Thursday, March 25, 2010

Harry Potter Arrives in Orlando

I've been enjoying the world of Harry Potter with my Kid for over a decade. We've waited in line at bookstores for each book, queued for hours for tickets on opening night of the movies and had Harry Potter themed parties for almost every book and movie release. My son has dressed up as Harry Potter for Halloween, bought Bertie Bott's jelly beans, owned a wand and asked for his very own Nimbus 2000. My son was just 5 years old when the first Harry Potter book was released in the US in 1998 which was also the first year I took him to Orlando to experience the magic of Disney. My son has grown up with Harry Potter and I've enjoyed every minute of sharing it with him.

Now that my son is a teenager with interests more suited to sports than witchcraft and wizardry, he humors me with my continued love of Harry Potter. He will attend my final 2 Harry Potter movie parties as the films are released in 2010 and 2011, although my friends will far out number his. He thought it was cool when I walked the halls of Oxford's colleges, the inspiration for J.K Rowling when she created Hogwarts School. I even think he was a little jealous as I stood in the exact spot where they filmed the movies (the dining hall see pic above) and waited at the top of the stairs like Harry did before he was placed in Gryffindor by the Sorting Hat (see pic below).

Well now Harry Potter and his World are opening to Muggles and Wizards alike in Orlando. There are still family packages available to be one of the first visitors at Hogwarts. If I can talk the Kid into going for his 17th birthday (the Park opens 3 days after his birthday) we will definitely be there. Visit Universal's site for more info. And here's a review of the Park on MSNBC.

I will be a little sad when the Harry Potter franchise ends with the final movie next year. My Kid has been reading the books since he learned to read and we've watched the movies over and over on weekends and sick days and Christmas mornings. It's been a kinda of magic to share it with my son and now that's he's grown up, a trip to Orlando will be the perfect ending.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ever wonder if we are too plugged in?

I am heading to Charleston South Carolina in a few days for a long girls weekend and anticipating the charm of the Old South and the delicious taste of a cold mint julep. I am also looking forward to turning off my laptop for a few days.

Like so many tech junkies I have a daily routine, mine begins with enjoying a cup of tea while checking my email. Some mornings while perusing my email there may or may not be cold leftovers from last nights dinner or if I am lucky some fresh bread from the farmers market toasted and smeared with goat cheese. After I quickly check my multiple email accounts, 3 with Comcast (down from 5), 1 with Gmail (a new account) and 1 with Yahoo (a very old account) I am ready to check the rest of my online accounts. Daily I usually update Facebook, send a Tweet to Twitter, try and blog here on Blogger and read my latest feeds with Google Reader.

Weekly I try and update my Goodreads account to track what I am reading, check Instapaper and or SpringPadIt for articles I want to read online and check eBay for auctions I am watching or bidding on. Too much? Ummm ya. So how do we disconnect or can we?

The library where I work no longer carries copies of tax forms. Patrons can access the Internet from within the library and print out any forms they need from and Last year in an effort to Go Green I canceled my subscriptions to my local paper and the Chicago Tribune and instead visit their websites when I need a news fix. My investment reports and bills are online and any appointments I have are scheduled with Google calendar or Microsoft Outlook. I'm trying to think of anything besides books I actually read on paper anymore and any services that haven't gone electronic.

So is it possible to disconnect completely? When I am teaching my beginning email and Internet class to patrons, a few people are completely new to the Internet, some have an email address but don't know how to use it and then there are the patrons who have never used the computer and are still learning to use a mouse. As I show them how to access and navigate the Internet and how to open and send an email I always get the same questions. They want to know why they can't call a company anymore for customer service, why they instead have to send an email or fill out an online form. They are frustrated that coupons they used to get in the paper are now online and that when they buy an appliance or an airline ticket they have to provide an email address for a warranty or to print their ticket. It's a fact, in today's society it's almost impossible to disconnect.

In the next 48 hours as I prepare for my trip I will check in for my flight online, hire a cab through online reservations, make dinner and tour reservations online and check my flight status from my phone. Once I get to the airport I will check my email and update my Facebook and Twitter status from my phone and then hopefully....disconnect. At least until I get to Charleston when I have to check my email for dinner reservation confirmation, use the GPS on my phone to navigate the historic district and send pictures to my online albums documenting my trip. Seriously, maybe I will just leave my phone at home...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Flash Back Friday #34

I just finished a great book, Elizabeth Taylor: A Life in Pictures. Beautiful photographs documenting Elizabeth's life including many candid shots of her with her children, her many husbands and co-stars. She is truly a breathtaking beauty. Elizabeth Taylor is a passionate advocate and AIDS fundraiser and the only true movie star I would like to meet.

Here is A Turner Classic Movies short tribute about Elizabeth narrated by Paul Newman, her co-star in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green Chicago and Family Farmed Expo

I had a "Green Chicago" weekend, here's the skinny...

Friday night: I attended an Italian wine & food pairing and olive oil tasting hosted by a local Winestyles. Mario Rizzotti, the Academia Barilla's Italian Culinary Specialist and judge on the Food Network series Iron Chef America demonstrated how to professionally taste olive oil. I have a new appreciation for the production and taste of this delicious oil and left with a large bottle of organic evoo from Italy and a few new recipes to try at home.

Saturday AM: I shopped at Chicago's Green City Market, held inside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park. This was my first visit to a farmer's market this year and definitely won't be my last. The market was open from 8 am to 1 pm and although I got there a bit late in the morning I was still able to purchase fresh eggs, bread and cheese. I was hoping to buy fresh bacon cuts for my son who is a BLT addict but the meat for sale at the market was limited. Overall prices were good at the Green City market, volunteers were extremely friendly and helpful and the market was well organized and staffed. Tip: arrive as early as possible, by the time I arrived around 11 am some of the produce and dairy had already sold out.

Saturday PM: I attended the Family Farmed Expo held at the UIC Forum in downtown Chicago. I follow @FamilyFarmed on Twitter and happily won 2 free tickets to the event by tweeting. I was already planning on attending the event but winning free tickets was a delightful surprise. I've been looking for local Illinois CSA's (community supported agriculture) and met numerous farmers at the Expo who offer a seasonal share from their farm. Being unsuccessful in my pork shopping earlier in the morning I was also happy to find an Illinois farmer (Hasselmann Family Farm) selling numerous cuts of bacon at the Expo. I left late in the day with a bag full of information, a freezer bag full of food and a new membership to Chicago Fair Trade. The Expo was inspiring, educational and just plain fun. It was great to be surrounded by farmers, foodies, chefs and others like myself who are passionate about sustainable, organic and humane farming.

Chicago was full of St. Patrick's Day celebrations on Saturday so after the river was dyed green, the parade was over and my Green shopping complete I headed to a local Irish pub in my old hood for a Guinness before spending the evening at the Irish American Heritage Center on Chicago's northwest side. Friends and I enjoyed a rousing show by The Sullivan Brother's and numerous glasses of goodness while surrounded by Irish dancers and their crazy curly locks. If you haven't been to the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, it's worth a visit. Home is a former school converted into one of the nation's most important Irish cultural organizations featuring music rooms, dance studio space, a library, museum, theater, ballroom and pubs.

Sunday: I spent the afternoon at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier. This was my first, and likely last visit to the show. Big names, little bang for your buck. About $30 dollars just to walk in the door ($14 parking, discounted with admission from a whopping $24 at Navy Pier) and $15 admission ticket. I sat in on 1 seminar and 1 cooking demonstration and walked the vendor aisles but was not impressed. I find it hard to enjoy gardens in a windowless conference hall even with the creativity of the designs (The Lookinglass Theater "actors" portraying characters from Alice in Wonderland in 1 garden were so annoying as to make me run away). I also have little tolerance for the infomercial spokesman selling everything from mops to vegetable mandolins. As I was leaving I realized, "I never smelled one flower in the entire place".

Chicago...with all of her faults, scandal, crime and history is truly a great metropolis. And when the world views our city-by-the-lake for something besides corruption, a failed Olympic bid, gun toting mobsters and politics we all benefit. When Chicago opens her arms to the small farmer, the windowbox and rooftop gardener, the innovative chef and the entrepreneur... and when you can sit down in a neighborhood pub, drink a cold beer and meet new friends while listening to culturally rich music, it's a great city indeed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Uses for Your Old and Unused Books

Here are 80 ideas for reusing your old and unused books. I love the book safe idea.
Very clever article from Online Colleges.

Friday, March 12, 2010

She Gotta Bump-new video from Rob Pearlstein

My dear friend Miller (a successful actress in LA) and her husband Rob (an Academy Award nominated writer & director) welcomed their son Asher in January. During Miller's pregnancy they created this hysterical tribute to motherhood. Enjoy and share with all the beautiful pregnant women you know!

You'll also enjoy their adoption spoof video Matumbo Goldberg starring Miller, Rob and Anthony Anderson (from Law & Order).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blogs I Love Right Now

I love when I stumble across a fantastic blog. I read each of the blogs listed below as they are updated thanks to the magic of Google Reader. I've included a brief description of each and why I heart them. You might like them too. Happy Reading!

The photographs on The Sartorialist are gorgeous. Real people in real locations. The fashions inspire me and the people make me want to travel, drink red wine and wander the cobbled streets of Paris and Milan.

Over at Poor Girl Eats Well blogger Kimberly is a young, single woman living in California who shares her struggles to eat well on a very tight budget. She's creative, funny and inspiring. I've been broke, like really broke when I was a single 22 year old college drop out with a new baby. I get her desire to eat healthy and keep food on the table but I wasn't half as creative as she is with $25 and a grocery list. I like her moxy.

And then we have Clara at Great Depression Cooking. She's 94 and cooks from the heart. Love her and her great home cooking videos. I think she knows the secrets of life. She's also got a great Facebook page and YouTube channel.

At Sea of Shoes our blogger is a Texas teenager who debuted in Paris last year at a debutant ball. She seems to have an unlimited budget for clothes (how many teen girls do you know who wear Chanel and Prada?) and a passion for fashion. Her photographs are divine and inspire me to think outside the box with clothes and costume jewelry. Oh and her Mom blogs too at Atlantis Home. I want to live in her closet.

And finally my favorite blog of the moment and shockingly by another teenage girl. Clothes, Cameras and Coffee is charming, ethereal and whimsy. Her name is Roz and I don't think she is even old enough to drive. She lives in rural England, recruits her family and friends to take pictures of her dreamy thrift store/family heirloom clothes and jewelry and the locations are drop dead gorgeous. Like Alice in Wonderland meets Jane Austen. Oh and her love of reading inspires her looks. Love watching her grow up through her photographs and rambling writings.

Have a blog recommendation, share it in the comments!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Follow Up on JFK "Love Letters"

Interested to know what the letters I blogged about in my post Worth a Read sold for?
Here is what the price of young "love" was worth. Sigh...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Favorite Thing-Mason Jars

Yesterday as I was putting together a library display on Going Green I found a couple of books with tips on reusing and reducing. 14 months ago I stopped using plastic grocery bags and have tried to cut back on using zip locks and other plastic storage containers. The books I browsed through had ideas for reusing milk cartons (dog food scoops), egg cartoons (earring compartments), shoe boxes (cleaning supply organizers under the sink) etc but not a lot of ideas for reusing glass.

Last year I started canning my own fruits and vegetables and became slightly obsessed with mason jars. Our local Home Depot and Wal-Mart (aka The Scary Store), stopped stocking them and I resorted to begging my gardening and cooking friends for their left over jars. A friend who owns a farm in Door County Wisconsin had her husband buy me a load of canning jars from Farm & Fleet on a visit north and I quickly used up my supply. This year I prepared a head of time and during a trip to their farm last month I stopped by Farm & Fleet and stocked up.

