Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Life Well Lived-Elizabeth Taylor

Last July I posted a book review of the biography of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century.
The post turned out to be one of the most visited on my blog. I have a great admiration for Elizabeth Taylor and was deeply saddened to wake up to the news of her death this morning. Her breathtaking beauty, her unforgettable talent, the great love affairs, her passionate dedication to raising funds, increasing understanding and educational awareness of AIDS, her love for family, her amazing jewelry collection. Sigh...what a life.
You can read more about my thoughts on Elizabeth and her amazing life by visiting the book review linked above. For today's post I am listing my favorite movies Elizabeth was in and a short list of recommended books about her life.
  1. Jane Eyre. The 1944 version starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine was also one of the first films Elizabeth acted in, an uncredited role as the tragic Helen Burns. This movie haunted me as a child, Elizabeth Taylor was even as a child unforgettable, she breaks your heart.
  2. National Velvet. The ultimate movie for every little girl that was ever horse crazy. This film made her a star at age 12.
  3. Father of the Bride. The perfect father daughter relationship, the perfect wedding.
  4. Giant. Taylor and James Dean. Enough said.
  5. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Taylor and Paul Newman. Enough said. And boy can she act. Oh and the sexiest white slip ever worn on film.
  6. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Sure she did the outrageous Anthony and Cleopatra with Richard Burton, but her role as Martha in this film is hard to watch, she's nasty and vulnerable, even more fascinating that she was really married to Burton when they played spouses in this film.
  7. The "Is That Elizabeth Taylor?" Roles. General Hospital and North and South. I just watched because it was Taylor.
And a few books you might enjoy:

Here is what I am wondering? If you believe in Heaven, then Elizabeth Taylor has finally been reunited with many of the great loves of her life, a number of her 7 husbands and friends like Michael Jackson. For the woman who lived some of the greatest love stories of the last century, which husband is she with... her great love, the died tragically young Mike Todd or the man she married twice, the larger than life Richard Burton? After all there is only 1 Elizabeth Taylor, even in Heaven.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday List #13

During the last 9 months I have been cooking for 2 (my son and I) instead of 3 (my son, husband and I). While I've found it harder to adapt recipes for only 2 people I have found it more fun to cook. My son will eat almost anything and at almost 18 years old, 6'6 and 200 pounds he finishes everything on his plate and any leftovers. A clean plate after "Is there any more?" is the best compliment when I cook.

When we moved last summer we left a large home for a much smaller and temporary home with a tiny kitchen. It's been an easy transition as my small kitchen is much better layed out and with updated appliances. It is heaven to have a stove that fits a large cookie sheet and is big enough to cook a turkey, something my antiquated former kitchen appliances could not do. And for the first time in 5 years I have a microwave again. I really didn't miss it but it is great when you need to defrost in a hurry.

So for today's Monday list, here are 5 recipes my Kid asks for repeatedly. Mind you, are few of these recipes are not the healthiest, but considering the vegetarian, organic, sustainable, home grown goodness I usually force feed him, I indulge him once in awhile.
  1. Polenta Pizzas (The original recipe as linked is from Whole Foods and includes pepperoni. I omit the meat as I'm a vegetarian. I also use my homemade marinara sauce instead of sauce from a jar)
  2. Fish with Miso Sauce (I saw Gwyneth Paltrow make this on Oprah years ago and have been making it regularly ever since. It's fantastic! I normally use fresh white fish instead of flounder which she uses in the recipe. Tilapia is terrific. You can buy mirin and miso paste at Whole Foods, specialty grocery stores or your local Asian market)
  3. Baked Corn Casserole (My Mom made this for Christmas dinner, it's not a main dish but a great side and so easy. My Kid loves it.)
  4. Ramen Noodle Salad (Nope, not the healthiest salad but the one salad that everyone asks for when I host a party. I usually go light on the Ramen seasonings and often brown the dry noodles, seeds and almonds in butter before I add them)
  5. Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes (From the infamous Pioneer Woman, I am a devotee of her website and recipes. This is delicious but NOT low calorie. I substitute fresh cherry tomatoes from my garden during summer over the canned tomatoes in the recipe. I also eliminate the chicken broth. This recipe is easy to adapt)
Here are a few older posts on cooking and cookbook reviews:

Thursday, March 17, 2011


For many years I used to frequent my favorite pub in Chicago, The Red Lion for a pint of Guinness. The Red Lion was a traditional English pub located on Lincoln Avenue across from the infamous Biograph Theater (the location where gangster John Dillinger spent his last evening with the "Lady in Red" before being gunned down in the alley next door). The Pub was supposedly one of the most haunted locations in Chicago and was an extremely popular destination on Halloween. The Red Lion was usually a stop for my friends and I on St. Patrick's Day, the first of many stops in a City that loves it's Irish.

While I was attending Columbia College in Chicago finishing up my undergrad degree I would hop off the Red Line (at Fullerton, a stop on the "L") and walk to The Red Lion for a Guinness and my favorite meal, the Ploughman's Lunch. The Ploughman's Lunch consists of a large wedge or 2 of cheese, crusty slices of bread, butter, pickles (Branston) and sometimes a side of green salad, sliced apples, pickled onions and a hard boiled egg. Delicious and perfect with a beer.

