Dec 8, 2011

willy the what?

i spent a little time online today looking for christmas gifts (yes, i know christmas is looming and most of you have already finished your shopping.  shutup.) and found a variety of things, as you tend to do on the internet.  looking through a random selection of kids books on amazon, i ran across this and had to do a double take....

that's right, this is the big story of a little sperm.  apparently it's gotten great reviews and is a really sweet story.  whatever. i just sat here and laughed hysterically at the cover for about 5 minutes once i realized that it wasn't a whale or some sea creature, it was in fact a sperm.  my maturity level is obviously less than the age of those this book is intended for, but i thought i would share and give you a giggle today. 

happy shopping!

Dec 1, 2011

thankful thursday

i know i probably should have posted this last week on thanksgiving, but quite honestly i was just so busy visiting family, eating good food and enjoying the spirit of the holiday that i couldn't be bothered to log on here and make a list of things for which i'm thankful.  however, a week later here i am contemplating my life and how i really should be more appreciative of the things and people in it.  i've heard so many stories lately that have made me realize the things i complain about - occassional problems finding a parking space on my street, my commute, various work-related issues, not being able to go to london for christmas for the first time in 4 years, having to spend money on dental work, etc. - really aren't that big of a deal in the grand scheme.  i choose to live in chicago therefore i basically choose to live with parking problems and ridiculous commutes.  i may not always be happy at work but at the end of the day i know i've contributed something positive toward helping people affected by a terrible health issue.  i'll have to see my niece and nephew open presents via skype this year but i'll get to see my sis and fam in the spring and will probably go to london next summer.  in turn i get to spend christmas with my parents, bf, and other family.  though it's a big hit to the bank account, i can manage to pay for dental work so that i can have pretty, healthy teeth.  a lot of people can barely afford food, much less porcelain veneers.

recently i've heard the following stories:

- woman, in her mid 30s with a husband and young child, diagnosed with breast cancer that metastasized after several rounds of chemo and radiation.  her prognosis is not good.

- friend who changed jobs 6 months ago and is now being layed off at the end of december

- another friend who has been with her company for 10 years and her position is being eliminated, again by the end of december.  corporate america is awesome at the holidays, isn't it?

- acquaintance of a friend who has worked at her company for 30+ years, has had to take a 33% pay cut and now will most likely have little to no retirement because of the company's financial status.  to top it off, her dad passed away a few days ago.  wonder how much the executives at her large, fortune 500 company are going to have to forfeit in this mess?  i'm guessing it'll be a drop in the bucket compared to her situation.

- woman who lost her husband to alzheimer's disease the week of thanksgiving after several years of acting as his primary caregiver and watching his health and memory painfully deteriorate

- friend of a friend who lost his 23 year old brother to an undetected heart condition that caused a sudden, fatal heart attack.  his funeral was the day after thanksgiving.  luckily his dad's bone marrow transplant a few days prior was successful so he was able to grieve with his family over the loss of his son before returning to the hospital for further cancer treatment.

unfortunately, i could continue with other heartbreaking stories but i'm really not writing this to bring anyone down.  i'm writing this to call attention to the things we take for granted; the things we cherish and love sometimes without realizing it until they are gone.  good health, enough money to pay the bills, family, supportive friends, employment.... all of these are factors of my life that i take for granted more than i care to admit.  so today i'm celebrating thanksgiving and taking a moment to be thankful for every person in my life who i care for, for a crazy cat that makes me laugh every day, for a great bf, for the food i'm able to put on the table, the wine i'm able to drink (duh, of course i'm thankful for wine!), and for self, who - even though she can be an annoying cow - keeps me in check and reminds me to appreciate all that i have.

Nov 29, 2011

wonder woman's got nothing on me

the other day, i was perusing online and ran across one of those little formulas for figuring out your super hero name.  i've always said if i could have a super power it would be the ability to turn water into wine, so i was interested to see how this would turn out.  the game called for you to take the color of your shirt and the object sitting to your right and put those two words together.  once i thought about it i could see how this would form names in the same vein as many well-know super heroes such as green lantern, black cat, silver surfer, red skull, green arrow, black canary, black orchid, blue beetle, red ghost, and yellow claw. granted, i didn't expect mine to turn out very cool since the odds of me having a ghost, arrow, skull or claw to my immediate right were slim.

so, here's how it went.  look down at shirt, register color red (i was watching IU basketball, after all, and had to be wearing a hoosier shirt!).  look to immediate right and see glass of wine (of course).  put it together and my super hero name is (most appropriately):  red wine.  that's right, i've always wanted a super power to turn water into wine and now i find out my super hero name is, in fact, red wine.  i'm not sure what supernatural event would have to occur to activate my dormant powers, but i'd say if it ever happens i'll be the hit of every party i attend for the rest of my life. 

Nov 19, 2011

hee hee

my dad, talking to my niece:  "i see you're wearing a watch.  can you tell me what time it is?

my niece, age 5:  "it looks like it's time for mummy to have a glass of wine!"

brilliant child. 

