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DSC_7779On Monday we got a surprise snowing here in Chicago. At first (when I was up at 4:30 with J to bid him goodbye for the day (and goodnight because I certainly don’t actually get up that early) I was irritated and spent a good chunk of the morning staring out the window. This was how my day kind of went.

8:00am: Get up. Stare out window at stupid snow.
8:13am: Walk into kitchen to feed cats. Stare out window at stupid snow.
8:17am: Make tea. Stare out window at stupid snow while tea brews.
8:24am: Eat breakfast. Stare out window across the room from me where I can still see the stupid snow.

DSC_7789And so the morning progressed. The snow started again, and fell thicker and thicker, to the point where it looked like we might even get completely buried.

10:29am: Huddle by fireplace. Stare out window at stupid snow.
12:34pm: Eat lunch. Stare out window at stupid snow.
1:23pm: Suddenly remember I have a macro lens. Dig parka out of closet where I stuffed it on the first day of spring because I’m done participating in winter, pull on snowboots, run outside like a weirdo and start flailing around taking pictures of snowflakes.

snowflake 8
1:58pm: Remember I have a box of fairy doors that would also be fun to photograph in snow. Run back upstairs and pack up a waterproof bag of Tiny Things including the little doors and run back outside.

fairy door 03
…….
3:43pm: Realize I’ve been outside over two hours total. Figure it’s time to go back inside.
4:00pm: Make tea. There’s always reason for more tea.

I took a lot of snowflake pictures. I mean, a lot of snowflake pictures.

snowflake 17I’m only putting a handful of them here, but they are a general representation. I tried a few different methods, too, including catching them on a plastic bag, which you can see above. The flakes themselves were fairly huge but melted quickly because of the warm air.

snowflake 19
This one was one of my favorites, by far. Another plastic bag catch, and didn’t last long, but I liked the way the edges looked.

snowflake 7 (flake cluster)You can see how light and fluffy the snow was in this one, just lots of little flakes piling up in a geometric sort of way. Much less solid than I expected.

DSC_7853This shows you how big the flakes really were. You can see an individual one on my glove!

snowflake 15 (flake cluster)This one reminded me of those little magnetic building pieces kids use. I forget what they’re called, but the snowflakes built themselves up just like that.

So there’s a tiny peek at some tiny frozen water bits. I will post fairy door pictures another day, because they were fun to photograph, too. As of today most of the snow is melted (much to my relief) so I’m glad I grabbed the opportunity when I had it.

 

 

St Patrick's Day J and J on the River

Well. J and I have now experienced our first St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago. Maybe next year we’ll check out the south side parade, but for this year we just headed downtown to see the green river and catch the (surprisingly short) downtown parade.

Chicago River St Patricks Day

We got there around 10:30 in the morning, so maybe an hour after they dyed the river and it was a vibrant green. Tons of people lined the bridges and sidewalks and riverwalk to get a good view, but it wasn’t difficult to navigate by any means. Until we tried to see the parade.

Chicago St Patricks Day views

Turns out the parade is in the park and only about 4 blocks long. I’m not joking. So thousands of people tried to cram into a four block stretch of road to see. We weren’t close enough to do much other than listen, so we retreated toward the train. Along the way we stopped into the Elephant and Castle pub for a snack and a festive beverage. While there, we were surprised by a roving bagpipe band who came into the pub and gave a twenty minute concert, all of two feet from our little table. Win!

St Patrick's Day J and J EXCITE FACE

Mostly it was just nice to be outside on an early spring-like day. See how excited we were? There was sunshine and the snow’s almost completely gone and I felt like I could really breathe again. We’re definitely still adjusting but the warm weather is helping tremendously.

OH.

And I’ve seen flowers. They DO exist! (Pardon the blur of this photo, I was a long way off on my phone but I needed to DOCUMENT.)

SPRING is here! Flowers!

If you haven’t seen it yet, Marvel released the third official trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron today and it’s a doozy. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a moment.

 

See? A doozy. This is the villain trailer, starting right out of the gate with the foe for this installment, and the full cast of Avengers heading into battle with it. It looks to me like now everyone must face Tony Stark’s inner demons, which could prove really interesting. They’ve also got the two “miracles” (which is what they’re calling mutants because they sold the licensing for the word “mutant”). I also highly approve of Natasha’s new toys: Black Widow is one of my favorite parts of these movies.

image source: imdb.com

image source: imdb.com

This trailer comes the day after the mid-season return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the beginning of the Inhumans story arc. It’s an exciting turn for the story which struggled in its first season before the reveal of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s infiltration and fall in Captain America: Winter Soldier. This series now stands on its own two feet, solidly planting itself in the same world as the movies and yet carrying its own plots and twists that could wind up playing heavily into future features. Of course, there is an Inhumans movie in the docket, but as of now it’s not scheduled to be released until summer 2019, so there’s a lot of TV time before that for the show to build a foundation.

In the meantime, we’ve all fallen in love with Agent Carter. Very wisely listening to the fan base, Disney and Marvel gave Peggy Carter her own mini-series that was intended to be a one-off run, but proved to be so well written and well received that there is chatter now of a season two. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that! We barely scratched the surface in this eight episode arc, and didn’t even touch on the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D., which could be so fascinating to watch.

What I’m really interested in is seeing how all of these will tie together. The shows and the movies have done a good job of blending seamlessly together without having any huge impacts on one another, and the cross-over characters work in both formats to establish this as one big universe. And that’s the amazing thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe: it all seems to work together so well.

I know there are decades of comics to draw from, but that can prove to be a distraction or too much of a burden. Look at the problems faced by the X-Men movies; they struggle with consistency, and with different time periods not fitting together with different parts of the story. Heck, in the most recent film, they effectively had to undo everything that happened in X-Men: The Last Stand because it was ridiculously awful. But the Marvel properties coming out of Disney have a consistency that is impressive and that I really appreciate.

image source: marvel.wikia.com

image source: marvel.wikia.com

Full disclosure: I didn’t read Marvel comics as a kid, and I still don’t for the most part. I’ve enjoyed the new Black Widow comics and I’m interested in the Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman comics but for the most part all I know about this world is from the movies and TV shows. I know that a lot of the adaptations are distressing to the old guard, the fans who’ve been reading these things their whole lives. But I have to say, as a new fan, this has been fantastic. It’s something I can get excited about and has made what is often a very difficult fandom to enter so much more accessible, and at least in my option, any time good storytelling can be more accessible, the better.

With that I’ll sign off, but at least you’ll know where to find me May 1: at the theater.

Chicago Field Museum, exterior
Saturday, J and I visited the Field Museum for the first time. We’d intended to go to the aquarium, but that line was around the block, and they share a complex plus it was on my wish list… So there we went! It was, in a word, huge. We spent most of the day there and still didn’t get to really see everything, but we got to most of the exhibits. It’s a really interesting blend of both old and new, with dioramas going back over 100 years, many of which are amazingly accurate, along with very modern interactive exhibits that span everything from natural history to anthropology.

Chicago Field Museum, entrance hall
The entrance hall was grand, of course, and I enjoyed getting to see Sue the t-rex in person. I also learned they aren’t sure if she’s actually male or female, but is called “Sue” after the woman who found her. We saw a movie included with our admission about the process of finding fossils and the particular discovery of Sue two decades ago; she is still the most complete t-rex skeleton ever found.

Chicago Field Museum, Sue

It made me think of the tyrannosaur exhibit we saw nearly a year ago in Sydney, and how much it seems like we know about these extinct animals, and yet how little we really do know, and about how much of that knowledge comes from this specific specimen. It’s mind boggling, really.

