We get print subscriptions to both the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times everyday.  Like most folks, the Sunday papers get the most attention in our house.  I buzz through the Trib everyday and read the S-T, but Sundays brings the circular ads.  For me, there's really only one ad that is a must-read every week:  Menard's.

This week's ad brought a nice surprise on the back cover:  They now have gift registries!  Srsly.  Umm...too bad I'm married.  I would have fought tooth-n-nail to get a wedding registry at Menard's.  I would have - undoubtably lost that battle - but still would have waged it nonetheless.

Who knows...maybe I can sneak a registry in for the babe's first birthday.  If that doesn't work, my birthday is coming up you know.
Most mornings, before I get out of bed, I grab my phone and check email/calendar.  Over the weekend, the babe ended up in our bed before I got up.

She's as into my email as I am, eh?

Late last week, I met with the Head Football Coach and the Special Teams Coach  to go over our plan for Spring Football.  We start practice at 6 am on April 12th.  The times work out for me with work - I can get to practice in the am, then hop on the Metra and head downtown in time for work.

The NCAA allows us a certain number practices this spring and we only have one kicker returning.  We'll have plenty of time to get him focused on kicking this spring.  He doesn't really love punting, but we're going to have to figure out a way to get him to fall in love with punting - my favorite part to coach.   The real reason why I like it is because you actually can "coach" a kid up in punting.  Sure...with placekicking, you can tune someone to get the ball further or more accurate, but placekicking is a lot about leg strength.  Punting, on the other hand is all about mechanics and being deliberate.  And...when you connect on a punt?  It might be the most beautiful play in all of football.

I'm not certain what I can and can't say about recruiting and who's joining the team, so I won't say much besides to say that we should be good next year in specialists.  I'm excited for the 2010 Bluejays.
I've chronicled our quest to build a garage (we have finished drawings!  and topography surveys!), but there are a few other companion projects going on at the same time.  We currently have a VERY ratty chainlink fence circling our backyard.  When the garage is done, that will change.  I've been getting bids from various fence companies on this style of fence:  board on batten.  It will be 6 feet high!
I took this picture at my sister's new house.  I'll post some photos when ours is going up.  I'm pretty excited to get the fence put up - almost as excited as the garage.  In my sister's yard, the fence looks great and has a very clean look to it.  

You're probably wondering why it'll be 6 feet high.  No...we don't hate our neighbors.  They're actually very nice.  We just wanted something high - for privacy and to keep the coyotes out!  Srsly.
For the past few years, I've been trying to take daily supplements to work on my blood chemistry and try to stay healthy.  I don't eat the best, so I figure a few pills a day might help.  I take both a Omega-3 Fish Oil pill and an organic Flaxseed Oil pill.  Both were of the "softgel" variety.

For me, the flaxseeds pills were big, but they went down fine.  I always had trouble with the fish oil.  The smell/taste were bad, but the burps were worse.  I was always paranoid around the office that I was rocking "fish breath" so I just stopped taking them.

I knew that there had to be another way around the problem.  On our last trip to Costco, I came across these L'il Critters Gummy Omega-3 chews.  They're lemonade flavored.  This was my answer.
The serving is 2 gummies.  They taste pretty good - being lemonade, cherryade, and strawberry lemonade flavors.  With the 2 gummies, you get 200 mg of Fish Oils (120 mg of Omega-3 Fatty Acids - with DHA and 80 mg of Omega 6-9), a bit of Vitamin C (15% of Daily Value), and Vitamin E (15% of DV).  They're made in America - which I suppose is nice.

It seems that 200 mg is the "right" amount of Omega-3 fatty acids to get the cardiovascular benefits and that's what 2 of these deliver.  If you've had trouble with the fishy flavor of the normal Omega 3's, give these a try.
Have you heard of Jason's Deli?  Surprisingly enough, it is the fastest growing chain restaurant in America.    They just opened one near our house on York Street in Oak Brook.  Funny location for now - being too far away from the Oak Brook Mall traffic - but it is 300 yards away from the under-construction Elmhurst Hospital.  I'm guessing that they're betting on hospital traffic plus whatever business lunches are taking place in the area.

