Archive for the ‘New Experiences’ Category

After immersing myself in the Royal Wedding prep and dabbling in the realm of foreign correspondence, the day of the Royal Wedding finally arrived. As excited as everyone was for the parade and celebration, I think most Londoners were excited for an extra day off.

Waking Up Early

To walk the wedding route so many times and not see the parade would have been crazy. So I did what only a few of my colleagues were doing, I woke up offensively early on a national holiday to stand outside in the cold snag a spot along the parade route. While this was incredibly painful – because it was early in the morning, not because I was hung over – it reminded me of the times I got up early as a kid for the 4th of July parade in Wisconsin.

I'm either practicing my Popeye impersonation or about to cause trouble.

Around 7 a.m. the route was four, sometimes five, people deep from the fences with little hope for in sight. Thankfully, a few late sleepers gave me a chucking and I didn’t feel so bad about my situation.

Eventually, relief came in the form of an open gateway across from the Horse Guard Parade. My spot was at a turn in the parade route and I think most people hadn’t settled there for fear that they wouldn’t see anything or that they were missing out on an even better spot close to Buckingham Palace, a terrible mistake on their part. From this turn, several thousand commoners were able to watch the Royals and foreign dignitaries pass by in Bentleys and Rolls Royces, while the second hour of 50 degree weather slowly crept into our bones.

A Hush of Silence and Collective “Aww”

As the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh passed our location, the Chief Superintendent for the London Metropolitan Police department meandered over to my area of the fence and in a voice just above a whisper said, “She’s 90 seconds away.” The procession was planned so meticulously that you could hold a stop watch to it and now were only 90 seconds away from seeing the woman two billion people were waiting to see.

Each car that had passed earlier in the procession received a loud cheer and applause as they went by but when Kate Middleton’s car approached, the crowd grew silent as everyone shifted for the best possible view. As her car slowly drove by, the air was filled with a soft and collective “Awwww.”

To everyone that “grew up” with William and Harry or watched William and Kate’s relationship develop, Kate was very much their Cinderella.

It’s said that when Kate arrived at the altar, the Duke of Cambridge looked at his bride and told her she looked beautiful. I think everyone along the parade route thought the same thing… And then most of us guys remembered it was her wedding day and we would have to settle for her attractive sister, Pippa. (Don’t worry guys, I handle this one.)

What You Didn’t See on TV

To the international media and out of town guests, the Royal wedding was like a college party. The host, London, got everything ready, all of the attendees were dressed to impress, the pictures looked great, the event had plenty of alcohol, and everyone got home safely. The downside for London is having to clean up the mess, steam clean the drapes*, and find out what happened to the awesome mixed CD we made for the party.

My friend Etosha and I walked the parade route a few days after the wedding and things were starting to look normal but it will take the flowers a little time to recover.

We made a few stops during our walk and noticed that only a few thousand barricades remained, the massive TV studios and scaffolding were starting to come down, and it wasn’t tough to find cheap trash and trinkets souvenirs.

While is would be a perfect opportunity to remind everyone that weddings are amazing and that the Royal Wedding is really about two people falling in love, I imagine Katie Couric beat that story to a pulp before she even landed in London. However, it’s good to recognize that this wedding was culturally important to the United Kingdom because it was a celebration of Great Britain’s traditions and heritage.

Planning Notes for My Future Wedding

1)      As the groom, it’s okay to wear a red jacket.

2)      You can throw an awesome party if you’re willing to spend £34 million.

3)      Find out what Pippa Middleton is doing in 2014.

4)      Make the wedding program available on iTunes.**

5)      The international media loves weddings. Save a space for Hessischer Rundfunk’s satellite truck.

6)      Make sure someone always has a camera on them – even during the planning stages.

Cheers,

Joe

—–

* It was a good college party when you find empty PBR and Natty Light cans behind your couch. It was a great party when you needed to rent a steam cleaner.

** You can download The Official Royal Wedding Program for free from iTunes.

“You’re going to be there for the Royal Wedding!” – The average female response when I announced my move to London.

Just when you thought all of the Royal Wedding news and nonsense was over, here’s a firsthand look at my immersion into all things Will and Kate and live in London leading up to the Royal Wedding. My apologies if you’re exhausted from nonstop William and Kate news. I’m in the same boat as you but this was an exciting time for me and my first opportunity to be a “foreign correspondent.”

