Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Mom’s Visit

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Mom Chicago

Last week, my mom visited us for the first time. Even though she had visited the Windy City when she was a child, she hadn’t seen Chicago as the modern, world-class city it is today.

Since she was arriving at night, I knew I had the perfect opportunity to show off one of the best views of the city at the Museum Campus. If I had a wide angle lens and the ability to use a long exposure, this photo would look quite impressive:
city at night

Afterward, we had a nice meal in our neighborhood at Feast, where I forewarned her that tomorrow we would be doing a lot of walking. I wouldn’t be kidding.

The next morning, we fueled up before our big day at our favorite breakfast spot, Toast. My mom went with my recommendation, the pancakes with mascarpone and toasted pine nuts. Here she is about to enjoy them:

pancakes toast

So good. And since Toast is so filling, we were good until dinner time. We proceeded to walk off our meal, first checking out a garage sale near the Damen Blue Line, and then getting on the train to venture downtown.

The next few hours were spent shopping on State Street. Apryl had some ideas, including the massive Filene’s Basement and the beautiful interior of the once Marshall Field’s:

Marshall Field

One of the biggest hit, though, might have been my mom’s finding, Loehmann’s. My mom has a strong devotion towards this department store. When its branch closed in Memphis, she was one of the last to leave before they locked up the doors for good. She told me it had been seven years since she had stepped foot in one. So, she was a bit excited when she looked up and saw the Loehmann’s signs beckoning her in from the cold (did I mention there was a chill in the air?):


Inside Loehmanns

However, as much as my mom loved rediscovering an old favorite, she might have been the most impressed with Apryl’s favorite downtown spot, the Chicago Cultural Center. It is here where one can see the awe-inspiring, world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome:

Tiffany Dome

There was also an interesting Louis Sullivan exhibit:

Louis Sullivan

After hours of shopping and sight-seeing, we finally regained our appetite. And, you know that we couldn’t show off Chicago to my mom without a little pizza from a certain place:


After stuffing ourselves, we walked down Michigan Ave and to the John Hancock Observatory:

John Hancock

And here are some views:

View 1

View 2

View 3

View 4

The last image captures the fireworks going off at one of the nation’s most visited tourist attractions, Navy Pier.


On Sunday, my mom and I went to breakfast by ourselves at France’s Deli, which I believe serves the best pancakes in the city. My mom thought they were quite tasty.

Since it was cold, we decided to skip out on a boat tour, and instead checked out the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest conservatories in the United States. It is quite impressive. I would love to check it out again in the summer as well as in the winter, especially when there is snow on the ground. I took a lot of photos so here are just a few:

Mom at Garfield

Hayden and Apryl at Garfield

Mom at Garfield 2

On the way back home, I took a detour to show my mom Harpo Studios:


That evening, my Mom and I went out by ourselves to dinner at Buona Terra in Logan Square. Great food. Great company. We had a nice conversation about our family history over some tasty Italian food.

The next day, I took my mom on a driving tour of Chicago. We started on the South Side in Hyde Park neighborhood, home of the Museum of Science and Industry. I found a rare parking spot on the University of Chicago campus, and we walked around checking such places as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel:

Robie House


Leaving Hyde Park, we drove out to the far North Side to Evanston, where one can find Northwestern University and many, many beautiful homes.

On our way back to the city, we stopped in at the Chicago History Museum. Here my mom is in the Chicago Jazz and Blues exhibit:


That evening, we rejoined Apryl and took in the sights of Millennium Park:




Afterward, we walked across the street and had a wonderful meal at The Gage.

downtown night

As we retired for the evening, my mom got a kick out of seeing the street workers watering all the downtown plants. I didn’t get a shot of their watering trucks, but here is a freshly watered pot:


The next morning, we had some Dunkin’ Donuts before heading out to Midway. It was a bit sad seeing my mom go, but we had a nice visit. I’m glad that she got to see where I live and work. Perhaps next time, she will visit during the summer, and won’t have to worry about layering up. We could even go to the beach.

mom and i

For photos from my mom’s trip, click here.

Barons vs. Smokies – Attended Game #4 (6/2/10)

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Barons Baseball

Barons 7, Smokies 8

In early June, the 15th Annual Rickwood Classic returned to Birmingham, Alabama, as baseball fans celebrated Rickwood Field’s 100th birthday. That’s right, you read that correctly. 100 years! The hometown team Birmingham Barons, who are a Double-A affiliate for the Chicago White Sox took on the Chicago Cubs affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies.

