Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy (Sparkly) New Year 2007

The before shot...
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

The morning after the night before, and I'm sitting at the computer trying to defuzz my mind and reflect on the Happy New Year 2007 party we hosted at our place.

Jems had declared that the theme for the party would be "Anything That Sparkles" and all our party guests played along. We had glitter headbands, sparkly bowler hats, tinsel wigs - the whole lot. Even Barkley had a good time, when someone had decked him out in glow-in-the-dark rave necklaces and even a Hawaiian lei, for good measure.

Oh and we had jager bombs, tequila shots, black sambucca shots, and even cherry vodka shots...or was it just me who had all those things?!

George had brought over his PC and subwoofer so we had a killer sound system to blast out all the party hits. It was awesome.

But of course this is the 'before' shot. I'm too scared to head outside and see the carnage. But Dad is cooking a traditional greasy BBQ breakfast out there so I think it's time to make the move...

More photos of the craziness can be found here.

Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The calm before the storm

Lightning crashes
Originally uploaded by Adam and Tennille.

Adelaide was pretty much a ghost town last night, comparatively speaking. It was a Saturday night and I took off with Jems, The G-Man, Kev, and Matty to the city for a night out. That was, of course, after I'd enjoyed a "nanna nap" to prepare!

Perhaps Adelaide was gearing up for a New Year's Eve bender tonight, or perhaps we were all still emotionally scarred from the lightning shows of the previous two nights. Either way, the pub we went to was all but deserted, and took a long time to fill up. When it did, it was fully of babies - very very young 20-somethings, which seemed to convince the DJ to abandon universally popular music in lieu of crap R&B that my body has trouble moving to.

In any case, by about 2.30am, I was ready for a yiros, a Diet Coke, and my bed. So that's what I got - and in that order too.

Tonight is the New Year's Eve party at our place, much to my Dad's chagrin. The family is turning up, as is nearly everyone that my sister has ever met in her life. With the G-Man's computer blasting out the great dance tunes, I get the distinct impression that the makeshift dancefloor in our living room will be the place to be as we farewell 2006.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A shopper's paradise

My friend was right the other day when she suggested I'm going to need a vacation from this vacation! I am really tired right now, and I can rest the blame for this exhaustion entirely on the retail therapy I have engaged in over the past two days.

King William Road, Hyde Park
Mum & I spent a wonderful day in the sunshine yesterday cruising the shops on King William Road at Hyde Park. We dressed up a bit for it too, partly because I was on a mission to buy a cute Australian-made dress for the Australia Day Ball in Chicago next month. You will all be pleased to know I emerged triumphant. The salesman at the evening wear boutique was a gem and he helped convince me that the black, strapless dress was perfect for me, only it needed to be taken in (something every girl wants to hear, trust me). So off Mum & I trotted down the road to the tailors to have the dress altered to perfection. I am in love with the dress, even though I never intended getting anything short, strapless, or black. Whatever! I can't wait to wear it out. Photos to follow, of course.

Martini Cafe, Norwood
What's a trip back to Adelaide without a rendez-vous with Daz & J? The last place I saw the boys was in Paris, when we dined at the Jules Verne restaurant up the Eiffel Tower for J's birthday - hard to believe that was 18 months ago now! Still, when we're in Adelaide the only place we want to go for dinner is the Martini Cafe. Just down the road from their beautiful new house, Jems and I laughed with the boys for hours - we were the life of the party and the last to leave the restaurant. Perhaps it was the sparkling rose we imbibed while we waited for our Veuve Cliquot to chill that did THAT is classy dining. Dancing off our dinner at a mid-town gay bar afterwards was great fun, and the first time in ages that I'd drunk Vodka Cruisers!

The Adelaide Central Market

The Central Market - Adelaide Gouger Street, Adelaide Chinatown in Adelaide

I can't tell you how much I love the Adelaide Central Market. It is such a wonderfully aromatic haven right in the centre of the City. The Markets are open every day (hmm maybe not Monday - I forget), though they are definitely at their best on Friday nights and first thing Saturday mornings.

When Kate and I were living together not too far from the Markets, we often made vows that we were going to walk there every Saturday for the freshest fruit & veg that our money could buy. Hmm. I bet you can guess the number of times we actually did that.

Of course, now that I live so far from the markets, I was itching to get back there. I made sure that Mum & Jem draggggggged themselves out of bed early this morning and we were on the road to get there well before 9am. But our efforts were richly rewarded, cause we had a great bacon & egg breakfast, and just enjoyed watching the shoppers and listening to the grocers and the fishmongers bellowing the daily specials and plentiful bargains to be had. The smell of the coffee beans, the well-known fruit shops, and fresh, local produce - it really is awesome stuff. And with the market right next door to Adelaide's own Chinatown, it's the perfect spot for authentic east-meets-west experiences.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Royalty on "The Parade"

The Queen
Originally uploaded by knoopie.

After an afternoon BBQ with family friends yesterday, I went to dinner at the movies with Josh and Andrea on The Parade at Norwood, a suburb just outside of the City.

Andrea has just moved to Norwood, and I've always been a big fan of the suburb, even way before Josh used to live there (though he has since moved away). The Parade is a long road in the centre of Norwood that is chock-full of grocers, restaurants, boutiques, and hairdressing salons. There is also a wonderful strip mall there that contains a movie theater and several of the best eating places in Adelaide.

We went to one such place last night for dinner - Madam Wu's. I hadn't been there in a while, obviously, but the meals there are always cheap, fast, and delicious. While Josh was a little disappointed with his meal (did I hear the word 'tastless'?), Reg and I were richly rewarded. My pad thai was particularly yummy, if not a little too filling for me after the BBQ and beer efforts of the earlier afternoon.

We then went over to the cinema to see the 7.10pm session of "The Queen". Did you know that cinema tickets in Adelaide cost $15.30 now? Outrageous. But we paid and went in, and I really enjoyed it. It was weird though, to watch a movie drawing its plot from a time in history that I clearly remember. I was glued to the TV when Diana died, and I remember the outpouring of national grief that took over the streets of London. I recall the overwhelming criticism of the Royal Family and how long it took the Queen to emerge from Balmoral and come down to London. So I found it particularly interesting to view this story from the Queen's point of view (or at least the Director's interpretation of her point of view). I found myself having more sympathy for her, and I really enjoyed the casting of Tony Blair too, cause I hadn't paid any attention to his role in the situation at the time it was actually happening.

After the film we went back to Reg's place for a couple of glasses of wine and a chat; a lovely way to end another busy day at home.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A day at 'The Bay'

I was watching a TV commercial last night for Glenelg, affectionately known in Adelaide as "The Bay", and it seemed to have changed a lot since I was last there. So I mentioned my desire to go and revisit the beautiful beachside suburb, and Mum & I took a trip out there today. We left around lunch time and got back home again at 6pm so it was a great day out in the summer sunshine, soaking up some beachy atmosphere.

Moseley Square, Glenelg Something Fishy City to Glenelg Tram - the new breed

The first photo you see above is of Moseley Square, the main meeting place at Glenelg, at the bottom end of Jetty Road. To take the photo, I had my back to the ocean. This is the site of the family-friendly New Years Eve party that Glenelg hosts every year. I've never been to one though, partly because you can't drink alcohol there (it's a dry zone) and partly because it's a little too far from my house to be worthwhile. Of course, you can see that the fish & chips are sensational, so I never have a hard time finding something nice to eat at The Bay, and the new yellow trams get you from the City to The Bay quickly and inexpensively. But for all this, I admit that I very rarely come here.

Waterslides at The Beach House, Glenelg Indoor carousel at The Beach House, Glenelg The Beach House, Glenelg

Let's say though that if ever I did come to Glenelg when I lived here, I always seemed to end up at Magic Mountain, an old monolith eyesore that has since been demolished. The old site used to have a fibreglass mountain and inside were death-defying waterslides, that urban legend said had razor blades stuck to them with chewing gum. Neat. Oh and there was a Sideshow Alley that had dodgem cars and those clowns that you put the ball in their mouths to win a prize. All of those things are gone now. A year or so before I left home, the local council decided to get rid of the old Magic Mountain. I thought they were erecting fancy new apartments, but no. In my time away, they have instead constructed these buildings. Yes friends, you are seeing straight. What they have done is replaced old waterslides - with new waterslides. Hmm.

The old carousel is still there of course, and the plush new place is called "The Beach House". And the Glenelg Surf Life Saving Club headquarters are next door too - but the waterslides people!? Come on - did we really have to tear down a tacky fibreglass mountain? Oh okay okay, fibreglass structures have had their day. Sob.

And being the obliging girl I am, I'll admit the new Bay is a much classier venue than before. Especially in today's summer sunshine, and the shopping on both sides of Jetty Road was relaxing and, after a side trip to Just Jeans for some cute blouses, very profitable indeed.

Monday, December 25, 2006

'Twas the Day After Christmas...

I would have posted a short message yesterday but Christmas was a bit too full on to do anything of the sort. I kept thinking back to last year, when I was on my own in Chicago (by choice of course), roasting up a leg of lamb and veggies, and downing 2 bottles of wine in the manner of Bridget Jones. What a difference a year makes.

The weather wasn't much to mention - a bit grey, and even some drizzle in the morning - so I wasn't able to wear one of my (many) summer dresses. Instead I donned the jeans and 'sweater' - not allowed to call it that here - and hoped for the best.

I got some great Christmas presents this year. Mindful of my baggage restrictions, my family chose gifts like underwear, CDs, a webcam, Aussie souvenirs, and some jewellery. I was certainly very spoiled. In fact, everyone seemed to score some great gifts this year, it was a lot of fun to see my family open the gifts I'd brought over from Chicago too - nothing terribly unique, but still a fun talking point that the present came from so far away.

Lunch with my 'Crazy Granny' was loads of fun. She was in fine form and my uncle and his family had made the trip over from Tasmania to spend the day with us. It was lovely to catch up and my cousin Olivia looks great and is so much more grown up than I remember her. With any luck, she'll come and visit me somewhere around the world soon cause I think she'll really enjoy the freedom and change of pace.

In the afternoon, I had fully intended having a 'nanna nap', but we got home a little later from Granny's than we'd anticipated, and Josh showed up at my place ahead of going to my aunt's for dinner. Santa had brought me a Balloon Animal kit for Christmas, so Josh and I occupied ourselves by making a mutant rabbit and a mongoloid monkey. Twisting balloons was a two-person job for us - I don't know how the buskers do it.

Christmas Dinner and drinks at my aunt's house was a 'festive' affair, with the wine and beer flowing in abundance. We sat outside on my aunt's new decking and it was really lovely. Food was plentiful and we ate, buffet-style, until we could barely move. Then we played the Kriskindl game, where we all take a number and then pick up presents to the value of $10, lucky-dip style. My donation of Tim Tams and coffee mugs were a hotly contested item for a while, which made me happy. My night there ended around 11.30pm and I slept rather well, which was great.

