Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finding the Perfect Purse/Travel/Book Bag

Every woman I know is never satisfied with her bag. For most women it's a never ending hunt for the "perfect" purse. We all have different factors for our bags, some like huge bags that hold everything including books/e-reader, laptop, snacks, water bottle, umbrella etc. (when I carry a large purse my partner Paul calls it my "Mary Poppins" bag.) At other times such as a night out for dinner and drinks a woman wants just a small clutch, big enough to hold her cell phone, credit card, ID and a lipstick. This seems to be confounding to men, "Another bag, what was wrong with the other one(s)?" Ahhhh where to begin to explain a woman's purse obsession.

Personally I am a purse addict. I need a closet just devoted to my bags including my luggage, totes, beach bags, purses, clutches, travel bags, book bags, wallets, coin purses etc. Ideally I like to carry a small vintage clutch in a larger bag so I can grab it and go in the evenings. Over the years I've bought some great bags, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Coach, Kate Spade etc. I also have some amazing vintage bags including Whiting & Davis, ostrich skin, Victorian carpet bags and great clutches from the 40's and 50's. But it's finding the perfect bag that can act as a daily purse, carry on bag for travel and book bag that alludes me. Until recently when I found what may be the perfect bag. For now....

I was searching for a daily purse that is large enough to hold my Nook Color e-reader and a book or 2, my wallet, iPhone, 11 inch MacBook Air, cosmetic bag, water bottle, snacks, Moleskin notepad and other odds and ends. I also wanted it to be small enough that it wouldn't look like I was dragging luggage around with me and light enough to comfortably carry it through a day at the art museum. And it has to be small enough to fit under the seat of an airplane. So the bag I am loving which pretty much checks all the boxes on my list is this Nine West bag. I stuffed it today with everything I needed for work AND an evening out and it's perfect. Plus, I found it on sale. Highly recommended for the woman who likes to carry a bit of everything and not look like a mailman.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Goodness

Hurray, my Christmas shopping is complete! My suitcase is open on my bedroom floor full of presents, 1 bathing suit, my Macbook, phone charger, pj's, a couple of cotton dresses and flip flops. Once my Kid tosses in his bathing suit and some clean t-shirts we are ready for Florida. Mom, I know you are reading this...Friday afternoon=pool and chocolate martinis.

Tonight I am heading into the city with my friend Michael and partner Paul to enjoy a Christmas party at Fernando's tequila bar and then to a great little neighborhood bar Millie's for a peppermint shot or 2. No matter where you go in Chicago, a local dive bar, a Mexican restaurant, stores, hotels, museums, L stops, the German market...there are lights, wreaths, and holiday decorations. The City is just beautiful at this time of year and Chicagoans know to enjoy it before the sludge and gray of February arrives.

So readers, before I sign off for a few days of R&R here are a few of my favorite Christmas ideas for gifts or parties.

1. Books. this wouldn't have been on the top of my list? A few favorites of mine that surprisingly many people haven't read:
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus. Haunting. What is the value of a life?
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of the most beautiful books ever written.
  • The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Love his poetry. Loved that he was an Oxford man.
Other authors to gift: Jorge Luis Borges, John Keats, Jane Austen, Erma Bombeck.

2. Herb infused olive oil. When I clean out my garden in the fall I dry my herbs, buy or reuse beautiful glass bottles and give the gift of rosemary or Italian herb olive oil.

3. Moleskin. I have been using and gifting these wonderful little books for years. I have a stack of used ones in my desk, everything from the calendars to the reporter notebook to a wine journal. Perfect for travel, perfect for writers and artists, great for list makers or the calendar addict.

4. Time. I'm sure you've noticed. We have less of it than ever. Sometimes what someone needs the most is more time. Time to stop by your home for a hot meal that they are too busy or too tired to make. Time for a night out. Time for a night in doing nothing. Find time and give it away.

5. Handmade presents. This year I vowed to avoid big boxes store and gift presents made in the USA by small business owners. I was almost 100% successful. For specialty items I did buy a few items from stores like Williams-Sonoma because of the amazing items crafted in France. My favorite places to shop, Etsy and antique stores. Amazing one of a kind gifts.

What ever you are doing this year, I wish you a Harry Potter, "Happy Christmas!" Song is Carol of the Bells.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Date a Girl Who Reads?

This post is perfect. Really...I've never read a better description of girls who love to read and the special partners they need. Thanks Norah, you get us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Treasures of the Bodleian

In 2009 as part of a post graduate seminar on Librarianship at the University of Oxford, I had access to one of the World's greatest libraries, The Bodleian. During my weeks at Oxford I explored many of the College's libraries and had access to collections that many students or scholars did not. Have you ever held a book written on vellum? Or turned the pages of a book so fragile it was translucent? Truly amazing.

The exhibit Treasures of the Bodleian is free to visitors until it closes on December 23. For those of us not lucky enough to be in the UK, there is virtual access through the website as well as videos on the Bodleian's YouTube channel.

Here are a few of my favorites:
And a few videos not to miss:
To read more about my visit to Oxford and view pictures select tag Oxford at the bottom of my blog.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday List #21-Favorite Holiday Movies

We had 2 bitterly cold days in Chicago this weekend, not surprising for this icy City but another reminder of how nice it is during the winter to be with loved ones at home. My family, like so many others enjoys snuggling on the sofa, making a big bowl of popcorn and watching movies at this time of year. Next week my son and I will fly to Florida to spend Christmas at my parent's home with my sister, her husband and my 3 year old niece and 1 year old nephew, my aunt and uncle and the family dogs. My mom will have the pool heated for swimming, my dad will buy bait for fishing off the dock and there will be lots of Christmas cookies, seafood, chocolate martinis and movie watching.

So for today's Monday List, here are my favorite Holiday Movies. Happy Watching Readers!

P.S. Check out this list of Top British Christmas Movies from one of my favorite websites, Anglotopia. Not surprising that many of my favorite films are British.

  1. While You Were Sleeping. Starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. Not only one of my favorite Christmas movies, but a favorite film set in Chicago. Over drinks sometime, ask me about the night my friend Wynter and I met Sandra Bullock in a bar while she was filming this movie in Chicago. It's good story involving too much liquor and salsa dancing.
  2. Bridget Jones's Diary. I love the book and love the movie even more. England at Christmas time and Hugh Grant. And neurotic lovable Bridget and her kooky friends. A fun film I watch over and over.
  3. The Holiday. 3 reasons why I love this film. Kate Winslet. Jude Law. And Kate Winslet's PERFECT English country cottage which you can see here.
  4. Love Actually. A charming Christmas movie. London, great characters, love.
  5. Home Alone. Kevin gets left at home at Christmas and the adventures begin. Another wonderful Chicago movie.
  6. Die Hard. A total guilty pleasure. Everyone needs a little Bruce Willis killing bad guys during a holiday party to keep it real.
  7. The Nightmare Before Christmas. When my son was little, we watched this movie repeatedly. Tim Burton makes Christmas macabre. Love it.
  8. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I laugh just thinking of watching this movie again. Everything about this movie is perfect, Clark Griswold, squirrel in the Christmas tree, Cousin Eddie...
  9. A Christmas Story. My dad LOVES this movie. He even has the leg lamp. We have this playing on a loop like most of America all day on Christmas.
  10. Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas gives me chills.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

That Phone Call

A few days ago I got the phone call every parent fears..."Mom, I've been in an accident."

My son was visiting his best friend, a football player at Indiana University, when they were involved in a car accident in the middle of the night. My son was driving his car when another driver exited a tunnel and hit them, thankfully no one was injured.

I arranged to take a couple of days off work, called a friend to watch my dog and jumped in the car to drive to Bloomington Indiana to deal with insurance, have the car towed (his car is a total loss) and bring my son home to Chicago. During the 5 hour drive my partner Paul, whose son is a sophomore at the University where my son was, arranged a hotel reservation for me in Bloomington and I called my insurance agent to start a claim.

It's funny, what you think of when you are leaving someplace quickly in an emergency. Knowing I was going to be there overnight, I grabbed a pillow, pajamas, my laptop and phone charger. And then totally random things like apples (my son loves apples). Of course I forgot cash but thank goodness for banks in rural small Indiana towns.

My son had posted a picture of the accident on his Facebook page and as a result I posted a message on my FB page that he was ok. I received such wonderful messages from around the world from friends and family happy that he was safe. It takes a village to raise a child, whether in our hometown or virtual, we are surrounded by love.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday List #20-The Internet

When Facebook and Twitter went mainstream the ability to connect became endless and as a social media user and a blogger the Internet became a neighborhood. Years ago when I first started blogging the community was smaller than it is now. As I've connected with other bloggers through shared friends, interests or profession my life has been changed. Sure that sounds like a broad sentimental statement but it's true. So for today's Monday list, 5 ways the www has impacted my life.

  1. Reconnecting through Facebook. It's simple. Long lost childhood friends, high school friends, former colleagues. I've found them, they've found me. When I receive a friend request and it's from someone I've often wondered about, or from someone I once loved, it's like the past calling. It's amazing to share memories and to make new ones.
  2. Health. Need a recipe, Google it. Want to watch a yoga video from home, YouTube it. Answers at your finger tips. Support when you need it. Inspiration all over the place.
  3. Music. The Internet is full of music and as I listen to Pandora at work, I'm often reminded that there is more than pop radio and movie soundtracks. Do you remember records? I do and recently I've bought a few wonderful albums long forgotten. And after I buy a new record or create a new Pandora station I Wikipedia the artist and learn even more.
  4. Words. Google books. Online zines. Blogs. Poetry. Classics. Travel. The sheer volume of what I read on a daily basis is amazing. There is so much wonderful literature, memoirs, inspirational stories, news. Good and bad, words are still the most powerful thing in life.
  5. Blogs. Where to start...over the years I've connected with some amazing people through blogging. Some I've met in real life. Some I've only communicated with via email. I've attended their events, read their books, laughed over photos. And I've cried at a funeral...Shannon lost her fight against breast cancer at 29 in 2010. Alice is changing lives through bone marrow registry at only 15 years old. And Kristian...the world knows your story, I wish it had a happy ending and that love could save you. I'm thankful you shared your lives on the www.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks Ferris

A day for family and friends, eating and giving thanks. A day for traditions old and new. Last year I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner. This year I am spending the day creating new memories.

As I read what my friends are sharing on Facebook and Twitter today...what they are thankful for, the names of those they love and miss, food and football they are excited about, I'm thankful for a year of major changes that resulted in so much love and happiness.

I am thankful for my new home and my new job. Thankful that my family is healthy and happy. Thankful for my son and his wonderful sense of humor. Thankful for my new nephew. Thankful for finding Paul. Thankful for my parents and their unwavering love and support. Thankful for my crazy silly Beagle. Thankful for my friends who've been there through the good and the bad.

And I remain hopeful that the people I help at the library who are looking for jobs or are in career transition find work, keep their homes and sleep through the night with less worries. And today I will forget all the unhappy Thanksgivings I had with unpleasant people during the years of my marriage. I will give thanks that life moves on and for the occasional reminder to stop and look around so life doesn't pass us by.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday List #19-Chicago's Art Institute

Chicago is home to one of the greatest art museums in the world, The Art Institute. As a member of the AI I visit as often as I can. I can easily spend the entire day there wandering the labyrinth of collections, attending events, relaxing in the members lounge for a coffee or cocktail, enjoying lunch in one of the cafes or shopping at the museum gift shops. It is truly one of my favorite places to be.

Last Friday I attended a gallery talk on Doris Lee's 1935 painting Thanksgiving. A museum education member gave a short lecture on this piece as well as 2 other pieces that focused on the tradition of celebrating a bountiful harvest. These short gallery talks are one of the best ways to learn about the AI's collection as well as the artist and story behind the work.

Depending on how much time I have during my visit I try and see a few of my favorite works each time I am at AI. For today's Monday List I am sharing 10 of my favorite works at AI.
  1. Jacopo da Empoli's Portrait of a Nobelwoman Dressed in Mourning. This large painting is mesmerizing. Maybe it's the sheer size of the work, her imposing expression or her fantastic mourning clothes. Just love it.
  2. Jules Adolphe Breton's The Song of the Lark. There is no way to describe the color of the sun in this work. It's so brilliant in person it's like the artist captured the sun. I love the look on the young woman's face, I always imagine that if she is listening to the song of a lark, it has a very special meaning to her.
  3. William Powell Frith's The Lovers. To me this man and woman are Jane Austen characters. This little painting is hanging in a hallway, walk quick and you'll miss it. I wonder if they had a happy ending.
  4. Harald Sohlber's Fisherman's Cottage. The cottage glows. It's like a perfect vacation getaway, I can hear the water and the rustling of the trees.
  5. Monet's London Series. This is usually my first stop at AI. I love each of the works in this series of bridges. London, foggy, soft colors. Very dreamlike. My love for this series is one of the reasons I went to Giverny to visit Monet's home and gardens when I was in Paris last year.
  6. Every work by Ivan Albright. When I first saw Ivan Albright's Picture of Dorian Gray, I was horrified (he painted it for the 1940's movie adaption of Oscar Wilde's famous novel) The more I look at it the more I admire it. It's really quite ghastly but hard to look away from. I recently bought a print of Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida and I might get some strange questions from guests when they see it hanging in my home. His works are haunting, check out another favorite, his famous Door, That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do. Both the Picture of Dorian Gray and Door are HUGE works which makes them even more fascinating.
  7. John Singer Sargent's Madame Paul Escudier (Women in Blue Dress). When I think of grand portraits in castles, I think of Sargent. I love the woman's dress, very Edith Wharton era. Love the darkness of the room.
  8. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Beata Beatrix. So sad and so lovely. The artist's dead wife at the minute of her death and in the small panel below the portrait, the moment he meets his wife in the afterlife.
  9. Thorne Miniature Rooms. 68 tiny little rooms, a historical dollhouse. You have to see these rooms to believe it.
  10. William Zorach's Summer. Surreal and sexy, you can just imagine what they've been doing or what they are about to do.
If you are a Chicagoan or will be visiting the City, AI is a must see. You have to linger here, there is no rushing, you'll miss something wonderful. If you are looking for someone to wander with let me know, I will bring you for free as a member guest.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Who's the Fairest of them All?

