Showing posts from November, 2017

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&#…

Anchor Steam's Christmas Ale - 2017 Version

There are plenty of Christmas traditions that we participate in (trains, advent calendars, elfs, tree day, Walnut Room, etc), but there's also a beer tradition that I've grown to look forward to:  the opening of the annual Anchor Steam Christmas Ale as done by my brother-in-laws in Naperville.

I've chronicled this in the past here on the blog.  Here's a post from last year's versionHere's the 2015 version.  And here's a post from 2010 with that year's bottle.  And based on those posts, I've been drinking a little bit of this stuff for 10 years now, despite this only being the fourth version that I've documented on the blog here.

As for this year's brew, they once again picked a unique tree for the label.  From the Anchor Steam site:
This year’s tree is the Santa Lucia fir. Extremely rare, it is native and limited to California’s Santa Lucia Range along the central coast of California. They bought some smaller bottles like normal, but I k…

Birdbath installed by Feeders in our #NewOldBackyard

The kids and I recently upgraded our bird watching area with the introduction of our heated birdbath.  It is more like a re-introduction as we had this heated bath at our old house, but up until a week or so ago, it was just sitting in the basement.  We put it right next to a few of our feeders that you can see in the top part of this photo.  If you look closely, you can also see a very pretty cardinal right behind the pole on the right and a little bird - a finch of some sort, maybe? - on the feeder on the left.  We get a lot of yellow and black and brown little birds.  Finches, nuthatches, chickadees and pine siskins/  We also run a suet feeder right in this area, too so we're getting visits from woodpeckers despite us not having a tailprop version.   We're getting a lot of late fall/early winter action on these feeders and have, so far, stopped squirrels from owning all of them completely.  I still find a squirrel trying his best to get to these, but usually, the cage or w…

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

On Black Friday, I popped into the Jewel to pick up a few rations (and get 'cash back' because our bank wasn't close) for our trip to the Christmas Tree Farm (where they only take cash for the trees) and came out with a few of these Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stouts.  By total accident. 

I was making small talk with the cashier and she was telling me about how there people were camping out overnight in hopes of scoring these bottles.  She pointed to them and said that they found two bottles after the crowd left.  I asked if I could buy them and she said "sure".  So...almost $20 later, I came home with proudly with two bottles.  Of stout.  Nat loves a good stout.  And so do her beer nerd brothers, so they'll enjoy them this Christmas season. 

I texted a photo to Dr. Jeff - who normally hosts our craft beer dinners and has even had a stout one before - and bragged about getting two of these.  He sent me back a shot of his haul:  all six versions and mul…

Back the Beagle Vintage Glass From Dolly Madison

I picked up this "Back the Beagle" glass at Goodwill in Elmhurst recently when I was dropping off a whole bunch of old Halloween decorations.  I figured...while I was there....why not take a quick stroll through the store to see if there were any treasures.  This one seemed like a natural addition to our vintage glass collection.  It is the exact same shape/style as the Chipettes one that I posted about last fall.

The thing that jumped out at me was that we had a "Character X for President' glass in the collection with this "Pooh for President" glass from Sears.

The front features Snoopy and the slogan "Back the Beagle".  The back, seen below, has a 1958 copyright, which isn't when this glass was produced.  Can't be.

I went digging ebay and the web to find out more about the glass and it turns out, there was a series of four of these glasses - all around the "Vote Snoopy" campaign.  Here's a screenshot from a listing on eba…

2017 Annual Passholder Food & Wine Buttons

There is apparently an entire set of these small, annual passholder buttons that you can/could have scored at the 2017 Food and Wine Festival at Epcot Center this fall.  Eight of them, in fact.  Alas, we have just this one that we picked up at the Light Lab.  I'll stick it on the pin board along with some of the other "non-pin" Disney Pins like this "Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse" button we scored on a visit to the parks on Mickey's birthday last year and the @wdwtoday Twitter button I posted about yesterday.

WDWToday Tweeting Button

We ran into the @wdwtoday folks at the half marathon expo where they were handing out these buttons - which I'm not totally sure I understand.  Didn't stop me from grabbing one, though.
Is this a button that *they* wear? I supposed to wear it in the parks to tell people that I'm tweeting things?

Happy Thanksgiving 2017 - Via The Last Waltz

Another Thanksgiving day of turkey and trotting and family....and...of course, Levon and the boys in The Last Waltz.  This marks 14th years of posting on the blog about the film on Thanksgiving.  Here's last year's post.  The first one was all the way back in 2004 but there are a few missing years in there for some reason.

Turn it up!

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.
Here's my post from 2004 on The Last Waltz.

Walt Disney: "Whatever we accomplish belongs to our entire group..."

