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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Baby It's Cold Outside!

Mrs Cardinal in my backyard today.
Winter is finally here! We had 52 degrees last Thursday and a mild Fall and early Winter. It blew in the day before my birthday last week Friday with snow. What a nice surprise to wake up to a world of white. I am now 48 years old and look at the world differently now. I keep hearing "things will be great in '48!"  Hope so.

Tonight it is minus ZERO here in Wisconsin, and baby, it's COLD outside!  I cannot help but worry about my feathered friends Mr & Mrs Cardinal, chickadees, sparrows and other birds that come to my feeders in the backyard. What are they doing tonight for warmth and how are they surviving this cold? I put extra Cardinal blend from Kay Tee birdseed in the bird feeder to keep them warm with food. I imagine they are all puffed up and cuddling on their branches in the evergreens nearby. Poor fellers. 

It is days like this I wish I were someone warm like Florida, or on a cruise somewhere I have never been. But I am afraid of taking a boat now after the Costa Concordia disaster.

Titanic's final moments
Imagine 100 years after the Titanic and nearly 97 years after the  Empress of Ireland disaster in the St. Lawrence seaway with more loss of life than the Titanic, things are still not okay with taking a ship somewhere! Dianne Sawyer on ABC News will be doing a story on shoddy cruise companies tomorrow.
And, did you notice the Costa Concordia's smokestack is the same color as the four on the Titanic's - buff yellow?  Strange!

Titanic's bell on exhibit

In 2007, (like the person here looking at the ship's bell) I actually touched the Titanic at the national exhibit in Denver with a piece of the hull in the display case. I saw things like an autopsy from the ship, like a hairbrush with hair in it from some victim. There were clothes and leather bags that had survived being in the ship underwater all these years. Everyone was given cards with a real passenger's name on it upon the tour. My person, of course, went down with the ship.  I didn't like it, and it freaked me out. Seeing the display made me realize the horror of that ship disaster and the cold night when 2700 people drowned or died of exposure in the cold water in the North Atlantic. When I got home, I immediately threw out all my Titanic memorabilia in the dumpster, including authentic Titanic coal someone gave me. I wanted nothing to do with that death ship. Do you know that there is a new cruise ship with a deck on board called the Titanic deck?   No thanks!

Costa Concordia disaster

Perhaps they need to bring that chicken of the sea captain of the Costa Concordia to a Titanic exhibit to see parts of the ship autopsy, and the horror of it all? Every new cruise ship captain should see that exhibit before running a ship. Then they would know safety first.  At least the Captain of the Titanic stayed with the ship and helped with evacuation of people. They still have not found everybody inside the Concordia, and I didn't realize a huge hunk of rock was stuck in the hull where the damage is. Unbelievable in this day and age. It is sad how history has to repeat itself with laxness and then new laws have to be enacted to reform things that were already reformed for safety after the Titanic
Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship

Which brings me to the next point. Have you ever noticed the mega cruise ships today have only a few lifeboats on each side of the ship?  How would they be able to evacuate 5000 people  if one side dips like the Costa Concordia? Ever look at the new Oasis of the Seas and the other boats? Scary. A megaTitanic disaster just waiting to happen, I am afraid.  

Cunard's new Queen Elizabeth
(I'll take the old QE2 over this ugly version.)
And, have you noticed the family resemblance of the Concordia to Cunard Line's new Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria ships? Both only have 8 or so lifeboats on each side. (Another Titanic waiting to happen? ) Turns out they are built by the same builder in Italy, and are owned by the same company, Carnival.

I think Florida would be fun to visit though, staying on land and beach when it is minus 0 here in Wisconsin. I love boating, but until regulation gets better for cruise ships, I think I will stay off a cruise for now.

Say...I wonder how my birds are doing....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chicago is My Kind of Town!

I had to leave Green Bay to get back into civilization. I had to get back my confidence of feeling like I can fly in the real world. Living in the North for two years in the near outback of Wisconsin can be isolating. I made my reservation at a new hotel, Hyatt Place in Schaumburg, near Woodfield Mall and the new IKEA.  I left the dog with the neighbors and roared out of town down I-43 toward Chicago.

Once I hit Russell road on I-94, I knew it would not be long I would be at my destination. The Illinois trees are different once you hit the border compared to Wisconsin's trees, my Mom always said. Would you believe Illinois raised the rate on the tolls?  It was almost $3.00 for the first one near Zion, and then $1.50 near O'Hare. They upped the anty by a buck. But you get a smooth road to drive on, and those Moasis rest stops that span the freeways! Cool!

I settled into my room at Hyatt Place. The $58 room featured a L shaped couch, wet bar, and desk as you walked in. Then with wall partitions, the King size bed was back by the window, and the sink, and separate toilet and bath on the back wall. A neat design which made it feel like a nice small apartment. The pool and hot tub was nice.

I ventured out on the sunny warm day in January and caught a inbound Metra commuter train to Union Station at Schaumburg to head downtown Chicago. I chose my seat in the upper part of the gallery car, which is double decker. The ride was smooth, and was a milk run, stopping at every train station into downtown.

Union Station was all a glow with Amtrak passengers, and people riding commuter trains in and out. I walked into the huge vaulted waiting room, and stared at the ceiling. My Mom used to eat lunch here at the Fred Harvey Restaurant next to the huge waiting room in the 1940's when she worked in an office nearby downtown. And, my Dad came home from World War 2 in this very train station too in 1946 on a troop train. I have taken many trains out of here myself on Amtrak. 

Then came the ride back to Schaumburg on the $7 unlimited weekend pass I bought from the conductor on the inbound train. Time for dinner at IKEA, yes IKEA, the massive Swedish design store. Up I went on the elevator to the third floor and ordered me a huge plate of Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes, and lingonberries.

 Got a glass of milk to wash it down. Being a Swede, it is natural to eat Swedish meatballs. Dey are Gute for Yew! I walked around the store a little bit, and then settled into the pool and then bed at the hotel across the street with a glass of wine. The huge flatscreen TV had interesting programming on it to relax to - one called REST, which I really enjoyed seeing to unwind.
I retired to a nice King size Sealy bed, made for Hyatt, which gave me a good night sleep.  

I woke up too late for complimentary breakfast, so I ate a cheap breakfast at IKEA. Then, I headed down the backroads to downtown Chicago. Through nice neighborhoods, and across on Touhy Ave, I found Lake Shore Drive! 

Nice!  Sunny morning, nice drive on Lake Michigan.  Cruised through the Miracle mile on Michigan Avenue, and was hoping to catch a glimpse of Oprah. No luck. Hoardes of people shopping on Sunday morning on Michigan Ave I found!

Ended up near the Chicago Skyway in a not so nice neighborhood, and then drove I-94 back up to the Skokie Highway, which is Hwy 41. Stopped in on relatives in Zion, IL before I came back to Wisconsin.

Yes, it is nice to be able to be within reach of a city like Chicago when you live in the outback of Wisconsin. Chicago is a nice getaway, and my kind of town!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! Drink! Drink! Drink!

Happy New Year everybody!  I hope this year turns out better than the others have recently.

Went out tonight for dinner with friend Penny, then came home to let my Dodger,  (Mom's golden retriever) out. Then went out to the local supper club for New Years Eve - by myself! (Better than nobody I say!) 

I saw Dick Clark drop his balls ...... a-hem, excuse me... drop his ball on TV one hour before ours here on Central time.  Then the place brought out hats, and party favors and I got champagne in a glass to toast in the year with perfect strangers.

And, the place went nuts at exactly 12:00a.m!!!  I drank pink champagne, blew my little horn, and wore the plastic hat. It was fun. 

I got a nice text from  my older brother in Denver, who wished me Happy New Year, and he sent the song lyrics my folks played at New Years Eve parties back in Austin, Minnesota when they were young- the drink song from The Student Prince with Mario Lanza singing it.  Click Here it is... to see/hear it,  and the lyrics...too are here...

Drink, Drink, Drink(Drinking Song) Mario Lanza

Ein zwei drei vier
Lift your stein and drink your beer
Ein zwei drei vier
Lift your stein and drink your beer

Drink! Drink! Drink!
To eyes that are bright as stars when they're shining on me!
Drink! Drink! Drink!
To lips that are red and sweet as the fruit on the tree!

 Jon  texted tonight that Mom  and Dad are with all their friends again in heaven with that song!  He's right.

After the committal at the grave, we used that song at the graveside of my Mom's burial in September with everyone drinking champagne to it.  A nice send off for Mom!!

I remember my friend Mary and I standing next to the headstone and Mom's casket with our champagne glasses filled with bubbly as everyone also toasted and swung their arms to that song being played on the boom box next to the hearse!  Morbid? Not really, even the funeral home people were drinking with us to that song!  I put a full glass on Mom's casket, and poured the contents down in  her grave where she would be at rest with Dad next to her.

Would you believe one of  the mourners attending drank too much of it, and when she was leaving... backed her BIG Ford F-150 into a large black granite headstone with a big.....THUD...... knocking it off kilter??  I thought I would die laughing!!  It took 12 of us to get that thing back in position! 

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012!!!!