Look Who’s Talking

August 31, 2011 at 9:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The past few months have seen an interesting turn in my extracurricular life, as for some reason I seem to be involved in more media than ever before.

  1. The IT guys at my office decided they wanted me to be “the voice of the company” and so I recorded all of the greetings and voice mails for the firm.  Which is funny because I had a speech impediment as a kid and am still slightly self-conscious about the way I talk.
  2. The sex/dating column I started writing for the entertainment mag about two years ago now includes beer and liquor reviews, news shorts, photo captions and a video blog.  Yes, a video blog.  This was pitched by my editor recently and while I’m not entirely sure I like the idea of being on my own YouTube channel…I’m giving it a shot.  I’m basically just putting another spin on the column I’m writing but saying lines into a camera is a little different from what I’m used to.
  3. I was also recently recruited to shoot a volunteer testimonial video at the food pantry I volunteer for, as they’re re-vamping their website.  So I’ve been spending a bit more time in front of a camera lately and while it’s not something I’m extremely comfortable with, it’s been at least interesting so far.

By interesting, I mean nerve-wracking.

You never know when you might need a place like this

Okay not totally nerve-wracking, but seeing myself on film and hearing my voice through a speaker is something it’s taken a bit of getting used to.  I like to pretend that after I finish these videos, they go out into cyberspace where no one really watches and if they do, they soon forget.  If I ever meet anyone who recognizes me I’ll officially have a freak out moment but until then I’ll just assume the only person watching will be me.  And now you, maybe.  And even I don’t really watch because it makes me feel all weird inside.

Hey look at me in a church basement

Hey look a way to donate

But obviously I’m sharing the pantry video here anyway.  The Common Pantry does a lot of good work for the men, women and children in the neighborhood and they deserve some good recognition.  So here’s a link above to the video and another to the donation page, should you find yourself inclined to do so.  I’m aware I look nervous, awkward and tired but you try filming something off the cuff after a long day of work and night of filling grocery bags in an unconditioned basement.  It’s not as easy as I make it seem.

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August Book Club

August 30, 2011 at 9:12 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

It’s been a while since we had our book club outing, mostly because summer is a hard time to track down such busy ladies.  We managed to get together for a couple of hours last Thursday and it was an evening of food, wine and literary talk that was more than a little needed.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk much about the actual book.  Our club is in dire need of new members since a couple moved and a few quit showing up, so it was just going to be the four of us as it was.  Then one lady got stuck at work and myself and another showed up incredibly late (stupid buses during rush hour that have to stop every two seconds) but the three of us eventually found each other and caught up over a glass of wine.  By the time we got around to discussing the book, it was clear that one girl hadn’t finished and the other had barely gotten started.  Eh, it’s what happens when the weather turns nice.

I never did figure out what the rose had to do with it

Now I read this months ago when we first tried to plan our summer meeting and since then my brain has been fried by Moby Dick so I barely even remembered it myself.  I do remember that we read The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, which is a novel that tells the stories of a handful of women right before WWII broke out.  One woman is reporting on the war from the trenches of Europe, one discovers she’s pregnant right as she sends her doctor husband to London to help with bomb victims and one woman is in charge of a post office in a small town where all three women somehow manage to connect.  I thought it was interesting, especially because the characters have no idea of the depth of the atrocities going on in the war and it really shows the confusion and ignorance that was probably evident in the Americans on the brink of war.  The book wasn’t exactly an upper but it did make me think and I was glad I read it.  And there was no giant white and evil whale so that was nice.

We ate at Crust, a pizza place that was ironically where we met on my very first night of book club ever, more than two years ago.  I had a spinach and goat cheese calzone that went nicely with my glass of Pinot Grigio and the pizzas that the other gals got looked equally delicious.  We sat on the patio and enjoyed the fresh air while I was reminded that the time to do so is dwindling (I had to wear a sweater last night.  Not okay).  Even though we didn’t get much chatter in revolving around the book, we had good conversations anyway and even had a brief photo shoot because one of the girls needed a new pic for her online dating profile (this was after I disclosed that the new bf and I met on the ‘net).  I left the restaurant full and looking forward to our next book and even managed to get home before some rain hit.  I’m glad we got back in the book club groove and I’m bringing a friend to the next meeting so we’ll have another member soon.

But really, I’m just glad to be reading anything other than Moby Dick.  Like the back of a shampoo bottle or the ads on the train.

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Food for Thought

August 29, 2011 at 9:29 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Someone thought it would be a good idea to turn me loose in the kitchen Friday night but I must admit, the meal I came up with was pretty darn good.  I was inspired as I had an eggplant and some basil lying around so, after finding a few various recipes online, I meshed them together and came up with my own little eggplant baked dish that I’m happy to share today:

Contrary to what my mother thought, this is made atop linguine noodles and not squid tentacles...

So I started this whole thing off by making some pesto from scratch.  Actually, to be totally honest, I started the whole thing off by pouring a glass of wine but you get the idea.  Pesto is surprisingly easy to make and after mixing a cup and a half of fresh basil, a cup of olive oil, three cloves of garlic and a cup of pine nuts (walnuts are used traditionally but those bad boys are expensive; I improvised with what I had and was not disappointed), I was ready to roll.  I blended it all with my handy food processor and before I knew it, pesto was born.  After being thrilled with my taste test and pouring another glass of wine, I was ready to tackle the eggplant.

Eggplant and I don’t have much of a history – it’s good and I eat it but mostly at restaurants because cooking it is a little intimidating.  At least, it was.  Friday I mastered that vegetable and fried it’s rubbery skin into submissiveness.  I basically just sliced it up and tossed it in some egg before coating it with Italian bread crumbs and frying on the stove.  As that was all sizzling, I boiled some water for the spinach and chive linguine that was the base of my dish (mostly because it had been in my cupboard for a ridiculous amount of time).  Once the eggplant and pasta was finished, I got to work layering my concoction in a baking dish.  Which I forgot I owned, so that tells you how often I make meals from scratch.  I used the linguine as the bottom layer and mixed in some tomato and basil marinara sauce as well.  Then came the eggplant and I put slices of provolone cheese on top of that.  I sliced up tomatoes and put them on top of the cheese and the whole thing was covered with a light layer of the pesto I had ready and waiting.  That whole pan was baked for roughly half an hour, along with some butter and garlic rolls.  Then – chow time!

Next time I’ll be a bit quicker as I wasn’t really sure what I was doing this go-round and had to stop and take many breaks from the labor intensive cooking process.  It was more than just edible (not to toot my own horn but it was delicious) and maybe I can plan one of those fancy dinner party adult type things and make it again.  Or I could just eat the whole thing myself while sitting in my underwear and drinking milk from the carton.  Decisions, decisions…

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All Shook Up

August 26, 2011 at 9:23 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Mother Nature’s been pitching a fit as of late, what with the hurricanes and earthquakes popping up all over the place.  I know quite a few people in the path of Irene and I’m just hoping everyone can stay out of harm’s way.

The earthquake that shook the East Coast this week was especially strange and even the Washington Monument is cracking up.  I’m curious if the politicians on Capitol Hill see this as ominous but chances are they’ve all got their heads so far up their butts that they can’t even see the light of day.  Anyway, politicians aren’t the only animals that were around to feel the force of the ground tremors and after I came across this article about how some of the inhabitants of the Smithsonian National Zoo reacted to the quake, I thought it was super interesting and wanted to share:

National Zoo Animals React to the Earthquake

The vibrations from yesterday’s 5.8 earthquake were keenly felt at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park; all animals, staff and visitors were safe and no injuries were reported. Zoo buildings were closed to the public and checked by safety personnel for structural damage. Zoo gates were closed to incoming visitors but exits were open for guests to leave at their leisure. The Zoo reopened this morning on time.

Animal care staff recognized changes in animal behavior.

This guy's ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at him

Great Apes

  • The earthquake hit the Great Ape House and Think Tank Exhibit during afternoon feeding time.
  • About five to ten seconds before the quake, many of the apes, including Kyle (an orangutan) and Kojo (a Western lowland gorilla), abandoned their food and climbed to the top of the tree-like structure in the exhibit.
  • About three seconds before the quake, Mandara (a gorilla) let out a shriek and collected her baby, Kibibi, and moved to the top of the tree structure as well.
  • Iris (an orangutan) began “belch vocalizing”—an unhappy/upset noise normally reserved for extreme irritation—before the quake and continued this vocalization following the quake.

Small Mammals

  • The red ruffed lemurs sounded an alarm call about 15 minutes before the quake and then again just after it occurred.
  • The howler monkeys sounded an alarm call just after the earthquake.
  • The black-and-rufous giant elephant shrew hid in his habitat and refused to come out for afternoon feeding.

Reptile Discovery Center

  • All the snakes began writhing during the quake (copperheads, cotton mouth, false water cobra, etc.). Normally, they remain inactive during the day.
  • Murphy, the Zoo’s Komodo dragon, sought shelter inside.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Animals constantly surprise me and I’ll be keeping an eye on Catsby to see if she notices any soon-to-be-disturbances in the air.  For instance, last night she alerted me to a bug in my living room and I was able to get away and go hide under the covers in my bed.  I have to tell myself she killed it viciously to protect my honor sometime during the night.

Hope your weekend is safe, dry and relatively free of unexpected ground shaking or surprise bug attacks!

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Fish Out of Water

August 24, 2011 at 10:32 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

I did it.  I finally finished Moby Dick.

If I'd had a harpoon, I might've stabbed my eyes while trying to get through this book

Reading this massive novel is something I told myself I’d do this year because I genuinely do enjoy reading the “classics” and had not yet encountered the white whale.  An old friend of mine happens to call this her favorite book of all time and when she gave me a brand new copy earlier this year, I knew it was on.  I began reading at the very beginning of July and finished Monday night, almost two full months after beginning.  The book finished slightly above 500 pages and if you know me, you know that I can typically read that much pretty quick.  Not so with Moby Dick.  I had to bribe myself with treats to get through this book and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a box of Cheeze-Its in front of me when I read that last page.

What’s a shame is that I’m not sure how to reveal my true feelings on this book to the friend who loves it.  We joked that if I hated it we probably couldn’t hang out anymore and this is now a real possibility.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this blog (though I guess I’ll find out) so I’m going to be honest here.  This book was the bane of my existence for pretty much the entire time I read it.  It was a chore and there were many times that I thought of just giving up.  It was definitely a challenge and I wanted to conquer the book like Ahab wants to conquer the whale – which, spoiler alert, HE DOESN’T EVEN DO.  Apparently it’s common knowledge that the whale wins at the end but for whatever reason I was holding out hope that the crazy captain would endure a bloody and catastrophic battle, versus the rather anti-climatic real ending where everyone drowned and the whale swam away.  I mean there was a battle but after everything I’d read I half expected the whale to stand up and start talking.  I couldn’t even be mad or disappointed by the ending though because I was just so damn happy to be finished with the book.

Not that it was all bad.  In fact, the parts where they actually told the story were somewhat enjoyable and I even laughed out loud numerous times.  At least, towards the beginning.  But the entire novel is spliced with chapters on the entire industry of whaling and I simply don’t really care what types of rope are best for which boats or the history of the wooden ship.  Some of it was relevant and interesting but some of it was also just plain wrong (I know it was written before science deemed whales mammals and not fish but reading totally inaccurate information just pissed me off even more).  This monstrosity of a book even worked its way into my dreams, where my friend told she just skipped all the boring parts and read the action (which is roughly 1/3 of the entire novel).  I woke up ready to rage but then realized that I had only been dreaming – which still made me upset because I was wasting valuable sleeping time on the damn book that was haunting me during the day.  I then accidentally went on a rant during a phone conversation with a faraway friend in which I bitched for like ten straight minutes about this book (sorry, friend).  It felt good to vent, especially since I know I’ll have to tone it down when I talk to the girl who loves it.

At least it’s over.  I know I could’ve quit reading it at any time but I’m fairly stubborn and it was on my to-do list for the year so I saw it through.  And I’ll never read it again, even though (and I’ve been waiting the entire post to say this) it was a whale of a tale.

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Tourist Season

August 23, 2011 at 10:24 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

As I walked through the alley from Sears Tower to the train station yesterday after work, reflecting on how happy I was that the Monday work-day was over, I noticed a group of maybe 7 or 8 girls roughly my age huddled around the large train map on the platform.  It briefly registered that they were probably tourists and then I started thinking about the amazing pizza smells coming from the nearby restaurants.  Unfortunately those smells often mix with the cigarette smoke and garbage smells of the alley and form a truly nasty concoction that I only put up with because it walking through there prevents me from dealing with the crowds of people in the loop.  That was also on my mind.  But I digress.

Wait, I don't see it...

As I climbed the stairs to catch my train, I again saw these girls and I could plainly see they were very confused.  I heard one whisper to another “Just ask someone” and before they could say anything else, I asked them if they needed any help.  One girl said “Willis Tower” while the other said “Sears” and I had to laugh.  I took a step to the left and simply pointed, as we were directly across from one of the main entrances with huge lettering reading WILLIS TOWER above the revolving doors.  That’s when the girls looked up and I was treated to all of the surprised exclamations I’ve heard before (yup, it’s tall).  They thanked me (with their British accents, which made the whole experience just a tad more understandable) and after I gave them specific instructions on how to enter the building for the tours and not the offices, they went on their merry way.

Part of me wanted to roll my eyes but the other part remembers how turned around I would get (ahem…still do) in this city and I had to cut them some slack.  I was once a tourist here too and it wasn’t that long ago.  But as nice as I am, I still laughed all the way to the train.

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Weekend in Review

August 22, 2011 at 11:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This was one of those weekends that made me glad to be alive.  Okay honestly most weekends are pretty great simply due to the fact that I’m not working but these past few days were a bit more exciting than others and I’m going to do a bit of a recap here (mostly so I can look back at this while in the depth of winter and remind myself why I live in this city in the first place).

Friday evening was spent with the bf dancing at Chicago Summerdance, a free dance session in Grant Park.

Dancin' Fools

We tried to attend this last week but my horrid sense of direction led us to Millennium Park instead, where we watched a free classical concert while sitting on our butts.  This week we made it to the right place and were treated to zydeco music and the Cajun 2-step (appropriate since I have Cajun heritage and rather enjoy zydeco).  There was an instructor who taught the crowd the steps and then everyone basically danced around in a big circle and tried not to hurt each other.  I’m proud to say that we succeeded and while I won’t be appearing on Dancing with the Stars anytime soon, we got a kick out of it and had a great time.  There were people there of all ages and other groups sat around in chairs or on blankets and watched everyone else trip over their own feet.  It was an eclectic looking bunch but I think everyone had a ball.

I wonder how much the pilots had to train before they quit throwing up in their helmets

I spent Saturday morning doing my docent stuff at the Field Museum, where I also managed to complete 2/3 of a script I’m working on for the new tour I’m putting together.  Besides that, I reunited a little lost girl with her father and gave hand-written directions to “that restaurant where the servers are mean to you” to some lady tourist and her family.  I then braved the rain and a massive amount of Cubs fans on a non-airconditioned train ride where I had an elderly man check me out and ask about the scar on my leg.  I told him it was from a knife fight in 8th grade.  10 minutes after going underground on the train I was back outside and shocked to see blue skies and sunshine, where misery and water had been just before.  This worked out well as the Chicago Air and Water Show was scheduled to go on and I was able to meet with my guy and some of his friends for a trip to the beach, where we had front row seats for the action in the sky.  It was pretty cool and after the show we all went to Zapatista for a hugely glorious Mexican meal that left me wanting to take a nap.  Seriously, the guacamole was some of the best I’ve ever had.  Once we were nearly comatose we decided it would be a great idea to swing by Mollys Cupcakes for dessert.  I’ve heard of these pricey treats before but had never had one myself and while I was skeptical at shelling out near $5 for a single cupcake, in the end I had to admit it was worth it.  That thing was simply amazing.

