankful and grateful for everything on that list so it seemed appropriate. My bad!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Movie fail: Cult films I've never seen

One of my guy friends quotes movies all the time, and between you and me, I've only seen about a handful of the ones he's talking about. But I would never tell him that. I don't want to endure the long diatribe of why I need to rent them and how could I have never seen that movie? More trouble than it's worth, so I laugh and lie to him.

But this got me to thinking about a list in college that I made of "essential movies" (determined by my guy friends) that I needed to see. Yeah from this list, I've seen only a handful of them and the "absolute essential" list remains untouched.

Looks like it's time to update the Netflix queue. So here is my list of movies, including some cult classics, I've never seen. 

Movies I've never seen (but apparently should):
  • Fight Club
  • Swingers
  • Animal House
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Fletch (I've only seen half)
  • Clerks (again, only seen half)
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Blade Runner
  • Blues Brothers (being from Chicago, this is a tough one to own up to)
  • Scarface
Feel free to join in on the teasing or let me know what movies you've never seen or that you're afraid to admit to never seeing. There is no judgement here. Take a look at my list!

Well everyone, tomorrow I am off to Union Station to jump on the Amtrak home for the holiday. I hope everyone travels safe and has a very good Thanksgiving. I plan on indulging in the Elegant Farmer apple pie myself.

I'll be back on Friday with a post about my post-Thanksgiving shopping. More deals, no mercy!

Reader note: Wow, thank you everyone for the comments on yesterday's dating "cut off" ages. A lot of really interesting and great comments. I also enjoyed the man perspective on this too. I'm glad to know I am not alone in having something like this and I agree with many of you that compatibility matters a lot when picking the person you date, not just age.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The dating "cut off" age

When I posted last week about my matchmaker FAIL, someone asked if I would really have dated the 38 year old man that I was being set up with. Honestly, I don't know, but at this point, I look at it with a "why not" attitude. But that comment did get me to think about a "cut off" age for dating.

Age may be just a number, but in dating, everyone has some cut off age or magic number they prefer not to go above. A man's maturity definitely makes a difference, but I don't know if I see myself dating a guy over the age of 36, at least right off the bat. Or I don't know if I could date a guy who is more than two or three years younger than me too. Pride and the rise in "cougars" has something to do with my feelings about dating a younger man, but I'm not opposed to it.

Ironically, when I tried online dating, my personal ad generated a lot of responses from younger guys, actually guys between the ages of 19-21. That definitely didn't help the "cougar" feeling.

Most of the guys I've dated have actually been about one to two years younger than me and the only issue I had with them was maturity. This can be a big dealbreaker. I don't want a guy that is 29 but acts like he's 20. No thank you. But I don't want to date a mature guy who is rounding 40 either. It's a tough situation. And I'm sure my celeb crushes on some older male celebrities doesn't help either. 

The cut off age isn't a make or break rule with guys but it's moreso something I use for...screening purposes. That and I get tired of older guys asking me how old I was in the early 70s, because the answer is always the same, "I wasn't born yet."

So has anyone else dated a much older or younger man? Which do you prefer? How old is too old when dating guys? Or am I the only person who has a cut off dating age?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Key Learnings, Twilight and holiday lights

Thanksgiving is less than a week away now and I cannot wait to go home, put my comfy pants on for the holiday and let grandma get her annual insult in at the family meal. Happy Thanksgiving to us!

So let's recap my weekend because it was pretty productive. Trust me, it surprised me too.

Key Learnings:
  • Chicago bloggers are awesome (actually, I already knew that - it's a fact)
  • Sangria tastes yummy but can give you a serious headache
  • Any bar with beer pong is okay by me! (although I'm better at flip cup)
  • Baked mac and cheese tastes like heaven on a cold night
  • Brunch with awesome blog friends is a great way to start your Sunday
  • Standing in flower beds on Michigan Avenue is acceptable, as long as you don't kill foliage
  • Sometimes tourists need to learn the "Chicago way" the tough way
  • It's always good to act like a kid again, within reason
  • Everyone should dedicate at least two hours on a Sunday to lounging on the couch with mindless television
  • Reading books takes a lot of time away reading other magazines, which leads them to make a large stack on your coffee table

Twilight: The Movie (spoiler-free)

So this little movie called Twilight opened on Friday. I think it's based on a popular book, but I'm not sure. I'm not a big reader :)

Anyhow, the movie has gotten a lot of mixed reviews, but my curiosity was getting the best of me so I had to go check it out, and hopefully avoid screaming teens. In my late 20s, I'm not in the mood for it.

When the movie was finally done, I had one thought. It was only....okay

I knew it wouldn't be a good as the books or as vivid as my imagination of the characters, but I honestly expected a little more.  Despite the slight deviations from the book storyline, I was a little disappointed. 

The angst was too much as was the hamminess of several scenes, but the one major, overarching issue I had with the movie was the casting of Rosalie and Carlisle. They just did not work for me. But Robert Pattinson is still good looking and Bella is how I envisioned her, so that was good.

