Unsolicited Product Endorsement

I would like to introduce you my new favorite gum. But also my nemesis. This is the first gum I've had where my jaw gets tired before the flavor goes away. Oh the humanity: It's sad as I find myself tossing out pieces of bubblegum that still have flavor, but I cry "uncle" to its minty chewy power. The swell bonus is that although just a little bitty piece, this gum is also lovely for blowing bubbles. Again, why this gum is my nemesis. I put a piece in my mouth while sitting at my desk, go to a meeting, and then find myself blowing bubbles in front of Directors, VP's and Managers. Climbing the corporate ladder and chewing bubble gum at the same time is a matter of significant coordination. Some play concert piano, others can do complex trigonometry without a thought, and there's yet to be a practical and money-making application for inflating bubbles the size of one's own head.
Bubble blowing is my lifelong secret gift. I remember the day I learned how to blow bubbles, practicing in the car while Mom drove us home, and then running next door to Mrs. Urbanski's house to show off my new talent. (This makes me realize what a tolerant neighbor we had: who interrupts their day when a little girl comes knocking on the door to explain that she's just figured out bubble gum?)
By the way, what bubblegum product webpage could be better than one that has a link at the bottom, entitled Free Gum? This must be the true purpose of the internet: free stuff.
Post-Script: Please note that this is the "soft chew" version of Dentyne Ice.

An Indie Night

After waiting out the heat for most of the day, Jason and I headed out to the Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday. The Pitchfork Media festival was one of the surprises of moving to Chicago, as Jason had followed indie music news on their website from Columbus. Seeing the acts they promote live was a treat delivered by our new hometown. Pitchfork can lay claim to bringing many small-time indie bands to mainstream fame. (This NPR story tells the story of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and how Pitchfork can change your life.)
I must concede that I'd never heard of most of the bands, but $30 for a two day pass makes the risk acceptable. (Even better when your boyfriend is actually the one who paid for the ticket!)
Since music can be enjoyed by ear, we spent most of our time entertaining our eyes wandering around the poster booths that made up the Flatstock 9 Convention that accompanied the music fest. Silkscreened posters, saturated with intense colors, often borrowing from comic or tatoo art traditions, promoting band gigs across the country. Our neighbor's cousin is an artist himself whose portfolio includes the Maroon 5 album cover, as well as the Dog the Bounty Hunter logo. "Tough Chick" t-shirts supplement the poster business too.
We saw about 10 posters we liked, and art like this is certainly more appealing, with more street cred, than the posters of Tuscan hills or softly-lit flowers you'll find at Bed, Bath & Beyond. (But still go there for the comfy bath rugs.) We were held back by the amount of cash on our person, as well as Jason's turning to me and asking, "Are we too old to have an apartment full of rock and roll posters?" Hey, my college professor dad cranked up Blondie and Queen when my mom was out of the house and took my sister to a Bowie concert.


The Little Things


Who ever dreamed that a little bath rug could have such a profound impact on the mornings? My new fluffy white bath rug is my hero. It's perfect for burrowing toes into while brushing teeth. The dissatisfying cold feeling of wet feet on slick tile has also been answered. As well as the dangerous puddle they leave waiting for Jason in the morning after my shower. Previously I was dragging our bath mat (essentially just a towel that is priced differently than other towels) from the foot of the shower to the foot of the sink.
In the morning when I am grumpy and reluctant to go anywhere because the harshness of the pre-dawn world is no comparison to the soft warm sheets of bed, Rug encourages me, toes up, that softness is still there for me.
What's ironic is that this bath rug is promoted as part of the Hotel Collection from Bed, Bath & Beyond. When I considered it, most every hotel I've ever stayed in, didn't have a bath rug. They have the bath mat towel, usually displayed in a fan of origami towel art. In fact, of the 21 pages of "hotel" items on Bed, Bath & Beyond's website there are quite a few that I've never actually seen in hotels. The hotel shower caddy, for example. Being one of the most annoying things to clean at home, why would they put these in hotels where maids have over a hundred bathrooms to clean each day?
The whole idea of the "hotel" line seems directed to folks who never stay in hotels. Most of the time, I'm in a hotel I'm missing my bathrobe, my towels and my pillows. After apartment hunting in Chicago and returning the to a bare essentials Marriot Courtyard every night, Jason and I realized that the best way to appreciate the mattress you have at home, is to toss and turn on another for two nights.

