Read All About It!

July 14, 2016 at 2:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

The company I work for is probably the best company I’ve ever worked for and we do things every day that make me proud to be here. Case in point: we partner with two nonprofit organizations every two years and then dole out a significant amount of money during that time to help them achieve goals and visions that they would not be able to afford to do otherwise. One of the organization’s we’re working with right now collects and distributes books to at-risk kids in Chicago with the goal of giving every child 12 books to take home to keep and use to start their very own personal library. We’re supporting them not just monetarily but through many different service days and activities. I’m acting as the liaison between our company and the nonprofit and I have a big hand in putting the events together and pulling them off – it hasn’t been easy but it has been fun! If you know me, you know I’m quite fond of both kids and books so I feel lucky to be a part of this. We held a Book Drive during the month of June and collected over 2,000 books, which was awesome! Now I’m working on five different days where we’re taking volunteers from our office to different Chicago Public Libraries to literally hand out these books to the kids who come through. We had our first of five events this week and it was AWESOME!

kids_reading

Not kids from our service day but you get the idea

Apparently, on an average day the nonprofit gives out about 2,000 books to the kids who come through. Well, our first day working with them was quite the initiation as it was the busiest day they expect all year – we passed out over 7,000 books to over 600 kids! It was a super hectic day full of organized chaos and it was really incredible. Our volunteers worked very hard and we had two shifts coming via shuttle to lend a hand. The children we spent time with were so thrilled to be receiving books and there were a few moments where some of us got teary-eyed as we saw just how excited these kids were and how meaningful these books were to them. So many couldn’t believe they got to keep them and that they were free – I was even given a large “Thank You” banner signed by one particular group of kids and I won’t lie, my eyes definitely didn’t stay dry for that!

We have four more distribution days we’re a part of and managing sign-ups, lunches, shuttles and everything else is definitely keeping me busy but it is absolutely worth it. And just one more reason why I love my job!

 

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Book Nerding it Up

March 12, 2015 at 8:53 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

To know me is to know I love to read. Hell, even my name gives that away. I’m also really nosy inquisitive and I often try to slyly check out what other people are reading whenever I can. The train is a really good place for me to do this and I have to say that the Kindle doesn’t exactly stop my curiosity. There have been many times that I’ve glanced at the electronic page the person next to me is reading and realized that I can tell what book it is from just a few lines – that’s how much of a book nerd I am.

Bringing strangers together since 2015.

So one day this week I was sitting on the el during my commute home, absorbed in my own book, when I noticed a woman near me kept laughing out loud while she read from her Kindle. That alone got me wondering what she was reading because there have only been a handful of books that have ever caused me to actually laugh out loud and only one that had me chuckling as much as she was. I thought to myself, “Self, I wonder if she’s reading the funniest book I myself have ever read” or something like that and so I covertly looked at her screen. The few words I saw caused me to be almost positive my guess was correct but I had to know for sure so I asked her what she was reading that had her laughing so much. Lo and behold, I was right!

The book in question is one I believe I’ve blogged about before. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore is hands down the funniest book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading and she was enjoying it just as much as I had. We talked about it for a bit and she recommended a few other books to me before we each went back to our respective literary worlds. I thought about maybe asking her to start a Brown Line Book Club but figured that would be pushing my luck – the last thing I need is someone with a heavy electronic device worrying about stranger danger and hitting me upside the head. I mean, that could damage my vision and if I couldn’t read, what would happen? Well, I’d probably learn braille or turn to audiobooks but it just wouldn’t be the same. And I’d have to stop being a peeping Tom with other people’s books, which obviously sounds awful to me. But if I’m going to be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve struck up a conversation with a stranger over a book, or had a stranger start a literary conversation with me. Just a few weeks ago I realized the guy in front of me and I were both reading different Harry Potter books so we shared a nice smile over that. And like ten years ago I got into an argument with a guy on a bus in NYC about a character from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, so there’s that.

Maybe I should try to keep my nose in my book instead of other people’s business? Nope, not as long as I have the gift of sight!

