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Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

It was early afternoon, a few weeks ago. The lioness, March, was tossing the clouds about in the sky and the carts in the parking lot as well. I hurried my steps, pushing into the wind. My destination was the pharmacy inside the grocers where a prescription awaited me.

Ah yes, dear friends, the grocery store where many of my meaningful conversations happen.

I grabbed a cart and walked down the seasonal aisle; green shamrock napkins blending with jellybean eggs and enough bunnies for a year’s worth of Rabbit Rabbit days. As a voice behind me said  “Do NOT look to the right. I’m not buying any of this.“a multi-colored, twinkling ball bounced past me. “Good luck with that” I said as we both headed to pharmacy.

The mother and I chatted as we waited our turn in line. The daughter, who looked about 10, held her doll close as she built her case for “needing” the magic, glowing ball. Children are good at this; tenacious in their determination to get what they want. In my grandmotherly attempt to turn the girl’s attention to something else, I told her that her doll must be special to her and I mentioned that it was a big doll. The child stood the doll on the ground and said “She’s not big. Look how small she is“.  From this young girl’s perspective, the doll wasn’t all the big, and I concurred.

The mother, whose hands now were filled with a box of bandages and ibuprofen, asked her daughter if she would please go back to get a shopping cart. As the girl turned to go back down the aisle of all things seasonal and needed, she handed her doll to her mom.

The mother looked at me, holding the doll, and said, quietly “Thank you for being so kind to her. She loves this doll and takes it everywhere. Not everyone understands.”  She talked about her daughter’s challenges, showed me all the bandages on the doll’s face and explained that her daughter changed the bandages almost every day,  slept with the doll, the doll came with on errands and went to church with her.

Soon enough, I heard a cart bump into a shelf. A few extra “needed” things thrown in. “Wow. You found a few toys!” I said as the mom took the cart and handed the doll back to her daughter, mouthing “thank you” as the moved ahead in the line. I winked and said “ thank YOU” back.

We learn much from children, if we take the time. Tenacity and patience, love and acceptance. Caring and serving others. This young girl had some developmental challenges, and a heart as big as Mr. Rodgers. She reminded me that we all must love each other – just as we are.

Her doll’s name was Chucky.

 

Image of Chucky from walmart. com

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How We Survived the Polar Vortex

From significant snowfall and frost quakes, to plummeting temperatures, cancelled airplane flights, school closings, business closings and even suspended mail delivery, we have been held captive by biting winds and subzero temperatures the likes of which will be long remembered in the annals of recorded weather –  and in the memories of those who endured it.

Let me begin by letting you know that we are quite fine, our electricity stayed on, we had contact with family and friends, enough food and water (and coffee and tea) and we remained safe and sound throughout. We are grateful.

I hope that those of you impacted by the Polar Vortex were warm and safe during it and are doing well now.

Predictions for snow, strong winds, and dropping temperatures came with ample warning days before the onset of sleet and snow. By Sunday afternoon, weather forecasts sounded more urgent with a bleak outlook for the week ahead. Early cancellations of meetings on Monday were prudent and appreciated, especially as the snow began to accumulate mid-afternoon.

Talking with a dear friend on the phone, we commiserated over the hardy souls who work in all  kinds weather; crossing guards, those who plough the roads and put out fires, law enforcement and mail carriers. It seemed that we no sooner mentioned mail carriers than I saw ours coming up the road. Tom was using the snow blower out front, clearing our long driveway. I noticed the mail truck wasn’t moving, then the Antler Man pushing the snow blower to the back. I, of course, in the comfort of our living room, kept talking. The mail carrier wasn’t moving, but, Tom was, shovel in hand he headed back down the drive and was soon working at getting the mail truck out of a ditch created by snow plows that had earlier made a pass down the Cutoff.

It was the last mail delivery for several days, not only for our town, but, for a large part of Illinois as well. It was dangerously cold to be outdoors. Even with several layers of clothing and coverings, frostbite is a serious condition and happens quickly in sub-zero temperatures.

 

 

The first “boom” I heard occurred at 5 am on Tuesday. It was loud and shook the house just a bit. I padded down the stairs to have a look, thinking one of the neighbors had slammed a car door. Sounds are different, louder, more pronounced in extreme cold and heavy snowfall. A car was idling in a neighbor’s drive, so I assumed that was the source of sound, even when another one followed and the walls trembled a tad. On Wednesday, we both heard more “booms” – an oddity hereabouts – but it was extremely cold temperatures that had our attention.

Registering at -23 degrees (F), it became the coldest temperature for Chicago on record for that day.

(photo from WGNTV.COM)

BOOM!

In between the falling temperatures, the draft slipping in through the windows and doors, and the furnace that never stopped running, I kept apprised of family and friends through phone calls, emails, and social media. It was on social media that a news item appeared from out local television station, WGN. The sounds we were hearing were actually a weather-related phenomenon called cryoseism  – also called frost quakes or ice quakes!  The ground was quite sodden from warmer temperatures and rain, followed by snow and then rapidly falling temperatures. Suddenly, all news sources and social media were a buzz (or a boom) with this unusual weather related occurrence.

(photo from WGNTV.COM)

We are a hardy bunch, we Midwesterners. We adjust to the variable temperatures, the heat and humidity, the freezing cold and snow. We experience appreciable temperature variations often enough, especially here near one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. I think, however, that we will all remember the Polar Vortex of 2019 as we remember the Chicago Blizzard of 1967, Mother’s Day snow and more.

As I write this, Saturday night, it is 40 degrees (F). It was -21 degrees (F) on Friday morning! The groundhog saw his shadow, a yearly ritual to predict an early or late spring. Who knows? Maybe spring will be early this year. Predictions are for 50 degrees in a few days. As for me, I’ll wait and see.

Spring will come when it will and I will rejoice in all it brings, but, for now we are still n the heart of winter and February has just begun. I am a few days late in wishing Rabbit! Rabbit! to all, which is a greeting come the first day of the month. I blame it on the Polar Vortex – as did the bunnies when Tom came down the stairs on February 1 to discover this mayhem pictured below. Neither of us heard the crash, and the bunnies aren’t talking. I’m pretty sure it was the vibrations from a frost quake that jostled the glass top just enough to create this little scene.

THAT was the week that was!

(Do any of you, on both sides of the pond, remember that television show?)

 

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There I was, on the top of my tippy toes, a would-be heroine of the supermarket, brandishing the largest roll of Reynolds Wrap – surely the only thing in the store older than me. With my signature scarlet red overcoat (of Toots fame) and my ballerina flats, I hoisted my box of foil in an attempt to slay a box of Saran Wrap on the very top shelf.

There was a younger man – a fit-as-a-fiddle power shopper reading the label of something or other, a last-minute purchaser on Christmas Eve day. The store with aisles crammed with eleventh hour shoppers for that one ingredient needed. He seemed oblivious to my to-and-fro lunges as I leapt across the aisle with my weapon of choice in pursuit of the one item I needed.

On the very top shelf (isn’t it always so?), in the very back of said shelf were two rolls of the plastic wrap I needed. One on top of the other, as far back as possible and quite impossible for me to reach. I made room on the very bottom shelf to step upon, but, really? me? I don’t do well on any steps, let alone the very bottom shelf of everything and anything used in food storage.

I reconnoitered, looked helpless and hopeless, but, no one seemed to notice me, especially the fit-as-a-fiddle shopper, who seemed oblivious to my plight. He was at least six feet tall. What WAS he reading?

I uttered an “oh bother“, then proclaimed “en garde” as I leapt upward in a determined maneuver to pry the sticky wrap down, only to be bombarded with parchment paper and snack sized plastic bags. A squeaky wheeled cart snuck past and then a kiddie-cart whose diminutive driver actually looked up at me.

“One more try” said I to self. I lunged once more – then heard a sweet voice say “let me help you“. I looked down to the see the softest beige coat with hair to match gazing up at me. Not more than an inch taller, she said “We short people have to help each other out. Let me get that for you. ” – and she did. She reached WAY up and she nailed it. Really. She had these perfectly polished long nails and nailed it! She handed me the plastic wrap, I thanked her, wished her a Merry Christmas – and she drove out of sight.

Am I the only one who has such adventures at the grocery store?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Prc8zLJO83I

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The morning was bright and clear with dashes of sunshine stroking my life. Decorations were scattered about our rambling abode; angels rested on high, books stacked within reach, and there were even a few batches of cookies stored in decorative tins. A rare December day with no meetings on the calendar, a tank full of gas and a list of wonders that I wanted to see, so, off I went with a purpose in mind.

My first stop was to see an exhibit about one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life,  at the Elmhurst History Museum. Alas and alack, I arrived to discover it would not open for several more hours, so . . . I promptly reversed my plans and headed, first, to the Wilder Park Conservatory. The Conservatory is an oasis of growth and warmth, history and soulful nourishment nestled into an award-winning park in the western suburbs.

Opening the door, a couple I have known were exiting, two charming grandsons toddling out with them. These two youngsters informed me that there were “fishes” and “elves” inside.

Well, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but, elves here and there and everywhere in the conservatory, along with this poinsettia tree and a cheerful display of the plants all around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In need of a “cuppa” of something warm and a bit of bite to eat, I headed to the north end of town and Brewpoint Coffee and Roastery where I had a tasty blueberry scone and a hot mocha (called Sacagawea).

As luck would have it, on a day filled with good luck, a perfect parking spot awaited me smack dab in the center of town. Like many suburbs around Chicago, parking is at a premium, so I quickly signaled my intent to park, claiming my curbside cradle. My first stop was The Pink Elephant, a well stocked charity shop. I chatted for quite sometime with a woman I did not know as we good-naturedly tried to talk each other into buying something we did not need. Do you ever do that? As a result, this caroler sang her way into my arms and followed me home.

I stopped at a new store, Bread and Butter, where I had purchased a darling pair of earrings a few weeks earlier. It is such a cute shop and the owner, a enterprising young woman, is as delightful as her products. I left with these cute stocking caps meant for bottles that Rudolf absconded with to keep his antlers warm.

My final stop, which was my first on what became a delightful circuitous route, was a tour of the exhibit at the Elmhurst History MuseumIt’s a Wonderful Life. Posters and “stills” from the movie lined the museum’s wall with informative narratives describing scenes, props, biographical information and other tidbits of knowledge about a beloved movie.

Included in this exhibition are photos and information about Elmhurst’s own Christmas traditions and photos of the city around the time depicted in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I did not take many photos, in part to maintain the integrity of the exhibition, and in part to lure you into the museum if you live in the area or are visiting. It is truly worth the visit and is within a short walking distance of not only the conservatory, but, of the renowned Elmhurst Art Museum.

Here are two characters from the movie, the original Bert and Ernie, and another character you might recall, Toots, with her earrings dangling and her infamous red coat.

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“Gratitude can transform common days into
thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change
ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

 William Arthur Ward

I rolled over, checked the clock, and wished for a few more moments of sleep and a dozen or so more degrees in temperature.  At an unseasonably cold 17 degrees (F), I was signed up for a guided walk with a friend that I had not seen in quite a while. A nature enthusiast and photographer extraordinaire, I didn’t want to let Peggy down – nor myself – so, a mantra of “up and at ’em”  pushed me forward and into the frigid early November morn. After a cup of tea, an English muffin and then a shower, I layered warm clothes on: a hooded fleece jacket, my blue winter coat, and a red shawl to brace myself against the wind, and headed out to the Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Peggy greeted me as I got out of my car and we headed in to the mansion where other attendees had gathered. We  met our docent, signed in and chatted while waiting for others to arrive before hearing an overview of our morning’s walk with a focus on gratitude.

I can not say enough good things about our docent. She was knowledgable about the mansion, the property, and the history of the area, while having a calming aura about her, encouraging us to observe what was around us while being mindful of the beauty and sense of place. At several locations, taking from the indigenous people who once lived here, we had moments of instruction and then moments quiet solitude.

As we were guided through the grounds, we were encouraged to feel the pull of the land we stood on and to feel the encouragement of those who may have helped us or lifted us up in our lives. While this wasn’t the intent of my participation, I none-the-less felt the overwhelming sadness of this past year as well as the abiding appreciation of those who helped in the caring of my sister, Dottie, as she entered into the final stages of her journey with pancreatic cancer. There were many who lifted us up and in so many ways eased the load of caring for someone at end-stage cancer. Unintentional in my choice to participate in this walk, I was quite mindful of a cathartic elements this walk afforded me.


We spent some time around the chapel, used by the monks who inhabited the estate after Mr. Peabody suddenly passed away and the property was sold to them. A few walkers remembered the youthful legends of Peabody’s Tomb and the monks who lived there; teenaged adventures of the fearless and those who dared to trespass on the property. We walked around, admiring the chapel and the site, some of us writing thoughts down, others taking photos, talking or just being present in the moment.

 

We walked the restored prairie amid native grasses and plants. My shawl helped keep me warm, however, I may never get all of the seeds I brushed against off of it. I wondered if the owl found me to be a foolish human!

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The oak savanna helped shelter us from the wind and the rustle of leaves was a soothing sound. Soon, we arrived at Mayslake, which is manmade. It glistened in the sunlight and sparkled in its iciness.

 

One of the many gifts of this walk was the flocks of Sandhill cranes that gathered overhead. They were close enough for us to watch as they swooped and floated and joined together for their long migration south. I felt such gratitude for this sighting. These cranes are most often heard but are only seen as specks high up in the sky. The photo (below) does not do the migration justice, I am sorry to say. If you zoom in, you might be able to see the groups circling as they join together. It was only when I downloaded my photos that I noticed the hawk landing on the top of the tree.

Our docent encouraged us to keep a gratitude journal of small things and large that we have to be grateful for. She suggested that just writing a few words down each day is all we need to get started to trigger our memories. There is an action between writing something down that helps the brain remember. Hmmm . . . maybe that is why when I write down a grocery list then forget to bring it with, I do remember most things on the list.

Peggy and I warmed up a bit in the mansion, thanked the docent and decided to grab something warm to drink and lunch – and talk some more.

