Stuff Julie Likes

I like movies about quirky families trying to love each other, restaurants that spark my culinary creativity, books with uniquely voiced and compelling narrators, things that might be kind of ugly but maybe they’re not and it’s hard to tell, farmers’ markets, music with good old fashioned guitar pickin’, eating bowls and bowls of ice cream, and anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. But most of all, I love discovering¹ new things, whether it’s an author or a song or an easier way to put pillowcases on², I’m always on the lookout for more things to explore. Below are some discoveries³ that I’m enjoying at the moment. If you think of anything I might like, won’t you pass it my way?

ipsento coffee house (2035 N. Western Ave.)

This is one of those places that I stumbled into by accident, and then had to go back every day for a week. They have a delicious and creative drink menu (the latte made with coconut milk, honey, and cayenne pepper is especially delightful), a wide variety of sandwich options, 100% real fruit smoothies, and charming décor. Also, the people who work there are extremely kind. I went in with the two very small and very rambunctious (and also very wonderful) children that I nanny for, and, in addition to being really really really patient, the barista gave them some free smoothie samples – a sure-fire way to win my heart for good.

in defense of food // Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food is (as the cover says) an eater’s manifesto: a look into how food science has replaced food culture, how foodlike products have replaced actual food, how industry and politics have divorced food from the natural world, how – in spite of America’s obsession with “nutrition” and “healthy eating” – we have become more and more unhealthy, and (best of all) how to look at our relationship with food and eating in a healthy, productive, respectful way. It’s not a diet plan. Pollan never outlines exactly what we should or shouldn’t do. He just presents some facts and philosophies and suggestions and leaves it to the reader to apply to his or her life. Some of his suggestions: Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Eat your meals at a table (No a desk is not a table). I’m revealing the true depths of my nerdiness here, but In Defense of Food is the page-turning-est nugget of non-fiction I’ve read since James L. Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln’s Killer (I just had to get a plug in for that one, too! It’s so so so marvelous!).

words & music // Peter Oyloe

Even if Peter wasn’t a beloved friend and collaborator of mine, I would be shouting about this album from the mountaintops. Words & Music is a gem from beginning to end, blending a classic folk sound with a more contemporary musical sensibility. Poetic and contemplative without ever being pretentious, Peter offers introspective and insightful music that lives in your bones and articulates your own feelings with alarming accuracy, but in a much more elegant and lovely way than you would have articulated them yourself. You can listen to some sample tracks HERE, but probably you’ll just want to own your own copy. The fact that Patty Griffin and Peter Oyloe are side-by-side alphabetically on my iPod means that the ol’ scroller wheel hasn’t gotten a full spin in the last 12 months. Which leads me to…

living with ghosts // Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin is one of those musicians who I always seem to revisit at just the right time. Whether I was hiking through the mountains in Idaho or grieving the loss of a close friend, she seemed to be right there, singin’ my soul out. It’s hard to pick just one album to recommend (1000 Kisses and Impossible Dream are other favorites, although you can’t go wrong with any of them), but her 1996 debut Living With Ghosts is a great starting point. It is simply produced, not much more than vocals and guitar, which allows the crispness and detail of the songwriting to take front and center. Her songs are both aching and hopeful, in one moment inspiring some quiet reflection and in the next, inviting you to belt your lungs out. “It’s a mad mad mission – sign me up.”

the peggy notebaert nature museum on thursdays

Picture this, if you will. It’s a winter day in Chicago. That kind of day where you are wearing 19 layers of clothing, you haven’t seen a color that isn’t grey in about 5 months, and you can’t remember a time in the whole history of your life when you didn’t feel cold. Well I am here to tell you that there is still joy in the world, in fact in this very city, even on that day. And that joy is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.   Any day is great, but Thursdays are free (and actually free, in the way that they don’t even make you feel bad about only throwing two dollars in to the suggested donation which, as a not-so-rich artist, I really appreciate), which adds to the stress-relieving powers of the whole event. The key place to go is the Butterfly Haven, which is just what it sounds like. It’s a beautiful greenhouse (read: it’s warm), full of ground dwelling birds and hundreds of butterflies.  Walking into it is a bit like walking into a fairy tale — it is lush and green, there is a small waterfall, and if you hold really still the butterflies will come and rest on your arms and shoulders.  It is a magical place to be, especially on those cold winter days.

¹I use the word “discovering” in the Christopher Columbus sense of the word, where lots of people know about the new-to-me thing already, but since it’s new to me, I’m super excited.

²My favorite method: (1) turn the pillowcase inside-out (2) stick your arms inside the pillowcase til your hands are in the corners (3) pinch the corners of the pillow through the pillowcase (4) flip the pillowcase right-side-out, pulling it over the pillow while you do so.

³See footnote 1.

Stuff Omen Likes

As has been observed many times by many people, one of the things that makes Chicago such a livable city is the presence of Green Space.  Anyone who has lived in a city without such a decentralized verdant network of public space can truly appreciate the way that Chicago is set up. One of my favorite uses of this public green space is the Farmers Market, of which there are a large number and I believe there are more every year.

Of these, my favorite is the Logan Square Farmers Market, which I have had a very good time performing at over the past year with my friend, the Tap Dancing Sensation “Hotfoot” Annie Peacenik.  Having performed at, and occasionally being asked to leave, a number of other markets, I feel that the atmosphere in Logan Square ranks highest for friendliness and a feeling of community. The market is located on the edge of the green area of one of the boulevards that radiate from the locus of Logan Square, and in the past year an interesting, semi-unofficial extension of the market has sprouted up in that green space.  Picnickers mingle with people selling antiques, semi-precious junk, and even 25 cent “great” backrubs, which I believe is the most economical rate you will find in the city.

One thing I very much like is to drink a coffee near the lamp post in the public square at the heart of Lincoln Square.  It is a very beautiful old fashioned lamp post that was given to the community of Lincoln Square by one some Germanic city in Europe.  It now sports a rather ugly “keep off” sign that is meant to discourage children and myself from climbing on it.  The lamp post looks over the square with a protective eye allowing the chalk drawing children, gossiping mothers, banjo toting Old Town School students, and myself to enjoy each other and the space with a sense of ease that is lacking in places with less magnificent lamp posts.

When I find the time, which recently has meant not very often, I make pasta from scratch. The sensation of mixing farina tipo “00” with riced boiled potatoes for gnocchi, or grainy semolina with water and just a little bit of olive oil (you really don’t need much) is unique and wonderful.  The sight of these magical, ancient feeling morsels drying in your kitchen is awe inspiring.  But the feelings of accomplishment and pride from serving hand made pasta, which tastes better than any other pasta you can find, to your friends is beyond description.  It’s much easier than you think to do, and I encourage you to try it, and then to invite me to dinner.

One of the things I really appreciate about Chicago is the availability of good beer at reasonable prices.  The Bad Apple in North Center has a lovely selection, including beers from the truly local Half Acer Brewery, also located in North Center.  Their tart and refreshing “Daisy Cutter” is a delight at any time of the day or night, and the taste of their biscuity and floating “Gossamer” is one that I will not forget soon.  If you like their beer as much as I do, it might be worth it to get a “Frequent Growler Card.”   The mere fact that such a thing exists delights me.

Another good way to survive the winters is Bikram Yoga at “Ohm on the Range” in North Center.  Hot, hard,  and cleansing, it will cure what ails you, especially if what ails you is an inability to reach your toes.