Chicago Field Museum, fossils
We saw so many exhibits that I couldn’t even begin to name them all, but my favorite single item was probably this composite fossil because I’m always fascinated to see things preserved together. Sometimes when you see individual pieces it becomes easy to think of them as single plants or animals, but then you see something like this and you can almost picture the whole little habitat where they lived. We also spent a good bit of time in their collection of Egyptian artifacts, and in the reassembled burial chamber with actual 5000 year old carvings on the wall around us.

I came away with a remarkable perspective on just how everything is related and about our shared history. It’s fascinating to me to see how far humans have come, and how much has changed on our planet of the millennia, and to be able to come face to face with it is pretty amazing.

ice on branches
My other small story for today is about dealing with what seems to be the never-ending snow. Most of it melted this past week and the grass started to show in most places again but then the flurries came back and the ground is covered in snow again. One of the things I’ve done to help make things feel a bit less bleak is to bring the spring inside: I’ve gotten a few bulbs and they’re happily blooming in my kitchen window.

tulips
Sometimes it’s the little things, right?

Tuesday Twos

I enjoyed telling you two little stories about the previous week last Tuesday so thought I’d do it again this week.

The first is less a story and more a general thing but I have finally decided to not let the cold win and I’m fighting back by wearing clothes I like (under the heavy coat as needed, of course) and cooking the foods I miss from other places I’ve lived. This includes chilequiles (which are an amazing egg and tortilla dish).Joanna cooks chilequiles

So I clearly picked that one up in California (well, Mexico originally), but then there’s a taste I miss from Hawaii. I can occasionally find this in markets and street fairs, but it’s always made with pork, which I don’t eat. This week I reached the point where I finally decided to try making it at home: (turkey) spam musubi.

Joanna cooks spam musubi

I need to marinade a little longer next time I think, but overall it was good. And I cut up a fresh pineapple to have with it and made a cheapy mai tai out of pog (pineapple orange guava) juice and pretended I was back on the island.

My last recipe isn’t one at all: I found a local Filipino market that sells banana lumpia (among many other tasty things) and Oishi ube pillows, which are my favorite ever Filipino snack. Seriously.

banana lumpia and oishi pillows

So I’ve been fighting the cold with food from warm and sunny and beautiful places and I think it’s helping. I can’t eat the junk all the time, of course, so there will need to be modifications to some (though the chilequiles I made with egg whites and lots of peppers and onion), but it feels good to have tastes I love again.

Now for story time.

Yesterday, J had the day off of work so we went down to the park that runs along the edge of Lake Michigan. It’s only about a mile and a half from where we live, so in warmer weather it’ll make a nice walk, but yesterday was, y’know, still in January, so we drove. We walked along the beach and found some lovely trees and had a really nice time and after about an hour and a half, we decided to head back to the car.

Along the way, we passed the entrance to a section of trail marked as a bird and wildlife preserve, and I stopped to look at some chubby squirrels, all bulked up for the winter, and the fluffy sparrows sitting above them.

chubby squirrel, winter in chicago

As I paused, an older man walked up and started tossing bird seed onto the ground. He smiled at me so I smiled back, and he continued up the trail. I watched the birds and squirrels hop around gathering the seeds a while, then decided to head along the bird trail just for a couple of minutes to see where it went. (J is a very patient guy.)

man feeding birds, winter in chicago

The older man came back down the trail and pointed to the top of the little rise behind him. “There’s a cardinal!” So we went up the rise to look. He came behind us, and when we got there, he walked right down to the bushes, whistling at all the birds, and tossing seed for them. He had a separate packet of different seed. “Special, for the cardinal.”

cardinal in snow, winter in chicago

There on the snow, a single bright red bird landed. He was surrounded by other birds, mostly brown sparrows, but his red feathers shone so brightly it was no wonder we were all watching him. “The sparrows, they’re greedy and eat everything!” the man said. He shook his head and walked away.

sparrow, winter in chicago

We watched the birds for several more minutes before heading back to the car. The man was long gone. I wonder if he comes every day in the winter to feed the birds, and if he’s got a whole list of them he looks for when he’s there. I wonder how long he’s been coming to the park. And I wonder what it will look like in spring when it’s not covered in snow and ice and mud. I’m ready to find out about spring.

cardinal on branches, winter in chicago

Two for a Tuesday

Well, look at that! I managed to not wait three months to update the blog again. Amazing! For this (I would say “lovely” but it’s snowing again and about 13 degrees outside so it’s just “this”) Tuesday, I’ve got two small stories for you from the last week. We’ll start with what happened today so everyone can end this adventure on a high note.