Nov 15, 2011

weekend getaway

since i got back from spain in august (i know, poor me, right?), life has been crazy.  fall is the busiest season for me at work for many reasons - walk events, health fairs, workplace giving kickoffs, etc. - and often requires me to work a lot of weekends, extremely early mornings and sometimes evenings.  in addition to work, it's just seemed busy this fall with trying to make time to see family, visit friends and stay caught up on the daily grind like cleaning, errands, and all of those other necessary things.  the bf and i had been talking about going somewhere for a weekend just to get away, so when we saw that groupon had a deal for two nights at the lake lawn resort in wisconsin, we decided to get it and make a weekend of it. 

last friday after lunch and an hour of indoor tennis we got on the road and made the short 2-hour drive up to lake delavan.  our room was huge - a loft with a king bed and two bunks upstairs (way more space than we needed!) and a great little balcony with two rocking chairs.  we had a great view of lake delavan, too.

that night we got dressed up and went to dinner at the resort's upscale restaurant.  after a delicious seafood dinner, we headed to the more low-key pub at the resort for a few after dinner drinks.  the lookout proved to be very entertaining as it was karaoke night and there were some serious singers hitting the stage.  we had a great time singing along and, let's be honest - making fun of some of the crazy singers and songs. 

saturday morning was sunny and clear and we were happy to find that it was unseasonably warm outside.  when we arrived on friday night it was pretty cold and we started thinking we were crazy for going to wisconsin in november!  the bf went on a coffee mission while i was getting ready and came back with a large cup of joe for me.  bless his heart.  we went for a walk around the grounds of the resort and along the lake before leaving to check out the nearby towns of delavan and geneva.  our walk was really pretty and i can imagine how the resort is in the summer with the boat docks out and people everywhere.  it was nice being there in the off-season though, very peaceful and serene.

we drove through delavan and as our server at dinner the night before had warned us, there wasn't much there.  so we headed to geneva, a little town right on lake geneva that is a favorite summer spot for chicagoans.  the town center is a really cute little area with a lot of local shops, the obligatory starbucks, a few watering holes, art galleries and restaurants.  after walking around for a bit we popped into "hogs and kisses", a fun little bar and restaurant that seemed to be a local favorite.  my crab cakes even arrived on a pig-shaped plate! 

after lunch we walked around a little more, stopped for coffee and then headed back to the resort to relax before dinner.  while the bf visited the fitness room and indoor pool, i took a nap.  deciding we wanted to experience more of the local flavor, we set out to find a place to have dinner later that evening.  we didn't make it far before stumbling upon waterfront pub and eatery just down the road from the resort.  waterfront had a band that night and after dinner we relocated to the pub side to enjoy some live music. 

after several songs and a couple more drinks, we headed back to lake lawn resort, hoping to hear another round of karaoke at the lookout.  unfortunately there was no karaoke and the band that was playing was pretty bad so we called it a fairly early night.

sunday we checked out around 11 and made a stop at the outlet mall in pleasant prairie on our way home.  after a couple of hours of shopping we finally finished our journey back to chicago. we both took off on monday, as well, so we had an extra day to relax and enjoy the long weekend.  all in all, we had a great time and i really needed a stress-free weekend away, though i was happy to get back home to my cute kitty. 

Nov 11, 2011

happy friday

this morning i am sitting on the couch, sipping coffee with my kitty on my lap while i catch up on last night's tv shows.  later i'm going with the bf to play tennis at the indoor tennis center and then we're off to wisconsin until sunday.  i'm also off on monday and am really happy to have a four-day weekend.  it will be nice to get away, even if it is wisconsin in november!  i just wish i could take this little girl with me....

Nov 9, 2011

home for the holidays

normally this would be the time of year that i'd be posting with excitement and announcing that i had purchased my ticket to london for christmas.  the last few years i have spent two weeks over the christmas festivities with my sister and her family in jolly old england.  unfortunately due to financial circumstances this year, i am not going to be able to make my annual trip.  (insert huge sigh of disappointment)

upon learning that i was most likely not going to be able to visit this year, my niece and nephew jumped on skype and offered me the sweetest solutions.  the conversation went like this:

evan (age 3):  "tia, no christmas?!" (with big shrug and sad face)
me:  "no, evs, i'm sorry but this year i don't think i'm going to be able to make it."
evan: "oh tia..." (big sigh of disappointment and he vanishes from the screen)
cue amelia:
amelia (age 5 going on 37):  (with very serious face) "tell me tia, is it the expense?"
me: (trying not to laugh at her sounding like my personal financial advisor) "yes, actually.  it's very expensive to buy plane tickets"
amelia:  (with a sigh of relief as if i had told her to solve a simple problem like closing the door or turning off the tv) "tia, i have LOADS of money.  and i will give it all to you!"
me:  (trying not to start sobbing) "that's so sweet but i just don't know if you have enough and i don't want to take all of your money"
cue evan running back into the room:
evan: "tia!" (shoving his piggy bank into the picture)
amelia:  "now you have money from BOTH of us.  you can come now, right tia? i mean, it's tradition!"

and so it went until my sister had to finally tell them that while it was very nice to offer me their money it just wouldn't be enough.  we finally came to terms with the fact that i'll be getting up in the middle of the night with nana and boppy in indiana and we'll be opening christmas presents via skype this year. 

i'm going to feel odd not heading to o'hare and jumping on a plane this december.  it's going to be strange to wake up on christmas morning and not see those little faces so eager to burst into the living room and see if santa brought them presents in the night.  i won't be wearing paper crowns, fighting my sister's tree to get the lights on, doing last-minute shopping, or spending christmas eve eating chinese and drinking mulled wine while wrapping gifts and watching "love actually".  but i will get to spend christmas with my parents this year, which will be nice.  and i'll be in town for my friend jill's birthday on the 27th, which i always miss.  i'll get to bring the bf home and introduce him to the rest of the fam he hasn't yet met.  i won't have to worry about jet lag or flight delays.  it'll still be a nice holiday, even if i'm not in london.  and i know my sis and fam are coming to visit in early april, so that helps.  we'll be able to celebrate my niece's birthday in chicago this year - something i've never been able to do with her before! 

so all in all, the holidays will be great, just different.  hopefully i'll be able to resume the tradition next year!

