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Enjoy the cicadas, a lakeside lunch

Mary Schmich

September 1, 2013

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

1. Cicadas

A steamy dusk, a cold beer and the cicadas blasting their raucous lullaby. That's summer paradise, Chicago-style. And as long as the cicadas sing, summer isn't over.

2. Almond milk

Not the tastiest treat in the supermarket cooler, but it's not bad for a dairy alternative that's high in nutrients, low in calories and more palatable, to my taste, than soy milk.

Warning: Read the label. Be wary of added sugar and of carrageenan, a thickener suspected of doing bad things to a body.

3. The Waterfront Cafe

Chicago's early planners declared the lakefront forever open, clear and free, and thanks to them, the city's uncluttered lakefront is one of its daily miracles. But this little, lakeside cafe in Edgewater (6219 N. Sheridan Road) makes a good case for a few exceptions to the rule.

The cafe is in an old coach house, next to one of the few mansions that survived Sheridan's conversion to a high-rise strip. It serves lunch and dinner at reasonable prices. Sit under the trees and umbrellas, with the big blue lake almost at your toes, and you'll feel like you're on vacation.

Warning: Expect a wait. It closes for the season on Oct. 15.

4. Not "have to" but "get to"

I occasionally invent word tricks to help me plunge through the hard parts of the day. Replacing "have to" with "get to" is a guaranteed boost. I don't have to work. I get to work. I don't have to go to the gym. I get to go to the gym. Zap! Obligation turns into opportunity.

5. Amazon Prime

I've never had cable. I canceled Hulu. I have Netflix, which should be enough TV for the next six lifetimes.

Amazon Prime lured me in a few months ago anyway, and it nicely fills the Netflix gaps. For $79 a year — a little less than $7 a month — you get free shipping on books and other items, free access to thousands of Kindle books and enough streaming movies and TV shows to occupy the next 10 lifetimes.

I've watched three seasons of "The Good Wife," caught up on "Justified," seen an excellent American Experience series on Bill Clinton and stumbled into a fascinating, long interview with the youngish Steve Jobs.

Warning: Online reviews of the service range from raves to rants. You can always try the free month and bail.

6. Tour O' Coffeehouses

This summer, as incentive to visit a variety of Chicago neighborhoods, I've sought out coffeehouses in different parts of town.

Three I like a lot are the Bridgeport Coffeehouse (3101 S. Morgan St.); The Coffee Studio (5628 N. Clark St.) and CityGrounds Coffee Bar (507 W. Dickens Ave.).

7. The Lurie Garden in Millennium Park

With its explosive colors, high hedges and narrow paths, the Lurie feels like a secret garden, even though it's in one of the city's busiest parks. I particularly love the boardwalk next to a long pool. Sit down, take your shoes off, get your feet wet.

8. Shameless self-promotion

I don't actually like shameless self-promotion, but here goes. The Tribune and Agate Publishing recently issued a print edition — that's old-fashioned paper — of a collection of my columns. The collection, which includes "Wear Sunscreen" and many more, is called "Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now."

I filched the title from my mother, who after a stint in the hospital not long before she died said, "You have to be old to appreciate the beauty of your life. Even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now."

The book is available in some local bookstores and wherever online books are sold.

9. "The Real Work" by Wendell Berry

Ever get confused about life? About work? About which fork in the road to take? This short poem is in praise of that confusion. (Google it, and you'll see.) Among its fine lines:

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

mschmich@tribune.com

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