Sunday, March 31, 2013

beans, pizza, and a little case of cellulitis

As you may have noticed, yet another week has passed without a post.  I think I'm just going to go ahead and make a disclaimer so as not to continue infuriating anyone with my spotty updating (mainly and pretty much only Steph): I'm probably only going to be updating once a week, at least for now.  Until I get a little more comfortable with this whole new job, new home, new transportation system, new city, underwear stored in a cardboard box thing... daily updates just aren't happening for me.

That being said, this weekend was grand (for the most part).  I say for the most part only because a weekend cannot be totally and completely grand when it involves skin infections that spread at alarming rates.

Before I get into that, a little background info...

If you remember my last job:


The only real dress code was that you wear your hair up (so as to keep it from catching fire) and that you wear closed-toes shoes (so as to keep your toes from being burned off my spilled chemicals).  The dress code didn't really call for a lot of high heel-wearing.

My new job requires a bit different attire, including a strict "no two-year-old Sperry's from your mom's closet" policy.  My darling baby seals (my feet, for any of you who weren't on Florida Tech's cross country team) are not accustomed to heels, nor do they seem agreeable to them.  At all.

So back to this weekend.  Saturday morning started off, as I mentioned, in a grand way.  Before Derrick and I headed out to mingle with the crowds of Asian Chi-town tourists with their fold-up maps (just to be clear, Jen, I love the Asians and their expanding maps), I decided to go on a little run.  On said run, I fell in love.

Luckily for Derrick, it was with my new city, not a new man.  In my delirious endorphin-happy state and between the "beaches" of Lake Michigan



And the amazing view of downtown over Lake Michigan...


I wanted to skip all the way home.  I was in such a great mood that I even stopped to chat with a few people who were on the (incredibly nice turf) soccer fields, about to start playing.  I got the low-down on a weekend league that starts at the end of April that I will hopefully get to be a part of.

Now we come to the part of the weekend that was not so grand.  As previously mentioned, my little seals were not happy with me for being shoved into less than comfy shoes for the past 2 weeks.  As punishment, I have been dealing with some pretty nasty blisters.

I generally deal with problems by ignoring them until they go away (well, at least when it comes to injury).  Turns out, that doesn't work.  Remember all those skippy-feelings I just mentioned on my run?  Yeah, they sort of went away immediately after I took off my shoes and realized that my right foot was swollen to about the size of a prepubescent seal, red, painful, and oozing pus from my open blister.

Derrick was thrilled too.

So we ended up getting a little bit of a later start than we planned, mainly because I had to go to an urgent care to get antibiotics for my most disagreeable appendage, which evidently had gone and decided to further punish me with a mild case of cellutitis.

(I don't have pictures of that.  Yes, you're welcome.)

After that I picked up my antibiotics, however, we were able to continue merrily on our grand old way.  And grand it was.  We were able to get up close and personal with Chicago's infamous Lima bean:



And stand at the top of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower):


(These pictures may or may not have been moments before Derrick pooped his pants... Just kidding).


And just generally enjoy the city and the nice weather.

Of course, the weekend also involved amazing food (this will, indeed, be a reoccurring theme in both my blog and on my waist line).  On Friday night, we went to a restaurant called Wilde's (named for Oscar Wilde).  I didn't take any pictures because honestly, that's how good it was: there would be nothing coming between me and my buffalo chicken sandwich on a pretzel roll.  For anyone coming to visit me in the near future, you can expect to find yourself there at some point.

We also found this sort of hole-in-the-wall pizza joint whose degree of delicious-ness pretty much brought Derrick to tears:



It is called Bricks and it is actually in the basement of one of Lincoln Park's old townhouses.





Again, the food was so good that I didn't think to take a picture before I gobbled it down.  For your imagining pleasure, though, picture me clawing at the waitress's doughy little hands for my personalized, 10" white pizza with meatballs, goat cheese, garlic, spinach, and tomatoes  moments before swallowing 2/3 of it whole as olive oil flows freely from my unrestrained lips.  That's pretty much how dinner went.

So yes, I'm sorry for the general lack of updates.  As you can see though, between my ever occurring gross yet oddly intriguing maladies and all this great food, I don't have a whole lot of time for blogging.

If this upsets you, I do luckily have a solution: come visit me in Chicago so you too can experience the unpredictable yet unrefined chaos that is my life.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Did that week really happen?

