You see that picture above? Those pretty sticks and berries are called bittersweet. I knew I was officially a full-blown midwestern lady when I drove all the way to northwest Indiana to pick some from my mom’s secret stash in the woods. I remember all the adults in my family trading information about where to find it, how to grow it, etc. If you want to make such a trip yourself, I can give you the details but I’m pretty sure only people from our nook of the country care about making centerpieces out of this pretty plant. :)
So, what should you do in the Chicagoland area in November besides driving to Indiana to pick bittersweet? I’ll admit it’s not the month I would most recommend you visit. October’s better weather-wise, and December’s better because the holidays are adorable here. But if you come in November anyway of course there are some things to look forward to!
- First of all, you should know that November’s when the weather starts to suck again. Dress warm. Bring a heavy coat. Bring something to cover your head. Stay somewhere with a hot tub. Hot tubs are THE BEST when the weather’s cold.
- The Chicago Humanities Festival happens each November for a couple of weekends. There are tons of speakers covering any topic you can imagine at venues all over the city, and tickets are pretty cheap. Check it out! I can’t recommend this highly enough. Tickets to many events do sell out, though, so check a couple of months in advance.
- The National Museum of Mexican Art is really cool, and they always have a Day of the Dead exhibit in early November. Take an afternoon to explore Pilsen and stop in.
- Start your holiday shopping! Venture off Michigan Avenue. Try Broadway between Diversey and Belmont, the cute stretch of shops right under the Armitage Purple/Brown Line stop (get some hot chocolate from Vosges while you’re there!), Lincoln Square, and Clark between Foster and Bryn Mawr. (As always, I’m incredibly northside centric…sorry…I have a lot to learn.) The Chicago Architecture Foundation on Michigan Avenue south of the Magnificent Mile also has a really neat gift store.
- November is such a cozy, hibernation time in the city. Even if you’re here visiting and have FOMO ordering some amazing takeout and renting a movie could be cool. You can justify it by telling yourself that it’s what all the Chicagoans are doing this time of year anyway - you’re just doing as the locals do!
- Speaking of movies - go watch some! This is Oscar season (time for tuxedos for no reason). My cousin once told me that if you go to Landmark Century Cinema on Clark you can “pick a movie at random and know that it’ll be good.” I agree, plus they have fancy snacks like vegan cookies, Italian sodas, and a daunting array of popcorn salt flavors. I also like the Gene Siskal film center downtown, and The Music Box.
- I leave the city for almost every holiday. This year, though, because of bad weather in my parents’ neck of the woods we found ourselves in Chicago the night before Thanksgiving. It was really cool, I thought, to watch people packing up their cars or arriving at a big brownstone and knocking on the door, to feel the city quiet down. In general, if you find yourself in Chicago or any other city on a holiday - even if you’d rather be home - embrace it. Notice your surroundings. Take it all in. It’s a cultural experience you don’t get visiting the city on a normal, boring day.
- Remember back in the spring when I said that you’ll be lucky if you happen to be here on the first warm day because people go a little bit crazy and you should make sure to get out on the streets or get to a park or something to witness it? Same story with the first snow, which seems to tend to happen in November. It’s funny how people who grew up their entire lives with the four seasons (because truly most Chicagoans are Midwesterners…we don’t get ton of coastal or southern transplants) still get giddy with excitement in predictable patterns each year.
That’s all I got, crew. One more of these - December! Thanks for sticking with me this year!
You can find previous months’ posts here:
I’ve written before about my love for Sufjan Stevens, and I feel like I need to make a kind of public service announcement today.
If you’re only a casual fan, you might not know that he’s put out 6 Christmas albums over the last few years, the most recent of which has over 50 songs on it. Some are covers of old hymns or carols, but a lot are original, and a lot are good, and I think writing good original Christmas music is almost impossible.
If you want something new and different in your Christmas mix, I’d recommend the following songs. I’d tell you to buy all the albums (you probably should) but his stuff can tend toward the weird at times and as a certified Sufjan expert I thought I’d help you sort through it all.
Note that these are some of the sadder songs on the albums…I’m just kind of a sap when it comes to music.
Here they are!
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” - Songs for Christmas
“That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!” - Songs for Christmas
“Sister Winter” - Songs for Christmas
“Star of Wonder” - Songs for Christmas
“Coventry Carol” - Silver and Gold
“Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree)” - Silver and Gold
“Christmas in the Room” - Silver and Gold
“The Child with the Star on His Head” - Silver and Gold
“Justice Delivers Its Gift” - Silver and Gold
This is one of those mornings when I just feel together. I got tons of sleep, fit in a gentle yoga practice by our Christmas tree with my new candy cane candle burning, made a good breakfast and some coffee, wrapped a thank-you gift for the co-instructor of the class I taught this quarter, walked Molly and got her all tucked in with her Kong for the day, and left the house unfrazzled and without forgetting anything. And now I’m on campus ten minutes early and can add “wrote a boring blog post” to my list!
I have a pain in the ass schedule today. A quick appointment downtown then a long train ride to school then an even longer train ride back home where an antsy dog will be waiting for me. I’m trying to embrace it by using the almost 3 hours I’ll be commuting to read this book for my dissertation and leisurely sip my coffee. Have a great Tuesday!