Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We Had a Time

So last night two of my friends, Jess and Amy, posted a bunch of pictures on facebook from my thirtieth birthday party this past weekend. Their pictures were all from the bar, and some from the after bar that happened that night. The funny thing is, although I had a party at my apartment that day (a long party at that - people were there from 2:30 - 11:30!), there are almost no pictures from that part. Apparently, I took a bunch of pictures before the party started, and I took a bunch the next day, after the party was over. Documenting the actual thing though? No thanks. I guess the teacher in me is making you use your imagination or something. Good luck!

In honor of my friend Delicious Food, who has been lazier than I would have ever imagined her to be, I took pictures of the delicious food that was served. As an aside, I'll try and encourage Delicious Food to get off her ass and update soon, but I'm not making any promises. She's sorry though. Sorry and lazy! BOOM!

This is what I like to call the Bloody Mary Station. I don't like those tiny mushrooms or onions in my drank, and I think celery is a waste of time, so pickles and olives it is!

Healthy fruit. For the kids.

Brie and cheddar with crackers! Later, a lovely dill havarti, courtesy of Lia, joined the cheese and crackers.

Chips with salsa and guacamole, served in my favorite eggplant dish, a gift from the sissy!

Hummus and pita chips. I'll probably be shunned by my family because I bought it at Trader Joe's instead of making it. I added the olive oil and paprika myself though!

This is an imported delicacy called "Chipped Potatoes." Some less-refined, common people like to call them potato chips.

These are bruschetta and olive tapenade crackers. If you let them sit for a minute, the crackers soak up the oil and everything is wonderful.

Here are some beautiful flowers. Several people asked if the yellow ones were fake! (They're not). The first ones were a gift from Genia, who's birthday is this Thursday!

Okay, here are the only pictures that exist that actually took place during the party. Genia made me a lovely Rainbow Funfetti cake with Funfetti frosting. She'd offered to get me a fancy tres leches cake from this great bakery, but I was like "Um, I'd prefer a Funfetti cake. From a box." Thanks, Genia!

I think this one is a little creepy...

One of the most hilarious parts about having a party in your home is what you find the next day. Example: at any of my sister's previous Halloween parties, we find pieces of people's costumes: a sword, masks, a bustier (I'm serious!), sugar sprinkled all over the living room floor - fun stuff. At my party, there wasn't too much left over, but there were a couple of funny things...

From Lia's gift. It's now hanging on the wall.

You can tell it was a wild, crazy party, because the soy milk got whipped out. Sexy!

Opening the refrigerator and seeing this was very confusing, but it soon came back to me. At about 10:30 or 11 pm, as we were deciding whether or not to go to a bar, Jacob alerted me that we were out of mixers, but we had vodka left. I looked in the freezer and found a can of frozen lemonade, but we couldn't find a pitcher. So, duh, we used this ice cube tray. Totally smart, right? Spoon and all, into the fridge!

Apparently we didn't finish it, and Jacob thought it would be a good idea to "save it for later."

The hilarious part is that there was totally an unopened carton of lemonade in the fridge this entire time. And I must have looked directly at it several times, before, during, and after when I was making the lemonade.

And here's what we drank. Whoops a daisy. Although, this being said, I should point out that there was next to no clean up because Marc, who is a combination of a saint and a lamb, did all my dishes before we left for the bar! Thank you, Marc (he also drove my ass around all night. A SAINT)!!!!!

So yeah. There are a ton of pictures on facebook from The Ideal Bar, where we went when we actually did run out of vodka. There was hours upon hours of dancing. Let me know if you want to see those too!

I can honestly say that this has been the best birthday of my life. From the the celebration two weeks ago, to the party this weekend, and including my heart which is constantly growing more and more with happiness and love every day, I couldn't be more thrilled. Thanks to everybody who made it happen! xxoo

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sorry, The Boomtown Rats, I DO Like Mondays.

I know I brag about my job pretty often. But dudes, it's true. My job is the shit.