Yup, go ahead and scorn me.  If you only embrace dedicated, consistent bloggers... go ahead and shun me.  I deserve it.

A whole week and I didn't write a thing.  Blogging evidently isn't going to be as easy as I thought.  In case you were wondering, though, the reason behind my lack of updates isn't that nothing happened.  Because, oh, things happened.

So many things happened that again, I think it will be easiest and least painful for everyone involved (well, everyone being me) to describe this week's happenings using pictures:

1.  My stuff finally came in.  Which was great in some ways; after 4 days of wearing the same workout pants (please don't judge my life of near poverty), I was finally able to smell decent... for the first 10 minutes of my workout.  And I finally had my big coat!


But it also sort of sucked.  Although having my stuff was great, having my stuff piled in the middle of my previously empty albeit tidy apartment was a bit uncomfortable for someone with slight OCD.


This goes to show you, though, how incredibly busy and tiring these move-in weeks have been: although the neat-freak, internal cat lady in me was not at all pleased, I lived in this haphazard state all week.  In the mornings, I would hurdle my boxes of pillows and flipflops to the bathroom.  Then I'd head-first leap over my tub of pots and pans into the kitchen to make oatmeal.



It was a difficult time, which I will not speak of anymore.  This leads me to bullet 2 of what I did this week.

2.  I organized the crap out of my crap.  I mean, I was a woman on a mission.  And this mission was one of such mammoth proportions, that really I think all the excuse I need for not posting can end right here.  In a matter of 48 short (by which I mean long, overwhelming, and exhausting) hours, my apartment went from (above) to:




With all my stuff organized into various cabinets, boxes, and hangers.






This actually took quite a bit of creativity on my part, and I won't deny that some of my clothes are now folded up in moving boxes refurbished in to makeshift drawers.  But you do what you have to in times like these.

Again, I really don't think I need to explain any more about what has kept me away from the computer.  I will, though, point out that my week was not only an organizational orgy.  I also continued my obligatory "new city" exploration.  The best finds this week?

A really delicious restaurant that I only went into because the one I wanted to eat at closed early, and my ears were cold.  It's called Mista; everything is evidently organic (which doesn't mean much to me) but healthy, fresh, and yummy to my tummy (which is of utmost importance on my priorities list).


And I also found a used book store, crammed with pretty much every book you could possibly imagine for pretty much nothing.  Add unlimited tea and sushi, and anti-calorie carrot cake, and you have my personal heaven.



On my first visit, the owner had to actually kick me out because he was closing.  Needless to say, in the absence of friends, I will be spending a lot of time here.  

But then again, with all this good food and now, an endless supply of cheap books, who needs a social life?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

good food, my favorite eastern European, and green beer

After my hectic first week, I thought this weekend would involve an unreasonabe amount of sleep, followed by a fair bit of moseying around in my underwear and wool socks.  Now looking back, I'm not sure where I got that idea - I knew that Erika was coming in to town, and Erika simply does not partake in any sort of moseying, panted or otherwise.

Starting with a 7 AM Friday workout before work, "mosey" pretty much had been eliminated from my vocabulary all together.  I'm not complaining though; with all the free time I would have otherwise spent meandering in my undergarments, I was able to accomplish a lot.  For example...

Our first night, we wandered into an authentic Mediterranean restaurant.  By authentic, I mean we had to take off our shoes as to avoid dirtying the Aladdin-esque rugs and pillows on the couches.




Lentil soup and a sampler of hummus, babaganush, carrot salad, and stuffed grape leaves tastes way better in your socks.

And with that dinner, we began a pretty embarrassing escapade of money-spending.  But man, was it delicious.  We traveled up and down Europe, and back into the US via our (now slightly larger) stomachs.  From the Greek appetizers, the next night we went for a little bit of French cuisine at a place in my neighborhood called "La Creperie"...



...where we munched on savory crepes filled with roasted veggies, goat cheese, and chicken.  And of course, no French meal is complete with a bit of wine.

We also dabbled a bit with the local cuisine (i.e. deep dish pizza at Gino's East)...



And then rounded out the weekend with some sushi.  (I don't have a picture of that, though, because I become a bit crazed when it comes to my raw fish and generally forget everything else around me, including snapping any pics).

