Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Had Some All Along, Photo(s) 26

Carole has asked that I find some books in a series that she used to read. I do remember the series so I've been in the basement off and on over the last 10 days, to try to find them. I found other stuff, but, so far, not the books she wants.

I have two stacks of Discworld books.

Yes, I have read Jane Eyre, Sideways Stories and Charlotte's Web. I have not read Catwings Return, The Moonstone or The Magician's Nephew. I could get rid of Jane Eyre and not ever read it again. It was better in the first Thursday Next book, The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, but you do need to have read the original to understand what was going on in Fforde's book.

The Color of Magic is the very first book in the Discworld series. (If you're curious about this series, start with that one and then read The Light Fantastic.) I was looking at that and thinking, "You know, I should reread all of these. It would take about 3-4 days for the bigger ones, like Pyramids, but I could finish Equal Rites in a weekend." My recent read, Thud, was added to the stack.

On the bottom shelf is a libretto from Porgy and Bess, the Gershwin's great American opera. I'd forgotten I had this. In 1980, I got to see the whole opera produced at Indiana University. It was magnificent. I probably don't need to keep the libretto as I'm not likely to see the opera again, but, it's one of those things I feel like having.

As I plowed through sections of the basement, I started a stack of garbage. I had water in the basement a many years ago and some things, which were on the floor, really should be tossed. Plus, I had that mice infestation a couple years ago, which the girls eradicated, and I'm finding remnants of where they lived for a bit before a cat sniffed them out and they vacated. I can only work for about 2 hours before the moving of boxes and the sweeping of stuff gets to my joints and I have to rest. But given that it's been years since I cleaned in some spots, this is a victory.

The books have stubbornly refused to reveal themselves. I opened a long thin box and came face-to-face with

a whole box of packing peanuts.

At Christmas, I send out a bunch of gifts. Invariably, I am out of packaging. I have to pillage the office stores for padding. Here, I had packaging materials, more than enough packaging materials, to ship anything this past Christmas. I'm always thought this box contained paperback books.

So, what do I do? Should I move these from the box, which is, actually a good place to store them since stuff can be piled on top of it or it can go on top of other things because it's light, or should I recycle these? I am, likely, traveling over Christmas, so much of what I would normally ship won't be shipped this year. Maybe, as I clean more, I'll find an innocuous place to stick this where I can forget it in December when I'm looking to ship stuff. You know how that goes. "I'll put it right here where I'll remember." Sure I will.

The hunt goes on. I have a few other places I look and then I have no clue. Did they get water logged and we toss them. Carole doesn't think so, but anything could have happened. In the meantime, it's kind of been like an archeological dig in my own basement. "Oooh! I forgot I had this."

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Does It Help?, Photo 25

Last Friday, all across the Chicagoland area, volunteers donned these white plastic aprons trimmed in red piping, and stood in intersections waving small bags of Jelly Bellies in an effort to raise money for the Misericordia Home. Misericordia is one of the largest organizations in the country devoted to caring for and providing opportunities to developmentally and physically handicapped people. They are affiliated with the Catholic Church but their facilities and outreach goes to all faiths, all colors, all economic levels.

I knew this fundraiser was upcoming. It had been in the news. Misericordia's street solicitations are the first of three I can remember; Lion's Club and Knights of Columbus. I wonder about the money intake from these. Because I knew about this, I went to the bank to get money so I'd have a dollar to stuff in their donation can. How many people actually carry money anymore? I almost never do. For an upcoming bit a travel, I'm trying to decide whether to carry money and, if so, how much? Ten years ago, that conversation with myself would have been unusual.

We are a nation of credit and debit cards. This past weekend was also a major comic book and etc convention in Chicago. In my World of Warcraft guild, people were discussing the upcoming Blizzcon event for World of Warcraft; Dragon Con, held in Atlanta over Labor Day; and the largest, ComiCon in San Diego in July. One member said, "Yeah I went to x and dropped over $5,000 on stuff." Aside from having the monetary resources, I wondered if he'd carried five thousand dollars around in his pants pocket or if most everyone at these kinds of places takes credit cards. At Misericordia's gift shop, they take credit, but it would be impossible to outfit the guys and gals walking the rows of cars with card readers, even the small ones I've seen on iphones.

So, I'm left to wonder. Are they seeing a drop off of donations from people waving bags of goodies while they walk between lanes of stopped cars? Do donations increase in general around this weekend because people who used to have change with them don't and then go to the web site to donate? Would there ever become a time when this kind of fundraiser's expenses, even with the candy and aprons donated and with volunteers doing the waving, aren't covered by income? Is this really about getting the name of the place in the mind of the public as opposed to making buckets of money?

Part of me thinks I could stuff a couple of dollar bills in the glove box of the Jeep for the Lions Club when they are walking the pavement. I wonder if these kinds of fundraisers are held across the US or are limited to certain regions. They had a lovely weekend to do this. I always feel really bad for them when they have to stand in pouring rain; well, they probably don't have to but I've seen a lot of dedicated volunteers do that.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


A Chortle and a Guffaw, Photo(s) 24

For all holidays, it is within my nature to send a somewhat silly card. I don't always do that for every person on the list, but it's within the realm of possibilities.

I'm a Hallmark Gold Crown member, meaning, I carry around their key fob and buy the majority of my cards there. In the last 5 years, as "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Easter" and any other life events moved from actual physical acknowledgement to email messages, I've noticed Hallmark has gone, increasingly, to bits and bats and knicks and knacks; the dustable stuff. Cards make up only half of the store now. For someone like me, who loves to send cards, this has been most distressing. Also, Hallmark has moved away from goofy humor or the sarcasm of Maxine to birds and butterflies and "I feel your pain", cards hoping to tap into the introspective or emotionality of life. There is nothing wrong with this. I have a stash of cards I send to friends which expresses how I feel about their friendship. But when I want to send something silly or laugh-out-loud funny, Hallmark isn't the place to go. It used to be, but it's not now.

I received the following card from my friend, Chris. Here's the front.

And here's the inside.

I laughed so hard.

I love these kinds of cards. You won't find this at Hallmark. Indeed, this is from an independent card company. Remember when American Greetings had a store in the mall along with Hallmark? If I wanted the sarcastic or off-beat, I went to AG. If I wanted to tell someone how much I appreciated their kindness, I went to Hallmark. Hallmark got themselves in grocery and drug stores and that edged AG right out of the market. Competition is a good thing, usually, and I think, in the greeting card industry, it was good.

As email has replaced written word, a part of communication died with it. People don't want to take the time to pick out a card and then address an envelope, affix a stamp and drop it in the mailbox. Sometimes I feel like I and a handful of friends are the only ones who do this kind of thing anymore and, when I walk into a card shop, the store's offerings seem to sort of bear that feeling out.

