Week of Birthdays

It’s that time of year again.

Where every other person I know celebrates a birthday.

It’s amazing how many birthdays there are in the last two weeks of July, aren’t there?

Mine being one. Yes, I’m a princess and my birthday week started.

But we’re not talking about mine today. We’re talking about my lovely friend Mon’s.

Her birthday is this Friday. But why not start celebrating it early as well?

The lovely Miss Annie made her way to my apartment a little early so we could cook up something special.

Actually, Annie was in charge of the lasagna- the star of the show. The rest of us just commented about how therapeutic it is to watch someone else cook.

Lasagna in July? Maybe not the most normal choice… but if Mon likes lasagna… we’re gonna give her lasagna.

Dinner at my house consists of a bunch of matching sets that come together in a mismatched fashion. We’ll pretend it’s on purpose.

I went back for seconds. And maybe thirds. I wasn’t keeping track…

Mon pretends that she doesn’t love sweets. But when they’re from Whole Foods, it seems she bends the rules a little on that one.Also, you can notice “Party Hits” on the television in the background as our selected “mood”. Solid.

And we all love dancing. On Sunday Funday. To Rod Tuffcurls and the Benchpress.How are we supposed to celebrate a birthday without them? It’s impossible.

Not sure if it was being properly fed. Or excitement of the birthday. But we shook our booties all night long.

Or at least long enough for me to not be excited about waking up this morning.

Sigh.

Happy Monday, folks.

Walking Off the Weekend

Snowstorms in the southwest. Multiple massive tornados in the heartland. And a heat wave in Illinois.

What is going on!?!?

I won’t complain. No way. The weather has been nothing short of glorious.But am I the only one waiting for the ball to drop?

Until it does, this chick is keeping her mouth shut and enjoying it. Because it was only about 2 years ago when I was running the Shamrock Shuffle in temps barely about freezing with snow/sleet in the air.

Yes. Mouth shut, Amy.

My brother left super early on Sunday, so after a few more hours of recovering from shenanigans the day before, I made the journey out of the city to meet up with two of my favorite ladies of suburbia!Monica and Annie! The last time the three of us had all been together was shortly before Christmas. Unacceptable. Off to the forest preserve we went for a long walk/gossip session.

We hit a fork in the road immediately. Short trail or long trail?

“I could totally do the long one (a little over 7 miles) today. I feel great!”
“It’s so pretty out- I have the time. Let’s do it!”
“Let’s do this! Woo hooo! It’s soooo nice! La la la…”

By mile 6, I was noticeably quiet. Annie’s hips were aching. And Mon was surprised her face hadn’t melted completely off yet.

How old are we? 75?

Obviously we’re not quite acclimated to the 80-degree weather just yet. And 7 miles at the end of a full weekend of events may have been a wee bit ambitious for all of us. Different muscles are used when it comes to walking vs. running. My body let me know this afterwards.

Ah well. We finished and only had one or two near death experiences with cyclists whizzing by. We call that a triumph and celebrate appropriately.Annie also invited us to her house for dinner afterwards. Good thing- it’s possible I would have hit up drive thru out of sheer laziness on the way home, otherwise. So Annie slaved away in the kitchen as Mon and I sprawled out on her floor like two hot messes.

Without a doubt, our dinner was well-deserved. And delicious.Bonus points for being 10x prettier than anything to come out of my kitchen.

With a full weekend of events, it’s safe to say Monday morning came ridiculously early. And with a solid 7-mile walk the day before, I opted to sleep in a little and just do a few free weights via Jillian Michaels.

Sometimes I make smart decisions. This was totally one of them.

I only hope we get in a few more Sunday Fundays like this before the humidity and summer heat take over. I could use the “detox walks”.

And the home cooked meals. If we’re being honest…

A Little Help From My Friends

As briefly mentioned before, last week kinda blew.

