Tuesday, July 31, 2007

For those who like spam....a lot

Spam wall
Originally uploaded by freezelight.

Whoever would have thought that the internet could yield such treasures?

This link is dedicated to Miss Kate, who will arrive in the Windy City very soon to spend a crazy few days with me and my friends.

Until we can quote these in person, Katie...enjoy!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's art, dahling...and other stuff besides

Art Institute of Chicago
Originally uploaded by PhineasX.

I have just spent a wonderful weekend with Celine here in Chicago and even though I'm so tired, I can honestly say it was a blast and well worth all the fatigue.

Celine arrived in Chicago late yesterday afternoon and our first stop was Just Grapes to pick up my monthly wine delivery. We may have stayed for their free wine tasting too. Yum yum.

Then we took the bus back to my place just in time for her appointment with my lovely and crazy hairdresser. Celine complimented her in French and of course Dara loved it - I have to agree that even the most banal sentence sounds so much nicer when delivered in French, n'est-ce pas?

After a bit of lounging around at home, a few episodes of "Scrubs" and a glass of lovely rose each, we then took the bus to Southport for dinner at Coobah. I had never tried their lobster chowder before, but I will definitely have it again. And the margarita was, typically, fabulous. When we had finished our dinner and it was time to leave, there was a line-up for tables at the restaurant so I guess we chose a pretty cool place to dine.

Then it was on to the Park Hyatt for a cocktail at NoMi. We even managed to score a table outside on the Terrace, and we sat there and enjoyed the cool breeze and the people-watching until nearly midnight.

The morning started with an early trip to the new Whole Foods supermarket which has easily surpassed Disneyland as the happiest place on earth. It is awesome in the true, dictionary-approved definition of the word. I could happily die next to the olive bar, or the cheese counter, or the individual desserts. Blissful.

Me and Celine then caught the bus to Minnies for brunch. Located at Halsted and Armitage, the place is an old-time diner with the teensiest little things on the menu - baby ketchups, mini mustards - the whole place is adorable. But the servings look small and are suprisingly filling, which is a lovely treat. The whole experience is only improved by the fact that Minnies is located down the road from Lori's, the most adorable shoe store in Chicago [don't worry Jems, I'll take you there in October!].

After a short ride on the Brown Line El train to Downtown, we spent a few very cool hours browsing the artworks at The Art Institute (my first visit there ever!). It was straight out of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I loved it. And Museum shops do something weird to me - this one was amazing and I walked away with a lovely Andy Warhol Marilyn reproduction; just lovely.

Then it was time for a genuine Chicago hotdog and a relax in the shade in Millennium Park, alongside the beautiful Bean. Me and Celine sat there for over an hour and it was just wonderful.

But like all good things, Celine's visit with me came to an end and I accompanied her to Union Station to see her off back to Milwaukee (and then a return to Brussels). As for me? I hitched a ride on the free trolley bus and played tourist for a while, farewelling the out-of-towners at State Street where I switched for my proper bus home.

As I write this, Preston lies fast asleep on the bed next to me. Lucky bastard.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

MISSING: One seeing-eye dog

Originally uploaded by Leesia.

I got up late this morning owing to a freakish inability to remember to reset my alarm. So I shot out of bed at 7.30am (exactly an hour late) and flew around the house, scragging myself together in spectacular fashion. Matching shoes - even jewellery - I did pretty well.

But I got off the bus and hit Chicago humidity today. Instantly my hair frizzed, the takeout coffee cup in my hand felt instantly warmer, and the lining of my long skirt started to stick to my legs. Icky.

So cranking my ipod up, I fell in step with a lady in front of me and I started to trudge to the office. It was then that I noticed an older, toothless fellow up ahead of me, trying to dig a daily newspaper out of one of those vending machines on the street. He turned around and stared at the lady in front of me, and then stopped and stared straight at me. He had the eyes of a madman, admittedly, and I thought for a nano-second that he was either going to punch me in the face or steal my purse. Or both.

My ipod was not turned up too loud, so I was able to hear him say, directly to me (and within earshot of plenty of people), "well I'm not gonna walk with that ugly woman, but YOU young lady, let's go!". Charming, eh? And he smiled a gummy grin.

And all I could do was smile. Honestly; in my humid, icky-sticky, bedraggled and decaffeinated state, he managed to crack a smile. No small feat, trust me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Calling the kissing bandit

will you be my "textmate"?
Originally uploaded by doctony.

