In her white dress for her cousin's first communion in Park Ridge.

Also a test post from the blogger android app.

Back in November, I shared a moment of enlightenment about various styles/types of pizza.  Specifically, after reading a book about pizza, I came across a list of terms defined including Sicilian and Grandma pizza styles.  The 2 descriptions can be found on my post:  Sicilian vs. Grandma Pizza.

Up until this week, the discussion was completely academic because I hadn't been to a place that had them side-by-side.  That's no longer the case.  While in NYC this week, I stopped by a slice joint and came across both of them right next to each other.  That's the Sicilian on the right and the Grandma on the left.  With both, you pick your slice and they throw it into a faux-wood-burning oven that is really just an open gas burner to reheat your slice.  I really don't love this whole reheating process, but it seems it is the way New Yorkers roll.
See how much thinner the Grandma pie is?  They're both cut into "squares" - really rectangles - and the edges are crisped up, but the Sicilian has much more cheese on it, while the Grandma is dominated by sauce.  I can't actually speak about the taste differences because I only opted for the the Sicilian - which was just a cheese pie.  As noted by others, this is about as close to bread as you can get in the pizza category.  It was good, but not spectacular - and reminded me why I love Chicago-style tavern cut thin pizza.    Now, that's pizza!
On my walk back to my hotel yesterday, I spotted this Patsy's location on 23rd Street.  Knowing it is on the list of must-eat pizza places, I had to at least stop for a photo.  I had other plans for dinner (or so I thought), so I couldn't stop in and eat.  Besides, they don't sell slices, so it isn't portable. 

I believe the East Harlem location is the original/best but as far as walk-bys, this one will do just fine for me.  They operate a coal-fired oven and from the sounds of it, turn out some incredible pies. 

There's some dispute (I think) over who had the first pizza joint in New York - both Patsy's and Lombardi's claim to be the first.

Patsy's claim of being first here.
Lombardi's claim of being first here
We couldn't have had more fun at Wilder Park this past weekend both during and after the Easter Egg Hunt.  We spent more than an hour on the playground doing the swings and one of her favorites:  the slide with Daddy!  Nat snapped this photo with her phone and I've shared some of the photos I took of the day over on the Babe's blog.  If you know that address, you can go over there to see some shots of the Easter Egg Hunt. 
Just like last year, our little $5 Wal-Mart tree is the "little tree that could".  You can read the post about how and why we bought $5 trees from Wal-Mart here, but this *should* be the year that they begin to payoff for the landscape.  We're in the "Leap" year of the Sleep, Creep, Leap cycle and based on the blooms of this Cleveland Pear, we're on track.  The tree gets these really pretty pink bouquets of blooms on each of the tips which open up to little flowers shortly after.
The difference in just one year of the maturity of the tree is pretty striking.  Last year, the blooms were tiny, sparse, and mostly close to the trunk.  Now, the tips are alive with blooms everywhere.  The tree is still pretty small by most folks standards, but I'm thrilled with how it is filling out and up.  Here's a (blurry!) shot to give some perspective on how it is faring.
What happens in year four?  Does the Sleep, Creep, Leap cycle start over again?
Look what the Easter Bunny brought me:  Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson the owner of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.  My brother-in-law has the caught the bread bug (more than I have) and has tried (at least) one of the recipes from this place and said it was spectacular.  Can't wait to wake the starter later this week and give some of these a shot.
Of course, I couldn't help myself and I immediately thumbed to the index and looked up the "p's".  Found a few listings for pizza.  Interesting that he kind of mocks the pizza craze and that it seems his dough recipe for pizza skins is just his country bread recipe.
Of course, I loved everything I got (more haul posts later), but I have to note: the most thoughtful gift the Easter Bunny gave me was a set of paint brushes and paints as well as a notebook.  We were just talking the other week about painting and how I enjoyed it back in my early 20's.  She was paying attention - as great friends do!
See that grey-ish liquid on the top of my starter?  This is what they call hooch
I'd heard of it, but never had it on my culture before.  When I took my jars out of the fridge (earlier this week) after a long slumber, the hooch was thick.  I dumped it out, then got started on the feedings.  As I mentioned earlier this week, the culture snapped right back to life.
Yesterday these weren't here, but this morning in spots all over the mulch/bed it seems that the hostas are popping up.  Overnight.  Most of these we did NOT plant, but were left behind by the mean lady who lived in our house before we bought it.  After we had a contract but before we closed on the house, she went out and dug up almost all over the plants in the front.  Unfortunately for her, she didn't get them all.  Too bad, eh?  
More bad news for Downtown Elmhurst:  Fontano's - the home of 8 beloved Italian sandwich combinations has closed.  I drove by this morning and saw this big sad 'For Lease' sign in the window.
Confirmed, too by the Elmhurst Patch.   Bummer for the sandwich scene in town.  However, I'm hopeful that we'll see something besides a salon move in.  A guy can hope, right?
At least that's what I *think* happened.  Unless we have a ghost who comes in and drops my culture jars on their edges just for fun.

