Unfortunately for me, just in one size:  2.5".  They have plenty of "doll heads" which are wooden balls of various shapes and sizes with one side of them flattened out to allow for said ball to perch on a pair of shoulders, I suppose.
I have a project that requires three different sizes of wooden balls and I was hoping that I'd be able to buy all of the in-person at Michael's.  I'll have to turn to some online shop to get the other sizes.  There's always Hobby Lobby, but being deeply religious folks, they might be out of the ball-business all together.  What...with the bad puns and all.
As part of the garage project, we put in a fireplace (I've talked about it at length before.)  All summer long, I tried to enjoy it, but everytime I put a fire on, it was just too stinkin' hot to really think that it was a great idea.  We had a few smaller fires - and enjoyed the looks but couldn't sit too close because the atmospheric temperatures were in the 90's, so the fires just made things worse.

But...with last weeks temperatures in the 70's and 60's at night, the fireplace is getting put through it's proper paces.  I think we had fires 5 out of 7 nights last week.  My nephew and niece enjoyed the s'mores part of the night quite a bit.
My name is Jake and I am a Howard Stern fan.  Because of that, I am a Sirius Satellite Radio subscriber.  I admit that I use it **mostly** if not exclusively for Howard Stern.  (think what you will of me for being a fan. )  One of the other stations that I listen to is something called "Outlaw Country" - which is a station "devoted to Outlaw Country music, along with various related genres including classic honkey tonk, alternative country, and roots rock."  Sounds about right.

I have tagged a few songs on the station - where I get alerted when I'm in the car and the song is on.  One of them is  "Atlantic City" as performed by The Band.  I haven't heard the song played elsewhere on the dial (But...I rarely listen to the radio besides Howard 100 and this station!)   It is a song written by Bruce Springsteen that showed up on his solo record "Nebraska" back in 1982.  It is a pretty dark song, but really well performed by the guys in The Band in 1993 some 10+ years later.  The lineup for that record included everyone but Robbie Robertson (which is fine by me) and they sound pretty sharp.
UW's Jake Locker with the early lead in the Heisman race?  Terrelle Pryor nipping at his heels.  At least that's what Google's Insights for Search tool thinks.  The college football season has ups and downs, so searches may or may not be able to predict the present.   I'm hoping that this will get a MUCH wider audience in the coming weeks/months as the Heisman race heats up.

But my mind already is starting to think Christmas.  This year, I'm going to attempt to go all hand-made for the holidays.  By that, I'm not talking about buying hand-made gifts, rather....I'm going to try to make them myself!  Of course....Nat's gifts are exempt from this because...well....just because.

Here's the first object purchased for a set of gifts.  This is going to be come the prototype.  Can't share all the details - mostly because the folks who are reading this (hi guys!) are the ones who are going to get this very gift.
Am I the only crazy person thinking Christmas already?

(Disclosure:  I'm a member of the Big Ten Fan Council and didn't have to pay for my ticket to the luncheon and other events.)

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend the Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon.  A full post will show up about the day shortly.  While I was there, I grabbed a few photo-ops with the life-sized bobbleheads that are promoting the new show called Big Ten Icons.  The show doesn't air until September 18, but they're only airing on the Big Ten Network Icons #20-#1.  Starting next week, they'll begin put up #50-#21 on the web.  Illinois is well represented (based on the bobbleheads) by Kendall Gill in hoops and Red Grange in football.  If the Galloping Ghost isn't #1, the system is fixed.  

Here's me with the guys from both of my schools - Kendall Gill from Illinois and Joe Girardi from NU.  

I'm pretty sure this is Glen Robinson - the Big Dog!  I was over by the Purdue folks and he was standing around.  I sidled up and posed.  
Everyone else has a "modern" football Icon Bobblehead except for Illinois with Red Grange.  Kind of speaks to the problems we've had on the field the last 25 years, eh?
I hadn't spied a flour machine in any grocery store I've been in before, so I had to try it while in Charleston.  Out came warm, freshly ground wheat flour.
Can't find a lot on the web about the company, so I'm not sure how widely available something like this is currently.  Can't say that I noticed a big difference in the pizza skins, but glad I gave it a shot.
Last year, I coached the kickers and punters at Elmhurst College.  It is a small Division III program in our town that recruits from all over the country.  They think of themselves as a "big time" Division III program and they play in the conference to prove it.  The CCIW is always a hard league to win and this year will be no exception.

I had been out in Charleston on vacation for the first week of camp so this weekend was my first chance to get on the field.  It felt really great to be back with these young men.  They're a lot of fun and I'm thrilled to get the chance to be a part of the program.
We spent an afternoon at the Boon Hall Plantation.  The highlight is these 300+ year old Live Oak Trees along the approach to the plantation house.

My camera phone does them absolute no justice.  Because of how their roots grow, they're hurricane-proof.
Slave houses, plantation tours and history were the order of the day.
Special thanks to Governor Sanford for having us this week.  Spent a good bit of time on the beach, at the pool, and hiking the Appalachian Trail with the Moran clan.   More on what I learned and where we went when we get back.
I found this photo while digging through my dad's garage in Michigan.  From left to right is Matt Levy, a young me, my dad, Dan Hampton, my sister Linda, my sister Vic, and Aaron Levy.  Look at the smile on my dad's face!

I remember this like it was yesterday:  My mom's friend won a raffle from the new grocery store in Frankfort called Apples where Dan Hampton would personally deliver a sack of groceries to your front door.  Of course, she invited over the neighborhood so we could all meet the Danimal.  My recollection is that when I shook his hand it was like shaking a catcher's mitt.

Looks like I have a program of some sorts in my hands, so there is a companion autograph somewhere in my dad's archives.  The vintage is somewhere in 1986 or 1987.  Based on the brown grass, looks like this was in the spring.  Could this have been right after the Superbowl?  I look older than 8, right?
This story ran in the Chicago Tribune over the weekend.  Turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.

In another sign of how the Web has taken over clothes shopping in particular, searches for "first day of school outfit" on Google are up 40 percent from last year, according to the company's Chicago-based retail division. Searches specifically for girls' dresses, boys' shoes and backpacks for children are each up 5 percent for August from the same period last year.

Photo from the Tribune's piece
If you're headed to the Illinois State Fair this week, check out Streetview to plan your route.  And...if you're there with a group of friends, might I suggest Latitude to make sure no one gets lost?  If you're interested in keeping up with State Fair, you  might want to check out the official State Fair blog on Blogger.  Welcome to the future!

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A few weeks back, Nat and I went down to the original Home Run Inn on 31st Street to enjoy a feast with our friends.  We grabbed a booth in the main dining room and right above us was this beauty:  the 1978 menu that they bill as the "original".  The place has been open (as a tavern) since the 1920's, but there must have been a shift restaurant-wise that happened in 1978. 

Their current menu is a slick piece of marketing collateral with photos and colors all over the place.  It is really well done.

But....there's nothing like a big steaming sausage and pepperoni combo pie served with a side of nostalgia.  I think they should update this version and bring it back.    (Get a load of the prices in '78!)

At the Elmhurst Farmer's Market, there are your typical produce vendors - wide variety of offerings, but not a ton of personality.  They'll have fruit/vegetables but usually just a teenager there to collect the money.  They're not really interacting with the customers as much as just taking their money.  The food is good, that's not my complaint.  

Then...there are two large vendors with some personality and quite a bit of knowledge.  One of those vendors is Twin Garden Farms from Harvard, Illinois.  They are the purveyors of Mirai Sweet Corn - they're own home-grown hybrid variety.

The serve it raw - right in the stand - and it tastes delicious.  They say that occasionally they'll have it at Dominicks or Jewels, so if you see it, pick up a sack.  They come 6 ears per purchase.  Cook all six and make it a meal!
File this under:  my late evolving tastebuds.

The Jewels has recently re-branded their private label ice creams under the Stone Ridge Creamery banner and they're not bad.  We don't eat a lot of ice cream (we eat a ton of Skinny Cows and Weight Watcher bars, but not real ice cream), so I can't tell you where it ranks versus other ice creams premium or not.

But...Nat came home with a quart of their new Tart Frozen Yogurt.  I think it took me all of 4 days to eat the whole thing.  I would have never thought that I would be into lowfat tart frozen yogurt, but I've shared too many a Berry Chill with Nat and I've grown more than accustomed, if not downright ravenous of tart yogurts.

