Archive for Friends and Strangers


Not last weekend, but the weekend before, friends and neighbors came knockin at the door. As I sat down, they came in, gave me spatulas and a frying pan.


Down in the wine bar, where grape juice flows,
there sat Nelly, sweet as a rose
Along came Farmer, kissed her on the nose.
How many kisses? Only she will know.


Nelly and Farmer, sitting in a tree,
First comes love, then comes marriage,
then comes a week in Maui (not a baby carriage).



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People have gotten friendme lately — and I think it’s fun. I get at least one friend request a day, and it’s amazing the people that find me.

Now I can hardly stand normal e-mail. It’s so much easier to just go to one place and be able to read all the random crap about what people are up to, then send them a note.

I’m still at the office proofing ads tonight, so after dining on Thai with the team, I checked Facebook to find some addresses for the wedding. And lo and behold, I found myself tagged! And this one I was actually happy to find — some aren’t very flattering.

This was from June, when Mr. Farmer took me to meet his high school friends at the Willie Nelson concert at Ravinia. It’s amazing I don’t look like death warmed over, as I felt like total crap. I had a massive cold, and I sat there and froze to death while everyone else lounged in shorts.


He is sooooooooo dreamy!

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Kelly and Jay’s engagement photos

I’m falling into a pattern of literally getting up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays. Last week I got up at 4:15 to go fishing with Mr. Farmer and his buddy. (Where, by the way, I captured some great photos, which I still need to post.)

Today I got up to meet Kelly and Jay, my delightful friends who are getting married three weeks after Mr. Farmer and I tie the knot, to take their engagement photos. Clearly they are a very daring pair to task an amateur with this great responsibility!

And I milked it for all it was worth. I had a blast. Here are my favorites. (You can also click on “Nelly’s Flickr Photos” if you want to see them larger as a slideshow.)

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Family Camp

With all this talk of “camping” at the cabin, I started thinking back to the glory days of 4-H camp, gymnastics camp, church camp, family camp, and cheerleading camp. I’m sure there was a volleyball camp in there somewhere, too.

And I honestly can’t decide which one of them I liked best.

Last night at dinner we started talking about Family Camp, which was the standard destination for 5 years running in early August, right after the 4-H fair. I think we must have started going the summer after I was in 3rd grade or so — I remember seeing a photo with me in a particular red and white Izod boat neck shirt, which I was also wearing in the 4-H camp photo from that same year. Family camp was at Camp Mennoscah, which is a rustic little Mennonite camp many miles from a town, situated on the Ninnescah river.

Pretty much the same families were there each year. Many of them were related. We were the tag-alongs with the E family.

For the first few years, we stayed with two other families in the same cabin. But after that, Dad preferred the comfort of grandpa’s RV. (I think his karma caught up with him, however, when Brother DIY busted his knee open on the metal step into the camper and had to go to the emergency room.)

The camp was only 3 days long, and our routine consisted of eating breakfast in the dining hall, messing around outside (playing 4-square, canoeing the creek, playing on the tree swing that went out over the river), eating lunch, having some sort of group activity, eating dinner and then having a campfire complete with guitar sing-alongs.

DIY and his buddy S were always a source of entertainment. They really found it funny to sing the “compound word” song during lunch — “Have you ever seen a shoe box, a salad dressing, etc.” — and add in “cork screw.” (I have to admit it was hilarious to watch them be shushed. I’m sure it’s not possible that I was the one leading them down the path of sin.)

You should also know that S was a monkey — that kid was constantly in the trees. Or the river. Which meant DIY was right along side. One morning they decided to swing really high over the river…and then jump in wearing their good clothes.

Nighttime was equally funny. S and his sister J inevitably fell out of bed at least once a year. From the top bunk onto cement. Splat.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. But there are a few things that stand out:

  • One of the dads in the group led us on a walking tour up one of the tributaries of the river.
  • One day we headed to a sandbar a bit away from the camp, where there were lots of wild watermelons growing.
  • There was a big inner tube — I mean from a LARGE tractor — in the swimming pool, which was fun to bounce and rock.
  • Singing songs by the campfire.
  • Round dancing.

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4-H Friends

Poor Nelly hasn’t been galloping very quickly these days when it comes to keeping up with the blog. So here’s a “backblog” from January.

Andrea and Ann, my 4-H agent friends, braved the Chicago winter to visit over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.


I scooped them up from O’Hare in my trusty Zipcar, we headed for lunch at Big Bowl in Schaumburg, and then we made the trek to Naperville, where I went to a meeting and they shopped the cutesy downtown (aka Michigan Avenue West). We then stopped at Target, where I grocery-shopped for the first time in months. Our last stop of the night was the Signature Lounge at the Hancock Building. (Always a favorite.) The view from the women’s restroom is tops.


