since i been gone

Once, twice, four times a Jasmine

I’m still fixated on the idea of going away again soon, and with a holiday weekend fast approaching I feel like I have to make it happen very soon. I was toying with the idea of going to Toronto because, well, nobody loves poutine and Degrassi more than me.

But the cost, flight and hotel-wise, of a weekend jaunt to lovely Canada rings in about the same as it does for New York City. I think if my mother read my blog, she’d tell me I don’t visit often enough (I don’t) and don’t I love her enough (I do). She would probably also tell me that I take too many pictures of food and why ask me why I don’t go to church more and spend more time with Filipino people.

I think I may bail on traveling and just spend the weekend in Chicago, maybe trying out some of the restaurants I didn’t get to visit when Patrick was here. I made a Google map of places for Patrick. Yes, it’s food-heavy, and it’s a lot of places for just six days, but I figured any place we didn’t hit we’d just save for next time. Hopefully there will be a lot of next times.

After Patrick last week, I was in a bit of a funk. It was so fun to have him here, even when we drove each other crazy dithering about where to eat. We could eat anywhere. We could eat nowhere. I realized, of course, that it didn’t really matter where we went, as long as we were together. This is the part where the haters those of you who would care to puke out of disgust are invited to do so.

Hyacinth is two years old. She is no longer “baby Hyacinth”, as Nathan used to call her, but a real toddler. I suspect she’s been an actual toddler for quite some time. But when I saw her Friday night at the tiny dinner her parents organized for her, she looked so grown up. I’m going to turn around and in a blink she’ll be off to college.

This is Hyacinth at one year old:

a girl and her camera

a girl and her camera

This is Hyacinth at 2 years old:

when can i eat this thing?

when can i eat this thing?

As you can see, pink is still her color. But all that hair! Her fixation on cameras has apparently transferred itself to cupcakes! There is nothing like watching children grow up (and yourself in the mirror as you age) to make you value time and how awfully fast and relentless it can be. Well, that and “Doctor Who”, also. I do so love that David Tennant.

Hyacinth’s birthday dinner was at Cozy Noodles & Rice. It was, indeed, cozy. It was crazy and toy-filled like Uncle Fun only it was a Thai restaurant. Curious. Joe’s parents were there, and they had a copy of The University of Chicago Songbook with them, a gift from a family friend for Joe. I’d never seen one before. I felt like it was some kind of nerd holy grail. Awesome.

It had all the crazy old timey fight songs I’d only ever heard about, as well as alma maters, fight songs, and fraternity anthems for Chicago as well as for other Big Ten schools. Yes, Chicago was in the Big Ten. Don’t look so surprised. Look it up! I couldn’t find anything about the songbook (the edition of which I ogled had copyrights for several years from 1921 to 1941) on-line but I did find some song lyrics here.

Jacinda’s mom and I arrived first, so we had quite a bit of time to kill (everybody else got caught up in rush hour traffic) and talked about the iPad, John Edwards, Jon and Kate Gosselin, Twitter, the State of the Union, and CNN. We ate two appetizers and drank some soda. When the rest of the party arrived, we talked about children’s books, books in general, Joe’s sister’s family, Washington DC, and my recent travels.

When it came time for something sweet, we got into cars and drove to Molly’s Cupcakes. Jacinda’s mom was on the verge of just dropping the two of us off and driving home, and I can’t say I could blame her. Have you tried to find parking in Lincoln Park on a Friday night? But just as she was about to give up not one but two spots opened up in front of the bakery. It was a birthday miracle.


Chocolate cupcakes at Molly's Bakery

Everybody loves cupcakes. We all indulged, from Joe’s mom’s simple vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting to the Truffle Bomb cupcake I didn’t quite finish. Just too much and too sweet. I did finish my milk, thank you. Hyacinth got a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles, with a candle. It took a while to find some matches. We sang “Happy Birthday”, while the rest of the customers just sort of gawked at the gaggle of adults, harmonizing (yes, we did) to a two year old girl.

Hyacint opened most of her presents earlier in the day, but Joe and Jacinda saved a few gifts for her to open at the bakery. Recently she’s become enamored of Thomas The Tank Engine, so she opened a birthday-centric train from her parents, and a wooden train set from Joe’s parents. I hoped she liked the stuff I got her in France.

She did. I got her a castanet from Muji, stickers from a toy store in the Marais, and leather Union Jack slippers from Tumbleweed, another store in the Marais. She liked it all, I think, especially the castanet. As Hyacinth has been taking Spanish, she knew to call it a castañuela and played it while she ran around, shoes off, face covered in cupcake crumbs.