It was great.  I mean, absolutely freakin amazing (for the most part).  The parts that weren't absolutely freakin amazing rested somewhere in our mid-sections.  Luckily for us, that was easily remedied by a few good exploratory runs on the trail around Lake Michigan, steps from my front door.



The other downside to our whirlwind weekend of uncharacteristic spending was the whole spending part.  I'm not eating out of dumpsters, but my budget also wasn't quite fitted for our world tour of luxury dining.  To ease that unfortunate bit, we... well, we didn't really do anything constructive.  We did, however, celebrate St. Patty's day Chicago-style, which made us feel a little better.

What's Chicago style?  Well, you start by watching them dye the whole Chicago River green...


Then you spend the rest of the day drinking green beer and Irish Sangria (surprisingly, I was too preoccupied with that bit to remember to take pictures).

And that, in a nutshell, was my not-so-relaxing but oh-so-fun first weekend in Chicago.

My favorite Slovak leaves tomorrow morning; I'm going to miss the friendly face, but maybe it will be good for both me and my wallet to have a few days on my own.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

24 hours are a lot shorter in Chicago

I've given up trying to write a long post.  I have 2 saved right now that have all the potential for being witty additions to my young new blog.  But then I get busy doing things like...

...my job.  Which right now is mainly reading massive amounts of material, and taking tests on said masses.


...figuring out how people commute in Chicago.  What I've learned so far?  Regardless of how you get there, there are some rules.  One being you don't wear your dress shoes.  Take for example this city novice:


Note the lack of boots (you can't see very well, but I am actually wearing heels).  Obvious mistake of a rookie, one which she will pay for dearly (12 hours and 2 bus rides later) with swollen, painful blisters, feet flirting dangerously with frostbite, and wet pant hems.

Now observe Chicago-commuting expert:


Note the boots.  This cosmopolitan commuter knows what's up.  No more wet pant hems and blue toes for this suave lady.


... and battling the elements.


OK, this one actually isn't so bad (as seen here, the "elements" so far have really only been a few showers and a light dusting of snow).

Regardless, this week has been hectic to say the least.  And I mean hectic as in "still only have 2 apples, half a container of yogurt, and bottled water in the fridge, clothes still in duffle bag" hectic.

I really just wanted to post something to assure you that I am still alive and that I do plan on writing more... just let me hang up some curtains first!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Well, that was easy.

Just kidding!  But then again, since when is moving to a brand new city ever easy?  On a scale from "the rules of tic-tac-toe" to "a college differential equations course," I'd give this weekend an easiness score of about "judging when a chicken breast is fully cooked" (something I'm still not totally sure I've mastered).

It began on Friday, when my dad and I, and our free bag, flew to one of 70 destinations:


That destination being Chicago.  Yahoo!

(That building with the horns out in the distance is the Sears Tower.  Fancy, huh?)

The flight was extremely smooth.  And that, my friends, will be the last time you hear me use that word to describe my first few days here.  I have so much to say about this weekend, yet so little energy.  The best I can do to explain our first day would probably be to let you imagine the scene about an hour into our trip:

My 6'3", 200 lb father is in the seat of our rental Volkswagen beetle (like my dad did when the Hertz man told him for the first time, you might have just burst out laughing because you thought that was a joke...  It's not).  Our little bug, packed like a clown car with my dad's knees becoming quite friendly with the dashboard, is sitting in the middle of an intersection of 5 different streets.  I am in the passenger seat, trying to navigate with my iPhone while simultaneously keeping track of an email chain regarding $850 of mine that evidently is lost in cyber space (long story).  I tell my dad to turn left; unfortunately, there are 3 lefts at this particular intersection.  "Which one?"  my dad asks.  I really have no idea, so I point at the most left of the lefts.  Split seconds later, I catch a glimpse of the street sign - "Actually, that way!"  My dad, always with Samurai-worthy reflexes, immediately swerves from a 90 degree left to a slightly obtuse left hand turn... right in front of an oncoming truck.  "I'M LOST NICOLE. I DON'T KNOW CHICAGO; YOU HAVE THE PHONE, YOU CAN'T DO THAT TO ME."  "I DON'T KNOW CHICAGO EITHER DAD.  THE PHONE JUST SAYS LEFT... I CAN'T HELP THAT THAT REALLY MEANS 'MOSTLY STRAIGHT IN A MARGINALLY LEFT-WARD DIRECTION.'"

So that was that.

