Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Will you still need me, will you still feed me?

Catch it.......
Originally uploaded by paper by design.

Perspective is an intersting thing and admittedly, I don't always have it. My horoscope today confirmed this, when it suggested to me that I seek out the glamorous and romantic solutions to life's problems, at the same time being blissfully unaware that it's my preferred style.

Interesting and probably, though very slightly, true.

This afternoon's phone call from Jenn brought me back to earth, more or less, as Jenn mused about her own search for perspective (she's a Leo too, by the way). Jenn's point of view was to apply "The 90-year old" theory. That is to say, when you're a drooling 90-year old in the nursing home, will you still be dwelling on this problem?

Jenn's is obviously a theory from the "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" stable and I hear her. In fact, I think it makes lovely sense. It's about letting go of the stuff that really doesn't matter in the long run, and will ultimately be lost in the fullness of time (or my own misty brain and drooly demeanour). Either way, I think it helps you shake off the drama, and grin and bear the day. I'm sure Steven Covey and that "Who Moved My Cheese" guy would be pretty impressed.

So for the foreseeable future, I'm going to approach life's dramas with my usual Leo flair for the glamorous, but as a 90-year old, with all the drool and wisdom that it brings. Let's see what happens.

Step away from the candy corn

Today is officially Halloween Day and I don't want to know about it. This year, the Halloween celebrations have ruined my vital organs. My kidneys, liver, and pancreas are all suffering the ill-effects of daily sugar comas, combined with waaaay too much beer.

And obviously the universe hates me, because this 'bah humbug' to Halloween coincides with Trick Or Treat activities happening tonight. Little kids, in every manner of spooky costume, will come bashing on my apartment buzzer to beg for our leftover candy. What leftover candy?! I wonder if Lex and I can sit quietly and watch TV and pretend we're not home. Will the kids just go away?

Had a lovely catch-up dinner with Caro last night though, at an adorable neighbourhood bar with an equally adorable bartender. Perhaps more blog-worthy news to follow about that at a later stage.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The scariest part of Halloween

Having (just) survived my second Halloween ever, I can honestly say that the scariest part of the Halloween process is the morning after. Sweet cracker biscuit, the party was punishing. If I tell you that we actually finished a keg of beer, you will have some appreciation for the beating our bodies took at the party. Fortunately I was not doing Jager shots at 3am - I left Lex to represent me there.

Our guests all wore costumes that were imaginitive and funny and from what I can recall early on, the party was a blast. Then things got a bit fuzzy and I remember people doing beer bongs out on my porch. They're not so big in Australia, but it deals with a plastic hose, and a funnel at one end, and your mouth at the other end. It looks terrifying and though Lex is apparently the Wisconsin State Champion Beer Bonger, the idea of it made me wretch. So I spent much of the night wandering up and down my hallway, pausing to chat with guests, and wondering why my Nicole Richie costume didn't work out like I'd hoped. The ballet flats I got were cute though. They had glitter on them, so enough said.

One of the guys that came to our party wore the swan costume that Bjork wore to the Oscars that year. The morning after our party, I firmly believed that someone had blown up a pelican in our apartment. White feathers were strewn as far as the eyes could see. It reminded me of the party we'd thrown back home when Jems and I woke up to find blue jelly in our kitchen sink and confetti in our toilet. Now THAT was a party. Lex and I were not conscious for much of yesterday, and I felt like I'd suffered severe frontal lobe trauma so we reclined for most of the day, after having attempted a half-hearted clean up before collapsing on the sofa with an order of Chinese take-out. I even had to have 2 showers yesterday cause I passed out with wet hair after the first dip and woke up with my hair standing straight up on end. Sweet.

Today of course I feel much more human, and have had fun times looking over Lexie's Halloween photos and videos. For some reason I forgot to even take my camera out of my bag all night so I haven't got any images to share. But given how ill I felt yesterday, perhaps that's a good thing after all.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Getting our spook on early

Originally uploaded by Osvaldo.

Every time Lexie even mentions making pumpkin pie, I turn my nose up. It's become our little running joke cause she knows I don't like it. I keep telling her that cold pumpkin is a punishment in Australia, as I travel back in time to the days when I wasn't allowed to leave the dining table until all my veggies were eaten. [No such thing happens now of course!]

And still we played the game the other night when we were talking about tomorrows Halloween party at our apartment. She's going to make mini pumpkin pies. Accordingly, I turned my nose up a number of times, but just a tiny bit. Oh you can roast me some pumpkin, even make it into soup, just don't cool it down, sprinkle cinnamon all over it, and expect me to eat it. Blech.

I like the idea of Halloween but I don't have much of a sweet tooth so I don't like the candy and all that crap that goes with it. I need to get organised tonight and, in addition to cleaning this pigsty of a house, I want to get to the store and buy some savoury food goodies for our guests that, like me, don't want the 2am sugar rush when I'm trying to pass out.

Are there any savoury fans out there like me? The shelves of spooky and sugary goodness that has been packed in the stores since September suggests to me that I am, in fact, alone in taking this anti-sweet thing stance. Sigh oh well.

The good thing about hosting the party tomorrow night is that, if it rains, I don't have to go anywhere. I will however have to get out of the house on Saturday night - the REAL Halloween - to go and enjoy the scary fun at Mel & Tongue Ring Dave's across the other side of town. And yes, tomorrow night's Nicole Richie costume is getting recycled on the weekend too. Sweet.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A blushing rose in every cheek

Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

I am not a diplomat. I can be diplomatic when I need to be, but I am not officially employed as a diplomat. And yet, I get very irritated at myself when I commit cultural faux pas, particularly in front of other Aussies.

