Suburban Travels – Mount Prospect


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Mount Prospect will be celebrating its centennial in 2017 and it has a lot to celebrate. The Village motto, “Where Friendliness is a Way of Life”, although not something that can easily be said of its notorious neighbor, Chicago, may quite well be true of this flourishing, northwest suburb.




The Village Hall, Police & Fire Station and Library serve a community of some 55,000 people many of whom use the train to commute back and forth to work and school.  The train station parking lot becomes home to the farmer’s market on Sunday mornings as well as Bluesmobile Cruise Nights on Saturday evenings.



You can’t go too far in Mount Prospect without coming across the name Busse; florist, car wash, avenue, road and park, all named after one of the area’s more prominent families.




There are several parks in Mount Prospect, the largest of which is Melas Park which is shared with the neighboring Village of Arlington Heights. Here you’ll find some nice walking paths as well as baseball, football and soccer fields.  Melas also hosts the annual 4th of July carnival and firework display.



Clearwater Park, although smaller, has a walking track and tennis courts and is a surprisingly great place to see wildlife, especially water birds, including heron, egrets and cormorants.



Tucked into a corner of downtown Mount Prospect is a miniscule park named after one of the Village’s founding families, the Moehlings.  Built in 1880, The Old General Store, once owned by the Moehlings, is the oldest commercial building in the village and was moved in 1999 from its original location to where it now stands, next to the park. It currently houses Campanari’s Ice Cream Parlor. 




Many years ago Mount Prospect boasted the first enclosed mall in the Chicago area and the largest enclosed air-conditioned space in the United States.  Back when we lived in the city, going to Randhurst Mall was considered something of a treat, a great “day out” especially in the winter when walking around an indoor mall was a comfortable and convenient way to shop.

Built in the 1960’s, at the height of the cold war, the mall included a fall-out shelter that was large enough to accommodate every citizen of Mount Prospect, which must have been a very comforting thought for the residents in those days.   The multi-level mall had a food court and a carousel and was anchored by several large department stores which over the years included Weiboldt’s, JC Penney, Bergner’s and Montgomery Ward.

But once Schaumburg’s Woodfield Mall came on the scene followed by other more upscale shopping centers that quickly blossomed in the surrounding towns, poor old Randhurst went into a decline and was eventually torn down to make way for a new ‘lifestyle center’ called Randhurst Village.





Despite its new-found glitz and glamor, however, Randhurst Village has, in my humble opinion, all the personality and appeal of a damp sock.  I miss the old indoor mall! 


You don’t see this something like this every day, especially in an apartment or condo complex. These columns, sunk into the lake at Huntington Commons were, according to an online source, originally part of the old Federal Chicago Building which was demolished in 1965.





stmp-23Although technically located in Des Plaines, Friendship Park Conservatory, which sits right on the border with Mount Prospect, is maintained by the MP Park District and is home to the Mount Prospect Garden Club.  The Conservatory has a banquet hall as well as a seasonally decorated atrium which makes it a poplar place for weddings.  The plant sale, held just before Mother’s Day, is always well attended and the Christmas festivities, I’m reliably informed, usually include a visit from one of Santa’s reindeer, although the only animal I encountered on a recent visit was what looked suspiciously like the Easter Bunny.


Huzzah and Gadzooks!


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Hovering on the borders of Wisconsin and Illinois, Bristol has been home to an annual tradition that dates back more than 30 years and, for just a few brief weekends during the summer months, people flock to this extravaganza by the thousands.



It used to be called King Richard’s Faire, then the name changed to The Bristol Renaissance Faire, but whatever name it goes by, it all adds up to an expensive day out.  As with most amusement parks and fun fairs, there are parking and entrance fees, but it doesn’t end there. Once inside, you are confronted by hundreds of opportunities to part with more money; face painting, kiddie rides, exorbitant prices for food and drink, not to mention those quaint little stalls that sell everything from jerkins to gherkins. So be prepared!huzzah-6


Don’t get me wrong. Despite complaining about the expense, I still love visiting the Faire. The opportunities for photography are excellent and the entertainment value is well worth the price of admission.  Sword fights, bawdy comedy, juggling, jiggling and jousting are all part of fun at the Faire.


And it isn’t only us who keep coming back. Many of the performers and artisans are the same people we encountered years before, as I discovered when I compared a picture of our daughter, who was then in junior high, having her arm decorated, with a similar shot taken last weekend featuring her daughter having her face painted. I’ll swear it’s the same guy doing the artwork, and a very nice job he makes of it too.