I had a massive kink in my neck at the time, so the next morning I roused myself out of a painful sleep and went to the chiropractor for some relief while the girls got ready to go to the aquarium. Once I got back, we attempted to start our reserved Zipcar — a Prius — but the anti-theft device thought we were the thieves. Ultimately we traded for a Mini and parked at Soldier Field.


I’d never been to the Shedd Aquarium, and it was far more interesting than I expected.


Ann caught 40 winks in the rainforest.


I had to go back to the chiropractor that afternoon, and I sent my guests shopping in the neighborhood. They found Gaymart to be quite entertaining.


That night we made Pioneer Woman’s YUMMY potroast. (Highly recommended.)

The next day I was still in pain, so I stayed home from work. By early afternoon, we needed some food. So we headed to Michigan Avenue and had lunch at the Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus. Mmmmm. Popovers. Strawberry Butter. Chicken broth. Delightful.


Ann had some tea.


Andrea had some tangerine.


And I had a raisin and strawberry plaid. Which I ultimately purchased and wore to the benefit that I went to last Friday.


We headed back to my house as the lights came up on the Watertower.


The next day they spent 7 hours in the airport because they missed their flight due to my poor advice of taking the blue line. Whoops.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t posted for a good ten days. I’ve had so many cultural experiences in that timeframe that my brain is paralyzed! I’m not sure where to begin.

Here’s a quick run-down, in case you think I’m lying:

  • Ann and Andrea came to visit, and during their time here, we shopped Naperville, had drinks at the top of the Hancock building, went to the Shedd Aquarium, saw 27 Dresses, made pot roast, shopped Michigan Avenue, had lunch at the Zodiac Room, and bought a Marc by Marc Jacobs dress (whoops). Phew.
  • Went to a roller derby on Saturday night
  • Drove by a massive a ski jump
  • Sang irreverent songs along with Pat McCurdy. (Interestingly he also plays at a bar called Durty Nellie’s. Hmmm.)

It’s my intention to discuss each of these in complete detail, but let’s face it: a sequel to the peanut butter story came out in the Mo-Jo, and I think that requires the most urgent attention.

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Last night I had plans for dinner — though the only plan we had at the time was that we were going somewhere or other around 8. I got home from work at 7:45 and ran a comb through my hair, just as my friend called to say I had five minutes to pull it together because he was five blocks away from picking me up in a cab.

I asked where we were going. He said he didn’t know. I asked how we were ever going to make a decision about where to go in a split second (my track record for deciding on a restaurant in less than 30 minutes isn’t good) — so perhaps he should come in so that we could decide. He said not to worry, we’d figure it out en route.

Who was I to argue?

I got in the cab, and within seconds it became clear that he’d been having a conversation with the cab driver — Shaquiel — who emphatically suggested a place (couldn’t understand the name). He insisted that we’d like it because it’s new and is the hot place to go in the West Loop.

So after trying to brainstorm a few places that I’d actually heard of, we decided to just let the cab driver take us to his suggested spot. I didn’t know whether I was in for hot dogs, pasta, fish or sushi.

We headed west on Randolph. Past the restaurants. Past the grocery warehouses.

Pretty soon we pulled up in front of it:


The Alhambra Palace. It became clear that we’d be having couscous for dinner.  Seemed reasonable enough. I like couscous and falafel. A nice glass of wine, a nice lamb chop, a quiet dinner to end a busy week.

We stepped inside and saw a moderately filled bar area in front of us — and an empty dining room to our right. Hmmm. We asked for a table for two. And then waited 10 minutes. Hmmm. My friend went to the restroom while I continued to wait.

5 seconds later he was back. “You gotta see this,” he said. So we walked through the bar. Into a ginormous room (14-ft ceilings with huge balcony) seating hundreds of people. With a huge stage featuring a flamenco band. And flamenco dancers on the dance floor in front of the stage.


stage 2

Right then the host found us to take us to our table.

I was speechless.

But it got crazier. After the flamenco band and dancers, another small band came out — I’d call it Moroccan. And a belly dancer with her DD’s covered in a fuscia bra with rhinestones. 


Despite the cheese factor, she was GOOD. I couldn’t believe it. (Or perhaps it was the wine…)

After her performance, a trio of young mafia members came and sat next to us. And proceeded to come and go to smoke outside at least three times in 15 minutes. Then the rest of the room got up to bellydance as a group.

We left before midnight, and the crowd was out of a movie. Tons of people dancing to Arab music. And plenty of greasy men looking on.

If there’s ever a sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this is where it will be filmed.

I’m still mute.

P.S. I’d give the place a C for food, a C for level of taste and an A for entertainment value.

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