Showing posts from August, 2017

Fir Tree With Purple Cones On Twin Lakes

Up in Twin Lakes, there is a row of fir trees in the side/rear yard close to the property line. least I *think* they're fir trees.  I'm no conifer expert, so they might be spruce trees?  Chime in here if you know for sure.  Anyway...they were there when we arrived and they provide a good amount of screening.  And I never thought about them too much until I was recently walking by them as I dragged a tube from the garage to the pier and notice something pretty incredible about them:  They have purple cones.  

They're pretty tightly wound up cones, but they're definitely purple.  A little bit of searching says that they might be Picea purpurea or they might be Korean Fir - Abies koreana.  Either way, they're pretty great to look at up there right now.  I'll keep an eye on the cones to see if they turn from purple to brown as they dry out and drop.

Inflatable Blinking Halloween Owl - Menards

Just yesterday, I posted another photo of Menards Halloween setup with two of the kids and I've already covered a few of the Spooky Town structures.  But, there's a few things that we've bought already that have me giddy with Halloween excitement.  I'll share the bigger things in another post, but first, check out the newest inflatable to our crew:

He blinks!?! Yeah.  And this one is definitely not a budget buster and there was just one box remaining on the shelves, so I *had* to buy it, right?  It remains to be seen where Nat will allow me to put up the inflatables at the #newoldfarmhouse.  In year's past, we've always kept most of our holiday-related freakiness (aka inflatables!) in the backyard.  This one is too cool to be hidden from the public, right?

And, say what you want about Halloween Creep, but the fact that this was the last one of these things at Menards tells me that consumers are ok with Halloween stuff despite it being August.

Menards Halloween - 2017

Last week, I posted a photo of part of the Menards Halloween section, but it didn't include the kids.  Here's a post with a photo to correct that omission.

That's The Bird's "scared face" she says.   And yes, that is a 10' tall pumpkin inflatable in the cart.  You have a good eye!

Here's kids at Menards Halloween 2016.
Here they are in 2012.

Spooky Town Grim Reaper's Department Store

Last week, I showed off the first 2017 Lemax Spooky Town structures at Menards in their new Halloween display.  That one was animated and was called Ghostly Manor.  Today, I'm posting a few photos of another large structure called The Grim Reaper's Department Store.  This one is in stock at Menards and is listed for $69.99.  Mantleburg doesn't have a department store, but I'm not sure that the Mayor is going to annex this one, despite the uptick in sales tax revenues that would certainly come along with it.

This particular structure doesn't move or isn't animated, but it does have it's own, original soundtrack (with announcements and noises and such) and it has some interesting lighting effects.

Here's the video from the Lemax YouTube Channel, where you can see the lights and hear the sounds.

Derailed German Train - Epcot World Showcase

It isn't everyday that you come across the Epcot Germany train laying on it's side, right?  Is this a metaphor for Epcot in general?  Or at least for Future World?  

Pirate Pete Disney Pin

One of the girls traded for this Pirate Pete pin and I love it.  It is nice sized and not a scrapper, but it features Pete, Mickey's foil all dressed up in a pirate get-up with pirate Mickey.  It is technically not the ONLY Pirate Pete pin, but since this one is Pirates of the Carribean-related, I think it is a nice cross-over between Mickey and the movie.  No hidden Mickey, but that's fine by me.  This listing says it is from 2011.


Gary, where are you???

Lemax Spooky Town Ghostly Manor

Just yesterday, I posted the first photo of the Menards Halloween setup.  I tagged it "Halloween Creep" and put it in that category on the blog here, but I don't think that concept has broken through in a similar way that it has with people talking about the concept of "Christmas Creep" in the media and online.  As I've talked about in the past, the topic of Christmas Villages and the associated world of holiday miniature villages isn't something that I'm particularly proud of, but it *is* something that totally fascinates me.  I mean...we *do* have a town called Mantleburg after all.  But, with the moves and temporary living situations/holidays at my in-laws place in Naperville, Mantleburg hasn't even made an appearance - let alone grow or annex new structures into the community.

Historically, the Mayor of Mantleburg has always taken a stand against Spooky Town and said that he's drawing a line at the holiday of Christmas, so we've ne…

Menards Halloween Is Up - 2017

This past weekend marked the turning of the Menards seasonal store inventory over from Summer/back-to-school to Halloween stuff.  And it is the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year!  I've chronicled this transition to Halloween in years past including 2016 here.  2015 here.  And 2012 is here.

