Tag Archives: Chicago

Gratitude in December




Teresa over at Spirit Grooves always reminds me to post my gratitude list for the month.  It seems like I only remember after she’s posted hers;  I’m pretty grateful for that!  Well, that and the fact that I loved her image enough to use it for my own post today (see above and thank you, Teresa!) 

I realized that I have a lot of things to be grateful for this month.  It’s just a matter of seeing through the chaos and spotting the beauty that patiently waits for me to notice. 


This month I’m most grateful for….

1.  …the couple of days Craig and I spent in Chicago this past weekend.  There was an exhibit that I really wanted to see at the Museum of Science and Industry and Craig had been wanting to go to a couple of architectural salvage warehouses, so we decided this was what we wanted most for each other for the holidays.  I called up my nephew who was willing to come and dog sit and we left on Friday.  I think this may end up being an annual event for us. We are more about experiences rather than gifts at this point in our lives, and stepping away from the daily chaos that surrounds us – even for a short time – does so much good for our marriage (and sanity!)  And, we had a great time.

Here is an Instagram photo of the Christmas tree outside of the John Hancock building. 


2.  …the fact that my back didn’t give me too much trouble while we were away.  I am still nursing it back to health after over-using it for the past 6 months while waiting for my stomach muscles to heal from surgery.  It took a lot of time and energy to get it into great shape before, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get back to where I was but I’m truly grateful that my pain level was tolerable and allowed me to enjoy myself this weekend. 

3.  …finding new tea to enjoy!  I get so excited over the simplest things, don’t I?  lol  While in Chicago this weekend Craig and I were wandering around in a neighborhood near Wrigley Field and came across a tea shop I’d never heard of before, called David’s Tea.  When we went inside, I felt like a kid in a candy shop.  There were teas with names like Movie Night (real popcorn pieces inside), Red Velvet Cake (with chocolate bits and sprinkles) and Toasted Marshmallow (with brittle pieces, marshmallow bits and allspice).  I was in tea heaven!  I bought samples of nearly 10 different types and am sure I’ll be blogging about them at some point; I always love finding new things to try. 

4.  …the kind and thoughtful words of my customers via email and on Etsy.  Being a newbie business owner comes with all the highs and lows of a kid going through puberty.  One minute you think you’re doing what you were put on this earth to do, and the next minute you’re filled with fear and doubt and wondering What was I thinking?  Was I dropped on my head as a baby?! 

But then I receive a note from a customer about his/her purchase and it sends me over the moon.  Counting on feedback from outside sources should not determine our paths in life, but when you’re in the early stages of a new venture, the kindness of others can do remarkable things to help you find your footing.  I’m grateful to know that my artwork is bringing joy to people.   It keeps me focused on days when a particular painting keeps yelling, ‘Oh, you may think you’re done, but lady you’ve got a LOT more work to do’.  Like this one:


5.  …the decision to host my third annual Hate Loss Challenge in January.  I hesitated at first because I was convinced that I’d be too overwhelmed because of the commitment, but then I realized that I need it just as much as anyone (and it always seems to have a way of bringing participants closer together, doesn’t it?).  I even designed a new logo for this year, as some of you may have noticed.  If you’re new to the Challenge, I’ll be posting an overview soon.

6.  …and as always, I’m grateful to my readers.  You are all amazing people and very special to me.


See you back here later in the week.  Have a good one! 



For Your Enjoyment: Eye Candy and Music

Happy Tuesday, everyone.  While yesterday was my dreaded surgical consultation regarding my impending surgery, I‘m finding myself unable to write about it just yet as I’m still processing a lot of the information from my appointment.  Sleep was not in last night’s plan, apparently due to the inability to turn the days events off in my head so I’m a bit foggy this morning.  For today, I thought I’d share something lighthearted, like my trip to Chicago this past weekend. 

Colin Hay’s concert on Saturday was worth every penny spent in parking fees (for those of you who haven’t been to Chicago lately, paying to park your vehicle in the city is kind of like being drained of your blood by a vampire)  He arrived on stage promptly at 8 PM and the show didn’t end until after 10. 

There’s something about listening to an artist perform without a band.  The amazing acoustical sound of a guitar and nothing else.  Colin played a song from one of his more recent albums which quickly became my favorite of the evening.  I was able to find a video of him performing it (elsewhere) on YouTube.  You can give it a listen while you’re reading the rest of the post, if you’d like.  Consider it your Mood Music for the Day Smile


Lovely song to hear live.




My husband and I stayed at the new Radisson Blu Hotel (thank you for the sweet deal, Groupon.)  Here is what the outside of the hotel looks like:



Staying at The Radisson Blu reminded me of that old cartoon The Jetsons.   

All that was missing was Rosie the Robot Housekeeper.



Here’s a couple of photos of the bar. 


The photo on the left was taken from the table we were sitting at in the bar.  The all glass tabletops have flameless tea light candles underneath; small lights hang from the ceiling.  The entire bar was decked out in highly polished silver, gold and white.  



The lobby had a fireplace along the entire wall, lit with small flames down the entire length of it.  Beautiful vases of pink lilies lined every table.  The vases looked as though they were hovering above the glass. 

No photos of our room, but it had some pretty funky furniture and futuristic doors.  They hung from some sort of pulley system and glided back and forth, closing one area while unveiling another. 


Definitely the most visually interesting hotel I’ve ever stayed at.  The only downside was the fact that we could hear every little noise outside our room.  It was though we were hosting a party that we hadn’t been invited to.  The ice machine was steps away and the elevators were within feet of our door.  Should you ever decide to stay at this particular hotel, be sure to ask for a room that is NOT located within this obvious party zone. 

I hope you all had a great weekend.  I will be spending the remainder of my week getting various pre-operative tests out of the way and figuring out potential dates for surgery.  Tell me, if you had to have major surgery, what time of year would you consider the least intrusive?  Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter?

Jean Quest in the Windy City

My trek to Chicago on Monday with my husband was fun.  Before heading to Nordstrom – the one place that claims to have everything under one roof.  I had to hold up my end of the bargain and go shopping with my husband to American Science and Surplus.  Not my kind of store, but he LOVES it. 

Munchberry made a comment that she’d never heard of the store so my husband asked that I pass along a proper definition of this magical place to her:    "It’s one-stop shopping for gizmos, gadgets, science stuff, lab equipment, tools, parts, and a whole lotta stuff you didn’t know existed." 

…and I can prove that statement since I had nothing to do but wander around the isles snapping photos to share with you so you could see for yourself:


Oh, and that’s not all AS&S has to offer.  Check these out:



OK, all kidding aside, this store has stuff you’d never find anywhere else.  I guess that’s why my husband finds it so appealing, and I was happy to stroll around snapping random photos while he blissfully looked on every shelf for that special something. 


Next up….Nordstrom! 

I figured the best way to share my experience was by posting photos along with snippets of conversation between the three people involved in my quest for George:  Me, Husband, and Aaron (my consultant). 

3:30 PM.  Arrive on the third floor of Nordstrom.  I look at one rack of jeans and immediately begin to notice no petite sizes.  Literally, within seconds, Aaron came to my rescue.  Here’s where our story begins:

Aaron:  You already look lost.  Do not worry because I am here to find you the perfect pair of jeans.  Now, what dress size are you? 

Me:  Um…I think between an 8 and a 10. 

Aaron:   Just look around for a moment and I’ll let you know when your dressing room is ready.  (Wow!  This is WAY better than the pick ‘n git that I’m used to around my neck of the woods!)

Less than 5 minutes pass Aaron has my dressing room ready. 

Me:  Can I bring my man in with me? 

Aaron:  Your man can come right on in and make himself comfortable! 

We get settled into the dressing room where I suck in my breath and stare at these:


and these, which husband is balancing on his lap. 



Here’s where it started getting frustrating.  All of the jeans I tried on (the 28’s) felt OK.  They didn’t look great, as you will see in these next photos,

…but they felt, OK.  Knock on the door.  It’s Aaron.

Aaron:  How are you doing? 

Me:  Terrible.  They just don’t look very good. 

Aaron:  Oh, these jeans are a whole size too big.  You need to go down a size. 


