Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cooking at the Holidays

Years ago I experienced my first Feast of the Seven Fishes feast on Christmas Eve. A few years ago we adopted this tradition with the addition to the family of my Italian Uncle Vinny from New York City. Christmas Eves spent in Florida (where my parents and my Aunt Kim and Uncle Vinny live) include large quantities of fresh crab legs and claws (cold and steamed), lobster tail, jumbo shrimp and various other delights. This year I cooked this meal at home in Chicago for my son and his Navy buddy. As fresh lobster is hard to come by here I instead substituted various types of fish to go with the crab legs and shrimp. With sides of roasted green beans and parmesan and paprika roasted potatoes, the boys were quiet for 30 minutes while they gorged. It was tons of fun.

Christmas morning I made a quiche for the boys, another family tradition my mom's family has been making for years. I combined a few recipes to create the recipe below. Although a vegetarian I didn't enjoy this dish, but my hungry boys did.

Lively Librarian's Bacon and 3 Cheese Christmas Quiche

1 9 inch deep dish frozen pie crust
1 lb bacon ( I used honey and apple smoked bacon)
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 oz shredded cheddar cheese
3 oz shredded mozzarella or swiss cheese
3 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup half and half
4 lightly beaten eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the bacon for 20-30 minutes until crisp, pat dry with paper towels to remove the grease. Chop bacon into bite size pieces. In a large bowl combine the chopped onion, the cheeses and the bacon pieces. Pour this mixture into the unthawed pie crust. Lightly beat the eggs with the half and half and pour this mixture into the pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350, bake an additional 35 minutes until top of quiche begins to brown.

Today I have soup in the crock pot for the boys which they can enjoy all day in-between naps, holiday movies and projects around the house.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Merry Christmas Readers!

I'm putting my Christmas tree up tonight and planning for a festive holiday at home. This year my son and I will not be spending Christmas with my family in Florida, instead we are peacefully snug in our little bungalow with the Beagle and many friends. Currently my house is full of my "kittens", the passel of boys that live in my basement when they are home from college and the military. They curl up on my huge sofa, eat everything in sight, watch movies and play games, sleep where they fall and never leave the house without each other. The boys include my son, plus his Navy buddy who is living with us temporarily, a Big Ten football player home for the holidays, a Marine on leave before he leaves for Afghanistan and an Airman from the Air Force who is home before leaving for Italy. There are also various girlfriends and old friends from high school who wander through my little home. To say that it's boisterous and busy is an understatement.

Even though I am not one to decorate, bake cookies or revel in Christmas silliness, our little tree is brightly lit, our stockings are hanging from the bookcases and we are ready for snow and presents on Christmas morning. I look forward to new traditions with Paul and his family and old traditions like watching my son find the hidden ornament on our Christmas tree.

To my readers, thank you for reading my blog for another year. Wherever you are, however you spend the holidays I wish you a very happy December full of love and laughter.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


2012 was a year my friends from all over the world began new stages of their lives.
  • A local high school friend got married and is expecting her first child
  • A friend in the UK became a grandmother for the 2nd time
  • A friend in New Orleans became a great-grandfather for the 1st time
  • Other friends are like myself, preparing for the flexibility of a new life with adult children
It's always exciting to learn of a friend's ______ (fill in the, marriage, relationship, job...). What is fascinating are the stages that we go through and when. I'm 42 years old with a grown child and planning my future with my life partner. I have friends who are also 42 years old who are newlyweds, new mothers, newly divorced and starting over and some are still waiting to begin their future families. Friends who are just a few years older are already grandparents and even great grandparents. Shopping for people who are first time mothers and first time grandparents and who are nearly the same age as myself can be a bit unnerving.

With the reach of social media sites like Facebook, I occasionally will see a picture of someone from my past.  It's often jarring. The way I remember someone is not the way they look years after they were in my life. Important life stages came and went and when I see them again they go from past to future in the blink of an eye. In many ways reaching different stages at different times than your friends can be a wonderful can share parenting tips, new career expectations, assist with life changing events such as divorce or a move. At other times it is emotional. Holding a friend's new baby knowing that the next baby in my life will likely be my first grandchild. Or seeing someone who didn't have a stage such as parenthood or marriage either by choice or circumstance and knowing that everyone has a different path to travel. Whatever stages my friends and I are in, it's a heck of a lot of fun to be involved in life as it flies by.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lessons on Style

I recently started a massive closet cleaning after reading 2 books:
  • Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott 
  • Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline
Both books discuss the American consumer's lack of style and insatiable desire for cheap clothing and accessories. Lessons from Madame Chic also addresses the Parisian style of living with less, not only in your home, but what you consume, wear and share...quality over quantity. Frankly neither book is edited all that well but they do make their points and the authors inspired me get my closets in order.

Here are a few lessons learned from "Madame Chic", the very stylish woman that the author lived with while studying in Paris:
  • Always Use The Best Things You Have. Do you own beautiful china and crystal wine glasses? Is there a room in your house reserved for guests only? Are you sleeping in grubby sweatpants and a 20 year old t-shirt? I loved this chapter, it reminded me that the beautiful things I own should be seen and used. So I went a bit nuts and cleaned out every closet in my house, every shelf and every drawer. I had bags of items for donation...old t-shirts from college, sweatshirts, hoodies (ugliest piece of clothing anyone can wear), jeans that had seen better days, shorts (I'm over 40, shorts are ridiculous at my age), old coats, anything ripped or frayed and anything that was of poor quality from a big box store like H&M or TJ Maxx. I also donated boxes of reusable water bottles, unused dishes, odd things I'd saved from my past. And those beautiful items I had in drawers and closets, I am now wearing and using everyday.
  • Liberate Yourself With the 10 Item Wardrobe. This really got me reevaluating what I own and how I shop. As I was fanatically purging my clothes I realized that on a daily basis I wear my quality pieces over and over. Everything else, mostly old comfort clothes, were taking up space in drawers and never worn, so I donated them. The author discusses how Parisians have a limited wardrobe, due to their love of quality and style and their lifestyle, there are no large walk in closets in small Paris apartments. So what is a 10 item closet? Think in 3's for the seasons: winter: 3 sweaters, 3 blouses, 1 good wool skirt, 1 pair of high quality trousers, 1 pair of dark jeans, 1 long sleeve shirt. The 10 list does not include items such as a wool coat, a trench coat, a good blazer, little black dress, shoes etc. One of the best things about having a large vintage clothing collection, the pieces I own and buy are of great quality and style and are meant to last.
  • Other: entertain well, get involved in the arts, walk everywhere, get rid of clutter.
 Pic of my first 3 huge bags of clothes going to Goodwill after a frenzied closet cleaning.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The Saturday after Thanksgiving Paul and I awoke as the sky was starting to fill with light and walked to the beach. In 42 years I had never seen the sunrise so we grabbed the camera and headed out to watch it rise over the Atlantic Ocean. I have of course been up before the sun and spent nights without ever going to bed, but I've never sat and watched the sun rise over the horizon. We arrived at the beach where families with children, seniors with dogs and couples were also waiting for the sun. It's nearly impossible to describe the exact moment when the sun first appears on the minute the sky is soft shades of pink and blue and then you blink and the sliver appears, the most vibrant color, like fire. It grew brighter as it changed from a sliver to an orb and the brightness increased until you couldn't look directly at it. It is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Our trip to Florida was an experience of light. The evening before we woke to see the sunrise we attended an oyster roast at the home of a friend of Paul's family. The house was set on a point overlooking the water, the home itself was built in a southern low country style around large oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and lush palm trees. The party was outdoors and lit only by the lights in the pool and the light that spilled out of the open doors and window in the main house and the pool house. On the boat deck was a table where our hosts would spill the oysters they were roasting on the shore. Guests were free to shuck their own oysters, indulge and toss the shells back into the sea. As an oyster lover, these were obviously the freshest I've ever had.

