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Definitely A Cloud Factory, and Don’t You Forget It.

It never ceases to amaze me, the things that kids carry with them for a lifetime. Both of my boys were born in Kenosha, Wisconsin and…

Wait, sidenote: I often forget, since we moved back to my hometown area of Chicagoland when the boys were two and a half and seven months old, that they are actually Cheeseheads. In fact, whenever I’ve been asked I claim them as fellow Chicagoans without hesitation. Nothing personal, Wisconsin. (P.S. I will always root against the Green Bay Packers because I’m a Chicago Bears fan, even during the years when the Bears totally suck.) Dylan was the only baby born at what used to be Kenosha General Hospital on Father’s Day that year and two women from the Wisconsin Dairy Board brought us gifts, because that’s what happens in America’s Dairyland. I’m talking cow onesies, cheese, a cow stuffed animal, and other dairy-themed goodies.

wisconsin cow toy

It was all fun and games until they asked to take pictures of us. Immediately following a C-section? Were they crazy??? In light of the fact that they brought gifts and took time out of their Sunday to visit, I obliged anyway, much to my own horror.

ANYWAY, Chicago Pride. The boys both took lots of joy in rooting for the Bears over the Packers while attending their respective Wisconsin colleges, and they both have respectable Chicago accents that make it clear to everyone where their real home is.

Bears fan

In spite of the Chicago Pride involved, apparently the joke’s on me because their mother state keeps calling them home, via post-college experiences and childhood memories that stick to them like Velcro. Dylan enjoyed a post-college internship in Madison and returns often to hang with friends and Jason just got a fantastic job at one of the largest companies headquartered in Southeast Wisconsin, Pleasant Prairie to be exact.

Pleasant Prairie isn’t new to either one of them. It sits right between Kenosha to the north and the Illinois border to the south, and it’s home to a Jelly Belly Warehouse Tour, which we have done several times.

Back in the early nineties I drove through Pleasant Prairie regularly on my way to do my grocery shopping at the commissary on the Navy base at Great Lakes. On the way, we had to drive right by a factory that spewed pure white smoke into the sky every hour of every day. Toddler Dylan was fascinated by it and looked out for it when he knew we were headed in that direction.

Over the years he’s brought it up when we’re in the car together in that area (he’s twenty-four now, by the way). A couple of weeks ago when he and I moved Jason into his new apartment, we were talking about all of the great amenities he’s got at his disposal (laundry in the unit, workout center, indoor parking…), and Dylan mentioned one I hadn’t thought about:

“Oh, and it’s so cool that you have a great view of the Cloud Factory from here!”

The Cloud Factory.

The Cloud Factory!!

From the mouths of babes who have grown into young men.
How time flies. How amazing is our ability to remember things.

It stuck with him all these years, such a simple, kid-like thing. I love his name for it, and since I have no idea what this building actually produces, he could be right. In fact, for our family’s purposes, he definitely is.

Kenosha Cloud factory

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Bring Your Favorite City Home With Modern Map Art

The fine folks at Modern Map Art (affiliate link) provided me with a Chicago map poster in exchange for this post. All opinions are, obviously, mine.

I’ve been furiously collecting Chicago-themed stuff lately. It’s for my new home office: I intend to surround myself with items inspired by my hometown. A few weeks ago I went to the One of a Kind Show and Sale at the Merchandise Mart with my friend Natasha, bringing along all the great intentions of buying holiday gifts for loved ones. Somehow I ended up with just a couple of gifts for others and three–THREE!–Chicago-themed things for myself. Oh well.

With my eye and adoration for cool Chicago stuff, you can imagine my delight when I opened an email two weeks ago to find a request to review a Chicago map poster from Modern Map Art. That email made my day.

The posters come in a variety of colors and I decided on black and white to keep things simple. When it arrived I was excited to write about it but didn’t want to do that before I got it framed because I procrastinate fiercely on all kinds of things but I guess when it comes to the Windy City, I want my enjoyment NOW.

I took the cylinder to another friend, Meggan, who manages a custom frame shop right down the road. I like going to see Meggan at work for lots of reasons; one of them is because I enjoy the shop talk. I used to do custom framing for years back in the day and trading horror stories and tales of triumph with someone who gets it is really fun.

Sidenote: One such horror story is the time my co-worker put a–let’s say vintage–sheepskin diploma in the dry mount press. Did you know that you shouldn’t apply heat to those kinds of things? Well, now you do. We got the diploma replaced for the customer but the college was no longer using sheepskin and instead sent us one on parchment. Yikes. Those mistakes stick with you forever.

