CFFC: Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

The theme of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is cold. Very timely, since Chicagoland has had an unseasonably cold November, with our first major snowfall (8 inches where I live) on November 26. Here is how our neighborhood looked (from the comfort of my living room! 🙂 ) that morning.
My husband was out with our snow blower, as were many of the neighbors.
Of course, this is nothing compared to the Arctic vortex that descended on the Midwest during the winters of 2014 and 2015. The icicles never had a chance to melt and we had some huge ones!
The icicles hanging from our eaves had their beautiful moments, reflecting the sunlight.
When it’s very cold outside, I like to go to a local Mexican restaurant which serves a delicious caldo de pollo (chicken soup) with big chunks of white meat, potatoes, carrots, and green beans. They serve it with a tray of chopped onions, limes, and cilantro, and a plate of rice to add at will! This was my bowl last Wednesday evening.
To get in the mood, here’s a seasonal song that is played a lot at this time of year.


A Photo a Week: Things With Wings

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week challenge this week is Things With Wings.

Yesterday a friend and I visited Christkindlmarkt in Chicago – an annual German market that sets up for the holiday season at the Daley Plaza. Someone must have been generous with bird seed to attract this plethora of pigeons!
Then today it was warm enough to walk outside and while walking a park district track, I came across this lone bird – a killdeer, someone informed me. I wondered if he/she felt cold.
There are more exotic birds in Tanzania, such as the ubiquitous maribou stork,
a colorful tiny bird whose name I don’t know,
and this well-camouflaged pair in an acacia tree.
Since it’s almost Christmas, I thought of this Native American nativity scene that we saw at Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson three years ago. This is a very unique-looking angel!
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Thinking of warmer days, I remembered all the monarch butterflies I saw this summer, such as this one I spotted in someone’s front garden. I was able to get quite close and take several photos.
I also visited the butterfly garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden in July.
This moth has a large spot on its wing that looks like an eye to ward off predators.
This moth was perched on a screen at my house.

CFFC: Make Me Laugh!

The theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is: Funny.

I looked through my photos to see which ones really made me laugh. Here’s what I came up with.

Fish mailbox (Dempster Ave., Des Plaines)
Speaking of fish, here are fish and duck Toby jugs:
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Dog Toby jugs:

(If you are scratching your head, wondering what a Toby jug is, I will be posting about it soon in my Open House Chicago series.)

Banana dog on Halloween
My cat, Hazel – she would rather quench her thirst on toilet water than from her water “fountain” with constantly running water.

When she gets new catnip, she goes wild – we attached a “carrot” full of catnip to her scratching post – here she is enjoying it by licking it (and getting a little high!):
Hazel loves to play “chase” – when we are upstairs, she’ll “hide” on the stairway and when we start coming down the stairs, she takes off!
phone photos 147I laugh also at funny political cartoons and signs, like this one at Resist Café in Des Moines, Iowa.
More (non-political) funny signs…
Good sign! (Fire and Ice, Marengo)
This one is a funny English translation on a sign at a beach in Buzios, Brazil.
Dale and I still laugh when we remember this sign we saw in Buzios in 2003!
This one is actually a bumper sticker.
Children can be funny! Here is my three-year-old grand-niece, Frances, pretending to dry her hair…
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…and playing dolls with her four-year-old cousin, Sylvia.
This last picture is hilarious – my grand-nephew (age 7, first grade) drew this portrait of his mom for Mother’s Day – and I just had to include it, even though I didn’t take the photo, because…
Ben's portrait of his mom-1st grade
it really MADE ME LAUGH!

Getting our kicks in Missouri: Vacuum Cleaners, Murals and Bridges – Day 8 (Part 2)

After leaving Uranus, we finally arrived at Devils Elbow Bridge.  Our AAA guide said, “This 1920s-era bridge takes the original 66 roadway across the Big Piney River.  Named for the tight bend in the river, the bridge and adjacent town were (and still are) considered one of the most scenic spots on the route.” After the kitschy-ness of Uranus, I was ready for some pretty scenery!

When we were in Oklahoma, we met an Australian couple, who was traveling Route 66 going the other direction. They told us we should visit a vacuum cleaner museum in the town of St. James, which they really enjoyed. Our curiosity piqued, we drove into the small town of St. James, Missouri, where we easily found the Vacuum Cleaner Museum and Factory Outlet.

As it happened, there was a group of people from a vacuum cleaner convention visiting that day. They occupied the guides with technical questions, but we hung around and got our questions answered also, saw some demonstrations, and also learned some interesting bits of vacuum cleaner history!
20180615_151540The museum exhibits are arranged by decades, beginning with the first decade of the 20th century, when vacuum cleaners were first invented. Scattered about are little signs reading “Did You Know” accompanied by facts or questions. One of these signs told us the first non-electric vacuum was invented by James Kirby in 1904.Some vacuum cleaners were  complicated to use: one type required two people, one to pull down on a lever and the other to do the vacuuming! Maybe that was a way to get husbands to help with housework in those days.
One of the Did You Know? signs asked the question: Why do vacuum cleaners have headlights? I don’t know – to throw a little more light on the dust you are vacuuming? The answer is, when electric vacuum cleaners were invented, there weren’t outlets in houses. The end of the cord had a screw-on attachment, which had to be screwed into a lamp socket. So of course, one had to take the lightbulb out of the lamp in order to use the vacuum cleaner – this made the room dark, hence the light at the bottom of the vacuum cleaner!

Each decade section was marked by a sign overhead and a few historical landmarks that happened in that decade. In that section were the vacuum cleaners that were invented or in vogue at the time.

Advertisements lined the walls of each section.

Some of these ads were interesting to read – and usually quite sexist!



Did you know that a shag carpet weighs eight times more being removed from the house than it did when brought in new?

Agnes Moorehead, who played Samantha’s witch mother on the TV series Bewitched in the 1960s, had a vacuum cleaner made especially for her in her favorite color – lavender!
20180615_150834 Purple vacuum cleaner for Agnes Moorehead.jpg





Dale decided to buy one souvenir at the vacuum cleaner museum: a yellow t-shirt with the museum’s logo on it!

Cuba, Missouri is known as the Route 66 Mural City. Driving through on Route 66, we saw murals on buildings all over town. Many of the murals were numbered, with informational plaques near them.


Mural #9: The River depicts the use of the river for recreation, beauty and transportation. The word “Missouri” comes from an Indian word, missou-ly, which means canoe.



Mural #14: Meeting in Missouri. By the 1630s, the Osage were the most powerful tribe in the Missouri region, when French explorers made contact with them. The French and the Osage maintained good relations for trade into the early 19th century.

Cuba’s series of Civil War murals depict conflicts between the troops of Confederate General Sterling Price and Union General Thomas Ewing in September 1864. The battles started at Fort Davidson near Pilot Knob, Missouri and ended with the rescue of the Union troops in Leasburg. The Civil War murals were a collaborative effort between Viva Cuba and the Eagle project of a young man from a local Boy Scout troop.




Mural #13: A Day in the Cooperage. In 2018, the McGinnis family celebrates 50 years in the barrel making business. The started with a small stave mill. In the 1980s, they expanded to produce quality wine and whiskey barrels. Today, they sell barrels all over the world made from logs purchased within a 100-mile radius of Cuba.



Mural #7: Prosperity Corner. In the 1900s, Prosperity Corner drew citizens to meet, do business or pass the time. Hayes Shoe Store (yellow building on the far right) stands on the original site of Prosperity Corner.


Just up the road from Cuba is Stanton, the base for an excursion to Meramec Caverns, considered the oldest geological feature along Route 66. Because we had been to Fantastic Caverns earlier in the day, we did not stop at Meramec Caverns, made famous by billboards and bumper stickers devised by their original owner. 

It was nearly 6:00 pm when we arrived in St. Louis. Because we had made reservations for a Best Western in a suburb on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, we stopped to see the famous Arch, noting that the construction we had encountered there two years earlier was now complete.


Dale and I took a selfie in front of the St. Louis Arch.

We had been strongly urged, by our daughter and others, to sample St. Louis barbecue, so we looked up barbecue restaurants online and found one in the heart of downtown St. Louis. As it happened, there was a game this evening between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and many of the patrons at Sugarfire were fans of both teams, since the restaurant was only a short distance from the stadium. I had to wait for Dale while he took his time in the restroom, so I joked with patrons standing in line, to go ahead of me, “even though you’re a Cardinals fan!” There were plenty of Cubs fans having dinner there, easily identified by their Cubs caps and t-shirts. We hailed them and shared our solidarity. I began to feel eager to get home, as we would tomorrow!

The BBQ was quite good, although Dale said he preferred the BBQ place we sampled when we were in St. Louis two years before.

We didn’t plan to see anything in St. Louis, whether Route 66 related or not, since we had spent three days there only two years ago. So after dinner, we decided to cross the river to find our hotel and to go to Chain of Rocks Bridge, (3 miles west of Granite City, Illinois, via I-270 off exit 3, then south on SR 3 and west on Chain of Rocks Road to the river). This bridge was the crossing point for Route 66 for more than 30 years. Opened in 1929, this steel trestle bridge is no longer open to auto traffic but is part of the Route 66 Bikeway linking scenic trails on both sides of the river.
We watched the blazing sun going down and took photos of its reflection on the mighty Mississippi River.
Here’s the bridge we crossed by car.



Getting Our Kicks with Missouri Kitsch (Day 8-Part 1)

June 15, 2018

The previous night, before dinner and the big thunderstorm, we drove through Springfield to see the Gillioz Theatre at 325 Park Central East, which is also the historic Route 66, brand new in 1926 when the theater was built. It was one of the first theaters to introduce “talkies” to the Midwest in 1928 and was restored in 2006 to its original Spanish Colonial Revival design.
Our hotel in Springfield, Missouri, Best Western Rail Haven, was filled with features of the bygone days of Route 66, including this ’57 Chevy.20180615_09194520180615_091726
The office looked like it was designed in the 1950s and the breakfast area resembled an old-fashioned diner.

Our room’s bathroom was fitted with vintage fixtures.
It was only after we were on the road today that I read about a few things we had missed in the Joplin area of Missouri, which we had already passed:

Precious Moments Chapel, 4321 S. Chapel Rd., Carthage, MO; 1-800-543-7975
The true meaning of kitsch, this chapel was designed by the creator of Precious Moments porcelain figurines, Samuel Butcher.

Thomas Hart Benton Mural & Exhibit, in Joplin City Hall at 602 S. Main St.; 1-800-657-2534. Called Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896-1906, it was the Missouri artist’s final work. Other public art in Joplin features scenes of Route 66, by different artists.


After we checked out of the hotel, we headed to Fantastic Caverns (4872 N. Farm Road 125, Springfield, MO), Missouri’s largest caverns. This cavern was used as a speakeasy in the 1920s and a country music theater in the 1960s & 1970s. Now it offers 50-minute tram tours which highlight cave features. 20180615_103655.jpgIn a large open room of the cave, we were shown a video of the history of the cavern and its discovery.

Question: What is the difference between a cave and a cavern?
Answer: Nothing. They are two names for the same thing.

The first explorers of the caverns was a group of women, in 1876. They left the first – and only – “graffiti” – here!


A group of young people were traveling with their dog and brought him (or her) along on the tour, which I thought was an odd thing to do. What if he got scared? What if she jumped out? But none of that happened. With the calm coaxing of his owners, he settled down and mostly slept.


I did not realize at the time that we were near Wilson ‘s Creek Battlefield, (6424 W. Farm Road 182, Republic, MO) the site of the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi (1861). Over 2,500 men perished there. I definitely would have wanted to stop there if I’d known, because it is a National Historic Site and therefore part of the National Park Service. There is a 5-mile self-guided auto tour and a museum.

Back on Route 66 again, which parallels I-44, we headed toward St. Robert, to find the Devils Elbow Bridge, (I-44 Exit 163, south to Hwy Z/Route 66 and south to Teardrop Rd.) However, before we reached the bridge, we arrived at one of the most kitschy and bizarre places on our route! Uranus, Missouri is the home of the Uranus Fudge Factory and Sideshow.
This was obviously a place created specifically for travelers on Route 66. You can watch a short video about Uranus on their web site. However, I think our photos do it just as much justice (except we didn’t go into the fudge factory).

A lot of weird, seemingly unrelated objects crowd near the entrance – a dinosaur, an old-fashioned police car, a weather vane, a double-decker bus, a rocket.

The “town” is just a strip mall of connected buildings designed to look like an Old West town. There’s a freak show, a “museum”, a gun range, a general store, a restaurant, and of course, the fudge shop.

Entertainment for the whole family! Plus some rather humorous signs.

If you like bizarre places, you MUST visit Uranus, Missouri – the height of kitsch!

Stay tuned for Getting Our Kicks Day 8-Part 2!








Four-Legged Friends, Large & Small

Traveling at Wits End has a weekly photo challenge and this week’s theme is Four-Legged Friends.

I’ll start with my best four-legged friend – my cat, Hazel.
I met up with these dachshunds in costumes on a walk on Halloween.

While on our road trip last spring, we saw several four-legged creatures…

Elk grazing (Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado)
Female moose foraging, on Adams Falls trail (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Chipmunk (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Dog accompanying his two-legged friends on a cave tour (Fantastic Caverns, Missouri)

Thursday Doors on the Miracle Mile

Recently I had occasion to kill some time on the “Miracle Mile” of Michigan Ave. in Chicago. I wish I’d had my Sony camera with me, but as it was, I managed to get some decent photos using the camera on my cellphone. Most of them are more like facades than just doors.

Wrigley Building
Dylan’s Candy Bar
Façade of a fancy store and mall – I liked its modern glassy look and geometric patterns with the yellow trees in front.
Store entrance
Brooks Brothers, on the first floor of the historic Allerton Hotel
Disney store
Tiffany & Co.
Nieman Marcus
Ralph Lauren
The historic Chicago Water Tower


Building near the water tower

Entrance to Lookingglass Theatre (at the water tower)
Intercontinental Hotel
Michael Jordan’s Steak House (next to the hotel)
This building is actually at the end of Navy Pier. It used to house UIC (University of Illinois Chicago)  until they built a new campus on the south side. I can just imagine students going in and out of these doors and milling around the end of the pier.
This last building is actually on the north side, in the neighborhood called Edgewater, near where our daughter lives. I’m including it because it’s such an interesting building!
20180819_120157 Chgo - near where Tam lives
Posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors.

First Presbyterian Church of Evanston – Open House Chicago 2018, Part 5

One of the most beautiful churches in Evanston, particularly its stained glass windows, is the First Presbyterian Church, which we visited during Open House Chicago 2018 in mid-October.  The architect of this building was Daniel H. Burnham, the same man who made Chicago famous for the design of the White City during the World’s Columbian Exhibition in 1893. (If you have read Devil in the White City, you have learned a lot about him.)
The church was built in 1894 and completed in 1895 after a fire that destroyed the previous sanctuary.
Additions to the Joliet limestone building included a Sunday School wing (1926) and the Walker Chapel (1969).

The stained glass windows contain a lot of sapphire blue, which is City Sonnet’s color of the day today.

These large windows which flank the north and south sides of the church depict the Old Testament (south window) and the New Testament (north window).
If you look closely at this window depicting the Ascension, you can see Jesus’ feet and the bottom of his turquoise robe, just above the heads of the witnesses!


These windows tell the story of Adam and Eve.

The Balcony Rose Window is the most beautiful of all! Fully illuminated by the setting sun, it draws its inspiration from the Beatitudes which Jesus shared during his “Sermon on the Mount.” (Matthew 5:3-11) Each “petal” depicts one of the Beatitudes.


From Top and moving Clockwise: Dove (Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven); Lily (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God); Scales of Justice (Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled); Crown with Stars (Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven); Inverted Torch (Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted); Olive Branch (Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God); Lamb (Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth); Broken Sword (Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy).

Looking toward the altar from the main entrance. Everything on the platform on which the altar sits is removable so the space is very flexible for concerts, pageants and other performances. The sanctuary plus the balcony seats 1,100 people.
The lectern
The altar
Much of the wood trim has carvings, such as these angels. All the columns and decorative trim were not part of the original structure and were added later. The types of wood used were red oak and Georgian pine.


Also notable is the splendid organ, which the organist let me try out! The organ is an amalgamation of parts from the original 1895 organ, the 1940 installation and the 1958 Aeolian Skinner instrument.
The sounds of different instruments, such as the oboe, flutes or violins, can be produced using the levers on the left and right; the sound is transmitted through the approximately 3,500 pipes arranged in 64 ranks.
The organ pipes, as seen from the balcony. The blue ceiling and back-lighting in the organ chamber were added as part of a major renovation of the church in 2001.
Light fixture
The original building cost $80,000 to build.

CFFC: Lights

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is lights.

Symphony Center, Chicago

Tiki Terrace Hawaiian restaurant, Des Plaines, IL
20180520_184334.jpgBeatles tribute band, American English, in concert at Surf Ballroom, Clearwater, Iowa

Park Inn Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in Mason City, Iowa:
At a side entrance
Café inside the hotel
In a lounge
Holiday lights, Glencoe, IL