Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another Weekend Bash - For ME!

This past weekend was my mmmmmfff-day.... yucky.....  But at least my friends set out to humor me with all my favorites!

Friday we all met downtown and Kim, Denise and Michelle all did BIKRAM with me!  The room was hotter than ever (in fact the instructor was telling a few of us afterwards that she didn't even want to tell us what the humidity was at).  We muddled through though and then felt well-deserved in our trek down to THE PURPLE PIG!

I must tell you about The Purple Pig -- its the most amazing restaurant ever!  Your mouth thinks about that place almost every day of your life after you've eaten there.  If someone says the words "purple" or "pig" you suddenly go into a trance-like state.  Its so delicious that, even when they don't take reservations and they tell you its a 3 hour wait.... you smile and say "thats all?!"  Ok - your friends who have never experienced the amazingness of the Pig before look at you with the "we're only doing this because its your birthday" look and then smile and say with their mouths "no thats ok!"  And you feel guilty and keep reassuring them that it will all be worth it once you put the first bite in your mouth.

Turns out, our wait wasn't quite 3 hours, only about 1 and a half, but we had a nice sit outside with a some great drinks and conversation and time just --- well, slid by.

But then, we got inside, into that noisy abyss of Friday night frivolity, we sat at the community style table and then, overwhelmed with the menu selection, turned to the waiter to guide us.  Its what I always do at the Pig (ok, the one other time I've been there) - but I've never been steered wrong yet!

We started with a few appetizers, including a bone marrow spread (sounds weird, but its heaven!), chorizo stuffed alives, this artichoke thing and a corn dish that I've had before and HAD to get again...

Main course was this gigantic turkey leg thing, chicken kabobs with tahini and lamb.  I don't think we talked much the whole meal -- we just couldn't bring ourselves to waste the energy needed for devouring -- and I think we were kind of greedily trying to get as much as we could as the whole meal is kind of shared - kind of tapas style but bigger portions.

Desert was NOT fair..... I saw the panne cota and HAD to get it as well as the nutella, banana and marshmallow sandwich.  And then the whole meal, there was this menu clipped up on the lamp above my head and I was browsing through it and saw this thing that I started drooling over before the appetizers were over.....  Its called a Sicilian Iris and its the puffy thing in the front of the picture - its like this beignet thing stuffed with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips.  The tables were community style so we had a couple sitting next to us and when we got to the desert the woman told us that they had been ordering things based on our reactions to the food.  She said when we got to the Sicilian Iris it was like watching that scene in When Harry Met Sally... the "I'll have what she's having..." scene.  Needless to say - they got the Sicilian Iris......

We stayed downtown that night as we were supposed to run a 5K the next morning.  SUPPOSED to was the operative word here.  We got in after midnight and got to bed and when the alarms went off the next morning, I just COULD NOT get up.  Is that a sign of age :(  I couldn't do it and I felt guilty for not running, but I couldn't bear the thought of being surrounded by a ton of people and pushing and shoving for my place with the way I felt Saturday morning.  Michelle and Kim were the ones who stayed down and they wonderfully humored me and let us skip the race.

In turn, we ended up doing a river cruise, which I've done a million times but love, and Kim and Michelle have never done.  Michelle had never even been in Chicago so it was a great introduction.  We walked around all afternoon and showed Michelle the city and we even went on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier.

Oh - can't forget they also let me go to Pops which is this place that I've been trying to go to for SO long but its always a line out the door.  So at 3 in the afternoon, we went and had Bellinis :)  They were delicious!

The "Bean".....

This goes in my file of - "Awesome Signs"......  its "watch for vehicles" -- would you ever guess :)

We ended the day with some great Thai food sitting out on a porch in some amazing August, Chicago weather..... and then hopped in the car and headed home.

What a great birthday weekend and what awesome friends for showing me such a great time -- thanks Kim, Denise and Michelle!!!!!!

A Day In The Cities

I had to do some work up in Minneapolis with one of my bigger accounts so, since Michelle had been staying with me for a few days, I brought her along as she'd never been to Minnesota.

We saw Melissa and then went up and spent the night in the cities so I'd be there for my 8:30 a.m. meeting.

