Monday, December 26, 2011

Overheard on Christmas Eve

Family Friend 1: We're out of Veuve? Try this prosecco. If it's bad, you can open up the Chandon.

Family Friend II: How can it be bad? It's got alcohol in it...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bad news

Bad news, friends. The spider left me. He probably read my blog and felt like he wasn't wanted.

It's not that I didn't want you, spider, it's just that I didn't want you dangling at eye level as I stepped out of the shower. You can come back now (even if you terrify me).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Little Miss Muffet

For the past two days, I have come across something unexpected when I've gone into the bathroom to take a shower. A spider. Not just any spider, a killer spider. Hanging at eye level when I turned the corner into the restroom. If I had random ten year olds around the house, I would have thought it was a practical joke, but alas, it was not. This was a real, live, monstrous spider. I've been trying to not be so thrown off by the small things as I've gotten older. I've tried to put on a brave face, you know, for the kids that I don't have. But seriously folks, if I don't put up a blog post tomorrow, it's because the killer spider has eaten me. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I don't have a picture of the spider (I suspect that cameras are like sprinkles to killer spiders, making the humans extra-tasty), but it's about yea big...

PS. Why on earth did I think this post needed to be illustrated? Searching for creative-commons licensed photos of spiders on Flickr is a terrible thing to do before bedtime. Just another thing I did so you don't have to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cake Wrecks

Oh my lord, you need to check out this post from Cake Wrecks. Today, Jen posted a photo of a cake that features Santa rubbing Rudolph's foot. As Rudolph lies in bed, passed out from the booze (there is a bottle behind him), or from playing with the "toys" from the bag on the floor. It's just wrong on so many levels. And hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Go check it out!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Life List, Revisited

I'll be compiling all of the things on my life list sometime soon (should I add "Make a master list of life list goals" to the list?), but today I've added another one: see someone in public reading a book I wrote.

I'd be honored if I saw this guy reading my book.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Go to sleep

Me: Hey mom! I've been trying to get a hold of you for hours! How are you doing?

Mom: I'm sick. I feel like crap. My nose is stuffy and I think I have a fever. I'm going to bed now. [ed. note: at 2 pm]

Me: I'm so sorry to hear you're not feeling well! Go to sleep.

Mom: Ted [the cat] just came in. He's all muddy.

Me: Well you should put him back outside then

Mom: He won't let me touch him.

Me: I'm sorry to hear that

Mom: Now the cats are dancing on the table.

Me: Mom, that's a hallucination. Go to sleep.

Ted, the possibly-dancing cat

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Have you heard of Dabble? They are a Chicago-based startup that organizes one-time classes on a variety of different topics, from fencing to blogging. Every class has the same flat fee--$20, and meets for two to three hours. There is no commitment to five class session, just one evening.

I read about them over the summer and thought it sounded like a brilliant idea. They announce new classes once a week and I've been meaning to sign up for something for awhile. Last week, I bit the bullet and signed up for a jump-start course on getting things accomplished in 2012. It seemed a fitting choice. I'll report back on how it goes!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Melt Sandwich Shoppe

It snowed last night. I've always loved seeing how the snow outlines the trees. I like the blanket of quiet the snow brings with it--so peaceful. I took a long walk this afternoon, wandering around Bucktown, meandering my way past beautiful single family homes and townhouses. It's a lovely neighborhood with lots of people walking around.

I stopped for lunch at Melt Sandwich Shoppe on Damen and all but ran home to write about it. What an awful experience. The decor is interesting--schoolhouse themed--and I appreciate the extent to which the theme is carried out. They have chalkboard walls, menus printed on looseleaf, cafeteria tables and chairs. But that's where my enjoyment ended. The person taking lunch orders was obviously impersonating a surly lunch lady, and she played the part very well. There were signs everywhere yelling at the customers: CASH ONLY! NO RESTROOMS! USE INSIDE VOICES! I should have turned away when faced with that wave of condescending chatter, but I had just read an article about forgiveness so I decided to carry on. I asked to use the restroom (I hadn't yet seen the sign). The lunchlady's smartass comment was that they "don't have one because it isn't in the code." Maybe they should read the Yelp reviews--everyone else out there has complained about this as well. I paid $11(!!) for a sandwich and a soda and took my seat at one of the cafeteria tables.

The food was absolutely tasteless--gooey cheese which looked delicious but tasted like nothing. Absolutely nothing, which made the reason they had about twenty different types of hot sauce available make a little more sense. I had an avocado on my sandwich, or so I was told. I couldn't find any evidence of an extra dollar's worth of avocado--tiny green flecks the size of diced onion mixed in with the cheese gave me hope that there was some avocado somewhere to be found, but I couldn't taste it through the grease.

I finished my food and quickly left--the music was about four levels too loud and after such a thoroughly unpleasant experience, I had no incentive to linger. My advice: don't even bother. If you want a grilled cheese fix, go to Cheesie's Pub and Grub in Wrigleyville and stop by Cesar's for a killer margarita afterward. That's an excellent combination.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coffee Break

I can't be the only one who has been absolutely lethargic with this darkness in Chicago. Today I was absolutely zonked for some reason, so I took my assistant for our mid-day meeting at a coffee shop around the corner.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Did I not get the memo?

I have no idea where they were, but there was nobody in my office today. Cubicle after empty cubicle. You have to go around several corners to get to my desk, so when I showed up (slightly late) this morning, I passed by all of the empty desks and started wondering whether I had just not gotten the memo and everybody actually had the day off today for some reason, and I was just out of the loop.

It was disconcerting mostly because it brought back memories of elementary school when we had "drop the dress code" days and could where whatever we wanted. Not often, but every once in awhile, I would forget, and show up to school in my tunic or kilt and everybody else would be in jeans. It was bad enough being unstylish (I had that one down), but it's ten times worse to be the weirdo who didn't know what was going on. Man, I hated when that would happen. There are few moments more painful than forgetting to wear normal clothes on that one very, very rare day when you don't have to wear a plaid kilt in the freezing cold of February. (is it weakness that I'm thisclose to putting in another picture of a kitten to get that bad memory out of my head?)

Happy early Friday to you--may people actually be at your office when you show up. And don't forget--it's Casual Friday!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I've been doing a lot of thinking about creativity recently. What, for example makes someone particularly creative? How do you cultivate creativity? And the converse--how do you stifle creativity?

Over the past few months, as I've been paying more attention to writing, I've started to reconsider my understanding of creativity. Previously, I had conflated "creative" with "artistic." And "artistic" with "finger paints.*" I'm starting to realize, however, that "art" isn't just "painting" and creativity comes in many forms. Writing is certainly a form of creative self-expression. Becoming a talented writer and becoming a talented painter both necessitate inspiration, practice, and perseverance. Producing a work--regardless of the medium--requires a willingness to engage in the vicissitudes of the creative process: many false starts, diversions, revisions. I'm not sure it ever gets easier--the work just gets more nuanced.

Do you consider yourself to be creative? Did you have a moment when you started to identify as creative? Any hints on smoothing the creative process?

*I just spent way too long looking for a good photo to illustrate "finger paints." I found the perfect one in Flickr's Creative Commons, but then remembered this post by the Everywhereist, "We do not take photos of other people's children." Foiled. So let's consider this an illustrate-it-yourself post (what? You've never heard of IIY? I might have just made it up, but that's ok, because that's the POINT!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Days

Well, I'm sure I had something interesting to say, but then I watched The International, which was fascinating--complex, beautiful to watch, riveting. Just a wee bit violent.

So, I bring you kittens:

Weak? Perhaps. But a slightly much more comforting image before bed.


Monday, December 12, 2011


I've had mixed success with the TED Talks I've watched. Many of them have been absolutely inspiring, but the last few I've sat through have been a bit...tedious. (Side note: TEDious! Ha!) I might tear up at the ones about personal triumph.

Sarah Kay's "If I should have a daughter," is the best TED talk I've seen. Enough of me blathering about it--go check it out.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

First Slice

I've mentioned before that we do very little cooking in our house, despite the fact that I really enjoying thinking about food and collect recipes. It's just that when it comes down to it, I'd much rather spend my evening doing other things, like writing or reading or talking with LOML, and not cooking something from scratch. Well, he does most of the cooking, but the sentiment is the same.

Many moons ago, when I was still in college, I heard about an amazing nonprofit called First Slice. First Slice provides food to homeless LGBT youth living in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. They raise money for their programs by operating three cafes (soon to be four!), where all of their proceeds go toward funding their food programs, and by offering a program called "To Your Table." Each week, participants in the "To Your Table" program pick up three entrees, five side dishes, and pie to take home and eat throughout the week.

For various reasons (notably the lack of a car to get to any of the cafe locations where I could pick up the food), I wasn't able to participate in the program when I was in college. When I moved back to Chicago, I knew that I wanted to participate in this program and we finally signed up in September. I have been absolutely thrilled with almost every aspect of the program--I love the fact that we get to eat real food (no more take-out tacos, as delicious as they are), we eat vegetables (though please don't tell my mother that I actually ate the broccoli), there is much greater variety to the meals we eat than we would ever have if we cooked everything ourselves, taking leftovers to work is really easy (each entree feeds three people, so we can have some for lunch the next day), I don't have to think about what to make for dinner, and we can use the time we would cook doing something else, and of course, the fact that it helps a nonprofit in our community is an added bonus.

First Slice does its programs in "sessions" of seven or eight weeks at a time. We're on our second session and plan to continue indefinitely. The food is excellent--three entrees (we always get one veggie, one meat, and one fish or a wildcard), a salad (a different type each week with a fresh salad dressing), a vegetable (the curry cauliflower was unbelievably delicious), soup (lentil and orzo, cheddar broccoli, baked potato), pizza (goat cheese, Greek, artichoke), a starch (mashed potatoes, twice-baked potatoes), and three slices of a different pie each week. The pie is fabulous, though for some reason we never remember to eat it.

The price for each session varies depending on the season and what's on the menu, but for the last two sessions, the cost has averaged around $75 a week. Which is fantastic when you consider that a) it's a lot of food (9 meals worth of entrees, and then we have two side dishes one night and call it another meal. We usually can eat lunch and dinner from First Slice 4 or 5 days each week) and b) we used to spend **much** more than that going to Target to pick up groceries each week that we'd then have to cook ourselves

If you're in the area, you should absolutely check First Slice out--it's an incredible service that I can't recommend highly enough.

The freezer (did I mention that everything (except the salad, of course) can be frozen for up to 3 months?) Note the containers at the top. Yes, we really do have six (and probably more) different types of pie in our freezer.... Two words: weekend breakfast

Disclaimer: I wasn't paid to write about this fantastic organization--I just think it really is that awesome and I've told absolutely everyone I know about it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mighty Life List

I stumbled across Maggie Mason's Mighty Life List yesterday and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

When I was a junior in high school, a close friend and I made a list of things we wanted to do in our lives. We brainstormed and came up with dozens of things--ranging from superficial to deeply moving. I kept adding to it over the years and never totally forgot about it, but it was not really at the top of my mind anymore.

When I saw Maggie's list, it all came back to me. I have spent the past two hours searching for it on my computer (I could tell you exactly where the list is in my childhood bedroom, but alas, that is several hundred miles away...)

I did finally find it, but as I was searching, I stumbled across nearly every single thing I had written in high school and much of college. Dozens of journal entries typed up on my computer as I was stuck in one place or another (one entry, written on a train ride from Amsterdam back to Paris talks about the relaxing weekend I'd just spent with my uncles and how at home I had felt with family I had only met half a dozen times previously). My college essays are on there (much better written than I had remembered, especially the one that was successful in getting me into college). I stumbled across five or six poems--good poems--that I had written during my junior and senior years of high school (I wrote poetry??)

The pieces have a clear, distinct, wise voice that I totally don't remember having at the time. What I find amazing, though, is how much I wrote. I kept a daily journal throughout that time, but I have no recollection of doing so much other writing. I find a lot of comfort in it though--I had thought that I didn't really do a lot of writing until November 2009, when I did NaNoWriMo, but what I've found shows me otherwise. I have been processing my thoughts through writing for decades now. I find that really comforting.

PS--A special shoutout to the computer gods who have blessed my files (well, most of them at least) over the past {redacted} years as those files have bounced between more computers than I'd care to admit. Thanks.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Singing bus driver

On my bus ride home tonight, I was sitting in the jumpseats, right by the front door. I've never understood those seats. Inexplicably, there is a step to them, and my knees--my knees, of all peoples' brush against the random wall behind the driver. The seats are open on one side, and since there isn't any room to move your legs and brace yourself, if the driver turns a corner at speed--any speed--you're liable to fall over into the aisle. No good.

I say this because tonight, inexplicably, the bus driver was singing the whole way home. Of course, I totally can't remember what he was singing (though when I tried to think of it, the first song that popped into my head was "Creep" by TLC, which is just sort of awesome). I hadn't noticed at first, but then I realized that he was pausing at every stop in order to announce the name of the stop since the bus wasn't announcing the stops (nothing new there...ah, the CTA) but then he said "Turning left" as we rounded a corner, and I started to get very alarmed. A talking bus,  I can do without, but turn signals are not optional....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Groundhog Day

It is Wednesday. Ten days since I got back from Thanksgiving. It feels like I haven't seen my apartment during daylight hours in months. Even this past weekend, it was so dark outside that I felt like it was nighttime all day long. I am beginning to feel like I'm trapped in Groundhog Day. Wake up, get ready, go to work, go to something after work that goes until really late at night, come home, eat quickly, go to sleep. It has gotten to the point where I swear I've seen the same people standing in the same places every single morning. What are you doing there, strange man selling something out of your car? You are here every morning. Why? Random bus that drives down Monroe at 8:21 each morning, why are you out of service? Dude with the grey and red messenger bag at the bus stop, it's good to see you, it means I'm not running late. Woman with two kids, approximately seven and five, your kids are very calm and well-behaved.

If it's groundhog day, does that mean I can get a pet groundhog? I shall name him Wally.

I can dream, right?

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Guess the fuck what, Picasso"

I had a post ready to go up tonight, and then I stumbled across this piece in McSweeney's, "I'm Comic Sans, Asshole" and everything else just flew out the window.

I can think of a few time I could have said this in real life:

"I'm a sans serif Superman and my only kryptonite is pretentious buzzkills like you."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ah, the wintertime

Does anyone else find the most frustrating part of winter not the seemingly-endless snow, not the ice lurking around every corner (come on people, shovel your sidewalks!), but rather that overwhelming wave o' heat that comes when you walk in from outside? It's like that extra fifty degrees just melts you on contact. I find myself walking in and then fanning myself like it's the middle of the summer, sweating and feeling gross.

It's just undignified.