Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

What a nice weekend. It's more than a three day weekend because few people do much on the Friday before Memorial Day so it's like having a four day weekend. Friday, after doing some work including landing a client, I cooked 3 racks of ribs that turned out absolutely awesome. The reason I made 3 racks was to have plenty of leftovers, which were consumed over the remaining days of the weekend. Yum. LL made the statement that we don't need to go to Ribfest in Naperville anymore because my ribs are so good it would be pointless. Score!

Saturday was a pretty big day as we headed out Joseph A. Bank, yes the store that runs soooo
many sale commercials, because I needed to settle on my wedding attire. JAB has 500 stores nationally, so even Joisey Ken could get the appropriate clothes. We should look pretty good AND be relatively cool AND for a little more than the price of a tuxedo rental, we'll have outfits that we can wear almost anywhere. Very happy, but not as happy as LL. :-) Afterwards we met John and Carol (4 months pregnant) out for dinner at Sun Wah, Chinese Barbecue. Unlike during the week, there was a huge wait!! The other three times we've been there have been during the week and the huge place was only ever 2/3rds full. Not on Saturday though. And they changed from selling 22 ounce Goose Island Matilda bottles to 12 ounce drafts for only 50 cents less. Damn.

Sunday was our annual Memorial Day party down in Mokena at Terry and Sandie's. This year, since we were bringing guacamole, we tried to get there closer to 3:00 when the party started. Unfortunately, I slept like crap on Saturday night due to some allergy issues resulting in a sore throat. Ugh. But I drugged up and toughed it out. The food is always delish and Terry and Sandie are very fun to see. It's a little tough on us because everyone knows each other (most are relatives) and they know us because we're outsiders, but we STILL haven't gotten everyone's names down.....actually, we've gotten very few names down. It's still fun though!

Here's some pictures:




Sandie early on before the drinking started. No oven fires this year!!!




















Terry, who is camera shy, putting some food out. I didn't know what the Fritos were for....they were actually part of some dish though.














The appetizers including my guacamole. Yum. In the foreground were these little balls of Bisquick, beef and cheese. Yum!! I'm going to make them for tailgating next year.














The salad portion of the meal. The whitish salad on the left was absolutely awesome!! It tasted like a caramel apple. Seriously! Soooo freaking good. I need to get that recipe too.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In All Things Charity

At church last Sunday, there was an interesting missive written by our pastor regarding a quote from St. Augustine, one of the fathers of the Church. It went like this:

In things essential: unity.
In things doubtful: liberty.
In all things: charity.

Now the reason for the quote was that in the early church, there were factions starting to practice in different ways, especially in northern Africa. So the statement was meant to both unify, allow for some discretion and to refocus church leaders. Regarding the basics and fundamentals of the church, they all had to be unified without question. In some of the fringe issues, let the local church have some discretion. But regardless, have the welfare of the people at the forefront of your mind and heart. A solid message.

So how does this relate to softball?? I know right? Kind of crazy that I'd even TRY. But to tell you the truth, it's immediately what I thought about when I read the pastor's piece.

What are the essentials in softball? Defense. Hitting. Pitching. With pitching, either you have a good pitcher who can move the ball around, not walk people and field their position or you don't. Defense has some decisions to be made though: four infielders or five? Depending on that answer, people can be moved around too (some of our best athletes are either our best infielders or our best outfielders depending on where they play). Everyone though has to be on the same page as to what we should be playing and when. No dissenters. Unity.

While hitting is essential, there are different approaches: work the count (like I do) and take a walk if it comes your way and be a good two strike hitter. Or hit the first good pitch you see. Hit for power or have a high on base average. While hitting is essential, even during a game people will talk about changing their approach, taking more pitches and focusing on having quality at bats. Liberty, to some degree.

But in the end we all want to win and we enjoy playing softball. We don't attack each other if there's a mistake or dumb play. We support each other and enjoy spending the time out there. Maybe it's not the greatest analogy to "charity", but it's putting the greater good of the team and friends first, so maybe it's not that far off.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Mender!

So today I decided to hit the gym again and see how the left shoulder/pinched nerve would hold up with working out twice in the same week. Now yesterday, at my physical therapy, instead of my usual 120 pound girl loosening up the muscles around my neck and trap, a guy, Glenn, worked on it. Glenn's worked at my PT place for close to the last decade and he chuckles every time I show up with an injury, which have been: my right shoulder, left shoulder, right knee, lower back, right hand (twice) and left hand. While I've worked WITH Glenn doing exercises, he's never worked ON me. But he did yesterday and really loosened up some problem areas in my trapezius and neck area. Good stuff. My trip to the gym was productive and while still at reduced weights, things are looking positive.

Today was my buddy Mender's 30th birthday. Mender is legally blind and coached our softball team the last few years. This year he is starting a website called Conversextion, (site may be NSFW for some) which I'm helping him bring to fruition on the business side of things. Anyway, he was going to the Cubs game, despite the 47 degree weather and threat of rain, so I opted to bail on the game and meet him out for a drink. Not only did I get to see him though, but softball teammates and Bears tailgaters Eric, Andy (Sausage) and Jack were there as well. Good fun as I haven't seen them much this year. Eric and Jack play different league nights, so I only see them at tournaments. Andy doesn't play with us anymore and is recovering from a torn Achilles. So it was a good night all around, especially since the game got rained out in the 7th inning, long after I was at home on the sofa with LL after enjoying a nice dinner of pork chops and potatoes.

Tomorrow, St. Augustine is related to softball. Check back for that one!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The other #51

The other day I wrote about Craft Beer Week here in Chicago and our fun night out with Ricardo, Jodi and Ernesto and Andrea, from Puerto Rico on Friday. On Sunday I hooked up with Ernesto and Andrea again, this time at The Haymarket Brewery on Randolph. Good fun again!! PLUS they had just got engaged at the top of the ferris wheel on Navy Pier. Very happy for them. We watched the Bulls lose and enjoyed some craft beers.

Ernesto has a lot of contacts in PR and has suggested that I run some of our wedding proposals from vendors by him to see if he knows them or can get a better deal without sacrificing quality. Sounds good to me!!

Today I had lunch with an insurance salesman who is part of an insurance and wealth management firm. Nothing out of the ordinary except that he played for the '85 Bears!! He even had his Super Bowl ring on. Oddly enough, he's about my size!!! What's up with that? And he was a linebacker! I just always picture these football players as much larger than me. Anyway, he was the last Bear to wear #51 before it was retired in honor of Dick Butkus. It was Jim Morrissey. Very nice guy and he was born in Flint, Michigan, which is right next to Fenton where I lived for two years. So we had a nice lunch talking about all sorts of sports stuff and he may go golfing with me and the boys on Thursdays once in a while. Nice!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quick Health Update

This kind of entry is something I should do more often and clearly than I do. It would be nice to go back in time and see how I'm doing physically for various ailments: ear ringing, allergies, left shoulder and right shoulder. So let's go down the list:

Ear ringing has been minimal for the last two months which is pretty unusual for this time of year. Once the summer comes, the ringing is usually reduced, though last year it was bad for most of the year and was annoyingly loud throughout the fall and winter.

Allergies have also been under control and that might be a contributing factor to my lessened ear ringing.

My right shoulder has held up well during softball and I even played third base for all four games on Saturday. Good stuff. My left shoulder, due to the pinched nerve, continues to be an issue, though it didn't impact me when golfing or playing softball. It does still limit me a bit when lifting weights, though mostly just with the bench press. Sunday I did workout though for the first time in a while and was able to bench press at reduced levels. We'll see how it goes from here.

Nothing illuminating, just some info for my own use.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A fun couple of days!

Lots going on the last few days after the trip to PR.

Thursday was the long awaited night out with Ricardo and Jodi, an event we've been trying to have since March. Ricardo had four seats to the Sox game two rows behind the Sox dugout as well as Stadium Club passes (think of the largest skybox you can imagine and that's the Stadium Club). Good fun, even if I had a bit too much to drink. At one point, Jodi was extolling the virtues of having the wedding filmed instead of just photographs. For some reason my brain locked up and couldn't comprehend how she could have such a strong opinion since she wasn't married. Mind you, I was AT THEIR WEDDING!! Yikes.

Friday we went out again, this time to Craft Beer Week which was being held this night at The Long Room and featuring Avery Brewery beers. LL's sister was in town for work as well, so we she came along. In addition, the owners of two restaurants down in Old San Juan and attached to Hotel El Convento, Ernesto and Andrea, are in town for the beer celebration, so we hooked up with them too. After three hours of drinking, we headed across the street for ribs at The Piggery and had a nice meal there of ribs, corn bread and twice baked potatoes. While it could have gone on all night, I had to get up in the morning for softball so I had to leave around 10:30.

Saturday morning brought and early wakeup call (6:00 a.m.) to get to a softball tournament in Crystal Lake, about 75 minutes away. We started at 9 and played three straight games before getting a break finally around 1. We won our first game against a team that beat us last weekend (I wasn't there obviously) in a tightly contested game. Not sure what the final score was but it was something like 25-21. I kept my good "first game" performance going as I was 3-4 in the first game and should have been 4-4 but basically got myself out on an unfocused at bat. So now I'm 16-18 in the first games of tournaments this year.

In our second game we played a common opponent, Amish Mafia, and lost 30-29. They had last at bats and scored 5 in the last inning to win. Unfortunately one of our better players made two infield errors to contribute to the loss. Ugh. I was 3-5 in this game, nothing special. We won our next game and I was again 3-4 and then we lost our last game 7-6 where I went 3-3. So for the day we went 2-2 and I was 12-16, a .750 OBA clip. Pretty solid. And I played third base and did pretty well. No problems from either shoulder.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wrapping up Puerto Rico

Thought maybe today I'd just finish up the Puerto Rico posts with some more pics and notes.




Here's a peacock from the garden area of the Hilton. Cool!




















Here's the peacock's lady partner. There's a koi pond too!

















Here's LL at our table on the patio of Cafe Puerto Rico off of Plaza Colon. It was a patio with just one table on it! Very nice for our first dinner in Old San Juan. Food was delicious too. This restaurant is pretty popular and was recommended by every person we talked to about good restaurants. And then we got the primo table!













Here's the statue in Plaza Colon.


















Here's the second hotel, El Convento. Yes, it used to be a convent. It's a great hotel, rated #9 in the Caribbean by Conde Naste!















This is a picture of our dinners at Aguaviva, another restaurant off of Plaza Colon. I had scallops over seafood risotto. LL had....I think it was some kind of seafood salad. Both were delicious! The bartender there is Mikey and we highly recommend stopping in to see him. He makes a great mojito and apple caipirinha. Very personable too.














This jellyfish light is at the seafood themed Aguaviva. There are four or five of them lighting the middle of the room. Very cool.

















Another food pic! This was at Cafe El Punto (also called La Calle I believe). LL had crab stuffed avocado halves. I had shrimp and crab stuffed plantains. The sides were sweet plantains which we tried to have every meal and I suggest you do as well if you're visiting PR!














And here's LL at one of the many fortress corners. We did a brief walk around, but will go back for a longer visit when we are there in August.


One bit of useful information for visitors to Old San Juan: off of Plaza Armas, there is a Walgreens AND a Marshalls, not to mention a Wendy's. Lots of stuff that you might have forgotten or if you have an emergency need of some sort. Useful info!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Video entry

How about a video post today? Here's a tour of our upgraded room. Sorry for the voice breaking up during the video.....not sure why I suddenly become a soprano.



video

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

First bit of the Puerto Rico Trip

Where to start?? Friday morning we headed down to Puerto Rico for a reconnaissance trip for our wedding in August. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were relaxation days, but did involve scoping out the hotels, food options, and fun things to do. Monday and Tuesday were then filled with meetings with the wedding planner, potential florists, potential cake bakers, potential photographers, hair stylists and such until we left for the airport at 12:30.

Our first item confirmed was that you do not need anything other than your drivers license to get to Puerto Rico. Regardless of what many, many sources indicated, some people were still suspect. Question resolved however.

A cab ride from the airport is going to cost about $25 per cab. Not outlandish, but not inexpensive either.

When staying at the Hilton Caribe hotel, it takes 30 minutes to walk into town, but it's a walk with a view of the ocean on a sidewalk. A cab ride will cost you $12 to cover that distance. If you want to go all the way to the El Convento hotel, it's $16 or another 10 minutes walking.

Check in time at the Hilton Caribe is 4:00, later than most hotels. Oddly, checkout time is still noon.

Food is expensive in most of Old San Juan, think tourist trap pricing. Many places have a hamburger for $15. Pretty insane. There's a Subway not too far from the Hilton and there's a Shell gas station where you can buy some things for a reasonable price. Rum for instance, in a small bottle is only $4-$5. A big bottle of rum anywhere on the island that makes all of the rum, is at least $12. I was disappointed by that bit of knowledge.

Now for some pictures:





One of the pools and swim up bar at the Hilton Caribe. The water was very nice!








Here's a panoramic view from a dock behind the Hilton. To the right is where you can swim in the ocean if you prefer that to the pool.






















A close up of the swim up bar. $8 for a rum and coke....and it's not even big!!
















The view from our first room. We were upgraded from this room to an even better one!!












This was the living room of the pre-upgraded suite. To the left in the picture is a six person dining room table.






One of the bathrooms and the bedroom in the pre-upgrade suite. Pretty sweet huh? Pun intended.
























As a teaser, here's a view from the upgraded suite on the 20th floor. The other suite was on the 6th floor. More on the upgrade tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back in the saddle again!

Yep, I'm finally back from Puerto Rico and I'll start posting and talking about the trip tomorrow. Now....it's time for bed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Softball and Wedding

Tough afternoon today as I drove almost two hours through rush hour to get to softball games which were then rained out. We were actually on the field warming up when the lighting detector went off. That means a 20 minute delay at least and by then the rain was on it's way. Oh well. It would have been nice to start the game at least and get a few swings in before the rain, but no such luck. Ugh. As a consolation, we went to one of our sponsors, Tommy Nevins Bar, and hung out there and had dinner. Not bad food but horrible service on this night at least.

This weekend we head down to Puerto Rico for a reconnaissance mission for the wedding. Though I've mentioned it before, I realize that not everyone knows the details about the wedding and specifically the guys on my softball team. While I invited some of them, those who I thought might actually be able to go and with whom I hang out for the Bears games and such, I didn't invite everyone since I didn't want them to feel obligated to send a gift just because I invited them. A little history, a mess of guys on my team are either sporadically or currently unemployed and/or don't have much excess cash laying around. The last thing I want to do is contribute to that situation.

But now, when I see these guys, whom I haven't seen in a month or more, and we talk about the wedding, it's a bit awkward. I think we're going to set out an invite to them all, via email, and just discuss the situation with the invite. So many things to think about with the wedding!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Long Day of Golf

Today I went golfing for the first time this year in the Chicagoland area. Specifically, it was Evanston Country Club and it is a pretty sweet club. An auditor and accounting buddy invited me and we had a very good time despite my 40 putts out of 86 strokes. I couldn't hit a putt to save my life and I'm not exactly sure why, which doesn't help my frustration. However, I also keep track of shots that "just missed" going in and I had 11 of those, which means I had a chance to score pretty well if the breaks had gone my way (pun intended). They did not though, so it is what it is.

It was a great day for golf though with some humidity and in the low 80's. What was really nice is that my left shoulder and neck didn't bother me at all on my swing. Good stuff! Tomorrow I try it out on the softball field in Naperville.






This is a picture of one of the ceiling fans in the men's locker room. Pretty cool and old-timey. The fan is driven by a belt attached to a rotating spool. I like it.











As of this morning though I wasn't convinced that I don't have rotator cuff tear and still might, but my orthopedic doc wouldn't give me an MRI on the shoulder as he's convinced it's a pinched nerve in the neck and that if I want an MRI for the neck, he'd approve that. So, I guess on this one, I'm going to have to stick out the physical therapy for another week or two and see what happens. Sigh.

Monday, May 09, 2011

This and that

It's that time of year again...almost....beach time! And with it, what kills more people than shark attacks by far. This story shows you how easy it could be for your kid to get into trouble.

I've put this on my Facebook page too because it's really, really annoying when people misuse or misspell these words. Plus it's funny!!

Saturday I headed to the gym for a workout and to test out my shoulder/neck. While I could do some exercises just fine, I couldn't bench press like I wanted to and there was another exercise that isolates your rotator cuff that I normally do but really struggled with even doing a few. AND it hurt. So this morning I emailed my doctor and relayed the information and spoke to my physical therapist as well. It seems like maybe the pinched nerve is a RESULT of trying to compensate for a muscle strain or tear in my rotator cuff. We'll see though as I've requested an MRI just so I'm not wasting time with PT when I need something more serious or altogether different.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Foodie weekend

It was a food filled, relaxing weekend. Friday night we went with my sister and her husband to our favorite southern style food place about an hour away in Blue Island called Maple Tree Inn. It was a late birthday dinner for my sister who had her birthday the week before we went to Europe. We always have a good meal and a good time down at Maple Tree.

On Saturday night, we decided to make some stir fry again. It's been a while since our last batch and after we were done, we were wondering why it's been so long! The beef and linguine in a peanut sauce was the stir fry of choice and it was outstanding. Sooo delicious.

This morning we headed to the suburbs to Glen Prairie Restaurant for a Mother's Day brunch with both sets of our parents. I should have taken a picture of everyone dressed up, but failed to do so. The food was decent enough (I selected the restaurant so I have only myself to blame), but I really expected better especially for $36 a head. Oh well, live and learn. The company was great though!

At the end of my block, across the street from my Starbucks, is where the city has been putting massive metal sculptures the last few years. I think the one below is the third, possibly the fourth. I guess they are ok, as long as the city isn't actually buying them. Not my preferred use of taxes. Here are pictures from each side.



Thursday, May 05, 2011

Work and wedding

Busier than usual with work as I wrote about yesterday and it's screwing me up blog-wise. My topic well seems dry.

Today we did some wedding detail stuff. There's lots to do, but nothing we can't handle. For our upcoming trip to Puerto Rico, we had to determine what food to taste, but that also means trying to figure out what will be served at the wedding. So far, soooo delicious. Very excited.

We also worked on the type of invitation we wanted, possible hair styles...for LL, not me, and roles for various guests. It actually didn't take all that long to do as we agreed on most of the decision points. However, as reasonable adults, we decided to sleep on our decisions before taking any action.

Still on the to do list is what I'll be wearing as well as the other gents in the ceremony. Maybe this weekend I'll be able to figure out the scheme....let's hope!!

This week was going to be the start of golf on Thursdays, but the weather put the kibosh on it. Tuesday's are supposed to be my bowling day too, during the day, but the last two haven't worked out and the next two aren't working either. Maybe I'll have to move bowling to another day. Softball is starting up during the week as well. Though the team is playing league nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I'm only going to play one night which will probably be Wednesday.

It's going to be a busy summer!!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Business week

What to write about today? ESDNM has been in town this week so any type of diet is out of the picture. Monday night was Italian food at Sapori, our traditional haunt. They serve some family style food and it's awesome. Tuesday brought Potbelly for lunch and Thai food for dinner. Wednesday was lunch at a client who runs a restaurant and then dinner at this place called Longman and Eagle, recommended by Ricardo and in his hood. It's a quintessential ESDNM restaurant with all sorts of food that you really don't find too many places. The link is to their menu. A good find by Ricardo and it was good to see him again. We've tried to get together for dinner for some time and just haven't been able to hook up.

On this trip, we met with our clients as usual but had two long planning sessions for one client: one 4 1/2 hours and one 2 1/2 hours. The client needed the meetings though and are excited to get started on changing around their business. It'll be rewarding to see them succeed.

My mind has gone blank because of all the thinking today. Time for bed.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A bin laden supporter

So here's some real Facebook discussion from Sunday night with my comments unfortunately deleted (by the FB page owner). I'll try to reproduce my posts at the end:

Original post: I'm glad we got him folks, but there sure seems to be a hell of a lot of hate plastered all over facebook tonight...

  • Mason McCollough Ah agreed too much!
    Sunday at 11:35pm ·
  • Jordan Wade Agreed
    Sunday at 11:37pm ·
  • Steven Andrew way too much.
    Sunday at 11:43pm ·
  • Abi Razo truth.
    Sunday at 11:45pm ·
  • Stefanie Jones I know it!!
    Yesterday at 8:23am ·
  • Lisa Sandeford my thoughts exactly.
    Yesterday at 9:27am ·
  • Greg Bussell I was immediately struck by the similarity between the American reaction to the news of bin Laden's death and bin Laden's reaction to the news of 9-11. Hate breeds hate.
    Yesterday at 11:21am · · 2 people
  • Roger Gordon ‎"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - M.L.K.
    Yesterday at 11:35am · · 2 people
  • Leeah Taylor one of my favorite quotes ever, roger :)
    Yesterday at 2:10pm ·
  • Nathan Heath As someone who has lost a loved one In Afgan. Doesn't really matter. Fine another evil sick twisted person is dead, doesn't bring back the loved ones who have died. I can promise you I have not shed a tear for Bin Laden though.
    Yesterday at 2:38pm ·
  • Aspen Taylor truth! all the people cheering in the streets is gross.
    Yesterday at 5:10pm ·
  • Joanna Matthews It feels very wrong to 'celebrate' today.
    Yesterday at 6:08pm · · 1 person

Now, the poster is a yoga instructor in Texas who used to live up here in Chicago. It's really hard for me to comprehend the ignorance of the issue that these people and the 16 people who liked her comment, are displaying. You're not happy we killed a mass murderer? You're not happy that a terrorist who routinely killed civilians, women and children in several countries is dead?

Ok, that's not what I posted. It was more like this: I'm going to have to post an opposing view to your other posters. He was a terrorist who killed innocent people, both his own followers and Americans (not to mention others). The world is a better place with him dead.

Then she wrote: But he's dead and our troops haven't come home from a meaningless war. How crazy is that?

I responded: Well, they JUST killed him! Of course the troops haven't come home. Hopefully his death will be the first domino that allows our troops to come home. However, if you want to complain about a meaningless war, you should be upset about the war in Iraq. Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, and then Pakistan, but he wasn't in Iraq.

Then I decided to relay this posting in my blog, only to find that she's deleted my posts. So not only does she have, in my opinion, some warped sense of reality (and clearly no one she knew or was related to died in any of his attacks) but she also only likes to hear one side of the story....which I can imagine involves rainbows and unicorns.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Some ups and downs

As I've written on and off for the past four months or so, my left ear is ringing very loudly. It rings all the time anyway, but it's been awfully loud over this stretch. Why? No idea really. Could be any number of things from allergens to caffeine to alcohol to the vitamins I took to make it "better" to who knows what. I suffer from tinnitus in the ear as well as Meniere's Disease; the former causes the ringing and the latter can be a result of advanced tinnitus and some other things. Meniere's manifests itself in a range from basic vertigo to full-on incapacitation.

So why write about these ailments, especially when my pinched nerve is still an issue? Here's the thing: the ringing mostly went away after the trip to Europe. The question is why? Still had plenty of alcohol, caffeine and, unfortunately, sodium. Allergens hadn't changed at all, plus I was only gone for a week. What DID happen then? Well, I took 3 flights. It wasn't the airline food though. I think it was the pressure changes, at least 12 of them during the week, that caused my ears to pop repeatedly and, I think, reduced my ringing. It reminded me of one of my first doctor visits to an ENT at Northwestern who said I should reduce my sodium intake and try popping my ears by holding my nose and blowing through it. It's really something that I can't do very well unfortunately.

This morning on the way to getting coffee, after having this revelation, I thought I should try to clear my ears using the doctor's method (which works when I scuba by the way) and had near disastrous results. I stopped, held my nose, blew and everything got really dizzy for a few seconds. I wobbled, but managed to keep my balance. I quickly decided that is NOT the way to go.

When I go up elevators, my ears do indeed pop, so I'm thinking it's something I should incorporate into a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. One of my clients is on the 31st floor and I'm going there in the next two days, so I'm going to see if my ears pop. If they do, I'm going to just head down there, ride the elevator a few times and leave. Odd? Yes. But if it works, I'll be written about in medical journals!!