Thursday, December 18, 2008

Long Overdue

It's been awhile! I finally uploaded a few photos from the Fall/Winter. (The poor Mac is still out of commission.)

I went to Vegas with Amy last weekend and we had a great time in Sin City. We took some time to lose $15 in the slots, ate sushi at an Okinawan-owned restaurant, previewed a pilot TV show, checked out the lions of the MGM Grand at our hotel, and walked until our legs and feet were screaming in protest. Vegas had a dust storm one of the days and on the day we left, there was a threat of unprecedented snow. All in all, it was nice to finally witness Nevada for the first time. If I go back, I want to stay at the Paris Hotel with its crepes and pastries and good coffee!

Work has been incredibly busy thanks to all the students getting ready to leave in February and parents realizing that they have to pay for it all.

Hope you all are doing well!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tagged by Carly---

Carly "tagged" me to tell everyone 7 strange/random things about myself. It took some time to come up with anything, but here goes---

1) I'm a morning person. I used to love sleeping in, but over the years, I have gradually become fairly alert in the morning. I enjoy heading to the gym before work, I don't mind getting up early to sit and drink coffee, and I've been known to annoy Ken with my perkiness. Staying up past 10 p.m. makes me want to tear my eyeballs out.

2) I have a bizarro crush on Anthony Bourdain. Possible cocaine addict? Check. Skinny jeans? Check. Sarcasm and cynicism? Check. All the makings of true love.

3) My all-time favorite song is "Yellow" by Coldplay. It reminds me of England, it's Chris Martin at his best, and hearing it live is amazing.

4) I have my PADI scuba diving certification, yet I have never actually gone on a dive. Ken bought me my lessons for Christmas one year and little did he know, I find the whole thing absolutely terrifying. It induces terror through clausterphobia and the fact that I could get tangled up and die. I can handle snorkeling, though.

5)My perfect Sunday afternoon (something I live for) is a cup of tea (with milk and sugar), some little cookies in a cute dish, the Chicago Tribune Saturday crossword, and a marathon of America's Next Top Model. Nothing in the world is better.

6) I sweat more than anyone I know. More than almost all men. It's gross, but at least my sweat doesn't stink. And I honestly think I'm healthier for it since I release so many toxins.

7)I love oatmeal. Love it. I eat it every day. I could eat it for every meal. If we went to IHOP, I would probably still eat oatmeal. My cholesterol must be record-breakingly low.

And that's me. I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving!

Oh --- and I tag Juhi, Brooke, Ken, and Laura.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November, November, November

Thanks to my office computer, I can finally throw up a little bit of an update. (And resisting urge to check how many new messages are in my inbox. It's the weekend!)

The last few weeks - months! - have been madness as far as how busy work has been and how busy our weekends have become. Last week, my friend from Okinawa, Amy, made the long voyage to South Bend. I know that she immediately fell in love with Michiana for the lovely weather we've been having lately. (Rain and wind = unhappy Rachel) We drove to Chicago on Saturday and made our first stop at the Museum of Science and Industry. I hadn't been there in quite sometime and it was enjoyable. The best part were the baby chicks in the hatchery. With some astronaut ice cream for a souvenir, we headed downtown towards Michigan Avenue. It was November 8 and it was already positively crazy! Luckily for us, we found some sushi to enjoy and shared some laughs over some Okinawa memories. The rest of the weekend was spent visiting some restaurants/cafes in South Bend and watching Ken yell at the TV for Sunday football.

Work has been incredibly busy as I keep working with the students who will be traveling to Oz in February. Basically, I take them from applying to picking courses to applying for their visas to working on their housing to setting up spring break trips to setting up cell phone plans and everything in between. Meanwhile, emails roll in and parents start calling with really long lists of questions. Each day goes quickly and I'm really enjoying the job. And, like I posted earlier, they finally officially approached me about going to Australia in February, meaning I will be meeting these kiddos I talk to every day!

Ken and I celebrated our five year anniversary and are going to be heading to see Neil Young in December. I'm also getting together with the Valpo girls again for some Christmas shopping. Aaaand, Amy and I are going to Vegas in December for a long weekend. There are no signs of slowing!

Hopefully, I will someday get around to getting my computer fixed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Guess where I'm going in December!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Love it, love it!

Guess where I'm going in February...

