Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sockeye Season!

Yes, it's that time of year! The salmon are running and Sockeye is available at your local grocery. It's not cheap, $13 a pound here, but it is delicious.  How do you prepare it?  Well, I would normally grill it on a wood plank, but seeing as it's hovering around 100 degrees here in Chicago today, I opted for broiling.  Here's the recipe I used, sort of. I didn't add salt and didn't have lemon zest, so I just used lemon pepper and maybe a little less brown sugar. It was delicious! Now, in the last minute or so (I cooked them for 7), the brown sugar that has melted off the salmon will start to burn, but don't freak out. It's not a problem and the brown sugar that doesn't run off and burn adds another texture and taste that's awesome.

The toilet is fixed and back running. Other than the ceiling in the basement having yet another hole in it, it wasn't a huge deal.  The problem was that the nuts holding down the toilet had become unscrewed somehow and the entire toilet shifted to one side by about 3/8ths of an inch and caused the wax seal to be compromised.  After MLM and I assessed the situation, I went out and bought a new wax ring and another set of bolts and had MLM install it.  Yes, I probably could have done it myself as it's not particularly difficult, but since he was already here I just had him do it. After he finished the install, I cut away more of the ceiling and sprayed it with bleach to kill off some mold. Maybe I didn't get it all, but I got a bunch of it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why do you have three toilets?

....because at some point, two of them could be out of order!! As the renovation of the master bath continues, there was additional usage of the guest bathroom toilet.  Guess what ended up leaking and causing damage to the ceiling in LL's bathroom?  You guessed it.  Now we're down to just the downstairs toilet.  Tomorrow morning we'll determine if it's a wax ring leak or something else that is causing trouble. Regardless, the ceiling in the bathroom has to be repaired now and painted. Ugh. Fortunately(???) the ceiling hasn't been repaired yet from when the master bath toilet leaked, so that can all be done at one time. LL is NOT happy. Can't help but think if the master bath renovation had moved along more quickly, we wouldn't have had so much use on the guest bathroom toilet and it wouldn't have leaked.....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

More Gluttony (blame ESDNM)

ESDNM is in town so that means two things: 1) calling on clients and 2) gluttony. So far however, it hasn't been too bad. We've only had one full on business meeting and one prospect meeting. After ESDNM got in on Monday evening, we went to the grocery store and I bought some fish and mushrooms and made my Trout with mushrooms recipe.  Turned out pretty good! This morning maybe I went a little over the top by cooking breakfast (for LL too). For some reason I decided to make buckwheat crepes with Nutella, blueberries, blackberries or bananas. Pretty tasty. For lunch we went to Fala-Fil, which is a falafel shop, as you might expect. Dinner though was sort of a stumbling block. We made a return trip to Sun-Wah, a great Chinese barbecue place that ESDNM original found for us.  Ricardo joined us, which didn't help, and we had a table full of food. It was all good, but just too much. We'll see how tomorrow plays out.....

Monday, June 25, 2012

Catching up

On Friday I decided to hit the links as it was a pretty nice day and I haven't been golfing enough lately. Plus there was no softball this weekend, so golfing on Friday was an option. I don't like to golf before a softball tournament as the swings and weight-shifts are different and can cause problems.  Anyway, I played absolutely terrible on the front nine, granted, without any warm ups, and picked it up on the back.  Afterwards, LL and I had Mexican food at our favorite place in the area, Garcias, and watched the "new" Sherlock Holmes movie. It's new to Redbox, but came out last year. Pretty good flick!

Saturday morning I cooked breakfast for LL: crepes with Nutella/bananas/blueberries and breakfast sausages.  Pretty tasty! It was mostly a relaxing day, so I decided to cook dinner for our neighbors, who are about 8 1/2 months pregnant. We ended up hanging out with them on the back porch from 6:30 until 10! Good fun.

Sunday was the Gay Pride Parade in the neighborhood, so we decided to head out to Naperville instead of hanging around for the massive celebrations. Actually, LL had made plans with a girlfriend to get pedicures and I had a softball game at 4, so we both went out early and saw my folks and I did some shopping for new bathroom stuff. Then we took my parents out for Father's Day to Catch 35, which is a really nice seafood place.  

When we got home, there was no problem getting into our parking spots. Last year, the police wouldn't let us down the street even 5 hours after the parade was over!! Finally, after 20 years of parading, they changed the route so it was more or less a continuous path instead of a circle around our block. The old route more than just inconvenienced us. It endangered parade watchers and inhabitants within the parade "circle". If there was an emergency inside the parade route, they would have (and have had!) a terrible time getting help inside with any urgency. This new route lets us come and go (east at least) and provides access (from both east and west). 

So all in all it was a nice, relaxed weekend. A shame it had to come to an end!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bathroom update

So is the master bathroom going to be done tomorrow?  No, it is not. Will it be done next week sometime?  Geez, I hope, but probably not.  Yes, it's been...what...5 weeks?  Well, when it's done it will look nice.

Even though I put in an extra week+ of time for MLM to do his work, it wasn't enough. My calculation error came from a few areas: 1) Memorial Day (forgot about it) 2) the anniversary of unrelated neighbors of a friend of Ricardo's (yes, I'll wait while you try to work through that again) caused him to miss another two days 3) he got sick for two days 4) I didn't have him working longer days earlier in the project (he's been working 9-5 the last two weeks instead of 10:30-3:30). Oh well, it's getting closer.

This wall is where the vanity and toilet will be.

This bad boy caused a day delay: it's an exhaust fan that is 30% stronger, but unfortunately is also bigger and caused MLM to freak about the positioning and getting it installed. My bad for not getting one the same size.

Here's where the shower head will be. The grout is in and I'll be able to use the shower come Monday, but that's about it.

Most of the floor is in, but the edges haven't been finished yet. Plus the trim has to be stained and installed as well. Yeah, there's at least another week's worth of MLM work to be done.

Changing topics: here's our new piece of art at the end of the street across from the Starbucks. It's one of my favorites so far.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Date night....only better

A lot of couples have a date night. Maybe it's weekly, maybe it's monthly, it varies, but a bunch of married people I know have them.  I've always thought it was kind of dumb: what do you do on NON date nights?? Not hangout with your spouse?  Since LL and I spend pretty much every night together, we haven't really ventured into the date night world. Sometimes we eat out or we go to a comedy club or whatever, but I don't see that as a date night. Maybe that's the difference: other married couples (maybe because of kids!) DO see those nights as date nights. I just call them Tuesday.

So last night LL was very excited about having a date night with me (mind you last week we went to 3 comedy clubs, a baseball game and had a pizza night with friends).  I took the bus down to her work and we went to a movie: Safety Not Guaranteed.  If this movie opens ANYWHERE near you, you should go see it. Very good. Anyway, before going to see the movie, we walked by Garrett's popcorn and picked up a medium bag of Chicago Mix: caramel and cheese corn. OMG was it awesome. Anyway, we snuck it, as well as a bottle of water, into the theater courtesy of LL's large purse (I knew it would come in handy some day!) . Garrett's wasn't any cheaper than getting popcorn at the theater, but it's wayyyyyy better. 

The movie was at 5:40, so the popcorn was a nice appetizer that tided us over until dinner. After the movie, we headed down a few streets to a good Thai place and had a nice dinner.  So a movie and dinner, I guess that's a date night, but as I told LL: it's better. Why?  Because I know LL's not crazy whereas that's always a risk when you go on a regular date!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pizza Crew

Last night we had our first successful "Pizza Crew Outing" with two of our favorite couples: Ricardo and Jodi and Naperville Greg and Kleveland Kim.  The restaurant, Ciao Napoli in Logan Square, was suggested by Jodi and it turned out to be a winner. We ate and ate and ate and drank and drank. It was mucho fun. I'm not sure why everyone but me is wearing a black shirt in the middle of June when it was 85+ outside, but whatever. Made me stand out a bit!  We ate outside since it was so nice, though the sun did end up shining in our eyes for a bit just before it set.  They had Pranqster on tap, which is one of my favorite beers.  Next up for the crew is Coal Fire Pizza on west Grand.  We're trying to go to places we haven't been before and KK was good enough to save a magazine which had a "Top 25 Chicago pizza restaurants" article in it. That's where we got Coal Fire Pizza from...I think it was top 5. We'll see!! It's really tough to get dates for this group though. I have softball many weekends, KK is a flight attendant, NG likes to hunt up on his farmland in WI and Ricardo and Jodi have a place in WI where they go many weekends as well. We came up with this idea back in March at my birthday dinner and it took us a while to get it scheduled. Hopefully we'll be able to get July on the books soon!

Who didn't get the black shirt memo??

Pranqster served in a Chimay awesome combination!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Busy Saturday

Not golfing on Sunday morning turned out to be the best thing ever for me. OK, well, not the best thing EVER, but a pretty good decision. Softball on Saturday ran long, no big surprise, but I was home in time to shower, eat and go see Nick Offerman at The Vic. His show actually wasn't all that good and we didn't get to bed until about 1. If I were to golf at 8:15 in Naperville, I would have gotten about 5 hours of sleep. Instead I got almost 8 hours and then made crepes for LL.  This time the selection was blueberries, bananas and Nutella. They were delicious. Throw in some coffee and it was a pretty great, lazy Sunday morning.

Saturday was a much different story though.  I was up before 6 and on the road by 6:30 to get to Rockford by 8 a.m. for batting practice. Our first game was at 9 and started on time, but the rain started mid-game and caused a 2 hour delay before the 7th inning could be started. After we played the last inning (and won the game!), we had another 2 hour break. Our next two games were back to back, but by the time I left the complex, it was about 6:30, so I got home around 8. It was 13 1/2 hours away from home. A long day and it wasn't near being over. LL had made delicious stuffed peppers, so after showering, I wolfed down a few of those and then it was off to see Offerman.

The tournament in which we played was a state tournament for teams a level above us in USSSA. There were four teams in the tournament at our level, which was half the field, so in the first game they matched up a higher level team against a lower level team.  We screwed things up by winning the game though 16-14! One of our better players had to leave after that first game (because of all the delays he only played the one game instead of at least 2 and possibly 3) and we were missing some other folks not to mention some injuries which limited our crew, so we ended up dropping the next two games, though both games were one run affairs through at least 5 innings.  I played pretty well hitting a robust .850 (11-13) and making some good plays at third. One interesting note (to me at least) was that I don't think I walked at all! Nor did I have any extra base hits. All singles. Odd.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A rarity

Since when does Joe bail on golf?  Until now, it pretty much had to be due to a LOT of rain or really cold temperatures. Sunday though I had to bail on my buddy JC for other reasons. Saturday morning I have to get out to Rockford by 8 a.m. for a softball tournament and then we're seeing Nick Offerman at his 10:00 p.m. show. JC wanted me to golf with him at 8:15 at a course that's close to an hour away. So that would mean two days in a row of getting up at 6 a.m., followed up with only 5-6 hours of sleep after a day in the sun. Probably not a recipe for success at golf on Sunday and I'd probably just not really enjoy it as much as I'd like to, so JC and I are going to try and hit the links another day.

Last night we saw Patton Oswalt perform and he was pretty funny.  Tell you what though, the guy that opened for him was hysterical! His name is Kyle Kinane and he actually headlined his own show earlier in the week! It was like getting a two-fer! The show was at The Vic Theater, which is known best me as the venue for Brew-n-View, where we bought quarter beers and watched classic movies in a very boisterous environment. When we walked into the general admission seating first floor, the center seats were pretty full and most of what was available was along the sides. So we decided to head upstairs to the balcony and we got second row center!! Nice! The show on Saturday is at the same venue, so we'll probably try to get the same seats.

Here we are at Park West getting ready for Amy Shumer.

Outside Park West and inside The Vic.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Credit Card Payback

Last week sometime, I called my credit card company to question a charge on my account. They could only tell me exactly what I could already see online: it was a charge from a company with whom I have not done business and it was for "periodicals or printing". Neither made any sense to me and the fact that it was a Wisconsin company made it even more odd. They couldn't give me a vendor phone number, physical address..nothing! WTH?? How can they not have that information readily available? So, finally, one of the people with whom I spoke said I could Google the name and maybe I'd find more information that way. It was a shot in the dark since the company name was "Ram", which seemed pretty general to me. Combined with the bit of data with them being from Wisconsin though gave me enough information to remember the charge and that it was valid: it was for jerseys for the softball team (I'm the team treasurer)  and the company I dealt with was Shirts and Logos, Inc. Weird.

The bank asked me to fill out a questionnaire based on my experience and I basically tore them a new one because I thought it was ridiculous that they couldn't give me any useful information about the charge. Yesterday I got an envelope from the bank, which I opened today. In it was a new credit card because they believed my information "had been compromised" and the new card was in the name of security.  Hmmmm, on the surface, they want me to think they are looking out for me. The reality?  I have to call/go to no fewer than eight companies for which I have automatic billing to change my account number. It seems to me that the person whom I ripped on the phone probably just pushed a button labeled "send new card" and thought we were even now.  Unfortunately, they actually came out ahead. Payback's a bitch.

Last night kicked off our week of busy nights of entertainment with the Cubs/Tigers game. Tony Campana is one of the Cubs' lead-off hitters and is super fast. Going to the game is a little more fun watching him wheel around the bases and haul ass down the first base line. He's fun to watch!!  And yes, we're wearing Bears gear as it got a little chilly when the sun went down.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Comedy Galore!

Tonight, LL and I are going to the Cubs/Tigers game. Should be fun.  We didn't have any tickets in May,   so this is the first game in a while and it was the first game I chose at our ticket draft back in March. Since Detroit is in the American League, they don't play here very often (2006 was the last time) and it's a rematch of the the 1945, 1935, 1907 and 1908 World Series.  The Tigers won the two former while the Cubs won the two latter.

Wednesday we are going to see Amy Shumer. She's a pretty funny comedian and is here as part of Justforlaughschicago, which is an event sponsored in some way by TBS while Conan is doing his show from Chicago.  Thursday we are going to see Patton Oswalt and then Saturday we're going to see Nick Offerman. There are so many good comedians that we could see two performers a night easily. They are performing all over town, so it'll be interesting going to the different venues as well.

And we'll probably be going out to eat before the shows as our refrigerator has conked out! Yep, it just stopped working last night. I didn't notice that it was no longer cooling anything, but I did notice that the ice dispenser wasn't working. I thought that was the only problem, but obviously not. The compressor is still under warranty so if that's the problem, at least it won't be a ton of money to get it fixed. Until it's fixed, we have a cooler filled with ice to keep some refrigerator stuff cool and some ice to use for drinks. Just like a tailgate....only in our kitchen.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dinner with Joe (not me Joe, another Joe...though I was there too)

Everything went pretty well this weekend with the many events going on.  The ribs we had for dinner on Thursday and Friday were delicious. Saturday we hit the Ribfest on Lincoln avenue and then Nick Markakis' apartment for a party celebrating the arrival of his new roommate. After a few hours there, it was off to dinner with Joe and Kendra from Highland Park, a northern burb. We met them up in Evanston at a place called Stained Glass. It's a ritzy place, but interesting because the "stained glass" wasn't like church stained glass. Nope, it was like WINE stained glass. Very cool logo of a glass stain on a napkin or table and they made sure to just slightly miss-pour their wine so that it left a circular stain on your table paper/linen. Very cool.  The food was VERY good, but like I said, not inexpensive.

Here's Joe and Kendra! Joe got the Tuna, Tuna, Tuna dish which, as the name implies, serves you tuna three ways. Kendra got the barramundi. I forgot to ask her how it was. We had grilled calamari (good), bacon and eggs (delicious) and salad with smoked trout (awesome) as appetizers. You need to check out the menu for the descriptions.

And here's me and LL. I ordered the filet mignon with a side of short rib pot-au-feu for dipping which was awesome. LL had the free range chicken (forgot to ask her too...I was very involved with my own meal!).  If you go, get the flights of wine. They are 3 glasses and EACH glass had a pour that is slightly smaller than a regular pour, so you come out way ahead for only $5 more!

We love Joe and Kendra dearly, so it was a great way to finish off a very fun day!!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Ribs and more ribs

Yesterday I decided it was time to finally make ribs, which I hadn't made in I don't know how long. The plan was to make enough ribs for dinner tonight as well, which I did.  Unfortunately, I found out later that this weekend was a rib festival just down the street a bit. Shoot. So either we're going to have ribs three days straight, or take a pass on the festival. Not sure which at this point!

Saturday night we have dinner plans AND a party to go to, so that's going to require some juggling as well. Also on Saturday night, unfortunately, is a naked bike. That's right, a naked bike ride. All these people, men and women, get on bikes, naked, and ride around until about midnight. Of course NONE of the people are people that you would WANT to see naked, but even if they were, it's tough to look good naked on a bike. A few years back, I got stuck driving in the middle of it. Ugh. I'm hoping to avoid that fiasco this year.

Sunday has a double-header in the burbs with my 40 and over softball team. The games are early, noon and one I think, so the rest of the day will be free.....maybe to go get more ribs!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Round and Round

As I mentioned yesterday, I was at Halas Hall for my second Advisory Group meeting on Monday. We discussed a bunch of topics: a kids' club (the benefits, how much it would cost, one time or renewal, etc), a womens' club (same topics), the benefits of our stadium club seats, some marketing was good. All except for one....small.....event.

First, some history: about 7 years ago the Bears drafted Cedric Benson with the fourth pick of the first round. My buddy, Mike, who has since moved to New Jersey, and I went to Soldier Field to watch a practice.  At the time, Benson still had not signed his contract and was holding out for more money. At the draft he stated he wouldn't hold out, so it was pretty annoying. The Bears had been notoriously cheap with their players and many fans, myself included, were upset with them for not signing him to a contract to get him ready for the regular season. He held out and missed all of training camp before eventually signing a 5 year deal worth $35M.

So at this practice, I was VERY audible about the Bears paying Benson his money and to stop being cheap. During one of my public rants, a Bears employee pipes up from behind me that "maybe Benson doesn't WANT to sign!"  Well of course he doesn't want to sign, I snorted, the Bears are too cheap to pay the market rate he wants. "Their current offer is for $17M guaranteed, which is more than what the fourth pick got last year." At this point he seemed very unhappy with my arguing, so I let it go (I didn't want to jeopardize my relatively new season tickets).

Back to Monday night at Halas Hall.  They showed us the images on the tickets which had a different player on every ticket. The first ticket was of Henry Melton, a defensive tackle that started 15 games last year, but is really just a rotational guy with three or four other guys. "So what do you think of the look?" we were asked. "Well, is that Melton on the opening day ticket?" From behind me came a voice saying, "Yeah, what's wrong with Melton? He's starting."  So I turn around and say, "Well maybe he is starting for us, but I don't know about an NFL starter."  And then I get the feeling that I've met this guy, a Bears employee, before. Yep, it's the same dude from 7 years ago. His name is Adam and he's been with the Bears since 2000.

When we went to our breakout session I asked him if he remembered our "discussion" from 2005. He did not as apparently he's pretty opinionated himself and it surprised nobody with the Bears that I would have had such a conversation with him. Too funny how stuff comes around like that.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Halas Hall Visit #2

Monday was our second Season Ticket Holder Advisory Group meeting. It's a haul up to Lake Forest for the 5:45 meeting, but they provide dinner...and it's fun! This time we talked about various marketing plans and even got to see the ticket design for this year (Bears confidential: What's up with Henry Melton on the opening day ticket??). Once again they seemed to really like various ideas I and the group provided.  We were split into two groups based on where our seats are located: Club Section and non-Club.  There was only 5 or 6 of us out of the 20 that sit in the Club section, so the discussion was pretty involved. Good stuff.

Here's the nice sign outside the hall in which we were meeting.

Here's the uniform for the Bears through the ages.....

You can blow these up to see the players.....

Same here.....

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Work Continues and Neck Update

Work on the bathroom continues and MLM is starting to tile today (I believe). Over the weekend, LL and I went up to Wheeling to a bagel place that makes great bagels as well as bagel, egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches. Just delicious. Right down the street from the restaurant is ABT Electronics, where I usually go to make electronic purchases. On the list for Sunday was a TV for the bedroom and a wall mounting bracket.  Also was a wireless receiver for the TV that would hook into our DVR so we can operate the TV by remote control and have the DVR in the closet instead of under the TV or out on display. It's a pretty clean solution for not much money. The product is call an IR Repeater, so check it out if you want to hide your DVR.

As a side note, I'm watching the Transit of Venus on two different feeds online....just amazing what technology allows. If you get this soon, you can check it out here or here.

I don't want this to get lost either. My softball team is ranked 4th in the country in one organization! Here's the link. We're team Next.

Today I had my six week follow up with my cervical spine specialist at the University of Chicago. My first visit was somewhat disturbing as his resident was pretty gung-ho on surgery. The visit was so disturbing that I sought out a second opinion for the first time in my life to my knowledge. That second opinion, at Northwestern University, confirmed the need for surgery if recovery wasn't coming relatively quickly. Fortunately, we stepped up my physical therapy sessions (the work during the session) and some progress has been made!  The doctor today verified that I was indeed stronger, but not where I need to be though strong enough to avoid surgery for the next six weeks as long as I have no pain. So that's where I am physically, though mentally I'm prepared for surgery. LL may not be though!

Here are two pictures of the same flower in our front "yard". It bloomed, then closed up, then shriveled, so I got it at its peak!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Some Sushi

Saturday was a pretty relaxing day that ended with LL's parents coming into town for a belated Mother's Day meal of sushi at Rollapalooza with Minnie and Eric. Minnie....she's Korean, as is Eric....I wonder what her REAL name is?  It's not Minnie is it?  Probably not. Eric's probably not Eric either. Interesting. Sorry, I digress. We had a better than usual meal there on Saturday. "How can the be?" you say as we always have great food there?  I don't know. LL doesn't either, but for some reason the mixture of food we have was just better. And maybe it's because we had four people so we ordered a variety of things as opposed to just a few, that all of our tastebuds were being stimulated. Interesting.

Today was a double-header in my over 40 league in the suburbs that takes over an hour for me to get to, even on a Sunday afternoon. That part was frustrating. Another frustrating part is that since I play with people in their 20's and early 30's in tournaments all the time, I feel like I should dominate this league. But I don't. At least not the way I envision myself dominating. Am I faster than most of the guys? Yes. That's not a problem. Do I field better than most of the guys? Yeah, probably. Do I have a stronger throw than virtually everyone? Yes. But I just don't dominate in the hitting arena.  Really I shouldn't think that I should since I'm a high on base percentage guy and don't kill the ball in my regular tournaments, there's nothing to indicate that I would dominate hitting here either. But I tell you what; I do try to have as much fun as possible while I'm out there. And the double header today was pretty fun. My buddy, Fedor, joined for the first week and I haven't seen him since a tailgate during the Bears season. He had a rough day of it (and playing catcher of all things) and took a header on his way to first that was absolutely hysterical to watch, mostly because I did essentially the same thing in my first at bat last year in the league. Too funny. I think we both were just trying to hard and ended up with similar results. Ha!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Friday night softball

Thursday night we really wanted to go to the local Maifest, a German outdoor festival filled with the typical German delights: beer, sausage and pretzels.  However the weather did not cooperate as the temperature plunged and it rained. They do have a huge tent where much of the action takes place, but it can often be difficult to grab a table. So LL and I opted to get some carryout and hang out in the warmth of our home. In the end, it was probably a good call as I was playing softball late on Friday, so no need to overdue it.

Friday night came and we had an unusual tournament, yes tournament. There were only four teams in the tournament because it was a C level tournament, whereas we play D. We were the only D team of the four and there aren't many C teams actually in Illinois. The higher up you go in competition, the fewer the teams, as you might expect. But we won our first game anyway, and pretty decidedly, and were leading in our last game by four runs in the bottom of the last inning. The first guy up for them lined one up the middle and our shortstop dove and had it tip off his glove. Just missed. A few batters later, they hit a routine fly ball to center where our outfielder camped under it and promptly dropped it. Ugh. They scored a run and then we finally got a few outs (one on a dropped fly ball by our right fielder who then threw home and got the guy at the plate). A few batters later, their pitcher was up to bat and took what was a very obvious third strike which the umpire did not call. He eventually got a hit and they eventually went on to win the game, all with two outs. So we had a chance to win, but didn't get it done. It definitely bodes well for us though to play so well against teams a level above us.