Sunday, January 31, 2010

Notable Quotables

"All life is just a progression toward, and then a recession from, one phrase-'I love you.'" F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Notable Quotables

"I never said change would be easy. When you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy - that's just how it is."
-President Barack Obama
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finding a 'Thank You'

Being in the the business of public relations, specifically brand marketing, is often a thank-less job. Day-in and day-out, you work to build out strategic and creative programming to appeal to media... you sit through seminars on pitching... and craft pitches that achieve the perfect balance between witty and informative. Press releases are written. Events are planned. Spokespeople are booked.

This preparation and training eventually leads to sitting on the phone or emailing for hours pitching stories/news to media. At times, you find yourself listening to the voicemail messages of an endless number of editors and producers who seem to always be on deadline and never available for your 10 second practiced and rehearsed pitch (and you can really say a lot in 10 seconds... believe me). You send perfectly tailored email pitches with the most eye-opening subject line that you can imagine... praying that this one time, they will open your e-mail.

Or at other times, the media is eating up your story... you're balancing your day by scheduling interview after interview... nailing the key messages... delivering killer coverage and you end up with a gazillion impressions that often can be hard to directly tie back to sales of a product.

Your mom really has no clue what you do other than market products sold in a grocery store. People compliment you on your brand's advertising. No one can pronounce your agency's name right, and they chuckle when you give them your email address.

And the salary... let's just say is thankless in itself.

Especially in a year when media has changed so dramatically... newspaper staffs have been cut across the country and magazines seem to be dying every day... fighting the same PR vs. media battle can get weary.

But... then days come around when it all seems to click. When months of fighting for a program materializes into something truly mediable. When reporters suddenly embrace what you've been passionate about for what seems an eternity. When you and your team land a placement that you couldn't even dream up.

Today was that day. The shed some serious love on two of the products I work on. Although I'm not mentioning them by name, (to avoid this blog being picked up by blog monitoring alerts) I will direct you to the articles that speak for themselves.

Even if I send a long, dramatic and overly-excited e-mail to my clients, copying the entire freaking company... and no one responds... I'll still be ecstatic. Because this is why we're here. Clearly not for the 'thank yous' (although they are nice).

We're here for creative processes, the strategic planning sessions and that amazing rush you can get from that perfect mention... Those are the 'thank yous' that give you the extra fuel to keep pitching... the additional confidence to make that one more call. Because although there's a 90 percent chance that either you'll get hung up on or hear another voicemail... it's that 10 percent where the relationships are built, the placements are made... and the programs succeed.

And so, I will file these away into my "heck ya" file... and remember, this actually is a pretty fun job. And be thankful that even after four years of working on the same products... two blog posts in the food section of can drive me to complete elation, for at least a day.

Until later... keep reading those papers and blogs... and watch out for more good news coming your way!
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Winter Park Pics

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Notable Quotables

"Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."
Conan O' Brien
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A Winter Park Wonderland

Once upon a time there was a town that embraced winter. That prayed for snow. That loathed the thought of summer... that spent hundreds of dollars on outerwear so that they could stay outside one hour longer and take advantage of everything that Mother Nature brought them.

Clearly, I'm not describing Chicago. I'm talking about Winter Park, Colorado. Population 400.

As a city girl in all aspects of the word, visiting a town like Winter Park was refreshing, renewing and re-energizing. Why, you ask? Let me tell you...
  • Unreal backdrop: Picture this. A regular CTA Chicago Plus Card owner and non-driver, taking to the winding, narrow mountain roads of Colorado in a larger-than-Colleen Nissan Armada. If I could have split myself in two... my better half would have taken advantage of this scenic drive in the passenger seat, snapping pictures at every opportunity. The reality was my more stressed-out self white-knuckling the steering wheel, praying that the "avalanche area" sign was just a formality. Don't you worry, however, once in Winter Park... my camera was out and ready. Montage to be posted tomorrow once I'm back in the comfort of my apartment... after I sleep a ridiculous amount of hours.
  • Flirtation station: I don't know if it's that Chicago guys are intimidated/scared by Chicago women, if they just want to wait until some girl sweeps them off their feet or they just don't want to make the effort... but I often feel that the art of flirting is lost in the Windy City. Maybe it's the girl/guy ratio, or maybe it's the increased level of endorphins from skiing, but Colorado boys know how to flirt. And sometimes harmless flirtation from a normal, cute guy can really put a girl in a good mood. Just saying.
  • Gym-free workout: Perhaps it was my lack of time on the slopes... or my lack of time in the gym, but skiing for a full day... I'm talking 10 a.m. - 4 p.m... with just a short lunch break... is a killer workout. Even just walking in those awkward ski boots must burn 100s of unknown calories non-trackable by a treadmill. Needless to say, I will be sore, and potentially tired, for the next week.
As much as I loved the Rocky Mountains... I'm looking forward to seeing the Chicago skyline in a few hours, getting a overly enthusiastic welcome greeting from my fur ball, Moxter and having a fun night out tomorrow with friends.

