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Professional Chicks Goes To Prison

2 Mar

Alternative title: Professional Chicks Drops Abe Off In Prison.

OK so early this week Abe learned he would have to take a deposition in Vienna, Illinois (to be clear, it is pronounced Vy-enna).  Vienna is approximately 6 hours south of Chicago.  It is a town of 1,200.  (I am getting ahead of myself but when we first got to town we asked a couple on the street if there was a coffee shop where we could sit and do some work.  They suggested we try the pizza parlor.  Huh?)  The closest airport is 3 hours away.  There is basically no good way to get there.  After looking into flights to St. Louis just so he could rent a car and drive an additional 3 hours, Abe decided to drive the whole six hours (twelve hours total).  And he recruited me for the road trip.  One benefit of working for myself is that I can take a road trip on a random Thursday, so we work up at 4:30 a.m. and started driving.

There were a few unanticipated aspects of our trip.  First, there are more people on the road than you would expect at 5:00 a.m.  Second, the drive downstate is peaceful, and became increasingly beautiful as we went.  As we drove south, the weather was increasingly warmer – from 30 degrees to 60+ – which makes sense if you think about it.  I mean, by the time we got down to Vienna, we were not far from Nashville and Memphis (these are in different directions, but close to Illinois it turns out).  The trees had leaves on them again.  It was like traveling through the seasons, which was nice.  Half way to Vienna there was a massive cross by the side of the road, too.  It’s hard to appreciate the size here – it was truly towering.

While it was still early, on Kate’s recommendation we stopped in Champaign, Illinois for delicious fresh brewed peppermint tea from Aroma and pastries from Pekaia.  Small town specialty pastries are my favorite, and I had the best almond croissant I have had since Hendrickxs.

Abe’s deposition just so happened to take place in a prison.  The deponent, a witness to a roofing accident, has since landed himself in jail on various armed felony counts.  I felt like I was dropping Abe off at a super weird school where either suits and ties OR orange jumpers are mandatory and the school is surrounded by a large barbed wire fence.

I found a McDonalds, the only place in Vienna with Wi-Fi (love it – by the way, the pizza parlor did not have Wi-Fi), and waited for Abe to get done.  After, we stopped at La Fiesta for some (surprisingly decent) Mexican food despite being in a strip mall, and then headed back 6 hours virtually without stopping.

Twelve hours of driving later, we were back in Chicago just in time for an episode of Battlestar Galactica and more tea.  For some reason, it felt like we had been away from home for a long long time.

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Somewhere In The Middle Of Chicago

6 Jul

Well, more like north of Chicago a ways.  Abe found this:

So This Happened

5 Jul

Yep.  A scooter ride from Chicago to Powers Lake, Wisconsin with Patty and Ryan.  The trip took us about 3 hours each way.  I thought we might die but we didn’t.  It was actually a beautiful, relaxing ride.  Lots of lakes and small towns and lovely homes covered by tall trees.  On the way up, we stopped in a small town for food.  We could find nothing.  And then we found Bulldogs.  And these burgers.  (Mine had mac and cheese on it.  The “Slap Yo Momma” was a favorite, too.  Amazing, obviously.)We crashed at a Comfort Inn for the night – literally the only room left in all of Powers Lake/Lake Geneva.  Sunset was beautiful, even from the parking lot view.In the morning, we had a clear, open ride through incredible towns like Lake Forest, Illinois.  And we were back in the city just in time for fireworks.

Happy Fourth!

Science Discerns The Laws Of Nature

24 May

I have lived in Chicago 10 years and have never been to the Museum of Science and Industry.  It is a fascinating place.  Worth a trip to Chicago in its own right, I think.  (By the way, start with a snack – the place is enormous and you’ll never make it.)

Kate’s cousin Annie works at the Museum (the short, likely inaccurate version of her job description is that she comes up with interactive Museum web applications – it’s the best job ever, whatever it is) and gave us a VIP tour of some of the most popular exhibits.  My favorites included: the Coal Mine exhibit, an interactive, coal mine simulation that explores the coal mining industry in the United States; the U-505 Submarine, the only German submarine in the United States (watch the video of how they got the submarine into the Museum – amazing); Science Storms, where you learn all about the weather; and Yesterday’s Main Street, a Disney-like replica of Chicago in the 1900s.  (We admittedly did not see the popular Body Worlds exhibit or the “timeless collection of 24 real human embryos and fetuses.”  Yikes.)

I especially loved You! The Experience for its focus on health and wellness.  At the interactive Twinkie station, learn about other places you may encounter the ingredients in Twinkies (for example, glass and cleaning agents). I also found my dream home at the Museum – the Smart Home, a fully-functioning eco-friendly home built behind the Museum. It is minimal and resourceful and so beautiful.  Recycled light fixtures, bamboo and grass floors and walls, concrete counter tops and refurbished wood and metal pieces gave it a distinctive, modern but warm feel (no pictures allowed inside).  And the Museum is its backyard.  So so in love with it.     Great day.  Thanks, Conways!

Making a dent in the list of things to do in Chicago.

Rachel Playing Music

13 May

Rachel was amazing as third chair violinist in the Evanston Symphony Orchestra last Sunday!

The concert was held at the Pick-Staiger concert hall in Evanston, on Northwestern University’s Campus.  [Photo credit: Pick-Staiger homepage.]

Pick-Staiger is a beautiful concert hall and the sound in the hall is excellent.  Thanks in part to those floating opaque hexagons, I think.Rachel, the violinist in the bottom left corner of the photo below, has perfect pitch, can literally play any song on the violin (Brittany Spears, anyone?), and once spent the night in the same house as Philip Glass(!).  Rachel also happens to be one of my favorite people ever. The music director and conductor of the Evanston Symphony Orchestra was pretty great, too.  His Rhapsody in Blue on the piano was impassioned and lovely – and he directed at the same time.  In all, the concert was fantastic.  If you live in Chicago, you should try to see an Evanston Symphony Orchestra concert next season – the Orchestra is very good and, as a not-for-profit, could use your support.

North Pond

10 May

Every year for my birthday Abe takes me to North Pond for dinner.  If pressed (and taking all things into account), I have to say North Pond is my very favorite restaurant in Chicago.  And it’s perfect for a birthday dinner.

North Pond is hidden away on the north end of Lincoln Park.  It overlooks, well, a pond, and the entire city, too.  Before it was North Pond, the restaurant space was a little warming shelter for ice skaters.  The outside has preserved a rustic, cabin look. 

The inside is all Craftsman and beautiful.  There are huge windows across one side of the restaurant that bring in a lot of light.  The rest of the restaurant is dimly lit with a nice, soft orange light.

Before you order, you have to order a cocktail.  Not just on principle – these are homemade and delicious.

I chose the Carrot Patch – the carrot and orange in combination was delicious – sweet and citrus-y.  The spices, honey and cilantro gave the drink a nice complexity.  Abe chose the Doctor’s Orders, which was strong and bitter but he liked (drank, anyway) it.

We literally never look at the menu at North Pond.  The tasting menu is always so incredibly designed that ordering on your own seems like a waste.  The wine pairings are nicely done, too and a worthwhile enhancement to the rest of the dining experience.  (If you have a great husband, your menu will wish you a happy birthday, too!)The fluke ceviche was a nice light dish to start the meal.  The fluke was mild and the radish-serrano salad on top gave it a little sharp bite.  The sweet pineapple and sesame cracker added a tropical thing that carried on in the theme of the chilled ceviche.

The mushroom-asparagus dish was incredible.  It tasted like a rich mushroom soup, but the consistency was similar to a flan (I’m not sure why it was green – that was the top layer, only; underneath was a pale grey mushroom color).  The white asparagus and ramps were garden-fresh and meaty.  The potato swirly cracker thing added some crunch to the otherwise smooth texture.  Lovely dish.

The lobster dish was by far my favorite dish I’ve had this year.  I’m pretty sure.  The lobster was poached in a vanilla butter with orange accents.  Amazing.  The cauliflower couscous was buttery, too (from the lobster resting on top of it), and added a nice, crumbly texture to the soft lobster.

This next dish was an extra one prepared by the chef off menu.  I wish I could remember how it was described.  I believe it was seared fluke on caramelized onions.  Along side was a carrot and orange sauce.  It was good, though not my favorite.  I like the little sea salt flakes on top of the fish, though.

The beef dish was prepared perfectly – perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned.  I loved it.  The spinach, mushroom and onion sides were steakhouse-reminiscent, but delicate and properly proportioned.

Dessert was fabulous.  Chocolate and caramel and banana and coconut.  A chocolate-y banana split, just to make a long and delicious story short.We ran out of North Pond to catch a play, but I wish we could have stayed for a while with our various wines and the little treats that continue to come out after your dinner is done. Happy birthday to me.

Dreaming of Horses

3 Apr

On Saturday, Fabi and I went to the Field Museum to see The Horse exhibit.  We loved it.  Turns out, horses are amazing, beautiful animals.

We couldn’t take photos in the exhibit but here are the best things we learned about horses:

– Horses have existed for 50 million years – much longer than humans

– Early horses had toes on (above? not sure) their hooves

– Humans domesticated horses 6,000 years ago

– There are now over 200 breeds of horses

– When the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) first formed in 1866, protecting horses from abuse was one of its most urgent goals

– In 1900, there were 10 times more horses on the streets of New York than there are taxi cabs today

– Only 11 horses have been named the Triple Crown champions since the first winner, Sir Barton, in 1919

– The expression “hands down” means “easily” or “with little or no effort” – the term dates back to the mid-19th century and the world of British horse racing.  Back then, a jockey who found himself way ahead as he approached the finish line would relax his grip on the reins and drop his hands.

– Only upper class Samurai were allowed to ride horses

– The first sighting of men on horseback is thought to have inspired Greek myths of Centaurs

– Horses often befriend house cats and goats

– A donkey is a domesticated African ass

– Horses and zebras are closely related (“zebras are horses’ evil twins,” says Fabi)

– Zebras injure more American zoo keepers than tigers (so Fabi is right)

– “It’s hard to imagine a hero without a horse.”

– Horses are “spirited, decorated, adorned” human companions

The Horse exhibit runs until August 14, 2011.

Later that night, I couldn’t sleep.  And something reminded me of the time in high school Fiona and I got back stage at the Counting Crows concert.  I asked Adam Duritz what inspired “Another Horse Dreamer’s Blues” – and that exchange was likely the highlight of my life up to that point.  Something about an opera he went to in Spain, I think.  It wasn’t a long explanation.  He definitely wasn’t there to talk about that.

(Video credit: Ronnie6657)

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