Today is Boxing Day and we have some of my Mum's old work colleagues over to our place for a BBQ breakfast and some mimosas. It's a wonderful way to relax after the hectic pace of Christmas Day, that's for sure. Knowing that the Boxing Day cricket test is also on TV is a great way to recuperate too.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two sisters and a small town

Gabs and Jems
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

Here is a 'before' photo taken at our place as Jems and I headed out on the town with my cousins and Jems friends last night. We are all pleased to know that there were no 'after' photos taken (shudder)!

We headed out to an English-style pub downtown called "The Elephant & Wheelbarrow", which was a bit of a Saturday night haunt for us when I used to live here. It's comforting to know that the place is still trading and has not changed a bit. There is also something wonderful about the fact that the DJs and the bands still play ACDC and Kiss and The Choirboys ("Run To Paradise", anyone?). The air guitar championships raged on.

And of course there are the Adelaide boys - oh, how I have missed them. Jems and me were on fire last night. Consider the following evidence:

  • Our fellow air guitarists on the dance floor, only some of whom then took liberties to pinch our butts;
  • There was the boy who entered "Sugar" night club with his pants and belt undone, only to have Jems and me do them up for him on the club's stairs, just to make him more presentable (and we suspect he won't remember any of that today);
  • The guys who approached me on the dance floor and asked me if I was a Chicago Luvabull (the Bulls cheerleader!); and finally
  • The bald guy from Minnesota who followed me out of the bar as I was leaving and wanted my phone number.

Naturally I left the bar last night with the email address of the guy who thought I was a dead ringer for a Chicago Luvabull. I know, I'm such a sucker. I agree with Jems that he is a very cute guy, but his friend kept unashamedly groping my boobs. Classy, right?

Friday, December 22, 2006

A trip down Rundle Street

Andrea and Me Distill, Rundle Street Gab and Andrea

Reg agreed to round up our old work colleagues to join in a 'welcome home' drink last night on Rundle Street in the heart of the City. But for me, the festivities started at lunch time with my friend Susan, to enjoy a long-overdue Fasta Pasta meal. It is just as cheap & cheerful as I remember!

After surprising PJ in the mailroom, I was off to join Reg at her office Christmas party. She certainly has a great office space now - with a sunny balcony just perfect for entertaining. Reg's colleagues were all in fine form, and nobody minded me crashing the party for an hour or so.

We then disappeared to Distill on Rundle Street, a groovy organic wine/cocktail bar that only opened about a month ago. The bar quickly reached capacity and some of my 'party' guests were denied entry. I tried to negotiate with the bouncer but he would not see reason (and would not accept bribes). He also refused to kick some people out so that my friends could come in. Where is the justice? So even Joshua and my sister had to go and sit at another bar and were unable to join us for a drink or three. It was great to see the old gang and realise that while the work never changes, my friends are still happy and healthy and heaps of fun to see.

Craig, Jake, and Sarah Laksa, at last! Exhibit A:  Salt & Pepper Squid

Dinner at Lemongrass on Rundle Street was a wonderful opportunity to FINALLY get some laksa into me. The Thai restaurants I've been to in Chicago just don't seem to serve it. So I seized the opportunity here, and I was not disappointed in the least. Of course the spongy pieces of tofu were a little icky, but the rest of the soup was spicy, coconutty, and blissful. Clearly the girls also enjoyed the salt & pepper squid, as evidenced by the very 'Wheel of Fortune' pointing and gesturing.

We disappeared into The Exeter pub after that, and though the young person's venue is not really my scene (think arty Uni students everywhere), I had a relaxing time with a fresh glass of wine - probably the first bottle of good wine that place has ever sold! Jems disappeared to do some last-minute Christmas shopping and Josh convinced me to join him for a cocktail at Fumo Blu just down the road.

Fumo is a really cute place that I used to go to all the time when I lived here. The cocktails are strong, not necessarily cheap, but are always the best quality. The cosmopolitan that I enjoyed went down a real treat. Oh that reminds me, I owe Josh a cocktail. Don't let me forget that.

My trip down Rundle Street last night was a trip down memory lane. Hard to believe that all this adventure happened in a 3 block radius, don't you think? But that's Adelaide for you - lots to see, lots to do, and no need to trek all over town to do it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mojitos with my mates

Mojito Sunset
Originally uploaded by 1bluecanoe.

When I arrived home on Sunday and I went into my bedroom, the first thing that caught my eye (aside from the "Welcome Home" banners and helium balloon!), was my framed Graduate Diploma in PR from the University of South Australia. My graduation ceremony had been held the month after I left home, so obviously I had arranged to graduate in absentia. I had actually forgotten that the ceremony even happened, so I was a little surprised to see the certificate there. But it reminded me how much I was looking forward to Thursday's rendez-vous with my Uni friends.

The day started quite early, with the idea of coffee with my Dad in the City. But given that my cold attacked me with a vengeance yesterday morning, I bowed out of that engagement. Jems dropped me into North Adelaide for lunch with Gav, but I realised halfway there that I had made the lunch date for 11.30am - and not noon, like I had been thinking all morning. So there we were, burning along O'Connell Street and I was frantically making phone calls to Gav, hoping he didn't think I was standing him up for real. He was fine. He had a bar, he had a beer, he had no problems. And our lunch at the Queen's Head bar, when I finally got there, was wonderful. Gav has seen a bit of the world himself since I last caught up with him, so it was good to swap stories and share laughs about how different other cultures are to our own, and what a struggle it can be to come back home after such amazing adventures. And the long overdue James Boags premium beers just went down a real treat.

