Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween ~ On The Road Again!!!

On this, our last morning at home for nearly six months, we were up early (aw c'mon, you know that 7:00 a.m. is VERY early for us!) to finish the long task list before leaving. We spent most of the day yesterday loading clothes, shoes, coats, The Girls' supplies, food in the freezer/refrigerator/pantry, skis, boots, toiletries, tools, books, magazines, games, beach bag, projects, various electronics, movies, get the idea. I ran errands and visited with our next-door BFFs, who do so much for us while we're gone. In addition, Rich always has quite a list of tasks specific to the motorhome. There are so many things to consider when leaving your home for so long. Anyway, while having my coffee and disconnecting my computer, I glanced out the window and across the golf course to see this lovely morning sky.

Before we could leave though, there were still bags of last minute things to load, dishes to do, disconnect the battery in the van, bathrooms to clean one last time, drapes to be drawn against winter's cold, water valves to be shut off, thermostat to set, water heater shut off, server/printers/Wi-Fi to be shut down, dehumidifier hooked up to a drain, bathroom cabinet doors opened so pipes don't freeze, trash to take out for today's get the idea. Is it worth all this detail, all this work? You betcha! We were on the road before 10:00 a.m. which was our goal.

While we were driving this morning, I copied my favorite Halloween pumpkin from an e-mail my sister sent and posted it on FB, then sent it to our grands. Happy Halloween to all my favorite ghouls and goblins!

When I realized that we would be driving down I-65 through Indiana, I posted that to my blogger friend, Amy, who lives there. She replied and was available so she and her little one, Jack, stopped by WalMart where we parked to eat lunch and to pick up drinking water for the girls (we always forget something!). This was my very first face-to-face meeting with any of my blogger friends! Check out her blog, one of my long-time favorites, at and you will see that I do have some liberal friends...giggle! Thanks Amy for stopping by; it was so very cool to meet you and your adorable son, Jack!

For much of the rest of the day, we drove in a light rain. We crossed from Indiana into Ohio around 6:00 p.m. and are parked for the night near Dayton. This is the last night of the season at this campground; lots of them will close tomorrow. We are excited to see what tomorrow brings as we drive across the rest of Ohio and West Virginia into Virginia. Once we get there, it appears that campgrounds are open year-round...hoping!

Lovin' Life ~~ On the Road 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Full Weekend!

On Friday Rich wrapped Christmas gifts that I had bought for our Illinois families. We have both really worked to be well prepared for the months that we'll be gone and having some Christmas done so that there is less to mail was part of that prep.

While running errands, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant that we had not yet tried. It's called Mago Grill & Cantina; the offerings on their menu are unique and everything we ordered was delicious. Have you ever seen a taco salad presented so beautifully? I loved it!

Saturday evening Jack and Nance, our Card Playing BFFs, were here for dinner and again...not on photo was taken to commemorate the evening. Also, again...we women LOST at cards, big time. Hmmm, maybe there is a pattern here after all.

Saturday was a huge day for our Jackson though. This was the year that he got to go to Alabama with his folks for the homecoming football game. Jackson LOVES football; Jackson LOVES Alabama...ROLL TIDE!!! Here are a few shots I copied from their FB posts.

Jackson, before the game!

Half Time!

Sandee, Jackson, Shawn

Lucky for me Sandee's friend, Rory, is my FB friend. Rory posted this photo of all the kids on their way to a soccer game on Saturday. Dylan and Shelby stayed with their family for those few days and obviously they had a great time too!

Marianne, Greg, and Jenny came on Sunday for brunch. This was the last of my cooking ...whew... for a while so I made my (and everyone else's) favorite breakfast casserole along with fruit and coffee cakes. We have had several great evenings visiting with friends and family around this table over the past few weeks and we will miss seeing all of them over the next few months.

As they were getting ready to leave, I took a few more shots of Jenny and Greg. I especially liked this one. Yes, Greg, this one was better than the ones taken after I asked you to remove your hat...sigh...

Today, we re-arranged some cabinets in the RV and Rich installed shelves that he custom made which will give us yet more storage. Every inch of storage is valued in a motorhome the size of ours and, since we will be traveling through various weather conditions, lots of clothes are required. I got to have a nice visit with my next door BFF, packed away the fall decorations, did some cleaning and laundry, and pulled out clothes and supplies to be loaded tomorrow. The excitement and anticipation is building!!!