Last night I went along to a board meeting of the Midwest's chapter of an expat organisation called Advance (HQ in New York) with a view to nominating myself as a shadow member. Apparently this means you go to meetings, eat the nibblies, and listen in on the conversation, without ever having to take an official position. Sweet.

So with my shadow membership supported by the majority of rather mystified co-members, I stuffed nibblies in my face, drank Aussie wine, and actually enjoyed the meeting. The membership is comprised of young professionals in really interesting jobs across Chicago. They are a lively bunch, with great senses of humour and wonderful ideas about how best to bring together the Aussies dispersed across the 11 States of the Midwest. I like these people.

And yet I couldn't resist throwing in a glib remark here and there. Bouncing off other glib remarks, naturally. One Aussie girl was commenting on social events the group could organise. We can invite our American friends too, she enthusiastically exclaimed, further adding that her friends really just want to meet Aussie guys.

Without thinking (evidently), I chuckled to myself and busted out with: Why!?

The silence that followed was deafening.

And then the boys in the group, by far the majority, retort with a rather offended (though equally belated) "Heyyyyyyy".

Bummer. By now I was red from head to toe, unable to back-pedal, even if I'd wanted to. But worse than that - it was abundantly clear that I would never, ever be dating any of THOSE Aussie guys any time soon.

Fortunately the bowl of pretzels was close by and I was able to shovel then in my mouth every time the urge to say ANYTHING tempted me. And thus I passed the rest of my first meeting. I did take on some action items though, which was pretty good for someone who isn't meant to even exist on the Committee. I think they call that person, sucker. I call it penance.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I vote for rain and lost luggage

bound foot
Originally uploaded by romana chapman.

Reading seems to fill my head with useless trivia and one such nugget is that you can really tell a lot about someone by how they handle three things: rainy days, lost luggage, and tight shoes.

Well I am convinced that the right shoe I wore today is a half-size smaller than the left one. As such, my right foot is substantially mangled. And so continues my long-running hate campaign with Nine West shoes, no doubt worn well by Lucifer himself. I should have known better than to purchase that pair of black leather loafers way back when. Give me rainy days and lost luggage any day - but you can keep tight shoes all to yourself!

And then Biggsy commented to me that only 'certain' women (insert raised eyebrow here in a rather leering gesture) wear fishnet stockings. I did not know this. I thought that French and other sophisticated women wore them too, not just women with nocturnal business interests. Why does "Vogue" not tell me so? I always thought that fishnets were rather chic. Thoughts?

Still, I'm sure that ANY stockings on my poor shrivelled feet would seem altogether unsavoury right now. So I'm just going to stuff my tender tootsies in a fluffy pair of bed socks and call it a night.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Whose finger is on the button now?

Originally uploaded by Michael Heilemann.

There has been a lot of news coverage lately talking about nuclear testing and bomb making and who is a threat to whom and all that malarkey. I have also just finished Bill Bryson's memoirs, and there is an entire chapter devoted to the nuclear capacity of the US and Russia in the 1950s, not to mention the Cuban missile crisis. So it has been tense few days for my subsconscious. And as a result, last night's dream was enough to wake me up in a cold sweat at 3am.

I dreamed that I was working in Chicago (no stretch there) but I caught a plane to Australia and ended up meeting up with my parents en route, in a airport transit terminal in Asia. While I was on the plane for those 11 hours, the US had detonated a nuclear bomb in Kuala Lumpur which, in my dream, was the capital of North Korea and actually more closely resembled a Thai beach setting rather than the urban metropolis it truly is. But dreams can do that, right? The point is, there was total annihilation of KL.

Anyway someone told me this awful news when I got off the plane. As my fellow passengers and me digested this nugget of info, we also became acutely aware that we were not only at risk of being overcome by the nuclear fall-out ourselves, but that the US could pretty much expect a retaliatory strike any time soon. And of course, the targets would be America's biggest cities - Chicago being one of those, naturally.

I was inconsolable for much of the dream, alternating between periods of stunned silence and raging anger. My new friends, my apartment, and my way of life was indirectly threatened and could end in a second, all at the whim of some lunatic with his finger on the button.

The airport was a mix of nationalities, all of us struggling to understand how the world got to this point. What could possibly be gained from nuking one another into a billion bits, and ruining the world's ecosystems for years to come? I understand the principle of building empires and the concept of occupation, where you take a nation by force, stick a flag in the ground, and claim it in the name of your homeland. It's brutal, but I get it. It's old-fashioned warfare that we're all used to and we know won't ever go away. But what I don't understand, and what my dream only further highlighted, was the futility of nuclear war and germ warfare and the literal total destruction that comes from it. It's sneaky and it's cowardly and it's just so very final. What's the point of being King of the world, when the world is uninhabitable?

It was a horrible, ghostly dream from which I woke up with such a start, that I was really quite distressed. So in future, I only want to be woken at 3am by benign disruptions such as a garbage truck or a barking dog. Threats of nuclear warfare are just too much to take without strong coffee.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Open sesame, dahling

Originally uploaded by _youcandomath.

Lex's mum has been staying with us for a few days and we went out on Saturday morning for a late breakfast at a very cute little eatery called Minnie's. True to its name, everything at the diner is in miniature - bite size little snacks, teensy bottles of beer and soda, all served by little people. Okay that last bit wasn't true.

But after a wonderful brunch, the girls went off to see a musical performance, and I took myself off home. But rather than jumping on the bus straight away, I thought I'd walk a few blocks past some cute boutiques and eclectic stores along Halsted.

