Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Fabulous Weekend in Chi-Town!

Okay, so I'm really not cool enough to pull off that title.

Whatever. I spent a few days in Chicago. Here are some pictures of beds and bathrooms and food and stuff.

Moving along... when I got to my friend's house (more than a friend, really. We've known each other for twenty or so years. Just typing that makes me feel like whipping out the Geritol, but I digress.) I was greeted by this lovely sight:

Her husband, Tom. He is a tall, hot guy. And will tell you so. Repeatedly. And, lest you forget, will remind you, OFTEN.

Truth be told, he wasn't relaxing carelessly on the couch. He was hovering by the door as Amy took me on the grand tour of their new house. Hovering, and whining, about starving. To death.

So we went downstairs and across the street, and had this:
Ooooooooh, but I cannot look at that picture. Yummy cravings begin to overtake me, so I'll just think about the barf on a plate they made me try.
You have probably guessed that I wasn't crazy about it.

Okay, so it wasn't actually barf on a plate.

It was barf on a salad. I believe the name on the menu was Spicy Tuna Salad, but since it had the texture, consistency, and color of my childrens' barf, I took the liberty of renaming it. I don't think the restaurant will be officially changing it on the menu any time soon. Although, I will say, the taste was NOTHING like barf. Since I couldn't get past the other descriptors enough to really enjoy it, Tom finished it. But he's a tall, hot guy, and can get away with finishing his own and someone else's food.
I was not enthusiastic about trying sushi for the first time. Not at all. But I was in a big ol' city for a short time, and thought I'd wring every new opportunity I could from my time there.

And wring I did.

I must say, I was wr---

I mean, I was wro----

Ahem. I was wrong about sushi. (shudder)

It's my new best friend. That first night, I made sure none of those poor, lonely rolls were left behind. I took one for the team, and stuffed every last bite (even the raw stuff! YUM!) into my gaping maw and died a thousand happy deaths! I vowed not to get on the plane before coming back and doing it again.
Now back to the tour...
Here's the bathroom I got to beautify myself in.

Each morning! Fascinating, I know.
Here's the living and dining room wall!

This is the kitchen!! Do you feel like you were there??? Don't you wish you were me??? Seriously, though, Tom and Amy cooked breakfast every morning... and I could have done a lot worse. They really know how to show a person a good time, and make a guest feel welcome. They're pretty good at doing breakfast up right, too.

And, moving along...

Here's the hallway! Those blue-frosted glass doors on the right were so beautiful. There were more to the left of the picture, closing off the laundry room. They were so sleek and frosty and cool and blue, I almost tried to slip one inside my luggage.

But that would have just been wrong, so I didn't.

Here's my bed!

Oh. Wait.
Here's my bed!

Open...
Closed...

Open...

Closed...

Open... nevermind.

You get it. I was so excited to sleep on a Murphy bed! It was the coolest thing, and even had a touch button on the headboard that turned on (reeeeeeeeeeally dim, then brighter, then brightest) reading lights over the bed. I liked that they went on from dim to bright, so if you goofed in the middle of the night, you wouldn't blind yourself.
But maybe that's just me.

Amy has a cool sense of style. I'm loving orange right now, so I freaked over the orange wall and all the orange furniture and accents. Loved. It. All.

I also love that the cement ceilings and ductwork are exposed. It was a really open, airy space and full of style.

Unlike my space, which is full of toys. And diapers. Some of which are clean.

Moving on.

My first day there, we got up bright and early around ten and started about eleventy billion stories over breakfast (very few that were actually ever finished!) and lazed around while we got ready for the day.
Rob Blagodejevich Rod Blagojevich (yes, I had to Google the spelling; don't act like you knew how to spell it) was supposed to go to trial that day, so we were going to hop on over to the courthouse to point and laugh see history, but the trial was postponed. I was a little perturbed that my pointing and laughing seeing of all the history was thwarted, but I stomped my foot a little and quickly got over it.
While I was throwing my fit, Amy scored some really great seats at the Cubs vs. Pirates game that afternoon, so we walked (yes, walked!) to Wrigley Field.

