Spook City

October 31, 2011 at 11:59 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Happy Halloween!  In honor of this creepy holiday, I thought I’d share the closest thing I have to a personal ghost story.  Disclaimer to my mom – I don’t know if I ever told you about this or not but since I’m too old to ground I guess it doesn’t matter.  You’ve been warned.

Okay so I grew up in a small town and as a teenager I would frequently look for things to do that didn’t involve sitting in someone’s garage or slinging ice cream at the good old DQ.  Often, a group of us would just drive around and enjoy as much freedom as we could as 16-year-olds.  We all had our favorite good country roads and along one of them sat a desolate, creepy looking house.  Legend had it that a crazy old recluse of a man used to live there and in the 1950’s he would appear in town on random nights that seemingly coincided with the disappearance of small neighborhood children.  The story was that the man would lure them back to his home for all sorts of awful and unthinkable crimes and he went even crazier and disappeared before he could be caught.  I should probably stop right here and acknowledge that when I say “according to legend” what I really mean is “according to this one kid I knew who may or may not have been full of shit”.  Now that’s out of the way, I’ll continue.  According to legend, if you could get inside the house you could still see blood stains on the walls and little kid shoe’s and toys littering the floor.

Would have been nice if there had been a sign, but no

Of course, some friends and I thought it would be a great idea to try to break in.  Now, the house in question was across the street from the local meat processing plant (hey, I told you…small town).  A group of us gathered one night around midnight and parked our cars in the plant’s parking lot, then sneaked our way across the street.  We had barely gotten on the property when the pain began.  I felt it first – the shock of an electric fence.  I’d never encountered one before and I hope to hell I never do again because it hurt.  As soon as I yelped, everyone else got shocked too and the group of us bumbled around in the dark only to tangle ourselves further in the electricity.  Why was there even electricity running through an area that was supposed to be entirely deserted anyway?  Well, probably to keep kids like us off the premises but it seemed a valid question at the time.  So there were, five or six girls and guys howling with pain and confusion in front of a supposedly haunted house in the middle of a field across from a slaughter house.  That’s when we heard it.

Mooing.  There were obviously cows in distress and as we tried to extract ourselves from the electric mess we’d gotten ourselves into, the stench hit our nostrils.  Burning flesh.  We could hear the hissing coming from the plant and the cries from the animals and the smell was so overpowering that even the carnivorous among us were hiding their noses in their shirts.  After panicking and freaking out for a bit we all managed to get away from the fence and we stared at each other in horror.  No way were we going to try to get back in the house, especially not with the god-awful smell permeating our entire lives.  After a few dry heaves, we got back in our cars and got the hell out of there.

This was all weird enough and was more than we needed to convince ourselves to leave well enough alone.  However, the story isn’t over yet.  I was telling the father of a friend of mine about this the next day and he stopped me, confused, because he knew the foreman at the processing plant and said what I was describing just wasn’t possible.  Because they stop production (fancy word for slaughtering) at 6pm, every single day.  No exceptions.  I thought he was messing with me but a little independent research proved he was correct.  I told my friends about this and after a good bit of time truly freaking out, we decided to stick to daylight joy rides in the country.

True story.  Happy Hauntings!

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Happy Halloween!

October 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm (Uncategorized) (, )


Have a safe and scary holiday everyone – and try to stay away from those scary TV’s!

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The Glessner House

October 26, 2011 at 10:35 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Last night, my Museum Studies class took a field trip to a museum I’d never been to.  Located on the South Side of Chicago in a neighborhood that used to be overrun with the manufacturing titans of the day (this was back in the late 1800’s), this place is certainly a hidden gem.  The Glessner House was built in 1886 by the Glessner family (and I’d actually call it a mansion), who were a new money family that wanted to build something splendid.

Oh yeah, just a hallway. Not fancy or anything.

The house doesn’t look like much from the outside although the architecture, when studied, is actually pretty cool.  The Glessner’s had two children and their son took up photography as a hobby, taking photos of most of the rooms in the house.  After his parents passed, he and his sister moved to separate coasts and the contents of their home were crated up and stored in a New England barn for many years.  The house itself managed to avoid being demolished (like so many were at the time) because it was simply too expensive to tear down.  It functioned as a printing press for a while and then a group of Chicago architects decided it was worth saving.  As they began the restoration and restoring process, the Glessner son came forward and donated all of the items that had been sitting in crates for years.  He also provided his photographs, so now the house is put back together as closely as possible to what it was over 100 years ago.