Nov 1, 2011

bless his cotton socks

about a year ago i was in the first few months of a relationship and had started to notice some of the bf's quirks that amused/annoyed/baffled me and wrote about them here.  fast forward to now and the relationship is still great, but he still manages to do things that completely confuse me.  here is a prime example:

that, my friends, is what my toothpaste looked like when i opened my cabinet the other day.  i've started using sensodyne since my recent dental debacles, leaving the crest for the bf when he feels the need to brush his teeth at my place.  it seriously looks like he wadded it up and threw it back onto the shelf.  why would one need to crumple up the toothpaste like this?!  we all know that squeezing it from the bottom flattens it out nicely and pushes the paste to the top.  all i can say - bless his cottons.  i'll never understand these things but at least he amuses me.

Aug 31, 2011


the past month has been a whirlwind.  getting ready for vacation, spending nearly two weeks in beautiful espana (separate vacation blog with pics to come), then back to the grind and trying to catch up on work, grocery shopping, cleaning, catching up with the bf and friends, etc.  it's been crazy town around here. 

knowing my dad's birthday was coming up less than two weeks after i got back from vacation, i assumed i wouldn't really want to travel out of town again that soon and was just planning to send a card and make a happy birthday phone call.  however, early last week as i was addressing the card and affixing the stamp, i thought to self, "maybe i could just drive down for the weekend..."  surprisingly self agreed (she doesn't usually) and added, "well, we are off work friday afternoon and could be down there by dinner time."  i texted my mom and told her i was thinking of coming down to surprise my dad on his birthday and she said that would be great.  the bf also happened to have friday off and wanted to come along and just like that, the plan was made.

luckily for me, my two dear friends work for an airline and happened to have extra buddy passes, so the bf and i were able to fly to and from SDF instead of making the 5 hour drive each way.  that was such a nice change to the trip and really, really made it more enjoyable.  thanks a&g! 

my dad had no idea we were coming, though he finally figured it out when they had to park at the airport and come in to wait for us since our flight was running just a little behind schedule.  but up until that point, he had no clue.  it was so fun to surprise him and then go out for a nice dinner in louisville with my parents.  we had some great food at the makers mark lounge and then some post-dinner drinks at ri-ra, which was a favorite watering hole of mine when i lived in charlotte so i had to check out the new one in the ville!  saturday some of my parents' crazy (in a good way) friends met up with us and we all went to a local art fair.  that night we grilled out and had lots of cocktails out on the porch.  sunday we got to hang out with my parents more and finally left for the airport around 4pm. i think we helped make my dad's birthday a great time! 

jim and lyn at ri-ra: (the pic is a little grainy because it was dark in the pub)

Jul 27, 2011


on saturday i was innocently eating a popcorn chip, which adam described in delicious detail here, when i felt an unusually hard crunch against my teeth.  i immediately spit out what was in my mouth (gross, i know) to find that half of a porcelain veneer had broken off of one of my top teeth.  luckily, half of the veneer stayed in tact and was protecting my tooth from being sensitive to heat or cold, so i made it through the weekend being very careful not to chew or bite down on the right side of my mouth. 

on monday i called around to six different dentist offices attempting to get in with someone asap.  luckily for me, i was able to get in tuesday morning as a new patient with dr. lee, who is my new favorite person.  i spent 3 1/2 hours with dr. lee and staff and walked out of there with a brand new shiny veneer, a process i had assumed would take 1-2 weeks from start to finish.  given the fact that i'm leaving the country next week, i was very, very relieved to have the veneer replaced in a single day. 

finding out the price, however, was not a happy moment for me.  i was given an estimate as soon as we decided on a course of treatment and found out that my lovely dental insurance does not cover any amount toward cosmetic procedures.  awesome.  dr. lee's office manager was great, though, going through payment options with me and helping me find a workable solution.  so, without further ado, here is what a $1000 tooth looks like:

Jul 25, 2011

planes, trains and automobiles

i've been planning a vacation to the spanish coast since february.  there are 8 adults and 3 kids going, so the planning has been pretty extensive trying to coordinate dates, flights, other transportation, accommodations, side trip to madrid, etc.  after a lot of research and money, we're booked and ready to go.  aside from a few final details that we need to confirm, we are spain-bound in 10 days! 

getting to the house where we're staying just outside of torrevieja is going to be an adventure.  fly to philly from chicago, 3 1/2 hour layover.  8 hour flight to madrid, 3 hour wait for train.  3 hour train ride to alicante.  get to alicante airport to meet up with my sister and her family, travel by bus and then taxi or just by private shuttle (we're still in the process of planning that part) to the house.  all in all, we're looking at over 24 hours of traveling by the time we arrive from the US to our destination in spain.  whew!  i need a glass of sangria just thinking about it! 

but it will be well worth it.  i'm so excited to be traveling with adam, gary, and our good friend melissa.  the four of us could have fun in a paper bag, so i'm sure we'll have a great time.  i'm a little sad that the bf can't go, but it works out well for me because he'll be here in chicago to watch my kitty.  i'm going to owe him some good souvenirs for this one. 

we will be 1/3  mile from punta prima beach, which looks a little something like this....

the house we are renting also has a rooftop terrace with a hot tub (not sure we'll be using that a whole lot since it gets pretty hot in spain in august, but who knows!), a private tiled garden area, a shared pool and enough space for all of us to have beds, which is actually a more difficult thing to find than you'd imagine.  as of now there is zero rain in the forecast for the time we're there so i can definitely foresee a lot of beach and pool time.  good thing i just stocked up on sunscreen yesterday! 

i'm really looking forward to some yummy sangria, tapas and paella, as well as some home-cooked meals prepared by those in our group who actually like to cook (adam, paul - hint, hint).  we are also taking tennis racquets, so hopefully we can get in a few tennis games during the trip.  i'm sure there will be lots of euchre games in the evenings as well as some nights out on the town.  a day trip to alicante is most likely in the cards and the US crew will finish our trip with a quick whirlwind tour of madrid. 

the driving force behind all of this was discussion with my sister and her hubby about this summer and my plans to visit them when i was in london with them for christmas.  we figured since i have to travel quite a long distance anyway, why not just make it a new destination?  that way they can have a vacation and i can see them while still visiting a new place and getting in some beach time.  add in some additional friends, sunshine and ocean and voila!  vacation is born.  in addition to hanging out with friends and seeing my sister and brother-in-law, i'm super excited to spend time with these two little mokeys:

i just want to enjoy the trip, come back feeling relaxed and refreshed and ready for any new adventures that may come my way (as long as they don't cost me any money)!

