Sunday, January 29, 2012

Best Birthday Ever

What an awesome weekend. Tea at the Drake (delicious!), dinner with LOML, my brother, and his lovely girlfriend at Mindy's Hot Chocolate (really, really yummy), and delicious margaritas at Cesar's with some fantastic friends I hadn't seen for a long time. Oh, and lots, and lots of Downton Abbey.  It was a weekend full of great food and friendship that made me feel so loved.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I spoke with two different people today who are going on vacations in the next few weeks and I started to get really jealous. Not because I particularly need a vacation (I don't--due to all of the holidays and being sick, I haven't actually had a full week of work in a while), but because I'd love to see a new place for a long weekend.

I have no idea where I would go though, which I suppose is half of the problem. Obviously it would depend on how much time I was taking to go on some sort of adventure, but if I were to go somewhere with LOML, I'd love to go to Europe for a ten days or so, but if that wouldn't work, I'd love to go somewhere warm. Anywhere warm. Not that it's really cold here (thanks Chicago weather gods!!), but I could use a really warm beach.

Photo Credit
On second thought, this was a terrible thought experiment.

I'm going to go cry now...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No, I'm his sister

Well, I wrote a whole post out this afternoon while sitting on the bus going to writing class, but I seem to have misplaced the scrap of looseleaf, so there goes that....

It is my birthday on Friday, and if I had been a tad bit more organized, I would have planned some sort of big party or something. Instead, I will be going out to dinner with LOML, my brother, and his awesome girlfriend. I called the Drake this afternoon to make reservations for tea (!!), but I nearly fell out of my chair when I spelled out my last name, and they responded with "oh, Pieter?" To recap, I called one of the fanciest hotels in the city to make a reservation for afternoon tea and they asked me if I was my brother,  by name. I mean, my brother is sort of a rock star, but seriously....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Watch out!

Dear Pedestrian Walking Down the Sidewalk in Front of the McDonald's--

Watch out! Stop enjoying that half-caff, part-skim soy latte and pay attention! You nearly just got creamed by a car careening its way into the parking lot. I know, I know, it's McDonald's of all places and the food isn't really worth it, especially their breakfast menu. I've wished for years they would serve french fries this early, but alas, they haven't listened.

That's not the point, anyway. You distracted me with the fries. The point is that the drivers at this corner are insane and they don't look for pedestrians as they cross three lanes of traffic to pull in here. So please watch out!


That girl who screamed at you so you wouldn't get hit by a car on your way to work


Dear Drivers of (Generally-Oversized) Vehicles Pulling into the McDonald's--

Get off the phone.

Seriously, get off the phone.

You're driving a car and you're about to run someone over. Some innocent commuter who is just trying to get to the over-crowded train. Is it really worth it? Your conversation is not that important. If it were, someone else would be driving you.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Found in Town

Oh, my...have you heard about this really interesting Chicago start-up? It's called Found-in-Town. Users register with the site and they receive a set of tags with a code on it. You put the code on your keys or your camera (or your boyfriend?) and if someone else finds it, they can go onto the FiT website, type in the code, and get reunited with your lost object.

Perhaps if my brother had this he would stop losing so many phones....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sleepless nights

I'll be back later this week with some actual, hopefully interesting content, but I've been a little distracted these past few days because of this guy:

and his brother, Jack, who I can't get to trust us long enough to take a picture of. They kept us up all night last night, running around like maniacs, yowling, and generally getting into trouble. Here's to hoping we can get them to calm down and realize that we're really into this whole "sleeping" thing...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Welcoming Yerpa and Jack

Welcome home!
Announcing the adoption of Jack (left) and Yerpa! 
We went to the Anti-Cruelty Society today to find the cats who were waiting for us to bring them home. We are excited to announce that we found Jack and Yerpa, two adorable Siamese cats. We are very excited and have spent the afternoon trying to get them to realize they are finally home forever. More to come soon!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Letters in the mail

Have you heard about this new project from the Rumpus? They are offering a letter subscription service where users can sign up to receive a letter in the mail about every week from various famous authors for an entire year. It seems I rarely get mail anymore, and what I do get is mostly alumni magazines and requests for money. This could be a really cool way to bring some more creativity back to the mailbox.

