About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Nashville and Story, IN: "Storybook Splendor in Brown County"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nashville and Story, IN: "Storybook Splendor in Brown County"

"Wooded hills, log cabins, and pastoral back roads contribute to Brown County's exquisite scenery, notably in Brown County State Park (Indiana's largest) and the quaint towns of Nashville and Story. Trademarked as the 'Art Colony of the Midwest,' Nashville has both bohemian and an old-fashioned air. More than 300 galleries and shops sells everything from dulcimers and jewelry to garden ornaments and leather goods. Nashville's population of less than 1,000 balloons to more than 10 times that on any given fall weekend, when droves of tourists converge here to browse against the backdrop of brilliant foliage. Restaurants, B&Bs, and inns abound."

The Story Inn, the neighboring hamlet of the same name consists if a dilapidated former gas station and general store. It's surrounded by a cluster of 19th century clapboard cottages with tin roofs, all set on the edge of the vast Hoosier National Forest. The town flourished in the timber trade until the Depression, and when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created nearby Lake Monroe in 1960, what remained of Story was cut off essentially preserving its simplicity and charm for decades. Today, incredibly, only three residents remain, including the couple who own the Inn. Guests stay in the main inn and in several rustic homes - some with porch swings and hot tubs, but don't expect phones or TVs. A fresh, all-natural gourmet menu is served at the inn's nationally acclaimed turn-of-the-century restaurant in what used to be a general store."

I explored the Pioneer Village in Nashville then carried on.

"About 9 miles southwest of Nashville is the T.C. Steele State Historic Site, the former home and studio of Theodore Clement Steele, a well-respected American Impressionist landscape painter who is credited with nurturing the Nashville area as a magnet for artists. His paintings and the 211 acres that inspired them are open to tourists year-round."

It was after 5 and the place had closed, but did that stop me? Heck no! I have places to go and things to see, people! I was able to park at the driveway to the exit gate and I actually was able to spot a remaining staff person in the office building who agreed to let me explore the grounds. In one hand - a self-guided walking tour brochure with marked sites for the visitor to compare today's vistas and views with those depicted in Steele's paintings - in the other hand - my camera. It was a lot of fun seeing his historic paintings and comparing them to the view of the same sites through the lens of my camera. See for yourself by checking out my photos. I then visited the lovely Story Inn, where I took my own little peek into the rooms and glanced at framed newspaper articles above the stairs about Story Inn and the restaurant and the legends of ghosts on the property.


New Harmony, IN: "19th Century Utopia"

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Harmony, IN: "19th Century Utopia"

"Located on the banks of the Wabash River near the southwest tip of Indiana, New Harmony exemplifies the peaceful nature and simplicity implied in its name. The perfectly preserved microcosm of 19th-century architecture was founded in 1814 by German Lutheran George Rapp, who traveled here from Pennsylvania with his followers to await the Final Judgement. Their society stressed Christian perfection through orderly, productive lives, and the new residents of the self-sufficient settlement soon built more than 180 log, wood-frame, and brick structures. After 10 years, however, Rapp became discouraged with the effort declared that God wanted him to return with his followers to Pennsylvania. In 1825, Robert Dale Owen, a wealthy Welsh industrialist and social theorist, bought the entire town in order to establish America's first Utopian community - one built on free education, strong intellectual and scientific curiosity, and the abolition of social classes.

The legacies of both these communities remain. Built in 1815 during Rapp's time, the Harmonist Labyrinth is one of the oldest in North America. A small grotto enclosed by hedges grown in a concentric, circular design, harmonists considered it a symbol of the difficult paths in life that must be encountered before reaching ultimate harmony and perfection. Another example in town, the Cathedral Labyrinth, is a rose-granite maze patterned after the famous Chartres Labyrinth in France.

Designed by Philip Johnson and built in 1960, the nondenominational sanctuary known as the Roofless Church was commissioned by Jane Blaffer Owen to convey her belief that 'only one roof, the sky, could embrace all worshiping humanity.' A bronze sculpture by the famed Cubist Jacques Lipchitz sits under a sweeping domes canopy, and gates of his design lead to a garden and sculpture courtyard.

Guided tours of New Harmony - a compact, easily walkable community of fewer than 900 people, meander past log cabins and historic structures like the 1830 Owen House. They begin at the Atheneum/Visitor's Center, named for Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom and the arts. The angular white building, designed by internationally known architect Richard Meier in the late 1970s, houses a rooftop conservatory, a theater, and educational exhibits about New Harmony's history."

The visitor center was going to be closed by the time I arrived, but the lady over the phone was nice enough to enclose the walking tour map in an envelope and leave it for me on the porch of the center. I opened the map and got started. I walked almost the whole town on foot, with hardly any trips to the car to relocate to a different area. This is an interesting town! Quaint, quiet, unusual. The Roofless Church is cool, the Harmonist Labyrinth is quintessential, and the Atheneum Visitor's Center is completely out of place and looks like something from a Tim Burton film, which I really like. After experiencing all the town's offbeat mishmash of history I decided to take a little peek inside the Red Geranium Restaurant. I walked down the hallway of fancy art and arrived at the host stand where I was allowed to snap a couple photos of the cozy, upscale dining room, then I entered a doorway that transported me to an English pub, where I and the other patrons oohed and awed as we swore we found monkeys and faces in the awesome mural walls and ceiling, and where I listened to the very formal and courteous bartender give us a little history of the town, all over a super delicious plate of pasta and the best sweet butter and rolls I've ever had. I felt like Frodo in the shire! I love this little community, and I'm so glad I was able to experience it.


Wolf's Bar-B-Q, Evansville, IN: "Ketchup-Based Sauce as Art"

Sunday, June 27 2010

Wolf's Bar-B-Q, Evansville, IN: "Ketchup-Based Sauce as Art."

There are vinegar-doused meats in Memphis, Tennessee, mustardy sauces in South Carolina, hot and spicy marinades in Kansas City, and the sweet, ketchup-based goodness of Evansville, Indiana. If that doesn't grab you, just wait. At the local Wolf's Bar-B-Q, your taste buds are in for an even bigger shock.

Founded in 1927, the fourth-generation family restaurant is a landmark in Evansville - Indiana's third-largest city - and known throughout the state's southwestern region, near Illinois and Kentucky (whose barbecue capital is Owensboro just across the border from here). Wolf's platters of pit beef, pork, or chicken come with substantial squares of brown rye-like bread - suitable for use as a barbecue mop - and sides such as their famed homemade potato salad. Each week they sell more than 6,000 pounds of it, plus 6,000 pounds of pork, 400-500 pounds of beef, and 1,500 chicken halves - and even then it's barely enough to keep everyone happy.

