Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ribbon of Highways; Endless Driving Days

Day One.  8:00am.  Starting out heading west from Chicago.

After 1 hour:  An old farmhouse west of the Chicago suburbs.

After 2 hours:  Western Illinois.

After 3 hours:  NPR and books on tape.

After 4 hours:  Iowa.

After 5 hours:  Lt. Organic Farm, serving fresh meals just off I-80.

After 6 hours:  More Iowa.

After 7 hours:  Iowa Wind Farms.

Just getting into Omaha.  End of Day One.

Day Two:  Heading West again!

After 1 hour:  Nebraska.

After 2 hours:  Nebraska.

After 3 hours:  Kearney Nebraska.

After 4 hours:  I'd eat meat from this farm.

After 5 hours:  Or this one.

After 6 hours, clouds seem exciting.

After 7 hours:  Getting into Colorado.

After 8 hours:  zzzzz

After 9 hours:  Colorado.

After 10 hours:  Rocky Mountains / Pikes Peak / Colorado Springs

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One of the the things that I love about Chicago is that it has history that you can see.  That might sound a little silly since it is definitely not one of the oldest cities I've spent time in, but I once lived in Dallas, and everything there is new - things don't get a chance to get old there.   The architecture is one of the best visible histories of Chicago and the view of the details on many of these old buildings is especially good from the el.  Recently though, on an episode of Chicago Tonight, I saw a clip on ghost signs in Chicago.  These are mostly painted advertisements on the sides of brick buildings that have withstood our harsh winters and now remain up, faded, and no longer advertising anything one can buy.

As an excuse to spend the last beautiful day of the season out enjoying the weather, I traipsed down to the loop to check out some of these signs that were featured in the program and to look for some others that I might not have seen before.  Here are a few of my favorites:

A very cool sign, Lyon and Healy used to deal with "everything known in music" since they opened in Chicago in 1864.  Now, however, they only make harps.  I see this sign every time I go to work!

This sign, for the Harmony Cafeteria, is in an alley just off of Wabash.  Obviously it was in use before the building next door was erected.  There were three of these cafeterias around Chicago and the following picture is a postcard I found online advertising the cafeteria.

The building that holds this Harmony Cafeteria sign was erected in 1881 and designed by Louis Sullivan.  Today though, I had to peer down the alley and squeeze past a truck in order to get the partial picture you see here.

The Century Building, at 202 State street once housed Romas Restaurant, which became Adam's in 1975.  It sounds like this restaurant was around the area since the beginning of the century - possibly closed for a while during World War II, moved a couple of times, and is remembered here in this pretty cool sign!  Apparently the building once held the tallest electric light restaurant sign, which spelled "Roma's Restaurant." 

I found this sign on the Southeast corner of Van Buren and Wells.   It looks like it says Kling Bros and Co, Klingmade, and Mackinaw coats.  Can you see it?  I found a mention of Kling Bros in a list of "manufacturers of union-labeled garments" in a 1903 edition of The Caledonian.  How fun!

 This one was also fun, on the side of a building at 302 South Wells.  It looks like it says "Perfect Soda Cracker" on top, and pictured here, "Uneeda," "biscuit" and the Nabisco sign.  In 1890, American Biscuit Company set up headquarters in Chicago.  In 1910, the company had a huge factory in Chicago to handle it's "uneeda" brand of goods.  Now we know it as Kraft, in the North suburbs.  Here is a link to an excellent blog with pictures of Uneeda Biscuit signs that help make this one more readable.

There are more.  All over Chicago.  Some easily readable, some almost faded completely.  And I must admit, I had a wonderful time, walking around with my eyes squinted down alleys and up the sides of buildings and my gaze on a past that is slowly fading.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This Season at the Lyric (so far)

I love going to the opera.  I got hooked on it in grad school and try to go to a couple every year.  I find that opera is a touchy subject with most people I.   For those of you who don't like going to the opera, I have prepared a little chart here to help change your mind.  For those of you who DO like the opera, skip the chart and read on!
There.  Now that we know that it is definitely worth it to go to an opera, let's talk about the operas that are currently out this season!  

I have seen two of the several operas out this season so far and they couldn't have been more different!  The first one was Macbeth by Verdi.  As expected, it was over the top in drama, it was pretty depressing, full of madness (thank you Shakespeare) and the music was lush and memorable.  There were only three singing parts and no tenor at all (yay!).  The soprano who played Lady Macbeth completely stole the show.  The sets and the costuming were great with simple, yet effective symbolism that would have made Shakespeare proud.  

A Midsummer Night's Dream couldn't have been more different!  There are so many characters in this story, so many scenes, and so much going on that it only made sense to throw in an entire children's chorus and a dog!  Britten is a 20th century composer, so the music may not be what you expect to hear in opera if you aren't that familiar with it (there are some great cello parts).  In fact, I saw several people walk out before intermission!  However, Britten is hilarious in the ways that he plays with our musical expectations and everyone involved in the show was fabulous.  The actor who played Puck had the audience laughing aloud!

The other operas out this season are Carmen (who wouldn't want to hear the Toreador's Song again??),


a Masked Ball (Verdi is always great for a stunning and moving opera experience), The Girl of the Golden West (Puccini is quintessential opera.  Italian.  You'll love it.), Lohengrin (Wagner.  Oh boy.  I've never seen any Wagner live.  Who wants to go with me?), and Hercules (as much as I'd like to see a Handel opera, this one has a modern take to it that doesn't thrill me).

the only one I wouldn't recommend is The Mikado.  It is a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and I personally find their work to combine the least likable characteristics of an opera with the least likable characteristics of a musical.  Stay home.  Go to a sporting event.  Play a video game.  OR..... go to the opera and enjoy it and prove me wrong!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

This book caught my eye multiple times in the book store (yes, I still go to book stores) and I didn't pick it up because I feared it would be meandering and oversimplified like some of Malcolm Gladwell's books.  But, upon seeing it on a friends' shelf when i was without book (!), I decided to give it a try.  I'm so glad I did!

While Lehrer gave many simplified examples for several of his arguments, or while he attributed too much to single people [see article from Slate], I didn't mind and found it to be easy reading while giving the reader enough to ponder.

The idea of this books is that many of the advancements made in neuroscience can be shown in example in the philosophies of artist long before science proved them (or even tried to prove them).

Some of my favorite chapters are:
  • The Essence of Taste, which talked about the discovery of umami and its pared down amino acid, L-glutamate, by Kikunae Ikeda, the savory cooking style of August Escoffier, and the finding of the exact receptors on the tongue for this particular taste in 2000.  Fascinating.  It also made me hungry.
  • The Method of Memory, which discusses how faulty our memory is, how the act of remembering changes our memories, and how Marcel Proust philosophized on this very subject in his "fiction."
  • The Source of Music, which discusses our mind's plasticity, especially when it comes to sound, the corticofugal network (awesome), which continually alters what patterns our sensory cells respond to, and Stravinsky's experiment of these very phenomena with his Rite of Spring.
  • AND The Emergent Self, which discusses teh quest of neuroscientists to find the self in the contradictory mess of our short-term memory, the "neural corelate of consciousness" (NCC for short - c'mon - really??) and Virginia Woolf's experiments with demonstrating these functions and the self's elusiveness in her literature.
This book is touted as a work that demonstrates how art trumps science, but I really see it as showing two sides of the same coin and how related the two really are.  Read this book and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another dinner with the neighbors

Because our neighbors are just the sweetest couple, and it isn't as much fun to cook for only oneself, we had another festive dinner last night.  The theme this time was Indian food.  Now, I don't know what region I was cooking from, or if I was serving up a gallimaufry of dishes from unspecified areas, but I think I had the spices and the music right.  And to this all-American crowd it wouldn't make a difference.

The Menu

Sauvignon Blanc


While the meal was good, it was the costuming that was tip top!  I can't imagine what the people across the street must think!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thank You Card for Megan

Well! Six and a half years ago I sent a thank-you card to my friend Megan, and I just found out that she never got it! Because sending her one now would be lame, and because I can't just let this go, I have prepared a more public and more poetic thank-you than the original one was.

It goes like this...... 

Do you like your new s'mores maker?
"Yes, I do!" said Aubrey Faith-Slaker

We use it when we're mountain biking
We use it when we're going hiking!

We use it with the coolest fellows
We can't get enough of those marshmallows!

We use it with our dinner guests
Especially when we're dining out west!

We take it with us on road trips
The chocolate and crackers go straight to our hips!

We used it with our new friend Joel
It's great because we don't need coal!

We use it first thing in the morning
We even follow the safety warning!

We use it when we're out of doors
We use it whenever we really want s'mores!

Though we didn't thank you, please don't be miffed
We really love our wedding gift!


Love, Aubrey and Monte

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

OPB & J, a quick review of a new restaurant

Nah nah nah nah nah! My lunch was better than your lunch!

I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

What? And I have the audacity to claim that my lunch was better?

Yes, I do.

This afternoon I tried out a new restaurant in town (Colorado Springs). It is called OPB&J for Organic Peanut Butter and Jelly. And all they make are sandwiches. It is an exercise in quick decision making when you're standing there at the counter - I imagine your sandwich could turn out really awful if you tried hard enough!

First you choose your bread. They had herbed, whole wheat, white, rye, sourdough and four different gluten-free options. Then you choose your peanut butter. Dark chocolate, molasses, Thai ginger, Chunky, and more that I couldn't even rest my eyes on because the next thing to choose is your jelly! Strawberry rhubarb, raspberry, ginger pear, and here is where my mind goes blank. Apparently, there are hundreds of combos to be made from the fresh, homemade (the peanut butter is in house and the bread is from a local bakery) ingredients. Available to add to each sandwich are fresh produce options - watercress, strawberries, chopped peppers, nuts.

Anyway, I got herbed gluten-free bread topped with Thai ginger peanut butter, ginger pear jelly, and watercress.

My husband got dark chocolate peanut butter with strawberry rhubarb jelly.

Each sandwich was accompanied by a carrot and a celery stick and wrapped in brown paper.

Cute. Smart. Delicious.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Diner avec les voisins

I'm only moments in Colorado and am already looking for extravagent ways of entertaining myself and the people around me. Tonight, to the crooning of Edith Piaf, Leo Ferre and Maurice Chevalier I shared a delicious dinner with my husband and neighbors (who are cool enough to have come in costume).

The Menu


Strawberries soaked in Cointreau

Lavender Gin and Tonic

We listened to classic French music, ate with gusto, and had great conversation, occasionally marked by shouts of "Vive la France!" and "I surrender!" from my husband's end of the table.

P.S. If you make this meal, save some of the mushrooms and with leftover mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese you can make a great egg white omelet, since you'll have six egg whites leftover from the creme brulee! Delicious.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Unfortunately, the title of my blog isn't something creative that I came up with on my own. It is the name of a book. Luckily though, it is an excellent book! I couldn't put this book down and I already want to read it again.

In a typical upscale apartment building on a prosaic fashionable street in Paris amongst the vapid elite live two notably interesting people. At first glance, one wouldn't notice anything exceptional about either of these
characters - and one probably wouldn't notice anything exceptional with a second glance. However, under further scrutiny, it might be noticed that these two characters are much more interesting and much less conventional than their stereotype suggests.

A concierge who understands philosophy and loves art masquerades as merely a concierge - and a little girl who is surprisingly insightful about both the importance and the triviality of much of what the adults around her are consumed with hides her concern and derision behind the fact that she is just a little girl.

However, these highly regarded characteristics are not hard to hide at all when nobody ever looks for them.

Read this book.

In other news: Bill O'Reilly doesn't like the fact that Jennifer Aniston thinks it is okay for single women to have children; Montessori School of Dentistry let's students discover their own root canal procedures (that's a lie - an Onion headline that I couldn't resist); Facebook is being urged to add "panic" buttons to all its pages by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP for short); and President Obama says the biggest threat to U.S. security is the possibility of terrorists obtaining a nuclear weapon. Go figure.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

I gave her lots of love.... and was usually pretty good about lockin' her up

Did I tell you that I got a new bike?! No?? I can't believe I forgot!

It took me a while to get around to the idea of a new bike after my last one had been stolen, and while there is great pride to be felt in walking everywhere if you can, there is a little bit of something (I'd say ease?) about getting there quicker on two wheels.

My new vintage (can those words really go next to eachother?) 3 speed cruiser came to me via Craigslist and grew up in the north suburbs with a good family.

Adele, as she is called, has opened up new worlds to me. So far I have learned:
  • that cruisers are for cruising - not for velocity (though two wheels are faster than two feet)
  • that Green street exists, and it gets you from the North 500s to the South 300s in no time!
  • that Karyn's on Green is open and I must go there
  • that dashing out to meet friends at a pub is easy when you don't have to deal with parking, sobriety or public transportation
  • that buses can't catch me
  • that everyone forgives you for what your hair looks like when you're carrying a helmet
  • that there is something called retro urban chic and I may have stumbled upon it
  • that on a bike, you have neither the safety of a walker nor of an automobile driver, but you have the freedom of both (as long as a cop isn't watching you)
  • playing the piano for 28 years doesn't make you coordinated enough to eat an ice cream cone and ride a bike OR text and ride a bike BUT you can go ahead and imagine that five-part fugue in your head as long as you pedal to the beat
Happy Summertime!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Suzerain (play a guessing game with me!)

Okay guys - word of the week: suzerain!

It is either:

suzerain (n) - an object that contains indentations, notches, or battlements

suzerain (n) - a style of buffet plates that can currently be found at Crate and Barrel

suzerain (n) - a nation that controls another nations international affairs allowing it domestic independence

suzerain (n) - none of the above, in which case, you must supply your own answer.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Poisonwood Bible

I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the time leading up to and following the political crisis - with Belgium, Congo Independence, and its desperate history under the name of Zaire. I really enjoy stories told from multiple perspectives and this one is told from the perspectives of Kingsolver's five main characters - the wife and four daughters of a misguided and staunchly dogmatic (is that redundant?) missionary.

I find Kinsolver's writing to be so thoughtful and poignant. I also find her characters to be believable even in such a foreign setting, as they grapple with their own weaknesses and day-to-day worries. I thought this was a fabulous book - a well-told story that created a picture of a world so remote and so different, yet filled with people we tend to encounter every day in any setting. I think the most dominant impression I'm left with is her message that you can learn something from everyone you meet.

I particularly enjoyed learning so much about the Congo, though after finishing this book, seeing that it was published in 1998 and knowing that war broke out in that same year in the Congo I feel, Herman Wouk-style, that Kingsolver needs to give us the second installment.

Just for fun, pictured on the left is an okapi. These animals came up in the novel and I have encountered many people who don't know what they are. They are closest in relation to the giraffe and are natives of Africa.