Jelly Belly = a popular Chicago treat

Did you know that there is a Jelly Belly factory on Morrow Ave in North Chicago? Shaw. If you want a northerly adventure where you can not only stuff your cheeks with a variety of colors and flavors but also learn how those colors and flavors are designed, check it out.

I wrote this poem-rap about Jelly Bellies for an old blog a few years back. Enjoy … if you dare! Muhahaha … !

Jelly Belly Tike Rap I
By Kristi Zimmerman

Once i was a tike
Around three or four.
My mama took me ovah to the candy store.
“What do you want?”
She said to me.
“I want somethin’ chocolate”
I responded with glee.
“What about these beans?”
She said lookin’ real smart
That’s when my stupid blood pressure
Went off the stupid charts.
“You know I hate them things!”
I belted at the candy shop.
“That stupid bunny brings ‘em…
With his stupid hop!”
That’s when my mama looked me
dead in the eye
She said: “Kristi, my dear…
this mama don’t lie…
try these here Jelly Bellies
Thems a type of bean.
Some smell a little fruity
and some smell real mean.”
I flinched at the candy
Then flinched at her face
My lil’ heart was racin’
All ovah the place.
“Okay, Char. I’ll give it a whirl.”
(I said this to suppress
my sudden urge to hurl.)
“Here, try green apple…
I know you’ll like them best.”
I slowly but surely
gave thems beans a test.
And right away
I figured it out too soon…
These glorious beans
really make me swoon.
Now, the moral of this story
Is to try somethin’ new.
And while you’re doin’ that
I’m gonna tie my shoe.

Posted in Snafus | 1 Comment

Cleaning my abode
quaint yet hard …
(wood floors, that is).
Dust bunnies strike
with a wicked vengeance.
The furry creatures with no soul
(and no cells to speak of)
fear no Swifter(r) …
even swifts of the “Jet” persuasion.
A clump of fur and dust
accumulates in the hall.
(“Hall” is a generous description!)
As I attempt to maintain my body temperature.
I snap photographs in awe
as my baby-cat sniffs the evidence
of a non-existent rabbit.
I shiver, but not in disgust.
My chills are induced by an
impeccably crummy radiator system.
No carpet.
No central air.
Mist-generated heat.
A bathroom tiny enough
to make you claustrophobic
whilst brushing your teeth.
This is city-livin’, I suspect.
That shoebox of a “rest room”
still manages to be the coldest…
and the hottest…
room in this joint.
Bruce continues to sniff
a shapeless pile of hair-
gray, stringy particles
of residents, inhabitants, mystery folk.
Curiosity…
made the cat forget he was cold.
Until … what is this?
Clink-ity, clank-ity, clock-ity
boom, boom, boom.
A gush of semi-wet heat
slaps me in the cheek
(all four of them)
indicating “heat wave.”
Suck it in, hold it in.
For who knows when it will …
turn off.
Who knows when it will…
turn back on.
Warmth is all-encompassing.
Sitting together, in the “hall”
Me, my cat, the dust bunnies.
We consider the people sans heat.
And feel sad.
Sadly grateful.
And remember what this season is all about.

Posted in Snafus |

This post, as my title suggests, is about a spooky experience that occurred right here in the heart of Logan Square, Chicago. I sometimes relive this horror in my dreams … and wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, tears and melted chocolate chip cookies. Seeing that this is the designated “spooky” month of the calendar year, I’ve decided to share this unearthly tale with my loyal readers. Before I begin I must forewarn the young and the elderly: this story is both gruesome and obsolete.

Even though the horror occurred over sixty-six days (1,584 hours) ago, I have yet to forget what transpired on this particularly steamy August afternoon.

It was only days after I wrote my highly controversial blog about Chicago being a beautiful, yet unfriendly city (yes, I’m sure you all remember that post in great detail … I believe I got three hits that day). It was like any other summer afternoon in Logan Square: hot, noisy and humid. I had just returned from a stressful shopping excursion at Target and noticed that the vacant parking spaces on my street were uncharacteristically plentiful. The barren street should’ve been my first clue that something was amiss.

I parked directly in front of my building and haphazardly loaded my arms and feet with dozens of target shopping bags (I’ve become a master at avoiding multi-trip visits to my car after grocery shopping). The quickest way to access my building is through the back door, conveniently located in an alley and nestled between two large, aromatic dumpsters.

As I waddled down the gusty corridor, I wondered how I could be sweating so profusely even whilst roaming through the nucleus of an urban wind-storm. Suddenly I heard the hum of a car’s engine behind me. I paused, irritated, and then shuffled close to the wall of the alleyway, proudly managing to maintain the contents of all seventeen bags. I glanced over my shoulder as a loose-leaf coupon for cat food flew out of one of the bags and slapped the windshield of the Nissan truck crawling towards me. The automobile stopped immediately and the coupon danced along the slanted glass (rather elegantly for Friskies I thought) before it dismissed itself into the heavy, stinking atmosphere. My hair whipped around my face and stuck to my sweat-moistened cheeks as I attempted to shift my gaze towards the truck to get a good look at the driver.

After a few seconds of vicious hair-beating I forfeited my gander and turned back to the door. As I inserted the key I heard a car door close abruptly from behind. Without thinking twice I performed a barbaric roundhouse kick on the unlocked door, grocery bags swinging around my thighs and calves like some sort of zippy carnival ride. I personally considered the force of this kick to be rather intimidating, even to the illustrious Billy Blanks, but unfortunately the person behind me was not the mastermind behind the smash hit workout series, Tae Bo.

Just as I landed the kick, a man-hand slapped the face of the door to prop it open. I paused as the wind rattled my plastic bags and terrified brain.

“Hi there, need some help?” The young man whistled through the roaring wind with a smile.

“Uh, no … no thanks.” I said in a puny voice.

“Are you sure? You have a lot of bags there!”

“Yeah, I’m sure. I’m really strong. I do a lot of kickboxing,” I said this time with more confidence … an attempt at arrogance. The kickboxing mention didn’t seem to affect him.

“Hah, okay then,” he replied. “My friend is moving out today and I’m here to help him but he’s not answering his phone. Mind if I just follow you in here?”

“Uh…”

It was too late for me to give a prompt “yes” or “no” to this question as we were already in the building. The door slammed shut in the wind.

I began shifting my weight towards the stairs. The bags bumbled on my arms and legs, making it impossible to exit from the situation in a graceful manner.

“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” He inquired.

“Yeah I’m fine.”

“What floor are you on? I’ll help you open some doors.” He said charismatically. My heart was racing. He seemed charming and to my naked eyes appeared normal by my country-root standards, but something still seemed amiss about this young buck. I started recalling the story of Al Bundy … or was it Ted? Either way, both dudes freaked me out. I smelled a foul plan afoot, but I knew it wasn’t my feet for I had just washed them! (OK, I snagged that one from Mel Brooks).

My intuition’s “red amber alert” signal was going off, but I instantly recalled my blog about the unfriendly and cold interactions I’ve witnessed in the city thus far, so I pressed my inner “ignore” button and replied, “Second floor.”

My heart pounded in my ears as we approached the second landing. I thought, “I never took anatomy but I’m pretty sure my aorta ticker just traveled somewhere it shouldn’t be …” He opened the door in a gentlemanly manner as I teeter-tottered into the hall. He laughed at my cumbersome appearance. I frowned at his mockery. Was this some sort of game to him … a mere jest to this monstrous killer with a murderous plan!?

“I’m good from here…” I said with a hard smile and scurried away like a cockroach with tumorous arms and legs.

“Have a good day!” He said and then disappeared up the stairs.

I scrambled for my keys and exploded through my apartment door like I was running from Crichon’s version of the velociraptor (which was apparently much larger / scarier than the “real” raptors of the Cretaceous Period … wow … nerd alert).

After catching my breath and shedding a plethora of crinkling plastic bags onto the floor, I shamefully reconsidered my actions. Was this gregarious man really someone I should have been concerned about? I started to feel guilty for behaving so uncharacteristically cold. He was just some dude helping his friend move … on the hottest day of the year no less. Heck, this guy should probably qualify for the “friend of the year” award for that matter! And here I was with my oodles of Target trinkets, behaving hypocritically sour … behaving like all of the other cold Chicagoans I like to put down at dinner parties.

That’s when I realized it … the epiphany hit me on the head like a frying pan full of egg … I had become … snarly.

Then I saw a ghost in my apartment!

The end.

Posted in culture-shock |

I must begin this post with an aside. (Well, I suppose it isn’t much of an “aside” if I begin with it … but that’s ASIDE the point … HA!) But really, all kidding aside … here’s the aside:

I would like to formally thank Rivers Cuomo and the rest of the gang for indirectly encouraging me to update this blog via a song on their most recent album, Hurley. If you’re a good-for-nothing cheapskate who doesn’t want to fork out the greens to buy a song for 99 cents or an album for $6.99, the song I am referring to (“Trainwrecks”) can be heard on YouTube

Throughout my meager good-for-something life I’ve heard numerous tales of yore … tales exemplifying the mystic powers of music … tales that define various musical scores as inspirational, stimulating, spurring, indigestible, toothsome, toothless, worrisome, careless, hapless, infectious, diseased, cumbersome, scary, hairy, fat and roly-poly (aren’t adjectives fun!?). It’s no secret, pals: music has the ability to heal both mentally and physically.

So how does music impact me, you ask? It encourages me to update my nerdy blog.

Aside over.

I do have an excuse for failing to update in a more frequent manner as of late. I’ve been cast in a play (Dracula) … in Bloomington/Normal. I know, I’m crazy. But that’s not what this post is about (although here’s a in case you want to come see it …). I’ll post more about that once the show is over.

You know what? Since I’ve already managed to get off-base here not once but TWICE … I’m going to start a new post that will completely live up to my semi-witty (but not witty at all) title… Please hold.

Posted in doh! |

iTunes is one of my favorite places on the interwebs to throw my money around. After Apple implemented its brilliantly named “Genius” feature, great songs are infinitely easier to find these days. I defined Genius in my old blog, , like this: “Genius not only assists iTunes junkies who consistently seek new and similar tunes, it also clumps a music library together into congruous playlists. Since the implementation of Genius, my life has been completely harmonized and filled with joy.” (Yes, I just quoted myself from an old nerdy blog that only two people read or knew about. I feel okay about that, though.)

Anyhoo, music is insanely important to my sanity (hmmm … yes I’ll keep that statement), especially whilst getting my run on. Here’s a list of jams found on my current running playlist, creatively named “Running in the City 2″…

1. Home by LCD Soundsystem
2. Animal by Miike Snow
3. Zdarlight by Digitalism
4. All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem
5. Hi by PSAPP
6. Fixed by Stars
7. How Much More by Stars
8. L.E.S Artists by Santogold (this is an oldie – circa 2007)
9. The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (also an oldie)
10. Now (RAC Remix) by Mates of State
11. Ottoman by Vampire Weekend
12. Track 11 by Mux Mull (this was a burned CD and I don’t know the name of the song … but any Mux Mull song is running-approved in my book.)

Here are a few other songs I have on this list that are delightful but perhaps not the upbeat music you’re accustomed to hearing as you practice your startled deer impression at the treadmillery:

1. The Winner Is from the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack
2. The Summer’s Gone by Aberfeldy (this is from the new Traveler’s commercial with all of those adorable animals living in harmony together by the water hole …)
3. How Can It Be by Forever Thursday

Over a year ago I put together a similar playlist on if you want additional musical options to keep your clodhoppers hoppin’ and boppin’ as you burn off that tuna-noodle-surprise dinner.

Just for fun, I want to sum up this post with a few band name ideas exchanged between Cdubbs and me. It’s a fun little game we like to play together – and I encourage you to post a comment with some of your own band name ideas:

1. Funny Bone
2. Little Jimmy and the Moe-Moes
3. Fat Cloud
4. The Jefferson Beans
5. CULTURE!
6. The Eardrum Willies
7. The Swollen Bee Hives
8. Everyday is July
9. Operator Errors
10. The Jam Fishies

Oh … and I suppose I should tie this all together with a note about Chicago to keep my blog theme unified and legit. How about this: Chicago’s indie music scene is bona fide, but only if fans wear skinny jeans to concerts and personally design their satchels from 100% recyclable material. Also, Chicago folk like to run by the lake.

Posted in love |

I’ve never really considered myself an “athlete” or an individual even remotely “athletic.” When it comes to coordination I’m like a one-legged spider monkey with a whopping case of vertigo. (Note: that was an attempt at saying “I’m not coordinated” in a witty manner.)

I first recognized my athletic inabilities in high school. It may seem surprising that it took 16 years to identify my physical agility (or lack thereof), seeing that I was always a rather chubby little girl with a consistent hunger for anything edible and non-nutritional. I couldn’t even do ten minutes of aerobics without slamming my adolescent saddlebags into a wall and crying for a candy bar. I loved ice cream and ice cream loved me. Thus, I was heavy-set and completely incapable of catching/throwing/hitting any kind of ball, let alone know what to do with it if I had it in my butterfingers.

Despite my ham-handed, elephantine physique, I still managed to convince myself to try out for the pom-pom squad in the 11th grade. Did I know anything about dancing? No. Did I know anything about cheering? No. Did I give a crap about our high school sports teams? No. Did I like attention, being in front of a zillion smiling faces and have an ultimate zest for life? Yes, yes and more yes. I was determined: a couple of fat rolls weren’t going to stop this girl. I had two tenacious (and interestingly enough, skinny) boogie legs and I wasn’t afraid to use them.

After making a complete fool out of myself in front of the entire pom-pom squad, the only feedback I received (after being cut on the first round) was an enthusiastic comment from the team captain: “Thanks for coming out, Kristi. You have a lot of spunk.” I flinched at the burn, smiled, choked back two little tears, bowed and retreated directly back to the theater (fittingly located at the opposite end of the school). It was official: I was a thespian, definitely not an athlete. I was doomed to nerdism: it called to me like eclairs sometimes did in the middle of the night. But I was cool with that. My fellow thespian nerds welcomed me with open arms and Texas sheet cake. And they seemed to have a lot more to say that intrigued me.

I still yearned for some sort of activity that would allow me to eat copious amounts of donuts and other delicious, fatty baked goods whilst achieving a semi-skinny build. I thought long and hard about my options and after three bowls of Count Chocula cereal I painstakingly came to a decision.

Running. It was the only option available to me, as the technique required to run is not far from walking … and luckily that was something I knew how to do.

So, I started running. It sucked. But I kept running.

And I kept running.

And I started running a little more.

And I started running for miles.

And I started to drop pant sizes.

And I started to feel confident.

And I ran my first race.

And I was fast. (the jet-packed helped)

And I caught the incurable bug: the run bug.

I was actually, for once in my life, good at a physical activity.

Now, how does this all relate to this blog focused on the cultural differences between living in a big city and a small city? It doesn’t.

OK, it kind of does. That’s why I’m writing this.

A few weeks back, my new friend Kelly asked if I’d like to run a 5K race with her in Bucktown on October 3 (http://www.bucktown5k.com/). I was completely elated. A new running buddy!? In the city!? How did I become so lucky? It must be that Jade plant in my window.

I excitedly went online to register for the race. That’s when it hit me like a ton of Nike trainers: 40 big ones just to run 3.2 miles in a herd of fellow amateurs. Yes, 40 dollars. The first race I ran in Bloomington was a whopping $15. I did not anticipate spending 40 bones on a 25 minute adventure just to get a free fleece vest and bragging rights backed up by my name in sans serif 8 font on a poorly designed interface (whoa, holy run-on sentence, Batman!). But you get the idea.

How does anyone afford running up here? I can hardly afford a can of peaches, let alone a measly 5k that will inevitably lead to detached knee caps in 30 years. I still signed up like a fool. A fool in love with getting my run on.

My next post will include a list of awesome-tastic running songs for fall 2010 excursions. So keep your eyes / ears out, partners.

Now for a run … to the ice cream shop.

Posted in culture-shock, love |

Well here I am, back in B-town. Work meetings at corporate, a mother’s plea for face time, my own parental longing and an Amazon delivery (a tent for our Labor Day weekend camping trip – yeah!) brought me back to this southern, semi-rural (but not really rural at all) abyss of pleasant neighbors and chain restaurants.

This evening, after a delicious home-cooked meal (thanks mom!), I hit the streets for a “burn those buns” run. Note: My recent excursions to D.C., Orlando and Savannah / Tybee Island this past month (I’m surprised Bruce still recognizes me … or maybe he just pretends to recognize the hand that cracks open a tub of wet food) has rendered me chubarific. I’ve determined that traveling is a surefire way to pack on some serious summer poundage. To remedy this issue and avoid becoming the city’s next Fatty McFatterson, I’ve started my daily running regime again. End note.

SO … as I pounded the pavement with my clodhoppers this evening I had a few epiphanies (this happens often during runs, especially whilst listening to LCD Soundsystem … or Enya … or Yanni). I trekked around Blono practicing my (slow) cheetah impression (on two legs) and gradually compiled a list of things I miss about this town. Yes, THIS town. Not Chicago. Not Reno. Not Sandusky. Blono. Wanna see it? Wanna see my listy-poo? Yes, yes you do. You just think it sounds dumb and boring. Wait, come back. Seriously. Read this. It isn’t that long. I promise. I’ll pay you. In cookies. Here it is:

I wholeheartedly miss …

1. Safely running after dark. With headphones.
2. Waves and smiles and “hello, how are you” moments with strangers / neighbors.
3. Neighborhood streets that excrete one of following aromas: barbecue chicken, dryer sheets, freshly cut grass, basketballs.
4. Expansive horizons with surprisingly incredible golden sunsets (and storms riddled with lightning … if you’re lucky) that can be seen for miles across the sky.
5. The consistent sound of crickets chirping. (Verses honking horns or domestic disputes.)
6. Mama Char’s delicious home cookin’. (Tonight’s delight: Chicken Bruschetta!)
7. Dad forcing bakery goods down my throat. (Literally – as I am writing this post – he came out onto the front porch and stuck a fork full of apple pie in my mouth. I wish I was kidding.)
8. Building forts / singing raps with Tara and Bart.
9. Front porch furniture that does not need to be brought in at night (unless a storm is a-brewin’).
10. Nighttime swims in the Zimmerman pool
11. Schnucks: the friendliest store in town where the pharmacist and florist know me by name.
12. Bumping into co-workers in the hallway. (I have to be honest – I never thought I’d miss the “howdy stranger” moments at corporate. In the past I always felt like it was such a bother to stand and talk with people for lengths of time whilst work sat waiting and deadlines drew near. Now that I work from home, I long for these little mini-connections I have with others at work.)
13. The fact that daily trendiness isn’t difficult to achieve here. I say that in the nicest way – a lot of people aren’t really concerned about fashion in Bloomington. That’s a good thing (and sometimes a bad thing – but today a very good thing).
14. Fridays. We used to sit outside of this bar for hours drinking Blue Moon and waiting for the Bloomington-Normal Ghost Tour to stop by for a spooky tale involving a murder that took place many years ago in the bar’s front room.
15. Parking sans violations.

So there you have it. A brief list of longing. I’m a little astonished by these realizations. After dreaming about leaving this town for the past five years and relentlessly searching for the closest fire escape, I come back to a heavy sense of nostalgia. I find myself missing trivial pieces of this town that were never even on my radar when I lived here. Now they hover over me like a bird looking for a nice place to poop.

I guess it’s that old saying … but you already know how it goes.

Posted in love |