Showing posts from December, 2015

Another One For the Road - Happy New Year

Welp...we did it.  365 days.  365 posts.  As Neil Steinberg says:  everygoddamnday.  Here's last year's NYE post.
And frankly, it felt nice to flex those blogging muscles again here on my own personal property.  So, what's my 2016 resolution?  I'm going to keep at it here on 'Why I Oughta', but I'm also going to pledge to undertake another project: the Should I get the Project.    
2015 was a fine year.  If we find our house and get in it and end our nomadic period, 2016 will be even better.  
Here's the post I wrote exactly a year ago today.

The Best Shopping Cart Kids Strap At Meijer

You know the feeling.  You just wrassl'd the alligator that is putting your kid into the shopping cart only to find out that the strap to keep them in there is broken.  The fine folks at Meijer have solved that problem with this crazy smart design.  See the red clip on the right?  It is a retractable belt that plugs into the left.  

There's no way these can get caught in the seat itself and snap/break.

Smart thinking, Meijer.  Oh...this isn't the first smart thing they're doing:  they have 'open out doors' on their bathrooms.

Art @ York - Learning To Drive (January 13th)

The folks at the York Theatre are back at it with another film in their "Art @ York" series called Learning to Drive.  Here's the rest of the Art @ York posts on the blog.

From the Classic Cinemas site describing the movie:

Wendy is a fiery Manhattan author whose husband has just left her for a younger woman; Darwan is a soft-spoken taxi driver from India on the verge of an arranged marriage. As Wendy sets out to reclaim her independence, she runs into a barrier common to many lifelong New Yorkers: she's never learned to drive. When Wendy hires Darwan to teach her, her unraveling life and his calm restraint seem like an awkward fit. But as he shows her how to take control of the wheel, and she coaches him on how to impress a woman, their unlikely friendship awakens them to the joy, humor, and love in starting life anew.

Big Rob Hauling - Great Movers!

Big Rob and his guys were at it over the weekend down in Frankfort as they once again helped my family move.  We had Big Rob over at our place in Elmhurst back in early August and here they are down in Frankfort.   More on this move - and that house - in a different post.

If you need someone to move you and not charge you crazy prices, give Big Rob a call at (773) 858-3965. Tell him Jake in Elmhurst sent 'ya!

Top 10 Posts on For 2015

While we're not quite at the end of the calendar year, I think I can safely say that 2015 is looking to turn out to be a 365 posts in 365 days kinda year.  I have had a few of those in the past - both in 2010 and 2011.  In 2012, I came awfully close with 354 posts.  Last year?  A paltry 94 posts.

I also believe that I can safely say that not all of the posts written this year (or any year) were total gems.  There were plenty of turds mixed in there.  But....but...but...there were *some* that worked better than others in terms of attention/engagement.  And no good blogger these days isn't writing list-icles, so I figure I need to include one of those in my posts for the year.

Without further delay, here's the Top Ten posts on this blog that were written in 2015.

10.  A post showing off the new Melrose Park Menards store (with fancy cart escalator ramp!)
9  A post documenting the gateway drug know as Shopkins
8.  A post showing the progress I've made on my Detroit-sty…

Ted's Part 2 Of The Coaster Collection

Here's the first Ted's coaster that I posted as part of the collection back in March of this year.  This one (above) is courtesy of John Wayne and was taken as part of the Babe's birthday celebration before Christmas.  I also happened to have the best burger of my life (The George's Cadillac).

Dude...What's Wrong With Your Arm?

Those dummies at Target had their arms all out of proportion.    The Christmas season will do that to ya, I guess.

Elmhurst Front Yard Christmas Tree - 2015 Edition

Same tradition - different house.  Here's a photo of the Elmhurst front yard Christmas tree that we put up at Equation Boy/Man's house where we've been living since August.  (Equation Boy/Man took that photo above, btw.)

I've posted about these trees before here on the blog, but this is a really nice Elmhurst holiday tradition.  Each fall, the Elmhurst School District runs a fundraiser where you can buy a tree for $19.  It is organized by a block captain who puts out the order forms and collects all the money.  They then 'host' a little get-together on the Saturday after Thanksgiving where all the trees get dropped off for the neighborhood.

