Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sweet Home Oklahoma

Hey everyone! Sorry I've been so MIA lately...I've been traveling the past few weekends, which is good because I LOVE sharing my adventures, but bad because it leaves little precious time to share!

Anyhow, on to the good stuff...

Have you ever been sooo excited to take someone back to your hometown/state to show them where you are from and treat them to your fave restaurants and pastimes? Well, I had the opportunity to do just this a few weekends ago when one of my Chicago friends, who is from Coweta, OK, decided to get married back in Oklahoma. Both her and her fiance have lived in Chi for several years so they had a lot of mutual Chicago friends who would be traveling down to the great state of Oklahoma for the wedding on April 18th.

I was so ecstatic for a number of reasons...warmer weather, showing off how "pretty" northeast Oklahoma is in the Spring, and of course doting on my 1 year old niece! Two of my best girl friends came down early and spent Friday night in Tahlequah with my family. I was immediately bummed that Mother Nature had chosen to "Cry me a River" this particular weekend in April and there was no sun to be found. The skies were grey and clouds loomed ominously overhead. Not to mention the fact that it was 80 and sunny when we left Chi, ugh...But, knowing better than to harp on the things I can't change I chose to wow them with the culinary treats of the south. Lunch at Charleston's, Fountain Drinks at Sonic, and good ol' Momma's home cooking! That's right, my mom treated us like queens the whole 24 hours we were there - homemade enchiladas for dinner and then homemade (insert - to die for) donuts with cinnamon & sugar, powdered sugar and of course homemade chocolate icing, mmmm! She always made them for us as kids and so that was a special request! I think it won them over! :)

Trying to triple hula-hoop with this crazy water hula-hoop!

Then there was my darling niece, who unfortunately wasn't in the best of spirits during our trip (she's teething something awful), but was still a joy and such a cutie no one could resist! Here's a picture of her!

Mixed with all the good of the weekend was some heartache...You see, my great grandma who is 94 was recently put in a nursing home and it was my first time to see her there. It literally broke my heart! Just at Christmas she was fine and fully mentally present. Then in late Jan she fell and the pain from the collapsed disks in her back made her mind go. It was so hard to see her like this - she was just so disillusioned and kept asking about people and things that were from her past. I am glad I went to see her though, because it really gave me a lot of perspective on life. She has lived a full, long life and her body is just not keeping up. She reminds me to live each day to the fullest, pursue my passions while I'm still able and to not have regrets. So, thanks Grandma Mimi...I love you!

Saturday was the day of the wedding and we visited some more of my family, and then headed to Tulsa to get mani's and pedi's. I had missed my mom's birthday and was treating her to this b/c it's something we love doing together! After getting primped we headed to Brittani's grandparent's house in Tulsa to change and were off to the wedding (please note that it's still raining at this point and the wedding was supposed to be outdoors)! En route to the wedding we find out that it indeed had been moved indoors and all was well. However, all was not well with our directions to the wedding. We didn't realize how far it actually was to the wedding and that mixed with the inclement weather caused us to show up 15 min late, ahhhh! (note to self: I'm telling everyone my wedding stars 30 min before it actually does, haha). We felt horrible, but got there right before the bride walked down the isle.

The Barr wedding was lovely. Great speeches, good food and awesome company. Our group from Chicago was about 10-15 people strong and we totally rocked the dance floor, which happened to be outside under a patio and we danced while it stormed all around - so cool! We get great lightening storms in Oklahoma and I think people were mesmerized. We closed down the dance floor and the after party took us to Fox and Hound Bar/Grill for a bit. By this point I was tired and my feet were hating me for punishing them on the dance floor. This combined with the smoke (yes, apparently OK still thinks it's ok to smoke in public facilities) left a lot to be desired and we slipped out shortly after and called it a night.

The most entertaining part of the trip was by far the road trip back to Chicago from Oklahoma - a 11-12 hour adventure. Yes, don't be confused...i flew there and drove back! (gotta save where I's all about the Benjamins, haha). Two carloads of Chicagoans caravaned back together on the looong journey. I was fortunate enough to ride back in the Ellis Honda packed out with 5 people!!! Yes, a Honda with 5 people for 12 hours, you do the math! It wasn't the most "comfortable" ride of my life, but certainly one of the most fun! Ben, Jenna and I lived it up in the back seat and John and Ashley were pilot and co-pilot. I just have to stop and give a huge shout out to John for driving the WHOLE WAY in the horrible rain - yes, it rained all day.

