Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry Christmas!

As 2009 comes to a close, I'd like to offer this image to delight you:

Pictured above is family that traveled all the way out to Colorado for Christmas this year. By snowmobile! I hope it was worth their while - we went on brewery tours, did some hiking and ate and celebrated all week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sundays at Sherwood

Click to listen to:
Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 4, Aubrey and Chris

Picture taken by April Faith-Slaker

For those who may think this post is copyright infringement:
Brahms has been dead for over a century, April approved my use of her photo, the performance is ME and a friend, who also approves this post, and the original performance was free and open to the public. Considering all of that, please enjoy one of my favorite performances.
- Aubrey

Monday, November 02, 2009


Diamond Fever

I could go for a diamond or two today..... maybe a yellow diamond. Square or princess cut, surrounded by smaller, white diamonds, in a palladium setting. You know. If you're in the area/the market/or just want to make me smile. Hahahaha. ?

Recently I went to a very educational and extravagant exhibit at the Field Museum on diamonds. It was fascinating and beautiful and we ended up spending hours in the exhibit.

Did you know........
  • Diamonds repel water?
  • Diamonds are better heat conductors than copper?
  • Diamonds are carried to Earth's surface by magma?
Now you do! To learn more about diamonds, check out the Field Museum's overview of the exhibit, which is running until March 28th.

My personal favorites were:

The Incomparable Diamond: 407 carat golden-colored kite-shaped diamond, found in the 1980's by a young girl in the Congo who was playing in a pile of rubble.

The Milky Way 2000 Collar: designed by Dieter Huebner, it contains 2,000 diamonds totallying 67.96 carats.

A pink diamond ring designed by Christian Tse. This isn't the same one, but it is almost as fabulous!

Other wonderful parts of the exhibit were Catherine the Great's necklace, sold by the Russian Government in 1926; a huge diamond given by a czar to some child upon growing her first baby tooth; the Mirage World Peace Egg; and this gecko brooch made of 1, 524 green diamonds (62.16 carats) designed by Stefan Hemmerle in 2001.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Welcome Winter!

It is nearly twenty degrees colder than it should be at this time of year. I’m staying cheerful these days by watching Madmen, preparing for performing a faculty concert in November, and baking!

Pictured below are the fabulous chocolates that I try to get every time I’m in Omaha, Nebraska. They are so good that I’m working on making my OWN Rosemary Chocolate and Lavender-Vanilla Chocolate recipes. I started with making my own extracts. I still have leftovers from my first batches and I need tasters! Stop by and try them out! I’ll be trying to get them perfect by Thanksgiving!

Chicago Wildlife

In other news: Cool apps are no longer only for the elite; It hailed in WestTown today; And Chicago NPR has almost reached its fall pledge drive goal.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

My First Camping Trip

This past weekend, I was taken on my very first camping trip. I was privileged to go with experienced campers who (as I found out - to my delight) don't rough it at all - even though we didn't use any of the premade campgrounds. We had everything we needed to enjoy a very comfortable time. There were so many aspects of it that I loved (the view, hiking, the fire, the coziness, the fresh air) and only one that I didn't (I'm planning on getting better at camp sleeping in the future).

The road to camping......

With our friends, Doug and Liz, we drove from Fort Collins (after sampling some excellent (Dark Knight HBA) and not-so-excellent (Belgian Style Kriek Ale) beer at Coopersmith's Pub the night before) to the Poudre Canyon for some scenic and idyllic camping. We followed the Poudre River along until we started heading up into the mountainous forest to find a campsite. We passed people hiking, fishing, swimming, and lazing around in tubes in the river. While the boys were chopping wood, Liz, Curry and I went on a mini-hike (mini because the altitude was bothering me). I wish I had taken pictures, but with a dog attached to one hand, and a beer in the other, over uneven terrain, I had no easy way to document it.

Satisfied with the site and the setup - it is time to get the cooler out!

Found it!

The four of us passed the evening playing a board game (The Alhambra - check it out!), cooking dinner (potatoes and onions, chicken with zucchini and couscous, and bread with rosemary), roasting marshmallows, and catching up.

Then came the real fun: sleeping. In a tiny two-person tent, broad shouldered Monte, restless and wanting to be indoors Curry, and claustrophobic me tried to pass a comfortable night. Every time I felt too confined and had to unzip the tent to get some air, Curry got up to try to find a more comfortable spot; every time Monte fell asleep and started snoring, he woke me up; every time I elbowed Monte to stop snoring, he woke up; every time an animal made noise, Curry stepped on both of us and woke us up. Thankfully, morning finally arrived (I woke up wedged in between the two inflatable mats we had under our sleeping bags) and we got up to have tea and read while the sun slowly started to warm the forest.

