Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I'm in recovery mode after my sister's fabulous wedding this past weekend, and this song, Weightless by Courtney Jones, is just what I needed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why I Love Living in Chicago

It's a big city that often feels like a small town.  You can be anonymous if you want, but all it takes is a little friendliness and suddenly you know all of your neighbors the first night you move in.

We really take advantage of our summers.  Sure, they can be short, but no where else offers as much fun packed into so few months.  There's a festival every weekend, and no end of strange and fun activities to participate in (meatloaf cook-offs, protests, hipster versions of The Pirates of Penzance* and other odd plays, architectural boat tours, flashmobs, and segway tours,** to name but a few).

Beautiful beaches and gorgeous lakefront a mere 3 blocks from our door.

The Red Line has the most entertaining people watching I have ever experienced.  No where else can you experience political grand standing, Bible thumping preaching, frenzied gambling, drunken baseball fan debauchery, and the full gamete of weird outfits, hairdos, and accessories (stuffed bird perched on someone's shoulder, thong jeans, a cheek piercing) in only a few short stops.

A good mix of nationalities, cultures, values, and races.  Our neighborhood hosts people of every hue and nationality.  Within a small block radius, we can choose to eat Turkish, gourmet, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, Greek, Chicago hot dogs, Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Italian.  It is so much easier to embrace differences and appreciate uniqueness when people become your friends and neighbors.

Unlike NYC, we have alleys to put our garbage in so it's not on the front curb.

Green space.  It seems as if nearly all of the city's residents truly appreciate plants and flowers.  As soon as the weather permits, people are digging in the dirt to plant gorgeous things in every available nook and cranny.  I have seen flowers planted in tires, bathtubs, and buckets.  Better yet, I've seen vacant lots turned into garden plots for the neighborhood to tend vegetables while it is waiting to be sold!  What a great deal between owner and residents!   

Environmental appreciation is growing here.  The recycling program is supported.  The city encourages (and subsidizes) its citizens to use rain barrels and compost bins (we have both).  There are many bike lanes, and it is easy to get anywhere in the city by bike, L, or bus.  In fact, most of the time it's far preferable to driving because it's usually faster, especially when you factor in finding-a-parking-spot time.

A lot of people complain about the long, cold winter (including my husband), but I don't mind it too much. The apocalyptic snowstorms don't happen every year, but when they do, you get days off of work and neighborhood snow shoveling parties.

*Which was awesome! Their outfits were truly odd and there was a girl playing a handsaw, people. WORTH IT!

**I don't care if these are common to other cities, it's still a ridiculous concept, especially when you see them wearing their neon orange safety vests as they motor around Millennium Park. Really? You can't just walk?

Photo of Downtown Chicago, by me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Random Facts Friday

Favorite food (right now): Ice Cream Snickers bars

Restaurant I Love: Roti (It's a small Chicago chain that is like a Mediterranean version of Chipotle. Soo good!)

Still Haven't Mastered: Working out everyday. Not sure that I've been trying particularly hard to achieve this goal lately though.

Hate: Being stuck in a cube on what might be some of the last perfect days of the summer.

Love against my will: The LC line at Kohl's. I totally don't want to buy anything that might somehow put money in Lauren Conrad's pocket, but darn it those clothes are super cute.

Latest Aggravation: Being in job official job announcement for the fourth month running. We've actually started wondering if they'll make an announcement before the end of the year. We're all doing the work of the new jobs already though, of course. I'm sure it's not deliberate, but they're certainly getting the work without having to pay the appropriate salaries.

Most ridiculous thing I have done recently: Got a spray tan. Stinky, but looks pretty good. I'm not orange, at least.

Most Recent Book I Read: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Thumbs up)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Recent Conversation #8

Him: Um, I don't think I'm going to be able to wear the grey suit to your sister's wedding.
Me: Why?
Him: Because the cat threw up on it.
Me: What!? How did that happen to your GOOD SUIT?
Him: It must have been when it was lying on the bed.
Me: Why was it on the bed though?
Him: (Suspicious lack of an answer.) I could wear the black one instead?
Me: No, give it to me. I'll see if I can get it out.
Him: What shirt should I wear?
Me: How about your light blue one?
Him: But then it will be exactly what I wore to our wedding.
Me: Oh, good point. Okay, how about the white one?
Him: What's that?
Me: Argh! That's ring around the collar which happens when you don't clean your shirts every time you wear them. That's not gonna come out.
Him: Should I get rid of it?
Me: Yes, but now you don't have a shirt! Why are you only figuring this out the NIGHT BEFORE WE LEAVE?
Him: (Suspicious lack of an answer.)
Me: Okay, how about this blue shirt?
Him: But then it's like what I wore for our wedding.
Me: This is darker blue. Plus you're wearing a tie. And you'll be wearing the jacket. That's actually a completely different outfit. Are we good? Do you have shoes?
Him: At work. With my belt.
Me: ! Fine. Don't forget them or we'll have to buy some from Walmart for you. Again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Modesty is Not Among My Virtues

