Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: The year I realized that I'm really a big deal.

Okay, not really. I am not a jerk. Well, I'm USUALLY not a jerk. However, I realized that 2010 was a fantastic year. While I know I lack originality in doing this type of blog posting, I still want to get it out there.

TWO THOUSAND TEN KICKED ASS FOR ME.

What happened that was great:
1. I got a new job that I actually enjoy for the most part. Plus, despite making a paltry salary, I am able to enjoy my life by leaving around 5:00 p.m. nearly every day. Honestly, I think that just not hating my job is a huge upgrade from 2009.
2. I took some great trips. New York City (and BROOKLYN), Indianapolis (ha!), Florida and freaking Panama. It was a good year for travel. I look forward to more of that next year. I remember exactly how much I love traveling and the rush of being someplace new. I remember how giddy I get when I get a really good stamp on my passport (Evil side-eye at the guy in Rome in 2003. That stamp SUCKED. But thumbs up to Panama City. Best stamp yet!)
3. I started writing a ton. While I have always loved writing, I ignored that for a long time, trying to fit into the "Type A" lawyer personality and not much else. Now I'm back to telling my stories and putting them out there (out there being on the Internet, duh.) I was able to snag a bunch more followers (except for you, dearly departed number 38 TODAY. I hate you) which validates me tremendously. Additionally, I got the great opportunity to begin writing for The Smartly Chicago. I am honored that I can call myself one of their writers.
4. Lollapalooza 2010. Awesome. Not only did I get the opportunity to hear some great bands, I also got over my fear of the Porta-Potty. Word to THAT noise.
5. Friends. Once again, my friends proved to be the best around. Dinners, bottles of wine, concerts and all-out fun times were had. Photos were taken, memories were made. I'm so lucky.
6. I moved in with my man-friend. Yep. P.I.C. and I took that leap.
7. I turned thirty. While I did have some brief panic attacks by this big birthday, I realized how great my life is. I had no less than FOUR celebrations, all of which included drinks, desserts and my favorite people (well, most of them). This goes with the friend thing, too. They really know how to make me feel special and not in the short bus way. Thirty is A-OK with me.
8. P.I.C. got down on one knee and told me, "let's do this, grrrrl." I immediately started singing Beyonce "Ooooh, you liked it so you really put a ring on it." (No. This is not how it went down. Do you seriously think I am that lame? I might tell the proposal story one day, but the truth is, I am relishing having it imprinted in my mind and heart. While I didn't cry when he asked me, tears come to my eyes when I think about that night.) So yeah, we're getting married.

While last year, I said NO RESOLUTIONS, I think I'm going to make some this year. Why not? I'm going to put them out there just as an experiment. Let's see how I do.

RESOLUTION ONE: I will not become obsessed with wedding planning and the like. I can plan a wedding and remain sane.
RESOLUTION TWO: Improve my Spanish. After some disastrous attempts at speaking Panama (I swear I took a lot of Spanish in school!), I have a renewed determination to get better. Additionally, P.I.C. and I hope to go to Spain in 2011, so I will have a real opportunity to practice my new skills.
RESOLUTION THREE: Get healthy. I'm not saying I want to lose weight (alright, maybe I do), but I really just want to get into a routine where I feel healthier. Y'know, gym and all that sucky stuff. I mean, ideally, I drop some lbs before my wedding, but let's just try to be a little bit bigger picture, m'kay?

Three resolutions is OK, right? I say it is.

I hope you all have safe and happy New Year's Eve celebrations. I'll be back in 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The story about the BM.

I love Bloody Marys. Really. Everything about them is lovable. They are spicy. Rich. Thick. The good ones come with nice garnishments (meat and cheese fans, put your hands UP). They make drinking vodka with breakfast perfectly acceptable. What's not to love? NOTHING, I say.

A few years back, I was talking to one of my former coworkers (Salty) about how I loved them. She agreed. Also, we decided that "Bloody Mary" was much too tedious to keep repeating. We shortened it. On and on we went about how much we looooooved a good "BM." Of course, our abbreviation caused us to snicker, but we kept on with it. We talked about them at work.

Salty: "Don't you LOOOOOVE a good BM, FA?"
FA: "Oh yes, I do, Salty. Nothing better than a BM in the morning."

On and on, this conversation went. It just didn't get old. Well, another coworker, Old Blue, overheard us professing our love for the BM. He joined in.

Blue: "Man, I love a good BM in the morning. I have one every morning."

::Silence::

Salty (laughing a little): "Wait, Blue, what did you say?"
Blue: "Oh yeah. I had the BEST BM this morning."

:::Silence:::

Salty: "What are you, an alcoholic?"

Blue's smug look turned to one of confusion. He cocked his head to the side and just looked at Salty.

Blue: "Wait, what?"
Salty: "We are talking about BLOODY MARYS, Blue. Duh. What are YOU talking about? Wait. WHAT? You were telling us about your BOWEL MOVEMENTS?"

At this moment, Salty and I began laughing hysterically. Blue had just told us all about his bowel movement regularities. His face turned BRIGHT red (no small feat for the usually inappropriate and nasty Blue) and he just looked away. Eventually, he started laughing, but he was quite clearly embarrassed.

On that note, I have a killer BM recipe to share with you. I adapted it from one given to me by my brother. He used to spend time bar tending up in Wisconsin (where the best Bloody Marys in the world can be found, TRUST ME) and he passed this recipe along to me.

FABULOUSLY AWKWARD's BMs (heh)
--Can of tomato juice
--Worcestershire sauce
--pickle juice (sometimes I use the juice from a jar of banana peppers instead)
--Horseradish (I use the prepared kind in the jar)
--celery salt (this ingredient is necessary)
--Lime (lemon will work in a pinch)
--Vodka (DUH)

I do this all to taste. I start with a glass and fill it with ice. I squeeze in a wedge of lime, then add my vodka. I pour in a dash each of pickle juice and Worcestershire sauce. Then I spoon in a little horseradish (depends on how much you like.) I top with the tomato juice and a hefty sprinkling of celery salt. Pour into another glass to mix, then back in the original glass. If you want to get fancy, you can rim the original glass with celery salt. Garnish that bad boy with good stuff. My recommendations: Celery and pickles, banana peppers, salami (or any hard meat you have on hand...heh) and cheese are also great. Now you are free to enjoy your morning BM.



How do you guys make YOUR BMs? And also, where have you found the best BMs?

Monday, December 27, 2010

I should have been a nurse.

When I was younger, I was sure I was going to be a nurse. I loved taking care of people. I did well in my science classes. When my dad had his finger injury, I helped him clean his bandages despite the fact that his newly shortened fingers made me wretch a little. I was great at the first aid (thanks, lifeguarding class), I knew all about direct pressure and the like, and I was ready to don some scrubs and SAVE THE WORLD. Or at least some people.

Well. After a few years, I decided that to be really great in science, I'd have to study too much. Oh, and blood? Face it, it totally grossed me out. There was no way I could be a nurse. I'd be awful, passing out at someone's injury or gagging as someone coughed a little too hard. Of course, I decided to be a lawyer so I could still help people. JOKE'S ON ME, RIGHT?

Of course, I get into a relationship with yet another lawyer. Turns out, he's slightly accident prone. Well, honestly, it really is a development as of late, but as of yesterday, it has earned him the nickname of "First Aid." (His nickname before this was "Neighborhood Watch." I am fairly certain that he is the most tolerant individual in the planet. Well, that and the fact that he can take it as well as he can dish it out. He's a teaser as well.) You see last night was the second time that P.I.C. literally DRIPPED blood on my floor due to an injury.

About a month before I moved, a wine glass was broken in my apartment. Now, there are two stories as to exactly whose fault this was. My version? P.I.C. knocked it on the floor. That very action broke the glass. Duh. His version? I CLEARLY had put the glass too close to the edge which put it in a dangerous position to be knocked to the floor. Therefore his simple motion of getting a glass of water was not the reason (OR PROXIMATE CAUSE, for all you lawyers out there) for the actual breaking of the glass. In any event, the damn glass was knocked to the floor and shattered into many shards of glass. Of course, the light was off at the time. P.I.C. had shouted for me, because sadly he was barefoot and was afraid to move. I rushed to the kitchen, turned the light on and proceeded to sweep around him and all around the kitchen. P.I.C.: 1, Wine glass: 0. (Although it should be Fabulously Awkward: 0 because I sure hate to lose one of my long-stemmed drinking devices. Wah.)

