Saturday, May 31, 2014

How to Be a Woman

How to Be a WomanHow to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If ever there was a time to read this book, that time is now. Male or female, How to Be a Woman won't disappoint and will inform, entertain, and make you think.

A few nights ago, I was reading the #YesAllWomen page on Twitter and felt (among other emotions) grateful to have so many women to look up to in my life. I can now add Caitlin (pronounced Cat-lin) Moran to that list, as a woman and a writer. Her insight and candid thoughts on all things female made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. She's refreshing, hilarious, honest, and direct.

As a lowercase feminist, I appreciated Moran's take on the word, its meaning, and its (continued) importance to society today. It's nice knowing there are others who would rather make a joke than get angry, all the while knowing jokes are their own type of anger that can spark reflection, discussion, and change.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spring Haze

It's hazy here. Construction + Allergies = Constant Smog. My eyes water, I sneeze, and there's a faint taste of dirt on my lips after a bike ride. I get cool pictures, though.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hump Day Colors

Despite the falling temperature and semi-gray skies, I found a lot of colors (plus one giraffe) in the details of my day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

I didn't take many photos this weekend, because I was too busy celebrating, enjoying the company of friends, eating, dancing, and relaxing. Summer's unofficial kick-off weekend was a success.
Friends since 7th grade! (photo credit: Megan's iPhone)
Since Brit will be out of town (and out of the country!) for her actual birthday, we celebrated with friends on Saturday and family on Sunday. Saturday's festivities included a special drink dubbed "The Britney," NHL/NBA playoff games, and lots of special guests. We also tried out the newly opened Slippery Slope for drinks and dancing. We weren't the only group with that plan--the line snaked out the door when we got there. Luckily, it moved quickly, and soon we were inside dancing along with half of Logan Square. We hope the crowds thin out a bit once the newness of the place wears off...either that or we hope they invest in some A/C before it heats up any more around here.
waiting in the Slippery Slope line (photo credit: Megan...I told you I didn't take pics!)
On Sunday, we headed up north, our (Jesus's) car stocked with fruit salad, leftover drinks, carne asada, Texas caviar, and bean dip. We joined Brit's family at Brit's parents' house, where Becca met us with the cake--a blueberry/lemon/tapioca trifle. Brit's parents also got her a regular birthday cake, so she learned that even at 27, your parents can throw you a traditional birthday party. The day continued with yard games, card games (I learned how to play Spades!), and basement naps (as is our tradition after cookouts).
What was left to do on Monday, you ask? Shop, of course. Memorial Day sales plus upcoming birthdays means I found some gems that I can't wait to give later this summer. Jesus and I also went to the Lane Tech Memorial Day carnival. We walked around, decided we didn't trust any of the rides, and instead he took me on a walking tour of the Lane Tech grounds. (It's his alma mater, but since he spent most of his high school career skipping class, the tour consisted of him letting me know which doors were easiest to get out of unnoticed.)
Philly's Best fuzzy photo
I ended my long weekend with dinner at Philly's Best, joining Brit and Diego at Diego's apartment to cheer on the Hawks during another disappointing game, and a wet bike ride home afterwards. Now I'm ready for this short week to fly on by...more summer weekends await!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Generation A

Generation AGeneration A by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alright, this is my last Coupland for a while. I need to branch out. Not to say I wasn't entertained by Generation A--it's probably one of my favorite novels by Coupland (hence the five stars). Once again, he rewrites the story he's been writing for decades, and once again, I'm a fan. I like his themes: loneliness versus solitude, reading and storytelling and hive mentality. I like his characters: five main players, all who get stung by bees in a world where bees have all but disappeared, plus the odd supporting characters. I like his style. I could have done with less of the characters telling individual stories campfire style, but I understand what Coupland was doing there, and as the novel came to its close, I appreciated the stories. And I appreciated my love of reading even more.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I sense a theme...

no entrance

Monday's view

If walking under a ladder is bad luck, does putting another ladder under that ladder cancel it out?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Humboldt Sunday

Sometimes it's such a nice day, you gotta get out there and walk. Yesterday was one of those days, and Jesus and I spent some time wandering around Humboldt Park. Construction continues on the 606/Bloomingdale Trail, and of course we found some cute graffiti.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Oh the Glory of it All

Oh the Glory of it AllOh the Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm going to start off by saying I don't usually like memoirs. They're too self-indulgent for me. Wilsey's Oh the Glory of it All passed the test. His narrative voice is self-effacing without being whiny and honest without being braggy. He is first to point out his own weaknesses, owning up to his downfalls and crafting the story around them.

I didn't mind the length of the book because I liked "hearing" Wilsey tell his story--the parts where I feel the story dragged on were excerpts from journals/newspapers/other people's accounts of a story. I wanted to hear Wilsey tell the story, not his mom, who just doesn't have his talent at storytelling.

Speaking of Wilsey's mom, at times it was hard to believe these people (his mom, dad, and stepmom, along with various other supporting characters) exist(ed)...but you can Google them all, and there they are, in all their glory.

It would be easy to compare this epic tale to Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The two authors are friends, colleagues, and have several things in common. I prefer AHWOSG, but mostly because it came into my life at a time I really needed it. Oh the Glory of it All holds its own and I'm looking forward to reading more of Wilsey in the future.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I am not magical. I don't have a carpetbag full of tricks; I don't fly with an umbrella. Sometimes, though, I manage to wash, dry, and fold three loads of laundry, try out six paint samples, pick up the pie, pick up the fancy chocolates, pick up the teenager, drive the teenager to several after-school activities, strip the beds, make the beds, wash the dishes, take out the garbage, remember the boss's birthday, return the library books, and stay sane all in one day.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Black Bean Brownies & Chocolate Oatmeal Clusters

Oof, that title is a mouthful...and so are these two desserts I tried over the weekend for Mother's Day. The first is a cookie-like dessert, but without the butter and flour. I adapted it from Kalyn's Kitchen (the fudgy version). The other is a brownie, one of my favorite desserts when I'm in a chocolate mood (which I clearly was this weekend). I found the recipe at Chocolate Covered Katie, and I'm very excited to announce that they also have zero butter or flour. What they do have is an entire can of black beans. Really!

Chocolate Oatmeal Clusters

1 c rolled oats
1/2 c sugar (original recipe calls for Splenda or Stevia-in-the-Raw)
4 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c olive oil
2 egg whites, beaten 

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Combine, stirring together until completely mixed. Chill in refrigerator for several hours. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon small balls of batter onto the paper, spaced evenly. Press down slightly with a fork (they don't spread very much). Bake twelve minutes, or until cookies are firm.

These aren't too sweet and are really easy to make, as long as you give yourself time to let the batter chill. They were a big hit at Jesus's family's house--they went so fast  I didn't even get a picture!

Black Bean Brownies

1 1/2 c black beans (one 15-oz can)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 c rolled oats (recipe calls for quick-cook, but I have rolled here, so that's what I used)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c maple syrup or agave nectar or honey (I used agave)
2 tbsp sugar (original recipe includes Stevia option or upping the liquid sweetener amount)
1/4 c oil (I used olive oil)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c chocolate chips (optional, or sub cocoa nibs)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor or blender (I only have a blender) and blend until completely smooth. Like super duper smooth--you won't taste the beans, but you don't want any solid beans hanging around! Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8x8 pan. Bake 15-18 minutes. Cool before cutting.

I'm a big fan of these guys, pictured above. They are more fudgy than cakey, which I like. I want to add some caramel or peanut butter to my next batch (there will be a next batch).

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Hey Nostradamus!

Hey Nostradamus!Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I genuinely enjoyed Hey Nostradamus!. I'm always game for a story told by different characters; add to that the time differences of each telling, and you've got a fan. I did have early hesitations about the subject matter; I wasn't sure if I wanted to read anything related to school shootings--we get enough of that in reality--but this story quickly moved into other territory. (Again, the varied narrators and moments in history helped.)

This isn't my first time at the Coupland rodeo, so I anticipated--and welcomed--many of the novel's themes (loneliness, prayer, and grief are prime examples). I've said it before: I like when an author (or an artist, or a musician, or an architect) riffs on previous works. We all have an essential story to tell, and Hey Nostradamus! is one small piece of Coupland's tale. Not a happy piece, but not one without hope either.

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Saturday in the Parks

I went for my yearly run today, so now I'm done with that nonsense until 2015. I circled around Humboldt Park along with all the other families, runners, and dogs out in abundance.

Later, I took a walk in the other direction, towards Bucktown/Wicker Park. I didn't make it to Wicker Park proper, but I did make a loop in Park 567. What it lacks in a name, it makes up for in quaintness. This picture is pretty much it: an oval of grass surrounded by rocks and a paved path. Traffic on Milwaukee Ave speeds by while construction continues on The 606 and the Blue Line, but in the park things slow down. Shoes optional.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Illuminated Things

This temporary art installation has been outside of the Museum of Contemporary Art since last June, and Jesus and I were fortunate enough to see it on its last day of display on Sunday. The public art project itself, The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things, is now onto its final phase: photography and social sharing. The artist, Amanda Ross-Ho, asked viewers to take their own pictures of her installment and post them online, with the tag #illuminatedthings. She wants to share these photos as a way to make viewers think about public information--though the installation itself is simple, just three basic forms colored gray, plus a color palette, no one photo will be the same, thanks to shifting outdoor light, the multitude of angles available, and viewers' own photo edits (cropping, filters, light exposure).

My contribution to the project, an Instagram photo.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Perspective, Selective

Tell me if you’re game
to watch a sea of foam and dirt
turn into a city park:
wildflowers next to
steel towers surrounded by
tourists, students, and impatient drivers.
Tell me if you’re game
to lift your head and marvel
at the man-made:
buildings standing big shoulder
to big shoulder
the inspired and inspiring,
Or would you rather
sneak a peek from up above?
Glance over rooftops studded with
concrete and brick chimneys,
across the tree-filled parks,
over to the green-blue lake,
the one you know is much colder
than any photo will suggest.
There you might find what
you’re really game for:
a horizon
barely curving
waiting to give birth to the sun.

Lucky you, it's a poem and photos! I figured since the speakeasy has a photo prompt this week, why not add some of my own? At the same time I made up for missing a few poems back in April. I told you photography would inspire me.

Monday, May 5, 2014


My Cinco started with a full body massage, a Valentine's Day present finally received. According to my massage therapist (who was nontraditional, to say the least--no Enya or meditation sounds here; we listened to Pharrell), I was long overdue. Then Jesus and I continued our Unofficial Summer Kick-Off Staycation with a day at the Museum of Science & Industry. We put our tax dollars to work by taking advantage of the Illinois resident free day, plus we found free street parking a few blocks away from the museum. Right now, MSI has a special Disney archives exhibit and we got to take a mini/amateur animation class. We also did a lot of geeking out over interactive displays about storms, the body, submarines, and we watched a baby chick hatch. Not bad for a Monday.

Bike Month!

How Chicago children learn about farms...a 2-D corn field. :(

They don't call him Scales for nothing...wherever we go he finds something to climb.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

May the Fourth be with you!

Hello, blue sky!

Today Jesus and I went downtown to check out the newly opened Chicago Sports Museum in Water Tower Place. (Neither of us are particularly athletic, nor are we avid sports fans, but we'll check out almost any museum.) On the way, we stopped to enjoy the views that are still exciting four years after moving here.

Today's Chicago Woman Way

My vertical is 18"...Jesus's is 30"...Michael Jordan's is 48"

The museum itself was lots of fun--it's small, but 90% interactive. You could compare your vertical to Michael Jordan's, your wingspan to Scottie Pippen's, your reaction time to Corey Crawford's, and your hand size to several Bulls and Sky players'.

It's not a mall date without a pretzel.

Admission to the museum is free with a meal at the connecting Harry Caray's restaurant, or you could do what we did: pay for the museum, then get $12 off at the restaurant. Doing it that way feels like more of a deal for some reason.

May, I'm okay with you so far.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Becca took me on a real Chicago date today. Using her Art Institute membership, we spent the better part of the day wandering around, revisiting our favorites and discovering new pieces. Above, part of a Christopher Wool exhibit. Below, a small section of Chagall's America Windows.

What She Saw...

What She Saw...What She Saw... by Lucinda Rosenfeld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a quick/fun read. While my list of boyfriends is smaller than Phoebe's, many of her relationships had familiar quirks and emotions. The novel's relatability (is that a word?) is its strength, and the humor helps too. As I read, I also noticed that the numbered characters on the front really did match up with their chapters, looks-wise, so that was fun. It did take some time to warm up to Phoebe herself; a first person point-of-view might have won me over quicker, though in the end she just might not be a likable character. What She Saw... isn't particularly memorable, but it works as a casual read.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Building a New Chicago

Check out all the work they're doing in my neighborhood to get this elevated trail ready for me (and the rest of Chicago, I guess). This bridge used to be on another street. This time-lapse video shows how they got it over here. I can't wait for the Bloomingdale Trail...also known as the 606, because of Chicago's zip codes

["Bloomingdale" could confuse people who aren't aware that the trail runs parallel to Bloomingdale Avenue and Goose Island (as in the brewery) already has Chicago's original area code taken (312 Urban Wheat Ale), so the 606 it is.]

I might be more excited than most Chicagoans about this trail, since it's only about two blocks from my house and I've traversed it, pre-construction. It was like you'd expect an abandoned train line to look like: gravel, pieces of train tracks, broken glass, weeds, and graffiti--gritty and artsy, yes, but also treacherous in places. Soon it will look great (fingers crossed) and have official entry points!