Monday, April 30, 2012

1968 Rowe AMI MusicMaster Jukebox

On Saturday afternoon, we stopped at a garage sale near the old hospital in our neighborhood in Elmhurst.  Nat was after some baby stuff, I think.  All the way in the back of the garage was this thing:  a 1968 Rowe/AMI Jukebox that is chocked full of disco 45s.

After a little bit of haggling, I was rolling this thing down her driveway, across the 10 blocks it took to get to our house, down our alley and into our garage.  Yep.  We're now the proud owners of a (mostly working) late-60's jukebox!  We already had - with the Babe - our first dance party in the garage on Saturday night.

The amazing thing is that it works and it works well.  The action on both the flywheel and the record arm are amazingly smooth for having sat in this garage for the better part of 30 years.  Sure, there are a few quirks, but I'd expect that for something that is more than 40 years old.  I've already scouted out a bunch of classic 45's that I can pick up on Craigslist and eBay to change the tunes out to more my taste.   It weighs 400 lbs and is pretty delicate (due to the tubes and the wiring and what not), so I have to figure out a plan to get it down to my basement.  Then, and only then, will we be able to really call it a "rumpus room".

(Do I have a great wife, or what?!?!)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Washington Metro Bus Spotted on 294 in Illinois

On the way to my folks place today, I spotted this odd sight:  a Washington DC Metrobus with Minnesota plates.  Can only assume that they get built in Minnesota and are driven all the way out to DC?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Doing her Best Elton John Impression

The Babe channeled her inner Elton John with these glasses (which Nat tells me she picked out herself!) when she came into my office yesterday.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Google+ Ripples Shows How News Spreads

Last week, I put up a post that pointed to a neat little tool called "Follow Your World" from Google that allows you to put in any location of interest (say...your home address) and then have Google send you a quick note when they update the imagery of your house on Google Maps.  My old boss, Rick Klau is still one of the true believers and reads this blog in his feed reader (Thanks, Rick!).  He used the baked-in Google+ sharing tools in Google Reader (at least...that is my assumption) to share my post with his audience on Google+.   Rick has more than 40K folks who follow him, so his content is seen by a big - and in some cases - an influential audience in the tech, startup and politics world(s).

Google+ has this neat feature called "Ripples" that shows you what happens in a graphical manner in terms of the sharing of content.  That image above shows the path that my post took once Rick shared it.  One of his readers (Matt Cutts) has an *even bigger* audience than Rick and once he re-shared it, the audience grew even bigger.

Neat stuff, and the implications on what the Ripples tool does in terms of visualizing the way content moves around the web are significant.  The post, while NOT the most viewed post of the month on this blog, is right up there in the top few.  It serves as a nice reminder that creating helpful tips/content that people find value in will find audiences if you allow the story to be what I'll call "socially aware" or "socially ready" - meaning that it can be shared in the right way, simply.

(Note:  I work at Google in Communications and Public Affairs.  You guys know that, right?  I didn't have anything to do with Ripples or the creation of Google+, though!)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Take Your Child To Work Day - 2012

Today is "Take Your Child to Work Day" at Google and elsewhere around the country.  This was the first year that the Babe was old enough to come along and participate.  Google had - as one would expect - a pretty great day set up that included art projects, bloxes construction playtime, computer science lessons, cooking demos, a special lunch, and a bubble guy.

After an hour or so of shyness, the Babe (who wore her self-made crown) made herself at home and got comfortable.  She built herself a little home out of Bloxes - which she deemed to be fit for a princess  - Cinderella's Castle.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DIY Water Rocket Plans

For my birthday a few weeks back, Nat gave me a dual-valve bike pump.  It is a perfect gift because we have bikes and strollers and pools to pump up this spring.  We were either going to the gas station to pump the tires or using my compressor to do that, but both were likely too high powered because we kept blowing out the tubes.

After pumping up the various tires around the garage, I remembered that I had this Handy Dad book (above) sitting on my bookshelf that had a project that required a bike pump:  a DIY water-pressurized rocket with custom launching pad.  Pree-tay, Pree-tay, Pree-tay sweet.
Just a few things are needed:  a cork, a 2-litre bottle, a bike pump and a needle.  Plus, some wood to make a launching-pad.  I'll try to squeeze this in between now and one of my nephew's birthdays that are coming up in the next month or two.  Maybe I'll even get crazy and do some custom paint work on the launching pad?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Play N Trade Elmhurst - Closed

Another closure in the Elmhurst City Centre this week with Play N Trade closing at 158 N. York Street just a few store fronts south of Starbucks.  At almost 1400 square feet, the store is a good size for retail and likely too small for a full-service restaurant.  What would I like to see?  A funky hardware store that focuses on projects/diy'ers, a kitchen product/supply store that carries things like Williams Sonoma, or as Nat would like; a bookstore.

