Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Would You Rather!

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up babysitting for some of my students - this is a rarity, as I do not like to mix my super professional nature with outside-work sorts of things. But this was a wonderful exception - I got to hang out with four kids (three of whom I teach at the art center) for a few hours while their parents went to holiday parties.

So not only did I make a small fortune on a Saturday night, but I had a lovely time. Mostly we played the Wii. I'm not all that excited about sports in real life, but sports on the Wii are kind of fun. I'm actually extremely good at baseball and golf on the Wii. In real life, I'd probably vomit from boredom with these sports. But with the Wii...everybody can be good at sports. Even the nerdiest of nerds. Even bandos. Wow.

We'd been playing on the Wii for a little while when one of the kids (age 9) started asking me a bunch of questions. "What's your favorite thing to do at a mall? What do you eat for breakfast? When you go to sleep, what do you do to make yourself tired?" This soon turned into more hypothetical questions..."If you could have a pet monkey, would you? What about a pet ostrich? Would you rather have a pet monkey or win the lottery?" And those were the key words, my friends..."Would You Rather."

"Oh, we play this game all the time at the dinner table," the 9 year old tells me. "We're just not allowed any potty talk." That seems fair enough, so we begin. I wish I remembered more of them...here are some that come to mind right away:

Would you rather go to jail or carve a hole in the president's desk (the hole would have to be about an inch and a half in diameter)?

Would you rather eat mayonnaise mixed with hair, or a tooth dipped in mustard?

Would you rather have to wear braces for the rest of your life, or have buck teeth for the rest of your life and have a newspaper article written about it every day for the rest of your life?

Would you rather have flower pots stuck around your feet or cauliflowers for ears?

Would you rather get a tattoo of my face (the 9 year old) or B's face (the 7 year old) on your stomach?

Would you rather get your belly button pierced 8 times or get a tattoo of B on your stomach?

And such and such. It's amazing to me...in fact, when I went to the bar later that night, I played more with some friends of mine. And you know what? The kids won in the creativity every time. I mean, sure, there were some good ones (i.e. would you rather eat a hot dog - asking a vegan person - or your own finger? Would you rather have one boob or three boobs?), but nothing compared to the brilliance of the kids.

This past weekend, I went to a Christmas party at another friend's house and proceeded to play Would You Rather again, this time with Genia leading the way. It started innocently enough, but then I realized that these kids could totally use potty talk. Here are some of the ones from this weekend:

Would you rather be an eyelash or a boob?

Would you rather be a butt or a fart?

Would you rather have butterflies for ears or big tree trunks for arms?

Would you rather be a teacher made of blood or a teacher made of bread?

Would you rather be a couch or a Christmas tree (G was just saying things he saw in front of him at this point)?

Would you rather dance or stand around on the couch?

Would you rather live in a car with your mom or a dorm room with your dad (to be fair, this was made by the dad of these kids...pretty good...)?

Although the kids totally win, I do have to point out some pretty brilliant ones that came out somewhere between Gwen, Genia, and I within the last few years...

Would you rather have sand teeth or yogurt hands (imagine latex gloves filled with yogurt and tied off at the wrists. Imagine playing piano, or taking out the garbage with those yogurt hands...)?

Would you rather have yogurt hands or a layer of skin around your teeth? Sick.

Would you rather have really loud farts or really stinky farts? Also, you fart about 8 times an hour.

And last but not least, Genia's famous one...Would you rather (something terrible and awful - fill in your own) or eat your own hand?

You got any??

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Surviving the Wisconnie Winters

Oh, Wisconnie. You and your winters. You really don't give us a break, do you? Here we are, today, the first day of winter, and already we've been through several snowstorms and winter storm warnings. 10 plus inches of snow on Friday, another snow day a week and a half before, and plenty in between. Seriously, Wisconnie, give it a rest.

Although I complain a lot about it all, and sometimes feel a little crazy and like I've lost part of my mind, I do take comfort in the fact that, at least, I've learned how to deal with it. Yesterday we got another 4 or so inches of snow, and today the temperature is -5 degrees. Not the windchill; that's somewhere between -25 and -30. This is the actual temperature, in fahrenheit. I think that would be something like -20 centigrade. I knew at some point that I'd have to go dig my car out and maybe shovel the sidewalk in order to be a good neighbor. So, I thought I'd give you all a little "How To" on staying warm and looking glamorous, all whilst doing something productive.

