Milky Way… the American Way

We have the Halloween candy ready for the trick-or-treaters but what about the grown-ups? I put together a basket of Caramel Apple Milky Ways for our movie group tonight.

Although we have the Milky Way bar in Great Britain, it doesn’t contain caramel like it does here in the United States, so this version was especially intriguing to me. Caramel apple seemed particularly appropriate for a fall get-together, although it was the tiny bite-sized format that sold them to me in the end. These turned out to be the perfect snack to satisfy the seasonal sugar-craving while enjoying a sweet movie.


Bean Counter

You are given a dollar, and told to use it to buy a gift for someone very important to you. What do you buy? For whom?

This was the prompt given in my writing class and it got me thinking… Is it possible to find a gift for a dollar?

I truly believe that you don’t have to spend money to give. A simple gesture of kindness, an offer of help, or something you’ve made, can be as much a gift as something store-bought, prettily wrapped, and topped with a bow.

I enjoy going out and about with a camera so I’ll often photograph a place that carries meaning for someone and make that into a gift. Just about anyone can be a photographer these days, but there’s still a place for thoughtful, high-resolution, printed images, for not that much from the digital world makes it into the real, hard world.

A matte picture of reasonable size is inexpensive to produce, with not just online services available, but local pharmacies offering this facility too (avoiding shipping fees). Adding a clear sleeve makes an image look professional and expensive (here working out at about 25 cents a pop). Alternatively metallic printing is very striking. Costing a little more, a smaller image still comes in at under a dollar, and can be slipped inside a greeting card for safe mailing.

A dollar need not be a barrier to gift-giving, but can be seen as an opportunity for creativity. By counting on talents, not counting on money, unique and personal gifts need not scare the bean counter.


Forever in our Hearts

Forever in our Hearts

May you find comfort

in sweet and happy memories

that will forever remain

In Deepest Sympathy

This week, not one, but two friends lost a parent. One a Father who had the zest for life of a much younger man, and another a Mother with an overwhelming love for her family, especially her grandchildren.

Of course I sent cards. To me its important to focus on the memories and to know that in time those will bring you the comfort that seems so unthinkable right now. The girls also rallied around and we sent a care package to our friend, with some of her favorite treats. For our other friend, who lives in our neighborhood, my husband and I stopped by with homemade Cottage Pie, the British equivalent of a neighborly casserole.

Cottage Pie should not be confused with Shepherd’s Pie; the former contains beef, whilst the latter is made of lamb (obvious when it’s pointed out). For the English the doyenne of all foods British is Delia Smith, who’s been providing the public with no-nonsense recipes (“they always work”) since the 1970s. This is my go-to comfort food so I was pleased to be able to share it with our dear friend and his family at this difficult time.

Our friends and their loved ones are in our thoughts.


Sweet Music

Who would have thought that a movie about a retirement home full of ageing musicians would be so entertaining.

Last night I attended an early screening of Quartet at the Chicago International Film Festival. I enjoy this festival immensely and keenly watch for the program to be announced. I usually whittle my selection down to two or three options and buy a pair of tickets to each. That way I can be sure of getting in to the often sold out shows and I can invite a friend too.

I’m always touched by the kindness of friends and like the opportunity to treat them in return. Quartet is an English production so it seemed appropriate to come armed with a bag of British candy to share with my companion. Crunchies always remind me of my first trips to the London theatre with my Father, while Maltesers are the ultimate cinema candy (or sweets). Let the performance begin!


Freshly Pressed

It’s Fall (Autumn to me) and the leaves are coming down. Today was a beautiful, sunny day in Chicago, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to be outside, tidying up in the garden. My husband had worked so hard sweeping up and bagging debris that I thought I would arrange a little break for him. I set the table with these pumpkin branches, bought a huge, caramel-peanut apple to share, and opened some chilled, natural, apple cider. This Artisanal Reserve, Lansdowne, from Crispin has Irish stout in it so it’s not overwhelmingly sweet, but still retains the appley freshness of the season – definitely pressed to perfection!


Words of Wisdom

So many cocktail parties are less than festive that a few simple rules may be valuable. The room should not be crowded with too many guests. The host should have plenty of ice. He should not try to offer more than three kinds of drinks without a professional bartender. There should be plenty of food stashed away in case the guests turn out to be voracious. There should be spare glasses. And the host himself should be abstemious and not ply his guests beyond reason.

These words of wisdom caught my eye last night as we toured the newly opened Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago campus.

Designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien this building serves as a unique place to house arts of all types, with rehearsal rooms living alongside a screening room, a workshop for building sets, event areas, and many other types of spaces. The 184,000 square foot interior consists of a low, two-story building and a highrise of eleven stories, and was a treat to view for a group of architecture enthusiasts. However, it was this piece of language that captured the imagination of our crowd the most. Afterall, who has not hosted their own little drinks soiree and grappled with pulling it together so that it appears seamless to guests. Everyone agreed that there was wisdom in these words, although abstemious raised a few eyebrows. Moderation yes, abstinence, not necessarily!