Archive for June 2008

28 June 2008

Olympic glory & a blog-errific weekend

By: Jessica B.

That’s right, I held the torch and I didn’t have to run.

On Thursday and Friday, my company was hosting a New Media Academic Summit at Northwestern and I was lucky enough to be chosen to live blog the two-day event. So while my fingers felt like they would fall off by Friday afternoon, one of the coolest parts of the entire Summit was being able to hold one of the official Beijing 2008 Olympic torches. One of the panelists ran with the torch and brought it in to show everyone and to take pictures. Below is me in full Olympic glory.
Once I was done living out my gold-medal dream, it was time to run home and prepare for Chicago Bloggerfest 2008 (unofficial title for this weekend’s activities). It was also Pride weekend here so you can imagine in the Boystown/Lakeview neighborhood – where the first Bloggerfest event was being held – what the scene was like. And the blog-errific weekend didn’t end on Friday night, we carried it through the entire weekend. 
Below is a full summary of all the fun we had. Seriously, the woman and men I met and hung out with this weekend are awesome and hilarious. Love them all.
Friday – Blogger’s gone wild
Friday night, just about any Chicago bloggers (who were available) within driving, train and walking distance gathered at Sheffields for a night of beer and beergarden fun. It was a “who’s who” of blogging: Deutlich, Maxie, Joy, Jenn, Jamie, Angela, Renee, Rachel, Kayleigh, Dan Mega, Princess Pointful, Peter, Angie, Veronica (Rachel’s sister) and of course, yours truly. We literally took over a corner of Sheffields’ beergarden but without name tags, getting the group together was a little challenging. No biggie. 
At the bar, Deutlich and Maxie recounted their trip from Virginia to Ohio to Chicago, which I give them a ton of credit for. I would not have been awake later than 10 p.m. after leaving my home at 4 a.m. that morning. But the rain held off and it was an awesome time of blog stories and laughter. These ladies (and guys) totally crack me up. Everyone had plenty to talk about and got along really well. It was awesome to meet so many people I already “know” from their blogs and find out even more things we have in common. And of course we consumed copious amounts of beer and shots (fortunately I excused myself from that). And Jenn even gave me an awesome card, full of drawings and everything! *Kisses*
Unfortunately, Sheffields’ beergarden closes at midnight so we were kicked to the street and we ended up at Clarkes on Belmont (yes that’s confusing) for drunk food. Renee was awesome and gave me a ride home and even though it was nearly 2 a.m., I didn’t want to go to sleep! Hell no! It was time to download the Swell Season concert online that I went to a week ago and listen to the new Coldplay song I’m obsessed with. Finally, I forced myself to go to bed so I could get ready for Saturday’s Cupcake Crawl goodness.
Saturday – Cupcakes and beyond
Since I don’t drink beer all that often, I woke up Saturday with a killer headache, but that would not keep me from my cupcakes. Deutlich, Maxie, Jenn, Jamie, Angela and I met up again in Lincoln Park to embark on the first-annual bloggy cupcake crawl and we took our love for cupcakes and open minds to two places: Sweet Mandy B’s and Swirlz.
Our first stop was Sweet Mandy B’s, which was cute and adorable on the outside and smelled like bakery heaven on the inside. My cupcake was lovely as was my M&M cookie but seating was scarce and presentation was pretty simple. And for noon on a Saturday, the shop was hoppin’ with people picking up cakes and sheets of cupcakes left and right. It was a great place but a little difficult to move around in.