Earlier this week, I grabbed my sourdough culture jars out of the fridge and I tried to wake them up.  I wanted to bake some bread for Easter this weekend, and figured it was going to take a few cycles of feeding them to fully get them activated because it'd been about 2 months since I touched them. 

The good news?  They woke right up.  A few feedings in, I had a fully alive culture and a bubbling jar.

The bad news?  I forgot to open the jars and dump out a bunch of the culture one evening.  We went to bed and woke up to the strong stink of yeast in our kitchen.  And one of my jars was surprisingly low in terms of contents.   When I picked it up, it dripped.  Turns out, the bottom busted out.  I can only guess that this was a weak spot in the jar and the pressure was too great.  In the photo above, I laid the glass glass chip that busted out right on the jar.  Pretty crazy, right? 

I searched the web and didn't turn up much.  So, baking friends:  have you ever heard of this? 
It has only taken a little over two years, but I think we've found it:  the place to get our pizza pies in Elmhurst.  For the most part, our go-to takeout place has been Mama Maria's - on Valette Street, just off of York on the south side of town.  It is a good, solid pizza place with a great staff.  The pies they churn out are very consistent, but not spectacular.  Unfortunately for them, I think I've picked up my last pizza pie from their store for a while.

(Equation Boy/Man turned me on to Mama Maria's.  His old go-to place is called Billy's Pizza Dugout in Villa Park, but there's been an ownership change and he didn't like the changes the new guy made.)

All of that is behind us now, because went to County Inn Pizza last night and they've converted me.
I consider myself pretty well-versed in all things pizza, but embarrassingly the lead for this place came from my lovely wife Natalie.  Seems, one of our neighbors picks up their pizza from here regularly and raved about it.  She couldn't quite remember the name of the place nor the exact location, but remembered it was on the "edge" of Elmhurst.  On a few occasions, we've driven up and down Butterfield and St. Charles Road trying to run into the place, but with no luck.  For some reason, Nat had her Yelp app opened on her phone when we were talking about dinner last night and County Inn Pizza's Yelp page showed up.  I'm glad it did!

County Inn is a pizza stand.  Literally.  They added a little shelter, but you can tell that it was started as a stand with a window where you can order your pizzas from.   That white door on the right leads you to the counter.  There's that odd Pepsi machine out front - which is weird.  They have stacks of 2 liters inside, too.  All Pepsi products - which is the only black mark on this place.  The stand is located just on the other (non-Elmhurst) side of 294 on Roosevelt Road.  They bill it as being 1/2 mile east of York Road and 1/2 mile west of Wolf Road. 

We pulled up and I got out to see how long it would take to cook ours.  The guy said 12 minutes.   We ordered a medium pie and waited.  12 minutes later, I was in my car rushing home.  All three of us (Nat, the Babe, and myself) scarfed down the entire thing in record time.

Turns out, they're known for something called a double decker pizza - with 2 thin crusts stacked on top of each other.   I guess we'll have to test that one out next weekend!
Right on the heels of the tax day trends piece yesterday, Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune ran a short piece in the Talk Section in the front of the Tribune that shows in a visual way the difference a year makes in the sports world here in Chicago.  A year ago, the Hawks were on their way to the Stanley Cup and the Bulls were an afterthought.  Oh, how the tide has turned.  Here's how the story looked in print this morning:

In addition to writing the blog post on the Official Google Blog, I also pitched a local story about tax trends here in Chicago.  The Tribune ran the story late last week ahead of the weekend which talked about how Chicagoans are moving online faster than the rest of the country and being solid Midwesterners, we're much more DIY'ers than the rest of the country.  The top brands don't rank as high locally as they do nationally.  I'm calling that a win for the Midwest. 
It isn't about sports, but still is focused on trends.  Specifically something that millions of Americans are doing today:  filing their taxes.  The Taxman Searcheth was a team effort.  This is my 5th OGB post in just 2011.  I've only penned 4 others in my past 3+ years at the company.  That pace is likely to hold true for the remainder of the year.   As for this post, I worked with one of my teammates in NYC to get the post done.  It is effective because it is relevant and shows in very clear ways some key differences in this year (the late deadline and the fast shift to e-filing/online filing) and a few other interesting things including the fact that more US residents are searching for how to deduct their gambling losses than their charity donations.  Think about that for a second.  I guess one could chalk up the big difference to the fact that in some regards, charitable deductions are much more straight forward.  You just put the amount right in the field for charity.  But, gambling losses require a bit of research.  But, although the explaination might be obvious, I think there's something else at play there:  lots of Americans have a vice and they want to make sure they maximize their returns by claiming everything they can.

Typically, these posts are important for a few different reasons and this one hits on all cylinders.  First, it helps us prop up key executives as "thought leaders" in their fields.  Second, it injects the Google brand into the conversation around these "water cooler events" and finally, it highlights key trends which our teams can use when they go see their customers.


Here are the live links to all nine of my posts on the Official Google Blog:

Last week, the University of Illinois Athletic department sent out an email to fans/alums/supporters/donors hawking this 24" Red Grange sculpture that is an exact replica of the spectacular statue that they put up a few years back at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.  The idea is great, but the price is crazy.  $4800 for one.  I understand that they're limiting the production to just 77 pieces (get it?  Red Grange's number was 77), but they should make something more affordable.   A few years back, I bought a bronze(ish) statue of Chief Illiniwek.  I'm not certain what it is made out of, but it wasn't crazy expensive.  Probably a few hundred bucks.  I would like nothing more than to add this Grange statue to my Chief statue.  But,  until they make a ton of them out of something other than bronze, I have a feeling that I won't be able to explain a $4800 charge to our credit card to Nat.  

As a side note....have you checked out the Grange statue in person?  It is pretty awesome.  When they do the *rest* of the Memorial Stadium renovation (horseshoe), they'll have to add a Butkus one too?  After all, he's the only OTHER number the Illini have retired.  Speaking of which, one fun story I have from my time as a punter on the Illini team is that when I was on the team, the lockers were organized by number - not position.  Sure, a lot of the guys were grouped together because their numbers were close (think offensive linemen being #60's and #70's), but that wasn't always the case.  But there were 2 lockers that went unused.  #51 (Butkus) and #77 (Grange).  I thought it was a pretty neat tribute to the 2 greatest players in Illini history.  
Last week, Nat and  I went out to celebrate my birthday (and the big Polomsky for City Council win!) with a meal at the Girl and the Goat.  As most of you know (and I just came to realize!), this restaurant is very happening and for good reason:  the chef is a *celebrity*, the place has a great vibe, and the food, well...isn't what I would call "in my comfort zone", but it was pretty great.

While we didn't get the roasted pig face (seriously...that's on the menu), we did get some pork and here's me smiling with a VERY full belly and playing with a pork shank bone.
The meal was quite the experience - especially for a guy like me who lives in the suburbs and eats pizza and chicken wings.  From the green beans with fish sauce to the chickpea fritters to the seppia (fish), it was all quite interesting and for the most part, delicious.  And, we got a wonderful surprise at the end of our meal from a friend/neighbor of ours (Thanks if you are reading this!) which is going to allow us to come back for a second meal here. 

The restaurant has 2 Expo Tables, which are really Chef's Tables - where you get to peer into the kitchen while you're dining.  If it is just Nat and I who head back there, we'll angle for one of those. 

I felt a little bit out of my element - and in talking with Nat - that seems to be a good thing.  I don't do it enough.  Like a lot of folks I stay inside my comfort zone/bubble and don't push my boundaries too often.  Places like the Girl and the Goat always seem too hip or not for me, but after dining there, I've come around.  Who knows, maybe even we'll find ourselves at Alinea in the future.
Over on Martha Stewart's site, you can see her instructions and how-to, but I made a few modifications to the products and tools so I'll walk you through this easy project.  This could be something fun to do with kids, but it isn't a one-day project because of the painting and the multiple colors involved.

Things you'll need for the Easter Egg Garland:
5 dozen (more or less if you want) paper mache eggs
spring color paint (I chose 5 different pastel colors)
paint brush (I used a foam brush)
5 or 6 feet of ribbon - pretty thin ribbon
A drill and a 11/16th inch bit (you can use any size bit that will allow your ribbon to pass through
wooden skewer (or beading needle) to push ribbon through holes

Martha calls for real eggs.  Yup.  Like blown out eggs that you would have on hand around Easter-time.  In fact, she calls for you to dye the eggs just like you would normally.  I figured there had to be a better way not just due to the fact that blowing out eggs, well.....blows, but also because those eggs would be so fragile and delicate.  Off I went to Michael's Craft store and found these paper mache eggs.  I bought 5 dozen of them because that's all that they had.  They're the same size/shape as real eggs, but a lot less delicate.
In order to be able to fish the ribbon through them to actually *make* garland, I had to drill each end.  With a 11/16th inch bit, I poked holes through.  I suppose you could just use something sharp and avoid the drill, but I didn't want to collapse the eggs by applying too much pressure so I went with the drill route. 

One hole on each end and the faux eggs are set to get their color.

Martha Stewart recommends that after you blow out 60 some odd eggs, you dye them with natural materials like beets and such.  Sounds fun, but because I went with paper mache eggs, I had to paint them.  I selected 5 different Spring shades that came in these little bottles.  I think they were like $1.49 a piece, so it wasn't a bank-breaker.  I only wish I would have bought a white primer to paint them all with a base before I applied the color. 

With five colors, the painting took longer than I thought it would.  I put a few coats on each egg and over the course of a week or so, I got them all colored.  I used a foam brush (it was cheap), but if I was doing more eggs, I likely would have sprung for spray paint because the coverage would have been better and more even. 

Once painted, time came to string them up so they are actually part of garland.  The holes were big enough for the ribbon to be fished through, but I couldn't get it through by itself.  I tried a flexible beading needle - as Martha recommended - but that didn't work to terribly well.  So, I went into the kitchen and fished out a wooden skewer.  Worked perfectly.  I placed the ribbon over the hole, poked the skewer through the bottom hole then top hole all the while pulling the ribbon through.  See it there popping out the top (the bottom of the photo, but the "top" of the egg)?  Just grab that and tug it through.  Do this for all 60 eggs. 

I used a regular pattern and sequence of the colors.  With 60 eggs, they begin to pile up at your feet while you work. 

Then off they went to be strung up on our living room mantle. The garland isn't quite long enough to go across the entire mantle, but with a little extra ribbon, it fits nicely.

Here's a closer-up photo of the Easter Egg garland.  If you decide to tackle the project, I hope yours turns out great!  Nat gave this the thumbs up, so I'm pleased with how ours turned out.
April is going by way to fast.  I wanted to have a bunch of things lined up for the busy season (AKA April 15-June 15) by the time April arrived, MOST of them have been pushed back or fallen to the wayside.  Case in point:  My backyard wood-burning home-built pizza oven.  Spring of 2011 was supposed to be *the* season of the pizza oven at Casa Parrillo.  Unfortunately for me (and likely most other husbands!), as a good wife should do she points out:  With more important things to do, we should take a pass on the oven for now.  She keeps telling me that she doesn't understand my desire for the oven in our yard and that it might be a rotten idea that if we ever sell our house, the new buyers will hate it.  I suppose there's some truth to what she says, but I'm not giving up totally.  Besides - as she has keenly pointed out - we have other projects to tend to including the playground to put together, the lawn to seed/grow, and flowers to plant.  But that hasn't kept me from scouring the internet looking for ideas for said wood-burning oven.  For a long time, the oven pictured here on my post about the top 25 pizzas was what I thought I wanted.  But...I've changed the plans in my head a bit after seeing this beauty:
I like the roofline and how there is cover for the elements - which means one could make pies year around.  I have the space allocated and have done some of the research required to build one of these, but I have some work convincing Nat that this would be an enhancement to the Parrillo homestead.  Maybe Spring of 2012?  That would give me ample time to collect the tools and materials necessary to build one, right?
I was out at my favorite place (Menards) this weekend and wandered out into garden center to see what was doin' with the plants and flowers and I came across a 5# container that had a smallish French Pussy Willow for $19.99.   The proper binomial nomenclature (genus species) is Salix Caprea. 