My verdict: Read the books before seeing the movie

Lighting up Michigan Avenue

One of my first memories of Chicago was the lights on Michigan Avenue. Just before Thanksgiving, the city celebrates the lighting of one million lights on the Mag Mile to kick off the holiday season. 

We never came down for the lighting, but every year after Christmas, dad and I would come down to shop the post-holiday sales and see the trees lit up. I vividly remember walking down Michigan Avenue looking at all the lights, which were mesmerizing for a kid from Wisconsin. 

I look forward to this every year and now that I live in Chicago, I go every year to watch the city turn on the lights. This year wasn't as cold, which meant more people piled downtown. I'm a little sensitive to crowds after the Obama rally, but it was still fun, and after some prodding, Liz and I ended up standing in a flower bed on Michigan Avenue to enjoy the parade. No foliage was hurt and we got some awesome pictures. Here's one:

How was everyone else's weekend? Let me know what you thought of Twilight too, it sounds like I might have just been too picky :)

Reader note: Thanks everyone for your mascara tips. I need to write them all down and take the list with me to the store! I love hearing what other products people use. I'm also glad to see that I'm not the only Gap holiday ad fanatic or think it's too early for holiday decorations to be out. But after Friday, game on!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More things I'm (not) loving

Last weekend, I did a little window shopping, because I had to get out of my house to have some "alone time." 

In Chicago, going to Target is a luxury for those us without a car, so I basked in the beauty of the red bulls-eye at home and decided it was time to post another edition of...things I'm loving and not loving right now.

Plus, I need some reader help on mascara and hair dryers so help a girl out. I would greatly appreciate it :)

Things I'm loving:
  • Scarves - Now that it's cool out, I am bringing out my insane scarf collection, which covers nearly the entire rainbow (with a focus in blue, no shock). Last weekend, I picked up this scarf in blue karma from Target and it's perfect. I'm sure a few more will join my collection this winter too
  • Bad a** belts - Yet another Target find. I know, it's for teens, but it fits and gives me a sense of danger. It's a nice little statement under your clothes
  • Uggs - My friends tease me about them, but they're perfect for fall and standing outside in the cold for the bus. Plus it's a nice little pop of color. I have them in pink and purple and you can spot me coming in a snow storm. Lead on Uggs!
  • Down vests - Normally I'm not a "vest" girl, but they work with a nice sweater on a non-bone chilling day. Pair this with a cute scarf (see first bullet), the Uggs (previous bullet), jeans and sweater and you're ready to go!
  • Tights - I hate feeling like a smoldering sausage the first time I wear them, but in winter, I love dressing up a skirt with fun tights. The DKNY ink blue ones I got last year are my favorites. I bought some in opaque black and charcoal gray herringbone too
  • Cotton leggings - I know I said on Fabulously Broke in the City that they make me look stumpy, but they're comfortable to wear around the house. And the Hue D'Luxe ones make my butt look ridiculous in them. Junk in the trunk!
  • Mario Badescu Kera moisturizer - My skin in the winter gets crazy dry so I put this on as an overnight moisturizer and it does the trick
  • Arm warmers - It's like leg warmers for your hands and arms! I've seen them on a few blogs but every store in Madison had them. And I have to admit. I want some. Soooo, I dropped more hints to Santa and we'll see if some pop up in my Christmas stocking
  • "Trouble is a Friend" by Lenka - I heard this on Grey's last week and literally dove for the computer to download it. Now it's on the iPod and I am diggin' it bigtime. It's not making me "superstar dance" like Rihanna, but I'm groovin'. I can't embed the video (YouTube won't let me!) but the link takes you to it

Things I'm not loving:
  • Hair dryers - Mine fell apart last Friday (literally) and for the first time in three years, I had to go buy a new one. But because it's been so long, I don't remember what kind I like. I got a Conair ionic dryer, but I'm not sure if I like it. Any tips?
  • Mascara - Oh I do love mascara (it's a must-have), but I'm looking to change up the brand I buy. Normally, I get Maybelline Lash Expansion and now I'm trying Sky-High Curves but I'm still not happy. I'm looking for something that will make my lashes look fuller without getting too clumpy. I'm throwing it out there again, any recommendations?
  • Wool - I'm allergic, so lambswool is totally out. I can tolerate merino wool most of the time but in winter, I'm forced to layer up on cotton or my favorite, cashmere (when I can)
  • Boots - I want to get a pair of riding boots for fall/winter but I can't find any in my price range. Apparently my legs weren't made for boots because I seem to always look like I have cankles. The hunt is on though
Well that's a pretty good list. And fortunately, the things I love outweigh I don't love.

Next week is a short one (yay!) because of the holiday so I need to be super productive this weekend. This includes the bloggy meet up tomorrow night, Sunday brunch, returning a shower head to Home Depot (which I've been meaning to do for a week) and my ultimate favorite, the Michigan Avenue Lights Festival. I'll have pictures Sunday, along with a full recap. 

