Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Across the Street: Backyard Ice Rink

Although this photo is terrible (I'd have a short career as a spy photographer, eh?), you can *sorta* make out the ice rink that the folks right across the street had set up in their backyard.  (See it there?  In the backyard of the white house on the left?  It is that white thing....)


Earlier last week, a truck showed up in the street that had something like"Supreme Sports" on the side of the truck and trailer.  After a bit of research, I learned that they install temporary ice rinks.  The guy across the street rocks A LOT of Blackhawks jerseys, so I knew he was a fan.  But a rink?  That's pretty rad.  I actually squeeled with delight once I put the puzzle together:  they were getting a neighborhood rink!

Too bad I can't skate.  Or else I'd be having Nat whip up a batch of muffins or something so I can go play with the kids!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Meeting Santa For the First Time

And...there weren't any tears!

As part of the Walnut Room experience yesterday, we stood in line to get to Macy's Santa.  The Babe did a great job sitting on the Big Guy's lap.   I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I was secretly *hoping* for a freakout.  A sobbing, crying, screaming photo would be a bit more fun that this cute, serene one, no?

We took an "official" photo and bought it from Macy's. After scanning it in, I'm certain Nat will make sure it will show up on the Babe's blog.  For those of you family folks, you know where to look for said photos!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Walnut Room at Macy's Chicago - 2010

We went down to Marshall Field's Macy's this morning and had a surprisingly pleasant experience.  My family has been going for at least the past two decades and probably more, but since the transition to Macy's, the experience hasn't quite been the same.  To be fair, I have a feeling that at the end of the Marshall Field's run there probably was some of the poor experience(s), but I don't quite want to remember it that way - and it is more convenient to pin it on big-bad-Macy's.

Well....this morning, we had what I think might have been one of the finest experiences in some time.  We decided to go quite early - meet at 8:30 AM - and the store wasn't open at that hour.  Because of that, we had a "personal escort" from the curb to the Walnut Room.  Pretty nice!

Then...they had a GREAT tree!
You can't tell from the photo, but they have these vertical LED bars that "drip" light down them.  Quite the effect.  Because we were a party of 16, we didn't sit ANYWHERE near the tree, but we snuck up and snapped a few pictures right alongside the massive tree.

The food was fine - it was a breakfast buffet - and the staff was pretty good in fact.  I'm not going to concede that Macy's has improved the experience, but they've at least worked out some of the kinks.

I fondly remember the Walnut Room experience from my childhood as an almost dreamlike experience.  In fact, the whole Marshall Field's experience is still pretty dreamlike.  Both Nat and I remarked about how weird it must have been to walk into that place for the first time as a shopper back in the day.

Because of these personal memories, I'm hopeful that the Babe will have similar ones, too.  Based on today's experience, Macy's is well on their way to ensuring that those memories happen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Music (In Our House, At Least)

One of the applications we use the most on Google TV is Pandora - where we stream the music through our television speakers.  Since we both (Nat and I) use the same application on the TV, I'm thinking it blended our preferences (holiday tunes + rock-n-roll).  Don't mind if I do, Mr. Petty!
After giving it a spin, it wasn't so much holiday music, though!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Living Room Fireplace Mantel: DONE

I'm really pleased how the front fireplace turned out!  The color came really close to matching the bookcases and they look like the whole thing could have been here for 100 years.  And...that was the over-arching goal!


This room has come a long way.  Here's the "before" shot.  Since then, we tiled and put on the top.  


And....the "After".



Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Traditions 2010 - The Last Waltz (of Course!)

As in years past  (200420052007,), I spent a good bit of time watching "The Last Waltz"  - however, this time I used Google TV and watched it clip-by-clip.  With the Babe's arrival and her first Thanksgiving, it is becoming apparent that my Rick Danko time is going to be squeezed out by the parade watching.   Maybe it'll become an evening staple?  I doubt Nat will allow that to happen....

But what would traditions be if they weren't a bit difficult to make happen each year?  Consider this a challenge.  Rick, Robbie, Garth, Levon, and Richard?  I'll won't let you guys fade away in the Parrillo household.

Adding to my enjoyment this morning is this book I found on Google Books - which chronicles the Last Waltz.  Sounds like mandatory reading!   It takes on a pretty academic perspective in describing the "instructions" to "play" the film loud - claiming that such instructions nudge the movie closer to an album and away from feature film.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pizza Types: Sicilian vs. Grandma

A few weeks back, Nat bought me a pizza magazine/book that I devoured.  In the back, there was a list of pizza terms. The breakdown of Sicilian and Grandma pizza stuck out to me.  The rest of the magazine/book (I use that term because the form factor was more magazine-like, but it was ONLY about pizza and isn't a periodical, so it is more book-like in that respect.), was equally pizza-tastic.  I'm sure I'll share other bits later.

