Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My favorite holiday foods to gorge on

Despite my kitchen fails, I love food and eating, especially at the holidays. That's when I bring out the comfy pants (with elastic waist) and prepare to gorge myself for multiple days. Sometimes, I enjoy the food so much, I contemplate inducing vomiting to make room for more. Okay, yeah that's gross, I don't mean that literally.

My family isn't very adventurous with food. My dad is the perfect example of this (he's never even had sushi!) We know what we like and we eat it. We don't always go crazy and try new things, even though my stepmom and I are more outgoing than the men. 

So at the holidays, we make the same foods every year and I never get tired of it. In fact, I look forward to the traditional fare weeks before I come home. 

My holiday food favorites include:
  • Fudge (My stepmom's family recipe is so good. It melts in your mouth)
  • Homemade "sticky buns" (Another family recipe, full of butter and goodness)
  • Taco dip (I made it this year and we use a "secret" ingredient that makes trays of this disappear quickly)
  • Ham roll-ups (Simple, ham, green onion and cream cheese. I eat them like chips)
  • Caramel apple dip (There is no actual caramel in here, just cream cheese and brown sugar, but it goes perfectly with Granny Smith apples)
  • Tenderloin (I don't eat a ton of red meat, but tenderloin is my favorite. I don't know what my dad does to cook or season it, but I cannot get enough of it)
  • Stollen - A traditional German cake with dried fruit and candy on the inside. My stepmom literally spends three days making loaves of this for family and friends. I am not a huge fan but appreciate the effort. Oh an absolutely everything is homemade, dough and all
I put some pictures of these tasty delights below for you guys to enjoy.

Fudge (yes, I know it has a poop-like shape, but it's awesome)


Taco Dip (before I pile shredded cheese on top!)

Homemade "sticky buns"

Oh, and now that I have the desire to cook and am loaded up with new bar and kitchen stuff, guess it's time to throw a party. Anyone want to come over?

What are some of your favorite holiday foods that you look forward to? It can be made by you or your family?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is that what you're wearing?

I absolutely hate this question because it's a dumb one. My sarcastic response to this question usually is: yes, this is what I'm wearing, I don't go naked out in public (only around the house occasionally.) 

I bring this up today because of an incident that happened last week, that I actively tweeted about because I was so upset.

Saturday night was my cousin's wedding, just outside of Madison, and I made the FATAL mistake of bringing a dress but not shoes back with me because I was in a such a rush to pack before leaving Chicago. 

I didn't think this oversight was a huge deal because I had a less formal backup outfit, which I wore for Christmas (argyle sweater, skirt, tights and flats - adorable). I know it wasn't the perfect outfit, but I thought it would be fine.

Why did I think this? Because it's a Wisconsin wedding. I don't want to sound mean, but where we were going, Packer gear, scrunchies, nylons with runs in them and Super Bowl jackets rule. I didn't see a need to get "Chicago dressed up" for this. Plus, I'm on vacation, cut me some slack.

Well, when my stepmom heard about my outfit choice, she freaked out and told me it "wasn't appropriate" and I couldn't wear it. I told her it wasn't a big deal, but she forced me to try on around 20 outfits of hers (which don't fit me) as alternatives before I found something she approved for me to wear. But of course I didn't have shoes for this ridiculousness so my dad and I had to go out and BUY some, which I have no desire to wear again, and I made him pay for because I was on the verge of tears.

I may very well have overreacted to this (because in the end I looked nice), but I think it was the way she said to me, "is that what you're wearing? No way, I don't approve." Hi, I'm 29 years old, I may not have the best fashion sense, but back off! I was forced to dress up like I was going out to a formal event in Chicago, in an ugly coat I had to borrow, and strappy heels in the rain.

In the end, I went to "dead inside" mode and let them dress me up like a life-size doll and I was one of the most overdressed person at this wedding. But the crappy house wine helped make it better. And my HUGE J-Lo-like hair was pretty bad ass.

Here is a picture of my hair and part of the dress I wore that night. I won't lie. I looked pretty good, but I still think it was a lot of unnecessary fuss.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Key learnings and holiday recap

Woo! I'm back from a few days off! I hope everyone had a great holiday and that Santa was extra good to each of you. 

I'll get to the holiday recap shortly, but let's bask in some key learnings!

Key Learnings:
  • Baked Cheetos are insanely addictive. Bags on them can disappear easily
  • It's okay to eat a plateful of fudge for breakfast, lunch and part of dinner
  • Hiding in your bedroom at home is totally acceptable to get some alone time
  • Parents need to share the television because I can only handle so much Fox News and CNBC
  • Even though you have a designated room at home, you have absolutely zero privacy. Parents will still come in your room, with or without permission
  • Reading the same book at Border's over the course of two days is fun, and cost-effective
  • Homemade cinnamon buns are a-m-a-z-i-n-g, way better than store-bought
  • Hiding disappointment at Christmas gifts is tougher to do as you get older
  • Text messages from friends on Christmas can totally make your day
  • After a tough day at home, nothing says "tomorrow will be better" like beer...or scotch
  • At Wisconsin weddings, Packer gear, scrunchies, bad faux fur and open-toed shoes with nylons are common sights
  • Despite multiple outfit/accessory options, it's okay to stop showering daily and wearing full make up while home for the holidays, no one judges
Holiday recap and gift FAIL

Overall, my holidays were good, although the crazy weather did throw a wrench into a few things. But everyone got along, there was no crying (at least on Christmas Day) and everyone was in good spirits. Even when we're strung out on stress and no sleep, all of my Christmas celebrations had laughs, which makes everything all good.

And, I don't want to sound bitchy, but Santa came to visit me this year and honestly, it was a partial FAIL. I love buying gifts for people and picking out perfect items for everyone on my list. I take great pride in this, but I know not everyone does that. For example, dad and I went to Crate & Barrel to pick out wine glasses and champagne flutes for my apartment and Christmas morning, I eagerly anticipated opening up my gifts to find them. 

Turns out, I didn't get the glasses I picked out because he thought I would like other ones better...that look nothing like the ones I picked out. I didn't like the new glasses and now have to go through the hassle of returns, while my dad takes this personally. It's not personal, I tell him, but he doesn't seem to feel that way. Sometimes, maintaining the element of surprise as an adult is very tough.

Now I have a total of four gifts to go back, with replacement items (from my list) already purchased. It's just so much work and frustration. But it's okay.

Despite a few bad apples, I did get my new kitchen knife set and back-up hard drive for Lulu, so it wasn't all bad :) And dad did surprise me with a Longchamp Le Pliage nylon tote. I have one in blue and use it all the time in summer. It's a perfect size and is perfect for the rain because it dries easily. Yay!

And based on the other gifts I got, including a nifty decanter and bar set from friends, it appears as though I need to drink more. Ironically, I also received three bottles of champagne, so, I guess I can start working at meeting this goal. 

What about everyone else? Was Santa good to you too? What was your favorite gift this year?


When I left Chicago, we had several inches of snow, but it wasn't too awful. However, Wisconsin was NAILED with snow, at least 10 inches, and it basically shut the city down. This meant I lived in my wellies for the first few days home because we had so much snow every day. The snow even caused my mom to reschedule our Christmas Eve activities until Christmas Day. Roads were awful and it was ungodly slippery, but I was spared from shoveling duty so I can't complain too much. 

Here are some snow pictures from outside our house pre-Christmas. Overnight Friday, we lost five inches of snow from the mild temps. Crazy global warming.

Monday, December 22, 2008

How I fail to look fully cute or ladylike in winter

I don't consider myself to be a vain person, but I like to look nice when I leave the house (unless it's Sunday, when showering is putting forth enough effort for the day.)

Looking cute in summer is easy, but winter provides a few more challenges, thanks to the cold and snow. In Wisconsin, I drive everywhere, so looking cute is easier because I don't have to worry about public transport or much foot travel. When I moved to Chicago, someone told me, "in winter, you sacrifice how you look to stay warm."

This was a foreign concept to me, so I ignored her, and boy did I pay for it. Now when I buy coats or boots, I always ask myself if they will survive a Chicago winter. If not, I don't get them. My stepmom is routinely horrified by the "unfashionable" items I purchase because they're "durable." My usual response is, "they may not look that cute, but they will keep me warm."

But in the essence of staying warm over fashionable or ladylike, I started thinking about the fashion/etiquette faux pas' I commit regularly in winter and I decided to make a list:
  • Pant leg tucking - I don't want to ruin my pant/jeans legs with the snow/salt, so I tuck them into my boots and, gasp, the pant's aren't skinny leg, so I have a mild Pied Piper look going
  • Public nose wipe - I get a runny nose easily and I don't always have the time/ability to reach for a tissue (especially on the bus), so I just use my hand, sometimes more than once to wipe away snot. Yes, I know, it's gross. It also looks like my hand is feeling up my face
  • Scarf flap - I actually saw in a fashion magazine in a "tips about wearing a scarf" article that having the tails peek out from the bottom of your coat is a big no, no. Too bad I don't care and routinely look like I have a crotch flap 
  • Pick a color - I am a routine offender of not having a matching hat, scarf and gloves. If I'm lucky, the hat and scarf match, but not always. I hate being that matchy-matchy and sometimes, I grab for whatever accessories are closest to me, thus resulting in a color-blind-like palette of color when I go out
So that's my list. I feel cleansed now that I've said it out loud. And anyone that judges is free to come visit Chicago, especially when we get pummeled by snow and see how you feel. Several ladies learned last week that Uggs are not appropriate snow attire (but I still love them!)

Does anyone else have similar winter fashion shames? 

Well the holidays are almost upon us, so I will be taking a few days off to be with family and try to hone my cooking skills (pictures forthcoming!)

Although I'll be away from the blog, I will be tweeting my way through the next few days, which will be full of FAILs, inappropriate comments and forced family bonding. So if you don't already, follow me on Twitter for the full adventure.

I hope everyone has a happy holiday and I will be back shortly. I will definitely want to hear what Santa brought everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Key Learnings, holiday countdown and cupcakes

Woo! It's the week of Christmas. I literally cannot believe it. And now that I'm back in Wisconsin for the holidays, it's time for quality family togetherness, with a healthy amount of "Jess-only field trips."

So let's bask in some key learnings, join me!

Key Learnings:
  • When you're with family, always say "yes" when asked if you want another drink (unless you're driving)
  • When you're around the most obnoxious woman you've ever met, it's okay to fantasize about punching her in the face to shut her up
  • A woman who is missing her front six teeth should not stick her tongue out at your adorable Coach wellies (they are adorable)
  • It's okay to tell an elderly woman that you can't walk her across the street because you're trying to hail a cab
  • Snow is beautiful, unless you have to drive in it or shovel/snowblow it from your house
  • Christmas shopping is fun, unless you go out in -40 degree wind chills, then you're just praying it will be over with soon
  • Scrunchies are still popular in parts of the Midwest, *cough* my hometown *cough*
  • Even as an adult, parents can still make you do sweat shop-style labor
  • It's perfectly acceptable to change into pajamas at 6 p.m.
  • Cheetos and Pepsi are not an nutritional lunch, but it is tasty (even if they are Baked Cheetos)
  • Waiting two hours for an hour-and-a-half train ride s-u-c-k-s, but it's okay to find comfort in food, specifically a taco salad, and devour the entire thing like an animal
  • JCrew argyle socks are awesome, especially when its marked down from $9.50 to $3.99
So I am currently back in Wisconsin for the holidays, residing as co-queen of the castle in my parent's house. And I hate to jinx it, but so far things have been going pretty well. I survived my early Christmas with one side of the family, but not without some family drama first. Apparently women in my family are magnets for a) trouble and b) drama.

Today, I also finished 99.9 percent of my Christmas shopping, although it was done in sub-zero wind chill temperatures. Tears actually froze to my face when I went in to buy my stepmom's gift. But the shopping is done, so I feel like I can now focus my energy on creatively wrapping everything...sometime. 

I even rewarded myself for going out in the cold temperatures by going to the local Public Market to get a cupcake, but not just any cupcake, a chocolate temptation cupcake that was ranked by our local magazine as the best in the city. I cannot wait to top off my Cheetos and Pepsi lunch with this as part of a healthier dinner. NUM.

Forgive the presentation, the cupcake had an accident in the container en route home

Also, thank you to everyone for their kind blog birthday wishes. I greatly appreciate it and they made my snowy Friday!

How was everyone else's weekend? Am I one of the few still working on buying Christmas gifts now that we're in the final stretch?

Friday, December 19, 2008

My baby blog's birthday!

Holy cow, my little blog turns 1 year old today! Happy Birthday baby!

I'll get a little serious here for a second so I hope you bear with me.

Since I started this blog, I've learned a lot. There were some ups and downs, people who were hurt along the way and lessons learned, but I can say that starting this has changed a lot of things for me. It's opened up doors career-wise and introduced me to some pretty awesome and amazing people, in and out of Chicago. And for that, this is one of the best things I've done.

So I want to say two things:

1) Happy birthday baby blog 

2) Thank you to everyone who reads my little blog and comments. I love hearing what you have to say and I'm so glad that you all come to visit (lurkers and all)

When I started this, I never thought I would keep it up past three months, and here I am, one year later. Cheers, and here's to another good year with all the exciting things still to come. 

And yes, I'm totally getting a cupcake later to celebrate :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All I want for Christmas

Tonight we're back to my frequent blog topic, shopping. Christmas is just about a week away so I thought I would share some of the items I've put on my list this year. And trust me, I'm hoping Santa thinks I've been a good girl.

Now a few of these items are serious and a few are just something I'm salivating over and could only hope to get. I've mentioned that because of the economy, I've cut down on my list this year and asked for more practical things for my apartment. Dad was quite surprised by a few items on here, but I think he meant that in a good way :)

So what's on everyone else's Christmas list? Any one item in particular you're hoping to have in your stocking or under the tree?

The Practical gifts:
Dirty laundry should be properly sorted!

Crate & Barrel may help me unload my plastic wine glasses

And get some proper champagne flutes in my hand

I collect the Vanity Fair books for my coffee table

I need these to give my traditional pearl earrings a day off

I love Jim, I think that's self-explanatory :)

Fun but not as practical:

Check out Jan's candle site, the scent descriptions are hee-larious

I apparently need more "adult" boots (in black)

I love anything from this store, especially Glittens (glove mittens)!

Totally impractical, but would sure be nice:

How gorgeous would this be on my arm? It has it's own belt!

I love the color purple, scarves/wraps and cashmere, triple win

I wear my Tiffany beaded necklace all the time, I love this shape and size
This isn't actually available to buy, but her "horn can pierce the sky!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bad holiday behavior

I love the holidays, but I've been known to misbehave on them. I've mentioned before that I don't like to share, but another one of my bad traits is that I'm a jealous person. I don't like it when things that are mine are taken away or when competition comes in.

So I can painfully admit that most of my bad Christmas behavior stems from jealousy and my misguided ways to act out on it. I'm not someone who will bad mouth you to your face, I'm more the passive aggressive type, who will hide your car keys or do a backhanded compliment. I hate to say that I've even hissed at someone I don't like when they got too close to me. Apparently I was channeling a cat that night.

I thought I would share with you one bad Christmas behavior story that stands out, and that a few friends bring up on occasion.

Every Christmas Day evening, we host my stepmom's family at my parent's house. And every year that we've hosted, I end up horribly drunk and passed out in the basement or in my room because I overserve myself. Being a stepchild, I often feel like I don't fit in with my dad and stepmom, especially with her family. I'm sort of caught in the middle.

These feelings of insecurity, coupled with jealousy of her family and my stepbrother's girlfriend, who my stepmom and her family love, leads me to lash out, usually with champagne.

Two years ago, dressed in a very nicely coordinated outfit, I drank two bottles of champagne (before dinner) and stumbled out into the living room with the guests, practically laying on the couch over my nemesis, the girlfriend. I tried to be polite to her, while poking at her face, thinking that was cute.

When my dad excused me and pulled me off the couch, to "calm down," I ended up finishing off another partial bottle of wine and getting a case of the munchies. That fateful munchie craving lead me to eat, with my bare hands, raw tenderloin, which was going to be cooked for the guests. And that is what dad caught me doing when he came to check on the me and the meat. He caught me eating the raw meat bare handed like an animal.

I can still hear him saying, "Jess! What the hell are you doing?"

And me saying back, "Eating...and now bedtime!"

And then I stumbled upstairs, popped out my contacts and passed out on my bed in my clothes...again.

Fingers crossed I can keep it two years in a row of actually behaving. Oh and I also cannot serve myself liquor at home anymore. Apparently my parents picked up on the pattern of how I got so easily intoxicated.

Reader notes: Thank you everyone for the great comments on yesterday's "moving on" post. I'm glad several of you brought up the media perpetuating the Brad/Jen/Angie "triangle" too because I did forget to add a note like that in the post. I'm definitely Team Aniston, but I think it's time we just let the whole issue drop.

Also, in response to Sunday's post, CWI are "cold weather indicators," basically nipping out, which I was doing at the gym when I waved at Jamie Foxx, who was playing basketball. HOT! And for the make out story, I didn't end up making out with anyone after the holiday party, because when Is said I wanted to make out, the only people around me were female co-workers. And that is not who I was hoping to make out with. Maybe next time I'll say that in a sea of hot men :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Girl needs to move on

I'm writing tonight's post as an open woman-to-woman conversation to Jennifer Aniston because I read her Vogue article and saw snippets from GQ this weekend and honestly, I'm worried.

First off Jen, why are you only wearing a tie on GQ? Guys are going to think that's what women wear around the house now and we can't have that. We just need to keep up the charade that we have pillow fights in our underwear on girls nights. Because we TOTALLY do.

Next, girlfriend, I'm writing this to tell you that you need to move on from this whole Brad and Angie thing. Why are you still talking about Angie being "uncool" in interviews? Wasn't all that going on like four years ago?

Moving on is tough. It's tough because you have to really let yourself realize that you're not with the guy you love anymore and that he is working on moving on from you too. He is off dating someone else and realizing every day that a piece of you that he holds on to is fading away. It means "we" becomes "me" or "I" and your first holiday season is a little more difficult. And it means all the great memories you have with him is going to happen again with someone else, for him and you.

I know hearing that your ex is engaged or married or even has adopted and then fathered a ton of kids has got to hurt. It always does, but continuously talking about him and his new life doesn't make people believe you're okay, it makes them realize you're still living in the past.

I've had to move on from a few guys I really cared for and none of them were easy. Moving on from Peter was very difficult, but I did it and even if I think about him occasionally, I don't verbalize it. And you shouldn't either about Brad.

Don't worry about what Angie did or didn't do or if Brad is missing a sensitivity chip. It didn't work out for you two for a reason, which might not be a bad thing. Bury the hatchet and let them go on repopulating the world, don't you have better things to do?

I hope these comments didn't hurt too much, but I'm saying them because I care and I've been there. We can hug it out if you'd like or talk about why "Along Came Polly" was not the best move for you. But I did love you in "The Good Girl." Way to go nailing Jake Gyllenhaal.

Call if me if you want to talk more.


I'm not an "expert" at moving on, so let me know if I'm totally off base here or how you've moved on from past relationships.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Key Learnings, mini drunk blog and Chicago holiday traditions

I cannot believe it's the middle of December. Wha? Where are the weeks going? This week I head home and I've already started overpacking. Is that even possible?

Let's get into the key learnings to spare me from finding another sweater to pack.

Key Learnings:
  • When you say, "I'm ready to make out," make sure it's by people you want to make out with (unless you don't really care who it is)
  • Just because it's "open bar for two hours," doesn't mean you need to drink a full night's worth of wine within two hours
  • Men who deliver food on bikes in the rain should be paid double
  • Gluhwein is awesome, but drink it as fast as you can to avoid the odd taste
  • When your doctor says (with a tone) that you've put on five pounds, do not say, "yeah? you have too," especially when she is pregnant. Oops!
  • People are meaner the closer it gets to Christmas
  • Baby strollers in crowded, public places are a menace
  • When having a celeb sighting at the gym, make sure your CWI's aren't at full alert
  • The first taste of caffeine soda after a long day tastes like sweet heaven running through your veins
  • When 40 mph wind gusts are blowing at you, tear your hat off and do a Charlie's Angels hair flip. At that point, just own it
Chicago Christmas

Along with the Michigan Avenue lighting, I love going to visit the Christmas Market at Daley Plaza and the Macy's windows. For some reason, I was possessed to visit both of them this weekend, along with just about every tourist in a 20 mile radius...and in the rain. That did not help my cold. 

View of the Market

But I got some sweet pictures and good food, including German Gluhwein, which is spiced red wine. I'm not a red wine fan and the spice tasted a little like lighter fluid, but it did clear some of my sinuses for a few minutes. Score. I also got some cinnamon-toasted almonds (gebrannte Mandeln in German), which bring back a lot of memories from my time overseas. The crowds were awful, but it was worth it.

Gebrannte Mandeln (nom nom nom)


Also, here is a picture of my name on Santa's list in the Macy's window. Fingers crossed I'm on the "nice kid" list.

Mini drunk blog

Here's a shock, I was "overserved" at my holiday party this week (two of the above key learnings happened there) and I came home, downed a container of cold pasta like an animal and decided to drunk blog. Below is the text from my drunk blog attempt. Imagine me laughing in the background too and spitting pasta. It's sad.

"So right now, I am totally hammered and eating cold pasta to sober up before I go to bed and I'm watching the Office. But it's really not htat funny and I want to see more Jim/Pam before it goes o nhiatisus for a month. I mean what's up with that? I even SMS texted Jenn but she's not answering nad someone got my Xmas card today and it made them happy. That's not normal. Th room is spinning. Cold pasta, I want it to be awarm but it's not. But that's okay.  I love the office, dwight is fuuny. bedt ie."

How was everyone else's weekend? I get to wear jeans to work this week, which I am super excited about, but it is causing me to rethink my casual wardrobe.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Christmas ornament obsession

My parents and I take the holidays very seriously, especially when it comes to our Christmas ornaments. I collect new ones each year and am generally obsessed with them.

I consider mine to be as valuable as my photo albums or even my paper mache rabbit/cat Bubbles. I don't mess around.

As kids, my brother and I would receive a new ornament each Thanksgiving that was "themed" for each year. So when I played the clarinet and violin, I got a glass musical note ornament and when I was into cheerleading (bad idea), they gave me a cheerleader ornament to hang on the tree. My brother and I are very possessive about our ornaments and fought over tree space for our items. I could easily fill one giant tree just with my own ornaments.

Looking back now at all the ornaments I've collected, they tell a story of me as a kid, starting with "Baby's First Christmas" to my braces (yes I turned them into an ornament) to my childhood obsession with unicorns. I seriously have five unicorn ornaments. What can I say? They're magical.

Unfortunately, we don't do the Thanksgiving tradition anymore, but I always end up picking up a few new ornament each year to add to my little Chicago tree, which is now getting full. Time for another plastic bin.

Here are some pictures of my favorite Chicago-tree ornaments. They're not the really valuable ones, but they sure make the tree look pretty!

Top: Marshall Fields clock
Bottom: Special-edition Cinderella Christmas ornament

What are some of your own holiday traditions or obsessions? Do you have one thing around the holidays that you obsess over too?

Well tonight is our company Christmas party and this weekend I have a ton of pre-holiday "ladyscaping" appointments so I look good when I head home next weekend. Anyone else have big weekend plans?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My gassy grocery experience

Guess what? Everyone has gas problems once in awhile. And sometimes when we have gas problems, we need to get OTC meds to help make that gas issue go away. In situations like this, I wish there was a more dignified way to purchase these items at the grocery store, without everyone knowing my business.

This also extends to buying "lady items" at CVS. Not everyone needs to know when I'm on my cycle, thanks.

So, lately I haven't been feeling so well and I cannot get into my doctor so I have been using WebMD to self-diagnose myself and hopefully rule out what is wrong with me. In the process of ruling things out, it lead me to Jewel this weekend for groceries and to pick up some generic Gas-X pills. No, I don't have stinky gas, I'm just having some digestive issues. People who sit around me at work don't have to be scared.

Anyhow, I successfully hid the gas pills under my groceries so I wasn't advertising my issue to everyone in the store...until I had to pay. A cute guy was standing behind me, giving me a nice smile, when suddenly my Cheerios tipped over and the pills were exposed. I hid them again, thinking I was safe, until the cashier said out loud, holding the pills...

"Ma'am, are these gas pills yours?"

Dying of embarrassment, trying to keep my face from turning red, I said back...

"Yes, yes they are"

The cute guy actually took a step away from me and if I had any sense or control over myself, I would have let one rip, given him a wink and walked out because even (non)gassy girls need love too. But I cowered in shame, paying quickly and running out in the cold, gas pills and all.

Thankfully, I am feeling better. Stomach -1, self-esteem - 0. Maybe next time.

Um, I won't make any of you share anything bad, but let me know if you've had an embarrassing shopping experience, for meds, "lady items" or anything else. 

Time to go hide from embarrassment.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Playing dress up

"I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright, and I pity any girl who isn't me tonight!" (Yes, I still sing this out loud from time to time)

Even though I'm an adult, I still like to play dress up sometimes. I have little fashion shows in my apartment and sometimes like to just dress up in clothes I rarely get to wear, because I know they look cute and I hate seeing them lay in boxes in my closet. And yes, I've worn stiletto heels and a cocktail dress to wash dishes before. Scrubbing dishes and looking fab.

In college, I would go try on prom or formal dresses because it was fun to play dress up and pretend that I had glamorous places to wear these dresses to on a regular basis. Plus, who doesn't like to put on a pretty dress, nice pair of shoes and jewelry every once in a while? It's like playing with life-size Barbies, except you're the Barbie :)

I bring this up because during Thanksgiving I stumbled upon a formal, black-tie event dress I bought during college. At the height of poverty, I walked into the former Marshall Fields and went to play dress up in the women's department after an awful day at class. I came across a long, black detailed dress with crushed velvet paisley pattern (trust me, it's gorgeous) and would stare at myself in a full-length mirror for awhile, admiring how gorgeous I looked. Then, I finally bought it and never wore it. The tags are still on it, but I had to have it because when I tried it on, it looked like it was painted on me.

And trying it on again recently made me smile because five years later, it still fit pretty well (although a few more days at the gym would help) and it still looks great. It needs altering at the hem, but it still looks good :)

So here's me in my latest dress up adventure in the above mentioned black dress. The picture isn't great (or overly flattering) because I'm sandwiched in my parents office, trying to take the picture in the mirror, but I think you get the idea.

Does anyone else still play dress up? It doesn't have to be with a full gown, even sometimes dressing up in shoes or jewelry to sit around the house is fun!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Key learnings, holiday spirit and hittin' the town

I am loving this Sunday. Well minus the fact that I didn't go to bed until 3 a.m., but despite being tired and mildly hungover, I was very productive this morning.

Why do I say that? Well, my little apartment is now decorated for the holidays, with the tree and ornaments in full display and with a few gifts for others under the tree. (Pictures below) I used to do Cirque du Soleil acts to hang tree lights around the apartment, but I'm leaving that alone for now. Or until I can convince one of my tall guy friends to help me out. I say thank you in beer.

Moving on, here are my key learnings!

Key Learnings:
  • Holiday shopping on Michigan Avenue on Saturdays is m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e
  • Champagne + Bloody Marys + beer = a fun night
  • I am a Rock Band goddess when singing Oasis' Wonderwall (100 percent baby!)
  • Beer makes me sing a lot better in front of people
  • Never keep your parents waiting when they're in town to visit (they don't stop calling)
  • Watching your parents while they're intoxicated is funny but also unnerving
  • When it's 10 degrees out with a windchill, leggings and a fleece jacket are cute, but not weather-appropriate attire, go put some real pants on
  • Do not stand in front of the Twilight section at Borders. Tourist girls will push you out of the way to get a poster 
  • Always call early to schedule any pre-holiday "lady-scaping" appointments, otherwise your eyebrows might have to wax themselves 
  • Mild, hunger-driven temper tantrums still happen in your twenties
  • Getting a St. Nick stocking from your parents still rocks
Typical Nordstrom event behavior

My parents came in to town this weekend for their annual pre-holiday shopping trip and our attendance at the Nordstrom's customer appreciation night. My behavior from last time is fairly infamous within my family, but fortunately, dad was the one who was "overserved." *Insert evil laugh* Now we're even and I was even the bigger person and didn't lecture him the way I was after my past behavior.

But I did have fun trying on silly hats like this one. Personally, I think it works for me.

Gal's Guide and Banana Republic

On Friday, I went with some awesome co-workers to the Gal's Guide event at Banana Republic on Michigan Avenue, where we got free hair and make up consultations by Maxine Salon and the opportunity to shop the entire store at another 25 percent off. A nice stylist curled my hair, which looked adorable, and I walked out with riding boots (which will be from Santa), an LBD for the holiday and the real find, a khaki trench coat with brown tortoise buttons for....$44, marked down from $250. Woo woo!

My apartment's holiday decor

I did fall short of getting my Christmas cards done, but I did get my tree up and decorated. I even put out the Pottery Barn festive jewels on some furniture and the windowsill to really set the mood.

Here is a picture of my tree. It's not much, but it's adorable and my apartment really feels festive :) I'm enjoying looking at it right now, lit up in my apartment. Yay!

My holiday bejeweled windowsill

So how was everyone else's weekend. Anyone else go holiday shopping or have a nightmare time at the stores? It's high tourist season here now so the sidewalks are bananas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas card protocol

My big goals this weekend are to work on my Christmas cards and decorate my apartment for the holidays. And by decorating, I mean putting up my Charlie Brown-inspired faux Christmas tree and watching Love Actually in my living room.

I'm scaling back my holiday spending this year because of the economy, so I'm putting more effort into my Christmas cards, because, well, they have to say "Happy Holidays! Sorry I can't get you a gift."

But if my Christmas card list is increasing, that means I have to establish a firm protocol so I don't spend all weekend working on them. This sadly means that I have to categorize people on my card list and not everyone gets a very personal message in the card. I love writing messages to people in cards, being cute and funny so they maybe hold on to them. I never used to hold on to cards but now I do, especially if there is a meaningful note in it.

To start the Christmas card protocol, I buy two boxes of cards: one that I really love and splurge on (known as Tier 1) and another box that is nice but on the more "economic" side (known as Tier 2).

Then, looking at my card list, I drop the names into one of the following categories, which determines which card and message they get in the card:
  • Obligatory - friend of family, someone I have to send a card to: Tier 2 with standard holiday greeting
  • Exchange occasional e-mails: Tier 2 card with standard holiday greeting
  • Friend I've lost touch with: Tier 2 card with standard holiday greeting and note about keeping in touch more
  • Acquaintance with mutual friends, keep in touch only when out in a group:Tier 1 card with standard holiday greeting
  • Casual friend - talk regularly but don't socialize very often: Tier 1 card with standard holiday greeting and short additional note
  • Close friends - talk and see each other regularly: Tier 1 card with standard holiday greeting and lengthy additional note
I know it looks anal retentive, but it helps keep things straight. So starting tomorrow, I'm off to begin organizing my cards so I can knock these out quickly this weekend and enjoy the view of my little Christmas tree in my apartment. 

One holiday tradition I do every year is watch television with only the Christmas tree lights on in the apartment. That is one of my favorite evening activities :)

Am I the only one without a tree up just yet? It's after Thanksgiving now so it's acceptable to decorate for the holidays and pull out the Christmas music playlist.

Also, let me know if you have a routine when sending out your Christmas cards too. I'm already listening to my holiday iPod playlist to get in the mood.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fall food indulgences

Now that snow is on the ground and the temperature is falling faster, I'm all over the comfort foods. Thanksgiving was just a formal excuse to indulge in foods that make my tummy happy and keep me warm. Plus, I seem to always be chilled so if food warms me up, bring it on! And once daylight savings kicks in, I'm all over eating these foods whenever I can, for multiple days in a row if necessary.

I've listed below a few of my favorite fall foods. What are some of your favorite comfort foods? I'm always looking for new ones to add into my rotation, mostly so I don't get tired of my favorites :)

I never used to be a huge chili fan, but my stepmom has an awesome recipe. I love throwing some cheese and sour cream on top of her no bean chili and curling up on the couch. In fact, the colder it gets, the more I crave this dish. I already requested that my stepmom makes a huge pot of this over Christmas. I smell leftovers!

Macaroni and cheese
I grew up with my mom making mac and cheese with hot dogs, and now I have found some restaurants here that actually have baked macaroni and cheese on their menu, which is like heaven in a bowl. I don't know what actually goes into the baking, but with a layer of melted cheese on top, I highly recommend it. In fact, here's a picture of baked mac and cheese from the Halsted Bar & Grill. This is worth going out in the snow.

We have an Au Bon Pain in my office building so once it gets cold out, I practically live there on Fridays, rotating between my favorite soups (of course accompanied by a soft baguette).  I highly recommend the clam chowder, cheese and broccoli or the corn chowder. A local Chicago restaurant, Heaven on Seventh, also does a lovely shrimp corn chowder on Fridays. That is really good too.

Reader note: Thank you everyone for your comments on yesterday's post. I really enjoyed reading them and hearing your thoughts and similar experiences on parents and grandparents aging. I was really glad to hear I'm not the only one going through this and having this feelings. So thank you :) It really helped.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm not the only one getting older

This may sound naive, but as I get older, I fail to realize that my family continues to age as well. I still see my dad as this on-the-go guy and my grandparents as the fun, involved and attentive people I always remembered. But this weekend, I realized that some family members, especially my grandparents, are getting older and it's finally starting to show.

On Thanksgiving, when I left my grandparents house, the sobering reality that the looked frail and well, old, really hit me and honestly, made me want to cry.

I might be hypersensitive to this because I'm not with them very much, but seeing that my grandparents were slowing down, having trouble hearing and sometimes understanding what I was saying, was really hard. My grandpa, who could command a room and easily entertain anyone around him, was having trouble scooping stuffing onto the plate and often had a delay in answering my questions.

And watching them reminisce about me as a child made me realize they don't have any recent memories to talk about as fondly because I'm not around very much.

Now, I feel overly worried about them, wanting to help them do any big or small task around their apartment, and generally feel guilty for not being around more. Because I live in Chicago, there's little I can do to change the latter, but the reality check I got at Thanksgiving was a little larger than expected.

So when I see them at Christmas. My plan is to remind them how much I love them, endure the repetitive questions and help them as much as possible. Somehow I feel that's the least I can do, even if it's not as much as I want it to be.

Has anyone else started to notice this trend with family members? If so, how have you handled it? Sorry this post is a little bit of a downer today, but I really thought it was important to talk about because I'm feeling like an awful granddaughter.