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Kindle Keeper

January 13, 2015 at 9:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

As I mentioned in my last post, I am the owner of a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite. I’ve had a Nook for a few years as it was a hand-me-down from an aunt so I’m not completely foreign to the whole e-book thing, but I still feel like a grandma. The first Nook I was given was super old-school as I think it was the first generation and since it was still attached to my aunt’s account, I really only had access to her books. Which were aplenty, but not exactly to my taste (I’ve never read a Nora Roberts book and could probably survive without doing so). A couple of years later my aunt upgraded her own Nook and gave me a newer version, which was backlit so it was definitely a bit fancier. She told me she would download books for me if I wanted and there were a couple I asked for (yes, The Count of Monte Cristo was one of them) but I didn’t want to be greedy and so I only used it for select reading.

First world problems.

Then I decided to splurge and get my own device. I chose the Kindle because I do most things Amazon and it was all pretty straightforward, plus it got great reviews. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a Fire but then I decided I don’t need my Facebook and Instagram apps on half a dozen different devices. The Paperwhite is just for reading and if I had the ability to check email or surf the web I don’t think I’d get near as much actual reading accomplished. So here I am, learning the ways of yet another electronic machine. I will admit it’s pretty cool and I love being able to read about a character or learn the definition of a word with a light touch of my finger. The pages turn much quicker than my Nook did and it even has a handy feature that estimates how much longer it will take me to finish the chapter I’m currently reading. I’m sure it does other things like cook my breakfast and balance my bank account but I haven’t quite learned all of the ropes. Yet. But I did use it to finish that tome Cristo so I’ve got that going for me!

To be honest though, I’m still torn on the whole thing. I like books. BOOKS. I like the way they smell and turning their pages and flipping through them and holding them and hugging them and well – you get the idea. But I also like not having to carry a 600 page beast around in my backpack or purse every day (I brought three different books along with me on my last trip out of town – they definitely take up space). So I know I won’t use the Kindle exclusively but it will obviously come in handy on certain occasions. I’m clearly emerging into the 21st century, just a little bit at a time.

That said, I downloaded our next book club book from the library (another handy feature!) and it’s on my Kindle now. And the Kindle is in my backpack…right next to the hard copy of the exact same book. Am I doing this right? Probably not but I can read the book on the el and then use the Kindle while I’m at the gym so it works for me!

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Aaaaand Done!

January 12, 2015 at 8:36 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I did it!  I finally finished The Count of Monte Cristo!

If you know me, you know I’m a little particular about things. Such as finishing stuff I’ve started. It’s kind of a curse but I have a really hard time starting a book or movie and then just stopping it halfway through, even if I’m not exactly enjoying it. Take, for instance, my reading of Moby Dick. It took me quite a while and I pretty thoroughly disliked most of that book but I finished it, damnit. See, I also have this thing where I like to read some of the classics every now and then. I liked Anna Karenina and David Copperfield (not about the pervy magician) but Cristo was essentially the bane of my existence for roughly a year and a half. I know, I know, I’m ridiculous for staying with it that long but I just couldn’t stop. Am I a masochist? Nope, English major.

Well, shit. Guess I could’ve watched the movie.

And honestly, I liked Cristo. At least, I liked the beginning and I liked the end. The middle was really difficult for me to get through and that’s where I put it down for oh, say, eight months or better. In my defense with this whole thing, I read probably two dozen other books while Cristo was on the backburner but I kept returning to get it finished. I bought a Kindle over Christmas and I must admit, that helped enormously. I mean, have you seen that book? It’s pretty huge. But like I said, I did enjoy it and there were definitely parts that had me on the edge of my seat and biting my nails. The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic tale about a man who is wrongfully imprisoned for fourteen years and taken away from the love of his life right before they lived happily ever after. He manages to escape from prison and then makes it his life’s work to hunt down those who wronged him and get his revenge. It’s a long time coming, that’s for sure. The way that he integrates himself into the lives of those who had long forgotten him is pretty impressive and when he pulls the rug out from underneath everyone, it’s extremely satisfying. And depressing, not going to lie. But the plot wraps itself up nicely and has a decent ending.

But to be honest, by the time I finished it late last night I was just glad it was over. And now I think I should treat myself by reading something mindless and simple – I hear One Fish, Two Fish is a good one.

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Stacked

September 25, 2013 at 12:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I spent some time in a nearby bookstore over the weekend and left not knowing exactly how I felt about it.  I love bookstores and perusing old and new volumes of books and I could lose myself for hours scanning shelves and stacks.  There are some good places for this nearby but the one I walked through this weekend was almost too full of books.  I know, I know, I didn’t think such a thing was possible either.  And maybe I’m just getting old or something but all I could think about was the shelves tipping over and smothering me in paper.  There would be worse ways to die but I didn’t really want to get smooshed, regardless.  My new-found paranoia could also stem from living with an electrician, because I was also concerned about the potential fire hazard of a giant room literally filled to the ceiling with books.

Heaven or hell?

Heaven or hell?

This photo doesn’t really do the place justice but there were so many shelves that I couldn’t take another step back to get a better picture.  Basically, books as far as the eye can see.  There were a handful of labels placed throughout but not enough to help because apparently digging around is half the fun.  Unless you’re looking for one specific book as I was, in which case it was slightly annoying.

I’m still torn on my feelings about this place.  I’m intrigued by what I could find so I know I’ll be back but I may just sport a hard-hat while I’m there!

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January Book Club Review

January 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Our book club met for brunch last Sunday, the day after the bachelorette party.  I was worried I wouldn’t be in tip-top shape for literary discussions but I was feeling decent and braved the cold to go to Old Town Social, a restaurant on North Avenue.  The turnout was one of the best we’ve had in recent months and we even had a new member, so there was a grand total of seven of us there.  That makes it a little more difficult to hear everyone out (or merely hear everyone at all) but is also a little more entertaining, so we were all chatty and content.

Good, clean fun!

I’d never been to the restaurant and I have to admit, it was kind of a let-down overall.  Our server took our drink orders before reappearing with another server who made a comment about how the first girl was training but almost finished (I’m not sure how she managed this but the comment sounded kind of snotty and sort of made us uncomfortable).  We all ordered and then the waitresses disappeared for a while before some dude we’d never seen before brought out the food (which isn’t uncommon).  Most of us had some sort of biscuit or bread as a side and there was one little dish of jam, so we requested more.  He gave us attitude and rolled his eyes so we didn’t figure we’d get it and asked our waitress for it when she came back.  She did indeed bring us two more little cups of jam (for the table of 7) and then when we got the bill we noticed that we’d been charged 50 cents for each little cup.  It’s not like it was a hundred dollars or anything but really?  Charging for something to top our biscuits with?  Whatever.  The food was decent enough but there sure wasn’t much of it for the $12 I paid – and I ordered the “big” breakfast!  It came with a biscuit, two eggs and a hash brown casserole.  It was all tasty but the portions were just lacking and nothing I couldn’t have made at home.

At least the company and the book were better!  We read Where’d you go, Bernadette?, a novel by Maria Semple.  The book was told through a series of letters, emails, faxes, notes and  text messages and focuses on a teenage girl who’s trying to find her mother after her mother had a bit of a psychotic break.  Really, though, the mom was always a little eccentric and circumstances made it seem like she had less of a grasp on reality than she actually did, so she up and disappeared.  The reader doesn’t know where she went until the daughter figures it out and the mom’s around for the first two-thirds of the book so it’s not a whole mystery novel.  It was quick and easy though and very entertaining.  I honestly didn’t see many of the plot points coming and I really liked the characters of both the mom and daughter.  The dad was someone who was hit or miss and while I liked him initially, I felt a few things he went through were out of character for the way they set him up.  Regardless, I really enjoyed the whole book, as did many of the girls in the club (those who had finished, at least).  Definitely one I recommend and an especially good book club book!

 

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Goodbye 2012

December 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

And another year comes to a close.  Can you believe it’s been 13 years since the year 2000?  I still feel like 1997 was just a few years ago so apparently I have some catching up to do.

Speaking of catching up, I did manage to do lots of that last week while spending Christmas at home.  I ate too many meals out, saw tons of friends and family members, spent some time in a hot tub, got some truly awesome stories on video as told by my grandparents, opened way too many presents and generally had a rocking holiday.  I am blessed, and I know this.  I can’t believe another Christmas has come and gone and I feel extremely lucky that this year left me in an even better spot than last year did.  I can only hope 2013 treats me the same way (though to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of odd-numbered years…but 2011 proved to be one of my best yet so we’ll see what happens).

Here’s to a great one!

In honor of New Year’s Eve, the most overrated holiday of the year, I shall review the resolutions I made this time last year:

  • Write and submit a story – hey, I did this!  I won’t know until sometime in February if it’s actually going to be published or bring me any money, but the fact that I actually committed to writing something longer than a blog post and then followed through with it makes me happy.
  • Leave the country – I did this too!  And I have successfully walked on every continent (sans Antarctica, but I never really wanted to go there anyway.  Okay that’s not true, I’d probably check it out if I could, but since I’m not in the military or a scientist, I’ll be satisfied with the continents I have traveled to.  For now.).
  • Read War and Peace, Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov – nope, didn’t do any of those things.  I think the English Major in me thought this sounded like a good idea but I never got around to it.  I did read 20-something other books and enjoyed most of them, so that’ll work for me.  Perhaps putting just one of those three on my resolution list for 2013 will seem less daunting?
  • Add money to my savings account – and it has increased!  No matter how much I added, the fact that it’s larger now than it was at the end of 2011 is an improvement.  Right?
  • Keep going to the gym – hey, this is a success too!  And I go without Scott bribing me or dragging my ass, kicking and screaming.  That said, I’m not looking forward to waiting in line for a locker again during the month of January.
  • Take a potential language class – didn’t do this either, but notice how I said potential?  That gives me an out, so I’ll take it!
  • Keep on growing and learning – well to be honest, this one’s a freebie.  So long as I lived to the end of the year, it was sort of a given.  But since I’m still here I’ll go ahead and call it a success!
  • Make out with Joseph Gordon-Levitt…well, the year isn’t technically over yet!

However, since my NYE plans consist of a dinner and drinks with some friends in the neighborhood, it’s likely that the only person I’ll be kissing at midnight is Scott.  And truth be told, he’s a better match for me than JGL any day!

I hope your year treated you well and that the upcoming one will treat you even better.  And for all you boozehounds out there, stay safe and make sure you have a DD!

 

 

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October Book Club Review

October 26, 2012 at 10:49 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

For our book club meeting last week, we read Lord of the Flies by William Golding and ate at Vapiano in yuppie trendy Lincoln Park.  There were a couple of girls in our club who had never read Lord of the Flies before and since I own it (having read it in high school and again in college), I was all for reading it again.  For those who aren’t familiar, this book is about a group of elementary school British boys who wind up stranded on an island, sans adults.  As the reader comes to find out, there was some sort of atomic bomb (this book was written in the ’50’s) and the plane carrying these kids to safety crashed and burned en route.  So no one knows they’re there.  Cue melodramatic music here.

You know you have a classic when The Simpsons do a parody

In the beginning, the boys see this as an opportunity to run things the way they want and enjoy the freedom that those pesky grown-ups always seem to try to take away.  It doesn’t take long for them to nominate a chief and create grand plans of shelter, feasts and frolicking on the beach.  Of course, this doesn’t go as planned and soon kids are sick from the massive amounts of fruit they’re eating and their lack of protein, they’re living in shoddy huts and spending more time fighting and having nightmares than anything else.  They also manage to light the island on fire not once, but twice.  Kids I tell ya.  The fighting continues to worsen as the chief and the head hunter don’t always see eye to eye and before you know it, boys are being killed in barbaric ways as most everyone struggles for survival.  I realize that this is a bit depressing for some people but this book is really just a forefather to things like The Hunger Games.  I thought it also provided really interesting social commentary and while I won’t ruin the ending for those of you who might want to give it a go, I will say it was better than I had remembered.

Our dinner was also one of the better ones in my memory and was an interesting experience overall.  This restaurant looks swanky and super nice and when I walked in I was surprised at how large it was.  Wooden tables were arranged throughout with little lamps and greenery on each one and everyone sat on stools (not uncomfortable but not the nicest thing my butt’s ever had the pleasure of encountering…and that sounds much dirtier typed out than it did in my head.  Oh well).  The model of this place is unlike anything I’d ever seen and we were all given little menus with our own personal plastic cards upon entering.  There were various stations set up around the restaurant – the bar, pasta, pizza, appetizers etc. each had their own stop with their own respective bartender and chef.  I hit the bar first and enjoyed a rather large glass of $3.95 red wine, which can’t be beat (unless you’re buying a bottle for that price at Trader Joe’s).  After I ordered, the bartender swiped my little card and my purchase rang up on there.  Same thing for dinner – I had pizza and my card just kept accruing the charges until it was time to leave.  At that point I just walked up front and turned it in, then paid the balance.  I thought it was pretty cool to eliminate the need for a large tip (though there were jars for dollars at the various stations) and I don’t mind carrying my own food so it worked out.  I split two pizzas with a friend and both of them were huge and delicious.  I could’ve probably saved some for lunch the following day but once I started I just couldn’t stop.  At the end of the night (one big pizza and two large glasses of wine later), my tab was just over $16.  Not bad for an evening on the town!

I read some Yelp reviews and some people complained that such an upscale-looking place shouldn’t make its patrons carry their trays and use a soda fountain but you know me – I’m much more frugal than foodie and I honestly thought it was kind of cool.  The whole evening was fun and while we’re skipping a meet-up in November due to the holidays, we’ll be back on track in December with new books and new restaurants to check out!

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Webpaige’s Day Off

December 5, 2011 at 5:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

This year is the first time that I’ve found myself in the grown-up position of having to “use or lose” vacation days before the end of the year.  That means that today I slept until noon and opened a beer before 5 o’clock.  It was a pretty great way to spend a Monday and I’m grateful for the other days I’ve earned as well.  I have one more to use before Christmas and while it will likely be spent traveling down to Indiana a little bit early, for now I can pretend I could also use it sleeping in, enjoying adult beverages and eating snack foods while wearing my pajamas and commandeering my couch for an obscene amount of time.  It is the holiday season, after all.

Is it a coincidence that I live in this city? I think not.

So it’s obviously nice to have a day where you’re off and getting paid for it but this month I’m also in the unique position of having some furlough time ahead of me as well.  Oh boy.  It’s the first time my company has had to do such a thing but it’s better than pay cuts or lay offs, and speaking as someone who once went through a year long 10% company-wide pay cut in a former position, I can say I’d much rather some unpaid time off.  I’m thankful I still have a job, blah blah blah recession recession.  Anyway, there’s nothing I can do about it so I’m going to sit back and enjoy having the week between Christmas and New Year’s off like I’m some kind of school girl.  Whatever shall I do?  While I wish I could spend my days sledding and running around like I did a decade (two decades? shudder) ago, this time will now consist of longer visits with friends and family, getting a cavity filled at my new dentist (I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this) and finally implementing the tour I’ve been working on all year at The Field Museum.  Oh boy indeed!

Back to today.  Right now I would still be on the train, making my nightly commute and fighting off the waves of weariness typically associated with the first day of the week.  Instead, I’m sitting on my couch in the glow of my tree, with my feet up and bra off.  I have a good book by my side and a good beer next to that.

I think I’m ready for my vacation.

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October Book Club

November 2, 2011 at 10:33 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

The ladies and I managed to gather again last week for an evening of wine, books and chatter.  We had two new girls join the group so it was nice to see our numbers swell a little and I’m pretty sure they’ll both be back!  Five of us met at Calo Ristorante, an Italian place not too far from my apartment.  I’d never been and the decor was a little fancier than what I was used to for our book club shenanigans but the prices were reasonable and the wine was cheap so my worries were for nothing.  I ordered the vegetable pasta in marinara sauce and it was quite good.

Not exactly what I was expecting but interesting nonetheless

There was asparagus, zucchini, squash, tomatoes and a bunch of other delicious veggies that I can’t seem to recall right now and they were perfect in the sauce.  There were two kinds of house bread served, one with garlic and one with cheese, and while I probably had too much of each of them it was totally worth it.  Pairing it all with a nice red wine made for quite a hearty meal.

The book we read was Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  I’d been wanting to read some of his stuff for a while and actually suggested the book myself.

Which was why I was a little confused when I picked it up from the library and saw it was a graphic novel.  I’m flexible so I rolled with it and then lent it to a friend who was one of the new club additions.  After we both finished it, we realized that it is actually a novel novel and the graphic novel was just an adaptation.  Which made a lot of sense because while what we read was entertaining, it felt like it was lacking significant depth.  Well, duh.  So we missed out on the novel but were able to have a new perspective on the book from the drawings in the graphic novel.  I’d actually like to go back and read the entire book now to make some sense of everything but I’ve got such a to-do reading list that I’m not sure I’ll get around to it anytime soon.

As always, the conversation was lively and just what I needed to round out a Thursday night.  We typically chat about what’s been going on in our own lives for a while and then (of course) talk about the book.  It’s a good time every month and something I always look forward to.  Our next meeting is also at a place near my apartment (read: within stumbling distance) and the book isn’t available in graphic novel form so I should be on the same page (oh how I hate this saying) as everyone else.

We make reading look cool!

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