Perhaps you remember how my dad and I made this classic ballpark pilgrimage last year as the Barons took on the Mississippi Braves (and lost, I might add). When we attended, we were well aware of the ballpark’s historical significance, but we didn’t know that we were witnessing its 99th year in existence. So, after the final out was made, we made a pact to return the next year to take part in the ballpark’s centennial. Only this time, we brought some company:

Outside Rickwood

As you can see from the above picture, my nephews Jackson and Andrew tagged along with us this time. The road trip took a bit longer than expected, so we didn’t arrive until a few innings into the game. When we arrived, we immediately fought our way through the crowd to the long lines at the concession stands. At first, we were in the wrong line, which cost us even more time and perhaps a good seat. However, once we got in the correct line, the wait was worth it since the hot dog (which is filled with sauerkraut) was mighty tasty. I was so hungry, I almost forgot to get a photo of it:

Rickwood dog

After we ate, we settled into our seats along the right field line and got ready for the bottom of the third inning. According to the nearly fully human operated scoreboard, the Barons were down by three runs as the Smokies scored five runs in the top of the 3rd. Still, it was early and anyone’s game.

Our seats

Above, you get an idea of the vantage point from our seats. Sure, we were a bit far from the action, but we were also covered which meant we were shaded from the harsh sun all day. I should note that seating at Rickwood is General Admission, which means first come, first serve. Unfortunately, since we arrived late to the park, we didn’t get choice seats. Still, our seats weren’t bad (an amazing seat in the Majors), only a bit far to get great photos with my zoom lens. However, I did manage to get some nice photos of the outfield:

Rickwood Outfield 2

Rickwood outfield

Here is a short video clip of the ballpark from our seats:

And video of the Barons nearly getting a single after the first baseman fumbles with the ball:

Later in the game, I ventured closer to the action to get some shots of the Barons at the plate. Here you can see the Barons sporting uniforms that mimic those worn back in 1910 when the ballpark opened:


And a Barons’ triple!

As for the game, the scoring would go back and forth. The Barons tied up the game in the 5th with three runs only to get behind again in the 7th when the Smokies posted up two more runs. The Barons would answer back with two runs themselves in the bottom of the 7th. The game would remind tied 7 – 7 throughout the nine innings, only to be broken by a home run in the 11th from the Smokies. The final innings were never dull, though, as the Barons threatened to score and win the game each inning. Perhaps, my dad and I are just bad luck for this Barons’ team?

After the 9th, a large section of the crowd left early, so we made our way to better seats behind home plate. Here was our vantage point from the 9th – 11th:

9th vanatage

Below, the Barons are intentional walked:

Despite the loss, the Barons gave the crowd of 9,448 a great game. That official number might not seem large compared to the 40,000 that show up for a Sox/Cubs major league game, but given the space limitations of the ancient park, this was surely close to a sell out.

After the game, the fans were allowed on to the field. Jackson and Andrew took the opportunity to get autographs and run around the bases:


Below, Andrew slides into home and really does a number to his leg:

Above, Jackson holds his souvenir Barons baseball while Andrew sports the Barons cap and hold on to his mini baseball bat.

Baseball is a renewed love of mine. And while I know that my father doesn’t share the same passion as I do about America’s national past time, I’m touched that he makes the effort. Because like baseball, it’s more than a game. How glad I am that I got to spend the summer day with him and my nephews.



Sunday, May 16th, 2010

RIP Grandma Jackson

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

I love you. And will miss you.

My dad’s winter visit.

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The Bean

Typically, we don’t get guests during the winter months. But, for my dad, who actually enjoys the cold weather, it was the perfect time for a visit. Now, usually when my dad comes up, we attend a sporting event. But this time, we stayed clear of the arenas, and instead entertained ourselves with a series of tourist stops and dining adventures.

Below are some photos from my dad’s visit:

My dad shows off his Chicken Parmigiana from Da Luciano, a small Italian restaurant that known for having a separate, gluten-free kitchen.

Dan's Tackle Shop

Here’s my dad at Dan’s Tackle Service, an oddity of a fishing store found right in our neighborhood. My dad and Dan had a nice conversation about Arkansas fishing.

Art Museum

During the entire month of February, admission is free at the Art Institute of Chicago. As you can see, we took advantage of it. My favorite thing my dad said, while staring at Grant Wood’s American Gothic, was “this is the only one? This isn’t a copy?” Nope, it’s the real deal.


