Jumping In

Some of you may have noticed a decreased number of posts in the last couple of weeks.  Or, to be clear, basically no posts in the last couple of weeks.  I finally remedied that today, with a 10 Word Review, but otherwise… nada, zip, zilch, zero.  I love Z words.  I have a great explanation and I’ll make it short, I was otherwise occupied.

It’s been cold in East Central Illinois.  Really cold.  We’ve had our share of snow this year, not to mention the whole polar vortex thing, which basically trapped us in our own home for three days.  We love our house, but being forced to stay home, not fun.  Neither of us like being told what to do, even by Mother Nature.  To remedy this situation we’d planned, to be honest it was long before our version of the Day After Tomorrow happened, a family vacation to the much more balmy Florida Keys.  Can we get a hallelujah?  I thick we can.

So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado…

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… this is where I’ve been, and what I was doing while I wasn’t posting on the blog.  Everyone needs a vacation now and then and this was what mine looked like.

Sometimes you just have to let go, and jump in.

Best Finds of 2013

I’ve been reading a lot of best of lists in the last several days, everything from albums of 2013 to recipes involving bacon.  Everyone seems to be making a year end list.  I thought, why not jump on the bandwagon.  So here we go.  This isn’t a top ten or even a list with any sort of theme.  These are just things (songs, movie houses, art, tv shows, food, etc.) I discovered in 2013 that will stay with me long into 2014 and beyond.

Let’s get to it….

The Lone Bellow came into my life via iTunes and a free download.  I instantly became obsessed with them.  Great lyrics, excellent harmonies, and catchy tunes that stay in your head for days.

The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel from Panera.  This thing is addicting.  I’m so glad we discovered them, and so sad at the same time.  It’s all kinds of deliciousness in a small round baked good.  Toasted with butter… so damn tasty.

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Kickapoo State Park, Illinois.  We’ve lived in Illinois now for nearly two and a half years.  Surprisingly there are many things we’ve come to appreciate and even truly like about living here.  One thing we haven’t is that there isn’t as much water as we were used to living in Oregon.  We’ve done our best to travel to nearby towns with river walks (there aren’t that many) and to find state parks and such that have a decent amount of water, in whatever form we can find it.  One such place, to our delight, is Kickapoo.  First, you have to love the name, c’mon, it’s kind of awesome.  But more importantly, it has water.  All sorts of little lakes and a stream, running through it.  There are canoe rentals in the summer, and loads of trails.  We went in the fall, when the colors of the foliage were stunningly beautiful.  We will definitely be going back.

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The Golden Harbor Restaurant.  With a huge menu, free tea by the pot, and a cool old school vibe, this place rocks. Plus, the food is great.  How can you go wrong with spicy green beans, salt and pepper mushrooms, and plates full of sweet and spicy chicken.  The menu on the wall is enormous and all in Chinese.  You can pick up an english language menu from the little table by the front door if you like.  Write down the numbers of the things you’d like to order, take it up to the counter, and moments later your tasty hot food starts coming out as it’s ready.  We love this place.

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Season tickets for the University of Illinois women’s volleyball and basketball.  What a great deal.  We’d been to games before, but this all inclusive $35 dollar ticket package gets you into all the home games for both sports.  We’ve had hours of enjoyment at these games.  The atmosphere, the competition, supporting the local university, and eating an occasional stadium dog… all worth it.  Can’t beat it for good sporty entertainment.

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Cris Cab.  I can’t even remember how I stumbled on this young gent.  All I know for sure is that his music is catchy and I’m semi-addicted to it.

Dominic Thomas was born.  I don’t know if you can call him a discovery, but as he grows, and has one discovery after another of his own, we have discovered a little more about him, and ourselves.  I think that’s part of the beauty of little people.  As they grow and change and develop we see the world through them, and it is an amazingly wondrous place.

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The fun of riding steam trains.  Taking a five mile ride on a steam train isn’t exactly something I would choose to do on my own.  Maybe an over night or a several night journey, one with sleeper cars and a nice dining car, but not a shorty ride on a steam train that goes one way forward and then backs up on the return trip.  But, somehow, with the help of the excitement of a three year old, short trip steam trains kinda rock.  We went a couple of different times and I’m sure we’ll be going again this year.  Our mini engineer in training loves it and, consequently, so do we.

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The Blacklist.  James Spader is just plain awesome.  He’s an amazing actor.  In lessor hands this role, and the tv show connected to it, might not be as riveting and interesting as it is.  But with James Spader at the center, a decent supporting cast, and top notch writing, Blacklist keeps you hooked.

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Portland, Maine.  We took a little road trip for our 10th anniversary to Portland by way of NY, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, etc.  We loved New England.  It’s beautiful, it’s people are great, and it’s beautiful.  Portland, the destination for this trip, didn’t disappoint.  We met in Portland, Oregon.  It’s our city, as we like to call it.  We love it there.  I had, however, always wanted to go to the other Portland.  To check it out.  To see what it had to offer.  My honey felt the same.  Seemed fitting that on our 10th we would take a trip to that other Portland to see what we could see.  It was great.  Good restaurants, excellent scenery, really nice people, and funky in it’s own way, we enjoyed it very much.

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Roadtrippers.  I love this website.  We travel quite a bit.  Most especially, in recent years at least, we’ve gone on some major road trips here in the U.S.  This site allows you to plan your route and then see what sorts of places might be along it.  From practical to strange Roadtrippers has them all.   They also have an app, which rocks.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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Cafe ZoJo.  It’s a local coffee shop that’s fairly new.  I’m not sure if we actually found this in 2013 or the year before, but never the less, I’m including it here.  The staff are friendly, with quick helpful smiles, the atmosphere is eclectic and comfortable, the food is tasty, and the coffee is sublime.  ZoJo is our go to for take away coffee.  I’ve never had better drip coffee in my life.  That’s saying a lot.

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Sleepy Creek Vineyards.  We actually discovered this place by way of a thing called the Fork in the Road Tour.  A few local farms, their goods, a nice drive with good friends, and we ended up, last stop on the tour, at Sleepy Creek.  We were given a tour of the vineyard,  an explanation of the bottling process, and then a tasting.  The wine was good, but the people were great, and the atmosphere was awesome.  Later, like a month or so, they hosted the Salk Fork River Art Festival.  Again, great setting, great wine, great people.  We were hooked.  They do several events a month including things like film festivals, live music, art festivals, weenie roasts, and of course wine tastings.  It’s worth the drive east.

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Cinnebarre in Salem, Oregon.  We live in Illinois now, but we still spend a significant amount of time in Oregon.  It’s where I’m from, and where my honey lived for over 30 years.  It’s home.  My mom lives in Salem, in the same house we lived in when I was in high school.  Salem is the capitol city, and has always been considered, amongst people who live in Portland anyway, a lessor town.  But in the last several years Salem has grown up a little, and funked out a bit as well.  To prove this point they now have a movie place downtown called Cinebarre.  It’s a chain, though there are only about seven or eight locations around the country.  The fact that one of those is in Salem is very cool.  Cinebarre is a movie theater and it’s a restaurant.  You get table service during the movie, which seems like it could distract you, but it doesn’t really.  Walk in, look at the menu before the movie starts, fill out your card, prop it up, and the wait staff comes to take your order via your card and then brings you the food while the movie is going.  You can keep ordering if you want to, they also have beer and wine.  It’s a kick and a unique movie experience.  I like it.

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Honda PCX 150 Scooter.  We used to own motorcycles.  Big motorcycles.  Hogs.  We had all the gear, went on rides, and thought we were slightly above all those scooter riders out there.  That’s the way it goes.  If you ride motorcycles you think scooter riders, or scooterists as I like to call them, are slightly beneath you.  Not really in an arrogant way, it’s just that as a motorcycle rider you’re cool.  As a scooterist you’re nerdy.  Until, of course, we gave up the motorcycles and bought a Honda scooter in 2013.  It’s beyond awesome.  It hauls buns, can carry both of us, is fun as hell to ride, and seems easier.  Maybe the easier part is just because you don’t have to shift, I don’t know.  But it’s zippy, and it makes a fantastic second car.  I so love to ride it.  Who would’ve thunk, those few short years ago, we would prefer a scooter, but we do.  I guess if that makes us nerds we proudly own it.  I’m a scooterist.  Damn straight I am.

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Thankful Everyday – The Fifteenth

Halfway through.  I can’t believe this little exercise is going so fast, let alone how the month of November seems to be speeding by.

15.  I’m thankful for photography.  It is a vehicle for the passionate drive I have to create and allows me to see the world in ways I didn’t, before I picked up a camera, know were possible.  It brings me joy and helps to fuel my awe for the wonder and magic all around us.  Whether it’s snapping a picture with my iPhone or capturing an image with one of my Canons, I’m lucky to have found it and so very thankful I did.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Seven & Eight

Ah road trips, how I love them.  The sights, the experience, the music played along the way.  They are glorious things.

When I was a kid our family did road trips all the time.  It was sort of our thing.  We mostly stayed in Oregon for these, though we did venture out to Arizona once, exploring different parts of the state.  We always stayed in Mom and Pop motels, which don’t exist as much today.  I loved those.  One time we stayed in a motel with a pool shaped like an airplane.  Very cool.  There were always things to see, places to stop along the way, new adventures to be had.  I grew up taking road trips and they got into my blood.

Luckily I met someone who loves to road trip as much as I do.  When K was young her family hit the road every year from California to Oklahoma.  During our drive out this past week she called her parents to confirm that their main route was route 66.  There wasn’t an interstate the majority of the time her family was doing these trips so route 66 was the main route between Los Angeles and Oklahoma.  Awesome.  As we drove out this last week we basically followed what was the old route 66 highway.  Now not even commissioned as a highway, there are still signs along the way indicting where route 66 was and there are long stretches of road you can still drive.  Those stretches take you past, as we saw, old gas stations and motels and diners that have fallen into disrepair long ago, though there are still some establishments up and running today.  It’s a bygone era, but along that route the feel is still there in some places.  It’s pretty cool.

I digress though and will get back to it by saying that we both love a good road trip.  It’s why we’ve decided on this trip every year.  It serves two purposes… we get to drive back out to Oregon and see everyone we love who lives there and who we miss, and we get to have the experience of traveling different routes out with the pups.  It’s tiring, but oh so much fun.

We finally arrived, day seven, after starting in Burns and driving highway 20 through Bend and Sisters, then highway 22 to Salem and the farm.  It was nice to get here.  Another great thing about road trips is the getting to your destination and getting up the next morning not having to drive anywhere.  It’s a good feeling.

We spent yesterday, our first non-driving day, doing some chores like taking our Toyota Tacoma in for servicing so we can put it up for sale, and helping Mom work on the garage at the farm.  She’s wanted to clean it out, reorganize, and paint for some time so we cleared that puppy out yesterday and went in and got the paint for it.  Today, we paint.

The pups adore Mom and my brother, Kevin.  They were very happy to see them and they also love the farm.  What dog wouldn’t.  They’ve been here many times and they basically get to roam pretty free while they’re here.  They were exhausted last night when we went to bed.  It’s nice for them.

It’s so good to be here and we’re looking forward to seeing friends and family while we’re here.  We love this place and the people in it, and we loved the getting here as well.

Pretty soon we’re going to have to start planning our trip back out to Illinois… wonder which route we’ll decide to take this time?

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Three

Hippie coffee from 806 in Amarillo, no large legs, planted Cadillacs, a decently short drive, wild horses, prairie dogs, southwest food Guatemalan style at the Tune-Up Cafe, head of hope, abandoned route 66, a walk with the dogs along the non-existent Santa Fe River and past two cathedrals, the oldest church in the U.S., and a very hidden Roundhouse State Capital building in Santa Fe.  Pictures were taken of most of it.  It was a great day of traveling, save for the fact that we didn’t get a good second cup of joe today.  Coffee from a quick stop definitely does not count as good coffee.

Our only impressions from the day are these… it’s gorgeous in the part of New Mexico and we love Santa Fe.  The vibe here is awesome.  Mellow, relaxed, artistic, free.  At least that’s what it felt like to us today during our brief visit.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day One

Over half way on day one of this year’s road trip to Oregon finds us traveling in Missouri on I-44 West toward our stopping point this evening, Springfield, Missouri.

The rental car: Mazda CX-9 with Texas plates and just about 7900 miles when we started out this morning.

The dogs have some comfy beds and a big area to move around in. They even have a water bowl and bully sticks. Yes, spoiled. What can we say other than we love and adore them.

We just stopped for some to go lunch and more coffee, of course. The iPod is plugged in via USB so we can control it from the car… Sweet. It’s on shuffle and the Gotan Project’s Mi Confesion is blasting from the speakers right now. Love it. This song always makes me want to tango, even though I have no clue how to tango. I can picture K and I doing the tango to this.

So far we’ve passed the huge cross and the Arch. We’re rolling along.

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Julia

My Mom turns 68 today.  A day celebrating Mom is a wonderful thing.  She deserves it.  She’s fantastic.

I’m sitting here 2300 miles away from her, it’s 9:00 in the morning my time, and here the sun is out and the sky is blue.  It’s a gorgeous beginning to this day, her birthday, and I wish Mom was sitting here with me, sipping a cup of coffee, looking at the beautiful outdoors, and talking about what fun things we might do together today.  That’s how it is.  I miss her.

Up until several months ago I lived, all of my life, no more than 3 hours away from her.  I loved living in Oregon, was actually born there, and had never left.  Didn’t really want to live anywhere else actually.  Travel yes, move somewhere else… why?  It’s gorgeous there, the people are fantastic, and it fits me.  So there I stayed.  The bonus of that was that I was close to Mom, to my brother, to family in general.  Close to friends I love as well.  And that, well that is what it’s all about.  Family, friends, love.  Which, in the end, is why I ended up moving so far away.  Family, and love. Seems, for now anyway, we couldn’t have it all in one place.  And that’s OK.  This has been and continues to be an adventure.  Adventures in life are good.  I’m not complaining.  What I am doing, sort of lamenting, is missing my Mom.

Mom…  how to describe her.  She’s fantastic, as I said.  Though that doesn’t really get to the meat of who she is.  She smiles a lot, loves to laugh, is playful, full of energy, and she doesn’t often turn down an adventure.  She encourages without being suffocating, sometimes tells you what she thinks in a rush if there’s passion behind it, challenges herself to be better physically, and is honest about who she is, what she thinks, and what she expects.  Mom has integrity.  She says what she means and expects you to do the same.  She won’t tolerate liars, cheats, or people who try to get one over on her or the people she loves.  She can be a bear, yet she is quietly strong.  When Mom is around everything seems as though it will be OK.  It’s as if she wills it to be and it is so.  This has been the case my whole life.  When Mom is around you want to do better, be better, you don’t want to disappoint.  Her presence makes you want to be a better person because of the person she is.  Mom is always there to help, to support, to get the job done.  It seems, most times, like she could do anything.  I think, seriously, that she probably could.

And yes, like anyone, she does have her faults, before you go and think I’m nominating her for sainthood or something.  She’s hard on herself.  Too hard.  She sometimes puts the wishes of others before herself at the expense of what she really wants.  She’s sometimes incredibly shy.  But she is kind, and sweet, and full of love.  She’s welcoming to people, warm.  She accepts, never judges, and defends.  When I came out to her one of the first things she said to me, after “I love you” and basically so what, is that she wanted to be the one to call many of the family members to tell them.  She wanted to do this not so she could be the one in the know or whatever, she wanted to do it so that she could tell them, and then let them know that she was just fine with it and that, with her tone I’m sure, they should be too.  That’s my Mom.  Defending, supporting.  She loves deeply, isn’t afraid to cry, and is emotional.  I love this about her.  As I love so many things about her.

Mom is uber talented.  In my lifetime she’s played instruments, gardened in a Better Homes and Gardens kind of way, drawn, photographed, sung well, and whistled a whistle that makes my heart soar.  Mom’s whistle is amazing.  I miss her whistle.  She can build anything, use most every tool, and drive a tractor.

I am lucky to have the Mom everyone wants.  I’m lucky to have the Mom all my friends, all my life, have envied, liked to be around, and loved.  I’m lucky to have that Mom.  I know how lucky I am.  I would say, without hesitation, that, along with my honey, Mom is the best person I know.  The best.  Karen and Mom are a lot a like, which I guess would make sense that they are the best people I know.  Mom is a person I strive to be like.  She’s a person I’ve always looked up to.  Always admired.

Happy birthday Mom.  I love you more than I could ever express and I am so very proud to be your daughter.

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On Toward San Jose

We are on the train, the Saluki Northbound, making our way toward Chicago. The first leg of our journey to San Jose. Train travel rocks. I’m a fan.

The weather turned cold and wet in Illinois today. A 25 degree drop in temperature from where we were at yesterday. That’s Illinois. T-shirts yesterday, fleece jackets today. Too funny. I think it’s raining in San Jose today as well. Hopefully the weather improves in both places so that we can enjoy some nice California weather and Mom and Kev can have the same here as they dog sit/house sit for us and the kids.

Next stop for us… Union Station. Two hours and twenty minutes away. Then… Lunch!

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What a Weekend… I’m Exhausted!

We had such a fantastic weekend.  So great that I’m tired today.  OK, maybe to be more accurate I should say that I’m partially tired from having to get up in the middle of the night to the let the dogs out.  For some reason, and this is a rare event, they both had to go out.  There’s the little girlie getting up for water and then not jumping back in the bed.  Bad sign.  I got up to find her and she was waiting in the hallway for me.  She ran over to the doggie door and then I heard Weston coming along as well.  I opened the door, they go out, and there I am peeking through the curtains over the sliders trying to see them out in the backyard at four in the morning.  Too funny.  So I could be tired from that.  But, the weekend was so busy, so much fun, and tiring in a totally good way as well.

It started Friday night with a Gal Up (a group we’ve found and joined) event at a local bar, the Esquire Lounge in downtown Champaign.  Drink, food, talk, pool playing, and good times had by all.  A great night with cool women.  Saturday we got up early to go watch Sebastian’s first swimming lesson here in the U.S.  He’s somewhat of a swimming lesson expert as he’s been in them since he was like three months old or something in the U.K.  But it’s been a little while since he’s been in the pool, so he was a tad cautious.  He had a big hold on Mary most of the time.  He didn’t cry, but he was unsure.  By the end though he was a champ, showing that now famous smile all over the place.  He’s going to be great and it was such a blast watching him, and watching Mary be such a fantastic Mom with him when he was unsure and scared and such.  Makes a person tear up watching the kid be so good with her kid.  Impressive.  After the swim lesson we took a jaunt over to Einstein Bagels with the kids to have a little bagel breakfast and then went over to their house for a bit to visit with Ashley, one of Mary’s friends and bridesmaids, who was visiting for the weekend from Indianapolis, where she’s living now.  It was really nice to see her.  Ashley recently got married, the wedding the kids went to over the weekend we did our overnight babysitting for the first time.   After we left the kid’s place we came home, picked up the pups, and headed out to Mahomet and a lovely new to us walking trail out there.  A great spot to walk them.  There are numerous trails to hit so it will be fun to go back out there and see what’s what with those.  On Saturday we only walked for about a mile, one way, because it was really sunny, with no shade, and Weston doesn’t much like the heat.  He was panting and kept trying to lay down in close to the tall grass.  We couldn’t keep going so we turned around, but they got a nice walk in anyway.  Afterward we came home and just enjoyed being here.  Watched some of the World Series, ate dinner followed by caramel corn, relaxed.  Nice.

Yesterday we had a nice mellow morning at home.  Brewed and drank some coffee, we each looked at our fantasy football teams and adjusted (we played each other this week), drank more coffee, pet on the pups a lot, and lounged in our living room.  Later we’d finally had enough of that lounging stuff and took the pups for a long walk.  We discovered a great area on campus only about a 15 minute walk from our house.  Fantastic.  It’s near the Arboretum, which includes the Idea Garden, and Japan House.  So great.  There’s an actual hill over there.  You can see out a ways.  We plan on going back to the garden with a camera to get some ideas.  It is the idea garden after all.  We also plan on taking the pups back over there again.  It’s so close to our house.  It’s so cool that we keep finding all these great places to take the dogs for walks.  We’re loving that.  After the walk we met up with Ann, one of our new friends here in Illinois, and drove out to Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch where we met other peeps and then all did the corn maze.  We ended up splitting into two groups and raced each other.  Texting the other group with things like… Number 5!  There were eight punch stations to get in the maze and we were racing to see which group could get them all first.  We were ahead most of the time, until the end, when they managed to squeak by us for the win.  Damn Dracula! Where were you?!?!  We also looked at the reindeer, the pumpkins, and watched the pumpkin cannon shoot a pumpkin out into a field.  The cannon was pretty impressive.  A fun time with great ladies.  After the Reindeer Ranch we headed home again, hung with the pups for a little bit, and then went over to the kid’s place for dinner.  We played with the grandson, ate some food, and watched the beginning of World Series game four with the kids before heading home where we loved on the pups and finished watching the game.

Whew.

A lot of stuff…. a busy weekend.  Fun.  Illinois is growing on us.  We love the adventure of discovering things in a new place.  We are loving… and let me say… L-O-V-I-N-G… the fall weather here.  Beautiful blue skies, gorgeous fall colors, and warmish (enough to be in t-shirts yesterday).  We are loving being close to the kids and getting to see Sebastian all the time, go to his little classes, hang out and play.  And we are finding some friends, getting to know some people, starting to make a life here.  We still miss everyone in Oregon tremendously, but we are starting to really settle in, and excited about all the new things we’ve yet to discover and do.  Everything is an adventure when you live in a new place.  It’s kinda cool….

A Few photos from the ol’ iPhone

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Color Fast

We went for  little walk today.  We needed to get the pups out and about, moving their little feet, so we took them over to Mahomet.  It’s a little burg 10 minutesWest of  here with a couple of great places to walk.  One, the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Gardens and the Lake of the Woods, and the other, still part of the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, but called Buffalo Trace Prairie.  We’d been to the Lake of the Woods and the Botanical Gardens so we tried the Buffalo Trace Prairie walk.  Lovely.  We had a fantastic walk, other than the fact that Weston seemed to not like the heat.  It was 30 degrees warmer today than it was two days ago.  Beautiful sunshine and we were back to wearing t-shirts.  Gotta love the rapidly changing weather of Central Illinois.

Tomorrow we head to Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in nearby Rantoul with some new friends. Time to try our luck with the corn maze and maybe, if they have it (?), drink some cider.  I’m sure there will be photos galore, but for now these are some I took today during the walk.  Cheers.

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Patina Me

Karen, the pups, and I took a walk a couple of days ago at our favorite local park, Meadowbrook.  As we walked the path, looked at the natural prairie that’s been restored, and enjoyed the many sculptures and natural beauty along the way we had an epiphany…. this is big stuff people, so listen up.

We feel that as we age we should patina instead of wrinkle.  How cool would this be?  Instead of drying out and wrinkling up we would all slowly turn a lovely shade of green.  Women would get upset because men would probably turn green more quickly.  And since green would be the new “wrinkle free” this would be fodder for many a joke on the late night talk show circuit.  There would be creams developed to give that certain special shine to your patina.  But since we would patina and not wrinkle, we’d all look like we did when we were 21.  Granted, sadly this would do nothing for the whole sagging thing, but hey… we can only solve one serious world issue per walk.

That’s it… our big ah ha moment.  These are the conversations we have…

Enjoy some photos taken with our little Canon SD750 during the walk.  Notice the woman… this is the sculpture that inspired the whole revelation.

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Better Late Than Not At All

What follows are some shots, mostly taken by Karen, during our road trip east.  It was a tiring four days, but we got er done… as they say.  We were so lucky to have Mom and Sandy along to help out.  They were amazing and true champs!  People say this all the time, but in our case we totally mean it… we couldn’t have done it without them!  Thank you guys, you were wonderful traveling companions, and true champs of the road!  We love you!

Seven states, 2300 miles, three nights in hotels with four adults and two dogs, road food, great conversation, some beautiful scenery, more gas money into a big ol’ truck and a car than two girls ever want to pay for again, and no real issues… it was a tiring, but good trip east.

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Chicago to the Carlton Inn Midway Via The L

We checked out of our room this morning, walked the four blocks to the L train station, bought a couple of passes at the nearby currency exchange, climbed the steps up to the platform, jumped on our train when it showed a few minutes later, road out to the second to the last stop on the Orange line, got off the train and walked about six minutes to the Carlton Inn Midway, asked for and received an early check in, arranged for our airport shuttle at seven in the morning, dropped our bags in our room, walked to the corner to have some Greek food at a hotel recommended place (which was great), and then came back to the room so Kev could do laundry and we both could just chill for the rest of the day. We’re tired. So busy, in a great way, the last couple of days, and before that it was drive drive drive. Chillaxing today is awesome!

About the restaurant we went to for lunch… the Greek place. I did something I’ve wanted to for a long long time… when the time was right… and it so was today. This restaurant… The New Pindos was just down the street from our hotel and recommended by the staff as a place that’s “family owned and been there for 30 years”. It was great, but then I love places like that. It had this old vibe, but it was clean. The waitresses all looked like they’d worked there all of those 30 years. Ours was awesome… new her stuff, was funny, nice, so very attentive, all the good things you want in a waitress. I liked her. We both did. So when it came time to leave, Kev picked up the bill and I laid a $20 on the table as the tip. We walked up to the counter so Kev could pay and our waitress, who was such a cutie pie older lady, came up to me and quietly said… I think you made a mistake. I smiled and said no, I didn’t. She then said, in a bewildered voice, I’ve never gotten a $20 tip before… are you sure? I said, yes I was absolutely sure and told her to have a great day. She just smiled and said again… I’ve never gotten a $20 tip before. It was awesome, that look on her face. Money is money, not the end all and be all of happiness, but man… the look on her face. She was shocked, and happy. That’s a little extra happiness out there in the world. Maybe she’ll pay it forward somehow, but even if she doesn’t, she’ll be sweeter than she already was, and I bet she’ll be smiling all day. Which, really, if you think about it, is paying it forward. Smiles pay all kinds of joy forward.

We’ve had a great trip… eventful at times, but great. I think Kev has had a great first Chicago experience. I think he loved it. The architecture alone had his head on a swivel the whole time we were downtown. It was sweet. Great views, fantastic things to do and see, yummy food, great vibe. Chicago is, I will say once again with only a little redundancy, my kinda town. LOVE it. Chi-Town, I will be back… and I think, if I’m not mistaken, Kev may just be back as well.

One more post tomorrow as we travel back to the Northwest. Flight is early… 8:40, but it’s a straight shot. Then… back to my Oregon home, my honey (who I’m missing very very much), and my pups, who I’m also missing very much. My little family… here I come!

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Yolk, Fish, The Lake, The Pier, The River, Willis, and Chicago Dogs

What a full day we’ve had. Started off lounging around the room for a bit to let the major part of the storm pass, then we were off and running.

First stop… Yolk for breakfast. Wow. I had the stuffed french toast. French toast stuffed with raspberry jam and cream cheese topped with bananas and powdered sugar with raspberry syrup on the side. Oh yeah baby! That with a side of bacon and a few cups of coffee gets a girl going in the morning. So awesome.

From Yolk we walked to the museum complex where the Shedd Aquarium happens to be. An hour wait in the queue, but it was worth it. Fish, more fish, more fish, a show, a 3D movie, and a really enjoyable time.

After Shedd we took a water taxi, traveling on Lake Michigan, from the museum complex to the Navy Pier. We enjoyed Chicago dogs, me with sweet potato fries and Kev with curly. What is a Chicago dog you ask? It’s a dog with relish, mustard, tomatoes, peppers, a dill pickle, and onions. That’s how they do them and they are good. We also enjoyed the Smith Museum of Stain Glass Windows at the Navy Pier. So cool… and free. Also good. I’d heard about this from Karen’s brother and sister in law when we were all in Chicago for the wedding last year. They went then and showed us some photos. I had to see these windows… and am glad we did. They were gorgeous.

From the Navy Pier we took another water taxi, this time on the Chicago River, to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. We took the one minute 1350 foot journey up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor to stand out on the Ledge. Trippy, that’s what it was. It’s a long way down.

We ended with a walk back to our hotel, a bit of a rest, and then some dinner at the restaurant in the lobby… The Thai Spoon. What did I have? Hmmm… maybe some Massaman with chicken and a thai iced tea. Yeah… that’s what was for dinner.

Now here we are, back in our room, both playing around on our computers, TV on, feet sore, and happily tired. What will we do tomorrow? Well that’s the question… we move hotels tomorrow… leaving the good ol’ Travelodge for a hotel out by Midway. Close to the airport for our earlyish flight on Wednesday back to Oregon. I’m sure we will find something to do… there’s so much to do here. I love this city.

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Twin Falls to Rifle

Day two found us traveling 559.1 miles through a couple of thunderstorms with a couple of stops for gas and a stop in Fruita for food. Music playing, photos taken, another day of conversation. We are halfway to Champaign/Urbana! Kev is in Colorado for the first time ever, pretty exciting! Tomorrow we go to Kansas… lookout Dorothy!

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Pictures of Early Us

These are photos I used on my blog between 2005 and 2007.  I blogged with Blogger for that time… until I switched to WordPress, where I’ve stayed.  I was just perusing these and enjoying them.  Thought I’d share.  Some of these were before I had the Canon Rebel even.  We were using point and shoot little digital cameras then.  Plus there are photos of Weston when we first got him… what a cutie.  Enjoy….

Tam’s Think Tank

Friday Adventures Part Drei

Our third outing in the Friday Adventure series finds us first getting coffee, then going to the bank, then getting a parking ticket while in said bank (we tried to pay, but couldn’t). We saw the guy putting it on the windshield when we came out and Karen tried to chat with him about it, he was incredibly rude to her and explained that the machine didn’t take credit cards… We didn’t see the tiny print on the machine that said so. Either did the other guy who also got a ticket and said he tried to pay as well. A nice $40 surprise… LoL Oh well, c’est la vie. Karen is going to protest, but we are laughing about it now.

After the ticket we moved to another parking spot downtown ( and were able to pay… Yay… No ticket!) and then moseyed around near the Fox Tower 10 scouting restaurants for our POD movie outing tomorrow (going to see Black Swan then having lunch and then seeing The King’s Speech). During our meanderings we walked up to a bench (see below) and both started to jump off it, then, at the same time, decided to gingerly climb down. A sign of age? Yes. And funny as hell.

We ended up going into Pastini for lunch… Yum! Our adventure definitely continued there as Karen found a chicken bone in her pasta. We’ve been there many many times and nothing like this has ever happened before so we aren’t anti Pastini now or anything. Besides, they handled it really well and gave us her meal for free. Giving us back half the money from the parking ticket we’d gotten earlier. Circular baby! At least, that’s how we looked at it. Thanks Karen for putting your life in danger to get us the discount. Good thing you are such a slow eater honey!

Now we are headed to meet our friends Sandy and Vicki at Shigezo. Dessert for us, sushi for them. Let the adventure continue!