Graze the buffet line or order from the vast menus at this cavernous, if nondescript, dining room. A separate entrance is busy at all hours of the day and night with take-out orders."

Okay, so maybe it's daring for a pescatarian (Of the meat family, I only eat eggs and fish) to brave a BBQ place, but of course I had to try this remarkable sauce people are raving about. I ordered the buffet and filled my plate with catfish, cole slaw, bbq baked beans, mac n' cheese, and bread. The catfish was tasty, and my peppy waitress brought me two of their popular bbq sauces. One was very hickory-tasting and yummy, and the other one was sweet and a little less thick. The food was good, but not amazing and not worth driving hundreds of miles out of the way for - but hey, now I know, lol!


Parke County, IN: "Covered Bridge Capital of the World"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Parke County, IN: "Covered Bridge Capital of the World"

"Iowa can boast about its bridges of Madison County, but he lesser-known Parke County in west-central Indiana still proudly maintains its unofficial role as the covered bridge capital of the world. More than 10,000 of the roofed wooden structures were built in the U.S. by 1885; more than 90 percent of them are now gone. Thirty remain here, listed on the National Register of Historic Places (22 others were lost by natural disaster or arson, or dismantled before the days of preservationism).

Although covered bridges such as Bridgeton - which, with its companion mill and waterfall, is perhaps the most photographed bridge in the entire Midwest - are admired today as idealized reminders of bygone times, they were quire practical in the late 1800s and 1900s. They provided shelter from the elements and comfort to horses skittish about crossing rushing water. They often served as outdoor settings for picnics, parties, and even wedding receptions. Most romantically, they were especially convenient for courting couples back in the days of horses and buggies - the nickname "kissing bridges" was born from the rare but of privacy they offered.

The town of Rockville's courthouse square serves as headquarters for the Covered Bridge Festival in October. Small towns throughout the county each stage their own arts and crafts activities and entertainment. Take a color-coded bus or self-guided driving tour for an overview, and then pick your favorite area and explore it in detail. The oldest, Crooks bridge (c. 1856); the newest, Nevins Bridge (c. 1920); and the shortest, Phillips Bridge (43 feet), all span Little Raccoon Creek. At Sugar Creek, the West Union Bridge is the longest, measuring 315 feet."

I called ahead and the woman I spoke with over the phone informed me they would be closed by the time I arrived at the visitor center, but no worry, because the maps of the self-guided routes were located in a box outside the center =) Yay! I arrived at the center and grabbed a map, snapped a couple photos and got started. So many bridges, so little time...I took the Red Route from Rockville through Bridgeton to Rosedale.

Bridges I saw:
1. Billie Creek Bridge - 62', Built in 1895 over Williams Creek, relocated to Billie Creek Village
2. Beeson Bridge - 55' 1906, Relocated to Billie Creek Village; Bypassed
3. Crooks Bridge - 132', 1856, located over Little Raccoon Creek. Oldest bridge. There were people swimming in the creek underneath, and I was instantly taken back to a simpler time =)
4. McAllister Bridge - 126', 1914 over Little Raccoon Creek
5. Neet Bridge - 126', 1904 over Little Raccoon Creek, Bypassed in 1996.
6. Nevin's Bridge - 155', 1920 over Little Raccoon Creek. Newest bridge.
7. Bridgeton Bridge - 245', 2006 over Big Raccoon Creek, Built to replace original bridge burned by arson in 2005. Bypassed.


Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: The Hooser State's Little-Known Corner

"The dunes are to the Midwest what the Grand Canyon is to Arizona, the poet Carl Sandburg once wrote. They constitute a signature of time and eternity. Here in Indiana, they rise along a 45-mile stretch of shoreline on Lake Michigan, and 13 of these miles are protected within the boundaries of national and state parks.

Families come to bask on the golden quartz-sand beaches that fringe the deep blue expanse of water. Sailboats bob in the distance; graceful white gulls soar high overhead; and if you listen carefully as you walk along the beach, you might hear the musical, tuning-fork-like hum created by the friction of superfine wet sand underfoot.

Indiana's unexpected sand dunes and beaches are a unique ecosystem for plants and wildlife. In fact, the 15,000 acre coastal area that dates back 12,000 to 14,000 years to the last glacial melt is widely regarded as 'the birthplace of ecology.' In 1899, botanist Henry C. Cowles did landmark research here, and other scientists and environmentalists followed, all proclaiming the uniqueness of this living botanical laboratory and the need to preserve it for future generations. Today, environmental education and research remain a focus of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's mission and outreach.

This is a magical place bursting with more than 1,400 plant species, including 90 that are threatened or endangered. Ranking seventh among the 380 national parks in terms of biodiversity, the landscape runs the gamut from sane dunes, swamps, and tallgrass prairies to deciduous forests, trout-filled streams, and areas with such diverse vegetation as orchids and prickly-pear cactus. Bird-watching is another prime pursuit, as more than 350 species of migratory birds have been spotted here.

In some places the sand dunes reach as high as 180 feet. One, a favored launching pad for hang gliders, is called Mount Baldy; here, on a clear day you can see the Chicago skyline to the west.

Located within the Lakeshore area is the 2,200-acre Indiana Dunes State Park, with 45 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing when the dunes and surrounding area are covered with snow."

Next stop: The bridges of Parke County


Saugatuck, MI

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saugatuck: "The Art Coast of Michigan"

"Ever since the Art Institute of Chicago began sponsoring a summer camp in Saugatuck in 1914, this Victorian resort town has embraced its reputation as an arts colony and never let go. It's home to a thriving community of artists, art galleries (more per capita than any other small town in the Midwest), and art installations like the annual Art 'Round Town, with some 40 sculptures by nationally recognized artists.

Saugatuck has a genteel quality, a grande dame among resort towns along the southeast Lake Michigan shore. Tucked into wooded sand dunes near the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, lovely Victorian mansions recall Sagatuck's heyday as a busy lumber port. Enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk along the harbor or listen to band concerts in the park. An inordinate number of restaurants and fine inns are always busy, none more lovely than the Wickwood Inn, once the home of an early Saugatuck mayor and now owned by Julee Rosso Miller, coauthor of the seminal The Silver Palate cookbook series, Guests enjoy a first-hand taste of Rosso's inventive evening hors d'oeuvres and breakfasts (her almond croissant French toast with spiced blueberry sauce is unrivaled).

Even when summer crowds seem to inundate downtown Saugatuck, there are plenty of placed to escape and explore. Step aboard the frilly gingerbread Chain Ferry for the short shuttle across the Kalamazoo River to Mt. Bald Head, a high dune perfect for sunset-watching, and Oval Beach, a lovely arc of sugary sand on Lake Michigan. Three miles north of town, Saugatuck Dunes State Park preserved 2 miles of pristine beach and undulated dunes, some more than 200 feet high."

