Monday, February 6, 2012

New Glasses in the Windy City

Just a forewarning that this is going to be a long post because this weekend we went on a trip to Chicago!  We go back and forth about what our objective was in going; Ben likes to joke that it was a long drive to get art supplies, but really, it was SO much more.  We are both a little in shock at all we were able to see and do during a brief two-day trip.

We left Friday evening with our friend - and my fellow first year costume mfa - Julia.  One of the faculty brilliantly said it we are "assigned best friends."  We have the exact same work and class schedule, so we are around one another constantly.  What's great is that we genuinely really like one another!  She is really funny and creative and makes for a great car trip companion.

One the way we listened to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on CD which was given to us by Ben's parents for Christmas.  We'd both read the book before, but it is definitely more interesting to hear the audio version.  Julia hasn't read the book and she quite enjoyed the reading as well.

Julia stayed with her friends so once we dropped her off we drove over to Wheaton, IL to the home of our friends, Erin and Beret!  We got a great visit in before heading to bed at about 1am (2am our time)...

The following morning we ate pancakes and headed out for the city! Wheaton is about 30(?) miles West of Chicago, so we needed to take the train in.  Since we arrived our train an hour early (we read the wrong schedule...) we killed time at a local cafe.

Local Cafe: La Spiaza

Ben and I experienced a new drink: the steamer.  I had a cinnamon steamer and Ben a pumpkin spice, which just sort of tasted like a Flinstone vitamin, so I shared mine.

Our fabulous hosts, Erin and Beret, on the Metra.

Our plan for the day was to visit the Art Institute and get Chicago deep dish pizza before heading out to meet our friend, Mara.

Here's something I learned about Ben:  He loves art.  It's never come up before so I had no clue.  I mean, music and theatre are the predominant forms of art in our lives, but Ben really and truly admires what I suppose would be referred to as fine art.  He was so enthusiastic about it all, so it was a lot of fun going around the museum with him.  Having been to museums in London I've been able to see quite a bit of European art.   Here, a lot of American art was displayed (e.g. American Gothic, and work by Edward Hopper) and seeing it really helped me develop a little more appreciation for our own art heritage.  Other highlights:  Arms and Armor, especially because I just wrote a paper that included information about 16th century armor; Impressionist art and how much better it is in person; Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, and the Chagall Windows.  Ben's favorite painting was Paris Street: Rainy Day by Gustave Cailletbotte.

This mirror cracked me up because it is so similar to the mirror in the Betrothal of Arnolfini by Van Eyck.

Beautiful 16th century armor made in Milan

 The Drinkers by Van Gogh.  I don't know why but I particularly liked this one.

At this point I started taking pictures of small portions of paintings that I found striking because that way I could capture more of the detail.

I just love this. Nouvart Dzeron, A Daughter of Armenia, by Ralph Elmer Clarkson in 1912

Of course, we can't forget the Oscar Wilde Teapot.  No joke.

Finally, the Chagall's America Windows!  Here is a brief description from the Art Institute's web page:

"Chagall determined that the windows would commemorate America’s bicentennial. The resulting six-panel work celebrates the country as a place of cultural and religious freedom, detailing the arts of music, painting, literature, theater, and dance."

 This window contains Music (left half) and Art (right)

 This window contains Literature (left) and ... religious freedom?

And finally, this displays Theatre and Dance!  This also gives you an idea of the scale of the windows.

Needless to say, we loved this museum.  But before this becomes purely an art blog... let's move on!

Exiting famished from our afternoon of arts, culture... and walking, we headed over to the Exchequer Pub and Restaurant for some Chicago deep dish pizza!  We didn't have much to compare it to but Erin and Beret said it was the best deep dish pizza they've had, and we believe it because it was just delicious.  The best pizza I've had in a long time.

Rejuvenated from  our meal we parted ways and took the "L" out to O'Hare to meet Mara, who was flying in for her U/RTA audition.  Only... she actually flew into Midway airport.  So once we figured out what to do about that we met up downtown and headed for... more food!  We ended up at Miller's Pub.

Ben had eaten here last year and really enjoyed it so we went back.  Ben ordered an amazing Greek burger!  It was really nice to catch up with Mara and help prepare her for her audition for the next day since Ben went through the process last year.

Ben and I sent Mara off on the "L" and, exhausted, we walked back to the Metra station.  Along the way we saw some interesting things:

 1. Love Songs and Lights "a one-of-a-kind light and sound installation on State Street that creates vibrant patterns of color, choreographed to favorite tunes."  You guessed it - it's for Valentine's day!

2. Upside-down trees.  It looks like all the needles have fallen of and landed in a neat pile and the base of the tree, but it's all artificially arrange on a frame and hollow inside (and pretty large).  I haven't found anything about what they're about...

We finally made it to Wheaton, stayed up late talk, talk, talking, and then passed out!

We slept in and had a lovely breakfast with the Ryggs before we said goodbye and drove into the city for our final adventure: Art Supplies with Julia!  But like I said, it turned out to be so much more than just art supplies.

We had some time to kill so we thought we'd head over to Millennium Park, which we didn't get to visit last year.  However, on the way we see a building called the "Chicago Cultural Center" and "Free Admission"  Well we couldn't very well pass that up!

The Chicago Culture Center

 We tried to get us and the sign...

Inside was a very helpful older lady who told us a little bit about the building and what was going on.  It use to be the Public Library, which is why all of the Tiffany mosaics are book-related.  There are also two stain glass domes, and a few different exhibitions.  With limited time we decided to walk through the building, seeing the decoration as we went, and end at the bigger of the exhibitions call "Morbid Curiosity" (sounds promising, no?)

 Dome #1

 Tiffany mosaics - so bright and beautiful.  They also reflected the light in a stunning way.

 The same dome, but with the chandelier blocking the center portion.

 Literary mosiacs - these are found all over the building.

Dome #2
A bigger picture view.

The intro to the Morbid Curiousity exhibition, the only thing I could get a picture of, thank goodness, because this post is LONG!  This was super interesting!   It "explores the iconography of death across a variety of artistic, cultural and spiritual practices over nearly six centuries."

We walked quickly through the museum so that we could meet up with Julia at Blick art supply store, where we had to get some things for school.  Buying art supplies is so much fun!  And very expensive! so it's great to have school as an excuse to buy them.

From there we met up with Mara and had sushi!  Followed by a long awaited trip to Millennium Park and the BEAN!

This ridiculous picture is probably my favorite.  That's Julia on the right, Mara on the left, and me being silly!

The underside of the very center on the Bean.

 Ben and me and a great view of the city.

And lastly - a trip to Garrett's popcorn for their famous Chicago mix: cheddar popcorn and caramel popcorn mixed together.  SO delicious!

Now, what you've all been waiting for: my new glasses!  I have two new pairs with a much stronger prescription:

 Pair #1: the "sensible" pair.  When I was picking these out, my eyes had been dilated from the exam and I thought they were all gold.  When Ben came with me to pick them up, Ben asked me why I kept calling them the "gold pair" when they were mostly black?  I actually like them better this way, so it worked out...

 Pair #2: the "fun" pair.  These actually are shaped very similarly to the other pair, and aren't quite as "zanny" as I thought they were, but I still think they are a fun departure from the colors I've had in the past.


  1. Ben's beard makes him look a bit like Dominic Monaghan, for some reason. I like it!

  2. Love the pictures, the food, the fun, the art! Josh is also a great lover of art but I found that out early on when he poured over art books at Barnes & Noble on our 2nd date. Love Ben's beard! Is that name "Lamb" on the plaque the same as Charles Lamb from the Potato Peel Pie Society? Or is he fictional? I want to visit Chicago now!

    1. Ben mostly pours over cooking and homesteading books at Barnes and Noble :) I think it is the same Charles Lamb!

    2. Just found this great quote by Lamb: "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." Though some who knew me as a kid may still wonder.

  3. That "culture" place used to be a library?! Wow. And, uh, homesteading?

    1. Yea... There are all degrees of homesteading, but ultimately we're interested in growing our own food, having some chickens and maybe some other animals (a goat?), and ... bee keeping! There are also chapters on cultivating solar energy, etc. I know a couple people who are successful at it, and over Christmas break we fed my professor's chickens, rabbits, and pigeons (the pigeons aren't for food). It's all just very interesting and doable. Of course, it isn't likely to happen for a while, like while we live an apartment.


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