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PRPL Focus

DinnerWhat’s For Dinner?

Since we’ve been “All in Illinois” and staying at home, some of us have had more time to cook. Others, maybe not so much. In either case, we went around asking for food recommendations from our library staff—specialties that can be easily prepared or just picked up. Here are some of their suggestions!

Stephanie, Administration

We've been cooking at home every night (which is usually the case!) and I have been trying out new recipes, including homemade pasta noodles and baked bread. But on the nights that things feel a little more rushed, my go-to is always a family favorite from Trader Joe's freezer section: Chicken fried rice and steamed pot stickers. Trader Joe's has so many frozen ready-to-cook meals that are easy, delicious and affordable! So lucky to have one nearby!

Alyson, Administration

We cook dinner almost every night. It’s usually a roasted vegetable and some type of poultry. BUT I will share with you this excellent scallop recipe that I encountered during this pandemic.

Here is the recipe for Garlic-Lemon Scallops:

¾ cup butter
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 pounds large sea scallops (I used small scallops because some in my household aren’t HUGE fans of the texture)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Melt butter in a large skillet over a medium heat. Stir in garlic. Add scallops and cook on one side then turn over and continue to cook until they turn opaque. Remove the scallops and whisk, salt, pepper and lemon juice with butter and pour sauce over scallops. My final addition was a box of herbal flavored couscous to serve as a bed beneath the scallops. I bet a bed of mixed greens would also be delicious.

Prep time was about 10 minutes and cook time was 10 min.

Also, I have been baking cookies and sharing them with neighbors. Trying to keep everyone plump in case they get sick! So they have some reserves to battle the illness!!

Claire, Children’s Services

I just picked up a chopped salad from Sonny's -- my favorite! They also deliver through Grubhub. 

Lisa, Children’s Services

World’s Best Greek Potatoes | To Die For

Mary, Children’s Services

Here's a quick and easy recipe that I think is very good. 

Chicken and Couscous - Simply combine cooked couscous (plain or herb flavored), pesto sauce, and rotisserie chicken (shredded).  And viola . . . dinner! 

Lan, Children’s Services

We ordered from the family meal from Spuntino's this week and it was delicious. Although it says the meal feeds 6 (for $39.99), there's enough food for more than that. We had leftovers for at least another meal for the four of us. And if people are looking for breakfast or lunch, Lola's is open. We always love their breakfasts - and their value.

As for a dish to prepare, this is a great, fast and easy recipe and it works as a main course for vegetarians. It does call for fresh spinach and arugula but those are widely available at grocery stores.

Jazmin, Patron Services

I've been cooking a lot at home but also have ordered out a few times. These two favorites of mine can be found on Grubhub:

Falafel Dream, located in Chicago, has DELICIOUS food. My go-to's are the falafel sandwiches and a veggie combo dish which consists of hummus, baba ghannouj, rice, falafel, and Jerusalem salad.

Penny's Noodle Shop, located in Oak Park, is a mostly Thai restaurant. Love their veggie fried rice platter!

As for home-cooked meals, I've made vegan banana pancakes for breakfast using this recipe:

(The other day, I topped them off with some Nutella, and it's my new obsession!)

For dinner one night, I made some enchiladas in red sauce. The recipe I based them off of is found here I would recommend frying the tortillas a little first rather than just heating them up on a skillet. Also, I used black beans instead of pinto because they're my favorite. Budget Bytes, in general, is a fantastic website that includes a ton of yummy, budget-friendly recipes.

Alison, Patron Services

There are so many great family meals being offered at Edison Park and Park Ridge local restaurants! Nonno Pinos, Spuntinos, Firewater Saloon and Zias are some of the restaurants we have ordered from. We are trying to order out from one local restaurant a week to help support their business during these challenging times. 

Tonight, we are picking up popcorn from the Pickwick Theatre, the library's great neighbor from across the street!

Bob, Patron Services

I'd like to recommend Dolcetti bakery on Vine in Park Ridge. This small bakery is usually a great place to get a coffee and some nice pastries, but because of the current situation they are only selling frozen meals and some pastries to bake at home. The blueberry scones and chocolate chip cookies turn out very nicely!

Laura M., Patron Services

Pick up at Paradise Pup!... Besides supporting local restaurants, we have been cooking a lot! I have made my homemade mac and cheese, meatloaf and a crazy but yummy make ahead potato dish. We have done pork chops on the grill, my husband's gumbo with chicken and andouille sausage. My husband also makes his mom's chicken and rice recipe with French style green beans, mushrooms and garlic. For Easter we had a small rack of lamb on the grill and a small carver ham from Costco. I have also baked brownies and a cake. Now I am planning on banana bread and chocolate chip cookie bars.

Tony, Patron Services

We love picking up food at Bob-O’s and Lonnie’s Pizza, both on Irving Park just east of Cumberland.

Sarah, Reader Services

I'd like to plug Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club (at Kimball and Bryn Mawr in Chicago), which is still open for carryout and delivery.

Kelly, Reader Services

This week I made: traditional Cornish pasties -- made from grandmother's recipe. My great grandfathers and grandfather were iron miners in the UP of Michigan, so this is a family tradition.

I also made Indian Butter chicken with homemade naan.

Creamy French Onion soup with gruyere biscuits.

Bourbon-soy marinated pork tenderloin with roasted asparagus and mustard sauce.

Scalloped potatoes with ham.

Boneless pork chops in the instant pot served with southern fried cabbage.

For take-out (trying to limit to once per week!) we did a family meal from Graziano's in Niles, as well as tacos from Que Onda in Edison Park. And hot dogs from our favorite dog stand, Nick's, at Touhy and Harlem in EP.

Aida, Technical Services

One tool that has been saving me, is the old "crockpot"… I love simple, less than 5 ingredients recipes. My favorite is dumping chicken breast, any veggies in your fridge, (potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, your favorite spices etc.) 

I usually use plain salt n pepper. Cover it and forget about it. I also have a rice cooker. Add proper measurements, rice and water and forget about it. It turns out so good and smells great. You can eat it with tortillas and make a taco.

My son loves pancakes, so one of our fav's is mixing one egg and a banana and you have yourself healthy, delicious pancakes. Taste great! Simple!

As for ordering out, we have used Sunrise Grill (1930 E Touhy Ave, Des Plaines) Breakfast special. For $20 you get eggs, pancakes, sausages, bacon, French toast & hash browns. For those that are vegetarian, you can substitute meat for veggies. It literally feeds an army and it's a steal for the price. 

Another place we have used is "Que Onda" (curbside pickup)

Mexican Restaurant on Northwest Hwy. For $30, you get 14 tacos, rice, beans, shaved corn, chips, Guacamole and salsa. You can choose from steak, fish, shrimp, ground beef, chicken just to name a few. My favorite is their fish tacos. 




Things To Do At Home
(Not Involving A Book)

There is a wealth of information online about things we can do at home. We’ve compiled a list of a few of them—things other than reading a book. Although, for those die-hard readers who are undecided what their next book will be and would like to plan ahead, we have included some suggestions on that as well.

The following categories are ideas for you, and we’ve included many useful links to help guide you.


Ancestry Library Edition is temporarily available from home!
Try it today with your Park Ridge Library Card:

Ancestry is one of the best online sources for genealogy, made up of thousands of collections of genealogical records. Not sure where to start searching? Ask a librarian! Email to reach our Reference staff.

Build your family tree by searching over billions of public records and Census data. Get obituaries, marriage records, immigration papers, military information and more. You can find the link on our Databases page:

Also of note: Genealogy Activities for Coronavirus Quarantine


This one is important! Take 10 minutes to support our community - and the library - for the next 10 years. Take the census at


Free comics:


The 50 America’s Test Kitchen Recipes You Need Now
A special collection of 50 all-time favorite recipes free for everyone during the COVID-19 emergency:

Easy recipes you can make during coronavirus quarantine with five ingredients or less:

The best online resources for quarantine cooking at all skill levels. They include beginner-friendly recipes and ways to use what you have on hand:


Try this array of Skillshare classes to engage your creativity:

Stuck Inside? Come Hang Out with The Mighty Community!


Start a new hobby, keep your hands busy, and get lost in your own creative headspace – even for just a few minutes. And for those who are home with young ones, we guarantee this is screen time you can feel good about. Take your crocheting to a new level of cuteness with Creativebug! Use your library card to access thousands of tutorials, including lessons in crocheting from beginner to "OMGsh you made that?!" The site has thousands of award-winning art and craft video classes taught by recognized design experts and artists. Log in here:


Start your own routine at home. Need guidance? When it comes to personal fitness, check out Park Ridge’s own Drake Susral -- “Body By Drake” -- who is offering Zoom sessions:


Now is the ideal time to start a garden! There are daily online gardening classes:


Our personal favorites are the websites with online exhibitions that tell important historical stories using primary sources.

To learn stories from Chicago's past, we recommend Chicago History Museum's online exhibitions:,

or Lake Forest College's Digital Chicago:

Donate your time—transcribe letters for the Newberry Library, a world-renowned independent research library located in Chicago:

For history that isn't Chicago focused, we recommend the Digital Public Library of America online exhibitions:

It's hard not to include the Library of Congress in any recommendation list! There are many wonderful pages to explore on, but it can be overwhelming, so we usually recommend the "Today in History" page:

Learn a new language

Have you always wanted to learn a new language? This might be just the time. Try the Library’s Mango Languages database.

Mango Languages is an online language-learning system teaching actual conversation skills for a wide variety of languages. Mango uses real-life situations and actual conversations to more effectively teach a new language.

A mobile app is also available:



Be sure to visit the Library's website and #parkridgestrong to thank our health care workers, first responders, front line workers and everyone staying home.

Use your Library Card:

Apply for a library card through our online form (link below). One of our team members will email you your library card number and pin so you can access online resources and your account. Remember to pick up your card and show proof of residency when the library reopens.
UPDATE: For questions regarding your account including card expiration, resetting your pin on your account, renewals or overdue materials please email our Patron Services team at

The Library is offering all kinds of online programs: Virtual Open Knitting & Crocheting, Virtual Teen Craft Club, Virtual Teen Book Bites, Virtual Library Pub Quiz, Virtual Book Discussions and even a Teen TikTok Challenge!

