Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chicago by Train

On May 7th Thomas and I are taking a vacation to the Midwest. We are going to Chicago. Thomas' family is from that area and we will be visiting one of his Mom's cousins and doing some sightseeing. We decided to take the train and we will be traveling on Amtrak's Southwest Chief from Lamy to Chicago. This will be my first visit to Chicago and it has been quite a while since Thomas has been there - so it will be almost like a first trip for him as well. It will also be our first time traveling by train - we are both very excited ab
out this trip. I have been doing a lot of research and planning so that we will have a memorable trip. Here are some fun facts and trivia about Chicago.

Chicago Fun Facts

Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, with a population of nearly three million people. Its scenic lakeside location, world-class cultural offerings and unique architecture are just some of the reasons why Chicago is a great place to live and visit.

Chicago is home to...

237 square miles of land

An estimated 2,896,016 residents

Dozens of cultural institutions, historical sites and museums

More than 200 theaters

Nearly 200 art galleries

More than 7,300 restaurants

77 community areas containing more than 100 neighborhoods

26 miles of lakefront

15 miles of bathing beaches

36 annual parades

19 miles of lakefront bicycle paths

552 parks

United States President Barack Obama

Did you know . . .

Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837.

Chicago’s nicknames include: The Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, the Second City, and The City That Works.

The "Historic Route 66" begins in Chicago at Grant Park on Adams Street in front of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The first Ferris wheel made its debut in Chicago at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Today, Navy Pier is home to a 15-story Ferris wheel, modeled after the original one.

Chicago’s downtown area is known as “The Loop.” The nickname refers to

the area encircled by the elevated (‘L’) train tracks.

In 1900, Chicago successfully completed a massive and highly innovative engineering project – reversing the flow of the Chicago River so that it emptied into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan. Each year, the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

The Art Institute of Chicago has one of the largest and most extensive collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world.

When it opened in 1991, the Harold Washington Library Center, with approximately 6.5 million books, was the world’s largest municipal library.

The Lincoln Park Zoo, one of only three major free zoos in the country, is the country’s oldest public zoo with an estimated annual attendance of three million.

The Sears Tower is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 110 stories high.

The Sears Tower elevators are among the fastest in the world operating

as fast as 1,600 feet per minute.

Four states are visible from the Sear Tower Skydeck (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan & Wisconsin).

There seems to be some different opinions about how Chicago got its nickname - "The Windy City". I found three different writings about this . . .

Jon Boyd's Site

Hub Pages

World Wide Words

I am sure there are quite a few other opinions but I thought I got a good feeling about The Windy City from these.

There seems to be an endless supply of things for us to do while we are there so I am focusing on certain things. We both love architecture so we will be taking a river cruise that focuses on just that, we also love art so we will be visiting a few museums. And a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio has been planned. Both of us also like being outside so we will probably visit one or more of the following - Grant Park, Millennium Park, Lincoln Park, Museum Campus and Navy Pier. These things are just the tip of the iceburg - there is also lots of music (jazz, blues and rock), food, the zoo and aquarium and public art. So I think we will be busy the entire time. I will write about our trip on this blog probably every two or three days. So hopefully I will have a good journal of this trip by the time we get back home.

*The painting above is called 'Chicago Skyline' and is an Oil on Linen (22x28) - 2008 by Anastasia Mak.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Learning to Care for My Orchids

Today Thomas and I attended a class on Growing Orchids in New Mexico. It was held at Tropic of Capricorn here in Santa Fe and was taught by Michael Clark. It was a very informal class that was fun and had a lot of great information. The reason I wanted to take the class is because over the last four or five years I have acquired four orchid plants (either as gifts or ones that I purchased myself). Of course they looked great when I bought them but only one of them has ever bloomed again, that was my Phalaenopsis. And one recently died. All the orchid plants look good - they have nice leaves and seem healthy but I just can't get them to bloom. I have tried all kinds of things. Things that other people suggested, things I found on the internet and things I read in books. But nothing seems to work. And I really don't know what I did to get the Phalaenopsis to bloom. About three weeks ago I was in the store and talked to Michael. He suggested some fertilizer and this class he was having. So I bought the fertilizer and also sign up for the class. He told me to start with a fertilizer to help promote the plants to grow more leaves (about 25% more) and then after that I could start with the fertilizer to help them bloom. I did just that. All three of my plants have new leaves and look healthier than ever. Today I started them on the bloom formula. It actually looks like two of the plants actually have spikes coming out for blooms - at least I hope that is what they are.

My Phalaenopsis blooming March 2008

So anyway, here is what I learned at the class today.

The orchids need good bright light but NO direct sunlight. East and north facing windows provide the best light.
Most orchids need a temperature differential between night and day to bloom. Most like night temperatures of between 55 and 65 degrees F. Michael stated "If you are uncomfortable then your orchids are probably uncomfortable".
Orchids like about 50% humidity. In New Mexico we generally have between 10% - 30% humidity. To increase the humidity you can do several things. Put pots of water near the plants, use a humidifier, mist the leaves, put them in a bathroom that is used daily or use humidity trays.
Rain water is best. You should water the plants thoroughly and then allow them to go almost dry. Michael suggested to water weekly.
If the plant is blooming just use clear water. He suggest that you should feed the plant a growth formula to help promote leaf growth first (30-10-10 formula is what he uses - this has more Nitrogen which helps leave grow.) When the plant has 25% more leaves then he says to switch to a bloom formula (6-30-30 formula is what he uses - it has more phosphorus to help the flowers.)
Never repot when the plant is in bloom. And you only need to repot when the plant's roots are pushing it out of the pot. He suggest to use an orchid potting mix - never soil.
Never mist the flowers it leaves stains on them. Never let them sit in water, it causes rot and fungus (the main problem with orchids). In the summer (June 1st - October 1st) you can put them outside - not in direct sun and not on the ground.

My orchids as they look today (April 2009)

This class provided me with a lot of new ideas to try. First I am going to repot my plants - it has been a while and they all look like they could use new potting mix. I will continue with the bloom formula to see if that helps. I am also going to start using a humidity tray to help get them more moisture. I feel like I have them in a good spot for light and I think I am watering them enough. I will wait and see what happens, hopefully I learned some good things today and that will help.