As the summer rain bucketed down outside and threatened flash flooding, we waited until there was a lull in the storm and then we walked up to the Oxford Hotel, site of my 21st birthday. I don't particularly like that pub, but it does hold happy birthday memories for me, and it was close to the Archer, where Jems was enjoying her own staff Christmas lunch.

Theresa then joined us at the Oxford for a couple of sparkling wines, and by that time I was feeling rather merry. I had also started to yawn, which I tried very hard to blame on jetlag, but Gav didn't believe me. When he started to yawn too, he stopped nagging me. Phew. Mind you, it wasn't at all late by this stage, so we headed next door to The Banque, for a couple of vanilla mojitos (that I do love from there). Our Uni friend Jane then joined us, and it was wonderful to see her. Jems followed shortly after and we had a great chat together - with the barman too, who threw in some comments from the background.

Gav disappeared after that to attend his own family Christmas dinner, and the girls and I adjourned to Beyond India, a fabulous Indian restaurant that Katie and I used to go to all the time when we lived in North Adelaide. We'd either dine there and have multiple bottles of wine and then go and see kids movies at the cinema (!), or we'd get them to deliver to us and walk up the three flights of stairs to our apartment hehe. Either way, we were very good customers! So last night was a fun trip down memory lane. And fortunately the menu hadn't changed - my lamb roganjosh was particularly delicious and I had some yummy garlic naan so I guess that means I won't be the kissing bandit tonight! The boys of Adelaide are safe for another 24 hours.

So that was another happy day under the Adelaide sun. I've woken up on Friday morning to a slightly cloudy and drizzly day, but there is still enough residual warmth in the air to warrant wearing my cocktail dress that I've not yet had the occasion to bring out of mothballs. I bought the dress at Kenzie in Santa Monica and with today's social engagements, I think I have found 3 perfectly good occasions to bust it out (as distinct from 'busting out of it'). Sweet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I speak the truth, lady

Bocca della verità
Originally uploaded by S. Lo.

It was wonderful to catch up with my travel buddy Reg this morning for a quick coffee (though owing to a sore throat wannabe cold coming on, I opted for sparkling water instead). I get the real impression that we will reminisce about our travel experiences this Friday when we convene with my old work buddies for a drinks session. I am very much looking forward to that - the dedicated catch up with her, and the chance to see my old friends again.

Then it was off to lunch with a new corporate contact (I only have to do a little bit of work while I'm on my holiday!), but that was great as well. I got some insight into the music business and the inside scoop on what it means to manage a really successful jazz band. I found the lunch to be provocative and really beneficial. It was also delicious, because I had my first chicken schnitzel with mushroom sauce in nearly 2 years. Divine.

Then Jems and I spent the afternoon together, and I started the search for a frock for the Australia Day Ball in Chicago. I am resolved to come home with an Australian designer gown to show off (plus that pretty much guarantees that no one else will be wearing the same thing as me!). Anyway, I went into one store, and had to leave Jems outside with my freshly-opened Diet Coke. As I zeroed in on a very cute black sequinned number, at the rather reasonable price of $490, the matronly shop assistant came over to 'help' me and asked me whether that was my daughter standing out there with the Diet Coke. Although I heard her correctly, I thought I'd give her the opportunity to recant the statement, and so I asked her to repeat what she'd said. Again, she asked whether I was shopping with my daughter (gesturing to my sister outside the store). I returned the dress to its hanger and announced that she was my sister and I am, in fact, only 4 years older than her. Of course the woman could not apologise fast enough and basically chased me around the shop trying to backtrack over herself. Ugh. I figured that missing out on a $490 sale was probably punishment enough, so I just left the store. Sigh, I did like that dress though.

And then tonight I caught up with Reg again at my old work's Quiz Night - another first in 2 years. I love quiz nights and this one was no exception. I even won one of the raffle prizes, which is always a good thing. We didn't win, but we did come 4th, which was an admirable effort given that half my table was drunk by the end of the night. I can't cast judgement though - I don't think I'm welcome back at the State Theatre Company quiz nights for the very same reason!

Tomorrow is yet another busy day and I am trying to fight off the cold & flu germs to keep battling through. The sunshine is a good tonic though and I am really enjoying sunning myself as I wander the City streets with my sister from appointment to appointment. Though the pace is somewhat hectic, I still feel very much that this is a holiday, and I am so far enjoying every minute of it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Eating, drinking, and being merry

Yesterday was another sunny, dry day in Adelaide and I relished it. My first 'appointment' for the day was with my Granny and it was typically fun to visit with her. After she'd waxed lyrical about Government conspiracies about wire tapping and the sly ways that purse-snatchers rob you blind at supermarkets, we settled down to a yummy cup of tea and fistful of Aussie biscuits - blissful.

After that Dad & I went to a Christmas BBQ lunch at his old workplace. I used to work with one of the guys so I felt comfortable tagging along. It was a really lovely day in the backyard, enjoying the familiar smells and tastes of the Adelaide Central Market - fresh seafood, Aussie lamb, delicious dips & antipasto plates. The champagne flowed as readily as the conversation; it was all lovely.

