Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!!

Off to D.C. until Monday!! Happy New Year everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mmmmm, Crow.

Not only are the Chicago Bears 11-4 and division champs and in the playoffs, but they've locked up a bye in the first week with no worse than the #2 seed. Hopefully they will still play full out against the Packers in the last game of the season and knock them out of the playoffs. If Lovie Smith stays true to his past behavior, the starters for the Bears won't play more than a half though. Such a wuss. I believe in the Belichick philosophy where you play your starters all game all the time. We already have a week off!

At the beginning of the season, though I couldn't find my blog entry on it, I suggested the Bears would be 7-9 or 8-8. The schedule just didn't allow for more wins than that and the Bears had a lot going against them including a new offensive coordinator who was our QB's third in three years and a QB who had just a ton of interceptions last year.

Fortunately, I picked very few of the games correctly. I correctly said we'd beat Detroit (twice), Carolina at home and Buffalo on the road and I said we'd lose to New England at home which we did. But then I also said we'd beat the Giants (lost), Washington and Seattle at home (losses). I thought we'd lose to Dallas on the road (we won), Green Bay at home (won), Minnesota both at home and on the road (we swept them), Miami on the road (won and I bet on us in Vegas), and Philly and the Jets at home (won both!). So the moral of the story is you just never know. Of the 15 games played, I only picked 5 correctly at the beginning of the year. Crazy. Time to eat crow.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Cards

Only two Christmas cards have come back with problems this year, which is about normal I guess. For one I used an old address even though I had the new address and on the second one the address sticker actually fell off! The return label stayed on so the card was returned. I've never had that happen before. Resends are in the mail.

Today, Wednesday I mean when most of you are going to read this, is Joisey Ken's birthday! Happy Birthday buddy!!

It looked like a relatively down year in the quality of Christmas cards I received this year and I'm severely disappointed in all of you. Many, many family picture and kid picture cards. Those all have to be disqualified because I can't really say one kid's picture is better than another's. The best cards will be scanned and posted shortly though.

My Bears playoff tickets came today!! They are going to play one game at home at least in the playoff and have a chance for two. That'll be one hell'uva tailgate!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

There's nothing like sleep and a good breakfast.

It was another busy day after a nice, long, 10 hour sleep last night. We were both exhausted and sleeping in was just the ticket. After I finally hauled myself out of bed and got showered, I headed to Starbucks and then to the grocery to get breakfast items: a green pepper, grated cheese and chorizo to make omelets.

After brunch (since it was pretty late in the morning), there was work to be done before we started a whole bunch of running around which included trips to the post office and stores to return/exchange/buy gifts. One of the gifts I got LL was a new office work chair and, of course, the local store was out of the model she wanted so we had to drive way north to another branch. The mission was successful though and we got home with about 45 minutes to spare before we had to go meet LL's parents and sister and brother-in-law at Sapori, our favorite Italian place.

On a completely unrelated note, I lost in the championship game of my fantasy football pool...or will after tomorrow's game. The tough part to swallow is that I was going to start one quarterback, Josh Freeman from Tampa, over Matt Schaub of Houston, but decided to go with Schaub at the end of the day. Schaub did about as projected, scoring me 16 points, but Freeman was OFF THE HOOK with 43 points. Ugh. The 27 additional points would have left me trailing by only 11 points going into tomorrow night's game with one player to go.....there would have been a reason to watch the game and a hope to carry the championship title for a year. Like the Cubs, there's always next year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the go since Thursday

It's been a really busy Christmas. Now, normally Christmas is somewhat busier anyway, but this year in particular was busier than others. And it all started with Ricardo on Thursday seems like all arduous paths start with Ricardo.

Ok, maybe that's a little unfair to Ricardo: we're all too willing victims. After Zoo Lights, dinner and Ricardo's on Thursday (see Friday's entry), we were in rough shape come Friday morning, but I had to do get up early to tackle some work before we could go to see LL's family. Mission accomplished though and we rolled in around 1:30 I think. There was much celebration and gift giving and of course, eating. Lots of eating.

While we were celebrating, the snow started and it was getting a bit hairy for travel. We left around 9 so we could get back in time for midnight mass. Everything was fine and we made it to mass without a hitch, though we had to drive much closer to the posted speed limits than normal...and often below!

In church there were actually two little kids, like 7 and 5, sitting in the row in front of us. It's tough for kids that age to stay up so late and these kids were no exception. The little girl was sleeping with her head on her father when he abruptly stood up. Bang! Her whole body just collapsed on the pew and she jumped awake, very startled. Ha!

After mass we felt like the little kids and went to sleep as soon as we got home. We were up early again though on Christmas morning to exchange gifts before heading to my parents for more merriment. Afterwards, stuffed to the gills with food, we headed back to LL's folks' place for a Christmas Day visit.

Around 10:00 or so, we were finally home, but not ready for bed as one of my car headlights had gone out. Fortunately I had a spare and was able to replace it with LL's help holding a flashlight. Why replace it at night? Because the next morning it was off to the Bears game with Bill the Bear and I didn't want to give the police ANY reason to pull me over!

And what a game it was!! The Bears took it to the Jets 38-34 in a really good game. The highlight/lowlight though was when Bill took off his glove just after getting to our seats and having his hand warmer fall perfectly into his beer. After deftly removing the warmer, a decision had to be made: is the beer drinkable or not? The answer? We don't know. The package said don't put the warmers into your mouth, so we kind of assumed putting them in beer and then the beer into your mouth was also not good. Bill sucked it up and went and got another beer (plus one more since he was there) and we were ready to go once again. Good fun!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Zoo Lights

Last night LL and I headed to the Lincoln Park Zoo for Zoo Lights. We wondered around there for about an hour and took these pics of the evening:

The welcoming sign.