A few months ago, I was on the phone with a dear, dear friend of mine, and he mentioned that he could never be a piano teacher. Later, he said that he understood more how people do it after we'd talked about it, which was nice. I could have tried to convince him otherwise though. I guess I could have gone on for awhile about the beauty in hearing kids play music, the joy of experiencing kids hear themselves play for the first time, the beauty behind teaching, the passion I have for music, the fact that "sometimes they teach me" (bored)...but whatever. That's maybe 10% of why I do it. Here are some of the real reasons why:

A few weeks ago, a six year old touched my front tooth. She was showing me which one was her loose tooth. I pointed to my own (coincidentally, my fake tooth) and she was like "No, no, you've got it all wrong. It's this one." And she touched her pointer finger to my front tooth. She kept it there for about 3 seconds while I wondered what the hell to do. I then laughed very hard. Once on my second date with an ex-boyfriend, the same had thing happened. At the time, I thought maybe he was just socially awkward. Now I know he had the mentality of a six year old.

A different six year old stared at me a lot during his lesson. I'd be talking, and he'd just look at me, sort of concerned. Eventually he said to me "you look new." I was sort of confused. "Is there something different today? Is that what you mean?" I asked him. "No, you just look new." he replied, and carried on with his music.

Last week an eight year old who acts about six told me the entire plot of the movie The Wild Thornberries. There's a point at which, when a kid is talking and won't stop, you just have to say fuck it and let them go on. That movie doesn't even really sound all that good, but she laughed about it for twelve minutes or so. I have no idea what the movie is about.

And then there was today: Monday. I love Mondays.

Let me break down my day for you:

1:45 - 2:15 K, 11 years old, talks about what it would be like to play piano with his eyelashes. Here's what it sounded like. "Only they'd have to be metal. Or, you could put them in ponytails. Why don't they call them horsie tails? But I guess the tails don't come out of people's bottoms. I don't know."

2:15 - 2:45 M, 7 years old, plays a piece with the pedal down. She turns to me and says, very sincerely, "I love this. I love doing this."

2:45 - 3:15 J, 11 years old, sight-reads The Addams Family theme song. I get teary-eyed for some reason.

3:15 - 4:45 The family I babysat for comes in (three kids). R, 10 years old, and I talk about sandwiches, of course. I tell her that I like Jimmy Johns a lot. She says "Oh, me and B (her brother, 7) play a game called Jimmy Johns. I'm Aunt Pearl, and my sister and two baby cousins are the three babies. We put them in giant diapers made out of clothes. B's name is Jimmy John in the game."

Later, she tells me that her little sister now wants to be a racecar driver when she grows up. This is a change from her last career goal of working at the Home Depot. She likes the way it smells...

5:30 - 6:15 and 6:15 - 7:00. M and E, both 14 years old, each have 45 minute lessons, During each, we watch videos of the pianist Glenn Gould, who's a crazy person. Check it:

During the overlap between their lessons, they giggled together and talked about how they were going to tell their friends at school tomorrow. This is what's cool to talk about at Middle School. Classical piano videos on youtube.

7:00 - 7:30 M, 8 years old, and I talk about holidays. She tells me that she made up a holiday called Condenvusion. I ask her about it, and she makes up a song. Here are the lyrics:

Condenvusion, Condenvusion
It's a holidaaaaaaaaay
Egg toss! Egg toss!
Pizza, cake, lalalalala
Do you get it now? Do you get it?

7:30 - 8:15 T, the mother of S (14) tells me that when S comes to her lessons, it's like a pilgrimage in that the arrival of the lesson is like the end of a pilgrimage. I take this as a compliment.

I love my job. I mean, can you blame me??

Friday, March 27, 2009

So Far So Good

So I'm sitting here on my last day of my twenties, my face slowly wrinkling, my eyesight going, my memory fading, slowly wasting away. My youth is no more - what will follow is a life of desolate dryness, endless sadness, and white hair. Welcome, thirties.

Wouldn't it blow if I really felt like that? What a jerk I'd be. Thankfully, I'm not a jerk. I am turning thirty tomorrow, and as much as people keep asking me how I'm doing or if I'm "feeling okay" with a concerned tilt of the head, I'm really pretty fine. I usually love my birthday, and I'm hoping that I will love tomorrow. At this point, I just want it to be a good, lovely day, and see my friends. And maybe have a delicious bloody mary at some point. Boom, birthday! BOOM!

So far, I've had a wonderful 30th birthday celebration that began about two weeks ago in Chicago. My parents threw me a beautiful party at the arabic nightclub with my entire family (sadly, minus Emil and Mladenka, who were unbelievably missed), which was incredibly well-documented by my dear sister Sara. It's so hard to choose which pictures to put up because I'm pretty much 100% in love with all of them, even the one that I'm making sorta funny half-closed eyes in. So if you want to see more, check the facebook or let me know!

