Who says there is no nature?

Am taking a break from homework (groan). Figured if I don’t write this down soon, I might soon forget or have school overwhelm me. It’s good to have some enforced downtime to do fun things like this!

While Summer is meant to be vacation time for many people, the husband spent much of it being fairly busy with his internship program. We also missed out a substantial block of time to go traveling because of my visa issues and my trip back home to Singapore. He was dying for a break. So on the suggestion of my boss over here, we decided to check out Galena – a little town at the border of Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Now, the husband is not a road trip kind of guy. He has chronic neck and shoulder pains, so sitting in a car for hours is not really his thing. I can’t really help him since I still get freaked out from driving on American highways. We couldn’t be so ambitious for our first road trip in the US, so we had to choose somewhere relatively near. Galena at 3 hours away was kind of just right for us.

Chicago/Illinois generally isn’t very scenic. With the exception of Lake Michigan, Illinois is basically landlocked without many natural wonders. It pales in comparison to the beautiful coast lines and national parks that you see very much of in the west coast. Most Chicagoians love their city but often bemoan about its lack of nature.

So we were lucky to have found this little respite in Galena. We were truly in awe when we saw beautiful vistas and rolling hills appear as we slowly left the hustle and bustle of city life behind. There were vineyards (who knew Illinois produced wine?!), cornfields, pear trees, blueberry bushes (though already bare) and more. There was even a mountain resort that had skiing available in the winter.

We rented a tiny cabin through Airbnb, situated on a farm that was a care facility for old farm horses. The farm was actually in another even tinier town called Elizabeth, about 20 something mins from the town of Galena. For $80 per night, we had an absolutely charming little cabin with the cutest kitchen and seating area. It also had an attic which we had to climb up steep stairs to, to get to our bed. Everything was just so clean and pretty and we had all the creature comforts including wifi!

The best part was that our baby Rusty could come along on holiday with us. We giggled at this cabin’s description on Airbnb. That it was not family-friendly but was dog-friendly! 😀 lol. The owner also had 2 very friendly dogs who wanted to play as well. Unfortunately our Rusty wasn’t very interested to run about with them. Though I have to give him credit for being a good boy and for not acting all huffy and puffy (i.e. naughty) when he met them.

We felt so comfortable in the cabin for the 2 nights that we were there. I think Rusty loved the calm and quiet too as his favorite activity was snuggling up with us on the couch (so rare I tell ya!), getting head rubs and enjoying the peace of the place.

Actually, the farm that we send Rusty to for boarding when we go away is located near Galena as well. So we teased him that his holidays are so wonderful. No wonder he doesn’t want to come home!

Our only full day was spent exploring Galena town itself. We walked  a short portion of a river trail and looked around this quaint little town that seems to be stuck in the 1800s. It was just one street, but every store a unique little place selling locally produced goods and wares. Sorry, no Starbucks or McDonald’s in sight. There wasn’t even a CVS (kinda like Singapore’s Watson) for me to pick up some extra toiletries. We picked up cheese, wine, jams, bourbon bbq sauce and yummy saltwater taffy from and old fashioned candy shop. Lunch was also at a local place that had cheap and good choices. Loved my breaded fried grouper and sweet potato fries. All homemade.

We only had a short trip there but felt relaxed and rested in such a tranquil setting. It’ll be hard to forget waking up to horses grazing on the field, beautiful sunsets and my most favorite part, being able to see a sky full of stars in the pitch black night. I never even knew our skies could be so dazzling in the night.

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Wild Peonies

“Look mama! Peonies!”

I had been really curious about this particular bush on our walkies with Rusty. There were lots of huge buds peeking through the leaves. And for the longest time, I was wondering what the flowers would look like when they bloomed.

Was pretty dumbfounded when they turned out to be peonies! I mean, these flowers are gorgeous and aren’t exactly the cheapest around to buy when you head to the florist. To see wild ones just hanging out in bushes in your neighborhood is such a pleasant surprise.

Can’t tell you how many times I have walked passed them these days wanting to pull some stalks off the bush! But the stalks are really thick, not easy to pull ( I promise I didn’t try!). And it does look better out there for everyone to enjoy them.

Am amused how a closed and opened peony can conjure different imageries. The closed ones look so delicate and romantic. While the opened ones with the yellow filaments reminds me of the old fashioned water color paintings seen in many Chinese inspired homes I’ve been to.

Food Truck Fail

Looks like I have really terrible luck in trying to stalk food trucks over here. I obviously missed out a whole chunk of the good stuff last Saturday during Dillo Day because I found out too late. There was a Wagyu Burger food truck please! *wails*

I thought I would have a good second chance this week as the NU International Office was holding a summer picnic in their building’s car park. It was touted as an event with the best Chicago food trucks.

It turned out to be very dis-a-ppointing!!!

Didn’t look quite right when we approached the venue as there was hardly any crowd. When we got closer, we could see why. There were only 3.5 food trucks parked. Why 3.5? Cuz one of them was just a tiny mini van which could hardly be seen among the bigger trucks. There was no queue either. The longest queue was for gelato, probably because it was free for all attendees.

The husband and I were planning to settle dinner here but the selection was meagre, only 2 trucks selling savory food. Decided to try 3 for $9 sliders but it was terribly sad. Am I wrong to expect a live kitchen on these food trucks or do I watch too much Food Network? I was given 3 sliders wrapped in foil once I paid up. It looked like everything was pre-made and was pulled out from some warmer or something. I was expecting more mini burgers but nope, just mini sandwiches. I had to have a second dinner after that.

Poor Rusty was freaked out by the food trucks. We suspect that he thought the food trucks were his groomer, who also comes along to pick him up and groom him in a similar truck. He spent most of the time cowering under his papa’s legs or rooting his legs to the ground. Aiya, so poor thing! But also very funny lah. Had to pick him up for a cuddle since he was shivering a little too.

And yes… the husband loves his Crocs. Or “Croaks” as he calls them since they are not by the original manufacturer. 😛

A Rusty Update

I thought I’d do a Rusty update today since it has been such a Rusty filled day and I took so many cute photos recently.

We brought him to the vet for his annual check up and vaccinations. Had to do some research beforehand to figure out the American requirements vs what we have been doing back home in Singapore. Interestingly, the American system actually believes in giving less doses of vaccinations compared to Singapore. For diseases such as Parvovirus, Canine Distemper and Canine Hepatitis for example, they only vaccinate on a 3 year basis. But in Singapore, it is an annual affair. Unfortunately for Rusty’s bum bum, we vaccinated him as per what we did in Singapore since we want to be up to date with Singaporean practices when we do eventually take him home. But urgh… am really not looking forward to all the work that needs to be done when the time comes.

I’ve noticed that the American vets are a bit less educational, if I can use that word. They don’t really offer advise to the owner much unless you ask specifically. In fact, they don’t really check very throughly and rely on the owner to point out specific issues. Last visit, we had a vet who pointed at some rash on Rusty’s leg and asked ME what it was. Errr.. how would I know right? Contrastingly, I would imagine my Singaporean vet pointing it out and right away telling me if she suspects that if it is an allergy or if it is fungal related. The bill today for consultation alone was $65! I think I better ask more questions next time if I want to make my money worth. 😀

Spring has been a lot more fun for Rusty since the warmer temperatures mean he can go for longer walks and even 8 miles (12km) runs with his Papa! He can run further than me! According to the husband, he will still be raring to go even when the run is complete. No wonder we found out that he lost 1 pound (0.5kg) when he was weighed today.

It’s kinda cute seeing him explore the world in Spring too. He stops to smell flowers (and sneezes after lol) and tries his darndest to chase the squirrels or bunnies he spots. Of course we never let him. We never risk putting him off leash when we are outside.

He’s been having really cute moments at home. Like stealing my bra!! But he has also been quite a handful and has gotten into 2 fights with our neighbors’ dogs! To be fair to him, he was provoked both times. However, we did have some other near misses when he was the one who started growling first. Thankfully, no physical injuries whatsoever. The husband and I are the traumatized ones.

Rusty has also been very vocal recently and barking quite a lot. He can now hear and smell lots of things in our courtyard below since we used to close the windows tightly throughout winter. The only way to quieten him sometimes is to satisfy his curiosity and let him have a peek at what’s below. If it is not another dog, he is usually satisfied and will stop his whining. 

Other times, I do think it is a call for attention since I can go for long stretches not interacting with him on some days. I have no human children but perhaps it’s the dog equivalent of throwing a tantrum? I try to be more cognizant these days and will drop what I am doing to give him some undivided time. The other day, he just needed some cuddles and tummy rubs and all was well again. And trust me, having a dog sprawled on your lap is the best mood lifter that anyone could ever have.

Toto and The Wizard of Oz

I didn’t give the movie The Wizard of Oz much thought till a few years ago. To me, it was just another old children’s movie with creepy flying monkeys and a scary green witch. I even found the munckins pretty scary too. I suppose I was too young to notice the “moral” of the story when I first watched it as a child.

To be honest, I took a lot more notice of it when I got Rusty as a pet. Knowing that Toto and him are the same breed really excited me. And I squeal each time I spot Toto in the movie. I grab Rusty too and ask him to watch along as well. Not surprisingly, he will try to squirm away. heh

But you know, the story has a great meaning to it. And that is, whatever you are wishing for, you already have it.

The Scarecrow wished for a brain. But he ended up being the leader of the motley crew and devised a way to save Dorothy from the witch.

The Tin Man wished for a heart but he cared for his friends the most.

The Lion wished for courage but he bravely fought the witch and her henchmen to save Dorothy.

Dorothy had run away from home thinking that no one loved or understood her. She later realized the folly of her ways.

We caught the stage version of story just over the weekend in downtown Chicago. It was an ok production. I thought the sets were not particularly impressive. And maybe because we know the storyline, it was a little boring at some points. They used a real Cairn Terrier to play Toto though! The husband and I had a whale of a time watching the doggie actor on stage. I saved my loudest cheers for him when the curtain call came. 😀

It was pretty cute too that the doggie actor was acknowledged in the cast. Nigel the dog played Toto that day. He has an understudy too! And the understudy’s name is…. what for it… Loki! bwahaha… I thought it was pretty funny, but the husband thought Nigel was funnier. Guess we have a different sense of humor.

And I just couldn’t resist buying a Toto stuffed toy from the souvenir stand! Even the coloring of the toy is almost the same as Rusty’s, with little streaks of light brown in the hair.

Rusty wasn’t very impressed. But at least he didn’t think it was a real dog and try and bite it or anything. I love looking at him and his mini-me.