Monday, May 14, 2012

Say You, Say Free

Our downtown date night is nearly upon us! And in anticipation of this event, I've been tidiously toning my body through a strict regiment of cardio and Pilates. A body, which is being fueled by an abusive cabbage diet. All this - - so that I look my best when the lights go dim. As the days grew long and the nights short, the anticipation surrounding our night grew. With the smell of sauerkraut staining our living space, I wondered where would we eat? What it would cost, and more importanly, could I get it for free? My first instinct was steak, then fondue finally I decided on to take on the creatures of the deep... seafood. After careful considerations I've concluded that there is no place better than the legendary Shaw's Crab House. So, with room in hand, could a free meal be within reach?

Dear Shaw's Crab House,

I just finished eating a taco salad, the Midwest kind - - You know the one with the Doritos, iceberg lettuce and French dressing. It was good - - decent. It tasted like 8th grade. The other day I made Sloppy Joes. My two little girls we’re repulsed and cried when I showed them dinner. My 6-year-old, she’s pretty smart, she said the slice of melted American cheese looked “unnatural.” I didn’t disagree. I don’t cook like this all the time, only when the day gets away from me. This is becoming more and more frequent. It was obvious - - I needed to be rejuvenated and there are only three things in this world that gets my blood pumping: Banana flavored candy, the idea that the government is hiding a secret alien recipe for an all encompassing universal toothpaste and super delicious food. So after a trip to Costco where I replenished my stash of yellow Laffy-Taffy, I sat back and hatched a plan, a social experiment.

Now I have eaten at a ton of restaurants, good, bad and Chili’s. But how can I possibly call myself a “foodie,” and resident of Chicago, when I’ve never experienced the culinary depths of Shaw’s Crab House? It’s sorta like sayin’ you’re a Lionel Richie super fan, but then completely dismissing “Say You, Say Me,” which is by far one of the most under rated songs of all time. 

But alas, after a 33-hour sugar coma, I had a clarity and purpose, the likes of which I've never known. I understood why I haven’t eaten at your restaurant, seen the Grand Canyon and after years of searching for a reason, I begrudgingly accepted why an ALF movie was never made… Time and money… mostly money (and ALF was a black-listed Hollywood racist!)

My plan is simple, find the time - - try not to spend the money. What will happen when I write fun people, great companies and Scandinavian countries and ask them to do the extraordinary, the unthinkable, when I ask them for “free?” The response has been obscenely positive. In fact your neighbors at The Hotel Palomar graciously set my wife and I up for a night on Saturday, May 19th. With fancy sleeping quarters at-the-ready, I was presented with the prefect opportunity to add a meal to our long overdue date night. So here it is… Will you Shaw’s Crab House, allow me, (a "creatively-bored" stay-at-home-dad) and my wife the privilege of eating at your wonderful establishment for free? In return, you will reserve a spot on "The Official Awesome List" of my blog “Life Between Naps” and quite possibly inspire me to cook a feastly brunch worthy of a thousand Viking Kings. Please consider giving “free,” or "close to free” a chance.

Thank you for any and all considerations.

Jim Noonan

After several pleasant dreams and one nightmare involving killer dungeness crabs, I would like to thank Amanda, Jeffery and all the good people at Shaw's Crab House for giving us the opportunity to stuff our food holes with all the sushi, shrimp, crab, tuna, grouper, lobster, steak and cocktails we can physically handle. Awesome company. Awesome Restaurant. Awesome people. LBN is happy to announce that Shaw's Crab House has staked it's claim on The Official Awesome List of LBN. Thank you Shaw's for giving "free" a chance.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Hulk & The Palomar

Last year I forgot our anniversary. Forgot! Like not even close to remembering! I just thought the tickets to see Ricky Gervais, the dinner, the uh... other stuff was just an awesome weekend. Then Cathy asked whether or not I got her anything. I paused, smiled and tried to give her the uh... other stuff again. It took 2 nights on the couch and an all to easy (for her) day of silence and disgusted looks until I realized my error. So... in order to make it up to her, I'm starting early. She's gonna get the anniversary present of a lifetime! I'm gonna take her to go see highly anticipated summer blockbuster The Avengers.

Of course she'll be repulsed by this, so I'll attempt to sweeten the deal by trying to get a night stay at one of Chicago's most beautiful hotels... The Palomar. Essentially my goal is to spend the same amount of money as last year (nothin') but add thought and recognition. If everything goes as planned we should have a delightful night of pleasant conversation, loving gazes and a bunch of uh...other stuff.

