Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Chicago Was…

…a blast! The city rolled out its finest spring weather for our arrival – seventy plus is wonderful anywhere, but in Chicago? Miraculous! The whole city in a good mood. 

Highlights: my Segway tour was terrific. No one else had signed up for Friday morning, so I got a private tour. 
Riding that thing was SO much fun that I checked our local Craigslist ads yesterday to see if there are any available. Just thinking about it…

After the tour I had a pizza lunch at Lou Malnati’s as several readers suggested. Very good, but I confess I’m more of a thin crust type at heart!
Next time I visit, I want to take the pizza tour. Apparently you get to sample from several restaurants and even see how it's made.

Naturally I visited a couple of thrift stores. We all do that, right, go thrifting in any new city we travel to? The only souvenir I bought came from one of them, a lovely pair of sterling earrings inset with lapis. 

My friend Marcia, who used to live in Chicago, told me not to miss the Cultural Center, and she was so right. It's in the old Public Library, and the building alone is worth a visit. 
Where else are you going to see a Tiffany glass dome in the ceiling over walls decorated with glass mosaic while you listen to a chamber music concert – for free?
But the really exciting thing for me was they currently have an exhibit of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests

amazing kinetic sculptures that I have wanted to see for years. I even got to walk one!

We took the architectural boat tour, another not-to-be-missed activity. 

Linda and I spent our last day doing something we’ve decided will be a tradition on our trips together. It started on our trip to New England; on our last full day we drove from New Hampshire to Maine…for gelato. This time we spent the day going from fabulous bakery to bakery to patisserie. 
Molly’s Cupcakes (not your usual bakery cupcakes, believe me!) and Vanille Patisserie (picture actual edible gold decorating a dark chocolate confection) got our top votes. 
We can hardly wait to go on another trip and see what food we decide to pursue on our last day!

Really enjoyed the train trip home, though I confess that the upper bunk was not the most comfortable place I’ve ever slept. (Though certainly not the most UNcomfortable either!) 
Something I didn’t expect was that after two full days of nearly constant movement, when we arrived in Portland it took quite a while to stop feeling a bit dizzy. Whenever I stopped moving, the floor seemed to be gently heaving up and down, like when you’ve been on a boat for a while.

Thinking back over the trip, it strikes me that the real value in travel goes beyond the things you see. (And eat!) I was forced out of my comfort zone and did a number of things that I would normally never do. And succeeded at them, which is pretty much guaranteed to bolster your confidence. It’s awfully easy to stick with what’s familiar when you get to my age, and I confess to some trepidation before we left home. If I hadn’t already paid for that Segway tour, I might have chickened out.

Thank heavens I didn’t!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

All Jazzed Up

Friday was the perfect spring day. Perfect, I tell you! Well, except that we didn’t have Judy with us – she is in Hawai’i, so no pity needed! – but that meant we fit nicely into my sporty convertible. (Usually KK chauffeurs us in her comfy SUV.) AND it was sunny, And about 80 degrees. Which of course means Top Down…which is my personal definition of a perfect spring day.

Our first stop was in KK’s neighborhood, which was good because she found one of those tall bistro table-and-chairs set, and it was easy to get it back to her house. (I can get a lot in my back seat with the lid down, but not that set!) I picked up another addition to my colorful-vases-in-the-window collection, though in point of fact this is actually a hand blown aquavit glass.
At least according to the box it came in. A Kosta Boda piece from Sweden. 
It's even signed.
Even though it's shorter, I think it fits right in with the rest of the gang.

I also scored a lovely metal peacock yard ornament, which is currently hanging out under our Japanese maple among the maidenhair ferns. 

I admit I’m getting something of a collection of yard ornaments, but hey, this was two bucks. Yes, I am a sucker for a good deal. 

But I’m even more of a sucker for something that makes me laugh. Like these jazz-hands frogs.

They came from the estate sale of some folks who seemed to have been into frogs (this was not the only choice) and Nascar racing. (And now my unruly brain is seeing images of frogs at the wheels of race cars.) I’m not sure where this quartet will end up, but everywhere I try them 

they make me laugh.
My last dollar was spent at one of those sales that you think has absolutely nothing for you. Nice folks, friendly chat, but mostly kid stuff for sale. It was at the house of a middle-aged lady whose daughter and two year old boy had recently moved in, so they were trying to get rid of stuff to make everything fit in the 1800 square foot house. Especially since the middle-aged lady’s father is about to move in as well. Four generations! I hope they are one of those families who really enjoy each other’s company. Anyway, we were saying our goodbye’s and heading toward the car when I noticed this box on the driveway. 

And there were indeed Space Bags inside – those storage things that you suck the air out of so your stuff takes less room. 
One extra-large, four large, and three mediums, which I think is pretty darned good for a buck. I had been thinking about getting some, because I want to try them for travel. The mediums should be about right for my small suitcase.  Because my SIL Linda & I are about to go on a trip! (Burglars please take note that neither of our homes will be unoccupied – our husbands are staying behind along with vicious guard dogs. And guard gorillas. Just sayin’.)

She has a conference in Chicago this weekend, and I’m going along. While she is in meetings on Friday…I’ll be touring around Chicago on a Segway! Never ridden one before but have wanted to for years, so this is one of those bucket-list things. I suppose the chance of passing a garage sale while we’re touring is slim, right? I confess I have already scoped out the location of any thrift stores closest to where we’ll be staying.

When the conference is over we’ll spend a couple of days playing. Would love to hear your recommendations for where to go – and where to get the best pizza! And then we are coming home on the train! We will have our own little bedroom with a tiny bathroom, and we are very excited. This is another thing I've wanted to do for years. I've ridden on trains before, but never in a sleeper car. It's probably a good thing there won't be room in my bag for extra clothes, or I'd be tempted to put together a vintage costume for the trip. As it is, I'm sure I'll be feeling very Agatha Christie-ish. Do you think there’s any chance we might take an unexpected turn and end up in Istanbul instead of Portland?

Anyway, since we’re taking the train we want to keep our luggage as small as possible. Hence the space bags. I’ll let you know if they were useful!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April Foolery

You would have laughed at us driving to sales on Friday. Not because it was April Fool’s Day, but because we were all excited over spotting actual garage sale signs on corners. Yup, big neon-bright poster boards tacked up. It's the first weekend since winter began in earnest (translation: it started raining) we’ve seen this; it's been all estate sales for months. But now we’re starting to have days of sunshine, so the actual yard sales will begin to bloom again. Along with my yard!

I picked up half a dozen padded hangers from a free box and a few sewing notions at one sale.

The next place supplied a folding travel hair dryer for a buck. (You already know what those look like, right? Picture a nice new one – that’s right.) 

But the real fun came at the estate sale on the north end of town. It was run by the nice guys I saw at the grocery store one Christmas playing Santa by giving away money to folks who needed it. We enjoy their sales, even though the prices are often higher than we think is reasonable. But they have their pricing blind spots, and the biggie is textiles. And kitchen stuff.

Judy and I were rummaging through a box of miscellaneous kitchen gadgets that were a quarter apiece. I plucked this odd thing out of the box and we puzzled over what it might be. Maybe a wire top hat? I held it over Judy’s head. Nah. Wrong size!

Then I found another section 

and fit them together. Love those wooden feet.

I think it's the holder for a fondue pot, with a lidded cup to hold a Sterno can. Haven’t found any pictures of anything similar though, so who knows. It could hold a serving dish to stay warm on a buffet 

and it makes a dandy plant stand! 

Back in one of the bedrooms I found an embroidered tablecloth, and headed out to pay. Weldon was in conversation at the moment so as I waited to hand over a couple of bucks, I noticed the dumpster there on the driveway. With something pink and yellow sticking out. I poked at it, and discovered a handmade tufted rug, little tassels of cotton yarn stitched to a fabric background. I pulled it out. No stains or smells.

“Are you throwing this away?” I asked incredulously. Yeah, we always have to toss a lot of stuff, they said. I tried to keep from rolling my eyes, thinking you don’t throw away a perfectly good vintage rug until it's still there after the sale. We also pulled out an undamaged cotton & wool blanket that KK took home – it will be going on picnics with her and the grandkids this summer.

When I reached home I tossed my finds on the dining table as I always do. Mrs. Wilberforce immediately went for the tablecloth.

It washed up beautifully, and as soon as I put it back on the table, there she was again.

While she tried out the tablecloth, I tossed the rug on the floor to take a picture. That’s when I discovered the large bunny design on it.

ZoĆ« discovered it at the same time. The bunny is just about as big as she is! 

And she settled right in on HER rug.

It washed and dried nicely too (well, there were some stray pieces of yarn in the lint trap!). And I put it on her favorite chair, where she is curled up even as we speak.

Those estate sale guys may not recognize quality textiles, but my pets do!

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