Virtual programs calendar:


Catch up on past Oscar nominees and other legendary comedies and dramas, or revisit old favorites! Try Kanopy, our online streaming collection of feature films, documentaries, foreign language, and training videos, including the Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, the Frontline series, and international films? Right now they have a special Credit-Free Viewing Collection with 54 titles!

Also, try Hoopla:


Quaint English Village Murder Mystery TV Shows with A Million Seasons, For Your Binge-Watching Pleasure During These Hard Times:

ESPN has been broadcasting The Last Dance miniseries, about the Chicago Bulls historic 1997-1998 basketball season.


Staff recommendation: Some Good News:


How to visit some of Chicago’s best museums without leaving your house:

Online art courses:



Book podcasts:

Worst Bestsellers:

Hugo Award-winning SciFi fiction & nonfiction:

Pop Culture and Geeky Podcasts:

The Incomparable Network:

NPR “Fresh Air”:


Our recommendation for families is old-school!

“Those Were the Days” Saturdays on 90.9 FM (WDCB) 1-5 p.m. with Host Steve Darnall. This program offers the best in old-time radio. Besides being entertaining, the weekly broadcasts are always informative. Their ongoing coverage of World War II’s 75th anniversary has been exceptional radio.


Learn how to tie a tie, knit, dance, or change a flat tire. There are many skills you can learn on YouTube. The following article lists fifty of them:

Coping with the stress of living through a pandemic:


If you have no interest in hitting the golf links, maybe some audiobooks about sports will get you through this lull. Sports fans, we get it, everything is cancelled and you need a distraction. Try a sports story audiobook!
Find audiobooks free with your card at

Staycation from Home

Board a virtual tour of the Chicago River without leaving the house:

Enjoy WTTW’s Geoffrey Baer’s tours from your own sofa:

13 Virtual Train Rides From Around the World That You Can Experience Right Now:

Visit the most haunted places in the U.S. right from your couch:

Story Time

Story Time Live!

Starting May 5, join the library for virtual storytimes on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and a pajama storytime May 13. Thursday morning storytimes will also continue. We can't wait to see you! Get details here:

Also of interest: Disney Bedtime Hotline is back to lull your kids to sleep with a nighttime story: 


During the pandemic it’s important to keep a journal. Future generations will be interested in knowing how we lived through COVID-19. The Illinois Digital Archives repository, for example, would certainly have interest in how Park Ridge adapted to the crisis.

If you’re feeling bold and would rather start that novel you’ve been putting off, inquire about the library’s Writers’ Group. We recently talked about the group on PRPL Focus.

Also of interest:





Friends of the Library: Books & Beyond

One of the biggest events of the year has always been the Friends of the Library Book Sale. Over the years, it has become a tradition to see the long lines of patrons arriving early on Friday for the Preview Sale and getting their numbers to go in. Saturdays would always see great crowds, and on Sundays, the local teachers never failed to take advantage of the reduced prices. I’ve attended the sale dozens of times and found good deals and rare finds. In fact, I’d say a large percentage of my own book collection has come from this sale, held twice a year. Whether you are a fan of popular fiction or vintage books, you’re bound to find something of interest—no pun intended.

Unfortunately, due to the current health crisis, the Library has had to cancel the 2020 Spring Book Sale. Since this event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, I thought I’d reach out to these dedicated volunteers and see how they are doing. I recently spoke to Deborah Kuhlman, who is co-president of the Friends with Judy Donovan.

MH: Deb, thank you for your time. I’m sure that many patrons are unaware that a portion of the Library’s funds for programming and events come directly from the Friends. Is there a recent example?

DK: Thanks for reaching out. We are providing the monies for the Summer Reading Club prizes. (NOTE: Adult Services and Children’s have a team that works on purchasing the prizes with the Friends’ money. These will be gift cards. The Library is planning to buy as much from local businesses as possible.)

MH: It doesn’t sound like the Friends have slowed down.

DK: Although the Spring Book Sale has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Friends of the Park Ridge Library have not ground to a halt. We all have our fingers crossed that we will be able to host our Summer Taste of Park Ridge Pop-up Sale on Saturday, July 11. This annual event is held in the open air in front of the library and features great summer reading selections for children and adults as well as DVDs. We always have cookbooks, travel, and gardening books as well as plenty of fiction. Once the library reopens, we invite everyone to visit the Book Nook on the second floor outside the Quiet Reading Room, where you can find great bargains in hardcovers and paperbacks, audio books, DVDs, CDs, and magazines. The Book Nook is the perfect place to stock up between the Book Sales.

MH: What else can patrons do to support the Friends?

DK: We encourage everyone to consider supporting the Friends by becoming a member. Memberships start at just $25; more information can be found at: All money raised by the Friends goes to supporting Library programs and materials that are not covered in the Library’s annual budget. In addition, the Friends help to buy DVDs and video games for the library collection as well as licenses for movies shown at the library. If you have any questions about the Friends, our activities, or ways to participate, please email us at:





Rally Around Our Community: Part I

With our town facing tough challenges in the weeks and months ahead, I thought I’d reach out to some of the local business owners to see what we, the community, can do to help during the current pandemic. If you are an owner and need support, please contact us at the Library and we will include you in our efforts to get the word out. I posed the following questions:

  1. As a business owner, what types of things are you doing during the current crisis to either keep the business going (in a limited capacity) or have it prepared for re-opening? 
  2. Do you have any advice for customers or any suggestions of how they could support you?

Dino, owner of the Pickwick Theatre
We have a newsletter we send out weekly to keep our customers informed. We recently started a popcorn (curbside) pickup in which we deliver the popcorn right to your car as you pull up. This will be on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The service has gotten off to a great start. On the first day (April 15), we had 90 orders in the afternoon and 150 orders scheduled for the evening. In the future, we plan on offering ice cream as well. Visit the Pickwick Theatre website for schedule times: (Your popcorn will be handled accordingly with the staff following the proper health safety protocols. Gloves and masks will be worn by all staff handling and distributing popcorn.)

Additionally, to help support the theatre during this time, we have partnered with Magnolia Selects , which is offering a streaming service. They’ve teamed up with independent theatres around the country. If you sign up for their service, the theatre receives 100% of the net proceeds through June 30. After that period, ½ of the proceeds goes to the theatre. You’ll need a code: MOVIE141

For more about these services, be sure to go to the theatre’s website and click on “Sign Up” for their newsletter.

Chris, Dick Pond Athletics
These certainly are different times, but we do benefit from being in an amazingly supportive community.

I’m the Manager and we are a business that is deemed nonessential, so we have been closed for the last four weeks and we aren’t sure when we’ll open again. With the lock-in in place we’re all seeing more people out walking and running, and they need shoes. 

So what we are doing at our shop is offering free home delivery, Contact-less curbside pickup and free shipping if they’re more than 10 miles away. We have a customer history, so in many cases people are just getting the latest model of their current shoe. For new customers, I’m having them email me a video of themselves walking so I can evaluate their walking gait. I can use that to help narrow down the options and find that perfect pair. 

My advice to customers is to Just Keep Moving. Try to use these times to make changes.  I’m running more than I was before. I’m also keeping my shopping to a minimum at the moment but when I do need/want something I’m reaching out to local shops first. They need us now, and I want to make sure they’re still there in the future.

Ryan, Savvy Salon & Spa
Thanks for reaching out and recognizing small businesses during this uncertain time! I'm a fourteen-year hairstylist at Savvy and happy to answer the questions for you on behalf of our salon.

The salon is open weekday mornings to take calls to make/change appointments. We have been resting up for the rush we expect once this order is lifted and will continue to follow CDC guidelines to keep our space clean and safe.

Embrace the grays & put down the scissors and box color! Now is the perfect time to do some hair masks and take a break from heat styling. We can't wait to get back to work and make everyone feel beautiful again! If you're looking for a way to support the salon while we're closed, we have Bumble & Bumble products and gift certificates available for purchase over the phone.



LaughtonPark Ridge History
Did You Know:
The Day Charles Laughton Came to Town

Over the years, the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge has hosted a variety of events with guests ranging from authors, to politicians, to movie stars. The latter should come as no surprise. Just last September actor Keir Dullea visited the Pickwick Theatre for a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But few are aware that one of the greatest actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age appeared here in Park Ridge in the early 1950s.

The English stage and film actor, Charles Laughton (1899-1962), was recognized as one of the most distinguished actors of his profession, a term used so often that Charlie, as he preferred to be called, wanted to be distinguished for something else! He was the husband of actress Elsa Lanchester. Together they lived in a Mediterranean-style home on the Pacific Palisades bluffs of California, which overlooked the ocean.

No picturesque vistas greeted Charles Laughton when he arrived in the Midwest. Tuesday, January 22, 1952, was a cloudy, windy day during a typical Chicago winter. Laughton was in town to perform his “one-man act” at the Pickwick Theatre. At this point in his career, Charles Laughton had divided his time between personal appearances, such as the one in Park Ridge, and his work in a New York play, George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell, which he was then directing and playing in with Agnes Moorehead and Charles Boyer.

Charles Laughton’s live performance tour was scheduled nationally, and his one-day appearance at the Pickwick would be his only stop in the area. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Circle of Community Church of Park Ridge. Tickets were just $2 and were being sold at Scharringhausen’s Drug Store, Avenue Gift Shop, Fenders Bootery, Dean’s Park Ridge Stationers, and the Community Church office. There were also locations in Des Plaines and Edison Park that offered limited tickets.


On that night, Laughton performed dramatic readings, everything from James Thurber to the Holy Bible—with a very apropos selection from Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers added for the occasion. (Laughton had played Samuel Pickwick in Mr. Pickwick at the Theatre Royal in London in 1928.) It was said that Laughton knew his material by heart and only used the books he carried out on stage as “props.” This was seemingly confirmed at a prior performance in which he held a copy of a Charles Dickens book upside down.

At the Park Ridge show, he read to a thoroughly captivated audience. There was intensity and warmth in the presentation. Even though the temperature outside had dropped below 20 degrees, the weather did not affect attendance. The Pickwick Theatre was filled to capacity, and in 1952, the auditorium had many more seats than are currently available, somewhere in the vicinity of 1400.

