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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Several museum visits

After a short visit to one of Jeane's friends in the morning, it was time to say goodbye to the Hagertys after lunch Saturday. That's when Nancy and some of her family members stopped by to pick me up. We found the park area where the paddleboat left from in St Charles and got onboard. It was a one hour river cruise on the Fox River, and it was very nice. My kind of boat trip, definitely. The three-year old boy also seemed happy, especially when the motorboats pulling waterskiers went by at a high speed. Later we went to a restaurant further north to meet the rest of the family. We also handed back the youngest ones to their parents again.

Sunday we got up early and drove up to Wisconsin. It was a different kind of landscape there, farmland and quite a lot of forest. We ended up in Dodgeville because we were looking for a restaurant. We passed by a sign there that said flea market, so we located a large hall. People were selling lots of memorabilia, ornaments, old books, collectibles and a lot of junk. Managed to leave without buying anything. We had lunch at Country Kitchen in the same village. The food was great, it might even have been the best bacon cheeseburger I have ever had, actually.

In the afternoon we went to a place outside Spring Green, where the architect Frank Lloyd Wright's home was open to visitors. The only way to get access to it was to join a guided tour, so that's what we did. Mr Wright had designed several buildings in the area. We got to see Hillside and Taliesin. It was a very interesting tour, the guide was very knowledgeable and told quite a few anecdotes about the excentric and talented architect. Wright's own home Taliesin was built on the side of a hill, with a wonderful view of the rolling green hills. He had experimented with design in his home, so some of the interiors seemed unfinished or done in haste.

In the evening we checked into a motel nearby and then went to another small village to a restaurant called The Feed Mill. The chicken was very tasty.

Monday we spent most of the day at The House on the Rock, which is also in the area of Spring Green. It was another architect/builder, Alex Jordan, who designed it. The house is built around a big rock formation. Mr Jordan had an endless energy, and he kept adding on to his creation. He collected just about everything also. His home is now a museum in three parts and we saw all of it. The view from the house was great, you could see miles away. There was an enormous amount of items in the museum parts; over 200 dollhouses, the world's largest indoor carousel (he had built it himself), old weapons, music boxes of all kinds (even large orchestras that played if you inserted a token in the box), church organs, painted glass windows, sculptures, signs, Faberge eggs, Tiffany lamps, models of ships, airplanes, trains and circuses, ivory carvings, crown jewels, a huge steamship engine, curiosities and memorabilia. I have probably forgotten some things in this list - there was so much to see that it was overwhelming. Incredible place. In the evening we arrived at Nancy's sister's house outside Rockford. We were treated to a very nice chicken dinner there. We were tired and came back home later that same evening.

Tuesday (today) we started a little later. Nancy and I went to their daughter's place at noon. The three of us spent the entire afternoon at the Field Museum in Chicago with two infants and a 3 year old. The latter required two visits to the dinosaurs before he was happy about his visit. The Field Museum is a natural history museum with large halls and very many items on display. I saw the parts on gem stones, evolution and North American native peoples. Very large and informative displays, but perhaps a little boring (and dusty).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Visit to Maywood

Wednesday I got onboard the same train as the previous two days, but this time I got off at Maywood. It was once a rather prosperous area with mixed population, but is now a poor neighborhood with very few white people. I think I was the only one there that day. I walked over to the library and asked for old volumes of the Maywood Herald. It was the local newspaper, which started in 1894. I went through a few of the early volumes to look for information about the Swedes who once lived here. It was a very local paper. There were entries like: Mrs Tate entertained a circle of friends last Friday evening. One other: Miss Nellie Olson is currently visiting her sister in Dubuque, Alabama. Also found a note about a banquet held at the Swedish church, and several of my relatives were mentioned. Incredibly interesting, but it was very time consuming to search the pages. I had to continue on to Chicago in the afternoon (because of the train schedule), and spent a couple of hours downtown. It was very hot and humid, so I didn't do much. The high-rise fountains in Grant Park gave some cooling shade. Returned to Geneva in the evening. Jim's chili was very tasty, and so was the fudge ice-cream.

Thursday we went to a mall in the afternoon. It was almost deserted, there were very few stores left. Maybe eight or ten in a large two story building. I got two tops at C J Banks. Jeane found the best bargain, a top for three dollars. On the way back we went to Colonial, a restaurant founded by Swedish immigrants in 1901. It was Ice-cream Happy Hour, so we got our sundaes half price off. I got a huge glass filled with ice-cream, fudge, chocolate sauce, nuts, brownie pieces and whipped cream. Delicious!

Today (Friday), we went to the Kane county recorder to get copies of some death certificates. Sadly, these didn't shed any light on the background of the people we are researching, but at least we got causes of death. We then continued on to another mall area. I had both a gift certificate and a discount coupon at Kohl's, so I did some shopping there. Looked in two other stores, but didn't get much.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chicago visit

The flight to Chicago went well. Even though one cabin crew member got a meltdown and insisted on the fact that it was a flight with service to Calgary. Her colleagues corrected her loudly and with arms waving. After about an hour in the air we landed at the right airport, O'Hare. I was picked up by my mother's second cousin Jeane and her son-in-law.

Jim, Jeane and I had a lot to catch up on, so we spent most of the weekend talking about family and viewing old photos. I have also learned several new words, but I'm not certain I will get any use for them. Maybe I can find way to include "goopy" in a sentence in the future, who knows?

Jeane is in the process of compiling her and her husband's family history in a large file. It's an impressive work with lots of names & dates, along with anecdotes and pictures. Someday I should probably do the same with my family history.

Monday morning I got a ride to the train station in Geneva. I got on the 8.17 train to Chicago. Since the research library is closed on Mondays, I spent the day shopping. Borders bookstore is having a closing-down sale, and I made some purchases there (not books, but calendars). Incredibly cheap. I couldn't resist the sale at Macy's either, so I got three dresses there. I can never get that affordable clothes at home (unless it's second hand). Most of what I have bought are summer outfits, so it will take a while before I get to wear them at home. (Since I didn't bring that many clothes with me, I wear the new outfits here, though).

Monday evening we got a visit from their grandson Derek with wife and a very active six-year old son. We sat in the living room talking about Sweden (of course) and the town of Lund. Very nice to see them.

This morning I got on the early train again and arrived in Chicago just before 10. I walked maybe five blocks and took the bus up to the Newberry library. It's a private research library open to the public. They have an extensive genealogy collection. I have been there many times before. I spent about six hours there, looking for more details about various relatives. Found some more info, but nothing worth reporting. It started to rain heavily, so I couldn't go out to have lunch. I ended up eating a small bag of potato chips and some peanut butter candy for lunch. Very inappropriate, but it kept me alive and awake enough to continue the research in the afternoon. When I left the library, there were no buses for about 20 minutes, so I gave that up and took a taxi to the train station instead. Speaking of food, the American "kebab" I had to eat this evening was chicken skewer with boiled rice and sweet potato. A little different than a Swedish one (which is more like slices of meat wrapped in a thin bread). But very tasty!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Visit to Scandia

Thursday morning Ron, Mary and I went to visit cousin Kathy in Minneapolis. She was unable to attend the family reunion, so we went to her place instead. We brought lunch with us. We had a good time eating and talking. She told anecdotes about life on the farm in the old days. After this, we continued on to an institution in Swedish America, Ingebretsen's. It's a store that sells every imaginable Scandinavian souvenir, textiles, glass, food, handcraft and much else. They have a counter with fresh meats and fish too. Ron got a bucket with pickled herring. We had dinner at home, and then Ron and I went to a couple of clothing stores. I did some shopping again, even though my suitcase is already too heavy. It's hard to resist such bargains.

This morning I went to the post office to ask what it would cost to send a package to Sweden. I packed a parcel that Ron will mail to me later. Lunch on the porch was risotto and vegetables, with the herring. It was very tasty. Then we drove up to Scandia, to a place called Gammelgarden. It's an outdoor museum with houses from the Swedish settler's time (1850s). There was a small church, immigrant house, vicarage, barn, cottage and a visitor center with souvenir shop and assembly hall. All made of wood. They had tried to keep the buildings in the shape they were 150 years ago. Ron and I took the guided tour of the place. Very interesting to see. On the way back we drove over a bridge and into Wisconsin. The only reason for this was the fact that I had never visited that state. Wisconsin and Minnesota look very similar, both states have farmland with quite large areas of forest. We came back to the house in Stillwater in the afternoon. After changing shoes I walked perhaps 100 meters down the street and 157 steps down a steep hill, and ended up in the center of town. It's really close. I walked up and down the main street, looking in the touristy shops. There were mostly antique stores, restaurants and places selling candy and souvenirs. I didn't buy anything (!), but it was still fun to see what is regarded to be an "antique" item here. The 157 steps were a lot harder to walk up than down.

Tomorrow I'm going to Chicago to visit Jeane and her family!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lots of shopping

Sunday we had a barbeque in the back yard. Chrissy's and Karen's brother Bill with family came over and we sat outside and talked and ate very tasty hamburgers. Their house is pretty close to the airport and the planes came in low, causing some noise. I got a very nice present, Bill's wife had made a handbag of precisely the colors I happen to like, and it was filled with Minnesota souvenirs and candy. Since the siblings have Swedish ancestry also on their mother's side, I got curious and asked if they had done any research, and they hadn't. So I got the brief information and logged on to the Swedish genealogy database remote. It was very easy to find their origin, the family had immigrated in 1890 from a small place outside Goteborg. I searched for the family name on the internet and came up with a website for the very family - in Sweden! They actually have an organized website where all the ancestors were listed, along with information on the descendants, even the ones who emigrated. The same family photo Chrissy has was posted on this website. It was incredible, you never have such luck in this kind of research! We sat up late that night talking about family history and looking at photos.

Monday was a great shopping day. Karen, Chrissy and I had breakfast at a restaurant, and then the shopping spree began. I cannot even remember how many stores we went to. They knew of all the second hand and thrift stores in the area. I made some huge bargains. I got several pairs of jeans very cheaply, and several other pieces of clothes, a handbag and two watches. It's the end of the summer and most stores have sales. Some even have sales on the new fall collections. That's how desperate they are here.

Since I was out of cash (for some strange reason), I had to get some more from the cash machine Tuesday morning. Then we went to Albertville north of Minneapolis. There is a large area with outlet stores. I did some shopping also here, but not as much as yesterday. Three tops and a pair of capri pants. Afterwards we went to town to get some pizza and brought it to Bill's house to eat it. We sat in the livingroom and talked about Sweden.

This morning I said goodbye to the relatives and then Chrissy gave me a ride up to Mounds View. I visited a genealogy friend named Randy that I have helped with research. He has a very Swedish style of interior decoration, which was interesting to see. After the guided tour and exchange of souvenirs, he and I went out to have lunch at International House of Pancakes. I had some very tasty pancakes with strawberry sauce. We also went to a few second hand stores, so I got some more clothes. In the afternoon he drove me to Ron and Mary in Stillwater. They belong to the Nelson family. They have an absolutely lovely home with a wonderful view of the St Croix River. My camera will never make any justice to that view. We were treated to salad for dinner and then Randy returned home. This evening Ron brought me to yet another thrift store called Goodwill. Got a top and some Christmas ornaments, and it was even cheaper than expected. The store had 25% off for seniors today, so Ron acted as a purchaser on my behalf.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Family reunion

Friday I spent the morning at my friend Diane's place. We were talking about libraries and the changing communities in Minneapolis. Her cat Licorice kept her distance, but was still curious. At noon Donna came and picked me up for further transportation to a place northwest of Mille Lacs Lake. She and Verlin have a camper there at a camping site, that they use as a summer cabin. It was a large place of more than 800 spaces for campers, in a wooded area. In the evening, we went back to Milaca for the family reunion dinner. It was at a restaurant where we got a room to ourselves. There were about 20 first cousins and invited guests. We had a really nice time talking and eating. I had met almost all of them before, and got most of the names right (to my surprise). The new guests included a couple from Iowa, who belong to the Johnson side (Frank Nelson's wife). They had been to Sweden, so we talked some about that. Before the evening was over, we had heard an Ole and Lena-joke, written cards for the ones who were unable to attend and heard Delores speak about the benefits of hugs.

After spending the night at the camper we took the scenic route alongside the western shore of Mille Lacs. Very pretty area, and it looked very much like a Swedish lake. We arrived at the park in Milaca just before noon. The family reunion potluck lunch was a great experience. There was so much tasty food; salads, fruit, "glorified rice", ham, chicken dishes, meatballs, herring, rye bread and much else. The dessert table was also large. There were about 60 adults attending and about ten kids. I think I got to talk to most of them. Several wanted to visit Sweden, and I encouraged them. They had lots of questions about Sweden and our common ancestors, and I did my best to answer. I had a great time at the reunion. They had a drawing for a wooden carving that Ron had made, and the six table cloths with Sweden's provincial flowers that I brought were also given away. After almost four hours of eating and chatting, I went with Donna's nieces Karen and Chrissy to their house in St Louis Park (western Minneapolis). We were greeted by the four dogs. Later Karen's husband Jacob also came home. We enjoyed the bbq chicken he made later in the evening.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Arrived in Minneapolis

I arrived in Minneapolis Tuesday evening. It was two long and boring flights with Icelandair, but everything worked really well. The hotel is a short distance from the airport and the Mall of America. This was intentional. I have spent the past two days shopping, both at the Mall and downtown. It has been very nice to see the collections here. I have found way too many clothes. Also a pair of sandals. It will be a problem to transport it all. I hope I can unload most of the souvenirs this weekend to make more room in my suitcase. Tomorrow morning I'm going to visit a friend north of Minneapolis and then Donna will come to get me for the family reunion dinner in Milaca in the evening.

The hotel I'm staying at seems to be a pretty good one. The pool is nice, I have been swimming a little every morning (totally alone). I accidentally booked one of the better rooms, so the breakfast (fresh fruit and berries) is included, there are unlimited free soft drinks, a light evening meal (very nice cheeses and vegetables) and the room is very large. I'm definitely not complaining.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Visit in Vittsjö

The visit to my mother's place was nice, and rather hectic, as usual. Friday we ran some errands in Åhus and also had a tasty lunch at that buffet restaurant we found back in July. Great food, incredible baked salmon.

Saturday we went to Simrishamn by bus again. For basically the same reason as last time. There was also a handcraft market that we looked at. We made a few purchases at the fleamarket, my mother got a top for 10 SEK (1.4 USD), for instance. I found two candleholders that belong to the collector's china I have. I have never had the candleholders, so the 10 SEK per piece they asked for them quickly changed hands. It is no longer possible to buy it new, so if you find it in a second hand store it is always very expensive.

Sunday we started early and went by car to a small place in northern Skåne named Vittsjö. Some relatives on the Mattisson side have a summer house in the countryside up there. It used to be the family farm, so there were barns and other small houses also. We had lunch there and we talked a lot about family history, of course. We also went for a long walk in the forest and picked wild raspberries. They brought us on a tour of the town, so we got to see the cemetery, local stores, the houses the previous generations had lived in and the pretty lakes and forests. Very nice visit. It was rather late when my mother dropped me off at the train station in Hässleholm.

Today I have mostly been packing. I think I can squeeze everything into the suitcase. I also went to work to do some last minute genealogy. My colleagues couldn't help themselves, they shared today's problems with me. Nothing I could solve, though.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to the airport for further transportation to Minneapolis. So the next message here will be written from there.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vacation - finally

Last Saturday I spent at home, trying to get all the things together for the upcoming trip. I didn't think I would bring that much with me this time, but it looks like I'm wrong. It's going to be a heavy suitcase.

Sunday I went to Lund, to the trunk fleamarket and the mall. Not much of interest to report, just needed a few small things (a new archive folder, for instance). These past three days have been hectic at work. I had to get everything (and everyone) ready for my long absence. I wrote lists of things my colleagues have to remember to do while I'm gone. We had a meeting today to talk things through. I have faith in them, and I'm sure they will manage. I think there are enough staff members, at least. They (jokingly, I hope) asked what my phone number would be in the US.....

The past few weeks I have received a few requests for research, so tomorrow I was thinking of going to the archive in the morning. Later I will travel to my mother's place for the weekend. Hope the sunny weather will last the next few days.