Sunday, December 31, 2006

Thoughts on New Year's Eve

I should be painting my bathroom, but....I think I may have carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand, a disorder I tended to dismiss as psychiatric in origin until, of course, it happened to me. It started gradually. One day a couple of months ago I hopped into my car and grabbed the stick to shift, only to experience an excruciating, piercing sensation in the center of my hand the moment I made contact with the top of the stick. Lest I forget, it continued to happen pretty much every time after that, and then the pain traveled on up through my wrist and into my arm, and down into my fingers...but this is boring stuff, it even bores me, and it’s my hand that hurts. Suffice it to say, I’m wearing a splint as I type this...but I digress.

I should be painting my bathroom, addition to the problems with my right hand, it’s New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve, and in a couple of hours, I’ll be sitting in a small church, listening to the Bach Society perform all 6 of the Brandenburg Concertos. First, they’ll play the first, third and fifth concertos on wonderful antique instruments, which can be perused up close to my heart’s content at intermission, after which the sixth, fourth and second concertos will be played. Oh, I absolutely love those concertos, and I look forward to this concert all year!

I should be painting my bathroom, but...I’ve been thinking about all of the things I want to accomplish or at least explore in the coming year, and an essential part of that process is writing out my thoughts. My resolutions, yes, but also my aspirations. I’ll tell you something funny. Not ha-ha funny, but weird funny. Last year, I made out a list of things I wanted to achieve in the coming year, and, having been unemployed for about a year at that time, of course, finding a job was number 1 on my list. Well, not only did I find a job, but in reviewing the list a few weeks ago, to my surprise, I realized that I’ve knocked off quite a few of the things that I put on my list. Not all, by any means, but it was a pretty steep list. So of course, I’m going to write another list of things that I’d like to achieve this year. I’m at a point in my life where some things are looming large, e.g., selling my house and maybe even leaving Texas. I don’t know if I want to do that, but I want to explore my possibilities.

I should be painting my bathroom, but...shoot, I’m just going to add it to my list. Odds are, by this time next year, it’ll be done. Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas 2006

I went to hear the Dallas Bach Society perform Mozart's version of Handel's Messiah on Wednesday night, December 20th, but my festivities officially began on Friday night, December 22nd, when I hosted my annual Christmas party/open house.

Close to 40 friends, family and neighbors attended my party this year.

We ate, drank and chatted into the night, eventually gathering 'round the badly out of tune piano for some songs, played by my talented and lively
lively 82-years-old, across-the-street-neighbor, late in the evening.

On Saturday, the 23rd, Alex and I attended a matinee performance of The Nutcracker at Fair Park. It had been years since either of us had done that, but we enjoyed it so much that we've vowed to do it again next year, whether we're together or apart at Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, as usual, we opened gifts by candlelight at my house. Two moments were especially memorable this year: Katharine's eloquent tribute to Alexandra, and Xander's face when he received his Christmas present from his grandfather, A: his first bicycle.

On Christmas Day, Katharine and Brenden hosted Christmas lunch at their house, and that evening was family movie night: A, Alex, Mike, Chris and I went to see The Good Shepherd, which all of us gave 2 thumbs up. We're movie buffs: we also saw Children of Men and Blood Diamond.

Alex flew back to Chicago on Wednesday morning, and Mike flew back to Arizona at the crack of dawn today.

I'm looking forward to New Year's Eve, which I'll spend the same way this year as I have for the past few years: enjoying the Dallas Bach Society's performance of The Brandenburg Concertos, performed in a small setting, on both antique and modern instruments, after which I'll return home for champagne and chicken enchiladas, Christmas (meaning with red and green chilies) at midnight.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Feliz Navidad

I went out tonight to try to shoot some pictures in the fog. Dallas is almost never foggy, and I miss fog (Chicago and Minnesota have their share of foggy nights), so tonight I was smiling as I walked around in the fog, savoring it (if one can savor fog).