Dear Hotel Palomar,

I don’t know what you may/may not have heard, but I’ve never slept with you. Don’t get me wrong you’re pretty - - real pretty. I like you; you’re classier than the others. Sometimes at night I drive by just to see if you’re still there, you know, if you’re busy. I know this is embarrassing for me, so I can’t imagine how this feels for you. Maybe you get letters like this all the time, maybe you just hand them over to your “Manager,” but I have to act on my urges, I’m only human, I have desires.

I’m just a regular guy, a family man, a nerd, guys like me are a dime a dozen. But you - - you’re the captain of the cheerleading squad, the Prom Queen. Everyone loves you. In fact, you’ve definitely given a couple of my buddies the night of their lives. Ugh, I get jealous just thinking about it. So the other day and I don’t quite know why, I told a friend of mine that I’ve actually slept with you…. on several occasions! He was amazed; he didn’t think I had that kind of money. It was a slippery game of deception and a blatant attempt to gain popularity, to feel cool, to say I was inside of you. It was all a lie. Lies! Lies! Lies!

You see I’m a stay-at-home-dad with two little girls and a wife who works 60 hours a week. I don’t know what it feels like to have a real night out on the town, with the wife, as a couple, away from the kids. The last time we tried, the Super 8 was booked. Yes, The Super 8! Seriously?! They have rooms for everybody… I mean, come on - - In my early twenties, I was in and out of a Super 8 every night. They’re cheap, convenient and you can get one on every corner. Needless to say, it was a sad attempt at getting away for the weekend, we ended up spending 6 hours at an Applebee’s. With nothing left to lose, I came up with an idea. What if I just asked? This is not a crude ploy to get a free night’s stay at a world-class hotel; this is a social experiment!

Here it is… Will you, Hotel Palomar, let my wife (she’s nice) and I stay with you for free? I know it’s a lot to handle, you don’t usually work for “free,” but I have to ask. And wait… it gets better, (or worse, you may have already stopped reading) I have a blog with a pretty decent following. Imagine the “free” publicity you’ll get when I show the world this letter and how you'll personally feel the satisfaction by allowing my wife and I get away. You can prove to the world that sometimes all you have to do is ask. Nothing bad can happen, it’s all good. Do I expect you to say, “Yes, here’s the key card to the suite,” No. Would it be a heart-warming feel good story if you did? Yes.

Thank you for any considerations that you may give to this ridiculous request.

Jim Noonan

Three days later I was contacted by the lovely folks at the Hotel Palomar. They loved the letter and are graciously allowing us to spend the night with them in a King Spa Premier Room! They are straight up awesome and are the first official hotel of LBN.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cooking with Gods (The Cocotte)

I'm devastated, she was a member of our family. She was close to 60-years-old and a part of every meal, its been hard on the whole family. Its been a very sad week indeed. She always wore teal, she was strong, but nothin' last forever. My Le Creuset 5qt, round french oven has died, broke, in fact.. She split, from the handle to the bottom, her enamel's chipped and I got a piece of it stuck in my finger (this happened while I was caressing her back to life). But life must go on, I have to cook... I must start a new family of cookware. My search for "LBN's official cookware" starts now.


Dear Staub,

I’ve come to a crossroad in my culinary adventures. Do I sell one of my kidneys and use the money to replace my 5 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven that unfortunately exploded and had to be put to rest, or do I give Staub a reputable company with a long standing tradition of excellence a chance to become my “go-to” vessel for meal time cooking?

At first the answer was simple. Pick neither, go to Target, and buy an off the wall brand that will inevitably make my dinners taste like old Tab Cola cans and Mississippi swamp water. But then, in what seemed to be the pinnacle moment in a series of completely unrelated events involving a potato, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and gently used scuba mask, my neighbor suggested I borrow his Staub cocotte.

Oh my god! I had no idea that once you closed that beautifully handcrafted lid, tiny little culinary cherubs would baste my pot roast with the savory nectars of Heaven. It was amazing! I’ll be honest, either you have the greatest enamel cast iron cocotte in the world, or Julia Childs and I had a Freaky Friday switch-a-roo and she decided to create a meal I’ll never be able to live up to. It was unreal. But just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. My neighbor, whom I had borrowed it from, was planning to roast a chicken or platypus - - I can’t remember, but I’m sure it turned out delicious.

