Friday, December 13, 2013

I'll Be Seeing Ya...

How time flies when you're having fun! With just a few weeks until the New Year things are wrapping up and starting anew. The month of December is packed full of friends, family and travel. My son is on his way home from college for his winter break, it will be wonderful to have him home for 1 month! This weekend Paul and I will enjoy a stay in Chicago and explore the holiday events in the City including the lights on Michigan Avenue, the Christkindlmarket, a play at Steppenwolf Theater and some Christmas shopping on State Street. Next week I will be joining my family at Disney World for Christmas and then it will be home to Chicago for a New Years Eve celebration with friends. 

2013 has been one of the busiest years in recent memory for me personally and professionally and it has been difficult to keep up with blogging on Lively Librarian. So for 2014 I am going to take a break. With the exception of the occasional update, this blog will be largely silent during the next year. I use other websites and apps to stay in touch with my family, friends, colleagues and readers so whichever sites you use, please connect with me at: 
It's been a wild ride readers and I've loved connecting with you online and in person, stay in touch and thanks for reading!

In the words of Neil Gaiman: "May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Knights, Dragons and Magic Oh My!

Some of my favorite stories originate from history and legends of the British Isles: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Guinevere, Merlin, Tristan & Iseult, Robin Hood, Richard III, dragons, sorcerers, The Lady of the Lake and so many others. One of my favorite books is my 1939 copy of The Boy's King Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory's History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. This beautiful book is full of stories and illustrations of Arthur, Launcelot, Tristan, the Fair Maid of Astolat, the Holy Grail and many of Arthur's other Knights.

Growing up my son also enjoyed many of these stories, his favorites were tales of Robin Hood, the Sword in the Stone and anything with dragons in it. As more and more movies and TV series were made retelling these stories, special effects evolved so much that when you see a dragon on film it's hard to believe that the creatures never existed.

Some of our favorite film and TV adaptions of these mythical stories include:

  • The early 1980's TV series Robin of Sherwood (a cult classic, my son and I have the series on DVD and have watched each episode many times. Still the best version in my opinion)
  • The 1981 film Excalibur (another cult classic with a who's who of before they became famous actors including Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart and Liam Neeson)
  • The 1996 movie Dragonheart (my son watched this movie over and over when it was released. Dennis Quaid valiantly tries to save the last dragon from a young King who becomes evil. The dragon's voice is Sean Connery)
  • The 2004 film King Arthur (Clive Owen as Arthur and Keira Knightly as Guinevere)
  • The 2006 Ridley Scott produced film Tristan & Isolde (James Franco and Sophia Myles as the tragic lovers)
I've watched a few episodes of the TV series Robin Hood on Netflix that ran from 2006-2009 on the BBC. It's a fun and more modern interpretation of Robin Hood and not nearly as dark as the 80's TV show Robin of Sherwood. Another series that I've begun on Netflix is Merlin which ran from 2008-2012 on the BBC. This series is fantastic and while it completely mixes up the legends, the adventures of Arthur and Merlin while they are young men is irresistible. If you are a lover of legends and myths you can't go wrong with watching some of the better interpretations of the stories on TV and film. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"Rushing" into Life

My son was initiated into his fraternity Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) at the fraternity headquarters in Lexington Kentucky over the weekend. Transitioning from the military to college has been a challenging but exciting time for him. During his first semester he has maintained an excellent GPA, joined his fraternity and settled into a new life in a new state. I'm incredibly proud of him.

Fraternity and sorority life at American colleges and universities is often referred to as "Greek Life" from the Greek letters that make up the names of the organizations. During my son's "rush" period before he was initiated the fraternity required him to maintain a vigorous study schedule and minimum B+ grade point average, complete weekly hours of community service, attend university activities, study his fraternity's history and participate in a leadership role within his pledge class. Greek Life is not what every college student chooses to participate in but for many students it's a great experience both academically and socially.

My son is the 3rd generation in my family to participate in fraternity and sorority life while in college. My father was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, my mother is a Sigma Sigma Sigma, my son's dad is a Delta Tau Delta and I am a member of Pi Beta Phi. After college life we've stayed active in alumnae groups for community, social and work related benefits. Like myself, my son went to college far from Chicago, knowing no one on campus and his fraternity will be a great source of friendship and support for him. I have a feeling he is going to enjoy his college years to the fullest, it's a once in a lifetime experience.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"I want to be a dancer"

Like so many little girls do I started dancing when I was a child at a local dance school in my neighborhood. In high school and college I danced in school dance companies and enjoyed the practices, the performances and the relationships that develop when you spend hours with other dancers. And like any dancer who has ever worn through a pair of pink ballet slippers it was fun to dream of the "glamorous" life of ballerinas.

"Glamorous" lives of ballerinas involve a lot of bloody feet, hours of daily practice, years of pain management and even more years of patience. Actress Sarah Jessica Parker who famously twirls in a pink tutu in the opening of every episode of Sex and the City produced an online docudrama series about the lives of New York City Ballet dancers. The first episode begins with dancers in the school of ballet and as the series progresses the dancers are promoted through the corps to soloists and finally to principals.  Relationships, injuries, social lives, practices and performances are all shown, including glimpses of the famous ballet Swan Lake which is so demanding 3 principal ballerinas dance as the main character.

