Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Red Shoes

I’ve always contended that wearing red shoes makes your day infinitely better. So, I have many pairs of red shoes. Red shoes for every season and reason.

If I am wearing an outfit that is mostly black or gray, I need to spice it up, and red shoes are the perfect addition. I like the statement they make. I think the red shoes say, “hey I’m a funky chick and I don’t take myself too seriously.” Other people probably think my red shoes say something entirely different like, “Whoa, if I wore a size 11 shoe, I sure as hell wouldn’t be accentuating them with RED shoes.” Yeah, whatever.

I am participating in The Shed Project: 8 weeks of losing it; an adventure in letting go. This past weekend our assignment was to clean out our closet. In the process, my red shoes decided they wanted to pose for a photo shoot. So out we went on the terrace for a shoot. As you can see, the shoot went long, and the one tall red boot was tired and like “c’mon already, 50 pictures is enough! I can’t stand anymore.”

So yeah, cleaning out my closet….YIKES!! I have said before that I am a pack rat just like my mother and her mother before her, so The Shed Project is something I really need. In two days, I managed to fill NINE garbage bags with clothes and shoes from my closet and the linen closet. NINE!! I didn’t even go through my hanging clothes; just the clothes on the shelves (and in drawers).

Ignacio dropped off all the bags at the homeless shelter, and I just know I made some Amazon woman (like me) with size 11 feet very, very happy.

So, do yourself a favor and make sure you have at least one pair of red shoes, it will change your life.

*to clarify:  the red shoes in the photo shoot were keepers, only one pair of red shoes (not pictured....too painful to be reminded) were donated.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September's Dinner: The Gage

We went to The Gage on Michigan Avenue for September’s dinner. It was a lovely fall evening, so I walked to the restaurant.

There were just five of us this month: me, Aimee, Jodi, Nancy, and Susan. I swear, Nancy is a trooper for driving in every month from the suburbs. I’m so glad she makes the trek.

I have passed The Gage many, many times before and have never gone inside. It is so much bigger than I expected. It was pretty crowded too. I like to see a place thriving on a Thursday night downtown.  But now that I think about it (and cousin Mike reminded me) the place was a bit too loud and made holding a conversation at the table a bit difficult.

I think all of us ordered a fish dish except for Aimee; she ordered the chicken.  Three people ordered the pumpkin soup as an appetizer and raved about it.  My fish was tasty and I am pretty sure everyone else enjoyed their meals.  I really wish I was a better writer, that way I could really describe the food and the flavors in details with fancy ‘foody’ words.  But, alas, I’m accountant and the best I can do is say:  it was YUMMY!

We ordered 4 of the 5 desserts on the menu.  I think that is the way to go from now on.  That way, we can pass the plates around and everyone can get a taste of the sweets.  Although, this dinner club knows me pretty well, and if I can get a good chocolate dessert, I am like a three-year-old who hasn’t learned how to share.  The girls know to keep away from me and my chocolate and that there is no chance in hell I’ll be sharing my chocolate.  (although I have been trying to change my stingy ways…..)

This restaurant was a little pricier than those we have gone to in the past, and with the cost of parking, I think it may have been one of the pricier evenings we’ve had.  Good thing I was able to walk there and back.  
All I can say is that I am so happy to be part of this little group.  It is something to look forward to every month and it is a special treat to have a nice dinner with friends. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dear Spin Class

Believe it or not, I’ve been fairly consistent with taking spin class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The class starts at 5:30 am. Yup, you heard me, 5:30 in the GD morning. That means that I have to wake up in enough time to get dressed, drink my water, feed the dog, brush my teeth and hair, take a couple puffs of my inhaler, and the most important thing I need to do (also the most time consuming) is to go the bathroom. I can’t stress enough how important it is to me and my body that I am able to go to the bathroom (and by ‘bathroom’, I think you know what I am talking about) before a class as crazy and as stressful as Spin Class. Oh, and I need to have enough time to walk to the gym (which is across the street).

So for the last four months or so, I have risen at the butt crack of dawn on Tuesdays and Thursdays to take spin class. Piyo (a pilates/yoga combo) is on Fridays but at a more generous time of 6am. Because I’m so dedicated and go to the gym for such a grueling class at such an early hour, I think others should be much more considerate of my well-being.

Dear Spin Class:

-fellow riders:  this class starts at 5:30 in the MORNING which means it will never be full, or even half full, so please don’t come in and sit on the bike right next to me. You will put me in a panic that you are stealing my air and I NEED ALL THE F***ING AIR I CAN GET IN THIS STUPID CLASS. So, don’t sit next to me or directly in front of me, thanks.

-for the cute couple that sits next to each other: yeah, you guys are cute and thin and in LOVE, but do you really need to share the f***ing water bottle too? Bring your own, thanks.

-teacher: please, please, PLEASE don’t talk too much. First, I am not a talker, never been a talker, come from a family of non-talkers, and we don’t like talkers. Second, it’s 5:30 in the GD morning, I don’t want to listen to you. Third, if your explanation of what is coming next takes longer that 2.5 seconds, I have either already toned you out or told you to “shut up” under my breath, and still haven’t a clue what you are saying. Just let me enjoy the music and tell me what to do with a VERY brief explanation. I am on a stationary bike for crying out loud, I can’t screw up that bad. Keep it simple AND BRIEF, thanks.

-new class member: if your knees are hitting your armpits, chest or chin, that means your seat is too low. RAISE THE F***ING SEAT, GENIUS. Even if you are new to the class, common sense isn’t. Thanks.

-spin class: if my heart rate hits 193 bpm, and I am soaking wet at the end of class, and my legs burn like they are on fire, don’t you think I’d lose some weight by now? Or have an ass that could stop traffic? Or legs that could be in a Nair commercial? Yeah, well none of it has happened. Fix that, thanks.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

making beautiful music together

Saturday evening, we were just hanging around at home watching something on television.  We live on a rather loud street; there are crazy college kids, the "L" (Chicago's train), and sirens that can make it difficult to leave your windows open on a lovely fall evening.  So, like I said, we were just sitting around watching TV when I heard something that made me want to examine the source further.

I walked to my terrace and looked down, and saw this:

There was an amazing gathering of musicians right below us playing the most beautiful and joyous music.  It was like something that I would see in a movie, only it was happening right there....just a few feet below me.  

They were singing and playing and drinking wine, and it was just the most beautiful thing to witness.  

I was aware that our downstairs neighbor, Paul, played the piano, but I didn't know that he also played the accordion.
All I know is that I hope Paul makes this a monthly gathering...at least!  There were even people on their balconies across the street enjoying and applauding the show.
Take a peek and a listen...

Impromptu Concert from Natalie Mikolajczak on Vimeo.

You couldn't help but smile, right?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

April in Paris? Nah....everyday

Fall agrees with me; Summer and I have argued for months.

Growing up, summer was my favorite season. Wasn’t it every kids’ favorite season? It meant the end of school and the end of ‘worries’.  If only we had those kinds of ‘worries’ these days.

When I got older, I fell in love with spring. The end of darkness finally arrived, and I could smell spring. There was/is always such hope during spring. The days get longer, hibernation ends, and the city slowly, but surely, starts to come alive.

In the past few years, I have fallen in love with fall. One of my favorite words and feelings is: cozy. Fall is cozy to me. I can finally pull out the sweaters, socks, sweatshirts, and scarves. (Hmmm…fall’s clothing all starts with ‘s’, I never noticed that before.) I can sit on our terrace with a sweater and scarf and knit and feel so cozy. The pressure of trying to fit everything into a Chicago summer has come to an end, and I can finally relax and take a deep breath of the crisp air. And, I can hide under looser, bulkier clothes, and really breathe because I don’t have to suck in my gut anymore under the less forgiving summer fashions.  Seriously, it is so hard to take a deep breath when you are sucking in your gut.  Whew!  What a relief to let it loose.

Last year my mom, Ignacio and I were in Paris (my favorite place in the world) in October. It was beautiful. Well, hell, when isn’t Paris beautiful? It was my mother’s first trip to Europe. It took a little coaxing, but she finally agreed to go. (I know! Who needs to be coaxed to go to Paris?) She loved it like I knew she would.

In the middle of our trip, we took a bicycle tour to Versailles. It was a perfect fall day and we rode through the grounds of Versailles and picnicked on the bank of the canal (or whatever that body of water is). It was breathtaking and amazing and pictures never do justice.

my mother...on a bike...in France!!
For our picnic in Versailles, we went shopping at a huge farmers' market and bought cheese, wine, bread, sausages, and did I mention cheese and wine??

Here is what happens after I remember I have my FLIP video camera with me after a few glasses of wine.  (now keep in mind:  I'm tipsy, I'm riding a bike with one hand while filming myself....)

Fall in Paris from Natalie Mikolajczak on Vimeo.

If I had my way, I would visit Paris every fall.

And every spring.