Not only was there rain, but also cold on the outside and the breathing of 5 people does not mix well...the windows kept fogging and the Ellises were adament about keeping the heat on full blast. We were literally sweating in the back seat. It was probably hot enough for Bikram Yoga in that car. Trying to be gracious guests we didn't complain much at first and just resorted to rolling down the window intermittently. But after a few hours down, we started sticking up for ourselves and demanding regular "blasts" as we affectionately called them of cool AC! It sounds so ridiculous thinking back, but that car was most likely hotter than Hell!!! hahahaha (and that's not an exaggeration!)

Oh, and I forgot to mention that we stopped 7, yes 7, times during the ride. Unbelievable! We even started joking that each passenger gets their own "personal stop", haha. Two of the noteworthy stops were 1) Sonic (for the 3rd time that weekend) for dessert...Sunday happened to be 40cent Root Beer float day so Ben decided to get 3, haha, and they were huge! We ended up gifting one to our buddy car and Ben did some damage on the 2 remaining. As a matter of fact, a picture of his first Sonic trip with 2 RBF's was his debut on Twitter!
Our saving grace at the end of this long crazy drive was DJ A-Robb! Armed with ipod in hand and an eclectic mix of the "best of the 80s, 90s & 2000s" she took us back to middle school, Jr. and Sr. High! Everything from Nelly to Shaggy, to Mariah, to Salt 'N' Peppa to Alison Krauss (my fave) made the last few hours FLY by! I don't know what I would have done without that! The best part was the 3 of us crammed in the back seat dancing (as best as we could) and jamming out. Which is what I love about music - it has a way of taking your cares away. We no longer were thinking of how crammed and hot we were, nope, just the tunes, rhythm and anticipation of each new song!

What a weekend folks, what a weekend! I truly love road trips. Thus I'm going on one this weekend to Indy and then at the end of May to Nashville. So, stay tuned! Next up is my Boston trip that I just returned from!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Secret Life of Mee!

We all have secrets...Some we share with a few select individuals. Some we bury deep in the crevices of our souls. And some are just secrets by default - things you keep to yourself without even knowing. Well, I've decided to become a bit more "transparent" with all of you who follow me by doing a weekly post called "The Secret Life of Mee!" Each week I'll divulge something about myself that few or or no one knows. And if you're feeling feisty, I'd love comments on "secrets" you keep!

Secret #1: I collect Barbies! Ahh....I know, i know...that's something little girls do, but my granny started my collection for me when I was a wee tot and it has just never ceased to multiply! I have around 50+ Barbies in mint condition, boxed and all. My favorite part of the collection are the Holiday Barbies that debuted in 1988. As of a few years ago, I had the whole set, minus the 1989 Barbie. I am not going to lie, I scoured ebay many a times to see if I could buy it. Then about 2 years ago, my aunt found one randomly and bought it for me (what a great lady)! I am at a point where I don't avidly collect anymore. But I still get a Barbie every year for Christmas from my granny and it's even wrapped. I'm always bursting with excitement to see what this year's Holiday Barbie looks like! Not only do I enjoy the beauty of Barbies, but also they can be a semi-lucrative investment. I wonder if I'll ever sell them, or pass them along to my kids? One day I'll have to decide - when my granny no longer houses them for me. But I'll wait till that day to worry!
Here's the 1997 Holiday Barbie

Being a Chicago urbanite, I can't help but love this "Career Barbie" from 1963!
I'd wear this now!
And here's a little splash video I made of Barbie through the years!!! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Building & Growing Your Personal Brand. Are you LinkedIn?

Is it just me? Or does anyone else relate to this picture when you think of the chaos that plagues the social media realm? Anyone else feel like a fish out of water? That you can't "learn & apply" fast enough? Sigh....well, then join the club.

Well, as of late, social media has been my job (you know the 24/7 job you can't escape?!?). Can I just say that I love my job! I truly do love the advertising industry...even despite the A.D.D. that I fear it's causing (can i get some Ritalin???) However, just the past few months I've jumped head first into the media mayhem that is Twitter, in addition to my many other "social-media" endeavors. I've recently learned of the TED conference, AdAge Digital Conference, SXSW Interactive Conference and now they are having a Twitter conference in May!!!

