Monday, April 30, 2007

The most important meal of the day

French Breakfast
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

At the risk of launching into this post with the understatement of the century, I feel it needs to be said that my brain is weird.

Lately smells and sights have triggered such vivid memories for me and I find myself falling into easy daydreams and reminiscing about the good old days. Mostly about France, as it turns out.

Every day that I put on Calvin Klein Escape takes me back to 2001 when I studied in Vichy, France at the international school.

When I wore CK Escape every single day for six weeks.

When I cried on the phone to my parents (on almost a daily basis), about how much I hated it there and how lonely I was.

When I would get hopelessly lost in a 2-block radius owing to ancient cobbled streets.

When the French Government declared public holidays for no reason, and forgot to tell the international students, so you'd get up early for class only to find the school closed.

When I didn't drink alcohol for four weeks and lost so much weight I came home and bought designer skinny jeans that I've never been able to wear again.

Funny how a spritz of perfume can evoke so many memories, eh?

And today, I wandered bleary-eyed into my new favourite coffee shop to order the largest, darkest roast I could get my hands on. And my eyes strayed to the pastry case. And there it was.


I was powerless to resist. And so I stuffed all the flaky, buttery layers into my mouth and licked all the oozing hazelnutty goodness off my fingers.

And without even trying, just like the spray of CK Escape, the little croissant was able to catapault me straight back to France, and Kate's Parisian breakfast picnic came into my mind. And I was so happy.

And no, the skinny jeans still don't fit. And probably won't fit for a while, now that I've discovered my new pastry pleasure. But think 'big picture' people - I was smiling. On a Monday. Now that is a miracle of the mind for sure!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

C'mon Aussie, c'mon!

Now that's Cricket!
Originally uploaded by corey's photos.

I was instructed to arrive at the pub at 11am yesterday morning, which I had long thought was exceptionally early. Surely there was something weird about having beers while I could still taste my breakfast coffee...

And yet, holed up on a barstool at The Globe Pub, surrounded by hordes of Aussies and Sri Lankan fans, I felt right at home sinking the first beer before lunch time.

Biggsy provided us some pitch reports live from Barbados and it was so funny. Every time something contentious happened, or if there was the likelihood of a rain delay, Biggsy was on the phone to Mero, giving us all a quick update. Even though we were watching the telecast live ourselves. Priceless.

The Aussies at the pub gained particular fervour as we all realised that Australia was going to take home the Cricket World Cup. When we were finally declared winners, a spontaneous and severly out-of-tune version of our national anthem was begun. Cringe-worthy but, at the same time, really nice to hear. The Sri Lankan cheer squad at the pub was pretty vocal though, and gave us a good run for our money. But then of course, the Sri Lankans didn't have our good-natured louts, draped in Aussie flags like Superman capes, and every manner of green and gold clothing, bellowing Aussie battle cries like mad things. It was wonderful.

I didn't leave the pub till nearly 6pm but it didn't feel that late. Granted that all I had the energy for when I got home was some leftover takeout and an early night. And the sound of "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi" ringing in my ears.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

We will remember them

Field of poppies
Originally uploaded by filibrojo.

Last night's ANZAC event at The Cult went really well. We had over 300 guests attend, which was a wonderful turnout. I do have to remember that Aussie beer is WAAAAY stronger than American beer though. Enough said on that I think.

And of course you would not be at all surprised to learn that the President of Chicago Rotary introduced me to the President of Australia's Rotary Club and even Turkey's Rotary Club last night. I sat with the guys and their wives for some time and had a lovely chat. Nothing serious of course - mostly about the Aussie President's long list of single nephews that he wants me to meet. The fact that the Aussie Pres (and his nephews) live in Australia is a logistical fact that we have all ignored for the sake of a happy ending. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, right? But you can trust me to go to a WW1 commemoration and come away with dates, right?

As for the Turkish Pres, well he did not have any nephews, but he was delighted to learn that I'd visited his country back in 2005 and loved it. He was very interested to hear that I enjoyed Istanbul way more than Ankara, and he nodded sagely when I reminisced about Kusdasi being a crazy party town. He even asked me if we went to Bar Street (so called because it is back-to-back bars all along one street - not a creative name, but a fitting one). And when I said I had, he smiiled even more. His wife sat alongside him just smiling and nodding. The only thing she said all night was, "I like these Australians, good people".

And on a wintry and cold ANZAC Day in Chicago, that's precisely the impression I had too.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I watch enough Food Network, and yet...

oat and coconut cookies
Originally uploaded by Saffron.

I can't bake.

I bought all the ingredients for ANZAC biscuits over the weekend and I really wanted to make some delicious delights for my work colleagues. I wasn't promising "Martha Stewart" quality, but I was going for edible at least. With Biggsy's jar of Golden Syrup fresh off the truck from Canada, I honestly thought I could do it.

So I had my realistic expectations for biscuits that would at least be palatable but instead, I ended up with BURNED TO A CRISPY CHARRED NIGHTMARE.

I should have quit while I was ahead really. I opened the container of flour - it went all over me. Ditto the oats. I am sure the langugae I came out with would have made sailors blush. And yet I trudged on, determined to bring a little taste of home back into my life. It is nearly ANZAC Day after all, and me and Mum used to make them all the time to commemorate the day.

I carefully spooned two trays-worth of mixture into uniform little biscuits and duly flattened them with a fork to create a cute little decorative touch (I've seen that on TV). And then my oven decided to be an utter pain in my ass and nuke the bottom tray and, just for good measure, make sharp-edged ninja weapon cookies with the contents of the top tray.

Even the ones that look tempting enough to eat have that lingering burnt taste.

I'm just too sad to try again, which I think is an even more depressing thought than realising that I ran onto the back porch with a smoking tray of biscuits lest a smoke detector go off and frighten the neighbours.

You know, I just thought that one or two biscuits would survive the carnage, but I'm too embarassed to take any of them into the office now.

And the real bummer is, I can't even stop off at the supermarket and buy some to pass off as my own. So I'm doing the next best thing and taking all of the ingredients into work tomorrow and asking Biggsy to bake them instead.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

It's brunch, friends, but not as we know it

Originally uploaded by Zesmerelda.

So carrying on my new tradition of being a bruncher, I headed to "Orange" on Clark/Belmont yesterday with some friends and it was really great. Lex had seen the place profiled on The Food Network, which was endorsement enough for me.

Even though we had to line up, I was happy to stand outside in the Saturday sunshine and psych myself up for a plateful of the "Green Eggs and Ham". A throwback to the delightful Dr Seuss book of the same name, this dish features scrambled eggs mixed with basil and chunks of ham. Oh and a delicious mound of mashed potatoes (in lieu of fatty hash browns) on the side. Delish.

And to start our meal, me and Lex shared a plate of frushi, though ours was not as elaborate as the photo above. But indeed, frushi is fruit sushi. The rice is infused in fruit juice, and rolled around some yummy combinations of fruit, sitting on top of a strawberry puree. It was very tasty.

"Orange" may not be much to look at inside, but it's worth the line-up in any case. The menu is huge, and I figure I'll have to go back there many more times before I can consider that I've fully covered it.

But for now, I'm going to have to get out and enjoy some 80 degree Sunday sun - what a weekend of fine weather we have had! Shame to waste it indoors...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Does a picture REALLY tell 1,000 words?

Mona Lisa Smile
Originally uploaded by karneyli.

Last night I was elected to Chair the Chicago Chapter of Advance, an organisation for expatriate Australians (check out for more info on the organisation itself).

The opportunity is a great one and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into the diverse events that the Committee talked about hosting this year. I am personally in charge of the Melbourne Cup event, which will already be a complete fizzer if it doesn't in some small way end up like the episode in "Kath & Kim". You Aussies know what I mean. It's just not 'the race that stops a nation' without carrot in your fascinator, and barfing in a portaloo.

But something tells me I'm going to have to aim a little higher brow for our event. We'll see.

In any case, my latest drama is that I need to provide the NY headquarters of Advance with a recent photo and a bio for posting on the website. Oh boy. Do you think I have any recent photos that make me look like someone you'd want to meet in Chicago? Hell no. If you want double-chinned, crazy-eyed, cocktail-swilling action shots, I'm your gal. But perfectly-poised, hair-just-so, Chairperson-worthy photographic material I just don't got.

So I'm coincidentally having my hair cut tonight and I'm going to ask Dara to give me special 'sassy hair' (as she usually does anyway) and while I may not have a photo taken tonight at home, at least the new 'do will put me in the mood to write a spectacular bio that might just be compelling enough to encourage people to ignore the photo and trust the words to do the work for me. And if all else fails, I live with a Photoshop expert who is not above unethical conduct if it makes for a happy flatmate. Ahh, bless.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Somehow I doubt Dr Freud would have said that

Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

I had a wonderfully amusing conversation with a friend last night who told me that, owing to her recent bad luck with men, she had been professionally encouraged "to pray and meditate for peace and joy".

Yes, that is a direct quote.

Apparently in this age of 30-something singles, we've gone past speed dating, online personals, and the recommendations of friends. And we've jumped straight to prayer and meditation. [Naturally while the 'professional' advice was dispatched to my friend, my spinsterhood is just as pronounced as hers, so I am taking the advice rather to heart too.]

Oh don't get me wrong, the advice made us laugh out loud and we both agreed that when she said "prayer and meditation", no doubt "pie and medication" would work just as well. It may not bag us boyfriends, but chances are we won't really care as much.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Buttered popcorn makes it all better

We got talking about old movies at work today and we agreed that there is just something about black & white films. If the quality of the recording is good, you can ignore the absence of special effects, and simply lose yourself in the story.

Old Hollywood just did things differently. Forget the expletives. The worst you'll hear Sir Laurence Olivier say is "oh blast, well dash it all" and you won't ever see Greer Garson caught in flagrante on a car bonnet - she merely breathed adoring words at her co-star, and then smooshed cheeks with him. Anything worse just never happened.

We were reminiscing about "Mr Movies" himself today (Aussie TV icon Bill Collins) who you might remember used to host a weekly series of movie screenings on the ABC. [As a side note, I was delighted to learn that Bill is still hosting such screenings, though he's leapt into the modern age and has left Aunty ABC for the more salubrious surrounds of cable TV. I want to call him a traitor but I can't.]

Anyway back when Bill had his late-night show on the ABC, and even his midday Sunday screenings on Channel 7, I seemed to have a sixth sense to just know whenever he was screening "To Kill A Mockingbird" which, to this day, remains one of my favourite books and films. Me and the Mamma would curl up on the couch and watch Gregory Peck become an everyday superhero and always treat his kids like little adults. I never got sick of it then, and I doubt I would now.

My mum has quite a thing for "An Affair to Remember" and I can't tell you how many times I've seen that one. And yes, I probably do cry every time - even still.

K's favourite is "Random Harvest" with the abovementioned Greer Garson. I am disappointed that I haven't seen it because the story sounds like an absolute cracker. Another tear-jerker, and just about as long as "Gone With The Wind", but it's now on my list of things to see.

But then we sighed over "The Ghost & Mrs Muir", and everything with Audrey Hepburn in it, as well as the couple of Hitchcock movies I watched over the weekend ("Spellbound" and "Rebecca"). But try as I might, I didn't spot Hitch's famous cameo in either of them. Drat.

One of my friends is a school teacher back home and I remember her telling me once that her students hardly ever realised that a lot of the movies they saw at the video store were actually remakes of old classics. It had never occurred to them that Hollywood might just be getting lazy and recycling old storylines. "Sabrina", anyone? "Ocean's 11", "Psycho", "The Italian Job"...the list goes on. And even with all the latest technical wizardry, I still don't think a remake has yet been better than the original.

Unless you can think of one...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Femmes who brunch

Storefront Bistro Zinc
Originally uploaded by Atelier Teee.

Did you now that "brunch" is both a noun and a verb in Chicago? I'm sure it's the same in other parts of the world too of course but I never really "brunched" or, more accurately, "did brunch" until I moved here.

Now I'm quite the brunch tramp.

Today's adventure took me, some other Aussies, a Brit, and an American, to Bistrot Zinc on State Street. A terribly French establishment, I thoroughly enjoyed my banana and nutella crepe with orange juice and peppermint tea. Naturally I stuffed that all in while politely but rather enviously eyeing the other orders around me - salade nicoise, eggs benedict, and some plate of fantastic eggy goodness that Jenn ordered that had an elaborate list of ingredients I can no longer recall.

What you can't appreciate from the above photo is that Bistrot Zinc is gloriously surrounded by some chic shops literally designed with me in mind. On the one side, a travel shop with guide books, travel gadgets, and mini lotions and potions just perfect for mid-air spritzing. On the other side, a handbag and shoe store. Across the road, a fun and funky fashion shop, bordered by a bookstore COMBINED with a coffee shop. I could have happily died on the spot. But then I would have missed out on buying things.

After a week of virtual house arrest and battles with contagious bacteria, the brunch and shopping excursion was a brilliant return to the social circuit. And while it may alarm you that I did not enjoy a delicious mimosa with my brunch (nor was I tempted), let me assure you that I'm ready for society once more. And society had better just brace itself!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The pin cushion returns

The tall, young man in glasses reached for the thin, flimsy robe. "Here, put this on," he politely requested, "and I'll come back for you in a minute".

I blushed and asked why he was so intent on me wearing something so obviously unflattering. Now it was his turn to blush. "I don't want to get blood on your top", was all he said before he left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

I surveyed my surroundings. Here I was, in a foreign place for the second time in a week, again disrobing for a complete stranger. I picked up the robe he'd given me, realising that yet again, it was way too big and entirely not my style.

And then I realised I'd forgotten to ask the doctor whether to have the flap in the front or the back. Disaster. As if it wasn't enough that I didn't quite understand how a basic sore throat consultation ended with me semi-naked, I had no idea what part of my body he now wished to survey in detail so I didn't know how much access to give him! Mortifying. I dropped my pants and then cleverly reconsidered, perhaps suspecting that my complete nudity would spell the end of our professional friendship way too early.

So I fashioned an elaborate kimono-style robe that I wasn't entirely convinced I'd be able to undo and, in stockinged feet, I waited. The cavalry soon arrived in the form of two rather rotund nurses that proceeded to take a throat swab (gag) and then a rather perfunctory blood test - my second in as many days, so I was well accustomed to the process. The nurses disappeared, no doubt to peer at my bodily excretions under microscopes and I was, once again, alone.

The doctor then returned, instructed me to sit on the examination table as he peered into my nose, ears, mouth and then had me lay down to press on my stomach a couple of times. He was nothing if not thorough.

The results of the throat swab were returned faster than even I thought possible, revealing that I had fallen prey to a rather nasty (and contagious) throat infection. Yummy. Expecting the HAZMAT team to crash through the window and terminate me any second, the doctor hastened me to put my clothes back on and get myself home, post haste.

With supermodel speed and miraculous precision, I abandoned the kimono, got my clothes back on, paid my bill, and dashed home, where I have been - watching On Demand movies and waaaay too much Food Network - ever since.

It has been my experience that American doctors are terribly thorough and have a penchant for drawing blood rivalled only by Transylvanian royalty or vampiric bats. You leave their surgeries with no idea who they are but, by constrast, they have compiled a complete medical history of you and everyone you've ever met. I guess I should be grateful that American doctors do not also share the French medical community's predilection for suppositories, otherwise I suspect no one would EVER complain of feeling unwell again! I certainly wouldn't anyway.

But my new Doc has assured me that the BIG pink pills he's prescribed will have me feeling well within 10 days - feeling well, and terribly sober. Methinks this will be an interesting speedy recovery!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I got chills, they're multiplying

Rum Hot Toddy
Originally uploaded by MatthewA.

For the first time in about 2 years (I think), I'm coming down with the flu. I have aching joints, a sore throat, and a generally miserable disposition. I'm not a good patient really but at least I know that. I don't moan and whimper like I'm begging to be shot, but I find it hard to function in a flu fug.

I posted this picture of a rum hot toddy not because I have any of the ingredients for one, but just for the fact that looking at it made me feel better. I've actually tracked down some Advil PM (aka 'knockout ')pills, and I even found some Aussie Soothers in my luggage. How long have they been in there? Best not to ask.

And so before I lapse into the completely self-absorbed one-woman pity party favoured by decrepit invalids everywhere, I will take my germs to the sofa and watch some Food Network and then have an early medicated night. And I won't complain to anyone. And don't worry, I'll keep the germs all to myself.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It was eggs-actly as I knew it would be

"Norouz" is coming!...
Originally uploaded by alirezanajafian.

Good Friday's church service at Holy Name Cathedral in Downtown Chicago was just lovely (ditto the delicious fish lunch at Gibson's that followed). And a Good Friday turned into a GREAT Friday when I got to spend the rest of the evening sitting on my couch, watching bad TV and enjoying some delicious Cabernet Sauvignon that I bought when I visited Courts earlier in the day.

Saturday was a day of cleaning and laundry so there wasn't much to get excited about. But then the call came from Mero and Biggsy, summoning me to Duffy's for a few beers and to watch The Master's golf tournament on TV. The beers flowed freely and when Emily gave us a shot of Jager, I knew it was probably going to be a long night.

Fast forward a few hours and I managed to get myself home, in the shower, and out of the house again to join the Chicago footy team's pub crawl. But in true Biggsy style, the party ended up coming to us at The Wrightwood Tap, it was great. And 80s music to boot - it was awesome.

Naturally Sunday morning had to arrive in all its brutality. I was feeling immensely sorry for myself and made some pretty inspired deals with God if he would just see fit to get me through the day. And rather than loll around at home, which was admittedly my first instinct, I thought better of it and went to The Globe Pub to watch Australia kick some English butt in the cricket. It was a sweet victory.

And you know what? I didn't have my first bit of Easter chocolate until neatly 6pm tonight when I tucked into some delicious chocolate chex mix (pretzels and caramel popcorn and some sort of crunchy sweet cereal stuff). Blissful.

So all in all, it was a busy but lovely Easter break. And to think I have Easter Monday off too? This is an awesome time of year.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Getting my A-Game on

No expense spared
Originally uploaded by Andrew.

I love Easter long weekends and so far, this weekend stands to be a cracker.

While the weekend will kick off with a Good Friday church service, that's about as pious as I'll be getting all weekend. Because immediately following Mass, I've got a wine tasting, beers with the boys, and then a pub crawl. No doubt my return to coherence will not occur until some time late Sunday afternoon. Monday's child will be full of rest. And possibly ibuprofen.

But such social opportunity brings with it the exciting opportunity to fluff my flirting feathers and get my A-Game on. Do I remember what my A-Game looks like? Hmm not sure. But you know what they say? "When it doubt, go with clevage".

I am not sure who says that, come to think of it, but I'm sure it's true.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Going behind the curtain...

Wicked (22)
Originally uploaded by thesolaris5.

You might recall a few months ago I went to a weekend matinee performance of "Wicked", and it did live up to its name. I very much enjoyed the show and even though I couldn't quite finish the book, the theatrics of the musical have stayed with me.

So as a special treat, Lex's dad treated us to a special "Behind The Emerald Curtain" tour into the inner workings of the show. They only feature this program at 5pm on Tuesday nights, so it was something worth attending. In the foyer of the Oriental Theater, they had set up booths with costumes and wigs and masks from the show. Then two of the actors came out and chatted to us about how the show evolved from the book to the stage.

The actors were funny because someone asked them which characters they play. They actually looked disappointed in themselves when they admitted that they were understudies for the understudies (or whatever). Hey, if I had made it through those BS auditions and tap-danced my way to Chicago, I'd be sticking two fingers up at the audience and loudly proclaiming, "you know what suckers?! I'm the understudy for that guy who's never on the stage anyway - beat thaaaaaat!!!". Or something like that anyway.

There were some real dorks in the audience who asked some bonehead questions but all in all, it was an interesting and informative hour-or-so tour. And I certainly suspect that if you went along to the 'behind the scenes tour' BEFORE seeing the show, you'd be more resolved than ever to get a ticket - cause they build it up to be one show-stopper production.

I wonder how many people stopped to get the actors' autographs after the tour? I didn't see many...

Monday, April 02, 2007

This city mouse eats freshly-baked humble pie

Okay so I re-read my post about Rochester and I may have done it a disservice. Jems is correct that Rochester's rural environment does indeed give the City clean, fresh air. [Likewise its population of bears and coyotes give Rochester residents the sparkle in their eye and the spring in their step!]. And I'm prepared to stand corrected on these outskirt examples. But I stand firm on yesterday's rant that proved that Downtown Rochester is the pits, and I'm sure I'm quoting Lonely Planet when I say that.

But before we completely strike Rochester from the tourism records, let me talk up one place I saw while I was away.

The New York Wine & Culinary Center is absolutely beautiful and is (like all good things), literally 25 minutes drive from Rochester in a charming place called Canadaigua. As a guest of Constellation Brands, I visited the Center that easily boasts the most elegant tasting room and full-service class kitchen I've ever seen.

The Center offers corporate classes (like team building exercises) where you go into the kitchens and actually cook together. Sure beats those lame trust exercises where you have to fall back on each other and attempt to catch the other person. Or god forbid those dreaded games where you are each given a farm animal and you have to go around the room clucking like a chicken until you and all your fellow chickens are safely corralled into a corner. Oh yes friends, I've played them all.

The NYCC has a mezzanine level restaurant where you can then go and devour the meals that you and your team have cooked. And in the room just next door, wine experts will help you make sense of what wines will pair beautifully with the masterpiece you have prepared in the kitchen.

