Monday, July 28, 2014

How I Pack for A Weekend...This IS NOT a Public Service

You have all seen them. Those color-coordinated pictures of stacks of clothing under the heading 'How To Pack for a Wedding Weekend' or 'How to Pack for a Weekend Getaway' or (my personal favorite) 'How to Pack Two Weeks Worth of Clothes in ONE Carry One Bag'.

You want to know how I pack for a weekend?

yes, it does look like a pile of laundry, what's your point?

Yup. This is pretty much what the stack of clothing looks like as I prepare to shove it into my bag for a weekend or a week. One of nearly everything I own; two of each comfy t-shirt.The time frame makes very little difference.
Perhaps it has to do with the weather fluctuations here on the Coast of Illinois. This past weekend the temp went from 97 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity of 233% to a lovely 69 degrees and -78% humidity.
It is impossible to NOT project this weather psychosis onto every destination on Priceline.
Perhaps it has to do with the waistline fluctuations of the 50 something female.
Or the mood fluctuations.
(Which is reportedly more deadly than straight-line winds brought on by the Polar Vortex responsible for our recent temperature change.)

Whatever the cause, I have never been an efficient packer. So, armed with a Pintrest Board of packing tips, I gave 'How to Pack For a Quick Trip to Chicago in May' a try.
This is what I took:
I just don't get the cardigan with everything. Yet I give it a try.


We were in the Windy City for ONE night. The Midwest was experiencing a temperate May. Chicago is only five short cornfield filled hours away from the Coast of Illinois. I wore the jeans and white blouse on the drive up. Comfy and chic for the stop at the airport, stylish for the train ride into the loop.
Bravery from the very beginning.
And then it began to rain.
My 'evening outfit' was to be the orange dress, strappy sandals and if need be, the grey cardigan.
The cardigan looked dumpy but it was too chilly to go without it.
It was too wet for the strappy sandals and I am not hip enough to pull off slip-on tennis shoes with a dress.
I finally wore the white blouse and jeans. Did I mention I had to cuff the bottoms to hide the high water mark from the walk to the hotel?
The concierge took pity on my when I asked 'where can we get dinner...dressed like this...' and set up a reservation at one of the nicer McDonalds.

Six weeks later I found myself again studying packing how-tos for a two night trip to Canada. Fool me once... I KNEW Canada was up north. And I learned my lessons from Chicago.
Here is how I packed:
Again with the cardigan. Like you really need a cardigan if it is warm enough for shorts. In fact, when I was a kid,  wearing long sleeves with shorts was a sure sign that the wearer was...on drugs! not fashion forward.

I wore jeans and a cotton shirt up. Comfortable in the car with the AC blasting. AND – this added a piece to layer should those winds of November come early. My plan was to wear the shorts and kicky cardigan for site seeing, change into the tropical dress for the Trop-Rock concert and dinner and have a spare t-shirt and cardi for the ride home.

Ontario, Canada's average summer temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit which is around 21 degrees Celsius.
The day we were there it was 98.
Celsius.

I prespired through two separate outfits, including a change of underwear.
I had to air out my tropical dress before wearing it to the concert. I didn't even unpack the cardigan.

On our walk to dinner it rained. Actually, it monsooned.
And the temperature promptly dropped back to 10 degrees...Fahrenheit.

I give up.
I have one more trip this year. (BTW-this many trips in one year are rare. The last time I had three trips in a year was back in 2000 when, thanks to friends with condos and an insane grade school teacher who thought it would be a 'great learning experience' to take 80 middle schoolers to Alabama, we took the family skiing, to space camp and to the Gulf of Mexico.)
This final trip is to the Caribbean where my weather app shows the temperature a balmy 82 degrees Fahrenheit, EVERY DAY EVEN WHEN IT RAINS.
According to Pintrest and my husband, all I need to pack are swim suits and a couple beachy dresses.

Sorry Caribbean. You are going to get snow.