We went to the Oak Brook location last week.  We'd previously lunched at their Oak Lawn restaurant.
The place is kind of like Panera without the focus on the bread and baked goods.  I took the photo above at the Oak Brook location. The menu is loaded with choices and it is somewhat intimidating.  The downside of these two factors colliding is that you order at a cash register.  That means that a line (if you go during one of the peak times - lunch or dinner) starts to back up.  I felt the pressure to step up, order and get out of the way.  But...with such an expansive menu plus the option of going with a salad bar (did I tell you that they have a salad bar!), it felt awkward.  I felt rushed the first time we went.

When we went back, I downloaded the menu (yes...the menu isn't available on their site in any other version but .pdf - which is a shame) and knew ahead of time what I was ordering.  This is the ONLY way to go at this place.  Do your homework.  Know what you are ordering before you walk in the door - it will make your dining experience all that much better.

Each time I had a sandwich and wasn't that impressed with either one.  Sure...there's plenty of meats on them, but they're just average as far as sandwiches go.  I'll have to dig back into the menu before (if?!?!) we go next time to find a better fit for me personally.  Both times we've gone, someone in our party has purchased the Salad Bar - which for sandwich buyers is a key asset.  On the bar, there's unlimited supplies of very giardiniera, pepperoncinis, and pickles.  Tasty.
The General Election is 7+ months away, but that's no reason to not start thinking about who the Governor is going to be come 2011.  For the past year or two, I've been (in my day job) sharing some charts with various folks about using Insights for Search - a Google tool - to "predict the present".

There aren't many better mechanisms to discover what is on people's minds than using what they are searching for as a barometer.  Towards that end, Google has a tool that marketers use to unearth trends and gain key insights into what their customers are buying.

As a means to see what the tool can do in practice, I've decided to chronicle the Illinois Governor's race via Google Search.  Can Google "predict" the winner?  We'll see.

Here's what I'm using for search terms.  I am using all searches in Illinois - not just Chicago.  (click on the image to make it bigger)
As of today, it is neck-and-neck.  Following the Primary, Bill Brady had a big jump, but has since lost ground.  I've put Brady in red, and Quinn in blue (figured that was appropriate).

This (probably) will NOT be perfect, but it should be fun.  I'll check in once a month or so and we can update the charts.  If you want to follow along at home, you can see the live link here.  It is worth clicking through to see the full charts/images.
I know that costs are cut being across newsrooms, but I had no idea that both the Tribune and the Sun-Times are now employing the same headline writers!  These were Tuesday's papers right after I picked them up off of our driveway (yes!  We are dinosaurs that subscribe to the print editions!).  Both had (at least a day old news) pieces on health care with matching headlines.  I don't think I've seen this before.
Oh...you think it is just a coincidence?

Over the weekend, I posted my "1000th Tweet" to Twitter.  According to whendidyoujointwitter.com, I started "tweeting" on May 27, 2007 - almost 3 years ago.  I think it was just twittr.com back then, but somewhere along the line they added the "e".  I was at FeedBurner in May of 2007 - about to join Google.  I didn't have a lot to say back then, (My first Tweet was about getting a Meatball Parm Sangwich at Venice Cafe), and I don't have a lot to say now.

You can follow along on my choice for breakfast over on Twitter @jakeparrillo.

A few weeks back when the snow was melting, I took the Rooster out for a walk (that's her in the top corner of the picture) and in our parkway was this poor thing.  Some (I'm guessing) kid dropped his ipod Touch in the snow and either couldn't find it or didn't know it slipped out of their pocket/backpack.   What a bummer.

We left it in the parkway and went on our walk.  When we came back 45 minutes later it was gone.  Someone musta thought they could salvage a water-logged device?
Last weekend, we hosted a party for my Dad's birthday.  I made turkey meatballs for everybody but Vic - we made eggplant "meatballs" for her.  I'd share recipes here, but I just kind of 'winged' it.  The 'balls' turned out ok, but the real hit of the party was Crostini with Ricotta and Roasted Tomatoes.  They went fast and were very easy.

