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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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.

RHS Graduation

So two Sundays ago I went to Belinda’s graduation in the hallowed halls of Rhinelander High School – home of the Hodags.

The last time I was at a high school graduation was … when Belinda’s dad graduated.

The approach of this graduation was total confusion: Would it be outside in the soccer field where everyone could attend? Would it be inside in the gymnasium?

Chaos rained. Literally rained.

First outside. Then emails to all the graduates that it was inside. Then outside. Then inside.

But once the place was decided – all was well.

And the graduation itself was orderly, with teachers sad that the kids were leaving, and kids sad that they were leaving and everyone being respectful to everyone. The speeches weren’t overly memorable, but they were well prepared and what you would expect at a high school graduation.

Two hundred kids were in the class, but only 180 or so gradated that day – maybe because they didn’t pay all their fees (a threat given the day before) or because they didn’t show up. I don’t know.

Rather than filing in in a long line – kids came in two at a time which I thought was nice and gave parents opportunity for pictures, except Belinda came in to the immediate left of us and we didn’t see her until she was almost to her seat.. So good idea for all concerned except for the band who had to play Pomp and Circumstance for seven minutes straight – just ask Elizabeth.

So here it is

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Lunch at Culvers with the whole gang. Jeff, Cindy, kids, Cindy’s parents and me.
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Ready to go.

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Elizabeth in her black pants and white shirt is waiting for the cue to start pomping and circumstancing. Looking for the signal to play her cymbal.
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Listening to the speeches.
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Ready to walk up front.
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Almost there!

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And now she is off to the future!

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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