Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Club: Half the Sky

Book club meeting! A night totally dominated by us munching on doughnuts!
Kristen (left), Oscar (dog), Emma (middle), Julie (right)
"If you care about poverty you must understand it, not just oppose it. And understanding poverty comes from spending time observing it directly." (p.248)

Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn explore the oppression of women across the globe in their book Half the Sky. The content of Half the Sky is heavy. The chapters are filled with information and stories surrounding issues of sex trafficking, gender based violence and maternal mortality.

Despite the heaviness of the subject matters explored, the book is a beacon of light. Kristof and Wudunn relay the grim details of the pain of fistula patients, the systematic use of rape in war, and the brutal reality of young girls being forced to work in brothels without leaving their reader completely in a state of despair. Instead, they inspire readers with stories of people who are working on the grassroots level to create meaningful change.

 Dr. Sunitha Kirshnan in India, one of the founders of the Prajwala organization, is one of the inspiring leaders featured in Half the Sky.  Dr. Kirshnan co-founded Prajwala to serve displaced prostitutes and their children when one of the oldest red light districts of Hyderadad City was evacuated in 1996. Today Prajwala is still in operation. The organization works to fight against sex trafficking by implementing programs involving "rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and community based prevention".

Beyond using individual stories for inspiration, Kristof and Wudunn also empower readers to take action. They deliver the message continually throughout the book to "...never give up. Helping people is difficult and unpredictable and our interventions don't always work, but successes are possible, and these victories are incredibly important" (p.45). Additionally, the book concludes with concrete solutions and a list of credible organizations accepting volunteers and/or monetary donations.

Overall, Half the Sky is a great read. Its reignited a fire inside me to stay engaged in dialog and community organizing efforts surrounding issues of human rights and social justice. Despite my criticisms of the book having ethnocentric tendencies, and an overwhelming promotion of capitalism as the only viable economic solution to improve the circumstances of impoverished individuals in the "third world," I still highly recommend placing Half the Sky on your reading list. This book will touch your heart and force you to critically think about your place in this world.

*Book Club Update!
Thank you Kristen for picking Half the Sky as our first book club read. In May we will be reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The date of our next meeting will be at the end of May, but is still TBD. A movie version of The Help is being released this summer, so take this opportunity to read it before heading out to the theatre. Stay tuned for further updates about book club -- we welcome all who have a love of books, food, wine and laughter filled discussions!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Clothing Swap!

As I've grown older, shopping has become increasingly unappealing. I often find myself frustrated as I shop for a needed clothing item. Music in stores tend to be too loud and commercial, racks are too full, dressing room lines too long and the sizing of clothing from brand to brand seem to be reliably inconsistent. In one store my pant size is a 26, in another store I'm a size 29! This leads to mounds of clothing stacked in the dressing room, leaving me in a daze. Much of the time I try to forgo this exasperating experience until a hole is so large in my pants that I might be arrested for indecent exposure. 

Therefore, when I received a  "Clothing Swap" party invitation a few weeks ago, I was beyond excited.  This would enable me to trade the annoying shopping experience for a girls night accompanied with cocktails, hors d'oeurves and good conversation. When was the last time you sipped Pinot Gritio while scouring the racks of Nordstrom, and then leaving with a bag full of clothes with no prospect of buyers remorse? Additionally, a clothing swap meant I could rid my closet of items I no longer use, while hopeful scoring "new" frocks from other party attendees. 

This particular swap was hosted by my friend Brandy. The party was small, but extremely fruitful! I came with only two items and left with a big bag of goodies. Items nabbed included new black work pants (I desperately needed), a vintage house robe and clutch purse, Levi jeans, a summer dress and skirt, a green sweater, a purple sweater and funky multi-colored stripped leg warmers. 

When I eventually returned home late in the evening, I poured all my newly acquired items on the floor. Scanning the floor, I felt genuinely happy. I was happy because we filled our desire to sport new threads without creating more waste. I was happy because I saw the items from my closet receive a fabulous new owner. I was happy because, most importantly, the evening was one filled with laughter, the exchange of ideas and storytelling. Thank you ladies for not just filling my closet, but filling my spirit!

Enjoy some highlights of the clothing swap below!

 Amanda(left), Brandy (middle) & Diana (upper right).

My pile of new clothes dumped on the floor!

A dress I plan to make great use of this summer!

A Vintage robe. I almost didn't grab this robe, and now
it's probably my favorite item I nabbed. Thanks Amanda!

The robe close up! I love the belt that cinches in the waist.

A Vintage purse. It's a medium size clutch that will easily fit all the
 essentials needed when heading out for a night on the town.

A new skirt for summer! The length is a little longer than I usually wear,
 but the fit is perfect, compensating for this minor detail.

The skirt close up! The buttons moving down the front of the
 skirt paired with the subtle stripes won me over.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cakies - a fabulous blog

Ditch digital! Win a Polaroid Camera today!
One of my favorite leisure time activities these days is following a variety of blogs. One of the first blogs I fell in love with and started following actively was Cakies. Blogger Rubyellen documents her crafting projects as well as the life of her growing family on Cakies. Although I've only become an official "follower" a couple months ago, I've been reading this blog for over a year and a half! Week after week, I still find creative inspiration from Rubyellen's posts. Content on her blog includes food, vintage clothing, crafts, home design, updates about her beautiful girls and her handsome husband Ben, promoting other great bloggers/crafters and much much more!

 Rubyellen also features fabulous giveaways on her blog! This week the giveaway is a Polaroid Camera! Click here to find out more details.

Photo Courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

Chronicles of my Green Thumb - Entry 1

I am an urban dweller. I have no yard.  My "yard" is a small porch in the front of my third story apartment, shaded by a large tree.

 I have no experience tending to plants. Yet, despite these obvious challenges, I am working to create a small garden.

My one rule for creating this small garden is "keep it simple". Therefore, I've kept my planting endeavors to 5 green bean plants, 5 pepper plants, and 4 Roma tomato plants. Eventually, I will also plant a few herbs as well! 

 Below are photos (taken a few weeks ago) displaying my humble beginnings of my "gardening" endeavors. Enjoy!

Burpee eco-friendly seed starting greenhouse kit.
100% biodegradable & made from bamboo.

Seeds: The organic pepper seeds are from Home
Depot. The other seeds were gifted to me by friends Joe &
Lisa in February after chatting with them about my "green
thumb" endeavors. Thanks for helping me get started!

Left: pepper seeds. Middle: Roma tomato seeds.
 Right: green beans.

Look for future "Chronicles of my Green Thumb" blog entries, as I will be tracking the progress of my plant's growth!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Tax Deadline Day!

The Main Chicago District U.S. Postal Office at 433 W. Harrison Street accommodated
 last minute tax filers with curb side service as well as with well staffed counters inside.
The Post Office on Wheels was my favorite accommodation of the evening!

America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation.
-Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Some people filed their taxes months ago. Others, like myself, filed their taxes today. Whether you're a procrastinator or logical individual who thinks ahead, Happy Tax Deadline Day! 

Thank you U.S. Postal employees for working late tonight! You are a life savior to all the last minute filers!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Foggy Day

As I looked out the window today, I observed a dense fog engulfing Chicago. The skyline absent from view, the city felt smaller. Despite experiencing numerous foggy days in Chicago previously, today its presence was overwhelming. Hanging low toward the city streets weaving in between buildings and skyscrapers, it gave me that ominous feeling you get when someone is looking over your shoulder. 

If only the Hancock or the Willis tower would protrude out of the haze for a moment, I thought with discontent! I was confident it would give me a greater sense of security that the city wasn't swallowed up by the fog, taken away from me forever. I was aware I was being a bit dramatic. Yet, the thick gray wall between me and my favorite skyline was making me feel claustrophobic and anxious.

Determined to shake the feeling, I attended a yoga class and skipped my usual bus ride home. Instead, I walked home. During my walk, I slowly found myself no longer threatened by mother nature. As it began to rain five blocks before I reached my door step, I was able to find beauty in the hazy dimly lit streets. Windows cracked open, bikes locked to fences and posts, and people leisurely walking their dogs made me smile. These were clear signs that warmer sunnier days would be upon us soon . 

With my mental cloud lifted and the day coming to an end, I am reminded of a verse from the poem "The Invitation" by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Stanza seven reads, "I want to know if you can see Beauty/ even when it is not pretty/ every day./And if you can source your own life/ from its presence".

Photo Courtesy of  prozac1/
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