Friday, December 31, 2010

Coming Up for Bubbly

I'm taking a break from slogging
through my lovely basement to welcome 2011.


And until I can assemble a really cool pictorial Year in Review, here's a little bubbly for you. And a little for me.

Bonne Annee.



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So Ick

As you will recall from here, there is still much cleaning, sanitizing and gagging to be done in the basement.

The good news is the Roto Rooter guy told me that hydrogen peroxide is even better than bleach for bacteria eradication, two words I hope never to write again, let alone think about, in 2011.

If you need me, you'll know where to find me. Wear rubber gloves. And a face mask. Disposable footwear is probably a good idea.

Meanwhile, tell me about your plans for New Year's Eve in the comments section. I'd love to hear what you're up to. Your stories will buoy my spirits as I try to undo the ick factor.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Printer Give-Away Over By Der at Pioneer Woman

In the interest of full disclosure, I am linking all y'all to a contest over at http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/
in the hope that I --or someone I know -- wins a completely fabu printer from HP.
It looks like this:
Per Ree Drummond, author of all that is The Pioneer Woman, the Photosmart eStation e-All-in-One is a "slick new web-enabled printer loaded with apps that allow you to print directly from the Web completely independent of a host computer."

Is that 7 kinds of awesome or what?

Check out the link above to enter contest.

(Ree also is giving away a majorly red mixer. And knives. Not Ginsu.)

Be sure to read the contest rules.

Awesome.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sync the Halls

I know you. You've seen the Youtube vids of pulsing Christmas house decorations here and here. But those are just that, videos. Catch the real thing right here in our ole hometown of Naperville in the 1800 block of Auburn, near Ranch View School.

Three cheers to the homeowner for synchronizing his decs to music, which can be heard through your car radio. 

(And raise your hand if you understand the engineering behind this. I still don't have bows made for the three swags on the front of the house, never mind dancing lights and/or Manheim Steamroller.)

(The small white sign says to tune to 100.1 on your FM dial.
It helps to drive by when it's dark.)



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Racked and Dangerous

Naperville Now would like to say thank you to her fellow Naperville blogger, On the Road with Freddy, for inspiring today's post. However, please take these darling eating machines back to your yard. The evergreens in our yard are decimated by all of that rapaciousness. (Sorry. I'm reading Roy Blount Jr.'s Alphabet Juice. I think it's giving me worditis see:sesquipedalianism.)

"Hmm, I wonder if that tree tastes as good as this one. I'd saunter over for a test bite except for the creeper with the camera."

"I think I've managed to shave this one pretty close. Let's go over to Chilvers Court and see what's cookin'."


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everything Except the Squeak

My pal Nancy is a quiet and reserved person with MAD TALENT in 900 ways: art, design, painting, decorating, quilting, woodworking. And cooking. Or, in this case, baking by assemblage.

Maraschino cherries dipped in chocolate, wedded to Hershey's Hugs, slivered almonds, and facial dots au chocolat.

I needed a little darling injected into my day. These helped a lot.

Santa, however, is pretty freaked. Ten days until.



(Yep, she made him, too. Told you. Mad talent.)



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brrrrrrrrr

I'm back from the 2010 Lafayette Square House Tour-in-a-raging-snowstorm.

This is what St. Louis looked like when we picked up our tickets:


And 24 hours later, it looked like this:


Only not as sunny.

But being house junkies, we could not resist the chance to snoop around 10 fabulous homes built in the 1880s, even if it meant a slight case of frostbite. Besides, we are tough chicks.

Here's a true lay of the land, courtesy of Wiki:



It's so French and lovely, I can hardly stand it. All those Mansard roofs with their scrumptious grey slate, pocket doors and front and rear staircases. Parlors and working fireplaces. Millwork and more millwork. Did I mention the French thing? Fantastique.

Lafayette Park is the oldest public park in St. Louis, created in 1836 and quite the fashionable address in its day. Devastated by a tornado in 1896, the neighborhood rallied until the World's Fair in 1904. From there, it was free fall into neglect and decay.

During the 1970s, when the neighborhood was designated a historic district, people started to buy up these grand old homes, restore them and raise their families there. And the Lafayette neighborhood became a community again.

They even have their own tour posters every year. Carlos Zamora designed this one and signed it for me. I'm thinking Christmas present for our newly-minted St. Louisan, if I can bear to part with it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hiatus

Naperville Now will be taking a short break to play in her adopted hometown of St. Loueeee.



Feel free to meet me.




Tuesday, December 7, 2010

e-Greetings

Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! 

This is my official warm and heartfelt e-greeting to you this year. Having faithfully written and mailed out 30-plus years of cards, I'm done. Facebook, email and this blog have rendered the need for cards obsolete.

Because of the Internet, I am in the lives of friends a little bit here and a little bit there all year long, not just at Christmas. I love that. There's a continuity of news rather than a December avalanche of "Aunt Maude's gall bladder operation didn't go as well as expected" and photographs of the dogs.

Of course, there are two exceptions: Honey's Mom, who will be 90 soon, and my aunt, who will be 95 in February. (If you're in your tenth decade, you get a card.) 

So, feeling lighter and liberated with this two cards only decision, I ducked into a store this afternoon to spend a little time rifling through the inventory.

And what to my wandering eyes did appear but box upon box of astonishingly ugly Christmas cards. Breathtakingly ugly. Ugly dogs chewing Santa hats. Candles a horrendous shade of puce. Black landscapes. Really scary Santas. Cats stuck in Christmas trees. That puce color over and over. When did Christmas card artists start playing "You think that's ugly? Top this!"

Now I realize if I were to shop at, say, Papyrus, I probably would find several lovely holiday choices. But I would have to drive to Oak Brook and spend a smallish fortune on something that ultimately will be pitched, hopefully recycled.

I did manage to find one box slightly less frightening than the rest. There are 14 cards, so I'm good to go until 2017.
PS The No "L" card was not what I purchased today. It was made by a talented local card maker. Santa was glommed from the glorious world wide web.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

1950 All Over Again

When I was 11, my mother took me to an auction of junque and crap that has put me on a flea market trajectory ever since. To find stuff that is compelling AND underpriced rather rocks my world.

To that end, I made the bi-annual trek to Geneva, IL with Nancy this week (a delightful way to spend the day with a pal. Geneva has decorated its downtown with every conceivable live bough, berry and garland. Well done, neighbor.)

After browsing The Country Store of Geneva (on James Street and definitely worth the visit), we usually hit the Geneva Antique Market on Third Street. Now this emporium (where I found a first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird for beaucoup cheap) has the same feel from year to year. It is an illuminated jumble of tchotchkes, geegaws, doodads and treasures, all crammed into the basement of The Berry House.

This year, however, I could not believe the sheer amount of Christmas stuff jammed into display cases and shelves. They always carry this kind of inventory, of course, but the quantity was overwhelming -- red plastic Santas from the 50s, plastic reindeer, ornaments (probably plastic but covered in so much glitter who can tell), Santa mugs, Christmas postcards, elves, trees of every color, tree skirts, Christmas aprons, Christmas tea towels, Christmas jewelry. It was beyond anything I've ever seen.


After my third, "Have you ever seen so much vintage Christmas stuff in your life?" Nancy observed that the original owners of all this stuff have probably died, and so their possessions are at auctions and garage sales.

"Depressing!"

"Well they're retired, if you prefer, and have downsized."

The ultimate downsizing.

Nancy is right, of course. The parents of our generation are gone, or going. Their kids already have a ton of stuff and their children want stuff from Crate and Barrel, not Grandma's moldy basement.




There are exceptions, however. I see nostalgia (and the occasional buying of same) as the ultimate in recycling. So perhaps, instead of a being a blue Christmas, it's really a green one...


that started in black and white.


(The stores in Geneva have not paid me for this post. Believe me when I say it is I who have paid them.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rabbit Rabbit

When I was in First Grade, Mrs. Barrell (accent on the 2nd syllable) taught us how to make candles, cook spaghetti sauce, and write letters to the Swedish trolls who lived on her desk. Now, I realize that last item might be a little problematic in the pedagogical scheme of things, but we loved her and those colorful wood dolls that looked a little like this:

Minus the goat.

Word by the cubbys was Mrs. Scott, the music teacher, was the real author behind those replies to "Are you old or young? If you are Swedish, where did you learn English? Why do you freeze up when we come back from gym?"

After awhile, I think the whole notion of talking Swedish trolls began to freak some of us out, so Jens and Gunnar were relegated to a drawer. (From there, I'm assuming they grew up to become mascots for Expedia.com.)

We were very fortunate to have Mrs. Barrell again in Second Grade, where we were introduced to "Rabbit Rabbit," which must be uttered on the first day of the month for good luck. While I am not sure of the etymology of Rabbit Rabbit,  I'm guessing it's probably Swedish for "Let me out, dammit!"

Facebook has made it possible to keep up with quite a few of my buddies from elementary school. We've had a few laughs over those trolls. And the spaghetti sauce. And the Christmas candles we dipped for our moms. And on the first of nearly every month, my friend Cam writes "Rabbit Rabbit to my bff" on my Facebook wall.

I'm sure Mrs. Barrell would get a kick out of that. Jens and Gunnar, too.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On the First Day of Christmas

What every well-dressed car is wearing this season:


Yes, that's NPV for your hometown and mine.

I found this for AJ last year at the Ireland shop on Main Street and assume they are still peddling these not-inexpensive beauties on the counter.

Yet another idea I didn't dream up first.

If I made a bunch of NapervilleNow stickers, would you slap one on your fender? Or someone else's?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Not That There Was A Choice

Some of us take off for Thanksgiving and read Naperville Now from their Caribbean hideaway.




Others head off to the mall and find something super special just for themselves for Christmas.
Afterall, it is red.
And Chicago is so not the Caribbean.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What Really Happened

It just goes to show that if you tear up a little bit when mentioning a Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving, your neighbor will most definitely take pity on you and invite you in for turkey and stuffing.

Thank you, Beth, for including us. I've never tasted a moister turkey or sampled as many side dishes as you prepared for your family on Thursday. (Who knew Brussel Sprouts were tasty?) You are a great cook not only because you enjoy cooking but because you own every conceivable cooking utensil and pot on the planet. As I lack both desire and Staub cookware, I will never achieve culinary heights. And I am at peace with that, especially since you live three doors down.

Off to see what's left at Woodfield Mall with Daughter #2. Christmas beckons. So not ready.

Enjoy the sunshine.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thank God Cracker Barrel Is Open

It is no secret that I'm an indifferent cook. And while I did manage to cobble together meals while the children were growing up, it was only because cooking was in the Mom Contract. 

Now that the kids have flown the nest, Honey has picked up the culinary gauntlet, and with great success, bless him. The man makes killer casseroles, thanks to his frequent "How Do I Make a (Egg/Spaghetti/Chicken/TaterTot) Casserole?" queries to Google.

Recognizing that tomorrow many of you will be slaving over a hot Aga, I offer up this gift from my friend Tina, a former neighbor now living in Virginia, who has been looking for a Horseradish Mashed Potatoes recipe for me since she moved. That was 10 years ago, so I'm guessing she had a lot of packing boxes to sort through.

Tina, a great cook and all-around All Star in the homemaking department, emailed the requested recipe on Tuesday, just in time for your Thanksgiving preparations. She's very thoughtful in that way.


Yukon Gold Potatoes with Horseradish

5 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups light cream
ground white pepper
6 ounces prepared horseradish

Peel and quarter the potatoes and cover with cold water.
Add 1 tablespoon salt, bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle boil, cooking till fork tender, about 25-30 minutes.
Pour off water and let potatoes cool a little (if they sit in the water they'll turn pasty).
In a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip the potatoes until smooth, about 1 minute; add the butter and mix until melted and combined, about 30 seconds. Add the cream, 2 tablespoons salt and white pepper to taste; whip until smooth and creamy, scraping down the bowl frequently. Fold in the horseradish and combine well.

To keep the potatoes warm, put an inch of water in the pot the potatoes were cooked in and set over low heat. Put the potatoes in a mixing bowl, cover with foil and put the bowl on top of the pot. You can hold the potatoes like this for at least 2 hours, just maintain the water level and keep the heat low.



Our Thanksgiving will take place a day late, due to unavoidable scheduling conflicts. And yes, I will cook. But on Thursday, Honey and I will be at the Cracker Barrel, thankful for our arriving family, our health and yes, horseradish mashed potatoes.
                    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. 


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sorry, Kids

To Our Darling Girls:

We are sorry. Truly, deeply sorry. I know you loved your Care Bears. And the doll whose cheeks turned a weird color if you put an icey wand to her face. And the dolls your grandparents toted back from Europe. And Shamu. And the assorted stuffed Dalmatians and Barbies that came with every birthday, every Christmas, every every.

Who knew that little open drain in the basement could rise up like Buckingham Fountain and contaminate your childhoods? I assumed something had burrowed into the house and died under the floorboards. But, no, it was far more disgusting and unholy than a moldering chipmunk.

Your valiant Dad ventured into the room-that-shall-not-be-named and discovered a geyser (cannot.think.about.this.in.detail.due.to.gag.reflex) spewing into all of those Bekins moving boxes.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Did I mention stupid?

So there is ongoing cleanup. Continuing haz mat removal. The oak table. The Christmas tree. Your crib. The Dr. Seuss books. Muck and mold and ick for a lifetime.

What we can salvage with Clorox, we shall salvage. But mostly, it's headed to the landfill. Sorry, landfill. I will recycle three times as hard to make up for it.


(The above is a germ-free rendering of what's been lost.
Have I mentioned I'm sorry?)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cheese!

It is the photo op of the decade, and you're invited, Naperville. Yes, you! And you over there hiding behind the water cooler.

Mayor George Pradel  has hatched a great idea to make the city's official holiday card with the word PEACE formed by the people of our fair city.

Check the city's website for details (http://www.naperville.il.us/). Apparently, there has been a huge response, so last I read, people are to gather at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 26 in front of the Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St., and mosey over to the Carillon for an aerial shot. Unless there are too many people and everyone has to mosey over to Lisle.

So take a break from Black Friday, put down that Mastercard and fancy up. Your city needs you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Passwords, Part Deux

Lyn, my fourth cousin 17 or 15 times removed, lives and computes in Houston. Not only is she an ace genealogist, Naperville Now reader and good-friend-I've-yet-to-meet, but she has her finger on the software pulse of America and a solution to all of life's problems:

Our son talked me into buying a software called 1Password which works like a charm. You create one password to lock in all of your passwords to every single account you have. You never have to remember any of those again. You then can create passwords which are protected as they have a higher level of complication like, e.g., iHqrStUV152266 or something equally crazy. As long as you can remember the 1Password's password, you're covered. Worth looking into!
Complete genius. Thank you, Lyn. Clearly we're related.


(Neither Lyn nor I have a vested interest in this brilliant company. Just wish I'd thought of it.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And Your Name Is...?

To be truthful, I'm a little worried about myself. CRS Syndrome has made itself quite comfy in my head these past few months and it's taking a huge toll on my online self-esteem.

How many computer passwords do you have? I think I counted 25 that are essential, all of them some variation of old addresses and telephone numbers and dead pets from the 70s. There's eBay, Etsy, AOL, Gmail, this very blog, work passwords, the banking accounts, stores online. Even dooce.com, a favorite blog of mine, has a password, and you know what? I'm furious that I can't remember the combo to access all of this stuff. It's like being duck taped to a wall outside the junior high dance while The Beatles sing inside. Live.

Chase Bank called me last week to ask if I was in Brazil, trying to buy Brazilian crap with my credit card. Now, as much fun as that sounds, it would appear that some drug cartel nearly bought a country with my credit line. Oh sure, the Brazilians can be up to no good while I'm here at home, locked out of all the fun.