If you haven't experienced watching the sun rise over the Ocean or eaten oysters in the dark, I highly recommend both.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving with those you love. I am on my way to Florida to enjoy the holiday with Paul and members of his family, a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner, watching some college football, a delicious oyster roast and hopefully beautiful sunsets on the Atlantic Ocean. Wherever you are, whoever you share the day with, enjoy.

What I am Thankful for This Month
  • My son being home, healthy and happy
  • True Love
  • A warm cuddly beagle on a cold morning
  • Earl Grey tea with vanilla soymilk
  • Good health
  • Flannel sheets
  • Mittens
  • Family
  • My vintage home
  • Sparkles
  • The library 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Now-The Incomparable Lauren Bacall

I recently watched a wonderful interview with the legendary actress Lauren Bacall. Interviewed by Robert Osborne on TCM's Private Screenings she discusses everything from meeting Humphrey Bogart on the set of her first movie (one of my favorite films, To Have and Have Not), her long career on stage in NYC and her amazing memories of Hollywood legends such as Frank Sinatra (her boyfriend after Bogart), Kirk Douglas, Harry Truman, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, John Wayne and others.

In the late 1980's I found a copy of Lauren Bacall's 1978 autobiography, By Myself on a bookshelf at my high school boyfriend's house. His Mom had introduced me to some classic old films during weekends at their family's cabin in Wisconsin and when I found the book she told me to read it and then watch all of Lauren Bacall's movies. I read the book and fell in love with Bacall, with Bogart and with old Hollywood.

In the early 1990's shortly after the birth of my son, Bacall was on a book tour for her 2nd autobiography, Now. My son slept in my arms for hours while I waited in a small bookstore near Chicago to meet Bacall and have her sign my book. I'll never forget the first moment I saw her in person, she was about 70 years old and had aged beautifully with her striking cheekbones still prominent. She was dressed all in black with gold bracelets lining her wrists and gold rings on most of her fingers. She asked me my name in her deep smoky voice and signed my book while she asked about my son who was still sleeping in my arms. She was kind enough to sign both of my books including the tattered 1978 copy of her first autobiography that I still had and have reread so many times.

In the years since she's had a career resurgence in the Barbara Streisand movie The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) and more recently in movies with Nicole Kidman. Leave it to Bacall to have a fascinating career of over 60 years that began in a movie with Bogart when she was only 19 years old (To Have and Have Not), included a leading role with Marilyn Monroe (How To Marry a Millionaire), starred in a movie where she played one of the first lesbians seen in film (Young Man With A Horn), and continued on stage where she established herself on Broadway (winning 2 Tony awards) and she is still making movies today. Even with a legendary career, it's Bacall's personal life that is the stuff of fairytales...true love, tragic loss, single motherhood, triumph and sass. There is no one like her but every time I wear a vintage dress, faux furs or long gloves I feel a little bit like Bacall in the 50's and that's cool.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I hope you enjoy a spooky day with your ghouls and goblins!

(Paul and I dressed as Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow at a Halloween party on 10/27/12)

Monday, October 29, 2012

More Goodies from Auction

Over the weekend I bid on a selection of books at a local Library book sale. I had the winning bid and went home with a wonderful selection of old children's books. Here are a few of the titles that I've added to my collection, all are in excellent condition considering their age.

  • A Treasury of Heroes and Heroines by Clayton Edwards, 1920 edition
  • The Boys King Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, 1922 edition
  • Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates by Howard Pyle, 1921 edition
  • Alice in Wonderland by Louis Carroll, 1932 edition
Two of the books in the collection include illustrations by the amazing illustrator Louis Rhead, those titles are:
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, 1913 edition
  • The Arabian Nights Entertainments, 1916 edition 
A few of the titles are duplicates of books I bought at an earlier auction this year so I will be listing those books for sale on my Etsy store, Lively Vintage. All of the books are wonderful classic stories that I plan on reading and sharing with my loved ones and one day move into our dream home library. Stories of pirates, magical lands and true love to read in my library with walls of books and ladders to reach high shelves, comfy leather chairs and a fireplace to read in front of. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I voted today. This is the first election year that I have voted early since I was eligible to vote in 1988. The process was easier than I expected especially considering the length of the lines. As I waited I watched the crowd and was encouraged by what I saw. Cordial, patient voters who were anxious and proud to cast their vote...young women with children, spouses, people with mobility issues in wheelchairs who were handled with care by volunteers, older people with walkers, someone with an interpreter, Latinos and college kids.

Here is what I don't want to hear, "It doesn't matter if I vote, the election has been decided." or "I don't need to vote, my State is going to go to_____". Unfortunately I have heard that too often from young people, including my son. I am going to march him over to the local court house where he can still register and cast his vote through grace period registration.

Seriously, vote. Things DO change. My "cousin" Beatrice a young woman dear to my family who has been un-formally adopted by my Aunt and Uncle, was born in Mexico, arrived in the USA illegally, went to school and busted her ass to earn straight A's. She feared for her future but is finally allowed to stay in the USA, legally work and hopefully one day go to college because of the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.  Beatrice no longer fears her future. Vote.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday List #26-Fall in Chicago

Here are a few things keeping me busy this Fall.
  1. After repeated attempts to visit the new rooftop bar on the top of the iconic Hotel Lincoln, Paul and I were finally able to enjoy drinks with spectacular views of the City and Lake Michigan on Saturday night. The bar was originally scheduled to be open in the summer but each time we visited the opening was delayed. It was worth the wait.(You can see the famous skyscraper, the John Hancock Building lit up orange for Halloween in the picture behind us.)
  2. Fish Frys and Trivia Nights. There is a local bar near the Library where I work that hosts trivia nights every Thursday and fish frys every Friday. If you don't have a local bar that does the same, visit Eddie's, you will find me and my Library cronies there often.
  3. Twitter. I've been on Twitter for a couple of years now, but lately it's my go-to outlet for conversation, news, travel and gossip. It's addicting. You can find me on twitter @LivelyLibrarian
  4. Football. It's football season and this year we're spending alot of time at games (Indiana University games to cheer on #59) and watching at home with a beer and tonight, chili for Monday Night Football, Chicago Bears v. Detroit Lions.
  5. Travel Planning. Airfares are RIDICULOUS right now but we have upcoming trips planned to Florida for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2013 we are already planning trips to Savannah and Charleston, and a trip to France with a stop over in London and Paris. Lately the travel websites have been crap but I am finding great travel tips and info on Twitter.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Flash back Friday #55-More Girl Power

Yup, I'm going to admit this here. I like girl bands. Cheesy ones. I flew to Las Vegas to see The Spice Girls perform on their reunion tour a few years ago. And if the ladies below tour in the USA where they are relatively unknown, I will go see them too. I will dance at the concert in my sparkly high heels, just like I do at home, singing to my dog.

