Monday, December 20, 2010

Time To Come Together

 Last Sunday,for the third year in a row, we attended the Compassionate Friends' Worldwide Candle Lighting with our friend in Tucson.  He is Joe's high school and college buddy and our own personal Clint Eastwood, a real tough guy. Three years ago he lost his son and namesake in a tragic death at the age of 32.  No more tough guy.  It almost broke him.  By good fortune,  he found the Compassionate Friends  - an international self-help group for bereaved parents and their families.  It has helped him cope with his grief - although he will  never overcome it. 

Joe and I joined him  lighting candles in the memory of his son and the deceased children of the other 300 people who gathered that night. There is not a more devastating sight - than that of  parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends gathering together, creating a circle of flickering candles. All of them have have lost a child.  Don't ever try to console them by saying "I know how you feel."  You can't, I can't, no one can who has not lost a child themselves.

This is a joyous season and I don't mean to strike a negative note.   I just want to make a suggestion.  Those of you out there who may be estranged from a parent, a child, a sibling, a friend - reach out to make the relationship whole.  Whatever came between you cannot be as bad as losing that loved one.  Of the people I talked to last Sunday night- those with the deepest sorrow were those who lost their children during a period of silence.

If you have lost a child, consider finding a Compassionate Friends group near you.  I have seen their power to console.    http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx

Whoever coined the phrase "reach out and touch someone" had it right.  So reach out and talk to,  write to, hug, or forgive. 

...Tis the season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Use it or lose it..." is TRUE

I just sat down to write a few Christmas cards.  My normally parochial school, Palmer penmanship hand writing is now coming out like chicken scratchings.  What happened?  Okay, so I have a little arthritis in my thumb - but no big deal.  What is going on here? 

Here's the analysis:
  • We pay all our bills electronically - don't write checks
  • Every purchase is MasterCard - nobody checks signature, much less penmanship
  • Birthday, sympathy, thank you notes are sporadic, not clustered
  • My last writing workshop was in July - free writing, stream of consciousness lasts less than 30 minutes
  • I write all my short stories on the computer
  • I communicate with my kids and grandkids on Facebook or by text
  • OMG - I have become one of them
I guess I'll survive my last few years without beautiful cursive writing, but will I feel good about it?  I was proud that my mom and my aunts and I all had that great handwriting - so legible, so correct, so rhythmic. What shall I do?  Sit in the library, at the pool or in front of the TV practicing Palmer penmanship - or just stop sending real  Christmas cards and sending the fake Facebook ones or an E-Mail?  No - I'll keep sending the written kind so you can sit back and say - "my, Lynn is really failing - just look at her penmanship."  It will make you feel better and it won't bother me at all.

In the meantime - for those of us who learned to communicate in real words and sentences, let's think about our grandkids who may have never had to do that.   All you moms and dads - I'd love to know.

  • Are your kids learning cursive?
  • Do you make them write stuff once in a while ( like thank you notes)
  • Do the colleges they apply to require written essays ( not typed?)
  • Do employers ask for writing samples ( as I did )
  • If the internet goes kaboom - will they be able to talk to their friends and family
  • Am I making too much of nothing?
I'll be okay - will they?

I really would appreciate your insight.  Now I'm going to go check all my other body parts that I haven't used lately - I think I may be on to something.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Separation is Working .. The Divorce Will Soon be Final

It is never easy to end a relationship.  To end one that has lasted for 36 years takes a lot of pondering and flip-flopping.  In this case it is a one-sided relationship, so all the flip-flopping and pondering have been mine.

It started with an early warning, a "dear Sam" letter, if you will -  I wrote an open letter to Sam Zell mourning the demise of the Chicago Tribune after its makeover over a year ago.  Although the paper has printed several of my letters to the editor in the past, they failed to print that one.

I followed up with an open lament on this blog just this past October.

http://lynncrawfordsays.blogspot.com/2010/10/chicago-tribune-youve-broken-my-heart.html

We suspended our subscription to the Tribune and the New York Times for our trip to Tucson ,which was to have started  on November 17th. We didn't leave Chicago until the 25th so it left us paper-less for 8 days.   I started looking at the Trib on line - obituaries, top headlines and an occasional glance at the editorial pages. Between that and Yahoo news for Chicago, I didn't feel like I was missing much. 

We did get our fix of real newsprint by buying the New York Times every day.  Besides missing the feel of the paper, we also can't live without the crossword puzzle.

We've been in Tucson for over a week now and we're still getting the Times and reading the Tucson paper and the Tribune on line.  It is starting to feel natural to not have to  dread facing John Kass. I miss Eric Zorn.  I will ask for visitation rights to his columns on line in the divorce settlement.

I suspect that I'll have to pay alimony in the form of the prepaid portion of my subscription.  We will not be resuming home delivery of the paper for the first time in over 3 decades.   The separation is looking good - we'll see if it still does when we get back to Chicago.  If not, I'll sneak down to the recycling  bin on Monday morning and grab a few sections.

These last few rocky years have not been pleasant.  It is time to dissolve this abusive relationship.  Adios, Tribune.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving  is my favorite holiday. So many good times.  The year Kevin cooked the turkey "upside down" and it was absolutely delicious.  The year the government shut down and we headed for Connecticut and joined Jody's family and Eric's mom.  We've had many a good turkey day at both Jacky's and Terry's and at least one with Colleen and her family.  Kelly always works on Thanksgiving.  Maybe one of these days she can ease up. She works so we can fly.
When we lived in New Jersey we rotated between our house, our mom's and my sister Patsy's.  Everyone remembers the year of the controversy over whether Joe or Uncle  Ted dropped the turkey at mom's house.  And then the year mom mixed up the sugar and the flour and we had creamy cranberry sauce. One of the best turkeys I've ever had was cooked outdoors in Florida by my sister Janis.  It wasn't Thanksgiving, but I'll always remember that turkey. In Illinois we often shared the holiday with the Shefte crew - lots of fun and Bud's good cooking.

