June 19, 2018

Throat Coat Tea to the rescue

Every other person I know is just coming down with a cold, is currently battling coughs and sneezes or is slowly convalescing from this pervasive respiratory virus.

Those of us who are singers are especially brought low by this illness when our voices are impaired.

Periodically sipping Traditional Medicinals’ Throat Coat Tea is the only way I could get through singing for a recent funeral. I was grateful that the warm liquid soothed that scratchy sore feeling in my throat between songs.

Traditional Medicinals ingredients include licorice root, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, wild cherry bark, fennel fruit, cinnamon bark and sweet orange peel.

Another effective brand is Yogi Throat Comfort Tea which features some of TM’s same ingredients and a Honey Lemon version.

Other tea flavors that may be “medicine cabinet” candidates are peppermint and ginger for stomach upsets or echinacea and gingko for immunity boosting.

Who doesn’t feel better with a relaxing warm beverage? Milk, honey or lemon optional.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

My sister told me about hosting a book party where she served Moscow mules and borscht. The featured book was  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

As I started this work of fiction set in Russia right after the 1917 revolution, the main character Count Alexander Rostov has been sentenced to house arrest in the Metropole Hotel on Red Square in Moscow. As a student on tour, I stayed several nights in this storied hotel so the setting was quite vivid for me.

The reader follows Rostov as he goes from an aristocratic position to being the head waiter for one of the hotel’s restaurants. He befriends a young girl who pops back into his life as an adult with an amazing request, he fraternizes with a famous actress who visits periodically and meets with friends both old and new in this circumscribed life within the hotel’s walls.

Towles begins each chapter with words starting with “A” as the decades pass in Rostov’s life. Those interested in Russian history will be fascinated by the changes that occur in the Count’s life, in the hotel and in the country at large.

The plot twists, the charming characters and the delightful sweep of the writing make A Gentleman in Moscow a most enjoyable read. You may want to have vodka and caviar on hand as you enter the world of a hotel in revolutionary Russia.

Epic Bars, gluten-free and decidedly non-vegetarian

epic-bar-beef-habanero-cherryI’m on a mission to find snacks that do not spike the blood sugar but have a little more excitement than raw carrots or celery. Voila! Epic Bars come in flavors like Bison Bacon Cranberry, Chicken Sesame BBQ, Beef Apple Bacon, Turkey Almond Cranberry, Pulled Pork, Lamb Currant Mint, Salmon Sea Salt Pepper, Venison Sea Salt Pepper and Wild Boar Bacon. These gluten-free snacks are shelf stable and perfect to throw in one’s purse or briefcase. Aside from the varieties containing fruit, I did not see any added sugar in the ingredient lists.

I buy my bars at Whole Foods or online through Amazon. One of these times, I might try buying directly from the Epic web site since they carry the full product line in all of their flavors.

Epic also sells bone broth, animal oils like duck fat, “bits” in the various meat flavors and Hunt & Harvest Mixes which they bill as meat-centric trail mixes.

Vegetarians may be quaking in their non-leather boots, but these products are paleo-friendly and the animals are humanely raised on open pastures. The Epic web site maintains that their healthy lands invite birds and animals, “hold ground water, build topsoil and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.” That’s all well and good, but they also make a fantastic Bacon snack bar.


Olli electric driverless buses, testing in a city near you?

Family members have stated that “you’re not getting me in one of those contraptions that don’t have a driver.”  They may be eating their words sooner than they think.

Olli is a driverless, electric bus that can transport 12 people, is 3-D printed and is operated by IBM’s Watson, “a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.” In other words, it’s a computer program that can understand human language and instructs the vehicle where to go and how to get there. Passengers will be able to summon a bus using an app similar to Uber.

Trials just started in Washington, D. C. with Las Vegas and Miami to follow later in the year. The  Olli mini-buses can be 3-D printed in ten hours and assembled in just one.
As someone who does not like to drive, I say, “Bring Olli to Chicago, pretty please!”

“Making a Murderer” Mania: Popular Netflix Doc

I love watching crime tv drama, but now the true crime bug has bitten me thanks to Making a Murderer, the engrossing ten-part documentary series on Netflix. I know I must not be alone in this avid interest because I keep seeing follow-up articles in magazines and blog posts.

Film-makers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos filmed the plight of Steven Avery over the course of ten years. Avery was incarcerated 18 years for a crime he did not commit, with DNA testing exonerating him and getting him released from prison in 2003. Two years later, he was arrested again for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. By 2007, he was found guilty of murdering her with the help of his nephew, Brendan Dassey who likewise was found guilty.

The TV series provides fascinating footage and recordings of the police investigations, the suspect interrogations, interviews with family members of both the accused and the victim plus video footage of the actual trials. We also see the press dogging everyone for photos and quotes.

These criminal, legal, judicial and police activities are not happening in a big urban area, but in rural Manitowoc County in the state of Wisconsin. Aside from the guilt or innocence of the suspects, the film makes the judges, lawyers and police officers look either like buffoons or patently evil. One could hope that this is an aberrational situation. Or cynically conclude that our criminal and legal system is rigged against the poor, the less educated and the fringe members of society.

If you can stomach real crime, please watch this series and let me know who you think the guilty parties are.  As for me, the jury is still out. Sequel, anyone?

Nature Boardwalk in the Lincoln Park Zoo

Between now and when the snow flies, make a trip to the Nature Boardwalk in the Lincoln Park Zoo. The walking path, made from recycled plastic winds around the pond in front of Cafe Brauer next to Farm in the Zoo. You will be rewarded with the sight of meadow flowers, and perhaps dragonflies, swallows or frogs. On the day we were there, we were lucky enough to see two young families, a mother duck with her ducklings and a mother goose with her goslings. I felt decidedly less urban for an hour.