We finally ate at a Rick Bayless restaurant. The above photo is my chicken chorizo tacos from Frontera Fresco, located on the 7th floor of Macy’s (once Marshall Fields) on State Street.

Chicago Cultural Center

On the left hand frame, you can see Apryl sharing information to my Dad about the Chicago Cultural Center.

WIllis Tower

Towards the end of our day on Saturday, we went to the SkyDeck at Willis Tower (better known at Sear’s Tower). This was our visit after the inclusion of The Ledge. My dad would not step foot out there for nothing. But Apryl and I did…

And, a short video:

Oh, and, I suppose I should share the view:

On Sunday, my dad and I visited the Chicago History Museum. Below, my dad points to where his seats were when he attend a White Sox game during a business trip in the 70’s at Old Comiskey Park.

Good seats!

Later that day, my dad and I ventured over to Montrose Harbor and caught this amazing view:

We also saw a few ice fishers:

That evening we watched the Saints win over the Colts while eating Chicago deep dish pizza from Lou Malnatis. Sorry, no evidence of this taking place.

On Monday morning, before my dad’s flight back home, we enjoyed a Chicago breakfast institute, Ann Sather. Below, their famous cinnamon rolls:

As always, it was nice spending time with my dad. I was hoping we would have snow blanketed over the city for him, but most of it was melted. There were a little flurries on his first night in town, but nothing compared to the 14 inches we are expected to have tonight, or the 8 inches expected when he arrived back in Memphis. Until next time…

Check out all the photos here.

Redbirds vs. Cubs – Attended Game #7 (5/29/09)

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Redbirds Our Seats

Redbirds 0, Cubs 5

Ever since my renewed interest in baseball, whenever we’re visiting Memphis, I look forward to catching a ballgame at AutoZone Park. And as Apryl mentioned in a previous post, that’s just what we did. Apryl and I had been talking about attending the Redbirds game on the 30th, but when I learned that on Friday night the Redbirds were going to be honoring Memphis’ Minor League past by donning Memphis Chicks uniforms for the evening, I knew that was our game!

I have fond of memories of watching the Memphis Chicks (Kansas City Royals affiliates) playing at Tim McCarver Stadium. Tim McCarver Stadium was notorious for being one of the ugliest of all Minor League parks. The reason for this was the oddity of having a grass outfield mixed with an artificial turf infield. It just looked awful. Of course, when I was younger none of this mattered. It was just exciting to be watching professional baseball even if the Chicks were only Class AA.

Now I’m not sure if I’m recalling this correctly, but I seem to remember one game on Independence Day when Bo Jackson was playing for the Chicks (This was a couple years away from the “Bo Knows” ads, but even then Jackson was seen as something special.). It was the bottom of the ninth inning with the game tied, and Jackson was taking a large lead off of third. And then suddenly, Jackson broke loose and sprinted homeward. He slid into home plate, was called safe, and the excitement was followed by a 4th of July firework display. Did this really happen? I mean it seems too perfect, right? (Sometimes baseball is magical.) I have been trying to research this game but even with the extensive stats on baseball, it’s quite difficult tracking down details on a Class AA Minor League game that took place over 20 years ago. It’s okay, I’ll live with my “memory”.

Unlike Tim McCarver Stadium, the Redbirds’ AutoZone Park is regarded as one of the best ballparks in the Minor Leagues. And while I personally haven’t visited many other Minor League parks, I find it hard to believe they could get any better than the one planted at 200 Union Ave. In my last baseball post, I mentioned how the Birmingham Barons left Rickwood Field in the city for a new park in the suburbs. It seems that’s quite common with cities that host a Minor League team. If it’s not in the suburbs it’s most likely not in the heart of downtown. The Redbirds could have easily done the same and built AutoZone park outside the city, perhaps near the Agricenter. But how can you compare making your way to the ballpark by passing The Peabody with walking through a large, concrete parking lot? If you favor the latter, I don’t think we would agree on much other matters.

That night, the Redbirds were taking on the Iowa Cubs. We actually got to the game a little late because Apryl, her sister Steph, and I were chowing down on some barbecue at the Bar-B-Q Shop. Which I might add was totally worth our tardiness. As we were walking into the park, I snapped this photo:

Redbirds Open

Sure, the surrounding scenery is impressive, but it’s the openness of the ballpark which really gets me. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the lower level of the Cell. In a lot of past games, I have walked throughout the game around the concourse, watching from multiple views, each one of them great. However, for that evening, we stayed in our seats for the entirety of the game.

And why move? My brother-in-law Adam, who works with the Redbirds, is quite gracious and lent me and Apryl his season ticket seats for the night. And as you can see from the photo that opens this blog entry, the seats were quite nice. We were right above the Redbirds dugout, so I was able to grab some nice photos of the team walking off the field, as you can see:

Redbird Chick

How bizarre to see that Chicks’ logo on an active jersey again!

Also being so close to the Redbirds’ dugout put us in direct view of the Chicks’ Indian mascot showing the crowd how to do the tomahawk chop. The Tomahawk Chop, which Apryl found a bit embarrassing, is more commonly associated with the Atlanta Braves. However, when I was following the Braves through my youth, I don’t remember this chant. Perhaps, it’s because I was a fan during the rough years, before their successful run in the 90’s. Anyway, squirm if you like:

As for the game, it was pitcher’s duel until the ninth inning when the Redbirds started playing similar to the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs last season, and gave up five runs to the Iowa Cubs. During that horrendous 9th, I saw something I had never seen in baseball, a huddle. Really, just like you see in football. See below:

the huddle

Unfortunately, whatever was said, didn’t effect the results. After several careless errors, the game got away from the Birds, and the Cubs took the victory.

Evidence perhaps why I shouldn’t shoot baseball games. I completely loose control of the shot when out of the corner of my eye, I see that the shortstop is about to make an error.

Cubs win.

No worries though. As long as there’s a house band, no one leaves disappointed!

And we sure didn’t. It’s always nice to catch a ballgame at AutoZone. Heck, it was nice to be at a ballgame in May without having to wear a coat. Thanks Steph and Adam.

Hayden and Steph

Go Redbirds! Go Sox!

Southern Tour, May 2009, Part 2: Birmingham and Nashville

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Hayden had to get out of Memphis a second time, for a day trip to a baseball game in Birmingham. A few days later, on our way back to Chicago, we all stayed the night in Nashville with Hayden’s sister Paige and her family.


On Wednesday, Hayden and his dad got to cheer on Hayden’s favorite baseball team, a mere 650 miles away from U.S. Cellular Field. The fates must truly support Hayden’s love of the White Sox. Somehow the stars aligned so that my mom’s surgery was scheduled the day after Memorial Day, putting Hayden in prime position to get to Birmingham the following day for the Rickwood Classic. Only once per season, the White Sox’s AA affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, play at Rickwood Field, “America’s oldest ballpark.” Even being hoarse from his sore throat, Hayden couldn’t help feeling in heaven.

Rickwood Classic Ballpark

Exterior of Rickwood Field, the oldest operating baseball park in the United States

Rickwood Field Hayden up to bat

Hayden up to bat at Rickwood Field

I won’t relate all the details of the stadium and the game, only because Hayden promises to write a full recap later. More photos and video are here.


On Sunday, we headed to Nashville—followed closely by Ashley, Sydney, and Clayton—to see Paige, her husband Mike, and their kids, Jackson, Andrew, Reid, and McKenzie Hayden. I don’t know what could have made their dog, Greer, think of making a brief escape. Hayden and I also went out that evening, not for escape, but to see our friend Brad. Fortunately, Eva had plenty of distractions to keep her from wanting to leave Paige’s house.

McKenzie Hayden gnaws on a toy by the pool

McKenzie Hayden gnaws on a toy by the pool

Ashley, Hayden, and Paige

Ashley, Hayden, and Paige by the pool

Drew Greer and Sydney

Andrew, Greer, and Sydney after Greer’s escape and capture

Eva on the "Get it" rug

Eva on a maize, aka “get it” rug

On Monday, we packed up the car and had a smooth drive back to Chicago—except for half an hour of bad thunderstorms in Indiana.

A thunderstorm on I-64 in Indiana

More photos and video are here.

Southern Tour, May 2009, Part 1: Greer’s Ferry and Memphis

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Starting Memorial Day weekend, we spent nearly two weeks in the South, visiting family and friends.

Greer’s Ferry

Eva and I stayed put most of the trip, she at Hayden’s dad’s place in Collierville, and I at my parents’ house in Memphis. However, Hayden left town the day after we got to Memphis. He went to his dad’s place in Greer’s Ferry, Arkansas, to fish and, of course, look for Bigfoot with his dad, sister Ashley, niece Sydney, and nephew Clayton.

