Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TYOE: Las Vegas

I may look 29, but my mental age is far closer to late 80's. I like sleeping and breakfast and things that are quiet. I used to be all in for late night parties and making questionable choices but now when I do that I wake up the next morning wishing for a black hole to crawl into to sleep forever.
Las Vegas was a place I figured I had aged out of at this point.  With the exception of perhaps an outlying bachelorette outing, I thought I might never make it.  But it turns out, I was going to spend the anniversary of my birth in the city of... something (lights? bad choices? whatever).

Here is how to do Vegas if you are old and grouchy like me:

Stay at the Elara. It has no casino inside, which is nice because no one who isn't staying there is wandering around drunk and it never smells like cigarette smoke. It is technically "off the strip," but it is a very short walk (less than a block, inside or outside) to put you smack dab in front of the Bellagio.  The rooms are great, the pool is great, and it does not have a resort fee.  Stay there.

Go see "O." People are not joking when they say this is THE show to see in Vegas. It was perfect. It was two hours of pure magic and delight.  I found myself just wanting to watch it again and again. It is absolutely worth every penny you spend to see it. 

Eat one all-you-can-eat brunch. My vote? Le Village buffet at Paris. Brunch is the preferred buffet meal because you get the best of all worlds. Eggs. Cocktail shrimp. 47 million macaroons. Eat at 11:00 a.m. and then you will never have to eat again. 

Cocktails at Parasol Down at the Wynn. We only found it because we spent most of our time in Vegas just exploring, but it was my favorite. An outdoor bar overlooking a gorgeous waterfall where you forget you are even in Vegas. 

A birthday treat from Jean Philippe Patisserie. You only turn 29 once. 

Here are some other ways to pass your time (if you hate gambling):

Slots and video black jack. This might sound like gambling but if you do it right, you can make your money last the longest and get the most free drinks (coming out kind of ahead at the end of it all).  Also, it takes so long to lose your money (if you make the lowest bids possible) that you forget how time works and find yourself stumbling back to your hotel room way past 3:00 a.m. patting yourself on the back for being a real gambler without the devastating heartbreak of losing your entire life savings. 

Another show.  We saw Penn and Teller which feels like the obvious choice.  They are super political these days though. I do not know if they have always been the Libertarian magic show, but yikes stripes personal freedoms, we get it already.  My vote would probably be for Absinthe if we ever go again.

Play arcade games at Excalibur. When you're sick of losing money for no reason, switch it up and lose money because you are playing arcade games.  Boyfriend crushed a game of Indiana Jones pinball so hard. It was the best fifty cents he spent on the entire trip.

Sit by the gd. pool. It is 80 degrees. Do it. Stop rushing around and just enjoy your vacation. 

We also ate at Lotus of Siam, The Peppermill and Fleur - all of which were also super delicious and worth it. 

If we can get to Vegas and stay there for under $300 a person, I would totally go back. I love anywhere I can sit by a pool in late October but honestly, it is kind of overwhelming and sad. You are having a good time and then you realize this is basically a giant resources suck in the dessert that steals peoples' money with their permission. The free drinks are nice, and the nice architecture is nice, and as a place to just walk around and enjoy it is fine - as long as you can forget that basically this is a place where sanity and good choices come to die.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Nine times? Nine times!


I am announcing right now that this will probably be the penultimate novel marathon I do. Who knows how I will feel next year, but this year was pretty rough. 

If you look at this handy graph that the lovely NaNoWriMo people provide:

This was really more of a write a novel in about eight days (for the record, on day 23, I was at 6,000-ish words). Once again, it felt absolutely crazy, but completely normal to hammer out 10,000 words in a day. 

I found myself writing best on the train before and after work, any time that might be spent playing on facebook was spent writing novel in the past week. I turned facebook, and pinterest, and gmail off on my computer so that I could focus. I wrote instead of going out to have fun with out of town guests, I wrote instead of getting any of the fun things done I wanted to get done. I wrote when all I wanted to do was go to sleep. And then, I was finished. 

This year was hindered by the fact that I had no idea what I was going to write about for a long time. And then I decided what I was going to write about, and I realized very quickly that it was going to go nowhere. So instead I just changed, about four thousand words in, to make my book about something else. Then there was the fact that there was always something better to do. Something that needed to be done sooner, or something that was more interesting or something that stressed me out more. It was not until last weekend that I realized that Thanksgiving was not the second to the last weekend, but the LAST weekend of November and it was time to hustle. So I hustled. And now it is done.

Next year is ten years. That feels like a good stopping point. Ten years of unreadable novels feels like a good amount. They're stretched over three laptops (one of which does not exist any more, which may mean those novels are gone for good, quelle domage) and ten most different years of my life. Ten years ago was 2004, which was New York, and college, and whirlwind of having absolutely no idea what was going on in my life or anything else. This year's novel is kind of a tribute to that feeling and that year which feels quite appropriate for the second to last one.

Thanks go out to:

Dbudz for always believing in me, even when sometimes he was all, "you do not have to do this you know? You can just stop." But then when I said no, he was all, "okay, I will go make some tea."

Dbudz's family for also being fine with my Thanksgiving being spent on the computer for hours and hours at a time. Also, sorry I am not sorry for smoking all of you in Apples to Apples.

T-bone and her family for not batting an eye when I said, "yeah, I am not going out to dinner/a show/fun things with you, I have to sit at home and write my novel." T-bone does lose a point in the thanks column for introducing me to Scandal, which ate up an entire weekend of writing because sadly, I could not figure out a way to incorporate text messages consisting of "Ohmaaahgaaaah, what just happened, I am about to die." into my novel. It's okay T, I still got it done and Scandal is my most favorite. So its all just fine.

Happy December everyone.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Inner Demons and Good Feelings

I shot out of bed this morning, wide-awake with anxiety at 5:15 a.m. A full hour and fifteen minutes before my alarm was set to go off.

For the longest time, I just lay there, letting the anxiety wash over me again and again until I thought it would explode out of my fingertips.

And then as if some sort of fairy godmother was whispering my in ear, I thought, "what am I panicking about?"

I am panicking about things I cannot control. Things that will get done when they get done. Things that are partially my responsibility - but my portion is done. Things that are so far in the future, I can barely put them on a calendar. Things that will require a late night, but only because I sometimes take on more than can fit in your standard day.

I was anxious about things that did not require the rapid heart rate, the sweaty palms, the near tears. I was anxious, because anxious - due to years and years of having too much to do and a huge helping of fear of failure - is my default position. Anxious is how I am.

While I wish I could say that this revelation made the anxiety magically disappear and I am reborn a calm and zen human being forever rational - that is not the case. The anxiety never left. It stayed as I lay there waiting for the alarm to go off. But somehow, the knowledge that the anxiety was unwarranted, helped make it okay. It was still bad, but Okay Bad.

It was as if instead of chasing off the demon, the good feelings just sat with the demon and they started working out a peace accord.

I don't know where this bold moment of clarity came from but I hope that by announcing it to the internet, someone else finds one as well.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

TYOE: Charlotte

Charlotte was the perfect city to visit on the tail end of a week-long stay in Maryland, and right before we brought out the big guns: Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Seattle and the Treehouse.

We stayed with one of my longest-time friends C-sea, who has lived in North Cakalacky for almost 10 years. This is my first time getting down there, so clearly, I'm the worst friend.

She and her main squeeze, E (together they are known as Chellis) - own the cutest, pinkest house at the end of the lane. It was so fun to get to see how they are decorating - and since C-sea is a Pinterest queen - it's pretty amazing. She should probably blog about it. 

We had two requests for this trip: good North Carolina BBQ and their favorite brunch. Otherwise we wanted to drink and sleep. This is not how this trip would have gone five years ago when it just would have been up in da club for 48 hours straight. But an old lady knows what she wants: good food and an early bedtime. 

Chellis totally delivered in both departments. Our BBQ was courtesy of Mac's. Despite a flighty waitress and an inaccurate beer list, it was crazy delicious and far less biker-y than the exterior would have you think. It was an arm and a leg above most places in Chicago. And I'm always happy to have a choose-your-own-adventure BBQ sauce experience.

Brunch was courtesy of Heist. I normally am hesitant to jump into an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast because I feel like its a quantity over quality disaster. Not.the.case. Everything was so amazing. Most amazing? The giant waffle that Danny topped with baked French toast?! What?! What?! In second place was the endless train of mimosas maxing out my daily intake of bubbles. Mmm. Bubbles. 

We also snuck in a meal at Loco Lime because I was craving a margarita. It was Mexican food which is pretty much the same in Chicago and Charlotte.

In two days, we had three meals. And we were satisfied. That's how delicious and filling everything was. God bless the South. 

Charlotte has a crazy brewery infestation - we let Chellis pick a couple favorites and ended up at Triple C and Birdsong. In a cage match, my money would be on Birdsong, but go to both and you can be the judge. 

We ended our weekend at Whiskey Warehouse for more mimosas. Because I was lying before and there is no such thing as too many bubbles. They have a killer roof deck that would have been perfect except you can still smoke on bar patios in Charlotte, which truly was the only tick mark in the con column of this trip.

That's it. Food and drinks and playing catch up with some of my favorite friends- Chelsea, Ellis, and sleep. Thank you for a perfect lazy weekend. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Good morning

This is the view I woke up to this morning from my treehouse. The city girl in me will never die, but I could get used to this. 

Deep down in my gut I have that sinking Monday morning feeling but right now I could not care less.  

Friday, November 01, 2013

So it begins

It was a little ironic that this week I could only describe my mindset as Zombie.

Get up, go to work, work, work, work, come home work, work, go to bed, get up, go to work, work, work, brains, brains, brains, bed.

Halloween passed with absolutely no fanfare beyond a caramel apple and cupcake. I almost forgot that after Halloween comes all the writing. 

Last year, I did NaNoWriMo with nothing else on my plate. I was unemployed and had a schedule chock-full of free time. And I couldn't make myself write.

This year, I'm in the middle of wrapping up one event and planning two others - which involves a constant stream of words and numbers, and to add insult to I-can-never-say-no-to-work, I'm in the middle of a writing project that will last well into the month. Plus, we have four trips left to take, including tonight's to Seattle. And I haven't even told you jokers about Charlotte, Vegas or the gd Canyon I hung out in. 

But I signed up. Because I always will. 

So we'll see if no free time creates more writing time in one of those inexplicable equations of the universe.  Either way, I'm sorry for the radio silence. More blogs later...whenever that is...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things I made - the orange and pink edition

Our bags are packed (again) and we're rushing off to Las Vegas (with bonus Grand Canyon visit) after work today. I have one billion things to get done, so no real blog today. Just the promise of updates from Vegas, Charlotte, being 29, and my garden.
Speaking of my garden. Look at this gorgeous monster.
No filter (why would you filter perfection)
My dahlia looked totally dead in mid-August, but with some serious patience and love, I came home to this gorgeous bloom on Monday. I am not often proud of myself, but I am seriously pleased as punch about this gorgeous lady.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

TYOE: Maryland (part 2)

More eating recommendations for any time you might spend in the Fredneck/MoCo area.

Isabella's has an amazing lunch tapas special. 3 ladies x 3 plates each = all the fried asparagus. Their plates are generous and delicious anytime but lunch seems like a no-brainer.  

Bonus points for popping into Muse, across the street, and buying a beautiful handmade stuffed animal for one of your besties, or any of their other amazing locally created trinkets and delights. 

I do not spend a ton of time in Charlestown, West Virginia but my favorite little monsters (ages 4 and 6) live there, and I have it on good authority that they are pizza experts, and they eat Papa Johns. So, clearly Papa Johns is the best in the biz, with a little Yellow Tail Shiraz blend for the grown-ups, hello Tuesday night.

Side note: this was the first time I have gotten to hang out with these kiddos in about three years, just us and not our entire enormous, loud, crazy pants family. It was so wonderful even though they are quite simply, the rottenest. 

