Archive for January, 2010

Making things up

I don’t wear a lot of makeup and what I do buy seems to last me forever, which no doubt explains why I look the way I do. At any rate, the end of the jar is reaching the remains of the day and I have been meaning to pick up a new one, so, I put Nordstrom’s on my to-do list for Saturday. When I reached the lot it was full, but, it was late on a Saturday morning, the sun was out attracting shoppers, and it didn’t seem that unusual to me. I parked the car, went in to the store on the lower level, and rode the escalator up to the main floor to the usual bouncy, upbeat tunes associated with stores like Nordstrom’s. As the escalator reached the main floor, the music got louder, the activity more intense, and a faint memory of a flyer in the mail about a cosmetic event filtered through my half frozen brain.

As I carefully got off  the escalator, I emerged into a frenzied sea of women in all sizes and shapes, cosmetically enhanced and wearing black shirts with rhinestone lettering naming Estee Lauder and Bobbie Brown, and advertising Clinique and Lancome. These women were everywhere, walking briskly, slips of paper in hand with credit cards hanging like fingertip towels. Some were poised in artistic study as they painted the masses of women out for a day of “free” consultation at counters and make-shift tables throughout the cosmetics department.

It was a sight to behold!

All I needed was one jar of makeup. The kind that last for a year or two for a gal like me. “Would you like for someone to apply it for you?” the saleswoman queried. Why? I thought, as I already had some on!

Of course, my specific shade, C10 please, straight up, no ice, stirred, not shaken, was nowhere on the floor or in the many drawers or on the countertops. This was discovered after about 15 minutes of my harried cosmopolitan – no, wait, I wanted a cosmopolitan, it was my cosmetologist who was harried! Anyways, the poor gal, much older than I, looked frazzled as she sprinted to and fro in search of my perfected formula, her own makeup expertly applied,  giving me a chance to observe the frenzy around me.

Everywhere – the color black. I have never seen so many ways to wear regulatory black as I saw prancing before me. There were black gaucho pants with black velveteen jackets and black tights with stiletto boots and a little skirt hanging on a skinny waist, flouncing about like an apron. Long, black dusters covering hips. I know that trick. It doesn’t work, but we pretend it does, and even the male employees were decked out in black jackets with colorful ties.

I had black on too. My black leather jacket. I was cool. My gloves matched. I fit the color du jour. Well, there was the exception of my brown corduroys and beige socks and comfy ecru FINNs, which cost an arm and a leg several years ago, but have been very kind to my feet and go lots of places with me,  allowing me to stand for fifteen minutes or more and watch the chaos a cosmetics event wreaks upon women who have been sequestered, frozen and probably bored  in their snowbound lives and like an ancient siren call, emerge for a little pampering on a sunny but cold day here in the bleak midwinter.

They are mailing my jar of make-up.


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Karen Solem Gallery

Karen Solem's gallery is along the tracks at 124 Park in Elmhurst.

The Elmhurst Garden Club’s photo contest gallery showing on Friday night was a lovely event. Tom and I stopped for some pasta first at Two Brothers from Italy, where we ran into some old friends, and then we walked a few steps to the corner and the Karen Solem Gallery for a splendid reception showing of all types of garden photos.

It was fun to see what different photographers captured through their lens. Amongst the flowers and butterflies, fountains and parks, there was a picture of a pair of gloved and dirt filled gardener’s hands. I just love when folks think outside the box – or, in this case, inside the dirt – and the photo evoked the essence of who we are as gardeners.

Refreshments were set up at a wonderful, round, farmhouse type table while members and supporters gathered in front of the matted photos, talking and catching up after being indoors for too long, admiring the pictures as varied as the members, and enjoying the ambience of the rooms and setting and the other artwork we were surrounded by.

It made me once again acutely aware of the arts and the place they have in our psyche and how appreciative I am that there are such places as galleries and art museums, big and small, formal and casual, in which we can, if only for an hour or two on a cold January evening, soak it all in and yearn for more.

Tom, Jason and I spent a little time talking with Karen, who judged the photos and opened her gallery for the evening. She could not have been a more gracious hostess, serving up glasses of wine, talking about the artists she represents, and discussing some exciting new plans for the front of her gallery. So here is what I will tell you. Keep an eye on Karen Solem’s corner location in the next few months. Better yet, stop in at her gallery and spend a little time appreciating the talent that she fosters and strike up a conversation if she is around about the art in her gallery, her photography studio, and the changes that will be emerging just as the first bulbs of spring start to emerge.


Karen, the elegant hostess at her gallery. http://www.karensolemstudio.com/index.html

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It is Friday here on the cutoff. The end of an especially busy week.  Tonight will be the Elmhurst Garden Club’s gallery show of members’ photographs. I look forward to seeing all the gardening pictures club members and their families took throughout the year and sharing conversations about the places where the photos were taken.  The show is open to all from 5:30 to 8:30 and if you’re in Elmhurst with nothing to do, stop by for a spell and think about spring as you walk among the flora and fauna represented in Karen Solem’s gallery.

I knew I would be busy, so I saved my second serendipitous story for now. Grab a cup of steaming cocoa to keep you warm as you explore part 2 of the Bouviers with pictures and words somewhat different than those in the previous Bouvier post about Grey Gardens. Families are like that, aren’t they? Each limb and branch different from the other. Some more twisted, some with firmer grips on their roots. This is such a well-known extension of the Kennedy family, especially to those of us commonly known as the baby boomers.

Did you know that Caroline Kennedy was named after her aunt, Lee Radziwill? Lee’s “given”  name is Caroline Lee Bouvier and she is, of course, Jackie Kennedy’s sister.  I was surprised to see her full name. I shouldn’t have been, as the two sisters were famously close, but I was. I read it and said aloud “I didn’t know that” to no one in particular.  Receiving no reply except my own curious thoughts, I read on as I was drawn in to the pictures and rooms and private spaces of Lee’s life.   There are some spectacular glimpses into Lee’s homes and apartments and little tidbits of information about her life. Even if you don’t have time to read all that is in the post, take time to scroll down and enjoy the views.

Make sure you check out the famous dining room where silk scarves were applied to the walls and then painted over with more flowers. It is far too opulent for my tastes, but an interesting technique and something to absorb. I like that. I like finding new ways to look at things, just as I know I will enjoy seeing the images of familiar plants through the camera lens of my friends and colleagues tonight.

Have fun on your trip  to this post – and don’t forget to write.


Image from cotedetexas.blogspot.com

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Mailing May

Image from Michael O. Tunnell website.www.michaelotunnell.com/mailing_may.html

In 1914, Charlotte May Pierstorff was mailed to her grandparent’s house for 53 cents! Her parents couldn’t afford the full price of a railroad ticket. With the help of some postal employees and in full compliance with the law, May went postal.

The event inspired Michael O. Tunnell to write a book about it. Mailing May.

I discovered the book in a review a few years ago when the Chicago Tribune had the editorial class and conviction to devote an entire section to literature in the Sunday Tribune. Not only did the newspaper have a wonderful book section, but it also dedicated space to reviews of children’s books.  Mailing May received a nice little write-up which caught my attention and the story of young May soon became an endearing tale as the book took up residence upon my shelves.

Based on U. S. postal lore, May ends up being weighed – she barely makes the 50 pound restriction – and labeled a “baby chick”.   53 cents worth of stamps and a delivery tag are attached to her clothes and she is stowed in the mail car with the rest of the mail all going by rail. A family member, who works for the postal service, watches over her and May finally gets to see her grandparents.

Ted Rand’s illustrations are beautiful and capture the mood of the story and the historical perspective it presents. I have lent Mailing May to friends and it has made its way into a classroom or two when parents have asked  me for a suggestion of a book they could read to their child’s class during book week. Each time I was amazed at how much the parent loved the book and the excitement it brought. Little May’s story always brings questions from elementary grade children – and adults as well – and I can’t help but think that in less than 100 years we have gone from being able to “mail” a child for 53 cents to mailing a bill, if we still do,  for 44!

Here’s a challenge. Before it is too late and children don’t know what mail is and books are extinct and the price of stamps goes up again, get a copy of Mailing May (it is in paperback), put it in a large, manila envelope, and mail to a special six or seven or eight year old with instructions for mom or dad or another adult to take some time to read it aloud.

No young child who fits the bill right now? Send it to a friend instead – or send it to a school. Go ahead. It will be fun and a nice way to remember May.

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Lark Rise to Candleford

Image from larkrisetocandleford.com

This is a yummy little series from the BBC that I recently discovered on WYCC (20) here in the Chicago area.  A few of the Moonies and I were talking about it over coffee on Friday and I have a feeling it will be discussed again. It is set in the English hamlet of Lark Rise and its larger, bustling sister town of Candelford and is yet another one of those wonderful PBS  imports of life in 1800’s England.

The first episode I saw was last Thursday night. Among the several story lines woven into the episode was the story of Dorcas, pictured above, the postmistress and her foray into the realm of politics. I loved it, and her, and all the characters, who will take me awhile to get to know but I have a feeling will become friends of mine. I appreciated her feistiness, especially given the setting and century she was in, and how her story was sewn to show that you don’t always lose when you lose – or win when you win.

I love these little English period pieces and how they are still relevant today. I also love that I have friends that watch them as well.  Like some of my friends, the Moonies.

We Moonies met and became friends over a period of time at a now defunct coffee shop in Elmhurst called The Chocolate Moon. It was not a fancy place by any stretch of the imagination, but the “frou frou” drinks (as my Tom likes to call them) were pretty good and the owners let patrons sit for hours on end to talk or read or work on something.

All sorts of people came into the Moon. Mothers with preschoolers, a group of men in the morning talking politics, politicians practicing politics, artists, friends and folks just looking for a place to be. There was, for a time, a group of retired men and women who, having had their COD French class cancelled, or was it Spanish?, commenced their own studies once a week. They pulled a few tables together, set down their lessons, and class would be in session. I liked to go in when I knew they would be there just to observe. You could pick out the retired teacher, who always led the class, and if you watched for a while, you could imagine them as they must have been, years ago, as young high school students in a bygone era. These folks valued education, were serious in their pursuit of a different language, and I admired them their determination and ability to make the situation work for them.

Late afternoons held a place for folks coming in after work, and middle schoolers looking for a place to hang out. . Moms would sit and read or talk as their youngsters took dance lessons. The floor above would echo sounds of tiny feet in ballet slippers landing overhead.

A  local newspapers occasionally held its editorial board meetings there. I know as I was alone drinking my mocha one day after a very early morning meeting when they came in, moved a few tables together, ordered their drinks, and settled in, notepads in hand and poised in a journalistic demeanor. I recognized several of them. They were discussing directions to take editorially and the local school board came up. They talked for a moment or two – until one noticed me sitting at a nearby table with a Cheshire grin on my face. End of discussion.

The Chocolate Moon failed to rise one day, then the next, and townspeople wandered around, lost, not knowing what to do. It is funny how things happen like that from time to time in life and we are left to wonder what happens next. A shift occurs and things aren’t the same and the folks to the north and the folks to the south and all those in between wander about trying to figure things out.  Eventually, things settle into another routine – a new mode. A new moon rises, new patterns develop and life goes on.

Rather like the hamlet and town of Lark Rise and Candleford.

Thursday night, 8 pm, WYCC, channel 20 here near the lake.

(For my good friends reading away from the lake and its environs, COD is a local community college, aka College of Du Page. )

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Serendipity, Part 1

When I passed along something I discovered by mistake to my cousin Pam, she said it was serendipitous. Serendipitous is something you discover while looking for something else. It is rather like getting a birthday present when it is not your birthday. I just love these little surprises in life!

I have had two serendipitous discoveries of late, interestingly from the same site, and I think you might enjoy them. I will share them with you at different times. They both involve the Bouviers of the Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy clan and I will warn you ahead of time that each will require a bit of time, a cup of coffee or tea, and a little patience as pictures download onto the screen. While they are downloading, pour your cup of tea, put on some music . . .

Both pieces are very interesting and I hope will piqué your interest in any number of ways; history, pop culture, architecture, decorating, social issues, gardening, etc.

Serendipity #1

Grey Gardens. Image from the Cote de Texas website.

Over coffee last Friday, the day I fell onto the couch like a large leather clad space shuttle landing, Bev brought up the documentary she had just watched about Grey Gardens done by the Maysles Brothers in the early 70’s. HBO aired Grey Gardens last winter, which is a little more fun to watch than the documentary. Over coffee, we chatted about both and the sad squalor “big Edie” and “little Edie” lived in. Big Edie was a Bouvier. Her sister was Jackie’s mother. Little Edie was Jackie’s first cousin and they played together as children.  Most families have interesting family members and the Bouviers certainly did.

If a very recent conversation on the documentary and movie had not just been on our lips, I doubt that I would have clicked on, but, curious, I did. It was, you see, serendipitous that I found this, and so I spent a little time viewing the pictures and reading the text. It is a fascinating post about the estate, which has been restored by Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee, with old pictures of when it was built, its “hey day”, when the Edies first lived there, its sad demise after decades of neglect, and its new life today. Don’t be deterred by some of the pictures of Grey Gardens in its sadder times. Scroll down and see its new life, too. It is a hopeful story more than anything.


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Some people need to be hit on the head to  appreciate the beauty of poetry. Me? I’ve always enjoyed the genre – the head hitting came late in the afternoon.

Karen Exiner has a wonderful little studio in downtown Elmhurst. Along with her own artistic talents, she is generous with her time and encouragement and  is always willing to help others on their own artistic journey.

On Sunday afternoon, Karen hosted a poetry reading and book signing in her cozy studio for Elmhurst sculptor and poet Robert Pine. About 30 adults and children gathered in her gallery on an otherwise gloomy January day to enjoy light refreshments while listening to Bob read from his new childrens’ book as he took us on a poetic picnic. Bob set the scenes while asking the children attending questions about picnics and the moon, ants and Haiku, and we enjoyed an hour or so listening to his words from his book.

I was impressed by the children in attendance. When asked who knew what Haiku was, Yvonne’s daughter went into a brief but thorough explanation that we all could understand and then we caught its rhythm as Bob read some to us.

Another  lass explained the phases of the moon preceding another reading. I found myself as impressed by the children in attendance as I did by the poet in our midst and considered myself as lucky as Paula’s friends at her poetry picnic.

I enjoy poetry and feel it should be read aloud, especially to children. Musical lyrics are poetry, as are the Psalms. You already know my appreciation of Robert Frost and someday I will tell you about Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, where we spent some lovely autumn days.

Bob Pine is donating a portion of the proceeds to the children’s room at the Elmhurst Public Library. Paula’s Poetry Picnic can be found online at www.publishersgraphicsbookstore.com. Scroll down until you see Bob’s book, which you can then click on.

I had an entire weekend of mishaps. It started when I fell onto a cushy couch at Elijah’s Coffee Shop on Friday with the speed of a tortoise, much to the amusement of friends watching my slow motion descent as my friend Marilyn looked up at me in shock, surely wondering how many dents she would sustain if I landed on her. I didn’t, but the swoosh as I landed sounded like the Space Shuttle landing and was a sight to behold.

My repeated attempts to get into my car, which I discovered hemmed in by a large SUV at church, made for a lively workout that nearly brought me to my knees in the church parking lot.  An elderly lady waited patiently in her creamy Cadillac for my space, watching me ease up and down and around the car, squeezing my stomach in, removing my coat, then my scarf, tossing my Sunday School lessons onto the passenger side, hurrying back around to the driver’s side and standing on tip toes, then attempting deep knee bends, as I worked up a sweat trying to get into my car. I finally did and I thought of the passage of the camel going through the eye of a needle as I headed home, sure I had not arrived in heaven.

The knock on the head came just as the poetry event was finishing up. Somehow, a lovely painting in Karen’s gallery came tumbling down, breaking some glasses and landing on my unsuspecting pate. Not hurt, I laughed, shook the cobwebs out, and wondered about my misadventures and how very unpoetic they were.

Thank you, Karen, for inviting me to the lovely event, and thank you, Bob, for your poetry picnic on this gloomy January day.

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