Thursday, August 25, 2011

Off We Go to Spain and N. Africa

I leave tomorrow on another adventure. I will spend a week in a small village in the mountains of Spain assisting adults with their practice of the English language. Afterwards a friend and I are renting a car in Madrid and wandering through Southern Spain with a stop in North Africa. I will have access to the Internet and will be updating my Facebook page, Twitter account and my blog with photos and stories.

While the week I am spending teaching/tutoring English is largely planned by the group I am volunteering with, the 2nd portion of my trip is mostly unplanned. We have a map, a couple of nights booked at a hotel and the rest is where ever the road may take us. I do know we will be enjoying the following:

A private tour of Morocco. We are going with Said Tours, who also gave Sting and Bruce Springsteen a tour of N. Africa. Casbah, spice market and yes a camel ride.

The Rock of Gibraltar. Amazing history.

Seville. The Andalucian experience. Open air markets, nightlife and yes, learning to flamenco.

Stay in a Monastery. We have a book that lists Spanish monasteries that open their doors to visitors. Reaching them for pre-booking is nearly impossible so we are taking our chances to see if they will accomodate us.

Gotta run readers, need to activate my international phone. Yes, I am taking 2 smart phones to Spain. iPhone as camera and music, Blackberry for connecting.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday List #17

My Kid starts college today. Honestly I woke up this morning and thought, "What the hell, I'm not old enough to have a kid in college!" Alas, it's true.

I had a great time in college. Those days seem so long ago but also right there on the edge of my memory. So for today's Monday list I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned in college and hope that he experiences some of the best years of his life.

  1. Embrace each other's differences. When I attended Ohio University in Athens Ohio, I was one of the only students from out of state, most of my classmates were from small towns throughout Ohio. Some were raised on farms, others were from affluent suburbs around larger cities and a few were "townies" from Athens. It was wonderful to attend a college where you could start over, leave your high school friends behind, embrace different clubs, perhaps join a sorority or fraternity like I did, try out different intermural sports and figure out who you were and who you wanted to be. I made wonderful friends, who still 20+ years later are some of the closest and most important people in my life. I hope for my son that he meets people that change his life.
  2. Study. I was one of those college students who changed majors frequently and only studied for a final the night before in an "all-nighter". At one point I was a theater major and thankfully didn't have a lot of finals in my classes. I tried it all, CPR classes, dance, psychology, English major...It broadened my views of the world and introduced me to interesting and diverse people. I hope for my son that he studies, no matter what he chooses to major in. Don't wait until the night before.
  3. Stick to the meal plan. My Kid is 6'7 and over 200 lbs. Trying to keep him fed is like feeding a small group of starving boy scouts in the wilderness. Sometimes I just leave the food out and get out of the way. I will be happy when I can sign him up for the largest meal plan the college offers. It's also a great way to get to know your classmates. Talking over an early morning meal or late night pizza binge, but remember you cannot survive for 4 years on food that is served in tinfoil wrappers.
  4. Participate. Don't be the kid sitting in his room playing video games or sad songs on your guitar. Sports, clubs, Greek life, student life, just do it all. You only have 1 small part of your life in college. Don't regret not experiencing it.
  5. Find your core group of friends. You won't survive college without a posse. You will find them in your classes, or where you live, or by your social interests. You will find your wingman who will be by your side for all your crazy schemes. Your friends will be there every morning when you are hung over (come on, it's going to happen), every night while you study (I hope) and on the occasional weekend when you need a ride home to see your Mom (count on it). These friends will still be there when you meet "the one" and later when you graduate, get hired at your first job, marry, and have your first child.
I hope you have it all Kid. I'll be here at home when you need a break.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Fairy Wedding in the English Countryside

Beautiful slideshow, photographs are by Mario Testino in the September issue of American Vogue.

Model Kate Moss marries her rocker boyfriend. Stunning, romantic and classy. Well done Kate.

You can see the photos here. My favorite, the photo of them under the tree...gorgeous and the red coat she has on over her wedding it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday List #16-Where to Play Pool in the Chicago Area

When I was a kid, my parents had a summer home in Florida. Once school ended in June, we packed up the car, left Chicago and spent the next 3 months in the small beach town of Gulfport Florida. I spent most summer days at the local community center and my friends and I did what most kids in the early 80's did before computers, internet and cell phones, we swam, fished, sailed, listened to music and hopped from party to party and pool to pool. It was a great way to grow up.

Florida in the summer is about as hot as it gets and Mother Nature thankfully usually sends in a summer shower every afternoon to cool things off. At the community center there was a rec room for rainy afternoons where we could play pool or ping pong, darts, fossball, board games or make arts and crafts. When I was about 12 my friends and I became obsessed with pool. We would play every day for hours, rain or shine. Our pool competitions could get quite serious, fights would break out over the right to "combo" a ball or not and frequently we'd end up playing the counselors for the right to jump off the seawall into the Gulf if we won. We became pool sharks after playing every day all summer until we were about 16 and moved from the community center to friends homes or beach bars.

When I went away to college at Ohio University, playing pool late at night in the bars was as common as anything else we did. It was also a great way to meet guys. A friend and I would stake out a table, play a game until inevitably a guy would walk over, tell us he could show us a thing or do about the game and offer to pay for the next game and buy some beers. Well at that point, we'd make a little wager and easily win their money. Most men just don't expect a woman to know how to play pool.

Chicago is a great town to play pool in (The famous pool hustler movie The Color of Money with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman was filmed in Chicago at Chris's Billiards and Lincoln Tap Room). There are a few nice pool halls, but better yet are the dive bars, with a back room and a nice pool table. So for today's Monday list, here are a few of my favorite places to play pool in the Chicago area.

  1. Pete Miller's in Evanston. I've been playing pool here for 15 years. There are 2 pool tables in the bar area, each one is separated from the main area which makes playing and hanging with your friends easy. Rates are hourly. Great atmosphere and good drinks. I played here about a week ago, the tables are in serious need of updating (rail bumpers and felt are tired) but still worth a play.
  2. Southport Lanes in Chicago. Nice bar in Chicago with a pool room. Rates are hourly, space between tables is kinda tight so you often wait while the person playing next to you is taking their shot. Good bar food, good place.
  3. Glascott's Salon in Chicago. Located in Lincoln Park not far from DePaul University, Glascott's is a good place to play on a weekday afternoon. Only 1 table that still takes quarters. I wouldn't even attempt to play here on a weekend but if you have time to kill on a Tuesday afternoon, this is the place. Plus Glascott's is attached to the fantastic restaurant Athenian Room, good Greek food and great prices.
  4. Rose's Lounge on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. This place is a dive. Blink and you will miss it mixed in with all the trendy bars in the area. Beer is $2 and a game of pool for 3 quarters. Ignore the atmosphere, have fun. Rose might even be there serving you.
  5. Kathy's Lakeside Inn in Lake Zurich. I can never remember the name of this place which is ridiculous since it's so easy so I just refer to it as "that biker place on the lake". Nestled on a tiny lake in the middle of nowhere, but within a 20 minute drive from my house. This place is like visiting someones vacation home in backwoods Wisconsin, comfy, old and friendly. And they make a great grill cheese. Plus it's a nice place to sit and watch the sunset.
Other places to play include the infamous Chris's Billiards on Milwaukee and Marie's Golden Cue, with the best sign of all time, "We have smooth shafts and clean balls."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Flash Back Friday #49

Maybe it's the fairy tale, maybe it's the romance, maybe it's finding someone who realizes that your love of books is cool or it could be sharing the library of your dreams with someone...