There's a very famous pizza place out in Arizona - probably the "most" famous pizza place called Pizzeria Bianco that is run by a guy named Chris Bianco.  Martha Stewart featured him either in her magazine or on her tv show (or probably both!) and included this recipe.   I went to Angelo Caputo's to do the shopping, so I came back with some house ricotta which made everything taste better!

The party was a lot of fun - and a real team effort.  We made some food, my sisters all brought something (including the birthday cake!) and my mom helped clean up.  Most importantly, we were able to gather as a family and "Papa" had time with all of his grandkids.  (well...one of them had a basketball game, so it isn't quite "all".)  

This was the view looking out from our family room up until last Friday.  Lots of Blue Spruce in the way.  It was pretty, too.  In the winter, snow would pile up on the strong branches.  We'd have some wildlife making their home in the trees.  We liked it.  Unfortunately, they had to go.

The tree company made quick work by cutting out the bottoms of the trees and climbing up them.  I was surprised by the size of their saws - they were small - but I suppose that's because they're dangling from ropes as they climb.

They moved fast.  The first tree was toppled in 10 minutes or less.  

Removing all the branches makes sawing the stumps off easier, I suppose.

After the "back" tree was done, they went to work on the larger "front" tree.  

And like that...they were gone. 

The crew cleaned up the yard while one member ground the stumps.
They were good trees.  They'll be missed.  We'll replant something similar in some portion of our yard.  

Last week, the Paupered Chef chronicled the state of the Italian Sub in Chicago.  They went to six different places in one afternoon and hossed down a sangwich at each joint.  An impressive feat.  They settled on J.P. Graziano's as the top dog - and I don't quarrel with that selection.  I haven't been before, so I can not judge.

I can, however, recommend that they should have added a stop to their tour.  Lying a mere eight blocks south of J.P. Graziano's is Fontano's Subs on the UIC campus.  Downtown Elmhurst is home to a Fontano's, too.  And that's where I get my Italian sangwich fix.

When I say "Italian sangwich", I mean I get to pick one of their SEVEN Italian combos.  Click the photo below to see the left side of the menu board featuring all SEVEN various ways you can mix provolone with salted, cured meats.  (pay no attention to the faux-Wrigley styled menu itself, please!)

Seriously...did you click on the photo?  Did you see the left side of the menu?  It is like I've died and gone to a salted-cured meat heaven. I included Fontano's in my list of "must eats" in Elmhurst earlier this week, I probably should have specified that my top dog sangwich is the Caputo with extra HOT giardiniera hold the mayo, no tomatoes.  Next time you are in town, make sure I take you to Fontano's for lunch.  
My sister Vic and Equation Boy/Man had a new baby this week!  We went to see her on her birth day and both Nat and I got to snuggle a bit with her.  I even changed a diaper - as good Uncles should do. This is my fourth niece and I have three nephews.  My folks now have eight grandkids! EIGHT!

I know Vic and Marc are thrilled, but secretly (or not so secretly) Nat and I are probably equally excited that they had a girl.  With the Babe being only 3 months old, she'll be right on pace with her cousin who lives down the block (literally!).  Two girls will grow to be a lot closer besties than a boy and a girl would.  

If we're (Nat and I) excited, you can imagine that the new baby's older sister is equally thrilled.  In fact, we had to arm-wrestle the baby out of her hands because she wanted to hold her so much.  She's going to be a great big sister.
How fun will it be to be neighbors and cousins!  I know I was never very "close" to my cousins - and I'm not exactly sure the reasons why it worked out that way.  I suspect that because we weren't in school together, we naturally grew our own independent friend network.  Sure...we played GI Joe's at Christmas time together in my Aunt Barbara's basement, but we didn't stay "close".

When I was holding their new baby yesterday, my mind raced back to the day the Babe was born.  I had a hard time remembering her being so small.  They say that they do "grow up fast", but looking back on the last 3 months, I can attest that the statement is true.  The Babe is like a tank compared to the newborn.  A wonderful, beautiful, smiling tank.

