All posts by Lady

A few books for your late-pandemic consideration

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How are you doing? Things are still roiling all over the globe. What’s been a long year for everyone  doesn’t look like it’s ready to quit yet. So, thanks to some help from my dear daughter Creed, I’ve gotten part-way through the pile of books I’ve collected for review. These contain books on Travel, Health, Memoir, Historical Fiction, Philosophy and Science. Have fun browsing!

Travel

Amsterdam Exposed: An American’s Journey into the Red Light District, by David Wienir. Cannabis and prostitution districts form the map for this memoir set in 1999. Wienir toured this twilight world and came away with paradigm-shifting transformation in regard to the world’s oldest profession and the world itself. Uplifting, emotional, the author takes his story to corporate America. Readable and thought-provoking, the book reveals the way a 26-year-old American’s friendship with and promise to a Dutch prostitute and changed both of them forever. PICTURE
Secret Chicago: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure, by Jessica Mlinaric. Secrets about one of the world’s greatest cities, including oddities and inspiration in Chicago’s uncommon sites such as hidden attractions, haunted locales and unique landmarks.
The Full English, by Bull Garlington. Hilarious story of a father’s failed attempt to take his family on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the UK. His expectations, his wife’s meddling in his perfect plan, his children’s massive indifference, and others along with “England’s classic breakfast which consists almost entirely of canned beans.” Sample chapter titles: “How to Pee on a Bus in Dublin,” “Bagpipes and How I Hate Them.” Warning: lots of swear words.

Health

Hospice: The Last Responder, by Ellen Jane Windham. A comprehensive guide to understanding how your loved one can complete his/her journey in the best way – at home and surrounded by family. The book tells how to take the fear out of finding your way through this transition.
Write for Recovery – Exercises for Heart, Mind and Spirit, by Diane Sherry Case. How to use writing to relieve stress and improve mental health. Life  coach Case reveals how journaling can help us process our emotions, increase self-awareness, and clarify our dreams.
Grandmothering: The Secret to Making a Difference While Having the Time of Your Life, by Linda Eyre. With 26 grandkids, the author has become an expert on getting and staying connected to your grandkids. She gives tips on using money wisely with them, and on how to model values (e.g., honesty, integrity and courage) – presumably without interfering with their parents’ authority. For good measure, she throws in some recipes to help you make good food for a crowd.
My Dad Is an Alcoholic, What about me?: A Pre-teen Guide to Conquering Addictive Genes, by Marc Treitler with Lianna Treitler. Based on this family’s personal experiences, the authors tell their history and describe how they learned that genes can give us a predisposition to be allergic to alcohol and other substances. They teach you how to stop the gene with your allergic reaction from ever turning on. Written in a user-friendly, teenager appropriate way, the book encourages readers to consider remaining abstinent from all types of mind-altering substances. The emphasis is on empowerment and free will.
The Interactive Guide to Good Health, from the Mayo Clinic

Memoir

My Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir of Africa, by Susie Rheanholt. This daughter of a Green Beret had to move around a lot as a child. Her adventurous spirit eventually led her to a life of working to help underprivileged children in multiple African countries. She fights to help end the AIDS epidemic and eliminate poverty and illiteracy, starting with 9 orphans in a small rural village in Tanzania. If you’re looking for a story about living a life of purpose, this story might be a good one.
Just Five More Minutes, by Michael Ross. A true story of children, love and murder. A man chronicles the story of his wife’s murder, the 11-month trial of the perpetrator, and where he and his sons have come to 13 years later. Hints and tips he used to keep him and his family positive while rebuilding our lives and looking to the future.
My Love Affair with Italy, by Debbie Mancuso. Unlike a typical memoir, this book tells of a single woman’s twelve visits to Italy over 45 years and how she made lifelong friends. It’s known for her stories of dating Italian men, its beautiful descriptions of the country, and its many twists and turns that the reader doesn’t see coming.

Historical fiction

Friends of the Wigwam: A Civil War Story, by John William Huelskamp. This novel highlights the significance and importance of the role that the Midwest and its soldiers and citizens played in the Civil War. The book’s heroine is a woman who masqueraded as a man to fight in battle. She and other characters discover a hidden wigwam that welcomed runaway slaves and became a shelter for friendships and love among the war torn atmosphere of the Civil War in the Midwest.
Before We Die, by Joan Schweighardt. If you like to be swept up in historical stories, try this first of three in what’s called the Rivers series. Greed and desire in 1908 were no different than they are today. Two brothers seek their fortune among the rubber trees in the South American rain forest – along with floods, snakes, malaria, and hunger. They experience profound conflicts and suffer through the agony of being in love with the same woman.

Philosophy

God: An Autobiography, As told to a Philosopher, by Jerry L. Martin. A philosophy professor falls in love, and suddenly finds meaning in his life. He had previously had no religion at all. But upon his transformation by love, he is moved to thank God in prayer and is surprised to find God answers. Gradually he transforms from a lifelong agnostic to a man who believes in God. The book describes how God is present in all religions and cultures, and how anyone can learn to grow closer to God.

