Thursday, November 17, 2011

What is it - Part 2

Haha. No, you're all wrong! (Doesn't ANYBODY read my blog any more???).

I would have thought it would be some kind of a weapon. Probably a laser-type thing to send out deadly rays to foil the bad guy.

But no.

In Emery's mind it's a sandwich maker! He held it by the smooth part (on the right) and aimed it like a weapon of mass destruction, but then explained to me that the WHITE bread hangs on the hooked part in the center and the peanut butter comes out of one side and the jelly out of the other side.

So there you have your answer. Now you can sleep again.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is it?

Okay...obviously, it's a piece of a tree root. But in the hands of a 6-year-old boy with an imagination who comes across it while hiking in the woods -- as Emery recently did -- what do you think it "became"?

Answer next week.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Family Time

We had our "family fall getaway" the week of October 16th this year. We started out doing a weekend...then an extended weekend...and this year we made it for almost the whole week! Jeremy was fishing in the last FLW series tournament of the year at one of his favorite places -- Lake Guntersville, Alabama. So we decided we'd get a cabin and tag along to support (and feed) him.

We've been getting away together this time of year for 8 years now and we have gone to a variety of places and had a variety of weather to deal with. The year we went to Pigeon Forge, TN, it was downright hot; and the year we went to Blue Ridge, GA, it was cold and drizzly and we spent the whole weekend snuggled up in the cabin. This year we had a little bit of everything as far as weather was concerned. The first two days were unseasonably warm and the kids loved playing basketball on the court next to the cabins. And Jeremy enjoyed practice fishing in the beautiful lake. It was also great for a bonfire after dark and making S'mores.

Jodi was home schooling the kids that week, but that means field trips are an acceptable way to spend the day. On Tuesday we went about 45 minutes northwest to Huntsville to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. That was very educational...for all of us. Grandpa and Emery got to see what it was like to ride in the nose cone of a rocket. They were hitting all the switches, but didn't come up with the right combo to get them launched into space. Good thing or not? We report -- you decide.

By Wednesday, a cold front had come through and changed the weather dramatically. We just stayed hunkered down in the cabin all day and Jeremy got his boat ready for the start of the tournament on Thursday. We went down to see him weigh in and the lake was choppy and cold. All the fishermen were saying it had been a miserable day out there.

But by Friday it had moderated and was just very nice fall weather. Great for relaxing in the hammock with Aunt Jess and a better day on the lake. We took another field trip on Friday. This time we explored a huge Cathedral Cavern State Park which was just up the road from where we were staying. It was neat and we got done just in time to go to the weigh in. The kids love to go to see daddy weigh in his fish because they get to go up on stage with him and get to be "interviewed". The get to say their name and give an opinion on whatever is asked. They aren't intimidated because it seems like a small audience there -- but they forget that they're on TV and the internet. They just have a good time...and so does dad.

So the family fall getaway for 2011 is now one "for the books"...the scrapbooks, diaries, blogs and photo albums. We look forward to it for so long, it's hard to believe it's here and gone already. Can't imagine where next year will take us.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Zippity Do Da

Last year Jerry was reading an article in the paper about zip lining. Where you put on a crash helmet, strap yourself to a wire and go zipping along between the trees. The fact that that sounded like fun to him and sounded terrifying to me just goes to show that sometimes opposites do attract. Since the place he was reading about was somewhere in North Carolina, I just said, "Oh, sure. We'll have to do that some time." In my mind a good time to do that would be just as hell was freezing over.

But early this year I got one of those coupon deals in my e-mail that was for 60% off two rides on a zip line at a place here in Georgia. I knew he would love to do that, so I got it for him for Valentine's Day. But I also knew it would be fun if he could share it with somebody. Somebody other than me!! I knew right away who that "somebody" would be. Jessica. She shares her dad's love of being off the ground. She went in the open biplane ride over Atlanta with him (when Jeremy chickened out) and she and Emery accompanied him in a helicopter ride. So I got a coupon for her, too. (Is it just me, or does that picture make you start singing "Coal Miner's Daughter"?)

One hot day this summer, we drove up to Blue Ridge, Georgia so they could use their coupons. I rode along because someone has to be there to take pictures and bring the body bags. After a summer with drought -- like so many lately -- we picked a day that was threatening rain. We hadn't had rain at home, but up there in the mountains they'd had a lot of rain the night before. So when we got there, they told us it was too muddy for the vehicle that takes them up the dirt road to the top of the line. They said to come back in an hour or so and give the sun a chance to dry the road. We went into town and had lunch. The town of Blue Ridge is neat and we walked around a little and went into some of the many shops. But for most of this time, it was still cloudy and we couldn't see the sun coming out any time soon to dry anything up. Just as it was looking like we'd made the 2 hour (one way) drive for nothing only to come back another day, the sun did come out. Then it got hot as all blazes. We called the place and they said we could come back and they could take their ride now. Jess said the scariest part of the whole thing was the ride up that dirt road!

It all worked out and they did get to go zipping after all. The information for the place looked and sounded very exciting on line. It is called Fire Wire Zip Lines and says "Exhilaration overcomes you as you soar 1500' while reaching speeds up to 40 mph. For anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to fly, your wait is over." In reality it was short and, except for looking at the beautiful mountains in the area, not very scenic. They "flew" over an open pasture. But they did have two rides, so they got to take the exciting trip up the dirt road to the top again.

What they did get from it, though, was a burning desire to do it again. We picked up some brochures about other places. One is closer and looks like a lot more fun. That place has you go through the trees and then hike over bridges, etc. and then ride again. This goes on for quite a while and then you take the last drop to the exit platform. So they want to do that some time this fall when the weather is cooler and the trees are pretty. I'll ride along again to take pictures, but I'll take a good book for the 2 hours I'll be waiting while they zippity do da one more time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Big Boy

Emery turned 6 years old this summer. Ever notice how birthdays are much more exciting when you're in your sixth year rather than your sixth decade? He's been talking about this event ever since he ate the last piece of birthday cake when he turned 5! He's told me many different ideas over the past year about what kind of party he was going to have when he turned 6. But when the big day came, the only "party" he had was one with family. He didn't seem to mind a bit, though.

We all went bowling and had a great time. I really don't remember the last time I was bowling and it felt pretty awkward. The next morning some of my "bowling muscles" were saying, "What the heck???" It's fun to go bowling with kids now because they have those little guards that pop up and block the gutter and it gives them a little bit of a chance. I don't know what the age requirement is for those, but they ought to be put up for geezers, too.

Savannah and Emery have been bowling before, so they were like old pros. Telling us where to get our shoes, what kind of ball we needed, and how to do almost everything. Emery cracked me up...but then, he always does. His form was "enthusiastic" if not "perfect" and he can really deliver the ball. It was their family as well as Jerry, Jessica, me and Papa Jim.

After bowling we all went out to eat. Emery's choice...Mexican. He's all about the chips and cheese. (Me, too.) Then we went to Chick-fil-A and he opened his gifts and the kids played on the indoor playground for a little while. A good family fun evening to usher in this special date.

Happy Birthday, my little man. I hope I can help you celebrate many more!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week One

The week of June 20 - 24 Emery was signed up for C3 camp. It's a summer camp at a church near their house. The kids just go during the day, but it's all day. Savannah didn't want to go, so Jodi asked if I'd like to have her for a week by herself. That way, after she dropped Emery off each day she could (and did) get a WHOLE LOT done at home. That was fine with us.

We had a good week. She got into the daily routine of things around here and helped out when asked and then we did some "special" things. We ran errands one day and had lunch at Cici's pizza. A few days that week my friend, Gail, and her granddaughter, Laney, came over to swim. Savannah wanted to give Laney swimming lessons...and she was very sweet and encouraging to her. they got a little silly, too, but that's okay.

