Showing posts from 2017

Another Year of Blogging - Resolved 2017

Another year in the books and another set of 365 posts.  Hard to believe that we've put another year in the books.  It was quite a year for our family.  New home.  New town.  Same awesome crew. 

This marks the 365th post of the year here on this blog.   Dozens of posts on the family blog, too.

Here's to a great 2018.  Who knows...maybe we'll even update the wings list?

Driveway: Blown Clear of Snow

I was gifted this leaf blower upgrade for Christmas this year and with the thin, light powder that came down this week, it was a perfect time to try blowing the snow away.  No back strain.  No work involved, actually.  Worked really well.  Won't do the trick when the heavy stuff comes down, but for now?  Loved it.

Kirschbaum's Bakery - Pre-Christmas, Pre-Opening Wait

This year, the day fell on a Saturday.  I was #6 in line.  I snapped this photo on my way out after I picked up my baked goods for the holidays.  In and out with a pre-order.  That's the way to roll.  Still a lot of fun to be part of the circus there in Western Springs,

Noses Pressed Against The Glass

@ Marshall Field's.  Like I did when I was a kid.

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs

I would stay at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs 10 out of 10 times.  I posted about my stay at the Broadmoor back at the beginning of the month when I added it to the coaster collection.  As I mentioned in that post, I only stayed one night at the hotel and it was far too short of a stay.  I arrived late in the evening after dinner and headed out for an early flight in the am.  But, I woke up early and strolled some of the property to take it all in. 

It is a special place
When Spencer and Julie Penrose opened The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, the master plan was to create a place where European elegance met Western hospitality in the perfect blend of style and service excellence. More than nine decades later, their vision is intact and their dream is still alive. Since The Broadmoor opening, it has been the destination of a long list of presidents, statesmen, foreign dignitaries and celebrities. I *do* love a good, historic hotel.  And once I found out that the folks that …

Manspreading on American Airlines

Listen...I'm not a little guy.  And I know that the airlines don't make it great for any of us flying these days.  But, on a recent trip, I had a dude doing what I think the kids these days are calling "Manspreading" on me that I had to snap a photo.  You can see above that my legs are the darker denim.  And I'm in the aisle seat.  The dude next to me - in the lighter color jeans - has his leg spread so far part that you can see how he has it past not just what I'll call the 'dividing line' of the armrest in front of us, but he's encroaching on my seat-back pocket.

This is too far for someone - even in the middle seat - to go, right?  I mean...I ceded the armrest to the dude.  That's the responsible thing to do for someone in the middle, right?  But this?  I don't abide.

Merry Christmas - 2017

What a lucky guy I am today.  Waking up with my wife and pretty awesome kids to have a little coffee cake and watch the joy roll across their faces.  Clark - the 'ultimate family man' - has nothing on this guy!
Hope you and yours has a great Christmas.  There's nothing better than late in the day on Christmas, when all the activities have run their course and there's just some time to sit and rest.  And think about how wonderful the world can be sometimes.  

My Favorite (Christmas) Things - 2017 Edition

Happy Christmas, everyone!  Today is my favorite day of the year and has been so since I was just a little one growing up in Frankfort.  So, in that spirit, I thought I would resurrect a blogging tradition from years ago.  Back in 2009, 2010 and 2011, I posted an annual "Favorite Things Christmas-edition" here on the blog.  Many of those lists had up to ten different things on them.  This year, the list will be shorter - half in fact.  So let's get to it.

1.  This compilation video of Darlene Love singing her mega hit "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on Letterman over the years.   Pardon my ignorance, but I didn't even know this was a thing?  She's did it for almost 30 years!  Here's the oral history of the annual performance that is worth reading after you watch this below. 

2.  Growing a Christmas Amaryllis.  Earlier in December, I posted this comparison between a bulb we bought at Wannemakers vs. one I bought at Menards.  The Menards one has b…

Happy Festivus to All...

"Alright everybody....I'm back!"

I'm posting this on the actual day - December 23rd - unlike year's past when I posted it on the 22nd.  That was mostly because of the readers who come via email subscriptions.  Here's last year's Festivus postHere's the post from 2015.  And all the way back in 2011, I posted a photo of a house in Elmhurst who had erected a Festivus pole and sign in their front yard.  Oh, a guy can dream, right?

See you at Mitch and Ashley's for the 'Feats of Strength' tonight?

Dallas Trip - Sixth Floor Museum

I made a trip down to Dallas earlier this month for a work thing and one evening, after dinner had ended, I asked the door guy at our hotel how far the 'grassy knoll' was and he pointed down the street and told me it was about six blocks away. I went walking. 

It was a nice evening and sure enough, after walking for a bit, I came across this seven story building.  That has a very famous sixth floor.  I had been to Dallas with my Mom and Dad back when I was in High School and we took the tour of the museum (and even went out for the night to BillyBob's in Ft. Worth), so I have experience down there.  This time, I arrived after the museum was closed, but it was still a nice experience. 

I didn't go down to the Grassy Knoll, but did stand at the corner and visualized that film that we've all seen thousands of time.

Every time one of these cars raced under the bridge, I could picture the vintage, grainy footage of the limo racing off.  Kinda neat to see this…

Lionel Flag Pole - 6012989 With Blue Flag

More buildings and accessories are springing up on the Mantleburg line.  In addition to the American Flyer bridge that I posted about yesterday and the Plasticville Town Hall that we bought at the Christmas Train Show out in Wheaton, we also bought this Lionel Flag pole that features both the American flag and a Lionel flag standing at attention.  As you can see on the box, they are showing a red Lionel pennant under the American Flag, but when we opened it up, it was flying a blue Lionel pennant. 

Just poking around on the web, it seems that's common?  Here's a listing showing the exact setup with red on the box and blue inside

Seems like the new Mantleburg Town Hall could use a flagpole outside, right?  Wonder if we can make up a little "Village of Mantleburg" flag and run it right under the Lionel flag?  Of course, we'd follow Roman Mars lead and be good vexillologists and come up with a quality flag with no words on it, right?

Lackawanna Girder Bridge - American Flyer

I picked up this Lackawanna girder bridge at the same Christmas train show that I bought the Plasticville Town Hall building earlier this month and we are going to add it to the Mantleburg line this week.  This isn't a Lionel part, but rather this is made by American Flyer.  I think this might be the first American Flyer part that we've acquired.  It was just $5, but looking at the various listings on Ebay and Etsy, they're mostly listed for between $40 and $50.  So...thinking we scored a deal.

The sticker itself is cool, right?  Shows it was made by The A.C. Gilbert Company in New Haven, Connecticut, USA.  Who knew...but...The Gilbert Company invented the erector set!  They owned American Flyer from 1938 to 1966, but I can't quite figure out when they put out this bridge.  From the sounds of it, I would guess it happened sometime after the 1946 post-war startup and like the mid-1950's when things slowed down before their founder died in 1961

We have a large spa…

Google Storyboard App - Cute Stuff

Google released this "appsperiment" called Storyboard that takes your videos and makes these cute comic book-style images.  There isn't much more to do than that and sometimes you get something garbled and sometimes you get some cute stuff like this one with the Babe, the Bird and the King of the Ball Tossers with the Big Guy.  
It is Android only, so all you iphone suckers are out of luck.  

Vintage Christmas Display at Naper Settlement

Sure, you can go out to Naper Settlement for the Christkindl market and get some searing hot chocolate and pick up a cuckoo clock and ornament from some booths.  And that'd be just fine.  In fact, that's what we did a few weekends ago.  It was a great time.  But, do yourself a favor and ask for the main building where the bathrooms are located.  (skip the porta-potties!)

Inside that building, you'll see a setup of a 1950's home all trimmed out for Christmas morning.  Along with some display cases of decorations and toys from the period.  Above and below you can see one of the cases with little vintage Christmas figures (we have the lady on top!  And some "NOEL" angels that are similar but not exactly the same.) and some toys that kids in the 1950's were getting under the tree.

In another corner, they have this little vignette set up that shows toys like Tiddly winks and a riding horse that are typical from the period.

They also have some specialized disp…

Lionel Plasticville Hall - Mantleburg Line

Last week, I posted a photo of the Schlitz Lionel O Gauge billboard that I scored at the Christmas Train Show out in Wheaton and hinted that we bought a few more things.  Today, you see one of those:  Plasticville Hall.  The version that I bought was fully assembled as you see it here and decorated by someone with some garland and a wreath over the front door.  It is all doll'd up for Christmas time.  And that's part of the appeal here for me:  we only set up the Mantleburg Line as our traditional Christmas train. 

We have enough cars and rolling stock for Mantleburg, but we don't have that many accessories or buildings or structures, so that's what I've been focusing on at the show.  I've come across some of these Plasticville structures and they never appealed to me.  But for some reason (I'm pretty sure it is the garland and wreath!?!?), this one called out to me.  Five dollars later, it was coming home with us. 

Turns out, the one we bought is the origi…

Christmas Amaryllis Comparison - Menards vs. Wannamaker's bulbs

What you see in the two closest pots to the front of the photo are amaryllis bulbs.  In different states of growth.  On the left is a $14 bulb that I bought at Wannamaker's.  On the right - the bulb that is *barely* sticking out of the dirt is a $3 bulb that I bought at Menards.  I planted them at pretty close to the same time but they're at drastically different places in their growth cycle.  The Wannamaker's one seemed expensive at the time, but now I'm thinking it was money well spent compared to the dud that is the bulb from Menards.  I planted the Menards bulb in the puck of dirt that they sent with the bulb, but chose potting soil for the big one.  I threw out the plastic pot from Menards and put it in a pot that drains.  But...the coir (I think that's what the disk that expands of 'dirt' is called?) is contributing to the lack of growth?  That might be part of it, but there's clearly a difference between the two, right?  Like...the $14 bulb is j…

One of Our Vintage Santas - As Seen on TV

There I was:  sitting in my office one evening doing some work and mindlessly watching one of my favorite shows 'American Pickers' on the TV.  I looked up from my laptop and notice that Frank Fritz has picked up a Santa.  I know I've seen it before.  I pause and rewind and sure enough.....I *know* that Santa that Frank has in his hands!
It is one that Nat picked up at an antique sale somewhere over the past few years.  He's now proudly displayed in the front entryway of our #newoldfarmhouse.  Check him out below.  He's awfully cute taking a nap in his big chair:

This piece survived and is proudly displayed.  But....with our new house and fresh slate in terms of decorations, we've gone through some growing pains with our vintage Christmas collection.  Nat has, wisely, parsed some of 'finds' and has decided that we can't keep all of them ourselves.  Of all the pieces that she decided weren't a fit, some of them have been re-housed with family (th…

Marshall Field's Walnut Room Mug Year 2000 - Mr. and Mrs. Santabear

Here's a vintage Christmas pro-tip:  Head to your local Goodwill about two weeks after Thanksgiving and you'll come across an abundance of Christmas decorations that people have discarded.  It works something like this:  Friday after Thanksgiving, people decorate their houses.  By Saturday or Sunday, the 'remnants' (as I call them) are still sitting in the tubs and people have decided that certain things didn't make the cut.  That can be ornaments.  Or figures.  Or garland.  Or lights.  Or...on occasion, Marshall Field's Walnut Room Christmas mugs. 

That's how I came across this Walnut Room Mug from 2000 that features Santa Bear getting married.  Yeah...getting married?!?!?  I don't know the details, but I'm guessing that the folks at Marshall Field's were trying to introduce a female Santa Bear?  So they got Santa Bear married to Mrs. Santa Bear.  Kinda like how Disney introduced Duffy first, then moved on to adding ShellieMay the female versi…

Adolphus Hotel - Added to Coaster Collection

A week or so ago, I posted a coaster from the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs here in the [coaster collection] that made it the #21.  Today is another sweet hotel - the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas - that is now #22.  I stayed at the Adolphus for a few nights and had a huge room.  I guess I shouldn't expect anything less down in Texas, right?  I have a soft spot in my heart for vintage, old-fashioned hotels and the Adolphus lived up to it's billing.

Schlitz Lionel Billboard from Christmas Train Show

Over the weekend, we went out to Wheaton to attend the Great Midwest Train Show with my Dad for our annual visit.  We go every December to look through the tables and I get a big shot of nostalgia as I recall the trips to the train show that I took with my Dad when I was just a little one.  We always come home with some nice loot from the vendors and this year is no different. 

Above you can see a Lionel billboard with a Schlitz Beer card inside of it with the 1974 date on the bottom.  Just $1, too, which makes it all the more sweeter.  We scored a few other items that I'll post here on the blog this week, but this billboard is my favorite item.

We haven't had time to set up the Mantleburg line this year (shameful, I know), but when we do, this will go perfectly trackside next to some of the other accessories.  I also posted about some animated billboards that I picked up earlier this year here on the blog, but I don't remember if I bought one for Mantleburg or not.


Krinner Tree Genie XXL - Game Changer for Christmas Tree Stands

There are a few things in my world that I geek out about:  Disney World.  Pizza.  And Christmas.  I like everything about Christmas and even have a tub of shirts that we drag out that contains *just* Christmas shirts.  Part of one of our Christmas traditions is going down to the Tammen Treeberry Farm and cutting down a tree for our house.  Here's a post from 2010 that talks about that trip.  I also included the Tammen Treeberry Farm on my "favorite holiday things" list of 2010 and 2012.  
This year, we cut down two trees for our #newoldfarmhouse - which is one more than we normally do.  And that meant that we needed a second tree stand.  I went to the Wirecutter - where they (of course) have a piece comparing various standsThey recommended the Krinner Tree Genie XXL

They bill it thusly:
A unique design makes clamping a tree in the Krinner far easier than any kind of stand we’ve found. The Krinner grips the tree trunk with five claws that you tighten by stepping on …

Walt Disney Quote: It is my wish to delight all members of the family....

Yesterday, I posted another in the series of Walt Disney quotes on construction signs down at Walt Disney World in Florida.  All of them are sponsored by Stanley.'s another one.  This one hits me right in the belly because it is a big part of the reason why we keep going back:  The joy that I get to share with my children.  Together.  
This now has become a 'thing' on the blog where I can document the various versions of the construction signs at WDW.  This one, in particular was located on the same walk as this other longer Walt quote where the Skyway construction is going on outside of Hollywood Studios.  

Walt Disney: I want them to feel they're in another world

We spotted this sign on the walk from the Boardwalk to Hollywood Studios that features the longest Walt Disney quote of all of the signs that I've documented here on the blog.   And sums up the whole "Disney Bubble" phenomenon.

Hereare a fewothers.

Boyfriends of Instagram: Disney World Edition

Do you guys follow Boyfriends of Instagram?  Besides all the pizza nerdery that I follow on (as the kids say...) Insta, my favorite account *has* to be Boyfriends of Instagram.  For those of you new to this handle, it is a place where people share images and videos of people forced to take ridiculous instagram photos of their girlfriend/spouse/partner/friend/etc.

So, when I came across this weird situation right in front of Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom down at Walt Disney World, I knew that I had witnessed a 'Boyfriends of Instagram' moment myself!

Check out what this Dad (I'm assuming??) is doing to get *that* special photo of his daughter in her big, Princess dress.   This is taking place up the ramps that are open sometimes, like right in front of the opening that you take to go 'under' the Castle.  During a super busy time.  You can see all the other people just walking past trying to experience the Castle.  All the while....Dad is being a hero,…

Lionel Santa & Snowman Tag Boxcar -2017

The folks at TrainWorld just shipped a few of my 2017 Christmas Catalog pre-orders including this one:  the 2017 Santa and Snowman Tag Boxcar.  The box is not a normal O Gauge train box from Lionel, but a two piece top/bottom orange box.  The front of it only reveals the blue boxcar.  But once you open it up?

You see this:

That's the boxcar with the platform on top, Santa, Frosty and the 'bridge' that you put up for the boxcar to pass under.

Here's the side of the box with all the product details. 

I haven't set up our track yet, nor can I find this year's model being run on YouTube, but I *did* find this older version that gives you a sense for how it works.  Kinda cute, right?

Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Pretzel Twist Assortment

Have you had these pretzels yet?  They're a fast-emerging 'favorite thing' of mine this Holiday season that I'm certain will make this year's list.  And, unfortunately, they quickly disappeared once they arrived in our pantry.  The peppermint and almond one?  Awesome.  The sprinkles one?  Fine, but always the last tray to empty.  I've mentioned to Natalie like four times that the 'next time you go to TJ's, can you buy more of these???', but it appears that they might be sold out already because our rations haven't been restocked.  Or perhaps it was the fact that I/we devoured these in four days that she's purposely not rebuying?

Moon Over Washington Street - Chicago

Caught this moon showing up strong just as the sun was setting on a walk to the train one evening.  Nat alerted me to the moon based on her view in the suburbs and sure enough, framed right down the valley of high rises and above the Gehry pavilion:  there she is!  Lots of buzz around the Christkindl market and theatre crowds arriving for early dinners, but it was still worth stopping and enjoying.

The Broadmoore - Added to the Coaster Collection

Now entering #21 in the [Coaster Collection] here on the blog.  This one from The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. a delightful place.  Turns out, it is owned by the same folks who own Heaven errr...Sea Island.    That explains a lot.  I have a few photos of my stay (which was entirely too short) that I'll post up here on the blog with more details at some point.

The most recent coaster prior to this one was Abracadabar down on the Disney Boardwalk.

You can find the full coaster collection here.

Tower of Terror - Look, Ma! No Kids!

That's a shot of Nat and I on the Tower of Terror down in Orlando at Walt Disney World.  It was taken at mile 10 of the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon.  And it was the first time that I had ever been on the ride.   Under normal circumstances, I would have been able to fend off the pressure from Nat to ride on something like this, but perhaps it was the half-marathon brain fog that weakened me and dropped my defenses. 

I pity the person who had to sit in my seat after we left.  I was soaked at this point from the humidity and my back was starting to seize up.  I left a pool of sweat behind, I'm sure.  You can also see the other people to Nat's right that were running the race, too.  The dude looks like he's reading his phone, though?  Total pro move, I guess?

Leaf Shower in Downers Grove This Fall

One morning in the past few weeks, I witnessed this weird event:  a tree in the front yard was shedding all of it's leaves at once.  Check out what seems like a shower of leaves falling.  One right after the other.  You can see from the pattern on the ground that this tree was dropping them all in a matter of minutes while the other trees still are holding on to theirs. 

You can also notice that there's frost on the roof across the street from us and I *think* that this might have been the first frost?  Could that have set off this reaction?

Dilly Dilly

Via the Kansas City Star:
...But “Dilly Dilly” wasn’t a pure stroke of genius out of thin air. According to, the origins of “dilly” are in a shortening of the word “delightful” or “delicious,” probably from the 1930s. On its own, it has come to mean “something or someone regarded as remarkable or unusual.” File this one away next to the "It's Wednesday, Gary."  "I know that Janet" one as gold.

Our Front Yard Christmas Tree - 2017 Downers Grove Edition

We brought just a little bit of Indiana Street with us to Downers. 

Over the weekend, we put up our trees inside the house, but we also went to Menards and bought a small 5' Fraser Fir to put up in our front yard.  Just like we did on Indiana Street.  Starting with our first Christmas in Elmhurst (in our first house), we participated in the tradition of erecting a 'front yard tree' along with our neighbors.  My sister Vic told us about the tradition before we moved in and sure enough, we fell in love.  The street(s) always looked so great when all of the homes had a uniquely-styled and lighted tree. 

You can see the C7 bulbs I put on our tree this year out in front of our #newoldfarmhouse.  Nat did a great job doing 'classy' decorations on the porch with garland and lights.  And wreaths in the windows that you can see above. 

So, while we have moved out of Indiana Street, we still wanted to bring some of that tradition with us in our new digs.  So, right now, we&#…