Saturday, December 3, 2016

One Day

One DayOne Day by David Nicholls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the relationship of Dexter and Emma, shown on one day (July 15) of multiple years.

First thoughts: I watched this movie a while ago, but I can still remember the emotions from each year's vignette. Each version is pretty faithful to the other, and the emotions are a testament to how easy it is to fall for both Dexter and Emma (while at the same time being super frustrated with both). BUT. Why won't they admit they're in love? Some disbelief has to be suspended for this love story to work.

Middle thoughts: Yep, even in the middle and towards the end I found myself wanting to know how things go down (even though I know how it all ends). The character development pulled me in.

Recommended for: hopeless romantics, readers needing a world with different dramas to escape to, fans of "snapshot" stories.

Final thoughts: That ending. No spoilers here, but I appreciated the anniversary chapters for their reflection on the relationship.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yes and November

When I look back on November 2016, I see highs and lows. This was a big month - both for myself and for the world. My country elected a man with ties to white supremacist groups (who has yet to denounce the hundreds of hate crimes being carried out in his name. Meanwhile, he has taken the time to threaten our First Amendment rights several times...but I digress). We also managed to elect a few women, minorities, and politicians who won't sit back and let our leaders halt progress as we know it - baby steps.

In my personal life, I made the decision to apply to grad school and I got engaged. ! Right now I'm excited for both, and only a little anxious when I think about going to grad school, finding a new job, and planning a wedding simultaneously...again, baby steps.

No matter what's coming down the line in December and beyond, I'm taking it step by step (much like this video which heavily features my morning commute). One step, one second, one morning at a time.

Monday, November 21, 2016

As the Milwaukeeans Do

Jesus and I took a late Anniversary trip to Milwaukee this past weekend - just a quick one-nighter - and we loved it. It's less than a two-hour drive from Chicago, and with some advanced planning, much cheaper than the same weekend would be here. We had tickets to see the Zelda Symphony Orchestra at Riverside Theater, and added in a few extra activities as we went. Here's what we recommend:


For a quick snack, check out Wild Flour Bakery in the Shops of Grand AvenueTheir muffins were the perfect size to tide us over until dinner. Plus they're a Woman-Owned Business!

We had dinner at Buck Bradley's. The food is typical American/bar & grill, with an extra special Wisconsin touch (think: CHEESE!). The atmosphere is cozy and vintage, with TVs for the sports fans and a quieter dining room for families and couples on dates.


Since we had this trip planned since spring, we got a pretty decent deal at the Fairfield Inn & Suites downtown. It was only 3 blocks away from the theater, and within walking distance of many downtown attractions. Parking was only $15 overnight, and we had a legit continental breakfast.


The Zelda Symphony won't be back to Riverside Theater until at least next year, but they have tons of upcoming shows. It's a historic theater with quite the origin story (including a fire & continuing floods), and stunning decor.
Depending on the season, there's always something going on downtown. We got to see holiday lights, do a little shopping, check out the restaurant/bar scene, and gaze up and down the river (until we decided it was way too cold for that nonsense).

Our activity for Sunday was the Milwaukee Public Museum. We highly recommend this 134-year old museum, and it may even edge out our own Field Museum in novelty and great use of space. The Streets of Old Milwaukee are fascinating and we spent a lot of our time imagining ourselves in each room or house of the European Village. And that Butterfly Vivarium! This is a must for families, or couples with a childlike sense of wonder.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Under the Skin

Under the SkinUnder the Skin by Michel Faber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Isserley is a female and she resembles a human, mostly. She lives on Earth with a few of her kind, all of whom were sent here on a food gathering mission.

First thoughts: This story is quick-paced and easy to read (on the surface), but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered - the biggest being "What does it mean to be human?"

On Michel Faber: Yeah, this is nothing like the other Faber I read this year (The Crimson Petal and the White). Except that in both books the main character is female? It's a stretch - these are two very different books.

Changes I Would Make: I could have done without the bulk of the middle section - we need the beginning to set the stage, and the action picks up in the end, but the middle drags on a bit as we see Isserley's routine of picking up hitchhikers over and over. And the actual ending was a bit deus ex machina; I would've gone a different way with it.

Recommended for: People who need a weird book to read, anyone interested in the meat farming industry and/or the implications of humans not being alone in the galaxy.

Final thoughts: Under the Skin is supposed to get under your skin slowly and reveal the human vs alien in us all, but it doesn't do it as strongly as it could have.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016


Sometimes we need animals to show us how to be decent human beings.

If you haven't seen Zootopia yet, do. It's on Netflix & worth every minute. While the story of a determined bunny cop with a laissez-faire fox as her sidekick would normally be cute, funny, or even just a good time, Disney takes it up a notch and makes sure we (well, adults at least) get more out of this family film. The political implications were spot on and even more striking post-election. The way prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination are approached, I wouldn't be surprised if a teacher decided to show this in class. (In fact, my students might just have this to watch during our pre-Thanksgiving party.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Inspiration Kitchens & Garfield Park Conservatory

Because sometimes you need a quiet, beautiful place to shut out the world's nonsense while you recharge. Also, amazing food for a worthy cause.
In 1989, former police officer Lisa Nigro began passing out sandwiches and coffee to residents of Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. Today, under the Inspiration Corporation umbrella, Inspiration Kitchens provides training and jobs, along with other supports, to street-based and low income populations interested in working in food service. Because I'm all about voting with my dollars (and because the food is a grand slam), eating at Inspiration Kitchens before a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory was a no-brainer for Jesus and me. He got the shrimp skillet, I got chicken on a biscuit, and we both got wowed by our meals.
We got real zen once inside GPC - I love how hushed people get around abundant plant life, both massive and tiny. While Jesus took a few laps around the different rooms searching for Pokemon, I sat on a bench in the Fern Room and read. It was glorious. And were it not for a lingering cough, which made my lungs favor the Aroid House, I could have sat in the Desert House for several hours, just being quiet.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters BrothersThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eli and Charlie Sisters are hit men in the Old West of the 1850s, but they don't always agree on their way of living. During a particularly difficult mark, Eli questions his life as a killer.

First thoughts: Entertaining, dark, funny, strange. This is the Old West re-imagined.

Favorite quotes:

"We can all of us be hurt, and no one is exclusively safe from worry and sadness." -p50

"This moment, this one position in time, was the happiest I will ever be as long as I am living. I have since felt it was too happy, that men are not meant to have access to this kind of satisfaction; certainly it has tempered every moment of happiness I have experienced since." -p284

Recommended for: Western fans, Mark Twain readers, career changers, anyone needing an adventure from the comfort of their couch.

Final thoughts: How do we decide our careers? When do our careers become our lives (not just our livelihoods)? Read & discuss.

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