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Friday, November 9, 2012

Missing In Action

Once upon a time, I had this thing called a blog.  I would write stories about what was going on in my life so that my family and friends could keep up with what my little family was doing.

And then I moved.

Life has been chaotic and crazy ever since, and my little blog (not to mention, my readers) has been neglected.

But when mystical creatures tell you it's time to update your blog, you get right on it!  (The Unicorn has spoken!)

Back before things went extra insane in our lives, I had planned a trip to Chicago to go visit some online friends.  When I mentioned that I was seriously considering it, one of them graciously offered to let me crash on her couch.  Not having to pay for a motel room made the trip that much more reasonable.  So I made plans to travel to the Windy City in August.

Funny thing about plans....

...they don't always work.

Trip delayed.

I bought train tickets for October, figuring life HAD TO BE better by then and I'd be able to go without any issues.

Little did I know that by mid-October, I would still be trying to settle in to a new household.

But my dear friend AB was going through a really hard time and the train tickets were already paid for, so I went.

Pirate Baby and I settled in for our long train ride.  Interestingly enough, my brand new little walker had NO problems keeping his balance on the rocking train.  On our last train ride, I noticed that everyone walks like they're drunk on the train.  I wondered if actually BEING drunk would make the process simpler.  I think my theory must be correct because Pirate Baby pretty much walks like a drunk adult, and he did just fine.

See how happy he was?  He loved the train.

As the case often is with train schedules, we were delayed a couple of hours, and arrived in Chicago after dark.  We braved the walk through downtown Chicago to get to the train for our next leg of the trip.  Honestly, that was the ONLY time I was nervous the entire trip - and only because there was a questionable guy who may or may not have been following us.  He was a little creepy, but I kept my head up and acted like I knew exactly what I was doing.  I may not have lived in a big city for over a decade, but it all came right back to me.

I can't mention that 2nd train station without taking a minute to publicly thank Arby's for their very existence.  I was STARVING for something that could pass for real food and knew I couldn't make it through the next hour ride into the suburbs without something to eat.  That little Arby's stand was like the gates of heaven to me.  I had the first Beef & Cheddar in years and I swear that was the best thing I've ever eaten in my life!

Anyway, we arrived in the suburbs and I finally got to meet my online friend AB in person!  We drove to her new apartment and I got a chance to see her eclectic taste in artwork:

Gotta love the diorama in her bathroom, complete with zombie gnomes.  The only good gnome is a dead gnome, as far as I'm concerned.

This creepy guy wasn't originally there, but after helping pick up toys AB's kids had been playing with, I pointed out just how scary he was.  We immediately decided he needed to be in the bathroom with the rest of the odd characters.  I had to turn him towards me to get a decent picture (without me being reflected on the mirror behind him), but he actually faces the door so you're greeted by him as soon as you walk in the room.

Creepy Clown Will Kill You In Your Sleep.

Inappropriate Frog is... inappropriate.

To be fair, AB bought this light switch because she thought it was cute.  She didn't realize just how wrong it would look until it was actually in place.

I should have taken pictures of her great pictures on her walls, but we were too busy enjoying each other's company for me to even think of that.  She had a great collection of Beatrix Potter pictures, including one where one of the bunnies (Cottontail, I think?) was dressed as a super hero.  Fun stuff.

Pirate Baby doesn't do well with sleeping anywhere other than his crib.  A while ago, my mom bought him this little tent so he would have someplace he was used to from home where he could still sleep.  I'm happy to say that even after the craziness of our move, he still was comfortable enough in his tent that he slept and even napped just fine.

He spent A LOT of time tormenting poor Basement Kitty.  Notice the look of excitement on the cat's face - having a very active toddler that close to him.  You also have to admire more of AB's great taste - the pink SPARKLY ottoman and her jeweled peacock.

We came home with a new family member.  AB's kids didn't really like this little dog very much, but Pirate Baby loved him.  He's such a cute little dog, but he looked familiar to me somehow.  I finally looked at his tag and realized that he's the dog from that movie Tin Tin.  I never saw it, and we'd already changed his name anyway.

