Monday, September 29, 2008

The Pink Suitcase Chronicles #9: HOMECOMING HOOPLA

Did you know that this sculpture entitled "Learn of Me" on the North Park campus was originally displayed at the 1964 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park? I like to think happy thoughts that my Pink companion has met Jesus! In the city of Chicago, no less!
Again? Yes, we packed up again! This was just for an overnight, though, as it was the weekend of North Park University's HOMECOMING. I loved the theme of "The World's Fair of 2008 - commemorating the 115th anniversary of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, called the Columbian Exposition, and the 75th anniversary of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair entitled "A Century Of Progress." Actually, North Park moved from Minneapolis in 1893, too, so what a reason to celebrate!
This activity in the Homecoming brochure really caught my eye, and I knew that I'd have to find a way to go on this trip...have you read the featured book, Devil in the White City by Eric Larson? It's a must-read for Chicago history buffs, as well as an intriguing look into the mass murders committed by a psychopath masquerading as a doctor. Included in the trip: a ride on the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier! Best of all, my sister agreeed to be my travel mate. The tour bus The tour grop...all 52 of us!

Even though the day turned out to be quite hot, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. There's more to come...but first a wee bit of North Park trivia: Did you know these urns by WILSON HALL on the North Park campus were from the 1933 World's Fair? My Pink visited them, too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pumpkin Farms and Cutesy Jumpers (P*S*C #8)

Near Pulaski, Wisconsin we always have stopped at a pumpkin farm on the way home from our cabin.

It's been the perfect kick-off for bringing back seasonal fun to our home in Illinois. I love going through the rows and rows of colorful pumpkins (this year I wanted my theme to be white ones) and gourds. Choosing just the right ones makes me happy, and takes me back in time to when I was a kid sharing a pumpkin with my brother, Duane. He would pull out the mushy pulp and seeds - of course grossing me out with them - and then we would carve, carve away.

So, imagine my complete disappointment when we drove by the farm we used to go to and nothing was there. I had Wes drive by it again to make sure we got the right place. We did. This place had the "honor" system with paying, and the money box had a note on it saying this was the kids' fund-raising venture, so please be honest. I was thinking, wondering what happened to the kids...did they grow up and leave the farm? Did they have no interest in planting and sowing any longer? Did new owners come over the winter? What?

We drove away. Sad.

Then, maybe five miles from that farm, was a huge sign advertising the Delzer Pumpkin Farm with grand opening: Next Weekend. Too late for us, unfortunately.

But, we drove in anyway, and the farm was a-buzz with action, and yes, we could come in! Yea!

This place was over the top with ghouls and ghosties and rows and rows of pumpkins. There must big a big business here with the signs indicating bus parking here and there. School groups galore, no doubt. I couldn't pop out of the car soon enough to check it out!

This is what we ended up toting home. Only little white pumpkins for this year. But, I ended up being very grateful for this unexpected fall surprise after all. And, also a reinforcement of the need for ladies to please abandon any cutesy jumpers presently lurking in their closets...if they are wearing them in a pumpkin patch, they don't belong any more on your own body!!!
(I hope I am not offending you on this one, but Girls! These kind of jumpers are over and out!! Really! Just look at the face on this she happy? I'm thinkin' not.) Going to a pumpkin farm is certainly not just for those in the single digits...we had a blast! Go if you can!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just Five More Minutes (P*S*C #8)

And this building could have been gone.
While at the cabin, Wes had an important task: to determine how bad a fire's damage had been on one of our free-standing buildings - the sauna. Otherwise known by its Swedish name Bastu.
(Why anyone would want to cook themselves until the sweat glands explode and then run into a freezing cold body of water is beyond me, but that's another story!! ) To qoute Yogi Berra, "This is like deja vu all over again," as the Stuga had previously burned down over 25 years ago! In spite of the rules posted on the wall:
Maybe it doesn't really help that the rules are in Swedish? Or that the temperature gauge is actually a meat thermometer?
But the sauna seating risers are sure more comfortable with this old, discarded forest backrest!
Over Labor Day, we got a call from John telling us there had been a fire there. It needed to be determined if the building (specifically the roof) could withstand a winter where snowfall totals can reach the double digits. This is what we found there post-fire:
Wes took out the pipes to see if there was blockage, and then took out some of the cedar ceiling around the pipes. By his calculations, the guys put out the fire just in the nick of would have been five minutes until the whole ceiling caught on fire and the building would become unsalvageable.
Guess Wes knows what next summer's fix-it project will be!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pink Suitcase Chronicles #8: Soon Coming to a Tree Near You!

We got a bit of a jump on the Fall Colors season by going to our cabin in the North Woods this past weekend! Though not quite at peak, the reds, oranges and yellows still put on quite a show for us.

Once again, I moved my suitcase around our little woodsy peninsula to try to make a statement of location for my pink traveling companion.

However, how fun would it have been to have Pink with me as we hiked around the lake for our annual Fall "Can we really do this six miles again???" trek. I didn't think Wes would be terribly amused hiking with me pulling my suitcase behind me. And probably whining as I did it.
If only we owned this canoe, I would've put Pink in there...wouldn't that have been a lovely pink reflection?
Or how about Pink toting my pumpkins at the Pumpkin Farm? Do you think the farm folk would've had a problem with that?

(Let's just say I didn't know Wes was getting me in this pose...)

It's always a bittersweet event to go North to close our cabin up for the summer. Memories of the family being together, surrounded by nature, and not caring what the watch hands are saying is like a slice of warm, freshly picked raspberry pie. You never want to consume the last bite.

Now, it's time for Fall. Ready or not.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Just Because.

You know how it feels when someone does something nice for you? For no reason...just because. It's simply the best feeling! Here's the story: This package came for me in the mail on Monday from my nephew, Andrew, and his wife Timi. What could it be? I wondered. The package said, "Fragile. Do not bend." Could it be an updated picture of my adorable new Great Nephew Will? A chocolate bar from Timi's home country? A pair of replacement glasses as a joke? Then I read the enclosed note, and the highlightlighted area mentioned my name and something about me liking the item tucked inside the envelope.

It was a CD of an artist I had never heard about. Her name is Amy Duffy. She's 23, from Wales and in January 2008 was named 2nd place in BBC's Sound of 2008 listing. Her voice has been compared to that of the 1960's singer, Dusty Springfield.

I pulled the CD out of the case, took it to my car as I had errands to run, and was taken in by the music and lyrics of this young artist. She has a bit of Nora Jones soul and grit, and the strong lyrics content of India Arie and Corinne Bailey Rae...three of my favorite female songbirds all born in the 1970's. Errands completed, I brought the CD inside and popped it in the player while I did scrapbooking. The songs played over and over, and I am getting more familiar with the music. Timi, was right! She thought I'd like it and I DO!!!

(To the left, Timi's personal favorites)

Just because.

Made my day! Thanks, Andrew and Timi for your thoughtfulness.

Now I think I need to think about passing the just because forward. Maybe you can, too, to someone who needs an extra smile today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

18 Reasons to Celebrate

Today Wes and I attended a birthday party for a very special person, Aaron. He was born 18 years ago and soon after birth, he was discovered to have Trisomy 13. His parents brought him home to love him and it was predicted his life would be a brief one. So, this was quite the celebration 18 years later! Wes and his brass group, The Swedish Fermata, played "Hail to the Chief" as Aaron was wheeled down a hallway to the cheers and flag waving of the attendees.
This is one of my favorite pictures. The smile on Aaron's face is radiant. Aaron couldn't wait to get to his cake! I took home more than just a camera filled with pictures, but also the way God works in mysterious ways beyond our comprehension. Here's a young man who can't walk and talk, can't cast a vote for any candidate, can't even blow out his birthday candles, yet he has made a mark in the world far greater than most anyone I know. His parents and sister are people you would love to know, and they have embraced Aaron arms wide open. Reread the list at the top and be humbled by this person...I know I have been in the company of an angel today.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Yet Another Reason to Like Amy...

Okay...I admit it. I thoroughly enjoy reading the Ask Amy column daily in the Chicago Tribune. She gives direct answers to even the quirkiest of questions, and then adds her own witty, sometimes sarcastic retort back to the querier. You never have to wonder what she's thinking! There have been many readers commenting lately on proper work attire, but this was my FAVORITE Amy answer ever. Read it all the way through to the end for her simply wonderful hits upon one of my biggest pet peeves!
Dear Amy: I was quite amused by the letter sent by the person who was irritated by the skimpy attire being worn by the young women in her office. In my heart I feel that it is all good fun, but in my head I think that some level of decorum is in order at a major accounting firm, a brokerage company or a law firm. After all, we clients have a lot invested in these agents.Mainly, I think we should all be thankful that it isn't the "mature" women who are baring it all.––Old Dog on the Left Coast
Dear Dog: I've received a surprising number of letters written by men saying that contemplating the skimpy outfits worn by the young women at their office is the only way they get through their workday.However, many readers, such as you, also feel the need to express gratitude that older women aren't wearing these figure-hugging outfits.Trust me––we "mature" women know the disdain by which the world views us, but we don't always care. I hope all of you "old dogs" who have written in to express your disgust at the thought of older female bodies in body-hugging clothes will keep this in mind the next time you're contemplating wearing your Speedo at the beach.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Jersey Girl and Jersey Boys