I have a crafted a theory about the restaurants Voltaggio after having eaten at all four.

If you are looking for a fancy, lets impress everyone meal - you go to Volt. If you want to do this and have it not be an incredible strain on your wallet, you do it for brunch. 

If you are looking for a delicious dinner that will make everyone happy - you go to Family Meal. You make sure you have at least one order of duck fat fries for the table (maybe two if some people skipped lunch), and you order the fried chicken. Let your friends make their own choices, but don't mess around with this, it's fried chicken or its pack it up and go home.

If you need a sandwich, go to Lunchbox (duh). 

If you are just looking for some short eats and a craze-mazing cocktail, you go to Range. Having eaten dinner at Range, I can tell you it is not worth it. The price tag on a meal that makes you full is steep, and for the quality of food, impractical. We had some amazing bites, but that only made the bad ones all the more obvious. Get the rockfish, and the sunchokes, and anything that you can smear bacon relish on. Get a drink, be brave and order something with at least one word you don't know, and then be done.

When Congress continues to deny you buttermilk fried alligator bites, Good Stuff Eatery is getting all the sloppy seconds by way of some realdecent cheeseburgers. Get a milkshake, because you only live once. If you see Barack Obama there, tell him Rachel says hello. 

Pacifico has sangria. Apparently they have food too, but after all that cheeseburger, sangria is all you need to spend an afternoon catching up with your friend-who-is-family.

When you find out your 21 year-old sister has never eaten Greek food, lament her entire childhood being spent in Western Maryland, and then head to Ayse (pronounced Eye-shay). You must get the Brussels sprouts. This is not a negotiation. These are world champion Brussels sprouts. They are so freaking delicious. Get two, who cares, they're a mystical, magical vegetable. Then whatever other Greek food you need, which is mostly just lamb and cheese on fire.

For your final meal, you convince your Granny to take you out to lunch, and really the only acceptable place is Clyde's. Cross your fingers for seating in the hunting room and enjoy the bizarre placement of this kitschy Adirondack lodge in the middle of sterile, boring Montgomery county. Get whatever you want (a crab cake). Thank your grandmother for lunch and for telling you about all the ways you could be a better granddaughter. 

And then as you're leaving, get Chipotle at the airport, because there is a chipotle at the airport. God bless you, BWI. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TYOE: Maryland (part 1)

When in Maryland, you should:

Make sure your flight is as late as humanly possible so when you collapse at the Hyatt House (which is technically in Virginia) it's the best bed you've ever been in. Bonus points for the free breakfast including omelet bar.

Go when the government is shut down, essentially ruining all of your well-made plans (to go here for the best lunch and here for the cutest panda). 

End up driving around historic Annapolis just enough to be mad that its raining and you can't find parking. Get your perfection-on-a-bun crab cake sandwich and some cookies at Chick & Ruth's. Take them to the movie you are 15 minutes late to (in Maryland, crab cakes can be brought in anywhere).

Try to get on the Bay Bridge at 4 pm, on a Friday, before a three-day weekend. Take back roads, feel like chump (yeah, a chump that didn't sit in two hours of crawling traffic).  Arrive at your lovely Aunt & Uncle's house for amazing BBQ from Em-ings).

Go to a backyard Maryland wedding, one chock-full of love, and family, and bliss. One where a flooded backyard is not a cause for crisis, but just moving the tent across the street. Get muddy, drink a little too much, eat all the crabs. Drive through a foot of water (the tide is in, duh) to stay at this crazy lodge. Celebrate two really fun people and the villages that made them so great. Steal sea glass off all the tables at the end of the reception. 

Drive forever. Listen to as much Mike and Tom Eat Snacks as you can. Make sure you get stuck in beltway traffic ruining any nap-taking plans you might have made.

Watch one of your forever friends get married. Be rescued from a stink bug by your 8th grade English teacher (who is also the mother of the bride). Sit at a table with people you've known for almost 20 years. Be overwhelmed at the amount of love you have experienced. Eat a cupcake. Ponder all the delicious cupcakes eaten in the past 48 hours. Feel lucky that you know people with good taste in baked goods. Dance. Sing. Skip the after party. 

Crush the free Holiday Inn Express breakfast buffet. Twice. Day drink and reminisce at RFD. Drink more at Del Frisco. Break into some National monuments. Take pictures with the nice police officers who won't let you break into others. Sit on Einstein's Lap. Celebrate the city that feels like it has always been yours. Eat a pretty good eggplant sandwich with your Dad. 

(This trip was 8 days long, which is too long for one blog, more yummy food recommendations tomorrow).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Quick note on routine

I haven't been on a train in a week, which is one of the reasons for the sudden absence. When you make a routine, all parts of the routine are required. For me, writing blog posts, in the morning, on the train required all of that.

Instead, I've flown into Virginia, criss-crossed the entire state of Maryland, regained my rightful title as Best Cousin in West Virginia, and had several boozy, slightly illegal adventures in DC. 

But today feeling the overwhelming need to commute (and wanting to get into DC without sitting in traffic) I took the train and had my first routine blog. 

It looks a little different here: 

It makes for a nice change. 

Real blogs start again on Tuesday. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Don't Pull

I hit my wall.

After running on Dr. Pepper Ten fumes and my all-consuming fear of failure for the past three weeks, last night, I could not do it anymore.

So I went to bed, hoping I would wake up magically better or magically with all my tasks complete. 

Quite obviously, neither of these things happened. So I am force to keep running up against the wall, pushing it with my weak, flabby arms and the promise of being nothere in just 48 hours. 

Push on.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Five years of this.

We don't celebrate anniversaries.

We celebrate sandwich Tuesdays 
and Bike Accident day
and the weekends when all our favorite teams win.

We don't do presents.

We do far away adventures
and close to home adventures 
and drive through the night because we forgot to book a hotel room adventures.

We don't do flowers.
Because if you tell a guy once that you don't like flowers
You will never, ever get flowers
(Lesson learned).

