Please welcome Simon

January 30th, 2011 by matt

Ever since Anna died in 2008, we’ve wanted to get a new cat. Chewy missed her terribly and we wanted him to be as happy as can be. However, with our traveling a lot and living in a small space in London, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to get one until we were in a more settled, larger place. Once we moved back to Chicago, we figured it was time. Well, that time is now. Let me introduce you to our new friend, Simon:

Simon came to us from Felines, Inc, which is a shelter just down the street from us. It’s a converted house and provides a nice environment (cageless and no-kill) for the cats. The people were super friendly and made the whole experience (it’s hard to pick just one cat!) smooth and easy. He’s been with us for 2 days now and he’s a sweet and playful cat. He’s adjusting really well. As I write this, he and Chewy are roaming the house sniffing each other out. The fact that they are not needing separation (at least for a short period) shows how nice a cat he is. Chewy is spooked, but curious and I think these two will be great friends. Here’s another picture of our new kitty:

I’d have better pictures, but it’s been rather overcast lately. I promise a lot (prolly too many) of him in the near future. I’m off to give our cats some more attention and help them adjust! Please join us in welcoming this wonderful cat to our world!

COLD……

January 23rd, 2011 by carolyn

When we started to tell people we were moving back to Chicago in October, inevitably the first comment would be “Oh, just in time for winter.” I have always loved snow and winter and although I was a bit nervous about the adjustment back after several mild winters in London, I figured we would get back in the swing of it pretty quickly.

In London, any temperature below 0 degrees C (32 F) would cause everyone to comment about the freezing temperatures. I used to laugh and say things like “in Chicago we will go a whole month with temps below freezing” and “its normal to get temps from -20 to -17 C (-5 to 0 F)”. After their shocked reactions I would think to myself – hmmm, maybe it doesn’t really get that cold, maybe I am remembering wrong.

Well, it turns out I wasn’t remembering wrong. Friday we hit a low of -4 F (about -20 C) and a high of about 14 F (-10 C). Chicago’s daily average temperature since December 1st, 2010 has been 21.5 F (- 5 C). Full disclosure, this is the 19th coldest winter on record in the 141 years of official records but still, its cold. The good news is, dressing appropriately makes a big difference. I am loving my hat, scarf, mittens and huge sleeping bag coat every morning. And, an apartment with super thick well insulated walls makes a big difference too. I have yet to be as cold at home as I have been in some wet winter days in London.

You may also remember the complete city shutdowns we experienced in London due to a few inches of snow. This year was no exception as Heathrow was brought to a stand-still during the Christmas holiday. We have been having a fair amount of snow in Chicago this year too. Nothing compared to my east coast friends in Boston and NJ but…we have had 24 inches which is 126% of normal.

It’s only January so we will have to see what the next few months of winter will bring. ๐Ÿ™‚

Baking Bread

January 23rd, 2011 by matt

So I like bread. My usual breakfast involves toast. Living in London, I began to appreciate good bread and hoped to find more of it back in Chicago. This hasn’t been too difficult, which is nice. Apparently, west of us, there are a number of Jewish bakeries so the selection is pretty good.

However, I got to thinking: what if I made my own bread. How hard could it be? (Top Gear reference, for those who noticed it ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Well, last weekend, I decided to give it a try and bake some whole-wheat sandwich bread. Here would be my first results:

I was seriously impressed with how easy it is to make this simple loaf of bread. Granted, I had the help of a food processor to mix it up nicely. But even if you did it by hand, you’d likely only need about 30 minutes of work. The rest is waiting for the dough to rise and the ingredients list is simple and most of it keeps forever. You can even make a whole lot of dough and freeze it and take it out in advance to rise.

So how did it taste? Well, I honestly think it tasted better than most store-bought bread. I used a basic recipe from How To Cook Everything, so it’s not like I was breaking new ground.ย  And, putting it in a simple plastic bag, it almost seems to keep longer than some of the stuff I’ve bought from bakeries. Even better, unlike going into a Subway which smells like bread baked in hell, fresh baked bread smelled lovely!

Behold my breakfast one morning. Yummy fresh bread! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m going to see how hard it is to keep this up. You do need about 3 to 4 hours being around for it to work. But, to prove it wasn’t beginners luck, I came home from work one day and made it in one evening. I didn’t let it rise as much, which means it is a bit more dense, but the taste is still quite good. Hurray for basic home cooking! ๐Ÿ™‚

Local: B’nai Zion Synagogue

January 15th, 2011 by matt

So I’m going to try a new addition to the blog. Before moving to London, I had bought an apartment in the Roger’s Park neighborhood of Chicago. It’s the farthest north neighborhood in the city. Coming back after a 3.5 year hiatus, I find myself looking at it differently. I’m curious about the history around it and so I thought I’d try a little bit of educating myself about what’s around here.

With that in mind, there are some interesting buildings and goings on in the area and I thought I’d try writing about them. Let’s begin right around the corner from our home. One building north of us is the remains of an old synagogue. It’s a rather large building but it just sort of nestles into the scenery:

It ceased to serve a religious purpose in 2002, around the time I first moved to Chicago, so it’s not been a house worship for a decent chunk of time. But, it’s a beautiful building on the outside.ย  As Roger’s Park was absorbed by Chicago, it began to grow along with the rest of the city. Among the new groups of people arriving in the area was a decently large sized Jewish community. It peaked at around 20,000 Jews after WWII. B’nai Zion was the first Conservative Jewish synagogue in Chicago and this building opened it doors right before the Great Depression. It’s quite large, the picture above is only about half of it (there’s a second section to the right).

This is the main entrance to the building showing some of the nice decoration.

After WWII, Chicago began a slow decline and Roger’s Park began to see the changes as well. The Jewish population moved to the suburbs and the need for a synagogue in the area became less important. There is still a rather large orthodox community, but they live in points west of East Roger’s Park. The end finally came in 2002, when B’nai Zion merged with another synagogue and took up residence in a different home (at least that’s the address they advertise). The synagogue has been replaced by the Lake Shore Schools, so it’s still able to serve the community, just in a different way.

Roger’s Park has seen a lot and been through a lot of changes over the years. This building simply stands as evidence of one of those waves of people who came through, established a community here and was replaced by other groups.

**Some credit for the information above: Much of my informationย  about the synagogue came from an article about it’s demise and this nice article from the Roger’s Park Historical Society.**

Under the hood changes

January 12th, 2011 by matt

So this isn’t going to be the most exciting post, but I always like keeping my 2 readers informed. I started this blog four years ago and, while it’s not always been completely thrilling, it’s been fun writing. Moving back to the US means a lot of changes and they are oddly overwhelming in many ways, so the blog has been a bit neglected. I just did the first update to wordpress I’d made since I started it. It went smoothly, but if anyone sees something that isn’t quite right, please tell me so I can work to fix it.

In the meantime, our glamorous life in London is behind us and we’re curious what kind of things the people who read this might like to know about. If anyone have suggestions (mom, I know you want pictures of us and the cat! ๐Ÿ™‚ ), please comment below.