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Showing posts from 2018

One Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Dropped Its Leaves

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Just a little bit over a week ago, I posted a photo here in the [garden diary] of our Frans Fontaine Columnar Hornbeam trees and discussed their potential marcescence (retaining of their dead leaves).  Fast forward to now and if you look at the photo above here, you'll notice that one of the trees - the fourth from the left - has now dropped all of its leaves and is bare.   I took a closer look at the tree and it has, indeed, put out some buds, so I am not sure if the leaf loss is a sign of anything.  But, we'll know in the Spring when/if the tree comes back.

State Street Christmas Windows Featuring FAO Schwarz

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If you look closely at the Marshall Field's Macy's State Street windows you'll notice a little bit of corporate synergy showing.  Or corporate strategy at least.  In one of the window scenes you that you can see above, you'll see Santa in the midst of his North Pole glory with what I think is an Elf and a bunch of presents.  Right next to the center 'tube' is a little dog.  
Zoom in and you'll see his collar.  Says "F. A. O. Schwarz".  Struck me as odd.

So, off I went into the Web to find out why.  Does Macy's own F.A.O Schwarz? 

The answer?  Nope.  But they're working together.  This NYTimes story from 10 years ago points to the partnership.  Apparently, I haven't been paying any attention.
Two of New York’s most venerable retail brands, Macy’s and F. A. O. Schwarz, are teaming up for a risky experiment: bringing toys back to the department store.  F. A. O. Schwarz will open shops inside 685 Macy’s stores over the next two years, exe…

Fairview Avenue Metra Station Landmark Designation

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I just noticed these two plaques on the Fairview Avenue Metra Station in Downers Grove.  The bottom one says 2016, so it has been there for some time.  But, perhaps the top one is newish?  At least, I've never really noticed it despite walking by it a few times a week.

They both mark the same thing:  the station as a 'landmark'.

I found this set of minutes from the Village of Downers Grove Village Board that recommended a resolution making the station a "Landmark Designation".

Here below is a closer look at the story in the bottom plaque:


If you read closely, you'll see that this isn't the original station, but was built in 1916.

I'm a little bit 'get off my lawn' on this landmark status.  Have you seen the Fairview Station?  Go look at it here in all of it's stucco glory.

I love me some old, vintage buildings.  But it isn't the original station.  And now we've effectively handcuff our government into NOT changing this station.

If…

Santa Fe Gondola O Gauge Car Via Menards - 2018

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Another of the new items that Menards is showing in their O Gauge train section in stores this year is a series of gondola cars like this Santa Fe one you see above.  I've written before about how my Dad runs a vintage (Post War) Santa Fe F3 locomotive and over the years I've gifted him a few Santa Fe cars from Lionel.  I've never given him one from Menards, but I've bought a few on my own and while I LOVE the prices (see above..$20), I don't like two things:

1.  the boxes that Menards sells these in.  The packaging is NOT very re-usable. 
2.  the couplers.  They're not great.

#1 in the list above is really the biggest thing for me.  We're Christmas train people.  That means that we pack away our train for 10 months a year and then bring it out for the holidays.  The boxes that Lionel ships their cars in are a big part of that storage process and the orange boxes have meaning to me whenever we get them out.  These Menards clamshells don't really hold u…

Menards O-Gauge Trains Lighted Changeable Billboard

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In addition to all the Christmas Village buildings from Lemax that I posted last week, Menards has also introduced their holiday toy section including a lot of HO and O Gauge train items.  They have a bunch of cars (I've posted about some of thembefore) and buildings.  But this year, one item caught my eye:  this Lighted Billboard.  You can see it in the photo above.  But also here on the Menards site.

It comes with 26 different signs that you can put in the billboard ranging from vintage scenes to modern, current logos like Pepsi and Mountain Dew. 