I will definitely re-visit Winter Park... but I'll always come back to sweet home Chicago.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Menver or Bust

There are distinct turning points that can lead to an eternity of craziness or just a large pothole in an otherwise smooth road of life.

I had one of those moments this past weekend when I found out unexpected news about one of my December ex's. One sentence that made me question a majority of emotional decisions made throughout the past two years of my life. Just a few words that solidified every reason why we're not together. Seconds of a night... that have the potential to be replayed in my head for years.

Although I sat there silent, numb and unaffected... I couldn't help but recognize that oh-too-familiar feeling of not being good enough for that same someone. So right then and there, I vowed not to take the looney route... because it wasn't worth it. I promised myself to recognize the situation, feel what I felt... and then move on... and never. look. back. Or at least look back with completely clear glasses.

And so... instead of going crazy... I'm going to the land of mountains and men, the Vegas for single ladies, the center of sun and skiing. I'm going to Denver.

This dramatic weekend news was actually perfectly timed to fall right before a pre-planned business trip. And my bonus extended one-day ski trip will for sure help me shake this emotional slump/single gal pity party.

All day Friday, I'll be hitting the slopes with my pseudo-brother and his friends from college. I have every expectation that I will be the least fashionable of all the Winter Park ski bums... that my Gap attire will be shunned by the all the local Denverians cloaked in head-to-toe Northface wear... that my minor experience skiing on the hills of New York or Wisconsin will land me on my butt more times than I will ever admit.

But I also know that when I'm at the top of those mountains, ready to position my skis in the V formation, I will look out into those postcard-perfect, breath-taking views, and I'll get exactly what I need: Perspective.

...Perspective that life is too short to dwell on things that you have no control over. That there will be a day when I look back at last weekend as a positive turning point. A pivotal moment that led me into a great, confusion-free future.

Have you ever found yourself having to choose between the bunny hill of insanity and the black diamond of reality? Hope you found yourself a diamond.

Check you later gators... I'll see you on the slopes!

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Notable Quotables

"I've decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Piece of Something

Saturday night we continued our culinary tour of Chicago with a stop at Piece in Bucktown. I met my friend Alana there at 8 p.m. and, soon after, found myself going against everything I stand for as a low-maintenance city gal... I waited in line. In January. 20+ minutes.

Chicago may have more bars than apartment buildings... and for that reason, and just normal impatience, I don't believe in lines. In cold. In rubbing shoulders with strangers. In begging for drinks in an over-crowded trendy bar. I'll take Galway Bay over that any day.

But I do believe in pizza. And good looking guys. And live-band karaoke with Karaoke Dokey. And those three things enticed me to suck it up, stick it out... and wait for the much-talked-about thrill of Piece.

Once we were granted access, we placed our names on the list... 2 hour wait. Not even kidding here. I was rethinking my decision of hot yoga that afternoon, of not hydrating after and of not snacking prior to leaving. Three bad decisions made on a Saturday night. Instead I hydrated with a couple of their original brews - my favorite being the Swingin' Single.

The night was full of pizza, empty alcoholic calories and crazy good "American Idol"-worthy karaoke. Was it worth the wait? Sure...sign me up for another night of Piece... but maybe make it a Tuesday or Wednesday outing. And disregard their serving sizes. When they say, "Serves 2-3." That really means 5 -6.

Anyone else try a Piece this weekend?

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Notable Quotables

"Is there someone else?...No, but there's the dream of someone else."
You've Got Mail
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Shiso Hungry

Friday night. One birthday. Five friends. Two bottles of wine. Three hours of sushi gluttony. A solid equation for the beginning of a fanatabulously rad weekend.

My friend Kristine, the birthday girl, selected Shiso in Old Town as the lucky location of the evening. Having lived in Chicago for five years, I've frequented many BYOB sushi places. Shiso was a new find for me.

So after successfully making it through this horribly depressing January week, the five of us put on our lighter winter jackets (30 degrees - WOAH) and headed to North Ave and Cleveland to enjoy a slew of Japanese fare and each other's company.

The place was filled with friends and dates... not one table left open. If you're planning to check it out on a Friday or Saturday night, reservations are suggested. Between four of us who ate, we split six rolls and a birthday brownie Sunday. Needless to say, no one left hungry.

The highlight of the plates, hands down, no question, was the Shiso Signature roll. It's set at a higher price ($12.95) but completely worth it. As described on the menu, the Shiso Signature contains smoked salmon, avocado, jalapeno, cilantro and cream cheese deep fried. Wrapped with rice and black tobiko. Served with unagi sauce and spicy mayo on the side. Basically if that means nothing to you... it was like a piece of heaven in your mouth.

Afterwards we walked down the street and enjoyed a couple brews at the Old Town Ale House while admiring the random naked paintings of celebs like Blago and Sarah Palin. Hilar. Loved the bar... another great city find.

What about you? Any discovered or re-discovered Chi-town jewels?

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

12 Months of Book Nerds

Book Club: Although this may have started off as just another overly-scheduled reason to get together and drink wine, our Tuesday night book club has turned into one of my favorite nights of the month. Headed into year two, we decided to revamp the book selection process and put together a calendar of books. This list will allow us to reserve books at the Chicago Public Libraries, read ahead on vacations and, most importantly, appease our type A personalities.

In case you want to join in virtually, below you'll find the list of books through November. Anyone have a suggestion for December?

January: "Three Cups of Tea," by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

February: "I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie," Pamela Des Barres

March: "Olive Kitteridge," by Elizabeth Strout

April: "Robber Bride," by Margaret Atwood

May: "Half-Broke Horses," by Jeannette Walls

June: "Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx," by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

July: "The 27s: The Greatest Myths of Rock and Roll," by Eric Segalstad

August: "Say You're One of Them," by Uwem Akpan

September: "Too Much Happiness," by Alice Monro

October: "South of Broad," by Pat Conroy

November: "I Was Told There'd Be Cake," by Sloane Crosley

Happy reading!
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Notable Quotables - Three Cups of Tea

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." -Persian proverb
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

CTA Profiling

Although Chicago is a very diverse city, let's be honest, the neighborhoods are not so much. And although a lot is segregated based on race/ethnicity, from when the immigrants settled in the Windy city, I feel like it's almost transforming more into lifestyle differences than anything else. It's like Chicago is a giant high school cafeteria and all the cliques represent the neighborhoods.

What made me think of this, you ask? Tonight I was meeting friends for dinner on Southport and took an irregular (for me) commute from work. From the Merchandise Mart, home of my new Cubicle, I hopped on the Brown line and was all of a sudden surrounded by a number of people, clearly heading to different neighborhoods.

Knowing I had to get off at Southport, but not really wanting to pay too much attention to maps or avert my hearing from my Ipod tunes, I scanned the car looking for the likely suspect who I guessed would be getting exiting at Southport. It took about .5 seconds to spot the trendy girls in the expensive outwear and nice purses. Young, preppy and total Southportians.

Was I right?

Well, I was totally judgemental... totally stereotyping... and totally RIGHT on.

I know... I know... it's like predicting the loud cell-phone girl on the bus is getting off the 134 at Diversey and Sheridan... or the student reading their textbook will get off the Red line at Fullerton or Loyola, but for a second, I patted myself on the back for my observation and prediction, saying to myself, "Man, do I know this city or what?!"

Have you CTA profiled recently? Maybe without even knowing? Try it next time your on the bus or train. And don't judge me... it's the winter, 8 degrees and we're expecting 12 inches of snow in the next 24-hours. We might be spending a LOT of time on public transportation in the coming days. No harm in a little guessing game or two.

Stay warm, Chicago.
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Monday, January 4, 2010

No Treadmill Left Behind

First Monday of the year... you know what that means: Official Workout Day. Everyone is inspired, despite all their past failed resolutions, to REALLY work out and be healthy this year. And so, every gym, every yoga studio and every treadmill was used and abused tonight. Every trainer repeated the mantra - no treadmill left behind - while they dreamt of March 1st... and the fall of the resolutions.

And so... it is only right that tonight was one of the weirdest yoga classes for me. First of all, with the on-slot of new yogis, the class began with loud chatter from the multiple friend groups surrounding me. Yoga rule of thumb is kind of like rush hour bus rules... you don't talk. It's relaxing... it's hot... but because I've been a zen of yoga for the past week... this didn't bother me as much as I thought it would.

Then as I arose and checked out the room, I had to smile when the tallest, skinniest man I've ever seen was in front of the studio in nothing but a speedo. Yes. Awesome. This made me silently laugh...realize my immaturity and thank God none of my friends were in the room. I am most certain this would have led to removing myself from class due to a case of the 6th grade girl giggles.

But the straw that broke the camel's back was the music selection. For the past week I've been raving about CorePower Yoga's music... but today, it was off. Whereas most times it completely relaxes me... this had the opposite effect. It was totally 90s jazzercise... and I kind of wanted to give up because I didn't have a thong leotard on to match the tunes.

Overall, I felt good for sweating out every ounce of sodium I consumed today... and still feel a bit of zen... even desipite the crazy experience.

Any fun gym stories from the Official Workout Day? Long wait to get into Kickboxing? Pick-up lines at the water fountain? Arm wrestling for the stationary bike?

Do tell....
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

500 Days of Summer

In the past week, I've had two good friends recommend this movie to me. Both telling me that they watched and thought... this is a 'Colleen' movie. It has a witty script, great characters and realistic view of relationships; and if that's a 'Colleen' movie, that's a-okay with me. Although, at times, the couple mirrored one too many of my past relationships... it, in the end, is a hopeful movie.

Here's a few of, what I thought were, the most memorable lines from the movie:

"This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front that this is not a love story."

"They used to call me 'anal girl.'.... I was very neat and organized."

"Girl: I'm going to the supply closet. Anyone need anything?
Boy: You know what I need.
Girl: Silence.
Boy: Toner. I need toner."

"Boy: This girl... she took a giant sh*t on my face. Literally.
Girl: Literally?
Boy: Okay... not literally."

"Tom walked to her apartment intoxicated by the promise of the evening. He believed that this time his expectation would align with reality."

"I know you thought that she was the one. But the next time you look back. Look closer."

"I just woke up and knew... what I was never sure of with you."

"Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin and they end with no lasting memories made in between. Most days have no impact on the course of a life. May 23rd was a Wednesday."

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Korean-Style New Years Eve

Many New Years Eves have come and gone. They have involved champagne, noisemakers, sparkles and over-priced bar packages or house parties. Not much distinguishes one from the other. And since 21, many have followed with a day on the couch, nursing a notable hangover. Not one stands out from the others... until last night.

Last night, I traded in my much-sought-after Girl Talk ticket to attend my friend Cristy's birthday party at Korean Karaoke in Lincoln Square.

Let me set up the scene for you. This small establishment can be found in Lincoln Square... basically take Lincoln Ave and drive really really far away from the lake... and you'll eventually drive past it... most likely having to do a U-ey or two before you find it. You'll enter after locating the neon sign reading "Lincoln Karaoke." That's the name of the "bar."
It appears shady, a little like a mix between the DMV and a brothel... but don't be deceived, within each of the rooms contains two flat screen TVs that flash music lyrics and random pictures from Korea (i.e. butterflies, Koreans running, naked babies, etc), a few discos balls, hundreds of Korean and English-language songs.

For $15 a person, plus the price of drinks from the shared bar (with bartenders!), you can sing your heart out for six hours. And we did. I wasn't sure if I could sing karaoke and be entertained by it all night. But I can... and it was.
Maybe it was the great friends... or their great (er) voices, or maybe it was the full moon or the bubbly I was drinking... but as I counted down with the Koreans and my long-time friends, I had a great feeling about this year. If Korean Karaoke is any indication of the next 365 days, 2010 is going to be a memorable one.

Happy New Years everyone!

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