28 February 2011

Mental Vacations: A Few More Places I'll See Someday...







A Grape Date

As I mentioned on Friday, Joe and I had a date night planned.

I found a deal a few months back on one of those daily deals websites (my memory is a bit foggy as to which one) that for $40, we had admission for two to a wine and cheese tasting that would allow us to sample 8 different wines and cheeses, and take home a bottle of wine at the end of the night. Normal cost of admission is $35 a person. It was a great deal, eh?

Since neither of us knew what to expect, it took a little fussing to figure out what to wear. We finally settled on a funky dress and sassy boots for me and a sexy sweater and jeans combo for Joe. And when we walked into the doors of The Gourmet Grape, I knew we were just fine on the clothing front, but I was amazed at the sheer number of people crowded into the tiny shop.  

We checked in and were given wine glasses and a little plate with two pieces of eight different kinds of cheeses (along with explicit directions on how to be sure we were eating the right cheese with the right wine) and sent off to join the crowd.  

The wines were set up in three different stations that we were to visit three times each (they tossed in a "freebie" wine sample at the end).  Joe and I both later admitted to each other that we were surprised and a bit disappointed that there wasn't a formal presentation or instructions on how best to experience each wine. Neither of us know all that much about wine and thought we'd be learning a few things during the wine tasting. Instead, we were given our sample of wine and maybe a quick listing of what foods to pair with the wine. 

The wine/cheese sampling included:
- Caposaldo 2009 Pinot Grigio accompanied by Butter Kase cheese.  
- Fournier 2008 Sauvignon accompanied by Herb Crusted Goat cheese.
- Flora Springs 2008 Chardonnay accompanied by Cubbedu. 
- Chateau Mt-Redon 2008 Cotes Du Rhone accompanied by Cowda.
- Planeta 2009 La Segreta accompanied by Dolce Latte Gorgonzola.
- Steltzner 2008 Claret accompanied by Goat Gouda. 
- Signaterra 2006 Red Three Blocks accompanied by Pepato.
- Daou 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon accompanied by 3 Year Aged Cheddar.
- Il Conte Stella Rosa.

Random thoughts from the tasting:
- The crowd/noise level was overwhelming. Most people were mingling, but we both felt out of our element and unable to hear, so we were fairly anti-social. 
- The claret was hands-down the least favorite wine. 
- All the other wines were enjoyable. We both really seemed to enjoy the Daou Cabernet Sauvignon. 
- We bought a bottle of the Il Conte Stella Rosa because we loved it so much. Hands down, the favorite of the evening. And the 10% off didn't hurt either. 
- The Pepato cheese was good until I bit down on the peppercorn. Yow. 
- My favorite cheese was either the Goat Gouda or the Gorgonzola.
- We were sent home with a bottle of the Fontana 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

I'm so glad we went! It was a neat experience, even if we felt out of our element, and we tried something new that we both had wanted to try. That said, I'd rather have some friends over for a wine and cheese tasting at home sometime (even if we're not likely to go out and buy a $60 bottle of wine to sample).  

The staff at the Gourmet Grape was very friendly, welcoming, and knowledgeable. They answered all our questions with a smile and I have no doubt they'd be a great resource for suggestions of cheeses to pair with wines in the future. 

And Joe was a super grape date! ;-)

25 February 2011

Date Night!

Joe and I have a sweet little date planned for tonight. 

Months ago, I bought a deal from one of the deal of the day websites.  

A wine and cheese tasting at a local wine shop.  The cost was the same as regular price for one person, includes 8 wines and cheeses to sample and a bottle of wine to take home.  

It's a mix and mingle event, so we'll meet other people, maybe learn a thing or two about wine and cheese, and get to take home our favorite.  

It really is a great deal and gets us dressed up and out of the house to beat those winter blahs. 

So excited!

24 February 2011

Me First

"Me first."

It's such a balancing act - putting yourself first more often versus putting yourself first all the time.  

Everyone struggles with it.  Well, except maybe the true narcissists.  

A friend and I were talking about this very topic the other night. His desire is to put himself first for himself, not to attract women. My desire is develop life-long habits to take care of myself. (While avoiding looking like a narcissistic bitch.)

I have been struggling with this balance lately. Honestly, I'm still not entirely used to being a full-time girlfriend just yet. The last few years, I got used to being there and putting Joe first for several hours each evening, and when he went to bed in Europe, I got on with my life in DC. So when we moved to Chicago, instead of maintaining a "your time, my time, our time" balance, it became all "your time, our time" with minimal "my time." And even when Joe encouraged me to take me time, I didn't know what to do with myself.  