Balancing Mindless Commentary

Last night after finishing one of my more thoughtful and perhaps controversial blog posts (especially for those hopped up on venti mochas), I heard Martin Bashir close NightLine by promising, "And tomorrow night on Nightline, more on The Man Bag." No kidding. A voiceover commenting on men's comfort with purse-like carry-alls had just preceded the close of the broadcast.
I guess there's not much more for serious news reporters to say with bloggers jumping into the news commentary. Oh wait, Martin Bashir's that guy that did the Michael Jackson interview. Right.
And in clicking over to the Nightline website, I found this important profile: Kirk Cameron, From Sitcom Star to Evangelist. Also by Martin Bashir.
Tune in tonight for the man bag controversy. Aaron, do you want to do "point" and I'll do "counterpoint" this time?

"Disproportionate"

An adorable little girl, in pigtails, holding a crayon in her hand, relative in the background with camera in hand. Given those few details you might imagine her sitting at a kitchen table in front of a coloring book. It reminded me a little of the glee with which Juliet and I once took to drawing on the walls of our old home, before new wallpaper was put up. A brief relaxation of the cardinal rule regarding where crayon artistry can be appropriately applied. But instead of a coloring book, or even bare plaster, this girl's writing on a missile, that's about to be dispatched to Lebanon. This photograph absorbed me for 5 minutes when I turned the newspaper page. The photograph offers a contrast of aggression and innocence, and a sad commentary on the flaring, and hard to understand, situation in Lebanon and Israel. Hard to understand for those of us who haven't grown up with arch enemies, who haven't been raised generation after generation to despise another race, religion, or nationality. Or whose first close experience with real visceral terrorism occurred only 5 years ago.
The one word I hear in every report on the current situation in Israel and Lebanon is "disproportionate." 24 Israeli soldiers, 17 civilians, compared to 384 Lebanese, mostly civilian. It's hard to understand why there isn't resounding disapproval from our leaders. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post points out, "Bush and Rice have staked their Middle East policy on a single incontrovertible idea -- that terrorism is bad -- and it has led them to the mistaken notion that Israel can achieve long-term security by creating a kind of scorched-earth buffer zone in southern Lebanon." Which hits at the crux of a dilemma: if Hezbollah are terrorists, but Israel is wantonly killing civilians, who's right? Robinson concludes, "The next time you hear someone praise the simplicity of George W. Bush's worldview, keep in mind that what you don't know can indeed hurt you."

Being Famous is Hard

Not that I'm famous, and the recent ignorance of GWB's recent goofs in front of the camera make me glad for it. Talking with your mouth full, cursing and interrupting for starters. The roughness of it all made even more glaring because he was speaking with Tony Blair who's the most painfully polite and well-spoken leader of the world. I was so embarrassed for us. But then I wanted to write a letter of apology to Angela Merkel of Germany when I saw the bizarre little G8 episode where GWB stops by the Chancellor of Germany's chair to see if she needs any kinks worked out of her neck. "Dear Ms. Merkel, Please allow me to apologize for my president. We didn't all vote for him."
(Ok, ok, inappropriate behavior with an intern is also stupid, but at least Bill Clinton kept it domestic. Again, not that it was smart or right, and I'm still a little mad that the country's uproar over Monica Lewinksy distracted from real progress...) But back to our current president's foibles: Did GWB take complete leave of his senses? My co-workers and I would never find it appropriate to give a little chummy shoulder massage around the conference room, but between world leaders?! And the little feminist in me notes that Merkel was the only woman in the room, and didn't need a little uninvited frat boy touching to be reminded of it. Jon Stewart's commentary on it all is pretty darn funny though.
We all have our unguarded moments, ones where many of the men on the road have felt sufficient privacy to pick their nose, for example. Or trying to quickly maneuver that piece of broccoli out of our teeth instead of excusing ourselves for the bathroom. When tempted to do this, or when the broccoli is stubborn enough that I have time to reflect upon what I'm doing, I try to think about being Princess Diana. (Maybe every little girl does want to be a princess...sigh!) What if every movement you made was photographed? It makes me sit up straighter in meetings, that's for sure. What if there were paparazzi waiting for you to bend over and show a little bit of underwear? (Horrors.)
To see how bad it could be, just visit these two sites:
thesuperficial.com

pinkisthenewblog

These links are also very helpful if you worry about being caught leafing through the National Enquirer in the supermarket checkout line. Now you can be a celebrity busybody anonymously in your own home.

A Matter of Perspective

"Oh my god, I had the worst dream ever!" Jason exclaimed as he burst into the living room on Sunday morning. (I say burst only because he has this habit of, in my opinion, talking much louder than the situation warrants. He was not doing anything physically that suggested "bursting." And he will want to rebut here that he does not speak too loud, my ears are just potentially abnormally small and therefore funnel noise so as to amplify it by the time it hits my eardrum.) Anyway, Jason's worst dream ever was that Texas beat OSU this year, at Texas.
"Really," I responded dryly. "I had a dream that a plane to New York crashed while I was right there at the airport, waiting for my own flight to New York, and I had to call you to tell you that I was still alive and it wasn't my plane."
"Oh," Jason responded, crestfallen and now notably muted. "Wow, that is worse."
In another part of the "worst week ever!!" a neighbor (also named Claire) recently called a group of us who were hanging out on the deck Saturday night to attention by asking, "Do you want to hear the saddest thing in my life, ever? It's really sad." I braced myself, preparing to be empathetic, understanding, and if needed, offer a comforting hug. She began to explain that because of travel plans made months previous: "I'm going to miss Ben's last day of puppy class!" Some other neighbors asked concerned questions about the travel being cancellable or if photos might be taken to remember the moment, when I interrupted, "Wait, that's the saddest thing ever? Really?" Yes, apparently they put little graduation caps on the pups and might even give them little diplomas.
I offer these stories not to chide Jason and neighor Claire for being shallow or melodramatic, while I spent all day wondering if the day before yesterday might be the last day of my life because of my 6:00 pm United to LaGuardia. (Landed safe and sound, thanks very much.) It was just a funny coincidence of lots of declaratives in just a couple of days. And I must have only had that dream because I saw something on the news about the anniversary of TWA Flight 800, which does sadly put this all in a sharp perspective, making me grateful that there are careless days when OSU vs. Texas is a big deal (The photo I'm featuring was titled "Annoying" on flickr, and included the comment "This got old fast.") and missing puppy graduation is the biggest regret.
I'm also certain by the way that Ben will be super cute in his graduation cap. Google image search "puppy graduation" and you get quite a few adorable photos, one featured below. And someone who recently posted a photo tribute in honor of her cat's first birthday really has no legs to stand on in the belittling of puppy graduations. I think Jason and I might have even offered to take Ben to his last day as his godparents. Don't tell the cat.

Where's Craig When It's Time to Paint?

Instead of spending over a thousand dollars on the Pottery Barn desk that I've been daydreaming about for the two months since we moved, Jason and I recently carried home a craigslist purchase: IKEA desk, $35. We'd been to IKEA a few weeks ago (long odyssey, full of misdirection and argument) but I hadn't seen a desk that seemed suitable. However, tagged with the lure of a bargain price on craigslist, this desk, plus sliding drawer unit, now seemed entirely appropriate and appealing.
Unfortunately, it was a blonde pine color, and in our apartment of honey-colored wood floors, with chests in a cherry color, and a coffee-colored wood bookcase, another shade of wood would have been just chaotic. So I am painting the desk black, which will help it match with at least some things in the living room.
It's taken three trips to the hardware store so far, an approximate expenditure of about $50, and hours out on the deck during the weekend that has been Chicago's hottest this summer. (The paint was turning to roofing tar with every brush stroke.) Tougher still was the shiny laminate surface that seemed as though it might refuse new paint. So I cleaned, pre-treated, sanded, primed and finally (whew!) painted. The disassembled desk remains on the back deck this evening, drying.
On a painting break, it was a little disheartening to realize via perusal of the IKEA website that this same desk is still available at IKEA, and in black. But surely, my elbow grease is still saving me money, right? Oooh, barely. The desk is $60, so really the only thing holding me in the black (ironic term, considering my paint color of choice) is the cost of the sliding drawer unit, which sells new for about $50-80. But, there's still cheer: it's not available in all black.

Before and After photos courtesy of IKEA.
Entertainment while waiting for paint to dry courtesy of best of craigslist.

The Flashback Episode

This is the post that is just like that episode of The Facts of Life,(or The Cosby Show or Friends, or whatever sitcom) where there's really no new material, just revisiting of the time Tootie accidentally came across a piece of paper listing each girl's IQ score or when Mrs. Garrett had to substitute teach sex ed. Accordingly, there's no new content here, just a reflections on my previous material.

I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that "What Shamu Taught me..." is still the NYT most e-mailed article. I guess the readers of Clairest do have impact. Nice work, guys.

Also in an eerie, "does my manager know about my blog??!" incident: today my director gave me a recognition reward for my work on that 5 Dysfunctions Book. When he confirmed with an informal survey of my peers that I was indeed the only person who read the book, he gave me another.

The Sixth Dysfunction

The same little red book followed me from one job to the next, like the little grey storm cloud over Charlie Brown's head: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In my old job it was a little disheartening to see the leadership team each toting around their required reading; the little red book seemed like a big red flag that they really didn't get along. The optimist would say that at least they were interested in improvement. Except that they were overheard wondering aloud why this was necessary. I pretended not be in the room (but, if you've read the book, this is an expected part of the team building process.)
In my new job I spied the slim book tucked between two binders on my co-worker's desk. With an inward groan I thought to myself, "Another train wreck team?"
This time I had to read the book myself, and now I've actually found myself as the leader of the development of an action plan.
How did this happen? How was I made captain of my new ship? Well, you see, I was the only one that actually read the book.
Just like grade school again, or junior high again, or college. The English professor asks with veiled impatience for those of us who read the 500 page Salman Rushdie book to raise our hands. The week before when she had asked about a book that was lighter by a few tens of trees I confidently raised my hand, feeling assured when a few of my classmates joined me. This time, I find my lonely hand wavering in the thin atmosphere of the classroom air. My English professor exhales with an angry huff. I lower my hand shyly, hoping that I'll be excused since I did my homework. (No such luck, I have to sit through the harangue about why we are here in the classroom and our own responsibility for learning.)
I suggest that the sixth dysfunction is the team not willing to read the book. There ought to be a chapter on how those of us (all six nationwide) who have read this book can coach our peers through the important points.
My boss reassures me, noting his belief that it's really only 2% of people who lead in any organization. I gloat momentarily, congratulating myself on my natural aptitude for leadership (hurrah!) until I realize that maybe he's just telling me this so that I won't bail out of the ship for which I've just been made captain.
He doesn't have to worry, I'm thinking of initiating a little reading list of my own. The DIY MBA. Might be a wise project to tackle once the infamous Chicago winter hits.

