Nightmare on Wellington Street


So a couple of Saturday afternoons ago, The Boyfriend and I were sitting on a park bench in Lincoln Park.


No, we weren’t “eyeing the girls with bad intentions.”

It was just too beautiful a day to go inside and so we gabbed about nothing very important for an hour or so.


But as it neared 5 o’clock- the hour when my appestat goes off and wants to be fed- I got a craving for something snack-like.

Preferably with olives.

“Dinner’s not until 7:30. Let’s go over to Mariano’s and get some nibbles.”

The Boyfriend (an agreeable fellow at almost every turn) agreed.

So we got up off the park bench and slowly sauntered up Wellington headed to the new Mariano’s on Broadway.

Grocery Store Sidebar:  OMG.  Have you been there yet?  This place isn’t a store.  It’s a happening.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the happening.

TB felt in his pocket and…

“Damn it, I forgot my phone.  I left it on the bench.”

OMG! OMG!!!!!

We turned right around and headed back from whence we came.


Only this time we weren’t sauntering.

I can’t run because of an old ski accident injury.

But I broke into my best Walter Brennan imitation and hitched up the street as fast as my broken leg would take me.

As we neared the park entrance, TB spotted something.

“There’s a guy on the bench with a phone.  I bet it’s mine.”

I frantically started to signal to the man.

“The phone?” I called out while I was waving my arms at him.

He was smiling sweetly when we pulled up in front of him.

“I knew you’d be back,” he said as he handed back where it belonged.  “I had seen you two on the bench and I knew you’d return for it. ”

“I’m Ellen,” I said- holding out a grateful hand.

“I’m Josef,” he said as he shook it.

I detected a slight accent.

“May I ask where you’re from?”

“I’m from Switzerland,” he replied.

“It’s beautiful there,” I said.


“Yes, it is, but I live in Chicago now,” he answered.

I was glad that he did.

“It was VERY nice meeting you.”

TB thanked him from the bottom of his grateful heart (wouldn’t you?) and we turned and with chests still pounding from the awful “what if’s?” we started back west on Wellington.

So danke schön, Josef.  You single-handedly saved the weekend from turning into a complete disaster.

And now it’s on to my day job, a memorial service for my mother and a quick trip.

I will bring you up to speed, Dear Readers, when I return on Sunday, October 16.

And here’s hoping if you ever forget your phone, a “Josef” will always give it back to you..

Posted in cell phones, Lincoln Park | Leave a comment

Working Girl


In case you don’t recognize those big, bold red letters, that’s the auction house in Chicago that entrepreneur Leslie Hindman built.

It’s also my new place of employment.

Yes, Dear Readers.

I am learning the art of the re-sale from the ground up.

If you’ve clicked on the link above, you’ll see that Leslie deals in commodities like paintings, fine prints, maps, coins, watches, jewelry, rare books, couture and other wonderful objets d’art that make our lives more pleasant places to be.

And if you know me, you know that I have a keen interest in things like paintings, fine prints, maps, coins, watches, jewelry, rare books (oh, yeah) couture (now we’re talking) and other wonderful objets d’art.

So it’s seems like we’ve both made a good match.

Much of the merchandise that rolls into the House of Leslie got there through the “Three D’s.”

Death, divorce, debt.

I got there the exact same way.

However, until recently, these are the only experiences I’ve ever had with an auction house.

There’s this.

And this classic one.

Thus I started in the real world of bidding at the bottom.  I had only one way to go.


They certainly threw me into the deep end.  They started me on their fine jewelry previews.

This meant days and days filled to the bursting with jewelry dealers, woman- and men- who just loved bling, mothers and daughters shopping for Christmas and birthday presents, husbands indulging their wives, and everybody else in Chicago who loved jewelry and was looking for a treasure.

We had 1200 lots.  From priceless tiaras to baubles not worth more than a few hundred dollars.

And for days and days, I handed them over one at a time for people to peer at with loupes, weigh with scales, try on and try on me.

Most of these “inspectors” were repeat customers.  Savvy about the product and savvy about the process.  They didn’t ask me too many (dreaded) questions.

But every once in awhile I got a question I couldn’t answer.

“Was this ruby gassed?”

“Is this a Burmese sapphire?”

“Is this a good color for an amethyst?”


I went running to our curators for help.

And speaking of running, let’s now deal with my most vital piece of equipment for my new job.