Then there’s Broon.  I always wonder if he’ll still be around when we return after several years’ absence, and there he is, that popular performer, doing his thing with the bowling ball, fire brand and apple.  Huzzah!!


They’re all there, all the old faces, everyone from Moonie to the Mud Show with lots of new acts in between.  Most of them are hilarious and some are just plain creepy, like Gabriel Q, a puppeteer who, amongst other characters, appears as a most bizarre baby.huzzah-2


Trading insults with the knave in the stocks, or cheering the villain in the joust, it’s all good fun; stepping out of reality for just a few hours, into the make-believe world of the Faire.  Just bring plenty of cash. Gadzooks!!!



Mackinac Island And The Unintentional Bucket List


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Long before the term ‘bucket list’ became popular, stretching way back to the days of my childhood, I dreamed of seeing and doing things that I never in a million years really thought I would do.  Looking back over my life so far, I realize that there are actually several of those things that I can cross off my unintentional bucket list; seeing the Bolshoi Ballet, hearing and seeing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing in Salt Lake City, visiting Niagara Falls and, more recently, taking a trip to Mackinac Island.

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My desire to visit the island began when I first came to the USA. Living in the hustle and bustle of a city like Chicago, the idea of a place where motor vehicles were forbidden was rather appealing. In reality, you still have to watch your step when crossing the roads as there is a constant stream of bike riders zipping about and horse-drawn wagons, though going at a more sedate pace, are still a hazard.

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In fact, almost as soon as you step off the ferry, you notice the definite whiff of horse but that is certainly preferable to the more obnoxious odor of petrol fumes. As attractive as a carriage ride seemed, however, we opted to get about on foot, which gave us the ability to stop whenever we wanted and take side roads and diversions at will.

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We climbed up the hill to historic Fort Mackinac which was established by the British during the American Revolutionary War. From there we had a wonderful view of the harbor and surrounding area. The British didn’t give up the fort until 15 years after American independence but apparently there was still one soldier who had been left behind and the canon is only fired now for demonstration purposes.

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Naturally, being a major tourist attraction, most things on the island are very picturesque (the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark) and churches, houses and hotels cried out to be photographed.

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On the subject of hotels, strictly speaking, my original fantasy of visiting Mackinac Island had centered around staying at the Grand Hotel but when I tell you that they wanted $10 per person just to walk inside (if your weren’t registered there) you will probably understand why we opted to stay on the mainland. I was quite happy to look at it from the outside. Alright! I’ll admit to a smidgeon of envy as I watched guests strolling around the gardens and pulling up to the forecourt in horse-drawn carriages.

The Grand Hotel

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But I still got to see the flowers and the beautiful scenery on the way back to the harbor.  Once again, we were very lucky with gorgeous weather and we were able to sit and enjoy the view out over the lake.

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The ride back to Mackinac City on the Star Line hydro-jet ferry was exhilarating and we managed to get a closer shot of both lighthouses as well as the Mackinac Bridge on the way in.

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Of course, there is a lot more to the island than what you see here, but as usual we were on a limited time schedule and I was just thankful that I’d been able to visit and cross one more item off my unintentional bucket list.


Suburban Travels – Lombard


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Off again on our Suburban Travels, when we take a closer look at some of the cities, towns and villages that we often drive through on our way around the Chicago area. This time we stopped in Lombard; mostly because it’s lilac time.

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Every May I try to make the trip to visit Lilacia Park in Lombard. For some reason the heavenly scent of lilacs reminds me of my home back in England. It was always one of my mother’s favorite fragrances.

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The garden was established by Colonel William Plum and his wife, Helen, and after the Colonel’s death in 1927 the grounds were left to the city of Lombard to be used as a public park.  Apparently Col. and Mrs. Plum weren’t the only lilac fans in Lombard as the park is always busy during Lilac Festival week.

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The garden is beautifully kept and in addition to the lilac bushes, which only bloom for a short period, there are plenty of other flowers to see year-round. Lilac time is usually tulip time too so the park looked especially colorful.

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Not only is there a profusion of lilacs in Lombard but there are also lots of churches. I counted 16 just in the area around the park. By far the most picturesque is the Maple Street Chapel.  Built in 1870, it replaced a previous church that was destroyed by fire. The building is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and although regular services are no longer held there, the church is available for weddings and concerts.