Lovin' Life ~~ Getting Ready


The family that naps together...giggle! Rich has been working hard on so very many tasks to prepare for our trip. Bella? Bella just likes napping. This was the scene here a little while ago.

Our RV is parked in the pool lot with a sign in the window "Hurricane Delay" so that the security patrol understands why it's there. We are taking an extra, relaxed day to finish preparations and load while the strong winds of "Sandy"  and the resultant Super Storm pass over us tomorrow. We should be clear to leave on Wednesday. On the news earlier, we saw a video of surfers surfing Lake Michigan at Chicago...already there is enough wind coming across the lake to generate waves like that.

Later, I'll catch up with the past few days but I LOVE this photo and couldn't wait to share it!

Lovin' Life ~~ And Fun Shots

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lunch at the Arboretum

I love days like this! My COD BFF, Carol, and I met at Morton Arboretum for lunch to catch up on all the news in our lives now that we are both retired. We worked in the same department at the college for the last several years that I was there. She retired a year ago...because she'!...obviously

We were happily chatting away when I glanced out the windows overlooking Meadow Lake just in time to see my first boss at COD, Judy, and her husband, Jim, walking past. She had noticed me first and was waving. They both still work at COD and were taking a lunchtime walk around the lovely lake. I am so glad that they came inside to visit for a little while. If she had not hired me, I would not have met Carol AND I would not have been able to cobble together my various little segments of public employment into a small but decent pension. Yet another person in my life to be forever grateful for having met. By the way...that whole being hired at the college thing was one huge coincidence...another story...I have so many.

You may have noticed that they are all wearing fall clothes: pants and sweaters, real shoes too I might add. Not me, I was wearing short sleeves, capris, and flips...yep, it's time for me to head south and west!

As Carol and I were leaving, FOUR AND A HALF HOURS LATER, this tree caught my eye. I have noticed them this fall and love the green that remains at the end of each branch after the rest turns to that rusty, cinnamon color. Isn't it lovely? There was a sign identifying it as a Shawnee Brave Bald Cypress...what a name for a tree!!!

What I am especially excited about this evening is that I finally remembered to take pictures of these special folks today!

Lovin' Life ~~ Catching Up With Old Friends

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Perfect Gift

Much earlier than he usually comes, yesterday morning the UPS driver delivered a package to Rich from the kids. Tucked into a gift bag inside the package were three gifts. Two were books about hiking and exploring the mountains near our winter home from which he has already read me a couple of interesting things. But the third...the third was the perfect gift. It's a four part frame with a photo of each of our grands plus the part that made it absolutely perfect.

Here is a closeup of the fourth part of the frame. Each of the kids wrote a brief greeting and all of them included words with special meanings and memories shared with their Gpa! I took a few pictures then Rich asked me to wait and came back out with this hat on...the one from the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens, the scene of the Chihuly glass exhibit that has been such a funny and memorable running story for the five of us for the past four years. I sent that photo to their phones immediately! Such a personal message from each of perfect is that!?!

The rest of the day was so busy and our errands took so much longer than I anticipated, that I didn't even have the breakfast dishes done or all the food prepared when our RVing BFFs came for dinner...NEVER! I HAVE NEVER been so disorganized when folks came for dinner...good thing they're such good friends! Also, again, not one photo taken the entire evening. I am really slipping!

Larry loved the cookies! After they got home last night, JoAnn stayed up to make a new band for a bracelet I had. I love the pendant-like center which is a frame for thirty cute interchangeable magnets celebrating occasions, moods, and thoughts; but, the bracelet part just didn't work for me. Larry brought it by this morning and now it fits perfectly. She made it from these lovely natural stones. She is an artist of several mediums and now makes jewelry to sell at shows here and in AZ where they have spent the winter for several years now.

Even though yesterday was harried, Rich and I were keenly aware of the date, remembering his mom, my dad, and Pauline who all shared a birthday on October 22. Click here to read last year's post on their birthdays.

Lovin' Life ~~ In All Its Busyness! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've always been a pretty good baker, not a pro but pretty darned good. Except for chocolate chip cookies. No matter what recipe I tried, and there have been many, my cookies would bake up very thin. I wanted chocolate chip cookies that you could sink your teeth into, like other people bake.

After making huge batches of Sloppy Joes and Taco Meat for the RV freezer today, I tried yet another recipe for chocolate chip cookies this evening. THEY.ARE.DELICIOUS! THEY.ARE.THICK! THEY.ARE.CRISPY.AND.CHEWY! THEY.ARE.PERFECTION!

Eighty-seven cookies in the batch and not a one melted into a paper-thin nothing of a cookie with chocolate chips sticking up all over them like...well no reason to be gross!

My recipe references a blog that I have never followed so I have no idea where I got the link to this recipe but I am so glad I gave it a try...YAHOOTEY!

Lovin' Life ~~ And Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh What a Millennium Park Night!

Weeks ago we had purchased tickets for the world premiere of an evening long work, One Thousand Pieces, inspired by Marc Chagall's America Windows, choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo, and performed by the dancers of both Hubbard Street Dance Chicago companies. Our niece, Kristen, is the General Manager of Hubbard Street and I had followed her excitement about this work through her posts.

This evening was also a celebration of Marianne's birthday. As we neared the city, the slanting afternoon light of autumn provided yet another glorious view of the city so I'm going to begin with those photos. I haven't forgotten that I posted city shots recently but I never tire of them, do you?

Approaching the city, dark clouds provided great contrast highlighting the antennae on the tops of the Hancock Building and the Sears/Willis Tower. There is a very brief opportunity, a mere second or two, for shooting the skyline while driving in on I-55 without getting lots of foreground clutter and I caught it perfectly last evening.

Lake Shore Drive with Soldier Field on the right. The clouds were moving on toward the lake resulting in this lovely sky.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was performing in its home theater, the Harris, which is in Millennium Park. Exiting the underground parking there, we were greeted with this view. After we moved to Chicago, for a couple of years Rich worked in the building on the left with the straight vertical lines. It is the Aon Building but like the Sears/Willis Tower is often known by its original name, the Amoco Building.

On the way to the restaurant we walked over to Cloud Gate, one of my favorite works of art in the city. The diamond shaped building behind Marianne and Rich is the Stone Container Building, now named the London Guarantee Building....geesh, who can keep track of all these name changes?

The scenes reflected on Cloud Gate, commonly referred to as The Bean, change constantly with the seasons, the light and the weather...magnificent on any day.

Our dinner reservation was at Park Grill, also located in Millennium Park. As we walked from Cloud Gate to the restaurant, this was the view looking west down Madison Street. At the end of this urban canyon the clouds were tinged with shades of orange and gray but I could only capture those colors with a tight zoom so I decided to remove all the color from this street scene...what do you think?

Here is a slice of the setting sun coloring the clouds that we could see at the far end of Madison St.

Dinner was delicious at Park Grill but the Red Wine Risotto, with mushrooms, cheese and their own handmade sausage, did not photograph well at all. Rich and I both had that, Marianne had salmon, and we all shared the Bacon & Cheese Mashed Potatoes. They ordered Raspberry Creme Brulee for dessert.

By the time we finished dinner, night had fallen. Pritzker Pavilion is featured in the background of this next photo, taken as we walked back to the Harris Theater.

And then...the most amazing contemporary dance three parts!

Part 1
Muted reflections of the dancers in movable blue glass panels reminiscent of America Windows.

Part 2
Water on the floor sparkled like broken glass and droplets flew through the air following the movements of the dancers. Yes, they were performing on water! The dancers entering and exiting the stage through the three fog screens was absolutely breathtaking.

Kristen found us before the performance and again during the intermission.

Part 3
Since we had not seen any signs about cameras & no one had confiscated my camera during the first two parts, I boldly took more photos during the final one. Unfortunately, there were heads in my line of sight but you can clearly see the floating panels of blue glass that sent reflected light dancing throughout the theater. All the sets were so simple yet so perfect.

I love how the movement of the dancers was captured in this shot!

The dancers glided almost invisibly onto and off the stage throughout the performance. There were a number of duets, there were times when all the dancers were on stage, and there were various numbers of dancers performing at other times...but it was all a part of one performance. If only I had the words...

In this photo you can see the reflection of the dancers in the glassy shine of the floor. I was mesmerized by the connection between the dancers and their reflections throughout Part 3. I don't have the phrasing to adequately express the beauty of this work and the incredible strength, poise, control, flexibility, and grace of the dancers. I am so happy to have seen this.

Driving out of the city on Lake Shore Drive, I took this shot of the Field Museum as we approached it.

Lovin' Life ~~ The Art and the Beauty of the City

Friday, October 19, 2012

Oh Where Oh Where?

Does the Time Go?