Oh yeah and there is this movie coming out...I can't remember but I think it's Twilight. Yeah that's it, I guess I'll make time for that too ;)

Anyone else have big weekend plans?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Too early for holiday decor but not for holiday Gap ads

We're almost a week before Thanksgiving and I'm pretty excited about the upcoming holiday season. But one of my pet peeves is how early some stores begin to celebrate the holidays. Christmas items should not be brought out before Thanksgiving. 

But tonight on my way home, I noticed several stores on Michigan Avenue already are decorated for Christmas and two people on my street already have their tree decorated in their apartments. If it wouldn't get me arrested, I would throw a pebble at their windows and yell, "it's too early for that to be up!"

Despite this pet peeve, I do love it when the new Gap holiday ads come out, mostly because I know it's time to work on my Christmas list. Last year, I loved Amy Poehler and Will Arnett's ad - look how cute they are!

And Gap did me a HUGE favor by putting yummy John Krakinski in one too. That's tacked up at my desk. Meow! 

Below are some pictures from this year's Gap ads (including one of Jon Hamm aka Mr. Don Draper). If you have some time to kill, check out the Merry Mix-it page at, which has this year's models/celebs singing carols. The one with Rainn Wilson and Selma Blair is adorable.  

So my question to everyone is, if you had to pick someone for a holiday ad, preferably someone sprawled on a bearskin rug, who would you pick? 

Monday, November 17, 2008

My overpacking problem

If anyone hears me say out loud that "I pack light" when traveling, slap me across the face. Why? Because it's a big, fat lie. LIE!

I used to pack only the bare essentials, but then I got more "girly" and into make-up, fun clothes and accessories and suddenly the amount of stuff I bring along for a weekend at home has multiplied by like 100 percent.

Case in point: this weekend when I went home, I brought my "carry on" suitcase, which looked like it was going to explode at any given second. It was stuffed with laundry, shoes and make-up within an inch of the zipper's life. I nearly had to lay myself on it so that it would close. And with trips coming up for Thanksgiving and Christmas (when I'll be home for over a week), I absolutely must upgrade to the bigger suitcase.

Why? Options. I overpack because a girl has to have options.

Now, I try not to bring my entire apartment with me (anymore) when I travel, but somehow I end up bringing the following (keep in mind, I'm home for 48 hours):
  • Three pairs of shoes
  • Five necklaces and assorted bracelets
  • Two jackets
  • Two to three purses
  • Almost my entire bathroom
  • Two belts
  • Four to five outfit choices (or at least two outfits per day)
I'm a horribly indecisive person on clothing so I overpack because I never know what mood I'll be in when it's time to get dressed each day. And, mentally I know if I take items out of the suitcase, I will want them when I go home and they won't be available.

So in prep for Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday, dad and I had a heart-to-heart and I begged him to pick up a few things for me to store at the house - like toothbrush, contact solution and toothpaste - to make my packing simpler....and so I can fit another purse or sweater in the suitcase to replace what is staying here.

I'm sick, someone help me. Does this happen to anyone else?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend key learnings and matchmaker fail

This weekend I went back to Wisconsin and it was exactly what I needed. I got to drive and enjoy some Wisconsin Badger the freezing cold and snow. I love college football, but I have to admit, the November games are tough, especially when you're sandwiched in the stadium. But I wouldn't give up going.

Anyhow, on to the learnings!

Key Learnings:
  • Even with four layers of clothes on, it's amazing how you fast you can get a chill
  • Hearing a kid scream "we're all gonna die!" on the train home, is not comforting
  • Try to be subtle when holding your breath in a cab that smells like onions
  • A Bloody Mary and soft pretzel are great ways to start your Saturday
  • Think before saying out loud, "I'm tired of taking my clothes off." People won't know that you mean you're tired of taking your clothes off to try on other clothes at the store
  • If Goodwill breaks your donation while dropping it off, it's totally fine to jump in the car and speed off before they return to deny it
  • Chanel and Louis Vuitton are not appropriate gameday accessories. My rule: don't wear anything you don't mind spilling beer on
  • When your parents ask what liquor you want for the cooler, don't say just juice. They won't understand. Just say beer, even if you only want juice
  • You know it's been a while since you've seen someone when they comment "wow your hair is brown now" and it's actually been brown for almost two years
  • It's okay to break out into spontaneous dance to warm up your legs and body. But you might look silly
  • Be an adult and own up to the fact that you look  like a d-bag in a mock turtleneck. They're not made for everyone

At the football game, my stepmom and her friend tried to play matchmaker for me, ending in a big FAIL. Both of my stepbrothers are in long-term relationships and with my brother married, that means it leaves little spinster me the last one solo. 

Before the game, my stepmom and her friend, who has stadium seats near us, were talking about kids, and her friend asked if I was single. When I said yes, she smiled and told me I had to meet her 38-year-old son, who is also single and has never been married. I laughed and said okay (I mean, why not?) and my stepmom was just beyond excited at the prospect of a love connection.

But the woman sharing a pre-game table with us interrupted this nice moment by saying, "oh my god he's 38 and unmarried? What's wrong with him? Why is he still single?" My stepmom threw this rude person her patented death rays, but the mood was killed. I agreed to go through with the "introduction" at half-time and sure enough, when this poor guy came over to the seats to see his mom, she pushed me forward and said, "Craig, meet Jessica, isn't she adorable?"

As if my cheeks weren't red enough already from the cold, my embarrassment was added on top of this. Fortunately, the matchmaking appeared to be nothing new to this guy, who rolled his eyes, shook my hand and then turned around and left. My stepmom and this woman were crushed and my dad told my stepmom in a pointed tone, "Jess is fine, don't force something on her. She's perfect on her own."

Thanks dad, I think you're right :) Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sharing is not caring

I consider myself to be a giving person. Need me to spot you some money? Sure. Need someone to talk to? I'm here. For my most loyal friends, I'd even give them the clothes off my back if they needed it. Unfortunately, this giving nature doesn't translate to everything.

I'm not an only child, but I don't share well. And even though I have siblings, the rules are different when you're the only girl. Why? Because I didn't have to share anything. When we traveled, I had my own bed, bedroom and bathroom while the boys had to share. The girly toys were mine and I didn't have a sister to share my clothes and possessions with so there was no competition. And the mindframe of "that's mine" has carried into adulthood, where I am not the best sharer of my personal items.

For example, I love picking out outfits for friends. When shopping, I help pull together outfits and comment how great that would look with my Kate Spade purse or my Tory Burch flats. One friend asked once if she could borrow my purse and I was caught off-guard. I smiled and said, "yeah sure," but I made it clear that should anything happen to my lovely purse, that she would replace it for me, at retail value with interest. She never took me up on borrowing the purse.

One year, I had to babysit my stepmom's nieces and they helped me decorate my Christmas tree. My ornaments are very personal to me (I'll explain more later) and the kids were not known to be very gentle with other people's property. So, I told them that I would hand them ornaments and if something happened to Auntie Jess' stuff, that a finger would be broken for each item lost. Surprisingly, nothing was broken. Fear really works.

I've even found recently that lending out DVDs doesn't work well either for me. I end up lending them out and then upon return, sitting under a bright lamp to inspect it for scratches. That is so sad. 

I blame my recent no sharing policy on my stepmom, who borrowed an issue of Vanity Fair and then destroyed it at the beach, thanks to sunscreen sand and water. How irresponsible is that??

Re-reading this, I'm feeling a little crazy so I hope I'm not the only one who is a bad sharer of certain things. To be fair though, I'm like this only with things I really value...which is pretty much everything. Hey, in this economy, things have to last.

So this weekend, I'm headed back to Wisconsin to get a break from the city and to attend the Wisconsin Badgers/Minnesota Gophers game at Camp Randall. Time to bring out my beer-stained Wisconsin sweatshirt, which I will wash for this lovely occasion.

I was hoping to catch the new Bond movie, but sexy Daniel Craig will have to wait another week. Anyone else have big weekend plans?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The fall transition phase

I love fall and I've posted before what I love about it. In Chicago, the fall transition is full-on right now and with all the good, comes some fall drawbacks. 

I am between two phases right now in the fall transition: 1) Seasonal adjustment and 2) Working on my "second winter coat" for the upcoming snowy season.

Seasonal adjustment starts around daylight savings time when I love gaining an hour, but that means it's dark at 2 p.m. Sun becomes a myth and waking up to darkness and leaving in darkness are tough things to adjust to after a lovely summer season. 

This phase leads right into working on my "second winter coat," thanks to the availability of Halloween candy and holiday treats. Whoppers, M&Ms, caramels, oh my! Once the vendor gifts start rolling in our office, all bets are off. That's when I end up over-indulging in candy and have a hard time resisting any treats. I love the change in seasons but sometimes the adjustment takes some time.

Lately, thanks to these phases, I've been having a little issue keeping to my diet and exercise regimen. I can't help being a little generous in the soup portion or grabbing the largest baguette and hibernating from the cold wind and chill in the air. Getting to the gym lately has been a chore, not a source of relief. 

And to make the "winter coat" phase worse, being squished on the bus with a puffer jacket, especially between two "festively plump" ladies with down coats, just makes me fussy and squirmy, like a child.

This is similar to how I feel during this fall transition time

Does anyone else go through this? It's definitely not a bad feeling in spring when the sun returns and the weather starts to warm, but it seems the fall transition is always the toughest, even if the cuter clothes begin to come out.

Reader Note: Thanks everyone for your feedback on the Kate Spade purse post yesterday. Dad just confirmed that the purse arrived from Nordstrom's today! I really liked Alexa's comment about splurging on two bags a year. I think that's a great policy. I'm 90 percent sure that I'll keep it, but I'll know for sure when I see her again. Pretty things like that should be worn and enjoyed :) And I'm an enabler too so people telling me to keep it is just what I wanted to hear.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Good/bad decision: the purse edition

I love purses, mostly because they always fit. My clothing size seems to increase/decrease depending on the day (water weight sucks) but purses don't care what size you are because they love you no matter what. 

Sometimes, I would rather buy a purse than a new shirt because a) it will last longer and b) it can make any outfit I already have pop.

So after I bought Speedy for my birthday, which was quite an investment, I decided to put myself on "purse buying notice" and wait six months before I buy another one. 

Really, I only buy purses when a) it's a good, even great, deal and b) when the "urge" has returned. My habit needs to be fed, but fortunately that doesn't come around on a regular basis.

Anyhow, Nordstrom's annual women's sale is going on, which usually means amazing deals on fall items. I found knit Uggs for $58, Cole Haan bag for $178 (down from $350) and my fave DKNY tights for 25 percent off. I love walking through the racks, flipping for the deals and trying on ridiculous sunglasses for laughs.

During the sale, I will traditionally not buy anything because I'm still in "saving mode" for Christmas and have self-control, that is until last week.

Now, let me show you a picture of this Kate Spade bag that I've been lusting over for three seasons. 

Behold the Tarrytown Quinn. Boarskin leather, classic shape and my favorite shade of deep red. More like Bucky Badger red. And because I get Nordstrom's "Level 2" benefits for the rest of the year, I can ship it to Wisconsin and not pay sales tax or shipping fees.

So......I bought it because it was such a good deal. But now I need some help convincing me if I should keep it or return it.

My pro/con list on this issue is below, please leave a comment and help me decide what to do!

  • 40 percent off retail price (with option of price adjustment later)
  • No sales tax or shipping (part of Level 2 benefit and no Nordstrom's in Wisconsin)
  • It's pretty
  • Have wanted it for three seasons but always missed it on sale
  • I need a red bag
  • Can fit all my stuff
  • Get double Nordstrom's points

  • I don't need another purse right away
  • Although on a great sale, still not as dirt cheap as I wanted
  • I don't wear a lot of red
Also, the customer service person I bought this from had a little attitude, but that's a story for another day. But let's just say, she asked if I was still hungover from the night before and implied that I have credit card debt. Neither point is true.

So help a bloggy girl out, what should I do?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Key Learnings and a relaxing weekend

It's that magic time again. Come, join me by the fire to look back on the weekend and new lessons that I've learned.

After a crazy week (cough, cough, Obama rally, cough), I opted to have a very low-key weekend, which included being home by 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. So I'm not sure how entertaining these key learnings will be, but nevertheless, some should be of interest.

Key Learnings:
  • It's nice to have a "Hugh Hefner" moment at home, wrapped in a robe (sorry no Bunny moment)
  • Having a security detail doesn't detract attention
  • Heat lamps on public transportation platforms are very welcome in winter, but sharing them is not
  • Fall is officially here, time to transition in the winter coats and find my hats
  • When you fear food has gone bad (due to not cleaning out the fridge), just toss out the entire Tupperware container, don't open it, just toss it all away
  • You should do at least one nice thing for someone else each day (I gave up my seat for an elderly person at Starbucks...or thought about it)
  • Candy wrappers do not make a good earrings decorations
  • Shouting into your cell phone on the bus is annoying to other passengers
  • Saying that someone's comment is uneducated is inappropriate, especially when the person who said it is sitting right there (hi I can hear you!)
  • On a cold day, a nice warm bowl of soup tastes like heaven
  • Finding a hair in the salsa at a restaurant is gross
  • It's okay to be super pissed off when you receive your Entertainment Weekly issue with Twilight on the cover only to open it up and realize the first three pages of the article ARE MISSING. Come on!
I reserve my weekends to be super productive, primarily Saturdays. I do this because I save all the errands I don't get to during the week for this day (within reason). But as I mentioned, after Tuesday night in Grant Park, which took a few days to bounce back from, I opted to lay low. That meant a lot of quality time on the couch with "Eclipse" and the TV. So my end thoughts tonight are rather slim.

Oh yeah, the one errand I did do on Saturday (with Ryan) was to go to Fleet Feet in Lincoln Park to try on running shoes. While trying on shoes, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich came in to shop, complete with his security detail. No lie, I wanted it to be president-elect Obama instead, but we still gawked a little bit.

Finally, here's a cool picture I found in my stash of remaining photos from Grant Park. I have zero idea how it turned out like this but it's trippy!

How was everyone else's weekend? Do anything fun or productive? I cannot believe Thanksgiving is coming up this quickly.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Update on my 15 things before 30 list

Shortly after my August birthday, I made a list of 15 things that I wanted to do in the next year, before I turned 30. I called it my "twentysomething bucket list."

It's been about two months since I posted the list, so let's check in with how I'm doing. I could use some help prioritizing things too so please weigh in with what I should focus on next.

(All items that I've completed or have updates on are in bold)

My list:
  • Make some amends with my mom
  • Wear a bikini in public
  • Go out on at least two dates
  • Make out with at least three guys
  • Volunteer - Obama campaign
  • Take at least 2 yoga and Pilates classes each
  • Do something totally selfless
  • Take a disco dancing class
  • Give $100 to charity - see picture below
  • Take cooking lessons
  • Make a gourmet meal for my closest friends
  • Run a 5k - training starts in December, planning to run in the "Race to Wrigley" in April 2009
  • Go to at least 12 new restaurants (no duplicates) - 4 so far (Counter, Mity Nice, Vinci, Wakomono)
  • Read 10 books - 3 completed so far (Nineteen Minutes, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse -in progress)
  • Go skinny dipping
Hmm so the updates for two months in aren't too bad. I do need to pick up my reading and of course the dating/making out items. Those are a continual work in progress, yet more difficult than I anticipated.

For my charitable donation, I picked a cause that is very close to my heart, breast cancer. My mom's mother passed away from breast cancer in the 60s so I always do what I can to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation and celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

This year, my colleague Leah was one of three staff members participating in the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk in Atlanta, where she walked an amazing 60 miles in three days. Her hard work and dedication prompted me to donate $100 to this worthy cause. Below is a picture of our "check
 presentation." Great job Leah!

Quick notes: volunteering for the Obama campaign was an amazing experience. I learned so much from it and met some amazing people. I went once, thinking I wouldn't go back and I did every week for over five weeks, plus two weekends. I highly recommend volunteering.

Plus, does anyone know where I can take disco lessons in Chicago? I've been looking online but I can't find any! I had no idea it would be this difficult.

Any tips or preferred things that I should focus on during the upcoming winter months?

And seriously, TGIF. I cannot wait for this week to be over and have a nice, relaxing weekend. Any big weekend plans for everyone? 

Next weekend, I'm in Madison for the Badger game, but given our season, we're there more to "have fun," if you know what I mean. 

Any movies you recommend that I should check out?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My night in Grant Park

Before I get going, I need to apologize about the quality of some of the photographs you'll be seeing below. The lighting was bright and not camera-friendly so unfortunately the photos aren't as sharp as all of us hoped they would be.

Now let's begin.....

So I'm not sure if you heard but last night we had quite an event in Chicago. In fact, all eyes were on our lovely windy city. In 2000, I was out of the country and didn't vote, but I did in 2004 and was heartbroken at the results. So this year, I made sure to vote again and be there when the results were read. And last night, I was standing in a crowd of 70,000+ Obama supporters in Grant Park thinking two things:
  1. This is amazing

  2. What the f*ck am I doing here?

Don't get me wrong, the entire experience and the last 24 hours have been amazing, almost surreal, but the second thought did creep into my head about 9:30 p.m. after we had been standing for a few hours and the cold and aches in the legs were settling in. But looking back, I wouldn't trade that experience for anything!

We got our tickets through the campaign for being such awesome volunteers (woo woo!). A ticket there was the hottest ticket in town, so much so that some of the free tickets were being sold on Craigslist for hundreds of dollars. That's insane.

Being downtown last night was an amazing, dream-like experience. For a moment, I thought that it was the Superbowl or New Year's Eve because people were so happy and celebratory and just...acting like this was the greatest thing that was happening to the city in a long time. And it was, but it wasn't just for us, it was for the entire country. The reality of what happened last night didn't even hit me until this morning when I watched the TODAY show and started crying because it was so historic and moving.

Rather than bore you with every single detail, I've broken the evening up a bit so you can read at your leisure or interest.

My Obama rally gang included ladies I work with and non-work friends that were joining us for a night in the park. Even though food and drink were "available," we hit Elephant & Castle in the loop for some pre-event sustenance, since we didn't want to risk lines on site. The bar was hoppin' and people screamed and cheered when Illinois was projected to Obama (shocker.) It was a young crowd that was buzzing with energy. People were talking and sharing information coming in on the television as if we all knew each other before coming in there that night.

Realizing we were getting close to when people would be officially let in, we walked down to Grant Park and began joining hundreds of people, who were also streaming down to take part in the rally. Vendors sold T-shirts and buttons along the side of the road and the Art Institute (home to my brave lion), was patriotic as well.

Getting in - herding cattle
Here is where it gets interesting. Filing 70,000 people into the park through ONE entrance was going to be tricky, but the organizers were smart in bringing in a group of people in waves. So we congregated around Congress Street, where ticket holders would be let in, and that's when the reality of the massive crowd started to really sink in. 

Waiting to go into a checkpoint 

We were in a SWARM of people trying to find friends they were separated from, hanging on to street signs and light posts. Blackberry's and text messaging was going on like nuts to find friends and the latest election results because we didn't have TV's near us. Once it came time to herd our group in to the first checkpoint, there was a lot of pushing and shoving and stumbling over garbage left on the street.

Our group - Gobama!

Our group stayed together pretty well, which was amazing, especially when the crowd was moving very suddenly. To stay together, we held hands like schoolkids and walked as one, making sure we had everyone before moving on. There were multiple security checkpoints along the way, each where we had to show tickets and IDs, but did not have to go through metal detectors. Not having to go through them was a little bittersweet. Cops helped guide the crowd and people got more excited as we got closer to the park and you could see the huge beams of light coming from the stage and a massive television broadcasting the handsome Anderson Cooper (rawr!)

Once we hit the park and passed through the final checkpoint, we were at the base of the field and people started RUNNING. It was truly crazy, seeing hundreds of people on the field and more running in there to get a spot with these big beams of light flashing at you. So we did what everyone else did, hold hands and run!

On the Ground
Squeezed in like sardines, CNN was our main source of news while we waited on the field and people cheered when Obama won state after state and of course booed when McCain won (no shock there).

The crowd from our "seats"

We knew when we got there that Obama was ahead by a lot in the electoral vote, but as we watched more states rack up and the vote increase, people started getting more excited and cheer louder. But before the West Coast polls closed, there was a 45 minute gap where nothing was going on and the crowd started getting restless. Water and food were not plentiful and the bathrooms not really close to everyone on the field so we were literally just standing and waiting. People started to get a little fidgety and I told the chick in front of me, who kicked me for the third time when "stretching her knee," that if she kicked me again, I was going to break her Blackberry and her knee. I was only half-kidding, about the knee part. Then the older couple, who were ridiculously tall and blocked our view, started making out in front of us. EW. Please don't do that in front of us.

But the wait culminated in sheer pandemonium when we were shocked to see Obama projected the president-elect. 

The crowd paused at the news and then went bat sh*t crazy screaming and yelling because it was a total surprise. People were crying, hugging and kissing, just like on New Years and the buzz was reborn in the crowd. The realization that Obama won just washed over people and some could not believe it, including me. Text messages started flying in from Ryan, who is vacationing in California, Mega and my dad, all of us freaking out with excitement.

Now with the news a reality, we were hoping Obama would come out and speak right away, but there was another huge gap after McCain's acceptance speech and you could tell that while people were energized, some were starting to fade too, specially after a horrible version of the National Anthem. My group had not had anything to drink since the restaurant and we were getting a little dehydrated, cold and tired, but I was not leaving without seeing my president speak. The crowd went wild again during sound check with someone said, "final sound check for the new president."

We could see the large television no problem from where we were standing and even could see the stage from far away, but we couldn't make out faces. The crowd went beyond wild again when Obama finally came out to speak, and looking around the crowd, I was so shocked to see how many people were crying and hugging each other one again. My colleague Ashley was so cute when he thanked his volunteers saying, "she [meaning me] volunteered!"

The Obamas and Bidens on the screen

The speech wasn't too long, but I was on the verge of tears hearing him talk about his grandmother and how people from all walks of life sent in money big and small to support this. I got to see this first-hand and it was just so inspiring.

Takin' it to the Streets
Once Obama was done speaking, people started clearing out right away, but we hung out to take more pictures before joining the masses to head back to Michigan Avenue. The scene there was almost more exciting than on the field. People were standing at bus stops, on planters or any sort of climbable surface to cheer, take pictures and clap. At every intersection people were cheering and dancing and waving signs. Michigan Avenue was totally flooded with people who wanted to keep the party going.

Celebrating in the streets

We walked an ungodly distance, from Congress to Superior (which is over two miles) with crowd, were the city buses were lined up to take people home. But at this point, everyone just wanted to get out of downtown so people started pushing and shoving to get on the bus, which got a little ugly. At this point, I was exhausted, my legs were in serious pain and I was about to pass out from the lack of water, but I kept clutching my ticket because I refused to lose it.

Where Kitties Roam Free
So when I finally get home (about 1:15 a.m.), after nearly falling asleep on the bus, I walked out of my elevator to see two black cats in the hallway staring at me. After screaming out loud (because they scared me), I proceeded to distract them and run/hide in my apartment. I've never seen them before! And now I'll be e-mailing the condo board tomorrow because that is not cool.

So I know there was a lot of information above, so I've bulleted out below what I felt were the major highlights from the entire event. 

  • The outpouring of emotion from the crowd, including Jesse Jackson crying

  • The happy looks on Sasha and Malia's faces

  • Barack and Michelle embracing and saying "I love you" (the nose kiss was too cute)

  • Hearing Obama talk fondly of his grandmother, which made my heart break more to realize she wasn't there to see this happen

  • The way the crowd went INSANE when CNN surprised us all with projecting Obama's win. People were going crazy

  • The crowd cheering and chanting as he spoke, getting everyone who was exhausted and sore all excited again

  • Oprah actually mingling with the "masses" (in the VIP area of course)

  • The crowd. I was overwhelmed by the possibility of people all around us, going in to take part in this event

  • Believing that things will finally start to turn around for the country
  • People walking down Michigan Avenue, cheering, chanting, taking pictures and clapping, it was like Chicago won the Superbowl and a ticker tape parade was taking place downtown

  • Realizing that "we did it!"
I hope you all enjoyed my tweets from the event and I hope I was able to capture it for you properly!

Also, I grabbed a photo of Michelle's Narcisco Rodriguez dress today and I think it looks fab. I'm a huge fan of this designer and I think it was very dignified. I'm looking forward to her Jackie Kennedy-like influence on this generation.

So how was everyone else's election night? Do anything fun?

Monday, November 3, 2008

My hair makes me fake

Apparently I'm a fake. Now I'll tell you why. 