As a precursor to these pictures, I must state that I am officially throwing any ounce of vanity I ever had out the window. Instead of being horrified about posting pictures of myself in long underwears all over the internet, I'm having a little giggle about it and thinking more so of the comedic value. This is my Christmas gift to all of you. Enjoy:

How to Survive a Wisconsin Winter
1.) Tie your hair back in a ponytail. You won't have time for any nonsense once you're out in the tundra.

2.) Wear an undershirt. Yes, plain white works well, but I prefer the more festive magenta with polka dots.

3.) Put on your first layer of socks. These ones in particular are black wool with light blue snowflakes all over them. Highly recommended.

4.) Put on your second layer of socks. Those would be my brother Emil's old soccer socks. They come out about three times a year, especially for this occasion. These are great because they fit over the first giant pair of socks, and they go up to your knees.

Also, they're obviously very sexy, especially layered over the green long underwears. Uh oh! Things are starting to look a bit lumpy! Like I said earlier, totally glamorous.

5.) Put on your top long underwears. This is probably the point of me throwing the ole vanity out the window. An entire suit of long underwears. Ugh...

6.) Apply arm warmers, to keep your wrists warm. These are valuable wrists I've got here, folks. Gotta keep them warm.

7.) Add an additional top and bottom layer. Those are regular blue jeans on the bottom, found at many clothing stores. Let me know if you have trouble finding them. On top is another long underwear shirt, this one slightly cuter. I may have lost some of my dignity with this blog, but I still want to wear a cute shirt once in awhile.

8.) Put on a scarf and a hat. My suggestion for these is that there be no holes in the scarf or hat. Yes, it may be a little dorky to wear a Nightmare Before Xmas hat, but it's warm. Suck it up. Make sure the scarf covers your ears and entire neck in the back. Go around your neck twice with it, then tie in a tight knot in front. This specific application helps to make sure you drool all over the inside of your scarf whilst outside...classy, as always!

9.) Next, you'll want to put on your boots. Not the cute boots you bought from the big Boot Sale the other day - these are the waterproof, sort of ugly, practical boots you keep in the back of your closet. Put these on. Struggle to get them to zip up over your numerous socks. Pants get tucked in.

10.) Look for every glove you own. Use the stretchy cheap kinds as the first layer, and the big bulky kind as the second layer. Try and make it so your fingers can still move, sort of. Also try not to get something fluffy on your tongue like I did today, because you'll have to take all those gloves off, and that's a pain in the ass, frankly.

11.) Put on your winter coat over all of this. Take off your damn gloves to zip it up, all the way past your chin. If you have a hood, put it up. Then, put another scarf around it all. You'll look great.

12.) One last finishing touch...sunglasses! These are for either if it's sunny, or if your eyes need protection from the wind. Try and have them be giant and match part of your outfit.

13.) When you come back inside, take off everything you're wearing and put it in a big pile on the floor. Eat a lot of chocolate covered pretzels in your regular underwears, not your long underwears. You've had enough of those...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fakin' It For Dinner

So...I've been cooking. I've never been one to get excited about cooking. Maybe I'd get excited about making an incredible sandwich, each ingredient carefully layered in a very specific order. Or maybe if somebody else wanted to cook a bunch of stuff and have me "critique" their cooking, I'd get excited. But really, the idea of coming home from work at 9 pm and cooking something delicious has always seemed a bit out of reach for me. It's probably because I never really tried very hard before. Whoops a daisy.

And so, this year, I've started trying. Yay Reem! Good show, old man. Seriously though, although it's been a sucko year, it's also been a year of a lot of change, what with my Saturn returning and all...So I've embraced it, and I'm trying new things. I know that to most, cooking isn't a "new thing," but for me, it sort of is. I've been way better at cooking vegetables and making things up as of late, although I still have not, and most likely will not, cook meat. Grody. And so I must say, through hours of hard work, researching recipes on the internet, chopping, slicing, dicing, sauteing, and sampling, my cooking has a reached a point of absolute mediocrity. That's right - from non-existent to mediocre. Not bad.

