Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
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
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
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
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 night.....it 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
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
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
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
..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
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
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
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 purchase.....you'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
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
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
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
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
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 way...as 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.
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
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.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
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
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!