Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of Year Reading

Hmmmm, I have 1 more day to get in my end of year reading. Here is what I am reading for the New Year weekend.
  • Party Vegan, Fabulous, Fun Food For Every Occasion by Robin Robertson
  • Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes
  • The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, 125th Anniversary
  • Jamie's America, Easy Twists on Great American Classics and More by Jamie Oliver
  • Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII by Linda Porter
  • Storyteller: The Authorized Biography or Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock
  • A Journey into Matisse's South of France by Laura McPhee
Ok realistically I will skim a few of these books, page flip through 1 or 2 and maybe tuck into 1. My reading goals for 2011 are:
  1. Read more cookbooks (my well documented love of cookbooks is no surprise to regular readers)
  2. Buy an e-reader and download beloved favorites and travel books
  3. Read more classics and not because Oprah's latest book selections are A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations.
Enjoy some good books in 2011 readers!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday 5 List #10

So this is my final Monday 5 list of 2010. Thought it would be appropriate to list my favorites of the year. Enjoy and Happy New Year readers!

1.The "Bed Intruder Song". Funniest thing I watched all year. Every time I hear it I can't get, "Hide your kids, hide your wife" outta my head.

2. Travel. Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, South Carolina, Colorado, France, Virgin Islands. Whether it was a weekend getaway or weeks of travel, wandering new and old but beloved locals were some of my favorite moments of the year.

3. The kindness of others. This was a difficult year for me personally. As my marriage was ending I turned to family and friends. Whether it was a neighbor who held my hand as I was preparing to move out of my marital home, a friend who made me dinner when I was too upset to eat or my Mom who flew in to Chicago to offer me moral support, I simply don't know how I would have coped without them. It's true you find out who your friends are in a time of crisis. Not only did my friends and family support me, they demonstrated classy and commendable compassion and support to my ex. There is a lesson there for certain family members of my ex.

4. Library patrons. I work in a small public library where I interact with patrons on a daily basis. I've witnessed compassion, laughter, love and sacrifice again and again within the library. One day it was the elderly couple who walked to the reference desk hand in hand, asked questions for the other and turned around and walked out of the library hand in hand. They never stopped touching each other. It brought tears to my eyes. Or the couple who brought their father to the library and asked for help with getting him on a plane or train to visit family for the holidays, no matter what the cost. And always my computer class patrons, the ones who attend each class every month and always remember to ask me about my son, my travels and my life. Sometimes they bring chocolate, oranges, little gifts of thanks. Touching and special each and every one of them.

5. Internet. The Internet allowed me to Skype with my darling niece 2000 miles away, call my son from Paris to say goodnight and reconnect with long lost friends. The "Internet connection" allows for connections that are truly a blessing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Would You Tell Yourself?

I've seen Michael J. Fox and other cast members of the Back to the Future movies on countless morning shows recently. Something about the 25th anniversary of the original film. Got me to thinking, where would I go if Doc pulled up in the DeLorean and said, "Where we're going, we don't need roads." Would I go to the future...or if I went back to the future, what would I tell my current self?

5 years from now, heck even 1 year from now if I could tell my December 23rd, 2010 self something I would tell me, "You made the right decision". I guess its that time where you catch up to your future that is the hardest.

So readers...if you could tell yourself something that you've learned 5 or 10 years in the future, what would it be?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do You Have A "Velveteen Rabbit"

A favorite book of mine and millions of readers is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. This touching tale of a stuffed bunny who becomes real through the love of the boy who owns him is timeless and moving.

One of the reasons I love this book so much is because I remember being a little girl and hoping that when I turned off the lights at night or left my room in the morning my toys would came alive. Decades before the movie Toy Story imagined what happens when a human leaves their toys alone, The Velveteen Rabbit captured imaginations with "What if my toys were real?"

I reread The Velveteen Rabbit recently and was reminded of how important a cherished toy is to a child. Through happiness, sorrow and illness there are some comforts that are irreplaceable, for many children it's a stuffed animal. I have a worn and well loved stuffed animal that is my only childhood toy to survive through the dozens of moves I've done since college. My little stuffed dog is about 30 years old, is missing an eye, has had his ears sewn on again and again and is so soft and scraggly only I could love him like I do. A decade ago he was used as a prop in a play because just looking at him you can tell there are years of stories behind him.

I'm 40 years old now and that silly little stuffed dog has stayed by my side in my bedside nightstand through all the years I was married. He is once again out of the drawer and sleeping in my bed, usually under my real dog's head. 30 years later, I am still comforted by a toy. Maybe my stuffed dog is my reminder of innocence. Maybe it's the significance of its history in my life. Maybe it's just because he's soft. Regardless that little dog will be with me until the end of my days. Funny....but I don't think it's much of a coincidence that when I finally adopted a real dog (my beagle Eloise) she has the same saggy body and floppy ears of my cherished toy.

So this Christmas as you buy a special toy for a child in your life why not a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit or a soft stuffed animal. They will understand one day the magic of the story.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday 5 List #9

Since Christmas is a few days away I thought I would share my favorite Christmas memories.

  1. Brunch. Christmas morning brunch is a big thing in my family. From age 8-18 I spent every Christmas at our vacation home in Florida. Christmas morning would consist of hanging out with family who were in to visit, eating lots of quiche made by my Mom, gorging on Jolly Biscuit Roll made by my Grandma and walks to the beach. Sometimes we even went to "The Pink Castle" to watch the sunset. Perfect.
  2. My Kid's first Christmas-1993. He was 6 months old. He slept a lot. There is nothing like snuggling with an infant on Christmas morning. Warm, peaceful, happy and surrounded by family.
  3. New Orleans. Christmas 1996. A boyfriend and I stayed at a hotel on Bourbon Street. We spent an evening singing Christmas carols in Jackson Square under the lights from The Saint Louis Cathedral while holding candles that dripped onto paper sleeves to catch the wax. We drank a lot and celebrated with friends. The next day we drove to Florida and stayed at a hotel on the beach, Christmas Eve in a hot tub. Good times.
  4. Christmas 2002. With my family in Florida. My 90 year old Grandfather's last Christmas. Precious, precious memories.
  5. Feast of the 7 Fishes. I first enjoyed this celebration with my 1st husband who's family was Sicilian. Massive amounts of seafood on Christmas Eve=my idea of heaven. Since my wonderful Uncle Vinny (an Italian from Brooklyn NY) married my Aunt Kim a few years ago we have enjoyed this tradition with my family. Uncle Vinny makes unbelievably delicious crab and lobster every Christmas Eve. I look forward to overeating seafood this Friday at my Mom's home in Florida, Uncle Vinny has his work cut out for him trying to feed my 6'6 son and hopefully recreating my soon to be ex-husband's famous garlic shrimp recipe.
Wherever you are, whatever you do this Christmas and Holiday season, be well readers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Must Have Book for the Harry Potter Fan

I don't know if I can begin to explain the wonder this marvelous book is. Harry Potter Film Wizardry is a combination photo album, scrapbook and memory book of everything Harry Potter film related. The book is fantastically jammed full of extras including:

Harry's acceptance letter to Hogwart's (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

A sticker book from Libatius Borage's Advanced Potion Making class

Pop up candy boxes from Honeyduke's candy shop (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

A program from the 422nd Quidditch World Cup (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

A Yule Ball program (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

An Educational Decree Proclamation (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)

The Marauder's Map (various films)

A Product Catalog from the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes shop

A Ministry of Magic Identity Card (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

Fans will love the film photographs, behind the scenes stories and chapters on everything from casting the actors to costumes to set construction. Did you like Fleur Delacour's wedding dress in the latest film, there is a page on the wedding costumes. Interested in how they made Harry Potter breathe under water in the 4th film? Want to learn more about the Weasley's flying car, the whomping willow, Hogwart's resident Ghosts or props from the films. It's all in the book.

If you are a Harry Potter reader or buying a gift for a Potter fan, this is a must have.

UPDATE: Amazon is currently out of stock but you might find a copy at your local book store.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's in a Name?

Do you read historical romance novels? Or perhaps read the book reviews before buying for your library?

Ever wonder if there is some secret manual for romance writers that lists bodice-ripping ready names? I've been a historical romance reader for over 20 years and it's pretty hard to find a book that has characters with new names. Here are a few varieties (not taken directly from any particular author or novel just a mix of those I've read before).

The recycled-in-various-order names:

Logan Hunter, Duke of...(fill in the blank)
Hunter Logan, Earl of ...(fill in the blank)
Rafe Rafferty, Viscount
Rafferty Rafe, Esquire
Sterling Blackwell, Gentleman
Black Sterling, Baron
Ryder Chase, Duke of...(fill in the blank)
Chase Ryder, Lord of... (fill in the blank)

And the you've-got-to-be-kidding-me names:

Lorian Black, 2nd son of the Black Earl of Knightsbridge
Reid Exeter, known as Knighthawk to his friends
Thorn Windsor, long lost Duke of Wales
Slade McHugh, Baron of Exeter and twin brother to ladies man Cruz McHugh
Anderson Ashbury, known as Ash to his soldier buddies

Oh and don't get me started on the heroine's names. Most are attached to beautiful, long haired spirited young women either from large, loving and wealthy aristocratic families or they are long lost relatives of aristocratic families or they've been tossed out of the manor home by their evil relatives and are working as servants, ladies companions or a governess until they fall in love with the master of the house.


I love me a good historical romance. But for once I'd love a romance about Jane and John.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flash Back Friday #45

RIP Ron Santo. Chicagoans will miss your unwavering dedication to the Cubs, the players and fans. Listening to your hilarious commentary on The Pat and Ron Show was a highlight of every baseball season. You will be missed. One day will be their year.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Can you get past the actor to the movie?

Last weekend I had a friend in to visit and after a late evening of catching up over multiple bottles of wine we popped in the DVD of Eat, Pray, Love. My guest had not seen the movie yet and even though I had seen the film in the theater I was happy to watch it again for the eye candy that is Javier Bardem.

As the movie started and I watched Julia Roberts in the starring role I started to think about Julia Roberts as a happy hooker in Pretty Woman and Julia Roberts as that busty lawyer and Julia Roberts in that horrible movie where she plays a maid with a terrible British accent (Mary Reilly or some other nonsense). Anyway, I realized I was watching Julia Roberts instead of getting lost in the movie. As my mind wandered I started making a mental list of all the other actors who never really become the character they are playing. No matter what the role, they are still the celebrity known as:
  • Jennifer Aniston. Love her. I think I would be friends with her, we would girl gab about our failed marriages over margaritas and guacamole while watching the surfers in Malibu and waiting for our personal yoga trainer to arrive. As an actress though...ya she is always the celebrity Jennifer Aniston. Same hair, same fabulous wardrobe, same girl next door role. Her movies don't get me in the theaters, but she does make good mindless movies for rainy Sundays.
  • Angelina Jolie. The anti Jennifer Aniston. I used to love her. Who didn't. I guess eventually the tabloids ruined her for me and I think every other movie watcher on the planet. I just can't separate the supposed husband stealer-mother to orphans-world peace-french kissing your brother wacko that she may or may not be from the actress on the screen. It doesn't help that EVERY movie she does is so depressing that I would rather be anywhere else than watching it. How many assassins can she play? Ridiculous.
  • Drew Barrymore. She's cute. In everything. Enough said.
  • Hugh Grant. He's cute in everything. Enough said.
  • Brad Pitt. So bored with him. Just don't care what he does, it's always "That former hottie now baby daddy to crazy Angelina Jolie in yet another pseudo wanna be indie film".
  • Keira Knightly. Love her. I want to drink Guinness with her in a London pub. Love her movies too. But I'm a little bored of the spunky English lass characters and the latest films I've seen her in, I just think about having a beer with her in the pub.
And those actors that become the character to where I can forget their real celebrity personality.
  • Meryl Streep. Obviously. Although her as Julia Child was pushing it.
  • Kate Winslet. Hands down my favorite actress working today. She WAS Marianne in Sense and Sensibility.
  • James McAvoy. From his doomed soldier in Atonement to playing a half man, half faun in The Chronicles of Narnia to a killer in Wanted to the wheel chair bound MS character in Inside I'm Dancing. So very, very talented.
  • Renee Zellweger. She WAS Bridget Jones. And Beatrice Potter.
  • Colin Firth. One of the finest male actors ever. From playing Mr. Darcy to King George VI, he is amazing.
  • Matt Damon, Javier Bardem, Ken Watanabe. What is there to say. Talented.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis. Every role he is perfection. My Left Foot is one of the most amazing performances ever.
  • Johnny Depp. He is borderline for me, cartoonish characters versus serious acting.
  • Liam Neeson. Sigh. Who knew he would become my new favorite ass kicker after Taken?
  • And the up-and comings, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Carey Mulligan. Sure they haven't been in many movies, but no matter what other small roles I've seen them in or how many internet pictures of Watson in college or modeling Burberry I've glimpsed or read about Radcliffe acting naked on Broadway, they ARE Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. Mulligan was extraordinary in An Education and shined in her small role in Pride and Prejudice. She's a chameleon.
Who am I missing? Have any favorites?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday 5 List-#8

