Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I know what I wanna be when I grow up

Last Saturday, Ignacio and I picked up our friend Jodee for a night out on the town.  We thought we would do something different and we were all looking forward to it..............

Roller Derby from Natalie Mikolajczak on Vimeo.

Oh yeah, Roller Derby baby.  It was so much fun.  The entire time I was sitting there, I was thinking, "I could do this.  I want to be a roller derby chick."  I was picturing myself on the team being the bad-ass I think I am.  I also remembered one of the last times I went roller skating at a rink and I fell on my tail bone, and sat on a heating pad on our gold velour couch for a week.  Not only was it a gold velour couch, but the couch was sitting on green shag carpeting.  And not only was it green shag carpeting, but there was a rake in the closet that we were supposed to use on the carpeting.

Where was I?  Ah, yes.  I want to be a roller derby bad ass when I grow up.  I want to be all tough and stuff and throw blocks and knock girls down.  Can you picture it?  Me, a tough chick?  Yeah right!  I come from a long line of wimps, and I guess the roller derby will have to remain a dream................for now.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monthly Dinner: Coco

For our monthly dinner club outing, May's selection was Coco, a Puerto Rican restaurant.

In addition to our regular dining crew, Susan's friend Ana joined us.  I hope we didn't scare her too much.

I was just thinking about my meal and laughing at what I had.  I enjoyed Mojitos and Mofongo.  And, I really enjoyed both of them.  Others enjoyed the Mahi Mahi and the filet.

When it came time for dessert, I ordered the chocolate fudge cake. Our server came back to inform us they were out of the chocolate cake. I swear, I grabbed my chest like I was Fred Sanford telling Elizabeth that "I was coming" to meet her, and that was probably the first and only time our server smiled (I think she was taking pleasure in my pain).  

I thought the food was really good. I loved my dish and looking around at the other clean plates, I think the everyone else enjoyed their food as well. The service? Meh, not so great.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Conversations with Ignacio

Me: I think our neighbor was on vacation. I saw a maintenance tag on his doorknob for a few days.

Ignacio: Boy, you’re a nosey neighbor.

Me: Well, I didn’t go up to the door and read the tag or anything; I just noticed that the tag was there for a few days.

Ignacio: Well, I read it. He had a clogged drain.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Meal

I swear to goodness this was a COMPLETE accident.

I went to the gym early Saturday morning, got home, and of course wanted to get my ‘eat’ on.

The quiche in the fridge was in danger of being another casualty to the ‘eat or freeze by’ warning. Well, to be honest, it was past the date on the label, but it had already been cooked, and there was some left that I didn’t want to lose out on.

I put the entire leftover quiche on the plate, added two of my ‘sausage’ patties (I love the Morningstar veggie sausage patties) and went to put my plate in the microwave when I saw the friendliest message from the Universe:

Now that is what I call a very Happy Meal

Friday, May 14, 2010

Conversations with my mother

I was talking with my mother this morning. I was telling her about a neighborhood festival I want to participate in this summer. I want to start selling some of the things I’ve been making and this might just be the ticket.
My mother never ceases to amaze me. Really. Never.

Me: Mom, I think I am going to have a booth at the Cuban Festival.

Mom: Cuban Festival? Do they speak Cuban?

Me: Mother, I am going to kill you.                  (I was joking, OF COURSE)

Mom: I will talk to you when you are in a better mood.

Me: Cubans don’t speak Cuban, Mother.

Mom: They speak Spanish? Just with a different derelict?

Me: Mom!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dad was a derelict. You mean dialect.

Mom: (is laughing so hard at her silliness that she can’t speak or breathe for ten minutes, and hangs up the phone)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The time I was in the opera. No, really, I was.

