Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yes, this will suit me fine

Originally uploaded by Haiku Garry.

I have never lived by myself before and never had to negotiate a lease agreement or deal with utilities or sign key release forms, or any such malarkey.

And now that I'm navigating these murky waters for the first time, I've unearthed a side of my personality that is quietly freaking me out. I am getting rattled, and I hate that. I am allowing long lines, monumental paperwork, and outrageous charges to make me a grouch. So nutty am I right now that my friend P has taken to calling me "The Crack-Smoking Aussie".

But today I took a deep breath, and little by little I got what I needed and I had the first look inside my new apartment since the day I decided to lease it. Without the previous tenant's furniture in it, the apartment looks small. But the more I thought about, the more potential I saw. And I was in the apartment at around 6.30pm, when the sunlight was coming through the windows at such a beautiful angle, and lighting up the honey-colored floorboards, that I was content for the first time in days. Happy would be pushing it, so let's just go with content.

Less crack, more valium perhaps.

But all things being well, the movers come at 9am this Saturday to shift my measly crap into the new place. And thankfully P is going to be there to boss me - and the movers - around. She's done all this stuff countless times before and I am so grateful for the push she'll give me. Wish me/us luck!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pieces and places

Ceramic Bisque
Originally uploaded by sponger.

It seems that as the move-in date looms ever closer (September 1 is D-Day for me), I am getting more frazzled about what I do and don't have. The two most pressing must-haves that I have been missing is the dinner set and flatware (cutlery). I mean, it's one thing not to have a sofa or a TV, but if I don't have things to eat off, what am I going to do then?

And so I dragged K and M along to Macy's the other day, as the store was having a sale on some fun & funky dinnerware that I liked. It was a 2 for 1 special, and I was very keen to score the Cobalt Blue set. I figured it would be an interesting departure from ordinary white dinnerware which is classic and of course easily replaceable, but neverthless rather plain.

Here I was thinking that for $43, I would be getting an 8 person dinner set in the most fantastic of shades. And as the poor young guy is scanning my credit card and I was smugly admiring my purchases, I actually read the box it came in.

4 pieces, not 4 places.

So I was buying enough dinnerware for only 2 people. For $43. Are you kidding me?!

I almost walked away with two plates, two cups, two saucers, and two cereal bowls for the ridiculous price of $43. I must have been out of my mind.

So the lovely man at Macy's reversed my purchase and tried to disagree with me when I mumbled about what a numbskull I was, to not read the advertising carefully. I was so embarassed.

On the upside, from the safety of my computer, I went online that same night and found a 4-person setting (white of course), which includes all flatware, steak knives, AND drinking glasses - all for cheaper than $43.

And believe me, I read that online advertisement VERY carefully this time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

There's nothing Wong with a pick-me-up

Originally uploaded by Coconutto.

It's tricky for me to work out whether my favourite dessert of all time is tiramisu or lemon meringue pie. Perhaps they really are tied for top spot in my estimations. Whatever the case, I can rarely resist a creamy, cakey tiramisu if I see it on a menu; it can often live up to its literal translation, and truly be the 'pick me up' dessert I need.

Normally Wongy travels for her job and only comes back to Chi-town on Friday evenings and stays the weekends before she's off again (usually somewhere dull) bright and early on the Monday morning. But this week she came back early, and called me because she wanted to take me out to belatedly celebrate my birthday - very sweet idea indeed.

When she called tonight I was committed to running errands at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. While I haven't announced in on here yet, I move into my new apartment on 1 September (yay) and the only thing I don't yet have - but pretty much really need - is a dinner set and some cutlery (boo). And despite this very specific list, AND a 20% off coupon for the store, I left empty-handed. Double boo to that.

So on we trrudged, through the stifling humidity, to the lovely Basil Leaf Cafe in Lincoln Park. I've passed it many times but never called in. But when I was searching for apartments in Lincoln Park way back when, my bus used to go straight past the restaurant and everyone inside looked well-fed and happy to be there. And tonight when I finally got to be the diner, I found out that the restaurant serves up very reasonably-priced and yummy Italian fare. The pastas are pretty creative with their ingredients too, and a fair amount of seafood, which I quite like.

I enjoyed a butternut squash ravioli with roasted garlic, spinach, and basil oil dinner, after which time I was compelled to order a tiramisu and an espresso to round out the experience. Both were delicious. This is not a photo of the tirarmisu I had of course - mine was terribly decorative (and clearly not made in the restaurant's more rustic kitchen). But nevertheless, the coffee was served in very cute Illy cups - I wanted to pinch it, but clearly I'd have to come back 5 more times to get the full set so it hardly seemed worth the trouble.

It was great to see Wongy again and reminisce about my 30th birthday celebrations. The memories are so fun to re-live.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Kicking off the flirty, dirty 30s

The birthday girl
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

So I survived my birthday weekend - just barely - but Kate was a genius and remembered to bring her camera. So we managed to record for posterity some of the goings-on at the House of Blues for the Crowded House concert, and showtunes at Sidetracks in crazy Boystown. I had an outrageously great time, trust me.

You can check out all my pics here.

There are not many of photos to be sure, but in ALL of them I am busting out some seriously cheesy grins, so you know I had a great time.

Stories to follow.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Girls, boys, and balls

Red Ball
Originally uploaded by hamishi.

It was a bloody hot day on Saturday, but the conditions were perfect for Chicago's AFL "Great Aussie BBQ" on the lakefront. I had offered to help cook but (fortunately) that wasn't required as we had a lot of volunteer chefs turn up on the day.