Swirlz in Lakeview was our second stop and I have to admit, I was blown away by not only the selection and presentation of the cupcakes but also the service. It was like Nordstroms service but to the next level. Pam, who was the manager on duty Saturday, was just above and beyond nice to us, patient while we made our decisions and nice enough to let me take some pictures inside. She even gave us an additional cupcake to try because their vanilla flavor is known to be so good – and her recommendation was right-on. 
My red velvet cupcake was just incredible (and gorgeous) and Pam gave us free cupcakes cards for our next visit. I’ll be back there in a red-hot second. Pam even gave us a gluten-free cupcake to try and compare with the traditional ones. 
In case you don’t know, gluten-free products contain no wheat and seeing that I work in food & nutrition brands, I have heard about gluten-free products as a growing trend. I’m pleased to say that the gluten-free cupcake tasted no different than a traditional cupcake – I would not have even known the difference – and Pam told us that Swirlz works with nutritionists at the University of Chicago in developing their gluten-free products, which surprised me, but I think that is pretty cool. I very highly recommend checking this place out. And Swirlz’s tag line is, “cupcakes make you happy” and they are so right.
(Lovely lady bloggers enjoying the nice weather and cupcakes!)
(So many wonderful choices)
(Cupcakes galore! – my red velvet one is right above this)
So once the cupcake crawl was over and we were all sugared-up, we moved on to downtown and the Taste of Chicago! Of course it was packed and hotter than h*ll on the pavement, but it was a good time. We walked around Buckingham Fountain and the Taste, where Jamie and I opted to try the fried cheese ravioli, which was incredible, and Jenn, Jamie and I opted to go with traditional hot dogs, Chicago and regular style. Can’t mess with that. Both food choices were very good :)
(Maxie, Jenn and Angela at Buckingham Fountain)
And for some entertainment, I’ll share a soundbite that Jamie, Jenn and I overheard while maneuvering through the horrible Taste crowd:
Unnamed Girl: So I didn’t even know there was a state called Illinois. I thought the state was called Chicago, I mean it is the biggest city here.
I sh*t you not someone said that and we heard it. And yes, English is her first language. Gotta love the Taste, you see a little bit of everyone there, even a guy with a live snack (and not a small one) wrapped around him. That almost beast the iguana on the El.
Millennium Park was up next, where Angela and Deutlich convinced us to lay down on the ground in front of the Bean to take a picture of the group. The ground was hot and dirty but I think the picture turned out awesome so it was worth it :)
By now we’re hot, sweaty and “pink” from the sun (yours truly included) so Jenn came up with the brilliant idea to rest out feet in the Park’s “foot bath,” which was like heaven. The cool water felt awesome on my feet and we all tossed in a penny with a non-boy-related wish. So after a luxurious foot bath rest, we were ready to break up for a bit before a full night of fun began.
I met up with the group again at  Giordano’s for a lovely Chicago-style pizza, which hit the spot, and conversation that had me in stitches. Seriously, these ladies and Dan cracked me up and while we didn’t solve world problems, there was more than enough laughter to go around. Unfortunately, Friday night and our Saturday-day activities left everyone a bit tired so our post-dinner plans changed and we hit the Union bar for a drink and then broke up to head home. Of course, Dan, Angela and I hung out for a while longer chatting at Belmont and enjoyed the view of drag queens parading around in the rain and talking over the incessant sound of car horns.
My only bad idea of the night was walking home at 2 a.m. in the rain with sketchy and lots of people out. Bad idea. Nothing happened but there were a few times I was a bit creeped out. 
So a big thanks to Maxie and Deutlich for making the trek out here to visit everyone. It was so cool to meet you and hang out with everyone. I miss you guys already! I had so much fun with everyone this weekend. Now I have to find something fun to do next Friday and Saturday nights! And more pictures are rolling in so I’ll keep posting them, including some with me actually in them, as they come in.
Oh yeah, I’m going back to Wisconsin this weekend for the 4th of July so if anyone is in the southeastern Wisconsin area then, let me know and we can do a mini-meet up. As you can see, when bloggers get together, fun is always had.

26 June 2008

Things that I’m grateful for

By: Jessica B.
So tonight’s post might seem kind of random but I’ve seen other blogs talk about this so I figured it was appropriate for me to do so as well.
I’m not always the nicest, happy-go-lucky person but that doesn’t mean I don’t know and recognize things that I am grateful for. So I’ve decided to list them below to prove yet again that I’m not a heartless b*tch – I’m just misunderstood :)
Things this Everyday Adventures girl is grateful for:
  • My friends
  • Parents who love me just as I am (good and bad)
  • A job that I like (the majority of the time)
  • Good health (knock on wood)
  • Full head of hair (even though it has some gray in it)
  • A full, nice set of teeth (yay braces!)
  • Being able to live and dress myself all on my own (most days)
  • Not having a huge student loan to pay off
  • Being able to “afford my life,” even though some more money wouldn’t hurt
  • My knitting group (I always look forward to 10 minutes of knitting, dinner and then an hour or more of gossip)
  • All ten fingers and toes (even though my center of balance isn’t great)
  • Being able to successfully manage my way living in Chicago
  • Public transportation (CTA) even if it’s not the most reliable (cabs are so expensive now)
  • Being able to look at life with a glass half-full attitude
  • Finding something new and beautiful every day (I know this sounds sappy but it’s true)
  • Being able to laugh at just about anything
  • No credit card debt
  • Being brave enough to leave school in Wisconsin and chase a crazy dream to Minnesota to study
  • My blosse :) because honestly when I started this, I had no idea of anyone would read it but I’m glad you all do
So that’s my list of the really important stuff. I opted to leave off some things that aren’t as important as this, like clothes, handbags, etc. They’re nice, but definitely not as meaningful. And this isn’t a “final” list at all, I’m sure more things will be added to it as time goes on.
Anyone care to share what they’re grateful for? It can be anything!

24 June 2008

Class of 1998: Ten f*cking years later

By: Jessica B.

Some of you may have seen my Tweets from about a week ago announcing (with a bittersweet tone) that Facebook recently invited me to my 10-year high school reunion. Well Facebook itself is not hosting it for me, but my high school, which has a group on Facebook (which I find odd that it exists there) notified me about the event. Actually, June 13 was the official 10-year anniversary date of me graduating high school and I celebrated…by going to work and it was pay day so it was doubly good.

So my 10-year high school reunion is set to be in Wisconsin in August, on a Saturday at a bar on the west side of town (which I find somewhat interesting yet fitting), and for $25 I can relive all the painful anxiety and low self-esteem emotions that made three of my four high schools years awful. Ah the memories, me with thick glasses, baggy clothes, braces, big boobs, long blonde hair, my ears fully pierced and making it through each day with one thought: “I can’t wait to get the f*ck out of here and away from these people.” 
I don’t want to misrepresent this, but high school wasn’t all painful. My senior year of high school was literally the best year ever. Had my first kiss, first real “boyfriend” and date, got contacts, started to not be afraid of my breasts and body and the biggest coup, I was a forensics, a.k.a. debate rock star. Medals, first-place trophies, recognition and jealousy from my teammates, including my former best friend. I drank that shit up like it was wine and I wanted bathe in it. Suddenly the chubby, petite girl got kind of better looking and was good at something, wha????
Oh the chance to see them all again, especially the guy I crushed on for all four years of high school, who conveniently lost his virginity to my former best friend on her couch because “they were feeling horny one night.” Ah high school, misty water-color memories. Ironically, he went on to pursue “music” at college and illegal substances so I think I got the better end of that stick in the long run.
A lot of things have changed in ten years and thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to follow many of my old classmates, many of which fall into one of three categories:
  • Drunk
  • Married
  • Unmarried with a kid (some with multiple kids)
Fortunately, I seem to fall in the outlier category from this: single, working and content. 
I’m not surprised that most of my old classmates ended up back in Wisconsin, living in the city we all grew up in. One old classmate, who recently friended me on Facebook, was so excited for me that I was living in the big city and said it was brave. BRAVE? Maybe to them it is, but to me, it’s second nature. It’s interesting to see how you grow up and away from the people you once held so close to you. Even relationships with family members have changed in that time. Some I’ve grown closer to and some I’ve drifted away from for better and worse.
And thinking about this reunion has prompted me to start taking a trip down memory lane, looking at pictures of me and seeing how dramatically different I am now from the timid, insecure and scared girl I was before. Heck if I look dramatically different from a picture that’s two years old and posted outside my work cube, imagine what has changed in 10 years? Some of the funniest memories I recounted while looking back include smoking my first cigarette outside the mall with a friend of mine, thinking we were so “bad ass” and how I smoked cloves at the bowling alley “lying” that it was from someone else. And who could forget sipping a screwdriver from someone’s thermos, again thinking I was “bad to the bone.”
But as I look back at the girl who was 18, miserable and at a huge crossroads in her life, personally and emotionally, I look back at her and the 28-year-old me would tell her this if I could:
You will be okay and all this confusion and insecurity will work itself out. Be strong and don’t let the bumps you’re about to go through and the heartache you’ll encounter break your spirit. You are strong and you will make it through. 
And I can imagine the 18-year-old me would look at me (timidly), initially say nothing and then say something like, “well I’m glad it works out, sort of, but damn you’re kind of mean.” Grow up girl.
So yeah, what the hell, I’ll pay $25 to see some people I used to crush on and feel insecure around. I have a feeling it’ll be more of a self-esteem boost and “life choices” affirmation than anything else. Woo hoo! Class of 1998!!

