cat woman

Monday, March 26, 2012

Yup, we've arrived at that point. The point where the blogs become about cats. Bear with me, friends.

A lot of single girls my age, including myself, like to joke about becoming old, weird cat ladies because Mr. Right never comes along. I can't deny that at a point in college, this was probably me:

In any case, I always thought if I did end up like these theoretical cat women, I'd be more of a cat-dog combo weird lady. I never got people who had to choose if they identified as a "cat" or "dog" person because I love both (and have clearly dedicated too much time to this thread of a thought). Cats are weird and therefore hilarious, independent, slightly evil. Dogs do really dumb things, are affectionate to the point of making you feel like the coolest person in the world, like to roll in smelly things. Both, in a word, adorable. I have both, and I love both endlessly.

Sweet Winnie and the love of my life, Buster. Just try and not fall in love with these dummies.

If you could put in doggie terms that they were featured on a blog somewhere in the Internet universe, they would probably die from happiness. So dogs are.

Or perhaps this would be the reaction.

Nitty. Really small, really mean - if you are a bird/mouse/insect/general living organism.

But I think the universe is out to make me a dreaded cat lady, because every time I pass a certain house on my street, the two resident cats awaken, stretch, and do a super cute maneuver through the fence to come say hello. It's really cute, because I heard/read/made up some fact somewhere that as long as cats can fit their head through a space, the rest of their body will go too - which sounds obvious, but it has something to do with their weird skeleton that makes their head fit anywhere. My point being they pop their heads through the gates like it's the most natural thing in the world, to squeeze your skull through a very narrow fence. Insert trite childbirth joke here.

I'm assuming the cats are the only tenants because I've never seen their owners. They probably do things like read the paper, work a 9-5, drink an occasional glass of red wine, all while being sneaky and pretending to be human. The usual.

I must have been contemplating my plight as a single girl, because as soon as I walked by the first time these cats materialized, rolling around on their backs and purring, pawing for attention and swishing their tails. I mean there were practically little hearts dotting the air around them. Perhaps I've discovered Cat Woman's real superpower?

HOW CUTE ARE WE. And yes, I seem to have no qualms about stopping my life and playing with a stranger's cats outside their front yard. And taking pictures. And contemplating stealing them for my own.

Anyway. In case you've gotten this far, and are curious, there was no real point to this post. I just wanted to share pictures of cute animals. And perhaps convince you that I am becoming slightly deranged.

But, here's a few small things that I have been up to lately, in this sort-of calm before the storm that is graduate school. Which, incidentally, begins tomorrow! I cannot wait, and have already been gushing (yes, gushing) over the syllabus and assignments my professor sent me for one of my classes. Well, I was excited until I was horrified. But, I am dedicating a post to graduate school for later in the week!

So, what I've been up to: saw The Hunger Games midnight premiere with my roommate, loved every minute of it. Finally bought curtains to block out the really bright streetlight outside. Got a much needed hair cut. Met a potential friend, he gave me his # to get together on the weekend because I told him how I was new to the city and didn't know anyone. Asked to hang out, he blew me off. Rejection, I blew it off. Read a bit, wrote a lot. Spent a lot of footsteps walking new places. Running on now familiar streets. Felt homesick and lonely, cured it with Skype and lots of phone time, realized it's just a temporary feeling. Impatience. Lost time in bookstores, libraries.

Harold T. Washington Library, in the Loop. Really cool place. I feel very sad and conflicted about all the homeless people around, and who frequent the inside because it's a  public place. The anger, the hollow feeling is not directed toward them.

I bought really pretty purple tulips at the grocery store. Fresh flowers=happiness.

More spring loveliness from the area.

Oh, and I bought a really cute dress from Urban Outfitters. I meant to wear it for church this morning, but in typical me-fashion I overslept. Ugh.

And there you have it, a quick update, but mostly thoughts on cats. :D Until next time!

i'm shippin' up to boston

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Just kidding! That's a song by the Dropkick Murphy's, also from the movie The Departed, but mostly one of several anthems for St. Patrick's Day. That, and Kiss Me I'm ****faced by Flogging Molly, another band that was on repeat all day. Anyway! So, St. Patrick's Day was this past weekend, and Chicago goes all out. Or, at least, all the 20-somethings of Chicago go all out.

My roommate and I, waiting for the parade!

My roommate and I woke up Saturday morning and got all decked out in green to go see the city parade and also bar hop all day in celebration. There may have been drinks had before 11 AM...or maybe not.

 You can't see like I did, but my landlord is in there somewhere, leading the parade!

 This is a large green pope. Maybe.

 Little Irish dancers! Gotta love that hair. They were precious!

Why yes, I did wear my boots!

I know I didn't get the best pictures, but the parade also wasn't anything to write home about. It was still really nice, because EVERYONE was out (someone said 500,000 people? But who knows...) and decked out in green. People were climbing trees, there were lots of families and children out, everyone chatting - just a very community atmosphere. 

As far as the pubs, they were of course a nightmare. Particularly downtown, where we decided to go, there was just a mass of people and about 95% of them were really drunk. The part that was a nightmare was that everywhere was a LONG wait - I'm talking, half an hour. To get into a bar. Ugh. We did manage to get some pub food at one little place and easily scarfed it down. It was a really beautiful day, but it was definitely hot with the sunshine.

Oh, and unfortunately we missed the dyeing of the river. For forty years the city has been dyeing the Chicago River a bright green on St. Patrick's Day, but I guess I missed it this year. Here's a picture anyway!

All in all, it was a fun day despite what felt like waiting forever and being really crowded everywhere. So what else have I been up to the past few days?

I finally got my hair cut! You probably couldn't tell, but my hair was just getting long and gross and in desperate need of a trim. I decided to take off around 4-5 inches and add some layers, just because it was pretty shapeless and just kind of hanging there. My hair only goes a little past that picture above. My ends were really dry too, but that happens when you don't get a haircut for almost a year. Maybe next time I'll cut it short? I keep saying that...

I've also found a really nice local park with a fun coffee shop nearby. The park has a baseball sandlot and playground for kids, but mostly it's comprised of a large green space where people mill about and lounge. It's not a dog park, but a lot of people bring their dogs to play and run free! I was playing with a few cute dogs earlier today, in fact.

So, I have been going here to do the following...lay out, read, write, listen to music, and just relax in my own little world. A lot of people gather here and it was a really nice neighborhood feel. You can expect to see people exercising, families playing catch, couples lounging, people reading, suntanners. Today I saw a girl doing interpretative dance with a silver hula hoop, which was interesting. The other day a lady brought her dog and a bottle of bubbles, and for every one she blew the dog would chase and pop them with a snap of his jaws. I'm telling you, all these adorable dogs being happy and playing and doing precious things seriously makes me miss my dog. Today I almost stole a French bulldog...

I've gone to this park now twice, both on seriously beautiful days. Spring has definitely sprung! It's been cool yet warm with a perfect blue sky (or, at least what I can see of it here!) and lots of sunshine. I was in heaven earlier today on my walk to the park, because the breeze was just blowing so nicely and I could smell so many wonderful floral scents. Everything was in bloom and green, and it was beautiful.

Here are some late afternoon shots from just around the neighborhood, but this is just a sample of all that's out there! So, so pretty.

 All these tree buds are even greener in person! They don't even look real.

And, like I said, the smells are heavenly. My mom would just love it around here. I've been taking full advantage of the glorious weather not only by going outside, but also by running around the neighborhood. I really just never want to go inside.

food and art

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Someone's been slacking! Forgive me, then, for a few posts in a row tonight. I'm going to make myself a schedule or at the very least, try and space out my posts so that I keep updating throughout the week rather than churning out a bunch all at once. So.

What have I been up to? Don't worry, you haven't missed too much. This past week at least has not been very picture-worthy, as I've been spending a lot of time outdoors getting sunshine, taking walks, lounging in parks, running, things like that. I realized that while there is certainly a lot to do and see in this big city, I don't have to do it all at once, and I needed a few days to not only take care of some school things, but relax and get a feel for things, clear my head a bit. Not to mention, a lot of the touristy things I want to do cost $$ and I've been playing it by ear, waiting for the free days or less-crowded times (it is spring break and summer is fast approaching).

But, I have definitely been out and about! Let's rewind to a fun little story from last week...I was running errands one day and needed to go to the grocery store. I went to this multi-story place which had a Trader Joe's in it, which was the best in terms of price and location to my house. I'm in the phase of transitioning from jamming my little car CHOCK full of groceries at H-E-B, to making quick stops at the store at least twice a week to pick up a bag full of groceries. This new way certainly takes a little more planning, but I'm finding it is more economical and healthy for me. It also keeps me sort of responsible, because in college sometimes I would go a whole month without buying actual groceries. Oh, the days when pizza was the meal of choice each meal of the day for a week.

Anyway! So I was at this grocery store, and looking around for certain items, when I realized I was not in Trader Joe's quite yet. Why they have multiple grocery stores in the same building, I don't know. I left the weird version and found the right place, which was naturally very crowded in contrast. As I was minding my own business, trying to dart in between people to snag the right foods, a middle-aged guy suddenly popped up in front of me and started speaking to me.

Distracted, I said, "What?" and he proceeded to launch into a tale of how he had seen me downstairs looking at the asparagus (I hadn't been-there wasn't any asparagus downstairs as I recall). His remarks confused me so I just kind of laughed in agreement and went on my way.

Well, I saw him in the checkout line, and he smiled at me. And not a nice smile, if that makes sense. This was one of those, hairs-on-the-back-of-you-neck, creep smiles. I was getting the worst vibe from this man. I sort of hung back so he would be gone by the time I finished checking out, but as I was watching him out of the corner of my eye, I noticed he kept looking back at me and had stopped right outside the door, waiting. I resolved myself to walk straight on by and ignore the guy, but as soon as I passed him he made some comment about asparagus again, and started to follow me.

I was walking as fast as I could toward the exit, which was either an elevator that I would have to stop and wait for, or the empty stairwell. At the moment I didn't think to just stay in the store, or tell one of the cashiers or something, I was just trying to get the hell away from this guy. I opted for the stairwell and practically ran down it as fast as I could, groceries and purse and arm, this dude RIGHT behind me. I made it out onto the street, where there were people here and there, but I didn't take my chances - thank God there were two cabs nearby and I got in the second as fast as I could. One last look behind me and I couldn't see the guy anywhere, but as soon as the cab sped off I felt SO relieved.

I don't know if that guy was just weird, or what he was all about, but I'm just thanking my lucky stars that I didn't find out and was able to get away from that place as fast as possible. But seriously...what was his problem? Why did he follow me? I just wish he'd left me alone. I was just buying groceries for goodness sake! I was shaken up for a few days, but I guess I've learned a valuable lesson.

Happy timing, then, that I received this little baby in the mail the following day. My dear older bro is looking out for me, I tell you!!

Yes, it is really cute and pink. Who knew mace could be adorable? It's also really easy to use. I tested it out on my roommate. I feel a lot better now that I have this on my keychain, let's just hope I never have to use it! Oh, and just kidding about my roommate...I tested it on the mailman ;).

Thursday (3/15) it was sunny and warm, feeling a lot like an early Texas spring. To match my giddiness at the beautiful bright weather, I decided to throw on a fun outfit - floral blazer I got for dirt cheap at Primark, Forever 21 dress plus a woven belt, boots and a crossbody bag from Miss Selfridge. 

Too bad after walking outside for about five minutes, I turned around, went back to my house, and changed into a t-shirt and shorts. It was a little too warm for being cute and I had too far to walk, so.  Yup.

Famous sign, from - you guessed it - the Chicago Theatre. Hopefully I go here sometime!

I decided to spend my afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago. You may have seen these kittens before.

Southern lion.

As you can imagine, the Art Institute was amazing. I feel so fortunate that I've been to some of the world's best museums (Smithsonian, Holocaust, British, Louvre, National Gallery) but one thing I've learned is to not take pictures of everything. I've definitely made that mistake before!! It always seems like a good idea at the time, but museums are obviously one of those things you have to see in person because pictures (and certainly not my pictures) can't do it justice. And if you're just taking pictures of everything, it takes away the enjoyment and appreciation aspect. 

I took just a few shots, though.

American Gothic by Grant Wood.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

The Bedroom by van Gogh. Okay, this isn't the real thing, but the Art Institute does have the real one! This is a bad knockoff the previous tenant left up in the hallway. You get the idea.

Here are a few more (taken from Google images) that I saw, just to give you an idea of the fabulous art the Institute houses.

Woman Descending the Staircase, Gerhard Richter.

Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat

The Old Guitarist by Picasso.

El Greco's Assumption of the Virgin.

Venus de Milo with Drawers, Dali.

Okay, now, onto food. Because I can. And I will. And because I've been comforting myself with delicious food lately like a morbidly obese person with emotional attachment issues. Wait, what?

Give me a month and this will be me.

Moving to a new city means not only accessibility to great restaurants and such, but new availability of grocery stores. So far I've been hitting up a place called Dominick's for things I need in a rush, and Trader Joe's for planned out trips. 

I'd heard of Trader Joe's before, and knew it was similar to Whole Foods in terms of granola-y-ness. Organic, green, free trade, etc. Not that that stuff isn't great, but c'mon, I'm an H-E-B girl! Have been my whole life. Anyway, it's been fun to buy groceries (really? Fun and groceries in the same sentence...) at a new shop, and to try out new things. Such as chocolate, one of many necessities including milk, bread, eggs...

On the left is heaven in bar form. I'm not kidding, the next time I go, I'm going to stockpile this goodness. I love the combination of sweet and salty - I'm someone who indulges in milkshake and French fries or tortilla chips and chocolate covered bananas. Uh, yeah. 

What my Friday nights look like.

Okay but seriously, the combination of dark chocolate (my fave, and good for you in moderation), caramel, and sea salt is to die for. Way to go, Trader Joe's, way to go. The dark chocolate truffle was pretty good too, but not as memorable as the other. 

Back to the day I checked out the Art Institute - as soon as I got home, I knew I was too tired to cook up anything so I decided to order in. I went with a trendy place in Lakeview called Real Kitchen. From their blurb on their website:

"The three chefs behind the stoves and ovens at Real Kitchen hail from some of the finest restaurants in the world. After spending years creating ‘art on a plate’ for privileged diners, they decided to go back to their roots and begin cooking the real food that real people eat every day. Executive chef, Nick Schmuck (Charlie Trotter’s), sous-chef Shannon Dudas (North Pond), Andy Kim (Takashi), and Cody Brewer are passionate about creating the most delicious “home cooking” you’ll ever eat."

So, a really great collaboration from some great chefs - if I'm correct two of those restaurants are even Michelin starred. The menu is very fresh and it changes every day, and their baked goods are apparently just as delicious. Their delivery was really fast and shorter than their already short ETA for Chicago - 45 min to an hour, and I swear it was here in twenty. Oh, and it's really affordable. And hey, they even replied to me on Twitter. 

Salad of blood orange, fennel, almonds, and Parmesan. Really really tasty!!

Introducing food of the gods. I don't know if it was because I was seriously hungry after a long day that involved a big workout as well, but I couldn't eat this giant sandwich fast enough. This is one of their more popular items, the BBQ pork belly sandwich with sweet potato chips and coleslaw as toppings. Not to mention copious amounts of some insane sauce. This was melt-in-your-mouth, perfect combination of fatty-flavor, crunchy texture, and just a hint of sweetness from the potatoes.

And lastly, a homemade apple fritter that tasted like something I'd eat in Texas or Mississippi, made by someone with love. Delicious.

Alright, until next time! Promise I'm working on making posts shorter! 

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