The rest of the weekend was just as lovely. Voice class Saturday morning, where I sang through most of “My Guy” with my recital partner. I recorded the practice on my iPhone. Not sure if I’ll be posting that here, though. After class, I met Andrea at the Ravenswood Event Center for Indie Wed.

Indie Wed was, for lack of a better word, kind of nuts. Maybe it’s because I’m well on my way to becoming a spinster, but I felt oddly invisible and conspicuous at the same time. I am not a bride, no diamond weighing down my ring finger, but I felt like that’s what marked me as some kind of imposter.

Seriously, this lady asked me when the wedding was when I asked her for a sample of red velvet cake, and when I told her there was no date (“Sorry! I’m just a fan of cake!”) she kind of half laughed and said “Well, we don’t tell anybody about this.” Really? I’m not getting married so I can’t have this thimble-ful of red velvet cake which, frankly, wasn’t very velvety?

I like delicate and pretty but I swear some vendors and their wares left me feeling downright anemic. Also, and I hate saying this but you know I always do, it was very White. I think we’ve already established that I’m probably, like, the world’s worst Filipino (I can’t eat with my hands, I don’t play the piano, and my last karaoke outing was a bit of a bust) but I was all “Where are you keeping the brown people? What have you done with the brown people?”

A caterer gave out samples, in white Chinese take-out cartons, of sushi with sesame noodles. I could feel my Asian-ness surging again. That, coupled with the kind of crazed looks in the eyes of these brides, told me it was time to go. Thankfully, Andrea felt the same — about wanting to leave, not so much about her Asian-ness surging. I think because she’s not Asian.

I don’t want to leave this on a completely sour note so I will say these vendors are worth supporting because they’re independent, they’re local (or almost), and had some gorgeous wares, services, and food available. It wasn’t all to my taste but I’m sure the show could get bigger and maybe by the time I convince someone that marrying me isn’t the worst fucking idea in the world get married, I will do most of my shopping from the vendors featured at Indie Wed.

That sushi and noodles? Delicious. The photo of myself at the top of this post, from the folks at The Magnolia Photo Booth Company? Hilarious, if I do say so myself. There were some veils and headdresses that I would have gladly given my left ear for if I didn’t think I’d actually need my left ear to wear. Shit, the only reason I got to go to the show for free in the first place was because a friend of Andrea’s was a vendor and had two guest passes. If that isn’t generous, then  don’t know what is. PS: Andrea’s friend, Jolene, owns Delicate Creature, a wedding and event planning service. Check her site out — the pics of the weddings and parties she’s planned look incredible.

Andrea is totally awesome, though. We went to Beans & Bagels for tasty sandwiches and hot beverages. We debriefed about the show, and then just talked about, well, life. I talked about how I’ve been trying to clean and organize my apartment for the past few months, and she talked me through a bunch of stuff. Which sounded scary but good. Like, I probably should move. Actually, I need to move. Or at least see that cleaning my place is good for me, and I could feel a lot better. I think she’s right.

I stayed in Saturday night, watching “Saturday Night Live” and eating a burger (I’m telling you, that wedding show just took it right out of me). Sunday was a disaster. I meant to go out, find something tasty to eat, see a movie, then take some laundry to Elisa‘s. I’d do load of t-shirts and socks while she fed me dinner and we caught up on her social life. Instead, I stayed in bed, watching tv, and napping until 5pm in the evening. Shameful. Just shameful.

Somehow, I managed to shower and get myself to her apartment, sans laundry, in one piece. Just in time for the trainwreck that was the Grammys. We tweeted the telecast throughout, as did everybody else (or so it seemed), three-and-a-half hours of some amazing performances (Pink, Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli) and some that were, well, less so (Taylor Swift, I am looking at you – Stevie Nicks, not so fast). Lady Gaga’s theatrics were, well, theatrical, and I was disappointed by Beyoncé’s choice of song. The Michael Jackson tribute sounded haunting and gorgeous (Celine Dion, I’ve missed you, and I think you and Jennifer Hudson need to record together) but the 3-D portion (did CBS forget to tell people to get 3-D glasses or am I just exceptionally forgetful?) looked like a low-budget Avatar. I have no comment on Taylor Swift winning Album of the Year, except that she’s a decent songwriter whose voice and live performance skills should, I hope, improve enough to justify her accolades.


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