Thursday, June 30, 2011

Our Other Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday List #15

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

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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On the Road in Spain

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

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

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Can Leave Chicago Now Because...

I've walked on the grass at Wrigley Field.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

6,570 Days

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

So Where Do YOU Go First in the Library?

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

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

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

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