Back to the pizza styles, right?  Well....I've been hearing more and more about these styles of pies and I always assumed that they were the same.  Nat's mom makes a version of Grandma pizza and it is soooo g.o.o.d.  

Sicilian pies have NO cheese.  I didn't know that.  Now you do, too!  Grandma pizzas have diagonal sauce lines.  Neat!  I made pizzas last night at the Moran's that were a hybrid Grandma/deep dish/Chicago thin style that turned out pretty neat.  Cornmeal crust, crispy all-the-way-through topped with smoked cheeses and provolone.  Sauce on top.  I'll make it again - and try to replicate what I did!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mantel Update: Stain Started

I put 2 coats of stain on (and wiped them off!) yesterday and the color still isn't as DARK as we'd like it.  We're awfully close to matching the bookcases, so I think one more coat will do the trick.
I'd like to be putting the first coat of polyurethane on tonight in order to meet the strict deadlines Nat has imposed.  After all, we still have the family room mantel to get done before Thursday!  Yikes!

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Fannie May Store in Elmhurst

Back in September, I documented the closure of a Papa John's Pizza place in Downtown Elmhurst and looking back, I had high hopes for a new tenant right in the heart of Downtown.  Fortunately, the landlord found a tenant pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, it is a Fannie May store.
 I fully realize that not EVERY store in town needs to tailor their wares to me and my family demographic, but I couldn't be LESS excited this new store. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Living Room Mantel Progress: Day 2

We installed the dentil and I think it turned out great.  Used our front door as a template and at first I wasn't sure the scale would translate.  But stepping back and peeking at it, I'm pleased with the look.   Tonight, I started to fill the holes and think about stain/coloring - going to try to match it up to the bookcases as best as I can.  Couldn't have done ANY of this with Nat's Dad both in terms of his skill set and tools!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bowling

I had my Illini to win four games tops thus year. After today's beatdown of the cats we're already at six.

Oskee-wow-wow!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Living Room Fireplace Mantel Progress

Thanks to Nat's Dad, we made A LOT of progress on the front living room mantel.  Charlie found some old oak boards at an estate sale and after a bit of sawing and planing we managed to make something pretty neat. It isn't done, but the Thanksgiving deadline is fast approaching.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6 Down, 19 to Go: Louisa's Pizza of Crestwood

We got back on the top 25 pizza places in Chicago routine with a stop at Louisa's on the southside in Crestwood.  Nat described this as the "best pizza she's ever tasted" and would not only come back for it, but would recommend this place to ANYONE.  That's how good this was.  My only complaint was that our crust was a bit burnt - and not in a good Pequods/Burt's Place-type of carmelized burnt.  This was just plain burnt.

I think we had sausage, pepperoni and spinach, but I don't totally remember.  This place has all the charm of your buddy's parent's basement that hasn't been renovated since the mid 1980's.  Carpet on the floors, Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling, etc.  But...they do churn out a great pie.

You know you're on the south side when the front door specifies that men can't walk in wearing a tank top.  I am guessing that JP McCarthy's in Winnetka doesn't have the same problem.

The pie in all of it's glory.  Look at the age on those pans.  They've served a pie or three.



The pizza upskirt shows off a nice crust.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bungalow Fireplace Front - Wood Dentil Planning

The day has finally come:  we're going to finish off our fireplaces.  Nat has given me a Thanksgiving Day deadline.  Fortunately, I'm taking some time off which allowed me to get to the store to buy some wood to begin the project.  We're going to simulate the look of our front door with a pretty large dentil design.

3.5" blocks with 6" spacers is what I've laid out in the photo above.  I'm *hoping* that the scale will work once they go up on the wall.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making Her a FanGirl

The Babe landed herself a new snugglepal.  I'm (obviously) attempting to get her started early mostly because she's taking to her mother's iphone like a fish to water.  Had to fight dirty with the Squishable!

Monday, November 15, 2010

VestFest 2010

Kudos to my friends Justin, Jason, and Donovan for pulling off a really amazing VestFest 2010 this past weekend in the city.  They raised a heckuva lot of money for charity.  Nice job, guys!

For more info, you can visit:  www.vestfest.org

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Noonie's Halloween Party - 2010

My mom ALWAYS has a great Halloween party for my nieces and nephews.  The main event is the pinata and this year the weather cooperated.  I found this photo in my phone and couldn't resist posting it for posterity sake.
 Equation Boy/Man handles the raising/lowering duties and the kids spring into action when someone makes a dent in the pumpkin sun pinata!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It *is* the Sauce, But...Pepperoni?

Using the Pizza Cognition Theory, when I think of pizza, I naturally think of Aurelio's.  Yesterday, I found myself on the southside and noticed a billboard for Aurelio's and grabbed a shot as I drove by.  I know...not super safe!

They're (rightfully) hanging their hat on their sauce - and for us Aurelio's lovers, it *is* indeed the sauce, but the photo they used troubles me.
Pepperoni?  Seriously?  This is Chicago.  What about sausage?  Now...I'll throw down a sausage/pepperoni combo any day of the week, but for your advertisement?  I dunno.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dolly Parton Saves the Day

I've previously disclosed that although I'm a Sirius/XM subscriber, I'm really just subscribing because of Howard Stern.  My dark secret (that I'm a HUGE Stern guy) is out there and Nat hates for me to tell people.  In fact, I hesitate to tell most people - mostly because I know that somewhere in their head they're judging me and thinking that I'm some sort of gross dude. 

Yesterday, I found myself in the car driving to Detroit in the morning, which allowed me to listen to the entire show.  But, I also had to drive partially back home last night and because there wasn't anything fresh on Howard 100, I was left to fend for myself among the music stations. 

And....guess what?  Outlaw Country didn't let me down. 
Yup.  That's Dolly covering Led Zeppelin.  Guess if Stern decides to pack it in, I'll have to give a second thought to deleting my subscription after all. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Found the Killer App for Google TV: My Illini Playing on ESPN3

Earlier in the week, we were on the road in Kansas City, so I found myself sneaking up to a bedroom in our friend's house and watching the Illini hoops game on my laptop.  It was ONLY on ESPN3.com, so my laptop was my only option.

Fast forward to last night and again I find the Illini are set to play Toldeo on ESPN3.com.  But..guess what I have at home?  That's right!  GoogleTV!
I have seen the future and it is filled with millions of tv channels all delivered through one pipe! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Relic from My Past: Lee Daniels Cooler

One of the first "big" political fundraising events I went to was Minority Leader Lee Daniels' Golf Outing where he gave out these mini coolers.  Somehow, among the second-hand furniture, bad Nike windbreakers and old cereal, this relic has survived up in Coloma Michigan.  It is small and holds a six pack and that's about it.  BUT, it is hard-sided and therefore not to terribly useful.  

But, seeing it up in Michigan brings me back:  I couldn't have been more excited to be working in politics and I viewed this as a trophy.  I *was* working for the Minority Leader - and was rubbing elbows with big shots at Medinah.  And...the cooler was proof!
Seems like a lake house is the right place for something like this: old, out-of-date, and mostly inadequate.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monday, November 08, 2010

Holiday Creep: Chicken or the Egg

Everywhere you look, it is already Christmas.  And...it is only early November.  We hear folks lamenting this trend as the Holidays creep up earlier and earlier each year.  The stores are already carrying holiday merchandise, muncipialities are already hanging lights on the town square, and consumers are actively ticking off items on their buying lists.

The question:  Are marketers "forcing" this holiday stuff on us early to garner more purchases or do we as consumers actually "want" an early Christmas?  I'm not sure, but one annecdote that lends some credence that we "want" Holiday creep is this chart around Starbucks Holiday Red Cups.






Clearly there's a HUGE surge of consumers across the country who are clamoring for the red cups. "When are the red cups coming?" "What do the red cups look like?"

Questions like that are being asked and - to me - that indicates people are passionate about the cups and are primed for their arrival.  Does that mean we want to eradicate Thanksgiving from the calendar and just have a two-month long Christmas celebration?  Not sure.  What about you?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

More Burnt Ends @ Jackstack

Jackstack is what I think most people would call bourgeois bbq.  This isn't a dirty hole-in-the-wall order-at-the-counter bbq joint.  This is upscale.  And, most importantly, it is dee-licious.
Once again, I went with burnt ends.  Jackstack's were HUGE chunks of meat that weren't slathered in too much sauce.  The meat was good and plentiful, but the sides shine as much as the main course at Jackstack.  The cheesy corn bake was my favorite, while Nat went with the cheesy potato bake. 