We do:
Late nights on the couch.
Breakfast in mugs.
Bad fights that end in huffs.
Joint travel anxiety.
Walking far.
Staying in. 
Being scared.
Providing comfort.
Beer with fruit.
Shoes everywhere.
Bad photographs.
Good bits.

Here's to five years of whatever this is, and whatever it will be. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Sunday Wellies Love

On Sunday, my green Wellies and I made it through the rain and the last minute sprints across the quad with a ribbon fluttering behind me and the volunteer scramble and the medal ceremony where we unceremoniously switched someone's gender, and the out-of-tshirts and the too many bagels and the moment where the sky got blue and everything was great and the "thank yous" and the "you did it's" and "how does it feels" and all the mud that ever was.

Thank you green Wellies. For a final hurrah, we knocked it out of the park. 

Friday, October 04, 2013

Another Year Pt. 1

Its my birthday month! I don't like to celebrate my birthday as much as I just like to take time to think about how amazing it's been to take yet another trip around the sun. Here's the unfinished post I wrote last year. It is absolutely still true. Get ready for a weekly birthday post for the next few weeks as I prep for the last year of my 20's. 

I feel like I talk about traditions a fair amount. I don't know why, per se - but as I grow up and my life extends outward, I have found that traditions, both old and new, help keep me centered and inspire moments of reflection of how lucky I am in this little life of mine.

Sappy? Yes. But true.

Today is my birthday. I am 28 years old. Its a mellow birthday. I am easing into my late twenties slowly and quietly to avoid pulling a muscle. But luckily - slow and mellow is my favorite part of my newest birthday tradition.

For the past few years I have had the luxury of knowing when I wake up on my birthday that the day is mine and I can do whatever I want with it. If I want to carpe it. I can. Or I can curl up with a good book and let it wash over me. Most years it's been a little bit of both. But the rule is - no plans and no requirements beyond being happy.

So this year it was free donuts (guys, Beaver's Donuts gives you a free half dozen on your birthday if you can track them down. Fo' realz. Plus they give you a hat!)

...and coffee with Boyfriend who had raced back from a work trip to Kansas to spend the morning with me before giving me a kiss and promising dinner and presents.

Then a trip to anthropologie, a visit with one of the most important people in my Chicago-life, and now a moment at home to eat eggs and toast and be happy for all I've got.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Thursdays best Internet finds - the grass is greener edition

When I say my life is at Def-Con Bravo stress levels, that is only a gross over-exaggeration in that my job has very little impact on the world. It is stressful because I am bad at managing stress. I am particularly bad at managing stress that comes from things out of my control. I am stressed, but only because I am terrified of failing and I am leaving my success up to others.

That being said! One of the ways I deal with stress is thinking about all the other things I could be doing. I dream about other places, other careers, other whimsical things that strike my fancy. 

One of my favorite stress-relieving day dreams is here- at Longest Acres.

Reading this blog is like talking to the coolest girl you know who also happens to be the kindest and the most badass. Except she is a stranger. But I think we would be friends. Right? How creepy and stalker am I? I want to steal your life and be your friend. Yikes.

Her life doesn't sound perfect, in fact it sounds like it comes with all it's own stress and anxiety, but at the end of the day, when I have been sitting at a computer for 12 hours trying to make bagels appear out of thin air- it's the simplicity of her life that makes me so envious. 

It's not something I could sustain but to escape to a place where you get to control everything and find pride in that sounds pretty awesome. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Brain waves

I have said it a million times, but I am not being facetious when I say that Boyfriend and I are up most nights until at least midnight working. And there are bonus all-day-Sunday weekend additions too.

When there isn't football on, and we haven't devolved into being too zoned out to turn it off, the TV is on, to give us some semblance of just being two normal not-overachieving people. 

For the past month or two we've been watching Arrested Development, from the beginning, six or seven episodes at a time. Last week, on the orders of all of my Facebook friends, we added Broadchurch to the mix.

You should watch both of these shows. They're both amazing. If you're like me and never got around to AD when it was on- carpe the Netflix.

Broadchurch may require your local Internet dark alley, but it's so worth it. A stunning sea-side, small town with gorgeous cliffs and vistas is really the only place to set a show as gut wrenching as this one. So that people can have the mixed emotional response of, "I am so sad and this is so awful, Oooh I really, really want to visit this, why don't our sad things in real life have beautiful ocean-reflected sunset lighting them?" 

For a few days we were watching both Arrested Development and Broadchurch back-to-back because variety is the spice of any life that is devoted to spreadsheets. 

Those were the nights of the most bizarre dreams. In a weird, sick way, my brain found a way for these shows to fit together and the result was unsettling. 

So, for me, it's back to eight hours of West Wing back to back when I need to get my work done. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

My childhood with Marcella

Once upon a time. When boyfriend was not quite boyfriend yet, just a boy who made my chest hurt, he was trying very hard to impress me.

We were swapping memories and I told him I was going to make him one of my favorite meals from childhood - pasta with bacon, peas and ricotta. He said it sounded gross. To which I replied, you sound gross. 

In an attempts to win my affection, boyfriend went to the store to purchase all the things I said I needed for this meal.

"Why did you get black-eyed peas?"
"For your thing. You said you needed peas."
"Yeah. I need peas. Actual peas."

In an attempt to look like I handled crisis and change well, I went ahead and made the dish with the (eventually very incorrectly cooked) black-eyed peas.

When we sat down to eat, I could barely hold back my emotions.

"This is kind of ruining my childhood."

He stoically ate all of it, leftovers included.

Eventually, I must have made the dish correctly for him, and he was not impressed. He said he couldn't really taste the difference between this and the other version. 

Once again emotions rose up in me and I tried very hard not to punch this still-not-boyfriend in the nose.

This dish, and many others that came from the pages of Marcella Hazan's kitchen were such huge parts of my childhood happiness, it was hard (still is hard) for me to understand how they don't evoke the same emotions in others.   

