CHICAGO and us

Chicago is a bit of a blur to me at this point.  We went to see the Alder Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, and two days worth at the Museum of Science and Industry.  We also visited Cloud Gate (nicknamed “The Bean”), ate the original Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, saw the Trump Building, Sears Tower, Chicago River, Lake Michigan beachfront, The Chicago Tribune building, froze our assets some days, but dined al fresco one evening in shirt sleeves.  Very interesting weather patterns.

I met Cousin Pip, Uncle Mr. GT, and Auntie Glenda for the first time.  We helped make cute critters with a 3-D Printer (ours is named Random), ventured pretty close to a tornado, and saw a Tesla coil fire off.  We went in a coal mine, saw sun spots and prominences through the telescope at the observatory, saw Van Gogh’s bedrooms and other famous artworks, and viewed all the stages of embryotic life (Happy called them babies in bottles, but that’s not quite the way they are currently displayed, just what she recalled from her childhood visits.

We all go home now.  Uncle Mr. GT and Auntie Glenda will be flying out, and Happy and Mr. Happy will be driving back, but hopefully a different way than they came, given that they ended up under the El where there was no GPS signal.  Uncle Mr. GT and Mr. Happy also ended up a street level down once without us: we were spared that fear, and at least they went down only one street under.  The city has three levels of streets in some places, not cross streets but literally running just one on top of the other.  We would have been terrified.

The streets are flooded now with football fans, all here for the NFL Draft that started yesterday and won’t end until tomorrow some time.  We plan to run away first, back to our real lives.  It was a grand adventure, and we are so glad we could be included.  The next excitement will be June when Auntie Glenda and Pip come to spend the month with us.  Whoo-hoo!!!  Go Chicago!!

Mr. Happy’s driving in the city scared us just a bit, rather like a thrill ride we didn’t mean to board. We recommend public transport or cabs.

-Photo credit: Uncle Mr. GT Herbert


April 21 – Here we go again!

Yes, we just got home.  Yes, we are gone again!  Bean and Mr. Bean plus Smidge, Inky, and I are headed for the Windy City of Chicago!  We are meeting up with Cousin Pip, Auntie Glenda (Bean DIL), and the Bean son, Mr. GT, for a week of Museum tours.  Whoo-hoo.  I’m feeling educated already.

Bean grew up in Racine, WI and made a couple of trips a year to the Chicago museums.  Her favorite is the Museum of Science and Industry with a coal mine, submarine, train, and (drum roll please) the actress, Colleeen Moore’s Dollhouse, now called the Fairy Castle.  Amazing piece of work with precious metals, gemstones, electricity, and running water for the fountains and other plumbing.  The collection began in her childhood, and finally she had the castle built to house everything.  The Castle takes up a whole room!  Smidge, Pip, and I are VERY excited to see that and to fantasize about moving in.  We’re tiny – the staff might not even notice us, but Smidge’s pink hairs and Pip’s purple hairs might stand out a bit.

We plan to visit museums for art, history, science, and…well, anything, even a zoo or two.  Everyone is excited about our trip.

There is nothing like enjoying the sights with family that we love.


April 16

It took two days to drive to Arkansas from Virginia.  Two days.  I didn’t do any of the driving because I can’t see over the steering wheel.  I did enjoy the pleasant lul of the car’s movements on the highway and listening to Happy sing non-stop for 17.5 hours.  Well, maybe enjoy isn’t quite the word for that last part.

We arrived first at our overnight stop in Olive Branch, MS.  My human and Smidge have stayed many times before in this location, and they love having a Panera Bread right across the street for dinner, a Kroger also there for snack supplies, and an inexpensive gas station out front for filling up.  Hooray for Olive Branch!

We were lazy, sleeping a little later in the morning than usual and enjoying our hot breakfast courtesy of the Comfort Inn.  Then we headed out, not for our destination, but for the Airport in Ft. Smith where we supposed to pick up my Bean’s roommate before driving up the mountain to Winslow, AR where we stay at Sky Vue Lodge, a B&B with cabins and a fabulous view of the Boston Mountains.  There is nothing quite so lovely. Going there, says Happy, is a lot like going home.