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Just a little way up the road on Main Street is what is affectionately referred to as The Little Orphan Annie House.  Built in 1881 by Dr. William LeRoy, a specialist in making artificial limbs for Civil War veterans, the house was eventually sold in 1927 to Harold Gray, creator of the popular Little Orphan Annie cartoon series. Gray had purchased the house for his parents and he lived there with them for two years before he remarried and moved out east.  I don’t think the house is open to the public which is a pity because I would love to have taken a lot more pictures from different angles but I could only gaze at it from a distance, out on the sidewalk. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture.

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In stark contrast, The Sheldon Peck homestead is definitely a no-frills abode. Built in 1839, it’s the oldest house in Lombard. Peck was a traveling portrait painter and Marino sheep farmer whose family owned the home right from its construction and into the 1990’s when the Lombard Historical Society opened it as a museum.

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Just across the street from the Helen Plum Memorial Library, which is located  on the southeast corner of Lilacia Park, is another building run by the Lombard Historical Society called Victorian Cottage. This museum has four rooms decorated in 1870’s style. Admission is free but although it was open for tours we decided to spend most of our time outdoors.  The sun was shining!







Suburban Travels – Joliet


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Our most recent suburban jaunt came at the end of last year in November when we went to visit Joliet. This is another one of those towns that we have driven through, a thousand times, but in which we have never actually stopped, so I thought it was about time that we got out of the car and took a look around.

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Joliet or, as it was originally known, Juliet, probably took its name from the French Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet who in 1673, along with Father Jacques Marquette, paddled up the Des Plaines river and camped just south of where the city stands today.

I have to admit that the idea of a day out in Joliet was prompted by our daughter who bought us tickets for the Joliet Area Historical Museum, so we made that our first port of call.

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For many years, in the late 1800’s, quarrying was the major industry in the area, earning Joliet the title of ‘city of stone and steel’ and the museum had a large exhibit covering this part of the city’s history.

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Another special exhibit featured the area’s famous Route 66. The route has followed many different roads over the years due to traffic congestion and construction and was eventually moved to bypass Joliet altogether.

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The museum occupies a space formerly known as the Ottawa Street Methodist Church and fortunately for us it retained the beautiful stained glass windows, although they can only be viewed to their best advantage from the 2nd floor gallery.

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One of the fanciest buildings in Joliet is the old Rialto Theater, also referred to as ‘The Jewel of Joliet’, which first opened its doors in 1926 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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There are other fine pieces of artwork scattered about the city, sometimes in the most unusual places. This beautiful sculpture/mosaic of violinist Scarlet Rivera is on the outside wall of an indoor parking garage.

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And this life-size statue of dancer Kathleen Dunham is outside the old Union Railway Station which now serves as a ballroom.

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It was a lovely day, surprisingly warm for November, and we spent some time walking along the Des Plaines river while taking a closer look at Cass Street Bridge.  I’m sure there were lots of other things that we could have seen in Joliet so I’ll definitely put it on my list of places to revisit.

Suburban Travels – Itasca


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I appear to have got rather behind with my Suburban Travels series. It seems that we really haven’t been out and about much at all over these past few months, especially since the cold weather set in.

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Last autumn we spent quite a lot of time further afield but, closer to home, Itasca has several points of interest, one of which is Springbrook Nature Center.

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Springbrook, which opened in 1980, is run by the Itasca Park District. Despite the fact that it’s in the middle of a built-up area and runs parallel to a busy expressway, there are two miles of hiking trails which run through woodland, prairie and marsh land which offer plenty of opportunities for spotting wildlife.

ST Itasca 5One of the reasons that we’ve been visiting Springbrook for many years is the fact that there used to be a fairly large pond that was home to waterfowl, frogs and water rats amongst other things, but unfortunately it has become overgrown with cattail reeds which now cover a large portion of the property and has dwindled down to a little more than a puddle fed by a small creek.

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When we were there earlier last April we saw masses of garter snakes slithering through the reeds, a frog doing some leg-stretching exercises and a toad beating a hasty retreat.

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A little bit up the road from Springbrook is picturesque Itasca Baptist Church which overlooks Wesley G Usher Memorial Park. On a nice day this is a pleasant spot to take a coffee break and sit and watch the swans.

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Just south of Usher Park is Songbird Slough Forest Preserve. This was another ‘first’ in our Suburban Travels. It’s truly amazing how you can live so close to something and not be aware of its existence.

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I found the positioning of this sign rather amusing, quite some distance from the water amid a profusion of wild flowers and grasses.

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Given the fact that Itasca is situated near one of the busiest airports in the USA it wasn’t surprising that we got to see and hear a constant stream of planes flying overhead, a reminder that even though we were standing in a rural setting we were still in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Suburban Travels – Hoffman Estates


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Once again, during our suburban travels, we have discovered a place that we hardly knew existed. Hoffman Estates is just a hop, skip and jump from where we live but I have rarely looked past the shopping malls or driven along anything other than Golf or Higgins, the main roads in the area.



Our first stop was at the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve which covers more than 1,800 acres of open grassland and wetlands and would appear to be a great place for birdwatching. We caught a glimpse of some nesting platforms at the heron rookery, but decided for our first visit to follow one of the tracks that lead from the parking lot, along the marsh area by the lake and then away into the fields.



Lots of little frogs hopping around underfoot and dragonflies hovering among the wild flowers. Being only 5ft 3ins tall, I was dwarfed by some of the teazle that was growing in abundance by the path.

There is a 7.2 mile paved trail that circles the preserve, popular with cyclists and people who take their walking very seriously. We weren’t feeling that adventurous but will probably give it a look-see next time we visit.


One place that we used to go to in Hoffman Estates was Poplar Creek, an outdoor concert venue which eventually closed in 1994. I remember seeing Luciano Pavarotti performing there in 1984 but it also played host to many other top-liners such as Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffet, and Jefferson Starship to name but a few.


Although I’m sure the people who lived within earshot were not sorry that it closed, I rather miss the old place. Poplar Creek was replaced in 2006 by the Sears Center Arena which is located in Prairie Stone Business Park, just a mile further up the road. On the day that we went to take a look at the Arena there was a Jehovah’s Witness Convention in progress and, looking at a list of upcoming events on the Arena’s website when we returned home, I can see no reason for returning anytime soon. It’s no Poplar Creek!!



The Sunderlage Farmhouse and its historic smokehouse are all that remains of the original Sunderlage property. In 1954 the 108 acre farm was sold to developers but the farmhouse is still owned and maintained by the Village of Hoffman Estates and is available for private rental. The smokehouse is believed to have been built some time in the 1840’s and is the only one of its kind in northern Illinois. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.


Like many photographers I’m drawn to the color red and I couldn’t resist stopping off at Vogelei Park to take a shot of the children’s play area. Also the beautiful wildflower area in the park.


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Two Very Different Items

Apparently this is another one of those posts that didn’t show up in the reader until quite late so I’ve given it a whirl on this blog as well.

Getting the Picture

Cee’s has set an interesting photo challenge this week calling for Two Very Different Items.

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I’ve heard of a bull in a china shop but climbing up a wall???? Outside the Talbott Hotel in downtown Chicago.

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I’ve also heard of Crate & Barrel but crate & bear??????

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I don’t think you’d find these two in Crate & Barrel; squirrel in a pan.

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A giant face, sculpted by artist Jaume Plensa, in Millennium Park, dwarfed by a nearby skyscraper in downtown Chicago.

For more on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge go to

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Perspective


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Cee has picked Perspective for her Fun Foto Challenge this week which is great because it has limitless possibilities since everyone see things from a different point of view or angle. Here are a few images from my photo files that I thought might illustrate the theme.

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One of those inadvertently lucky shots that turned out to be useful for just such a challenge; from this perspective the archway at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Bartlett appears almost to be part of the fountain.

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From this perspective the terraced landscaping, seen here at the McCormick Estate in Cantigny Park, seems to give the gardens, pool and drive an added depth and dimension.

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You won’t get this kind of perspective of the Fox River in Fox River Grove unless you are half-way up the slopes of the Norge Ski Club.

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I thought I’d also include some people who are getting to see things from a completely different perspective.

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And lastly a shot of Mount Rushmore from a slightly different angle. This was achieved by crouching rather uncomfortably between a rock and a hard place, so to speak.

To see some excellent examples of the theme Perspective go to

Travel Theme: Hats

Apparently there was a malfunction somewhere along the line and this post failed to show up on the reader. Hopefully you’ll be able to view it here.

Getting the Picture

Don’t get me started on hats!  Whatever happened to that essential fashion accessory that always finished off  any ensemble so perfectly? Even when our girls were growing up we used to love going to the local department stores to try on all the fancy hats. Sometimes they looked really good, other times we just had a laugh.  Of course people still wear hats but they are rarely worn as a fashion statement. (I don’t count baseball caps as fashion accessories, especially for women.)

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Some of the hats that you see today are worn strictly for ceremonial occasions or as part of an ethnic costume; dancers performing with the Ballet Folklorico in Elgin, a participant in the Polish Parade on Columbus Drive in Chicago and a Knight of Columbus forming part of the honor guard at a religious ceremony held in Grant Park, Chicago, for example.

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Some hats are worn more for protection…

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