22 June 2008

Who has two thumbs and sucks at flirting? This girl!

By: Jessica B.

You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I suck at flirting. Let’s take Saturday night as another shining example of this point.

Scene: Unnamed Lakeview bar and grill, me entering to pick up a carry-out order. Dressed in an Old Navy tank top (with a small smoothie stain I discovered later), bra strap exposed, looking very warm and flustered from the heat and wearing a cotton skirt with little make up on. I go up to the bar to pick up my order and two nice-looking guys are sitting at the bar as well. Non-spoken descriptions are below in italics.
Guy 1 (the blonde-haired guy): Looks at me, gives me a warm smile, which I return. Hi there.
Me: Hi
Guy 2 (the dark-haired guy): Also looks at me and smiles while Guy 1 continues to throw looks my way. Hey there.
Me: Hi
Bartender: Okay here’s your order. He tells me the amount and I hand over my credit card, Guy 1 and 2 are still smiling at me, which I continue to smile back.
Me: Thanks, turns to Guy 1 and 2, have a good night giving them my patented “look”
Guy 1: You too, I leave but can feel someone watching me as I go. Tempted to turn around and give one final look and smile but do not.
End scene
Okay so that might not have exactly been me flirting and of course there is the likely possibility the guys were just being polite and watched me walk away out of horror for my outfit choice. Either way, the entire way home I’m kicking myself in the a** for not saying more to them or really anything. These guys were cute! But as I walk home, cursing, I realize I can’t go back because they’ve seen me with a carry-out order so if I go back I’ll be a) psycho for going back to ask about some asinine thing with my food or b) obvious that I would like them to ask me to stay for a drink or offer to join them. What is my problem?
And yet again I have solidified the fact that I suck at flirting, mostly because I still have a hard time believing a guy would want to flirt with me. I really not trying to be self-deprecating here but I’m totally serious! I am awful when it comes to guys because I have no idea what to say to them or my snippy, sarcastic humor ends up scaring them away or putting me in the “friend” category almost immediately. I’m the buddy, the wing(wo)man. Guys talk to me to get to one of my friends. It’s so true.
Here’s another solid example of my poor flirting skills. Right after college, I was living in Wisconsin and could not find a decent job to save my life. So one night, I go out with my friend for her birthday and I end up hammered and making out with her boyfriend’s friend at her apartment. While this guy and I are fooling around, he whispers to me, “what do you want?” And I sh*t you not, this is my drunken answer, “a job.” Really, I’ll let that sink in for a moment because that is what I said without even thinking. And his response? “I can’t give that to you.” And thus the fooling around was done not long after that comment.
This guy would have done anything I asked him to with his mouth or hands or both, resulting in my toes curling and likely being rendered speechless and my answer to him is, “a job.” In actuality, I wanted him to do something with his hands or mouth to take my mind off not having a job, but apparently I could not communicate in the heat of the moment. My friend could not stop laughing when I told her that. It was embarrassing. 
Once after a night out in Chicago, I had a guy offer to take the bus home with me, even though the El would drop him off closer to his house, and my comment to him was, “why would you do that?” My friend Sarah, who was trying to set me up with this guy (who is now engaged to someone else), looked at me like, “Jess do you seriously not see why he would do that?” And my answer was yes.
So next weekend when we’re out, my goal is to turn off the inner monologue long enough to give flirting a real try without sounding like a moron. And I’m actively recruiting for my own wing(wo)man so let me know if you’re interested in applying. References are appreciated.

