Monday: Amarok Endorses…

Posted by shana on Apr 6, 2009 in Monday Product Endorsement


1. Napping

2. Winking

3. The awesome new quilt my mom made us


Happy Monday.

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Monday Endorsement: Becoming Rod Stewart?

Posted by shana on Mar 30, 2009 in Monday Product Endorsement

Today I was going to endorse the Chicago Art Institute’s current special exhibit, “Becoming Edvard Munch,” and particularly, I was going to endorse going to see it with a buddy you haven’t hung out with in a while, as I did on Friday.  


Munch, one of Oslo’s most renowned artists from the turn of the last century (bonus points to anyone who can name another without wikipedia-ing it), is best known for his famous “The Scream,” a really depressing but really striking representation of, well, existence, I guess.  Anyway, I went to the museum dedicated to his work when I was in Oslo a couple summers ago (because besides eating fish and buying little troll figurines, there’s not a lot else to do in that town…), and I was surprised by how much I liked a lot of his stuff.  So I was glad when this exhibit came to my new town. 

The exhibit featured stunning works by Munch and a few by his contemporaries (Monet, Gaugin, you may have heard of some of them?) and is all about his development as an artist throughout his life.  I was disappointed to learn about his unfortunate femme-fatale obsession, like so many of those hopeless late 19th century artists, novelists, poets, etc (Baudelaire, anyone?).  Seriously, guys, get over it.  But other than that, I was quite pleased with the exhibit and glad I went. 

I was further going to endorse getting you butt down to the Art Institute anyway, before they raise their entrance fees again.  Ouch.  Tough to move anywhere from DC, the city of a million great free museums, but still, tacking on another 50% seems like a lot… 


Anyway, all of this was in my head, including that picture of the ad I took downtown so I’d have something visual on the blog (no photography allowed in the exhibit, bummer), when I heard a song coming out of Mac’s office.  And then I heard it again.  And again… 

Apparently, it’s been in his head for weeks, and he apparently does this every now and then – play it over and over – it’s just that this is the first time I’ve been home for it.  

The song is: Forever Young

He listens to the (original) Alphaville version, even though it’s Rod Stewart whom you’re most likely to hear singing it on your favorite local light rock station, of course, among many others who’ve covered it as well.  Who’s ever heard of Alphaville? 

So I decided, what better case for endorsement is there than Mac happily bopping his head and singing along at work all day?  And there you have it: Forever Young it is.  Happy Monday. 

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… and we’re back! Let the Monday Endorsing begin!

Posted by shana on Mar 23, 2009 in Monday Product Endorsement

Today, after just getting back from a lovely weekend in DC, where the weather’s not much warmer than here but warmer enough, and where the sun was sunning, and the flowering trees flowering (my favorite thing in the world)


… AND with us having crossed that oh-so-certain but sometimes oh-so-far-away line that is March 21, I cannot help but endorse: Spring

As if we have a choice, right?  It’s not like you can choose Spring, so I don’t know that I can technically endorse it, but wow, I’m so ready I don’t even care.   Our weekend in DC really got me in the mood – warm weather, birds chirping, daffodils, crocuses, tulips, farmer’s markets and flower stores, heavy coats and scarves left in the back of the car… man oh man, Mac even got a sunburn on the back of his neck Sunday afternoon!  Here are some pictures from our completely lovely time at Frager’s Garden Center (those in DC should check it out, if you haven’t already) minus – don’t worry – any kind of photo documenting of the back of Mac’s neck: 

Oooooh, you want it, don’t you?  It’s sooo pretty.  Right down the street from your house, don’t you want it??  Colors!  More than just “dead grass green” and “dirty white” and “really dirty white”!  Pink!  Red!  Blue!  And that’s just the watering cans!!!  Oooh, you can just taste it now, can’t you?   Your mouth is watering now, isn’t it?  Well, that’s weird of you, because you can’t eat watering cans.  

At any rate, back here at home, crossing from March 20 to March 21 means that the days are now longer than the nights, and that we will, for the first time since we moved here in October, get sunlight in our north-facing windows (which far out number our other-ways-facing windows).  Once it stops being so cloudy, the cats are going to love it.  Cloudy and cold.  And rainy.  Once it starts actually feeling like Spring… 

Here in the Midwest we know to be patient, and we know not to let little set-backs take our eyes off the prize of a yard full of daisies and falling asleep on a picnic blanket while reading a book out by the lake… technically, snowstorms are totally fair game through about the end of April, and technically, we’re not supposed to complain, because that’s what we signed up for when we move to the Midwest (or never moved away).

So I guess if I’m actually endorsing anything endorsable today, it would be hanging in there, though it’s 48 and raining right now, though even next week’s weather forecast – next week where we finally get to see April – only has highs in the low 40’s.  Soon enough, soon enough, we’ll be dancing our way through our first farmer’s markets of the season, right here in Chicago, drinking our first iced lattes – outside with no gloves on – and popping our first allergy pills, but not minding one bit.  Hang in there, everyone.  The flowers are peeking up out of the ground already – grab your umbrella, your parka, and maybe your snow shovel, and see if I’m not right.  Soon enough. 


For the record, I am secondarily, but still very enthusiastically, endorsing “Frager’s Hardware,” “planting a flowering tree,” and “taking a vacation to a place you love to visit people you love where you’ve all got enough fun, free time to wander around together through a gardening store, reminiscing about all your favorite flowers-coming-up memories.”  And allergy pills, I’m also endorsing allergy pills.  

More news of our DC trip will be sprinkled throughout this week’s posts, I’m sure… we took a boatload of pictures, as would be expected.  For the record, “Spring” and all things associated just barely won out today over the very strong candidate, “having your good friend Megan Woods bake your wedding cake.”  Intrigued?  That just might pop up on Wednesday… stay tuned.

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Endorsement: safety first

Posted by shana on Mar 17, 2009 in Monday Product Endorsement

Tragedy struck at the Merriweather yesterday evening as Mac was preparing not just pictures, but a video, for the Monday endorsement, which was to be of “throwing wet noodles on the wall for your cats to jump at.”  Things were going along very happily until Rohn, in a moment of wet noodle fervor and zeal, accidentally attacked Mac’s hand instead of the noodles themselves, rendering Mac both in pain and disinclined to endorse an activity he now saw as potentially dangerous.  


What, I'm picking out a book.

What, I'm picking out a book.


I didn’t get home from work until after midnight, and now here we are, Tuesday morning, with nothing to endorse but safety first: no need to sacrifice your own personal well-being for the sake of the blog, no, not even for the sake of the blog…

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Monday Endorsement: Sharing

Posted by shana on Mar 9, 2009 in Monday Product Endorsement

Specifically, car sharing. 

But first:

Remember when driving was fun?  When we lived in places with wide open spaces and scenery and no stop lights or cars in your way?  Corn as high as an elephant’s eye zipping past at 55mph?  Before the guilt of superfluous carbon emissions took some of the joy out of a joyride?  Before we moved to Chicago?

I remember.  (Those of you who didn’t actually move to Chicago with us probably remember even better.)  Me and Daisy, my little (“little”) Eagle Summit Wagon, zipping around Iowa, downshifting to make it up the big hills by the river, eating pie in little towns 40 miles from anywhere else, pulling over on the shoulder to take pictures of the sunset…

those were the days

those were the days

I remember, but barely.  Here, driving is a nightmare.  It can take an hour to go the three miles needed to get to the freeway on a Saturday in December, for instance.  A really, really hellish hour.  There’s traffic, traffic traffic traffic, all the time!  No left turn arrows, lots of people running red lights (not that I blame them, it’s sometimes a matter of survival) and parking, oh sweet Jesus, Chicago just leased its parking meters to a private company (for the next 75 years, ???) in an effort to make a little money, and this private company went bezerk on fees: instead of paying a quarter to park for an hour at most meters, starting last month parking rates doubled, tripled and quadrupled, with meters in the neighborhood downtown where I work now demanding 14 quarters for an hour.  That’s $3.50 (or two full loads of laundry, depending on the specific value you place on quarters).

At any rate, there are a million reasons not to drive, not the least of which is that it’s just not necessary.  Usually.  The vast majority of the time, even.  Of course I endorse biking, and public transit, walking, and good ol’ fashioned staying in your own neighborhood – no need to drive 40 miles for pie anymore when our neighborhood is so inundated with delicious bakeries… 

But every now and then, you craigslist an end table from 2 miles away that would be just a bit too much to carry on the bus.  Or you need to make a run to Hobby Lobby in the suburbs, the dead zone of public transport (alternative solution would be getting a Hobby Lobby in Lakeview, now wouldn’t THAT solve all our problems?!?!), or you’re closing at the cafe on Saturday night but your dad is speaking at church up in Milwaukee at 9 on Sunday morning, and between midnight and 8 there just aren’t any greyhounds, amtraks, or metras going your way… it’s times like this that you maybe do need a car, but not to own, just to share

igocarEnter I-Go Car Sharing, its fleet of cars waiting in strategic locations around the city (one right across the street from our apartment!), its array of flexible and affordable monthly/yearly plans, and its super helpful and friendly staff, on call 24/7.  It makes a lot of sense: I only “need” a car for, say, 5 hours in an average month.  So why not let other people use it for the other 715 or so hours instead of having it just sit there, expensive to park and a risk for break-ins and accidents?  

I can reserve a car months or minutes in advance – there’s almost always one available nearby – and I don’t have to worry about paying for parking, insurance, or, get this, even gas.  It’s all included.  And sure, I can’t store my umbrella and my lunch leftovers for the last couple weeks in the back seat, but with so many cars to choose from, it’s kind of like I own dozens of cars… I’ll say to Mac, “do you want to take the Civic today, or the Prius?”  Or the Honda Fit, or the Honda Element?  The silver Civic, or the blue one?  So many choices!  


You may have perhaps heard of Zip Car, a national car sharing program that works similarly.  We also have Zip Car in Chicago, and I do support their mission as well, but we chose I Go because it’s a non-profit, and because it’s Chicago.  Their goal is to make car sharing an integral part of the public transit system, and to that end, they work with neighborhoods and with the Chicago Transit Authority to ensure that people can get around to wherever they need to go, whenever they need to go, without having to own a car.  They’re also interested in turning the freed-up space and resources (owning a car can cost up to $7300/year in Chicago, I Go membership starts at $50) to foster growth in Chicago communities.  Says their website, “We expect that lower car ownership would free up resources that could be used to increase home ownership and business development in our region.”  Talk about big picture dreaming, hey?  I like big picture.

I really do strongly believe that the freedom to live without having to own a car is a birthright.  Furthermore, life without a gas and money guzzling weight on your shoulders shouldn’t seem impossible, it should seem normal, and it should definitely seem liberating, particularly in a big city like Chicago.  I Go Car Sharing is making that dream of not owning a car a reality for us and hundreds of others.  For that reason I heartily endorse them this Monday afternoon, for that and for the little glimmer of a thrill I get on those rare occasions when Lake Shore Drive isn’t so crowded after all and we’re flying on down the lake, faster than the busses… it does feel good.  I remember.

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You thought Chicago was cold and snowy

Posted by shana on Mar 3, 2009 in Monday Product Endorsement, biking

Yesterday was the first of March.  March is the month of the year where the light part of the day finally gets longer than the dark part of the day.  March is the month where crocuses start popping up through the ground, because March is the month where things melt.  Finally.

Nevertheless, March was in like a… well, like a snowstorm in December.  And I was out on my bike, of course, opening at the cafe and watching the sun rise through the gusting, blowing snow.  



Which brings me to my Monday Endorsement: Up In Alaska: Jill’s Sub-Arctic Journal.  Again, it’s not a product, but a blog, and a really super awesome blog at that.  About a year ago, I happened to stumble across this blog, where a writer/extreme winter mountain biker named Jill was recounting her recent success on the Iditarod.  That’s right, the 1100 mile dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome, recently featured in a rock-star documentary by the Discovery Channel (which I also endorse, but only indirectly in this post).    But get this: if running a team of 16 dogs through interior Alaska isn’t crazy enough, there are people, like Jill, who bike it.  And people, like her boyfriend Geoff, who run it.  And others (whose blogs I don’t read) who ski it.  There’s a finish line 350 miles along in McGrath, where most people call it a day (or five or seven days, more likely), and then there’s the finish line in Nome, yep, 1100 miles up the road, and every year a couple people bike, ski, or run all the way there.  They call it the Alaska Ultra Sport.

Ever since reading her riveting account of her 2008 Iditarod run, I’ve been both anxiously awaiting the next Iditarod and also reading her blog every single day.  She lives and trains in Juneau, where she bikes year round, even in the winter, particularly in the winter.  She sometimes logs over a thousand training miles in a month!  Yikes!  And I thought the seven miles to my tutoring job got kinda long… most of all she takes breathtakingly stunning pictures and posts them almost every day: 

mountains over Juneau, courtesy of Jill

exhibit A, courtesy of Jill's blog


The Alaska Ultra Sport finally kicked off yesterday, with much fanfare and about 8 inches of fresh powder, as I understand from the updates I’ve been reading eagerly, which is actually really not helpful when you’re on a bike.   

If you, like me, think this is pretty much the coolest possible sport ever, way cooler than pro football and stuff, and you’d like to follow along with me and with all the other extreme winter mountain biking fans out there, you can check out their “latest news” page.  

Very sadly, upon checking the latest news this evening, I learned that Jill, my winter biking hero and inspiration in the worlds of both cold weather bike rides and of blogging, stepped in some overflow water on the first night, got frostbite in her toes, and had to scratch out of the race.  Ah!  All the biking bloggers seem to agree that living to bike another day is smarter than pressing on because you’ve worked so hard to get there… but wow, what a bummer.   I’ll continue to read her blog every day though, and her boyfriend Geoff’s blog (he’s an ultra marathon multi-champ, wow!)  and I’ll continue riding through the cold, snowy, windy streets of Chicago on my own bike, but with a renewed thankfulness for the lack of open water for me to have to cross without the aid of a bridge.  


Interestingly, and tangentially relatedly, one of the checkpoints along the trail, which seems to be exactly only that and nothing more, is Rohn.  Yep, our cat was named after a checkpoint on the Iditarod trail (or more accurately, he was named after a kid who was named after the checkpoint on the Iditarod trail).  Furtherly interestingly, Mac has just suggested that we move “Rohn” to his middle name and make his first name “Pepper” (very masculine) and his last name “Edwards” and then refer to him by his first and middle names and last initial.  You do the math.  That will be Mac’s contribution this evening.  I don’t know that I endorse it.  



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Monday Endorsement: finding some S.P.A.C.E.

Posted by shana on Feb 23, 2009 in Monday Product Endorsement

I’m very proud to announce that our first ever Monday Product Endorsement is not a product at all (as you probably noted given the awkward omission of the word in this blog title) but a place: SPACE in Evanston, IL.

One of the biggest perks of being a fan of kind of obscure folk singers is that (if they tour) when you go see them in concert, you’re one of a couple hundred at the very most, never one of a couple thousand, or a couple hundred thousand, for that matter.  Case in point: last night Cheryl Wheeler played at SPACE, a fortunately pronouncable acronym for the Society for the Preservation of Arts and Culture in Evanston (imagine if they had been, say, the Group of People in Evanston Who Like Artsy Stuff, for example).   Cheryl Wheeler is one of my absolute favorite artists ever ever ever.  From hilariously insightful to heart-wrenchingly true, her lyrics tell stories and paint pictures, and her skillful and beautiful guitar playing carries them with me everywhere I go.  I fell in love with her during my junior year of college while dogsitting for a favorite professor of mine who owned some of her cds, and this is the third concert of hers I’ve been to.


And yeah, she always looks kind of like this: moppy hair, grey-ish t-shirt and sneakers, and she makes funny little faces while she sings.  And she’s like 60.  But once you’ve gotten over those aspects of this picture, I hope you notice the close proximity from which it is taken.  Now get this:  I’m not using a zoom.  For real.  One of my very favorite musical artists ever, of all time, someone I hugely admire and love, within easy spitting distance of where I sat for two hours.  Easy!  Not that I would ever spit on Cheryl Wheeler.

Mac and I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at SPACE, with a small sign out front that read “Cheryl Wheeler @ 7:00″.  We went to get in line, as it was 6:30 and the concert was open seating, but found there was no line, or at least there wasn’t until we started one.  When they opened the doors, we had our pick of seats – about 20 small tables, only three rows deep, each surrounded by four chairs.  That’s it.  Capacity: 80.  We went straight for the front (obviously) and took our seats.  My jaw remained solidly dropped for at least five minutes, and I almost peed in my pants at least once, I was so excited.

Here are a couple more pictures of the venue:


The concert, of course, was amazing, hilarious, insightful, moving, perfect.  I love Cheryl Wheeler.  Mac loved Cheryl Wheeler.  This I had anticipated.  I endorse her every chance I get.  But we also really, really loved SPACE. What an awesome place to see a show!  Every spot was a good spot, and the extra super good spots (like the ones we had) weren’t hard to come by either.  Check out their website, see if anyone playing there looks interesting, and just go.   If you’re at a loss for what to see, I’d be more than happy to make recommendations (anyone free March 6?).

While I’m at it… if Cheryl Wheeler is ever in your neck of the woods, wherever your neck may be, just go see her too.

I’m so full of endorsements today!   This is going to be fun.

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