Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's really going to happen

Happy New Years er'body.

(those are pomegranate seeds. More fun additions to my champagne in 2012)

The army

I am obsessed.

Bus driver

One of my favorite Chicago things is taking public transit home at the end of the night.

Not only do trains run pretty late (and some are 24 hrs - even buses) but the ride only costs you a penny (or it's free because sober bus drivers don't want to deal with drunk girls trying to find pennies in their drunk purses).

When feasible - its about 100% more awesome than a cab for the continuation-of-the-party atmosphere, the fiscally responsibility of it (starting the new year right!) and because it means that you don't have a drunk Frat guy standing in front of your cab refusing to move until you get out and give it to him.

I even brought some flats in my bag to ensure that this is the first-best bus ride of 2012.
Curling my hair is one of the many things I will start doing and then half way through, remember that I hate more than anything and isn't really worth it.

This also applies to making salsa.

All the cheese

In the past year, I have discovered that Brie is my absolute favorite food. 

Its impractical for a lactose-intolerant lady such as myself to have cheese as her go-to meal of choice, but I have discovered that if I eat other things in conjunction with the brie - the yummy ache feeling is less and the awesomeness is more.

So here are my favorite ways to prepare brie.

1- Brie and Caramelized Onion Bake.  Noble Pig hardly ever lets me down, but she does occasionally require me to alter her recipes.  I don't know if she lives at a high altitude or has some sort of space-jet oven and range, but the cooking times are never quite right for me.

This is pretty amazing and WAY easier than I thought it would be.  Presentation-wise, everyone is always impressed (something about wrapping something in puff pastry makes people think that you are a kitchen wizard...False).

The onions take way longer to caramelize than she says - and if you are using a standard size brie wheel, you only need about half an onion worth.  Watch the onions to make sure they don't burn. Make sure you unfold the puff pastry while its still cold (if it gets to room temperature its impossible to work with). Let it cool for at least 10 - 15 minutes to prevent a gooey, ugly disaster (that will be delicious but less visually impressive).

2 - BBQ Brie with Raspberries. The best grill discovery of the year! Invest in some of those cedar planks, this will not work without them. And you can use them for other fun things (although chances are you will just make this three or four times).  This is one those things where they say to simmer the sauce to make it get thick but then takes forever, and you call your mom and she tells you to turn the heat up high and that will make it sauce-y much faster.  Also, the sauce does not to be cooked on brie the grill (too messy!), just put it on when you're done with the grilling.

3 - Bite-sized Baked Brie.  I made this as one of the apps. for Christmas dinner this year and literally they were gone in less than 10 minutes.  I turned around to get the bacon-wrapped-dates out of the oven and poof.  Gone.  They are also incredibly, tediously labor-intensive. It would help to do them in stations with someone else, but I was all alone, incredibly hungover and reevaluating all of my life choices when I made them.  But the product was worth it.  I used raspberry jam instead of cherry (because I really don't like cherry and I already knew raspberry + brie = crazy delicious).  You need WAY less brie and jam in each little tart than you think you do. Make sure you grease whatever you cook them on (even if its parchment/wax paper). I made one less cut of the dough than she did and just did a fold over and it worked fine.

4 - Kahlua-Pecan-Brown Sugar Baked Brie. This is not really an appetizer.  Its actually kind of a dessert.  Or a PERFECT brunch pot luck item. Noble Pig is teh ish. The whole simmering bit with the sauce has again never worked for me.  I cook it on high for awhile and then turn it off. And then its perfect. I keep the pecans whole for aesthetic reasons.  This is the easiest thing on this list and it is so rich and fantastic. 

Here's the thing.  Putting just a wedge of brie on a plate with some crackers, is pretty much always going to satisfy...but if you are interested in taking your cheese-eating to the next level, her's how to do it.

Its happening

Guys.  I will write 150 blogs this year.  EVEN if that means I will be writing blogs until midnight tonight.  I have to accomplish something this year.

Despite the fact that I was gainfully employed for 12 months, maintained a healthy, lovely relationship with Boyfriend, discovered new things, kept in touch with old friends,  and left the country - I will not feel like its been a good year until I complete just one of these stupid goals.

I hate resolutions.


Two Things.

1- Hugh Grant dancing to the Pointer Sisters is probably my favorite minute of film...ever. I seriously cannot think of a single minute of a movie that makes me happier.

2 - When Laura Linney leaves the hot Brazilian for her crazy brother, I get SO.MAD. I love my brother (a LOT), but he better understand how the dice would fall if this was happening in our lives.

In 2012

I saw this on the North Ave bridge a few weeks ago and now its my New Years Resolution.  I don't quite know what it means to me just yet, but any time I think about it, it makes me feel a little better about everything.

No Old Home

This is where our last (and favorite) apartment used to be. They kicked us out because they said they were going to tear it down and then, 8 months later, they made good on that promise.  
I have never had a home stop existing before.  Every house and apartment I have ever had still stands, to this day.  And there is a comfort to that - to the memories continuing to exist in the walls and the strange spots on the floor. 

Even though we only lived here for a year - it was just as important as any other year.  We spent summer nights on the porch becoming even better friends with some of the best people we know, we cried about scary accidents and lost grandmothers, we cooked old meals and discovered new favorites.  We lamented the ugliest effing clock abandoned on the wall by the owners.  We laughed over and then embraced the brightest blue bathroom in the world.

I ride by this place every day on the train on the way to work and at one point the only piece of our old apartment you could see was that bright blue wall, exposed for the whole world. A piece of our history for everyone.

Nap > Treadmill

Here are some reasons I don't go to the gym:

I have been at work from 9 AM until 7:30 PM.  I have put out 4 - 5 metaphorical fires, run up and down the stairs and drank three bottles of water to keep from passing out.

Its the one night of the week when I don't have rehearsals/a social engagement/late meetings/a work crisis and I just want to go home and sit on my couch for once in my life.

I haven't eaten since noon, its 6:30.  I am about to pass out from hunger.  I have to make the choice between going to the gym with a disturbingly growly stomach or eating dinner as soon as possible (guess which one always wins?!)

I have to start laundry (like, out of underwear, need to start laundry) and if I don't go home and do it now - it won't be done until like 2 or 3 in the morning because our dryer sucks.

I went to the gym yesterday and my legs feel all wobbly and weird.

...while I understand that these are all excuses, they seem so legit in my mind. So in 2012, I am going to figure out a way to make working out happen without all the excuses AND without going in the morning (fate worse than death).

Friday, December 30, 2011

Book 20 - Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

So apparently, my brother, Buttmunch, called Boyfriend seeking Christmas present advice for me. All Boyfriend could apparently come up with was that I liked books by, "that gay guy who you guys listen to when you drive around."
  Image (via)
 This is actually a fairly accurate description of David Sedaris and Buttmunch was able to break the code and come through with this book which I had never read (despite the fact that its been out for Years).  And I got though it in less than 48 hours.

This book would be described as a delightful romp through the animal kingdom.  I bet you didn't know that animals talk and think like us, but they do.  They make bad choices and date people their parents don't like.  They are really sarcastic, judgement and just a little bit racist.

Its exactly the book you need when you are sick of humans and need a reminder that if you were a member of the animal kingdom, it would probably be just as bad.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

99 blog problems

As I come ever so much closer to not meeting my goal of writing 150 blogs in 365 days I have realized a few things that I hope to work on in the coming year.

Take more pictures.  I am bad at this.  All the best blogs are covered in photos.  And the bloggers take photos of mundane things that help the story.  They take pictures of food and shoes and artsy-half-shots of peoples faces.  More photos.  Then I need less words!  Brilliant.

Make a date. I have found I write best around 10 PM, on the couch in my jammies.  Unfortunately, I have found I am also very good at trolling facebook around this time.  I need to just make myself write every day.  With any luck the habit will help.