It isn’t my loupe or electron microscope or winning smile or salesmanship or encyclopedic knowledge of all things trivial.

It’s these.


The first day I had worn these.


BIG mistake.  HUGE.

Oh, my achin’ back.

Luckily, my boss, Maureen (a doll in every way.  No, really.  A fabulous woman and so chic) took pity on me.

“You’re behind the cases all day.  Wear something sensible tomorrow on your feet.”

My other new colleague, Ann, also gave me great advice and went out of her way to be congenial.

It might be early days yet but I can attest to the fact that LH employees to a man have been kind, enthusiastic and helpful to this newbie.

They’re also wonderful-looking.

I’m not sure but I think HR at LH must use a casting agent to help hire the help.

The resumes may be chock full of MFA’s and former museum postings but 8×10 glossy head shots must have been de rigueur in the interview process, as well.

Everyone there is drop dead gorgeous.



And I’m old enough to be everyone’s mother.

But I hope I can bring something to the party and make them proud.

It’s going to be an interesting Chapter Three in my book of life, Dear Readers.

So stay tuned.

And drop by the previews and see me some time.

And if you’ve got a spare Rembrandt, a gently-used Warhol, a rusty old coin collection or Great Aunt Gertrude’s Charles James’ dresses to unload, get in touch.

May I hear the next bid, please.

Posted in Auction Houses, Chicago, Leslie Hindman, Work | 28 Comments

East of Edens


Before we go on on a trip down Retail Memory Lane, Dear Readers, let me beg your indulgence.  This will be my last blog post until Sunday, September 25.  I need some time off because yesterday was the first day of the rest of my life.

No, not what you’re thinking.  Not a new husband,

I got a job.  And it started on Wednesday.

It promises to be exciting, challenging, stimulating- and scary.  And I promise to tell you all about it when I return.

(But first I have to get my sea legs before I can write you all about it.)

So wish me luck and hang in there with me.  Thanks!

And now let’s go shopping at the mall.

In case you don’t recognize it, that’s Carson Pirie Scott peeking out of a very blurry old photograph of Edens Plaza.  For those of you who didn’t grow up on the North Shore, the old shopping mall- one of the first in the country, I think- was located at the corners of Lake Avenue and Skokie Highway in Wilmette, Illinois.

They tore down this version and built a new one in 1994.

But to those of us who grew up there, the old Edens Plaza was the setting for many of our childhood triumphs and tragedies and no other mall will ever take its place in our affections.

The old mall was filled with the ghosts of a more innocent, carefree time when both we- and the world- were still coming of age.

It was the place where so many of us bought our very first parakeet or goldfish.  Or 45 or dressy pair of shoes.

It was the place where so many of us held our very first summer job or watched our mothers try on a dress.

Come on.  Let’s go back to the old Edens Plaza.

Just close your eyes and pretend that your eleven years old again.  It’s summer, school’s out, and you’ve got three dollars in your pocket.

You look both ways before you cross your bike over the highway and you’ve promised your mother you’d come home before dark.

Are you ready?

Last one there is a rotten egg!

I’m hungry, aren’t you?  Let’s stop in at Belllringer’s Grill.  I don’t have enough money for a hamburger but they’re nice to us kids in there and they’ll let us split fries and buy Cokes.


(They didn’t have a jukebox at Bellringer’s. But this would have been playing if they did.)

Boy, that was good.  Now let’s go to Schmidt’s Bakery.  I know a girl who works there and I want a doughnut.


Hurry up and finish that brownie.  I want to go to the music store.  They’ve got this really neat glass room where you can play 45’s on the hi-fi and no one can hear you.  I can’t buy a record but maybe I’ll look at the sheet music.

(Here’s the first 45 I ever did buy.  I still have it.)

Now where?  Stineway’s Drug Store?  Ok.


First I want to look at the magazines and then I think I’ll buy some gum on the way out. Black Jack is my favorite. What’s yours?


I call the next stop! Woolworth’s.  I got Pete, my parakeet, there.  And Gunther, Algernon and Franklin.  They’re my turtles and they’re pretty cool.

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Let’s visit the makeup counter and try on some lipstick.  They’re got all the great Tussy colors.  Look at this hot coral polish.

And they’re got that new “Fire and Ice” lipstick by Revlon.  Wish I was old enough to wear it.


