This past weekend I headed out of town to visit one of my buddies, Elsa (she of the Trina, Elsa, and me trio of 15 years and counting. She’s also Patty’s godmother.) Elsa snagged a day off and I seized the opportunity to head to the suburbs for some autumn fun. City girl that I am, I’ve never done any of the fall activities like picking apples in orchards, going on hay rides, carving pumpkins or seeing a cider mill. Elsa offered to take me to Blake’s Farm and Yates Cider Mill. It just so happened that Dhana (she of ArmitageWorld) also lives in the same area. We arranged to meet for Sunday dinner, then sight see at Yates.
As luck would have it, my travel mojo was *still* broken. Everything that could happen did: I forgot my phone and had to retrieve it; the train was late then sat on the tracks; TSA decided to hold up the security line, etc. I missed my plane. But I got a ticket for the next one. However the delay made it too late to visit the orchard. So Elsa and I met with her brother and his SO at Famous Dave’s. I have no clue if this franchise is in Chicago, but it’s a great place for BBQ done the right way, slow cooked with smokey flavor. The desserts were heavenly (Be sure and try the bread pudding or Kahlua chocolate brownie. Mmm.)
Dhana’s travel mojo worked just fine. She bravely drove to Elsa’s house, risking the possibilities we were either ax murderers or would have made her watch the entire tenure of David Tennant in Doctor Who. (Well, I might have done the latter but we didn’t have enough time.) She told me she wasn’t troubled due to experience in meeting members of her quilting group. Dhana sews gorgeous quilts by the way. Dhana is a lovely woman; she is soft-spoken but friendly. She’s also not as quiet as she thinks she is. (I’m looking at you, Dhana.). She showed more of her arts and crafts talents: little converted figurines. She’s transforming RA action figures into other characters and doing quite an amazing job.
I admit to not being concerned as well. Like her, I’m also an old hand at meeting strangers from fandoms and most of them have been good experiences. Meeting Servetus was more daunting because I had to travel alone to a strange city and it would just be her and me. Here, I was on familiar turf with friends. Dhana definitely had the riskier task. Also, since I earlier had gotten the issue of race out of the way by discussing it on my blog, I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.
Sunday dinner was amazing. Elsa loves to cook (she gets upset if she doesn’t get to cook when she visits) and she opted to cook Carbonado en Zapallo , beef stew in a pumpkin. It’s a South American dish that is both slightly sweet and spicy. The ending flourish is cooking the stew the last hour inside a pumpkin and serving it that way. It was a great presentation and an excellent stew. It was so good that I want to make it myself which will be a minor miracle. Dessert was a scrumptious homemade apple custard torte. Every bit of it was gone by the time I left for home.
Conversation was an interesting experience: Elsa was from Doctor Who fandom, Dhana, from AW, and Tom and Ardath from none. I was the only one who linked all of them. What do you talk about when one doesn’t know anything much (or at all) about the other? I felt like Oprah. Happily all the guests didn’t have much trouble finding common ground and the chat went smoothly.
After dinner, we waddled to our cars to drove to Yates Cider Mill. Elsa and Dhana tell me it used to be in the country but urban sprawl has caught up to it. However it’s located next to a city park that looks like a forest preserve so the area was still woodsy. The mill is what I had expected: a large barn straddling a stream with a giant wheel. The wheel has been turning every season since 1863. The building itself is smaller than expected. It’s still a working mill; workers moved the huge press which churned out pure unpasteurized apple juice. The building also contained a store where you can purchase anything made from apples: cider, donuts, turnovers, pies, and caramel apples. The mill’s grounds were quite crowded with both people and their four legged friends. I’ve never seen so many dogs in one place. So, I was happy camper, sipping cider, eating donuts and chatting with Elsa and Dhana. (Winston was back at the house, being cowered by Ollie and Floyd, Elsa’s Jack Russel terrier and black Labrador.) Finally we bid Dhana adieu and later went to see The Debt with Dame Helen Mirren.
Overall, it was a lovely weekend. My Master Plan proceeds apace. Oh, you don’t know about my Master Plan? Alright, I suppose I’ll have to tell – in another blog post.