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It’s been a year and 90 posts since I started blogging as an outlet for sharing, communicating, organizing my thoughts, expanding my horizons and connecting with interesting people. Today I refreshed the look and feel of the blog…very subtle, I know. I’ll change the header picture eventually, but on this cold, gray day I like the happy colors in the current one.

A little dis a little dat—that’s what I talk about in this blog and my “Blogs That I Visit” list is eclectic too: art, interior design, fashion and more.  I’ve updated the list, so you may want to peruse it again and visit some of the links.

Today is my Dad’s birthday. HAPPY 84 DAD!!! Still as handsome as ever. When I was young, all my girlfriends commented on this. I think his curiosity and creativity (he’s a woodworker, carver) keep him young.

Dad, Grandma, et moi:

And in case you were wondering, I did keep my promise to enter the Encaustic Art Challenge on Facebook (you can read my previous post about it here) even though my I made it just under the wire. In fact it’s the first one you’ll see when you click here to view all of the entries. That’s because it was the very LAST entry. Since I was strapped for time, I spent only a few hours in the studio working on the two panels (though I entered only one of them), took a photo and uploaded it to Facebook. It was fun because it was quick and I didn’t labor over it.

Here is the inspiration photo of the earth from space that I chose as a point of reference. The electric colors caught my attention.

And here is my encaustic painting (2 panels):

And a close up of the right-hand panel:

I hope you find something to celebrate today too!


Choo or Cheap?

Jimmy Choo $495 or Cheaper Brand $89?

Whew, this year is off to a fierce start. In a pretty good way I think. The company I’ve been doing a lot of consulting work with over the past two years offered me a permanent position that I decided to take. It was an extremely tough decision (imagine weeping and gnashing of teeth on my part) but Handsome Hunk and I weighed the pluses and minuses and it seems the right thing to do. I’ve tried to balance this commitment with new thinking…if I use up my vacation allotment, I can take unpaid vacation days, and I plan to. This makes a difference when your kids live so far away. So don’t cry Argentina I tell myself—smile and enjoy, there are a lot of people I know who would love to have fulltime work right now. I was taking every consulting job anyway, fearful that the well would dry up, so I didn’t have a lot of wide-open time to paint except for about 6 wks last spring. But that was really the first time I ever felt in the “flow” with my painting and it was very productive. The challenge now is figuring out a way to recreate that while working fulltime.

Trip planning at the beginning of each year is something HH and I love to do.  We’re headed to the Cayman Islands for a week in early February…some diving, swimming to prep for a triathlon (mini version!), walking on the beach and drinking in the sun. Of course I needed a new swimsuit that I ordered online (it beats the anguish of trying a suit on in the store) and a pareo. Plus I bought some XL men’s shirts from Filene’s in fun colors to wear as bathing suit covers…boyfriend shirts are in style I hear.

Speaking of sun, I ordered a Verilux light for seasonal affectiveness disorder that I try to sit in front of for an hour each morning. It’s only been a week but so far so good. I’ve noticed that I’m sleeping much better and feeling more energetic.

Back to trip planning: A spring trip to Victoria, BC to see my daughter and family. A trip in June to Barcelona, Spain, to meet up with my son who lives in Prague. Hopefully a long weekend hiking in one of our beautiful National Parks this summer. Another trip (or two) back to Victoria, and a 4-day Caribbean cruise with college girlfriends to celebrate our major milestone birthdays this fall (I know it’s also hurricane season). Throw in a long weekend in NYC around Memorial Day and you can see why I thought going back to work was a good idea! Love those air miles.

My recipe file. I see it, I rip it out and drop it in here. The Holly Hobby cover is to a little recipe book I got 30+ years ago. It holds some stellar family recipes even though it doesn't look very appetizing!

Last Friday  it was my turn to host book club. It’s fun to dig through my recipe file and come up with something new to make. We read White Tiger, so I opted for ordering Indian food from a nearby restaurant, but I did make a lemon almond sponge cake that was delicious with chocolate hazelnut gelato. Our next book is an older one (late 1980s I think), In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard.  Today I picked up The Privileges and The Gospel According to Coco Chanel from the library.

