by grace on March 11, 2019

it was just so warm and sunny there and i wasn’t thrilled about driving back to the cold and snow.

but i’m getting ahead of myself…before florida, there was the beginning of february, with sweet riley hanging outside as much as possible.

and then, bev and i took a short and fun trip up to chicago to see the Blue Man Group. i’d been dying to see them in their original habitat, the venue where it all began.

here we are before the show started.

it was a pretty good show…but the problem is that i’d built it up in my own mind so much that i was disappointed. when kevin and i saw it a few years ago here at sangamon auditorium, i felt it was the funniest, most wonderful performance i’d ever seen.

yeah, expectations too high.

this time it just wasn’t as funny. could it be because i’d seen it, i knew what to expect? but i feel that they did funnier things back then.

my biggest complaint with the chicago iteration is that it was deafeningly loud. when we first got to our seats, bev noticed that the kid next to her had a pair of earplugs in his lap. he told her they were free, and they were giving them out. he graciously scrabbled past the tightly-packed row of seats to get us some pairs, and he certainly saved my hearing quite a bit that night.

i know it wasn’t that loud when we saw the show here – maybe when they take the show on the road they think the small-town older crowd won’t appreciate the ear-shattering noise? or maybe sangamon auditorium is so big that they couldn’t crank it up full volume.

kevin suggested that maybe their sound people have been doing the show so long that they’re going deaf and so the show keeps increasing in volume over the years.

whatever the reason, it was annoyingly loud to me even with earplugs. at the end of the show i took them out and was amazed at how much louder it was.

we enjoyed ourselves despite this, and stayed at a lovely downtown chicago hotel. bev, because she’s a saint, drove us into the city, braving the crazy traffic, and then she decided she’d drive all the way home. nice.

so i guess this post isn’t really about florida yet…except here’s poor lester, who knew we were going to be gone and was desperate to go with us.

i love how riley looks like he’s praying here…please don’t leave us!

ok, soon, many photos and videos of florida.


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the rest of our trip to chicago…

by grace on January 12, 2019

whew, i really need to get back at this; need to finish up 2018 already!

We had a massive snowstorm last night, maybe 8-10 inches? so now i’m able to sit around for quite a while.

i took this photo of the building, lights and the moon as we strolled down michigan ave in chicago. the moon looked better in real life, as it always does.

it was a mighty long walk back to the Palmer House, but we stopped at the original Lou Malnatti’s pizza and had a delicious dinner.

we walked past the christmas market and for some reason it wasn’t quite as packed as it had been earlier in the day. we were able to actually step inside the fence, and were able to make our way – but there wasn’t a good option for actually getting close enough to any of the stalls to examine the wares. oh well, next time!

by the time we got back to the hotel it felt like midnight, and i think it was maybe 7:00. i roamed around looking at stuff, including their massive workout place. this is just part of the main workout room; there were also many other room where they held classes and stuff.

it was completely deserted. i took a photo of one of the funny pictures hanging there – lots of long-time-ago photos.

along all the corridors of the hotel were photos of celebrities who had performed there. i liked this one of sonny and cher – this was so long ago that cher had all of her real parts.

the lobby was so gorgeous.

it was crowded with people, but when we left early on sunday morning to catch the train there weren’t many people about. here’s the view from the top of the escalator…

…and the view in reverse.

the peacock doors, which were created by Tiffany. i found an interesting blog post about the doors:

we hurried by this jewelry store on the corner, and i took this photo because i vaguely felt it was somehow important…did mom buy dad her engagement ring there? now that she’s reading this blog, maybe she’ll figure out how to leave a comment. you never know.

we were back in springfield midday, so it was a super-speedy but fun little getaway.

but that only brings me to the middle of december…must keep posting…must keep posting…

ok then,

mrs. hughes 2019.



by grace on January 5, 2019

I’ve had this site since 2004. quite a few years. mom used to read it, but then she didn’t open her computer so much, then she just stopped altogether. when she got a fancy new iphone she started playing some of the games that i played on my phone, and I now play on my lovely ipad.

