Busy Bee, Busy Me

September 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

It has been a super busy week and there are no signs of it letting up.  I’m not complaining because pretty much all of my busyness has been for good reasons, but I’m still exhausted.  Here’s a rundown of what I’ve been up to:

  • Last Saturday – treated an old coworker friend to dinner for his birthday while navigating the drunken streets of Wrigleyville
  • Sunday – made a spaghetti squash dinner (which was easier and tastier than I had anticipated!) for a couple that Scott and I are friends with and played the role of hostess with the most-ess
  • Monday – came home after work and entertained a buddy of mine with wine and my fabulous conversational skills
  • Tuesday – hit the gym then got to catch up with a lovely lady pal of mine on the phone for about an hour
  • Wednesday – met my cousin and aunt downtown (who are checking out grad schools for my cuz) after work and helped them drink two bottles of wine at a fancy roof-top bar
  • Thursday – rushed home after work to hop in the shower before rushing back out to meet said aunt and cousin for a brew, then gave them a tour of the neighborhood and our apartment before going to another bar for dinner and a few more drinks
  • Tonight – right after work I’m meeting Scott and we’re going to volunteer at a fancy event for the food pantry I help out at, where I’ll be taking money, passing out a book where the proceeds benefit the pantry, doing whatever else they ask and trying to sneak food and drinks when no one is looking – this will likely go to 11pm or midnight
  • Tomorrow – gotta be at the Field Museum no later than 10am as all of the docents are having a special going-away luncheon for the president of the museum while welcoming the new guy – after that I’ll be doing the regular docent thing for a bit
  • Sunday – HOLY CRAP RIGHT NOW I DON’T HAVE PLANS ON THIS DAY so I will probably sleep in, go back to the gym, go grocery shopping, sleep some more, etc.
  • Monday – a fundraising event for two friends who are preparing to run the Chicago Marathon – they’re doing all the hard work so going out for a night to a restaurant I’ve never been to is the very least I can do

Buzzzzz

And that’s it, because I refuse to plan any further ahead than that.  And yes, I’m tired just thinking about all of this.  But like I said, I can’t really complain as all of these things are good things and involve the people I love.  And tomorrow night I’ll spend some quality time with something else that I truly love – my living room couch.

Hope your weekend is a good one!  And if it’s a nice relaxing one, try to get some relaxation in for me.

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September Book Club Review

September 26, 2012 at 9:47 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

For this month’s book club, we read I’ve Got Your Number, a novel by Sophia Kinsella.  She’s the author who wrote the Confessions of a Shopaholic books and this was the first time I’d read anything by her.  The plot centered around a young, newly engaged woman who managed to lose her engagement ring, which just so happens to be a family heirloom for her husband-to-be.  She then had her cell phone stolen but luckily found a fully functional one in the trash (just go with it) and decided to use it as a point of contact should anyone find her missing ring.

Let it go to voicemail

The found phone belonged to the personal assistant of a businessman who doesn’t seem to mind allowing some strange woman to have access to all of his business emails and contacts as she has promised to forward him messages while she waits on news of her ring.  I saw where this plot was going (warning: spoilers ahead) a mile away as the young woman and the businessman develop quite the intimate relationship via texting so when they wound up in one anther’s arms as she wore the dress she had originally planned to wed another man in, I wasn’t too surprised.  There were a few twists I didn’t see coming and I think I may have laughed a few times but to be brutally honest, this book didn’t do much for me.  It was an admittedly quick and easy read, which is what we were all going for, but I found the main character annoying, immature and capable of making so many cringe-worthy bad decisions that I had a really hard time rooting for her.  It was sort of like reading through one of the longest, most uncomfortable episodes of Sex and the City ever made.

Eh, you can’t love ’em all.  For dinner, we went to DMK Burger Bar, which isn’t too far from my neighborhood and is apparently a fairly new and trendy place.  The atmosphere was fun but it was a little loud for a book club meeting and the fact that they don’t take reservations nor will they seat a table until every member of the party is there is fairly annoying.  We only had five in our group and waited an extra 20 minutes to be seated but luckily the food came out fairly fast so we didn’t starve too long.  I wasn’t really in a burger mood so I had some specialty mac and cheese, which was pretty good and just the right size.  One other annoyance was the fact that you had to order fries as either an individual or as a table since burgers didn’t come with anything as a side.  For the price paid for the patties, fries should be included in the deal (this is America, after all).  You can tell I’m upset by this because I didn’t even have a burger…I felt it was cheap and just plain wrong.  We did share some as a group and they were tasty but not amazing.