Winter and I are not friends. The fact that I have two actual friends named Summer is purely coincidental and amusing, but the point remains that I have no friends named Winter, seasonally-based or otherwise. In an effort to make Winter in Chicago (which is a brand new experience and providing a whole host of other “entertainment” including frozen windows and slogging through brownish-gray “snow”) more bearable, I am trying to embrace a few winter traditions. Last night I made hot apple cider in my percolator so that the house would smell wonderfully like apples and cinnamon and cloves and allspice with the ADDED BONUS of hot cider. Win-win, right? It was lovely sitting in front of the fire with a big, steaming mug of cider.

Today I set the percolator on the counter with the basket full of still-damp spices (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and whole allspice) exposed for drying and then disposing. I did the daily kitchen-floor-sweeping (who on earth thinks it’s a good idea to put a back door directly into a kitchen??) and set the broom against the counter….where it slid and knocked into the percolator which knocked into other things which all went bouncing across the white tile of the freshly-cleaned kitchen floor in a veritable explosion of drippy spices. Between the cloves and allspice and remnants of cinnamon-infused apple drips, it looked like an army of incontinent rabbits had just charged through the place. You’re welcome for THAT image.

So now the floor is swept (again) and steam-mopped (again) and the kitchen rug is in the washing machine (again) and I’m going to try and eat lunch at some point, I suppose.

In the meantime, here’s the other story. Snow walking away from Outback

Yesterday I had an appointment downtown and on the drive back home I noticed a park. I’ve done this drive a few times, but it’s the first time I’ve been confident enough in where I was to notice things other than traffic, street signs, etc. The park was buried in snow, but the roads were clear (thank you, infrastructure) so I detoured.

Lake Michigan snow beach trees

And found myself looking at water through the trees. So out of the car I trudged and toward the water because, after all, a determined Jo will eventually find her way to a beach. And oh what a beach I found.

Lake Michigan snow beach

The ice floating on the water, the snow piled up in banks like sand dunes… It was pretty for about five minutes. Then I trudged my way back to Harriet (Jones, Subaru Outback) and headed home as the flakes got bigger and more accumulation announced itself.

Lake Michigan, snow stripes on trees

I do think it’s interesting the way snow sticks to trees in patterns depending on the wind and the shapes of the branches and things. I don’t think that Winter and I will ever be friends, but we might be able to find a truce. As long as there aren’t any more incontinent rabbits wreaking havoc in my kitchen.

Hello, 2015

DSC_6723

Well, here we are.

Things have been quiet here for the last couple of months.

First I was off on an extended road trip with J, exploring the entire southern half of our country, with nearly a week in Orlando to do all things Disney and Harry Potter, and then I was in our new home trying to sort through the mess that has been our move. The team that packed our stuff did a great job and we lost very little. The team that was responsible for our furniture? Not so much. As I write this, I’m waiting to hear back from a wood and upholstery repair shop. Fun times.

Chicago has been a shock, though not an unexpected one. We’ve shifted from sunny SoCal to frigid MidWest and it’s going to take some adjustment. And some good boots.

But the trip was lovely and we’re finally starting to settle in and life goes on. I’ll try to get back into the swing of things with updates soon, and probably roll out some new features this year. Five Fandom Fridays sound kind of fun. ^_^

Here’s to a happy 2015!

Three Broomsticks butterbeer cheers

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