In my quest to cook more, I've also been attempting to be healthier. Some days it works. Other days, I mostly eat bacon and potato chips. Waa waa. Tonight I was inspired to combine the "trying new things" with the "healthy" and cook up a big, delicious dinner. The funny thing is that it wasn't necessarily the healthiest thing in the world, rather, it was all "fake" versions of other things. A few months ago, I wrote about the fake versions of things, like Not Dogs and BologNo and Gimme Lean. In fact, Valerie made a brilliant comment with a list of like fifteen more - fantastic (you should absolutely check that blog and look at the comments section to see what she wrote)! Tonight was kind of like that...here is the menu:

"Macaroni and Cheese"
"Mashed Potatoes"
"Fried Chicken"
"Garlic Bread"

Why all the quotes, you ask? Well, those names are all sort of lies. For example, in the "Macaroni and Cheese," instead of using pasta, I used spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is like spaghetti, right? And pasta is spaghetti, and pasta is what goes in macaroni and cheese, so why the eff not? A perfect substitute. I baked the squash for an hour and then added it to the extra gourmet cheese sauce I'd made with Smart Balance and fat free American cheese. Yes, gourmet. Sexy. I know it looks kind of gross in the pictures, but it was really pretty good!

You might be wondering what could be fake about "Mashed Potatoes." Well, my friends, they were definitely mashed, but it wasn't all potatoes. Get ready to be gassy, because these "Mashed Potatoes" are actually mashed potatoes and...cauliflower! That's right, cauliflower. It's actually really delicious, and the same color as potatoes, so you could probably fool people pretty easily. You boil them up together (I did it in a vegetable stock for extra flava), and throw in some light cream cheese, margarine, a splash of milk, and salt n pepa. PLUS - I made it in the Magic Bullet! Everybody wins!

"Fried Chicken." Well, I'm not going to beat around the bush here. It was obviously a Morningstar Farms chik patty. That is all.

And as for the "Garlic Bread," I guess it wasn't really all that fake.I just didn't have any "good, crusty" bread as the online recipe suggested. Yeah...I only had frozen whole wheat loaf bread. Um...it was kind of okay. Sort of gross. But, the brilliant and innovative cook in me decided to make roasted garlic. I made three heads, just with some olive oil, salt, and thyme. After that was done, I mixed in some margarine and made a nice spread for the sort of stale bread. It wasn't all that bad, I guess...I probably would not offer it to guests, but still. It filled the void.

The final product (no picture of the delicious vodka drink that went along with dinner - all real ingredients there!):

Now that all that delicious food has been consumed and enjoyed, it's time to get creative. I need new fake names for these scrumptious concoctions! I'm blanking at the moment (I must be exhausted from all that cooking), so I'll need your help. We need names that sound like the real name, but have "no" or "not" or something involved somehow. Am I being clear? Like for Nachos, you could switch it to "Not-chos." Get it? Easy as pie.

Here is what I have so far:

Macaroni and Cheese:
Macaro-No, Please
Macaro-No, by Meez!

Mashed Potatoes:
Slashed Pota-Nos
Bashed Pota-Nos
Mashed Mamatoes

Fried Chicken:
Fried Chalken (this makes me want to vomit)
Pride Chicken
Morningstar Fams Chik Patty

Garlic Bread:
I got nothing.

As you can see, I need a lot of help here. I'm looking especially to Miss Sherin, who was so helpful with the whole Surf n Turf debacle. My creativity can only go so far...I am definitely not a viking at making up new clever names for things. Help a girl out!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tis The Season! Gay Apparel! Deck the Halls with Gasoline!

Last year, I wrote my Tis The Season blogs about 3 weeks earlier in the year. Now here we are less than two weeks away from Christmas, and I haven't even told you all how I'm totally in the Christmas spirit already this year. Yes, 2008 has been the year of suck, but it's drawing to a close now, and I feel like Christmas '08 will be what makes it go out with a bang. A bang of awesomeness and rocking, I hope. After all, Tis The Season!