Apparently my password bollixed up their good time.

Okay, so passwords work for Good and Evil.

I'd try a little bit of both, if I could remember the right combination.

Monday, November 15, 2010

But What About Tuition?

I have a very odd job that involves advertising, the Internet, images and search engines. Sounds sexy, right? Not so much, actually, but from time to time, we encounter stuff on the Internet that is hilarious. This morning, my colleague happened upon this website:

http://www.freebabycoupons.com/

Now think about that. A website that hawks coupons? Or free babies? Or just coupons for free babies?

People in the grammar biz call this a misplaced modifier. Or a baby slavery ring. Possibly a misplaced baby slavery ring. You decide.



Poor thing. Cute, too.




Saturday, November 13, 2010

Inevitable

I knew all that sunshine couldn't possibly last. Chicagoans just don't know what to do with warmth and sun streams and balmy-ness. Fair weather, like the Cubs winning World Series, is just not meant for those of us who live over by der.

That being said, it is time to dig into your closets and pry out that overcoat you haven't worn since 1999 and take it over to Casey's. Or District 203's office on Hillside. Or the YMCA (Washington Street and/or 95th Street).  Leave the leather gloves in the pockets because the Rotary folk need your winter clothing. All sizes are accepted.

So quit that woolen hoarding habit and help those in need. You have until November 19.
Besides, raccoon is just so 2009.





Thursday, November 11, 2010

With Thanks


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915




Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Generous Sunshine

Ole Tom Skilling tells me (via the Tribune) that today will be the 4th consecutive unseasonably mild day in Chicago. In fact, we will be warmer than San Diego. (And if I could find my cheaters, I could probably name other cities as well. When did they reduce the size of the type? More importantly, why?)

I would like to thank everyone who has had a hand in making this post-Autumn just about the most glorious ever. And I would like to tell my boss I won't be in today.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pfew

Happy to report we dodged the snow bullet. I think the Lake dwellers got several inches. Thank you, lucky stars. Living inland rocks, especially today.

Of course, there are still mountains of leaves to create from the backyard, a never-ending, back-breaking job that I try my best to avoid. Gale-force winds have helped. (Apologies to the families at the end of the court. Act of God. Promise.)

Meanwhile, it is time for the next generation to learn responsibility. There's a lot that goes into being a homeowner.

I think he's doing pretty well, don't you? Very symmetrical. I like that.


Always good to take time out for a brief jump. But, duty calls, buddy.
Chop chop.

If your back is tired from all that raking, there are other ways to make piles.

(Just don't tell Mommy.)


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not Again

There is snow in the forecast.
Not happy, not happy, not happy.

 
So not happy.
Are you getting the unhappy part?
Winter is the worst, and it isn't even winter yet.

Monday, November 1, 2010

So Genius

Honey just keeps getting better and better at this.
(Note words for mouth in pumpkin on the right.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Really Rally

The J.Crew catalogue showed up last week. Normally, I'm a Container Store/Ballards/Shih-Tzu Today kind of gal, but I was kind of intrigued by the fall clothes and paged through pictures of girls who clearly haven't had a sandwich in this decade.

And then, I came to this:

Allow me to be your bifocals and blow this up a bit:


Slim, Stick and Skinny.
Really, J Crew?
Wrong in any demographic.

Eeeek!

Margaret Hamilton wishes you a Happy Halloween
(and your little dog, too)*


*with thanks to Marilyn for a great invite and a witchy good evening.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

4 Days Late

Naperville Now is officially one. And 4 days. (It should come as no surprise to those who know me that I don't do numbers well.)

Again my thanks to Julie Powell, who apparently is no longer blogging. (And divorced from Eric, much to my dismay. Loved him in Julie and Julia.)

Also my thanks to Kristin Espinasse, author of French Word-a-Day, who has blogged about living the writing life at http://www.french-word-a-day.typepad.com/Pour votre inspiration, Kristin, merci merci merci.

In lieu of cake, which I dislike, let's celebrate, shall we? Grab a flute. Guy in tux optional.