Our street does a really good job of participating - maybe the best around town?  Anyone else want to stake the claim as best front-yard-tree-street in Elmhurst?

Here's the post from last year's tree out front of our old house (sad face).
Here's my post from our 2013 tree.
Don't seem to have posted our 2012…

A Festivus Miracle!

Back in 2011, I posted a (pretty terrible) photo of a house in Elmhurst that celebrated Festivus with a sign and an aluminum pole in their front yard.  With today being the big day to celebrate with the Airing of the Grievances and Feats of Strength, I figured it was a good time to thank all of you who have been keeping up with the blog over the course of the year.  "I have a lot of problems with you people!"

Happy Festivus everyone!  See you at Mitch's?

And...if you are reading this in your email...Happy Christmas Eve.  The most wonderful day of the year in my book!

Our Christmas Tree - 2015 Edition

These photos are about the best we're going to do in terms of documenting our Christmas Tree this year.  Nat picked out a Douglas Fir for the first time after having gone with Fraser Firs for our entire time we've been buying live tress together.

And...for the first time, we put that tree up NOT in our house.  But in Vic and Equation Boy/Man's house down the street in Elmhurst where we've been living.  The reason why these are the best photos I'll get is because we took our ornaments down from the tree and packed them up so the Swiss Family(!!) could come home and decorate their own tree.  We left the tree behind for them to enjoy.  We'll be opening our presents under the tree(s) out in Naperville which will be a really nice memory for Nat and I and (hopefully) the girls.

It was a beautiful tree, if it was a little small.  Here's a photo of me picking up the Babe so she can put the angel on top of the tree.  I'm just a bit over six feet tall and afte…

Reddit Secret Santa 2015: My Giftee

Once again this year, I participated in the Reddit Secret Santa.  My giftee in this year's version posted the gift I sent in the gallery with a 'feel good' post title of "BEST GIFT EVER".  When I went to retrieve my match, he gave me some good stuff to work with:  he enjoys trying different kind of beers and he just starting building his own bar in his basement.

So...after a bit of searching, I landed on this wood wall-hanging map of the country that hold bottle caps.  Seems like a good conversation-starter in the bar, right?  Collect different caps from different craft breweries around the country and place them in their regions.

Here's all the posts on the blog about the different gift exchanges I've participated in (including Christmas for multiple years and a Disney one) on Reddit over the years.

Snapple Bears "Real Fact" About Memorial Stadium

Nat popped off her Snapple cap over the weekend and discovered this gem.  Seems like forever ago that the Bears invaded Memorial Stadium down in Champaign.  From the read of the 2002 Season Wikipedia entry, it sounds like a terrible year.

The connections between the Bears and the Fighting Illini are deep.  This year, as the Illini played the Northwestern Wildcats at Soldier Field, the University published this article documenting all the connections starting with the blue and orange and running all the way through Ron Turner.

Seasonal Treat: 41st Annual Christmas Ale From Anchor Brewing - 2015

I snapped this photo of the six-pack holder for this year's Christmas Ale from Anchor Brewing the folks who make Anchor Steam.  For 41 years, they've been making an annual Christmas Ale and packaging it up with a unique mix and a unique label featuring a different tree.

I posted about the 2010 Ale here on the blog, but my brother-in-laws pick up the beer EVERY YEAR in both six packs but also - on occasion - one of those huge magnum bottles.   They keep one or two from each year and don't drink them so they can plan a 'vertical' session where they pass out little tasting portions of like five years of the beer to a group to note the differences from year-to-year.  If you look at that 2010 post, you'll note that the tree was a Ginko.  (Here's a really well done catalog of all the trees they've used over the 41 years.)  I think one of Nat's brothers has a poster featuring all the labels.  Like I said...they're REALLY into this stuff - and for goo…

Something Brewing At Corner of 1st and York

All the way back in February, I posted some photos of Polay's moving out of the northwest corner of 1st and York right across the tracks in the Elmhurst City Centre.  Then last summer, the contractors at Meeder Industries moved up the block to be on the other side of the York Threatre.  And then that weird nail salon with the odd fountain setup closed up shop.  And nothing went in the stores.

There's been rumors of a Rosebud Restaurant was going to go into all four locations (the old Polay's, the Just for Kids store, Meeder and the weird nail salon).

