Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Post of 2009

Wow, here it is, my last post of 2009. It's been an amazing year and I've documented most of it here and I'm glad you've been a long for the ride. I'm planning on 2010 being full of adventure, major life changes, new friends and lots of laughs. Not to mention it will be the year I celebrate my 40th birthday...geez.

So for my last post I thought I would look back and share some thoughts and thanks.
  1. Oxford. What more can I changing.
  2. Friends. New and old. Some naughty adventures, unplanned fun and lots and lots of wine.
  3. Wrinkles. I've got a few. Been a banner year for growing older, I hope I'm doing it gracefully.
  4. Travel. Florida, Colorado, California, England and more. I think I've been on a plane almost every month this year. Hopefully next year it's even more. If I'm going to grow old, I'd rather do it on the run.
  5. Magic. Late night parties, music, quiet cobblestone streets, nature. It's been a year of wonder.
  6. Opportunities. More than ever in my life, 2009 was the year I said yes to almost everything.
  7. Thanks to my Mom. Because she was there.
  8. Chances. I took more than I should, didn't always end up unscathed but always had something to blog about.
  9. The Kid. Mine. 6'5. Eating machine. Ups and downs and not just in his moods. I love him.
  10. Thank you Internet. For connecting me with friends on Facebook, authors on my blog and more.
For 2010 in the words of Coco Chanel:
"How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone."

See you all in 2010! Thanks for reading!

Cheers, Shannon

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Count Down to Christmas

So I thought I would blog about my personal joys of the holiday season. I am notoriously not a Christmas person, I don't enjoy decorating my home, baking or dressing up in reindeer sweatshirts or ornament earrings, but I'm trying to open my spirit to the beauty of the traditions this year. Christmas to me is a visual holiday and I love to watch the world around me decorate and celebrate. Here are my thoughts on what I find joyful about Christmas:

  1. The twinkly lights. Love them, well I love the white fairy twinkly lights. The colored ones make my vision blur.

  2. The food. I love diving into a seafood feast on Christmas Eve and gorging on fresh shrimp, lobster, crab and other sea delights.

  3. Friends. I love reconnecting at parties, sharing a cocktail at festive restaurants in Chicago and just being happy.

  4. Spending time with my family. There is something about getting on a plane and flying to my Mom's house where I know she will have the house decorated to the nines with her multiple Christmas trees, pretty towels, holiday dishes and napkins, candles and plates of cookies and candy. Where I lack in the Christmas spirit, my Mom has it in abundance, thank goodness. It's also pretty cool that she has a plastic Santa floating in her pool. I love floating on a raft while drinking a cold beer with water Santa on Christmas Eve.

  5. Shopping. Regular readers know I am a shopper and I LOVE to shop for other people. I am a major gift giver and love hunting for special gifts.

  6. The quiet. The mornings when you wake up in the Midwest to new snow, before the plows have arrived, before the sidewalks are shoveled, before the dog makes footprints in the backyard. That quiet that only happens after a heavy snow when you can listen to the trees creaking and hear the snow fall off the branches and hit the ground. It's magic.

  7. Living in a big city during the holidays. I love the sight of Michigan Avenue, State Street and the ChristkindlMarket in downtown Chicago. The lights, the color, the shop windows, the salt on the streets...It's like a movie come to life.

  8. Being a Mom at Christmas. I love the late night wrapping, the stuffing of the stockings and the anticipation of Christmas morning. We still put out carrots and cookies for Santa but now the dog drinks the glass of milk.

  9. Forgiveness. I think at this time of year we are more receptive to forgiving past transgressions. At least for a little while.

  10. Giving. We give more of our time, our love and our money. I don't count my pennies as much. I stay a little later at work, take on a few more responsibilities. I say thank you with a smile and a hug and just try and remember it's a season about everyone else.

Happy Holidays to all of you. May you each find your joys in the season.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flash Back Friday #32

My favorite Christmas Carole, the Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Do you Subscribe to E-Newsletters?

You should, they are fab! In case you are not familiar with e-newsletters I will tell you a little bit about them. E-newsletters are similar to regular paper newsletters, creatively full of material on a range of subjects but sent to you in a digital format. I subscribe to dozens of e-newsletters from libraries around the country mainly on book topics such as romance, cooking, new fiction, new DVDs etc... and they arrive conveniently in my email.

A few weeks ago after months of planning the library where I work began offering 35 e-newsletters on everything from events at the library to book lists to mysteries to new fiction. They are invaluable readers advisory tools and excellent reminders on what is coming up in the library and on the shelves.

Here are a few examples of libraries that are offering e-newsletters:

Prospect Heights Public Library

Las Vegas Library District

Arlington Heights Memorial Library

Fresno Public Library

You don't need to have a library card to subscribe, just an email address. Try out a few and then check to see if your local library offers e-newsletters as well. If you are looking for the latest news on books, music, movies and events at your library, e-newsletters are the answer!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stop Ron Howard Please!

I had the unfortunate experience of watching Angels and Demons as directed by Ron Howard. Since I rented the movie for free from my library I am trying to figure out how to contact Ron Howard and ask him to reimburse me for those 2 hours of my life that I will never get back. Ya the movie was that bad.

Now you would HOPE that when a movie team is working with an excellent book, the process of translating it to the screen would be easier than say...rewriting it and having it end completely different! Uh huh, cause that's what happened and it totally pissed me off. Now I gave Ron (yes we are on a first name basis after a lifetime of watching him on and behind screen) the benefit of the doubt after the crap that was his big screen version of The Da Vinci Code. I like Ron, I do, I loved A Beautiful Mind and that Tom Cruise Ireland movie. And he was a first crush when I grew up watching Happy Days, the motorcycle crash episode made me cry. So I had faith that THIS time he would get it right. And for the first few minutes I was OK and then I spent the remainder of the movie confused.

So here is what I think. Ron Howard needs to stop making movies based on books, especially fiction as loved and equally as hated as the Dan Brown books. Ron, Tom Hanks was too old to play Robert Langdon and I have more fun looking for your family members in your films than actually paying attention to the action. Yes, it was easy to tell which Cardinal was played by your Dad, the American twang gave him away. Seriously when you are given material like Dan Brown writes, how hard is it to just follow along? Sure cut out a bit, but really, changing too much just made me want to throw firewood at you. And no I'm not taking back the bird I flipped at the credits, you made a bad movie.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gifts for Book Lovers

Looking for gifts for the librarian and/or book lover in your life? Here are a few suggestions to make your holiday shopping a little easier.