Stuff Peter Likes

I love the World. Not the world of Chicago or the world of Peter Oyloe but the World, the Earth, the Mother. From very early on in life I was facinated and enthralled by the greens and the blues, by the sounds, and the smells of the Natural World. It is certainly where I feel most at home. I have, in my life, come to function and participate in the Social Constructs of city life and I will say there are some things that I do very much enjoy about time spent in cities, but when it comes down to it I would trade it all to hike repeatedly around the World drinking water from streams and sleeping under the stars. I have been fortunate to have traveled quite a bit in my life thus far but I am by no means traveled out. There are places, like New Zealand and Costa Rica that I like to make return visits to, and soon I hope to visit new and exciting landscapes yet traveled by. Besides the Natural World, I love music and words, friends, good food, and sharing. I look forward to telling you more about things that I love in the coming months and I look forward to hearing more about what you love in return.

The Acoustic Guitar

I am in absolute love with this instrument. It is such a beautiful study in design and function. There are not many completely perfect things in this world, but I would say that a really well crafted acoustic guitar gets very close. First off it is a gorgeous object to behold, the curves, the colors of hand selected woods, the interplay between wood and metal, and the lines that send energy up and down the instruments body. Secondly it is truly alive. When you have a hand crafted instrument in your hands you know can see where it breathes and you can feel the vibrations that are the sign of its coming into being. I love that first strum on a well crafted instrument. Then thirdly you have its ultimate versatility and transportability. It is an instrument that is very much at home in many types and styles of music as well as being a very percussive and powerful mode of expression. Many of my favorite evenings were spent alone with an acoustic guitar making music. It is a very personal exchange on par with what you might have with only you most trusted and loved friends. Then lastly you have the sound! It is rich, it is bold, it is all together astonishing when the performer and the instrument are in union. I would recommend to see this in its best form to look up the acoustic stylings of Tim Reynolds. He knows how to pull the best from within himself and his instrument and he is a delight to watch on stage. He isn’t about the spectacle of show, though he is uncannily good at his craft, more so he is sharing a very private moment of an artist creating before your eyes. Don’t you ever take this instrument for granted! Please!?

The Moon

Since before I can remember I have been fascinated by the great Moon that lives within our night’s sky. It has made its way into many writings I have done and songs that I have sung. I was very fortunate to have grown up in a place where the lights of the city never could penetrate, therefor my view of the night’s sky was never harmed by the light that was never intended to shine. Countless nights have spent to the console of friends, locked in thought all the while the moon drew light upon dark places. It always makes me think… and dream.

New Zealand

This is one of the most wonderful places that I have ever been to, it contains some of my favorite memories and also some of my most favorite people I have ever known. As a person who can not think of a time that really mattered that was not somehow rooted in the natural world, there are few places in that world that contains such a glorious scape to explore. Covering 13 latitudinal degrees this small country contains, within its shores, most of the major climate zones, from subtropical in the North to tundra in the deep South. Mountain ranges scrape the sky and Pacific Ocean breezes change your hairstyle. This is a place I only really recommend to those who LOVE the outdoors, as why go to the cradle of adventure without wanting to see that which is before you!? I recommend visiting Nelson, on the South Island, and from there making many day trips to such profound places as Farewell Spit, and Arthur’s Pass. The New Zealand people, or Kiwis, are very kind people but please don’t talk to them about Australia, they are their own sovereign nation and share very little with their closest neighbor than Rugby and a similar accent. There are too many beautiful places to name them all here so perhaps you will just need to see it for yourself!?

David Attenborough Life of Series

In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful and fascinating series ever put to film. Narrated by the great David Attenborough this series celebrates and showcases many of the great natural wonders in this world we share. This series serves to put in perspective not only the majesty of the World and its creatures but how we has human beings have very little understanding of the World in which we live. Mr. Attenborough is a gentle presence who has devoted his life to the stewardship and care of the other inhabitants of this planet. Please watch this series and let me know what you think. Perhaps you will find a new appreciation for the air you breathe and the water you drink. This is LIFE.

Stuff Christian Likes

I really like large bookstores, walking with no place to go, listening to street performers, watching good children’s theatre, and swing dancing.

Slings & Arrows– Anyone who has been involved with a festival theatre or a summer theatre just has to watch this series. I have worked at a summer theatre for 6 of the past 7 summers, and after our season, i always have to watch at least one episode of this hilarious TV series. The series explores the trials and tribulations of trying to produce Shakespeare in the world of non-profit theatre. I had the pleasure of sharing some of the first season (of this 3 season show) with our 2010 interns, and they all just adored it. Much like “Waiting for Gufman,” this is a series that all people who work in the theatre must see! And, all three seasons are on Netflix instant Cue!!! Enjoy!

Stuff Mary Likes

I like to make Jewelry. I enjoy going to the bead store and picking through pretty beads for friends or family members and then taking them home and creating bracelets, necklaces, and earrings as gifts.

There are many bead stores in Chicago and there are also beads sold in other stores such as Target. My favorite name for one bead store was called The Bead Monster. But you don’t even have to use new beads, you can cut up some of your old jewelry and use scraps or shells or stones if you have some nice ones.

When making jewelry these are some basic tools that I use:  beads (or shells, stones or scraps), small pliers (I like two sets for both hands), silver or gold flexible wire, crimp beads, fasteners (there are so many kinds), earring posts, a nice tool box, a good flat clean working space, and patience.

Some bead store will allow you make the pieces right there in the store.  They will help you design and construct your dream piece of jewelry.  I have never before allowed anyone to help me but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done this way.

The reason I like making jewelry is because it allows my mind to wander and my hands to stay busy.  It is a bit of a meditation.  The other great thing about making jewelry is that it can be an inexpensive, thoughtful gift for any friend or loved one.  I hope that even if you don’t ever want to make jewelry you can at least go into one of the shops and see for yourself the beauty of these small creations.

Stuff Reggie Likes

I love trying new things, especially if I get to try them with someone I love and respect. When I find something I like, I throw myself into it headlong. Here are some of the things I’ve thrown myself into recently:

TED Talks: TED stand for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design,” three of my favorite parts of life. TED’s mission is simple: Ideas worth spreading. Every year, TED has conferences around the world where they invite the best of the best in the fields of technology, entertainment and design to come give 20-minute lectures about basically whatever they want. Malcolm Gladwell gives a talk about what we can learn from spaghetti sauce, Dan Gilbert lectures about how we are deceived by our miscalculations of the future, and John Hodgeman describes his close encounters with aliens from Mars. Now, if you’re like me, you can’t physically go to these talks because they’re expensive and in exotic locales that you can’t get to by bicycle, but never you fear, because every single TED talk is available to you FOR FREE! I try to watch one every morning before I go to work (at Patagonia) because it puts me in a creative, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”, type mood that makes me want to take the world by storm so I can one day give my own TED talk.

Rock Climbing: I just got into rock climbing about a year and a half ago and have sadly not been able to go for the past month or so because I sprained my ankle running into the ocean on Memorial Day. Rock climbing combines two of my favorite things: Problem solving, and finding a way to exercise without going to the gym. The feeling when I finally send (a rock climbing term I’ve picked up) a problem after I’ve worked on it for days gives me the same feeling I get when I do something I’m really scared of and find out I’m still alive afterwards.

Stuff Ryan Likes

Well, hello there. Like you, I carry many titles. Whether son, neighbor, artist, temp, or tenant our titles help shape and define us as individuals. They make us human, give us purpose, and offer perspective. I find it interesting how people change depending on what title they happen to have on at the time. Below are some of my titles and things attached to them that I like.

Stuff Ryan likes:

Bikram Working and volunteering with My partner Jay and his awesome
Coloring, drawing, painting, and doodling. Supporting local, sustainable, and environmentally conscious businesses. Skyping with my nieces and nephews. Collaboration. Day dreaming. All things Central Park (especially the conservatory gardens at east 105th st). A Brief Encounter (stage and movie). The Books Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The History of Love, and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. TV shows Modern Family, Weeds, Dexter, and Slings and Arrows. Shakespeare. My family. Incredible friends. Travel. Exploration. Kindness. Coffee (especially when sipped on my back porch on a beautiful day. And finally, the fact that you read this. Thanks.

Stuff Jack Likes

I love writing, stories, and words–individually or together.  If I ever look up a word, nine times out of ten it’s to look up the word’s origin.  I spend a lot of time on the website Behind the Name, which will tell you the origin and meaning of first names.  I love seeing how words and stories are put together through different media–plays, songs, poems, stories…and comic books.  I love comic books, graphic novels, and the like.

I recently discovered a great graphic novel called I Kill Giants, written by Joe Kelly and drawn by JM Ken Nimura.  It’s the story of a young, misfit girl coping with a missing father, a dying mother, and much more.  She is obsessed with giants, and tells people that she is a giant hunter.  It’s difficult to tell if this is a real activity or just a fantasy constructed to somehow deal with her difficult life, but either way it’s a story that is at once magical and very real.  This story is not just written with words, either–it’s written with incredible images.  The words and the images work together perfectly to form a rhythm, producing a story that has a beating heart.  Read this and I think you’ll start to get where I come from as a writer and theatre artist.

Stuff Nathan Likes

Konnichiwa! Thanks for coming to see my page. I’ve posted a few things I thought would interest almost anyone, but a few of them may be of Japanese flavor as I’m currently living in Japan. I hope you have a chance to check them out! In addition to acoustic folk/bluegrass/alternative music, character driven novels, and mind-bending movies, I love anything and everything that scares me, challenges me, or makes me feel like a child again. I hope you enjoy!
Shopgirl by Steve Martin– If you’re looking for a short and sweet novella (literally 1-day-read), and you liked any of Wes Anderson’s films, I think you’ll love this book. It’s like a shorter, tighter version of Tom Wolfe’s “I Am Charlotte Simmons” (144 vs. 688 pages). It was made into a film which I didn’t see, but as an author Steve Martin has an uncanny way of portraying characters with all humor and no judgement so that you have no choice but to fall in love with each of them. If you’re looking to laugh out loud, though, this is not the book for you. Don’t let the Steve Martin authorship fool you. There are definitely comedic moments, but the majority of this book definitely has a melancholic twinge that keeps the pages turning.

Stuff Allison Likes

Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary on Montrose Point – A tiny Eden in the city. I discovered this protected area on a meandering run one afternoon and now it’s my destination every time I hit the Lake Shore Path. Dense trees and plants line a maze of well-kept trails and the wildlife (bunnies! wild flowers! dragonflies! butterflies! all sorts of birds!) are a needed reminder of life beyond the pavement. Once you step into the mini-forest (or maxi-garden), it’s easy to imagine you’re in another world entirely. If you head towards the lake, the paths end at an open field of chest-high wildflowers with an incredible view of Chicago’s skyline. But be forewarned: there are rumors of untoward activities taking place in the brush, so perhaps not the best night spot.

The Underdog by Spoon – This song makes me really happy so it’s my go-to first song on just about every CD I burn. Foremost for the opening drums, but that’s followed up with horns, a great melody and some brilliant lyrics. It reminds me to keep going when the odds are stacked against, which in the world of the performing arts, feels like a lot of the time. It can’t all be wedding cake and beware the underdog.

Bar on Buena – This cozy beer bar/restaurant feels like a hidden gem. There’s over 50 beers to choose from, booths, couches, stools and other sitting accoutrements to keep you comfortable, outdoor seating when the weather cooperates, and absolutely delicious burgers that come off of what they boats is the “World’s smallest grill” (size doesn’t matter here). It also happens to be just a hop, skip and jump from my apartment, so the week-night specials are particularly appreciated.