Write about my feelings.  While this blog is mildly entertaining (sort of?) it lacks any sort of actual depth.  And I think I either need to get way funnier, or start talking about feelings... I'll take some time to figure out which is best.

And so that's that.  I'll follow these rules and magically there will be more blog, right?! Right.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

there's no place

I've been home for about 36 hours now.  Mostly I have shopped and done regular work.

And thought about what the word home means.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Play well with others

I get irrationally angry about a lot of random things but the WORST is adults who don't follow rules and this is so evident when traveling. People who don't put their liquids in bags, try to carry on three bags, sneaking on the plane before your time, not putting one piece of carry on luggage under the seat in front of you, not turning off electronics (...Alec Baldwin) and seriously, the list goes on.

I know that most of these rules are completely asinine but they are still the rules - and you thinking that you are (for some bizarre made-up reason) above them, makes the entire process take longer for the rest of us.

When you refuse to do that liquids-in-bags jam you hold up the TSA agent as you yell at her (for doing her job??) and EVERYONE ELSE in the security line when she has to rescan your neosporin and jock itch cream (one has to assume you have an itchy crotch from being a dick). Follow the rules and you save all of us 5-7 minutes.

Here's the thing- flying is probably the worst thing ever, the drinks cost too much, we're all sitting way too close to one another and inevitably, we will probably arrive worse for wear (and an hour late). But if we can just all agree that none of us are special (unless we have paid an airline to say we are special, and that only counts for like 20%) and we will all just do what we can to make the experience less miserable for each other. If we could just agree to not be dicks, flying would suck that much less.

The end.


Just in case there is any confusion - that is a dog, in an elf costume, not on a leash - waiting at the gate with me. Oh, the humanity.

In the line

This blog post coming to you from the security line at Midway airport where we are all just trying to getthroughthis. The woman behind me is traveling with a cat that clearly has not been tranquilized into blissful, happy, not-meowing appropriate kitty traveling state. Everyone is mostly silent, 6 am being a little early for waiting-in-line carols. But most importantly - I am going to save the day on my flight by being the one person not using the overhead bin. It wasn't my choice but I had to check my bag and so now I am a one bag, under the seat, lady.

Merry traveling. Let's all get through this without cutting in line.

Edited to add - the holidays aren't complete without the TSA official who calls you little lady and then says "Spank You." Merry Holidays from the US Government. Your tax dollars at work.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

noodle memories

I wish I had the energy to make lasagna. But the fact of the matter is, I got home at 5:30 and still haven't taken off my scarf or moved much further than the couch. Its been a long weekend, and pictures of my very first lasagna (made a few months ago) will have to suffice.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Not dead (yet)

I didn't post yesterday - I was way too busy suffering from a hangover, eating my birthweight in sandwiches, catching up with old roommates-turned-friends an sleeping on the couch while Boyfriend put up our tree. I am not dead though, I promise.

Here is a picture of Zoo Lights, one of my favorite Chicago-Christmas traditions.

...just kidding. Here is some empty space while I try to figure out to upload pictures from my iPhone to blogger.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Probably Dying*

For the past few days, I have been experiencing this bizarre sensation - every two hours or so, the outside of my right thigh will warm up, like I've put a heating pad on it, or there is a vent next to me that has just turned on.  It sticks around for a minute or so and then it goes away.

The first few times I thought it was a vent near my seat, or something in my bag (which, when over that shoulder tends to hit that part of my leg) overheating (?? - clearly this was not something I really put that much thought into) - but then I noticed it happening even when I was just sitting and (duh) there was nothing in my bag. 

So what do I do?

Look on the internet.  Of course.

This has been even more impractical because it seems that there is this population of people who get this and no one seems to know what makes it happen, but they post like three times about how its happening and they don't know what's causing it and they're going to see some specialists...and then they stop posting.  They never come back to tell us what the eff is going on.

To me - this means they all died.  The answer cannot possibly be that people are demanding of free medical advice on the internet, but when they don't receive it they just go see someone but then never come back to give the rest of us overly-warm-on-the-right-side Folks an idea of what is happening.

