Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'm back

Well, it seems I have taken an unplanned break from blogging. Nothing tragic happened, I just got sucked into the madness of TV sweeps weeks. Yes, despite all my efforts to be a highly cultured and refined woman of taste -- I adore reality tv.

It was a very satisfying sweeps week because all the characters I liked seemed to win. The hippie team on Amazing Race pulled out a sweet victory using their brains and a bit of quirky charm. Taylor Hicks, the prematurely gray singer of American Idol walked away a winner as did Harold, my favorite chef on Top Chef.

The last spouse has been swapped or traded and the smart English Nannies have solved the last family disaster. The annoying Ty Pennington has fixed his last home of the season. No need to re-cap all the shows, they all had their little spats and thrills. I just eat it all up and I don't know why. My daughter and I bond watching the fights or figuring the strategy... we have a ball.

I am a bit wistful, it will be a while before they all start up again and we have our nightly fix. Until then I should blog more and cast around for the forensic/ CSI shows -- we love them too.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Good Manners

My mom was a product of the 1920's and 30's. As a child my mother regaled me with stories of the Great Depression and traveling across the country in a Model A. I'm glad she shared so much, because times change and it's great to have a window into the past. In addition to all the stories she, of course, passed on the womanly advice of her times.

As I faced adolescence, Mom's manner lessons were often a point of contention between us. In the 1980's I was admonished against piercing my ears or shaving my legs, lest I be mistaken for a foreign prostitute. No matter what evidence I gave to the contrary, she firmly believed that such acts would doom me to depravity. Thankfully, I rebelled, shaved my legs and punched a couple of holes in my ears -- to just to be one of the girls.

At other times her advice was on the money. I'm glad she told me to answer invitations with notes, out of respect for the host, and to drop thank you notes as soon as possible. While I don't always get this done, I really see value in the act. I love getting a real written response to an invitation.

Anyway, I started thinking about her lessons when I came across Miss Abigails Time Warp Advice. The author has a collection of over a thousand pre-1980's advice books. She is able to find time-warped advice to speak to any problem. The website has been so successful, she got a book deal. Her book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage: Classic Advice for Contemporary Dilemmas, was published this March and I can't wait to get it.

I'd better watch myself. I realized my own advice is quickly dating me when my daughter refused to wear nylons to a school dance. She won the battle, though I'm absolutely sure the dress would have hung better with the nylons on. Oh, well...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Art, where you find it

Here are couple of art sites to take a look at. The internet is a fantastic medium for artists, with its broad reach and low-cost, a good site can make a splash. If you find a fasinating site, let me know so we can spread the word to cube dwellers everywhere. Nothing spurs creativity more than seeing the creative.

For a quick hit of photography, take look at:
File Magazine Every month they publish, as they say, "images that treat subjects in unexpected ways. Alternate takes, unconventional observations, odd angles -- the photographs in the collection reinterpret traditional genres".
My current favorite here is Cowscapes which really defines unconventional observations.


Art vending machines. These are old, vintage cigarette machines that have been retooled to vend small pieces of art. I love their mission
"Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.), the sponsoring organization of Art*o*mat®, is based on the concept of taking art and "repackaging" it to make it part of our daily lives. The mission of A.I.C. is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. A.I.C believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable. What better way to do this, than with a heavy cold steel machine"

This sounds so cool that I will have to make a trip to the Oak Park Library to see one. Find a machine in your area here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Left Behind

Every so often you see stories about people moving into homes and finding money or other treasures left behind by the former owners. The new owners can keep the stuff because they bought the property and everything in it. I didn't find anything cool in my house, just some dust bunnies and a very weird looking angel that is cemented to my bedroom door.

My brother once moved into an apartment which was empty except for 3 jars of Russian Borscht in the fridge. I guess it was either an oversight or perhaps a parting gift left by the former occupant.

On other occasions I have found interesting or shocking "left behind" objects. A few times in my life I have helped clear out homes for elderly relatives who either were moving to a nursing home or their final abode.

When I was 10, Grandma moved to a nursing facility; her apartment was veritable trove of oddities. Aside from the neatly piled shoe boxes brim full of money ($900) and the folders of True Confessions magazine, there were some books of a decidely adult nature. I found those in her closet and showed my 16 year old brother. He could never really look Grandma in the eyes after that.

A few years later we emptied my great aunt and uncle's home. There were no adult items, that I recall. But there was a room under the stairs filled with liquor, shelf after shelf of whiskey, scotch, vermouth and vodka -- like 50 bottles of all kinds of booze. Also on the shelves there were several old-style ladies traveling cases which held handguns, brass knuckles and bullets. When I found the one filled with bullets, I thought they were sample lipsticks. I took one out and ran to show my Mom and she just about had a heart attack, because I was trying to open if with a knife to get at the lipstick.

I guess that little room was some of the booty my uncle had collected from his days as a Cook County Courts employee. He had something to do with setting all the judges schedules. I guess he got a lot of "gifts" back in the day. The stash was especially funny because my uncle didn't drink anything but wine and at 80 rarely had use for the unregistered handguns or brass knuckles. I don't know what he was saving this stuff for, it was all neatly arranged, no dust or cobwebs.

Perhaps the weirdest find I had was pretty recent. This relative was a very dignified, well groomed man who kept a neat house. He was a "everything in it's place" sort of guy. His personal papers were in beautiful order and every linen he owned was neatly folded. Love letters he had exchanged with his wife during WWII were stored in his top nightstand drawer -- I guess he kept them right where he could read them. The letters were a wonderful find.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the drawer below the "love letter" drawer. There, in this fairly large drawer, scattered among business cards he had collected, were hundreds of toe nail clippings. Oh God, it still gives me the willies. What was he thinking? Was this his one little bit of grossness? Did he just think it was easy to clip into the drawer? Could this tremendous stash be used to clone him -- I just don't know.

All this musing on things left behind makes me wonder about myself. Either I'd better make sure every place I inhabit is entirely sanitized before I move or that I make a conscious effort to leave something behind. What will it be, a case of kraut juice in the fridge or my collection of LOVE IS cartoons? On second thought, before I do anything else, I had better pry that weird angel from by bedroom door --- I don't want anyone to think I left that behind.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What sort of writer I should be

Took a little quiz on the Internet and it looks like I have to begin a new career....

You Should Be a Joke Writer

You're totally hilarious, and you can find the humor in any situation.
Whether you're spouting off zingers, comebacks, or jokes about life...
You usually can keep a crowd laughing, and you have plenty of material.
You have the makings of a great comedian - or comedic writer.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A little fun at the desktop

Here's a quick round-up of some fun stuff from the web.

Get your song quotes at Rock Wisdom. You will find a great crop of quotes categorized for your pleasure. From philosophy to pick-up lines, as well as links to the full lyrics.
A few Favs
  • All that is now, all that is gone, all that's to come, and everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon. - Pink Floyd, Eclipse
  • Baby, look me over, tell me if you like what you see. I ain't got no money, but honey I'm rich on personality. - Prince, Baby I'm A Star
  • I love Rocky Road. - Weird Al Yankovic, I Love Rocky Road

Take a new look at the world via Worldmapper. There are many looks here because this site presents issue oriented world maps where the size of countries are relative to statistics. Check out the map of Net Immigration above. There is a lot to see here. The World Mapper team brings together geographers from the University of Sheffield (UK) and the University of Michigan.

Cooking by Numbers is a recipe site for the spontaneous. Instead of looking for specific recipes and buying the ingredients, here you enter the ingredients you have on hand and get back recipes you can use them in. I haven't used the site much and now that I take a second look I am a little worried. It looks like the author has a new book out called, The Art of Vodka Jelly -- not to enticing...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Take a jaw-busting break

Ferrara Pan is a candy-maker on the west edge of Chicago. Its buildings can be seen as you head west on the Eisenhower expressway. Depending on what they're making, you might catch a whiff of cinnamon or lemon. Ferrara Pan candies such as Lemonheads, Jawbusters, or Red Hots, are a Chicago (if not a US) tradition, having been around for generations. I think a lot of their appeal as well is that they really haven't changed their graphics style on their candies, so there is something soothing and nostalgic about going to the candy store and seeing their candies.

Anyway, I was recently given a box of Red Hots with the check at Glenn's Diner (they have Red Hot pancakes on the menu there--didn't try 'em, Red Hots were never my favorite), so I thought I'd check out the Ferrara Pan website just to see what they're up to. It's a very interesting site, with virtual tours of the factory that show how each candy is made. The Jawbusters in particular, I found really interesting--each one is formed around an individual grain of sugar, just as a pearl is formed around a grain of sand. Perhaps that simile is a bit too high brow for a Jawbuster, but the tour is interesting all the same.