You can watch each episode, all are under 7 minutes in length at city.ballet on AOL.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An Unforgettable Friendship

Sometimes you hear a story that you'll never forget. This is one of those stories. A friendship between 2 young men, one of them is blind and the other one has no legs and the woman who changes their lives and makes them a family. You can watch their story here and after you do share it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumn Awesomeness

My favorite season. I love it as much as the dog playing in the leaves in the video below. Pure joy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday 5 List #33-Fall Favorites

The weather has changed in Chicago from dresses and sandals to boots and sweater season. We still have the occasional day of 80+ temperatures but the evenings are cool and the air smells like leaves. So for this week's Monday 5 List, here are my favorite things to do in the fall.
  1. Football. For the Bears season opener Paul and I joined friends at one of our favorite bars in Chicago to enjoy watching the game, eating bar food and drinking beer. This will likely be our normal routine for the season.
  2. Road trips. We just returned from a weekend road trip to Bloomington Indiana where we tailgated at the Indiana University v Bowling Green football game. Go Hoosiers! My son's best friend plays Offensive Tackle for IU and it's much more fun to watch college football on a college campus. Our next road trip might include apple picking, whiskey tasting, hot cider and antiquing in Michigan in October.
  3. Fire. We had out first backyard bonfire last week and expect to spend many more evenings sitting around the firepit on cool nights. Pulling out cozy sweaters for enjoying the outdoors is also a favorite part of the season.
  4. Chicago events. The first weekend in Chicago we went to the Guinness Oyster Fest a street festival in Roscoe Village. Great neighborhood, not overly crowded with 2 stages (mainly Irish style music), and lots of Guinness and oysters. This weekend we will be attending Chicago in White, a pop up dining experience where attendees dress all in white and do not know the location until right before the event begins. The last weekend in September we are playing tour guides to friends visiting from Ohio and expect to spend the weekend at a boutique hotel in Chicago, wandering the city, and visiting the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit during it's final days at the Art Institute.
  5. Friends. Fall seems to be the best season for catching up with friends. Maybe it's all the opportunities for watching sports together, maybe it's the fun of getting together before it's too cold to enjoy being outdoors. We seem to be busier than ever in the fall whether it's a party or just having pizza and jumping in the hot tub. Whatever you do this fall, I hope it's a great season for you.
If you are looking for more ideas of what to do in Chicago this fall, read this great article

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


As my son enjoys his college life of classes, sports, fraternity and fun I'm settling into being an empty nester. Last year during the months my son was in the military I never quite got used to living alone, most likely because I felt very unsettled due to worrying about him. This year I've adapted nicely to having the house to myself (well with the exception of my beagle Eloise, she is great company even though she's incredibly high maintenance). Paul and I are both empty nesters, his children are also away at college and we have our own routines around work and home. When we are not working, exploring Chicago together, traveling or with family and friends time seems to be longer with more time to linger. I find that I wander about. I wander to my book shelves, I wander through the yard, I wander through the neighborhood, I wander into the kitchen... Sometimes I play dress up, sometimes I cook ridiculous meals, sometimes I drink martinis and watch bad movies, sometimes I talk to the dog and solve the problems of the world. I pitter patter about really and it's a delight.

A friend recently shared a photo on Facebook and I think it captures where I am in life. Home is my little bungalow surrounded with my books and my garden and my treasures. It's lovely having Paul just down the road and my son as close as social media and a text away. What I'm learning is that even at my age I'm still growing up and growing into my skin.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Flash Back Friday #57-Thomas Crown Affair

In 1999 the remake of the classic movie The Thomas Crown Affair (starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway) was released with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in the lead roles. On a recent evening I poured a class of wine and settled in to watch a movie that's become a favorite. Russo plays an insurance investigator who's searching for a 100 million dollar painting stolen from the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. She of course thinks it was stolen by a billionaire financier with an impressive art collection played by Pierce Brosnan. The chase in this film is half the fun...who is chasing who, Russo chasing Brosnan or Brosnan chasing Russo. The rest of the fun includes the gorgeous sets (autumn in NYC) and the actors, who are both at their best in their mid 40's.
I was in my late 20's when I first saw the film and I still enjoy it, the music, the story and the great style of Russo's character. Knee high boots, check. Perfect little black cocktail dresses (I lost count after 4), check. Classic pin-stripped suit, check. Topless wearing nothing but a sarong, check. Thigh high black stockings and a garter belt, check. Cable knit sweaters worn with leather gloves, check. Black velvet jacket, check. Camel colored wool coat, check. Double strand pearl necklace, check. Hermes Birkin purse, check. Really, 14 years later I still want everything she wears. Brosnan is also gorgeously styled, his suits fit him like a glove.
During the film Russo's character remarks how well Brosnan lives and anyone watching the film can't argue.
To view the trailer, watch below.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Comfortable Skin

After a flight delay Paul and I returned to Chicago from Colorado in the wee hours of Sunday morning and after a few hours of sleep I was off to the mall with my son to buy his back to school wardrobe. In just over a week his Dad and I will be driving him to Missouri and moving him into his dorm room.  Over the summer I've been organizing his baby pictures and school art work and in an old box of memories I found pictures of myself from 1990 when I was the same age my son is now.

In 1990 I was 20 years old and working a job from 7-9 in the morning, then I went to classes at a local college then it was back to work from 3-6 pm and then I went clubbing at dance clubs in Chicago with my friends until 2-3 am. It was a crazy life until I transferred to Ohio University in tiny Athens Ohio in the fall of 1990. I went from being a Chicago club kid to a small town sorority girl literally over night. My son will also be moving from Chicago to a small college town and I hope he has as much fun having dual lives as I did.

As I donate his old high school wardrobe and buy him new clothes more appropriate for college including dress clothes for rushing a fraternity and sportswear for playing college lacrosse, it reminded me of how much you can feel changed by just changing what you wear. During our shopping spree my son was more interested in quality clothing from Polo Ralph Lauren and Banana Republic than he was in t-shirts and shorts from the Gap. He's not interested in dressing like a high school student anymore. Similarly when I packed to move away to college I left my "city club clothes" at home and brought clothes more fitting for social events in college. It was the start of my adult life and I have a feeling my son is having that moment right now.

