Archive for the ‘snow’ Category

Cool, cold and colder in warm Chicago

January 31, 2012

Diane (saved by Amy's down coat) and Chicago Greeter Larry Ambrose in front of 'The Bean' in Millennium Park

Update: Globe story is here.

My friend Amy, whose downtown Chicago high-rise we were fortunate enough to stay in a couple weeks ago, keeps apologizing for the frigid weekend we encountered. I told her we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We needed bragging rights! It had been unseasonably warm there, until we arrived, when it snowed and the days dipped into the 20s and the nights, oh, who wants to think about it. Two things saved us. Amy and her partner, Deanna, keep their heat higher than we keep ours (yay!) and Amy loaned me her shin-length North Face down coat. Yes, yes, oh yes.

The `Crown Fountain,' a video sculpture and fountain by conceptual artist Jaume Plensa in Millennium Park

So, yes, we had a blast –of arctic air, but of fun too. Amy had given us with a travel-writer-worthy list of things to do, plus I had a few story assignments. Saturday we met our “greeter,” for my Boston Globe story about the very cool Chicago Greeters program. Greeters are locals who give free tours of their city. We picked “public art” from a smorgasbord of options. Our guy Larry took us to the beyond-thrilling Millennium Park, and then through a greatest-hits list of sculptures by Picasso, Dubuffet, Chagall, Miro, and Calder.

Farm manager Dave Snyder grows vegetables on the organic roof-top of Uncommon Ground

That afternoon Lina and I hopped on the Red Line to Edgewater, where we visited Uncommon Ground, “the greenest restaurant in the country” (according to the Green Restaurant Association) for a little Ode piece I was writing. I’m very skeptical of green claims and usually that proves founded, but not so in this case. From the organic roof-top farm to the tables made from local fallen trees, and many things in between, this was the real deal.

We took Amy’s suggestion (and discount) and headed across the street that night to the venerable Gene Siskel Film Center to see “Newlyweds” starring and directed by Edward Burns. Oh, yeah, and it was followed by a Q&A with Ed himself. Total thrill!

Sunday we got lost in the Art Institute of Chicago for hours and hours. In one room we soaked up more masterpieces than many people see in a lifetime. The new (2009) Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano, is a soaring three-story beauty chocked with modern, contemporary, and cutting edge show-stoppers.

Sunset over Chicago as seen from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center

What could top that? Literally, sunset from the 94th floor of the Hancock Tower Observatory. (We went to the Willis Tower/Sears Tower the next day. Much longer lines, but it was worth it to stand on the transparent Skydeck Ledge 103 floors above ground.) On the way to meet Dutch friends of Lina’s living nearby, we stopped at American Girl Place for an overdose of pink before returning to adult fun — outstanding brew and food at Revolution Brewing in Logan Square.

Diane ventures out on the Sky Ledge at 1,353 feet in the air

On our final day, our hosts returned from Florida (oh, did I not mention we had the run of their splashy condo for the weekend?) and Amy and I caught up on some 15 years! Since college, she’s become a city mouse, while I’ve turned into a small-town girl who appreciates the big city from time to time. Thanks for the Midwestern hospitality, Amy and Deanna! We shall return!

Winter Olympics, North Carolina style

February 1, 2010

Yay! We got our first substantial snowfall since moving here from New England in 2003. As you can see below, our low-riding dachshunds were not pleased, but Wessel and I rejoiced, along with much of North Carolina. Durham, where we live, got seven inches, which almost — don’t laugh — qualified it for the top-10 snowfall list started in the 1920s. (The record is 14 inches, in 2000.) We still have our cross-country skis, minus one pole (oops) and managed to ski out the back door both Saturday and Sunday. Temps climb into the 40s this week. Farewell, old friend! 

Sabrina was not amused when she ended up belly deep in the white stuff

Wessel swooshes down a hill on one of our neighborhood streets

If you don`t own snow boots, just make them! (We spotted several of these)

Diane puts her keen herringbone skills in place up this tiny golf-course hill

Diane lobs a snowball at Wessel, plucked from the mountain formed by a plow

A brrrrthday to remember

August 18, 2009

If you’re melting in the heat of August, as we are in North Carolina, here’s a lovely story to cool you down.

(”Where they Went,” published June 14, 2009, Boston Globe)

Mary Kae Marinac (right), with her mother Barbara Marinac

Mary Kae Marinac (right), with her mother, Barbara Marinac

WHO: Mary Kae Marinac, 50, husband Paul Quirnbach, 49, their children, Jenn, 17, twins Will and Jeff, 15, of Andover; and her mother, Barbara Marinac, 75, of Bethel Park, Pa.

WHERE: New Hampshire

WHEN: A weekend in December

WHY: To celebrate Marinac’s 50th birthday

A snowshoe trek was meant to be

Have snowshoes, will travel

IDEAS AFOOT: “We were driving home from a particularly great hike last summer and the moon was coming out. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to do a full-moon hike? We love hiking and snowshoeing, and it’s one of the physical activities my autistic boys can participate in,” Mary Kae Marinac said. “Then I thought about my 50th birthday and looked it up and discovered there was a full moon that day, Dec. 12. I literally cried. It was a gift from the heavens. I knew a snowshoe trek was meant to be.”

Husband Paul Quirnbach and Mary Kae helping mother Barbara don her snowshoes

Husband Paul Quirnbach and Mary Kae helping mother Barbara don her snowshoes

MORE PARTYGOERS: “I spread the word, not expecting much interest,” she said. “I was amazed that my mother said she would come, though she kept mentioning how a cruise would have been nicer.” In time, siblings from Cleveland and Atlanta signed on, along with a friend from South Carolina, and others closer by. “In the end we had 20 people, ages 8 to 75.” Marinac settled on Lincoln Woods Trails in Lincoln, off the Kancamagus Highway. “The trails were basically flat along an 1870s logging road, and there was a huge parking lot where we could meet, and restrooms.”

Bridge across the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River in Lincoln

Bridge across the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River in Lincoln

GETTING INTO HOT WATER: An après-snowshoe party and overnight stay were planned at Indian Head Resort in Lincoln. “It has a year-round heated outdoor pool, and the kids love it.” As it turned out, the resort had electricity when many places did not, as Marinac’s birthday coincided with the ice storm. “We lost power at our house, as did most partygoers. I thought people might not come, but some said, “Oh, my god, I get to take a hot shower.”

Barbara Marinac (righ) with granddaughter my daughter Jenn Quirnbach

Jenn Quirnbach with her grandmother

MOONLIT MAGIC: The group convened at the hotel and caravanned from there. “I prepared a care package for each guest. Jeff painted little Shaker boxes and inside were headlamps, snacks, and a local tourist map. When we got to the trail it was like a party atmosphere, everyone with headlights on, teaching people to put snowshoes on, with the younger people helping the older ones.” They walked a little over 3 miles, and everyone loved it, Marinac said. “Just before we started, around 6 p.m., the moon broke through the clouds. On top of the full moon, it was a time when it was closer to Earth, so it was bigger and brighter. I have this image of looking at the full moon from the suspension bridge across the Pemigewasset River as it swayed, filled with all the people I love.”

Still falling in love

February 14, 2009
Wessel's first snow shoe experience

Wessel's first snowshoe experience

I remember it so clearly. On our first date, Wessel arrived at my house in his boxy 21-year-old Mercedes Benz with his rented snowshoes and recently purchased cross-country skis. I was living in Quincy, Mass., near Boston, and Wessel lived a little south of me, in Hull. He’d moved from the Netherlands only a few months earlier for work (medical diagnostics).

Wessel is a big long-distance ice skater, but he’d only recently learned to ski, and he’d never snowshoed. That winter of 2002-3 had been wonderful for snow sports, and I often went to the nearby Blue Hills Reservation to take it all in.

We had first met on Valentine’s Day 2003, at the Delta baggage carousel at Logan Airport in Boston. Two weeks later, we met up for coffee, but mostly it was for an interview for the little ditty I wrote about his crazy ice-skating odyssey for my Boston Globe travel column. Our first “real” date was on March 8, 2003.

Diane takes a break

Diane takes a break

The activities were my idea. Since he’d only recently begun to ski, I figured we’d be equals on the snow, as I’ve skiied like a beginner for a decade now. And, of course, anyone can snowshoe.

The day was perfect, with deep snow, brilliantly blue skies, and little wind. We skied first, gliding slowly over the mostly flat trails, flanked with evergreens and bare branches. The snow sparkled. We talked and laughed and shared life stories.

Out in the Blue Hills as long as daylight allowed us

We didn't leave the Blue Hills until the moon started to rise

The snowshoe portion was all laughs. Wessel thought the sport, featuring giant foot coverings like tennis racquets, was pretty hilarious. We walked through the woods, creating our own trails as we went, then climbed up a hill to a rocky outcrop, where we could see the Boston skyline. We sat on a huge slab of granite to eat our sandwiches and I remember feeling the energy zing between us. I didn’t want the day to end. We left under a rising moon.

I invited Wessel to stay for dinner, figuring, sadly, that he probably had other plans, or had had enough for one date. Instead, he said yes. Woo-hoo! I cooked a simple pasta dish, and we shared a bottle of red wine. We talked and talked and hugged and hugged, and Wessel left around 1 a.m.

We started falling in love that day, and it hasn’t stopped.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my dear. Happy Valentine’s to all.