Thursday, September 28, 2006
Last night we intended on going to the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the Hancock building, where the views from the ladies toilets are the best in town. Honestly. [And note that I did say from the ladies room, and not in the ladies room]. But when we got there, the line-up for the elevators stretched nearly into the lobby, so it just wasn't worth our wait. My lovely friend Jenn came along too and recommended NoMi at the Park Hyatt Hotel, arguably the very best cocktail lounge/restaurant combo in town.
So off we trudged to the shiny and fabulous Hotel, wiggling in the door in our girly dresses and heels (yes, I squished my fat foot into heels for the first time last night - and consequently am back to hobbling in Doc Martens today). Straight up in the elevator to NoMi with no wait necessary, we ordered Cosmobellinis (a blend of my two favourite cocktails du jour) and Courts had a mojito which she declared to be delicious. Given that we were ravenous, the poor waiter had a hard time keeping up with us to refill our nibblies bowl. After two cocktails (and a civilised fight that broke out when Jenn decided to pay), we conceded defeat but wouldn't be silenced until she agreed to join us at Bin36 for dinner.
I love Bin36 cause it's a funky yet very elegant wine bar and restaurant right next to the House of Blues. It's menu is contemporary and the staff are all really educated about the wines that they recommend pairing with the foods. But the girls and I all decided to have flights with our meal. I had a champagne flight, where I was given 3 different champagnes and one rose, and each glass sits atop its own little circular coaster with a description about that wine's characteristics. Presumably this is so you can feel like an educated alcoholic hehe. But in any case, the food and champagne were simply delicious and we were well taken care of.
Jenn left us at that point and the girls and I jumped in a cab to head to Buddy Guy's, a blues bar that the boys at work have been recommending to me for weeks. The bar is on a side of town that I have not been to before and, though I knew the area, I didn't know what to expect of the bar. But my god it was awesome. The sheer talent of the musicians was infectious and the singer was so powerful. She belted out numbers so soulfully, a la Aretha Franklin and her band played along skilfully and I couldn't work out whether the crowd was fuelling the band, or the other way around. I had a wonderful time and I can't wait to go back. My colleague told me that Monday is Open Mike Night, where amateurs and wannabes can get up and jam with a 'professional' band to gain confidence and skills. He did say that no one he's seen has been crap, so obviously you've got to come along with some degree of ability, for which I'm sure the audience is grateful!
But I fell into bed at 2am and on the bus this morning, I somehow calculated that I have had 9 hours sleep in 2 days. How I have typed any of this blog post in complete sentences is beyond me. All that said, I would not have had this week any other way. It has been such a joy to see the girls again and to show them this beautiful City. And fortunately I've also seen some new things that I can share with the next lot of house guests...whoever they might be.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I bought a diary several months ago, in an effort to get my own life organised. Given that I get paid to organise someone else's busy life, I figured it wouldn't be a stretch to get myself sorted out too. Wrong.
It has been easy to schedule things, but not so easy to remember to be disciplined enough to check where I'm supposed to be and when. And I'm notorious for accepting a social invitation without first confirming my availability in my paper diary. As a result I get double-booked, and irritated at myself.
So imagine my smugness when I got myself rightly sorted out for Courts and Ell's big trip to the Windy City. I cleared my diary of any extraneous appointments (which included my tutoring buddy Kev - sorry man) and set about filling my/our diary with cool and local things to do.
Last night's trip to Wrigley Field saw the Chicago Cubs take on the Milwaukee Brewers. While I did tell the girls that we should wear something blue in honor of the local team, none of us ended up doing that. It wasn't until we were walking to the stadium that we started to question what colour Milwaukee was - perhaps we were decked out in their hues by mistake? We weren't, as it turned out.
Courts declared that Cubs fans are like Crows fans - they take a while to warm up to the game but when they do, they go off. We were on our feet as some Cubs guy belted a home run and then when another Cubs guy slid onto 3rd base and was declared SAFE, in a controversial call that prompted some very colourful protests from nearby Brewers fans. The girls and I sat quietly and sipped our overpriced Bud Lights in rather non-committal fashion.
At the seventh inning stretch, we did our best to sing along to Take Me Out To The Ball Game (thanks Grandma for sending me the words) and then we took off to Guthries to play a board game with Pete and his friend John.
