Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Moving is exhilarating. And exhausting.

I just read a line in the Chicago Tribune about all of the things people would rather do than go through the mortgage approval process again. Public speaking. Gaining 10 pounds. Spending 24 hours with someone we really dislike. Even getting a root canal.

It was painful, but there was so much work to be done to move into our new (forever) home, that it was just one of many headaches I'm glad to be done with. I'm glad to be done fixing up our old house. I'm glad we don't have to stage it twice daily for looky-loos who would then leave comments like "cute house, but we don't like the street because there's no parking in front." I'm glad to be done negotiating home prices, inspection items and credits.

UntitledI'm glad to be done packing and purging, and I'm thrilled I don't need to wrap anything in paper or bubble wrap for a really long time. I'm glad that the money I'm spending from here on out will be on stuff I can see and enjoy versus services like movers and lawyers. I'm so sick of the chores associated with moving that I've been unable to sit down and relax in my new house because I'm so anxious to get unpacked and make it look like the home I've spent the last 6 months dreaming of.

The good news is that I'm really pleased with our new house. I should be, as I picked every detail, but you never know if the door pull or light fixture or crown moulding you picked out will look as good in real life as you imagined it from a picture online or in a catalogue.

UntitledSpeaking of online inspiration, I definitely couldn't have made the design decisions I did without Houzz. Creating boards of key rooms helped me identify the styles I liked best and articulate those choices to my builder. Some of my favorite features I can directly relate to inspiration I found on Houzz, like the built-in bookcase around the casement leading from the living room to the dining room, my white kitchen with black countertops and our built-in breakfast nook benches (which still need this table from IKEA).

Next on the agenda is setting up the basement family room, adding window treatments and hanging pictures and guitars on the wall. It's fun to look at all of our art and decide fresh what to put together and where versus having to find a home for a piece among everything else. I'll share more pictures soon!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Rediscovering the 1893 World's Fair at the Field Museum

Devil in the White City? I devoured Erik Lawson's true tale of a serial killer amidst the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair shortly after it came out, in 2002. At that point I'd lived in Chicago for almost 8 years, half of which I'd spent at the University of Chicago.
Have you read

Lawson's book put the midway in Midway Plaisance, a wide strip of park and roadways that separated the main campus from a few of its northernmost buildings--including those where I took fine art classes and another where I made $8 an hour filing papers for a graduate department.

The 1893 Chicago World's Fair was a spectacle quite unlike anything we can imagine seeing today. Bigger than SXSW, the Chicago Auto Show and CES rolled into one, the World's Fair attracted an astonishing 27 million admissions, including 700,000 on a single day. Two hundred buildings were erected for the fair and an enormous Ferris wheel could be seen from miles around. It was a good 100 feet taller than the one at Navy Pier today! But more important than its sheer size was the diversity of the exhibits. There were taxidermied animals from around the world, just-discovered fossils, new inventions, advances in industry--and most shocking to those of us today--entire villages reconstructed and populated with native peoples from around the globe.

What I didn't know until recently is that the Field Museum was founded to commemorate the Fair and that museum's original collections consisted of items originally displayed there. Many of those curiosities are now out of the vaults and on exhibit. I took Zoe with me to check it out and test drive the museum's new app.

Being able to see items that once enthralled the masses at the Fair is a real treat. Zoe and I particularly liked the stuffed sea lion and model giant squid (look up; it's hanging from the ceiling), the Peruvian mummy (you can look inside it via interactive CT scan) and the photos of the "primitive" villages brought to the fair for Westerners to gawk at. Impressively, an Inuit group tired of being on display in their fur coats in the Chicago heat and walked off exhibit only to set up their own, more profitable independent showcase right outside the Fair grounds.

Screenshot of the app
We also test-drove the brand new Field Museum app, which you can download and connect to using the free wifi within the museum. Zoe, fan of all electronics, commandeered my phone and used the app as kind of scavenger hunt list.

"Look Mom, here's the Accounting Ledger! What's an Accounting Ledger?"

As wonderful as the World's Fair special exhibit is, it ended far too soon. So we exited through the gift shop and decided to look explore the rest of the museum. Periodically we'd see an exhibit with a QR code and we'd use the built-in scanner within the app. No dice. Even though the QR codes were green and looked for all intents like they'd work with the app, we kept getting error messages. Finally I scanned the QR codes with a generic scanner. That worked better, launching a cluttered but information-packed mobile website with additional content and videos. Still, it was surprising that the two functions couldn't be better linked.

Oils and preserved specimens, in their original vials

Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World's Fair is on display now at the Field Museum and will remain open through September 7, 2014. It is a ticketed exhibit, with a cost over and above regular admission. I recommend going right when the museum opens, at 9am, and parking nearby in the Soldier Field parking lot. Public transit is also an option as buses serve the museum campus. Use Google Maps for exact transit instructions.

I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, however all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Epic Thanksgivukkah weekend

They say the blessings together so beautifully
Let's see, I took off Wednesday and headed to the Field Museum to see the 1893 World's Fair exhibit with Zoe (review forthcoming!). We followed that up with lunch at Manny's, where my half roast beef sandwich was so enormous I brought half of it home for Josh to enjoy.

I went back to Jesse Stone and picked a new top for the master bath vanity. We lit candles for the first night of Chanukah and exchanged gifts. Josh surprised me with a pair of Miz Mooz boots that I'd been coveting (and savvily pinned to Pinterest).
It's it pretty?
I made cranberry-ginger relish, challah-apple stuffing and French-style sauteed green beans with shallots and butter for Thanksgiving, which we celebrated at Jani and Steve's house again. It was a full house, with 8 adults and 11 children. It would have been 9 adults, but a dear family friend of Steve's passed away unexpectedly and he flew home to be with his parents and attend the service. Still, Jani did a very impressive job of hosting a bunch of people and smoking the humanely raised bird, a responsibility typically shouldered by Steve. Josh won Mr. Popularity by dint of his three homemade pies: chocolate chess, sugar cream and Dutch apple custard.

I did a little Black Friday shopping (mostly online, but also a brief foray into Target, where the girls spent some of their savings on Our Generation doll accessories for Ada's Chanukah doll from my mom). Josh and I saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Josh took the girls to see Frozen. We attended Friday night Chanukah/Shabbat services and I packed a lot of boxes, finishing Zoe's room, Ada's room, the garage, the playroom and much of the kitchen. We drove into the city to pick up even more boxes from a friend who'd just moved and stopped at the Brown Sack for lunch because hey, we were within 4 miles of it, and that's close enough to make their chocolate-peanut butter milkshake worth my while. I also had my first ever kimchi and cheddar grilled cheese sandwich.

Anyway, it was good I could pack so much into the Wednesday-Saturday morning period, because by yesterday afternoon I was seriously flagging and putting a hit on the Kleenex supply. Yes, I have a cold --  the worst cold I've endured since my kids were snot-nosed preschool germ factories. I spent today reading, drinking tea, downing DayQuils and packing (because no matter how much I pack, there's still so much more to do).