Me:  But I am already showing a little bit of a muffin top on these.  If I go down a size, my fat will literally hang over the sides like silly putty.

Aaron:  Let me show you something (pulls the waist of the jean away from my body, which left about 2 inches of space)  Do you see all that extra fabric?  If you buy any pair of jeans where you can stick your fist down your lower back and into your pants, you need a smaller size.  Also, jeans are never supposed to feel good when you first try them on.  You have to break them in, like a pair of heels.   I’ll be right back.  Keep trying the rest of those on, though (and points to the pairs on Husband’s lap). 

Me to Husband:  I don’t understand.  I’m supposed to buy jeans that make me look like an Oompa-Loompa? 

Husband:  Honey, he’s probably helped more women fit into more jeans today than you’ve ever tried on in your whole life.  If you keep buying jeans like you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting the same droopy butt results, right?  I’d listen to him. 

So, I try on a few more pair, one looking just as bad as the next: 


Aaron brought me in a pair that was ‘my size’ – a 26.  I tried them on and couldn’t even bring myself to look in the mirror.  He said, ‘Ellen Honey, I swear to you, in a week these will stretch out and will fit you.  I swear it.’

Me:  So, you are basically telling me that I wear these pants; I just can’t leave the house in them for a week.  Is that right? 

My husband interjects right about here and tries to lighten my mood a bit. ‘Ellen, you can’t just wear the jean.  You have to be the jean.  Tell her, Aaron.’

By this time we’re all laughing.  Aaron hands me a few more pairs, goes next door to help a girl named Lauren and says, ‘How you doin’ in there, Lauren?’  but before Lauren could answer, I say, ‘Lauren is doing a lot better than I am!’  Lauren says, ‘Get the smaller pair!  They’ll fit, they really will!’

I look at my husband and ask him which pair it was that fit the best.  He says, ‘This brand is called Lexie Kimmie Curvy Bootcut.’ 

“No.  No, honey – that’s just the cut of the jean.  Who makes it?”

“Um…For All The Number 7 Mankind, whatever that means.”  My sweet, sweet husband. I don’t bother to correct him.  I like it better the way he says it, anyway.


OK, then.  I guess these are the ones:


On my way out of the dressing room I told Aaron that he was going to receive a photo from me in two weeks with these jeans on, and we’ll see if they look better on me by then.  He was so confident that they would look great, he gave me his card and a hug, and said, ‘I’d better get that photo in two weeks.  I’m going to be looking for it – I’m not kidding!’ 

Oh, Aaron.  I’m not kidding, either.  Maybe I should plan on practicing yoga in these.  That will speed the process along, huh?  If these jeans actually do magically conform to my body after being broken-in after a couple of weeks, this will mean that I have been shopping for jeans the wrong way for most of my adult life.   I’ll not only owe him a photo, but a huge apology – and a thank you.

Come back in two weeks, dear readers.  Aaron will be getting his photo, but not before you see it right here, first!



~ Ellen

The Cranes! The Cranes!

For those of you who remember Fantasy Island, that post title was for you. Just imagine Tattoo pointing to the sky in all his excitement. If you’re too young to remember that show, well – it’s probably just as well. 

Before leaving for Chi-Town in full pursuit of George, I thought you might enjoy some photos of what I had the pleasure of witnessing, lately:



Question:  Why would someone drive an hour and thirty minutes away just to stand in forty degree weather at dusk?




Answer:  To see these! 



…OK, my camera is not great at capturing shots from far away.  They’re Sandhill Cranes!


From late October through November, Sandhill Cranes stop at a nearby nature preserve during their migration to warmer climates  They come from Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan to take a break before flying on to their destination.  On average, over 30,000 Sandhills rest at this stopover point and let me tell you, watching them land at dusk it is a sight to behold.   I took tons of pictures, none of which gave me a good close-up shot of these birds, but to give you an idea of their size, an average Sandhill is 4 to 5 feet tall and has a wingspan of around 80 inches. 




Full report on Wednesday, everyone – and wish me luck; you don’t want to see me schlepping around in nothing but sweatpants for the rest of my life, trust me. 


~ Ellen