Jul 20, 2011

hurry up and wait

have you ever thought about how much of our lives we spend waiting?  wait for the bus, train, cab.  wait for the light to change.  wait in traffic.  wait in lines everywhere.  wait for a table at a restaurant and then wait for your food and the check.  wait for other people to arrive at a meet-up point.  wait to see the doctor and dentist.  wait for your diagnosis of a clean bill of health or life-changing news.  wait for the stick to show + or -.  wait to give birth.  wait for your car while it's being repaired.  wait to hear back from a job interview (or 4).  wait for your laundry.  wait for feedback on a project or report.  wait on hold for the cable company.  wait for the coffee to brew.  wait for commercials to finish to get back to your show.  wait to get out of the parking garage.  wait for a package to be delivered.  wait for the store to sell alcohol at a designated time on sunday. 

i could go on and on and on, but the point is - we spend a ridiculous amount of time waiting for things.  of course, certain things like giving birth give you a 9 month wait to get ready for the new baby and waiting for your laundry or the coffee isn't a big deal because you can just keep yourself busy with other things in the meantime.  we're used to waiting for appointments and in traffic, though those things grate on the nerves. 

i've been wondering lately how i can reduce and/or maximize the time i spend waiting.  should i take up a hobby to kill the time?  or will i just have to wait in line at michael's and then wait in traffic to get home to start said hobby?  i usually keep myself entertained waiting at the doctor's office or auto shop by reading or playing games on my phone, but what about the other types of waiting - the ones that take days, weeks, sometimes months and drive you close to crazy?  for example - the job search.  you interview, then wait.  they call for a second interview, you wait for that day to come, interview, then wait.  they call for a third interview, you wait for that day, interview, then wait.  that process can be excruciating!  same thing, though with much more serious implications, as you wait for a diagnosis from your doctor.  go to first appointment, find out something is off.  get scheduled for tests, wait for date of testing, get tests, wait.  receive call with test results, need additional tests and specialist, make those appointments, wait for appointments, go to appointments, wait for results.  get results, which hopefully are good, but may find out you need additional appointments, ongoing health checks, etc. waiting to find out how your diagnosis will progress over the course of time is a particularly evil form of waiting and never fully leaves the back of your mind.

so again, i ask - how do you minimize/maximize waiting??  i can do things to temporarily take my mind off of certain things, try a different route to work with - hopefully - less traffic, occupy myself with books, tv, phone calls, tennis, etc. during waiting time, but i want to know how i can clear my mind and not let the waiting for the big things get to me.  any suggestions?  i'd love to hear them.  and yes, a lobotomy is out of the question.

Jul 18, 2011

driving miss crazy

the other day i was feeling frustrated and stressed out (that seems to be a theme with me lately for various reasons, but that's a whole other post) and was trying to figure out what to do to alleviate some of my anxiety.  i started thinking about how i used to jump in the car and go for a drive when i needed to take my mind off things.  i would get in the car, put on music that i could sing along to at the top of my lungs, and take a scenic drive.  after 20, 30, sometimes 60 minutes i'd always feel much calmer and reasonable about things.  i would almost always return home feeling relieved, less stressed and in a much better mood. 

as you may have guessed, however, living in chicago is not conducive to scenic drives for stress-relief purposes.  quite the opposite, actually.  even the thought of driving around this city when i'm not on my way to a specific place makes my blood pressure rise.  the idea of putting myself in the car and wasting ridiculously expensive gas in an attempt to de-stress only makes me more stressed.  and intentionally sitting in traffic, yelling obscenities at idiot drivers, and wanting to bang my head on the steering wheel certainly isn't relaxing; it's more of a nightmare.

lucky for me, the nice thing about living in a city like chicago is that there is a lot to do and see within walking distance.  now i find myself taking strolls around the neighborhood, popping into local shops, stumbling upon farmers markets or live music and enjoying these distractions when i need to stop thinking about stressful things.  i guess my stress has gone green!


Jul 5, 2011

three day weekend

originally, i had planned to drive to indiana to meet this little guy for the first time over july 4 weekend:

being the first addition to the H family, little G is already quite popular among our friends and we are dying to see him in person.  however, being very, very new (only 2 weeks old) and still getting used to being out in the loud world, trying to let his tired parents get a few minutes of sleep in here and there, and working out the difference between night and day, little G decided he will be accepting visitors at a later date.  another post to come after i get to meet him!

so, left with the option to still drive down to indiana to a friend's family's lake house (which would have been a blast), or save money and stay here in chicago (i'm saving for a trip to spain in august), i opted to go easy on the bank account and stay home.  three whole days stretched ahead of me with NO plans.  amazing.  i love my busy weekends that consist of going out, dinners, drinks, errands, tennis, etc., but sometimes when a particularly busy weekend is coming up i feel exhausted before it even gets started.  so the idea of having zero plans was extremely appealing for the long weekend.

it ended up being a pretty perfect three day stretch.  drinks with friends after work on friday, watching wimbledon finals saturday and sunday morning, followed by tennis both days, over to friends' places both nights to grill out, night caps out at the neighborhood watering holes, monday ending the weekend with a day of errands, more tennis and a stroll around the neighborhood to see the fireworks and enjoy the last bit of time off work.  i got to see good friends, eat good food, spend a lot of time with the bf, play a LOT of tennis (which always makes me happy!), enjoy the gorgeous weather and just relax and let all of those things that have been stressing me out lately to be put out of mind.  now if only next weekend was a three day weekend, too....

