Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
You'd think we'd take a night off after the long string of events, but NO! Tonight we were off to take advantage of free tickets to the Brookfield Zoo and to see their zoo lights. Brookfield Zoo is a much more elaborate (and expensive) zoo in the suburbs as opposed to the free Lincoln Park Zoo which also has zoo lights (which we went to last year). So I loaded up my flask.....oh, did I not mention that of course we're going to drink a little while walking around in the cold? Well we did, but actually I didn't know that they would have various hot toddy type drinks available for purchase otherwise I might not have brought the flask. Cider with some Captain Morgan in it is pretty tasty to be walking around with outside. So on to the pictures!
Part of the long entrance walk. It was $9 for parking and another fee for the zoo if you didn't have a free ticket. We got there around 4:30 as traffic downtown was worse than we thought it would be.
This tree is sponsored by people from LL's hometown of Shorewood. These trees were all over the zoo and were sponsored by different groups. The groups then got to decorate the trees. Cool.
The real attraction was the lights though. Here's a sample shot.
And one scene that I particularly liked.
They also had an ice carver working on huge blocks of ice. Here's a dragon he made.
And an elaborate swan. We was working on an image of Odie from the Garfield cartoon, kind of a let down after seeing these two completed works.
There were animals too!! Some indoor and some outdoor. These pics are all indoor shots though. Here's a monkey with a miniature hippo swimming underneath him.
Here's a mandril and two otters snuggling up because it's time for bed. As kids would squeal, the otters would pop up and look around to see what the commotion was about. Very cute.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
From the last tailgate of the year. Let's see who all is here: Leah (girlfriend of Jack), Markakis (aka Nick), Blind Mender, Jack, Jack's brother Tim (also a softball teammate along with Jack), Marek (the son of a friend) and his girlfriend. Of course front and center is Mr. Heater!
Snapped this picture in a parking lot. Antlers....ha!! Today I saw a car with candy canes instead. Very fun.
Christmas tree pictures!!! In the natural light and lit up at night. Yes, there are TWO Bears ornaments....can you find them?
The Eastlake Studio crew at their company Christmas party. They are one of my clients and the party was at one of the owner's home (father of Marek from above). Can't remember why we had those on.....I'm sure there was a reason.
During the Yankee Gift Swap. It was pretty funny. Lots of crazy gifts.
One of the owners, Jon and his wife Stacey.
The owners opening their gifts from the staff....whatever they were they were not as good as iPads.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
1. The Christmas song I can listen to even in June is: two of them: Baby it's cold outside and I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. Sometimes I'll sing those to myself while playing softball or golf!
2. Hot chocolate, eggnog or mulled wine? Mulled wine is the tallest midget in this group. Not excited about any of them.
3. When do you put your Christmas decorations up? Whenever I damn well feel like it!! Sometimes just after Thanksgiving, sometimes a few weeks later. It all depends on my schedule during that time and I'm rarely in a hurry. No stress please!
4. What are you having for Christmas dinner? I'm guessing turkey, but it could be ham, or it could be both! Whatever it is, it will be delicious!
5. What’s your favorite Christmas tradition? Hmmm, well it USED to be being allowed to open stockings before my parents were awake and downstairs....that was fun. Also, opening a relative's gift the night before. Now I'm not sure what the tradition is/will be as it's all new with LL and our families.
6. Have you ever gone carol singing? I don't think so. Not that I remember at least. Not much of a caroler outside of church.
7. When did you discover the truth about Santa? Absolutely no idea.
8. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Very minimally. Usually one color of light and 20-30 ornaments.
9. What’s the best thing about Christmas? People being nice to each other, except at the mall is one. Finding a really cool gift is another.
10. All I want for Christmas is: the pain from my pinched nerve to go away and to drop 10 pounds. Probably not going to get either!!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Saturday morning we awoke to snow all over the place! Aighhhh! There wasn't supposed to be snow yet. Well, there should be snow statistically speaking at this time, but there wasn't any predicted for this year at this time. I was very much enjoying that fact and love a good green Christmas. Fortunately the snow was only a minor annoyance as it didn't accumulate much on the sidewalks or streets and was pretty much relegated to the grass and trees. By Monday all of the snow was gone and all was right in the world again. That said, the snow was the impetus in LL and me staying inside most of the day on Saturday and working on Christmas cards and decorating the tree.
LL took one of her copious vacation days on Monday that she has left this year (while STILL carrying over 10 days into next year), but was a little disheartened to find out how much work I had to do. She would prefer that we just snuggle in bed or on the sofa or anywhere really and make a day of it. We did get to have lunch together though and our lunch of choice at home normally is PB and J with a few chips on the side: simple, some carbs, some protein, relatively light....good eating. Often LL will make the sandwiches but for whatever reason I was making them Monday. So I got out the jelly and the PB and started toasting the bread (oh yeah, we toast the bread first).
"Hey, this jelly is darker than normal. Did you get raspberry preserves like normal?"
"Yes I did."
Spreading jelly on the bread.
"Hmmmm, yep. Yes you did. My bad. Why is it darker than normal? Does it look darker than normal to you?"
Spreading peanut butter.
"It almost looks like it could be prune jelly or something. Odd. You just bought that right?"
"Nope. We had that one and the new one is in the pantry."
"Ohhhhhhh, I think I know what's up. Check that date on that bottle."
"December 1996!!! Ewwwwwwwww!!!!! I'm NOT eating that sandwich."
"Oh c'mon, it's probably fine."
"No. And you're not eating it either. We'll just make new sandwiches."
Then I remembered more fully that I "found" the jelly in the back of a shelf the other day and put it in the rotation for use. Whoops. Bad Joe. Remember to check dates!!!!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
It's the week before Christmas!!! Aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhh! I gotta get moving on a bunch of gifts still! Six days left....it's all over but the shouting!
Friday night we headed over to a good buddy and client's house for their company Christmas party. It was the fourth company party we've been to this year. Good fun! The employees were surprised when they opened their gifts and inside were new iPads! Pretty sweet gift!! They're pretty successful and have fewer than 10 employees, so it's not too huge of an expense, but still very nice.
On Saturday we trimmed our tree, Frazier, with lights and ornaments. Oh, did I not mention that we named our tree Frazier? He's a Fraser Fir of course, so the name was pretty much a given. Frazier is decked out now in white lights (a compromise) with red balls and other ornaments. But that wasn't all of our Christmas cheer for the weekend. Oh no. Most of the day was spent labeling and putting together Christmas cards. LL finished all of hers, but I had just about twice as many to send out, so I didn't quite finish.
Then Saturday night we went to dinner with my good friend Joe D and his wife Kendra. We drove up to Evanston and they drove down from Glencoe, so it was about half-way or so. Dinner was at the Celtic Knot where the food was pretty good and my snakebite was pretty tasty. If you haven't had a snakebite, look it up and order one the next time you're in a bar. They are awesome.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Since I was out in the 'ville, I headed over to see my folks and take them to lunch. We went to OCB, Old Country Buffet for those of you not in the know. While my folks eat there quite often, $13 for two people!, I've never been and was hesitant due to unknown sodium content of the food. However, I was pleasantly surprised with their decent salad bar (including baby spinach, two kinds of lettuce mixes, garbanzo beans and egg)and baked chicken. They had fried chicken too, but I have to stay away from that. And while I was there, I was able to meet the employees who talk to my folks when they come in and generally treat them very well. Nice!
Got back home just before rush hour got bad, answered some emails and printed labels for our Christmas cards, which always takes longer than I think it should. Generally it's my fault as I keep the records in Excel and have to import them into Word AND into the appropriate template to match my labels. Still, it beats the hell out of writing them all out!!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
The Punke clan at the bowling alley for their company party. L to R is: Jonathon, Jessica, Sara, Doug Jr. and Doug Sr. They sit next to me at the Bears games and we tailgate together.
Another Punke picture but this one has Jr's best man in the picture and their friend Ted (far right). Ted's a little odd and sang "My Ding-a-Ling" during the karaoke portion of the evening. Sr got a kick out of me saying that he could NOT sing that song in my neighborhood. No sir.
LL bowling on lane one. She was a good sport about the long drive and ended up having fun!
This past weekend at the tailgate were: Andy (AKA Sausage), Blind Mender (sporting his www.conversextion.com t-shirt) and Nick (AKA Markakis or dumb dego.....his last name is not Markakis but he is Italian.....it's complicated). Oh and Mr. Heater. We didn't need the heater to start, but it got pretty chilly later on!
It was Jessica's birthday and Sr asked me to get a cake. Instead of that, I had a local restaurant owner make me "Birthday Cupcakes" instead! One letter per cupcake and in Bears colors. Awesome.
Our first party of the holiday season! Very swank!
Monday, December 05, 2011
Friday, December 02, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Friday night we made our second trip of the year to Dwight, IL, about 90 minutes away to visit our friends The Punkes (Punk-ees). They sit next to me at the Bears game and we went to Jr.'s wedding in September. The reason for this trip was an office party for Sr.'s company held at a bowling alley. Food, drink and bowling....awesome fun.
Here is the Punke clan: Jr., Sr., Jessica and Johnathon.
The bar in the bowling alley had a granite counter top. If you pay enough, not sure how much, they will play Ring of Fire and drizzle vodka around the horseshoe shaped counter and light it on fire. Pretty cool. You can't get that in Chicago. The cops would close that down in heartbeat.
I realized that I hadn't posted these pics on my blog yet. These are pics of me practicing for the singing element of the reception with Naperville Greg.
Here, I'm drawing the layout of the reception so Greg knows what to expect. We were in the office and the marker board helped here.
In this picture, I drew a woman's head and used the guitar case as her body and pretended it was LL. It gave me a visual for practice.
And here's Greg on the guitar. He really drove the need to practice. I really didn't think it was all THAT important, though I wanted to but we couldn't get together for several weeks due to scheduling. We finally did get together the week before I left for the wedding and it really was helpful. We were all ready to go after about 90 minutes or so. It must have been good enough since we pulled it off at the reception.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
As I mentioned, I participate in a Turkey Bowl (flag football game) every Thanksgiving morning for the last four years. Normally we play in the back of a school in a big open field, but this year we were able to play on an actual football field. Where we play is in Matteson, IL, about an hour plus away from me without traffic, which is normally the case on Thanksgiving morning. Last year it was rainy and cold, but this year was supposed to be nice and in the 50's. Unfortunately, it was actually in the 40's with a windchill in the 30's. LL was in the stands the whole time as the only fan to weather the cold the entire game. The other fans (sisters, wives, etc) gave up after three quarters and headed to their cars.
A little history of this particular game. This year was the fourth year of the event....at least I think so as it was the fourth year I've played in it. The guys with whom I play, or at least organize it, sit near me at the Bears games and/or are friends/relatives of theirs. The first year we had about 6-8 people per side and the team I was on won by a huge margin led by me at quarterback. The second year, I was a captain for picking teams, had probably 10 people per side and my team lost by a ton as I threw 5 or 6 interceptions. Just awful. So last year, with that game as a recent memory, I was chosen last (or close to it) and quarterbacked our team to a rout where I was named the offensive MVP (by my team's captain, so it's official!).
This year, as every year, there were some new players and a lot of the regulars. The captains were chosen and I was chosen first.....a questionable choice, but probably based on last year's performance. The other team's captain was my good buddy Doug and I was really hoping we could play together like last year, but he lost the coin flip and had the second pick. New to the game this year, unknown to most of the people, was a Robert Morris College football player who runs a 4.4 -40, basically the fastest guy we've seen who is not on TV. He went to the other team and played QB for them, but had a very different style than me. While I prefer to get as many people involved as possible (a holdover mandate from my co-ed football days), he ran the ball himself probably 75% of the time.
That included a play midway through the first quarter where he ran 50 yards for a score, though we stopped the extra point. On our first possession, we drove the ball down the field eating up most of the clock in the first half. It's just what you should do when the other team has an explosive player: be methodical, don't take chances, keep the ball out of his hands. Textbook ball control offense. Unfortunately I threw an interception in the endzone to kill the drive. It wouldn't be my last either. Also along the way, my teammates dropped probably five passes, several of which could have changed the course of events. No excuses though, just foreshadowing.
As the half wound down, their QB threw a pass that was actually completed down to the 3 yard line, but time expired and we went into halftime down 6-0. A couple of more players showed up late, so now we had 8 a side starting the second half and we started with the ball. On the second play, I hit one of the new guys on a stop-and-go down the sideline with a perfect pass that he caught in stride to tie the game at 6-6. Our extra point failed as well, so it was back to defense.