 Last year was only so-so.  We  had made a business decision to leave for Tucson early. We visited  my aunt and cousins for cocktails, and I  enjoyed actually getting to cook Thanksgiving dinner after years of letting the kids host it.We invited a few stray neighbors to join us but - it was  not the same.  We missed sharing a table with at least some of our kids.

This year we knew we had to be in Tucson early again so we made a plan with our Illinois kids to stage a "faux Thanksgiving" on November 14th in Oak Park.  Everybody had their assignments and Joe and I were looking forward to renting a Zip Car and heading west on the Ike, hopefully loaded with pies, wine and whatever.

What's that old saying about "the best laid plans of mice and men.........."?

On November 8th,  as I was leaving a business meeting in Tampa, I learned that one of my mother's remaining sisters, our beloved Aunt Jul, died peacefully after almost 94 years of a kind, blessed and sharing life.  On November 11th I was back on a plane for her funeral on the 12th and returned to Chicago on the 13th to be sure I'd have time to make at least a few dishes for our early Thanksgiving.

This is where life interferes with plans.........

Joe had complained of flu-like symptoms when I talked to him on the phone.  He thought he might have food poisoning.  When I got home he was really hot and delirious (not because he was happy to see me).  By early evening he wasn't  making sense  and was unable to hold anything down, so we made our way to the ER at Northwestern.  For a Saturday night it was pretty quiet, although busy as usual.  A team of seemingly teen-aged doctors took over, ordering every test known to man and trying to stabilize his temperature and other signs before they could diagnose and possibly release him.  At midnight  they finally admitted him. I went home and made cranberry sauce for the feast in Oak Park.
Early Sunday morning the doctors ( I can't say enough about their skills and their compassion) decided that his gall bladder was coming out - but not until Monday.  I was pretty useless sitting around the hospital while he slept and the wonderful nurses kept tabs.  That's when I decided to head out west myself after all.  No Zip Car - I won't drive in Chicago - but my CTA Blue Line got me to Oak Park Avenue in record time. 
 Laden with only cranberry sauce and some cheese, I was picked up at the station by Carrie, who is a recent driver, and Jack who is one year behind her at OPRF You haven't felt old until your grandchildren become your chauffeurs. We had a wonderful time, and a few jokes about what might have caused Joe's distress.  I was delivered home by the Crystal Lake contingent along with leftovers for both of us. After checking in with Joe, I started on the new plan.


Monday morning I cancelled our flight for Wednesday and, as agreed, we re-booked for the following Tuesday. After donating the Monday night opera tickets back to the Lyric I headed out for the hospital. By six o'clock in the evening, Joe was minus a gall bladder and I had  spent many fearful hours reading a book and a half.

By the following Monday it was obvious that we were not up to travelling yet, so we rebooked for Thursday.  Yes, Thanksgiving Thursday.  The travel peak had passed and we made it smoothly to Tucson with SWA's generous snacks and of course, their offer  of a free drink if you travel on Thanksgiving.

We arrived in Tucson to a dead car and scantily stocked pantry.  Plenty of beer and wine and snacks.
Today the car is fixed and I will shop.  Maybe the turkeys are on sale.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Next year ...... well - we'll think about it next year.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Your New Queen Speaks

Having survived this recent election by not killing myself or others,  I propose the following:

  Recommendation:  
We install a monarchy.
  Action:
I AM the new Queen of The USA
  Qualifications:        
All of my grandparents came from Poland - I am blonde
  Election Results: 
 What election?  My grandmother was Queen of Summit, New Jersey - I was the1957 Soccer Queen  at C.H.S. So there!
  Name:
   Lynn S. Crawford - not stately.  How about Linus Siergiej de la Crayford VIII
  Chain of Command:
I have six equally qualified children.  Pick the one who wins beer pong challenge.

My Ten Suggestions: (not comandments)

  • Get rid of Senators to save billions in salaries - not to mention offices and perks.
  • Get rid of Congressmen -same as above
  • Divide Country into 9 sections - Northeast, Southeast, Upper Midwest, Lower Midwest, Upper Prarie, Lower Prarie, Upper West Coast, Lower West Coast.  Hawaii and Alaska
  • Create a new governing body made up of Governors of States
  • Mayors of town become advisors to Governors
  • Give Puerto Rico a voice.  They have such lovely music and food.
  • Make the Governor of Indiana share his fiscal philosophy with everyone else.
  • Get rid of the teachers unions and bring back the nuns
  • Set each election period for two months maximum and equal time on all channels, no exceptions
  • Drug companies should be banned from advertising - just eat right and laugh a lot.

The older I get the more I believe in the power of people vs. government.  Vote for me for queen - no - wait - I'm annointed.   I am the Queen of the Universe!  Hail to the Queen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Up in the Air

Thursday, November 4th, MDW to TPA -   Take off in beautiful sunrise in Chicago.  Cold at Fort De Soto and at Sailport - warmer in Chicago. Loud screeching music at Whiskey Joe's - stay out of there after 8 and on Saturday.  Good annual meeting. Good to see Jill - too many Cosmos (not the best). Met awesome new people from Georgia and Illinois at the pool. SWA and Tampa airport are great.  Love spending time with my sister.  Brother in law with extra drink coupons: priceless.

Monday, November 8th, TPA to MDW - Sad news in A.M..  A favorite aunt has passed away at 93.  Tampa finally warms up to bid me goodbye. Aisle seat - my favorite.  Great views from the Orange Line on my way home.  157 bus to my door.  Great bus driver - actually waited for me to unload my bag.  Two hour rest before the opera.  That was an opera ? Bad music, not much singing, just talking and a big headed lady in front of me.  At intermission the big haired lady and half the audience left the building.  Second act not quite as bad - glad we stayed.