Let me explain for anybody who wasn't around last year. "Tis The Season" became my catch phrase for about a month and a half before Christmas last year. It really works in many ways as an all-encompassing, witty, and brilliant response to most questions, statements, and situations that may arise around the holidays. Examples:

Cashier at Target: I see you're buying some Christmas gifts!
You/Me/Person Responding: Well, Tis The Season!

Boss at Work: Oh, you're a few minutes late...
You/Me/Somebody Awesome: Well, Tis The Season! What can you do?

Bartender: Drinking alone again, eh?
You/Me/Geniuses: Tis The Season, Jackass! (this should be said whilst sloshing your martini glass about, sloppily)

And such and such. "Tis The Season" can really be used at any times. My favorite times are, as mentioned, whilst in the company of a martini or other alcoholic beverage. See what you can do...it's a great catch phrase.

So besides celebrating the Reason for the Season by bringing back my awesome catch phrase, here are some other things I've been enjoying...

*The phrase "Don we now our gay apparel" makes me laugh every time I hear it or think about it. And it makes me think of fancy Christmas sweaters and other totally gay apparel.

*While teaching all the holiday songs at work, I get to have the following songs in my head:
Deck the Halls with Gasoline
Jingle Bells, Batman Smells
Joy to the World, the Teacher's Dead
We Three Kings of Orient Are - tried to smoke a rubber cigar - it was loaded, it exploded -
Then I don't know the rest of the words! Can anybody help me with this??

*I may just change my myspace profile to have a Christmas theme...you won't know until you check it out! Last year it was "A Nicholas Cage Christmas." How can I even top that asshole? (Okay, I just tried to change it, but it wasn't working. Don't check right this second. Give me a few days. It will rock, I promise)

*Going to see the lights at Olin Park. I've been four times already. Five, if you count the fact that when I went through with my friend Laura and her son Miles, we got to go through twice. Yeah! I will most likely go about ten more times before they take them down. Never alone...I always need company. Hint hint...

*Awesome and hilarious and thoughtful gifts from The Kids. So far I've received over $40 worth of gift certificates for coffee (all local, no Starbucks! Yay for Madison kids!), a school picture of the naughty seven year old, a snowman tin filled with chocolate covered pretzels, a thing of trail mix, and a gift card from Panera that also came with a tub of blueberry "body butter." The kid who gave it to me presented it in this way:

Um, Miss Reem, um, I picked out the smell of that stuff for you because I thought maybe you could go to Panera and get a blueberry muffin, and then also the smell of that buttery stuff is also blueberry. Merry Christmas.

Brilliant. I'm anticipating more. I'll let you know what happens.

*Aaron Neville doing "Please Come Home for Christmas" on the radio. Even better than the Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire one. "Bells will be ringing...the gla-a-a-a-a-d news...oh what a christma-a-a-a-a-as...to have the blu-u-u-u-ues." Beautiful!

*And last, but the least of the least, decorating the Christmas tree at my parents' house. Last year, we left it to the last minute and ended up decorating it on Christmas Eve. This year, however, we were organized and proactive. Totally Christmassy. We put up the tree after Thanksgiving and decorated it as a family. My mother and I always have an argument about certain ornaments that are hidden away in the large storage boxes. There's easily over two hundred ornaments in there, some from before my older sister was born. There are these tiny little felt animals in crazy colors that are from my parents' first Christmas together in 1974. Mom argues that we don't need to put up all the old ones, and also that we don't need to put up every single ornament. I argue the opposite: of course we need to put up every single ornament in the house, and of course we're putting up the 34 year old ornaments. They're part of the family!

One year, BFF Sarah was visiting and helped us decorate the tree. When I told her about these old animal ornaments, she got all sentimental and hung them all in a giant clump, right at the top of the tree in the very front. I think her mindset was that "they deserved a little recognition" or something like that. I wholeheartedly agree. And this year was no different - the 34 year old ornaments are up in the tree!

About a third of the ornaments on the tree were made by my fantastically artistic sister (I'll take more pictures when I go visit for the holidays and post them later). Some are more recent - the silver spiders, which symbolize the story of the family that was too poor to afford an ornaments, so the spiders crawled all over the tree and became ornaments themselves. The icicles she made with the old people she volunteered with in a retirement center, the tiny silver snowflakes...they're all beautiful. Then there are the older ones, which are just kind of random. Like the Christmas Penguin, or the sled with the word "MOM" written on it in puffy paint, or the ball with sticks stuck in it, or the bear playing the drums, covered in sequins...

Or the lovely round thing that's silver and blue and pink...

I love each of these ornaments, and as long as I'm around, every one will go up on the christmas tree every year.

There is one ornament that stands out to me this year, and it's mostly because of the story with which it is associated. There's a little hanging Cinderella mouse named Jaq that Sara remembers getting in a McDonald's Happy Meal the first year we lived in that house, which was 1984, I think. She remembers it well because, at the time, there were limited edition special holiday dipping sauces that came with the chicken nuggets. She remembers something to the extent of Apple Cinnamon and Cranberry Spice. I've been searching forever to find out anything about this, but to no avail. I did find this interesting page on Wikipedia about McDonalds in other countries. Crazy foreigners...

Now, speaking of crazy foreigners, I'll leave you with more pictures of the beautiful tree and my classy parents:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Braggy McBraggerson

I'm sorry, but I think I might just be the best piano teacher ever to exist in life. I know, I'm being a braggart, but I really think it may be true! Every year, I give my students each a mix CD, usually with a lot of songs that use piano. Sometimes I'll mix it up and put on some kid-friendly rock music, or some stuff that they might consider cool, and intersperse it with awesome rocking classical piano stuff. It's usually a big hit. But this year's Holiday Piano CD has surpassed any of the previous years' CDs. And I'll tell you why...it's because of the packaging.

Before I go any further, let me give you a little bit of history here...paint a little picture, if you will. I've never been a huge fan of all this visual art that everybody is always talking about. I used to yawn my way through field trips to the Art Institute of Chicago in grade school. I'd go to my friend's art openings in high school and hang out by the snack table, waiting to leave. The only visual art I ever really appreciated when I was a kid was photography. Other than that, I just didn't get how people could sit and look at this unmoving piece of something for longer than a minute or so. I definitely did not appreciate well.

The other thing is that I was never ever good at any visual art. I took a ceramics class in high school and all I ever made was a whole bunch of triangular shaped boxes with lids (my sister told me that this particular art teacher was afraid of triangles - I was such an asshole as a teenager) and a couple of money banks in the shapes of human heads. I cannot draw to save my life. I made my own deck of tarot cards for my fortune teller costume this Halloween that all turned out pretty great - I named the card, drew a picture on each, and labeled them with "Tarot of Reem." All of the pictures were pretty accurate except for any of them that had feet. I cannot effing draw feet. It looks like there are no ankles...just that there is this curvy part of your leg and then all of a sudden, whoops a daisy, there's your foot! And I can never get the toes right...Have a look at those feet - so awful!

Here are the two cards that had feet in them:

Close up on The Body Wax - look at that stumpy foot with awkward toes!

Close up on Athlete's Foot - nonexistent ankle! Grody!

Anyhow, I'm not good at the visual art. In fact, this aforementioned picture I'm painting would not be very impressive if it were an actual painting. Trust me.

At least now I've reached a place where my appreciation has grown. I'm still not talented in that sense at all, but I now love paintings and sculptures and collages. I'd even try a trip down to the ole Art Institute sometime. If you promise we only have to spend an hour or two there and can then go out for lunch. Oh, and I can totally appreciate colors and how colors go together. This may be due to Tara and her love for colors, or my sister and her beautiful paintings. So maybe this is why I am taking so much pride in the Holiday CD this year. Not necessarily because of the colors, or because I did anything really artistic, but just the fact that I made something that looks cool. For serious, I'm really impressed with myself. Check the pictures:

Here are some of the "winter" stickers I bought at Factory Card Outlet, a heavenly haven for teachers, crafters, and nerds alike:

Screw the big candy canes, I just got 40 mini candy canes for $2! These ones are also more difficult to break, so the kids won't whine and ask me for another like they do with the big ones.

Glittery pencils! They serve so many purposes: kids need to write on their music with pencils, not pens, and also they have glitter on them, which is always very purposeful.

This is the CD I made, with a scrap of green plaid wrapping paper and a curly ribbon wrapped 'round. One kid did ask me if I used Packers colors on purpose. I was immediately ashamed.

And the finished project! Come on, how cute is this? Do you see what I mean about me being the best piano teacher ever? Jeez...

The only thing that might not be so great is the fact that I totally left the CD making to the last minute. So...maybe it isn't the most exciting CD musically. Maybe it's mostly classical music and some other stuff that's pretty cheesy. Whoops a daisy. But I still think the packaging will take all the attention away from the actual music and the kids will be ecstatic, hands sticky from candy canes, skin glittery from cheap pencils, and spirits aglow from my awesomeness.

Okay, I'm done bragging. But just for like, the next few hours, while I sleep. Then I'll be back to do it more tomorrow - don't you worry!

I have to make 36 more of these, by the way. Part of me wonders if I'm going to hate this beautiful little CD by Monday...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Snow Day #1!!!

I always have really good intentions to document every little adventure I have, but I rarely follow through completely. I stress the word little, however, since the stuff I write about is rarely an adventure, really. I just make it sound way exciting, you see? Today was TOTALLY an adventure though! It was a Snow Day here in Wisconnie - the first of the winter. Oh wait, it's not even winter yet. And we still got 6 and 1/2 inches of snow. And our total so far for the year is something like 17 inches already. What's the deal, Mother Nature? Crazy Lady...

Anyhow, I digress. Snow Days makes me sort of stir crazy and all ramble-y, so I'm not sure how this whole "blogging" thing is going to go today. To be fair, I did leave the house, which was part of the adventure. But the day started out with me being very, very lazy...I made attempts to do some documenting. Let's have a lookie, shall we?

I woke up at 7 am to check the weather. When I saw that the Madison schools had closed, I called my home school families to cancel morning lessons. I then stayed in my pajamas and glasses and greasy hair until 1 pm, dreading the inevitable shoveling I'd have to do. I'll be honest though - I did not shovel for a single second today. By the time I actually even looked out the window, Xiao and my downstairs neighbor had done it all already. I'm slightly obsessed with Xiao today (if you don't know who Xiao is, do a little research here and here). When I talked to him, he was out shoveling The Lanai, which got covered in snow last winter, and had basically done the whole thing already. Here's how it went down:

Me: Xiao, you didn't have to do this!
Xiao: No, it's fine, we're all together here
Me: What? Okay, well thank you so much! Next time, please save some for me to shovel!
Xiao: It's fine! We're good neighbors!
Me: Oh...okay...yeah! Well I'll help with the driveway next time.
Xiao: No, you just stay inside and get better. Feel better!

Oh. I'm not sick, Xiao. Maybe it was just the greasy hair and pajamas. Whoops a daisy.

Okay, enough shameless links to my own damn blog. Here are some pictures of the beautiful snow, and the even more beautifully shoveled driveway:

The view from inside my car:

So, with nothing to do and nowhere to go, I decided to meet Genia at Mother Fools, the local coffee shop. I like Mother Fools just fine, but sometimes I get a little bored there. And what's the cure for boredom on a Snow Day like today, my friends? That's right! Booze!!! I carefully filled my flask with this really gross minty liquor called Rumplemintz (I think it's from a year ago) and brought it along with me...so smart! Here's me with my flask:

As grody as Rumplemintz may be, it works perfectly with a nice hot chocolate drink.

(that's about half booze, by the way)

Sometimes they're disapproving at Mother Fools, so I had to carefully hide the flask in my purse and add it to my drink under the table, stealthily.

And here is Miss Genia, who joined me in company, but not in boozing it up.

I then made a beautiful dinner at my house and forgot to document it. Suck! These good intentions always taper out at some point...But yes, this was Snow Day #1! I'm sure there will be many more to come, and I'm very sure I'll be way more of a crab on those days. Don't you worry about a thing baby, you can always count on me to be a crab in the winter.