Such an appropriate topic, because I planned to treat myself that very day! On Friday, Oct. 30, my husband and I went to the Lyric Opera in Chicago for the first time in a few years, to see Cinderella by Rossini. Afterward, we went to have dinner at the Florian Opera Bistro, a habit we developed when we used to go to the opera regularly. The opera and the Bistro were my Halloween “treat”!
First, there was the anticipation: We got off the train downtown at Ogilvie station, and crossed Madison street. I could see the sign on the opera house as we approached.
Photo opp: Having our picture taken by one of the ushers:
The program, which I always read: There is a synopsis as well as a history of the opera:
Afterward, we went to the Florian Opera Bistro for dinner – reviving a former tradition, but also, because this show was a matinee, to avoid rush hour on the train home:
The opera and the Bistro were my Halloween “treat”!
It’s 4:30 on a late October afternoon – the perfect time to go for a walk on this beautiful fall day! The colors are gorgeous, further enhanced by the sun, low in the sky now, adding a glow to the bright colors.
First, which shoes? I am going to wear the walking shoes I’ve been using for many months now, including every day on my trip to Europe. The soles are somewhat worn:
…but as long as I wear socks with good support, they are fine.
Before leaving, I take a drink of water from the bottle I bring with me.
This is what I see as I walk down the stairs into my driveway:
And I’m off! Here are some of the sights in Des Plaines, Illinois that I see in Mile 1:
I finally arrive at Prairie Lakes Park & Fitness Center, which is Mile 1:
I enter the park.
Here are some real beauties!
A man sets up his tripod and camera to take pictures of his pregnant wife. She perches on the top of the bench, waiting to pose.
A jogger passes me on the path:
The path winds around another pond, where the bright colored trees reflect in the water.
A group of Canadian geese and a duck couple swim through the golden ripples.
Last time I saw mallard ducks (about a week ago), they were in a large group, with many males and a fewer number of females. Ducks mate for life, and, I’m told – by my niece, who’s seen it – go through a pairing ritual in which the ducks surround a male and female, who then swim off together. As I contemplate the scene above, I wonder if this couple has already mated, as it would seem, since they are alone together.
Continuing on, I saw people walking their dogs, soccer players, boys on scooters jumping the skateboard ramps, kids playing basketball, and a young mother doing work on her laptop while her son plays on the playground.
I’ve walked the full 3/4 mile loop and take the path back out to the street…
When I get to the intersection of Wolf and Dempster, I’ve walked two miles!
I cross the street, my shadow elongated ahead of me.
I take Rose Street for a block and see more houses decorated for Halloween. Back on Prairie Avenue, I begin to retrace my steps back toward home.
In our city, homeowners pile their leaves alongside the curb, and a truck comes along weekly to scoop them up. Since pick-up is tomorrow, the “lazy” neighbor will probably not have his leaves picked up until next week.
This Halloween display is very bizarre…Mt. Olive? A naked baby in a swinging basket? And a noose? Am I missing a cultural reference here??
Prairie Avenue stretches out ahead of me.
I cross the railroad tracks and admire the tall trees ahead, their trunks and branches burnished by the late afternoon sunlight.
Potawatomie Park – I’m almost home!
The tree above is approximately the three mile mark, but I wait until I reach our deck to count Mile 3:
I did it! Now, time for a snack… (Hmmm, it looks like I also have some leaves to sweep/rake before the next pick up!)
I hope you have enjoyed sharing this 5K walk with me!
All pictures were taken by me with a mobile Galaxy S4 in Des Plaines, Illinois, USA, on October 26, 2015.
Sigtuna, the oldest town in Sweden (founded 980 AD), is not far from the airport. It has a renowned boarding school and is often a destination for church retreats. The name of Sigtuna comes from an old English word for town (tuna), which was originally a Viking word. Its history before the 11th century is recounted in old Norse sagas. Its population is currently about 8,500 inhabitants.
First things first: Lunch
First stop: an inn or house where tables were already set with glasses, tableware, napkins, bread, and plates of salad in a large dining room. Soon after we got there, two more tour groups from the Eurodam arrived to have lunch with us.
After the salad and bread, we were served an entrée: chicken breast over julienned vegetables. For dessert we each got a wedge of chocolate cake that was like eating fudge! We could help ourselves to coffee or tea. On shore, I always had coffee when given the chance, because the free coffee on the ship was American style (to get good coffee I had to pay for it!).