this year we bought mom an ipad for xmas so that she’d have the fun of playing the games on a much bigger screen. i was excited about this, and hoped she’d maybe read stuff online on the ipad and maybe even check her e-mail. i also put a link to my site right there on her screen, thinking that maybe she might visit it. and then just today she said “i looked at your site and you didn’t have anything new,” kind of disappointed-sounding.

wow! you go, mom! so now she’s not only getting to play her games on a big screen, but she’s also reading this site right here! amazing.

a nice start to the new year. right now mom has a cold, which is odd for her because she never gets sick. kevin had a cold at least three if not four times already this winter, but mom is never sick. hopefully she’ll have a speedy recovery because she does not like sitting around at home.

so…more photos from 2018…my friend erica and i took a quick trip up to chicago the weekend after kevin and i got back from davenport. erica had told me about going to the christmas market before, and i said, let’s go! it was all a little last-minute, but i booked us train tickets and found a great price at the palmer house hotel.

i love the train. i love to sit and watch the world go by, i love sitting on the train.

and i love the palmer house…i stayed there once with mom and dad, maybe in 2003. they’ve done something like $270 million worth of renovation to the place and i think it’s probably been done since we were there. i remember it being pretty swanky back then, though.

we arrrived midday and headed to the christmas market which is in daley plaza. i’d pictured the xmas markets i’ve read about in the UK and around Europe, and they sounded lovely and fun and christmas-magical.

it wasn’t. do you know what’s better than going to the chicago xmas market? not going.

here’s what the crowd looked like when we got there.

way too many people…

it was so crammed with people that we quickly realized it’d be madness to try to squeeze into the place. and if we had gotten in we wouldn’t have been able to move. we were both repelled by the whole thing and decided to avoid it altogether.

quickly running from the scene…

i got across the street but erica didn’t make the light – you can just see her on the far left, in a blue coat and red hat and purse.

we decided we’d walk up michigan avenue, and headed in that direction. as we went by the chicago cultural center i remembered that somebody once told me it’s a beautiful place, so we went in.

wow, how have i never been there before? it was incredible. it’s all done by Tiffany.

it was so spectacular, and the few people in the place were mostly lying on the floor taking pictures. it was a nice contrast to be in this gorgeous serene environment after the crazy mob scene just a few blocks away. I took a few photos of the info about the place, in case you’re interested.

a close-up of the dome, with the signs of the zodiac in one of the circles. photos can’t do it justice.

there were a few different inscriptions on the walls, as well.

the building had many steps and i was determined to climb to the top floor, where i looked down at the view. there were big crowds in millenium park, and it reminded me of when kevin and i were right there at the beginning of our trip to wales in 2015. we’d taken the train from springfield and had an hours-long layover. it was really hot that day and all kinds of people were pouring towards the park, and we found out that some famous days-long concert was happening. Lollapalooza! it was crazy. and hot. but that was years ago…

erica and i walked up michigan avenue and it was fun to be in a big city and the weather wasn’t bitterly cold, but it was wall-to-wall people in a pre-xmas frenzy. we marched all the way up to water tower place, and i feel that i haven’t been there in about 20 years. that might not be right, but i remember it seeming very ritzy at the time, but now it just looked like another overly-crowded mall.

as we headed back down the avenue we stopped in front of this bank – erica thinks it’s funny that their automated information helper is called erica. i think it’d be funny if she started saying to people walking by, “hi, i’m actually erica! can i help?”

i have a few more photos of our quick trip, so more later.

ok then, happy new year,

mrs. g. hughes.


Wales Day 1- Saturday, August 1, 2015

by grace on September 22, 2015

it’s convenient that the first day of our trip coincided with the first day of the month.

we got up early cause the train was going to leave at 9:30 SHARP.

First, we had to pet the kitties a little more.  so sad to be leaving them for five weeks!  but at least they had no idea we were leaving, plus they were going to be in very good hands.

luckily, i kept checking the train status because it was later, and later…and later still.

we finally loaded our many, many bags in mom’s car and went to the train station.  because we weren’t going to ride on any airplanes, we could take whatever we wanted.  so i went overboard with that  oooooverboard.  too many clothes, too much jewelry to wear with fancy dresses on the Queen Mary, too much stuff, too much.  people kept saying PACK LIGHT, and i know to pack light….but i went a little crazy.

kevin brought many, many snacks to eat while walking.  many fig bars and granola bars and energy bars and all kinds of stuff…but this was good, because we ended eating almost all of it!

the train finally left about 11:00, and it was a nice ride up to chicago.  i was still pretty wound up from all the preparing and planning and over-packing i’d been doing forever, it seemed like.

we got into Chicago at around 3:00, and our train bound for NYC wasn’t going to leave til about 8:30.  We were able to leave all our bags at the sleeper-car lounge, which was great, but we decided we didn’t want to check any bags – as we got off the train in chicago, we walked past one of the open train cars, which was piles with a massive heap of luggage, as though it had all just been randomly thrown together.  we didn’t want that.

We thought we’d walk down to the Art Institute, and down to the water.  a nice and relaxing walk.

well.  as we walked toward the lake, there were more and more people.  to be expected, cause it’s a big city.  but then, more and more and OH MY GOD SO MANY PEOPLE EVERYWHERE WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON???!!!

by the time we reached the Art Institute the crowds were so thick that it was hard to stay together and kevin hates crowds anyway and i’m not so fond of them.  we spotted a sign – this was LOLLAPALOOZA!  good grief.

it’s a huge musical festival held every year in chicago; i think it lasts three days, TWENTY FOUR HOURS A DAY.  nonstop music.  so that’s why the crowd was mostly made up of people in their 20s.


we struggled up michigan avenue, as a big white limo van pulled up and three photographers/videographers got out.  We stopped, because i thought maybe it would be a celebrity.

nope.  an hispanic girl who looked like she was in her teens got out, wearing a really poufy long bright blue dress and a tiara.  she was followed by a guy dressed up, wearing a matching blue bowtie, then a gaggle of girls in shorter bright magenta dresses, then there were some more guys.

was it a wedding?

I finally asked one of the photographers – not a wedding, a Quinceanera celebration!  a 15-year old party.  and a very expensive one.

We continued to straggle up michigan avenue as it got hotter and hotter, and finally sat in a little dog park surrounded by towering condos just north of the river.  it was fun to watch the dogs.  after a whole lot of sitting as i scrolled through my phone looking up the lineup for lollapalooza – we had missed paul mccartney – we got a little food at a nearby grocery store, then started making our way back to the train station.

we strolled along the river walk, and though it was crowded, it wasn’t insane like the music fest.  here’s one of the big boats in the river.

and then we saw a whole boat of guys enjoying the water.

we both took photos of this bridge where the river turned north, and i was going to look it up on my phone, but it didn’t happen.

we got back to the train station, and some fancy event was happening in another part of the station.  i caught this shot just as this car was entering – they were having a lot of difficulty trying to fit it through the doors.  i rushed back to our lounge area to tell kevin so he could see it, but by the time he got there, the doors had closed.  oh well; we’d probably see other interesting things on our trip.

the train left from chicago, so it was on time, and we struggled to get our bags into our teeny tiny sleeping car.  when we’d done this trip before, we’d been able to store our bags outside our room, but this wasn’t the case.  there was a tiny amount of space up by the top bunk, but no place for our two gigantic bags.

the porter, also named kevin, grilled us about why we didn’t check our bags, and then he was going to give us a “deal” – he was going to upgrade us to a bigger cabin for 150 bucks in cash.  we agreed, happy to pay so we wouldn’t be smothered by our luggage, but then the guy delivered the sad news that a family had boarded last minute and needed the room.


here’s kevin with my huge suitcase next to him – he slept on the bottom bunk, which was narrow on one end.  he slept with his head at the narrow end because he didn’t want to have the suitcase right next to his head, and fall and crush his head in the middle of the night.  better legs crushed rather than head.

tiny sleeping car!


slightly crazed at this point

we made the most of it and sorted things out, and had a really good night’s sleep.

whew, made it through the first day.

ok then,