Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Down time - for a few days only

Originally uploaded by - Dizzy -.

Dear All

I tried to find a picture that would best represent what I'm about to do but this was as close as I could get. You see, no other picture adequately represented all of the following:

- going to Rochester, NY
- staying in a fabulous hotel
- seeing Katie again
- going to lovely dinners with wine experts
- sampling wine with said experts
- touring Rochester (perhaps this should go BEFORE wine?)
- did I mention seeing Katie again?
- not being at work until Monday

Okay maybe I just didn't try hard enough....THIS little girl pretty much says everything I need to say:

Adios for now. A post-Rochester post (!) - possibly with photos similar to this one - will follow. Behave while I'm gone, won't you?

Gab x

A lesson in being mean

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Originally uploaded by andrewkeegantheatre.

Courtesy of Lex's good (and generous) friend Val, I went along to the opening night performance of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" starring Kathleen Turner.

The performances were just wonderful and I had forgotten how powerful the play is. I had seen the film version with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton many years ago so, admittedly, I had forgotten much of the story. I just recalled there was lots of poisonous dialogue and some caustic one-liners as George and Martha just about tear one another apart.

The play was terribly well structured on stage, broken up into three Acts, and so there were two short intermissions throughout. Rather than being disruptive, it helped diffuse the tension. At times, the play was laugh-out-loud funny and then, at other times, you squirmed in your seat and felt really uncomfortable being a part of the couple's drama.

Kathleen Turner was fantastic. She was playful, vicious, but appropriately wounded when her fights with her on-stage husband took a nasty turn. And that said, the role of George (played in this production by Bill Irwin) was amazing. You think he's long-suffering and hard done-by, but then he turns and you realise that he's been playing alongside Martha and been an utter bastard all along. No wonder Bill Irwin won a Tony Award for this role on Broadway, he was great.

Granted, me and Lex came out of the theater and had one of those joint "What The?!" moments, as we both tried to work out what the hell we'd just seen. Had we understood it properly? Maybe I'll rent the DVD and remind myself how Liz and Richard did it...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A night out with the girl

French Martini
Originally uploaded by Drunken Monkey.

When Luis invited me out for his boyfriend's birthday I wasn't sure what to expect. But for the longest time I had wanted to go to see a drag show at "The Kit Kat Club" just around the corner from my house, so of course I accepted the invite without hesitation.

As the French Martinis went down and down, I very much enjoyed the vocal stylings (aka miming) of our fabulous entertainment, whose name I unfortunately did not catch. To the strains of Dreamgirls and then Rhianna, she belted out some great tunes and looked fabulous. I was wearing my new black suede stilletos and yet her shoes were higher than mine. And Lex wore as much mascara as she could possible slather on, and STILL the drag queen had more. We just couldn't compete.

And I even had my tarot cards read. I think the woman was a hack. She had some profound things to say, but I think I may have lead her a bit too much. And she could have lied to me, instead she had a rather bleak romantic future to impart to me. Boo hoo.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

You can't turn your back on it

one less tv
Originally uploaded by Kevin Steele.

Dear Biggsy

You have been out of the office for a few days now, and you would not believe the drama you've missed. But because I care, I'm going to bring you up to speed on the big ticket items and you can leave it to flashbacks to fill in the rest. So here's "The Bold and The Beautiful" - the week that was...

Brooke is in Sydney and today was the best B&B opening EVER. Sweeping shots of Sydney Harbor, kangaroos, koalas, lifesavers, splashing ocean waves, the whole bit. And the first scene of the show? None other than the Royal Botanic Gardens. I think we all cried a little.

But rather than go to the Oyster Bar (Mero's suggestion) or climb the Centerpoint Tower (my idea), Brooke sat on wall at Sydney Harbor and phoned Ridge. Lame.

Brooke told Ridge that the Forresters fabulous poster girl for the fragrance (Phoebe, naturally) is causing quite a stir in Sydney and perhaps Phobes should accompany Ridge out to Sydney. And then she threw in the old chestnut: "I think Rick should come too". Cue the drama and the staring off into space. In walks RIck and Ridge tells him that Phoebe is going to Australia - and that Brooke recommended he go too. More staring off into space.

Rick does time travel and ends up in someone else's office, telling Phoebe that she's going to Australia. More clandestine smooching. Then Rick hears Ridge coming, tells Phoebe to act surprised when she's told she's going to Sydney, and he dashes behind a door. Lame.

