Showing posts from March, 2010

Gift Registries at Menard's

We get print subscriptions to both the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times everyday.  Like most folks, the Sunday papers get the most attention in our house.  I buzz through the Trib everyday and read the S-T, but Sundays brings the circular ads.  For me, there's really only one ad that is a must-read every week:  Menard's.

This week's ad brought a nice surprise on the back cover:  They now have gift registries!  Srsly.  Umm...too bad I'm married.  I would have fought tooth-n-nail to get a wedding registry at Menard's.  I would have - undoubtably lost that battle - but still would have waged it nonetheless.

Who knows...maybe I can sneak a registry in for the babe's first birthday.  If that doesn't work, my birthday is coming up you know.

Getting up to Speed on her Email

Most mornings, before I get out of bed, I grab my phone and check email/calendar.  Over the weekend, the babe ended up in our bed before I got up.

She's as into my email as I am, eh?

2 Weeks Until Spring Football @ Elmhurt College

Late last week, I met with the Head Football Coach and the Special Teams Coach  to go over our plan for Spring Football.  We start practice at 6 am on April 12th.  The times work out for me with work - I can get to practice in the am, then hop on the Metra and head downtown in time for work.

The NCAA allows us a certain number practices this spring and we only have one kicker returning.  We'll have plenty of time to get him focused on kicking this spring.  He doesn't really love punting, but we're going to have to figure out a way to get him to fall in love with punting - my favorite part to coach.   The real reason why I like it is because you actually can "coach" a kid up in punting.  Sure...with placekicking, you can tune someone to get the ball further or more accurate, but placekicking is a lot about leg strength.  Punting, on the other hand is all about mechanics and being deliberate.  And...when you connect on a punt?  It might be the most beautiful play …

Board on Batten Fence

I've chronicled our quest to build a garage (we have finished drawings!  and topography surveys!), but there are a few other companion projects going on at the same time.  We currently have a VERY ratty chainlink fence circling our backyard.  When the garage is done, that will change.  I've been getting bids from various fence companies on this style of fence:  board on batten.  It will be 6 feet high! I took this picture at my sister's new house.  I'll post some photos when ours is going up.  I'm pretty excited to get the fence put up - almost as excited as the garage.  In my sister's yard, the fence looks great and has a very clean look to it.  
You're probably wondering why it'll be 6 feet high.  No...we don't hate our neighbors.  They're actually very nice.  We just wanted something high - for privacy and to keep the coyotes out!  Srsly.

L'il Critters Gummy Fish Omega-3 Lemonade Flavored Chews

For the past few years, I've been trying to take daily supplements to work on my blood chemistry and try to stay healthy.  I don't eat the best, so I figure a few pills a day might help.  I take both a Omega-3 Fish Oil pill and an organic Flaxseed Oil pill.  Both were of the "softgel" variety.

For me, the flaxseeds pills were big, but they went down fine.  I always had trouble with the fish oil.  The smell/taste were bad, but the burps were worse.  I was always paranoid around the office that I was rocking "fish breath" so I just stopped taking them.

I knew that there had to be another way around the problem.  On our last trip to Costco, I came across these L'il Critters Gummy Omega-3 chews.  They're lemonade flavored.  This was my answer.
The serving is 2 gummies.  They taste pretty good - being lemonade, cherryade, and strawberry lemonade flavors.  With the 2 gummies, you get 200 mg of Fish Oils (120 mg of Omega-3 Fatty Acids - with DHA and 80 mg …

Jason's Deli Oak Brook, Illinois

Have you heard of Jason's Deli?  Surprisingly enough, it is the fastest growing chain restaurant in America.    They just opened one near our house on York Street in Oak Brook.  Funny location for now - being too far away from the Oak Brook Mall traffic - but it is 300 yards away from the under-construction Elmhurst Hospital.  I'm guessing that they're betting on hospital traffic plus whatever business lunches are taking place in the area.

