Saturday, September 27, 2014

Morning Has Broken

The past week has seen me driving into the city in the early morning. I remember when you could leave at 7 and be in the city by 8. It's not that way anymore.

As the sun brightens the horizon, at 6:15 a.m., traffic into the city is stopped, stopped so much that I can set up a shot of the approaching sunrise.

Traffic crawled forward and the city came into view.

I love the color of the sky with the gray silhouette of downtown Chicago in the distance.

Ten more minutes and the big orange ball of the sun peaked over the treetops.

A half hour later, the city is in full view and the gold of morning is full on. Wednesday was clear as a bell.

Thursday morning had more clouds.

Traffic was so much lighter. I started out 15 minutes earlier. I don't know if that made a difference, but the hour and 20 minute drive in on Wednesday was 45 minutes on Thursday.

Streets were deserted and I was actually able to get street parking, which is almost unheard of. I love the juxtaposition of the sky and the apartment buildings as I head east.

It can be a struggle to get up at 5. I feel stiff and it's slow getting going. But then, I get to witness the day beginning. It's so worth it.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Light Bright

I live in a fairly quiet neighborhood of Wheaton. We're close to the train station into Chicago, but, for the most part, not much happens around here. That's really okay. I'm not sure I would enjoy living 3 blocks west or 2 blocks east, both of which are secondary north-south roads on which there can be a lot of traffic. So, it was with some interest that I received a letter right after Labor Day from our Park District. There was going to be a 5k race to benefit the FT Cares Foundation. Based in Wheaton, the foundation raises money to provide resources to other charities in the area. They called the run "Light the Torch" and you were encouraged to dress up in lighted clothing, carry lights or wear glow sticks, etc. Each runner and walker was given a glow strip they could wear.

The reason I received a letter about this was that the race course was right in front of my house.

I live by the water/first aid station on the right side of the race route. We received another reminder, stuck in our front doors on Tuesday. The race would start at 7 p.m. but the street would be closed at 6:30. We needed to remind people, and ourselves, of this so no one was on the race course. Any cars parked would be towed to side streets.

The barricades were left at the street corners on Thursday.

I've never watched a foot race. I had no idea what to expect. Neighbors had been talking all week about standing in their parkways and cheering, adding lights to the front of their homes since the whole idea of the race was to add additional lights. I noticed, when I got home, that some people north of me had luminaria along their section of the street.

At 6:30, as stated, the barricades on the side streets went up.

Neighbors south of me strung up Christmas lights. I thought, I could have done that, or put something in the front of the house. We knew the race would start at 7 to the west of us. We weren't sure how soon we'd start to see runners after the start. I decided to just sit on the front steps and watch. I had to find the Deep Woods Off to combat the mosquitoes, although I was surprised at how few there were.

At 7:15, a police car came down the street. My little camera doesn't do well in low light situations. There is probably a setting for low light, but I couldn't find it right away. About 2 minutes after the police car passed, the first batch of runners came through. Most of them wore only the event issued light stick and that chartreuse-color shirt. Slowly, however, the colorfully decorated runners started showing up.

There were family groups running and walking.

There were friends and people with dogs or strollers.

You can see that some people really took the "bring your own lights" suggestion to heart.

It was fun to watch the race. I had a mug of tea and enjoyed a wonderfully mild September night. A walker was the last person to come by. She was followed by a police car. Neighbors cheered her as loudly as the first people to come down the street.

The whole event took an hour and 15 minutes. The street was not reopened until 9:00 to allow all racers to clear the course. About 10 minutes after this walker passed my house, a car came down the street. That car was followed, very quickly, by a police car and they were stopped just north of my house. I could hear the officer saying, "Those barricades are there for a reason ma'am." That's the time one goes back into one's house for a refill on the tea.

If this happens next year and they use the same route, I need to put Christmas lights on my arbor. They couldn't have asked for a better night, which won't always occur. This was fun and a nice diversion to the usual life of the block.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Friday, September 26, 2014

This Presents a Difficulty

The arrival of fall means that some of the most satisfying foods are in abundance; apples and squash. I'd been thinking about that lately, how my freezer needed homemade applesauce and butternut squash soup, pumpkin muffins and bread. I was thinking about how the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg and mulled cider always made me feel physically better.

And then I needed lunch after a long morning on my feet. It was yesterday and Panera always has cream of chicken with wild rice on Thursdays. I cannot, for the life of me, make that soup. Mine comes out lumpy or worse, burnt tasting, so I've given up. The occasional bowl of soup won't break my bank. I usually get the "You Pick Two" option so I can have half a sandwich and a cup of soup.

I look at the menu and, what's this? Butternut squash ravioli? I love squash stuffed ravioli. The old Dominick's grocery store chain had an in-store frozen food brand that had this kind of ravioli. I usually kept 4-5 boxes of that in the freezer. Paired with a salad or yogurt or warmed applesauce, it was a great lunch. I could get the ravioli in the "You Pick Two" option with my soup. Okay, I'll have that and the cream of chick...wait a minute. What's this? Autumn Squash soup? The gal behind the counter fetched me a taste. Oh my goodness. Yup yup. Butternut all the way. It tasted just like the version I have at home.

Here's my review of both items.

The squash is good. It's paired with a garlic cream sauce which, when I order this again, I need to ask for light sauce. I just don't understand why food preparers have to slather sauced food with so much. You're to compliment the food not drown it. I'm not a fan of the fried onions but those are easy to remove. The butternut flavor is complimented by the arugula. It's a satisfying dish. I like the carry out dishes Panera has, too. The bowl is a paper composite which is supposed to be completely biodegradeable. Of course I shall conduct experiments to see if this is true. Compost heap, here it comes. I will add this, occasionally, to my You Pick Two menu, but it won't replace anything.

Now comes the soup.

It probably looks better in a bowl but I have to eat lunch at my desk so their 'to go' cups are what I have. It is heaven, sheer heaven. It's rich and creamy with just a hint of sweetness to it. The full flavor of butternut comes through. They serve it with roasted pumpkin seeds. I don't think it needs the seeds, but then, I could eat this for days running and not be tired of it.

The only problem I can see is that now I have to decide on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I usually get the cream of chicken with wild rice, if I want this instead. Pay day is next week. I fantasize about walking into the grocery and buying all the butternut squash they have and making soups and stews.

If you're looking for a hearty, rib-sticking meal, adding this soup to your lunch is perfect. It will be a blessing as the days turn colder.

Beverage:  Water


Crafting in September-Project Curtains Done

I finished the last set of curtains last night. Side door done.

The stiff seersucker fabric makes the curtains hang very nice and straight. As I was sewing the hem, I had a momentary panic that I'd forgotten which way the fabric was to go and the stripes wouldn't be the same. Once I hung them from my rod, that panic disappeared. I did have to cut a foot off the panels for the hem. My inability to do math properly strikes again. Oh well. Carole says she loves them. I can't wait to see them hanging on her side door.

So, what's next? Well, while roaming the JoAnn Fabrics in search of items for another craft project, which I can't really show until after the gift is given, I stumbled upon a Star Wars fabric they didn't have at the JoAnn closest to me.

Is this not awesome!? I have to finish the above named project and then I can work with this. Oh do I have plans for something. Stay tuned.

Beverage:  Water