If you're in your local Jewels and are in the frozen aisle, eschew the novelties section and head over to pick up a pint of this stuff.  If you like Pinkberry or Berry Chill, it will NOT disappoint.
Coalfire Chicago (site)
1321 West Grand Ave, Chicago, IL  60642, (312)226-6447
Pizza Snob Says: Coalfire is the ONLY coal-fired pizza oven in Chicago.  They churn (and I really mean churn) out Neapolitan pies with a chewy crust with the true burnt/charred edges around the perimeter.  Although they don't use fresh mozzarella, they don't skimp on the toppings like most Neapolitan places.  They're kid-friendly and the owners/staff couldn't be more pleased to have you in their restaurant.   Is this *the best* pizza in Chicago and suburbs?  Nah...but it is good enough to warrant a return trip.
Rating:  Five "Ats-a-Nice"

First things, first.  This is the first of 23 trips to the top 23 pizza places in Chicago that Nat and I are attempting to make in a calendar year!

Sitting in (what I would call) the West Loop is this unassuming storefront pizza joint.  Looks a lot like plenty of places scattered across the city.  The big difference here?  Behind that glass lies the ONLY coal-fired pizza oven in the City of Chicago.  My friend Tony put in the recommendation and when this place came up on the list, I knew we had to go.
We arrived for an early dinner and the restaurant had a few tables seated.  With our baby in tow, we grabbed a table as far away from the other diners as we could.  With this one-room dining room, we didn't end up getting that far away.  The dining room is, frankly, lightly decorated.  There didn't appear to be a theme (which Nat pointed out was really a disappointment - what, with the natural coal-miner tie-in.  She pointed out that there *had* to be tons of prints they could locate of dirty coal miners.) but was bright enough.  The focal point in the back of the restaurant was the open kitchen and the behemoth that is their coal-fired oven.
A tad disappointing to see it on the metal stand and only with a single slab of marble on the face.  I wanted to see something a bit more built-in.  But, this place has only been open a year(ish) so they'll have time to get a more lived-in look.

As for the setup and ingredients, they utilize empty tomato cans on the table for pizza stands.  But, they're no ordinary tomatoes.  They're Alta Cucina Plum Tomatoes - they claim to be the best tomatoes on the planet.  They're "San Marzano-style" as they say that anyone who claims to have real San Marzanos are just lying.  One thing is for certain - the tomatoes didn't stand out.  Just as you would expect from a Neapolitan joint.    
We ordered the Fiorentino which boasts salami and roasted red peppers.  As any good pizza snob would point out, I'd have prefered Sopprasetta, but the salami - which others say is brought in from the Columbus Salame Company - was ok.  It didn't have a lit of zip to it, which the pizza could have used.  

The menu is pretty robust and includes the standard Margherita as well as some other combinations including the Meat which has the salami as well as sausage and pepperoni.  Aside from Nat not being remotely interested in the Meat, it had pepperoni - which for an upscale shot is a bit of a disappointment.

As one would expect, this place focuses on the crust.  And, it is VERY good.  It was cooked perfectly if you were a crust guy.  And....I think that's the type of folks who would really LOVE this place.  Here's the upskirt.
At the end of the feast, I've come to a realization:  I'm more of a toppings guy than a crust guy.  Sure...I do love a good crust, but I prefer tavern-cut pies that are LOADED.  We'll go back to Coalfire Chicago when we have guests with us, but I don't need to rush back for the pies tomorrow.  

Thumbs up from the Babe!

According to the Google Analytics account for this site, someone is barking up the wrong tree...

Is it because of all the posts on gardening?  Or was it that Hybrid Vehicle Tax Waiver that I got passed?
A few weeks back, I went to the Museum of Science and Industry for a few business meetings.  We began talking about what they're working on and they took me to see the "bedroom" - that is the living quarters in the photo above - for their "Month at the Museum" project.  The deadline to apply is tomorrow, so get your application in!  There's a video portion of the application, so you'll have to be creative.  

This is an important time for the museum as they're trying to make themselves relevant to both kids and young adults (their prime audience).  They've finished a capital campaign and have recently rebranded to  become more MSI and less Museum.  And...they have a U-boat!  Do you know the story of the U-505?  It is - as my dad would say - crazy shit.  Seriously.  These 9 young Americans were tasked with boarding a sinking German sub that had been scuttled.  The Germans opened hatches and armed scuttle charges to blow up the boat.  In the face of certain death, these young men went aboard a sinking enemy ship and against all odds closed the hatch and disarmed the charges.  Unreal.  

From their site:

Museum of Science and Industry Timeline

In 1893, our building opened as part of the Columbian Exposition.
In 1933, we opened as the Museum of Science and Industry with a coal mine.
In 1954, we got a submarine.
In 1994, we got a 727.
In 2010, we'll be getting a roommate.


They're looking for someone to literally live in the museum for 30 days.  The person selected will be all over the museum and participate in events for them across the full month.  In exchange, you get $10K and a bit of notoriety, I suppose.  Plus....all the rides in the coal mine's elevator a guy or girl could ask for!

Aside from the really creepy thought of sleeping in that glass box each night, if I was single, I would TOTALLY apply.  
In addition to our first tiny harvest and a recent cucumber pulled from the garden last week, this was my first real "harvest" of the season.  To date, none of my big tomatoes have ripened, but plenty of the grape varieties turned red.  Another cuke was big enough to pick, too.

Also, some of my Bell Peppers stopped growing - so I am assuming that those GIANT ones we get at the Jewels are not exactly organically grown.  Rounding out the bounty are three Jalepeno Gigantes.  They're a little bit lighter green than I'm used to, but they pack a lot of heat.
Arriving back from Michigan after a few days yesterday, Nat put the Babe to bed while I gave the lawn a much-needed haircut.  Once the tasks were done, we settled in for a nice night under the pavilion reading/drinking/relaxing.

Like everyone else in Chicagoland, we have a bit of a mosquito problem.   But...fortunately for us, I picked up the most romantic of romantic birthday presents for Nat:  the Off Clip-on.   Along with a candle and the mother-of-all cintronella candles - our fireplace - we settled in for a long night outside.  The temperature was perfect - the light is nice - and we have a nice loveseat out there to snuggle in to together.

We were in bliss for 40 minutes.
Then....scurrying like only they scurry, a small skunk came moseying right along our patio - no more than 5 feet from where we were sitting.  I freaked out.  I'm thinking the skunk freaked out, too!  I knocked over Nat's glass of wine on the table - breaking one of her favorite glasses.  I grabbed the Rooster and pushed Nat to go inside.  The skunk had found his way to the Northside of our garage - an area without a gate.  He could - perhaps - go under the fence (I'm assuming that's how he got in in the first place!), but I was concerned that he was cornered. And...we know what cornered skunks are capable of.

We all went inside; wasting a roaring fire in the fireplace, and turned on the flood lights.  Of course I submitted the sighting on ElmhurstStinks.com.

A perfect night.  Ruined.  By an Elmhurst skunk.
Although it isn't as good as the one Rachelleb spotted on the train...that's a pretty good femullet caught in the wild, eh?

This lady was rocking to a set of street musicians outside the South Bend Chocolate Company in St. Joseph's,  Michigan back in early July.
Someone gifted the Babe this set of bath-time toys from Infantino when she was born.  They're pretty cute and have gotten a good workout these past few months.  For whatever it is worth, they (the toy experts!) say, that you're supposed to throw out bath toys periodically - to avoid mold build-up - so these are probably on their last legs.  Apparently if you don't drain them very well, they'll just trap water and get all gross on the insides.  They'll turn into about the last thing you want your baby to be playing with during their baths.

Each one of the specific toys has a blowhole where you can suck in water and squirt it out.  On some they're in their mouths, but on this whale it is right where it is supposed to be - his blowhole.

He looks pretty cute and normal, right?
He's just fine.....until you take a close look at the tail - all by itself.
Seriously?!?  How did something like this get past the quality control folks.  You have to think that the designer thought it was rip-roariously funny to get a set of boobs into an infant toy.  No one was checking his work, I suppose.  (Nat is the one who actually figured this out and I couldn't stop laughing when she showed me.  We happened to be in church at the time - don't ask why a bath toy ended up at church, it just did - and I believe that I received some looks from the congregation due to my unchecked laughter. )

I've looked all over the web can't find anyone else talking about these guys.  So...maybe I'm the one with the warped perspective?