After about 5 passes up and down the streets of Saugatuck I found a parking spot - woo-hoo! Just a few steps down the sidewalk and I found myself in cheery, charming community brimming with grills and cafes, live music, and gift shops galore. I grabbed an ice cream cone and browsed the colorful shops, then I climbed the lengthy stairs of the North Woods Trail and took in the view on the overlook at Mount Baldhead, and continued the rest of the trail-turned-sand barefoot to busy Oval Beach, where children were making sand castles, kids were splashing in the nice, cool water, speed boats were zooming Lake Michigan, a wedding party was setting up, and beach bums were catching tan. This lovely beach was the perfect place to be on a day like this. I walked the shoreline and continued past the beach all the way to a port where sweet jet boats entered and exited the water of Lake Michigan.

Tonight in my tent after reviewing my atlas and desired points of interest, I decided it would be most efficient to modify my route and visit Indiana first, then Michigan, followed by Ohio on East. I'll head to Indiana tomorrow morning.


Taste of Chicago, Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Taste of Chicago: "The Super Bowl of Cookouts"

"Chicago is serious about food. The city is deservedly famous and not just a little bit fanatical about its own versions of pizza and hot dogs, as well as Italian beef sandwiches, ribs, and Polish sausage. It's the home of Eli's cheesecake, the birthplace of Twinkies, and the place where Wonder Bread was launched as an archetypal national brand. For decades beginning in 1883, the Near North Side was the site of a meat market run by a Bavarian immigrant named Oscar Mayer, and it was in a Chicago suburb that the first McDonald's franchise opened in 1955. This prodigious appetite for legendary food of various shapes and flavors is center stage during Taste of Chicago, one of the world's largest and most fun food festivals.

"The Taste" began in 1980 as a one-day Fourth of July celebration when 36 vendors spread out along three blocks of Michigan Avenue. Hugely popular from the start, the cookouts to end all cookouts moved, appropriately, to the city's front yard, Grand Park. It's now a 10-day affair with 70 restaurants featuring a wide range of ethnic and traditional cuisine, and judging from the crowds-totaling 3.5 million people-attendance is mandatory. Everything is laid out through the heart of the park, and a pavilion by the Buckingham Fountain offers cooking demonstrations throughout each day of the festival."

Food consumed
- Fish taco and a roasted veggie taco by Carbon - seriously, the veggie taco was the best taco I've ever eaten! SO good!

- Mustard-fried catfish by BJ's Market and Bakery - a bit dry

- Mashed potatoes-stuffed chocolate cupcake by Polo Cafe & Catering (talk about carbs, LOL!)

- Cherry dumplings by O'Briens (basically just a fried wonton with cherry compote instead of cream cheese it was pretty lame and uninteresting)

- Sweet cheese with fruit-filled Ukrainian crepes by Shokolad - Yum!

- Yuca "Casava fries" by Las Tablas - should be called yucka, lol

- Popcornsicle by Garrett Popcorn Shops - delicious caramel popcorn "flash" frozen on a stick

Live music listened to (or attempted):
1. Some All-American /kinda country band - it was good, and a stranger complimented my awesome camping chair with foot rest =)
2. Salt-n-Pepa - Even arriving nearly an hour early for your concert I couldn't get a remotely decent seat, so screw you guys! hee hee =)

After giving up on attending the Salt-n-Pepa concert I went to Millenium Park for their classical music series. One problem: they moved it inside because the dumb Salt-n-Pepa concert was too loud. Am I going to spend my last evening in Chicago indoors? No way! I went to North Avenue Beach instead (my third attempt, since all the parking lots were full and there was absolutely no parking available even remotely close to the beach the other days). I took the bus today, and didn't have to worry about the ridiculous parking problem Chicago presents - of course, today, since everyone was at The Taste, the beach was nearly barren and free parking was abundant. Go figure. The beach was nice, and I practically had it all to myself, before a bunch of smokers decided to plant themselves right next to me (of all the places they could have sat, I think life was pranking me today).

Thanks Chicago for your food, architecture, museums, beaches and attractions - I could pass on your obscene traffic, insane drivers, tollways, and high cost of living. Next up: Michigan!


Chicago-Style Pizza

June 12-25, 2010

Chicago-Style Pizza: "Pie in the Sky"

"Ask ten Chicagoans who makes their favorite pizza, and you'll get as many different answers. With an estimated 2,000-plus pizzerias in around, they take pride in their pie here; from small, family-owned neighborhood joints to popular downtown draws to suburban chains, pizza is to Chicago what strudel is to Vienna. The dominant style is deep-dish a pizza-meets-casserole well over an inch thick that is generally what people mean by Chicago style. Credit for it goes to Texan Ike Sewell and Italian-born restaurateur Rick Riccardo, who came up with a Midwest-friendly twist on the Neapolitan version, with a thicker crust and loads of cheesy topping.

With its first truly American pizza, these two men opened Pizzeria Uno in 1943 in a Victorian brownstone in the River North section of Chicago. It became so popular that, 12 years later, Pizzeria Due (same owners) opened in another Victorian a block away. Both have the same 1940's-vintage walnut veneers and black-and-white-tiled floors, and both are still immensely popular."

What to expect from Chicago-style pizza, appearance-wise? Crust, topped with cheese and choice toppings, followed by the sauce LAST.

I took the advice of travel books, Chicagoan friends and locals, and tried the best pizza the city had to offer. I visited Bacino's, Renaldi's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, Pequod's and Pizzeria Uno. My favorite hands down is Pequod's, thanks to their caramelized crust - baked in cast iron pans, blackened by decades of seasoning. I wish I could go in there and just order the crust! Yum! Second place is tied, and goes to Gino's East and Renaldi's. At Gino's East I managed the biggest string of cheese I've ever stretched from pizza to plate - I had my plate practically above my head with the cheese reaching from that slice on the plate all the way down to the pan on the table - I also enjoyed their sweet, yummy cornmeal crust, and they had an adequate amount of sauce, which isn't the case at many pizza places. At Renaldi's I couldn't devour the slice of Sicilian-style pizza fast enough (not Chicago-style, but needs to be recognized nonetheless). So good.


Wrigley Field, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wrigley Field

"When it opened on April 23, 1914, Weeghman Park was a typical stadium of its time, with seating angled close to the field and no upper decks or skyboxes. Today it's called Wrigley Field and there's no other place quite like it in baseball. Charles Weeghman built it for the Chicago Whales, a club in the short lived Federal League; when the upstart league disbanded after the 1915 season, he joined a group of investors to buy the National League Cubs and move them to his stadium - and thus began nearly a century of hardball history (and heartbreak) on Chicago's North Side. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley gained full ownership of the team in 1919 and the ballpark was renamed Wrigley Field in 1926. It's the second oldest park in the majors, after Boston's Fenway Park and the only one remaining from the Federal League.

