‘Things I recommend’ Category

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.

12 May 2008

Tidbit Monday: A Potpourri post – make up, more stripping and rock bands

By: Jessica B.
My mind is kind of scattered today as I continue working to establish a wireless network with my Apple Airport Express at home. It’s supposed to be easy to connect, but it’s apparently not easy enough for me because I can’t get it to work. Grr!

Anyhow, enjoy today’s random sampling.

Make-up Brushes – Help!
Apparently my eyebrows are like a rain forest, as I have managed to break my fourth Sephora make-up brush since December. How? I have no idea. For $5, I wasn’t expecting greatness, but somehow breaking four in less than six months seems a little crazy. No, I’m not brushing my eyebrows aggressively, but for some reason the top of the brush keeps snapping off like a twig. And those little bristles scatter like leaves, making them horrible to find and pick up.

I cannot bring myself to go back to Sephora and buy another one (mostly because I know it won’t last) so if you all have recommendations of good, affordable eyebrow brushes and shapers, I would appreciate it. My eyebrows would too.

Meet my rock band
Because of my awful, tone-deaf voice, I will not be joining a band in the foreseeable future. But I was playing around online the other day and found a fun Web site that will let me generate my own band name based on my real name.

The Grammy for Best New Artist is definitely not in my future, but in my head, I can play Guitar Hero and Rock Band now with a purpose. So I proudly introduce to you all my band…..

Your Band Name is:
The Plastic Housewives

I think that’s pretty appropriate. Let’s rock!

Strip club follow-up
Sadly no pictures are available just yet, but Meg did ask for the story behind the “I don’t want to burn you” comment so I have provided it below.

At the strip club (which gave us a front-row seat near a pole- score!), one of the other bachelorettes there was insanely drunk and smoking like a chimney. When “Hot Joe” (the best stripper) came over to her to make some money, he proceeded to straddle her and pull her on top of him.

Because of her level of intoxication, the cigarette went with the woman onto the stripper and she screamed out “I don’t want to burn you” (with the cigarette) while he removed $1 bills from her cleavage and bra strap.

That was nice of her to try and save the stripper from a cigarette burn on his perfectly-toned pectoral. But I doubt that would have been the first time something like that happened.

06 May 2008

Things I recommend: Quitting your job (if you hate it)

By: Jessica B.

For the record, I have not quit my job. Things are actually going pretty well there right now so no complaints here. I’m actually writing this post to give a friend of mine a boost. She’s unhappy in her job right now so I want to give her a preview of the euphoric joy she’ll be feeling soon enough when she’s outta there.

I’ve only been “fired” from a job once, and even then they told me the news, it was more of them “letting me go” because it was clear both parties were not happy. When they first said, “today is your last day,” I thought I was going to faint. I am a planner, I always have a Plan B. They broke up with me before I could meet someone better and end it with them. So I had a good cry, was escorted out by security and drove home (still crying) to an empty house and a full liquor bar.
Before I joined my current job, I had a lot of internships and short-term positions and my last one was awful, almost rivaling the one that I was fired from. I’m not a huge crier but I would cry every day at my old job. It got so bad that my parents would come down to check on me in Chicago to make sure I was still doing things, like showering and going outside because I was so depressed. To quote myself on New Year’s Eve of that year, I told my closest friends that if I was still at that job the same time the next year, they had permission to slit my throat with a broken bottle. That part I’m not exaggerating. You can ask them.
When you hate your job, like really hate it, you hate everything. Every weekday is a curse and you lie in bed thinking of reasons why you should go in and not call in sick. I’ve known a few people who have cried themselves to sleep because they don’t want to go to work. Making it through every hour and every day is a challenge and sometimes you wonder if you really will survive.
But fortunately, there is some relief – quitting. I don’t recommend doing this unless you have another job to go to or if you house can handle one income for a little bit, so there is my disclaimer. When it does come time to talk to HR and your manager, the best phrase out of your mouth will be, “I’m here to give you my two weeks notice.” It might be hard to actually say when the time comes but once you do, the weight begins to lift off your shoulders. The sun shines brighter and birds chirp lovingly for you. When I quit my old job, I went out for lunch and for the first time in almost four months, I smiled like I meant it.
People who know how unhappy you are, they congratulate you and take you out to get drunk and start spending the new raise in salary. And you feel like things will finally get better because they will.
Now you all might think that this is overdramatic and that I’m too “committed” to my job, making it my “life,” and to some extent, you’re right. But at the age that me and some of my friends are at, we’re still putting in our time and having to tolerate things we normally wouldn’t want to. The work/life balance bit isn’t easy and I’m still trying to figure it out too. But fortunately the people I work with are good about it so I don’t mind going above and beyond at times.
I don’t plan on quitting my job anytime soon and hopefully they don’t want to break up with me either but whenever someone asks me about their job troubles and when you know it’s time to quit, I can only tell them my story and say, “you really know when enough is enough. You really can feel it in your heart.”

29 April 2008

How the smallest things can make your day

By: Jessica B.
Presents and treats aren’t just for holidays and birthdays anymore. Oh no. As a single, young professional woman, I believe in treating myself to something nice at least a few times a week, if not every day.
Now this doesn’t mean I’m out buying new purses, make-up or clothes all the time, but I’ve really found that as I get older, it’s the little things that can still make your day. For example, my dad gave me a roll of stamps (the new forever ones) and I was super excited…over stamps. My idea of daily treats include: buying lunch, taking a cab, buying nummy ice cream or cupcakes as a treat, etc. Not exciting or something that will break the bank, but it’s still fun things that I wouldn’t normally do on a regular basis.

I’m teased at the office about my policy about “gift wrapping” things I buy. Whenever I buy something from Coach or Nordstrom’s or really any store that has to ship things to me, I always ask it to be gift wrapped, especially if the service is complimentary. I do this because then it’s like a nice little present, just for me. Yes, I’ve paid for it and I know exactly what’s in the box, but for a few seconds, I have a present and I’m anxious to open it up. Plus, I don’t have a boyfriend to buy and wrap things up for me, so that doesn’t mean I should go without.

Does anyone else do little treat things for themselves? Care to share?

21 April 2008

Six quirky things about me

By: Jessica B.
So today I’m not a diva tagged me as part of the six truths meme (I don’t know what that is) so for everyone’s reading enjoyment, be prepared to learn interesting or useless things about me. Remember, I’m quirky, not freaky.

The rules:
  • link to the person that tagged you
  • post the rules on your blog
  • share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
  • tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
  • let each random person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

Six things about me:

  1. I am still slightly OCD/perfectionist. This isn’t as bad as it used to be, but my most reoccurring quirk is that when I have about 10-15 M&M’s left, I organize them in bunches by groups of color and then eat them with my least fave color first with my favorite color first. This happens if I’m at my desk, on a train or even in a movie (although it’s more difficult there)
  2. I love designer handbags. Don’t ask me how many I have because I don’t know, but they sit nicely on a shelf in the dust bags. My repeat offenders: Coach and Kate Spade. Mostly Coach.
  3. When I was little, I wanted to be a dancer on Solid Gold and a doctor. I need a gold shiny jumpsuit and a cage in the OR, stat!
  4. My mind is a vast cave of pop culture knowledge. Movies, fashion, stars, television, trivia, you name it and it’s in there. My friend stopped playing Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture edition with me because I kept winning.
  5. My first real memory of Chicago is coming down after Christmas with my dad to walk along Michigan Avenue and look at the lights.
  6. Sometimes when I have a really, really bad day, I come home, turn the phone off, turn on the television and eat coffee cake alone in the dark. Really, it’s not sad, it helps shake off the blues. Fortunately this has only happened once or twice.

Tag, you’re it!

So below are my picks for who’s tagged next. Start runnin’.

Rebecca at Homemaker’s Habitat – She’s my work mother and the most creative, arts/crafts person I know. Seriously.

Amanda at Simplified Mom – She is my knitting yoda and has the most adorable baby girl Ada.

Stephanie at My Twentysomething Cents – She loves the Office just like me :) and knows about Mindy Ephron’s blog. Both of things are a-okay with me.

Angela  at Angelaboration- Actress, great photos on her blog, funny stories and she’s super nice to comment on my blog regularly :)

Arielle at Good Things Come to Those Who Whine- works in HR and cracks me up with her office stories. I can relate…so well.

Jenn at Free and Flawed – she helped get people to my blog to answer my blog roll question and has been super nice with me being a newbie blogger still.

Jamie at Oh How Lovely – Yes I’m adding a seventh tag. Her blog is awesome and huge and she still visits my little growing blog and comments :)