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Chicagoans test their skills on ‘America’s Best Cook’

LORI RACKL: Kitchen amateurs Stephanie Goldfarb and Ramzi Khairallah take on culinary challenges on the new Food Network competition.

Puppy mischief abounds in these funny dog tales

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Let’s meet some dogs. We begin by learning about “Charley’s First Night,” by Amy Hest. Anyone who has been through a new pet has shared this experience. Henry tells us that his new puppy Charley wants to be carried home through the snow. Charley is …

Lollapalooza redefines the experience of a music festival

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Another year, another Lollapalooza. And with that came another mad rush for tickets, even before the announcement of a lineup.

That’s because, expert say, the powerful destination festival, which attracted 300,000 people last year, is shifting away from its early roots as the irrefutable curator …

Larry Yando adds another layer to multifaceted career with ‘Dance’

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You might know him as Scar, the sinister wannabe king in the national touring production of “The Lion King.” Or as an impossibly fierce and smarmy Roy Cohn in Court Theatre’s “Angels in America.” Or as Richard Nixon in “Nixon’s Nixon” at Writers Theatre. Or …

Hand: Planting seeds of knowledge

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Well, I do believe that spring has come.

I hate to tell you about a book that begins with winter, but stay with me. “Little Pear Tree” by Jenny Bowers is a delightful look at the four seasons and unfortunately begins with winter.

This is …

Celebrate spring by reading poetry

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I have lived here a very long time and contrary to current belief, spring will come. With spring comes April, and April is Poetry Month. Even though I can’t write them, I do love to read them, especially out loud, as the rhythms and rhymes …

Baby announcement not an order to buy supplies

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister eloped and quickly became pregnant. They had intended to announce the marriage to family with a spring visit and small celebration, but instead shared all the news after her first trimester of pregnancy. She is very non-traditional and has never …

‘Divergent’: An intriguing time in a grim future Chicago

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BILL ZWECKER: Cast chemistry and a strong portrayal of author Veronica Roth’s dystopic world put “Divergent” a cut above most teen franchises.

Crank letters do not necessitate a response

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work as a secretary at an English department. Somewhat to my surprise, we have been besieged by fringe “academics” who are very adamant that we are part of a conspiracy to cover up the fact that Edward de Vere, Earl of …

Little ones will enjoy these toddler tales

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I have several babies in my life right now, little ones, and they do love board books. You know the ones I mean, the ones made out of heavy-duty cardboard that you can throw around and turn the pages without tearing them. Unfortunately for reviewing …

The cycle of water, from rainstorms  down to bathtubs

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I have mixed emotions about rain. I know how important it is to life and all, but I sure don’t like it when I plan a picnic outside. My mother always agreed with the “Camelot” statement that it should only rain in the middle of …

‘Ring of Fire’ lacks soul of Johnny Cash’s life

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Revue at Theater at the Center sounds terrific but falters whenever the music stops and the attempts at dialogue begin.

in the spotlight: Jimbo Mathus

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Those who know Mississippi native Jimbo Mathus from his years fronting freewheeling roots music revisionists the Squirrel Nut Zippers, may be surprised by the primal rock sound of his band the Tri-State Coalition. “With the Zippers, I considered us a vaudeville act,” Mathus says. “It …

These books  are for the birds

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I have never been a “bird person.” I like to watch them and find them fascinating at a distance but that’s all. I have always had cats and so never wanted to attract birds to be dinner for them. I knew that birds have feathers, …

‘Son of God’: The Good Shepherd in a not-so-good movie

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You feel worse about ripping some films than others. If it’s exploitative dreck or cynical torture porn or a brainless sequel, you just fire away, grateful for the opportunity to vent and to warn movie-lovers to stay away.

This is not the case with “Son …

Local Buzz for March 7, 2014

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Here is a look at music events. Suggestions include gigs at Blue Chip Casino’s Rocks Lounge in Michigan City, the Venue at Horseshoe Hammond, Majestic Star Casino & Hotel’s Lakeshore Lounge in Gary, and Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville.