Courage in a Cupcake

DSC_1020Another new restaurant!

The Courageous Bakery and Cafe. Yes, the name has a meaning.  About seven years ago, a young women was diagnosed with cancer and a benefit was held to help her with medical bills. Her sister baked 250 cupcakes for the benefit and everyone liked them. That was the beginning – first of a cupcake food truck and now also two brick and mortar restaurants.

But they don’t just have cupcakes – they also serve breakfasts and lunches. Friend Kris and I stopped in for lunch. Both of us had quiche and both of us thought it was great. I had a salad with mine and Kris had roasted potatoes which she said were good.

And of added interest – the owners were featured on Cupcake Wars – so when we decided to get a cupcake – a got the pink velvet, a runner up on the TV show. The cupcake was made with cocoa and cream cheese and while heavy (which normally I wouldn’t like), this was moist and delicious.

So just a fun stop on the lunches of life.

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So many choices!

 

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And my personal Cupcake Wars cupcake!

Graue Mill

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What do you do when the week has been hot and humid and suddenly you have a beautiful, breezy day before you?

You put aside the deadlines that are ticking and get in the car and head out for an adventure.

I had read about Graue Mill, but had not seen it and wasn’t sure what it was all about (other than a mill). Not super close, but not miles away, I went to discover a new place. (After all, I had done well with the Lizzadro Museum and the American Writers Museum – what could go wrong?)

The Graue Mill and Museum is in a park in Oak Brook. The mill is the only working water grist mill in the United States, in Illinois or maybe it’s one of only two in Illinois. Wait, the only working grist mill in the Chicago area. (Sorry, that’s what I’ve read in different places – so not sure what’s what  not being super up on working mills.)- However, their brochure does say that they are  listed on the Illinois HIstoric Mechanical Engineering Landmarks, the only gristmill so designated on a national or local level.  So I do know that.

The mill was opened in 1852 by Frederik Graue, using water from nearby Salt Creek. One of the draws of the museum is that you can see the milling process in the process of milling … however, I did not see that. I’m sure it’s because I was there on a weekday and not that many people were around.. I did get an explanation of how it works. And I could’ve bought a bag of cornmeal or flour, but wasn’t sure I’d use it right away, so I didn’t. But it’s kind of great that you can.

The tour starts on the third floor where a lady explained the making-yarn-from-wool process which was very detailed and very interesting. I’ve seen demonstrations like this many times before, but she’s been doing it since 1992 (or something) and knew a lot of unique, informative details that I hadn’t heard before.

On the second floor, another lady showed me the loom which again, I’ve seen before, but the detail was interesting.

The basement of the building was an Underground Railroad stop.  Hideaways would stay at the mill until it was safe, then they would leave by boat down the creek – a tributary on the Des Plaines River – and eventually make it to the Great Lakes and cross to safety in Canada.

Visting the mill costs a few dollars. The grounds are pretty and contain a bridge to get across the creek and to the other side of the road to Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center. For somewhere to go on a beautiful afternoon – I would recommend it.

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The mill on a couldn’t-be-more-beautiful summer morning.

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Carding the wool

 

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The loom.
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Me – showing how they “ironed” ruffles into material.

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A very cool alphabet game.

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American Writer’s Museum

I heard about the American Writer’s Museum. Then I heard about it again and again. Then I saw it was voted one of the best 10 new museums in the WORLD! (The museum opened May of 2017.)

I made plans to go with a friend, but meanwhile the 16-year-old and I decided to see what it was all about.  She’s been reading a lot of classics lately and is somewhat interested in journalism (but not sure).  And we were looking for a 16th birthday trip – so we decided to check it out … and I plan to go back with my friend.

The museum is right on Michigan Avenue, and isn’t hard to find, but you kind of have to be looking for it. It’s located on the second floor of a several-story building and takes up just that one floor.

You get off the elevator and a friendly receptionist is there for you to pay the entrance fee. ($12.00  and $8.00 for students).

The entryway ceiling looks like this – (which might be a way to store the books in my house :))

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All the displays are interactive.

We started with a wall full of photographs that were taken by Art Shay – a photographer who took thousands of pictures – many of them of authors. On the opposite side of Shay’s exhibit were more photos – except these were covered in plexiglass which allowed visitors to write captions under the pictures. Mallory and I both had fun doing this.IMG_0079.jpg

 

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Mallory gets creative.

The next room had a timeline of authors – one side was more informational, but still with interactive displays. Opposite were descriptions of books. When you opened the display, there would be something inside which depicted the book or a song, or a video, etc.

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Timeline of American writing, starting back with Jefferson, Abigail Adams, Ben Franklin, etc.

 

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Another picture of the timeline.
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A display of Willa Cather’s characters – my dad always said she was the writer to read if I wanted to read great writing.

On the wall of doors – here’s a couple examples.

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The Gift of the Magi.

The video is behind the door of Fahrenheit 45l.

Then there was the wall of quotes from American literature —-

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Another fun exhibit was the favorite book interactive board – you chose your five favorite books by American authors. Meanwhile, the list on top scrolled through which ones were the favorites – changing by the minute as people voted. Next time I go, I’ll put in different books – that was difficult to do at a moment’s notice, but fun …

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And then Mallory and I got stuck … having so much fun. They have a table of old typewriters … ancient up to a computer (including an IBM selectric). You typed the beginning of a story and then the next person wrote the next part, etc.  Such a creative idea and interesting. They are planning on publishing some of the best stories. We went back several times to read what was happening to “our” stories.

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Mallory types her story.

After that were several interactive boards to create stories (think a touch screen of refrigerator magnets) and a touch screen of Mad Libs.

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Just thought this quote was funny.

We spent about two hours there, and decided that we both wanted to come back.

I definitely say this is a must for all my writer and reader friends.

 

A Hidden Gem (Make that Gems)

Being a curious person, I like seeing things I haven’t seen before and learning about things I didn’t know before.

Like lapidary.

Whenever I looked up things to do in the area the Lizzadro Lapidary Museum always popped up. I didn’t pay much attention. I wasn’t sure what it was and didn’t take the time to figure it out because something else would catch my eye.

But this weekend I read more about and it sounded interesting. I also read the reviews – mostly written by visitors who were five-star impressed.

First of all, who knew Elmhurst has become such a unique town with courtyards and restaurants and shops?

Second – if you don’t know, lapidary is creating art from stones, gems and minerals … or the person who does so.

Third – Mr. Lizzadro became interested in stones/gems/minerals as a young man. Part of that interest was generated in the Keewenaw Peninsula – (A place I know well because of camp. We have spent many hours roaming the small lakeside towns.) That’s where Mary Lizzadro was from and so the family spent a lot of time there. The Keweenaw juts out into Lake Superior and beautiful rocks wash up on the beaches. The peninsula is also known for its copper mines. Mr. Lizzadro got an entry level job with Meade Electric (a company still in existence) and rose to chairman of the board. In the process, he did well monetarily and began buying works of lapidary art. His collection eventually became the museum (opened in 1962) and it is still run by the family.

Fourth – this place has incredible art. I can’t even imagine how some of these pieces were done. The intricacy is mind-boggling.

We also had a fun chat with the friendly security guard.

I want to go back again with my good camera (not just my phone).

If you’re looking for something to do on a summer afternoon, I would suggest Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. BUT! Warning – if you put the museum on your next summer’s to-do list – they are moving to Oak Brook and the move will take two or three months and  the museum will be closed. (Can you imagine moving hundreds of mega-valuable, ancient pieces of fragile stone/gems?) So go now while the going’s good or take the time to check out if they’re in transition before making the drive.

I will post pictures according to type.

The Dioramas

The figures in the dioramas were carved in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. The backgrounds were painted right in Elmhurst in the 70s, 80s and 90s. The figures were displayed in scenes to specifically entertain the children who visit. (Many school classes come on field trips.)

Here are a few of the dioramas:IMG_0022.jpg

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The Mosaics

I was amazed – these were made between 1780 and 1850. They look like paintings but are actually thousands of pieces of glass precisely cut to fit together to form a picture.

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IMG_0040One of my favorites –

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Then we have the butterfly out of petrified wood.

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Henry the IV out of ivoryIMG_0030.jpg

The Puzzle Ball – 24 separate spheres carved inside what was once a solid piece of ivory.

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You can’t get much smaller than this – think slightly bigger than an egg.

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And the star of the show – the Lizzadro Castle – created in 1984 for the grandson of the founder. From their website – a descriptions: On a large slab of Brazilian agate, the 18K gold castle rises from specimens of amethyst, malachite, azurite, and vanadium. Faceted diamonds sparkle in the windows, giving the appearance of an occupied residence, ready to welcome weary travelers. (I did not get a good picture because of all the reflection.)IMG_0042.jpg

Go. Spend an afternoon. Learn some fascinating facts about lapidary.

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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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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Lincoln’s Tomb

We also stopped at Lincoln’s Tomb.

When Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, Mary wanted him buried back in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. The funeral train slowly made its way across the country to this  central Illinois city. The 1,654 mile journey followed the route Lincoln had taken on his pre-election jaunt in 1861. Willie Lincoln’s body was also on the train (he had died in the White House in 1862 – at age 11.) Willie was to be buried with his father.

A legend is – rub Lincoln’s nose (you’ll see the shininess) and you’ll get good luck. When we rubbed it last time we were there – we promptly drove away only to be hit by a van who neglected to stop at a stop light. Kelli’s van was totaled, but thankfully no one was hurt.

So, I warned my fellow travelers – do NOT rub Lincoln’s nose, but they did and alas … we weren’t in any accidents but back home  … just a short time later, my fellow travelers heard of a family member having an accident. Again, no one was hurt, however, the car is still in the shop … Not sure what it is about THAT nose!