Saturday, October 31, 2009


Happy Halloween!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Real Life Scary

Its no secret we've been battling some illness around here for the past two weeks. Finn had it and got over it, I had it and got over it, Emma got it and didn't get over it. I suspected we'd been dealing with THAT dreaded flu, but we seemed to be managing our way through it. This week, however, after five days of fever Emma just wasn't getting any better. In fact she took a turn for the worse last night that really scared us. Today I took her in to see the doctor and it turns our she has the flu with a secondary bacterial infection and they hooked her up with this comically large bottle of antibiotics...I swear there has to be four full cups of medicine in that bottle. Despite the fact her Halloween plans are in the toilet, I have this crazy urge to dress Emma in tattered rags, wrap up those meds in a paper bag, and let her nap on our front porch during trick-o-treat...she could really terrify some kids dressed as a slumped over homeless alcoholic!
Alas, I will resist the urge, but the thought is funny and you can see I improvised just a little to amuse myself. Hey, I've been trapped in the house with sick kids for two weeks...believe me you do what ya gotta do to entertain yourself!
Sooo....about dear Emma...we will tuck her in, snuggle her up, and give her a swig from her big bottle twice a day until she is back on track. Seriously, we are keeping a very close eye on her; if she is not better by Monday she's going right back to the doctor.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkin Personalities

I love carving pumpkins and every year it seems the results reflect who we are.
Happy Haunting!

Hauntings Around our House


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In the Costume Vault

Fresh off my grand experience seeing Othello, I met my friend Bboots downtown today to check out the Joffrey Ballet's Costume Vault Sale. We sifted through rack after rack of costumes and quickly selected a couple of $2.00 scraggly old snow tree angel head pieces from the Nutcracker for our little angels. We discovered skirts that weighed at least 7 pounds and wondered how on earth slight ballerinas could manage such grace under all that weight. I selected a simple pink leotard and coordinating skirt for Emma. The skirt is labeled "Jurkowski" and our research has revealed she danced as principal with the company for more than 10 years beginning in the mid to late 70's. The leotard is labeled "Arthur" and Emma and I are fairly certain it belonged to Charthel Arthur who served as a principal dancer with the company until she left in 1983 and currently serves as a ballet master for the company. It certainly is nice to have a little piece of Joffrey history, but truthfully, I was shocked to find a costume Emma could actually wear as clothing...

How cute is this velvet coat?
It is beautifully crafted and fits her perfectly! It is a fantastic addition to her fall wardrobe.
I know it is hard to imagine and adult costume fitting a 12 year old so well, but ballerinas are a different breed!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pretty Girl

Sometimes I think we forget how gorgeous and wonderful Java is.
I remembered today.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


This morning we all headed to Lake Geneva to spend the day with my parents and my brother's family. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to take in some pretty spectacular fall color and enjoyed our outing to the pumpkin patch. My mom also made a fantastic brisket for lunch; it was a fantastic meal with delicious fall flavors to compliment our festive autumn family day.
Thanks Mom and Dad...days when we are all together are always some of my favorites!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


"So if Othello is this big royal guy, why does he show his love for Desdemona by giving her a napkin?"

"I don't know Emma, but I think the moral of this story is don't lose the napkin."

"Totally Mom, lose the napkin and people die."

The Joffrey Ballet
A Dance in Three Acts

Othello: Fabrice Calmels
Iago: Matthew Adamczyk
Cassio: Aaron Rogers
Desdemona: April Daly
Emilia: Valerie Robin
Bianca: Allison Walsh

In one word...PERFECTION.
Hands down this was the best full length ballet I have seen in my lifetime.
And that, my friends, is saying something.
Like a little girl, I didn't want it to end. The production made me gasp aloud.
Lar Lubovitch's production of Othello had it's world premiere at the American Ballet Theater in 1997 and flawlessly marries classical choreography with modern dance aggression. Based on the story by Giraldo Cintio published in 1566 and the Shakespeare adaptation from 1602, Lubovitch's Othello is utterly captivating. The choreography is heady and challenging, but the Joffrey dancers handled it all with grace and a level of conviction I simply cannot put into words.
Each and every dancer performed at a level that spoils viewers; Mr. Wheater is building a a trust in this company that is creating a force to be reckoned with.
My only regret is the show closes tomorrow and I can't urge everyone I know to check it out.

In the program Joffrey Artistic Director, Ashley Wheater, claims the 2009-10 season will make patrons understand why the Joffrey Company "is considered not only world renowned, but world-class." He is right. Cinderella is up a ticket.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Manna in the Hood.

The loaf of bread pictured above is one shining reason I love my community.
My neighbor baked it for my family.
Now ask me if I know this neighbor at all.
No, I do not.
I had my first and very brief conversation with her a couple of weeks ago. During the exchange she told me that she bakes challah every Thursday for her family and I mentioned how much I love fresh challah bread...simple but true pleasantries.
The next time I saw her she dropped of a loaf of her bread for the teacher's lunch. She slipped me a second loaf with a note that said, "Enjoy this with your family, Melissa."
How cool is that?
So tonight I made a batch of of my favorite chicken soup to go with my special loaf of bread. While I was putting the finishing touches on our dinner the phone rang. It was my next door neighbor and she was sounding quite under the weather.
I ripped off a piece of the challah and ladled a steaming portion of soup into a bowl and Leif walked it next door to Eileen.
We all enjoyed our meal...especially our loaf of delicious neighborhood bread.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chili for Teachers

This week is parent teacher conference week at Finn's school. I enjoyed meeting with his fourth grade teacher on Tuesday and I am happy to report Finn is doing very well in school.
On the Thursday of parent teacher conference week the Staff Appreciation committee puts together a soup lunch for our hardworking staff. It truly is an event that is the sum of its parts!

I love overseeing this heartwarming event with Jules and I am already looking forward to our committee's big event in May!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm :-/

In case you are wondering :-/ means perplexed.
And I totally am.

To begin this story, I am going to be up front about the fact I am cluelessly wrong about a great many things in this little world of ours...I mean confidently wrong. I am including three examples of my unique errors of understanding to help color your perspective on this issue...

I loved the movie Heathers when it came out in 1988 and I've watched it countless times. It wasn't until a few years ago, however, that I mustered up the courage and asked Leif what a "ginspoon" was. He asked me to use it in a sentence and I said, "You know like in Heathers when the girl says, 'Gag me with a ginspoon'? I've always wondered what a ginspoon is." And of course he said, "Um, Mel, the line is 'Gag me with a Ginsu.'" I blinked and he continued, "you know like the knife?" Well no, obviously I didn't know. I had spent almost 20 years silently pondering the meaning of a word I had inadvertently made up because I was too embarrassed at the thought of appearing uncool because my heatherspeak wasn't up to snuff.

We are lucky to live in a neighborhood filled with fantastic boutiques owned by equally fantastic people and I have not been shy about sharing my love for the Careful Peach. The Peach's owner, Karen Morovia, is just darling and she, not only outfitted me with jewels for the Inauguration, but also served as a stager on the the South Oak Park Style housewalk I chaired for two years. She has become my friend in the truest sense of the word and she and her husband have been guests in my home on more than one occasion. Sometimes I would hear folks mispronouncing her last name...calling her Karen Morava...and I would smugly think... those people can't really know Karen at all if they don't even know her last name is Morovia. A few months ago Karen asked me to post something about her boutique on my blog and I emailed the text to her assistant for approval. I received the following response...

What? Are you kidding me? For years I had plastered the name Morovia all over Oak Park...misspelling Karen's name in newspapers, in not one, but two well designed program books, on Facebook, and on this blog countless times. Karen Morava and I had a good hearty laugh when I outed myself as the great Oak Park name changer. I am happy to report I am still friends with good old whats her name.

In the 1980's a little band called 'Til Tuesday came out with a pretty recognizable song called Voices Carry. I always liked the song and liked singing it even more. I sing really loudly in the car and in 1996 Leif and I were driving through Chicago when the song came on the radio and I started belting out the lyrics..."Oh Oh Oh....hush, keep it down now, Christmas Carrie." Leif took one side long look at me and started laughing hysterically. For over a decade I not only thought the song was about a girl named Carrie, but I thought it was about relationship troubles during the holidays. Clearly, I had never seen the video. There isn't a damn stocking or wreath in sight.

Now these three tales are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my delayed learning, but I think you get the picture that this happens to me pretty regularly. And it happened today.
Leif sent me the following email today about making some after school arrangements to care for Finn because he is ill...

Nothing about this email seemed odd to me except the :-) near the end.
I asked Leif what that was supposed to mean and he told me it was a smiley face.
A what?
Suddenly I was having one of those moments...for months and months and months I have honestly been wondering how it is possible that so many people make key stroke errors involving colons, dashes, and parentheses. I am aware how close the T and the G are placed on a keyboard and how in an instant the sign off "regards" could become problematic, but I couldn't figure out how people could make a typing error involving the shift key. These little symbols were like the hanging chads on emails; it never occurred to me that the little buggers could mean something, but they do!
My God, this discovery is like understanding Pig Latin for the first time...and now I must learn to speak it. Use the key included below to decipher the following message...
I am a C=:-) who feels like a <:(































Smiley Face - Happy

Frown - Sad


Angry Frown - Upset



Yawn - Bored







Devilish Grin

Shock / Surpised

Wry Smile


Tongue Tied

You need a punch in the nose






Baseball Hat


Snake Tongue



Little Baby

Oh, I WILL master this new language.
In case you don't have time to crack the code on my message it says I AM A CHEF WHO FEELS LIKE A DUNCE.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


A friend of Brian's started a blog, or the pablog as it came to be known, on May 19th, 2008 , after his son, Pablo, was diagnosed with Wilm's Tumor; Pablo's dad discovered a lump on his back while giving him a bath. Sadly, six year old, Pablo, passed away earlier this year, but his father's desire to fight childhood cancer remained. Pablo's dad, Jeff Castalez, started the Pablove Foundation and is riding his bike across America...3,000 miles in 30 days to raise funds to provide fun and creative outlets in the hospital for kids battling cancer .
Chris and Brian will join up with Jeff in Texas next week to ride more than 280 miles in three days. Best of luck boys!
Please support Pablove Across America!
Every little bit helps.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Little Dish

I was simply thrilled with this little dish I created for an event I did this week-end!
Read about it at INSPIRE MEL.

Oven Use

I have been working on making pizza for my family during the week-ends and I think I am finally getting there with both my crust and cooking method. I discovered the pizza screen a while back and in the beginning I couldn't see the advantage of the tool, but I have been totally converted. I have taken to pre-cooking the un-topped crust on the screen until it is stable. I top the pie and side it off the screen directly into the oven. The result is crunchy thin crust pizza with just the right amount of chew! I made the pretty pizza above on Friday and the only thing that made the evening better was the dessert Emma and her friend Bell whipped up for us afterward...


1 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. unsifted all-purpose flour
2/3 c. Hershey's cocoa
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. (12 oz. pkg.) Reese's peanut butter chips
Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture. Stir in peanut butter chips. Chill until firm enough to handle.

Shape small amounts of dough into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet and flatten slightly with fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool 1 minute before removing from cookie sheet onto wire rack. Makes about 6 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Seal of Approval

While I was growing up my mom, like practically every mom in America, had a subscription to Good Housekeeping magazine. She would intermingle her issues with my Dad's copies of Sports Illustrated and display them neatly on our coffee table in a gender identified fan. I clipped my first picture of Princess Diana from Good Housekeeping in 1981, read countless "My Problem and How I Solved It" columns, picked up more than a few "Hints from Heloise," and generally loved sneaking a peak into the magazine I associated solely with maturity, motherhood, and home ownership. Good Housekeeping did not apply to my life, but it fascinated me, not because I needed to know 25 uses for hydrogen peroxide, but because that magazine taught me what issues mattered to my mom.
I recently turned thirty-five and absolutely nothing bothered me about taking this bold step toward middle age (whatever that means). In fact I am quite relieved I am in my mid thirties; I spent the better part of my 20's and early 30's feeling too young for my life and for some reason 35 strikes me as a very confident number. I am happy my number finally matches my circumstances. I have actually taken my 35th birthday as an opportunity to take stock of my life and decide what really matters and in some instances what I don't want. There were no surprises that came with turning thirty-five until today.
Just look at what jumped in my cart!
Yep, that is an issue of the magazine so iconic that it can put a silver haired butter pusher over 1/3 of the title and still remain recognizable. I have no idea what came over me; hello, I don't even like Paula Dean. Okay, I admit to buying magazines on impulse with alarming frequency, but Good Housekeeping? For heaven's sake I can justify swooping up a copy of Food&Wine, In Style, People, Real Simple...I can pretty much justify the purchase of every magazine under the sun other than Playboy, The Economist, and Good Freaking Housekeeping. Even though I am sure the magazine has kept up with the times, I have never thought of GH as current. Despite my childhood love for the publication, as an adult Good Housekeeping has always had a very yucky 1950's feminine mystique vibe about it.
There was nothing monumental about my purchase...I looked at the issue and thought, hey, I could read that and threw it in my cart. Who knows why I did it. Maybe I was attracted to the autumn color scheme on the cover, perhaps I was lured by the "anti-aging tricks for every decade" story, or it may have been the word THANKSGIVING screaming at me in bold letters...and then it hit me, maybe just maybe I am turning into my mother.
I poured over my issue of Good Housekeeping and except for the Paula Dean thing and a piece about out-of-stock wall paper, everything applied to my life in some way or another. Good Housekeeping is teaming with articles about spending less at the grocery store, making a lovely a turkey soup, avoiding illness, and talking to tweeners about mistakes smart kids make on the Internet. When I stumbled across the tip section and learned that you can indeed use hydrogen peroxide to pre-treat stains it occurred to me that Good Housekeeping is timeless. As long as there are wives and mothers of a certain age this magazine will have readers.

One of my favorite things about my mom is how she always has seemed pleased with her stage of life. From mother of little kids to grandma she has been generally comfortable in her skin and that truth is reflected in her confidence. It never seemed like she was trying to hurry her life along and has never wistfully longed to recapture the past...she lives in the present moment. My mom went through her Good Housekeeping phase and gracefully left it behind as her circumstances changed. Now she is enjoying the second half of her life among amazing friends and grand babies. She seems happier than I have ever known her to be.

So if my absent minded purchase of a timeless magazine indicates I am becoming more like my mother then I would say I am on the right path.
And that deserves the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Moving in Parallel

I am planning to attend this performance on Saturday!
Want to join me?

A unique dance concert celebrating two figures from Oak Park's history: Dancer/Choreographer Doris Humphrey and Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The program will include four historic Humphrey works dating from 1928-1931 and the premiere of a site-specific work choreographed for Unity Temple.

Saturday, October 17 & Sunday, October 18 at 3:00 pm
Unity Temple / 875 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL
$20 / $15 Tickets

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book It.

I just love it it when a fourth grader comes out of school on a Tuesday afternoon asking to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be taken straight to the book store!
The Book....
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
"Dog Days"
If you want to see your 7-12 year old son dive head long into pile of books, check out this series!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Not a Goldfish.

On an episode of Diff'rent Strokes Aronold refered to a "goldfish" in a bowl...

"Geez, that isn't even a goldfish. That is a rutabaga."


"Ummm...Finn, I think you mean Beta."

"Oh Emma, that's right. I do mean beta fish."

I honestly would have been trying to connect Goldfish to Rutabaga until the end of time had Emma not gracefully stepped into that conversation. Emma and Finn genuinely understand each other; they always have. This is an admirable trait between siblings and especially between a brother and sister as different as these two are. Their easy communication is one of my favorite things about their realtionship. For their sake and mine, I hope things stay that way forever.
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