Monday, September 28, 2009

Must Read Book: 101 Things to Do Before You Diet

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

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

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

Flash Back Friday #27

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Great Gifts for Librarians

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

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Support The Lisa Klitzky Foundation and the fight against adolescent cancers

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flash Book Friday #26

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Little Addicted to the Cook Books?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fairy Tales Only in Books?

Patrick Swayze died yesterday. When I read the news online, I gasped. Sure he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer and knew his chances weren't good, but still the announcement of his death was shocking to me. I guess I really believed that he might actually make it, if only because movie star/cowboy/idols so rarely die young or with so much to live for.

As I lay in bed last night I thought about Patrick's wife Lisa. I had watched her along with millions of other television viewers as she stood by his side through his years of fame, danced with him at events on tv, talked to Barbara Walters or snapped in pictures as they rode their horses at their ranch. I also knew from Barbara Walters last interview with the couple that Lisa had met Patrick when she was only 15 years old, in his mother's dance class and they had been together ever since. Married young, always together. No children. Truly devoted to one another. As if all they needed was each other and the horses they raised. Sigh...

"Kinda like a fairy tale" was what I was thinking last night. A near perfect fairy tale that sadly didn't have a happy ending. Or did it? Can true love truly exist? Or is love reserved for the movie style endings that Patrick was most famous for...happy like in Dirty Dancing or tragic like in Ghost.

I guess I would say I'm a realist not a romantic. I believe in a love you can't forget but I've never been a believer in the one love forever fairy tale love. I'm more from the right-person-right-time school. Sure some of my favorite books are romances, I love the dream of someone perfect for everyone, a love that lasts through time, cupid with an arrow of destiny. But I just haven't seen it, or at least not yet.

I've seen love that comes close. My grandparents had a rare type of love. A deep understanding and faith in each other, a commitment that rarely exists in the shotgun wedding and easy divorces of today. They remain my idol couple. Totally accepting, never losing their sense of themselves, always there for each other. They had what I strive to find.

I've read that the love between Patrick Swayze and his wife was extraordinary. From those who knew them and have spoken publicly like Barbara Walters, co-stars of Patrick's and even family members, what they had was very, very special. Which makes his death very, very sad. Not just because I'm sure he would have continued to make good movies and interesting tv, but because his relationship with his wife was the stuff of legend, not just in Hollywood, but as a model to our throw away society. They truly appeared to bring out the best in each other, which I think is the most elusive part of relationships. They were each others muse, partner and best friend. It seems that they had that fairy tale love.

I don't know what will happen with Patrick Swayze's legacy. Maybe he will be remembered as a modern and masculine actor from Texas who also happened to be able to dance like the movie stars of yesterday and who appealed to men and women. Or maybe he will be remembered as the man who fought and lost his battle with cancer too young...I think it will be a combination of the 2. To me, he was a pinup from my high school years, who I swooned over in Dirty Dancing and cried over in Ghost, who I shared with my son in Point Break and laughed over as a SNL Chippendale. And I will think of his wife and wonder, is it a comfort to have found a fairy tale love for half your life even if you lose it? Or is it easier to watch love stories unfold on the big screen or the pages of a book and hope that maybe... you will be so lucky but also a little glad you haven't found it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Must Read Book-Discovering the Great Masters: The Art Lover's Guide to Understanding Symbols in Painting

So I've been lost in the most wonderful book, it seems to detour me from reading anything else (with the exception of cook books, my current obsession).
Discovering the Great Masters: The Art Lover's Guide to Understanding Symbols in Painting by Paul Crenshaw is a gorgeous, oversize book with glorious photos of some of the most recognized art works in the world. Really this book is stunning and if it wasn't so big, I wouldn't put it down!
I started the book by quickly skimming through and marking each of the works I have seen personally. Not surprisingly many are housed at the Louvre in Paris, the Prado in Madrid and throughout museums and churches in Italy. What makes this book such a fun and completely immersing read is the use of cut out pages which when overlayed over a famous work allow only a glimpse of a particular section of the piece for study, including the explanation of symbolism in the work. Have you ever wanted to know what makes Mona Lisa's smile so mysterious, or what the symbolism in The Last Supper truly means...than this is the book for you.
I have created a list of the works featured in the book that I have actually seen while traveling, I will list them here for my own future reference. The remainder of the works in the book I have on a list tucked in my wallet, looks like I need to plan a trip to Florence Italy to truly say I have seen many of the greatest art works on earth.

Works I've already seen:
The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck, The National Gallery, London
The Deposition from the Cross by Rogier Van Der Weyden, The Prado, Madrid
Madonna della Vittoria, The Louvre, Paris
Pallas Athena Expelling the Vices by Andrea Mantegna, The Louvre, Paris
The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci, Santa Maria Delle Grazie, Milan
Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, The Louvre, Paris
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, The Prado, Madrid
A Banker and His Wife by Quinten Metsys, The Louvre, Paris
Bacchanal of the Andrians by Titan, The Prado, Madrid
The French Ambassadors by Hans Holbein The Younger, National Gallery of Art, London
A Christian Allegory bu Jan Provost, The Louvre, Paris
Allegory of Vanity by Jan Van Der Straet, The Louvre, Paris
Allegory of Sight by Jan Breughel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, The Prado, Madrid
The Education of Marie de'Medici by Peter Paul Rubens, The Louvre, Paris
The Spinners by Diego Velazquez, The Prado, Madrid
The Gathering of Manna by Nicolas Poussin, The Louvre, Paris
Les Meninas by Diego Velazquez, The Prado, Madrid
Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, The Louvre, Paris
The Apotheosis of Homer by Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Louvre, Paris

Friday, September 11, 2009

Do you remember?

Where you were on 9/11? When I woke up this morning my first thought wasn't that it was September 11. I actually didn't remember the date until I turned on the television and someone was talking about that day. I can remember that day so clearly, where I was, what I was doing. I was married to my first husband, my son was just 8 years old and I was getting him ready for school when I turned on Good Morning America. A plane had just flown into one of the World Trade Centers and Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson were talking about it, wondering if it was an accident. And while they were speaking and the cameras were on the first tower burning you could see another plane on the horizon. When the plane disappeared into the 2nd tower I will never forget the disbelief in Diane Sawyer's voice as it hit the tower. At that point I got scared. I sent my kid to school which was across the street from our house thinking that might be the safest place for him. I wasn't scheduled to teach that day and I don't think I moved from the sofa for the next 8 hours.

I remember the evening of September 11 I sent my husband to fill my car with gas, I don't know if it was a flight response but I wanted my car fueled up and ready to go. I also went to yoga class that evening, and I remember lying on the floor and the utter quiet, not just in the yoga studio, but in the City. No airplanes. And living within a few miles of O'hare Airport, the world's busiest, that was eerie.

Over the days that followed I rarely took my eyes off the tv. On the Today show one morning I watched a man play an answering machine message that his wife left while she was trapped in the towers. Her name was Melissa Harrington-Hughes and she was from San Francisco. She was my age and had been in the same sorority as me. Knowing she was trapped, she called her husband to tell him she loved him. He was in Manhattan during the days that followed holding out hope that she was alive. She wasn't. I know that message has haunted those of us who heard it ever since. It also made me think, "If I was dying and could say goodbye to someone I love, who would I call?". I realized it wasn't my husband. We had a rocky marriage, had been married less than 2 years and it just wasn't working. We separated within 2 weeks of September 11.

So now it's 8 years later. How time flies....September 11 doesn't make the cover of newspapers on a daily basis anymore, it's rarely on my mind. But I will be watching the documentary by Chicago filmmakers tonight on the History Channel, 102 Minutes That Changed America. I've heard some of the audio clips and it was like reliving it all over again. I hope they don't play Melissa's tape, I don't know if I can listen to it again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ever Wonder?

Have you ever seen the Disney movie Hercules? For awhile back in the late 90's it was my kid's favorite movie and I think we watched it daily. In the movie there are The 3 Fates, (sisters who in typical Disney style are old crones in the vein of the evil Queen in Snow White or Cruella de Vil), the Fates determine when a mortal will die and share 1 eye which they use to see into the future. I remember reading about the Greek Fates back in high school English class and was intrigued about someone having control over my destiny. Every day I read in the news about random violence, health problems and freakish accidents and I wonder, "Does it make any difference if I lead a good life, stay healthy, be cautious and see my doctor? Will The Fates cut my life cord or will bad luck, wrong place-wrong time or some psychopath do it for them?"
Last year there was a horrific crime in the county where my parents live in Florida. Truly anyone's worst nightmare come to life. A beautiful young mother and wife, abducted from her home in the middle of the day, driven around while she screamed in the car, witnessed by people who called 911, then raped and killed and tossed in a shallow grave. Nothing saved her, not her pleading on the phone to a 911 operator while she was in the abductor's car, not the clues she left behind like the ring she stuck under the seat with pieces of her hair for DNA, not her police man father who was searching for her, not the pleas of her husband. Her life cord was cut. After reading this week about the trial of her killer, who the authorities found after his own family called in to report he had kidnapped the young woman, Fate has been on my mind. It keeps me up at night. Wondering, worrying...Sure another tragic story will pop up in the headlines soon enough and the cycle of Fate or wrong place-wrong time will happen again. I guess it's what you do with your life that matters in the end. I'll continue to eat well, love, learn, travel, explore, share, give, and be cautious and hope that the old crones or some psychopath don't cut my life cord. And I'll remember that young woman in Florida and take comfort in the meaning her short life is having long after her cord was cut.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

A couple of days ago my friend Heather posted on Facebook a link to an article about a magazine photograph that has sparked some heated discussions. In a recent issue of Glamour magazine there is a photograph of a model, a very beautiful model who is casually seated and smiling, and naked. Now it's not the naked part that has got people's her body. Her very natural, healthy body. At this point you need to see the picture and read the article the photo has inspired here.
YA. Pretty. Damn. Amazing. The model's picture is featured in an article titled, What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body and really for an article about one's own body image it's the perfect photo. Now after viewing the photo you might have had one of the following reactions, "Ewwww" or perhaps, "Wow" or even, "Oh my God, why is that picture in that magazine?". Whatever your reaction was is, it's a reaction and that is a Good Thing. If we don't challenge society's force-fed image of what constitutes a beautiful model in a magazine than we don't appreciate the beauty in this very healthy, lovely, comfortable-in-her-own skin young woman. Sure, some people might not be comfortable looking at her stomach rolls, so what, it's more fascinating to realize that this woman, in her nakedness is breaking the "rules" and making people talk about what a real woman looks like, fat and all.