It is no wonder that the Park Ridge community came out to witness this theatre magic. Charles Laughton was famously known for his roles in such films as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), in which he played the blustery Captain Bligh opposite Clark Gable, the comedy Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), the definitive version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), and the courtroom drama Witness For the Prosecution (1957). Laughton, a student of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, had made his stage debut in 1926. He later arrived on the New York theatre scene in 1931.

His Hollywood film debut came in 1932 when he appeared opposite Boris Karloff in director James Whale’s The Old Dark House. His major breakthrough in film, however, came in 1933 when he starred in The Private Life of Henry VIII. It was a performance that would earn him his only Academy Award for Best Actor. (He would later be nominated for Mutiny on the Bounty and Witness For the Prosecution.) Laughton also directed one film now critically praised as one of the greatest of the 1950s: The Night of the Hunter (1955).

But unlike stage or film, his performance at the Pickwick was unique. It was literally a one-man show, and that’s how Charles Laughton preferred it. For Laughton, it gave him the opportunity to play all the parts and become dozens of characters. Beyond his ability to deliver lines with dramatic effect, he proved to be a master storyteller who knew how to keep an audience engaged. He was once asked by a reporter how he chose his program. “I don’t know,” Laughton replied. “I may be on stage all of ten minutes before I ‘dig’ the spirit of the audience. Sometimes they’re in a mood for the ‘toughness of Caesar’; sometimes for the delicacy of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’; sometimes for the lusty story of ‘David and Goliath’; sometimes for the solemnity of the ‘Psalms’; sometimes for one of Dickens’s Christmas stories, sometimes for one of his melodramatic passages; always for James Thurber, and old Aesop and stories and poems of romance never fail.”

There was an unpredictability about these performances. Even Laughton himself didn’t know what he might do on stage. A critic at the time had described Laughton’s readings as “a combination of the Sunday comics, an act of ‘Julius Caesar,’ a Bible service, a roller coaster ride, and a trip through the Looking Glass.” For his Pickwick appearance, which lasted two hours, Laughton closed the evening with a reading of Abraham Lincoln’s The Gettysburg Address. (This was one of those selections he had performed hundreds of times all over the country. A little over two months later he would recite an unrehearsed version of it on “The Colgate Comedy Hour” with Bud Abbott & Lou Costello.)

Charles Laughton may very well be the finest actor to ever appear on the stage at the Pickwick Theatre, or in Park Ridge for that matter. Nearly seventy years have passed since that January night. The old stage is covered now behind a new screen, and the memories of that show have long been forgotten, but if by chance there is someone out there who had been in attendance and spent “An Evening with Charles Laughton,” please contact us at the Park Ridge Public Library. We would love to have you share those memories. Perhaps one day the spirit of Charles Laughton will manifest once again at the Pickwick. How about a screening of Mutiny on the Bounty at the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series?


A special thanks to Larry in Adult Services (Reference) at the Park Ridge Public Library for his research in finding articles related to Mr. Laughton’s appearance at the Pickwick Theatre.







AdobeStock_92542125Park Ridge Writers’ Group:
An Inside Look

As a former student in the Fiction Writing program at Columbia College Chicago, I was excited to learn that our own Writers’ Group here at the Park Ridge Public Library has taken off in popularity. I recently sat down (virtually) with Kelly Mayer of Adult Services to get the inside story. Kelly will be doing a Zoom meeting of the group on Wednesday, April 22, at 7 pm.


MH: The Park Ridge Public Library offers a "Writers’ Group." Could you tell us a little about this program and when they meet?

KM: The Park Ridge Library Writers’ Group meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7 pm, at the library. A patron (Hilary Sopata) actually approached Sarah Vessalo about hosting the group at the library, as they were meeting at Panera Bread and it was getting too loud. I connected with Hilary and some of the other group members, and we started meeting last September.

MH: What is your role in the group?

KM: I facilitate the group. At this point, I come up with a topic for the meeting, based on member questions, or something that we had talked about in the last meeting. I generally give a short presentation about the topic, and then we discuss that and move on from there. If someone has work to read/discuss, we do that. I generally like people to submit work via our Google group before the meeting, so the other members can read and give thoughtful feedback, but we're definitely open to reading something someone brings that night. I really want the group to be a supportive environment where writers of all levels of experience can come and discuss and learn. I've always felt that talking about the craft of writing itself, even in regards to someone else's work, can spark ideas and breakthroughs in your own work. And of course, getting the words down on the page is the first and most important step. It doesn't matter that your draft isn't perfect—it matters that the words are on the page so you can revise them!

MH: Kelly, could you tell us a little something about your own background?

KM: I am currently working on my capstone project for my MFA in fiction at Northwestern, which is a novel told in linked stories, something like Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. I started that when my kids were younger, but my final project got shuttled aside when my boys were in high school. Now that I have to think about writing for the library, I feel prepared to complete my capstone! 

MH: Is there a particular process you have to stimulate creativity in your group?