A few years ago The Red Lion closed. Lincoln Avenue ceased to be a destination of mine as a result of the pub closing and the Victory Gardens Theater taking over the Biograph Theater. Ah how times have changed and not for the better. I have yet to find a pub in Chicago that serves a better Ploughman's Lunch.

What ever you are doing for St. Patrick's Day:

Walls for the wind,
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks beside the fire.
Laughter to cheer you
And those you love near you,
...And all that your heart may desire!-----Irish Blessing

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday List #12

To meet the growing demand for ebooks and ereaders, my Library recently purchased 4 e-readers for staff to learn before we decide which devices we will purchase for patron's to check out. The 4 ereaders my Library purchased are:
  1. Sony Reader Touch
  2. The Kindle
  3. Nook Black and White
  4. Nook Color

After experimenting with them for a month I decided to purchase my own and chose the Barnes and Noble Nook Color. The Nook Color combines a tablet with an ereader and I simply love it. So for today's Monday List, here are my 5 favorite things about my Nook Color.

  1. The color 7 inch touch screen. Once the user gets used to turning pages with the swipe of a finger or a tap and double taping to enlarge the screen you will love the ease of navigation. The full color screen is fantastic for reading magazine subscriptions, browsing websites (yes the Nook Color has built in Wi-Fi) and children's books.
  2. The ability to download library ebooks and audio. Something you cannot do with the Kindle and the major factor in my purchase. I have not had any problems transfering EPUB or PDF books to my device.
  3. The Pandora app. I am a Pandora radio junkie and the ability to listen to music through my Nook is fantastic. Even better, you can read and listen to music at the same time. Gotta love multitasking.
  4. The settings for e-book reading. Need to enlarge the font, change the color or formatting...there is a setting that should satisfy most. Very important since this device has a LCD screen and does not use the E-Ink screen like the Kindle.
  5. The memory. I have 636 books on my Nook Color. Everything from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy to Zodiac by Neal Stephenson. All the Harry Potter's-yup. Chronicles of Narnia-yeppers. Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice-check. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien-of course. Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, George Orwell, David Sedaris, Jane Austen...yes. I still have 4.47 GB of my 5.00 GB storage free. LOVE.
If you are a librarian, patron, ereader owner or just tapped into the publishing world than you've probably heard about the fallout concerning Harper Collins decision to put a check out limit on their new e-titles. What does that mean? It means that titles purchased through ebook vendors published by Harper Collins will "expire" after 26 loans. Libraries must repurchase them to continue circulating them. A massive boycott was begun by libraries which Harper Collins was forced to address. Interested in reading more, start below.

The OverDrive letter that started it all
Library Journal breaks the news
More from Library Journal
Tame The Web-Michael Stephens opinion
Librarian in Black-Sarah Houghton-Jan tells it like it is
OverDrive addresses the damage

Friday, March 11, 2011

Downtime and Imagination

It's actually warmer this evening in Chicago than it was all day today while the sun was shining, perfect for long walks. I have a busy weekend planned, tomorrow I will be attending the Family Farmed Expo during the day, then enjoying dinner and cocktails at a friend's condo downtown before ending the evening at the St. Pat's Fest at the Irish American Heritage Center. Sunday I will be enjoying the shops and leisure of Lake Geneva Wisconsin. As a result of my busy weekend I am enjoying a Friday night at home, drinking wine, watching House Hunters and taking walks with my dog.

My favorite time to walk my dog is at dusk. I've blogged about my love of walking at this time of night before and never get tired of what I see, where we walk and what I imagine. "B" and I, (short for Beagle, although her name is Eloise) and I walked and walked this evening. Past the school down the street where children and their parents were arriving for an event, past the house where the 4 boys were playing basketball in their driveway with the garage lights on, past the park where the man walked with his wife and little boy. I like to make up stories in my head as I glimpse people in their homes. Tonight it was the old woman I always see in her condo, she often wears a green sweater and is always sitting in a chair facing the TV with a card table in front of her. I imagined her drinking whiskey, watching Aliens and enjoying curry takeout before she goes to bed at 3 am.

A few weeks ago I watched the movie Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey. It was a fun movie about a middle age couple, stuck in a rut, kids, work, dinner out once a week at the same restaurant... who have the time of their life one night after a case of mistaken identity. One of my favorite scenes was early on in the film when at dinner the husband (Steve Carell) asked his wife (Tina Fey) to imagine what other couples in the restaurant where thinking and saying. It was obviously a tradition they did every time they dined out and reminded me that it's common, this need for us to project our impressions and to imagine. My ex husband used to ask me to do this often in restaurants, but not because he wanted me to make up conversations or stories about strangers but because I have hearing like a bat and could tell him what a couple was saying from across the room. I prefer to imagine but eavesdropping is just as much fun sometimes.

Do you ever make up stories, maybe imagine that people's lives are more exciting, tragic, or even boring than they are?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday List #11

I am enjoying a quiet if productive Monday, I have the day off after working the weekend and am spending the day house hunting. When I purchase my next nest it will be the 4th home I've purchased in the last decade and the 2nd home I've purchased as a single woman. When I bought my first home a buyers options were regulated to running down a list of properties selected by your Realtor or browsing the newspapers for a list of open houses and popping in for a look. Oh how things have changed. The market peaked and crashed and Illinois had the 9th highest rate of foreclosures in 2010. Not good for sellers but a good time to buy.
Here is my list of the tips and tricks I rely on when house hunting.
  1. This one is a no brainer....have a good Realtor you trust. For 2 of my home purchases and 2 of my sales I used a realtor who had bought and sold my families homes for years. In fact it was through her that I met my 2nd husband, she was selling my home, she knew him from a past real estate deal, she put 1 and 1 together, he bought my home and we eventually married (and divorced). However due to this rather incestuous realty relationship I am currently using a new realtor, I trust her, she knows what I am looking for and she doesn't get crazy with my "if it's meant to be it will be" attitude towards homes. How do you find a good realtor? Ask your friends and colleagues, DON'T pick a realtor just because they are listing a home you are interested in. Get referrals!
  2. The Internet is your friend. I am addicted to real estate sites. My favorite is however I have learned the hard way that the listings are not updated as often as they should be. There are homes currently listed on that are under contract and have been for some time. This leads to tip #3...
  3. Have your realtor call or email the listing agent BEFORE you go for a viewing to make sure the home is not under contract. Why? In this day of frequent foreclosures, the bank may have accepted an offer on a home but the listing is still active. They just can't keep up with the sheer volume of foreclosed properties and you don't want to visit a home, fall in love, write up an offer and find out from the bank the home is under contract.
  4. Use phone apps to pin point homes for sale in your target neighborhood. The app on the iPhone is amazing. It uses my GPS location so I drive to a target neighborhood and search by price, features etc. You can also search by mapping features, by open house and even by rental. Searches and home listings can be saved and shared via email. I am addicted to this app and use it every day to search for new listings in my target area or to virtually search locations I may not have considered.
  5. Get your financial ducks in a row. I have letters from my lender ready to go when I decide to make an initial offer. This saves valuable time and could get you the home you want over another bidder/buyer who doesn't have their lending in place.
I will update the blog when I do finally buy my next nest. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spring in the Midwest and Weekend Road Trips

Spring is arriving in the Midwest. The Lake is
no longer frozen, the snow from the Blizzard is almost gone and my beagle has started barking at the ducks and chasing rabbits again. I love to take road trips at this time of year. It's nice to get out of the City and revisit some favorite places like Kohler Wisconsin and the Southwest coast of Michigan. Last weekend I went to Michigan with some friends for a weekend of antiquing, wine drinking and walks on the then still frozen beach.

A spring tradition in Holland Michigan is the Tulip Time Festival. A celebration of Dutch culture, spring and of course the beautiful tulips. This year's festival will be held from May 7-14 and if you live in the Midwest or are planning a trip, it's worth a visit. The festival includes parades, dance, concerts, theater, wooden shoes and wonderful food and flowers. For a glimpse at the 2008 festival highlights watch the video below.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Golf Season is Here! Books and Chicago Area Golf Courses.

March 1. Finally. Spring is almost here. And that means I can get back on the greens. Honestly it's been the longest winter in memory. Chicago weather broke all sorts of records this year, 3rd largest blizzard in the City's history, snowiest February in 126 years etc... As a life long Chicagoan, it was hard even for us hardy Midwesterners. One of the things that kept me going was looking forward to golf season. Now that the driving ranges and courses will be opening soon I have signed up for lessons, joined golf leagues and yes...I'm reading about golf. My library display this month at the Library is appropriately GOLF. Here is a sampling of the books I chose.

  • DK's Ultimate Golf Techniques
  • The Golf Masters Series Bunker Play by Gary Player
  • Golf Past 50 by David Chmiel Morris
  • Classic Instruction by Bobby Jones and Ben Crenshaw
  • The Complete Short Game by Ernie Els
  • A Good Swing is Hard to Find: How Women Can Play the Power Game by Helen Alfredsson
  • Golf Magazine's Complete Book of Golf Instruction
  • Open: Inside the Ropes at Bethpage Black by John Feinstein
  • The Rules of Golf in Plain English by Jeffrey Kuhn
  • Moments of Glory: The Year Underdogs Rules Golf by John Feinstein
  • The Seven Principles of Golf by Darrin Gee
  • Secrets of the Short Game by Phil Mickelson
  • Golf's Ultimate Eighteen by Steve Eubanks (A gorgeously photographed book)
  • Golf's Best-Kept Secrets: Awesome and Affordable Public Courses Anyone Can Play by Jeff Barr

For those in Illinois, the courses recommended in Golf's Best-Kept Secrets are:
Picture is of me on a golf course in Florida last year, I am pointing to a huge alligator that was napping in the sun near a water hazard. First time I ever golfed with a man eater before.

**If you are interested in golfing and live in the Chicago area drop me an email.