It’s been gloomy here in the midwest, so my shoe connoisseur husband and I headed to Nordstrom yesterday to find shoes for me. I can be decisive about many things, but for some reason I get hung up about shoes. I ended up with four pairs thanks to his encouragement. Move over Imelda.

On the way home we stopped at Home Depot and had a 4’x8’ board of plywood cut into pieces for new encaustic paintings. I’m starting to work larger, so one of them will be 3’x4’. My son and book club friends were complimentary about the direction my art is going, so I feel encouraged.

One of the casualties of the new job schedule is my 3x a week 8am boot camp. So I’m back to two personal training sessions a week. I believe in investing in keeping my body healthy, even if I’m probably never again going to be a skinny minny.

Let’s see what else? I capitulated and bought an iphone. I felt too fuddy duddy with my Tracfone.  We’ve also squeezed in a play starring Brian Dennehy and a few romantic date nights in the past weeks. Next weekend we’re going to see The Windy City Rollers, I think Roller Derby qualifies as a new adventure (my keyword for this year)!

PS. The top shoe is the Choo (not the one I got)

Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, snapped on the way home from Jazzfest.

Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, snapped on the way home from Jazzfest.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.

Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885

The cusp of summer and autumn has its satisfactions.

Sweet, smiling memories of summer evenings spent outdoors at a concert or by a campfire, a walk in the damp coolness of a woods on a blistering day, heat bugs buzzing in the trees and crickets on the railroad track. Picnics, swings, the clang of horseshoes against the stake. Windows open, fresh air, full moon, sweaty napes and fireworks.

Here are some postcards from the cusp:

Since 1990, Redmoon Theatre has created a performance style that is equal parts pageantry, gadgetry, acrobatics, and ephemera. Last night we picnicked in Lincoln Park along Lake Michigan and enjoyed Redmoon’s spectacle concert, Last of My Species, an evening created by Redmoon artists in collaboration with Norway’s cutting edge underground musician, Laarna Cortaan. Redmoon’s brand of silliness was a fresh breeze, and Cortaan a figment of their imagination.

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Though far from Chicago, Victoria, British Columbia, is a wonderful place to visit my daughter and her family. The weather can be iffy, but it was truly perfect while we were there last week. An antique boat show in the scenic harbor made for a sweet interlude in family activities for handsome hunk and me.
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I recommend swinging to make you laugh and feel young again. Whether you push little ones or pump high yourself, it can even be a fun workout. There’s very little that can compare with playing with your daughter and her 2.5 children at the park, except maybe looking for ants on the driveway, squeezing poster paint into little trays with your grandson, swishing little ones around in the sea or looking for snails in the garden.

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September. School buses, gardens untended, new books, football games, season tickets and celebrations. Back to real life? Where summer doesn’t interfere with daily routines and order rules.

Right now, I’m savoring one foot in and one foot out.

I climbed into bed Friday night after hearing the news of Walter Cronkite’s not unexpected death. On Saturday we awoke to an almost autumnal day of gray clouds and cool temps, and I felt a general malaise of spirit settling over me. We got an early start and headed out to spend a few hours at the Botanic Gardens just north of Chicago. Nearly one quarter of its 385 acres is water and there are nine islands. I highly recommend a visit if you have the opportunity! I perked up a bit though I could tell that handsome hunk was tiptoeing around my tentative mood. We have different approaches to museums, sightseeing and sometimes life in general. I tend to forge forward and he dawdles at various distractions. I’m trying to take in as many gorgeous flowers as possible, he’s whistling to the birds. Vive la difference.