Anyway, I started taking the poster out of the cylinder and showed Meggan the black frame I picked out. She approved (hurray!) and offered to get the poster dry mounted and into the frame for me while I hung there with her. (Thanks, Meggan!)

Modern Map Art Chicago

What I think about this poster: I love it. I framed it (err, Meggan framed it) with the “Chicago” strip at the bottom but you could also cut that part off and just frame the map if you want something a little more abstract. (I might do that eventually.) I like that the street names aren’t on the poster: it feels more artsy that way. It looks fantastic in the frame and I can’t wait to get it on my wall!

Modern Map Chicago

Forgive the glare: getting a good picture of a black poster under regular glass without a glare is nearly impossible.

Modern Map Art has tons of cities to choose from, and not just posters, either. Check out their Chicago gifts and decor as well as all of their other goodies here (affiliate link)! They even have smaller cities represented (Appleton, Wisconsin! Bloomington, Indiana! Hershey, Pennsylvania! Jersey City, New Jersey! I mean, come on! Cool!), which is something you don’t usually see. Go check them out, and let me know if you pick up something new for your wall (or your bed: they make pillows, too)!

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Question of the Day: Have You Ever?

Have you ever driven into downtown Chicago to meet a friend for lunch and, when you arrive at the hotel valet parking garage you reserved space in ahead of time on your favorite parking discount app, you don’t actually see the valet at the stand that’s in the circle drive and you wait there in your car for a minute to see if he would eventually appear but he doesn’t and so you glance over at the entrance to the garage itself and think, “Huh, last time I parked in the city, the valet was actually IN the garage so perhaps I need to go in the garage to find him here too” and you drive your car through this tiny little tunnel thingie that’s barely wide enough but you do it anyway because it’s the only way to get access to the garage and then you keep going down and around the tight, tight curve to the garage door, sneaking up as close as you can so the sensors in the concrete will make it open for you, and then when it doesn’t you realize you made a huge error in judgement because you really should have turned your car over to a valet at the stand and not tried to take care of this particular thing on your own, so you call the parking app people to ask them if they can call the hotel valet to get you out of there in case the pavement has those spikes in it, the ones that will pop any tires that back up over them and the guy goes, “Uh yeah I don’t have their number, can you back out?” and you’re all “Thanks for nothing” and since you don’t see any spikes in the pavement when you put the car in reverse and look at your snazzy rear view backup camera and your fancy side mirrors that aim down towards the pavement when the car is going backwards, you try to back up the sort-of steep, tight, tight curve, all the while your sensors are beep-beep-beeping to tell you you’re WAY too close to the wall and you start to panic because now all of a sudden you feel like Austin Powers trying to turn that little cart around and you mess with it for a minute or two because you are normally an AMAZING driver and can parallel park practically with your eyes closed and without the use of your snazzy rear view backup camera: you go forward and back, forward and back, and somehow you are totally messing up when it comes to turning the wheel in the right direction and you start to get very upset and cry a little bit and feel one hundred percent impaired so you finally throw the car into park, set the emergency brake, lock it up and go to the hotel lobby to see if the valet has returned, and he has, and you tell him the whole story and he says “Show me” and then “Um, nobody can get in there with your car there” and you’re all “I KNOW! HELP ME!” and he asks for your keys and then he expertly backs your car up the tight, tight curve and through that tiny little tunnel thingie and back out to the circle drive where he is still smiling at you–in a compassionate way and not a snarky way–as he gives you your claim ticket and tells you to have a nice, relaxing lunch and then when you finally meet up with your friend (late), you say, “You’re not going to believe the pickle I just got myself into” and then you cry a little bit more as you tell her over pizza?

I have.

austin powers

Related: Question of the Day: Got Gas?

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My Best of 2016: Happy New Year!

My best of 2016

It’s (finally) the last day of 2016 and I’m so happy it’s over. So many of us have had an ultra-challenging year personally, and we’re ready to close the door on it and hope for a Happy New One.

I wrote 75 posts this year (not including this one) which is, I’m certain, a new low for me. Twenty-seven of them were in the month of November alone as I tried to tackle NaBloPoMo. A couple of years ago my lack of posting really would have bothered me, but this year it doesn’t. Just like me, this blog is in a constant state of evolution. I don’t put all my eggs in this basket and I find that I still love coming here in between all of my other projects when I have something to say or document.

