Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dumplings on the Run
Robin's new dumpling take out place, Kuai, is featured in D Magazine this month (D Magazine is the Dallas Magazine). The title of this blog post is the same as the name of their little feature. They took a pretty picture of the dumplings, and they also provided a nice background of the place. I booked tickets today to visit him at the end of March (during my spring break!), and I can't wait to stuff myself silly with pork and vegetable dumplings.

Note: you might have to actually go to the D Magazine web site and search for Kuai since I'm not sure if my own link will hold up.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I think that I've decided that the red line is the g-damn drrrtiest el line. I can't speak for all of them (I have yet to ride the green or the pink), but the red line travels the length of Chicago, and it is always crowded and is smelly about 85% of the time. I'm usually not a germophobe, but I was feeling it today. I traveled via el back home after a work training which was in the Loop, and the train was full at like 3pm. What's up with that, first of all? Then I pincer grasped the super greezy hand rails. I guess that the extra grease does make them more shiny (silver lining!).

But, the best was when I watched a loud teenager sneeze into his hand, inspect what came out onto him palm, and then proceed to *smear it on the hand rail beside him*. Let me repeat, he smeared his snot on the hand rail beside him. The grody teenager was with a gaggle of his friends and when they exited the train, they were hooting and hollering. One of them approached the doors as they were closing and cursed out a hapless and impassive woman who was standing on the other side (e.g., "You bitch!" with motions to punch). It was ultimately harmless but really obnoxious. Some old dude who was most likely chemically imbalanced was sitting behind me, and very loudly announced "Thank GOD, those fucking morons are off the train." I was cranky from sitting in a training all day, so I seconded that thought in my head. You go on, chemically imbalanced man!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Chinese New Year, Happy President's Day
I had today off for President's Day, so I was seriously productive. Cleaned out my bills, vacuumed, worked out, shoveled out my car (with a dustpan...must make do), cooked lunch for the rest of the week, and traveled to Northwestern for a three minute meeting. Now it's getting close to bed time, though, so hooray for that.

Yesterday, Chinese New Year, Todd and I met up with Clarence and Jonathan. We had Chicago style pizza for lunch and hopped on the el to Chinatown in hopes of catching the New Year parade. When we got off the train, we were wading through crowds heading back to the el so that was our first clue that we missed it. It was still good, though, since we got to watch the dragons and drummers visiting the stores along Archer and wandered in and out of shops. We ended up spending about an hour and a half relaxing over milk teas and fried tako balls at St. Alps tea shop. The evening ended with hanging out at Holiday Inn with Jonathan and Claro and watching lots of tv shows about autism.

Tomorrow, it's back to work. Gah.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Okay, now I see why people don't move to Chicago.
Or at least rent parking spaces.

This snow blows. Actually, it really blew a few days ago, and now it's melting a little and you can see the streets and the sidewalks again, but there's talk of more snow tonight. And boo to that! My car is still buried and I think it might stay like that for a while since even if I managed to dig it out, there is no spot to come back to because everyone else is leaving their cars nestled in their snow igloos as well. Ain't no way I'm digging it out again if it's going to snow again tonight!

Happy Belated Valentine's Day! The good news on Valentine's Day is that I think I found my new apartment/non-living Valentine. I am totally, wholly, absurdly smitten. It's a sweet, sunny, corner apartment in a lovely quiet building in Logan Square. The building is owned by a meditation group/new-agey place and they occupy the bottom floor (the woman who was showing me around told me, "Don't worry, we don't proselytize"). And besides being a nice size, it includes utilities plus recycling and has a shower with good water pressure (a must). It's about three or four blocks from the el, the same from Logan Square and its assorted restaurants, and has a grocery store and pharmacy within walking distance. All of the tenants have access to an expansive roof top deck complete with tables with umbrellas. It was $50 more than I was budgeting for, but on the bus ride home I scribbled out my monthly budget and calculated that I can work it, and after all of my monthly payments, I'll still have a little to put in savings. I called and accepted right away. Cross your fingers for me that I get it, otherwise it's back to the drawing board. I can't wait to have you over for a little home-cooked meal eaten on the deck when spring and summer roll around.

Unfortunately, though, since I chose to be carless this week, my Valentine's day commute included seven busses in total to get back and forth to everything and finally to Todd's place to cook up a Valentine's meal. Since the first bus took 40 minutes to arrive and the second bus took over 20 minutes to arrive, and my boots and socks were still cold and wet from all of my walking around, I was in an outrageously horrid mood by the time I arrived at his place. Sorry, Todd, because I know that I behaved horribly. He was a good boyfriend and provided the requisite sympathy and foot rubs for my suffering.

As Sarah reported on her blog, the school day was rife with Valentine's Day celebrations. I happened to have treatment time with two of my favorite second graders when they had their Valentine's Day party, so I opted to spend part of the session in their class so they wouldn't miss out. I totally made out like a bandit too, because all of their classmates gathered round, each presenting a single chocolate to me. That adds up to like 30 chocolate kisses and hearts. I even got my own personal bag to pack all of my goodies in. It's a bilingual classroom, and it fortified my intent to learn some Spanish because these kids...I want to put them all in my pocket.

The good news about this weekend is that Clarence and Jonathan are coming to town (I'm sure they're thrilled about the weather). And that Monday is another day off! I love working in schools.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dave and Sabrina, enjoying their flatbread.
Jenny and me.
Deep snow and chicken tibi
The snow has officially come down on Chicago. It's been snowing about about a day now and my little street is caked in snow. My car ain't going to be dug up anytime soon, so I'm bussing it every where. I'm lucky with my new commute, though, since it's hopping on and off one bus. However, the last few days I've been apartment hunting, and to keep up these appointments I have to transfer busses often. That is no fun. It would be much easier to have driven when the streets were still drivable. However, I've been watching countless cars spin their wheels, especially on the side streets.

I see on the news that there is a winter storm warning in effect. Hooray!

It's exhausting to even walk around. I walked over the gym today and as the wind buffeted my hood off my head I stopped several times to wonder what I was thinking.

But a bright spot in the snow is the start of the monthly supper club Jenny and I have started in order to explore new-to-us restaurants. Tonight we had our first gathering at the Ethiopian Diamond in Granville. It was my first time eating Ethiopian and I can say that I see what all of the fuss about. Yum. Four of us gathered there tonight. I took the bus up there with Dave and it ended up being a kind of crappy snow wonderland adventure.

About the aforementioned apartment hunting: it's been okay. I've seen a couple of a total shithole in a good location and one a beautiful cozy and sunny nest in a safe, residential, but very unhappening neighborhood. I've got a couple more viewings scheduled for this week and I'm feeling hopeful. I may just go for the sweet, cozy nest in the unhappening neighborhood because let's be honest, I never go out to the bars in my neighborhoods. I do, however, love the ample selection of cafes and shops (and two grocery stores) within two blocks. Too many decisions.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Down Memory Lane
Anne lent me Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I had read and heard a lot about it as a coming of age story of a bright girl feeling slightly out of place in a ritzy New England boarding school. It's swimming in accolades. I spent the last two nights huddled under the covers (brrr) gobbling it up and I'm about halfway through it. I like the writing and it's a good, laid back read. It also throws me into a major memory time warp of my own experience at a ritzy boarding school in New England. I flipped to the author's bio and check to see if she attended one, but there's no mention of it. She hits the target a lot of the time: discussing the fancy-dancy campus, the tiny classes, the assortment of the students, the casual privilege...even the names she gets right. I am impressed.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I attended such a school. My parents asked me afterward if it was a good experience, and I think that it was. The education was pretty incomparable. I also was plopped there in the Fall of 1990 when I was 13.5 years old and pretty stoopid. I didn't know what had hit me until the first evening there when I realized that my mom had pulled away and that was *it*. What the hell had happened. But I adjusted. I quickly realized that while I was well-traveled, I was not worldly in comparison to my classmates. Cigarettes, booze and boys: what are those? By the time I graduated, I was still pretty green compared to everyone else, but in my four years there I managed to make some good friends. I kind of wish that I had the opportunity to attend the school with the wherewithal that I have *now* because then I would really suck the marrow out of the chance to work with cool professors, attend every speaker that came to campus, and genuinely take advantage of the whole experience. Hindsight is 20/20, though.

After forcing myself to put down the book last night, I tossed around for a while thinking back on some of the sweeter memories. A few that I would like to share:

- My senior year I lucked out and managed to use the rooming lottery to score a seven-person house on campus with close friends. Rather than a rambling dorm, we had a little living room and a little kitchen and it was homey as hell. I somehow managed to secure the position of "house counselor" which meant basically nothing when you're in a tiny house with your friends, but I did get to put that on the old college applications.

-I loved, loved, loved our senior prom. See, since it was all high class, we didn't call it a prom, though. It was called the Last Hurrah (the winter formal was the First Hurrah). Seniors were the only ones allowed to attend and we were all required to take four weeks of ballroom dance lessons. My date was a tall, sweetly dorky crew dude named Dan who was my dancing partner during one of those lessons. We struggled through awkward reinditions of the foxtrot and the cha cha. I was not the grace monkey that I'm sure you all thought I would be. I didn't see the point of the dance lessons until the day of the dance. We walked into the candle lit, regally wooden dining hall and discovered that a big brass band that had driven in from New York had set up. They proceeded to rock our socks off. Dan and I danced the entire three hours. I only knew two basic steps, but it is hands down the best time I've ever had a dance.

-The campus was gorgeous. Des can attest to this since as it happens she spent her summers at the same school since her dad taught physics there to science scholars. Two buildings designed by I.M. Pei. The arts building was one of his, and it was walled with glass. Senior year I took a life drawing class there complete with a nude model. That was pretty great and I wish that I still had some of those charcoal drawings because, let's face it, the female body is pretty awesome to draw.

-One particular tradition I enjoyed was something called Garden Party that was held in the last week of school. During this, each senior girl invited one favored teacher and one favored junior girl to attend a tea party kind of thing that was held on one of the lawns. You exchanged bouquets with your invitees and dressed in your summer dress best. I took my favorite teacher (Mrs. Temple from calculus) and a sweet junior named Maeve who I did a community arts program with. It was lovely. (Maeve is a great name, now that I think about it, by the way).

-The spring of my senior year several of my friends in my house went off for a two-month long exchange to a Navajo reservation (See? If I were smart, I would have done that too). I was able to form some friendships with the Navajo students who came over, lived in the house I was in, and were in class with me. They invited me and a couple of others over to a feast of traditional Navajo food in our dorm advisor's house and then we all watched "The X-Files. " Navajo flat bread: you had me at hello. During that time, someone from the New York Times did an article about the exchange. Through one of my extracurriculars, they hooked the reporter up to me to represent the boarding school voice since my peers were off on their exchange. My dad was overseas when one of his colleagues showed the article to him with a "Isn't this your kid?" I sounded like an asshole and the article was on the front page (slow news day, I guess). But another lesson learned.

-My all time favorite adviser was a young English teacher named Ms. P from my junior year. She lived in a absurdly small apartment on my dorm floor and allowed some of us to watch SNL on her mini TV on her kitchen counter on Saturday nights. One night she drove four of us to New Haven to eat delicious veggie food at Claire's and then go and see the Nutcracker. Ms. P probably was younger than I am now, and I still have a warm place in my heart for her. Since she was new she didn't develop the crustiness that more seasoned boarding school teachers held. At one point she was going running with two other youngish teachers on campus and left a couple of us in her apartment to watch skating on her TV. I still remember the looks those other teachers had ("what the hell are you having these students in your place for?"). But I still love her for trusting us and letting us share a little piece of *someone's* home on a Sunday morning. I think she might have been a little lonesome being young and far away from her family, but that lonesomeness allowed her some openness to connect. I believe that if we were the same age we would have had a grand friendship.

Okay, that is a lot of pontificating for one post. But it's all to say that despite the struggles of high school, I emerged with an overall positive experience. And that Prep is good.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's cold here. It's supposed to drop into the single digits this weekend, which means that I am totally going to be inside and cozy constantly.

Superbowl fever is officially here! Not that I really know anything about it. But, Chicago Public Schools is officially asking students and staff to wear Bears gear tomorrow in support of the team. This slays me. Did you all picture me rushing to the corner store to buy a jersey? I know that you did. I'm just going to have to dig up something blue and orange and call it a day. I ran across a bulletin board of little poems that some of the younger students wrote for the Bears and they were priceless. I was tempted to copy some of them down for your enjoyment, but better to respect their art and leave them be.