Upper deck and skybox seating have been added over the years to increase its seating capacity from the original 14000 to over 41,000 but Wrigley retains the intimacy that earned it the name "Friendly Confines." In 1937 the center field was was rebuilt in brick-fronted concrete with Boston ivy planted in front of it creating one of the park's most distinctive features; a hit lost in the dense leaves is an automatic ground-rule double. The 25-by75-foot manual scoreboard, one of the last two of its kind (along with Fenway's), was installed the same year - no batted ball has hit it yet - and postgame, a "W" or "L" flag still flies above it to announce the result to train commuters.

Wrigley had the first permanent concession stand in baseball (1914), the first organ (1941), and the first cell phone system between dugout and bullpen (2006). It was where fans were first allowed to keep foul balls hit into the stands, and where they first threw visiting teams' home-run balls back onto the field (a tradition that is strictly enforced by a jeering crowd). It was the last major league park to install lights for night games. It was reportedly where, in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. Babe Ruth pointed to a spot in the center field bleachers just before sending a home run right there; and where legendary announcer Harry Caray led the crowd in the boisterous rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch. It was also where the Bears, Chicago's football team, won eight league championships before Soldier Field became their home. What Wrigley has never seen is a World Series victory by the Cubs, who last won the fall classic in 1908, but their fans' contagious this-is-our-year hopefulness is a key part of the Wrigley experience.

In Wrigleyville, the neighborhood around the park, you'll find souvenir hawkers, street musicians, and loads of nightlife including, of course, sports bars; at perennial favorites such as Cubby Bear Lounge, there's an ongoing party, win or lose."


Millenium Park Happy Hour Walking Tour - Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I took a two hour "happy hour" walking tour of Millenium Park," an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design. The result of a unique partnership between the City of Chicago and the philanthropic community, the 24.5-acre park features the work of world-renowned architects, planners, artists and designers." Millenium Park is a small section of 300 acre Grant Park.

It's a "Happy Hour" tour, because immediately following the tour, Lena invites us for a free drink at a nice cafe & grille below The Bean. Our dogs were barkin' and all of us [that weren't pressed for time] gratefully accepted! It was nice sittin' back and chit-chattin' with the other tour members over a cold beer. I explained my journey, they explained theirs, and it was very pleasant.

Our enthusiastic tour guide Lena, is from Sweden. This tour is provided by the Chicago Architecture Foundation - providing over 85 different tours of Chicago. They're free to members, so naturally I did the math and found that if I took only 3 tours I would already be saving money. This makes my fourth tour; I'm a happy camper :)


Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Tour - Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

After seeing Lake Geneva I visited the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio in the Oak Park, IL. It was his home for twenty years (22 years old to 42 years old I believe), before moving back to Wisconsin and building Taliesin East in Spring Green (there is also Taliesin West in Arizona, which he moved to after Spring Green).

"The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio (1889/1898) served as Wright's private residence and workplace from 1889 to 1909—the first 20 years of his career. Wright used his home as an architectural laboratory, experimenting with design concepts that contain the seeds of his architectural philosophy. Here he raised six children with his first wife, Catherine Tobin.

In 1898 Wright added a studio, described by a fellow-architect as a workplace with "inspiration everywhere." In the Studio, Wright and his associates developed a new American architecture, the Prairie style, and designed 125 structures, including such famous buildings as the Robie House, the Larkin Building and Unity Temple. We invite you to visit and experience the restored site as it appeared in 1909, the last year that Wright lived in the Home and worked in the Studio."


Lake Geneva - Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"The genteel town of Lake Geneva may be in southern Wisconsin, but with its location just 10 miles north of the state line, Chicago-area residents have long laid claim to this popular vacation area. Geneva Lake, a deep, spring-fed beauty some 21 miles in circumference, sits right on the town's doorstep, while three other smaller lakes add to the region's resort-like feel, luring legions of boaters, golfers, and multiple-generation vacationers.

The railroad first carried Chicago's elite north tot he cool waters and woods of Lake Geneva in the mid-19th century, where they built elaborate summer homes along the lake shore. But it was the great Chicago fire of 1871 that established Lake Geneva as the "Newport of the West" or "Hamptons of the Midwest." Having lost their homes and businesses, leading industrialists with names like Wrigley, Maytag, and Montgomery Ward sought refuge here, building even more palatial estates and commuting back and forth to Chicago.

You can enjoy a casual view of the mansions and their vast emerald lawns on foot thanks to a 26-mile Shore Path that wends along the lake shore, traversing parks and estates. Longstanding tradition rather than law keeps this former Indian footpath open to the public, so be sure to respect the generosity of the owners and stay on the path itself when strolling to your heart's content. The greatest concentration of mansions lies along the north shore, so Lake Geneva's Library Park is a good starting point.

Lake Geneva Cruise Lines offers mansion tours, which provide informative narration about estates like Green Gables (the original gateway for the shewing gum Wrigley's) and Stone manor. Or sign on for the company's Mailboat Tour, one of the last such marine postal services in the country."

Here's some more info about the marvelous mailboat tour I'm so glad I took: "Featured over the years in People Magazine and the Wall Street Journal and on NBC'S Today Show, CNN News, CBS Sunday Morning with Bill Geist and most recently on the Travel Channel's Bizarre World with Andrew Zimmern, the US Mailboat carries on a tradition that began back in 1870. The Walworth takes passengers on this one of a kind tour which is the only marine mail delivery of its type in the country. Loaded with 150 passengers, mail, a very brave and agile Mailperson, and a steady handed Captain, the crew delivers mail to about 60 homes around the lake. The tour operates every day at 10am - including Sundays when they deliver newspapers - from June 15 to September 15.

Our Mailperson leaps off the bow of the boat onto the pier, places the mail into the box, grabs outgoing mail, and jumps back aboard. The only hitch is the boat never stops!

The "hazzards" our Mailperson faces are a little different than the ones your mail carrier faces. Things like wet paint on piers, rafts and floating toys to dodge, an the occasional prank of someone tying the mailbox shut, can delay the Mailperson's return to the boat just enough to make the return trip a wet one!"

For more info on Lake Geneva mansions click here: http://www.lakegenevawi.com/Discovery/Mansions.aspx

After the wonderful, unique 2 1/2 hour tour of the gorgeous mansions of Lake Geneva I stolled Main Street lined with shops and eateries, and tried a delicious shrimp and brie dish!


View video of a home modeled after Jefferson's home:

Watch the mail carrier jump to and from the boat:

View video of another mansion:

View video of Stone Manor, the largest mansion on Lake Geneva:

Museum Campus - Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"The 57-acre Museum Campus, one of Chicago's newest lakefront attractions, unites three of the city's oldest institutions. Located at the southern edge of Grant Park, it opened in 1998 after the city rerouted the northbound lanes of heavily trafficked Lake Shore Drive and replaced the asphalt with terraced gardens and walkways connecting the Shedd Aquarium, The Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum.