Dad and Sydney fishing

Hayden’s Dad and Sydney fish in Greer’s Ferry Lake

Sadly, both Hayden and our old Canon ELPH digital camera got sick. Fortunately, Hayden’s sore throat and coughing subsided after about a week. Unfortunately, the little digital camera didn’t make it. Don’t worry though; there are still plenty of photos from the rest of the trip. Somehow Hayden was able to get over his loss and pick out a new camera, with his friend Daniel’s help, the very next day. More photos and video are here.


I started my trip, without a camera, by hanging out with my sisters Lisa and Stephanie and seeing Summer and Elaina and their adorable kids Silas and Eva (not named after our cat). On Sunday morning, we brunched with our friends Brett and Vanessa. Later, Hayden saw his friends Daniel and Melanie, in town from LA, while I had a girls’ night with some friends from high school and college. Because two of the girls are moving away this summer, one to northern Georgia and the other only 2.5 hours south of Chicago (yay!), I commandeered the new camera.

Amber, Charlotte, Jennifer F, Caroline, Apryl, and Jennifer B R

Amber, Charlotte, Jennifer F, Caroline, Apryl, and Jennifer B R celebrate the last girls’ night for a long while

After sleeping most of Sunday and Monday, Hayden woke up long enough to go to a Memorial Day cookout with my mom, dad, sisters, and brother-in-law Adam. On Tuesday, I got up around 6:00 a.m. to go with the rest of my family to an outpatient surgery center for my mom’s gallbladder surgery. That woman has a higher pain tolerance than anyone else I know; she took only four pain pills and was back at work on Friday. Because she was so lucid Tuesday night and Wednesday, we were able to spend lots of time relaxing and chatting.

While my mom and I were lazing around, Hayden was with his mom cleaning out things in his old bedroom—including lots of old baseball cards—on Tuesday and with his dad at a baseball game in Birmingham on Wednesday (see more in Part 2).

Baseball Cards

Hayden’s tin of baseball cards

On Thursday, Hayden had lunch with his friend Greg, and I with my friend Becky. Then Hayden did a show on WEVL. After a nice chat with Judy, we went to dinner with my sisters and brother-in-law and stopped by Lisa’s house so Hayden could see how big her crazy cat J.P. Hubert has gotten.

On Friday, we introduced Stephanie to the Bar-B-Q Shop (she and Adam went back a week later) and enjoyed watching the Redbirds play in old Memphis Chicks uniforms (thanks for the tickets, Adam!). We ended the night by staying out much later than we had intended, until 2:00 a.m. Our friend Caroline was having a going away party, and every time we turned around, more friends of ours showed up.

Redbirds vs Cubs Stephanie and Apryl

Stephanie and Apryl at a Memphis Redbirds’ game

We dragged ourselves out of bed on Saturday to have lunch with our friends John and Julie and dinner with Brian, Michelle, and their sweet-tempered, smart, and funny son, Joe.

Hayden Apryl Julie and John

Hayden, Apryl, Julie, and John after a delicious lunch

Joe going down the slide, aka escalator

More photos and video are here.

Stephanie and Adam’s May 2009 Visit

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Last week, my sister Stephanie and brother-in-law Adam visited. They got the ultimate welcome from Eva, being used as beds, in less than an hour.


Adam and Steph with Eva


Hayden was thrilled to have someone who also loves baseball to sit by at games. Steph and I enjoyed chatting and occasionally watching the action on the field. Don’t worry, we didn’t talk loudly enough to disturb people who cared about baseball—not that anyone would have noticed since we were surrounded by kids on a field trip at the Cubs game and a large group of loud talkers at the Sox game.


White Sox vs. Tigers 5/7/09  Adam and Hayden


Wrigley Field Cubs vs. Giants 5/5/09 Steph and Apryl


Steph and I were also super excited to go to Harry Potter: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry. No photos were allowed of costumes and props, except for the Flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. However, you can see photos and video at The exhibit will also tour other cities in the United States, Europe, and Asia over the next five years, after its debut run in Chicago ends in September.


Apryl and Steph with Flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter


Of course, we also made time for shopping and Giordano’s stuffed pizza throughout the week. You can see more photos here.

More family photos.

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Here are a few more photos from my family’s trip last week:

Ashley at Margie’s Candies which opened in 1921, one year before my Grandmother was born. She got the delicious Swiss Chocolate Hot Fudge Sundae. Yum!

Everyone dining on some delivery from Giordano’s. Yum, again!

My Dad about to eat his first Chicago style hot dog from the Vienna Beef Factory.

Eva says “hello” to Sampaw.

Check out the full photoset here.

And REMEMBER, Ash and Grandma might be seen on tomorrow’s episode of the Oprah show.