Clairest & Cocktails

If my last post left you wondering if I had totally departed my senses in favor of adoring cat worship, I offer a sobering note --oh, poor word choice-- I offer a different attitude today, inspired by my peer in blogging: Yarn & Cocktails.
On a whim at the grocery store the other day I purchased a nice big bottle of IBC Cream Soda. It was Frank's Cream Soda that I enjoyed as a kid as the foundation for the ice cream sodas our babysitter Jennifer made. As an adult, I wondered if there was a way to mature the drink. So I turned to my experimenting mixologist for advice. Could she suggest a cocktail recipe that included classic cream soda?
Both Abby and hubby offered suggestions, both of which I remembered slightly incorrectly when I was back at the grocery store. (Wish I could remember what it is that you're supposed to take to improve memory: ginseng? omega fatty acids?)
Abby recommended a dark rum or bourbon for my adult beverage. I went for the rum.
Using the "Dark and Stormy" cocktail as her inspiration, which features ginger beer and rum, Abby suggested cream soda with shavings of fresh ginger root.
Somewhere in the aisles of Dominick's (local supermarket) I somehow thought of mint instead of ginger. Right aisle, wrong seasoning. The rum in my basket (more on that later) must have had me thinking mojitos. Did you know mojitos were once drank in Havana to ward off cholera? So now you've got something to back up your claims that drinking is for medicinal purposes.
The drink I created featured muddled mint leaves, a glass of cream soda, a shot of rum and decorative pineapple slice. (On a creative whim, I had picked up the pineapple.) This cocktail tasted a little too tart and medicinal. The vanilla seemed amplified. So taking my inspiration from sangria, I decided to chop up more of the pineapple and toss it in for sweetening. Biting into the little pineapple bits offered enjoyable sweet hints. But while it worked moderately well, in the end I tossed in a half teaspoon of sugar to finish my cocktail. Mad science at the bar. My result was pretty, but I'm not so sure I'd make it again. Better to try Abby's original idea. I do now have a big bottle of rum in the kitchen.
For his part, Abby's hubby suggested mixing bourbon with some basil and then adding the cream soda. "It would be different, for certain," was Abby's conjecture. The idea of basil in a drink is intriguing. It makes me think of something I'd enjoy if I were in Tuscany, wearing a billowy artist's shirt, painter's pants and sandals, watching the sunset. Sort of Cezanne meets Hemingway... in Italy.
Further experiments will be quite easy, should I choose to pursue my initial venture in mixology. I was astounded to discover that in Chicago, you can buy not only wine, and not just beer, but also liquor at the grocery store. From a girl who grew up in blue-law Pennsylvania, this is just astounding recklessness.

Birthdays Part II

Two of my favorite animals are also celebrating birthdays this month. July is such an auspicious month. Little panda Tai Shan, who makes his home at the National Zoo is celebrating his first today. If you're ever feeling stressed and need a little calming cuteness, get your panda fix here.

And just a day after one adorable panda was born last year, one significant little kitten arrived in the world. Teedie was born on July 10th. His wishlist is here for all of you late gift-givers. Just kidding, Teedie ignores half of the gifts and toys that we think will entertain him. Just like a little kid who likes the box that the gift came in more than the expensive gift itself we've discovered that Teedie's favorite toys include the peel-off strip from Netflix envelopes, and discarded ribbons and tissue paper from gifts. Get your "Year in the Life of Teedie" retrospective fix below.

Birthdays Not Covered in The Times


The secret service may be busy this summer, playing bouncer to two big 60th birthday parties, for George Bush and President Clinton. (Note that I'll still call him President Clinton, but just can't bring myself to put the title in front of George's name. It'll be over soon.) But my favorite unelected, recently sixty year old is Uncle Paul. I don't think he'll be offended by the online revelation, as "1946" is part of his e-mail address... and not because it's his house address or the first numbers of his high school locker combination.
He's a young one compared to Grandma who celebrated her 88th last week!
From Grandma, I've learned that when things happen that are perplexing, annoying or just out of your control it's sometimes just best to shrug and say, "What are you going to do?" Endearing eastern European accent is optional. Also, clever little tricks to prevent pick-pockets: carry a big tempting decoy handbag, but safety pin your coin purse to the inside of your coat pocket. Gotcha thief! That's the kind of moxy you learn from immigrating from Czechoslovakia in your teenage years and then living in New York City for 70 years. Of course, when I called Gram and asked her how she was feeling on her birthday she sighed and responded, "Old." Shortly followed by a reflective "What are you going do?"
Uncle Paul has instructed me to watch out for drivers wearing hats, they're a danger on the road. Next time someone cuts you off or is driving way too slow or fast, check for a hat. You can imagine my moment of pause when I first saw Jason grinning and driving obliviously towards me wearing his baseball cap. Uncle Paul was also the first person to tell me about Google, including the "I'm feeling lucky" button. I returned the favor by enlightening him as to what those rainbow flags in the Philadelphia "gay-borhood" meant. And it's not that leprechauns are welcome. Uncle Paul can be relied upon to fix a flat tire on the side of I-95 at 10 pm on a Thursday, to hang shelves in a new apartment, for a good grill on the 4th of July, and to ferret out the best back route to work when the drive time traffic is stagnant and unbearable.
Happy Birthday to two people whose genes I'm proud to share. And a happy commemorative birthday to Abby's grandpa too.
Coming in August: Aunt Eleanor's birthday. I'm certain that as she nears her 80-somethingth birthday, my generous Aunt Eleanor will draw me close and explain to me that she is, in fact, Santa Claus and that it soon will be my inherited responsibility to make all the children of the world happy at Christmastime. She'll whisper the final last detail that it will take to perfect the Christmas cookie recipes in my ear and press the keys to the sleigh into my palm.

What We're Reading Now: Self Improvement Edition

Or for me, the question really should be, 'what AM I reading now?' since there's nothing on my bedside table besides an InStyle magazine. (Pictures of celebrity fashions and homes are the adult picture book.) Jason has taken to the study of etiquette, with Brooks Brothers' slim, leather-bound volume, How To Be A Gentleman, and I've been snooping into it. (Snooping is likely not lady-like behavior, but I don't think they've published that book yet.) Jason's book is full of sweet, practical and easy-to-read lessons:
- A gentleman knows how to make others feel comfortable.
- A gentleman turns the television down after ten o'clock. (If Jason and I were reading this together and keeping score, I'd be chalking one point up for my knowledge of good behavior here.)
- A gentleman never salts his food before tasting it. He would never insult the cook in that way. (Oooh, point two for moi.)
- A gentleman gives direct answers, especially to controversial questions. Being direct, however, is not the same thing as being blunt.

A few are a little curious, and prove that I don't know it all about gentleman-like behavior (two points for Jason):
- A gentleman does not hesitate to screen his calls.

And some, maybe a little optimistic:
- If a gentleman is lost, he admits it. He readily asks for directions.

One lesson proves that Uncle Paul is a well-versed gentleman, as he is familiar with this excerpt from the "A Gentleman Walks Through A Door" chapter:
"If it is a revolving door, a gentleman pays more attention than usual. He steps ahead, does not move too fast, pushes the door open, and makes the world a little easier for the person after him. That is, after all, why a gentleman exists." As Uncle Paul will likely clarify, since a push is required to get the door revolving, it is sensible and polite in this situation for the man and his muscle to go first.

For more etiquette guidance, as we likely all need it -- even those who were raised by Patricia "Knife-Down-Before-Your-Fork-Goes-Up-Claire" K. (arghh...) -- New York Magazine offers the Urban Etiquette Guide. Quite funny. An excerpt:

Is it ever acceptable to talk to a stranger on an elevator?
If there are six or fewer people on the elevator, no. However, if the group is larger than six, you have achieved an Elevator Humor Quorum and someone must make a remark about the elevatorÂ’s lack of size or speed in order to relieve the tension created by standing in a tiny space with six or more strangers. If another member of the group makes the remark first, Elevator Humor Solidarity obligates you to chuckle mildly.

Of all my friends, I think it'd be James who'd be most likely to recognize the Elevator Humor Quorum and make said funny remark. He's tall enough to be able to count heads in the elevator and thus initiate the nervous giggles. Aaron, you might qualify too, I've never measured your height side-by-side with James.

Now, since the Gentleman volume is small and I'll likely exhaust its content before the end of the day, does anyone have any book recommendations? Otherwise maybe I should pick up the following, which does indeed exist.

Taste.

Everyone commented (you know you did) when Jason and I moved to Chicago that we had to, absolutely must take part in Chicago's annual 4th of July festival, The Taste of Chicago. Or just "Taste" as we locals call it.
A Monday El ride south dropped me and neighbor Heather off at the gates of the food fest. Food stalls line the main drag of Grant Park, offering an amazing choice of meals, desserts or "tastes" -- the small samplings that you get for just $1.50 or $2.00 worth of festival tickets. It saves the worrying decision of trying to pick just one, best food to have for lunch, when there are so many to pick from. Even still the choice is hard. There's roast corn, ribs, greek food, indian food, pizza ('course, it is Chicago), seafood, cheesecake, ice cream and fried dough. I enjoyed tastes of steak taco, plantain chips, (both pictured) fried pierogis, and baklava. A nice cold beer washed it all down.
The crowd helps you master the art of simultaneous food balancing and walking, while taking the experience all in. For me the bonus round involved taking photos of your food while walking, watching and balancing. As I was thoroughly warned by those who had been-there, done-that, it is crowded and hot. "Zoo" was an oft-repeated description. But there are trees to tarry under to watch the bands play or enjoy the street performers who bring their stages to the Park for the day. With my new resident eagerness, my enjoyment of the day was not to be deterred.
There was no need for dinner that night, with my belly full but my legs tired from the day's event.



Better photos than I can take, are here, thanks to the Tribune.

Passage to India

Saturday (and our out-of-town guest, Tushar) took us to Devon Street, the Indian and Pakistani strip in Chicago. Jason observed that while there is significant animosity in South Central Asia on matters from cricket, Kashmir, and nuclear weapons, on Devon Indians and Pakistanis do business harmoniously side-by-side. (Your 4th-of-July commentary: we are all Americans and this unifies us! Now please pledge allegiance.) Devon is certainly the place to go for your sari and gold jewelry needs. There are many opportunities to purchase carved wood sculptures and finely-crafted, inlaid wood furniture. Not to mention, if you need any luggage or miscellaneous electronics, pick it up here for cheap.
We did the obligatory Indian buffet for lunch, since Devon Street features the best Indian restaurants in Chicago. I was a little full already from my Dunkin Donuts Mango Passion Fruit Smoothie picked up on the way. It was coincidentally a nice prelude, since it tasted much like a mango lassi. Tushar had just returned from India itself so it's doubtful that our lunch compared to mom's cooking.
Here are a few photos from our no-passport-required trip to India.




Heart Felt

It may be the year we lived in Japan when I was just seven, immersed in Hello Kitty, My Melody and all other characters by Sanrio that are just so happy and syrupy delicious. Kawaii, the Japanese word for cute, was one of the first I learned.

It might be this exposure, at an age when my consumer behavior was just in its infancy, and lifelong preferences and buying behaviors were forming that makes me want cute stuff that I don't need... so bad.

It's amazing what some folks can do with a few pieces of felt. And it's not anything useful, but it's so darn appealing.

This girl at My Paper Crane
makes donuts, cupcakes, and even little used tissues out of felt. (That's her cupcake above!)

This other girl makes amazing pin cushions. And she'll even share the art of making a simple little one. I don't even sew that much, but compulsively: I just want one.

To satiate the impulse, there is always Etsy. All sorts of crafty stuff to buy, since I don't always have the attention span, skill, and patience to do it myself. Unlike friend Abby, who's knitting up a storm of socks this summer.

Hello Holiday Weekend!


The adult equivalent to Christmas Eve must be the day at the office just before the holiday weekend. A FOUR-DAY holiday weekend no less! It's delightful to be thinking about going home even as you are alighting from the train that brought you to work in the morning. To overhear co-workers wishing each other a good weekend, as early as 9:30 am. Every e-mail that day is signed off, "Have a great weekend!" a nod to the fact that the writer's mind is already somewhere else. Usually you don't see this until at least 2 pm on a Friday, but before a holiday weekend there are e-mails time-stamped 8:23 that include the tidings.
Not having anything super planned for the weekend, it took me a little time to develop my appealing answer to the "So, any plans for the weekend?" question. My answer? Four great big days of uncommitted, unscheduled, free time! (Ok, I did bring my laptop home, and may crack it open on Tuesday -- the adult equivalent of waiting until Sunday night to do your weekend homework. What a drag.)
I don't have a little flag to hang outside to celebrate the weekend. And you know, it is probably against the condo association rules, in some manner. (No signs in the windows, curtains with white backing facing to the outside...) Pulling out the flag from the back porch closet where it was so respectfully stored with the winter scarves was a national holiday tradition growing up. So was the effort to ensure that your outfit appropriately reflected red, white, and blue. See photo of me and Juliet celebrating our national heritage on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Note my red barrettes, white tee, and blue shorts. Note also that Juliet was always the rebel. What nation's flag has those colors, little girl?
(Regular readers will note that Juliet has become my humor writer for the comments section of the blog. She's a funny one.)
 

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