Thursday, November 11, ORD to EWR - AAdvantage air miles, first class - great trip (seatmate who didn't want to talk).  Beautiful color in New Jersey - shuttle ride to Chatham a breeze.  Stayed with old friends -50+ years - we can take up as though no time has passed.  Wake for my aunt.  Hundreds of people - what a tribute to a life well lived.  Many cousins not seen in years, daughter and family, nieces from Cape Cod.  At least 6 "you look JUST like your mother" comments from old friends and neighbors.  One hour wait for a burger at Charley's Aunt - bah.  15 year old grandson nails friends' golf ball balancing globe in about 15 minutes.  Glass of wine with good friends and "good night".  The funeral on Friday was dignified, moving and perfectly fitting for the gentle woman who was my aunt.  Typical after funeral party for our family.  Celebrate life, not death.

Saturday, November 13, EWR to ORD.  Beautiful sunshine, just as the previous two days, smooth ride to EWR.  Damn  AA baggage fees.  Too tired to carry on the big one - so suck it up. flight on time - a whole row to myself.  $7.00 for a Bloody Mary - are you kidding?  Arrived on time, bag waiting, train waiting, bus waiting.  Made it home in record time with no glitches.  At home - foggy, cold and damp. Husband with  bad stomach flu symptoms - really bad- wish I had been here. Glad I was at the funeral.

 And now.........................
We have three days to pay our taxes, do our banking business, make dish for faux Thanksgiving with family, enjoy family on Sunday, pack bags, go to the opera on Monday ( this will be a REAL opera). Batten down the hatches here on Tuesday for a month away.

Wednesday, November 16th, MDW to TUS.  I will need my month in the sun to recover from the last 9 days of travel. 

George Clooney - you can have it.


P.S.  I know why the SWA flights were all full and the AA flights half empty - but that's another story for another day after I recover.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Wikopedia tells me that these are the words of Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás a  Spanish philosopher and essayist. Wikopedia calls him George Santayana, but I like the way his whole name looks, sounds and feels on my tongue.

Well, keep his words top of mind as you observe what's going on around us.

  • We just elected a new bunch of knuckleheads to replace the old knuckleheads
  • Young people are smoking at a higher and heavier rate - look out for your arteries, kids (I know)
  • The words "5 year A.R.M , We'll help you Qualify" are popping up occasionally in newspaper ads
  • Another set of swear words: "Unlock the Equity in your Home" is creeping into the on line ads
  • Today's prejudices make those of the 60s look mild
  • The school day is getting shorter
  • The average parking garage has more SUVs than fuel efficient cars
  • American Girl "cult" is like Barbie Doll craze, only 100 times more expensive and addictive
Okay.  I'm not going to bore you with a longer list.  I'm sure you have your own.  I am eternally grateful that the festering, uninspiring, half true campaign ads are over.  I now don't even care who won or who wins.  I win because the ads for phony lawyers and sex enhancing drugs are back.  I love to listen to the list of side effects.  Yes I will definitely call my doctor if the election lasts more than 4 hours.  (Did I say election?)

I can usually come up with a couple of good posts when I'm annoyed or ticked off.  I lose all writing ability when I am bent over throwing up from disgust with what is going on. So- I'm taking a long weekend in the Florida sun to get over it.

I know, I know - sun is BAD for my skin.  See - I am one of those not remembering the past.  Guess I'm condemned.  Sailport here I come.  No computer - only SUN, CHLORINE, SAND  and my sister and a good friend.  See you next week.  I've earned all these wrinkles and at least I'm not lying about them - nor am I expecting the tax payers to pay for them.



And now every time I go on the Internet I am treated to this socially destructive suggestion.

www.payloansdaynow.adores.it Get Approved in 1 hour Fast Loans Up to $1500

Friday, October 29, 2010

Five More Days

I am urging everyone to vote on Tuesday.  I know some of these guys are not worthy and it is hard to tell one from the other in many cases.  Don't let the bad guys win (on both sides) by not voting.  If you are in any one of many polarized groups I'm sure you know who you're going to vote for.  If not, and you still want to do some fact checking, a good website to check out.


http://www.politifact.com/


They appear to be neutral and give you a quick glimpse of what people have said and given each statement a rating of true, mostly true, half true, half false, mostly false, false or liar, liar pants on fire.

It's quick, easy and to the point.  A Pulitzer Prize winning website.  Go for it.

Here's a link to my previous post on the election.
http://lynncrawfordsays.blogspot.com/2010/10/only-13-more-days-to-endure-this.html

I'm not going to try to tell you how to vote.  JUST VOTE!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sid, The Streeterville Spider - The Final Chapter

I haven't updated you on Sid, Sally, Saul and Sam since the the end of August.  So much has happened since then that I'm not sure where to start.  Okay - Sally finally took the plunge and moved over to Sid's window.  She didn't entirely abandon her web, but spent less and less time there.  Sam and Saul moved downstairs to another pane and continued to live a pretty sedentary life.

I noticed that Sid was spending more and more time away from his original web, leaving Sally alone a lot.  She continued  to maintain both webs.  One day, I spotted Sid on the window in the den - pretty far north from his home.  The fact that this coincided with the start of football season is not unimportant.  The TV set is in the den and it only makes sense that Sid would be a football junkie, given his other macho traits.

Occasionally he 'd go back south to his home, where Sally bravely tried to keep him happy without the TV and the NFL.  Saul and Sam had become restless and moved around between the first floor of their two flat to Sid and Sally's second floor space.  From time to time, they'd join Sam at the den window - but I suspect they were more NASCAR than NFL and NASCAR will never show itself on our TV screen, except by accident when we are channel surfing. 