Opened in 1930 thanks to the munificence of John G. Shedd, the stock clerk who became president of Marshal Field and Co., the Shedd Museum is one of the oldest aquariums in the world and was only recently surpassed (by the Georgia Aquarium) as the largest one indoors. The extensive facility and its 5 million gallons of water are home to 22,000 animals - over a million the staff will tell you, if you count all those tiny coral polyps. They come in dizzying variety, with sharks and rays, frogfish and parrotfish, and an octogenarian Australian lungfish names "granddad," the oldest fish in any aquarium anywhere. Among the more recent additions are the Oceanarium, with its belugas, otters, and other mammals, and the Wild Reef exhibit, which provides diver's-eye views of the sharks through 12-foot-high curved windows.

Built in 1930 as the first modern planetarium in the Western Hemisphere by Max Adler another philanthropist who made his fortune in retail, The Adler Planetarium is home to one of the world's finest collections of astronomical instruments and rare books.

Established in 1893, the Field Museum was funded by Marshall Field, founder of Chicago's legendary department store. The museum's encyclopedic collection covers subjects as wide-ranging as evolution, ancient Egyptian funerary customs, and Plains Indian life, but the most famous of its holdings is Sue, the world's biggest and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex."

Of the three institutions, I had the pleasure of visiting the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium. The Field Museum is HUGE. There are many exhibits; most were massive, and every time I rounded a corner there was more to see. Like the Art Institute, it is magnificent, and one can easily plan to spend an entire day here.

The temporary exhibits I explored were Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, Insects: 105 Years of Collecting, and one of my favorite, most interesting exhibits I've ever viewed anywhere was the traveling version of Kip Fulbeck: Part Asian, 100% Hapa: "In a world that is used to categorizing people by a single identity—race, ethnicity, age, religion, etc.—how do we define the in-between?

A label meaning ‘half’ in Hawaiian, hapa serves as a term of pride by many whose mixed heritage includes Asian or Pacific Island descent. Artist Kip Fulbeck posed the common question “What are you?” to people of mixed ancestry in the exhibition kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa. The answer to this question is a display of complex personal and social identities expressed through photographic portraits paired with the subject’s own hand-written, frank and funny responses.

A moving demonstration of self-expression, this new perspective encourages people of every background to question what makes them who they are. Celebrate your own heritage, and discover what it means to be multiracial/multi-ethnic in America today, at The Field Museum."


View video of the Shedd Aquarium's "Caribbean Reef":

View video of the Shedd Aquarium's "Alligator Snapping Turtle":

View video of the Shedd Aquarium's "Giant Octopus":

View video of the Shedd Aquarium's "Spotted ratfish":

View video of the Shedd Aquarium's "Mata Mata Turtle":

View video of the Shedd Aquarium's weird water lizard:

View video of the Shedd Aquarium's seal in the "Fantasea" show:

View video of the Shedd Aquarium's penguins in the "Fantasea" show:

View video of Downtown Chicago from Museum Campus:

Charlie Trotter's - Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010"Chef, cookbook author, television personality, and tireless entrepreneur, Charlie Trotter has been a food luminary for two decades, thanks to a combination of sterling technique, minimalist sensibility, and a highly inventive approach in the kitchen. He devises arresting combinations of ingredients - grilled squid with tapioca and Meyer lemon, veal tenderloin with pickled garlic and spiced date - and he is relentless in his quest for freshness; there's no walk-in cooler in his kitchen, because holding food over could encourage cheating. Three multi-course tasting menus, which change daily, feature pristine products at the height of their season.
Trotter is uncompromising about the quality of the food he serves as well as about the service itself, which helps explain why a reservation for any of the 28 tables at Charlie Trotter's is one of the toughest tickets in town. Among the devoted epicures, you might find CEOs and celebrities:: Local icon Michael Jordan has come to dinner, as has Sweden's King Carl Gustaf (an aspiring recreational chef himself, he later invited Trotter to share some of his secrets).

Trotter offers a raw menu as well. There are four dining rooms (and over 40 china patterns throughout), including the studio kitchen, where you can watch your meal being prepared on closed-circuit TV. The most coveted seats in the house are at the kitchen table - you can watch art in the making. The wine list, featuring over 1,800 wines housed in four cellars, is renowned as one of the world's best.

If you can't wait for that kitchen table or don't have the proper attire (jacket required), visit Trotter's To Go, a gourmet take-out retail store in the neighborhood, or Trotter's To Go Express in the downtown area. Trotter has received worldwide accolades not only for his accomplishments in the kitchen, but for his philanthropic endeavors as well. Chief among them is the Culinary Education Foundation, which holds weekly tours and dinners for high school students and has raised nearly a half a million dollars for people seeking culinary careers in the culinary arts."
It was approximately 8:30pm, and as I approached the vine-covered, seemingly tucked-away, charming, brick building to check the address number, a well-dressed young man acknowledged me, "I think you're in the right place, sir." Grinning, I replied, "I think so too." He opened the door and welcomed me out of the wet streets, into this cozy, converted apartment building in beautiful Lincoln Park. He took my umbrella and exchanged it for a number he handed me. Another gentleman took his place and led me though the bar, into the first dining room, up to the second floor, and seated me at comfortable corner in a dining room where smartly-dressed couples laughed and conversed, enjoying their decadent dishes. Between the twelve tables, I counted four attendants, expertly accommodating the fine patrons with the very best wines, inventive cuisine, and friendly banter. Even with all the elegant decor, fine china and fancy suits, the atmosphere was surprisingly more fun than formal. Laughter and conversation filled the air, as I observed multiple tables introducing themselves and sharing stories. At one point I found myself snapping a couple photos for a pair of friends wanting to make some memories.

Of the two prix-fixe, 8 course menus I was presented, I chose the Vegetable menu. Like Arun's, with each course would come a new set of dinnerware, and a pleasant description of the dish. The menu I received consisted of the following courses:

1. Swan Creek Farm ricotta with marinated zucchini and fennel pollen.

2. White asparagus with red ribbon sorrel, blackberries and goat's milk.

1. Purple artichoke gnocchi with mead and mint blossoms.

2. Oaxacan mole with New Zealand spinach and roasted cashews.

3. Whole roasted Porcini mushrooms with rosemary and caramelized cippolini onions.

1. Meyer lemon sorbet with lemon basil and creamed olive oil.

2. Meiwa kumquats with frozen meringue and cured black olives.

3. Venezuelan chocolate with anise, coffee and butterscotch ice cream.

Lastly, they surprised me with a tray of three very different candy morsels. If memory serves me correctly, the first was a scoop of dark chocolate cream under raspberry bark, the second was a chocolate-tiered wafer crisp, and the third was a melt-in-your-mouth jellied cube, which looked exactly like my idea of Turkish delight come to life.