Menards describes it thusly:
Pre-lit and prebuilt, this O-scale billboard features 26 interchangeable decals. Decorate your billboard front and back with an assortment of colorful decals, including popular brand names and railroad advertisements. This backlit billboard also houses over 25 LED lights, ensuring your chosen decal will come to life with beautifully saturated light! Constructed of wood and metal for maximum strength, this f…

Cup and Char Ezzo Pepperoni - Added to Pizza Toolkit

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Over the years, I've honed by at-home pizza game.  First it was the discovery and use of Chellino Scamorza Cheese out of Joliet.  Won't make a pie without it now.  Then it was the acquisition of new cutter pans, serving pans and stands.  And now it is buying cup and char pepperoni on the internet.

PennMac sells Ezzo 38MM Pepperoni in 1 lb bags and I took the plunge recently.    The bag you see above is one of two that I bought online - but I also bought an Ezzo stick that I haven't sliced.  If you follow the instagram account /ronicups (which I don't know why you wouldn't be, right??), or visited a hip, new pizza place that is making Detroit or bar pies, you've undoubtedly come across Ezzo cup and char pepperoni.


View this post on Instagram

Roni Cups on a square pizza by @danwongishungry at @psp_nyc #squarepie #squarepizza A post shared by Pepperoni - Roni Cups 🍕 (@ronicups) on Oct 8, 2018 at 6:02am PDT
With the temperatures dropping, pizza making is back in se…

Fall Check-in On Our Dawn Redwood - 2018

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Back on Earth Day 2017, we planted a small Dawn Redwood tree in our backyard.  This was in the middle of construction of our house and we weren't even living there.  I figured, we'd get the tree in and give it a little bit of a head start.  The only problem...since I didn't tend to it for the first few months, it didn't do well.

By October of last year, I was questioning if the tree was going to make it.  Take a look at the photo here to see how bare it was by mid-October.

And ultimately died.   So, we replaced it this year.  Same spot, but more care in terms of water.

And by October of *this* year, the tree wasn't bare.  But instead was sprouting some new growth.

And now?  See the photo at the top of this post?  The entire tree has turned a bronze color and appears poised to drop all of it's needles very soon.  Which, based on what I've seen on other deciduous conifers is appropriate behavior.

The tree also appears to have set some buds for the Spring, so…

Tree Dreaming: Columnar Norway Spruce

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With Halloween in our rearview mirror and Christmas season in full swing, my time in the yard has mostly become leaf collection, branch pickup and walnut removal.  There's no planting going on right now, but that isn't keeping me from dreaming about next Spring and what we could add to Hornbeam Hill.  I've been painfully aware that I'm behind on planting conifers and have only planted three small ones.  The Fraser Fir was planted and lost this Summer.  Same with a small Canadian Hemlock.  Planted and lost this Summer.

But I also posted in late Summer of 2017 about a 'dream' tree.  It was a Weeping Cedar.  I came across it and fell in love.  After finding a small one at Home Depot, I splurged and bought it.  Brought it home and planted it in the backyard

This post is about another 'dream tree'.  I've dreamed/thought about a bunch of trees that I'd like to add over the previous year or so to our backyard.  I posted about a Dappled Willow that w…

Frans Fontaine Hornbeams - First Fall 2018

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Back in May of this year, we planted a hedge of seven Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam trees along the fenceline on the northside of our property right outside of our screened porch.  These are trees that I had researched and dreamed about since we moved in.  Prior to their installation, I documented what the 'view' was like of the space where they were going in April (when there was still a little bit of snow on the ground) and then again in late May, right before they were planted.

I tried to baby them all Summer and with the help of a couple of soaker hoses, I tried to keep them happy and hydrated.

I most recently visited these trees in late August when I posted this photo of the 'late Summer' view of the hedge.  I've noticed that all seven of the trees have handled their transplant differently.  Some of them have done just fine.  A few have even shot up leaders at the top.  One of them seems to be growing wider at the top than others, which is interesting.  An…

Canyon Trail Cemetery - Halloween House in Carol Stream

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Despite it being November and Halloween is squarely in our rearview mirror, I still wanted to post about one of our Halloween traditions:  a visit to Canyon Trail Cemetery in Carol Stream to see all the haunts and ghosts and witches and scares.

We've visited the Canyon Trail Cemetery for the past five years - counting this year.

This post covers our visit in 2018.
Our visit in 2017.
Our visit in 2016.
Our visit in 2015.
Our visit in 2014.

This year, it was a little too scary for the KotBT.  He didn't like some of the things that leap out and what have you.  So we did a quick tour, then headed back to the van.  Nat and the girls spent more time looking at everything.  We did notice a few new things - or at least they were new to us.  In particular...I've never noticed the Haunted Mansion sounds/speech from Madame Leota and her levitating head scene from the ride.  You know the part, right?  Here:


It's too late for you to visit this year, but make time for it next year.  An…

Wireless Charging Via The Google Pixel Stand

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This arrived in the mail to help me turn my phone into a little stand-up display and push me into the future with wireless charging.  But the biggest issue I've come across with being a *real* wireless charging user?  Driving.  Yeah.  Driving.

That's because we have those little car dashboard vent magnetic mounts that require you to slide a little metal plate under your case.  Then you just kind of 'pop' your phone on the mount and it keeps it out our your hands and allows you to use turn-by-turn directions without fumbling around with your phone.

The issue?  If I put the metal plate in the middle of the back of the phone, the wireless charging via the Google Pixel Stand here doesn't work.  If I take the plate out, then I don't get to pop my phone on the dash while we drive.  A few weeks in, it seems that I'm choosing the convenience of the magnetic plate over the wireless charging on the stand.

Anybody solve this dilemma?

Lemax Round Up Animated Carnival Ride Christmas Village

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Another day, another Lemax Christmas Village building. This one is from the Carnival Village and is called The Round Up.  It is pretty neat.  Lemax lists it as being released in 2012 on their site, but this is the first time I've seen it at Menards. 

Quick refresher for this year's Menards Christmas Village buildings:
1.  Draft Brothers Craft Brewing Supplies Store from the Harvest Crossing Collection
2.  The Elf Workshop from Santa's Wonderland Village.
3.  Nora's Christmas Boutique from the Caddington Village Collection. 

Now comes the first carnival-focused, animated, musical structure here on the blog.  This isn't the first one we've bought or come across, but the first one on the blog.  And it is pretty neat.

Called The Round Up Village Carnival Ride - priced at $89.99 -  it is described by Menards thusly:
The Round Up is an absolute blast! This spinning carnival ride puts gravity to the test as a southern-sounding cowboy announcer tells riders to saddle…

Nora's Christmas Boutique - Lemax Christmas Village 2018

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Day Three of the Menards Lemax Christmas Village reveal.  First was the Draft Bros Home Brewing Supplies store. Then yesterday was the Elf Workshop.  Today comes Nora's Christmas Boutique.  Nora's is part of Caddington Village which is a Victorian Era town.    If you search [Caddington] here on the blog, you'll see a series of structures that I've featured over the years.  It seems that Menards sells a lot of the Caddington Village line every year. 

Above you'll see the building in the Menards Village setting.  Below is the box - with the price of $39.99.  (11% back, of course!)

As you guys know, Mantleburg isn't adding anything to the town, but the Economic Development Commissioner can't help but listening to the presentations from the merchants who are looking to move into town.


In terms of villages, you can get lost over on the /villages page at Lemax's site.  Sure, I've flirted with Vail Village or Spookytown or even the Carnival buildings wit…

Lemax Christmas Village - The Elf Workshop

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I warned you yesterday.  There's a few of these Lemax Christmas Village / Mantleburg posts in the hopper here.  First was the Draft Bros. Craft Brewing Supplies store.  Today is The Elf Workshop that features a few cute elves around the place.  Again, Mantleburg won't be annexing one of these, but if you had a Christmas Village scene, it seems like this would be a good addition.

Below is the box at Menards - with this one listed for $10 more than the Home Brewing Supplies structure - at $49.99.

