More of the Work Story...

So here's how it happened.

A few months ago, I stumbled on a 12 minute tip called Finding New Connections. The topic is ironic really, because commenting on that blog post resulted in making one of the most encouraging and influential connections I've made on the Internet to date.

Because its author, Becky Robinson, is all about fostering relationships, she responded to my comment. I followed her on Twitter (probably retweeted everything she said) and our relationship began to develop. Becky and her family used to live Chicago and so we started there. She shared tips on where to eat and what to see. I put every tip on my to do list.

Next we found each other on Facebook. We each "liked" each other's perspective pages and even became Facebook friends. The connection deepened.

Because Becky has a significant social media presence, her smiling avatar began to pop up all over in my life. I'd read her tweets, pop over to her blog, or like/respond to a comment on Facebook. We developed a genuine online friendship.

I was immediately impressed that someone with 15K twitter followers, a family and a career was taking time to personally respond to comments or tweets that I sent her. I've come to know that that is who Becky is. She is personable. She is real. She values real conversation and personal interaction. But at first, I was utterly shocked that I had even caught her attention or made a blip on her radar.

It was Becky who suggested we connect on the phone the first time. But for whatever reason, for weeks we missed each other. Our suggested times would come and go and we would set a new date. I was in the middle of a move - I know now - she was in the midst of job change and for each of us finding time to connect was a challenge. So when we finally spoke I felt an air of excitement that the stars were finally aligning. The timing was perfect.

A few weeks earlier she had offered to send me a copy of a book she was helping to promote. The book was Dare, Dream, Do. I had started reading it a few days before we spoke. So our first conversation was much, much deeper than a typical first-time, get to know you chat. Becky listened, encouraged and helped me process things that the book was stirring in me. She shared parts of her own story and told me about Weaving Influence. I can't speak for Becky, but I liked her from the start. She was - she is - bright, funny, positive and deeply spiritual. That phone call proved that the encouraging presence I met online was real. @Beckyrbnsn = Becky Robinson.

...to be continued

Have you taken the plunge and met an online friend in the real world? 
How did it turn out?

This post is Part 3 in what is turning into a series on my new jobby job. 
Here are the first installments in case you need to catch up.


Newbie Nugget: Use the Address

A few weeks ago I made plans to meet a girlfriend for brunch.

I've mentioned my love of Chicago's public transportation. So that morning, with tummy growling, I jumped on the bus and headed out to meet her.

As a newbie to Chicago, I pretty much rely on the trusty maps feature on my iPhone to get me around town. The convenient little bus at its top is my bff. It always points me toward the bus or train that is arriving next and will deliver me to my requested destination. Sure it isn't always perfect. Sometimes it takes me on a longer route or into a neighborhood that might be questionable. But it's simple and generally helpful.

Until it isn't.

On the morning in question, I typed Jam into the search box and quickly set off to the bus that would take me to my friend and our yummy meal. Except this time things went horribly wrong.

When I got off the bus, deep in the heart of the Ukrainian Village, I looked around and I couldn't find Jam anywhere. How had this happened? I followed the directions perfectly.

Did you know... You must ALWAYS use an address and not a business name in Google Maps

Turns out, Jam moved to Logan Square several months earlier. Although the address had been updated in their Google profile, their location had not been updated on Google's map.

Don't ask me how that is possible. Google is a total mystery to me.

Standing in the middle of the Ukrainian Village, late for brunch, my unwavering trust in the map app began to waver. I called my friend. She spoke with the hostess who admitted that this wasn't the first time this had happened. I'll be honest with you, this little bit of information both comforted and annoyed the hell out of me. She promised that the fix was simple. I needed to use the address instead of the restaurant's name. Unfortunately, when I did that I discovered that I still had another twenty minute bus ride to get there. And apparently cabs don't circulate in the Ukrainian Village on Saturday afternoons. Blargghhhhhhhh.

Thankfully, my very sweet and patient girlfriend got in her car and came to scoop me up. My, by this time, monstrous appetite and I waited for her at the corner gas station looking like a well dressed hitchhiker. But on this little adventure I learned a valuable lesson. ALWAYS use the address when fetching directions from Google maps. Your grumbly tummy will thank you for it.


What I learned this Weekend

Shedd Aquarium Line

When the line attendants at the Shedd Aquarium tell you that it will be a 45 min - 1 hour wait that might be a conservative estimate.

Looooong Line

When you have hours to wait in line, you have time to discover all of your camera's tricks and take a memory card's worth of pictures.

Shedd Aquarium - Gigantic Crab

Spending time at the Aquarium just makes me think of dinner.

Late Night Advice on the CTA

When you're eight and a half months pregnant, everyone has advice to share about your pregnancy and your sex life. (including total strangers eating gummy worms on the the bus at eleven o'clock at night)

Chicago Cab Ride

While riding in a Chicago city cab it's best to touch as little of its interior as possible.

Michigan & Wacker ~ Chicago River

When it comes to butchering a pig - some people like to keep the butt whole.

I'm a 12 year old

Basically I'm a 12 year old boy in a 30 something woman's body.

Did you learn anything new this weekend?


Thoughts on this Day of Memory

This post was originally published back in 2009... 
Here's a little bit of {long} weekend rewind. 

I guess I’ve always kind of taken for granted the sacrifices made by the men and women who've fought and died for our country. Before marrying the handsome hubby, Memorial Day was not much more than the third day of a long weekend. He has helped me to understand the importance of the holiday, and has encouraged me to recognize and appreciate all that we enjoy as a result of the sacrifices of others. Today we took a walk through the national cemetery not far from our house. It is pretty staggering to see all the grave sites. And I love that they recognize the veterans with flags at each stone. The cemetery is really beautiful. Is that morbid?

In case you think it is... I’m changing the subject slightly. Brian comes from a long line of men who served in the armed forces. Two grandfathers and his father were all military men. He followed in the family tradition and served seven years as a Marine. Pretty impressive. There’s no way I could have survived boot camp! Plus, check out how hot he looked in his uniform.

While looking for this picture, I found his boot camp graduation shot from 1994. It got me thinking about what I was doing in 1994. {blush} I briefly considered posting his boot camp picture next to one of my high school party pics. But I changed my mind with a quickness. I decided that not only would it be disrespectful, it would probably prevent me from ever running for public office...

Anyhooo, in a life where I focus on starlets and rock stars regularly, it’s days like today that I recognize individuals who actually are heroes. I was totally inspired by Roy foster's story.

Check out this video about his REAL LIFE heroics.

Thank you to my husband and to all the amazing men and women who serve our country both at home and abroad. It is an amazing privilege to live in the United States.


Hope you're enjoying your extended weekend!


Award Winning Film at a Price that Can't Be Beat

With the Memorial Day weekend about to kick off, today's Freebie has a "thankful to the men and women who have served our country" kind of vibe. A few weeks back, the hubby and I had the chance to stop by the Cultural Center for a screening of the documentary film Hell and Back Again. The screening was a part of the ITVS Community Cinema series. (have I mentioned how much I love the Chicago Cultural Center?)

In addition to being nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary in 2012, Hell and Back Again also won the Cinematography AND Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance film festival. After experiencing it - and that is what you do, you don't "watch" it you experience it - I can attest this film is a work of art.

It is the astounding story of a soldier's time in and return home from the war in Afghanistan. It is a must see.

And I have good news for you. Public television is making it possible for you to see this masterpiece from the comfort of your living room as a part of its Independent Lens collection.  Independent Lens is an Emmy award winning series aired weekly on PBS. If you are in Chicago, Hell and Back Again will air on Monday May 28th @9pm on WTTW. Set your DVR. If you aren't in Chicago, please check your local listings and don't miss your chance to see this film for free.

There is no doubt, this documentary made me even more thankful for our service men and women. It made me even more amazed by the bravery and sacrifice they and their families exhibit. It made me grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the war and a handful of its participants. 

Have you seen Hell and Back Again?
If so, what did you think?

The Cultural Center's  ITVS Community Cinema series is winding down for the summer. But there is one more chance to catch a freebie screening. At 6:30pm on Tuesday, May 29th they will be showing the documentary Strong. See you there?



Friending As An Adult

Relationships are hard work. Meeting people, cultivating a friendship, and then finding time in our busy lives to maintain and grow those relationships take time, effort and perseverance. In Rachel Bertsche's book MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend, she proves that.