The following evening, P.I.C. once again went into my kitchen for some water. (I know. The dude is a camel. No one else needs a sip of water every five seconds, I swear.) No sooner had I heard the thud of the cupboard and the faucet turn on and off when P.I.C. began to swear. I would repeat the words, but even at the age of thirty, I fear my mother would drive to Chicago and wash my mouth out with soap for even REPEATING his words. What happened to cause P.I.C. to scream like a little girl with the vocabulary of a truck driver? Oh, yes. He stepped on a shard of glass that I had apparently failed to sweep up the night before. (Once again, there is a dispute in this story as to WHO was at fault for this chain of events. I won't get into the specifics of this specific argument, but I will tell you that I was not the one picking glass out of HER foot, so perhaps I won no matter whose fault it was.)

Remember how I mentioned before that I hate blood? Well, P.I.C. was dripping blood everywhere. I turned off my lawyer brain (YOU BROKE THE GLASS, NOT ME) and dragged his hobbling self into the bathtub. Many things transpired that night, most of which I blocked out because of my dislike of blood. I thought I got the glass. Turns out, I didn't. He had to go to the podiatrist. There was a nasty tweezing of shard of out his foot. The story makes my stomach curl. I heard it no less than twelve times. I am over it. I refuse to tell it here.

In any event, fast forward to last night. We have lived together for three and a half months. P.I.C. is loading the dishwasher. All of a sudden, he starts in with that swearing little girl scream again. He is cut himself again. On broken glass? NO. On some random piece of the dishwasher sticking out. Once again, he has dripped blood on the floor. I dragged him to the bathroom once again and applied direct pressure (YAY for my first aid knowledge), cleaned his wound and bandaged it up.

He is healing nicely today. Sigh. See? I should have been a nurse.

Also. I am stuck with my First Aid. Why? I forgot to mention, he asked me to marry him. Wheeeeee!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas (Eve!)

While I had a long hiatus from the blog for vacation, I'm making serious attempts to be diligent at writing since I returned home. Coming back from a longer vacation is incredibly different. Honestly, I feel as though I have an excuse for my bad attitude. "Post-vacation" blues or whatnot.

However, this morning, as I sip my Panamanian coffee (black, exactly the way I drank it nearly the entire time I was in Panama, the coffee was truly that good), I am pretty happy to be back to reality. It is Christmas.

I had a minor mental breakdown earlier this week about the season, actually. Given our vacation smack-dab in the middle of Christmas season and the fact that I had focused my entire energy and attention on preparing for and then enjoying my vacation, I did not do anything really for the season. I put up my little tree and that was about it. I didn't get to go through all of my ornaments that my mom had set aside for me (for when I had my own place.) I didn't Christmas shop for my friends and family, something that ordinarily gives me such happiness. And P.I.C. and I chose to not give each other gifts for Christmas in light of our vacation. Instead, we chose to go to the framer and get my birthday present framed. (The artist of those gorgeous screen prints is the husband of a dear friend of mine. He's so talented.)

Lucky for me, P.I.C. picked up those pieces and promised that next year we would get a proper tree. This morning, I have a new perspective on the season. Well, for this year at least. I get to spend time with my family, which makes me very happy. There will be massive amounts of food, drink and holiday cheer, and probably some energetic game-playing. Tomorrow I get to see more family and have MORE food, drink and holiday cheer. There will be Christmas trees galore. I will get to give the family their little tokens from Panama. Eat, drink and be merry, indeed. If I'm feeling real crazy, I might even dress my cat up like an elf. Why not? It's Christmas!!!

This morning, as I drink my black Panamanian coffee (thanks for roasting it, Tito!), I am happy. Christmas is here.

Merry Christmas to you all!

And if you're looking for my insights as to that other "big deal" that's a mere week away, head on over to Smartly Chicago. What are YOUR plans for New Year's Eve?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The hike.

When P.I.C. and I began narrowing down our cities to where we would travel in Panama, one we wanted to hit for sure was Boquete. Meaning "hole," Boquete is a beautiful town in the highlands of Panama, surrounded by lush, tropical mountains and flanked on one side by Volcán Barú, the only volcano in Panama. Additionally, Volcán Barú's summit is the highest in Panama, towering over the other mountains at 3,474 meters (or 11,398 feet for you non-metric users).

We knew Boquete would be an excellent destination because coffee is a huge industry. We love our coffee. We also wanted to do something rather daring and adventuresome. Maybe white-water rafting or a zip-line tour. One day, during the course of my research, I discovered that we could hire a guide to take us to the top of the volcano. Given that the hike was somewhat strenuous (13.5 kilometers up and then 13.5 kilometers back down), many recommended to break the trip up into two days and camp at the top. Talk about an adventure, right? I found one company that not only would provide a guide, but also would provide camping equipment for this adventure, Explora Ya. Perfect. We would hike starting early morning, camp near the top, and then we would climb to the summit before sunrise to watch the sun come up over the mountains. If we were truly lucky and there was a clear moment in the morning, we would be able to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, allegedly the only place you can stand in the world and see two major bodies of water.

As an aside, I feel it prudent for me to note at this time that P.I.C. and I are not campers. While I have camped in the past, it had been years since I attempted to stake a tent into the ground. P.I.C. had never camped in his entire life. Additionally, while we walk a great deal in the city, we don't hike. Face it, Chicago is flat, and any hiking opportunities in the region do not boast terrain full of mountains, or even large hills. Not that we ever really hiked in any state parks or anything either. While this information was common knowledge to the both of us, we shrugged it off. We were going to be HIKERS. And we were going to CAMP. ADVENTURE, COMMENCE!

We meticulously purchased hiking gear (shoes, pants, rain jackets and the like) and planned accordingly for the hike. We packed warm gear, not a problem since we were coming from Chicago in December. We brought hike-worthy snacks. We bought our four liters of water the day before. We were ready. We had our backpacks all set. No worries!

We got to Boquete, checked into our hostel and later that evening received a visit from one of the guides at Explora Ya. He wanted to check in to make sure we were set. He advised us to bring our big backpacks since we would be carrying our own sleeping bags, mats, tent and food. We both have the big backpacks, mostly because they make traveling from place to place a bit easier. We both used them in Europe. Never, however, had we used these bags for actual camping. He also gave us the once over and declared us in good enough shape to go on the hike. (That bit made us both laugh.) Still, I was not feeling anxious. Hiking equals WALKING, right? Come on now. I walk all the time. Bring it on, volcano!

Sadly, our night of sleep was disturbed by some serious rooster crowage. I thought they only crowed at sunrise? No. Apparently 3:30 is good enough to break out the cock-a-doodle-doos. We didn't sleep well. The alarm went off too early. No matter, we were packed and ready. We went over to the Explora Ya office and loaded up our packs with the food, our sleeping bags (oh, THAT is what that little compartment is for!), the sleeping mats and the tent. They were somewhat heavy, but we could handle it. No problem.

The guide drove us to the highest point at the base of the volcano, a mere two to three minute walk up to the ranger station. We strapped our packs on and were off. Five minutes later, we arrived at the ranger station. I felt as though my chest would explode. Oh. Altitude. Duh. I forgot about that. We were started at over 1,000 meters above sea level. That is a big different than trekking around flat Chicago sidewalks, I suppose. My heart was beating in my throat and I could not believe how difficult it was for me to catch my breath. For the first time (and not the last that day), I thought, "I cannot do this." The signatures were made in the ranger station and I ignored those feelings of defeat. I pushed on. We began to hike.




The scenery was breath-taking. While my photos do look lovely, the actual panoramic while you are there, gasping for air, climbing higher and higher is enough to take away what little breath you have remaining in your body. Spectacular, truly. We would hike for a bit, then rest, occasionally taking off our heavy packs to let our shoulders rest. Our guide, Rafael, was incredibly knowledgeable not only about the trail, but also about the birds and plants we encountered on our hike. It made for a fun and very informative trip. Turns out, we were not hiking through a rain forest. Because we were over 1,000 meters above sea level, we were in a tropical cloud forest. I liked that. It sounds even MORE magical than a rain forest.

By the time we got to the five kilometer mark, I was struggling. I had to rest every few minutes or so. My breath was becoming more and more difficult to catch. We stopped for lunch. At this point, I was really worried. We were barely to the half-way mark, and I was having serious issues. We heard a rumble in the distance. Our guide told us it was probably an ATV tour. Apparently, the rocky trail was enough to take an ATV to the top, another fun adventure that only took a couple or hours or less. Sure enough a group of ATVs came roaring through. They paused though, stopping to chat with our guide. Sure enough, they all knew each other. After some chatting, they offered to take our bags to the top.

WHAT?

OUR SAVIORS.



