Write It Down

The advice can be found nestled in the pages of probably actually every book in the self-help section: if you write down your goals and dreams it'll make them happen. Committing it to paper commits you to it.

Thinking about this, I felt the impulse to go back through years of diaries and journals, because I bet that I'd once written down the wish to go to India.

In smaller measure, I recently noted (in modern-day blog format) wanting to get to work on the numerous projects I have piling up in my workroom. So this weekend: skirt!
It turned out far, far better than my first try at a wrap skirt months ago which you will NEVER see on this blog. (It was delivered to the Salvation Army.)

This new one might even be polished enough to be worn to work. And it didn't require a formal pattern, just directions from a sewing blog! I improvised on a couple parts myself, so the earlier wrap skirt was not without its lessons in waistband crafting.{Self Portrait with Skirt}

Here it is as styled for work on Monday!And the fabric scraps refashioned into an alternate pillow for the cat bed...plus head pillow. I know that's ridiculous, but until I learn how to make this coin purse, it had to do.

My Subconscious and its Keen Sense of Smell

While finally getting around to cleaning out my purse from last month's travel, I pulled out the issue of Lucky Magazine I'd carried on the plane. A helpful feature of Lucky is the insert with sticky flags so that you can remember the clothes, housewares, accessories, or beauty items you want to consider getting for yourself later. Funny thing, half of my flags were stuck on pages with perfume.
I wasn't really looking for perfume. It made wonder if the plane had been particularly smelly.. or maybe my subconscious thought so and was seeking the bold, sophisticated notes of ylang ylang and violet to smother the odor of the other passengers?

Admittedly, I've been wearing two of the same scents for years, maybe it is time to consider a new addition, like:

Nicole Miller's perfume which promises those ylang ylang and violet notes, along with "...gardenia, layered with earthy oakmoss and cedarwood." Sounds so good, I could drink it like a glass of wine.

Or maybe a mojito like Armani's Acqua di Gioia: a "refreshing, wildly appealing blend of lemon zest, jasmine, and crushed mint leaves."

I even flagged a Chanel option that sounded good for Jason, woodsy and spicy Bleu. Embarrassingly, I was probably also looking at Paris Hilton's Tease, but I'd bet it might smell like I was trying too hard to be 19 years old.

Definitely a better scent than any United plane.

Healthy Eating (or Trying My Best!)

So, I am steady on with "The Plan" to get trim and fit. One thing that helped me get further this time, than any time before, was more discipline and definition in my eating. Some have even asked, "What do you eat?"

A few of the basic principles:
- 2 servings of fruit per day, 2 servings of veggies (after that, you've kind of eaten a lot that's filling!)
- 8 glasses of water (and 1 extra for every Diet Coke I drink)
- No bad carbs - like white bread. During the second week we added whole grain bread and pasta.
- No dessert the first week and just one sweet the following week
- 2 servings of fish per week
- Tracking calories every day on LiveStrong.com's Daily Plate
- Rewards for milestone achievements

So here's a typical breakfast at my desk at 8 am: oatmeal with fruit that I add on top (usually blueberries, but raspberries or banana are a good substitute. Diet Coke, and vitamins (when I remember!)
Here are also a few meals that we've had lately...

Chicken Pesto Pasta comprised of chicken breast grilled on the Foreman, Barilla whole grain rotini, and pesto made from basil that's exploded on our deck. Ignore the crusty bread, that's not on the diet. The green monster in the food processor.Jason decided to add a fried egg to his, which was kind of a cool idea, and he reported it being very tasty. Protein too!Tonight's meal was Zuchinni Oven Chips,from a Cooking Light recipe. (I am considering re-subscribing to this magazine, always good and very simple recipes!) Serving of vegetables? Check!Again, please ignore the crusty bread in the corner. It came from our local neighborhood farmer's market, just like the gargantuan zucchini.

I am beginning to think it's a good idea to just buy a vegetable at the market, instead of hunting for the recipe first and then hoping the veg will be there. Buy the vegetable and then go from there. Who ever thought I'd be making a Nappa cabbage salad? That also turned out pretty well. I still need another zucchini recipe though; that thing is HUGE!

I'll have to snap a picture of my usual lunch salad. It has strawberries, sometimes even kiwis!