Books about books and libraries:
Books for the collector:
Going Green this holiday season? Here are a few ideas:
  • Make a donation to your local library or the library where a loved one lives, works or studies
  • Organize a book exchange in place of a gift exchange
  • Create bookmarks using images of favorite book covers or quotes (you can find images on Amazon and thousands of quotes on sites like )

You also might want to check out the American Library Association's online store:
Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Green Holiday Shopping

I completed a large portion of my holiday shopping yesterday at one of my favorite stores in the Chicago area. The Antique and Resale Shoppe at 7214 N. Harlem on the corner of Harlem and Touhy in Chicago is an amazing little shop filled with treasures. From floor to ceiling, literally there is stuff EVERYWHERE, this wonderful store sells an assortment of beautiful costume jewelry, small antiques and beautiful vintage clothing and other accessories. When I visit I try and schedule about 2 hours to shop because there is just so much to find. Jewelry is arranged on every surface of the store and organized by color or metal, style or stone. In large cases built like old map drawers you can pull out drawer after drawer of necklaces, bracelets, pins, broaches, earrings, buttons, shoe buckles, sweater clips and more. To me it's like finding a pirate's chest.

If you make it through the front of this small store don't miss the back. Here you will find vintage clothes including dresses, wraps, cardigans, leather kid gloves, hats, scarves, shoes, and purses. There are also vintage aprons, tablecloths, cloth napkins, glassware, eyeglasses, watches, political memorabilia, figurines, plates, and photographs. Owners Suzanne and Jules always great you with a smile and are happy to point you in the right direction if you are looking for something specific. Their displays are so creative and fun you will find something new everywhere you look. Oh and you'll love the old movies they always have playing on their TV and the sweet little dog who sits on the counter.

During my many visits to the store I have found beautiful jewelry all of it more stylish than the mass produced junk you can buy in chain stores and online. I've bought some wonderful small antiques, vintage clothes and fun gifts like antique picture frames and quirky salt and pepper shakers. All the ladies accessories that are currently seen in catalogs and department stores are original and in excellent condition with prices cheaper than the knockoffs.

If you are looking for an alternative to cookie cutter big store gifts and don't have a problem with buying pre-owned items than consider going green this holiday season and give gifts with a history.

Check out the shoppe's website here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Impossible Reference Question?

In library school a frequent topic in my reference classes was how to conduct a good reference interview with a patron. I had a question at work yesterday that even with training from school and a few years of experience at the reference desk I was unable to answer. Here's a summary:

Me: "Reference and Information desk, can I help you?
Patron on phone: "Hello...I need to find David. He lives in Evanston. I need his phone number. Can you find David's number for me?"

To begin I asked a couple more questions, what was David's last name and how was the last name spelled. Unfortunately the more I spoke with the patron the more I realized the woman on the phone was unable to give me the information I needed. Mentally she wasn't comprehending what I was asking her and was not able to either spell the name or give me more information on David. I didn't know how to help her.

As I waited on the phone while she struggled to describe who David was and where he lived I realized although she had the voice of an adult woman she was communicating at the level of a small child. After a few minutes of listening to her repeatedly ask me to find David's number in Evanston I asked a fellow reference librarian if she had any suggestions on how to help her. She spoke with the patron but was also unable to get any more information. At that point we ended the call with the suggestion to contact us again when she had an address or last name of David.

So I'm wondering what more I could have done to help her? This particular patron was unable to answer the questions we asked her and was really asking an impossible question, to find a person named David who lived in the city of Evanston. As a librarian I hate being unable to help a patron no matter what the question is and I'm hoping that the woman has someone kind helping her wherever she is. Maybe they should include this topic in library school reference classes, how to handle a patron without the mental capacity to ask the questions they need answered.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How I Became a Librarian

This is my contribution to The Library Routes Project, a wiki created to collect the stories and experiences of those of us in the library world and how we got here.
Here we go.

Sure my career in the library profession started from a love of reading and visiting my local library but it also grew out of the necessity to find a job. As much as I would like to say, "I always wanted to be a librarian", I didn't. I wanted to be a doctor when I was little because I thought that would afford me a nice condo on the water and lots of vacation time (giggle). I also wanted to be a mermaid, a mom, a teacher, an Olympic gymnast or ice skater, the person who created the exhibits at the museum, an actress, a socialite and British royalty. My 20's was spent raising my son, trying a dozen different jobs, traveling and finishing my college education. It wasn't until I was in my 30's that I realized what I loved to do, read, read, work with people, oh and read...could become a career. So I went to law school. Ha. I did. And it was awful. So I dropped out of law school and immediately applied and was accepted into a double graduate program, Public History at Loyola University and the Masters in Library and Information Science program at Dominican University. My goal was to become a museum curator/librarian but after 1 semester in Loyola's Public History program I realized the field of professional historical academic wasn't for me so I concentrated solely on becoming a public librarian.

During my second semester in the graduate library program I got my first library jobs. At one mid-sized Chicago area public library I was the Adult Programmer and at another small public library I was hired as the Interlibrary Loan Assistant. Both were part time jobs but I was thrilled to be getting my foot in the door at public libraries with no prior experience. After 9 months of working in public libraries I applied and was offered a job as the Program Coordinator at the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association. Working at ALA was great, I enjoyed getting to know some of the most respected librarians in the field and traveled to all ALA midwinter and annual conferences and a PLA annual conference. However (and rather ironically) working for a library association made me feel very removed from what was actually happening in the library world. Sure I attended a half dozen conferences at locations all around the country and I was directly in charge of the awards and programming for all PLA committees but I really had no idea what librarians were doing. I didn't work with librarians in the field, I just coordinated the time they volunteered with PLA. It was rather like working in a machine that wasn't adapting to the world around it. So I quit.

I was offered a job at one of the libraries I have previously worked at as the Interlibrary Loan and Volunteer Coordinator, a full time job I was thrilled to have. I'm still at that library but now since finishing my MLIS I am the Technology Resources Librarian and Volunteer Coordinator. Job responsibilities include serving on various committees within the library, collection development, reference and training. I absolutely love working in a public library and feel more connected to the profession than I ever did while in library school or working for ALA.

Since I started my career in libraries in the fall of 2002 I have participated in a number of professional development opportunities. In 2003 I was chosen to attend the Institute for School and Public Librarians through the Illinois State Library. The 5 day session was held at a University in central Illinois and immersed those of us involved in librarianship, training, brainstorming and mentoring. It was an excellent experience, especially since I was so new to the profession. This year I was chosen to participate in Synergy: The Illinois Library Leadership Initiative that was held over three 3 day sessions at locations around the State. I plan on blogging about my Synergy experiences here so stay tuned. In May of this year I attended a 3 week continuing education program on Libraries and Librarianship at Oxford University in England. Absolutely one of the best experiences of my life which I highly recommend to all librarians.