That street is a virtual treasure trove of one-offs and designer stores. I was in consumer heaven! I bought some bargain earrings at the first store I visited, and wanted to buy a whole lot more, but I exercised restraint - phew.

Finally found some flat brown boots to wear with my winter skirts at the next store I visited. I originally thought it was a 'grandma' store, cause the boots all look like Homeyped shoes but hey, they're comfortable and they were on sale and they were exactly what I wanted. So , cha-ching, I bought those too.

Wandering a little further down I entered Bebe, which retails back in Australia too but, from my recollection, is exorbitantly expensive Down Under. Anyway the poster child for Bebe right now is Mischa Barton, who is irritatingly gorgeous in Bebe's current collection. So I scored a very cute satin shirt/vest combo in wintry shades of black and grey. Chic.

And just as I was laden with shopping bags and chanelling a post-Hollywood Boulevard Pretty Woman, I approached Betsey Johnson's atelier. Now bear in mind I was in my Saturday best, which means jeans and sneakers and a puffy vest, so I was not boutique-ready. But I was certainly not ready for this boutique, as evidenced by my repeated tugging on the shop door in vain attempts to gain entry.

It wasn't until the shopgirl buzzed me in that I realised I had entered one of THOSE stores; this inner sanctum of boutique snobbery that only grants entry to those shoppers that either look easily swindled, or are too rich to care that the high price tag is not directly proportional to the quality of the clothes. I obviously fit into the first category!

A quick scout around the racks convinced me that I adored everything on offer but my salary would not allow me to indulge. And so, hoping against hope that I didn't need to be buzzed out to leave, I pushed on the exit door and found myself back on the pavement, and back in reality.

Reviving myself at Starbucks, I put myself on the bus back home and vowed to save my pennies and head back to Halsted some other time, very soon.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Celebrating Greektown

Greek Isles
Originally uploaded by StrudelMonkey.

I went along to the Cult last night for a celebration of Greektown in Chicago. This neighbourhood is out on the other side of town to me, but is a 3-block party central. Greektown is full of authentic restaurants, shops, and bars that celebrate the Greek community that has migrated here over the years.

Once I mentioned I was from the Australia, the old Greek couples on my table grew rather excited and asked me if I knew the Harris family from Sydney. Uh, no. But we collectively admired the Greek dancing and one guy next to me reminisced about how he, too, used to kick up his heels like that. I had trouble picturing that.

The buffet was wonderful - roast lamb that literally fell off the bone, hummus the likes of which I've never tasted, pita chips, and a delicious rice and feta salad made especially by my Cult sponsor, who invited me to the night in the first place.

Jenn and I equally admired the dessert buffet, and savoured the Greek coffee on offer. Man, it was all just so good.

But I didn't indulge in a spot of dancing, even though there was some audience participation encouraged. I made a very good spectator though, and enthusiastically applauded when necessary. I do however remember doing the zorba with George, Jems, and their friends around our house for my parents wedding anniversary a few years ago. I think I'll save my cultural dancing for when I'm back with family. Phew.

Friday, October 20, 2006

For pity's sake, get a room!

Originally uploaded by Barrybar.

I turned up at the Cult drinks last night with Jenn and we were both feeling a little out of sorts. We were perfectly fine with each other, but we had the sense that something was a little off-kilter with everyone else. Then it struck me what it was.

Firstly, the normally hard-drinking boys were exercising restraint on the alcomahol, owing to the Chicago Marathon happening this weekend. Half the bar felt like a dry zone, it was very weird.

And secondly, there was love in the room. I got stuck in a conversation with a guy and a group of giggling girls about this man's weekend-long bachelor party (from which he is still recovering), and the upcoming wedding that's happening in the same place in Mexico that Caro and I went to a month or so ago.

I found myself getting irritated by the ooh-ing and aah-ing on the part of the girls, and the soppy crap being spouted by the guy. I like them better when they all drink.

So Jenn and I left pretty much immediately and went to Gibson's in Chicago's dreaded "Viagra Triangle", that mystical intersection where old men try desperately to pick up nubile young women - who seem to let them. Weird.

As a rule, I normally hate this sleazy part of town, but I was hungry and still irritated from the Cult. So we bullied our way into the fabulously crowded eatery (where I'd never been before) and forced ourselves on the hospitality of George, a businessman here from California. He didn't know what hit him. But we had some drinks and some laughs, and then Jenn and I had dinner, and it was a fun end to the night.

Sometimes girls just wanna have fun, and fortunately we did.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What does it take to have nice stems?

her tights
Originally uploaded by kittynn.

So my stockings were bunching around my knees and ankles today in rather unflattering fashion. That was making me sad enough. But to top it all, the afternoon bus drove up to the bus stop, straight through a puddle, and unceremoniously splashed me. Jerk.

K and me were talking at work today about how hard it is to find cool opaque stockings in Chicago. We don't know what brands we like because Razzamatazz just doesn't exist here. Gone are the days when we could go to Woolies, straight to the type of tights we like, and scoop 4 pairs into the shopping basket. Now we have to review every brand, study each denier and fit, suss out the INGREDIENTS of the pantyhose just so we get something CLOSE to what we like. It's traumatic.

And that's how I chickened out at the last minute and bought a 'one size fits all' pair. You think I'd know that in terms of lingerie, NOTHING is one-size-fits-all, least of all stockings. And yet I marched up to the checkout to buy the stupid things. But I do reserve the right to whine about them bunching up and making me look like The Incredible Shrinking Woman. Unfortunately I drew attention to myself by continuing to hike them up AND try to walk down the street at the same time. Very 'Cirque du Soleil' of me. Dork.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just a sip, and then it's gone

first taste
Originally uploaded by Lifeinfoto.