Girls Aloud are reuniting for their 10th anniversary with an album and tour.
Enjoy one of my favorite songs, The Loving Kind.

Monday, October 15, 2012

5 Hotel Rooms in 1 Week

As much as I would like to say that I've been around the world and stayed in 5 hotels in exotic locations over the past week, alas the reality is much different. Last Monday I went to Peoria Illinois for the annual Illinois Library Association Conference, 3 days of programs, vendors and socializing for Illinois librarians. I have blogged about the ILA Conference before in 2008 and 2009.

Thoughts on ILA 2009-Peoria 
ILA Conference at Navy Pier 2008

Last year the conference was held in Rosemont Illinois and I presented a program on Screencasting for Librarians. This year I am serving on the Illinois Library Association Awards committee and the winners and sponsors were honored at a luncheon on the first day of the conference. I truly enjoy the conferences, the sessions are informative and inspiring and it is always good to socialize and network with librarians from around the State. However, the conference accomodations were not good, but it does make for a good story.

First night in Peoria. Arrived after a 3 hour drive with a colleague and located an Indian restaurant near Bradley University, the major college in Peoria. Sat down, ordered, watched a roach run across the table, left immediately and found a pizza restaurant favored by students. Finally found my hotel, a good 10 minute drive from the conference center and was given a room near the elevator and laundry units. I won't stay in hotel rooms near laundry or elevators. I learned this the hard way in Las Vegas. Got another room, went to bed.

2nd day in Peoria. Woke up, turned on the shower, the handle fell apart in my hands, streaming scalding hot water all over the bathroom with no way to turn it off. Called the front desk. Hotels are frequently staffed with students since Peoria is a college town. She had no idea what to do since maintenance was not at the hotel so I asked for another room immediately. She brings me to a room with a free standing jacuzzi tub right next to the bed. I looked at her and said, "Are you kidding me?" So we went to another room, a suite with a separate room with a kitchen and living room. About time.

Got home to Chicago on Thursday night after 4 days in Peoria, was home for 24 hours and left to tailgate at Indiana University on Saturday. My son's best friend Peyton (#59) is a starter on the IU football team so I went down with friends to tailgate, IU against Ohio State. Being an Ohio University alumnae, I like the opportunity to watch any team give OSU a run and IU had a great game against the Buckeyes.

Friends and I (4 women) stayed at the Motel 6 in Bloomington that is within walking distance to the IU Memorial Stadium. Being a motel this place is tailgate central for parents and friends visiting for games. Lots of pickup trucks pulled up directly to the rooms, doors open and tailgating in the parking lot. Who needs more than a bed and a sink when visiting a college? Well that's about all we got. The bed was so concave it was like sleeping in an egg. But hey tailgating was super fun and partying with the football players until 3 am reminded my why I'm glad my college years are over. Picture below is Peyton and I after the game.

So I am home. Finally. No more hotels for me for at least 2 weeks? :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

18 weeks later...

My son is home. My Navy sailor. He's tired, nearly 40 pounds thinner, and so happy to be home with his family, the Beagle and his friends. Have a great weekend with those you love.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How Do You Lunch?

A recent post, The Art of Lunch: Paris vs. London on one of my favorite blogs, HiP Paris Blog explores the differences between lunch culture in Paris and London. While those are 2 of my favorite cities, it could translate to other metropolis areas around the world. During the years I worked in downtown Chicago, lunch was a quick networking or business meeting at local restaurants near my office or food was grabbed on the go from the market in my building. If it was a warm day lunch was a cup of coffee while I shopped at my favorite stores on Michigan Avenue. It wasn't until I moved outside the City and  my commute went from 1 hour to less than 5 minutes and freed up more time in the office that I started to enjoy the art of lunch...catching up with friends over lunch at new or favorite restaurants, enjoying a picnic on my patio with my dog, and long coffee breaks at Starbucks. So what is your lunch "culture"?

Enjoy the article and the suggestions for where to lunch when you are in London.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Vintage Librarian

My recent weekend in Michigan with Paul and my folks was incredibly relaxing but also very productive. We explored local antique malls and I purchased some fantastic vintage items for my store.

I have a growing collection of vintage luggage and purses, a few are for sale at Lively Vintage, and a few are being used in my home as creative storage pieces for scarves and gloves. The picture below is of a fantastic suitcase I bought for only $16, it's cowhide and in amazing condition.

Over the past year I've stumbled upon some clever pots in the shape of animals. I've purchased them for a few dollars each and use them in my kitchen to grow herbs. I think they are charming and as I find more I will add them to my store. Below is a poodle planted with oregano, an owl my Dad bought me which is full of parsley and a giraffe full of basil. Definitely more interesting than round pots.
 I am having so much fun with my vintage store that I will be creating a new website for Lively Vintage. My friend Heather who I've known since high school is an amazingly talented graphic designer and she is working on a new logo for my Lively Librarian website and incorporating that into a new logo/brand for Lively Vintage. Once the logos are done I will be moving my Lively Librarian blog to it's new home at and my store will have a new home at

For those who love fashion and vintage, the September Fall Fashion issue of Vogue is full of ads from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and others and are definitely vintage inspired. Check it out at your local library.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flash Back Friday #54-Pure Michigan

This beautiful video from the Pure Michigan series narrated by actor Tim Allen is from a few years ago. I am heading to Michigan today with Paul and my parents to stay in a cottage near Lake Michigan, eat the local delights, walk on the beach and go antiquing for my Lively Vintage Etsy store.
The leaves may not be changing yet, but Fall is in the air and I plan on enjoying every minute.
Have a great weekend readers. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Now This is Advertising...

WOW. You may be interested in watching the latest movie/commercial/ad for lingerie company Agent Provocateur.
Now this is the way to sell, gritty and not what you expect.
And if you are wondering why the woman in the film looks so familiar, her name is Monica and she is the look-alike-sister of the beautiful Spanish actress Penelope Cruz.
Warning: May not be appropriate for viewing at work.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's Football Season

I live in a suburb near Chicago where high school football is a big deal. The local high school is where I graduated in the 1980's and also where my son graduated from last year. The football team has won multiple state championships in their division and the marching band has won so many national championships it's too hard to count. I live about 6 blocks away from the school and on Friday nights if the wind is right, I can hear the announcer calling plays, the marching band and the roar of the crowd during games.

Last Friday night I took a break from packing for my trip to the mountains to walk the dog. As we were walking down the street 2 boys about 17 years old passed me on bicycles and I heard their conversation:

Boy 1: "That was weird."
Boy 2: "Ya...I didn't know they moved in such large groups."

I wondered what they were talking about...coyotes, dogs, rabbits? And then I saw it...about a block behind the boys on the bikes. A group of about 30 teenage girls, all dressed exactly alike, cut off jean shorts, flips flops and white t-shirts that they had written SENIORS on. They were walking down the middle of the street, laughing and singing and obviously on their way to the game.

Yup, it's football season in the suburbs.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

End of Summer

I've always liked the idea of vacationing for the month of August, not for a week before the kids go back to school or a weekend at the lake but taking weeks off to go to the coast or to travel through Europe and recharge. There is the dream and then there is reality. 

So to recharge I'm heading to my family's home in the Colorado mountains this weekend (picture was taken on the deck at the mountain house). We don't have much planned, wandering the small towns at the base of the ski hills, tasting local craft beers, shopping while Paul mountain bikes down the trails, cooking, playing Mexican Train and watching the sunset over the mountains. 

Here's hoping your long weekend is equally as relaxing. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dare to Dash?

On Saturday Paul and I competed in the Warrior Dash, a 3.2 mile run and obstacle course that takes place at various locations throughout the country. Run by Chicago based company Red Frog, Warrior Dash combines a 5k with a festival atmosphere of live music, beer and food vendors, awards and lots and lots of mud.

We teamed with 4 of our friends on Team Booby Trap and competed at the Wisconsin location which included crawling under barbed wire, climbing over rope bridges, barricades, wooden walls, mud pits, swimming through ponds and jumping over fire. You can view the course here. From start to finish the race was about an hour long, with approximately 600 people racing every 30 minutes or so, the obstacles would get congested but the running or walking in-between allowed for people of various fitness levels to participate at their own pace.

Participants are encouraged to compete in team costumes and there were some good ones: ballerinas, super heroes, 80's disco and many others. Everyone racing were very friendly and always willing to help someone who had fallen or had trouble completing the obstacles. It was absolutely the dirtiest I have ever been, from the murky water hazards to the multiple mud pits there is no way to avoid getting wet and muddy. Upon race completion, you get a medal, t-shirt, fuzzy warrior helmet and a free beer! We jumped in a pond, tried to clean off the mud and finally just ditched our shoes, drank our beer and listened to the music.

There is camping available at many of the Warrior Dash locations, however we stayed at our team members cottage in nearby Lake Geneva and relaxed after the Dash at a Cheap Trick concert. We plan on doing the Warrior Dash again next year, maybe I'll see you in the mud pit!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Beagle Book

Regular readers of this blog know that I've been collecting rare and unusual books for years now. A few weeks ago while my sister was visiting we spent an afternoon wandering through resale stores and I bought an old book for $1, The New Complete Beagle: New Edition by Noted Beaglers, originally written in 1956 and republished in 1971. Regular readers will also know that I have a beagle. A rather infamous dog known as "The Talking Beagle" who once upon a time was the subject of my first blog.(That is her in the pic to the left).

A recent conversation with Paul's sister who is also a beagle owner revealed what we already knew...there is no stranger, stubborn, or funny dog than the beagle. As we shared stories of their never-ending quest to find out what food might be at the source of everything they smell, their ability to escape backyards to follow a rabbit or squirrel and their need to be part of a family "pack" I remembered the book I had recently bought. I decided to read through it and see if there was any wisdom when it comes to this unusual breed.

While the book has great photos and drawings of beagles as well as chapters on the history of the beagle, the ideal build and temperament of a beagle and tips for training them for hunting and field trials, the book is not written for the family who owns one as a pet. So for anyone who has a beagle or is considering adopting or rescuing one, here are a few things that make them the coolest but strangest dogs you can imagine.

  • Beagles will eat ANYTHING. 
  • Beagles will do ANYTHING to get to food to eat it. 
  • Beagles are incredibly intelligent. My Beagle learned how to open the refrigerator door to eat everything inside. I now have a steel lock on the refrigerator door. And no I'm not kidding. 
  • Beagles never learn. Did eating that box of cereal they grabbed off the table make them ill? Did they get sprayed by a skunk when they approached the animal in the bush? They will do the same thing over and over again no matter the outcome. 
  • If you are not alpha to a beagle than you are in their pack. Good luck changing the hierarchy.
  • Beagles are wonderful family dogs and excellent companions.
  • Be prepared, they are the most stubborn, exasperating dog you will ever have.
  • They are undoubtedly worth the trouble, when they are not eating, smelling or sleeping they are pure love. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

What Was Your Favorite Moment of Olympics 2012?

Like viewers around the world, I was glued to the TV every evening during the past 2 weeks to watch the world's top athletes compete in London.

Years ago when it was announced that London would host the 2012 summer Olympics I planned on attending with my son. We have watched the Olympic games together, summer and winter since he was a little boy and the dream of taking him to London to see the Olympics was a great one. I signed up for internet newsletters and early ticket alerts as soon as the official webpages were created and read the progress of the Olympic village and facilities through the British papers. My son enlisted in the military and spent the summer in bootcamp so our Olympic trip did not happen but I faithfully recorded his favorite events so he can watch them when he returns home.

One of my favorite aspects of the Olympics are the personal stories about the athletes. The interviews with their families, the dramatization of hardships and the inspiring path to their Olympic dreams. This year I noticed more stories about the athletes who were raised by single moms including gymnast Gabby Douglas and superstar swimmer Michael Phelps. There were also the stories of the sacrifices the families of Olympic athletes make to pay for the training and travel that world class athletes require. It takes more than great talent to get to the Olympics and that's what makes the games so inspiring.

Now that the Olympics are over, websites and television are highlighting the "Greatest moments of the Olympics". There were so many. Watching double amputee Oscar Pistorius, "The Blade Runner" run in track and field was incredible. Michael Phelps winning his final Olympic medal was a highlight. The American women win their 3rd gold medal in beach volleyball. The complete disbelief on the face of British runner Mo Farah when he crossed the finish line to take gold twice made me cry every time I saw the replay.

But my favorite moment? When American Ashton Eaton completed what may be the most grueling event in the Olympics, the 2nd day of the decathlon to win gold. After his victory he walked to the stands where his mom, a single mother sat with his girlfriend. As the cameras rolled they embraced, hugging and crying so much you can barely understand what they are saying to each other, what you can hear is Ashton say to his mom, "It's the gold medal Mom" and his mom replies, "You did so good". That was my favorite moment of the of the greatest athletes at the games being told by his mom that he did good. Sometimes that is all a child, no matter who they are, needs to hear.