As hard as it was to see her (the cocotte) go, it was even harder for me to fathom a time when Staub, would be affordable member of my kitchen. Your wonderful cocotte is now my curse. My little girls want to be a pot roast for Halloween and my wife still talks about the time she fainted into the arms of an imaginary Patrick Swayze after eating that legendary meal. At this point I am unprepared to cook another hunk of meat, or stir another sauce without your help. I’ll never be able to replicate a meal like that again with the kitchen tools I have. I’m in a pickle, a bind, a quandary, but I have a solution. I would like you (Staub) to be the official cookware of me, and my blog, “Life Between Naps.”

Is this crazy? Yes. Is there a hitch? Yes. Is it worth asking? You bet. Will it work? I’m hopeful. Here we go… No hard feelings, no ill-will, just one of two answers - - “yes” or “no.” Will you (Staub) please send a determined father a 5qt cocotte, large enough for a pot roast, pork shoulder or a bunch of tiny birds for free?

Catch your breath; shake off the dizziness and take it all in. My part was easy; you actually have to determine how hard the word “free” is to digest. I fully understand the burden I have bestowed upon you and I’m sure you’re thinking that this is not the way to do business. Well let me tell you something, my 92-year-old grandma once said, “You can’t skin a cat with shoelaces,” and “you’ll never know unless you ask.” I have no idea what the cat line is in reference to and I'm to terrified to ask, but the asking part I get. I’m a full-time, unemployed stay-at-home dad trying to do whatever I can to prevent a dinnertime disaster. Without financial backing all I can do is ask a great company to do something extraordinary for a man who is about to make bologna meatloaf.

Thank you so much for any consideration you may have given to my ridiculous request.

Jim Noonan

Monday, April 9, 2012

Awesome Puma Man (A "free" for me letter)

Since joining the gym it's been hard to feel the burn when my clothes don't have an attitude. Target brand shirt, Umbros I've had since 1993, black socks and whatever pair of shoes that have the least amount of dog poo on them. I need a gym look, an awesome gym look, so I wrote to one of my favorite companies... Puma.

Dear Puma,

The other day I was at the gym whaling on my quads and attempting to work off three-quarters of an ice-cream cake. The onslaught of chocolate syrup burps and sudden mouths sweats let me know that my body was working furiously to purge itself of the unnecessary, but delicious sugars. Everything seemed to be in order; it was just another Saturday, until I started to run.

I was moving at a pretty nice clip. Not too fast, not too slow, I was in my wheelhouse! My heart rate was holding at a steady 162 and I could hear the toxins screaming as they left my vessel. After a mile, the track was filled and I was in a position to showcase my agility. Left then right, across my body and into a spin without ever losing cadence. I imagined I looked like a slightly older, less attractive more robust version of Justin Bieber, dancing to a remix of Billy Ocean’s classic “Caribbean Queen.” I was marvelous, or so I thought. A few steps later it happened. I tripped, or was tripped. Either way I believe it was destiny, because as I tumbled across the hard rubber-ish surface I saw him. The shoes, the pants, the precision of his ensemble, it was an assassination on my senses. Like an old family friend calling me back to the neighborhood of my youth, I watched from ground level as he sidestepped my face and continued running past me in all his glory. He was magnificent! After getting back to my feet I sought out the gym’s coolest guy. Next to the water fountain he stood, pulling off the look I wish I had. The classic running shoes, the classic track suit, it was a harmony of awesomeness. I looked down at my feet and grimaced. From head to toe I was a mismatched mess of big-box brand clothing. I was the opposite of Awesome Puma Man. I stared and wondered how much would it cost to look this put-together. My head knew, but my heart refused to let go of this vision, it was hard… reality is hard. I’m nothing more than a stay-at-home-dad with little to no income, who has suddenly found himself living vicariously through a man who's dressed like the lethal combination of a young Lee Majors and an old Italian hit-man (pinky ring not included). This is a look out of my price range, I’ve accepted that. Then minutes later I had an outrageous idea…

What if I was to write you a letter (the one you are currently reading) post it to my blog (can you say 300 followers?) and allow Puma to be the official shoe/athletic gear of me and my blog: Life Between Naps? This would of course be EPIC! The problem is the money-dough-cash, I have none. This leaves me with only one option... Ask the most outrageous question you are likely to hear all day. Here it goes… Will you Puma, send me a classic track star look for… (crossing my toes) Free? I understand how unorthodox this might seem and you have every right to say no, but what if? What if sometimes, all you have to do is ask? In that case, “Yes” is a very real possibility. This is a very confusing letter. Don't think too much, don't ask, "Who is this guy?" The better question is, "Why us?" The answer is simple, Puma is awesome and I believe in Puma. Puma! Puma! Puma! With a very small gesture you can directly affect change (in look and attitude). It say’s that sometimes it about heart and creativity. My shoe size is 11. Anyway, that’s my pitch. I hope this letter find you well and having an extraordinary spring.

Thank you in advance for any consideration you’ve given to this outlandish request,

Jim Noonan

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Cost of Happy

When I was 6, I wanted to a Cowboy. One year later my expectations grew and I decided to pursue a career as an astronaut. By the time I turned 8 there was a regression of sorts… I wanted to be a Polar Bear.

Finally, at the age of 36, I got my act together and figured it out. I want to be rich. I don’t want to worry about things I can control if I have the means to do so, that’s what moneys’ for.

Now, I’ve thought this through and I’m fully aware of the old adage, “Money can’t buy happiness,” and it’s obvious to me, that it’s a lie. I’ve deconstructed those words philosophically, mathematically and organically and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only one thing money cannot buy and that is “true love’s first kiss.” Everything else can be found in the land of excess currency, happiness included. The problem is we’re not rich; we’re not even close. We’re getting by just like the other 99%, and then it happened… A dream. A vision. A thought. It was an off the wall, out of the box idea, but what if? What if I just asked - - for “free.”

Is it Hollywood? Am I insane? Is it possible to make our lives more awesome, more fun and less stressful by obtaining material possessions and living out extravagant moments without spending any money of our own? Well the answer is yes-maybe-I think-I don’t know, but I’m gonna try. No money, just letters and words asking for things that will help take some of the worry away. I believe there are people, companies and countries out there that are willing, but I won’t know, unless I ask. First up? Fancy pillows.

Dear Tempur-Pedic,

Recently my wife and I went out shopping for a better night's rest. We were overwhelmed by the possibilities. One bed after another, it was too soft, too firm or too foamy. Not to mention the prices that ranged from, “That must be used” to “Blessed by the Pope.” Quite frankly, comfort came at a price that was so far out of our budget, we've decided that the only thing left to do was go home, lay our tired bodies on a mattress which now felt like the bottom of a rock filled river bed and wait until we win the lotto. But then something happened. On the very last bed we sat on, we laid our heads on your wonderful Tempur-Pedic Classic pillows. It was like my head fell into a cloud covered with dreams and sprinkled with innocence. In fact, I think we both blacked out, it was simply marvelous. The price, although understandably high was well out of our pillow budget, (which currently rest at about $10 a head) so we left a few tears on those little puffs of perfection and returned home where we cried ourselves to sleep on pillows that now felt like coconut stuffed burlap sacks.

Then I had a vision, an idea.... You see I'm a stay-at-home-dad (no income), who writes a blog with a pretty good following, (eh, 500ish). My idea was to write to you under the story headline, "You don't know unless you ask,” and ask you if you would be willing to send a couple of pillows to me for (deep breath)… free. Is it absurd? Yes. Will it work? I'm not sure. Will it make a great story for my blog? Absolutely! I mean what's the worst that can happen? Obviously you say no and send me a letter (or, I’ll never hear from you) stating that you can't give away product, but that’s what I expect. I don’t like that I have expectations; it prevents people (like me) from doing extraordinary things (asking for free pillows). But what if you find this to be a good cause? What if you do send us a couple of those wonderful Classic pillows for our weary heads? That would be… AMAZING! Plus everyone who reads my blog will say, "Holy cow, Tempur-Pedic is a real stand up company who cares about random people's tired noggins." This could work. This could be great. And we’ll both sleep better knowing how cool this whole experiment was. I hope this finds you in good health and well rested.

Jim Noonan

One week later...

Next up? Im gonna ask John Stamos to resurrect his role as uncle Jessie for my wife’s 43rd birthday. That’s the goal, that’s EVERYONE’S goal.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

From Beneath

This has been rewritten and edited for your viewing pleasure. It can be found in the soon to be released book Life Between Naps. Link and info coming November 2015.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Budget

This has been rewritten and edited for your viewing pleasure. It can be found in the soon to be released book Life Between Naps. Link and info coming November 2015.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Newer Update.

Wait for it.... Wait. For. It. LBN is coming back! New look! New stories! Guest writers! New Ocean Breeze scent! Audio (I'm not sure if this is possible). Photos! Weekly reviews of shows I don't watch! All that and more completely ridiculous and nonsensical utterances, which may or may not be limited to celebrity appearance and product placement. See you in a bit.