Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grutz says, "Hectic doesn't even begin to describe it." or "Actually, we're heading out of town, again."

Wedding season is open.

Anyone (oh about 5 of you) following this blog documenting a year in the life of the entity known as Nick&Carleen* knows that we post, at the very least, every few days, if not more.  Lately, this has not been the case due to a very busy schedule for the two of us.  Now I'll happily fill all five of you in....

Carleen's brother, Matt, wed Maggie a couple weeks ago.  I put up a nice pic of Carleen in the last blog.  Cincinnati is such a great city and this is no doubt because of Carleen's family.  Tom and Karen were kind enough to let us stay with them WITH Arnie.  It was great.  The stay did feel a little busy, though, with getting the wedding set up, rehearsals, rentals, pre-post-parties, and a 115 lbs dog named Lola.  But enough of this yammering, photos!
Julia Healy.  A force to be reckoned with.   Best photo of the wedding, hands down.

The happy Healy clan.  Carleen, Karen, Matt, Maggie, Tom, Julia and Michael (from l-r).

When the Healys out number everyone on the dance floor you know the party has hit its stride. 
What a dynamic pair. 
Iowa Waltz.

This last weekend was Gretchen's 30th birthday.  I can't believe my little sister is 30!  So just after returning from Cincinnati we took off for Iowa.  But before we ventured west of the Mississippi we stopped at Uncle Jeff's in North Aurora.  Jeff and his wife, Yung Kuei, we're hosting Nana who was visiting from DC for the above mentioned wedding.  Along with his two daughters, Amy and Jennifer, we had a great visit and fine, fine food from the grill.  Jeff's house boarders a nature preserve and is very close to the impressive Fox River.  We, of course, had Arnie with us and he greatly enjoyed Jeff's spacious yard.  The woods behind the house, though, proved too tempting to Arnie.  He walked up to the fence, paused, and just jumped right over!  A good 4 1/2 feet high fence!  Of course he walked around to the front of the house, no big deal, but we now know that you're standard chain linked fence will NOT contain Arnie.  It's pretty amazing to witness such an athletic little pooch.

So after the great visit, we got on the road to head to Iowa across western Illinois.  The sky turned dark and the rain came down.  It was a different route for us, as we usually head towards Dubuque, but in this case our destination was Grandma Barb's house in Coralville (it's closer to Gretchen's place in Cedar Rapids).  As you may know, I kinda like Iowa.  A lot.  As we neared the Mississippi, a feeling of comfort and stability crept into my heart.  Weird, I know.  And once we crossed into Iowa the sun broke through the clouds and the rain stopped.  A symbol?  A message?  Something divine?  Nope, that's just Iowa welcoming you home.  And, eerily, it's not the first time this has happened!
The Iowa sun breaking the clouds.  A welcomed sight.

Arnie thinks he can sit in the front.  We think he can't.  So Carleen keeps him happy.
Gretchen's birthday was very busy (a reoccurring theme!) as we went to her place to meet with her, her kids, my mom, and Wally's parents.  Wally is Gretchen's fiance and is stationed in Afghanistan (only one month to go!) and we had yet to meet his folks.  As I get older, it's exciting to see how our 'family' grows and changes.  After this visit, we went back to Gram's and celebrated Grr's and Waylon's (His 3rd, June 29th) birthday with Uncle Jim's family.  Then we drove to Dubuque.  Notice the driving, there's a lot of it.

Unfortunately, this visit to Iowa wasn't all fun and games.  We had a passing in the family.  Now I'm not going to go into the details and such, but it was a profound moment for the Linden family.  Just always remember that family and friends are the most important things in this world.  It was moving and sad, but there was something positive, too.  I can't put my finger on it or articulate it, but there was a positivity found, somewhere, in all this loss.

Continuing with the positive.

My lovely wife, Carleen, with wonder-mutt Arnie, in Mom's joyous garden.
In other good news, our great friend, Ciaran, is enjoying Northern Ireland.  I mentioned his visit here.  He's also been documenting his journey on a blog.  You should really check his blog.  Go to it.  Now.  And it doesn't hurt that he gives us a shout out, too.

We did even more than I've written and we have more to do.  We're leaving to go Sunset Beach NC tomorrow and we have to find an apartment and we have a wedding in Missouri in two weeks, yikes!  We'll try to keep you posted.  And something a little more humorous.

* Our friends, JulieAnn and Dan, have a wonderful daughter, Nora, who refers to me as NickandCarleen.  Kind of like how little kids think lmnop is one letter.   It's funny.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Grutz says, "Ketchup." or "Ciaran says, 'Rioting, the game the whole family can play!'"

Keeping things in perspective.

My last post may have seemed a little random (oh, and rather off my regular posting schedule) and some expressed some concern. My cousin and her family are going through some challenges. A situation that puts all the things in our lives that make us so busy and so stress or seem so important or critical in to one simple category: trivial. Family, that's one I'd put in the 'profound' category.

Something I've been meaning to do....

Arnie and I go on many walks. Lately, they've been on the soggy side. But a few weeks ago we had one of those June days that, well, was truly a June day. Sunny, mild, dry, classic. So on one of our 4-5 walks I decided to document some of the sights of Pilsen. I've been meaning to do this for some time and will continue to do so. A quick note, I am often very critical of Pilsen in this blog. Of course it is not the worst place in the world, but it's very easy to point out the negative aspects or the stinking kids across the street that shoot off fireworks every night for the last three weeks. Oh and Pilsen makes it easy. Oh brother does it ever. But I'm not going into that now, just a few pics from one of our walks.
A block from our home is Miranda's Grocery. I have a cousin by the name Miranda. Interesting. You can also spy the giant smoke stack from the coal-fired power plant, too. It's pretty bad for you and here's the data from the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO).

You may notice that the sidewalk is higher than the front door in photo. That's quite common in Pilsen. In the 1850's Chicago 'fixed' its drainage problems by raising the streets (4-14 feet!) and installing sewers. Those that could afford it jacked their buildings up, those that couldn't, well, many didn't do anything or just moved the front door to the second floor.
This is an interesting church facade at 19th and Peoria. At first glance I thought it was a burned out shell. But as you can see....'s well maintained. I'm not sure what kinds of events take place here, but it's NOT open to the public.

One of the many religious murals in Pilsen. One of these days Arnie and I will document the dozens of others.

When in Rome Belfast do as the Romans Belfastians* do.

Ah, keeping the stereotypes alive and kicking in Belfast! Ciaran's getting doughy.†
(photo:Peter Morrison/
†That's not Ciaran, an no, he's not doughy.

So my wonderful friend Ciaran is back in his old stomping grounds of Belfast, Northern Ireland. And guess what? They're rioting. I'm pretty sure Ciaran has nothing to do with it, but I'm not holding my breath. Actually, I hope you all realize that Belfast is a great town and I'd love to go back and visit. Too bad many ONLY associate the 'Troubles' with this fine city. I think it's grand that the whole island is represented here, at DiscoverIreland. Check it out. Plan a trip. Take me with.

*I wasn't too sure how to refer to natives of Belfast and apparently no one else is sure either! Here's a link the Belfast Telegraph about this phenomenon. Enjoy!

Guilty as charged.

Much like Pilsen, Arnie can, at times, get a bad rap on this blog. Now, he is amazing. 95% of the time his is utterly wonderful. And 5% of the time he acts like a dog. So I can't get upset with him when he does something less than stellar. "Oh, right, you're a dog." Such as the following, what really inspired Carleen and I to crate him was shoe destruction and his one man show of furniture ruination. I'm sure I can salvage the chair, but first the evidence.
"Oh why did I finish the wood in bacon grease?!?!" Actually, I have no idea why he'd nibble on the armrest, but like everything he does, he does it well.

Here's the repaired armrest. Notice the "I'm pretending like nothing happened" pose by Arnie. "Guilty!" I say.

Up close of the patch. I had some very, very old wood putty that needed tons of wood glue to work. I mixed the two in a container that had some dried orange paint. Result: putty that looked like carrot cake (looks much better dry). I'll be painting the frame shortly. Arnie, "What? Why are you looking at me? I don't know anything about, what? A chair?"
Lastly, a little taste of what's on deck......
Yep, that's my lovely wife, Carleen, at her brother Matt's wedding this last weekend. Priceless.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grutz says, "Don't deny love."

I'll fill you all in with the amazing and hectic two weeks later.  Right now you need to get up and tell someone you love just how much you love them and how much they mean to you.  Do it.  Do it right now.  Get on the phone or go down the hall, just share the love.  The world needs it something fierce.  Thanks.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Object jealousy, Gio's and a delightful day of dancing and looking.

So Arnie is exhibiting extreme jealousy over my computer and my phone.  When I sit down to type, he sidles up to me, weasels his head under my arm and proceeds to unseat my attempt to get work done, and/or update my cyberspace friends.  He also has been known to wedge his head behind my back forcing my to get up, move, or otherwise pay attention to him.  He brings me toys, all of them, until I play.  He puts his paws on me, on the computer, on my face, and it goes on.  When I talk on the phone, if Nick is not home, Arnie will try and get on my lap, he'll stand up with his front paws on me somehow and lick my face, and paw at the phone.  It's all very cute, but it's seriously inhibiting my screen time and my communication.  Any thoughts?  Remedies?