That evening, though still not in the best of moods, I decided to humor handsome husband and perk up my spirits by going with him to salsa night at Chicago SummerDance. It’s impossible not to smile and enjoy yourself when you’re dancing to a great salsa band (and perhaps the sangria helped too). Later in the evening we stopped in at a little bar for a fundraiser for Burners Without Borders (BWB), the philanthropic arm of Burning Man. In 2005 after Burning Man attendees spontaneously contributed to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, BWB emerged as a community led, grassroots group that addresses gaping needs where existing cultural and societal systems are failing. In essence, the desire is to build community through art and action.

This morning I tuned in to watch CBS Sunday Morning and their tribute to Walter Cronkite. I found myself crying at one point and it was a relief, a release of the malaise that had come over me after hearing of his death. He delivered all the important news during my growing up years. His most important contribution, I think, was his decision to speak out about the Vietnam War. His essence was not so much his authority, but his earned credibility. The people who deliver the news on TV today don’t have his natural talent or credibility. They are newsreaders, not journalists or reporters. Wolf Blitzer sounds as if he is yelling all the time. Cutesy patter, pandering, arguing and dissecting inconsequential minutiae often masquerade as journalism today. Of course, fewer people are turning to TV for news and it’s no wonder why. I thought anyone from another country who might read this post would not know who Walter Cronkite was, but today I learned that the term for news anchors in some countries is Kronkiters or Cronkiters

One of the lines of tribute spoken by a colleague of Cronkite’s was, “We’ll bury something of our own pasts along with this man.” Hence my tears, I think. Life continues to zoom by and the days of my youth, innocence and anticipation for what life will bring seem less and less tangible. I admire Walter Cronkite. It appears that he lived his life with curiosity, intensity and passion. When he was forced to retire by CBS, I can’t remember what I thought about it at the time. Was I sad? Did I think it was time for the old man to move on? Or, did I not even notice since I was raising young children at that time? I think it was the latter.

Other weekend tidbits:
– I haven’t found New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd very amusing, creative or insightful in her columns for a few years. Today though, she made me laugh with the last paragraph of today’s column:

Judge Sotomayor kept her feelings in check, while her white male Republican interrogators dissolved into whining about wanting to keep their guns and nunchakus and wishing they could get back some sway over what women do with their bodies. If they are so interested in women’s bodies, maybe they should just move to C Street.”

(Note: A house on C Street serves as a residence and/or Bible study retreat for many conservative lawmakers. Several of these men recently have fallen off the marital wagon so to speak and are embroiled in scandals.)

– A literary friend shared this excerpt from Chandler Burr’s recently published first novel, You or Someone Like You:

A guy walks out of a theater on 42nd at Times Square and stumbles over a bum.
The bum says, “Spare a buck?”
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” snaps the man. “William Shakespeare.”
“F**k you!” says the bum. “David Mamet.”

Nancy Drew is in the news. Since Judge Sotomayor revealed her love of reading Nancy Drew books as a youngster, other well-known women have made similar confessions. Personally, I lived and breathed Nancy Drew books when I was in the 5th grade. I had a friend, who had an older sister who had a bookcase filled with her mother’s complete collection. I would race home from school on my bike and devour a book a day. On weekends, ala Nancy Drew- wait, I think ala Trixie Belden not Nancy Drew – my bike became my horse and I rode the trails of a nearby woods. Does anyone remember reading the Cherry Ames or Sue Barton series of books?

– On our run this morning through town (instead of by the lake), we encountered a lot of young twenty-plus somethings heading to the nearby Pitchfork Music Festival. The newest concert accessory appears to be hula hoops. Dare I say, what goes around comes around? I can hear your groans.

Weekend photo gallery:

It seemed that everyone was an amateur photographer at the Botanic Gardens on Saturday. I saw more than a few of the real-deal cameras with the long lenses. Flowers are just irresistible. I couldn’t resist taking a few photos with my pocket camera.

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And, I hope that these photos convey a sense of why we love Chicago’s SummerDance in Grant Park’s Spirit of Music Garden. The salsa bands are always extremely popular:

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I hope your week is off to a swingin’ start.

That Was The Week That Was. Do you remember that from the 60s? I think it was a British TV show. Anyway, last week was quite the week. Non-stop Michael Jackson, Palin and so on. I kept the TV time to a minimum to avoid all the craziness and any time the “P” name gets mentioned my blood pressure sky-rockets. It seems to me that whatever Michael Jackson was in addition to being a talented entertainer, he was a troubled and sad man who became an oddity. With all the press coverage elsewhere, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan seem to have fallen off the radar screen. Seems the press isn’t so great on multi-tasking.

I’m upbeat about what I accomplished last week, but I also had disappointing news. A recruiter told me that a client had decided to interview two other people he had put forth for a position and not me. When I asked why, he said they each had a smidgen (and that is his word) more experience in a few areas than I had. Immediately I felt that the world was conspiring against me. Oh, woe is me! But in the same thought it struck me that perhaps the world is conspiring FOR me, and something better lies ahead. How’s that for Pollyanna thinking? Oh, and that reminds me that there’s a new study out that maybe negative thinking isn’t all that bad, especially when you need to lie and be self-delusional to be positive about some things.

Even though I’m currently not employed, I still look forward to weekends, and this one was filled with favorite summer activities. Friday evening was a beautiful night for a picnic and concert in the park. On Saturday, we went to an outdoor farmers market for the first time this season. There were only about 1/3 of the normal vendors from past years participating on this beautiful day in a prime location. I wonder, is it the economy or the fact that the city has added so many farmers markets and that the vendors are stretched too thin? Generally the market is a photographer’s dream: colorful flowers, babies, dogs, people, fruits and vegetables and white tents. DSCF1851But this time it seemed a little sad and paltry. Since we usually over buy and can’t eat all the fresh produce before it goes bad, my husband has taken to calling the vegetable bin in the fridge, the rotter. So my mission was limited to finding fresh basil. I find the smell of basil to be indescribably heavenly. We grabbed four bunches, and later ate basil leaves on French bread with cheese and tomatoes, and I made the rest into pesto.

After lunch we headed over to the pool on the athletic club rooftop, a mecca for people watching. Are all females under 35-years old beautiful these days? Or is it just the perspective of my age when I marvel over their unlined skin, undimpled thighs and lithe bodies? More power to them, I say. The only thing that I find EXTREMELY annoying is the cell phone talk. We once sunned near a gal who talked non-stop about the ins and outs (and I use those words deliberately) of her dating life at loud volume for an hour. Unfortunately I see a lot of this everywhere. Why do people think other people need to listen to them talk? Vanity? Stupidity? Entitlement? Obviously this is a pet peeve. I say, text instead of talk!

A lot of people, many of my friends included, think that Navy Pier is a cheesy tourist trap. Taken in small doses, it actually is a fun and low-budget outing for us. From our place, we walked the nearly two miles through the city to the Pier. It was a hot night with a tinge of breeze. Holding hands, walking through the city’s vibrant nightlife areas, somehow makes us feel very close and happy to be alive. Once on the Pier, we headed for the Beer Garden where there was a DSCF1867live band and, once again, prime people watching: families, couples of all ages, bachelorette parties and the chatter of foreign languages. The piece de resistance for me on Navy Pier is the fireworks choreographed to music. When I die, I want to be sent up in fireworks. I once thought this was an original idea, but going out with a boom actually is a business now.

Today we went for our Sunday run along the lake—my legs felt like lead, and took a stroll through the perennial gardens and water lily pond in Lincoln Park where we encountered turtles sunning and a cormarant waiting to pounce on unsuspecting fish. We both agreed that the lake and parks are what make this city so livable for us.

One more thing, do you know this poem by Shel Silverstein?
I will not play tug o’ war.
I’d rather play hug o’ war.
Where everyone hugs instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins,
and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.Where the Sidewalk Ends

I read Silverstein’s book of poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends, to my children when they were small. Tomorrow night, there’s a “SHELebration” at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion that I’m hoping to see. When I heard about this, I remembered the poem and how it always made us smile to read it with real tickles and cuddles thrown in. I hope it makes you smile too as you start the new week.