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Showing posts from 2014

One for the Road...Here's To 2015

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While I didn't get to 365 posts here on the blog for 2014 (this will be post #94 for the year), I did write almost 1000 posts on a different blog and 33 more posts on the family blog.  So...I did leave a mark online in plenty of places.

I figured I'd flex those blogging muscles on this new year's eve so I can hit the ground running quickly tomorrow and try to get back on track for 365 posts for 2015.  The last time I did that was 2011 and 2010 when I wrote a post every day.  I got to 30 posts in January of last year but then with the primary election I quickly lost steam on this personal blog when my other writing (can we call it that?!?) picked up.

We're going to be celebrating the way we celebrate every year with ice cream sundaes, but this time we'll have a fifth participant.  Well...he won't exactly be participating, but he'll be here.

The Annual Visit To The Polk-A-Dot Drive Inn in Braidwood, Illinois

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There's nothing quite like washing the sap off your hands in the retro 50's-inspired washroom of the Polk-A-Dot Drive Inn (notice...the 2nd 'n') before hoss'ing down on a big platter of cheese fries to kick-off the Christmas season.

Here's to family traditions!

You Had One Job, Black Friday...

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Nat and I were out on Black Friday and the fine folks at Toys R Us did everyone a favor and dropped the price of this toy submarine exactly $0.00.  What an amazing deal!

Happy Thanksgiving Via The Last Waltz

Found this 'alternate footage' on YouTube this am of The Last Waltz.  Sound is pretty great.

Keeping the tradition alive.  This is the 10th year of 'documenting' it via this here blog.  Well...not 10 posts, but the first one was back in 2004, so this is the 10th year of sorts.  Looks like this makes 8 of 10 years.  Not too bad.

Here's my post from 2013 on The Last Waltz.
Here's my post from 2012 on The Last Waltz.
Here's my post from 2011 on The Last Waltz.
Here's my post from 2010 on The Last Waltz.
Here's my post from 2007 on The Last Waltz.
Here's my post from 2005 on The Last Waltz.
Here's my post from 2004 on The Last Waltz.


Vintage Light-Up Red Nose Santa Claus

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The first thing I bought this weekend at the Randolph Street Market was this Santa with a big bulb red nose.  He'll go great right next to our light up tree on the piano.

Randolph Street Market Christmas Visit - 2014

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Along with all three kids, a Grammy, an Aunt Sisi and one nephew, we went down to the Randolph Street Market to score some vintage Christmas stuff this weekend.  (and yes...we did take the Swagger Wagon, thank you very much.)

I'll document the new additions to the Christmas gallery later this week once they get set up into spots.

The Gang's All Here

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Look who arrived in the mail:  Santa!

We put in the order for the Bumble (actually...we think we ordered three of them somehow!), so hopefully he's on his way to our house via the USPS.

Rudolph 50th Anniversary Collectible Figures

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We picked up these guys (and Rudolph!) at Menards over the past few weekends.  They each have a belt buckle that you can push and make them say their catchprashes (like..."now....this won't hurt a bit.").

There are four of them in total that you can purchase: Hermey, Rudolph, Yukon and Santa.  We had three, but not Santa.

The issue?  Inside each of the boxes is a 'puzzle piece' that you put together and get a special order code for a exclusive Bumble figure that you have to mail away to receive.

Think of this as kind-of a new-age "D-R-I-N-K  Y-O-U-R  O-V-A-L-T-I-N-E".

We *had* to get the Bumble.  *Had* to.

So...off to Ebay I went.  Found a Santa for a bit more than they sell them at Menards and I pulled the trigger.  We're waiting on him to arrive (hopefully today!) and then the girls and I will assemble the puzzle and see how we can get the Bumble.

Got a Stripped Screw? Try the Speedout. Seriously.

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I am the KING of stripped screws.  Putting screws in.  I strip them.  Taking screws out.  I strip them.
We're getting some painting done and I had to take down some bookcases.  I took out a bunch of the screws, but encountered one last one:  and it was awfully stripped out.
But...fortunately...I had this little kit on hand called "Speedout".  
See that screw in the top photo?  That's AFTER I finally got it out of the wall.
Thanks to the Speedout.  

