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Showing posts from 2009

Christmas memories, vol. 20

It's that time of year again. Time for you to learn more about how I ended up this way, how I've spent my Christmases lo, these last forty-odd years. This year I expect we'll have some sad ones - it's my first year with both my parents gone, and it's bound to make me kind of melancholy. Heck, I just started crying by the flatbread at Whole Foods because I used to buy it and bring it to my mom as a treat. But the thing is, the reason I miss my folks so much is because my life is filled with happy memories. They were people worth missing. I'm sitting in public right now, so I think we'll start off with something kind of innocuous. Public tearing-up garners worried glances, and I don't want to stress out that nice man at the next table who's selling Comcast subscriptions to unsuspecting callers who think he's in an office somewhere. (SECOND time I've see one of these guys out in a public place - last time it was in the waiting room at the ti

Plate o' shrimp, vol 8

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The 2 millionth Eagle Scout The world's most famous Senior Wilderness Guide Sometimes life does imitate art. Squirrel!

This week's revelations, vol 2

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I cannot tell you how much I wanted to buy this.

This week's revelations, vol 1.

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And next time he's taking the bathrobe.

Hey you. Straighten up.

I live by a code - a clearly defined set of policies that specifies which personal behaviors are acceptable, which are rude, which are annoying and which ones are deal breakers. I've been like this for some time now - in fact, sometimes I wonder how I got this way, because it's not actually normal. And, since I sometimes come off as a bohemian lefty what with my flyaway hair and funked up trendy style, people are often taken aback by my standards. They expect this sort of judgment to come with a string of pearls and a twin set. The good thing about policies is that they give me a very specific prism through which to analyze the world. For example: my policies protect me from people who only have friends from the present stage of their lives - they are not to be trusted with your heart, ever, because you're only as good as what you can do for them right now. My policies tell me that hoarders are trouble any way you slice it - not only is hoarding likely a symptom of some

Always on the edge of controversy

Susan Boyle didn't win Britain's Got Talent , but predictions are that she's going to be a worldwide mega-star and make millions of dollars. Maybe, maybe not. Personally, I think she's a singing Rubik's cube, or possibly more of a Chia pet that can carry a tune. I'm not suggesting for a second that she isn't talented...on the contrary, she has a lovely voice and a story that underdog-lovers and people tired of picture-perfect-looks as a requirement for fame eat up like it's candy. But I just don't see that her pretty voice alone is going to make her a mega-star. There is no one like her out there making records, and it's not because she is such a unique talent but more because there isn't a big market for her style of singing. Opera people want real opera. Pop people want pop music with a bit more rhythm and a trendy style. Easy listening people have Barry Manilow and greatest hits albums from Paul Simon. Showtunes folks have original cast

Making temping more charming

I'm amending the post below with italics so I can get my frustrations out before I go to work tomorrow. I figure if I can tell someone (you) what I think should be done differently, then it will be easier to let it go and just enter the dang data like a good drone.

Oh, the charms of temping

Let me preface this post by saying that I am really pleased to finally have a temp job. I am getting closer to an actual job, as well, but in the meantime I'm really happy to have income again. But I'd forgotten how truly ridiculous temping can be. Here's what I walked into: - I'm doing data entry at an insurance company, though our actual client is a law firm I think. We're bar coding every file in the history of the company so they can find the relevant hard copy should it be required to defend them in a lawsuit. Data entry itself is never interesting. But that's part of temping...the work is SELDOM interesting...and so it is what it is and I'm fine with that. - I was told that the company is business casual but that I should dress closer to business since it was my first day. In reality, we are not working in the main offices and all 30 temps AND the supervisors were in jeans, sweats, and other casual clothing. But I looked nice in my trouser suit. Thi

Life's downs and ups

My long absence from this blog has mostly been driven by the circumstances of my life. My days have been looking pretty much the same for the past few months, and I just haven't felt like there was anything to say: 1. I get up at 8AM. There's nothing that pressing to do so I don't need to be up earlier, but if I sleep much later I feel like a complete loser. Plus on Mondays, it's important to call the temp agency to let them know you're looking for work. 2. I do some wake-up surfing for news and other info while watching a bit of cable TV. There's a constant cycle of Gilmore Girls on ABC Family at 10AM on weekdays, FYI, or if you prefer they repeat at 4PM. Of course, until just now they've been stopping at the end of the sixth season so I could never find out how it ends. Curse you, ABC Family! 3. On the days she works, I usually take Beth to work at 11 so I can use her car during the day. That kills an hour. 4. From approximately noon until 4PM everyday a

Empathize this

I've got two things on my mind today. First off, I really like Sonja Sotomayor. And I especially like that when discussing his selection criteria for Justice Souter's replacement, President Obama brought up empathy. Empathy is not the same thing as sympathy, compassion or emotion. Empathy is perspective. The idea that our laws have strict, specific definitions that should be considered without perspective is ridiculous. Laws mean something, but they must also be considered in context. That isn't to say they should be applied arbitrarily, or to advocate making exceptions left and right to suit a judge's whim...suggesting laws should be considered in context simply means that the courts must consider how our laws should be interpreted, and how they can make our society a better, more habitable, more functional one. How they can help Americans live their lives without impediment to their personal liberties. Empathy provides the perspective necessary to do this. Judge

Not dead

Hi Tim. I know I owe you a phone call. I was over at my friend John's for dinner and some Wii when you called the other night and so I thought I shouldn't actually talk too long. Figured I can do this rather than email, since everyone else has given up on me. I'll write a newsy post soon. And maybe I'll catch you on the phone over the weekend?

Sinus infections suck, and the jury's out on online dating

I've been felled by a sinus infection. Pleh . I should have known I would be afflicted...my mom was sick when I was home a few weeks ago and Bethany had it the week before I left. It was only a matter of time until it took me down. It's been a miserable week to be me. Head stuffy. Glands swollen. Neck not turning. Headache. Fever. Lots of drowsiness. Yuck. And because I am a moron, I decided that while I was in the throes of this mucus-y hell I should take another stab at online dating, so I registered a profile on chemistry.com. I hate these things and I don't know why I do it. Maybe I was just planning ahead for the next time I get sick, hoping to have someone on deck to make me soup and read me books and bring me cups of tea. In any case, I've filled out a profile and now people are being told they should meet me. So far, no bites. I used the picture to the left..even though it's not technically "recent," it still looks like me. I elected to call m

Back in Chicago

I'm back after a brief hiatus in Iowa. I hadn't seen my mom since Christmas and I missed her, so I hopped on Amtrak last Wednesday and spent a long weekend with her. Amtrak is funny once you leave the east coast. It's the strangest mix of people...students, hippies, people going short distances, people afraid to fly, and a bunch of Amish. It's actually quite comfortable for the short trip home, and it gave me an excuse to eat strange snack foods like the cheese and cracker thing I bought at the Kwik Trip in Caledonia on the way to the station Monday morning. (Note to self - go to the co-op the day before you leave Decorah and get something healthier.) I also got a lot of reading done. I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma , and I confess I really enjoyed it. I am more convinced now than ever that vegetarianism isn't the only ethical diet, but am now checking for grass-fed animals and finding local producers, because it just seems that this is the best way to e

The book you're looking for

If you're looking for the book mentioned here , it's Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres . It's a memoir written by a woman who was raised in a strict Calvinist family in rural Indiana and chronicles the racism directed at her adopted brothers (they are black in a sea of white rednecks,) the hypocrisy of parents who give lip service to Christian values while creating a hell at home, and her years with her youngest brother in a Christian reform "school" in the Dominican Republic. It's a brutal, compelling read.

Short updates on a long day

I have a to-do list a mile long. I've kind of been slacking this week, either getting tons done or doing absolutely nothing, depending upon the day. But since it's Thursday now, what would normally be an even-paced week of to-dos is now a crunch-time-get-it-done to-do day. Therefore you get a numbered list. 1. The alternating balmy to freezing days we've been having are making my hands freaky dry. And the windows in this place are these heavy double hung ones that come down from the tops as well as up from the bottom, and now that we've broken their winterseal they aren't totally closed, which means wind really whistles and cold air gets in. It's chilly in here. 2. I have an azalea plant that I seem hell bent on killing. Plants and I, we are not made for each other. 3. I am going through a phase where I hate cooking. Hate it. Think it's tedious and annoying. This is not ideal. 4. I've decided that there are benefits to wearing a plus size. For starte

Pet peeves, vol. 873

You know what I hate? I hate commercials that use the music, the graphic style or, worse, BOTH from the hit movie Juno staring that delightful ingenue Ellen Page. What is charming and clever in independent film is not when you're trying to push me to buy something.  Comcast and the Atlantis Resort can suck it.

What a nice day

It's gorgeous here in Chicago today. A bit overcast and a little windy, but still. Warm is warm. I've had a productive day, moving my little office to the back deck so that I could enjoy the fresh air. It's so nice not to be inside. Cali had a big ball chase this morning, and now I'm taking her back to the lake and we're doing a little training run. I have it in my head that fitness is a great new goal for this gap year, so I am doing a little run/walk alternating training schedule with the intent that I can be running 5Ks later this summer. I'm also doing yoga most days, and some weight lifting on the balance ball for good measure. I had a knee injury from last summer that has been troubling me all winter, but I'm taking things slow and it's getting stronger. In the meantime, Beth and I had this brilliant idea that we would go on South Beach together. It all started because we've been pretty much justifying treats non-stop for the past two month

Thai food overload

We've discovered a fabulous new thai restaurant. We'd taken the Scots to the airport, and by the time we got home we realized that we were pretty hungry. A kashi multi-grain waffle and yogurt will only take you so far, and since it was already 330pm we figured we'd just order dinner. and eat at old-people time - we hopped on Grubhub .com to see who was delivering. Grubhub is great, because it lists tons of restaurants you might not know deliver to you, it has every kind of cuisine imaginable and you can even order online instead of calling someone, often an advantage when ordering ethnic food because phone orders usually just result in some sort of misunderstanding and an hour later a plate of gelatinous goo with chili peppers shows up at your door. Online orders definitely simplify the whole language barrier problem. We found King Noodle on Argyle Street. It got raves on every one of the reviews, so we thought we'd give it a try. Everything on the menu looked good

Slacker

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There's been an intervention, and it has been pointed out that my excessive use of twitter at the expense of this blog is a cop out, a sin and all around lame. I have been instructed to remedy this immediately. The intervention came from this guy: I know what's good for me, so I apologize for my excessive lameness and will begin my regular and frequent full-length blogging with a bulleted list of updates to bring you to speed on my days in Chicago. (I will, however, act out passive-aggressively by mumbling something about how Simon should probably not wear yellow on days when he's that hungover.) Now, for the updates: The job search continues. I've revised my resume seven times since I first sent it out. First to Americanize the content and language. Then I had some feedback from a very generous soul (my landlord's mother, who showed us our apartment back in November,) who made me shorten it up and helped me tailor it to management consulting. Of course, in Decemb

Pre-Valentine's post

So yesterday I wished you Blossom. Today, I am offering you this video ...my dear Poor George emailed the link and petition, and I want to do my part to help spread the world. There is not nearly enough love in the world. Why try to kill some of what we DO have?

Public Service Announcement

Men, don't believe the ads. Unless you're dating a 13 year old, it's unlikely your girlfriend will be thrilled with a Vermont Teddy Bear.

Rest in peace, Blossom

Blossom Dearie died Saturday. This makes me incredibly sad. One of my best memories ever is seeing Blossom on my 40th birthday at Danny's Skylight Room. Blossom was magical - incredibly talented, with a soulful voice that encapsulated innocence, experience, love and heartache in every breath. She will always be my go-to-girl. Take a listen. This Valentine's Day, I wish you Blossom.

Pandora is out (again)

Back when I lived in the UK, Lulu turned me on to Pandora Radio, and I loved it. I listened to it all the time, especially when I was studying...with the headphones on to block out noise, I'd be immersed in my own little think tank and my productivity soared. Of course, the folks in the music industry started smelling blood in the water and pretty quickly they had to shut off any accounts using the feed from a non-US IP address. I mean, they might lose a penny or two of profit, and therefore it had to be bad thing. So I switched to my iPod, deleted my bookmark and forgot about it. Now, however, I am tuning in from Chicago and nobody can say anything to me. Lucky for me, then, that Pandora came up in conversation over Christmas - my mom's "hip" friend Jim listens to James Taylor and Jimmy Buffet via Pandora - and it reminded me to renew her acquaintance. Today I've been at the kitchen table getting caught up on job applications. And Pandora has kept me going wi

Dry be gone

It's pretty much criminal how much winter takes a toll on your skin. I've wanted to cry, my legs are so itchy and dry. So dry that it stings when I put lotion on them.  Ditto my back, my arms, my feet...you get the picture.  I prepared myself for the snow and the temperatures so cold that you can't take a deep breath, but I somehow blocked out the nasty dryness of winter. Out of necessity, though, I have developed a combat strategy, mobilizing seven, yes SEVEN moisturizers (actually, make that eight because I'm trying a new one) to keep the hounds at bay. And so far, we seem to have reached detente. Here's what I'm reduced to, simply to survive the winter: AM:   Shower. Don't dry off, but immediately slather Vaseline Intensive Rescue moisture-locking lotion on skin. Then towel off (This, of course, means washing one's towel every day or two.)  Now coat face with Avon's Anew 10% Vitamin C Serum. Then apply Kiehl's Ultra Facial Tinted Moisturize

Ways other than Paul Blart and lipstick to combat economic depression

They say that, when the economy tanks and you can't see any way through your pile of bills and are wondering who you'll look wearing one of those barrels with shoulder straps, women buy lipstick and everyone goes to upbeat, escapist movies to take their minds off their troubles. But I'm here to tell you that any lipstick worth having is nigh 'bout $20 or more and you'll just end up regretting it, and Hollywood has not caught up with the times yet. Plus, it's Oscar season, so once you've seen Slumdog Millionaire your choices are sexy Nazis seducing children, attractive suburbanites mourning the death of their dreams, and nuns and priests talking about child abuse. (That said, I hear Gran Torino is a good diversion with a message, and if you don't hate Brad Pitt as much as I do you could probably sit through that Owen Meany movie where he ages like he's from Ork .) And while I'm as big a Kevin James fan as the next person, you can't ask him

Unsolicited product endorsement - Dorset Cereals

Food is a part of daily life and, especially as someone who treats cooking and eating like a hobby, it's a fundamental part of my memories of people, places and events. Pigs-in-a-blanket remind me of eating at a table where my feet didn't touch the floor, and my mom making a special meal just for my brother and me. Grilled fish reminds me of my friend Pam or of the time our friend Kip tried to make us salmon it took about seven hours. Muffins remind me of Uptown Espresso in Seattle, because they made a killer rhubarb one that was the size of your head. Grilled chicken reminds me of my dad, especially if it's a little over done. Dim Sum reminds me of Tom and George. In every stage of my life, I make food memories that follow me, and when I want to really cuddle with that part of my history I simply find that food and savor it, and it's as close to being there as it gets. In England, one of my favorite things was Dorset Cereals . They were an entrepreneurial group who

Unwittingly a Fashion Maven

In these times of economic trouble, one has to find a few luxuries to make one feel special. For me, this usually means fat free, sugar free chocolate pudding and a glossy magazine. Specifically this week, I went for the Jello-brand Dark Chocolate and a copy of the February Lucky. The pudding is delicious. And Lucky? It has revealed that I am the epitome of February style. I didn't even make it past the table of contents before I saw a picture of a sexy black lace cocktail dress. Lo and behold, on page 41 executive editor MK Rollins tells us about how lace is what she wants NOW! And while their stretch dress is from edressme .com and mine is not, it looks surprisingly similar . (Mine comes in chubbies .) I flip the page, and senior associate fashion editor A Brady is on about Navajo-inspired designs for a dose of relaxed chic. Look at my clearance sale sweater . And the hits just keep on coming. Their market editor loves braiding to add interest to understated pieces, and I h

Mini-blogging is more fun

I'm sorry for my absence. I've been preoccupied by twitter. I like the mini-blogging format - I mean, ultimately, I'm not saying anything different than I do here...I just have to limit my irrelevant ramblings to 140 characters or less. And if you're following me, you can request that my tweets be sent to your phone so you never have to wait for my pithy observations. Lucky, lucky you! And sometimes you can tweet to win things. No one ever gives me things for this. Wait. I take that back. Madame L sent me delicious caramels last year and is knitting me a hat, so I HAVE actually received things from this blog. Not that I'm in it for the money. Just saying. I just finished reading Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster. (I believe Marni's book group was reading this, as well.) It was an amusing chronicle of one woman's weight loss journey, and it made me think that maybe I should try writing as a career. If I tried, I could be as funny as her. Stuff happens to