Regardless here is one of my favorite moments from any movie, live or animated.
The Library Scene from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Seriously this makes me cry every time I see it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Little Bit of Beauty

My office was a garden after these were delivered. There is something special about a man who sends you flowers for no special reason at all.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Flash Back Friday #48-Jamie Cullum

In July 2010 I flew to Denver to see Jamie Cullum perform at the Denver Botanic Gardens with my Mom and sister. For those of you not familiar with Jamie, he is an amazing jazz musician from the UK. His song Gran Torino for the movie soundtrack of the same name was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
I highly recommend his albums, In the Mind of Jamie Cullum, The Pursuit and Catching Tales.

(For book lovers, he is married to Sophie Dahl, herself an author and the granddaughter of Roald Dahl author of such wonderful stories as James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

It was a fantastic concert especially since I was standing a few feet away from him while he played. Here is a short video I took of him singing "If I Ruled the World".

Enjoy readers and have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Films with Style and Romance

The famous song Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes is known as a hit of the 1980's but unfortunately not many people are familiar with the woman who inspired the lyrics. I am slightly...ok, completely infatuated with the actress Betty Davis. I watch her movies over and over and each time fall a little bit more in love with her, the glamour of the 30's and 40's and with the characters she played. (I posted back in 2008 about my love for Bette Davis movies which you can read here, Bette Davis Eyes).

There are few true movie stars in this day and age. Modern society is ruthless in it's obsession with fame and the personal, often sordid lives of those in film and TV. Is there anyone who can watch an Angelina Jolie movie and NOT think of her half a dozen children and her nomad life with Brad Pitt. She just can't become a character anymore, she is always her famous persona. Ditto with so many other film actors such as Tom Cruise (with the exception of his character in Tropic Thunder, hilarious!), Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz. I want to escape when I go to the movies and sadly unless it's a Harry Potter film or another fantasy adventure, I rarely can think of anything but the film star's latest headlines for their personal life. There are a few exceptions such as Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ewan McGregor and Meryl Streep.

People who love movies say it often, "They just don't make films like they used too." I wholeheartedly agree. Sure there are exceptional films being made and lately I've seen a few including True Grit (although a remake of a classic), The Social Network, The King's Speech and the final Harry Potter film. And then there are the same films that get made over and over and over again. How many rom-com movies are there and isn't the new film Friends with Benefits (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis) the same film as No Strings Attached (Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman). No way would I spend $10 for either movie.

So I buy DVD's on Amazon of beautiful, original, classic films when movies were always an escape to another time or place with stunning costumes, true romance, real ladies and their gentleman and manners we've all forgotten about. If you are interested in films that will make you sigh with wonder, cry over the romance and wonder over the loss of a gentler time here are a few of my favorite films from the 1930's and 40's.

  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. 1947. Oh my. The romance. The location. The stunning Gene Tierney, a very young Natalie Wood and the gruff Rex Harrison. The perfect wrong place-wrong time romantic film. Oh and the ending...
  • Dark Victory. 1939. Bette Davis is young and beautiful in this film. A rich socialite changes her life and falls in love after a terrible diagnosis. It doesn't get any better than this for a weepy romance. Trust me, no one has a dry eye at the end. This film also stars Humprey Bogart in a small role before he became a movie star.
  • The Enchanted Cottage. 1945. Robert Young is terrific in this film about a soldier with terrible war wounds and the quiet woman who loves him. I don't think there is a film that better expresses the beauty of love than this one. Don't miss it.
  • Waterloo Bridge. 1940. A little seen Vivien Leigh (Scarlet from Gone with the Wind) film. War, England, guilt. A classic.
  • Mr. Skeffington. 1944. Gorgeous sets and costumes. And an unlikely romantic leading man in Claude Rains (famous for Casablanca). Bette Davis is ruthless and perfect in this role.
  • To Have and Have Not. 1944. The film that started it all with Lauren Bacall and Humprey Bogart. One of the greatest movie lines in history is spoken by Bacall in this film, "You know how to whistle don't you just put your lips together and blow." I don't know if there is a woman alive who has seen this film who hasn't tried to imitate Bacall's chin down, peekaboo look when flirting with a man. Classic. I met Lauren Bacall at a book signing years ago and she is still this character, sassy, sexy and gorgeous.
Do you watch old films? What are your favorites?