Runic stones and mythology
At a park, Britt showed us stones with runic writing, which came from the Vikings. The runic writing encircles an illustration in the middle. For example, on one stone there was a cross, indicating that the subject was a Christian, and also a weapon. Plaques near the stones gave a translation of the writing. By reading them, I realized that these stones were like gravestones, extolling the virtues of important people who had died. However, it was fairly common for an important man to create stones about himself during his lifetime. One chieftain erected at least five stones dedicated to himself! Britt told us about an ancient creation myth in which a god threw a giant into the air. The giant’s cranium became the sun; to keep it up there, the gods created the directions: north, south, east and west. The giant’s bones became mountains, his blood became rivers and seas. Eventually the gods fashioned the first two people out of tree trunks, and they were endowed with life, soul, and intelligence. Their names were Ask and Embla. Hell was a cold place of snow and ice – nothing else.
Thor was a hammer-swinging god, associated with storms, thunder and lightning. The word “thunder” derives from the Norse word “Thor.” Odin was the god of wisdom, who learned from suffering. He was associated with healing, death, knowledge, and the runic alphabet, among other things.
The ruin of a church
We saw a couple of these stones, then crossed the street to see the ruin of an old church. High up on one of the remaining walls was another runic stone. In those days, people would sometimes use stones with writing on them as building materials, not realizing their future archaeological value!
St. Mary’s (Mariakyrkan) Lutheran church
Next, we visited a now Lutheran church dated from the 13th century, which is in remarkably good condition, an example of brick Gothic architecture. It was renovated in the early 20th century and then again in the 1960s. Surrounding the church is a burial ground.
Inside was dark and peaceful. The walls were painted with designs as well as Biblical figures and scenes. Light slanted in through the stained glass panes of arched windows.
In front, to the left of the altar was the tombstone of a family, most likely a prominent one, with the couple carved on top. Next to the carving of the man was one child (a son). Next to the carving of the woman were five children (five daughters).We then were free to walk around town – little shops along a couple of streets, the Town Hall, and off to the left, Malaren Lake, on which Sigtuna is situated. We went into the Town Hall, to see the contraption put on people who were taken to jail because they were drunk. There were two rooms inside – one room was lined with chairs, where people could wait for an audience with the officials. This room also had furnishings of a dining room and a green marble fireplace.The
other room would have been used as a jail for temporarily holding delinquents.
After that, we strolled down the street with lots of souvenir shops.
Then we headed down to the lake on a sloping street past picturesque houses (some quite large) with pretty gardens.
Along the lake was a park, including a spiral path with a faux runic stone in the middle, a miniature golf course that used tiny versions of local buildings for the holes, and many ducks who hoped for tidbits from an old couple sitting on a bench. There were lots of ducks in the lake as well, and I took a nice picture of a little girl on the lake shore trying to attract them.
We met our guide, Britt, at our bus and proceeded to Gamla Stan, which means “Old Town” in Swedish, stopping briefly at a lookout point first, with a view of the harbor. Stockholm doesn’t get a lot of cargo ships (perhaps because there is a larger cargo facility in Malmö), but it does get lots of cruise ships, and there are a lot of ferries between Stockholm and Helsinki, Tallinn, and St. Petersburg.
½ of the city of Stockholm is surrounded by salt water, ½ is fresh water from Lake Mälaren, whose easternmost bay is Riddarfjärden which is surrounded by central Stockholm. (More on this lake, and pictures, in Day 2). Lake Mälaren is the third largest lake in Sweden, and provides drinking water for seven towns. The city occupies 14 islands. (Holm means island.) In the metropolitan area, about 1/3 is green, 1/3 is water, and 1/3 is concrete or buildings. One island that used to be a royal hunting ground now has a zoo with Nordic animals.
In Gamla Stan we stopped in a main square flanked by the Stockholm Cathedral (we didn’t go in) and the Royal Palace (Sweden has a constitutional monarchy). The square fills up with tour buses and there was a lot of construction, including scaffolding on part of the palace.
In spite of the monument to Gustav IV (who was also the last Swedish king of Finland), the most popular monarch was Gustav III Adolph, Gustav IV’s father. He enacted many cultural reforms, and established freedom of religion and of the press. He had a dramatic death in 1792, when he was mortally wounded by gunshot at a masquerade ball. He died 13 days later. Verdi’s opera Un ballo en maschera is based on this story.
We walked from there to a church, behind which, our guide Britt said, was the “largest statue in Sweden – you’ll be amazed!” There was another tour group already there when we arrived, crowded around something that couldn’t be seen above their heads. As they moved on, we saw a small statue about 6 inches high on a small platform, called “The Iron Boy”.
The sculptor meant it only to be a self-portrait: a boy who can’t sleep so he sits on his bed and looks up at the moon. However, it’s taken on an almost mythic reputation. Rubbing his head (which is now shiny from so much rubbing) is supposed to bring good luck. Britt said either you come back to Stockholm, you’ll find love, or something else I can’t remember – I rubbed his head because I want and intend to come back to Stockholm! Also in the winter, people knit hats and scarves for him and dress him warmly. All this for a tiny sculpture without a face!
Britt then led us down the oldest street in Stockholm. She stopped at a doorway marked “No. 7” and told us to look upward. High up on the windows protruded little concave boxlike things which Britt told us were actually mirrors, allowing a person to spy on their next door neighbors to see if anything improper was happening! Big Brother of the 17th century!
Some of the little streets in Old Town were extremely narrow – imagine navigating them in the winter when there are only a few hours of daylight! Down some of these alleyways were pretty gardens bordering small hidden courtyards.
We also saw the leaning houses on Stortorget, another plaza in Gamla Stan. The 2nd one, particularly (yellow) – it leans 90 cm!
The Nobel museum is also on Stortorget, along with benches and sidewalk cafes filled with people enjoying this beautiful August day, their last week of summer vacation!
Because there are months in which there is little daylight – in Stockholm, sunrise is about 9 a.m. in December, and sunset is about 3:30 p.m. (farther north, there are only two hours of daylight in December and January!) – the Swedes are sun worshippers: they take advantage of daylight hours and warm weather in the summer to spend time outside. The June Solstice is a national holiday; many people leave the city. Many people own summer homes they go to during summer vacations – those that don’t have one, go to the cottages of relatives or friends.
Unlike the northern part of the United States, Stockholm doesn’t get much snow in the winter; although temperature-wise, its winters are much like ours.
Stortorget, incidentally, is the oldest square in Stockholm, its historical center from which the city expanded. There was originally a wall surrounding the town and as the city grew, parts of the wall were knocked down and rebuilt farther out.
We walked toward the Lutheran cathedral, Storkyrkan (also known as Stockholm Cathedral), with a clock on the face of its tower, where bells tolled the hour. Nearby, I saw a funny, old fashioned telephone booth that no longer contains a phone, merely a silver plate with graffiti covering the spot where the telephone had been.
We then returned to our tour bus – a bit disappointing as I wanted to see more of Old Town Stockholm, but we were on our way to another city about half an hour drive from Stockholm. I hoped to be able to spend more time in Stockholm on Day 2.
Autumn is such a beautiful time of year! Lately the weather has been pleasant so I am taking advantage of it to take long walks. Today I took a variety of tree pictures, which I am sharing with you here. All the pictures were taken with my cell phone camera.
Solo Duo Mini-duet in red Trio in orange Tree-O! This tree’s branches form an “O” where it has been trimmed around the telephone wires.
Ensemble in red: Each townhouse seems to have its own red tree in front. Shades of red
‘Fro! The juxtaposition of two trees, the one behind bare of leaves makes it look like the tree has a frizzy hairdo! Precocious! Nests Close up and personal Crowning glory! I hope you have enjoyed walking with me through my neighborhood!
Where: Des Plaines, Illinois, USA When: October 21, 2015 Weather Conditions: Overcast but unseasonably warm Camera: Galaxy S4 cell phone
Our last destination on this, our only day in Finland, was in Porvoo, a town of about 50,000 inhabitants. First we drove past a pretty cemetery, which our guide told us was a “hero cemetery” for those killed in wars – this well-maintained cemetery contained gravestones uniform in size and shape. Boxes of pretty red flowers were placed neatly on each grave.
Our guide passed out maps of Porvoo with numbers indicated places of interest. One of these, which she strongly recommended, was Brunberg, a candy store specializing in different kinds of chocolate. We headed there first, patiently waited our turn while plenty of other tourists sampled chocolates and made their selections. I noticed a map of the world on the wall, with hundreds of pins stuck in it. Each pin represented where a visitor to the store was from.
When it was our turn, we did sample some chocolates, but left without buying any: “The last thing we need is more sweets!” my husband reminded me. We had already bought pastries and a box of cookies at the market in Helsinki that morning.
We strolled down the shopping street, went in a few stores, and admired the simple beauty of this town. As everywhere we’d been, people were taking advantage of the beautiful summer weather sitting at outdoor cafes and strolling the streets, although it was not nearly as crowded as the major cities had been, which was nice for a change!
We then took another street to the cathedral which wasn’t as steep as the more direct route. There were schoolchildren sitting outside drawing – three young boys were drawing a rectangular monument next to the church, and three older girls were drawing the cathedral itself. An Asian man with an expensive camera was taking pictures of them, which the girls allowed with embarrassed smiles. The cathedral was open so we went inside. The walls and ceilings were painted with designs and there were a few family coats of arms hanging on the wall.
