Get Out There! Celebrate May in Chicago

Fellow adventurers, we are into May, Spring is in full bloom, and we can’t wait for Summer to arrive. The weather is finally cooperating, and its really time to get the sun in our faces, get out and about, and appreciate the good things all around us. So, let’s get started, shall we? As usual, several of our adventure plans require advance tickets, so please, if you’re joining us, check ahead to secure your places.


Today, Saturday, May 7th, is for shopping and getting ready for tomorrow, so get to it! Are you ready yet, because we all know that tomorrow is Mom’s big day.


That’s right, today, Sunday, May 8th, is Mother’s Day! Get the family together and pamper your mother. She deserves it. You’ve cooked her favorite dishes, right? Bought her favorite flowers? Does she want the whole extended family around? Gather the clan! If you have two moms to visit, make sure that everyone has a schedule that brings each family together for an extended time. Early brunch with one clan and a later dinner with the other. I have faith in you; you’ll make this work, and it’s so much better than just going over for a few hours with a plant and some flowers in hand.


Don’t forget to say “hi” to your mom from us, we’ll do the same for you, and see you next week.


Would you care to meet us this morning, Saturday, May 14th, at Léa French Street Food106 North Marion Street, Oak Park, for brunch? At Léa, the bread, cookies, baguettes and even the (really delicious) croissants are baked on site daily. Pick anything, you won’t be disappointed. As for me, I’m having a L’Opera croissant with chicken and bacon, atop lettuce and tomato, with mayo. That open-face Le Croque Monsieur, smells wonderful; bacon, ham, Swiss cheese, even parsley. Have you noticed that in every bite you can taste the flavor of every ingredient? Isn’t that amazing?  Let’s each indulge in one of Daniel’s Chocolate Chip Cookies as we leave for today’s walking adventure.


We have lots of time, let’s keep walking and talking, and looking around until…Hey! Here we are at the Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield St., This building has three separate environments under the glass roof and two outside gardens as well. We’ll enter the “Mediterranean Room” which actually has plants and trees from many parts of the globe that have environments similar to the Mediterranean, according to their website, “including the coasts of California, central Chile, the western cape of South Africa and areas in western and southern Australia.” This is interesting, to see how different plants, separated by thousands of miles, have evolved similar strategies for survival.


Over here, see? It’s the Tropical Room, warm and moist, with green vegetation on three levels: the upper canopy of fig, banana and papaya fruits ripening, a different array of flowering plants (see that Bird of Paradise?) in the middle, and a whole different range of wildly different plant leaves and vines at knee and ground level.  Awesome, isn’t?  On to the Desert Room, with cacti of three different types growing hardily. Look, they even have Agave which can take up to thirty years to put up a flower stalk. In the back there is a little version of a desert oasis, a pond surrounded by olives, figs and pomegranates. Isn’t this cool?


Guess what? We’re not done yet! After just another short walk we’re here at 339 N. Oak Park, the Birthplace of Ernest Hemingway, the famous journalist, sportsman, author, and winner of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes. He led one of the most interesting lives in modern history, and it all began here, in a second floor bedroom on July 21, 1899. Look at this lovely house! This was the first home in Oak Park to have electricity. It’s been restored to as near the original as possible, and is a treat to the eyes, don’t you think? Hemingway was a very prolific writer, with a spare style that he called “the iceberg theory.” After today, I’m going to read a few more of his books.


This has been a great day, so far; do you believe we’ve walked almost five miles? No wonder we’re getting hungry. So, let’s go down the block and have dinner at Hemmingway’s Bistro211 N Oak Park Ave.,, where “the menu combines classic French dishes with the freshest Midwest ingredients”, and we can order such culinary delights as a roast lamb rack, duck a l’orange, or steak au poivre, but let’s start with the cheese pairing, so we can all share a little. There’s even crème brulee, chocolate mousse and apple tart for dessert. Oh boy, this is a great meal.  Eat up everyone, and we’ll walk back to the cars for the trip home.


Did you know that today, Sunday, May 15th, is a free day at the Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr.? Please meet us about 9:30am, and we’ll head to a few exhibits we haven’t seen before: the Hall of Gems, where beautiful, durable, and rare crystals are on display as raw crystals, cut and polished gemstones, and mounted in finely crafted, finished jewelry. Then it’s on to Meteorites, where there are bits and pieces of real rocks from outer space that made it to Earth without burning up. We have to visit T. Rex, Sue, of course, to see how ongoing research has improved her stature and increased her size. There are also video animations in which Sue will be walking, hunting and even drinking from a river. Very cool! There’s always more to see and learn, but after another hour, it’s time to head home.


Today, Saturday, May 21th, it’s time for a different kind of tour. There is a house at 1365 N. Astor St. that was built in 1891-92, and is now a museum open to the public. A major development in American architecture, the Chernley-Pensky, was designed by Louis Sullivan and drafted largely by his younger assistant, Frank Lloyd Wright. They rejected Victorian styles, created a massive, symmetrical building, and began developing their unique flair for weaving organic vine and plant designs through geometric shapes. The interior is even more impressive than the exterior. Look at how the atrium just soars up to the skylight. The staircase is so typically Sullivan in its design and ornamental flourishes, and everything is so balanced. The tour starts at noon, so please don’t be late.


This evening, Wednesday, May 25th, it’s date night at the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr., Wednesdays are free to Illinois residents, so we are going to indulge ourselves by taking in the Mission Moon exhibit, with its Apollo spacesuit and portable life support system. We’ll learn more about the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs that put Americans on the Moon. Then we’ll find out about plans to return to the Moon and even reach Mars. YES!


There’s a lot more of course, let’s walk down through the Solar System exhibit. Look, here’s a piece of a meteorite that we can touch. It came to Earth from millions of miles away. Over there, see, rocks from Mars! There’s an armillary sphere, created in ancient times to predict sunrise and sunset times, equinoxes and solstices, and even the position of the planets in the night sky. Isn’t that a genuine demonstration of human intelligence and ingenuity?


It’s getting dark outside, is the observatory open? They have a 24-inch reflector telescope inside, that can make stars visible that are up to about 2,400,000,000 light years away. Those photons were ejected from a star over two billion years ago, holy cow. Let’s go see what we can see tonight. Maybe a quasar?


Let’s spend today, Saturday, May 28th, in Chinatown,, at Cermak and Wentworth Sts., for brunch and dinner. It’s the Year of the Tiger, in the Chinese Zodiac. This is a year for caution, but also for courage and enthusiasm, daring and generosity, for honing our sense of justice and our commitment to helping others. That sounds like a great plan, doesn’t it?


Let’s start with a group photo in front of the Nine Dragon Wall, OK?  Now, over to Quin Xiang Yuan2002 S. Wentworth Ave., for dumplings. Look at these choices, boiled, steamed or fried. Let’s each order something different and share, do you mind? Lamb and coriander for you? I’ll have something completely different, the crab roe. Everyone else, speak up! Yes, pass the plates around, I want to try one of everything, don’t you?


Let’s go wander up and down these streets, stopping in the small gift shops and art boutiques. Perhaps you’ll finally discover the perfect piece for your home office. Now here we are at Ping Tom Park, 1700 S. Wentworth Ave.  It’s been a while since we were here and look at how everything is in full springtime bloom. Cherry blossoms! How cool is that? The park is seventeen acres, with plenty of room to walk around and enjoy it. From here, we can look at Chicago’s wonderful skyline from a much different vantage point and enjoy the passing waters of the Chicago River. Let’s walk a bit farther, shall we?


Is it time for dinner already? Here’s Golden Bull, 242 W. Cermak Rd.,, with a wonderfully varied menu that can meet anyone’s tastes. I’m in the mood for a couple of items I’ve never considered before today, small portions of both pig intestines with sour vegetables and deep-fried quail. Go ahead, order appetizers such as pot stickers, crab rangoon, or even the hot, spicy pig’s ear. Follow that with authentically cooked and seasoned favorites; you’ll be surprised! See? I knew you’d be happy with that. Hasn’t this been fun?


The last weekend of May encompasses the Memorial Day holiday, when America takes time to remember those who gave their lives while serving in the US military. The holiday is officially on Monday, May 30th, but the festivities generally begin on Saturday, with extended family gatherings, picnics, barbecues, and outdoor enjoyments. So be with your families, my friends, take a little time to remember fallen heroes, especially those from your own families, and be of good cheer.


Until next month, adventure onward!