Night of 1,000 Jack o’Lanterns

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From Night of 1,000 Jack o’Lanterns

This weekend from Thursday through Sunday the Chicago Botanic Garden is holding the Night of 1,000 Jack o’Lanterns. I got tickets in advance which turned out to be essential since it’s sold out for all days.

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The event is well planned. Our time to enter was 7:45 pm and though we arrived at the gardens on time the line to enter was long, so we should have come earlier. After parking, and we lucked out that they directed traffic so well that we must have hit the period when those who came at 5:30 had all left so we got to park in the lot nearest the visitors’ center. After entering we found long lines, but they moved swiftly.

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Sea Monster

Once inside we were delighted by Halloween music and dozens of jack o’lanterns, large and small. Well, huge and mid-size is more accurate. The “small” jack o’lanterns were the size most families buy and the big ones were perhaps 3 feet high. The jumbo ones were carved by artists and were grouped by themes. Themes included musicians, Chicago sports, Flora of Illinois, Fairy Tales, and Classic Halloween.

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After about an hour we reached a fork in the paths. One side led to the exit and the other to the model train exhibit. Though I’ve seen the model train exhibit, which consists of models of American sites like the French Quarter in New Orleans, the Hollywood sign or Wrigley’s Field, we decided to go again. I’m so glad we did. They’d decked out the buildings made of twigs and the trains with ghosts, goblins, witches, pumpkins and such.

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Then after exiting the model train exhibit we got to see two more themes of jack o’lanterns: Fairy Tales and Classic Halloween.

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Tickets are sold out. For members they were $12 and for non-members $14.

Parking for members is free and it costs $25 for non-members.

 

 

The New Sunset Ridge

Our district built a new school to replace an 85 year old building. Last night Sunset Ridge held an open house to show the taxpayers and stakeholders what this $25,000,000+ school.

Learning Center (a.k.a. Library) Check Out Desk

Maker Space

Maker Space

 

 

 

 

A Little Strange

Friday was the annual Sports Day here on campus. What was weird is that all the other years I’ve been here the university was intent on making sure all the International Teachers participated in the opening ceremony. This year we were invited to the event at 9:30am, after the opening ceremony had concluded.

What’s wrong?

Was our marching that bad?

I went to a marvelous party . . .

Yesterday I went to a dinner at the Japanese Consulate General’s home for a thank you dinner. A couple weeks ago I volunteered to interview candidates for the JET Programme, which sends thousands of assistant language teachers and entry level officers in government international bureaus.

The consulate general lives in a lovely, national landmark homes in Evanston. First there was a cocktail hour followed by a sit down dinner. I lucked out and got to sit at the table with the Consular General and his wife. The other guests at the table were three former JETs and a professor from Loyola University Chicago, my alma mater.

The consul general was very down to earth and approachable as was his wife. He loves Chicago steak houses and has covered a fair amount of ground exploring the US and the city. His wife was very graceful and unassuming.

It was fun to be able to share memories of Japan and learn what people are doing post-Japan.

 

Downton Abbey, Season 5 Premiere

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After months and months of hype and waiting, Downton Abbey’s fifth season began in the U.S. It’s a favorite show of mine, but I’ve never seen so much promotion. For crying out loud I saw three ads for Downton on CBS’ Sunday Morning — they’re in competition. CBS just had one promo for The Good Wife, which is on opposite Downton. Did PBS advertise on other networks as well?

It felt good to see the familiar faces of the Crawley clan and their servants. The costumes are always stunning. Julian Fallows offered his usual fare: verbal digs from the Dowager Countess, plots from Thomas, Cora going along with most everything, light moments with Mosely, Edith unsure and worried, and Mary capably preparing to take over the reins of Downton while mulling over her suitors.

Fallows packed a lot into the episode, which picked up where the last one left off although I was surprised that while the adults haven’t aged much, the children’s ages seem to have doubled. We learned that little Sybil calls her grandfather “Donk” as in donkey. How perfect! I love children’s names for grandparents and this one will keep Robert humble.

SPOILERS

While dedicated fans have already seen the new episode, let me note the following comments contain spoilers .

I’m glad that Miss Baxter told Cora that Thomas was using her and confessed that she’s been to jail for theft. Cora was discrete and fair with Baxter, who now can work without constantly worrying about Thomas.

  • There was no revelations about Bates. Perhaps he killed Anna’s rapist; perhaps he didn’t. It’s hard to say.
  • Edith seems to visit her daughter Marigold at the farmer’s house quite a lot. The farmer’s wife suspects that Edith’s got eyes for her husband, but I’d think these visits would be conspicuous to neighbors too. Alternative theories would come up and someone would get it right. Anyway, the husband’s sharp and he proposes the visits stop and agrees for a new story to explain them, because Edith can’t stop. Funny that she spends more time with her daughter than Mary does with her son, George.
  • Edith’s going to blow it. We all know that. The idea to bring Marigold to England was foolish and too tempting. I do have sympathy for Edith, but it irks me to see foolishness in any form. I’d love to see Edith get some gumption and hard as it is, send her daughter back to Switzerland. Then she should find a life’s passion and throw herself into it. Be a victor, not a victim, Edith!
  • Lord Gillingham visited Downton to woo Mary. Blake’s no where to be seen and Mary seems like the “out of sight, out of mind” type of woman. Any thought of Blake was fleeting. She’s agreed to go off with Lord G. to see if they’re compatible. I’m not sure that’s really historically accurate. Besides a week’s vacation isn’t a great way to learn about a person, especially when you’re traveling first class insulated from life’s trials and tribulations. The tryst is to be hush hush, but all secrets come out on TV. Seems to me there are other ways to gather the information Mary seeks. Also, is this going to be like the horrendous Bachelorette show? Will Mary give Blake a similar week?
  • Daisy’s starting to try to learn math. She’s struggling, but hats off to her for trying to take charge of her life. It’s funny how the high ranking staff had a pow wow about this. Carson and Mrs. Patmore worry that it’s too stressful for Daisy who already has a good job, in their opinion, while Mrs. Hughes supports Daisy’s desire to get more education.
  • As a surprise, Rose decides to invite the teacher Tom befriended to Cora and Robert’s 35th anniversary dinner. This Miss Bunting sets my teeth on edge. Throughout the evening she makes controversial statements such as questioning the need to remember the heroes of WWI (which we still do 100 years hence) and tries to cause trouble. She lacks the awareness to know that you can disagree, but you needn’t be rude and rabble rousing only rouses rabble. Tom’s just embarrassed and it took every ounce of patience and decorum for Robert not to toss this guest out on her tush. Miss Bunting was just boorish and self-serving. Her aim was to stir things up so she could then confirm her prejudices about the upper class. I really don’t like her and would love it if Fallows dropped her from the series, but I do doubt that. I fear Miss Bunting will go after Tom. What a pain!
  • Romance was on the horizon for Isobel Crawley, but Violet interfered as only she can. Violet does not want Isobel (Matthew’s mother) to marry a lord and gain status. So she hosted a big lunch inviting Dr. Clarkson, who’s sweet on Isobel and a beautiful widow who might divert Lord Whoever’s eye’s away from Isobel. It’s too soon to know whether that worked.
  • Robert’s nose got out of joint because the town committee wants Mr. Carson to lead the committee on the WWI memorial. Carson was as if not more upset by this unusual choice. My everything’s in flux!
  • Jimmy’s old employer showed up and they had a thing in the past, which gets rekindled. Almost literally.
  • The show ended with a house fire starting in Edith’s room. I’m not sure what happened. Did Edith try to burn that book with Gregson’s writing in it? Anyway Thomas was lurking in the halls trying to get dirt on Mary and to act as a lookout for Jimmy when he noticed smoke coming from Edith’s room. He swooped in and rescued Lady Edith, thus securing his job, which was on the line since his plot against Miss Baxter was discovered. I like justice so it would be fine with me if Thomas were fired. They can always bring in another devious footman and show Thomas in town, plotting against the family. I’m sure blackmail is in his skill set, as Lady Mary may learn.

I think Fallows could have made more of the fire. It was hard to believe the fire department could get their as fast as they seemed to and even with Robert and Tom’s quick response, I’m surprised there wasn’t more damage.

WWI Truce

Sainsbury, a British store, has put together a lovely video on the truce between the Germans and British soldiers in WWI. The story goes that on Christmas in 1914 there was a truce during the battles of WWI and during that time the British and German took a risk and ventured out to meet each other. They wound up exchanging stories, memories, treats and played football (soccer to Americans).

On the radio today I heard that the armies had to move these soldiers to different areas because they had lost the desire to kill that had once been there.

The Jungle

Friday I saw a marvelous play adapted from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Staged by the Oracle Theater, a cast of about a dozen actors brought the meat packing industry and Chicago slums to life. While The Jungle’s most known for exposing the terrors of the food industry, the book and the play both reveal how immigrants were swindled through bad real estate brokers and others trying to make a quick buck.

How on earth would you depict the slaughter of cows in a tiny theater? Or a big one for that matter. The Oracle did this with amazing creativity using large rolls of butcher paper, ink and woodblocks to imprint the cows before the audience. The paper also served as a screen to project the waves of Lake Michigan or a canvas for painting the bars of a prison.

The show offers much more than ingenious stagecraft. Every performer gave a compelling performance which featured lots of singing.

As if a good play isn’t enough, the price is outstanding. The play was free. The Oracle Theater models its finance on public radio where subscribers donate what they can on a monthly basis. If you can’t pay, that’s fine as The Oracle wants everyone to be able to see a good play.

I do hope they succeed and are around for years to come.

Tickets are available at publicaccesstheatre.org. Street parking is readily available.