Back outside, we admired the view from on top of the hill before descending the steep street that led straight down to the bridge we had crossed when we entered the town.
I like to notice small things or everyday things when I’m traveling that most people don’t notice in their quest to take a picture of that majestic cathedral or beautiful scenery. For example, in Porvoo, Finland (a town of about 50,000 inhabitants), we were walking on the main shopping street, when I saw this children’s chair (I tried to sit in it and didn’t fit!) with a crown affixed to the top, so a child could imagine she was a princess on her throne, perhaps:
The notches on the back of the chair presumably allow the crown to be adjustable for different sized children.
Flowers are often beautiful, but sometimes their beauty is enhanced by focusing on just one flower. While my post about Savijarvi Farm contained many pictures of the “main attractions” – the horses, the furnishings of the house, the food – this picture of a flower is one of my favorites:
Also on Savijarvi Farm was this row of mailboxes, one for each family living there:
Noticing these small things, I think, gives me a connection to the place I wouldn’t otherwise have. While most of my travel pictures are interesting tourist attractions, I love discovering these (extra)ordinary things of daily life.
We turned off the highway onto a windy, hilly road reminiscent of those in northern Wisconsin that lead from main highways to peaceful places among trees and lakes. This led us to Savijarvi Farm. On the farm, we were greeted by Agnetha (pronounced “Ahn-yeh-ta”), a white-haired, very slim elderly woman who couldn’t be over 70, but many years of farm work made her look older. The first time we saw her, she was standing on the porch of the main house waving her arms trying to direct the bus driver’s maneuvering into a parking spot in front of the house.
When we got out, a young woman dressed in a long skirt and a brown pinafore appeared with a tray of flute glasses filled with a light colored, cool liquid, which she told us was elderflower juice. It was cold with a mild sweet taste – very refreshing! We gathered in a yard behind a barrier of flowers and tall grasses, as we viewed a mare with her 1-month old foal scampering after her. The foal was missing hair – patches of its downy baby coat was falling out to be replaced by adult horse hair. They are both of the official Finnish breed, the “Finnhorse” or “Finnish Universal” – a horse bred to serve all of Finland’s needs for both riding and agriculture. The goals were to develop a heavier working horse, a lighter trotter type, and a versatile riding horse. The Finnhorse was declared Finland’s official national breed in 2007. The breed is defined as a strong, versatile horse with a pleasant disposition. The most typical color is chestnut, as were the mare and foal we were seeing, often with white markings. The mane and tail are often flaxen, lighter than the coat, an example of which I took a picture of later. (Source) The origins of the Finnhorse go back centuries, but in the 16th century, other horse breeds were introduced into Finland, and cross-breeding took place. The result was a somewhat larger, sturdier horse. In the 1980s, the breed’s numbers had drastically diminished, so that there was a fear of extinction. Savijarvi is a working horse farm dedicated to breeding and training this beautiful breed.
The handler walked the horses around the yard and had the mare stand still for admiration and photos. Next the handler brought out two Shetland ponies, which we were told are a bit smaller than the Shetland ponies we are familiar with. Agnetha told the story that when she and her siblings were children, they all wanted a pony and pleaded with their father to get one. But he said, “There will be no ponies on this farm!” Later, however, when he became a grandfather, his young grandchildren also asked if they could get a pony and, like any indulgent grandpa, he gave in to their wishes! So the farm now has three Shetland ponies. In fact, 27 family members of four generations now live on the farm, in separate houses for each nuclear family. The youngest resident is 66 days old, and the oldest resident – Agnetha’s father – is 86. He lives in the yellow “manor” house. Agnetha said that having her father live by himself in the yellow house keeps him nearby, but also separate enough to maintain family harmony!
One of the family members, a young woman with a small son, 4-5 years old and wearing a protective helmet, had been leading him around on one pony and while we were watching, the boy gently brushed the pony’s hair.
. Inside the house, a dining room had been set up for us upstairs “so we could see more of the house”. Many people lined up first, though, to use the WC’s downstairs. When it was my turn, I observed that the soft toilet paper (like American t.p.!) had something written on each square, each one different, but completely unintelligible to me. Upon inquiry, I found out it was a poem!
Agnetha explained the cooking philosophy and a detailed description of how she made the soup they were going to serve us, as bread baskets were put on the table by the girls we saw earlier (not sure if they’re family members or employees). All of the farming and gardening is organic – no chemicals used. Also the milk used is lactose-free. The food is made from natural and mostly local ingredients. The soup was stinging nettles soup – the creaminess was from lactose-free milk, potatoes, carrots, etc. that were blended together. Agnetha talked quite a bit about the stinging nettle and its curative properties. I was wary, still remembering having been “stung” by such nettles when we were in England in 1999! The only part that actually stings, she said, is the edge, and some people become immune to it after awhile, like Agnetha herself. The flat part of the nettle leaf can be used as a balm by rubbing it on a cut or wound.
The soup was actually
delicious! Filling and nutritious – we felt neither stuffed nor hungry after having a bowl of it.
There were some nice green painted cabinets and dishes on the wall, but the dining room felt open with windows flanking one side. Dale and I took many pictures inside the house.The dessert was to be served on the terrace, adjacent to another dining room with a long table. It consisted of “birthday cake” (a Finnish recipe), with caramel sauce in a pitcher to pour over it, raw rhubarb with the red skin stripped off so that it isn’t sour – and berries – mostly currants, but also blueberries and raspberries, some fresh and some frozen. What they call “birthday cake” consists of three layers of white cake made of the farm’s own wheat flour, milk, sugar, and eggs
(yes, dessert can have sugar!). In between each layer, to soften it was a filling made of strawberry smoothies! And of course, there was coffee to serve ourselves to accompany our dessert. Once again, the dessert was absolutely delicious without being heavy.
Afterward, we went out to see the area where the horses are kept and trained. Agnetha explained a lot of things about how they work with the horses. They start when the foal is 2 months old. They teach them jumping, trotting, and pulling a small carriage, among other things. The horses are not raced, except with carriages. If an animal gets sick, they use homeopathic medicine on the farm; if that doesn’t solve the problem or it cannot be solved by natural methods, they call a veterinarian. There is only one old building on the farm that has been there since 1450 – a small stone shed, near the main house, where we were standing earlier to view the horses and ponies.
All the other buildings were destroyed at one time or another by fires. Because of the unusual summer – cold in June and July, and now warmth in August – the wheat has not yet come up. Agnetha said sometimes moose or even a bear get into the mature wheat!
If you have been to a foreign country name those you have been to?
Here’s a list of all the countries I’ve been to. The countries with an * next to them I have been to more than once. They are listed in roughly the order in which I visited them. I do not count countries in which I was only in the airport, seaport, or bus/train terminal.
First, my home country: U.S.A.
Puerto Rico (USA)
This is a total of 23 countries (since I am considering Puerto Rico, England and Scotland to be separate countries)! I have made 5 separate trips to Brazil and lived there for a total of about 2 ½ years. I have made 4 separate trips to Mexico. I’ve been to England 3 times, and all the other * countries, I have been to twice.
By the way, 23 countries is very few, in my opinion! I need to do some more traveling soon!
Is the glass half empty or half full? What type of glass is it and what is in the glass?
The glass is half full – there’s still a lot I want to do, but I am so far satisfied with my life. The glass is my bucket list. In the glass are all the things I have accomplished and the people in my life. Still “to do” on my bucket list is travel (because I can never get enough travel) and publish my writing, including the book I am working on about my family history and genealogy. If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?
I would not only have one food on the list – that would be boring! The foods I would want would be an endless supply of Honey Crisp apples, fresh peaches, strawberries and raspberries, mangoes, guavas, ice cream, chocolate (in any form), cheese, potatoes (any kind in any form), lima beans, fresh tomatoes, black beans, chicken, pizza (no olives, please!)
List: List at least five places worth shopping.
Costco (food, clothes, household goods, electronics)
Kohl’s (department store – reasonable prices, good choices. I always buy my purses there, and most of my clothes too!)
Trader Joe’s (specialty food)
Mariano’s (specialty food)
Aldi (cheap food, good produce)
Shop and Save (foreign food, especially Eastern European)
amazon.com (books & CDs, Kindle downloads, other stuff)
Barnes and Noble (books)
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
I am grateful for beautiful, sunny days during the end of September. I am looking forward to autumn colors and taking many pictures!
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Boundaries.”
Kitty TV: On a snowy day in January, my cat, Hazel, gazes out into the white wilderness from a favorite window. Both the window and the icicles provide the boundaries which keep her inside, safe and warm from the cold winter outside, while allowing her to engage her endless fascination with the world out there.
Look carefully and what do I see:
a spider weaving a boundary between her and me.
For an unlucky bug, a web’s boundary is the seal;
its fate: for the spider, a tasty meal.
Savijarvi Farm, Finland:
A hedge of flowering plants separates us from the Finnish horses on display. This natural boundary allows us to see the mare and her foal, while giving the horses a sense of safety, protected by the tall plants from human spectators.