Becoming a Royal Wedding Commentator

A few days after arriving in London, I received a Facebook message from a TV producer and friend in Chicago asking if I could chat about the Royal Wedding excitement during a few morning broadcasts.  To say I jumped at the opportunity is an understatement. Being a “foreign correspondent” or “man on the ground” for one of the world’s largest weddings is exactly the type of opportunity and challenge that interests me.

I called into the station twice and only chatted for a combined total of 2-3 minutes but love it. To prepare for the phone conversations I spent hours immersing myself in everything related to the Royal Wedding. While newspaper articles, gossip columns, BBC, and royal family’s Twitter handle were all helpful, the best insight and experiences came from walking the parade route and touring Westminster Abbey.

Searching for the Subtle Changes

During my five to six “fact finding missions” along the parade route, some of the best changes were subtle – like the discrete TV cameras installed at Westminster Abbey to show Kate Middleton’s walk down the aisle and watching the flowers outside Buckingham Palace changing from yellow to red. These changes were my favorite because unless you kept your eyes open, you missed them.

Cameras were mounted on pillars in Westminster Abbey to capture Kate Middleton’s walk down the aisle. Technically, you aren’t allowed to take photographs inside the abbey but if you don’t use your flash and pretend to be praying, no one will say anything to you.

On each side of Westminster Abbey’s entrance is a fake building that hid TV cameras. The large rectangles in each side of the temporary buildings were removable panels.

The Metropolitan Police, MI5 (the UK equivalent to Homeland Security), and the military played an important role on the wedding day but unknown to most is the presence they played leading up to the wedding. I chatted with a few officers during one of my walks and learned that the week of the wedding the parade route and neighboring parks were under 24 hour surveillance and the Royal Guards practiced drills along the parade route in the dead of night.

Changes With a “Wow” Factor

None of the changes were so monumental that they completely blew me away. Most of them were actually expected – a Union Jack on every corner, an over abundance of international media, people willing to camp out for days just to catch a glimpse of William and Kate as they leave Westminster Abbey. But it was tough to see some of them and not be astounded.

Four days before the wedding, Monday, the first camper arrived outside Westminster Abbey and he was a character. This clearly wasn’t his first camp out because upon arrival he walked up to the first Press Association photographer he saw and declared himself as the first camper. Decked head to toe in Union Jack items, this guy was all over the place and he reminded me of Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 3.

Lining the parade route were thousands upon thousands of fences. In order to get everything set up on time, flatbed semi-trucks and fork lifts were a frequent sight along the parade route.

To capture every second of the Royal Wedding craziness, the international media set up studios on roof tops, in parks, and across from Buckingham Palace. The left half of this picture is a three story broadcast studio, featuring 33 individual studios, across from Buckingham Palace. The right half is a two story broadcast platform across from Westminster Abbey. Both were built specifically for the wedding.  (Note: Having a blog did not grant you access to the media center across from Buckingham Palace.)

My Broadcast Debut (Please keep your laughter to yourself.)

Monday, April 25th – 4 Days Before the Wedding

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Thursday, April 28th – 1 Day Before the Royal Wedding

Many thanks to everyone that “Liked” these videos on Facebook, commented, or sent me a note. I really appreciate the support.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I broke my original post into two parts. Thanks for sticking with me and check back tomorrow for a “commoner’s perspetive” of the wedding day. (Teaser: I was along the parade route.)

Cheers,

Joe

From a logistical standpoint, moving to London wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. Almost every year since 2004, I’ve packed up my belongings, evaluated my clothes, and moved into a new space. Flying to London is no different than flying to New York, Miami, or St. Louis. International and domestic travelers are together during the TSA screening process, my American Airlines gate was next to a gate for people heading to Tampa, and a bottle of water is still $4 at the newsstand.

Just like writing this blog post, I delayed and ignored the toughest thing on my to-do list: saying goodbye to everyone. I avoided it because as long as I didn’t say goodbye to people, boxing up my apartment was no different than the countless times I’ve moved and packing my bag was just like packing for a long vacation.

Flying over the Atlantic Ocean

When I started to say goodbye to people in my office, it finally hit that I was moving to London. I reminded people that I would still be in the company network and we would even have some overlap in our work days. We said Facebook would keep us connected and agreed that my visit to Chicago during the summer isn’t that far away. At the time, these conversations were “easy” because my apartment was still a mess and I had 1,001 things to do before my flight.

