10 November 2017

A Slice of Chicago Life - Fall

A friend of mine is going to Chicago on business, but will have just one day to do the town. It's a tough time of year to visit Chicago. Nice because the summer tourists are gone. A guessing game because of the weather. If we're in the midst of a nice Indian summer, it's fantastic. Otherwise, well, let's just say, the marathoner's are the only people who don't mind it when it's 40 degrees in October. My mother has been visiting me for years, and says she still hasn't seen all of the city. When you only have a day for "touring," what to do is entirely dependent on what you want to know about the City. For a slice of Chicago life, visit Lincoln Park.

Lincoln Park runs for several miles along the lakefront. There are beaches, harbors, lagoons, bike paths and lots of sports fields. Residents flock to the park whenever the weather is the least bit nice. There's something for everyone in Lincoln Park. Start your tour at the south end of the park at the Chicago History Museum. Home to the Chicago Historical Society, there is exhibition space, a research facility, and a variety of public programming, including tours. Chicago has a rich and vibrant history and the CHS tells the city's story from its founding as a small frontier outpost through the Great Fire of 1871 and the 1893 Columbian Exposition through the city's more recent cultural and economic evolution.

Head north to the Green City Market. The Green City Market operates year round. From May through October they have an outdoor venue. When the temperatures drop in November they'll move north and operate out of a space in the Nature Museum, also in Lincoln Park. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, dairy, beef, and even locally produced baked goods can be found here.

Next stop, the Lincoln Park Zoo. For years, I lived within walking distance of this little gem. The staff is friendly and some of the residents are real characters. There are usually a few babies around too. They have a "Farm-in-the-Zoo." Great for Chicago kids, who might not otherwise get to experience what goes on at a farm. A few years ago they built a new enclosure for their great apes. It's fantastic! Lots of a natural light, indoor and outdoor space, toys...it's nicer than my apartment. I was down there one day last winter after a snow and the chimps were going outside and making snow cones. When it first opened there were rumors that the gorillas had air guns that they could fire at visitors. I've never seen any evidence of those, but that tells you a little bit about their personalities. The zoo also offers seasonal programming, concerts in the summer, Halloween for the kids, and holiday programming between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Lincoln Park Conservatory consists of the conservatory, a lily pond, and outdoor formal gardens and sits next to the zoo. Artists flock to the gardens when the weather is nice and everything is in bloom. Locals hang out in the conservatory on weekend mornings in the winter when they need to "escape" from winter in Chicago.

Cross Fullerton Avenue and visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. This museum has always seemed geared to the younger set, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the couple of visits that I have made. Run by the Chicago Academy of Sciences, the Museum looks at natural history locally. My favorite part is the "Judy Istock Butterfly Haven." The Museum is also the winter home of the Green City Market.

The park continues north along lakefront for several miles and is more traditional park consisting of marinas, beaches, green space, tennis courts, ball fields, soccer fields, bike paths, even a driving range. Thanks for joining me.

11 November 2016

Dear Veterans, Many Thanks

"The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love."

from "Dirge for Two Veterans" from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

03 July 2015

Great Reads – Women Who Broke the Rules Series by Kathleen Krull

I am so loving this new series for young readers by Kathleen Krull. The first four volumes came out in June:

  • Judy Blume: Are You There, Reader? It's Me, Judy!
  • Sacajawea: Lewis and Clark Would Be Lost without Me
  • Sonia Sotomayor: I'll Be the Judge of That!
  • Dolley Madison: Parties Can Be Patriotic!
And they are delightful. 

I was particularly taken with the Judy Blume volume. I came of age with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing; Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Then Again, Maybe I Won't; Forever. By the time she hit the books stores, I was already so far beyond children's books that I was reading stories well beyond my experience so I devoured the books written for girls my age about the issues we were confronting. It never occurred to me that she was a charting a new course that would change the face of young people's literature. Thank you, Judy!

The Sacajawea and Dolley Madison volumes are age appropriate and provide a good introduction to both of these outstanding women of history.

I have less context to evaluate the Sonia Sotomayor volume, but on the basis of the others, there's no reason to suspect that it is not just as well done.

Country Girl in the City is patiently waiting for more (and I understand that there are at least two more already in the works, although a publication date hasn't been released).

26 June 2015

Great Reads – Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills

It has been a very long time since a book has sent me this kind of emotional journey. Sure, I laugh out loud at the antics of Stephanie Plum and I get misty eyed when hearts get broken during a good read, but Wendy Mills took me way beyond. I was actually sobbing at one point. The dust jacket says,

“Summoning courage she never knew she had. Erin embarks on a journey from the depths of frustration and despair to the heights of freedom and acceptance in a thought-provoking story about life, death, and difficult choices along the way.”

The reader must also summon some courage. This story is, in a word, ok, two words -- gut wrenching. Positively Beautiful carefully crafts Erin's story and where it could easily become maudlin, Erin and her mother dig deep and find strength in the their love for one another. It's lovely and heartbreaking. Make sure you have you the tissue nearby.

12 June 2015

Great Reads - Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers

This may be my absolute favorite of my winter reads, but I certainly didn’t think that at the beginning of this adventure, and I do mean adventure. Above all, Inherit Midnight is an adventure story. The story follows 17-year old Avery, the black sheep of an obscenely wealthy family who was raised by her grandmother, the family matriarch. Avery's grandmother decides that instead leaving her heirs to squabble over her will, she’s going to give it all away before she goes. She creates a worldwide scavenger hunt through the family’s history. The competition includes three cousins that have never had much use for Avery, and vice versa; her half-brother, whom she doesn’t really know; and two uncles, who will stop at nothing including sabotaging their own children. After each event, an heir is eliminated. Last heir standing gets it all. One word of caution – don’t give up on this story. I thought it started rather slowly and almost walked away not once, but twice. Sticking around was definitely worth it.

05 June 2015

I'm Reading - Renée Watson's This Side of Home

This Side of Home is a story of growth and change. Nikki and Maya are identical twins each of which has always functioned as one-half of a whole unit. They are now high school seniors. Looking forward to moving away from home and going to college, together. But a lot can change in a year. As the sisters’ paths diverge, they learn that they are whole individuals and that their familial bond is not lessened by that fact. Just the opposite, Watson has set the story in neighborhood undergoing gentrification, so their family relationships are the most stable thing about the story. Everything else is shifting around them, their friends, their community, their futures.  

29 May 2015

I’m Reading - Cindy L. Rodriquez's When Reason Breaks

Two girls—one seemingly with everything going for her; the other, not—both find solace and meaning in the poems of Emily Dickinson. One point of commonality for them is the English teacher that introduces them to the poet. There are others that the reader will discover as the story unfolds. Rodriquez seamlessly weaves through the school year telling their parallel stories until they become one in the surprising conclusion. You’ve heard the old saying, never judge a book by its cover, neither girl is what they seem to be and while Rodriquez hints at the plot twist that leads to the story’s conclusion, you still don’t see it coming. I was as surprised as the English teacher.