Tuesday, April 19, 2011

24 Hours with The Jürg

Since Jürg and I have lived apart we have done a mighty fine job of seeing each other at least once a month. Not ideal, but given the circumstances certainly a good goal to have.

I was supposed to fly out to the City of Brotherly Love right after I gave my don't go into the arts dream big and do whatever you want speech, but last week Jürg got called into an important audition here in Chicago. So, as is typical whenever you make a plan, everything had to be rescheduled. We cancelled my flight and transfered the credit (God bless you Southwest Airlines) so he could fly here for a mere twenty four hours.  Again not ideal, but we adapt.

The trip was oh so quick but we did our best to make the most of it. We went out for cocktails at a new lounge in the neighborhood, played Yahtzee, drank wine and talked about summer goals. His audition went incredibly well so we are keeping our fingers crossed and just gearing up for the home stretch of this almost one year separation. It's always the final furlong that's the hardest, but hopefully time will continue to fly and June will be bustin' out before we know it.

Until then....I hope Spring decides to return. Any...day...now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Something I Covet

Years ago when Jürgen and I first started dating we spent a summers afternoon enjoying the always reliable Art Institute of Chicago. An exhibit which caught my eye and has stayed with me was On the Beach by Richard Misrach. A series of aerial photographs of oceans and beaches around the world. Ever since then I have been dying to get my hands on one of his prints.

Isn't that stunning? It looks like a painting it's so gorgeous.

This one is great too...with the subjects feet peeking above the water.

I would die to have a print like this hanging above my bed. Something about the calm blue water feels fitting for bedside art.  I feel relaxed just looking at these images.

Sadly, it seems as though you cannot order prints from this collection. I have searched, but to no avail. I have also tried to find comprable looking images on sites such as art.com, but nothing seems to move me like these photos.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

We're "Trying"

Have I ever mentioned how hilarious I find the phrase "We're trying." As in "We are trying to get pregnant."

It's hilarious to me. I love that phrase.

Because think about it: what are people really implying when they say that?

Jürgen and I could be at a fancy dinner party surrounded by uptight elders and if I declared to the table "Oh yes we are trying to get pregnant" they would all look at us with warm smiles and approving nods at our desire to further the human race and nurture a human life.

But if I instead said "oh yeah we are having all kinds of sex around the clock in an effort to knock me up" they would gasp in horror and possibly lose their meal all over the table.

But that's basically what you are saying when you utter the loaded two word phrase "We're trying."


Oh and to be clear, we are not "trying", nor do I play to "try" any time soon, and should I ever decide to "try" you will never hear me use the phrase "we're trying."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Words of the Wise

A few months ago I received an email from my high school asking if I would be available and interested to speak to the current students about a "career in the arts." My response was: "You mean to tell them not to do it?"

Ha ha. I kid. Kind of.

As I pulled into the school parking lot yesterday morning I had a bit of trepidation about my agreement. For one, I don't feel particularly successful in my "career" at the moment, and on the other hand I remember what it was like to listen to guest speakers during the assembly period. I was usually fighting a battle to stay awake or feverishly trying to finish an assignment for the following class. This would not be an easy crowd.

I did not want to discourage any young souls from pursuing their dreams, but on the other hand I did not want to be dishonest about the hardships this career path affords you.  Going in I had no set speech, no set list. I figured I would let the kids lead the discussion and I would do my best to answer honestly. Also, I was just hoping not to drop any expletives during my talk.

Despite my fears I actually had a really lovely time.There was a group of about ten or so of us "artists." Among us was a film director, opera singer, photographer, art teacher and graphic designer to name a few. We were all placed in a classroom and groups of about 20-25 students rotated in every ten minutes over the span of an hour an a half.  The kids were very attentive and asked really smart questions. Every group was interested to know more about my day job, what my favorite show has been and a few kids had even seen my commercial a few years ago.  It was nice. I am glad to have been asked to be a part of it.

Sometimes when we try to teach others, we end up teaching ourselves along the way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Failing Grade

Hi Friends

I have totally slacked in the past few days. I am ashamed. I am sorry. I have been babysitting, I have done another I-65 road trip and I have procrastinated over the past few days to the point where it is almost midnight and I am just sitting down to write.

Perhaps my Lenten goal was too lofty?

I have ten days left to stick to this goal, so in an effort to spice things up let's play 20 questions....shoot me a question (or two!) that you would like to ask me. I will post the answers in a few days!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Recent Obsession

I can't quite pinpoint when it happened but some point before we entered into a new decade I have become obsessed with candles. Actually it is more specific than that, I have become obsessed with having a lit candle in my entry way.

Sorry this picture is a but dark but you get the idea. When I come home from work my routine is always the same: Shoes off, keys in dish, bag on bench, feed hungry kitties, light candle, collect mail. You could set you watch by it.  On weekends as soon as I leave my bedroom I light the hallway candle, and it will sometimes burn all day long.  For as long as I am in the house, there burns an eternal flame.

I have no reasonable explanation as to how those obsession began or where the need comes from but it's a part of my daily ritual. Do candles in the entry way ward off evil spirits? Do they cleanse the house of any negative energy?  Are there any sort of Feng Shui rules that apply to this?

My candles must not be of the floral scented variety. I am partial to savory or "festive" scents (i.e anything that smells like a Christmas tree). However I wonder if these scents will be appropriate once the warm weather actually decides to stick around. Should the candle be replaced with a vase full of fresh flowers. I am going to wait to see if the obsession is seasonal.

Wow I have become a woman who thinks about candles...what has become of me?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

April Goals

Here are a few things I would like to accomplish this month. In no particular order:

1) Get my wine aromatics poster framed (did this today! hootie hoo!)
2) Buy pillows for the sham's that have been folded in my closet for years
3) Finish the photo archiving project I started last week.
4) Research organizations that focus on sustainable/local food for possible volunteer opportunities.
5) Start reading a new book.
6) Think about working out (I hate exercising, so I feel that at least thinking about it is a good first step)
7) Solve the worlds energy crisis.
8) Clean up this blog a bit, and read more blogs on a regular basis.
9) Eat at this restaurant.
10) Find a way to get Democrats and Republicans to stop arguing about stuff that doesn't matter and actually work to together for a change.

Think I can do it? I will report back.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jürgen sent me this picture he took today. Isn't it lovely? The dainty purple buds blossoming and heralding in Spring? Such a time of birth growth and possibility.

Then why oh WHY was it FORTY DEGREES today in Chicago?!?!?! Forty frikkin degrees and raining. Raining.

It's days like today when I question my decision to live here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dining Out For Life

Lately I have waxed poetic about how much I adore my alone time, and I do adore it. However, after a certain point of self satisfying activities such as drinking wine and organizing your photos, or sleeping in late, or counting your pennies as you save up for the China Cabinet you love so much you realize that your life has become pretty self-centric. This is important sometimes, but it's also equally as important to be a contributing member of society, so when the opportunity arose to volunteer for Dining out for Life I jumped at the chance.

Dining Out For Life is an international fund raising effort that teams up with restaurants in cities across the country, and the world, to raise money for local AIDS Organizations. Chicago's night is coming up on April 28th and I will be serving as an ambassador at one of my favorite places, Bistro Campagne. A rustic French restaurant thats has never let me down, and I have dined there on many occasions.

If you live in Chicago stop by one of the many participating restaurants and grab on bite on the 28th. A portion of every sale will go directly to Edge Alliance, an organization dedicated to providing support to homeless people and families afflicted by AIDS. Not a Chicagoan? Check out the Dining Out For Life website and see when your city is hosting, it's a perfect excuse to try out a new restaurant and help people in the process!

My friends, it doesn't get much sweeter than that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Babysitting Machine: Part 2

As previously stated I was babysitting until 1am this morning, and I just returned from another stint this evening and will go at it again tomorrow night. I am a well oiled dinner making, teeth brushing, iCarly watching, diaper changing, book reading machine. And it's all in name of love.

I love this china cabinet.

Oh and children! I love children too....

But seriously, let's get back to the task at hand. Isn't she lovely? I have eyed her for years and I decided this was the year she would be mine. Every cent from every babysitting gig I get is going towards the prize. It will be a slow climb, but in the end it will be oh so worth it.

It's almost as though I have reverted back to high school, except in high school I would have been saving up for a new pair of Doc Martins or something, now I dream about furniture. This would be another example of: you know you are becoming an adult when...

Now might be a good time for me to admit a rather painful truth about myself: I have never actually saved up for anything in my life. I know, I can feel your judgement radiating through the computer screen, but in an effort to be totally transparent I just want to put that out there. If I ever wanted something I usually asked for it for a birthday or Christmas. Or I would put it on a credit card when I couldn't actually afford it and then pay it back (with interest, of course) over time. This is not a fact I am proud to admit, but we all have the capacity to change if we put our minds to it. My mistakes of my past don't have to dictate the actions of my future.

I am currently about a third of the way to my goal and while I would love to have this gorgeous piece of craftsmanship in my home now, I am willing to wait, because I know the reward will be that much sweeter in the end.

Babysitting Machine

I babysat until 1am today. I am so tired and I have nothing to say, please forgive me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dishing for Dana

When Jürgen and I became engaged a few years ago I started writing a blog, or blürg, centered around our wedding planning. It's main purpose was to provide a window into the event for all of our family and friends across the country. In retrospect it was also an excellent way to document that special time for posterity, or should anyone need any info for my autobiography.

I began to read a fair number of wedding-centric blogs at that time but none compared to the sassy, resourceful and oh so hilarious Broke Ass Bride. My friend, The Parakeet, introduced me to her and I eagerly awaited her posts each day. The blog became quite the hit and has developed into a full blown enterprise of it's own. However, even with all of the excitement, the Broke Ass Bride herself has been battling a rare auto immune disease that affects both of her eyes. The result being that she has to undergo multiple surgeries and therefore acquire massive amounts of debt. I encourage, and frankly urge you to read the full story here and see if you can find it in your heart to show her support in any way you can.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Dana and she is a one of a kind, super cool, awesome gal who is destined, along with her husband Hunter, to achieve great things and I hate the idea of someone being held back because we live in a country with a broken health care system.

After you read it, take a gander around the site. You will not be disappointed!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Exploring Your City: Goose Island Brewery Tour

Last week the beverage world was rocked when it was reported that this company had purchased Chicagoland's beloved brewery Goose Island.

I am not afraid to call myself a Wino, but over the years I have developed a deep appreciation for well crafted brews, and as someone who likes to support local economies I have become a fan of Goose Island.  Particularly their Belgian style beers like the Matildia and Sofie. When I learned of the acquisition I felt it best to pay homage to the local gem and take myself on a brewery tour. I brought my pal Brandon along for the journey.

It was a lot of fun, if I do say so myself. For a mere ten dollars you got to see where the magic happens, sample six different beer styles and you got to take home a souvenir glass. What a lovely was to spend a cloudy Sunday.

Todd, our guide and a Master Brewer himself, was easy going and very informative.  I have been on several brewery tours over the years so I am familiar with how the system works, but every brewery puts their on spin on things and its a great excuse to drink in the middle of the day without judgement! If there is a brewery tour, sign me up!

A particular fact I liked about Goose Island was they send all of their grain to local pig farms, the pigs eat it and then they buy back the pigs to later appear on their menu. Love a company that keeps it local and reduces waste. I hope that doesn't change when the big guys roll in.

And of course, the best part of any brewery tour is the tasting. In this tour our guide really encouraged us to shout out various flavor notes and aromas that we picked up in each unique brew.

The six beers we tasted were:

1) Golden Goose (Pilsner): Didn't care for this one. Tasted like a slightly less better Bud Light.
2) Sahti (Saison Style): A beer made with juniper berries instead of hops. Very unique flavor. I very much enjoyed.  I imagine it would go well with a nice grilled Salmon.
3) Green Line (Pale Ale): Again, didn't love this one. Felt similarly to the Golden Goose.
4) Blonde Rascal (forgot to make note of the style): Brewed with lavender which gave it an herbaceous and floral nose. I liked it, although I don't think I could consume an entire pint.
5) Sneed (Porter): Yummy! A darker beer but very smooth. Nice chocolate, coffee and tobacco notes.
6) Lake Effect (Imperial Ale): Another crowd pleaser. Medium in body, caramel in color, great all year drinking beer.

A wonderful thing about Beer is it can be made anywhere, and be great. Unlike wine which really depends on the climate and region (Sorry Indiana wines...). So there are tons of great local breweries all across the country, and many of them offer tours. This is not a fact, rather a theory I have, but I feel confident enough to make that statement. Tours like this are a great activity to do with a group of friends and a wonderful way to learn about the craft of beer making. I highly recommend it!

You were allowed to take a beer on the tour, and that coupled with the tasting I was feel rather happy after the tour concluded. As witnessed by the photo below.

P.S- According to Todd, Goose Island is going to continue operating the same way and the buy out shouldn't affect the quality of their beers. I hope this is the case!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sad Cats

Good game tonight Cats. I thought this could be our year, but alas it was not in the cards.

Still, we are proud of you and we look forward to a great season next year.

Go Butler!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

Ah the first of April. A day when it's socially acceptable to let our inner prankster to run free and torment those around us. Some live for the day, while others live in fear of it. Where did this annual gag pulling tradition come from I wonder?

On April 1st 2009 I was working at a commercial photography and digital media studio here in Chicago.  It was a pretty cool job as far as these things go. Funky atmosphere, laid back people (for the most part), an always changing environment.  It was a glimpse into the world of print advertising, because this studio works with some pretty big ad agencies. Now if only Don Draper could have stopped in to have a look at the "artwork" my life would have been complete.

That first April day, which I would like to point out was much warmer than it is currently, I was having lunch with two of my coworkers (both named Eric...I like to hang out with people who have the same name, simplifies things) and the subject turned to....wait for it....April fools. Had any of us successfully pulled off an April fools joke? None of could lay claim to such a feat, which incidentally got our wheels turning.  We should pull one over on the studio! Many ideas were tossed around and we finally settled on staging a fake client call.  It would for a project that would need to be rushed and therefore would require an emergency phone conference. But who would make this call? Seeing as I was the only person out of the three who wouldn't be required to attend an emergency meeting, the torch was passed. The game had begun.

I need to be clear about something: I may be an actor but I am no great joker. I am no improviser. I laugh when something out of the ordinary happens onstage. My lips start to quiver when I attempt to trick someone. Basically I am hopeless. Therefore the thought of having to to pull of a studio wide prank, was daunting to say the least.

The studio does a lot of work for pharmaceutical companies and our thought was it would be easy to create a brand name for a drug that no one would be able to prove didn't exist. At the time I was taking a very strong pill called Accutane in an effort to combat by years of troubled skin (blast my parents for passing on their bad skin genes!) which happens to cause very severe birth defects should you become pregnant while taking the pill. They aren't kidding around about that either, on the inside of the packaging are erie drawings of babies with horribly deformed heads and no ears. It's a serious drug.

Well we might be the most brilliant, or demented people on the face of the planet because we chose to draw upon that horror and created hilarity! Yep, I was going to act as an account executive for a major ad agency that would be producing a big, glossy brochure outlining the abhorrent side effects of a new drug: Isoplex (derived from the generic name for Accutane, Isotretinoin).

However, it was not to be some frightful brochure, no we wanted the images to depict deformed babies in cheerful settings in an effort to juxtapose the happy with the horrific.

(As I type this I am realizing how terrible this sounds, but I assure you it was funny at the time).

Back at the studio I was prepped with the proper terminology so I would seem legit and we created my character. My name was "Emma" and I had to be of British origin in order for no one to know it  was me on the phone. I called the studio from my cell phone, then proceeded to page Eric over the loudspeaker, and then I stole away to the prop room to begin the tom foolery.

Eric assembled almost the entire office: all of the partners, the producer, her assistant, quite the crew. These calls with clients are taken very seriously. Eric introduced me to everyone and I could hear that they were all using their "business voices" their "we need to impress this important ad exec" voice. I couldn't believe I had signed on for this...but I began the speech.

I started with the standard ad world lingo about the timeline, the type of campaign etc, but then i unleashed the absurd ...

It went something like this (do your best to imagine it in a very realistic British dialect):

"We want these images to be  shocking, SHOCKING, but funny at the same time. The babies should look very happy and be placed in settings that are otherwise pleasant experiences. As one of the side effects is a cone shaped head and no ears perhaps that baby could be at a birthday party. Another side effect is the babies legs are born fused together to form one giant leg, otherwise known as Sirenomelia (this is not an actual side effect, but it is an actual genetic disease that is absolutely tragic and I am going to hell for sure), so perhaps that baby could be in a swimming pool or laying on a large rock. And the final side effect is an underdeveloped heart so we would need to see the baby looking cheerful but show an internal shot of the heart, oh and maybe this baby could be at a picnic?"

You would think the insanity of this request would be enough for them to sniff me out. On the contrary my friends, the bought every word of it. Hook, line and sinker. Then the real fun began...

Eric: "Emma, since the baby has a cone head anyway, in the birthday party shot instead on putting a cone shaped birthday party hat on it, how about we put just a big puff on top of the cone head as if it were a party hat?"

Me: "Brilliant! That's exactly what I am looking for. Maybe we can even make it look sort of like a graphic novel, maybe the images can have thought bubbles coming out of them saying things like 'I am so sad my baby doesn't have ears' or something like that. We really want to juxtapose the serious nature of these side effects with the pleasantness of the images. They need to be serious but shocking. SHOCKING!"

Producer: "What look are you going for in the casting of the mothers and babies?"

Me: "We this brochure is going to be distributed internationally so we would want them to be ethnic. But you know...not too ethnic." (people say stupid stupid stuff like that all the time apparently)

Eric (the other one): "Emma, you sound British are you from France?"

This comment was apparently met with a conference room full stares as if to  say "France? What is wrong with you? How could you say that to a client?!?!?!"

This continued on for about fifteen minutes and miraculously I had answers to all of their questions, and they were oh so interested in everything I had to say.  Imagine a chorus of yes!absolutely!, and emphatic uh-huh's!

It was all too good and too much to handle, I knew I had to wrap it up quickly before my cover was blown and as they asked me for an email addressed I burst into the conference room and yelled a victorious "APRIL FOOLS" and proceeded to quickly sprint away for fear of the venom that might be dripping from their eyes.

Thankfully everyone had a good laugh about it, and I was surprised (dare I say, SHOCKED) to learn that this was not the most outrageous client call they ever had. Which if you think about it, is kind of frightening.