One of the people I spoke with was a person that connected me with my job in London. We celebrated for a moment, she wished me the best, reminded me to work hard, and then told me something no one else had mentioned, “This is going to be tough. It is going to be really difficult and it will take a month or so before it gets better. But hang in there. You can do it.”

She was right. This transition is difficult. Dealing with banks, understanding a new currency, finding a permanent address, learning a new phone system… and accidentally spending more on a sandwich than my temporary phone. (I’m not too frustrated, it was a really good sandwich.)

I'm pretty sure my phone was designed in 2003. It's key features include a "simple design, colourful screen and large, separated keys."

But life here hasn’t been all bad. I have great co-workers, I’m meeting people from around the world (e.g. Last night I went to a party with people from Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia), I’m excited to travel, and I have great people, like you, supporting me.

Thank you for your support. Thank you for the Facebook messages, wall posts, Tweets, and text messages. This new stage in my life is easier because of friends like you.

I didn’t have time to give a proper goodbye to everyone in the States and I’m sorry. I tried to do small things like coffee, lunch, or drinks at night, but I didn’t have much time between the day my move went public and the morning I left for the UK. If I were to step back a few weeks, I wouldn’t have put off the goodbyes as long as I did. I hope you forgive my poor planning. It was the result of an overwhelmed person trying to pretend everything is normal.

I’d love to know everything going on at home. So feel free to send me an email or drop a note in the comments section below.

Cheers,

Joe

More than two and a half years ago, I moved to Chicago and embraced the city as my own. I’ve eaten some amazing food, watched the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, survived three football seasons as a Packers fan and met lifelong friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my post-college life.

The corner stone of my Windy City experience  is my office and my co-workers. The environment is challenging but nurturing, our clients are industry leaders, and the people I work with are intelligent, driven, and some of my best friends. I’ll never be able to replicate this group of people and the environment but I’m excited to say:

I’m moving to London.

Source

Where did this come from?

A few months ago I started searching for opportunities to diversify my experience and set myself apart from my peers. After a week in New York, I came back to Chicago and reached out to my mentors and the agency’s leadership for guidance. During one of these conversations, someone pointed out that my plan didn’t exactly line up with the goal. It was during this conversation that we started to talk about opportunities abroad and how to make the most of my skills.

When am I leaving and for how long?

My plane leaves Chicago on Saturday, March 19th, less than two weeks from today, and I’ll start working at Weber’s London office on Wednesday, March 23rd. My apartment in Chicago is already down to the bare minimum, thanks to Mama Piehl, and I’m quickly evaluating everything I own and deciding what will come with me. My work visa is for three years and near the  end of each year, I’ll evaluate my experience and work with the London office to determine if I’ll stay in the UK or move back to the US.

Am I nervous?

You bet! I’ve been looking for new opportunities since September and have been discussing logistics with London since the middle of January. You would think this is enough time to overcome any fear or doubt, however, the reality of my situation didn’t sink in until this past Wednesday when my friend Sami gave me a book about Chicago and wrote on the inside, “Now you get to keep some of Chicago with you!” Like a slap across the face, I finally felt the reality of my transition.

Thankfully, the timing couldn’t be better! My apartment lease is up at the end of this month, my family is tremendously supportive, and there is nothing permanent connecting me to Chicago. I’m going to miss my friends and it seems weird to move now that I’ve established myself in the city’s different networks and social circles, but my fear is that if I don’t do this now, I never will. As a fun bonus with this change, I’m able to cross off two of my 25 in 25 goals in one move: visit Europe and move some where new.

What’s next?

Packing and partying – but not necessarily in that order. Help packing is always wanted but it’s not expected. However, this upcoming Friday I’m tearing it up and enjoying my last weekend in Chicago. Location: TBD.

Cheers,

Joe

Windy City

“Do you remember our first date? It was a little awkward, neither of us knew what to expect, and we kicked around a couple ideas about the future.”

“We’ve had our ups and downs (a.k.a. not posting in over a month), but that’s because I needed a little “me time” to figure out where we’re going.”

“You’re right some things will have to change, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

This last month has been a whirlwind of activity everywhere except PeelingOut. Instead of blogging here, I’ve been contributing to other sites and trying to figure out what direction to take my blog. I’ve never been excited about my blogs theme and a few formatting things have been on my nerves… I’m talking to you super small font size and awkward spacing.

On top of that, I’m trying to find a new direction to go and an topic focus. Right now my posts are an awkward mess of public relations, food, travel, and a small slice of social media. To really have fun and be something I’m proud of, I think it needs to be focused on a few topics. I love writing about food and travel but I’m a little nervous because those topics are covered by so many people already.

I’m definitely going to stay away from PR and social media posts because those posts make me feel like I’m writing a text book… and I barely read all of my text books in college. (I’m just kidding mom.)

Thanks for hanging with me as I figure out a new direction, a new look for the site, and maybe a new name. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, so feel free to drop them in the comments section below, send me a Tweet or shoot me an email.

Cheers,

Joe

p.s. You can check out my other work (blog posts, restaurant reviews, and funny videos) on the new “Beyond PeelingOut” tab at the top of every page.

Photo Source (Legs)

Photo Source (Donkeys)

My colleague Ashley starts her morning off like every good PR professional should, she scans the major newspapers for important and interesting articles. One morning back in July, Ashley came across an article that made her say, “I would never do this, but Joe probably world.”

A few moments later I was reading about an opportunity to live in the Museum of Science and Industry for a full month!  After reading the Chicago Tribune’s article about this project I was hooked because I’m always looking for my next adventure.

The museum wanted to find an adventurous, outgoing person with a strong interest in learning about science to be their “roommate” and share their experience through blog posts and Twitter. When I told my friends and co-workers what I was applying for the reaction is typically the same “Wait! What?!? Why?” The answer is easy, when else am I going to have a change to live in the Museum of Science and Industry without hiding in an exhibit?

After visiting the museum on a “fact finding” mission, it occurred to me that I might not be able to handle the museum for a full month. Sure it would be a blast but a month inside a museum is a really long time. My doubts lead to nearly a month of procrastination and with literally 48 hours before the deadline decided I would regret it forever if I didn’t apply.

With the help of my amazing friends Amit, Abbey, Sean, Brendan and Ashley, we pulled all of the pieces together for my application and submitted it on time.

All of my materials were placed in an Ian's Pizza box because every good roommate brings pizza.

Clearly, I wasn’t selected but since so many people were supportive, I want to share with you some information from my application. Applicants were encouraged to have fun with the process and I hope you get a kick out of a few highlights from mine.

Name: Joseph Piehl

Nickname (if any; otherwise, you can make on up): Joe or “Inspector Gadget”

Name three of your favorite hobbies or activities.

1) Outdoor sports: I’m on two Summer softball teams, one Summer volleyball team, one Fall flag football team, I run outside almost every day (sometimes in the rain) and I learned to kayak on the Chicago River this summer. 2) Helping other people: I’ve spent more than 1 month on various service trips around North America. 3) Trying beers that I’ve never tasted: Every 2 weeks I buy a 6 pack I’ve never tried.

Name three of your least favorite hobbies or activities (yours or others’).

Except my application was better than the best pizza in Chicago.

My least favorite hobbies / activities that I’ve tried at least once in my life: 1) Coin collecting – I like to collect stuff but I couldn’t get into coins. 2) Washing dishes – Unfortunately I have to do this every day. 3) Cleaning the family hot tub when I visit Milwaukee. FYI – Twice a year a hot tub needs to be drained, scrubbed and then refilled with water. This task is not fun to do in the winter.

Let’s get this out of the way. Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Are there any outstanding… please describe the circumstances involved, including time, place and offense, as well as any penalties  imposed.

No thank you! I’m “on the level.”

Now back to fun. List three adjectives that best describe you.

Universal, Passionate, Sociable

How would you rate your knowledge and understanding of basic science relative to most people?

Even though I can’t build a lightsaber or pick up a rock and know exactly what kind it is, I have a pretty solid understanding basic science across a variety of disciplines including geology, physics and mechanical engineering. The different jobs that I’ve had play a large role in this understanding and some of my favorite shows include the Discovery Channel’s “Modern Marvels,” “MythBusters,” “Dirty Jobs” and “Man vs. Wild.”

My one minute intro video:


The video that made me nervous to apply:

The winner’s video:

The finalists were flown in from around the US for an in-person interview and on October 6th the winner, Kate, was announced. Two weeks later Kate was living in the museum. Even though she was blogging and Tweeting about some really cool activities, she wasn’t the only one that did some awesome stuff!

My “Month NOT at the Museum” was also pretty unforgettable… but more about that in my next post.

Cheers,

Joe

The first year I participated in Movember, I signed on because it’s a great cause and I thought it would be a unique experience. Even though we’re still searching for a cure to prostate cancer, each year continues to be a sweet experience and this year WE raised some major cash ($970) to kick cancer in the crotch.

Unlike previous Movembers, this was the first year my team had more than two people. The experience was completely different because there was more enthusiasm, we turned heads whenever two or three of us entered the same room or bar, and we had more opportunities to nudge our friends into parting ways with their cash. (Just kidding. We didn’t nudge our friends/co-workers into donating, we blackmailed them.)

The White Russians (minus Owen Donnelly)

Before the month was over, all of our friends and co-workers knew about Movember and almost daily we were approached by colleagues that would say “[Insert name] told me I needed to check out your moustache” or “Are you part of the Movember crew? You guys look hilarious. Keep up the good work.” This year’s crew consisted of the following gentlemen:

  • Dave Bauer
  • Owen Donnelly
  • Brian Gabriel
  • Amit Patel
  • Joe Piehl
  • Danny Prokup
  • Mark Rasmussen

We all have funny stories to share but the thing I loved the most was watching someone’s facial expression the first time they saw me rocking a moustache. As you can imagine, the looks ranged from “you’re creeping me out” to instant laughter. However, I was a little concerned when people wouldn’t react and instead they thought my crazy cookie duster was my usual look.

The second best experience from Movember was the photo shoot I did during the final days of Movember. On top of having an awesome time raising money and aware, I now have a packed album of ridiculous photos.

Ladies, let me know if you want an autographed copy.

Many thanks to the wonderful people below that supported my team and me financially. Every donation brings us a little bit closer to a cure (and throwing a really big “We beat cancer party”).

The Movember Gala this past weekend. (FYI - Men with moustaches rarely smile.)

  • Sami Air
  • Melissa Chalus
  • Cathy Calhoun
  • Tim Cassady Jr.
  • Vanessa Daniele
  • Abbey Ervin
  • Caroline Guth Lainio
  • Jaye Hilton
  • Sarah Lang
  • Melissa Layton
  • Emily Luiz
  • Noelle Overly
  • Kimberly Piehl
  • Mama Piehl
  • Papa Piehl
  • Amy Pfeiffer
  • Elizabeth Stiles

This weekend a buddy mentioned that he wanted to participate in Movember but he wasn’t able to get a group together from his office and some co-workers discouraged him from participating. Clearly his co-workers didn’t understand the point of Movember and that had to suck.

If you had a similar experience this year, if you can’t convince a buddy or two to face 30 days of almost constant rejection from women, or if you’re a woman that would be intimidated to raise money by yourself, consider this blog post an open invitation to join my team next year.

Cheers from a clean shaven bro,

Joe

November has been quite the month and I’m proud to say the thing that excites me every day is my Fu Manchu. It ages me 10 years, draws interesting looks from the ladies (not all of them bad), and it’s for a good cause.

November is Prostate Cancer Awareness month and for the third year in a row, I’m participating in Movember, a challenge for men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache. The moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health, the means by which awareness and funds are raised for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG.  Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, my fellow Mo Bros and I commit to growing a moustache for 30 days.

I’ll be the first to say that I look a little goofy with a moustache and sometimes I look like the sick folks on NBC’s “To Catch A Predator,” but if that’s all it takes to help find a cure for prostate cancer, than count me in.

Growing a moustache can be intimidating for guys that have never grown one before and I frequently receive questions about the Movember process. Hopefully, some of the information below will help guys overcome their hesitancies and offer insight to ladies.

Jill, Mark and me during the 2009 Movember Gala in Chicago

How does one cultivate a lip caterpillar?

Similar to the development of a butterfly, growing a moustache is a long and sometimes difficult process that ends in a beautiful creature. I’ve tried several different techniques over the years and I’ve determined that the easiest way to grow a mo is to start by growing a beard. Because each guy grows facial hair differently, a beard will help you understand your moustache growing abilities.

One of my pitfalls last year is that I started to shape my crumb catcher earlier on and I trimmed one of the corners too tightly. Confronted with a difficult situation, I decided to shave my moustache and state over. This year, I grew a beard and developed the perfect working environment for my masterpiece.

