Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!

Whew! It has been a whirlwind of moving activity since my last entry. Our project ended in Rockford, Illinois and it was time to say “so long” to a wonderful hotel staff and several good friends made along the way. After a very brief time at home in Florida, the road called us once again. I guess I should say, the “job” called us once again. It was difficult to say goodbye to our families that we had just had a taste of spending time with but off we went toward a new adventure.

Now we are in Tyler, Texas, the rose capital of the world! I feel like I have been to  Tippecanoe’s town and every other city from the Midwest to Florida and back to Texas. I never thought I would say that I was tired of traveling but as the trip to Tennessee next week to visit family for Thanksgiving looms ever closer, I must say that staying in one place for a while is sounding very comforting. Can I please just be “bored” for a time.

Texas is a state I never thought I would live in but it holds the promise of much to see and do. There are new restaurants to find and cultures to experience and new friends to add to my list of many. We are grateful to have found work in the land of opportunity. There seems to be less of a job shortage in the great state of Texas.

So stay tuned for some down home tales from my waltzes across Texas.

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If I could bottle that fragrance….

The fragrance that wafts through the grounds and parking lot of the eye catching  Edwards Apple Orchard in the farmlands in northeast Illinois is indescribable. It is the delicious filling of the air with the combination of apples, spices and hot oil that can only be that of fresh donuts.

Almost 9:00 a.m. and the line has formed.

Folks come from miles around to grab one of these beauties fresh from the vats.

We had heard that visiting the Edwards Orchard was a must before we left Illinois. We took the advice of the locals and weren’t a bit sorry. The hype of the place was not overdone. We waited in line for them to open at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday. We then made our way into the barn structure that is part store, part museum and Big part delectable zone! We followed the crowd to…..yep you guessed it. The line was for the warm donuts. “Just get one honey, not the half dozen.” Our attempt to savor and enjoy just one donut was futile. We looked at each other after finishing the last crumb of the first one and headed back to the counter for another.

We then browsed through the gift store, sampled the homemade jams and dips and encouraged each other to NOT buy one of everything. We purchased some apple butter and of course some fresh apples found in the many barrels in the barn. 

The picturesque scenes of those barns and silos, fall flowers, horse drawn wagon and apple trees are the stuff of post cards and calendars. I wanted to drink it all in and keep it close in my memory as I know my time in the Midwest is drawing to a close. The melt in your mouth warm apple cider donuts, crisp cool weather and quality time with my husband made for a perfect Saturday morning.

The heart of dairy farm country has indeed captured MINE.

A One Armed Juggler and Other Cool Stuff

I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania. It was the Christmas tree capital of the world. Our county fair had an Evergreen Queen pageant and lots of other fun events. I took my dog, Tippy Toes to the animal walk and entered my pansies in the 4-H judging. But I left all that behind when I moved to Florida at the age of 12 and county fairs of that standard were left behind in my childhood.

Then, 40 plus years later I found myself in the Midwest in August where county fairs meet the best of 4-H exhibits and farmers meet up with the best John Deeres in the heartland and boy o boy, you’ve got yourself a real county fair.

We got to the fairgrounds just in time to see a mob of people gathered around an arena of sorts. “What is going on here”? I asked someone near me. “It’s the monkey races.” they said. We were in for a treat as we watched two small monkeys racing on the backs of dogs!

I’m sorry that we missed the yodling contest and Dale Jones, the one armed juggler. But we certainly enjoyed the sights, sounds and…… well okay, not the smells but we enjoyed MOST of the Boone County fair in Belvidere, Illinois.  It is the only Grange Fair in Illinois.

I suppose every county fair has some legendary Bluegrass singers, kid fiddlers and a Tractor and Truck pull and wood carving exhibits. The Boone County fair however, had some other events that were new to us. We were sorry that we missed the Watermelon eating-Seed spitting contest, the Bubble Gum blowing contest and the Twinkie Eating-Pepsi drinking contest. Rest assured that we are marking our calendars though for NEXT summer. If we come back to the Midwest, we won’t miss this wholesome fun!

What a heart, our Heartland Has

I had never seen so many working ladders in one room!

How many people does it take to transform two public schools in just a couple weeks time? 100s I can tell you. It takes a lot of time, talent, planning and most of all MONEY to make the most positive impact on a public school imaginable.

From the playground to the driveway from the gym to the classrooms the painting and dry walling, all transforming a dingy old tired school into a haven of brightness and shine! You would have to see it for yourself to believe that it could happen so remarkably. I’m proud to have been even the tiniest part of such an undertaking. I will not soon forget the experience of seeing a church come together to help out a public school. One that likely few members of the church even attend. But that is not important, however. What IS important is the impact that those upgrades can make on the youngest, most vulnerable members of the Rockford community. Heartland Church of Rockford, Illinois spends two weeks each summer changing lives in the public sector. The elementary children that can be easily forgotten in a town that has been stricken with some of the highest unemployment rates in the state. A school that sits fairly closely to the crime capital of the town but a school now that those children can be proud to attend in the fall. It’s a place that they can look forward to carrying their backpacks into. They may not know who Heartland church is but they will know that somewhere a lot of regular folks came in and made their school a really nice place to learn.

They may never know that folks came from as far away as Oregon to help with the project or that some people were injured or that some took time off from their real jobs to be a part of their success story but the children will know deep down that someone somewhere cares about them. When they look at new books in their new library or swing on a freshly painted swing, it will make them smile inside.

Heartland Church, YOU Rock!

A true Bread Harvest

There is probably no other food on earth that is eaten more than bread. Whether it is tortillas or pitas or just good ol’ American Wonder Bread, bread is a daily staple in most diets. So there is bread and then there is GREAT HARVEST BREAD COMPANY!

I had only been in Rockford for a couple weeks before someone told me about this wonderful place and drew me a map of how to get there. I didn’t get to go right away because….well good bread can be purchased at any high end grocery store and besides I had already found Panera. Then a friend from Florida who lives here half the year picked me up at my hotel and took me on a tour of the city. The second place she took me was to the Great Harvest Bread Company. We looked in the window as she described the amazing fragrances and delicacies that awaited me TOMORROW because we were there on Monday and the place was closed. So I tucked it away for another time but did not go back.

Then I reconnected with Weight Watchers in Rockford and the desire to seek out a luscious high points+ food item was no longer with me. But after a few months my attention was once again brought to the Great Harvest Bread store. I finally succumbed and stopped by and oh my! It is unlike any other bakery or bread place I’ve ever visited. They have real “bakers” who mix and knead the bread by hand and you can stand and watch them.They use interesting wholesome ingredients and bake each item with pride. The staff greets you with a warm smile…….

The breads shown here are for sampling!!!

and an offer of a sample of one of the delicious mouth watering jewels that was baked just an hour or so ago. There is a large bowl of real butter and a knife just begging to be spread on the fresh delicacy. Oh and when I say “sample” I really mean a nice generous HUNK of yumminess to try.

If you ever get to Rockford, Illinois and it’s not a Monday, you must do yourself the favor of visiting the Great Harvest Bread Company on North Alpine Road. Your view of bread will never be the same!

Bnkrupt 5

I don’t know about you but if I had declared bankruptcy five times I don’t think I would choose that description for my vanity tag. Maybe N33d Mny or 2Broke4Bills or something less disparaging but I did see that on a car yesterday at a local breakfast spot.  But then, I have seen many noteworthy things during my 54 days in northern Illinois.

One shocking thing that I saw, and took pictures of, but won’t publish here, was several possibly inebriated gentlemen running and cavorting  across a frozen lake last Saturday.  True, the temperatures have been low enough to freeze the surface of the lake but just how deep might that ice be? These guys were 6 ft tall and 180 pounds or so.  But then I’m a Florida gal and just looking at somebody walking on what was WATER not long ago, was worthy of a few clicks on my phone camera

Doesn't everybody need a vacuum cleaner buddy?

An interesting thrift store find.

I also spotted this little treasure while working at the thrift shop yesterday.  Now here’s a find for sure.  We all need one of these little cuties to hide our ugly vacuum cleaner. I’m surprised that the original owner was willing to part with it. If they spot this blog, they could hurry on in to Share Stuff and buy it back. After all, the proceeds go to a very worthy cause.

Now I would never want to be a geographic snob because I bet if my Illinois friends take a trip to central Florida where I live, they will see some blog worthy sights too.  In fact, I’m positive!

A Tale of Two Cities

Music Man is my favorite musical. Ever since my daughter Hannah, played Ethel Toffelmeyer in the School of Music’s performance, I have been partial to that show. So when Brian told me that we were going to visit Dubuque, Iowa on Sunday, I was thrilled. The day was perfect! The sun was high, the wind was low and the traffic was easy.
We started the day with a visit to Galena, Illinois. It is billed as one of the prettiest cities in America. After seeing it, I concur with that title. We saw Ulysses S. Grant’s home there, perched in the perfect spot to enjoy the view of the quaint town. We roamed the busy streets filled with happy people, enjoying such a gorgeous day in mid February.
Then we drove the 10 or so miles to the picturesque crossing of the Mississippi River. Going over the bridge, puts you in the state of Iowa, in the city of Dubuque. My “Music Man” moment had arrived. The “Iowa Stubborn” song came flooding back. I didn’t actually meet any Iowans in our short visit there walking along the river walk, but I bet many of them like that song.

My Elite Taxi

Taking a taxi is my second mode of transportation these days. The company I use is “Elite”.  I think they call it that because their vehicles don’t have any dents or sections of rust and are clean on the inside and out. Well, as clean as a vehicle can be with snow, salt and ash on the roads much of the time.
I always get the driver, Randy.  He’s very prompt and professional. I’ve gotten to know about his 15 year old daughter, when she got her latest glasses and how he drops by his house for a sandwich in between calls.
I could count on one hand the times before Illinois that I have been in a taxi. There was London where they drive on the “wrong” side of the road and you can’t watch because your brain puts a strain on your adrenal glands, then there was the driver in Paris who zoomed us around those traffic circles like a madman and wore a suit but hadn’t bathed, and now…… Randy. So my vote goes to this Rockford guy, service with a smile, safe driving AND he showers too. Yes there is something to be said for the small town taxi, Elite that is.

Thirty One Days

It’s been 31 days since we became hotel residents in northern Illinois. We have learned our way around, made peace with the tight accommodations and have chosen a favorite restaurant. We have found a church home away from home.  I’m on a first name basis with Manuel, Hernan, Kyle, Jennifer, Stephanie and Judy.I know where they hide the remote for the fitness room and what day the Culligan Man brings the salt for the water softener. I can whip up a full course meal in my little kitchen and have found a close by grocery that  provides drive up loading!
Tomorrow I will try out a new hairdresser. Courage….it just takes some courage.