Then Jems rocked up and we disappeared to the supermarket to get the last few supplies for the family dinner we were hosting. We flew around the aisles and I managed to source the last few things for the Shepherd's Pies I had agreed to prepare. Even though we were sliding the pies into the oven just as our guests arrived, we weren't too late. Everyone enjoyed more than enough food and being able to sit outside to eat was great fun. Afterwards we adjourned to the dining room to play "Scattergories" which quickly degenerated into a mud-slinging match with some very dodgy answers indeed, but it was a blast. After midnight, when only a handful of family members were left standing, we played a few rounds of A$$hole (a great card game that Kate taught us years ago) and then we surrendered.

I have woken up this morning to another busy day, but one I am really looking forward to. Today should give me plenty of opportunity to take some scenic shots of Adelaide, so I hope to post them shortly.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Barkley

Happy Barkley
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

So it doesn't take me very long to settle back into 'shutterbug' mode, and I have already uploaded some Adelaide pics to my Flickr photo album.

While this is for the benefit of my Chicago-based friends and readers, it's also for myself to sit back and marvel at the beautiful sunshine and warmth well as to enjoy Barkley's big smiles as he frolicked at Henley Beach today.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Great Southern Land

After a rather mammoth 28 hour trip, I made it to my beautiful home town of Adelaide and flying over it yesterday, my whole body just relaxed somehow. I breathed out for the first time in days. And to see Josh and Tristan smiling at me upon arrival was an added relief that I had really made it. Before I'd even said hello properly, Josh screamed out at me, "your bloody mother's not even here yet!". Sigh, it was true.

I needn't have worried about the brass band or the banners or the screaming relatives! My family had got confused about where I was going to clear customs, so they thought they had plenty of time to get to the airport and greet me. But they hadn't counted on me clearing customs and immigration in Melbourne AND making it to Adelaide in record time - so my welcoming committee was much smaller than I had counted upon. Hey, it was a blessing for me! I was tired, semi-grouchy, feeling dirty and blasted with airplane air - it was all an icky combination. But little by little, the family 'crowd' gathered and I had a shower and a cold Coopers beer and I was as right as rain.

Then my family (including George) went to the Grange Jetty Kiosk for a delicious lunch right on the ocean. I tell you, I'm not much of a beach bunny but the water truly has a mesmeric effect on me. The smell and sound of the ocean just reinforced to me that I was home. The seagulls, the friendly waitresses, and all the delicious and fresh local produce just made me feel so happy.

On the way home from the restaurant, we visited my Granny (who told me not to put on anymore weight!) and my aunt Jo (who rebutted Granny and told me I looked great!). Then it was home sweet home, to see my beloved Barkley.

That dog is HUGE!!! I was a little shocked at his size, I have to say. His skull is the size of my two hands, I had simply forgotten that. But he had not forgotten me, and I think that made me a little sad. He still likes his belly scratched and he can 'sit' and 'be gentle' and he makes me know when he needs to go out to the toilet. It's just the same old thing, you know? And I love it. He is an absolute sweetheart and I am going to take about 1,000 photos of him. I just need to stop the urge to call him Preston....

Off to the beach today with Jem and Barkley to soak up some summer sunshine and if I get some fish & chips, that will just be an added bonus!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I will NOT think of Ross

Originally uploaded by imapix.

This was my mantra as I stepped into the "Mystic Tanning" booth at LA Tan tonight. I was brave, this I know. Particularly so given that no one at the tanning salon could explain to me what was so mystical about this method of tanning. But if even the employees don't know about it, then it MUST be mystical, right?

But I was determined not to end up like Ross Gellar from "Friends" when he went in for a Mystic Tan. If you remember, Ross rotated like a rotisserie chicken a few too many times as the over-zealous machines worked their spraying magic. Ross misunderstood direction, turned the wrong way every time, and ended up looking a little less 'tanned', and a little more 'scorched'.

So I asked questions, I listened intently, and I tried to look like I belonged admidst the other (fake) bronzed bodies that wandered around me at the salon.

I needn't have worried though. I put on my hairnet, applied barrier cream to the areas I didn't want tanned (in between fingers and toes), pushed the little green button, and hoped for the best.

After some pretty hefty spraying on my front side, I spun around as directed and the machines hit the back of me. Then of course it was a thought that hit me - I never asked what colour this tanning was going to turn out! Oh boy.

So once it was all over, I gingerly stepped out of the booth, patted myself dry with the towel they supplied, and surveyed the results in the (inadequate) full-body mirror in the change room. Not bad, but perhaps not good. All-over coverage, sure - and rather even. Not too shabby for a first effort. But rather than being orange (which I'm eternally grateful that I'm NOT), I am a rather deep shade of brown - a rather obvious 'I've just been to the tanning salon' kinda brown.

But as I was leaving the salon, the lady assured me that the tan would just seem that intense straight away and tomorrow morning, when I have my shower, I'll see a reduction in the intensity and a more even tone. She better be right.

Well this is me signing off for now at least. I had better take my brown body back to the business of packing my suitcases. Not the most fun chore around, but it's all for a great cause!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

They scrub up well to music

Sorry, I just couldn't resist posting this video of JD and Turk from "Scrubs". Thanks to Lex, I'm now addicted to this show and I loved this classic music video. Enjoy!

He looks innocent enough, but...

dirty preston
Originally uploaded by lexieraye.

Preston's instinct to bury things is really strong right now. Sometimes he buries his nose in pot plants (see image) and other times he's burying toys in blanket folds while we watch TV. And no one taught him how to do that - it's an involuntary impulse he picked up from his wolf ancestors or whatever.

