A Day in the Life of a Bitter City Dweller: The Grocery Store Edition
Friday, January 30, 2009
This just in: Local Woman Jumps into Frigid Lake After Attempting to Stock Up on Groceries, Muttering Something About Garages, Parking Lots, and the Suburbs. Please enjoy this sampling of the thoughts that ran through my head while running errands Wednesday night.


Why do I always get the broke-down hoopty shopping cart? Next time, I'm carrying WD-40 and paper towels in my handbag.

Dammit, what was the DIY substitute for buttermilk? I don't want to spend $2.49 on a huge jug of buttermilk. GAH, why can I NEVER REMEMBER THIS? It's not like I'm constantly in need of buttermilk.

Who could possible need so many types of canned chili?

It seems that cityfolk are so used to crowds that they prefer to linger in the middle of the aisle, perusing their choices in cracker products. I need to get by! Do they not see me waiting here, staring at them while they decide between Melba and Wasa? THEY BOTH SUCK. NOW MOVE ALONG, FOR THE LOVE ALL THAT IS HOLY.

What do you mean, you're out of sweet potatoes? Did I arrive here on the heels of a massive tidal wave of yam consumption?

If I bump into another person with this ill-steering cart, I am going to put a barbeque fork in my eyesockets. Why are city grocery aisles so narrow?!

Oh man, I have way too many bags to be able to hail a cab. I can barely lift my arms. DAMN YOU, JILLIAN MICHAELS AND YOUR 30-DAY SHRED. Maybe a cab will just *sense* my need and pull over.

Oh boy, here's a cab. Now, how am I going to open the door and get in?

Oh God, I'm home. How am I going to get out of this cab?

2012 or Bust...or Both
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Oh dear God. I would like to go on the record right now as respectfully saying NO THANKS. Ugh.

The Reality of the Situation Is This
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I turn 30 in August. The birthday itself is merely a date, but the significance of the things I thought I would have done by now weigh heavily on my mind. It seems an appropriate time for a little introspection.

There are parts of my life that I always thought I would have wrapped up and completed by my 30th birthday. (no idea why, I just did) Big parts that, on occasion, feel like gaping holes. It's like being followed around by an irritating shadow that nags silently, "What have you been doing all this time?" and while I'm mostly able to smack that shadow square across the face and see my life for the wonderful, blessed thing that it is, I can't shake the feeling that my 12 year old self would be disappointed in me.

I decided this evening that I'd focus on what I could do to better myself - to get myself to the place where I always wanted to be at that magical, mystical age of 30. The first step is getting back into shape, and this time, I'm not kidding around. I won't be changing anything on this blog to reflect my progress, other than some occasional posts that seem relevant or significant - no weight loss numbers, no sidebar tickers where a little cartoon redhead gets thinner as you scroll from left to right. It's not about being thin(ner) - it's about liking what I see in the mirror every morning. It's about trying to become the best possible version of myself. That started tonight with 40 minutes of speed walk/run on the treadmill, and I'm not dead! Imagine that! It's the ultimate slacker epiphany!

I will not have another birthday where I sit around and idly celebrate while visions of unchecked "to do in life" items flash in my head. I will make an effort. I will be stronger in so many ways because I put in the work to get there. I will start that antique mirror collection that I've always wanted to have displayed in a cluster on my living room wall. I will make smarter choices with my money. I will remember that I am not the only person who has gone through whatever drama is going on in my life. Maybe I'll even rock a bikini on my 30th birthday. We'll see.

Update, Weds. morning 11:24 am: As it turns out, raisins are not the satisfying midday snack that I recall from my childhood. Dammit.

Monday, January 26, 2009
In those first years the road were peopled with refugees shrouded up in their clothing. Wearing masks and goggles, sitting in their rags by the side of the road like ruined aviators. THeir barrows heaped with shoddy. Towing wagons or carts. Their eyes bright in their skulls. Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland. The frailty of everything revealed at last. Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night. The last instance of a thing takes the class with it. Turns out the light and is gone. Look around you. Ever is a long time. But the boy knew what he knew. That ever is no time at all.

Giveaway Winners!
So I was telling some friends last night about the Envirosax giveaway, and it turned into a longer-than-expected discussion about design, plastics, floor-dragging logistics, masculinity, and small children crawling into bags. It's a long story, but I can tell you that if you say Envirosax repeatedly in a short span of time, it starts to sound vaguely dirty. Just a little tip from me to you.

That said, the winners of the big giveaway are KATE T and SARAH S! The Random Integer Generator spit out 4 and 5. I would give you the image of the results, but I don't know how on this iMac.

Kate gave me three options, of which I have chosen the "Retro 3" as seen here:

and Sarah chose "Botanica 5" which will, without a doubt, become her go-to bag in her nursing studies.

Now, down to business...
KT - I will bring it to you next time we hang out.
SS - I don't know you! Do I know you? Where should I send your lovely bag? Please contact me at parallelfirst_at_gmail_dot_com and give me your contact information, so that I can make sure you get your fabulous prize ASAP.

Congrats to the winners! Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry!

photos: www.envirosax.com

Giveaway: Time is Up!
Friday, January 23, 2009
Hey folks - time is officially UP on my very first giveaway ever. Thanks for playing - winners will be announced on Monday!

Deep Thoughts
Do you think it's necessarily a bad thing if I washed down my nightly vitamin D/calcium vitamin with Pinot Grigio?

I'm just asking.

If You're Not Really Here, Then I Don't Want to be Either
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Still thinking of Italy...when we were there this past August, the song "Black & Gold" by Sam Sparro was ALL OVER european MTV. In fact, this song will always remind me of having just arrived in Rome.

Catchy, no?

Also, The great giveaway ends tomorrow! Comment away!

...and Maybe Listen to some Cheap Trick on My iPod
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I love America, but for some reason - maybe snow, maybe the cold - I just can't stop wishing I could be somewhere else, perhaps somewhere that has sunshine, friendly people, a balmy breeze and curious, twisty streets in which to get all turned around. I want to aimlessly wander around and get lost somewhere today.

If you'll excuse me, I'll be watching this clip repeatedly (and others from our August vacation) and wishing I was in Venice.

Don't forget, lazy a**es - enter the Envirosax Giveaway! Deadline to enter is Friday.

NO, this will NOT Become a Product Review Blog - also, a Giveaway! Whee!
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I simply cannot hold it in any longer. I love my Envirosax. The purpose of this post is to tell you that you need to go out and get AT LEAST one of these fabulous bags.

It merits noting that the whole "carry your own bag" idea was popular in certain circles loooong before the Green Movement, and has been happening for decades, maybe centuries. I'm not going to pretend that I've uncovered some amazing, unknown way to respect the earth. What I AM going to preach about, however, is why I love this particular cloth bag. I have many cloth bags that I use - some I've made, some I've gotten from grocery stores (branded heavily of course), etc. - they sort of just find me and accumulate underneath my entryway console table. But the Envirosax are clearly different, and blow away all of the other bags I have. Here are three reasons why:

1. They collapse into a 2" X 4" roll. This means I can keep them in my larger handbag, and whip them out when I need them. You can't do that with a more substantial cloth bag, nor can you with the grocery-store branded, box-bottom handled bags. When tightly rolled, my Envirosax is barely larger than my cell phone.

2. They're fun to look at. The design is good - the handles are cut in a way that makes them comfortable on the shoulder. And the wildly graphic floral pattern (I have the print you see above - photo credit: Envirosax) not only stand out in my handbag so that I can find them quickly and easily, but also keeps any outside observer from being able to see what I have in my bag.

3. They hold a RIDICULOUS amount of stuff. It's almost comical - recently, Sean and I combined 6 bags of groceries (including produce and heavy bottles) into 2 Envirosax and do you know what? It meant we could bring it all up from the car at once! If you're like me, and you don't have a garage where you can neatly empty your trunk and carry your groceries into the house, you'll know how awesome this is. I repeat ALL YOUR GROCERIES INSIDE IN ONE TRIP. Need I say more?

I know this sounds like a completely stupid, completely obvious sales pitch. But it's the truth, and more importantly, it's my own unsolicited, preachy advice to you! I am nothing if not benevolently bossy.

Furthermore, I plan on PROVING IT TO YOU. That's right - it's my very first giveaway! I am giving away TWO Envirosax bags to TWO separate readers! Simply go to the Envirosax website and leave a comment on this post with your choice of pattern (update: any bag is fair game except those in the Organic Series). Do that by Friday, January 23rd, and you'll be entered to win your very own Envirosax bag! THAT, my friends, is how strongly I feel about this bag.

This giveaway is in no way affiliated with the Envirosax Company. I am doing this because I think it will be fun. Each winner will be sent one bag of their choosing. Winners will be chosen at random. Winners will be announced on Monday the 26th of January.

Ho Hum
Friday, January 16, 2009
I don't really have a great explanation for why my blog has been completely boring this week. I could blame it on the cold here, but then I'd be just another idiotic blogger talking about the subzero misery spree that is the Midwest.

I will say this, though - it is DAMN COLD here. I saw a man walking around with a baby carrot-sized snotsicle hanging from his nose. It was like the people exiting the CTA station were entering a work camp in Antarctica or something. Well, look there, now I'm talking about the cold. Consider the bandwagon jumped.

I feel grateful that my building is unlikely to have frozen or burst piping, and that I have a burrowing breed of a dog that keeps me warm at night. I have a fridge full of food, and a good job that I am not in jeopardy of losing anytime soon.

So let's just keep it at that for now, I suppose. If anyone needs me this weekend, I'll be busy washing all my scarves...I've used them to cover my face from the chill, and now they all stink of stale breath condensation. Yes GROSS but it's true.

Take care this weekend, and stay warm.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Like most women, I have a love/hate relationship with handbags. I love them, but hate how expensive they can get. I mean really - other than maybe being made of really beautiful leather, what is so special about any particular handbag? Is it lined with the skins of mythical elfin creatures? Are the fixtures encrusted with diamonds, or maybe unicorn hoof chips? I don't get it. Target has cute stuff that looks almost identical to things you can find at Macy*s, Neimans, Saks, and so on. It'll be made of something smelly and synthetic, like PVC, but you really can get the look for less. Really!

That said, I spend a fair chunk of my down time window shopping online. I like to keep up on what is stylish, and I may or may not visit this bag that I've been drooling over in the store on occasion. I've been dreaming lately about the perfect hobo (I don't have a hobo in my stable) so you can imagine how I swooned and fell hard when I saw this AMAZING Chloe bag featured on Bag Snob.

But reality is exactly that, and I know that while it may be just fine for some people to spend $500-2000 on a purse, I could never do it. Unless I win the lottery, or someday can completely squander part of my yearly bonus without remorse. (also? that will never happen. oh well) It just doesn't make any sense at this point in my life. But that doesn't mean a girl can't dream, right? Everyone has *something* they dream about having someday...

Tuesday Randomness
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I was jamming to my iPod on Shuffle the other day, and a song came through the speakers straight from 2001 - it was from this album, which I still love today and suddenly I was curious. Whatever happened to Nina Gordon anyway?

Turns out, she recorded some more and had a baby in 2006 with Tonic's lead singer Jeff Russo who was one of my deepest, most heartfelt crushes in college. I went through a serious Tonic phase - so did Nina Gordon, it would seem.

Anyway, if you've ever wondered what became of the face and voice of Veruca Salt, you can find out here.

Reason #438 Why I Love this City
Monday, January 12, 2009
One man, dressed in a tuxedo from the waist up, wore black-and-white boxers and patent-leather shoes as he chatted up a pretty female participant wearing panties with red hearts.

The line at the end of the article is completely amusing. Enjoy!

Rock Yourself to Sleep: Single V. Married
Friday, January 09, 2009
Here's a dilemma for you - please allow me a moment to paint the picture so that your contextual knowledge of the dilemma in question is complete. So there I was - Thursday night. Black sweatpants, company tee, grey old man belted, cable cardigan, and run-down slippers. Hair in half-assed ponytail. 2 glasses of red wine consumed. Dog asleep on bed.

It's your classic single woman conundrum, really. The song "How Long" by the Eagles started playing (I had my iTunes playing on shuffle while I did some work at my desk) and I decided to take an upbeat lap around the condo dancing. I may, or may not, have done the monkey. Whatever. The point is this:

If I were married, would this be one of those moments where my husband jumps up from watching the end of the football game and starts dancing around with me like an idiot...or is this one of those moments where it's better to be single? Because my dance skills, in a technical sense, aren't bad. But my dance SKILLZ, in a casual sense, are...umm...quirky.

You tell me - should I be glad that I was alone and, therefore, free of spousal ridicule? Either way, it was fun. SINGLE FTW!

From Soup to Nuts
Thursday, January 08, 2009
From the moment I unwrapped my green dutch oven on Christmas morning, I knew there would be many soups in my immediate future. Up until then, I was always bummed to see an awesome soup recipe in a magazine, or the newspaper, because I knew I really couldn't make it the way IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MADE in a non-stick pasta pot. (local headline: Unnecessary and Categorical Perfectionism and OCD Tendencies Thwart Local Woman's Attempt to Follow Appealing Recipes) I just had this feeling that while you can fake cooking something easy, like pasta, in anything that can hold boiling water, you can't mess around with soup. The soup will know, and it will teach you a lesson.

Put simply in blogging terms: NO DUTCH OVEN = FAIL

So you can imagine how anxious I became when I got my January issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. It was full of delicious, cozy soups perfect for the winter weather. All of a sudden, there is was - a light version of Italian Wedding Soup and it was done. I knew it had to be the first soup I ever made - you know, now that I was fully equipped.

A couple days later, I made the soup (ironically at full suggested serving size, which was far too large for my beloved dutch oven) and lo, it was incredibly delicious. I cannot recommend it enough! The turkeyballs were perfectly flavored - full of parmesan cheese, which made them lighter and smoother...there was a ton of flavor, and a full bowl was as satisfying to me as a full plate of pot roast. Only healthier. For those of you that don't subscribe, I scanned my tearsheet of the recipe for you to view below. (ignore my nerdy notes to myself, i do it with every recipe I cook)

I can't figure out how to rotate the damn picture - click to enlarge, and my apologies for the crick in your neck.

So the lesson is this: I am clearly insane for thinking a regular old pot wouldn't make great soup. Also? Stop reading my blog and make this recipe immediately!

Hot Mess: A Working List
(Alternate Title: At Least my Closets are Clean)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Current Contents of my Dining Room Table
2 white bath rugs, nubby
2 white bath towels, clean
2 white picture frames
1 slate, 12X12" floor tile
1 birthday gift, wrapped
2 white hand towels, new
4,598 smudges (never get a glass top table)

Current Contents of my TV/Coffee Table
4 novels, one of which is almost finished
3 back issues of Time
1 Air Team Emissions Test mailing
2 random coffee table books
1 KitchenAid Food Processor Manual
5 old copies of Discover Magazine
2 hair clips, claw style
1 issue of Inc. Magazine
8 issues of Popular Mechanics
2 issues of Chicago Magazine
1 copy of this month's Midwest Living magazine
1 copy of December's In Style
1 box of matches from the dollar store
1 Philosophy candle
1 catalog of beautiful things
45 pieces of errant dog hair

Current Contents of my Kitchen Counters
1 coffeemaker
1 jar of dog treats
1 bottle of ibuprofen
1 set of salt/pepper
1 George Foreman grill
300 grease splatters from last weekend's cooking binge
1 food processor
3 cookbooks, raggedy
1 cutting board
1 utensil jar, stuffed to the gills
1 paper towel dispenser
1 blue sponge
1 plastic cup
1 jar of Flintstones jelly vitamins
1 bottle of Brewer's Yeast Canine Supplements
2 forks, used and dirty

Current Contents of My Brain
...umm, what? huh?

Real - As in, I'm Keeping It...
Sunday, January 04, 2009
The turn of a new year signals many things to many people - time to lose weight, time to make a bunch of goals that may or may not ever be accomplished, time to rearrange furniture, infinitum ad nauseam. For me, the new year brings pressure - in the form of those TOTALLY ANNOYING commercials that start airing at 12:02 am on January 1st...this year, I particularly hate the Walmart commercials intertwining cost savings and a brand spotlight - you know, the ones where some smarmy woman (who is, by the way, already thin enough) informs us all of how she's going to "manage her weight" this year? Yeah, THAT ONE. While we're at it, why don't I just punch myself in the face?

But I digress.

This time of year, I start feeling the pressure of many small things. Putting Christmas gifts away (or working the use of said gifts into a daily routine). Writing thank you notes. Organizing. That last one is especially pressing on me this year, as another round of incredibly generous gift-giving has come and gone and yet I still reside in the same, 830 sq. foot condo. So for 2009, my big battle will be space.

In order to truly respect my space, and the belongings in it, I'm going to take a page from the school of minimalism. Less stuff, more reality. I plan to be aware, more than ever before, of what I'm bringing in to my "world," what I'm consuming, and more importantly, what I possess that I don't use/appreciate/need. All of this starts, of course, with a total closet overhaul. I decided to rid myself of those irritating wire and plastic hangers, and begin using wooden hangers instead. (Santa brought me some for Christmas, upon my request, and I was thrilled to get two boxes. Yet another sign that I am getting old. Moving on.)

Here we have the partially pared-down closet - I need another box of hangers, it would seem:

Along with this closet spiffy-upping, I've decided to keep it real with my clothes. In the past 6-12 months, I've seriously let myself go in the personal presentation department. I'm lucky if I can remember my watch most mornings, let alone put together some combination of adequate work wear. Sometimes I look down at myself in the mornings, sitting innocently in my cube, and wonder what people think of me. Because let's face it - people are critical, and whether I like it or not, my clothes speak volumes about the amount of energy I've been devoting to myself. Which is just about NONE.

In keeping with these renovations, I took everything from my closet that doesn't fit. When I rotated my winter clothes into my closet this past fall, I deliberately added all the clothing that I love - my skinny jeans, and a range of work pants that are one size down. I thought it would motivate me. Since then, I've lost a couple pounds, gained a couple pounds, and all that time felt completely burdened by the clothing. I felt guilty because it didn't fit, and I never wore it - it just hung there, taking up room, mocking me.

Before you go thinking "what a whiny, self-indulgent bitch," take a gander at what I pulled for safekeeping in some other place:

Yeah. That picture doesn't include the 4(!) pairs of jeans that I found five minutes later and added to the cart. It's not rocket science - I'll just keep the clothes in storage, and when I get down a size, I'll proudly unpack that box and put everything on all at once. Just kidding.

But until then, I've give denial the heave-ho and gotten back to basics...how's that for reality?