Difficult. Lonely. Scary. Frustrating. Whatever your choice of adjectives for it all, taken together, this pandemic, the increasing instances of natural disaster, the pervasive injustice of racism and sexism, and our severely divisive political situation are making it hard for many die-hard optimists of any age to keep their stance.
How are you coping with life these days?
Before all this, many of us Chicagoans were carefree frequent consumers – partly a function of living in the heart of this big, vibrant city. The hope is we will go at least partly back to those times, but that’s not going to be fast or easy. So much uncertainty and instability.
Still, like grass and weeds that relentlessly creep up among building ruins and through cracks in abandoned playgrounds, roads and parking lots, the human race will rise again. But let us also fervently hope that we will find some meaning in all that we have been and are still going through. Perhaps we’ll learn to listen more carefully to our fellow humans. Perhaps we’ll find new reasons to be gentle with ourselves and with others, however egregious the transgressions.
“Be kinder than necessary
because everyone you meet
is fighting some kind of battle.”
If you’re looking for something fun to do – outside and safe – on Saturday evening, and you’d like to support one of the city’s most beloved institutions, check out Lincoln Park’s new Zoo Nights series featuring extended evening hours, fall decor, food & beverage by Levy Restaurants, and a family-friendly outdoor experience. Standard safety guidelines apply to accommodate COVID-19 including required face coverings, limited capacity, and more.
Zoo Nights are Saturdays through October 31st from 6pm – 9pm. All guests require advance tickets for $5 each available at https://www.lpzoo.org/event/zoo-nights/. Members will get an extra 20% off food and non-alcoholic beverages. If the weather sucks or you can’t make it for any reason, you can give your ticket to someone else. Or just write it off as a donation to our wonderful zoo.
The Economic Policy Institute conducts extensive studies and recently compiled their 2019 data into tables of demographics about the 55+million workers deemed essential in our country. Those people going to work every day during the COVID pandemic…taking care of our needs despite the danger to themselves and their families. The industries that employ 60+% of essential workers are:
Health care – 30.2% of all essential workers
Agriculture and food – 20.6%
Industrial, commercial, residential facilities and services – 12.3%
All the rest of the industries deemed essential are in single-digit percentages of that 55+ million workers. If you’ve got the time to review, these tables reveal some fascinating facts.
News sources report that many of these essential workers don’t have adequate access to effective PPE (personal protective equipment like masks and gloves) and are not able to keep proper distancing while working in close quarters. Unsurprisingly, then, they get infected in greater numbers with the coronavirus.
Imagine a world without enough people to work these jobs…with limited access to the services these workers provide.
Say thank you to these folks when you see them they do their thing: Treat your sciatica. Repair your vehicle. Cook your meal. Drop off your package. Fill your tooth. Deliver your food. PIck up your garbage. Take your temperature. Do your laundry. Drive you home.
And if you have any ability to affect such things, stand up for their right to be protected during this pandemic. Thank you, people.
P.S. Oh, and check out the wages table. The average gap between male and female pay in many industries looks to be ~$2 to $4/hour. Yep, really.
Helluva 9 weeks we’ve all been isolated at home. Many folks are doing in-home projects they wouldn’t usually find the time/energy for. One of those things is cleaning out and reorganizing closets. And what do we all have dozens of pairs of in our closets? Shoes. And if you’re like a lot of us, you have a few pairs you like but that aren’t that comfortable.
Sampled a new product recently called Formé Shoe Shapers. Articulated in all the right places so you can stretch just the right spots on your flats, highest high heels, and everything in between. Easy to use.
Use these in ballet flats, boots, strappy shoes and more. They’re easy to adjust by expanding the “wings” of the toe shaper. As little as an hour can make a difference in comfort, but you can leave them in overnight or longer if you want more stretch. Just don’t stretch them so much that you get ridges showing on the outsides of the shoes. If you see those, release a little of the pressure.
I gave the shapers a real challenge. A year ago I bought a pair of Clark’s comfort shoes from Zappo’s – based on the hundreds of 5-star reviews. Got them delivered. Tried them on. Found they felt a little like Earth Shoes. If you’re a Boomer Lady you undoubtedly remember those shoes where the heel was slightly lower than the toe – supposedly good for your feet but not really all that comfortable.
Worse, after I’d worn the Clarks a couple of times around the house I realized they were quite tight across the instep – and there was something sharp pushing into the top of my foot. Somehow I didn’t have the energy to repackage them and return them (even though Zappo’s offers free returns). Still, I couldn’t wear them, so they sat in a basket for a couple of months.
When I got the shapers, I put them in the offending shoes for a couple of days. I can now wear thicker socks with them and that obviates the pointy thing (that I cannot locate no matter how I try). So these Formé Shoe Shapers have given me a pair of closed-toe comfort shoes to wear around the house instead of slippers.
The company delivers these shapers with a simple set of instructions on a nicely laminated card. You can keep that in the box with the shapers or in your file folder maybe under “S” for shoes – you have files, right? If you do file it in a folder, make yourself a note somewhere where you usually look for things. Once you become an experienced user, you won’t need the instructions anymore.
These are good for shoes that fit you but might be just a tiny bit too tight. They don’t let you go up a half a size or anything. If you’ve got the room in your closet and the budget, buy a few sets. Put ’em in your most popular shoes every night and keep those puppies ship-shape – instead of smashed on top of each other in a basket outside my pathetically disorganized closet. Available on Amazon.
And good luck with all your quarantine cleaning projects. It’ll be interesting to see which directions we all go in once we’re done with those.
We already had dozens of brick-and-mortar closings around the city with the advent and increasingly widespread use of the Internet. I was particularly sad to see the iconic Michigan Avenue location of Crate & Barrel close down recently and give way to a 4-story Starbucks – also now closed down in our #coronaviruslockdown. I told a few cab drivers – before this craziness – I guess the only thing we can’t get online these days is a hot cup of coffee…
But thank God so many of us did adapt to the use of new technologies, from blogs to smartphones to Google search. Seems it may be how we all learned so quickly about the seriousness of this threat to public health and began to avoid going out and exposing ourselves and others. Yes, radio and television are still at work, but it’s just as likely we heard about the danger online, in emails, and maybe on our smart home devices if we set them up to play news for us.
Even more importantly, many of us already knew how to use FaceTime (if we have iPhones) and Duo if we have Android. We already knew how to “see” each other via technology. And now many of use are becoming seasoned users of conference/meeting software like GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts and Zoom.
In the spirit of sharing and adding some joy to our newly boxed-in lives, here’s a way to make your Zoom presence even more appreciated by your fellow participants. Here are results from a Google search for FREE Zoom backgrounds you can use to dress up your meetings.
And if you love Chicago, 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck (875 N. Michigan Avenue) now offers beautiful backdrops to give your friends/coworkers something to admire other than your home office.
From twinkling city lights at sunset to stunning lakefront and skyline scenes only found in Chicago, it’s easy and free to swap out “inside” views for aspirational views of gorgeous panoramic views found only at 360 CHICAGO and TILT from its 94th floor perch.
It’s easy and free. Simply visit https://360chicago.com/zoom-backgrounds/ to download free images…visit often to download the rotating options. Follow on social @360chicago and #360Chicago on all social networks.
Coronavirus looks like it’s going to be around for quite a while. Thank you to the scientists who are working assiduously to find a vaccine and/or a viable treatment. Thank you to the brave people who continue to work in critical industries – health, food, utilities and so on – despite the threat. May they remain healthy and their work bear fruit soon.
You probably know I blog at FoodandDrinkChicago.com and cover restaurant news at ChicagoRestaurantExaminer.com. You’d think I might cover the first of these books at one of those, but even though it’s a cookbook, I’ve chosen to put it in this blog because it’s a memoir just as much. In any case, check out these books to see if something triggers your desire to sit down and read – or cook, or go to China, or call a friend.
The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors, by Mandy Lee, author of LadyandPups.com blog, Check out the cover and you can reasonably expect this to have some drama. Her story of how she moved to Beijing for her husband’s work tells how she found herself frustrated with China’s autocratic political climate, infuriating bureaucracy, and choking pollution, and started her apologetically angry blog. In between, she discovered the glorious flavors of the East. Her ramen story on page 88 will send you running out for the ingredients ASAP. She swears – a lot – as she talks about the constant yellowish smog that requires vigilant Beijing residents to wear a respirator outside “to slow the blackening of our lungs when we went down the street to buy a f**#**# bag of sugar.” Her dark humor and her passion for elaborate flavors may just change the way you look at cooking. SRP~$18. Kindle version available.
The Book of Chinese Proverbs: A Collection of Timeless Wisdom, Wit, Sayings & Advice, by Gerd de Ley. While we’re in China, this book is meant to help readers gain insights into China and its rich culture. The book divides the quotes by category: On Animals. On Beauty. On Experience. On Family and the Home. And so on. Some of the quotes just don’t feel like ancient wisdom, but they may be expressing some aspect of Chinese philosophy. An example: “The true man will not compromise his principles for a meager reward.” Really? If you pay him enough, he will. “A widow is a boat without a rudder.” Hmm. And many quotes do resonate:
“You cannot propel yourself forward by patting yourself on the back.”
“If your children are wicked, they don’t deserve to inherit; if they are good and hard working, they don’t need to.”
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
Be interesting to discuss some of these with a Chinese-raised person. Hardcover only. SRP ~$15.
“Some friends leave footprints in your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.
“A single rose can be my garden; a single friend, my world.” – Leo T. Buscglia.
“But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored and sorrows end.” – William Shakespeare.