The courtyard - just imagine the parties

It.  Was.  Awesome.  There are still some rooms that haven’t been restored but pretty much everything in the building is authentic.  And even in the unrestored rooms there was cool stuff to see, such as the bits of a newspaper from 1916 that were used to paper mache part of one wall.  There were rows of bookshelves and a library that contained first editions of works by Charles Dickens, if that tells you anything.  Obviously you couldn’t touch any of those but just being in the presence of such books had me falling in love.  There were pictures, bedding, clothing, journals, vases, trinkets…all sorts of things.  The house was much larger than I thought it would be and the docents who gave us the tour really knew what they were talking about.  The Glessner’s used to entertain and have society parties and their back yard is actually a gorgeous courtyard that provides an amazing view of the back of the house.  We stood out back in the surprisingly warm night and were able to see the lit stained glass window from the back door.  It was simply awesome to imagine the parties that used to be held there and to think of what those walls have seen.

There’s also a carriage house that is used for various rentals these days, though they hope to restore it eventually as well.  The place is often rented out for weddings and other functions and it definitely makes for an interesting ambiance.  There are also some ghost stories that have floated around (pun intended) but unfortunately I didn’t see any apparitions while I was there.

The Glessner House is just another example of a little-known local museum that should be visited a little more often.  Admission is only $8 and even includes access to the nearby Clark House, which is another historic home.  I haven’t been there yet but after my visit to the Glessner House, I will be going sometime in the future!

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Antigua 2011

October 24, 2011 at 12:06 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )


As promised, here’s an overview of my first and only entire solo adventure in another country:

Typical sidestreet

Antigua, Guatemala was once the capital of the country but a series of horrible earthquakes kept demolishing the town and in the mid 1700’s, they decided to up and move the capital to Guatemala City.  Officials actually told everyone to vacate the entire place but even back then there were some people with listening problems and there were families that remained behind.  Now, Antigua is a little city that still thrives on cobblestone streets and has the ruins of many buildings and cathedrals strewn throughout the landscape.  It was pretty surreal to stand in front of buildings that are older than our entire country and it was powerful to say the least.  There are volcanoes surrounding the entire town and even though it was mostly cloudy while I was there the tops could be seen every now and then.

Speaking of volcanoes, I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way now: I had planned to hike and camp overnight on the top of one with a group I found and while I did manage to get about 1/3 of the way up, I got altitude sickness and had to come back down.  Antigua itself sits about 1500 meters above sea level and the peak of the volcano was around 4000…I made it close to 3000 before bowing out.  Apparently everyone else on the tour had been in Antigua for weeks or months and their bodies were better adjusted to the height – I was there about a day before attempting the summit.  As someone who’s never had altitude sickness I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening to me but I knew it wasn’t pleasant.  I was carrying a 60lb pack and got weak and dizzy and couldn’t seem to catch my breath for the life of me.  I pushed myself as hard as I could but ultimately decided it was a more responsible (albeit less fulfilling) decision to come back down rather than get any higher and really get ill.  The hike was steep (obviously – it was a volcano after all) and I had visions of passing out and tumbling back down what had taken me forever to climb, so I called it a day.  I was embarrassed and am still pretty disappointed but I still think I made the right decision.

Anyway.  Other than attempting to conquer a volcano, I spent the majority of my time in Antigua walking around, checking out ruins, wandering through museums and patting myself on the back for any Spanish I was able to correctly utter.