Congrats, Vic and Marc.  She's a beaut!
On Friday, we cut down two perfectly healthy, magnificent Blue Spruce trees in our backyard.  We pushed this day off for almost a year, but it finally came.  Based on the previous owner's recollection, the twin Spruces were planted sometime in the early 1970's.  For some reason, they planted them directly in the middle of the yard.  From our deck, the view looked liked this.  We had no yard because of them.

They're both were perfectly healthy.  However, we needed to start clearing the yard for our garage.  For the past year, we've tried (probably more than we should have) to find a home for both of these trees.  First, we looked at Big Trees Inc - a company that specializes in finding mature trees and providing them to folks who want large trees immediately.  Big Trees Inc comes over, digs the whole tree out with the roots and all, scoops it on a truck and pays the tree "owner" a few bucks.  They then take that mature tree and sell it for thousands!  Sounds like their customers are units of government, developers, and quite frankly...rich people.  It is a really nice business because - instead of cutting down the tree - it lives on.

Unfortunately for us, they couldn't use the trees last fall and they didn't even come out to look at them.  From there, we went around to a few local towns asking if they wanted them for their town Christmas Tree.  Again...no takers.  Elmhurst puts up a big fake tree.  Finally, a few weeks ago, I begged Big Trees Inc to take the trees.  After going back and forth on the phone with them, the owner asked me to measure the diameter.  Any of you kids taking Geometry class now know that the way to measure diameter is what?.......Say it with me:  "Circumference divided by Pi".  The biggest circumference measurement from a tree that they can "successfully" take out is less than 12".  I got underneath these babies and discovered that the circumferences were in the 18"-24" range.  Too big for transplanting.

There was no way around it: they had to come down.  We were faced with that sad reality.  Two healthy, perfect trees were to be chopped down.  Progress is supposed to feel good, isn't it?  For Nat and I, we both felt sick.

It felt very fitting that their last few days included rain and sun on the same days.  We originally had them scheduled to be cut down early in the week on Monday, but I caved and called the tree service to tell them that we were "busy" and they had to come back Friday.  I really just couldn't muster up the courage to cut them down.  I wanted a few more days to chew on it.

Early Friday morning, the tree service showed up.  In quick work, they eliminated both of the trees from our yard.  We'll walk through that process tomorrow.  It was a sad day, indeed.
Earlier this winter, I wrote about the old Lou Malnati's menu and mentioned that as I was waiting around for my pie to finish up, I spied an old Chicago Tribune article posted on the wall that included the original Lou Malnati's Italian Salad Dressing Recipe.  The Tribune reporter called it "prized".  We were set to host a little pizza party over the weekend, so I figured I'd give it a shot.  Here's the article as seen through my mobile phone's camera.
I'm not a wine drinker, so the fact that the recipe called for Burgundy wine didn't strike me as odd.  I went shopping at Angelo Caputos in Addison - a really incredible shopping experience - and when I got to the wine section I found Burgundy wine was carried ONLY in those HUGE jugs.  And they were dirt cheap.  The only issue is that needed just 4 ounces.  We ended up with a whole-lotta-wine that Nat won't drink.

I've taken the recipe and modified it a bit by eliminating the percentages (60% of 32 ounces is 19.2 ounces if you want to be perfect and true to the original).    I did, however, stick with the "quart" as specified by the old Tribune piece.  Mine turned out a pretty shade of red.  The photo is a bit misleading - it isn't red like French Dressing, but has a redish tint.  Quite tasty, too!
Lou Malnati's Italian Salad Dressing
18 oz Olive Oil
10 oz Red Wine Vinegar
4 oz Burgundy Wine
4 cloves of garlic, cut in halves
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablesppons salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
Over the weekend, Nat and I decided to enjoy the "nice" weather and took the Babe for a walk in her stroller.  We stopped for lunch (at Fontano's Subs), then walked by the newly opened Heavenly CupCake Shop in Downtown Elmhurst.  It is sandwiched between Starbucks and the York Movie Theatre on York Street - a prime location.
Our hopes were high.  Downtown Elmhurst has a collection of nice stores both retail and restaurant, but we don't have a nice bakery.  When the signs went up both Nat and I talked about how we were hoping that although it was called a "cupcake" shop, they were undoubtably going to be selling more than just cupcakes.  We had visions of a Sweet Mandy B's-type of place:  a bakery - very prominently featuring cupcakes with crazy frostings -  but also a place where you could get cookies/brownies/whoopie pies/cakes/etc.