But, then I spotted these plans on the windows of the stores.  It calls for some exterior changes to make the building have a more cohesive look - which is great.  And it looks like the landlord is taking it from four small spots into two larger ones.

This is the second major construction project that is taking place on the west side of York in the City Center (the other being the condo project going up at the old Plass App…

Downtown Naperville Does Christmas Lights Right

How festive, right?  That's a look down Jefferson Street in Downtown Naperville recently.  We went to get Gringo tacos at Front Street Cantina and I was struck by how well done the Christmas decorations were in Downtown Naperville.

Contrast it with the state of affairs in the Elmhurst City Centre.  I posted about the situation earlier this week and I've noticed that they've gotten a lot of the downtown now lit up - which is nice.

Seems that the Elmhurst City Centre can learn a little from Naperville.  Both good and bad.  They don't seem to have totally solved the parking issues - and Elmhurst; with the new garage, seems to be trying to get in front of it - but the robust shopping district in Naperville is PACKED with retail.  Not salons.

I know, I know....because of Oak Brook Mall, the Elmhurst City Centre will always be in a tough spot.  We're probably too close to attract major retail chains because they won't want to have two stores so close.  But, Naper…

Sega Genesis Back At Target

*Rubs eyes*

What?!  What is this??!?

Well....that's a Sega Genesis on the bottom shelf at the Villa Park Target store.

I immediately had flashbacks to playing NHLPA Hockey 93 - you know the one....where the Blackhawks were stacked with Roenick and Chelios and Larmer and Goulet and Steve Smith on offense and Vince Vaughn and the dudes in Swingers knock Gretzky out of the game.

I spent countless hours playing that game.  We only had two tvs at the time and I usually found myself plugging the Sega Genesis into the tv in my parents bedroom and sitting on the floor where I honed my triple deke skills. the 80 games that are included, there's not one sports title.  So this didn't end up in our cart.

Still....for $39.99, it seems like a fun gift for any guy who was in junior high school in the early 1990's.

Lego Train Show At Cantigny

Over the weekend, I took the girls to see the Lego Train Show out at Cantigny which is put on by the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club.    As you can see from the shots here, it was pretty awesome.

Who knew that (first!) Lego trains and (second!) that a club for them even existed?

The show took over the biggest room at the Cantigny Visitor's Center and had two big main loops set up.  There were a few guys behind the setup that were members of the club and had built this whole thing.  It was impressive in scope but also really neat with various details.  They had set up little towns/sections like Paris and Springfield.

And I'd be lying if I told you that I haven't given a lot of thought about trying to figure out a way to incorporate these Lego Trains into our existing O-Gauge Lionel setup.  Thinking we need to give these a try, right?  Besides the trains, just the idea of the buildings/town structures via Legos seems to be a good gateway, right?

The Babe is just start…

Pretty Awesome Christmas Lights in Park Ridge

We were up visiting my sister and her family in Park Ridge recently and we just *had* to stop to see the much-ballyhoo'ed Christmas setup.  Ballyhoo'ed?  Yep.  Here's the story in the Tribune about the house.

After getting directions from my brother-in-law (along with a warning that there will be tons of cars there), we found the place and parked around the corner.  The two girls and I got out of the van and walked up to the front.  Great Googley-Moogley.  Best Christmas set-up I've ever seen.  Better than the Puschak's back in the day in Frankfort.  Anyone remember that?!?

MWD Photography Closed in Elmhurst City Centre

Just two days after I posted about the Elmhurst Olive Oil Company closing on York Street, comes this photo studio leaving York, too.  Same side of the street as the Olive Oil Co and just south of construction going on at the old Plass Appliance site.

The one thing that sticks out about this place is the weird bunny stuff.  Around Easter-time, they always had bunny and baby/kid photos in the windows and kept bunnies in cages right in the front window.  It always struck me as a bit weird.  But, based on how many bunny photos they had up, lots of parents must have loved the idea.

So long, MWD.  I hardly knew ya!

More Elmhurst City Centre Christmas Lights Are On The Way

After a bunch of nagging, it seems that the City of Elmhurst and the City Centre are going to sack up and decorate the downtown business district with more Christmas lights.

I have to say...the one tree that they *did* light up by the train tracks looks awesome.  Here's a shot in the very early morning hours on my walk to the train late last week.

So Long Elmhurst Olive Oil Co - Closed

We lost another retail business on York Street in the Elmhurst City Centre. This time, Elmhurst Olive Oil Company has closed their doors and the landlord has a 'for lease' sign up.

We covered this place back in 2011 here on the blog when they opened. They made it four years and couldn't make it through the holidays this year.  This place replaced "Let's Have a Party".

I think we stopped in there once in the four years it was open.  Well...besides the times when we went to the City Centre for Trick-or-Treat'ing over the years.  And that, folks, is part of the problem.

Vintage Marshall Field's Christmas Mugs (1980 and 1981)

Over the weekend, I made a stop at the Elmhurst Goodwill to drop off some things that have been lingering around the garage.  While I was there, I went in the store as I usually do.  However, this time, they have a special Christmas section set up in the front of the store featuring a bunch of Christmas items.  From ugly sweaters (which looked like a BIG SELLER) to vintage stuff, they have a lot of the Christmas decorations bases covered.

After looking at the racks, there were a few items that were of interest to me including these mugs.  They're from Marshall Field's Walnut Room from 1980 and 1981.  As I've mentioned before, my family makes an annual pilgrimage to the Walnut Room and as part of that experience, we've been getting these glass mugs for many years.

Our mug collection goes back just a handful of years, but my sisters' have more mugs and years under their belt.  (I think there were a bunch of years when I was single that I attended the Walnut Room f…

Elmhurst Art Museum Pop-Up Shop

Looks like the folks from the Elmhurst History Museum are getting in on the holiday shopping spirit.   In the old Cocomera spot on York, right across from the York Theatre, they've opened a Pop-Up Shop featuring items related to their collections it seems.    They're joining the Maxine Pop-Up that is on the other side of York Street just a bit south of this location.

They posted the hours on the window and they're going to be open on the weekends.  Friday, December 11th from 4 to 7 pm.  Saturday December 12th from 11 to 3 pm and Sunday, December 13th from 11 to 3, too.
Seems like a nice use of the space and a good addition to the City Centre during the holiday season.

New Christmas Inflatable: Animated Showman

Back in 2013, I finally caved and bought a Christmas inflatable.  Nat didn't then - and doesn't now - allow them in the front yard, so in our old house, we had them in the sideyard (where we could see Santa out of the dining room window) and in our backyard.

In our current spot, I've put them up in the backyard.  Counting this one above, we're now up to three.  There's Santa and a Snowman holding a "Merry Christmas" banner, a deer on the trees and now this animated snowman.  He's, by far, the coolest one.  I've put him in a place of honor where we can see him from the dining room.  The girls both love him and so do I!

Letters To Santa 2015

The Sun-Times website might be a mess and besides Neil Steinberg there might not be tons of reasons to read the paper (We used to subscribe and I read it everyday.  Now?  I read Steinberg's column and his blog and then find a S-T article or two via Twitter on occasion.), but they are still doing something really well:  their "Letters to Santa" program.

You can go find out about the program and even request a letter here on their Season of Sharing site.

I'm not totally confident that we've done it EVERY year for the past five years, but I have a post about the program back in 2010 here, and I know we've done it more than once, so I'm thinking we've done it 3 or 4 times since 2010.

This year, Nat requested four letters.  One for her.  One for me.  One for each of the girls.  We went to Target and took the letters to pick out some gifts for our kids.

That's my letter above from Zaykwon.  Action figures, video games and books.  The video game one i…

Macy's Gives Us NYC's Hand-Me-Down Windows For Christmas

After reading about the hub-bub over this Macy's mistake over on Rachelle's blog, I had to go see it for myself.  My photo isn't the best angle of this thing, so if you want to see a straight-on-shot, check out this photo to see the full thing for yourself.  
What you're seeing there is some iconic Chicago buildings (Hancock, Sears, Crain) all wedged into what is definitely Manhattan Island with the NYC Thanksgiving Parade running right down the middle.   Rachelle Bowden has some close-up photos of this mess here.  
To be fair...the windows this year are just flat.out.awesome.  Really beautiful to look at and a really fun story.  But why did they have to put Chicago on an island?!?
This is *some* bullshit, right?  This thread on Reddit does a good job of covering the issues.  Just corporate deafness.  Oh, Marshall Fields...what could have been...
Chicagoist got a response from Macy's where they are saying that this isn't a hand-me-down from their NYC Store, but …