What do you think?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Long Weekend

I was quite excited when John Green's new book, The Fault in Our Stars, arrived in the mail today. I preordered it back in September when a friend in my writing class told me he had a new book coming out. An Abundance of Katherines might be one of my favorite books of all time. Even though it is a young adult book, it has one of the most complex, well-constructed plots I've come across, and the little extra details (such as footnotes and humor) make me loathe to finish it. I have Monday off, so I hope to finish The Fault in Our Stars over thee weekend. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Yesterday it was fifty degrees out in Chicago, today we've got lots of wet snow. Already people have forgotten how to function. Gotta love winter in the city...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shake Day

At the school where I work, every Wednesday is "Shake Day" and one of the coffee shops on campus sells milkshakes for a dollar. I have no idea when the tradition started, but I can tell it's going to be a good day when they are serving mint chocolate chip milkshakes. You have you choice of sprinkles, whipped cream, or oreos, and let me tell you there is nothing better than sprinkles on a mint chocolate chip shake.

My brother is a senior at the university, and since he will be moving to San Francisco in the fall for his job, we have made a pact to spend more time together while we're still living in the same city. Shake Day has become our standing weekly date--we meet every Wednesday at noon and have a shake over my lunch hour.

Usually, the first fifteen or twenty minutes of our shake date look like this:

My brother staring at the computer. Me staring at my shake melting. Note the sprinkles!
I spend time staring at the back of my brother's computer while he finishes off whatever crazy project he's currently working on, then we have approximately sixty-seven seconds to talk and then he has to run off to another meeting because he has accidentally triple booked himself.

Today, however, it only took him about five minutes to "just send this one quick email" before we finally clinked plastic cups and started slurping down our shakes. We spend the hour catching up on the past week. I ask him about his classes, he asks me about work. We trade weekend plans (him: dinner at the fanciest restaurant in Chicago, followed by a swanky party thrown by a friend. Me: sitting on my couch watching Netflix with K.).

We met nearly every week during the fall quarter, and I am really happy we can keep up the tradition. I will never turn down an excuse for a shake, but most of all I love catching up with him. Before I know it, the year will be over and he'll be thousands of miles away. Even though there is nobody else in the world who can drive me crazy quite like he can, he's also one of my favorite people to hang out with.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Internet is Awesome

Today I sent an email to someone telling someone I had only "met" through the internet about something I had read on Twitter. She emailed me back to tell me she loved the link I sent her, then put a little PS about the article in her afternoon blog post. I am only somewhat embarrassed to admit that it made my day.

I read hundreds of tweets every day for work (in batches, mind you, otherwise I would never get anything done). I came across an article about the psychology of DIY and how we value things more if we have a hand in creating them, which is why places like Ikea are so popular even though they essentially generate revenue by passing the labor costs onto the consumer. Despite being a renter, I'm an avid reader of several DIY blogs, especially Young House Love, which I have been reading for over three years. I love their writing voice, their great sense of style, and the story that evolves over time on their blog. I decided to email them a link to the article so they would know that they next time they are cursing themselves while installing penny tile they will at least know that a penchant for DIY is inherent in our psychology.

Though it seems somewhat ridiculous, I was very excited when Sherry emailed me back--it was like hearing from an old friend you've been secretly stalking on Facebook for ages. But then I was even more pleased when she gave me a shoutout in their afternoon blog post. Thanks Sherry!

I really do love the internet.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Black is back

I had hung up my black coat, kicked off both of my pom-pom ballet flats, shimmied out of my black tights, and slipped out of my black sweater dress, then put on my black capri-length yoga pants and my stretchy black yoga top before I realized that every single thing I wore today was black. The only color was in the form of my hot-pink scarf. Back in high school, I remember dressing up for one sort of required fun activity or another and having to borrow someone else's black t-shirt. I wouldn't have that problem now. Where did all of the color go?

I have one idea: when I studied abroad in France, I saw that stereotypes about Parisian women wearing a lot of black were very true. It was the fall and I had a reddish-pink coat that I wore everywhere. Every time I bought something in a store or talked to anybody on the street, I would be spoken to in English. I was in France to learn French, but going to school with Americans who seemed as if they couldn't care less about learning the language, so my only opportunity to pratice was with the random people I encountered in my daily jaunts around the city. It was driving me mad that they would all speak to me in English, but I couldn't figure out what to do about it.