The first big tree that's lit up.

This guy is well into his fourth or fifth ice sculpture. Very cool to watch, not easy to take a picture of with my phone.

An abundance of trees very densely packed with lights.

There were animal lights as well throughout the zoo. Here, LL is posing with one of our favorite meals: crabs!

This tree was awesome and would look better as a video than a still shot. Those whitish/blue lights would "fall down" the tree limbs. Very cool to see in motion.

One of my favorite light exhibits was this dragon. The "fire" from it's mouth is lit up in this picture, but it wouldn't always be. Then the bushes in the left of the picture are "on fire" as they had red lights on the bottom and progressively lighter lights to the top of the bushes. They would also flicker when the dragon was breathing fire on them. Very cool.

After Zoo Lights, we hit an Italian restaurant in the hood called Angelina's. It's been there for 22 years we were told, but I hadn't been there in 10+ years because I thought it was too expensive at the time. In reality, I just didn't have enough money to eat there more than on special occasions. It wasn't too unreasonable though last night. For $75 including tax and tip, we had an appetizer, two entrees and two glasses of wine. Pretty standard. Plus we have enough left over for another meal for both of us!!

Then we headed to Ricardo's house to give him and wife Jodi their Christmas gift. They had house guests from the UK and had invited some folks over (including us) for some food and drinks. We ended up having way too much wine and left around midnight. Great fun!!

Merry Christmas again!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shopping is done.....I think

As of Thanksgiving, I had not one Christmas gift purchased. Not to worry. Not to panic. It's a fairly typical year for me. But what was different this year is that I found online shopping really, really convenient....even more so than last year. In fact, LL purchased some gift cards on my behalf and I bought some more gift cards at my local Jewel, but just about every other gift (more than 15 at least) were purchased online and mostly through Amazon. They have EVERYTHING and it's pretty inexpensive compared to other sites. It was a little stressful though waiting for a box from Amazon with 6-8 gifts in it. The last box arrived yesterday, much to my joy!

Most of the gifts are wrapped too! Only a few of those gift cards left. By the way, I really don't like to give gift cards as gifts. I much prefer to take the time to find an item from a list (online or otherwise) or to think of something on my own. Unfortunately, I don't spend enough time with everyone in my family to know what they might actually appreciate, so the gift card comes in handy.

But I also find myself buying MORE gifts because it's so much easier than schlepping to a mall. So while I THINK I'm done shopping, I'm not really sure I am. If something cool pops up online, who knows??

So Merry Christmas to all my readers and lurkers!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let there be light??

Most every heard about, or was lucky enough to see, the lunar eclipse last night. The last time it happened on the winter solstice was in the 1600's. That coincidence didn't interest me so much as the lunar eclipse itself. It just seems cool. Unfortunately we had clouds, and snow, so we didn't get to see it here in Chicago.

What we did get to see was the Bears humbling the beaten up Vikings. Brett Favre was ruled out earlier in the week, then questionable on Sunday and finally was named the starter about 2 hours before the game. Crazy! Nobody could remember the last time a player was listed as "out" and then started. Leave it to Favre. A huge sack from rookie Corey Wootten, his first of his career, ended the night for Brett and the hopes of Minnesota.

It was a huge night for me too as I had 10 point lead in my fantasy football league with no players left and my opponent had the Vikings runningback and their defense. Since the Bears scored 40 points, the Vikings defense ended up with -1 points and the runningback got 6 for a total of 5 and a semi-final game win for me!! Championship next week!!!

The new light poles are up on the street! They aren't working yet, but they are up. Here are some pics:

The smaller light pole is the new one. On the corner, the new one is placed right next to the old one.

Outside my condo, the old one sits on my side of the street and the new one is across the street. The new lights don't work yet, but I'm interested to see how well they light the area.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Some more pictures

..they're not the best, but they are IPhone pictures. Thankfully LL remembered to bring her phone onto the ice. So let's get to it!

This is me just getting up from a crouching position and getting ready to lunge forward away from the hack-the starting block-like pads in the ice. In my right hand is the stone, 42 pounds by the way, and in my left is the stabilizer, a support tool. In much of the world and if you're an old school curler, you use a broom for support in the left had. If you're relatively new to the game, you use one of these stabilizers.

When we were practicing sliding and form, this is how far you can go easily. I'm at the "hog line". You have to let go before that line. At the other end of the ice is another hog line and your stone has to make it that far to stay on the ice. I think my form was decent here.

Sweeping is crucial to placement of the stone. If you sweep in front of the stone, it will move further and curl LESS. The stone will curl based on speed and the turn when you throw the stone. This stone is in the house and heading towards the button.

We stuck around to watch our instructors play a few ends. They were team bacon and they turned their stabilizer into a pig! It was funny. Their opponents showed up dressed as butchers!! I should have taken a picture. My bad.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Long weekend, short post

So much to talk about, but I'm going to keep it short.

Friday night LL and I saw Jerry Seinfeld doing stand-up at The Chicago Theater. Good fun! His show was only about an hour long, but it was good. One thing he talked about that was of more interest to me than humorous, was that he got married at 45 and has three kids who are 10, 7 and 5. I'll be 45 next year when I get married.

On Saturday I wrapped Christmas gifts while LL hung out in the burbs with a good friend of hers. After hitting the gym, where I ran 2.5 miles, we went out with a friend from L.A. who was in town for the holidays.

Sunday was church for both of us, though LL went to Joliet and I went to St. Alphonsus as usual. Afterwards though we headed to Northbrook to go curling. Yes curling!! Pictures to come tomorrow. In short though, it was a lot of fun and I may join the club. Ok, here's one picture:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mysteries of Minnesota

No post yesterday because I was a bit grumpy and just wanted to relax and watch the Hawks game with LL. Why was I grumpy? Well, in addition to some difficult work issues, I decided to start running again and get a jump on some weight loss. Instead of a "runners high" that I hear so much about, I went in the opposite direction and got pissy about every little thing. For example, while cooking dinner I dropped one piece of a cut up potato just before putting it in the oven and started cursing like a sailor. God bless LL for putting up with me until after dinner. Clearly I was just running a low blood-sugar level. After dinner I was my normal affable self. The Hawks lost.

So what's going on in Minnesota?? If you're not a Bears or football fan, you may not have heard about the collapse of the Metrodome. If you haven't seen it, there's great video of it on the web. My issue is, what Rhodes Scholar built this thing, in Minnesota mind you, and didn't anticipate snow falling on it? I don't care that there was a lot of snow; you build it ANTICIPATING a lot of snow!! And the back up plan for the Vikings to play the Bears is a brand new outdoor college facility. Only they're not sure they can get it ready to play because it wasn't designed to be played on in the winter. WHAT?? Who would approve such a thing?? Just because the college season ends at the end of November NOW, doesn't mean it won't run into mid December at some point. Very shortsighted. It makes me wonder what people are thinking up there....if they are thinking at all (no offense to reader Terri who clearly thinks quite often)!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Of Tilapia and Orange Roughy

Reader Terri brought up a good question about my slipper issue: why not try them on in the store? Well, first, I figured since they are slippers, they would just fit. No rough edges or leather or arch supports to deal with: you just put them on and they fit! Apparently not so. Second, they were boxed up and for some reason that dissuaded me from trying them on. Third, they're slippers, a bedtime and early morning item so trying them on seems wrong (I don't try on boxers or undershirts before're welcome). But when I go back to the store tomorrow, I'm not leaving without a pair that fit!!!

Today I had a business lunch at The Arts Club, a posh, for members only restaurant at an art museum. Did Joe know any of this about the restaurant? No. Did the member tell him? No. What did Joe wear to said lunch? Hiking boots, jeans, a turtle neck and a sweater.....and I was carrying a 7-iron. Yeah, a 7-iron. Ok, ya see, this guy is a lawyer with whom I went golfing the last time I saw him and his club got mixed into my bag, so I was returning it. And while he's a lawyer and it was a business lunch, I was thinking two things 1) it's casual (after all, I have a 7 iron for God sake) and 2) it was cold out and I was taking the bus.

Anyway, it felt a little awkward when my lawyer "friend" said, "Oh, did they let you in like that?"
Well, I haven't actually gone into the dining room yet.
"Ok, well, worst case we can go across the street to Capitol Grill."
Nice. Maybe a little "heads up" about attire at the place would have been nice.

Lunch was very tasty and I deviated from the norm and had tilapia. Normally I'm not a big fan, mostly because the fish doesn't really taste like anything. This dish had the fish smothered in pesto and white grapes. Very tasty. So for dinner, instead of cooking catfish or scallops, I opted for some orange roughy. Yeah, yeah, I had fish for lunch so I should have made something else, but we had pork for dinner the night before and I wasn't in the mood for steak. It's been a while since I've made roughy, but it was pretty easy and tasty: brush with melted butter, cover in some form of crumb coating (Italian bread crumbs and herbs, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder) and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Good eating!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Slippery Weight

How many trips to the store does it take for Joe to buy a pair of slippers? So far, the answer is at least 4. On the first trip, I bought a nice pair of size 11's that I liked. Unfortunately, they didn't fit. So I took them back, but the didn't have a size 12, so I went with another style in size 12. Took them home, very happily, but they were too big! So I took them back and got size 11's. They are too small!! WTH?!?! And I got a really good deal on this purchase due to discounts so I NEED to make something work! One more trip.

Somehow, over the last few months...okay, like 5 months but mostly the last 3 months, my weight has jumped back up 6-7 pounds from its low. That doesn't make me happy. What's the reason? Mostly it's the end of softball and beginning of Bears games. Though really it's me just eating too much (or drinking too much). Hopefully I can drop 4 pounds or so in pretty quick order. We'll see. It was a good day at the gym today, but I didn't run and that's where I really shed weight. Oh well, I'll get it back down, just need to focus on it for a bit. Looks like me and everyone else will be trying to lose weight in January.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Meaningful Request

The other day, my father, who claims to read my blog more than periodically, requested that I start writing "more interesting" entries. More precisely he said, " your blog of late SUCKS" and "I don't give a f#$% if your tired mister."

Now, from anyone else those comments would be a wakeup call, but from my father I more or less hit the snooze button. Ok, not true....I'm keeping that thought in mind.

Friday night we had dinner with a softball buddy of mine and his wife at one of our favorite restaurants, Sapori Trattoria. They just moved into the neighborhood or at least sort of close to the 'hood. They bought a sweet place with a nice roof deck. Good stuff.

On Saturday, we were invited to three parties (two birthday and one holiday), but were only able to make it to one party which was about an hour away in Naperville. It was fun though so we didn't cut our time short to try to go to another party. In fact, the weather started to take a turn for the worse and our trip home took much more than an hour. The weather during the day was in the upper 30's and relatively pleasant until it started to rain. While we were at the party, the temperature dropped and all the wet stuff turned to ice. Snow, ice and cold. Guess what the weather was like for Sunday's Bears game?

Though I haven't seen the official stats, the game time temperature was supposed to be a zero wind chill dropping to about -7 during the game. Since it was supposed to be so windy, we bailed on tailgating and met at a bar instead. Then we changed and drove over from there. Benny Baseball and Andy The Sausage King met us there. Good fun. Even the game wasn't too cold, but unfortunately it wasn't competitive. The Bears were awful in every facet of the game except kick returns. Not much of a bright spot.

Here's the view from my seats of the close endzone and the field folks clearing the snow off the field.

Another shot of the cleaning crew.

This shot is from my seats of the action near the other goal line. It snowed the whole game, though we left after three quarters of the 36-7 debacle.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Grocery

Yesterday I was at our local grocery, one of three big ones, and I noticed that the selection of fruits and vegetables seemed to be lacking a bit. This has been the case at this store for most of the year actually. Earlier in the year, they blamed it on fires or floods in California. But that was 9 months ago!

Then I started thinking about a movie we had seen recently called The Road. It's about a guy and his son in a post-apocalyptic world as they head from their old home to the ocean shore where they are disappointed to find things pretty much the same as at home. They have little food or water and it's pretty bleak.

In our land of plenty, I don't think about having limited choices, especially in the food arena. But all around the world people have limited access to food and certainly don't have the choices available to me even on the worst days. For many people it's probably pretty common to go to the store and have them be out of certain things...often staples. Not actual staples, but the basic foods and necessities, though they probably run out of staples too. That's just not the case here and it's something for which I'm thankful.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Another long day

Sorry folks, I had a long day of work and then hit the gym and I'm beat. Tomorrow should be better....ugh, who am I kidding? Tomorrow's going to be tough too.

Ahh, sleep.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Wood cutting weekend

For more pictures, check out last year's wood cutting extravaganza.

My buddy, Ricardo, has a cabin (really a house) about 30 minutes north of Madison and it's a nice relaxing place to visit what with the woods, nature and fire place fires. The reality though is that either wood has to be purchased to be burned, or dead trees from his 20+ acres need to be cut, dried and split. Since the trees are plentiful, it only makes sense to do the latter. The wood stacks were full from last year and ready to be split, so that was our chore for last weekend. Five of us went up on Friday with the thought of starting to split some wood before a snow storm hit.

Friday quickly dissolved into a trip into town for a fish fry and then a night at one of the many local bars. It was great fun which included Smitty stealing not one, not two, but three glasses under his coat. Ha! Golfing buddy Nick tackled some chick in the alley (we're still not sure what happened there) and Ricardo was off smoking (something) with the DJ. Only Bill the Bear and I remained unscathed.

Saturday morning was not happy for most, but I was doing ok. Smitty was in a bad was Ricardo who went on a "shot of Jameson" spree. For some reason the site won't let me move pictures now, otherwise I'd put the "me cooking breakfast" picture here.

So I'll go on with the order that the photos are in now.

This stack of wood is one of four that needed to be split. In all, it was probably close to 3 cords of wood. We worked at it from about 11 until after dark....sometime around 6 I guess.

This is where the wood WAS stacked, with the picture above positioned just left of this picture. The splitter is on the right. Actually, we struggled getting the splitter started up due to "old gas". Bill thought of getting some started fluid into the tank (or sprayed it in the carburetor I guess) and that got it fired up. While they were trying to figure out what to do, I decided to shovel snow since I knew I couldn't help with the starting process. You have to know your limits!

And here's the wood shed. At this point it's only about half full. You can see one row in the back and this middle row of wood. Another row was stacked in front of this one.

We each have a meal or food to bring and or prepare. Due to making breakfast for tailgates 10 times a year, I opted for breakfast. It's not the easiest meal since I'm usually not the earliest of risers. It all worked out though and here I was making chorizo omelettes with cheese, green pepper and onion. We also had maple sausage links and thick cut bacon. Good eating.

But there was plenty of time spent in front of the fire as well. We got this puppy up to 800 degrees pretty much every night.

We didn't have music on, so I'm not entirely sure WHAT was going on here.

Here, Nick and Bill are playing cards. I played Euchre for the first time and we played a little Pai-Gow Poker.

Smitty after the Friday night fiasco. For some reason, there was too much smoke in his upstairs bedroom, so he slept on the couch. Oh, I didn't mention that Ricardo and Bill brought a couch up to the house, but it caused a chain reaction of couch moves: the new one went into the living room, the living room sofa went up into the upstairs room, the sofa up there went into the basement....I think...I don't even know anymore. That's what we did on Friday instead of splitting wood. We had to get the couch inside before the snow hit, so we just focused on the furniture.

Nick doffing the coonskin cap. He looks happy!!

Instead of coming home on Sunday as Nick and Smitty did, I stayed after the Bears game (which we watched at The Corner Pocket in downtown Portage) and went curling! Yep, curling. I got to throw 16 stones and it was very fun. My buddies Terry and Sharon got me into the curling club while their daughter Erin practiced and the coach snuck me onto the last sheet.

Curling is actually a LOT harder than it looks. The actually delivery is as easy as it looks, but the aim and speed is tough to get down. Now, I've only thrown those 16 stones (of which I put two in the house, sent one through the button, and left one just short of the house) so maybe it really isn't that hard. Or maybe I'm just an outstanding athlete! Ha! Anyway, it's a hoot and I'm going curling with friends on the 19th and am looking forward to it. Thanks Terry and Sharon!!!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Busy, long weekend

Too tired to write today, but TOMORROW I'll supply pictures of the weekend and everything. After a relaxing morning, I had a 3+ hour drive home, a conference call right after I got home, then quickly change and head downtown for a two hour meeting. Eventually I got home and 30 minutes later it was off to dinner with LL (at our favorite Italian restaurant which didn't disappoint). Some snuggle time on the sofa and now it's time for bed.

More tomorrow!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Short post

It's late. I'm tired. I'm going to bed in anticipation of a great weekend that starts tomorrow up at Ricardo's country home. It's our annual wood splitting weekend. Should be fun, but a bit of work. Unfortunately there's going to be a crap load of snow, so that's going to impact the weekend in some fashion.

Tonight started the Christmas party season with two fun events. The first was at my church and we only stayed about an hour. They actually had lots of great food and all sorts of booze: Sam Adams beer, wine, other good drinks. Nice!!

The second party was at a law firm, HMB, downtown at the Standard Club. I started using the law firm about 15 years ago and have recommended them to clients as well. They've more than tripled in size since then and are good folks. LL came with me as she did last year and her best friend's husband also goes as he uses the law firm as well. So not only did I have my law firm buddies to talk to as I ate prime rib, shrimp, duck with plum sauce, bacon wrapped dates (YES! Just like I make for tailgating!!) and a bunch of other good food, but LL and her friend too. Good fun.

Also at the event was Alexi Giannoulias, who ran for Obama's vacated Senate seat but lost. His cousin is in the law firm. Seems like there's always someone famous showing up at this event. Kind of neat.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Into my bag of topics.....

So every so often I'll write down a list of topics to write about when my day is a blur and I have nothing great (or even mediocre) to write about. Today is one of those days! Lucky you!!

Basra is rat free. Now it's not just sort of rat free; it's completely rat free! No rat holes....nothing. This is good right? Well, yeah. But as I walk by Basra on my to and from Starbucks every morning, I find myself habitually looking over at Basra for holes, traps, etc. Of course, I haven't put out my traps, so there's nothing to see. There could be new holes I guess, but the exterminator really did a good job and his bait stations are still deployed and keeping rats from moving back in to Basra. In concert, the tuckpointer who nearly killed me, did a good job with extending walls at various points into the ground where rats previously would have taken up residence by our stoop had I not been fighting them off.

So the weird thing is: I kind of miss fighting the rats. It's weird and I shouldn't feel that way, but I do. Sigh. I know. I should just count my blessings.

Hey, no matter how you feel about warfare, this puppy is really awesome. I actually saw it on a show which I think was called Future Weapons. At the time I said to myself, "Why the hell don't they get this thing out to our troops TODAY???!!??!!!". It actually pissed me off. Now I'm happy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is that carbon monoxide? "Yeah, don't worry about it."

Over the past two months I've noticed that my pantry(upstairs in my kitchen) has been uncharacteristically warm. Like super warm. Think 80 degrees. It would normally never get above the mid 60's as it abuts an exterior brick wall, so it was great for a pantry especially if you have wine in there! :-) Last week we moved the wine down to the storage area in the basement which is a little less convenient, but is cooler. Since we had work done in the ceiling in the kitchen and insulation was installed, I just assumed the insulation was blocking some major air leaks which may have contributed to the cooling of the pantry. I was wrong.

We also had tuckpointers in as well and I thought maybe the work they did (some of which was on the exterior wall abutting the pantry) was preventing some air leaks. Again, I was wrong.

My upstairs neighbor has a washer and dryer in their pantry, so I thought that could be the cause of the heat. Wrong again.

So now the other day I received an email from a guy in the condo building asking me to contact our boiler repair guy because the maintenance guy (who basically cleans, takes out the garbage, shovels snow, etc) saw a leaking pipe in the boiler room. Well, that was an understatement. The leak was a pinhole leak actually in a pipe and it was shooting water about 10' across the boiler room onto all sorts of stuff including a light switch. Nice. Fortunately the maintenance guy had the sense to cover the switch with a plastic bag....though he didn't have enough sense to at least put duct tape around the hole like I did. It didn't stop the water, but the water was just dribbling down the pipe to a floor drain after I taped it.

The boiler repair guy came in yesterday after I called him and noted that there were actually TWO pipes leaking. So he fixed those, no problem. Then he saw that there was a leak above one of our water heaters too! What the hell?? It had been leaking for a while too because some of the connections corroded a bit. He fixed that leak as well and then I noticed that the water heater wasn't even lit! Again, WTH?? LL had mentioned that she wasn't getting warm water in the morning which is crazy since the bathroom she uses is about 30' from the water heaters. When one of them isn't lit though, that's a problem.

And that's not all!!

While he was working on fixing the pipes, the boiler kicked on. Our boiler is pretty old, but has been maintained well and does a good job heating the six units with steam heat. The boiler guy noticed it was really hot in the boiler room. Like really, really hot. The he noticed that the exhaust from the boiler wasn't properly ventilating. In fact, the flue was completely blocked with bricks and debris, a good portion of which was from the tuckpointers who secured our chimney by making it about half the size and putting a hood on it. After he took off some of the venting ducts and cleared away the debris, the boiler room was no longer so hot and guess what? Neither was my pantry. Yes, the boiler room is below my pantry. My kitchen wasn't impacted oddly enough.

The boiler repair guy said there was probably a significant amount of carbon monoxide going into my unit. When I explained that my carbon monoxide detector in my unit (about 45' from the boiler room) didn't go off, he said that's because heat rises and so does carbon monoxide. I'm not completely convinced that if CO was moving vertically into my unit that it wouldn't also move horizontally into my unit.

Today I called the tuckpointer and told him he owed us some money (he's paying half of the boiler room guy's bill) and is lucky he doesn't have a wrongful death suit on his hands!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

If you're ever in Vegas....

What a great game today! The Bears really took it to the Eagles today and it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The game was moved from noon to 3:15, which meant we were able to sleep in for a change. It was really nice to still be in bed at 8:30 and not on my way to a cold parking lot to cook breakfast, which I still love to do, but it's better to be in bed!

It was about noon when we rolled into the parking lot. On the menu today was chili, cheese brats, bacon wrapped dates and figs, chips and dip and apple slices with caramel dipping sauce. We had hot apple cider to help keep us warm too.

The sun was shining on our section of the stands for all of about five minutes of game time, but it was still relatively warm until the second half. At some point in the third quarter I put on my coat, though I had 4-5 layers on underneath it.

The Eagles are a pretty good team and recently have been talked up as not only a likely playoff team but also a possible Super Bowl contender. They were the first real quality win of the year (Dallas turned out to be a sham and Green Bay beat themselves with 150 yards in penalties). It was a huge win!!

Another comment on Vegas: if you're a fan of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the CFL and you find yourself in Vegas when they are playing, go to the Rock House bar on the strip. The place is filthy with Canadians wearing green and white. Just something to think about if you're there on a Sunday and the Rough Riders are playing!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

So many things going on and to post about from the exceptional to the mundane....or from the slightly less mundane to the really mundane.

Ever since engagement night (last Sunday), I've been fighting a sore throat and probably some sort of sinus infection-y issue. That said, this week hasn't been without interest, even though I've been sleeping in every day until 9 or 10.

Wednesday was the pre-holiday dinner at Ricardo's, hosted by Bill the Bear. Also in attendance were Smitty and his wife, both noticeably smaller after losing 20+ pounds each on Weight Watchers. Good for them! There was no calorie watching this night though as much cheese dip, cheese slices, pies, wine and meatless pasta dishes were consumed. Finally, around midnight or so, I had to call it a night because the next day was Thanksgiving and I had a 7 a.m. wakeup call.

Why 7 a.m.? There was football to be played!! Some of the guys who sit around me at the Bears game hold a Turkey Bowl game at 9:30 in a far southern suburb (Matteson) and though it's almost an hour away, I've played 3 years running now. The first year I was an offensive MVP as our team dominated with me at QB. Last year, I turned into the bad Jay Cutler and had a horrible game throwing something like 6 interceptions in a loss. This year, almost a year off of shoulder surgery, I was back on top again. We pick teams like you did when you were a kid and after last year, I slipped significantly in the draft, though I guess I was a captain the first two years I think. Anyway, there were only one or two guys picked after me for the 6 on 6 game (last year we had 10 or 11 a side).

After leading a scoring drive at QB on our first possession, I threw a pick 6 (an interception returned for a TD) on our second possession to tie the score. Ugh. It was no repeat of last year though as I ended up throwing for two scores, running one in and picking a ball off for a near touchdown. Five of the six guys on our team scored a touchdown and we won 42-7. I was named MVP once again.

Here's the team photo, though the guy on the left in the picture wasn't really on our team. In fact, he's 0-3 in Turkey Bowl games. He's a pretty selfish player and it's really hard to play a team game when you play that way. And yes, that's a new Turkey Bowl trophy! Very cool.

Thanksgiving continued with a 45 minute drive to my parents' house in Naperville. Upon our arrival we were welcomed with a big bed sheet hanging on our garage door with "Laura said yes" written on it and a big smiley face. Nice touch. We also were given a fruit bouquet and lots of helium balloons with congratulations on them. Even Sommer got into the act by giving us a snow globe with the Eiffel Tower inside. Very nice.

The food was awesome as always and I consumed probably too much of it. From there we went to my friends, The Kibbys, house down the street. Naperville Greg and Terry and Sharon from Wisconsin are part of this family. After a short visit, we headed home for some much needed rest.

Tomorrow is the Bears/Eagles game, so my next post will probably be Monday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blackout Wednesday

It's one of the biggest drinking days of the year and I imagine I'll be partaking a bit myself, but nothing too crazy. Bill the Bear is having a party over at Ricardo's house. Yes, he's throwing a party at someone else's house. Not a bad gig. Bill's house is getting some renovations done or something, so Ricardo was obliging.

In my writeup yesterday I forgot to mention that on Saturday we hit the older part of Vegas now dubbed "The Fremont Street Experience". It's pretty cool actually if you've never been. There are three or four blocks of street that are closed off to car traffic and the street is under a roof with a huge light show on the inside. Pretty sweet. They've added a long zip-line ride down the middle of the street that's about 30' off the ground. Very cool. We didn't do it, but the next time we go we will!!

And here are the pictures, post engagement, pre-Zumanity show.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Big News!

So sorry for not updating for a while. Trips to Vegas can lead to all sorts of things being thrown out of whack, not the least of which is computer time. The trip home yesterday ended up being delayed over 3 hours by the weather, but we finally got home around 8:30 or so. It was warmer here yesterday than it was in Vegas!

Here's a rundown of the trip:

We stayed at the newly renovated Stratosphere Hotel. It's not the Bellagio or Caesar's, but the rooms are nice and this was our view. Plus with discounts and such, a four night stay cost $120!! Can't beat that!!!

Here are some pics of the strip at night from the top of the hotel in their restaurant. We went there on Thursday night for a light dinner, which still cost $60. A rotating restaurant high above the strip (106 stories up, but still lower than the sky deck a the Sears Tower which is 103 stories up....go figure) isn't cheap.

We had a light dinner because our clocks were thrown off a bit and we had a late snack during half time of the Bears game, who were playing Thursday night. The Bears were one of three winners in a row I bet on!! It was almost 4-0, but New England only won by 3 and the line was 4.5. Oh well, 3-1 is pretty good in Vegas.

Friday morning, after breakfast at Starbucks, we walked the 1.1 miles to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, home of the show Pawn Stars on The History Channel. If you haven't seen the show, you should check it out.

Here's our hotel as viewed from somewhere around the Pawn Star shop.

On the way to the shop, we past this old time Vegas sign. Pretty cool.

And here's LL outside the shop. We love this show and were excited to see the store. Unfortunately, the television folks were on tour in Mississippi so they weren't around for the weekend. We were going to walk there every day until we saw them too. Oh well, lots of other things went on instead.

Here's the inside of the shop. Not nearly as big as it looks on TV!

Here's a Nagel piece going for $2,400 I think. I just took three Nagels out to my parents house for their garage sale! Who knew?? My are prints though and I'm pretty sure this is an original.

They show this case almost every episode. The clock on the top shelf is called a death clock, so named because the way the material is made often ended up in the early demise of the artisan.

Friday night we hit the Rio seafood buffet and ate Opelio crab legs until we were stuffed. During our food orgy, I discovered a trick to eating them which really helped! Normally the claws, while meaty, are tough to eat because of cartilage in the middle. That cartilage though is attached to either the upper or lower pincer (the one that moves). If you wiggle that pincer and pull it out, there goes the cartilage too leaving you a nice big chunk of crab meat to devour!!! Outstanding!!

After the buffet we went to the Voodoo Lounge on top of the Rio where you can go outside for a great view of the strip. It was a little chilly and LL maybe ate a little too much, so we didn't hang out there for long. Next time!

Saturday was a fun day as well with trips up and down the strip thanks to the monorail system. We bought the 3-day pass and it was worth it. One cab ride can cost $15 easily and the pass is $28 for 3 days. We walked through most of the hotels because LL had never been to Vegas and things change pretty much every year, so some stuff was new to me as well.

We gambled a bunch as well playing black jack and Pai-gow poker. Pai-gow is a fun game and was the only game at which we ended having a winning session, but was also the game where we lost the most in one session. Saturday was spent mostly gambling.

Sunday morning most of the tourists leave, so pegged that night for getting tickets to a show and having a nice dinner. First though we watched some NFL games in a huge room at our hotel which is opened up for NFL games every week. All the games are on a TV somewhere in the room and you can see all of them from just about anywhere in the room. I discovered this place last year when our softball team stayed there. It's better than a sports book because the TV's are much bigger and there are no distractions from other events (like horse racing). It's all NFL the whole day. Awesome. They have a $2 nacho bar and a bunch of other specials too. You can bet in the room and even play blackjack with female dealers who wear much too small referring outfits. A nice touch. After not being able to make a winning on pick on more than one or two games a week (out of three games which I would select), I went 3-0 to start. Unable to resist temptation, I bet on a fourth game in the afternoon and lost, but it was close and my team dominated the whole game. A late TD though cut the lead to 3 and I was giving 4.5. Doh!

Dinner was at the Eiffel Tower restaurant outside the Paris hotel. The view from the restaurant is spectacular as it overlooks the fountains at the Bellagio which do their show every half hour. We ended up with early dinner reservations, 5:15, to insure we could get a window table for the fountain show which LL had yet to see. It was already dark, so the show was truly spectacular.

This is what we saw from our table as our meal started.

Pretty awesome show! Unfortunately it got really windy in Vegas as a front moved through and they shut down the light show after this initial one.

And here's the Eiffel Tower at night.

The Eiffel Tower, with restaurant, as seen from the Bellagio across the street. It was a full moon too!

And the food was good too! We had scallops and escargot for appetizers and I had the pheasant while LL had beef wellington I think. We opted for a strudel for dessert with both cinnamon and vanilla ice cream.

At this point, I decided the time was right and the moment couldn't get more romantic, so I pulled out an engagement ring and asked LL to marry me. I KNOW!!! Pretty awesome!!! She even said yes! It was a very emotional moment, as you could imagine, and as it should be. Unfortunately, most of the pictures from here on were taken on LL's camera, so I'll get those and post them soon. The waiter returned and asked if he missed something. We told him and he brought out this:

Apparently it says Good Luck or Congratulations in French. LL told me, but I forgot.

After dinner we headed to the New York, New York hotel where our show, Zumanity, was being held. It's a Cirque du Soleil type show and was just ok. I expected a bit more acrobatics, though what they did was pretty cool.

The time leading up to the show though was spent calling relatives and texting friends. Everybody has been very excited for us and have been filled with congratulations. We're excited too!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Back from Vegas!!

Much to talk about and pictures to post. It's been a long day, so I'll post Tuesday in the morning at some point.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vegas Baby!

We've had an awesomely mild Fall to this point. October was one of the sunniest Octobers on record and I loved every minute of it. As I posted on my Facebook page the other day, every day in the 50's steals a day from ol'man Winter. November has been dry and 5-10 degrees above normal as well. Very nice!!!

Sunday was a great weather day for the Bears game, which is key since we were outside for 8 hours. It was especially nice because last year when Joisey Ken was in town for the Bears/Vikings game, it was about 15 degrees and we opted to hit a bar before the game instead of tailgating. So he didn't get to have the tailgating experience. The year before that, I got the 48 hour flu or something and couldn't go to the game, though Ken went with Benny Baseball. Since we had everything made up, Ken got at least an idea of the tailgate, but I'm sure it wasn't as much fun as when I'm there. Ha! So we got lucky with the weather this year. Here's hoping the schedule has the Vikings playing here early in the year next year!

Off to Vegas tomorrow through the weekend, so my posts may be scattered.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Still so busy

It was another busy day today with a four hour trip to the burbs which included traveling and a meeting. Since it was almost lunch when the meeting started, I had to grab a late lunch when I got home. Fortunately, after getting caught up, there was enough time to get a trip to the gym in before dinner.

The gym is a different place after 5 with a lot more people and a lot less space to move around. It's not nearly as pleasant to be there and a bit tougher to get a workout in. Because I do 16 different exercises, sometimes more, I have to keep moving around to whatever is available as well as rotating between leg and arm exercises. The workout was pretty good though and I still got it in in about an hour.

Another day of meetings tomorrow and then Vegas baby!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Joisey Ken in the house!

So after the big day with my niece on Thursday, Joisey Ken flew in for the weekend. Thanks to a good buddy of mine, we were able to go straight from the airport to a country club for a round of golf while the weather was good and before the sunset. Neither Ken nor I played well, but it was fun and who doesn't like playing at a country club? Plus we ate like kings....though we started with a McRib on the way back from the airport. Ha!

So Friday night we laid a bit low with some Thai food. Saturday morning was a cheese and chorizo omelet morning along with some maple sausage links. Yum. Then we decided to hit the golf course yet again! It rained most of the morning and was colder, but as we sat in the parking lot trying to decide whether to play or not, the rain stopped. Out we went and we got the whole round in again. Ken was on fire to start the round, but struggled on the last few holes. For the weekend, I think we basically tied.

After some tailgate shopping in the late afternoon, we headed up to a great steak and rib place called The Gail Street Inn. As you know, I've started cooking ribs this year, but they cannot compare with what Gail Street offers. Wow....just awesome. But the night was not over yet! When we got home, it was time to make some food for the tailgate in the morning. Fortunately I had already started the chili and put it on low while we went to dinner, so it was pretty well done by the time we got back. It was just before midnight when we finished up and got to sleep.

The morning came early and it was chilly out, but we were at Soldier Field bright and early (or at 9:00). Sausage Andy and a mutual friend of ours joined us at the tailgate along with blind Mender, E-Money (from softball) and two guys that E knows. It was a pretty great tailgate which included the introduction of sliced apples and a caramel dipping sauce......OMG were they awesome. Bacon wrapped shrimp and bacon wrapped dates appeared as usual and we served up the chili as well. Blind Mender brought this egg, cheese and sausage loaf which was awesome. I still need to get that recipe. Oh, and for breakfast I made breakfast sandwiches and maple sausages per usual. Good eating.

We also drank....a lot. Oh my. It was all good though. Ken's not used to the long day of boozing and had to take a nap after we got home and unloaded the car. There is little doubt now as to why I gain weight in the Fall. I don't even want to know how many calories I consume on a football weekend. Yowza.

Ken worked in cahoots with LL to buy me a Julius Peppers jersey on Saturday. He told me he needed to go to a store to get a hat and not for an instant did I think, "How the hell do you come to Chicago in mid-November without a hat?" Well, of course he had a hat, but he knew I wouldn't take him to the store to get me a jersey if he said that's why he wanted to go. Bastard! And LL was working with him on it. Taken down from the inside!!

This morning I took Ken out to the airport and went onto work from there, so it was sort of slap back into reality. A great weekend though!!! And where are the pictures?? Yeah, I didn't take a single one. Nice job. Sorry future me who is looking back and reading this entry!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Long overdue post

There's just been so much going on, it's been tough to find time to write something meaningful....heck, to even write something less than meaningful. But a picture says a thousand words, so here's about 15,000 words!

My niece, Sommer, came to spend half the day with me on Thursday. We started off at the Play Station store where we played a few games for about a half an hour. It was fun since I don't have any gaming system of my own.

We took a train to Michigan Ave (Sommer likes trains) and then took a bus over to Sears Tower, renamed Willis Tower a while ago.

Sears Tower is a little more than 347 Sommers tall. They have all sorts of interesting little things like this before you get on the elevator to head up. The ride is only about a minute long and they show pictures on a screen in the elevator of other structures that you would now be passing as you ride the elevator up (including the great pyramids and the Eiffel Tower.

On the skydeck at the 103rd floor, there are four see-through ledges onto which you can walk. They are completely enclosed, so there's no threat of falling or anything. In this picture, I'm taking a picture of Sommer taking a picture of me. I'm on the ledge, but she was a little uncomfortable going out to the ledge.

Obviously, she got over her hesitation fairly quickly. Here she's posing on the ledge with her new "sunglasses".

She was even up for laying down on her stomach and on her back. This picture was more interesting. Looking down through the clear floor was pretty crazy though.

After the Sears Tower and then dinner, we headed to the local Fox affiliate for a studio tour.

Here's the group (left to right): my sister Lori, Jodi (Ricardo's wife), Jessie (cousin of a cousin of LL's), Sommer, LL and my brother-in-law Steve.

Amy Freeze herself gave us the tour! She did a great job and here she posed for a picture with us in the newsroom.

Here we are in the Weather Watch area adjacent to the cameras which shoot the news broadcast. This is where we watched the broadcast from actually.

Before the broadcast started, we were allowed to go behind the desk and check out the cameras and such.

Here I am reading the news!

LL taking her shot behind the desk.

LL by the Weather Watch area. Look at all the monitors devoted to the weather.

Opposite the news desk is this clock which keeps everyone on schedule. It's a little tough to see, but there's a little rubber rat above the clock and then a stuffed Homer Simpson above the rat. Too funny.

Amy is getting ready for her segment. Fortunately I didn't get in trouble for having my phone out.

And here's Amy doing the weather just feet away from us! Nice job.

And a nice picture with Ms. Freeze. Thanks a lot Amy!!!