Now I know that seeing black olives in dessert #2 makes for an unexpected combination, but it was sincerely perhaps the best dessert I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Honestly, in that moment I pictured myself back in my motel room helping myself to a heaping bowl of this tart concoction, letting myself go. It was heaven on a spoon!

The food: unusual, flawless. The service, seamless. The ambiance: simple, elegant. The atmosphere: intimate, comfortable.

My experience did not end after emptying my wallet. Following my dinner experience was a full tour of the kitchen and its adjacent private dining room that I was offered upon making my reservation. I even received what the chef giving me the tour said was the only showing of their wine cellars he recalls them ever giving! And man, did I see some wines! Very rare, old, expensive wines in very expensive cases, and he pointed out to me Charlie's private stock, which only the very fortunate of his guests should ever get to taste. Why the special treatment? Well, I assume it's because usual guests aren't interested in seeing a kitchen, but more than that I think it's because he thought I could be a very important person; seeing as I was dining alone and savoring the three hour experience, one could easily assume me to be a critic. It was the perfect end to a perfect evening.

After humbly snapping a few photos and making my way toward the exit, the greeter from earlier reminded me of the umbrella I forgot I had checked. God they're good.


*Some of the images are dark - using flash in a fine restaurant is just a bit of a faux pas, lol =)

The Art Institute of Chicago - Thursday, June 15, 2010

Thursday, June 15, 2010

"The Art Institute of Chicago is the crowning glory of Chicago's lakefront. Opened in 1879, The Art Institute is one of the country's premier art schools, with alumni ranging from Thomas Hart Benton and Georgia O'Keeffe, to Orson Welles and Walt Disney. More important to the visitor who doesn't plan on taking classes, it houses one of the world's greatest art collections, some 260,000 works spanning five millennia, in a handsome beaux-arts structure built for the 1892-93 World's Columbian Exposition."

I arrived around 5pm on a Thursday to take advantage of the museum's extended hours and FREE admission. I was also granted access to the new, members-only Matisse exhibit simply by asking if I could come back 20 minutes before closing to get a sneak peek. I came back 30 minutes before closing - no problem!

The modern wing was added in 2009, making the Art Institute the second largest art museum in the country, behind New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The modern wing is the seventh major addition to the museum since 1893.

It was my first visit to the Art Institute, and it was my mission to view all the highlights! Mission accomplished:

El Greco's Assumption of the Virgin

Georges Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884

Vincent Van Gogh's The Bedroom

Tripod Food Container (Ding)

Seated Buddha

Mummy Head Cover

Edward Hopper's Nighthawks

Grant Wood's American Gothic

Greg Lynn's Ravioli Chair

Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist

Rene Magritte's Time Transfixed

Gerhard Richter's Woman Descending the Staircase


Arun's Restaurant, Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"The higher strata of Chicago's more than 7,000 restaurants constitute a part of the city more Paris than prairie, populated by a galaxy of stellar chefs. Among the very best is Arun Sampanthavivat, who showcases Thai food as creative haute cuisine at his restaurant, Arun's.

Born and raised on a rubber plantation in Thailand, Arun spent many years bouncing from Hamburg to Tokyo to Chicago in pursuit of one advanced degree after another. While studying at the University of Chicago, he was offered a partnership in a new Thai restaurant even though he had no restaurant experience. His partners eventually dropped out,, but Arun forged ahead, cooking, cleaning, busing, and keeping the books. Within months he had a loyal customer base and his first review, glowing praise from Chicago Tribune, and in time he moved to a new place that would become a destination restaurant.

Today Arun is considered by colleagues, critics, and patrons alike to be both genius and artist for his elegant and sensitive take on his native cuisine's blend of flavors, and his restaurant serves only a 12-course chef's menu. The waitstaff inquires about your preferences and adventurousness, spice tolerances and any dietary restrictions, and the kitchen takes from there; six appetizers come out in sequence, followed by four entrees served at the same time, family style, followed by two dessert courses. The presentation is exquisite, the ingredients are super fresh, the balance of flavors intricate.

Designed by the chef himself, the dining room is warm, understated, and tastefully appointed with Thai art and artifacts. Other chefs and passionate gastronomes visit regularly, and not a few leave convinced that they've had Thai food at Arun's that's better than Bangkok's best."

I called a few days ahead to make my reservation. Picked up at the other end of the phone was a courteous professional who asked me for the usual reservation details (name, date, time, etc), followed by patient, gracious answers to my questions about dress code and the like. No jacket or tie is required; the dress code is business casual. He asked me about any dietary requests right up front, and I informed him I'm a pescatarian (one whose diet includes fish but no meat), to which he replied they would be much obliged to customize the menu to serve my needs.

The traffic was obscene; big surprise for Chicago, NOT! I called and notified them of my delay, to which they were kind to. I arrived only about 10-15 minutes late, and entered through the front door, and was immediately greeted with a big smile and warm hello. He showed me to my seat, which he made some room from the table for me to sit down. He asked me what I'd like to drink, and I asked for Pellegrino. Though this was the kind of place where it's usual for the customers to order fine wines, I didn't receive any sort of sneer or mild irritation for only ordering water. =) Shortly thereafter my very well-mannered server arrived at my table, and welcomed me to the restaurant, asked me if it was my first dining experience at Arun's, explained what I should expect from the evening's experience, asked me how spicy I prefer my food, and asked me about my preference for pacing the courses.

I looked around and took in the ambiance; the lighting, the decor, the art, the colors...and I couldn't help but notice I was the evening's first customer! No surprise, since it was only about 6:30. Before long, the entire space I sat in was filled by patrons in fine clothes, mostly celebrating their special occasions. It wasn't difficult to notice I wasn't as well-dressed as the others, for my blue jeans and con-airs emphasized the more CASUAL side of business casual, lol. No one was rude, and I'm sure I was only being self-conscious, since I'm such a keen observer. Everyone else was focusing on their date, while I was taking in my surroundings.

My first course arrived, and with it the server proudly announced its constituents, and if appropriate, the chef's recommendation for consumption. And so, my culinary experience commenced; the menu of courses I received was as such:

1. Bite-sized salad of fresh Cha-Plue (betel leaf nut) with bits of fresh herbs: ginger, shallot, lime, peanuts, and toasted coconut flakes. To eat: Hand-wrap the leaf; spoon over with a tamarind-coconut sauce; and enjoy a whole bite at one time.

2. Traditional Thai spring roll filled with seasoned tofu, cucumber and morsels of Dungeness crab meat and bean sprouts, drizzled with sweet and sour tamarind sauce and accentuated with a dab of hot mustard. Garnished with a butterfly of carrot, and a rose of tomato.

3. Delicate rice dumpling filled with shrimp and Jicama; served on a bed of sweet & sour chili vinaigrette.

4. Wrapped prawn topping a bed of vermicelli noodles, with scrambled egg, tofu and peanuts over an egg noodle omelet, garnished with fresh garlic chive and bean sprouts. Served deconstructed with lemon, chive, cucumber and red pepper. To eat: Mix it all up and enjoy!

5. Pike in a Thai curry sauce under a whole basil leaf, served over a bed of sliced cucumber and sweet& sour.

6. Thai rice pasta soup, ladled with a spicy broth of tofu, tomato, shredded pickled cabbage, bean sprouts, chopped scallion and fried shallot, topped with fried chrysanthemum root.

1. Large shrimp with Panang curry, with Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, and jack fruit.

2. Lightly fried striped bass filet graced with three-flavored chili sauce: spicy, sweet, and sour; garnished with an exquisitely carved fish of carrot.

3. Pan-seared scallop accompanied by baked potato and asparagus, served with a Thai curry sauce.

4. Pike in a rich coconut-curried sauce, featuring tantalizing spices: coriander seeds, shallots and refreshing Thai herbs.

1. Sweet sticky rice and sunflower seeds, with smooth mango sauce.

2. A mixed sorbet of Okra blossom and lychee, accompanied by baked pear with orange zest, and a sweet cream sauce.

Summary: Three hours, twelve courses of bliss! A vast array of unique flavors and textures, spiced to my preference, each course perfectly paced, provided with unparalleled service.

Oh, and here's an interesting note: My thorough inspection (appreciation) of the food, both by tasting, smelling, and note-taking (yup! lol), prompted the couple at the table across from me to ask at the end of my exploration, "So are you a critic, or a culinary student?"

4156 N Kedzie Ave; 773-539-1909; www.arunsthai.com


Hello Chicago! Let's Start with Architecture

Saturday, June 12, 2010Tonight I arrived in the Windy City, or less-popularly nicknamed, "Second City." Two possible reasons (I believe the first one is accurate, but it offends the locals so they came up with the second one) Nickname origin 1: This was a derogatory nickname for the city used in a 1950s New Yorker article by A. J. Liebling - Chicago comes in second to New York City.
Nickname origin 2: Chicago received the nickname "Second City" in the late nineteenth century after being rebuilt from the great Chicago fire of 1873.

Sunday, June 13, 2010
Anywhoski, the first thing in the morning I headed to the Chicago Architecture Foundation where I became a member, and since I joined as a student, I received a discounted student rate membership for $35, which out of the EIGHTY FIVE tours they give from $12 on up a pop, if I do just 3 tours (more than 65 tours are free to members!) I've already made my money back.
I wanted to jump right in and get to know Chicago, so I did TWO 2-hour walking tours!  First I did the Modern Skyscrapers (1950s-present). "Explore the history of modern design, from the simplicity of Mies can der Rohe through contemporary designs by Helmut Jahn, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and more." We'll examine 3 periods of architecture on this tour: Modernist (50s, 60s, 70s), Post-Modern (80s and 90s), and New Modern/Millennium (2000 and up).

Secondly I did the Historic Downtown (south loop): Rise of the Skyscraper. "Trace the development of the first skyscrapers and learn how they transformed the world's commercial landscape." We'll examine 3 types of architecture on this tour: Pre-Fire construction, Chicago School Skyscrapers, and Art Deco Skyscrapers.


House On The Rock - Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Today I revisited House on the Rock, in Spring Green, WI. This has been a long-time favorite attraction of mine. I'm surprised how little-known it is, but it gives me a bit of a thrill knowing that I know. My short description: Red and gold sets the stage for this mansion set atop (and inside) a cliff, boasting independently-themed, low-lit rooms/sections dedicated to displaying wonderfully diverse, odd, and unique collections from around the world. It's a gem!

Marketing version: "The House on the Rock is the grand vision of Alex Jordan, who believed that sights and sounds were the most effective means of stimulating the senses. He wanted guests to question his creation, to come to their own conclusions and to turn his world of dreams into their own. The Attraction has room after room of some of the world's most unique and eclectic collections which has amazed thousands of visitors each year."

The truth according to RoadsideAmerica.com:
Alex Jordan, Jr. wanted to teach Frank Lloyd Wright a thing or two about architecture. The lesson started years ago.
Jordan's dad, a budding architect, had been dismissed at Wright's Taliesin home, near Spring Green, with the declaration, "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop." Soon after, the senior Jordan chose a pinnacle rock south of Taliesin to build a parody of Wright's fancy-pants architecture, a strange "Japanese house." The ceilings were dangerously low (padded now to accommodate tourists) and the structure seemed to cling precariously to the odd contours of the rock.

The House On The Rock opened to the public in 1961. Today, it is only a small portion of the magical collection that spits in the eye of Mr. Big Deal Dead Architect. When Alex Jordan, Jr. took over the project from his dad in the 1940s he never dreamed where it would end, but with a half-million visitors a year, it probably won't end anytime soon.

Big pseudo-oriental serpent planters greet you at the entrance and line the drive. Fake palm fronds lend shade to areas around the House. At the ticket window, cautious old people ask, "How many rest stops again?" The tour is self-guided, rumored to take four hours, and not air-conditioned. No amount of mall-walking prepares you for the strenuous, humid, HOTR experience. [Note: Since this story was written, the tour has been segmented into four separate tours]

The house itself is a claustrophobic shamble through darkened dens and hallways lit by Tiffany lamps. An automated band plays Bolero, the first of some thirty-five music machines on the route. There's oriental art, low ceilings, big fireplaces, and carpeting on everything. Was this place designed to be the ultimate bachelor's love nest?

Your climb to the top of the House begins. Waddling camcorderists clog the many choke points on landings and corners. Children are getting antsy; older people stand in the darkness and wheeze. The in the House play incessant make-out music: Harbor Lights, Hungarian Rhapsody and Love Theme from The Godfather.

Once you get out of the House the fun really begins. The Streets of Yesterday building is an indoor recreation of some murky Victorian era. Here, coin-operated music machines abound. Robotic fingers and invisible lips start at the drop of a token. We wonder -- are those magnificent instruments really being played, or is this a tape?

Next is "Heritage Of The Sea." This three-level blimp hangar-of-a- room is dominated by a 200-foot long sea monster battling a giant squid. Ship replicas and other flotsam line the ramp that climbs to the top of the chamber. People grip the railing, fixing their sights on the exit, far above.

Jordan's creations rivet visitors. "It must've cost him a million dollars." "No, no, he was an genius, an eccentric genius." "And they keep saying he was a poor man." "Well he never had any in his pocket since he was always buying things."

The next room has a display of Santa Claus items. And there's a rest area! Old people buttonhole employees and ask over and over "When is the next stop?" Then they start trying to get out. "When is the next exit?"

The Carousel Room wakes you up with a cacophony of music. The 239 carousel beasts, collected from around the world, are half-human and demonic looking; a runaway circus from Hell. Hundreds of topless mannequin angels hang from the walls and rotate overhead. The room contains 182 chandeliers. Exit via an open dragon mouth, and walk down its red shag-carpeted throat. More music machines suck tokens from the surviving oldsters, giving them an excuse to stop.

Next is the Organ Room, crisscrossed by catwalks and affording all possible camcorder angles of the huge theater organs, giant copper vats, and immense red glass chandeliers. After this, another exit point/grill/gift store/arts village store, with another hour advertised ahead of you. People may have been here for days. Some are dizzy. "Haven't we seen this before?" "Your grandma's gotta sit down."

We stagger to the Cannon Room. Camcorders have exhausted their batteries. Too bad, because this complex is dominated by the world's largest cannon, a weapon so absurdly large that the room had to be constructed around it. The Doll Room and Circus Room are a weary blur; we finally hobble to the welcoming glow of the gift shop.

Despite the globe-trotting aura of the collection, Jordan hated to travel and never left the country. He died in 1989, at age 75. The House continues under new management, smartly adding to the collection each year. But Jordan still seems the spiritual caretaker of HOR. A guide tells us that he had one girlfriend for 45 years who inherited most of his fortune, but who knows what to believe with this guy? He was 6'4", weighed over 200 lbs., and liked the coziness of the House On The Rock. It had to be a make-out pad."


World's Largest Carousel, and with the most number of lights on any carousel:

One of the many elaborate token-operated music machines - you have to tilt your head to the left for half of this; I didn't realize I wouldn't be able to rotate the video when posting it on here:

Close-up of the drummer's angry face - I think he lost his kitten:

Another one of the many elaborate token-operated music machines - you have to tilt your head to the right for this; I didn't realize I wouldn't be able to rotate the video when posting it on here:

Taliesen (Frank Lloyd Wright's Estate) - Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Renowned architect and Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright left an incredible legacy, from several notable homes new Chicago, to New York's Guggenheim Museum. But in Spring Green, on his 600-acre complex, you can visit Wright's own rambling 37,000-square-foot home and his original architecture school, an estate he tucked among the rolling hills of his childhood.

Wright espoused the importance of designing in harmony with the surroundings and using local materials, exploring his philosophy of "organic architecture." Taliesen (pronounced Tal-ee-ess-in) is the embodiement of Wright's tenets, its wimngs of limestine, wood, and glass meandering along the contours of the landscape. The name "Taliesen" is Welsh for "shining brow," reflecting the home's location along the "brow" of the hillside - enveloping, rather than overpowering, the site.

Many leading architects and Wright aficionados consider the Spring green property his finest work.

It served as his summer home, beginning in 1911 after leaving his first wife, Catherine Tobin, and his Oak Park, Illinois, home and studio in 1909.

In 1940, Frank Lloyd Wright and his third wife, Olgivanna, formed the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which still exists. Upon Wright's death in 1959, ownership of the Taliesin estate in Spring Green, as well as Taliesin West (his winter home in Arizona), passed into the hands of the foundation. The foundation also owns Frank Lloyd Wright's archives and runs a school, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture."

Summary of the "Estate Tour" (Duration - 4 hours):

The tour begins at the Frank Lloyd Wright® Visitor Center, the only free-standing restaurant designed by Wright. From there, the tour moves to Unity Chapel, built for Wright’s maternal family, where Wright’s gravesite is located. Next, the tour takes you to Hillside, the school that Wright designed for his aunts. At Hillside, you’ll explore the Assembly Hall, Fellowship Dining Room, Drafting Studio, the Theater and gallery space.

A country walk takes you past the Romeo and Juliet Windmill Tower, the oldest design on the estate. Next, you’ll get a close-up look at Tan-y-deri, the home Wright built for his sister Jane Porter, and Midway Barns en route to the house itself. Two hours into the tour, you’ll be served light refreshments on Mr. Wright’s Terrace before enjoying an exterior tour of his home. Finally, you’ll spend a delightful hour inside Taliesin.


Taliesen #1 Frank Lloyd Wright's School:

Frank Lloyd Wright's Home - video #1:

Frank Lloyd Wright's Home - video #2:

Frank Lloyd Wright's carport/old carriage stalls:

Frank Lloyd Wright Home's Main Entrance - video #1:

Frank Lloyd Wright Home's Main Entrance - video #2:

Madison, WI - Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Madison really shows off its capital, if ya know what mean, lol. For all you drunk drivers out there, when you forget where you are - the street signs with a big capital icon will remind you what city you're in. What a courtesy, lol.

Seriously though, the capital is beautiful. It stands tall and proud above the city streets, and fills the night sky.

Did you know?

- In 1996 Money magazine identified Madison as the best place to live in the United States. It has consistently ranked near the top of the best-places list in subsequent years, with the city's low unemployment rate, a major contributor.
*I am, however, guessing that after 1996 they realized the pitiful wi-fi and AT&T situation I mentioned in an earlier post, lol!

- City voting patterns have supported the democratic party in national elections in the last half-century, and a liberal and progressive majority is generally elected to the city council.

- Madison is also home to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which attempts to influence government in matters relating to the separation of church and state. The foundation is known for its lawsuits against religious displays on public property, among other things. In recent years, they have made removal of In God We Trust from American currency a main focus.

-The world's largest congregation of Unitarian Universalists, First Unitarian Society of Madison, makes its home in the historic Unitarian Meeting House, designed by one of its members, Frank Lloyd Wright.


Milwaukee Art Museum - Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yes MAM! (Milwaukee Art Museum, lol)

"Experiencing the works of art at the Milwaukee Art Museum begins long before you walk through the doors. As you approach via a pedestrian bridge, you see the 90-foot-high glass-walled reception hall capped by a stunning white cone composed of 72 steel finds that unfurl into wings stretching more than 200 feet from tip to tip. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee, the enormous moving sculpture looks like a gull taking flight."
To learn more about the museum go here: http://www.mam.org/info/

I arrived at the museum around 5pm on a Thursday, after working a very early shift. Like many museums it is open late on Thursdays. Unlike many museums, if you arrive at or after 5pm it is not free admission. Unlike many people who travel [FOUR! - I got lost, lol] hours to see it, I walked in like I owned the place, and created my own free admission.


Milwaukee Art Museum "wings" [very slowly] closing up for the evening: