Monday 29 July 2013

Just Got Back From The Windy City

I know it was a work trip but it's amazing how much you can cram in to the bits of free time you do get when you put your mind to it! The last comment I had from the big boss before I left was 'to network' I'd say going out to drink cocktails, and beer, and eat deep dish pizza and world famous hot dogs with some of your conference companions all count as networking right?

So we arrived in Chicago late Saturday afternoon and frankly it was hotter than Hades. Paull and I decided to check in the hotel and then go out for a walk in Millenium Park. The idea being to tire ourselves out in the hopes of combating the inevitable jetlag. 
Now the thing with the heat in Chicago is the humidity, boy, oh boy is it humid. I have only every sweated like that once before in my life and that was when I was fighting a fever!!!
 It's not ladylike and it's certainly not pretty.

The views and the delicious salted caramel ice cream did go some way to helping me feel a little less self conscious.  
The Bean in Millenium park. It's a bit mental really how shiny and reflective it is. You can walk right underneath it too, there was a wedding party having their picture taken whilst we were there, I bet they were some amazing shots.

My first view of the famous skyline.
The Wrigley (as in chewing gum) building.

We trudged back to the hotel made plans to meet for breakfast. I have never been so grateful for a super powerful American shower, cranked up the air con and hit the sack.
I didn't sleep so good, my room was at the front of the hotel and I kept hearing this loud whistling which drove me nuts, it turned out to be the doorman calling up taxis!
Also we were next door to a hospital so there were on and off ambulance sirens all night too.

I was up at 5.30am (damn you bodyclock still on U.K time) and after another shower this time to wake me up a bit, I went down bleary eyed to breakfast. I had decided to stroll to Lincoln Park via the lake shore and visit the zoo which opens at 9am. Paull was going to go to the Art Institute but on discovering it didn't open until 11am opted to join me at the zoo first.
I think it's important to get the balance right of time together and time alone when you travel with a colleague, thankfully Paull and I get on like a house on fire so it works out well.

Another hot, hot, hot day. I slathered on the sunblock and wore a hat (get me being all sensible and mature!) before heading out into the furnace.
The manmade beach was super busy with joggers and cyclists and we watched a little bit of the volleyball before cutting through the park.
The Zoo is WONDERFUL! not only is it free there is so much to see. Well I say that, when we first arrived at about 9.05am we were greeted by empty enclosure after empty enclosure.....
We were joking it was a bit like the KitKat Panda advert (British reference there!) but were disappointed never the less.
As we were debating what to do next we caught a polo shirted, wellington booted movement. Turns out we were just too early and they hadn't even let the animals out yet!
So we got to stroll round watching bears, tigers, rhinos and monkeys tucking into breakfast, some of it far less appetizing than others.

We both spotted the carousel and dashed up to it with undisguised excitement. It was only $2.75 a ride so there was no hesitating, tickets were  purchased and animals chosen, it is made up of wild jungle animals not horses. I sat with two baby gorillas on a log and Paull chose a blue arsed baboon.Bloody brilliant fun.

The primate enclosure was the best. We were in there ages and got chatting to a lady who told us all about their important work with breeding Gorillas for hopefully releasing back into the wild one day, it was fascinating stuff.

The best bit by far was a chimp after my own heart who clearly was so sick of all the idiot visitors pounding on the glass and shouting, that he picked up a large pile of poo smeared it all over the glass in front of them, then turned his back with a look of utter disdain. Hilarious.

We wandered back through the park and decided that some manner of refreshment was in order. The Cheesecake Factory it was! After a long cold drink and a dish from their lighter choices menu we felt we were justified in having a pudding.

                                               Baked banana cheesecake anyone?
After lunch we decided to go our separate ways. Paull to the museum and myself on my quest to find the only Bath and Bodyworks store listed for Chicago and stock up on their wonderous products.

What a trek, I walked for what felt like forever through some not so savoury parts and finally got there at 3.05pm, yes you've guessed it the store closed at 3pm....ARSE. I gestured through the glass and the guy mouthed back at me 'we're closed' I finally got across that I only wanted to ask a question. Basically if they had what I wanted in stock I would zip back the next morning before the conference started. As it turns out they didn't stock it so double arse.

I then decided to head sideways across town to a vintage store I had found online. It wasn't my day because it was also shut when I got there even though it wasn't yet 4pm the listed closing time. Somewhat disheartened I headed back towards the Magnificent Mile across the bridges which turned out to be a pretty interesting walk. By this time I was starting to feel weird, couldn't put my finger on it but not well. I had spotted an organic tea cafe the day before and hunted it down and ordered a 'medium black tea with milk' on clocking my accent the girl said' I'm guessing you want that hot right?' Absolutely.
Turns out the medium was about the size of a bucket, undeterred I drank the lot in 10 minutes flat and felt 'me' again.
We met up for a steak dinner, the best I have ever eaten, then headed to the hotel for another early night.

Next day the bodyclock was still on U.K time so I headed out for a bit of retail therapy before the conference started. Other than gifts for others this is what I bought...

The last two were in the sale = result.

After a quick freshen up it was time to work and work we did. A whole afternoon of presentations followed by an 'ice breaker' hour and dinner. We soon broke off into a small group who decided to go to a bar famous for it's cityscape views and cocktails.

Now that is what I call networking.

Next day was 7 full hours of workshops broken up by lunch. I was on my knees by the end of it. hellish lot of concentration and work. This was our 'free' evening with the organizers strongly advising joint activities rather than solo trips out. As I have never had the famous deep dish pizza that was the group we joined.
11 of us went to Gino's and it was GOOOOOOOOD. After we split into two groups. Some went shopping and the rest of us walked to Navy Pier to have a look round and drink surprisingly good beer. I spent the whole time talking British TV shows with one of the guys who was a big fan of them. Networking right?

Wednesday was another full day though this time we finished at 4.30 before going on a firework cruise at 6pm.
What a fantastic night that was.
The gorgeous views from the lake,
the stunning firework display that seemed to go on forever, 
and the fabulous food.
Plus the bonus of an unlimited free bar, now that certainly broke the ice! Our coach sang loudly all the way back to the hotel and plans were made for drinking/clubbing.
 I decided to bow out of that as I had pulled the short straw and was attending the morning sessions the next day (when did I get so sensible??) I hear a damn good and messy time was had by all.

One final morning of presentations, pack and check out (with a minor heart attack over the bill which was thankfully in error), then off to the airport for a long wait before our flight home.

All in all a great time. I could have done without the work bit but as we were encouraged to move tables all the time I did meet a lot of different people and made a couple of what I hope will be life long friends.

So Hurrah for networking.

Birthdays and Other Celebrations.

Hello, I'm back, it's been a wee while and I do have things to blog about......not least my trip to Chicago (more of that later.)

It's just July has been very busy at work, it's also been crazy hot and as we have no air con in the office this means by 3pm I can't even speak coherently let alone work at a super efficient pace. By the time I get home, make dinner and water the garden I pretty much just collapse in a heap with no thoughts of blogging.
I'm sure there are other events and other purchases to mention but I can't recall them right now, clearly this is because I am another year older and therefore another year more befuddled.

So yes the birthday was here again and I had a great day. I refused to work so booked a day off, Caron kindly agreed to squeeze me in for a much needed cut and colour before I travelled and also booked a table for us all to go and eat Italian that night. YUM.

Nephew Number One had an interview for the college course he desperately wanted to do and the extra birthday present for me was he got an offer! I'm beyond thrilled for him.

                                                        Celebrations all round!

Another bonus was I am able to fit back into the lovely daisy dress I am wearing in the above picture. Your birthday is probably not the best day for jumping on the scales to see if the diet you have 'kind of' been sticking to is working or not, but what the hell I like to live dangerously sometimes.

9 pounds down and many more to go........

Some of my fantastic gifts, quite frankly I have been spoilt rotten.

July is also my Mum's birthday and this year for the first time I missed it as I was in the States. I made sure I had her presents early, and as seems to be the way of it, the thing I bought last minute as a little extra was the star gift rather than the other things that I had so carefully chosen!

The night before I was due to get up at the arse crack of dawn for the airport Himself decreed we had to go and see The World's End.

As it turns out this was actually a really good idea because I would probably only have prowled around the house being antsy and instead I got to switch off for a few hours and laugh a lot.
It's not as good as Hot Fuzz but I did enjoy it.

After that it was home to bed for a few hours kip before the airport run, which surprisingly I did manage to get in.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Pictures of Random Things.

Well I've broken my blog at least once a week rule again. Mostly cos there was not a lot going on.
I haven't been out and about, the only shopping I have done has been birthday presents and it's all been kicking off at work so I have mostly been keeping my head down until home time.

The weather has been glorious, but for me it's just too darn hot.
I'm afraid my pale anglo-saxon personage does not do well in heat. Consequently I scoot into town very early to do what I need to do and then spent the rest of the day inside until about 6pm when I ventured out into the garden.

The plus side of this scorching weather is washing dries in the blink of an eye so I did a shedload of laundry last weekend, you know all those things like the bathroom mats that usually take an age to dry.
 Being stuck in the house has also meant I have done a ton of the little jobs that sit around forever and a day waiting for me to have the time or inclination so it's been some good, and of course I was glued to the TV on Sunday watching Andy Murray win at Wimbledon.

This time next week I will be in the air winging my way to Chicago. Due to it all kicking of at work  this week it initially looked like the trip was cancelled, then it looked like I was going to have to go alone, (which I will admit was more than a tad daunting) but now it's all back on and Paull and I are off to make our mark in a rather splendid hotel which has a Tip Tap Top Ballroom apparently!

Mind I was not happy to be sent pre-conference homework!?! WTF? I did it with very bad grace.

Also some of the workshops are 'role play'. Stuff that, I'm British I don't do role play, far too awkward and repressed.
I am hoping I can skip some of it and actually get a little bit of time to see the city, it seems SO crazy to go all that way to spend the whole damn time in a hotel pretending to be a lost sheep in a field or whatever metaphor they choose for us to act out. Can you tell I have no faith in role play?

On to the pictures that make up the title of my post.
I tried my hand at a Canadian ketchup cake. I do love me a bit of Heinz and this is surprisingly nice as it goes.
My parents popped in unexpectedly and brought me this rather lovely fake fur. Mama had been at a clothing swap shop in the village, basically you could bring in 5 items and take away 5 items. This was one of her 5 because it screamed both her daughter's names at her apparently.
As big sis is not here to get her mitts upon it I had no qualms about grabbing it first, besides as I pointed out to Mother in justification, I liked leopard print long before Gabs did so I win.
A vintage soap dish spotted in one of my random browsings on Ebay and purchased for the princely sum of 99p.
A vintage handbag also spotted during a brows on Ebay and also 99p (plus postage). It absolutely stank when it arrived.Goodness only knows where it had been stored up until now, bleurgh!

It's been washed twice and has been airing outside for a week and is now only slightly pungent.
An early birthday present from The Museum Collection sale.
A huge golden H liberated from outside the pub by the station (The Prince of Wales) which was having a refit. I wanted to go back and see if I could get more letters but Himself wouldn't let me, it was a risky enough business snaffling the H and it was on the top of the pile!
 What I really wanted to get was the T, E and A, I thought I could put them somewhere in the garden.

 I did also point out that if I were able to liberate the lot I could spell out ELEPHANT, but no, it wasn't to be. So I'm left with a solitary H.

I hope you all have a great weekend, my plans are to stay in until later when I am off to see Monsters University!

Monday 1 July 2013

Beer Adventures and a Death on the Nile Bag.

This Saturday after catching up with my brother, doing a humongous food shop and eating a stomach lining egg based brunch, Himself and I headed out for a beer based adventure.

We caught the train to deepest, darkest, rural Oxfordshire to attend the Charlbury Beer Festival.

Friends Dan and Gareth were working there and the lovely Melissa was using the festival as an opportunity to have her belated 30th birthday celebration, so what more excuses did we need?

In some respects the absolutely gorgeous weather was a blessing and a curse.

The place was packed, this was the worrying queue that greeted us at the beer tent!

There were just shy of 50 ales to sample, as well as ciders, perries and a solitary lager.
 In a most civilized fashion there was also jugs of Pimms for those who weren't fans of beer.
 Bands played (some better than others) and there was all manner of food from cake to curry. In other words something for everyone. All in all a great day out and very successful, raising £18,000 for local charities.
Sadly too successful really, because before the hands on my watch had reached 7.30pm this had happened
and there were still three and a half hours to go........

 Men were quickly dispatched to the local store where they bought the whole stock of bottled beer to stop it all kicking off.
Good Times.

Now without further ado on to the most exciting vintage bag purchase I have made in many a month, thank you oh bag gods for smiling down upon me this day.

Picture the scene from Poirot, the Death on the Nile episode, where Rosalie Otterbourne and Jacqueline De Bellefort are sitting in Rosalie's cabin going through each other's handbags "comparing lipsticks"
Now picture Rosalie's bag, the one with the Egyptian pyramid scene on it, do you remember it? No? Ok let me refresh your memory...

Yes that's the one!

Now look what arrived in the post for me this morning.
Just like the one in the episode it has a painted picture on the front and an embossed picture on the back. It's got that lovely exotic old leather smell, has many different sized compartments inside and a little mirror that has seen better days.

Let's just say I am a very, very happy bunny to add this bag to my collection for less than £15 including postage.