We are having a serious conversation about personal space.  Notice the abandoned laptop. 

In other news, I found 15 bucks on a walk with him (the dog) the other day!

And, we went out to the best dinner last night, and I just finished it for leftovers.  Gio's is a special place.  (All of that was written with one hand because Arnie was forcing me to pet him with my left.  He seems to have settled a little, so I can continue my review with speed and efficiency). Gio's is an Italian deli that happens to serve amazing, wholesome food.  When you walk in, you see the counter. and the 8 or so tables that have red checked tablecloths with a white disposable overlay.
Interior of Gio's, pic found on their website. 

Nothing about it is spectacular looking but Gio's makes up for its lack of silk linens with old world charm and deliciousness. We usually go to Gio's on special occasions, New Years, birthdays, or with friends. Last night was no special occasion, we got there just before they stopped taking orders, and my Vodka Rigatoni was the best I've ever had.  Nick had Risotto with portabellos and chicken, and that too, (minus the chicken) was amazing.  We've been doing a lot of carry out lately, and last night, I just needed to get out and enjoy a rich and nourishing meal.  SO GOOD.  I really recommend this place, and I do hope that it stays exactly the same for as long as I live here in this town.  And, in case you're interested here is the list of salable items that they offer:
  1. Fresh sausage
  2. Fresh ricotta ( Chellino )
  3. Fresh pasta
  4. Homemade Giardinera
  5. Sopresatta
  6. Delicious Imported cheeses
  7. Italian gelato
  8. Lavazza coffee
  9. Tasty Cookies
  10. Chocolates
  11. Olives
  12. Different types of Olive Oils
  13. Italian Souvenirs
  14. Gift Certificates
  15. Italian bread ( fresh every day )

So, today was a busy day.  We started off the day with a lazy morning, and then all of a sudden it got nuts.

First, I walked the dog and picked up some amazing sugar snap peas from the farmers market (18th and Halsted people!).  We encountered a lot of dogs and kids, and Arnie was mostly great.  There was one dog that apparently bites other dogs when he's on leash, but is fine at the park.  Arnie let him sniff his bum, but the other owner was on him about the biting.   I am trying to work on socializing Arnie around other dogs, he is so playful, and wants to check every single dog out that he unintentionally seems to jerk me around.

And this is where it gets busy.  After the walk, I inhaled lunch (guacamole, fontina cheese, some greens, and seedy crackers), and we jumped in the car to check out a possible apartment.  It was at Wabansia and Sawyer in Humboldt park, and while promising online, turned out to be a bit of a dump.  Plus, they had cats, so it smelled like cat poo, and that just isn't something you want to start out with.

Then we booked it down to 33rd and State, to the S and R Crown Building, designed by the singular Mies van der Rohe, where I was lucky to be part of one of the kick off events for the week of the Chicago Improv Fest .  We were a part of the live exhibition in the space, audience moving throughout, interactive sculptures, and dancers improvising on a loose score.  It was really delightful.  Thank you photographer Nick for these images.

And then, after a bunch of reception citrus water and brownies and discussion. we realized we were late for another apartment date.

And this one was more promising, but not promising enough,  It was kind of perfect, 2nd floor of a 2 flat, owner occupied place, all the right amenities.... it just felt smaller than what we have now, and it's more expensive.  There are definite perks, like we would actually be allowed to have a dog... but we can't seem to wrap our minds around a longer commute (it was at Whipple and Addison) for me and more expensive place.  So help us Chicagoans.  If you know of a 2 bedroom, dog friendly place in the city, please let us know right away.  Much appreciated!

And that my friends, is the extent of the energy I have for writing.  3 more days of kids left, 1 inservice, then Cincinnati for my brothers wedding, then back for 1 day of inservice, then done with school for 6 weeks.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Grutz says, "Big Star is a big deal." or "When things just line up perfectly."

Seriously, Big Star.
They don't make'em like this anymore.

Earlier this week I posted about the joy I've found in listening to Domino Radio.  It's been interesting, random, fun, weird, unbearable, insightful, or just downright bad (bad as in good, kids).  So I pop it on this morning and what do I find?  About Group doing an hour of Alex Chilton (performances, covers, production, real rare stuff).  Wow.  Check it out.  (Quickly, it ends at 8 am cst!)

Now, what did I read last night at NPR music?  A piece about Big Star, Chilton's band!  I love it when this sh!t happens!

If you miss the hour, go and check out Big Star's #1 Record.  Steal it if you have to.  I'll post bail if necessary.  Just get it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Grutz says, "Radio is not dead, at least 'til Sunday."

Remember the local radio station.  When it was local?
Before ClearChannel, Dwight Verne ruled the local airwaves.
As many of you know, I'm a huge proponent of public radio, especially Iowa Public Radio's Studio One (excellent music at night, great talk show during the day, oh and yes, I did donate last week).  It's commercial free and reflects local and regional cultural information.  It's a good thing, check out your local station or find one online.  Of course IPR rules, but I'd like to suggest WBEZ out of Chicago and Wisconsin's Ideas network, too.  Still free of the shackles of big brother media.

But Nick, you mentioned radio's not dead?

Oh right, so I was reading on NPR's sight a great story about the Domino Record label out of the UK.  For one week, June 6th-12th, they're running an entirely free and independent radio station.  That's kind of a big deal in the UK, and to a large extent, the US, too.  It's hosted by musicians and others in the music/radio industry.  The host right now is Bobby Gillespie (of The Jesus & Mary Chain and Primal Scream).  It's pretty refreshing or (just downright interesting) to hear The Sweet Inspirations*, Tim Hardin*, Patty Smith, Marianne Faithful, Crazy Horse, Skip Spence, David Crosby, and Johnny Ace (Thanks Mr. Gillespie for the info on Johnny Ace's demise!  Go on, check it out).  It's like getting a musical education by this particular host, it's great. So get to the website and listen.  And who knows, you might be totally floored or hear something you haven't heard in twenty years, or ever!

*Completely new to me and fantastic!  Tim Hardin will break your heart and The Sweet Inspirations included Crissy Houston (mother of Whitney) and Lee Warrick (mother of Dee Dee and Dionne).  Wow.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dance Union, market bounty and of course, Arnie is still awesome.

Oh there is so much to say.  First though, this morning in my dream state I woke to the feeling of, something amazing happened last night, but I just can't name what it was.   It was a strange warm and satisfying sensation, and I wanted to stay in my dream.  The sun streaming in to our room at 5:45am cleared out the cobwebs and I remembered why I felt so good.  Last night was Ayako Kato's first of the season Dance Union performance.   Ayako is a brilliant and beautiful dancer and friend, and she seems to always invite performers to her series who juxtapose in a lovely way.   I was grateful to be asked to perform, and Julie Ann Graham ("long time collaborator") joined me in an improvisational duet.  (Atalee Judy's company and Winifred Haun's company performed as well).  We were also supported by an alley find, a beautiful and falling apart mannequin, lovingly named Beatrice.  She informed and helped us clear up our dancing and added a strong element to the evening.  I usually don't work with props and sometimes find them to be incredibly contrived, but she seemed right for this time in my life and changed my normal patternings enough for the dance to feel more new than usual.  We danced for about 18 minutes to a musical score created by none other than my husband, Mr. Nick Grutz.   I trusted him, and it was great.  I really hope he continues to work on developing his interest in composition.  And, I will try to figure out some way of posting a link to the music on here.  Alas, I am not that technically able, yet...

Here are a few pictures of the evening.  Of course, they don't do justice to the feeling.  I felt so serene, calm and clear in my movement choices.  I felt the energy of the audience, but I didn't feel the adrenaline that usually permeates in a performance for me.  Nothing felt rushed or too long.  Everything melded. 

This is one of my favorites.  Do you see Julie Ann's hand holding Beatrice (the mannequin :).  Even her fragility seems mutually supportive. 
 Of course, almost as exciting as dancing last night is the first day of the Pilsen Farmers Market (at 18th and Halsted, 9-3 every Sunday)!  The offerings included strawberry cupcakes, fresh lemonade, greens galore, organic and grass fed meats (which caused Nick to wax profound about the monetary benefits and potential profit of raising chickens, which "you can buy for cents and sell for dollars"), and lots of other delicious things.  I, as is my usual fashion, want to buy something from everyone and support all of the local farmers and bakers, and Nick, the sometimes voice of reason, convinced me only to buy a few things that we might actually use in a timely fashion.

Here is our bounty:  delicious head of lettuce, bunch of multicolored radishes, and a loaf of multigrain flax bread. 

And this is what I did with the bounty!  
My favorite way to eat radishes is the English way: very thinly sliced on freshly baked and toasted bread with butter, sprinkled with sea salt, and of course the flavorful soft lettuce is a bonus.  This is a great fresh snack for a Sunday:  makes me feel clean and healthy.

And we can't forget the joy that Arnie brings us on a minute by minute basis.  He is such a smart, great companion, and just look that face!!!  He is the best. (Kerry, I am trying to do better with the pictures, here are a few!)

It must be said that we love the crate too.  It has eliminated our chewed up shoes and decimated trash contents.   He seems to feel safe when he's in the crate, and has been much calmer in the mornings when we come down, and when we get home from work.  It is a great tool.