As Seen on Rachel Ray

Seriously, just look at it.  This was the peanut butter and chocolate cupcake (and I actually managed to savor it instead of simply inhaling it like I originally planned).  Yes, we bought milk to go with.  The store itself was cute too and there were actual wooden swings at the counter.  They were unfortunately chained to the ground and while I quickly saw how to unhook them I decided against getting thrown out my first time there.  So we just enjoyed the cupcakes instead and then we really felt comatose.  Which is probably why I spent the rest of the evening laying on the couch and becoming even more addicted to The Sopranos (yes I know I’m roughly a decade late on the trend here but better late than never, right?).

Right.

Sunday was spent sleeping off my food hangover, having some phone conversations with family and old friends and working on my magazine stuff for next month, as I have a deadline this week.  I may or may not have mentioned that they’ve had me doing video blogs in correlation with my articles lately and that is a trip in itself.  I’m not entirely comfortable on camera so they typically take a while to shoot and I can’t have anyone else over while I’m working on it because I’m already so awkward as it is.  I managed to get everything finished with enough time for a trip to Target left over.  After a dinner of butternut squash and spinach ravioli, I spent a while trying to turn back time so I didn’t have to wake up for work Monday but my time-turning abilities must be slacking because Monday is as Monday does.

I know the work week probably won’t be comparable to my weekend any time soon but it’s a nice day and I have Reese Ice Cream in my freezer at home so things could be worse.  For instance, I could be allergic to cupcakes.

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Jealous

August 19, 2011 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

This is where my sister is right now:

I wanna be a witch so bad...

For those of you not in the know, this is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  One would think I’d be jealous of the week-long vacation she’s had, her time on the beach, many adult beverages or quality time with friends, but no.  I’m jealous that she got to see this place without me, especially since I’m the one who turned her on to the damn books in the first place.  I’m jealous of her looking at wands and drinking Butterbeer.  I’m jealous that she’s the 5th or 6th person in my family who has made it to this place while I have not.

I suppose I’ll live, and I’ll be in Guatemala in less than two months so if I had really wanted to go down to Orlando, I’m sure I could’ve made it happen in place of this volcano-climbing trip I’ve got planned.  I’m sure I’ll make it one of these days and until then I’ll look at pictures and dream.  And make my sister tell me all about it.

Happy Weekend!

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Dinner Party

August 18, 2011 at 9:04 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Last night, I had two lovely lady friends over for dinner and drinks.  My picture of the meal didn’t turn out how I wanted but I’m going to describe it here anyway because it was quick, easy and delicious.  We had:

That's what I did

  • Pita bread with two types of hummus (pesto/basil and sun-dried tomato for the extremely curious)
  • Vegetables roasted with a balsamic vinaigrette
  • Mashed potatoes with garlic, red pepper, Parmesan cheese, basil and oregano
  • Veggie burgers with spinach and pepper-jack cheese

This dinner was brought to you by Trader Joe’s.  Seriously, everything we wound up with came from there in one way or another.  And while the vegetables was/are amazing and seemingly fancy, I should admit that I simply heated them up out of the frozen bag they came in.  Still totally worth it.  The veggie burgers were tossed on the George Foreman to perfectly toast the bread and melt the cheese and then we sat down to feast.  Paired with a couple of bottles of wine and some entertaining conversation, our dinner was a great way to end a Wednesday night.  I was excited for some leftovers today but sadly, nothing made it out of my kitchen uneaten.  I guess that’s a sign they liked it?

I’ve said this before but I really enjoy this whole having-a-kitchen-with-counter-space thing!

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Hot Dog

August 17, 2011 at 10:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Um, holy crap.  Want to see the world’s largest dog?

This is not Photoshopped

Here is a link to the article about George The Great Dane, the current record holder for the world’s largest pooch.  Can you believe that he was originally the runt of his litter?  Just goes to show you that big things can still come in small packages!

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