I’m completely stealing my friend Vikki’s idea and choosing some of my best writing from 2016 to share today. Just like every other year, they’re not all gems–not by a long shot–but I have definitely written some posts that make me proud. Here we go:

1. I Let Go: Technically I wrote the post at the end of 2015 but I spent three months editing it for the stage and I performed it in LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO in May. Therefore, I’m counting it for 2016. The essay is about dropping my younger son off at the airport for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel, without me and his dad. You can watch my LTYM Chicago reading, the final product, here.

2. Quality of Life: My tribute to Roxie, whose illness and death two weeks later came as a total shock to all of us, is one of my favorite essays from 2016 not because of the subject but because I don’t feel like I could have said it any better. I worked on the post in my head for her final week on earth, making occasional notes as if I were an obituaries writer for a major publication, preparing for the death of a celebrity. I wanted to write a tribute that would express how much she meant to me and the rest of my family, and I feel really good about having done just that. I still miss her so, so much. (You obviously don’t have feel pressured to read it: it’s super sad. I couldn’t leave it off of this list, though!)

3. The Cross: My rant on La Croix (*waves to Vikki*) and why I just don’t think I’m ever going to be about that life entertained a bunch of people, but mainly me. That reminds me, I still have a 12-pack of lime in my garage and I need to drive it up to Vikki’s house. I KNOW she’ll drink it.

4. Safety Saves: This post is actually my most-visited for 2016. It was shared all over the place and for that I am glad, because not only is it the story of Jim’s hit and run bike accident but it also suggests helmet use and wearing ID when you’re working out away from home. I heard from many friends (and a few strangers) afterwards, telling me they were purchasing ID necklaces and bracelets for their loved ones for Christmas and Hanukkah. I’m happy to have that kind of silver lining around our traumatic, life-changing experience and if my post prevents even one injury (or worse), well, that’s pretty amazing.

5. For the Children: Many of us have struggled with writing since the Presidential Election. I wrote this post about how I have been noticing children out in public more often than I usually do, and how we need to do what we can individually to help leave a better world for the next generation.

YOU are also my best. I appreciate everyone who takes a moment to stop here and read what I write every now and then: thank you so much. I wish you and your loved ones the very best in 2017. Happy New Year!

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A Totally Predictable Star Wars Christmas

Even though we’re with extended family in Knoxville, the Wells family will continue our Christmas tradition of going to see a movie followed by dinner prepared by Jim. (We’re having Green Curry Chicken, which is Thai and not Chinese, but still Asian. Close enough.)

Our movie? The new “Star Wars” flick. FINALLY. (<--- Same as last year! Christmas means Star Wars, apparently.) Besides that? Well, you know:

Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating!

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Oakbrook Center is the Place to be…Right Now!

This post is sponsored by Oakbrook Center.

Oakbrook Center logo

Full disclosure: I have loved Oakbrook Center (on the corner of Route 83 and Cermak Road just off of Interstates 88 and 294) for all the days I’ve lived in the western suburbs (that’s more than twenty-one years). I love it for many reasons: the shops, the restaurants, the environment, the outdoorsy element of it all, and especially because it reminds me of Park Forest Plaza, the shopping center of my childhood. These shopping centers that aren’t enclosed were the mothers of modern malls, and I think they’re totally fun.

While you might think that the best time to visit Oakbrook Center is in the spring when all of the tulips are blooming or in the summer when they have car shows and other kinds of fun in the sun, December is also an excellent time to check it out. In addition to all of the sales that assist in your saving money on your gift list, Oakbrook Center has a bunch of holiday-themed activities for the whole family.

Oakbrook center ice

(Speaking of sales, when I was at Oakbrook Center on Monday I conquered my very favorite area of the mall: the little corner where Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, LUSH, L’Occitane, Restoration Hardware, Teavana, and Bath and Body Works are ALL located. One corner-stop shopping FTW!)

Where was I? Oh right: holiday activities for the entire family:

1. Adventure to Santa: Back by popular demand, Oakbrook Center and DreamWorks Animation are again teaming up to present Adventure to Santa, with this year’s narrated tour featuring the cast of Kung Fu Panda. Adventure to Santa elevates the traditional mall holiday visit by blending the latest technology with captivating stories while Kung Fu Panda and his friends guide family members on an unforgettable adventure to the North Pole to meet Santa.