Tonight I dragged Jenn to an Aussie wine tasting at the lovely Tasting Room on West Randolph. I was taken to this bar on my second night in Chicago and I have never forgotten the impact that it made on me. The night time view over the city of Chicago is just breathtaking. Still, tonight was about business and Jenn and I were dedicating ourselves to the task of tasting the 30 wines for $30 that we were promised.

One of the tables was manned by a dork, so we steered clear of him and decided that none of the wines on offer were anything to write home about. But for every other table, we circled at least one wine we really enjoyed.

Would you believe it, I ran into my friend Tracy at the wine tasting?! I was only speaking with her on the phone last night, lamenting how long it has been since we caught up. We made plans to see one another on Sunday at Guthries, but I never expected to see her tonight - it was a lovely surprise indeed.

Then Jenn and I went back to the Cult for some champagne and catching up with friends before we retired back home. It has been a busy night but still an early one. It was lovely to sample Aussie wines that aren't necessarily famous back home (there is something to be said for the export quality wines with their very dodgy names). At the same time, it's nice to see familiar names like Peter Lehmann and regions like the Barossa Valley getting a chance to shine at wine tastings so far from home. Blissful.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What not to wear

Originally uploaded by Maditi.

I looked down at myself on the bus today and realised that I need a bit of help.

Proud as I am of this fact (or not), I have not ironed a single item of my clothes since I landed in Scotland - back in May 2005. I know, I know - lame. But honestly, with the exception of hankies, tea towels and pillowcases, I have no ironing skills.

And before you start harping on about bad parenting, I'll have you know that my parents tried to teach me to iron. I even ironed a few baskets of clothes in my time, but I think they would agree that I still do not do it very well at all. Hence my complete avoidance of the chore altogether.

Which brings me back to my earlier point. On the weekend I forced myself to accept the fact that we've seen the last of the sunshine for a while. And so I hurled myself into the hall closet to dig out my winter coats that Lexie had bullied me into stuffing into a suitcase some months previous. And of course there was no easy way to extract said coats from their luggage stronghold, and I was forced to empty EVERYTHING from the closet in order to reach the stubborn suitcase. By which time I was very put out.

But I was also resolved to rescue my coats and give them some time to unfold or at least, as far as possible, to resume a relatively normal shape in time for the new work week.

So this morning, proud that I have four new jackets to choose from each day, I selected my stunning red 3/4 length coat. Only to realise on the bus that it was perhaps THE most crumpled of the four. Stellar choice there Gabs. I honestly looked like I'd been scragged out from underneat the bus bench just in time for the arrival of the 135 Downtown Express. Cheers, thanks a lot.

I know I would learn to iron a lot faster if we actually owned an iron in this apartment, but we do not. So I am now required to commit to an outfit the night before I want to wear it, and make sure I smooth it down, or re-fold it, or hang it up to drop, or do SOMETHING.

Hmm or perhaps I'll just sleep in the darn thing and so I can proudly say to my fellow bus patrons, "Yes, Madam, in fact I DID sleep in this ensemble. Thank you for noticing". Good one.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Last Kiss - a review

Blowing kiss
Originally uploaded by PinKy_BLu$h.

Yesterday was a super busy day Downtown when Lex and me basically decided we needed fresh air and a change of scenery. So we went to a sparkling wine tasting, trawled the shops for a new winter coat for Lex, and then retired with a late lunch. But we found sufficient energy to watch "The Last Kiss" with Zach Braff.

The movie has been getting pretty horrible reviews but perhaps the rest of the theater hadn't heard about that cause the cinema was pretty well full by the time the movie started. I think on reflection, the critics have been pretty harsh on the film across the board.

I found the story to be really sad but surely predictable. A 29 year old guy realises he's about to turn 30 and is able to look at his life and think he sees it pretty clearly into the future. He's got the girlfriend, good job, baby on the way, and friends all around him in various stages of settlement (or settled down-ness, if that's a word).

Enter the brunette temptation. What's a guy to do?

So the story unfolds amidst general relationship crumbling all around the main characters. Husbands are not what wives thought they'd be, and definitely vice versa. Men have second thoughts, and women mistakenly think they've got their men all figured out. Dishes are broken, doors are slammed, tears flow.

It's a pretty good movie to be honest, and Lex and me really enjoyed it.

But it's definitely not a movie for a first date, or for anyone who is in ANY WAY uncertain about a relationship they're in. I think the movie would have you looking at your boyfriend/husband and wondering what either of you would do if opportunity knocked.

The movie advocates telling the absolute truth, and doing everything that it takes to win back the love of your life. It's a pretty painful movie to watch in some parts, cause you start to wonder what you'd do in the same situation - both as the person that cheated, and the one that got cheated on. It's a tough call either way.

But the soundtrack rocks and the supporting cast are wonderful. Give me Casey Affleck over Zach Braff any day, sorry Lex.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hallowed be thy...what the?!

Still growin'
Originally uploaded by wasta.

If anyone tells you that it is perfectly safe to eat Panang curry chicken right before bed, you should have them shot out of a cannon into outer space immediately.

I am here to tell you that last night's dream is proof that Panang chicken curry from the place down the road from me is the most powerful hallucinogen my subconscious has ever encountered.

Last night I dreamed that I was at church with K, my boss, and L, my colleague. But we weren't at a traditional religious service. We were at a mass of the new Marijuana Church.