She told me that most of the tickets are sold before they're even "available" to the public. They're mostly season tickets that scalpers "legitimate organizations" then sell at ridiculously marked-up prices. I was a little disappointed. I was hoping some sleazy guy in a trench coat would whisper, "Hey! Lady! Want a ticket to the game?"

But I didn't want to pay the ridiculously marked-up price, so I was thankful she was able to get her hands on some great tickets at a great price.
Because tickets are rare, businesses around Wrigley Field have built bleachers on top of their roofs. Amy said a lot of restaurants will sell a ticket to their rooftop viewing of the game, and patrons also get all they can eat and drink while they watch the game. You can see some of those bleachers above the ivy-covered wall of right field.
I just missed the hand coming out of the window to change the score on the scoreboard! I thought that was pretty cool. Most scoreboards are digital, but you can see the little guy waiting in one of those windows.
Neither one of us are into baseball, so I have no idea who any of these people are. We pretty much went to enjoy a game in one of America's oldest ballparks, and eat hot dogs and nachos and peanuts.
That's Ramirez. He just hit the ball with his bat. And that's the extent of my baseball knowlege. I hope I did not confuse you, what with all the technical sporty jargon and such.
Wait! I spoke too soon! Here's another guy. He plays for the Cubs. He just pitched a ball to somebody who plays for the Pirates, in the hopes that they will not actually hit the ball. Or in the hopes that one of his teammates might catch the ball that the batter hits.
And I thought I didn't know much about baseball!

We left the game at the bottom of the sixth inning (like I have a clue what that means; it's just that it's written on the Wrigley Field sign I'm standing in front of up there), and jumped on the L train to take us to our next destination: a walking pizza tour of Chicago!
We started at one of the oldest pizzerias in the city, ate some pizza there, and then walked to the next pizzeria to try another type of pizza. I think the first place was Pizzeria Uno. It was really different, with a cornmeal-type crust and the sauce topped the pizza. It was okay.
See those two girls just above, and to the right, of Amy's head? They were a treasure and a dee-light, let me tell you. They were quite hungry, and not at all patient about getting their first slice of pizza, and apparently the crowd of strangers, also waiting (albeit patiently) for a slice of pizza, didn't deter them from being snotty during the entire tour.
My hands-down favorite was Giordano's. They have a thin crust, some cheese (cheese makes everything better, no?) another crust, then the cheese, toppings and sauce. It was absolutely out of this world.
I believe I ate Gino's East pizza the last time I was there, so I can now be considered a Chicago Pizza Authority, and will be putting the letters, "CPA" after my name. BOW BEFORE MY PIZZA EXPERTISE!!!

Somewhere along the tour, we passed by a building (ESPN store, maybe?) that had concrete handprints of Chicago athletes embedded in the bricks. Michael Jordan's, Sammy Sosa's, and Dick Butkus's
(Butkus's. Heh-heh. I wrote "Butkus's.")
prints were inside, so we went in to see how our hands measured up to theirs. It was only after I put my hands inside the prints of Michael Jordan's that I realized how grodily disgustingly dirty they were. I really felt like I needed some hand sanitizer, since, you know, I was on a pizza tour, but I'd left all my mom-erabilia at home. Ew. Grody. Nasty. Puke.
The second we shoved the last bite of pizza in our mouths, we jumped in a cab and went to see Blue Man Group.
I have no pictures of this, but take my word for it, the show RAWKED!!!
As we walked up to the theater, a man (not in a trench coat) asked if we wanted a FREE ticket. THE NERVE. How DARE he offer us a FREE TICKET. I mean, WHAT IN TARNATION was he REALLY after???
Turns out, he ordered five tickets, but only three of his friends showed up.