Not for one particular reason. Just a bunch of small ones that added up and made me quite hateful by 5:00 on Friday night.

Enter the weekend. My time to relax and recharge.

Friends help with this. They distract. They’re down to play. And they make me feel 10 times better with hardly any effort at all.

And sometimes they know when you just need an afternoon of throwing balls really really hard at things.And yes, I’m passive aggressive.

But at least I’m a passive aggressive bowler who dresses in high fashion. Naturally.

Mon and I have bowled before. It was after fits of rage a couple of years ago. So Mon had barely gotten the suggestion out of her mouth by the time I looked up deals in my area. One cheap Groupon deal later, we had secured a lane and were sippin’ on Bitch Ale.The ale was on draft. Almost like they saw me coming. Unwashed hair and all. I’m so classy.

And it came served in a goblet in a bowling alley! Because that’s the way us classy broads roll.

Mon threw a million strikes (who is she???). I got two. And that was with the assistance of the guys setting up the pins because they’d “accidentally knock them over” for me (yeah- old school bowling alley up in here… holla’).

The hour of bowling was therapuetic for us. And I like to think the hour of the Amy and Mon show we put on for everyone around us was entertainment for the masses.

What can I say? We’re givers.

I overheard a woman say “I think they’d be fun to go out on the weekends with”.Yes. Yes we are.

We strolled the neighborhood after that for a while before retreating back to my apartment to watch Comedy Central and feast on my latest kichen experiment.

Thanks to my farming roots, there was still a pork loin left over from the last time I visited my ‘rents back in Mid-MO.After googling how exactly to prepare it in the crock pot (I really don’t cook large cuts of meat often), I took my chances by throwing potatoes and carrots in with the loin, dumped veggie broth over all of it, closed my eyes and threw some spices in there, and just let it go.

The house didn’t burn down during our bowling excursion. That in itself was a win.

The fact that I successfully cooked the meat without any slip-ups?I’ll be smug about it the rest of the week.

And yes, I cut into it a million times to make sure it’s done. It doesn’t have to be pretty to taste good.

And because no meal is complete without dessert, we also walked to the nearest custard shop to inhale some sugar.

It’s been decided that no Sunday will ever be perfect again unless ice cream is involved.

My mood is decidedly much better. Tuesday and all.

Sure, it would have passed eventually (my bad moods/slumps normally do). But having friends who all text to see how I’m doing or just pick up on it and are willing to wear used sweaty shoes and buy you a beer?It helps.

I sort of love my girlfriends. They’re awesome.

Go enjoy the day. And if you don’t, go get some Bitch Ale. It’s like cough syrup for the soul.

What I Don’t Do Well

No one’s perfect.

I’m pretty close, of course. But not quite.

Because sometimes there are things I just don’t do well.

Like making running plans.  A coworker of mine and I tried to make plans for a second run together along the lakefront over the weekend. But naturally, there was a breakdown in communication and he and I never found each other. Turns out we both thought the other had slept in and gone on our way. 

So I had to go solo- which worried me. Hoping to have someone pushing me, I wanted to run at least 5 miles with him. It’s been a few weeks hitting the higher mileage runs and there was serious dependence on him to keep me going.

Running solo hasn’t been overly motivating recently and it’s considered lucky to make it much more than 3 or 3.5 miles.

However… 5.75 miles later?

It wasn’t easy. Catching my breath was difficult being as how I was cursing out runners floating by with ease. Not so much sweating, but glowing as they whipped their perfect ponytails from side to side. Really? Who looks like that at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday? It’s not natural and I do not approve.

Grrrr.

I, on the other hand, came home soaked and slightly sunburnt. Should probably work on that whole wearing sunscreen thing, too… oops.

What else do I not do well?

Ummm… lemme think…

I have issues containing my excitement when it comes to street fests.Mon and I hit up the Taste of Lincoln Avenue on Sunday- the 5th or 6th street fest I’ve been to this summer.

So many of my friends make comments about how we seem to go to a new street fest every weekend.

There’s a reason for that. Winter sucks- I hole myself up in my apartment and whine until spring. It’s necessary to get all my crazy out before the first snowfall.

And we’re working on it. No worries.

We sweated it out through various bands- all ending with Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press’s version of “All I Want for Christmas”. Because nothing says summer street fest like a throwback from Mariah Carey’s holiday album.

I’m also needing work on my hydration skills while spending the day dancing out in 90-degree weather. The guy who took our order thought I was kidding when I requested 2 cups. Safety first, my man.

At least I don’t have a problem with knowing when to refuel. My stomach would never let that happen.It’s not gourmet Mexican by any means. But it’s fast. It’s cheap. And it makes me happy.

Patience and traffic are two things I cannot combine well. It’s asking a lot for me to have patience to sit in traffic caused by a Paul McCartney concert at Wrigley Field. Paul, buddy, I love ya. But you wreaked serious havoc on my normal rush hour commute home. You brought in all these drivers who have no clue what they’re doing or where they’re going. And if I hit them, I’m sending you the bill. Yes, you. Thanks in advance.

With that, I’m just going to end this list. Because it’s starting to get a bit long and I’d like to still claim my title of “close to perfection”.

Try and have a good one, kids. Which may be hard to do- it’s Tuesday (yuck) and the weather man isn’t even trying to sugar coat how miserable today’s humidity/heat/thunderstorms are going to be. Weeeeee!

Sunday Afternoon Bender

I don’t like to shop for myself.

I know this screws up my whole “girly girl” persona, but it stresses me out. Shopping trips are dreaded almost as much as a trip to the dentist.

Helping friends find something they’re looking for? Ok, I’ll totally go along.

For myself? Blah…

Just like dentist trips, I need to start rewarding myself with ice cream at the end…

Anyway- maybe it was because I used to live in close proximity to the 5th (something like that) largest mall in the United States that came hand in hand with overwhelming anxiety and insane crowds. Or maybe it’s because I never truly have a lot of disposable income burning in the ol’ pocket.  Whatever the reason, I just don’t like it.

Online shopping is my friend.

However, I am a girly girl and was actually needing a nice cocktail dress for my friend’s rehearsal dinner and one or two staples in the summer wardrobe for work/casual affairs. Not “want”. “Need”. There’s a difference.

And that’s how I went on a bender…

Mon came down to see my new apartment and have a lil’ Sunday Funday downtown.

And this is how I experienced, for the first time, all that is The Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue.It’s astounding how much bigger this place looks from the inside- you just keep going up and up and up! And the jellyfish display for Shedd Aquarium was also pretty cool.  Ohhhhh pretttttyyyyy…

Wait… what was I talking about?

Oh yeah- 3 hours later, my credit card was exhausted and I was already trying to figure out what returns I’d be making in the next couple of weeks.

Or not. I mean… maybe I’ll just eat ramen for a few months to make ends meet?

However, that would probably lead to malnourishment. And then all the clothes bought on Sunday probably wouldn’t fit.

I just can’t win.

Either way, it’s safe to say, even with returning a few things, I’m set for the rehearsal dinner. And summer. Hooray!

Instead of ice cream for our success (let’s not live in TOO much excess), we decided dinner would be appropriate.

I chose Wishbone- a southern cooking restaurant that I’ve been to once before, but it’s so good, I had no problems going back.When shopping is your cardio for the day, it’s important to carb load with free cornbread.

All I could do was rave about the blackened catfish salad I had the last time, so when it was nowhere to be found on the menu (the menu changed after 15 months- imagine that), I had to switch it up with the blackened catfish entrée:Let’s discuss…

Rarely do I ever love coleslaw. If it’s too vinegar-y, I won’t touch it. This shiz was JUST right.

