Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend 2010

We've had a great weekend thus far that included a lot of lake time as well as seeing some old friends.  We went up to Coloma and celebrated our neice/nephew's birthday(s) and spent way too much time in the sun. We also brought the Babe out on her first boat ride.  Pretty cute.
When we arrived back home, we caught up with some old friends who had arrived from Nashville.  Great to see them and their growing children.  Rumor has it that there is another party involving the Nashville folks this weekend.  I'm going to try to keep my social calendar open in case the invitation arrives late!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Kellogg School of Management June 2010 Graduate

This Tuesday, I make my last walk from my office to Kellogg's Campus in Chicago.  It will be my last class.  Ever.

When I went to pick up my mail last week in the mailroom, there was this posterboard staring me in the face:
I have been looking at these posters for each the past 10 quarters.  Each time they have a graduating class, they post one of these.  I've never given it much more than a glance.  At least until this time.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Blackhawks Mania in Chicago

Even the tourists are getting into the act.  Check out this set of (French, I think!) tourists I walked by near Michigan Avenue on Tuesday.
Look closely (click the image above).  Although she isn't wearing a Hawks sweater, it does seem eerily familiar, doesn't it?
Oh....you think that she was dressing fashionably and this is just a coincidence?

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 Father's Day Gift Guide: Star Wars Cookie Cutters

Last week, a friend asked a group of us what she should be thinking about getting for her husband for Father's Day.  I gave her one suggestion, but I'm not sure she took it, so I won't share it with you quite yet. But...for those Mom's out there looking for a great Father's Day gift for 2010, I'm going to throw out some ideas and see if I can help a Dad or two out.

To begin with - for Dad's of all ages - I would look no further than Williams Sonoma and their latest cookie cutters.  These are the Father's Day gift that keeps on giving:  Star Wars Cookie Cutters.  I'm not so much talking about giving the cutters as a gift as I am about making Storm Trooper cookies for your Dad/Husband on Father's Day.
Your husband/Dad will be eating Darth Vadar cookies for Father's Day and his birthday, and maybe even Christmas!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blooming Peonies

Earlier this spring, I was concerned that some of our plants didn't weather through the winter - specifically the peonies.

We have good news to report.  They're back....and they're spectacular!
 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Baba Booey Ball

Yesterday, we held a press conference at TSS-Radio on the northside of the city with Mayor Daley regarding Google's Economic Impact on Illinois (more on that later).  I picked the hosts from a list of Google customers in Chicago and these guys had a friend in common (thanks, Eric!).  They turned out to be great hosts and told a great story for the event.

That's not the best part.  They're a satellite radio parts/supplies company.  A real long-tail business.  The founders of the company are huge Howard Stern fans.  I'm not afraid to admit that I am too.  In fact...I like to think that I don't really have satellite radio.  I have a Howard Stern Machine.

Due to their fandom, these guys bought the "Baba Booey Ball".  For 99% of you guys reading this, you won't understand, but for one or two of you guys, you'll get a chuckle out of this photo.
One of the speakers (the guy from the State of Illinois) referenced the ball and said "Baba Booey" during the press conference.  As soon as we have the audio, we'll be calling Steve Langford!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Flagstone Pavers for Our Patio

One of the next projects in our backyard - now that the garage is done - is to put in a patio and walkway (from garage to house to front parking pad).  We pulled the trigger and bought pavers over the weekend. They're getting delivered next week.  We wanted something a bit different - and this is a photo from the advertisement they were in.

We brought a few home, so I'll take some photos of them in the sun to show off.   The patio should start in the next few weeks.  

Monday, May 24, 2010

Baseball Lookup Chrome Extension

With the baseball season in full swing (and my White Sox stinking up the joint), my mind - and attention - have begun to focus on America's Pastime.  One way or the other, I was turned on to this browser extension for the Chrome browser.  It is called "Baseball Player Search", but it really is a pretty amazing baseball lookup.  Once you add it, you can click on the little ball in the corner and down drops this toolset:

You check as many of the boxes as you want, pop in a player's name and hit search.  Up pops as many tabs as you've checked and you get every bit of info at your fingertips.

If you're not using Chrome, you should.  Seriously.  And....if you are a baseball guy/girl, this might just put it over the edge and convert you!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Things I like Right Now: Corrine Corrina - Willie and the Wheels

By normal standards, I am not your typical country music fan.  I'm not into *new* country like Rascal Flatts nor Taylor Swift.  But, much to Nat's chagrin, I *do* indeed like country music.  At least country music that sounds like this:  (go ahead...even though the player in Vietnamese, it is fine.  Plays just like a YouTube video.)