Now I'm aware of that. Now it really bothers me. Now I am working to put me first. To get back to all the good habits I had developed when I had the luxury of a boyfriend and the free time of a single girl. And Joe, sweet, wise man he is, has done nothing but encourage this trend. 

Last night, I signed up for an amazingly well-equipped gym at an amazingly affordable (for my neighborhood at least) gym that really isn't too far away. No point in signing up for a cheaper gym farther away if I'll never trek there. And then, on my way home, I stopped and treated myself to a new water bottle and a great pair of work-out pants. Because every girl will attest that even though you join the gym to feel more confident about yourself, you still have to feel confident to set foot in the gym (especially when you're surrounded by college co-eds and it's been a few years since you were a co-ed yourself.)

And last night, as I drifted off to sleep, I felt a bit of excitement and optimism and confidence and beauty and the urge to take on the world again sneaking in. In short, I felt more like the KtMac I lost these last few weeks. 

And that's a powerful feeling, even if I'm still sick to my stomach with worry about the news out of DC. Because even though I'm not a federal government employee, I work for the government. And while my company has sent out multiple assurances that my particular job is safe and that I will be paid no matter what, it still isn't all that reassuring. Fortunately, instead of just sitting at home stressing and comfort eating and driving Joe crazy with my random "what ifs," I'll be at the gym, sweating out my worries and keeping my DC friends in my thoughts as I count the laps - balancing out that whole "me first - others first" seesaw a bit more.

22 February 2011

KtMac Confessions: Frugal Leads to DIY Creativity

Sometimes, I'm more than happy to part with a pretty penny. In times of celebration, serious lust, and serious need. But more often than not, if I'm honest with myself, it's not a true need, the lust will fade rather rapidly, and it can't truly be justified as a celebration. So then, I'm frugal - to the point where I do my Dad proud.  

And when it came to finding a good way to hang my necklaces (instead of leaving them to get all tangled in the box) I tried to find a cheap option at Home Depot.  The formal jewelry organizer either took up valuable countertop space, which is at a premium in our tiny little love nest, or cost several hundred dollars.  A painted 2x4 with hooks on it cost about $15.  I found a baggie of tiny c-cups for less than $2 and headed home. 

An unused picture frame, leftover fabric, and a silver permanent marker (to take those c-cups from nasty bronze to shiny silver) and a movie later, I give you:


Is it perfect?  Naw. But it's perfect for me and my needs (and my wallet). 

18 February 2011

I Keep Thinking About This....

....and hoping that at the end of my life, the same is true for me and My Love

The old couple sat with each in peaceable silence, and no signal was needed for the kettle to go on, or the tea to be poured, the fire tended to.
‘What do you find to do all the time, after all these years?’ someone asked the old lady, ‘don’t you ever tire of each other’s company?’
‘Oh no,’ she replied, ‘you see, it’s like this: I looks at him, and he looks at me, and we’re happy together.’

17 February 2011

Waiting to Exhale

I feel like one of those hamsters caught on the wheel. The faster I run, the faster I have to run. When I stop, I get thrown out of sync at high speeds. And I don't know why.



I've been feeling mighty powerless lately. And I think every time I try to grasp some of the illusion of power again, that's when the wheel and I find ourselves out of sync. I need to get off that damn wheel once and for all.


It was a bit noisy around these parts yesterday. One disadvantage to a ground floor apartment is nature has a way of wriggling its way into your home. In this case, tree trunks and sewage lines. Smelly and noisy and messy when all was said and done. But aside from the hassle of needing to run to McDonald's twice for their restrooms, it wasn't a big deal.

I desperately need new brown boots. The ones I spent so long searching for last spring have been a complete disappointment and have been thrown away in pieces. So I gathered my courage (because you need a lot of courage here) and went to DSW. No boots. No surprise. But I found my perfect summer sandal. And given that the shoe name is the same as my bro's nickname for me, I am convinced I had to own this sandal. So it is now in my closet dreaming of warmer days. 


But it meant that the blog posts I'd been meaning to write for weeks now about Mb's visit and our subsequent pants off dance offs fell by the wayside again. And at this point, since I really can't say it any better than this girl did, I'm copping out. Go see what she had to say. And know I loved every minute of it. Even if I have absolutely no rhythm. 


And it means I keep forgetting to write just a quick little post, mostly as a reminder to myself, of the two things Joe and I learned last weekend:
1.) Drinking and home improvements don't go together very well.  "Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit." is not something you want to hear coming out of the next room as your tipsy boytoy tries to recaulk windows.  Fortunately, we managed to not caulk the windows shut.
2.) That said, KtMac needs more random afternoons with lady friends and reaching a new level of tipsy called "floaty." It's good for all involved. 


All I can think about this afternoon is how much I am craving some Proseco. No real celebration needed. Perhaps the fact that it is Thursday is celebration enough? Or maybe the fact that I've got some dreams and schemes and hopes and thinks swirling around in my head in need of a good think is reason enough. Do I really even need a reason?


And even though I'm thrilled that today is quite warm after the sub-zero temps we enjoyed post-blizzard, I'm not quite ready to give up the coziness of winter just yet.  

15 February 2011

KtMac Confessions: Cheese to My Macaroni

So, yesterday was the fourth Valentine's Day since Joe and I first started dating.  (It still throws me off to think "Oh, we've been dating for 3 years, but this is the 4th Valentine's Day".....so confusing.)  But yesterday was also the very first time we've physically been together for the holiday.

And we had nothing planned. 

Just a low-key evening at home. 

Work, school, naps, housework, homework.  With a little break for a delicious home cooked dinner.  Joe cooked.  Shrimp Palau and steak.  With candles and sweet red wine and our current Netflix obssesion, Dog, The Bounty Hunter on TV.  Some post-dinner snuggles and a surprise of chocolate-covered strawberries and a sweet declaration of love.  


Then back to homework before bedtime and sweet pillow talk.  And while it was decidedly not wildly romantic, it was my idea of a perfect Valentine's Day.  We were together.  We had kisses and cuddles and laughter.  We reminded each other that we love each other and that it's the simple things that mean the most.  The kisses, the little sweet treats, being together, and loving each other like this every day.  And that's really what Valentine's Day should be about - celebrating the everyday love. 

14 February 2011

Also....

Happy Valentine's Day Loves!


Here's hoping your day is full of love - from friends, from lovers, from family, from yourself.  And indulge in a few things that make you smile today, be it chocolate or bubble baths or long walks or silly joke texts or spending three hours on the couch watching TV on Netflix.  Enjoy the happy hearts day!

10 February 2011

The Highlight of My Day

If you know me in real life, I'm sure at some point or another you've heard me bitch about Netflix's Instant Watch and streaming options.  And their complete inability and/or willingness to Caption/Subtitle non-DVD movies.  Only foreign films were subtitled for instant viewing.

You may have also heard the story of how I ended up with the movie Up! for Christmas one year after I ordered the DVD from Netflix only to discover they had made some backroom pirated bootleg deal on the DVDs and didn't have closed captioning OR subtitles available on the disc.  Joe and I were supposed to be having one of our movie dates and it wasn't until the movie started that I discovered the lack of captioning options.  I was so disappointed, I cried.  My bro heard the story and bought me the DVD for Christmas. 

I kept my Netflix subscription despite the incident, but up until now, my online, instant viewing loyalties have stayed with Hulu simply because they do provide captioning for most shows (their movie selection leaves a lot to be desired).  Although my love for Hulu is waning now with the whole "pay to view" thing they're rolling out.  

Today, glorious day, I saw an NYTimes article talking about Netflix and Closed Captioning.  The article included a link to here.  Turns out Netflix is slowly but steadily adding captioning and subtitles to non-foreign films for Instant Watch.  Aww yeah, this winter buried under the comforter just got so much better. 

Thank you, Netflix for finally doing what should have been done all along.  You've managed to keep my loyalties (and my membership fees).

Testing the Love, Chicago-Style

Now, I knew Chicago would test my love at some point.  After all, it's only a natural part of a new relationship.  But, Chicago, really?

Must you test my love to quite these extremes?



Right Now










Next 36 Hours
SunnyTodayTonightTomorrow
Mostly SunnyScattered FlurriesFew Snow Showers
SunnyMostly SunnyScattered FlurriesFew Snow Showers
-4°F16°10°28°
Feels Like: -17°
HighLowHigh
Past 24-hr:
Precip: 0 in
Snow: 0 in
Chance of Precip:
10%
Chance of Snow:
30%
Chance of Snow:
30%
Wind:
From WSW at 6mph
Wind:
SW at 14 mph
Wind:
SW at 12 mph
Wind:
SW at 15 mph


09 February 2011

Wednesday Randoms

Eek, a whole week without blogging?  Where'd the time go?

Oh yeah, I was busy braving the aftermath of the Chicago blizzard to head to Washington DC for a work event and good times with just a few of my DC friends.  Unfortunately, since time was so short (and shortened further due to cancelled flights), I ran out of time to see everyone. 