Friday, October 24, 2008

I haven't disappeared. My lovely little Mac is broken and I don't exactly have time to write at work! I'll be back online soon. Don't leave me!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Can I get a side of *gulp* with that?!

My quandry. The coffee at work sucks. It's just plain bad. We have one of those "pod" coffeemakers with foul, weak coffee. In order not to offend my new co-workers, I smiled and made a cup each day. The problem is that I go to the gym almost every morning and can't enjoy my enamel-eating strong coffee at the apartment. And I like it strong.

So, I tried the following:

a) Various gas station coffees
b) The French press at work. Disaster.
c) Tea
.... and the lowest of the low ---
d) McDonalds

So, I'm wondering how offensive it would be to buy a 4-cup coffeepot and brew my own. Of course, anyone else can use it as well. The problem is, it's a bit insulting and also there's not a ton of room in the kitchen for a device.

I wouldn't mind frequenting a local cafe, but they don't have drive-thrus and it can get a bit expensive. I would love to support local business by buying yummy coffee at the farmer's market each week. Who knew my caffeine addiction would become so consuming?

And today, I got a bit of a surprise at work. Here you go, Rachel. Five new universities!!!! Knock yourself out! I'm already feeling like a stressball.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We'll always have Guild Hall.

I'm afraid to look at the news. They say that deaths come in threes.

Carly and I are both mourning Paul Newman. Last night Ken and I rented "Cool Hand Luke" in his honor and might have shed a tear or two over our Newman Salad Dressing.

Even more disturbing is the suicide death from earlier in the month of David Foster Wallace, author of "Infinite Jest," which if you'll remember from Okinawa, got me through many a long day at school and pretty much changed my standards for what a book should be. Complex. Confusing, Rewarding. RIP, DFW.

Not ones to sit around and sulk, Ken and I have made the most of our weekend. After a stint at the gym yesterday morning, we made our weekly journey to the farmer's market, stopping en route at a coffee shop/diner. Full of smokers, a short-order cook named Ann who has owned the place for 42 years, and some delicious hot cakes, it was a nice morning. The farmer's market was disappointing because the Yoders apparently aren't there any more with their chicken salad.

In a search for all of the other Yoders of the world, Ken and I drove to Shipshewana where we enjoyed a picnic lunch with Amish children playing and horses making horsey-noises. After some shopping and a stop at Yoders market, we headed home, but not before pie and coffee at some Dutch village along the way.

And the weekend isn't over. Today we're heading to Chicago for the make-up game for the White Sox. I'm not going to get into their playing the last week. It's too painful, too soon.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thank YOU, Brooke!

Funniest thing I have read in years----

[Click View Document for better reading]

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Update: The rain kept coming all afternoon and by the time Ken and I got home, this was the scene that awaited us. It was madness! Cars were in danger of being flooded, cars were pushing their luck driving through the river that used to be the road, there were newspeople here for footage. Things are looking a bit better now and the parking lot has subsided, but the first floor residents next door were putting their furniture on the (wet) lawn.

Who built the ark? Noah, Noah.

We're getting ready to head to the South Bend zoo to start grabbing animals two-by-two. The weekend has literally been a washout.

Ken and I left the area on Friday afternoon to meet Josh and Laura for the White Sox game. Despite the lingering rain, we thought they might play. We got there, ate some hot dogs in the parking lot and paid a kidney for parking, went in the park, grabbed some beers, stood around, stood around, stood around... then they cancelled the game without even trying to play. We got some green 1/2 St. Patty's Day hats, but it was pretty disappointing. We roamed the Southside for a bit to find a bar, but the rain and the umm..neighborhood were both discouraging, so we headed home.

Yesterday we headed to the gym and then the farmers market. This weeks purchases included 1/2 pound of coffee, a tomato, green beans, broccoli, chicken salad, croissants, Amish butter, mozzarella cheese, carrots... It was great! I think this will be a regular weekend event. We spent the rest of the day watching movies and avoiding the rain before heading back to Fiddler's Hearth for some more cider/Guinness and live Irish music. The crowds weren't too bad despite the fact that 100,000 people had piled in to see the game earlier in the day.

Today is yet ANOTHER rainy day and we're cleaning, drinking coffee, and heading to Buffalo Wild Wings in a bit to watch the big Packers game. And we might breakdown and get cable this week so we don't have to eat out everytime we want to watch some sporting event...

