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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

grand canyon, J and J

As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re moving this month. And next. And maybe for part of December, too, I’m not really solid on that front at the moment. Basically the Navy is sending us to a new place (again) and the never-ending adventure continues. We just figured this time, as it’s our first move that doesn’t involve crossing an ocean and water-tight shipping crates, that we’d make the journey into an epic. This is the beginning of that journey.

We left San Diego on Monday, October 20. As of now it’s Wednesday, October 22, in Mountain Time-zone. I’m in Colorado. I’ve never been to Colorado before yesterday. It’s rather beautiful. But how did we get here in two days? All. Of. The. Driving. There have been plenty of amazing stops along the way; we try for at least one big Thing a day. Monday we stopped for lunch in Temecula before driving late into the night to reach…

grand canyon, under a tree

The Grand Canyon. It’s…. well, huge doesn’t quite do it justice. Monumental? Humongous? It doesn’t look real, I will say that. At least, not without hiking down into it I’m sure, and we didn’t have an entire week to tackle that. Suffice to say we’ve seen it and it is large and beautiful. As one of the US’s signature natural features, Grand Canyon National Park has been on my life-list for years.

Point of interest: We had lunch at El Tovar Hotel’s dining room and scored one of the best tables in the house overlooking the canyon. The hotel itself opened in 1905 and still has the old style and grandeur, plus the food was tasty and reasonable. I had the Navajo frybread taco, definitely recommend. Of course, I’d recommend anything with Navajo frybread… ~_^

From there, we drove on to Colorado and…

mesa verde, cliff palace

Mesa Verde. I’ve been fascinated by Native American culture since I was a kid, and it was amazing to actually get to visit these adobe cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in person. For some size perspective, you can see an archaeologist surveying the site in the above photo. This is Cliff Palace, one of the biggest sites in the area. The cliff dwellings were built by the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the area between 1500 and 800 years ago. There are over 20 tribes descended from them today.

mesa verde, climbing out of cliff palace

Point of note: Getting in and out of the sites is tricky, and involves climbing wooden ladders. Between the steepness and the high altitude, this is rated as a “strenuous” climb and not for people who aren’t in at least descent physical shape. If you can make it down and back up again, though, it’s very much worth the trip.

mesa verde, spruce house

The other major site we visited was Spruce House, which is the best preserved of all the dwellings because it sits so far back into the crevice that it’s protected from the elements a bit more. Though access also involved hiking down and back up, there is a paved trail with benches along the way for catching your breath, and not a ladder in sight, which makes it a bit easier. I still got more winded on this one, though, simply because it was a longer trek. Altitude is rough when you’re not used to it.

mesa verde, trail to spruce house

It’s gorgeously autumn here, with the leaves changing and all, and I’m actually enjoying the cooler weather. Cooler. Not cold. This is important, as I’ve got a whole heap of cold waiting for me at the other end of this trip… But that’s not for today. Instead I’ll leave you with this really cool monumental tower we passed today. Tomorrow we head south again, toward Petraglyph National Park. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) More when I have internet again.

mesa verde, nearby monumental view

meadow near El Capitan

Happy October! It’s time for another monthly roundup of stuff I did in other places. Yay!

Newsy things:
Heyheyhey, I got invited to join the staff of International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club as a “Ninja.” Whoop! Just means I’ll be doing more behind-the-scenes stuff, really, particularly in January once I’m (theoretically) unpacked and a bit more settled, because…

This is moving month. EEP. The movers come in less than two weeks and I’m trying to clear things out (which is hard in a small space) and use up consumables and all sorts of things.. Expect not much posting between now and then.

For our last weekend roadtrip, we went to Yosemite National Park this weekend! I’ve got a ton of gorgeous photos to go through asap and try to get posted for you, but the photos in this post are a sneak peak.

Half Dome, overcast day

Things I wrote:
As usual, I’ve been posting stuff in other places. Over at IGGPPC, I’ve got two movie reviews, a Hobbit Day celebration, and an everyday cosplay post.
The Giver was excellent, and much better than any of the other dystopian teen world movies I’ve seen of late. It ought to be because the source material is fantastic.
The Maze Runner was enjoyable and I’m interested in what’s going to happen next. I like that we don’t have all the information going in, and that we learn things as the protagonist does.
Huzzah and Hooray, it’s Hobbit Day! We celebrated Sept 22 over at the site, too.
Everyday Cosplay: Some things happening this month and links to other articles. Just a roundup of stuff I liked this month.
I was also featured as part of the September Staff Picks, which you can check out over here if you like.

Tunnel View after storm

So that’s about it for September. Internet might be patchy in October, but I hope to have some fun things to share about the Great Moving Adventure. See you soon!

hobbit day, Bilbo's birthday party

It’s September the 22nd! That means it’s solstice day, or the official start of autumn (or spring, in the Southern Hemisphere). It’s also the 77th anniversary (plus one day) of the publication of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. And it’s Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday! Huzzah!

Hobbit Day began back in 1978 when the American Tolkien Society decided to celebrate the occasion. They start on September 17 with Tolkien Week, a chance to celebrate all things Middle-earth and beyond, and it culminates in the Birthday Party. Many people around the world do things in honor of Hobbit Day, from hosting movie marathons to having costume parties or even just eating a slice of cake and raising a glass to the health of the Bagginses.

Tolkien and the world he created have been enjoying a second renaissance, if you will, the last fifteen years or so. Ever since Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring was announced, there has been an interest in Middle-earth that hasn’t existed since the 70s. Whereas I knew no one (other than my mom) who’d read the books when I first encountered them in fifth grade, now almost everyone at least knows what “Lord of the Rings” is and has heard of “Hobbits.”

As a hobbit-loving kid, I didn’t have anyone to really talk to about the books, but I was that special kind of nerd who would still wish her friends Happy Hobbit Day. It’s no wonder I carried the “quirky” label as a kid.

If you want to read more about Hobbit Day, or my childhood memories of being a Tolkien fan, or find some fun ways to celebrate the day, here’s the post I wrote for Geek Girls Pen Pal Club. Happy Hobbit Day, everyone!

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