We went to the Oak Brook location last week.  We'd previously lunched at their Oak Lawn restaurant.
The place is kind of like Panera without the focus on the bread and baked goods.  I took the photo above at the Oak Brook location. The menu is loaded with choices and it is somewhat intimidating.  The downside of these two factors colliding is that you order at a cash register.  That means that a line (if you go during one of the peak times - lunch or dinner) starts to back up.  I felt the pressure to step up, order and get out of th…

Illinois Governor's Race As Viewed Through Google

The General Election is 7+ months away, but that's no reason to not start thinking about who the Governor is going to be come 2011.  For the past year or two, I've been (in my day job) sharing some charts with various folks about using Insights for Search - a Google tool - to "predict the present".

There aren't many better mechanisms to discover what is on people's minds than using what they are searching for as a barometer.  Towards that end, Google has a tool that marketers use to unearth trends and gain key insights into what their customers are buying.

As a means to see what the tool can do in practice, I've decided to chronicle the Illinois Governor's race via Google Search.  Can Google "predict" the winner?  We'll see.

Here's what I'm using for search terms.  I am using all searches in Illinois - not just Chicago.  (click on the image to make it bigger)
As of today, it is neck-and-neck.  Following the Primary, Bill Brady h…

Matching Headlines in Tribune and Sun-Times

I know that costs are cut being across newsrooms, but I had no idea that both the Tribune and the Sun-Times are now employing the same headline writers!  These were Tuesday's papers right after I picked them up off of our driveway (yes!  We are dinosaurs that subscribe to the print editions!).  Both had (at least a day old news) pieces on health care with matching headlines.  I don't think I've seen this before. think it is just a coincidence?

Land of 1000 Tweets

Over the weekend, I posted my "1000th Tweet" to Twitter.  According to, I started "tweeting" on May 27, 2007 - almost 3 years ago.  I think it was just back then, but somewhere along the line they added the "e".  I was at FeedBurner in May of 2007 - about to join Google.  I didn't have a lot to say back then, (My first Tweet was about getting a Meatball Parm Sangwich at Venice Cafe), and I don't have a lot to say now.

You can follow along on my choice for breakfast over on Twitter @jakeparrillo.

Melted Snow = Found Ipod

A few weeks back when the snow was melting, I took the Rooster out for a walk (that's her in the top corner of the picture) and in our parkway was this poor thing.  Some (I'm guessing) kid dropped his ipod Touch in the snow and either couldn't find it or didn't know it slipped out of their pocket/backpack.   What a bummer.

We left it in the parkway and went on our walk.  When we came back 45 minutes later it was gone.  Someone musta thought they could salvage a water-logged device?

Papa's Birthday @ Our House

Last weekend, we hosted a party for my Dad's birthday.  I made turkey meatballs for everybody but Vic - we made eggplant "meatballs" for her.  I'd share recipes here, but I just kind of 'winged' it.  The 'balls' turned out ok, but the real hit of the party was Crostini with Ricotta and Roasted Tomatoes.  They went fast and were very easy.

There's a very famous pizza place out in Arizona - probably the "most" famous pizza place called Pizzeria Bianco that is run by a guy named Chris Bianco.  Martha Stewart featured him either in her magazine or on her tv show (or probably both!) and included this recipe.   I went to Angelo Caputo's to do the shopping, so I came back with some house ricotta which made everything taste better!
The party was a lot of fun - and a real team effort.  We made some food, my sisters all brought something (including the birthday cake!) and my mom helped clean up.  Most importantly, we were able to gather as a fam…

How the Trees Came Down in Our Backyard

This was the view looking out from our family room up until last Friday.  Lots of Blue Spruce in the way.  It was pretty, too.  In the winter, snow would pile up on the strong branches.  We'd have some wildlife making their home in the trees.  We liked it.  Unfortunately, they had to go.
The tree company made quick work by cutting out the bottoms of the trees and climbing up them.  I was surprised by the size of their saws - they were small - but I suppose that's because they're dangling from ropes as they climb.

They moved fast.  The first tree was toppled in 10 minutes or less.  

Removing all the branches makes sawing the stumps off easier, I suppose.
After the "back" tree was done, they went to work on the larger "front" tree.  

And like that...they were gone. 
The crew cleaned up the yard while one member ground the stumps.
They were good trees.  They'll be missed.  We'll replant something similar in some portion of our yard.  

Fontano's Subs in Downtown Elmhurst

Last week, the Paupered Chef chronicled the state of the Italian Sub in Chicago.  They went to six different places in one afternoon and hossed down a sangwich at each joint.  An impressive feat.  They settled on J.P. Graziano's as the top dog - and I don't quarrel with that selection.  I haven't been before, so I can not judge.

I can, however, recommend that they should have added a stop to their tour.  Lying a mere eight blocks south of J.P. Graziano's is Fontano's Subs on the UIC campus.  Downtown Elmhurst is home to a Fontano's, too.  And that's where I get my Italian sangwich fix.

When I say "Italian sangwich", I mean I get to pick one of their SEVEN Italian combos.  Click the photo below to see the left side of the menu board featuring all SEVEN various ways you can mix provolone with salted, cured meats.  (pay no attention to the faux-Wrigley styled menu itself, please!)

Seriously...did you click on the photo?  Did you see the left side of…

My New Niece

My sister Vic and Equation Boy/Man had a new baby this week!  We went to see her on her birth day and both Nat and I got to snuggle a bit with her.  I even changed a diaper - as good Uncles should do. This is my fourth niece and I have three nephews.  My folks now have eight grandkids! EIGHT!

I know Vic and Marc are thrilled, but secretly (or not so secretly) Nat and I are probably equally excited that they had a girl.  With the Babe being only 3 months old, she'll be right on pace with her cousin who lives down the block (literally!).  Two girls will grow to be a lot closer besties than a boy and a girl would.  

If we're (Nat and I) excited, you can imagine that the new baby's older sister is equally thrilled.  In fact, we had to arm-wrestle the baby out of her hands because she wanted to hold her so much.  She's going to be a great big sister.
How fun will it be to be neighbors and cousins!  I know I was never very "close" to my cousins - and I'm not ex…

They Were Good Trees

On Friday, we cut down two perfectly healthy, magnificent Blue Spruce trees in our backyard.  We pushed this day off for almost a year, but it finally came.  Based on the previous owner's recollection, the twin Spruces were planted sometime in the early 1970's.  For some reason, they planted them directly in the middle of the yard.  From our deck, the view looked liked this.  We had no yard because of them.

They're both were perfectly healthy.  However, we needed to start clearing the yard for our garage.  For the past year, we've tried (probably more than we should have) to find a home for both of these trees.  First, we looked at Big Trees Inc - a company that specializes in finding mature trees and providing them to folks who want large trees immediately.  Big Trees Inc comes over, digs the whole tree out with the roots and all, scoops it on a truck and pays the tree "owner" a few bucks.  They then take that mature tree and sell it for thousands!  Sounds l…

Lou Malnati's Salad Dressing Recipe as Published in the 60's

Earlier this winter, I wrote about the old Lou Malnati's menu and mentioned that as I was waiting around for my pie to finish up, I spied an old Chicago Tribune article posted on the wall that included the original Lou Malnati's Italian Salad Dressing Recipe.  The Tribune reporter called it "prized".  We were set to host a little pizza party over the weekend, so I figured I'd give it a shot.  Here's the article as seen through my mobile phone's camera.
I'm not a wine drinker, so the fact that the recipe called for Burgundy wine didn't strike me as odd.  I went shopping at Angelo Caputos in Addison - a really incredible shopping experience - and when I got to the wine section I found Burgundy wine was carried ONLY in those HUGE jugs.  And they were dirt cheap.  The only issue is that needed just 4 ounces.  We ended up with a whole-lotta-wine that Nat won't drink.