I often get asked how I ended up as a Technology Resources Librarian since that job description is rather new to libraries. My library needed someone to teach computer classes to patrons which I started doing once I completed my MLIS. From there the need for a technology librarian grew. I create and train the library staff on everything from Outlook and basic computer skills to using Facebook and new media. I regularly teach patron computer classes and host a computer group once a month. If there is new technology the library should explore I learn about it (Twitter, Facebook, MyMediaMall etc). If new computer software is introduced I learn it and implement it. When we hire new staff I train them on everything from email to using the catalog. My job is creating itself but I also have traditional librarian duties such as working as a reference librarian and collection development. My job allows me to combine new librarianship with a high standard of public service our patrons expect. So there ya go folks, that's how the "Lively Librarian" became one and I can't think of a cooler profession!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Iconic British Red Phone Box as Library

I love this story. When a small village in England no longer had a mobile library they adapted a red phone box into a drop off and pick up library kiosk. Immensely popular with the residents it's now catching on throughout England. Genius!
Read the article with picture here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flash back Friday #31

Since so many are still enjoying turkey leftovers, here is the classic 1945 cartoon, Jerky Turkey. Enjoy and have a nice weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm thankful for...

my boy. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Moment to Moment

This year I've had a number of memorable moments. All have been unexpected...some moments have been with people I will likely never see again and some were so memorable I've made friends for life. As I'm looking back on 2009 and planning for 2010, I've been thinking about how when you sometimes least expect it, one of those moments will happen and stop your life for just long enough for you to realize your living it.

Last Saturday I went to a friend's yearly holiday party, same place, same people as usual. But this year something was different. Maybe it was the chemistry of a few of us together. Maybe it was the quiet that happened as guests started to leave around 1 am. But by 2 am a few of us had gathered away from the bar and sat down in front of the piano. Someone cleared the photos off the cover and sat down and started to play. No song you would recognize, he was creating his own music. Then someone remembered our host had a couple of guitars and those got played too. And for a little while, it was a moment that none of us wanted to end.

In May while I was studying at Oxford I had more than a few moments during my weeks there. A classical concert so beautiful, I cried. A night at the pub so fun that afterward we stumbled home singing and laughing. And all those moments with people I didn't know before I got there, some are now friends for life while others I'll never see again. And that's ok.

I don't think you can go find a moment. Mine seem to happen with a sort of chemistry. The right people at the right place. A last minute party, a race at the rivers edge, a concert. I think that's also why I love to read romance novels. So many romance novels are unexpected moments put together. A chance meeting at a dance, a new neighbor moves in next door, an invitation to a house party. Suddenly things that didn't go together do. People that normally wouldn't be put together become friends or lovers. Places you never expected to go, become home. Moments when they happen to me are kinda like a chapter in a book. I go over it again, relive it in my mind. That little fraction in time that for a "moment" didn't have an ending.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let's Say Thanks

During this week of Thanksgiving there is a great website for saying "Thank You".
Let's Say Thanks, allows users to submit a message of thanks to US troops overseas. Your message will be printed on a personalized postcard and mailed to servicemen and women.
I've always been a believer in the power of the written word, especially a thank you card. This website shares the message.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Do You Manage Stress?

This morning I attended a meeting on stress management. Presented by a "Life Coach" the focus was on reducing stress levels personally and professionally. I walked away with a few good ideas. I thought I'd share a few.

1. Stress management is mind management. I liked the way he explained this. Picture a garden, you plant seeds, water them, weed them and good things grow. You nourish. Ok, now picture your mind is like a garden. You plant ideas, you build them, they grow. However if you are not nurturing yourself, nothing grows. For example, if you walk into work everyday with an attitude of "Ugh today is going to suck. I hate my job. I hate the commute. I don't like what I'm doing." Well then, you are self talking your way into nothing. You are not nurturing yourself. You will literally talk your way out of growth.

2. One of the best ways to communicate is with questions. If you question, you inquire. You think. You get answers or you ask more questions. Try it, see what happens if you ask more questions and make fewer statements.

3. Develop systems for organization. One I particularly liked was the Time File System. Take 31 file folders, number them 1-31. Or if you are pressed for space, take 12 and label them January through December. Now start filling them. Use post its, flyers, postcards for upcoming events, pieces of scrap paper. Anything that has a reminder on it, a date, an invitation, a card. Slip it into the file for the corresponding date/month and plan ahead. Then update your date book, your Outlook calendar, your task list, your goals, etc with the upcoming dates and tasks you need to do. Easy and efficient.

4. Learn to say "No" or at least, "Yes, but...". Great advice! Especially the "Yes, but..." such as "Yes I can do that, BUT what will we need to do to make that Yes happen. More staff, more time, more money?" Or, "If you want me to focus my efforts there, something else needs to change/go/decrease."

5. The how-to-eat-a-frog theory. If you have to eat a frog, get it done as soon as possible. Have a big project, present it first thing in the morning. Don't leave your don't-want-to-do's until the end of the day. You'll worry or stress or over think all day.

6. Stimulus---------->Response. What is in the middle is maturity. Longer time to response=more maturity.

7. Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it.

The "Life Coach" showed us a short movie, Learning to Dance in the Rain which you can find with other inspirational short videos here. Kinda cheesy but thought provoking, find one that inspires you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Covers for Imaginary Books Exhibit

On Sunday my friend Chris and I attended an open house at the Evanston Public Library for the exhibit An Imaginary Library: Children's books that do not (yet) exist. This traveling exhibition is available from the International Youth Library in Germany and features 75 paintings, sketches and drawings from illustrators representing 30 countries. The art work is displayed throughout the library and was introduced by Jeff Garrett, Northwestern University's Special Collection Librarian. After Jeff's presentation on the exhibit we toured the collection and enjoyed a reception at the Library.

The book cover art works are beautiful, from simple ink sketches to elaborate paintings and each one included a short description of the book the artist had in mind to create. One of my favorites from a illustrator in Portugal featured a cat in a tree with leaves of words, the description, "A lost and lonesome cat finds solace in the wonderful stories that the trees of large garden tell him. Each leaf of the trees is like a page in a book, and the stories let the cat forget all his loneliness and boredom." Other favorites were illustrations of pirate geckos, mermaids carrying buckets of tears and a dog who makes a photo album of pictures of his family. Charming, imaginative, moving and magical, especially because the book cover art work allows you to glimpse just a bit of a book that has yet to be written. It's like a window into imagination. Loved it.

If you live in the Chicago area or are visiting, don't miss a stop at Evanston Public Library to view this exhibit, it's only there through January. Evanston is 1 of only 3 libraries in the US to host the exhibit. For more information on the exhibit check out the Evanston Public Library page here. For more information on the International Youth Library check out their website here.

I'll end with one more wonderful book description, illustrated with a little girl, her dog, and a tree with 1 leaf, "This book project is an invitation to everyone who wants to take a walk with me to watch the last autumn leaves fall down, to see a plastic bag fly through the streets, or to listen to the faucet drip in the midnight kitchen. It's a personal book, a kind of diary, in which you can see the ordinary things that can always be seen. But you take more time than you usually do. It's about the fine difference between looking and seeing. " Isabel Pin, Germany.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wondering if this is a must read book?