Came across another one of these construction signs that includes a quote from Walt Disney on the walls of a job site inside of WDW.  I've posted two of these before including this one about deadlines and this one about curiosity.  
This one was on the backside of Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom in an area that I think was where the crane was located as they installed Christmas lights.

Unlike those otherones that were outside of Epcot, this one is definitely Fantasyland-themed and is appropriate for the place it is hung.

This one, too, is sponsored by Stanley, which I continue to think is a nice sponsorship integration for both parties.

Eddie Vedder Covers Warren Zevon: Keep Me In Your Heart

Last night, I watched the end of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize program where they awarded David Letterman with the honor as I was getting into bed.  Dave was always my guy in late night.  Some of my friends were Conan guys, but Dave was the only one who could keep me up.  (Craig Fergusen came much later...and I did love his show - whenever I could stay up *that* late!)  I caught like the last 20 minutes or so.  And in that portion, Dave's wingman Paul Shaffer came out and introduced Eddie Vedder who covered a song by Warren Zevon and said:  "Dave...let me thank you...because if it weren't for you, I probably wouldn't have known who Warren Zevon was. So, it makes it a real honor to get to sing one of his songs to you."

Here's that performance.

This was a 'stop me in my tracks' moment.  The song.  Thinking about when Warren wrote it.  Thinking about my own kids.  Just a powerful moment.

We have Comcast, so I hit "info" on the remote and …

Bells and Whistles Christmas Decor - Lemax Christmas Village

Look who is coming along for the ride with the new Bells & Whistles Christmas Decor building from Lemax at Menards this year?  That's right...Santa Claus himself!  That might sway the Mayor of Mantleburg, I would think?  This one is also part of the Caddington Village collection like the past few days that included the Vintage Grind Coffee Company and The Dog House
Mantleburg is already such a seasonal town, it would seem to be a logical fit to have a Christmas decorations-specific store in town, right?  Boost the local economy when it is thriving?  They only get visitors during the holiday season and they've resisted the whole "spookytown" transformation over the years.  This one seems like slam dunk for annexation, but maybe once the sale prices come to Menards...
Or...we actually set up Mantleburg for the first time in three years.  One or the other.

Abracadabar Coaster - Added to Collection

During a recent trip, we finally found time to sit down and have a beverage in the Abracadabar on Disney's Boardwalk where they have these neat, custom coasters.  It doesn't do any magic tricks or illusions like the "posters" on the wall, but it is cute to see the top hat as cocktail glass being used here, isn't it?  
Full [Coaster Collection] is here

Including this new one, I'm up to 20 total coasters in the collection and 9 (and counting) Disney-specific coasters including this one from the Boathouse, the Flying Fish restaurant, the Skipper Canteen, Raglan Road restaurant in Disney Springs,  the Disneyland Hotel and Walt Disney World resort hotels as well as the *new* Walt Disney World resort hotel version.

New Disney Pin: It's a Small World

The King of the Ball Tossers came home with this It's a small world pin from a trip earlier this year.  We have a few IASW-based pins, but they're mostly modeled on the little kids in the ride.   This is genuinely one that *he* picked out.  Without any of our help.  Which...I think was a surprise to everyone.  
One of the projects I have on my list to kick off is pin boards hung up in the house.  Maybe in the basement?  Or in the kids' rooms?

Walt Disney: "We work hard to do the best job possible."

Another in the series of Walt Disney World construction signs that feature a quote from Walt Disney himself.  This one was on the walls outside of Disney's Hollywood Studios in the area where they are building the skyway near the walkway to the Boardwalk.

This is the third of these signs I've featured here.  First one hereSecond one here.

This one, too, is sponsored by Stanley.  You can find out the details of the sponsorship (which I find pretty clever!) in this post.

#TBT Chris Rhodes and the Join Cross Blog

Those were the days. 

I was going through some of my personal effects and came across this piece written by Tony Scott at the Kendall County Record (I think?!) that covers some of the shenanigans we were up to back in the early aughts.  I made some of the strongest connections of my career during these blogging days as Chris Rhodes. 

Pretty incredible to think back at how far the Boss let us go with the blog.   Today?  They're probably right to be a bit more careful with their political image.  And who's blogging today anyway?!?

Here's post from the archives here on the blog from Dan Johnson-Weinberger that talks about the same thing Tony Scott says:  those were some heady days of GOP blogging.

View From My Office - Day Light Savings Switch 2017

As the kids say:  #nofilter.  With the time change, I am seeing dusk more often from the office these days.  This is, quite the view, right?

Carvel In the Midwest

It isn't a Cookie Puss or Fudgie the Whale, but there's some big news:  our local Jewel is carrying Carvel Ice Cream cakes in their freezer case. least it is news to me. 