People have speculated totally obvious things that would fit (B12 deficiency, stress, anxiety, pinched nerve, back problems) but also super terrifying things that I do not want to think about (MS, blood clots) and so now I am left feeling even more freaked out and terrified that I was before I googled my symptoms.

Mostly its one of those things I am having trouble ignoring.  It isn't like a pain in my back that goes away with some advil (I refuse to put any drugs in my system due to the blood clot piece) and it isn't like a runny nose that you just, you know, deal with - its this overwhelming sense of warmth - like my thigh is on a beach in Jamaica while the rest of me is here.

So anyway, if I post one or two more times and then you never hear from me again - I'm probably dead because my right leg is in the tropics and I am here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

168 hours (or 604,800 seconds)

7 days until I go home.  Real home.  Real, smelly, falling apart, over flowing with memories and comfort (heh) home.

That thought alone will get me through until next Wednesday.  I will battle my demons because I know on the other side is true victory in the form of cheap sales tax and a decent crab cake.

Right coast, here I come.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yes, and... Maybe later

My relationship with the improv world in Chicago is tenuous at best.  It boils down to the fact that I don't have the capacity (financial or otherwise) to hang out and get drunk until all hours during the week (or even on the weekend).

So I've always been on the outskirts.  Most people have no idea who I am, despite the fact that I know them.  They occasionally learn my name, we'll have an evening of exchanging life stories and declaring ourselves "good friends," and then the next time I see them - I am a stranger.

This is not me saying they are bad people, because (for the most part) they are not.  I hardly ever take that extra step to be all, "hey, remember that amazing night we shared full of PBR and comedy bits?"  I am sure if I jogged their memories, they would be perfectly nice - but I am too shy.

At any rate - the holidays are really the only times I am ever a member of the improv social scene, because the drinks are cheaper and I care less about other obligations that require me to function at early hours. And also because it's Christmas. And if you can't make friends with people who will not remember your name the next day at Christmas, when can you?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book 19 - The Cookbook Collector

Two books. 20 days. I can do this.  I might even finish the stack of New Yorkers while I am at it.  Believe in your dreams, guys.  Or my dreams anyway.

I did not do this book justice.  This book deserves a bubble bath, with candles and a nice bottle of wine.  Instead it got dirty, dirty train cars as I gulped it on commutes.

Image (via)
I probably will never read it again, but I loved every second of reading it. It had the occasional moments of Jane Austen-esque squeals and great moments of page-turning anticipation.

It also had some serious, serious eye rolling.  I think it only took four or five pages before there was a Chez Panisse reference.  Of course.  And the deus ex machina at the end (that I was seriously waiting for because Miss Goodman wrote herself into a serious corner with a few of the relationships in this book) was well done, but kind of frustrating because it just seemed too easy.

Also, I pretty much glossed over all of the IPO business.  I think I saw VC six or seven times before I took the time to figure out it meant venture capitalist.  I also glossed over most of the religious gobble-de-gook, it bothers me when people try to push a religious agenda on me while I am reading their novels, even when its subtle and unoffensive.  I read novels to get away from agendas.  Stop ruining everything.

That being said - it was a delight.  It made me really hungry.  And it made me want to spend time researching old books (and buy a beautiful house on the West Coast).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Not so barefoot

Tonight, while I stood in someone else's kitchen, negotiating with someone else's stove, doing the complicated ballet of "where can I put this?" - some things dawned on me.

I think understand why my Mom likes the kitchen (maybe?). There is a sense of control and confidence not found in other parts of the party. I may not know how to talk or listen to you- but I know how to be successful at this - at cooking for you and making you appreciate my company through a different kind of dialogue.

I understand why you cook - because it helps you not eat. Had I not been manning pizza making central - I would have been eating. I cooked five pizzas and ate 2.5 slices (way below my normal average). Cooking keeps my hands busy so I am not stuffing food in my mouth.

The sense of accomplishment from cooking for friends is one that, probably for the rest of my life - I will cherish above all others. There is something about feeding the ones you love- its inexplicable and wonderful. I so rarely feel proud of myself - that even when it is something silly (like putting toppings on crust & putting it in the oven) I relish in completely.

I should have learned sooner, picked up quicker, listened better when the secrets were emparted to me but alas, such is youth.

Also? I shouldn't wait to write blogs until my phone is almost dead- as it means I have to finish them the next morning...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Plan into the new year

And a sigh of relief falls over the crowd.

For the first time in my mid-20's, I have New Year's Eve plans more than 24 hours before the clock strikes midnight.  And they are with people I love.  And they do not require a cover fee of anything more than brie and a bottle of wine.

I already like 2012 way better than 2011.

Friday, December 09, 2011

red squiggly line (of death)

Spelling is my ultimate nemesis (as I have discussed many, many times), but seriously - there are a few words that are now part of my vocabulary that Microsoft Word hasn't bothered learning yet.  Maybe this means they aren't actual Engligh language words - but I use them constantly, so they are words (I am just making up verbs here.  Bomb. Watchmenow)

This means that I will write an email/proposal/letter and I will get that little red line of failure and I throw my hands up in protest (although, I finally added many words to the Microsoft word dictionary, my computer still doesn't recognize them.

Its an epic battle and it keeps me nice and enraged when I am still at work at 8 PM.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Black and White and...

File this under jobs I would probably take in a heart beat:

Apparently being a Panda Census taker is hard. Because they are hard to spot in the wild. But when you do spot one, its a Panda. And you're hanging out with it. So I feel like its worth it.

Butterstick, back when he was a baby and lived in DC.

 Here's One.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

home bones

It's happening.  I get this feeling as soon as a trip backs to Maryland looms ever so closely on the horizon.  Like the minutes before a sunrise.  I want to be back home so much it aches in my rib cage.

And its never practical or normal.  Its stalking craigslist for apartments, finding jobs and picking new favorite sushi places.  Its thinking about seeing my friends without an excuse and getting to see my cousins so much that I don't notice they're growing.

The feelings will pass, because I most assuredly do not want to live in my Mother's house (which is the truth of life over Christmas vacation) and I am fairly certain that having jobs that make you frustrated is not something relegated to the central time zone but right now, it aches.

And so I fill this ache - with cupcakes, ginger bread lattes and waffle fries so that when I finally get home, I will probably be 2,000 pounds.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Fail week

So far this week: I learned about this. And then yesterday, this happened.

Harry is my cousins' grandfather (on the other side). This cuts really, really deep. And reminds me of all the reasons I want to be closer to home.

The 4600 Block of Broadway is about 3 blocks from my office and 2 blocks from where a whole bunch of kids in my program live. I love Uptown with my whole heart, but I could use less stories that sound like this (and this).

So far I give this week a D-

Monday, December 05, 2011

That guy

I love Chicago because it is a big city full of food, things to buy, and strangers.  I don't care too much about my appearance, but I especially love that when I go to the grocery store in my sweatpants and last night's make-up, I am not going to run into anyone who is going to judge me about it.  Living my life surrounded by strangers is oddly freeing and while this may sound strange, it feels the opposite of isolating.  Rather, everyone is my friend, or a person who's opinion I don't car about.

However, despite this city full of millions of people, there is this one guy I run into at least twice a year. 

Let's be real.  My Chicago is much smaller than the city itself.  My life is concentrated on the north-east side, and so its not as big as I make it seem, but there are a lot of people in this part of the city.

At any rate, in January of 2007, I took two sessions of improv classes with this guy named Aaron.  He was a perfectly nice guy, but he stopped coming to classes, sadly, and so he kind of faded from my memory.  Until I saw him at a restaurant at some point in 2008.  He was a waiter (though not mine) and we caught up for a few minutes, said good-bye and I did not give it another thought.

Well, lather, rinse, repeat this situation 2 - 3 more times a year for the past 3 years.  Its at restaurants where he is working or in the busy streets on late nights or, as happened last night, on a bus in a neighborhood we've never run into each in before.