But I got home last night to find that he'd buried our other roommate's Ritz crackers under my bedroom rug and - worse still - under my pillows, right next to my pyjamas! Were they a gift for me? A midnight snack perhaps? Uh, no. They were all his, and he vigorously defended them when I went to get changed and discovered his latest burial ground.

I am going home tonight to ransack my room lest more Ritz are stashed in as-yet-undetected spots, and a family of rats (or squirrels eeeek) move in while I'm in Australia. Something tells me that Preston would be no match for some cracker-hunting Chicago squirrels....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The 'home' stretch

Originally uploaded by [ CK ].
It's weird to think that this time tomorrow, I will have logged off my computer at work and I'll be on vacation. Not only that, I'll be starting to pack for my big trip home to Australia, and I won't be coming back for three weeks!

If you could see through your computer screen at me right now, you wouldn't believe the bleary-eyed, poker-faced expression staring blankly back at you. I am a zombie, having been plagued by nightmares about work projects over the last two nights. I know the projects are on track, and they won't get derailed while I'm away, but tell that to my subconscious! [And yes, I too thought the nightmares might have been induced by Thai curry but alas, no. These nightmares made way too much sense to have been brought on by MSG.]

I am about to leave and get my hair done, which always makes me feel better. The glass of wine they've taken to giving me during my appointments also helps. I love that salon; it improves my days and my moods immeasurably.

The pace of my last-minute rush to get everything done is really taking its toll. It's not like I could have planned this stuff either. I am ready with all my personal bits & pieces to take on the plane - it's the office wrap-up that's killing me. Brain strain, that's what it is. I'm having to concentrate and hand over my work, on a constitution battered by minimal sleep. You can just imagine how pleasant I am being at work....exactly. I know that when the pressure is off, I will be able to sleep soundly on the plane home. But even though that's 48 hours away, and I can almost taste it, I'd settle for some quality snoozing in the interim- just for my energy reserves. Every little bit helps, right?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tis the season to be jolly

Merry Christmas...
Originally uploaded by TIO....

We had our work Christmas party yesterday and it was a typical Aussie family dinner. We had laughs, gossip, arguments, speeches, more arguments, and waaaay too much champagne to help us get through it.

What's an Aussie Christmas lunch without seafood, right? So the caterers brought out jumbo prawns and crab cakes, but we also had stir fry beef, a pasta dish, some refreshing salads and the piece de resistance was definitely the dessert. There was a platter of tiny cakes (including my favourite, mini lemon meringue pies), but there was also home-made plum pudding with brandy butter. Delicious!

So with a full stomach and a bit of concern that perhaps I'd drunk more than my quota of holiday champagne, I dashed off to meet my good friend Dr G at a nearby wine bar. My work mates came with me so it turned into a very big night, with lots more NZ sauvignon blanc being quaffed and I even scored a dance with Biggsy. There is no dance floor at the wine bar of course, but that didn't bother us. We were Uma Thurman and John Travolta and we had a ball.

But let me tell you, there is something instantly refreshing about chicken McNuggets at 11pm! Maybe that's what I get for hanging out with Dr G, who suggested that marvellous medicine. Bless her.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Well, history sometimes repeats itself

The History Boys, NY
Originally uploaded by chrisjohnbeckett.

I went along to see the film adaptation of the Alan Bennett play, "The History Boys" last night. The cinematic version retained the original Broadway cast, and it was a great movie. Lex had seen the play in NY and had loved it, so she had highly recommended we watch the film. We went to the 9.40pm session and the theatre was quite admirably crowded - busy, but not irritatingly so.

I really enjoy going to the Landmark Cinema cause I get to have hot Intelligentsia coffee and really delicious buttery popcorn. There is something really special about that combination of nibblies while enjoying a movie. The cinema is also managed by an Aussie, so there is usually a ready supply of Tim Tams and Mint Slices too. But not last night unfortunately - all the bloody Aussies in the area must have swooped for supplies just in time for Christmas!

"The History Boys" is sort of like "Dead Poet's Society" but, of course, set in Sheffield in England. The cast that portrays the school students are all brilliant - no one actor dominates and you can tell that they have worked together really well in the past. The story was funny but at times rather sad, but there was still room for some real laugh-out-loud moments.

Given how cold it has been at nights here, spending a dreary Saturday night sitting in a warm movie theatre with popcorn and coffee, and getting lost in dreary old England was just the tonic I needed.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Can 40,000 objects ALL be unique?

Merchandise Mart green
Originally uploaded by jolyn27.

I managed to score some free tickets to a fun expo at The Merchandise Mart in Downtown Chicago today and so Lexie and I went along to check it out.

"The One of a Kind Show and Sale" is a three-day bonanza of handmade gifts and treasures from emerging and established artists from across the US. Even though the Mart is a huuuuuge place (the photo only gives you some idea), I was overwhelmed by the number of people that had come along to the fair. And doubly overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of the arts and crafts on offer.

Some of it was beautiful, some of it was crap, but all of it was impressive because it was made by hand and the artists were there talking about it and showing it off. Fabulous.

The Merchandise Mart was built in the 1920s and is still owned by the Kennedy family. In fact, one of the Kennedys still lives in the penthouse apartment - fancy, eh? The sheer scale of this whole place is pretty amazing and this night time photo is the best time to see the facade. During the day it's a little bland. Still big of course, but bland. But inside, it's a treasure trove of art gallery offices, stores, and a food court to die for!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hopping to it

Australian Ballet
Originally uploaded by Mr. Physics.