During a meeting with a social-media maven (Mike Dwyer) today I started jotting down all the places I dabble in the web 2.0 or 3.0 arena...Here's the ever growing list: Blogger (Obv), YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Twitter (TweetBrain TweetDeck, Skimmer), StumbleUpon (becoming a new fave), DIGG, Skype, Delicious, Dopplr, WAYN, and 20Somethings Blogger. AH! No wonder I sometimes feel like a 6 year old in a toy store! There's so much fighting for my attention. So, instead of having an atomic melt down (like i'd sometimes like to) I'm choosing to focus on better understanding each of these services and give you my take (or an experts) on how to use each of them. Then, maybe i'll better be able to discern which ones are working for me and which are working against me!

Today's topic...LinkedIn, compliments of Mike Dwyer! Thanks! My opinion is that it has been a static resource in the past and has now become more agile due to the recession - people are treating it like a or Careerbuilder. Recruiters are on it, unemployed too. Seems like a natural fit. But for those of us with jobs it can be a great tool for networking via the "groups" that relate to your personal or professional interests!

Let me know if you use this service and what you like or don't like about it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hope Is Risen Indeed!

Easter for me has always been a time for celebrating the hope of Jesus' resurrection with family. A time to strap on your Easter best and worship together with the church community. And of course, followed by an extravagant southern home cooked meal. And maybe an Easter egg hunt or two!

But this year I wasn't able to go home and be with my Oklahoma clan because I'm headed there this coming weekend for a wedding. At first I was deeply disheartened about this news. My niece has just turned one and I bought her an Easter dress that I wouldn't get to see her wear and my great grandma
isn't doing well and may not have many holidays left, so I was wallowing in my self-pity, when I had an epiphany...

It's as if God was like "wake up Michelle" and I knew that my purpose in staying here was to provide a place for other "orphans" to gather and fellowship on this blessed holiday. I wrestled with this revelation for a week or so, tossing it out to a few people for confirmation, and then bit the bullet and planned an Easter brunch for my close friends (or so I thought), haha. It started out as a smaller group of close friends, but then like flies, people kept multiplying and my vision for this get together grew and grew.

Deciding to utilize my God given spiritual gifts of hospitality and my family given gift of loving food was me surrendering all to God. I was elated that so many people wanted to spend this holiday at my home and everyone was so generous in contributing to the pot luck brunch. All in all, I think about 20-25 people showed up and my fridge is now stocked with the leftovers!

Here's the rundown of our bounty: Belgian Waffles, Strawberries, whipped cream, banana nut muffins (some with choc chips), blueberry bagels, a Paula Dean egg casserole, a goat cheese and vegetable fritatta, mixed fruit, cupcakes, cheesecake, frosted strudel cake, a delicious ham, OJ, pomegranate lemonade, milk, Dunkin Donuts Coffee...pretty much the works!

Here's our spread!!!
Quite the feast, ehh? After we had our fill, Jenna played her guitar and led us in a time of praise and worship that was so moving. What a wonderful way to spend this special day. It far exceeded my expectations and I'm just so lucky to have such a great FAMILY in Chicago!

And I think to myself..."What a Wonderful Life!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday To YOU!

It's officially Good Friday also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday or even Black Friday. And
I woke up thinking that I must be mindful of the real reason we celebrate today and Easter Sunday. You see, for too many years, I mindlessly celebrated this glorious holiday with pastels, eggs, dye, candy and of course good southern food. But as I've gotten older and my faith has grown and become more important, I suddenly understand the irony of calling today both "Great" and "Black".

Reasons it's Good or Great:
- The death of one for the good of all
- This day reminds many of faith, history and hope - It's a crucial part of the Christian story - On a lighter note, offices close early and folks get a head start on the weekend festivities
- People really get into the "Easter" spirit (even my office breakfast club)

*These are the cutest little bunny breakfast treats! Granola, fruit and non-fat vanilla yogurt topped with jelly beans for eyes, cookies for ears, gum drops for the nose/mouth and licorice for the whiskers! Great job Kristen!!! These were a huge hit!