One day they just picked up and moved to the farthest south window of the living room.  I think they spent most of their time sulking.  Once or twice I saw Sally run over there to check on them. Her maternal instincts still in tact, in spite of the way she was being treated by Sid.  Pretty soon Sally started losing interest in her own web.  Neglected, it started to shrink and the entrapped gnats and such started dropping away - the food source was disappearing - not a good sign.  With Sid gone most of the time and Saul and Sam acting sour and sullen, Sally was losing her spirit.  One day she left in the morning and instead of coming back after the midday sun was gone she simply flew away. 

I don't know if she found a new love, or moved in with some girlfriends or simply knew that these guys were coming and this time they meant business.  In any event - she must not have warned the others.  They were still there on the morning of the window washing.  After the window washers left, I waited a day or two for Sid, Saul and Sam to return. as they had done the last time.   They didn't.  Winter will be upon us soon and the lake will not bless us with any more spiders until next year.  I hope that wherever Sid, Sally, Saul and Sam are that they are happy.  They provided us with months of fun watching them.  Look out for them on a window pane near you.  Every time you see a fake spiderweb in someones Halloween decorations - think of Sid and his friends.  I know I will.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Only 13 More Days to Endure This.................

Get these damn elections over with in Illinois.  Don't our Illinois candidates realize that most of us have stopped listening and watching and reading? At this point, they are pouring their advertising dollars down a rat hole.  We've been subjected to this since right after Labor Day and before I stopped listening and watching I didn't hear one positive message or one practical solution to any of our problems.  And don't they realize how much name recognition they're giving their opponents? I do intend to vote because it is our right, our privilege and our duty.  How will I choose?

Do I vote for the honest incompetent or he slick shady one?

How about it- the liar or the loser?

Then there is the proven crook vs. the smoke and mirrors "reformer".









Maybe I'll vote for anyone:
  •   who's never held office before
  •   who's not been endorsed by the Trib
  •   who's a woman, or Irish, or Jewish
  •   with a hyphenated name
  •   who didn't grow up in Chicagoland
  •   physically unattractive
  •   who has spent less than $1,000. on advertising
Or I could just blindfold myself and point the pen where it wants to go.  We need a more civilized way of choosing our elected officials.  9 months is a nice time frame for having a baby.  It is waaaaaay too long to have between a primary and a general election. And Joe citizen should not be "electing" our judges.  By the way, in the judicial races I always vote for women.  On the  retention of judges I always vote "no".
                                       
I think you get the idea.  The only winners in these races are the ad agencies and the television stations.  As usual, we, the voters in Illinois are the losers.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's Dangerous Out There

I took a walk to and from the hair salon today for a haircut.  It is only 8 blocks round trip.  My favorite doorman, Carlos, at the Drake,  gave me a hug and told me to be careful as he always does.  What can happen in 8 blocks?  Plenty.  I was sideswiped by a bicycle, scared out of my wits by a guy running a red light at Walton and Michigan, almost knocked over by a band of teens walking 5 abreast and whacked with a fast moving revolving door.  I ranted enough about this last spring - so I won't bore you with a repeat.  In case you didn't read my post last April, I've provided the link.

I'm going to keep Carlos' words in my head everytime I head out now. I'm on my way to Fed Ex right now.  Let's see if I make it back alive.


http://lynncrawfordsays.blogspot.com/2010/04/no-country-for-old-ladies.html

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Youth and Food

I enrolled in Food Writing at the Newberry this semester. Why not? I like to write. I like to eat. I walked in expecting the usual over the hill group that gravitates to the Newberry Seminars. One by one, my classmates arrived. Not one of them was as old as some of the shoes in my closet. “Oh no,” I thought. “Kids younger than mine. What have I gotten myself into?” As it turns out – I  had gotten myself into a wonderful class.

Our instructors are engaging and eager to share their considerable knowledge of the culinary arts and food writing. They are determined that we have fun. Day one we were treated to a crispy, crunchy, succulent, melt- in- your- mouth, double baked almond croissant from the pastry chef at Fox and Obel. My classmates wrote stories about the croissants that revealed their personalities and some of their life stories. " Hmmm,” I thought. “20 –somethings who are literate, passionate and not self absorbed? This is promising."

Class two was a field trip to Mercat a la Planxa, the Catalan restaurant in the Blackstone Hotel. Ethel and Stephen had prepared us with a review of the geography, cuisine and culture of Catalonia and some culinary terms we’d encounter. What they couldn’t have prepared us for was the bright vibes of the décor, the warmth of the staff, as youthful as my classmates, and the nervous but gracious service. Then there was the food.


They had me at Pimientos de Padron, flash fried peppers with a Salbixada sauce, a blend of almonds, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, oil, vinegar and bixto pepper.  Creamy, dreamy – hit me again. And again. And again. The cheese was served with bacon sherry caramel followed by bacon wrapped, Marcona almond stuffed dates. A double bacon treat.

Next were perfectly prepared and presented diver scallops, a spinach dish from heaven and chorizo brochettes that I could have lived without. We all , with a couple of exceptions, salivated over and devoured Croquettes de Xocolate for dessert.
 The star of the show, according to my taste buds, was Arroz a la Cazuela.  Accomplished Sous Chef, Cory Morris created this orgasmic combination of saffron broth, shrimp, chicken, chorizo, artichokes and short grained rice tableside. At 29 he fit in perfectly with the mostly youthful group around our table. No pretension, no formal training, and no delusions of grandeur – he spoke with pride in what he does and who he works for. Sure, he’d love to be a sous chef for Jose Garces on Iron Chef or compete himself. But yeah, he eats frozen pizza and drinks Pepsi when he ends his 18 hour day. He would love to run a small lodge in Montana and serve the fish he catches. He - and my classmates - seem to have their priorities straight.