I am mentally packed for my big trip home next week, and that is probably half the battle won. Sure, I still need to buy some sneakers and a pair of jeans (though will I really get to wear them down there?!) but other than that, I'm set.

And I'm only going to be travelling with 2 carry-on suitcases (but of course I'll check those). Oooh and a backpack too, just in case all my luggage goes missing and I need a rapid-change outfit. See? I'm organised.

The real bummer is that I can't bring most of my make-up on the plane. I guess that guarantees that I will literally look like The Creature From The Black Lagoon when I finally do disembark in Adelaide. Ugh just the thought of my birds nest hair is enough to freak me out. At least I know the air quality in first class is exactly the same as in economy so I'd end up looking exactly the same no matter where I sat on the plane!

So while I daydream about how many pairs of socks I'll need, and whether my fake tan will hold up for the duration of my stay, I've still got one more week at work to go. Let the countdown begin.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

So let me're an Aussie too?

This time next week I will be all packed and ready to head back home for three weeks. I am now counting down the sleeps and I am so excited. At the same time though, I don't mind admitting that I'm a little panicked. I know that my accent has changed, if only just a little (Jems can try and break my 'cell phone and sweater' habit) but I also feel sure that, in general, I'm not the same person I was when I left.

As far as I'm concerned, I've become a better person - someone with interesting stories, fun experiences to draw from, and I'm certainly a much more self-assured person than when I left home. But in the back of my mind there's the thought that this new Gab will be a bit of a culture shock to my friends and family back home. What if I've morphed into a brash American without fully realising it? Am I confusing my new-found sense of self-assurance with simply being up myself?

I guess the only way to test myself has been to surround myself with Aussies - and I've done that for the past two nights straight. Admittedly these have been Chicago-based Aussies, but they will nevertheless call things as they see them (as Aussies are wont to do just about anywhere).

Last night was the Christmas party for the Chicago chapter of Advance (photos are already available online and while I'm in some of them, I am not responsible for the conduct that was captured in any of them - I was off the clock). Tonight I went to a client dinner for our Trade Commission, none of which was photographically documented. I had a wonderful time at each event, and made many Aussies jealous that I was leaving our sub-zero temperatures behind for much sunnier shores. It's quite easy when surrounded by Australians to lapse into the stereotype that we've all shunned for so many years; you know, that back-slapping, loud-laughing, 'she'll be right mate' way of relating to one another. It's hideous and we'd never do it at home, I'm sure. We all become like lads at the B&S ball or something. Perhaps it's a coping mechanism, I don't know.

All I do know is, I'm so looking forward to being back home, and I think I'm all set to settle back in to life in Adelaide, with my favourite people. And of course, the Burnside Primary School Beginners Brass Band to serenade me at Adelaide Airport upon my dishevelled arrival next Sunday arvo. Thanks to Joshua for organising that!

Jack Frost nips at EVERYTHING!

Snowman in Okaimeden
Originally uploaded by Squirmelia.

I used to think that if it snowed, that was the coldest that things could possibly get. For me, snow was the ultimate indicator that things were the coldest they would be and you just had to put up with it.

But ever since I arrived in Chicago, I've come to understand that, at times, it is simply too cold to snow. Yes, there are times where even the snow hits the proverbial snooze button and refuses to come out.

Take this morning for instance. I walked to work from my bus stop and it is a staggeringly nippy MINUS 10 celcius! And when it gets to be that cold, you don't even feel it anymore. I'm sure you would feel it, except for the fact that your brain matter is solid ice and the water in your eyeballs has frozen solid.

This sort of cold is literally bone-chilling. My face is incapable of expression, so I resemble an over-Botoxed Hollywood tartlet, and I get a headache from being sandblasted by the winds off the Chicago River. The wind chill really is that intense.

And yet the City is at its best at this time of year. The cold and the snow and the wind chill can't stop the Chicago party season. And it can't stop me getting out to enjoy it.

But the email from home this morning tell me that it's going to be 38 degrees Celcius there today literally warmed me all the way to my toes. I closed my eyes and escaped a little to that warm hemisphere. Hard to believe I'll be there next week. Not many more sleeps now, Mum...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

This is my dance space, this is your dance space

Dirty Dancing
Originally uploaded by purplepaperprincess.

Today's rant comes to you fresh from the north-bound 135 bus that departed Downtown at 4.48pm this afternoon. The subject of today's diatribe is PERSONAL SPACE and, more particularly, the lack of it that seems to exist on public transportation.

Never one to start my story at the beginning, let me commence by declaring that the wintertime in Chicago is not about fashion. It's about staying warm and dry. And that's no easy task when you take into account the rain, snow, occasional sleet, and very strong winds that want to execute a smackdown on each and every one of us.

So when you rug up, at times you're bound to wear so many layers you end up looking like the long-lost cousin of The Michelin Man. And with that extra padding comes a rather awkward new way of manoeuvering in tight spaces. What would, in summertime, be a seamless and casual sashay down the bus aisle, in wintertime becomes an awkward, clumsy shuffle into seat, where you instantly become a jelly melange of coats, gloves, scarves and beanies. In short, it sucks.

So I was pissed enough that I had to stand up this afternoon on the bus, swathed in my puffy long coat and scarf, and baking under the heating vents. But then some oaf of a creature has to body slam me and basically dry hump me the whole way home. When he leaned forward and gazed out the window at Belmont Harbor and then loudly proclaimed he was on the wrong bus, I wanted to hurl him out the windscreen then and there. I think my fellow passengers would have enjoyed that too.