The food of Marcella Hazan is the food of my favorite memories. This dish of everyday-excuse-for-bacon joy, rice salad of Nantucket summer nights, pasta al forno (with homemade bolognese) for birthdays and welcome homes. Any and all of these things, eaten the next morning, a bonus dinner for breakfast treat.

Boyfriend managed to stick. So did these meals. Every one now cooked in my kitchen too. 

Thank you, Marcella, for a delicious life.

Other people wrote about her too: In the New York Times, and the New Yorker.

Pictured: my first ever made all-by-myself pot of Bolognese.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thoughts from Hazel

Mom. It's Sunday. It's beautiful outside. You have not snuggled me all weekend. And there is chocolate cake in the fridge. Chocolate cake. 

I will sit on all your notes and give you salty looks if that is what it takes for you to get off your laptop. I'm a jerk who wants the best for you. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

40 cases of anxiety

40 cases of water are being delivered to me today. They will have my name on it and I will be responsible for finding a place to go. Last week it was 10 boxes of bags and 12 boxes of frisbees, Tuesday it was 20 boxes of water bottles, yesterday it was 8 boxes of chips.

My life exists in bulk now. Everything I do and buy is for me and my 1500 newest friends. 

There are only 9 days left of this - it's so close and yet, I would give anything for just a few more days. A few more days to give everything a chance to arrive on time instead of at the last possible second. A few more days to figure out a marketing strategy. A few more days to illegally post one or two more posters. 

I would not wish this dull ache of panic that I walk around with on anyone. But it's almost over. And it's Friday. And this was my breakfast. #donutart

Carolilly Square

This should be a Thursday's Best Internet Finds post but technically, I found out about it in the real world and now sing its praises on the Internet tubes.

Carolilly Square makes my heart beat for the East Coast. All summer, I had been seeing pictures posted on her page of these amazing tanks and hoodies. Finally, I got myself together and bought one.

Buying this sweatshirt was amazing. Internet clothing shopping can be so dicey and Chicky was so patient with me as I tried to make sure it wasn't going to show up and not fit and then nothing would ever be nice again. She was great and thorough and clearly wanted me to be happy with this purchase. She's the best.

This quote makes me miss all things Maryland. Any time I wear it, there is this dull ache of wanting to be where I am not. Which will only make being there (two weeks from today!) all the sweeter.

The more I see of Carolilly, the more I just want to crawl into her store and live a life of adorable, trendy fairy tales. Everything is so thoughtfully picked out. There is clearly a mission and a story and love in all of it.

I adore a good lady-owned small business - it's nice when your retail therapy (of which I am doing a lot these days) can be beneficial for an actual person. 

That being said - someone buy me one of those chevron infinity scarves now, please and thank you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Madness

It has already started.  A fall unlike any other. One that will leave me so grateful for any free moment I find myself in front of a television on the weekends.

It started with celebrating Wedding #1
now its onto trying to keep the luck of the Irish
then the biggest, scariest, work thing I've ever done
followed by getting our wedding guest on back-to-back Maryland style
with a week-long M'town trip snuck in on the tail end
chased by a trip down to Charlotte to see the incomprable Chellis.
then its Birthday Trip 1 LasVegasHooverDamGrandCanyon
with Birthday Trip 2 SeattleTeenytimeTreeHouse right behind it.
a weekend in Madison with one of my favorite baby Badgers and her delightful parents
time to try on a taste of famous with our third trip to Cali this year, L.A. style
(shhhhh, I have one weekend with no plans, donotjinxthis)
a turkey-time adventure in Orlando
my second big, scary work thing (significantly less big and scary)

Then there are two weeks until Christmas Vacation.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wedding Photographer

One of my best friends married his best lady. I got boozy on whiskey and ginger ale and took these gems.

Then I sat on the train this morning and Over-d the ish out of them.

Happy Wedding, friends! Can't wait to see the actual pictures! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Balancing on a worklife

Since starting my new job there has been much discussion on work-life balance. It is something that my new company says that it takes very seriously. But they also work very hard and are incredibly successful - so either they are time management machines or the right hand is writing checks that the left cannot cash (it's mixed metaphor Monday!)

Either way, it is impossible. Maybe it is because I am gearing up for the first huge test of my new job or maybe because I am absolutely terrified of people thinking I do not work hard enough - but Sundays seem to be reserved for football and laptops.

It is not that I don't have a social life, I do! And I often spend parts of weekends enjoying it - but no matter what, the first thing I do every morning is jolt out of bed and think about all the things I still need to get done. The second thing I do is check my work email. 

My question is - how do you stop? How do you stop this cycle? How do you let go of the fear of failure enough to stop having it be in the forefront of every thought you have every hour of the day? 

I know that there is no way for me to stop now. I have two more weeks of living like an imminent heart attack before the situation can even be addressed. But after that - what do you do?

Friday, September 20, 2013

A little more about Love

My first massive project at my (still-)new job is coming to a head. There are no less than one million things hanging over my head and I spend most of the day with just a hint of anxiety attack looming in my frontal cortex.

So yesterday, when my boss came over to my cube and asked, "how are you feeling?" I think we were all surprised when the answer was,

"I can't believe my friend is getting married on Saturday." 

But there you have it, the emotions that were the deepest set in my subconscious were the ones about Brother (not my brother, but Brother) getting married this weekend.

Having a good, true, real, awesome guy friend in Brother is something I will be grateful for all eternity. And what's astonishing is he never once ditched me through all of the terrible set-ups and nights at the bottom of fishbowls. 

And then, to meet my companion and have them get along just.so.perfectly in their singing of the Monday night football song, and watching of Dr. Who and over-indulgence of straight Captain Morgan and Jagermeister is more than I could have even dreamed of in my most practical, Midwestern dreams. Boyfriend needs someone to see bad movies with, and I am so happy that it isn't me. 

And THEN! To have him find J. And for her to be all the right kinds of awesome and smart and be the missing puzzle piece of person I need in my life. My talk about the New Yorker, go see plays, commiserate about non-profit jobs, celebrate the joys of dating an introvert friend. How does that even happen so perfectly? 