That's a song called Corrine, Corrina as performed by "Willie and the Wheel"- which is Willie Nelson backed by a pretty rad band called "Asleep at the Wheel".  If you haven't already, click play in the little flash player then go on with your day in your other tabs.  I bet you'll come back and hit "replay" when it is done.  It is that good.  There's plenty of other versions of the song.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Guard Bichon Frise on Duty Sign

In addition to Holland and St. Joe's, last week we spent some time in South Haven.  Like we do everytime we go to South Haven, we make a stop at both Cafe Julia and (for some reason) Decadent Dogs.  Decadent Dogs is your typical dog store: toys, collars, treats, etc.  They also have a big rack of guard dog signs.  Nat spun the rack and saw this one - which we couldn't stop laughing at.
Nat's folks have a Bichon named Riley, so we could NOT pass this up.   Riley is....anything....but a guard dog!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Let there be Light (in the Garage, that is)

The electricians (finally!) showed up and brought power to our garage.  Pay no attention to the butt crack in the photo.
They trenched 18" deep and ran rigid pipe in the ground.  I also had them put in some outlets in the yard for a future project!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Illini Football in Enterprise Ad?

I rented a car last week in Benton Harbor, Michigan from Enterprise and spotted this "house ad" in their office.
They're promoting their sponsorship of NCAA sports.  Take a close look at the kicker in the bottom left. (click the photo to blow it up)  That's totally the Ilini.  They stripped off the logos on the helmets, but they can't fool me!  Can't tell the vintage, but maybe it is Jason Reda?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hardings Market: This is NOT a Breakroom or Library...

Up at the Harding's Market in Michigan, there's apparently a problem with both employees and customers taking magazines into the bathroom.  The problem was so bad that they had to post this notice on the door:
You're probably wondering what I was doing in the bathroom of the grocery store.  No....it wasn't an emergency.  (Although, that has, indeed, happened to me in the past.)  Rather, Michigan is a state where you have to return your cans/bottles back to where you bought them for $0.10/a piece.  Unfortunately, most folks don't really "drain" their soda cans/beer cans/beer bottles before they put them in the bin.  They leave a little bit of liquid in the bottom, so when they end up in our bags to bring back to the store, the whole thing is a big mess.  After putting the cans into the machine, I use the bathroom to wash my hands.  

As a side note...make sure you shake out your cans/bottles in the sink, please.  So those of us who have to return them don't have to deal with the mess!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Babe on Silver Beach

We took the Babe for her second trip to Michigan this past week and were able to spend a bit of time on Silver Beach in St. Joe's.  The weather wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't "beach weather".  That didn't stop Nat from insisting that we take a walk on the beach after supper @ Silver Beach Pizza.
First time on sand for the Babe and she didn't mind it one bit.  This bodes well for the summer - as we have a few weeks booked up in Michigan for vacation.  She'll be swimming before I know it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chicago Tribune Blackhawks Doodle

Right now on the Tribune's homepage, they've gussied up their logo with this Chicago Blackhawks Doodle.  It is the first time I have spotted them doing something like this.  Seems familiar...somehow.

They did a pretty cute job with it - they should do it regularly based on news events around town.  Maybe a   "Please Come, LeBron" doodle?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fricano's Too in Holland: The Original Pizza in Michigan?

We spent some time this weekend in Holland Michigan and walked past Fricano's Too.  We had pizza at Silver Beach Pizza the night before, so we didn't eat here, but they make some big claims.
Original and most famous?

We'll have to go back to Holland later this summer to find out what the story is all about.  Has anyone been up to Holland?  Any intel on Fricano's?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hopleaf Chicago

To celebrate our good friends' recent engagement, Nat and I wanted to take them out for dinner/drinks.  One way or the other, we settled on Hopleaf in Andersonville.  Being a suburban Dad, I rarely venture into the city at night, so I wasn't the one to pick the place, but I'm thrilled that whomever decided on the location picked Hopleaf.

The place is known for their beer menu and long waits and they didn't disappoint.  Fortunately, we decided to avoid the Eisenhower and went up around O'Hare and took the Kennedy into the city.   By the time we arrived, our friends had already put our name in and grabbed a seat in the bar area - thus shortening the time we had to wait for a table.  
I won't go into a huge review of the place, but I will say that I'm willing to go back - and for a place in the city that makes you wait for a table - that is rare.

I had a beer from a Chicago brewery - Metropolitan called I-Beam Alt and the ham and cheese sandwich (they have a much fancier name than that, but it really is just a ham and cheese sandwich all gussied up). Both were tasty.

But the company was better.  These are some of our dearest friends and I relish every chance I get to spend time with them.  Congrats, guys!  (And...what a ring!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Cups at Chipotle?

We don't go to Chipotle very often.  Maybe once every 2 months or so, but we found ourselves there last week with our niece.

They've changed their soda cups, right?
I see their new billboards and have witnessed a few branding changes in the stores (new signage?), but I can't wrap my head around what their message is all about.  Don't get me wrong - I really like the food every time I eat there, but it seems like they're struggling to create a cohesive message to consumers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Caladium Tubers in Illinois: To dig up or let go?

Menard's is running some pretty good sales on bulbs/seeds/tubers as they try to clear out their early spring inventory.  We have one planting bed that is staying put in our backyard, but the rest is up in the air.  That's making plant-buying decisions a bit hairy.  I've - for the most part - held off on buying much of anything this year because of all the uncertainty.

That was, until this Menard's sale.  I bought a few different sets of bulbs - which turned out to be tubers.  Excuse me for saying this, but I'm a tuber virgin.  Either I never planted one, or I didn't know it was a tuber if I did.  Turns out, both Dahlias and Caladiums are tubers.
My Mom told me that you have to "dig up tubers" each fall in Illinois.  I didn't believer her:  couldn't be that you'd have to take in your bulbs each fall just to plant them again.  Seems like a bit too much work.

Turns out....my Mom was right:  Once these are planted, I'll have to dig 'em up, dust them with some anti-fungal powder, then store them in peat moss/sawdust for the winter in the root cellar.

Oh...that's right.  We DON'T HAVE A ROOT CELLAR.

This is 2010.  Shouldn't these nurseries be able to create fancy plants that can survive an Illinois winter?  Apparently not.  Thus, I haven't made up my mind if I'll just consider these plants annuals and roll the dice over winter or if I'll dig them up.

We'll see come fall.  I'm sure you'll see them too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Special Persons Day @ Field School in Elmhurst

Last Friday, I spent some time at the Field School in Elmhurst as a "Special Person" of my nephew.  One day a year, every kid in the school gets to nominate a "special person" in their lives to come into class and see what they do at school.


My nephew asked me to show up late in the day for his First Grade class.  He's really come a long way in just one year.  Last summer, he was living with us and really didn't have any reading skills.  His teacher was very proud as each of the kids in class stood up and read stories that we wrote together.

My nephew and I had a great time writing our story.  It was supposed to be about a butterfly, but ours ended up being about his favorite "game" - Electric Hotdog Fighting.  I put game in quotes because it doesn't really exist, but he wants it to so badly.  He said that the packaging will say something like "Hotdogs not included, just like batteries not included!"

I know I was his "special person" on this day, but I hope he knows he's one of my "special people" everyday!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creamy Goodness at the Jewel

Last week, our Jewel in Elmhurst received some new signage in the dairy case.  I'm guessing I'm not the only one who let a snicker out after seeing them for the first 5 times.
This, most likely, won't get old.

Monday, May 10, 2010

00 Flour - Pizza Flour

For the most part, the pizza making season in the Parrillo household is winding down.  Sure...we'll grill pizza pies a few times this summer, but on average fall and winter are our prime pizza making seasons.  Each year, I try to add an element to our pizza making routine.  In the past it was using Scamorza Cheese (more on this later) or 6 in 1 tomatoes for sauce.  They were nice improvements that lead to better tasting pies.

This year, I decided to make the move to "00" flour - which is an Italian-style very "fine" flour.  While I didn't notice a HUGE difference, I believe that was because I have continued to tinker with the flour recipe - both in ingredients and proofing time/method/containers.  
I'll be watching this stuff go on sale at Angelo Caputo's Market this year (it is a bit pricey - about 4X the price of normal flour), and see if I can finally settle on a crust recipe by this fall.  

If you want to know more about Caputo, check out this cute video

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Google Thumb Drives?

We give away these USB drives to customers/friends in the Chicago office.  Seems a bit incongruent with the whole notion of "cloud computing", no?
The next person who can come to lunch at the office can take this pretty thing home.  Who's available?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Garage Framing/Building Day 4

Today was the last day of the build.  They got it all done including the soffits, fascia, and gutters.

This photo (taken earlier) doesn't include the gutters, but they're there.  Well...one of them is there.  The other will wait until after the inspection.
We now wait until sometime next week when the electrician shows up.  He'll light the place up and get the overhead openers working properly.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Illinois Governor's Race as Viewed Through Google (May Update)

Back in April, Google showed the Governor's race in Illinois as a dead heat.  Both Pat Quinn and Bill Brady were running neck-and-neck.  

Turning to May, it seems that Governor Pat Quinn has regained a bit of ground in the query game and is now running a bit ahead of Senator Bill Brady.  Here's the chart as of this morning.  (click the image to blow it up bigger)
Was the spike for Brady related to his tax return releases? I think public polling is showing Brady a bit ahead, so we'll see if the query volume will match the polls or lag behind.  Check back in June for the next update!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Garage Framing/Building Day 3

More progress of the garage.  They finished up the shingles on the backside of the garage and started on the house side.  There has been plenty of innovations in the construction industry, but apparently the tarpaper below the shingles isn't one of them.
Then got busy laying the shingles.  They're doing a nice job of staggering them so the seams don't overlap.
They finished up the roof but didn't get the siding done.  They tell me that they'll finish it tomorrow.  Then on to the epoxy floor!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Garage Framing/Building Day 2

The carpenters showed up early Tuesday morning and got started right away.  The progress slowed a great deal today as they only sheathed the roof and began to apply the shingles to the backside.  They popped the windows in, so it has a more finished look.  Here's how it stands after two full days on the build.
When they started, they said they'd have it done in 3 days.  I'm skeptical.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

New Garage Framing Goes Up

Early Monday morning, our lumber and carpenters showed up to get started on the framing of our new garage.  I had to work, so I'm glad Nat was there to chronicle the progress.  They say that they'll be done by Wednesday - but I'm skeptical.  Every contractor we've dealt with has always under-delivered time-wise.

But if someone is going to get the job done on time, it seems to be these guys.  They said they'd get to my house before 7 am, and they were there ready to work by 6:30.  I like that.  Here they are showing up with the material.
They unloaded some of the materials, then dumped the rest right from the truck.  It had to have woken up the neighbors.
These carpenters meant business and got going framing up the walls.

These two guys lifted each section into place.

They tied them together pretty quickly.  

The covered the whole thing in plywood.
Here it is all closed up.  Windows will be cut on this side.
Like this!

Because the spans are pretty big above the overhead doors, we specified double laminated beams as part of  the job.  Most every contractor we talked to said it was 'overbuilding' the project, but I feel comfortable with spending a few extra bucks to make sure it doesn't sag over time.
At the end of a VERY long day, the garage looked like this:
They might have this thing done in two days!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Home Run Inn - Through Thick and Thin Wedding Contest

Last week we were at Home Run Inn on 31st Street and saw a promotional flyer for their "Through Thick and Thin" Wedding contest - where couples can enter to win a dream wedding at Wrigley Field this summer (I took the photo below with my phone).  I immediately didn't understand how creative the marketing folks were at Home Run Inn.  See....there are two pizza companies sponsoring the contest:  Home Run Inn and Lou Malnati's.  Get it?  Thick = Lou's, Thin = Home Run Inn.  Pretty stinkin' clever.

If you are getting married this summer, just submit a 500 word essay and you and betrothed will be sharing your nuptials with 41,000 of your closest friends during the Sox/Cubs game on June 13th.

While I'm not thrilled with the location (what's wrong with Comiskey?!?!), I do think it is a pretty great promotion!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Solving our Basement Water Problem by Burying our Downspouts

Say hello to my Saturday.
Seriously.  This was (for me, at least) a pretty serious DIY project.

Since we've moved in, one of my "to do's" has been to work on "sinking" a drainage system that diverts the water from our gutters away from our house and to a low spot in our yard.  When it rains hard, we get a little bit of seepage into our basement.  Not a lot of water, just some dampness.  I am hypothesizing that it was because the water would run from our downspouts and into the ground next to the house.  because of grading, the land contoured back towards our foundation.

I went to Menard's early this morning and bought 10 10-foot lengths of sewer pipe and a whole series of joints and connectors.  I have put in a "T" in the middle as I'm planning on putting in a surface curtain drain - right in the middle of our new vegetable/victory garden.  The trench still needs to get filled in, but I'll get to that after I ensure the system 'works' - after a big rain.

I tried those flexible downspout extensions, but they didn't work.  This is a much more "serious" solution and should be a significant upgrade for our house.

I need this to "work" - and keep the basement dry.  Because...finishing the basement is on that same "to do" list.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Lou Malnati's Canned Tomatoes - In Hand

Last night, I went to pick up (remember....pizza delivery is for suckers!) our pie from Lou Malnati's in Downtown Elmhurst and I spied something "new" on the counter.  Here's a photo of my front seat on the way home with the "new" item I picked up.  (note the 'cracked pizza box, too!)
Guess I didn't have to wait to long, after all.
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