"Good morning! Did you sleep well?"

It is the end of the summer and time to get back to school. Starbucks Coffee is already serving Pumpkin Spice Lattes and winter is just around the corner. I'm so glad I got to spend a weekend outside like this and can't wait to do it again next summer!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Letters to Sartre

Letters are so funny. Especially when you can only access one side of the correspondence. One of the things I love about reading letters is that you get a particular picture of the writer and the reader that one wouldn't get if the story had been told as just that - A STORY.

I read this book most nights before bed - one letter at a time for nearly a year and am feeling a little of a loss. I think I'm going to miss DeBeauvoir!

These letters gave me a very good picture of Paris during World War II and even Chicago and Hollywood in the 1950. And this couple - DeBeauvoir and Sartre knew everybody! So, the letters are riddled with names of famous philosophers, artists, musicians and politicians.

In other news:  Hold onto your appendix - it may be necessary afterall!;  Trees around the world are colonising new territories in response to higher temperatures; Lindsay Lohan robbed her own house; it is back to school time!  


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Trying New Things (or the sibling adventure)

Even though I've been hiking, been to the beach, seen concerts, gone to museums, met new people, and am going to be doing some traveling soon, my newest adventure took place at a chain restaurant in Westmont, Illinois.

After taking Sibling #2  to his new dorm for the year, I returned to the Chicago area and stopped by to see my family and say, "bye," to Sibling #3, who was packing to leave the next day, and see how Sibling #4 was preparing to leave for her first year in college.  (Sibling #5 is moving into his new dorm as I type and Sibling #1 has a few weeks before she will settle into her school-year residence.)  And YET...... that isn't the adventure I'm here to blog about!


Have you ever had oysters?  I hadn't.   That shortcoming has recently been remedied:

My oysters.  Oh!  And some battered and fried alligator.  I forgot!  I hadn't had that before either!

This is, apparently, how it is done.

And since no blog is complete without a picture of what I had for dinner:

Hazelnut crusted tilapia and green beans.  A new recipe for me to play with.

Stay tuned for pictures of my composting worms!

[The above numbering order of my siblings is not representative of when they left for college.  Nor is it representative of how much I love them.  It is merely their birth order after me.  I apologize for any confusion.]

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What's a glute?!

Early morning after a rough night of bad dreams..... cheez-its and chocolate mousse for breakfast.... throwing my phone in the washing machine and not realizing it until it was too late.... tater tots and gin and tonics for dinner.... driving for over four hours today.... up to my ankles in mud.... a day in nature.... warm, dry and clean clothes - and also a warm, dry, and clean puppy....

Here is one of the the highpoints:

For much better photos that give a better idea of what we actually experienced, check out my sister's blog.
In other news: There IS no other news.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday Soiree

In the spirit of the Fourth of July, several of my musician friends came over for a soiree of sorts. The program included Brahms, Amy Beach, Bach, Henry Martin, Faure, some jazzy musical theater pieces and a flashy Romanian piece by ?????? (Otilia - please fill in the blank!).

It was festive and dorky and I was so excited to hear my piano played so beautifully today. I recorded everyone, but without being given their permission, I'll only include my playing here.

This is the opening of a Schumann piece titled Kreisleriana, which is based on a very strange book by E.T.A. Hoffmann.

Kreisleriana opening

A slightly more typical and festive way of celebrating the Fourth of July is with a picnic near the beach:

The above photos were taken by my sister April.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Four Seasons in Rome

I read the perfect book recently. Four Seasons in Rome is an eloquent account of an author's experience living in Rome for a year with newborn twins and a book-writing project. Anthony Doerr got to experience fatherhood in a foreign country - where experiencing something as little as going to the grocer can seem alien.

The book alternates between stories of raising newborns and impressions of Rome. My favorite was when many months into the trip, when needing to communicate, Doerr found that most of his vocabulary had to do with where Romans he met could find a double stroller such as the one he brought with him from the states.

In other news: A Polish Catholic monk publishes a book providing married couples a theological and practical guide to spicing up their sex lives; Goldie Hawn thinks Kate Hudson needs to stop dating and settle down; And Ted Kennedy is going to be given honorary knighthood in recognition for his work as peace advocate in Northern Ireland.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mother's Day

On Mother’s Day this year, my family not only celebrated our appreciation of our mothers (yes, plural), but we also celebrated spring. With gifts of flowers and other things that will sprout, a quick trip to the cemetery to bring flowers to past-mothers, and a bout with crazy Chicago traffic, followed by a meal of everything delicious that is currently in season– it was spring at its finest.

Just days before Mother’s Day, my local grocer sent me an e-mail to let me know that not only were they selling pies for Mother’s Day (three cheers for strawberry rhubarb pie with an oatmeal streusel!), but they had gotten in fresh morels. Now I KNOW that much of the enticement in morel season is the foraging for them – but here in Chicago, the little grass I DO encounter outside of my yard is frequented by pet owners and I wouldn’t eat anything I found there, even if I were so lucky as to spot a morel. Plus, some morels are poisonous. I don’t recommend serving THOSE on Mother’s Day.

Alas – I don’t have pictures of any of the people who I celebrated with on Mother’s Day, but of course I DO have a picture of the food. Below is my first serving of Angel Hair Pasta with Morels and Asparagus. I recommend it with good bread, a little parmesan cheese, a couple of bottles of wine and a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Quick – it is all still in season!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Botanic Gardens

Ahhhhhhhh - Spring. Ahhhhhhhh – environments carefully manicured to make Chicagoans feel as if they are a part of nature. Ahhhhhh – too much sun!

This past Friday, Otilia and I went up to the Botanic Gardens in Glencoe for most of the day. We walked the whole thing – more than once, sat and had a snack in an orchard, wrote postcards in an English garden and a Japanese pagoda, and ambled along enjoying the colors, the warmth and the peace.

Fringe tulips – aren’t they fabulous?! They look like CLOTH!

This would be okay in my front yard.

I came home with a mini-rose plant of my own and a mini-sunburn to mark the first bit of Vitamin D I have gotten in a while!

In other news: Many people are unaware that alcohol contains calories, pandas show a preference for artificial sweeteners, Paris Hilton takes Amanda Bynes' ex to Japan, and Happy Mother's Day to all three of my mothers!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Cello and Piano

Really now.  What is better after a long day than good sushi, a bottle of wine and sightreading Chopin with your sister?  

All of the above while messing with my new recording device.

There you have it:  A bit of Chopin.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm completely neurotic - why didn't anyone tell me?

Here it is - the end of February.  Have those of you who made New Year's Resolutions stuck to them?  Were any of them major changes to be made?  Starting a healthier lifestyle?  Spending more time with your family?  Saving money?  Well, studies show that over the age of 30, our personalities are pretty fixed and these changes are much harder to make.

Regardless of individual personality, according to an article I read in Scientific American Mind, as the years pass, our eagerness for novel experiences and our stimulation by the world outside our personal and professional arenas diminish.  It is thought that this was to help stabilize families for child-rearing.  For those of you who are uncomfortable with this idea - fear not!  After age 60, when it is no longer essential to maintain that stability, that openness to new experiences that was squelched for procreating purposes reemerges and our personalities become more malleable again!  We're free to travel the world!  Change careers!  Become a hobo!  Take piano lessons!  ;)

To see where you fall on the Big Five Personality Traits, (with openness being the one that begins to decline in your late 20s) take the free test here.   I still scored pretty high in openness (76%), was pretty average in conscientiousness (69%) and extraversion (50%), but scored a mere 1% for agreeability and a whopping 90% under the label "neurotic."  C'mon!  Get to know me!  I'm great!

In other news:  The problems with the economy have driven diners to go to great lengths to avoid paying for their truffles; goldfish can navigate mazes much the same way rats can (though under water); and be careful what you post on facebook - it isn't really private (did anyone ever think it was?)!  

Monday, February 16, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Hesitant to pick up this book for all the hype around it, I heard a clip of an NPR interview with Barbara Kingsolver about a year ago and was charmed. I found a used hardcover copy in my local communist bookstore and snatched it up! I can't imagine why anyone would get rid of it! Communists.

This book turned out to be great - and I was able to make it last a full eight months! Since Barbara Kingsolver and her family set their local eating experiment to last one year, she divided the book up by growing season - one chapter a month. It was so nice to read about what was in season as it occurred and to find recipes for cooking what I was getting in my weekly produce box.

The family's experiences with farming, written humorously by Barbara Kingsolver, the helpful research providing links to local food sources and the benefits personally, economically and socially of sustainable living written by her husband, Steven Hopp, and the seasonal recipes included by their daughter, Camille, made the book a really interesting read. They were not self-righteous about their experiment, nor were they out of touch with the situations of us more urban dwellers without a family farm at hand.

I was particulary fond of Barbara's accounts of trying to have a second generation of turkeys when the ability to mate had virtually been bred out of these animals. Not that it matters, as they rarely live long enough to mate.

I have decided to keep this book for the helpful links, the seasonal recipes, which I have already tried, and the growing tips in case I ever decide to go searching for mushrooms in a forest presere or grow asparagus in my apartment's little front yard.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Garfield Park Conservatory

The other day, anxious for spring and not able to wait the few days for warmer weather, my friend Otilia and I went to Garfield Park to lift our squashed winter spirits in the warmth and humidity of its greenhouses.

Otilia, in the fern house.

Me, still indecisive about a haircut, and some azaleas.

Inspiration for my next haircut.

Bananas.  All I could think of was caramelizing them with lime.

Spring is just around the corner!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Buddha, Picasso, and Mini-Muffins

Today I puttered down to the Art Institute to mark my day off with something interesting. It is currently under construction so many galleries are closed. This got me off my familiar beaten path and looking at things in new light.

I first wandered through an exhibit of the photography of Yousuf Karsh. He took portraits of many famous people and the gallery was full of recognizable faces, like Clark Gable, Queen Elizabeth II, and Kurt Vonnegut. What was much more interesting were the faces of people I knew, but wouldn't recognize.

Carl Sandburg

Pablo Picasso, 1954

There were several others that I wanted to capture, but I got yelled at for taking pictures.

Wandering around the rest of the museum, avoiding the droves of children on field trips, I ended up tracing the changes in the presentations of Buddha as Buddhism traveled from India to China to North Korea and Japan.

On the left are depictions of the life of Buddha from India in the 10th century. In India, it seemed Buddha depictions referred to one entity.

Below is a seated Bosatsu from Japan. A Bosatsu is just below a fully enlightened Buddha and acted as an intermediary. Seems a little more complicated.

Further into the Asian exhibits I found all sorts of different complications in figures that appeared to me as just Buddha symbols. Pictured below is a Bodhisattva, which is a merciful deity that helps to guide men to salvation. They are portrayed as more humanistic, reachable and less formal than the Buddha would be. See how the hand is open and the left foot is reaching down from the pedestal? There you have it. More humanistic.

The last "Buddha" picture is actually of a Kannon from Japan during the Kamakura period around 1300. A Kannon is a bodhisattva of compassion. Though I think this one looks a little bored, they are supposed to be eager to help mankind!

I wandered around the rest of the museum, bought a coloring book and some postcards, and came home to make some cherry-orange corn muffins to get me through the weekend of dropping temperatures we're facing. Stay warm!

In other news: Magpies join the elite group of animals that can recognize their own reflection; People actually feel colder when they're lonely and lonelier when they're colder; And winter just isn't over YET.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Makeover Wednesday

Somebody recently told me I should grow my hair long. While that would mean less frequent trips to the salon, it would also mean more care. And I'm not sure I'm a long-hair kind of person! In the spirit of down-to-earth, valid and meaningful research, I went to Daily Makeover to find out.

Here is what I came up with:

Thank goodness it isn't the eighties anymore and I don't have to wear light pink lipstick!

This is my Ashlee Simpson hairstyle. The eyemakeup was fun to try and I don't have to worry about trying to scrub it off!

My Barbie doll look!

This is my witness protection program look.

So - what do you think - should I go with any of the above styles?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy New Year

Usually I take some time to reflect on the year that just ended and rarely do I make New Year's resolutions. But, I have been hearing everywhere recently that it is time for a change. So here goes: Goodbye 2008!

In 2009 I resolve to:
  1. Hang out with friends regularly
  2. Play more at the piano
  3. Get through the winter by cooking something beautiful every week.
Pictured below is my first experiment with resolution number three. It is called a Sunlight Souffle, and it was delicious.

So, friends..... wanna come over and hang out for my next delicious creation? I'll provide the yumminess, you trek through the cold to get here! Fair deal?

In other news: Russian gas giant Gazprom has accused Ukraine of stealing gas meant for other European countries; Coral growth in the Great Barrier Reef is at its slowest rate ever due to the increased acidity of seawater; Jennifer Love Hewitt just became single; And to avoid getting the flu this year, I am going to eat.