Phoebe tries to act surprised, but it's hard to tell. Very lame.

Next thing we know they're on the Forrester private jet. Ridge is asleep and Phoebe and Rick are trying to fight their feelings. Randy Phoebe tries to sneak a kiss and Ridge snorts in his sleep. They get spooked and roll their eyeballs at each other. Lame.

Change of scene to Nick and Taylor - clothed but still smooching. Do they ever quit? Anyway Taylor bought Nick a perfect recreation of the Marlin (aka the Titanic that they crashed after their aquatic romp). Anyway Nick gets down on one knee and proposes. Shocking. Taylor tries to cry but the Botox has shrivelled her tear ducts. But somehow she squeaks out an acceptance.

Clearly going through her cell phone back in Australia, Brooke calls Nick (apparently to ask him if he's remembered to pick up Hope from daycare or some crap excuse. Lame). Taylor answers his phone and can't resist telling Brooke that they are engaged. Stunned silence from Brooke. She looks disappointed.

Taylor passes the phone to Nick, emerging from the bathroom in his underpants, and Brooke somehow musters a 'congraulations'. Then we get a 10-minute series of flashbacks of a whole lot of Nick/Brooke smoochy scenes with their wedding and Nick in his sailor suit (very dashing). There is regret there, you can just tell. Both Nick and Brooke were having the same creepy flashbacks. Lame.

So you can see that much of the episode was lame, but quite possibly one of the most fantastic 30 minute TV experiences of our lives.

Looking forward to having you back tomorrow to enjoy the next exciting instalment with us!

Gab x

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Al fresco virgins

The weather in Chicago right now is not good by conventional standards but by Chicago standards, we're doing pretty well. Lake Michigan and the Chicago River have thawed out, and we no longer face the lung-squeezing, bone-chilling frost that has knocked us around for the past few months.

Today of course we had thunderstorms or, more accurately, we had one giant clap of thunder and a whole lotta rain. But it was pleasant weather - around 16 degrees Celcius, so I could hardly complain.

And I met up with Jenn, and my new friends B&S, for a champagne tasting and then dinner. We even scored free bellini at the Italian restaurant for being their first patrons of 2007 to sit outside! After a quick wipe-down of the table and chairs, we braved the elements and dined al fresco. It was like being in the eye of a hurricane though. There was barely any wind and while the footpath was still wet from the day's soaking, you got the impression another downpour would not come for a few hours yet. All the same, we dined on the edge, ready to throw ourselves inside if the rain did come.

Quartino's on State Street actually offers Italian tapas, so we enjoyed plates of food to share including a really delicious quattro stagioni pizza with delicious artichokes on top. And I don't even like artichokes! Who knew they could be so yummy.

And I've come home to find my new coffee maker has been delivered and we managed to work out how to program it to make two cups of the most delightful coffee I've had in a while. Now I just hope I can get to sleep tonight!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bubbles & Bullies

Originally uploaded by dopiaza.

I was invited to celebrate a friend's birthday on Saturday night at his favourite Downtown bar in the fancy James Hotel. But before the party, me and Jenn decided to meet up for some bubbles at Pops for Champagne's new store on State Street. We certainly looked the part, having made the commitment to wear fancy cocktail frocks, high heels, and carry glamour clutch purses. Fab-a-loose!

I arrived just ahead of Jenn, and found us two seats at the bar. Shortly thereafter, a girl and her boyfriend came in and the girl put her bag down at Jenn's place and started to take her coat off to sit down. Never at any time did she look at me or ask whether the seat was taken. So I stepped in and told her it was taken. She looked to the seat on the other side of me, and said, "well, why can't your friend just sit there?". I looked at the mound of clean glasses piled up in front of that seat, all but obscuring the barman, and then I looked back at the girl and said, "because I saved this seat, and my friend won't want to sit over there." Mocking me, the girl turned to her boyfriend and huffily advised him that I was being unreasonable. I duly ignored her, and felt sorry for him for having to date her. But I wasn't about to be bullied before my first champagne cocktail, and I stood my ground.

So fast forward to a few champagnes later, and a delicious cheese plate shared. Strutting to the J Bar, we met up with friends and had some drinks. About an hour later, the loud house music had started to get to me, and Jenn and me were longing for somewhere a little quieter to end our night. I went to grab my coat and the upstart coat check girl told me that the coat check was $3. There was no signage to that effect, so for all I knew she was making it up. And yes, $3 is three times the price of a coat check everwhere else in the City. Was she taking three times better care of our coats in there? So I put some money in the tip jar and she turned to me and said "It's a $3 coat check, as I said. You only put in $1 - I was watching you". And I said something about being distracted looking for a sign advertising her outrageous coat check price, and begrudgingly threw in the extra couple of bucks. She won that one, but she copped a pretty good death glare into the bargain.

I was pretty much over dealing with people by that stage, so me and Jenn thought we'd spoil ourselves with a night cap at The Drake. The bellinis are fabulous, and my bowl of clam chowder at 1am really hit the spot. But the Hotel wasn't as fancy as I thought, because several tables of St Patrick's Day revellers came through (stained green tshirts and foam hats included) and they were getting rowdy. So it was time for us to call it a night. I wasn't in the mood for any more bar-room brawls anyway.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

It had to be you, Harry

Harry Connick Jr at the Johnny Mercer Theather, Savannah, Georgia Feb 27, 2007 (f)
Originally uploaded by Savannah Grandfather.

Seeing Harry Connick Jr in concert is an interesting experience. Interesting because you never really know what to expect from him. You hear his music, you see his movies, you watch him on "Will and Grace" but they're all such different characters, you never know what or who he will be on stage.

At The Chicago Theater tonight I got to find out. Me and Jenn had tickets that I got on advance sale (but were still in the back row somehow - need to work out how I screwed up there). Supported by his New Orleans band, Harry played amazingly well. My brain can't listen fast enough to his music so I can't begin to appreciate how fast his fingers were moving over those piano keys!

The man has talent, there's just no denying it. And my my, the ladies do love him. I admit to swooning a few times myself. When he did his booty jiggle across the stage, I may have even 'whooped' but I'm sure it was just because everyone else was doing it. Or perhaps it was the pitcher of margarita me and Jenn shared with dinner beforehand that did it.

Whatever it was, the show was great. I was just a little disappointed I guess that he didn't sing any of his big band stuff - because that's the material I know. But this wasn't that kind of show - this was his New Orleans fundraiser, honky-tonk, down-on-the-Bayou sorta stuff. I heard it, and it was gooooood.

How much REO Speedway is too much?

Boombox Updated
Originally uploaded by jocieposse.

It is well documented that I have pretty average taste in music. Oh I like a bit of everything, it's fair to say, but my not-so-secret passion is 80s music. Really bad 80s music. Synthesizers make me smile - does that tell you enough?

So over the weekend, I downloaded a whole heap of 80s music for my ipod and I have been the proverbial Cheshire Cat ever since - grinning like a nutball on the bus to and from work every day.

In between contemporary Aussie music, my ipod shuffles around REO Speedway, the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack, and...wait for it....Roxette. Oh and Right Said Fred (I'm too sexy, anyone?). I even walked to the bus stop to the rhythm of Joan Jett. You know what I'm talking about.

If you're still reading, thank you.

But this morning - without coffee mind you - the song "Maniac" from 'Flashdance' came on. How I resisted the urge to leap out of my seat and twirl around in the manner of Alex-the-welder/dancer is beyond me. But as Mr Jackson himself said, don't stop till you get enough. And I just can't get enough. Cue the smoke machines. I feel a total eclipse of the heart coming on...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Birthday beer and skittles

Team night oot, bowlin' doon the pub
Originally uploaded by itmpa.

Today was K's birthday and me, Lex, and Jenn headed to the Lucky Strike Lanes bowling alley that is part of Michael Jordan's cinema complex, the AMC, to help her celebrate.

I worked it out that I haven't been bowling in close on 17 years and so I was really nervous beforehand. I was afraid that I would suck in front of a lot of people, and that is never a good thing.

As we were leaving the house, Lex asked me whether I was wearing decent socks, a reminder that we were about to wear someone else's shoes for a few hours (which along with using someone else's toothbrush is, as far as I'm concerned, just about the ickiest thing you could ever do). "You'll have to burn your socks afterwards," Lex sternly cautioned me. Ah-ha, someone just as fearful of foot fungus as me. Sweet.

I chose to bowl today with a pink ball, partly because it was the lightest but mostly because it was the prettiest. I started pretty terribly and made friends with the gutter rather quickly (maybe Jenn's theory about the 'gutter magnets' had some basis?). But then I found something resembling a rhythym, and then I lost it again. It was 'all or nothing' with me really - one frame I was on fire, the next I was ice cold. You wouldn't put money on my game, that's for sure. I was not really a joy to behold either, as my stance left something to be desired, and I couldn't flick my foot out behind me as I released the ball, for fear that I'd fall on my face. And I seemed to synchronise many of my bowls with a young kid who just seemed to relish showing me up at every turn. Little punk. I contemplated doing a "Tonya Harding" on her, but her parents were watching, so I let her be.

But you know what? Aside from all my crises, I had fun. I had a good time out there today, and lots of laughs. And I got my first strike EVER today - in fact, I got two of them. I don't care if I never bowl again - I got two strikes, and people were there to witness it. I can retire from the world of competitive 10-pin bowling a happy girl.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cinderella and the Rib Eye Steak

Marina City & House of Blues Chicago
Originally uploaded by Vicr of Flickr.

Once upon a time, there was an Aussie living in Chicago who desperately needed two things. She needed to catch up with a good friend over dinner, and she needed a good steak. And on a chilly night in March 2007 (aka tonight), both ventures were achieved.

What you see in the photo are the residential towers known as Marina City (or the Corn Cobs) in Downtown Chicago, that sit right on the Chicago river. The blue lights at the base are the lights of Smith & Wollensky, one of the fancy steakhouses here. And I have been dying to go here ever since I found out about the restaurant. Seeing the interior in the film, "The Break Up" didn't help matters.

So tonight Courts and me took off for an after-work cocktail called a "Pom Peche". For the benefit of my Aussie readers, that cocktail is what would happen if Fanta married Passiona. Pure magic, trust me. After that we headed to Union Station for a huge nightclub party, but the line-up for registration was out the door and we couldn't justify staying there - so we headed to dinner early.

Smith & Wollenskys was everything I'd hoped it would be. I ordered a tequila sunrise (which was strong enough to power a lawnmower), and I chose a crab cake for appetiser. Main course was a delicious filet pepper steak, cooked medium rare (my fave) and drizzled in the most decadent pepper sauce. Our shared side dish was truffled mac & cheese - soooo good. Of course, then I only had room for a strong coffee and then we were out of there.

But of course nights out with me cannot run smoothly. And so it was that I was sashaying to the ladies rooms and I nearly skidded. My left foot came out from under me, and I realised that I'd snapped the heel of my knee-high boot. Bummer. What ensued was a try-hard Marilyn Monroe wiggle for the rest of the night, desperate as I was not to put too much weight on my left foot. I have a sneaking suspicion that I looked less Hollywood starlet and more Hollywood Boulevard.

But I got my steak. And winners are grinners.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Just you wait, Enry Iggins

Energy drink
Originally uploaded by SEngstrom.

If you give me a glass of wine and ask me what I smell, I will duly stick my nose in the glass, breathe in, and blink at you.

It's not because I don't know the fruit smell; no, I know it well. It's just that I can't put my finger on it. I can't identify pear, or blackcurrants, or green apples, until you remind me that's what I should be sensing and then I will nod sagely in your direction, slap my thigh, and say "egads, man, good job - that's precisely what it is!".

So to redress this, K and me went along tonight to NoMi at the Park Hyatt Chicago for a client wine tasting. Led by the hotel's master sommelier, we first tasted 3 glasses of water, to which something 'extra' had been added (first sugar, then salt, then vodka) just so we could appreciate the way to smell/taste the wines later on. Would you believe that I was about to suggest the 3rd water had some sort of spirit added to it? My taste buds just knew.

And when we finally DID move on to the wines, we started with whites. Trying to trick us (I guess), the sommelier gave us two different chardonnay - one from France and one from the US, and the latter was also oaked, adding yet another layer of complexity. We talked about how to determine the age of the wine and he shared tips to help you identify old world vs new world wines. Very cool.

And I didn't know this, but apparently it helps when trying to identify the fruit aromas to narrow the type of fruit you're smelling down to citrus (lemons/limes), stone fruits (peaches/apricots), orchard fruits (apples), or ground fruits (melons). Naturally I can't really remember which wines fall into which categories of fruits, but at least I remembered something people. In this day and age of early-onset dementia, let's just be grateful for that.

My buddy L from the Hyatt then took me on a walking tour through NoMi's restaurant and private dining rooms and I got to meet all the staff, including the uber talented French head chef, oh la la. The NoMi cocktail lounge far exceeds Disneyland (in my estimations anyway) as the Happiest Place on Earth. [And second place goes to Tiffany's on 5th Avenue in New York, in case you're wondering.]

I feel pretty proud of myself for heading to tonight's wine tasting,. And I'm particularly grateful that it wasn't a threatening, only-one-answer-is-possible affair. Our sommelier was young, handsome, knowledgeable and friendly. And in such beautiful surrounds, I would say that my new-found appreciation for the dos and donts of wine tasting, means that this Aussie Eliza Doolittle (or Eliza Do-Alot as it sometimes feels) is doing pretty well, all things considered.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

So you think you can dance?

dancers in the dark
Originally uploaded by Lisi Perner.

One of the fun things about my year so far has been that I've been to see some of the most amazing shows and programs that I would never have previously considered.

Case in point, last night's performance of "I Want To Dance Better At Parties" performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) by an Australian dance troupe from Melbourne called Chunky Move.

I was fortunate enough to score some free tickets from the MCA so I took my two new boyfriends, Cory and Caskey (Lex's friends from home). Lex and two of her friends had bought tickets to another concert across town, so it was great to take the boys out. We glammed up a bit actually and the boys were the cutest in the room, bar none.

I was a little concerned that the show would be avant-garde and I would come away confused and regretting the experience. But oh man, I'm telling you, the group was super talented. Strong, long, and lean, and they worked together perfectly. The performers didn't speak at all; rather their show was set to all different types of music with voice-overs to move the plot along. We had 4th row tickets, so we could clearly see the expressions on their faces and the muscles in their amazing bodies.

But I was most impressed with the way that the performers worked so well together without even watching each other. They knew that each other would be doing and even when the songs had no words, just thumping bass, the dancers were so in synch that they could leap backwards into empty space and know that their fellow dancer would be there to catch them. I understand that this is the point and all, but it was the first time I'd been to see a modern dance performance like that, and I was just amazed.

To celebrate our cultural injection, I took the boys for cocktails at NoMi, the best cocktail bar in Chicago upstairs at the Park Hyatt. We finally got a stunning table by the window overlooking the Water Tower Building, and we just sat together and ate cashews and drank the most beautiful cosmobellinis you've ever seen.

We then grabbed a cab back to Lincoln Park and went into "Matilda's", home to the handsome bartender who got my business card and never called. Why is it that the ones you want to call are the ones that never do? Anyway, we met up with Lex and her friends there and when the girls expressed a desire to go eat somewhere, I grabbed a cab with Cory to Sidetracks so he could find a boy.

I was a terrible wingman of course, because I was perfectly content to hold up the bar while he worked the crowd. I was wearing my black sequinned halter top so I was christened "Liza" by the boys around me, which necessitated a few bars of "Cabaret" from all of us. Naturally.

And when Cory and I left the bar and crossed the street into "Roscoe's", we declared it was time for a 3am breakfast at IHOP and then home again.

Let me tell you, eggs, bacon, and rye toast never tasted so good. Oh what a night!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Body Beautiful

Originally uploaded by I am hello.

I thought that being at the Museum of Science & Industry before 10am today would be impossible. I was not feeling well last night, so I was fast asleep by 6.30pm. I know - unheard of, right? And yet it was obviously something I needed to do. If not to preserve my sanity, then definitely to prepare myself for this morning's cultural onslaught.

Right down at 5700 S Lakeshore is the Museum of Science and Industry and I'd never seen it till this morning. It is a gorgeous old building outside, but the inside is all things modern.

We were really there to see the "Bodyworlds" exhibit. I missed it last year, and I vowed not to repeat that. The exhibit basically showcases plastinated human bodies - real human bodies - that have been donated to science and molded into something spectacular. You can really see the muscles, nerves, and organs - and in some cases, the eyebrows of these people!

Once I arrived at the museum I thought I might be squeamish but instead, I was fascinated. And riveted. I even went over to the "touch" table and held a human liver and even a kidney. The liver is a lot bigger than you'd think (though I suspect that, in the case of an Australian, it needs to be!).