Oakbrook Center Po

Reservations can be made online at www.adventuretosanta.com with the purchase of a photo package. Adventure to Santa will kick off the holiday season on Saturday, November 5, and will be open during extended Oakbrook Center holiday hours through Saturday, December 24.

Oakbrook Center Adventure to Santa

2. Holiday Market: Oakbrook Center has a Holiday Market nestled amongst the alluring shops of the Village Green lawn area near Crate & Barrel, offering a variety of locally-made specialty products. Gifts such as hand-crafted jewelry, adorable children’s items, fun treats for a favorite pet, beautiful hand-made apparel and much more will be available for visitors’ perusal. Winter treats, such as donuts, cider, hot chocolate and adult beverages, are available to satisfy all tastes.

Oakbrook Center Winter Market

I know, I know: not much to see here. I took this picture on Monday when the Winter Market was closed. It’ll be bustling this weekend, trust!

Holiday Market vendors this week include:

Christmas in Chicago
Shen Yun
My Donut Lady
Completely Nuts
Gotta B Crepes
Mario’s Cart
Main Street Candy & Toys
City Winery
Ms. Tittle’s Cupcakes
Rebellion Bags
Sweet P Doll Studio

3. New retail options: Two new athletic stores provide great gift options for both fitness enthusiasts and casual exercisers. Fabletics brings shoppers on-trend designs that inspire an active lifestyle with stylish and high-quality gear at an accessible price point. Providing more than just a class, a cycling studio and a bike, the new Peloton location at Oakbrook Center delivers an engaging experience with the technology to make every workout effective, and the social connection to make every workout addicting.

Oakbrook Center also welcomes two new fashion-forward retailers. A globally-minded company dedicated to creating a unique, inspiring retail environment and philanthropic efforts, Altar’d State offers a place of respite with the latest fashion finds and the most sought-after accessories, along with charming home décor and gifts. ALEX AND ANI creates meaningful, eco-conscious jewelry and accessories to positively empower and connect humanity. The brand’s products are proudly designed and crafted in America and made with love.

For those looking for sweet holiday gifts, Sugarfina’s shelves are lined with colorful artisanal candies in Lucite cubes, any of which can be packaged into three, four or eight-piece bento boxes. Guests can mix-and-match or buy a themed ready-to-go gift set. Sugarfina offers complimentary holiday gift-wrap ribbon with purchase and phone orders for in-store pickup.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started. I didn’t even mention The District, a new dining area, as well as the on-site AMC Theatre that you can visit as a reward to yourself for having so much fun finishing up your holiday to-do list. Make sure you check out Oakbrook Center this week: it’s always a great time!

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Let’s Make a #HousefulOfCookies!

Today I’m participating in the #HousefulOfCookies blog hop, hosted by my friend Natasha of Houseful of Nicholes. You can follow the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram to find the recipes that have been posted so far, or if you like to make your life a little easier you can just go to Natasha’s post that lists everyone’s cookies and links.

Today I am delighted to share one of my favorite holiday cookies (both to make and to eat), Chocolate Mint Sugar Cookie Drops. The recipe is by Nestlé. I started making these cookies more than twenty years ago and their biggest fan in our family is my older son, Dylan. They are so super easy and quick to make that they have become one of my three go-to cookies on the years when I’m just not into making fifteen different cookie recipes.

I used to be able to find Nestlé mint chocolate chips (combined flavors, brown chips) in the stores during the holiday season, but the last few years my search has been fruitless and so I have to get their seasonal “mint and dark chocolate chip mix” (light green and brown chips). It’s okay. The mix is good.

Nestlé mint and dark chocolate chips

I don’t think I need to go into any detail about mixing the recipe ingredients, but I will give you two helpful hints.

Number one: get a cookie scoop.

Cookie scoop is the best

The cookie scoop is one of the best inventions EVER. With the scoop in my right hand, I pack the dough into it, and then (I have clean hands, by the way: PLEASE wash your hands) I pop the dough balls out into my left hand and with heavy concentration, because I’m not nearly as ambidextrous as my mom is (fun fact!), roll them in the sugar and place them on the cookie sheet. I’m my own efficient production line. (Another fun fact: this recipe contains vegetable oil rather than butter, making it the only raw cookie dough I will not eat.)

roll the cookie ball in the sugar

Number two: If your grown kid happens to be a huge fan of the cookies, he’s probably also a fan of the mint and dark chocolate chip mix. If he has made it a habit to snack on said chip mix after dinner, you might find this in the freezer where you thought a full bag would be*:

oops

*For the record, son did go to the store and purchase another bag because he’s a good guy like that.

If that happens, you’ll probably be able to locate (under a bunch of random stuff in the freezer) a bag of Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips, which are available in the baking aisle all year round and actually–in your (err, MY) opinion–make prettier cookies because they’re chopped up smaller than the chocolate chips.

same dough, with Andes

Either way, the cookies are a big hit, and will make you famous (maybe). Enjoy!

Nestlé Chocolate Mint Sugar Cookie Drops

Chocolate Mint Sugar Cookie Drops
Yields 36
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
11 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
11 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  5. 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  8. One 10-ounce package Nestlé Toll House mint and chocolate morsels (or Andes, your choice)
Instructions
  1. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. In large bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and vegetable oil; mix well.
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  5. Stir in Nestlé Toll House morsels.
  6. Shape into balls using rounded teaspooonfuls of dough; roll in remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
  7. Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes.
  9. Cool completely on wire racks.
Suburban Scrawl http://suburbanscrawl.com/
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There’s No Place Like State Street for the Holidays

For some unknown reason, it’s been a couple of years since I have gone into the city and visited State Street when it’s all dressed up for the holidays. I’ve visited the city itself in December, but I’m typically at the Christkindlmarket, on Michigan Avenue, or at some other area of town for a blogger event.

Over the weekend I was invited to see the group Straight No Chaser (they were amazing, by the way), Because the weather was supposed to be rather hellacious, I kept an eye on my weather app all morning and chose to head in much earlier than I needed to be in order to miss the blowing snow and icy roads, at least for the inbound leg of my commute.

I decided to hit State Street, because although it’s gorgeous year-round, it can be breathtaking during the holidays.

There's no place like Chicago for the Holidays

I made my way to Marshall Field’s to see the holiday windows and was not disappointed. They were simple and pretty for 2016, and the Cubs made an appearance in the one titled “Celebrate”. OH I HAVE BEEN. GO CUBS GO.

Marshall Fields Holiday window 2016

Marshall Fields Holiday window 2016

After spending a few minutes looking at the windows (and truly, only a few minutes: it was positively frigid outside), I entered the store and walked to the cosmetics department so I could gaze at one of my very favorite things in Chicago: The ceiling made of Tiffany Favrile glass. It was the first ceiling made like that and is the largest as well. I took the elevator up to the fifth floor, which is the ideal place to get up close and personal with the ceiling. It’s almost touchable! (Almost.) I wrote about it a few years ago.

Marshall Fields Tiffany ceiling

After snapping a few pictures and some video of the ceiling, I went to the seventh floor to buy some Frango Mints. (YUM.) As luck would have it, they were more than half off for one day only, so I stocked up.

I noticed the line to get a table at the Walnut Room was insanely long, and that’s when I remembered the Great Tree. My friend Jen arrived and I took her to the eighth floor, which is where you can view the Great Tree (and everyone eating at the Walnut Room) from above. It was absolutely stunning.

Marshall Fields Great tree

I took a moment to remember how my Grandma took us to lunch at the Walnut Room when I was a little girl. That room brings back magical memories for me.

I’m so glad I made the decision to drive in early. An hour at Marshall Field’s on State, even with all the holiday crowds, is such a fun time. I need to visit more often.

Oh, and before you go, check out this bonus picture. It’s the Calder Flamingo outside the Federal Building. I love how the color basically flips the bird (ha, see what I did there?) at any typical dreary winter evening. That vermilion red will not be silenced.

Chicago Calder Flamingo

Tomorrow? We’re talking holiday cookies.

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This post is sponsored by the Illinois Treasurer’s I-Cash Program. Messaging and images were provided but anecdotes and opinions are mine, as usual.

When I was a kid, two of my very favorite board games were Payday and Monopoly. Both games were based on the ability to get ahead financially, and I suppose it might be a little weird for a kid to be so attracted to such a grown-up thing (I loved the game of “Life”, too!), it is what it is. I liked money. Don’t judge: I bet you do too. Payday was similar to Monopoly in that it had its own version of “Free Parking”, the Lottery.

Winning the Lottery or landing on Free Parking was always very thrilling, and the notion that money could just show up without warning in real life was pretty romantic.

It feels weird to type the word “romantic” and then start talking about the state of Illinois, but bear with me on that awkward segue.

I recently learned about the Illinois Treasurer’s I-Cash Program, and I was transported back to my childhood and those board game as, suddenly, a real life windfall seemed possible. Did you know that the Illinois Treasurer is safeguarding $2.5 billion in recovered cash belonging to millions of Illinois residents and wants to return it? The Illinois Treasurer’s I-Cash Program helps tens of thousands of people each year discover and claim old bank accounts, uncashed paychecks, unpaid insurance benefits and other unclaimed property.

icash logo

All you have to do to find out if the state is holding your windfall is visit IllinoisTreasurer.gov/ICASH. One out of every four Illinois adults discovers property to claim, and the average paid claim is $2900 (!!!!). It takes about four weeks to receive a check after submitting a signed claim forma and authentication of ownership.

icash 1 in 4

The Illinois Treasurer’s Office secures unclaimed property from banks, insurance companies, utilities, and other institutions across the country that have been unable to be returned to their rightful owners. The Illinois Treasurer’s Office is legally required to hold property until it is claimed by the owner or heir, no matter how long that takes. Fun fact: The largest claim in recent history was $2.2 million, in 2015!

Now, I know that you’re chomping at the bit wondering if you’re going to become an instant millionaire. Let’s face it, the odds of that are pretty slim. That said, isn’t any amount of money that you weren’t expecting a great amount of money? When I went to search for myself (and Jim and both boys), I was absolutely certain that I would find nothing. And then, hello cashola! I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had an old Home Depot refund waiting for me (just over fifty dollars) and Jim had money from an old UPromise account (over fifty dollars) waiting for him! I mean, who wouldn’t love to accidentally find a hundred bucks? We filled out the claim forms immediately and with any luck that money will arrive in time to take with us on our trip to Key West next month. A hundred dollars is equivalent to multiples of our favorite Key West things: twenty slices of Kermit’s Key Lime Pie or eleven Goombay Smashes at the Hog’s Breath Saloon or two breakfasts at Blue Heaven.

Here are the specifics on discovering what might be waiting for you at the Illinois Treasurer’s Office:

1. Visit IllinoisTreasurer.gov/ICASH and click on the I-Cash link. Enter your name and city in the search fields. You may have to search a couple of different ways (full name, last name only, etc.).
2. Identify your properties and provide your contact information online.
3. Within minutes, I-Cash will email you the claim form to sign and mail along with proof of ownership to claim your property.
4. Mail the signed claim form and ownership proof; your check will arrive within weeks.
5. You can check back every six months in case new money shows up!

Pass this on to anyone you know in Illinois: you might be helping them end 2016 on a high note, and who doesn’t want to be the bearer of awesome news? If you find money under your name, let me know! I’d love to know about your personal windfall!

icash discover

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All Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! at the Adler Planetarium

I was going through some old photos to get some quick inspiration when I found the pictures from Kate and “Bean’s” visit to Chicago in the summer of 2010.

For those of you who haven’t been here long, Kate is my close friend from high school and Bean is her daughter.

I have spent lots of quality time with Bean and her family over the years. I went to Europe with them for a week when Bean was a toddler. I spent a week at their house shortly after Bean’s little brother (formerly known here as Squeaks) was born. (Dinner conversation with five-year-old Bean is here, Kate.) That visit to Chicago in 2010 was a few days long and I hung out with Bean while Kate was at a conference. Of course there have been many short visits, whenever I’m in Knoxville.

By the way, Bean is now a very grown-up twelve. I’m feeling super old over here.

Going through the photos from that visit was a blast from the past. We did all the tourist stuff, and one day when it was just Bean and me, we spent hours and hours at the Adler Planetarium. The Adler Planetarium is a place that everyone should visit. That day, Bean and I had a blast. We found a huge play area for kids right after lunch and that little girl made friends and built things and crawled through tunnels and played games; it was well worth the price of admission.

Right outside of the Adler Planetarium happens to be a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline. Before we went to find a cab to go meet up with Kate, we spent some time on the grassy area. Bean ran around after the seagulls, imitating their calls: “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”

It was the cutest thing. I have it on video and can’t wait to show Kate now, years later, along with all of the pictures I took.

Reviewing that visit, I’m filled with warmth and feeling so lucky to have great relationships with the children of my friends. I can’t lie, playing the cool “aunt” is pretty fun.

I think that’s a pretty nice way to end this month of blogging (almost) every single day: grateful for the youngsters in my life and the way they make me smile.

Outside the Adler Planetarium

Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

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