The best thing about mason jars isn't that they come in a variety of shapes and sizes but the uses I've found for them outside of canning homemade apple sauce, pesto and pickles. The taller mason jars are perfect for transporting beverages and liquids while on the go. I regularly use the jars for tea, soup, rice and yogurt and they make the perfect containers for leftovers at work. I've never been a fan of pouring hot liquids into plastic containers for storage so I've started using my jars for storing homemade marinara sauce, soups, risotto etc... I find the jars easier to clean (glass doesn't absorb stains like Tupperware), safer to store hot food in and easier to stack in my fridge and cabinets.

The uses for mason jars are endless, here are a few ideas.

Mason Jar Frappuccino
Cake in a Jar
Homemade granola, cereal, pancake mix, cookies, bread

Dried beans, pasta, rice, seeds etc
Cotton balls
Office supplies
Small children's toys (Legos)

A terrarium

P.S. Don't have access to a store that sells new mason jars? Reuse your jelly jars, Prego spaghetti sauce jars, olive jars etc. The great thing about reusing supermarket food jars are the variety of shapes and sizes. If they would just make it easier to get the labels off...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book or Audio? The Time of My Life, listen to it.

I'm usually a reader not a listener. Unless I'm taking a road trip I rarely commit to listening to a book on CD. While traveling I've listened to a few excellent audios, all the Harry Potter's (narrator Jim Dale is amazing), the Dan Brown books (great books, great audio, bad movies) and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (libraries, history and vampires, what more can you ask for).

Last year when I read that Patrick Swayze was writing and recording his memoirs I immediately put myself on the waitlist for the audio. I've been a fan of Patrick since I was a teenager after I saw him in the movie Red Dawn. I briefly obsessed about him after he starred in the TV adaption of John Jakes North and South and then wanted to marry him after he wouldn't let anyone put Baby in a corner in Dirty Dancing. Patrick was my ideal man during my teenage years in the 80's. Well Patrick and Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles.

Maybe it was the nostalgia of remembering Patrick from the movies I loved in the 80's, cried over in the 90's (Ghost) and shared with my Kid (Point Break). Or maybe it was just wanting to hear him read in his sexy Texas twang even if he was talking about his fight against stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Whatever it was that made me listen to the audio I'm glad I did (I often found myself sitting in a parking lot or in my garage unable to get out of my car because I didn't want to stop listening). By the time he had written and recorded his memoirs Patrick was in the final weeks of his life. He died in September of last year and his death makes the audio that much more poignant.

The Time of My Life is read by both Patrick Swayze and his wife of over 30 years Lisa Niemi. It begins during Patrick's years as a teenager in 1960's Texas and ends with him and Lisa renewing their wedding vows after his cancer diagnosis. His life story is fascinating (he was a football player, competitive gymnast, carpenter, martial artist, professional dancer, cowboy, musician, singer), inspiring (rehabilitation after repeated sports and dance related injuries, career lows and highs) and tragic (family deaths and his final battle against cancer). But it's Patrick and Lisa's love story that most moved me. Sure it's one thing to listen to the story of a man who lived 50 lifetimes, achieved many things people only dream about and redefined men in the movies (manly and a dancer, sigh...) but it's another thing to listen to him talk about the love of his life, one woman.

There is a lesson in their love story. Patrick was 18 and Lisa 14 when they met and their life together spanned decades of the kind of experiences you only read about or watch in the movies. Fame, money, opportunity, heartbreak,'s all there and it all happened. And through it all they were by each others side until the end. The audio tape allows you to listen to a man tell his own story in his own words. His voice breaks, he laughs, he shares. And in the end I imagined him sitting at his ranch with his wife and his horses and his dogs as he recorded his final role. It's worth a listen.