The Speedout is a series of 2-sided bits.  You pop the "a" side into your drill/drive and you bore a slightly bigger 'hole' into the screw head.  Then, you flip the bit over and use the 'b' side to 'grab' the screw out.

I received the Speedout from my in-laws for my birthday earlier this year and I had not used it before this weekend.  Now?  I'll keep it in my work-bucket and use it all the time.

Watch this video.  I swear...this was my exact experience.  It was *almost* magical!

Mayor Jane Byrne Memorial At City Hall

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I was walking through City Hall this morning and came across this Mayor Jane Byrne memorial set-up.  On each of the end tables there was a book and nice pen where people can leave greetings for the Byrne family.

In the minute or so I stood there, a handful of people walked up and checked out the book, but none of them signed it.

Vintage Christmas Carolers Spinning Music Box - 2014

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These three little music-box carolers were too neat to pass up.  They play 'Jingle Bells' as they turn and they came in their original box (see it below).

Someone - back in the day - bought this at LeeWards in Elgin for $4.49.  It is a bit delicate, but since it is a music box, it seems like these guys need to be 'out' and not tucked into the glass cabinet with all the other treasurers so folks can hear the tune and see them spin.



Vintage "Merry Christmas" Squirrel and Chipmunk Pot - 2014

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It wasn't all felt and cardboard that we bought last weekend in the latest binge on vintage Christmas stuff.  We also bought some pottery - which is what the bulk of our collection is made of currently.

These little guys have a nice Japan sticker on their bottom and are all smiles as they carry a big present away to their next Christmas party.


Vintage Cardboard Sparkle Snowman - 2014

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We also picked up this little guy over the weekend from AA in Naperville.  He's not a Santa (which I give preference to), but he is awfully cute.  With arms made out of pipe cleaners and bedazzled in glitter, he'll look great right next to rest of our vintage Christmas finds like that Christmas Tree lighter.


Vintage Christmas Felt Mice - 2014

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We picked up these two little guys over the weekend as part of a big vintage Christmas haul from Affordable Antiques in Naperville.

They're, unfortunately, not destined to have a permanent home in our place.  Nope.  I bought them with someone very particular in mind as they kinda remind me of something from my childhood Christmases past.

I think they'll make a nice St. Nicholas' Day gift...

Menards Lionel Tank Train Car Goes Political

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Menards comes out with a handful of Lionel O-Scale train cars each year.  They typically are Menards-related like flatcars with a Menards pick-up truck on it or a car with roof trusses on it or something.

But...this year...they came out with a new military-themed car.  It had a tank on it.  And...they even included a backstory.  I guess these aren't really meant for kids (the whole train thing is for middle-aged and older dudes like myself?) but the politicizing ('the vast military background' of the President) seems strange?  I don't mind it, and guessing.....the majority of Menards' shoppers don't mind it, but....seems odd, right?


The Babe Creates Some "Big Hero 6" Fan Art

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We went to see the movie 'Big Hero 6' late last week and over the weekend, the Babe whipped up her fan art of the six heroes all from memory.

That's Wasabi, BayMax and Hiro on the top.

Go-Go, Fred, and Honey Lemon on the bottom row.

She's a genius!

Chicago State Street Christmas Windows 2014

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The windows at Macy's Marshall Field's are open!  Just less than a week since I noticed the 'coming soon' signs in the windows, they have them up and open.

I only saw two of them on the very northwest corner of the building, so I can't quite figure out the theme...


Hallmark North Pole Communicator

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Over the weekend, we picked up this "North Pole Communicator" for the girls.

Add another 'activity' to the list of daily Christmas-related things during the month of December.  And...I'm not unhappy about that.

The story with this thing is: you set the internal clock to the date/time.  Then...each day the girls can try to tune into the right frequency and 'communicate' with the elves each day.  There's a cartridge in the bottom that contains little sound snippets.  The trick is that it only plays ONCE each day (when you tune in that day) and doesn't go back or forward.  Think of it as kind of an advent calendar of sorts.

The 'stay tuned' message that gets played right now (until December 1st) is cute (but loud) so I'm hopeful that the full month of messages will be interesting and worth waiting for...

Marshall Field's Holiday Windows Taking Shape 2014

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Took this photo as I walked by this morning.  Even though I refuse to call this place Macy's, I still get excited to see the windows get all decked out for Christmas.  Brings back all sorts of warm/fuzzy childhood feelings...

For the past few years, we've taken the girls down to the Walnut room and then spend a bit of time pressing our faces up against the glass to see what they've cooked up.  Even though I refuse to acknowledge Macy's and still call it Marshall Field's, I have to admit they have done a nice job with the windows since the acquisition.  Here's hoping they keep it up!

Last Friday's Tally - Halloween 2014 Numbers

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This year's total:  308 trick-or-treaters.

That's down from last year's number of 326.  (the numbers in parenthesis are last year's numbers)

As you can see, the 'neighborhood kid' number was up 7 from last year, but the 'non-neighborhood kids' number dropped by more than 10%.  Have to believe that's because of the weather.

In 2013, we had 326 total.
In 2012, we had 327 total.
In 2011, we had 269 total.
In 2010, we had 236 total.
In 2009, we had 184 total.

Canyon Trail Cemetery In Carol Stream

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On Thursday night, we packed up all three kids and drove over to Carol Stream where a family has set up a pretty incredible Halloween set-up.

It is called "Canyon Trail Cemetery" and...they live on a street named Canyon Trail.

The yard is chocked full of pneumatic-driven creatures that pop out at you.

The details are here on their Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/CanyonTrailCemetery.

The folks who own the house sit out front and don't ask for anything to check it out.  There is a place for canned food donations and cash donations to a Dalmatian rescue fund.  They couldn't be more nice.

We asked how long it took to set up and the guy said he starts the last week in September and then takes a full week off of work to get it going.

Pretty incredible stuff.  (Like Richard Kristie...) They really, really, really love Halloween.


Why I'm Voting For Tom Cross For Treasurer...And You Should Too

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On Tuesday, I'm asking you to join me and Natalie in voting for Tom Cross for Illinois Treasurer.

I said this about Tom Cross back in March right ahead of the Primary and it still holds true:
Natalie and I have had the pleasure of knowing Tom for more than a decade and having worked directly for him for about half of that time.

Head over to his website to learn more about his campaign. Or check out this graphic to see what else others in Illinois politics have to say about Tom Cross.

But know this: there isn't a more hardworking, honest or loyal man on the ballot. The State of Illinois needs help from good people and while we're all tired of hearing the negative ads, the end is near.

To get there, we need to support - now more than ever - leaders who are willing to work together and get real results.

Tom Cross is an unique leader in that he's bucked his party, charted his own course and has done what he believes is right.  And that's why he's been endorsed b…

Boo-tiful Saturday In Elmhurst City Center - 2014

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Here's the same event from back in 2012.

The Bird really grew up!

Squirrel-Proofed Our Jack-O-Lanterns

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We've lost six or so pumpkins (that we grew ourselves!) on our front porch to critters this year and after the girls had carved their pumpkins last night, I figured we had to find a way to make them last until Friday.

First....I filled a spray bottle with bleach and hit every 'cut' surface.  We'll see if that does anything to stop the mold?

Then...as you can see...I took out a little bit of fencing and wrapped them up.  You can't eat what you can't get to, right?

Come and try me, squirrels.  I dare you.

So Long, Leonard's. We Hardly Knew You...

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Another loss in Downtown Elmhurst as Leonard's Fine Mens Clothing store is 'quitting business forever'.

Have to admit that I've never stepped foot in the place, so I'll take some of the blame, but this is another open storefront in the City Center and one less reason for some folks to head down there.  Sad for the business.  Sad for Elmhurst.

Yes...We Got The Swagger Wagon

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I'm going to be an adult about this vehichle stuff and take this thing head on.

Live in the suburbs.  Check.

Have three (gasp!) kids.  Check.

Go to bed before 9 pm.  Check.

Got the swagger wagon?  Check!

Biggest Pumpkin I've Ever Grown

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I've tried growing pumpkins for a few years and either mold or critters ruin the fun.  This year, I saw a few promising 'fruits' that had blossomed and I decided to try to keep the critters away with some fencing.  This is the biggest pumpkin that I've ever grown that doesn't have a single nick in it from squirrel teeth.

Gnome for size reference...

This Year's Halloween Witch: 2014

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Like in year's past, this year we tried another water putty witch.  Here's the mold we used in 2012.

This years is smaller, but has her riding on her broom.  The Babe is going to get busy painting this gal over the weekend when we have other things we need to attend to!

Gasp! The Stow-n-Gow Family Might Be Arriving In Elmhurst?

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Who would have thought that we might end up with a van?!?

We went looking at vans over the weekend and we've narrowed it down to between the Sienna and the Odyssey.  I'm leaning towards the Swagger Wagon.  We'll see if we can make a deal!

Pumpkins Going Nuts - 2014

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We may have created a bit of a problem by planting so many different varieties of pumpkin seeds.  With this cool, wet weather, they're thriving.  Still hoping for a giant jack-o-lantern for October.

Marinated and Maranated: Which Is Better?

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Hard to believe that the printers up in Coloma for the Friendly Tavern got it right once, but then just a few inches away, they messed up, isn't it?

Small Morning Berry Harvest - 2014

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We've been picking one or two strawberries off our little plants almost every other day the past few weeks.  This morning, I went out and peeked at the blueberry plant and it had some ripe ones that came off the branch so easily.

I planted this bush just about a year ago and it started to pay off in this small amount this year.  I had to put a small fence around the bush as it kept getting eaten by rabbits (the bush) and that was causing it some stress.  The berries last year were all picked away by birds, so this year the fence helped big time.
Nat wants more, so I'm going to see if I can find another few bushes and plant them - permanently - in the garden.

Pole Beans Coming Up - 2014

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Planted a set of heirloom beans in a different spot this year in an attempt to rotate the crops a bit.  After the birds picked away a half dozen or so of the seeds, these seedlings emerged and are on their way to grow up that trellis net.

Big Moon Pumpkin Seeds Planted - 2014

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In addition to the Jack-O'-Lantern seeds that I planted over the weekend, I also put in these Big Moon seeds right in the same area.  From the look of the seed packet, these are supposed to grow big but have a neat shade of orange on the flesh that give these a bit more romantic look to them.

I've put in 2 different 'hills' of the seeds, so once the seedlings emerge, I'll thin them down to 3-4 strong growers and hope to stay on top of them as they grow.  I'm thinking I should invest in some of these pedestals for these guys this year.

Earned My UFO Badge for 14K Floors

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This email notification arrived in my inbox this morning.  14,000 flights of stairs over the course of my lifetime of wearing my fitbit.

Jack-O'-Lantern Seeds Planted

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I put these seeds in the ground this weekend.  They list 110 days until maturity which would put me right around the first of October.  That's a tad early, but I've always seen my pumpkins lag behind as the temperatures start to drop in September.  Will this *finally* be the year that we grow enough big pumpkins to carve ourselves?  Every year I think I've figured it out and every year we go to Sonny Acres to buy pumpkins come October.

Blueberry Bush Fruiting - 2014

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While it isn't going to be a bountiful harvest, it is looking like we're going to indeed get some blueberries this year off of our bush.  I netted the plant this year to try to fend off the birds and it looks like it is working.

Here's the first post when I put this particular bush in the backyard.

Purple Clematis Vines - 2014

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One of our three Clematis vines is doing well this year as it both creeps up the trellis and really began to flower out big time.  The other two aren't getting as much sun behind the Arborvitae, so they're not performing quite as well.

Japanese Painted Fern - 2014

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This is the 2nd year that my purple painted fern has come back.  I planted it back in 2012 (post here) and I was careful to watch it poke through the ground this year.  It isn't easy to spot, so when the mulch goes in soon, I'll be sure to mark it so it doesn't get buried.

New Valco Baby Double Jogger Front Fork

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We're back in business!  Just a few weeks after our beloved (and much used) double jogger stroller from Valco Baby lost one of it's front forks to a freak break, the fine folks at Valco Baby came through with a part.

I'm going to get it on the stroller this weekend and see how it performs.

Can You Spot the Ospreys?

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Saw three of them flying south from my office window on Monday.  One peeled off to circle around the lake.  The other two landed in the parking lot just south of Soldier Field right north of the black McCormick Place building.
Has to be related to the First Family, right?  There wasn't anything on the news about the President or First Lady being in town, but what else could it have been?