All in all, the book and restaurant were a little lackluster but the company was, as always, entertaining and so it was still a fun night out.  The next time I have a hankering for a fancy vegggie burger I’ll probably stick closer to home and go back to The Bad Apple  (where we’ve had a few book club meetings before), where huge amounts of fries are liberally given with your meal and it’s not so loud that you can’t have a conversation.  Next month we’ll be reading a book I already know and love and going to an Italian place I’ve yet to try out, so look for that sometime in October!

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Something Something Some Football?

September 25, 2012 at 9:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I just tell myself I am probably not supposed to understand it…

I can’t remember the last time I felt as out of the loop as I did this morning.  During my morning commute and daily perusal of Facebook and other social media sites, I quickly realized that 98% of the things I was seeing were related to last night’s Monday Night Football game.  Apparently there were some bad calls?  Referees are causing outrage?  Something about a ball?  Yeah, I don’t know.  I don’t really care for football and luckily neither does Scott (who probably knows less about this incident(s?) from last night than I do, which is really saying something) so we spend our Sundays and Mondays…well, not watching football.  However I almost feel like I should just so I can have a general idea of what all the kids these days are talking about.  I actually went so far as to ask a coworker about it when he came into work this morning just so I could enlighten myself and he gave me a basic run down of what happened.  To be completely honest though, my mind blanked over and I quit listening not long after he began his explanation.  I just can’t make myself care about it!  And I’m no longer going to feel like I should.  From now on when people begin to write or talk about these football shenanigans, I’m going to go to my own little happy place and think about things like puppies and beer (but not puppies in beer because that would just be weird).

Are you ready for some football?  I’m not, and I don’t think I ever will be.

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Full of Fall

September 24, 2012 at 1:31 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Happy Fall!  This is officially my favorite time of the year and my weekend was spent delving into all that this season has to offer.

An apple a day…

Friday night Scott and I kicked everything off by watching Night of the Living Dead…which was as hilarious as it was spooky.  I know we’ll be watching our fair share of scary movies in the weeks to come so this old school black and white classic was a good way to begin.  On Saturday, we went to an Apple Festival in a nearby neighborhood and enjoyed some cider while watching live music, checking out booths and stopping in local stores.  The festival featured apple pizza (I didn’t try it but it did look pretty good), apple beer, apple cider and of course…apples.  Rain had threatened the entire weekend but the weather was actually perfect – crisp, cool and sunny, which allowed me to bust out a light scarf and some old boots.  I’m not huge into fashion but one of the reasons I love living in a climate with seasons is that it gives me the opportunity to change my wardrobe and accessories from to time.

Which is one of the reasons I headed to Target after the Apple Fest.  I walked to work on Friday morning with a light sweater and flip-flops, which I’m sad to say is no longer appropriate clothing for this time of the year.  I was in the market for a new light coat and of course Target never disappoints, so I’m now not so frozen on my morning commute.  The other reason I wanted to swing by the store was to load up on some Halloween decorations…I realize it might be a bit early and all but Scott and I both are fans of decorating and we needed more spider webs and lights to create the mood we were going for.  After pulling out all of our decorations from last year and utilizing a few extension cords and a box of tacks, our apartment became spookified once again.  We even decorated our back balcony and the dinner guests we had over last night seemed more impressed with our Halloween spirit than weirded out by how early we were decorating, so clearly we associate with the right kinds of people.

Sidenote:  Saturday night was also the long-awaited performance of my celebrity crush on SNL and I just want to put it out there that he parodied the stripper film Magic Mike in the opening sequence…meaning he did a strip show of his own.  Pretty much the best SNL ever.  That is all.

 

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At Long Last

September 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Friday has arrived!

My neck feels better (somewhat…still not 100% but I’ll take the current 83%), I’ve remembered my wallet for the past two days and most important, my uncle is feeling better and will hopefully be able to leave the hospital sometime in the near future.  So thanks for all the good wishes, as I fully believe they worked!  I also had a fun book club last night with my literate lady friends (recap to follow next week) and I got a free doughnut this morning in the lobby of our building (people were giving them out as a promotion, it’s not like I found it behind a plant) so things are looking up.  Add to that the fact that my favorite season officially starts tomorrow and I have a laid-back weekend on the horizon…well, not even a crappy work day can bring me down now.  Take that, stupid Excel sheet with 14,000 cells for me to review!  And the cherry on the no-longer shit cake?

He has had my heart since Angels in the Outfield

Joseph Gordon Levitt, the only man Scott knows I could possibly one day leave him for, is hosting SNL this week!  Consider my Saturday night plans set in stone.

C’mon, 5pm!

 

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Just Another Manic Wednesday

September 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

This is one of those posts where I’m going to whine and feel sorry for myself.  Here goes:

Yesterday morning I woke up with the cursed stiff neck that I’ve now experienced two other times in my life.  It makes it difficult to really even move so of course my evening gym plans were out.  I spent the night on the couch, alternating a heating pad and ice pack, while eating soup and generally feeling miserable.  I’m dealing with the same thing today and staring at two computer screens for hours on end isn’t exactly helping.  I hurt.  And I’m on my period, which is super awesome.  In fact, I’m guessing the anti-malaria pills I’m still on have done what the doctor warned and thoroughly messed with the monthly reminder that I’m (thankfully) not knocked up because everything’s all out of whack and this is the longest, worst week I’ve had in years.  Oh, was that too much information?  Are you slightly uncomfortable, especially if you’re a male?  Well it’s a hard world out there so toughen up.

Wednesday Addams gets me

I also forgot my wallet at home today, which is something I’ve never done.  I took it out last night to walk to CVS to buy IcyHot and tomato soup and apparently forgot to put it back in my bag.  I didn’t realize this until I was in the train station this morning and at that point, if I turned around to go home I was just going to curl up in bed and start the day over again, which my boss wouldn’t have appreciated.  So I begged the CTA guy who sees me every morning to let me on without my card with the promise that I’ll show it to him next time, so that was one hurdle overcome.  Unfortunately, once I was on the train I realized that I wouldn’t be able to get into our office without my badge.  Since The Tower Formerly Known as Sears isn’t exactly lax on security, they wouldn’t just wave me in as did the CTA guy.  My options were to either call our front desk to have them send someone down to get me or to stand around and wait for someone from my office to walk by so they could vouch for me and get me upstairs.  Alas, it was too early for anyone to be answering our phones so I stood around like a weirdo for almost 15 minutes before seeing a familiar face and begging for assistance.  Eventually I made it, only to realize that there was no way the afternoon CTA attendant would let me on for free so I had to beg some more and borrow a few dollars from a coworker so I can get my sorry ass home tonight.

As a cherry on my shit cake, I have a seriously ill family member whom I’m more than a little worried about.  Hopefully he’ll be out of the hospital and back to his routine before we know it but the whole thing just reminds me once again how much it sucks to live far away from so many I love.  And while I know I used this post to bitch and moan about my own troubles, if you can do one thing for me it would be to send some good vibes in the direction of my uncle.  I know he needs them more than I do.

And since I won’t be going to the gym again tonight, I’ll just count down the hours until I can be reunited with my ice pack, my couch, and hopefully good updates about one of my favorite family members.  Thankfully tomorrow is Thursday!

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Making Sense of Cents

September 17, 2012 at 11:32 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no mathematical genius.  So perhaps what I’m about to tell you does make actual fiscal sense but I’ll be honest – it’s about as confusing to me as Finite was in college.

There’s a new woman who works in my office and for the last few days, she’s been begging people to let her buy them Starbucks pastries or beverages because apparently she has some rewards card and she needs a certain amount of points in order to remain a member.  She accrues points by making separate purchases so she’s trying to buy as much as she can as quickly as she can so she doesn’t lose whatever other benefits she has by being this fancy card holder.  Now, I’m not much of a Starbucks drinker (because their coffee is too strong but mostly too expensive) and I won’t even pretend to be privy to the special, super secret knowledge that cardholders seem to possess.  Also, I’m too lazy to look much into it.   But it seems to me that making multiple purchases of expensive products that you wouldn’t otherwise make doesn’t exactly financially outweigh whatever benefits you could be getting from some plastic, semi-exclusive card.  I’m not sure exactly how much this woman has spent out of her own pocket but I know that she’s bought things for myself and at least four other coworkers two mornings in a row.  I even offered to give her some cash for my blueberry muffin but she said that since I was helping her, she was happy to buy it.

Um, is it really worth it?

Am I missing something?  This woman is our accountant for crying out loud, so surely she’s got it figured out.  Either way, I guess I’ll let her buy me more pastries if she wants and keep my mouth shut about my real thoughts on the matter.  Good thing I have this blog to confess my doubts on!

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Ecuadorian Adventure 2012!

September 13, 2012 at 8:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

So here it is.  The summary post that’s actually fairly long so you might as well grab a glass (or three) of wine or a few cold brews and get settled in…

Hotel #2…this one had a fireplace! And we managed to not burn the place down.

We arrived in Ecuador safely and were met right outside of the baggage claim by our guide, Patricio (Pato).  He was ready and waiting to gather our 28 or so fellow travelers which was a relief, as I wasn’t completely comfortable until we met up with our ride to the hotel.  We all boarded the bus we would know as our second home for the next week and were led to a surprisingly nice hotel where we enjoyed plenty of privacy and plenty of space.  This would be a common theme on the trip as every single hotel we stayed at was clean and comfortable, with some of them being downright super fancy (the last room we had actually was brand new and had a glorious jacuzzi but shh…we weren’t supposed to tell the others about that as they were limited and we scored one of the three available.  Thankfully no one from the trip knows about this blog).  So the hotels were a pleasant surprise compared to the hostel staying of my days of yore and it’ll be pretty damn difficult to go back to sharing one room with a dozen or so strangers now.  Is this what’s called growing up?  Only time will tell.

The food was a pleasant surprise too and every breakfast we had was paid for through the trip.  They mostly consisted of fruits, local vegetables such as the yuca, muffins/rolls and lots of freshly squeezed fruit juices.  Definitely put my usual granola bar to shame.  Some lunches and dinners were also covered and I marveled at the fact that I probably ate better while on the trip than I do at home, what with all of the fresh vegetables and grains rolling around.

Um yum

A highlight was the Ecuadorian soup which had potatoes, avocado and cheese.  SO good!  I also really enjoyed the varieties of fried and roasted bananas, which I never thought I’d say.  Something I didn’t try was the guinea pig but I think if I were a carnivore I’d have given it a shot…I don’t see how that’s too different from eating deer or pig or anything else, to be honest.  Some on our group enjoyed it while others were grossed out because “it could be someone’s pet”…well I had a guinea pig as a pet once and I’d have gladly deep-fried that thing on more than a few occasions if I thought I could’ve gotten away with it, so I didn’t pass judgement at all.

Now that we’ve covered accommodations and cuisine, I’ll move on to the really fun stuff.  This trip was full of adventures and things neither Scott nor I had ever experienced before, which is exactly what we were counting on.  We started off by touring some of historic World Heritage site Quito, then made our way to the Middle of the World, where we were able to straddle the Northern and Southern Hemispheres while taking the obligatory touristy photos.  There was a museum on the indigenous people of Ecuador at this site and you know I loved that!  Our next big stop (please note we did not do this all in one day) was to a gorgeous waterfall that was accessible via a small hike.  It was here that my exposed calves were bitten to shreds by some unholy biting devil fly and I’m still dealing with the aftermath a week later.  Luckily, I verified with a doctor that it’s not botfly so I won’t be pulling larva out of my leg anytime soon.  Rather, I’m stuck with chicken pox looking things and a desire to itch like I’ve never itched before.  It seems to slowly be getting better though, so that’s something.  And the waterfall and surrounding area was definitely worth it!

The Middle of the World as we know it! And I felt fine…

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself for now.

In the midst of all this travel, we had the opportunity to purchase coca leaves, which are the leaves that cocaine is derived from.  These leaves don’t have quite the same properties that the illegal drug does but they do help alleviate altitude sickness and aid in digestion, so of course most everyone on the trip tried them.  We also purchased candies and tea leaves, all of which were relatively cheap.  We weren’t walking around like characters from the Goodfellas or anything but it was a novelty we all enjoyed – and no, we didn’t try to bring any back with us.  A few people felt the elevation during the trip but the leaves, combined with the medicine we got before departure, helped both Scott and I feel fine for the duration.

Hot Springs Hotel

So now back to some of the sights: our last hotel before the Amazon featured hot springs in front of our rooms, which of course we all enjoyed.  They basically piped in natural hot water from nearby springs to these concrete tubs and it was a fantastic way to relax and stay warm in the high altitude.  Our stay in the Amazon was probably the highlight of the trip and we could only access our hotel via motor-powered canoes.  Our room featured a hammock on the back porch and it was harder than hell to leave when that time came.  While there, we visited a local family who showed us some of their cooking and jewelery making skills and we were also allowed to play with a blow gun (I was the first one to aim the dart at the little wooden monkey/pinata thing and I totally shot it in the ass.  Most other people missed completely so I’m fairly confident in my Amazon survival skills…or fairly confident in beginner’s luck).  We also spent a day hiking through some trails deep in the jungle with a local guide, were we were shown cotton and rubber trees along with all sorts of fascinating insects and plants.  We didn’t see many animals while on the hike but that’s mostly because a group of 15 tourists bumbling around is loud enough to scare things off from miles away.  We did spend some time in an animal sanctuary later though, where we saw four different kinds of primates, reptiles, lots of birds and more.  That place was cool because they take animals that are found on the black market (or some random dude’s hotel room, which happened with one specific jaguar-like cat) and rehabilitate them so they can be re-released into the wild.  They can’t always release all animals and if they’re too domesticated to make it then they take care of them on-site, but the primary goal is to give them as normal a life as possible.  Since I spent time in similar primate sanctuaries in South Africa, I really appreciated being able to see what another place can do for these animals.

The Amazing Amazon

After the Amazon, we drove through the Andes mountains a little more to a national park that was home to three large volcano’s, including Cotopaxi, which is the tallest and most active volcano in the world.  Talk about awesome.  I guess there are predictions that it’ll erupt again in the next 30 years or so and the last time it did it wiped out the town and sent ash as far away as Columbia, so it’s something to monitor.  While we were there, though, we just stood in it’s towering presence and thanked our lucky stars that it wasn’t billowing smoke and lava (speaking of lava, the volcano I was worried about erupting from a few posts ago didn’t do a thing on our trip and we never really even saw it as it was surrounded by clouds).

Our flight home left at midnight and so by the time we arrived at our apartment (tired, hungry, stinky and carrying tons of dirty laundry), we had been up for something like 32 hours.  The weekend upon our return was spent doing said laundry, grocery shopping and generally getting back into the swing of things, and it was nice to have a few days down time.  The entire trip was completely and totally worth it and I would absolutely recommend Gate 1 Travel to anyone who asked.

Cotopaxi

But if you go to Ecuador – bring toilet paper!  We ladies learned very quickly that most public restrooms were lacking so we stocked up when we could and just carried it in tow.  Luckily for most of us, I had Kleenex on me the day we first learned this hard truth, thus earning me the title of Girl Scout for a day or so.  But as for Gate 1, they were great and we may use them in the future (once we’re no longer too broke to travel).  The only drawback to the entire adventure (besides the bug bites which are finally looking somewhat better) was that a handful of people we rode around with more than a little obnoxious.  But that’s the sort of risk you run on a trip like that and the good people far outweighed the bad!  And it just goes to show, stupid and annoying can be found anywhere on the globe.

Oh yeah…we stopped at a bar that happened to be owned by a dude from Chicago. In Banos, Ecuador. Such a small world!

And that’s a wrap!  If you want to hear about anything in greater detail feel free to ask and if you’re lucky enough to be Facebook friends with me you can expect to see the photos here and many more uploaded…sometime.  Hopefully in the not too distant future. Scott and I both had an amazing time and I’m so grateful everything went as smoothly as it did.  Now to scrimp and save so we can plan our next great adventure!

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In Remembrance

September 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm (Uncategorized) ()

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She’s Alive!!

September 10, 2012 at 11:51 am (Uncategorized)

We made it home safe and sound but things have been a whirlwind ever since.  I hope to have a summary of the trip up sometime in the next few days so sit tight and I’ll tell you all about hiking the Amazon, cocoa leaves, hot springs, blow guns and everything else we experienced in a week that went much too fast!

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