This may be a print-on-demand book; the binding and quality are not great, and our review copy arrived quite bent, so be sure to ask the shipper to take care in packaging. Hardcover SRP ~$11 and Kindle.
Drive a few hours and find yourself in a modern, comfortable retreat in Northern Michigan. Complete with waterfall walls, cute spots for gift shopping, beautiful spaces in which to dine, and in the right weather, high level golf courses, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is set in the midst of gently rolling hills and trees galore. Even in winter when you can’t golf, this is a grand place for relaxing and escaping from everyday obligations.
And if you’re off for a spring vacation, consider joining them March 22 – April 7 for special Spring Break rates and activities. Book soon and save 20% off of the prevailing rate. Whether you are looking for relaxation, romance, or a family getaway, get up and go at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. For room availability and rates, call 800-236-1577.
Tip: Don’t bring your work! Don’t open social media. Use the workout room. Swim. Eat. Listen. Share. Enjoy.
P.S. Consider taking a little side trip while you’re there to taste some wonderful wines at Shady Lane Cellars. If you’re lucky, you can meet the beautiful, warm, charming and knowledgeable winemaker Kasey Wierzba while you’re there.
Vacation is a time to bask in comfort and luxury if you’re able and willing to do that. Across the entire country you can find dozens and dozens of Historic Hotels of America, all of which are beautifully preserved and refreshed. They will make you feel like royalty and will gently remind you about the history of the area you’re staying in. Here’s a map of U.S. historic hotels so you can pinpoint if there’s one near where you want to go.
In the fast-growing-in-popularity metropolis of Memphis, TN you’ll find The Peabody Hotel – of twice-daily-duck-walks-through-the-lobby fame. In addition to the famous duck parades past the registration desk, you have your choice of satisfying dining options within the hotel. Among them, the most opulent dining room in Memphis enthralls with Old South splendor and the classic French cuisine of Executive Chef Andreas Kisler. In addition to being the only Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond rated restaurant in the Mid-South, Chez Philippe has been named among Food & Wine magazine’s “Top 50 Hotel Restaurants,” described as “worth a special trip” by The New York Times and included on Open Table’s list of Top 100 “Most Romantic Restaurants in the U.S.” Add to that a boatload of non-stop music and history in the many historic and modern venues, museums and landmarks in the fair city of Memphis, and you’ve got yourself a truly worthy vacay spot.
Closer to home, the Palmer House Hilton will charm you with some of the most exquisite gold-leaf and velvet-curtained surroundings you’ll run into anywhere in Chicago. Did you know that Potter Palmer built this hotel for the love of his life, Berthe Palmer, and that it burned to the ground in the Chicago fire exactly 13 days after its inaugural event? Palmer – who was so discouraged he wanted to leave Chicago altogether but chose to stay because his beloved Berthe encouraged him to do so – went out and negotiated a huge loan from a business associate and rebuilt the new Palmer House – right across the street from the practically still smoldering remains of the original. And that’s just the beginning of the Palmer House story. I have extremely fond personal memories of staying at this fabulous hotel when my college-bound daughter wondered why she’d want to live in Chicago. We lived in Cleveland at the time and visited often to see family but hadn’t really gone “out on the town.” Needless to say, once we settled in at this grand hotel and perambulated our way up and down Michigan Avenue, she fell madly in love with the city and made her college choice accordingly.
You can, of course, also consider treating yourself to a stay at the hotel that anchors the entrance to the famous Magnificent Mile – standing regally on the corner of Michigan Ave. and Oak St. The Drake Hotel is known for many things, including the gorgeous Palm Court and its High Tea service, the legendary Bookbinder snapper (red) soup, and the former Cape Cod Room, known for its wooden bar carved with famous people’s initials – like Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. This space closed a few years ago, but has now reopened as a breakfast option for hotel guests and the general public. Called the Cafe on Oak, it features a couple of specialty Benedicts named after MM – biscuit, steak & egg – and JD – muffin, pancetta, tomato & egg, Happily, the bar and many of the original furnishings remain so that history-seeking guests can still get a feel for the original space and this longest-continuously-running hotel in the U.S.
Wherever you go in our fair country, be sure to check if there’s a historic hotel where you might indulge yourself and your loved ones. It’ll be worth every penny.
Kentucky is where my parents were both born. My mother’s remaining relatives still live in the Louisville area. And the entire state is full of food and beauty and music – and it’s calling us to “come on down” and immerse ourselves in it. Just for starters, pack up your lawn chairs, dress in your best fun clothes, and go sample one or more of the amazing selection of music festivals going on just this June, 2019.
Festival of the Bluegrass – June 6-9, Music and laughter flow as freely as the bourbon, and new friends are made around campfires, over banquet-size meals, and while hootin’ and hollering’ at the artists on stage. www.festivalofthebluegrass.com, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY.