Showing posts from January, 2010

Varsity Letters @ Elmhurst College

Last fall, I c oached the kickers and punters at Elmhurst College - a Division III football team in our town.  I had contacted the head coach early in 2009 and interviewed for the job.  After a few rounds of chats, they gave me the role.   I inherited a senior kicker/punter and a junior kicker. I joined the team a month or two before fall camp, so we had a few workouts before the season hit.  The season team-wise was a bust.  We went 4-6 with a couple of heartbreaking last minute losses including a triple overtime loss. But in coaching, I had a ton of fun and gained a bunch of new friends - both players and fellow coaches.  There's not many people that provide more laughs than a bunch of college-aged men on a football team.  I would leave practice every time with a big smile on my face. Fortunately, my work schedule was flexible enough for me to be able to get to a few practices during the day- but not every one - and to most games.  They move their schedule around and do

Vacation Interrupted

Nat, the babe and I were up in Michigan for the past few days - and we were set to stay up there next week on vacation, but circumstances arose that required us to come home. My family loves the lake during the summer.  Everyone competes for weekends.  In fact...there's even a calendar and draft! But...for me?  I think I might prefer the winter.  It is calm.  Quiet.  Pretty.  We just light the fireplace (we used to read, but now with the babe...not so much) and relax.  I'm glad we got to spend a little bit of time up there, but I wanted more.  So glad we're going to be able to go up after voting for a few more days of respite.

Good Night, Sleep Tight

Coming home from class two nights a week, I get to barely see the babe before she's off to **bed** for the night.  (I'm using 'bed' loosely.  It really is a bassinet at the side of our bed and she's in and out of it throughout the night for feedings and changings and what-not.) It is a wonderful feeling to come home to a family and one that makes me race home safely each night.  When I do get to spend some time trying to get her to sleep we share a little song together.  One that was pointed out to me by my good friend Neil as a good lullaby.  He was right.  It's a good daddy/daughter number.  For all those dads out there, hopefully you can share this with your babe's too!

Reclaiming the Basement: My New Workbench

If you know the difference between, say, a  Holtzapffel-style cabinet maker's bench and a split-top Roubo-style workbench , then this post will not impress you. (Bill Fox...I'm looking in your direction.) But...those of you guys who are cramped up in a condo somewhere on the northside and long for a little man-retreat, then you're going to be jealous! Anyway...back to the story.  Starting a few weeks back, I began to beat my cabin fever by beginning to organize our basement.  Our basement is probably like a lot of basements: unfinished, messy, damp, and quite a bit disorganized. During construction (or re-construction), the basement housed just about everything we owed that wasn't in our POD - and it was messy down there.  Once we moved in, we started to put everything that didn't have a home down there.  Over time, I bought some shelving units and began to put some of our stuff on the shelves, but in no particular order. We then inherited some of my siste

Silverado Grill - Elmhurst

On Saturday night, Nat, the babe and I packed into the family truckster and went out into the night to find a place to grab a meal.  We headed south towards Oak Brook and began to call a few places.  Not one but 7 places we called had waits of longer than an hour.  Some had waits as long as 3 hours!  It was 6:30, so in the 'burbs, that is prime dinner time. We used to be 8 or 8:30 dinner folks, but not any more.  Now we're competing with every Chad and Michelle and their 4 kids in the western suburbs for a table at Maggiano's. After driving across town and back for an hour, we headed back to Elmhurst settling on grabbing a pie at Pizza Palace in downtown.  We called ahead and they had plenty of tables open.  But, as luck would have it, we took a different route home and passed by a place called the Silverado Grill .  I had heard "things" about the Grill, so we popped in.  When we got there, there was a couple waiting for a table, but the restaurant had open on

Oprah Studio - and the House Supplied Kleenex

A few weeks back I was over at Harpo Studios talking all things Google with the production team and art department.  We have a few things moving forward - including Oprah using Google Earth for all broadcast maps now - and a few other things up in the air (fun things)! I was there with a fellow Googler and we both got a short tour of the studio.  Here's us below. The one thing that isn't in this photo - and hard not to discuss - is that each seat in the studio comes with house-supplied kleenex. So you don't have to worry that when Oprah plays with your heart-strings, they have you covered from a clean-up perspective.