19 June 2008

The Swell Season & Blogger event!

By: Jessica B.
Big post tonight, my randomness from last night is g-o-n-e, for now.

Tuesday night Anne and I went to the lovely Chicago Theater for the second of three sold-out concerts with the Swell Season a.k.a. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from the indie movie “Once.” Oh they also won the Oscar last year from Best Original Song.

Glen is already a star with the band the Frames (which I had not heard of before the concert) but after watching the movie and hearing the Oscar-winning song “Falling Softly” (video below), it moved me to tears so I had to see them live. And last night at their final show, Barack Obama was in the audience, how cool is that? 
The opening act was a super cute, super nervous guy from Kentucky (whose name I didn’t catch) who commented that the Chicago Theater crowd was easily “36x larger” than any audience he has ever played before. Random guys were handing out samples of his upcoming CD (from Jewel plastic bags) after he finished playing, but I couldn’t grab one in time. Shoot. But I can download the entire concert from a Web site for only $5.95! They gave us cards about it as we were leaving so I’m totally going back to save it to my computer.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the lovely Chicago Theater and the sound inside was insanely awesome, the acoustics were amazing. So while we were regulated to the rafter seats, it was still a fun time with beautiful music. I highly recommend checking out the movie and the Swell Season tour if you can. I would definitely see them again.
Taking off for Air One!

I love many things, one of which is shoes made in Italy. Another thing I love is meeting bloggers, especially local ones so tonight, I was invited to nearly combine these loves by attending a blogger event for Air One airlines at Gioco’s in the South Loop. And joining me were three lovely Chicago bloggers, Jenn, Joy and Angela. Great company.
Air One is an Italian airline who is starting US routes to Milan this month, but only from Chicago and Boston, so to celebrate the new flights, they hosted a blogger event to mingle and learn more about Italian culture. I do have to disclose that Air One is a client at my company, but I was officially “off the clock” when I attended and I don’t work in the department that organized the event.
Marco from Air One talked for a bit about airline and then shared with us some differences in English and Italian cultures. How do Italians spot tourists? Drinking espresso after 10:30 a.m. and/or wearing shorts. I did hear about the “shorts red flag” from friends overseas so I trust him on that one. And they said chef Phil Stefani is creating the flight’s menu. Sounds good to me. Air One was even doing a drawing for a free round-trip flight from Chicago to Milan. Fingers crossed that this girl gets chosen (please, please, momma needs a new pair of Italian leather shoes or a Prada bag). Plus it’s a partner with Lufthansa and speaking from experience, that is a good airline. German!
We enjoyed some lovely wine (which we couldn’t remember the names of so Jenn and I ordered them by numbers 1, 2 and 3) and the food was great too, or as Joy would say as the waiter’s approached, “kay.” It’s tough to pick a favorite from all the nummy options but I would have to say that the fried meatballs and the pesto/mushroom and margarita pizza were the big winners. Plus we got some free SWAG before leaving, which included a new flash drive. Score. That will make a lovely addition for my Lulu. Check out some pictures below.
Four lovely Chicago bloggers
Marco introducing us to Air One (above)
Q&A about how to spot American tourists (below)