In My Library (aka On My Bedside Table)

There's one more thing to be said for the Kindle, it makes the piles of books on my bedside table smaller and smaller as I read through those old-fashioned paper books and start to do more e-reading. I just finished Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. It was inspiring; its influence making me spend part of this weekend pulling more clothes, coats, hats and scarves out of my closet for the Salvation Army. Now I know that I am genuinely not nearly the hoarder Jason accuses me of being. There are far, far worse cases. The enormity of the problem evidenced by the rental of self-storage units having increased 90% since 1995! Many of them being for long-term storage, not just temporary space for a move. Clearing out my own storage unit last year gave me a remarkably liberating and lighter feeling. I like the Kindle too in that it keeps me from bringing in more and more books to our house. When I'm done, I delete!

Now I'm reading Rick Steve's Travel as a Political Act, promoted during a recent public television pledge drive. The book is timely in light of all the buzz about the "Ground Zero mosque." Rick's premise is that travel connects us to the world and the people who might have different backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures...but who may be as interested in us as we are in them. Isolation only creates more fear.

The more I think about the Islamic center issue, the more bizarre and backwards it seems. After George Bush schooled us that we were attacked because "they hate our freedom" the public voice seeks to squash that very freedom that's signature to our Constitution. Freedom of religion. It seems like we're fostering and perpetuating the divide rather than learning and understanding. It's tough, for sure. You don't have to like it, but I'd argue we should try to respect it. (A very good NYT article puts this is further perspective, noting that the imam who's building the center was hired by the State Department to travel the Middle East and promote understanding!) During the pledge drive Rick shared a story of sitting in traffic in Iran when his driver grumbled, "Ugh, I hate traffic! Death to traffic!" Rick chuckled as the driver explained that this is apparently a common phrase, like how some Americans say something is "da bomb" - when it's not literally something that will explode. Although it doesn't erase the real challenges behind the statement we hear so often, "Death to America!" it certainly softened the interpretation. And he learned something from that travel, which is detailed further here.


Sometimes Jason and I think about getting a dog. Ridiculously adorable videos like this one help us narrow our future dog choices to breeds including the corgi.
It is the breed of the Queen. And touching photos of her devotion to the breed follow a google image search for "corgi queen."The Boston Terrier is on my list as I met one once who was an outstanding representative for the breed. She nipped at our heels insistently at a friend's party, but the minute I picked her up, putting her at eye level of our conversation, calm and content. I think Jason has a soft spot for pugs.

We don't need big dogs, just big personality.

But then sometimes I think an elephant would be an adorable choice too. Try to argue with me after watching this video.

Things I Am Thinking About

1. What to pack for our trip to India - it's not until November, but I already think Cortizone 10 for the mosquitos, and updating my prescription eyeglasses might be a good idea. There's a bag in my home office where these things are starting to collect.2. Running a 10K race in October. It's the annual Chicago AIDS Foundation race, and I think I might be ready to upgrade. I'm considering opting out of the time-chip, since I won't want my tortoise-like pace, and probable mile 4.5 breakdown, to be archived for google searches forever. 3. What to do with Juliet, Hugh and baby June in late September when they come to visit. Lincoln Park Zoo? Botanical Garden? Picnic by the beach? I've already been advised that nothing should be on a strict schedule since June is a bit of a free spirit when it comes to timekeeping. 4. What to do with myself on the fall football weekends Jason will be either out of town (or functionally so, wrapped up in the watching the game). It might be time to evaluate all the fabric I've bought and the very little I've sewed. Pajama pants, sleeping mask, skirt...Or maybe there's a trip to visit friends on the horizon for the fall or early winter. New York City? Portland? (East or West!) Atlanta? Dallas? So many options, so much to think about.

Cheerio Over Tea

I might sometimes mockingly refer to "ladies who lunch" but today it was me and three girlfriends who were seated at the Palm Court in Chicago's Drake Hotel for Sunday tea. With a sigh and a frown we were raising our cups of tea (and champagne, mimosa, and bellini) to bid friend Delicia farewell as she leaves for Atlanta tomorrow.Delicia was one of my very first Chicago friends. Being a native of the city, she taught me colloquialisms like referring to the bitter winter wind as "the hawk" and could always be relied upon for quick water cooler talking points on Chicago sports. (I still tease her since "the hawk" was so local that other natives hadn't even heard of it.) With the Drake being a signature Chicago hotel, nestled into the corner of Lake Shore Drive on Michigan Avenue, it was an apt choice for her going away. The classic and luxe Palm Court could be a scene from Mad Men, with Don and Betty having cocktails in the evening. Although there is a dress code -- which we honored with glee -- I was a little grumpy to see others who thought t-shirts and shorts were appropriate. The host's choice was to seat the casually dressed on the peripheries. A harpist provided the musical backdrop, and friend and classical musical lover Allison was able to name the composer for each selection. When "happy birthday" played we saw that it was for a cute little girl dining with her mother and a friend.
Tea was delicious, mine being a choice of White Jasmine. We found the tray of scones, tea sandwiches, and desserts surprisingly filling.Afterwards, we snooped around the hotel's hallways to peek into the banquet halls with the crystal chandeliers and arched windows looking out to the lake. Lovely.

The Diversity of Dialogue

For some more information graphics, check out the map of soda vs. pop vs. cola. I still giggle when anyone here in the Midwest refers to "pop" since I grew up a "soda" girl. Pop is for lollipops. But that takes me and Jason to another place, since he grew up calling those "suckers."
Click to enlarge.

The Diversity of "Diversity"

Yes, I was happy and delighted to hear the news of Elena Kagan's confirmation as the fourth female Supreme Court Justice, and the third on today's supreme court.

However, my happiness was tempered by some of the discussion I'd heard earlier on NPR (while brushing my teeth in the bathroom in the morning,) as Obama weighed his selection of a nominee. While we've gotten very far in terms of gender diversity, there are a few ways that today's Supreme Court is not at all diverse... even besides the fact that six of the nine Justices prior to Kagan's confirmation identified as Roman Catholic. Is that the texture of your workplace? (Probably not, unless your logging in from the Vatican.)

It was the educational background of the justices that bothered me more. "In the last 20 years, especially, three Ivy League law schools —Harvard, Yale, and Columbia— have been disproportionately represented on the Court. Of the nine sitting Justices, eight have attended one of these three law schools, including recently confirmed Justice Sotomayor, who is a graduate of Yale Law School."* The one guy who wasn't from Harvard, Yale or Columbia? The fellow who just retired! And even then, his law school was Northwestern. (Kagan went to Yale Law School.)

It's hard for me to believe that there are only three good law schools in this country, which suggests it's a lot about who you know, who you went to school with, and maybe who their parents were. Dig deeper and the workings of the "old boy's network" is worse: "Not only did all 9 justices attend at least one Ivy League school, 5 of the nine attended either more than one Ivy League school or more than one level at the same Ivy League school."

It's not just that I went to a little liberal arts college in the Midwest. I'd take a state school grad to mix things up. How deep can the justices' understanding be of the variety of issues that come before them when they each had their legal training in the same environment?

For this reason, even though she's a woman, I'm still a little unsatisfied with the court's current composition. Here's hoping for next time.

(*Source: Congressional Research Office, Supreme Court Justices: Demographic Characteristics, Professional Experience, and Legal Education, 1789-2010. April 2010.)

Last Post of Prague

Here are the last little bits of Prague, which I couldn't really fit into a theme for another post.

Like the marionettes hanging in shop windows. Or the ornate doors on just "ordinary" buildings and the classic Skoda cars available for hire.
After climbing to the top of the clock tower, we used our birds-eye view to decide where to go for lunch, and found a rooftop restaurant with a notable view. Too bad it then started raining! We ducked downstairs to the cozy hotel bar for a beer instead, a trick we'd learned when the clouds opened and poured down rain during our walking tour the day before. Our guide found a great little pub, that felt like it was deep in the catacombs of Prague's streets for beers. (If you're in Prague, I recommend Jay Pesta's Private Prague Guides.) So that's about it from Prague. Start looking forward to our trip to INDIA in November! We've booked our tickets, applied for our visas and Jason has his travel health clinic appointment on Tuesday. (The visa application asked which countries we'd each visited in the last 10 years! That was tough.) Jason's also already made a website for our itinerary. I was hoping to see Hello Kitty in a sari, as she's been re-fashioned for his other web creations.

