Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Actual Stitching Progress

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Now there's something you haven't seen in a while! This is the needlebook from Ye Shall Prosper, year's ASG. I'm doing it as a Stitch-A-Long with Jill, Teresa, Jean, Judy and some others. This is actually the October goal, which I did not finish in October, but I worked on it in October, so it's all OK. I changed the top stitch on the "dictionary" from Broad Chain (I figure I'm going to be doing enough of that since all the smalls in the set are assembled using it) to Williamsburg. I also added my second initial, since there was space (Rae only had her first initial to the left of the acorn). I had to move my initial down, and now things look a wee bit off center, but oh well! The wiggly things on the right side are the buttonhole bar loops for the ribbon tie to go through. Yeah, not my best stitch.

And here we have 1/3 of a happy dance! This is one side of a 3-sided "bon bon" ornament from Wee Works. And I even started the second side!

Wha...? This chick does needlework??

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Blowing through Town

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the lions are out This is the way I've felt for about the past month. Either I'm completely insensible, or I'm definitely not where or when I "should" be. In fact, despite the awesome time we had the first two days in Chicago, and during the trip as a whole, Saturday didn't go very well.

The plan was to get up, find Argo tea, find the half price tickets booth and procure some tickets for the evening, then meet Michael's parents at the Shedd Aquarium at noon, having already taken in some of the fishy goodness.

We did find Argo tea, which I highly, emphatically recommend. I need to start my letter-writing campaign to have them open locations in Atlanta! That was, unfortunately, the only thing that went according to plan. First we looked forever to find the half-price ticket place (which turned out to be stuffed away on a corner far from where the map said it was). Since we had not immediately found it, we decided to wait in line for rush tickets to Jersey Boys. This was a mistake. Once we made it to the front of the line, only obstructed view tickets were available. Now, since they were pretty cheap, this might have been fine...if the employee at the counter had been able to give us any useful information. The conversation went something like this:

Michael: "Now, I know these are obstructed view tickets, but could you tell us if we'll miss entire musical numbers, or just some parts of numbers?"

Man: "You'll miss anything on the catwalk." (Thanks, guy, we already knew that from the pre-opening announcements.)

Michael: "Yes, I understand that, but what I'm asking is whether entire numbers are performed up there, or just portions?"

Man: "What do you want for $25??"

Michael: "Um...I'm just trying to find out if we would miss entire numbers or just parts..."

Man: "Do you want the tickets or not?"

After that exchange, we decided "not", although I thought of many things I could have said to this guy after we left...such as, "Sir, I understand that you are incapable of helping us after we have repeatedly asked you to exercise your expertise on our behalf. Since you haven't seen the show, which is the only thing I can assume based on your lack of ability to answer simple questions about its content, could you perhaps ask a coworker who has seen it to help us?" Ahhhh, spite.

Now we were 1) without the promised tickets, 2) still without breakfast (not to mention caffeine...we hadn't made it to Argo yet!) and 3) creeping way too close to our meeting time. I'll cut through the wandering before and after finding Argo, the fruitless quest for tickets and the nerve-wracking bus ride through traffic and pick things up at the Shedd Aquarium, as we ran up and got in the "will call" line to exchange our CityPass tickets for admission tickets, already 20 minutes late to meet Michael's parents.

That's when we discovered that we were short a CityPass book. It's also when I discovered that I'd lost the beautiful scarf my mom knit me. =( Michael was in such a holy panic by that time that I didn't want to mention it to him...he was explaining to me that he was going to run after the bus to get the CityPass while I went in and met his parents (we went back to Argo and called CTA's lost and found to no avail-*sniff!*). I wasn't sure if I was going to throw up or faint, but I just stood there praying desperately! The worst part was, that as long as the line I was in was (it took 20 minutes to get through it), the line to purchase tickets was about 6 times as long! So if Michael didn't find his CityPass, I had no idea when he'd be able to get to us!

God was good to us and Michael was somehow able to run down the bus, where the driver handed him the missing CityPass! I am still baffled by how he did it, since we had gotten off the bus, walked across a green, asked an employee for directions, rode an elevator and gotten in line before discovering it was missing. At any rate, we were "only" 45 minutes late to meet his parents, who had already seen most of the Aquarium by that time. Sadly, we had to run through it, so I don't have that many pictures to share. It looked like a really cool Aquarium, too. *sigh* Next time!

After snarfing hot dogs, we booked it to the Adler Planetarium. We only had about 3 hours there, and we saw two shows. I still much prefer the traditional projector to the new-fangled ones.

Since we were right by the waterfront, we decided to take a ferry over to Navy Pier.
Not much of note there, except the fabulous and FREE stained glass museum. It seems like it goes half the length of the Pier (indoors), and has many Tiffany windows as well as other great examples of art glass.
These next guys really cheered me up. break this
They weren't quite So You Think You Can Dance material, but they were pretty good. After that, we walked back home and paused to watch the fireworks from the Pier.

Sunday morning was the Chicago Marathon, part of which we could see from our hotel room. running
After church, we grabbed a picnic lunch from Whole Foods and headed to Millennium Park to ogle the Bean (Cloudgate is its proper name).
I totally stole this idea from some fab British girls who asked me to take their picture. funhouse
Finally, we made it out to the Field Museum. Holy cow, this is a big place! field indeed Once again, we didn't have much time, so we ran through as many of the fabulous exhibits as we could. I loved the gem display, the Egyptian tomb, the Native American clothing! And, of course, Sue was there to sneak up on Michael's unsuspecting parents... get 'em, Sue! ...Sue is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton that's been found.

I decided that they weren't that big and scary, after all. I mean, one probably couldn't down me whole like in Jurassic Park. I could totally punch one in the nose and make it run away, just like a shark, doncha think?? not so scary
After all that running around, we had worked up quite an appetite, so it was time for more authentic Chicago pizza! The wait at Cafe Uno, where Chicago deep dish pizza was invented (reportedly because the owner wanted pizza to be a "sit down, knife and fork" meal) was about an hour and a half. So, we headed down the block to Cafe Due (doo-ay), which he opened because he'd run out of room at Uno. The wait there was "only" 45 minutes, and you could order your pizza ahead (they take about 30 minutes). due pizza Totally, totally worth it. Everywhere the Giordano's pizza failed me, the Due pizza succeeded. The crust was yummy, I didn't feel over-cheesed, and the sauce...! It was sooo good. After dinner we wandered back by the Tribune building, because we'd missed a wall Friday night and I wanted to remember where they had stolen liberated the rock from Illinois (it was from Abraham Lincoln's home).

Monday we rode the Metra out to the Museum of Science and Industry. It's the first time I've been on a bilevel train car! double decker
Here you can see the "tiny" atrium that houses a 727...and that's just about a fourth of the atrium! teeny atrium Again, it's a huge museum full of wonders. Michael's dad best remembered the "model trains" (that term doesn't do them justice!) and the circus models.

I definitely want to go back and spend more time in all the museums!! And, you know, maybe spend more time on the Mag Mile than the 5 minutes in Eddie Bauer I got! Michael's parents aren't big shoppers. =) But the trip as a whole was just awesome!

Note to self: Don't try to do an entire CityPass in 5 days ever again....

Friday, November 7, 2008

Share the Love

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I'm way remiss on thanking Annette and Rachel for very kindly awarding me the "I Love Your Blog" award!

Aw...thanks, guys! I love your blogs, too! Sorry I haven't posted the award before now. Work has been...interesting, along with all my out-of-town and sick time.

So, here are "the rules":

For those of you who have been awarded, please post the following rules on your Blog:

1. The winner can put the logo on their Blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other Blogs.
4. Put the links to those Blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the Blogs of those you’ve nominated.

Now, I am a rule-follower, but this is going to be hard. I have, at last count, 116 blogs in my reader. Yikes! I enjoy reading them all for different reasons...but I'll give this a stab, since I like to get awards and I think others probably do, too. =) Lessee...I'll leave out the ones by "famous" people (is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee really going to care if I comment that I've given her this award?) and I'll try to leave out ones that have already received the award as well. Man, this was really, really hard!!!

1. In the eye candy and anecdotal department, Girl with Needles.

2. In the always insightful and often surreal department, casablanca.

3. In the educational department, Knitting Letters. We're not just talking knitting education here, either!

4. In the uplifting and inspiring department, Martha! Martha!. She does not post frequently anymore, but when she does, it's worth it (plus you can gorge yourself on historical posts right now!)

5. In the "things that make you think" department, Rosey Eyes. She's got another blog, too: Confessions of a Southern Foodie, and it's excellent as well.

6. In the "explains things in the level of detail my literal mind needs" department, TECHknitting. Now we are just talking knitting, wait! There's sewing instruction, too!

7. In the yet more eye candy department, Stash Collector.

8. In the everything I needed to know about NASCAR (and perhaps more than I "needed" to know) department, Baa Baa Knit Stitch.

0. Honorable Mention...I'm not going to technically "give" the award to this blog, as a friend wrote it just to chronicle his trip out West in a mobile home with his sister, brother-in-law and two teenaged nieces, but, as you can imagine, it is hilarious and you need to read it! Heads Carolina, Tails California

Expand your horizons...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chicago Wildlife

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Finally, we reach day 2 of the Chicago trip! This day Michael and I started off trying to walk to a local tea place, Argo, but unfortunately he had the wrong location, so after we walked a big loop we were very nearly late to meet his parents for our bus tour of architecture. Ten minutes and some hastily scarfed Corner Bakery breakfast panini later (dang, those eggs were GOOD!), we dashed to the bus, and I managed to only spill a few drops of my precious, precious caffeine on the way, LOL! It was Mighty Leaf tea, so I was in heaven! This tour was also done by the Chicago Architecture Foundation and was also excellent. Our docent gave a running commentary of places we were driving by, while bus driver extraordinaire, Derek, navigated us around high school pep rallies, construction traffic, and Chicago's Finest protecting Senator Obama's estate. We had a few stops along the way as well, which broke things up nicely. One stop was outside the Rookery (le sigh, Wikipedia's picture is better than mine...). From the outside of this 12-story building, you'd never guess the influx of light to the center court: rookery I dearly wish that current-day architects would "waste" many stories of space to bring real sunlight into buildings! I am very blessed that the atrium of my current office building extends the height of the building (11 stories), and the front is all windows!

My other favorite stop was at Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. Unfortunately, we were only allowed to take pictures of the outside: robie This was one of my favorites, because having only really seen his prairie windows, I wondered what the big deal was. Having seen this house, and heard its stories from our fabulous house docent, I finally "get" it. He was all about architecting the complete living experience, from mortaring the bricks so you only see horizontal lines, to making sure the roof design allowed direct sunlight in during most of the winter day, but not most of the summer day, to designing an intimate dining area that "forced" diners to concentrate on each others' faces. Those windows that show up in museums...well, they were just that: windows. Things to look through to appreciate the natural surroundings of the house, not to be stared at as isolated art pieces.

After the tour, we hopped on the subway and went out to see the three hotels that Michael's great uncle owned before the Great Depression. Yup, if it hadn't been for his poor buying choices, as well as a nasty divorce ("He slapped her!" wrote the outraged Tribune), I might have been the wife of a hotel magnate. LOL! But seriously, it was kind of fun to see the progression...the first hotel cost about $1 million, the second about $2 million, and the third about $3.5 million. The first two have been converted into rather dingy apartment buildings, but the third still retains some of its initial glory:
lott 3
lott interior

The hotels were down by the Zoo and the mini-but-enjoyable botanical garden. It was a simply beautiful day for enjoying the lawn in front of the garden. skyline from zoo But we were running so short on time! dashing through We thoroughly enjoyed the garden, and, once again, someone's quirky sense of humor... MOTHRA!

We literally ran through the Zoo also (this is by far the best free zoo I've been to), but I couldn't help snapping a picture of the lionnesses playing. just a big kitty

Hey, look out there, little buddy! That's a big predator mere feet from you! look out! Mr. Squirrel was very thankful for our help chasing away Mr. Hawk. whew! Actually, it was kind of astonishing how many squirrels were romping around. It seemed like there were more and more as it got closer to closing time. I'm pretty sure that the Zoo is taken over by squirrels after closing, though I don't have any good theories as to what they do with all that power...anyone??

We ended our day by using our first CityPass ticket to ride to the top of the Hancock Tower. It may not be the tallest, but I think the views were excellent... skyline ...I especially enjoyed looking out over the Lake.

Wandering back from the Tower, we needed sustenance. And, as the day before we'd already discovered that all eating places close at 8pm, forget about the fact that it's Free Target Thursday at the Museum and hundreds of starved people are streaming out of its doors in search of food, food, ANY FOOD AT ALL...we were worried about finding dinner. Then, we arrived at what may be the most beautiful intersection anywhere... chocolately Uh-hunh. That's my kind of restaurant row. The baked goods at Hershey's would have sold me instantly, but as the Lott family proper runs more on ice cream than heaps-o-icing like me, we ordered at the Ghirardelli cafe. I got the drinking chocolate, which I expected to be like the drinking chocolate I'd had at Maison du Chocolat in Paris and New York, or like the "discount" version that Starbucks had a couple years ago. Instead, I got a cup of melted chocolate bars. Now, that sounds great, but not so much to drink. It was kind of...chunky. After passing the cup around and getting through about 3 oz., I admitted defeat. Fortunately, the nice guy at the counter filled the cup with steamed milk. Then, it was perfect!

On the way back to the hotel, we did a little nighttime sight seeing. Ever since our Hancock Tower audio tour guide David Schwimmer mentioned that whenever a Chicago Tribune journalist goes somewhere no one else at the paper has been, he or she always brings a rock back...and sticks them in the wall of the building (!), I'd wanted to see them. To fulfill my hours-long dream, we walked by the building (it's one of Michael's favorites, so we were going there anyway). Every US state, St. Paul's in London, the Houses of Parliament and Lords, Notre Dame de Paris, the Forbidden City!!! I was thinking, you know, regular rocks, but no! These guys ripped off the good stuff. Come on, you would think somewhere with "Forbidden" in its name would be safe... stolen history ...nope. But then, what do you expect from people working in a building where the architecture quite literally thumbs its nose at you?? jerks!

To close this post, here's a shot of one of my favorite buildings in Chicago...I like to think of it as "double your tower, double your fun"...I give you the Wrigley Building. double your building

More architecture, Lott family history, cavorting squirrels, and chocolate that defeated even me....

Old Geek-outs