Crash-landing into bed at 1am was an ideal time to reflect on another good day spent with my girls.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Together we talked about the old days, while Biggsy just marvelled at our collective ability to remember back that far. [Fortunately my long term memory is OK, it's the short-term memory that is suffering these days]. We agreed that our friendship group as it was pretty much disintegrated after high school and we seem to have lived rather parallel lives in terms of travelling and seeking fulfilment in far-flung places across the globe.
Well Reg, you asked for the blog post and you're gonna get it.
Last night's Jet concert at the Vic Theater in Chicago was simply awesome. I hadn't been to the theatre before but it was perfect for the guys - a little old and grungy but with loads of character. And it was packed. We got there a little late, owing to a delicious dinner and beers at a nearby pub called "Matilda's" (the Aussie reference is just a coincidence). We walked into the theatre to the strains of this post's title song, and we didn't miss out on "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?", for which I was very grateful. Don't worry Katie, I rocked out for you. I was a one-woman mosh pit.
The boys were fabulous but in some of their songs, I was having 12th-grade flashbacks to Oasis (whose "What's the Story, Morning Glory" album really was the soundtrack to my final year at school). I don't know why it was, but the songs from Jet's new album have some real Gallagher-flavours running through them - but in a good way. I will buy the new album of course, I'm such a groupie for Aussie bands when I'm away from home it seems.
Unfortunately we didn't get to do the 'meet and greet' after the show, but it didn't matter. Instead, we headed back to "Matilda's" for some cocktails, beers, and mild flirtations with a very handsome bartender named Calvin. Gab had her groove on, well and truly.
Monday, September 25, 2006
More news of our crazy exploits to follow in the coming days.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Friday night was drinks for Lexie's boss to celebrate his 21st birthday (again) and so Saturday morning was a rather slow one. We have finally go our cable connected, but we neeed our digital recorder so we had to line up at the Comcast store to get it. ARGH that was a nightmare, given that there were no soda machines or buffet tables and me, Lexie, and Tim were all rather hungover and sluggish.
Then it was off to IKEA where I bought a rather fancy bedspread to add a touch of va-va-voom to my room, which I believe I have now accomplished.
There is something fabulous about being in one's pyjamas by 5.30pm on a Saturday night - takes you back to primary school days. But it was lovely to have the rain bucketing down outside, and me curled up in flannelettes with a steaming cup of strong coffee on my lap. I can't even tell you what we watched on TV, I think I was asleep in literally minutes.
Today I did laundry and went to the grocery store, to make the final preparations for my Adelaide visitors who arrive tomorrow. Then I made time to share a bottle of wine at Jenn's place and back home to clean the bathroom and tidy my room. Where did the weekend go?
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The venue was Casa Monde, a design showroom in Chicago that imports Australian bathroom fixtures from Melbourne. The showroom was soon full to the brim with Aussie companies showcasing beer, wine, cheese and crackers, macadamia nuts, lamingtons, pavlovas, and moreton bay bugs. We had Aussie chefs whipping up Aussie imported produce including Tasmanian trout tartare, deliciously tender lamb coated in bush spices and even ostrich (tried that for the first time last night - delicious). The whole evening was a feast for the senses.
I even tended bar for a few hours, along with our Adelaide Austrade contact. We served up so many bottles of Coopers beer, it was just awesome. And now I know where I can buy cases of it here in Chicago, so look out fridge - make some room!
Given that my ankle was pretty much ruined by the end of the night, I shared a cab home with the parents of our Trade Commissioner, who basically brought the whole night together. They are visiting him from Queensland and his mum just about cried when she told me just how proud they were of him. I could honestly say that we were also proud of him, and for all the Aussie companies that came together and wowed the crowd. They're already talking about OzFest 2007!
Monday, September 18, 2006
I really did love it. I don't think that Martin Freeman (from the British series of "The Office", "Love Actually", and also "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy") can do much wrong on film. He is just so adorably off-beat and uncomfortable that you have to love him. And in this movie he is no exception.
Lex loves British guys and I think her crush was just confirmed tonight. Lex and Marty sitting in the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
I get to be bridesmaid.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
For the past few weeks, I have been looking forward to the Cult's annual party, called "Homecoming". This year's theme was Las Vegas, and the Club was planning to decorate 4 floors with showgirls, Cirque du Soleil performers, and even a Chapel of Love with an Elvis tribute artist (not impersonator, thank you). Honestly, the party was all I could talk about for weeks. My friend Kerry and I were all set to go there on Friday night.
But Thursday night after the UNICEF benefit, I got home and took off my 4" heels to get ready for bed. I took my make-up off, brushed my teeth, got into my pyjamas, and then stood on my bed to turn off my light. My bedroom light is actually the ceiling fan, but I can't reach the switch just by standing on the floor, so I either leap to turn it on/off, or I can do what I did on Thursday night and stand on my bed to do it.
Anyway - and keep in mind I was barefoot while doing this - I slid off my mattress and landed the wrong way, rather heavily, on the side of my foot crashing onto my floorboards. And you guessed it, I have sprained my ankle.
The only shoes I can wear are my pink pumas (yay) and my Aussie flip flops (double yay). But the most distressing thing was that I could not wear the gorgeous black slingbacks I'd bought to wear to the Cult party. Not only that, I could barely put my weight on my foot. So I had to bail on the party of the year.
Fortunately I was able to do all that without financial penalty - the Club graciously cancelled my tickets at no charge. Phew.
But I'm just bummed you know? I walked around all Thursday night in 4" heels without incident, only to bust my ankle when I was barefoot. Where is the justice?!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
This post is actually dedicated to my sister, who has been on my mind all week as I gear up for a BIG night tomorrow. I'm going to a fundraiser benefit for UNICEF. It's title? "Wine, Women, and Shoes". It's title? "Wine, Women, and Shoes". My sister's idea of heaven.
The invitation specifies a dress code that is "Business Casual - but your shoes must be fab". Given that none of my shoes fit such a description (other than the silver sparkly wedges Joshua picked out for me), I took myself for an adrenalin-fuelled shopping trip after work. And I came home with some red peep-toed satin stilettos that I can actually walk in (phew) which I will team with my new black shirt-dress. I hope that will conjure the appropriate degree of 'fab' and see me photographed at least once.
But best of all is the silent auction. One of the items is a pair of Celine pumps (that's shoes, Dad) signed by Sarah Jessica Parker. So exciting. I am not going to bid for them of course - since the auction catalogue dares to suggest the item is 'priceless' - but I can't wait to sit back and see just how much they fetch. Sigh.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Then we just chatted for a bit about our mutual love of animals and the various pets we've had in our lives. He was really good company, and we've agreed to bring each other a book next week that has some fun animals in it. I have 7 days to find such a thing. Help.
In any case, I was going to do the phone recording anyway. He didn't have to lay the compliments on so thickly! I'll be warming up my vocal chords for him in a few weeks time.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Still, today was the first "sweater day" at the office but I just know it's the first of many. No one will notice stomach rolls and flabby bingo-wing arms underneath bulky winter clothes, right? Just as long as I'm in shape for bikini season again, right?
But it was very amusing to see just how many people can squish into a 1-bedroom apartment at one time, even though that does sound like the start of a very bad joke. Armed with a bottle of champagne and a good attitude, I joined good friends at the party and had a great night.
To be fair, I had a good early morning, cause I didn't get to bed until 3am. Pete's reflections today were rather blah, but I guess you never have a good time at your own party. It was left to me to reassure him that everyone I spoke to (and that was pretty much everyone - at length) was having a blast. Me included.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, the jury is still out), Pete has no room for food in his fridge right now. He will have to survive on clever rations of Chinese take-out (his only fast food menu so far) and a large assortment of bottled beer. The house is well and truly warm, and our job here was done well.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Okay so this photo is not really representative of last night's dinner, but I just liked the colours and the glassware, so give me a break.
Last night I went to the home of "Aussie Mel & Tongue-Ring Dave" to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal. Mel had been keen to thank me for giving she and Dave some concert tickets a few weeks back and while I said a thank you wasn't necessary, she persisted.
And so it was that I ended up at their beautiful apartment, in a refurbished carriage house just outside of Downtown, to enjoy some 'experimental' bruschetta and delicious pasta bake. Dave also generously opened their impressive wine cellar too, so the dinner was really rocking. Rather uncharacteristically, I turned up empty handed, so I felt rather awful and will probably do something to remedy that bad karma soon.
Last night the weather was just ideal and so we took our wine glasses up to the building's rooftop and enjoyed beautiful views over the City of Chicago. It looked so peaceful from up there. Lake Michigan looked so calm, and the imposing Field Museum and The Spaceship (aka Soldier Field) just completed the view.
Great food, great friends, and great location. And I was spoilt rotten - it was a real treat.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
I've come to work today, feeling a little thinner to be honest (woohoo) but managed to have a rather surreal remote conversation with my boss, the essence of which follows:
Boss: Are you feeling better? What did you eat?
Me: Yes, much better thank you. Not sure what I ate, but I will try not to do it again.
Boss: I bet it was the lettuce. Did you eat the lettuce?
Me: [slightly shocked that this would be his first go-to gastro nastie] Uh, yes I had salad on the buffet but they would have been careful not to wash that in tap water.
Boss: You can't be sure of that; you should have asked. Did you drink the water?
Me: Oh no, I know better than to do that [I omitted sharing with him the amount of tequila I drank]. After the travelling I've done incident-free, perhaps it was just my time to get sick...
Boss: Nonsense, it happens all the time. Right well it's good that you're good, you should count yourself lucky. Now, anyway.
Me: Yep, I do. After yesterday's efforts I'm just grateful to be alive. Groan.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Originally uploaded by DG N.
I started my volunteering gig today, helping young kids through the Union League Boys and Girls Club. The Cult, as you and I have come to affectionately term it, owns several properties across Chicago, that offer after-school care activities for local school kids. The idea is that the Clubhouse offers the kids a place to come, primarily to do their homework, but also to do arts & crafts, sports classes, and generally just to just muck about in safety after a day cooped up in classes. A cool concept and I am pleased to be part of it.
So tonight I met a Cult representative and we travelled out together to meet the organisers of the Clubhouse that I will be visiting every Tuesday night for the forseeable future. My job will be to supervise "Power Hour", the 60-minute window where I'm supposed to focus the kids on doing their homework. At any one time, I will be supervising 20+ kids aged between 8 and 16. I was joking at work today that I will be fine, just as long as no one asks me any questions about American History. Or Geography. Or Politics. Or Science.
I only spoke to two of the kids today, adorable little girls about 8 years old, and both of them gazed at me open-mouthed, as if I was from another planet. Then they collapsed into a fit of giggles that did not subside until I left the room. Not an altogether unusual reaction by any means, but it made me smile nonetheless. This is going to be a very "interesting" volunteering experience.
The organisers assure me the kids will warm to me. Even more when they get comfortable enough to ask me questions about Australia. My secret mission is to have them all speaking Aussie slang by the end of the year. Or maybe I'll be a bit of a covert Australian Tourism representative and get the kids interested in Aussie animals and plants - I can see papier machied eucalypts and egg carton koalas hanging up all over the art studio already.
And there is an upside for me too, you know. I'll be working in a largely Hispanic neighbourhood. Do I hear "Free Spanish Lessons"?! Muy bien, senorita!
Monday, September 04, 2006
But as time dragged on, and particularly when I came to the States, I realised that Steve Irwin was a real asset to Australia and particularly helpful to our image overseas. Sure he was loud, brazen, and audacious but he was also a family man and a savvy businessman who knew how to work the American public and at the same time showcase the uniqueness of Australia and our wildlife.
And the American media is remembering Steve fondly as news of his tragic death reaches us. America had embraced him as that very quirky but really loved Aussie ambassador. And for all the people saying "well, he died doing what he loved," it still seems an awful shame (if not particularly grisly).
For fear of getting bogged down in melancholy, check out Harry's take on Steve's passing for a more "Aussie" reaction (which is not bad at all really, considering Harry's a Brit).
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Originally uploaded by st_gleam.
When I started thinking about what I was going to blog about this vacation, I was going to take a day-by-day approach. But on reflection, that would read rather boring. Given that we were on an all-inclusive vacation, we didn't pay for the tequila and beer that we started drinking at 11am. And as a result, sleeping became a regular feature on the day's agenda. Falling asleep on a beach chair under the hot Mexican sun is not something I'd immediately recommend. Tequila has some sort of sedative property I'm sure.
But Caro and I did get ourselves organised and left the resort for one of the days. We put ourselves in the capable hands of Vallarta Adventures, and took off in one of these open-sided vehicles to go smashing and crashing into the heart of Mexico on a Sierra Madre adventure. I actually went hiking in a forest! And no one carried me! The day ended with a late lunch on the beach and, true to form, I slept a little on the beach chair (post margaritas of course). Then on the vehicle back to our resort, the tour guide encouraged us all to have two shots of really good quality tequila. Arriba! Then it was back to our room for yet another sleep.
Are you getting the (restful) picture here?
I didn't take as many photos of Mexico as I'd intended. Partly this was due to my narcolepsy, but also there was just so much relaxation to be had at our wonderful hotel, I didn't want to interrupt the serenity. Honest. So just take my word for it when I say that I am healthy, happy, tanned, and rested. And I'm not entirely ready to see another bottle of tequila just yet.