The party was fantastic. Delicious food, amazing music, great company. A few hours into the night, the belly dancer was performing her second set of dancing. All of a sudden, I realized that Albert, the owner of the club and singer, was singing Happy Birthday in arabic and a lot of people were looking at me. Everything was kind of a blur after that, but I do remember my mother putting a silver glittery tiara on my head with the number 30 in a heart in the front (she knows me so well - silver and glitter!) and the belly dancer standing next to me, and somebody bringing out a giant cake with thirty candles and sparklers (lit!) in the shape of the number 30 on top. Holy eff!

Here's me with an incredibly delicious piece of the cake from the Swedish Bakery. I used to hate it when I was little because they'd put marzipan on the cake. Gross. But now that I'm THIRTY, I like the cake (I still totally wouldn't eat marzipan, but the cake itself was incredible).

Oh, this is just me with the belly dancer on the dance floor. No big deal. And Luai and Samer in the background acting like a bunch of monkeys.

The following night, Sara, my parents and I attended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's performance of Beethoven's 5th Symphony and his 5th Piano Concerto, which is my absolute all-time favorite piece of music. What a beautiful night...

So that was a wonderful weekend. And since then, I've received some lovely little gifts along the way. Here are some of them:

Um...it's a joke between BFF Sarah and I. I swear. But I probably will read this entire book from cover to cover. I mean, Buns of Cinnamon?? Come on! That's hilarious!

This is a little vase I got from Auntie Hadar, my great aunt who doesn't hear so well. Sara says it's a Ming Vase (pronounced vaz). Fancy!

Hands down, the most hilarious card in the world, from the BFF!

Wait, here's the punchline!

A beautiful, thoughtful, rare gift from my sissy - a key from the movie Coraline, which I'm in love with and have seen twice in 3D. A handful of people who had worked on the movie got these button-keys as gifts, and somebody put two of them on ebay, and my sister snatched them up! My key hangs outside the door to the Lanai...it's sister lives in Atlanta.

Not much to say about this one, except thanks, Larry Sweeney. The man I love to hate and hate to love. Hahaha omg. I'm saying that from now on.

I got this delivered yesterday from my family! It's a flower-cake (you can't eat it, sorry) with a birthday balloon! Beautiful - it's sitting underneath a window in my living room now instead of next to all that Vitamin Water.

This is a hand-carved spoon that Kim brought me from Moscow. The real gift (I'm SO cheesy!) was spending time with her and her fantastic husband, Victor, this week. Yay for old friends!

Another unbelievably thoughtful and beautiful handmade gift from my sister. It's a (working) clock with cardinals - the bird of the 30s - and glitter and beautiful everything.

And yet another handmade from Sara: the charms are supposed to be healing. These ones are a hand and an ear, both of which would certainly use some good energy, what with my sort of busted up body and my dedication to music. This is an amazing, amazing gift.

And here's some more. Good stuff! Can you see the tiara?

And my favorite part of today, specifically: the rainbow that appeared on the ceiling for about 8 minutes and then disappeared as quickly as it came. I have no idea where it came from, what it was reflected off of. I began to look around, but thought better of it and laid on the couch staring at it instead, until it was gone.

30 isn't so bad, is it?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

On Her Plate

Sometimes what we know to be normal, everyday things can cause amazement and wonder in those around us.

When I was in sixth or seventh grade, my Iraqi grandparents stayed with us for quite awhile. I remember how they would go on walks in the forest preserve near my parents' house, picking grape leaves to bring home and make into dolma. On one particular afternoon, I brought a friend home with me. We walked through the kitchen, and my friend stopped and stared at the kitchen counter. "What is this?" she asked. I looked around to see grape leaves everywhere, literally covering every flat space in the kitchen, all spread out to dry so that they could later be stuffed with rice and whatever else goes in there (as a teen, I wasn't a fan of dolma). "I don't know, they're making food, I guess," was my mumbled reply. My friend was amazed and in disbelief that these leaves would be all over somebody's kitchen, and that later, we'd be eating some random leaves somebody picked up down the road. All I could think about was what my mom was going to make me if the rest of them were having dolma. Maybe fishsticks? Gross.

I write this story because the memory of this moment was triggered by an art show I attended this evening. On Her Plate, held at The Project Lodge, is a collection of work done by the late Carolyn Gaska. There's a great write up here that explains better than I probably can. The basic story is that Carolyn, who grew up during the Great Depression, made art out of any materials she could get her hands on. She used colorful, disposable plates as her canvas, magazine cuttings as her backgrounds and characters, and quilt batting to make it all stand out. Most of the material was collected by her husband John, but anything that needed to be bought was considered by Carolyn to be a gift. For her birthday and Christmas, she'd ask for magnetic strips any other materials she needed to crate her art. The rest was found or collected.