BBQ is at the heart of the city of Kansas City, but it is clear by the success of this place, even the folks way out in the suburbs want some of that sweet meat, too!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Off the List: Oklahoma Joe's BBQ



Anthony Bourdain has a list of 13 places everyone must try before they die that includes a place called Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Kansas City.  The full list is here.    He describes it thusly:
It's the best BBQ in Kansas City, which makes it the best BBQ in the world.
Well...consider us one step closer to finishing the list!  We had lunch at Oklahoma Joe's and the wait was worth it.  I had the burnt ends and Nat had a smoked Turkey sandwich.  Both were unreal.   I've been to a few other places around KC including Masterpiece, Gates, Jackstack and others, but Oklahoma Joe's stands out.  One thing to note, though:  we had a few sides at Oklahoma Joe's and they were ALL lackluster.  You can clearly tell that old Joe focuses on the meat and doesn't give much thought to the beans and potato salad.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Last of the Garden Including the Elusive Purple Pepper

Frost has arrived in suburban Chicago, which has put an end to the harvest.  Unfortunately, we are going to end up with a number of green tomatoes and some tiny zucchini. 

But....there is one bright spot.  The purple bell peppers finally emerged. 

We had a lot of luck with green and a few yellow, but the purple plant never threw off any fruit until VERY late in the season.  At that point, there wasn't a heckuva lot of heat in the air and soil to pump up the peppers.  

Has anyone else grown purple bell peppers?  Were they super late bloomers?  Maybe next year we'll have to start them early in a hothouse or something.  But, that opens up a whole HUGE can of worms.  Do I suddenly become one of those seed people?  Pouring over the seed catalogs for heirloom varieties.  Building homemade green house solutions for my seedlings? 

Hey...if it was good enough for my main man TJ, I guess there's worse hobbies to get into, right? 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Oh! Sweet, Nuthin

This piece (embedded below) was sent to my by my buddy Adam.  He's in a similar "place" in life - with a relatively new baby at home, a great wife, strong family around him, and he's in a pretty nice spot professionally.  He's a friend that I grew up with in Frankfort - along with his brother(s) and have shared plenty with along the way.

Turns out, that's not all we have in common.  He has pretty good taste in music (so do his brothers.  Well...the oldest one *still* really loves AC/DC, so I'm not sure about him!).  And because of that great taste in music...I'm so happy he turned me onto this My Morning Jacket cover of "Oh! Sweet Nuthin" by the Velvet Underground.

He tells me that this is a live recording from Bonnaroo a few years back.  There isn't any moving pictures, just a still, so do yourself a favor:  Click "play" on the video, then go open up another tab and go on with your business on the internets.  I bet you come back and click "replay" at least once.  As Martin Scorsee famously put it in The Last Waltz - "THIS FILM SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD."

If you're reading this in email, you'll need to click back through on the title of the post to see this!



Thanks for sharing, Adam!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

2nd Time Voter

The Babe is 2-2 when it comes to voting as she turned up at the polling place yesterday with both Mom and Dad.  We took her when she was SO young to vote in the primary elections back in February.  She wasn't even 2 months old.  Can't believe how small she was in that post.

This is her now - her second voting day.  She made such an impression that she was lucky enough to get a sticker from the poll watchers.
Nat took her in the booth with her this time as I was able to bring her with me in the primary.  Forget Cubs or Sox, this is too important:  R's vs. D's!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Cat and Pumpkin Join the Owl

I told you the Owl was getting lonely.
The cat turned out the best, but I think that's because he has chompers.  I have yet to decide if these are worth keeping in storage for next year or if now, since it is November, these should get chucked.  Maybe they'll join our owl pumpkins in the compost bin?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Last Night's Tally: Halloween 2010

Had a big crowd on our street - mostly during the early hours - and beat last year's numbers.  This year, we had 39 kids "we knew" from the neighborhood, 181 other kids, and 16 adults.   You're probably wondering how I know the numbers?  Well....that's easy:  I kept track!    Below is my tally sheet along with the prior year's numbers in brackets at the top of each section.  The numbers aren't perfect, because when they come in waves, I sometimes loose track.  We break down by neighbors, non-neighbors, and adults.  Yes....adults.  Neighbors get big candy bars, the other kids get the normal Halloween-sized candy.

Last year, we had 37 kids "we knew" from the neighborhood, 147 other kids and I didn't track adults.

2009 Total = 184
2010 Total = 236
Avg Total = 210

Some will ask, so I'll put this out there up front:  I keep track of the candy numbers for inventory control and candy budgeting, of course!

As for the night, I'm sure that we're not alone, but we get a very heavy out-of-town crowd.  There are quite a few cars parked on our street where families come out from other cities to hit up our street and neighborhood.  I'm glad the kids get to come out, but when the parents come up with their own bag?  That's a bit much for me.  As Nat pointed out on Twitter last night:  adults with no costume and no kids = Almond Joy.
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