Like all good followers, all the assembled faithful were stoned out of their minds. The High (pardon the pun) Priestess tried to enthuse one of the flock to approach the lectern and start his reading. But he stumbled through the sign of the cross, which began "In the name of the Karma...:" and he collapsed into a fit of giggles.

Not to be outdone, the next reader got up and I noticed his face was in a permanent pucker, from too much smoking - like the wind had changed or something, mid-puff.

Somewhat exasperated now, the Priestess called up the final contender to deliver the first reading. An affable chap duly approached the lectern, cleared his throat, and peed on the nearest candle.

I was appalled. My boss found it all hysterical, likewise my colleague. And then I woke up.

Anyone want the number of the noodle place?!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

...and so it begins

More Snowy Steps
Originally uploaded by Canis Major.

Chicago still has to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving before we can actually celebrate Christmas, but the stores have already started hanging decorations by the chimney with care. In fact, in some stores, it's a veritable decorative bonanza and often it's hard to tell just what holiday the stores are more eager for us to support.

But quite aside from the visual symbols that the holiday season is upon us, the weather today was a clear indicator that autumn has been given an almighty shove by the winter muscling on in.

We had snow flurries today and a top temperature of only 42 degrees (that's a walloping 5.5 degrees Celcius for those of you joining us from The Land Down Under, where women glow and men chunder).

Fortunately, I guess, I made it to work at 8.30am and didn't set foot outside again until we left for the day at 4.30pm. But it was definitely a coat, scarf, and gloves day today. If I had a beanie-worthy dome, I would have worn one of those too. I wouldn't have been alone. Everyone was sensibly rugged up against the rather shocking cold snap.

People on the bus today and around the corridors at work were stunned to witness this morning's snow storms, checking the calendar twice only to realise that yes, we ARE still only in October. Something tells me this winter may just be the fierce one we've been due all these years.

Well I say, bring it. I own one coat for every day of the week and dammit, I'll wear them all at once if I have to. I will not be beaten by the weather, I simply refuse to be.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So, basketball is played in quarters right?

Jenn and I were so excited the other week when I managed to secure two box seats to the season opener Chicago Bulls game (versus the Washington Wizards, if anyone cares).

The Cult has a wonderful centre-court box and I wasn't about to miss out on seeing my friend Luke play. Actually, at the time I bought the tickets, I had no idea if Luke would make the team. Neither did he. But maybe my enthusiasm stirred up good karma points, because not only did he make the Bulls training roster, he got court time! We had been joking that I would slip the coach $5 to let him play a few minutes. Best $5 I never spent, as it turned out.

I picked up the tickets at the Cult on Tuesday afternoon and I asked the Events Coordinator who else would be sharing the box with us. I wanted to know how many basketball fans (particularly young, male, single ones) would be cheering the Bulls on with us. Diplomatic as ever, the Grande Dame of Events refused to tell me, for confidentiality reasons or so she said.

Well, that is Cult speak for "absolutely no one - you're in the box on your own".

Yes that's right friends. Jenn and I shared a centre-court corporate box at the United Center with absolutely no one. So we made the most of it, as you would, and we cheered on the boys with a bottle of champagne followed by some strong coffee. Andwe loved every second of it.

Luke played for about 10 minutes, on and off, for the match, and I was so proud of him. He was a little aggressive, pushing and shoving some of the players, but he's 7'1" so I guess he can get away with that. We even got to see him after the game (with media passes that got us into the post-game family & friends section) so I got to carry on like a demented fan in person. Lame. But he seemed pleased that we got to see his big Bulls debut.

Jenn and I had a great night and our soiree pulled me out of the funk I've been in all week. The weather has turned positively foul, so it's nice to know that the United Center and the Bulls (who triumphed by 1 point tonight) will always be there - at least until the end of January 2007. Let's hope Luke goes the distance with them. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yo ho ho and a birthday dinner

Chicago Skyline and Boats 3
Originally uploaded by giramonda.

My Consulate Family went out for a communal birthday dinner tonight given that we have been, by and large, rather hopeless at remembering each other's birthdays over the course of the year. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Chicago Yacht Club - Monroe Station.

The weather is turning foul so there aren't many boats around. Indeed within the coming weeks, all the boats will be stored at the mooring sheds in readiness for The Big Freeze. It's weird that we seem to have completely bypassed autumn in favour of a wintry chill already.

It was a lovely surprise to see Jenn there, and meet her lovely Mum, as they were both there to fix Jenn's boat that had been beaten up pretty badly by the storms we had a few weeks ago. Jenn had forgotten that I was going there, but I was so pleased that she came over to say hello when we arrived. It was great to introduce her to my work friends, given that they've all heard so much about each other but never really met.

The dinner menu was pretty extensive as far as I was concerned, so it was a tough choice. But in the end I chose delicious chicken tikka kebabs and a main course of warm, comforting meatloaf. It was just delicious and the sheer tradition of it got us all talking about the meatloaf we used to have as kids. Remember the one that had the boiled eggs in the middle of it? How the heck did we even make that?! But none of us forgot just how good leftover meatloaf on fresh white bread - plus the compulsory squirt of tomato sauce - could taste on a school lunch sandwich. Mmmm. Finished off with a strong espresso, I left the Club full but not stuffed. And very content.

Like any family dinner, we had arguments, changed allegiances mid-conversation, and had many laughs. But like any family dinner, we were also relaxed in each other's company and swapped tall stories and caught up on old news. It was a great night in wonderful company in an equally special location.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Why don't the perverts ever call me?