So a few days ago I finished the latest novel by the author of The Time Traveler's Wife. I blogged about the story recently as a book I wanted to live in, you can read that post here. Her Fearful Symmetry is an unusual read and I've been trying to pigeon hole it as a book I either liked or disliked and I can't even seem to decide on that. I loved the locations in the book, London, Highgate Cemetery and the North Shore of Chicago but I'm not really satisfied with the book's ending. Regardless I will try and give a review but in a slightly odd way.

Two creepy identical twin sisters

move to London

after their aunt whom they've never met, the identical twin sister of their mother, dies of cancer and

leaves them her flat

overlooking Highgate Cemetery.

From there it gets even odder. The residents of the building where the twins move include a man with extreme obsessive compulsive disorder, his fed up wife and a man who was the lover of the twin's dead aunt. Oh and then there are the characters in Highgate Cemetery, mostly volunteers who keep the cemetery running and give tourists tours. But it's the strange relationship between the twins that fuels this book. They are mirror image identical twins, so where one has a mole the other twin will have it on the opposite side of the face. They are also rather opposite in personality, Julia is more outgoing and bossy but with no desire to do anything with her life other than order her twin Valentina around. Valentina is the more reserved twin who dreams of leaving the grip of her sister to go to college, become a fashion designer, marry and have children.

This strange tale includes the usual dark family secrets and the unusual such as odd requests from the recently departed. As I got farther into the book I really wanted to find someone to talk about the book with as the story started to veer off into Gothic Mary Shelley style monster stories. The author does a good job of leading up to the main twist in the story, towards the end I just couldn't put the book down. But she really has too many stories going on in the book. The OCD neighbor became one of my favorite characters but he appears tossed into the life of the twins to give one of them something to do. It's also rather a slow read until things start getting paranormal and then it ends. Hmmmm.

Here is what I like. I appreciate an author who doesn't handle death in the usual fashion. The book revolves around death and the twins inability to live. They have no lives and it's not until death literally lives with them that they start to live. Odd huh. And strangely compelling. And definitely thought provoking. And OK, a must read. See I knew I just needed to talk it over. Thanks for listening. Below is an image I think explains the book quite nicely.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Can You Ever Really Know?

I spent yesterday exploring Chicago. My dear friend Wynter who has been one of my closest friends since we met at age 5 inquired, "What is there to explore that we've haven't already seen in our 39 years of living in the Chicago area?" That got me to thinking, can you ever really know where you live?

If you read my blog regularly (yes that is a plea for you to subscribe to my blog) you will know that I like to travel...a lot. In the last year I've had the absolute privilege to live, study and travel with a wide range of people from all over the world. It's really been one of the most amazing years of my life and I've met people whom I consider life long friends. It's also made me realize how rare the opportunity to expand your "world" is.

I have a few friends who just don't travel. For a myriad of reasons, they just don't. For some their decision is based on finances, some have family responsibilities, others it's lack of interest. And then there are the few who are happy at home, just at home. That's all they need. There is no desire to spend the money, deal with airport security, public transportation, sleeping in hotel beds... Their home is their neighborhood, their village, their city. Their job, their grocery store, the local theater, a park, a favorite restaurant. Their whole world in a pocket map while the rest of the world is on the internet, in TV, books or movies. And that's OK.

As a Chicagoan, I know "my Chicago". My favorite restaurants, hotels, bars, parks. I have memories of night clubs I frequented in the 80's and 90's, neighborhoods where I lived, streets where I caught cabs after late night porch parties. I know the shortcuts to avoid the highway, cheap places to park for Cubs baseball games, pubs that still have 25 cent pool tables. And still I just don't know Chicago. How can you. A city like Chicago grows like a living being. It evolves, it expands, parts die and are regenerated.

So yesterday my friend Diana and I explored. We glimpsed Chicago from the 24th floor of a high rise and saw it through the eyes of an elderly woman who is finally after 42 years leaving her Chicago home. We spent hours inside one the largest Whole Foods grocery stores, yes hours in a grocery store. Not your average grocery store but a beautiful glass building on the Chicago River with a wine bar, a coffee bar, restaurants, and lots and lots of locally produced food. To me the great thing about never really knowing where you live is that when you make a new discovery you can share it. So even if you never leave your "home", you can glimpse someone else's and then maybe we all might understand where we really "live" just a little bit better.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Flash Back Friday #30

You could put this film in the hard-to-find-on-DVD category. Here is a scene from one of my favorite 80's movies, Fire with Fire with a very young Virginia Madsen and Craig Sheffer. One of the better teen movies and perhaps the most poignant and romantic and with a great soundtrack (how many movies include a song by Bryan Ferry?)
2 clips of the school dance scene when Lisa and Joe meet for the first time after only glimpsing each other in the woods.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Groundhog Day?

Ever been in a phase where you just listen to or read the same thing over and over and over? I'm there. It's kinda like my cheap form of therapy.

Currently I am obsessed with a couple of songs, I seriously have them on repeat through iTunes and must listen to each song a dozen times a day. My drugs of choice,
Imogen Heap's First Train Home and The Temper Trap's Sweet Disposition. T.O.T.A.L.L.Y O.B.S.E.S.S.E.D. I think both songs lower my blood pressure.

There have been a few songs in my life that are always my "Groundhog Day" songs. I've played them so much people actually associate me with the songs when they hear them, it's like my life on repeat. My anthem song is Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill. I've run into people I knew 20 years ago in college, we'll be sitting in a bar and Solsbury Hill will come on the radio and they'll say, "This song always reminds me of you." It's happened a couple of times, I must have played that song A LOT in my dorm. Peter Gabriel is my personal God, maybe that's why friends told me I should name my son Gabriel while I was pregnant (I didn't). Another song is Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper, which pretty much defined my life in my 20's. If I only heard those 2 songs for the remainder of my life I would still never tire of them.

Like I have Groundhog Day Songs, I have Groundhog Day Books, books I read over and over again and never tire of. Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind is one. The classic children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon is another. Nora Roberts wrote a trilogy fans call the Irish Trilogy (Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, Heart of the Sea) set in a small coastal village in Ireland. Reading Robert's trilogy never fails to get me in the mood to travel and even believe in a little bit of magic. Anything by Jane Austen is also on my repeat list.

So what is it about music and books or even movies that makes you listen, read and watch over and over? Is it the mood they put you in? The hope or inspiration they enhance? To me they are old friends. I find a certain comfort in the familiar first notes of a song, of the mystical places a book can take me back too. I renew my belief in the power of music and the sacredness of imagination. I enjoy the memories of being in a certain place at a certain time and hearing a song I love and when I hear the same song 20 years later it's like no time has passed at all. So I'll deal with my Kid saying, "Mom not that song again" but I enjoy even more when he says, "Mom can you play the 1978 live version of Solsbury Hill again."

Here's the 1978 live version of Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill, my anthem.

Monday, November 2, 2009

"Not as Good as the Book?"