Reasons it's Black:

- An innocent man was put to death for being the savior of the world
- He was tortured and humiliated and felt the weight of our sin
- During Christ's last 3 hours on the cross there was darkness over the whole land

I wrote this post as part of my commitment to remember the real reason of Easter and hopefully it will remind you too. I'm also going to our church's Good Friday service tonight to hear the Good Word! And hosting a brunch on Sunday for all my friends who are Chicago orphans and can't go home! What are you doing for Good Friday or Easter?

Don't try this at home!!!

Is it impossible to eat 1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon in one sitting???

Watch this video to find out! girlfriends and I were hanging out last night and it came up in casual conversation (the best things usually do) that it is indeed impossible to do eat some things that you would never believe...such as 6 saltines in a minute, which most of us had heard or tried. Well, the new one last night was eating a whole teaspoon of cinnamon at once. I love cinnamon and eat in on a weekly (almost daily) basis, so i was sure that I would have no problems with this. My dear friend Lauren tried it first and the aftermath was hilarious! I'll add her video below when I get it! Seeing her failed attempt did not disuade me at all, nope, it made me want to do it more! Obviously, if you watched the video above, you can tell, I also wasn't so successful! Hahaha!

Does anyone have fun "Don't try this at home stories" or "You can't eat this" options for me to try?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Chicken Has Hatched

Ok....So it's common knowledge that winter sucks in Chicago. And the last 3 years, I've been beaten and blown about by it's ferocious winds. And the snow...well, I won't even go there! But I always come out victorious - ever the optimist when "Spring" peeks through the gray and blue, yellow, and green spring up throughout the city. It's a marvelous thing.

However, this year...this year is different. It's snowing and hailing in April and I can't seem to kick the blues that all this gray brings. Ugh...I've tried and will continue to. Just this weekend I finally took the leap and sprung for a new bike. Ever since mine got stolen a little over a year ago, I've been hesitant to replace it. Bike theft is quite common in the city and it just ticked me off so much that I didn't want to let it happen again! But my adventurous spirit draws me outdoors at every glimpse of sun and shine and I love nothing more than riding in the warm wind of summer along the crystal blue Lake Michigan. So, I found this great non-profit bike shop called Working Bikes that diverts bikes from being discarded and repairs them for sale and charity. Perfect!

Accompanied by roomie, bestie and Elsie (aka the Ford Escape Zip Car) we headed out to test our luck. You see, everyday the inventory changes so you never know what you're going to have to choose from. As luck would have it, I spied a road bike that was just my size. Took it on a couple spins and thought that I had found my mate. Then, upon realizing the intricacies of a road bike and my lagging knowledge of such creatures, I started questioning my decision. Alas, as luck WOULD have it, Linds saw something across the room. A blushing pink beauty that turned out to be a hybrid, cheaper than the road bike and the perfect size! SOLD! Finishing off the purchase with a new U-lock (my crime fighting counterpart) and a light, I strolled out of there a very happy customer! :)

Here's a picture of my new Spring Chicken!
Now that she's hatched and ready to ride, I'm more eager than ever for true Springtime to arrive! So, Winter better watch out because what "Winter" doesn't know is that I can hang with the best of them, have an unrelenting spirit and am one hot pink mama! haha!!!

Anyone else made any fun spring/summer purchases? Love to hear about them...I have a feeling my Spring Fever has only just begun!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools!!!


Have you been duped yet? I have!
I strolled into work this morning, totally unassuming, forgetting it is actually April 1. And to my surprise, I received this email from a colleague of mine whom I don't really know all that well!

Basically, It looks like I have emailed him "Stop touching my hot pockets. I really mean it this time."

To which he innocently replies, "What are you talking about?"

Hahaha...I wrote him this dumbfounded apologetic email explaining that I did not author this email. Then, upon talking to my boss, I find out it happened to her too with the same guy (only a diff message) and apparently we had been punked! Oh the joys of working at a creative shop!!! What will they come up with next?

On a non-work related April Fools Day note, I meant to wrap a rubberband around our kitchen sink sprayer so that when my roomates turned on the water they would get sprayed. Hmmm, but it totally escaped me today, darn! Do any of you have good pranks you played or had any played on you?

Just remebered this video from our Element 79 work prank last year! Enjoy!