Also, I love sweet potatoes, but I never make them this decadent. They were above and beyond. I know the milk used wasn’t fat-free. And in every bite was a hint of pecans and brown sugar. Beautiful. The definition of delusionally happy.

After our little exploration of the city, we meandered (or waddled?) back to my place where Mon kindly offered to help me unload some odds and ends.Even with all the changes going on in my life this month, I know one thing for sure-

The two of us will never grow up.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday. So uh… good luck.  ;)

Stupid Tuesdays…

Belated BYOB

Plans are always important.

They keep me from getting a little nutty.

If you know me- this is important. Because it doesn’t take much for me to start getting a little weird.

Hence the reason why we scheduled a birthday dinner for our friend Bailey a week or two in advance.

But then life happened. Flights get delayed. People get double ear infections (Mon was in a pretty sad state for about a week or so…). People are out of town over holiday weekends.

Like I said- life happens.

Good thing for the girls in my group of friends? We believe in celebrating an entire birthday MONTH. Excessive? Maybe. But we do was we want. Muah!

So, in grand fashion and 2.5 weeks later, we all finally got together on Sunday evening to celebrate our friend’s (and my new roomie’s) birthday at Mago Grill in downtown Arlington Heights. Considering that Bailey and I are moving out of the area within the week, we really know how to cut it close.It’s so bright in the restaurant because it’s 5:30 on a Sunday afternoon. Yes, we were dining and drinking with senior citizens. But it’s called SunDAY FunDAY for a reason.

Mago is relatively new to the area and we were informed of it on the metra one night – some guy across the aisle was discussing it. My ears perked up when he mentioned “BYOB”.

I’m an eavesdropper and I don’t care.

The city of Chicago has a ridiculous amount of BYOB options- something I  had never heard of until moving up here a few years ago. But there’s now one Arlington Heights? Are you for reals?

Clearly, this place was put on my list of things I needed to do.

One purchased gift certificate (I spent $5 on a $25 gift certificate) at Restaurant.com and a quick stop at the liquor store was all it took.

Tecate for most of us (gotta be festive with the mexican beer). Coors Light for the birthday girl. In a can. Because it’s her favorite.

I don’t get it either. But at least I know she’ll never steal my beer.

As soon as we were seated, Mon gave Bailey her fabulous birthday gift:Swedish Fish. And Justin Bieber.

Bailey said she plans to blast the Biebs as we’re moving next weekend. I said I’d counter strike with Katy Perry (Bailey’s hatred of KP is second to none). So uh… it’s ON.

Anyway, after me giving Mon a stern lecture about the Bieber cd issue, it was time to eat.

I prefer not to visit a Mexican joint without trying out the guac. And really- I’ve yet to find a place where it disappoints. So the more important thing is what entrée to order…

Annie and Mon both ordered what seems to be a cauldron of fajitas:And Bailey and I went with the Enchiladas (per usual):You can’t really see the enchiladas, but trust me- they were awesome. I’m always that person who says “well I’ll only eat half and eat the rest for lunch tomorrow”.

That doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. Or at all, as of late. *Shoulder Shrug*

It’s sort of sad we didn’t go here until my last week as a resident of Arlington Heights. I could have easily spent multiple weekends just chillin’ with some adult beverages and tableside guac.

Looks like we know where I’m going to suggest we go when I come through and visit Mon…

In other news…

My air conditioning went out yesterday.

Again. This was the second day in the row.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get home until well after the management office closed for the day. So it was a balmy 88 degrees in my house when I went to bed last night. Sleep was hard to come by. Imagine that.

The shower this morning was cold. And fast. I also refused to fix my hair with any kind of iron. The blow dryer alone almost gave me a heat stroke. 

So I’m bringing a whole new definition of “hot mess” to the table. It’s ok- it’s Tuesday. So what else would anyone expect?

Hustle Up the Hancock 2011

94 floors. That’s nothing… right?

Similar to a Sunday stroll in the park?  Yes?