 There is hope for the future. In this case, youth is not wasted on the young.

They get it.



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chicago Tribune - You've Broken My Heart.

When we moved to Illinois in 1974 I became an avid reader of the Chicago Tribune.  It was the information source I used to turn myself  from a Jersey Girl into a Chicagoan .  I loved the Metro section that featured our west suburban village, but I also loved the sections that guided me through the arts, sports and business that I needed  to figure out the landscape of my new home. 

Over the years I also became an advertiser in the Trib - to rent my vacation home in Arizona and on behalf of the company I worked for.  I always got good results.  It was a really good name and people respected it.  Think -Arthur Andersen, FWWoolworth , TWA, Madigans, Schwinn, Continental Bank and Wieboldts.

During my exciting career I didn't spend much time analyzing the Trib - I just read what I could during my commute to work - especially the business pages and commentary and checked the ads we had placed.  I loved the Sunday Section with Rick Kogan and the wonderful writing of Leah Eskin.  I grabbed it first from the pile of papers on the counter.

A few years before I retired in 2008 I noticed that I was not enjoying the Trib as much as I used to and attributed it to my own cynicism and advanced  level of Chicago knowledge.   My  husband had told me of his waning interest  - but I attributed it to male stupidity and adverse spousal opinion.   Turned out he was way ahead of me.

I've expressed my opinion many times now on the subject of the demise of the Tribune, including a letter I wrote  to Sam Zell a few years back suggesting he sell the Trib and keep the Cubs - because at least with the Cubs you get beer.   Nothing, however, broke my heart like this article from today's New York Times which makes me ashamed to be a subscriber and removes forever any awe I had for Tribune Tower itself.


Is this what journalism has come to?  Stop the world, I want to get off.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Apologies to the Polar Bears

We are not fanatics about the environment, but we try to do our share.  We clutter our front hall with newspapers in recyclable bags until one of us gets motivated to haul them down to the basement recycling bin.   We faithfully rinse and recycle glass, aluminum and plastic in the trash room containers. We carry Trader Joe's reusable grocery bags on shopping trips and I use the backs of  used envelopes for notes.  Those of you who knew my mom - knew the history of her life could have been reconstructed from notes on the backs of envelopes.

Today I drew the line on what I'm willing to sacrifice for the better good.  I refuse to go blind trying to use light bulbs that take forever to get bright and then are still too dim to read or cook by.  Besides, one of them just burned out -years before its heralded  end of life. Although I have recently sworn off cooking, I still need to use a knife in the kitchen ( those limes for my cosmos don't come already cut, do they?)   and I really don't want to mistake my index finger for a stalk of celery.

  I found that in order to see what I'm doing with the new early darkness I needed ,in addition to the overhead light with the energy saving bulbs, the halogen lights over my island and under my cabinets plus the hall light. I think I spent more energy on those than I saved with the dim-wits in the ceiling. It is now nearing darkness and  I switch on the ceiling light with the newly installed old fashioned light bulbs.  I can actually see in my kitchen.  So with all due respect to Al Gore, the EPA and my friends in Antarctica, I'm sticking with what works for me. 

I look forward to tomorrow morning's crossword puzzle - I think I'll be able to read the numbers without a flashlight.

Sorry, guys.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Delete It From My Profile - and I Mean NOW.

Every time for the last 70 years that I've had to fill out a form which includes interests, hobbies, favorite activities or passion, I've always said the same three things "reading", "writing", and "cooking".  Depending on the stage of my life the lists may also have included, canoeing, swimming, hugging my babies, making my business goals,  entertaining, dancing, frat parties, , - you get the idea. 

In college I clipped recipes even though there was nothing to cook on in the dorm but our iron.  I was creating a  "portfolio" for my expected marriage - the goal of every 50s co-ed.  As a young wife I raided the recipe files of my mother and mother in law. I still have many of them.  Living in Tucson I learned to love Mexican food.  Moving to New Jersey after graduation left me with no Mexican restaurants, so I was forced to learn to cook Mexican from my husband's engineering prof's cookbook.  I love it to this day.

In the Chicago suburbs we  became part of a group who held neighborhood dinners and I learned to cook "faux gourmet" - Oven roast some chicken, throw a can of black cherries on it and  garnish with mandarin oranges.  Then there were family dinners.  Cooking for eight was fun and probably guided by what was left in the cupboard a few days before payday.  Some of my most creative cooking happened here. Think Girl Scout Stew and Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples. Don't forget the forays to the Hostess and Wonder Bread outlet.

I've always fancied myself as a good cook - and sometimes it was true.  More often, my kids, all of them, can outcook me.  My friends go to cooking schools in Italy, France, Napa Valley  and Santa Fe.  I just keep plugging.  Damn the Farmers' Market.  Last week the eggplant looked sublime with its maroon, silky presence.  How could I resist?  Moussaka calls.  Three @#%$#^&- hours later I had enough moussaka for a planet - with only two diners involved.  Holy Leftovers! 

Today it was stuffed peppers.  Great shapes, easy to stand up in a baking dish, no wax from the warehouse.
I could have read half my really great  book in the time it took me to chop, brown, saute, mix, parboil, fill, sauce, bake and baste this baby.  It tasted great - two of them are leftover.

I AM DONE.  Next time I want a great meal, I'm going to  one of my  kids' houses or to Trader Joe's ready to eat section.  Life is too short and I have a lot of books to read and sights to see. And I live in one of the great food cities of the world.

Take the damn "cooking" off my profile.  NOW.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Good Book - Don't Forget to Check it Out.