Bertsche moved to Chicago to finally "share a zip code" with her boyfriend/fiance. By doing so, she left her home, her life long friends and her comfort zone. Two years after their move she found herself longing for local friendships that resembled those she had back in New York City. So Bertsche decided to put in the work. She spent a year focusing on friendship. Going on 52 girl-dates (one each week), she hoped to find a new BFF.

In order to go out on 52 dates, she had to meet 52 prospects and have the courage to ask them to be her friend. This is no small task. But it is one that Bertsche tackles with ingenuity, a sense of humor and occasionally a twinge of desperation.

Rachel Bertsche is a writer, journalist and editor by trade. She is also another example of a writer who has turned a successful blog into a published book. Her writing style is conversational and accessible. She weaves her academic research on friendship into her personal narrative with ease. With a literary voice that is likable and occasionally self-deprecating the book is a fun, quick read.

Maybe I enjoyed it because I can relate. I remember being in Chattanooga after two years and wondering if I would ever make real friends. And now, having recently moved to Chicago I find myself once again on the hunt. This time, though, I have Bertsche's book to use as tool.

To meet her "girl dates," Bertsche relied on set ups, she actively pursued new hobbies, and even posted a want ad (which was actually more of an article than a traditional want ad). I was inspired by how proactive and purposeful she was. Rather than passively waiting for friendship to develop, she put in the work. She put herself out there. She admitted that she was looking to develop new friendships.

Thankfully, because she was in Chicago, I can easily follow some of her leads. There are numerous ways to connect with people here and I'm looking forward to giving them a try. Between Chicago Meetup (a website which connects people through shared interests) and GrubwithUs (small gatherings at local restaurants to get acquainted with strangers over a shared meal) I have several options in the coming weeks. Bertsche also suggested volunteering as a way of meeting new friends. So, taking her lead, I've signed up to work at the Printer's Row Lit Fest this year. Although I haven't set a deadline and I'm not as determined to make friends NOW as Bertsche was, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

Making friends as an adult is tricky business. There's more effort involved in cultivating adult friendships than the ones we develop in school. Bertsche proves that in her book. But, she also proves that it can be done. So with a little bit of ingenuity, a healthy dose of patience, and the ability to put myself out there, I have no doubt local friendships are in my future too.

Do you have any friend making tips to share?


And Just Like That - They Were Gone

NATO and its craziness has come and gone. Happily, just as I hoped, things settled down last night and life is back to normal. As quickly as the barricades went up, they all came back down.

Thanks to the incredible work of the Chicago Police Department and the largely peaceful and respectful behavior of the protesters, it was even safe enough to venture out and snap a few pictures during the festivities.

Salt trucks lined up for NATO in Chicago

Protection for Protesters
Even Protesters Need Their SPF

Speakers at NATO gathering in Grant Park


Protect and Serve

NATO March in the South Loop
My first Protest March - I just took pictures

Police in Riot Gear

Sunday's NATO March in Chicago

Feeling kind of grateful to have witnessed history. Feeling even more grateful that it's over.

Have you ever been involved in a march?

If photography is your thing... head over to A Night Owl Blog for an Instagram linky party.


Mmm Mmm Monday: Southport Grocery

On Saturday morning I ventured out into a very quiet city to meet a few new friends for breakfast. I admit, I shuddered a bit as I agreed to meet at eight in the morning. But as I sat on the virtually empty train traveling to Southport Grocery and Cafe (3552 N Southport Ave, Lakeview) it dawned on me that that little shudder is a clear indication of just how spoiled I have become. Life is good and breakfast with new friends, now matter what time we meet, is just one indication of that.

It turns out, because we chose to meet so early, we had our pick of tables and there was absolutely no wait to be seated. If the reviews of Southport Grocery posted on Yelp are trustworthy, this is not typically the case. Some people admitted to waiting longer than an hour. Wow. Score one for early birds!

We took a seat on the patio and were greeted by an enthusiastic and very chatty server. His welcoming attitude created a very relaxed, casual vibe. As we waited for our coffee, the restaurant filled up quickly and after we were served I knew why.

Bruschetta @ Southport Grocery

I ordered the bruschetta. It was a heaping plateful of crostini, scrambled eggs, smoked chicken sausage, tomato-red onion-balsamic mix and queso fresco. Topped with ribbons of fresh basil, the dish was bright, flavorful and delicious. My only criticism was that because the crostini was sliced so thin, it didn't stand up to the tomato juice. Most of it was soggy before I got through the enormous portion. But what the dish lacked in texture it more than made up for in flavor.

While looking at the menu I was tempted by the cupcake pancakes. Turns out, so was Heather. I'll admit that when she ordered them, I celebrated. Although we're just getting to know each other, I was hopeful I could steal a bite. Thankfully, Heather offered before I had to ask. {Thank you, friend.} Just as I expected, those pancakes were breakfast and dessert all rolled into one.

Bloggy friends @ Southport Grocery
This time we were good bloggers.

After we ate, we took a moment to browse the market shelves. Filled with tasty treats - mostly made in Chicago - those shelves are a food lover's dream. And then there's the bakery. A couple bites of the pancakes convinced me to grab a couple cupcakes to go. I was impressed and tempted by the selection of sweet goodies inside. Next time, I plan to bring home a few truffle truffles.

Although Southport Grocery and Cafe focuses on breakfast and lunch, once a month they switch things up. Their Secret Supper is an "underground dinner" with a surprise seasonal menu. To find out when the next Secret Supper will be, find them on Facebook or Twitter. I'm looking forward to reserving my spot soon. Dinner at Southport sounds pretty close to perfect. I figure about the only thing that could make my next visit better than this one is if I got to sleep a little bit later.


How To Dress like a NATO Protester

If you're headed to the Loop this weekend to protest NATO, you've probably already got your ensemble planned. It seems, from looking at the protesters milling about, that there must have been some sort of dress code that was distributed. But just in case you're still trying to get your look together, or you didn't get the memo, I'm here to help.

The look consists of a few simple pieces that you may already have in your closet. On their own these pieces aren't much. But when combined together, they create a very distinctive "F the Police" look. Here's the rundown:

1. Bandannas are a necessity. They serve multiple purposes. First, they keep the media from capturing your face for identification purposes. No need to worry as you hurl a urine filled balloon at law enforcement. (Yes, I've heard this is happening. Lovely.) Second, they will collect sweat as temperatures continue to rise this weekend. Most importantly though, nothing jazzes up an ensemble like a jaunty neckerchief. So wear them with pride.

2. Camouflage seems to be the "go-to" print this protesting season. Seriously, I haven't seen this much camo since, quite frankly, ever. Camouflage cut offs are even better - as seen on the protester I caught on Michigan Ave - beat the heat and make a fashion statement all at once. Now that's what I call protester chic.

How to dress like a NATO Protester

3. Black is the new black. From combat boots to protest t shirts, all the most fashionable protesters are covered in black. And why not? It's menacing. It's slimming. It's screams, "I'm here to object to your policies, NATO."

How to dress like a NATO Protester

So while the occupy movement might not have a united, cohesive complaint, it is clear they've agreed on one thing. They've agreed what to wear to this weekend's events. Don't stick out like a 1%er. When you come to protest, please, dress accordingly. 

What's your go-to protest ensemble?


Thankful Things

"The beauty of life 
does not depend on how happy you are, 
but on how happy others can be 
because of you."

a surprise milk frother in the mail, an architecture tour with my mom, words of support and encouragement from my husband, sweet notes on Facebook from friends who miss me, an invitation to be part of a team, adorable "thank you" voice mails, gorgeous (and I mean gorgeous) Chicago weather, faith and hope

BIG and small this week was an endless stream of Thankful Things.

Here are a few links that you'll be thankful you checked out:

Who's made you thankful this week and how did they do it?


If You Need Us This Weekend...

I'm not sure if you've heard, but this weekend Chicago is hosting a convention. Now, if you believe the local news, we should all be bracing for NATO Armageddon. I'm more of an "always look on the bright side of life" kind of gal. Sure, I've seen articles about city wide evacuation plans, extra police officers are pouring into the city from neighboring states, and some protests have already gotten a little unpleasant. But I'm choosing to believe that come Monday night things will settle down and life will go on.

That being said, if you need us this weekend, we'll be holed up at our place. The map below illustrates exactly why. The "O" is McCormick Place. It's the convention center where a majority of the NATO summit is going to be taking place. The "X" is our building. Bad news, all those red lines mean a lot of street closures and parking restrictions. Good news, we just might have a bird's eye view of the madness from our balcony.

We've talked about the possibility of heading out of town if things start to look dicey. That still seems like it's going to be totally unnecessary though. Instead we're treating NATO like a blizzard and battening down the hatches. I'm headed to the library this afternoon to get a few new books. We've got a quintessential Chicago Netflix on the way (Ferris Bueller, anyone?). The 'fridge will be packed with lots of "who needs to eat out?" food and we don't plan on going anywhere.

If you're in Chicago, what are your plans for this crazy weekend?
If you're not in Chicago, can we come stay with you if all hell breaks loose?


Finishing Touches: Hanging the Perfect Picture Collage

We finally hung up the last of our pictures in the new place this weekend.

"But you moved in late January, Molly," you say.

To which I reply, "I know! Can you believe we got it all done so quickly?"

There's a picture tour to come. But first I thought I'd share the brilliant way we hung our hallway picture collage. I'm telling you, the process made it so simple and resulted in zero extra holes in the wall.

{Yes, I just called myself "brilliant." I'm feeling saucy, can you tell?}

Step 1: Lay Out Pictures


We used a roll of brown wrapping/packing paper that we already had to make the process extremely easy. This way we were able to switch the pictures around, put them closer together or further apart, basically move them until they were just perfect.
Step 2: Trace the Pictures
Step 3: Hang the Paper on the Wall
Step 4: Drive the Nails into the Wall
Step 5: Rip off the Paper

Photo collage

Step 6: Hang the Pictures


Step 7: Enjoy the Finished Product


Easy peasy. 
Minimal muss and absolutely NO fuss.

Have you tried the brown paper method to hang a picture collage?
... or do you have another brilliant trick to try?



Mmm Mmm Monday: The Extraordinary Grahamwich Grilled Cheese

Sometimes seemingly simple food can take your breath away. Case in point, the grilled cheese at Grahamwich (615 N. State St.) on Chicago's near north side. Ordinary concept - Extraordinary execution.

Grahamwich Chicago - award winning grilled cheese

This sandwich has found its way onto just about every "best grilled cheese" list out there, and last week I discovered why. Have you ever been nearly choked by cheese? You know what I'm talking about right? When you're eating something so fantastically cheesy that it nearly takes your breath away? That was my experience with this sandwich. Had it succeeded in choking me, I would have died a happy, happy woman.

Grahamwich is the brain child of Chicago cheflebrity Graham Elliot. Its bright, quirky decor and simple, straight forward menu provide a welcoming, laid back atmosphere from the moment you walk through the front door.

Grahamwich Chicago - ambiance

Grahamwich Chicago - decor
loving the custom designed wallpaper

But once you take a bite of that grilled cheese, you recognize, this is not just any sandwich shop. Grahamwich's grilled cheese is the stuff of legends. Served on two grilled pieces of pullman loaf, it's literally oozing with Wisconsin cheddar, tomato marmalade, cheese curds and cracked pepper. This sandwich is fit neither for the faint of heart nor the careful calorie counter. This grilled cheese is sinfully indulgent. And I confess that I found it to be worth every guilty bite.

Grahamwich Chicago - grilled cheese
I think those grease spots on the waxed paper illustrate my point...

Normally, I might scoff at paying $7 for an "ordinary" grilled cheese sandwich. If I'm being honest, the promotion being run by LevelUp at Grahamwich that day ($5 in credit for signing up + $2 from Grahamwich as a first visit perk) eased my pre-meal sticker shock and convinced me to buy the sandwich. But, I assure you, this grilled cheese is not your "ordinary" grilled cheese. On future visits - and I anticipate there being many - I will not scoff at its price tag. I will simply scan my phone (have you  signed up for LevelUp yet?) and anxiously await its cheesy goodness. 

What's your favorite seemingly ordinary food turned extraordinary?


I Believe...

  • even when I think I can clearly see the path ahead, I'm still usually surprised by where it leads.
  • communication is important. It can make or break relationships. And it often does.
  • one can never see too many pictures of pretty dresses.
  • dreams spoken out loud can be powerful things.

What do YOU believe?

Today I'm linking up with Heather over at Smart and Savvy Style
She's hosting her very first "I Believe..." link up
Click here to stop by and offer her some encouragement or to tell us what YOU believe.