One night I had a dream where I was watching a crowd of people from up above. Everybody in the crowd was wearing a black coat, except for one girl. She was wearing a bright pink coat. I went out the next afternoon to buy myself a new coat, although I couldn't bring myself to pick out a black coat, so I went with dark brown instead. I had never worn much black in my life--it was really hard to shun color in an attempt to blend in.

Though it sounds ridiculous, I was stopped and asked for directions by three different french-speaking people on my afternoon wearing the coat. I had never seen anything like it, but it made me really happy to be able to try to blend in with the people around me. I'm slightly disturbed that I've managed to amass such a large collection of black clothing. Perhaps it's time to accept that I'm not in Paris anymore and wear more colorful stuff!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On Getting Sucked In

Damn you, PBS!

It's because of you that I added another two hours to my marathon couch-sitting session today (what? It hurts to move. Every. Single. Muscle. In. My. Body is sore after yooo-ga yesterday. Don't let anybody ever tell you that it isn't exercise).

When my (esteemed and wonderful) mother called me tonight to tell me that I simply must turn on PBS. Now, I grew up in a household where we watched PBS exactly once per year, on New Year's, to see Andre Reiu conduct the Johann Strauss Orchestra, and I remember it fondly. But when my mom tells me to turn on PBS, I listen. Especially when it is so I can see Herbie Hancock (one of K's favorites) play Rhapsody in Blue (my absolute most favorite piece of music).

(side note: I just was googling around for the name of that concert, ended up on the PBS channel for a New Year's Eve performance of Rhapsody in Blue which was available to watch until January 9, 2012, got very excited, and then almost cried when I realized that it was live until January 9, 2012 on the East Coast, which happened about 9 minutes ago. Curse you, time zone differences! Curse you!)

Unfortunately, even though we have a million different PBS channels, Herbie Hancock was on none of them. Instead, I caught a bit of a show, set in a castle. I watched a bit more, and then, before I knew it, I got totally sucked into Downton Abbey. I started surfing the internet, looking at IMDB (I seem to be incapable of watching TV without reading IMDB simultaneously) for information about the castle-house and then learning everything I could find about the family that lives there (fun fact: did you know that the Carnarvon family that owns the Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed is the same Lord Carnarvon family that discovered King Tut's tomb? Crazy!)

The show was absolutely fascinating, and totally worth the hype. I was glued to my seat for the entire show and now I'm itching to watch the first season to get caught up. I'll have to do some investigative work to find out where I can watch it, but in the meantime, excuse me while I frantically try to finish all of that other stuff I never quite got around to today. Unlike the Crawleys, I don't have a maid to finish the laundry. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012


K. was out this morning at a shindig, and I had a resolution I'd been putting off, so I dragged my butt to yoga first thing. It was absolutely beautiful out and the yoga studio is located in a corner of my neighborhood that is basically unreachable by transit, so I walked. And of course, I got lost. I was also running late, and so I got slightly panicky when I realized I wasn't where I thought I was with ten minutes to go.

I did make it on time after all, but the place was absolutely mobbed. Normally there are five or six people in the class. Today there were 22. It was a zoo--I've never seen anything like it. Every available spot in the room was full and I got stuck near the front where I was best able to demonstrate my distinct lack of balance and inability to remember which one is my left foot.

It was even nicer weather when class ended, so I walked home as well. I took the world's longest shower and then collapsed on the couch. I was asleep when K. finally came home, but I totally deserved it after the two miles and 75 minute yoga class, don't you think?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Open Books

One of my friends at work has an adorable eight year old daughter. A few weeks ago, K drew me a picture. She worked on it for weeks. It shows two girls with purple hair, whistling. I love it and hung it above my printer at work.

I wanted to give her a present to say thank you. She loves to read, but I was having trouble deciding what book to get her. Her mom told me that she likes to write in a journal, which reminded me of the perfect book. The only problem was that I absolutely couldn't remember anything about the book's title. I could only remember what the cover looked like, which isn't particularly helpful in googling. It's the story of a young girl who spends a summer in the Netherlands with her family and best friend. They travel all over the country and visit classic tourist spots. The author does a fantastic job of embodying the perspective of a nine year old, but I also love the fact that the book is laid out like a journal and mementos from the trip are "taped" into the book and interpreted from the child's point of view.

After an intense googling session using such wonderful keywords as "journal," "young girl," and "the Netherlands" (let's just say that a lot of books have been written about Anne Frank), I finally found it. The elusive book is called "Melanie Martin Goes Dutch: The Private Diary of My Almost Bummer Summer With Cecily, Matt the Brat, and Vincent Van Go Go Go." It's part of a series of books--in addition to the Netherlands, Melanie also goes to New York, Italy, and Spain. I called around to a few local bookstores, but the book was special order at most of them. I finally found it at Open Books, one of my absolute most favorite bookstores. I've already shared my love for First Slice and buying food to support a hunger-relief organization. Open Books is similar, but with books instead. They take donations of used books and resell them to raise money for the literacy programs they have on site. I think it's absolutely genius.

If you live in the Chicago area, you should totally check them out. They are just off the Brown line at Chicago and Franklin (213 W. Institute Place). Heck, even if you don't live in Chicago you should check them out next time you're here--I certainly used to when I would come back to visit (and I might have gotten yelled at by a flight attendant once for bringing an entire bag of books on the plane...)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Some random ramblings

I have a question for the internets--

I am a well educated woman. I have a master's degree from an Ivy League institution. Yet every time I go to, I just melt. Why is it that pictures of animals reduce normally intelligent people to cooing morons?

Copyright Cute Labs LLC 2012

In other news, I went to a conference today about urban research. I got miserably lost on my way there. Let's just say I'm not a fan of Chicago's diagonal streets. I came out of the train station and got royally confused trying to cross the street to get to the bus. I ended up crossing through five intersections. No fun. The conference was quite interesting though, so at least it worked out in the end.

Remember that resolution I had to go to yoga once a week? I'm practicing a new yoga move tonight. It's called sitting-upright-dog. You'll need a prop:

Carefully lean forward and take a sip. Hold. Repeat frequently.

Happy Champagne Thursday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Yeah, I saw you.

I can't seeeeeeeee yooooouuu!
Dear Woman Sitting Across From Me on the Bus Tonight:

Yeah, I know you're my friend's friend's friend's wife. You might remember that we met on New Year's Eve. Then again, you might not. I barely did. But then you tossed your hair to the side and I realized why you looked so damn familiar.

Did you notice me shove my face into my iPhone so fast I almost smacked myself in the forehead? That was my patented ostrich move. My modern-day invisibility cloak. If I don't make eye contact with you, then you probably won't notice me. It's a skill I've almost perfected.

You see, I suck at names. It's nothing personal. It's just that unless I've seen your name written down somewhere, it just flies out of my head the moment we're introduced. I am really good at remembering birthdays or hometowns or what you wrote your BA thesis on. But names? Not so much.

I'm a big fan of the name tag, but until they recognized as everyday wear at the level of diamond solitaires or leather watches, I've sort of resigned myself to being god-awful at names. Pretending to be invisible so we don't end up in conversation prevents me from exchanging any more information than I already have with you and then proceeding to feel awful that I know that your Aunt Martha out in Boston is having gallbladder surgery tomorrow when I can't even remember your name. Except that I'm always the one who ends up babbling about Aunt Martha (and I don't even have an Aunt Martha....), so to avoid falling into such pits of conversation, I just pretend not to see you.



Dear Guy I Dashed Right In Front Of While Exiting the Train:

Yeah. I saw you too. Sorry we haven't spoken since last year.

What's your name again?


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Letting the kids draw on the walls

I read about a beautiful art project today--artist Yayoi Kusama built a replica of the interior of a house inside the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, entirely painted in white. Children then came in and put circular stickers of various sizes all over everything, covering most of the surfaces. What a cool idea! I love the bright colors and the randomness of the pattern the children created.

K. told me that when he was little and just learning how to write, he came home from school and practiced writing the letter "O" over and over and over---on the walls of the dining room. Obviously, this didn't go over well. Some might say he hasn't practiced his handwriting since! :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Google doodles

Oh, man. I just spent way too long looking at the Google Doodles website. It's exactly what it sounds like--a collection of all of the Google Doodles that have appeared on Google's home page since they started doing them back in 1998. Some of them are really clever. I really enjoy looking at them and trying to figure out what it is commemorating. I think my favorite one is the one for the Royal Wedding back in April, complete with a miniature Will and Kate in a horse-drawn carriage. Absolutely beautiful. The one for Gregor Mendel's 189th birthday was also really clever. Which one is your favorite?

PS--The one for Antoine de Saint-Euxpery's 110th birthday is so clever as well!