I finished the meeting around noonish or so and then went back and picked up Michelle, we went to lunch at one of my favorite places in the Cities.  And then we were set on doing something that I'd been wanting to do for a while.

All around the Cities, they have these bike racks where you can rent bikes from and I'd been wanting to just jump on one and roll around for a while.  We went to St Louis Park area which has a group of lakes with trails around them - I've always wanted to go around the lakes and for years have never done so.  It was such a great ride.  We did probably about 10 or so miles.  Not tons, but enough to get some exercise before we got back in the car.

This is what 10 miles of biking up and down hill and sun and then almost rain looks like.....

After the ride, I had told Michelle about the fact that there is no sales tax on apparel in MN.  Michelle is going for a 1 years stint with Campus Crusade in Hungary and she's originally from GA so, due to a little difference in the weather, there were some clothing items that she needed to pick up and this was the place to do it..... Mall of America.

We got sushi from my favorite place in the mall, Tiger Sushi, and then hit the road back home.  It was a fun/quick trip and it was nice to have company for once!

Update On Mom

Just an update that mom had her pacemaker put in last Thursday.  It went pretty well - apparently its tight in her heart area :)  They took a little bit longer putting the thing in but no problems.  Basically what it does is they have it set so that her heart won't drop below 60 beats a minute, but with that, her heart dr can regulate the "speeding up" with medication.  If he had done it before the pacemaker, the medication may have caused her heart rate to go so low that she would of had a stroke.

They kept her in overnight - it was the WI Heart Hospital which is wonderful!  Friendly staff and single rooms that are akin to the Ritz, along with a full menu that you can order from whenever you want.

This was mom right when they got her into her room.... pretty good spirits and only feeling a little pain.

This is her incision - right about her heart -- we have to change the bandages and clean it everyday.  Its looking good!  It might look bad in the picture - but it really does look good in real life! :)

Mom makes an appointment to go back up and get things checked out in 2 weeks so we'll keep you updated!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekend Bash!

Last week was my friend Kim's b-day (which is kind of cool because she's easy to remember - she's one week and I'm the next :))....  Kim has been wanting to go to Ravinia all summer and so I had decided that I was going to do a surprise Ravinia party.  I worked hard at contacting some of her friends and I went on-line and purchased a bunch of tickets for the concert on the evening of August 18th (which happened to be Tony Bennett -- it could have been worse -- it could have been slightly better.  And as my friend Kate said when I asked her to come and she asked who we were seeing -- "what - is Kim turning 90?!" -- haha... smartypants.).

Anyways - I got Kim to come to my place around 4:30 and didn't tell her where we were going, but as she's a little smarter than I, she kind of guessed it by the time we turned onto 41.  Go figure.

We ended up stuck in a long line of traffic on Lake Cook Rd and so I called a friend who lives across from the Botanic Gardens and he said that we could park at his house, which we did and then walked on down.  Me texting Kim's friends who were waiting at the park the whole time.  She didn't technically know they were waiting, but again, she's smarter than your average friend :).

Crystal, Carlene, Jessee and Denise all had a great little picnic area set up and I had cooked the night before and that morning (in between a funeral and a run to the store...) and so we had some great eats and some of my wonderful banana nutella cupcakes, which Crystal added her extra touch to by flipping the box before presenting -- she says she thought the box was upside down and she paniced and flipped the box, upside down.... this is the result.... they were very pretty before, but they still tasted great ;)

We had the pleasure ( lol?) of also hearing my Anthony Benneduccio's different looking daughter, Antonia, as well as himself.  He told the story about how he started and he was under a different stage name and Bob Hope had asked what his real name was, which was Anthony something Benneduccio, and Bob Hope was the one who told him he should go by the name Tony Bennett.... Interesting tidbit :)  Anyways - Antonia started for him with like 2 or 3 songs.  She was ok, but I know she was only singing in concerts and recording because her dad was Tony Bennett.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how great Tony did.  I thought for sure he'd fade and he stayed in pretty strong voice the whole time.  I even went up by the stage to see him and was shocked by how old he looked and how relatively young he sounded!  I snapped a pict - you can really only see his white suit, but that should be a clue of how old he looked -- he was wearing a white suit (and it was a tux - it was just a suit...)

And here's a few dim picts of the group....

And lets see if we can hear Tony crooning to all his Chicago based fans..... and the other people who came to Ravinia on Saturday, August 18th :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Home Again Home Again

Its Friday in Orlando and I left the hotel early in hopes of getting an early flight out.  Early being - anything before my original 7:49 p.m. flight.  I got here around 7:30 a.m. hoping to maybe get on the 11 a.m. but its showing its full (even though last night at midnight there were around 7 seats :(().   I've been here for the sales meeting and then I was supposed to be working with someone today and that someone has cancelled last minute on me so I don't need to be here now.

The past few days have gone pretty well.  We've been preparing for this week since the beginning of the year.  I did some sales training for some reps and, I feel like we could have organized things better, but overall it did go well and we had a really good response.

There was an "awards" dinner that we had to attend on Wednesday evening for suppliers.  Its usually one we've gotten out of in the past, but I work with some newbies in this field and they didn't bail - so we went, and we had to sit through kind of a mini "graduation" ceremony.... well, it reminded me of a graduation.  Maybe there was one person you cared about but the rest of the time you just wanted to be somewhere else.  It lasted FOREVER and, I must admit, we ended up drinking a lot just because we were so bored and they kept refilling our wine glasses - probably to make sure we stayed:)  The hall was packed - there were probably about 500 circular tables out with about 15 places per table.  Crazy....

They tried to give us entertainment - I suppose it was ok.  There are these three guys they hired called "The Three Waiters".  Basically, from the start of the evening, they made us think there was the head of the waiters and then two other waiters.  The head waiter was supposed to be Italian and the one other waiter was French and the third waiter didn't pop up until later.  Turns out they were "singing" waiters :)  They were actually pretty good - but it started pretty tedious and painful - oh, and all of them were actually American :)

Well - keep your fingers crossed that I get out of here sooner than later!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Going Off Again!

Here's my crazy plan for Monday....

Friend Michele from Atlanta is coming to Chicago for her orientation for Campus Crusade organization (she's going to Budapest for 2 years - yay!) and so she needed to come in today, Monday, August 13th.

Me, Alison, needs to go to Orlando for a sales meeting for the week, today, Monday, August 13th.

Michele's flight gets in at 3:15 p.m.

Alison's flight leaves at 7 p.m.

Alison wants to see Michele and Michele is staying at Alison's house so Michele needs to get there so --

Alison drives to O'hare, parks, goes in, meets Michele.  Michele and Alison have "dinner" and then Alison brings Michele back out to car, puts Michele's bags in car and drives car back around to Departures, parks, gets bags out and then Michele takes car and zooms off.

It was actually win win - Michele gets car for the week and Alison doesn't have to pay parking for the week as Michele will pick Alison up.

Isn't that wild - but it so totally worked really really well!

That being said - yes, I'm in Orlando from Monday until Friday for a sales meeting with a new customer.  I'm doing two presentations for product and brainstormed about a 'hands-on" piece and then got elected to bring the product.  I was kind of cheap and didn't want to pay for next day shipping so I grabbed 12, 32 oz bottles of prepsray and about 30 surgical instruments, 10 plastic basins and about 100 metal plates - oh, can't forget the 25, 1.3 oz packets of detergent.  Yep - they're all in a 2nd bag that I checked in.  I was a little scared that they'd open it and wonder what the heck I was doing so I put all these notes in the bag that its for a medical sales meeting.  We'll see if they 1) don't flag my bag and allow it through.  2)handle it nicely enough that all my product doesn't explode... and thats about it - those are my two big requests.... :)

This past weekend I had organized a get-together event for some of the international students who are working at Six Flags this summer.  One of the local churches let us host the event at their place so we could use the gym and we had a bunch of volunteers came.  We didn't have half as many students as we thought we would, but the ones we had were so pleasant and thankful to be invited.  We talked and played some dodge ball and had a pretty good time.  We had some Chinese students and some from Macedonia.  It was kind of interesting learning about Macedonia.  Thats one of the things I enjoy every year working with the international students - learning about different countries.  The year before last we had some students from Azerbaijan.  This year, Macedonia and Dominican Republic.  Macedonia is the one I learned the most about - I really thought they would speak Greek but they get pretty huffy when you suggest that and they say they have no clue what the Greeks are saying - that their language is closer to Bulgarian.  Also - MACEDONIA IS NOT PART OF GREECE --- I THINK WE ARE STUPID FOR EVEN THINKING THAT!   :)  Thats always the funniest thing when you get the really small countries that act so put out when we ask questions as we have no clue.....  Ah well - at least now I know --- and now YOU do too! :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An East Coast Girl I'm Not!

I'm back on the east coast again this week. This time its Boston. Correction - B-AH-ston!   In my years of travelling, I've gone from west coast to west (mountains), south to north, midwest and east. Each region definitely does have its own personality characteristics and I'm going to let you in on a very well-known secret - east coast people are pretty terrible. Ok - that was a broadly sweeping generalization and I apologize to all my beloved New York, Philly and B-AH-ston friends out there, but you all know I speak the truth! Again - this is an overall generalization but - east coasters are rude, pushy, loud, obnoxious (this is probably a personal opinion, but it does flow with the adjectives) and very very foul mouthed. I've heard the f word used so much in the past two weeks that my ears are starting to bleed.... and here's the thing - its used in general conversation as in "I'm going to go get a f-- bagel" or "I can't find my f- ticket" and my favorite, "I love that f- color on you!" -- its like a compliment frosted with filth.

And then theres the angry use of the f- word.... This is what I tended to hear a lot this week as for some reason people in Boston tend to be VERY happy or VERY angry and it usually leans more on the ANGRY side of the scale. "You dented my f- car!", "F- United", "F- United" and "F- United".

In case you've not guessed, my flight was delayed and people in Boston are not only not understanding, but they're verbally abusive to people who are trying to help them as well -- at least its a generalized curse on their behalf. Afterall all, when Patty is trying to help Bob and Bob says "F- United", Patty really can't take it personally because, lets admit it, she works for United, but this is about the time she might want to distance herself emotionally.....

Needless to say, I'm full of anger and rage after two days here in BeanTown. When you're surrounded by hostility you either tend to retreat inside yourself or get hostile yourself. I retreated for a while, but I'm kind of sick of the elderly couple with the foul mouths who are angry about the delayed flight and are sitting 2 seats down from me loudly agonizing about how hard their life is now and how United is going to get a letter and people are rude and we should all get $50. Guess what Gramps and Gram - I am a little upset, but personally I appreciate the fact that United is not willing to fly a plain that a part is broken on and has chosen to spare our lives while they a) try to fly in another part and b) search for another plane for us to reach our destination on. Unlike these part time seat occupiers, I know what the "other side" is like and it happens there too.   Once in a blue moon, the American or US Air or Delta flight I've had to take has also been delayed due to extenuating circumstances. I suppose I could quote someone great (not sure who it was) who once said "thats life" (wait! Was it Frank Sinatra? Wise....) Okay seriously, I have just been cringing all week with all the confrontation that I've been witness to and the yelling - I don't like confrontation whether its with me or with other people. I much prefer to use the "f-" word in my head, sigh out loud and then walk away. I'm ready to come back to the mild midwest.

ALTHOUGH - I was in Queens (New York) last week and was told several stories by someone in which the aggressive meaney-pants were actually Chicago people. I could see that. I think we are feeling the need to step our game up, but I still don't think we've gone totally east coast. Ok. That being said. I did work in Springfield, MA in my account there is very very nice. Thats the redemption for Boston - my customer at Baystate Health..... :)

Speaking of travel and flights, I actually just booked my ticket for Budapest. YAY! Its always happy when I book that flight. I think of my "second home" and all my friends there and the places I love to visit and eat at and hang out at. I leave the evening of the 21st and I'm gone 2 weeks. This year, after the BHHP project with Campus Crusade, I'm hanging in Budapest for a few days to do my traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a bunch of girls (old and new) and then around Thursday afternoon, my friends Jodi and Michelle (Michelle is just moving to Budapest a few weeks prior to September) are going to take a ROAD TRIP! We thought about going to Hallstatt, Austria but then the other Rick Steves favorite really attracted Jodi and I -- Mostar, Bosnia. It seems to be about a 5 hour drive, however, once we leave the confines of the border of Hungary, the roads may be pretty bad so it may take longer. I think we have to figure out the details and then we'll decide which way we'll go - up to Austria or down to Bosnia. Check out Mostar on-line -- it looks pretty cool and Rick Steves says its a "hidden jewel" :).

Speaking of Hungary. I was searching through some stuff for some other stuff and I came on a little packet in a closet with all of mom's old passports in it. I pulled them out and was perusing through them and found her first, adult passport from 1957. Flipping through it I came to one of the first pages where its stamped big and bold.... How funny that the one place they list in bold box that she can't go to is HUNGARY. Well she got there in 2010 so - take that Communism!

Speaking of mom - Karl pointed out on the 7th that it would have been dad's 91st birthday. I'm horrible with remembering birthdays, especially ones we don't celebrate anymore so - thanks for the reminder, Karl. Here's a little memory of dad....

Sunday, August 5, 2012

4 Flights And A Room In Steerage

Last week was pretty crazy...

I had planned to work in Columbus, OH area and the Friday before I had gotten a call that they needed me "urgently" in New York.  So I rearranged my sched.... and did BOTH.  It was a dream come true... NOT!

I flew out on Tuesday but because of weather the flight was delayed about 5 different times and I ended up getting into Columbus around 2 a.m. -- yes, you heard me right - 2 a.m. on WEDNESDAY morning.  I grabbed my hotel room, paid $130 to sleep 3 hours, get ready for 30 minutes and then jump in my rental to head about an hour away to Chilicothe (which, FYI, was the FIRST capital of Ohio).  I worked at a conversion account for a few hours and then headed back to the airport.  But I took about 2 hours to stop by a friends place to see her new baby (another FYI to those of you who remember her - this Lynae and Greg's baby, Elsa).  

Dropped off the rental and checked in - for my flight BACK to Chicago.  Yes - here's the wonderful thing about Columbus, Ohio - you can't get anywhere from there without connecting.  So - back to Chicago to wait about an hour and a half for a flight out to New York.  Unfortunately, due to weather again, my 6 pm flight was delayed and delayed and delayed and we finally ended up leaving around 9 which meant that I got into New York after midnight.

What a treat - to be tired and late and to shuttle your butt out to the mean New York streets to wait for a - well, a shuttle.  Its past midnight - the cars are backed up and honking and there are people standing on the sidewalks yelling at each other and saying "F... you you B.... - go..."  you get the idea.  Seriously - its almost 12:30 in the morning!  And then I finally get the shuttle and he gets out on the highway because he has to pick some other people up somewhere else and there is TRAFFIC backed up!  Its 12:30 in the morning!  GO TO BED PEOPLE!

And then I get to my wonderful accomodations in Queens finally around 1 and they give me, apparently, the "last room" in the hotel.  If there is a steerage area in a hotel building - thats where they put me.  I seriously had to walk down stairs to this little room across from the breakfast area and when I got in, it was like this basement window that I had to look up and I could see the parking lot and the wheels of cars.  The one miracle was that the bed was actually heavenly and my kind rep didn't make me leave until 9a.m.

AND - I must admit, this was the BEST visit I ever had at a NY account.  Those people are usually pretty blunt and to the point and get out of my face... but this New Yorker was actually the nicest woman and we chatted and helped her with a few problems and got a lot accomplished for the business.  

Because I hadn't been sure what the schedule was going to be I had actually booked my flight out on Friday and I ended up transferring to a different hotel because the other Queens one, honestly, scared me.  I ended up at the Marriott right across from the airport with this lovely view - and look - NO TRAFFIC!  Wow!

I got some great time on Thursday evening to get some office work done and work out in the gym (I love Marriott gyms as they have the best equipment!).  And then I got back a little later on Friday and had time to take a run and then take Cal on a run as well....  Here's the trick - see the two airedales.... thats not Cal and Bailey -- thats Cal and Bailey's sworn enemy.... Airedale puppy that comes to dog park and bugs the you know what out of Bailey.  She literally screams at this dog and will pin him on the ground.  You know how they say that you don't tend to like people who are just like you -- I think Bailey has found the "person" who is just like her....

Not a super crazy busy week this coming week, but I've got a lot of little things going on and I'm in Boston for two days.  We'll see how the "best laid plans"  work out :)