I LOVE fairy tales. Being a child of the 70's, I grew up with the books, not the Disney movies with 2 exceptions (the classic Snow White 1937 animated masterpiece and the equally wonderful 1950 animated Cinderella). In the last 20 years Disney has recreated animated and live action versions of many of the fairy tales we all grew up with, some I've enjoyed, many I have not. Disney has never been one to stick to the original story. Understandable for the Disney audience since most fairy tales are dark, scary gruesome tales of betrayal, death and sadness that only occasionally have a happy ending.

Years ago when I started collecting rare books I began buying fairy tales at antique stores and online auctions. I have a few wonderful books including:
  • Aesop's Fables, 1887. Not fairy tales, but fables. Charming stories with beautiful illustrations.
  • The Children's Blue Bird, 1913. Wonderful stories with stunning illustrations. The frontispiece illustration is of a little boy and his sister (Tyltyl and Mytyl) perched on a bed peering at the vision of a witch and a magical land, "The hat was no sooner on the little's boy's head than a magic change came over everything." You will have to read the stories to figure out what the blue bird symbolizes.
  • The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Knightly, 1850. Fairies, elves, spirits, it's all here. Irish author Knightly introduces what is now widely known as the modern leprechaun in this book.
  • Legend of the Rhine, 1869. This stunning book of German fairy tales is a treasure.
Fairy Tales are popping up all over TV and films right now. I've started watching Once Upon a Time on ABC and after a rough couple of episodes it seems to be hitting its potential. Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin is fantastic. There is also Grimm on NBC which I have saved on my DVR but yet to watch, I've been told it's gruesome. Nice.

In 2012 there are 2 versions of Snow White being released. Universal Pictures is releasing, Snow White and the Huntsmen. The trailer looks interesting, I appreciate that is appears they are retaining the darkness and fear of the story. Strange casting choice of Kristen Stewart as Snow White, I'm hoping her Snow White is stronger that the whiny Bella she is famous for in the Twilight films. Charlize Theron looks lusciously psychotic as the Evil Queen.

And Relativity Films has made Mirror, Mirror. Hmmm, trailer is funny and odd. Julie Roberts as a snarky Evil Queen could be great. Snow White is played by singer Phil Collin's daughter. Nice to also see Nathan Lane in the film too.

I am including both trailers below. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"I live in 2 worlds"

One of my favorite television shows was the delightfully odd Gilmore Girls. The show was charming...hysterically funny with eccentric characters, lovely small town setting, beautiful homes and oddball stories. The show centered on quirky single mom Lorelei and her straight-laced bookworm teenage daughter Rory. Rory had one of the best quotes ever with, "I live in two worlds. One is a world of books". The quote continued with her explaining the characters and places she's experienced through books and ends with her discussing the charm of her real world which is equally full of interesting characters. For anyone who has seen the show you'll understand why the real characters in Rory's world were just as interesting as the characters in the books she reads.

Rory's quote has me thinking about the different worlds we live in. The real world of:
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Work
and the other worlds where we escape to:
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Video games
I've always escaped into books and movies and many of my "other worlds" have been documented here (Films of style and romance, books by Katie Fforde). But what about the world that can transcend the real and the imagination? For me it's my home. My little nest where I can hunker down, brew some tea or pour a glass of wine, linger over my Parisian decorating books, watch Bette Davis float down yet another grand staircase, enjoy my rare books or take out my jewelry, elbow length gloves and play dress up. For awhile I forget the real world outside my door and I can walk around in a home I'm building from my imagination.

The Gilmore Girls shared an amazing little world in the house that Rory shared with her mother Lorelei. You can see photos of it's eccentric, messy charm here.

So thanks Rory, for getting it. Book lovers live in different worlds.

Enjoy this short clip of some of Rory's best book moments, love when she smells the book. I'm there with ya!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Ok, this is the coolest phone cover/wallet ever! If you have an iPhone you need a BookBook.
I mean come on, it looks like an old leather book. LOVE.
Just ordered mine...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday List #18-Halloween Costumes

Happy Halloween readers! I love Halloween, so much fun and so spooky. Over the years I've hosted and attended some fantastic costume parties. So in the spirit of Halloween I am sharing my favorite costumes. Whether you are observing the day before the Catholic's All Saints Day or Samhain, the Gaelic feast to mark the end of the harvest or the Festival of the Dead, enjoy the last day of October and let me know if you experience anything supernatural as the veil lifts.

5. Halloween 1993. My son's first Halloween, I dressed him up as a dragon. Seriously the cutest thing EVER.

4. Halloween 1987. My senior year in high school. Costume party/Homecoming dance. I had a great wig.

3. Halloween 2006. Yup, I was Angelina Jolie. Lots of baby dolls and a great pair of high heels.

2. Halloween 2008. Beth, Dog the Bounty Hunter's Wife. My fake boobs were awesome. They were the party favor of the night.

1. Halloween 1997. The year before I had been to New Orleans and was antiquing in a dusty old shop on Magazine Street when I found a Victorian era dress stuffed in a corner. It was a dark purple dress with a long sleeve, high neck black lace dress over it that buttoned up the back. Absolutely the sexiest dress I've ever bought, the dress completely covers the body from neck to feet but you can still see the shape of the body through the form fitting lace overlay. Too create a costume, I went to the fabric store, bought a large straw hat and covered it with a long piece of black lace and applied tall feathers to the top. The lace veil over the hat covered my head and shoulders completely hiding my face. It was fun to wear and I won many costume contests in Chicago bars that year. I still have the dress although it's stored due to it's age and the fragile state of the lace overdress. Somewhere at home I have photos but below is a picture of a Victorian mourning outfit that looks similar to the costume I wore.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chicago's Newberry Library

A few years ago while I was working on my Masters in Library and Information Science I did research at Chicago's Newberry Library. The Newberry is a non-circulating research library that is open to the public and home to an incredible collection of maps (over half a million) and specialized collections including European Renaissance, Chicago history, music and genealogy. If you happen to live in Chicago the annual book sale is a not to miss event.

Fans of author Audrey Niffenegger's book The Time Traveler's Wife will recognize the Newberry as the library where Henry worked.

Here is a short video on the Newberry, enjoy it book lovers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October Update

Hi readers. As it's my birthday today and I've got a busy day planned this is going to be a short update. I wanted to share with you a video I created for the ILA Video Shootout. For more information on the Video Shootout, check the Facebook page and video submissions on the YouTube page.

