Four Days in Chicago

Now that the garden is almost history (we still have peppers and eggplants plus we haven’t dug the sweet potatoes or peanuts), it was time to make a brief escape before winter pinned us in. Hurricanes and rain nixed travel to the south and east, so we headed north to Chicago.

I was lucky to get tickets to the Immersive Van Gogh exhibition for 10 AM Wednesday. The rest of the trip was planned around that.

The Chicago Art Institute Museum was walking distance from the hotel. That’s where we spent our Monday. In addition to the permanent exhibits, they had a special display of “What I Saw” by Joseph Yoakum. He was born in Ash Grove MO, which is just a few miles from Willard. He was born in 1891 and as a teenager, ran off to join the circus. He was drafted into the army in 1918. Then he spent years wandering around the world. Then in 1962, at the age of 71, he had a dream and began painting the places he’d been during his life. He produced over 2,000 drawings before he died at age 76.

Route 66

For some reason, many places were closed on Tuesday in Chicago. We decided to explore Chinatown. One one side of Chinatown Square were 12 statues representing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Dennis and I were born in the year of the snake; my mom in the year of the dog and my dad in the year of the rooster. We all had a good laugh reading about our “characteristics”. We bought some souvenirs and gifts before deciding it was time to eat. We found Moon Palace, which was recommended by our hotel concierge. Unfortunately it was one of the many places closed on Tuesday. We back to the area near our hotel and had hotdogs at the food truck parked by the Field Museum. We then walked around Grant Park. We found Buckingham fountain but it had been turned off and drained. Deja vu from a past trip to Kansas City.

Wednesday morning we experienced the Immersive Van Gogh. It’s a combination of feeling like you are inside the painting plus the music. The blades of the windmills turned. The flowers blew in the wind. I made sure my parents had seats in case it became sensory overload and they might get dizzy but it didn’t happen. If it were to come to Springfield, I’d see it again.

We spent the afternoon at the Garfield Park Conservatory. It is landscape art under glass. The greenhouses are as amazing as the ones at the St Louis botanical gardens, but they are more extensive. In the Aroid House, there is a waterfall and stream flowing in the middle. Surrounded by plants found on a rainforest are also Chihuly blown glass Persian lillies.

On our final day the weather changed. It was gray and 50* with some sprinkles. While my parents sipped coffee in the cafe inside the Chicago Botanical Gardens (actually located in Glencoe) Dennis and I braved the weather and explored the gardens. We were not alone either. It wasn’t crowded but there were a lot of other people walking around, including moms pushing strollers with bundled up babies and small children. We made a list of new plants/flowers we’d like to grow next year. Also new plans for front yard low light under the trees landscaping. Grass is no longer an option.

Chicago was fun but I m not a city girl and my own bed felt good Friday night.

Indian Summer?

I’m not sure if you can call it Indian Summer if there hasn’t been a frost, but it’s 86* and 90* is predicted for tomorrow. Maybe we’re just in a rerun of summer.

Thursday evening Dennis and I celebrated my birthday at Springfield Brewing Co. in addition to some good beer, they serve good food. Dennis chose the Ghost IPA And I had an ale. We started with chips and salsa with a side of queso. Then we split their “brewben” sandwich. They have the proportions of meat, cheese and sauerkraut just right. It’s served o n rye from a local bakery. We don’t often drive o Springfield just for a meal, but when we do we try to be sure it’s special.

I spent much of yesterday finishing _White Ivy_. It had some interesting twists and an ending I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t like any of the characters by the end of the book but it’s well written.

This morning I stumbled upon the final episode of “A Chef’s Life “. I’ve seen several episodes over the past few years and find Vivian Howard an interesting figure. She’s someone I’d like to have as a friend or neighbor. I’d definitely like to eat her food. On this episode she found pawpaws and used them to make a version of banana pudding. It will probably be 3 more years before we get pawpaws from our trees. She also made chow chow to serve at the final dinner. Since she was serving it and not canning it, she included ripe yellow cherry tomatoes and watermelon rind with a bit of ripe watermelon on it. I may have to see if she has a cookbook, although she never seems to measure any of her ingredients.

I have my fall decorations out and today spent a few minutes selecting a few favorite Halloween decorations to place here and there. Every year my seasonal decorations get more minimal.

Saying Goodbye

Monday we (me, Dennis, and my parents) drove to Salem AR for our cousin Karen’s funeral. It was a beautiful service for a beautiful person. Karen was always kind and always smiling. Before and after the funeral I got to do a bit of catching up with other cousins. I hope the next time we get together it’s for a wedding or holiday.

We are having fall weather, for the moment anyway. The past 4 or 5 days we’ve had a bit of rain and temperatures in the 60’s as highs. It’s been foggy most mornings when Brenda and I walk. We see deer and turkeys daily. I saw the first geese flying over this morning.

Last night I started reading _White Ivy_ by Susie Yang. So far I’m liking it. It’s one of three recently published novels I checked out of the library. I may be a bit ambitious but hopefully I’ll get them read before they are due in 3 weeks.


Last night we celebrated my dad’s 88th birthday. Matt,Sara, Jax, and Zane got him this awesome shirt.

We grilled burgers and hotdogs. We had potato salad and lots of pickles. Also birthday cake. It was a great time.

With all the extra time I have post canning season, I turned into a social butterfly this week. Thursday I met my friend Julie at the mall we masked up and walked around the mall. We did a lot of chatting and may have wandered into a couple of stores and even did some economy boosting with a few purchases. It was a cloudy day with scattered showers predicted, which is why we opted for indoor walking. We had .2” in our rain gauge that evening.

Friday, Brenda and I checked out an estate sale in Willard. The woman who had lived there had been a crafter and card maker, so I gave a lot of her fancy paper and rubber stamps a new home. Brenda was more practical and came home with some unique jelly jars.

We got some heavy rain during the night but by mid morning Saturday it was clearing up. Brenda and I braved the rain to get to the farmers market early. There was more produce than I expected, but apples and pumpkins were the most plentiful. Dennis was with our church men’s group making apple butter. They made 234 pints, which will be for sale after church next Sunday. I’m sure they’ll sell it all. They always do.

Today is cloudy and only 66*. I plan to spend my afternoon simmering chili and play with my “new” rubber stamps.

40 Years

Today is the official anniversary but Dennis and I celebrated yesterday. We started with the Springfield Art Museum. They have an exhibit of all 41 etchings of The Inferno of Dante by Michael Mazur. Each etching was paired with the corresponding verses that inspired the etch. Very dark. Fortunately these etchings were balanced by a Kewpie exhibit, with 15 hand colored pages of Rose O’Neill’s comics. The comics were for magazines in the 1930’s and showed the Kewpie s intervening to help out children in unfortunate situations. O’Neill used clever rhyming commentary with the drawings. I was impressed.

Afterwards we grabbed a burger and fries at Red’s Giant Hamburg. It’s supposed to have been the first drive through and was located on Route 66. the original building and sign are gone but the family and friends have recreated it with much of the original kitchen and claim they also have the original recipes. The food is great and it’s still a popular spot.

We spent the afternoon walking around the botanical gardens. It’s not the best time of year but the roses were still blooming and the hosta area is still nice. Many of the other flower beds have already been cut back and mulched.

Meanwhile Khloe celebrated her 9th birthday on Thursday. She continues to act like a puppy

Autumnal Equinox

With the almost 2” of rain we got Monday night into Tuesday morning, and the cold front that followed, it’s feeling like fall. Unfortunately it will be back to near 90 degrees by the weekend. It felt a little strange to wear jeans and a jacket to walk the past 2 mornings.

Yesterday we made a stocking up trip to Sams. I’d like to do a comparison shopping trip to the newly opened Costco but you don’t get to check it out without a membership. Unless you have a friend with a membership you can pay to buy you a gift card. First world problem.

I’m not sure if it’s the cooler weather or I’ve recovered from all the long days of gardening and canning, but my “normal” energy level has returned. Neglected tasks have been finished, new projects begun, and I’m not falling asleep on my feet before 9 pm. it’s a good feeling.

The Weekend

Brenda and Larry went camping/fishing this week. I looked after their rabbits. They look after our chickens when we’re away. Good neighbors and friends. I slacked off on my walking while Brenda was gone but this morning we were back at it.

It’s just getting light at 6 am. It’s also in 60’s so I put on a long sleeve shirt with my shorts. It doesn’t take long to warm up. We saw a blue heron come up off the creek along Farm Road 106. That’s a rare occurrence. Then, as we were walking along FR 93 we heard a cacophony of cows bellowing and coyotes yipping off to the NW. The sun was rising and we were surprised to here coyotes. Then a lone coyote crossed the road 20 yards in front of us. It trotted straight across the road, not looking left or right. Maybe the coyotes we heard weren’t trying to take down a calf/cow but just calling for this guy who got separated from the pack. It was a little unnerving.

Yesterday I met 2 girlfriends for lunch. We ate on the shaded patio I planned to have the fish & chips but they were out. I had the Nashville hot chicken sandwich instead. It was appropriately spicy and I’m glad I tried it. Since we were outside and it wasn’t crowded, we ended up sitting there and chatting until almost 2. We text daily but you can’t beat a good sit down and catch up session.

We have a bit over half of the garden “put to bed”. Today I’ll finish putting away all the canning stuff. For the rest of the growing season I’ll concentrate on eating from the garden and finding a few nooks and crannies in the freezer for okra and peppers.