Watch Ashton win the decathlon and then go to his mom here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

From Norma to Marilyn

This week is the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe. Websites and magazines have featured Marilyn in articles, released "never seen" photos, rehashed her mysterious death, condemned and praised the most famous woman of the 21st century.

Marilyn's style is classic and continues to be imitated today. For the ladies who are interested in how to create Marilyn's look, often seen on celebrities such as Dita Von Teese, below is a video tutorial by British makeup artist Lisa Eldridge.

If you are interested in books on Marilyn, here are a few I've enjoyed:

Marilyn in Fashion: The Enduring Influence of Marilyn Monroe by Christopher Nickens
Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla by Andrew Hansford
Marilyn Monroe: The Final Years by Keith Badman

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vintage Style Goes Mainstream

While reading the Chicago Tribune on Sunday I noticed this full page ad and realized vintage is more mainstream than ever.
Maybe it's the popularity of TV shows like Mad Men or Downtown Abbey, or films such as My Week with Marilyn or The Artist. Perhaps it's the return to a classic and timeless style after years of being bombarded with trashy celebrities, flammable cheap clothing made in China and the look-alike style of yoga pants, a North Face jacket and Ugg boots. Whatever is happening, vintage style is everywhere and I'm thrilled.

What particularly delighted me about this ad is her hat of which I own a similar vintage one and her luggage. I have a collection of vintage suitcases and train cases that I use as purses and as carry on bags and in my home as sidetables and as extra storage. You can see a vintage suitcase and wicker train case I currently have for sale at Lively Vintage.

And that brings me to the announcement that Lively Vintage is open! My store on Etsy went live a few days ago and within 24 hours I had my first sale, a small wicker handbag that a young woman in France purchased. However due to the fact that she needed it within a week for a wedding we agreed that express shipping to France would be too costly, 10 times as much as the $12 cost of the purse. So the item has been re-listed. There are currently 23 items in the store, I have at least 2 dozen more items to list including vintage handbags from the early 19th century to the 1950's. The collection is my Mom's, she has been buying vintage bags for years and includes some amazing Whiting & Davis 1920's era purses. I also have more clothes and household items to list and as I become more creative with the styling the pictures will get better and better.

If you are looking to do some vintage shopping in the Chicago area and want some tips or if you are looking for a particular vintage piece, let me know via email at livelyvintage [at] gmail [dot] com.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday List #25-For Voyeurs

On the web? Of course you are. Phone, tablet, whatever, you're out there.

Today's Monday 5 List is for the readers who are voyeurs like myself. You like to look.

So the next time you're sick on the couch with your iPad or taking a break from answering email at work, here are 5 websites I recommend for visual goodies and inspiration.

  1. Pinterest. I've been browsing this website for awhile but only started "pinning" a few months ago. Not familiar with pinterest, it's a virtual pin board, you see an image you like on the web, you pin it to your collection of boards, clicking on the image once pinned takes you to the source of the image (blogs, websites, flickr accounts etc). Others can re-pin your pin, you can re-pin other's pins and on and on and on. I use it for recipes, style and great vintage sources. You can find me on pinterest here.
  2. StyleLikeU. A great site for browsing people's closets. Yup, photos and interviews with everyone from celebrities to designers, shop owners, musicians, writers etc..I love the images of messy closets, cluttered bedrooms, cherished mementos and the stories behind the clothes they wear and the trinkets they have in their homes.
  3. Flickr's What's In Your Bag Group. Completely. Addictive. Thousands of images from people all around the world of the items they carry in their purse, tote, backpack, carryon etc... Hover over an image and see little popups about the items. Fun, cool and sometimes shocking what people carry in their bags.
  4. Apartment Therapy. You can dig and dig in this website and always find something inspiring. Want to see the inside of tiny apartments in New York City. They're in here. How about clever ways to decorate on a budget? Its in here too. It's a time suck, beware.
  5. Hooked on Houses. Have a favorite movie or television series house? Good chance it's on this fun website. Some of my favorites are on here including the house in Something's Got to Give, Practical Magic, Under the Tuscan Sun and Kate Winslet's house in The Holiday. Celebrity homes and featured homes about the world are here too. The movie homes I am waiting to see on this website are Harry and Sally's apartments from When Harry Met Sally.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Special Friday Flashback

Today is my anniversary. A day to look back and more importantly look forward.
This is one of my favorite romantic movies, enjoy watching the scene where Jon and Sara finally meet in Serendipity.
True love is worth waiting for. P, you were worth the wait.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What? More Zucchini?

If you are growing zucchini in your garden you may be having an overabundance right about now. I had a couple of zucchini laying around and whipped up this recipe, it's delicious.

Pasta with Zucchini and Olives

2 zucchini
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter (real butter, not margarine!)
Penne Pasta (I used half the package of Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice penne pasta)
1/2 cup chopped olives (I used Trader Joe's jumbo pitted Greek kalamata olives)
Parmesan cheese (I used 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
Salt & pepper

Wash and slice the zucchini, not too thin or they will get mushy when cooked. Boil water for pasta. On medium heat melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add zucchini and cook slowly until the slices start to soften and brown. While the zucchini is cooking add the pasta and cook until al dente, drain.

When zucchini is cooked, reduce heat and add the pasta, stir to combine. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon (you can also add lemon zest and more lemon juice to taste). Add freshly grated parmesan cheese, stir to coat. Add chopped olives and salt and pepper, stir to combine and serve hot.

The pasta and salty olives with the fresh zucchini, combined with the tart lemon juice and creamy parmesan is delicious. Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday List #24-Watcha' Watching?

In the 80's and 90's I was a regular watcher of Aaron Spelling created TV shows, TJ Hooker, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Love Boat, Dynasty, and Fantasy Island. In the decades since and with more and more crap on cable I've watched less and less TV, especially with the horror of reality TV and trash like the Kardashians and housewives from American cities. Shudder.
Once the Olympics is over this summer I am planning on cancelling my cable subscription and instead use Hulu Plus, Netflix and Red Box for any entertainment I want to watch. So before I say goodbye to cable, here are the only shows that I still watch and enjoy. Most of these show will be available on Hulu and Netflix, those that aren't are usually in season box sets at the library. 
  1. House Hunters & House Hunters International. I've been watching this show for years and try and catch only new episodes. Now that we know it's all staged it's a little stranger to watch but I love to see the locations where they film. 
  2. Giada at Home. I love this cooking show with Giada De Laurentiis. The home where she films is serene with the California surf through the kitchen windows, her light and easy meals and her fun guests including her hysterical Aunt Raffy. I experiment with her recipes regularly. 
  3. Barefoot Contessa. Her beautiful home and gardens, her eccentric friends and her beloved husband. I rarely make her recipes but I like to watch her cook, especially when she visits Paris or New York. 
  4. Downtown Abbey. Completely. Obsessed. This show has created an entire culture of people who love it. I haven't been as obsessed with a show since General Hospital in the 1980's. Fantastic characters, beautiful locations, history, tragedy, vintage clothing, love, this show has it all. I can't wait until the 3rd season begins. 
  5. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and The Layover. He tells it like it is when he travels and eats. My son and I watch his shows together whenever we can. Anthony was in Chicago filming last week and rumor has it he went to the locally loved former speakeasy Simon's. Paul and I stop by there for a beer or glogg when we are in Andersonville, great place when it's cold outside. 
  6. Glee. A show my son and I don't miss, and not because one of the producers based it on the high school my son and I both graduated from. Regular watchers suffered through the horrible 2nd season and we're hoping the show ends as well as it started. 
What are you watching and have you or are you ready to get rid of cable?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Recipes for Farmer Market Goodness

