Summer brings out much of the best in Chicago area

Every now and then I make a list of nine things I've liked lately. Here's one for the approach to summer.

1. Lake Michigan

I love the lake in its lonelier seasons, too, but now, when the warmth comes back and the people come out, the lakefront reminds us of who lives here and why we do. Every shape and hue of human shows up along the shore, people speaking what seems like all the languages of the world. The annual war of bicycles, runners, strollers and Rollerbladers also resumes, but that's another discussion.

2. Big white bowls

We're trained to eat on plates. But since I bought some 9-inch, white, slightly fluted porcelain bowls, I've wanted to eat pasta, salad and everything else out of them. Each one is elegant and sturdy, deep enough to be a serving bowl, shallow enough to be a dinner plate.

I got mine at Sur La Table (tinyurl.com/whitebowls), but various companies make similar dishes.

3. Midway Airport

For years I flew out of O'Hare, convinced that it was a better way to go. Half a dozen trips out of Midway have converted me to Chicago's smaller, Southwest Side airport. It feels homier, the workers are friendlier, and — maybe I've just been lucky — security is faster.

4. "Makers: Women Who Make America"

I plan to give the DVD of this entertaining PBS documentary, narrated by Meryl Streep, to all my nieces. It tells the story of the past 50 years of the women's rights revolution, and even though I was there for some of what it chronicles, I watched it thinking "Really? Wow. You're kidding me."

There's the opening footage, for example, of Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 defied the ban on women runners in the Boston Marathon. Along the course, she's harassed by men, including the race director. Really? Wow. You're kidding me.

5. Jeff Perry in "Scandal"

I started watching this ABC prime-time soap after a TV reviewer wrote that it was better than the Netflix series "House of Cards." It's not. But its tale of Washington, D.C., political shenanigans is full of charms, particularly Perry. A co-founder of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, Perry plays the president's gay chief of staff, a character whose vehement brilliance verges on insanity. You can catch back episodes on Netflix or Hulu.

6. "Cafe de Flore," the album

This jazzish CD, which someone gave me several years ago, recently popped up in my iTunes rotation to remind me how much I like it. The performers include Diana Krall, Eartha Kitt and Serge Gainsbourg. Some songs are in French, some in English. Some are peppy but they all feel mellow. Perfect for that dinner party you're going to have now that the weather's nice.

7. Printers Row Lit Fest

I'm reading Anchee Min's "The Cooked Seed" in preparation for interviewing her at 11 a.m. June 8 at this year's fest.

Min's best-selling 1994 memoir, "Red Azalea," told the story of her childhood during China's cultural revolution. Her new book resumes the story after she comes to the United States. She recounts how early on she enrolls at the Art Institute of Chicago, where friends teach her such vital English phrases as "What's up, dude?"

For a list of authors, times and ticket information, go to: printersrowlitfest.org/.

8. Domaine de Pouy 2011

CHICAGO

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