I've said that many a time in regards to films based on books. It's a rare movie that has successfully created a three dimensional world from the words of a writer. I've learned to watch "based-on-the-book" films with skepticism and have rarely enjoyed the film as much or even more so than the book. There are a few exceptions of course, most of the Harry Potter Films, the 1939 classic movie Gone with the Wind (can you imagine all of Scarlett's children included in a film, they are better left in the book) and the 1995 BBC television version of Pride and Prejudice are all in my opinion as magical as the books.

Book-to-film adaptions have me wondering...the things we dream about and wish for and sometimes write down into stories, when they come to fruition, are they ever as good as what we had envisioned in our minds?

Growing up I had a few dreams.
1. I wanted to be a mermaid. Didn't happen and that's ok. I grew up and realized the oceans are polluted, sharks kill you and the water is freezing. Next dream.
2. I wanted to be a princess and live in a castle. Ya, I grew up with the "fairy tale" life of Princess Diana in the newspapers every day. We all know how that ended.
3. I wanted to find my 1 true love, the man who would understand me, make me laugh and be my perfect match. Well then I started dating, got married a couple of times and gave up on that happily-ever-after. Next.
4. I believed in goodness and humanity. That dream I'm desperately holding on too even though we are bombarded with death, war, and destruction from every media outlet.

When our dreams do come true, maybe the realization of a family or the success of a long studied for career, is it as good as you hoped? Are you worried more about providing for those you love than loving them? Do you spend your work days trying to hold on to your job instead of creating or helping or building? Is it all about the big picture, the grand finale or the right location or look? Do you wish you could go back and re-read the pages you wrote or dreamed when you were planning out your life?

I'm thinking of writing a book. Well actually after I finally finish the fiction book I began a few years ago I'm thinking of writing a "modern fairy tale". In my version reality is the dream and finding the balance between child-like innocence and responsibility is the magic. I hope I can write a story that someone wants to re-read over and over and even if it's made into a movie, they don't lose the lesson in place of the big picture.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flash Back Friday #29

Television rarely gets any better than this. Alice Cooper, dressed as Dracula, singing Welcome to My Nightmare...on the Muppets.

Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Creepy Italian trees"

That is my favorite line from the movie Under The Tuscan Sun. It's also my favorite grown up watch-when-I'm-alone, getting-ready-for-a-trip or sick-in-bed movie. The Kid has been sick and home from school the last 3 days so it's been a week of sleepless nights (he's been up coughing and can't sleep) and quiet days (when he seems to sleep better). We've also watched a bit of really bad tv. There is not much on at 3:00 am except infomercials and bad Disney movies like the original Escape to Witch Mountain (1974). The Kid and I watched it anyway and we laughed at the very bad special effects (upside down helicopter, flying bag of flour) and the ridiculous story. It reminded me of all the Disney movies we used to watch when he was a little boy (and occasionally still do, although he won't admit it!)

When my son was born in 1993 it was the height of the new Disney movie era. Disney was churning out a film every year so my kid grew up with the "new" Disney classics. Aladdin was released in 1992 and The Lion King in 1994, by the time they came out on video my son was a huge fan (thanks to Disney and McDonald's Happy Meals marketing) and we watched both films repeatedly. Those movies were followed by Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998) and Tarzan (1999). Disney was also re-releasing their classics Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan so my kid grew up thinking anytime we put the little box (cassette tape) into the bigger box (VCR) everyone on tv was a cartoon.

As my son grew up Disney got replaced by Harry Potter. The first Harry Potter movie was released in 2001, followed by movies in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and soon to be released 2010 and 2011. Now my kid was growing up with live action movies based on books (Yay!) and with characters who were almost the same age as himself. I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan and I'll be the first to admit it's been really cool enjoying the books and the films through the years with my kid. The book release anticipation, our yearly Harry Potter movie parties, it's just been really neat experiencing it all with a child who hasn't been too young or too old to appreciate it.

So now that my son is feeling better and back to school we probably won't watch any late night Disney movies for awhile. I'll pop in Under the Tuscan Sun and watch it on a rainy morning and start planning my next trip, maybe to Italy where I can look at "creepy Italian trees". I'll probably get stuck watching a Disney movie on the airplane.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Salon's Literary Guide to the World

This website is just downright cool. Described as a "literary journal" this site allows you to navigate the world and find the best literature about a destination or travel virtually. My favorite literary destination right now, Gypsy Europe, totally fascinating look at a misunderstood culture. You can check out the Literary Guide to the World here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Book I Want to Live In

Right now I am reading Her Fearful Symmetry by the Chicago based writer of The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger. If you've read either book you know that Audrey places her characters in the City of Chicago, the Chicago suburbs and other Midwest areas like the shores of Southwest Michigan. I love this about her books. It's so personal to me to read of her fictional characters in real life places I've been before. Henry in The Time Traveler's Wife is a librarian at Chicago's Newberry Library and visits clubs and locations I've frequented myself. His wife Clare's family home on the shores of Michigan is near the Scanlan beach house where I spend many summer weekends and holidays. In Audrey's newest books, Her Fearful Symmetry she takes 2 of her characters out of the suburbs of Chicago and moves them to London. I've only started this book and already I'm in heaven with the locations.

Back in 2001 I visited London with my Mom and sister for a girls week in our favorite city. On one of our last days in London, Mom and Stacy wanted to see Shakespeare's Globe Theater and I was more interested in finding the famous Highgate Cemetery. I set off with a map of the Tube, a small picnic, an umbrella and a camera. Highgate Cemetery is a heavily wooded, Victorian-in-style cemetery in Highgate London and is divided into east and west sections. Many cemetery junkies and/or history bugs know Highgate Cemetery as the final resting place of a few famous people such as the philosopher Karl Marx, the parents of writer Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Siddal, the wife and muse of painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. This thickly overgrown and darkly lush cemetery is also famous for the so called "Highgate Vampire". (If you are interested in more information about Highgate Cemetery, there is a page on Facebook and numerous websites).

In Her Fearful Symmetry the author moves her characters (creepy identical twins) from Chicago to an apartment next to the cemetery in London. As she was researching her book, the author acted as a tour guide amongst the tombs (tours are organized by The Friends of Highgate Cemetery). Supposedly the cemetery was also the inspiration for Neil Gaiman's wonderful story The Graveyard Book. The more I read Her Fearful Symmetry the more I want to live inside the book. I want to live in a spacious apartment steps away from Highgate Cemetery where I could spend my free time making grave rubbings, spotting foxes and waiting for the ghosts and vampires to rustle in the trees.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Too Scary for Children?

I've recently read that there has been some controversy concerning Spike Jonze's adaption of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book, Where the Wild Things Are. Apparently some parents are disturbed that the film is "too dark", "too scary" and "not suitable for children". Hmmmmmmm.

