Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Well ghouls and boys, it's a lovely Halloween in Chicago. The sun is out full force and orange leaves are twirling around in the wind. We think we may just stay in this evening and maybe carve some pumpkins but there has also been talk of heading down to one of our favorite Chicago spots for a spook. The Haunted Sanitarium is a haunted house put on by the Chicago Park District in a creepy old building smack on the lake that is used as a theater during the summer but that actually used to be a sanitarium during the 20s and 30s during a tuberculosis epidemic. Hundreds of people were isolated (at the time the place was way north of the city limits) and died there. And I'm telling you, the park district wouldn't have to hang a spider web or slimy goo or hire a person to jump out and say "boo" for this place to scare you. Just walking around in that old building on an old lake during the night is scary enough for me. And then there is the Red Lion Pub, which may be one of the most haunted spots in Chicago. I spent many after-hours there during grad school (it's right near DePaul-they have awesome authentic English pub food) and I've never seen a single thing (I never do) but loads of unsuspecting Chicago residents have experienced some strange things. The story is, the owner of the bar put up a stained glass window over the stairs going to the upper level and roof top beer garden. He did this as a memorial to his father who died back in England and who didn't have a proper burial. Before he knew it there was a strange presence in the stairwell and the owner was certain that, hands down, it was his father. But it wasn't just the father who moved in. It seems he brought others along. Sometimes people report the strong smell of lavender and sighting of a small girl (who historians say died in the building before it was a pup). People have repeatedly seen a man in a cowboy outfit, a man with a black hat and beard, a blond dude and a sort of "hard to describe" man who walks down the stairs, through the downstairs bar and then vanishes. Oh and weird stuff happens in the women's restroom all the time (the air chills, things move, etc.)In the case that you haven't noticed, I love ghost stories! Let me know if you have any good ones!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

October Babies

And finally, with a photo, let me introduce to you my new nephews.
On the left, Noah, born to my brother Wes and his wife Anne on October 5 and on the right, Lucas, born to my brother Drew and his wife Cassie on October 20. I'm sure my neighbors heard me squealing when I opened the attachment with these photos. I can't believe how much they look like their dads. I'm going to guess that it's sort of annoying to the fine women who did the hard work and put in the labor time like champions.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Lucky Platter

Eric took the day off today and we've just been having fun and hanging around. We went to lunch at one of my favorite joints called The Lucky Platter. They describe their food as, and I quote, "funkalicious post-hippy eclectic world cuisine." They serve things such as old fashioned fountain cream soda, tandoori salmon, jerk chicken, jambalaya, spicy turkey meatballs, pumpkin soup and sweet potato fries. It's the sweet potato fries that keep me coming back. They're great. But not as great as the guy in the photo munching on them.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Every month or so, a foursome made up of Lorie, Allison, Mary (friends I will introduce to you in due time) and myself, get together to do something fun and girly. Today we did homemade greeting cards. Our cards ended up wildly nutty and there will probably never be an actual occasion to send any of them. But that's the best part of goofiness I guess. You have to make a place for it! Watch your mail, yo.

Marilyn and Arthur

We saw Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller at a party last night. Wow. They must have gotten back together. Golly, it is fun to run into famous people. It seems Arthur is still proud of writing Death of a Salesman. And it seems Marilyn got a breast reduction.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Critical Mass

For the past few months I've taken part in a really fun and often slightly odd Chicago event called Critical Mass. It happens on the last friday of every month rain, sleet or shine. It' a huge collossal bike ride through the city. I'm not sure how many there were last night but the last few times there were a reproted 2,000-3,000 bikers. Last night was especially fun because of all the costumes. I saw grown men dressed as babies, an oompa loompa, wonder woman, a witch, the Mario brothers, a lumberjack, a bug, a man dressed as the internet, and a mime (who actually got off his bike and blocked car traffic by putting up an invisable wall). Anyhow, you get the drift. It's always a good show and it doesn't need to be Halloween in order for people to come in costume. Last ride, we rode most of the way with Mr. T. That was fun in and of itself but when we biked through neighborhoods the look on the kids' faces when they saw Mr. T come through in an already amuzing bike parade, was priceless. They ran along for as far as they could and gave Mr. T. high fives. Some of them even jumped on their bikes and joined up. And did I mention the bikes? Some of them are amazing. Some people build their own and build them up high in the air or low to the gound or with crazy colors and fenders or with a snap sound system. When drivers lay on thier horns -as you might guess the ride blocks up a bit of traffic- a loud cheer rips though the bike crowd and people holler "Happy Friday!" to the people with the sour faces(Hey- I frown in regular traffic, forget what I might do during thousands of friday night crazed anarchist biker traffic.) But people pass out candy and cookies and I'm actually very surprised with how friendly eveyrone is, and with how the many people stuck in cars are actually smiling and waving back at the bikers, and with how much I really enjoy the whole thing. Oh and with how kids still know who Mr. T. is.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Fall Recipe

One of my favorites...
Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage
First boil water for I lb.of PENNE PASTA
Season with SALT and PEPPER. Add 1/2 Cup of DRY WHITE WINE and cook for one minute. Add 1 cup of CHICKEN STOCK and heat for another minute. Then stir in 1 14-ounce can of PUMPKIN PUREE, incorporate. Add 1/2 cup of CREAM, 1/2 tsp. SAGE, 1/2 tsp. NUTMEG, pinch of CINNAMON

Add salt and pasta to boiling water and cook until done. Drain and add it to the pumpkin mixture. Top with 1-2 cups of grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE.


Thursday, October 25, 2007


This is our handsome dog Max with his hair (eyebrows) blowing in the wind. He normally has long, wavy, shaggy hair but in the summertime I get so hot looking at him that I have his hair cut short. My aunt Jody originally bought him from a farm in Nebraska for $45 with the intention of having a dog to jog with in the mornings. Well, and this just proves that he was meant to be MY dog, Max refused to run with her. He preferred, instead, to roll around in horse poop and carry Jody's kittens around by their heads. My mom called one day and said, "Jody got you a dog!"
And Max really is a city person, he loves the parks and the lake and growling at the train when it goes by. And he loves the other five million people on our block who also have dogs. Max is a mix between a big standard poodle and a black lab. I'm always too embarrassed to tell people that he's a "labradoodle" when they ask, so I was relieved when some lady (a true expert!) told me that the "breed" isn't actual until the second generation. Max is first generation. I covered his ears to prevent any kind of identity issues, but I was glad to know that I didn't have a designer dog, just the best mutt ever...who wipes his nose on my face when I'm still sleeping in the morning.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What happens...

...when you upset the condo association.

Attention all "The Office" Fanatics! This just in!

A good friend and ex co-worker in DC just emailed me with this.(Thanks Ken!) This is rich!

Play this youtube clip of the Grass Roots. They are an old 60s band. We even have a couple of their albums actually. You'll know the song.

Now notice the dude on the guitar all the way on the left (in the fab stripes). There's a close up of just him...wait for it....

If you watch "The Office" a big smile should be creeping across your face. Do you know who it is?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Three things I can't explain

1. This...cow...I have nothing more to say about that.(Except that those are bullet holes.)
2. Why Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) and Alison Krauss (bluegrass diva) sound so great together. Click on the title above "Three things I can't explain" and then click "play" next to the song "Gone Gone Gone"
3. The glitch in the Matrix. Well this is what I call it when I joke about weird happenings. Eric and I are enjoying making our way through each of the six seasons of Northern Exposure thanks to Netflix. We were watching the fourteenth episode of season five the other day. In it, the character Ed asked Adam about the meaning of being hit (which he was) by lightning. In response, Adam says in a way that both made us laugh (the acting is amazing) as well as stop to say, "Man that's good writing."
Here is it: "Check out the Declaration of Independence. Do you think it promises happiness? No, no no. It talks about the pursuit of happiness, the PURSUIT. We've become a nation of wimps. We think we're entitled to everything. We want to legislate ourselves into some cozy little cocoon. Well forget it nature boy! There are no guarantees. Life is nasty, brutish and short. Ecce homo!" (The rant is much better on TV) The part that is weird is that the next day I was listening to the radio and they played some random song and when it ended they played that very monologue from that very episode of Northern Exposure and when it ended they just went right in to the next random song. No comment, no theme, just...a glitch in my personal Matrix. :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Impatiens in the Stairwell

The little flowers growing here say, to me anyway, a lot about life in a big city-- on all sorts of levels. I could ramble on but maybe this is a good moment to turn it over to Ralph Waldo:
"Though we travel the world
over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us
or we find it not."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Long Walk

Eric took the tree photo on our block today. It was a great day to walk up the lake, and so we did. We decided to go through the old Charles Dawes mansion in Evanston (the suburb just north of us). Dawes was vice president under Calvin Coolidge and even practiced law for a while in none other that Lincoln, NE where he became great friends with John Pershing. In this huge old house there is even a bedroom that was especially reserved for Pershing when he came through the Chicago area. Today, that bedroom and the one next to it are now a small underwear museum. Nope, you can't make this stuff up!

Greg Brown

I got to enjoy one Greg Brown last night at the Old Town School of Folk Music, a most excellent venue for all things folk. If you're so inclined, have a hear. This youtube video is from another concert a couple of years ago. The song is "Canned Goods." I think Greg is swell.

Lucas Andrew Newton

As of last night at 11:30ish, I have a new nephew! (Photo pending.)
Lucas Andrew Newton entered the wild world at 6 pounds 7 ounces,20 inches. I quote my bother, his father, "He's a tiny little super guy." Lucas joins his cousin Noah Wesley Newton, born October 5, 2007. (Brothers, AHEM, I need photos!)

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I should introduce you to some of the fine residents of Chicago. This is Erin. She lives across the street from us and our dogs are quite fond of running around through the park together. I haven't known Erin for all that long but I already have a favorite story about her. Several years ago, she lived above a little antique shop which she found herself sharing with a few other unexpected guests. Once, after she adopted her dog Clara, she woke to find Clara ready to pounce on her bag of dog food. The bag of food was moving. Erin peeked inside to find a mouse helping itself to a bountiful breakfast. Now, Erin is a friend to the animals and doesn't have the heart to kill any living thing. Enter scene: hav-a-hart mouse trap. It's a no kill contraption. She baited it with peanut butter, dropped it in the bag of dog food and hollered down, "You'd better be in this trap when I get home from work!" And much to her pleasure, it was. She released the little guy at the lake where it could enjoy the beach, sand volleyball, and kayaking. This happened once more except this time there were two mice in the dog food and when she took them to the beach to join their friend, one of the mice ran all the way back with her to the car. I think she's pretty mean for not letting it come back home with her. ;)

Today Erin told me that her five favorite things are:
1. Clara
2. Halloween
3. Her Mom
4. The Des Moines Farmers Market
5. Books

Friday, October 19, 2007

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Besides the lake, my favorite thing about Chicago is the neighborhoods. They create a smallish town feeling in the midst of a gigantic city. Let me start with mine. Eric and I live in the far northeast corner of Chicago, between Loyola University and Northwestern, in a place called Rogers Park. It's one of my favorite neighborhoods because of the little city beaches, good coffee, friendly people, cheaper real estate, and it's incredible diversity. It's actually one of the most diverse (both ethnically and economically) locales in the whole country with 63, 000 residents and over 80 languages spoken.

Rogers Park was actually its own little farming village once, independent of Chicago. In the 1800s immigrants made their home here, many to become cucumber farmers. Back then, the price of land was $1.25 an acre. Today, if you want to buy a 4x6 slab of asphalt on which to park your car, it will cost you $40, 000.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Windy City

It's a beautiful day in Chicago. It is sunny and 75 and the lake looks like a sparkly little ocean. But there is wind of course, 35 miles per hour today. We're told that conditions are favorable for tornadoes and to watch for them out our windows. (I think I just heard my watering can hit my back door.)
There are several reasons why Chicago is called the windy city. It's funny that no one knows which one it is for sure and that really, it's probably just because of several reasons and that no one could bear to pick just one. A good reason though is that Chicago is actually, well, WINDY- due to it's being nestled up next to Great Lake Michigan. All of the other reasons, our fight to host the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, our insistence that we are the best Midwestern city ever, and our fierce machine politics (this wins the most votes) all boil down to being full of hot air and good at the blah blah blah. And so, in honor of this, I start a blog.