On their next possession, their QB ran the ball down the field and scored quickly, including the extra point where he jumped into the endzone from the 3, to go up 13-6. We marched the ball on our next drive, despite more drops, and had first down around the 10. Twice I made bad throws to wide open receivers in the endzone, two of my worst throws of the day. On third down, I hit my receiver right in the chest on the goal line, and the ball popped up in the air....got tipped by a defender.....into another of my teammates hands for a tying score. The extra point failed again and we were down 13-12.
As the fourth quarter rolled on, we stopped them with an interception and now had the ball in our hands with only about 2 minutes left. We had to drive down the field and score and there wasn't much time. On the second play, I threw a deep ball, into the wind and it was intercepted by....yes, their QB. He ran it all the way back for a touchdown. A pick 6 that's called. Ugh. Fortunately we stopped the extra point conversion, but were down 19-12 and only about 75 seconds left to play.
One of our speedy guys, who had hands of stone, caught the kickoff and ran it back to midfield before being tackled (yes tackled) by the other team. After the 15 yard penalty was marked off, we had the ball around their 40. After hitting a receiver for a short gain in bounds, I twice found a soft spot in their zone on the left side of the field for 15 yard gains. We got the ball down to their ten and I spiked the ball to stop the clock with 16 seconds left. On the next play, I scrambled right, came back left and threw over the middle hitting our team captain right in the chest in the endzone with the ball....and he dropped it. He was crushed, with his head hanging. He's only in his late teens, early 20's at most, so I went over to him and told him to shake it off because we still needed his head in the game. Now there was only 6 seconds left....last play. Again I scrambled right, avoided a three man rush, came back left and there was the team captain open in the exact same spot as the last play. I delivered another strike and this time he caught it for six points. We were down 19-18 and were faced with a decision, do we go for the tie or for the win?
I looked over to the stands to see LL there all alone and looking very cold and told my teammates we were going to man-up, go for two and win the game. The snap came from the 15 yard line and I rolled right before avoiding the rush and going back left again. As I approached the middle of the field, I stopped, planted and delivered a strike to the right side of the endzone to the same guy who caught our first touchdown pass in stride to start the half. He grabbed and the game was over! 20-19 victory and the best Turkey Bowl of the bunch. There were lots of high-fives and chest bumps on our side, drooped heads and shrugging shoulders on the other side. We lined up to shake hands as we do each year and this year there were as many hugs as high fives.
Though I was very happy for our win, I felt bad for the other team's players, other than the QB. As I mentioned, he ran the ball probably 75% of the time which means most of the guys on their team had a chance at one, maybe two passes and that's it. The players on my team, most of them at least, had the ball thrown to them 4-6 times each and probably had a better time even if we hadn't won.
Offensive MVP for the game? Well, their QB had 2 TD runs and an interception return for a TD and threw one pick. I threw 2 picks and 3 TD's. If it were Heisman voting, I don't think I'd stand a chance, but I'm 3-1 in Turkey Bowls!
Thursday, November 24, 2011
We left at a fairly reasonable hour of 11 or so, gave Ricardo and Jodi a lift home and got into bed by a little after midnight. Reveille was at 7 a.m. as our annual Turkey Bowl flag football game was an hour drive away and starts at 9:30. More on the game tomorrow.
We arrived in Naperville around 12:30 and the appetizers came out immediately, though I had to hit the shower first.
Here's a fun little display next to the table. Very holidayish.
And we had the real plates out for Turkey Day! Yay! All the food was really tasty. The new food item this year was peapods in some sort of seasoning. Good stuff. We ended up eating around 4 or so and left around 7. We brought pumpkin cheesecake that we bought from our favorite sushi place and it was as delicious as it was at the restaurant. Yes, you read that right, cheesecake from a sushi restaurant. They bought it from a bakery but ordered another one and sold it to us (cut into 24 pieces) at cost. Nice!!
And then we got home to our dog who had been home alone for 12 hours and didn't go to the bathroom in the house!! An added bonus.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Sunday, November 06, 2011
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Ha! Tricked you. First is me, back lit I know, in my barista costume and actually in a Starbucks!
Here's the bifold closet door that leads into SC2.0. The door on the right leaves the room.
And this is inside to the right, where LL was standing in the picture above.