Morton Arboretum on a Spring Afternoon

I got a cool Christmas present this year – given to me by my in-laws, picked out by my daughter – a pass to the Morton Arboretum.

Morton Arboretum is 1,700 acres in Lisle, Illinois founded by Joy Sterling Morton. Mr. Morton’s father founded Arbor Day. Mr. Joy Morton, himself,  not only developed the Arboretum but also started the Morton Salt Company,

The main focus of the Morton Arboretum is … trees. The 1700 acres have 222,000 plants of all kinds. I could say a lot more … and probably will because I’m sure I’ll be back.

So since Christmas I’ve wanted to go … first it was cold and then it was snowy and then I had a lot of writing assignments to do … and then spring happened and we’ve had rain and rain and rain.

And then we had a beautiful afternoon and I took advantage of the opportunity.

Here are some of the pictures I took.  (Other trips, I’ll focus more on identification, etc.)

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Eating Our Way Up North

IMG_9615.jpgLast weekend Carter and I headed north to hear Elizabeth perform for solo and ensemble (as I said in my last post).

IMG_9612Before we went, I checked out some local restaurants that might be fun to try.

IMG_9613On the way to Steven’s Point, I found a cheesy option which I thought was appropriate being that we were in Wisconsin and all. The place had several different varieties of mac and cheese – that was their specialty – hence their name. Neither Carter nor I were very hungry, so we split a bowl – well, actually a mini cast-iron frying pan of the classic cheese – nothing fancy.

And that’s kind of how IMG_9611it tasted. Even though it is considered the #3 best restaurant out of 130 restaurants in Wisconsin Dells, it was rather cheesily bland. The macaroni was drenched in a creamy sauce. Maybe I just don’t like creamy sauces. We ate it, but were glad we didn’t order separate servings. (And I’m guessing some of their fancier dishes are more tasty.)

You order at the counter and take your dish to a seat  (or maybe the server brings it to you – I really can’t remember)- so semi-kind of, fast food.

Maybe it was #3 restaurant  – I haven’t been to the other 130. I’d give it a six out of 10. I did like the decor. Very Wisconsinish.


Once we got to Stevens Point, we were asked to meet the others at Hilltop Pub and Grill. (#4 of 91 in S.P. according to Trip Advisor). IMG_9617Cindy’s parents had heard it was a great place for Friday Night Fish Fry (definitely a Wisconsin thing).

I still wasn’t hungry (not feeling 100%) so had something simple – but most of the family got the fish fry. So, I did eat a couple pieces of Cindy’s fish and it was super good. Carter had the chicken tenders and said they were similar to what he’s had other places. But everyone truly thought the fish delicious.. Good recommendation.

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Various members of several sides of the family.

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IMG_9646Another restaurant that interested me was the Wooden Chair.  (Trip Advisor – 3 of 91). So after the Saturday competition we headed over.

The restaurant opened in 1993, but is located in a bank building from 1891. (Seems like I have been in several banks turned restaurants.) A lot of the structure/decor reflects the bank.

Jeff, Cindy, Carter, Elizabeth and I were the ones who ate here and we all got something different. Everyone seemed to enjoy their food. I was feeling better, so I got a BLT. The IMG_9650sandwich was absolutely delicious! I like BLTs and eat them a lot – especially on road trips – but this one was extra good – moist with a lot of bacon. I wished we lived closer so I could try some other foods. (I was still eating cautiously.)

The walls were brick and very old-time bankish – which I also liked.

And I had to smile at Carter and Elizabeth playing games with the creamer containers. Anyone who ever went out to eat with my dad knows how he had a whole series of games with the creamers – getting points for landing one upright, etc. These two never met my dad, but his DNA was evident in their choice of activities.

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All I can say is, their great-grandfather would’ve been proud of them.

 

An Eerie Evening Walk

IMG_9628To prepare for a quick trip to Stevens Point with Carter, I searched on the internet for things to do/see that would interest me and a 14-year-old boy.

That’s how I found the Stevens Point Sculpture Garden. By the time we got to S.P. , met the rest of the family for dinner, and then checked out the performing arts center on the UW campus (where Elizabeth was to perform Saturday morning), the sky was beginning to darken.

I put the address in the GPS and we headed out. But Siri just left us with “find a place to park and walk to your destination.”  However, there was no place to park and no clue as to where the destination was.

So after riding around some more and after the sky getting even darker, we went back to the hotel, picked up Jeff And Elizabeth, and headed out again. This time I put Zenoff Park in the GPS because I guess that the Sculpture Park is inside of Zenoff Park – but if you don’t know that – the directions get very confusing.

All this to say that by the time we found it, the evening light was fading. The trees were  leafless and the ground brown and muddy. Parts were flooded from the recent rain. This was the night’s aesthetic as we wandered the trail and looked at strange formations in the dusk. The pictures do not even do justice to the eeriness of our walk.

I am sure if we did the same walk on a sunny summer morning, the perspective would be a lot different.

If you’re in Stevens Point, I would recommend it for a place to get some exercise – however, although we did not get bitten by an army of bugs  (maybe a little early in the season) – reviewers say the place has a multitude of ticks and mosquitos – which I believe because of the boggy areas. So beware.

 

 

 

A Place to Remember

IMG_9486 2When my daughter asked me if I could take the kids somewhere “educational” this week, I thought of a few places, but centered in on the Illinois Holocaust Museum, I had been there once before, but I knew the kids hadn’t been.

The museum is located in Skokie, a Chicago suburb, where at one time, the population was half Jewish. (That figure is from the 90s, not sure what it is today.) Precisely because of that demographic, the development of the museum had a lot of support from townspeople who had been through the holocaust or had family who had been through it.

The new museum (it use to be located in a storefront) opened in 2009.

You can take pictures in many areas inside, but I didn’t. So much to read and look at and we shared the space with a limitless amount of middle and high school kids on field trips. (Might not have been the best time of year to go.)

Although all the museum is interesting, the highlight of the trip was the Take a Stand exhibit – considered to be one of the top twelve museum exhibits in the world.

To design the exhibit, the museum took several Holocaust survivors out to L.A., where they sat in a green room and were asked questions for five or six hours a day over a period of a several days. Their answers were videoed. The producers then edited the video down to 28 answers to the most common questions and the entire project was made into a hologram.

So, as you sit in the auditorium, a man or women sits up front and tells his or her story. IMG_9491Then the audience can ask questions. Because of the hologram effect, it seems as if you are talking to a real person, but in actuality it’s a picture. In fact, the man we listened to died two weeks ago. As time goes on and the number of survivors decreases, I’m sure exhibits like this will become even more valuable.

I would highly recommend a visit.

Here are some tips.

*Knowing about the Holocaust before you visit is a good thing. That helped me grasp the meaning of some of the exhibits. Although, even if you know nothing, the museum clearly gives a timeline of the events. Both munchkins had studied the Holocaust and had a good understanding of what they were seeing.

*Give yourself a lot of time. We missed quite a bit of it because of time constraint.                           The Take a Stand exhibit is an hour itself. In other words, don’t expect to run in and out in a half hour.

*Consider the ages of your kids. I asked the munchkins how old they thought someone should be before visiting and they agreed with me – middle school and up. If you do take a  younger child, a lot will need to be explained. Pictures are also disturbing (for older teens and adults, too, but we are more understanding of the reality of what happened). And I did not see one child among the hundreds of people who were visiting on the day we were there.

IMG_9485*Beware that this time of year is when field trips happen. The place was packed with teens to the extent that we were often stuck behind them and had to wait to get to the next room.

*Know you will need to go through security to get in.

Would I recommend it? Yes! And I would recommend you bring your teens there, too. As we get further and further away from World War II, less people will be around to tell their stories and memories blur.

Yet, we must NOT forget.

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Leaning Tower of Niles

IMG_9495.jpgEven though I grew up in the area, I had not heard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, located in Niles, Illinois, until last week when I was looking for something to do near the museum we visited. Not sure how I  missed it growing up, or maybe I did see it as a kid, I just don’t remember it.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Niles is half the size of the real one in Italy. Robert Ilg built the structure back in 1934 as part of a park for his hot air electric ventilating company.

Since then the tower has gone through several renovations and a couple years ago, the city of Niles bought it from the YMCA for $10.00 and renovated it once again.

Not much to do, but walk around – still if you’re going that way, it’s worth a stop.

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A Fun Lunch at a New Place

I got the text close to midnight. “Can you take Carter and me somewhere for lunch tomorrow? Everyone else has something to do.”

So I decided that if this was happening, we would go somewhere different, not just run up the road for the same old, same old.

Carter likes Texas Roadhouse, but they don’t open for lunch. So I’m thinking steak for Carter. Mallory likes lemonade. (I don’t think she’s ever had an entire glass of soda – just doesn’t like it. Never did.)

And after some hunting I found a place – no steak, but lots of barbecue and their speciality was hand-squeezed lemonade. Perfect.

And none of us  had been there before.

None of us had heard of it before.

Carter was a little hesitant. He had had barbecue once and didn’t really like it, but Mallory was ready for an adventure so the ladies won.

As we walked up to the door, the smell of barbecue wafted in the air – reminding me of long ago camping trips. As Mallory said, “Good marketing.”

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The place reminded me of barbecue restaurants out west. Where you order at a counter and then find a seat. One thing different from some bbq places is you order the meat by ounce – though they do have pulled pork/chicken sandwiches, too. Sides are extra.

We got our food and found a place to sit. Here’s Mallory loving her lemonade. She said it was the best lemonade she had ever had.  Even Carter who doesn’t like lemonade, thought it was good.IMG_9266

As was the pulled pork, the french fries, the mac and cheese, the broccoli salad AND my pulled pork sandwich. The meat was beyond tender. Carter had been concerned about the sauce – but you add that yourself, so it wasn’t a problem. Not only did he like the meat, he finished my sandwich. We were all much impressed.

You also get a complementary ice cream cone.

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Here they are figuring out the machine.

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Success

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Here I am in front of the Pig Up and Go Sign.IMG_9270

I highly recommend this place – some say it is the best or at least second best bbq place around. But I’ll warn you – it is expensive so be prepared. But the food is delicious and  the staff very patiently answered our questions and were quite friendly.

I’m sure the place gets busy Friday nights or over the weekend – and even though it was just semi-busy when we were there, a parking place was difficult to find. The restaurant is in a strip mall, next to many other restaurants and was extremely crowded.

And totally not sure where the dinosaur came from. He just sort of wobbled down the street, not advertising anything, so we weren’t sure what this was all about, but hey, it added to the fun.

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