And if you're faced with this decision, you go Carvel over Oreo, don't you? 

Who knew that there are three Carvel locations in Illinois?

Uncle Mistletoe Makes An Appearance In Macy's Windows for 2017

Back at the end of October, I posted a photo of the 'coming soon' screens that Marshall Field's Macy's had put up on their State Street windows as part of their annual reveal of the Holiday window tradition.   Soon after the calendar turned over to November, they opened up the windows for public viewing and while the ones on State Street are traditional ones, they now have set up two different ones on the Randolph Street sides.

First...when I say 'traditional ones', I stories of some sort.  This year, it isn't so much a linear story where the you can see kids racing from one window to the next to learn the different storylines, but rather just a set of different windows, each in a feeling/spirit.

But, this is the 50th anniversary of doing animated figures in these windows, which is cool and that's why they've organized these two separate windows on Randolph - to kind of celebrate their history.

And, much to my delight, look who showe…

TFW: You Have a Monorail Car To Yourself

I had this experience riding the monorail from the Polynesian earlier this fall.  We had just finished breakfast and I had to split to do something without the family, so I rolled into the monorail sans stroller, sans diaper bag, sans kids, sans wife.  And had the whole thing to myself.  
Weird.  But quite delightful at the same time.  

Bell's Gourmet Popcorn Factory - Lemax Christmas Village 2017

New this year at Menard's is this animated Popcorn factory from Lemax.  You can see a lot of the movement in the image above, but there's also music.  If you want to see it, check out the video below at the bottom of the post.  This one, too, is from the Caddington Village collection.

When he goes with his family to the Country House for burgers, the Mayor of Mantleburg is more of a peanuts in the shell guy, not a popcorn guy.  So...unless the developer is going to grease his palm, I'm guessing this one is going to be a tough sell for Mantleburg.  What...with its garishness and bright lights, it seems like it might be out of place amongst the other existing structures?

Vintage McCoy Limited Pottery Pumpkin Mug - Vintage Find/Gift/Got Away

I didn't want to get too far away - calendar-wise - from Halloween before I got around to posting the pics of this pretty awesome vintage McCoy Pottery pumpkin Halloween mug. least that's what I thought it was when I came across it the first time. 

I saw it, picked it up and immediately turned it over to reveal this mark:  McCoy LTD USA.  Hmmm....McCoy?  But...McCoy LTD?

I went to my phone to find out if it was, indeed, the McCoy that we have some pieces of (and my oldest sister Linda collects). 

A quick turn to the McCoy Collectors Society page, reveals this subpage all about McCoy Limited.  And if you scroll down, you'll see a pumpkin.  Not this one, but a pumpkin.  And a close read of the copy tells us that this, is, indeed the real deal:
Halloween is a favorite holiday of many and is well represented by various sizes of Jack-O-Lantern items. Among these are cups, napkin holder, salt and pepper set, and different shapes, such as different size ghosts, that are…

Some Fall Color in Downers Grove

On my walk home from the train, I came across this stunner of a Maple tree near the corner of Fairmount and Maple in Downers Grove.  The photo, which....I will tell you has no filter/crank of the saturation/etc hardly does it justice, but you can get a sense for the power of how pink it looks in real life.  I snapped this photo and then hurried home to see what we had in our #newoldbackyard that could compare.  Unfortunately....we have lots of greens back there.  And some yellows.  And a few browns.  But no oranges or pinks or reds.

For now.

Nat brought it up and she's right:  Seems like something we need to add a tree or two to the backyard arboretum this coming Spring (in addition to the Frans Fontaine Hornbeams that I posted about yesterday along the northern border) that puts on a nice show in the fall.

A quick look on Web shows me that some prime targets might be Sugar Maples, Red Maples or maybe even a Bald Cyprus all of which give some great reds and pinks and oranges in t…

Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam Trees Planned For Privacy

I've posted quite a bit about the various trees and plantings in our #newoldbackyard this past year, but I just looked back in the archives and discovered that I haven't posted about one of the most important (and highly anticipated) tree projects on the docket.  And...that tree project *is* a series of Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam trees along the northern fence line near where our screened porch is located.   The image above - which isn't mine - gives you a sense for what we're going for with this allee of hornbeams and also shows how some closely planted Frans Fontaine Hornbeams grow to form a nice privacy hedge.  
This is part of the new - and mostly final - landscape plan that was delivered to us in September.  I first posted a look at it in early October with a look at some of the hydrangea beds along the south property line and then a look at some of the foundation beds near the rear of the house a few days later.  This is the 3rd piecemeal look at parts of …

The Dog House - Lemax Christmas Village

Pets are big business, right?  Maybe Mantleburg should serve those families who have pups around the house?  Could be a good source of sales tax revenues, but are there enough dogs in town to support the annexation?  
Just like the Vintage Grind Coffee Company from yesterday, the Dog House is part of the Caddington Village collection.  