Jun 22, 2011

today i will....

i know wednesday is called hump day because it marks the middle of the week and gets us over the "hump" and moving in the direction of the weekend.  for some reason, today seems full of humps that are just knocking me backward instead of helping me move forward.  so, to combat the hump day blahs, i thought i'd make a list of things that i want to accomplish or do today.  here we go...

- go for a run
- pick up my newly strung tennis racquet
- laundry
- sign up for live mocha spanish class
- distract myself from the waiting game
- don't let my boss get to me
- schedule a massage
- avoid margie's delicious ice cream

that should do the trick! 

Jun 13, 2011

words of a father

june 13 is a bittersweet day for my family, as it is the birthday of my little sister, amber, who lost her battle with cancer at the painfully young age of 7.  my other sister wrote a lovely post over at noble savage and as i sat pondering what or if i should write anything today, i got an email from my dad.  he sent it to a few family members and the subject was "amber's 30th birthday."  i thought it was so nice and heartfelt that i wanted to re-post it here.  thanks, dad. 

"Today would have been Amber’s 30th birthday.  I hope you all will join me in celebrating!  She can’t be here physically with us, but I know her spirit is with us always.  I often wonder what she would look like and what she would be like at 30.  We would have to have a homemade cake from Lyn, and it would probably say something about being “over the hill”!  

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday  to you, no matter how many years, I’ll never get over you!  Hair of gold, smile full of sunshine, always ready with a joke, making sure you knew that she loved everyone. I try very hard to remember the good times we had, but somehow I miss you more, and I get all sad.  I can only try to be a better dad, with your smiles and hugs forever locked in my heart, I want to share that love you taught us all to be glad for every day we have.

There is no promise for tomorrow, please celebrate each and every moment with the ones you love the most.  You see, this is the legacy that Amber left us, love one another, like this is your last day!  The best present we can give her, is our vow to live our lives with that in mind.  I’m a silly old man that doesn’t write well, but I love you all, and hope each day is good for you.  Remember though that the days that bring you the most pain, can make you become the best you can be.  But only if you let your heart not be broken, but full of love for all. Amber, always on my mind. Amber, always in my heart.  Amber, in my very soul!"

Jun 12, 2011

conversations with cabbies

i recently went to key west with the bf for a few days and was thoroughly impressed by the cab drivers there.  every single cab ride we took (and there were quite a few since we didn't rent a car) came with a driver willing to chat about the weather, local hangouts, and general information about key west.  living in chicago and being used to cabbies who spend their time talking on their cell phones or pretending to know where they're going when they really don't, it was a refreshing change from the norm.  some interesting things we learned/discussed:

- hurricanes don't often actually hit the island due to the shallow ocean water that surrounds it
- big pine is the home of the key deer - a species of deer that only lives and breeds in this one area.  because key deer are endangered, if you hit one with your car (even, as our cabbie said, if it is trying to commit suicide) you get a hefty fine.  key deer love to eat flowers so big pine is the only area of the keys where you will find no flowers.
- one of the preferred modes of transport on key west is the scooter.  tourists come to key west, rent scooters and assume they can drive them properly.  on a given day, there are at least 5 scooter-related accidents that come through the emergency room at the local hospital that require the driver to be hospitalized.
- daddy bones is the best bbq in key west and happened to be located right next door to our hotel.  it came recommended by a cab driver and it did not disappoint.
- locals tend to avoid the crazy, tourist infested duval street but will make an exception to frequent the green parrot, a bar a block or so off the main drag.  the green parrot has live music and no cover but still attracts well-known bands.  we enjoyed the al castiglia band on the recommendation of a cab driver during our visit to the parrot.
- there are four naval bases on key west, one of which is a training facility where you may be shot on sight if you step foot on the property.  yikes.
- natives of key west are referred to as "conchs", being that key west is known as the conch republic.  we never met a single person who was actually from key west.
- even though key west technically has a policy of no boozing on the streets, as long as you take your drink in a plastic cup, no one is going to say anything or make you pour it out.  bars will give you plastic cups to pour your drink in if you want to take it to-go.  amazing.
- hit up happy hour.  tons of places do happy hour specials that are great deals on food and drinks.
- police seemed to be a rare sight, something we thought odd when we were on duval, given the mardi gras-like atmosphere.  when we asked a cabbie about this he said not to be fooled - many cops in key west walk around in plain clothes.  good to know.

i'm sure there were other facts and lessons but i can't recall everything now.  i just thought it was a nice touch that the cab drivers were so friendly and willing to give local recommendations, random information and insight about key west.  next time i go i'll be sure to learn more.  :)

Mar 4, 2011

oh what a night

day 4:  post a picture of your favorite night

i know the quality of this pic is terrible (it's actually a picture of a picture because i had no way to scan it) but i had to post it anyway.  this is a picture of our first group road trip to new orleans for mardi gras.  what a ridiculously fun night!

Mar 3, 2011

day 3: a picture of the cast from your favorite show

modern family
do yourself a favor and watch.  if you don't snort or choke on your own spit because you're laughing so much, there's something wrong with you.