View from the rooftop of ruins

Antigua is full of churches and cathedrals and they provided me more enjoyment than I would have guessed.  I was raised Catholic but consider myself more spiritual than religious these days, which was why I was surprised with the emotion I felt while in these places.  Now, most of what I read about these cathedrals was in Spanish and since my skills have been in atrophy since high school, I did not learn everything I could.  For instance, I can tell you that this picture to the right was taken on the roof top of some ruins of my favorite cathedral I encountered, and that the priest who used to work these grounds became canonized as a Saint by Pope John Paul in the 1990’s.  There are relics that the Saint wore on display in the museum (including some very uncomfortable looking underwear that was made nearly 500 years ago) and his tomb is on display within the new church.  There was also a room full of letters, photos, glasses, crutches and other items that people placed there after seeking health and cures from the Saint.  After the people were relieved of their illnesses, they left trinkets as signs of gratitude.  I’m not sure how to convey how powerful it was to be in the presence of paintings, statues and artifacts that have brought so many so much comfort for such a long time but it was pretty moving.  I had tears in my eyes and I’m not afraid to admit it!

Antigua is also pretty touristy, at least for Guatemala, and there are many language schools that people can go to for immersion in Spanish classes.  I did think about that but they typically ran for weeks and I didn’t have the time or money.  These schools bring a lot of students and I met people from as far as Australia and near as Chicago (seriously, I probably met 5 Chicagoans while there.  Crazy).  So there were many people to talk to and I made friends with a few women in my hostel.  It was nice to share experiences with other women traveling alone over a few drinks and I did that on more than one occasion.

There was a huge town square that had a park and water fountain and I would spend some time hanging out there with my book after having dinner.  This cathedral was in the middle of the square and was lit up every single night.  How could I not want to sit in its shadow?

Seriously gorgeous

This was probably the most impressive night-time display but it was not the only one I encountered.

This trip taught me a lot about myself as well.  I proved that I really can just up and fly someplace totally foreign and get by for a while.  I did manage to use some of my archaic Spanish skills to order entire meals, so I was pretty proud of that.  And even though I’ve eaten plenty of meals out alone in the States, I was able to do so in Antigua without feeling awkward or on display.  I did some bargain shopping and enjoyed the freedom of doing exactly what I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it.  I was able to go to the same museum on two different days without anyone giving me grief or rolling their eyes and if I wanted to lay in the hammock of our hostel patio for an afternoon siesta, no one told me I shouldn’t.

Well-known Antiguan archway

I also learned that even when I try my damnedest to be alone, it just doesn’t happen.  The girl sitting next to me on the flight down is from Chicago and we have plans to meet up and have drinks next week.  I met a retired book seller who has a shop right down from the hostel I stayed in and he used to work right down the street from my current apartment.  I also met a guy in my hostel who had been partying in Chicago the week before I left with some old college friends.  Not to mention all of the other people from places outside of the American Midwest I was able to get to know.  If there’s one thing that traveling so much as taught me, it’s that it truly is a small world and most people are basically the same.

Sure, the trip didn’t go exactly how I planned and I would give the entire experience to have Catsby back (I’m not strong enough yet but one day there will be a post about her passing).  I’m very glad I went though and I’ll admit it – I’m proud for how I handled everything.  Which reminds me of the middle-aged guy from Florida I met one night while having dinner – he heard my American accent and had to ask just what the hell I was doing there.  Apparently he had always wanted to learn Spanish so waited until his mid-life crisis to give it a shot and he asked just how big my balls were that I up and flew down there on my own.  After assuring him that my ovaries are in fact massive, I realized he was right.  It was a risky adventure but I survived.  It went better than I expected and I’d go back again.  Maybe solo, maybe not…but at least I know that I can get by on my own if I want to!

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Plugged In

October 21, 2011 at 9:18 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

This week, my apartment became infinitely more technological.  For the first time in…5 years…I have a secured (and legal) internet connection and

I now have one of these

cable in the comfort of my own home.  Also (for the first time in 5 years), I have a television with a remote that allows me to stay sitting on my ass while I change the volume and turn the TV on and off.  Even with just the most basic of basic cable, this is luxury.  The last time I had cable and internet (besides that brief period I lived with my ex and his parents that I now consider to be my black hole of existence) was in college, where I could share the costs with others who were also living off their student loans.  Since my graduation and immersion in the real world, paying for this was not something I’ve been able to do.  It hasn’t been too bad using an antennae for TV (that one year living with nothing but the WB Network taught me some true survival skills) and I was able to pick up an internet connection for a little while at my last place, but since then I’ve been living without.  So you can imagine how different this is for me.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t off a neighbor and steal their connections.  Actually, the bf is in the process of moving in and getting his cable and internet transferred, as well as bringing over his large and flat screen TV, has been the most exciting aspect of this entire situation.  In fact, I’m considering dumping him now and keeping his stuff.  Just kidding!  It might be a little while before everything is official but since he was paying for all that fanciness and not spending enough time at his place to ever use it, we figured the switch made a bit more sense.  I suppose we could’ve started hanging out at his apartment more but to be honest it’s a pretty barren bachelor pad and my place is just so darn comfy.  And my couch is bigger.  Actually, everything about my apartment is bigger which is one of the main reasons he’s moving in with me and not the other way around.  Plus my rent is cheaper and I have way more stuff. So that’s happening.

Anyway, when I came home Tuesday night after a long day of work and class I was able to channel surf to my heart’s content.  And before I knew it, it was 12:30am and I had to be awake in just about 6 hours.  Apparently, I had completely forgotten how easy it is to be sucked into reruns of sitcoms that I’ve seen a million times but not lately.  After realizing just how dangerous my new set-up could be, I forced myself to go to bed with visions of Conan O’Brien running through my head.  This weekend I have a stockpile of scary movies to work my way through (The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist and Hellraiser, to be specific) so perhaps I’ll be able to stay away from the cable for a little while.

Until those sitcoms come back on.

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More Magazines?!

October 19, 2011 at 9:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

As you may or may not remember, I’ve been the recipient of a quarterly cooking magazine that mysteriously began being mailed to my apartment.  I’ve received 3 now and I still don’t know where they came from, nor have I attempted to make a dish in any of them.  The pictures are nice though.

Since I still haven’t solved the mystery of the cooking mag, you can imagine my confusion when I began receiving a new weekly magazine a few weeks ago.  I did not sign up for this magazine and I have not paid for it (I diligently check my account so I have proof) but there it is, appearing in my ancient and cumbersome mailbox every Thursday.  What’s the magazine?  US Weekly.

I feel as helpless as Britney

Now.  US Weekly is something that I will glance at on my way through the checkout at the grocery, much like a car wreck.  I think just about every story in the thing is trash and a quick and easy way to destroy some brain cells from the comfort of your own living room.  Which isn’t to say that I won’t read it if it’s placed within my grasp, because apparently I’m both appalled by and full of morbid celebrity curiosity.  So of course I’m reading these things as they come in and of course I can feel my brain melting and of course I can’t stop.

But why am I getting them in the first place?  It’s very confusing to me.  Right name, right address…but no recollection of ever requesting such a thing.  Maybe I somehow ordered a credit card, charged a bunch of random magazine subscriptions and then hid the credit card and all relating paperwork while in a deep sleep?  Or perhaps some kind and benevolent stranger decided I needed reading material that differed from Moby Dick and Time Out Chicago.  Either way, I’m still perplexed.  And I’m secretly looking forward to another possible edition later this week.

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A Little Something

October 17, 2011 at 10:14 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

As I get back into the swing of blog writing (and be warned…I’m still in quite the funk over Catsby so my witty postings may be a bit fewer and farer between for a while), I figured I’d take it easy.  I promise to do a post on my trip at some point but today is focused on something I’m able to enjoy, no matter how sad I am – food.

I made this dish last night and it will be serving as breakfast for most of the week.  About 3 weeks ago I found a recipe that would help me use a bunch of yellow squash I had sitting around and this new creation stems from that.  Here’s what I used because I happened to have it on hand:

  • mushrooms
  • zucchini
  • butternut squash (this came in a microwavable bag mixed with cinnamon from Green Giant)
  • onion
  • buttery crackers
  • shredded cheese
  • vegetarian sausage
  • spinach

I’m not very good at following exact measurements or directions in general so I kind of just cut a lot of veggies and the no-meat sausage up and put it all in a bowl.  Then I took all the crackers, smashed them into a pulp with a potato masher and added roughly a half cup of the shredded cheese.  I then took the veggies and put them in the skillet with some olive oil and let them get nice and tender.  I added about half of the crackers and cheese midway through.

Look what I can do!

While the veggies were cooking I took two eggs, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/3 cup milk and mixed it all together.  Then I tossed that all on top of the entire vegetable concoction and took all that and spread it into a glass baking pan.  After adding the rest of the crackers and cheese to the top, I threw the whole thing in the oven and then took a shower.  But you don’t need to know all that.

Roughly 20 minutes later, it was ready to eat.  Actually, it was ready to melt my tongue off so I had to wait a bit for the taste test.  Considering I kind of made it up as I went along, I’d have to say it was pretty damn good.  The bf and a work buddy both agreed so feel free to give it a shot on your own.  Play around with it too – I think that’s how some of the best dishes are born.  Enjoy!

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Well, I’m back

October 14, 2011 at 8:13 am (Uncategorized) ()

I returned home safe and sound on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, I returned home to a quiet apartment.  For those of you who don’t know, my much beloved pet Catsby became very sick while I was away and she had to be put down before my return.  I’m thankful that my boyfriend was with her throughout the ordeal and I don’t know what I would have done without the support and love that he, my mom and all of my friends have provided.  Still, I’ll always regret that I wasn’t able to make it home in time to say goodbye to her.  She deserved that.

This week has been fairly difficult and that’s why I haven’t had much to say here.  I had a good trip and I’ll write about it later but for now all I can think of is how much I miss my cat.  Rest in peace, Catsby.  You were the best.

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Next Stop – Antigua!

October 6, 2011 at 9:57 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

This is it!  My very last day at work before I embark on my solo Central American Adventure!

And what a week it’s been.  Travel snafu’s, health stuff, school stuff, food pantry stuff and an extremely busy and demanding week of work stuff have made me more than ready to hop on a plane and skip the country.  I received confirmation this morning that my hostel is eagerly awaiting my arrival (they didn’t use those exact words but I’m sure they are) so I feel good about that.  My overnight volcano trip should be a go as well and if not, I’ll just find something else fun and adventurous to do with that outdoor company.  So I’m ready to go!

Here I come!

Well, not entirely…I still have to pack.  Whoops.  I meant to do that earlier but the events in the above paragraph prevented me from really even getting started.  I do have a list and a backpack so the basics are covered.  I’ll shove everything in tonight and talk a walk around my neighborhood to make sure nothing falls out then try to take a short nap before heading to the airport.  My flight leaves at 5:30am so I’ll be leaving home around 3am and I should hopefully be at my hostel before 1pm.  Woo to the hoo!  I may or may not post here while away (my hostel will have internet) but if not you can expect a trip recap upon my return sometime late next week.  Try not to miss me too much and have a great weekend!

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Message in a Bottle

October 4, 2011 at 11:23 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

As someone who used to have an entire folder filled with info from various pen pals I’d collected around the world (and as someone who once found a message in a bottle on a beach in Louisiana with some family), the below story really made me smile.  I hope it does the same for you:

Not always totally effective

A Canadian man has tossed more than 4,800 messages in a bottle into the Atlantic Ocean in the past 15 years — and received more than 3,100 replies.  Harold Hackett, who lives in Tignish, Prince Edward Island, the smallest province in Canada that hugs the Atlantic coastline, told his story to the BBC.  He uses discarded juice containers to hold his letters, dates each one and asks the finder of the bottle to respond.  And they have, in droves, in what the BBC describes as the “oldest form of social networking.”

He started the hobby in May 1996 and since has received responses from Russia, Iceland, Holland, the U.K., Florida and even Africa and the Bahamas, wherever the wind and tide go.  “I never dreamt I’d get that many back that quick,” Hackett said, emphasizing that the responders have become more than one-time pen pals.  “I usually get about a 150 Christmas cards, Christmas gifts, souvenirs,” Hacket said in a video posted on the BBC website. “I just love doing it the old way. The reason I won’t put my phone number on my letters is they’d all call me back, and I wouldn’t get any letters.”  “Harold the bottle man” has become somewhat of a living legend, according to The Guardian, a Prince Edward Island newspaper. The 58-year-old has a display of some of the letters he’s received at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum in the nearby tourist town of Cavendish.

Hackett said he sends as many as 200 bottles off every week. He doesn’t think he’ll ever stop.

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