It was the summer before 6th grade, and I was supposed to go with a group of girls from my Calumet City (south suburb of Chicago) dance studio to audition for something or another. I was sick in a fetal position on the couch, and my mom was getting ready to call one of the other mothers and tell her that I wouldn’t make it to the audition. I was sick in the summer, so my birthday must have been approaching. I was always sick for my birthday. I would get so excited and worked up, that inevitably, I would get myself good and sick with a fever and tonsillitis.

I begged my mom to let me go to the audition. I couldn’t let my best friends go without me. What if I missed out on something fun!?

My mom drove to downtown Chicago, and I auditioned. I remember being in an auditorium somewhere and dancing on a large stage. I remember having to do grand jet├ęs across the stage and my mother later telling me that I looked (or was it sounded?) like an elephant leaping across the stage. Hmmm, bummer, I probably wouldn’t get the part.

Well, lo and behold! Six of us from our dance studio made the cut! We were cast in an opera. Not just any opera, an opera at the Lyric Opera, at the Civic Opera House downtown. Wow.

For the rest of the summer, the six of us were car pooled downtown for rehearsals. I think there about 20-25 girls all together from all over Chicagoland. It was the summer of a lifetime…….going downtown all the time, going to high floors at the Civic Opera House for sweat filled rehearsals. I have always loved rehearsing. Learning the choreography, finding out what we would be doing. It was always so exciting for me. I met new friends; I got an ID card to get me back stage at the opera. It was a yellow card with my name and it said that I was 4’10” (just two and a half years later, I would measure in at 5’10”).

We were cast as demons in the opera: The Love for Three Oranges. The year was 1979. I keep looking for the opera to come back to Chicago. I would love to see it and to hear the music I heard 500 times over the course of a few months.

We were fitted for our demon costumes, and naturally, they were black, therefore, we needed black ballet slippers, and they bought them for us! That was like the biggest deal ever. Someone was giving us ballet slippers, OMG!!

As I recall, we did 7 shows. We also had at least one dress rehearsal. Remember when I said I could get myself worked up and sick from excitement? Well, the night of the first dress rehearsal, me and my gang of ballerina demons were eating our usual healthy pre-performance meal: taco flavored Doritos, some main course meal consisting of chocolate, and this part I am certain of: Orange Crush. The reason I am certain of it is because I was so excited about this performance, that I got worked up, and got sick in the bathroom, with my Orange Crush coming back up and burning my nose as it did. What a freaking bummer! I was sidelined for dress rehearsal. An alternate filled my ballet shoes.

I was ready for the real deal, though. Seven shows at the Lyric Opera! A cast of people that I couldn’t understand (their accents were thick), amazing costumes, a stage that lifted up and down, and a list of experiences that I would like to be hypnotized to remember more vividly.

One thing I do remember, is that the elevator operator at the Opera House’s name was Bruce, and at the time the song, “Don’t Bring Me Down” by Electric Light Orchestra was popular. You may (or may not) remember that the lyrics were: “Bruce, don’t bring me down.” Can you imagine how much fun a bunch of 11 and 12 year-old girls had getting in an elevator with Bruce, and singing that song over and over (and over)? Poor Bruce.

From what I remember, the leader of us demons was a woman named Fata Morgana (or at least that is the name that I hear sung in my head when I think about the opera). (I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and that name is exactly correct). She was an older woman, but now that I think about it, at the time, 40 years old could have been older to me. She was probably a very famous opera star, and for the first show, as our gang of little demons circled her on stage, one of us stepped on her gown, and it ripped. Whoops.

I don’t know how many shows my mom and dad came to. I would imagine my mom made most shows, and I am sure (as the picture shows) that my dad made at least one show. I am aware that he slept for most of the opera, but that’s okay, I’m sure he was awake to see his little demon dance on the floor of the Civic Opera House.

We were heavily compensated for our roles as demons. I received a check in the mail for $100. It was made out to me! I earned that money and to me, that might as well have been $100,000 because for a 10 year-old in 1979, a $100 was a lot of money.