KM: I do try to connect members with authors I think might help them with their own writing. One of our members, Hank, brought in a piece he's working on where the main characters take a walk downtown as they flirt. The feeling of the piece reminded me of Stuart Dybek's Pet Milk and the young lovers on the L train, so I copied that and brought it in for Hank to look at. I try to recommend authors that inform the topic we are discussing. Hilariously, Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander novels, shows up in our discussions quite often—because she breaks all the conventions we commonly hold as writers, and is wildly successful. She's a good example of how a writer needs to try new things and break the "rules." 

MH: Could you say a few words about the importance of writing, particularly at this time when we are facing a pandemic?

KM: I think writing during this pandemic time is important. Writing is a great way to acknowledge and process feelings, as well as reduce anxiety. It's also important to keep a family record of these weird, historical times. I know we are all generally in the same situation, but no one experiences this pandemic in quite the same way. People should jot down their thoughts in a notebook, save their children's artwork, take pictures, etc. You never know what might serve as a spark for a really meaningful piece of writing.


Email for more information about the Park Ridge Writers’ Group.




Patron Spotlight

Welcome to our inaugural entry in a series devoted to you, our patrons. Over the course of twenty-two years, I’ve met hundreds of people while working at the front desk of the Library. Every one of them has a story…

Len Johnson has served the Park Ridge community in a variety of ways over the years. The Johnson family literally helped build the town with a brick business. After being a bricklayer himself, Len became a fireman, now retired, and he’s been the stage manager for the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra. More recently, Len was honored with a 2019 Community Star Award for his efforts to preserve the history of the Maine Flyer. This transport plane, a C-54 Skymaster, had been purchased through a bond rally by the students of Maine High School during World War II. This past February marked the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Maine Flyer at the Douglas Aircraft Co. factory at Higgins and Mannheim in Des Plaines. After its years of service, the plane eventually wound up abandoned on an Indian Reservation in Arizona.

MH: Len, could you tell us what was the most challenging aspect of retrieving parts of the Maine Flyer for the Park Ridge Historical Society?

LJ: One of the most challenging aspects of being able to retrieve artifacts off of the "Maine Flyer" was taking almost ten years in back and forth Government and Indian Affairs bureaucracy. Constant back and forth negotiations with the Pima Indian Nation Chiefs was definitely frustrating. After several years of diligent persistence and explanations of the Maine Flyer's historical value to Park Ridge history and its community, the Pima Indians finally saw the value and importance of returning parts of the aircraft back to the place where it was born.

MH: You are an avid airplane enthusiast as well as a pilot. As a hobby, you’ve been part of a group restoring a B-17 bomber called the Desert Rat. Could you tell us more about that restoration effort and when you hope to complete it?

LJ: I began working with the B-17E "Desert Rat" restoration group back in 2009. This aircraft is a B-17 model "E" and very rare; it was built in 1941 right before WWII began for the USA. I believe that the Boeing Corporation only produced a little over 500 of this model "E". It was found in a scrap yard in Bangor, Maine, over 30 years ago by its current owner. Sections of the plane that have been completed or are near completion are the horizontal stabilizers, the vertical tail fin, the two wingtips as well as most of the fuselage. The right and left inboard wings which contain the two engines and the landing gear still have a lot of needed restoration as well as the right and left outboard wing sections. All four engines still have to be completely rebuilt at an estimated cost of approximately $100,000 per engine. This project has been a small group effort and has come a long way with getting much done above and beyond FAA Standards. As time goes by, much more money and qualified manpower hours will be required. At this point it looks like several more years of restoration are in store; but someday this B-17E, the "Desert Rat," will be Airworthy Certified and will become one of the oldest B-17's to fly as a historical museum to shows around the country. Currently there are only ten airworthy B-17's in the world. Boeing built just under 13,000 of these famous Flying Fortresses.

MH: You’ve also assisted behind the scenes with the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series. It was interesting to read that a classic movie starring James Stewart inspired your interest in plane restoration.

LJ: Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors and yes, he was also a B-17 pilot back in WWII. When I was a kid living on the West Side of Chicago in Humbolt Park during the 1960s, my mother took my brother and I downtown on the CTA bus (my mom did not have a driver’s license yet and we only had one car that dad used for work) to do some shopping on State Street and then we went to see the movie, The Flight of the Phoenix. I was instantly bit by the aviation bug after seeing this inspiring movie of survival in the middle of the Sahara Desert and being able to engineer and build a make-shift aircraft from surviving aircraft parts and fly out of there back to civilization.

MH: In addition to airplanes, you are a rocket historian with an expansive collection of memorabilia related to space flight, particularly autographs from the Apollo astronauts. You were the leader of a rocket launching team for St. Andrew’s Lutheran in Park Ridge. Could you tell us how you shared that passion with younger students? What was that experience like?

LJ: My experience of leading the students of the St. Andrews Rocket Team, ORION, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Our team was able to qualify for the TARC National Finals out in Manassas, Virginia, five consecutive years and also earned a two-year contract to work with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Three students from our team also were awarded a summer internship with NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. One of the students actually got to work with the Engineers and Technicians on the Upper-stage Simulator of the Ares 1-X Rocket that NASA built and launched at Kennedy Space Center for the Constellation Program, which was eventually cancelled around the same time that the Space Shuttles were retired. Many of our students went on to careers in Aerospace, proving that promoting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) works for success. Along the way of our six-year existence, we got to meet many famous people in person such as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle astronauts, the Secretary of Defense, Scientists and Engineers. There are just volumes of things that went into this program.

MH: Over the years you and your family have been regular patrons at the Park Ridge Public Library. Could you tell us about a time when the Library was able to assist you in your interests or in your research?

LJ: The Park Ridge Public Library has always been a friendly and helpful access point for our family since our three children were very young. My wife would always bring our children to the Library and introduce them to all the great things that the Library and its staff have to offer. Whenever I needed to do some special research for our rocket team or aircraft restoration, the PRPL would always be there to help out.

MH: Do you have any new projects you’ll be working on when the world gets back to normal?

LJ: When we all get back to normal, which will happen hopefully sooner than later, I will always have several projects to catch up on or start. Never a dull moment I say. Each and every day of life is a Blessing, and I have always said to take advantage of that time; don't procrastinate or hold things off because sitting in your rocking chair years down the road you might look back and say, why didn't I do those things when I was able and had the chance?

MH: As a former first responder, do you have any advice for families trying to get through the current pandemic?

LJ: As a retired firefighter/paramedic my advice to get through this terrible pandemic is to listen to the scientists and use common sense when doing anything. Stay safe by staying away from groups of people. Enjoy your family by staying in your home and keeping the virus out until the storm has fully passed. Cover up when out in public and wash, wash and wash your hands thoroughly. In the fire service they teach us two important things before entering a situation: Scene Safety and Universal Precautions (PPE). Godspeed!



Essential Park RidgePRtracks.PRPL._4.2020
by Lauren Maloney
special guest contributor

The new language in this new world has included social distancing, shelter-in-place and non-contact delivery. Social distancing is hanging out together, while apart. Shelter-in-place is a Cold War term in a time of worry about nuclear fallout and now used for the worries of 2020. Non-contact delivery is a strange combination of a sanitized hand-off sprinkled with a little bit of ding dong ditch. Of all of the words we have been using for the last few months the most remarkable to me has been essential. I have never actually thought about this word before and now I think about it all day long. Is essential the same as important? Is it the same for each of us? Is it collective or individual?

I am watching my family, my job, and my community all redefine essential. Our high school and college seniors, needing essential credits and coursework for graduation, have had a breathtakingly abrupt end to their experience and now the final diploma is the singular focus. Senior citizens need essentials and this is day-to-day living, such as basic groceries and medicines and the essential access to them. At work, both companies and employees have had to be agile and transform communication and collaboration to the most essential and important. We have had to define restaurants and ice cream shops as essential but hair salons and the library as not essential—it seems so random but at the same time is so deliberate.

As the trajectory of the Coronavirus changes every day we are all reevaluating the essential parts of each day. Should I make a concentrated and focused trip to the store and make sure to avoid going near anyone? How can I schedule a work call and not use up all the internet in the house when five other people also have online meetings? Can I afford to donate masks to others if my family might need them ourselves? Each day is simultaneously stripped down but also filled up—the essence of each day takes place and we decide what random things from the fridge will go together for dinner, we help each other with e-learning and we wave at neighbors from a faraway distance.

Park Ridge has always had a uniqueness that is hard to describe. Those of us who have lived here for a while know we are both a hidden treasure and a shiny pearl. Everyone in the community is trying to find new ways to connect and innovate and we are doing amazing things here! There are hearts in the windows and candles on the front steps supporting healthcare workers. Some of us try to manage a husband in ongoing social media memes with Lori Lightfoot. We are all keeping kids busy with sidewalk chalk and notes to the elderly. The church bells toll for loved ones who are remembered. The Park Ridge Care Team has a volunteer network of helpers wanting to assist others, and neighbors and friends exchange food and staples to help each other get through all of this just a little bit longer.

Park Ridge will get through the challenges we face and will come out of this together to shine in the light on the other side. We will share ourselves (and share our toilet paper) and trust that we are essential to each other which is the most important thing we can do—not only now, but always.


Check the Library News section of our website and the Park Ridge Community Network website for a list of services and ways to stay connected to your community.





Staff Picks: The Stay-At-Home Edition!

Are you looking for an escape from Covid-TV? Here’s what the Park Ridge Public Library staff are watching when they’re not working:



Heidi, Library Director
Getting caught up on Outlander on Starz. I guess you could say I’m binge watching Gov. JB’s news conferences each day; Anne with an E on Netflix, just started Great News on Netflix, and Some Good News on Youtube:

Stephanie, Administration
I've been 'binge watching' movies from the 80s....they remind me of the happy years of my adolescence and transport me to simpler times—and also to a time when going to the mall or movie theater was just what we did! Some are good to watch as a family. Here is a list of what I have watched so far these past 3 weeks: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Back to the Future Trilogy, Hoosiers, The Rookie, The Big Easy, St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink, My Own Private Idaho, Say Anything, Can't Buy Me Love, The Lost Boys

Claire, Children’s Services
Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow version, also highly recommend the latest version, you can rent on iTunes!), Legally Blonde, A Man Called Ove, Amelie, Ex Machina, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Return to Me, Mansfield Park, The Commitments, Shakespeare in Love

Mary, Children’s Services
Serendipity with John Cusack (2001 - an oldie but a goody); The Jim Gaffigan Show is available on hoopla and really good for a laugh!

