Friends, readers, and fellow Chicagoans, not one of us ever envisioned that we would experience 2020 like this; the year we all stayed home. But we’re not all staying home, all the time, and although we must still be quite careful, things have loosened up enough to let us get out and about, at least a bit. Of course, masks and hand sanitizer are the “new normal” as we venture about, so while we’re out living our (somewhat restrained) adventurous lives, let’s support struggling local businesses as best we can.
Today, Saturday, September 5th, meet us for brunch, say about 11:30am, at The Stray Hen, 105 S. York St., Elmhurst, where we’ll eat outside, properly distanced, and dive into such intriguing plates as the “My Cousin Vinnie” omelet, with sausage, pesto, cheese and more, or perhaps the “Zeus on Fire” skillet, with grilled chicken, spinach, tomato, onion, mushroom and spicy feta cheese. Doesn’t THAT sound delicious, and yes, I’ll have another cup of coffee, thank you. How are you guys doing these days? Do you believe we’ve been doing this since March? We don’t either, but you know what? Life is good, we’re doing well and are glad to see that you are, too.
Speaking of bourbon, follow us over to I-88 West, and we’ll navigate to Whiskey Acres, 11504 Keslinger Road, DeKalb, the distillery located right on the farm where all the grain is grown. They open at 1:30pm, so no worries, they will be ready just before we arrive. It won’t be the same without a tour, of course, but this is a wonderful time to get out of town, breathe in some fresh air, relax, and sip a delicious cocktail or a little bourbon on the rocks. You did bring a lunch, right? There is no food service right now, but with plenty of tables, and friendly folks telling us the history of the farm and distillery, it’s all worthwhile, don’t you think? Hey, thanks! That’s a great sandwich you made. Would you like to try some of what we brought? That sauce is really hot, be careful.
Hasn’t this been wonderful? Are we on for Monday? Don’t forget, we’re having a picnic!
It’s Monday, September 7th, Labor Day, Be at Skokie Lagoons Boat Launch, 11am, and we’ll canoe and kayak for a few hours from the landing at Tower Road, west of Forestway Dr., Winnetka. The boat rentals are closed, but we’ve managed to entice a few friends with extra boats to show up, so there will be a canoe or kayak for the two of you. This is always a great place to paddle around; the water is calm, the scenery lovely, and in late summer there is always an amazing display of wildlife if we take the time to look carefully. See that – that’s an American Black Duck. Herons are usually around, various turtles, geese, of course, even goldfinches! They are hard to spot, but those bright yellow wings, contrasting with that black body always makes for a stunning sight.
Time to head in, pack the boats away, grab the blankets, chairs, coolers and bags, and settle in for a while to eat, chat, relax, and spend just few moments remembering all the men and women whose spirit, dedication, and hard physical labor built America. Let’s toast: “To all the people who have worked so hard to make this beautiful country!” Drink up, eat up, and enjoy. Next weekend will be family time, so we’ll see you in two weeks,
Today, Saturday, September 20th, we’ll head out to Oak Park for the Frank Lloyd Wright Tour. It starts promptly at 12 noon, at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park. Groups are limited to 8; you remembered to make your reservations, right? This expanded, two and a half hour event will take us on a fascinating tour through the home and studio of this uniquely American architect.
Wright designed buildings, furnishings, even the now-iconic stained glass windows, in ways that would shape the way we live, work and think to make our lives better. Tracing his development from its earliest beginnings, the guides will help us learn how his thoughts and work progressed through the years, showing the influences he brought to Japan, for instance, and back to the US after working there. Now we’re heading out into Oak Park to see some beautifully preserved Prairie Style homes up close, to see how he brought his vision to life in spaces of different size and shape. WOW!
Now it’s well after noon, and we’re getting both hungry and thirsty. No worries, Hemmingway’s Bistro, at 211 N. Oak Park Ave., https://hemmingwaysbistro.com/ is nearby. The offerings are spectacular, aren’t they? How about sharing; we can order some Baked Brie and some Grilled Asparagus for appetizers, then Herb Crusted Whitefish and the Mixed Grill of Wild Game, with sides of Green Beans Almondine and Roasted Cauliflower, isn’t this delightful?
What a great day this has been, hasn’t it? Let’s take a moment now, while we’re still eating this carefully prepared and perfectly cooked meal, to be grateful for this experience, our friendship, and the goodness that surrounds us. Drive home safely!
We hope you’ll join us this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 26th and 27th, while we pay an overnight visit to Rockford, Illinois, just a short drive northwest from Chicago. We’ll start at the Anderson Japanese Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, https://andersongardens.org/, which offers us a unique opportunity to explore an extensive, authentic Japanese Garden. Here we will learn, as their website tells us, how the three basic elements of stone, water and plants are:
very carefully designed and patiently pruned according to aesthetic principals to create a work of natural art that inspires calm, renewal, discovery and an invigorated soul. Though most Japanese garden materials are not unusual, the way that all these basic elements are brought together and the emotions that they provoke is what makes a Japanese garden unique.
Anderson Japanese Gardens is an authentic Japanese Garden maintained by the highest standards that touches the souls of our guests. With grace, elegance, and gentle awareness we exemplify the Japanese cultural heritage of respectful humility in service to people of all cultures.”
With these principles and aesthetics in mind, let’s walk around and take in the calm beauty and appreciate the knowledge and skill that the garden’s designer, Hoichi Kurisu, has brought to the work we see here. It’s all so gracefully integrated that it doesn’t look the least bit “designed”, but rather naturally graceful. Fall colors are starting, too; look at the way the different plantings have been done in such a way as to reveal the swaying branches and colorful leaves while we walk, further enhancing the calming, gentle experience.
Let’s keep the Japanese theme and head now to JMK Nippon, 2551 Perryville Rd., Rockford, where we can dine on authentic Japanese meals created by Chef Masuo, born in Japan, who worked for many years as a chef for Benihana before opening his own restaurant here in Rockford. Let’s take a table grill-side, please, and watch the cooks while they grill up our steaks and fish. Oh, yes, my mouth is happy. Sake, perhaps? I’ll have a Sapporo beer, with my meal, thank you. Isn’t this delightful? It’s so much fun.
We just booked a room at the Alpine Inn, 4404 E. State St., https://www.alpineinnrockford.com/. It’s nothing special, but very nice, and on Sunday morning, September 27th, the continental breakfast will get us on our way in a good mood. Another cuppa coffee? Here you are.
All finished? Then let’s head over to the Rockford Art Museum, https://rockfordartmuseum.org/, 711 Main St., where we can start with the featured exhibition “SONIC DISRUPTIONS: BUISCH + HOGIN” which promises to be exciting, disturbing, and enlightening, as truly fine art should be. Their website describes it this way:
This major exhibition features Derrick Buisch and Laurie Hogin who use color, imagery, narrative, and symbols to stimulate our senses and challenge our perceptions. Vibrating lines morph into playful symbols of pop culture and brilliant color combinations provide jolts of electric energy in paintings. Meant to be visually engaging and potentially unnerving, Buisch combines evocative imagery with moments of uneasy hilarity. Hogin creates beautiful yet bizarre apocalyptic landscapes and allegorical animal portraits saturated in brilliant color and imbued with elaborate narratives reflecting pop culture and the human experience. Deeply concerned by the social and political issues in our contemporary culture, her dazzling yet disturbing narrative allegories portray the disastrous effects of drug abuse, altered food sources, over-consumerism and misguided political and economic forces.
WOW, indeed. But we’re not through yet, for there are numerous collections, individual paintings and more complex presentations to examine. This museum is much smaller than the Art Institute, of course, but it’s smaller size makes everything much more accessible and lets us take in a bit more of the artist’s intention, which gets us thinking about much more than just the picture, doesn’t it?
That was intense, wasn’t it. Time to relax, I think, so how about a good pub experience before we drive home? The Irish Rose Saloon, right up the block at 519 E. State St., looks to be just the thing. Everything is made and cooked right here in their scratch kitchen, without chemicals or preservatives, so we’re getting that great, fresh taste, along with our choice of adult beverages. Just one, I promise, we still have to drive home. Sigh. OK, thanks for coming with us. Can you believe it’s almost October already? Fall is upon us, my fellow adventurers, but that will not stop us. Until next month, let’s stay safe, use our masks, and we’ll meet again for October’s adventures in Chicago.