Monday, December 29, 2008


Being as though I'm in marketing and the economy is far below the acceptable line, you can imagine I hear a lot about stay-cations. The word itself has become a cliche.... and it's only been around about six months.

And then today, I experienced my first day of my own stay-cation. And realized it's AMAZING. 

Caveot. I'm actually a huge fan of REAL vacations (if you haven't noticed my aversion to winter yet... I like getting away to sun and warmth)... This slip-up actually came about by mistake due to the fact that I miscalculated my vaca time prior to booking my flight home for Christmas. 

Alas, I made lemons with lemonade. I got more accomplished this morning off my random, not-fun to-do list before noon than I have in all of 2008. It helped that the sun is out, and it is warmer than 30 degrees. Overall... fabulous day... and it's only 3 p.m.

Have you ever had a stay-cation? Tell me about it....
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Holiday Miracle

Family. The people in your life who you're closest to...the ones who get on your nerves the quickest. The ones who remind you of your most unattractive characteristics.... and who have the most dirt on you.

The holidays can be hard for families. Every year brings different heartaches... divorces, deaths, diseases. Often the holidays can remind us of what we're missing; what's not the same as it used to be.

It's easy to take your family for granted. And the holidays, although family-focused, are no exception. For the first time in my life, I thought there was a chance I was going to miss Christmas. Although December 25th would surely come and go, I knew without my family and oldest friends, it would just be another day.

Unfortunately, it took a horrendous 24 hours of pre-Christmas traveling to come to this realization. Let me paint you the long, but necessary, picture. 

5:00 p.m. Leave work... later than expected... for my scheduled 5:50 p.m. flight that has already been delayed until 8:30 p.m.

6:00 p.m. Get to airport. Check in/security randomness. 

6:30 p.m. Meet Cristy for dinner in the food court... laugh over the ridiculousness of the crowds and insanity. Call friends... laugh more. We love vacation. We love Christmas. 

7:30 p.m. Cristy and I relocate around her gate for her Columbus flight. We read magazines, talk pop culture, plan her wedding... Laughter continues... I leave Cristy... skipping off to my gate to check status and get ready to board.

8:00 p.m. Arrive at gate... Pull out Newsweek... Think about what I'm going to do once I get home.. 

8:05 p.m. Enter drunk 20-something guys who have been at the bar since 5:50 p.m. I knew one of them through a friend of a friend. Forward and touchy. Nervous laughter begins. 

8:30 p.m. Announcement of gate change. Ditch the drunkies

8:35 p.m. New seat. New boy. Western Reserve graduate in suit and tie. Yes, I judged. Conversation ends quickly after this WR discovery.

Realize we're not taking off at 8:30 p.m. Decide that I am starting to lose my Christmas cheer and try to avoid people at all costs. 

9:00 p.m. Commit to watching old episode of Grey's Anatomy on laptop. Killing time and any chance I may have to meet the (drunk) man of my dreams at the airport. Clearly fine with that situation. 

10:00 p.m. Plane arrives. Crew no where to be found. 

10:30 p.m. Apparently they locate crew. 

10:35 p.m. Load plane knowing the Cleveland airport is closed, and they are waiting for it to open. Grab the closest window seat I could find. 

10:45 p.m. Realize I'm sitting in the middle of a medical school reunion. Lots of talk of MBAs and how they are going to save the world... 

11:30 p.m. Get text from Cristy. She's in Columbus, and they are making her sing on the plane as they wait for an available gate. Haha, I laugh. I guess things could be worse. 

12:00 a.m. They update us that it's still touch-and-go, but they promise to get us to Cleveland tonight. 

12:45 a.m. They LIED! Cancelled flight. Unload plane.

1:45 a.m. After standing in line and being on hold with 1-800-I-FLY-SWA, realize all flights are booked until the 25th... make a bee-line for the rental cars. Still determined and optimistic that I'm going to get home. Somehow. 

2:30 a.m. Am informed there are no more rental cars available. Begin the search for my bags amongst the war ground that is the baggage claim area. 1,000s of bags scattered throughout the room in no particular order. All black, like mine.

3:00 a.m. Vow to buy bright orange suitcase. 

3:30 a.m. I have entered hell on earth. Realize I dragged about 50 pounds of luggage (with a bad back) through the slush to the airport to eat crappy food court food, be slightly accosted by drunk men, wait six hours for a cancelled flight, be denied the opp to fly or drive the next day to Ohio.... AND to top it off... LOSE THE LUGGAGE that started this chaos in the first place.

I lost all rational thought. I hated my life. I hated Southwest. I had no solution. Hysterically crying from exhaustion, disappointment and stress in the middle of Midway's baggage claim area, I called my parents. I was hoping maybe since they hadn't been stressing for the past nine hours, perhaps they could save me from what was sure to be a Christmas involving takeout and depressing Hallmark Christmas specials.

4:15 a.m. FIND MY LUGGAGE on carousel #6!!!!!!!! Shed tears of happiness. Can't stop the flow of tears that keep running down my face. I'm not even sure why I'm crying anymore. 

4:30 a.m. Leave Midway with luggage  but no plan as to how I will get home. Defeated once again by Chicago weather.

5:30 a.m. Fall asleep with Moxie. At least someone is happy I'm back in my apartment.

7:30 a.m. Mom calls frantic. Get changed! The Helmkamps are coming to pick you up in 10 minutes! Shut the F up... There is no way I am this lucky. Clearly I was good this year.

7:45 a.m. My miracle ride arrives to whisk me away to Akron, Ohio... once thought of as a ho-hum, regular destination, now the Oz in my Wizard... the pot at the end of the rainbow... the genie in my bottle.

3:00 p.m. Exhausted... but never happier to see my family and home on Christmas Eve. 

3:01 p.m. Begin most appreciated Christmas in Ohio EVER!

Have any trouble achieving your Merry Christmas because of the apocalyptic weather that arrived oh-so-conveniently during the height of holiday travel?? Any stories that beat mine?? Do tell... 

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I wonder if they can predict delays 8 hours ahead of time.... hmmm...

Stalking all day. Anyone want to make a bet on how long I'm delayed?? I'm crossing my fingers not... I have my mom's birthday dinner to go to tonight!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

Anyone else going to be at Midway around 5ish?
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Real Ridic...

I'm not sure which is more ridiculous.... that I had to buy an $18 bottle of prescription toothpaste or that I risked death-by-possible frostbite by traveling all the way to Ravenswood after work to drop off keys so that my obese furball will get exactly 1/2 cup food each day while I'm gone.... or that both of these events happened in one night. 


Hoping mother nature takes a sedative tomorrow and ignores what could be another snow storm... which has the capability of causing me to sleep over or get drunk in Midway airport... unfortunately the free Southwest passes don't work until you actually get on the plane... damn.

Wish me luck, and safe travels to everyone :) 

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Notable Quotable

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

-Anne Bradstreet, poet
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today was so cold that....

I woke up today to face -5 degree temperatures... and -40 degree wind chills. To put that in perspective, it was so cold that... 
  • I actually ran at one point, through the piles of frozen snow, like a crazy person to get closer to the warmth of my apartment
  • I suited up with two scarves... not one
  • My eyelashes actually froze due to my eyes watering from the winds...
  • My friend, Dee, and I, in an effort to avoid frost bite while shopping downtown, braved the Woodfield Mall the Sunday before Christmas... insane
  • I ate chili for lunch and dinner
  • I'm actually exhausted from the dealing with the weather
  • I'm looking forward to the warm temperatures of Akron, Ohio (forecasted 10 degrees on Christmas Eve!)
  • My friend, Cristy, willed me her goldfish, Trixie, in case she didn't make it through the day alive
  • We decided Chicago is the new Canada
  • Moxie actually grew, instead of shed, hair 
  • Not even the craziest runners were out on the bike path
Did you make it through the day? Have you already beat the cold and are enjoying fruity drinks by a tropical pool or hiding away in Texas (Alyssa?!)? Or are you just in some location where you don't feel like two scarves is enough?! Please share.... 
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back to You, Jim...

One of my favorite pastimes as a Chicagoan in the winter is following the track of pending storms and virtually befriending all the weathermen. I mean, seriously, during these weather reports, I feel like they should add in tunes from the Apollo 13 soundtrack... They have all the effects of a good movie...
  • Suspense: 'Eleven inches of precipitation - a mix of freezing rain and snow - will begin to fall upon Chicago at approximately 11 p.m. this evening.'
  • The Unknown: Is it going to pass?? Will our pipes freeze? Will we be stuck in our apartments until 2009? Do I have enough food? How will I get to work tomorrow?
  • Love: 'Cuddle up and stay warm, Chicago'
  • Laughter/Clever (or not-so-clever) Commentary: 'We got another doosie coming our way, Todd'... 'If you thought yesterday was beast, we're expecting a monster! (cue the laughter and flash the ridiculously white teeth)
To our media's credit, I witness a similar, intense weather report when visiting San Diego. It rained. Turns out, when you never drive in the rain, you don't know what things like hydroplaining are. Rough life.

Off to a fratastic holiday party... but check the weather tonight... it looks like a doosie's coming our way!!
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Drew Peterson is engaged

I can't say there a lot of headlines that physically make me want to vomit. But when I found out that Drew Peterson was engaged again to a 23-year-old... I couldn't help but be stunned.

Not as much stunned that he would propose to someone after four months of dating... but that someone 1) would be dating him and 2) that she would say yes. 

I don't want to judge, but this whole confusing situation raising a lot of questions... such as:
  • Has this woman read the paper in the past year?
  • Is she aware that one of his wives mysteriously died and the other (that he is legally still married to) is mysteriously missing?
  • Does she have a mother? Or family? Or anyone who might ask, 'what the f are you doing?' I'm pretty sure both of my parents would probably personally move me back to Akron, Ohio if I ever called them announcing an engagement after only four months of dating ANYONE...let alone a suspect in a disappearance and murder. I think that might warrant more drastic measures... involving tranquilizers and drugs... 
  • Where did D.P. meet this said-un-named young woman? Is he area of choice dive bars or does he looked to the more educated, college bars? And is he really that charming that he seriously is engaged for the fifth time?
  • Is D.P. or his publicist paying this woman to get more publicity? Did he miss all the media attention? Has he already called Dr. Phil? Or Jerry?
  • Where will his children fit into this family? Ugh... too sad...
  • Were they really dating before all this commotion went down?
  • At what point, at the old age of 23, do you start to disregard HUGE red flags such as criminal records, four marriages, etc. in fear of becoming an old spinster with several cats?
  • And is Chicago filled with so many crazy guys that one might be in competition with other women to find and land the CRAZIEST of them all?
Clearly (and thankfully) I'm not part of the Chicago Police Department, and I don't have a doctorate in psychology, so I suppose I won't know those answers... and, yes, I agree everyone deserves to be happy. In fact, I've raised a glass to two engagements in the past week... but I have to say... the only thing that this will raise in my book is a lot more questions.

Too many for tonight. Night Chicago.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kiss N' Tell

As I said, definitely didn't make it to book club tonight... but here are a few interesting bits from our latest book, "Kiss & Tell" by Alain de Botton. After the first loooong couple chapters, it became interesting... but I'm still not convinced enough to recommend it. The author is long-winded and writes too much about the actual process of writing the book. Had we actually had our girls' night/book discussion I would have brought up these quotes for discussion. Think about them. Discuss. And if you read it... add your own favs... 

"I don't particularly like London, but at the same time, I think it's granting too much importance to the place you live if you actually move to another one. In the end, all cities are the same, so you might as well stay where you are, where you know how the phone and transport system work, and get on with what matters."

"Anyone who hears a lover account for the demise of their passion will recognize that we are prone to locating the essence of a person in what we publicly dismiss as trivial, yet privately hold as vital. The lover may cite the rejected one's taste in religion, profession or literature, but this lacks the explicative power of the crumbs that follow, namely that the ex happened also to gulp loudly between mouthfuls, did not replace their knife and fork symmetrically and mopped up gravy with a piece of bread, details while one intuitively knows to be far closer to the grounds of the relationship's demise than anything yet outlined."

"Nobody can write the life of a man, but those who have eaten and drunk with him"

"The process of intimacy therefore involved the opposite of seduction, for it meant revealing what risked rendering one most open to unfavourable judgement, or least worthy of love. Whereas seduction was founded on the display of one's finest qualities and dinner jackets, intimacy entailed a complex offer of both vulnerability and toenails."

"We may be forced to identify our lovers from a cripplingly small pool of choices. In trying to explain the more inexplicable love stores, one may have to answer the question, 'Why them?' with the gloomy thought, 'Did you see the others?'"

"Everyone has something to hide, because everyone suspects that if others knew certain things about them they would no longer be loved. Behind our need for privacy lies a fear that we are unacceptable when everything about us is known."

"The more one has to talk to someone, the less one in fact will."

"Strangers to ourselves, we are unreliable autobiographers - and hence render almost impossible the task of our biographers. They are left with the choice of either believing and reporting what their subjects suggest, thereby falling prey to the subjects' fantasies, or doubting and interpreting, thereby risking the addition of their own fantasies to the already muddied picture."

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Oh the weather outside is frightful...

There are certain circumstances when you can learn a lot about a person. Getting lost. Putting up Christmas lights. And waiting for the bus in the middle of a snow storm. I got to test out that third theory with about 200 strangers this afternoon.

Old man winter paid the Windy City a visit today... dumping snow onto Michigan Avenue and the rest of Chicago continuously since about 10 a.m.

As I sat in front of my desk, facing a bleak, frozen river from the 14th floor, I felt like I had been glued into a gigantic snow globe. And someone kept shaking things up.

With each hour came the impending doom of my commute home. Had I not had an end of day deadline that I didn't finish until 5:20... I would have been out of there by 3.

After hitting send, I slowly put on my armour (aka coat, furry boots, extra five wool jackets, hat, scarf and gloves) and headed out in the battlezone.... the bus stop.

This is when I learned a lot about a lot of people. As I approached the corner of South Water and Michigan Ave, I couldn't help but notice the intimidatingly large swarm of people who also had the crazy idea to go home tonight. As I stood there, and the swarm started to multiply, we watched about a dozen bus number 20s pass us by (p.s. does ANYONE know where that bus goes? Because I'm about to move there).

The reactions varied amongst the crowd to this shitshow called rush hour. Many started calling loved ones, describing in detail the dreary situation that lay ahead of them. Others (like myself) huddled in the corner of a building or behind a pole, convinced that frostbite would come before the 143 or 151. But most everyone had the oh-F*ck look on their face... knowing it was going to be awhile before they could crawl into warm sweatpants, eat dinner and hit the DVR button.

Then the 143 bus came. Ahead of me people pile on. I go to step in... and realize it's completely full. F it. Then the 151 bus comes. I swear... it happens again.

Then I get smart and go to the bus stop one block south. Suckers... I'm on! And after only two stops... and a 1/2 an hour passes... I achieve a VIP bus seat... window! Things are looking up. It took me two hours and fifteen minutes, but I'm back and safe in my warm apartment. Nothing to it.

Like I said, I learned a lot about Chicagoans today. Everyone realized that this commute was going to be about as fun as a hangover at Disney World...but some realized they weren't alone and others just wanted to be alone. For example, I was consoled by a stranger who had also just missed the cut to get on the bus... but then also was completely cut off by a dude who clearly could care less about being a gentlemen at this point. 

Needless to say, I did not travel the extra mile for book club... and I did not make it to the grocery store to get quarters for laundry. So I'm forced to put on my sweatpants, post a ridiculously long blog (or blogs) and call it a night. 

Stay warm, Chicago!! 

Tell me about your commute... did you make it home? Get stuck in the suburbs? Get a date?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Riots at Chuck E. Cheese

Spotted. Parents around the country battling out their frustrations at each other at area Chuck E. Cheese restaurants. Apparently, the entertainment doesn't stop at the creepy dressed up mice and disease-infested ball play box.

Check it out...

Yet another reason not to have kids and move to the Wisconsin suburbs. Clearly it will cause you to get drunk amongst a number of screaming and crying kids with ADD and pick fights with other parents. I feel like fighting someone just thinking about it.

Best quote, "The environment also brings out what security experts call the "mama-bear instinct." A Chuck E. Cheese's can take on some of the dynamics of the animal kingdom, where beasts rush to protect their young when they sense a threat."

Thinking back, Chuck E. Cheese may have even been stressful for me as a kid...

Do you like Chuck or his Cheese? What are your thoughts?
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel a lot like a Recession or is it Depression?

December 9, 2008. Open a newspaper. Turn on the news. Check the Twitter logs. Read a few blogs. The news is bad... I mean seriously depressing.

Beyond the usual layoffs, auto industry mayhem and miscellaneous negative economic news, here are some other uplifting headlines from sweet home Chicago just in the past week... 

But to keep us all from believing it's the apocalypse or that hell has freezed over and settled next to Lake Michigan, I've also searched and found a few feel-good stories. Some of which are Chicago-based... most of which are not. Take from it what you will. 

And is giving away $25 for $3. Yet another reason not to cook :) 

Anyone else have any good news to report??? I'm sure we would all appreciate it... 

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Lost Ipod = Lost mind

Everyone has those weekends where they actually look forward to Mondays. This was almost one of those weekends. 

Don't get me wrong, I would've probably offered to get a cavity drilled if it meant I could stay in bed for an extra four hours. What I mean is that I was looking forward to getting back to my weekly responsible schedule... stalking media... working out... eating healthy... reading my book club book... All things that did not take place this weekend. Mainly the responsible part.

To my dismay, the cheery morning came to halt when my irresponsibilities of the weekend came crashing down upon me. I discovered, upon leaving my apartment, that I had once again (yes, this happened another time) lost my Ipod. 

It either a) fell out of my massive purse or b) someone voluntarily caused it to "fall" out of my massive purse. I'm going with the latter....because my $2 chapstick and random Mardi Gras beads remained in the purse all weekend. 

Losing an Ipod in the city is more than just throwing away $150. You might as well lose your sanity along with it. 

Suddenly you have to listen to every conversation next to you on the bus. Or it's so quiet you're forced to hear your own thoughts. And considering you have read my thoughts for the past few weeks... you can imagine why that is scary.

After work, you can't unload to a relaxing tune or upbeat song to take you to the next destination. The cold air feels even colder as it whips at your face and you aren't humming to Beyonce or Britney. Don't even think about running... because you'll suddenly become obsessed about your breath.

You start dreaming about your Ipod as if it were a tragically lost ex-boyfriend. Remembering the smooth blue edges....the feel of the controller as you scanned your favorite songs. Wondering what song would be playing if you had it...Counting Crows? Dave Matthews? And becoming crazily jealous and kind of insecure thinking that someone else somewhere might be checking out the playlists... the most played music....

Like I said... sanity. Gone. 

Ever lost an Ipod? Anyone sympathize with my sorrows?
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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Trials of Tree-Trimming

After a ridiculous weekend of over-celebrating the holiday season, I broke out my hidden domestic skills to pick up and decorate my first real Christmas tree. Despite Walmart selling me a set of 400 Christmas lights... only 200 of which actually lit... the day successfully put me in the holiday mood.

The first hurdle was in the actual transportation. With puffy coats, gloves and lumberjack hats, my friend Aline and I headed over to St. Clement's church to pick up the tree. After first lifting the pile of pines, we gawfed at its lightness. We laughed at how much we felt like a Norman Rockwell painting or characters in a "Christmas Story." Check this one off the list of things we've never done in the city.

Cars... even buses stopped, smiled and let us pass with none of the usual beeping or swearing. One particularly cute older lady exclaimed, "You go girls! Who needs men!" as she walked, arm-in-arm with her husband.

We only had to stop two times in a three block radius... but the point is, it arrived safely to my apartment with time to spare before the rest of the girls came over to decorate. 

One pizza and a bottle of champagne later, my friends and I had a beautiful tree, natural air freshener and one seriously curious cat. Let the holiday fun continue... 

So for the next few weeks... my posts will be written in the cozy confines of my technicolor holiday extravaganza... aka my living room. 

Everyone has a ridiculous tree trimming story. What's yours?

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Runners' Rage...

As a runner, I've done a lot of crazy things. I trained for my first 1/2 marathon on Saturday mornings in January and hurdled puddles in the pouring summer rain. I spent months meeting my running buddy at 5:30 a.m. before work to get in training runs.... and I ran 20 miles of my first marathon in humid, 85 degree heat....while taking pictures (see above). 

I'm not saying these things to brag... I'm just realizing that to non-runners , these activities are not normal. 

The best part is, I'm not alone. And I'm nowhere near the craziest out there. In Chicago, runners are their own breed. 

Last night, however, I truly tested my sanity as I geared up, completely aware of the severe winter weather advisory, and hit Michigan Avenue to run the familiar 3.5 miles home.

As much as I enjoy the runner's high... there are also many other benefits to running home...even if it is dark, cold, windy and snowing...
  • Michigan Avenue is like a human tetras game or Mario Brothers level... I feel like I get bonus points for every tourist I avoid running into
  • Racing the 151... and beating it
  • Watching the reactions of normal, sane people to my crazy running shenanigans
  • Checking out the window displays
  • And although I'm no Prefontaine, I can run home faster than it takes to wait for and take the bus home
To all those other Chicago runners out there... what was your "i-really-can't-believe-I'm-running" moment? And what made you cross over to crazy??
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New York Times: Top 10 List

Top 10 Books of 2008! Just in time for the holiday lists :)
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Monday, December 1, 2008

Backin it Up Hip Hop-Style...

MTV Hip Hop II:  An intermediate Hip Hop class for those who have danced before.... Tons of fun and cool choreography like you would see in music videos.

When I was five, my dad's friend nicknamed me, "Colleen the Dancing Machine" for breaking it down by the campfire to his guitar rendition of "Wild Thing." 

For eight years, from 5th to 12th grade, I performed around the Midwest as part of a competitive show choir... and could flash the jazz hands, dance on boxes and do a 10 second costume change with the best of them (refer to above picture for some chuckles... I'm the sparkly pink girl with big show choir curls in the front).

Today my signature not-so-secret pick-up move is "the twirl"... I've been known to challenge dance-offs whenever possible... and sometimes there's nothing better than a night out dancing with the girls.

But even though age-- and mainly my four years at the water-hole known as Ohio University-- has encouraged the use of alcohol with these recent dance activities, there's still something to be said about learning actual technique and the feeling you get once you nail a routine. 

So I've been searching these past few years for a solid dance class... that's not too stuffy, too time-intensive or too expensive.

Tonight I'll be starting my second MTV Hip Hip II dance session at All About Dance on Clark Street (right by Treets icecream). I'll be working off the Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and pie to the sounds Rihanna and Madonna... 

I have to admit, the fact that they insist on continuing to call it  "MTV" Hip Hop makes me feel like a huge dork..and the fact that they elaborate on that in the description noting, "cool choreography like you see in the music videos" doesn't help. Ah well... it's a fun class... and as long as I have some new moves to pull out at Duffy's, I'm set (someone cue the dry ice, striped shirts and mini burgers to appear).

Happy Cyber (?) Monday!

C....The Dancing Machine

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Notable Quotables..."Vanishing Acts"

With the extra holiday time off, and eight hour drive to Akron, I was able to finish "Vanishing Acts" by Jodi Piccoult. She's one of my favorite authors... so obviously I highly recommend it to everyone. Here's a few Notable Quotables from the book...

"Memories aren't stored in the heart or the head or even the soul, if you ask me, but in the spaces between any given two people."

"If it had been easy for Romeo to get Juliet, nobody would have cared. Same goes for Cyrano and Don Quixote and Gatsby and their respective paramours. What captures the imagination is watching men throw themselves at a brick wall over and over again, and wondering if this is the time that they won't be able to get back up. For everyone who adores a happy ending, there's someone else who cannot help but rubberneck at the accident on the side of the road."

"We make messes of our lives, but every now and then, we manage to do something that's exactly right. The challenge is figuring out which is which."

"If I learned anything from this trial it's that the only way someone can leave you is if you let them. And I'm not doing that... It may look like that today, or tomorrow, or even a month from now, but one day you're going to wake up and see this whole time you've been gone, you've only been headed back to where you started. And I'll be there, waiting. It's not like I'm letting you go. I'm just trusting you enough to come back."

"What if it turns out that a life isn't defined by who you belong to or where you came from, by what you wished for or whom you've lost, but instead by the moments you spend getting from each of these places to the next?"
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Let the Parties Begin...

Holidays in Chicago: A whole month of reasons to party...

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Most of the turkey and leftovers have been eaten. You have both buyers remorse and/or shouldn't-have-eaten-that-last-piece-of-pie remorse. And you're currently hungover or drunk. Congrats... the holiday season can officially begin.
I love this time of year. If I were a teacher or a child of the 50s or 60s, I'm sure I would've owned and embraced a Christmas sweater with bows and bells - and not reserved it only for the Ugly Sweater parties and bar crawls.

There is no question that we love to celebrate in Chicago... and the holidays are no exception. We celebrate sweatpants and fanny packs in October, we embrace Neil Diamond and all his achievements in July... and I even have friends who make an event of walking home from work on a random Friday in August. So when it comes to the winter holidays, it's no surprise that the whole month of December is one blow-out party after the other.

This year I clearly got excited in anticipation of the Yuletide cheer and ordered a real Christmas tree from the church down the street. While I didn't think about the three flights of stairs or the lack of guy friends close enough to enlist as tree carriers, I did think about how a live tree meant another reason for a party (tree trimming!). Also, at the end of the season, I don't have to find a place in our storage room to fit a six foot tree. In my mind... it was a completely practical purchase.

In preparation for my tannebaum decorating soiree, today, on Black Friday, my whole family - mom, dad and brother - packed into the sedan and made our way to Wal-Mart in my hometown of Akron, Ohio. If you knew my family, you would realize this is definitely a rarity. I wasn't as surprised about my mom, but seeing my brother and dad in a retail store - let alone Wal-Mart- on Black Friday - was like finding a four leaf clover in a ten-mile field.

Although we expected the worst as we walked into America's #1 discount superstore, we were actually surprised to see empty aisles and clear lines. I took advantage of the Friday lull and stocked up on discounted lights, ornaments and a state-of-the-art tree stand (let's see how this puppy performs when faced with a crazy calico cat). I can only hope that getting the tree into my apartment will be this easy.

When I get back to Chicago on Sunday, I'll be ready to start the celebrating -- and not to mention armed with cheer and accessories that will allow me to do that in style. So break out the champagne, dust off the ornaments, organize your Macy's coupons, hang the mistletoe and find your sparkles. It's only four weeks... eight weekend nights (i didn't actually calculate that... so give or take a few days). And after December, snow will just be snow, and cold seems even colder. Credit card bills will be paid... and we'll need to start worrying about taxes again. So before we need to make plans for a February 'Hoff Appreciation Day, take advantage of having a real reason to celebrate...
Cheers to the holidays!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Snaps for the Snapshot...

Woohoo!!! Happy Thanksgiving!! (Click on the Life tab)
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Dried Up Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaning: The best excuse not to spend hours running up and down three flights of stairs doing laundry. 

I'm a big fan of dry cleaning. Like nail salons in the city, a dry cleaner is guaranteed to be within a block of your apartment. Given the competition, this means they practically pay you to hand them a pile of wrinkled, cat-haired-covered clothes to transform back into the perfection in which you bought them. 

My former cleaner of choice literally charged $1 per item. Any item. From coats to work shirts to bridesmaid dresses. This all seemed too good to be true... and turns out, it was. 

Noticing the air getting cooler each day, towards the end of September I dropped off my fall jacket. Almost two months later, four visits to the store, three aggrivating conversations with salespeople, two messages into the Claims department and one last follow-up call... THEY FOUND MY JACKET!

Apparently, it was sitting right next to said salesperson. Excellent. 

Even this crazy cleaner can't shake my dependence on dry cleaning... especially considering there's another option just one block down!

Dry on... dry on...

Question: Dry cleaning gone bad? Tell me about it... 

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Notable Quotables

Quote of the Day: To find the right words to describe a situation or to convey feelings is an art form; and one that myself and others in the communication/media biz try to perfect everyday. To celebrate that art, and to recognize those who truly achieve it (even if only for one/two sentences), I'd like to start a regular posting called, 'notable quotables.'
Today's quote:
"Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities."
-Gloria Steinem, journalist and women's rights advocate
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Yep, that's about right...

The Orange Line: Confirmed as the friendliest/most elated train in the city. 

Just hours after posting my judgments (eh, observations) of Chicago's Transit Authority, I had quite possibly the weirdest experience ever in route to Midway.

I had just boarded the Orange line at Roosevelt when the train came to an abrupt stop. The familiar CTA voice recording assured us that we'd be moving momentarily and thanked us for our patience. 

Shortly after the announcement, I noticed an older women wildly laughing and pointing at something. As most of you know, crazy laughing is a common, daily occurance on the train or bus, so at first I didn't think much of this mayhem. This is why I invested in an Ipod. But as she continued, and I looked at her more closely, she didn't have the typical crazy eyes of people who clearly have gone off the edge. I wasn't the only one who noticed this, as most of the car decided to actually make an effort to see what she could possibly be laughing so hard about before 8:00 a.m.

Then we saw it... a man/woman dressed in a full Easter bunny/Mad hatter suit/costume, sitting outside on his porch (note that it was approximately 15 degrees this morning) with an older lady, drinking out of oversized tea cups. It was kind of like a strange recreation of the "Un-Birthday Party" in "Alice in Wonderland." I swear to god, this was not induced by narcotics of any sort.

The point is, as everyone began to notice this insanity, the crazy laughter became as contagious as lice in a second grade classroom... people from all walks of life were making eye contact and smiling at each other, acknowledging that they, too, see the life-size bunny outside the window... North Side, South side, visitors and Chicago natives united. For a mere second, we all had this weird comraderie and found something in the point where I was about to suggest we all go to breakfast and rehash this hilarious moment over coffee and scrambled eggs.  

Luckily, I did have a set destination in mind, so I didn't become the second weirdest thing people saw on the train this morning. It was proving, again, that the Orange line brings people together.... even, if just for a second.

Now that I'm at the airport, I have one last random, unrelated, observation... what's with people asking strangers to watch their bags in airports? Isn't it strangers that you're trying to avoid when it comes to your personal items that clearly you care too much about to check them? I would imagine everyone who's stolen something doesn't always appear as a thug.... Just saying. 

Happy Friday!
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

CTA Culture

CTA Culture: the personality that accompanies a certain bus or train route; undefined by maps and redefined by each season, time of day, bus schedule, etc.

Like the different neighborhoods of the city, each bus or train has a personality. Although I'm not sure it's as cut-and-dry as labeling an area like Old Town, Southport or Wrigleyville.

From my experiences, however, this is my take on the wheels of the windy city.
  • 134/143 - Saturated by the Lincoln Park newbies. Recent graduates, young professionals and students who have just moved to the city. Cell phone usage and roommate chatter early in the morning is abundant. Although it's crowded, standing is acceptable, because you're just thankful the bus stopped to pick you up.
  • 135/146/145 - Older Lakeview/Wrigleyville crowd. Although you get the occasional cell phone, it's usually more discussing inappropriate marital issues. Not as crowded, but have serious maintenance issues. At 8 a.m., nothing is worse than a bus breakdown when you have a window seat and are enjoying the last few pages of the RedEye. Shove it in your bag... you're clearly going to be standing on your orphan bus.
  • 8/36/22 - Usually the newest, most innovative buses with the most inconsistent schedules.
  • 151 - Complete tourist bus in the summer; avoid at all costs.
I'm pretty much a bus babe, but I do make my way to the El every once in awhile. And these are my thoughts...
  • Brown line - Kind of bohemian... for some reason I feel like I'm surrounded by artists every time I go Brown. I appreciate the artsy-type, so this is my top-pick. They are usually quite stylish and, for the most part, adhere to the social norms of train culture.
  • Red line - The opposite of "going green." Dirty is the nicest word that comes to my mind. As the busiest and most connected train, this one takes some beating. No one respects the red line. The red line is in serious need of some TLC (and millions of dollars in renovations and hourly scrub-downs)
  • Pink/Green line - Not sure I've ever been on either of these, but I would imagine they would take me to a suburb of some kind flourishing with strip malls and empty parking lots.
  • Orange - Is about as cheery as the Southwest flight attendants that about to sing to you on the plane in their pleated khaki shorts. For real. People are psyched for their free peanuts and checked luggage.
  • Blue - Although people should be cheery if they are headed out of town, this train is not exclusive to O'Hare. Every time I hear about a crime, it's always on the Blue line; therefor, it scares me. They also have a ton of construction and make you transfer off and get on a shuttle... complicated.

Question: If all of Chicago ran on one train or bus, which one would you choose? And why?

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Something about Southwest...

Southwest Airlines: A Chicagoans SUV; the CTA of the skies...

In preparation for my trip tomorrow to Kansas City, I signed on to exactly 24 hours (to the minute) prior to my flight to get my boarding pass.

How then, am I still 46th in line?? I have a new respect for the 45 other people in this world who clearly click faster than me...

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Grilled Cheese, Please

Grilled Cheese:  The scrumptious combination of two of my greatest loves... carbs and cheese...which plummeted down the list of items I could easily cook on the stove from scratch without a fire, stomach-wrenching disease or just immense disappointment. 

I used to consider grilled cheese as part of my golden five staple go-to dinners along with canned soup, pasta, salad-in-a-bag and, the trusted and loved, take-out. I'm considering adding in PB&J as a more reliant alternative.

I'm not one to boast about my cooking skills... but I can usually make one mean grilled cheese. Clearly I was getting over confident tonight as I mixed both shredded and sliced cheeses in my most valiant effort to just "wing it" with what I had in the refrigerator. With my first flip of the sandwich, cheese was everywhere, sizzling, burning and creating a weird, uneven cheesy cluster on only one side of the sandwich. 

There was no fire or burnt sandwich, but more chaos than necessary did ensue on a grilled cheese than ever before in my apartment. Enough to write a blog about it... while I'm actually trying to promote, and not detract people, from reading my random thoughts.

Read my blog... and I promise to grill you a golden brown grilled cheese with evenly-distributed melted cheese. Except my friend, Lauren, who's afraid of melted cheese. I will promise to never post a picture of melted cheese again.

Question: Worst cooking disaster... what is your grilled cheese? What did you think you mastered and then failed miserably? (Q... is this a good time to plug the Jennie-O Oven Ready turkey?? Let's test the powers of TruCast...)
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winter Woes...

Winter in Chicago: The closest comparison I have for purgatory; an eight-to-ten month waiting period until you can walk out of your apartment without five pounds of extra clothes and warming accessories.

I've never been one to embrace the chills of winter. Some Midwesterners get excited to break out the sweaters, to see their breath when they walk outside or to have an excuse to drink hot chocolate and snuggle up with a good book or significant other.

I, however, am one of the only people I know in Chicago who, up until this past August, refused to buy an air conditioner because I wanted to take advantage of all the fresh air and heat that summer naturally brought to my apartment. I enjoy ignoring the treadmills at the gym and running home from work or doing Saturday or Sunday runs by the lake. I'm not afraid of humidity, sweat, mosquitos and love to watch summer storms unfold from my cubicle and even wear my rain boots, when necessary.

I mean... how happy are we in that picture/J.Crew ad?! Really happy...

Tears came to my eyes this morning when I finally had to admit it was no longer summer, or even fall. I traded in my trench coat for the heavier, and brighter, tweed jacket accompanied with the obligatory hat, gloves and scarf. Even its cheery pink color and funny J-Lo-charmed label couldn't turn my frown upside down.

Listening to Avril's "Keep Holding On," I trudged to the bus stop. Her strong Canadian roots and punk-rock attitude gave me courage and vindication to stand at the bus stop as the wind tried to take the best of me and keep me from entering the now packed and over-heated 134 express bus.
I think it's worse knowing that it's not even technically winter. It's like getting a cramp the night before a big race... and just imagining how much pain your going to be in when you're running for hours and hours the next day.

So, in order to get over cramp before we start the race, I've listed out a few perks to this maddening and frustrating Chicago weather sent from Old Man Winter:
  • The first big snow... and how perfect everything looks under the city lights before it turns into that brown slush concoction of tar, dirt, dog pee and salt
  • Michigan Ave holiday lights and Christmas trees EVERYWHERE
  • The Christmahanakwanza Bar Crawl
  • The office holiday parties
  • Birthdays!!! And birthday parties...
  • Book club
  • Vacation days....Sanibel girls' weekend...spontaneous weekend trips AWAY from Chicago
  • St. Patrick's Day... South Side Irish Parade, dying the river green, green beer, Irish boys
  • Sunday Fundays
  • Weekends completely devoted to Hollywood Video and all the movies they have to offer
  • Getting reacquainted with the couch and DVR
  • Having another excuse to visit my fav dive bar -Galway Bay- to play darts and sit next to the fireplace with beer, free popcorn and friends
  • Corporate snow day e-mails... "if you feel that it's in your best interest to leave..."
  • Finally getting serious with my cat Moxie's lose-three-pounds workout/diet plan
  • Bring It On-athons
  • Facebook stalking
  • YouTube searches
  • Longer blog entries?
I'm feeling a little better... you? Going to look through my summer pictures, sniff suntan lotion and give myself paraffin treatments so my skin doesn't crack.

Stay warm!


Question of the day: What are you looking forward to this winter?

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Monday, November 17, 2008

A book about the Big #2...

Poop: Apparently the next biggest thing since blogging...

This morning, TimeOut Chicago brought to my attention that an author recently took on the big #2 in a new book entitled, "The Big Necessity." Even the title makes me giggle like a second grader.

Check out the review below...

I couldn't help but Google a couple others for those who are interested....

And the classic, "Everyone Poops.."

Time for lunch!
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday: an excuse for 20-something Chicagoans to continue partying, even though it's Sunday... and they should be doing something, anything more responsible. Occurances increase as the good weather decrease. Other excuses include: Bears games, bar crawls, birthdays, anniversaries, boredom, etc.

After spending a productive Saturday catching up on 8 hours of DVR, creating a blog and picking up my dry cleaning, I felt that I had earned a Sunday Funday. 

Given that I'm currently single and don't really follow sports of any kind, I really don't have a reason to partake in this weekly ritual many Chicagoans claim as their own. 

Recently, Sundays are reserved for my domestic duties - laundry, groceries, cleaning, and, of course, Lifetime Original Movies. Sometimes there's even the added bonus of playing fetch with my cat, Moxie. Clearly, my Sundays are thirsty for excitement... of any kind.

Determined to experience this SF phenomenon and to not become a cliche cat lady, my friend Erin and I dialed up about 30 of our closest friends in an effort to become Bears fans for the day. After convincing a whopping two other people to join (don't judge), we traveled to a Wrigleyville-fave, Central, and spent the afternoon drinking $3 Coors Light and eating pizza. 

We continuously cheersed our genius idea... and vowed to continue this tradition until it stopped snowing (a commitment sure to last until at least June).

A few key learnings of the day:
  • Turns out coming "fashionably late" does not really apply to sports... especially when you think the game begins at 1 p.m. CST and it's actually EST
  • You are joining a very male-dominated bar/activity -at your own will- and do run the risk of a dozen boys sitting next to you who clearly just played a game of touch football and decided it was unnecessary to shower prior to grabbing a drink at a not-so-near bar
  • If the aforementioned event does occur, this will force you to grab the check asap and seek fresh air whenever/wherever available
  • 7 p.m. is an excellent curfew for Sunday Funday... although not quite early enough to attend church... note to self to go earlier next week
Alas, tomorrow is Monday... and everyone knows that there's no such thing as Funday Monday... you can't even try. So I'll pack up my workout clothes, go to bed early and look forward to next weekend... and in the meantime, vow to be responsible -- at least for a few days.

Sunday Funday Girl
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The First Sip

A sip: 1) to drink a little at a time; take small tastes of
2) to take in, absorb

Every city has its highlights and its quirks, and most importantly, every city has a personality. Is the personality defined by the people or the city? That's up for discussion.

One thing is certain: Webster and his dictionary could never define a city's personality in a matter of a few sentences. You may be able to Google "Chicago" and learn about the history or collect data on the number of neighborhoods, people or political issues, but to truly understand Chicago, you need to become a Chicagoan - bright red license and all.

You need to trade in your car keys for a CTA pass. You need to stand at the bus stop or the El tracks in the dead of winter, with 25 mph winds, as the snow is whipping at you on all sides -- and still be excited about the weekend. You need to spend Tuesdays at North Avenue beach with your best friends playing volleyball teams who insist on wearing speedos or rec specs as their uniforms. You need to experience Toro Sushi and all the amazing rolls Mitch has to offer. You need to buy the old lady cart and continuously promote it as the best purchase of your life. And you need to accept that unless you're a trader or have won the Illinois lottery, you probably won't be able to afford to buy even a one-bedroom apartment until you're at least 30.

The point is, I've created this blog in attempt to define Chicago as I see it; to give Chicagoans, future Chicagoans or just far-away friends small sips of my everyday thoughts and occurances in the Second City. 

So come back often, take it in, absorb (respond) and enjoy!

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My Peeps


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