Check out these earrings!  Aren’t they neat?  Hey!  Put back that comic book.  If Mr. Fain. the manager, catches us he’ll call my parents and they’ll murder me.

Hey, this is cool.  A Duncan yo-yo.  I want one.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I promised my brother I’d buy him a pack of Topp’s baseball cards. Here they are.  I love how the bubble gum tastes exactly like the cardboard, don’t you?


Let’s skip Tailored Girl.  It’s way too grown up for me.  Carson’s Pre-Teen section on the second floor fits me just fine.

Don’t you love these madras bermudas?  And this round collar blouse is sooo neat.


I’m thirsty.  Let’s stop at the National.

My mother always shops here.


Heinemann’s pistachio cake is my favorite.  And Sara Lee cheesecake, too.


Oops.  I just tore my shoe lace.  I’ll race you to Phillip’s Shoe Repair.

Don’t you just love all these shoes dyed to match the bridesmaids’ gowns and prom dresses?

When we go to New Trier, I’m going to buy white silk heels at Chandler’s and take them here to be dyed aqua or pink.


What’s next?  You have to go to Schaul’s Poultry to pick up chicken for your mother?  You go in.  I

l’ll wait here.  I can’t stand seeing all those dead chickens.  When I grow up, I’ll NEVER cook chicken.  Too yucky.  I’ll just wait over on the bench by the bus stop.

Are you done?  I’ve got to go.  See you tomorrow.

Maybe we’ll try that new place.

Old Orchard.


Now low let’s turn on my little transistor radio and hear what would have been playing.

Posted in Childhood, Edens Plaza, Nostalgia, Wilmette | 14 Comments

Take Me Out

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Come on, Dear Readers.  It’s time to step up to the plate.

Play Ball!

The terrific baseball movie Bull Durham has been on my mind lately because the night of August 18, I went to the Kane County Stadium to watch the local A team, the Cougars, take on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

And last Tuesday night, I went to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Both games were terrific fun.

Let’s start with the Cougars game, ok?

Batter up.

In case you didn’t know it, the Cougars are the minor league team in the Midwest League and the Class A affiliate for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The Rattlers are the A Team for the Milwaukee Brewers.  And some of these kids we saw that night will go on to play in the Show.

They were good.

They weren’t the only thing that was good.

We had really great seats.  (Note price.)

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But more importantly, Thursday night at the Kane County stadium is this.

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Yep.  Thirsty Thursday.

Beer and hot dogs were $1.00.

Here was THE vital accessory for the fans that night.

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The cup holder.

I loved the mascots- Mr. and Mrs. Cougar- who ran the bases and generally clowned around.


And the peanuts.


And the Gatling t-shirt gun. That thing was awesome.


There were fireworks at every home run, a salute to the troops, the National Anthem enthusiastically sung by what appeared to be a local girl, and Mother Nature fully cooperated by providing a beautiful summer’s night.

The Rattlers won it 7-6. But the field was alive with the hopes and dreams of all these would-be major leaguers.


(I managed to make a few wishes on the moonlight myself.  It was that magical kind of evening.)

And now on the second game of this double header.

Tuesday night’s contest between the first place Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

We had great seats that night, too.


And although it had rained on and off the entire day, Mother Nature once again did me a solid and provided us with a perfect, perfect summer night at the ballpark.

It was a swell game, too.

In the bottom of the first, my guy, Anthony Rizzo, drove home Javy Baez and himself in on a two-run homer to right field.

In the bottom of the second, Addison Russell walked and then stole second base and Miguel Montero hit a single to plate the run.

The result?

3-0 Cubs.

Harry Carey Sidebar:  Here’s Anthony Rizzo in action against the Rattler’s Big League Mother Ship, the Milwaukee Brewers.  True, not the game I saw,but I love this clip and think it’s worth watching again.

Neat, huh?

That’s the feeling I always get at a baseball game.

I feel young, hopeful and proud to be an American.

So as summer ends, let me close by waving the flag a little.

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Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy Labor Day.

And a whole field of dreams.

Posted in baseball, Kane County Cougars, Kevin Costner, Movies | 10 Comments

“Pup Fiction” by Ellen Taratino


This post is dedicated to BR.  He knows why.

I don’t know about you guys but I LOVE the movie Pulp Fiction.  It came out in 1994 and to me, it’s still Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece.  Sly, funny, violent, quirky, filled with great performances, memorable lines and and terrific music, this movie really stands the test of time.  Take a look.