To say that Carolyn was a prolific artist is an understatement; there seemed to be thousands and thousands of pieces of her art in the gallery, and I knew it was only a small portion of what she created in her life. Gwen and Breena curated this show, and did a wonderful job. The show is up from now until Thursday, March 19th. The Project Lodge is located at 817 E. Johnson St., on the same block as Mildred's, Jewel in the Lotus Yoga, and Sophia's.

I'd had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Carolyn's husband, John, and her daughter, Deb, earlier in the day as the show was being set up. They were there pretty casually, it seemed, helping hang the art and do what needed to be done. During the opening, however, I felt them both open up a bit. I was so grateful to witness them in this environment, surrounded by their wife's and mother's art, watching strangers take it all in, and even sharing stories about the pieces. It made the whole art show so much more of an experience for me, especially watching John as he practically bounced around the room in his social butterfly role, introducing himself to everybody and talking about his wife's life and work. He told Genia at some point that he was always amazed by his wife. The love and excitement coming out of that man was unbelievable touching and completely contagious. I felt myself smiling every time I looked his way.

The room at The Project Lodge seemed pretty perfect for this art show. The plates Carolyn made all hung on sheets along one wall, and some of her other projects were displayed as well.

Here's the room earlier in the day, when Breena and Gwen were just starting out.

I'm amazed they did it all in just one day! When it was all complete, there was one wall of harder, non-disposable plates and old tv dinner trays.

This is the massive wall, covered by plates. Earlier in the day, Breena gave me the "task" of counting the plates on this wall. I think I counted 392, give or take ten. I also think Breena was very nice to find something for me to do instead of just sitting around being hilarious all the time. Thanks, Breena! Keep in mind, there's maybe three times as many plates in the art space alone, in addition to whatever is still in John's house. That's a lot of plates...

Each plate has a theme and is multi-dimensional.

Sometimes, but not often, there would be a slight repeat in the designs.

Here are some of my favorite individual plates. I bought the green one with the peacock, along with another green plate that has a ballerina on in (not pictured).

Carolyn also created her own magnets. These are made from frozen juice can tops - the ones that are round and really smooth with no sharp edges. Like the plates, each has a character, theme, and is multi-dimensional.

I didn't get to count the magnets, but there were three displays on the wall (Check the picture - they're refrigerator/freezer doors - brilliant!) and a big box of them on the table for people to purchase. In addition to these magnets, I heard John saying that he has a closet full of about fifty more boxes of magnets, all labeled according to the subject of each magnet: dolls, bears, birds...

The last section of the show was really interesting. Carolyn and John made several dolls that were mounted in frames, each doll representing a different country. The reminded me so much of the Madame Alexander dolls my sister and I had when we were little.

Not only did Carolyn make every inch of every outfit by hand, she and John also made these dolls from scratch - they created a cast in the correct shape, made the form of the dolls, painted their tiny faces on...John laughed as he talked about the "test days," before they had the formula correct and arms and head would fall off here and there. "Maybe that's why that one has a scarf on," he quipped, "otherwise its head will fall off."

A few people had asked whether the dolls would be sold and for how much, to which Deb replied, "I don't know...$25?" Gwen, Genia, Linda, and I collectively shook our heads. Gwen suggested a lot more, and Deb said "See, I don't know about these prices and everything! I just know that they were hanging in my bedroom forever."

I thought of the grape leaves then, and how the things we are used to seeing every day in our lives can be new and exciting (and sometimes art!) to other people. Those grape leaves were a beautiful thing to which I never gave a second thought. Later in the evening, Deb thanked us for letting her see her mother's work in a different way. I think that's something to hold to...

Here's John, taking it all in.

Gwen, Deb, John, and Breena at the end of the night.

It's a wonderful art installation that I encourage all of you local Wisconnies to go see, and it was a lovely night. The most beautiful moment, however, was a conversation I must admit to "overhearing," or eavesdropping upon, if you will. John approached Gwen to tell her what a nice job she had done, and I heard him say the following:

This is beyond anything...
I'm not one for saying much, but...somebody up there is happy right now.

Thank you, Carolyn Gaska, for this amazing work!