Every weekend I visit my local farmer's market to supplement the vegetables and herbs that I grow in my garden with local specialties. There is the egg man, the pita and olives lady, the French nuns with their amazing homemade pastries, the knife sharpener and wonderful fruits from local farms including peaches and cherries. Last night I made a ridiculously simple meal for Paul and I and we enjoyed it with a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Here is the recipe, enjoy!

Rosemary & Lemon Salmon
2 filets of salmon
Fresh sprigs of rosemary (I grow my own and used 2 sprigs)
Thin slices of lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

Lemon Basil Potato Salad
Small yellow potatoes ( I used about 10 small potatoes, enough for 2 people) 
Juice of 1 large lemon (You can also add grated lemon zest and more juice to taste)
1 tbsp prepared pesto
1/4 cup real mayonnaise (You can use less mayo if desired)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh basil (Also grown in my garden, I used a handful of small leaves)

Roasted Green Beans with Parmesan Cheese
2 large handfuls of fresh green beans
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

To prepare the potato salad, make a few hours before dinner or the evening before.
Wash the potatoes and add them to a large pot of salted water, boil until just fork tender. Drain and shake off excess water. In a small bowl, whisk together the pesto, mayo, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust accordingly. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half or quarters and add to the dressing. Stir gently to coat and refrigerate for at least a few hours. Before serving sprinkle with fresh basil, julienned.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Tear off 2 pieces of aluminum foil, large enough to make a packet around each piece of salmon and place on a small baking sheet. Place salmon on foil, drizzle with olive oil, rosemary sprigs and 2 very thin slices of lemon. Salt and pepper can be added for taste. Fold the aluminum foil around the salmon and seal edges, the salmon will steam in the foil.

On a larger baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, arrange the washed and dried green beans in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.

The beans and fish will cook in the oven at the same time. Approximately 15 minutes for the salmon and 15-20 minutes for the green beans depending on how much you want them to the brown. Once beans are removed from oven, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serve the fish with juices from packet spooned over the top with a side of chilled potato salad and warm green beans.

Delicious and so easy. The salmon and potato salads are adjusted from recipes by Emeril Lagasse and The Pioneer Woman.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Flash Back Friday #53-An Affair to Remember

I've been working on launching my vintage store on Etsy and hope to have it open next week. Between uploading the images of the items I will be selling, researching prices and writing descriptions, I've been looking for vintage inspiration for the logo for my store. As I'm working on it I find inspiration in the style of classic films such as the 1957 movie An Affair to Remember.

A few of my favorite things about this wonderful movie:

  • The simple scarves Deborah Kerr wears around her hair
  • Belted dresses
  • Dressing formally for dinner
  • The beautiful gardens of the grandmother of Cary Grant's character 
  • The romance of travel
  •  Midcentury furniture
  • Finding true love later in life
  • Pink champagne
Here is a clip, enjoy and have a nice weekend readers!

Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm Published: My Article For Booklist

I was asked to write an article for Booklist, it was recently published as a July featured article. You can read what I wrote, The Evolution of Business Reference on the Booklist website or directly here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Do You Do During a Heatwave?

Chicago is having a record breaking heatwave. Spending most of my childhood in Florida for 3 months each summer made me rather heat tolerant, however the humidity in Chicago is terrible and we haven't had a good rain in weeks.  So what is there to do when you can't be outside for more than a few minutes? I've been reading, posting vintage items to my Etsy store, and enjoying the cooler locations in Chicago such as the Art Institute.

The books I am reading right now include:

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. The movie adaption is a favorite of mine but vastly different from this charming book that often reads like poetry. Who doesn't dream of fixing up a villa in Italy, harvesting olives for the oil and learning to cook Italian dishes?

Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook. A feast for the eyes and the stomach this excellent cookbook is full of mouthwatering recipes and photographs. Chapters are arranged by vegetables, herbs and fruit which highlights the many creative ways you can use what you grow including corn, peas, squash, etc.. The corncake recipe is on my menu for dinner tonight.

The photo below is of my garden, I've used a beach umbrella to shade my herbs and lettuce which were starting to suffer with the intense heat. As long as this heatwave continues I will try and get my indoor projects completed before my son returns to visit for a day after his bootcamp graduation later this month.
Stay cool readers.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Favorite Book is Back in My Bag

I recently found a favorite book in a box full of my son's things in the back of his closet. I remember carrying this little paperback, dog-eared copy with me for years when my son was little. It was often found in the diaper bag, under the seat of my car, in the toy bin, in his little toddler bed, in my purse...

Written in 1955 by Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon is the story of Harold who creates his own world and adventures by drawing them with his purple crayon, always with the moon following him. There is a dragon who guards an apple tree, a "very hungry moose" and a "deserving porcupine" who eat pie, and Harold's adventures by sea, mountain and balloon. The drawings are simple, the story is charming and the creativity is wonderful.

I don't know why I'm carrying this little worn copy in my purse again. My son is too old to be read too but as I re-read the story I imagine my little boy as Harold all grown up now and creating his own adventures in the world and always with the same moon I can see following him.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Great Gatsby Inspires a Summer Party

Recently Paul and I both re-read the classic, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you haven't read this beautifully written novel about the Jazz Age, you should read it as soon as you can get your hands on a copy. Especially after an article in last weeks Chicago Tribune called this "the Year of Gatsby" and before the latest film version is released later this year starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby.

As we were reading the book over the winter, a particular section in chapter 3 sparked the idea for a summer party, "There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."

So we started planning a party. Paul created an amazing invitation, we rented a roulette table, hired 3 college kids to work as dealers for roulette, poker, blackjack and video horse racing, bought some vintage clothes and before we knew it, we were hosting a 1920's inspired lawn party in the afternoon and a speakeasy in the evening. The party was a huge success and all but one of our 40 or so guests dressed in 20's attire, some guests even wore 2 outfits, an afternoon and evening costume. There were gangsters, flappers, bootleggers, gin, jazz, gambling, croquet and lots of laughs, it really was a party to remember. (The image above was taken after we changed from our garden party clothes into our formal wear for the speakeasy party. My vintage fringe flapper dress was found on eBay, my feather hat is also vintage and was bought at an antique mall.)