Then we walked into the room.  The very old room (think radiators and gas stove old), which I don't think had been cleaned extremely effectively (an intuitive guess based on the piece of plywood nailed to the window, which had obviously served as the previous owner's budget curtain rod).

At this point, our stress levels were pretty high.  We both dropped our bags and looked around... then we just looked at each other and started laughing.  Sometimes, that's all you can do.

Once we calmed down a little from our first experience with city driving, things really weren't that bad.  They were actually pretty good.  The room is old, but it's also really big.




And everything works well, despite it being built (as my dad estimated) sometime in the 20's.  I like to think of it as "vintage," and it's really growing on me.

I sit here now on a folding chair in front of my folding table, almost 48 hours later.  I have much more to say about everything, but you will just have to wait for my next post... as for now, I have a date with my brand new, $525 memory foam mattress.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Goodbye Florida (but for real this time)

Dealing with last week's goodbye's wasn't as hard as I made it seem.  I mean, when you take a step back and look at my week, it was really more a parade of a bit more sushi and a lot more laundry than anything.  I still went to bed in West Palm.  Still got up and ate my daily bowl of oatmeal.  Still put on my pants and fiddled with a bit of chemistry.

But yesterday was the real deal.  The day started off like all my other faux-goodbye's: a few slightly emotional hours that were mostly overshadowed by really good food


And even better company


But then I found myself at the airport.  It wasn't until I was halfway through my ritualistic grande Starbuck's hot tea that it hit me - it's over.  I'm really not coming back.


Dealing with unexpected surges of emotion isn't exactly my forte.  I ran through the list of normal responses to this situation, dismissing them one by one: play an instrument in a dimly lit room.  Note to self: invest in guitar.  Vent in my diary.  Add diary to hypothetical mope-ery list.  Eat fistfuls of butter by the judgmental light of the refrigerator door.  Well, that's actually not reasonable at all.

So I dealt with my confusing emotional burden by excessively chatting with the lady next to me (which really isn't any more reasonable than fistfuls of butter).

Turns out, though, that the unfortunate victim of my misguided emotional confusion was not only quite interesting, but extremely welcome to a good chat.  We had almost a West Palm to Baltimore length conversation that spanned from my upcoming move to Chicago to her nephew, Zach Streif.  In case you don't know who Zach Streif is, he's this guy:


an offensive tackle for the Saints.  Turns out, this lady gets to see her nephew pretty regularly - from places like the end-zone of Super Bowl games - and has been known to attend a few after-parties with her ol' chum, Drew - aka Super Bowl XLIV MVP quarterback, Drew Brees.  Maybe I should do a bit more excessive chatting; you never know when you're going to run in to the blood-relative of a friend of an NFL super star.

Somehow, learning some inappropriate details of this guy's personal life calmed me enough to continue with my impending life upheaval.  So here I am, one day into my two day mini-vacation at home before running head first into my brand new life.  And what a grand day it has been.

It started with a bit of meandering around the house with my sleepy friend, Jazz:


A lovely construed-by-the-gods  lunch (i.e. a salad of mixed greens topped with chicken, roasted pine nuts, strawberries, and goat cheese), compliments of my mom:


And wrapped up with two of the greatest things known to man, sushi and Sam Clarke:


We finished dinner with the usual fortune-cookies, gifts given to ease the pain of receiving the check.  On that note, I'm not totally convinced that there isn't some Asian cookie-maker conspiracy to subliminally tell me that I'm lazy. I added tonight's fortune to the collection I keep in my wallet from past sushi dinners.  I think of this collection as my personal little Japanese life-coach hiding among my loose change.


I'm looking forward to what the rest of the week will bring for me and my fictitious little Asian friend.  :)


Monday, March 4, 2013

Challenge Accepted: 20 Things I'm Thankful for

As promised!

1. Being born in the United States.  I'm not one of those "US flag tattooed on my left, Bud Light-holding bicep" patriots, but I truly believe that the US is the best country in the world.  Where you're born is sort of just the luck of the draw.  And as far as that one went, I won the lottery.

2. My body.  This isn't to say that if in some alternate reality, someone offered me the chance to be born with Beyonce's body that I wouldn't at least consider it.  I mean, really...


But even though I don't and won't ever have her curves, I am really thankful for my body.  I have put it through hell over the years (no one will ever convince me that we were made to run 26.2 miles), but it just keeps going.  It can do some pretty amazing things, and for that I am thankful.

