February 28, 2020

WNDR Museum in Chicago West Loop

Do you need an indoor idea for fun during our winter weather? Are there any people under 40 you want to impress with your coolness? Look no further than the WNDR Museum in the west Chicago Loop.

Visitors wander from room to room experiencing immersive visual and audio environments. Tech artists have created scenarios where you become part of the art such as in the black box room that places you on a screen and then morphs it into a kaleidoscope of images. A disco room allows you to use LED flooring to paint swirls with your feet.

One of my favorite stops was the Mirror Room by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Also intriguing was a black and white room with slanted floor. An arm appeared out of a wall cut-out and a voice asked if we wanted a photo taken with our phones. In truth, the whole museum is one big Instagram opportunity.

There are creative rooms where the visitors can explore their artistic muse using old-fashioned paper and materials provided by Wndr. A snack area features curated treats for purchase and a large complimentary cereal bar replete with milk, both cow’s and alternative.

Yes, admission is over-priced and repeat visits might not be forthcoming for most adults, but this is most entertaining for an hour or two. And you just might find a bauble or two in the quirky museum store.

Photo temporarily displayed on the museum walls. Me with husband Paul and Jim Koudelka.

Be forewarned that the museum does not handle cash. All transactions must be done through the internet or with a credit card.

By all means, bring your phone. Selfies encouraged.

wndrmuseum.com

Gone Bananas for the Yonanas

When my friend, Dale first told me about his new food machine, the Yonanas, How had I never heard anything about this ingenious gizmo that makes soft serve out of frozen fruit?

After thawing your chosen fruit for 7 to 10 minutes, you place them in a spout that funnels them past a spinning wheel with tiny teeth. Out comes a frozen treat that can be made without dairy, soy, egg, gluten or sugar. I have also frozen coconut milk in an ice cube tray to blend into the fruit mixtures. I tried putting cacao powder in the machine, but found that the chocolate did not mix well. Adding the powder after the soft serve is made is a far better option for a chocolate version.

The recipes vary from banana-centric to sorbets with mango, citrus, berries, peaches, cherries, pineapple or any fruit you can freeze. The machine comes with a handy recipe booklet and the variations appear endless.. This will be a godsend dessert option for those with dietary restrictions.

Topping choices are endless from chopped nuts to liqueurs to shredded and toasted coconut flakes. Trader Joe’s sells desiccated raspberries which make a delicious tangy and crunchy mix-in.

The Classic machine is easily disassembled and cleaned and does not take up much shelf space. A larger model called the Yonanas Elite is also available. I found my product for $39.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Pardon me while I turn on my Yonanas yet again.

yonanas.com

Amazon Basics Electric Kettle

If you need an under $20 gift for someone, let me recommend the small, but mighty Amazon Basics Electric Kettle with a one liter capacity.

While staying at the home of a host French dentist in Paris last fall, I fell in love with an appliance that boils water in about a minute. At home, I had been doing water for tea the old-fashioned way over a gas flame. How last century!

Lo and behold, Amazon has been featuring a mini-version of this little work horse for the low price of $15.29. I paid $17 and some change so the price has actually gone down. If you are an Amazon Prime member, the shipping is free.

My favorite feature is that the appliance shuts off when the water reaches a boiling point. No more scorched tea pots for the absent-minded. Guilty.

As I said, this makes the perfect little gift for a person you like. Which may be YOU.

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Stainless-Steel-Electric-Kettle/dp/B072DWYBL7/ref=sr_1_4?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1544213506&sr=1-4&keywords=amazon+basic+electric+kettle

Driverless van in downtown Las Vegas

My excitement rose as I saw a free driverless shuttle in downtown Las Vegas. In truth, this is a PR stunt to get people used to seeing and perhaps riding in a van that can drive itself. Walking the few blocks would have been faster albeit much less novel.

For now, the modern-looking van seats 8 with seat belts and another 3 for staff. The day I tried the shuttle, downtown construction necessitated having a human along for unforeseen obstacles. The standing driver intervened a couple of times with controls that looked like a gameboy device. The shuttle itself did successfully avoid hitting a car that got too close to us. A company companion car follows the van as it makes its way through the downtown area for an added layer of safety.

The project is sponsored by AAA and the city of Las Vegas with the vehicular service being provided by a French company named Keolis S. A. Our Keolis representative said that there are currently over a hundred cities across the world with driverless pilot programs. The driverless shuttle service is slated to be widespread in 2020. Two years from now, people!

The staff sheepishly told us about the Navya-built shuttle’s first day of service in Las Vegas. A delivery truck hit it causing a minor fender bender. Local police placed blame on the human driver of the truck however. If his vehicle had similar sensors to that of the shuttle’s, the accident may have been avoided entirely.

For now, driverless vans are a rare sight, but we are on the brink of a brave new world where we have to trust machines to do a better job than the human behind the wheel. Ready or not, automated transportation is speeding towards us.

New Apple building graces the Chicago River

I continue to cheer every time a new structure is added to the Chicago River scene. The new Apple Store under Pioneer Court at Michigan Avenue and the river bridge was constructed with international supplies and know-how.

The architectural firm that planned this glass marvel is Foster + Partners from London. A Dubai company supplied the carbon fiber roof panels. The glass elevator is from Japanese company, Mitsubishi. Granite is from a quarry in China, and the leather throughout the store is from France’s Hermès.

The architecture is a mixture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style with wide eaves paired with 21st century glass laminate walls that make the building appear to be transparent. The views of the river and the surrounding buildings make this a new Chicago jewel.

The interior features a 6 K resolution screen that literally floats above the seating for visitors. Yes, the main purpose of the building is to sell Apple products but architectural buffs and tourists alike will want to pay a visit to this new Chicago architectural wonder.

Photo by E. Doyle

Robotic lawn mowers: Honda’s Miimo

A friend of mine uses an electronic system to keep her dog in their fenceless yard. Lo and behold, robotic lawnmowers are now combining that concept with that of the Roomba vacuum to keep lawns clipped and mulched.

The number one on-line choice appears to be the Honda Miimo lawn kit which comes with 3 elements: perimeter wire with pegs to mark your property’s boundaries and to mark off flowers, trees and bushes from being mowed, the robotic unit itself and the charging station.

Using a smart phone app, the owner can set the grass cutting height and the mower proceeds to manicure the lawn. The device can be programmed to only run at night with a sound equivalent to an air-conditioning unit. Contrast that with the ultra-loud power mowers of yore.

The machine finely slices the grass into mulch which is left on the lawn as a natural fertilizer. When the mower runs low on juice, it automatically goes to its charging station and powers up.
The Honda Miimo comes in two price models, the HRM 310 for $2,499 or the HRM 520 for $2,799 so only the well-heeled will be buying these mowers, for now.

A couple of my nephews make money mowing sporting fields in the summer. Let’s hope these robotic mowers don’t come down in price and proliferate until these two young guys are out of college!