On my way home, I stopped at a newly opened home furnishings store. As I walked in, this journal caught my eye. I bought it and keep it near my bedside table, where I endeavor to write down words or phrases; things I am grateful for, starting with my very first entry.

 

https://www.dupageforest.org/places-to-go/forest-preserves/mayslake

For an interesting article of the history of Peabody and the tomb, here is an interesting article: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-history-cop/2015/08/the-chicago-legend-of-peabody-s-tomb-and-the-masochistic-monks-turns-93-today/

 

 

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Winter has settled in, with cold and snow and slush and mittens and with all the beauty and the bother that winter in the midwest brings. So it was that I finally took out my bright red coat to wear to the grocery store. I love red coats. This one fits me perfectly, has weathered many cold days, and is easy to find among all the blacks and blues of winter warmth.

As I buttoned up for my first fire-engine red warmth of the season, I remembered the last time I wore this coat, late in last winter’s season, and to the very same grocery store I was headed to.

On that blustery March day, after checking out, my shopping cart laden with food and flowers (which I can’t resist), I headed to my car, pushing the cart through the slush of winter. Suddenly, a voice called out “Hey, Toots, I like your coat!“. I looked around and realized it was the man who gathers the shopping cars to bring in. I will call him Chuck.

Chuck is a friendly chap who talks to everyone and never seems to be at a loss for words. He always talks to me, whether about the flowers in my cart, the sleek sports car that just pulled out of a space, how to make spare ribs (when he bags groceries) and just about anything else. Chuck is a hard worker, enthusiastically directs traffic while gathering carts and is a good soul. He always has something to tell  me, though this was the first time he called me “Toots“.

“Thank you. It is a warm coat and I can always find it” I answered, as he took my cart to add to his growing line-up. “I like it” Chuck repeated. Then, just as another shopper passed by, Chuck proclaimed, with all the gusto of a March wind, “Your coat reminds me of my red drawers! I like to wear them all the time, too!” 

I always enjoy random conversations, especially at the grocery store. Chuck meant his words as a compliment and I took them as such, as did the Antler Man who occasionally calls me Toots when he knows I’m headed off to Chuck’s store. I’m actually headed there now.  I wonder if Chuck will notice my glare resistant glasses (and I wonder if they will work). I hope he doesn’t mention my coat.

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I knew I was in for a treat as soon as we opened the door. With a name like Copper Hen Kitchen and Bakery, I was intrigued which did not recede as followed the hostess to a table.. Walking past a bakery case under exposed beams and rough walls, the Copper Hen appeared to be a congenial spot and it was, indeed. The oversized napkins – more dish towel than napkin – added to the allure. That our daughter, Katy, had eaten there before with a friend and they thought I would like it touched me and added to my joy in the experience.

There was much on the menu that tempted me, but, the Farmhouse Salad had my name on it! I have seen many salads in my internet and cookbook wanderings of late with poached eggs atop. Poached eggs are something that you either like – or don’t (I do) and this was a perfect opportunity to try one on salad greens with roasted mushrooms, cashews, ricotta, nuts (I think they were cashews) and a light vinaigrette. I only wished I had ordered a side of toast, but, got along quite nicely as I “licked the platter clean” in this delectable farm-to-table restaurant in Minneapolis.

 

Sated, Katy and I left the Copper Hen and made the short drive to a bookstore I have been wanting to visit. I don’t remember who first suggested Birch Bark Books, but, if you are reading this, thank you, thank you. A sign on the door asked that visitors not take photographs. I will try to paint a picture in words of Birch Bark Books, a cozy, neighborhood independent establishment. Birch Bark is overflowing, in a warm and welcoming way, with a wide offering of books. From cookbooks to mysteries, outstanding children’s selections to poetry and books on nature, there is truly something for everyone at this unique shop, which also sells native artwork, jewelry, baskets, cards and much, much more. The store and is adorned with items that speak to the land and its people.

From Birch Bark’s website:

“We exist to keep real conversations between book lovers alive. We exist to nourish and build a community based on books. We are a neighborhood bookstore, and also an international presence. Our visitors come from Minneapolis-St. Paul, from every U.S. reservation and Canadian reserve, and from all over the world. We are different from all other bookstores on earth!”

Birch Bark Books is ” . . .  a locus for Indigirati — literate Indigenous people who have survived over half a millennium on this continent. We sponsor readings by Native and non-Native writers, journalists, historians.”  It is an amazing local establishment in which I felt both at home and in awe.

Birch Bark Books is owned by author Louise Erdrich. I invite you to explore Birch Bark’s website by clicking the link below to read more about the store, the interesting history of the building, an online shop and photos, which include the birch bark canoe that hangs from the ceiling of the store.

Of course, I could not leave Birch Bark Books without a book.

Have you read anything by Louise Erdrich?

 

https://birchbarkbooks.com/ourstory

http://www.copperhenkitchen.com/menu

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