3. My mom.  So cliche, I know.  How can she not be in the top 5, though?  I was blessed with a mother who somehow manages the almost unattainable balance between mother and friend, who never leaves me doubting how much she loves me but has always given me the freedom to make my own choices.  So props, Mom, for being awesome.


4. My dad.  You had to know this was coming.  My dad and I have a unique relationship, one that regularly involves extremely heated debates about gay marriage, TSA policies, and college football play-calling on the goal line.  But the real reason I'm so thankful for my dad is my collection of select memories that prove he would truly do anything for me (memories that are very specific, but are special enough not to share with my world-spanning fan base [riiiiggghhhttt....]).

5. This guy:


For the past three years, my relationship with Derrick has probably been the most influential in my life (not surprising, as we spent a year living together in almost literally a concrete box).  How could I not be thankful for a man who does his homework in a dorm room bathroom so the light doesn't bother me while I sleep?

6. Ray Lewis.  Enough said.

7. My siblings.  If I had to pick any two people in the world with whom to share DNA, I'd pick Jennifer Lawrence and Chuck Norris.  Just kidding; I'd pick Samantha and Nathan Clarke.  Always good sports when I dictator-style demanded that we play "School" followed by "Emergency Vets," they've grown into some of the most important people in my life.



8. The FIT XC Team.  To explain this one, I definitely could write at least a 1000 word essay on how much I value the friendships I made my 4 years running, sweating, dying, complaining, drinking, etc. etc. with these girls.  Instead, I'll include this:


And in case you're still not convinced, this:



How could I not be thankful?

9.  The 977 BC Gaeta Community.  According to Wikipedia, they're credited with documenting pizza for the first time.  Thank God.

10.  John Carroll.  No, not the first Roman Catholic bishop in the US.  I'm thankful for my high school.  Not so much the uniforms or strict "no gum" rule (oppression, in my opinion); more so because that's where I met the friends that will forever be in my life (except Hannah, she came from Saint Margaret's Middle School.  So thank God for that place too).



11. The internet.  I can't imagine not being connected to the world the way the internet connects us.  Maybe this smaller world is more stressful and lacks the values of simpler times.  But seriously, without Pinterest, how would I be able to make Krispy Kreme doughnuts in my kitchen?

12. J. K. Rowling's spare time.  Does this make me a nerd?  Yeah, but at least I'm among millions.  I sometimes have those fleeting moments of mourning when I realize that Harry and Hermoine aren't really my friends.  For these moments, I keep an emergency copy of the Goblet of Fire always at hand.

13. My dad's propensity for tradition.  Since literally before I was born, I've been going to the Outer Banks for a week every summer of my life.  I've only ever missed two summers: one, because I was in Prague with Erika (awesome) and two, because I was at work (extremely un-awesome).  Regardless, this is now how I imagine heaven:



14. Japan.  They gave us sushi, and for that, I will be eternally thankful.

15. Not being extremely good at soccer.  When I got cut from my high school's varsity soccer team my junior year (after an extremely long, drawn-out, rip-the-band-aid-off-your-scab-over-a-matter-of-days sort of process), I thought it was the end of the world.  Little did I know that it was actually the start of a brand new world, beginning with my first season of cross-country.  Had I been really, really good at soccer, I would probably never have been introduced to the love/hate relationship between a runner and her sport.  And I definitely would not have this 99 cent Kindle e-book type of story to share with you all.

16. My ability to dance.  My ability to laugh at myself.


17. My Kindle.  I've read 4 new books in the past month.  That wouldn't have been possible if that meant four different trips to the library.  I'm not sure if this really makes me thankful for a means by which to eliminate as much movement possible, but I'm thankful nonetheless.

18. Wine.  I like to enjoy a nice glass over dinner.  And occasionally  I like to enjoy a few more glasses with some friends over a sophisticated game of cards.


19. German Chocolate Cake, warm brownies and homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I don't eat dessert very often, but when I do... in that moment, I cannot thank God for anything more.

20. Finding this Healthy sELF challenge and all of the wonderful bloggers associated with it.  I originally found the challenge through a blog I like to read (shout out, SSC cross country!).  From there, I was introduced to a whole other world of bloggers (see my previous post) and the Healthy sELF challenge.  I had fun writing this list, and for that, Healthy sELF, I thank you!