Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am taking a short break from our road trip to show you a fall pumpkin I made using Judy's idea over at daily yarns 'n more. You can see her originals at:

One click will get you there, so go check it out! Hers are so much cuter! Happy Fall!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I couldn't say good-bye to Galena without showing you a doorknob or two... you know how I get about doors...

One of these is the door to my heart; do you know which one? I have been grateful these past months to have blogging friends who look inside my door from time to time. (Steve, the cinnamon rolls were delicious; and I told the story of your mother, so even in Europe her tradition lives on.)

Come inside, and let us spin tales together!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Downtown nightlife in Galena features Vinny Vanucchi's; ambience and garlic bread extraordinaire abound!

You can stop in at Honest John's...

Stay at the oldest operating hotel in the United States and get haunted by ghosts...

Or sit and listen to the world go by in the quiet darkness of a near to perfect town.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Galena, Illinois ... finally!

I couldn't help but love this town. A gregarious hideaway, the thing we remember most was when we'd ask for directions (which we did often since we were letting the great sky and sun guide us).

May I ask where the trattoria is? "Oh yes! Go to the stoplight and take a left."

May I ask where the post office is? "Oh yes! Go to the stoplight and take a right."

May I ask where the office of tourism is? (This was a little more challenging) "Oh yes, go to the stoplight, cross the bridge, and then take a left."

"So..." says my teenager, "It all seems pretty clear-cut. All their directions start with go to the stoplight. ONE stoplight, mom!"

General Grant's house ... for my European friends, he was a key player in Northern victory during the Civil War. A hero for the oppressed.

We visited this little, historical street...

...and I dreamed of being Mrs. Grant, and walking to the general store to do my shopping while my husband was off to war. (to the groans of my companion, of course!)

The sweetest feet in America.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

He worked the earth as we drove past. We waved, and he waved back to total strangers. It was a moment of comraderie frozen in time; a passing gesture that meant nothing if not ...

Hello, other human being... here's a bit of myself.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Elizabeth, Illinois at its finest is ... the movie set for Gilmore Girls?

We walked through town and bought one too many nicknacks at Something Special. I highly recommend this shop; the owner is so sweet. When she learned that we hadn't bothered to make hotel reservations for the night in Galena, she picked up the phone and tried to find us accomodation simply because she was worried we'd be left out in the cold!

What's more... as we were buying our goods, a local policeman popped his head in to say someone had left their trunk open and ask if it was intentional. Oh... my heart all but melted; does such friendliness still really exist in this world?

All I have to say to this town is ... My compliments, Elizabeth!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Barreling down the road through some of the prettiest country I've ever seen, we came upon this roadside stand that epitomized all of my rural fantasies. I just had to hop out. "Coming?" I asked my companion. "Uh... no, mom. I've seen enough pumpkins and corn for now; I'll just listen to my mp3 for awhile." Good enough!

I wandered through tidy rows of farm-grown goods, stopped to chat a bit with this Indian man (yes, I really did, just in case you're wondering), admired a basketful of hickory nuts (since I've read about them in Farmer Boy for as long as I can remember!) and held relics of a bygone era in my hand, wishing I had the weight allowance to bring them back to Europe.

The barn red and stark white appealed to me like no other colors I've ever seen ... well, except for green that is, which is my favorite color in the world. This building is vacant, but just look at the sweet little curtains! I hopped back in the truck exclaiming to my daughter..."We could buy this little dive and I could open my translating business here in the US!"

She's got a bit more sense than I have, sadly for me. "And for whom, pray, would you translate, mom? The cows?"


We drove away with empty hands and a reality much more prominent in my mind. But if by chance the day comes that you pass by this podunk town, somewhere west of Rockford and east of Galena, you may just see me sitting in that adirondack chair with a laptop in my hands and a look of utter contentment on my face. Do stop and sit a spell!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

There ain't nothin' like midwestern signs of welcome!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Abandoned alongside someone's old shed among dried grasses and peeling paint. Life has a way of doing that to people, too. I am of two minds about it, actually. There is the rust that comes from a falling rain, the fading of a glaring sun, the broken glass, the bent up fenders; by the time you've travelled enough to have been somewhere, life has transformed you into a corroding carcass, sometimes both inside and out.

But is that all it is, this life we live? The road stretched far and wide as we drove west that day... straight ahead, up and down, left and a little to the right; we pulled into Galena in a kind of pilgrim's euphoria. We had found our destination, our hearts were light despite the road. Our hearts were light because we had travelled that road!

The rust that would rot my heart will all be wiped clean one day - indeed it is wiped clean every time I let it be wiped and cared for. The shattered glass will be repaired, a bent life put to rights. Do you wonder what I mean? What I could be talking about? Why is she going on and on? ask. Well, it may not be for you, but it is definately for me. There is someone who has travelled this road with me for such a long time, thank God.

I will not come to this.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The visitor's center out in the middle of nowhere... but somewhere east of Galena. We met a woman there who was born and raised in the Middle East, but who had moved back to the States to live out her life in rural Illinois. What an interesting find she was!

Beautiful displays were set up under a warm sun, with racks of homemade popcorn for sale. There were so many kinds! But we settled on a bag of light green apple-caramel popcorn and ate it all up for lunch.

Pumpkins and signs for haunted houses lined the road as we drove. To be honest, we were enticed, though too scared to stop at one; the very thought of a haunted barn appealed to our travel-fever and fascination with small-town Americana.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

While we were in the midwest, my daughter and I took a road trip due west for the Iowa border. We then looped up into Wisconsin, stopped by Madison, walked the shores of Lake Geneva and made our way back down the Lake Michigan coast toward home.

Over the next couple days I'll be posting snapshots of that trip ... a glance here and a nod there, anything that struck our fancy as we thundered down the highway with Ding Dongs and coffee, and nothing to guide us but the great sky and an enormous, ever-changing sun.

Get ready ... it was the time of our lives!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Naperville's Grand Carillon sounds out across the town the sweetest bells - it is just like fairy music. A new addition since I've been gone, it is wonderful to walk the Riverwalk and hear the chimes!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

There is something so comforting about school buses ... the warm yellow of buses, of No. 2 pencils. I didn't think so when I was young; yellow pencils reminded me of test booklets, and buses of lonely rides. Only now as I sit at my own, grown-up desk do I feel the warm tug of school days gone by... and the sweet innocence of learning to think for myself.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Freedom of a people or freedom of a heart ... isn't that the truth.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An autumn walk through downtown ... the wind was crisp as it twirled the leaves and the sound of bells pealed across the sky.

Fall in Chicago is one of my favorite things.

Naperville at its best sounds like wild geese and feels like a comforting cup of coffee on a chilly day.

And its people are the warmth of my heart.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm back in Oz with lots of pictures from home...there was a day I sat in my old room and looked out the window at a most familiar scene. My heart swelled and shrunk as waves of memories collided with the deep nostalgia only home can bring.

Padding downstairs in the frigid and dark hours of morning, I would feel the thick carpet as it moved beneath my feet, light flickered and hummed as it came on, welcoming the smell of coffee flavored with America's sweetest creamers. The great midwestern sun would pulse its way upward as dogs began to stir, and the sound of the voices of loved-ones echoed through the house. There were always voices.

As I lay in my own bed this morning, I closed my eyes and tried to remember the comfortable feel of quilts, the hum of dad's breathing machine, the scratching of squirrels climbing up trees outside my window. I bent my ears to hear the sounds of mom's piano, notes now lost upon the winds of a continent I have left behind.

The thick fog of my own village has settled over the mountain, and I am home to the family that is now mine... the little feet I will strain to hear in years to come, the voices I will long for when this moment, too, has passed.