Vintage Grind Coffee Company - Lemax Christmas Village

Huzzah, huzzah!  The new Lemax Christmas Village structures are up at Menards.  And that means that the fine folks running the government at Mantleburg are on the prowl for some fresh, new annexations.  With the local residents not happy about their property taxes, the Mayor is on the lookout for some new businesses that can both add and diversify its tax base.  
This place - the Vintage Grind Coffee Company - seems to fit the bill.  With what appears to be a small retail operation out front and clearly a significant wholesale business, this place would offer both the benefits of sales tax and also some employment opportunities for Mantleburg's residents.  That is, unless all that fancy-schmancy automation you see in the image above has eliminated all the jobs?   I'm certain that the Village Board and the Mayor will decide soon enough if there's room in Mantleburg for an outfit like this.  
If you find yourself in Menards, you can find the Vintage Grind Coffee Company on …

The Dutch - Coaster Collection

This is the 19th piece added to the official Coaster Collection here on the blog.  Is 'added' the right term?  Curated?  Included?  I'm not sure, but as the official head of curation, I'm just going to go with 'added'.  The coaster you see above comes from a place called The Dutch downtown in SoHo, NYC.  We went there for a few after work beers and a giant seafood tower. 

Full coaster collection posts can be found here.

Before/After Wood Chopping

I guess this is more after/before than before/after based on how Google Photos organized the two photos in this collage.  Thus...On the bottom of this photo collage above, you can see a pile of wood that I harvested out of our backyard in it's mostly raw state.  When the guys came to clear out some trees before we built in 2016, I think they left behind a bunch of these cut up chunks of trunk/branches in the yard.  They're mostly Walnut trees with a few Maple pieces. 

I picked up this metal log holder from Menards and decided - because we now have a wood-burning fireplace - to pile the stuff up close to the screened porch.  And, I'm glad I did.  Because as I was collecting the pieces of wood from around the yard, one thing that was consistent:  they were all wet.  And by laying on the ground, they weren't able to dry out at all.  But, a few weeks of laying in this rack, which is underneath the eave of our roof, and they've mostly dried out completely.

So, that lea…

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin Top Score (personal)

I almost got to half a million.  Pretty sure that's the most points I've ever scored on the ride.  That puts me at Level 5: Ranger First Class.  But that's not the best part.  The Bird broke 10K for the first time.  She's getting better aiming and scoring points on Space Ranger Spin.  

To infinity...and beyond!

Can I Listen to Christmas Music Yet?

Yesterday, I flipped the annual switch from "No" to "Yes" on the Can I listen to Christmas music? project.  I've been saying for the past few years that Thanksgiving "needs a better PR agency" because we go straight from October 31st --> zoom --> Christmas.  Billboards, ads, in store displays.  All holidays.  And not Thanksgiving. 

The last bastion of Thanksgiving buzz seems to be the grocery store and endcaps.  There are plenty of folks that aren't turkey producers who drive a lot of volume at Thanksgiving.

I've chronicled [Christmas Creep] here on the blog over the years where I've posted photos of stores and others inching Christmas up in the calendar year.  And, I've consistently said that I'm totally fine with it.  I, for one, welcome our Christmas season overlords.  Bring on the Elf on the Shelf.  Bring on the Advent calendars.  Bring on the Lionel O Gauge Christmas train

And...bring on the Christmas music.  The &q…

Last Night's Tally - 77 on Halloween 2017

What a difference!  Last year, we had 302 kids/others come to our door.  Last night?  77.  And that's not even super accurate as Eloise and friends did the bulk of the counting/handing out candy.  Oh...and we put out a bowl and went trick-or-treating with our kids for a while, too.  So, the numbers can't be verified by Price Waterhouse Coopers this year, unfortunately.

We're in a different neighborhood with different size lots and setbacks.  We walked a few blocks over and the place was hopping with kids and felt a lot like Elmhurst did the past few years.

So, here's the breakdown:

2017:  77 kids.
2016: 302 kids/total.
In 2015, we had 346 total.
In 2014, we had 308 total.
In 2013, we had 326 total.
In 2012, we had 327 total.
In 2011, we had 269 total.
In 2010, we had 236 total.
In 2009, we had 184 total.

Lowest candy year on record.  Good thing the savages in our house and neighborhood destroyed the candy bowl in our front hall during our little Halloween night party.  Or e…