From time-to-time Nat has and pussy willow branches around the house in vases and such, so I assumed that she was into them.  I snapped a photo of this one when I was in the store and sent off a quick email dispatch to her to see if we should buy it and (unfortunately) she was busy doing wedding-planning for one of her clients so she didn't respond until later in the day.  She wants one!

At some point this week, I'll try to head back there and snatch one up before they're all gone. 

Based on the photos here on Google Images, it seems that this thing might be pretty big and as stated on the tag should be classified as a tree.    It seems that it is a fast grower and fairly hardy - which is a perfect fit for this Mr. Brownthumb.    Anyone going to the Menards on North Ave in Lombard today or tomorrow?  If so, want to pick one of these up for me?   Please?!?!

Progress has been made on my Easter  egg garland - I've begun painting the eggs various colors.  When they're done, there will be five different colors of six sets of eggs - for a total of 30 eggs.    I'm thinking that I should have primed these eggs and I likely should have used spray paint, but experiment and learn, right?

Hopefully I'll find some time this week to put the remaining coats on the eggs and string them up.  Easter is less than 2 weeks away!
With The Masters coming so quickly after the Final Four, my sports-related Official Google Blog posts are coming fast these days.  Just 7 days after I told you guys about the latest Final Four trends, I found a ex-pro golfer at Google to "sign" my latest piece.    This one was fun, but because the trends around the game have been so dominated by Tiger's off-course issues, there were a few problems with hanging our hat on the leading players.

As I write this, I'm watching the final holes at Augusta and just as our post posited, there are very talented, but relatively unknown golfers coming on strong to contend for the green jacket. (Hello Jason Day, Adam Scott, and Charl Schwartzel!)

One trend that I didn't get into the post was around the Par 3 contest that takes place the Wednesday before the tournament opens.  This year it seems, interest in the Par 3 contest skyrocketed as more golf fans wanted to know more about it.  Perhaps it has something to do with ESPN broadcasting the event?  Was that a first? Take a look at the HUGE surge this year (all the way at the right of the chart below).   Something drove people to find out more this year than in years past, right?

Getting these OGB posts done are just one piece of the strategy around sports and I've been thinking more and more that these are really just "flags" that I've staked in the ground around these events and next year we'll be able to point people to them ahead of events.   Next up?  Most likely the French Open in May.


Here are the live links to all eight of my posts on the Official Google Blog:
After seeing this charming can in the hardware store for many years, this week was the first time that I actually went and bought Durham's Water Putty.  Look at that strongman on the can:  he's pretty trustworthy, isn't he?  I sure hope so because I've begun to work with this stuff on my second Easter craft project.  This one is a bit more secretive and I won't be sharing what exactly I'm doing because I'm (hopefully) going to be gifting this craft project for an Easter present.  

I can, however, say that after working with this water putty for a bit today, it sure has a lot of uses I can foresee and does become "rock hard" as the can implies.    I'll show you the results closer to Easter and perhaps even share the how-to in the project. 
One of two craft projects I'm trying to take on for Easter is this Egg Garland from Martha Stewart.  Her directions call for the blowing-out of actual eggs, but I figured there had to be a better/different way.  I wasn't interested in blowing out 60 eggs, nor did I think I could actually do so without breaking a lot of eggs into little collections of shells.