Lisa, Children’s Services
I've been re-watching The Office, starting from the beginning. It is so bingy! I've been staying up way later than I should because I can't stop watching it. It's hilarious, the writing is impressive, and the characters are so lovable and endearing. I am also addicted to the show Little Fires Everywhere, with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Another binge-worthy one!

Lan, Children’s Services
Just discovered the series Four Weddings and a Funeral on Hulu. We're really enjoying it. It's rated MA but we watched it with our daughters (20 and 17).

Denise, Youth Services
Just went through hoopla and here are some of the movies that are on there that I love: 13 going on 30, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Zodiac, Room, Rent, Shakespeare in Love and Heathers. I have been binge watching The Good Fight which is on CBS All Access (which is offering 30 days for free right now!) It is the follow up to The Good Wife which you can also stream on CBS All Access or Hulu or Amazon Prime. You don't have to watch it first but if there is ever a time to jump into a 7 season show, this is it! 

Jazmin, Patron Services
Devil's Knot, It's a Boy Girl Thing, and The Black Stallion

Alison, Patron Services
Dead Poets Society is one of my all-time favorite movies. Thirty years later, the scene where Robin Williams encourages his students to Seize the Day (Carpe Diem) with the reading of a poem by Robert Herrick still resonates with me. It’s available on Vudu right now.

Laura M., Patron Services
I have been watching comedies, This is Spinal Tap, The Money Pit, also on Amazon Prime The Man in the High Castle (excellent, still not done). Also, good old tv shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Plus British comedies like Fawlty Towers and we watched The Ladykillers. Good stuff!

Grace, Patron Services
Here are some shows I’ve been watching (and rewatching!) lately:
Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Outlander, Queer Eye, Love is Blind, Veronica Mars, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, You, Sense8, Orphan Black, The 100, One Day at a Time

Zena, Reader Services
I Am Big Bird, a documentary about the life of Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who played Big Bird on Sesame Street.

Cathy, Reader Services
Downton Abbey, Father Brown, 800 words, Shetland, Hinterland, Doc Martin, Poirot, etc. Mostly the Brits!

Sarah R., Reader Services
I've been watching The Great British Baking Show (5 seasons available on hoopla).

Rachel, Reader Services
Here's what I am binging: Tiger King (Netflix) Isn't everyone? Could not stop. Killing Eve (Hulu) Can't get enough of Villanelle and Eve. Have to close my eyes sometimes-dark and fun. Third season being released early-yay! Picard (free trial CBS All Access) Star Trek gives me all the feels. Devs (Hulu): Thoughtful and mysterious science fiction.

Larry, Reference
Currently streaming Tiger King on Netflix. Insane people doing insane things, but lots of cute animals.

Grace, Reference
All on hoopla -British tv series The Detectorists, quirky fun comedy of two friends searching for treasure using their metal detectors, Star Trek movies, Doctor Strange and Doctor Who comics, and if you search under Disney Classics, you can find many illustrated picture books with narration option.

Brandee, Reference:
Marvel Runaways, Tiger King, Castle Rock, The Outsider

Lori, Reference
We binged the show Hunters on Amazon Prime.

Bob, Patron Services

I have a few TV shows from Canada that I am fond of. Anne with an E is a current production of the Anne of Green Gables story and is available on Nnetflix. Kim's Convenience is a funny show about a Korean family living in Toronto who own a small store. It is also available on netflix. Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake Mysteries are both shows about detectives set in Toronto around 1900 and the 1920's, respectively. Both are in the PRPL DVD collection.



staci_live_chatInstant Librarian: Introducing Live Chat

Need immediate assistance? Do you have questions about our online resources, your library card account, or maybe you just want to know more about the 2020 Census? You can now reach us via live chat on our website or via phone at 847-825-3123 every day from Noon to 6 p.m. Get help with downloads, databases and more in an instant with this live support feature! Our building may be closed now, but the Virtual Library is open for business. Staff are working to keep you connected—and informed—during this challenging time.

Have a general question and not sure where it should be directed? No worries! Chats will be re-directed to the appropriate department. Can’t get into Libby? Maybe it’s an overdue fee that is preventing access, so talk to us and someone from Patron Services will look into it. Need some guidance with that homeschool syllabus? A Children’s librarian will direct you. Live chat is quick and convenient. Like magic genies in the bottle, all your favorite librarians will appear in real time!

“What I love about the live chat capability is that it's a way for us to connect with library patrons and the Park Ridge community while still allowing us to be safe and take care of our own families,” said Staci Greenwald, Manager of Children’s Services. “This is such an unusual time for all of us! As a library, where so much of our service feels rooted to the building, this is a great opportunity for us to show everyone that we are more than just a building full of books. We connect people with information, technology, entertainment, books (of course), and each other. Chat is just one more way for us to stay connected.”

In addition to live chat, you can reach us by phone or email. If you do send us something after hours, we will get back to you the following day. For more about our online question service or how to reach each department by email, please visit our website:




Matthew C. Hoffman –
Library staff and blog contributor