Autumn = Fall

Posted: under biking, Hiking, Large family, Traveling with children.
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Pine Mountain, Georgia

Finally at the end of November a frost has descended on my home, turning the emerald zoysia into a golden carpet.  However my yard still appears quite green and lush.  The bougainvilleas hang with heavy clusters of lilac flowers on my trellis. The Mexican heather is covered with migrating butterflies. Even my tender banana tree is still green. A few trees have lost their leaves, but that was only noticed by the child who had to rake them.  Their nakedness is generally cloaked by Spanish moss and clusters of mistletoe.  The overall effect is that autumn in Savannah is not the fiery-hued explosion of foliage like in the rest of the country, but instead a gradual fading to olive green.  The live oaks, which canopy this city, will cling to their leaves until spring.

Isle of Hope in Savannah, photographed on November 23th. I was impressed by the incredible greeness of Bluff Drive.

This presented an interesting dilemma as I tried to teach my younger children about the seasons.  I explained that autumn is also called “fall” because, in most places, the leaves will turn bright colors and fall off of the trees.  My younger children seemed perplexed.  Their responses were generally along the line of “You’re kidding, right?”  Of course they have  seen colored leaves, but to them a colored leaf is equivalent to a dead leaf, and not something to define an entire season.  I knew it was time for a field trip.

Where could we take our children to experience fall foliage within about 4 hour drive?  We could not take them to New England, where the maples and oaks are unequalled in their brilliance.  We had to choose a location that was a little further north and a little higher in elevation.  We decided to take the children tent camping at FDR State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It was the last weekend of October.

Callaway Gardens at Pine Mountain, Georgia

Visiting a state park has got to be one of the best vacation values there is.  Our experience has been that the facilities are always terrific, the setting is scenic, and park rangers are probably the nicest people on earth.  While there are a variety of activities available at different  parks, I have often found my children to be thoroughly entertained by exploring the rustic park and playing freely around the campsite.

Biking at Callaway Gardens

We only had three nights to squeeze in memories and fun.  We spent one full day biking through Callaway Gardens. We explored the extensive gardens where “Victory Gardens South” is filmed, and the butterfly pavilion, where exotic butterflies are housed indoors and native, wild butterflies are plentiful outside.  Callaway Gardens is noteworthy for the large variety of trees and native plants that grow there.  While there is golf and housing available at Callaway Gardens, it is very low key and does not intrude on the landscaping.

Seven of my nine.

 

On our second day, we traveled south to Providence Canyon, another state park that is absolutely, positively in the middle of nowhere.  What a surprise awaited us there!  Poor farming practices in the 1800’s led to severe erosion that carved a significant canyon in the land. The result is a “Mini Grand Canyon” of vivid, colored strata of soil.  There is a 7-mile, strenuous backpacking trail available and a 3-mile, strenuous hiking trail.  We took the three mile trail, but it wasn’t strenuous at all. The only challenge was a strong possibility of getting your feet quite muddy when crossing creek beds.  Even my two-year-old and four-year-old found the trail manageable, and were only carried when they became too distracted by the mud puddles.

Providence Canyon

Long-abandoned car, captured by the woods. More ecologically sound to leave it.

Our final night of camping provided an opportunity for the children to go on a hayride at FDR State Park.  The popularity of hayrides baffles me, but to my little guys it was one of their “favorite things ever”. It served to remind me that I must not underestimate the significance of even small experiences in the memories of my children.

One of the advantages to the four-hour limit on our drive was that it enabled us to attend morning worship at a church in Columbus (where we happened to run in to some dear friends- an added bonus!), and make it home in time to attend evening worship at our home church in Savannah. It is good to be with the Lord’s people on Sunday!

As I sat next to my children in church I could see remnants of twigs and leaves in their hair and smell the fragrance of campfire smoke.  I felt confident that the dirt would wash off, but also hopeful that our immersion into the leaves of autumn would serve as the fertile ground for my children’s sweet memories to flourish.

Time together and time outdoors.

Fall leaves… One of those things you’ve just got to see for yourself.

Comments (0) Nov 27 2012

Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Beans

Posted: under Cooking with children, Family favorites, Homemaking, Large family.
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Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Beans

No one ever accused my mother of being a great cook.  No one.  But she did keep an immaculate house.  I don’t think I ever even saw a dust bunny until I went to college.  (Imagine my surprise.)  But she had a good excuse.  When my mother was a young girl, her own mother became bed-ridden, and my mother assumed all the responsibilities of the housework and the care of her father and older brothers while her younger sisters cooked the meals.  She honed her housekeeping skills into an art form.  (Alas, she did not teach me.)

My mother never complained about cooking (and my father never complained about her cooking), but she never aspired to improve her dishes or learn new things.  A typical meal went like this:

a meat, well-done

two canned vegetables, which were always flavored with bacon grease  (that is, until the heart disease connection was made)

store-bought white rolls

an iceberg lettuce salad with radishes, chunks of apple, cubed cheddar cheese, and carrots

That was the template for dinner pretty much every night.

One of the dishes my mother made with frequency, and in great quantity on special occasions, was green beans.  Ew, I can smell them in my brain.

She started with one large can of green beans, which she flavored with bacon grease, then cooked, and cooked, and cooked until every bit of cellular structure was broken down and the “green” beans were gray.  You probably didn’t even need teeth to eat those green beans.  You probably could have slurped them down with a straw.  In fact, I think having teeth only complicated matters  for me because the more I chewed them, the bigger they got.  And then I had to swallow them.  Oh dear, the memory is invoking a gag response.

So that is what green beans were to me:  gray, amorphous blobs robbed of all nutrition and flavor.

When on occasion I encountered green beans that were actually green in color, such as at a cover-dish dinner or company picnic, my mother would announce, with disdain, that “So-and-so cooks her beans like a Yankee.”  (That was a bad thing.)  So it was many, many years before I actually ate a green bean that was green in color.

I still remember the day:  July 19, 1991, at an elegant restaurant near Williamsburg, Virginia, called Indian Fields Tavern.  I even remember what I ordered:  Pork Medallions with Peach Sauce.  Oh, yum.  And when the plate arrived, there they were – green beans!  I eyed them suspiciously. Long and slender.  Bright in color.  No wider than the tines on my fork.  I was emboldened to taste them.  A little sweet with a bit of crunch.  They bore no resemblance to the water-sogged blobs of my childhood.  I was converted.

So I am going to share with you a recipe my older daughter, Catherine, created  for green beans.  She developed this one time when I left town (actually, left the country), leaving her and my mother-in-law in charge of running the household and feeding the whole crew.  One of her tasks was to creatively foist vegetables on her younger siblings.  Now frankly, my children eat lots and lots of vegetables, but we had been given pounds and pounds of green beans and okra that had to be consumed.  The okra was a bit of a challenge.  How much gumbo can one family eat?  She creatively buried the  extra okra in chocolate muffins, winning accolades from her siblings.  A resounding success.  The green beans she transformed into a kind of finger food.  She called them “Hulk Fries”.  They ate every bite.

So easy, even a male teenager can help.

 

Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Fries

2# fresh green beans, trimmed

1/4  cup canola oil

Kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

1.  Preheat the oven broiler and raise the rack.

2.  Toss green beans with oil.  They should all be slick and shiny.

Shiny, oiled beans, ready for the broiler. Please note the color.

3.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4.  Put under broiler, but don’t walk away!

Into the oven on broil.

5.  After 2 – 3 minutes,  stir the beans.  You want to see areas of brown.

Time to stir. Note the brown parts. That is a good thing.

6. After another 2-3 minutes, stir the beans again and remove from oven.

Ready to serve. Please note, they are still green, with patches of brown. We say, “That’s Hulk’s hair.”

 

The beans are bright, crisp, and tasty!  It may sound uncultured, but I let the little ones eat them with their fingers because, after all, they are “fries”.

 

Green beans.  Bright green.  Tasty and nutritious.  And definitely not made by a Yankee. Who’d have thought it?

(For the record:  When I uploaded the snapshots, my four-year-old pointed to the raw beans and said, “Green beans.  I hate green beans.”  Then he pointed to the “after” photo and announced, “Those are Hulk Fries.  Yum.  I eat Hulk Fries.”  Enough said.)

 

Comments (2) Nov 16 2012

Large Family FAQ: Grocery Store Interrogation

Posted: under Homemaking, Housework, Large family.
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My brood. Perhaps the hardest thing about raising a large family is getting everyone to look at the camera.

Imagine if you will a typical grocery store visit for me.  I am one of those “perimeter” shoppers.  Because  I don’t buy many processed foods, and fresh ingredients have a bigger volume than boxed snacks, my cart is ALWAYS heaped up on top and fully loaded on the bottom rack. When I head to the check out, I typically have to pull my cart, because I am usually carrying a couple bunches of bananas in my arms, and maybe a few bags of ripe peaches, too.  I rarely take my younger children to the grocery store with me, primarily because I don’t have enough room in the cart, but also because they assault the groceries and thwart the other shoppers.  Last week I had to take both of my youngest.  Big mistake.  My four-year-old kept jumping in front of other carts, spread eagle, and demanding, “What’s the pass word?”  Later, back at home, I discovered teeth marks in the tube of goat cheese.  Beautiful, lovely teeth marks.  Like a dentist’s impression.

Tag-team troublemakers

Once I get to the check out, the interrogation begins.  Sometimes questions come from the cashier, but usually they are from another customer, like the unhappy soul in line behind me.  Now mind you, I go through a form of these same questions every time I go to the grocery store.  Everytime.  EV-ER-Y TIME.

“Are you having a party?”

No.  (Sometimes I say, “No, we are our own party.” But I digress.)

“How many children do you have?”

Nine.  Seven boys, two girls.  Ages 21-2, no twins.   (Right there I just pre-empted the next three questions.)

Then it comes:

“Are you Catholic?

Are you Mormon?

Are you Orthodox Jew?”

No, I’m Presbyterian.  (That last question might throw you, but it might help you to know that we are one of the only Gentile families in the entire neighborhood.  We live within walking distance of a synagogue.  Or maybe it’s because they saw the Kosher chicken; yeah, right there in the cart next to the pork tenderloin…)

I BRACE MYSELF BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT COMES NEXT:

“Do you know the Duggars?”

No. I don’t even own a TV.

THEN THEY ALWAYS SAY:

“I hope you figure out what causes it!” and of course, they laugh at their own joke because, after all, it is so clever, so witty, so original.  I just smile.

Now there are variations of the Frequently Asked Questions that my older children have to endure, especially if they are on outings with the youngest siblings.  My nineteen-year-old daughter has to deal with a whole different realm of questions and assumptions.  Like this summer when the lifeguard helped her coaxed the little ones out of the pool by telling them to “Listen to your mother!”

Then there is a question that REALLY shocked me.  That is, really shocked me  when I heard it the first time.  It occurs when I am on an errand with my oldest son and one of the youngest children.  Complete strangers will look at us and ask me if I am on my second marriage!  Excuse me?  I don’t have a clever response.  I just reply, “No, there are seven in between” and smile. Frankly, I am not sure whether they are baffled by the age difference of my children or think my son is my second husband.

Oldest and youngest – Easter 2011

Oldest son, youngest son

 Then there is a final realm of questions that is related to those people, like the health department nurse or the census bureau, who are reluctant to believe that all of my children have the same last name. Sigh.

I suppose if I were enterprising, I would market a line of products to cater to the questions endured by extra-large families.  Perhaps I could sell t-shirts with the following slogans:

“Not a daycare.”

“Yes, they’re mine.”

“Same father.”

“My hands are full.  Full of blessings from Christ.”

But let’s face it.  Who would buy these products?  As my little guy one day realized – being a seventh child is a very rare thing.

Indeed, people notice my large family and my overflowing shopping cart, whom I do not myself notice.  One day while shopping unaccompanied, I headed in to the grocery store with an empty cart. The door opened and out came an elderly woman pushing her groceries.  She looked at me and said bluntly, “Going to buy out the store again, huh?”  What?! I had never seen this woman before in my  life, but she had seen me.  So while part of me would love to be armed with witty and cutting responses to the weekly FAQ, I realize that I can instead have a positive effect.  I have said it before and I will say it again:  One of the strongest pro-life statements I can make is to go to the grocery store with my hair combed and a smile on my face.

Now do you want to know about questions endured by a “grand multiparous woman” when pregnant? That would be another post altogether.

 

Comments (0) Nov 15 2012

Thanksgiving Sanity-saving Cheatsheet

Posted: under Cooking with children, Family favorites, Homemade, Large family.
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Grubby pilgrim – 2007

Do you want to talk about an adrenaline rush?  How about realizing that Thanksgiving is in ten days and you have done NOTHING to prepare for it?  Nothing, I repeat, nothing, and you are expecting 36 guests and counting.  I say, “and counting”, because you really never know who all the college kids will bring home until they have packed up and are underway.  The more the merrier, and I mean that with all my heart.  It just takes some planning, whichI have only now begun.

My husband and I love to cook. We love to try new dishes and improve our favorites.  On Thanksgiving Day we have a great time getting our “cooking itch scratched”.  We almost always eat supper together as a family every day, but the time pressures of our daily life too often squeeze our cooking time, and the meals-of-choice become those that are lean, nutritious, easy to make, and quick to clean.

But on Thanksgiving Day, we get to savor not only the eating, but also the preparation of the food.  There is a joy to be experienced in the chop, chop, chopping of the ingredients alongside a child.  The aromas, the flavors, the little noses peeking over the counter seeking beaters to lick – I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thankfully, I do not have to recreate a Thanksgiving menu from scratch every year.  There is a little organization technique I figured out a few years ago that works wonders for our family.  If you can picture my husband, my daughter, and me, racing around the kitchen, cooking and stirring and roasting and whisking.  We were constantly misplacing our recipes and finding our favorite cookbooks smeared with mousse or gravy.  Then there was the whole challenge of timing the cooking.  Sometimes two ovens just didn’t seem like enough!

Checking the master menu.

As a coping strategy, I started photocopying or printing off the internet our planned Thanksgiving recipes.  Even recipes I know by heart I added to this pile, because I wanted to have a complete menu. I fastened all the recipes together. I made a list of my dishes on the front, then put the recipes in order.

 

Next, I made a cheatsheet of cooking times- what needs to bake at what temperature and for how long.  By charting this, I could visually see how to pair up dishes, and I could stick a post-it note reminder on the oven.   “Beef goes in at 12, mushrooms go in at 12:30.”  The master recipe menu also helps to plan for prepping.  “Exactly how many garlic cloves do I need to peel?  And how many cups of chopped onions?”  Having the recipes all together, even the ones memorized, helps to delegate tasks when you can not be two places at once.  “Finish up the casserole; I’m finishing the gravy.”

Many of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes come from Bon Appetit magazine and can be printed off of their online source, epicurious.com.  Often their recipes offer “Do Ahead” suggestions, saving time and sanity.

If it’s smeared with gravy, it’s got to be good.

When the meal is over and the dishes all washed, this collection of recipes becomes a memento of the year’s feast, and a reminder for next year’s planning.  Some recipes, such as Masa Cornbread Stuffing with Chiles, become family favorites.  Others, such as Popovers, will be passed over this year.  Popovers are easy and delicious, but are oven-hogs, requiring 40 minutes in the oven- and no peaking or sharing oven space!

2009

When all is said and done, there will be tons of food and piles of dirty dishes.  But also bellies filled with delicious food and hearts bursting with warm memories.  And that’s the best part.

 

 

 

Comments (0) Nov 13 2012

Little Rebels: Applied History

Posted: under Large family.
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Don’t let those sweet, innocent faces fool you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite things about homeschooling my children is that I learn so much alongside them. It seems like I enjoy an “ah-ha” moment every few days.  This week I experienced one of those moments, with additional implications.

We are studying US History again. I emphasize “again” because, let’s face it, US History is relatively brief. However American school children typically hit it three times during their twelve years of schooling, digging deeper each time, so I comply.  This year, however, I am widening the net to put American history in the context of the political and social events of the rest of the world at the same time.  To that end, I have been reading aloud to my children an excellent book, The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster.

It was in reading this book that I experienced a big “ah-ha”.  I knew that the Netherlands (Protestant)  were once ruled by Spain (Roman Catholic). I knew that Philip II of Spain desired to dominate all of Europe and put down all forms of the Protestant Reformation. What I did not know was that in 1581 the Netherlands issued the “Act of Abjuration”, kind of their own little “Declaration of Independence”. Don’t these words from the preamble sound hauntingly familiar?

“Whereas God did not create the people as slaves to their prince to obey his commands whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects, to govern them with equity and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, [therefore] when he does not behave thus, but oppresses them, seeking to infringe on their ancient customs and privileges, then he is no longer a prince but a tyrant and the subjects may legally proceed to the choice of another prince for their defense.” (page 20)

 

How surprised I was see to read this, especially since it predates not only our own Declaration of Independence, but also predates even John Locke (you know, the “pursuit of life, liberty, property” guy). What followed, of course, was a discussion of the responsibility of rulers to their subjects, getting about as deep as you can with elementary-aged boys who prefer to wrestle.  I figured my “ah-ha” moment was lost on them . Or was it?

The next morning I was tidying up the toy closet and there I found it on the floor.  Some of my little boys had written their own Declaration of Independence. I am uncertain who penned it; it looks like a group effort.

They started by enumerating faults :

1.he’s a coward
2.a bully
3.selfish
4.Cares only about himself
5. A wimp
6. He’s weak
Resons we Revolt:
Your a bully.
We’d rather Nick as a leader.
You never let us play.
We’re tired of be cammaned by YOU.
Consitusion,
We Ages 4-9 want to be free.  We have reasons.  1. were tired of being bullied around, 2. so we have freedom from you.  This is the consitusion of us all.
Sighned, Timothy, Christian, Stephen
 

While that is not the reaction I desire my children to have in the face of conflict, it did signify one thing.

They WERE paying attention. 

Comments (1) Nov 12 2012

My Scouting Haiku

Posted: under Hiking, Traveling with children.
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Webelos Weekend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Scouting Haiku

Sticks, fire, pocketknives

In the furnace of camping

Boy forged into man.

(Yeah, yeah, I know it stinks, but you get the idea and the sentiment in genuine.)

Comments (0) Nov 11 2012

Webelos Weekend

Posted: under Traveling with children.
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Black Creek Scout Reservation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not, nor have I ever been, a Cub Scout.  It is with a fair amount of amusement that I find myself camping with my two sons who are Webelos on the annual Webelos Weekend. The event is designed to help Webelos make a smooth transition to Boy Scouts when they cross over in the spring.  I think it is a great idea.

 

So here I am, one of the few mothers in a sea of fathers and sons. Around the campfire I realized that my gender was out-numbered 11 to 1. Oh, everyone has been very gracious, and I am particularly thankful for the Eagle scout who helped me construct the tent.  It is a new tent. I had not put it together, nor watched my sons erect it.  So I was a bit perplexed.  Tentpoles are not Tinkertoys; there is only one correct way to assemble them. How thankful I was to get the tent assembled before the last rays of sunlight dissappeared.

A clear sky meant a cold night. Temperatures in the 30’s are unfamiliar to my Savannah-born sons.  We snuggled three of us into a two-person sleeping bag and were snuggly warm.

So where am I right now? It the tiny town of Sylvania,  eating a Veggie-delight sandwich, and recharging my electronics.  The Webelos were supposed to cook breakfast for the adults; they ran out of food and time.  Then the campfire-cooked pizza for lunch consisted of sauce on a bun; they ran out of cheese.  My body was craving something green, and I don’t mean relish!

Time to upload this post and return to the campfire. Not that I contribute much to the storytelling. I have never been chewed out by a drill sergeant. I have never ignited myself while wielding. I don’t know how to lubricate Gulfstream jets. But hey, I am learning a lot.

Good clean fun!

Comments (0) Nov 10 2012

Worth the Effort

Posted: under Hiking, Photography, Pregnancy, Scuba diving, Snorkeling, Travel, Underwater photography.
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Green sea turtle

I was pregnant with my eighth child when I last visited Hawaii.  Actually, I was about six weeks shy of my due date. (I didn’t tell my midwife and she never asked about  my unseasonal tan.)

It is not like my husband and I planned to vacation in the third trimester of my pregnancy. He actually had to attend a medical conference (critical care, I think), and I was determined that he was not going to Hawaii without me.

Essential: snorkeling gear, water, and GPS

Pregnancy prevented me from scuba diving.  Never mind the fact that I could  not possibly fit into my wet suit! I was so buoyant, it would have taken several cannon balls to sink me! So the activities of choice were hiking and snorkeling.

The trail begins with lush vegetation.

On Maui  our best experience was off of Cape Kina’u, on the leeward side of the island.  In my experience, trail heads are rarely marked in any of the islands, so GPS and a thorough guide book are essential.  The entrance to our path was vague. We were to find a path 7/10 of a mile before the second to last telephone pole, not visible by car.We found it, and entered a trail flanked by lush foliage which quickly gave way to a vast lava field.  This type of lava is called a’a (pronounced ah ah), no doubt because that is what you would say if you attempted to traverse it barefoot.

I knew my feet were down there somewhere.

The hike was not terribly long, but I had two particular challenges: an altered center of gravity and the inability to see my feet.

This cove was our goal.

It was very rewarding to reach the cove and don my fins, mask, and diving gloves. Gloves are essential! The shoreline is densely guarded by pin-cushion-sharp sea urchins.

We enjoyed floating about, gazing down upon colorful sea stars, sergeant majors, and even a few humuhumunukunukuapua’as. Then who should come barreling through a gap in the rock? Not one, but two enormous green sea turtles. It was immediately obvious that they had no intention of going around us, and we had better get out of the way.

Up-close viewing of these elegant creatures of the sea made the effort entirely worthwhile.  You may remember from my first post, Poppies in Provence  , my conviction that the sweetest moments in life are rarely planned.

A’a as far as the eye can see!

The joyful experience of my encounter with the turtles made my return trip across the a’a a little less daunting.

Comments (2) Nov 08 2012

Blue – The Way I Like It

Posted: under Photography, Travel.
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Grand Cayman Horizon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What are you doing?  What ARE you doing?  What on earth are you doing?”  My husband was growing increasingly perplexed.  How could I explain to him that I was photographing the HORIZON.  How could he possibly understand that in the horizon off the island of Grand Cayman I found AZURE PERFECTION!

That’s right!  Perfection. No matter how much I look at it, I never tire of the color of blue. How thankful I am (for more reasons than one) that God cloaked the earth in an atmosphere to give us a blue sky by day, instead of black like on the moon.  How soothing to the eyes and calming to the soul!

Lavender and Turquoise

When I was in college I spent a good deal of time studying theatrical lighting design.  There was a never-ending dialog about whether a particular fill light was “warm” or “cool”.  Non-techies just couldn’t get it.  They would think warm=yellow, like the sun, and cool=blue, like ice.  Color theory in lighting design bears only a slight resemblance to your kindergarten color wheel, so after a while, you shrug your shoulders and give up.

Yet another attempt to capture the view.

But there, on the horizon of the island of Grand Cayman, one can see a  “cool blue” lavender sky harmonize with the  “warm blue” turqoise water (color not temperature).  The combination is intensely satisfying and restful, and if you are reclining in a hammock in Grand Cayman, it is probably because you needed a vacation.

Blue is always a perfect backdrop.

Why aren’t the waters off of Tybee Beach, twenty minutes from home, this color?

Is it any wonder that Grand Cayman, home of the perfect blue horizon, is also the only native home of the RARE BLUE IGUANA?  Kinda makes you think, huh?

Cyclura lewisi, aka Blue Iquana

Comments (1) Nov 07 2012

Chicago

Posted: under Travel.
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Flag of Chicago

 

The flag of Chicago depicts two blue stripes, representing Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, and four red stars, representing significant historical events in the city.  I believe the Chicago flag should depict a phoenix, because out of the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 arose a beautiful, modern city.

I had the opportunity to visit Chicago last year with my husband.  He had to attend training (advanced interventional bronchoscopy stuff.  Zzzzzz.) so I got to explore the big city of Chicago and  meet up with a high school chum, Melisa Wells.  I had not seen her since high school graduation.  Melisa sat in front of me in AP English, and we shared a fascination with British music and world travel.  Melisa wanted to become a writer; I wanted to become an exotic animal veterinarian and work in a captive breeding program in a large zoo.  Fast forward 25 years – she is a published author and I?  Well, many of you would say that I run my own zoo.

Best of all, Melisa has written a guidebook to visiting Chicago.  It is called Chicken in the Car but the Car Won’t Go: Nearly 200 Ways to Enjoy Chicagoland with Teens and Tweens.  You can check it out at www.chickeninthecar.com.  So one of the wonderful things about having an expert show me around the city of Chicago is that SHE KNOWS WHERE ALL THE COOLEST STUFF IS!

We started our day at the Rookery.  The Lobby, designed by Frank Lloyd Wrigh, was stunning.

The Rookery lobby, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

The next stop was the Willis Building, that extremely tall skyscraper known to most of the world as “the Sears Tower”.  The building is 110 floors tall, and on the 103 floor is the breath-taking Skydeck and, best of all, the Ledge.  The Ledge is a glass room that protrudes from the building.  Brave souls can stand on the Ledge and look straight down 103 stories to the street below.  I was mesmerized.

The view from 103 stories up.

 

The Ledge

Spectacular skyline

View to Lake Michigan, Grant Park, Shedd Aquarium

While the Willis Tower was literally the “high point” of my visit, Melisa knew where to find, in an unlikely location, one of the most dazzling sights my eyes have beheld.  In Macy’s department store on State Street, a location that was formerly a Marshall Fields, is the largest example of Tiffany favrile glass IN THE WORLD.  Right there!  On the ceiling!  She led me to the fifth floor, where we had to squeeze past the lady’s undergarments for a closer view.

Tiffany favrile glass

On the ceiling of a department store!

Right up there on the fifth floor, along with the undergarments.

Hard to take in all the beauty!

To see this beauty in the midst of department store clutter! What must it have been like in its heyday?

After a lunch of, what else?  Chicago-style pizza, we headed toward the Wrigley Building and took an architectural boat tour.

I suppose one of the things that stands out to me about the architecture in Chicago is that the designers seemed to be led by VISION.  They did not seek to merely build a big block to “get the job done”.  They followed inspiration.  For example, one building, the AON building, is constructed to that there are no corner offices. Another skyscraper (don’t remember which) has a design that creates LOTS of corner offices.

Some buildings seemed rather playful in their design.  Aqua takes its inspiration from the undulating waters of Lake Michigan.

Aqua

The Jewelers Building looks styled like a woman’s engagement ring.

Jewelers Building

Marina Building

The skyscaper, 77 West Wacker, was a modern take on a Roman temple.

Romanesque skyscraper at 77 West Wacker

Faux flying buttresses on the Tribune Tower

The skyline of Chicago is a feast for the eyes.  My son’s point-and-shoot camera does not do it justice.  Which of course means I need to plan another trip.  And hopefully, another personalized tour!

Friend and personal tour guide, Melisa Wells.

LOVE THAT CITY.

 

 

Comments (3) Nov 06 2012