After growing a beard for 1-2 weeks, it’s time to show the world your testosterone driven work of art. This year I went with a classic Fu Manchu because it worked well my first Movember and it looks pretty badass. Since clean shaven is preferred in most work environment, it’s important to remember that your moustache will be the first thing a person notice about you, what message does yours send? My says, “I’m going to stick it to the man.”

New Challenges to Tackle

Contrary to popular brief, a living with, and maintaining, a moustache is not a turnkey operation.  Similar to a dog, child and Lamborghini, a fair number of obstacles are associated with moustache “ownership.”

The biggest challenge for me is in regards to my other facial hair. Prior to Movember I could go three to four days without shaving and claim I was trying to mimic the Dave Beckham scruffy look that women find attractive. Now that I have a moustache women have gone from saying “Ooh la la” to “Oh he’s just lazy.” Some of the additional challenges I’ve faced include:

-Eating barbeque wings and getting sauce on the side of my Fu Manchu.

-Avoiding beer foam in my moustache.

-Talking to women in a bar. (Just kidding I don’t have trouble talking to women, they have trouble accepting the intense manliness of my moustache.)

Reactions

Me during a recent trip to Miami

Oh Joey. – Grandma

That is an AWESOME moustache. Well done sir. – A fellow moustache connoisseur at a wedding in Milwaukee.

I’m sorry but I can’t take you seriously with that moustache. – My co-worker and friend Noelle

*Inquisitive look / hand gesture to face* So what’s with the moustache? I like it. – Random girl at a bar in Milwaukee.

I can’t look out you with that moustche. – My sister Kimberly

Your moustache is looking exquisite Mr. Piehl. – My friend Theresa (via Facebook)

Additional Information

A moustache is like a coat of arms for a man’s face.

Every guy deserves to grow a little bit of luxury. (This year’s slogan.)

Cracked.com profiled seven historical figures who were absurdly hard to kill, ALL of them had facial hair.

Understanding Prostate Cancer via the Prostate Cancer Foundation

Shameless Plug for Support (and Your Hard Earned $$$)

Hopefully, it’s clear that growing facial fur isn’t an easy task. The thing that really caught me off guard this year is a new stat saying one in six guys will develop prostate cancer during their life. Unfortunately, this means that one of the guys on my office team will develop this terrible disease.  So if you see a bro growing a mo in the hallway or on the street tell them to keep up the good work, give them a fist bump, or tell him he looks nothing like the guys on “To Catch a Predator.” If you can, a few bucks in the “donation can” would also help.

To donate to either my Movember team or me, click here.

With a stache,

Joe

p.s. I’ll send a team photo to everyone that donates to my Movember crew and me.

The day is finally here, my 25th birthday. Finally my car insurance will go down… Oh wait, I don’t have a car in Chicago.

Me during my police themed birthday party. (I got a real Milwaukee PD shirt as a b-day gift.)

Well at least I have a good excuse to crack open a beer, smoke a cigar and maybe throw back some whiskey. I love birthdays, mine and others, because like wedding invites, they are a chance to reflect on the past year, celebrate accomplishments and make plans for the future.

Normally, I start my goals on January 1st, but this year I’m hopping on the trend of creating a goal for each year I’ve been alive. Some of these goals might evolve throughout the year, but the spirit of each goal won’t change. One of the themes you might notice is an emphasis on Chicago, I’ve found that it’s tough to be a tourist in my own city and as someone that has lived here over two years, it’s time I truly embrace the city and everything it offers.

1)      Visit the Willis (Sears) Tower Observation Deck 1/3/11

2)      Spend a afternoon on the John Hancock Observation Deck 12/27/10 (Edited – During a recent visit to the JH I learned that they outdoor part is covered and blocked by mesh, which defeats the original purpose of this goal.)

3)      Run ten 5k races (My first is this weekend – you should join me!)

4)      Watch my older sister run a marathon (In April she is running the Boston Marathon!)

5)      Spend a weekend with each of my sisters in the city they live (St. Louis and Phoenix)

6)      Spend a week in New York City (Jan. 8 – Jan. 13, 2011 – Technically this isn’t a full week but 6 days is close enough.)

7)      Call my grandma at least once a month

8)      Visit the Chicago Field Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago (1/3/11), Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium (1/16/11)

9)      Go to a downtown club and order bottle service (Only once)

10)   Try a new recipe once a month

Earlier today at the Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Ore.

11)   Travel to Europe (or schedule my trip)

12)   Learn to drive stick shift

13)   Re-learn how to ride a motorcycle

14)   Ride to Sturgis, South Dakota with my dad

15)   Attend every Kitten Kall meeting

16)   Take a girl out on a date every month

17)   Spend more time blogging / writing about food

18)   Spend a weekend with my parents that isn’t attached to an activity I already plan on doing

19)   Attend 10 Major League Baseball games

20)   Get a Chicago library card (1/3/11) and read one book a month

21)   Once a week go for a walk outside

22)   Volunteer somewhere for at least one month

23)   Do something that scares me (1/8/11 – Details to come.)

24)   Meet Victoria Secret supermodel Marisa Miller and or attend the Maxim Hot 100 Party

25)   Move somewhere new

Some of these goals will be easy and some of these will be tougher. Unfortunately, money might hinder my ability to accomplish all of these goals but that just means I have to look at my decisions seriously, plan appropriately and occasionally pass on other opportunities.

In addition to being a tourist in my own city, another theme throughout these goals is my family. As my sisters and I continue to create our own paths in life, maintaining a strong connection to them is extremely important to me. If everything works out, I’ll turn 26 with stronger friendships and a slew of stories to share. I hope you’ll join me on some of these adventures.

If you’ve ever created a list like this, I’d love to hear your advice.

Cheers,

Joe

My favorite thing about living in Chicago is a food. Not the Chicago style hot dogs and deep dish pizza the city is known for, I’m referring to the array of options available at a moment’s notice.

For a brief time last year, I developed a crush on a “foodie” and I started to take an interest in the city’s restaurant scene so we would have more to discuss. Time Out Chicago, Chicago Magazine and metromix Chicago instantly became my guides to dinning.

The restaurant reviews couldn’t come fast enough and chatting with friends about places to try or what might be the next big trend became one of my favorite topics on conversation. So much that a co-worker started referring to me as “The Concierge.”

My reading quickly transitioned from being about the girl to being about my passion for new experiences. In the May 2009 issue of Chicago Magazine, the magazine ‘s deputy dining editor and humor columnist Jeff Ruby wrote about his transition from loving the taco salad at Chi-Chi’s to becoming a food critic. This article inspired me to start finding new opportunities to develop my palate and think more like Tom Colicchio and the other judges on Top Chef.

Recently, I had an opportunity to be a food critic and it was more challenging than I expected. Sunda, one of the best Asian restaurants in Chicago, invented 20 of their social media supporters, including myself, to review their current menu and test several new dishes during a private brunch.

Sunda is know for it’s ability to wow diners with contemporary interpretations of traditional Southeast Asian dishes and it did just that. The dishes are shared in a family style setting and after tasting 13 different options, everyone in our group left satisfied by both the food and the experience.

Spinach and Mushroom Egg White Omelet

Some dishes were an instant hit like the spinach and mushroom omelet above, while others need a few more tweaks before we can declare it a grand slam. The toughest thing for me was knowing exactly what flavors I should be tasting. I can easily tell you whether or not I like a dish but recognizing the hidden flavors requires more attention than I initially thought.

Brown Rice Chirashi

With the help of my fellow diners – Chris, Brenda, Tatiana, Mary Kay and Jeanelle – and Sunda’s general manager Aeron Lancero, I was able to identify the favors popping in my mouth. In addition to the flavors that delighted our taste buds, the presentation was superb. The chirashi, pictured above, is a new dish we tested and my picture doesn’t do it justice. According to my limited Google research, chirashi means scattered sushi, which explains why the fish is scattered throughout the bowl. For guests looking to take a break from egg based breakfast foods,  this dish is the way to go.

Spam Musubi and Ramen

The title of “Most Unique Dish” belongs to the Spam Musubi and Ramen. The Spam Musubi is a popular Hawaiian dish similar to sushi, except it’s larger and made with Spam. With so many other dishes on the menu, I can’t say I’ll have this again but it was worth trying once.

Aeron and me.

Aeron was an especially gracious and knowledgeable host. Throughout the meal he made sure we had everything we needed and found a balance between providing helpful information and not looking over our shoulders while we discussed the dishes. I hope to have more experiences with Aeron in the future.

The restaurant scene in Chicago a constantly evolving. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the changing store fronts and fall into a pattern of visiting the same place over and over. But with restaurants like Sunda re-evaluating and tweaking their menu on a constant basis, Chicago’s culinary scene will continue to thrive.

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If you could try any job for a day, what would it be?