As a present to myself I bought the new 11 inch MacBook Air. This beautiful little laptop weighs less than 2 pounds, is as thin as a magazine and is the perfect computer for traveling. For the ILA Video Shootout I had about 10 minutes to capture video on my iPhone and then about 30 minutes to learn iMovie on my new Mac and create a video. What you see below if my first iMovie.

So I'm signing off readers to start enjoying my birthday. Thoughts on the last year...I started my 40th with a trip to Paris, went scuba diving in the Virgin Islands, spent Christmas with my family in Florida, visited my sister and her family in Denver, bought a new house, started a new job, fell in love and finished my 40th year off with a trip to Spain and Africa. How will I top that at 41? Starting with a lovely weekend, my parents are visiting and we will go antique shopping, relax at home, enjoy Chicago and hang out with my son and my partner Paul. Happiness is the greatest gift of all.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Back in Chicago

I know, I's been more than a month since I've posted. And what a month its been.
  • Spain and N. Africa
  • Amazing adventures
  • Rode a camel named Sabrina on the beach in Africa
  • Bargained in the cazbah
  • Shopped in the spice markets
  • Saw churches full of gold
  • Spent a week in the mountains of Spain with no cell phones, limited wi-fi, just lots of laughs and nights drinking under the stars
  • Acted in a Woody Allen play
  • Spent magical nights wandering through small Spanish towns at 3 am
  • Met amazing people and made new friends for life

I left to travel in summer and now it's fall in Chicago, my favorite season of the year. A time for apple picking, antiquing, working on my home remodeling projects, hosting friends for dinner parties, hot tubbing and snuggling in front of the fire watching football.
As the season slows life down, I will blog about my travels.

Enjoy the weekend readers!

Picture of my traveling partner Diana and I on our last night in Spain.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Off We Go to Spain and N. Africa

I leave tomorrow on another adventure. I will spend a week in a small village in the mountains of Spain assisting adults with their practice of the English language. Afterwards a friend and I are renting a car in Madrid and wandering through Southern Spain with a stop in North Africa. I will have access to the Internet and will be updating my Facebook page, Twitter account and my blog with photos and stories.

While the week I am spending teaching/tutoring English is largely planned by the group I am volunteering with, the 2nd portion of my trip is mostly unplanned. We have a map, a couple of nights booked at a hotel and the rest is where ever the road may take us. I do know we will be enjoying the following:

A private tour of Morocco. We are going with Said Tours, who also gave Sting and Bruce Springsteen a tour of N. Africa. Casbah, spice market and yes a camel ride.

The Rock of Gibraltar. Amazing history.

Seville. The Andalucian experience. Open air markets, nightlife and yes, learning to flamenco.

Stay in a Monastery. We have a book that lists Spanish monasteries that open their doors to visitors. Reaching them for pre-booking is nearly impossible so we are taking our chances to see if they will accomodate us.

Gotta run readers, need to activate my international phone. Yes, I am taking 2 smart phones to Spain. iPhone as camera and music, Blackberry for connecting.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday List #17

My Kid starts college today. Honestly I woke up this morning and thought, "What the hell, I'm not old enough to have a kid in college!" Alas, it's true.

I had a great time in college. Those days seem so long ago but also right there on the edge of my memory. So for today's Monday list I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned in college and hope that he experiences some of the best years of his life.

  1. Embrace each other's differences. When I attended Ohio University in Athens Ohio, I was one of the only students from out of state, most of my classmates were from small towns throughout Ohio. Some were raised on farms, others were from affluent suburbs around larger cities and a few were "townies" from Athens. It was wonderful to attend a college where you could start over, leave your high school friends behind, embrace different clubs, perhaps join a sorority or fraternity like I did, try out different intermural sports and figure out who you were and who you wanted to be. I made wonderful friends, who still 20+ years later are some of the closest and most important people in my life. I hope for my son that he meets people that change his life.
  2. Study. I was one of those college students who changed majors frequently and only studied for a final the night before in an "all-nighter". At one point I was a theater major and thankfully didn't have a lot of finals in my classes. I tried it all, CPR classes, dance, psychology, English major...It broadened my views of the world and introduced me to interesting and diverse people. I hope for my son that he studies, no matter what he chooses to major in. Don't wait until the night before.
  3. Stick to the meal plan. My Kid is 6'7 and over 200 lbs. Trying to keep him fed is like feeding a small group of starving boy scouts in the wilderness. Sometimes I just leave the food out and get out of the way. I will be happy when I can sign him up for the largest meal plan the college offers. It's also a great way to get to know your classmates. Talking over an early morning meal or late night pizza binge, but remember you cannot survive for 4 years on food that is served in tinfoil wrappers.
  4. Participate. Don't be the kid sitting in his room playing video games or sad songs on your guitar. Sports, clubs, Greek life, student life, just do it all. You only have 1 small part of your life in college. Don't regret not experiencing it.
  5. Find your core group of friends. You won't survive college without a posse. You will find them in your classes, or where you live, or by your social interests. You will find your wingman who will be by your side for all your crazy schemes. Your friends will be there every morning when you are hung over (come on, it's going to happen), every night while you study (I hope) and on the occasional weekend when you need a ride home to see your Mom (count on it). These friends will still be there when you meet "the one" and later when you graduate, get hired at your first job, marry, and have your first child.
I hope you have it all Kid. I'll be here at home when you need a break.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Fairy Wedding in the English Countryside

Beautiful slideshow, photographs are by Mario Testino in the September issue of American Vogue.

Model Kate Moss marries her rocker boyfriend. Stunning, romantic and classy. Well done Kate.

You can see the photos here. My favorite, the photo of them under the tree...gorgeous and the red coat she has on over her wedding it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday List #16-Where to Play Pool in the Chicago Area

When I was a kid, my parents had a summer home in Florida. Once school ended in June, we packed up the car, left Chicago and spent the next 3 months in the small beach town of Gulfport Florida. I spent most summer days at the local community center and my friends and I did what most kids in the early 80's did before computers, internet and cell phones, we swam, fished, sailed, listened to music and hopped from party to party and pool to pool. It was a great way to grow up.

Florida in the summer is about as hot as it gets and Mother Nature thankfully usually sends in a summer shower every afternoon to cool things off. At the community center there was a rec room for rainy afternoons where we could play pool or ping pong, darts, fossball, board games or make arts and crafts. When I was about 12 my friends and I became obsessed with pool. We would play every day for hours, rain or shine. Our pool competitions could get quite serious, fights would break out over the right to "combo" a ball or not and frequently we'd end up playing the counselors for the right to jump off the seawall into the Gulf if we won. We became pool sharks after playing every day all summer until we were about 16 and moved from the community center to friends homes or beach bars.

When I went away to college at Ohio University, playing pool late at night in the bars was as common as anything else we did. It was also a great way to meet guys. A friend and I would stake out a table, play a game until inevitably a guy would walk over, tell us he could show us a thing or do about the game and offer to pay for the next game and buy some beers. Well at that point, we'd make a little wager and easily win their money. Most men just don't expect a woman to know how to play pool.