Pie Five Pizza Elmhurst Review

Earlier this fall, we went to MOD Pizza right on St. Charles Road in Elmhurst as it was the first of the 'fast' pizza places that had opened around here.  I posted about the experience here on the blog.  I really liked it and would recommend trying both the pizzas and the salads.  Right across the street - and I mean *RIGHT.ACROSS.THE.STREET* is another of the pizza joints called Pie Five Pizza Co.

Earlier this week, after a bit of Christmas shopping, we took the kids to try Pie Five.  The girls ordered kids pizzas (one had pepperoni and the other had bacon), while Nat had one of their pre-made combos (a Tuscan-something with sun-dried tomatoes) and I created my own (sausage/pepperoni/peppers).  I also ordered a salad.  But, unlike MOD Pizza, the salad selections are pre-made.  Meaning, you get either a garden salad (with pre-set ingredients) or an Italian (with pre-set ingredients) or a Caesar (with the normal Caesar stuff).

The place is HUGE.  Like 40 tables huge.  When w…

Norad Doing Their Santa Tracking For the 60th Year

Under three weeks until the Big Guy flies around on his sled and the watchful folks over at NORAD have kicked-off their countdown to the day.  This year marks the 60th year.
Back when I was at Google, the company was involved with NORAD and powered the maps and other parts of the program, but it looks like NORAD has gone with (gasp!) Microsoft and Bing!  
And Google has gone off and set up their very own Santa Tracker (more on that in a different post).  
This is one (of many!) little traditions that makes the holidays great with kids.  Each year, I hand the Babe and the Bird my phone for a bit and have them track Santa with NORAD.  

Atheists Get Their "A" At The Chicago Christkindlmarket

There's a nice sign up on the east side of the market explaining what the big giant light-up "A" is all about. It isn't....for the "Roll Tide" folks.  It is for the Atheists and agnostics and it's aim is to 'encourage the non-religious to come out of the closet, eradicate the negative stereotypes of non-believers, promote rational thinking over superstition' and more.  Good luck with that.  
There's nothing quite like the so-called "War on Christmas" that gets a certain slice of the population up in arms.  Well...there are other things like marriage equality and other things that happen inside people's bedrooms.  But...let's just agree that the same folks who consider this an 'assault' on Christmas are likely the same folks who consider marriage equality an 'assault' on marriage.
Sadly...there's no aluminum pole for the Festivus celebrants.  Guess those folks are too busy prepping for the 'airing …

"Hat Trick" - The Blackhawks Championship Movie @ The York on December 5th

On the side marquee of the York Theatre in Downtown Elmhurst, they're advertising a special showing of a movie called "Hat Trick" that covers the Blackhawks championship run.  The movie is being shown this Saturday (December 5th) at 10 am.  Doors open at the York Theatre at 9 am.

Here's the listing on the York's site.  Details:
The Blackhawks’ full-length Stanley Cup Championship movie Hat Trick is coming to the York Theatre on Saturday, December 5 at 10:00 AM. Admission is $5 and ticket proceeds benefit Chicago Blackhawks Charities and Variety Club of Illinois. Showings may include appearances by Blackhawks Ambassadors and the Blackhawks Street Team. Plus, the Blackhawks Store retail truck will be on hand so you can take home your very own copy of "Hat Trick". Sounds like a nice little event.  Ambassadors "may" appear?  Let's hope they do!

Elmhurst City Centre All Decked Out For the Holidays

The plaza in the Elmhurst City Centre is all dressed up for Christmas with a big tree and a bunch of polar bears in the fountain.

I took this photo on my way to the train this morning.

I'm this *the* tree for the City now?  We've gone to a tree lighting down by the Police Station on First Street in years past where the City had their official tree. this the tree they're going to light now?  Or still have that one down by the Police Station?

That's one thing that the City Centre really lacks:  a real gathering place.  Would be nice to have a sizeable place - like a park of some sort - that is in the downtown.  I know...we have Wilder Park just a few blocks away, but that's NOT in the City Centre.