I’ve seen it a lot and one day, it struck me that the entire movie could be reenacted with dogs.

(Don’t ask me why.  Better not delve too deeply into the dark abyss known as the “creative process.”)

Look what happens when you do.

So without further ado, I proudly present to you, Dear Readers, the mini play-

Pup Fiction

Cast of Characters:

Dakota, a golden retriever and leader of the pack

Trixie, a fancy miniature black Poodle and Dakota’s main squeeze

Wolf, a German Shepherd and Dakota’s aide-de-camp

Butch, a Boxer

Vincent and Jules, two tough mongrels in Dakota’s wolf pack

7:50 a.m. The Wake-Up Call

JULES: So tell me.  What is the word for Liva-snaps in French?

VINCENT: Les Liva-snap.  And they call Milk Bone for Large Dogs “Le Bon Bon Classique.”

JULES:  I like that, man.  Now are you sure these cats have the boss’s brief case?  How many of them are there?

VINCENT: Five or six.  But there ain’t a cat alive who can get the jump on me.  Beside, you know what will happen if we don’t bring it back.  I heard about this one pooch.  Arno.  He tried rubbing noses with Trixie- that fine looking bitch that lives with Dakota.  They were just rubbing noses and…

JULES:  What, man?

VINCENT:  Dakota caught up to him at the Doggie Diner, grabbed Arno by the scruff of his neck and threw him out the window.  Dog catcher was waiting for him.  And since Arno don’t wear no tags, dog catcher went medieval on his sorry doggy ass.  Now Arno just sits around all day and howls.  Mutts don’t mess with Dakota.  Let’s go.


11:30 a.m.  Butch Is A Bad Dog

DAKOTA:  You throw the dog show tonight.  You don’t come in number one.  Got that?

BUTCH:  I got it.

DAKOTA:  Repeat it for me.

BUTCH:  I throw the dog show tonight.  I don’t come in number one.  Now where are my treats?

DAKOTA:  In this Bonz box.  Now get going.  And when you’re layin’ around a cozy fireplace enjoyin’ your life of ease, you’ll thank your Uncle Dakota for this.  Hey, Jules, Vincent, my main mutts!  How did it go?

JULES:  Here’s the briefcase, Dakota.  Boss, I’m getting out.

DAKOTA:  Say what?  Speak!

JULES: Yes, this mongrel is through.  I’m tired of being a bad dog.  Come tomorrow I’m turning myself in at that school for the Blind and becomin’ a guide dog.

DAKOTA:  That leaves you, Vincent..  I have to go to a dog show tonight so I want you should take Trixie out.  Show her a good time.  She’ll be waiting in my yard at 7:30.


8 p.m. The Trixie Incident 

VINCENT:  Get a load of this place!  Isn’t that Lassie over there?  And Tiger from The Brady Bunch?  I can’t believe this!  The maitre d’ looks just like Tramp from My Three Sons.  Far out.

TRIXIE:  Très amusant.  This way, cheri.  I’ve reserved the booth next to the fire hydrant.  You know, Vincent, you are a very handsome hound.  Want to rub noses?

VINCENT:  Naw.  I heard that Arno is still howlin’ off key.

TRIXIE:  That old rumor?  Don’t believe it.  Oh, it’s time for the Dance Contest.  They’re playing “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?”  Let’s dance.  And remember, cheri. I want to win.


8:30 a.m. Reservoir Dogs

VINCENT: Man, I got cat gut all over me.  You’re some sight, too.  We can’t go to Dakota lookin’ like this.

JULES: Let’s go to Wolf’s kennel.  He’s top dog in this neighborhood.

WOLF:  Excuse me, but do you see a “Dog Wash” sign?  Did anyone see you come in here?

JULES:  No, man.  We cool.

WOLF:  Okay, just do like I’m tellin’ ya, and I’ll have you both lookin’ well-groomed in no time.

VINCENT:  Hey, this ain’t no stinkin’ obedience school.  Don’t give me orders.

WOLF:  Listen, I don’t have time to waste on mongrels who are dumb enough to run around covered in cat gut.

VINCENT:  Sorry, man.  I’d just like a little respect here.

WOLF:  I’ll keep it in mind, puppy.  Go to the end of the block.  You’ll find an open fire hydrant.  Run through it.

JULES:  Thanks, brother.  Woof.


On second thought, take a look at how the Best-In-Show at Westminster does it.


