the avena shake from irazu on n. milwaukee ave.

I wasn’t in #Illinois for more than 48 hours when I found myself hitting places that are old favorites. Of things I love very much, the avena (oatmeal) shake from Irazu on N. Milwaukee certainly places in my top ten. Irazu is a family-owned restaurant in Wicker Park that has grown over the years. The flavor is Costa Rican, and their standout dish is actually this shake. Avena con leche (oatmeal with milk) although you can choose water or soy milk. As for ingredients, I would guess a blend of ice, milk, oatmeal, cinnamon, sugar, and maybe some nutmeg.

Chicago Illinois Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant Avena shake

If you’re super hungry, you can add a burrito, sandwich, taquitos, empanadas, or another one of my go-tos: the palmito salad. Be sure to have cash on hand as Irazu doesn’t accept credit/debit cards. Disfrútate (enjoy yourself).


The adjective tender has a couple meanings. My favorite is probably this:

Showing gentleness and concern or sympathy

Is there anything more tender than pink hydrangeas? I think not.

Chicago Illinois Garfield Park Conservatory Hydrangeas Flowers

I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory this afternoon to get my flower fix, and fix fixed. These tiny buds and petals are magic. Feathery soft and the perfect shade of pink. How tender.

village (of oak park) people and places

On Monday, I made the 12-hour hike from Jackson, Mississippi, to Oak Park, Illinois. I loved the drive through north Mississippi. So many trees. So green. The rest of the drive was kind of a slog, but I made it (with one dog and cat in tow) to Oak Park by about 6 p.m. The apartment/flat is cuter/bigger than I remember. (Always a good combo.) Noodled around the Village the last two days, and here’s what I found.

The Village people (I guess I’m one of them now) are very nice. They sound a lot like me, which is equal parts odd and comforting.

As for places, the Village has some neat ones to explore. The Oak Park Conservatory has the most fantastic Ponderosa Lemon tree. For real.

Oak Park Illinois Oak Park Conservatory Ponderosa lemon tree

The public library is a campus. I could easily get lost in there for hours, I’m sure.

Oak Park Illinois Oak Park Public Library

And then there are many murals, which I quite love.

Oak Park Illinois Murals Street Art

Oak Park Illinois Murals Street Art

Spring seems weeks away–very few flowers or much green right now. So for the time being I plan on enjoying cheer and color in places where I find it.

you’re going to love this one

“You’re going to love this one,” my niece announced. She’s five years old and some change, and she was showing me her art collection–pieces she’d created this year. Decorated paper plates, drawing book pages, and even larger painted pieces like these two.

The occasion for my visit was kind of a sad one. I drove six hours to drop off one of my dogs with my parents because my apartment lease only allows two pets and, as of yesterday, I had three. Sigh. So the opportunity to see my niece’s artworks provided me with temporary respite. A needed distraction. And in fairness, I loved them all.

moving to jackson, mississippi? here’s what you need to know

Thinking of or planning on relocating to Jackson, #Mississippi? It’s a nice place to call home. Warm weather, abundant trees and flowers, affordable living. Here are my suggestions on how to get acclimated:

  • Utility providers are Entergy Mississippi (electricity), Atmos Energy (gas), and the city of Jackson (water service). You can register online for Entergy and Atmos Energy. Easy peasy. For water service, head on over to the Metrocenter Mall and bring your checkbook and a copy of your lease or deed. Credit/debit cards are not accepted.
  • Trash pickup is twice a week–Tuesdays and Fridays in Belhaven.
  • When you apply for a license plate (tag, as it’s called here), you pay an ad valorem tax on the value of your vehicle. The newer your car is, the more you will pay.
  • Commute times, depending on where you work, are breezy, compared to where I’m originally from. Everything seems to be a 15-minute drive. Twenty minutes max.
  • Like to bicycle? The best trail I found was the multi-use path, 14 miles in length, in Ridgeland, which is north of Jackson by about 15 minutes.
  • If you have pets, my vote is to take them to the Animal Health Center in Madison. It’s a bit of a hike from Jackson, but the awesome staff and quality of care make it so worth it. Highly recommend.
  • As for food/dining out:
  • If you’re like me and never have lived in Jackson before, a few notes:

    • Many locally owned businesses are closed on Sundays. If buying local is your vibe, you really need to get it done on Saturdays.
    • If you buy or rent a home in Jackson, I would budget for mosquito/pest control spraying. Mosquito spraying once a month beginning in March and then through October. Pest control every three months.
    • Due to the expansive soil in Jackson, foundation/wall cracks and road potholes are the norm, so don’t panic and then drive accordingly/keep an eye on the road.
    • If you like to garden, welcome to paradise. Jackson is a great place to create year-round gardens with perennials and annuals.

    animal kingdom

    Some days–heck, weeks–are just so odd I have to wonder if there is a persistent full moon. I was painting in the kitchen this afternoon when this little guy appeared in my living room. My front door had blown open a bit, and he trotted right in. He looked at me quizzically, as if to ask, What are you doing here? I would inquire the same of him after I shooed him out.

    My front door blew open again a little later, and both my dogs scooted right out. Nickel came back with a large turkey leg in her mouth. I had to jump in my car to locate Penny.

    And then earlier this week, this extremely large hog made his or her way up to my backyard chainlink fence to say hello or to wink. Who could say, really. My neighbor has two of these plus ducks and armadillos. Living in #Belhaven is like my own animal kingdom.

    what happens when you say yes

    A really cool thing happens when you’re open to receiving invitations. When you say yes, you get a chance to spend time with those who invited you. You also might experience occasions that breathe joy into your life. Or kindness when you might need it the most.

    My friend Pat Starnes invited me to see her home in Brandon, Mississippi, and to play bingo at a local club. I said yes and had a lot of fun.

    My neighbors Walter and Phoebe invited me to Catholic mass at Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in downtown Jackson, I said yes to this too. Mass was early (8:00 a.m.) and started right on time. I couldn’t take communion, but the priest did give me a blessing, which I received with a lot of gratitude.