The pictures were both taken in 1990, one is me as a club kid in Chicago (I'm in the middle) and the other was taken a few months later when I joined a sorority at Ohio University. 23 years later I still prefer pearls over stomach baring tops.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday 5 List #32-College Recipes

My son is traveling to his college orientation tomorrow at a college about 8 hours from Chicago. He will register for classes, tour the campus and check out his dorm. Since he returned from the Navy last fall and decided to forgo any further military career for college, I've been showing him some basic recipes for life in the dorm/fraternity/apartment. So today's Monday 5 list are recipes my son can use as a base when he leaves the nest.

  1. BBQ. In the last year my son has taken an active interest in learning how to BBQ. I've taught him the basics of how to prep meat, chicken and fish and how to use a thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. He's become quite the BBQ connoisseur and regularly mixes up his own rubs and sauces. BBQ Master will serve him well in life.
  2. Homemade sauce. Not from the jar. One of the first recipes I taught him when I started growing tomatoes, onions and basil. Once you know how to make a basic pasta sauce, the sky's the limit. He prefers to spice up homemade tomato sauce with red pepper flakes but I've also demonstrated how to add cream or cheese for a great alternative to red sauce. So basic sauce with a few twists and you've got multiple recipes. 
  3. Cream of Mushroom Soup. Easiest recipes ever. I told him "No matter how broke you are, always have a can of cream of mushroom soup in the pantry." On any budget, a can of this soup can make a delicious meal with a chicken breast or some cooked rice.  
  4. Salmon. Good grilled salmon as a main dish, made into salmon cakes or tossed on a salad, you can't go wrong. Maybe the easiest fish to cook and always a favorite. 
  5. Fried Rice. Rice dishes have always been easy but especially after my brother-in-law showed my son how to make fried rice. Over the years we've experimented with it and my son makes large portions for his friends, usually in the middle of the night. The best thing about fried rice is the "garbage pail" method, toss in any veggies with chicken, bacon, shrimp or scallops and you've got a delicious meal.
Are there any recipes you remember learning from your parents? 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thrifty Thursday #1

I'm starting a new feature here on Lively Librarian, Thrifty Thursday where I will highlight a great thrift store, resale or antique find. The first post features my sister Stacy, she is also a librarian who loves thrifting!
During my sister's recent visit we spent a day shopping at our favorite vintage and resale stores in the Chicago area. We found the dress she is wearing in the picture at a resale store in Barrington, IL and she wore it to a wedding near her home in Colorado last weekend. The dress was designed by Chicago designer Jenny Yoo and retails for $295 but was for sale for only $1. Yes $1 and it's in pristine condition. Stacy loved the comfort and color of the dress and that it has pockets! She paired it with a $10 chandelier style necklace, borrowed one of my vintage clutch handbags and wore her own shoes. Total cost for the outfit was $11! What a bargain!
You look beautiful lil' sister! Happy thrifting indeed.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Southwest Michigan-A World Away from Chicago

Before our upcoming vacation in Colorado, Paul and I enjoyed a short trip during the 4th of July holiday weekend. We spent a few days wandering "Harbor Country" and Southwest Michigan with a loose itinerary and a summer pace. Only an hour drive from Chicago, we started the trip with lunch at the legendary Redamak's in New Buffalo. We then drove up the coast another hour to Saugatuck for the day and wandered through the charming art community before doing some wine tasting from local vineyard Fenn Valley and then stopping by the local wateringhole Wally's.

We stayed in the small town of Holland, went hiking to the Lake from Felt Mansion and had a great dinner at Pereddie's before catching the tail end of the sunset at Boatwerks, a waterfront restaurant with an outside bar. We met locals Gan and her husband Peter who've been living in Holland since 2012 after years in Gan's native Thailand. After a drink on Lake Macatawa we headed down the street to New Holland Brewery to sample their beers and listen to live music.

On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, downtown Holland is the location of an outstanding farmer's market. Blueberries and cherries are in season in Michigan so we bought bags to bring home to Chicago. We stopped by Crane's Orchard in Fennville to buy fresh pie before a visit to the new brewery Virtue to taste their latest cider. We spent the afternoon in the beach community of South Haven before going to the small town of Three Oaks for the Corsets, Whips & Whiskey event at Journeyman Distillery. We ended our vacation back in Chicago with bottles of wine and whiskey to enjoy this summer.

If you are based in the Midwest or visiting I highly recommend Southwest Michigan, it's the perfect destination for a short vacation while feeling worlds away. To see pictures of the trip, follow me on Instagram, you can find me at

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Catching Up and Taking Time Off

It's been a busy few weeks in my world with my sister and brother-in-law visiting with their children, the American Library Association Conference in Chicago and the prom party that Paul and I hosted to kick off summer. Similar to last year's Great Gatsby party, our MORP (prom spelled backward): Second Chance Prom Dance was a costume party and every one of our guests came dressed in costume. The ladies were dressed in dresses with wrist corsages and the men in tuxedos with boutonnieres and most were dressed true to the decade when they graduated from high school. There were even a few women in their original prom dresses! The picture in this post is Paul and I in front of the beautiful photo backdrop he made for guests to pose in front of.  We had prom queen and king sashs with crowns and all guests took home a beer cozie printed with PROM 2013 on it. There was dancing under disco lights, beer pong, billiards and lots of cheap beer and wine (Old Style, Boone's) and snacks we loved when we were teenagers (Cheetos, pizza). Now we have to figure out next years costume party...