I'm Feeling Lucky

At work, when you plan to take leave they invite you to a "baby shower" - it really is just a video conferenced meeting with a bunch of other dads from around the company.  The HR team walks you through the whole process and what details of the benefits are for the time you are away. After the "shower", in my inter-office mailbox was one of those yellow envelopes with all the lines on them.  I had a package from Mountain View. Inside?  Baby clothes!  Guess who's feeling lucky today?

My Mom's Gift to My Dad

This past summer and fall, I had a bunch of projects that required some power tools to complete.  I built a deck, put up bookshelves, put up a fence, and built a small pergola and gates - all things around the house that needed to get done. I've begun to build up my collection of tools - like hammers, sanders, clamps, and drills, but I didn't yet have a circular saw.  Anyone who's done any sort of carpentry will tell you that one universal tool that you'll use over and over is a 7 1/4" circular saw. Embarking on these projects actually required one.  I need to make a bunch of cuts and I didn't want to hack at them by hand. That's where my family comes in. First, because he was lending a hand on the deck, I borrowed my father-in-law's saw.  He had a real nice saw with a laser so you could see where you were cutting.  Because the saw is fairly indispensable, he needed it back shortly after I got it because he had projects of his own he had to tac

Barnaby's Family Inn on Touhy (Des Plaines)

Last Friday, Nat, I, the babe and Nat's parents went to Barnaby's Family Inn in Des Plaines for pizza and beer.  For those of you who've never heard of or been to a Barnaby's, well...this hopefully will convince you to take the time to go. The back story to our history with Barnaby's is that both of Nat's parents are graduates of Notre Dame.  We were headed there for a football game a few falls ago and asked her folks where a good post-game bite to eat could be had.  Both of them volunteered the same thing:  Barnaby's. Turns out, it is an old pizza place a few miles from the stadium.  They told us to try the sausage pizza.  We went in with little expectations aside from satisfying our hunger. Little did we know that we'd start a personal pizza revolution in our own house.  This place was that good. The Barnaby's we went to in Des Plaines is set up exactly like the one in South Bend (and I imagine every other one in the country ).  There'

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake from Cook's Illustrated

Over the weekend we had some of Nat's friends over to say hello and see the babe.  Nat said that we couldn't just put out a partially eaten sleeve of saltines and sugared fruit slices; we had to pull something together for a brunch-ish crowd. Now....I'm not normally the baker in our house - that's Nat's domain.  But with her having her hands full (with the child-rearing and all), it was time to play flour scientist and bake up a cake of sorts - a coffee cake. For my birthday a few years ago, my mom started to give us a Cooks Illustrated subscription.  She renews it every April and I've come to enjoy thumbing through it each month.  I've occasionally referred to it when making something (like potatoes in the oven), but I've never baked anything from their pages. Aside from the crazy quantities (you can sense that they really did tinker with them - I mean what's with all the 1/8 of a teaspoons!  We don't even have one of those!), we didn'

Time Out Timer

Earlier this summer, my sister and her kids came to stay with us.  They weren't here too long, but in that short time we had a ball.  She has two young kids - a girl and a boy.  The boy is 6, the girl is 9. We learned a lot about our house and it's ability to handle kids.  It wasn't bad, but we had some things that we have to come to grips with (like NEVER BUY ANYTHING NICE!) now that we're parents. One day this summer, my sister's son gets in trouble for something usual for boys like running around like a crazy person or eating his beyond messy sandwich on the couch or punching his sister.  As a punishment, his mom puts him in "time out" - which all you parents know about - for 30 minutes.  He couldn't play the Wii or even watch tv.  He had to sit in a chair in his room for the whole time. Being an ingenious boy, he asked his mom if he could borrow the kitchen timer so he could tell how long he'd been in "time out" (I think he thou

The Two Dorothys

We made the decision to pull back on our cleaning lady (is "cleaning lady" pc?  Should I be calling her something else?) right after the holidays.  We had a wonderful woman named Dorothy who was uber-energetic and did a pretty good job when she came over every two weeks.  Turns out, all those checks we were giving her were getting squirreled away somewhere.  By the end of the year, she informed us that she was packing her bags and moving home to Poland because she said, "I have a degree in engineering, I can't clean houses for the rest of my life!"  She subsequently sent us her sister - Agnes.  While Agnes was very good, in an effort to save a few bucks each month, we've cut down her to once a month.  The ramifications of that decision are for another post (most notably I am now on latrine duty). For this particular story, you have to know that my sister also used Dorothy to clean her house.  Having your (now-ex) cleaning lady share the same name as your m

Renegade Craft Fair - Chicago 2009

Back in December, Nat 'dragged' me to the Renegade Craft Fair on the north side.  She's been to a few of them (one of them outdoors, I think) and convinced me that it wouldn't be the worse way to spend a Sunday morning.  Secretly (or not so secretly in some circles), I'm a bit crafty.  (Hence why I put 'dragged' in quotes.)  I tend to gravitate towards either food crafts (Vanilla Extract) or holiday-driven (Christmas stuff), but I'd never been to a Renegade fair, so I was in. I had no (read: ZERO) real expectations for the fair so I couldn't leave disappointing.  Us silly suburbanites drove, and alas, there was NO parking (I know..." mass trans, dude .") - in fact, the place was a zoo - much to my surprise. I guess those hipsters really love them some screen printed shirts.  MY GOD WERE THERE SCREEN PRINTED TEES! In fact, that's probably my only gripe:  too many screen printers.  Ironic tees.  Indie band posters.  Lots of things I

First Edition

It was a Julia Child Christmas for Nat (and secretly for me!).  She was gifted the Julie and Julia DVD set and her mom, after much searching, came across a reasonably priced First Edition of Julia Child's seminal work:   Mastering the Art of French Cooking . The real joy in this gift is seeing that this book has been used and loved by cooks before arriving at our house.  With little notes on some pages and an inscription up front, this book - a First Edition - meant something to someone; and now it means something to us. The beautiful tome took it's proper place on our kitchen bookshelf right next to such literary and culinary masterpieces as Diners, Drive-ins and Dives . I'm so glad it found a nice home in Elmhurst.

Welcome Home Baby (The Sign)

When we arrived home with the babe from the hospital, we were greeted by this home-crafted sign on our dining room windows. Nat's mom and dad came over, shoveled our snow (so did Equation Boy/Man), brought over a "Birth Day" cake, left behind some presents and hung up this cute sign.  All very thoughtful gestures.  But the sign stands out for a few reasons.* First, it was hand-crafted.  I hate to use the term home-made; that makes things sound amateurish; and this thing is anything but amateur.  Dianne used some pretty cute fabric and strung up the sign in Nat's preferred lower-case letters.  But, the other really interesting aspect to the sign is that it is re-usable (as in not temporary).  Not as in....take off this girls name and slap up another one if/when we have another kid  (and I mean "slap up" in the most delicate of senses, by the way).  I doubt that will happen, rather, (I believe) we can move the sign up to the babe's room/nursery and hang

Elmhurst Front Yard Tree Tradition

Going out to the curb with today's trash is our "second" real Christmas Tree.  The one in the house that we cut down after Thanksgiving went out last week, but we've had another one outside our house - in our front yard that was lit for the final time last night. Elmhurst has a nice tradition of putting "front yard trees" in for the holidays - and our street participates in an especially strong fashion - almost every house buys a tree and lights it up for the Christmas season. I'm (nor is my sister who lives also lives on the block) not sure where or when the tradition started, but in most parts of town, there's pockets of these real, fresh cut trees that spring up in late November.  The trees are a fundraiser (I think) for the grade school district.  They send around a flyer a few weeks early where you order them - they cost $17 a piece.  You have to go get a big stake (ours from Ace Hardware) and wrap the trunk to the stake so it won't tip

Our Fireplace(s) Before

We started (re)construction of our house in September of 2008.  There's still! things that need to get done inside including the "finishing" of the fireplaces.  We put in 2 42" direct vent fireplaces - one in the family room and one in the front room (living room).  That's right....42"-ers.  Some folks brag on their plasma screens, I brag on my HUGE fireplaces - they type of which you have to go to Panera to see in person.  (Note...I think they might actually be too big/hot for a house our size!) Direct vent fireplaces (for those that don't know) have a piece of glass on the front of them and a 2 chamber flue/pipe that takes hot air out in one chamber and pulls cool air in.  It is a pretty slick technology. The downsides of direct vent are (obviously) it is NOT a wood-burning fireplace.  So, you don't get the smell or sound of those.  On the positive side, it **looks** like a real fireplace (they've gotten pretty good), it is clean (no dirty

Your Early FeedBack

I don't have to tell you guys this, but blogging tends to be habit forming.  You get in the habit of posting and guess what:  you post.  But as soon as you fall out of the habit of posting regularly (or at some interval), it is VEEEERRRRRRY easy to fall out the habit of posting to your blog. With the feedback loop on blogging very small (what with feeds, twitter and comments), it is that crucial feedback that might help keep a (this) blogger motivated. After posting every day this year, I thought I'd share some of the feedback I've received from friends (THESE ARE FRIENDS!!) 1 0: 59 AM  (NAME REDACTED) : what's with your blog?    why am I suddenly getting your emails again? 11:00 AM  (NAME REDACTED) :  and what's with some of these posts? 11:09 AM  (NAME REDACTED) :  are you writing for Oprah's magazine or something?  What's with this new writing style? How reassuring to know that my posts are connecting at such a high level intellectual

Under the Sink Composting

Last summer, Nat and I made the decision to start to compost as much material as we could (actually...I made the decision and Nat said:  "I think it is a fine idea, but it is going to be a lot of work FOR YOU.")  We had a moderately successful first year as backyard gardeners and we'd been "container gardeners" prior to that, but composting was going to be a big step up. It required a bin in the yard.  Sure, we could have just strung up some chicken wire and turned the pile occassionally, but I wanted something that was closed, sealed, and spun on an axle.   Maybe it was a rookie mistake, but we bought a relatively cheap one and began - late in the season to fill it. We weren't too knowledgeable about composting, but I understood the basics.  One of the issues I wasn't aware of is that composting - at its best - is a 'batch' process.  One should fill the bin with the right mix of 'browns' and 'greens' and then turn that sucker

Parrillo Family Lexicon: The Lazy Lad

A new term was coined in our family recently.  Everyone should update their files as we add this one to the Parrillo Family Lexicon:  The Lazy Lad. A few weeks back the entire family gathered at my folks house for Christmas festivities.  Having had the babe a week prior, we scouted out some space to scurry to when Nat needed to feed her.  We quickly spotted a nice chair up in my folks bedroom.  We set up camp. A few hours into the evening, after coming down from one of her numerous trips up there, Nat sat down on the counch and began to sang the praises of a the chair she was using.  As she described it, "it is really comfy but a really nice size.  Kinda like a small lazy-boy" the my brother-in-law Shaun (the part-time comedian) was listening and chimed in. He said slyly:  " must mean the Lazy Lad?" Both Nat and I responded:  "Is that what it's called?" Shaun:  "Heh.  I don't think so...but it would be a heckuva name for one

Nice Lights

Whilst in the throws of our first winter in our house, I'm taking time to notice some of the small design touches that Nat help make when we put the place together. The construction process was soooo long and frankly....frustrating, that I forgot how many decisions needed to be made. Cabin fever can make you introspective, I suppose. One of those decisions (or many of those decisions) were light fixtures. I had focused mostly on the 'bones' of the construction - all the rough plumbing, electric, insulation, location of walls, windows, doors, etc. And, Nat was able to focus on some of the other finishing touches like the color/type of the sinks, cabinets, and most notably fixtures. One of the nicer ones she picked out is below (I actually like ALL of the lights she picked and she HATES every one of the ones I picked). You hardly notice it, but when I take the time to pay attention, I can enjoy the details. It fits well with the rest of the house, fits well with

The King and I

A while back, we had Mayor Richard Daley over to the Google office to launch his YouTube channel. It wasn't the first time I had met him, but it was the first time that I actually had a conversation with him - we greeted him in the lobby and chatted up the elevator. Now...looking at this picture, you might think he was at an event to help combat homelessness, but, alas, he wasn't. Unfortunately, that's just what I look like at work sometimes. (and I knew he was coming!) Come on Nat! Open up both eyes when I sneak out the door in the morning. Help me make sure this doesn't happen when a dignitary is coming to see me.

"Just south of North Avenue, a bit west of Western"

We live in the suburbs. No denying it. Hence the subtitle of this new blog. In fact, I've always lived in the suburbs. Sure, I lived in Champaign for four years and spent a bit of time after college on the northside with some friends, but I moonlighted @ home with my folks the whole time. (Ask my roomies...they'll vouch for that!) I ran for office in the suburbs and really enjoyed creating a community amongst our neighbors and friends. Guess I'm just a suburban-type of guy. In 2008, we moved. To. Another. Suburb. Much to Nat's chagrin. We picked Elmhurst for a variety of reasons - the right house, the right street, and the location of the town relative to work, family, and more. When people ask where we live - which happens all the time - I never shy away from telling them we live in Elmhurst. I love the town. I love our street. I love how accessible Elmhurst is to just about everywhere. Nat, on the other hand is a late comer. She has come to (I believe) l

Carving our Name in...Well....Really Hard Wood

This Christmas, we received this carving from ( bare with me....this is a long description! ) Nat's sister Elise's (at that time) boyfriend Bill. I say "at that time" because....wait for it.....THEY'RE NOW ENGAGED! Back to the sign. Bill told us about this piece of art/wood back near our wedding and showed us what it was going to look like. He's a artist in lots of ways - one of them wood. He really outdid himself - the piece turned out gorgeous and fits so well into the look of our home. Our house is bungalow and has some craftsman elements. I'm not totally sure what tools he used, but this isn't his first wood-working project, so I know he has a wide range of equipment at his disposal. It is made on Brazilian Cherry wood - which he said was extraordinarily strong and made it difficult to carve. Bill is quite a skilled craftsman, eh? Rumor has it his wood-working skills played a role in the engagement process, too! 2008 was such a meaningful

Reminder: Change your furnace air filters

The past few nights Chicago has gotten cold. Real cold. Our furnace was having trouble keeping up. I'd set it for 70, and it'd barely get up to 68 during the days and would drop low overnight - down to like 60...or below. We have two JUMBO direct vent electric start gas fireplaces, so heating the place when we are awake wasn't an issue (Nat and I are both afraid to leave them on at night), but I knew something was wrong. I feared the worse: time for a new furnace. I sauntered downstairs to the ice cold basement and had a peek around. Low and behold; I spotted the filter. I pulled it out an inch and **whoosh** I hear the furnace - which was struggling to get air - pull in a full breath and fire up. I pulled the filter out further and it was caked. Off to the web I went research the frequency one should change the filter and I discovered that during the heavy heat months (Dec, Jan, Feb), you should change it every month! The rest of the year, you can probably get

When'd She Learn to Type?

This afternoon in my inbox, I received this note and photo. I wish I had an answer for her. Daddy: Why won't Maisy stop barking? With Love, The Babe With a furrowed brow like that, there's no doubt she's mine!

Fatherhood - 2 weeks in

Leaving the house this morning for work felt a whole lot different than it did the last time I saddled up for the office in December. I knew it would, but I underestimated the emotion involved. This wasn't just a new year - but rather - a new life. A father's role today (more specifically -my role) is dual: provide for the family, and bond with the new baby. The first part used to come pretty naturally - waking up, going to work, going to school, paying the mortgage. I actually enjoyed a great bit of it. But this morning, something changed. I'm sure the same thing happened to millions of new fathers across the globe in countless cultures. Instead of the job being something that used me, I started to look at the job as something I can use. The role I have at the office is NOW just a minor part of my life. Although I still love every single second of my work, it no longer carries the same meaning. (I'm not trying to be profound here, I'm just saying what

My Favorite (Holiday) Things - 2009

Before the holiday season gets pushed too far away from my memory, I thought that I'd share with you (and with the future me in 10 months) what I enjoyed since November. This year was a pivotal Christmas season - one of many firsts. First Christmas morning together (alone!) First Christmas in our own house (not a Condo or parents house!) First Christmas with our new babe First New Years that we went out at 5 pm and were home by 10 pm First batch of vanilla extract (more on this in another post) First time decorating our house (inside and out!) First time shopping for our own child ...and more! Without further delay, here's my list. Tammen Tree Farm . Although they keep raising their prices, there's no finer place to buy a tree in the area. I have tagged along with the entire Moran clan for the past 5 years. Paper Source Embosser . I'm a fan of correspondence cards. They can be thank you's, congrats, regrets, anything. Nat bought me an embosser

Day Two Placeholder

Still haven't gotten into the groove....

Full Year of Blogging?

Blogging is back in 2010.  At least for me.  Going to try to post everyday of 2010.  No promises that I'll actually follow through.  Knowing me, I'll get bored by May.