So, if I can find the silly, the goofy and the mildly sarcastic, you know there's a good chance you'll be getting one of those in the future. Thanks, Chris, for the very funny, laugh out loud, card. It's only two points if the bunny was inside the circle.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Thursday, April 24, 2014

2014 Book(s) 6

In a post below, I discussed restacking the two stacks of books I have in the bedroom because the book after #5 was down toward the bottom of the right stack. Part of redoing the stacks was to take a critical look at all those books. What I discovered was a small stack that I could read in 90 minutes and get them out of the big pile and either give them away or move them to another location to save.

As Sunday was a wonderful day to be on the deck, I decided this was the perfect time to read. Let's see what we have here. I could have counted each book as separate and then patted myself on the back for having read my 12 books for 2014. But that felt like cheating, given that the longest read was 15 minutes. So I lumped them all together.

Let's see what I have here.

I'm not one for aphorisms. There are statements that I like and reflect things I believe. At one time, I thought I needed this book with its quick statements to remind me to be uplifting and remove negativity from my life. I have another book of Salmansohn that is meant to be given away. It's more funny than these are. Come to think of it, this might have been a gift from a "well-meaning" friend who is no longer a friend.

I don't need or want aphorical stickies around my house. I have come to a place where I live life with gratitude, every day. Some of these were just weird to me. Maybe I have a friend who could benefit from these, but I don't know who. Rather than foist it on another, it's gone into the give away bag.

For awhile, I was buying a new children's book every Christmas. I had the intention of creating a small library of literature if a grandchild ever came into my life. That's still a possibility and I have a nice size library if it happens. But when financial issues fell upon me, this turned out to be the last Christmas book I purchased. Raise your hand if you memorized this. I'd need a couple weeks but I'd remember it.

It's a gorgeous book.

"...a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer." Some of the pages were a bit stuck together because it's been in the stack for years. With a slight tug, they came apart and the pop-up sprang to life. This would be a fantastic book to share with family, but not something you'd hand to little ones who don't understand the concept of pop-up. Unlike other pop-ups, nothing moves. There are no levers or wheels to manipulate. It's all about opening the page and seeing a 3 dimensional representation of a part of the poem. I heartily recommend this if you can find it.

This is an entry in the cat book library. If you have a pet, you know that you are drawn to books about that animal. That's what this falls into. I don't remember where I got it, but the only reason I would have it is because, oh wow!, it has a cat on the front and it's about a cat.

The premise is that the owner of Clio has discovered a journal written by Clio over the course of nine lives. It starts in ancient Egypt and goes through China and Europe before coming to the US. The cat talks about the way it changed the course of human history by, for instance, helping Leonardo Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa. For a 1st grader with a good vocabulary and a desire to learn, this might be a good book, but I'm not sure who the target audience is. Plus, at the end, there is a discussion about each life and how some of the things Clio reports couldn't have happened. Um... Giving this away.

Also in the give away bag is this book.

Again, this falls in the "Oh look! A cat book!" category. I know I picked this up for $3.00 at the Printer's Row Book Fair several years ago. At the time, I really didn't page through it. I simply bought it because it was a book about cats, hardcover and $3.00. Had I actually taken the time to look at it, I wouldn't have brought it home.

The premise is that cats and dogs come from another planet. The animal you see is merely a robot, controlled by minute cats and dogs inside. The dogs, tired of being picked on on their home planet, left and found earth. Cats, now having no one to pick on, followed the dogs so they could continue to harass dogs. If ever there was a stupid premise, this is it. No, you can't have this book. I'm giving it away. I should find someone who will recycle it because it really shouldn't be in circulation.

Graeam Base has always been one of our favorite authors/illustrators. He's Australian and his early works reflected life in that country. If you have never seen any of his works, find a copy of Animalia. It is the most amazingly illustrated book I think I have ever seen. There was a coloring book you could get for awhile as well as a boxed set that included the hardcover book, the coloring book and a set of 5 colored pencils. Get the book in hardcover. You will not regret it.

Base often deals with environmental issues by showing what happens to animals when their environment is challenged or changed. That's what this is about. What happens if the water hole dries up. As with all his other books, the art is fantastic. You can lose yourself for hours just pouring over the illustrations. Think you've see it all? Nope, there's a bug over here, a pair of eyes over there, a baby under mom's legs.

I got this when it first came out but never read it. I see on his web site that I'm way behind in my collection. I have 6 of his 15 books. Looks like I should add him to my list to search for at the book fair this June.

I bought this but I don't know when. This is another book that had I taken the time to look through it, to read some of the pages, I wouldn't have purchased it. It's a series of quotes about women and cats interspersed with selected readings about this topic. Too much of the book is spent comparing appearances and suggesting women would do well to follow the lead of their cats.

Cats are always seen as aloof and women are likened to this. There are put-downs galore and the book ends with quotes about how cats are a witch's familiar and the shape witches prefer to change into and then roam the neighborhood.

It wasn't a pleasant book. The only thing I got out of it was a list of names for future cats; Tewhit, Jarmara, Jeso, Prickear, Peyewacket and Griezl Greedigut. Why these names? Well, any cat given one of these was definitely a witch's familiar. Into the bag it goes.

And the last one. 

This is a small book that falls into the "Oh! Cat book!" vein. No clue where I picked it up or if it was a gift. I was prepared to go "meh" about it, but I found that I actually liked it. I like the ink drawings. They are fluid and peaceful. Cats and Eastern religions have long gone together. The cat exhibits the stillness and the ability to be "in the moment", so to speak, that Zen teaches. Some of the quips about cats are true. "One coat of fur sheds everywhere." "Find where the paths cross--sit smack center." "Door open--stay in. Door closed--go out."

One statement I found particularly interesting. "If I have but nine lives to live, let me live them as a cat." That would be with awareness and calm, unless there's a thunderstorm, in which case, go hide under the bed. I'm hanging on to this book.

So, there you have my Sunday reading. Four are being given away and three are staying. My stacks are smaller. Book #7 is on the ottoman in the living room and, based on the first 8 pages, I'm going to enjoy it.

Beverage:  Water


Breakfast Is Good, Photo 23

We're just...I can't even describe, adequately, how busy work is. We're all yelling at the phone to stop ringing. The boss finally had to tell someone, "No, we can't be there tomorrow" because we couldn't do the job. We just don't have the personnel.

It's not just the field work. After that is done, there is the paperwork, the reports, to get out. Remember the "paperless society" touted 30 years ago. HA! Again I say, "HA!" Never, ever going to happen. Never. Digital reporting can condense 85 pages onto a CD, but as technology changes, being able to retrieve that information off an old CD is going to be a problem. 3.5 inch floppy, anyone? I have photos stored on a whole bunch of those and I don't know how to retrieve them.

Anyway, I'm now working overtime to produce reports for all the field work I've done. Getting up, eating breakfast and getting out the door on time has been a problem for me now that I have RA. It takes a good 10 minutes to "warm up", so to speak, and it doesn't matter if I get up 10 minutes or 40 minutes earlier than usual. I seem to leave the house at the same time. But what if I got breakfast on the way, at least during this time period while I have to do reports? I'm making enough in overtime to cover the expense of breakfast and it's pretty much always the same cost. I stop at either Dunkin' Donuts or Panera. I could do this. My budget, for right now, would allow this.

Everyone has a loyalty program. I hadn't joined Dunkin's yet and I probably get breakfast there more than at Panera. I get the same thing every time; a large tea and 2 donuts. One donut is always the double chocolate and the other is the variable. On this date, it was the lemon filled.

It's not the most healthy breakfast I could have, but it's quick and I can get into the office early with something satisfying to last until lunch. I earned a free medium beverage, which the guy behind the counter knew would be tea, and, I'll be earning other perks as I continue with the program. There is a Dunkin' a block from the office, but I will come here, to the one near me in Wheaton. They know me and I don't even have to tell them what the beverage is.

As I was leaving, the guy behind the counter said, "See you tomorrow." Guess I have to go back. I think I can do that.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea (Duh)


Guess I Will Be Back, Photo 22

We were out of cat food. Oh no! Yes, it was a somewhat dark day. We had come to the bottom of the Hills Ideal Balance bag and it was time to get more. I wasn't getting Hills, that's for sure. Not going to spend that kind of money on cat food no matter how much I love them. Besides, Merrick is just as good and it's cheaper for a bigger bag.

I used to go to Pet Supplies Plus, back when we had a pride of cats in the house and everyone was eating Fancy Feast. It's across the street from my favorite Dunkin Donuts so it's close to me. Fancy Feast was always, always 5-10 cents cheaper than at the grocery or at Target. When you're buying 40 cans at a time, that's a big deal.

But when I looked up places to buy Merrick, this store didn't come up on the list. Petco did and there is one in south Wheaton. Petco sponsors adoptions and their foundation is one of the biggest supporters of TNR; Trap, Neuter, Return; of feral cats. They work with Best Friends Animal Society and other no-kill organizations around the US to make the goal of "No More Homeless Pets" a reality. But prices tend to be higher at Petco and it's out of my way to go there. I have a Petco "loyalty" card, one of those little thingees that hang off a key ring. I hadn't seen any real benefit from it. I was also tired on Tuesday, yet the girls needed food.

So, I drive to Petco. I am the ONLY customer in the store at 4:30 p.m. The store is located in a strip mall that has lost its major tenant, a Dominicks grocery store. The IHop closed, which is really sad because there isn't another one close to me. There is a cluster of stores to the north of the Dominicks and that's where the Petco is, but the parking lot looks so sad, so empty.

The store manager greeted me as I came in and asked if I needed help. "I just need cat food." "That's over here," he replied. I resisted the urge to say, "I know." He's just trying to be helpful and I am the only customer in the store. He's probably thrilled to see someone. "Which brand?" he asked. "Merrick," I responded. I walked right to the display. Which Merrick to get them. We've had chicken flavor and they like that, but there is a salmon flavor and there is a version called "Healthy Weight". I stood weighing my options. The big bags were all priced the same. I opted for chicken since I knew they liked it. Franco took my bag to the front. The store manager, who hadn't left my side asked if I needed anything else. I got 3 cans of the Hills Ideal Balance wet cat food. Pilchard loves it and she's the chunkiest, at the moment. I have to travel for work in the next couple of weeks so my guilt at leaving them will be assuaged by a can of wet food which Mija will sniff and then look at me accusingly as if I'm trying to starve her.

He asked, "Do you need litter?" I stopped. Actually, I do need litter. I have half of a box left and I have to replace, completely, the contents of one of the boxes. It's time to do that. Wash another box. Completely replace the litter and we're good to go. (One of the nice side effects of the change in food is no more stinky poopers. Seriously. If you're having problems with smelly poop, change the food. I get, maybe, one every other month. When I was feeding them Purina, "Oh lordy that smells" was an every other day occurrence, even with a clean litter box.) I looked at him. "Well, what does litter cost here? I'll buy a box if it's close to what I pay at the grocery."

This is what we use and I watch for sales on this stuff. I know what price I'll pay and if it's that price or lower, I buy it, even if I have a box or two. It's going to get used.

It was $2 more. That was close, but I was willing to wait to go to the grocery since I have to go anyway this weekend. I told him what I paid the last time I got litter and he said, "We can match that." Well, sold then. "Only one box?" Yeah, even matching the price, I didn't need another box, even completely replacing litter. I'm good. I have to consider that I have to lug it into the house. The manager grabbed the litter and took that up front. Franco carried the litter and the food out to the Jeep for me, too.

When I paid for everything, I discovered the food was $2 off because of my "loyalty" card. I saved $4 which more than covers the sales tax and the gas to drive out of my way. I still wonder if Pet Supplies carries Merrick. I should go there and see. I can't count on that store manager always being at Petco and matching the price for litter. I need to be aware of what things costs around me. But I was impressed. I guess I will be back.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


Winter's Residue, Photo 21

In addition to the aches and pains of an almost non-stop shoveling season, winter has left me with one other thing, really dry skin. It's normal to have some dry skin. Winter air lacks humidity so it absorbs water from wherever it can find it. You'll see this in your home when you get cracks in the miter joints of your doors and windows or in the junctions of your walls. Even though things look and feel "dry", there is still water contained in the paint or the wood. Once spring arrives and, one hopes, the spring rains return, those cracks expand back to their original size and are less noticeable. Because the human body practically sloshes with water, the air is going to take whatever it can find and that dries out the skin; dries it out everywhere.

I like Vaseline Intensive Care for my hands. I've tried other, cheaper, hand lotions and I always come back to this. Right now, I'm using the Aloe version, but I'll use all of them and I watch for them to go on sale. Some things I'm just brand loyal on.

But for everywhere else, whatever I can find suits me just fine. I'm particularly drawn to fragranced lotions for the legs and arms. Right now, I'm using the lotion shown to the right. I like the scent and that's really my first consideration in selecting a body lotion, how does it smell. I don't remember how long I've had this kind but it's about half gone. I don't know about your skin, but I have to lotion up every day. It's still really dry and I don't like the itchy feeling on my legs or the back of my arms when my skin is that dry. It's a great feeling to slather on the lotion and feel your skin drink it in. This scent is great in that it doesn't clash with the cologne I'm wearing. I'm still working through those mini bottles. I have so many to use up. It's going to be years of the same scent.

So tell me, have you fought the dried skin battle this winter? Are you still fighting it? Any favorite lotion?

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Biblioholism. I Have It.

The book about jazz is finished and set aside to be blogged about. It's time to select book number 6. Actually, I knew what I wanted to read, a novel I've had in the stack for a long time. The problem is, it's a larger paperback book, not the small "trade" paperback size that Discworld novels usually come in. I'm not sure what determines the ultimate size of the book but it can make stacking them an engineering nightmare.

In order to get to book 6, I would have to take apart the right stack. But the left stack leans onto the right stack. To remove enough books to get to book 6, I would have books from the left stack tumbling onto the right stack. I might as well just disassemble both stacks.

As I started, the dust from years of sitting became evident. If I was going to do this right, I needed to dust the books before restacking them. And look here. I have this book and this book twice. Hmmmm. I need to pay more attention to what I have before telling people what I want on those birthday and Christmas lists. Well, the copy I bought went into the give away bag. The copy I received as a gift went back into the stack.

There are books, fortunately, only a handful, that left me shaking my head. Why did I keep this? A couple were gifts from well meaning friends. I know they were gifts from friends, but which friends I haven't a clue and, thankfully, the front plate is not inscribed. Into the bag they went. This is one reason I never spontaneously give someone a book. "Oh you'll love this," is the first clue that I probably won't and calls to mind my oft-used and favorite Dorothy Parker quote. "This is not a book to be cast aside lightly. It is to be heaved with great force." If you ask for it, then I assume you want it, but you'll never get an "I know you'll love it" from me.

It took me an hour to go through all of these, dusting and sorting into piles according to size. I removed 10 books from the stack. Some, I will blog about later. The others were the duplicates or the "You'll love it" that go directly into the give away bag. I have 3 that I'm on the fence about but I stuck them back in the pile. I've been known to give books a chance and then wonder why I'm reading something I dislike. (Looking at you Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison.) I still have two stacks but they aren't leaning against each other. Every book is visible. I will still have to take a stack apart if I want something from the middle downward but I now don't run the risk of foot injury from falling literature.

Best part of all this, the "I didn't know I had that" moments. I think all my books for this 12 months reading adventure have been found.

Beverage:  Berry flavored seltzer


Season's Start

It was so nice on Sunday, I had to bring up a chair.

I spent 2 hours on the deck, just reading. I had dishes going so when I would get up to wash another sink full of dishes, my spot would be taken.

But when I'd come back out with the camera, to photograph her in the chair, she'd jump off. She knows; they both know.

The deck sitting season has begun. That is a sigh of happiness.

Beverage:  Water


Leafing Out

Beverage:  Water


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 Book 5

Criticism can be a dicey thing. Whether it is about books, movies, food, music or any collective subject, you risk a backlash for stating what amounts to an opinion. Anyone can be critical of something. I find rap music to be lacking music fundamentals and not at all good, by my definitions, while someone else is going to find graphic novels akin to comic books and not worth the paper they are printed on. What sets us apart from someone who has a book about music, such as the one to the left, is that the author has studied the topic about which he's writing. He's got credentials and he seems to know the genre. He's not just a guy with an opinion.

The other problem with putting out an "essential" list is that it quickly becomes dated. The "100 Most Important Recordings" in Jazz is like the top 100 films. More will come along after the date the list was issued. A list doesn't exist in a vacuum, but perhaps that's also a charm. It's a snapshot of an idea issued at a certain time.

This book was down in the stacks. I've had it for awhile. The copyright is 2002. I bought it for use in creating a jazz library. In reality, I didn't need it. I buy what and who I like and all but 2 of my collection is not in here. Some of the artists, particularly of the modern era, I've never heard of. Perhaps that's good in that I've been exposed to names I don't know.

I wasn't fond of the author's selections, particularly in the modern era. I think he pulled heavily from the free jazz and avant-garde movements. Those are a hugely acquired taste, something I've never enjoyed. He left out swing entirely and that was a large part of the jazz era through the years of the Great Depression and World War II. There were very few vocal recordings and, while there is no doubt that Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald influenced jazz singers and still do, there were no comparable male vocal recordings. He is heavy into saxophone recordings, but I find that jazz can be heavy into the music of it and the trumpet. Perhaps that is more indicative of what people are choosing to play, rather than the music that's available. It's hard to find clarinetists and flutists turning out jazz recordings. Regina Carter is the only jazz violinist I'm aware of, but she arrived on the scene well after this book was written. And I honestly don't feel that John Coltrane was the be-all end-all that the author claims he was.

The other criticism I have is the language. "The contrapuntal tangle of 'Muskrat Ramble' is a two and a half minute force field of contained energy", describing Louis Armstrong. "Her voice was thin and piercing with a vigorous narrow vibrato, and she consistently returned to the same blues phrasing and microtonal shadings in relation to the tonic", said about Dinah Washington. "'Come, Gone' is an offhanded sketchbook piece, a piece for blowing across changes until an improvised density is reached" explaining a piece by Sonny Rollins. "Its instrumentation is lean, as if to refute the density that experimental jazz had been accruing', written to describe an album by Julius Hemphill. It's perhaps the nature of the book that, in describing music, it's going to use a language I don't fully understand because I have no music background. I often felt that I was reading another language, a language with a secret code I wasn't meant to know. All that was missing was the wink, wink, nudge, nudge from those "in the know".

Yet I don't think this book was written for learned jazz musicians or music educators. I think it was written in an attempt to give people like me a framework to start a jazz library or, if I had one, to augment it. I have a few pieces by Dinah, the Ken Burns' jazz album on Rollins and a lot of Louis, although not the ones in the book. I had never heard of Hemphill before page 203. After reading the description of the selected album, I think I'll look for other artists before coming back to him, if I add him to my collection at all. So the obtuse descriptions of some artists' music caused me to scratch my head. What is he saying here? I wanted to ask him to put his comments in English and I have a large vocabulary. Just because you know a word doesn't mean you have to use it.

The artist and his or her record is listed first, followed by the other performers on that album. One thing that I want to know, in reading the names listed, particularly for the very early recordings, what became of those people? On Bix Beiderbecke's selected album, for instance, I knew the names Jimmy Dorsey and Frankie Trumbaure, in addition to Beiderbecke. But beyond that, who was Don Murray, Joe Venuti and Bill Challis? Were they always sidemen; those guys who backed up the main performer? Did they ever make a recording on their own with their name first?

One thing Ken Burns' Jazz program reminded viewers is that alcohol and heroin were synonymous with jazz, unfortunately. Beiderbecke drank himself to death before age 30. Billie Holliday was addicted to heroin as was Miles Davis. He went home to East St. Louis and willed himself clean. How many of these names died early deaths? How many faded into obscurity after recording one or two albums? Did they hop around? Some names, like Max Roach, were all over the place, playing for a wide variety of people because they were very good. Some, like Johnny Hodges, stayed with one band, Duke Ellington's, his entire career.

And another thing, nicknames. David 'Fathead' Newman and Jeff 'Tain' Watts are a couple of current jazz artists with nicknames. That's just not done anymore. Looking at the lists of people on albums, nicknames or 'unusual' first names were everywhere:  Cootie Williams, Kid Ory, Earl "Fatha" Heins, many "Budds", "Reds" and "Juniors". Dizzy Gillespie's first name was John, but no one called him that. Duke Ellington's first name was "Edward" and Count Basie was a "William". Perhaps it's indicative of the era. Performers, with the exception of rap and hip-hop, are known by their real names, not nicknames.

I'm on the fence about keeping this book, even as a reference. I just added Bobby Darin's Greatest Hits to my collection and he's nowhere to be found in this book. I suspect the author would look down on his style of singing as cloying and overly commercial. Darin was more popular because of his good looks than his singing, if truth be told, but I prefer his rendition of "Mack the Knife" to Louis Armstrong's or Ella Fitzgerald's.

In the end, it's more about what you like than what a critic says is what you should have in your collection. This was a good read, to be exposed to artists I'd never heard of; they aren't played on WDCB. When it comes to spending my pennies, I'm going to look at what I have and then what I'd like to add. A critic may be sour on Fred Astaire Sings Gershwin, but I'd really like to find that on CD or have someone make a CD from the cassette tape I own. Some music, I just like.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Monday, April 21, 2014

Memories of You, Photo 20

Don passed away in 2008 after a brief illness. I had forgotten I had this journal until I had to dismantle the stacks of books to get the next book to be read.

We'd known each other since 1988, thanks to my editing a newsletter for an organization. We became closer friends, known only through correspondence, a year later and we maintained that correspondence up to his death. He was an older gentleman with a daughter around my age. He wasn't a father figure. Rather, he was a confident, a chum, a pal, but mostly, a very good friend. I got a letter from his daughter announcing his death on the day I had to be at a meeting, to actually run the meeting, so I couldn't call and say, "I'm not coming." When I came home, I cried. He had given me a photo of himself only 6 weeks earlier.

He told me once, in 2005, that he would be willing all his books on writing and grammar to me. I was horrified when, in late 2006, I received a box containing these books. I sat down and sobbed. I hadn't heard anything about his well-being. A letter came the next day saying he hadn't passed on but felt he wanted to give me all his books now rather than later because he knew I would appreciate them. I still have them and they are still in the box he sent.

He also saved all of my letters to him and, in early 2007, sent them back to me. "Some day, when you're writing that novel, you might want these to use in creating a character. Plus, you can see where you've come from where you were." I still have that box, too. The books are outdated but neither item is something I want to be rid of, not just yet. 

I've never used this journal. I have quite a few book/reading journals and sticking it in the stacks of books waiting to be read guaranteed that I'd forget it. I'm not sure quite what I will do with it now that I've found it again. I used to keep scrupulous track of the books I've read, but that's fallen by the wayside. I'll hang onto this. It's a memory of a good friend.

Beverage:  Cranberry raspberry seltzer


The First One, Photo 19

It was time to replace the bathroom rug. How often do you do that? Really? I don't believe you. (wink, wink) I think you're a lot like me in that it gets replaced every other month, maybe. I sweep the floor but put the rug back. It's a rug. It's supposed to be heavy duty.

I have 6 different bathroom rugs. Washing rugs is not a fun job. With cats in the house, the inside of the washing machine can get these balls of cat hair. Plus, my rugs are so old that the backing is coming off and I have to fish pieces of rubberized material out of the tub before the next wash. So, I usually wait to do a full load of bathroom rugs which means one needs to have more than a couple rugs to have a clean one.

I learned to cross-stitch and embroider when I was 8. (I still have my first project. Some day, I should get it framed.) I learned to crochet when I was 13. But I didn't pick up latch hook until I was out of college. I had just wed and we needed a bathroom rug. In one of the many craft catalogs I received was the above kit. We liked the design and colors so we got it. I'd never done latch hook before. This was a lot of fun to do.

The rug is approximately 35 years old. That's right, 35 years old. The rubberized backing has long been gone and when I brought this up from the basement, I finally ripped off rest of the edging material. Compared to other rugs I have, this has worn extremely well. The backing kind of creaks when I unfolded it and dropped it on the floor. My friend, Meredith, said I should get those non-skid rug mats to put under my rugs. I think that would be a good idea for this.

I haven't done a latch hook project in some time. They were seen as chintzy, as a fad, much in the same vein as macrame. I did that, too, for a time, but you can only make so many plant hangers before there's nothing left to make. Yet crafting, of any sort, really doesn't go "out of style". It can be adapted to new tastes and new styles. The explosion of Etsy and Pinterest Internet sites prove that crafty people can find buyers for their wares as well as inspiration for future crafts. I look at crafts and think, "I can make that". But, as we all know, just because we can make it doesn't mean we'll find the time to make it.

In the vein of rugs, here is a living room rug three weeks after a washing.

It's cat hair that you see. We really haven't had the moisture to create copious amounts of mud in my back yard. It's quite interesting that, after a winter that took us .4 of an inch from the 2nd snowiest of all time, it melted slowly so there wasn't flooding and we've not had rain to speak of. I will give this a wash in a couple weeks to start May off with clean rugs. Pilchard has been attacking them so I know she likes them clean.

Beverage:  Water


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Really, Officer. It's My Jeep, Photo 18

On Friday, it was travel again, this time back into the city to be on a job I was at a week ago. This was to finish things up. I was talking with the co-worker who went with me to service equipment we have on the site. We feel like zombies, although we do have brains. "Braaaaaiiiinnnssss" It's more in the idea that we are pointed in a direction and we just go. We aren't even completely thinking. We have things memorized of what we need for any job, but we're all so tired because of the work load that, sometimes, little things on the periphery of a job are missed. This is a story about that.

I finished what I had to do on Friday. The job is east of the University of Chicago. It's a multi-cultural neighborhood with old homes, new homes, old apartment buildings, new apartment buildings, stores, shops, night clubs and pretty much any amenity you'd like in an urban environment. As a "safe" location in the city, it's pretty good. I still wouldn't leave valuables in my car and I'd lock it, but the old rusty Jeeps (*cough) fit right in with the Volvos and the Mercedes and the Audis.

As I was walking down the alley toward the street where I'd parked the Jeep, I couldn't find my car keys. I have a squeezeable flashlight on the key chain, (Love it! Just love it!), home and office keys. That's it.

I was carrying a camera bag so I stopped and searched all the pockets in the bag. No keys. I searched my jacket and pants pockets. No keys. I tried to remember where I had been. I wouldn't have left the keys inside the building. I didn't remember even having them in my hand when I entered the building. Did I leave them in the Jeep?

There was a twinge of panic. I strode down the alley and crossed the street to the Jeep. What you see above is what I saw. Not only did I leave them in the Jeep, I left them in the ignition. But I did lock the doors. That, you see, is very important. Now, how was I going to get in?

Well, not to tell you how to break into a soft top Jeep, but this is what I did. I took off the rear passenger window. I now could just reach around and unzip the passenger window. That only works if the zipper for the window is on the passenger side of the window not, as mine was, up by the engine. I couldn't reach the lock. It was a good 6 inches too far from my reach. This is the part where not cleaning out the Jeep came in handy.

I grabbed the long-handled snow brush and tried to find an angle to push the lock to unlock the door. I couldn't get a good angle. I looked around. There was no way I was going to climb into the back seat. I'm not limber enough to do that. On the floor in the back, I spotted a long-handled ice scraper. The scraping part had broken off a few years ago. I think about tossing it because it's really not useful, but I never got around to it. Where the scraper part had attached to the handle and had broken off, there were these "wings", for lack of a better word. I was able to get one of the wings in the string tab of the zipper and pull it to open the window. Once it was open enough, I could get my hand in and unlock the door to get the keys. Then the window went back on and I could head back to the office.

It was only as I was driving out of the city that I realized one major point. My Jeep was still in the spot where I left it. If ever there was an invitation to a car theft, it was right there; keys in the ignition of a soft top Jeep. Never mind that this is 10:30 in the morning on a Friday. Hello? You want a car? It's right here. To say I was "lucky" is a huge understatement. Of course, there's rust and a cracked windshield and you need to know how to drive a stick, but the only thing missing was a neon sign with an arrow pointing to the Jeep.

Yet, when I was standing there removing the window, the only thing I thought of was how fitting it would be to have one of Chicago's finest, on patrol, drive by about now. He'd see this woman unzipping the back window of a Jeep. Would he stop and ask what I was doing? Would he believe me when I explained the dilemma? My one worry is that he'd look at me and say, "Riiiight, lady. Why don't you come with me to the station." It never crossed my mind that I could come back to an empty parking spot.

I was incredibly lucky. You can bet that I will check, 2, 3, 4 times now when I have to park the car and go to a job, to see that I have my keys. Murphy and his laws were kind to me yesterday. I shouldn't press my luck.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Splish Splash, Photo 17

There is maintenance in providing water for wildlife. You can just toss a birdbath out onto the deck and fill it whenever you see it getting low. That can work. The problem is, a bathing bird will introduce all sorts of stuff into the water.

It's gratifying to me that the birds are coming to my yard specifically for the bird bath.

I've mentioned it before about robins but they are a messy bird. Cardinals and other birds don't seem to let the water fly when they are bathing. Robins are like a big ol' soggy Golden Retriever. "Let me shake all this off and who cares where it goes." They will also poop in the bath which doesn't lend itself to extremely sanitary water.

It's recommended that water for the bird bath be left out for 24 hours which allows the chemicals we use to keep our water safe to evaporate. I have to admit that if I come home from work or notice, as I am today, that the bath is low on water, I'll just grab a pitcher and refill it. I figure the chemicals will evaporate better outside with sunshine than on the counter in my kitchen.

It's important to consider this aspect of providing water when I have others who wander by.

I keep the camera in the office with me when I'm here so I can take advantage of whatever I happen to see out the window. But they know. I can sit here and watch them, but the second I pull that camera up to take a photo, they are off. I was lucky on Thursday afternoon, however.

I'm going to call it a year for trying to take squirrel photos at the bird bath. I don't think I'll get a better one. They came even in the winter when the water was frozen solid and "getting a drink" meant gnawing on the edges of the ice block. So they have to be thrilled, in their own way, that there is liquid water available now.

You see the thing floating in the bath. That's a pinecone. I have no idea how it got there because there isn't a pine tree near this section of the house, but it's there.

I need to thoroughly clean the bath. There is algae in the dish along with the pinecone. I should thoroughly scrub it without using soap. I have got a stiff bristle brush which would do the trick. It kind of reminds me of a miniature pond, algae and other stuff floating in it.

So, I think that will be this weekend's task, in addition to all the other things I have on the agenda. Time to make it green only because that's the color of the plastic.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Spring Has Sprung, Photo(s) 16

Finally. I don't remember the crocus taking this long to bloom. 

Amongst the debris from the end of fall and what was deposited over winter, my crocus seemed to take a very long time to sprout and then bloom. They are quite compact and really need to be lifted and spread out along the front of the house. I worried that they had been killed by the wicked winter and the heaps of snow. But no, a week ago, I saw the edges of leaves and then the flowers. They were just after peak on Wednesday and today, they look ratty and spent. 

Nearby, I had the beginnings of hyacinths. 

Again, both the blue one above and the white one below should be lifted in the fall and replanted. 

The whole of the front flower bed should. It's overgrown and weedy and there are things in the bed I'd like to get rid of. But that's for another time, a later date. Right now, I am happy to see these. It means that in spite of the brutal cold, spring is here. 

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Aussie Goodness, Photo(s) 15

Part of the purchases on Sunday at The Fresh Market were these two items. I bought the licorice because I have a World of Warcraft friend, Amber, who lives in Australia.

It's not a healthy supper by any stretch of the imagination but I was so tired that I decided this was it;  fast, with sugar for energy. It didn't work. I was still way tired. I think it's coming down from the adrenalin rushes of the past month. But here are my impressions of these.

The licorice. First of all, they don't spell "licorice" correctly. (snicker) Second, it was not at all like the licorice I'm used to here.

The first thing I noticed was the instant smell of strawberries. My typical strawberry licorice doesn't emit an odor you can detect when you open the package. I smelled strawberries. In fact, it was more strawberry than the organic strawberries I have in the fridge.

Second, this was almost like fruit "leather". If you don't know what that is, it's pureed fruit, spread out and dried, then cut into strips. It's reasonably easy to make at home and is a great way to use up excess fruit when it's in season. You can control the amount of sugar and other additives. There's no high fructose corn syrup in this licorice, but the other ingredients were similar to what I've seen on American licorice packages.

The taste was superb. It was easy eating. The pieces actually melted in the mouth and the strawberry taste was through the entire piece. It could become my new favorite strawberry licorice if it wasn't so expensive.

Now for the root beer.

This was interesting because I didn't buy the beverage because it was made in Australia. I bought it because it was cheaper than similar beverages and I wanted some soda. (It was very interesting to me that this store carried Coca-Cola but no other mainstream soda and nothing else from Coke's extensive product line. There was no Sprite or root beer, just Coke.) After I got it home, I realized it was Australian.

The first thing I noticed was the pop top.

The pop top itself dates from 1959. It was invented by a guy who struggled with opening a bottle of soda one handed. When he invented the pop top, sales of beverages in aluminum cans skyrocketed and gave us one of the best songs ever.

"I blew out my flip flop
Stepped on a pop top.
Cut my heel had to cruise on back home."

From that humble invention, which lent itself to so many projects and cut heels, we moved to the pop top that doesn't leave the can without major effort. I'd never seen this kind of opening device before. As the tab says, you pull up, peel back the aluminum and underneath is a plastic ring that pops open with an audible pop.

I don't get around much so perhaps these are on beverages in the US, but this was new to me. It opened easily, even for someone with arthritis, but was a complete seal.

How did this taste? Well, first of all, I was surprised this was from Australia. In 1996, we made our last visit to England to see my late pen-pal and her family. We took with us a can of A&W Root Beer because we'd read that root beer is not found in the UK. We chilled the can for 24 hours and then sat around the table giving them a sample. They were not impressed. "How can you drink this stuff!?" was the consensus.

It's a matter of what you've grown up with. "Root beer" is an American creation born of the desire to have something to drink but not having familiar ingredients at ready disposal. Recipes abound on the Internet for making your own root beer. (Note: I have not tried the recipe linked. I merely linked it so you can see the ingredients used for root beer made with roots. Some recipes use a "root beer extract" and not the actual roots. This article explains which roots actually go into the drink.) The ingredients are not found in England. Settlers made do as people will and created a uniquely American drink. To have something like this from Australia was going to be an experience.

It's not sweet. I have to admit I was expecting the taste of current American root beer and this was not. The initial taste was bitter. I thought, "Crap. I'm going to have to pour out all 4 bottles. This is not what I was expecting." It wasn't, but several sips later and I realized I was tasting root beer as it used to be, before the advent of high fructose corn syrup. Sugar based root beer always had a slightly bitter taste to it, that was something of the appeal. That's why it held up so well in root beer floats. The bitter complimented the sweet of the ice cream. The more I drank, the better this became.

I tend not to drink things immediately. A mug of tea will last me a couple hours and I'm drinking room temperature tea by the time I get to the bottom. The same is true of soda. Even on a hot day, which is just right for an ice cold Dr Pepper, I won't drink the whole thing at once. This root beer is best when it is cold. At room temperature, it's more bitter and less blended in flavors. It was still good, but less so than it is cold. I don't have any vanilla ice cream, but I'm considering getting some to try it in a float. This brought back memories of family picnics, summer night spent sitting on the front porch stargazing, hot August days where the air just didn't move, fireworks and the sound of Minnesota Twins baseball games on the TV. It hearkens back to a different era for me.

It's too bad these are so expensive, but then, it's probably good they are. I'm not inclined to have them always in the house.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Go Away Already, Photo 14

Monday at 5:15 p.m.

This was snowball snow, heavy and wet. I remember how excited I was to see this last November, when it was a dry, powdered sugar-like snow. Now, it's just angst producing.

On Tuesday morning, it was an inch worth and it was pretty, gleaming in the morning sunshine.

It's the kind of snow you want on your Christmas card.

Except this is April and we're looking for warmth, not snow. I found the look of the snow on the front grass interesting, kind of bubbly.

The weather people made an interesting comment on Tuesday's news. Chicagoland is .4 of an inch away from the 2nd snowiest winter on record. Although we are going to have mild temperatures next week, the idea that snow could still come is in the back of my mind. I remember snow as late as Memorial Day. It didn't stick but it was in the air.

Some records we look on with pride. This is not one of them. Old man winter, it's time for you to go rest. I don't need a white Christmas in 2014. I'm good, really. Thanks.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2014 Book 4

This book has been in the stack for a long time. It was purchased when the Field Museum had an extensive exhibit on chocolate many years ago. I've read Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner, which is a fantastic read about the early rivalry between Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars. The author of that book was able to gain access to the highly secretive worlds of both companies. Although out of print, if you are at all interested in why these two are at the top of the heap, then search it out. I might still have my copy kicking around somewhere.

Therefore, when I saw this in the Field Museum's gift shop, I thought it would be the perfect complement to the current history of chocolate, meaning the 20th Century. Let's go backwards and read about where chocolate came from.

It's probably not fair to compare the two books. Brenner's book is more topical. You can wander any grocery aisle and see the objects of her tome. This book sets out to be more scholarly, tracing chocolate back as far as records will allow. That is both a strength and a weakness.

If you are interested in historical accuracy, this book will appeal. It took me a month to read it because it felt like the book of a required class. The original author, Sophie Coe, died before she could write it. Her husband, Michael, assembled the book from her extensive notes and research. The bibliography alone, was some 20 pages. If I were taking a class on the history of foodstuffs, this is a book I would expect to be on the syllabus. It's not something, unlike Brenner's, that would go stale quickly. Brenner ends with the current crop of Mars children who run the company, so it will be somewhat dated. As this book goes back to the Mayans, there aren't named people around to date it.

Coe did an incredible job of research. I can't imagine anyone finding anything else in the historical records to illuminate how cocoa was grown, used as money, and assimilated into European culture. The only thing would be more accurate translations of Mayan and Aztec pictographs. Coe admitted that some things scholars just don't know and this includes the pervasiveness of cocoa in Mayan and Aztec life.

The book goes to the 19th Century in tracing how chocolate, both as a drink and as an element in eating, took over Europe. Essentially, we have the Jesuits to thank for chocolate going from Mexico to Spain and then Italy. It didn't really catch on in the far East; Japan, China, India; as they had their own culinary creations and trade did not include chocolate for a long time.

There is a discussion of how different chocolate is today with what it was like when the Spanish conquered Mexico. There is a company, chocovivo.com, which is making chocolate the way the Mayans and Aztec made it at the time of Cortez. Having read this book, I stumbled upon the web site through an unrelated article in the May 2014 issue of Cooking Light. Reading about the process they use to make their chocolate was like reading the early chapters of this book, although in a much more friendly style.

I think that's my biggest gripe about this book. It's overly scholarly. Michael Coe mentions he is trying to do his late wife justice by writing the book, "but I lack her humor". At times, I felt like I was slogging through cocoa liquor. Am I enlightened? Yeah, a bit, but retaining all of the information in the book is just not going to happen. I felt like I should expect a quiz at the end of each chapter. This is not a book for popular consumption.

It has left me with a desire to learn more about the Jesuit order. They have a bad rap for things like the Spanish Inquisition. I feel as though I should learn more about this Catholic order to know more about world history. The Jesuits and the Dominicans hated each other but both were instrumental in the preservation of what little Aztec and Mayan culture they came upon by the time they made it to Mexico. It was intriguing to me to read that both orders decried the use of the native population to work on the chocolate plantations. Unfortunately, this led to the importation of African slaves. They didn't seem to have a problem with that.

The other thing that struck me and which I'm sure has been rued, is how Cortez decimated the local culture. It is known there was a huge oral history among the Aztecs when he came to what is now Mexico City. In slaughtering the rulers to feed his greed, he destroyed this history. For instance, native "doctors" utilized thousands of plants from the jungles around the city. They knew what each plant could do with regards to its medicinal value. The European medical model at the time was frozen, attached to the ancient Galean model of 4 humors of the blood; wet, dry, hot and cold. This was woefully outmoded. How much farther along our medical advancements might have been had this information not died with the scholars. At times like this, you sort of wish for a time machine, to go back and grab the information and attempt to get it placed somewhere that future generations would learn from it. 

While this rumination is interesting, it's a fault of the book. The author tried to shove everything his late wife found between the pages. In getting people to adopt cocoa as a drink, it had to be shown that it helped one of the humors, but the author spent a good 5 pages explaining early medicine, tracing its history to the time where chocolate had made its way to Spain. Was there no editor handy to say, "This is interesting, but condense it."? Again, this kind of thing is found in a scholarly tome and not a book you'll pick up off the stack at the local bookstore.

This will be added to the give away pile. I can't say that I'm glad I read it. I'm glad it's out of the to be read stack. Perhaps, down the road, I'll stumble across something and it will trigger a memory of reading this book. Compared to the three previous books, this was an effort to get through. Now on to book #5.

Beverage:  La Croix Cran-Raspberry seltzer


Walk This Way

So I bought these sandals with an eye toward wearing them to the office in the summer when I know I'm not going out, to wearing them under jeans where casual is good, but I don't want to wear my flip flops. I figured, with a vacation peering just over the horizon, I'd better figure out if they really were okay. Sunday, with the mild temperatures, was the day to try them out on a few errands.

You know what? I'm going to really enjoy these. With or without a sock, they feel great on my feet. They are lightweight but sturdy enough for me. I like the tread which feels secure walking through a wet parking lot. I'm also thinking these are sturdy enough to be worn on a daily walk, particularly when it's rainy.

The hardest part is getting into them because there isn't a tie. It's an elastic band that adjusts to your foot size. This is a huge plus even though I have to figure this out to get into them a bit quicker.

These are a wonderful addition to my wardrobe. I should look at the shoes I have and give away a pair I don't wear. Maybe it's time to get rid of the red heels.

Beverage:  La Croix Cran-Raspberry seltzer


Monday, April 14, 2014

It's A Market, Not a Grocery, Photo 13

There's no shortage of places to buy foodstuffs around here. That's the beauty of living in a reasonably well-off suburban area. Choice is abundant, even if you want to drive a little.

In February, a new grocery store opened in a new strip mall on the site of a former Chrysler car dealer.

The place I go to get my hair cut is to the right, out of sight. A Firehouse Subs shop is off the photo to the right and a dry cleaner with dry through pick up is at the far left of this strip mall. In terms of use, this is not a bad use of the space. There are still three vacant storefronts, but there are so many empty spaces along this stretch of roadway that it will be interesting to see if these fill within the next year.

I had a list of items I needed so I felt this was the time to check out this place. I've seen them around the Chicagoland area but never been in one. The first thing to notice is the cart area.

I've mentioned how I like the little carts. I don't spend as much and they are easier to load and unload. Well, the carts to the left are just two baskets on a rolling cart. I was not impressed. It felt cheap, like they couldn't be bothered to buy real carts.

This is a European-style market. It's similar in scope although not as big, as Whole Foods. They sell organic or niche items here. All the produce, which looked great and was competitively priced to Mariano's, was listed as organic. They have daily specials which are listed on a chalk board at the front of the store. I thought the ones for Sunday were on par in terms of price, with anything I'd seen elsewhere.

They have no prepackaged meats. There is a meat counter where you get what you want packaged to order. I'm used to this because I shopped at Whole Foods and it's what I grew up with. The meat looked very good. There is a small bakery, but I liked their offerings. Look!

Hot cross buns. They are good and they are the only ones I think I will find this season. Panera is not selling their version this year.

In store bakeries can seem to cater to the sweets department. Mariano's is three cases of donuts, rolls, cakes and cookies. Whole Foods has a sweets section but they do have a larger assortment of breads and rolls. Fresh Market's bakery area was small but had more artisan breads and rolls than sweets. I wasn't in the market for bread this trip but when I am, then I will critically look at their offerings.

They have a large prepared food area and a small, but functional salad bar. On the whole, the store is smaller than Whole Foods but offers similar items. I love the lighting and the look of this store. I don't like Mariano's lighting. It's too fluorescent. It's not a pleasant experience to be in the store. But it has things like cat food and kitty litter and Spam and dish soap and Mom's Best Cereal that Fresh Market doesn't carry. There is no pharmacy and, unlike Whole Foods, there isn't a section near the prepared foods devoted to holistic living, with any kind of herb or vitamin you could possibly want. There was half an aisle and I didn't look very much because I didn't need anything from there.

I came home with fruit, flour and salt, and impulse purchases, like the hot cross buns. This is surprisingly good.

It's too expensive to be consumed at any but occasional times. I'll stick with my LaCroix flavored water, but this comes in watermelon flavor which I will have to try. This was on sale for the same price as a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

I know I've had gelato but not recently. There has been this craving for ice cream lately. I'm giving this a try. There are other items which will merit their own posts in the future.

The bottom line is that while I like this store, for how it looks and how it feels and the fact that it doesn't play old rock and roll over the speakers, it's not a daily stock-up store. I'm still going to have to go to Mariano's for kitty litter. There was no section devoted to pets. It's on the way home. I pass it most every night unless I go the back way. I can see myself stopping there for fresh fruits and veggies and, once I look over the meat and prepared foods cases, getting those items there, too. I like that it's similar to Whole Foods and closer to me. That's an incentive to eat a bit healthier, a bit. The vegetable drawer in the fridge will always be, I fear, a secondary composter.

Beverage:  La Croix Cran-Raspbearry seltzer