Gift Ideas for the Book Lover in Your Life

  1. Book Light-a must have for every reader. Wake up in the middle of the night and want to read without disturbing your sleeping partner? Reading on the plane, train etc? Here are 2 book lights I've used: the Fulcrum Multi-Flex task light for under $10 and the Zelco "Itty Bitty" slim booklight for just under $30. Book lights are also a must have for travel.
  2. An e-Reader. You've heard about them. The Amazon Kindle, the Nook etc. I sure wish I'd had one during my 22 hour travel day last week. Pros: dozens of books at your fingertips, slim and light design. Cons: some still don't have wi-fi and come on... how are some of these machines not supporting color graphics and pictures? Do your research, start with this article, The Best e-Readers Compared.
  3. Book cover/carrier/bookmark in one. I have had one of these cloth paperback book covers for years. It's practically a rag but I use it on every paperback I read and have traveled with it throughout the US and Europe. For the paper back romance reader in your life, this is a MUST HAVE. You can find them for sale with various sellers on Etsy. Here is one similar to mine.
  4. Garden Art. For your book lover who gardens, why not some art for their garden. My favorite is the Savannah Bird Girl statue from the cover of the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Other ideas include rocks with a favorite quote painted or carved on and small figurines like Beatrice Potter's animals.
  5. Reading Gift Bag. Have an empty basket laying around or a pretty book bag? Put together a book lover gift bag. Fill it with their favorite paperback or classic novel, book mark, warm throw blanket, slippers, bags of tea or hot chocolate, a reading light or film adaption of their favorite book.
Happy Shopping and Happy Reading!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday-Shopping Ideas for the Chicagoan or Visitor

It's really cold in Chicago today. Like step out the door take your breath away go back to bed cold. And it's Black Friday. Reason enough to stay in bed. I have a friend coming to stay with me for the weekend, this cold will be shocking to any visitor to the Windy City. It's shocking enough to the residents who are still hoping "this season the Cubs are going to win it". Ya, our seasons run together here in Chicago, we are a bit confused since it was 70 degrees last week.

So for the Chicagoan braving Black Friday today or the Chicago visitor, here are my must haves for you. Really, don't hit the streets of this City without.

1. A great winter coat. I have this coat by Steve Madden. Absolutely the warmest coat I've ever owned. I've worn it snowmobiling, sitting outside for winter sporting events and walking Michigan Avenue at night in December. Best. Coat. Ever. It has the warmth of down but is poly filled so suitable for those who don't want to wear anything made from animal.

2. An unlimited bus and "L" train pass. Chicago is a great walking city but not in the Winter unless you are wearing the coat above. If you are not, do yourself a favor and get a pass. Available in 1, 3, 7 or 30 day unlimited ride passes.  $14 for a 3 days pass is a bargain, you can get all over Chicago by hopping on the "L" and the buses up and down Michigan Avenue are perfect for holiday shopping.

3. Warm Boots. You can layer your clothes and blow on your fingers to warm them up, but having cold feet WILL ruin your time in Chicago. Do you want to visit the German Christkindl Market for warm spiced wine and shopping? Your feet better be warm because you will be outside at this market for hours. Fashion is great, but not really practical during Chicago winters. Ugg boots are incredibly warm, but completely impractical for wet, slushy, snowy conditions. Try Pac boots like Sorel. Here is a tip, if a construction worker or snowboard enthusiast would buy them, you are good to go.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Must See Movie: Farmageddon

What are your rights as a consumer when choosing where your food comes from? What is happening to the rights of the farmer? If you are interested in sustainable, organic framing, your health and the rights of consumers and producers, check this out. Add this documentary to your Library's collection.
For more information, visit the Facebook and Twitter pages.

Farmageddon Trailer from Kristin Canty on Vimeo.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday 5 List #7

I am home from my Caribbean adventure. Due to a terrible day of travel on Saturday I thought today's Monday 5 List should be travel tip related. FYI, American Eagle/American Airlines service was terrible in St. Croix USVI, the worst I've ever encountered in my years of travel. If you are visiting a remote location or an island with a small airport or limited flights I suggest using a different airline or at least know what other airlines or ferry services are available in case flights are cancelled, overbooked or delayed.

  1. Pack your phone, computer and any other small electronic chargers in your carry on luggage. I was stranded at the airport for 12 hours on Saturday and had a 22 hour travel day, thank goodness I had packed my Blackberry and iTouch chargers in my purse. 
  2. Pack snacks in your carry on bag. Airline food is notoriously terrible and extremely unhealthy. Pack a few granola bars, bags of nuts etc for those unexpected delays while traveling. Also, don't contribute to the water bottle epidemic. Pack a reusable water bottle and fill it from a water fountain in the terminal once you pass through security.
  3. Explore options to resort food. I stayed at a beautiful resort where the only options for dining was the resort restaurant or bar. Expensive option for 3 meals a day for 7 days. The nearest town was a cab ride away which also wasn't economical. Solution: we visited the local small grocery store and stocked up on essentials to keep in our room which came with a mini fridge. Soda, pretzels, bread, peanut butter and jelly, tuna, yogurt, Twizzlers, beer and fruit. Saved us the cost of lunch every day and some breakfasts and was convenient for late night munchies.
  4. If you are checking a bag, save yourself the inflated cost of purchasing items such as bugspray and suntan lotion at your destination, pack small containers of each.
  5. Toss a few ziploc bags and even a garbage bag into your suitcase. If you have wet or dirty items or are taking back fragile gifts the bags can be used for separating them or protecting them
Happy traveling!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Looking for Jack Sparrow and Rum Drinks

I am off to the Caribbean today. Going scuba diving for a week.
Will post when I return.
Have a great week readers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Smaller Life (book, article and website suggestions)

I'm downsizing and I love it. I recently moved from a large home to a small home and with the lighter lifestyle has come the unexpected gift of time and awareness.

 Here are a few of the changes I'm enjoying in my life:

  • Walking my dog. My former home had a large fenced yard for my beagle Eloise. I now walk her 4 to 6 times a day and I'm really enjoying exploring my new neighborhood, meeting other dog owners and watching the seasons change.
  • Childhood pleasures. There is a pond down the street from my new home. Every day I walk the dog to the pond and feed the ducks scraps from the kitchen. I haven't fed ducks since I was a little girl and it's now one of my favorite parts of the day. I love to watch them fight for the bread and enjoy that they sometimes follow me home looking for more. I've also started collecting pine cones on my walks, I've filled a pretty bowl in my dining room.
  • Nesting. I cook almost every day. I eat healthier. I crawl in bed with a mountain of pillows and my dog and I read, day dream and get more rest. I cuddle with my son. I write more letters and read more books.
  • Spending my time wisely. When I was married my life revolved around the weekends and the chores around the house, the dinners out, parties, events at the clubs we belonged too etc. It was exhausting and not always fun. I stopped laying in bed and reading the paper. Lazy Saturday mornings lingering over breakfast disappeared. Walking, talking, movie nights and just simply being wasn't happening anymore. I wake up now with an entirely new perspective on life. I spend my time wisely. I play more golf. I spend time with my friends sitting around a bonfire instead of a country club lounge. I started volunteering again. I've invited more people into my life now that I'm not competing with someone else for his time. I've made some lovely new friends and reconnected with some dear old friends.
I've read some good books on minimizing your life, your home and your job in order to maximize your time, health and happiness. Here are a few I've enjoyed:

The Minimalist Entertains : Forty Seasonal Menus for Dinner Parties, Cocktail Parties, Barbecues, and More by Mark Bittman. Good recipes and ideas. Simple can be better.

The Only 127 Things You Need: A Guide to Life's Essentials by Donna Wilkinson.  Excellent resources, tips and plain common sense on things from your health, your wardrobe, your home and more. A great book to get you started on downsizing your life.

City Chic: The Modern Girl's Guide to Living Large on Less and City Chic: The Urban Guide to Livin' Large on Less by Nina Willdorf. Tips on everything from dining out to decorating your home on a budget. Love the recipes for skin care from kitchen staples like olive oil and eggs. 

Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life by Sophie Uliano. Tips on "greening" your home, style, food, travel and more. Recipes, tips on eliminating junk mail, exercise, beauty tips and more.

Here are a few good articles to read. 

The Next Little Thing? by Steven Kurutz (the NY Times article that got a lot of people thinking small)
Think Small by Bethany Lyttle
Death of the McMansion, a Yahoo Finance article

And some great websites:

Small House Society
The Not So Big House
Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Friday, November 5, 2010

Flash Back Friday #44

Haven't posted a Flash Back Friday in a couple of months so I picked a favorite song from the 80's.
Hall and Oates singing Rich Girl.
Love, Love Love singing to this song in my car.
Enjoy and have a great weekend readers!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unusual Book Titles-Can You Judge a Book by it's Title?

It's that time of the month. Book orders are due. As I flip through publisher catalogs, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal etc. I've discovered some odd book titles. Here are a few:

  • Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders by Peggy Webb.
  • The Corpse Wore Tartan by Kaitlyn Dunnett
  • Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin (This book I ordered, it looks charming)
  • Pepperoni Pizza Can Be Murder by Chris Cavender
  • Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme by Carole Nelson Douglas
  • Fatally Frosted by Jessica Beck
Oh and then there are the always humorously titled romance books:
  • SOS: Convenient Husband Required by Liz Fielding
  • Practical Widow to Passionate Mistress by Louise Allen
  • Sweet Surrender with the Millionaire by Helen Brooks
  • A Baby for the Flying Doctor by Lucy Clark
  • Tipping the Waitress with Diamonds by Nina Harrington
  • Emergency Doctor and Cinderella by Melanie Milburne
  • Under the Spaniard's Lock and Key by Kim Lawrence
I would love to be the book store owner for the book tours.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday List-#6

Because yesterday was Halloween and because it's been nothing but scary movies, ghost hunters and scariest location television shows on for the past month. Here are the 5 scariest movies I've seen so far.

  1. The Shining. "Come play with us Danny. Forever and ever and ever." Those bloody dead ghost sisters scarred me for life.
  2. Signs. Sure this movie is strange and stars the even stranger Mel Gibson, but geez those aliens freaked me out. Still have nightmares. Shiver.
  3. Nightmare on Elm Street. The 1984 original of course with a very young Johnny Depp.
  4. Children of the Corn. Another freaky movie from 1984. Every teenager who saw this movie in the 80's can quote it, name the scary kids and still avoids cornfields.
  5. Friday the 13th. Camp counselors, isolation, murder. The 1980 original spawned 11 sequels. This movie terrified me. I only saw it once. I will never watch it again.
What movies are on your list?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Antiquing Roadtrip

I grew up with a flea market/resale shop/garage sale addicted Grandmother. She always made second hand shopping fun by renaming stores like The Kidney Foundation (proceeds of sales benefited the organization) to "Kennedy Fashion" and taking me out for antipasto salad after our shopping excursions. Throughout the 80's I shopped with her, mostly for clothes and accessories and over the years found some beautiful pieces: dresses from the 50's, leather go-go boots from the 60's, 70's black suede pants, jackets from the 40's and beautiful leather bags. When I left Chicago in 1990 to attend Ohio University I discovered antique malls and small antique shops in the small towns of Ohio, each one was full of all sorts of treasures.

At 22 I moved back to Chicago and rented a little apartment but being a single mom had very little money to decorate. Searching garage sales, resale shops and antique stores for art work, dishes and furniture was a fun and economical way to decorate my home. Over the years I've become a little more choosy about what I buy and lean more towards antiques and estate sales over garage sales. Because I'm also a bit of a Gypsy and move every few years I don't clutter up my house with knick knacks, holiday decorations or cheap collectibles.

I had a few days off last week and my parents and I spent the weekend antiquing in Indiana and Michigan. I collect rare books, 18th and 19th century paintings and prints (portraits and hunting), silver plated goblets, jewelery, small lamps and glassware. To meet my criteria the piece needs to be either practical or beautiful.

Below are pictures of a few of my finds from last weekend. Not pictured a 19th century copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Volume 1 bought for $2!
I bought 4 of the small aperitif glasses, 4 tulip shaped water goblets and 2 wine goblets. I found them at the Coachman Antique Mall, 500 Lincolnway and Up Towne Shoppes, 623 State Street, both in LaPorte Indiana. Total paid was under $50 for 10 silver plated cups, not including the silver polish I need to shine them up. Why serve water or wine in a boring glass from Target!

2 antique hunting prints, framed. Total for both was $60. Bought at the charming and beautifully displayed Millie's Antiques, 13815 Red Arrow Highway, Harbert Michigan, a few miles north of downtown Union Pier. The detail is stunning and the hunting dogs in the prints remind me of my beagle Eloise.
I found 2 of these small lamps at The Antique Market, 3707 N.E. Frontage Road, Michigan City Indiana. Total price for 2 lamps was $22.00. They have the softest glow and fit perfectly under a kitchen counter or nestled into a bookshelf.

My favorite find of the year, this all gold cigar band style cameo ring found at an antique store in Charleston, South Carolina. It's my favorite piece of jewelry and the piece people comment on the most when I wear it.

So do you antique, resale shop or stop by every garage sale you see? If so, share your favorites! I'm looking forward to buying my next home, possibly a small vacation cottage in Southwest Michigan and am excited to start hunting for antique furniture and art.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday List-#5

I work the reference desk at a public library for a few hours each week and 1 weekend a month.
Over the years I've gotten some very interesting questions and requests but at such a small library, most of the reference questions are routine. So for this week's Monday List, here are the top 5 most asked questions when I'm at the reference desk.
  1. Can you help me make a copy?
  2. Where are the restrooms and/or Where is the program?
  3. I'd like to sign up for a program.
  4. I'd like to put a book on hold.
  5. Do you have the movie ______?
In the days of Wikipedia, Google, online databases and hot picks (readily available popular books and movies) how much reference is actually done in your library? Do librarians find themselves troubleshooting technology and answering directional questions more than anything else?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm Going to Be 40

Or "Old" as my Kid likes to tell me. Tomorrow. 

It's been interesting to witness how my friends have celebrated their 40th birthdays over the years. Some have celebrated quietly with friends or family, others threw themselves extravagant parties, some were surprised with parties by their partner or spouse, and then there are those who wanted to be alone. However they've chosen to celebrate or hide from their day, we're all lucky to be here to see our 40th year.

I thought about writing about 40 lessons I've learned, or 40 things I want to accomplish in my life or 40 reminders that it's OK to start over at 40. But really I'm not up for self reflection right now.  My parent arrive tonight to spend a few days with me and I'm going to take it easy...visit my favorite restaurants, shop with my Mom, snuggle with my Kid, overeat, walk on the beach, drink French champagne and wonder what comes next.

So Cheers readers. I'm off for the next 4 days to celebrate life. All 40 years of it.

P.S. For a laugh, here is a picture taken of me celebrating at an early age.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday 5-List #4

Here are the 5 most beloved books from my childhood.
I read these books over and over and still have my original copies.

1. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.  The book that taught me how to create your own dreams.
2. Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry. Yes I still like to look for the Goldbug.

3.  Eloise at the Plaza by Kay Thompson. The beginning of my obsession with hotel lobbys and pets with strange names. Yup, this book is why my beagle is named Eloise.
4.  Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. "I cannot go to school today" said little Peggy Ann McKay. I still find inspiration from these whimsical poems.
5. Dear Dead Days by Charles Addams. WARNING:Not a book for little kids.  This book features odd Victorian era advertisements, strange pictures of children with dead things, scary animals and even some of his Addams Family cartoons. Each image was selected by Addams, the book was an inspirational scrapbook for the gothic cartoon genius. I enjoyed the macabre as a teen and this book is seriously dark humor.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rick Steves in your Backpack? What Travel Books do You Travel With?

Last month on my travels in France I noticed something interesting. Rick Steves' books were everywhere. I spotted him in the arms of tourists on the trains, on tables in cafes, sticking out of bags in the was like a game of Where's Steve?

Now Rick Steves is a favorite of mine and I regularly check his travel videos out from the library before a trip. However his books tend to be on the big and bulky side and unless I'm making photocopies of a chapter or certain pages, I've never brought one of his books along on a trip. Apparently I am in the minority. He seems to be a travel security blanket for many. That got me to thinking...if you travel with travel books, which ones are good enough to pack with you in this age of carry-on and weight restricted travel?

I prefer travel books with features such as pull out street or region maps, laminated front and back covers, transit maps (Metro, Tube), color photos and a small size.  Fodor's travel books tend to be a good choice. I usually choose the region or city books such as Paris over France as the books are smaller, lighter and more relevant to my trip. Fodor's also has excellent mobile apps for larger cities such as London and Paris. Lonely Planet books are a good blend of information, practical tips, off the beaten track locations and compact size but usually lack good pictures and maps. My favorite travel books are the Eyewitness Travel Guides by DK. I love the mix of color photos and maps with tips on museums, food, currency, shopping, language and more. They also offer great mobile apps for your phone or iTouch.

Next time you travel, check out what your fellow wanderers are reading on the plane or train. I'm sure you'll spot lots of Rick Steves but hopefully a few other guides as well. Have any favorite travel books to share, leave a comment below.  I'd also like to know if you use your E-reader to take your travel books along with you. Rick Steve's on your Kindle or Nook?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday 5-List #3

Monday, again.

Here is this week's list, my top 5 restaurants/dining experiences. Sure, sure next week I will do a 5 list relating to books. But I'm hungry and going for Cuban food in a bit, so this week it's my fav restaurants.

1. Christini's Ristorante Italiano-Orlando. One of the best meals I've ever had. Rivals anything I tasted in Italy.
2. The Gage-Chicago. Hands down my favorite place to eat in Chicago. The curried mussels are amazing. I'm turning 40 next week and this is where I chose to celebrate. Owner Billy is an Irishman so drinks are tops and the atmosphere is friendly and upscale.
3. Charlie Trotter's-Chicago. Enjoyed a private dinner in the kitchen. I've never eaten so much in my life. I think we had 12 courses with a different bottle of wine for each course. Ya some of the food was weird and had more legs than a spider, but I enjoyed every bite. Just eat...don't ask.
4. Aqua-Mardavall Spa, Majorca, Spain.The most amazing pasta dish I've ever eaten. First they rolled out an enormous wheel of fresh cheese, hollowed out in the middle. Then they dropped hot pasta into the center of the cheese wheel, stirred it around to coat the pasta...and then they added white truffels. To. Die. For.
5. Bitter End Yacht Club-Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. Fresh lobster caught in the surf outside the restaurant. Rum. Enough said.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Virtual Chicago

"It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago - she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time"
Mark Twain "Life On The Mississippi," 1883

Whether you are a new resident or a lifelong Chicagoan like myself, there is always something to discover here.

Here are a few of my favorite websites that report on, explore, challenge and inspire Chicagoans or anyone who loves this City:
  • Chicagoist -A great all around website for everything Chicago
  • ChicagoNow - Some of the best bloggers in the City
  • Chicago is the World -A mix of news and exploration
  • Chicago Public Library - Explore the collections, find exhibits, research and more
  • Daily Candy -This website has gotten better with time, a Chicago girl must
  • Everyblock - Live within the City? Then check out what's happening on your block
  • Family Farmed - Eat better, support local farmers and responsible restaurants
  • Metromix - For when you are looking for something to do
  • Roger Ebert - The movie critic and Chicagoan at his best
  • Windy Citizen - Pulls Chicago content to one place
Looking for more? Then check out Chicago Magazine's list of 171 Great Chicago Websites.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday 5 List #2

What amazes me this week:
  1. That inside my 6'5, 17 year old son I can still see glimpses of the boy who liked pirates and swords and playing with bugs. He likes pretty girls, fast cars and playing lacrosse now but sometimes he's just a little boy who needs his mom.
  2. That once in a while you run into someone from your past and the minute you see them, the time machine lands at your feet and you step inside. (I'm imagining the Tardis and the delicious new Dr. Who). It's usually a sentimental trip and one I'm happy to take but usually not one I'm interested in reliving.
  3. That macaroni and cheese is still the best comfort food, even if it is fancy mac and cheese from a Chicago restaurant.
  4. That leaving my window open just a crack at night will help me fall asleep just like it did when I was 10 years old. 
  5. That Diane Keaton's character had it exactly right in "Something's Gotta Give"
Jack Nicholson as Harry:
               "Will you tell me first why you only miss be married at night?"
Diane Keaton as Erica:
               "The phone doesn't ring that much at night. And the whole alone thing happens   at night. Sleeping by myself took some getting used to but I got the hang of it. You gotta sleep in the middle. It's not healthy to have a side when no one else has the other side."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harry Potter and The Deathly HallowsTrailer

I can hardly wait. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 will be released in the US on November 19th. The first Potter film to be seen in 3-D. Hard to believe the most successful film series in movie history is almost over. Part 2 arrives in theaters on July 15, 2011. I've enjoyed the books and films for so long with my Kid it will be strange to no longer anticipate the next one.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Travel Soundtrack

I always travel with music. My iPod touch is the 2nd thing I pack (after my passport of course). Music saves my sanity during long air, train, car and bus trips and somehow manages to set a mood for where ever I am roaming.

During my trip to France I listened to a playlist titled "Rock, Paper, Paris" (after my favorite childhood game). As I was riding the train to Giverny and Reims the music provided the soundtrack as the French countryside passed by.

Here's a glimpse of my playlist: a mix of pop, jazz, French and folk.

Little Lion Man-Mumford and Sons
Perpetuum Mobile-Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Que Reste-T-Il De Nos Amours-Charles Trenet
I'm Afraid of Americans-David Bowie
Cosmic Love-Florence and the Machine
La Vie En Rose-Louis Armstrong
Teenage Dream-Katy Perry
Un Jour Comme Un Autre-Brigitte Bardot
The Longer I Run-Peter Bradley Adams
Marilou Sous La Neige-Serge Gainsbourg
Listen-Amos Lee
Don't Give Up-Chicane
Bloodletting-Concrete Blonde
Feeling Good-Nina Simone
Cuts You Up-Peter Murphy
Take My Hand-Dido
Carpe Diem-Aldebert

(Photo is a pic of my travel essentials on the way back to Paris from Champagne...yeah lots of water after all the tastings)

What's on your travel soundtrack?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back in Chicago...

Ughhhh jet lag is a sadistic mistress. Monday was a looonnnnngggg day, 18 hours of travel. Paris to New York City to Chicago. It's always wonderful to get home to the City by the Lake. Chicago in the fall is almost as fantastic as Chicago in the summer. As happy as I am to be home, I already miss Paris.

I have so much to blog about over the next week or so including tales of my dinner with Jim Haynes, traveling with girlfriends, making new friends, my favorite places in Paris and tips on travel books.

Once I catch up on my sleep, I'll begin...

(photo of me napping in the Paris flat)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thoughts on Parisians

Everyone in Paris smokes. Teenagers, the young, the old, everyone. Sitting outside at a bistro you may sit between a smoker and a dog, dogs are allowed almost everywhere including on your lap in a restaurant. Very dog friendly city, only problem is the massive amount of dog sh*t on the sidewalks. Oh and the cigarette butts, they litter the streets like confetti after a parade.

Fashion. Paris is a more casual city than I remember from the 90's. Men and women wear jeans and sneakers and seem to be dressed more for practicality and style than statement. Many of the clothes I see on young Parisians are American brands, Levi, Hurley, Gap, Old Navy and Converse. Converse sneakers are very popular here. Another popular trend, US college t-shirts and sports team wear. I've spotted NYU, Ohio State and Michigan t-shirts in the shops. Overall Parisians don't seem to be as coutre as in the past, I think Italians may hold that title. French men have the thickest most beautiful hair I've ever seen. Men and women are aging beautifully here.

I've walked miles of streets in Paris each day and passed only 1 health club, 1 yoga studio and seen only 5 joggers. Paris is not a City of exercise addicts like major cities in America. Most people are average size if not thin, in fact I have yet to spot more than 5 or 6 obese people and they were most likely tourists from the USA. The French seem to have found the perfect balance with food, they enjoy everything in moderation. Well except the smoking, they look fantastic but probably have black lungs.

Charm. I've met some charming men in Paris. At a private dinner party the other evening in a Paris art studio I met Michael. Michael spoke at least 3 languages to different guests at the party and seemed to know everything about Paris. He looked a bit like Michael Caine, had lived in Paris for 50 years but had a slight NY accent and had known our host for decades. He was fascinating, direct and funny. I appreciate the directness of European men. Another man at the dinner party, Victor said to me, most likely after loosening his tongue with the excellent wine, "I have to ask are obviously attractive and intelligent...why are you not married." Needless to say we had an interesting conversation after that ice breaker and a lot of laughs.

1 more week in this wonderful City just won't be enough.

Friday, September 10, 2010

First Night in Paris

It's 9:30 in the evening here in Paris. It's dark and the city is alive with the sounds of a Friday night. I can hear glasses clincking over dinner, a woman's high heels on the cobblestones as she walks by and a baby crying.

Friends and I have rented a 2 bedroom flat in the 2nd arrondissement where we are living in a very non touristy area of the capital. The flat is large and on the 3rd floor with high ceilings and windows over looking a courtyard with views of Paris rooftops. We have thrown the windows open and I can see the sky over the red geraniums in the window boxes. It's really the perfect little Paris home.

My companions have gone to bed and I am enjoying a glass of wine and the sounds of my neighbors. Across the courtyard I can see into a first floor flat where there is a group of people enjoying dinner. As I watch them interact a guest will occasionally stand up and walk around the table, gesturing wildly with his hands while standing over someones shoulder. There are many bottles of wine and empty plates on the table. It appears they are having a lively dinner party.

My neighbors to the left are also enjoying dinner. The men are wearing yarmulkes and there are children around the table in high chairs. They have the TV on and seem to be enjoying a quiet meal on Rosh Hashanah. Somewhere I can still hear a baby crying.

At the market down the street I bought a few bottles of wine including the delicious Cabernet I am drinking right now, the entire bottle was less than 2 euro. Tomorrow morning we will wake up and wander to the local coffee shop for a strong cup of coffee before stopping by the baker for bread and croissants. We will spend the day at the French markets before having a picnic lunch. In the afternoon we will be wandering Pere Lachaise cemetery to visit the final resting places of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and yes, Jim Morrison.

The baby has finally stopped crying so I am going to try and get some reading done. Bon Soir.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Try, Try, Again

I leave for Paris the day after tomorrow. I love the anticipation of travel, that fluttering in your stomach when you think of arriving at your destination. I've been to Paris on 2 previous occasions. Once in the 90's when I went on my first honeymoon and again about 6 years ago when I went with my son and parents. My first trip was exhausting, I arrived within hours of my wedding and was extremely sleep deprived. I didn't have a great impression of Paris during that trip. Maybe it was the physical state of exhaustion I was in or the rainy October weather but I left Paris with little desire to return. My 2nd trip was short but a completely different experience. We were based in London but took the train to Paris to spend a few days and enjoyed a leisurely stay. This trip to Paris I'm planning on experiencing all the delights of the city and the countryside from the local street markets to world class vineyards to meeting local people.

I consider my previous 2 visits to Paris as a warm up to this visit. I jammed the usual tourist stops into my trip but didn't experience life like a Parisian. One of my friends who is traveling with me speaks French and lived briefly in Paris a few year ago. I'm looking forward to seeing her Paris, the market stalls, picnics on the banks of the Seine, train trips to the country. We've rented a 2 bedroom flat in a non-tourist neighborhood and I'm looking forward to finding the local coffee shop, buying groceries, uncorking a bottle of wine, tossing my shoes at the front door and arranging fresh flowers on the table. I'm looking forward to just being there with my friends.

There are other places I've visited that I have little desire to return too (Italy, Hawaii) but as I'm learning 1 bad trip does not a lasting impression make. I'll try and blog from Paris. Au revoir!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

An Extraordinary Gift of Love

This video is amazing. A husband's creative way to tell his wife how much he loves her on her birthday. The creator is a 35 year old man recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. Watch the video, it's beautiful. I hope he gets his miracle. You can follow his journey on his blog here.

P.S. Yes that is the actor Hugh Jackman and the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key making cameos.

Rachel's Birthday Video from Kristian Anderson on Vimeo.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Flash Back Friday #43

Next Friday I will be in Paris with 3 of my dearest friends. The Friday after that I will be at the Palace of Versailles watching fireworks and enjoying a celebration only the French can host.

In honor of Paris, here is a short video celebrating this beautiful city and culture. Have a great weekend readers!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Favorite Poem-September 1, 1939 by W. H Auden

Today is September 1, so I'm posting the link to one of my favorite poems, September 1, 1939 by W. H Auden. Written during World War II, Auden's words are timeless.

Read it here.

My favorite stanza:
"And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday 5 List #1

I saw this fun idea on a blog I read regularly. Said blogger occasionally posts a list of rather random items, ideas, names, places...whatever. I thought I would tweak this idea and start a Monday 5 post.

So for my 1st Monday 5, here are the 5 people that I want to have over for dinner. (I've got food on my brain since I am having folks over for dinner tonight).

5 for Dinner:

1. Bill Murray
2. Eminem
3. Bette Davis
4. Abraham Lincoln
5. Dita Von Teese

So, yes 2 of the people on my list are dead. It's my list, my way. Now to figure out what to cook...maybe potluck is best. But I'm thinking beer and pizza with Abraham Lincoln would be an experience. Especially if Dita Von Teese was performing in her giant martini glass. Can you imagine Bill Murray's reaction. Priceless! Oh and Bette Davis wouldn't know what to make of Eminem. Awesome dinner party indeed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Look #1

Whatcha think?
Like the book background?
What about the colors, font etc?

Leave me a comment. New look #2 later this week.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Flash Back Friday #42

My Kid started his senior year in high school this week. That is amazing to me (I cried like it was his first day of school). I went to the same high school as my son and can remember my senior year like it was yesterday. One of my son's favorite teachers is teaching a new class this year, World Religions and he can't stop talking about it. On the first day of school the teacher showed the class the video he created below. It's fantastic.

Sometimes you have that 1 teacher or take that 1 class that changes everything: what you believe, how you see the world, what you want to do, where you want to live. I think this might be that teacher and that class for my Kid.

My son pointed out while we were watching the video that every major religion has similarities including placing your hands palms together and the belief to treat others as you would want to be treated.

This is not really a Flash Back Friday video but because this video was created by a teacher at my old high school, I'm listing it as a flash back.

Enjoy and have a great weekend.
P.S. I would love to read your comments about the video. And you might recognize the music, the song is by Hans Zimmer and was in the movie Gladiator.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Redesign of Lively Librarian

My blog will be undergoing a redesign in the next couple of weeks. I've tired of the current template and will be experimenting with a new look. I'd love to hear your feedback!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Stores in Paris

I leave for my "year in the planning-40th birthday celebration-girls trip to Paris" in a little over 2 weeks. 3 of my dearest friends and I are spending 10 days based in Paris with numerous day trips planned to the French countryside. During our wanders through Parisian markets, neighborhoods, Monet's gardens and the Louvre I will be searching for small bookstores where I can hunt for books to add to my personal library. During my first trip to Paris in the 1990's I stumbled across the often tourist filled famous Shakespeare and Company book store on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame Cathedral. I bought an old book, mostly for the famous book plate inside but also as a token of the bohemian Latin Quarter. During this trip my book hunting will lean more towards adding to my rare book collection rather than just buying to buy.

Traveling to Paris soon? Here's a short list of Paris bookstores.

And you might find this article interesting: The 9 Most Amazing Bookstores in the World (of which Shakespeare and Company is listed)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Books that Travel

I recently found a paperback book in our library donation pile that had a label inside identifying it as a "traveling book". I was curious so I went to the website on the label, entered in the tracking number and found in amazement that the book had been registered and tracked by various readers. The website is Book Crossing, a readers social networking site where users can register books, set them off into the world and track where they end up. Very cool.

In 1997 when I was traveling from London to Wales to catch the ferry to Ireland I was handed a book on the train by a backpacker and told to pass the book on when I was done reading it. The book was Tess of the d'Urbervilles and various travelers had scrawled their name on the inside cover, their location and the date and year. I too read the book while I was traveling but must have tossed it in the bottom of my knapsack because I recently found it in my home. I'm thinking of taking it with me on my trip to France in 3 weeks to leave on a train for another traveler in need of reading material.

Now book tracking websites like Book Crossing are obviously a more high tech and immediate way to find or track a book, but the concept remains the same; sharing a good read.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hiding Behind Anonymous

One of the benefits of writing a public blog has been the communication with friends, authors, blog writers and librarians who've commented on my posts or sent me email. I've received some excellent feedback on my writing, been contacted by writers and asked to read unpublished materials and I've been sent wonderful books to review straight from the publishers. Writing Lively Librarian is truly a lot of fun.

Because my blog is a mix of my personal and professional life I've always been very aware that what I write is out there for all to read. Until lately I've never been the target of any negativity or nastiness via my blog. Recently that has changed. I've had unpleasant comments on my posts by someone(s) hiding behind "anonymous".

From the beginning I've made the choice to allow comments from anyone on my blog. I decided to make word verification a requirement for a commenter in order to cut down on spamming which was rampant without this precaution. However anyone can hide behind anonymous when commenting.

So here's the thing. It wasn't hard to figure out who you are. Thanks to the magic of Google Analytics which has been tracking every visitor to this blog for years, I merely tracked you by where you live and when you commented. It wasn't rocket science. Not to mention that you mentioned things ONLY someone who was previously family (by marriage) would know.

So for the foreseeable future I will be moderating the comments before they are published. I am doing this only because my loyal readers do not need to read foul comments by angry, pathetic spies. I would hope that anyone who has something to say to me would have the bollocks to sign their name and not hide behind anonymous. This will be my only post where I address someone not worth another thought.

Now back to blogging...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review-Good Mood Food

My love of cookbooks is well documented on this blog. I've recently been enjoying a new favorite, Good Mood Food: Simple Healthy Homecooking by Donal Skehan. The book evolved from the blog Good Mood Food which was started by the author, a young Irish man in 2007. I love cookbooks which feature recipes made with simple fresh ingredients that don't require me to purchase expensive cooking utensils or bake wear. My favorite cookbooks also feature color photographs with each recipe. Good Mood Food checks all the boxes on my cookbook wish list.