I attended the American Library Association Conference in Chicago the last week in June and will be blogging about the conference soon. I am starting a vacation for a much needed break and will be spending some time with Paul and friends in Union Pier, Saugatuck and Holland Michigan over the next few days. To all my American readers, have a great 4th of July holiday weekend.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday 5 List #31-Staying Cool In Chicago

It's finally HOT here in Chicago. Well in-between storms it is. So far we haven't had the legendary muggy Chicago summer weather but it's hot enough that kids are in sprinklers, jumping in park pools and visiting the ice cream trucks as they sing through neighborhoods.

Today's Monday 5 List includes my tips for staying cool in Chicago.
  1. Cool house. I'm lucky enough to live in a small all brick bungalow built in the mid 1950's. Unless the humidity is unbearable I rarely turn the air conditioning on and usually only will if I have guests who aren't familiar with Chicago heat. My basement is an ice box and I don't use the oven unless necessary. I keep window fans and ceiling fans running at low speed to circulate the air and I have plantation style blinds on all my windows which are great for filtering the hot sunlight and my curtains do the rest. 
  2. The Lake. Chicagoans will tell you "It's cooler by the Lake" and that is usually accurate. Sometimes the 5-10 degree difference is all you need and it's nice to put your toes in the cold waters of Lake Michigan. I haven't swam in the Lake in a few years but when you have access to a boat it's wonderful to be about 2 miles off the Chicago lakefront where the water is deep and ice cold and you can cannonball off the deck.
  3. Street Festivals. Chicago is THE City of street fests. On any given weekend you can find a fest in neighborhoods all over the City. The better ones have plenty of shade, cold beer and fans misting water. For a list of Chicago's Street Festivals, check out this guide from Metromix. 
  4. Water. Public parks have a variety of water features. Some are splash pools, other spouting fountains. Probably the most famous one in Chicago is the Crown Fountain, known to Chicagoans as the "Water Wall" in Millennium Park. These huge glass towers feature faces of Chicago residents seen through water that rains down and if you wait long enough, spits out the mouth of an image. It's totally cool and very popular with residents and tourists. Here is a link to a YouTube video of the "spitting" wall. Great place to cool off.
  5. Fans. During the weeks I spent in Spain in 2011 I began using small pocket fans. Women all over Spain keep these small fans in their bags and you see them being used everywhere from buses to restaurants. Once it's warm in Chicago, I have at least one of my Spanish fans with me. Pic of my pocket fans below. 
Stay cool readers and enjoy the summer!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday 5 List #30-Social Media Sites

As a business librarian I frequently instruct small business owners, their staff, job seekers and adults in career transition on how to utilize social media in their professional lives. My job is fascinating, humbling and never boring. I often combine instruction on how to utilize the library's resources such as databases and new technology with social media and in order to instruct these tools I need to use them.
So for today's Monday 5 list, here are the social media sites that I get asked about, use and instruct most frequently:

  • Facebook. There are not many people or businesses that I interact with these days who are not on Facebook (personally I have a Facebook profile and 3 Facebook pages). But recently I've noticed a decline in people using Facebook in favor of other sites including...
  • Twitter. Probably the social media site that I instruct the most, especially to job seekers. Twitter is a never ending source of news, networking and ideas. Twitter is the first site I check on my phone in the morning and the last one I check at night. It's also my go to source if I want to share a complaint or compliment for business and news. 
  • Pinterest. The photo sharing website organized like a virtual pinboard is addicting. I use it as a way to source everything from recipes to inspiration. Small business owners are discovering how combining Pinterest boards with ecommerce can be very beneficial.
  • YouTube and Vine. Demo videos, tutorials, laughs, you name it you'll find it on YouTube. I've instructed small business owners on YouTube from real estate agents highlighting houses to travel agents highlighting destinations. Haven't heard of Vine? You will soon. Users create 7 second videos with this mobile app and businesses are getting creative. 
  • Foursquare. Location based social media through your phone, businesses often offer incentives to "check in" at their locations and users utilize Foursquare to find their friends and tips on places and businesses. Plus Foursquare is just plain fun.
Looking for more social media connections, find me on all of the above sites as Lively Librarian and or Shannon Distel Scanlan. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Flash Back Friday #56-The movie Legend

In 1985 when I was 15 years old the fantasy film Legend was released and it's been a favorite of mine ever since. For a young girl who loves fairy tales as much as I do, this film has it all, a beautiful Princess, unicorns, a magic land, an evil villain and a love story. The entire movie is lushly filmed and the ethereal soundtrack with songs by Tangerine Dream, John Anderson from Yes and Bryan Ferry from Roxy Music sets the mood. The movie was considered a flop even though it starred a young Tom Cruise and was directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator and the famous Apple commercial from 1984).  However in the years since it's release on VHS and then DVD it's become a cult classic.

I read today that the brilliant actor Tim Curry was recovering from a stroke. Movie watchers know Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) or as Rooster in the movie version (1982) of Annie. I love him as both of those characters, but my favorite Tim Curry role is as Darkness in Legend. The clip below is fantastic, not only for the amazing costumes and makeup, but for Tim Curry's voice, when he says "All things change Lady. The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity" I get chills. The black wedding dress worn by actress Mia Sara is the Halloween costume I have wanted to wear for over 25 years.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday 5 List #29-Recent Films I Enjoyed

I've watched some terrific movies lately, two are book-to-film adaptions and while the critics have hated on them, I loved them. So for today's Monday 5 list, here are my recent favorite films.

  1. The Great Gatsby. Directed by Baz Lurhmann this film version is lush and fantastic and mainly stays true to the book (with the exception of a completely un-necessary story for narrator Nick). Paul and I saw this in 3-D and loved it, even though the critics hated it. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby is perfect and while Carey Mulligan doesn't have a lot of screen time, she is great as Daisy. The Great Gatsby is one of favorite books, so much so that last year Paul and I hosted a Great Gatsby Party. My wonderful son bought me a 1953 edition of the book this year for Mother's Day, he knows me so well. 
  2. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer. Produced by Tim Burton and adapted from the popular novel, this movie was surprisingly great. An action/horror movie about Abraham Lincoln's secret life of hunting vampires it's a wild ride mixing history with fantasy. The special effects are stunning, especially a chase scene atop horses and a fight scene on a runaway train. Lincoln fights with an ax and surprisingly this film is not as gory as it is humorously dark. 
  3. The Five-Year Engagement. Starring Emily Blunt and Jason Segal, this rom-com was sweet and happy. After getting engaged the couple relocates to Michigan from San Francisco and that is where the fun starts. Two great wedding scenes in parks I just visited in San Francisco made this movie even better for me. 
  4. W.E. Directed by Madonna, W.E. is the story of King Edward VIII who gave up the throne of England to marry the twice divorced Wallis Simpson. The story jumps back and forth between a modern day love story and the story of Edward and Wallis. The locations are beautiful and the legendary fashion and jewelry of Wallis are recreated for the film. Overall I though Madonna did a terrific job of showing that not every great love story has a perfect happy ending. 
  5. Tangled. Disney's version of Rapunzel is charming. A happier retelling of the dark fairy tale, a very spunky princess leaves her tower and has the adventure of a lifetime. While Disney still can't create a Prince worthy of a Princess who can take care of herself (with 1 exception, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast) this is still a fun film. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Once Upon a Time... a film by Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld (head director and designer at Chanel) has directed a short film starring Keira Knightley as Coco Chanel. Lagerfield is not much of a film maker and the models are definitely not actresses, but the fashion and jewelry are stunning.
It's worth a watch.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday 5 List #28-Summer Closet Essentials

It's that time of year when I switch out my closets from winter to summer clothes, shoes and accessories. The temperature in Chicago is expected to be near 85 degrees tomorrow, summer is almost here. So as many of us take our winter coats and sweaters to the cleaners before we store them away, I thought I would create a Monday 5, My Closet Essentials for Summer.
  1. Tom's Shoes. I have a grey pair of the classics that I've worn until you can see one of my toes. I love these shoes. They are comfortable, easy to wear and perfect to stuff in a bag or suitcase when traveling. Especially great when you've been in high heel sandals all day and your feet need a break. Average cost per pair is $55. 
  2. Blazer. Not the shoulder pad blazers from the 80's but a classic cut and style. I have a J Crew 3 button navy blazer that I absolutely live in. I travel with it, wear it to business meetings, dress up a pair of cuffed jeans and t-shirt or dress down a formal dress with it. Average price for a classic good quality blazer is approximately $150-$200 (J Crew, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor) but I found mine at a resale store for a few dollars and it's in near perfect condition. For summer I also have a white J Crew blazer.
  3. Tank Tops and T-Shirts. Nice silk ones, silly ones picked up when traveling, tanks made from t-shirts, I have many. They are comfy, go with everything and they are perfect under a blazer, light jacket or sweater. Average price $25 at stores like Ann Taylor although I favor sweatshop free soft cotton t-shirts from American Apparel
  4. Dresses. I have a few go-to dresses for summer. Wrap dresses, LBD, print dresses and comfy ones for wandering Chicago street fairs in. Average price $40. 
  5. High Heels. I have more high heels than I care to admit, and many of them are neutral sandals for summer. My favorites are Franco Sarto, Steve Madden, Anne Klein, and BCB. You can't go wrong with a high heel with jeans, cigarette pants or a pencil skirt. Average price $60. 
Whatever your summer essentials are, I hope you are as excited about summer as I am, it's been a long winter in Chicago. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Reaching Forward Conference for Library Staff

I am presenting today at the Reaching Forward Conference in Rosemont, Illinois on business and job resources at the Library where I work. Reaching Forward is a one day conference for library staff and is an excellent opportunity for learning and networking in the profession. If you are interested in business and career resources at libraries please contact me at livelylibrarian at or follow me on Twitter at @LivelyLibrarian

Photo: Co-presenters, Emily Kornak and Shannon Scanlan, Business Librarians at public libraries near Chicago

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Can a Book Get You Organized?

Recently while browsing the new book area at my library, I noticed a remarkable number of books on organizing, de-cluttering and cleaning. I browsed through a few of them and found them to be generally...silly. Tips included the following: donate anything you don't need (stating the obvious in my opinion), buy pretty storage boxes (so the junk you keep looks better?) and out of sight, out of mind (the motto of a hoarder for sure).

I've moved so frequently over the past 20 years that I have very few items, whether it's my past mementoes or my sons that I can't find quickly. Older, useless items such as toys, knickknacks and trinkets I get rid of and with only a few boxes of personal items left I am almost box free. Like so many people I have boxes of old photographs and personal papers. Which each box I go through, I discard about 99% of the items and keep only what is precious and irreplaceable. Old photos of my family, my son's grade school art work, letters from my Grandparents and other items I keep filed in a filing cabinet.

This weekend during a break from gardening I went through 2 more boxes and happily filled an entire garbage bag with items. As I get older I tend to be even less sentimental than I was when I was younger.  Old love letters, birthday cards, Valentine's Day cards etc... are so easy to dispose off. I open them, read them, smile and feeling nothing but a remembered sweetness, toss them in the garbage. Old photos of vacations and special events with people I will never see again and who have come and gone from my life are also tossed. The feelings attached to the items just aren't there anymore.

