Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Things I See

The last couple of weeks have found me in a couple of very interesting buildings. The first object of a blog post is an auction house in the city. It's in a section of town which has gradually, over the last 10 years, seen urban renewal. The building itself used to be a printing house but is now a place of, for me, wonder at the art contained therein. To inspect the building was going to take some time. Fortunately, across the street was a brand-new Portillo's.

This is important for lunch, you know. I hadn't had a slice of their amazing chocolate cake in a long time. It's also great for the neighborhood. This location serves salads. My co-worker got their apple cranberry chicken salad and it looked very good. I usually order a polish, mustard only, fries and a medium Coke. (They don't serve Dr Pepper.) But I looked at her salad and thought, I could eat that. It looks delicious and better for me than a polish.

The building was 4 stories of treasures plus basement storage. I found the two turtle doves, but no partridge in a pear tree.

There was this sculpture sitting off to the side.

It's a light-weight bronze of cattails. I could see this in my yard. I have no idea if it was designed for the yard or if it's indoor only, but it's really distinctive.

There was this globe sitting on a table in amongst a section devoted to garden sculpture and wicker seating.

Again, I have no idea if this is something you could put on a pedestal and sit in your yard or is it only for, say, an enclosed patio or your living room. In any case, I don't have room for it but it's one of those things I'd covet.

They didn't have a lot of paintings. They don't deal with many of those, I was told, because other auction houses handle them. There is a thriving paintings market in Chicago, something I sort of suspected. The "knick-knacks" they have, if you will, are just as valuable, particularly when they are older and in excellent condition. But, they will take paintings for sale and the climate controlled nature of the building means they can sit for awhile without damage.

A long time ago, I used to edit a railroad historical publication. I have a few things in my house from those days. I saw this.

I'd hang this on my wall. I love the colors and how immediate the train is.

Also something I'd put on my wall is this one.

I've been in a lot of homes where there are art collections and it's rare to see baseball paintings. I like the action of the painting. It was big, 5 feet in length, so you'd need a large wall for it.

And there was this.

This is quintessentially Chicago. Mr. Submarine sub shop is not something I've encountered outside the Chicago city limits. It's a classic mix of old and new buildings on a street in the city. I've walked this street. I've taken photos along these streets. It's a hot summer day. The sub shop beckons. Air conditioning and an ice cold beverage. This was also a large painting. I would have to remove quite a bit of my current art to accommodate it. Still, I wouldn't have to repaint the walls. It would look good with my current paint scheme.

There was a giraffe under plastic because you know there would be.

And there were mirrors, lots and lots of mirrors on one section of a floor. One, in particular, was ripe for a photo.

You know I rarely post photos of myself to this blog, but here I am, camera in hand, working. This mirror was huge. It functions more as an art piece than a mirror.

They have an upcoming auction of posters of Chicago and surrounding cities. Many were of the Art Deco age, highly stylized and touting taking the train or the South Shore Lines into Chicago or Indiana Dunes. There were 1933 World's Fair posters and general prints depicting 1930's-era Chicago. I recognized some landmarks, but there were a few prints showing buildings long gone. If I had a) the money and b) the wall space... The person I chatted with said art is the one thing which doesn't lose value. She said there are a lot of people with money in Chicago now and they are looking for distinctive pieces for their space. "You just need a couple thousand to get into collecting." Um...yeah. About that.

I'm content to just be in a space with art. I don't have to have it. I do understand the value of surrounding yourself with pieces which reflect your taste and which could appreciate in value. I also understand the need to patronize young artists so, if I'm going to buy, it's going to be from one of the many art festivals which seem to be every two or three weeks during the summer.

I very much enjoyed this inspection. It was a lot of walking and climbing of stairs but I could lose myself in the peace that comes from being surrounded by art.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea



I'm working around the yard, having found a very reasonably priced gentleman who is willing to do heavy lifting to rehabilitate this overgrown jungle. Now that the northwest corner has had all the garbage trees removed, I need to add more grass seed and applications of weed killer in spots, I have plants for over there and other things are happening.

Over the weekend, I had to cut back some more garbage trees because they encroached on the drive. In the process, I liberated the sundial.

I've had this piece for a very long time. It was a Mother's Day gift when Carole was small. It's solid concrete with a metal sundial and probably weighs a good 100 pounds. Years ago, I could heft this and move it to a new location, provided that location was, roughly, 100 steps or so away. Now days, there was just no physical way.

It was in amongst some garbage trees which I hacked back. Then I had to tip it over and roll/drag it out of the brush. Once out of the mess, I righted it and tried to pick it up, remembering all the times I used to do this. I knew it was heavy but was unprepared for the weight. It needs to go to the northwest corner of the house from the west side, south of the deck. I'm not going to be able to carry it, at all, and I shouldn't even try.

So, I tipped it onto a corner and rolled it. It's still an adventure because I have to let it fall if it wobbles. It's not going to get beaten up at all by falling over. We have this instinctive reflex to snatch at something which is tipping, but I have to greatly suppress that instinct or I'm going to substantially hurt myself. Every day I come home, I roll it a bit more. It's reached the north side of the deck stairs and about 5 feet beyond that. There's still about 25 more feet to go. Once it reaches its destination, I have to orient the dial so it reads the correct time. The question then becomes, daylight or standard time.

Beverage:  Earl Gray Tea


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Score Times Two

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I can spend a considerable amount of time on my feet. When you're dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis, that can be painful. When I started this job, I went for slides or mules; shoes without a back; which could be easily exchanged for work boots or grabbed when I was running late in the morning. One of the things I learned, in reading about RA, was that sturdy shoes with a back, were something worth an investment. I looked at my slides. Right. These are comfortable. Why would I think of replacing them?

Long ago, and I honestly don't have any idea how long ago it's been, I discovered Clarks shoes. They are pricey when purchased off sale or online or in their stores. But they have two things going for them. One, they wear like cast iron. Seriously. I just haven't had to replace Clarks because I've worn them out. And two, they are extremely comfortable. Adding both of these things together, the price paid for a pair of Clarks is, in my opinion, well worth it. You'll get years of wear out of a pair of shoes. Extra value comes when buying shoes from the outlet malls or when they are on sale. 

This spring, JC Penney had their spring Clarks sale. Now, I don't really need shoes, but I have now come to see the comment about RA and shoes is true. As much as I love my slides, I do not feel comfortable wearing them to work anymore. I've "walked out of" a couple pair frequently. And without the back, I'm not the most sure-footed in walking. So, I have three pair of comfortable Clarks slides on the shoe rack that I only wear when I'm not going to be walking a lot. I needed more shoes which would be good for being on my feet and doing inspections. Now is the time, when there is a sale, to be shopping. 

I took a gamble on a pair. 

Yes, they are red leather with two elastic straps across the top. Shoes found on aren't always in stores, but they are Clarks and I've never had a problem with those ordered online. These are wonderful. I think they match my personality. I would have loudly colored shoes to go with my loudly colored socks. 

Right before Memorial Day, Penney's had another sale. I was surprised to see Clarks included in that sale. Again, I don't really need shoes. The addition of the red ones was adequate for the shoe rotation while doing inspections. I have three pair I rotate through inspections. I find that wearing the same shoes in a row seem to promote achy joints and tired feet. Not so when I rotate shoes. 

These are comfortable and I anticipate wearing them for a long time. But...what's often happened is that I'll find a pair I like and wish, some months later, that I'd bought another pair in a different color. I looked through the sale. They had these in a different color. I spent three days thinking about it, looking at the budget, thinking some more. In the end, I decided this was a good buy for the budget because I won't need shoes now for some time. 


Blue shoes. They also had a black pair but I couldn't justify buying two pair even though I'm, effectively, retiring three pair of slides. As with the red pair, these are comfy and they look great with jeans and with or without socks. They are easy to get into and stay on my feet. I'm going to wear the heck out of them, although, probably not walk through the grass in the front yard after a rain. 

Beverage:  LaCroix Berry Seltzer


So You Don't Have To

In the great quest to eat things with odd flavors and report back to you, I have consumed two items within the last couple of months. First off, there is a new Pop Tart flavor. Now, I don't go out of my way to eat Pop Tarts. I was actually looking at cereal or breakfast bars to keep in my desk drawer at work. The breakfast toaster pastries are in the same location. Colorful graphics on the box drew my eye, as it's supposed to do.

I like watermelon. I regularly buy it at the store, but, seriously, in a toaster pastry, warmed? Reddish-pink with green swirls of icing. This should be "interesting".

Visually, it looks like these were sat upon before going into the bag. I think we can figure out how Pop Tarts are made. They lay down the bottom crust. The next machine lays down the filling and another machine applies the top crust. They are squished together, probably just like your mom does to the edges of a fruit pie. Perhaps there is some cooking here to make the toaster part of this food simply a warm-up. After the sandwiching of the tart, another machine applies a layer of frosting and, if necessary, yet another machine gets to apply a squiggly something or other. The whole thing is dried and then shoved into bags, sealed and shoved into boxes. Human hands do not meet this pastry until you open the bag and move the tart to the toaster or, in the case of some of them, eat them without toasting. (I'm looking at you, plain blueberry or strawberry flavored.) I'd be interested to know exactly how many Pop Tarts can come off a conveyor per hour.

But how do these taste? I can say, unequivocally, blah. There was a watermelon sense about them, but that was completely lost in the bland flavor of the pastry itself. I was disappointed. I expected these to be weird in a "Whoa. Watermelon" sort of way and they were weird simply because they weren't watermelon. If you have young kids, these might be amusing, but don't expect any watermelon enthusiast to enjoy them.

Next on the "Oh look at that" is a new flavor from Oreos.

Honestly, I'm not going out of my way to look for things. If those things happen to cross paths with me when I'm looking for something else, well then, it's my duty to try them. Otherwise, I'm not in the cookie aisle. For the record, none of the breakfast bars I saw was remotely appealing. I have to pass through the cookie section of the store to get to oyster crackers so that's how I happened to spy these. Perhaps this isn't a "new" flavor, in that it was released this month, but it's new to me.

Peel back the top of the package and there are dark and white layers. There was a slight aroma of s'mores, but if you were blindfolded and had this under your nose when the top was opened, you'd have a moment of, "I know that smell, but I can't place it". It was the same with opening the Pop Tarts. Seriously, if you are going to incorporate some flavor we are not expecting, make it obvious when I open the package. This limp attempt at a scent doesn't entice me to want to try the cookies.

In true Oreos fashion, I had to pull them apart.

They are constructed as all Oreos are, excepting there are two layers of filling. You can, if you like, peel the filling layers apart, but it doesn't always separate easily. The fillings remove easily from the cookie so if you like to completely separate your Oreos, you can do that.

Taste. Bland with a side of bland. Oreos chocolate cookies have a good chocolate flavor. When they step out of that box and make vanilla cookies it's akin to vanilla-flavored cardboard. The cookies were mealy and crumbly and just didn't hold up to being dunked in milk, something Oreos takes great pride in trumpeting. The chocolate filling was grainy and the marshmallow filling was barely marshmallow flavored. You'd do better to toast a marshmallow and stick it on the filling. I think the cookies were supposed to be graham cracker flavor but that was nowhere in evidence. I wasn't disappointed, per se. I bought these expecting them to live down to low expectations and they certainly did. If you have access to a microwave, you can make close to campfire s'mores. Stay with that and save your dollars.

So, there you have another installment of "So You Don't Have To". I haven't bought anything strange lately. I'm changing my diet around so the Oreos and the Pop Tarts were kind of a last hurrah for awhile. But, you never know. I'm out of the bags of sugar snap pea pods I've been taking to work for lunch and eating while playing WOW. Plus, I'm out of dish soap. I have to go get more which means walking into the store. You never know what will hop off the shelf and into the cart totally unaided. I swear. I had nothing to do with the 2 boxes of Triscuits in the cart.

Beverage:  LaCroix Berry flavored seltzer


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Family Outing

I was leaving work last week and saw this family out for a stroll.

Not sure where they nest around the office/warehouse development. There are a couple of retaining ponds, one to the left, where they were headed, and one ahead to the right; so there is ample water and food for them. I remember when, several years ago, we had a nesting pair in front of the old office. Getting into and out of the building was an adventure.

Who wants to go to the park?

Beverage:  LaCroix Berry Seltzer


Unexpected Fulfillment

Last week, I came home from work to find a pink slip from the post office in my mailbox. I needed to swing by the main building in downtown Wheaton and pick up something. The sender was listed as "Dreamscape". Um...yes. That's very informative.

It took me a couple days to have time to get there. All the while I went through my head trying to remember who "Dreamscape" was and what could they possibly have sent me which would require a signature upon delivery. I needed stamps so picking this up was a good thing. Maybe it was a scam. I can refuse it, right? I was nervous, you need to know, because I simply could not remember anything from a "Dreamscape". The post lady came to the window with a small parcel. Here's the package.

I looked it over. It still didn't register as anything I might have ordered. The return address was rather smudged so I couldn't quite tell from where this had come, but I signed for it, thinking it might be something from my friend in Australia. I sat in the car, squinting to read any identifying marks. Finally, the words listing the contents of the package became clear. "Dice," it read. DICE! I know what these are!

Occasionally, I'll see a Kickstarter listed on some news site I read. For a time, I must have seen a half-dozen Kickstarters for dice. I like dice. As a former weekly Dungeons and Dragons person, dice are cool and a necessary part of gaming. This particular Kickstarter was years ago, I'm thinking at least 2. The designer of the dice has been very diligent about keeping people informed of the process but he vastly underestimated the time it would take to get his idea from concept to finished product. I supported another dice Kickstarter like that and am wondering if I'll ever get my dice although the creator of those dice has become better about answering emails.

These dice came from Taiwan.

I couldn't get a good photo of the box. They are called "Space Roller" dice. I liked the simple, other-worldly look of the boxes. Very clean design. The dice?

He billed these a "Tron dice", taking their design cue from the Disney movie Tron. I very much enjoyed that movie. It was ahead of its time and wasn't a huge success. Because the Kickstarter was filled beyond what was anticipated, everyone got purple dice. Specific tiers of support, which included me, could pick an extra color. I added the black to the gold and silver. In black light or UV light, the swirls glow, according to the video and photos I saw. I just think they are visually arresting.

I liked the little thank you card enclosed with each box. The guy doing this is looking to get into bigger dice production and he thanked us for allowing him to do his first real production. I haven't actually used these to see how true they roll, but no matter. I just think they are cool.

Beverage:  LaCroix Berry Seltzer