How to be Alone

Spending Saturday evening, and then Sunday morning, wandering Prague on my own (since my travel companions were enjoying rare moments without their two kids under 4, and parents) reminded me of what's it's like to experience things alone.

It's no wonder the restaurant hostess thought I might be a local, I was by myself. Table for one.

Sometimes I think it's nice to purposefully be a tourist alone, since you'll be more likely to meet someone new who's from the town you're visiting, or another tourist. You can sit on a bench and just watch the world go by, quietly taking it in. Why travel the world just to be wrapped up in conversation with the person you see every day at home? (For this reason, I also like Jason's contagious attitude of striking up conversations with anyone who makes eye contact in an elevator or nods at the cash register.)

It did honestly take me time to get used to being alone. Felt most acutely after moving into my own apartment. Despite Juliet being in the apartment just downstairs, it took self-coaching for alone to be something else besides --by definition-- lonely. Juliet was already a masterful recluse, used to quietly absorbing herself behind a closed door in reading, or sewing, or art. I didn't want to bother her all the time. But the laundry might have been timed according to times I did want to chat, and the washer/dryer was in her unit.

It took a little more time to start to actually enjoy being alone sometimes.

This little film is a nice articulation of it. On eating alone: "...some people at full tables will wish they were where you are."

"Society is afraid of alone though, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements...but lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless. And lonely is healing if you make it."

"Take the perspective you get from being just one person in one head."

But don't get me wrong by Sunday night in Prague, I was ready to come home and hang out with Jason. :)

I guess the beauty of company or being alone is having the choice of one over the other, when you want it.

Even More of Prague

Following on the Beatles reference of the last post, here's me in front of Prague's Lennon Wall. My colleague's husband pointed out that John Lennon was apparently never in Prague, but this was the place where students came to write their grievances ahead of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. We learned more about this at the Communist Museum, which has terrific advertising, and an ironic location above the McDonald's. The exhibits were a little dusty, and there was lots of reading, but it helped give context to Prague's modern history.

Folding early to the Nazis might have saved the architecture, but it obviously took its toll, as we learned earlier in touring the Jewish Quarter. The streets and buildings in this neighborhood remember the Jews who were captured by the Nazis with plaques where they once lived, oftentimes humble, carrying their names and ages.
It was thought-provoking and sobering, and also helped explained why the Czechs later welcomed the Russians as liberators. Of course, that came with Communism and other hardships. I thought about how fortunate my Grandmother was to leave town ahead of both WWII and the arrival of Communism.

With the Velvet Revolution -after years of hardship and oppression- the government collapsed in only days, prompting this reflection the fall of Communism: "in Poland it took 10 years, in Hungary 10 months, in the East Germany ten weeks, and in Czechoslovakia, just 10 days."

More of Prague

Here are a few more pictures from Prague. Although it was only a weekend, I took great advantage of the wonders of digital photography to take literally hundreds of pictures. (Such a nice advancement from the old days of loading a roll of film with only 24 or 36 pictures.)

Since our hotel was so close, we spent a good deal of time traversing Prague's Old Town Square.Each time I checked my watch to see if it was the turn of the hour to see the astronomical clock go through its machinations, where the twelve apostles parade by and the skeleton representing Death rings its bell. By climbing the tower, we had the chance to see the crowd below gathering to watch. Other notable landmarks of Prague are the castle, which is truly a complex of multiple guarded buildings. Including a phenomenally ornate cathedral, where you think to yourself, "Really Prague? Have you not been decorative enough yet? Looks like you could have fit some more filigree in that little 3 inch square space."(This is also where I put in a plug for the large, and pretty affordable, Urban Outfitters purse. It was perfect for hiding away purchases from souvenir shops when I was later walking about town by myself and didn't want to look too much the tourist. The sneakers probably gave me away in the end, but I enjoyed walking into a restaurant and the hostess thinking it was a mistake that I'd been given the English menu.)There's also the Charles Bridge, dating back to the 1300s. (Really Prague?!)Trumpeters in medieval-like garb were stationed on the tower behind me, playing the Beatles "Life Goes On"... which I coincidentally heard again the following week getting onto the shuttle bus at work. It sadly reminded me of how quickly I'd fallen right back into the work routine, which is why I'll have to share more of Prague in another post soon.

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