Once upon a time, a boy and a girl met in Chicago. Neither of them was born in the Windy City, but both of them had come to love it immensely and bonded over this fact. Numbers were exchanged, the boy left the City, and the phone calls began.

Then the girl began to spend far too much time in bars, and became a drunk texter. Nothing too shameful was ever written of course (she's still a lady after all), and the boy always responded with beautiful texts to her, but that didn't stop our heroine cringing "the morning after" as she cleared out her cell phone message boxes.

So then the girl had an epiphany of sorts, and decided that enough was enough. Drastic measures were taken, and the girl took the boy's cell number out of her phone. No more drunk texts - the girl felt pretty pleased with herself.

So to celebrate, our girl goes out with her good friend Bork and gets delightfully jolly on French martinis, goes home and drunken emails the boy to tell him that she won't be drunken texting him anymore.

Yep, good one Kissing Bandit - you've still got it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Be silent, be still

It’s been a while since I last posted and there is a very good reason for it. As I reclined on the couch last night watching my 4th episode in the “CSI” marathon, I realised that I had not been that idle in days.

Every single night last week, I was out and about. Some nights I crawled into bed at 10pm, other nights it was closer to 1am. And while to my credit, I managed to make it to work on time every day; it’s safe to say that the pace of the week has finally caught up with me.

But I’ve also been writing these posts long enough to know that nobody likes a whiner, so I’m just going to shut up and deliver you the high points of the week that was:

  • Two French martinis and a free preview screening of “Hairspray”.
  • Pub crawling with Bork and playing R-rated computer games.
  • Fridge died and all food had to be thrown out – even all the stuff I had cooked and frozen in a moment of smug, home-cooked preparedness.
  • Finding a reggae dive bar close to my house, and dancing to Bob Marley till after midnight on a school night.
  • Enjoying delicious hors d’oeuvres at a client’s house overlooking Lake Michigan as the sun set.
  • Being given Haigh’s chocolate frogs by an Adelaide visitor – and not having to share them.
  • Attending a one-night-only exhibition of Aboriginal Australian artwork at a downtown gallery.
  • Slumping on a barstool to watch the Aussies lose at the soccer and the rugby (the slumping was the highlight – not the sporting losses!).
  • Hitting the town with Wongy and her Brit visitor and not getting home till 5am.

Having taken care of all my laundry yesterday, I peeked rather gingerly at my schedule for this week, just hoping that it would not be as full as last week’s (my brain is younger than my body I think). And true enough, the only thing I have in the schedule is the Colin Hay concert on Thursday night – and I don’t even have tickets to that so I’m under no obligation to rock up. Or rock on. Or whatever you do at a Colin Hay concert.

Dare I suggest that I will be house-bound this week, cooking more food to freeze and thaw out over the coming week? Our new fridge/freezer is looking a little sparse since we had to pitch everything out. It was sad to see my soup go; it was a good batch too. Yes, I think it will be a cooking week – but for now, I shall recline on the sofa and watch more “Food Network” – for inspiration, of course.

Monday, July 16, 2007

You can't stop the beat

Originally uploaded by annethelibrarian.

So I admit to being a little anti-Travolta when I walked into tonight's preview screening of "Hairspray" and if you know me at all, you'll know how much it pains me to be anti-Travolta - period.

But me and Lex were dissecting this whole thing via email today and we agreed that the idea of John Travolta in a fat suit and in real drag just seems to miss the point somehow. Anyone who has seen "Hairspray" knows that Edna Turnblad is SUPPOSED to be played by a guy who looks very obviously like a guy. That's the comedy of it. But maybe we were getting too involved, so we suspended judgement and went to the theater.

Man oh man.

I emerged from the movie revved up. The songs, the costumes, the energy - it was all so cool. Queen Latifah is incredible and I won't have a bad word said about her. If I could dance like the cast, even just a little bit, I would be a happy girl. But Michelle Pfeiffer looks like she's wasting away - has she ALWAYS been that emaciated? The woman can act though, she was very good as Mrs Von Tussle. And Christopher Walken as Mr Turnblad is typically kooky but genius.

The movie opens in cinemas here on Friday and I feel very lucky to have seen a screening of it early. And I also can't wait to get back to Sidetracks in Boystown where the fellas do a ripping rendition of the final number in the show - for their own amusement and enjoyment but once the song starts, you really can't stop the beat!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Champagne taste on a beer budget

Originally uploaded by dopiaza.

Reality TV does really well in America and it seems that every TV channel has a do-it-yourself program, whether it features 'normal' people making over a house, or professionals moving in to renovate someone's house as a surprise. You know the drill.

Well I made the mistake this morning of leafing through Lex's furnitures store catalogues. 'Crate & Barrel' and its funkier cousin 'CB2' are America's answer to 'Freedom' in Australia (more or less). Selling everything from fridge magnets to complete dining settings, the glossy catalogues feature page after page of delectable delights. I'd like to say they cater for all budgets, but I'd be lying. But they DO cater to my tastes and it's just not fair. I hadn't yet had coffee and already I was coveting at least one thing on each page - all the while knowing that I simply can't afford them right now.

So I'm starting to wonder whether I will just have to start paying closer attention to these DIY cable programs.

I innocently suggested to P the other day that one of the scary things about moving in on my own was that I'll have to hang curtains. I don't know how to do that. And what if I'm not strong enough to get them up there. What about putting pictures on my walls? How am I going to know if it's done straight? What if I can't reach up high enough to put the frames where I want them? He laughed and suggested THAT'S when I call for help. Of the professional kind.

I decided then that I'd keep it a secret that I plan to pay the IKEA dudes extra money to set up my furniture when they deliver it. Chances are that if i didn't do that, everything would still be in flat packs six months down the track.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

At least I have my hair and my health

Me and Obi-Wan went out to a fabulous wine tasting event hosted by my friends at Just Grapes last night and we had a great time. There was even a beer tasting table, to help those traditionalists (aka the Beer & Barbie set) feel right at home.

Afterwards, we weren't quite ready to go home so we caught a cab to Corcoran's, a cute little Irish-type pub in Old Town - that I only just read serves bangers & mash. Why didn't I go for that last night? Sheesh.

But it was at Corcoran's that we met B, a very drunk man from Texas who was in the midst of something resembling an existential crisis. Or some sort of mid-life meltdown. And I don't think either me or Obi-Wan believed him when he said he was only 32. But if it helps him sleep at night, so be it. So the three of us sat at the bar and chatted or, more accurately, we wanted to chat and he leaned all over me to speak very intently to my gorgeous friend, Obi-Wan.

Now I am very committed to being a wingman for my friends but it was clear to me that Obi-Wan did not want to do anything with Mr Meltdown. But to any guys reading this, if you're out with 2 girls, and you want to put the moves on 1 of them, here's a tip for you:

Make friends with your lust object's wingman. She is your ally and her opinion of you counts for everything.

So last night when Mr Meltdown was laying it on thick and flattering Obi-Wan for her lovely face shape and delicate chin (all true of course), he turned to me and rather dismissively said, "and you have the hair".

Was that a compliment? "You're not gorgeous like your friend, but apparently you have hair on your head". Lovely observation...jackass.

Obi-Wan just rolled her eyes and he could tell his stock had fallen into the negative points. And of course looked to me to be his life saver. Uhhh, I don't think so. I had his best interests at heart at first, but after THAT little comment, neither of us were biting.

As a Leo, I'm well aware that my mane is supposed to be my pride and joy, but is the rest of me a train wreck?

It was at that point that I surrendered my wingman role and decided to let Mr Meltdown drown. But not before he paid for a few more drinks, naturally.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Aussie cats in Chicago

The Marsh Pride
Originally uploaded by Lyndon Firman.

Okay so we're not talking lions, tigers, or bears (oh my!) but we ARE talking about The Cat Empire, the wonderfully talented bunch of Aussie musicians from Melbourne that played in Chicago last night.

I went along on a very steamy night with B&S, and Dr G, to The Double Door in Chicago's trendy Bucktown area. The Double Door is a dive, let it be said, but it's perfectly set up to accommodate live music and big crowds. I've no idea how many people would have been there last night, but the place turned into a sauna pretty quickly.

There is something generally icky about being a short person in a sweaty moshpit and realising that your nose is level with everyone else's armpits. Eww. So I bailed from close to the stage and instead hung out somewhere near the back, where there was at least a small breeze coming in from outside.

The Cat Empire were really talented and great live performers. They didn't take the stage until nearly 10.30pm though (on a school night!) so we were in for a late night. And then some of the songs dragged on. Normally I wouldn't have minded, because the boys are just so talented, but I found myself wondering why they just didn't play the song like they were supposed to, and get it over with. Instead they let the drummer bash on for 10 minutes in some kind of self-indulgent solo (and okay I didn't mind that because I have a thing for drummers) but you get my drift. Enough already.

So I didn't even stay until the end of the show, I was just too hot and too tired. And I was a long way from home, even in a cab. So I ended up getting the train and then a bus home, and walking in my door just after midnight. I felt like I had been dragged through the seven circles of hell backwards. I'm sure I probably looked it too.

But the bottom line (literally) is that The Cat Empire are great. True.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What do you mean, rats are dirty?!

Originally uploaded by superkid.

I am not a fan of squirrels, a well-known fact around these parts. But I am not at all squeamish about mice or rats, owing I think to the fact that my sister used to keep some mice as pets. [Let's not talk about the day the sun baked a litter of them...ewww.]

Last night I went with Lex & Cory to see "Ratatouille" at the cinema and it was the most adorable movie I've seen in ages. Kids and adults across the cinema were laughing out loud, though I suspect for different reasons at times.

I can remember when K and me went to see "Finding Nemo" and we felt weird about being adults in a kids movie. Of course those qualms were eased once the movie started and we realised how grown up some of the humor was. This was the case in "Ratatouille" and I think the Pixar studio is genius at that.

And what could be bad about a movie set in Paris? I mean, come on!

You have to go and see it. Tell them I sent you. They won't give a toss, but tell them anyway.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

There are 24 usable hours in every day

bed time
Originally uploaded by annappleaday.

I got home around 8pm on Friday and was in bed asleep about 20 minutes after that. I didn't even stir until 9am Saturday, and even that was only because my alarm went off to remind me I had a hair appointment. I seriously must have needed that sleep.

Saturday was Errands Day. I'm looking after L&D's parrot and potplants while they are on vacation (the former has a high chance of survival; the latter is anyone's guess). But I went and took care of those babies yesterday then it was off to Walgreens for milk and bread and back home to watch some DVDs. Laundry was on the Errands Day list, but got ultimately got bumped until Sunday.

I went out with Dr G last night for a wine tasting at her neighbourhood wine store (Que Syrah - cute name, eh?) and then we had dinner at Moe's Cantina on Clark. The two margaritas I had went down a treat - they were really good. Then we went home but I got a phone call an hour or so later from my work colleague LR, and we hit the town again. We met up at the Duke of Perth, then adjourned to Matildas where we met some guys, and we grabbed a cab with them to some dive bar on Irving Park Road to keep playing pool. At about 3am I decided to call it a night, and LR had the same idea, so we got outta there. I woke up this morning hot, bothered, and hungover. And with three loads of laundry to do. Damn my flexible Errands Day list.

But I soldiered on and did all the things I had to do, in readiness for yet another busy week at work. I tell you what though, if you ever get the chance to crawl into bed and pass out for 12 hours straight, I highly recommend it. It leaves you feeling like a million bucks. Not sure when my next coma will occur but I'm not-so-secretly looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Here fishy, fishy

Antique Reef Tank
Originally uploaded by nrcop102.

I decided that as Chair of the Advance group in Chicago, it was time to mix things up a bit and so I arranged for us to meet up for our bi-monthly networking drinks on the North Terrace at the Shedd Aquarium.

Unlike last week, tonight was absolutely stunning weather - if not a little warm before the sun set, but I have to tell you that watching the sun go down over the beautiful Chicago city skyline sure is a sight to behold.

Thursday nights at the Shedd is a jazz and cocktail spectacular. For $10 admission from 5pm, you can look all through the Shedd's exhibits (the Oceanarium is extra) and you can have cocktails and hors d'oeuvres - though I flirted shamlessly with the waiter and scored a double helping of jambalaya!

But I was the hostess of sorts and I had to behave myself other than that. So given that when I was outside on the Terrace, I was perched somewhat precariously on the Shedd barricade overlooking a sheer drop of about 20 feet, I figured I wouldn't have too many cosmos, and instead just had a couple of Coronas early on and enjoyed the great Puerto Rican jazz band.

It was great to see a number of new faces tonight too. It's hard because you find yourself asking the new people all the same questions: where are you from, what brought you to Chicago, when were you last home - that sort of thing. It doesn't make you sound very imaginative. I'll have to work on my conversational skills and mix THEM up a bit too.

I think everyone had a good time tonight; we had a lot of compliments on the location, not that I could take any credit for that. But it was important for me to showcase the best of Chicago, especially to our new arrivals, and I think we did that well. Our outdoor location gave us the best possible vantage point for the fireworks from Navy Pier too - just gorgeous and a wonderful end to the night.

Happy 4th!

Originally uploaded by Adventuress Heart.

Two good friends of mine own the best little wine shop in Chicago and, at the risk of sounding like a complete boozehound, I do spend a fair bit of time there. So it was lovely to receive an invitation to spend July 4th with them as they put on a delicious BBQ lunch.

Some of the wine store staff were there, as well as two of D&S's friends, and I had a great time just chilling out, having delicious meats and salads, and especially the array of wines & beers.

D then mentioned that he was having a wonderful new sectional sofa delivered very soon, and he even asked whether I would like to have - not buy - one of his other sofas. I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly. He said all this while perched on one of the most beautiful red microfibre 2-seater sofas I've ever seen. If it were in a showroom, I would dive on it immediately. So naturally I clarified his offer and he admitted that yes indeed I was welcome to take the sofa if I wanted it. I did not hesitate. It's not a sofa bed like I originally thought I wanted for my new apartment, but I couldn't pass it up. A red sofa? Hell yeah.

The weather yesterday was gorgeous, the catering delicious, the company delightful, and the goodie bags fantastic (but heavy!). I had a wonderful 4th July and really enjoyed the chance to meet some new people. But it's hard having a day off in the middle of the week. I got up this morning really thinking it was Monday - and that has so far been really tricky to get over.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Big bada boom

Firework Composite
Originally uploaded by olvwu.

When B&S invited me to join them for a rooftop picnic at their Downtown apartment, and then to view the 3 July fireworks from that same lofty vantage point, I did not even hesitate. It was only when I heard that rain was forecast that I started to wonder whether everything would go ahead.

A lot people, S included, finished work early on Tuesday to make their way home and prepare their BBQs in advance of the big night-sky display. I had to finish at normal time, but I was all prepared with my contributions of roast chicken, rolls, and salads (purchased the night before - yay me). So I grabbed a cab from my office to meet B&S in their apartment. The view of Lake Michigan from their place is just lovely - though S assured me that during winter, ice as far as the eye can see is just depressing.

We assembled our roof top picnic and took the elevator all the way to the top. There weren't many people out there when we arrived, though the place fairly quickly filled up. And the weather held out, with the fat raindrops only starting to fall when the last firework had lit up the sky. It was great.

And today is a public holiday in observance of US Independence Day. I can't help but think of the Will Smith movie whenever today rolls around. Alien takeovers, President Bill Pullman, the entire planet saved by an alcoholic crop duster. But the best part of all? I get the day off too. God Bless America :)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sharing and caring

The feast
Originally uploaded by jodes i am.

I have to own up that I'm not really a big fan of tapas. It's not that I have a problem with sharing my food; I don't. But I just get irritated that tapas servings are usually so teensy that you feel compelled to buy multiple plates, you feel like a glutton, and you can potentially spend a fortune. It just seems like a very costly, and unsatisfying, way to dine.

Naturally last night's dinner proved that I am a complete moron when it comes to these things. I had an absolute blast at a tapas restaurant with some Aussies. We did the typical 'plate sharing' thing and dish upon dish of tasty morsels got passed around. I chose crab cakes for my first plate - which people liked - and then the roasted eggplant with goat cheese and tomato sauces - which not many people liked. I did though, I loved it. I left the restaurant feeling full so that was good too.

And at risk of making the rest of my evening sound VERY scary, let me just tell you that I ended up hitting the town with the Burns girls - and it was soooo fun. They are sisters from Melbourne and we just went nuts at 3 different bars. We stayed until two of them closed, and I got home around 5.30am. How I'm even conscious now after such sleep deprivation is beyond me. Automatic pilot probably.

So today I'm off to brunch with L&D, and then dinner with two other friends. If I could magically squeeze in a load of laundry somewhere in there too, I think I would be a genius. But I don't think that's going to happen. Why let housework get in the way, eh?