As it is I'm now too aggrieved to go and have a spray tan and instead, I'm having a Cab Sav. So there.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas - it grabs you by the baubles

Baubles *Merry Christmas*
Originally uploaded by Chris_J.

On my trip Downtown on Saturday night to capture footage for the Chicago DVD, I was reminded why I love shopping online. No crowds, you can do it in your underwear, and your purchases are delivered to you in ultra fun bubble wrap (2 gifts in 1 - hellooooo!).

The German Chriskindlmarket in Daley Plaza is beautiful though, and it was worth braving the cold just to get some of those cinnamon candied almonds I love so much. Hmm there's a thought. I wonder if stocks those....

But tonight I actually went to Michigan Avenue and shopped for my sister. Of course I browsed online first and determined exactly what I wanted, so I wouldn't have to deal with the uber irritating shop assistants (eternally happy Christmas elves, the lot of them). Sometimes I think the shop assistants are worse than my fellow shoppers. I said sometimes. Tonight's shop assistants took the cake for perpetual cheeriness and rosy-cheeked frustratingness. See, that's not even a word, that's how crazy they make me!

But all is not lost, people. Mental state still intact, and in an effort to stave off the bah-humbuggery, I downloaded some Christmas songs to my ipod. I figure if I blast some yuletide i-tunes through my headphones on the bus twice daily, perhaps some Christmas cheer will leak into my brain. Lexie hates it. I am going to secretly download some onto her ipod too cause I think she needs it more than me! After her tree-decorating efforts over the weekend, the girl could use some kind-hearted cheering. And there is no one better at that than me right now. Help us all.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up

The heavy snows of last week still haven't shuffled off the sidewalks around town, and the freezing chill in the air suggests to me that they won't be budging for a while. But I suspected yesterday that these sights and sounds would form a fun backdrop to my "Life in Chicago" DVD that I was planning to make for my family.

Hard to believe I'll be home this time in 2 weeks, so in a way the pressure was on yesterday to make a decent start on the first documentary DVD release from Preston Productions (!). With Lexie ably operating the borrowed video camera, we took off to Michigan Avenue at around 5.30pm to start filming. The crowds of people, the Christmas lights, the opportunity to see where Oprah lives - it all made for (I think) fascinating footage. No seriously, it will be great.

Lex is pretty sure she can do some snazzy editing on her computer, so we're planning on some fun voice-overs and music looping in the background and I can't wait to see what she comes up with. My social life is slowing down between now and when I leave, thank heavens, so we'll have some time to sit together and make some post-production magic.

It is party season in Chicago of course and there ARE a few Christmas shows I need to get to this week, but otherwise I'm all ready to head home. I bought some cute ribbon for my suitcase because apparently everyone in Chicago needs a plain black suitcase; and while that admittedly makes the baggage carousel look very chic, I figured after 24+ hours on the plane, I'd need a little help identifying my case! But otherwise, I'm set. I've got all my clothes, my cute cocktail dresses and peep-toe shoes, I'm headed to the tanning salon to get sprayed (a la Ross in "Friends" - let's hope not) and I've got everyone's mobile phone numbers in my address book so I can make contact when I finally arrive in sunny Adelaide.

Bring it baby, I can't wait.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Brrr, it's cold in here

Walking in a winter wonderland
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

This is exactly what my bus shelter looked like this morning as Chicago woke up to its first snow of the winter season. Sure it's pretty, but try walking through it with sleet off Lake Michigan whipping you in the eyeballs. Brutal and I love it.

Is it possible to be too fabulous?

Fresh Fish
Originally uploaded by ladyloneranger.

Over the past 13 months in Chicago, I've found that the most fun I have is when I have fun and seize the moment. It has been my experience that opportunism has given me some great memories.

And so it was last night that I met Jenn for a drink at The Townhouse, a cute wine bar/restaurant in The Loop, just down the road from my work. Jenn and I ordered some delicious prosecco and sat at the bar to catch up. She then blurted out that she had dinner plans with some old college friends, and invited me to join them. At 6pm. Phew, the pressure was on. So we downed our drinks ultra-quickly and we walked the three blocks to the restaurant.

I had heard of Nick's Fish Market pretty much as soon as I arrived in Chicago and indeed, every time I walk to the Cult I go past it. But I never knew that the place was quite so fancy. I don't know, I guess I figured because it is located next to a McDonald's, I had always just thought it was a fast-food place, or a seafood joint in the manner of Red Lobster or something.

But let me tell you, this place is amazing. You want a glass of champagne? It's Veuve Cliquot all the way, baby. And you want escargots? Forget the little boogery nuggets you get at some places. At Nick's, you get meaty, wholesome snails enveloped in a fluffy puff pastry pocket and swimming in garlicky goodness. Dreamy. And the seafood linguine? Well it's heavy on the fishy delights, and light on the pasta. It was my idea of heaven.

And after dinner, where I was warmly welcomed by Jenn's fellow alumni, she and I retired to the bar upstairs to chat up the Polish barman and score free cocktails for our trouble. The lychee martini is to die for. We even got invitations to a Polish drinks party next week in Bucktown, where we have already staked our claim to two barstools, and free champagne for the entire night.

As the slushy sleet started to fall outside, I was enjoying a wonderful night that I can honestly chart up to one of the most fun I've had in this City so far.