Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Second Tradition (P*S*C* #22)

Poor Wes! He gets dragged into this tradition whether he likes it or not! It's the visit on the way home to the PUMPKIN PATCH. You might say he is not quite as enthusiastic with stopping by the pumpkin farm(s) in Wisconsin as I pick and choose squash as hurriedly as I can because he's anxious to get home - but he's mostly a good sport about it.
Especially when a pumpkin family portrait can be made...
This is one of the farms we visit with huge fields and dairy barns (and the strong "scent" of cow.)
What is really nice about being in rural Wisconsin is that you can pretty much pick your pumpkins any time you are driving through as they practice an honor system for paying.
The farm shown below is back in the pupmkin business this year...good news! Last year they had a miserable crop with only about 15 (or 50 - the farmer we talked to was on the quiet side and a bit mumblish) pumpkins surviving to harvest time. This year is a h-u-g-e crop. With no beans and bad corn this year for harvest...the tough life of a farmer has its trials.
Now we're all set for the month of October with our fall pumpkins. And, yippee - no trip to Jewel or Walmart needed! SUPPORT THE LOCAL FARMERS!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Walk-Around-the-Lake Tradition (P*S*C* #22)

It was six years ago that we started the tradition of walking around our lake every fall. It's about a six mile trip and we psych ourselves up to do it...we're no spring chickens! We pack water, a light snack (usually caramel apples), wear layered clothing in case the weather changes (which it usually does in the course of our walk) and wear the right shoes. And, obviously the camera is a must!! This year, however, the rules changed. With Anne and Jed with us, a six mile walk was out of the question due to the special guest Anne is presently housing. So what did we do? We walked two miles and the drove the car the other 4 miles. Let's hear it for rule-bending!
As we walked, we had a chance to talk. Father and daughter. Daughter and husband. Mother and daughter. Spouse and spouse. Son-in-law and mother-in-law.
No water or snacks on this trip. Layers of clothes were removed or added. No blisters. Sunny when we started out, and raining by the time we had finished. And a camera to capture it all. Tradition is good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pink Suitcase Chronicles #22: Fall Into Fall

While there's a lot to love about fall, I don't glide right into it...summer is my preferred season. However, Pink was taken out this past weekend and away we went to our cabin up north.
It's so quiet this time of year - we have the whole lake nearly to ourselves.
A lovely change this year, however, was the company of Anne and Jed for the weekend. Our schedules finally meshed so that we could go together (missed you, John and Kari!)
The fall colors were lovely, though not quite "peaked" as yet - probably in about a week or so.
We are thoroughly enjoying watching the growth from Concord Grape (see earlier blog) to Small Pumpkin with these two. Fall is taking on a whole new dimension when we think of what will be possible as these leaves change hue and drop to the ground and snow falls...
I am thankful for the seasons - yearly and lifely. (Is that a word?)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rock On!

If you see the title of this post and think it will be about Rock 'n Roll or Heavy Metal (Joel?), you will be sorely disappointed. Sorry. It's about actual rocks. The stone kind. As in boulders or slabs.
And rocks like you've never seen before - I think of them as slab diaries!

You might notice a lot of purple paint in these slab diaries. They are located on the lakefront shoreline of the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Illinois. Wes was a longtime employee at NU (also receiving his advanced degree there), so we thought we'd mosey over recently to see how things have changed - or not - since he left the campus. The biggest impression: the rocks! These are huge slabs that several people could fit on at one time.

So many marriage proposals in many have actually come about as a reality? Does the prospective groom bring the intended bride here before or after graduation to pop the question?

This one made me first I thought it was yet another proposal, but it probably came about during finals week while the "author" was in sore need of a cup of java! There were rocks painted with words in different languages. There were rocks painted with names of friends. There were lovers rocks. There were rocks with class titles and teachers. There were some that would forever bond a group together.

I know of THE ROCK tradition on the campus since 1902, but what is the story behind these shoreline rocks? When did it start? Is it a solitary activity done in the darkness of night or to
mark a moment of time? Is it done only at certain times of the year? Is there a name for this rock expanse?
Please fill me in if you know anything about this unique area!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Our First Applefest in the 'Hood (and a recipe!)

When this cheery red apple signboard went up a week or so ago, I knew we had to go! And go we did. The morning weather was just right for this fest...sunny with a slight chill in the air - long sleeve weather.

We selected Honeycrisp Apples and headed back to our City Nest. Not long afterwards, I mixed up the annual sinful fare; so many calories it can only be made but once a year. Dipping apples in this warm, creamy, gooey concoction of fallish deliciousity is worth every caloric overload point!

Caramel Sauce (recipe #69479 from Recipezaar)

3/4 c. butter

1 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar

2 T. water

1/4 t. salt

3/4 c. evaporated milk

1 T. vanilla extract


1.Combine butter, brown sugar, water and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.

2. Bring to a boil for 3 - 5 minutes depending upon thickness desired.

3. Remove from heat and stir in evaporated milk and vanilla.

Life is sweet. Literally.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Black and White and Red (Read) All Over

(Talking about newspapers here.) The most recently aired episode of Project Runway was this past Thursday night and I thought it was one of the most creative episodes ever! Contestant designers had to make their projects out of newspapers. Mostly dresses, they were inspiring as far as what could be done to make paper into fashion. One designer made a decoupaged bustier with a flowing feathery newspaper skirt. Another made a trench coat (the winner, by the way) with scrunched up newspaper bits - think tissue paper "art" preschoolers make - as a furlike texture for the coat lapels and cuffs. The one experiment that really DIDN'T work was the origami crane birds holding up the straps of the evening could have been lovely, but was ugly as ugly could be...especially when the gown was painted blood red. Poor designer Johnny. The former addict. I could feel empathy for him as he struggled to get drug-free and regain confidence. But what really made me crazy was his whining and making excuses - even lying - as to why his redone project failed. The kicker: working on a crossword puzzle when he should have been nose-to-the-grindstone in the 11th hour with the fashion show just a few hours away. Why do I get sucked into watching this show? Because it shows what the human brain can do to rise to a challenge. Because of the unexpected problem-solving and creativity that one would never expect in ordinary everyday life. Because of that challenge I was given as an art student in the early 1970's to make a drawing series of a nautilus shell turning into a giraffe. Because art is art. No, I wouldn't wear most of these fashions. Or buy them if I could. It's just about the possibilities. Meanwhile, maybe I should brush up on my origami skills until next week's show! Never know when it might come in handy to know how to fold a newspaper when so many newspapers are folding...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Sunflower State-of-Mind

We all should know that the nickname for Illinois is The Prairie State, right? Surely we know that Hawaii's nickname is The Aloha State. And New York is known as The Empire State.
A couple of states' nicknames were puzzling me, so I had to look them up. I found out that Louisiana is The Pelican State. Alabama is the Yellowhammer State. Montana is The Treasure State. And good ol' North Dakota has three nicknames: Peace Garden State, Flickertail State and Roughrider State. There is one state nickname, however, that I can always remember. It's where both of my parents were born. That would be the state of Kansas - The Sunflower State! We regularly visited our Grandparents there and I will always remember the fields of yellow sunflowers. Not the big honkin' tall ones, but the shorter types. I love these flowers because of their color, but also because they seem like such "happy" flowers. Surely if a flower could be given a humanized adjective, they would be the happy, cheery, optimistic ones!

This past weekend we biked to a local park - Winnemac Park - and found a little field of those cheery sunflowers. Blooming with wild abandon right smack in the middle of the city of Chicago!

Thinking back to the line in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy says, "We're not in Kansas anymore," I'd like to keep the sunflower state-of-mind myself of being sunny and happy as the
flowers are right now. Please, winter, take your sweet time before arriving here!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Biking Suggestions?

How exciting it was to "get" two discarded bicycles as a part of our condo deal! They had been abandoned in the basement storage area and the rest of the condo owners were going to get rid of we took the two bikes as our own. They needed some minor repairs, new seats and we were good to go! (With helmets, of course.) Though we pedal much more slowly than we used to, and are often sore at the end of an outing (thank you, age and bodies), we are loving having bikes in the city! We bike to the lakefront when we can, and have discovered some great paths along Lake Michigan. We have biked to the Lincoln Park Zoo. We have biked to outdoor cafes and restaurants. (Seeing Ellen B. and her sisters there after a Cub's game was a thrill!) One thing we love about city of Chicago biking: NO HILLS!!! One thing that's a bit challenging: traffic. At least some streets have biking lanes. Now, we are to the point of wanting to discover areas we may not know. Please consider filling us in with a place YOU like to bike. Within city limits, of course!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Feta Phase

Because of going to a new (to us) grocery store, I am discovering a new (to me) cheese. Sure, I have had feta cheese in salads and such, but never has it ended up in my grocery cart. A big chunk of it begged to come home with me - it was on super sale! This recipe was found on one of my favorite recipe websites: Recipezaar. There were pages and pages of recipes with feta cheese, and this one was chosen because I just so happened to have all the ingredients on's a winner! Barbeque Chicken Pizza Ingredients 1 prepared pizza crust (12 inch) 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided 1 cup grilled chicken breast, coarsely chopped 1/4 cup prepared barbecue sauce 1 (4 ounce) package crumbled feta cheese 1 small red onion, halved, thinly sliced and separated into rings Directions 1Preheat oven to 450°F 2Place pizza crust on ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. 3Toss chicken with barbecue sauce; spoon evenly onto crust. 4Top with feta cheese, onions and the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. 5BAKE 10 to 12 minute or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. 6Let stand 5 minute before cutting to serve. Do you have any favorite recipes with feta cheese?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Oops. But Worth It.

We recently had the best brunch ever at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building. The view was spectacular; it was a clear, clear day. The food was wonderful: fresh seafood of all types, a meat carving station, an omelette bar, cheeses, breads and pastries, delicious concoctions of vegetables, fruits, and a dessert bar with many chocolate choices as well as ice cream and toppings.
The view inside the Signature Room. Surrounded by three sides of floor-to-ceiling windows!
A view north to the shoreline. Check out the volley ball court beach-side complete with fake palm trees.
To the east, a view of Navy Pier and that former airport.

And to the south, the big downtown skyscrapers...and the building formerly known as the Sears Tower.

The clincher: the menu listed this "buffet" as only $18.00 per person! We read the menu before we decided to try it, just to be on the safe side. As we enjoyed the foods, the view and the whole experience, we talked about how we needed to bring the "kids" here, our out-of-town guests fact anyone we knew here! This was the best dining "deal" in all of Chicago and we wanted to share it with our friends!!!

Then the nice waiter brought us the leather-bound pad with the bill tucked inside. Wes opened it and all of a sudden got this funny look on his know the one that says, "Huh?" The tab was about $100.00 even. Turns out the Sunday brunch price is $45.00 per person; it's the Monday - Saturday BUFFET that is $18.00. Oops. A lot more than we intended to spend. But, we took a moment, realized we had had a wonderful experience and were all the more wiser as a result. We decided to not let that hamper our delight of the brunch and will take our guests there Monday through Saturday instead.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Chicken...Who's Chicken?

The most recent book I've been reading came highly recommended by many people with discerning literary tastes. And it has been a very good read about the German occupation of the Channel Islands off the coast of the United Kingdom. The island residents form a book club of sorts (with the name of the book title) to get around all the limitations, domination and fear of the regime. The characters are much like the ones in the Karon Mitford Series and you just fall in love with their quirky charms and poignant stories. When I got to the part about the chickens (exerpt here)
...chickens being the reason I fell off a hen-house roof - they'd chased me there. How they all came at me - with their razor lips and back-to-back eyeballs! People don't know how chickens can turn on you, but they can - just like mad dogs.
it made me think of my nephew Ryan's nice chickens. They would never turn on me like mad dogs, would they? So, I had to test out the chickens - Colonel Randers, Natasha Luiken and Nancy - all female Rhode Island Reds. Here they are in their pen:
Ryan picked out Nancy to test the nice chicken theory. Would I be "chicken" to hold a chicken?
Keep in mind that these chickens are city girls - the train runs right behind their pen and there are neighbors aplenty. So, noises don't bother them much. Would I? Nancy is nice. So much so that Diann had a take a turn holding her, too! We'd like to think that our long-ago farmer relatives in Kansas would get a kick out of these "city girls" making a big deal out of holding a chicken. And, just in case you are wondering, hens are legal in the city of Chicago (roosters aren't), the hens are being raised for their eggs, and their type is hearty enough to survive Chicago winters!