Most of the time I think of enough in the positive sense. I’m happy because I have enough family, friends, health, money to pay the bills, things to do and challenges to figure out. Right now I’ve had it with frustration. ENOUGH!

I now write my blog on my phone because my 2007 computer is too outdated to use any of the browsers that WordPress now requires to upload the site. I suppose at some point I’ll say”enough” and get a new computer.

Our family reunion planned for Las Vegas in October had to be cancelled because of CoVid19. Family members too young to be vaccinated and others with health concerns make the trip a health risk and no one in the family would ever risk another’s health. It’s disappointing and a few curse words may have crossed my lips, but it can be rescheduled.

The hot weather continues with little chance of rain. I’ve had enough of watering plants but will continue. I want the trees, bushes and perennials to survive.

Our solar plans are on hold. Someone made a mistake in how many panels our pole barn roof could have. It was calculated to give us 102% of current electric use, but with fewer panels we’d only have 80% of current use. Not acceptable. So the company will have to figure out another plan. Some ground mounted panels? I’ve had enough and bounced the ball into their court.

I’ve had enough of canning and put my pressure canner up for the season. I preserved have enough food to last the winter.

Saturday evening we celebrated Dennis’ birthday. He got some grilling tools to go with his new grill. He also got some fancy store bought shorts so he doesn’t have to wear old cut-offs when we go out.

I’ve had enough of summer but can’t so much about when fall weather arrives. Ive made enough changes in my current situation that I will have enough time to read and work on a few crafting projects. and that’s enough.

A Day of No Canning

Yesterday I canned 5 pints of diced tomatoes, 4 pints of tomato sauce and 10 pints of pickled okra. Today I’m taking a break from the kitchen. I danced around the living room and bedrooms with a broom, the turned the Roomba loose on the floors. Then Khloe and I headed downstairs to straighten up and organize in the basement.

We didn’t eat a fish sandwich at the sports bar like we intended on Friday evening. We decided to look around and see what other restaurants had outdoor dining and found several. We ate at Civil Kitchen. Dennis had a burger and fries. I had their version of a BLT. It was sliced granny smith apples, bacon, lettuce slathered in their “secret sauce”, and served on a waffle. Delicious. Our first stop on the art walk was just a few steps away at the Park Central branch library. The paintings were abstract doodles that had been colored in bright colors. We met the artist, a retired geometry teacher, and the paintings made perfect sense. We went to several other locations where paintings were being shown and ran into Meaghan Rosen, my fiber arts teacher from 2 years ago. It was fun to chat for a few minutes and then move on. It was close to 9 when we got home (2 late nights in a row!) and there was thunder and lightning off to the west. We got a bit of rain during the night.

We spent the rest of the Labor Day Weekend at home. Life is still all about the garden, so there isn’t anything interesting to report. It’s less humid so the temperature is getting down to mid-60’s overnight but bouncing up into upper 80’s or lower 90’s by early afternoon. I’m ready for it to start feeling more like fall.


Are you allowed to say that if you don’t work a M-F job? I’m still aware of the weekend and like to relax a bit, even if I’m retired.

Dennis and I decided to not sell at the Willard Farmer’s Market this evening. Instead, we are heading to Springfield to check out the First Friday Art Walk. We went once this spring but haven’t made it back since. We’re hoping to find our little hole-in-the-wall sports bar that serves (or used to) fish sandwiches on Fridays and has a few tables outside along the sidewalk.

Yesterday we had supper with Russ & Teresa. We met at Tie & Timber brewery. They have a large outdoor seating area but don’t serve food. Across the street is a small Mexican “shack” that serves only carry out. Owners don’t mind if you bring outside food to eat while drinking their beer. I had a very interesting beer called Basil Saison. It was dry with a hint of basil and refreshing. It went well with tacos and black beans. The outside area was shaded and the temperature in upper 80’s with lower than usual humidity, so it was pleasant to sit at a picnic table and chat for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, by the time 9 PM rolled around, we were all ready to go home and hit the sack. This happens as you age and continue to work hard and get up early.

We continue to find several tomato hornworms every day. The damage is growing but I’m not ready to pull up the plants. Pulling up all the tomatoes and burning them is the final solution, but we aren’t there yet. I’m considering dusting the leaves with diatomaceous earth. There’s still a lot of ripening tomatoes yet to be canned, and we haven’t even discussed fried green tomatoes and green tomato pickles and relish.

I started reading The Life She Wished to Live by Ann McCutchan. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is one of my favorite writers. Several years ago my friend Patty and I went to Cross Creek and visited her homestead which is now a state park. I don’t have as much time for reading now that I’m canning tomatoes, which don’t even half the time in the pressure canner as the green beans did.