Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fresh From Galway City

My friend Barb, a journalism professor from Rhode Island, traveled to Ireland in early June to check out castles, girl pirates, pubs and the occasional singing group from my hometown.

It's a long way to Galway City.

I must confess we have yet to hear the Naperville Chorus perform on any continent. And while I am quite sure the chorus is splendid, we tend to listen to the Naperville Men's Glee Club when we are in a classics/spirituals/folk song state of mind.

In fact, the Glee Club is performing at the Bandshell tonight, which isn't much of a forewarning, sorry to say. But you can catch the Eventide performance at 5 p.m. Sunday, July 24 in Elmhurst.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In the Drink

Over the weekend, we made a terror trip to St. Louis in order to bring a few household bits to our daughter, AJ. She has moved out of the city (named the Most Dangerous in 2010) and southward. 

We took Bandit, our 1000-year-old dog, because he loves a road trip and is remarkably well-behaved for a dog who can't see or hear much anymore.

Part of move-in day involved a dinner invitation Saturday, which we accepted reluctantly because, afterall, we had this inconvenient dog. Not to worry, we were assured. There's a fenced-in yard. No worries! Really!

We arrive, meet our hosts for the first time and head to the yard so Bandit can sniff around a bit before dinner. Not three minutes into the story of the building of their backyard pool we hear a smallish splash.

Headed to the bottom faster than the Titanic is our dog.

I seem to remember a whole lot of slow motion on the pool deck. 
"Thank you, I'd love one."
"Cute sandals, Mom."
"Thanks! They're new."
"You say you built this pool in 2000?"
"That dog can't swim."

Jumping into the water, sandals still on my feet, I reach down and hoist Bandit up to the gaping crowd behind me. No mouth-to-muzzle required. Apparently he knows how to hold his breath.

By the time dinner was over, we were both fairly dry. And one of us still smelled good, so the evening wasn't a complete disaster. Pretty close, though.
We're packing swimmies next time. And a seeing-eye dog.

With major thanks to my pal Mike Haidley for the fabulous
 Bandit in Hot Water illustration.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Did You See That?

My friend Joyce, a textile artist of the highest order, recently returned from the quilt show in Paducah, KY. (It's a big event, though I'm told the one in Houston, like everything in Texas, is positively ginormous.)

Photo ops were hanging from the walls
(paying a little homage to our college sorority here)

as well as strolling the aisles

If you can get past the shock of what this woman is wearing, take a minute and check out the lady standing just behind her.

"Either I've been at this damned show too long, or she has."

Leave me a better caption in the comments section.

Many thanks to the vigilant Joyce for allowing the use of her pictures. (And in the event the behooped and bequilted lady is from Lisle or Downers Grove or even Naperville, I felt it best to decapitate her. I know you'd do the same for me.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Back in November, when it was already 10 degrees and grayer than a Chicago mood, our basement drain backed up and contaminated pretty much everything. To those of you who have followed the basement's restoration-by-bleach-and-9000-rubbermaid-containers (it started here, should you care to relive every Leeuwenhoekian detail), I thank you. And I have bad news. The drain did it again. Then again. And once more, just for fun.

Now the subsequent tidal waves of that-which-shall-not-be-named were squelched before setting any of those plastic boxes afloat. But the physics of this problem alluded and infuriated us beyond the edge of reason, which means we called a plumber.

He determined the back-up was INSIDE THE HOUSE, clearly a plotline stolen from When a Stranger Calls, rather than in the pipes running out to the street.

He managed to do whatever it is plumbers do and advised that we were to use only toilet paper that is single-ply, or barely-ply. "Just don't use the cushy, expensive stuff."

I have given up cigarettes and eggs and diet Coke and my thyroid. And now Charmin.

There is no end to the sacrifice. Or the scratchiness.

With huge thanks to my pal Mike Haidley for his exquisite rendering of our wave of woe.

Monday, June 13, 2011


My father-in-law fought in the Pacific during the Second World War, piloting landing craft like this one, recently restored and on display at the First Division Museum at Cantigny:

Here's a heart-stopping view of Normandy, France, from a similar craft on D-Day:

These boats, we learned, even had assigned seating: Flame Thrower Team, Demolition Team, Wire Cutting Team, Browning Automatic Rifle Team, Bazooka Team. Lieut. (jg) Al Johnpeter.

This boat likely was used in the D-Day invasion of France. In peacetime, it became a barge used by French fishermen. Sixty-seven years later, it's been restored and is one of maybe 12 left of the 22,000 used in the war.

My father-in-law, like most veterans, rarely spoke of his experiences. Letters he wrote home are filled with news of the oppressive heat, his longing for a cold glass of buttermilk and waiting for a watch from his parents. We have learned from the records of the U.S.S. Wayne that he piloted a landing craft in seven separate engagments. So, we felt the need to see and understand just a little, just for a moment.

Cantigny (the g is silent, mes amis) is the home of Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. As a commander in the 1st Infantry Division during the First World War, he renamed his estate Cantigny in honor of the first American victory. Now the grounds and museum, located in Wheaton, IL, are a memorial to and research center for the "Big Red One," as the division is named.

The gardens are absolutely lovely.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Water's Edge

The Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy 67 years ago. Two months later, they would land in southern France. The war would end in May 1945.

Five years later, my parents and brothers would be living in France while Dad pursued a degree in French at the University of Montpellier.

These cement fortifications, placed on the beach near Palavas-les-Flots, originally were at the water's edge and mined to prevent allied landings.

September 1950. Jeannot at play on the beach.

My heart always skips a beat when I see this picture. A grim reminder of horror and innocence in one fell click.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Last night was our inaugural dinner on the patio, which means we are about a month late doing the normal in Chicago.

And because it's been a year since we were doing the same thing with family in southern France, I felt moved to whip out my Eiffel Tower candle holder. (Amazing what one can find at the Kane County Flea Market.) The glass jars are yogurt containers from the store Monoprix.

And while our menu wasn't exactly the magret de canard rôti au feu de bois that we savored at the restaurant L'Oree d'Opio, it was pretty good, especially the grilled Vidalia onions (tossed with green beans, Yukon gold potatoes, and Herbes de Provence. I like one-step stuff on the grill. Fewer dishes.)

It was a relief to be outside and at leisure. Usually, we are huffing and puffing over the hostas, or weeding, or watering, or debating how ruthless we can be/should be when it comes to the chipmunks. (They are, to paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw, just rats with better coats.)

The evening was still and relatively unbuggy. In short, the kind of day we yearn for in the bleak of winter. In spring (or this year, nearly summer), we emerge blinking and stumbling into the sunlight and warmth. And turn on the grill. And invite friends over for dinner.

Bandit was particularly taken with the Baja Chipotle chicken. The portions, however, were too conservative for his taste, which explains the pout.