Thursday, August 27, 2009

Proud Mary Keeps on Rollin!

So here I sit reflecting on what I have been doing since my last post in July! It's been a busy couple of months for sure. In the last few weeks I have attended my college sorority's 2nd annual reunion that took place in Darien, IL which is just outside of Downer's Grove, IL. It was great to travel with one of my friends who is also a sorority sister from college and was a co-worker in my same school district for many years. We had lots to talk about on our way to and from the reunion which was also lots of fun. Some of the ladies I knew and of course some I didn't know that had been associated with the house either before or after me. Anyway, it certainly does put my age in perspective when you look back into old pictures of college days long gone by!

Besides the reunion, I attended a wedding in Cedar Rapids, IA which was very elegant and occurred on an absolutely beautiful summer evening. The bride and groom actually seemed to be beaming as they looked at each other and danced to a song that the groom had prerecorded for his wife. He has been in various choral groups over the years and has a wonderful voice. That was a special treat for all of us. And believe it or not, Cedar Rapids, Iowa is a very pretty city! It is not just cornfields.

In between the wedding and reunion, I had my cousin visit us for a few days. We are almost like sisters, having grown up living next door to each other. We went golfing a couple of times, of course out to lunch and shopping... all the things we love to do.

In August, I took my mother and myself to visit my daughter and son-in-law in Charleston, SC. It was time for her to start another school year teaching first grade and I usually go down to help her get her classroom ready. We were there for almost two weeks and got alot accomplished. If you've ever taught a primary grade, you can appreciate what I am saying about getting ready. While she has taken on the responsibility of team leader this year and worked tirelessly at the computer, I got the fun of decorating her brand new classroom! They built a new school on the site where the old school was torn down. What a beautiful facility for everyone to experience! I was there for the school's dedication and ribbon cutting and on the first day of school the principal introduced me to the mayor of Charleston. He had come to speak and participate in the opening of the new school. My daughter knows how blessed she is to be able to teach in such a state of the art building. When she got her job at Orange Grove Elementary seven years ago, she was assigned to a 'portabale classroom' aka a trailer! It looked like it was a left over planning site from WWII. So to think that in seven years she is in a school that is so beautiful and well equipped...she's come a long way baby!!!!

Having returned from Charleston last Saturday, I am packing to leave for Las Vegas with my husband, to help our daughter, Rebecca celebrate her 30th birthday with she and her husband. I can't wait to do whatever you do in Las Vegas. I don't know how much I will be able to share if what they say is true....WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS STAYS IN VEGAS!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fourth of July in Michigan

My family was invited to spend the 4th of July at the Michigan summer home of our very good friends, Mark and Carol. Once again it was our intention to fly our Cessna 170 airplane to their tiny airport in Empire, MI which is just perfect for landing our plane and within 2 miles of their home. However, the weather was not cooperating AGAIN, so we decided to drive the six and a half hour trip which resulted in a very late arrival on July 1st. We spent the first 3 days of our trip wearing sweatshirts and long pants just waiting for the temperatures to warm up enough to at least take a ride on their pontoon boat. Finally, on the morning of the 4th of July, we saw the sun and the jeans and sweats were retired!

So we went in to Glen Arbor which is the name of the biggest town near their place and picked our spots for the town parade. This parade is really's not a "big city" kind of spectacle at all. The floats and main attractions are the town fire engine, the town police car, the city's big snow plow and local business owners flaunt their products, services and wares in decorated convertibles, trucks, antique vehicles, etc. The only band that plays is the local Democratic Party Ladies Kazoo band! Boy are they good!!! :)Anyway it is very colorful, and the little kids love the free candy and treats that are thrown during the parade.

After the parade, we went back to our friends' place to get ready to take a pontoon ride on Glen Lake which is where their home is located. This lake is a beautiful body of water which has a sand bottom and the water is the color of the water you might see in a tropical paradise like the Caribbean! I am usually all set to see if I can still ski this lovely lake...but not this day. The water was still a bit nippy for my liking, but the boat ride on the pontoon was wonderful. We spent the remainder of our time at the lake pretty much on the water. The pictures show a group shot with our friends and their family; my daughter and her husband greeting the water and sunshine and me with my husband and son-in-law on the boat. We even went out in the boat late that evening to watch fireworks displays from the surrounding neighbors. Although the fireworks aren't city sponsored, they are pretty tremendous to watch from the water. Some of them actually look like ones you would see at places like a private club.

This is an area that has many things for tourists to do even on a day without sunshine. One of the days we went kayaking on the Crystal River. It is a river that is perfect for this lazy day activity. The water is shallow enough that you can stand up and dump the water out of your kayak if you have been on the losing end of a water gun war you might find yourself engaged in. We rented our kayaks from Crystal River Outfitters which is a company that is owned and run by Mark and Carol's son-in-law, Matt Wiesen. They have everything you need for a great time on the Crystal River, from the proper attire to your necessary water gun. Need I say more!!!

So we will anxiously await our next visit to Glen Lake, MI next year. It is always a trip full of fond memories with family and great friends. If you are ever near that area, check it out. Bring friends... but not too many. It is still a secret!!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Cooks" Tour of Chicago

On the last Thursday in May, my cousin, my mother and I took a tour bus into Chicago for the day. We were set to experience Chicago through the eyes of a cook who might be shopping for special and interesting things to use in cooking. Our first stop was at a gourmet market named Fox and Obel, located on Illinos Street. We spent about an hour or so wandering around the market just enjoying the various aromas of such things as coffee, cheeses and freshly baked breads. Naturally, there are lots of samples to temp your tastebuds and entice you into buying something! I couldn't resist all of the wonderful cheeses that were so expertly presented. The cheesemonger, Aaron Stek, pictured at the right certainly knew his cheeses and was happy to recommend a few to us along with a sample or two! I bought two different goat cheeses that we enjoyed at home for several days. I also bought some wonderful vinegars and oils to enhance my cooking at home.

Then it was time to get back on board our bus and head to lunch at Kendall College, which is a culinary school in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. It also happens that my cousin's daughter attends school there. She actually joined us for a cooking demonstration on how to make pesto and then for lunch and a tour of the school. The pesto was served as an appetizer along with a variety of breads at lunchtime. Lunch was absolutely delicious and consisted of three courses all prepared and served by the students. What a treat for all of us!

Although some of us would have been content to just call it a day and take a nap and head for home, we still had more touring to do. So we departed for a place called the Spice House located in Old Town. It is a storefront type of shop that is full of jars of every kind of spice that you could ever imagine. The tiny little shop just tickles your nose with the different scents that waft in the air. They offer tiny tins with samples of each of the spices, so you know exactly what you are purchasing. I couldn't leave without buying some jerk style grilling spice and some special spice concoction just for fried chicken! You can bet I'll be trying that very soon. :)
We boarded the bus again and made our final stop at the newest Whole Foods store located on Kingsbury Street. The store had literally been opened only one week, so everything was shiny and smelled new and fresh. I had never been in a Whole Foods store before although I have heard lots about them from friends. This place had everything you thought you needed and more! The produce was beautiful and I couldn't leave without buying both Ranier cherries and Bing cherries. Yum!

It was finally time to board our bus for the last time and head back to Rockford. I will say it was a pleasant and very quiet ride home as most of the passengers really did nod off. Shhhhh! Me....I had my knitting along and continued to work on my project and reflect on what a fun day we all had in the Windy City.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Fly-by Visit

After returning on a Saturday night from our Kansas adventure, I realized that I couldn't quite settle into being home just yet. One of my high school friends had called me a couple of weeks ago and told me that another mutual friend(that I go all the way back to grade school with) who now lives in Spokane, WA was going to be in the Midwest for a couple of days...namely Sunday and Monday. It seems that Ann and her husband were going to come as far east as Iowa City and they would love to see any or all of us. So I suggested to my pilot husband that if the weather was good enough on Sunday perhaps we could fly over to see our friends for a brief visit. It turned out that for a change the weather did cooperate and we did fly over to see our friends for a couple of hours before we had to jump back into the airplane and get home before it was too dark.

We had a chance to catch up on each other's lives and to share a picture or two or more of our families and we even took a couple of pictures while we were there. It was short and sweet, but the time it took us to fly there was so worth the couple of hours we got to spend with everyone. Friendships are priceless treasures that we need to cherish. I realize this more and more the older I get.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Best Fried Chicken in the Country!

We started out heading to Lindsborg after breakfast on Thursday morning. Instead of going directly to our destination we decided it would be worth our while to stop off in Lawrence, Kansas to visit a yarn shop called, The Yarn Barn. It was a really cute little shop located right in downtown Lawrence. Naturally we walked around touching all of the soft and pretty yarns that are not currently stocked in our hometown knitting shop called, Unique Yarns. Before we got out of there, all three of us had bought patterns and yarn for new projects to begin.

All of that shopping made us work up an appetite so before we left we went to a restuarant just down the street that the ladies at the shop had recommended. It was a brewery type of restuarant that had great soups, sandwiches and salads as well as a variety of homemade brews. We passed on the beer since we were driving, but the food was really excellent. It is called, Free State Brewing Co. and it is worth a visit if you're ever in Lawrence.
So now it was on to Lindsborg to check in to our bed and breakfast, The Rosberg House. It was a great two story victorian style house with a huge front porch that had a very welcoming wicker swing and white wicker porch furniture as well. After we got our rooms and freshened up a bit, we headed to fried chicken heaven aka The Brookville Hotel in Abilene, KS which in reality was about forty miles down the main highway out of town. All I can say is if you love fried chicken you will be in heaven for sure when you taste this version! The restuarant serves only one thing....fried chicken and all of the fixins! It is served family style and the waitresses just keep the chicken coming as soon as you make a dent in the platter. The sides are also fabulous...a relish try, homemade biscuits and strawberry preserves, mashed potatoes and chicken creamed gravy, homemade creamed corn and homemade cole slaw and cottage cheese. The sides are also all you can eat. For dessert there is home style ice cream.
We finished our dinner and chatted with the hostess and owner of the restuarant, Connie Martin. We told her how we had traveled all the way from Illinois to eat dinner at her establishment. She was honored and also thought we were a bit crazy especially when we told her that we would be back tomorrow night for dinner as well! I even took a picture of her in the gift shop and waiting area. She said she would love to jump in the car and go with us on our adventures if she didn't have the restuarant committment.
The next day we toured the town of Lindsborg which is the town that my friend, Jan lived in as a little girl. We learned a bit about the Swedish immigrants that settled here and enjoyed the Swedish pancakes that the bed and breakfast served each morning. Yummy!
As we headed back to Abilene for dinner the next day, we made an impromtu stop at where else?....The Russel Stover Candy Outlet which was conveniently located right off the highway. Chocolate for an afternoon break...yeah!!! We had one last stop before we ate ourselves to death again on chicken. We visited the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. After all, we had to do something educational. This is also a very worthwhile stop. Beautiful facilities with very knowledgeable staff.
With full bellies and smiling faces we headed home the next day.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kansas City Here I Come!

So when I got home on a Sunday evening I immediately began to re-pack for a 'girlie' trip to Kansas? Yep, that's right...Lindsborg, Kansas! Two of my friends and I had planned a trip to Kansas to see Lindsborg, otherwise known as Little Sweden and to eat at a restaurant that has the best fried chicken in the world.

We headed west on Tuesday morning and spent most of the day dodging thunderstorms through Iowa and Kansas. We spent two nights in Kansas City, Mo. We went shopping in a very upscale area called, Country Club Plaza. We also discovered that Kansas City boasts that they are the barbecue capital of the nation so we ate baby back ribs in one of the eateries in the area. It was called, Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue. The ribs were excellent and the sides were homestyle cole slaw, cornbread pudding and such. This place was recommended by the folks at the hotel we stayed at and they knew what they were talking about!
This area is also called, "The City of Fountains" because the developer's wife was from Spain and she missed the beauty of her country, so he tried to bring a bit of Spain to her by designing and putting in fountains throughout the shopping area. They do remind you of Europe! The picture shows my friends, Jan and Joyce in front of one of the fountains in the plaza shopping area.
We left the next day to seek out the bustling city of Lindsborg and to find our fried chicken. As Paul Harvey used to say...tune in tomorrow for "the rest of the story".

Friday, May 29, 2009

On to Charleston, SC

We spent the next ten days in Charleston, SC visiting our youngest daughter and son-in-law. In addition to visiting and volunteering at school with her a couple of days, I also spent time doing the tourist thing with my husband. We visited the site of one of the Old Slave Market Museum on Charlmers St. downtown. That was quite an eye opener. They have a video in one of the rooms detailing the journey that the captives experienced on their way to America and there is also an audio of an older gentleman who was a slave as a young man that you can listen to as you view photos of slavery as it was in Charleston. It was a part of history that certainly wasn't one of our proudest moments.

We went to lunch that day at Poogan's Porch and had some great local flavor for lunch. It is worth the visit to experience their gumbo and she-crab soup and their warm biscuits. Yum!

I had purchased a recipe book at the museum that features 'Gullah' cooking or cooking typical foods that the slaves ate and prepared. There is a resturant that is called, The Gullah Cuisine located in Mt. Pleasant that we were told is authentic Gullah and so the next day we ventured there for lunh. It was served buffet style and featured such things as collard greens, fried chicken, and fried fish and vanilla wafer banana pudding as well as peach cobbler. Of course you can have your sweet tea there as well. Anyway, I highly recommend this as a southern dining experience you won't want to miss!

Charleston is a beautiful city full of history and proud, kind people. Did you know their city has been voted the most hospitable for at least the last ten years? If you haven't been a trip sometime in your lifetime!
The retiree and the "worker" relaxing on a swing at Waterfront park in beautiful Charleston.