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 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.

She's pint-sized and amazing.