Work has been crazybusy. We have lots of study abroad fairs going on throughout the nation and we are getting phone call after phone call, email after email, and I'm revamping our website (which is one of my responsibilities) and I'm sending out USYD application and doing some accounting stuff... And we're missing a few people everyday out of the office because of the fairs. It's madness, but I really like it. I love chatting with the students (most of them). They are so excitable and it's fun to know that they're going to be leaving for a life-changing semester in just a few months. I do miss my old co-workers, but daily emails back and forth helps a bit.

Here's our urn filling with water... What a lovely weekend.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Becoming locals---

This weekend was our first weekend staying home in Indiana. And our first without cable. (We're still holding out...)

On Friday night, we spent the evening watching a movie and grabbing some coffee. Things weren't looking too promising for an exciting weekend. On Saturday, I took part in a TurboKick class (with 5 people instead of 2 of us) and then Ken and I headed to the local farmer's market. To say we were impressed would be a serious understatement. We walked away with peaches aplenty, chicken salad and Polish rolls for lunch, a glorious onion, freshly ground coffee, and plans to be back next weekend. Our lunch was delicious... and then we had the whole rest of the day to fill. It was a beautiful day so we headed west and then north. Michigan was calling and we drove a bit up the lakeshore, stopping at a toy train store and we took a turn on the slowest go-karts ever allowed to circle a track. A sign for wineries led us into "Wine Country" and after a stop at Tabor Hill for a tasting and a glass of riesling with some rowdy bachelorettes, we headed to the Round Barn winery for margherita pizza and more riesling. I wasn't in any condition to drive and happy for that! We made our way back to South Bend, successfully avoiding Notre Dame traffic, had a delicious dinner, and then it was time for some Celtic music and some cider at the Fiddler's Hearth downtown. By the time we turned in, we were exhausted and happy with the effort.

Today, Ken headed home to go see the Avett Brothers perform again in Champaign. Since I'm working tomorrow, I needed to occupy another long day. I went to spinning class where I wanted to die for 45 minutes and then felt like going to buy a trophy after finishing. Then I sat while our refrigerator was fixed, made lunch, and headed out for shopping. Some clearance shoes and a sweater, one pumpkin spice latte, and six hours later, I'm back. Thankfully, I have a season of Desperate Housewives and The Office and a movie to get me through the night.

It was a pretty excellent weekend, all things considered. I think I can get used to this. My only complaints about our new home revolve around the radio stations (I hear En Vogue and Mony Mony on every drive) and the tremendously horrible roads/displays of driving. The job is going really well so far. My co-workers are much tamer than in Chicago but I'm so busy each day that I don't even have time to notice that no one is socializing or slapping each other or throwing things at each other. (Yep, our office was pretty laidback.) I spend my days doing a plethora of things, including doing website work, writing and designing makeshift brochures for new programs, talking to students, sending emails to students, packing boxes for college fairs, buying and setting up scanners, processing credit card charges, etc. I never know what will be on my plate next, but I know there's good wine around to go with it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend in the City

Ken and I headed downtown over the weekend. I spent Saturday catching up with two of my former coworkers and having some laughs. This morning I arrived at the train a bit early and pretty much had Millennium Park to myself. It was beautiful. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Amish" admit, log cabins are fab.

I'm never one to refuse great hospitality, especially in combination with beautiful sunny days.

This past weekend, Ken and I headed up to Michigan to check out what all the fuss is about with my cousin and her husband's lakehouse. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. We drove up on Friday in an hour flat, spent the evening eating pizza, and chatting under the moonlight along the lake.

On Saturday, the fam went to Shipshewana, which is actually closer to Mishawaka (love the names), but since they aren't in the neighborhood much, we checked it out. It's Amish country and while swerving buggies in the road, you get a taste of the good old life. Or at least of something very different and slightly bizarre.

We spent the afternoon boating around the lake and eventually taking a dip. Then Brooke somehow talked me into cannonballing into a freezing pool. A short nap in the covered gazebo, a fantastic BBQ, and another night under the stars with s'mores finished the day. It was peaceful and nice to have the whole family together, including Grandpa and Aunt Chris and Uncle Jack.

Some photos!

Brooke and Mike ----

Enjoying the lake (and me trying out my Indian garb)----

Swimming with Tarah and Brooke. (Brooke started that one too!)