I've made a number of the recipes in the book, of those I've tried, here are a few of my favorites:

Mushy Roast Garlic and Cherry Tomato Pasts (perfect for my abundance of summer tomatoes)
Caramelized Roast Vegetables (great with leftovers)
Tuna Nigiri (simple sushi)
Basil Sweetcorn (a great recipe for my summer garden basil)
Goat Cheese and Broccoli Pasta (a favorite of my Kid)
Hummus with a Kick (great for parties)
Avocado and Lime Salsa (refreshing and delicious)
Sesame Pasta Salad (my favorite for lunch)
Soft Boiled Egg with Home Fries (my Kid and I LOVE soft eggs for breakfast)
Homemade Nutty Breakfast Bars (better than the sugar packed granola from the store)

I haven't even listed all the yummy smoothie and dessert recipes! Bottom line: this book is good for your health and your pocketbook. Check it out at your local library, happy eating!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The 15 Biggest Bestsellers of All Time (well so far)

Thanks to my boss Alex for passing this along. How many have you read? No shocker Harry Potter dominates with a half dozen.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Looking for Ideas for Book Storage?

Got books? Check out this photo collection of clever ways to store and display books.
Which one is your favorite? Mine is the 2 story cookbook library, luvs it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review-Furious Love

Months ago I read an excerpt in London's The Daily Mail from the new book Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century. It intrigued me and I put a hold on the book at my library. A few weeks ago the book arrived and I have been lost in it ever since. Written by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger the story of Elizabeth and Richard is thrilling, sexy and in the end a tragedy of excess.

There are not many original Hollywood icons still alive these days but the grandest one of all is still with us, Elizabeth Taylor. I still read occasional gossip clips about her usually involving an appearance at an AIDS related event or another tale of her imminent and tragic demise. Dame Elizabeth is even on Twitter and although she doesn't tweet often, I am indeed a loyal follower. I can only think of a handful of legendary people that I would like to meet, Elizabeth Taylor is on the top of my list.

Elizabeth and Richard first met briefly in the 1950's at a party. Years later they met again in January 1962 while starring in the epic movie Cleopatra. It was hate, lust and love almost immediately. Richard called her fat, she thought he was conceited and so their love story began. Elizabeth and Richard could simply not be kept apart. They began an affair during filming although each was already married (Elizabeth to her 4th husband Eddie Fisher and Richard to his wife Sybil), they would divorce in the 70's, marry again, divorce again and then finally be separated by Richard's early death in 1984. What they left behind is an unbelievable story that includes passion, heartbreaking love letters, jewels, art, children and legendary work on film.

I've read many celebrity biographies, some good, some bad. Furious Love is one of the best. The authors don't waste a lot of time on the lives of Elizabeth or Richard BEFORE they meet, but instead jump right into their life together. The scandal that was Elizabeth and Richard in the early 60's was bigger than any celebrity news in modern history. At one point they were so infamous the Vatican itself issued a statement on their immoral behavior. Their love affair single handedly created the modern day paparazzi and began the public's unending love affair for movie star scandals of epic proportions. Together Elizabeth and Richard created a dynasty of award winning films, collections of priceless art and legendary jewelry. They lived all over the world, financially supported hundreds of friends and family and burned through money like it grew on trees. It's estimated they spent hundreds of million of dollars during their life together. The lifestyle and love affair has no equal. Today's stars like Brad and Angelina aren't even in the same league.

This book is a great escape, a true account of a life and love most people only see in the movies. To know that 2 people actually lived, loved, fought, laughed and experienced what they did is hard to believe but delicious to read about.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flash Back Friday #41

Because yesterdays post was a look back at my life in 1989, 1999 and 2009 and a recent Flash Back Friday was music from the 80's, here is a montage of the top hits of 1999. Ya gotta love naughty Lolita schoolgirl Britney Spears singing Hit Me Baby One More Time and a scary embalmed Cher singing Believe.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer Break

Yes I am still here. I'm taking a break from life. I spent a few days with friends at their beach cottage on the Michigan shore and now I'm in Colorado with my family, hiding in the mountains for a little while.
I will be back next week.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Movie version of Robin Hood

On Monday evening I saw Ridley Scott's adaption of Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe. When the film was announced a few years ago, I was delighted one of my favorite directors was taking on one of my favorite legends. After all this is the man who brought us Blade Runner, Legend, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and A Good Year. As production news leaked into the press the story and the cast changed. For awhile the film was going to have the Sheriff of Nottingham as the hero. Then for the blink of an eye Sienna Miller was cast as Maid Marion. From the beginning, one casting decision never changed, Russell Crowe was going to star.

A few years ago I introduced my Kid to the cult classic British television series Robin of Sherwood. I was obsessed with the show when it aired in the US from 1984-1986 and thrilled when it was finally released on DVD decades later. My son and I have watched every episode and he loves them as much as I do. We often have Robin of Sherwood TV marathons. The show remains beloved to this day and it's easy to find Yahoo groups and fan sites on the web.

Because of our fondness for Robin Hood including some of the other films (who can forget the hilarity that was Kevin Costner's campy 1991 version) we were both excited to see the latest big screen adaption. Bottom line: the hype was better than the film. Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is terrible. How such an esteemed director could create such complete crap is a mystery. Maybe it's the story...we are after all talking about a legend. Scott shows us his version of Robin Hood before he became Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. Here Crowe is a soldier fighting the French and then through a deliberate impersonation of Robert Loxley he ends up fighting for the British poor and romancing the dead Robert's widow (Marion played by the frozen face of Cate Blanchett). Toss in a few Merry Men such as Friar Tuck, Will Scarlett and Little John and Scott must have thought he had the makings of a new version of the legend. Ummm no. I'm not even sure where to start. Crowe and Blanchett are WAY too old to portray these characters, the movie is one battle after another and usually not on English soil, the real characters of Richard the Lionheart and his brother King John are tossed in with such inaccurate histories as to make it laugh out loud funny. As long as Scott was trying to throw in some English history maybe he could have tried to get something right like Richard the Lionheart's death or the real age of King John's wife who in reality was a 12 year old little girl but in the film was substituted with a lusty adult french actress. Maybe even remaining true to a large part of the legend would have been a start, that Robin was an archer, but as my friend Diana pointed out he only picked up his bow maybe 2 times in the film (and once was probably to get the promotional shot in the movie poster above). Sigh...

So if you are a fan of Robin Hood, skip this movie, it's really bad, not even Ridley Scott's lush settings, war scenes and imagery can save it. Watch Robin of Sherwood on DVD and enjoy the fun, the legend, the 80's bad but charming special effects and the amazing music by Clannad.