Friday, July 29, 2011

Love, Grandma

Dear Charlotte,

You are nearly here, and there’s so much explaining to do about the federal budget and debt ceiling crisis, I hardly know where to begin. This I do know: the whole debt/budget calamity has a lot of fuzzy math in it, with both Republicans and Democrats screeching, countering and plutttting at each other.

This will all seem familiar to you by the time you’re in seventh grade. The he saids, the she saids, the president said.

It’s all what one might expect in Junior High, but among the grownups? Not so much.

By the time I’m through trying to explain the trillions, the top 2% and the concomitant deficits, you will be in college, majoring in macroeconomics.

So until then, may I offer a few basics?

Don’t spend more than you have in your checking account.

Save a little bit each month. You’ll be glad for the cushion. And it’s satisfying to watch it grow (although the spending part can be satisfying, too).

When someone tells you that someone else said something outrageous, don’t believe it until you’ve spoken directly to that person. Direct is best.

Don’t open pictures sent from 202 area codes. Ever.

Read newspapers when you can, although I suspect they will mostly be in electronic form by the time you’re really following the Cubs.

Don’t follow the Cubs.

I’m sure there are a lot of other things that I can come up with that will be helpful to you down the road. As long as Blogspot is offering a free forum, I’ll write stuff down.

Meanwhile, we are all looking forward to Tuesday. Your Mom is especially ready.

Your dad’s got the crib assembled, Zach has painted the carpet (long story), I’m working on the curtains and your mom has washed all of those darling pink outfits. We won’t have to do laundry until you’re two, which is a cost-savings any political party can agree on.

Can’t wait to meet you, baby girl.



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bucket List

This was the cover of the Arts section of the Chicago Tribune on Sunday.

After I got my heart started again, it felt heady to be 11 years old again.

Tickets to his concerts at Wrigley Field are something like a billion dollars, but you know what? I'm pretty much okay with my creased newspaper. And that face.

Is there a band you'd love to hear? Or have you already been fulfilled on this front? Leave me a comment.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Much to my dismay, our field trip by bus to the Morton Arboretum was canceled because five students weren't enough to justify the gas. And while I realize it didn't make the greatest environmental sense, I was really looking forward to my first field trip since Mrs. Burrell's first grade went to a New York dairy to watch milk swirl around in stainless steel vats.

Saw my first cow that day, too.

In any event, our fearless instructor, Aaron (who is volunteering his time to teach this Lifelong Learning class) discussed brightness, contrast, saturation, temperature, clutter, the grid, hotspots and Ansel Adams.

Take out Ansel Adams and it sounds a bit like menopause, doesn't it?

After class, we took a "photowalk" around the campus, although I confess to getting sidetracked.

This is Sharon, author of the blog My Life with Labs and Jillian. She has a bodacious camera -- and she knows how to use it.

This is Kaki, a covert blogger with a special relationship with ospreys (in the photographic sense of the word). Also an excellent photographer.

We roamed Benedictine's campus trying to keep Aaron's lessons in mind. 

A lesson in lines.
A lesson in clutter.

A lesson in staying dry.

A lesson in how to get an A.

Next Saturday is our last class, when we will learn how to use Photoshop, a handy utility for coping with double chins and bad hair.

I'll share some of the results down the road.

Benedictine University gets high marks for its Lifelong Learning program. The content is excellent and the price is right.

And seeing Kaki go after a ladybug on a weed? Priceless.

Friday, July 22, 2011


One of the really great things about where we live is our backyard. While 95 percent of Illinois is flatter than a pancake and filled with prairie grasses, we live in tree central: elm, oak, hemlock, infuriating buckthorn, black walnut, serviceberry and mock orange.

And then there's the wildlife: annoying squirrels, even more annoying chipmunks, raccoons, skunk, deer. A fox trotted through our hostas just a few weeks ago.

It's all rather Disneyesque.

While starting dinner last night, I saw a flash of really intense blue just outside the window. An Indigo Bunting! We hadn't had one in ages!

"Honey!" I called out, rummaging for my glasses. "Tiptoe out here and see this bird!"

Upon further squint, I paused. "Wait! Is that a blue butterfly? Never had one of those before!"

 I grabbed my camera.

It was very still and unafraid. I slipped outside to get a closer shot.

Rare and endangered helium balloon, ripped and roosting in the ivy.

So it's time for the optometrist.

Side benefit, howevever: I've been reading about this photographic effect called bokeh. And I think I (inadvertently) got it. A little bit, anyway.

I'll strive for a better subject next time. In fact, a few book buddies and I are taking a photography class at Benedictine College. I missed the first class last week on account of my trip to St. Louis. This week, I'm told, we are taking a field trip to the M0rton Arboretum in Lisle on Saturday. And we are taking a bus.

It feels just like first grade.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You're Welcome

Just doing my part to keep 'yall cool.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Ever notice the trip home seems to have an extra 100 miles added in? It's a weird highway telescoping effect. Very Dr. Who, but not nearly as entertaining.

St. Louis is home, however, and I love that hot and humid city very much.

I was able to spend time with Tip and his adoptive mother in their new apartment. You remember Tip -- bad hairdo, bobbly head, fireplace soot on his shoulder blades.

This eating machine has hit the lottery, living with AJ. No more brothers to get between him and his Fancy Feast (which she warms up in the microwave.) Kibble on demand. Non-stop pats.

He is extraordinarily affectionate, a champeen purrer and indefatigable when it comes to exploring the fireplace. (Warning: Washing cats is neither easy nor advised.)

We eventually found enough safety pins to close the screen so he will be spared future scrub downs with Dawn dish soap.

When we weren't fussing over Tip, we were out and about in the city.

There is something about the architecture of St. Louis. I find it endlessly fascinating.

The red brick, the slate roofs, the Madeline-like qualities of the city neighborhoods. Love 'em.

Loved this also. A lot.

I think this guy was feeling the heat.

This whole corner in the Cherokee neighborhood was definitely going for a Reggae vibe.

Across the street from the fire hydrant is a wonderful antique store, R. Ege Antiques. Colored pencils from France that are two feet long are for sale, and just as soon as I find 850 dollars, I'm taking them home with me.

Hope you have a cool place to tuck into this week. Chicago, I hear, may be even hotter than St. Louis in the coming days. And that, my friends, is some kind of hot.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Le 14 Juillet

Tomorrow, I am off to St. Louie, Louie, and I haven't time to post anything of great note.

However, tomorrow is Bastille Day, and I expect each of you to leave me an insanely detailed comment about your decorations, menu, wine selections, couture, sound track and assorted je ne sais quoi.

How exactly will you storm the gates this July 14th?

Allons enfants!

But first, a little inspiration:
July 3, 1951
Dad and my brothers no doubt thinking about Bastille Day.
(Mom wondering how to operate Brownie camera.)

May 2010
The city of Nice rocks the Tricouleur 59 years later.

Remember "Ou est la bibliotheque?" from French class?
Happy to report that I found it in Antibes.
You're welcome.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Sorry to say, the slumping economy has affected the size of swimming pools.

The long- and short-range for cute, however, is at an all-time sizzle with an overall optimistic outcome.

Or something to that effect.

I got a 70.2 percent in Econ 51 and understood nothing, including those stupid widgets, for an entire semester.

Don't get me started with new math.*

*(per Wikipedia: New Math was a brief, dramatic change in the way mathematics was taught in American grade schools, and to a lesser extent in European countries, during the 1960s. The name is commonly given to a set of teaching practices introduced in the U.S. shortly after the Sputnik crisis in order to boost science education and mathematical skill in the population so that the intellectual threat of Soviet engineers, reputedly highly skilled mathematicians, could be met.)

So it all goes back to those Russians.

Total conspiracy.

Remember, you read it here first.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

So Proud

I'll admit it: I have no shame.

Got this little gem from my friend and blogger Kaki and had to share.

With thanks to the unknown graphic artist who created this.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Name That Cat

Our daughter, AJ, moved into a new apartment in St. Louis last week.

All that was missing was a roommate.

PetSmart was having adoption day across the street.

She is now the owner of a 6-year-old cat with a neurological deficit. (They're called bobbleheads because of balance issues.)

Shiloh is his current name. I suggested Kitty. Or Carmel Crisco Wilbur, which is what my brother's first grade class named their hamster.

 AJ suggested the faithful readers of this blog name him. So I want all 41 of you (Connie can vote twice) to leave a name in the Comments section.

Actually, this being Chicago,  all of you may vote as often as you wish.

(He had to be shaved down due to fur issues. In six months, he will be quite poofy.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The 4th

What is it about fireworks and marshmallows?

And flags, of course.

And Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (even though it's about Russia and France and not us whoopin' the Brits in the War of 1812. Wiki can be very handy. Just saying.)

And hydrangeas bursting in fullness.

And our friends Dave and Karen in from Middletown, Ohio, for a wedding in Barrington. (The Sancerre 2008 is fabulous. Thank you.)

And sweet corn for 22 cents an ear.

And cats with new homes.

And barbequed chicken. And salmon. And steak. (Possibly all three.)

And karaoke at the neighbors' house.

And for our dog's inability to hear M80s bursting in air.

And yellow finches diving into the fountain and playing tag in the trees.

And abundant sunlight and negligible humidity.

And babies due in precisely 30 days.

And flags at every mailbox in the neighborhood.

And the freedom to do it and see it.

And write about it.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.