So I don't know why so many books are written with silly tips on how to de-clutter and organize when so much is what you don't need anymore. It's so freeing to just let it go. I'm hoping that the next time I browse the new book area there will be more books on less is more instead of buy more to organize less.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April Showers Bring...

It's raining in Chicago. How fitting for April. I'm guessing we will have many May flowers this year. After experiencing ideal weather during our trip to California, Paul and I returned to a gloomy, drenched City. I'm taking it in far no water in my basement. After the infamous Chicago area flood of July 2011 that flooded my basement and thousands of others I've struggled emotionally with every rain storm but after having my gutters cleared and the rain guards removed, my basement has been bone dry. Here's hoping it remains that way.

So what to do when it rains day and night. Well I was going to go to a Cubs night game this week but the thought of fighting traffic in Chicago after days of horrendous traffic in Los Angeles didn't appeal to me. Nor did a night in a wet ball field even for the Cubs. So instead I am warm and dry at home with my favorite things.

Since I missed this week's Monday 5 list. Here are the things I can't do without in Chicago's rainy season.

  1. Rain Coat. I found mine at a thrift store for $5. It's bright blue with toggle closures down the front and a giant hood. It covers my butt and keeps me warm and dry. Sure I look like a 5 year old kid dressed up like a sailor but I wear my coat to walk my dog and save my Burberry rain coat for light rain.
  2. Wellies. I bought my Hunter wellies years ago in the UK before you could buy them in American stores. Best boots ever made for rain and mud. Plus they are fun to splash through puddles in as they cover all the way to my knees. Worth every penny. 
  3. Martinis. I love a vodka martini with a splash of vermouth and 3 olives. The olives serve as dinner many nights when its been a long day and a meal is a martini. Paul makes the best martinis and we often hand stuff our own olives with blue cheese.
  4. A sense of humor. Seriously you really have to have a sense of humor to live in Chicago, definitely a passion for the greatest City in the USA but also a sense of humor for the weather, our politics and our sports teams. But it's worth it, even in the rain. 
  5. The Classics. Maybe because these are the last days for months that I will be inside due to terrible weather but as it pours outside I retreat to watching my favorite Jane Austen stories on film (Pride and Prejudice 1995 TV and 2005 film versions and Sense and Sensibility 1995 film version). Plus I am loving a record that we found in an amazing record store in San Francisco's Little Italy, Pachelbel Kanon and Music of Handel, Vivaldi and Gluck. This beautiful album conducted by Christopher Hogwood features musicians on original instruments. 
Where ever you are, stay dry during Spring rains!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Finding Your Eat, Pray and Love

I recently rewatched the charming Julia Roberts movie, Eat Pray Love based on the best selling novel Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. When the movie came out in 2010 I was in the midst of a divorce and I deeply related to the story of a woman who leaves an unhappy marriage and travels for a year to find her passion and purpose. The book and movie were widely popular, both for the women who wish they could do what the author had done and by those who related to her wanderlust.

In the past 3 years I have experienced unforgettable travel experiences (France, Spain, NOLA) and met people who changed my life but as I rewatched the movie I realized my connection to the story has changed. I found my Eat (travel and indulge in the culture you are in) and my Love (my true love) but I haven't experienced nor am I looking for my Pray. Instead I am looking for my balance. Where Gilbert (and in the movie Roberts) went to India and found balance through prayer and meditation, I'm trying something else.

Due to repetitive movement (work, painting my house) and other factors I have cervical and lumbar sprains in my back and neck. I am receiving physical therapy twice a week and as part of the treatment I am doing yoga. Besides relieving the pain I'm finding it incredibly soothing to do directly after work to release the tension in my shoulders and increase my mood. When I leave for California in a week, I am hoping to find a place to do yoga each day, my version of finding a church to pray in.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday 5 List #27-Time

I've heard it said that time moves faster as you get older. I agree. At this stage in my life I'm the busiest I've ever been. Between work, professional commitments, my personal life, my Etsy business, and things I enjoy such as travel, reading, movies and gardening I feel like I have little time to catch my breath. In fact as I write this post I am simultaneously listening to a YouTube video, checking online auctions and cooking risotto. So for today's Monday post, here are the 5 things I try and catch up on when I have time.

  1. YouTube. I am a YouTube junkie. I subscribe to 6 channels, mainly on fashion or travel and I try to stay current with the channel uploads. See video below. 
  2. Travel Planning. Paul and I are leaving in a few weeks for an extended trip to California. We will be flying into San Francisco and then spending a few days exploring Napa and Sonoma before driving down the coast and spending a few days in LA. I've been to California many times but this will be my first trip to wine country and I am so excited. When I have a few moments I am trying to research vineyards and places to stop along the coast such as Hearst Castle. I really want to see the Library there. 
  3. Once Upon a Time. Now that Downton Abbey is over for another season (can you BELIEVE the ending, poor Matthew!) I watch the ABC program Once Upon a Time. The series is in it's 2nd season and I love the way they mix up classic fairy tales with a modern and rather twisted spin. Thank goodness for my DVR, being able to record TV allows me to skip all the commercials. 
  4. Sleep. Seriously I can sleep. I have new room darkening heavy drapes in my French style bedroom and if I have a morning off I can easily sleep 12 hours.
  5. Google Reader. I, like millions of other people was caught off guard when Google announced last week that they are closing down Google Reader. I've been using Google Reader for years to organize the dozens of RSS feeds I subscribe to from my favorite websites and blogs. I have no idea what platform I am going to move to when it shuts down on July 1 but I'm trying to keep up with my feeds until then.
So whatever you do when you have free time. I hope you spend it doing something that makes you happy. If you have 10 minutes of time, here is a must see video, it will make you smile and maybe cry too.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Vintage Remix

Over the past 3 months a friend of my son's from the Navy has been living with us. After leaving the military he decided to start a new life in Chicago and moved in with us and created a new life for himself, new job, new friends, new girlfriend, new city. Last weekend he moved into his own apartment and I ran over to a local Goodwill to buy him a few plates, bowls and pots and pans. While I was there I found a beautiful leather sofa and chair which may be the best deal I've ever found thrifting...the sofa was $39.00 and the chair was $19.00. I immediately purchased them and loaned them to the young man for his new apartment which was completely unfurnished. He will likely buy them from me for the same price I paid for them and hopefully they will last him many years. Thrifting is a hit or miss and I've learned if you see a great deal you have to act quickly...turn around and someone will have beaten you to it. Sure enough as we were loading the furniture into my son's pickup truck we were told a man had wanted to buy the sofa and chair that same day and was planning on coming back after work to buy them. Too late.

When I moved into my 1950's bungalow 2 years ago I was starting from scratch, I left my former home with only my son's bedroom furniture, an armoire, a desk, my books and our personal possessions. Now my home is nearly complete and I've had a great time decorating with vintage furniture, flea market art, new furniture from IKEA and mid-century home accessories. I am currently reading a terrific book, Vintage Remix: The Interiors of Kishani Perera authored by the designer Kishani Perera. Kishani is based in LA and mixes vintage design into many of the celebrities she designs for, she is also the owner of Rummage a global and vintage furniture store in LA that I am planning on visiting when Paul and I are there next month. Kishani finds great pieces at yard sales, resale stores, vintage and antique stores and mixes them up with inspiration from around the globe. If you are looking for great design ideas that mix vintage and modern, I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Young Lady's Life in 1764

Last week my parents visited me in Chicago and as we usually do, we spent a couple of days wandering the local antique stores. My Dad found a book for $5.00 that is a glimpse into the life of a privileged young woman in the 18th century. The Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion in the Year 1764-5 by Cleone Knox, edited by her kinsmen Alexander Blacker Kerr was published in London in 1925. The editor's forward reads, "Miss Cleone Elizabeth Knox the writer of this journal and an ancestress of my mother's, was born on May 12, 1744, at Castle Kearney, Co. Down, Ireland. Her diary, written in a fine Italian hand, in four leather-bound notebooks, was first shown to me by one of her direct descendants in the summer of 1904. I read it with interest, but it was only this year that I decided to edit it and offer it to the public." The editor goes on to explain the history of Cleone's family and describes her as such, "Miss Knox was not a stylist, and her grammar and spelling were poor, like those of many 18th century ladies. She had however, a strong sense of the dramatic and the picturesque, and her journal makes amusing reading, affording as it does a vivid picture of the gay society in which she moved". And so begins her diary, an intimate look into the life of a young woman as she falls in love, attends balls and parties, gossips about servants and friends and travels through Ireland, England, France and Italy with her brother Ned for a year nearly 250 years ago.

A few highlights:

  • Ireland, March 15, 1764: "To my vast amazement I am still here unwedded and unseduced."
  • March 22, 1764: "My father called me to his study this morning, and communicated to me a most amazing piece of intelligence. We are to set off next month for a Grand Tour of Europe, visiting my sister Foley and her husband in Derbyshire, proceeding from thence to London and the Continent. I realized that poor Mr. A. would most certainly not be permitted to accompany me on this journey, and my eyes filled with tears."
  • London, May 22, 1764. "Carrots and Turnips Ho! This cry yelled in a hoarse voice wakes me every morning. My father complains of the noise in London and indeed 'tis something prodigious. The watchmen are calling out the time and weather all night long, and when they have stopped the vendors or oranges, brooms, matches, rat traps Lord knows what else begin. I am amazed at the vastness of this town and the bustle of coaches and chairs in the streets. Never have I seen so many pretty women in so short a time. Pray Heaven Ned will not lose his head."
  • Paris, France, September 11, 1764. "The streets of this town are vile and dirty after London and monstrously narrow for the crowd of noblemens coaches and chairs that throng them. The Palais de Justice and Opera House fine, but most of the town stinks vilely, though to hear the french talk you would think t'was Paradise itself. The poor people here attire themselves in black and Lady H. says 'tis account of the mud splashed up by the coaches."
  • September 14th, 1764. "Today was presented to their Majesties the King and Queen at Versaille. I attired myself in white satin and wore my diamonds, yet was not utterly satisfied with my looks, for I have grown thin of late. 

Seriously a fascinating and at times a hysterical read. Her brother attempts to run off with an Italian nun who is also an heiress but her inheritance will go to the convent, he ends up in jail briefly and the journal ends abruptly soon after. The best part, her ancestor, the editor ends the journal with an epilogue on what happens to Cleone, her mysterious Mr. A, her brother and others mentioned in her travels. Want to know what happens, I'll loan you this fragile, rare and wonderful little book.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vintage Bazaar in Chicago this Weekend

One of my favorite events in Chicago is the pop-up Vintage Bazaar. This Friday night is the Night Market at Chicago's DANK House in Lincoln Square for dancing, vintage shopping, food and cocktails.  If you are busy Friday evening recovering from Valentine's Day then stop by on Saturday and vintage shop from 10-5 for free. You can find more information on The Vintage Bazaar website. I have a friend arriving from London  to stay for a few days and we will be playing in Chicago throughout the weekend, I'm hoping I can find time to stop by the Bazaar tomorrow.

On other news, my kitchen remodel is complete! Just in time for out of town guests who are popping into Chicago over the next 3 weeks. The picture below shows my new floors and appliances.

I hope you all had as lovely a Valentine's Day with your valentine as I did!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Trying to Find Time to Read Fifty Shades...

These days it seems like the only time I have to read is when I find something interesting online such as this article on the Top 5 Page to Screen Adaptions and Fictional Boys We Want to Date Who Would Make Awful Boyfriends. (I agree with the movies and characters in each article).

It's been a busy few weeks, my kitchen remodel is nearly complete but not without a few major disasters along the way including:
  • The plumber installed a water line for my new fridge and a gas line for my new stove. 2 days after he completed the work I randomly walked into the storage room in my basement (the room where the water heater and water lines are) and into a puddle. The plumber did not sauter the new pipe completely and it had sprung a leak, spraying the back wall of my downstairs bathroom wall for 2 days. Needless to say I freaked out and called him, he did come over immediately and fix the problem. He will also be re-drywalling my basement wall.
  • The new vinyl floors that were put in by a friend who had done floor work for me before were a total disaster. He removed the old vinyl floor in the kitchen but did not remove the plywood subfloor, instead he installed the new vinyl over the buckled subfloor. I then had to hire someone else to remove the new vinyl floor disaster and install new ceramic tile. In the process of removing the mess my new floor guy discovered multiple subfloors in the kitchen, removed them and installed tile, he really did a beautiful job. The kitchen looks very modern and the floors are warm and cozy. 
Over the weekend my new appliances were hooked up and I'm having fun relearning how to cook on gas after years of cooking on electric. The kitchen is freshly painted and I am currently working on sanding and painting my new wood table and chairs. I plan on hanging some artwork and then the kitchen remodel will be complete.

In the meantime I have been trying to find time to read the Fifty Shades trilogy which apparently everyone has read except me. I started Fifty Shades of Grey about a month ago and frankly the writing is so bad it's a struggle to get through it but I'm determined to finish the books which I know will be made into movies. The awful writing reminds me of another series that became a sensation, the Twilight series but I never finished the first book, I couldn't stand the writing or the character of Bella. Strange cause I surprisingly enjoyed all the movies.

In the first 5 weeks of 2013 I have sold multiple items from my Etsy store, Lively Vintage. In the past week alone I've sold 2 items of clothing and a vintage wicker train case. My parents have shipped me some items from the estate of a family relative who recently died in her 90's and I may add some of the items to the store. Maybe when I go on vacation to LA, San Francisco and Napa with Paul in a couple of months I can get some reading done on the multiple plane rides. I doubt it but I will pack the books...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Home and City

The kitchen remodel has begun at my Bungalow, lots of dust and clutter as the work is under way. It's been a fun challenge updating my 1950's kitchen while trying to retain it's vintage charm in a modern world. So far the work includes:

  • Stripped 40 year old wallpaper from the walls, patched and sanded the plaster walls
  • The original 50 year old vinyl floors were ripped off, the floors stripped and new vinyl tile is being put down
  • A gas line and water line is being installed for appliances
  • New stainless steel stove and refrigerator are being delivered
  • New paint on walls and ceilings 
  • New light fixtures
  • I bought a wood table and 4 chairs off Craigslist for $50 which I am sanding and painting for the kitchen
Eventually I will also be adding a dishwasher (the house has never had one) and replacing the countertop with granite or other stone. The kitchen will then be complete!

During the planning process I found many good ideas on websites such as Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, the Tiny House Blog and from books including The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces by Kyle Schuneman. The First Apartment Book is a great source for decorating creatively on a budget, sourcing great finds at places like flea markets and Goodwills and excellent design sources for home goods such as temporary wallpaper and affordable bedding. 

For a break in the midst of our busy lives, Paul and I took a "staycation" this weekend in Chicago at the wonderful Park Hyatt. We ate at the restaurant's signature restaurant NOMI and attended an after hours party at the Art Institute. It's always nice to play in Chicago like a tourist, it reminds us how lucky we are to live in one of the World's Great Cities.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


2013 crept in so stealthy...time goes by so quickly. Before New Year' Eve the only New Year's resolutions I made were to eat healthy and to use my time more efficiently. In the past 48 hours as I've watched my son and his friends together I've made a few more resolutions.

On New Year's Day Paul and I went to a local bar near Chicago to watch college football games and to meet up with our friends from Spain who are returning to Madrid within the next few days. They've been here for a year due to a work transfer and it's been wonderful having them nearby, they've become like family and we will miss them terribly. As we were spending time with our friends, my son was also saying goodbye to 2 of his friends who are leaving for military deployment.

Late last evening my son arrived home with his friend "E", a marine who is leaving for Afghanistan in March. I had seen him frequently with my son and their friends over the past 2 weeks while the boys were home for the holidays but when he walked into my home last night 12 hours before he goes back to his base in California I gave him a long hug, thanked him for serving his country and as mother's do, told him to be careful. I know he must be nervous and anxious and it's apparent his friends are worried about his safety while in a war zone. At about 1 am, I was awoken to my son shouting from the front door, "MOM!". He sounded so distraught. I yelled back, "What" and then before I could get to him I heard, "He's gone, "E" is gone until December." All I could say was "He will be ok" and then my son was quiet and went to bed.

My son teaches me so much. How to be a friend, how to express loyalty and how to live in the moment. So in 2013, I resolve to be more attentive. To thank those in my life more often, to stop our soldiers when I see them on the street or in the library or at the airport and thank them for their sacrifice to our country. I resolve to laugh with my friends more, to make more time to just sit and catch up and to tell those I love who live elsewhere in the world that I miss them.