The 850 Mile Thanksgiving


We found ourselves road tripping for the holiday, to a quintessential, casserole-filled, Midwestern Thanksgiving weekend. The juxtaposition of the city traffic we left behind and the open, flatlands we headed towards are well illustrated by my passenger seat pics. Round trip, we clocked 850 miles, but that's ok because gas is so lovely and cheap in the middle of Indiana.
There was fast food: I greatly appreciated Arbys' sense of humor with Horsey Sauce and Jason enjoyed his first Culver's butter burger. The omnipresent iPhone did not distract Jason entirely from his frozen custard. (I could write a blog about the iPhone's adventures alone.)Since we both worked on Wednesday, we had a later departure from Chicago and an overnight stop in Indiana. Our hotel was next to an old roller skating rink, and I liked the sign. Even a non-English speaker lost in Indiana could find the roller skating. In the morning we visited the free breakfast buffet (one of the reasons I am a fan of the Hampton Inn) and then crossed the border into Ohio. We chuckled at the string of No Parking signs along the route, as though this was prime parking. Jason's aunt and uncle welcomed us into their home for Thanksgiving dinner. One of the traditions I enjoy the most is Jason's Aunt Becky's idea of passing around two baskets filled with Christmas decorations after dessert. She shops for these decorations year-round and invites each guest to pick their favorite(s) to take home. It's a charming ritual that signals moving from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season. (And who doesn't like to leave a party with a little favor of their choosing?)I like watching each family member pick their ornament, reflecting their tastes and favorite holiday themes. You can see the blue and silver snowflake Jason let me pick for him, and the red shiny purse ornament I picked for myself. When I expressed regrets about leaving the snowman on the right behind, Becky said to take him too. Bonus!
We tried to make the rounds, seeing grandparents and friends. Enjoying a yummy home-cooked Indian meal with friends on Friday night (a nice counterpoint to the traditional American meal the night before) and checking out Jason's brother's new home. I pestered Jason's mother to download the photos from our wedding reception off of her camera; only to discover the photo I'd seen framed at Jason's grandparents house (and was stalking) came from his aunt in North Carolina. Rats!

According to the universal rule of grandmothers I left Ohio with a new winter coat. Jason's grandmother grabbed it on sale at Penney's and insisted I try it on. I always check these grammy finds out, because you never know when my or his grandmother may have plucked a really stylish piece. (Maybe vintage Burberry??) Unfortunately this one was lilac with a big furry collar and a very boxy, old lady cut. After a back-and-forth of "Oh, it's very nice, but I'm not sure I need a coat," versus, "It fits you. Take it. It's cold in Chicago," I gave up and politely accepted the gift. My next assignment will be finding the nearest holiday coat drive. I'm certain the coat will make someone thankfully warm and happy this year. Just not me.

Gifts I'm Not Giving

I'm glad not to be pulled into the full throttle insanity of gift-giving to each and every friend, friend's friend, acquaintance, co-worker and relative at Christmastime. But I feel a tinge of regret when I see a gift that would be sooo perfect for that person. And for me, the sign of a really good gift is that it's one I have second thoughts about wrapping and really just want to keep for myself!

Here are gifts I was tempted by, maybe it's not too late to get them for yourself. Or you can see what you were spared of through misdirected generosity.

For Juliet, whose old Victorian home is a little cold in the winter, these goofy, flamboyant, but cozy, slippers. They have pom poms! I think I'd need to find a big, classic book to accompany this gift, so J can cozy with slippers, book, dog and cat, husband, and book, all together.

For the little learners who have arrived on the scene in the past year or two (Clara), Alphabet Prints from Strawberry Luna. (The whole 'shebang' of all 26 letters is pricey, but your favorite letter will be only $15.) And I'd want to toss in one of these little fellas. I like the one that's winking. From feltmates on Etsy. (Who I also saw this past weekend at the DIY Trunkshow.)

For Abby, I might lend a pop of color to her knitting projects. I think Abby likes red more than anyone else I know, so for her, this flower brooch. (It's even from Portland! You could pick it up in person!)
From Piper Ewan on etsy.

Since Leah lives in Boston, and strikes me as the kind of chick that would still wear a miniskirt even in the depths of New England winters: legwarmers. Probably the only one of my friends who is hip enough to pull off the legwarmer look, too (although she might have been all over this 2 years ago.) (I have somewhat seriously considered these for days I want to wear a skirt in the winter and just need to make it on the walk to the train station.)

For Andra, I'd get a plane ticket and a weekend at the Hotel Commonwealth, so she and I can both fly to Boston and get some great jeans from Leah. This is the joy of fake giving, it doesn't matter if you spend $400 on one person, and $14 on the other.For my local girlfriends, either the Domino decorating book or the Lucky Shopping book.


For female co-workers: Keyboard Wrist Rests Combination filled with Buckwheat Flaxseed and Rice, and scented with Lavender. Just $11.95!

And here are a few things I'd just toss off the back of my sleigh, sprinkling them down into the chimneys of all good girls. (As if you haven't guessed it yet, I'm much better about shopping for girls instead of boys.)
Bliss Blood Orange & White Pepper goodies


Lavender sachets made from vintage linens

Sugar Daddy's Brownies Pocket Change (the little bits left over after they cut out their signature circular brownies.)
Pretty Sofia Coppola Champagne, in little hot pink cans

And a copy of the song that accompanied the winning runway show by Leanne from Project Runway this season: Cookie Breathe. (I really just need to buy this for myself, because I've already listened to it like 4 times at home.)

Just remember everyone, it's the thought that counts. And I put a lot of thought into the gifts I'm not getting you this year.

Happy Turkey Day


I laughed out loud when I saw this ad on television. I've never made a turkey, but one time when I roasted a chicken it was a little bizarre to clean the bird, flap its cold, slippery little wings. Also a little sad, but ultimately tasty.

How Cute

How cute is this little purse?
I mean, I have no idea what event or date I'd bring it on, but adorable, nonetheless. From Etsy, of course.
On a smaller scale, one of these little leather keychains is probably more reasonable.

Also from Etsy.

Snowbird Shoe

One of the few benefits of the weather getting colder is that reasonable people stop wearing their Crocs. (It can be debated whether people who wear Crocs are at all reasonable, but I will give them some credit.)

But wait, Crocs has now come out with a winter shoe!
What's worse, is that I saw it online and thought, "Oh, that's so cute," before realizing it was a Croc. (I think the little girl in me fell in love with the ballerina pinkiness of this pair.)

Never judge a book by its cover?

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (on the Red Line)

This is what a blog must be for, when something so weird but of little import or consequence happens to you, you have somewhere to share it.

Yesterday I took public transportation to a craft fair. On my return, I headed down the el stairs (after unfortunately breaking Jason's Chicago Card which I had borrowed; guess I know what his stocking stuffer will be) to wait on the underground platform. Just as I arrived, I was dumbfounded to see a brilliant, twinkling and sparkling train: the CTA Holiday train. Season's Greetings was proclaimed in big sparkly letters across the side. There were bells and I think, Christmas music.

I was pretty overwhelmed by the sight. And there was Santa, looking right at me and wishing me a Merry Christmas, from an open top, flatbed train car. His sleigh sat there, surrounded by elves ringing handbells, chorusing the holiday wishes. I couldn't even smile or wave back, because I was watching totally dumbfounded as the train pulled away and took Santa into the dark tunnel with it. I thought about how dirty his white beard must get riding inside CTA tunnels all day. And when the train goes outside, he must get pretty cold on the elevated tracks. (But I guess he is from the North Pole, so it's probably ok.) They need to warn you about these things. Even this morning, I wondered if it was all real. (These are not my pictures, because I would have had no presence of mind to whip out even my cell phone camera.)

Vinyl

I think this would be the coolest to play the old records I still have from Mom & Dad.

Seeking Advice


Look, my dilemmas have been shared with Chicago via Apartment Therapy! And Teedie makes his first broad exposure internet appearance.
I hope some people with better decorating sense than me with tell me how to block passersby from seeing into our windows.

Road Trip


I did the inevitable eye roll when Jason asked me if I'd heard that the Big Three Automaker Execs flew in private jets to Washington D.C. the other day.

Then I thought, "Why didn't they DRIVE to D.C.?" What better PR opportunity to show their faith in the American car, and the American highway? Imagine the coverage, just like how McCain's Straight Talk Express bus got its highway beauty shots. (Ok, so it didn't work out for McCain, but you get my point.) They could have made it a competition between the GM, Ford and Chrysler: who got there first; who made best mileage?

At the end, they could have submitted gas receipts to Congress, and the low gas prices of the moment would have proven how economical driving can be compared to flying in these tough economic times. (I seriously saw a gas station with a price beginning with the number 2 today and I was contemplating how dangerous it would be to stockpile gasoline in my closet.)

This just seems so obvious, and flying in a private jet, so ridiculously out of touch.

Good Book

I just finished reading Gang Leader for a Day, and it was a good read. So good that I was really sad to leave it at home when I went to Scotland, but there was no logic in carrying a hardback in my bag when there were only 30 pages left to read.

The book offers a glimpse into a world you don't see in your daily travels, the social system of gangs. It's remarkable how there's a whole organized economy and law enforcement system at work in urban projects.

I don't know if I became so fascinated by this side of life from watching episodes of The Wire back-to-back, or if it's just living in Chicago, where Gang Leader is set.
It's getting colder in Chicago (below freezing the past two days) so it's book season again.

Pack for Next Time

"How to Avoid Weight Gain While Traveling": This would have been helpful before Scotland. Especially since our hotel's website deceptively suggested that there was a pool and a gym...but it was at the other Hilton, a twenty minute cab ride away.
Scottish food is not really known for its healthfulness: blood pudding, bread pudding. (I was too squeamish to try the haggis, but that can't be good for you either.)
After a week, I found myself really craving salad and fresh vegetables.

Second Scotland Post

I won't tell you about the conference I was attending in Scotland (yawn for you readers), but instead the small break my co-worker and I found to slip away to visit the Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. (He's sort of like Scotland's Frank Lloyd Wright.) I realized I was taking my knowledge of the school for granted while touring it with my pharmacy-trained co-worker, who wasn't exactly sure why I'd taken her there but readily came to learn. (It was the very top of my list for a visit while in Glasgow.)

We had a very personal tour from one of the school's students, being the only two people with tickets to the 11 o'clock visit. I was very impressed by the details Charles Rennie Mackintosh put into the school's design, with stained glass windows in the doors and nooks in the doorframes to hold vases of flowers. The building shows its wear as a working art school, with paint smudges on the walls and banged up wooden doors. It would look even more beautiful, if fully cleaned up. (I'm told they are working on a restoration scheduled to be completed in 2010 - coincidentally the next time my conference comes back to Glasgow.)

The routine of not being able to sleep every night continued when I was trying to drift off to sleep one night, but my nose smelled smoke. After checking the hallway for signs of smoke, I looked out the window and saw this. I was glad to read in the next day's paper that it was an abandoned school building, so no one was reported hurt.

Here are few more photos from Scotland.
This is the art school again:
This is the thistle (purple, thorny flower), which I was glad to see in person in the hotel lobby, since it's all over Scottish souvenirs and trinkets.


I returned home Friday night, glad to be in my own bed instead of the twin bed of my hotel room. And I understand what people in stores and restaurants are telling me once again. The Scottish accent is a tricky one!

Although, maybe the rain of Glasgow is preferable to the Chicago snow outside of my window tonight.

Scotland

I'm in Glasgow, but the only pictures I have are of the first day's excursion to Edinburgh. At the end of the long day, my coworker and I counted that our day had included planes, trains, automobiles and a bus. Due to a train derailment we took a bus over to Edinburgh, but the train home. We had just flown into Scotland that morning. (And my boss's boss surprised us all by deciding to rent a car when we arrived at the airport. I quickly scurried into the back seat when he joked that I should be made to drive the stick shift car on the left hand side of the road. Instead I assumed the responsibility of regularly calling out "LEFT!" whenever he appeared to be making a turn into a right hand lane.)

So, what better to do after a 10 hour flight, when it's just about 6 am in your home time zone, but to climb your way up to a Scottish castle?

At least we were rewarded with a rainbow at the top, after a short rain shower. I've learned it rains routinely in Scotland, with no announcement or occasion.
I contemplated that these telephone booths must be kept here at Edinburgh Castle simply for tourist snap shots like this one. Where else would you see a phone booth in these days of cellular communication?

Jason's had an earful of my woes about my hotel. There's a ceiling tile that seems poised to fall on my (twin) bed while I sleep. My room is directly above the ballroom which hosted two loud weddings this weekend, one which kicked into full 'sing-a-long' just as I was ready to lay my jetlagged self down to bed the very first night. The toiletries have a heavy rose scent that makes me feel like someone's grandmother hugged me too hard and too long. (How do you wash off the scent of soap??)

A ray of metaphorical sunshine broke through the literal Scottish November clouds when I was in my room today and a bouquet of flowers arrived from Jason. I was delighted, since I'd spied the delivery man in the lobby and jealously admired the flowers. I was so stunned when they arrived at my door that I nearly said, "No, not for me."

With these, and the assurance that the hotel is not hosting any events this evening, I am feeling better about Scotland.

I'm Off

I'm off to Scotland today for a conference. I hope I packed everything I'll need... including the cat. (Cats are so predictable sometimes.) I'd take him, but Teedie doesn't have his passport.

Sun is Rising


When the sun rose today, I woke with the satisfaction of not only knowing who our president will be, but with the fulfillment of knowing that it was the guy I'd voted for... for the first time in 8 years.

If it had gone the other way... well, then it would have seemed like that sun on the Obama sticker was setting with doomed finality. (Ok, I'm being melodramatic.)

The Obama sticker reminded me last night of the chair in Independence Hall that Ben Franklin pondered while our founding fathers hammered out the constitution. Looking at the sun carved on the back he recalled, "I have often...in the course of this session...looked at that...without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."

To Top It Off


If we'd had a wedding cake, this might have been an adorable cake topper.
(If our wedding had been in a laid-back rustic hall in the Adirondacks maybe, but that would have been way more than I'd want to plan!)
I like how the bride has short hair. And they can be customized as follows. (From Etsy, where else??)
I am tremendously impressed that a friend of ours made a wedding cake for her friend's wedding a few weeks ago. She suggested that maybe our first anniversary she could make a small one for us. Yum. (But I won't hold her to it, if it was just one of those things you say in passing, like maybe we should have gotten married in the Adirondacks.)

Soon It Will Be Over!

What a notable day. I was the 41st voter at the polls this morning, and that was with arriving as soon as they opened at 6 am. (I forgot to vote early like I'd planned.)

We contemplated going down to Grant Park tonight, but without tickets, an undefined end point to the festivities, as well as a challenge to get home afterwards along with thousands of people we opted for staying home. So I wish Keith Oberman would not call it, "one of the great physicial manifestations of American history." *Sigh*

The pictures of downtown are crazy, but by staying home I heard people walking by on the street and everyone talking about Obama.
(Neat ad from Grey Advertising.)

I am keeping my fingers crossed tonight.

Off the List

I think I first heard of it on some archane episode of 'Friends': the idea of a list of celebrities that it wouldn't be considered cheating if you hooked up with while in a relationship with someone else. (For Chandler it was Kim Basinger, Cindy Crawford, Halle Berry, Yasmine Bleeth, and Jessica Rabbit, in case you were curious.)

This is just notice that Joaquin Phoenix is totally now OFF my list. Seriously, how do you let yourself go like that? That's way worse than a bad case of bedhead. (He kind of reminds me of that crazy McCain volunteer that scratched the backwards B on her face... 'bye... good'?)

But in case you're wondering, Simon Baker is still on, since I've always considered him a 'self selecting' option, since he's nowhere near as popular as like, Brad Pitt. Add to that Daniel Craig and Clive Owen. Jon Stewart too.

Now hiring for slot #5. Suggestions?
 

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