I could not ask for a better wedding to distract me from the impending insanity of my work. I could not ask for two better friends who want nothing more than to sit and eat pizza and enjoy each others' company. I could not ask for a better forever friend from a guy who I met because he randomly came to watch his coworker do crappy improv in a crappy bar. 

I am so happy Brother found J. And then fought through all the scary bullshit of life to take her to a Storytown show one Saturday afternoon. And then despite being surrounded by a bunch of lazy, drunk, commitmentphobes, he lit those special occasion candles and made the right choice. 

Happy Wedding Brother & J. You'll find me at the dessert table. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Not into me, part 2

I have talked before about the fact that since entering the land of monogamy, I have started flexing those underutilized awkwardness muscles on the ladies (hey, ladies).

This is still happening, and now I am recognizing an additional phenomenon - Girls trying to politely and quietly break up with me and me not getting the hint. 

I will try to make plans with a lady and she will either a)not respond or b)respond with a "hahahaha, sure lets talk next week." Rather than putting my thinking cap on and realizing that this means she wants nothing to do with me - I wait awhile and then reach out again. Nearly always with the same result. 

It's always hard to be the one who wants it more and especially as I work hard to make friendships count - it's hard to let go when you want someone to be a part of your life.

Recently, I had a run-in with a girl I think is great and at the end of the day I realized that she doesn't want to be my friend. And I think that knowledge, more than the unhappy results of the day's event, bummed me out to the max.

 I am not in anyway complaining about my lot in life. And menfolk - please do not think this in anyway means I pity you. You get to stand up to pee and make more money than I do. You're fine.  

I think I just need to be more grateful for all the amazing friends I have that I don't need to try out for anymore.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Not today, pal.

This morning there is no blog post because I need 30 minutes of screen-free time before my head explodes.

You get a picture of strawberries instead.

Happy Wednesday. Lets just get through this.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Aisle 4 Clean Up.

Is there an age when your first instinct at the grocery store is something other than jumping on that lower kitty-litter rung of the back of the grocery cart and then riding it through the aisle?

I do not ever want to be that age.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Playing Dress Up: Modcloth

I am coming up on my five month anniversry at work and I still feel like I'm playing dress up every day. I also feel like I'm playing pretend, but that's a topic for another day.

Before this job, the only dress code at any of my post-college jobs was "pants." I had to wear pants and a shirt and, if I was walking around, shoes. Now, I live in the world of "Business Smart." 

I hate button down shirts and I really hate blazers so I was stuck trying to find work outfits that were appropriate and in which I felt comfortable. It was bad enough to be totally terrified of failure in a brand new gig but to also to be walking in the door feeling like I looked terrible was a recipe for disaster.

Modcloth to the rescue. 

Dresses have been my go-to. The rules are they need to be at-the-knee and shoulder-covering. But that's it. Dresses have given me the opportunity to be my weird, childish self while also looking nice and ready to get things done.

My first dress was the New Hire and Higher I pinned it months ago as the dress I would buy when I got a new job, I ended up with it in slate (rather than dark) which is lighter fabric and was ideal for summer. Although I always tie the sash in a knot and on the side because I am punk rock like that. 

In that first order, I also grabbed the Coach Tour dress in violet (another pinterest find). Every time I wear this dress someone compliments it. I think because it is professional, but has an interesting neckline and a fuller skirt. Professional and fun. Also it has pockets, it can do no wrong. If I didn't think people would notice, I would buy it in two or three more colors. 

I snagged the Cultivated Charmer dress before it was gone. I don't wear it as often because while I have been reassured about 20 times that you cannot see my butt through the slit in the back, anytime I walk around in it, I am almost positive you can see my butt through the slit. I like that its got classic lines, but the lace makes it interesting.

My newest acquisition is still on its way (I ordered it, but its too small, I am madly in love with it, so I ordered one size up and I'm hoping it'll be on my body in the next couple weeks), A Symmetry Grows in Brooklyn. I love everything about this dress. I love its belt, I love its pocket, and its sleeves, and its big buttons. 

I love that Modcloth lets me return things without getting weird about it (with every order there has been a return or an exchange, and we're still cool). I love that people are super honest about how the clothes fit in the reviews (sometimes girls have each other's backs). 

I love that I have never seen anyone else in my office or on my commute wearing any of these dresses. While I have filled out the rest of my work wardrobe with pencil skirts, other simple dresses, and even a couple dreaded button downs (we're working on it), I love that all of these dresses will withstand the dreaded trend cycle as I have no patience for clothing that I will stop wearing simply because it is out of style. 

As we get into fall, I'm starting to panic slightly about what I'm going to wear when its too cold for bare legs. Boots are business smart, right?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Friday treat challenge

This whole week has been pretty intense at work, and the pressure cooker isn't going to let up for another 20 days or so.

But the biggest challenge of this week is happening this morning.

It's my turn to bring in Friday treats. 

Friday treats is one, small way my office has come up with to keep ourselves from bursting into tears mid-On Track meeting or punching our database help desk staff in the throat. Friday treats give us something to work for, especially (I'm assuming) during the long, miserable, Vitamin-D deficient time when we don't have summer hours. 

I am still desperately trying to get these people to like me and when my tedious self-deprecating humor runs dry, I'm excited to be able to turn to snacks to try and buy their love. 

Here's the problem though- I don't know how to bake for 30 people (I was told to bring treats for half the office). And I don't know how to bake at a normal human hour. Last night required working until 6 and then eating my birthweight in complementary shrimp until 8:00, leaving me scrambling at 9:30 in the Jewel Osco. 

Like so many things in my life - the idea was flawless, the execution was lacking. Also, I need to carry cash, because it is a rule of the universe that your back-up-plan will always be cash only.

My hope is that everyone in my office is thoughtful about sharing- something I had not even though of until right now. As I sit impatiently on this El car, already 20 minutes late, I find myself hoping, not so much for praise and thanks, but for the people in my office to be good sharers.