So off I went to Michael's Crafts to find a replacement.  In my head, I was going to buy wooden eggs, but I spotted these paper-mâché eggs and figured they'd fit the bill.  As you can see, I've started to drill the holes in both ends and soon will drop a few coats of paint on them.    They're light - like real eggs - but fairly unbreakable.  Sure, they can get dented, but I'm not going to go cray thinking that if they fall off of their perch the eggs will all crack.  And, since they're pretty much a dead ringer size-wise, I think we'll fool most folks who see them.

The goal?  Have the garland hung before Easter!  Shouldn't be tough, right?  I have another Easter craft project I'm working on too, so I have to prioritize my time.  With all the rain they're predicting for this weekend, the yard work that needs to get done shouldn't be competing for my attention too terribly much. 
Nat gave me a brand new squirrel-proof bird feeder for our backyard for my birthday (more on that later, I suppose), which required a trip to my favorite store (Menards) to stock up on some new seed.  That's where I came across this pretty cleverly branded bag of seed:  Beetle Mania bird seed
It is aimed at Cardinals, Wrens and Warbles - which are bigger than the birds we're after, so we passed on it, but it sure did make me think long and hard about dropping it in our cart. 
First....Dannee Polomsky won!  Yahoo!  Congrats to Dannee and her family!
Now...on to the voter post: 
The Babe is getting very experienced at voting!  This was her third time at our polling place in Elmhurst.  Here she was at just a little older than one month old in February of 2010 and here she is in November of last year at 11 months old. 

She's not likely going to remember any of these voting experiences, but it certainly brings a new perspective to voting for me:  the candidates we're electing today are going to shape the Elmhurst of tomorrow that the Babe is going to grow up in.
After weeks and months of campaigning, it all comes down to the voters in Elmhurst.  I've been actively supporting my neighbor and friend Dannee Polomsky in her bid to represent our  neighborhood on the City Council.  She's done everything she could in the campaign and more importantly, she did everything the right way.  Win or loose, she's going to be able to hold her head high around town - and that's just as important as anything else in politics.  I've been on the ballot three times.  Once as a Park District Commissioner, and two times as a Village Trustee (and like four times as a Precinct Committeeman, too), so I know what is going through the candidates heads.  Too often we loose sight of that, but tomorrow morning, one of the candidates is going to wake up a winner and the other is going to roll over, see the alarm clock and have to deal with loosing.  If you do the right things during the campaign, that Wednesday after the election isn't so bad. 

Our neighborhood is energized and we'll be voting in mass for Dannee today.  Nat and I are going to go take the Babe to vote for the third time (her first time voting is here, second here) later this morning and we'll know quickly - based on the number of voter we are - how the election is going.  Our polling place needs to turn out in big numbers - so if you are in Elmhurst:  GO VOTE FOR DANNEE NOW!
She has a plan for the neighborhood, is willing to listen to our concerns and notably:  she's been endorsed by!

Well, Well, Well.  What do we have here.  According to a tip from one of my pizza spies - Equation Boy/Man - Downtown Elmhurst will be graced with a second wood-fired pizza oven.  Joining Rosalia's Deli wood-fired oven on North York Street, it appears that a place named Pazzi di Pizza is opening on the other end of York at 105 S. York Street - right next to Cafe Amano's building.  It is taking the place of the shuttered Wine & Vine and appears (see the map below) that there will be outdoor seating.

Link to the Pazzi di Pizza website that I screen-shot above:  Here.

This wood-fired craze has been lighting up the pizza scene across the country with new ovens popping up left and right.  Interesting to see the trend hit home right here in Elmhurst.  The return to this bare-bones pizza shop - where the glowing oven is front and center - is good for the pizza business and good for consumers.  I don't know the breakdown of pizza consumed out of the house vs. inside the house.  One thing is for sure, these Neapolitan pies are meant to be eaten very fast and don't travel well and that means that (hopefully) more people will be dining out and engaging with their neighbors/friends and other businesses in the area.  These are all great things.  However, the question I have for our area is:  how many pizza choices can one area support?  Not counting places that are outside of the immediate Downtown area, the current roster of pizza joints in Downtown include:  Armands, Pizza Palace, Two Brothers, Rosalias (Angelo's), and now Pazzi di Pizza.   Five places plus Fitz's lanes - which serves pizzas, too.  Good for pizza fanatics like me, but too much of a good thing?

Here's the location below.  See the outdoor seating to the south (bottom) of the building?  I'm thinking that Pazzi di Pizza will be utilizing the space just like Wine & Vine did before them.

View Larger Map

We did it.  We pulled the trigger on the playground purchase.  After a few weeks of research, we came to the conclusion that we couldn't beat the deal on the Cedar Summit Panorama Playset from Costco.  We went down to the Rainbow showroom and while some of their sets are spectacular, the prices were a bit rich for us.  Menards has build-you-own kits, but I'm not sure we could design and build something as nice as this Costco set. 

As you can see, it comes in six boxes - some of them HUGE.  It took some work, but with half of it on top of our car and the other half inside, I got it home. 

It now resides in our garage awaiting a warm weekend.  I have some groundwork to do in leveling and clearing the site as well as thinking about timbers to retain/hold in the mulch.  Hopefully by Memorial Day, we'll have the Panorama up and useable.
We have a few new tools/toys to show off today.  The fine folks at Google have added some new capabilities to all Blogger blogs (that's the platform I use to power this site) including the addition of five new "Dynamic Views".   Those of you reading this should know (and likely do) that I work at Google and am writing this post on my own accord and these views posted here are mine alone and NOT that of my employer.    Now...back to the post:

Blogger - as a platform - doesn't get the credit it deserves these days, but the product has come along really nicely and the flexibility it allows for these days is the best among it's peers.  Of note, for all you bloggers (Not capital "B") who are thinking about using the Blogger (capital "B) platform to power your blog, you should find a lot of comfort in the fact that the entire operation has been backed by Google's Data Liberation Front - and you can quickly/easily export your entire set of content and go to another platform like Wordpress if you'd like.  That's pretty great - and another way Google is leading the way for users.   Besides it is HUGE.  Blogger is the sixth most popular destination on the entire web

As for these new Dynamic Views:  Some of you may (for some reason!) HATE the way I've laid out the site and wish there was a more interactive way/different way to interact with the content.  If that's the case, worry no more!  The Blogger team has come to the rescue. 

They've put together these five views (Below) that use the latest in web technology, including AJAX, HTML5 and CSS3.

Aside from them being kind of neat to look at, they have some other benefits:  
1.  Speed.  The pages are super fast.
2.  Interactivity.  With more than 500 posts laying around, it is nice to get a new layout/view that allows for content discovery via photos or timelines.  Really slick idea to provide a quick 'refresh' of the blog.
3.  Innovation.  This (for me) is the MOST important piece of this announcement.  The Blogger team is alive and well and bringing fresh ideas and innovative practices to their product.  As a user, these new views encourage me to invest more in the product and to contribute more posts to my blog because I know the team building the product is going to keep bringing new ideas and innovations to keep pushing the platform forward.

Kudos, Blogger team!

And, without further delay, here's how this site looks like in the 5 new views.  I am partial to the Timeslide View.  What about you?  Think I should implement one of these on the homepage? 

Timeslide View

Snapshot View

Sidebar View

Mosaic View

Flipcard View
As I've mentioned before, I've taken on the task of penning a series of "sports trends" blog posts at work as one piece of a effort for the company to create a "voice" around major sports events and in the sports-specific media.  Yesterday, on the Official Google Blog, we ran my latest piece on the 2011 Final Four and search trends entitled:  Searching for a Cinderella Story

As I've done in the past, we looked at search trends around the hot topics of March Madness and the Final Four.  With two good Cinderella stories in VCU and Butler, the search story lines are strong.  One neat point I think we drew out was how hoops crazy the State of Indiana is right now over Butler.  While in every other state Katy Perry trumps just about anything else search-wise, the Bulldogs of Butler have overtaken her this week.
The other fun part of this post was including a link to the Werner Ladder Company in the final paragraph about cutting down the nets.  They're the "official ladder partner" to the tournament - and quite possibly the BEST sponsorship in the sports:  they provide special ladders that the Champs climb to cut those nets down.   I am so pleased to be able to get in a little hat-tip to Werner and Equation Boy/Man!

For those keeping track at home, here's the full list of all SEVEN of my Official Google Blog Posts: