Weekly Photo Challenge: Fickle December

For Weekly Prompts Photo Challenge, the theme this week is Advent weather.

November here in Chicagoland was unseasonably cold – in fact, our first and only major snowfall was just after Thanksgiving! Since then, we haven’t had more than a dusting or flurries. We are never guaranteed a white Christmas and this year it looks as though there will be no snow for Christmas. The only evidence of snow we have now is ugly mounds of plowed, piled up snow here and there, often covered with a clump of leaves! It’s surprising that it hasn’t all melted yet, considering that we’ve had at least a week of warmer than normal days with temperatures rising occasionally to the upper 40s! The weatherman says that the average for mid-December is about 33ºF.

About a week ago, I was walking to church on a Sunday morning at about 8:30 a.m. and I was struck by the delicate layer of frost coating the grass and leaves, paralyzing them in a frozen state until the sun could shine on them to warm them up. I thought the effect was quite pretty.
This morning I noticed this naked tree, its bottom branches adorned with bright red balls for the Christmas season, while near the top sits an exposed abandoned bird’s nest.
(I wonder if there were more balls near the top that got blown off, or was the decorator not tall enough to reach them all?)

December Squares: Two Amazing German Timepieces

This is my last opportunity to post for Becky’s December Squares (Time), as we will be leaving tomorrow for a two-week trip to Egypt followed by 10 days in Israel. I will have lots of photos to share when we get back home!

Meanwhile, here are some amazing clocks in churches in two German Baltic towns: Lübeck and Rostock.

This timepiece in St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck does much more than tell time. As you can see, it is surrounded by major constellations and on the inner circle, the phases of the moon are shown. KODAK Digital Still Camera
This two-story astronomical clock tells the time, the date, location of the Zodiac signs and positions of the sun and moon.
KODAK Digital Still CameraThis amazing clock was built in the 1960s by a local clockmaker, Paul Behrens. He maintained his masterpiece until he died.
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Above the clock is a ledge on which appear, each day at noon, eight figures which come out on one side and go back in on the other side, passing in front of a figure of Jesus. Learn more about this amazing masterpiece here.

At St. Mary’s Church (coincidentally, it has the same name as the church in Lübeck) in Rostock, Germany, is an even more amazing timepiece! This astronomical timepiece was built in 1472 by Hans Düringer, a clockmaker from Nuremburg.
KODAK Digital Still CameraIt consists of three parts: At the top, when the clock strikes each hour, apostles of Jesus appear from a door on one side. Judas is last in line, and as they reach the door on the other side into which they disappear, the door slams shut before Judas can go through it!

In the middle is the clock, which tells the time, Zodiac, moon phases and month.

At the bottom is a calendar, which according to Wikipedia, is valid until 2150. (This is the fourth in the series of calendars, which lasted from 1885 to 2017 – I photographed it in 2015. In 2018, it was to be replaced by a fifth calendar, valid until 2150.)
KODAK Digital Still CameraThis medieval clock is the only one of its kind with its parts all still in working order.


December Squares: Ugly Sweater Time!

Becky is hosting her December Month of Squares with the subject time. It’s that time of year to attend holiday parties – get out your “ugly Christmas sweater!”

Wearing “ugly Christmas sweaters” to a holiday party has become an American holiday tradition. So much so that now stores are marketing ugly sweaters and other garish items of clothing. Today I saw “ugly” clothing for sale while shopping at Meijer, such as this skirt covered with colorful shiny bows with a golden garland fringe.
Maybe you would prefer to attend the party dressed in a Santa suit.

And here it is, the classic “ugly sweater!” (This is my favorite!)
I can’t help but include, in a nod to my Jewish family members, my stepdaughter at her bridal shower with a special gift: an “ugly” Hanukkah sweater!
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Thursday Doors: Sigma Alpha Epsilon National Headquarters (OHC 2018)

During Open House Chicago 2018, we visited several sites in Evanston, including the national headquarters of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Regardless of my personal opinion of this fraternity’s history of hazing (for which it has been disciplined at least nine times) as well as of fraternities in general, the headquarters building is an austere German Gothic structure, whose interior is contemplative, far away from typical college campus fraternity activity.

This building had several interesting doors, and photos of them, such as this one of the front entrance are scattered throughout this post, as contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors 12/20/18.
20181014_151902Located on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, the building of what is officially called Levere Memorial Temple was begun in 1929 and was dedicated in December, 1930. The headquarters, also known as Fraternity Service Center, honors members of the fraternity who have served in the armed forces since 1856.

Beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows in the chapel and elsewhere depict scenes which men have experienced in wartime as well as historical and Greek subjects.


The interior décor of the chapel was simple and elegant.
The building today is used for social and academic ceremonies and receptions at Northwestern University as well as fraternity national conferences and weddings. There is a museum on the bottom floor and a library contains annual volumes of fraternity affairs going back a century.



To learn more about Sigma Alpha Epsilon and its history, go to the Wikipedia article online.











Getting Our Kicks: Homeward Bound (Route 66, Day 9-Part 2)

June 16, 2018

Heading northeast toward Chicago, we passed up Towanda, which has a couple of sites worth mentioning; mainly “A Geographical Journey” Parkway with interpretive kiosks along the road, and Towanda Dead Man’s Curve, part of the original 66 before the 1940s and now on Old Route 4.

We intended to stop in Lexington for the Route 66 Memory Lane,  a one-mile stretch of the original 66, which was restored back to the 1940s era with vintage billboards and Burma Shave signs. It would have been good to take a walk on it to stretch our legs, but we couldn’t find it!

We stopped for lunch at Kelly’s on Route 66 (905 West Main St., Lexington, IL), a sandwich place with lots of 66 memorabilia.
20180616_130504D20180616_13063620180616_13161320180616_13405320180616_130433DWe asked at Kelly’s how to find Memory Lane but were given confusing directions, not helped by the fact that we didn’t write them down!

It is too bad I didn’t consult our Illinois Route 66 booklet, because we could have found the trail by going to Thrift Avenue, LLC at 1103 Main St. Besides being right on Route 66, this 3,000 square feet store is right next to the Memory Lane trail and another 66 landmark, the Lexington Neon Arrow is also on this property! Since I am generally not interested in shopping, I didn’t take note of it, but this thrift store is a worthwhile stop if you enjoy shopping. In a bright and friendly atmosphere, you can find bargains and gifts among Thrift Avenue’s new and almost-new merchandise.

Another interesting stop in Lexington is Castle Gardens, at 1280 P J Keller Hwy. It is located less than a mile off I-55 and Route 66 and is a unique estate. At Castle Gardens is the nationally known David Hyatt Van Dolah house, a MTC 36-passenger train, and a restored Allen Herschell 36-horse carousel.  Visit the website via my link above to find out about home and garden tours and the summer Friday Night concerts on the lawn.

Our last major stop was in Pontiac, a Route 66 aficionado’s heaven! In fact, if you want to see everything that Pontiac has to offer, it’s best to check into a local hotel because it would take you more than a day to see everything.


Pontiac Courthouse

Wayside Exhibits, such as the one in the left photo below, are located in several Illinois communities.

We concentrated on the downtown area, visiting the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum at 110 West Howard Street and Murals on Main Street Tour in downtown Pontiac. Parked behind the museum is the unusual-looking bus that belonged to late artist Bob Waldmire, who traveled the entire Route 66 and spent months living in his trailer in the Arizona desert. He took a basic motor home and, well…ADDED to it, as you will see from the photos below. Bob was a Route 66 enthusiast and specialized in painting scenes of the route. His paintings and murals can be found in various spots along Route 66 and there is a memorial to him on Santa Monica pier.


This mural tells of Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire’s journey from Illinois to California. It was designed by Bob from his sickbed shortly before his death in 2009. It was painted in his memory by members of the Waldmire family and about 500 of Bob’s friends along Route 66.


If you stand close to the mural, you will see 100s of handprints. These were made by the people who contributed to the mural and were touched by Bob’s art.


The murals are the most prominent feature of downtown Pontiac.


Photo op for my Prius stopped in front of the huge mural of Route 66 behind the museum.

There are also several miniature cars, each painted by a different artist, scattered around the downtown area.

We spent some time going through Bob Waldmire’s mobile “home.”
Waldmire made several “improvements” to the outside of the bus.
This is the entrance doorway.
The interior was very cluttered.

This converted school bus is where he spent his winter months in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. For the rest of the year, he was based in central Illinois, near his hometown of Springfield. In fact, his father, Ed Waldmire, established the Cozy Dog Drive-in, a Route 66 landmark in Springfield (see my post Getting Our Kicks On the Way Home, Day 9, Part 1).

Waldmire even built a shower/sauna inside the bus!
Refrigerator with Route 66 memorabilia
Driver’s seat
Back door
One can tour this bus on the grounds of the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. There is also a lot to see inside.
The sun was getting low in the sky as we entered the expressway system of metropolitan Chicago.

North of Pontiac is the small town of Odell (we didn’t stop), where there are two 66-related sites of note:
Standard Oil Gasoline Station, 400 South West St., Odell – this gas station, built in 1932 and serving travelers until 1975, has been restored and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Odell Subway Tunnel – across from St. Paul’s Church is an entrance to a 1937 pedestrian tunnel under Route 66, known as “the subway.” The entrance was sealed in the 1950s but the railing and first three steps have been preserved. The fact that traffic on Route 66 in 1937 was heavy enough to warrant an underground pedestrian tunnel is pretty remarkable.

In the small town of Gardner is a photo op for travels at The 2 Cell Jail and Christiansen Memorial. The two-cell jail was built in 1906. Adjacent to the jail is a memorial honoring Rev. Christian Christiansen for his contributions that helped prevent the Nazis from constructing atomic bombs.  Afterward, visit the Historic Streetcar Diner, which is an historic streetcar moved from Kankakee to Garner in 1932 to serve as a diner along Route 66. In 1937, it became a cottage and playhouse. Since then, it has been restored and inducted into the Route 66 Hall of Fame.

Joliet, just south of metropolitan Chicago, has many sights to see. I am listing here some of those that I find most interesting and would like to visit on a future short road trip.
1.  Rich & Creamy, 920 North Broadway St. – a retro ice cream store on which you can see Jake and Elwood, The Blues Brothers, dancing on top of the tower wrapped in neon lights. Next door is Route 66 Park, with an eclectic collection of public art works. There’s an overlook where you have a bird’s eye view of Collins Street Prison!
2. Joliet Kicks on 66 Toursmurals, sculptures, mosaics, and more 66-themed sites are found throughout Joliet’s New City Center. They and other downtown attractions are part of the Joliet Kicks of 66 driving and walking tours.
3. Illinois Rock & Roll Museum on Route 66 is a new museum celebrating the musical contributions of Illinois to the world. It opened in the summer of 2018.
4. Joliet Union Station at 50 East Jefferson St. was built in 1912 and once catered to the glamorous rail travelers of the early 1900s. the Grand Ballroom has crystal chandeliers and 45 ft. ceilings. The station is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Arriving in Chicago, there are many sights to see. I mention only one here, which is the Begin/End Route Signs at East Adams Street/Jackson Blvd. (Begin sign – next to Panda Express) and on South Michigan Avenue (End sign – at Millennium Park Garage). I actually have never looked for these signs, but probably should to formally legitimize our Route 66 trip! Here are photos downloaded from Google Images.

We bypassed the last sites, including those in downtown Chicago, choosing instead to get back to our home in Des Plaines and collapse after a long, tiring but fun road trip!

Time for Soup

There is a Mexican restaurant in our neighborhood where I like to go when it is super cold outside. They have a very good caldo de pollo – chicken soup with big pieces of white meat, potatoes, carrots, and beans. With it they serve little cups of chopped onion, cilantro, rice, and lime slices which you can add as you prefer. You also get a stack of tortillas. In the past, I used to order a margarita with it (especially after a hard work day!) but now I just order the soup. It’s a big enough bowl to take home half of it for another day!

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Time for Soup is my participation in today’s photo challenge by Becky’s December Squares.

Thursday Doors: Lake Street Church (OHC 2018, Part 7)

During the weekend of Open House Chicago (Oct. 13-14, 2018), we visited another of the Evanston sites, Lake Street Church.
Although founded as Evanston Baptist Church in 1858, according to their welcome brochure, Lake Street Church is now a “progressive community of spiritual seekers from across multiple denominations” and is “rooted in the free-church tradition,” seeking to “embody the best components of liberal Protestant Christianity.” This sign outside the church makes its mission of inclusion quite clear.20181013_161331
Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Roman Catholics and Protestants of several traditions have all passed through the main entrance.
The present Victorian Gothic building opened its doors in 1875 and it is now Evanston’s oldest public building.
Major renovation of the sanctuary took place in 1995.
Pulpit detail: carving of seed pods opening and cascading down the front toward the carvings of cherubic faces.
Victorian Gothic structures emphasize the vertical, designed to create an “uplifting feeling” through tall roofs pointing toward heaven and pointed arches in doors and windows.
The lancet windows in the sanctuary feature the high, pointed Gothic arch.

Facing the back of the church
The Rose Window is the centerpiece of the stained glass windows. It was designed and manufactured in Chicago and is characteristic of the Victorian Gothic design popular in the 19th century. Notice the use of elaborate designs and vibrant colors.
Stairwell windows

The organ, framed by a decorative arched ceiling.
Arch detail
DSC06574.JPGThe Church House, north of the sanctuary, was completed in 1925. Inside are a large auditorium, a dining room, Sunday School classrooms and meeting rooms. Its entrance continues the pointed arches and Victorian Gothic design.
Lake Street Church boasts many activities with an interfaith and social justice emphasis.

Plenty more awesome doors at Norm’s Thursday Doors, 12/13/18.