I've taken the recipe and modified it a bit by eliminating the percentages (60…

Heavenly Cupcake Shop in Elmhurst

Over the weekend, Nat and I decided to enjoy the "nice" weather and took the Babe for a walk in her stroller.  We stopped for lunch (at Fontano's Subs), then walked by the newly opened Heavenly CupCake Shop in Downtown Elmhurst.  It is sandwiched between Starbucks and the York Movie Theatre on York Street - a prime location.
Our hopes were high.  Downtown Elmhurst has a collection of nice stores both retail and restaurant, but we don't have a nice bakery.  When the signs went up both Nat and I talked about how we were hoping that although it was called a "cupcake" shop, they were undoubtably going to be selling more than just cupcakes.  We had visions of a Sweet Mandy B's-type of place:  a bakery - very prominently featuring cupcakes with crazy frostings -  but also a place where you could get cookies/brownies/whoopie pies/cakes/etc.

We'd love to have a place we can walk to when we needed to pick something up for a party or for an everyday indulgenc…

Must-Eats in Elmhurst, Illinois

Recently, Serious Eats asked where you would take a tourist if they came to visit you in your town.  Some Chicagoans chimed in with places like Great Lake, Kuma's Corner, and Hot Doug's.  I'm sure Alinea and Charlie Trotters are on the list somewhere for foodies.  That's fine for you city rats, but us suburbanites live in the land of strip malls and minivans.  There can't possibly be anything worth eating in Elmhurst, right?

If that's what you thought....I'm here to challenge that assumption.  Granted, I'm not pointing you to any place that specializes in molecular gastronomy, but it isn't all Burger Kings and Chucky Cheese's out in the Suburbs.

Without further delay, here's my list of places you should hit when life brings you to Elmhurst.

Seven Ten LanesFitz's Lanes Fitz's Spare Keys for their Italian Beef pizza with "extra" giardinera.  It really is quite an amazing pie that comes from a bowling alley.  Thin, crackery cr…

Recipe: Magnolia Bakery's Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sugar Topping

A few weekends back, Nat hosted a "Sprinkle" for my sister (not a "Shower", people....a "Sprinkle"!)  Anyway...we were over at Nat's folks place on Friday night and Nat was in charge of making some sort of "coffee cake" -she had one in mind,  but she didn't have the More From Magnolia Book with her.

She remembered that the recipe was the first one in the book, so I dug into the Amazon preview and viola! The preview pages go far enough to catch this one!  Unfortunately for us, this recipe, too, called for a Tube Pan.  Some of you may recall that we don't have one of those (see my post about cream cheese coffee cake here.)! Nat rectified that situation and picked one up at Target ensuring that our coffee cakes no longer have to be impostors.

When I went to print that screen grab, the text came through really gray.  So...I quickly typed it out and created a public Google Doc.  I've included the recipe below.

I really liked this - …

New Coffee Shop Coming to Downtown Elmhurst

We already have Starbucks, Caribou and a local coffee shop First Cup crowding up downtown.  This weekend, on our walk around town Nat noticed that we are, apparently, getting another.  We snapped this photo on Park Avenue - south of the tracks - right near Lou Malnati's.
We're not sure what the "In addition" on the sign means, but I presume the place is set to be named "That Coffee Shop".  I can get behind the desire to support the local place over Starbucks, but can Elmhurst support two indie shops in addition to the 2 national chains?  Both have pretty good locations - near the train - but is that enough?  Our Starbucks recently was rehabbed - no Clover machine, though - and based on the lines there when I go with Nat, Starbucks isn't hurting.  It must be a tough market to compete in.

Instead of a coffee shop, why don't any of these entrepreneurs try something else?  I hear from my sister Vic good things about Two Toots.  With all these strollers …

Fitz's Spare Keys Elmhurst

Earlier this week, I mentioned that the old sign for Seven Ten was coming down and the new one for Fitz's Spare Keys was going up.  Yesterday, Nat and I were out enjoying the weather (yes!  It was 60 degrees in Chicago) and we spotted the new sign.
Looks like they've spent a few bucks to come up with a nice new logo and were able to successfully incorporate the old "Fitz's" iconography into the new place. go along with the new sign is a new Yelp profile.   I'm not sure if Yelp is "smart enough" to bring over the old Seven Ten reviews.  Maybe when a new restaurant "opens" - even if it in the same space/concept they give that restauranteur a fresh start.  Seems like I'll have to take one for the team and grab a Italian Beef Pizza with extra giardiniera to see if they've change the menu!  Anyone want to join me?

AARP Membership

Those of you know know me (or lived with me) know that I **try** to turn in as early as I can.  Especially during the winter, I like to get into bed early and - if I can - go to sleep.  On days that I don't have class and before we had the babe, it wasn't surprising to find me shuffling upstairs around 9 pm to get into bed.  I read my phone and occasionally thumb through landscape/garage/deck books from the library while fading away to sleep.  Nat joins me later and sometimes utilizes a book light to read and stay up like an adult while I saw logs next to her.

Apparently, the AARP is taking those early-to-bed stats into account as they extend offers to join their membership.  There's simply no other reason I can explain as to why I received this in my mailbox this week:
I'm thinking of joining.  With my time at Kellogg coming to an end in 10 weeks, I'll have to relinquish my student ID.  With this baby, maybe I'll be able to ditch my "Student Rate" and…

You Write One Post on Bob Dylan...

And now my blog stats are FUBAR'd.  Over the weekend, the great Bob Dylan site linked to my Female Bob Dylan Impersonators posts.  I've been toiling along at here for a few months and have had some decent inbound traffic from various places including search.  Google Analytics was able to provide quite a bit of insight into what was 'working' and what wasn't.

Unfortunately for me, that's no longer the case.
When the flood of Dylan fans came a calling, my data - for the most part - failed to be very compelling for me any longer.  With a longer time horizon the insights will come back, but for now, the charts are basically flat - except for the "Day of Dylan".  There used to be peaks/valleys because all of the data was fairly clustered together.  Not any more.

I'm certain that I'm not alone in this happening to, but it sure would be nice for Google to allow folks to "throw out" certain days from the reports.  Would m…

Garage - Stage 2: Drawings

Last week, I shared my "vision" for our new garage - based on another simple garage I saw across town.  It was mostly 'dreaming' - but now we're moving into the 'action' stage of the process.  Just yesterday I received the preliminary drawings for the garage.  Some things need to change a bit - like the roof pitch and window locations, but for the most part we're on our way.  Equation Boy/Man has received his preliminary drawings as well and is making some modifications.   Up next is the yard preparation and bidding of the job.  We're going to bid them together (ours + Equation Boy/Man's) because we live 7 houses away and there **should** be some economies of scale that can be captured by the good guys - us.

Coal Abe Lincoln

This Friday, Nat and I drove down to Frankfort to see my folks.  We dropped the babe off for a sit with her Noonie and Papa and we quickly ran to the movie theatre in New Lenox.  We caught Avatar - more on that later - but I also picked up a box of items from my mom.  Amongst some childhood treasures were two Abraham Lincoln busts pressed in Illinois coal.  I only know they're from Illinois coal because of the "certificate of authenticity" that accompanied them in their boxes!
To the untrained eye, they look like cheap black plastic molds that should be sold at a garage sale for a buck or two. you come across a black bust of Lincoln at your local flea market, take a second look and grab it while you can.  For, it could be pressed of downstate coal and now you'll have a story to tell about your old pal Abe sitting on your bookshelf.

Seven Ten Lanes Begat Fitz's Lanes Begat Fitz's Spare Keys in Elmhurst

I was driving by our bowling alley this morning in Elmhurst when I noticed these sign guys out front dealing with the new signage.  They're taking down the old sign that read "Seven Ten Lanes" and replacing it with one that reads "Fitz's Spare Keys".  For a bit there, the place was called "Fitz's Lanes", but  they didn't really change much besides the name itself. The signage all still read Seven Ten, the  menus still said Seven Ten and the Yelp listing still said Seven Ten.  (I snapped a picture for the Parrillo Family Elmhurst Historial archives*.  Pardon my finger.  The sun was in my eyes and the Nexus One's screen is terrible in daylight).

Hopefully the new sign means that the menu will get a makeover, too.  I love their food, but the wait staff is young (most likely from Elmhurst College), the menu has items that they"don't have any more", and occasionally a charge will show up on your bill that is wrong.  

The plac…

Female Bob Dylan Impersonators

(First...a word:  sorry about all the videos lately.  Too many are catching my eye!)  A month or two ago, Nat and I took the babe to see "When in Rome" at the Loma Theatre up in Michigan. was terrible, but it was the only thing that was showing at the time we wanted to go (trying to fit a feature film in between feedings/naps is challenging!).

The high point of the film was a song performed by Adele - "Make You Feel My Love" - a song written by Bob Dylan and included on the Time Out of Mind Album.  I've always liked the song - especially the contrast between the context of the song and Dylan's rough voice work.  It always stood out on a VERY strong album.

Hearing it in the movie got me thinking -  might Bob Dylan end up being a great - maybe the greatest - songwriter for female artists?  His works have such tender moments - but with him singing them - they end up elsewhere.  I've included the Adele version of "Make you Feel My Love"…


You can even use them on sneakers!

I saw....rather HEARD this tv spot a few days ago.  I was minding my own business with my nose in my computer when I heard his voice.  I had to look up!  Too funny not to share. (for those of you reading this via email, you should click through to watch the video below)

Anything Gilbert Gottfried is selling gets my attention!  In all seriousness, I think the Shoedini has now been added to my Christmas list.  Kind of an awesome product.

Duplex Comic: Doing my Business

We have a big chalkboard up in our kitchen that we post various things on.  From invitations to coupons - it seems to be the hub of our offline activities.  There's a bunch of magnets that hold the various items up.  We have had a few get-togethers at our house over the past few weeks and the 'board' was purged.  Just about everything that wasn't baby-related was removed.

For the past few months, I have had this comic from the Duplex strip up.  Apparently the humor (after 6 months) was lost on her because I found it on my desk.  (at least she didn't toss it!)

Every time I read it, I get a bit of a giggle.  For me, it is too good not to share.  (if it is too small to read, click the comic for a bigger version!)

It won't need to go back up on the board - as it will live on here forever!

Capturing Memories Via the Flip Cam

We've been trying to document the babe's (relatively new) life over on her own blog - which is a whole 'nother discussion - and as part of that documentation, Nat and I went out and bought a Flip Camera.  We had both of our mobile phone cams, but we thought this would be easier - and besides....there was a $30 off coupon in the Costco mailer. Hopefully she'll appreciate the little slices of (her) life that we're capturing.  If you know her blog address, you can head over there and see (what I think is her) first word in next few days!  (not really...but a dad can hope he has a super genius, right?) - Fixing the Skunk Problem

Last Friday, I met with some DuPage County State Representatives to talk about Google tools and how they can use these free products to communication and manage their constituencies.  Our conversation naturally moved into the discussion of our tools within campaigns.

I discussed with them the notion that by simply using a wide range of free widely-available consumer tools, one could pull together an advocacy site in a few hours.  From creating a site that is petition driven (this is what I could have done with today!) or using maps to "show off" actions around their Districts, Legislators today should be moving quickly and frequently (try something an if it doesn't stick, abandon it).

Leaving the meeting, I figured I should put my money where mouth was:  I needed to build an example site for them using the very tools I outlined.

That's what I did:  I created - a site dedicated to encouraging the City of Elmhurst to do something abou…