I don't think anyone likes receiving unexpected phone calls. I don't mean bad news phone calls though. I mean those calls from someone you don't want to talk to, or those calls that ask you for donations, or the calls from someone who's crying hysterically on the other end of the line.

I had an unexpected phone call today from a number I didn't recognise. But it was my work phone, so I had to answer it. And it was the gym bunny at The Cult, asking me to book in for a fitness assessment. I know, I laughed too.

But then I realised that he was actually serious and all new members who use the athletic facilities are encouraged to come in for a physical to get a better idea of their general state of health. I decided against telling the poor boy about my ankle injury that has made swimming impossible (thereby making me a few pounds heavier - medicinal eating, you understand). I have the impression that medicinal eating is an unconventional remedy I have enthusiastically embraced but is not otherwise sanctioned by the medical community at large.

So instead of boring him with the story of swollen ankles, I opted to declare myself generally unfit, hoping that he'd respect my frank self-diagnosis and leave me alone. Not so. In fact, he is now more resolved than ever to hook me up to an array of machines and test me rigorously, and not in a way I'm going to enjoy I'm sure. He even gave me his cell phone number so I'd find him anywhere and make my consultation appointment at any time. Gulp.

I wonder how long I can play phone tag with a guy from the Athletics Department. Something tells me that I'll run out of puff well before he does.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

An evening in Cyprus

Originally uploaded by lallou.

On the recommendation of a Cult member, I invited my friend Kerry to join me for dinner in Greektown last night. We went along to a beautiful restaurant called Venus, whose specialty is Cypriot cuisine - and live music on Saturdays.

The delicious Greek red wine was going down very well on top of the two glasses we'd already had at the Cult beforehand. When I heard myself ordering shots of ouzo for us, followed by a robust OPA!, I knew I was having a good time. On reflection, I hope Kerry was too.

We were looked after by a fabulous waitress named Eva and if you ever go to the restaurant, you must make sure you're seated in her section. Eva's suggestions for food and drinks were simply spot on every time.

I had Mesogiako Calamari, which is basically squid stuffed with spinach, shrimp, feta, and roasted capsicums. Drooool. Then for my main couse, I enjoyed Kleftiko, the restaurant's signature regional lamb dish that has been slow cooked for six hours. As a result, it was so succulent that it simply fell apart when I tried to eat it but I prevailed in the end, trust me. I toasted my success and my full stomach with a bitter Greek coffee. Blissful.

Emboldened by the ouzo and Eva's encouragement, I bought a couple of shots for the two musicians who had basically been serenading the restaurant the entire night on their bouzouki (that's the traditional Greek guitar to those of you playing along at home). One of them was young and very cute, but surely you could have guessed that. Anyway, an equally young and handsome waiter brought the two shots over, gave one to the cute guitarist and downed the other himself. Whatever, two shots for two cute boys - I was doing well. The poor older musician was not doing so well, however, as he unfortunately missed out. Too bad, so sad. But even though the cute musician knew I'd bought the shot for him, he never bought me one in return - and never came over to thank me. Nothing. I was a little surprised and just a tad embarassed.

As we were leaving I felt compelled to mention this travesty to the owner, though it was entirely in jest by this stage. He politely pointed out that the guitarist is in the US on leave from the Greek Army and he doesn't actually speak a word of English. Ahem. Darling Eva overhead all this and said she'd go on a date with us and translate every word. See what I mean? What a sweetheart she is. But Kerry and I were laughing too hard at my best laid plans to take Eva's kind offer too seriously.

The owner was so disappointed for me that HE bought us drinks each. And no, he was not young and cute. But he was a very sweet man nonetheless and because we have good manners, of course Kerry and I accepted his kind offer.

And so it was that I ended my Grecian odyssey sitting at the restaurant's bar enjoying my mute musician's tunes, and sipping slowly on a refreshing Baileys on ice, dreaming of the Aegean Sea.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What's that, Skip? She's posted photos?

Hotel Riu Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

Finally I got my act together and marched off to Walgreens to get a CD made of many, many photos.

If you click on this photo you'll be able to see a (small) collection of shots taken in Mexico.

But perhaps a better idea would be to click on the link to MY PHOTO ALBUM down the right hand side of this web page and you'll see all the pics I've recently added, regardless of what photo set I've filed them in.

A reminder to please suspend judgement about the Oktoberfest pics. I maintain that when those photos were taken, the only things we were capable of doing were chicken dances, hugging each other, and drinking more beer. In that order.


Friday, October 06, 2006

365 days and counting?

classic millenium park.
Originally uploaded by D.James.

Today is my one year anniversary in Chicago and I feel pretty good about that. For someone who was fairly nomadic in the early days, it is nice to look back having spent the last year in such a beautiful city. I've managed to amass a wonderful group of friends and I really enjoy my job and my home.

Every reason to smile, right?

Of course there is now the niggling thought in the back of my mind - where to from here? But this past year has come about because I just took a leap of faith - closed my eyes and jumped, as it were. Who's to say what the coming year will bring, but I plan to approach it the same way. Not too calculated, but still sensible. And with a touch of the 'what-happens-just-happens' philosophy with which I got to this point.

And hey, as long as I keep hearing feedback that this site has been fun to read, I'll keep writing it and ensure you're kept updated on this big, weird world of mine.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

You know your beeswax? Why don't you mind it!

I have been reading Australian newspapers online lately, paying more attention to the “Opinion” columns than I otherwise might. Ever since Germaine Greer’s opinion column was absolutely savaged following Steve Irwin’s death, I’ve maintained a rather perverse interest in what columnists have to say on certain issues.