Now that we've moved to Downers Grove, we don't have a Menards super close any longer - but we have two (Bolingbrook and Glendale Heights) that are the same 15 or 20 minute drive away.  The photo I took above is from Bolingbrook - which is an older-style store.  But their Halloween section is pretty robust and goes well beyond this Halloween Village set-up from Lemax.  Blowmolds and inflatables?  They have a bunch of them including a blinking-eye owl that I have my eye on.   Our new neighbors are going to love the Inflatable City, aren't they?  In Elmhurst, Nat was totally fine with inflatables in the backyard, but drew the line at the front of the house.  Guessing w…

The Cheeses of Via Napoli

One of the better meals (for me, at least) in Epcot's World Showcase is a pizza pie in the Italy pavilion at Via Napoli.  We've dined there a few times and I've always enjoyed the meal and the show.  The show, you ask?  Yeah....the show.  
In this case, the show is the open kitchen where the pizzaiolos stretch the dough, dress their skins and get them in and out of the ovens.   Like a kid in the Marshall Field's windows at Christmastime, I press my nose against the glass and stare at them assembling and baking the pies for everyone.  Nat will tell you that this isn't an uncommon sighting; just about every pizza place that we go to that has an open kitchen/oven, I'll find time to watch the goings ons.  
On this visit to Via Napoli, I was drawn to the cheese bins and the labels that they had applied to them.  The photos you see here are taken from my perspective, so that's why the labels appear upside down.  Above, you'll see the mozzarella station - whi…

Jungle Cruise Skipper Disney Pin/Badge

This one is more badge than pin, but it is sold in the pin store down at Disney Springs, so we'll call it a pin.  But, I'll also call it something else:  awesome.  
This Jungle Cruise Skipper is - as you can see - Limited Edition.   It is pretty big and it has 2 backs on it, but that didn't stop the Babe from wearing it and getting a bunch of compliments on it.
The Jungle Cruise is Nat's favorite ride inside of the Magic Kingdom and the Babe really likes it too. Especially since she's been an honorary skipper and piloted a Jungle Cruise boat into the dock. Here's the video from a few years ago:

Another Quick Bay Area Trip

Another *super quick* trip to San Francisco.  And...another blog post and photo about it.  Back in February of 2015, I posted an almost identical photo from the Edelman office that you see above. Doesn't appear that much has changed at that intersection over the past few years.   Did I take in the sights?  Nope.  Not really.  Mostly just worked and went to meetings.  Then headed to the airport to hustle home.  The Chamber of Commerce did, however, turn the fog machine on for me...which was an awfully nice tough.

WDW Monorail Pilot Wings Sticker

This is the third post this week showing off a 'new to us' little freebie/item from down at Walt Disney World that we picked up on a trip.  The first was a new Transportation Card from the Friendship boats around the Epcot Resort lake area.  The second was the 'Honorary Custodian' sticker that the King of the Ball Tossers was given.   Today it is this sweet Walt Disney World Monorail pilot wings sticker.

As we were walking up the ramp to board the Monorail at the Epcot Center, one of the Cast Members/Monorail Pilots directed us towards an open section.  Then, she whipped out a set of these stickers.  We've never seen them before, so they're totally new to us.  And the kids loved them.  All three of them put the stickers on - right after I took this photo.

In terms of ranking the 'coolest' factor of these freebies, I think these Monorail Pilot wings come in right behind the business card of the Honorable Christopher George Weaver, the Mayor of Mainstr…

Lady and the Tramp - Disney Pin

I have a soft spot for Lady and the Tramp.  With all the much newer, flashier Disney films/releases, I think this one moves to the back of most people's minds.  But, a movie with a Spaniel and a Schnauzer as the main characters?  Couldn't hit me more on the nose in terms of casting.  Well...I think that Lady is technically a Cocker Spaniel, but she's close enough to a King Charles that I consider her my own.  And growing up we had two dogs when I was a small kind.  Skipper and Max.  Both Schnauzers.  And both were barkers!  Max was a good dog.  Skipper, on the other hand, I don't remember much.  He was gone when I was a little kid, so I don't remember the end of his life.  Max was Vic's dog and he lived until she was a Freshman in college, so I have much fresher memories of him.  Max was a gentle dog.

So, when we encountered a Disney Cast member with a Lady and the Tramp pin on their lanyard, I naturally steered one of the girls in that direction.  Now, we…

WDW Honorary Custodian Sticker

Here's another fun little thing that the King of the Ball Tossers (KotBT) picked up when we were down last time at Walt Disney World.  Earlier this week, I posted a photo of a new Transportation Card we picked up on the Friendship IV.  We were in one of the parks and stopped somewhere eating popcorn out of one of those buckets that they sell you for $10 and give you $1.50 refills (best deal at WDW, amirite?!?!) and we must have dropped something like a paper cup.  The boy got out of the stroller and went over and picked it up and carried it to the garbage can and put it right in.  A Disney Cast Member in custodial must have been watching him and after he came back to the stroller, she came over and said "Hey!  Thanks for the help Little Buddy!"  And peeled off this sticker and handed it out.  The KotBT smiled big at her and took the sticker.  He shyly - as he usually does - buried his head into the side of the stroller.  I thanked her and we moved on.  A minute later, h…

Posts Installed for Espalier Linden Trees

All the way back in May, I shared a photo of two young Greenspire Linden Trees that I had begun to prune to be two-dimensional with the hopes of - once we moved into our #newoldfarmhouse - that I could try my hand at espalier or pleaching of the trees to train them into a specific habit.  Back in July, in a post on the blog about our new fence, I pointed out the final placement of these Lindens right next to the southern lot line butted up against the 6' portion of our cedar fence.  I got these in right after the fence was installed and then began to plan out the framing/system that I was planning on using to create the espalier.

Over the past week or so, I have made some additional progress on the setup that you can see above:  the three posts have been installed in the ground.  I ended up shopping around and ultimately buying these 10' green 12 gauge steel sign posts from Grainger.  Grainger has a location on Ogden Avenue in Downers Grove and like a lot of places, they hav…

New Walt Disney World Resort Coaster (In Room)

Back in February of 2016, I posted a photo of the in-room coasters from the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Hotel.  The coasters from WDW are found in the resort hotel rooms usually on the little bar/kitchen setup where the glasses/mugs are located near the coffee makers.  The coasters had been the same ones for as long as we have been traveling there until a recent trip when I came across these new ones you see above.  It is a much cleaner look - both in terms of design but also material.  The old one had a soft, brushed texture.  This one is thinner, more flexible and has a more slick - but not glossy finish to it.  Gone is the castle imagery and the clouds.  In is the word 'Resort'.

The thinner material and less printing make me think that this is a simple cost-cutting measure.  Sure, the new design feels a bit more 'fresh', but if they're putting four of these in 10k hotel rooms, a penny here and a penny there can start to add up, right?

I'm n…

Pizza Gear Upgrade: Heavy-Duty Pan Gripper

For the last ten or so years, I've been relying on your typical pan gripper when it comes to trying to extract my pizzas out of their pans.  It looks like this one.  But, at some point, I was turned on to the one you see above:  a heavy-duty version.  And it ended up on my Christmas list to Natalie.  It is $5.75 and can be bought from Northern Pizza Equipment.  Nat's brother was looking for ideas for Christmas gifts this year and she sent him along the link and he ended up gifting it to me.  Because of the move, it ended up in a box with some other pizza gear - awaiting the day when it can be used to help with my pizza making.

A few weekends back, this thing made it's debut.  And I don't know how I lived without it.  It is super strong and has a very wide lip on the mouth of the gripper that allows me to - with one hand - grab a cutter pan from Lloyd Pans directly out of the oven and put it on the stovetop.  No more need for even an oven mitt - which is pretty awesom…

WDW Transportation Card: Friendship Boat from Epcot Resort Area

Thanks to the out-going nature of one of the Friendship boat skippers, we're now the proud owners of a Friendship Boat-specific Transportation card.  This one is #15 of 27 total cards and we got it on the boat going from the Yacht Club to Disney's Hollywood Studios.  
I posted other Transportation cards here on the blog before.  Here's a post showing a few other ones including the Monorail and Motor Launch versions.  
Below is the back of the Friendship Boat card that features Merida.  

This goes in the file with a few other of our Disney World 'free things' that we've amassed over the years.   This Friendship Boat Transportation cardStar Wars Trials of the Temple Training BadgeOfficial Tomorrowland Speedway Drivers LicenseHappy Birthday Mickey pin from Mickey the Mouse's birthdayThe above-mentioned WDW Transportation Cards including the Monorail and Motor LaunchThe Mayor of Mainstreet USA's business card

Walt Disney: "I'm just very curious..."

Back at the end of July, I posted a photo of a Walt Disney quote that they've hung on some construction walls at WDW in Orlando.  Here's another one that caught my eye.  Again, kudos to Stanley for the sponsorship that seems apt for the place/time/space in terms of sponsoring some of the construction work going on and to the imagineers for turning what would normally be an eyesore into something worth taking a minute to take in while walking towards the International Gateway behind Epcot.

As for the quote itself, I'm drawn to it because of that word 'curious'.  Something that when I hear someone say, I always perk up and tune in to what they're talking about.  I've done hundreds of interviews for hiring folks (doing some these days to hire people for our team) and when describing themselves, if I hear 'curious' as part of the description, that always makes me sit up in my chair.

Trying the New Whittier Playground for the First Time

Last week, I posted a photo showing the mulch being dropped off at the new playground in the Randall Park neighborhood of Downers Grove.  Recently, while we were at the school working on riding bikes in the big parking lot, we found the fence down in a big section (it was still up on part of it), so we naturally went in.

The kids had a lot of fun.  I only had the two youngest savages with me, but it seems scaled perfectly for all three kids - some areas for the little ones and with the climbing apparatus, I'm sure kids like The Babe will find themselves at home.

All in all, a nice addition to Whittier Elementary School.  Kudos to the Moms and Dads behind the Whittier PTO for all their work and dedication to raising the money needed.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort Pin

We picked up another Resort-specific pin during a stop at Disney's Yacht Club.  Just like the one from the Contemporary earlier this year.  Or the Port Orleans Riverside one.   This one has Mickey wearing his best beach/old-timey-boardwalk/sailor gear and seems to fit the vibe that the resort puts off.  Now that we're settled in, it seems like we should be doing something in the house with these pins and the various pin boards that are laying around in my office.  The resort-specific section would

Elliott From Pete's Dragon Hidden Mickey Pin

That's Elliott from Pete's Dragon on a Hidden Mickey Cast Member's lanyard pin that one of the girls traded for at Disney's Yacht Club with the greeter right in the lobby.  There are plenty of scrappers that we come across that are Hidden Mickeys but a close look at the back/edges of this one, makes me think that this one is the genuine article.

Over on PinPics, it says that this one is part of a series that includes other dragons/lizards like Mushu, Malificent, Figment (and Figment chaser, which we own and that I've posted a photo of on the blog), and Madame Mim.

Tinkerbell June Birthstone Disney Pin

The Babe traded for this Tinkerbell Disney Pin that has [June] on it and must be part of a monthly series of pins, right?  There's limited information that I can find on the pin.  I've turned to my usual source of eBay and while there's other June birthstone-related Tinkerbell pins, this one just turns up some generic descriptions.  PinPics isn't any more help as they don't have this one in their archives.

This pin is interesting for the big pearl on it - and the dimension that it adds.  The pearl is about 1/2" raised off the pin, so this is one of the larger pins that we've ever scored - and this one was traded for from the boat guys at the International Gateway outside the backdoor of Epcot.  

There are a few pins that we've traded for over the years that stand out in terms of being 'good finds'.  This one ranks up there.  Along with this vintage Polynesian Christmas one (that I don't seem to have posted) or this Minnie Mouse as Mary P…

What about decomposed granite for the #NewOldBackyard?

I've pointed it out before, but one of the spots that I'd like to tackle first in our #newoldbackyard is the 'entrance' or traffic path that we use to get from the front to the backyard.  I posted about a walkway, bridge and pond setup that I thought might work here on the blog back in July.  Recently, I had our landscape contractor come out to talk about some options and how we'd tackle them - and in what order.

There's screening material needed (trees), hardscaping and maybe even some retaining walls involved.  And that is just to get us to the point of having a setup where we could think about something like a water feature/waterfall (which...I really want.)

One of the ideas that came up in my conversations with landscape designer was the idea of decomposed granite walkways.  That's a photo of one up top.  It came from here.  I like the look of paths made out of the stuff and you see it in lots of places both formal and informal.  There are downsides i…

A Tasty Radler @ The Bavarian Lodge

Now that we're based in Downers Grove, we're A LOT closer to The Bavarian Lodgein Lisle.  We've been a few times when we were out in Naperville with Nat's folks, but it was a hike all the way from Elmhurst.  We took the kids and had a pretty good meal (Schnitzels all around!) with some great pretzels.  The place has a strong reputation for a pretty amazing beer selection.  We're way, way, way out of our element when it comes to appreciating all of the greatness in the ever-changing beer menu.

Doesn't mean we don't try things.  If there's a Solemn Oath Brewery offering on the menu, I think that Nat and I will usually go in that direction (Rooting for the home team and all, right??).  But this past time?  No Solemn Oath it seemed, so we had to go elsewhere.

Being summer, I ended up with a Radler.  The Pfungstadter Weizen Radler to be exact.  It came in this tall, lean glass and was a delicious treat!  If you're there this summer, give it a shot.

Our Cuckoo Clock

We installed exactly two items on the walls of our #NewOldFarmhouse.  The first was a television.  I mounted it on the wall in the first few days after we moved in.  The other?  Our cuckoo clock that you see above.    I posted about the clock before when I posted a photo from my sister Vic and described how we bought our clock in the Black Forest and then after receiving it, how it went right into storage.

Ours is an eight-day version, so the big weights you see in the photo have a long way to go to reach the floor, but I keep yanking them up after just a day or two so we've never had them dangle close to the reach of the kids.

There are three kids on the clock with the middle one not glued down, so we have to place her over to one side or the other.  With it striking just the cuckoo at the bottom of the hour and playing a song at the top of the hour, I've grown to really like hearing it around the house.  It was running a bit fast, so I moved the flower circle up the shaft…

Self-Closing Screen Doors From Pella

It took us about a month, but we finally got the big screen doors working properly out back.  These are the larger doors that lead to the #newoldbackyard and little patio we have out there.  They have this self-closing mechanism that allows us to set them to self-close automatically.  It is pretty great - especially when you live with three little savages that don't EVER close any doors behind themselves.  Except, when it turns into a guillotine when one of said kids doesn't open them far enough when they try to sneak out.

It *does*, however help incredibly well with keeping the house flies out of the, ahem, house.  They remain just flies for the most part now.

"Limbed Up" Our Front Yard Saucer Magnolia Tree

I mentioned in the post about our King Crimson Maple tree last month that we had planted nine trees including a Magnolia tree that we put in our front yard.  That's it above.  After I 'limbed it up' a bit by taking the leaves/shoots/small branches off the bottom few feet of the main trunks of this Saucer Magnolia.  We've never had a Magnolia of our own, but Equation Boy/Man and Vic had one at their house and Greg, our former neighbor had one.  Nat has long fancied them, so in working with Chris Paul at Green Grass Landscaping, we decided to put in a Saucer Magnolia in the front yard.

In looking through the care and pruning advice in this piece, I decided to work on the tree to put more of the energy into the top range of the young tree to try to grow it up a bit.  Ours had leaves all the way to the ground, but if you look at photos of intermediate growth Saucers or larger, mature Saucer Magnolias, the successful ones have been 'limbed up' to get the flowers u…

Mulch Arrival for New Whittier Playground

In June and July I posted about the new playground going into Whittier Elementary School in the Randall Park neighborhood in Downers Grove.  It is right up the street from our new place.  You'll recall, that this was built with private donations brought together by the Whittier PTA - which is really great! might remember that I pointed out the WRONG playground.

I've been watching the progress the past few weeks and noticed that the playground closest to Grand Avenue (the one I first posted about) is complete and has the pea gravel and mulch laid down to complement the new, refreshed concrete curb that they installed.   Earlier this week, I was out in the early morning hours and noticed that a large truck had arrived at the *other* new playground as was busy dumping down new, steaming hot mulch to get installed.  From the looks of the situation, this appears to be the final step required before they can re-open the new playground to families and neighbors.  Once it…

Bob's Burgers - Where Have I Been?

In the past few weeks, I've begun to watch Bob's Burgers.  And!  In fact, I now seek it out on Cartoon Network when I'm laying around in bed trying to fall asleep.  But, the show has been on for years, so where have I been this whole time?  It's not like there aren't a bunchoffans out there.   I guess I just never gave it a chance.

But, the art crawl episode really roped me in.  What with that 'Don't be crabby' sign (an inside joke between Nat and me.  And, yes, I did snap that photo above with my phone of our tiny tv hanging on the wall of our bedroom.) and the whole animal paintings comedy.   It was all too much.