Today's Friday Treats had a Choose Your Own Adventure/Seasonal theme:

For those holding onto sweet summer - Cake Batter Blondies (recommended by the lovely C-sea)

For those ready for fall - Pumpkin Donut Muffins (aquired from Pinterest and so delicious. These were everyone's favorite thing). Next time I'm making them in a mini muffin tin, and they will be perfection.

For those who do not let the seasons dictate their treat choices - Delicious BBQ Pork and Ham & Cheese buns from the Chiu Quon Bakery (this place is so amazing. If you live in Chicago you MUST visit for breakfast or a midday snack).

Happy Friday Treat day, everyone. Learn to share. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

With silver bells & habanero peppers, part 4

I was expecting September's post about the garden to be hard truths about plant death.

Turns out Planet Earth is on fire, so while in the long run we are all going to die, right now everything is blooming and thriving.

I have my first bell pepper of the season! I'm not sure what took this little guy so long but I am so excited to eat this! 

Also? It is strawberry.season in Uptown. 

All summer I have been getting strawberries one at a time, but now I'm going to have like 6! Victory! 

More peppers!

And now for a lesson in gardening from an idiot:

Sometimes you have to help a plant out, and sometimes you just have to leave it alone. 

This guy has been out of control since day one. It has always been my assumption that plants grow up, not out like a drunk octapus.

As you can see, I tried to reign it in with kabob sticks and twisty ties. But after the tragic midsummer death of the Lobelia, I just quit and left it to do its thing. Which was this.

I'm not sure how it hasn't tipped over its (notverysturdy) plant holder yet. But it has been blooming like crazy for weeks so I'm just letting it be crazy and enjoying a few extra weeks of pretty things greeting me on my way home.

This guy (who needs a better picture) was pretty much dead, which was such a bummer. But after I staked it up (I knew 1,000 kabob sticks would be a sound investment) it got a second wind and started blooming again. Which is exciting, especially because I managed to kill half the orange guy behind it when I got a little too excited weeding. 

Also, I went ahead and harvested about a pound of basil.

I followed the foodspin recipe. And no joke, toasted pine nuts are a must. Be a classy grow up who smells like garlic and toast your pine nuts. 

At this point, since I know nothing about what I am doing, every extra day with plants is a treat. And guys, if you aren't pickling your peppers, you're making a terrible mistake. Peter piper was right on the money.

Want to read the entire journey of my city garden from the beginning? Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 are right here! I edited all these photos with Over, which was a good choice.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pandacam part 2

This blog has officially been around a looooong time. Not quite 10 years, but long enough for the successful (fingerscrossed) birth of two baby pandas at the National Zoo!

I'm still holding my breath and hoping everything goes okay for little Butterstick 2.0 (or as he, and every other adorable thing that is yet-unnamed, would be called in our house - Rascal Flatts). 

This month is much to busy at work for Pandacam (I don't know if I have ever written quite so sad a sentance). But if you aren't spending like an hour or two of paid time peeping at the adorableness happening in our Nation's Capitol, you are not doing your duty as an American.

This is more important than taxes, people.

And if you are curious about how pandas get their hustle and flow on (and I know you are...) check out this article in the New Yorker. I had no idea male pandas are basically high school boys. 

Keep your fingers crossed for little Rascal Flatts, so he can grow up and we can give him to China. Its the American way.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Goulden Oldies.

Football Sundays used to look like this:

Now, its far more likely to look like this:

I will say, it is nice not to have to put on pants. And it is ideal to get projects done with no distractions. And I have far more money to spend on dresses and throw pillows when I'm not paying a $100 bar tab every week.

I miss that face though. The face of irresponsible bliss.

So this Sunday, I'll work hard. I'll imbibe nothing stronger than coffee. I will go to bed knowing that I'll wake up in one metaphorical (and literal) piece on Monday morning.

Next week though? Next Sunday is a return to going for the Gould.

Another added bonus to this new version of Game Day:

Friday, September 06, 2013

Caged Animal

She's 0 - 234 of catching the things that taunt her from the other side of the window, but good gracious if she doesn't try for ever single one. 

Her blind determination and optimism is almost enough to make up for the fact that Operation Jungle Cat almost always takes place between 4:30 - 5:15 every morning. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013


Last night capped a summer experiment that will continue to resonate until at least 3:00 this afternoon.

I got cast to perform in the Genisis League at ComedySportz Chicago (which happened at the exact same time as my new job started and I had a house full of visitors and was without a bed - it was an intense beginning-of-Summer this year). 

It was really exciting. Short form improv has always been my number one girl, and the people at ComedySportz are easily some of the best in the universe. 

When our rehearsal schedule (which, since its improv - it should really be practice schedule) was announced my heart sank. Tuesdays 10 pm - midnight.

Think about what you're normally doing on Tuesday nights that late: You're either getting into trouble or you're getting into bed.

I didn't want to say no, but I also knew this summer was going to require more of my brain capacity than ones in the past (never get a real job, kids, it will get in the way of your socialimprov schedule).

So I said yes. And so for the past twelve weeks I have crawled into bed at 12:30 on Tuesday night, only to be awoken at 6:30 and required to be a real, high functioning adult for 8-10 hours the next day. Then on Wednesdays we got to be goofs on stage, an event that was always supposed to end around 9 or 10 and tended to actually end around 11 or 12. Making two late nights in a row. On school nights no less.

Please don't get me wrong - I am not complaining in anyway. I am so happy I got to have this experience and meet these people and do this thing that I love So.Much. 

But I am realizing what a late night does to my body and mind now. While I have really not changed externally-physically in the past seven years - the internal changes sometimes shock me. My own body's incapacity to survive on two hours sleep and a diet coke is frustrating and unnerving and I really felt it this summer.

Gone are the days when a rehearsal that ends at midnight would be followed with a drinking session that ends at three. The four post-show drinks have now become one-or-two. The one night this summer I got coerced into doing shots, lead to a next morning of wishing the ground would swallow me up whole. I used to be able to do this and still get to work at 8:00 am*

I'm proud of myself for making it through this summer and having a great time. I am also proud of my own recognition of my limitations. I miss 23 year-old Rachel's stamina, but I am grateful for 28 year-old Rachel's common sense, even if it makes me feel humiliatingly old.  

*Please note: this applies on weekdays only. I can still play like a champion on the weekend. Sometimes. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

How to do it: paint something.

I have been on a She-woman-can-do-it-herself kick recently and Labor Day weekend was the perfect excuse to tackle another project and learn something new.

Here's how you paint something (for example, this random shelf that you use for towels in your bathroom):

1-Clean it. Really good. Get some fantastick and a paper towel and go to town. Clean the whole thing. Twice. Get even the bits that you don't think you need to, because guess what? You do. The worst thing is finding a giant tumbleweed of hair as you are trying to paint. 

2- Prime all the edges.

"But my paint has primer in it!"
"Stop talking. Prime it."

The whimsical painting of furniture that you are getting yourself into probably involves painting surfaces that have no business being painted. You're way better off just getting in the habit of priming.

3- Prime the rest of it. With a roller. Like the grown ass lady you are. This is not third grade art class. You need a roller even for a job that seems small.

4- Wrap up your brush & roller very tightly in plastic bags (grocery is fine). You want the paint to stick to the bag & for it to get as little air as possible so that they don't dry out during the next step. 

5- Watch an episode of Orange Is the New Black (or two episodes of Arrested Development, depending on where you are in life).  

6- Reprime everything in the same order (edges then everything else). You want the original color to be kind of a mystery. Wash your brush and your roller really, really well or you will be sad later.

7- Go hang out at your friend's pool. Feel real fancy. 

8- Draft a mediocre fantasy football team because there are some things you can only care so much about. 

9- Figure out where you put that Oops Paint you bought on a whim a few months ago.

10- The primer should be dry enough now, go ahead and paint, in the same order you primed.

11- Stop being such a weenie, you probably won't run out of paint. 

12- Once it is all painted and you haven't missed anything and you've checked four times, give the cat a quick talking to about not getting near the paint. Wash all the things.

13- Wait a day. Find all the spots you missed. Paint one more time. 

14- Be so impressed with yourself it doesn't even really matter that you kind of hate the color now.


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A new season

While I did not love this book about friends, it has made me incredibly thoughtful about how I spend my free time. Recently, a mantra has been running through my head:

For the past few weeks I have jammed my schedule full of people who I don't always get to see. It's the last weeks of summer and patio-seated, margarita-drinking, out-too-late living. We're all about to crawl into our caves and hibernate until Spring, only peeking out for the occasional football game. And I am trying to make the most of it. 

But sometimes it means making choices. It means sometimes saying no to what has always felt like the obvious social invitation and saying yes to the one that requires a little more work.

It always feel better. Every time. It feels better to spend that time with people that matter to you.

I am finding myself being more thoughtful about what I plan, working harder to reach out to people, and grateful that I am surrounded by so many great people who want to be my friends.

Let's just call it a midlife resolution.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A rescuing.

Two nights ago, I tweeted this:

Then this conversation happened between Boyfriend and I:

For clarification: Wilson = Target, and Argyle = Home. 

Here are a couple of awesome things that happened in this conversation:

1- Boyfriend responded to a tweet with a text message. Which seems strange to me because I am a slave to technology.

2- He rescued me again! He really enjoys being a knight in shining armor- if shining armor is Notre Dame sweatpants and a Hanes white t-shirt. 

3- I said yes to being rescued. This could have been like one of the millions of other  times when someone said, "let me help you," and I, like the stubborn 3 year old I am say, "No! I do it myself!" But I said yes, because I am working on this.

4- Yes, I absolutely changed my clothes in the back of boyfriend's car as he drove me back down to Belmont. There are some skills that you develop as a young ballerina that turn out to be very useful in later life.

5- Turns out that with the rescuing the trip took 25 minutes instead of 15, but thankfully theaters run later than me a lot of the time and I still saw the whole show. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

TYOE: Michigan Wine Country

How to get Wine Drunk in Southern Michigan:

1- Make some friends-of-a-friend. It helps if they are a group of awesome ladies. This should not be too hard, since, as you go through life, you should only surround yourself with awesome people. It helps if at lease one of these friends-of-a-friend live in Michigan.

2- When one of these friends-of-a-friend invites you to go on a vineyard tour of Michigan say yes.

3- On the day of the wine tour, bum a ride from one of the other gals who is going from Chicago. Be sure to not get her phone number so that this random meeting on a street corner at 7 am can be as stressful for your Type-A personality as possible.

4- Get to Michigan. Hop in the van that was rented, meet your DD - who is one of the girl's mom. Present her with a Mom of the Year award for driving a bunch of drunk 20&30-somethings around on a Saturday.

5- Drive SO far to the first vineyard. Take time to get to know all these women who you've only seen a handful of times. Celebrate the fact that making friends at the age of 29 is rare - you're doing it!

6 - Get to the first vineyard and freak out - you did not even know that Michigan had gorgeous vistas. Try the wines. When the nice man behind the counter forgets how many pours you've had, do not remind him. Buy wine. Get a glass of champagne to celebrate the morning. 

7- Get lunch. Be grateful for the invention of the tuna melt.

9- Find a vineyard with a good patio and have another post-taste glass of wine. Eat a cupcake because not only did your friend plan this whole amazing trip - she brought cupcakes. Remind yourself to write her a thank you note later.

10- Gear up for the grand finale. When you realize you are more that justalittle sauced, give the rest of your sangria to the girl with two kids because she is playing like a champion today.

11- Eat dinner. Be real dramatic when you think you might miss your train. 

12- Get to the sketchy New Buffalo train station. Make friends with whoever is waiting with you. Do that thing where you are so excited and surprised by dumb coincidences. ("You work in downtown Chicago? That's crazy, me too!")

13- Sleep the whole way home. 

She's pint-sized and amazing.