Sunday, March 31, 2013

Out Like a Lamb

March got a lot happier as it went along...mostly because I left the country during the last week. Anyway, here's the list, How to Be Happier: March.

  1. Write a letter to someone special. Signed, sealed, delivered.
  2. Create a photo album of your life. These days who doesn't have several photo albums of various forms scattered about?
  3. Let go of something or someone who has been a chronic irritation. I recently went through my facebook friends and deleted several fun-suckers.
  4. Perform a routine out of normal sequence or location. I went to South America and performed the routine of life!
  5. Observe yourself without judgement. I try to do this often.
  6. Open a new savings account for a special purpose. I bought a new wallet does that count?
  7. Plant fresh herbs. We have basil and I'm trying to grow miniature strawberries!
  8. Do something special with someone else's child. I spent a week with my mom and dad's child in South America!
  9. Make a list of what you like about yourself. Hair, humor, eyes, butt, taste in music, cooking skills, ability to eat large amounts of food, interior decorating style, dance moves...
  10. Sit back-to-back with someone and express yourselves. I think we did something like this during MercyWorks?
  11. Immerse yourself in color. My apartment is quite colorful.
  12. Volunteer your time. I give my time to things I find important, whether they be organizations, friends, or food preparation.
  13. Have a lively conversation with someone. My friends keep most conversations lively.
  14. Look for coincidences. This is really hard to do on command.
  15. Dress differently. Differently than what?
  16. Trade roles with someone. I like playing pretend.
  17. Give someone a gift. Done.
  18. Organize a wine tasting. Does it count if I was the only person in attendance?
  19. Write down your dreams. I do this when I have particularly interesting or vivid dreams. Last night I dreamed about shopping for pasta and jeans...
  20. Take a long walk in nature. I took a several hours long walk down La Rambla with my sister in South America!
  21. Clean out your closets. Ah yes, spring cleaning. Feels good.
  22. Plant a tree to remember someone dear to you. If I had a yard...
  23. Don't wear a watch. Ha! Jokes on you, my watch battery is dead.
  24. Play the Date Game. Epstein defines this as picking out a date, then talking about what you did then. I'd call that the memory game and I do it whenever I get with friends. Doing it with a stranger might be interesting.
  25. Imagine your life has just begun. It feels that way after coming back from vacation, like life stopped while I was gone and now it's new. I like that feeling.
  26. Listen to songs you loved as a teen. Let me introduce you to my 90s Pandora station.
  27. Compliment everyone with whom you interact. Out loud?
  28. Pamper your body. Done! 
  29. Bargain for something. I bargained with my boyfriend for dinner...the most I can ever get is cheese and veggies cut for me. Work in progress.
  30. Decorate your work space. Well, I work in someone else's home...and that's decorated tastefully. I consider my room my personal work space and it's plenty decorated.
  31. Do whatever you feel like doing. My usual MO. Within reason. I went to South America because I felt like it, but also because I had time off from work.
March was awful and then it was amazing. The weather super bummed me out, but I left the country and things got extremely better. I have some color in my skin, the days are getting longer, I can cross Visit South America off my bucket list, and I have an Easter package on its way to my apartment. Spring is feeling good.

Happy Easter/Home Again

Three flights and several naps later, I'm back in Chicago. All my travels went well on my way back to the States. I had two seats to myself on the long overnight flight, so I could actually stretch out and lay down to sleep, and I got the window seat on my other two flights. My ankles didn't swell up on my return trip like they did on the way south, so that was nice. Even though my last flight was delayed due to weather, my luggage and I made it home only a little grimy.

After a shower and some laundry, I'm celebrating Easter with Jesus. We made rice and beans (I haven't had any beans this whole week!) and if we can agree on anything, we'll chill out with a movie. Not the most traditional of Easters, but I made sure to eat some chocolate and I might even leave my dirty dishes for another day (reminder: washing dishes was my Lenten observance).

Hallelujah, Jesus is risen and I am free to be in my pajamas before dusk.

Friday, March 29, 2013


We're back! It's strange going on vacation while you're on vacation. And if I thought shlepping it in Bailey's apartment was giving me a taste of life in a third world country, Valizas was the whole meal.

Bailey, her roommate Anna, and I took the bus up the coast. Who knows how long the trip would normally be, but it took about five hours since we kept dropping off and picking up random people willy nilly. The Uruguayan countryside is essentially the same as the Midwestern countryside, give or take a few palm trees.

Once we got to Valizas, we walked through 'town' to the beach house we stayed in. There were several restaurants, a bar, a food mart, and small souvenir shops. Our beach house was a tiny little thing with one bedroom and a few cots. The shower head in the bathroom was right over the toilet, so showering was interesting. None of that mattered, though, because the parilla (covered patio area where the giant grill is) was big and fully functioning. We had an asado that night: grilled chorizo, steak, bread, cheese, and peppers.

Bailey and I got up to hit the beach nice and early (aka 11:30). We walked along the shore, then found a spot for a nice sunny nap. The houses right on the beach are tiny and hidden behind small sand dunes. There are giant dunes on one edge of the town, stretching out into the ocean. Needing to get out of the sun for a bit, we walked into town to get milanesa (breaded fried meat) for lunch and churros for dessert. We got the churros from a guy selling them from a tiny cart. He made them fresh for us, and they were the best churros I've ever had: crunchy and coated in sugar on the outside, just a tad soft on the inside.

After lunch it was time for more beach naps. Altogether we were only in direct sun for about four hours, but we both felt it. We took a quick dip in the ocean (how many times does a Midwestern girl get to say that?) to cool off and headed back to town for some homemade ice cream.

Thursday night we had yet another asado, this time with more variation. We had several friends over and grilled corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bread, meat and peppers filled with egg and cheese. Even though I speak basically zero Spanish and most of their friends speak little to no English, everyone understands the language of food.

Bailey and got in one last beach walk, wherein Bailey made sure I got my feet wet ('When is the next time you will be in the Southern Hemisphere at the ocean?') and we semi-adopted a dog, who trotted alongside us the whole way. The dogs in Valizas are rarely tied up and make friends with everyone, especially people grilling meat all night long. Our bus left I the afternoon and we napped our way back to Montevideo and 21st century technology. Valizas has electricity and running water, but that's about as far as amenities go. What else do you need at the beach?

Tonight Bailey and I made sushi and chilled for my last night here. The weather is gorgeous and we are both glad to be back to her comfy bed. Tomorrow I will say my goodbyes and head back to the States!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ciudad Vieja y Mas Naps

Today Bailey and I took a bus to the oldest part of Montevideo, the part that used to be the entire city. We saw the most popular plaza in the city along with what used to be the tallest building in South America. Then we walked all the way to the shore and out onto a long pier next to the port. There were families out for walks and fishermen lined the concrete water break. After resting in the sun for a bit we walked along La Rambla and back into the city center. We took a bus back home, stopping at a second hand store along the way. Then, Nap Time! I'm starting to get used to a mid afternoon nap before nightly activities commence.

Tonight we are going to an asado at a friend's house on the edge of the city. Grilled meat, how I've missed thee.

Tomorrow we set out for a short trip up the shore; that's where the real beach naps begin!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Life in UY

There is sunshine here! It's a miracle. Yesterday Bailey and I walked through the feria (market). We saw two guys get into a fight after exchanging some colorful language. I won't translate for you, but let's just say you wouldn't want your grandma to overhear you talking like they were.

Last night we went to eat dinner at Laura and Dudu's. Bailey and her roommate Anna used to live there before finding their apartment. The food was great and it was an interesting experience--lots of language mixing and explaining stories with hand motions and gestures.

Today Bailey and I took a super long walk on La Rambla in preparation for our giant lunch. We worked up a pretty nice sweat, then labored over some chivitos (fried steak sandwiches with various toppings).

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Estoy aqui

I've been in Uruguay for just over 12 hours and I've already taken two naps. This country is great.

I hope to see more of the city/Bailey's neighborhood in the next few days. So far, many things remind me of Rome: small streets, red Coca Cola tables and chairs set up outside of food shops, the tiny grocery store, and not understanding much of anything. Bailey's apartment is similar to the one I lived in in Rome as well, right down to the Chinese lantern light covers.

Best of all: I'm wearing a tank top and I'm comfortable!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As the Uruguayans Do

It's Spring Break! I'm done with work until April! This vacation couldn't have come at a better time--what I mean by that is CHICAGO IS AWFUL RIGHT NOW. Today was the first day of sun in what seems like weeks, but the cold is still biting. I can't wait to wear less than three layers and feel my toes again.

Brooke told my she's jealous of my "simple" trip--she's going back to Africa for Spring Break--all I have to do is get on a few planes and let my hosts/tour guides do all the rough work. I don't have to entertain anyone, and I have no agenda other than to see Bailey, relax, and check out where she's living these days.

I brushed up on some Spanish this past week, but I'm sure I'll rely on Bailey to do most of my translating. Even if I do understand conversations, joining in/speaking/getting the accent right is a big step for a gringa who hasn't left the country in four years.

All that stands between me and South America is 12 hours, three long flights, and a suitcase that won't close. Adios, Chicago.

March Madness

I've got my brackets filled out and the mobile game tracker downloaded to my iPod. I'm ready for the madness. I didn't do a whole lot of research while I picked my teams, but I did take some advice from President Obama. He's rooting for the Big 10 this year, and even has Wisconsin upsetting Gonzaga. Kid President's advice was less helpful, but more entertaining. This article, though, says less knowledge is better.

I'd post my bracket on here somewhere, but I don't really know how to do that. I have Indiana winning the championship and Louisville losing earlier than most would expect.

Good luck to everyone who filled out brackets...let's compare in two weeks!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two More Disgusting Days

Further proof I need to get out of this country:

Someone stole my bike lights the other day while I was in the grocery store. I usually take them off (along with my fender) when I lock up outside, but figured they'd be fine for a quick pit stop at Aldi. Nope.

I don't remember what being warm feels like, even inside my apartment. We keep the thermostat set to 68, but do we ever reach that? Nope.

My dreads are slowing creeping back into my hair.

My Lenten dish duty observance is faltering.

I can't see my tan lines anymore.

Yesterday I spilled some wine on myself and used my hair to wipe my face off.

I took a short nap halfway through writing this post.

I wore my pajamas to work the other day...underneath regular clothes for an extra layer of warmth.

My room rearrangements are getting pretty strange.

M let out a huge belch at work today. We are getting way too comfortable with each other and need time apart.

I keep dreaming about summer...also math addictions (yes, math not meth & addictions not additions) and old people beating me up....

I'm essentially surviving on caffeine and carbohydrates. And cheese.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Selection Sunday

No one in the Naw really cares about college basketball, but we also don't care about much of anything these days (see my recent posts...we are over winter). None of this is stopping us from filling out brackets and setting up our own March Madness competition. We are spending the evening researching and picking teams. Each win in round one will be worth one point, two points in round two, etc...and the winner at the end gets a prize we have yet to determine. The loser gets dish duty for a week.

Anyone who knows anything about any teams is welcome to give advice, because I'm currently picking based on team colors and mascots.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I'm Glad I'm Not Irish

...Or I would have to care about this weekend's holiday, and I can't wanna care about anything when it's 30 degrees out.

Remember last year when it was 80 degrees on St. Patrick's Day and I sunbathed by the lake? Ha. This year I woke up early to see the river being dyed, wanting to experience a real Chicago St. Patrick's Day tradition. It was AWFUL. Rainy, snowy, windy and cold. And the dye takes forever to travel the length of the river, so even though we were close to where it happened, we still had to brave the elements for an hour before catching even a glimpse.

Tons of people still came out, many of them severely under-dressed. We called it and went over to the guys' apartment to warm up/get lunch as soon as we all admitted that with no Irish ancestry, we didn't really care about getting the full experience. Not until we get some sun around here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring Fever

Sleep comes naturally,
but isn't restful.
I dream of beaches and bikinis
two, maybe three times in a week.
That last one was probably a daydream.
A tease. It was real a year ago.
I wake up and buy a plane ticket.
I'm getting out of here before the fever bores me to death.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Water for Elephants

Throwing it back all the way to early 2011 for today's movie. Based on a novel by the same name (which I learned via Wikipedia was originally written for National Novel Writing Month?!), this movie has all the thrills of the big screen: topless ladies, lust, betrayal, speakeasies, trains, and elephants. One elephant, actually. It won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Drama Movie last year and received moderate reviews.

Water for Elephants

What does a circus need? A star act. After Jacob Jankowski first hitches a ride (and a free meal) from a circus train, then kills the star of the show (a white horse suffering from laminitis-Jacob actually does the horse a favor), he somehow still manages to find a spot as the vet and bull man (elephant handler) for the Benzini Brothers Circus. Rosie, the newly acquired elephant, is stubborn but takes a liking to Jacob. At the same time, Jacob takes a liking for Marlena, who performs with Rosie. Marlena is pretty sweet on Jacob as well, but still professes her love for August, her husband and the boss/ringleader of the circus. August, it turns out, has a small drinking problem and is horrendously stressed out about the loss of ticket sales and general demise of the circus (though this stress doesn't make him pause to consider the logic of throwing outlandish parties any time he feels they are about to experience an upswing in ticket sales). He also has no respect for Rosie.

So, what we have is a volatile creature, a drunk showman, and illegitimate love, all set in the midst of the Great Depression and Prohibition. I won't give the ending away, but a small thing goes wrong, then more wrongdoings occur, then a really big thing goes wrong, then suddenly some right things happen, but they are still colored by all the atrocities of the original wrongs. If you've read the book, I say check out the movie just to have a visual for the story. If not, I say watch if you have a thing for elephants, circuses, or strange love affairs.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ruby Sparks

Following the smashing success of my previous movie choice, I went with another lesser known yet A-list-filled movie for Movie Madness Day Three. This one appealed to my writerly senses, and I was also craving some comedic relief after two drama-filled movie nights. While this movie isn't quite pee-your-pants comedic, I had several laughs. Okay, okay, and I also wanted to cry at the end. It's another dramedy, but this time with a traditional comedic (read: happy) ending.

Ruby Sparks

Much like Celeste and Jesse Forever, this 2012 movie stars its very own lady screenwriter. Zoe Kazan plays Ruby, the fictional character of Calvin, boy genius/writer/social hermit. Calvin literally dreams about this girl, starts writing her into a story, and she appears in the flesh (and not much else to begin with...her first living words are "Hey! I missed you in bed last night."). Figuring she is a hallucination, Calvin tries ignoring her in public. When he realizes other people can see her, he knows she is real. And he is in love.

Loving a fictional character is one thing, but continuing to love the real woman now living in his apartment is another. Calvin wrote Ruby's personality, but soon wants something different. He writes, she changes. Ruby gets a little bipolar in this part of the movie, going from "miserable" to "effervescent" to "speaks French." Most viewers will at this point know that it's impossible to control another human being and still love/respect them as an equal. Calvin learns this after an intense scene that flirts with the horror genre before skipping back over to comedy at just the right moment.

I personally enjoyed the writing and the acting--not only did "Ruby" (Kazan) write the script, "Calvin" (Paul Dano) is her longtime boyfriend in real life. The layers were almost too much for me to handle--a real woman writes her real boyfriend into a movie about a fictional writer who writes himself a fictional girlfriend. And on top of that, Antonio Banderas makes an appearance as Calvin's mother's boyfriend. Surprise!

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Yesterday I picked out a doozy of a movie. No one dies in it, but I cried like someone did. I recommend this one to anyone who has ever loved, anyone who has ever lost love, and anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like if Rashida Jones got together with Andy Samberg.

Celeste and Jesse Forever

This 2012 drama-comedy (also known as a hopeful tragedy in my book) shows us Celeste (Rashida Jones), a got-it-together trend forecaster, and her best friend/soul mate/husband/ex-husband Jesse (Andy Samberg), a some-time artist/dude who surfs. They've split, but haven't really let each other go. Jesse still lives in what used to be his studio, behind Celeste's house and they do nearly everything together...until Jesse starts seriously seeing someone.

Now it seems Jesse's let go and is getting his shit together, while Celeste falls apart, always needing to be right and never quite being happy. Cue Celeste dating montage followed by downward spiral followed by sobering realization that she definitely hasn't let go yet. I don't know why this movie wasn't/isn't more popular--I only knew about it because I follow Rashida Jones on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Descendants

I'm three for three this week in great movie choices. I found some winners just by reading basic summaries and going with my gut (relying on some great actors helped too). In a week like this one, I needed a few wins and I'm hoping my streak continues. (Might I watch a movie every night this week? Perhaps. Welcome to March Movie Madness.)

The Descendants

This movie, from 2011, was nominated for a whole slew of Academy Awards last year, including Best Picture, Actor, Director, Editing, and Adapted Screenplay (which it won). It also won Best Picture (Drama) and Best Actor (Drama-George Clooney) at the Golden Globes. Don't let the awards scare you, though. It's accessible and moving without being overly heavy.

Matt King (Clooney) is a successful real estate lawyer from Hawaii. He has daughters, but considers himself the "back-up parent" to his wife, Elizabeth, who we only see for a few seconds before the opening credits. Once the movie begins, we learn that a boating accident put her in a coma, forcing Matt to deal with Alex (17) and Scotty (10) on his own.

That situation sounds rough as it is. Now add this: Elizabeth won't wake up from the coma, so she will soon be taken off life support. And this: Elizabeth was cheating on Matt before the accident happened. Oh, and this: Matt finds out from Alex, who caught Elizabeth with the other guy several months prior to the accident.

There's also a land deal about to happen between Matt, several of his Hawaiian cousins, and a potential buyer, but understandably Matt is a little preoccupied trying to find the man his wife supposedly loved while at the same time mourning her. Okay, so it gets a bit heavy. Still, there are enough lighthearted moments to keep this movie afloat in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I know the backs of my
blankets better
than the backs of my hands,
but slightly less than I know
the backs of my eyelids.

My laundry travels
further than I do.
My garbage too.

I haven't seen my naked
feet in days. I just keep adding
sock layers upon sock layers.

I don't live
in Chicago anymore.
I moved to Hiber Nation.