They took our bags from us. We were free to walk up the hill unencumbered by the twenty-five or so pounds we had attached to our backs. Our shoulders rejoiced, and we continued our journey up the volcano. Still, it was difficult, but at no point did I think that I would have to quit. True, at the last 100 meters, P.I.C. had to coax me up twenty-five steps at a time. I did it though. Well, we did it. I wouldn't have been able to do it without his gentle encouragement.

We got to the top a little before 4:00 p.m. Even without our bags for half of the hike, it took us nearly eight hours to reach the top. We set up camp at the telecommunications base to shield us from the wind. It was very cold at the top, so we bundled up in our hats, gloves and extra sweatshirts. We put the tents up, then sat down and had some wine. Shortly after that, we had our dinner: chicken and rice. It hit the spot after a very long day of physical exertion. We went into the tent at about 6:00 p.m. with the idea that we would take a nap and wake up to see the stars later. We woke up, but only to the sound of a hard rain pelting our tent. Back to sleep we went until about 11:30 p.m. We both had to get up, so we had the opportunity to check out the night view. The rain had let up and the skies cleared to show us the magnificence of the sky and the stars. Never in my entire life have I seen so many stars. It was tremendous. We were exhausted, however, and made our way back to the tent for more sleep.

Rafael woke us a little before 6:00 a.m. It was time to climb to the summit and watch the sunrise. I threw new contacts in (how I accomplished this with my cold and grubby fingers was beyond me. Say what you will, but hand sanitizer doesn't make your hands feel truly clean.) and were out of the tent as soon as we were able. We began the last 20 meters to "la clima." There was a brief assent, then we had to climb up some rocks. It wasn't intense as in "we should have had ropes," but both P.I.C. and I confessed to each other that it was enough to make us feel like we were on a Mission Impossible.

We reached the top for the sunrise. Words can't do it justice. Honestly. That says a lot for me, a woman clearly of many, many words. We felt as though we were on top of the clouds.



A semi-lovely morning, we were able to see the sun rise, the Pacific Ocean and the mountains of Costa Rica. It was too cloudy to see the Caribbean Sea (we were lucky to see that up close and personal a few days later), but the views unobstructed by clouds were marvelous. Shortly after the sun was up, the clouds came in and we climbed back down the rocks to our camp site.




We packed up and headed on down. Because it had rained, conditions were slick. I fell. Four times, in fact. I was tired, it was slippery, and my legs felt as though they were made of jello. It was hard to remain upright. The journey down was more business and less sight-seeing. We made it down to the bottom in under six hours with our packs the entire time.

We. Did. It.

In retrospect, I think we were absolutely insane to embark on such a challenging and intense hike. We should have settled for one of the half-day hikes and called it a day. However, I would never take back the experience and the sense of accomplishment I felt at reaching the top. It was incredible. The views were spectacular, and really, when can you say you hiked to the top of a volcano? Not that often. In the event you have a momentary lapse in sanity, I highly recommend the guides from Habla Ya/Explora Ya. They were very knowledgeable, professional and very fun. It's not a cheap tour, but since we were not great hikers, we wanted to go with a person who knew what he (or she) was doing.

Also, we were incapable of walking for three days after this. Seriously.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The time we left the old crotchety woman at the rest stop. (Also known as a thigh-to-thigh ride on a tiny bus.)

In writing about my vacation, I am tempted to do it chronologically (just like I upload my photographs). It makes a lot of sense that way, and ideally it will allow me to recap the highlights of our fabulous vacation. Honestly? That will be boring to nearly everyone (aside from the people who want to know exactly what I was doing last Sunday evening...in a tent, sleeping, thanks for asking).

In planning our vacation, we quickly became overwhelmed. A whole country, albiet a small one, is a rather daunting task for nine days. As an aside, nine days is a great American vacation. Sadly, after meeting numerous Australians, Europeans and even a South African, nine days is shit. These people were on months-long and even YEAR-long trips to Central America. I think they're jerks. Well, I don't really think they were jokes. Most were quite nice, actually. However the idea of being able to really and truly explore an area of the world and then return to your stable job is so very appealing.

So, we had nine days in Panama. We chose to split it up among Panama City, Boquete and Bocas del Toro. We would get a little urban exposure in Panama City, some beautiful mountain scenery and outdoor adventure in Boquete and spend our last few days island-hopping and getting some sun in Bocas. Clearly, it was not long enough. As I waited for the el this morning, I couldn't help but feel as if I hadn't left at all.

Enough asides, on with the stories!

From Boquete, we had to take two buses to get to Bocas del Toro. We had to first take an American school bus back to David, then get on another bus to Almirante. In total, we were looking at a minimum of five hours in various buses. We made our bus to David on time (in fact, we had enough time for P.I.C. to order us coffee. IN SPANISH. I'm so proud of his new language skills.) We had left early, not wanting to waste the entire day sleeping in our hostel. If we were going to sleep, it would be by the pool at our island resort, naturally. In any event, we made it to David just before 8:00 a.m. We hopped on the tiny bus, they strapped our backpacks to the top of the bus and we waited. 8:00 a.m. came and went. So did 8:30 a.m. More and more people crowded onto the bus after 8:30. The seats were tiny, P.I.C. and I were pressed thigh to thigh and my butt was STILL hanging out into the aisle. Lucky for me, this meant that every person passing me would whack into me in some fashion. This would not have been that big of a deal until I realized that they were going to stop on the sides of mountains and let more and more people on the bus.

We were still sitting at the bus terminal in David when an elderly lady came up with several large bags. She started shouting at the driver and his assistant that she wanted on the bus. (Now, this is where you can be impressed wiht MY language skills. By this time, I was able to understand nearly everything she was saying, which made it much more fun for me.) The bus driver told her that there was no more room, but she insisted that she would climb all the way and take that LAST SEAT. Then she yelled at them to put her bags up on the top of the bus. It was actually quite hysterical until she got on the bus with a cane and whacked me not only with her cane, but also her ample booty. At that moment, her bossiness began to irritate me, and I lose my sense of humor. (What can I say, I'd been sitting on the bus for 45 minutes thigh to thigh with P.I.C. I was uncomfortable already!)

Our bus ride started off around 9:00 a.m. We were completely full when we left. There was a driver and then there was a younger guy that would stand by the back door. He kept the door open for the most part and then would kind of hang out it as we went by groups of people on the road to see if they wanted to hop on. Yes, at much of the time, I had people's butts in my face. And my thigh was still snugly against P.I.C.'s. Off we went, thigh to thigh, the occasional butt in my face winding up and down the mountains at break-neck speeds. Well, once we were up in the mountains, it was as if our bus was the "Little Engine that Could," going "CHUG-A-CHUG-A-CHUG."

After two hours, we pulled over into a rest stop. I had been curbing my liquids so I could make it all the way without having to stop. I mean, rest areas are terrifying in the U.S., and I had a scary hover-toilet experience at the Albrook Airport, so I stayed on the bus. Additionally, P.I.C. had to use the facilities, so I figured I would stay on in the event he wasn't back timely. We had fifteen minutes. Nearly the entire bus emptied out to either use the restrooms or buy some lunch. Of course, lady with a cane pushed her way out to be one of the first people out of the bus. In so doing, she whacked me really good once again with her cane. Honestly, I don't know why she had the cane because she moved really quickly. I suspect it was a weapon of sorts. (That's just my opinion though.) P.I.C. made it back on the bus along with seemingly everyone else. He assured me that the rest stop was just as horrifying as I had imagined.

I don't think the bus actually stopped for fifteen minutes. Soon, the bus driver and his helper were shouting out the window, "CHANGUINOLA! CHANGUINOLA!" Once again, we were off.

I was trying to enjoy the ride, snapping a few photos out the bus window.





The scenery was really quite beautiful.

About twenty minutes after we left the rest area, P.I.C. begins craning his neck to look at the back of the bus.

P.I.C. "Um, guess what? I don't think that old lady with the cane got back on the bus."

Of course, my head immediately swivels back and notices the same thing. That "ultimo" seat she had demanded to sit in? Empty. Lady with the cane was most definitely not on the bus.

I turn back to P.I.C. with my eyes wide open, trying not to start laughing, only to see him laughing so hard he was crying. Then the floodgates opened. Thigh to thigh, we sat there for a good twenty minutes in silent, tearful laughter, imagining that crabby hustling out of the rest area to find her bus and her luggage long gone.

We're not the best people in the world. I know this. But laughter that makes your whole body ache is just that: a really, really good laugh.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm baaaaack.

Hi friends. Obviously, I have not been as diligent in my blogging lately. I swear, I have a very good reason: I was on VACATION. Yep. P.I.C. and I took a much-needed trip for nine whole days to Panama. Panama, the country, not the lame city in Florida, that is.

We are now rested, relaxed and duly whining about Chicago cold. It is as though we never left. Well, except that we now both have toasty tans. (As toasty as us two very white people get, that is.)

I have plans on writing much more about our adventures. You'd think, and you'd be entirely right, that there is a lot of writing for me to do to tell you all about our trip and the awkwardness that ensued when I realized exactly how poor my Spanish language skills have become. I promise, there will be stories.

For now, you will have to be satisfied with a few photos.

The canal, from our tiny plane.

Our camp-sight after our hike. That little orange blob is our tent. I took this photo from the very top of the volcano (Volcan Baru.)

Coffee beans, on Tito's farm.

Monkey stare-down outside our hotel, Cerro Ancon, Panama City.

The gorgeous view from the balcony attached to our room at Garden of Eden Resort in Bocas del Toro.
Stories to come, I promise! For now, I need to do some laundry and rest. Oh, and Christmas is less than a week away. Yikes!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Calm down, lady. I'm not trying to steal your money.

Today, P.I.C. and I met for a lovely lunch. It's always nice to see him in the middle of the day. Afterwards, we took a walk to the bank so he could deposit a check. We walked over to the nearby atrium where there were some ATMs out of the cold where he could do his business.

As P.I.C. stood at the ATM punching in his code and getting ready to feed his check into the machine, there was a woman at the ATM next to him having some rather apparent difficulties. A middle-aged woman with very badly-dyed blond hair, she was not the most polished lady in the loop today. Clearly. As I stood by P.I.C., she had tried to get the attention of someone through the window of a store in the atrium and walked away from the ATM. She walked back, looking rather disgruntled and frustrated, shooting me a dirty look as she re-punched in her PIN. Another lady walked up to help her, and Lady Number 1 explained, "It will only take two checks." She then lowered her voice and physically moved the other lady so that I was unable to witness what was transpiring at the ATM next to the one P.I.C. was using. She also shot me another nasty look.

I admit that I can have a staring problem. What of it? I find people interesting, and if I didn't eavesdrop, I'd never have anything to write about. However, I swear I wasn't fully staring at this lady. She just wasn't interesting aside from her apparent frustration that made me see her as a difficult person. Don't ask me how I made that determination, she just seemed like a bitch even BEFORE she glared at me.

CALM DOWN, lady. I seriously was NOT going to watch you enter your PIN, conspire to steal your card when you were not looking and steal all of your money. I promise. Sheesh.

(ALSO. For those of you who might appreciate these kinds of things, I said PIN, and not PIN Number. I know that's redundant. I also did NOT say ATM Machine. HELLO?! Redundant again. I'm so smart. I bet that lady at the ATM machine was having problems with her PIN number. She seemed the type to say those sorts of things.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Know yourself.

I am attempting to fit as much cold-fighting tea into my body over the next several days. I'm not sure if it is the fact that it is freezing in Chicago right now and I am breathing in cold dry air that makes my throat feel a tickle or the fact that I spent the weekend with one very congested P.I.C., but I am so paranoid that I am coming down with a cold.

My favorite new remedy for colds? Yogi tea. The "Cold Season" is like a Vicks Vaporub for your mouth and makes you breathe so much easier. I love it. Another thing that I love about it? It has little introspective sayings on the tab.

"It's not a privilege to know others. Know yourself. That's a privilege." (No author is noted.)

While I admit that I am not the most introspective person. I don't meditate, my yoga skills are very unrefined and other than writing out my gripes in blog format, I don't engage in much personal self-reflection. However, I do believe that after thirty years of life, I have a firm grasp of who I am. I am fairly certain that I "know myself."

But right now? I can't figure out if I am getting sick. (BUT I KNOW MYSELF...I SHOULD KNOW THIS.)

Oh, Yogi. Please save me.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Honestly? I'm kind of sad.

Why?

Because this little guy?

I call this my mummy sleeping position.
He's residing with my mom for the next two weeks. I brought him there today.

I have lived in my own apartment since 2003. Aside from one night he had to spend at the vet's office, I have lived with that furry, Gizmo-looking creature for SEVEN years. My house feels empty without him. I am sad.

Honestly, I am grateful that I won't have to worry about him while we are gone. My mom's little kitten will keep him plenty busy. But now? I see his toys spilled out over my bedroom floor (because the second I put them all away, he dumps the thing over to get his favorite...catnip cigar), and I miss him.

I know, some people are probably rolling their eyes saying "CRAZY CAT LADY, WTF?!" To those people, I say suck it. Everyone else, feel free to leave me a comment showing how much you care that MY CAT IS NOT IN MY HOUSE TONIGHT.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Welcome to winter.

The view from our porch. The snow makes the alley a bit let nasty-looking, no?

The weatherman called for snow last night. There was a "winter weather advisory" which, for those of you not privy to such weather forecasts, means it gon' snow. It gon' snow a lot. And it's going to be a bitch to get around. Well, either that, or there will be two thousand snow plows just parked and hovering near the highways, ready to salt the shit out of the roads and we get nothing more than a good chill. One of the two will surely happen.

However, as evidenced by the photograph about, the winter weather advisory was spot on last night. It did snow.

My position on snow? Glad you asked. I love it. Until February. Then I am ready for spring (well, what constitutes spring in Chicago, that is) and the ensuing summer that hopefully follows. So, today, December 4, 2010, I am saying, "I LOVE THIS SNOW." Granted, I have not attempted to back the above-photographed vehicle out of its parking spot. Odds are good there will need to be a shovel involved. Did I mention that they do not plow any sort of natural accumulation in the alleys? Oh boy.

So, another view of the alley and the snow on the mess of cables back there. (DON'T just my sans nature snow photographs. I refused to remove myself from my Christmas gnome PJ pants to leave the safety of my porch. I'm not sorry.)
What do I love about snow from today until February 1? Well, I love my boots. I did all of this research last year to find the perfectly cute and warm snow boots since we wear them for several months out of the year. My feet are currently staying dry and toasty in some cute and functional Patagonia Lugaro boots.

I am SO warm and keep feet SO dry. 
While I don't love them near as much as the Uggs I bought several years back (now THOSE were some seriously warm and lovely boots), they do function well. I also suspect that they make my feet smell. That could just be my feet. I prefer to blame it on the boots. They ARE made of recycled materials...who knows.

I love that when it snows like this, fashion becomes less a "who are you wearing" and more of a crazy mismatched scarf-hat-mitten combination accented by pink cheeks and little visible puffs of breath. Well, in my mind it does. I like the mismatched look. I like my pink cheeks.

Another thing? When it snows, that means it is not ridiculously cold. I remember back in the day having snow days, which were totally awesome. You didn't have to go to school and could don snow pants and play outside all day. I also remember those "COLD days." (Anyone remember those?) These were days when the temperature (and accompanying wind chill) rendered it TOO COLD to leave the house to go school. No fun in that, right? Of course, that bitter cold is not a part of the snow. It needs to be a certain temperature to actually have good, sticking snow. Bitter cold is not that. So if it's snowing, you know it's not QUITE so cold outside. Yay!

Mostly, I always dream of a white Christmas. ALWAYS. I can't get into the Christmas spirit without it. Now that the snow has fallen, I am going to dive into my massive Rubbermaid tub and decorate a bit. 'Tis the season, and all that jazz.

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SNOW FALL, EVERYONE!!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Neuroses

I believe that anyone who works in my line of work has a little bit of a Type A, control-freak to their personality. It's the nature of the game. Personally, mine is not manifested in tidiness of office or home. I tend to be a bit lazy with the organization of my files or my office...or the shoes in my closet. However, when it comes to working my files or deep-cleaning or even folding of the laundry, I am very particular. (P.I.C. has learned this the hard way. Even if it is his turn to wash our towels, he still has me fold them. The first two times he folded them his way, he not only witnessed me re-folding them, but also my accompanying tutorial as to how he SHOULD fold them.)

To say I have my own neurotic streak is putting it mildly. Any big purchase, okay, ANY purchase, really is researched thoroughly. I ask my friends, read reviews, price things out, basically anything to make sure what I am buying is the perfect item to fit my needs.

Our upcoming vacation has been the perfect way for me to really get crazy on my research. The hotels must be affordable, highly rated by travelers and accessible by our travel means. The day trips must be recommended, reserveable and worth the cost. Hiking shoes? Hiking pants? RAIN coat? So. Much. Research. OVERLOAD. I love it.

Suffice it to say that I believe I have thoroughly annoyed the two people with whom I have been corresponding in Panama. They write back once to confirm, and I just cannot resist writing back, "Oh. Heeeeey. Can you tell me which tour you recommend?" Can't. Stop. Writing. In fact, I suspect that some of my recent bout of insomnia is due not only to lack of exercise, but also to this fixation on getting every deal of our vacation perfectly planned. Oh, and my outfits perfectly planned out too. I mean, come on. We will be taking a ton of photos. I want to look casually traveler, NOT like a dorky American. My blond hair and pale skin will give me away fast enough. (And I'm just reminded...when WILL I fit in that spray tan. But should I bother? I bet the nearly 100% Deet spray the guy at Moosejaw sold me will spray it RIGHT OFF. Then I will look a splotchy mess in my bikini. My new, HEAVILY-researched bikini that will not only make me look 10 pounds lighter, but also stay comfortable for a day-long snorkel trip. WELCOME TO MY CRAZY BRAIN, KIDS.)

I hope I can relax when I get there and enjoy myself. I just hope that the new waterproof camera I have my eye on will not bust when I dunk it underwater the first time. Ten out of the two hundred reviews said it did. YIKES.

Pray for me people. I need a vacation. From MYSELF.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Running in the snow

"...I was ruuuuunnnning in the SNOOOOOW..." Y'know, like singing in the rain? Get it???

Whatever. I thought I was being rather clever.

With vacation looming, I have abandoned all ideas of dropping poundage before we leave. There just isn't enough time and I would rather not live the next week on carrots and hard boiled eggs. Don't get me wrong, I like both of those things, but when I limit my diet to minimal carbs and low-calories, my usual mega-bitch lurking below comes out with a vengeance. While others might be amused by my angry and ranting blog postings, much of the time I write those when I really feel crappy about the world. So, in conclusion, I'm going to have my wine, eat my carbs, and have some chocolate. RIGHT BEFORE VACATION. Deal with it. Only P.I.C. has to deal with seeing me in my swim suit, so who cares, right?

All that being said, my concern runs to this hike on which P.I.C. and I will be embarking. Honestly, I just want to avoid keeling over on the side of the volcano. I am not the most regular exerciser. That is not to say that I don't enjoy it. Well, truthfully, I don't. I do know that I feel better when I have been working out regularly. I sleep better, I have more energy. You know, all that crap they tell you to get you to join a gym? It's actually pretty true about exercise. Rather than beating myself up for continually failing to get up early enough to hit the gym before work, I decided I was going to just FIT IT IN SOMETIME TODAY. So today, I fit in a quick run. Outside. In the snow.

My legs? They are very upset with me.

Legs: "Um, really? You're gonna run for a week then NOT run for two weeks and just expect us to be happy about it? We are NOT OK with that. For the rest of today, we will be achy. That achiness will likely feel like someone is ramming a fist into your hamstring tomorrow. ENJOY."

Me: "SHUT UP LEGS. I'm preparing you for the volcano. Stop being little bitches."

(Doesn't everyone talk to their body parts?)

So I bundled up with my two sweatshirts on, my hat and P.I.C.'s shuffle (he makes the best running mixes) and set off for a little run. Sadly, a song and a half later, the shuffle died. It was just me and my thoughts for the duration. It was actually very nice. The snow was the powdery sort. Big flakes, yes, but they merely floated through the air lazily, as if to say, "Welcome to December, Chicago." Thankfully, it wasn't sticking around otherwise I would have feared for my own safety. Not only have I not run in two weeks, but I also seem to have a problem with tripping and falling. I am a klutz.

So me and my thoughts? We were just fine. I didn't fall down. I ran without walk breaks. I did NOT sing. Remember, the shuffle died? I absolutely CANNOT sing without my back-up music. Now, aside from my legs being jerks, I feel pretty good.

BRING ON THE VOLCANO!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday is starting off so promisingly.

As far as Mondays go, yesterday was a tough one. The first day back after a long weekend is never easy. Add an underfed (as of late body), a poor night's sleep the night before and a truly annoying workday, and I am reaching for the bottle of wine before I can even BEGIN to tell P.I.C. about the day's annoyances. However, this quickly-cooling Tuesday morning has started out tremendously better.

While I did not get up for the gym this morning (AGAIN), I do not consider this a failure. I went to bed at a normal hour, I slept soundly, and after P.I.C. went to the gym (Go HIM!), I slept soundly for two more hours. I really needed it. It is amazing how much a good night's sleep can give you a new, better perspective on life. Also, P.I.C. woke me up with a cup of coffee. That always makes me smile first thing in the morning.

Additionally, vacation quickly approaches. Nothing wrong with that. Of course, I am stressed about getting everything done before I leave, but I did get an email that my hiking pants have arrived. Hooray! I shall pick those up today and be ready for hiking in Central America. Fingers crossed that I make it up and down the volcano in one piece, yes?

Tuesday also means GLEE day. Lucky for me, I have no plans for tonight so I can watch it live. That makes me extremely happy. That also means I can read Faux Trixie's and Amie's dueling Glee posts in a timely fashion tomorrow. That will make THEM happy. MERRY CHRISTMAS, LADIES!

Additionally, I awoke to a truly awesome youtube.com video from Miss Sass. People who know me, know that I love a good youtube.com video. On bad days, little else cheers me like a video of a cute animal just basking in its cuteness. Or a cat video. That too. I admit, I am a bit crazy cat lady, but this video is TOO GOOD not to share.

Most Awesome Video

Props to Miss Sass for uncovering this one. It is ALMOST as great as Cat vs Printer, the translation.

Additionally, I will be in and out of the office for the next two days traveling our lovely state, a task that always makes the week fly by a little bit faster.

Not even noon, and I'm still feeling pretty chipper. I'd say that's a fine Tuesday.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I DID IT!

So, much discussion was had (on my part) about my Thanksgiving-day chore this year. You see, I was to make the turkey, arguably THE most important part of the Thanksgiving day feast. Of course, I will always make the argument that gravy trumps all, but for the NORMAL people, I believe that turkey is THE THING to eat. In any event, I had never made a whole turkey before yesterday. In fact, I was wholly unprepared for the DISGUSTING NAKED BIRD that popped out of its neat little packaging.

Okay, so I may have screamed when I had to pull the neck out of the bird's cavity. Sickness. So gross. I like to make meat when it doesn't look like it used to be an animal. True story. My most memorable thing that happened was this little interaction. I had heard a rumor that the giblets would be hiding in the bird. After I shrieked at the whole neck popping out, I realized: I had to go back in there and pull of the giblets (if any).

I took a deep breath and PLUNGED my hand into the wide hole. I found nothing. But then I was scared. I had read that if there were giblets in there and you did not remove them, the plastic bag containing them would melt and ruin not only the giblets, but the ENTIRE turkey. I could not risk that happening. Oooooh, P.I.C.

"You need to come here and stick your hand in the turkey. I want to make sure that there are no giblets in there. I kinda freaked out at the neck so I my feeling of the turkey's insides was very fast. Please double check for me."

P.I.C.: "I can't, I just put on hand lotion." (THIS IS FACTUAL. HE ACTUALLY SAID THIS.)

"DO IT before I SCREAM."

P.I.C. removed his sweater, his watch and rolled up his sleeves. At this point, the turkey was sitting in the sink after the neck extraction and looking all dead bird-like. He walks over to the turkey rather cautiously.

P.I.C. "Oh my GOD, F.A. You can just look down in the hole. There are NO giblets in there. See?"

Really? Oh. You CAN look down the turkey's hole. And nope, I don't see any giblets too. TURKEY IS GOOD TO COOK. Good thing P.I.C. was there to back me up, right?

I had been diligently watching the turkey experts on WGN Morning News all week, so I knew that the butterball lady had told me "NO BASTING." So I didn't. I had the oven preheated, I heaved the bird, named Tom, duh, onto the roasting pan, sprayed him with a little olive oil and put a light dusting of seasoning on him. Into the oven he went.

I had advised EVERYONE, "DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN FOR FOUR HOURS." I wanted that bird to have its own massive roasting area without disruption. See, I took the 1-800-Butterball lady very seriously. Of course, I did many random "turn the oven light on and check on if it looks good" passes.

After four and a half hours, Tom was done. Brown and beautiful. (I feel that you should make the trumpet noise in your head as you look at this photograph of my lovely first made turkey.

 If Tom could still speak, this is what he is saying in this photograph: "Hey. I USED TO be Tom. I might be beautiful and brown, but that's not gonna stop me from trying to fly away from this crazy motley crew of Thanksgiving celebrators in their eating pants."
It's beautiful right? It tasted as good as it looks, I promise. I was like a small child on Christmas who had just received the most lovely present in the world. Jumping up and down, I kept on saying "I DID IT, I DID IT!!!" (I have no capacity to act cool or calm in these situations. NONE.)

Luckily, my friend's stepdad was on hand to carve the big boy up. Despite my careful attention to Stephanie Izard's demonstration earlier that week, I was not about to butcher Tom. Nope. He cut all the bird up and it was marvelous. Only one thing: He pulled me aside and pointed to a small, rather beat looking paper bag. "F.A., the next time you cook a turkey, you can just pull these out." WHAT? Yes, kids, the giblets were STILL in the turkey. Oops. Luckily, they were in a PAPER bag, so cooking them inside the bird did not ruin anything. Something HAD to go wrong. I'm grateful that it wasn't anything serious.

On a sad note, the gravy? Not as great as I'd hoped. I suppose that I shall have to perfect that aspect of the meal.

Here's the spread:

Looks pretty good right? See that corn casserole? That's P.I.C.'s specialty. And it's DELICIOUS.

Everyone ate and I'm pretty sure everyone was happy. Please note that I did not make everything in the spread. Everyone had their share in the efforts, and not photographed was the marvelous salad with homemade dressing that was a part of the meal.

I love Thanksgiving.

As an aside note, TRADER JOE'S, really? You say "Make sure you pull out giblets, if any." How about you just TELL me that YES, there are GIBLETS in here. GET THEM OUT.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hey bandwagon, 'sup?

I cannot RESIST jumping on this "Things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving" bandwagon. I do enough griping about my first world problems, I appreciate any way to gain some perspective of my honestly pretty awesome life. I probably could spend my entire day coming up with things for which I am grateful, so I am narrowing it down to my top ten (well, top ten for today.) Without further ado, here is my version of that list.

1. I am so, so grateful that I have a family that is amazing. I don't see them nearly enough, but I know they are there for me throughout all thick and thin. I love you all.

2. On that same token (I almost just wrote toke...ooops!), I am grateful for my friends. They really are the family I get to see all the time. Whether they are friends I have had for a very long time, or newer friends, all have become an integral part (and there, I just typed party...no shock there) of my life.

3. To my P.I.C., you really do make my life better just by being in it. You put up with so much shenanigans because of me. I can't imagine life without you.

4. TURKEY and GRAVY. I don't even have to EXPLAIN that one. Both are awesome. Fingers crossed that I deliver the goods tomorrow.

5. I get a real vacation this year. Yep. I'm still bragging. Can't help it, but here it is. Not only do I have the opportunity to GO to a completely incredible place, I have the vacation days and a work that will allow me to take SEVEN DAYS (IN A ROW) away from work. Happiness.

6. Digital cameras make me happy. Photographs are my favorite way to capture memories since I seem to forget things quite often, so I take a lot of pictures. Digital cameras make that easier.

7. Oxford (my cat, not the city, although the city AND the university are pretty cool. How do you think my cat got his name?). He might puke and be a jerk most of the time and have a weird affinity for licking plastic bags, but he's a great pet and not one day passes where I don't say, "OMG, look at him. He's so cute."

8. My space heater at work. Seriously. Does it need to be FORTY degrees in here near round. My space heater makes me feel lovely. Oh yeah, and cuz it turns off when I kick it over, I know it's safe. (Please don't tell my bosses I have one. They would confiscate it, and that would make me sad. And cold.)

9. My naturally blond hair. I always have an excuse when I say something dumb. ALWAYS. (And, for what it's worth, shut up if you think that my attitude perpetuates the "dumb blond" stereotype. That is just dumb people. PERIOD.) My inherent laziness means I will not color my hair. I am grateful that it is a decent enough shade to not HAVE to color it. Yet.

10. This blog and my followers. Honestly, after a childhood and teenage years of writing every single thing down that happened in my life, I didn't write for a long time. Starting this blog (well, this incarnation of that) has been one of my most favorite things I have done in the past year or so. I'm grateful that I have this outlet to vent or just blab. I'm even more thankful that there are people who actually READ my inane drivel.

THANK YOU!

I wish everyone a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two days til GRAVY day.

Oh, pardon me. THANKSGIVING. But allow me to be completely frank with you. For my entire life, I have had one very strong belief about the Thanksgiving holiday: Anything put on my plate is an excuse to eat more gravy. Gravy is truly the nectar of the gods in my tryptophan-soaked mind. Brown, luscious, covering the most mundane Stove Top of stuffings, gravy truly makes everything better.

I was spoiled growing up. You see, my grandma makes the world's best gravy. It is a proven truth. Much of my childhood was spent fighting Auntie Em for a first taste of Grandma's groovy gravy (oooh, I know how I shall market it if ever I have the chance!). She was determined that she was the "official gravy tester." I begged to differ. I suppose, given her seniority in the house, she was really the original official tester. (PLEASE NOTE, AUNTIE EM, I WILL NEVER ADMIT THIS TO YOUR FACE.)

Two Thanksgivings ago, I was charged with the task: make the gravy for the "Orphan" Thanksgiving my friends and I had assembled. (No, we are not all orphans, we just chose to stay in the city rather than traveling home for the holiday.) I called my grandma, listened to her instructions and took copious notes. Y'know what? It just wasn't the same. I was very sad. Last year, I don't even remember the gravy for the Thanksgiving feast I had prepared for myself and P.I.C. That can't be good.

This year, I have been charged with making the actual turkey for our "Functional Friend Thanksgiving Feast" (working title). Therefore, I shall try my hand at the gravy once again. Please keep your fingers crossed for me. Gravy can rectify just about anything. Dry turkey, canned cranberry sauce (OK, so this is my favorite) or stuffing, which I don't even like.

Please pray for me, and my friends. I want to give them a gravy...I mean, TURKEY, for which they can truly be thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Insomnia...my life and its first world problems.

My entire life, I have struggled with sleep. Bouts of insomnia made my teenage years nearly unbearable at times. I would lay in bed for hours, letting my thoughts wash over me. The events of each of my days would replay in my head as though I was watching a television show (albeit a very boring one. My teenage years were supremely tame.) I was afraid of the dark for the longest time. I would lay in bed paralyzed with fear that if I rolled over, surely a ghost would be there to greet me. Not a cute Casper ghost either, it would be one of those super-spooky apparitions that would likely make me die of fright from its very sight.

Tonight is yet another one of those nights. I'm not sure if it is the recent burglary that causes me stress, or the upcoming vacation that is not fully booked that makes me lay in bed unable to catch the hours of sleep I so desperately need. Perhaps it was the "meeting" we had today at work that despite me knowing that I haven't screwed anything up, made me feel stressed as though I was going to screw something up. Inevitable, right?

So here, I sit, well past my bedtime. I am fretting. Not from the non-Casper ghost (although I sure am glad I conjured up THAT memory), but from my life. My silly, first world problem-riddled life that causes me anxiety. After putting this all down in print, I realize how silly my perceived problems are. Perhaps now I can go to sleep.

Sigh. Don't cry for me, Argentina. I will be in Panama in T minus sixteen days. It's not South America, but it is close enough. I have a feeling that nine days in warmer climates with a fabulous hike and a few days on the beach will be just what I need to recharge my tired battery. I mean, it has been five and a half years since my last vacation.

What did I tell ya? Nothing but first world problems.

Hilarity ensues in suburban county courthouses.

Any attorney in the Chicago-land area knows the drill for getting into the courthouses. Some have special cards by which you can bypass security and metal detectors. Some counties are stricter and have even more special cards that you have to pay for above and beyond your annual registration fee for your bar card.

One of my old coworkers (and P.I.C.'s current coworker), we like to call her "Hi guys, crazy eyes," had a really hilarious (well, to all of us) experience in one of the counties where they make all attorneys go through the metal detectors. Read the following email.

Apparently it is a security risk to wear a bra going through the security. I was stopped, wanded and patted down before the officer publicly announced that my bra strap was setting off the alarm. I would like to add that I remained professional and cooperative though I was embarrassed, unlike the "don't touch my junk" guy who freaking out in the airport and made the news. :)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, lawyers are subject to nasty scrutiny just like the laypeople in the courthouse. Apparently bra straps are a security problem. Good to know. Next time I go to that county, I'm going SANS bra. (No. I'm not. That's really not my style.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another kind of home intruder.

I am so very grateful for all of the kind words from everyone regarding our recent burglary. Slowly, but surely, we are starting to feel back to normal in the Awkward household.

Wednesday night, we were invited over for a lovely dinner party by the fabulous Amelie and her husband. Honestly, the dinner with friends was just the ticket to have a little fun, good conversation and lots of wine. The burglary was put on the back burner, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We returned home, happy, well-fed and in a much better mood than when we had left. We also returned home to a new "friend" on our porch.


He looked like this guy. Only not on a computer.
(But I couldn't resist this photo.)

Oh yes. A little cat was waiting for us on the porch. He was not one of the neighborhood alley cats. I had never seen him before. Furthermore, he was completely friendly. From the moment we walked up to the cat, he wanted two things: (1) For me to pet him and (2) to come inside our home. However, we already have a cat that we adore very greatly. Furthermore, both P.I.C. and I are allergic to the short-haired domestic cats. (I can't make sense of it either, but our red, itchy eyes and sneeziness prove this to be the case when we are around this type of cat.) Having a sleepover with a strange gray cat was just not acceptable.

I tried to woo him away with some food. He wanted none of that. He only wanted my love and affection. Oh, and my warm and cozy apartment. Clearly, he wanted that too. Every time I opened the back door, he'd BOLT through the door. P.I.C. had to form a human shield to keep him out. I sat on the porch in the cold night, getting misted on by some sort of precipitation, and pet the stranger for a little while. Why not? Despite the sneezes I could feel welling up inside of me, an affectionate animal is one thing I am powerless against. He was so damn full of snuggles. I could hear Oxford inside meowing at me to COME INSIDE. STOP PETTING STRANGE CATS, MOM.

Since it was obvious that getting in the backdoor sans intruding cat was not going to be an option, I came up with a plan. I would walk around the side of the house to the front door and attempt to "lose" him. Of course, the moment I started walking away, this cat started following me. He stopped, but then I felt so guilty. It was cold and damp. I am fairly certain that he was someone's cat because of his sweet nature and friendly personality. I hope he made it home. Well, I either hope he made it home or found someone like me who didn't have my allergies.

CAT INTRUDER: 0. FABULOUSLY AWKWARD: 1.

Stupid allergies.

(Thanks to http://virusdefeat.com/?page_id=58 for the funny cat picture.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things I'm glad he didn't steal.

I moved to Chicago in the fall of 2000. It is the fall of 2010 and it (finally?!) happened: We were burgled. Yep. Yesterday, as P.I.C. and I were off putting bread on our table, some jackass found it necessary to shimmy through our front window and steal our shit.

We called the police, they sent a guy to dust for fingerprints and then were left to survey the real damage and determine what else was missing, aside from the obvious.

In an attempt to refrain from crying over the certain irreplaceable things they took, I am going to tell you all of the things I am grateful he DID NOT steal.

1. Oxford. One thing is for certain, he sucks at being a guard cat. The truth is, however, had something happened to him, I would have been devastated. I mean, look at this face:


Hi burglar. Want to pet me????

2. The coffee maker (and grinder). Because, as our burglar quickly discovered, we are the epitome of a young urban professional household and we love our Cuisinart.

3. The current pile of non-perishables I have been amassing for Daisy, JD's Comments for Cans drive. (Upon visiting her site, it looks as though I need to hit up the store for some more cans.)

4. Sex and the City. So, apparently the burglar loved P.I.C.'s brand new xbox 360 and all of his games as well as Mission Impossible (One AND Two, but not Three), but they had no interest in my collection of Sex and the City DVDs. My inner Nancy Drew tells me our burglar was definitely a dude. (Not to worry, I did inform the police officers of this deduction.)

5. Our passports. We can still go on vacation, guys! Yay!

6. The booze. Because on thing is for certain, after finding out that someone broke into your home, you definitely need a drink. Word to that noise.

We are also grateful that our friends and family (and the Internet universe...those people on twitter that follow me and I have never met...) had such kind words and are sending good vibes our way. We will get through this.

So, to my friends and family reading this: Thank you.

To the guy who broke into our apartment yesterday: Fuck you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The house is warm.

The other day, P.I.C. says to me, "You need to have a reason to make those Swedish meatballs. Those are delicious. I crave them."

So I figure, LET'S HAVE A HOUSE-WARMING PARTY! We threw together a small gathering with some of our favorite friends (well, those that can hustle together on short notice) and had a wicked* good par-tay.

Turns out, "occasion for meatballs" just meant I should make them while we watch football on a Sunday. However, it is my personal belief that house-warming parties are way more fun.

Welcome to my life. One big fiesta.


The truth is, I look for nearly any reason to have a party. I love to make fun party foods. I love to have people over. This party was no exception. I got to make people martinis. While I do not LIKE dirty martinis, I love to make them. Shaking the cocktail shaker is one of my life's simplest pleasures. If you're my friend, odds are good, I will shake something up for you and serve it in a triangle-shaped glass. Dirty martini? You got it. How about my newest special sensation of a drink: Vodka plus cranberry juice plus pineapple juice. I call it "sunshine in glass." I also call it "Five-Oh." You know, like Hawaii Five-0? (I'm SO SMART.)

I am eating chips and salsa for "breakfast" at 1:00 p.m. P.I.C. brought me Coke in bed. WITH a bendy straw. I got up and had coffee with my Coke. And we watched The Hangover. Appropriate, yes? There is ONE clean glass in our entire apartment. I think the party was a success.

* For any folks from Boston reading this, do not be shaking your head thinking..."Oh no, she did NOT just say wicked! Midwestern girls cannot say that." Yes I can. And I will. Suck it, potential judgmental Boston readers. I am wicked awesome. It's a fact. WICKED.

Friday, November 12, 2010

UNSUBSCRIBE (a rant)

So, I'm sure you all think I am funny. Duh. I'm hilarious. Naturally, that means that I have equally funny friends. Today, I received an email from a dear friend, Ginger. It was too hilarious not to share. With her permission, she gets to be my very first guest post on this blog.

Dear The Nest,
 
I am no longer nesting, as I am no longer married.  Why do you not allow me to unsubscribe from your mailing list?  I've entered my email address and clicked "unsubscribe" several times so your article today on "Your Couple Sleep Style- Decoded" was a little hurtful.  As was the one about "20 Great Dinners to Cook Together" and "How do You Know When You're Ready For a Baby?"  
 
Not to mention, your evil big sister, The Knot, apparently did not get the memo that I got married on May 30, 2009, not EVERY year on May 30th.  So please also let her know I am not looking for any romantic honeymoon getaways this year, and she can stop sending those emails.  Today she taunted me by letting me know that there were "199 days left until my big day!"  So unless she is planning an AWESOME surprise for me on May 30th, 2011, please tell her to back off, mmmk?
 
Suck it.
 
Ginger


Hey Ginger? Don't be a stranger in these parts. You can guest post anytime.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yo tengo mucho crabbiness.

You ever have those days when you are at work, walking down the hall to check your mailbox, and all of a sudden you get an incredible urge to PUNCH a box that is off to the side? No? That's just me?

UGH.

In any event, I have nothing substantive to say today. NADA. (You will also notice that I am incorporating some Español into my vocabulary. Turns out I'm not so great at the speaking of Spanish. I'm trying to remedy that before I go to Panama.) I have, however, compiled a list of things that are bugging me today. LUCKY YOU GUYS.

1. TRAVEL EXPENSES. Why won't you pay me timely, work? Please? I mean, I really love driving all over for you guys, but come on. You make me so very sad.

2. Ice cube trays. P.I.C., did you really need to leave ALL FOUR TRAYS on the kitchen counter this morning? That is the chore I hate almost as much as I hate taking out the trash. (It's OK, I forgive you because you made me breakfast.)

3. WORK. Why is it so annoying day after day? Is there NO ONE on this earth who would like to finance my life of watching youtube videos and eating microwave popcorn from the comfort of my couch? NO ONE?

4. Diet. Why do I have to watch my calories? WHY? I want immediate results while I can still eat chips and skip running/

5. Exercise. Jackie Warner, my arms STILL hurt today. That workout was only fifteen minutes. Now not only do I not have a fully functional upper body, I feel like a total and complete wimp. I hate you so much right now. Also, why is it that I cannot seem to run any faster than twelve minutes per mile? I just don't get it. (And if you say it's because I will run for a week then skip three weeks, your fate is like that of the boxes in my office hallway. Consider yourself PUNCHED.)

6. Hump day. Please do not say these two words to me. They annoy me. In fact, don't ever use the word hump in my presence. I hate it.

7. Daylight savings. I mean, I really love when I leave work and it feels like the middle of the night. (I used my sarcasm font there. Did you see?)

8. No coffee delivery. Why, oh why, can't Dunkin Donuts just deliver me coffee to my office. For free. Preferably the pumpkin coffee. Oh, and WHY isn't that just delicious brewed coffee? We just found out it's a syrup that makes it so pumpkin-y and good? Hidden calories SUCK.

9. This current warm weather. SERIOUSLY? Mother Nature is gonna make some absolutely GORGEOUS days during the week then have it turn cold again for the weekend. Awesome. Really awesome.

10. DRIVE-BYS. Come on. I decided to go for a run on my usual route yesterday. TEN MINUTE after I had ran by a rather busy intersection (in broad daylight, I might add), there was a drive-by shooting. Now everyone is telling me I live in a dangerous neighborhood. I hate that. Violence happens in the nice neighborhoods too. Suck it. (And to whomever I need to thank for keeping me out of that particular cross-fire, THANK YOU. I love not being shot.)

11. Followers. SERIOUSLY. I have been stuck at thirty-three followers for awhile now. Don't you people love me enough to follow me? I feel such a small level of validation, and MY NARCISSISM MUST BE FED. But anyhow, I'm funny most of the time, and only occasionally make glaring typos or grammatical errors. Follow me. It's good for you. I know you people read me. SO FOLLOW ME TOO, DAMMIT.

And that, my friends, is the state of my Wednesday. CRAB-TASTIC.

(Sorry for all the caps and the shouting. It just felt right. And this is my blog. I can do what I want.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Busted by the shoe police.

Cohabitation has been going pretty well. Our schedules are just different enough that we don't get into each other's way during morning rituals. Sharing one bathroom is not as tragic as I had imagined, aside from the rare occasion when P.I.C. forgets to put the toilet seat down and I yell, "P.I.C.!" He always knows why.

Truthfully, he is an excellent roommate. We have adjusted to claim our own chores. For example, he makes the coffee in the morning and I clean out the filter and wash the pot before I leave. He takes out the trash. Well, that's because I almost refuse to do it. (WHAT? I'm lazy! And it's heavy. He should feel all sorts of MANLY that I let him do that.) Oh, and I clean the cat's box. Cuz technically Oxford is my cat. Although he seems to like P.I.C. better. Traitor.

He even puts up with my slightly messy disposition. But about once a week, we do a thorough house clean (picking up the respective rooms, dusting, sweeping, etc.) It's good because I get to leave my business strewn about for several days, then it doesn't seem as though he is nagging me. However. He has figured out the reason why I have never owned a coffee table.

I have always had an issue of taking off my shoes and just leaving them in the living room area. I remember my dad complaining about how I always left my shoes around. There were times when I lived alone and I counted EIGHT pairs of shoes in my living room. Well, now we have a coffee table. I have discovered that it's quite convenient for me to slip my shoes off when I want to put my feet off. Inadvertently, I end up kicking the shoes under the coffee table.

Well, this weekend, it was time for our weekly "pick up the house" routine. I was out and about on Saturday, so he did a bit on his own. I walked into our bedroom and noticed this massive pile of shoes. I was confused, because I knew that I hadn't left those shoes in the middle of our bedroom floor. We were chatting and he mentioned that he'd begun picking up. We then had the following conversation:

P.I.C.: I see why you never owned a coffee table. (Imagine this in a rather snide tone.)
F.A.: Um, cuz I always had small apartments? (Still clueless.)
P.I.C.: No. Because you HIDE YOUR SHOES under there.
F.A.: What? I DO NOT.
P.I.C.: Oh, you mean to tell me you completely missed that pile of shoes in your bedroom.

:::silence:::

F.A.: Aha! You admit that it's MY bedroom.
P.I.C.: Stop changing the subject. You hide your shoes under the coffee table, ADMIT IT.

:::silence:::

F.A.: COME ON. You knew I had a problem with putting my shoes away LONG before we moved in together. KNOCK IT OFF. What are you, the SHOE POLICE???

At this point, we both start laughing.

The moral of this story? While I might have a problem putting away my shoes, the bedroom with the actual bed in it is mine. He'd better toe the line or else I will make him go sleep in his (bedless) room.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pay it Forward...Comments for cans this Holiday Season

November is upon us, and the stores are inundated with Christmas cheer already. While I am a huge Christmas fan, I always feel that Thanksgiving gets the shaft. Who wouldn't want to celebrate a holiday that ENCOURAGES over-eating and napping? That is neither here, nor there, I suppose.

In any event, when Thanksgiving is on the horizon, I am reminded that I am pretty fortunate in my life. I have a roof over my head, a working furnace and plenty of food in my fridge. I am also reminded that there are people not so lucky or so fortunate. It is in this vein that I got on board with this Comments for Cans idea.

One of the blogs that I enjoy reading is that of Daisy. She is silly, smart and has the most adorable puppy that occasionally steals the show over at her site. Additionally, although I have not met her in real life, she seems to be a genuinely nice person. The other day, she wrote this post about something nice she did for a coworker and how powerful the concept of paying it forward can be. Karma and all that jazz, you know. She made a  pledge: For each comment she got on that entry, she would donate a can to our local Chicago food bank. Naturally, since she's a nice person, she attracts some nice followers. Several of us have committed to match her donation to not only the Chicago Food Depository, but others around the country as well. Of course, I love when opportunities present themselves for me to do something good, so I jumped on board. (Special thank you to Daisy for making it easy for all of us to jump on board!)

So please, visit Daisy's blog and leave a comment. Help us stock food banks across the country with food for those who are less fortunate this season.

Friday, November 5, 2010

P.I.C. seems to be ashamed of me.

I have come to a serious conclusion this very chilly November morning: P.I.C. is fully ashamed of me. Why? I know. I wondered the same question. By all accounts, I am a pretty awesome chick. (Well. By my OWN account. I just figure everyone agrees, duh.) So why could be possibly be embarrassed of dating such a fully awesome girl? I suppose you need to know (part of) the full story in order to understand.

You see, P.I.C. and I met through a mutual friend. Alright, he wasn't a friend, he was my ex-boyfriend. This ex-boyfriend was a complete jagoff by all accounts. (And I feel that this is a pretty universal statement. The guy sucked.) P.I.C. and I were friendly. He got me my last job at his office. We became good friends. I later broke up with the ex-boyfriend. So did P.I.C. It turned out that he was just as bad of a friend as he was a boyfriend.
One day after the break-up, P.I.C. kissed me. (This is a disputed fact. He says I kissed him. I say otherwise. But this is my blog and my story. HE KISSED ME.) We started dating awhile after that. The snag? We worked together. While we knew we weren't in a volatile relationship, we did not want our bosses to think that the relationship would affect our job. I am fairly certain that we were transparent after awhile. But we both maintained the facade.

Eventually, I moved onto greener pastures, also known as the office building across the street. I got a new job. We no longer worked together. The whole "we can't tell anyone we are dating because we work together stigma" was gone. For a Christmas gift, I framed a lovely photo of the two of us and told him it was for "when you want to come out of the closet." This was Christmas 2009. That photograph now sits on the dresser in his room. In our apartment. Yes, it is true. We live together, and he still attempts to hide the fact that we are dating from his bosses.

It is not that he hasn't had the opportunity to confess our relationship to his bosses. In fact, he told me that last night, he was having drinks with his boss. His boss asked him, "Well, who are you going to Panama with?" Um. Yeah. Guess it's not with me. I may have deemed him a pathalogical liar this morning upon hearing this latest stupid opportunity wasted.

The ONLY conclusion is that he is embarrassed to have me as his girlfriend. Well, that or he really likes messing with people. I did already know that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

PANAMA!!!!

Perhaps my title reminds you of this little diddy. Maybe it doesn't. That is not importante. Why am I using a little bit of my Español in this post? Well, I have big news, readers! I am going on vacation. Yes, a real, "take more than a week off from work" vacation. I need my passport to get there. It's all very exciting right now. P.I.C. and I just bought our tickets and now are working out the details for the specifics.

For now, here are some of the highlights on our agenda.

Of course, we will be checking out the Panama Canal:


We also plan on spending a few days in Boquete. During that part of our trip, we intend to embark on a hiking trip to the top of Volcan Baru, the highest volcano in Panama. Allegedly, on a clear day from the summit, you can see both the Pacific Ocean to one side as well as the Carribbean to the other.




Hilarity should ensue becuase we will be camping. P.I.C. and I are not really campers, but we feel like this will be an amazing way to experience the highlands as well as the beautiful nature of this region of Panama.

After a two day hike and hopefully touring a coffee factory (the coffee from this region is supposed to be amazing), we are going to be beach bums for a few days.


Doesn't that just scream serenity? I hope so. This will be our last stop before we head home to what most certainly will be snowy and unpleasant climes in Chicago.

Has anyone traveled to Panama recently? I would love to hear travel tales or suggestions.

(CONFESSION: The main point of this blog post was to make you all insanely jealous that we are traveling to Central America in FIVE WEEKS. A secondary point was to get that Van Halen song stuck in your head. How successful was I in both of those endeavors?)