I recently ran into an acquaintance who dyed her hair from blonde to brown. After some idle chit chat, I commented to her how much I loved the new look (it was awesome). She said thank you and I asked why she opted to go dark, which was her natural color. For her, it was financial because highlights are more expensive than full color, and I agreed with her, because well, that's why I dyed my hair dark again. 

So here is the kicker.

Before she parted she said, "yeah I never liked dyeing my hair anyhow, it just makes someone so fake." I asked if she was kidding and she looked at me, dead serious and Waiting for me to reply, I laughed it off saying, "well I guess I'm fake, totally plastic."

I thought about this for a while after she and I parted ways and honestly, I thought it was kind of a bitchy comment. Just because someone dyes their hair, that doesn't make them fake. Not all of us were born with a gorgeous head of hair with flawless color and no gray. I have been dyeing my hair for, ohhhh, about 10 years. I hated my dark brown hair my entire life and opted for eight years of white-blonde highlights.

Dying my hair this very unnatural color was expensive but worth it because I wanted to be blonde, like I was as a baby (heck I didn't even have hair until I was 2).

Finally, about two years ago, I couldn't afford Chicago-priced highlights anymore so I dyed my entire head medium brown, almost my natural color. Yes, it was a big adjustment, but it was worth it and now I love my dark hair. I hate paying to get my hair done regularly but because of my premature gray, I want to dye it.

Some people are totally comfortable with a few gray strands, but not me. I would prefer to cover those up as much as possible, especially as the number of them increases each year. For me, it's a self-esteem boost and one less thing to focus on and worry about. That's not fake. I can count on one hand how many people I know who have never ONCE colored their hair. And yes, I'm jealous of them. I am not very secure with my gray hairs, yet.

Maybe I've overreacted to her comment, but as fake as I may be, at least I don't make narrow-minded comments.

How about all of you? Do you color your hair, if so, why? Covering gray is a big incentive for me!

Election Day note:
Also, tomorrow is Election Day so I hope everyone will be turning out to the polls (especially if you didn't vote early) to participate. I'm anticipating long lines at my polling station so the iPod will be charged and ready to go!

The more exciting news I have is that tomorrow night, I will be down in Grant Park for the Obama/Biden rally. This is a HUGE event for the city and something truly historic. I'm thrilled and excited to be going.

I'll be tweeting live from Grant Park (another awesome reason to follow me on Twitter) and have a full recap with pictures on Wednesday, since I won't be home until super late on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Here's hoping I can put a matching outfit together for work on Wednesday.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Key learnings and I'm in the paper!

Good lord I cannot believe it's already November. And the weather for this big election week is supposed to be mild in Chicago too. I'm not complaining but the weather is messing with my head because I don't know how to dress on a daily basis. I'm either too warm or cold, as if I'm having a pre-menopausal hot flash or I'm shivering. Help a girl out!

Anyhow, here are my key learnings from this Halloween weekend, boo!

Key Learnings:
  • It's perfectly normal to grab a random golf club in your defense when your apartment is randomly buzzed at 3 a.m., rousing you from a strong sleep
  • Watching middle-aged adults, dressed as mice, do cheerleading pyramids is very entertaining
  • Just because you can wear a slutty cop outfit on Halloween, doesn't mean you should, or at least stuff your bra ahead of time
  • No matter how full you are, there is always room for candy
  • Having nearly zero water pressure in your shower can make you exceedingly pissy
  • It's mildly embarrassing to have your credit card declined because it is expired, seriously, check that before you leave the house
  • After you've been friends with someone for several years, it's inevitable that you will start dressing a like (twinsies!)
  • There is nothing better than the feeling of accomplishing something new all on your own, or with you dad on speaker phone to guide you with the pliers
  • Everyone looks more attractive in mood lighting, even your girlfriends
  • Heterosexual girl crushes are totally acceptable and are not creepy. But they're kind of fun 
  • Working out is a great way to relax, but not when it's 80 degrees in the gym and you feel like you might pass out
  • When a guy is making flirtatious conversation with you on the bus, while looking down at you and eating Corn Nuts, that is not attractive
My print appearance
As some of you may have seen or read about on Twitter last week, two of my tweets were featured in Thursday's local RedEye edition. For those of you outside of Chicago, the RedEye is like a "lite" version of the Chicago Tribune. It's the Miller Lite to the the Tribune's MGD status. The paper recently joined Twitter and it asks local followers to submit tweets to them on various topics. 

And after several unsuccessful tries, two of mine were featured in the paper on the same day! Below are some pictures of my super awesome achievement! And because I didn't pick up this specific edition last week, my co-workers were sweet and ran to my desk to tell me the news and then call me "famous" all day. I love these ladies.

So now that you've seen how witty I can be, join the club and follow me on Twitter (in case you don't already). I promise to be as charming in tweet as I am on here. Isn't that reason enough to follow me?

Check me out: @bayjb

How was everyone else's holiday weekend? Several people copied my costume - dressing as a young professional woman on casual Friday. 

The parties in my neighborhood were insane on Friday night, people were out all over the streets. The best costume I saw was a box on animal crackers. Very well done, but not easy to watch her walk in.