Miles of Magazines at Chicago-Main Newsstand

If you take the Purple Line or Metra to Evanston, you are likely to pass by the Chicago-Main Newsstand.  The building itself is new, but the refurbished neon sign above the store is from the original newsstand, the one which opened in the 1930’s on this same block. Take time to browse, as Chicago-Main prides itself in offering “the largest selection of newspapers and magazines on the North Shore.”

Chicago-Main Newsstand

Today’s store includes over 5,000 magazines and newspapers, covering news (local, international, and out-of-town), hobbies, arts and design, sports, travel, literary, science, computers, video games, business, and countless other topics and categories. There are publications in French, German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic, and an entire section of publications about Chicago.  The owner adds new titles every month.

Chicago-Main is open every day of the week, 7 A.M. to 10 P.M., 860 Chicago Avenue at the corner of Main Street.

Chicago-Main Newsstand

57th Street Bookcase & Cabinet

Just about everything in my apartment–furniture, artwork, tchotchkes–has a story detailing how I came to own it.  And so it is with my coffee table.  My latest favorite piece is from 57th Street Bookcase & Cabinet, and it’s a beauty.

The coffee table idea started as a leftover piece of granite, the cut out of my cooktop from the granite counter installed this past September.  Often these cut outs do not emerge in one piece.  Sometimes the customer has no interest in the rough leftovers.  But I did and was fortunate that mine was large enough to be usable.  What emerged from the installation was a slab slightly less than three feet in length and about half as wide.

Coffee Table Top

I had no interest in an hexagonally shaped table, so the fabricators at Stone City kindly trimmed off the uneven side and rounded off the edges for me.  A few days later they dropped off a beautifully heavy piece of granite, cold to the touch but smooth and gentle on its sides, 33″ x 14 1/2″, length by width.  It was up to me to figure out what to do with it.

Originally I thought to make it into a breakfast table of sorts, but soon tossed that idea aside.  In the living room area I had a sofa and chairs but no table, having never actually owned a coffee table before.  (Maybe small NYC apartments had something to do with that.)  On a whim, I stopped by 57th Street Bookcase & Cabinet to see if they could customize a table around my hulking piece of granite.  The owner, Chip, was receptive and accommodating, and guided me through the choices required such as type of wood, finish, height and other details.  I chose walnut with one shelf, as simple as possible, knowing the raw elements of wood and stone were rich enough on their own not to require any additional flourishes.

They delivered and assembled the table a few weeks after I finalized the details.  I am delighted by it.  All these years of never owning a coffee table served me well; I was waiting for the perfect one, and now I have it.

coffee table

Location: 604 Davis Street in Evanston.  Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays 11-6; Thursdays 11-7; Saturdays 10-5; Sundays 12-5.  Closed on Mondays.

Meet the Artist: Indira Johnson


C201312-COTY-Indira-Johnson-thbThis week I was fortunate to spend some time with Indira Johnson, the talented artist, sculptor and peace educator behind Conversations: Here and Now, a photo of which graces the top of this blogspace.

I met with Indira at her studio to inquire about her creative process.  Indira originally conceived Conversations: Here and Now as an entry for a public art commission sponsored by the City of Evanston and the Public Art Committee for an installation at Fountain Square. Conversations: Here and Now was one of five entries selected from hundreds submitted throughout the United States as well as many countries; Indira was the only artist of the five who lived in Evanston.  Despite one of the five finalists living within three miles from the installation site, the Selection Committee made it clear it would choose the winner of the commission on the basis of merit; it was not to be a popularity contest.

Chairs were always the centerpiece of the design.  Each chair’s unique design represents the diverse cultures of people who call Evanston home and the uniqueness of each individual.  Made of wax and cast in bronze, the chairs surround an open space to inspire conversation–listening as much as speaking–contemplating, and sharing of memories.

Indira’s design was not selected for the Fountain Square site, and of course she was disappointed about not being chosen.  Yet not being chosen turned out to be a good thing: the Curley family loved her design and chose it to honor their mother, Isabel Alvarez Maclean, a long-time resident of Evanston who had passed away a few years earlier. Since the design had already been vetted by the Evanston Public Art Committee, official approval for installation permits took place relatively quickly and the manufacturing process took about a year.

The verbatim quotes on the spiral design of the base and on the chairs are from a series of public meetings held among different community groups in Evanston during the planning stages of the project.  Indira heard what was important to her Evanston neighbors as they described what they loved about their community, shared their memories, and voiced their hopes for the future.

The seven chairs are sturdy and functional, impervious to the weather, interspersed with images from nature and of water.  The base is wheelchair accessible, and there is a spiral of bronze starting at the center of the square, expanding out, etched with more thoughtful words.  The spacing between the chairs is wide enough to allow for meditative thought, yet close enough to encourage genuine conversations.  The words on the chairs and on the base stimulate questions as well as stories and inspire conversations.

Visit the northwest corner of Raymond Park to experience the tranquility and beauty of Conversations: Here and Now.  Even in the depths of winter, it is a lovely spot within Evanston.

An Endless Array of Essentials at Ace

As retail experiences go, there is nothing quite like a really good hardware store.

No doubt my affection stems, in part, from taking shop classes in junior high school. (Back in the day, junior high girls routinely attended the incorrectly named home economics classes, where economics was never mentioned, and lessons focused instead on cooking and sewing; boys attended wood shop and metal shop classes.  I requested and received permission to switch to the shop classes.)  I enjoy fixing things in my apartment, refinishing furniture, and generally trying to maintain a sense of self-sufficiency.  I know my limits, though, and anything plumbing or electrical is out-of-bounds; MacGyver I am not.

A well stocked hardware store is a thing of beauty.  Part general store, part fix-it heaven, it is packed to the gills with all kinds of specialty items most people never knew they needed until something breaks and panic sets in.  Fortunately for Evanstonians, we have such a store in our midst, the Lemoi Ace Hardware Store on Davis Street.  Hyper-organized, it contains thousands of items, and best of all, an incredibly helpful group of staffers who proactively ask how they can help you.  I have been there with everything from detailed lists to vague descriptions, and each time I leave with an item, a suggestion, and a smile. They also have a serious selection of duct tape!

Location: 1009 Davis Street between Oak and Maple Avenues, and a short walk from the Main Street stops on both the CTA and Metra lines.  Open every day: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ace Hardware Ace Hardware


I love living near Lake Michigan.  Having lived for many years in Manhattan, I was often near water, but rivers can’t compare to this huge lake that still reminds me of an ocean. The masquerade continues for me every time I see its waves crashing on to the beach.  I am fascinated how they are unstoppable and ever-present, filled with energy and what seems like emotion, sometimes playful and sometimes angry.

Yesterday morning the waves were positively alive.

Winter Waves

Birds of All Shapes and Sizes

This morning, at two different times, I saw a bright red cardinal.  Too fast to photograph, it warmed my heart to see its flash of crimson.

One of the joys of city living is the endlessly interesting drama one can find when exploring on foot.  I try to observe carefully.  Evanston is a city where people say hello or smile when your paths cross, and dog owners are unfailingly friendly to stop and chat.  The houses and buildings are an architectural hodgepodge of styles, but it all seems to work together.

I love the Victorian details of this home, and the crow’s nest window seems to fit with the bird theme!

Crow's Nest

More Victoriana below–vivid colors and molding details–combined with an elegant peacock in stained glass.

Peacock Stained Glass

Walking along the shore line by Elliott Park, I noticed this bird, which upon close inspection, was handmade.  Regally carved and decorated, both poised and posed, it keeps company with others on two nearby trees.

Handmade Wooden Bird

Packed into this tree and bush were numerous tiny birds–a cacaphony of chirping! As I stopped to take a photo, the birds suddenly became very quiet and a few nervous ones flew away.

Chirping Birds!

What do you notice when you explore your neighborhood?

Conversations: Here and Now in the Snow at Twilight

Conversations: Here and Now

I LOVE this sculpture.  I love that it is accessible to anyone and everyone; it is functional as well as beautiful; it fits beautifully into this park, near the playground but apart from it.

Designed by Indira Freitas Johnson and installed in May 2009 as a gift to the City of Evanston, it resides in Raymond Park at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Grove Street. The sculpture was commissioned by the family of Isabel Alvarez MacLean to honor her memory.

In the coming weeks, I hope to learn more about both Ms. Johnson and Ms. MacLean. When I do, I will share it here.



I love beautiful clothes, but enjoy and admire unique style even more.  Owning a sense of style does not mean lots of designer clothes with other people’s initials.  Style is much more elusive and difficult to achieve.

Thank goodness for Talia, one of Evanston’s newest and most chic clothing boutiques.

The store is beautiful and intimate.  The clothes and accessories are stunning, the kind of clothes real women (read: not teens) wear that flatter without revealing too much.  The dresses, coats, and separates accommodate a busy life, whether it is running a lot of errands with child in tow, going to the office or dressing up for a special occasion.

The owners, Asia and Agnieszka, are warm and friendly, and they edit the clothes with a strong sense of what modern women need.   Most of the clothes carried in the store are designed by two talented companies, Solar and Kontrast, both based in Poland, neither of which is carried widely here in the U.S.  That’s a bonus for Talia’s customers and helps insure your outfit will not be seen every time you turn around.

Stop by and see for yourself the beautiful clothes, jewelry, scarves and purses at Talia; let Asia and Angieszka help you enhance your own beauty.

Location: 1526 Chicago Avenue, just south of Davis Street, on the west side. Open every day: Monday to Friday 10-6, Saturdays 10-5 and Sundays 12-5.