Here are those grand personality traits, talents, and characteristics I mentioned yesterday. I am limiting my list to a mere 10 to match my previous list, but please do not think that this covers all the lovely things about me.  Because it doesn't. I have great reserves of talents and general awesomeness, some of them well-known, some hidden. But not modesty. There are no hidden reserves of that. (A good friend suggested I list 31 in honor of my 31st birthday, and though I certainly could, it would be a very long post that might take a few months to publish.)

1. Empathy. (I am usually excellent at choosing the right words to say to someone. Usually because this characteristic is sometimes at odds with my lack of tact and inability to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes it's a case of saying the right thing AND THEN I KEEP TALKING which leads to somehow putting my foot in my mouth. This can tend to ruin the effect of those lovely words I just said.)

2. Self-Analyization. (Our couples therapist once looked at me in what I choose to characterize as awe, and said, "Wow, you analyze it all, don't you?" Yes. Yes, I do. And I'm usually right, which even she admitted.)

3. Humor. (I would say I am rather funny in typical conversation and in my writing, though it's true that I also have a particularly dirty mind. I think that comes from me not getting a joke in elementary school that caused the other kids to snicker. From then on I apparently made it my goal to see the dirty side of everything so as not to be left out ever again. This, in truth, has led to some awkward moments in business meetings where I am the only one holding in my snickers. Still, we can't go back. I, sadly, cannot undirty my mind. However, it does mean that I always get the joke. It also means that I nearly always have to explain that joke to my husband.)

4. Cooking. (I'm good at following a recipe, of course, but better than that, I've learned to throw things together to make something from scratch that tastes pretty freakin' fantastic. And better yet, I can create dishes from scratch that are reminiscent of a wide range of cultures; I'm not just handy with Italian, American, or Mexican flavours. Sure there are dishes that I'm not great at-still want to master Jambalaya-but most of my dishes turn out well.)

5. Reading (I'm a Reader, with a capital R. I love books, and a new book is always more interesting then the 50 I have on my book shelf waiting to be read. I read every word; I'm not one of those speed readers that you may have seen on early Saturday morning PBS. And still, even with reading every word, I can read a 600 page book in 5-6 hours.

6. Craftiness/Creativity. (I will pretty much try my hand at any craft teaching myself the basics. I am usually able to create something pretty great after only a few tries. I will tackle big projects, learning how to do it as I go along, which is how I came to reupholster our couch. This sometimes means, of course, that I only do some projects once because they're insane, but at least I can claim to have done it. My creativity comes in handy in other ways too; I can come up with solutions for fixing things around the house that are almost as good as the original, and I can find creative uses for all sorts of random thrift/antique store finds.)

7. Taste in Music. (I am pretty proud of this strength as anyone listening to my playlist at the Leisure Games this year would be sure to tell you. Under the influence of alcohol I may have repeated my claim to have good taste a few hundred times too many for people to fully believe it. Sadly, I'm relatively sure my playlist spoke for itself. My taste in music is eclectic and wide-ranging, helped in part by Paste Magazine (heard of Zee Avi, anyone?) and a friend who is a band manager (Knock Out by GD & TOP=pure awesome), but also because I listen to anything and everything I come across.)

8. Intelligence. (I solved that Chicken, Fox, and Grain in the Canoe puzzle in no time. Can you? Also, I know just enough about String Theory to be dangerous in a scientific conversation. My excellent memory and ability to problem solve does me wonders in all sorts of smartypants conversations and in winning every argument with my husband.)

9. Rhythm. (My fellow dance competition teammates from my third grade Hangin' Tough crew would likely be surprised to see this on my top ten list after the tears-mine-they suffered through as I failed again and again to grasp the simple routine, but when there's not a routine I am damn good at shakin' my moneymaker. I guess it took letting go of worrying about "not getting it" right away for me to be good at dancing. And guess what? I can do Zumba routines with the best of them. Wish I could remember that Hangin' Tough routine, I bet I'd kill it now.)