If you don't believe me that such a treasure does indeed exist within a stone's throw of Rochester, go online and check it out. It's all true.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Don't forget to pack your sense of humour

When planning a trip to Rochester, it is important to pack your sense of humour as well as your usual travel essentials. I guess this is probably true of any destination but, if the last few days have taught me anything, Rochester is one of those vampiric places that will try and suck the very spirit out of you.

Don't get me wrong; Rochester is very pretty. But flying into the airport on Thursday morning, I had a prime window seat from which I could view incredibly flat, green land. Being from the Midwest, I am no stranger to flat landscapes but heavens! Built on this verdant, fertile soil were...wait for it...farms!! No one told me that Rochester was in the middle of farm country!

Oh sure, Rochester also has a Downtown area, and my hotel (and the nearby Hyatt) are proof of that. But look over the back fence, five minutes down the road, and you see nature. I have had it confirmed that Rochester plays host to squirrels (eek), foxes, coyotes, BEARS, and any number of other creepy-crawly critters. I'm talking honest-to-goodness, no-holds-barred, christ-almighty nature!

I arrived at the Hotel at lunch time, and was looking forward to checking into the Hotel and watching an in-house movie before Kate arrived. But the Hotel had different ideas. Because Kate's office didn't tell the hotel that I was coming, they wouldn't let me check in. And they wouldn't let me leave my luggage with them so I could explore the town. And given that there was not any decent coffee shop or pub within reasonable walking distance (and I was later to learn that this applied to ANYTHING one might want to experience), all I could do was wait for Kate in the lobby of the Hotel. For five hours.

I hated the hotel and all of its staff by the end of that afternoon. No one even told me where I might get decent coffee (which was, as it turned out, in the lobby cafe, partially concealed by the Business Center in which I now find myself). No, telling me that would have been too helpful. So instead, I sat in the lobby, read my book, and tried to stay awake as everyone paraded past me and stared as if I had been stood up or abandoned or something.

Fast forward to Kate arriving and she sweet-talked the concierge, a beautiful man by this stage, not the cranky wench that greeted me earlier in the day. So I soon had in my possession some breakfast buffet vouchers that we didn't have to pay for. Bless Kate. A delicious dinner later that night with a contact of Kate's, and we had an early night.

Up early the next morning, we were taken out on a driving sight-see tour of Rochester and the surrounding area. The City itself is quite ugly, with no decent architecture or sites to recommend it. But once you get out of the City into the dreaded rural countryside, it really is very pretty. Even more so, I'd imagine, in autumn, when the leaves are apparently such an array of colours you can barely handle it. I viewed all of this from the relative safety of the back seat of a Mercedes M-Class and so let's just say that I was dealing with things well.

We had dinner at the Hyatt at 8pm that night - the only place open to us within walking distance from our own hotel. But the Hyatt staff didn't quite know how to deal with two girls who wanted cocktails AND wine with dinner. Kate relented and had the Mary Kay cocktail (created in recognition of the cosmetics conference being hosted there) and let's just say it was pink and sweet - just like the makeup really I guess. But just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, the Hyatt ran out of coffee. I know, can you believe it?! I texted my friend from Chicago who works at the Park Hyatt to tell him, and he could only muster an incredulous "WHAT?!". Yep, no kidding.

Saturday was the first official day of Kate's wine competition so I was on my own. I went down to the concierge desk, and asked for directions to the shops so I could buy some clothes. The woman printed me some exhaustive driving directions. When I suggested that she had misunderstood me that, in fact, I was on foot, she laughed at me. "Really?" she enquired, "you really don't have a car?". And that set the tone for the rest of my day.

The vehicles in Rochester really need licence plates that read "Rochester: Where Anything Worth Seeing Is 25 Minutes Drive Away" because that's basically what I got every time I asked to see something of interest. Cinemas? 25 minutes drive. Museums? 25 minutes drive. What crap. But it was not a complete loss, because after walking around the City limits across bridges and along the river and such, I sat in the Hotel room with any icy diet coke, room service, and "Casino Royale" on the TV. Anything bad I ever said about Daniel Craig should be stricken from the record. He really was delicious.

And so here I am on Sunday morning, in the Business Center of the Hotel, waiting for Kate to call me to spend Lunch with her. One of her fellow judges is a friend of hers from Bordeaux and I saw him at breakfast this morning and promised him I'd join them for lunch. But between now and then, I think I can fit in another Diet Coke and in-house movie, before it's time to fly to sweet home Chicago.

Because in Chicago, everything of interest is right there in front of you and anything resembling farms and nature is a comfortable 25 minutes drive away - which is just how I like it.