Posted in Movies, pop culture, Quentin Tarantino | 8 Comments

The Namesake

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That’s my grandson- and future wearer of the Master’s hallowed green jacket- Sam.

He lives in Boston with his mother, Natasha, his father, Zach, and his three month old sister, Caroline, aka Carly.

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This post is about how Sam got his name.

Last week the front page of the New York Times “Sunday Styles” section featured a story called “A Girl Named Lou.”

It was all about the hot trend in naming babies.  New parents are giving them gender-blind, unisex names like Quinn, Harper or Journey.

Or giving boys’ names to girls.

The article cited celebrities’ daughters like Jessica Simpson’s Maxwell and Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell’s daughter, Lincoln, as prime examples of this new fad.

(I guess the reporter, Alex Williams, couldn’t handle the yuck factor  and so he/she didn’t cite Gwyneth Paltrow’s Apple and Moses.  OMG.  ‘Nuff said about those choices.)


But it’s not just Hollywood celebrities setting the trend. I, too, am crazy about giving boys’ names to girls.  Always have been.  I think it’s adorable.

I went to New Trier with a girl names Jay Gleason.  She was named for her father and I never forgot her.  And  I also know darling girls named Michael, Bobbie, Billie, Stevie and a new precious arrival named Mickie.  So I have to give a big thumbs up to Carrie Fisher on her Billie Lourd and Drew Barrymore’s daughter, Frankie.

The Nanny Diaries Sidebar:  Well, I can’t honestly say I love giving boy’s unisex names. Back in the day, I had a nanny who had worked for the actress Susan St. James.  Her kids’ names were Sunshine and Harmony, Debbie the Nanny had told me.  Get the feeling Susan had them in the 70’s?

Any way, the article listed the ten most popular “post-gender” baby names in 2015.  Here they are.

(Along with Heidi Klum and her daughter, Lou.)

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“Today’s parents have moved beyond the dichotomy of boy and girl names,” said Linda Murray, the editor in chief of Babycenter, which declared 2015 “the year of the gender-neutral baby” and published a list of suggested neutral names from Addison to Winter.

Gender-blind names like Madison or Blake might be given in order perhaps better equip girls to take on men in the workplace.

The article further went on to state that the most popular names today, however, continue to be Emma and Olivia for girls and Liam and Noah for boys.

But the story ended with this.

“Feminism is cool again, gay marriage is the law of the land and transgender celebrities have come into the mainstream,” said Pamela Redmond Satran, author of ten baby-naming books.

“So who knows? We may see the day when boys are named Caitlyn and girls are named Bruce, and nobody thinks twice.”

Now, getting back to this young man…

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Sam was born in July of 2014.  My dad, Ben, had passed away in May, 2014.

And even though the name “Ben” did not appear on the list of hot, hot boys names, Natasha liked it a lot any way.

She loved her grandfather.

Here they are- both looking very serious.

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Weightwatchers Sidebar:  It’s interesting to me to see this picture of my dad.  It’s 1978 and he was sixty and kind of out of shape.  That all ended in 1979 when Natasha was six months old.  We had rented a house in Palm Springs for the winter and it had a tennis court.

My dad came out to visit in February and decided to walk around it.  The slow run around it. Then jog around it.

He didn’t stop jogging until his late 80’s- and then only because dialysis had slowed him down.  He looked great ’til the end (94) as a result.

Anyway, all through the last months of her pregnancy, Natasha vacillated back and forth between her two favorite name candidates- Ben and Sam.

(Of course, at the time, I knew nothing about this  She was on radio silence about the whole name bit.  But the story came out when Sam did.)

Right down to the wire, poor Natasha could not choose between the two names.

And, as she was suddenly and scarily hustled off to an emergency C-section, she still had not made up her mind.

Ben or Sam?  Sam or Ben?

FINALLY, she came to a conclusion.

“His name is Sam,” she announced groggily to a worried/delighted new father, Zach.

(Who, two years later, is so proud of his clone.)

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I liked the name “Sam” but I had to ask her why.

“‘Ben’ is the number one most popular boy’s name in Massachusetts,” she informed me. “I’m a teacher and I do NOT want him to be a ‘Benjie T.’ for the rest of his life because there are five other Bens in his class.”

I was startled.

“Wait.  What?  ‘Ben’ is the number one most popular name in Massachusetts?  I didn’t know that.  Are you sure?”

“Google it,” she stated firmly.

I did.

Read it here.

“But why?” I was still in the dark.  “I mean, Ben is a nice name and all, but why is it so popular?”

You’re going to have to ask these guys.


In case you can’t make out the photo stolen by a prying paparazzo lens, that’s New England Patriot’s quarterback- and god- Tom Brady, with two of his three children.

Daughter Vivian.

And son.


My dad will just have to get over it.

Posted in Baby names, Grandchildren, Grandparents, Parents, pop culture | 10 Comments

Baker’s Secret

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Author’s Note: For the last few posts, those of you reading me on iPhones may have noticed that some of the photographs are not oriented correctly.  They’re sideways. After attempting to fix this problem for days, I finally went to my IT guy.  He can’t fix it either and thinks it may be a problem with the latest IOS update.  Sorry about this. Hopefully, this glitch will be gone soon.  Be patient.  Thanks.

And now, on with the cooking show…

Calling All Bakers.

Those are the latest batch of my chocolate chip cookies pictured above.  I make them every Friday and they’re pretty darn good. (If I do say so myself.)

They come out yummy, crispy and uniform in size- I use a cookie scoop- and I’m always pleased with the end results.

But on Friday, July 1, I had a glitch in the bakery works.  And I’m turning to you, Dear Readers, to see if you can guess where the problem lay.

Sherlock Holmes sidebar: Think of this as a contest.  I spent weeks finding out the correct answer and if anyone one of you can guess it, there will be a homemade batch of the above-pictured beauties delivered to your door.

Here’s the back story…

I always do everything EXACTLY the same way when I make my cookies.  Same ingredients, same cookie sheets, same oven temperature, same baking time of day.

Every Friday morning, I take a stick of unsalted butter out of the fridge at 6 am to let it soften.  I start mixing the ingredients by 8 am and they’re in the oven for 12 minutes by 8:15 or so.

Nothing ever changes.

But this particular Friday was the one following my first cataract surgery and I could not see well enough to read the fine print of the recipe.  Instead of putting a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and baking soda into the bowl, I mistakenly added 1/4 of each.

The result?

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This was a bad batch.  They were smaller and paler.  (I did not give them away.  But I couldn’t bear to throw them out, either.  I froze them and I eat one once in awhile. They looked lousy but they taste just fine.)

That left me one batch short, however.

And I was out of flour.

With the oven on and all the gear still mis en place, I hightailed it over to the nearby convenience store.

Thrifty Scotsman Sidebar: The nearby convenience mini mart is good in an emergency but its prices are extortionate.  $8 for a small bag of flour!  It killed me but I paid it.  Never again.

I scampered home with my new bag of flour, took out another stick of butter from the freezer, made the cookie dough all over again- this time using the correct amounts of salt and baking soda- and voilà!

I got the same small, lousy-looking cookies on Batch 2!

I was stumped. But this time I did not throw them out.   I delivered them- with apologies- to their intended recipient.

He was not all that concerned.

“I bet they taste just fine,” he said graciously.

And they did.

But the mystery of why they had come out looking so puny haunted me. And I was determined to find out what exactly had caused this sea change in my heretofore perfect cookies.

Maybe it was my oven temperature?  So I called to have it re-calibrated.

The repair guy who came out assured me that the oven temperature was fine.  Nothing amiss there.

I checked and re-checked the recipe I used.  And even though I had purchased a new bag of flour, everything else was still exactly the same stuff I always employed in my regular Friday bakeoff.

Then I went on the internet and read up on cookie fails.

Nothing seemed to apply to me.

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why that second batch of cookies had come out so small and pale.  This mystery was driving me nuts.

Finally, in a frenzy of curiosity, I sought out a baker in my neighborhood.  And I found one.

Here at Lakeview Kitchen and Market.

He patiently listened to my story, thought about it for a minute and then he told me what had happened and why.

Any guesses?

Winner gets a visit from Ellen the Keebler Elf.  Sweets for the sweet.  (And smart.)

Bye, sweeties.

Make it a chocolate chip cookie kind of day.

Posted in Baking, Chocolate chip cookies | 14 Comments

Pure ‘Bwa

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This post is dedicated to Sandy and Denny Rosen.  Keepers of the flame.

Take a look at the guy in the matching red shirt on the steps behind me. If you don’t know him, that’s Denny Rosen, Director of Camp Ojibwa and spiritual leader- and  master prime rib carver- of the annual summertime festival known as Post Camp.  More about Denny and the red shirts in a moment…

Many of you readers already know how I feel about this place.  Every summer I’ve gone on and on about its virtues.  And many of you are former campers or current Post Campers.

But just in either case you’re a newbie, let me introduce you to one of the most magical places I know.

The campus of Camp Ojibwa in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

Here’s Catfish Lake.


Or would some of you landlubbers prefer the baseball diamond?

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If chowing down is your thing, get a load of this.  (This is only part of breakfast but there are FOUR squares a day.)


And after you have sailed or water skied or fished or climbed the rock wall or played tennis or golf or had a pickup basketball game or did the zip line or biked or hiked or tie-dyed or worked out in the gym or played softball under the lights or went to the dance or took a twilight cruise or saw the movie, you could always do this.

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One of the things I love at Post Camp is the fact that you and your family can be as busy as your heart desires.

Or as lazy as your battered soul demands.

The outside world- along with cares and woes- disappears and you’re left with the scent of pine woods and an echo of carefree childhood summer.

Another thing I love about Post Camp is my condo.  Take a gander.

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You can see the amenities like the fridge and flat screen tv.  But I love the bathtub, the heaters and the desk. This place is the Ritz of the North Woods and I look forward to staying in it every season.

This year, there was a tiny glitch.

My first night was spent in the camp hospital.

Nope, I wasn’t sick.  A scheduling hiccup had arisen and Denny asked me if I would give up my four star accommodations for one night.

What was a girl to do?



The Med Shed.


Denny himself took me on a tour.

“I’m sorry that you’re out of your condo for the one night.  But the whole place is yours. Which room would you like?”

I looked over the real estate and couldn’t decide.

“Which room would you take?” I asked the Boss.

“I like the desk,” he said.



This must be the reception room.  You can’t see it but hiding behind my stuff is a bell.  And there is a notepad on the wall.  I figure this is where the occasional under the weather camper reported.

I loved having the whole joint to myself at night.  (And I guess that made me ER in the ER in ER.)

Very Dr. Kildare.

Denny heaved a sigh of relief.

“You’ve been a good sport about this.  And I promised you a shirt.”

He drove me over in a golf cart to a locked shed.

It was full of Camp Ojibwa swag.

I was drooling at the sight of all that clothing emblazoned with the camp logos.
Again I couldn’t make a decision. Denny came to the rescue once more.

“Take this one,” he said as he handed me a very cool red shirt.

What can I say?

The moment was pure ‘Bwa.

What does that mean?

To me, it’s shorthand for new friends becoming old friends.

Friends helping friends.

And friends becoming family.

I’m proud to be a part of it all.

See you up there next summer, Dear Readers.

Your bench is waiting.

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Now take a look at some camps that are nothing like Ojibwa.

Rise and shine, Campers!

Posted in Camp Ojibwa, Post Camp, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Day Drink Believer

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Author’s Note:  Hi, Dear Readers.  I’m off on my annual summer fling to Eagle River.  See you back here on Sunday, August 21.  But first to the (monkey) business at hand…

I’ve come to a crossroads, guys.  Just check out those street signs.  I have to admit it.  I have discovered the joys of…

Wait for it…

Day Drinking.

Patsy and Edina- the two Ab Fab gals- have shown me the way.

Movie Review Sidebar:  I just saw Absolutely Fabulous, The Movie, last weekend.  I give it 15 stars.  Let me just add that if you’re not a rabid fan of the television show, don’t bother to see it.  It has NO socially-redeemable virtues whatsoever. (Just like Eddie and Patsy.) But if you are an Ab Fab aficionado, drop everything, grab a bottle of Bolly for your purse and go immediately.  I screamed with laughter.

My road to ruin started here.

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That’s the very sexy bar at RL.

When my buddy, SuperCPA Kevin Gibson was in town for a seminar last October, we dashed in one late Saturday afternoon to get out of the rain.  He ordered a G&T.  I ordered a Diet Coke.

“You’re no fun,” Kev complained.  “Come on.  Don’t you like champagne? Look, they have a champagne cocktail.  You’re getting it.”

“But it’s a fortune,” I argued.

“You’re getting it.”  Kevin stood firm.

I did and it was divine.  Like the best thing I had ever drunk.  Even better than Seagram’s Diet Ginger Ale.


And the side effects?

I saw the rest of that gloomy, rainy Saturday in a rainbow-colored haze.

(This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago on a repeat engagement but you get the idea.)

My next stop on the highway to day-drinking Hell was this joint.

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That’s Charlie Beinlich’s.  North Shore bar- and legend.  Natasha’s favorite place and in my top ten.

My usual order is a hamburger deluxe with grilled and raw onions and the ubiquitous Diet Coke.

But on this Spring afternoon, a trio of old New Trier pals took me to lunch there.

Author’s Note:  For the purposes of preserving their dignity, they will be known as Bob, Mike and Stan.

It was a Tuesday, and when the waiter came around to take our orders, the guys ordered beers.

WTF, I thought.  My love life had taken a turn for the worse and I was in a mood exactly like this.


If Bogey could take it, I could take it.

“Gimme a Bloody Mary,” I announced.  “Really spicy and really light on the vodka.”

Three mouths fell open.

Bob turned to me in amazement.

“What the heck happened to you?  You don’t drink.”

“Some guy is giving me a very hard time,” I complained.

“Is he nuts?” asked Stan loyally.

Mike clucked sympathetically.

I downed about half that thing and got royally crocked.  I forgot the problematic, would-be boyfriend and started loving the whole wide world.

Hey, this day drinking thing had its advantages, I thought.  I was beginning to see the point of it.

Fast forward to two weeks ago.

A trip to Milwaukee and the first stop was here.


That’s A. J. Bomber’s and it was chosen by my traveling companion for its burgers, unique peanut delivery system- that’s the overhead chute that sends them right to your table when you’ve eaten your way through a ton of them-  and their justifiably-famous Bloody Marys.


That thing was terrific!  Especially the olives.  (The little burger/cheese/bacon thing- along with that pony of beer- went to my partner in day-drinking crime.)

And what a sunny mood I was in for the rest of the afternoon.

That was it.  I’m a believer.

It’s day drinking for me from here on out.

BTW, that troublesome guy who had been responsible for my very first Beinlich’s Bloody ever?

Let’s just say…

He had a pretty good time in Milwaukee.

(And so did I.)


Posted in Beer, Champagne, Hamburgers, Milwaukee, pop culture, RL Bar, Travel | 16 Comments

Post Time


Author’s Note:  This post is dedicated to the great Phil Georgeff.

A couple of Sundays ago I spent the day at Arlington Park.

The last time I was there it had to be 1986.  We ran into our waiters from Gene and Georgetti’s- those guys always went to the track- and they gave me some of their $2 bills for Natasha and Nick.

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That’s thirty years between races.  It was more than time for “Riders Up!”

I was pretty excited about my Day At The Races.

But not as excited as Kenny and Nick.

“You’re going to Arlington? Nice!  I want a quinella with the numbers 1,4, and 5.  Any race you choose,” instructed Kenny the Horse.

“You’re going to the track, Dude?  Cool. Put some money down for me.  I’ll get back to you after I look at the Racing Form,” directed Nicky Detroit.

The day dawned hot and clear.  It was going to be a fast track.

We found our box at the finish line, my companion went to place his- and Kenny and Nick’s- bets and I settled in to enjoy the view and peruse the menu.

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Suddenly I got a text message from him.

“You don’t want anything on Be Nice Coach?”

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He was right.  I had forgotten that I wanted to bet on that horse.  I liked his name.

I texted back.

“Put $2 on him to win.”


And then I texted:

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I was just tucking in to my yummy, delivered-to-the-box turkey sandwich when my gentleman caller reappeared.

And then they were off!

It was exciting.  The horses flew by in a whir of color.  The crown roared.  I took a photo.

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“You won!” said my racing enthusiast happily informed me.


“Your horse won!  Nice going.”

I was in shock.

“I did?”

I couldn’t believe it.

“How much did I win?” I asked numbly.

“$18.40. ”


Just call me Nicely-Nicely Ross.

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Kenny’s quinella bombed out.

And he turned out to be a sore loser.  He saw this photo and said I looked like a “four thousand dollar claimer.”

He also demanded to see a photo of his losing ticket.

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Nick’s pick tank, too.

Shucks. Beginner’s Luck.

And if you’re going to the track, Dear Readers…

I’ve got a horse right here…

Posted in Arlington Park Race Track, Horseracing | 9 Comments