As a parent, I read Where the Wild Things Are over and over to my son when he was a small child. We loved the monsters, Max in his wolf costume and following Max's journey to the land of the Wild Things and back home again. It was and remains a favorite book. I haven't seen the Spike Jonze film yet but am anxious too, I want to see for myself how "dark" he made a book that wasn't very light to begin with.

I've been wondering what I would do if my son was still small enough to be scared by a film based after all on monsters and a little boy taking a journey by himself. Would I see the film first? Would I ask other parents or friends who have seen it what they thought? Would I reread the book with my son first and then explain the movie is someone taking the book and making it into something you can watch, like a dream? I would definitely ask my son if he was even interested in seeing the film. He was never a child who scared easily, might have been all those Grimm's fairy tales I read him.

Maybe it is the scariness of certain books that appeals to children and adults alike. Fairy tales like those collected and/or written by the Grimm's are certainly not fluffy Disney tampered tales. There is as much death, wickedness and sadness in fairy tales as any Greek legend but fairy tales somehow retain that child friendly feel about them. Orphans, step mothers who want you dead, malicious forest animals, broken hearts and monsters are all common and sometimes there is no happy ending. (Have you read the original Hans Christian Anderson book The Little Mermaid?) But still children and parents alike return to these stories generation after generation.

As a child my favorite books besides my cherished and dogeared collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales were books by rather "gothic" children's authors like Roald Dahl, or by cartoonist Charles Addams. I loved the conflict between good and evil, the triumph of bravery over cowardice and the reality that sometimes there just isn't a happy ending. To this day I can still recite from memory a dark children's poem I found in a book of nursery rhymes about 2 siblings who get lost in the forest and guess what...they die. The nursery rhyme book, yes a NURSERY rhyme book had a drawing of the children dead in the forest too. Dark, hell ya. Do I still have the book, hell ya.

So who is more disturbed by the "darkness", parents or children? And what does the author of Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Rendak have to say to those disturbed parents? Well you can read his response here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grace the Librarian

Haven't seen Grace, the librarian? Check her out below.
It's not every day a librarian uses a religious icon as her book stamp and can turn an overturned car into a desk. Ingenious, polite and stamps books with gusto! Grace, you are my hero!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Living Life Backwards?

If you've either read the short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald or seen the movie starring Brad Pitt(which is loosely based on the story) you will know that the character ages in reverse. Over the weekend while visiting my younger sister I felt a little like Benjamin Button and it's not the first time I've felt that sometimes I'm living my life backwards.

I visited my younger sister and her family in Denver for an extended weekend to celebrate her daughter's 1st birthday. My niece Lily is a charming and happy baby whose parents surround her with love and comfort. Being born and raised in the Chicago area my sister moved to Denver around the same time that her closest friends from high school also relocated there. My sister and her friends are now in their early 30's, married and raising young families. At Lily's birthday party this weekend she happily played with her little friends, the daughters and sons of my sister's life long friends. It was quite lovely to see this extended group of women who have known each other since they were children now raising their own children together. It's during events like these that I have my "Benjamin Button" moments.

When I had my son I was a very young woman and the first of my friends to have a child. My friends were still working on their educations, starting their careers and getting married so by the time they began their own families my child was already a teenager. I never commiserated with my best friends over our baby's sleeping habits or feeding schedules, potty training or preschool. The children who attended my son's birthday parties were not the children of my friends but his little friends from school or the children of older parents like my boss or my neighbors. Now when I attend the birthday parties of my friend's children I am one of the only parents without a small child on my hip and while they talk about their choices for kindergarten I talk about my son getting into college. Now as my friends are home on Saturday nights with their sleeping babies, I'm often enjoying a late night dinner at a trendy new restaurant or planning a vacation that doesn't involve Mickey Mouse or water parks. These are my Benjamin Button moments.

While I may not be aging in reverse (unfortunately) I definitely chose a life that society may seem as backwards...raising a baby before you really had a life. I've enjoyed every minute of my rather unconventional adulthood and have proudly raised an exceptional young man. While I may wistfully view my sister and her friends happily sharing every milestone of their childrens development together, it wasn't the life for me and I'm thrilled to live my life backwards.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Flash Back Friday #28

Here is a classic clip from Sesame Street, Yip Yips Meet the Telephone.
You gotta love aliens that read an "Earth Book" and moo at the phone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Collectable Books

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I am a rare book collector, specifically books from the 19th century including : fiction written by women, European fairy tales, children's literature, school primers, feminist literature and 18th and 19th century British household books. Every so often I stumble upon a fantastic book find and sometimes I'm lucky enough that I can afford it. At a Jane Austen Convention (yes I'm a dork) in the summer of 2008 I picked up a wonderful book from an antique dealer that was published in 1799 titled, The Way to Ruin. This fun little read is in fragile condition but I couldn't pass up a book about the perils of "drink" and the effects of it on the ruination of a young gentleman's life. Oh and the illustrations are hysterical.

Many of my books have beautiful covers made of leather or cloth. If you are a beginner collector or just interested in buying beautifully bound books, here is a nice collection of books to collect for their beautiful covers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do You Podcast and/or Videocast?

While at ILA I attended a program on podcasting which is a technology I have been playing with for a year or so at my own library. Podcasting makes the audio recording of events, programs, book reviews etc easy to stream over the web via simple RSS feeds. Podcasting has been used successfully at many libraries including at my alma matter Ohio University. For a listen check out OU's podcasts through the University's Alden Library here. The selection of podcasts range from short clips highlighting their map collection to a Chinese language tour of the library.

Videocasting (or vodcast)works in a similar style with the combination of audio and video recording. These "on-demand" videos can be distributed via a file or RSS feed and viewed at the viewers convenience. The website of the Orange County Library System in Florida has a virtual library where you can watch online tutorials on topics such as their catalog and technology or take virtual classes. You can check it out here.

Have you visited Ted? Known as "Ted Talks" the website TED: Ideas Worth Spreading is a video site featuring videotaped talks on entertainment, technology and design. Filmed at Ted's annual conferences in Long Beach, CA and Oxford in England these videos will inspire you, move you and hopefully create more ideas worth sharing.

Looking for a quick book review then check out The One Minute Critic here. This "vlog" is a video blog guessed it...1 minute book reviews. Created by the Fort Vancouver Regional Library this is an excellent way to use simple video technology to reach viewers on the web.

Are you interested in taking online courses? In my opinion there is no limit to one's life long learning and at Academicearth, you can take a variety of courses through major universities like Yale, Harvard, MIT and Princeton.