I understand the whole ‘freedom of the press’ and ‘free speech’ and such, but my mother’s advice always rings in my ears – if you don’t want anything read, don’t write it down. Or perhaps it was, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

I have a new respect for opinion journalists, particularly those who go online, blog-style, and spill their guts about a whole range of issues, from the citizenship debate to whether unfit mothers should be neutered. It’s hysterical! And then net-junkies like myself can log onto the newspaper’s site and savage the columnist for putting their thoughts out there, however unpopular they end up to be. Tony from Tamworth praises one columnist for his hard-line take on immigrants, only to have Pamela from Perth chime in and deride him for being too blinkered and not caring enough about the ozone layer. No one said the comments had to be relevant or informed. Why should they be? The opinion pieces aren’t always great journalism either.

But the thing I like most about the opinion columns in the newspaper is that in 30 lines, the journalist does his or her best to summarise a topical or even contentious issue that I have neither the time nor inclination to read too deeply about. I may care about it of course, but my attention span is just too short to conduct my own research. So I care what the columnist writes, and I care what Tony and Pamela have to say about it. But just don’t ask me to have an ultimate opinion on those opinions, because when pressed like that, all I can do is defer to my mother’s ultimate sage advice, the non-committal “oh yeah”. Nothing frustrates a heated debate more than a resigned “oh yeah”. Try it some time – tell them my mother sent you.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Girly Dinner is the Best Therapy

Beautiful invitation
Originally uploaded by cattycamehome.

I can look back on this week's diary and know why I'm tired, but today was a particularly tiresome day at work. So by 4.30pm, I could have very easily given up and gone home to bed. But I had accepted a kind invitation from my friend Jenn to come to her place for dinner. Not one to pass up a home-cooked meal (cooked in someone else's home, that is), of course I had to go along.

Jenn's apartment is not far out of the city, towards my place, and I'd been there before about two weeks ago. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment in a building run by a rather curious doorman who needs to know the ins and outs of all her guests. I certainly didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition.

Upon arrival on Jenn's floor, I could smell garlic and herbs and general deliciousness. After a cobbled-together appetiser cheese plate that I donated, and some delicious sparkly bubbly that Caro brought along, the dinner party was in full swing. We then sat down to a scrumptious main course of salmon stuffed with crabmeat, and mashed potatoes, green beans, and salad with poppy seed dressing. Delightful.

I don't know if Jenn slaved over that meal for hours but it sure seemed like it. We finished up with lemon sorbet (my absolute favourite dessert), and strong coffee with a dash of brandy in it.

And while I offered to help do the dishes, our gracious hostess politely declined and Caro and me left together to grab a cab. On the way home we reflected on how gracious a hostess Jenn had been, and how i could absolutely, positively, NEVER pull off such a meal. Salmon stuffed with crabmeat? I mean, come on!

Been there, seen all that?

It is no secret that Lex and I are big fans of musical theatre but I think she is quite possibly the most avid fan I’ve ever known. She has seen the major plays at least 3 times each, if not more. She knows the score, the lyrics, even the actors and their Broadway pedigree. She is definitely someone you want on your table a Quiz Night (especially the boozy ones I like to go to!).

So last night we scored some free tickets to the world premiere of The Pirate Queen, a new musical by the same guys that brought us Miss Saigon and something else, I can’t remember which one now. But in any case the talent was obvious and the buzz around the musical was electric. For months now the cast has been rehearsing in Chicago, mindful of the fact that last night’s public performance would be the first ever. The media hadn’t seen it, New York hadn’t seen it – Chicago was the guinea pig.

I had high hopes for the musical, I really did. But whether it was the weather (?!) or if it was just the end of a generally silly day, Lex and I were in the mood to speculate about what the musical would include. We didn’t know the story – perhaps the Pirate Queen of the title was in fact a campy transvestite seaman (ahem). In fact the title character was an independent and feisty Irish woman who leads an army against the British forces to liberate Ireland in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. Dare I suggest I liked our version better?

Anyway all the elements that Lex and I talked about were there:

  • Large, dark sets and ominous boom-boom music at the beginning? Check.
  • The actors in triangle formation marching down-stage? Check.
  • A soppy romantic number where the leads sing cheek-to-cheek? Check.
  • A heart-wrenching number by the female lead about lost love and futility? Check.
  • A rousing all-hands-on-proverbial-deck number to close Act 1? Check.
  • A ‘why-God-why’ number by the male lead? Check.
  • A happy ending? Check.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed “The Pirate Queen”. I’m taking nothing away from the obvious talent of all of the performers; they had wonderfully strong voices and really great energy. But it was all just a little too familiar, you know? It’s like watching an episode of “Law & Order” and knowing who killed the victim before the first commercial break.

The most exciting part about the night was wondering why some Chicagoans came to the theatre dressed as pirates, when it was eminently clear that they were not in the least going to take the stage. Arrrrrrgh, me hearties.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain

Waiting for the Storm
Originally uploaded by Giant Ginkgo.

Chicago is normally a pretty peaceful city but last night, the skies unleashed a fairly nasty dump of rain, wind, and lightning that made Lake Michigan really angry.

The waves crashed onto Lakeshore Drive and "I know this because" my boss called and told me he could see them from his livingroom window. Granted this was not entirely responsible phone usage, but our conversation was short so don't worry.

Just as the first fat raindrops started to hit the pavement, I completed my umpteenth load of laundry to remove any telltale evidence of recent house guests (did we really use that many bath towels?!). And I settled onto the couch, Preston stretched out across my chest, to watch the lightning and listen to the rain thumping against the open windows.