Lemax Draft Bros Home Brewing Supplies - 2018

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Another year, another display of Lemax Christmas Village buildings at Menards has arrived!  Here's the post from 2017 that heralded the return of the Christmas Village at the store.  And that means a whole series of posts are about to arrive here on the blog showing off some of the new buildings.  The first one, here, is the Draft Brothers Home Brewing Supplies store.  Very topical, eh?  Here's the product listing on the Lemax site that provides the description including the fact that this structure was released this year. 

Alas, Mantleburg is full of libertarians and there is a initiative on the ballot this fall to disband the local municipal government.   Which means, for now, the Mayor and Village Board are not in a position to make any sort of annexations or additions to Main Street. 

This Draft Bros Home Brewing Supplies store is listed for $39.99 at Menards this year.


Flowering Pear Tree - In the Fall?!?

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About a month ago, I posted a photo of what appeared to be 'new' growth on our struggling Chanticleer Pear Tree that we had planted out front of our house.  Here's that post that shows new green leaf growth emerging on the tree in early October.    The full history of this tree is long, despite that we've only been in our house a little bit over a year.  It starts with the first tree - a 3" caliper version of this tree - being planted before we moved in our new house in June of 2017.  That tree didn't survive the year and was ripped out and replaced earlier this year

The new tree struggled, too.  But I worked at it.  I did some radial trenching and used a post hole digger to break down thru the clay layer to allow the tree to breath a bit.  I took a very similar route with the Bald Cypress we planted this Summer - you can see the details here

And the tree managed to survive all Summer.  I stopped watering it all together and just monitored it for green un…

A Trip to Champaign for Illini Football Homecoming - 2018

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A few weeks back, we piled into the Swagger Wagon and went to see my Illini take on Purdue for Homecoming.  We now have two nieces that are Freshman down in Champaign, so this was a family affair.  My sisters threw a great tailgate in Grange Grove and then we went into the Loyalty Lounge inside of Memorial Stadium to watch the game.  Well, I went in well before the game because I wanted to see warmups and all the pre-game what-have-yous.  We were lucky that the specialists for the Illini warmed up (for the most part) on the north end of the field, so our spots in the patio in the northwest corner tower of the stadium was a good view. 


Just about every game that we go to as a family, Nat and I disagree about the 'time to enter' the game.  I enjoy the pre-game festivities almost as much as the game.  I like to see the operation unfold, watch the support staff take action and watch the stadium come to life.  A little weird, yeah.  But, that's why I want to get into line to e…

Early November Firewood Consumption Check-In 2018

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Just like I did last year, I'm going to try to track our firewood usage over this Winter in an effort to understand how we are using it and to help plan for next year.  Here's an example of a post I put up in February of this year showing the progress.

As a reminder, we had two face cords delivered in mid-September.  One face cord of Cherry.  One of Birch.   And today, you can see that we've made quite a dent in the pile.  The photo above shows the wood pile that is outside that is about half-way down from the top.  And if you look back at the original photos, you'll note that there was a pile on the left that they stacked on the ground

But, the inside racks are still intact - and not changed. 

We've been burning fires almost everyday.  Or every night, I suppose.  We go through three pieces of wood most nights and the weather hasn't been too terribly cold at night.  I'm fearful that we'll blow through our two face cords before winter is over, but I&#…

Red Maple Sun Valley Update - Fall 2018

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Back on Earth Day of this year, we planted a few trees including this Red Maple "Sun Valley" tree that is maybe 3/4" caliper.  Here's the photo of that tree when it went in - before it leafed out this Spring/Summer.  By June, it had leafed out and grew a bit - topping out at 96" tall in our tree inventory.  The top continued to grow up and now I am thinking it is taller than 96".  But it also is starting to show it's fall colors.  If you look closely at this photo above that I took a few weeks back, you'll see some reds/oranges starting to emerge on the leaves.  This Fall has been funny with leaves - as we didn't get a ton of colors (yet?), but plenty of leaves have fallen.  I'll keep an eye on this one and see if it shows off it's full fall spendor with a red/orange show.  More importantly, I'm thinking that this thing as established itself enough with some new branching that it has a good shot at surviving the winter and coming b…