Chicago is a great town to play pool in (The famous pool hustler movie The Color of Money with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman was filmed in Chicago at Chris's Billiards and Lincoln Tap Room). There are a few nice pool halls, but better yet are the dive bars, with a back room and a nice pool table. So for today's Monday list, here are a few of my favorite places to play pool in the Chicago area.

  1. Pete Miller's in Evanston. I've been playing pool here for 15 years. There are 2 pool tables in the bar area, each one is separated from the main area which makes playing and hanging with your friends easy. Rates are hourly. Great atmosphere and good drinks. I played here about a week ago, the tables are in serious need of updating (rail bumpers and felt are tired) but still worth a play.
  2. Southport Lanes in Chicago. Nice bar in Chicago with a pool room. Rates are hourly, space between tables is kinda tight so you often wait while the person playing next to you is taking their shot. Good bar food, good place.
  3. Glascott's Salon in Chicago. Located in Lincoln Park not far from DePaul University, Glascott's is a good place to play on a weekday afternoon. Only 1 table that still takes quarters. I wouldn't even attempt to play here on a weekend but if you have time to kill on a Tuesday afternoon, this is the place. Plus Glascott's is attached to the fantastic restaurant Athenian Room, good Greek food and great prices.
  4. Rose's Lounge on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. This place is a dive. Blink and you will miss it mixed in with all the trendy bars in the area. Beer is $2 and a game of pool for 3 quarters. Ignore the atmosphere, have fun. Rose might even be there serving you.
  5. Kathy's Lakeside Inn in Lake Zurich. I can never remember the name of this place which is ridiculous since it's so easy so I just refer to it as "that biker place on the lake". Nestled on a tiny lake in the middle of nowhere, but within a 20 minute drive from my house. This place is like visiting someones vacation home in backwoods Wisconsin, comfy, old and friendly. And they make a great grill cheese. Plus it's a nice place to sit and watch the sunset.
Other places to play include the infamous Chris's Billiards on Milwaukee and Marie's Golden Cue, with the best sign of all time, "We have smooth shafts and clean balls."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Flash Back Friday #49

Maybe it's the fairy tale, maybe it's the romance, maybe it's finding someone who realizes that your love of books is cool or it could be sharing the library of your dreams with someone...

Regardless here is one of my favorite moments from any movie, live or animated.
The Library Scene from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Seriously this makes me cry every time I see it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Little Bit of Beauty

My office was a garden after these were delivered. There is something special about a man who sends you flowers for no special reason at all.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Flash Back Friday #48-Jamie Cullum

In July 2010 I flew to Denver to see Jamie Cullum perform at the Denver Botanic Gardens with my Mom and sister. For those of you not familiar with Jamie, he is an amazing jazz musician from the UK. His song Gran Torino for the movie soundtrack of the same name was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
I highly recommend his albums, In the Mind of Jamie Cullum, The Pursuit and Catching Tales.

(For book lovers, he is married to Sophie Dahl, herself an author and the granddaughter of Roald Dahl author of such wonderful stories as James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

It was a fantastic concert especially since I was standing a few feet away from him while he played. Here is a short video I took of him singing "If I Ruled the World".

Enjoy readers and have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Films with Style and Romance

The famous song Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes is known as a hit of the 1980's but unfortunately not many people are familiar with the woman who inspired the lyrics. I am slightly...ok, completely infatuated with the actress Betty Davis. I watch her movies over and over and each time fall a little bit more in love with her, the glamour of the 30's and 40's and with the characters she played. (I posted back in 2008 about my love for Bette Davis movies which you can read here, Bette Davis Eyes).

There are few true movie stars in this day and age. Modern society is ruthless in it's obsession with fame and the personal, often sordid lives of those in film and TV. Is there anyone who can watch an Angelina Jolie movie and NOT think of her half a dozen children and her nomad life with Brad Pitt. She just can't become a character anymore, she is always her famous persona. Ditto with so many other film actors such as Tom Cruise (with the exception of his character in Tropic Thunder, hilarious!), Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz. I want to escape when I go to the movies and sadly unless it's a Harry Potter film or another fantasy adventure, I rarely can think of anything but the film star's latest headlines for their personal life. There are a few exceptions such as Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ewan McGregor and Meryl Streep.

People who love movies say it often, "They just don't make films like they used too." I wholeheartedly agree. Sure there are exceptional films being made and lately I've seen a few including True Grit (although a remake of a classic), The Social Network, The King's Speech and the final Harry Potter film. And then there are the same films that get made over and over and over again. How many rom-com movies are there and isn't the new film Friends with Benefits (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis) the same film as No Strings Attached (Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman). No way would I spend $10 for either movie.

So I buy DVD's on Amazon of beautiful, original, classic films when movies were always an escape to another time or place with stunning costumes, true romance, real ladies and their gentleman and manners we've all forgotten about. If you are interested in films that will make you sigh with wonder, cry over the romance and wonder over the loss of a gentler time here are a few of my favorite films from the 1930's and 40's.

  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. 1947. Oh my. The romance. The location. The stunning Gene Tierney, a very young Natalie Wood and the gruff Rex Harrison. The perfect wrong place-wrong time romantic film. Oh and the ending...
  • Dark Victory. 1939. Bette Davis is young and beautiful in this film. A rich socialite changes her life and falls in love after a terrible diagnosis. It doesn't get any better than this for a weepy romance. Trust me, no one has a dry eye at the end. This film also stars Humprey Bogart in a small role before he became a movie star.
  • The Enchanted Cottage. 1945. Robert Young is terrific in this film about a soldier with terrible war wounds and the quiet woman who loves him. I don't think there is a film that better expresses the beauty of love than this one. Don't miss it.
  • Waterloo Bridge. 1940. A little seen Vivien Leigh (Scarlet from Gone with the Wind) film. War, England, guilt. A classic.
  • Mr. Skeffington. 1944. Gorgeous sets and costumes. And an unlikely romantic leading man in Claude Rains (famous for Casablanca). Bette Davis is ruthless and perfect in this role.
  • To Have and Have Not. 1944. The film that started it all with Lauren Bacall and Humprey Bogart. One of the greatest movie lines in history is spoken by Bacall in this film, "You know how to whistle don't you just put your lips together and blow." I don't know if there is a woman alive who has seen this film who hasn't tried to imitate Bacall's chin down, peekaboo look when flirting with a man. Classic. I met Lauren Bacall at a book signing years ago and she is still this character, sassy, sexy and gorgeous.
Do you watch old films? What are your favorites?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Going Retro-Flash Back Friday #47

3 months ago my son, our dog and I moved into a very retro (built in 1956) home in a suburb just outside Chicago. I purchased our home from the original owners, a family who immigrated from Sicily in the 1950's to raise their family in America. My home is a brick 2 bedroom 2 bath with a full finished basement and a large beautiful yard. Over the years the home was wonderfully maintained but not frequently updated. My kitchen has original solid wood cabinets that are in amazing condition, the basement was updated in the 70's and while finished is rather dark due to the wood paneling. The plaster walls throughout the home are in great shape, the floors are wood and the main bath is charming in its retro design.

Last weekend Chicago got hit with one of the worst storms on record. Between midnight last Friday and 6 am on Saturday morning there was record rainfall. I awoke at 3 am on Saturday morning to a river roaring down my street and my basement flooding. (The picture was taken in front of my house looking down my street at 5:30 am the morning of the storm) Thankfully we had not fully unpacked, most of our possessions including my rare book collection are still in boxes in the garage (that stayed dry) and we were able to remove the basement entertainment system and sofa before they were ruined. We only had a few inches of water which receded quickly and over the next 24 hours we removed the basement carpet, which was glued to the concrete floor as well as room after room of stick on tile flooring. We thankfully did not have as much damage as my neighbors, some families lost half their furniture and possessions to water damage. A neighbor a few houses down was featured on the front page of the local paper due to the $80,000 worth of damage they lost when their basement windows exploded and the home filled with 8 feet of water. It's humbling how people work together during a disaster. At 5:30 am as our street was a river, my neighbors and I were outside in the rain, helping each other, alerting people to the situation, setting up generators etc. I am truly blessed with great neighbors and know I can turn to them with anything I need.

I wasn't planning on remodeling my basement, but now with the water damage I will be replacing the floors, painting the wood paneling and having recessed lighting installed. I can model the basement as I like it instead of the cozy 70's decor it had when we moved in. The home I lived in for the 4 years previous to this home was large and also in need of remodeling. The kitchen was in terrible condition and unfortunately my ex and I never remodeled it while I was living there. I won't make that mistake again. Why bother living in a home that isn't the way you want it for everyday living and entertaining?

So for a Flash Back Friday, here are a few websites I am using while I plan the remodel of my 1950's era home in a retro but modern style.

Retro Renovation This website is a terrific source for images from 50, 60 and 70 era magazines as well as stories of people who have retro updated their homes. Here is a great story with pics of a 1950's kitchen redo for under $1500.

Retro Redheads Great site for vintage shopping.

Ebay The go to website for almost everything. Thanks to my parents who are vintage/antique shoppers I now have the Knowles Weatherpane dishes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Dog's Life

My Beagle is named after precocious Eloise from Kay Thompson's famous children's book, Eloise at the Plaza. My sweet girl loves belly rubs, rooting through the garbage, food, chasing rabbits and squirrels, food, napping on the air conditioner floor vent, food, long evening walks, exploring her large yard, stealing my son's food and sleeping in my reading chair.
Just because we love her here are 2 of my favorite recent pictures including 1 of her at my front door watching the world go by with my niece.
"Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring-it was peace."- Milan Kundera.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Living with Ghosts

I like a good ghost story. Not a gory tale of zombies and slashers, but an old fashioned ghost story passed down through generations of storytellers. Chicago has her share of resident ghosts, the Lady in White, The Italian Bride, the Devil Baby and back in the late 90's Chicago ghosts were popular due to the publication of Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City by Ursula Bielski. I saw Ms. Bielski speak at a few Chicago libraries back then around Halloween and learned a few ghost stories I hadn't heard before. Many of the stories she has in her book are well known to Chicagoans and always fun to revisit.

In 1995 a friend and I spent a night or 2 exploring one of the most haunted (supposedly) locations in the country, Bachelors Grove Cemetery. This small hard to find abandoned cemetery has been the subject of more than a few TV spots on hauntings, included in many books on ghosts and paranormal activity and regularly included on people's creepiest destinations list. Now in 1995 there were no websites about hauntings or Google maps directions to the cemetery. We didn't have cell phones connected to the Internet or tiny cameras in our pockets. You could only find the cemetery if you had heard about it and went with someone who could find it. So we went, I didn't see any ghosts or feel anything brush by my shoulder. But it was a strange place. Now there is so much online about the cemetery, videos, supposed ghost pictures etc, you really don't even need to venture out of the house to find out more about it.

I couldn't sleep 1 night this week so I got up, made myself a cup of tea and turned on the TV to watch the news. Instead I found one of those ghost hunting shows and watched for awhile until I realized how scripted it was and turned it off. It got me to thinking though. Not so much about ghosts (which I fully believe in by the way), but about what people leave behind when they leave a place. Is there an energy a person leaves behind in a location where they loved deeply or met a tragic end? And what about when someone just leaves, what is left behind?

When you've left a place, you leave your routine, your things might remain in your former residence, and then...what happens to the person you left behind? I imagine it like Miss Havisham, the tragic jilted bride from Charles Dickens Great Expectations. After being left on her wedding day, she stops all the clocks, never removes her wedding dress and retreats into her mansion. She lives with the ghosts of memories. I suppose that when a relationship ends either through a breakup or a death something is always left behind. If someone remains in the home, with the personal possessions and the routine, and still visits the same restaurants and takes the same vacations, it's like living with ghosts.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Goodbye Mr. Potter

For 10 years I have been sharing the magic of Harry Potter with my son, my family and friends. Tonight it comes to an end with the final film in the movie series.

As an anglophile, I've been reading the London papers every day for over 15 years. Back in 1997 I read an article reviewing a book published in the UK titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, it was released the next year in the USA under the title, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I thought, "Awesome, a book about a boy wizard, his magical school, the friends that become his family, mythical creatures and a terrible villain. A book my son and I will both enjoy, I can't wait to read it." My son was in grade school at the time and I can remember when he first started reading the books as well. His room soon turned into Hogwarts, his Nana and I bought him a Harry Potter bedspread and sheets, pillows, bath towels and posters. He had stuffed animals of Hagrid and the 3 headed dog. Before 2001 when the first movie was released there was very little merchandise available except the bed and bath collection I picked up at a Kohl's department store. I spent months searching for anything with Gryffindor on it, a scarf, a robe anything. The only options back then were crafters selling homemade costumes on Ebay. Sure enough once the first movie was released more merchandise was available including costumes and my son won Halloween contests dressed up like Harry Potter with a friend dressed as Hermoine. Fast forward 10 years and Harry Potter has his own theme park at Universal Orlando. The books really did come to life. I never imagined it back then.

There is a generation of children who grew up with Harry Potter and parents like myself who raised our children with the cultural phenomenon of the Harry Potter books and movies. When I was a girl in the 70's there was Star Wars and I remember the hysteria, the collectible action figures, the bad TV specials and the mania when a new movie was released. Star Wars may be the only close comparison but yet Star Wars in the 70's and 80's was only a 3 movie series, there are 8 Harry Potter movies in 10 years based on 7 books, a massive amount of merchandise and now the theme park. WOW.

As the movies have been released my son has been the same age as the characters, he has grown up with Harry, Hermoine and Ron. Now my son is 18 and starting his life as an adult, creating his own real life stories. But back when he was a little boy, his favorite stories were always the Harry Potter books. In 2001 I hosted my first Harry Potter party and tonight I host my last. 10 years ago my son and his friends dressed in costumes, we had themed food, decorations, trivia games and prizes. We would arrive at midnight at either the book release events at Borders or Barnes and Noble with a numbered bracelet on to await our copy of the newest book or we would arrive at the movie theater hours in advance and wait for a seat for the latest film. People would dress in costumes and over the years I've seen it all, white owls like Hedwig and lots and lots of Hagrids.

I'll admit I'm rather sad that it's ending. No more book releases, no more films to look forward too. Their stories are ending. Harry Potter fans know how the story ends but seeing it on screen tonight is it. I'm bringing lots of tissue.

P.S Reading helps out in a crisis...last week when my son had a brief stay in the hospital for a severe sunburn, nothing, NOTHING was helping him with the pain. Until I pulled out my Nook Color and asked him if he wanted to read to keep his mind off the pain and itching. Sure enough he asked for Harry Potter and luckily I have all 7 books on my ereader. He started reading the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and within 10 minutes he relaxed and it took his mind of being in the hospital.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A "Model" Magazine

The June issue of Italian Vogue is delicious. You can view it online here.
The photographs are art and the models are gorgeous with the bodies of real women. Stunning, sexy old-world beauty, clothing and locations on these pages.
This is nothing like the embarrassing images of emaciated-teenage-models we have in American magazines.

Warning: NOT SUITABLE FOR VIEWING AT WORK. There is nudity.

Enjoy and read more magazines.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Business Resources at the Library

Check out this article in the July 1 issue of the Daily Herald newspaper Business section on using resources at the Library to enhance your business and/or job search using social media and technology. Our Business Bytes program is very successful with topics ranging from Facebook pages to Twitter to Foursquare. This month I am instructing Business Bytes: Google Docs for Business. Good article and nice to be mentioned along with Richard Kong.
Check out your Library for similar resources or contact me for more information.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Our Other Place

I've started a new book, a teen book, Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier. Teenage girl from London, time traveler, mysterious society, good-looking-but-conceited-possible-boyfriend-even-though-they-hate-each-other-at-first-sight, crazy family, quirky best far it's a terrific read. I am also saying to myself, "Another book set in London Shannon? Really how predictable". Alas yes another book set in my favorite place. Actually it was the time travel that interested me, but modern day and historical London as a backdrop is a bonus.

So I wonder, why London? As far back as I can remember I've been an anglophile. When my high school/college boyfriend studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London in 1991 his Christmas gift to me was an airline ticket for my first trip to London. He knew how much I longed to experience the country I was continually reading about. We broke up before I made it there but I still have the love letters we wrote to each other during his first semester about the places we planned to visit together when I arrived. I finally made it to London in 1997 and as soon as I arrived, I felt like I was home. For me, it's my missing piece.

I have friends who have the same longing for cities such as Paris, New York, Rome, and countries such as India and Japan. The locations that call to them. I reckon it to the coins in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, "We will find you Poppet. You've got something of ours and it calls to us. The gold calls to us". Certain places call you back.

As I read Ruby Red and the heroine Gwyneth time travels, I wonder, is deja vu real? Can you have a connection to a time or place and not have any rational idea why? For example, my friend, "M" LOVES and I mean LOVES everything to do with the Southwest United States but she is a born and raised Chicagoan. Another friend, a small town girl from the Midwest loves everything about the Japanese culture. Another friend travels again and again to cowboy country, loves country music and pickup trucks but she's an Illinois gal. Hmmmm...curious and curiouser.

Do you have a place that calls to you. Or maybe a culture or time in history? If you do, then you know the magic of Woody Allen's latest film, Midnight in Paris. A good movie, not a great one, but for those of us who are called somewhere, you will understand the appeal.

Here is my very fitting summer song, One Republic's Good Life...
Woke up in London...Gotta be the good life...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday List #15

In reference to my most recent post on Spain: A Culinary Road Trip, I thought I would make a list of my top 5 favorite tools in the kitchen. As the result of a New Years Resolution a few years ago I have been learning how to cook and loving it! When I recently moved into my new home I moved with 1 chair, my son's bedroom set, an armoire, a few lamps, artwork, my books, small electronics, some good china and crystal and personal items. That was it. In the 2 months since we moved in I have been slowly acquiring antiques and new items as needed. I'm finding half the fun is the search and if I don't have enough chairs for a dinner party we move outside to my garden where I have plenty of seating. So while I stock my new kitchen and experiment with what I am growing in my garden, what I buy from local farmers and recipes from all over the world I have found a few things I can't cook without. This is my very basic list of the top 5 tools I use almost every day.
  • Whisk. I seriously use my stainless steel whisk everyday, usually for making my own salad dressings and scrambling eggs.
  • Glass bowls. I know, so basic. I use them for everything, including storing food.
  • Microplane zester. Lemons, parmesan cheese, garlic, chocolate. Great tool.
  • Good knives. I use CUTCO. Good knives makes all the difference.
  • Stainless steel food carriers. I have purchased mine online as well as in stores such as World Market and in Chicago's Little India neighborhood. These are perfect for taking food with you on the go.
Many cookbooks have a section on stocking your kitchen with essential pots, pans, etc...I find these sections helpful, I recently bought a cast iron skillet after repeatedly reading about the benefits of using one. Currently I am reading, Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook: Crazy Delicious Recipes that are Good to the Earth and Great for Your Bod by Kim Barnouin which has just such a section. Helpful tips and tricks.

P.S One thing I don't need and have lived without for 5 years is a microwave!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On the Road in Spain

Due to my cookbook obsession, I've finished a new book. Interesting...but not too good. Spain... A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali with Gwyneth Paltrow is the book mate to the TV show Spain...On the Road Again. The short series followed Mario and Gwyneth plus various friends as they ate, drank and explored Spain. I watched a few episodes and genuinely enjoyed it, I like Mario's larger than life personality and the food and locations were spectacular. Spain is one of my favorite travel destinations and I will be returning in August and September.

So I was rather disappointed in the book. Written more like a journal with personal reflections on people they met and random excerpts from conversations was odd. I really wasn't interested in seeing pictures of 2 of the travelers shopping for new clothes in Zara. Nor did I care that Gwyneth was making frequent trips back to England. Writing a cook/travel, tips about the restaurants they dined in and the vineyards they drank in, information on Spanish chefs, local food specialties, pictures...that's it please. Overall, I do not recommend the book. I do however recommend the following favorites on Spanish cuisine.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Can Leave Chicago Now Because...

I've walked on the grass at Wrigley Field.

Tuesday evening I had the privilege of attending a Cubs game as the guest of my friend Carrie (she is in the center of the picture, I am in the Cubs hat). Carrie was being honored for her amazing non-profit work. Thank you Carrie, thanks GM for allowing us to be on the field with her and thanks to the Chicago Cubs. It was a hell of a game, they won in the 10th!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

6,570 Days

My baby is 18 years old today. My son stands at 6'7, has graduated from high school, has a girl friend and is going to college in the fall. Honestly, I don't know when that all happened. I can remember the rush to the hospital in the middle of the night, his impatience to enter the world so quickly that the doctor never made it to deliver him, us being discharged within 24 hours and going home to my little apartment to begin our life together. What an adventure it's been.

I had my son at a young age and although I raised him rather unconventionally I believe that's why we have such a close relationship. We shared a small apartment in Chicago and I worked at home so we were always together. I didn't have any friends with babies so we made friends in our City neighborhood and he was always surrounded by children of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. I never fed him baby food such as rice cereal or crap from a jar, even 18 years ago I was making his food myself and feeding him what he calls my "veggie weirdness" (although he eats every bite!) Plastic pacifiers, bottles and fake food never crossed his lips, I tell people now that is why he is 6'7 inches tall and over 200 pounds. When I was scared that he had a fever or unsure of what to do I read my trusted book, What to Expect the First Year and felt like I had a friend with me telling me that I was doing everything ok.

While we lived in Chicago I had him in non traditional schools, a wonderful preschool near Wrigley Field (an excellent school run by the JCC, a Jewish Center even though he was one of the only non Jewish children in his class because I wanted him exposed to all beliefs), then the excellent Chiaravalle Montessori in Evanston near Northwestern University. As an only child he thrived in Montessori, I believe his experiences there created the social person he is today. I don't believe in mainstream kindergarten so he stayed in Montessori until we found an excellent school system and moved to the area where we live now. Through it all, the moves, my marriages, our travels, he has remained in school with the same kids since he was 6 years old and it's been a joy to watch them grow up together.

As I look back on his 18 years it's like watching a movie. I can dial up a memory and it's there in my mind...his first word, his first steps (he never crawled, just went from sitting to standing to walking), his first trip to the emergency room, the notes he wrote to the tooth fairy, cookies for Santa Claus, his first trip to Disney World, science fairs, his obsession with Peter Pan and swords, his first trips to London, Paris, Ireland, playing every sport ever invented (T-ball, baseball, basketball, fencing, swimming, track and field, football, lacrosse, soccer, frisbee, scuba diving, hockey), first days of school, Halloween costumes, bad dreams, childhood illness, it's all there in my memories.

My Kid is an amazing young man and I'm excited for the next chapter of our lives. My boy is 18 and I'm 40. I guess life begins again. I can't even imagine the adventures we will have.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

So Where Do YOU Go First in the Library?

The Library where I now work is a large one, much, much larger than the library where I previously worked. During my first couple of weeks on the job I toured sections of the library I normally wouldn't have browsed through such as the genealogy room and the magazine room. What wonderful things I discovered! Here are a few of my favorites:

Back issues of House Beautiful
Issues of Hello!, now I don't have to pay $6 for an issue at Barnes and Noble

What a treasure trove, with hundreds of books and periodicals to chose from here are 2 fascinating ones I picked up and browsed through. Obituaries Knox County 1853-1897 volume 1 and 1889-1901 volume 2. The obits are from newspapers in Knox County, Galesburg Illinois and have been typed out by a genealogist. I have a new found interest in genealogy after reading obituaries like this one:
"Ramp-Benjamin who died last week removed one of the most unique characters of this country, a man of great determination and untiring energy. When he first came to this country he met with an accident whereby he lost his leg. Afterwards he was thrown under a mower and lost his right arm. Most men would have gone to the poorhouse at once. Not he, he kept on. Naturally shrewd he made good investments in land. He raised a large family. He kept acquiring and the number of acres of his estate were counted by the hundred. Those here who knew him say he was worth $100,00, all got together by hard work. He indeed a remarkable character. His home was in Haw Creek township. His wife and eight children survive him, but she is in bad health. March 28, 1891. Galesburg Republican-Register."

So next time you are at the Library, where are you going to go first? The same travel section, popular fiction or new DVDs? Why not wander and see what treasures you can find.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The "Done" Point That Gets You To "Begin"

So I'm a Libra. Now I've never put much stock in horoscopes, I can read any of them and find similarities to myself but I do tend to lean towards a few of the characteristics of Libra. Such as... social, fair-minded, cooperative, diplomatic, gracious, indecisive, will carry a grudge. Perhaps because the sign of Libra is the scale/balance, indecision is a known trait of a Libra. This is incredibly true of me. I abhor any unfairness and unhappiness as a result of decisions which don't benefit all. Hence indecision. Now this doesn't affect my every day life, but major life decisions I tend to weigh and over think. However once I make a decision, I rarely if ever change my mind and I don't look back. For me things suddenly click, and I am often "done". Done weighing the decision, done talking about it, done fighting the inevitable, just done. Life then balances out and things go back to harmonious, harmony makes for a happy Libra. Perhaps this is why I stayed in a broken marriage when my brain knew it was over. My inner voice wasn't telling me we were done, when the head and the heart don't agree you get a mess. Personally I had to wait for the "done" moment and when it happened and the balance returned, well things happened for the life, new home, new job.

This got me to thinking about resources for the person who wants to alter their life, for the procrastinator or the Libra or the person looking for their harmony. So here are a few suggestions that help me:
  • The Kind Life. This site, started by the actress/vegan/activist Alicia Silverstone inspires me. When you live kindly, to yourself, to animals, to others you find harmony. Life is good.
  • Crazy Sexy Life. A great uplifting lifestyle website. I always find something that gets me thinking, moving or something I react too. CSL is from the same gal who created Crazy Sexy Cancer which is an amazing resource for anyone fighting or supporting someone with disease.
  • Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, by The Prince of Wales. Yes, it's a book by the future King of England who is a major supporter of sustainability.
  • Mars and Venus Starting Over. Yes it's a "self help" book. I think it was the first I ever read. A friend recommended it to me the week I decided I was leaving my marriage. It helped. Great lesson, focus on the love you had, not the loss of it. Believe it or not.
  • The Procrastination Equation. Procrastination costs you time, relationships, money...
So go find your happy place and share it with others.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Going to the Show

"Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once - the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains." Crash Davis from Bull Durham

Well my first week on the job passed by in a rush. The week was a mixture of library tours, introductions, meetings and training all seamlessly organized by my new supervisor. My new colleagues have been wonderful in their welcomes, their patience and their enthusiasm. After 6 years at my former library it's interesting to set up a new office, learn about the librarians who share my work space, start new routines, laugh at new shared jokes and meet new patrons. As I slowly make my way through emails, years of saved paperwork, fliers, folders and files, learn a new catalog, explore new databases and attend meetings in and outside of the library I'm realizing how amazing the opportunity is that I have been given to assist library patrons. I'm working at a 5 star library, one of the best of the best and I'm part of a team, it's frankly just really cool.

As a lifelong library patron I am reminded now that I am working at my home library that one of the greatest things my parents provided for my sister and I was an environment of learning. Being raised by teachers we grew up with the expectation that education was one of the most important opportunities of life and visiting the library was a big part of that. Now as a librarian in a new and much larger library than I have ever worked in before I am learning constantly, it's exhausting but so much fun. It's pretty awesome that the hours fly by and when I finally crawl into bed at night I am asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

So with my full days at work and my full evenings working on my new house, it's a busy time and I apologize for not updating my blog as often as I should. I feel like Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham, I've moved from the minors to the majors (The Show).