Um… well…

Let’s start from the beginning.

Yesterday was the Hustle Up The Hancock in downtown Chicago, put on every year by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. A 94-flight stairclimb all the way to the observation deck at the top.  

Mon and I set our alarms and made our way down to the city early in order to meet up with Megan before our scheduled climb at 10:45. Yes, Mon was with us. If you’ll remember from last year, I did not participate (the girl I was going to fill in for did the climb afterall) and Mon made a quick exit on the 10th floor to um… well, let’s just say she didn’t finish.

And she swore against ever doing it again.

Well when a team member from the Flyin’ Hawaiians dropped out this year, she took a deep breath and stepped up o the plate.If you’ll notice, Mon brought “Ramone” as her good luck charm.

Now you know where I get part of my crazy from. Poor Cecil had to stay home- the grandkids were coming for a visit.  ;) 

And let’s ignore that my race number ended in “666″. There was such a rush for us to get to the right line in the beginning, I didn’t even notice until much later that day. Whew… that could have really psyched me out…

Anyhoo, this was my first time as a climber and dealing with the crazy that is the “hustle” first-hand.

It’s crowded. And there are long lines. To do everything. Wanna take a group pic? Stand in line… Want to climb? Stand in line… Wanna take an elevator back downstairs? Stand in line…

You get my point.

But it’s all for a good cause. And as a member of a family that has been affected by lung cancer, I was proud to be there and amazed at how many people talked about doing this climb every year for YEARS.

This was not a real “race” for any of us. But more of a unique experience. They staggered the start (everyone waits 8 seconds before they can take off) but Megan and I climbed it together.

Thank goodness. Because 94 flights of stairs are pretty boring. And even just having someone there to say a quick word to (like “omg, only 40 more flights to go!)  helped immensely. There’s not much to look at (believe it or not). But we did have people cheering us on every 5 or 6 flights. Which was nice.

My calves started to burn a little around the 55th or so. Even our practice run didn’t prepare us for the whole thing. And the stairs were much more narrow and steep than anticipated. So it was much more of a workout than I figured it would be!

But Megan and I persevered. And kept that steady pace. Low and behold, we even passed people.  Woah!

Finish time?  19:15. Hells yeah!Balla’.

Actually, I don’t really feel like a balla’ because I’m pretty sure the fastest girl was 14 and had a time of 13:40. Seriously- did she sneak onto an elevator at some point?  What a show off…

Either way, we all made it up and celebrated from the top!

We enjoyed the view and took it in for the entire time we were standing in line for the elevator to get back DOWN. And then went next door to the Hilton for our goodie bags and snacks at the Expo…Gah! More lines!

But it’s cool. We had a LOT of fun doing it. The stairclimb was much like any other smaller race. It’s a good time and everyone is excited. What more can you ask for?Silly question.

Everyone needs a victory beer, right?  Even Ramone- who got kicked out of the bar after this. No shirt, no shoes, no service… sorry buddy…

Between the stairclimb itself and the walking to and from Megan’s place, I was exhausted. And crashed like a ton of bricks onto my bed last night.

Tonight I have a 5-mile run to look forward to.  Now that the Hustle is over, I plan to focus a little more on running versus always making sure I had enough time to get my stairmill (“crosstraining”) in. My booty is tired. And since it’s on the verge of getting its own zip code soon, I should probably give it a rest.  Seriously- those stairs are good for the butt if you’re looking to sculpt. But first let me warn you- sometimes with sculpting comes extra mass. And since all new pants aren’t in the budget, a break from the stairmill won’t upset me that much… ;)

Have you ever done a stairclimb event?  What are you thoughts? I may do it again, not sure. Definitely more of a “run outside and see stuff” kind of girl…

So here we are… it’s Monday. The beginning of the week. Hopefully one that will fly. Because I’ve got a trip to Vegas on my radar and could not be more excited! Have a good one, kids!

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