I still have the program from the opera, and yes, my name is listed in there.
So, there you have it, a little known fact about the time I was in an opera and had the time of my life.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Summer Lovin' Had Me A Blast....

I took a picture of these tulips right outside of my front door. I live right downtown, but our little courtyard is a beautiful secret in the middle of a big city.

I live in a great location. I live within walking distance to the lakefront and Grant Park. I can walk to the Museum Campus, Michigan Avenue, and many great restaurants. I live right on “State Street, that great street”. Living so close to so many great things is a lot of pressure. Summer in Chicago is amazing; there is always something fun and exciting happening. There are festivals in Grant Park, outdoor dining at great restaurants, bike riding on the lakefront, outdoor movies in the park, dance lessons and dancing in the park, farmer’s markets, free concerts in the park, etc. And…there is also good television on my DVR waiting to be watched. Oh, the torture of Chicago summers. Should I go out and enjoy all the city has to offer? Or, shall I sit on my bum, and watch my DVR’d shows or watch my Netflix movies? Go for a walk along the beach? Or sit on my terrace and read a book?

Along with the ‘summer pressure’ is ‘summer guilt’. The last three or four summers, I have made a “Summer O’ Fun” folder. In the folder, I put the listings of all the city has to offer. The dates and listings for the movies, concerts, festivals, dances, and anything else I can find, goes into the folder. AND… most of these things are free. Free fun!

Every spring I have such a romantic vision of what this summer will hold. I picture Ignacio and myself holding hands and walking on the beach, picnicking at the concerts, bike riding, and a whole bunch of other happy stuffs. We will be eating outside every night at a new joint, drinking wine, and giggling without a care in the world.

Oh yeah, I am also skinny in these visions.

But, then there is reality. We’re still working our 40 hour a week gigs and we’re tired when we get home. And, most of the time, TV has a bigger pull on me than the bike ride does. Inevitably, I get home from work and know I should seize this day, but I stay inside instead and then feel horribly guilty.

Summer guilt….so much to do, so little I take advantage of.

Every year, I tell myself that this year will be different; I WILL seize this day/week/weekend/summer and it will be fantastic.

Here’s hoping…………

Do you have summer guilt or are you a carpe summer type of person?
What’s in your “Summer O’ Fun” folder?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

he had the blues

Trey, age 3, playing the blues for cash at the subway

My cousin, Heather, asked if I could take pictures of her family.  Her son, Trey, just turned three.  I agreed, we set a date, and hoped for good weather.  Luckily, the damp, gray morning, became a warm, blue skied beauty of a day. 

I was very nervous about taking pictures of them.  I know that last year, they had a 'pro' take their pictures, and I am anything but.  I tried to do some research and look at other pictures for ideas, so I came armed with my notebook of ideas.  Some of the poses worked out, but I would say that most of time, we just went with the flow.

Jon, Heather, and Trey picked me up at my place, and we headed to the lakefront where I pass some beautiful tulips on my way to and from work, and I knew I wanted those tulips as our background.  I am glad we got the pictures in when we did because the tulips were hanging on for dear life. 

Poor Jon. He had one of those days where you just can't open your eyes in the sun.  Now Heather, she was right on it. BAM!  One great shot after another.  But Jon.  Jon, Jon, Jon.  Man, Tyra would have nailed him for not "smizing" (smiling with his eyes).  I felt for him.  I could feel my eyes wanting to water for him.  
Now, I have a great concept....sunglass contacts...  so you don't have to wear sunglasses, and the sun won't bother your eyes.  Is there such a thing?  If not, I want in on the action.

I also knew that I wanted to take pictures of Trey in the subway.  We did get him right at the entrance, and Jon was GREAT at posing Trey, and lucky for us that Trey was so in love with the sax he received for his birthday, that he would have let me take pictures of him for hours.  If only we had had a hat on the ground,  not only would that have made for a great picture, but I am pretty sure Trey would have made a pretty good buck.