As long as it isn't a Cash-for-Gold joint or a salon, we'll be better off with this space filled.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mr. Stripey Photo for Plant Sale Fundraiser


A week or so ago, I was contacted by someone from the Friends School - a small Quaker School in St. Paul, Minnesota.  They run a plant sale on Mother's Day each year that is the biggest plant sale in Minnesota and perhaps even the Midwest.  They offer 2,300 varieties of plants.  Woah.  

Their site is pretty neat.  Because of the breath of the offerings, the site allows you to research what you like and build a list of those plants you want to buy, thus making the day of sale easier for everyone.

They have more than 4 dozen different varieties of tomatos including quite a few heirlooms.   The one problem they had was that they didn't have a photo for all of them with one holdout:  the Mr. Stripey.  They asked if they could use a photo I took of the Mr. Stripey a few years back.  Of course they could, I said!  They posted the photo here.  Unfortunately, they don't ship plants, so unless you're planning on being up in the Twin Cities, the sale is likely not going to work out.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Meat Shredder - Crate & Barrel

Nat found these "meat shredders" at Crate & Barrel recently.  They're certainly going to make pulling pork shoulder a bit easier on the hands and I'll end up with less burns.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chicago Tribune is the Same Size as the Chicago Sun-Times

I heard a while back that the Sun-Times had contracted with the Chicago Tribune company to print their daily paper, but I didn't put the pieces together until earlier this week when Phil Rosenthal was on the Steve Dahl Podcast and pointed out that the two papers - when laid on top of each other - are identical in size.  Just printed in a different direction, but the exact same size paper.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Google Follow Your World Update

Last night, I received an email from the "Follow Your World" application of Google Maps that alerted me that there was new imagery for a "point of interest" of mine.  Sure enough, I had entered our home address in the tool back when it launched in October of last year and forgot all about it.  The new satellite images are pretty recent - as there's a new house being constructed on our block and the image has the roof shingles installed and the driveway in; which are both pretty recent events (within the last month or so).

The Follow Your World tool is a neat little app that gives you a heads up when Google updates their imagery of your house.  We're still not on StreetView (our block) so I'm hoping that one day soon, a note like the one above will arrive that will include the details of how our house is now included in the StreetView collection.

If you haven't signed up for a Follow Your World update, you should do so here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Opening Day Starting Pitcher

That's my nephew in the Marlins uniform (and my dad in the Blogger hoodie!) right before he took the field for the first game of his little league season in Elmhurst.  They live down the block from us and while he plays hoops, football and soccer, he told me over the weekend that baseball was - by far - his favorite sport.  He's pretty good at it, too!

He was the opening day starter on the mound and (from what I heard) while he didn't get a decision (left after giving up 2 runs mostly on walks), he did get two K's.  Pree-tay, pree-tay, pree-tay great.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Window Buffing in Chicago

This morning I was greeted by this nice gentleman who was BUFFING our windows up 8 floors with what looks like a Bosch power tool with a buffing attachment.  Now that's deep cleaning.  This particular crew has been here on our building for the better part of a few weeks doing power washing and scrubbing and such.  In fact, I think they've done the window in my little office at least three times with various implements.  Those implements are the most fascinating part to me:  seeing how they're all strapped down (see the thin cable on the end of the buffer next to the power cord?) and everything is secured to ensure it doesn't plummet to the ground.  These guys are such pros that even with their tools restrained in that way, they're able to work.  Let alone the conditions and the height.  My god...the height.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Welcome Sign

My sister Vic gave us this cute welcome sign a week back and it immediately found it's way into the grass right next to our front porch stairs.  Neither Nat nor myself are big on yard chotchkies in general, but this sign is different and we both like it. Aside from the pain that yanking it out every time I cut the grass, I think it makes for a very cute addition to our yard.  Welcome, indeed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Zanzi's Italian Deli Elmhurst

It was almost exactly a year ago that I posted the sad news that Fontano's closed on First Street in Downtown Elmhurst (April 22, 2011).  This morning, on the way home from Courts Plus, I spotted this bright red sign in Fontano's window that announces some good news:  We're getting an Italian Deli called Zanzi's.  From the listings, we'll be treated to Paninis, subs, salads, soups, espresso, cold cuts and....wait for it....Daily Specials!  Hooray!  

