Goose Eggs and Doughnuts

It’s May! Which means the long-awaited return of local farmers’ markets. It means asparagus, flowers, rhubarb, and peas. It means weekly bike rides to my suburban Wheaton French Market.

Yeah, I know, the suburbs are “terrible.” My friends can’t say the word without a certain tone that conveys how subcool the suburbs are. I get it. Suburbs lack diversity, character, grit. I don’t disagree.

But allow me to briefly stick up for my home of the last 6 years. Wheaton’s got a fair amount of character. It’s been around since the 1830s, and a lot of homes and giant trees date back about as far. Victorian homes on shady streets abound. It’s got a quaint downtown centered around the UP West line that gives it a small-town feel instead of the soulless feeling that many suburbs offer with their broad expanses of parking lots and strip malls. And now that Wheaton no longer a dry town (since the mid 80s), you can barely notice the conservative influence of the very Christian (but nonetheless prestigious) Wheaton College.

And then there’s our French Market, which holds its own when stacked against other fine markets.Maybe it’s no Green City Market. But your average farmer’s market doesn’t offer goose eggs and doughnuts fried while you wait. And we have those.

So there.

 

Very Tiny Voyage: Kinda Sorta Spring in Cantigny Park

Spring in Chicago is fickle. A few sunny days in the 60s or low 70s tease us in what is still mostly a cold, wet season. So when the forecast calls for rain all day on Sunday, and then it doesn’t– for once–rain at all, we try to make something of it.

It turned out to be an unexpected decent day with a brisk breeze that reminded us not to take it for granted. The rain would be back soon. So off to Cantigny Park we went, Wheaton’s most prized public space bestowed upon the people by wealthy newspaperman Robert McCormick.

The long, cold winter means a late-blooming spring, so we made do with whatever color we could find, and we liked it.

We’ll even accept dead trees spray painted in pretty colors. Beggars can’t be choosers.

If you’re in Chicago and in need of a some vast expanses of green space, Cantigny is a nice way to spend a day. Take the Metra UP West line and get off at the Winfield stop. From there it’s just a little over a mile to the park entrance, so walk or, even better, bring your bike. Entrance is free ( but $5 to park if you decide to drive). You need just a couple hours to really explore the place, so bring a picnic and make a day of it.

Moving: The Worst Type of “Go”-ing

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I have, a couple of times in my life, met people who loved moving. They did it every year. Never did they renew a lease or settle in to a space. The idea of purchasing property never entered their minds. They always wanted to be on to the next.

Those people are insane.

Much as I love to travel, I also love having a safe, comfortable home to return to. I see a good space, whether apartment or condo, make a decision very quickly whether it is right for me or not, and then I nest. I don’t have a lot of stuff, but I like the stuff I have, in the arrangements I have it, and I especially love the comfort that comes with being able to walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water in the dark half-awake without hitting any walls or breaking a glass.

However. There is this dude I want to shack up with. He is too smart to want to live in my neighborhood (although, as loyal readers know, I have a great affection for it). So moving must be done, after a solid four and a half year run of not-moving.

It’s happening fairly quickly, because we found an amazing apartment that we had to snag fast, just a couple miles away, in the heart of the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago. Which means that in the space of about a week, movers must be scheduled, sorting and cleaning must be done, boxes gathered, dishes packed, etc. My house is completely upside-down at the moment. Every bag that I’ve ever taken anywhere in the world–the huge backpack that I lived out of for two months in Europe, the tiny overnight bag that I toss in the overhead compartment for weekends in New York–is stuffed full of every possession that I’m not just throwing out because I can’t face carting it down the stairs, down the street, and up the stairs again.

I love almost all forms of going places, but not this particular one. It’s stressful in the logistical details and the physical work, but it’s also stressful in the emotional sense, if one must admit to having feelings. I’m excited for a new adventure, but it’s also hard to leave the place that, as I’ve said before, is the first place that’s truly felt like my home. But going to new places and doing new things is what we’re all about here. Because you never know which new place is going to wind up being your favorite.

