Friday, July 29, 2011

Going Retro-Flash Back Friday #47

3 months ago my son, our dog and I moved into a very retro (built in 1956) home in a suburb just outside Chicago. I purchased our home from the original owners, a family who immigrated from Sicily in the 1950's to raise their family in America. My home is a brick 2 bedroom 2 bath with a full finished basement and a large beautiful yard. Over the years the home was wonderfully maintained but not frequently updated. My kitchen has original solid wood cabinets that are in amazing condition, the basement was updated in the 70's and while finished is rather dark due to the wood paneling. The plaster walls throughout the home are in great shape, the floors are wood and the main bath is charming in its retro design.

Last weekend Chicago got hit with one of the worst storms on record. Between midnight last Friday and 6 am on Saturday morning there was record rainfall. I awoke at 3 am on Saturday morning to a river roaring down my street and my basement flooding. (The picture was taken in front of my house looking down my street at 5:30 am the morning of the storm) Thankfully we had not fully unpacked, most of our possessions including my rare book collection are still in boxes in the garage (that stayed dry) and we were able to remove the basement entertainment system and sofa before they were ruined. We only had a few inches of water which receded quickly and over the next 24 hours we removed the basement carpet, which was glued to the concrete floor as well as room after room of stick on tile flooring. We thankfully did not have as much damage as my neighbors, some families lost half their furniture and possessions to water damage. A neighbor a few houses down was featured on the front page of the local paper due to the $80,000 worth of damage they lost when their basement windows exploded and the home filled with 8 feet of water. It's humbling how people work together during a disaster. At 5:30 am as our street was a river, my neighbors and I were outside in the rain, helping each other, alerting people to the situation, setting up generators etc. I am truly blessed with great neighbors and know I can turn to them with anything I need.

I wasn't planning on remodeling my basement, but now with the water damage I will be replacing the floors, painting the wood paneling and having recessed lighting installed. I can model the basement as I like it instead of the cozy 70's decor it had when we moved in. The home I lived in for the 4 years previous to this home was large and also in need of remodeling. The kitchen was in terrible condition and unfortunately my ex and I never remodeled it while I was living there. I won't make that mistake again. Why bother living in a home that isn't the way you want it for everyday living and entertaining?

So for a Flash Back Friday, here are a few websites I am using while I plan the remodel of my 1950's era home in a retro but modern style.

Retro Renovation This website is a terrific source for images from 50, 60 and 70 era magazines as well as stories of people who have retro updated their homes. Here is a great story with pics of a 1950's kitchen redo for under $1500.

Retro Redheads Great site for vintage shopping.

Ebay The go to website for almost everything. Thanks to my parents who are vintage/antique shoppers I now have the Knowles Weatherpane dishes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Dog's Life

My Beagle is named after precocious Eloise from Kay Thompson's famous children's book, Eloise at the Plaza. My sweet girl loves belly rubs, rooting through the garbage, food, chasing rabbits and squirrels, food, napping on the air conditioner floor vent, food, long evening walks, exploring her large yard, stealing my son's food and sleeping in my reading chair.
Just because we love her here are 2 of my favorite recent pictures including 1 of her at my front door watching the world go by with my niece.
"Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring-it was peace."- Milan Kundera.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Living with Ghosts

I like a good ghost story. Not a gory tale of zombies and slashers, but an old fashioned ghost story passed down through generations of storytellers. Chicago has her share of resident ghosts, the Lady in White, The Italian Bride, the Devil Baby and back in the late 90's Chicago ghosts were popular due to the publication of Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City by Ursula Bielski. I saw Ms. Bielski speak at a few Chicago libraries back then around Halloween and learned a few ghost stories I hadn't heard before. Many of the stories she has in her book are well known to Chicagoans and always fun to revisit.

In 1995 a friend and I spent a night or 2 exploring one of the most haunted (supposedly) locations in the country, Bachelors Grove Cemetery. This small hard to find abandoned cemetery has been the subject of more than a few TV spots on hauntings, included in many books on ghosts and paranormal activity and regularly included on people's creepiest destinations list. Now in 1995 there were no websites about hauntings or Google maps directions to the cemetery. We didn't have cell phones connected to the Internet or tiny cameras in our pockets. You could only find the cemetery if you had heard about it and went with someone who could find it. So we went, I didn't see any ghosts or feel anything brush by my shoulder. But it was a strange place. Now there is so much online about the cemetery, videos, supposed ghost pictures etc, you really don't even need to venture out of the house to find out more about it.

I couldn't sleep 1 night this week so I got up, made myself a cup of tea and turned on the TV to watch the news. Instead I found one of those ghost hunting shows and watched for awhile until I realized how scripted it was and turned it off. It got me to thinking though. Not so much about ghosts (which I fully believe in by the way), but about what people leave behind when they leave a place. Is there an energy a person leaves behind in a location where they loved deeply or met a tragic end? And what about when someone just leaves, what is left behind?

When you've left a place, you leave your routine, your things might remain in your former residence, and then...what happens to the person you left behind? I imagine it like Miss Havisham, the tragic jilted bride from Charles Dickens Great Expectations. After being left on her wedding day, she stops all the clocks, never removes her wedding dress and retreats into her mansion. She lives with the ghosts of memories. I suppose that when a relationship ends either through a breakup or a death something is always left behind. If someone remains in the home, with the personal possessions and the routine, and still visits the same restaurants and takes the same vacations, it's like living with ghosts.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Goodbye Mr. Potter

For 10 years I have been sharing the magic of Harry Potter with my son, my family and friends. Tonight it comes to an end with the final film in the movie series.

As an anglophile, I've been reading the London papers every day for over 15 years. Back in 1997 I read an article reviewing a book published in the UK titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, it was released the next year in the USA under the title, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I thought, "Awesome, a book about a boy wizard, his magical school, the friends that become his family, mythical creatures and a terrible villain. A book my son and I will both enjoy, I can't wait to read it." My son was in grade school at the time and I can remember when he first started reading the books as well. His room soon turned into Hogwarts, his Nana and I bought him a Harry Potter bedspread and sheets, pillows, bath towels and posters. He had stuffed animals of Hagrid and the 3 headed dog. Before 2001 when the first movie was released there was very little merchandise available except the bed and bath collection I picked up at a Kohl's department store. I spent months searching for anything with Gryffindor on it, a scarf, a robe anything. The only options back then were crafters selling homemade costumes on Ebay. Sure enough once the first movie was released more merchandise was available including costumes and my son won Halloween contests dressed up like Harry Potter with a friend dressed as Hermoine. Fast forward 10 years and Harry Potter has his own theme park at Universal Orlando. The books really did come to life. I never imagined it back then.

There is a generation of children who grew up with Harry Potter and parents like myself who raised our children with the cultural phenomenon of the Harry Potter books and movies. When I was a girl in the 70's there was Star Wars and I remember the hysteria, the collectible action figures, the bad TV specials and the mania when a new movie was released. Star Wars may be the only close comparison but yet Star Wars in the 70's and 80's was only a 3 movie series, there are 8 Harry Potter movies in 10 years based on 7 books, a massive amount of merchandise and now the theme park. WOW.

As the movies have been released my son has been the same age as the characters, he has grown up with Harry, Hermoine and Ron. Now my son is 18 and starting his life as an adult, creating his own real life stories. But back when he was a little boy, his favorite stories were always the Harry Potter books. In 2001 I hosted my first Harry Potter party and tonight I host my last. 10 years ago my son and his friends dressed in costumes, we had themed food, decorations, trivia games and prizes. We would arrive at midnight at either the book release events at Borders or Barnes and Noble with a numbered bracelet on to await our copy of the newest book or we would arrive at the movie theater hours in advance and wait for a seat for the latest film. People would dress in costumes and over the years I've seen it all, white owls like Hedwig and lots and lots of Hagrids.

I'll admit I'm rather sad that it's ending. No more book releases, no more films to look forward too. Their stories are ending. Harry Potter fans know how the story ends but seeing it on screen tonight is it. I'm bringing lots of tissue.

P.S Reading helps out in a crisis...last week when my son had a brief stay in the hospital for a severe sunburn, nothing, NOTHING was helping him with the pain. Until I pulled out my Nook Color and asked him if he wanted to read to keep his mind off the pain and itching. Sure enough he asked for Harry Potter and luckily I have all 7 books on my ereader. He started reading the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and within 10 minutes he relaxed and it took his mind of being in the hospital.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A "Model" Magazine

The June issue of Italian Vogue is delicious. You can view it online here.
The photographs are art and the models are gorgeous with the bodies of real women. Stunning, sexy old-world beauty, clothing and locations on these pages.
This is nothing like the embarrassing images of emaciated-teenage-models we have in American magazines.

Warning: NOT SUITABLE FOR VIEWING AT WORK. There is nudity.

Enjoy and read more magazines.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Business Resources at the Library

Check out this article in the July 1 issue of the Daily Herald newspaper Business section on using resources at the Library to enhance your business and/or job search using social media and technology. Our Business Bytes program is very successful with topics ranging from Facebook pages to Twitter to Foursquare. This month I am instructing Business Bytes: Google Docs for Business. Good article and nice to be mentioned along with Richard Kong.
Check out your Library for similar resources or contact me for more information.