Sunday, December 30, 2012

Walls at the Naw

It only took a year of picture taking and developing, frame buying, and careful arrangement, but we finally put something on one of our blank walls!

[Also note: the plethora of posts today come as the result of holiday travel and downed Internet service disrupting regular posting.]

Van Galder

For those of you who travel between Chicago and Madison, let me extol the virtues of Van Galder. I usually take Megabus from downtown, and for the price it's well worth it to crowd onto a double decker coach and try to nap for a few hours. Depending on when I'm traveling, though, Van Galder's fixed price service is way more worth it.

First, service is from O'Hare, which means I'm already out of the city when we get going, rather than starting from the mess of downtown traffic. It's super easy to find the stop and there's an indoor waiting area instead of a curbside line and mobs of travelers pushing to get on the bus first.

The good news continues: so far, Van Galder has been on time or early for all my stops. I have yet to leave on time with Megabus, especially traveling from Madison to Chicago, when we are waiting on the bus to come from Minneapolis. Rides don't seem to be as crowded (that largely depends on travel time), and this leads to overall less hassles.

One thing both lines feature: friendly, knowledgeable drivers and staff. If you're gonna get one thing right as a bus service, people who get you safely from point A to point B would be it and in all my travels, my drivers have been cheerful and fully competent.

Happy Travels!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crafts & Cooking

As the rain trickles down outside, homemade chicken soup cooks on our stove. Brit melts crayons with a hair dryer for our newest craft project and Diego finishes an episode of Lost to catch up with me.

This is what Saturday is all about. Only it's December, so snow would feel more appropriate than rain.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chicago Fire

After the devastating loss of The Chicago Code, Britney & I have searched to find a replacement TV show for our Chicago pop culture fix. This year's fall TV lineup held several options: Boss, The Good Wife, Happy Endings, Mike & Molly, Shameless, and Chicago Fire among them. Eliminating shows on cable channels and sitcoms, we were left with Chicago Fire.

This show, like many of its cop drama counterparts, has pros and cons. Because it's set in Chicago, Britney and I were willing to hold back on critiques for a few episodes, enough time for us to get to know the characters. Now, halfway through season one, we are pretty much hooked (despite being several weeks behind in watching, but it is on our apartment to-do list!).

What we like about the show is the Chicago factor--minus some geographical oddities (how is the Sears Tower in every shot?), we like spotting the different locations. Twice last week I rode bike or drove past an area where they were filming (as made apparent by all the fire trucks chilling by giant lighting structures and actor trailers parked along my bike route, guarded by cops). One of the sets we drove past featured a car rammed into a concrete pillar. Traffic slowed as we went by--with the cops and fire trucks and all the movie smoke they were using it really looked liked a legit accident. Then we saw that the car was propped on blocks and people from the set crew were literally leaning on it, taking a smoke break.

The characters and their story lines have also intrigued us, not so much that we can't wait to see another episode, but enough to get us to talk about them in everyday conversation, as if they were mutual friends we are curious about. I would say this is significant, but we talk about our neighbors and the pizza delivery guy with about the same concern. So far we haven't spotted any of the lead actors out and about--that's still on our bucket list.

The believability/credibility of the show suffers when they send the firefighters to '800 West Halsted' (as a north-south street, there is no such address on Halsted), or when this squad, whose fire hall appears to be located somewhere southwest of the Sears Tower, responds to calls on the South Side, downtown, AND in my very own neighborhood (a fairly large radius considering the existence of other units in each of these neighborhoods). On the other hand, we had to give the show credit one night when the nightly news that comes on immediately following the show reported two real accidents that were startlingly similar to two featured in that night's episode.

Despite all the drama, Britney and I have found Chicago Fire to have some great comedic moments. Alongside the sexy firefighters/EMTs, the cast also includes men I personally am more familiar seeing on a fire/rescue squad: funny old guys. From the character who goes by 'Mouch' (half man, half couch), to the pranks they pull on each other, these are the firefighter types I know and love in real life.

To all firefighters/EMTs/first responders: Brit and I would love to know what, if anything, is realistic about the show/the accidents they respond to. We've done our best to be a bit skeptical and we know they super play up the drama, but as I said, sometimes the news proves they got some things right. And finally, thanks for all you guys do daily & nightly. From the mundane to the grisly to the downright strange, rescue squads respond to all levels of emergency calls with great care for humanity. If there's one thing the show gets spot on, it's the focus on taking care of victims above all else when the call comes in. You guys are the real stars.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Today is 12/12/12 and for some reason that seems worth mentioning. Nothing extremely interesting is going on in my life right now. My computer continues to die & resurrect itself. Britney is off work still, so Brooke and I have some variety to our nights. There is no end to the errands I run at work. Jesus won't shut up about smoking his pipe and gearing up for the theater release of The Hobbit on Friday.

I'm going to pretend 12/12/12 is a holiday anyway: one where I don't have to go anywhere, or do or buy anything, one without special music or food, the halfway point between December first and Christmas. I'll celebrate where I am right now, calm and peaceful.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Art Museum Adventure

Thanks to Becca's membership, Jesus and I explored the Art Institute of Chicago Saturday afternoon. It was our second time there in two months, and we saw very few repeat pieces of art. We really shouldn't have been so surprised. At nearly one million square feet, it's simple to get lost in the museum, so it makes sense that our visit felt as if we had never been there before.

Some of the exhibits were new or updated, but we also found an entire floor we had previously missed along with part of the modern wing that we barely skimmed through last month. And of course we took full advantage of our borrowed membership: tea and hot chocolate in the Member Lounge.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Local Art, Library Cards, & Luxury Drugstores

Three (free-ish) ways to expand your world on a Saturday morning: visit a local art gallery, use your Chicago Public Library card, and check out the new upscale Walgreen's.

OhNo!Doom is an art gallery, collective of artsy-types, and shop where you can purchase original works by local artists and collective members. I pass this gallery on my way to the library and grocery store, frequently admiring the art from the sidewalk, but yesterday I decided to actually go inside. I'm glad I did, too, because they have some pretty neat pieces on display right now. They invited me back next weekend, when they are having a holiday-closing-open house sale. Anybody want some fun art for Christmas?

After that fun detour I went to the library, where I managed to hold myself to only four books. I judged them all by their covers, which, despite proverbial wisdom, usually works for me. I'll let you know if what's between the covers holds up to my initial expectations.

If it's cheesy to put "visit Walgreen's" on your Saturday bucket list, then cheesy I am. My final stop on my Saturday morning adventure was the new Walgreen's in Bucktown. Housed in what used to be Noel State Bank, a registered Chicago landmark, I'm pretty sure this is the only pharmacy/convenience store that can boast a "Vitamin Vault" and stained glass ceilings. Even the gum I bought tasted fancier than usual.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


What do you get when you cross a bank, an electric company, and nearly 1,250 animals?

A free Friday night activity!

Zoolights is essentially the Lincoln Park Zoo at night, bedazzled with strand upon strand of Christmas lights. This is may be only my second time going (a pity considering it's free 365 days a year), but I definitely made it count. Not only did I get to see all the holiday light displays, some set to music, I also got to see most of the zoo animals (provided, some were fast asleep). Another perk: I got to borrow a friend's membership card, which meant free parking and complimentary cookies, tea, hot chocolate, and apple cider.

I saw a pygmy hippo open it's mouth wide and make several children scream, two wide awake giraffes who seemed to spend most of the night licking the wall of their habitat with their foot-long tongues, and monkeys fast asleep in poses uncannily human-like.

There was an ice sculptor carving big blocks of ice with a chainsaw, Santa took up residence in the big cats exhibit, and plenty of Christmas music, which got Jesus & I into the festive spirit so much so that we came home and watched the entirety of the BBC version of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. (His idea, not mine, fyi!)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

...How plastic are your branches.

Our little tree may be fake, but I think we have people fooled with our pine scented candle.

Besides, it's not the size of the tree, it's the amount of presents underneath that counts, right?

Just kidding, what counts is who you trim your tree with. :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Many Thanks

I know I'm a week late, but I say we can give thanks whenever we want. Here's what I'm mindful of this year:

Abundance of food in my grocery stores
Bike lanes
Finding farts funny at age 24
Low maintenance family who doesn't mind there was no turkey on Thanksgiving
Clean sheets
Having a list of things to be thankful for
Chapters ending, chapters beginning
Technology, for the most part
Washer/dryer 10 feet from my bedroom
Thrift store treasures
Leftover Halloween candy
Book clubs of two
Arts & Crafts
Borrowing wardrobes

I know, a lot of these were kind of silly--but I think the really great stuff is in the silly things of our lives. I hope I'm living my life in a way that shows gratitude always (I just typed gratefulness & stared at it for a hot minute until I remembered the right word, so thanks universe for the confusing English language). Of course many thanks are due daily to my family & friends, who keep me sane/drive me crazy in a strangely harmonious way.