10. Passion. (I feel strongly about nearly everything. This, of course, makes me a good match for Nathan who feels passionately about few things more than red lights, chow mein noodles, and Steve Kerr. I laugh easily, cry freely, and get worked up about the injustices of the world, my husband, and my boss. I throw myself into activities and events wholeheartedly. I plan one heck of a party, and I certainly get credit for at least half the success of the annual McArdle Leisure Games. But more than that, I love wildly, with my whole heart and soul. I would do practically anything for anyone I love, and I believe I've done relatively well at showing them that.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Things at Which I Do Not Excel

Now that I am no longer 30, I think it is important to do a bit of self-analysis. I guess 30 was my milestone year to take stock. In so doing, I took a moment to comment on my faults and my strengths. Let's start with my weaknesses...

I'm going to limit it to ten today, so please do not feel the need to tell me I've left anything out.

1. Patience (From trying to tell Nathan how to play Plants v. Zombies to how he's not chopping the onions correctly-But seriously, those pieces have to be somewhat uniform if you want them to cook evenly, right?-my patience is, shall we say, lacking. Teaching was a career path I never even considered both to protect my own sanity and to prevent future generations from developing inferiority complexes and high therapy bills.)

2. Bossiness. (See above. At least I am aware that I am pushy. I am moderately good at biting my tongue when my advice is not taken. Only moderately though. It has taken years of work to at least ask Nathan first, "Can I make a suggestion?" I have FINALLY reached the point where I can keep it to myself half the time when he invariably says, "Nope." And this is progress. You're welcome, Nathan.)

3. Self-Control ("Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment." Unfortunately, my bridge is one of those precarious rope bridges with the large gaps that yawn above the great jaggedy rocks below.)

4. "Managing Up." (And pretty much all that other crap there is office jargon to describe. I should try to be better at this, but I just can't muster the interest. Some people appreciate this stance, but sadly, not those people who have ever been capable of furthering my career.)

5. Sending packages on time (Probably a record setter for the latest wedding gift ever mailed. I was super thrilled to have sent two baby gifts recently that actually arrived BEFORE the baby was born. However, sadly they went out in the same shipment as three or four other baby gifts that were to babies who are now at least 6 months old.)

6. Keeping my thoughts to myself. (I have a blog, so yeah, there's that. Also not good at disguising my facial expressions. Poker face, I have not. One of my co-workers is fantastic at this; I'm trying to learn from her example though it is a Mount Everest of a goal.)

7. Tact and Subtlety. (This has gotten me into enough awkward situations that I am well aware enough of this weakness to first AVOID the mess if at all possible. If it's not, I try to follow Nathan's example and talk less, get quieter, and not make any abrupt movements. It seems to work for him in most instances though still not in arguments with me.)

8. Refraining from being over dramatic. (Sure, I'm a bit of a drama queen. I jump to conclusions and may occasionally throw things-pillows, not plates, of course-and I often pull the whole freak out before I think it through deal, and yes, I worry about EVERY possibility of a situation even the impossibilities. But it certainly doesn't help that Nathan is so low key that even my modest freak outs look ridiculously overblown.)

9. Modesty. (Sure, I excel at wearing underwear, but I'm not so good at keeping my proclamations in check concerning how awesome I am. I do like to congratulate myself publicly on my achievements. I'm not working to improve this trait. I think my husband needs these reminders in order to fully appreciate me. I like to think of this as self-marketing.)

10. Being positive. (Sure, my job might have been wildly frustrating this past year, but how many other fantastic things did I have going on that I was ignoring to focus on gnashing my teeth and wailing about how I was under-appreciated and never getting a promotion? I have a tendency to obsess, and I'm working on increasing noticing the positive, or at least trying not to say negatives aloud as often.)

Tomorrow, my good points. Of which I have decidedly more than ten (and is probably why people can usually put up with these faults.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chevrons are the New Stripes

Chevrons, which is usually used as a highbrow word for zigzags (though they're not exactly the same thing), are everywhere! Thought I'd do a little Photoshop practicing with some of my favorite finds.

1. Oversized Chevron Clutch, $28, Pieces by Jen
2. Ziggy Chair, $279, Urban Outfitters
3. Organic Chevron Bedding, $24-109, West Elm

4. International Concepts dress, $79, Macy's.
5. Note Card Set, $7.50, Wit and Whistle

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Anniversary Dinner Outfit

A Fancy Night Out

Fancy nights out happen so rarely for us that of course I've got an outfit planned. Who am I kidding? I've practically got the menu at North Pond memorized. I'm pretty sure that Nathan will be wearing shoes. Other than that, no guarantees on what he'll show up wearing.

Ain't She Sweet Dress, from Shabby Apple.
Citrus clutch, Hobo International, last year.
Boots, indigo by Clarks, last year.
Bracelet, vintage.
Necklace, by me.
Dolman Cardigan, American Eagle. (Not necessarily a great addition to the outfit, but I've been living in it, so I'm sure I'll wear it at some point tonight.)