His name is Chicago Dog, of course.

And speaking of Chicago Dogs, 2nd best part of my trip was the food!  (Best part was spending time with friends.)  One of my first requests was White Castle.  I've had frozen sliders, but never fresh ones.  Our first trip was so good that we went back for more the next day!  If you live near a White Castle or will be traveling near one soon, I STRONGLY recommend you try the Crispy Jalapeno Sliders.  So not kidding.  You'll thank me, I promise.  And if you want good authentic Chicago-style hot dogs, go to Portillos.  For Chicago deep dish pizza, Lou Malnati's - get the sausage.  Again, you'll thank me.

One of the nights I was there, I got the chance to see some friends from an online group I belong to.  These women have been a strength and support to me for almost 4 years now, and I was lucky enough that 3 of them live in the Chicago area!  We got together with our kids and went to the Rainforest Cafe.  It was so great to get to finally see them and talk to them in person!

My trip was coming to an end, but I had the chance to take time for pictures before leaving Chicago.  I especially loved the elegant Grand Hall at Union Station, where I would board the train to take me home to North Dakota.  That room was so quiet and peaceful.  It felt more like being inside a great cathedral than a bustling train station.

These two lovely ladies watch over the entrance to the trains.

I loved all the beautiful architectural details.  Aren't those columns gorgeous?

How can you not love a ceiling like that??

So much detail everywhere you look.

 This flag was GIGANTIC!  It was also the only thing in the room with bright colors, so it really stood out.  So beautiful.

I've always remembered the scene in The Untouchables where Eliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner) goes running down the stairs in Union Station trying to catch a runaway baby carriage while also trying to stop Al Capone's men.  I don't know if these are the same stairs in the movie, but I had to get a picture of them just because of that scene.

I loved these giant windows.  It made me a little sad to pass under them and enter the main train depot where I would need to get on my train.

Once we were finally loaded and heading home, I had my camera ready to try to capture as much of the beauty of Chicago as I could.  It was a little tricky trying to get good pictures from a moving train, but I did get a couple nice ones.

I love this one.  This building was going through some renovations, but I just loved the textures.  The building itself, and the vines growing all over it were a great contrast to all the glass on the building behind it.

I wish I'd aimed just a tiny bit higher for this one, but this is my favorite shot anyway.  Chicago really is beautiful.  I was struck by how sparkly it was.  That may sound funny, but it really was.  Most of the buildings were solid windows that just shimmered in the sunlight.  I really loved it there.  I look forward to going back.  Surfer Pirate says he'd like to go sometime as a family.  Only this time, we'll really explore downtown more.  I didn't get a chance to do any of that this trip.  I was limited to about a 3 block radius.

These next shots are actually in Milwaukee.

This one just made me laugh.  The red brick building is the Hilton Hotel.  Maybe I'm just naive, but isn't the name Hilton supposed to represent class and elegance?  (Except for the guy's daughter, but that's another story.)  And there, on the top of the hotel is a HUGE radio tower!  Definitely not what I'd expected.  I laughed at in on the way to Chicago, and on the way back, I had to make sure to get a picture.

I didn't quite get the shot I'd hoped for with this one - the train was moving too quickly for me.  Your basic freeway spaghetti bowl.  I'm sure the view from above is busy and crazy.  But from below it, it was quite pretty.  I loved the contrast of the yellowish concrete with the blue support system.

Anyway, that's part of what I've been up to while I've been away from my blog.  We're settled into the house now, but I'm so anxious to deal with multiple projects that one room or another always seems to be buried under piles of whatever thing I'm working on at the time.  I'll get pictures taken soon.


Joan said...

YAY for updates! Thank you!

B. said...

Yay for a new blog! I'm glad you had fun. I would love to see Chicago someday. Pirate Baby is as adorable as always! I love his expression in the picture with the cat!

TheUnicorn said...

THANK YOU for the update, love the pictures! Looks like you had a lot of fun!