Alas, the airport pick-up didn’t go so well.  Most of the way there, roommate texted that another of the Farkleberry carvers was with her and could we take them both.  Sure…probably.  Well, to be on the safe side, Bean had looked up and entered the airport destination, an address taken straight from the Internet.  Alas, it took us to a back way where everything had high fences and no gate, not even a locked one.  We had visions of junk-yard dogs coming for us.  We kept the doors locked and attempted to turn around, not an easy feat since the genius workers had thoughtfully dug deep ditches along the edges of a one-lane road with no turn-around.  Several back and forth attempts got us out.

Bean has been to this airport many times, yet it had mysteriously disappeared (other than the back gate) and it took two stops at different places for directions and a bit of instinct, but finally we got there.  Then the sort and re-sort of luggage began.  The two riders had less overall luggage than Bean, but their suitcases were….well, lets just say that if I moved into one, it would be a palace – way bigger than a breadbox.  But we got everything and everyone in, and made it up the mountain without any further problems.

Dinner was a meet and greet (which means everyone hugged their old friends and tried to catch up on the last year in one hour) in the dining room of the main lodge.  This place is like a second home, the business owned by a charming couple, parents of three delightful adopted children who Happy and the other carvers have watched grow up over the years.  Their father, Glen, grew up in the same Wisconsin town as Happy did, so they always have something to talk about.  Dinner (best food ever served here) was made by Janice, Glen’s wife, and was then followed by a gift exchange and an early night so as to be up and ready to carve the next morning.  I would post a picture of Bean’s fabulous needle-felted doggie she received, but he is traveling in another piece of luggage.  Perhaps next week.  Bright and early, after a hearty breakfast from Janice, we were off to the woods with friends, tools in hand.  What could be better?

So Monday, Tuesday, …and then suddenly Friday.  We aren’t sure how that happened.  Many trips to the outhouse (it has a chandelier, so lets not malign it), several tick bites or hitch-hikers, and lots and lots of woodchips later, the week passed in a flash, and suddenly it was time to reverse everything, from dropping our friend at the airport to driving for two more days, this time stopping in a different city but still another familiar Comfort Inn for our overnight and hot breakfast.  Tomorrow, we will be home again.  I now have a greater appreciation of the comforts of home, not just in terms of literal comfort, but the emotional comfort of the familiar surroundings.  And with us is the brand new Hitty Berry Inconsistence (“Inky” for short, says our Texas friend Terri).  Since she has braids, I’m sure inky would be a great nickname if a naughty classmate wanted to dip her braids in the inkwell.

There is nothing like the familiar to comfort us, away and at home.

April 8 – Farkleberry Doll Carvers

Spring is travel season in our house.  Every April, my Human Bean goes to Arkansas to carve with her Hitty friends at Janet Cordell’s cabin.  This is my first year going along, and I’m very excited.

Smidge explained to me what it was all about, having been to several carvings in the past.  She told me the ladies (and an occasional man) take chunks of wood and big, sharp knives and gouges, and assist in freeing the dolly spirits that live inside the wood.  It’s subtractive sculpture.  Whatever is left behind is what you get. Some are prettier than others, but that does not matter.  What matters is the camaraderie of the people who do this together in a cabin in the Arkansas woods.  There is electricity, but no running water.  The nearest “Necessary” is a short hike through the woods.  No electricity or running water there, but it’s swept clean and there is a lovely chandelier overhead.

This is the 10th anniversary of this group that calls themselves the Farkleberry Doll Carvers, so named after the many Farkleberry bushes that grow around the cabin.  My bean missed the first couple of years of the group, but has been faithful the other years plus attended multiple other times and locations.  She reckons she’s gone to about 20 carvings, most of them with Janet, but this group is the only one with a name and consistent members …plus the new one or so that joins in.   This year, there are 16 plus two instructors.  The carving cabin is pretty much full.

They consider themselves a Hitty carving group (Hitty is always in fashion), but they have moved beyond Hittys and ventured into other doll zones.  Over the years, one has carved adorable replicas of Palmer Cox Brownie dolls. My Bean has carved a couple of portrait dolls, Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Abby Sciuto of NCIS fame, and even a life-sized multi-jointed crow.  Many of the carvers have done Queen Anne, tiny tuck combs, Milliner Models, Becassine, Door of Hope, and others.  I heard from Smidge that last December, Miss Janet had her strip down and model because one of the ladies wanted to try carving a BJD!  The Hittys have also moved on from peg-jointed arms and legs that move in tandem to shoulders joints with a range of movement, elbow, knee, and separate head joints, and even ball joints.  Although many carvers work only on one-piece figures, these ladies are not afraid to tackle the hard stuff.

This year, they return to their roots to carve a commemorative Hitty friend named Berry in honor of their beginnings.  These ladies are creative and fearless.  I can’t wait to meet all the new friends that emerge from the heart of the wood and its carvers.

This is art.  This is friendship.  Welcome Berry dolls, welcome to you all.


Yellow. And it’s everywhere.

Not my favorite color by any means, and my absolute least favorite color in the spring.  Even the yards are yellow with dandelions popping up all over the place.  But this is about pollen.  The dreadful, evil, yellow pollen.  Pollen is not a friend to humans, particularly humans with pollen sensitivities.  While it is fabulous stuff for helping to grow things and for making honey, if you have allergies and that innate tendency to want to breathe freely, you probably need to move from Virginia to Alaska in the spring.

Our Postal Carrier showed up yesterday, looking like Santa with an armload of mail and parcels; but he was Santa from the land of OZ as he stood on my “yellow brick road” of yellow pollinated porch.   The porch was yellow, the furniture on it was yellow, the steps were yellow, the sidewalk was yellow, the driveway was yellow, and the streets were yellow.  Our car, Ruby (so named for her normal color), was also yellow.  Even the grass is starting to look a bit on the chartreuse side.

There is nothing to be done.  Well, rain helps, but we have gotten only the merest of sprinkles here and there and no more.  If we got a huge rain, it would wash the pollen from the trees and make yellow rivers that run down the sides of the streets, but this year, we are behind in rainfall, and it all just sits, piling higher by the day.  We could almost shovel it, like snow.  We could also hose it off the porch, stairs, drive, car, and walkways, but until the trees stop producing, it would just come back until pollen season ends.  We sniffle, blot our eyes, and sneeze our way through the days.  My Bean just stays inside as much as she can.  A mask might help, but pollen is simply “in the air.”

We need to move to a different color on the wheel.

BBQ Flashback

Field trip!  My Human Bean, Smidge, and I took a trip a couple of weeks ago, driving ourselves and two Humans (both named Marie, making it easy to recall names) to a doll luncheon in North Carolina.  We spent two nights at the home of one of the human’s daughters, but getting there was a highlight.

The day for travel was lovely and warm.  We noted the Redbuds all lavender and the Bradford pears with their white blooms along the side of the road, and a small herd of daffodils in the median.  It was a good day for friends to travel and enjoy each other’s company.

There was much discussion about where to stop for lunch along the way.  One Bean, who travels that way frequently, called her spouse for guidance once we established that we all wanted BBQ.  After a bit of “where are we now and how long will it take to get to that place,” we settled on a place that one of the Beans declared was “the best.”

We got off the interstate and wound our way through tiny town streets and finally arrived at the parking lot.  As we entered The Blue Note Grill, the Bean who initially declared the place was “the best” said, “This does not look familiar.”  Inside, she said, “I’ve never been here in my life!”

So it was pure serendipity that led us to The Blue Note Grill and to their fabulous NC BBQ.  All declared that now that we had found the place, we would go back again.  It apparently is a local Blues music place as well as having great food, but you need to be there in the evening.  So I guess if we thought lunch was great, we could have had the whole experience had we stopped by several hours later.

At any rate, if you happen to be in the Raleigh/Durham North Carolina area, we highly recommend a side trip to The Blue Note Grill, 709 Washington Street in Historic Durham.

Yum …and thank you serendipity for our delicious lunch at The Blue Note!