This past week has rushed along in a flurry of family and friends and home and cooking and planning for our upcoming trip. When last we posted at this space, Rich and I were driving down home to spend a few days...that was last Friday.

Saturday morning I picked up what has become a tradition, Hardee's breakfast for all of us, and brought it back to Wayne & Mary's. We got to spend a casual day visiting with them, what a treat. Their back yard is fenced and the girls loved getting to run around while Wayne grilled pork patties for dinner to go with the green beans, potatoes, and her famous meatballs that Mary made...yum yum!

We also went to the nursing home twice to see Mom. Oh man, can she ever tell some whopper stories courtesy of the Alzheimers. It is fascinating to hear how her mind is twisting and turning events from the past into fictional compilations. Some of her stories are horrifying, floods and snakes and sleeping in the barn with the horse and guns, but not to her. She tells them with matter-of-fact clarity. I can usually get her memory focused back onto something that we did and she will seem to remember those good times. But then she will slip back into her anger with us or onto one of her imaginary stories. That's just the way it is and we just have to trust that our visits are somehow meaningful to her. At her request, we took her a banana split from Dairy Queen, a favorite treat, when we went back out after dinner.

Sunday morning we visited Mom again for a couple of hours before the four of us went to Virden to visit with Uncle Don, Aunt Audrey, and my cousin, Kathy. 

Kathy is a baker, I've mentioned that before; she outdid herself again baking all the pies below. In the photo of the guys above, my favorite coffee cake is safely packaged for transport in the white box and two loaves of her artisan bread sit next to it. Additionally, Aunt Audrey had baked that huge tray of her delicious sugar cookies!

But that's not all, not by a long shot. Kathy had baked and brought the hamburger buns; Aunt Audrey had make chilli, her family favorite spaghetti, and the best home-cooked hamburgers I've tasted in decades. She also had salad, etc, etc. If food is love, and I certainly believe it is, we were well-loved that afternoon.

My cousin, Betty, dropped by too and then left for a few minutes after dessert to bring back another great treat...her two month old grandson, Carter. What a doll that boy is!

He sure is giving Rich a look in this photo. Do you think he's tired of being photographed all the time? teehee Getting to hold him was such a thrill for me; it's been a while now since we have had a baby around and I do love babies!

Mary loves babies too!

Uncle Don is Mom's brother. He is three years younger than she but, unlike her, he is doing great. Neither he nor Aunt Audrey look or act anywhere near their actual ages. They live with their youngest daughter in Florida much of the time so we have made a point of seeing them whenever we could while they're home these few months.

When we got back to Carlinville, we spent the rest of the evening with Mom, taking her some of those fresh-baked cookies. She was in rare form and especially funny when I tried to take pictures, sticking her tongue out and blowing air at me...honestly, you just have to find the humor in all of it.

My high school BFF, Dorothy, drove all the way to Carlinville Monday morning to meet me for breakfast and a few special hours spent catching up.

Wayne and I spent the afternoon taking care of some family business. Mary works and he bowls on Monday evenings so that is the only day they don't visit Mom. Rich and I spent our last evening there with her after letting the girls run around the yard again. Just look at those beige blurs...giggle!

Tuesday morning we said our goodbyes to Wayne and Mary, wishing his beloved Cardinals luck in the post season (well, I did a Cubs fan, Rich was silent on the subject...haha!). While there this weekend, I had set up accounts for all of us on Skype after Shelby had been asking me to do that for a couple of weeks. On the drive home, Shelby and I chatted and I could show her Grandpa driving and share scenes of the beautiful fall colors as we drove...what amazing technological times we live in!!! Our grands were still on fall break until Wednesday.

The rest of this week passed in a blur of unloading the motorhome, cleaning house, doing laundry, Christmas shopping, menu planning & shopping, having our next door BFFs, Vic and Sandee, over for dinner and cards last night (AGAIN the guys took us down in cards...rematch next spring, definitely!), attending a meeting of the Christmas Party Committee and turning in the flyers I designed inviting all of our neighborhood residents, driving into the city to shop at our favorite Polish deli, and beginning to cook and freeze dishes for our upcoming motorhome trip...whew! My only regret this week is that I did not take even one photo last night; in my defense, I was having too much fun to even think about grabbing my camera!

Our calendar is nearly filled with appointments, chores, family celebrations, meals with friends, and trip preparations up until the day we leave but I'll try to remember to take photos of some of these fun times.

Lovin' Life ~~ Lovin' Our Time With Family & Friends