That doesn't mean I can shoot it, though. None of my fog shots turned out, but I did come across a yard that had these lights up for Christmas decorations...after which I came home and ate a mushroom and goat cheese quesadilla with sour cream and pico de gallo, washed down with a bottle of pear ale, while I had a long conversation on the phone with my favorite younger brother, is good.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Happy Holidays

I was at North Park Mall Sunday afternoon, in Dillard’s, sniffing Vitabath, when I heard a male voice exclaim: “Alright, lady, put it shoplifting!” Of course, I wasn’t shoplifting. Nevertheless, suffice it to say, there are circumstances under which I might have been alarmed at that exclamation...except that I recognized the voice of my youngest child (by 1 minute), the incredibly funny Chris. I turned around and looked up at him. 6'5" tall and still amazingly thin from all that vertical growth, he was all dimples, totally pleased with himself at “getting” me, even if it was just for a fraction of a second. Stephanie (his sweetheart), was with him. They announced that they’d been Christmas shopping.

“So what are you doing here, Mom, I mean, besides trying to shoplift a little Vitabath...” Christopher asked. I gave him The Look, then told him we’d met Kath, Brenden and Xander (age 4) and gone with them to have the pleasure of seeing Xander visit Santa. For those of you in the rest of the county, who may not know this...North Park Mall in Dallas has the real Santa...with a real beard, and a real opposed to all those Santa’s helpers that everyone else has to make do with, wearing red suits and fake beards, that are almost as ubiquitous as neighborhood Starbuck’s, at this time of year.

Chris smiled, knowingly. “Ah, the Real Santa,” he said, and then added to Stephanie, “This really is cool. Xander just went to see the same Santa that Mike and I always went to see. Very cool, Mom,” he added.

“Huh? What do you mean?” Stephanie asked.

“Well,” I said, “When Mike and Chris were little, I discovered that The Real Santa is at North Park Mall every year...and so we have a series of pics of Mike and Chris on Santa’s lap, and it’s clearly always the same guy, complete with real beard, and now we’ll have a series of pics of Xander on his lap...”

“Wow,” Stephanie said, “That is neat. My parents never took me to see Santa,” she said, adding, “That just wasn’t one of the things we did at Christmas.”

Then she asked, “So when did you first take Mike & Chris?”

“When they were 3, so that would have been 1988, 18 years ago,” I said.

“Wow, that’s a long time when was the last time you took them? Do you remember?”

“Yeah, I do,” I said. Pausing for effect, I continued: “That would have been 3 years ago, just for Chris though. Mike stopped seeing Santa years ago, but Chris insisted on coming back, because from the time he was 12, Chris asked for the same thing every year: A girlfriend. 'Santa, please bring me a girlfriend'...”

Chris, who’d been talking to A, suddenly overheard me.

“Mom! What are you saying?!? No, Stephanie, that’s not true, don’t listen to her...”

“Yeah, 3 years ago, just before he started seeing you, that was the last time I took Chris to see Santa,” I said, adding, “Frankly, I think Santa was getting a little sick of the same old request, over and over...but I guess he found you and sent you to him, so Chris got his wish, finally!”

Stephanie grinned, enjoying it, and said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened.”

Meanwhile, Chris was voicing his protests in the background, “Aw, Mom, jeez! I can’t believe you said that! Stephanie, just don’t listen to my Mom, EVER...”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. He can dish it out, but in this family, that means he better be prepared to take it in turn.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hot Doug's

It was 19°, or maybe 23°, but still there was a line snaking down the block of people willing to wait 30-45 minutes in the cold to be able to sample the divine cuisine at Hot Doug's last Saturday afternoon in Chicago.

My friends and I happily became part of that line, and like everyone else, we stomped our feet and moved around, trying to keep warm, as we talked to other people in the line about what to order once inside.

There are hot dog's of course...but Hot Doug's bills itself as The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium

You get the idea...well, here are some of the sausages that were offered last Saturday:

Brown Ale & Chipotle Buffalo Sausage, with La Fin du Monde mustard & Oak Smoked Cheddar

Spicy Cilantro Chicken Sausage with Chipotle Dijonnaise & Pepper-Jack

Blue Cheese Pork Sausage with Prickly Pear Cactus Cream and Smoked Almonds

Ribeye Steak Sausage with Horseradish Cream Sauce and Caramelized Onions

Smoked Crayfish and Pork Sausage with Creole Mustard and Crumbled Blue Cheese

Spicy Thai Chicken Sausage with Sweet Curry Mustard and Spicy Red Lentils

Fresh Mint and Garlic Lamb Sausage with Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise and Brisante Cheese

Decisions, decisions...

I finally decided on the Blue Cheese Pork Sausage w/Prickly Pear Cactus Cream & Smoked Almonds, and it was good, but I found myself experiencing sausage envy after sampling the Fresh Mint and Garlic Lamb Sausage w/Roasted Red Mayonnaise & Brisante Cheese, which was incredible.

And of course, it being Saturday, we had to have a couple orders of the Duck Fat Fries (french fries fried in duck fat, available on Fridays and Saturdays only).

Oh my. Standing around in the cold, one tends to work up an appetite, and Hot Doug's is DEFINITELY worth the wait. After indulging ourselves, we waddled back to the car, and I found myself smiling, happy that I didn't have to pour myself into the dress I'd worn the night before...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Chicago, Chicago

Chicago, Chicago
That toddlin' town
Chicago, Chicago
I'll show you around...
Bet your bottom dollar
You'll lose the blues
In Chicago, Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday
Could not shut down
On State Street, that great street
I just wanna say
They do things
They don't do on Broadway, say
They have the time
The time of their life
I saw a man
Who danced with his wife
In Chicago, Chicago my home town

I love Chicago. A couple of light years ago, I used to live there, and although I moved away, the vibrant city on the lake has never lost its appeal for me. BTW, in case you’ve ever wondered, Billy Sunday was a National League baseball player who became a fundamentalist preacher and strong supporter of Prohibition in the early 20th century after finding religion in the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago in the late 1880's, and he was, indeed, unsuccessful in trying to shut Chicago down during Prohibition.
This past weekend, I flew in for something called The Friday Night Supper Dance, a black-tie dinner dance that could easily have been taken right out of a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie from the 30's, except that this particular event was started right after the second world war.
I left Dallas Thursday afternoon, on the heels of the cold front that blew in last Wednesday night, plunging the temperature 44 degrees in just a few short hours: from 80° to 36°. The threat of an ice storm in Dallas and a heavy snow storm in Chicago accompanied the change in temperature, so at noon last Thursday, American Airlines cancelled all their flights from Dallas to Chicago. Luckily, I was flying United.

Taking their cue from American, my office shut down early, at 2:00 PM. Feeling lucky, I hurried to my car and drove to DFW, where luck was indeed with me, as I was able to catch an earlier flight to Chicago and arrived a couple of hours before I was scheduled to arrive, in spite of the threatening weather.

Chicago’s O’Hare is a terrific airport. The United Terminal is especially zappy, featuring an amazing 744 foot long neon light sculpture called “Sky’s the Limit” by California artist Michael Hayden. The sculpture runs the length of the ceiling above two moving sidewalks that carry passengers through the terminal. This is the effect as you move along the sidewalk beneath it.

Snow was falling as I fell asleep Thursday night, and when I awoke on Friday morning, everything was covered with a fine dusting of the pristine white stuff. I took a few pictures on my way to having a manicure and pedicure:

Friday night an old friend hosted a small dinner party (and prepared a delicious dinner) before the dance.

Then it was off to the dance itself, where I felt as if I might almost have time traveled to arrive at the beautiful, old, oval ballroom in the small, private club just off Michigan Avenue, where I spent a magical evening sipping champagne and tripping the light fantastic as the band played Gershwin and Porter, among others, into the small hours of the morning.

Shortly before midnight, supper was served:delicious scrambled eggs, with bacon, sausage and toasted English muffins.

All too soon, the dance was over, and it was time to get some sleep, and to rest up before Saturday's culinary adventures: Hot Doug's for lunch and Mon Ami Gabi for dinner...

to be continued...