On Tuesday Savannah and I rode along with Grandpa when he went to get some mulch. The place where he gets it also has various rocks, gravel and stones for landscaping. We took sandwich bags and I asked the lady there if we could get a few small, smooth stones. She said yes. Savannah enjoyed climbing in the rock pile and picking out some "special" stones, even though she didn't know what we were going to do with them. But I knew. I had a plan. :) When we got home I explained to her that we were each going to make our own Fairy Garden and those stones could be used for paths between our plants. She really got into it and it turned out great. I had found some little things we could use. She chose a couple of fence pieces, a small watering can, a shovel and a tricycle. For some reason, she laid her tricycle on it's side in the "grass" (moss) and Jerry said that was his favorite part. I had gotten a little metal angel for each of us and she came in and rooted through her toys to find a dog to visit her garden. (You can see the stones of her path behind the angel's wings.)

On Wednesday I took her to the Covington library to see Barry Stewart Mann, a story teller. He was really good and we both enjoyed him. On Thursday afternoon we went to the movies to see Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. It was cute.

So before we knew it, Friday was here. Aunt Jess picked her up after lunch and took her back home. It was a fun week and we each have our Fairy Gardens to remember it by.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Twist on an Old Favorite

While in Rockford, I got to go to two new quilt shops! Cathe took me to one by her house and Melissa took us to one that her neighbor owns. Both were loaded with inspiration and, of course, I always have to take something home with me. The one Melissa took us to is called Quilter's General Store. One of the "souvenirs" I picked up there was a pattern that intrigued me.

Like many quilters, I am a fan of the classics. Like at least a couple of quilters I know, I have started a traditional Cathedral Window quilt. It's just another "work in progress", and probably will be for several years. That's just how much time goes into making that design. But the General Store had a pattern for a "mock" Cathedral Window. In this version, instead of all the sewing, flipping, inserting and hand just sew squares together. After you've gotten it the size that you want, you cut out and sew these little white football-shaped pieces over the seams. Just leave a little seam allowance and when you're finished -- in no time at all! -- you wash it and shake it out. The footballs fray a little and it gives it a soft, vintage look. You layer the backing and batting behind the squares so that as you sew the footballs on you are quilting it as you go. So when you're done -- you're done! Voila! A finished quilt in very little time.

I started mine not long ago and finished it yesterday. I'm very pleased with how sweet it looks and how easy it was. Whoever thought this technique up is a genius and I thank her. I'm donating mine to the Healing Hugs ministry for cancer patients. It's a nice, snuggly quilt and I hope someone will enjoy it and it will bring them comfort.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


When my cousin, Melissa, was telling me some of the things we could do and see when we were in Rockford and she mentioned the Anderson Gardens, I told her we love that kind of thing...but it might cause Jerry some concern. Because when I go to places like that, I get inspired. I think, "Why can't we do this in our yard?" I have a long history of coming up with these grand ideas and expecting Jerry to make it all look like it does in my head.

Well, before we even got to Rockford that had already happened. When we went to the plant nurseries in the Millington area while we were in Sheridan, the first idea hit me. The mailbox! The nursery that had everything laid out so temptingly had their mailbox surrounded by plants. (That's it in the first picture) I really never thought of it before, but our mail box sits on a bare patch of ground and has for all the years we've been here. I've never thought to landscape around that. And why couldn't ours look like that? The rest of the trip I kept imagining how great our mailbox was going to look once I got home and got going on that project. When we were in Rockford, I kept taking mental notes of how they had big rocks everywhere (ROCKford) and plants snuggled in around them. I thought I knew where we had a couple of large rocks in the back yard that we could add to the area. I was very excited. Look out, Jerry!

So in the first week that we were home, Jerry got busy and took out the old mail box post and got a new one and reset it in concrete. While he was doing that, I went out and bought plants and scouted out the back woods for large rocks. So on the following Monday, June 13, our 41st anniversary....I was "good to go" on the mailbox project! The plan for the day was to get busy before it got too hot. Get the mailbox looking wonderful. Take a little break and then go out for a nice dinner. Isn't it funny how plans can change?

We started by me -- the project coordinator -- showing Jerry -- the muscle -- where I'd found some rocks I thought would work. The first thing that happened that wasn't in "the plan" was that in transferring them to the work area he dropped one on his foot. Being the trooper that he is, he continued with the work and it was only later...when he was limping...that I realized how badly he had hurt it.

The second thing that didn't exactly go as planned was the preparing of the garden bed. In my enthusiasm I had forgotten a couple of things. 1...Illinois has black dirt. We do not. 2...Illinois gets rain. We do not. While I was standing by with my carefully selected plants and waiting to put them into the soil, Jerry was chopping, picking and tilling at the dirt. After sitting on a slant in the sun since the age of dinosaurs, that particular patch of clay was like concrete. I was reminded yet again of why they use clay to make bricks. The neighbor commented on how nice it was looking and I told him the ground was a little hard. He said he had to get his drill out the other day to put something in his back yard.

So after several hours of trying to get down deep enough to plant something, we had to just give up and settle for as good as we could get. It wasn't what we'd have liked to plant in, but it was as deep as we were going to able to go. We put a bunch of soil amendments, additives, etc. in and worked them in as best we could and then put the plants in. Jerry wasn't convinced at all that anything would grow in that hard dirt, that shallow of a "grave" or in all that full sun. Ever the optimist, I assured him that all those plants call for "full sun". After we got cleaned up and were sitting on the porch (and he had taken some pain pills), I told him what we SHOULD have done was to make a raised bed and level it back to the slope behind it. He just leveled a look at me and didn't have an opinion on that. I said, "Maybe in the fall if this doesn't work". Again...just a look from him.

But here we are a month later and the few little plants we put in seem to be very happy there. So are the rocks. And Jerry isn't limping hardly at all any more. Don't compare it to the first picture of the lush plants all filled in around the mailbox. Compare it to the second picture of what was there before. See? Improvement! He has spent 41 years trying to make all my dreams come true...even the goofy ones. Happy anniversary, Honey, and thanks for all your help.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Main Event

The main reason for the trip to Illinois at this time was to be there for my niece, Erin's, wedding. Remember the bachelorette party only a week before? Like many little girls, she's been dreaming of ... and practicing for ... this day for a long time. I was so glad I got to meet her fiance, Will, and his family the week before. He's a real sweetie and the whole family is very likable. So it was fun to celebrate with them all.

We left Rockford on Friday morning and took the direct route to Chicago. A little frustrating that almost that entire route is under construction! But we checked into the motel in plenty of time and started reuniting with other family. Jodi, Jess and the kids had come up and since we hadn't seen them in a week it was good to lay eyes on them again and know they'd made it safely. (You know how moms worry.) My sister, Karen, and her roommate, Diane, had come from Tucson and their room was just a few doors down. I was given the privilege of reading some scripture at the wedding, so Jerry and I went to the rehearsal. As has become the custom, all the out-of-town guests got to go to the rehearsal dinner and so we all started partying there. It was held at a really cool pub and the food, drinks and fun were great. Savannah found out that the flower girl was just about her age and so they became instant buddies.

The wedding was at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, so that gave us a morning to find something to do. It just so happened that Lego Land is at the Woodfield Mall which is about 5 minutes from the Double Tree in Arlington Heights where we were staying. It also happens that Emery is crazy about Legos! So guess where we went to kill a morning. My favorite display was the city of Chicago all done in Legos...from Navy Pier, Sears Tower and downtown to Buckingham Fountain. I loved it. After you walk through a good-sized area of displays, you can go upstairs to a big room where you can sit and build things with Legos. Jodi entered her cat in an animal contest...and she won (she was the only entry), so she got a paper hat. You can build cars and race them on tracks and ramps. While Emery was busy doing that, Savannah became very fond of a ride they had in that same room and she rode, and rode and rode.

Lots of fun, but then it was time to go to the wedding. We all went back and got dressed in our wedding finest. Emery likes to get dressed up and he loves wearing a tie. I bought him his first sport coat for Easter this year and he gets excited when he has a chance to wear that. He says he looks like a newsman in it. Savannah had gotten a very pretty new dress and she looked like a princess. (The newsman and the princess. What is this...a wedding or Halloween??)

The wedding was beautiful. The bride was beautiful. The weather was warm and little muggy when we went in and just as the bride started coming down the aisle we heard a little thunder. My brother, Chuck, said as they were standing in the back waiting, it did get stormy outside. He said Erin looked a little apprehensive. So he said to her, "You look nervous. Let's take a walk." She grinned and he walked her down the aisle. But after the service the storm had passed and it turned out to be a beautiful evening. The reception was at the Metropolis Ballroom in Arlington Heights. It's a really nice facility and there is a balcony along side the ballroom, so it was very pleasant to take your drink and go out there and visit for a while. Again the food was great, the place was great and it was fun. And I was so glad to be there. I know I've been using the words "great" and "beautiful" a lot, but what else can you say? That's what it was. They had a room for the kids to go into and play and eat "kid friendly" food and watch movies while the adults had a cocktail hour, introduction of the wedding party, toasts, etc. But once the dancing started the kids joined us and they had a ball. Savannah and Emery both love to dance and took full advantage of the festivities. The evening didn't end well for Emery, though. He was cutting a rug on the dance floor and a lady was jumping and jiving near him but lost her balance and fell on him! He was mad, embarrassed, and hurt his leg a little (but he wouldn't talk about it) and by then he was exhausted. It was late by that time, so we all caught the shuttle back to the motel. But that was the least thing we will remember about the wedding. The rest was lots of fun.

In the morning, the grooms parents invited all the out-of-towners who were staying at the Double Tree to breakfast. So we got one more chance to be together before we all headed back home in various directions. This is me with my big sister and my "little" brother. We don't get to be together very often any more, so this was nice. Jodi and Jess were determined to drive back home in one day. That's 13 hours from Chicago. We almost always break that drive up into two days now, but we drove through as well. It didn't feel all that bad, but we got home at 2:00 a.m. to find out we had no air conditioning! The unit had gone out and it was 4 days (in the mid to upper 90s) before we got a new one. Oh, well. Great back to reality.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On The Rocks

I was very lucky to grow up with lots of first cousins. Two of the ones I was closest to were Melissa and Cathe. Melissa is my age and Cathe is a year younger. I would ride my bike to Melissa's and play on her jungle gym and borrow her Nancy Drew books (she had them ALL). And I would ride over to Cathe's with the Sears, Penney, and Montgomery Ward catalogs in my bike basket and we'd cut out paper dolls all afternoon. Great memories. It's been a long, long time since we'd gotten a chance to spend time together until a few years ago when, thanks to modern technology such as e-mail, Face Book, etc. -- we reconnected. In a somewhat strange coincidence they both live in Rockford, Illinois, now. In 2009 they got on a plane and came down here for a visit. We had a wonderful reunion and it was decided that it was then my turn to visit Rockford to see them next. The plans to do that last year fell apart, but when we were going to Illinois again this year, the Rockford visit was a MUST!

So on Wednesday morning we bid adieu to the fine folks in Sheridan and headed up route 39. We went first to Cathe's house. Melissa and her husband, Duane, came over for lunch. We sat in Cathe and Rum's newly finished sun room and enjoyed lunch, beautiful weather and a great visit. After lunch we went to Anderson Gardens. It's a gorgeous Japanese garden and, again, with all the rain they've had it was lush and beautiful. Later on, Cathe's kids and grand kids, as well as her sister, Jean, and her brother-in-law came over for dinner. (We're all about the eating.) It was so nice to get a chance to see her 4 darling grand kids in person instead of just in the cute pictures she shares. After everyone left, Cathe and I looked at photo albums and scrapbooks and I taught her how to play Monopoly Deal.

Thursday morning, the girls took me to a store called Gordman's. I'd never heard of it till Shirley was singing it's praises. Ken had a neat bug zapper fly swatter that they got there and I thought Jerry needed to have one. Plus...I heard it was just a really neat store. It is. The guys went out and hit some golf balls and then we all met for lunch (eating again) at BeefaRoo...a local favorite where they have -- tenderloins! :) Then Jerry went home with Duane and the girls took me to a really nice quilt shop in a big, old house. Lots of inspiration! Then we swung by and picked Jerry up and Melissa took us on a driving tour of Rockford. It's a very nice city with a lot to offer. I can see why the Wisconsin senators chose that as a "hiding" place while they were avoiding doing their jobs a couple of months ago.

On Thursday night it was Melissa's turn to show off her two adorable grand daughters...Amelia and Sofi. It's so nice to put voices and personalities with these cute kids that I hear stories about and just see pictures of. We had a very good dinner out on the screened-in porch on a picture perfect evening enjoying the view of their back yard. After everyone else called it a night, Melissa and I looked at a cookbook and I taught her how to play Monopoly Deal.

Before leaving town on Friday morning, we all went to breakfast at a Rockford institution...The Stockholm Inn. The (large) place is really neat and the food was wonderful. They like to go for the Sweedish pancakes with linginberries but everything that everyone had was really good. They've recently remodeled the bathrooms and the ladies' room was so cute we took pictures! Rockford is home to the original sock monkey and the Stockholm Inn proudly displays a large array of monkeys.

So after a couple of days of eating, visiting, sharing, eating, laughing and...did I mention eating?...we had to head on to the next stop. So glad Rockford was on my "bucket list".

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Home for the Holiday

On Monday morning -- Memorial Day -- we left Streator and headed up the road to Sheridan. As much as I love visiting friends and family in Streator, it's when we roll into Sheridan that I feel I'm coming "home". We always stay with our BFFs Ken and Shirley. They had a cookout and we got to see their kids and grandkids and several old friends came over, too. The food was great, the people were great and the weather was great. In the evening we decided to go for a walk and burn off some of the brats, sides and adult beverages. There were 8 of us (4 couples) and we walked around town. Gotta love a small town where you can walk 8 abreast down the streets and only have to get out of the way of traffic (one car) once. :)

On Tuesday morning Shirley and I were visiting and Ken and Jerry had disappeared. Not surprising since neither one of them can sit still for very long. When they came back, I asked where they had been and they said "visiting". I found out they'd been visiting the lady that lives in the house we used to live in! Ken saw the look on my face and said, "Don't worry. I asked her if we could come back. I knew you'd want to go see the house, too." The people who have lived in the "home of my heart" where we raised our girls have made a great many changes to the place. A number of years ago I saw from the bottom of the driveway that they had taken our plain little brown house and painted it yellow with white trim and put a nice porch on the front. I loved it! This year we'd heard they put a landscape wall along the bottom of the sloped front yard that followed the curve of the driveway -- another great improvement! They have also added a sun room on the back and changed what was our living room to their dining room! The lady was so nice to take her time (twice) that day and let us come and see. My childhood home is a wreck and Jerry's is gone, so I love that someone is doing such nice things to the house I have so many fond memories of.

After visiting the old home place we went south to the little country town of Leonore. Again continuing my quest for tenderloins. Shirley assured me these were the best. I have to admit the girl knows her tenderloins. It was awesome! Since we plan much of our visits and travels around food, we had plans to go to a small country town north of Sheridan for "cheap chicken" for dinner. So we worked our way back up there by way of Ottawa first. We stopped and did some antique shopping. Jerry bought a neat old rake and we spent the rest of the trip packing and unpacking the trunk and back seat around it.

Then we went to a couple of plant nurseries. Illinois has had an extremely wet spring and early summer and although it's sad to see the water standing in the farmers' fields, everything is lush and green and beautiful. One of the nurseries is where we used to go for plants and it was great to see that it's still a thriving business. It may even have grown in the time we've been gone. I just had to buy a few things to bring home. So, along with the rake, we packed, unpacked, and tended the plants for the rest of the trip, too. The second nursery we went to is new to us. I don't remember the name of it, but it is laid out beautifully. Potted plants for sale are nestled among those same types of items planted in the soil and blooming and looking so inviting. By then it was time to go to the tavern and get the "cheap chicken". I don't understand how fried chicken is associated with the south when they have no taverns down here. Taverns have the best fried chicken and, again, Shirley knew what she was talking about. When I went to the restroom, there was a sign on the wall that advertised some upcoming events. Some time in July is the "Testicle Festival". Sure hate that we're going to miss that!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Family Ties

When I returned to Streator on Sunday, we went to visit with Jerry's side of the family. Whenever we're in town his ex-sister-in-law, Marie, gets the nieces, nephews, spouses, kids, etc. together and we get to visit them all at once. Always a lot of fun. This year his brother, Curt, and his wife, Sharon, were there, too, so it was a nice get together.

After lunch and a nice visit with them, we went back to Bob and Joan's. They took us on a "tur" of south Streator to see where the tornado had gone through last June. The apartment building where they lived when they were first married is now gone. We walked around Oakland Park school grounds where they lost many of their big, old trees. Then we went for pizza and went back to their house and watched a movie. Spent one more night enjoying their hospitality (Joan puts a big Cunningham's chocolate whip on your pillow instead of a mint!!) before moving on northward.

Thanks for a great visit, friends and family!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Big City Bound

On Saturday I ditched Jerry for 24 hours. I left him in the capable hands of Bob and Joan and I went to Chicago to spend the day with Erin and "the girls" for her bachelorette party.

A few weeks before that, Linda and I were talking about travel plans, etc. for the wedding weekend. I told her I wanted to take some extra time either the week before or the week after to visit with some family and friends, but hadn't nailed down plans yet. She said that if I was in the area the week before, I could come help the girls celebrate at the Cubs' game. Well...I made my travel decision right then and there! I love the Cubs (I know...there should be a support group somewhere) and I've never partied on one of the rooftops before and it sounded like a grand idea. So that was the plan. It was windy and cold and rained in the 9th inning...the Cubs lost 9-0...and we had a wonderful time! :)

After the game, we met up with the guys who were doing the bachelor thing on another rooftop. Just a short time trying to talk in a crowded, noisy bar and we parted company with the "youngsters". Linda, her friends, Ann and Barb, Nan (the mother of the groom) and I went to get Linda's car and go downtown to the Embassy Suites where she had booked rooms for us. One of the wonderful things about getting older is that you get smarter. I have no idea how long the younger crowd hung out in Wrigleyville, but we had a great evening. Linda had gotten us tickets to see a play at the Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. Hmmm...a play--okay..."Shakespeare"?--well, let's see..."musical"?--try to keep an open mind. It was called Murder for Two and it was hilarious!! There are only two is the detective and the other is all 6 suspects and a couple of little kids. I don't know when I've seen more talented actors or when I've enjoyed anything so clever. If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

By the time the play was over, it had stopped raining. So we stayed on Navy Pier to see the first Saturday night fireworks of the 2011 season. All I can say is..."ooooo" and "ahhhhh". Beautiful. Then we walked back to our hotel and stopped to get something to eat. So there we were eating French onion soup and sipping margaritas (mine was a rum and coke) at midnight. Ahh...the good life.

I got up early and enjoyed a full hot breakfast at the hotel and then caught a cab back to Union Station and the train back to Dwight and was picked up by Jerry, Bob and Joan. Wow...I felt like I almost met myself coming and going on those train tracks. But what a fun 24 hour visit to a city I love with people I really enjoy. Nan, Barb and Ann were all new acquaintances even though I've heard enough about them to feel like I knew them. But they are all a lot of fun and once you meet them you feel like you've known them forever. So the following week at the wedding, I felt like I was seeing new friends again instead of meeting strangers.