We'd love to have a place we can walk to when we needed to pick something up for a party or for an everyday indulgence.

Unfortunately, after walking into this place, it is clear that their vision is closely confined around cupcakes.  In fact, when we were in there, I asked the owner, "So...all you guys have are cupcakes.  In the future...if I ever wanted a brownie or cookie, I'm going to have to somewhere else, right?"  She replied that they were ONLY going to focus on cupcakes - and were not going to introduce any other product types to their cases.
I can admire her steadfast focus on cupcakes.  I'm certain that they didn't enter this business willy-nilly, but the Heavenly Cupcake Shop in Downtown Elmhurst leaves me a bit disappointed.  And I didn't even talk about the cupcakes!  We just bought one - the York - which is a cute play on both location and flavors (the store is located on York Street, and the frosting/cake includes York Peppermint Patties).  We didn't love the cupcake, and with their prices - you'll have to love them to go back.  I'll give the shop another shot with their carrot cake cupcakes, but as it stands now, my mother-in-law makes better cupcakes than this place.
Recently, Serious Eats asked where you would take a tourist if they came to visit you in your town.  Some Chicagoans chimed in with places like Great Lake, Kuma's Corner, and Hot Doug's.  I'm sure Alinea and Charlie Trotters are on the list somewhere for foodies.  That's fine for you city rats, but us suburbanites live in the land of strip malls and minivans.  There can't possibly be anything worth eating in Elmhurst, right?

If that's what you thought....I'm here to challenge that assumption.  Granted, I'm not pointing you to any place that specializes in molecular gastronomy, but it isn't all Burger Kings and Chucky Cheese's out in the Suburbs.

Without further delay, here's my list of places you should hit when life brings you to Elmhurst.

Seven Ten Lanes Fitz's Lanes Fitz's Spare Keys for their Italian Beef pizza with "extra" giardinera.  It really is quite an amazing pie that comes from a bowling alley.  Thin, crackery crust cut into squares is what Chicago *should* be known for - not the casserole that we are known for.  If you end up at this spot for bowling or dueling pianos, eschew the usual bar fare of burgers/fried stuff and try the pizza.  Topped with some ordinary Italian Beef, the giardiniera and the crust make this a winner.

Richardson's Hamburger Heaven for a burger and root beer.  This is a summer-time only burger stand.  They're closed all winter long - so this is food you get during the warmer months only.  Maybe the rare nature/lack of availability year around makes it taste better?  I'm not sure.  This is a basic no-frills hamburger stand.  It is literally a "stand".  You walk up to the window, order your chow, then wait at another window to pick it up.  The wait staff is young and surprisingly grumpy, there is a fear of getting run over by a car as they speed by on VERY close North Avenue, but the chow is more than good enough to make up for the issues.  Get a burger and root beer or root beer float.  Skip the fries and splurge on the float.

Rosticeria los Fernandez for their roast chicken dinner with ranchero beans.  This isn't your typical mexican restaurant.  I'm sure they have tacos and such, but the real draw here is the roasted chicken.  They serve "meals" with a whole bird cut up with roasted jalepenos and long onions.  You get a few sides, but avoid the "Gringo" items like mac and cheese or potoato salad.  Go with the ranchero beans and dig in.

Fontano's Sub Sandwiches for an Italian Sub.  Fontano's is home to not one but eight different Italian subs.  Various combinations of salted, cured meats plus a generous topping of giardiniera.  Might be the best sang-wich in town.  Not sure why they have 8 different Italian combos, but I'm not complaining.  The place seems to be run by Elmhurst College kids - there has never been an adult in sight when we go in.  The only gripe I have with them is that they don't sell giardiniera by the bottle, instead they sell their olive spread and various other bottled peppers -none of which they sell on their sang-wiches.

At some point, I'll do a more "fine" dining rundown of Elmhurst.  At least for us, these are the places we go to most, so this made sense to start here.
A few weekends back, Nat hosted a "Sprinkle" for my sister (not a "Shower", people....a "Sprinkle"!)  Anyway...we were over at Nat's folks place on Friday night and Nat was in charge of making some sort of "coffee cake" -she had one in mind,  but she didn't have the More From Magnolia Book with her.

She remembered that the recipe was the first one in the book, so I dug into the Amazon preview and viola! The preview pages go far enough to catch this one!  Unfortunately for us, this recipe, too, called for a Tube Pan.  Some of you may recall that we don't have one of those (see my post about cream cheese coffee cake here.)! Nat rectified that situation and picked one up at Target ensuring that our coffee cakes no longer have to be impostors.

When I went to print that screen grab, the text came through really gray.  So...I quickly typed it out and created a public Google Doc.  I've included the recipe below.

I really liked this - and so did everyone else.  Hopefully Nat will make it again!  I believe the only tough part of this was getting the cake out of the mold.   I grabbed a slice before the "Sprinkle" began, then slipped out the door to spend time at Menard's and to eat a steakburger at Steak 'n Shake - real manly activities to balance the estrogen overtake of our house.

You can find the full recipe published on its own public Google Doc page here.

Apple cake with Cinnamon Sugar Topping 

2 Cups All-purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil (canola)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
20 oz apples, sliced, patted dry
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degress

Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch tube pan.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the oil, sugar, and eggs until light and thick, about 3 minutes.  Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, beathing after each addition until smooth.  In a separate small bowl, toss the apples with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture, then stir half of the apples into the batter.  Pour the remaining batter into the prepared pan.  Drop the remaining apples on top of the batter and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 1 hour, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.  
We already have Starbucks, Caribou and a local coffee shop First Cup crowding up downtown.  This weekend, on our walk around town Nat noticed that we are, apparently, getting another.  We snapped this photo on Park Avenue - south of the tracks - right near Lou Malnati's.
We're not sure what the "In addition" on the sign means, but I presume the place is set to be named "That Coffee Shop".  I can get behind the desire to support the local place over Starbucks, but can Elmhurst support two indie shops in addition to the 2 national chains?  Both have pretty good locations - near the train - but is that enough?  Our Starbucks recently was rehabbed - no Clover machine, though - and based on the lines there when I go with Nat, Starbucks isn't hurting.  It must be a tough market to compete in.

Instead of a coffee shop, why don't any of these entrepreneurs try something else?  I hear from my sister Vic good things about Two Toots.  With all these strollers rolling around town, you'd figure they'd do gangbuster's business.
Earlier this week, I mentioned that the old sign for Seven Ten was coming down and the new one for Fitz's Spare Keys was going up.  Yesterday, Nat and I were out enjoying the weather (yes!  It was 60 degrees in Chicago) and we spotted the new sign.
Looks like they've spent a few bucks to come up with a nice new logo and were able to successfully incorporate the old "Fitz's" iconography into the new place.

And...to go along with the new sign is a new Yelp profile.   I'm not sure if Yelp is "smart enough" to bring over the old Seven Ten reviews.  Maybe when a new restaurant "opens" - even if it in the same space/concept they give that restauranteur a fresh start.  Seems like I'll have to take one for the team and grab a Italian Beef Pizza with extra giardiniera to see if they've change the menu!  Anyone want to join me?
Those of you know know me (or lived with me) know that I **try** to turn in as early as I can.  Especially during the winter, I like to get into bed early and - if I can - go to sleep.  On days that I don't have class and before we had the babe, it wasn't surprising to find me shuffling upstairs around 9 pm to get into bed.  I read my phone and occasionally thumb through landscape/garage/deck books from the library while fading away to sleep.  Nat joins me later and sometimes utilizes a book light to read and stay up like an adult while I saw logs next to her.

Apparently, the AARP is taking those early-to-bed stats into account as they extend offers to join their membership.  There's simply no other reason I can explain as to why I received this in my mailbox this week:
I'm thinking of joining.  With my time at Kellogg coming to an end in 10 weeks, I'll have to relinquish my student ID.  With this baby, maybe I'll be able to ditch my "Student Rate" and get "Senior" discount at the movies.

When the shoe fits, eh?
And now my blog stats are FUBAR'd.  Over the weekend, the great Bob Dylan site ExpectingRain.com linked to my Female Bob Dylan Impersonators posts.  I've been toiling along at here for a few months and have had some decent inbound traffic from various places including search.  Google Analytics was able to provide quite a bit of insight into what was 'working' and what wasn't.

Unfortunately for me, that's no longer the case.
When the flood of Dylan fans came a calling, my data - for the most part - failed to be very compelling for me any longer.  With a longer time horizon the insights will come back, but for now, the charts are basically flat - except for the "Day of Dylan".  There used to be peaks/valleys because all of the data was fairly clustered together.  Not any more.

I'm certain that I'm not alone in this happening to, but it sure would be nice for Google to allow folks to "throw out" certain days from the reports.  Would make my analytics account a lot more useful for day-to-day usage.

You're probably wondering....."What does this have to do with me?  Why is Jake telling us this?"

Well....it has nothing to do with you actually.  Sorry.
Last week, I shared my "vision" for our new garage - based on another simple garage I saw across town.  It was mostly 'dreaming' - but now we're moving into the 'action' stage of the process.  Just yesterday I received the preliminary drawings for the garage.  Some things need to change a bit - like the roof pitch and window locations, but for the most part we're on our way.  Equation Boy/Man has received his preliminary drawings as well and is making some modifications.  
Up next is the yard preparation and bidding of the job.  We're going to bid them together (ours + Equation Boy/Man's) because we live 7 houses away and there **should** be some economies of scale that can be captured by the good guys - us.
This Friday, Nat and I drove down to Frankfort to see my folks.  We dropped the babe off for a sit with her Noonie and Papa and we quickly ran to the movie theatre in New Lenox.  We caught Avatar - more on that later - but I also picked up a box of items from my mom.  Amongst some childhood treasures were two Abraham Lincoln busts pressed in Illinois coal.  I only know they're from Illinois coal because of the "certificate of authenticity" that accompanied them in their boxes!
To the untrained eye, they look like cheap black plastic molds that should be sold at a garage sale for a buck or two.  But...now....when you come across a black bust of Lincoln at your local flea market, take a second look and grab it while you can.  For, it could be pressed of downstate coal and now you'll have a story to tell about your old pal Abe sitting on your bookshelf.  
I was driving by our bowling alley this morning in Elmhurst when I noticed these sign guys out front dealing with the new signage.  They're taking down the old sign that read "Seven Ten Lanes" and replacing it with one that reads "Fitz's Spare Keys".  For a bit there, the place was called "Fitz's Lanes", but  they didn't really change much besides the name itself. The signage all still read Seven Ten, the  menus still said Seven Ten and the Yelp listing still said Seven Ten.  (I snapped a picture for the Parrillo Family Elmhurst Historial archives*.  Pardon my finger.  The sun was in my eyes and the Nexus One's screen is terrible in daylight).

Hopefully the new sign means that the menu will get a makeover, too.  I love their food, but the wait staff is young (most likely from Elmhurst College), the menu has items that they"don't have any more", and occasionally a charge will show up on your bill that is wrong.  

The place needs an identity - and hopefully the new "Fitz's Spare Keys" will work for them.  The "Keys" part is due to the fact that in addition to having lanes on 2 floors (Yes...there are private lanes in the basement!), they also have a huge piano bar area that features dueling pianos.  I'm not in the restaurant business, but it seems a bit incongruent.  They have this family-friendly bowling alley with great chow, then this pompous velvet-couched space for dudes in untucked-buttoned down shirts with spike-y hair.

Nat had - what I think is a - great idea.  They should separate the space into 2 distinct spots.  There's already a 'back' entrance and play the piano space up off of that- call it something to do with an alley.  Then keep the lanes family-focused.

As it is now - it is classic "straddling".  And...as we learn in business school:  straddlers usually fail.  Be something and be it well.  Don't try to be 2 things.

*no such archives exist outside of this blog!
(First...a word:  sorry about all the videos lately.  Too many are catching my eye!)  A month or two ago, Nat and I took the babe to see "When in Rome" at the Loma Theatre up in Michigan.  Yes...it was terrible, but it was the only thing that was showing at the time we wanted to go (trying to fit a feature film in between feedings/naps is challenging!).

The high point of the film was a song performed by Adele - "Make You Feel My Love" - a song written by Bob Dylan and included on the Time Out of Mind Album.  I've always liked the song - especially the contrast between the context of the song and Dylan's rough voice work.  It always stood out on a VERY strong album.

Hearing it in the movie got me thinking -  might Bob Dylan end up being a great - maybe the greatest - songwriter for female artists?  His works have such tender moments - but with him singing them - they end up elsewhere.  I've included the Adele version of "Make you Feel My Love" below.  But I've also included a few other covers by females as well.  I might argue that each of them are **better** than his original.  Blasphemy?  Tell me what you think.

You can even use them on sneakers!

I saw....rather HEARD this tv spot a few days ago.  I was minding my own business with my nose in my computer when I heard his voice.  I had to look up!  Too funny not to share. (for those of you reading this via email, you should click through to watch the video below)

Anything Gilbert Gottfried is selling gets my attention!  In all seriousness, I think the Shoedini has now been added to my Christmas list.  Kind of an awesome product.

We have a big chalkboard up in our kitchen that we post various things on.  From invitations to coupons - it seems to be the hub of our offline activities.  There's a bunch of magnets that hold the various items up.  We have had a few get-togethers at our house over the past few weeks and the 'board' was purged.  Just about everything that wasn't baby-related was removed.

For the past few months, I have had this comic from the Duplex strip up.  Apparently the humor (after 6 months) was lost on her because I found it on my desk.  (at least she didn't toss it!)

Every time I read it, I get a bit of a giggle.  For me, it is too good not to share.  (if it is too small to read, click the comic for a bigger version!)

It won't need to go back up on the board - as it will live on here forever!
We've been trying to document the babe's (relatively new) life over on her own blog - which is a whole 'nother discussion - and as part of that documentation, Nat and I went out and bought a Flip Camera.  We had both of our mobile phone cams, but we thought this would be easier - and besides....there was a $30 off coupon in the Costco mailer.
Hopefully she'll appreciate the little slices of (her) life that we're capturing.  If you know her blog address, you can head over there and see (what I think is her) first word in next few days!  (not really...but a dad can hope he has a super genius, right?)
Last Friday, I met with some DuPage County State Representatives to talk about Google tools and how they can use these free products to communication and manage their constituencies.  Our conversation naturally moved into the discussion of our tools within campaigns.

I discussed with them the notion that by simply using a wide range of free widely-available consumer tools, one could pull together an advocacy site in a few hours.  From creating a site that is petition driven (this is what I could have done with DraftDitka.com today!) or using maps to "show off" actions around their Districts, Legislators today should be moving quickly and frequently (try something an if it doesn't stick, abandon it).

Leaving the meeting, I figured I should put my money where mouth was:  I needed to build an example site for them using the very tools I outlined.

That's what I did:  I created ElmhurstStinks.com - a site dedicated to encouraging the City of Elmhurst to do something about the skunk problem in town (during the spring/summer/fall it is pretty bad!).  I used Google Sites to create the site, docs for all the forms, maps for...well...maps.  And...FeedBurner is powering the email list.  All free tools.  The only thing that cost anything was the $8 domain from GoDaddy.  Google sites allows you to use custom domains, so for me - going forward - there is really no real need to ever pay for hosting for sites again!

I think the site turned out pretty well - and I'm looking forward to the spring when skunks show up and we can start to get real data in to the site.  I'm still noodling some marketing tools to get folks to actually use it.  (Despite my sister Vic being TOTALLY opposed to killing the "poor" animals!)