The Pink Refrigerator

5113jn92IcL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Written and illustrated by Tim Egan, The Pink Refrigerator is a charming book that tells the story of a mouse with the love of the cosy and familiar that reminds me of a Hobbit. Dodsworth owns a second hand store and loves running his store and living a predictable life where the main form of recreation is television.

One day Dodsworth acquires an old, pink refrigerator. He plans to sell it but becomes intrigued by its magic. You see, one day Dodsworth goes to the fridge to get rid of it, but he’s surprised by a note that says “Paint Pictures.” Inside the fridge there are all the supplies needed to paint.

Day after day, the fridge challenges Dodsworth to get outside his comfort zone and do something new and creative. Before you know it, Dodsworth’s transformed. It’s a cute, cosy tale that inspires.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you what’s new with you and then, I’d tell you about the wonderful exhibit of Gilded Age portraits I saw at the Drieshaus Museum (and about which I’ll soon blog). I went there with a friend who’d never been to the Drieshaus. She loved it as I expected and we’ll soon go back.

I’d tell you about the rather weird and captivating documentary I saw called, The Wolfpack. I came to really care about these boys and their mother who were imprisoned more or less by their irrational father. I won’t soon forget the film and how it illustrates the curative powers of creativity. 

I’d urge you to get and read C.S. Lewis’ The Silent Planet, which I’m reading for my online bookclub. His writing is wonderful and inspires (or kicks me) to improve my own work.

I’d lament that last week I didn’t get to write much. I went downtown twice to meet with friends and on Friday did some research into 19th century Christmas stories for children. Wednesday I went downtown to meet friends, i.e. network. I learned about how a student committed suicide at the Hefei program Clark U runs and how differently the Chinese responded. They silenced any talk of the matter. They didn’t have any memorial service. The boy had jumped from the 10th story where the teachers worked. We’re trained to be open, talk and share to heal the living. Through back channels my friend learned of the suicide. When he mentioned that he wasn’t sure if he had the student, his Chinese colleague sent him a photo of the boy. He expected the attachment would be a snapshot of him alive, not a picture of him splattered on the pavement, which is what he received. Yes, cultures do differ dramatically.

Oh, I’d say that I thought my interview went fine, though as usual, when I reviewed my performance I thought of ways it could go better. I won’t hear for another week at least and so am continuing to job hunt. I am getting job hunting fatigue, but what can you do.

SaveSave

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Here’s my first stab at a video Weekend Coffee Share using a video on Adobe’s Spark, which is free. (So many Adobe products are very expensive IMHO.)

There’s a tune that will play so mute your computer if that’s a problem.

The video didn’t take long to make, maybe 30 minutes, but that is longer than to just write a post, but I’ve been stretching my creativity this past week, which I’ve enjoyed.

Awesome Cakes

I just discovered the Icing Artist YouTube channel. This woman makes the cutest looking cakes and she makes it look, while not easy, not too hard. One day I will try to make something she’s done, but that will be after I’ve finished all the writing I’m working on.

She is a true artist!

Writing

I’ve spent a good part of the summer researching for a historical fiction writing project that’s captured my fancy. When I left Chicago two weeks ago I had written 25% of the project’s first draft and lots of research done. I went to a lecture at a library on the era and was delighted that I knew everything — and a little more of what the author said.

My goal for the fall is to complete this project. Teaching has a way of demanding and eating up time. I’m on hiatus from grad school which also eats up time. Both school and teaching can be never-ending. There’s always some way you can do more to a project or curriculum. I want to keep writing and finish the first draft this month. I’m now at the 30% mark and have gotten more ideas. This is the first historical fiction project I’ve done and thanks to my library reference classes I had the knowledge and gumption to work with primary sources. Tuesday was quite productive. I only teach one class on Tuesdays and my plan is to spend the afternoon writing. That night I did some research, but my new ideas were so exciting, I couldn’t get to sleep. So now I’ve learned I have to write before dinner and do my planning and grading at night.

This afternoon was a wash. After lunch a drowsy cloud kept creativity at bay. I gave in figuring I can write on Wednesday nights since I don’t teach on Thursdays.

Watch this space for progress reports. I need to keep myself accountable and I need to finish and polish the project.

Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge

shopping selfridge 2

Lindy Woodhead’s Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge provides the context and biography of H. Gordon Selfridge, Harry or Chief to his loved ones or employees. Woodhead chronicles Selfridge’s life from his youth when both his brothers died and his father deserted the family to his death. “Mile a Minute Harry” was a dynamo who started working at age 15 and made his way to Marshall Field’s in Chicago where his innovations in display and showmanship revolutionized shopping. It’s thrilling to read of this era when there was so much change and when drive and imagination could, for some, propel them to great wealth. (That still happens but so many fields have matured and aren’t new frontiers. Certainly retail isn’t half as exciting as it was when Selfridge started.)

Selfridge became a partner at Field’s due to his own chutzpah by just directly asking the much more reserved Marshall Field, who was going to offer it down the road. But when Field’s was choosing a successor, Selfridge knew it wouldn’t be him so he left Marshall Field’s and tried to start a store in Chicago. While it failed because the city just did not have enough sales staff of the ilk that Field’s had, Selfridge did make money on selling his store to Carson, Pirie, Scott. Too young to retire, he opened a store in London, a city that was stuck in time with fuddy duddy floorwalkers who’d expel any browsers. As the itv/PBS program shows Selfridge’s was part department store, part theater (an a hell of a lot like Marshall Field’s down to the evergreen bags). I enjoyed the book’s detail and rooted for Harry as he devised creative means to make shopping fun and his store bigger and amazingly service-oriented (like Field’s was).

After 1918, when his wife Rose dies, Harry’s life starts to slide, which made reading rather sad. The store was still successful, but Harry’s proclivity for women, showgirls to be more exact, got him mixed up with such greedy, shallow women. He lavishes them with jewels and money to gamble/lose that you feel the impending financial ruin coming. It’s sad because had Rose lived longer, Harry probably would not have wound up in a two bedroom flat after selling all his property and losing most of what he built up. (I so hope the TV show takes its time running through history. The man’s life is just so sad at the end.)

Woodhead offers a lot of context including what was going on in entertainment, politics and city history for both Chicago and London. She shares what his friends and relatives thought about Harry, what allies and adversaries he had. Yet I felt there was a distance between Selfridge and me, the reader. So many questions may not be possible to answer. Harry did burn a lot of his letters when he got older. It’s rather cloudy how Harry and his wife met and what their courtship entailed. I didn’t feel I knew Harry the way I knew Proust after reading his biography. That might not be fair since Proust was a writer and probably more self-absorbed than most. Woodhead’s very thorough in her research so I grant if there was information to be had she would have found it. But perhaps Harry was the sort of life of the party that no one really knows well.