Showing posts from 2016

This New Year's Eve...

That's solid advice to follow for NYE.  You can take that to mean that it's just fine to think about going to bed well before the Eastern Time Zone Midnight ball drop as I usually do.

Re-Elect Todd Scalzo For Wheaton City Council

A good friend of ours is running for re-election as the West District Councilman in Wheaton, Illinois.  His name is Todd Scalzo and you can find out more about him and his campaign here on his site.

Todd was first elected back in 2009 and has served the West District in Wheaton well over the past 8 years.  He's been endorsed by a strong and diverse set of stakeholders in Wheaton including the Wheaton Mayor Mike Gresk, many of his fellow Councilman and even members of the local school board.  You can review the full list of endorsements for Todd Scalzo here.

I first met Todd Scalzo back in the Spring of 1997 and have gotten to know him well over the past 20 years.  (Yikes!  I just realized that I have known Todd for more than half of my life!)  Some of you know that I too, spent time serving my local government as both a Village of Frankfort Trustee and as a Commissioner on the Frankfort Park District Board of Commissioners.  I know what it takes to make a difference on your hom…

Seasonal Treat: Anchor Steam's 42nd Annual Christmas Ale

Behold, the hard-to-find 2016 Anchor Christmas Ale!  Nat's brothers are *really* into this stuff and they have a big to-do every Christmastime when one of them comes home from LA and the other one migrates to the Suburbs from the city.  And, I have to tell you...when it comes to traditions, this is one of the good ones!

Each year, the fine folks at Anchor Steam come up with a new ale and tree on the label.  From their Christmas Ale page:
It is sold only from early November to mid–January. The Ale's recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. With a heavily guarded, secret recipe, Christmas Ale is a highly anticipated seasonal delight, complex and full in flavor with a velvety texture and alluring, yet subtle, spiced aroma. I've covered this bee…

Out With The Old Magic Bands

And in with the new?  Well...maybe?  Who knows at this point.  And, just like I posted in March, these bands are going to go in the circular file as I don't quite understand any reason what-so-ever to keep them around?   But same thing holds true - just like in March:  We're still not talking about any new ones.

The band above features Mary Poppins and Bert (or a reasonable, yet legally-conforming to a generic-enough-version-of-the-characters-so-the-creator-doesn't-get-sued) that I wore on my band on a trip earlier this fall.  I really liked this one and just like the other ones, this too came from

A peek through the archives show that I wore a Chewbacca one back last year.  I had a monorail one in the Spring of this year.    And there are more magicband posts on the tag page from over the years here.


Hard to believe that the Babe has hit seven years of age.  Went by in a blink.

And So It Ends...

There is ONE upside to this whole being out of our place because the owners of the house are home for Christmas stuff: I don't have to remove the tree.  My post-Christmas funk starts in earnest today, but the house construction will give me something to focus on for the next few months.

Merry Christmas - 2016

Like normal people, we're off opening presents in our matching pajamas followed by stuffing our pieholes with too much food.  Hope you get to spend today with the ones you love.  That's what I'm doing and I am grateful for every minute of today.  I love Christmas and with this being the last Christmas that we're celebrating NOT in our own house, this one - like they all are - is special in it's own way.

Our kids are growing up (The Babe) and just getting started (The King of the Ball Tossers) and Christmastime with them is so meaningful, despite their un-ending thirst for MORE PRESENTS!  

I'm even hoping for a good haul, which of course, I'll share here on the blog.

Oh, and that's a Storm Trooper Christmas Disney pin that I'll be wearing all day today!

Great Moments In History (But Just The American Parts!)

That right there is Fozzie Bear, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggie and Gonzo the Great (along with his chickens) in the windows above Liberty Square in Walt Disney World preforming what they call "Great Moments in History....but only the American ones!".  What you don't see is Sam Eagle, who sits in his own window (hole) in an adjacent building.

We stopped and watched the show a few times and we heard two different stories:  the Declaration of Independence and Paul Revere's ride.  They were really cute and the Muppets are a PERFECT addition to Liberty Square.  We've always just used Liberty Square as a kind of 'pass through' area of the Magic Kingdom.  Sure, we'd eat up their waffles and stop at the Christmas shop, but it was mostly a way to get to the Haunted Mansion or to the Hub.  Now, there's a reason to hang there.

I've stopped taking any sort of videos from Disney World because there are pros out there that get *much* better video than I ev…

Another Festivus Miracle!

'Tis the season, right?

Happy Festivus!

Yes, I posted this on the 22nd of December and that's one day early for Festivus, but a lot of you folks seem to read this blog via the email subscription, so I figured I'd author this piece with you in mind:  Happy Festivus!

I've written about Festivus before here on the blog.  In fact, back in 2010, there was a house in Elmhurst who used to put up a Festivus pole out front of their house.  I think that place has been renovated and a new family moved in?  But...whatever has happened, there's no pole any more.  Too bad.

There's also this post showing off the big "A" that the Atheists put up outside of City Hall where I lamented nobody having the dedication to petition the City or County for a Festivus Pole.

And last year, I marked the holiday that Frank Costanza created with a simple post and video clip.

This year, I intend to head to our friend Neil and Ashley's (somewhat) annual Festivus gathering where there will be no feats of strength.  And p…

Lionel Satellite Launching Car - Mantleburg Lines

Last week, I showed off the newest addition to the Mantleburg Line in the Target Launching Balloon car, but it wasn't the only new car we bought at the Christmas Train Show out in Wheaton a few weeks ago.  We also added this car above - that has some action just like the balloon car.  It is called the #3510 Satellite Launching Car and is part of the "Pre-War Celebration Series" of reproductions from some early 1940's cars.

That silver/metal-looking satellite launches up in the air when you position the car on on operating segment of track.  You can see it here (I've tee'd up this video to start at the right time) in action.

It does a very quick trip to the ceiling then down.  Adds some fun operating concepts to the train that takes it from running around in a oval to something that is a bit more interesting for the kids and makes them last a lot longer down in Papa's basement with their Christmas Trains.

Vintage Nikolai Volkoff - Now The Kids'...

Last Christmas, my parents moved out of their home down in Frankfort that I grew up in and lived all the way through my post-college years.   As part of that move, a bunch of items that my Mom had been 'keeping' for me came out of their attic and closets and ended up at our current place (and some in our storage unit).  Mixed in amongst the youth soccer trophies, press clippings and other artifacts of my childhood were a bunch of my 'wrasslers'.  That guy above - Nikolai Volkoff - is one of them.

These were my most favored toys in my entire childhood.  Like....nothing came close to them.  Until the Sega Genesis.  But before that, these things captivated me like nothing else.  More than Legos, more than even GI Joes.   It was these bendable wrestlers from the WWF.  I had so many of them and loved them.

And now, they're in the mix there amongst my kids toys.  I stick them in with their toys in their rooms.  The King of the Ball Tossers isn't into them yet and th…

First and York Construction Update - Elmhurst City Centre

It has been eight months since the storefronts down at the corner of First and York have sat gutted and boarded up.  I last posted about them here on the blog back in March.  And that's when the rumor mill was saying that it might end up being a Rosebud restaurant going in there.  But, I have no idea if that was real or just idle chatter.

Whomever is moving in, there's suddenly progress going on with the building.  In that photo above, you can see a crew working on the exterior installing steel beams that look like they'll be creating an awning/little roof of sorts that sticks out from the brick facade.  Anyone know what's going in this spot?  A guy can keep hoping for retail, right?

Update:Alderman Dannee Polomsky of the 3rd Ward pointed out to me this am via email that this location is for a new craft beer place run by 'Beer Pros' called Beerhead Bar and Eatery.  From the City of Elmhurst's site:
The City is excited to announce that Beerhead Bar & E…

Our Elf Got Confused

Our little Elf on the Shelf named Goldie gave the little treats that we give Lizzie a try and I don't think he liked them.

Naturally, he left the girls a little note with some friendly advice for Christmas Eve and Santa Claus.

(To be clear....Nat is the funny one in the family for those keeping track at home.  She continues to impress with her Elf-antics each morning.)