My cousin, Tarah, hostess with the... cheesy, I know.---

Bret and Morgan, the yellow lab and a golden shot ----

The only downside to spending time gorging on s'mores?! Chigger bites. Now I look like I'm recovering from the pox.----

Yep, it was fabulous. Might have to show up on the doorstep soon. Work is going well, although I have started to become super-stressed as my plate keeps getting fuller and fuller. It's been awhile since my "Task Manager" in Outlook has exploded in such a short time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What do you do when you don't have cable?

You go to outdoor concerts!

And what do you do when you are bored at said concert?

Build a house for ants!!!

And what else do you do when you decide to forgo cable for awhile?

Join Netflix!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No Milton yet...

"Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler..."

Two days into my job and things are going well. This evening Ken and I went to a picnic of sorts hosted by the management company who owns our building. My co-workers signed us up without asking. It was nice and one of my co-workers won $250! Not bad... And I had a grape sno-cone. Can't complain about Mishawaka yet! Sno-cones, tornados, lawn watering...

Anyways, the job is good. They are trying to "ease" me into things, so it's been a bit boring, but I know that once I start really working, I'll be happy for a gulp of air from time to time. I am going to be in charge of students traveling to the University of Sydney, which, as you might guess, is a popular place to study. And ironically, the campus boasts some buildings that are very Cambridge-esque.

I went out for lunch yesterday with the three fellow enrollment coordinators. There are only 7 of us total in the office, so it's pretty quiet with everyone working hard. We have "huddles" in the morning where we all say what we're going to do that day and give any updates. We send messages via Skype with synopses of yesterday and today, and I spoke with our IT guy in Sweden this morning through chat. It's a very youthful group with the oldest person being 36 or 37.

I've also been getting up in the mornings to go to the gym as I was doing before, except here I get to sleep in until 6:45. Thanks to my non-existent train ride, I get an extra hour of sleep everyday. It's perfect. And my office is very laidback, so wet hair in the morning is completely acceptable.

Tonight. Season finale of Heroes.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Yesterday I crawled out of bed to make my way to my new gym and the promise of an invigorating TurboKick class. Unlike the 50 participants I'm used to "pumping it" with, it was just me, the instructor, and one other lady. It was one of my favorite old routines and I added some things we did at my old gym to make it challenging. After class I spoke with the instructor who said that she is struggling to get people to attend. I can't fathom this! I love Turbo! It is now my mission to save TK in the Waka.

This is a great excuse for posting an "extreme closeup" shot Regan and I took after our last class together...

Yep, we're hot. Literally.

Friday, August 01, 2008



Have you seen this show?! Anyone know a cure besides just watching all of them in one fell swoop?

It's been a great week of vacation... Ken and I moved in last Saturday and since then, we've been running errands, hanging photos, sitting by the pool, and continuously trying to squeeze in another episode of crack-cocaine Heroes.

Last Friday, I was surprised at work with two dozen beautiful pink roses and a party, complete with everyone's special desserts and snacks. It was delicious and quite sad.

Here I am with Jane and Allison, two of my favorite co-workers.

I had to leave quickly because it was depressing to leave a job that I really did like. Ken and I finally went to the Riverwalk in Naperville on Friday night and had some delicous sushi before enjoying a comfortable night sleeping straight on the floor sans mattress or cushy blankets.

The old apartment ---

The move-in day went pretty well, except the "small" glitch that immediately after we signed our lease, we found out that our new "home" was a smokey nightmare and started panicking about how many lawyers it was going to take to get into a different apartment. Thankfully, the complex felt terrible about putting us in such an awful unit and within 30 minutes we were set to go with a perfect apartment.

Here's the living room with our new couch (that has two recliners!) ---

I really love the light that comes through and the vaulted ceilings. Love it, love it.

The new love of my life, our washer & dryer ---

My pride and joy. The new bed that I purchased and my makeshift headboard. We bought a $20 curtain rod and used it to display a blanket we picked up in Nepal. A cheap and easy way to brighten up a room and make a bed look more finished. (We still need a comforter and all that jazz...don't judge) We have a plethora of elephants decorating the room (thanks to India) and supposedly they are supposed to bring good luck and wealth. Here's hoping!

Our walk-in closets! Score!

We both joined gyms and yesterday I did my first-ever spinning class, which almost claimed my will to live. But I do really enjoy my overpriced gym and will be TurboKicking tomorrow morning just like the old times in IL. I'm hoping to continue going in the morning hours.

This morning I stopped into my future workplace and they were in a daily morning meeting. Everyone was sitting around, practially in their pajamas, sipping gigantic cups of coffee. It was very Zen. We (yep, I'm now embracing my new company) are in a brand new office and they decorated it in a tremedous way. Beautiful colors and amazing black and white Australia & Asia photos. I saw my desk and also found out that I have a new laptop!

Ken and I have seen Carly and Doug a couple of times this week and have been signed up to attend a picnic next week (thanks to my co-workers). We (at least I think I speak for Ken too) really like the area and are becoming quickly familiar with the major roads and where Chipotle and all the Targets are located.

More to come as the job begins. This weekend we're heading back across the border for a wedding.

Alright, back to bloody Peter Petrelli and Claire and Hiro and Ando.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A plug for local business---

I am going to post photos and an update about our new home in Mishawaka, but not until our new bed and couch get delivered this evening. (Yep. I finally bought a queen bed... I can cross that off my 101 List!)

But while I'm thinking of it, there's a candle company in Naperville that I stumbled across months ago. They make soy-based candles in the basement of a building. It's a husband/wife/dog team and the first time I visited, they showed me how they make the candles. For my mom's birthday, I couldn't get there in time while they were open, so I bought one online and asked them to mail it with a small card. They came through for me and on my last evening in the area, Ken and I went to the store one more time. I mentioned he had mailed a candle for me earlier in the week... and he said, "Oh! Rachel! I remember!" I didn't want to buy a candle that evening because we were a bit cramped for space as it was (and I knew Ken would kill me if I bought more stuff after he packed the whole apartment). So I told him I was going to sniff and figure out my favorites so I could order them online. He did better --- he sent me away with sample vials of all the different scents they offer. Totally above and beyond. Anyways, I am trying to support local businesses, so here's their website if you need a nice gift for someone... Wayfarer Candles

I love the Pear and Pink Peppercorn one. Fig and Cassis is nice too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Coldplay throws party for 20,000 Chicagoans
CONCERT REVIEW | Brits try hard to stay up close and personal with their fans

July 23, 2008

BY JIM DeROGATIS Pop Music Critic

Even after several million albums sold, British art-rockers Coldplay are still conflicted about their status as an arena act, and that's one of their most endearing traits.

On the one hand, front man Chris Martin and his bandmates do everything they can to maximize the big rock spectacle, the grand theatrical gesture and the musical bombast.

On Tuesday, the first night of a two-night stand at the United Center, the musicians came out dressed in pseudo-Napoleonic uniforms and began to perform in front of a giant backdrop of Delacroix's French Revolutionary painting, "Liberty Leads the People," which happens to be the cover of their new album, "Viva La Vida."

Several big globes hung from the ceiling and flashed video images of the band as it played; at times, the group deployed more lasers than any band since Genesis, and during the song "Lovers in Japan," a seemingly endless rain of colorful paper butterflies fell on the crowd.

On the other hand, Martin has never been afraid to let his inner geek show: He's the anti-Bono, dancing like an awkward little urchin instead of striking cool larger-than-life poses, and never hesitant to do his Schroeder routine at his black upright piano.

Throughout the 90-minute set, the bandleader frequently thanked the fans for their support, sounding genuinely surprised at his own success. And he, guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion did everything they could to get up close and personal, running to the end of the platform on stage right, performing two songs at the end of the platform on stage left and eventually hopping down from the stage altogether to briefly perform acoustically in the midst of the fans in the first tier off the floor.

None of this made the show as intimate as the one the group played at Metro to celebrate the release of its last album, "X&Y." But it felt as special as any party for 20,000 can, and the goodwill the band created extended to the audience indulging two renditions of the new song "Lost" for the benefit of a video filming, as well as the heavy sampling of the more arty, less anthemic songs from "Viva La Vida" sprinkled between guaranteed crowd pleasers such as "Clocks," "In My Place" and "Yellow."

Yeah, it was awesome.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Today Ken and I journeyed over to the Hoosier state to start the relocation process. We had a couple of apartment complexes in mind, but all the information/complexes on the internet were completely overwhelming. My main criteria: washer and dryer in the unit.

We checked out the first place and it was completely acceptable. A bit more than we wanted to spend and we didn't really see anything extra special that would warrant the cost. And the washer/dryer was down the hall and there was only one of each.

The next place had incredibly unfriendly staff and was the sort of place that you know police frequent regularly. Washer and dryer? In the complex next door. Upon seeing the mediocre and smoky apartment, we crossed it off the list and left in a hurry.

At lunch, I got ahold of Carly and we headed off to check out her complex. And it was here that we fell in love. On the spot, we picked an apartment and started the leasing process. We are saving a considerable amount of money on our apartment and the complex has a very popular pool. And... a washer/dryer in the apartment. Carly will be just down the block and will be called on moving day to lend a hand. Hi, neighbor!!!

Then we rushed off to Elkhart because Ken had an interview for a bartending gig. He was in there for awhile and by the time he walked out, he was employed and starting in less than two weeks!

On to my employer. I wanted to say hello and make sure I'm not going to regret my decision. The office was in chaos because we are moving to another location on Thursday, so the packing has begun. Thank goodness I'm coming in after the move! The boss decided everyone needed a drink and we headed off to a local pub for some drinks and appetizers. There are only 7 in the office and 6 made it out with us. I think that although I'm *really really really* going to miss my current co-workers, I'm going to get along fabulously with this group as well. There are two girls who did JET in Nagano and are roommates. We were already discussing "movie nights" for the nights when Ken is slaving away at the bar.

And now we're back...with a move-in date a week earlier than originally intended. I'm mentally packing up the apartment and am now even more excited to call Indiana home. :)

Here's a very exciting photo of an apartment we saw where we're going to be living. We're on the third floor so we get to enjoy vaulted ceilings and cute window.

P.S. - I've been updating my 101 List if you haven't checked it in awhile. I haven't written very exciting entries, but at least you can see some progress!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

G'day, mate!

As you can see, the name of my blog has officially switched to "Into the Bend." The reason being... I have been offered --- and I have accepted --- a position at a company in South Bend, Indiana, and we will be in the next few weeks to start yet another chapter of life.

I wasn't looking for a new position as I was absolutely content at my job for the timebeing. I love my current co-workers and wasn't sure I could leave them. But then, out of the blue, I got an email in my inbox from a company that I had applied for in September. They had contacted me at that time, but their email was diverted to my spam folder and by the time they called, I was already employed. So, I got the email asking if I was at all interested in going through the interview process for this new position. I don't like shutting doors...and one thing led to another... So now I'm moving to SB!

What's this new job entail? It's a study abroad company, focusing on Australia and New Zealand with some Asian short-term programs mixed in. I will be taking over the Sydney files, which make up the bulk of the students traveling. We basically get students interested (from all over the States) and guide them to choosing the right university for them overseas, helping them prepare, and then being supportive of them during their semester. The company is on the high-end market, which I am used to. So basically the people we sent on trips are parents of the students we are sending to study abroad. But I can definitely identify with the excitement of heading overseas as a college student. I absolutely believe that the experience is life-changing, as cheesy as that is.

The company is small and there is a ton of opportunity for growth. I'll be not only managing files, but traveling to Oz for orientations, perhaps making college visits, will probably do some creative marketing, and assist wherever else I am needed. I'm sad to be leaving my current position, as it truly has been an awesome experience and I really don't mind going to work each day (which is sometimes all you can ask for), but I think this is a good career move.

So, that's me. Another upheaval. :)

Monday, July 07, 2008

What's more American than onigiri?

Hope you all had a great 4th of July weekend! We had a busy few days, taking in a couple of festivals. Josh, Laura, Zack, and Krystal came up on Friday and we headed to the Lisle Balloon Festival for some carnival food and fireworks. I love this setting on my camera!

It's hard to believe that this time last year, I was enjoying some fireworks in an alley with Bridgit, trying to catch a glimpse of some fireworks on base. And their lame attempt at a 4th of July party.

On Saturday, we headed to the Naperville Ribfest to grab some quick (and expensive) lunch with Zack and Krystal. Nothing like Americans feasting on greasy hunks of pig flesh to make you proud.

We had the afternoon free yesterday and finally made it to Mitsuwa, a Japanese grocery store. What a flashback. And where do all these Japanese people live?!?! We heard the usual grunts, the crazy kids running around, and stocked up on our goodies. Among the highlights: Pocari Sweat (remember sucking that down, Bridgit?!), azuki bean mochi that tastes perfect, and my favorite Pucca! We could have bought a lot more, but held back a bit. It was hilarious to remember various grocery store encounters.

In other news, the name of this blog could soon appropriate become "Into the Bend." Details to come later as life works itself out.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meet me in ..... nevermind, that's too easy.

This past weekend, Ken and I boarded an Amtrak train to St. Louis. Since we're trying our absolute best to be tree-hugging, soy milk drinking, Envirosax-using consumers, we figured the more environmentally-sound public transportation option was best. We took the Metra to Union Station and easily boarded our train. We were supposed to arrive in St. Louis around 3:00. However, as we moved slowly along and gradually came to a complete halt, it became apparent that we were not going to be arriving on time. Our snacks were consumed and Ken had discovered the beer on the snack car before we arrived around 5. Strike one for Amtrak.

Our hotel was a block from the Arch and you could actually see it from our room...if you craned your neck a bit. The real reason for coming to St. Louis on a Thursday was to catch a Tom Waits concert at the historic Fox Theatre. The theater is something else. Completely garish and yet stunning. As for Mr. Tom Waits, who I had never really listed to, what a performer! It was a completely unexpected show. I couldn't understand more than 10 words all night, but that's okay when he's kicking up dust and dancing on the stage.

On Friday, we got up to be typical tourists. First stop, breakfast at The Landing area. Then a short walk to the arch for some artistic shots.

It's not easy being artistic ---

Mustering up some courage, we boarded the tram to the top where we met a mother/daughter duo from Montana on the way up and a family from Georgia on the way down. The scenery is nice from above, but really chatting with complete strangers is close quarters is far more exciting.

Then on two empty stomachs, we grabbed the hotel shuttle to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. We were able to join a tour within minutes of showing up and were soon touring the area. I have to say, the tour itself was a bit of a disappointment. I think it was the fact there were 80 people with us and the tour guides were little robo-trons spewing information into a microphone. We did a Victoria Bitter one in Melbourne and it was awesome. I did enjoy the old buildings and the sense of history on the grounds. And the huge horseys. And this time no animals were harmed in my presence.

And then the best part. Tasting! I don't like beer, but I did drink their wheat ale, which was not bad, especially with free pretzels. Ken might have had a few.

From here we headed to the historic Union Station via public bus where we saw a gamut of crazies and lunatics in a short 10 minute ride. St. Louis never ceased to amaze us with its sheer number of absolute weirdos. Really nice, talkative weirdos, but strange folks nonetheless.

At the train station, we grabbed some calamari at a waterside cafe and splashed out on expensive truffles at a gourmet chocolate shop(pe). Superfancy. Then, strangely enough, Ken's brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, and grandmother were passing through, so we all grabbed lunch together.

On the way back to the hotel, we stumbled (literally) across a guy passed out on the sidewalk who was non-responsive. We were asking people if anyone had called 911 as he was bleeding and not looking so great. We were told that "someone called" at "some point." Not feeling very confident about it, we called 911 just as a cop was showing up. Once she actually got the guy to sit up, we discovered he was positively covered in drool. Chalk another weird encounter up for St. Louis.

On Friday night, we headed out for some dinner, drinks, and live music.

Our first stop was the Broadway Oyster Bar where I ate some alligator for the first time. Meanwhile, Ken gorged on oysters on the half-shell and fried. Plus some fried clams.

A $10 cover charge kept us from staying for their live music, but thankfully the joint across the street had R&B music going on. It was great to sit outside, have some wine, and enjoy some great music.

We turned in late and got up at 5:30 a.m. to catch our train back to Chicago. We were supposed to arrive at 12:15 with plenty of time to get back to watch the White Sox. Once our train just flatout stopped on the tracks for 90 minutes with the lights off and talk of a "failed computer in the engine," we knew that wasn't going to happen. 8 hours later, we pulled into Union Station Chicago. Ridiculous. No wonder no one wants to take the train. Apparently the trains are constantly late. Two late trains = 3 strikes. They will be receiving a letter...

Anyway, our short little minibreak to the south was great fun. We met some interesting characters, ate an obscene amount of fried foods, and were typical tourists. It was pretty much perfect.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ta-Ta Sisterhood!

