Thursday, December 29, 2011

Future Headlines

It's December 29th and there's still no snow! Awesome. In fact, I went to the driving range and hit 100 balls in the slightly heated outdoor driving range a few blocks from our home. Working on my new swing will take time, so the more swings I put in now, the better I'll be come spring.

And the lack of snow led me to a "Future Headline", which is a new feature I'm going to add to my blog periodically. It came to me earlier in the week and I don't know how often I'll be able to write one, but we'll see what happens. This one is "No Snow Means Extra Cash". It'll be an article that details the budget windfall the city will receive from not having to salt the streets and use plows to remove feet of snow during the month of December. Actually, if you live in the Midwest, your city may have a similar story written about it. It's been really nice this year after a brutal winter last year. The "experts" had predicted a much worse winter than last year including more snow and colder weather, so far, fingers crossed, they are 0-2.

It's Joisey Ken's birthday today!!! Happy Birthday Buddy!!!

Ken and Ricardo.

Ken and my niece.

Ken and his wife Dawn.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lighting it up!

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.

And what zoo visit would be complete without a picture of a meerkat??

As a whole, we thought the light show at the Lincoln Park Zoo was BETTER than the zoo lights at Brookfield. We had to go to check it out though so that we could at least have an informed opinion.

Tomorrow: a light day of activities as we leave for DC on Friday!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post Christmas Tale

Are the holidays over yet?? Nope, not by a long shot in the Sutton household! Not even sure where to start regarding the weekend. There was family, food, friends. People you wanted to see...people you could do without seeing. Lots of gifts were received (including a new computer!) and given (I'm much better at giving gifts than receiving them). Food you could eat all day and food that does nothing but expand your waistline...and boy did it expand! Actually, as of Monday morning I was actually down a pound or two from where I was going into the weekend, so that was a nice surprise. On Monday night though, Naperville Greg and Kleveland Kim came over and we had cheese, sausage, crackers and then ordered Mexican food. Ugh. The evening was great, don't get me wrong, we hung out at home and talked for like four hours. We haven't seen them since the wedding (if you remember Greg played the guitar while I sang at the reception).

After being in Joliet for a night and Naperville for a day, we arrived at home late on Christmas Day (we left at halftime during the Bears game). Our paper was still on the doorstep and an envelope was stuck in our door. Inside the envelope was a gift card for a swanky restaurant to which I've never gone despite living in the neighborhood for 20 years. How swanky is this place? Well, inside the envelope was a $100 gift card and that didn't even cover dinner! We each had the lowest priced glass of wine (which was still tasty) an appetizer, an entree and we shared a side. The total for the two of us with taxes and tip? A paltry $160!!! Unbelievable. Forget about going there ESDNM. It was good, but I'm fairly sure I won't be darkening their doorstep again. Oh, the restaurant name is Boka.

And why did the neighbors leave us a $100 gift card? Well, they were heading out of town for the holidays and the card was expiring at the end of the year, so they gave it to us. Earlier in the year we had gone to an expensive restaurant with them called Gejas for fondue. I had a gift card for $100 and thought the four of us could eat for that, but I was sadly mistaken. Anyway, our food was good at Boka, but it's just crazy ass expensive.

Christmas was good with midnight mass at LL's family church this year (last year we came home on Christmas eve and went to my church). LL's father sings in the choir, so we enjoy going, plus they have a bell.....what...gaggle? No, not gaggle. A bell team? A group of ringers? I don't know what they call themselves, but people who play bells. Pretty cool.

Of the many gifts we gave this year, probably the most interesting (though LL may disagree) was a 6 month subscription to that we got for my parents (mainly my dad, who turned 75 on Friday). It was the international edition of too, so he wasn't limited to researching just in the U.S. Pretty cool and I'm glad I have my dad around to buy gifts for, but man it gets tougher and tougher every year!! For his birthday, we took my parents out to Rosebud in Naperville which they had never been to, but really enjoyed.

So if you're keeping track, that was: party at Ricardo's on Thursday, dinner with parents on Friday, dinner with LL's parents and family on Christmas eve, dinner with my family on Christmas day, Greg and Kim over on Monday and the very swank Boka tonight. Wow....that's a lot...even for me!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Some more catch-up photos for your enjoyment. I am going to Joliet to LL's parents' house and then to my folks on Christmas Day, so I won't be writing again until Monday. Merry Christmas!!

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

Christmas Meme

It's been a while since I've had any meme's on my blog, but I read this one on Terri's blog the other day (she got it from someone else's blog) and I thought it was fun. So here we go:

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

Catch up, not ketchup, though there are condiments today

Sooo busy with the holidays, decorations, parties and such, that I could not write nor read any blogs yesterday. Here's a little catch up:

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?"

"It does!"

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 all over but the shouting

A great weekend came to a somewhat horrific end when the Bears lost at home to the lowly Seattle Seahawks, 38-14. That, my friends, is an ass kicking. Not only did they lose, but their #1 wide receiver (well #1 according to everyone except the GM and head coach)got bent over backwards and has to have surgery to stabilize a vertebra. Ugh. So, in case you're reading this years from now, that's their QB, RB, WR, and #1 draft pick at right tackle all lost for the season at various points. So it's all over but the shouting for the Bears, plus it was the last home game so no more tailgating.

It's the week before Christmas!!! Aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhh! I gotta get moving on a bunch of gifts still! Six days'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

Much to do

Busy day today doing non-work stuff. Had a dentist appointment in the morning out in Naperville.....yes, to the same dentist I went to as a kid. Over the years I've had a bunch of dentists downtown, but they've come and gone for one reason or another so I finally just went back to the guy who has been there for 30+ years. It was just a cleaning, but now that I'm insured again (thanks LL!), I'll go every 6 months.

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

Being Mrs. Sutton

Still no snow in Chicago which is awesome. Every day that passes is another day closer to spring and another day to cross off the calendar with no snow on it! C'monnnnnn green Christmas!!!

It's tough to be Mrs. Sutton. You have to put up with a guy who plays softball, golf and goes to the gym a lot. Softball involves traveling too and tournaments on the weekend usually take up entire days. Golf means I'm gone for 4-6 hours at a stretch. And then there's the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving morning which seems to be cursed with bad weather.

Once you get past all of that, you get to deal with my wonderful physical issues including: allergies that result in gross symptoms like loud nose blowing, Meniere's disease that leads to vertigo episodes, a pinched nerve and whatever injury my sports endeavors lead to. The Meniere's means sodium limitation which have been well documented here. We try to keep our dinner sodium content pretty low in order to not trigger anything. Today LL made dinner (using our new crock pot for the first time) and put in a flavor packet which she thought was just 220 mg of sodium in total, but it was per serving and there were 8 servings in this tiny packet!! My ear started ringing shortly after dinner, not a good sign.

Yes, it's tough to be Mrs. Sutton because here she did a very good thing by making me dinner (she was working from home today) and it ends up inflaming a situation I was trying to reign in during the week. It was an honest mistake and I'm willing to risk too much sodium if she's willing to cook! With people over on Sunday and then going out on Monday, my sodium level was already too high and I wanted to use the week to detox essentially. Friday we have a party to attend and are going out to eat on Saturday with friends before another Bears game on Sunday. I'll just have to be extra careful the rest of the week.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Boyz night out!

Last night was a Holiday Boyz Night Out. The Boyz involved were: me, Ricardo, Smitty, Bill the Bear and Markakis (aka Nick). Thanks to Smitty for pushing for us to get together, though at the time we made the plan, we didn't know we were going to get together on Sunday for the Bears game anyway. No biggee, two days/nights of drinking instead of one!

We started off at Gale Street Inn, like we did for my 41st birthday (see Bill, I told you!). It wasn't just dinner though; it was a relaxing, long, drink and dinner event spanning a few hours. Very fun. No trip to Martini's this time though. We did however go a store front or two down the street to another bar with an Old Style sign in front of it.

Many beverages later it was midnight and time to head home to what would undoubtedly be an unproductive Tuesday.

Here's a picture of the ribs at Gale Street. Two half slabs stacked on top of each other. On Mondays they are $5 off. Yum!

Here are the da Boyz!! Markakis on the left, Smitty (prone), Bill behind him and Ricardo giving me the bird. Nice.

Our bartender for the evening, from Romania, Monique. She was very nice and even bought Ricardo a drink! She didn't get upset when Nick and I decided to play a game of "see who can get popcorn in the cash register". Ha! Good fun.

A catch-up picture: our Christmas tree. Not decorated yet, but we have the decorations ready to go.

And a picture of the common sink area between two bathrooms at a Korean barbecue restaurant of all places. The women's bathroom is to the left and the men's is to the right, but out of the picture.

Oh, and yesterday was the anniversary of the Metrodome roof collapsing. Fortunately there's no snow yet in Chicago and none in the forecast for the next week. Yay!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Busy 5 days! Looking forward to relaxing a bit on Monday

Tree hunting was a success, but not what we really wanted to do. When we got up Saturday morning to take ESDNM to the airport prior to going tree hunting, it was a balmy 15 degrees....too damn cold for wandering around trying to find a good tree. Hell, we ended up going to Home Depot on the way home and it was too cold to stand outside there and look at the trees that were already cut and bagged! Still, it was LL's first real tree and OUR first tree, so it was special nonetheless. Next up: decorating the tree.

It was a busy end of the week with ESDNM in town and long days of planning meetings with our clients. We started at 8 and ended around 5, one day til 6, with difficult meetings for 2 hours at a crack. It was tough, but good for the clients and good for project planning for next year.

One of the clients had their Christmas party on Friday night to which we were invited. The company isn't huge in terms of employees, maybe 20 or so and probably 35-40 with spouses. Good fun though and I normally don't get to spend much time with anyone on the staff other than the C-suite folks and the owner, so it was good to talk to some of the other employees. Plus the food and drinks were great!

On Sunday we had five folks over to watch the Bears debacle in Denver. Ricardo and Jodi, Bill the bear (wife Nadine was sick...get better Nadine!!), Smitty and wife Beth were the gang and we had fun cheering and swearing together. What an awful loss. A ten point lead with 4 minutes left and a three point lead with the ball and two minutes left and they had the ball on Denver's 35 in overtime and they couldn't win. Just awful. Marion Barber was once again the goat. This time he went out of bounds instead of falling down in bounds and keeping the clock running and then fumbled the ball in overtime while they were in field goal position.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Busy, busy, busy. --Hermey

Lots of work since ESDNM came to town and it finishes up tomorrow, followed by a client Christmas party in the evening.

Nothing great to say other than we might go Christmas tree hunting on Saturday! First time for LL even PICKING OUT a Christmas tree. First time for me going to a tree farm to cut down a tree. Should be fun!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Random Picture Day

The next three days are pretty packed with ESDNM in town and mucho client work to do. So with my mind stuck on work things, here are some pictures:

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 t-shirt) and Nick (AKA Markakis or dumb dego.....his last name is not Markakis but he is'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!

The old-timey club ceiling.

An odd picture. It's not a Fibonacci sequence, but I enjoyed it. Look it up.

A recently posted picture of our opening day tailgate. I'm going to look back at this in January too. Wow was the weather nice!!!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Offseason Ugliness

The Bears lost yesterday, at home, against the 4-7 Chiefs 10-3. The only touchdown came on a hail Mary pass at the end of the first half which Urlacher knocked down right into the hands of a Chiefs runningback. Unbelievable. Roy Williams made his presence known at WR again by dropping a pass on the goal line, right into the hands of a Chiefs player. Just ridiculous. His explanation was even worse: I make my cut at the goal line and there's this "big brown thing" coming right at me so I put my hands up to at least try to grab it.

Seriously?? Did you really just say that? You're a wide receiver in the NFL, during a game, in a route that's called for you and you're surprised that the ball is coming at you? You em effing idiot.

Earlier this season our #1 draft pick, Carimi, went out with a knee injury because the guy next to him, Spencer, got blown up by the defensive lineman and Carimi tripped on him. This game our other offseason acquisition, Matt Spaeth, whiffed on a block and the lineman put his helmet right on Matt Forte's knee, giving him a sprained MCL and putting him out 2-6 weeks. Nice job on those offseason moves. Anymore pickups like those and we might as well not even play!!

Fortunately for the Bears, their wildcard opposition (NY Giants, Atlanta and Detroit) also lost and they did not lose ground in the playoff race. Still, it's a game they should have won and won easily. It also brings into question how they are going to beat the likes of Denver and Minnesota on the road. Those teams aren't any worse than the Chiefs. Could be a tough end to the year.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Random Perfection

The December party train has left the station! Last night was actually a two party night for us, but we opted to attend only one. Last year, and again this year, my church and a law firm I like both had their parties on the same night. The church party starts earlier, so last year we attended it and then went to the lawyers' party. That seemed a bit much for us this year, so we just drove down for the dress-up-like-a-big-boy party. They always have great food and of course a multitude of drinks which are all free and it's held at swanky club where the firm picks up the tab on the valet service. Nice!

And I came up with another perfect moment that was special to me and you can do it to! It was probably 10 years ago and I was working for Morningstar making a good chunk of money and my company stock options just got valued at A LOT of money. But that's money that's "at risk" still, so it's not like I had the cash in hand. However, I felt pretty wealthy and was very happy. That night, I went to an Indian restaurant (that's now closed) where you could get a solid Indian meal for two for like $20-$25. Ok, it wasn't the NICEST place in the world, but it was consistent and always filling.

Anyway, while I sat across the table from my significant other at the time, I noticed another couple not too far away at another table. They seemed very nice, younger, casually dressed, chatting with each other and being courteous to others as well. So as we finished our meal, I asked the waiter to bring me their check as well. It wasn't that much money to me, but I had a feeling it was to them. They stopped us as we walked out to thank us and see if they knew us. I said, "No, you don't know me, but you seem really nice. Have a great night!" And that was it. A perfectly random act of kindness. Those are the best.