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Archive for the ‘Just for fun’ Category

We waited, lined up on both sides of the track, wearing sun hats, setting up tripods, pushing babies in strollers. We were a mass of railroad buffs, history lovers, curiosity seekers, teens on bikes – and drones. The event was well promoted on local television, radio and social media. The Union Pacific Railroad’s No. 4014  Big Boy was coming our way and folks from all walks of life and all ages, could see the restored steam locomotive as it passed through the western suburbs of Chicago.

Those more technically savvy than I were tracking the Big Boy’s journey on their cell phones, announcing to all who could hear “it is in Des Plaines” or approaching the airport“. It was like awaiting the guest of honor at a surprise birthday party – only no one was hiding and the guest of honor couldn’t wait to blow us a steamy kiss.

I was a bit “incognito”, as I was not supposed to be out in the sun (but, you know me and I figured I could always blame it on my car that has been known to veer off course).

I digress.

My friend Louellen and I found each other amongst a growing crowd. Her lovely daughter proclaimed “it’s making the turn” then “it is in Berkeley” and then, there it was, chugging along into the downtown Elmhurst station. It felt like a grown-up version of Thomas the Train, and I found myself wishing our grandson Ezra could be with me as he would have enjoyed it.

We could hear it, at first, in the distance. We could hear the prolonged, mournful wail of the train, see the billowy puff of charcoal smoke, then feel the vibrations and see the steam pour forth as we all experienced the clickety-clack of a different era and long distance rail travel.

Oh, dear friends, we cheered, we waved, we oohed over the gracious club cars and we felt the train’s whistle deep in our chests as babies slept in their parents’ arms, with men and women in business attire who left their desks and computers to stand and stretch to see the Big Boy. Grandparents and teens, students from the nearby Elmhurst College and so many railroad buffs in a gleeful crowd on a warm summer’s day. In front of us, a friendly and knowledgable young man was recording the event for his club’s website as we realized a drone was silently soaring overhead, filming a new journey for the Big Boy No. 4014.

Then, it was gone, off to the next bend on the rail and eagerly awaiting crowd.

As I returned home, I found myself in a thoughtful mood. I wondered at this massive marvel of transportation, the 4014 Big Boy, built more than 75 years ago, to traverse the Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the east and west coasts of America by rail 150 years ago. The railroad was constructed largely by Chinese, Irish, and other immigrants, in harsh work conditions across an often untamed, rocky, treacherous route so that those who followed could travel faster and in a safer way and for goods to be transported more efficiently. I pondered it all, from the comfort of my air-conditioned car, with a cold soft drink I purchased at a drive-through window of a fast food restaurant while listening to an audio book. I found myself grateful, oh-so -grateful,  for the opportunity to see a wee bit of our larger history chug past me on a hot summer afternoon.

The 4014 Big Boy’s journey this summer is to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Raiload.  As I write this, the Big Boy has left West Chicago, Illinois and is heading toward Iowa. This is the link to the schedule of where it will be on the next leg of its Should it be near you on it’s journey, I encourage you to try to see it. .https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/schedule/index.htm

 

 

 

 

 

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Wild Kingdom

It started when I opened the back door to go into the house. A frog hopped boldly in front me, over the threshold and headed toward my purse, which was on the floor inside. Silly frog. I didn’t have any money.

Pictured is our newly acquired “weed whacker”. As long as it stays out of the potted plants, it will be a peaceable kingdom here – or so I thought just as I turned and saw the hanging pot of fuchsia suddenly swinging a bit too fast.

Out the front door, wheezing as I went, just as a chipmunk scurried down into the pot, staring at me behind a leaf – in defiance. “Outofthere” (which became one word as I rapped on the pot, causing the chipmunk to literally bounce up in the air, out of the pot and into the weeds, er, hosta, whilst the crew of construction workers next door stopped to stare at me. (Chippy the Chipmunk was fine – just momentarily dazed.)

All’s well that ends well.

 

Just as the chipmunk scurried out of our little kingdom, a hummingbird arrived and proceeded to sip from the blossoms adorning the hostas then flitted over to the fuchsia flowers. I love these little moments in life.

 

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. . .  in the 1844 presidential campaign with the lithographic printing process.

Sign of the Times: The Great American Political Poster 1844-2012*

On a cloudy, cold Saturday at the end of March, snow flurries and gray skies dampening one’s spirit, I opted to head over to a small but significant history museum hidden in plain sight. I checked with the Antler Man to see if he wanted to meet me there. He did.

The Elmhurst History Museum sits in the historic Glos Mansion, just steps from the train station and the downtown business district of Elmhurst.

 

We parked and walked through the portico, climbed the steep steps to heavy, wooden doors and were greeted by a museum volunteer who welcomed us, handed us a brochure, and told us to enjoy the exhibit and museum, which we promptly and enthusiastically did.

This is an extraordinary exhibit with 50 outstanding reproductions of presidential campaign posters spanning two centuries, and reflecting the politics, printing and artistic techniques of their times. There is also a large collection of campaign buttons on display – and a voting booth in which to vote for certain posters with plastic chips.

I was especially excited as I finally got into the Oval Office.

These campaign posters reflected the decades they represented, as well as the candidates and campaigns, from all political parties, as well as artists and techniques of their eras. Jamie Wyeth to Alexander Calder and Ron English are among famous artists represented, but, there are “insiders and outsiders” represented as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you live in the Chicago area, or are visiting, I highly recommend this exhibit. If not, this is a traveling exhibit which might be coming to a museum near you, which brings me to your own hometown or area. There are so many small museums, often in historical homes or buildings, established by local citizens and societies who have endeavored to save their town’s history, stopped bulldozers, steadfastly raised funds and lobbied locally elected officials. Whether a one room schoolhouse, a gristmill, a windmill, a factory or a farmhouse, these museums are treasure troves of local history and reflections of who we were and are.

Do you have a small but significant exhibit near you?

 

* title of exhibit at the Elmhurst History Museum, March 29 to April 28, 2019

http://www.elmhursthistory.org/315/Exhibits

 

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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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What to do? When the clock is ticking, the rain pattering on the roof is more annoying than soothing and you have just remembered something that should have been done, but wasn’t. When sleep, that restful place you were just an hour past deeply into, is now what seems to be a lost cause, What do you do?

I took the book poised rather precariously atop my teetering TBR pile, descended the stairs to the kitchen and put the kettle on. In a cabinet where I keep my teas, I procured a sachet of Ahmad’s Decaffeinated Evening Tea. The tea was one of many “tea time” items in a raffle basket I recently won that had been filled with tea related items. This tea is quite tasty as well as calming. I was hoping it to be the perfect antidote for a restless night.

While the kettle heated, I threw a load of clothes into the washing machine and folded another before hearing that slow, rolling sound that commences just before water starts to boil. Cup and saucer ready, I turned off the flame just before the teakettle began to sing and set my teabag in the cup to steep. It is amazing how much can be accomplished while brewing a spot of tea!

I fired up my laptop as the tea steeped, checked my Facebook feed and discovered that my long-time blogging friend Kate had just posted a gem that fit my immediate circumstance; the obsolete word of the day!

A serendipitous moment for sure.

QUANKED

To be overpowered by fatigue is to be quanked!

Infused to perfection in a vintage, handleless lustreware cup, upon which I cupped my hands. I sipped my tea, listening to the soft sound of clothes tumbling about in the dryer. I read for a bit, then closed my eyes and drifted off into the second chapter of sleep.

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