So we took the ticket, and only had to buy one. Lucky for us, the ticket we bought just happened to be the seat in front of the ticket we were given! That kind of stuff seems to happen to us when Amy and I are together. So nice, these blessings!
So.
Blue Man Group.
They were not at all what I expected. I don't have a clue what, exactly, I expected, but that was not it. It was loud, messy, hilarious, bold, industrial, hilarious, unnerving, fast-paced and hilarious.
After we got home, Tom and I tore up "Margaritaville" and made a little ear-candy in the form of "Don't Speak" on Rock Band while Amy was checking e-mails and such. Unfortunately for all of you, I have no photographic nor audible proof of our bodacity. But trust me, it was the stuff of legends.

There was evening and there was morning, and that was the first day. A very busy first day.

The second day, we were exhausted from all the running around, so we rolled out of bed late (again) and walked up and down Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. The Magnificent Mile.
Set up in front of the Art Institute of Chicago was this funny little tricycle-thingy. It was a moving puppet show. Inside this little box was a (human? I'm guessing.) person doing a, you know, puppet show. With music and everything. I guess it's not as fascinating as I originally thought. Not sure why I got so many pictures of it, but anyway. It was a, you know, puppet show.

After all the walking, we were a little hungry, so we went to a Thai place. I'd never had Thai food before, and wanted to try it. We got these. They're fresh-squeezed ginger ale. Mine's plain; Amy's has pomegranate in it. They were both delicious and refreshing and crisp and wonderful and delicious.
This was chicken pad thai, and we devoured it. As in, GONE. As in, I would have licked the plate, had I been home alone.

Oh, I kid!

Or not.

And these? These little potstickers? These joined their little chicken pad thai friends... IN MA BELL-EH!

After we had sufficiently stuffed ourselves delirious, we went to the Oriental Theater (where I had the exquisite pleasure of seeing "Wicked" during my last Chicago trip) to see "Billy Elliott," hailed, by Time Magazine, as "the best musical of the decade!"
It sooooooo was NOT!

'Course, that might have had something to do with staying up super late talking, and then stuffing ourselves with food immediately before entering the theater. I was nodding off the whole time. I will say this: the little boy? Billy Elliott? Could SANG, y'all.

Not as good as me, of course, but good enough to get him to Broadway in Chicago. Which I guess is saying something.

At some point, we went to find the site of the former "Cake Girls" building. You may have seen them (sisters Brenda and Mary Maher) compete on the Food Network a time or 80. And win.
They win often.
Unfortunately, their building was destroyed in a fire a couple months ago. Not to be deterred, I pressed on, eager to at least see the (in my mind) smoke-damaged building. This is what we found:

So sad. We actually drove right by it. It was utterly and competely destroyed. I really feel for them.
After the rather deflating trip to Cake Girls, we consoled ourselves with more of this. It's a good thing the restaurant was right across the street, because, again, I took it upon myself to let no sushi roll go to waste. I couldn't have walked very far to get home.
And there was evening and there was morning, and that was the second day.
Right before leaving for the airport on Sunday, Amy caved to my constant begging decided to take me on a ride on her Vespa scooter. It was a gift from her husband a couple years ago.

My plan was for her to drive to Navy Pier so I could dip my toes in Lake Michigan. Except that I was neither honest with her, nor myself, that motorcycles absolutely terrify me.

I guess that extends to motor scooter, too, since we topped out at maybe 20 miles an hour, and got two blocks, before I had a nervous breakdown asked her to pretty-please take me home.

Where she was trusting enough to let me drive it.

Until I almost crashed it into the wall.

But hey, that's what insurance is for, right?

This is me going maybe 10 miles an hour, and getting up the courage to (really fast!) give her thumbs up.

The trip to the airport was a trip in itself, and since I've already made your retinas bleed, what with all the bajillion pictures and quality writing and such, I'll save that for next month's post.

You're welcome.

Tracyecakes, CPA

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm Leaving On a Jet Plane...

To CHICAGO!!!

It's a mother's day gift from my family. Obviously they love me so much, they want to get rid of me! ;)

One of my lifelong friends lives there. We've been friends since junior high. I haven't seen her since Cullen turned one... two years ago!

So I'm pretty excited, to say the least.

There is so much to do, I really don't even know where to begin.

But honestly, she's the kind of friend that we could do anything or nothing at all, and still have the time of our lives. When she lived two hours from me, I'd visit her every now and then. We'd go eat lunch and then just sit in her living room talking and laughing for hours.

Now I have to pack. I've been procrastinating. Probably because I have to do laundry in order to finish!

But the twins will keep me company.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Squeamish May Not Want to Read This One

When I was a sophomore in high school, I played basketball.

Actually, I played basketball all four years.

Trying again, when I was a sophomore, my school's team went to the national tournament in Tennessee. We're in south Texas. It was a road trip.

A long road trip.

At the time, I lived in a small town 30 miles from my school, so to make it to the school in time for the 5:00 am departure, I had to wake up super early.

Like, 3:30 am, early.

I wasn't really hungry, but didn't know whether or not we'd be stopping for food, so I stopped at a gas station and tried to find something palatable. It was a valiant attempt to ward off LBSCBDO*. Unfortunately, I was sleep-deprived and quite groggy. I saw orange juice and twinkies and thought I was making a safe choice.

After we were back on the road, I opened the juice and took a drink.

Something was definitely wrong. That was NOT orange juice.

I turned on the car light and read the bottle, only to discover the words, "strawberry, guava, and pineapple" next to the words "orange juice."

Not at all what I was expecting.

So I unwrapped the twinkie, took a bite, and just about gagged. I flipped on the car light again; I was holding a strawberry-filled twinkie. I didn't even know they made strawberry-filled twinkies.

These were clearly not safe gastrointestinal choices.

But I was hungry, LBSCBDO was a distinct possibility, and I had no idea when I would next eat.

So I bravely fought through the gag reflex, and ate that strawberry-filled twinkie and drank that orange pineapple strawberry guava mess.

We got to the school, I loaded up with the rest of the team, and we set off for Tennessee.

Like all the other girls, I giggled and laughed and joked the first few hours of the trip, but then the euphoria wore off and we all crashed.

Somewhere outside of Baton Rouge, it happened.

I felt a little discomfort. A little rumbling discomfort. I began sweating and freezing and feeling clammy all at the same time. My salivary glands were in hyperdrive.

It was coming. It was only a matter of when.

Suddenly, it was time. I sat straight up in my seat, grabbed the knee of my friend and teammate, and choked out, "I'm gonna throw up."

She yelled at the driver to pull over, and he did, right on the side of the highway.

I opened the door, and all that strawberry twinkie and pineapple orange guava strawberry juice came back with a vengeance. I sold the Buick while we were going down the road. It was literally the technicolor yawn, since the driver never stopped. I was leaving a twinkie trail for all the cars behind us to follow. I remember the passenger in the front seat (the driver's wife) said, "Honey, don't you think you should stop the car?" And he said, "She don't need to see what she's doing right now."

It's amazing to me how large a trail a twinkie and some juice can make, once they're all mixed up together inside one's body.

He finally stopped, but my body was in total de-food mode. It didn't stop until every last bite was gone.

I weakly sat up and looked behind me, only to see the entire boys' team in the vehicles behind us. They were craning their necks to discover why we had stopped. Once they discovered what the hold-up was, their disgusted looks preceded their violent head-snap in the other direction.

It wasn't pretty.

We got back on the road and continued on our way.

We had another unscheduled stop later that day, so I could launch my lunch somewhere around Jackson, Mississippi, if memory serves.

I remember one of the team moms buying me a bottle of Pepto, and her husband singing "Chugalug-chugalug" to me as I drank it.

After we stopped for the night, a member of the boys' basketball team (now the husband of my lifelong friend) tipped my head back and smelled my breath to make sure I'd brushed my teeth well enough.

Quite helpful, and not at all embarrassing, I assure you.

Or not.

Especially considering he was a senior.

We didn't win the tournament, and I don't think it had anything to do with the ralphing-on-the-road incident, either.

I learned something that day, friends.

A very valuable lesson, indeed.

It's better to risk LBSCBDO any day than to risk calling Huey on the big white phone in front of a caravan of people.

You're welcome.






*Low Blood Sugar Cranky-Butt DisOrder
It's real, and it affects millions every day. Do your part to conquer LBSCBDO today.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cavan's First Birthday Party

Cavan's first birthday party was Sunday. Since he's my little monkey, we went with a monkey theme.

For his first cake, I attempted my first no-fondant, buttercream-only cake:

Yes, it could have been better... if someone else had made it! I'm no good at buttercream cakes. Which is pretty obvious, I'm sure.

For the party favors, each child got a pair of monkey slippers, wrapped in a gift bag with a personalized tag.

It says, "Thank you for coming to my party!" I made these to match the invitations, which I also made. I think they turned out pretty cute.


For Christian's first birthday party, I ordered a birthday banner from Pottery Barn Kids. When I tried to order one for Cullen's first birthday, I discovered they no longer sell them. So I had to make him one.

Since Cullen and Christian both have a birthday banner (which is hung every year on their birthday, and stays up until after their party) Cavan needed one as well.



I finished it the morning of the party. Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

Cavan had his own special cake to dig into.

Which he happily did.

He was a little timid at first.

Until Cullen showed him what to do.

Not to be outdone, Christian took a bite, too.

Then he really got into it.

We all kind of lost track of him for a bit as we dug into our own slices of cake...

But it's a good thing we went with the monkey theme, because when next I turned around...

He looked just like the monkey on his cake!

He was a little self-concious of all the laughter, and started sucking his thumb. I'm sure it tasted pretty good.

Then his daddy did a really mean thing. As Hubs walked by, he pushed the baby's face down into that chocolate cake! Cavan sat up quickly, sucked in a gulp of air (through his mouth, since his nose was clogged with chocolate cake and icing) and began wailing. His wittle feelings were so hurt! Hubs cleaned the cake out of his nose and gave him a quick bath, and all was forgiven.

Aunt Laura bogarted Harrison for most of the day. That baby fell asleep on her and was dead to the world! 'Course he was probably tired from puking on me 8 or 17 times. It's a good thing he's cute.

Speaking of cute... this one sure is!

And this one, too!

And so is the birthday boy himself!

He's just so cool, now that he's one.

This one's nowhere near one, but he's pretty cool, too.

Just look at that belly!!! Love. It.

This was an attempt to get the boys together for a really cute and memorable birthday picture.

Harrison cooperated; Chubs thought it was sooooooo last year.

He thought the balloons were way more interesting than his Aunt Kelsey and me yelling, "CAVAN! LOOK OVER HERE! HARRISON! SMILE, BABY! CAAAAAA----VAAAAAN! LOOK AT MOMMY! HEY, HARRISON! HI, BABY! LOOK OVER HERE!!!"

I think that blue balloon is going to have to go.

Harrison is all, "Seriously? You want me to get a picture with this guy???"

"Ummmmmm... I don't know about this one, Mom."

"O---kaaaaay! Fine! I'll take a picture with him!"
Cavan was blissfully unaware of Harrison's reluctance. He was all over that blue balloon.

Aaaaaaaand that was as good as we were going to get!

We headed outside with the balloons, to continue the tradition of the baby releasing all the balloons from their first party. Christian and Cullen did it at theirs, so Cavan got his chance, too.

It was a gorgeous day, and Christian didn't really want those balloons to float away. But we shooed her away, and Cavan let go!

But then caught one of the strings!

And finally let them go.

We watched them as they floated high up in the bright blue sky...

And finally, out of sight.

My sweet, beautiful girl stood in the driveway and pointed them out to her little brother when he lost sight of them.
Then we went inside, cleaned up, and collapsed.
Or, just collapsed.