Last Night's Tally - Halloween Visitors 2018

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My...how the mighty have fallen.  That list above is our sad tally sheet from last night.  It only has five marks before we went out trick-or-treating and ended up with 24 total.  Oh,  and a big drink stain on it.  Twenty Four.  And that's being VERY GENEROUS by counting all the little ones that live on our block who came over to our house with their parents for a little post trick-or-treating party.  The five were kids that rang the bell and I dropped candy into their bowls/bags.  Mostly middle school kids.  The 19 others were kids who did, indeed, take candy from our bowls, but also stuck around for a while.

We then went out with the kids to hit up the neighborhood.  And we put out a bowl.  About 150 pieces of candy (based on the bag having 300 pieces... I poured in about half) in the bowl.  Set it out on our front porch.  And put our Nest camera pointing towards it. 

You can see the little orange bowl just off our front door mat below:


It didn't take long for kids to come …

Two More Disneyland Roses - Planted Fall 2018

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Last year, Nat's Mom gifted us a Disneyland Rose for our anniversary and this year she did the same thing, but gave us two of them.  They arrived recently in a box from Jackson & Perkins that you see above.  Here's the post showing the rose plant from 2017 and includes the description of the variety.  I revisited our Disneyland Rose in June when it came back for the year and produced some small, but spectacular blooms.  I ended up planting the first one underneath the kitchen windows amongst some hostas and grasses.  I think that ultimately, I'm going to have to transplant it next year to a different spot, but for this season, it did well.

Below you can see the two new Rose plants that were shipped in the container.


I ended up planting them on the south side of our house - on either side of the window well that is out there.  Again, I'm not certain that this is where they're destined to go, but it is pretty much a blank canvas out there and these things needed…

Checking In On My Office Succulent - Fall of 2018

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It was just a little bit over a year ago that I last posted a photo of my office succulent - a Burro's tail - that I keep on the ledge by my window in the Aon Center.  That photo is here.  And here's the post from August of 2016 - just over two years ago - that shows it in its youth.  Tracking the changes over the years shows the growth of not just the main plant, but you'll also notice in this year's version, a series of other growths. 

As for the primary pot, you can compare last year to this year and see that it is still going strong with a few long shoots and a full pot.  But, you'll also note two other experiments.  The first is the container on the far left that shows a bunch of new cuttings that I took from the main plant and put in a smaller pot.  They have taken off and begun to make their own 'tails' as it were.  Also, in the center of the photo, you'll see a clear plastic cup that I've tossed some succulent bits in that broke off the mai…

Mid Century Modern Men's Valet - One That Got Away (Sold)

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I bought this Men's Valet from an Estate Sale in Elmhurst about five years ago for like $5.  It was cheap and I bought it on a whim.  It has sat in our closet since we moved in, but I never really *used* it like it was supposed to be used.  It is a really adorable piece of furniture, isn't it?  I mean, who wouldn't want a valet?  And look at those lines?

Recently, Nat moved it out of our closet and it ended up in the garage.  So, off it went to Craigslist to find a happy home.  And sure, enough, it didn't last long.  Someone came and picked it up.   I took these photos out on the driveway before we parted ways.

So, I'm filing this one under 'one that got away', but this time it was on purpose.  I sold it.  For a profit, too!

Did I adore this thing?  Yeah.  But, say it with me:
It is enough to enjoy the existence of things without possessing all of them. Take a look at the valet features, though.  Tray for a nice watch or your wallet or change or mints or s…

2018 Potato Harvest - Container Growing

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Back in June of this year, I planted two different fingerling varieties of potatoes in containers and placed those out back in an area of full sun.  They bloomed with flowers later in the Summer and most recently I noticed that all of the growth had died back.  That meant it was time to harvest.  I pulled the five big containers all the way to the back of our yard (where we keep most of our garden waste) and with the help of the Bird we sifted through the dirt and came away with a bagful of spuds in varying shapes and sizes. 