Finally, it's time for a post about the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer! I know you're all excited for this moment! I figured I would post a bunch of photos for your amusment with a few little antecdotes. I wish I could take all of the emotion, the spirit, and genorisity of the weekend and put it in a bottle. You truly have to experience an even like this firsthand to know the power of humankind. I encourage you all to sign up for next year. It's a challenge, especially the fundraising bit, but it is worth it! I plan on being there next year, but probably as a cheerleader on the side. Honestly, without those random strangers cheering you on every single step of the way, it would be much more difficult.

So, without further ado ---

The night before. I stayed at David and Patty's house (my boss and his wife). That evening, Patty's neighbor Betsy stopped by to see how our walk preparations were coming along. She walked two years ago and has been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She's too weak to walk it again and it was heartbreaking to hear how she has started planning her goodbyes. She doesn't look sick in the least, but her lungs are constantly on fire and when she goes for a short walk, she has to sleep for hours afterwards. She's a fighter, but eventually this battle will be lost. She encouraged me to take photos of everything, so I did... for her. Here's all of my stuff set out. Our shirt had three women currently fighting and two who have passed away.

Here I am with Patty at 5:00 a.m. getting ready for our drive to Soldier Field where all of the festivities began.

We were welcomed by the cheering Youth Crew and immediately we were swallowed in a sea of pink and some very interesting characters, like this Sweep Fairy who we later saw driving a van and picking up those who couldn't walk any longer.

Here's a man signing the wall in honor of someone he was walking for. We started the day with some group stretching, dancing, and laughing. We were also introduced to three survivors who told their stories to us. Already the tissues were being brought out from everyone's fanny packs.

I couldn't have done this without the support of friends, family, and semi-strangers who donated for the cause. Together, Chicago raised 9.1 million dollars!!!! Unbelievable!

I love this van. (I can relate to the mosquito bites bit) These vans were decorated with bras, hilarious sayings relating to the ubiquitous mention of boobies, and all sorts of fun things. Every time they passed, they would honk and scream and encourage us. It was the crew that truly made this weekend possible and inspired us.

Most people had cute little shirts with funny stayings such as "Save Second Base" and my favorite quote of the weekend, "I'd give a BILLION dollars if I could. I love boobs that much!!!" There was some extreme creativity involving pink and catchy boob-related phrases. And solidarity. It was awesome.

Patty decided in advance that she was only going to walk the half marathon (13.1 miles) on the first day to avoid injury. Jane couldn't join us because something came up at the last minute. I decided to press on and by 5:00 p.m., I was walking into the Wellness Village after 26.2 miles of solid walking. We had rest and quick stops along the way to refuel with food, water, and Gatorade. And there were cheering sections that you'd walk through with tons of people ringing bells, using clappers, giving you high fives, handing you Lifesavers, telling you "THANK YOU FOR WALKING," encouraging you with "YOU CAN DO IT. YOU LOOK GREAT! KEEP WALKING!!!" I have never seen such spirit in my life. Complete strangers all turning out for the cause. And all of them affected in some way or another by breast cancer. This was the most inspiring bit for me.

And here I am at the end of Day 1. I may look happy but I was in some pain and had booked it for the last 4 miles because I figured my hips wouldn't hurt any worse if I was walking fast, and that way I'd be done quicker.

Day 2 began with me feeling hungover. I had a terrible headache, so apparently all of my hydrating wasn't enough, and was feeling extremely nauseous. I had to choke down a muffin and was wondering if I was going to make it through the day. By mile 4, I was doing great. Jane got to join us and it was hilarious to hear her talking about her impressions of all that we had seen the day before.

We crossed busy roads with the assistance of some Hell's Angels types who decked out their bikes with boob references, kept us laughing as we stretched and stood waiting for the light to turn, and regularly entertained us with some music and dancing. They were unbelievable.

And some photos along the way...

With the "udderly" amazing cow people---

Copping a feel at a street crossing with Jane ---

And for once, Chicago produced some amazing weather as promised. We could not have asked for more beautiful weather. I can't imagine doing all this walking in the rain. how horrible. We soaked up the sun and the lakefront. Beautiful.

At the finish line (after devouring huge ice cream cones for the last .5 mile & 39.3 miles of walking), we met up with Betsy and Robin, another neighbor on our t-shirt. They were so emotional as they knew that they had inspired us to keep walking and to help with the fight against breast cancer. They were a fabulous welcoming committee!

Our days ended with a closing ceremony. I thought I was prepared for the emotion, but I wasn't. I can't sum it up for you. You just have to experience it. In fact, you should sign up for next year!!!!