Mar 2, 2011

two for one

my friend adam is doing a variation of the nablopomo theme for this month.  instead of doing a word a day, he is doing a picture a day that fits a daily theme.  i really like the idea of incorporating more pictures on my blog, so i'm going to attempt to do this for march, as well.  given that i'm already a day late, i'm doing two posts in one today.  yes, i know that's cheating but the format he's using only accounts for 30 days and since there are 31 in march, i figure i've got a bit of wiggle room. 

yesterday's theme was: Day 01 - A picture of yourself with ten facts

1) i love wine.  and i do mean love.
2) my favorite color is blue
3) my secret shame is watching old re-runs of beverly hills 90210 while lying on the couch and drinking coffee on weekend mornings
4) i firmly believe a woman can never have too many pairs of black shoes or cute bags
5) my favorite sport to play is tennis
6) i sing in the shower and in my car
7) i'm highly allergic to dogs
8) i have very long arms (my arm span is 2 inches longer than my height; they should be equal)
9) i can wiggle my ears
10) i hate cheesecake

and now, today's theme:  Day 2: A picture of you and the person you have been closest with the longest.

though my sister and i went through our stages of not talking or hanging out as much due to friends, school, different interests, etc., i'm always amazed at how close we are and how we seem to keep growing closer, even with her living on a different continent.  she has been, and will continue to be, a great friend and inspiration to me. 

Feb 17, 2011

that's not my name!

i officially became a cat owner on january 30 when i drove to indy and picked up a cat who needed a new home due to medical issues of her current owner.  (big thanks to adam for making the drive with me!)  she got settled in almost immediately, exploring my apartment, finding her food and litter with no problem, and settling herself on the couch like a princess.  she was never shy or scared or skittish and is very playful and friendly.  she loves to come in my room in the morning (if she's not already asleep at the foot of my bed) and snuggle with me.  eventually she gets a little annoyed if i don't get up and pats me with her paw until i get up and give her some food.  it's really sweet. 

she's not an angel all the time, though.  we've battled over her jumping on the coffee table and scratching at the edges of my living room rug.  she also is very curious about anything in a plastic cup and has a tendency to stick her nose in them and eventually knock them over if i leave one out in her reach.  around 10pm she turns into a tasmanian devil, running around the place like she's possessed and i hear her periodically during the night batting toys (among other things, i'm sure!) around and darting through the apartment.  i'm sure as soon as i leave for work she wanders around and jumps on every surface that is supposed to be off limits to her. 

with that said, she's a great cat and it's so nice to come home to her.  even if i'm in a bad mood because of traffic or work or whatever, walking in and having her meet me at the door always makes me smile.  i scoop her up and walk her around the apartment and she just purrs and licks my nose.  it's probably one of my favorite times of the day. 

the one issue that we've had is figuring out a name for her.  two weeks in and i was still just calling her kitty or kiki (my version of kitty-kitty, i guess).  the name her previous owners gave her was lucy, but i wanted to change it - mostly because adam and gary have a new kitty called lucy but also because i feel like giving her a name will make her feel more like she's mine.  i've tested out lots of names on her, but nothing seemed to fit.  i debated just calling her kiki, but i like that as more of a nickname.  i know some people take time to name their children after giving birth, but this is getting ridiculous.  how hard can it be to name a cat?! 

and then, yesterday morning after feeding her, i called her a name that just seemed to click.  and i've been calling her that since and it really fits her.  so, without further ado, my kitty, Stella:

Feb 9, 2011

lunch is served

i had a couple of yummy and low-point lunches this week, so i thought i'd share....

southwestern chicken salad (4 points)
salad mix
3 oz. tyson prepared grilled chicken strips (2 pts)
1/3 c. black beans (1 pt)
diced tomato
1/3 c. salsa (0 pts, check label to make sure)
2 T light sour cream (1 pt)
fresh cilantro to taste

the salsa and sour cream mixed together subs for regular dressing and you can make it a lower point value by using less or using fat free.  i used a pretty mild salsa and will definitely use a spicier one next time, just to give it a kick.  i mixed the tomato, black beans, cilantro and a squeeze of lime together and then topped the salad with the mixture, chicken and "dressing".  easy, filling and tasty. corn would be a good addition if you can afford the extra points.

black bean burger wrap (6 points)
1 flat out brand light whole grain wrap (2 pts)
1 wedge laughing cow swiss cheese (1pt)
1 pickle, diced
chopped tomato
1 spicy black bean burger (3 pts)
ketchup and mustard

cook and chop black bean patty into chunks.  spread cheese on wrap, mix ketchup and mustard together and spread over cheese, top with burger pieces.  add pickle and tomato chunks, wrap and enjoy.  this recipe originally came from hungry girl's "200 Under 200" recipe book and i just figured out the point value for WW.  you can use a tortilla instead of the flat out wraps, but i love these wraps when i'm missing my carbs and want an option that's going to taste good and not cost me a lot of points.

Jan 28, 2011

here kitty, kitty

i've been thinking seriously for quite a while now about getting a cat.  a couple of weeks ago i was ready to go to the shelter and adopt one but things came up and i ran out of time.  i was thinking about doing it this week but decided i should wait until the weekend when i would have time to spend with the new kitty without having to leave it alone all day while i was at work. 

i was on the phone with adam earlier, talking about different adoption shelters, what sorts of things i'd need for a cat, when i could go today or tomorrow, when an email came through from my friend rachel.  the email explained that her co-worker's sister had to find a new home for her cat because her husband is going to be undergoing cancer treatment and is not supposed to be around pet dander or hair.  because of this they need to find a home for their 7 month old cat.  i heard the reason, saw pictures of the kitty and it was a done deal.  i will be driving down to cincinnati the weekend of february 12 to pick her up and bring her to chicago!  i'm soooo excited!  here are the only pics i have so far....

Jan 27, 2011

"i don't run unless someone is chasing me"

that was the motto i've lived by regarding running just for the sake of running.  that's not to say i don't run when needed, like while playing tennis, chasing my niece and nephew, trying to flag the only taxi in sight at 3am, etc.  but just to go out for a run and enjoy it has not been my strong suite.  well, i'm hoping to change that.  last year some friends and i talked about registering for a 5K together and i actually started training for it, only to be told by my cardiologist that i had to curb my exercise (even yoga!) until after i had a procedure done and we got my heart issues under control. 

here i am a year later and my friend gary just informed me that he signed up for the race again.  so, i bit the bullet and registered for it tonight.  hopefully having the race looming ahead and knowing i have to do it on a certain date will motivate me to get moving and start running.  i really have no excuse, as i am trying to get healthier, will be joining the local park district workout facility for the duration of these cold winter months, and the 5K literally goes right down my street and past my apartment. i admit, i'm nervous and for those of you who actually like to run and do 5Ks like it's a walk in the park, i'm sure that sounds silly, but like i said - i've never been a runner so it's going to be a learning process.  wish me luck!

Jan 26, 2011

restaurant review - my kitchen

so far i've managed to make the roasted root veggies and chicken pesto that i listed at the beginning of the week on my blog.  the veggies were great!

roasted root veg
1 butternut squash (cubed)
1 sweet onion, cut into chunks
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
2 carrots, sliced thickly
1/8 c. olive oil
1 T thyme
2 T rosemary
1 T balsamic vinegar

heat oven to 475.  mix olive oil, balsamic and herbs together, pour over veggies and stir til coated.  transfer to a roasting dish and roast 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15, until veggies are tender.  easy and yummy!

i made the pesto last night and had it tonight with spaghetti squash, chicken and sundried tomatoes.  fantastic!  here's a pic, though it doesn't look as good in the photo as it looked (and tasted!) in reality:

the whole bowl was only 6 points and with the wine it was a grand total of 9 on WW.  here's the recipe:

pesto sauce
2 T pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp salt

place pine nuts in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, about 3 minutes.  transfer to plate to cool.  in a blender/food processor combine nuts, basil, broth, cheese, oil, garlic and salt.  process until smooth and thick.  yields about 1/4 cup per serving. 


Jan 24, 2011

weekly specials

in the spirit of continuing to try new recipes, i'll be making the following this week....

spaghetti squash with chicken, sundried tomatoes and homemade pesto

baked chicken with sauteed spinach and roasted garlic cauliflower and tomatoes

roasted root vegetables with rosemary and thyme

seared tuna with mango salsa (vegetable to be determined, perhaps roasted asparagus)

wish me luck! 

Jan 20, 2011

bag of potatoes and other assorted items

today was my weigh day for weight watchers and i'm happy to say that since i started the program on january 3, i've lost 5.5 pounds.  it may not sound like a lot but i'm happy with the results so far!  i've lost roughly the weight of a small bag (6 or so) potatoes!  next time i go to the store i'm going to pick one of those suckers up and remind myself that if i stick to this, it could be a much bigger bag i lose over the next few weeks. 

in other news, i got a raise yesterday!  when i texted the bf to tell him, his response was "did hell freeze over?" hee hee.  this is the first time in the two years at my current job that we've had a raise due to budget cuts and the economy.  i'm so excited.  it's not a ton of money but every little bit helps!

i was also given a blackberry by my boss.  while i'm so glad i won't have to use my personal phone, which i do a LOT, anymore for work, there's something about being readily available at all times that makes me a little uncomfortable.  but, now i can lower my phone plan minutes and save some money!  yay!

my friend gary just had sinus surgery and is doing well.  i hope he feels better soon!  get well gary!

adam and i are going to see "black swan" later today.  i've really been wanting to see it but everyone is warning me to prepare myself for the psychotic nature of the film.  maybe i'll post a review here with my thoughts.

i need a new book to read.  i plowed through 3 books over christmas and new year's and now i'm stumped on what to read next.  i just started re-reading "the book thief", which i love, but i'd rather be reading something new.  i have a couple of long, heavy reads on the list but i'm looking for something lighter right now.  if anyone has suggestions, let me know.

i just found out on monday that my good friends jill and nick are having a baby boy in june!!  i'm so, so excited for them!  they're going to be great parents and we're already starting to plan the baby shower.  congrats to jill and nick!

i think that's about it for today.  i'm actually having a pretty good week.  i hope you are, too.  :)

Jan 17, 2011

my obsession with ted

first off, i know i'm posting twice in one day.  i hope the earth doesn't implode because of this catastrophic and scientifically unexplainable event.  moving on.

i'm obsessed with ted.  no, i'm not cheating on the bf or stalking some celebrity.  i'm talking about, "a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences -- the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer -- TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize."

this site is one of the best things i've stumbled upon in a while and i'm sure it's well known to those of you out there who are more internet-savvy than i. gives you access to talks, interviews and lectures on a variety of topics from some of the top speakers and experts around the world.

i was getting ready to clean my messy apartment today and was struggling to find music i felt like listening to on my ipod/iphone.  sometimes i turn on the tv just to have background noise, but i didn't want to have daytime tv in all its glory blaring in the apartment, either.  i've been meaning to check out ted so i thought this would be a good time to do so.  i'm hooked. 

while cleaning, i listened to talks on nurturing creativity (presented by author elizabeth gilbert), why there are too few women in the workforce (presented by facebook coo sheryl sandberg), the influence of architecture on music (david byrne, musician), why the world needs wiki leaks (interview with wikileaks founder julian assange), and global power shifts (joseph nye, former assistant secretary of defense), just to name a few.  these are great because they're relatively short, about 20 minutes, and you don't really have to be sitting, glued to the computer to absorb what the speaker is presenting.  it's great to listen to while doing other tasks, especially mindless cleaning.  subjects range from art to politics to science to entertainment and everything in between.  it's sort of like audio cliff's notes for current affairs.

check it out.  you won't be disappointed.

souper sunday

i've never made soup before.  well, i've made various chilis and taco soup, etc. but i've never made the kind of soup where you have to puree veggies and make it into a liquid consistency.  i did this for the first time last night.  i'd like to try to start making soups on the weekend to then refrigerate or freeze and have on hand for the upcoming days. for this one i used a WW recipe for creamy thai carrot soup and went to work boiling, simmering and blending (thank you mom and dad for my new ninja blender/food processor!).  i actually enjoyed the process and though i didn't have any of the soup last night, i was looking forward to it today for lunch.  i have to say, i'm not as fond of it as i had hoped.  while it looks tasty:

it just didn't have the flavor i was hoping for.  the recipe calls for a pound of carrots, chicken broth, onions, garlic, salt, tofu (to make it creamy without using cream), curry paste and ginger root.  oddly enough, all i had to buy for this was tofu so it seemed like a great choice!  i tasted it after i had pureed it and found it to be a little bland, so i added some garlic salt and fresh cilantro, then re-blended.  letting it sit overnight definitely helped some of the other flavors come through.  it does have a little heat to it because of the curry paste and garnishing it with fresh mint gives it a coolness that is really nice.  however, if i make it again i'll add more broth (it came out the consistency of baby food) and spice it up a little more.  overall it's not bad and it would be fine to have a cup of it with the rest of your meal, but on it's own it's not the most satisfying dish in terms of flavor.  it is very filling, though, which is probably why it's only 2 points for a serving on weight watchers!  if i were grading this soup i'd give it a C and hopefully if i make it again i can bring that up to a B!

Jan 8, 2011

foray into food

those of you who know me well know that i am not very kitchen-capable.  more often than not, when i tell friends and/or family that i'm planning to cook a meal (aside from my staple turkey burger tacos or stir fry which i've mastered), i'm met with laughter, disbelief or the occasional offer to bring over take out when my attempt fails miserably.  the truth is, i can cook, i just haven't ever really bothered to try many new recipes and i've never exactly enjoyed spending the majority of my evenings after work in the kitchen, sweating over a stove. 

i'll admit, i did start cooking a little more frequently when the bf started coming over for meals.  on my own, i could eat a bowl of cereal, some pita chips and hummus, drink a glass of wine and call that dinner.  i was happy with that but given the fact that he can eat more in one sitting than anyone i've ever known and also thinks my cooking is great (he subsists on frozen pizza and stouffer's dinners and has never even used the stove in the apartment he's lived in since july, if that tells you anything), i started cooking actual meals for us a couple times a week and started to enjoy stop hating the task of cooking quite so much. 

now that i've started weight watchers, i've been sort of forced to start cooking more, pay closer attention to ingredients, and try new recipes and ideas.  i'm actually finding that i'm liking this new adventure into making meals that are not only healthy, but taste great and fit right in with the WW program.  so, i'll probably be posting a little bit about my cooking adventures here, not to pat myself on the back for not completely ruining some perfectly good food, but to highlight meals i've enjoyed that could help give healthy ideas to others. 

two of my favorites from this week....

buffalo chicken salad
4 oz. chicken tenders
1 T BW3 wing sauce
1 T light sour cream
1 wedge laughing cow blue cheese
cherry tomatoes
red onion

yes, i made my own low cal, low fat, low point dressing with sour cream and laughing cow blue cheese!

and last night's dinner:

chicken parmesan
chicken parm prepared via WW recipe and i added some roasted spaghetti squash to supplement for the missing pasta.  add a salad and a glass of red wine and voila! yummy, healthy dinner!

yes, that's real mozzarella cheese and normal red wine.  i'm learning that with just a few moderations and closer attention to portions and ingredients i can still have all of the things i love!

Jan 5, 2011

one little word

i was reading teresabug's blog and saw her post about choosing a word for 2011.  her word for this year is less, meaning that she is going to "focus on living with less, buying less, eating less, worrying less, trying to be someone that I am not less, trying to please other less and perfecting less so that I have time to focus on the important things in my life."

i really like the idea of finding a word that will help shape my motivation and goals for the year.  the interesting thing was, as soon as i thought about choosing a word for myself for the year, the word itself popped into my head immediately.  my word for 2011 is commit.  this year i will commit to getting healthy, commit to furthering my career path, commit to trying new things and commit to strengthening important relationships in my life.  by choosing the word commit, i feel that i am also committing to holding myself accountable for all of the things i want to accomplish this year. 

what's your word for 2011?

Jan 3, 2011

new year's resolutions

well, it's that time of year again.  time to clean out the cupboards, pitch all of the junk food, get going on healthy eating and working out.  i've decided to join weight watchers (again) in order to help me with this.  i did WW a couple of years ago and had really good results; unfortunately, i fell off the proverbial wagon and re-gained all of the weight i'd lost plus some, so i figure it's time to give it another go.  in addition to eating better i'm also pledging to work out more (aren't we all??).  i'm joining an indoor sports center that will give me access to indoor tennis courts during these frigid winter months in chicago, my great boyfriend got me yoga sessions at my favorite studio for christmas, and i'm going to utilize the workout center at my office (for which i've had a key for 2 years but have never stepped foot inside) to get in some cardio a couple days a week.  i'm really determined this time to stick with it, so i'm probably going to be updating here now and then on my progress, just to keep me accountable. 

happy new year to you all and good luck with your own resolutions!