I've harvested potatoes over the years and posted the pics on the blog.  Here's a 'partial' harvest from 2016 of fingerling potatoes.  And here's a huge harvest of potatoes back in 2013

We brought this year's haul inside the house, put them in a paper bag and didn't bother cleaning them.  Everything we read on the Web says to not wash the potatoes until right before we're set to use them, so they're a little dirty, but they&…

Thanks for the Carrot Paw, Trader Joes!

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Inside of a bag of baby carrots from our dear friends at Trader Joes was this weird carrot paw.  The kids got a kick out of it and you can see that we kept it on the counter for a few days admiring it while it dried out.  This seems to certainly count as a novelty in the baby carrot game, right?

We aren't in the "imperfect produce" world, but I would think this might not have made it past their folks?

Christmas Lights Installation at Daley Center - Chicago 2018

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The lighting of the trees around City Hall and the County Building happen every Fall and I've been documenting it on my walks to work for the past few years.  Here's the lights going up this year in the photo above.  I took this photo more than a week ago, so despite me posting it on the 26th, they technically started the lighting the trees in mid-October. 

Here's the post from 2017 showing the lights going up on October 27th.
In 2016, the lights went up in early October.
And in 2015, the lights went up in September.
This raises the age-old question about Christmas Creep when it comes to holiday decorations:  Is this genuine Christmas Creep?  Or is it just good planning?

Half Acre Chicago - Added to Coaster Collection

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Here comes #31 in the [coaster collection] on the blog.  This one is from Half Acre Brewery in Chicago and is part of a series of local breweries in the collection.  The first one in the collection from the local brewery collection is the Saugatuck Brewing Company in January of 2016.   Then one from Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville, and then most recently Alter Brewing Company in Downers Grove.   I haven't been to Half Acre, but like all of you guys, I've had plenty of their beers including some of their more popular ones like Daisy Cutter.   Glad to add them to the collection here to keep the coaster part of the online archives.

Happy Fern in Deep Shade - Teardown Fern 2018

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Ferns are shade lovers.  And, as you know, I'm a shade gardener.  This is a big fern that I harvest out of Nat's sister's yard earlier this Summer and it is happy in this photo.  I took this earlier this month on one of my after-work walks as things started to head into their Autumn state and the plants start to die back.  This fern weathered the transplant shock and is now thriving with new growth.  It is very different than our Ostrich Ferns, but I'm not sure what variety it is quite yet.  I ended up tossing it into the ground all the way in the back and you can see it mixed in amongst weeds - for now. 

Next Spring, I'll see how big this clump comes up and maybe I'll be able to split it into two ferns - and think about putting one down as part of the garden walking path that I've sketched out in my own mind somewhere along the northern fence line.  In my head, next Spring (of 2019) was going to be the season of building out more hardscape surfaces (walkw…

Macy's State Street Christmas Windows Prepping For Reveal - 2018

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Looks like Marshall Field's Macy's is once again prepping their annual State Street window display, but this year, it seems that they're ONLY going to be using windows *on* State Street.  And that means that they're NOT going to be using the theme for this year's story on the windows on Randolph Street.  Here's my post including a photo of the 'reveal' windows at the State Street store - but you'll note that the window in the photo is actually on Randolph Street.

The folks at Macy's already have the three windows on Randolph Street dressed up for the holidays - in a tinsel-strewn vintage-inspired way, too.  Which is really nice, right?  We always make a trip down to the Walnut Room, so with our three kids - who will press their noses up to the glass - we'll be sure to take them in.

Can I guy dream about an Uncle Mistletoe-themed story this year?  Please?

Aon Center - out of Legos

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Recently, we joined our kid's cousin at his birthday part at the Lego Discovery Center up in Schaumburg where they have a couple of rides a show and other assorted Lego-related things.  The first room you enter is a LEGO layout of Chicago and includes some signature members of our skyline including the building I work in:  the Aon Building. 

There are a few touchscreens around the layout that give you the details on the various buildings.  Here's the screen for the Aon Center:


91K bricks.  Holy moly.