What the?! Okay what followed was a race around the house to CLOSE all the windows but then resettlement on the couch ensued and there I stayed until 10pm. The TV kept reporting tornado watch after tornado watch, but I haven't found out whether rural Illinois got battered in that way. Chicago just suffered some felled trees, squished cars, and deep puddles.

And there is nothing like falling asleep to the sound of a thunderstorm, safe in the knowledge that you have clean underpants to put on the next day.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Carvin' it up for Halloween

halloween choice
Originally uploaded by marcel.ws11.

I'm coming up for my 1 year anniversary in Chicago (on 6 October, for those of us who are counting), and rather than focussing on how to celebrate that milestone, I'm obsessing about Halloween.

Last year was my first spooky party and it was a blast. This year Lex's boss told her that the party was at our apartment - how very generous of him, right? But he's agreed to mix up a lethal punch, and Lex's work is abuzz with costume ideas in a virtual cacophany of creativity.

The pervading theme seems to be celebrities, and I've been asked if I want to go as Nicole Richie. There will be a Paris Hilton at the party, and Lex has already scored the Lindsay Lohan nod. So perhaps I should help complete the It Girl set, by scrounging the op shops for a Pucci-esque dress that is about 6 sizes too big, plus I've already got the blonde bob and oversized glasses. All that's missing is the cat-like eyeliner, the ballet flats, and the guant expression of one who is perpetually hungry and voila - all done.

And let's face it, perhaps given how Ms Richie is looking these days, it's about the most ghoulish costume anyone can come up with!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Happy Days in Milwaukee

Having got to bed at 3am the previous night, it is still a miracle to me that I was up in time on Saturday morning to meet Caro, Brad, Rak and Nic, and make the Amtrak train from Union Station to Milwaukee. We were headed for Oktoberfest, one of the many US-based beer festivals being held to coincide with the real deal in Germany.

I've never been to the German equivalent, but I would imagine there'd be more people there than there were in Milwaukee. The only advantage that we could work out from such poor attendance in Milwaukee was the lack of lines at the food stalls, and the pristine condition of the portable toilets. Two very big thumbs-up in my book really.

We were booked into the Holiday Inn, because marathon runners and conference delegates had nabbed all the other hotel rooms in the city. But the Holiday Inn was clean, quiet, and in close proximity to Oktoberfest, so it wasn't bad at all.

We met up with Rak's sister and her husband at a nearby beer hall, and we had our first German beer of the day. It proved to be the first of many. Whether we were motivated by alcoholism or just a sense of responsibility to drink our share of the kegs, we sunk a hell of a lot of beer in a very short time.

Let's just say that our afternoon of beverage consumption ended back at the beer hall, with dancing on tables and Gab doing her very best oompah-arms as we did the best chicken dance we could do. When Caro started falling asleep at the Indian restaurant, she and I threw money on the table and went back to the Hotel. Collapsing into bed in a fuzzy drunken haze, I got a text from a Chicago friend and so I grabbed my phone.

It was 8.20pm.

The next time I opened my eyes it was 7.45am. Meeting up with the rest of the crew for breakfast at a nearby diner, we swapped funny stories about the things we remembered (and puzzled over the things we didn't) and laughed loudly much to the bemusement of other patrons.

We spent the rest of a Sober Sunday in the sunshine, visiting the Art Museum and sitting on the banks of Lake Michigan watching the celebrations for the marathon that was being run today. We grabbed some lunch at the Irish pub and then made it back in time for our 3pm train to Chicago. We were all asleep before the train pulled out.

I can't tell you the relief we all felt when we woke up and saw the imposing John Hancock tower piercing the Chicago skyline. We all just relaxed and felt at home, it was an unspoken collective thing. Milwaukee was fun, and the beer drinking was awesome (photos will be testament to that), but be it ever so humble....well, you know the rest.

I see your true colours shining through

For most Chicagoans, this past Friday was just like any other. But for the Aussie expats living in the Midwest, Friday was the biggest day of our sporting year, because it was the kick-off of the AFL Grand Final.

I hadn't seen a professional game of 'aerial ping-pong', as rugby fan Mero calls it, for nearly 2 years, so I was really looking forward to the celebrations and theatrics. Being an Adelaide girl, I did not have any particular allegiance to either team, though I donned the red & white of the Sydney Swans in deference to my work colleagues, and also to Pete who went along to the pub with me.

The Globe Pub is the local watering hole for the Chicago-based AFL team so it was the perfect home to host the AFL Grand Final on 17 widescreen TVs in an audio visual spectacular.

Attendance was capped at 150 around 10pm, and there were some grizzly footy fans left out in the cold because they got there too late. Some sad Aussies rang my cell phone and I tried to negotiate with the bouncers and club owner to let them in. Fortunately I can be quite persuasive and managed to grant them admission. I got to know the owner very well that night, let me tell you - he really was overwhelmed by the whole attendance!

I was fortunate to know quite a few of the Aussies in the pub and I had a great time mingling and catching up with people. First bounce wasn't until 11.30pm so it's no wonder I got home at 3am. But the best part about hanging around until the ened was that one of the footy boys gave me an ice-cold can of VB; truly the rarest Aussie beer in Chicago. The only importer we know of is on the east coast and I believe only looks after the Embassy. Not fair. But I didn't question how the footy boys ended up with a slab. I just enjoyed being one of 24 lucky footy fans presented with a cool can at the end of the night. Sweet.

Perhaps my wannabe team support was bad luck - wearing red & white didn't exactly guarantee victory for the Swannies. But the Eagles scored a one-point win right at the last minute, and doesn't that always make for a superb game?! It was golden footy.