Thursday Thoughts 20.0

Wow! I can’t believe I am at my 20th Thursday Thoughts post! When I started writing these I had no idea I’d still be posting them well over a year after I started! I really enjoy writing (and re-reading) these posts because it gives me a chance to write about little things that happen in my daily life that don’t merit a full post. So without further ado..

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[1]

Last weekend I went home for my cousin Brooke’s wedding. I had a great time watching Brooke and Josh begin their life together–it was a beautiful wedding and reception. Of course since I was having such a good time I don’t have very many pictures from the event, which I am o.k. with because I was enjoyed my time with my family. Here are two snapshots from the evening:

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Matchy, matchy…

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Jen and I with the beautiful bride

[2]

After all the wedding festivities died down, we spent some time unwinding at my parents house. Dad grilled us some delicious steaks, and then we watched Oz the Great and Powerful in 3D! As you can see we were really stylin’ in our 3D glasses…

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[3]

On Tuesday, I went with some friends to see the Tony Award winning show, The Book of Mormon. I had a blast–it was a great time! The music was awesome, and I loved finding the “spoofs” on other Broadway melodies in the songs. Of course before the show Kayla and I took the obligatory “picture in front of the show sign”…but as you can see our friends decided to “photo-bomb” (note man in red was not in our party and is a bonus photo bomb…if there is such a thing):

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[4]

Nail Art of the week:

July

Base/Top Coat: Sally Hansen “Flawless”

Nail Polish: Revlon “Dreamer”

Tips: Essie “Bouncer, It’s Me”

[5]

So about those fitness goals…Mid July

As you can see I didn’t do so good in June (if you recall my goal is to complete 84 miles of cardio per month so I can reach 1000 miles of cardio by the end of the year)…I’ve definitely done better in July but at this rate I am still far behind my goal. Honestly, the past few months have been crazy–lots of changes in work and in life as has been evidenced by my lack of posting. It’s also been CRAZY hot so I haven’t been walking to work either (lame I know). I’m starting to get things back on track again, and my hope is that if I don’t make the goal this month then I’ll hit it in August.

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Have a great weekend everyone!

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Memorial Day Weekend Recap

Yes, you read that title right. This blog post will be a recap of events that happened about a month and a half ago. I’m sorry to not be posting about current events, but this is my blog so I can do what I want 😛 In all seriousness, I really do want to post about this particular weekend because my family and I live very far apart and we don’t get to spend that much time together. Thus, any time we do get to spend together is memorable and important to me. So that’s that.

As I’m sure you’ve gleaned by now, my parents and sister Jen came to visit Chicago over Memorial Day weekend. We all stayed in my apartment (and survived the experience) and had a nice time together. I was actually somewhat on top of things back then and actually did a good job of documenting the experience in pictures. Thus, this post is somewhat of a photo dump, but I’ve tried to include my remembrances as well.

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Wednesday May 22-Thursday May 23

Jen arrived in town late Wednesday evening so we just hung out around my apartment. Not long after we got back to my place I discovered a large spider on the ceiling which my tough lil sis took care of for me. She definitely earned her keep.

The next morning I had a meeting at school, so I took J to with me and introduced her to my friends and co-workers. She was a good sport and even got in some good laughs telling stories about us growing up. For lunch we had some delicious stir fry Flat Top Grill, and after that we went for a cold, windy walk around campus. I rarely see the waves like this on Lake Michigan:

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After our cold walk on campus we went for dinner at Celtic Knot. We were both tired after a long day of walking around school and campus, so we just hung out at my apartment in the evening.

Friday May 24

Mom and dad arrived in town around lunch time so we headed over to the Firehouse Grill for lunch. After lunch we mostly ran errands and put in the window AC units in my apartment (which is always a good time). For dinner, we went to Dave’s Italian Kitchen. I had never been there before, and I was surprised by how delicious and affordable it was.

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Saturday May 25

Saturday morning we got up early to get my car serviced, and went to the farmer’s market while waiting for my car. It was sort of a cold morning so we didn’t stay too long. We had lunch at the always delicious Noodles and Company and dinner at That Little Mexican Cafe. And of course before bed Dad caught this lovely moment of sisterly love:

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Sunday May 26

Saturday morning we got up early to have breakfast at The Dixie Kitchen. The Dixie Kitchen always serves good food but their breakfast is especially delicious. After breakfast we took a nice Sunday morning drive down Lakeshore Drive so Jen could get a feel for the beautiful Chicago skyline. After the drive we relaxed in my apartment for a few hours before heading into the city for the evening.

First we took the train down into the city to see “the Bean”

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Awww aren’t we cute?

The Cloud Gate aka The Bean:

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After enjoying our time at “the bean”, we got back on the train and headed over to Uno’s for dinner. It was a really nice afternoon (until the clouds moved in and it started raining…which luckily didn’t happen until AFTER we had finished eating) so we elected to eat outside (we also were avoiding the 1+ hour wait). Of course we can never pass up an opportunity for a good photo op:

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Mom and Me

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Dad and I

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Dad and Jen

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Jen and I

After dinner, we headed to The Second City to see Let Them Eat Choas. I always have a great time at The Second City and this night was no exception!

Monday May 27

On Monday morning, we said goodbye to Mom and Dad who spent the day driving home. After they left, Jen and I decided to have a Sister Day in the city.

First, we headed back into the city to take the Chicago River Architectural Tour. After hiking around Navy Pier for a bit, we finally found our boat. We even had time to snap a few pictures before the trip began:

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As you can see, it was cloudy and quite chilly…not necessarily the best day for a boat tour but we made the best of it. Our tour guide was really entertaining and we got to see some pretty great sights:

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The Wrigley Building

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Admittedly, all of these pictures came from the first half of the tour. For the second half of the tour they turned the boat around and the wind was DIRECTLY  in our faces, which made it really, really cold. I still tried to enjoy it and take it all in, but it was difficult after that. All in all I really enjoyed the tour and definitely recommend it to anyone who visits (or lives near) Chicago. My only advice: choose a warmer day.

After the boat tour, we headed to Quartino’s for dinner (and to warm up). Since it was early we were able to walk right in, which was really nice. I was too famished and cold to take pictures of our meal (I know bad, bad blogger) but trust me it was delicious. Luckily, I remembered to take a picture of our desssert, Torta al Cioccolato:

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Mmmmmm…delicious!

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All in all it was a really great trip and I’m so glad we were able to spend that time together! Maybe we can do it again some time, but next time we should have it at Jen’s house ;)!!!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 9.0

Hey Everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. It’s been a long time since I last participated in this meme (over two months now…yikes), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading! Here is a list of the things I am/have been reading lately!

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Recently I have finished:

Wolf Hall

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

I’ve read many books about Tudor England, but this is one of the most unique I’ve read in years. Thomas Cromwell is a character I never really knew very much about, and I really enjoyed learning more about him. This book is admittedly a bit on the long side, but I really enjoyed the dark humor.

I listened to the audioversion of this book, and while I enjoyed the narration I found the jumping back and  fourth in chronology to be a bit confusing at parts. Overall, a great read but I’d probably check out the print version if I had it to do all over again. 4/5 stars.

the-expatsSynopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew.

She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done—playdates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and never-ending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, at a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored.

Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they say they are, and she’s terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun, a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money, and finally unravels the mind-boggling long-play con that threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

I was really excited to read this book when I first heard about it, and even more excited when I learned I could download the audio version from my local library. Although my enthusiasm waned as I was listening to Kate’s tale, I will admit it was very engrossing and I finished it very rapidly. The story itself was a fantastic concept, but it was poorly executed. I really wanted to like this book more than I did, if only for Kate and her interesting back story. Here are my three main complaints about this book:

1) The story abruptly changes time frames and locations (especially at the beginning of the novel) with little or no warning. At one instant Kate is in the present in Luxembourg, and then all of the sudden she is back in D.C. in the past or in Paris in the future talking to characters the reader has never been introduced to. Huh?! Perhaps this effect was amplified by the audiobook, but I’ve seen other complaints about this from people who read the print version as well.

2) Pavone spends a long (long) time spinning a great tale and then finishes it off with a lukewarm and very unsatisfying conclusion. Seriously. There are so many chapters where almost nothing of importance happens. I kept thinking that it would all be worth it in the end, but honestly don’t really feel like it was.

3) If Kate is a C.I.A. agent, why does she spend so much of the novel so completely clueless? There were so many moments where I just wanted to scream “oh come ON!!!” at her. Honestly, she’s a really likeable character, but I have a hard time believing any real C.I.A agent would be THAT clueless.

Believe it or not I really did like this book. I just think it could have been so much more. 3/5 stars.

sarahskeyfinalcover

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard—their secret hiding place—and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

Sixty Years Later: Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.

In Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay offers up a mesmerizing story in which a tragic past unfold, the present is torn apart, and the future is irrevocably altered.

Admittedly I had never heard of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup before reading this book. I found this book to be very moving and engrossing 4/5 stars.

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Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

In 1996, A Game of Thrones earned praise and awe as a remarkable high fantasy introducing five noble families clashing for power over the wondrous Seven Kingdoms. Three years later, A Clash of Kings became a national bestseller with the continued chronicles of the royal houses of Targaryen, Baratheon, Lannister, Stark, and Greyjoy, each battling to keep or carve a kingdom. George R. R. Martin will draw a new legion of fans with A Storm of Swords, the third novel in his beloved fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Book Three of A Song of Ice and Fire is inexpressibly rich in both humor and horror. A Storm of Swords is eerily atmospheric, with tales of old hauntings, dreams of bad omen, the writhing air of ghosts, and ruins. Martin’s gift for imagining histories within histories, fables and superstitions, marvelous geographies, and the secrets of the heart is so enthralling that no reader can possibly be satisfied until the next chapter of the saga appears.

Whew. This was QUITE the read. It’s one of those books that you finish and just feel tired. In an effort to not give any spoilers to those individuals who read my blog but are not caught up on the series I will summarize my thoughts on the third installment in these three words: Exciting, shocking, long. I especially enjoyed this book because I hadn’t already seen the third season of Game of Thrones, but I’m really looking forward to watching it now!  4/5 stars.

Last week I finished:

headsinbeds-2

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Jacob Tomsky never intended to go into the hotel business. As a new college graduate, armed only with a philosophy degree and a singular lack of career direction, he became a valet parker for a large luxury hotel in New Orleans. Yet, rising fast through the ranks, he ended up working in “hospitality” for more than a decade, doing everything from supervising the housekeeping department to manning the front desk at an upscale Manhattan hotel. He’s checked you in, checked you out, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room-service meals, cleaned your toilet, denied you a late checkout, given you a wake-up call, eaten MnMs out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money. In Heads in Beds he pulls back the curtain to expose the crazy and compelling reality of a multi-billion-dollar industry we think we know.

Heads in Beds is a funny, authentic, and irreverent chronicle of the highs and lows of hotel life, told by a keenly observant insider who’s seen it all. Prepare to be amused, shocked, and amazed as he spills the unwritten code of the bellhops, the antics that go on in the valet parking garage, the housekeeping department’s dirty little secrets—not to mention the shameless activities of the guests, who are rarely on their best behavior. Prepare to be moved, too, by his candor about what it’s like to toil in a highly demanding service industry at the luxury level, where people expect to get what they pay for (and often a whole lot more). Employees are poorly paid and frequently abused by coworkers and guests alike, and maintaining a semblance of sanity is a daily challenge.Along his journey Tomsky also reveals the secrets of the industry, offering easy ways to get what you need from your hotel without any hassle. This book (and a timely proffered twenty-dollar bill) will help you score late checkouts and upgrades, get free stuff galore, and make that pay-per-view charge magically disappear. Thanks to him you’ll know how to get the very best service from any business that makes its money from putting heads in beds. Or, at the very least, you will keep the bellmen from taking your luggage into the camera-free back office and bashing it against the wall repeatedly.

Last week I lost all of my audiobooks in a tragic iPod accident (one of many this year), so I was pleasantly surprised to see this book come up in my queue at the library…especially since I had just completed at two week stay in a hotel for a research trip. I’ve stayed in many, many hotels throughout my life but have never really given that much thought to what goes on behind the scenes. And boy is there A LOT going on back there. I loved this book, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio version. I recommend this for anyone who has ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a hotel or what it’s like to work in one. It’s certainly not a “how-to” travel guide, but then again it’s a memoir…plus it’s hilarious and highly entertaining. 4/5 stars.

This week I am reading:

persuasion

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

In her final novel, as in her earlier ones, Jane Austen uses a love story to explore and gently satirize social pretensions and emotional confusion. Persuasion follows the romance of Anne Elliot and naval officer Frederick Wentworth. They were happily engaged until Anne’s friend, Lady Russell, persuaded her that Frederick was “unworthy.” Now, eight years later, Frederick returns, a wealthy captain in the navy, while Anne’s family teeters on the edge of bankruptcy. They still love each other, but their past mistakes threaten to keep them apart. Austen may seem to paint on a small canvas, but her characters contain the full range of human passion and moral complexity, and the author’s generous spirit renders them all with understanding, compassion, and humor.

Wow, I am really surprised (and disappointed) to say that I am still “reading” this. To be fair, the past two months have been *very* busy AND I read A Storm of Swords in between…which considering the length is no small feat. Regardless, I am ready now to devote my full attention to this book (which I feel it totally deserves). I will probably start it over (for the second time) so I have an uninterrupted reading experience.

This week I am listening to:

bonfire-of-the-vanities

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

When a hot young New York bond trader is involved in a car accident in the Bronx, prosecutors, politicians, the press, police, the clergy, and assorted hustlers close in on him, licking their chops. Through it, he discovers the black comedy of New York, a city boiling over with ethnic hostilities and burning with itchy palms.

Admittedly, the start of this book has been a little slow for me. I’ve also found it hard to connect with the predominately male (and predominately unsavory) characters. It is starting to grow on me though, and I’m enjoying reading about the racial and class tensions of New York City in the 1980’s. I’ve also found it interesting that even though this book was written over two decades ago there are many aspects of it that ring true today. This is another long book, and I don’t expect to finish it this week.

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What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

Checking In

Psst…remember me? Yes, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted either! Wow! Life has kept me VERY busy this past month(ish), and it doesn’t seem that the pace is going to lessen any time soon. The following is a small smattering of the things that have been occupying my time:

1) A visit from my family over memorial day weekend. Yes, I know that was a really long time ago now, but that was sort of the beginning of the end of my regular posting (apparently). We had a great time and I plan to re-cap our adventures in a post soon (because posting about things that happened 1+ month ago is the way blogging is supposed to work right? 😉 ).

2) Work. I was VERY busy most of June preparing samples for a research trip that I took at the end of June.

3) The Research Trip. During the last two weeks of June I traveled to Washington, D.C. to take measurements on the samples I mentioned in number 2. The trip was successful, and I will returning to D.C. at the end of August to continue (and hopefully finish!) the work I started there.

4) Enjoying summer in Chicago. It’s been beautiful folks.

In short, life has been busy, but life has been good. I hope to get back to my normal semi-regularish posting schedule soon. I’ve missed my little corner of the interwebs. Thanks again to all of you who have asked how I am doing/when I will be posting again. I am indeed alive and will be posting more soon!