How to: Go Out in the Cold

Holy bananas it’s cold out there. Literally every single Chicago-adjacent-living person I know has agreed that this is the worst winter that has ever had to be endured. A lot of the response to this has been for us to just not leave our homes ever. But sometimes, going out is unavoidable. Here’s how I manage it.

1) Under-layer: Sweater tights and knee socks on the bottom, undershirt on the top. Plus obviously all the other things I usually wear under my clothes that you don’t need to read about on the Internet.

2) Regular layer: This is commonly known as “Just your regular clothes; don’t go around naked, dummy.” Important factors to consider are that I’m wearing tights under my jeans, so my skinniest jeans don’t work, and I want my top to involve some warm sweatery thing, because while my office looks cool with its huge bank of windows, that actually just means it’s really cold all the time. (This is why we all got snuggies as Christmas presents this year.)

3) Outer layer: Snow boots. I adore mine, from Baretrap. They’re incredibly warm and comfortable (and cute, if I do say so myself), and they’re reasonably waterproof, although if you go ankle-deep into a puddle, you’re sort of out of luck no matter what. Coat, of course. I can’t bring myself to buy one of the ginormous sleeping-bag coats that many Chicago women swear by, including our own art director, but I do have a nice warm wool coat with a huge hood to keep the wind off. My gloves are cheapie convertible glove-mitten combos from Target, but it means I can use my El pass, keys, and phone without taking off my mittens, and they also have long-ish sleeves tucked under my sweater sleeves so my wrists don’t get cold. I also have a silly but warm fur-lined trapper hat, ear flaps down, of course, and brim pulled down over my forehead. And then I wrap a big Irish wool scarf under my coat and pull it up over my nose. So I have just my eyes exposed.

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Cute, no? Well, maybe not. But I am warm. And while I did have some frost on my eyelashes by the time I got to the El today, I did not lose a limb, and I did not whine *that* much. And I consider that a victory against the elements.

Brain Freeze

Sorry for the delayed post, all. It is about 5 degrees here in Chicago, both outside and in my office, and so my brain froze up.

To thaw out, please enjoy the Iguazu National Park UNESCO site. That’s Iguazu Falls, Argentina, where I’ll be in about six weeks, and where today it is 90 degrees. Not that I’m keeping track or anything.

Very Tiny Voyage: ZooLights

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I am not a big Christmas person. I am, however, dating a big Christmas person. What this means is that I’m experiencing twenty times as much Christmas this year as I have since I was a small child. And not all of it is terrible! For example, this past weekend we checked out the delightful ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo here in Chicago.

I love Lincoln Park Zoo in the warmer months, because it’s free and it’s easy to get to on public transit and there are penguins, sea otters, lions, and an aardvark. Have you ever seen an aardvark in person? It’s one of the cutest things in the entire world. I highly recommend it. During ZooLights, though, none of these animals are available for viewing. In reading the word ZooLights, you should put all of the emphasis on the Lights portion. It is, after all, presented by ComEd, and in the dead of Chicago winter.

We saw these animals:

One (1) tufted lynx. It was marching back and forth in its cage with a look on its face that clearly said, “I would like to eat all of these children’s faces.”

Two (2) primates of indeterminate sorts sitting totally still in the far upper reaches of their cages. They were done for the day.

Other than that, the animals were all made out of lights. Besides having all of the trees decked out in colored lights and a pretty elaborate lights show timed to Christmas carols, there were displays set up here and there, among the ice sculptor and the kiddie train and the Santa photos and the hot chocolate stands. These displays did include the two most famous Christmas animals:

The traditional Christmas dragon…

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…and the Fruit Stripes zebras.

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When the weather isn’t utterly freezing, it makes for a nice, festive stroll. If you’re in the area, check it out over the next couple of weeks. It runs through January 5.

 

View to a Commute

Last week I gave you my thoughts about commuting and choosing how to get to work (thus engaging in the much-maligned “route talk”). This week we give you someone else’s thoughts–and, more importantly, photos–on the same topic.

ArchitectureChicago PLUS provides news, opinions, and a lot of images of, as the name would suggest, Architecture in Chicago. If that’s a topic you’re at all interested in, you should check out more of their pages. Of particular interest to me, though, was a recent post by writer Lynn Becker, who explained her new route to work and included some really striking, beautiful, and closely observed photos.

Besides just being pretty to look at, the post is a good reminder to pay attention to the everyday stuff of your life–and to mix up the everyday stuff every once in a while to help you open your eyes.

Very Tiny Voyage: Getting to Work

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I work in the West Loop in Chicago. This is the area where a lot of the cool kids have their startup lofts, and I am one of those cool kids. [Ed. note: I am definitely not a cool kid.] Working here is great in many ways: delicious coffee and lunch options, including the French Market; a big warehouse-y space with tons of windows and hardwood floors and not a single bit of corporate-purple cubicle-covering in sight; etc etc. But the one thing this location does not have going for it–for me, anyway–is transportation.

I don’t drive, so public transportation is pretty important for my day-to-day life. To get to the closest El stop to my office, I would need to change trains downtown. This seems like a small thing, but it’s actually a huge hassle, especially when you think about having to go downstairs, change platforms, go upstairs, and then wait for a connecting train. It could add ten minutes to the whole trip, which is about how long it would take for me to just walk the 3/4 mile from the closest El stop on my own line, the Brown Line.

But here’s where it gets tricky. There are two Brown Line El stops that are almost equidistant from my office. One, Merchandise Mart, is .6 miles , and the other, Washington and Wells, is .8 miles. It would seem logical that I get off at Merchandise Mart, which is both the stop I come to first and the stop that’s closer. And in good weather, that would be the correct choice, because my walk is then mostly along the river, which is a beautiful way to start the day.

However, in bad weather, namely in cold, windy weather, that walk is much worse, because there’s nothing blocking the harsh wind from ripping along the river and destroying my soul before I even get to the office. So in bad weather, the smart choice is to get off at Washington and Wells, where the huge buildings of the Loop do some big-shoulders-style blocking against the elements.

The other advantage, rain or shine, of walking from Washington and Wells is that my route then takes me through Ogilvie train station. This is a bonus for two reasons.

1) The aforementioned French Market. I specifically love to start my day with a cup of Cuban coffee from Beaver’s Donuts. I will occasionally break down and get a little bag of their mini fresh-fried doughnut holes with cinnamon sugar, too. My gut does not need them, but they’re worth it for a special treat.

2) I get to be in a train station. I love trains, and train stations, and anything that tricks my brain into thinking for a second that we might be going on a trip. It’s the tiniest of dopamine rushes, but it helps a lot to start my day in that frame of mind.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re planning a route, whether it’s how you’re going to hit all the sights you want to see in Thailand or just how you’re getting to work. Time, weather, amenities, and natural beauty all play a role. If there’s a true cliche in the world, it’s this one: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

This Is Why You Plan Ahead

This past Saturday in Chicago, the temperature did not even glance in the direction of “above freezing,” the air was in the teens by the evening, and winds gusted up to 32 miles an hour. Mike and I were out in this, dummies that we are, learning to our horror that neither of us has decent gloves. This winter is starting out worse, it seems, than last year’s ever got, and I’m afraid that it bodes ill for the rest of the season.

The only thing we could do to fend off frostbite (short of running home, which we wound up doing) was to daydream about Argentina. “We’ll be eating outside and swimming and wearing t-shirts and we’ll be so hot and sweltery that we’ll forget what cold even feels like.” Like a magic spell, this kind of talk seemed to protect us, at least momentarily, against the elements.

But then the wind picked up off the lake again and our lips froze shut. But still! For a moment, dreams of rooftop swimming pools and jungle hikes warmed us up.

And that, friends, is why you plan ahead. So you can get through the miserable bits between here and there.