Thanks, Linda, for inviting me to join you all for that weekend. It was great!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Two for the Road

Day two of our trip got us to Streator...finally. Most people driving from here to there take I-75 to I-24 to I-57 to Champaign, Il., and then take I-74 to Bloomington and go north on I-39. But when we get on I-74 just a little west of I-57 we turn north on state route 47. It's a decent road and even though it's only 2-lane it just feels nice to slow the pace a little after all the interstates and start to enjoy the familiar farmland. This year lots of those farmers' fields had standing water in them. As soon as we get as far north as highway 116, east of Pontiac, we start to see the wind farms. Even though the residents are now used to the sight of them, they still fascinate us. There were none of these when we moved away 20 years ago and now they are plentiful in that area.

When we got into town, we drove by the house where I grew up. It's in a sad state of disrepair. My mother always kept the place neat and pretty. But we didn't linger we went on to happier the house of our friends Bob and Joan. They know that when I come to town I'm on a quest to eat pork tenderloin sandwiches. So for dinner they took us to a place that has good ones. Yum.

The timing of our trip was such that we rolled into town just in time to catch our sister-in-law, Sharon's, performance at Engle Lane Theater! She has been active in local community theater in Streator and Morris for many years, but we've never seen her in anything or seen any of the shows she's written and produced. Engle Lane began as a community playhouse in 1960 and has been going strong ever since. Last year it was badly damaged in a tornado on June 5th. They had their grand reopening in April of this year, so it was exciting to see the new facility. It's beautiful. The performance we saw was "Pop"...a very up-tempo revival of songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s. It was a real toe-tapper and I'm so glad we got to see it...and Sharon. Bravo!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On the Road Again

Day one of our trip to Illinois was the usual plan. Go about half way and stop for the night. We had made reservations at Cadiz, Ky.

When we're traveling, we like to stop at wineries along the way. Having made this trip MANY times in the last 20 years, we know where most of them are. But this time, we found a new one; Beans Creek Winery in Manchester, Tennessee. We stopped in for a taste and to get a souvenir glass (they were out of glasses...we'll have to go back another time -- oh, darn!). After tasting, we decided on a few bottles to take with us. Jerry asked about the name of one of them..."Bonnaroo White". The girl told us it was named after an area around there where they have a music festival. Okay. So that's cute. After I got home, I happened to see something on the news about a music festival called Bonnaroo! It's quite the thing. This year was the 10th annual 4-day festival held on 700 acres of farm land near Manchester. The main attraction is the music -- performed on multiple stages. But there are also tents like the comedy tent, "this tent", "that tent", "the other tent", the silent disco tent, the cinema tent and the Broo'ers Festival (breweries) tent as well as a graffiti wall, a giant slip and slide and lots and lots of food. It's been hailed as "The concert event of the summer", "Best festival", and "One of 50 moments that changed rock and roll". Wow. Who knew? We'd never heard of it. But I feel stupid now knowing the attendance is routinely between 75,000 and 80,000. That's a lot of people that know something I didn't.

But "stupid" is something I'm kinda getting used to. Farther down the road was Clarksville, Tennessee, home of the Beachaven Winery. We've been there many times and like their wines. But as we were nearing there, I told Jerry that we were too late. It was about 10 minutes to 5:00 and I didn't know their hours, but assumed that by the time we exited and took the short drive to the winery they would probably be closing. A little while later, it dawned on me that when I changed the clock in the car (and my watch) I set them an hour in the wrong direction! It was only going on 3:00 when we were in Clarksville! Duh!!

I shouldn't use the word "stupid". Jodi and Jeremy have told the kids it's not a nice word. Savannah and Emery call it the "SP" word. But when I was growing up it wasn't a bad word...just an accurate description. And like Forrest Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does".

PS: If you're in the Manchester, TN, area but don't like crowds, you might try visiting the nearby town of Bugscuffle. It's a dot on the map, but the population is so small it's not even listed.