Now we have to figure out a way to top this party, we've already started planning...

If you've read Gatsby or you're going to read it for the first time, here are a few of my favorite passages from the novel:

"I've been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library."

"The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names."

"And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.  He did now know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us...So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back carelessly into the past."-The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Follow Up Read-Worth Fighting For by Lisa Niemi Swayze

Back on March 1, 2010 I blogged a book review for the audio recording of Patrick Swayze's autobiography, The Time of My Life. I was very  moved listening to Patrick's story, especially knowing that he had recorded his memoirs in the final weeks of his life.

Two years later and almost 3 years after Patrick's death from pancreatic cancer, his wife Lisa has written her story of Patrick's fight against cancer and their life together. Once I started reading Worth Fighting For: Love, Loss, and Moving Forward, I couldn't put it down and finished it within a few days. Lisa's honest and emotional retelling of Patrick's diagnosis, his strength during the brutal treatments, his final TV series (The Beast, filmed here in Chicago in 2008) and his last days is inspiring but very sad.

Lisa was Patrick's wife of over 30 years, his business partner and in the end, his full time caregiver. Upon Patrick's diagnosis, he was given weeks to live but lived for 20 months, largely in part to the sheer will of his spirit and the dedication to his medical care from doctors in California and Chicago. But it was Lisa who learned how to care for him, how to research new treatments, and how to keep him comfortable. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the evolution of their marriage from lovers and partners to fighters, their only goal was to keep him alive.

What I wanted more of...the Moving Forward portion of the book. There is only one chapter written after Patrick's death and a short Epilogue, not nearly enough on how Lisa is doing or in fact how she is coping without her partner of 34 years. Maybe it's too soon. Maybe that will be in yet another book. Until she is ready to share those stories, this book tells of the 2 years they fought cancer together and like their first book is a true love story.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

19 years

19 years ago this evening I enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner, saw Jurassic Park at the movie theater, went into labor and delivered my son. It was a long night. He was born so quickly only his father, my best friend Wynter and a nurse were in the room at 3:30 am on June 15, 1993. We were home from the hospital 24 hours later.

I remember every birthday of his life...his 1st birthday party with his own little cake he could smash into his fists and stuff in his mouth, the birthday parties at indoor amusement parks, his 4th birthday when he erupted in chickenpox at the party, his 5th birthday trip to Disney World to find Peter Pan and all the parties that included dinosaurs, Harry Potter, Legos and water gun fights with his friends.

This will be the only birthday in his 19 years that we have not been together. As a mother I hope that even though he is in bootcamp being pushed to his limits, that he knows that his family and friends are thinking of him and sending him love.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"The Doll House"

For the first time in 19 years I am living alone. After my son left for basic training it took me a few days until I was ready to pick up the towel he left on his bathroom floor, wash his sheets, put away his laptop and clean up the "man cave" basement where he hung out with his friends during his last weeks at home. Now that I am beginning to adjust to my life as an empty-nester I'm finding it fun to have a home to decorate without sports equipment, video games and boy stuff.

As I settle into my new routine, my fridge and pantry are full of fruits and veggies instead of meat and dairy, the windows are open, and my favorite radio station is playing music from the 30's and 40's whenever I am home. I have more wine in the house, more high heels scattered around the house, clothes and hats on tailor mannequins, bowls full of jewelery on tables, new girly smelling soaps and lotions in the bathroom and vintage pictures on the walls.

My 1950's bungalow is full of period details and because I purchased it from the original owners it was well loved and rarely updated. I'm adding my own touches such as my home library, remodeled basement, raised vegetable beds in the large newly fenced-in yard, new landscaping around multiple patio areas and lots of vintage pieces.  I'm considering adding large mirrors to a wall in the basement with a ballet bar to create an area to stretch and dance.

Although I am sad my son is not around to ask me repeatedly, "What are you making for lunch Mom?" or "Where are my shoes?" or "Is there gas in the car?" and I miss cooking his favorite meals, watching movies together, and waking up in the middle of the night when he comes home and wants to talk, I'm adapting to finally having a little home exactly the way I want it. My own doll house.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


My son is home for another 24 hours before he leaves for the greatest adventure of his life, 4 years of active duty with the Navy. I don't know how to say "See ya later" when I drop him off...he knows what I want to say. Love.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Living with Winnie-the-Pooh

The former home of Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A. Milne is for sale in England. A stunning 16th century home with modern updates and almost 10 acres of property and gardens including statues of the famous characters.

The home is where the author lived with his family, including son Christoper Robin and where he wrote his famous stories. The real stuffed animals of Christoper Robin that inspired the characters are on display at the New York Public Library.  If you are interested in wandering through the 500 acre woods, Pooh Corner or Poohsticks Bridge, they are all local locations to the home in Sussex England. To see the real estate listing as well as pictures of the home and grounds click here.

Ahhh if I had a few million dollars I would love to live with Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo.

(Image is from Walt Disney Productions)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday 5 List #23-My Kinda Town

Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the World and for the next 4 months or so, it's also one of the most beautiful, busy and HOT places in the USA.
So for today's Monday List here are a few things you'll need for a summer in Chicago.

  1. Sunscreen. Chicago has 26 miles of beaches. Theater on the Lake, beach volleyball, numerous sailing and yacht clubs, Chicago Air and Water Show, music, festivals, markets and more. You'll need lots of sunscreen.
  2. Cash for cabs. Chicago is a City of neighborhoods and on a typical summer day you might go to a Cubs game in Wrigleyville, a street festival in Lincoln Park, dinner in Old Town and drinks in River North. Yes Chicago has an excellent transit system that combines the Metra trains, the L subway and buses, but transfers and delays make cabs the way to go in the summer. Don't even think of trying to park on the north side of the city, the parking meter rates and time limits are ridiculous. Although you might catch a break on major streets like Ashland Avenue for Cubs games and festivals. 
  3. Festival calendars. There is a wide variety of festivals throughout Chicago including Blues, Jazz, Taste of Chicago, Garden Walks and Art Fests. For calendars and locations click here and here
  4. A Hangout. Whether you are a Chicagoan or just playing one for the summer, you need a hangout. Over the years I've been a regular at many bars and clubs, a few of the great ones are now long gone and I still miss the familiarity of them. However the great thing about a city the size of Chicago is that you can always discover a new hangout. Here are a few of my favorites, you will likely see me perched on a bar stool or playing pool.
    1. Millie's. Small, old school street corner tavern with a pool table and darts and the nicest bartenders around. This is a beer bar, don't be an idiot and order a martini. If you see Toni behind the bar, tell her I said hello.
    2. Map Room. Its gone hipster which can be annoying on a weekend but Map Room still has an unparalleled beer selection and stacks of old National Geographic magazines. 
    3. Fernando's. Good Mexican food, great bar. My friend Michael knows everyone in this family owned establishment and it's a great place to watch a game. 
    4. O'Donnell's. We wandered into this bar on St. Patrick's Day and will definitely be back. The true definition of a Chicago neighborhood bar. Pool table, bar games, staff who have been there forever and locals. 
    5. The Museum Cafe and McKinlock Court patio at the Art Institute. As a member I am at AI as often as I can and in the summer, the interior courtyard is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the City. Delicious food and cocktails. Best enjoyed during the day as it closes before 8 pm.
  5. Your I've-Got-Your-Back Person. You know who it is. The person who will do something crazy with you, try experimental food, curl up on a beach blanket and nap after a festival, stop the world from spinning after drinking in the sun, toss you in a cab and take you to listen to great music. I'm lucky to have 2, Diana, my soul sister, world traveling companion, adventure seeker and Paul, my life partner, musician, fellow foodie, pool player, and Chicago lover. Chicago is better with them. If you are looking for your "person(s)"...the City is also an amazing place to find someone. 
Whatever you do in Chicago this summer, just enjoy it and if you are not here already come and visit. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The definition of Mother's Day on Wikipedia is "Mother's Day is a celebration that honors mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society". For the 19 years I've been a Mom, I've enjoyed the simple celebrations on Mother's Day such as homemade cards, gifts wrapped in cartoon newspaper and flowers. 

This year it was an important day as it is likely the last Mother's Day I will spend with my son for the next few years while he is serving in the Navy. Mother's Day fell on the last day of my vacation so I changed my flight, took the red-eye from Los Angeles and arrived home in Chicago before my son woke up that morning. My son and a friend made me chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, we watched movies cuddled up on the sofa, took chocolates to Paul's mother and enjoyed dinner at home. It really was a lovely day. The best part...that my son was happy just to be with me. 

Motherhood has been the greatest gift and adventure of my life. When my son leaves on May 31 for his 4 years of active duty I will try and adapt my daily life without him in our home. I will join the millions of parents who have watched their children leave home for college, military service or to begin their adult lives. I will keep breathing and wait for the day he comes home. 

To all the Moms who wake up in the middle of the night when a baby cries, or a toddler has a nightmare or when your teenager isn't home the Moms who buy Hallmark cards with silly images and wear spaghetti necklaces and earrings from gumball vending the Moms who find it hard to live without daily talks and texts from their children, I'm with you. And to the Dads that do the same, especially those that are Mother and Father to their children...I'm with you. There just isn't enough time with our children...

Friday, May 4, 2012

What I'm Reading This Week...

I am reading a great book, Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla, written by Andrew Hansford. Fans of Marilyn Monroe, her style, movie costumes or anyone who loves the image of her in the famous white dress that blows up over the subway grate will enjoy this book.  My favorite image is a simple one, a black and white shot of Travilla's workroom and Marilyn Monroe's dress form/mannequin with her name written on it. It highlights her generous curves, so iconic of the 50's and so much sexier then the stick figure celebrities of today.

I am leaving for a return trip to New Orleans this weekend for a little fun at jazz fest and more delights of the Big Easy with Paul and our friends, then we go directly to Los Angeles for a special occasion and more fun in the sun. The Marilyn Monroe book is a little too big to throw in my bag for my travels so I'm taking my Nook Color e-reader (and the 650+ books I have on it) to read on the plane and by the pool. I'll update when I get back in mid May.

Monday, April 30, 2012

My Home Library

Over the past week my home library has become a reality. My friend Eric put together my bookcases (Ikea Hemnes), then Paul and I went to a local book sale that had a selection of 1930's books at auction that I wanted to add to my rare book collection (I won!). After almost 2 years in boxes my books are finally home.
Here is a picture of my new reading area.

Thanks to Nancy for sharing the video below of a couple's home library! Watch the little dragon on the table...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Want to Be a Mermaid

During my childhood summers in Florida, I spent every day on the beach or pool hopping with my friends (not always legally, but more fun trying a strangers pool or those at fancy hotels on St. Pete Beach). My friend Shirlann and I would pretend like we were mermaids and we were really good at swimming with our knees and ankles together like a dolphin. Like so many other little girls I thought for sure one day I would spot her, that mermaid in the surf. Maybe it would be just her tail as she dove, but I knew there was an underwater world full of mermaids.

Back in the early 80's before movies such as Splash and Disney's The Little Mermaid and before the days of mermaid Barbie dolls and costumes, we had little but our imaginations and books like Hans Christian Andersen's tragic story from 1836, The Little Mermaid. In the 30 years since I pretended to be a mermaid, there are many more books and movies out there for little girls who believe.

Here is one of them, Last Night I Swam With a Mermaid and the book trailer below. It's like watching myself on the beach looking for a mermaid...enjoy. (Image above is one of my favorites, John William Waterhouse's Mermaid)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

600 is a nice number...

WOW, this is my 600th post! Over the 5 years I've been writing Lively Librarian I've met great librarians, authors and many of my regular readers. Thanks for reading!

Looking back, here are 5 of the most read posts I've written based on visitor stats:
  1. Books for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  2. Books by Katie Fforde
  3. Flash Back Friday #30-Fire with Fire
  4. A Friend Online
  5. The Wonder and the Reading

Monday, April 16, 2012


I spent 2 days in Baltimore Maryland over the weekend and got a glimpse of this beautiful and historic city for the first time. We spent Saturday wandering through Ellicott City's antique stores, enjoying Maryland's local beers and taking photos of the buildings including America's oldest surviving railroad station. Ellicott has been named one of the most haunted cities on the East Coast, we explored an old private family cemetery but didn't run into any ghosts.

On Sunday we headed to Westminster Hall and Burying Ground to find the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. For years I have followed the stories of the "Poe Toaster", a mysterious man who appeared at Poe's original grave every year on Poe's birthday bringing 3 roses and a half full bottle of cognac. The man's identity has never been known and this year the 75 year tradition was declared over after a 3 year absence of the Poe Toaster. When entering the graveyard Poe's monument and new grave is immediately to the right of the gate. To locate Poe's original grave you must wind your way through the historic graves to the back of the graveyard.

When I was a little girl I first read Poe's tragic and haunting poem, Annabel Lee. Like so many of Poe's works, this poem explores the death of a young woman, often believed to be his own young bride, his first cousin Virginia whom he married when she was only 13 and who died when she was 24. Virginia and her mother are buried with Poe in the graveyard.

If you haven't read the works of Poe I suggest starting with his poems. The Raven being his most famous (another tale of a dead young woman with a frightening talking bird, "Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore" and madness thrown in) but his other works, often darkly romantic and of course macabre are also unforgettable. Favorites of mine include, "Fairy-land", "Spirits of the Dead" and "To One in Paradise".

I eagerly look forward to a return trip to Baltimore for more laughter and fun with our friends, exploration of the city, a drive up the coast and more time to immerse ourselves in the history of the area. Maybe even find time to climb aboard the ship USS Constellation in Baltimore's Inner Barbour where we enjoyed lunch before we headed home to Chicago.