Some family members and many of our friends are dealing with loved ones suffering from various forms of dementia.  At my age, I and many of my friends deal with forgetfulness on a daily basis.   I am constantly searching for keys, glasses and other objects and they're usually right where they belong.  Now that I'm retired, I often find myself having to look at the newspaper to be sure I've got the right day and date.  I spent Friday of this  week thinking it was Saturday and all day yesterday I was sure it was Sunday. Now I feel like today, Sunday, is a bonus.  And so it goes for us aging members of society.  Thank heavens for my calendar to remind me of important events - and hopefully I'll continue to remember to look at it every morning - so I'll know where I'm supposed to be. 

I recently read a very good book, Still Alice, by Lisa Genova.  It's fiction, but written by an expert in the field of dementia and Alzheimer's.  Written in the voice of the person who is afflicted with Early Onset Alzheimer's it makes a compelling read.  I struggled through the first dozen or so pages - as too obvious - but soon after, I could not put it down.  I highly recommend it as an addition to your reading list. 



As a footnote, the friend who recommended this book to me, forgot she recommended it.  I in turn, forgot to check it out of the library until I ran across my notes from Tucson in my calendar.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September Song

I was going to submit a photo to the Red Eye's photo contest - this week entitled "September".  I grabbed my camera and went out on a quest for a winning photo.  I soon realized that September cannot be captured in one photo.  Over my lifetime, it has meant many things.  This September it brought me a reason to evaluate.

Yesterday I received a phone call informing me that one of my favorite sisters-in-law, Joe's sister, Jeanne ,had slipped away into the hereafter in her early morning sleep - a release  from her suffering and frustration.  In her nearly 85 years she had lived an extraordinary life, leaving home in her teens during the depression, making a mark on the foreign service, becoming a world traveler and the single mother of  a bright and accomplished child.   I also received an e-mail informing me of a work colleague who had given birth to a healthy baby boy - releasing him into the world to make a name for himself in the future as Jeanne had in her life.  I wish him 80 plus years to follow in his parents' footsteps and become an extraordinary person. The cycle of life is still working.

September also is significant for many other reasons:
  • The kids go back to school - I always remember my own kids and how excited they were and how sad I was,  (Mainly because I regularly forgot their physicals and uniform orders).  I was also happy that I had some time to myself when they were at school  (true confession). Now I lament how busy my grandchildren are - good for them - bad for me.




  •  The beach becomes my own - not many sun-bathers but lots of seagulls who want a piece of my lunch.
  • Stockpiling from the farmers' markets is a good idea - especially green tomatoes that could be coaxed into red ones lasting until November wrapped in newspaper.  We have now gone from spinach and cukes to squash and apples.
  • Open registration at the Chicago Park District - reminding me to get my body back on the treadmill.

  • The coleus and impatiens are all overflowing their planters, warning of the frost to come.
  • I love the sunrises, hate that it is getting dark too early.
  • This is the start of the year for me.  I am grateful to be waking up, breathing ,to enjoy it.  Will enjoy a weekend party with some of my kids.  Know the rest of them are experiencing "beginning of year is in September" as their kids move up the education chain.
  • Dreading that we will have to endure campaign " garbage" from now until November. 
  • Maybe we need a Royal Family and no elections!
Happy fall.   Welcome Elias and Godspeed, Jeanne.  Another year begins. September is not so bad.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Sid the Streeterville Spider - the saga continues

Yes.  It is Sid. I have determined his gender by his behavior.  He can never find anything without help from  someone else - two buddies, Sam and Saul,  have moved in with him - and they take turns  helping him look for  prey and moving stuff around. .  He also depends a lot on others for his sustenance, his laundry piles up and he stares longingly into our home.  I presume he is looking for a TV screen.   Sid now also has a girlfriend, Sally, who lives on the adjoining window.  She is a busy little lady and hardly ever stays still, unlike Sid and his buddies who actually do a lot of sitting around.  Sally occasionally hops over to Sid's window.  I am picturing a nice macaroni and fly casserole under one of her legs  to feed the boys at half-time. Occasionally both Sid and Sally disappear from the windows for hours at a time- hmmmm?  I haven't seen any baby spiders yet, but time will tell.

Like many Americans who have lost their homes, Sid and friends and Sally both had their almost 4 foot diameter webs destroyed.  Not by a sub prime lender or a real estate scam, but by our window washers.  I had meant to put an SOS sign in my window warning the washers away, but I was a day late and they came while I was out running errands.  I shed a few tears and went about my business.  The next morning they were all back.  Yes, I know it is them - because I recognize them now.  There is no truth to the myth that all spiders look alike.  After you've lived with them a few months - they develop unique personality traits and habits.  It has only been a week, but the webs are shaping up nicely - only about 2 feet in diameter.  Maybe if Sid has a couple more buddies move in and Sally has some little ones, they'll get those webs back up to speed.  And maybe next time, I'll remember to warn the window washers.

Talk about survivors!


 Okay , I confess.the photo on the right was taken from the Internet - my camera has some limitations and the sunlight is too bright (thank you, God) but the spiders and the webs on my windows are for real.  Two of my daughters are witnesses to that.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sorting the Laundry........

It seems that the only things we actually "make" in the USA are reality TV shows, drugs and excuses.  Case in point: I just finished sorting the laundry.  The items in the basket are evidence of  why the Northeastern U.S. is dotted with the skeletal remains of textile mills. This may fall into the category of too much information - but here goes the list of laundry items and their country of origin- in no particular order:

Polo - polo shirt - Philippines
Polo - shorts -Indonesia
Brooks Brothers  - oxford shirts- Malaysia
U of A official vintage collection - polo shirt - Pakistan
Nordstrom  - shirt - Thailand
Fresh Produce - beach cover up- U.S.A.
Brooks Brothers - madras shorts - India
Bali  - underwear - Costa Rica
Sears - pajamas - Turkey
Polo - underwear - Indonesia
LL Bean - shorts - Colombia
Polo - polo shirt - "made in Mariana Islands, USA, of imported fabric" ?????
Cannon- golf towel (circa 1990) - U.S.A.
Chicago Cubs - hand towel - China
Calvin Klein - underwear - Sri Lanka
LL Bean -polo shirt- Thailand
Lincoln Park Zoo - t-shirt- Honduras
LL Bean - shorts- China
Fresh Produce - shirt - U.S.A                                                  
Gear - Chatham Sweatshirt - Guatemala
Tommy Hilfiger - shorts - China
Tommy Hilfiger - shorts- Indonesia
Orvis - shirt- Thailand
No name bargain sweatpants from Falmouth, Mass. sidewalk sale - U.S.A.
 Gear -U Conn Women's championship polo shirt -India
Gildan - Sabino Canyon shirt - Honduras
SABAKU - shirt from Eileen's of Tucson - U.S.A. (Tucson, Arizona)
Fieldcrest - bathroom towels - India
Target Home - bathroom towels - India
Springmaid - sheets and pillow cases - U.S.A.

I am now on a mission to find things made in the U.S.A.  Can't wait to tackle my shoe rack,  medicine chest and kitchen cabinets.  Hope there's some good news there.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Brawl on the Beach

I went to the beach today.  I sat myself, my chair and my belongings ( wallet, water bottle, phone, keys and towel) in the sand facing the beach restaurant.  Not because I wanted to face the place, but because that was where the sun was.  I left my stuff and went for my usual walk - from Oak Street to Division Street.  I do it for exercise and also to seek out old beach friends.  On my way I met Jose, who was selling ice cream goodies from his hand propelled truck down the lakefront.  The  kids were so excited to have him and his offerings from $1.00 and up.  It was a really hot day.

I got back to my spot on the beach - popular news about crime in Chicago not withstanding, all my possesions ( who needs them?) were still in place and I continued to enjoy my day.  This is when  the fiscal conservative and the social liberal in my life  came to blows. It was a real beach brawl in my head.
 
Jose and his truck had reached the southern end of the beach, where I reside, and was handing Popsicles to my beach neighbors for their $3.00 when two thugs from the beach restaurant ran down and grabbed Jose's cart.  Saying " We're going to dump   your f---in wagon  in the f---in' lake" and get your ass out of here - sorry kids- you'll have to excuse us ..................

Okay - so the restaurant owner  pays thousands of $$ for the permit from his friend the Alderman and the Ice
Cream vendor only pays about $50. for a street peddlers license.  Why couldn't the guy who is going to make millions this weekend at the Air and Water show let the hard working ice cream vendor make a few honest bucks for his family?  And why the angry rhetoric?

Why am I thinking of not buying the $12.00 glass of wine at the restaurant and seriously considering  trying a $1.50 snow cone?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

There's More to the Newberry Than the Book Fair

To family historians, the Newberry Library is a gem of genealogy research.  To world explorers it is a treasure trove of maps, half a million to be precise. To plain lovers of books and history the 123 year old Newberry is a repository for 1.5 million books and 5 million pages of manuscripts dating from the middle ages up to modern times.

For me, it is a place of many delights - a place to party - I've been to weddings and fundraisers there.  A place to hide I've spent many an hour just browsing and learning.  But most importantly it's a place to exercise - my mind, that is.

Shortly before I retired, I decided to follow my husband's lead and start preparing for the after- career phase of my life.  I have loved to write since I was a child and the Newberry Library Seminars Program offered several classes that fit my schedule.  I have now taken these classes almost every Fall and Spring ever since.  This Summer, I even gave up some beach Saturdays for one.

Carol LaChapelle at BugHouse Square
What got me hooked was the first Carol LaChapelle class I took The Mind at Work:Writing the Personal  Essay. Carol is a teacher, writer, writing coach and author of Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Stories.   As a bonus, she is a fun person who loves sharing her gift with others.  She is, without a doubt, the reason I am as far along on my beach stories as I am.  She's also one of those who encouraged me to start this blog. Even thought I've participated in all the workshops she offers through the Newberry, I still continue to sign up a few times a year.  I call it a "jump start" that we all  need, no matter what field we pursue.  I may never be a published writer, as she is, but I'm enjoying writing and at this stage of my life that's what it's all about.
http://carollachapelle.blogspot.com/

There are other fine offerings in the Newberry Library Seminars Program and fall classes, which start in September are open for registration now. http://www.newberry.org/.  If you've got the writing bug, I highly recommend you start with one of Carol's workshops. 

Main Debate- Gun Control
The day of our last class this summer happened to be the day of the BugHouse Square Debates, presented by the Newberry in Washington Park, across from the front steps of the library.  The debates are held annually to celebrate the First Amendment and to commemorate  and revive the very spirited, spontaneous debates that prevailed at that location from the 1910s until the 1960s.  Orators from every walk of life, political persuasion and social point of view engaged in heated exchanges espousing their causes.  Heckling was encouraged then as it is now.  It's a fun way to spend a Saturday after you have filled your shopping bags with books from the Newberry Library Book Fair. 

This year's main debate topic was Gun Control in the City. The debaters were sincere,  made many great points and elicited some excitement from the crowd.  Still,  I long for the bombastic orators of yesteryear, there must be some still out there.  Or maybe we can just re-enact some of our family dinner conversations from the past.  In any event, it's great to celebrate freedom of speech. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Joy at the End of July

Funny how we react differently to very similar things.  I  recently dubbed a pile of unread magazines a "scary monster in the house".  I started this weekend by acquiring  a pile three times taller and I'm not the least bit scared. I'm actually jumping for joy.

 Because this pile is books  from the Newberry Library Book Fair and I'm dying to read them slowly and carefully - savoring each word. I salivate when I walk past them. I think it's because the magazines stirred a feeling of deadline, whereas the books stir feeling of take your time - enjoy.

By the way, I've dealt with the magazines in my own way - selective reading, laundry room sharing, and farming out to my kids took the pile down and it's now just a matter of taking one to the beach each time  I go to thumb through as a warm up for my book reading.

If you've never been to the Newberry Library Book Fair and you're a reader, you need to treat yourself to a trip there next spring when they have one devoted only to mystery writers and again next summer when you can purchase anything from antique classics and scholarly tomes to the latest pulp fiction, CDs and DVDs. 

Just walking through the Newberry Library and seeing and smelling and touching some of the tens of thousands of volumes all in one place,rubbing shoulders (and elbows and hips) with other book lovers gives me a feeling of well being and oneness with my fellow man. Well, maybe not the guy who gets there before me every year and gets help from the volunteers, who squirrel away his favorite authors for him. He and I happen to like the same authors. Maybe next year I'll beat him to some of them.



Kindle lovers need not apply.

                                                            http://www.newberry.org/

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Survivor: Sid the Streeterville Spider

Every year the lake sends airmail delivery of black spiders - some of which find their way onto the outside of our floor to ceiling windows, where they create beautifuly intricate gossamer webs.  We love to watch their progress and observe their hunting and survival tactics.  We are saddened when they sometimes blow away.
I've named our latest one Sid - no particular reason for that name - and I'm not even sure its a boy - it might be Syd.

Friday night we had a storm which one of my writing classmates described as biblical in its ferocity.  High winds, heavy rain and an eletrical show to rival any man-made fireworks. Towns, highways and subway tunnels flooded.  Homes and businesses were without power and, again, trees were down.  Many people were late to our class on Saturday morning.  I got there early in an effort to avoid the rain that was once again threatening with "Puff the Magic Dragon" shaped clouds outside my window.
 Upon returning home later that afternoon, not only was I greeted by a remarkably rosy dusk, but also happily, by a lively and  happy Sid.
MOTHER NATURE IS TRULY AMAZING.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Scary Monster in the House

What is the super monster that weighs 17  pounds, stands  only a foot tall and is scaring me to death?  If you guessed a half-elf or a vampire you'd be wrong.  Try again.  Give up? It is the pile of magazines waiting for me  after 6 weeks away and no suspension of delivery.  If it was the middle of winter I'd have less of a problem, but every day that I spend outdoors enjoying summer puts me one more day behind the 8 ball- or should I say print wall.  I think I need to  re-evaluate my need for  these publications and  do something about it. I'll take them alphabetically:

BON APPETIT:  I started getting this in December, 2009 as a consolation prize from Conde Nast after they shut down Gourmet.  I have been getting it ever since and have never paid for it.
What I like about it:  The photos and some of the fast easy recipes and the Feedback page at the end. I still miss Gourmet.
Why I probably don't need it:  I have 153 cookbooks in my collection, (left) not to mention the 5 albums filled with recipes from friends  and family or clipped from various publications.In spite of this I somehow always go back to preparing the same 10 dishes over and over.


CHICAGO MAGAZINE:  I think this gets renewed by osmosis.. I don't recall ever making a conscious decision one way or the other.
What I like about it:  The real estate stuff and occasionally a profile of an interesting Chicagoan.
Why I probably don't need it:  I have enough foodies in my circle of friends and family, that they give the scoop on the hot spots before they get reviewed by Chicago - and since we eat out so seldom, who  really cares.  I can get other events on line and pick and choose.  Nobody can change my mind about the best pizza and burgers in Chicago no matter how many issues they devote to it. I think it's time to cancel this one.

COOK'S COUNTRY:  I get this sporadically.  It is put out by the same people as Cook's Illustrated.. I don't pay for this oneI guess Christopher Kimball is trying to entice me to subscribe.
What I like about it:  Just a handful of basic, easy to follow recipes and the many test kitchen results that have really helped me choose and prepare food with better results.
Why I probably don't need it:  I don't miss it if I don't get it and I don't need another cooking magazine.

COOKS ILLUSTRATED:  I consciously subscribe to this and pass the issues on to my local daughters.
What I like about it:  Everything.  They do the best reviews of products, most helpful hints and dummy proof recipes.  It only comes every two months, so I find myself looking forward to it and I usually devour it before I open the  rest of the mail.
Why I probably don't need it:  NA - I need it.

the NEW YORKER:  This is Joe's baby.  We've been getting it for  more yeas than I can remember.  I take them after he's done with them.  Sometimes they pile up and we wind up taking a suitcase full when we go on vacation. 
What I like about it:  Okay, I admit it, the cartoons.  I also like the fiction and the financial page.  My favorite issues are the all fiction one and the food one. 
Why I probably don't need it:  By the time I get to it, all the timely topics are old hat and we've seen the movies (or else they're not showing any more).  I hate the poetry and wonder how some of it gets published.  If it didn't come in the mail, I could read it in the library. This one is not my call.

POETS AND WRITERS:  I subscribed to this at the suggestion of someone in one of my writing workshops.
What I like about it:  It only comes every two months and it has a lot of calls for submissions to contests and announcements of writers workshops and retreats that look interesting.
Why I probably don't need it: Its target audience is authentic (published) writers.  The articles are too long and analytical. The contests and calls for submissions are for much more serious subject matter than I care to produce.  I am not renewing it.

The WRITER:   I started looking at this in Border's at the advice of my writing teacher.  Then Border's took the benches and chairs out of the store - so I'd have to read it standing up.  I decided to subscribe.
What I like about it:  It is truly geared to aspiring writers who need advice and helpful hints.  The articles are short and to  the point.  They have good writing exercises in them.  They also have calls for submissions and contests, but more geared to the kind of writing I enjoy - personal essays.  I will give it one more try, although true to my nature, by the time I look at the contests, et al - the deadlines have passed.  Oh well.

That's another story for another time - when I get around to it.