The art of towel animals

19 Nov

20141117_171333I’d love to tell you about the adventures of Adam and Lia in Mexico — the beauty of avoiding the Chicago snow for a few days, reading books, exercising, swimming, and actually relaxing for possibly the first time in my life — but that will have to wait until next week.

For now, I have a more pressing issue from our Riviera Maya vacation to discuss — something of utmost importance. Of course I’m referring to towel art.

Our resort in Mexico offers a wide range of classes and activities every day, like beach volleyball, water aerobics, Spanish lessons, Latin dance lessons, nightly movies, and casino nights. But “Towel Art,” led by one of the hotel maids, was a class I was most looking forward to.

20141117_162026Before our eyes, we watched Emanuel fold a bath towel and a hand towel this way and that — and magically, with a final touch of cartoon eye stickers, an elephant appeared. Someone requested that he make a pig, and suddenly, the white towels I thought only served one purpose were transformed into a work of art; same thing when Emanuel made a towel giraffe.

If I had known this was an art, maybe I would have done some serious soul-searching before choosing journalism as my college major. Or at least I’d be more interested in visiting art museums. Or, in reality, I’d probably be slightly more willing to do laundry.

20141117_161530Thanks, Emanuel, for teaching us the ever-useful skill of making animals out of towels; and to any out-of-town guests who may be staying with us in the near future, let us know how you’d like your towels shaped.

Ticket to Ride board game: Unfortunately not a Beatles game!

12 Nov

Ticket-to-ride-boardgameBox“And then this weekend, over Shabbat, we can play the board game Ticket to Ride!”

I was so excited. It’s great to spend Shabbat with friends, playing board games — but who knew that there was a board game all about the Beatles?!

It was a few months ago, and my friends were making plans to play board games on Shabbat afternoon. I’m not really into the long, complicated board games about international wars or trading wood for wheat, but I figured, wow, a Beatles board game is something I’ll love.

Public service announcement for anyone in my position: The board game “Ticket to Ride” is about trains traveling across the country — and that’s about the extent of my knowledge of the game, because, upon learning this fact, I may or may not have shed tears of frustration. This beautifully named board game has absolutely nothing to do with the Beatles.

If you’re going to completely plagiarize the title of one of the best songs of all time, at least give a slight nod to the song in the game, in sort of a “we know this game is about trains but at least we’ll name one of the train stations ‘Liverpool'” kind of way. Or when you open the box, a tiny recorder plays, “I think I’m gonna be sad, I think it’s todayyyy, yeah.”

What’s next? A board game called “I Am the Walrus” that’s actually about zoo animals? A game called “Rubber Soul” that’s all about shoes? A game called “Because” that’s about subordinate conjunctions?

Beatles-MonopolyAlyssa, Avi, Matt, and Camila, my dearest board-game-playing friends: I won’t be playing Ticket to Ride with you at any time in the future out of shear protest. But if you ever acquire Beatles Monopoly, well, I’d be up for playing that “in my life” “eight days a week.”

This post may or may not have been written in the shower.

5 Nov

Though I’m sitting here at my computer, I very well could have written this blog post from the shower.

This past weekend, in honor of my 28th birthday, I received a unique and amazing gift: A waterproof notepad and pencil, designed for the shower.

I had requested this gift from Michael and Rachel, my brother and sister-in-law. “I’d like a dry erase board for my shower,” I told them. “I don’t know if it exists, but I figured if anyone in the world could find it, the two of you could.”

So, they presented me with these packs of waterproof notepad paper and pencils.


I stuck the notepad and the pencil to the wall of my shower using the attached suction cups, and I was ready to write.

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Why do I want this unusual product? I thought you’d never ask.

My best ideas come while in the shower. With the warm temperature and the sound of calming water, my mind is clear, allowing me to let the creative juices flow without distraction. Many of the ideas for posts in this very blog originated in the shower.

To-do list items. When I’m not thinking of exciting, creative, fresh ideas, my mind wanders to my stress level and things I need to accomplish. My brain is filled with “Oh no, I forgot to e-mail my advertising rep at the newspaper about an ad we’re running” or “I need to buy stamps” or “It’s been a while since I’ve had dinner with Kayla.” I’m a much happier Lia when my thoughts are on paper (or on pixels), and this will allow me to never be more than an instant away from a pen. To my journalism, English, and writing teachers, who taught me to keep a journal and a reporter’s notebook nearby: You’ve again ruined me.

Memory issues. Upon seeing this gift, my dad said, “Lia, either your showers are too long or your short-term memory is not functional. Can’t you just remember these ideas and items until you get out of the shower?” Both may be true, but … what was I saying? Oh yeah, memory issues. I find myself making up a song so as not to lose my new thoughts — see how long you could survive singing “Contact solution, e-mail Rachel, blog about the vegetable aisle in the grocery store” to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

So, I’d like to thank Michael and Rachel for this great gift — and actually, maybe I’ll even write their thank you note while shampooing my hair.

Please sign clearly

29 Oct

Last week, while buying a tomato mozzarella sandwich on focaccia bread at a local mom-and-pop grocery store, I paid with a credit card and was asked to sign for my purchase. I saw this sign:

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Yes, that says “Please Sign Clearly” on one of those credit card machines with the electronic pen that should have been replaced years ago, the end of the pen already rounded and almost flat.

It’s the kind of signing pad that’s at an angle where no human arm can properly hold a pen or write. If you can get a squiggle that remotely looks like one of the letters in your name, it’s an accomplishment.

Please sign clearly? Why? For what? And how?

Before we start printing these “please sign clearly” signs for all of the world’s outdated credit card machines, let’s consider investing in new pens first.

And on top of the big, unpointy, unwieldy pens, there’s never enough room on these machines to write anything. Plus, it’s supposed to be your signature, the one that matches the credit card. And the credit also doesn’t provide enough space. So you end up with having to “clearly” write a signature that matches a signature that’s probably not clearly written.

Is that clear?

Breaking news: Adam and Lia are engaged!

22 Oct

Dear friends and family,

Adam and I are ecstatic to report that we are getting married. The past three years we’ve spent together have been amazing and we are so looking forward to our future together.

Many of you have asked for our proposal story, so I’ll use this week’s blog as an opportunity to share it with all of you.


We arrived at our favorite restaurant, Pasta Palazzo, where Adam had convinced the restaurant to close a half hour early for our “private event.” Adam and I share a love for the gnocchi and chocolate mousse cake at this restaurant, so we were excited to see this sign on the chalkboard outside:


We sat down and then got a special delivery of flowers. The waiters at the restaurant were just as excited about this whole thing as we were, and they enjoyed taking pictures of us and sharing in our special moment.




We ordered our food, and then Adam pulled out a wrapped box. I opened the box and found a photo book similar to the ones that Adam and I make to document our travels and our yearly adventures.

The first half of the photo book showed Adam’s favorite pictures of the two of us from the last three years — I loved reminiscing about our fun memories together through these photos.

Adam had written some notes about our relationship and how much he cares for me, and how he wants to spend the future with me. The next page was then a photo of Adam, on one knee, holding a ring and a sign that says “Will you marry me?” Then Adam came over to me and got down on one knee and presented me with the real live ring. I said yes and was so excited.


And then Adam told me to finish reading the book.

The rest of the book contained photos of our family and close friends holding signs with phrases like “Best wishes! You’re getting hitched!” and “Take him as your husband” and “Welcome to the family.” My friends and family members even made sure to include references to the Beatles, the Wizard of Oz, and Seinfeld. Do they know me or do they know me?

And apparently these friends have been keeping this book a secret for a long time. In an e-mail chain where Adam coordinated one of the photos with my high school best friends, one of my friends wrote:

“PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT LET LIA FIND OUT. She is a super sneaky little lady, so we gotta be very skilled at keeping this from her. Hide your emails, texts, computers, phones whenever she is around!”

To all of my journalism teachers from throughout the years who taught me to be investigative and inquisitive — mischief managed. :)

Here’s us holding the book:


Oh, what’s that? You want to actually READ the book Adam created? Alright, I guess I can share the link:

The amazing, wonderful, beautifully perfect photo book proposal



When I finished reading the book, Adam insisted that I call my parents from the restaurant. “Can’t I call them from the apartment?” I asked. “No, you need to call them now, I really want to hear their reaction.”

So I called my parents on the home phone, and my mom answered. She was so excited to hear the news and wanted to hear all about it. She asked that I call her later in the night to tell her more details. She asked me to hand the phone to Adam so she could congratulate him.

Little did I know that she was around the block the whole time — and sneakily, my dad set up the home phone to forward to his cell phone.

Ten minutes later, into the restaurant walked my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and Adam’s brother and sister-in-law. We had a great time celebrating together and sharing our favorite chocolate mousse cake with them.



Thank you to Adam for an extremely thoughtful and meaningful proposal; thank you to my friends and family for your participation; and thank you to everyone for all of your love and support.

Picnics per capita

15 Oct

yogi bearWhile doing research for my master’s project — I’ll be writing about best practices in small social groups in synagogues and other organizations — I began reading Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone.” In this book, I came across this amazing fact:

“Informal outings, like picnics, also seem on the path to extinction. The number of picnics per capita was slashed by nearly 60 percent between 1975 and 1999.” (pg. 100)

Picnics per capita? This is amazing: It means that there are human beings in this world — researchers with fancy degrees, no less — who measure and monitor picnics as an academic study.

I can just picture it. Members of the research team — which I presume is named Team Yogi Bear — spend summer afternoons going from parks to beaches to lakefronts to campgrounds, looking for red checkered blankets and brown wicker baskets. Upon finding a case study, the team zeroes in, and maybe even talks to the picnickers. “Excuse me, are you having a picnic today?” they’d ask. “How many picnics have you had this month? This year? How did it compare to the picnicking of your childhood? Also, can I have a bite of that pasta salad?”

The researchers would inevitably get hungry themselves, and whip out their own blankets and baskets and hold their own picnics. But then, would they be skewing the data? When passersby see the researchers having a picnic, does it remind them of the picnics of their childhood, and inspire them to have their own picnic the next sunny Sunday? How can we possibly trust this data?

And what, pray tell, is the cause of this demise of these meals-on-a-blanket? Is it the weather? Too many bugs? It’s probably that picnics are not close enough to TV screens and WiFi signals.

Picnic enthusiasts of the world, let’s reverse the trend. Let’s give these researchers something to notice — a sharp rise in picnicking, beginning summer 2015. I’ll start making sandwiches.

Wave to Ava!

8 Oct
I won't tell you which one, but it's possible that my friend Ava is reading this very blog right now from one of these very windows. Sounds like the plot of a great Hitchcock movie, right?

I won’t tell you which one, but it’s possible that my friend Ava is reading this very blog right now from one of these very windows. Sounds like the plot of a great Hitchcock movie, right?

If phone calls, Gchat, Facebook chat, e-mail, and texting all become obsolete on the same day — and I do fear that day — I’ll at least be able to communicate with one of my friends via Morse code.

My friend Ava and I always knew that we lived two buildings apart — and I just calculated it on Google Maps, 364.2 feet apart — but when she recently moved from a two-bedroom to a studio, she discovered that she could actually see my apartment.

So this past Sunday night, we called each other while flicking our lights on and off. To the rest of our buildingmates, it must have looked like a rave was going on; but to us, we were just determining who lived where.

“I can see you waving!” she said.

“I see your lamp!” I said back.

Now, the question is: How can we have fun with this new knowledge?

  • Create silhouetted plays for each other
  • Learn Morse code and send messages back and forth
  • Open the windows and somehow connect a string tied to tin cans and communicate the old-fashioned way
  • Put colored Cellophane in front of our lamps to mean different messages
  • What else?

I almost feel like Jimmy Stewart with 35mm camera and a telephoto lens.

I’ll say goodbye to you, dear readers, and I’ll wave goodbye to my across-the-street neighbor, Ava!


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