Science

Dance to the Tune of Life: Biological Relativity, by Denis Noble. The author says genes are not active causes of anything, and we need to stop attributing so much power to them. Living organisms operate at a high level of complexity, and their interactions are influenced by its social environment. In other words, not everyone who has a gene for a particular trait or disease, will actually have it or develop it. Word of warning: this book is dense.
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Dirt and COVID

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I am getting a tiny bit less rigid about having no contact with others  than I was in the beginning, way back almost a year ago when this coronovirus hit. Hard to believe I’ve been almost totally in my apartment – literally not going to the store, ever; not having anyone over, rarely; wearing a mask when anyone delivers a package or food, and so on – for this long. Good thing I love my apartment.

One thing i am noticing is dirt that’s collecting more aggressively on the rug in the spots where I sit all day. What, you may ask, am I doing sitting all day? Cruising the web, writing stuff, getting up and down for tea, snacks, meals, bathroom breaks, exercise.

Speaking of exercise, I missed my step and zumba classes terribly.  So for the first several months I worked out fairly vigorously to videos on YouTube. Found some rockin’ music and followed along, pretending I was in the class with them. Eventually, this wore thin. You need real people in class to give you the motivation.

These days, I read my Kindle propped on a stand while I step side-to-side on a thick rubber kitchen mat. On the days I do it at all. My FitBit Charge 3 tells me I’m getting steps and achieving “active minutes,” so who am I to argue?

Back to the dirt. I began to notice the rug was starting to look a little disheveled. I worried the crumbs and loose hairs were clogging up the fibers of the rug and would undoubtedly hasten the end of its best foot forward.

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
Dirt can take many forms, some much easier to see.
Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

I normally get some help with housework but for several months, I didn’t want anyone in my house and many folks had no interest in going into other people’s homes.

Unfortunately, my closet is so jammed  that it’s hard to drag the vacuum out. Early on, I bought a nice hand-vac that I’d use to suck up the obvious chunks of debris on the rugs and on the other hard-surface floors like in the kitchen and bath. But it has limited ability to suck up embedded stuff, so eventually the dirt started to taunt me.

One day I got down on my knees – a serious commitment since getting up these days is a project. I’d already energetically applied the hand-vac and now I used a brush. Wow, who knew I’d been molting! And of course my hairs are extra long these days, with no hairdresser assistance, and I was shocked to find many of them somehow weaving themselves into the fibers of the rug. Reminds me of one of the many reasons I don’t have a dog. Then I started noticing them woven into my hoodies and other upper body coverings.

New helper comes now, and she vacuums well. It looks better, But having been down on my knees playing dirt snoop, I know it’s time. Anybody know of a good area rug cleaning company…that will also move furniture? I’ve got my double mask ready.

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What to make of this time in our lives

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Friends through it all

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.”

― J. M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan)

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Enjoy fall Saturday nights at Lincoln Park Zoo

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Join the animals for a fun night out at Lincoln Park Zoo

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.

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Essential workers keep the world going ’round – even in pandemic

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Essential workers without PPE – Photo by Remy Gieling on Unsplash

This strange time in history has me reading and listening to the news more than I ever have. Saw something this morning that got me wondering; Latino workers in essential jobs tend to suffer more infectious outbreaks of COVID-19. So where are these “essential jobs” and what do we know about them?

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.

 

 

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Cleaning out your closets during quarantine?

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Quarantine project???

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.

Formé Shoe Shapers even work in high heels!

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.

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Virtual everything? Dress up your meetings with free backgrounds

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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.

Treat your fellow meeting folks to a gorgeous background

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.

360Chicago background for Zoom

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.

And here, too, are some lovely decorator backgrounds from the good folks at Williams-Sonoma. https://blog.williams-sonoma.com/work-from-home-in-high-style-with-zoom-backgrounds/

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Thank you to those who continue to serve in these perilous times

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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.

We are all of us being called upon now to meet challenges unheard-of in the lifetimes of any of us alive today. We can try to support the industries most threatened – restaurants, theaters, etc. – to the best of our abilities (e.g., here’s a link to donate to help the 130 now-out-of-work staffers at Carnivale Restaurant).  We can live in our newly curtailed worlds – thank God for the Internet – and we need not let fear take us over.

Indo Pacific barrier reef

Nothing is or ever will be the same. To help you find solace and peacefulness as you re-imagine your life, here’s a link to your own personal fish tank – the Georgia Aquarium’s live cam feed of the Indo-Pacific barrier reef.

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3 Book reviews: Cook away your anger, Chinese wisdom, friendship joys

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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

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.

Book of Chinese Proverbs

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.

The Joy of Friendship

And while we’re on quotes, consider The Joy of Friendship: A Thoughtful and Inspiring Collection of 200 Quotations, from Hatherleigh Press. It’s a half-size book with chapters entitled things like Honesty, Loyalty, Support,that divide the book into sections that reflect important aspects of friendship. Many quotes are beautiful expressions from famous names.

  • “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.

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A little road trip, a lot of enjoyment – Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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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.

Hot stone or oth;erwise, you’ll love your massage at Grand Traverse Spa

This February they’re turning Valentine’s Day into a weekend-long event and offering our Aerie Restaurant Valentine’s Day menu February 14-15. Check out the Spa special Valentine’s Couples package that includes massages, and customized pedicures, and if you decide to celebrate with the whole family they have kids activities too.

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.

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