So I was put in charge of alphabetising the condiments. Ketchup. Mustard. Napkins. It was a genius display by the time I was done, but some kid screwed with the symmetry of it and so I gave up and sold raffle tickets instead.

The American girls were very impressed with the footy boys, though I don't think they initially realised that there were more American boys on the team that native Aussies. Whatever. One of the girls even remarked to me, "Ooooh Gab, they take their tops off after every quarter. I love this game!". Quite right. And I was issued strict instructions to widely promote the next big game so that the girls can resume their spectator positions, right up front.

Schmoozing around the field on the day, it was fun to meet members of Chicago's Aussie community, some long-time residents and others fresh off the boat. I got to catch up with some old friends too, and P even told me that my new pink bucket hat was very reminiscent of Ladies Day at the Races. He imagined me dashing across the pitch towards the porta-loos, shrieking like a big girl. Shame - I used to like that hat too.

But after a day in the blasting sun, a cold beer was in order and we got plenty of them at Messner's on Southport, that has been a long-time sponsor of the AFL team (not to mention a long-time great place to get a coldie). And at 2am, I decided it was time to call it a night and I went home to bed.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A great, big "what the?!"

Bork told me yesterday that I am her most eclectic friend, and I chose to take that as a compliment. We had been talking about our respective plans for this weekend and I was prattling on, as I'm wont to do, about theater tickets, pre-show parties, football games, post-game drinks, that sort of thing.

And so it was last night that I went along to my first ever absurdist show. It was called "Hamlet Stooged" and it was put on by an Australian theater company. I didn't know anything about absurdist theater as a genre and, admittedly, I still don't. I am sad to say that I didn't understand the play at all. Perhaps that was the point?

Now I love Shakespeare but I'm not a purist about it. I will happily watch Shakespeare as a musical, or modern spins on the plays, or even Hollywood's adaptations. And Hamlet is one of my favourite plays. We studied it in my last year of high school, so clearly all of us could relate to the indecisive Danish prince. Not from the perspective of a father-ghost, homicidal step-dad, nutjob girlfriend, and sleazy mother. Rather Hamlet was having to make brave, life-altering decisions in the face of very real adversity. What path should he take in life? And why can't you just procrastinate about these things? If anyone wanted to have a perpetual 'doona day', it was Hamlet.

But the theater company last night, while rhyming some clever verses together with modern day language, the show was just silly. It didn't make sense - it didn't follow the story, and most of the characters were just completely absent. I tried to appreciate it as a standalone work but even that was hard. I suspect that I just didn't enjoy it. Maybe if I wasn't sitting in the middle of the row, I would have walked out - who knows.

Absurdist theater is not something I will go and see again but at least I can say I've done it now, right?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I haven't got ball players, I've got girls!

Originally uploaded by Marcus M.

Baseball is easily the national pastime here in the US and I can remember that when I moved to Chicago, the White Sox triumphed in the World Series, so baseball kinda because "my" sport. I suspect that had I arrived in the middle of football season, I would be a die-hard Bears fan - such is life.

Now I've seen the Cubs play at Wrigley Field a number of times now and I love it there. And why wouldn't I? It's the largest outdoor bar in the world. Sure there are baseball fans, but it's the atmosphere, the beer, and the hotdogs that most people go for, I'm sure. It's certainly not the Cubs batting average because by and large, they suck.

By contrast, the Chicago White Sox, as winners of the 2005 World Series, seem to take the game more seriously and, as a result, the fans do too. Last night I got to see US Cellular Field for myself when I took in my very first live Sox game.

Hands down the best thing about Chicago's baseball scene is that you don't really need to understand what's going on; rather you just have to be willing to cheer loud and sing when required. And I am more than happy to play along with that. I am a great cheerleader when it counts.

My seats were in the 11th row of the stadium and I'm pretty sure that if we tried hard enough, we could smell the ball players' aftershaves - we were that close.

And the food is heaps better at Cellular Field too - bratwursts with sauerkraut or onions, pretzels, cold beer, MARGARITAS, I mean - come on, people! Why did I not discover this place before?!

Oh yeah, and the Sox won. Though admittedly I left at the start of the 8th inning, and therefore read about the end of the game in this morning's newspaper. Whatever. Told you - soak up the atmosphere, sing when you have to, and just get into it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Defying gravity is not always fun

ground control to major tom
Originally uploaded by the cat & the exercise bike.

A friend told me a few weeks back that as a Leo, August 2007 would herald a cosmic turning point for me. From what she says, the next ten years - at least - will be an easy ride, particularly given where I've come from (again, cosmically-speaking).

I don't normally go in for that astrology stuff, but I was open to the idea that August would bring some good vibes, happy news, festivities - something that would give me cause to celebrate.

Now naturally I haven't given August much credit yet; it IS only the sixth of the month, after all. But so far I haven't scored any runs on the board that I feel I need to blog about. Instead, I'm rather apathetically going through the motions of life, trying to find enthusiasm for things.

I don't suppose it helps that this expected surge in good fortune also coincides with weather that feels like a sauna. I am not built for humid conditions, I know that now. I'm not alone in this, but such weather makes me sleepy and grouchy all at once, and that is a terrible combination, especially post-coffee. Perhaps there are some situations that coffee can't fix, after all.

So I'm supposed to be soaring this month and so far it's not the butterlies-in-the-stomach high that I expected to feel. Perhaps the next three weeks will turn things around. With Miss Kate scheduled to arrive next Thursday for a few days of R&R in Chicago (yeah right), my spirits should be cheered significantly. So really all I have to do is make it to late next week in one piece, and the planets can do what they will after that time.