Wilderness Lodge Christmas Wreath Pin 2016

The fourth and final one of these Happy Holidays wreath pins from Disney resorts is this one from the Wilderness Lodge with Donald the Duck in his winter finest.

All of them are on these cute 'front door' cards, which I guess I just noticed after looking at all of them once again.  Turns out, if you go to this post and scroll all the way down to the bottom, the folks at Disney have released a total of 23 versions of this pin for different resorts at both WDW but also at DLR.  Looks like the Poly got Stitch in their's.

The four we came across is enough for our pin board!

Here's the AKL version.
Here's the Fort Wilderness version.
Here's the Boardwalk Inn version.

Window Washing @ Aon Center

Recently, I was standing in my office going through my email, listening to Stern, minding my own business when this dude dropped down on his scaffolding and proceeded to wash the windows 64 floors up at the Aon Building.

Not sure why I get such a kick out of this pretty intimate face-to-face interaction, but I do!  I posted a similar photo from my time at Google when I saw the window washer back in 2012 here on the blog.

This guy gave me a head nod and I then proceeded to give his equipment a once-over.  He was harnessed in but he didn't have the suction cups that connected his rig to the building like the guy back in 2012.

I have a HUGE fear of heights, so I don't know how these guys do this job.   Not only are they cold and wet, but they're dangling on a piece of aluminum by a few cords 64 floors up.  I guess there's some satisfaction in cleaning windows - what with seeing the job getting done in front of your eyes - but the height.  My GOD...the height.

2016 Boardwalk Resort Disney Wreath Pin

This Happy Holidays 2016 pin from Disney's Boardwalk Resort is the third in the series that we came across as we resort hopped.  The first one was from the Animal Kingdom Lodge with Pumba and the second one featured Chip and Dale from Fort Wilderness Campground.

The Boardwalk scored the big guy in Mickey the Mouse and was the hardest to find in their tiny little gift shop off the lobby.

New Addition to the Mantleburg Line: Lionel Target Launcher Car

Over the weekend, we took my Dad and the Gooz to the annual Christmas Train Show out at the DuPage County Fairgrounds to pick up a few things for everyone's Christmas Train layouts.  With so many boxcars already around, I'm only really interested in getting 'action cars' or 'operating cars' and that's why this "Lionel 6-19824 US Army Operating Target Launcher" car came home with us.

See that blue thing on the top of the car?  That is a fan/heater that blows air up through the top of the car and makes a balloon kind of 'hover' above the car.  Here's a quick video that shows the car in action.  It's called a 'target' car because there's a companion 'shooting' car that you can use to aim at the balloon.  Here's a short video that shows that action going on.  Alas, this time, we only got the balloon car, but there's always next year when we can pick up the shooting car, right?

A New Old Farmhouse

Well...we've got a plan.

After more than a year of moving out our our home and after a few false starts, we're about to start on the process that will end with us with a place to call our own.  Weather permitting, of course.

Wilderness Lodge Construction Disney Pin Set

As they continue to transform the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge into the Boulder Ridge Villas, there's quite a bit of construction at the hotel.  The views are altered, plenty of walkways are shut down and even some of the noise from constructing the villas is present when you're hanging out in your room in the Villa building.

So, as a small token of gratitude for folks putting up with the construction, the Mousekeeping service is placing these pins in your room upon check-in.  We moved rooms once, so we ended up getting two of these three sets of pins and the girls loved them!

The inside of this little book reads:
"Welcome Home and thank you for being our Guest.  We'd like to share our appreciation for your patience while we're working our magic around the Resort with these special keepsakes as our gift to you!" Even if you don't stay there, there's a good chance of getting these pins.  How?  Well...if you find yourself at the Wilderness…

WDW Transportation Cards

We've heard about 'transportation cards' at Walt Disney World, but up until this fall, we've never come across them.  They're supposed to be on buses and boats and such, but for the first time, a boat captain (who was in the military and stationed in Antartica!  yeah!  Antarctica!) decided to give the girls a set of cards that she had on hand.  They included the monorail one above and a few different boat ones like the 'motor launch' below.

According to this post on wdwfanzone, it appears that they've had 4 series of cards, the most recent of which were released in 2015.

On the back there's some character trivia and a bit of a FAQ on the vehicle.

These will likely go into the lunchbox with some of the Babe's best pins along with her Jungle Cruise pilot license.

Fort Wilderness Christmas Wreath Disney Pin 2016 (Chip and Dale)

Just a few days ago, I posted the Christmas pin from the Animal Kingdom Lodge here on the blog and now above you can spy a *very* similar pin from a stop at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground.   Same design, but instead of Pumba from the Lion King, we get Chip and Dale.

Back in November, I posted a photo of the menu of a Disney horse from the Tri-Circle-D Ranch from the stables at Fort Wilderness that I took during our little stop there.  I have some other photos from our visit that I'll post at some point including our dinner at the Hoop De Doo Revue.

Once the Babe picked up the AKL pin and we spotted other resorts having them, she made it her mission to convince me to go pick them up during our stops.  It wasn't too hard as you might imagine.  All in all, we picked up four of these type of pins from four different resorts that we hopped to during our trip.  Two down (AKL and Fort Wilderness).  Two to come (Boardwalk and Wilderness Lodge).

Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic Visit - 2016

Last weekend, we braved the crowds and attended Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic event that they put on each Christmas season.  And when I say 'crowds', I'm not referring to the crowds in the actual zoo.  Nope.  They're quite manageable.

But what isn't usually manageable?  The traffic congestion that accompanies this event at the zoo.

I posted about our visit to Holiday Magic ahead of Christmas 2013 here and I believe that we took 2014 off based on that visit.  That time, we drove to the Zoo - which took about 20 minutes.  Then proceeded to sit in our car in traffic just trying to get into the parking lot for more than an hour.  Seriously.

This time, however, wasn't as bad.  Maybe because we went in early December?  Or, maybe because Nat's a member and knows about the South Gate?  It still was backed up, but instead of taking 60+ minutes, this time it was more like 20 minutes.

We bundled all three kids up (2 in the stroller) and walked around to see th…

Animal Kingdom Lodge Happy Holidays Disney Pin - 2016

And now comes the time on the blog where I get to document some of the pins we picked up on a recent trip down to Walt Disney World.  The first one up is this "limited edition" Happy Holidays pin from the Animal Kingdom Lodge that features Pumba in a 'liftable' wreath.

We stayed at the AKL for just one night with a Savannah view and it was great!  Wish we could have spent more time exploring the resort and taking it all in, but it worked for our family.  We took a shot at the night vision goggles and even watched some night-time feedings from our balcony.  The bonus?  A view of the Hollywood Studios fireworks over the top of the trees.

Wall Calendars - Turned Over to December 2016

Well, at least the University of Illinois one was turned to December.  The Pixar one was already in December by accident!  Check out last months post where the photo shows December already showing.  Whoops.

I don't seem to have posted in December of 2015, so there's no ranking to compare against, so we'll just have to close out this year with a push.  If I don't get any wall calendars for Christmas, this monthly diary will come to a close.  And that's just fine with me.

For those keeping track like I am (Which, we all know is nobody!):
January took 8 days to put up the calendar. I don't think I was tracking January last year. So let's call it a wash. (+0 Days)February took 16 days to put up the calendar. In 2015, I turned it over on the 17th. (-1 Days better)March took 8 days this year. In 2015, I turned them on the 10th. Posted on the 11th. So...that makes it -2 days better.April took just 7 days. I didn't post last April. new net days.May too…

Lionel Pluto Walking Brakeman Boxcar

Three kids and now three Disney-themed Lionel O-Gauge train cars for the year.  First was the 75th Anniversary Dumbo boxcar for the King of the Ball Tossers then there was 50th Anniversary Winnie the Pooh Boxcar for the Bird and now above you see a Winter Wishes Pluto 'walking brakeman' boxcar with Santa Minnie and Mickey on the side.  (Here's a quick video that shows what a typical walking brakeman car does.)

This car is in the beautiful non-orange Disney Railroad Lionel packaging, just like the other two.   We set up the kid's Christmas train last weekend at Papa's house and based on the cars that they picked to run on the Mantleburg line, these all will be in heavy rotation next year.

Our Front Yard Tree - 2016 Edition

Last night, Indiana Street in Elmhurst looked like a winter wonderland.  With the big snowfall, we went out to clean the sidewalks and driveway and while I was out there, I snapped this photo of our Front Yard Tree.  This is the seventh Elmhurst Front Yard tree that I've posted on the blog and the second one in front of Vic and Equation Boy/Man's house down the street from our old place.

Although you may not be able to tell, this year's tree is a really nice-sized tree in terms of height.  I put one strand of C9 LEDs on it, but Nat didn't think it was bright enough, so she went out and picked up two more strings of C9 LEDs and now there's 150 lights on that thing.

Here's the post showing our 2015 tree out front of Equation Boy/Man's house.
Here's the post from our 2014 tree out front of our old house (sad face).
Here's my post from our 2013 tree.
There's no snow in the photo of our 2012 tree.
Here's my post from our 2011 tree.
Here's my…

Red Grange Mini Replica Statue - Acquired

Back in 2011, I posted here on the blog about how the University of Illinois Athletic Department was rolling out a limited number (just 77 of them.  Get it?  Grange was #77??) mini replica statues of the famous (and massive) Red Grange statue that sits on the west side of Memorial Stadium. But they were $4800.  Wowsa.  Obviously, I passed.
Fast forward to this fall and the Athletic Department announced that for Homecoming they were going to give away smaller replica statues to the first 5000 fans who entered Memorial Stadium for the game against the Minnesota Gophers.  
We weren't heading to Homecoming, so I figured I would have to hop on Ebay to find one of these to sit on my desk.  Welp, the first few weeks after the giveaway, there were a few statues popping up on Ebay, but the auctions were driving the prices pretty high (at least for me!) and I just stayed on the sidelines.  
But, I kept 'watching' auctions and I finally found one that looked like it was going to st…

Hop Aboard The Carolwood Pacific

Last Friday, I posted some images from the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from the trainroom that featured Walt's Carolwood Pacific line.  In looking through some photos from that same visit, I found this one above that shows Walt himself riding the very Carolwood Pacific line.  Sure, the train line and track layout is neat, but look at that berm?!?  And all the variation in his elevations.  According to Forbes, it was four acres (and they apparently built a new massive house in 2001), so he had plenty of space to spread out.  A guy can wish, right?

Our Christmas Tree - 2016 Edition

This year, we went back to our normal variety of tree:  the Fraser Fir.  And we sized it a bit more appropriate for the space.  Here's last year's post showing the tree we brought home that was a Douglas Fir.

And, once again, we put up our tree, not in our house, but in the house of Equation Boy/Man and my sister Vic, who are graciously putting us up for another holiday season.

If you look at last year's post and scroll down you'll see a photo of the Babe putting our angel on top of the tree.  In the background, you can also see the trim casing that sits above the opening between the family room and dining room.  When you look there, you can clearly see that the angel is sitting *below* that casing - meaning the tree was short.

Look at the photo above.  The angel - who is MIA - would be sitting well above that same casing.  Much better sized.  The angel?  I *think* I know where she is, but will have to wait until next weekend to know if we found her or not.

While we…

#TBT To Me in Kindergarten

We were at my folk's house over the weekend where the kids helped add all the ornaments to Noonie's Christmas tree and help set up Papa's Lionel Christmas Train.  One of the ornaments that the girls brought to my attention was this one above:  me in Kindergarten from 1983.  Lots of blonde hair in my bowl cut....what a dude!  I have the sneaking suspicion that the King of the Ball Tossers is going to look an awfully lot like this in just a few short years.  (Hopefully, with half Nat's genes in him, he'll be a lot cuter, smarter and kinder than his old man!  And...if I'm hoping, I might as well hope for a punter, too, right??)

As for my Dad's Christmas Train:  Since we're staying at Equation Boy/Man's house, we haven't set up our train for a few years and with my parents moving into their new place with a HUGE basement, my Dad had designs on a new layout for this year's holiday season.  I went to one of our storage units and climbed on top of…

The Boathouse - Coaster Collection

It has been a few months, but I'm now adding this Boathouse coaster to the Coaster Collection here on the blog.  We ate outside on the pier and I had a preetay preetay preetay great Wedge.  This place has been opened in Disney Springs for more than a year but this was the first time we found time to head there and try it out.  Nat tells me that there's a Gibson's connection, and that's what explains the Wedge and the giant desserts.

This is just the 13th in the Coaster Collection.  Figured it was far better and less pack-rat-y to take a photo of them than to actually (as my instinct is) horde them.

March Of The First Order

Just as we were entering the park, these guys came along and marched right in front of us.  Lead by Captain Phasma, I think they went all the way to the hub/center of Hollywood Studios with the good Darth Vader music blasting.  The kids loved it.  And this gives just a small/little glance of what the future of this park will look like in just a few years when Star Wars land opens.

Menards Black Friday 2016

As I've done in the past, this year, I went out early in the morning on Black Friday.   And I went to my favorite store:  Menards.  Yes.  That's right.  I'm guilty.  I was up and out of the house before six am and stood in lines for junk at Menards.  With all of these people.

I wrote about my Black Friday experiences before here on the blog.

I was a total zoo.  This is at the new Menards in Melrose Park, so it was the first time I've done Black Friday there, but it was more packed and the people were more aggressive than I've seen in year's past.  By the time I entered the store, all the shopping carts were gone and it was Lord of The Flies time.  People were grabbing garbage cans, buckets and even big cardboard boxes (see the woman in front of me in the line in the photo above with a big box) and jamming all the junk that Menards was peddling in them.

The biggest sellers?  It seemed that there was yelling and screaming and huge crowds around some…

The Diet Of A Disney Horse

John, a Percheron horse, gets two meals at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Fort Wilderness down in Orlando.  We wandered around the Fort one night waiting for Hoop De Doo to start and spent some in the stables checking on the facilities and seeing the horses.  Neat stuff and can't believe we had not done this before.

He seems to live on Coastal Hay, which a quick Google search tells me that Coastal Hay isn't crazy expensive/exclusive stuff.  Just normal horse food.  Kinda expected more from Disney?  Maybe I'm wrong?  And Coastal Hay is fancy horse food?

Snowing On Hollywood Boulevard

One of the prettiest sights these eyes have ever seen:  snow falling on the beautifully decorated Hollywood Boulevard while some appropriate-era Christmas song is playing over the loudspeakers.

We were told about this 'snow' by my friend Adam and he recommended this time of year for a visit.  We've taken him up on his recommendation a few times now and it never gets old.

Carolwood Pacific Train Cars @ Wilderness Lodge

If you find yourself down in Orlando at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, take a moment to head over to the Villas - which have been recently renamed the Boulder Creek Villas - and go to the "train room".  There, you'll see a bunch of stuff from the Carolwood Pacific train line.  That's the line that ran in Walt Disney's backyard.  

They have two of the cars there that you can check out:

I took some other photos of the train room (it is a neat space with a roaring fireplace and lots of comfy chairs) that I'll post at some point.  But these two cars, and the box they're in - which has a tramp art style to it - are the stars of the show.  Take the ten minutes after your meal in the Lodge to wander over to the Villas to check them out.  Neat stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016 - Via The Last Waltz

The 13th year here on the blog where we mark Thanksgiving day not with the parade or the Turkey Trot (although those are both usually present!), but with the boys from The Band and The Last Waltz.

And, this is the 10th post (that I can locate), but the first one was back in 2004.  There are 3 years missing (2006, 2008, 2009).

We're marking the occasion in Vic + Equation Boy/Man's house and this *should* be the last Thanksgiving we're here and the final one NOT in our own house.

"Happy Thanksgiving."  And a condensed version of 'Don't do it'.  Which they play like it is their own.

Here's my post from 2015 on The Last Waltz.
Here's my post from 2014 on The Last Waltz.
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

Lemax Twas The Night House - Christmas Village at Menards

Released in 2015, this building from Lemax is called "Twas the Night" and has all the bells and whistles that Lemax offers including lights, music and interior scenes.  It even has Santa in the house with his reindeer awaiting him on the roof.  Here's the official product page.

Unfortunately for Mantleburg, there's a moratorium on residential construction in place until they get more businesses or the train station in place.