I owe a few recaps from my trip.  And they'll come, I promise.  Patience is a virtue, peeps. 


In addition to stories about the lovely Mb's visit two weeks ago, and last weekend's quick run to DC, I should probably tell you about trips to see the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights, even though Christmas is over and it's February, and the awesomeness that is Lou Lou's, and how my pottery class is going, and my DIY schemes around our little place. 

But first.

Last Saturday, there was the annual corporate banquet.  Believe it or not, there are still some companies out there that believe in getting their employees all dressed up for a night of open bars, fabulous food (including a dessert trio to die for), and dancing in a swanky downtown DC hotel.  And this was the very first year Joe was able to be my date.  He cleans up well.  And schmoozes well.

Thankfully, the music was crazy loud.  Because that meant Joe didn't hear all the snippets of conversations coming from way too many coworkers asking when we would get married and start having babies.  Really?  After three years of long distance dating, I think we've earned the right to more than six months before you start asking those well-intentioned but awfully nosy questions.

We made it back to Chicago uneventfully, but now it's cold.  Bitterly, nose-numbing, I-can't-feel-my-toes-despite-two-pairs-of-socks-and-boots cold.  So of course, I have a trip to the loop planned for some post-work shopping.  On tap, warm gloves and more socks.  My favorite knee socks have a hole in them.  Probably because I wear them just about every single day.


And late at night, when Joe's busy studying for midterms and I'm taking care of business (hence the forgotten marker in my bun), there's late-night silliness.  The kind where a single sound inspires giggles and "don't laugh!s" and silly pictures.  And those are my favorite kind of nights.  

Wednesday Wisdom: Forget Regret


02 February 2011

Early Spring, My Ass

Looking at the rapidly changing view outside my window this morning, I'm more than a bit incredulous that the damn groundhog is predicting an early spring.  



The bottom of these pictures is our windowsill, which is level with the ground.  This was at 7 am. 

Then the snow came back with a fury. 

At 9:04, I sent my Mom a link stating that this blizzard was the 5th snowiest on record for Chicago.  28 minutes later, she opens the link to find out it is now the 3rd snowiest on record.  My record with being snowed in during record breaking snowfalls is intact. At least this time around, I have Joe to cuddle. 

And now, a mere three hours later, same view:


Early spring?  My ass.  

Game plan for today?  Work, snuggles, wine, and enjoying the fact that we have nowhere to be today.  

01 February 2011

KtMac Confessions: I Am Selfish

I'm sure by now y'all have heard about this little here blizzard currently walloping Chicago.  

In the days and hours before the storm hit, my concerns were (in no particular order):
- We need chocolate in the house.
- How am I going to get to O'Hare for a flight scheduled Wednesday afternoon?
- I really don't want to have to sleep at O'Hare Wednesday night. 
- I hope Joe doesn't have school during the blizzard.  I don't want him walking out in that weather. 
- Will the power and internet stay on for the duration?
- Will I be able to work during the storm?  I don't want to have to make up the unplanned time off. 
- Better get a supply of caffeine and junk food. 

And the plan was and is to just hunker down in our cozy little apartment while the snow and the 60 mph winds rage outside.  Joe's classes were cancelled.  My flight was successfully switched to Thursday.  We have chocolate, junk food, and plenty of caffeine.  Thus far, the power and internet are holding steady, enabling both of us to work from the comfort of our cozy little office. 

Then I heard about Chicago Public Schools closing tomorrow for the first time since 1999.  My first thought was, "Good.  Kids don't need to be out in this mess."

But I just read a blog post that explains just why the Chicago Public Schools have not had a snow day for almost a dozen years.  

Simply put, during this horrible blizzard, there are 15,027 kids who will be out in this mess.  15,027 kids without a home.  Without a warm, cozy little place with lights and internet and chocolate and junk food and caffeine.  15,027 children who will know exactly what two feet of snow and 60 mph winds feel like.  15,027

15,027 children.  Kids alone.  Such an overwhelming number.  

That doesn't include all of the homeless adults and elderly out there.  

My heart is just shattered now.  

And now, all I want to do is find as many of these children as possible and crowd them into my cozy little apartment.  Give them all 865 blankets we have tucked in various corners.  Pull out every article of clothing and socks to warm their bodies.  Feed them every single scrap of food.  Including the leftovers from tonight's dinner that I didn't enjoy because it wasn't the best meal I've cooked.  

Put into perspective, all my blizzard worries were awfully selfish.

Edit: Thanks to a boyfriend with a background in the non-profit sector, my guilt has been assuaged somewhat by a charitable donation to the good works of The Night Ministry