Let me know if you have any podcasts/videocast/vlog or other sites to share.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thoughts on ILA 2009-Peoria

Now that my 3 days at the Illinois Library Association 2009 Conference in Peoria are over I have time to reflect on the experience. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Peoria. The largest city on the Illinois River has a nice but small conference center in the middle of the downtown district that is accessible to larger hotels like the Hotel Pere Marquette and smaller hotels like Days Inn. There is very little to recommend Peoria. Options for dining are either fast food chains like Panera and McDonald's, sit down fast food like Chili's and Hooters or a few "Irish" novelty pubs near the riverfront. There is no charm to Peoria and the downtown district is very depressed. After talking to a few Illinois Library employees I found out the ILA Conference jumps between 3 locations, Springfield, Peoria and Chicago. Last year I attended the conference at Navy Pier in Chicago and the attendance was good, the programs were full and of course the options for what to do when not at an ILA event were endless. I was told this years attendance was half what was expected, somewhere in the range of 600 attendees. With such low participation I don't see how ILA can continue to hold a conference anywhere outside Chicago where numbers were much higher.

2. Programs. I attended 2-3 programs each day as well as an author/awards breakfast (which was the highlight of my conference experience) and the Fashion from the Stacks dinner/cocktail hour and fashion show (which was the lowpoint). Most presenters presented in groups of 2-3. At almost every one of the programs I attended there would be 1 very good, dynamic presenter and 1 presenter who was either not a good public speaker (lots of ummms, pauses, loss of thought etc) or not prepared. At one particular program the first female presenter was terrific, lively, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The woman who presented 2nd was a good public speaker but would go off on tangents and was really just not interesting. After she finally stopped speaking half the room emptied and unfortunately there were very little people left to hear the 3rd presenter. Awkward.

3. Bang for your Buck. Hmmm, that's a tough one. The conference is not really expensive to begin with and considering my extremely nice accommodations (I did NOT stay at a conference hotel and booked the room on my own, see post below)rather a bargain as conferences go. Definitely more affordable than an ALA conference but based on the quality and variety of programs and special events not really worth the money. For example, I attended the Fashion from the Stacks Fashion Hour and dinner on Thursday night. Last year during the ILA Conference at Navy Pier this was one of the most popular events of the week. Great participation, great press, lots of fun and a terrific opportunity for networking. This year, and I'm assuming because of the location of the conference in Peoria, this event was a very nice disaster. Lovely room at the grandest hotel in town, plenty of food served buffet style and what should have been a fun cocktail party with dinner and dancing after with ample opportunity for networking and meeting new librarians. There were 2, count them 2 librarians who walked the runway. Apparently another librarian had been in a fender bender and she would have presented an additional 2 designs for a total of 4. How you can have a fashion show with 4 designs I have no idea. (The fashion show highlights creative costumes/outfits created from items found in the library like a dress made out of DVDs or a jacket made from paperback book covers) Picture is of one of the 2 outfits this year.
However probably to make up for the lack of participation, a library director had her teenage staff model fashion through the decades which was fun although had little to do with anything library related. All in all for the $45 cost it was not worth it.

4. Highlight. One of the best programs I attended was the Youth Services Author Breakfast organized by the Youth Services Forum. My Synergy teammate Patricia was on the Forum and another teammate Elsie receieved one of the 2 awards presented at the breakfast. This event was perfectly organized, well set up, and a great way to network with other Illinois librarians. The featured guest speaker was Jill Thompson the most widely regarded female comic book artist working in the profession today. She is the author and illustrator of the Scary Godmother and Magic Trixie series. She also was an artist on my favorite graphic novel of all time, The Sandman series. Jill did a drawing demonstration and passed around her artwork while explaining the process of creating a comic book. Absolutely fascinating. You can see a video of Jill drawing on my Facebook page.

Overall I do plan on attending next years ILA Conference when they return to Chicago. I can only imagine when held in one of the world's greatest cities the conference will be a larger success not only with participation and quality but with increased opportunities to learn, network and be inspired by those in our excellent profession.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Librarian Shoes

I'm in between events on my 2nd day of the ILA Conference and enjoying a glass of wine while waiting for the cocktail party/dinner/fashion show Style from the Stacks to begin later this evening. In the name of style I thought I would blog about a particular area of the library professional that drives me a wee bit insane. Librarians and their footwear.

This afternoon while sitting in a rather boring session about reorganizing your workflow, I started to glance at the ground and thus found it hard to avoid the overwhelming display of bad shoes. Now librarians are not known for their sense of style, the hard to break image of the middle age librarian with her hair in a bun, her oversize sweater, practical skirt and non nonsense shoes is alive and well and most likely helping patrons at your neighborhood library. However many librarians, (like myself, rewatch my librarian fashion show video) are trying to change that image. Unfortunately based on the shoe parade down here in Peoria, we have a long way to go.

Here is a sampling of some of the more awful shoes women are walking around in. Don't even get me started on those with runs in their pantyhose (AKA nylons for those of you who've never had the pleasure of sliding flesh colored stretch material over your entire leg) If you have anything REMOTELY like a pair of the shoes pictured below, give them to Goodwill. Yes I know they are comfortable but there are excellent shoe companies that make attractive AND comfortable shoes. Try Clarks, you'll thank me.

If you haven't seen the hysterical and painfully accurate video March of the Librarians, check it out below. Note their shoes and welcome to my world.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Home is where the...

So where do you lay your head? Where do you eat? Read? Think? Where do you "live"?

I checked into my hotel in Peoria Illinois this evening and unexpectedly walked into a mini condo. I was expecting a typical small hotel room but was thrilled to be staying in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite with living room and kitchen. Frankly this suite is larger than some of the apartments I've lived in in Chicago. I closed the doors shutting off one half of the suite and am happily ensconced in the bedroom with the largest bed and attached bath. It's nice to have so much space but I'm happy to be cozy instead of sprawling.

Between my weeks in Oxford and London, my multiple trips to hotels around Illinois for Synergy workshops and library conferences as well as personal vacations I've often been living out of a suitcase this year. I'm an efficient traveler and can pack and go in the blink of an eye. I have certain small bags (bath-toiletries, kitchen-wine opener, candle, music etc) packed at all times that I just grab and throw into my suitcase. As I was unpacking in my suite tonight it made me think, "What makes the place you lay your head your home"?

Since I was 22 years old I've lived in more than 10 apartments, condos and houses. My son and I have been rather gypsy like in our lifestyle and until recently have never lived more than 3 years in any location. I've not really been attached to any particular home although I can make myself "at home" almost anywhere I go. I prefer to surround myself with some of my favorite things like my books and my pictures which conveniently has meant that I have less and less to pack with each move.

As I drove around downtown Peoria this evening to check out the area I found charm and comfort in buying a bottle of wine from the local grocer, by watching the ritual of couples strolling down tree covered streets and seeing families leaving a local church. It reminded me of Oxford where after just a few days, the rooms where I stayed became a comfortable home, the view became familiar and the faces became recognizable. For me, home is where I'm learning, where I'm meeting new people, where I still have a place to connect with those who aren't with me. And these days with the Internet and cell phones "home" isn't so far away.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Got sick about a week ago, was in bed for a couple of days and worked the weekend but am now back at work for a day. Tomorrow I leave for the Illinois Library Association Conference in Peoria for the remainder of the week. I'm looking forward to the conference, it's always nice to attend as an attendee instead of an employee. The years I worked for ALA, the conferences were long hard days so it's nice to be a librarian at a library event instead of a scheduler-planner-walkee-talkee-holding-monitor. While I am there I will be blogging about the conference and if you are going to be there, drop me an email and we will meet up!

Here are a few things I meant to blog about last week and didn't get too.

This unusual but excellently named website offers unique and quirky necklaces. I've seen them on celebrities and in fashion magazines and they are beautiful and "green" being made from reused vintage pieces. Check out Dirty Librarian Chains here.

Those of you who used to follow my Talking Beagle Blog know that I have a fictionally named dog. My beagle Eloise is named after the precocious Eloise from the popular and timeless children's book Eloise at the Plaza by Kay Thompson. A few years ago the famous luxury hotel The Plaza in New York City got bought out and remodeled with residential condos, commercial space and new hotel suites. Well now, thanks to designer Betsey Johnson you can stay in Eloise's suite. For more info go here. Hopefully they didn't remove the wonderful painting of Eloise in the hotel's lobby.

Here is an interesting article via the Telegraph in Britain titled, "50 Things that are being killed by the Internet." An interesting read.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Must Read Book: 101 Things to Do Before You Diet

This new book came across my desk recently and I picked it up with interest after spying the cover picture of a cupcake wrapped in a corset topped with a high heel shoe. Since it looked like my sense of humor I checked it out and not surprisingly I couldn't put the book down. The complete title is 101 Things To Do Before You Diet: Because Looking Great Isn't Just About Losing Weight by author Mimi Spencer. Written by a woman for women, Mimi writes like other popular "diet books" like Skinny Bitch with a no excuse, losing weight isn't all about what you put in your mouth style.

The author's tips include dressing for your body type, cutting back on eating out with your "fat magnet" friends, maintaining your style, have more sex, how to eat (and drink) at a variety of social functions (cocktail party, picnic etc), different ways to get fit (walking the dog, taking the stairs, parking a block away from your destination) and how to navigate through the supermarket. What I really like is her writing style, direct, funny and logical. Here are a few examples of her replies to typical excuses, "I have a sweet tooth", author's response, "No, you are addicted to sugar." "I would rather be big and happy than on a diet and miserable," author's response, "I like the second clause of this sentence, but big and happy? More like fat and delusional. Don't diet, but do be honest with yourself."

This book is a great read that demystifies the theory that dieting is all about starving yourself. If you get a chance, give this book a browse, it's packed full of great tips and most have nothing to do with what your eating.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Flash Back Friday #27

When I was little I watched Battle of the Network Stars every year on TV. I used to love to watch my favorite actors compete in swimming, running, baseball dunk, tug of war and my favorite the obstacle course.
Here is a classic, Kristy McNichol (Family) versus Melissa Gilbert (Little House of the Prairie) on the obstacle course. You gotta love the commentary by Howard Cosell. Geez, I had such a girl crush on Kristy. Where the hell is she these days?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Great Gifts for Librarians

Book necklaces, leather journals, pictures and more. Check out The Black Spot Books at their website here:
I just bought the most unusual antique book necklace, can't wait to start wearing it!

My necklace arrived today and it's fabulous! Talk about fast shipping, I ordered it on Thursday and it arrived today beautifully wrapped up with a personal note. Check out the pictures below!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Support The Lisa Klitzky Foundation and the fight against adolescent cancers

Lisa lost her fight but her legacy lives on. Please support the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital and Lisa's foundation. For more information watch the video below and visit the Foundation's website here or join their Facebook page.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flash Book Friday #26

Geez, I haven't posted a Friday Flashback since before I went to Oxford so here you go. A true classic in honor of a true legend.
This week the hysterical, boozy, funny, unique and truly English television chef Keith Floyd died. In typical Keith fashion he died quickly and unexpectedly after an excellent meal and lots of wine shared with friends.
Here is a classic clip, enjoy and next time you raise a glass of good wine think of the truly original and eccentric chef Keith Floyd. I'm having a Guinness and oysters in his honor!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Little Addicted to the Cook Books?

Hi, my name is Shannon and I'm a cook book addict.

Yes it's true, I can hear my dearest friends laughing maniacally, but really, it's a fact. I'm very proud to post that I've finally kept a New Years Resolution and frankly, it's changed my life. I'm learning to cook. And I'm getting pretty damn good. Well at least with cold things, veggie recipes, soups, dips and breakfast, I seriously rock the kitchen and it's all thanks to cook books.

Funny thing is I have some requirements for my cookbooks. Kinda like subscribers to Playboy, I like the pictures. The cook books I read need to have color pictures, preferably for every recipe. Oh and authored by Julia Child, they can't be. If I can't find the ingredients between 3 local stores it's a no-go.

Here are a few sitting on my counter right now, and yes... they are library books!

The Good Cook 70 Essential Techniques, 250 Step by Step Photographs and 350 Easy Recipes by Anne Willan with photographs by Alison Harris. I want to marry Anne, she is my new Goddess. This book is perfection and the cover photograph of a mussels dish made me salivate. A favorite dish, and I hope to cook my self through this book is Rapid Ratatouille, the perfect Sunday dinner after visiting the Farmer's Market. This book is kinda like having your Grandma in the house, there are step by step instructions (with pictures) of everything from how to cook a steak to how to split and cook small birds to how to peel and chop shallots. Basic but practical for those of us learning late in life.

Great Party Dips by Peggy Fallon with photographs by Alexandra Grablewski. It's always a sign of a cookbook I'll enjoy when the photographer is listed on the cover. This book doesn't disappoint. EASY recipes, great pictures and ingredients that are easy to find between only 2 places, my farmers market and the local Mexican grocery store. With recipes ranging from 24 Carat Caviar Dip to Peanut Butter Marshmallow Dip, there is something for everyone.

The New American Olive Oil by Fran Gage. As beautiful as a coffee table book this is all about American made olive oil. I love the information on choosing an excellent olive oil made by US producers. Her pesto recipe is what I used to make my own for canning.

Quick Food Gourmet Recipes in Just 30 Minutes by Jenny Fanshaw and Annette Forrest. Right now this is my FAVORITE cook book. Every recipe has a picture, the recipes include prep time, cook time, how many each dish typically serves and level of difficulty. What's not to love? A few favorites include Grilled Tuna with Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (divine in the late summer when tomatoes are bursting off the vines) and Garbanzo Bean and Feta Couscous Salad. My next attempt will be mussels, I'm a little frightened off by the debearding but I'm going to try their recipe for Mussels in Garlic, White Wine and Tarragon ASAP.

Friday evening a local chef is giving a cooking demonstration and preparing dinner for friends and I in their home. Hopefully I'll learn some great tips on debearding mussels.

Drop me a comment and let me know if and when you will be in the Chicago area and I will invite you over for a meal!