Unsolicited product endorsement - Boots No7 Lash 360

Ladies (and gentlemen who wear mascara), if you're looking for full, beautiful eye-popping lashes, get yourself down to the Target and make a beeline to the Boots No. 7 cosmetics.  Lash 360 is the mascara for you! I became quite a fan of other No. 7 products while living in the UK. It's all really Chanel makeup and skincare repackaged for Boots the Chemist as a way to expand their line into a non-department store price point. In fact, it's still a bit of a premium price, but the products I have are well worth it.  I LOVE their liquid liner, and their lipsticks are divine.  With mascaras, though, I've always been a believer in the makeup artist tip that you're wasting money if you buy anything other than the cheap pink-and-green Cover Girl. Over Christmas, however, I brought the Lash 360 sample with, and the magic it works on my lashes has shocked even me. I don't have especially long or thick lashes. In fact, they're only acceptable because they are brown

My own personal heavenly bed

As most of you know, I've just come off of a ten year career planning corporate events around the world. This means I've slept in some pretty nice beds, and some pretty crappy ones, as well. If you are also one who travels for work, you'll remember about eight years ago or so when Westin started the bed revolution with the Heavenly Bed. Their theory: If you're traveling on an expense account you don't care as much about cost as you do about getting a decent night's sleep when you're away from home. So they invested in a branded package of high-quality, all white bedding on a perfectly firmsoft mattress with big, sumptuous pillows to suck you in and make you weep with joy. Their reps started hyping the Bed months in advance of the roll out , and they promised us it would be revolutionary. It was. The first time I stayed in a Westin with a HB , I was in Seattle on a high floor in a suite with views of the Sound. I remember sinking into the fluffy comfor

Get-to-know-you-questions, vol 1

We all need ice breaker questions. Things to jump start conversations when they hit a seven minute lull, or to ask on a speed date to vet the crazies. Here's one you can use, plus when you ask it you'll have time to come up with a really clever response when they ask you, "how about you?" (And please answer the question. Not that many people read my blog. Heck, I'll even turn off the no-anonymous-comments button for a week or so, just so readers who don't have google accounts can play. But it would be nice if you'd give me some clue to who you are so I can, in fact, get to know you.) You're going to the Oscars and you know there is going to be a five minute tribute for some lifetime achievement. Whose tribute would you least like to sit through?

Two movies you should see, and other Golden Globe opinions

I haven't seen that many movies this year. But two of the ones I have seen are exceptional, and while I'm sitting here watching the Golden Globes I thought I'd endorse them. One you've likely heard about - Slumdog Millionaire . I had high expectations...it'd gotten excellent reviews and the plot sounded intriguing. But my expectations were nothing close to how good this movie is. Don't get me wrong. It is at times brutal to watch - I mean, it's about a kid growing up in the slums of India, after all. But Danny Boyle and his cast manage to find exactly the right path through the madness, blending honest sadness and atrocity with humanity and humor. There is a scene early in the movie set in an outhouse that sets the pace and tone, and from that point forward you know you can trust Boyle with the story he's telling. And it's a doozy . Go see it. Pay full price. Don't miss out on this film. The other is a bit of a sleeper. In Bruges . Perhaps

GI distress on steroids

There's a stomach bug going around and, never one to miss a trend, I caught it with a vengeance. I woke up about 3AM Friday, and I felt like there was kind of an electric charge in my system. I was almost twitchy. It didn't make any sense. And then I realized that it was an adrenalin surge to get me up and running across the hall. Thank God for adrenalin. This has been a flu of biblical proportions. Friday I actually considered just sleeping in the bathroom, but opted to just stay in bed and hope my sprints to the bathroom got further apart. Yesterday I made it to the couch, but that was an effort. Bethany tells me I have to eat something, anything...and so I've managed some applesauce, a half a packet of saltines and some dry toast. And some Squirt. I'd make jello, but I can't bear to be in the kitchen. I haven't answered my phone because my voice is weak and it hurts to think. I started tweeting again yesterday, but it takes too much thought to respond to o