Last night we did not talk though.  I saw him, and I am pretty sure he saw me, but neither of us made that first move, that first second of eye contact and engagement in conversation.  Maybe we were both tired or had other things on our minds or maybe we just done with the acquaintanceship that we have not done too much to nurture, despite the world tossing us together time and time again.

At any rate, it never fails to delight me that I see him so frequently without any warning or planning.  There are people that I make plans with in Chicago that I manage to see less than I see him.  It gives me a chance to remember that no matter how big a city I live in, the world is so small.

Friday, December 02, 2011

all month long

To finish just ONE of my blog resolutions from 2011, I have to write a blog (pretty much) every single day of this month. 

Holy crap.

This would, under normal circumstances, be a daunting task, but it is Christmas which means I (like so many) have

Anyway, this is one post.

It is accompanied by a picture.

I had a rehearsal with some of the most amazing improvisers in Chicago on Tuesday and it was marvelous.  These folks (and our show) are just the Best.

Anyway we  were in some random studio space and this was on one wall with some complementary business on the opposite wall.  How whimsical and lovely.  I want it. On this crazy Friday morning, I think it would be exactly what I need.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thursday's Best Internet Finds! Spending all the dollars edition

My friends are not all really talented writers, they are also amazing creators.

And since it is the season of buying and gifting - why don't you step away from the Target and support some lil businesses that are truly lovely.

Two of my friends make some of the most gorgeous jewelry and they are pretty much as different as guacamole and cupcakes (but both as delicious).

xx The Purple Dahlia xx
Old Roommate J. started making shiny things when we were living together.  One of her first creations for the masses was a necklace she made for me called the Chloe.  It was modeled on a necklace that Mary Lynn Rajskub rocked (hard) on 24 (yes, that's a picture of it).  It was so gorgeous and apparently it helped J. realize that she could probably start making all the dollars by selling them (rather than just giving them to her roommates).  But when my apartment got broken into, she made me these gorgeous earrings (seriously?? I have the greatest friends) that occasionally catch the light from the window and make rainbows all over my wall and I squeal with glee. Anyway, now she makes gorgeous sparkly things for rurl and if you live in the Dallas area she will do a jewelry party with you (including food - which, if I know J. probably includes cupcakes and Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.  Win.)

Things I love?  This Bracelet. and These Earrings. (omg, that Blue!)

Albina Tritina
SBM is one of the stunning ladies I occasionally am lucky enough to share a stage with for some Funny Funny Make-em-ups. Last year for my birthday she made me this jaw dropping necklace that I wore on the most special of occasions.  And then this year?  She made me another one - also just for looking really fancy.  Every time I wear it people compliment it.  The last time I wore it, 2 compliments in 30 seconds.  No joke. If Very Unique was a thing. This jewelry would be it (in the best way possible).  AND Her Etsy page does not do her stuff justice.  She has a billion things that are stunning, go there and then ask if you can see the back room.

Things I love?  This Necklace and This Necklace (asymmetrical? so hot right now).

And if jewelry isn't your thing -

Maggie's Stained Glass
My friend C-sea's mom hand-makes stained glass.  Just the thought of taking on something so challenging boggles my mind, but she does it and they are fantastic (guys, I am running out of adjectives in this post, but I mean no hyperbole, all of the everything I am talking about here is amazeballs).  For Christmas she has little angels and Christmas trees but there are also amazing all the time things for your naked window or door or really anywhere that gets light.  (Mantle? Bookshelf? the possibilities are endless!)

Things I love? This Flower and This Star (not for sale, but you should probably call her immediately and ask her to make you one special)

Seriously.  This year is the year of shopping small.  It was going to be the year of handmade presents, but I have already thrown in the towel on that one. I am excited to visit my local craft fairs and buy all the things off of the Etsy (but carefully...if Regretsy has taught me anything it's that you need to seriously investigate before you buy...still totally worth it). 

I probably will not sleep in a park anytime soon, but I think this is just as meaningful a way to make your voice heard.

She's pint-sized and amazing.