Perhaps you didn't know I spent my junior high and senior high years as a resident of the Garden State, New Jersey! And I loved it there. The close proximity to good destinations on the East Coast was certainly a benefit. However, one of my favorite destinations was NYC. Finally as a senior in high school, my parents gave me permission to go with friends ONLY to a concert at Madison Square Garden to hear Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons!!! I piled into the car with BFF Sandi, her boyfriend Walter, George what's his-name (sorry, truly can't remember it!) and we drove into to city. Sandi reminded me that the police brought us home afterwards due to a blown tire on the turnpike on the way home. As this was in 1972, this group was considered to be an "oldies" group. But these "oldies" were goodies!!
So, last weekend it was a huge thrill to get to see the Jersey Boys production at the LaSalle Bank Theatre. The story of the group from its beginning to the present is mesmerizing. To find out how 18 year old falsetto tenor-Francis Stephen Castellucio from Newark, New Jersey - got to where is is today, with some womanizing, gambling and wise-guying around to a thrice-married, father of five (one daughter deceased) 72 year old man who STILL HAS IT GOING ON is a story of persistence. And the songs??? LOVE 'EM!
Not bad to have 71 chart hits, with more than 25 of them on the TOP 40 hit list in the 60's and 70's! I'm guessing you know the words and tunes to these:
Rag Doll
Walk Like a Man
Big Girls Don't Cry
16 Candles
Earth Angel
Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
Dawn (Go Away)
Breaking Up is Hard to Do
My Eyes Adored You
December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)
Can't Take My Eyes Off of You
Frankie Valli is still performing on stage, and has done some acting guest appearances. He played Rusty Millo on the HBO series THE SOPRANOS. He was on FULL HOUSE. (Now that was a show we watched at our house every Friday night when the kids were growing up!!) He had a role in MIAMI VICE, and was a guest on the CHER show many years back.
Too bad I couldn't get up on the stage during this performance of Jersey Boys and dance the night away with the Jersey fellas...I felt right at home there. I miss my home state at times. The "tawlk," the Boardwalk and shore with close proximity to ocean, the colorful characters, the culture. But we never called it "New Joisey" like folks said we did!
Now, think back. Do you have a musical group that brings you back in time to when you were in high school? College? What might that group be? I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Wicked Fun Experience

(This blog title makes me think of our two nieces from Boston who like to use this word to describe the utmost, which is what our experience seeing the WICKED theatre performance turned out to be!)
Several years ago, a work colleague recommended I read the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Especially since I had loved fairy tales/fantasy as a young reader myself, I thought this would be an interesting retelling of the classic Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I plunged right into the book and devoured each tasty paragraph word by word! Poor, misunderstood Elphaba! (How cool is it that the El- is for L. in L. Frank, the -pha- for the phonetic sound in Frank, and -ba for the first two letters in Baum??) And that air-headed, popular Glinda? She was shallow as they come. How about a school where the teachers are animals...that's baaa-aaad! Really baaa-aad!
So, when I heard this story was made into a musical and on Broadway in NYC, I wanted to see it.
Baa-aad! Then coming to Chicago? I was envious of my friends and relatives who made it to the production long before we did. But, finally it was time to go this past weekend. Anne and Jed offered to buy us tickets, and we happily accepted their generosity. We purchased tickets right at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago this past weekend for a surprisingly reasonable last-minute price and settled into our seats in the balcony to enjoy the show. What a show it was!
The music numbers were beyond wonderful and I find myself humming, thanks to Anne's gift of the Wicked CD:
"No One Mourns the Wicked"
"Something Bad"
"Dancing Through Life"
"Popular" (#1 favorite)
"Defying Gravity" (#2 favorite)
Thanks, co-workers for putting up with this the past week as I'm singing out loud now!
Even Wes, who was not off-the-charts-excited when we entered the theatre, left as a revitalized man. We had a good discussion on the 'el' back home (D/L condo) about the parts we liked and
the music and the staging wonders...and the characters. This event will not soon be forgotten!If you can get a chance to go, GO!!!
And did you know Gregory Maguire has written many more books?
My personal favorite is still Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel.
You can know that if this
comes to the theatre as a
musical, we WILL be there!