The place isn't too terribly big, so I'm guessing that they'll focus on the deli counter/sandwich making, but we *could* use a good Italian Deli that sells some packaged goods.  I have to travel to either Addison or Westmont to pick up my Scamorza Cheese when I want to make pizzas.  Would be pree-tay pree-tay nice to be able to buy that (and other things) right here in Elmhurst.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Asparagus Up - 2012

See that little green guy in the middle of that photo above?  That's the first asparagus stalk of 2012 popping up through the mulch.  Last year, we were  able to harvest a few stalks (see a post here).   That's from May 11th of 2011, so depending on how fast this stalk shoots up and grows out, we're probably a few days/weeks early - as expected.  The Farmer's Market starts soon and they *always* seem to have asparagus their opening weeks, so maybe a cold frame would have moved this along sooner?  Either way,  hopefully we'll get a big bunch of stalks to grow up at the same time, so we can make a meal or two out of the harvest this year.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Orange & Blue Illini Spring Game - 2012

We went down to Champaign for the annual Orange and Blue Spring Football game.  We took my nephew and braved the rain.  Thanks to the Varsity "I" Association, we were able to watch the game from the comforts of the Colonnades Club - under a roof.  The game - which the Blue Team won - wasn't much of a game and the crowds were pretty thin.  The rain kept people away and I'm guessing that there's a lot of skeptics for first year Coach Tim Beckman.

The Varsity "I" Association invited back all ex-athletes and letter winners to celebrate and gave us all nametags/badges.  Last fall, they featured "action shots" of us in uniforms.  This year they took our old headshots from the program out and used those instead.  My is *very* 90's with my Caesar haircut.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Congressman Mike Quigley Visited Google Chicago

Today, we had the honor of hosting Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley - 5th District - at Google Chicago.  His district starts at the Lakefront and includes as diverse an area as Old Town and Downtown Elmhurst.  Starting this fall, he'll be *our* Congressman out here in Elmhurst.  I look forward to watching him as he serves the entire 5th District.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Menards Birthday Present - LED Precision Screwdriver

How very thoughtful of the fine folks at Menards:  they gave me this 14 piece LED precision screwdriver set last week for my 34th Birthday.  I've been accused (rightly) of having a Menards addiction.  Now, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing; I just prefer to do my shopping there over Home Depot or Lowes not based on location (HD is 5 minutes from our house, Menards is 15) but on a number of factors including price, knowledge of the store layout, a better seasonal section, their Christmas stuff in particular, and their selection.

This screwdriver set retails for like $15.00.  For that small amount, they've bought even more goodwill from me now that will likely ensure that I spend all of my home improvement dollars there.  That's just good marketing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sigma Chi Fraternity - University of Illinois - 1998 Photo

My buddy Neil found himself down in Champaign recently and he stopped by our old Fraternity House.  In the Library, he found this photo that we had taken back in the Spring of 1998.  We were sophomores and I *think* this was taken on the day of a party called "Miami Triad".  There were a few of these photos that were hung in the library that were vintage - from the 1950's and 1960's, so we had the idea to get one done in sepia tone to make it look vintage.  We even stuck the retro Sigma Chi Cross in there like they did in the old photos.

That's me crouching just to the right of the big cross.  I *think* I have a cigar in my mouth.  Neat to see some of these guys that I haven't seen in years.  We had more fun that we should have in that house.  Nat and I are heading down to Champaign soon ourselves.  If there's time, I'm sure we'll stop by the house and poke around a bit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beekman 1802 Seeds

For Easter, my in-laws gave me this set of Beekman 1802 Heirloom Seeds.  They are part of the Beekman 1802 project - which is billed as the 'World's Largest Community Garden" where 10,000 people all across the country grow the exact same thing from the same seeds.  You may know the Beekman's from their show, but I think the first time I came across them was when one of them was working for Martha Stewart.  She visited their farm back in 2011.

The set includes some items that I never considered growing including radishes and turnips.  Here's the full list.
We're getting close to getting outdoors and planting the garden, so I guess I have to get planning!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Fighting Illini Candy Bar

My sister Vic gave me this Fighting Ilini candy bar for my birthday over the weekend.  Pretty clever idea by the folks at Russell Stover to license NCAA teams, isn't it?  Makes buying a chocolate bar a neat gift, doesn't it?  Thanks, Vic!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Guilty Pleaure: No One is to Blame

This song came on my radio when I was scrolling around and I'm (ashamed?) to say that I stuck with it.  Then re-wound and listened to it again.  Shame on me, right?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Wood Carving Kit - New Hobby?

I was gifted this beautiful wood carving tool set on Friday which includes a 15 different tools including a bench and detail knife.  Along with this set, I'm now in possession of 4 different shaped blocks of basswood to get started.  I'm a novice when it comes to whittling, so I hesitate to call this a hobby.  My goal is to focus on a Halloween piece, which gives me six months to get a piece done.  Enough time?  I sure hope so.

Friday, April 06, 2012

2 Chocolate Bunnies Down, 10 To Go

After a lot of worrying, swearing, and a big mess, look what popped out of my little mold:  my first chocolate bunny.  I need to take a paring knife and clean up the seams, but I have to say that I'm quite (pleasantly) surprised by how this one turned out.

I was very worried about the tempering of the chocolate, but I since Nat bought *nice* chocolate bars to use, there was more room for error?  I didn't use chips nor those Wilton discs.

That's the great news.   The bad news?  Each one takes forever.  My goal was 12.  I've gotten just two of them done.

The process is such that you temper the chocolate then pour it into the bottom of the mold.  Tap it around and then pour it back out.  Then wait.  And wait.  Until it sets.  All the while keeping the chocolate warm.  Then, you pour in the chocolate again to build up a second layer.  Then pour it out.  And...wait.  Then..repeat a 3rd time.  Soon, you have a bunny that has a cavity in the middle that you can fill with peanut-buttery goodness.

I figure the filling will be done with a bag of sorts.  I've found a few different recipes that call for PB and some combination of powdered sugar and (sometimes) butter.  Then I'll have to seal up the bottoms with more chocolate.

With just 48 hours until Easter, I'm thinking that I might not get to 12.  If I want to do this again next year I either have to get started WAY earlier, or - more likely - buy more molds.


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Faux Chocolate Bunnies - 2012 Edition

This is the second year I've made Faux Chocolate Bunnies out of Water Putty and reproductions of vintage chocolate molds.  The picture above was shot last night after applying the first coat of chocolate-colored brown paint.  A few more coats plus one or two coats of a clear acrylic spray to give 'em a little bit of shine and they'll be ready to go.

These are decidedly more vintage that last year's version and I think because of that I like them a little bit better.  The mold was a lot more complex with little nooks/crannies that I couldn't always get the bubbles out from, so there are a few tiny voids, but for the most part you wouldn't notice them unless I pointed them out.

I also made a decision to leave a good bit of the 'seam' in the middle of the bunny on purpose.  I took out my Dremel and ground it down to a very slight ridge, but since these things are supposed to replicate chocolate bunnies (which have the seam), I wasn't that worried about making them perfectly smooth.  You can call it lazy.  I'm calling it 'realistic'!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Making Peanut Butter Filled Easter Bunnies

At least that's my goal:  going to try my hand at tempering chocolate, pouring it into this mold (which is about 4 inches tall), letting the mold get coated, pouring the chocolate out, letting the mold set then repeat two or three more times.  Followed by filling the interior of the mold with a peanut butter/powdered sugar combo then sealing off the bottom with even more chocolate.

I'd like to make a dozen or so of them.  Ambitious, that's for sure.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Google Art Project Chicago Launch Event

Those of you who are still getting the dead-tree-version of the Chicago Tribune were greeted with this grizzly sight this morning:  my mug on the cover of the Arts & Entertainment section.

We hosted our US Launch event at the Art Institute of Chicago for the second round of the Google Art Project.  The Tribune did a nice job covering the details of the project.  There are plenty of things that Google is involved with that are "cool", but this in particular is a neat project because it breaks down so many barriers and allows *anyone* in the world to enjoy and participate in arts and culture.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Strawberry Plant - Back for 2012

I had forgotten that I planted a strawberry plant last year.  In the mess and chaos that came from my overgrown gords and pumpkins, this little plant was buried.  Apparently, it didn't care much as he's sprung back up and is VERY green.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Bubble Machine

I was able to spend a lot of time with the Babe today, so we needed some activities.  We went looking for some Easter presents and came across the bubble machine.  It was just $5, so I figured it wouldn't do much.  Boy, was I wrong.  It churns out a VERY stead stream of bubbles and just keeps going.  It operates on four double-A batteries.  
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