(And have you noticed, these 'how to' boards NEVER show shoes or underwear. Do the travelers just not wear shoes or underwear? Do they only wear ONE pair of each? Based upon the number of 'fabu shoe' and 'fancy undies' boards I highly doubt that. STOP LYING TO ME PINTREST!)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Needing a Little Mental Vacation????

Today's regularly scheduled post 'Stop Lying to Me Pintrest or How I pack for a Three Day Weekend'  is being postponed in order to introduce you to the newest PAGE on the Coast of Illinois.
Also, after a good five hours out on the sailboat on Saturday I had only enough energy to sit on the deck and read on Sunday. 
Weekends can be tough. 

 Anyway it occurred to me that as a LandLocked Beach Bum, I needed a page dedicated to being just that. So, when you find yourself in need of a little mental vacation, stop on by and click on the SAILING page. Here you will find video or pictures or maybe a story or two.
This will not be an archived page, as I can't quite figure out how to do that so if you see something you particularly like please let me know. The photos and video will all be my particular brand of photography, unless otherwise noted. I am happy to share but would like a heads up if anyone would like to 'borrow' a photo or two. 

Now, grab a boat drink and click on over to SAILING  (note the new tab at the top of this page)....there's a nice breeze coming for the northwest today...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Your Papers Please.... Coast of Illinois goes International. part 3

There is something disorienting about being in another country. The language is different. The food is different. The money is different.
I expected Canada to be well...not disorienting...

I was wrong.

We drive on the same side of the road. We speak the same language. The monetary denominations are the same.
Yet, there was something a quarter turn off. I felt it the minute we left the glorious, industrial Detroit and entered the picturesque city of Windsor, Ontario.
 Was it the lack of billboards? 
 
It took a while to notice the LACK of ads for advertising on THIS SIGN
The enormous fields of solar panels and windmills?
Sure, there are windmills in Illinois, just not armies of them. Here is a picture of several at rest. My feeling is that the Overlords are giving them the day off...
 Was it the blue and pink plastic bills in my purse?
Perhaps it was the fact that we got our change from the gas station attendant in 'loonies'?
It didn't help that the first thing I saw advertised on the television was something called a 'poutine'. This can only be described as a boat full of french fries and cheese curds covered with brown gravy ...at McDonalds. I have eaten cheese curds while on vacation in Wisconsin. But my McDonalds doesn't serve ANYTHING with gravy on it.

Stupid American McDonalds.

And there it is.
I wasn't looking at a commercial for an AMERICAN McDonalds. This was Canada. And for all the similarities, I was in a foreign country.

Nothing brings this realization to the fore more profoundly than when it comes time to cross that border and return home.

We drove through Port Huron for our re-entry, assuming that on a Monday morning the border entry at Detroit proper would be jam packed. I have no idea if this is true. The beauty of Port Huron negated the extra hour of drive time. (recall the hour:butt time ratio from last week). It seems the border guards are counting on this distraction to confuse you. 
The Canadia border of Lake Huron. Seriously. Beautiful.
Sorry, Canada. Picturesque lighthouse and old timey water tower trumps flags and a suspicious looking windowless 'welcome' center.
On the very first question – 'Where are you from?' - Bart answered 'St Louis...um well really, across the river in Illinois'... the guard raised his eyebrows and leaned out the window of his booth.
On the second question – 'Why did you go to Canada?' - answered with 'to see a Scott Kirby concert' the guard looked confused. 'Oh. He doesn't play in Illinois?'
I was beginning to feel as though Mike the Necromancer of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was preparing to vanquish us from the bridge for failing to answer him his questions three.
And the final question– 'Did you buy anything to bring back from Canada?' answered with 'five pounds of Tim Horton coffee' pegged us for what we clearly appeared to be...

Middle-age couple,
GAP jeans,
comfortable mid-size crossover vehicle,
classic rock on the radio,
sparkling water in the drink console...

We may as well have pulled the bathtub off our roof rack and settled in as the Poster Children of Viagra Smugglers.
"Please roll down your back window, sir," the guard ordered as he left his booth and stuck his head through our back passenger window where he was met with a clear plastic bag filled with exactly five pounds of Tim Horton's coffee which they DO NOT sell in Illinois. Not yet anyway.*
He stepped away from our car shaking his head. "Have a nice trip folks. Welcome back to the United States."

I have now successfully transported coffee not only out of, but also back into the United States.

We were home free. Back in the land of billboards and french fries covered in grease and nothing more. I was feeling pretty relaxed until I caught sight of a highway sign for 21mile. We were on the north edge of Detroit.

A good friend and occasional traveling companion, Crapmonkey warned me about the dangers of Detroit. 'Stay away from 3 mile!' she warned, 'or 8 mile...or whatever street that Eminem guy is from.'
It should be noted here that both Crapmonkey and I are well over 40. Our knowledge of 'the hood', while pretty extensive, has only been garnered from work. And movies. I had no intention of venturing into Mr. Inem's part of town.

Does this make 12 mile 4x worse than 3mile???? YO!
We made it through Detroit unscathed. Although we did pass numerous signs for TUNNEL TO CANADA. And it was incredibly tempting....

But that would have meant another border...


Ho! To go!
*It seems that Tim Horton coffee will be making its debut here on the Coast of Illinois somewhere in the next 4 years. This does involve the buy out of Dunkin Donuts which I suppose is just another example of an American business selling out to foreign interests. But jeez. Their coffee is just so darn good, eh?!


Just stumbled upon the Coast of Illinois? Curious about the beginning of this international journey? The click HERE for part one and THERE for part two!
And come back next week for my companion piece 'Packing for a Weekend Getaway or Stop Lying to Me Pintrest!'

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Road to A1-eh!

As a self-proclaimed beach bum and feral Parrothead, it seems an odd choice that I would drive 10 hours in the opposite direction of the ocean for a long weekend get-away. Just 2 hours more and I could have been on the white sand beach of Destin. An additional 10 hours and 43 minutes gets me all the way down A1A to the motherland of Key West.

It pretty much falls down to number of days available- 3- and number of hours my well padded butt can handle an albeit, comfy, car seat- also 3. When you divide the number of driving hours by this pivotal number of butt hours, figuring a snack stop variable of 4...well...a Google maps ten hour drive is the limit.

Which is why I found myself desperately seeking A1A at a decidedly northern latitude.



The catalyst for this trip was a Scott Kirby concert. I was introduced to Mr. Kirby's music via satellite radio. His warm, pleasant vocals in songs about boats (Little Blue Boat) and beaches (A Night on the Beach) and general escaping (Sol Searching) as well as his hauntingly truthful stories of relationships (If She Tells You She's Batshit Crazy You Better Believe Her) bring to mind the warm ocean breezes of that mythical land known as Margaritaville.

His concert in London Ontario fell on this particular weekend and as we had never been to Canada it seemed like a good idea.

So I found myself driving north on highways numbered up to 93x higher than A1A towards a city named for a much larger city on a continent thousands of miles away.



London, Ontario is beautiful and was modeled after London England. As demonstrated by our hotel:
Turrets. All buildings should have turrets.
And this statue of a guy who looks like the hunter from Jumanji:
This was a soldier's memorial so I don't mean to be disrespectful.

 
But seriously. He's waiting to catch Robin Williams before those rhinos stampede from the fireplace.



And these:
I am not sure if there are black squirrels in England but I am sure this guy's name is Nigel.


I would have also taken a photo of a cool tank in Victoria Park but there was a precocious seven year old on top of it who informed us that it was in fact his tank as, and I quote, 'I farted on it.' I am not sure what country's tradition this is but wouldn't it be wonderful if all  nation's disputes could be solved this way?



Our concert venue was the London MusicClub, essentially a space in the basement of a lovely Victorian mansion. I have to admit, after being surrounded by all this English-ness, I was sort of hoping for some East Enders in leather jackets and tight, straight-legged dungarees. Sort of a Sid Vicious without the heroin.

Instead, we were greeted by the LondonParrothead Club whose members had considerably fewer piercings than Sid Vicious yet were equally delighted that we had actually driven all the way from St. Louis, Missouri. (I didn't try to explain that we were actually from the Illinois coast. And I am only assuming Sid would by delighted by our trip, although I hear he was a huge fan of road trips.)

 It was a fabulous afternoon of Hawaiian Shirts, tiki heads and beach music. It was even the hottest, most humid day of the summer. 


Except for the lack of palm trees we could have been in Key West. Which is not what I expected while visiting a city in a foreign country, named for a bigger city in a different foreign country. In fact, the afternoon felt nearly identical to the first time I saw Scott Kirby play, which was in a tiki-bar styled venue in the back room of a pub type restaurant on the Coast of Illinois. 



And then one of the concert-goers did something which to me is existentially Canadian. He asked Mr. Kirby to sign a CD with 'A1-eh?' 


Oh...Canada.

And as we walked back to the hotel we were caught in a perfect London rain. 


Come back on Monday for the final installment of  Coast of Illinois Goes International ~Once Again I Find Myself at a Border 
And if you missed part one...Click HERE

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Just 10 Short Hours Away! ~ Road Trip to Canada ~The Coast of Illinois goes International Once Again!

All I said was, "I have a long weekend coming up."



Four weeks, two concert tickets and ten short hours later I found myself here:

Yup. Canada.
 explaining to the border guard that 'yes, we did in fact drive 10 hours just for a concert'. It seems that once the word 'Parrothead' came into play it made sense. It seems the border guard's sister is 'one of them'.





I love a good road trip. There is something about watching the scenery roll past my car window as our favorite music plays on the radio and Bart and I debate the fate of our victims in a rousing game of Marry-Shag-Hit in the Head with a Shovel.*

So, when Bart heard we had several free days he hit the internet and discovered that Scott Kirby – one of our favorite Trop-Rock Singers was playing in London, Ontario, Canada. I am sure that this decision had nothing to do with the fact that he had recently renewed his passport and it was burning a hole in his traveling cargo pants pocket.



A ten hour drive (more like twelve with truck-stop stops) can be daunting, best illustrated by the 'You're going where?' face of most of the people I know.

(You, too, can make the 'You're going where?' face by tipping your head to the right while simultaneous squinting your left eye completely shut while keeping your right eye open just wide enough to prevent the insane person in front of you from shoving you into the car with them as they declare 'We are going to Canada for the weekend!')

But we have the road trip thing down.

For this particular trip we packed:

a cooler of fizzy waters – which leads to numerous truck-stop stops

several boxes of red hots – only 80 calories per box and so hot you can only really eat half a box thus requiring MORE fizzy water and MORE truck-stop stops.

an outdated Cosmopolitan magazine – because I am too embarrassed to read it in front of my grown daughter

and a cable to sync my iPod to our new car's media center.



However, we haven't exactly figured out the media center so once we got the iPod to play, it began at 'Addicted to Love' by Florence and the Machine followed by 'Addicted to Love' by Robert Palmer and proceeded to go through every song on the device in alphabetical order. Suffice it to say, I have enough 'A' songs to last from the McDonalds in Vandalia through to the Mobile gas station in Terre Haute.

Somehow the shuffle button got hit outside Toledo.

We were delighted that the alphabet worked out to 'Feel Like a Number by Bob Seger as we hit the first of many Detroit exits. And we shut it down when Space Cowboy began blasting as we pulled into line at the border.



The diverse beauty of our country always leaves an impression on me during a road trip. Be it the plains of Kansas – which many dismiss as boring but I find awe-inspiring, probably because I fully expect Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid to ride over the butte ala Mel Brooks – to the endless corn fields of the Midwest. Maybe it's because I grew up surrounded by these rustling plants, but I can study these fields for hours as they zip past my car window, reaching out in endless stripes of dark and darker green.

We saw more than our share of corn fields this trip. The corn seemed to be a bit taller in central Indiana than it did in central Illinois. Which, according to Bart, means the ghost ball players are more likely to be playing around Indianapolis. Whether that is true or not, I can not say. All I know is YOU NEVER WANDER INTO A CORNFIELD. According to my parents you will get lost and never find your way out until the farmer mows over you at harvest at which time you will be very very sorry.

We also saw a lovely suburb of Toledo. Why they put an interstate through the middle of a Toledo suburb, why they put stoplights in the middle of the interstate and why the GPS Wench took us through a suburb of Toledo is beyond me, but it did make me think that should I ever have to move to Toledo, it might not be so bad. Assuming the intersection camera didn't get a clear photo of my plates as I accidentally blew through the first stoplight.

And, thanks to my awesome driving skills, as well as the fact that I wanted nothing to do with driving through Detroit or the subsequent border to Canada, we also stopped at Luna Pier. What we thought was a charming roadside gas station turned out to be a charming little beach town on the banks of Lake Erie. 
Pay no attention to the woman who has sat in a car for nearing ten hours. Please note the lovely lighthouse and beach home behind her.

And they say the Great Lake they call Gitchigoomee is gloomy...



Our journey became considerably more industrial as we drove into Detroit. I am aware that Detroit is known for the auto industry but I was not prepared for the FIELDS of car factories lining either side of the interstate. While no 'amber waves of grain' these enormous factories made an equally important statement about our country. It may sound cheesy but I was as awe-inspired by the FORD plant as I was by the plains of Kansas, the mountains of Colorado and the beautiful blue Gulf of Mexico.



And then it was time to cross the border.

I have a notorious history of border crossing issues. (See Accidental Terrorist and Hello Customs...)

I was instructed to keep my mouth shut and if I could pretend to be asleep without looking DEAD that would be even better. Never mind that my current passport picture makes me look like an anemic stroke victim pushing 95 years of age.Which is probably what distracted the border gaurd when Bart completely forgot the name of the singer we were going to see or the name of the hotel we were staying in.

As he stammered and played word association with other musician names I piped up with the name of our hotel – the Delta Armorie – and then wowed the the guard with my awesome Priceline purchasing skills.

It was then that Bart came to his senses and commented that the singer was a sort of Margaritaville style Parrothead singer and well, the border guard has only his sister to blame.



For better or worse, he let us enter Canada.

I was hoping for a complimentary bottle of maple syrup.



Come back Friday for the second installment of Coast of Illinois Goes International – The Road to A1-Eh!



*Marry-Shag-Hit in the Head with a Shovel is the Bob and Tom Radio version of Marry-$%#!-Kill, then endlessly entertaining game in which one player lists three celebrities and the second player must classify which action he or she would take with that person. There are only two rules to this game- you can only assign one person to each action and NEVER use people whom you know as the choices.

Seriously.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Throwback Pre-July 4th Thursday!

It's Throwback Thursday and the Day Before a Holiday!
I L-U-V the day before a holiday. I L-U-V the anticipation of festivities to come. I L-U-V the nearly lighthearted atmosphere at work as people hope and pray their name comes up first on the early out list.
Here on the Coast of Illinois, July 4th is celebrated with BBQ, pool parties, a huge local fair, traffic jams, humidity...
And of course, fireworks.
nothing like the rocket's red glare reflected in the Muddy Mississippi and the gleaming steel legs of the Gateway Arch
I don't always go to the Big Fair for my firework fix. Some years I sit in the living room with the lights out and watch the show my neighbor puts on for his grandkids. This year I will be floating in a dear friend's swimming pool, sipping 'dirty bananas' and scanning the skies for local shows.

Of course, the 4th hasn't always been spent that way.
(Here's where the throwback comes into play...)

As a kid, we would venture to the park in Shelbyville. My first memory of fireworks is being terrified of the noise and then being held in utter fascination as two ships appeared from the carnage and shot sparkling cannons at one another until one sunk. Pretty fancy for a small community show.

As a teen in north-central Illinois, we spent the 4th at Lake Calhoun, a private lake club.
(We weren't fancy. Our choices for swimming were the Lake or the Strip Mine. And while 'strip mine' sounds a whole lot more risque, my folks opted for the Lake as it offered camping and a tiny lake to motor around in Dad's fishing boat.) 
The Lake sported a pretty nice swimming pool and a Club house which played host to teen dances once a month and on July 4th.  
Picture Dirty Dancing but without the Catskills, a dance troupe or Patrick Swayze.
Still, I can't hear 'Smokin in the Boys Room' or 'Layla' without being transported back to those awkward teen years spent sulking in the corner with my Carol Brady shag wishing that super cute guy with the Sean Cassidy hair would come talk to me. In retrospect, I am sure he was completely intimidated by my denim romper and my smoky glare.
Or maybe not.

But of all the 4th of July memories, my favorite has to be from 1976. The country was in a fever-pitch celebration of our Bicentennial and my folks packed up the family truckster and headed cross country to Mount Rushmore. We saw Wall Drug, the Badlands, the Chief Crazy Horse sculpture-which at that time was a barely discernible nose and outstretched arm. We swam in a hot spring and we watched fireworks in a field for no less than 6 hours.
And that is only because no one could stay awake any longer. I am pretty sure those South Dakotan's continued to blow things up into the wee hours of the next two days.
You put four people in front of Mount Rushmore and this is what happens.
(I am probably going to be in HUGE trouble for posting that pic. But seriously! How hilarious is this picture and what a snap shot of 1976!)

What are your favorite 4th of July memories? Keep them fondly filed in your hearts and go out and make some wonderful new memories this year.
But please, do it safely! Don't blow any fingers off, shoot any eyes out or crash your vehicles. Drink plenty or water and keep the antacids handy for the aftermath of all that BBQ.

And come back next week for the Coast of Illinois Goes International in Road Trip to Canada or My Search for A1-eh!

Monday, June 16, 2014

This Blogpost Will Be Complete...

I love flan.
Problem is, no one else in this house likes flan. And while I say I could eat an entire flan...
I can't.

However, if you take tiny ramekins and fill them with a custard like substance, let it set and add sugar

what's not to love? cream, sugar, cream?


and a BLOWTORCH
The people most concerned with me using this were the ones who gave it to me. What were you thinking?



SOME people, felt I wasn't doing this right.



You wind up with French Flan*, or Creme Bruleé. 
a little spotty but no less delicious.


It took us a while to remember how to actually use the tiny blowtorch, causing me to state, 'dessert will be ready as soon as I figure out how to work this blowtorch'.
Around this house, nothing says 'Honey, thanks for all you do' like a dessert which requires a blowtorch.
It also spawns a whole new perspective on life.

I'm going to do the dishes, ONCE I FIGURE OUT HOW TO WORK THIS BLOWTORCH.
I'm running to the grocery store, ONCE I FIGURE OUT HOW TO WORK THIS BLOWTORCH.
I am going to take care of the cat box, ONCE I FIGURE OUT HOW TO WORK THIS BLOWTORCH.

Just don't let the cat near the blowtorch.
I'll never have to ask them for food again, ONCE I FIGURE OUT HOW TO WORK THIS BLOWTORCH.

*I am aware that flan is more of an egg based custard while creme bruleé is more of a cream based custard. But seriously, they are not so different as to warrant the complete refusal to eat one and not the other, people.
I will make more flan, creme bruleé, once I figure out how to work this blowtorch. Again.



No animals or humans were injured in the writing of this blog, or eating of this dessert. There was one minor incident involving the blowtorch and its can of propane refill which thankfully was made to code. I am a little concerned that we may have planted a seed with the cat.