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Showing posts from 2021

Google Maps 2020 Timeline - Pandemic Edition

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Just a couple of days ago, I posted an update on my Google Local Guides status with one of my photos (of Dogpatch in Naperville ) hitting 6M views.  Like all of you with your location history turned on, Google also sent me a note showing my annual timeline.  And, 2020 was certainly different.  And my location history tells the story.  (Thanks, COVID.) Normally, Google Maps will show all the trips you have taken in a year.  In 2020, I made it to five states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan), but that Minneapolis trip took place pre-pandemic.  The rest of those trips were from March --> December.  We didn't go very far from home. Here is something pretty striking.  My visits broken down by Shopping and Restaurants.  Big cliff in March: My time on mass transit went to ZERO after March: Part of the report from Google shows some of the places that you went -and calls them "highlights".  Interesting to see that ALL FIVE of my Places highlighted were parks/o

Fighting Illini Illinois Football Minifigure

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On all of our trips to campus to see a Fighting Illini football game down at Memorial Stadium, we do a few things:  park at Frat Chi, walk the quad and buy some stuff at the bookstore or Gameday Sports.  Or both.  On one of those trips in the past few years, I guess I made an impulse buy that I recently came across.  Doing what most of us do at the new year, I decided to clean out my desk drawers.  In one of them, I found a package that contained this Fighting Illini football player minifigure you see below.  He's wearing W-O-W or White - Orange - White...which isn't my favorite look (I'm much more of a traditionalist in O-B-O), but seems like something the team wears a lot these days.     A few notes:   1.  He's wearing #00 - which I think has to do with players not being paid to play. 2.  If you look closely at the yoke, you'll see "Team Shield" showing up.  Nice little detail. 3.  He came with a football, but TKOTBS seems to have misplaced it. 4.  The h

Photo Views on Google Maps - Local Guides - 6M Photo Views

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I received this note from Google Local Guides telling me that one of my photos on Google Maps has hit 6M views.  It is of this pet store in Naperville that I posted back in 2016.   I've been chronicling my Google Local Guides experience over time here on the blog .  The last time I looked at the stats was back in May of 2018 when I had 4M OVERALL photo views .   Before that, in February of 2017, I was at 2.5M views . So, this one photo has 6M views alone.  And, when I went to look at my overall views, I'm now at 15M photo views.  That's 4X growth in 32 months.

Walt Disney World Happy Meal Park Ride Toys - Winter 2020/2021

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 Back in November of 2020, McDonalds had a Happy Meal promotion with Walt Disney World that featured ride vehicle toys from the parks included in each Happy Meal.  The promotion started (I think) right before Thanksgiving , but by the end of the month they stopped selling the toys due to an error of some sort with the QR code that came in the package .   Of course, when they released these, we ran out to get a Happy Meal for the kids.  They gave us two of the same toy (Goofy) and one Mission Space toy (Mickey). The ones we have are marked "Walt Disney World" and the Goofy one is from the newly opened (at least...new to us, since we haven't been to the Parks since the pandemic hit) Runaway Railway ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  The Mission Space one is from the ride in Epcot below. You can see all ten of them here from WDWNT .  Wonder if they'll ever bring the toys back?   They kind of remind me of these Disney Matchbox cars that I have from when I was a kid

White River Park - Southern Wisconsin

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We packed the kids and their sleds in the car and spent an hour or so out at the White River County Park in Walworth County a couple of weeks ago .  The photo at the top is the hill that greets you as you walk down from the parking lot towards the river.  If you look closely at the top of the photo, you'll see the river winding around the bend.  If you were pretty streamlined and had a good push, you could *ALMOST* reach the river by sled from the top of the hill.   This is the county's largest park and is located just 10 minutes or so away from Lake Geneva. From the county's website : After we hit the hill a few times with the sleds, we took the kids for a little snow hike down the trail that is adjacent to the White River.  We didn't get far, but we did see people doing it right - with snowshoes and cross country skis. Back near the parking lot, there's a large barn - not sure if it is in service, but it looks like it was original the property.  Here's the bar

Winter Firewood Re-Order of Two Face Cords - January 2021

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Recently, I was working in my office early one morning when I heard the BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP that comes with the backing up of a large truck.  It sounded close, so it got me out of my desk chair to look outside.  And, that's the exact moment when I remembered that I reordered some firewood from Best Firewood.  I was the first delivery of the day it seemed.  I walked out the front door and saw the guys unloading - by hand - our two face cords.  One of Cherry.  And the other of 'mixed hardwoods'.   Like I did last Fall, I decided to forgo paying for stacking and had them drop the face cords on the driveway, close to where I intend to bring it around the back.    Here they are unloading: And here's the beginning of the big pile.  They started with the "mixed hardwoods" and the guy on the top of the truck is pulling the cherry firewood. It was just Friday that I posted about how we were down to around fifty pieces of firewood in our racks .   For this season, we

2020 Anchor Steam Christmas Ale

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 My brother-in-laws have a thing going on with the annual Anchor Steam Christmas Ale that comes out every year.  And I've posted a little bit about the bottles each year.   This year, the beer was billed as :  "New tree. New recipe. Same holiday tradition."  Nat's brother Charlie tells me that they have a new head brewer - hence the changes.  He also said that this year is heavier (is that the right term?) alcohol. But, I'm mostly interested in the label.  Here's a look - below - at one of the bottles that Nat's Dad bought and stored for her brothers when they can make it.  They have a beer from every year back a number of years in this fridge. Three trees.  That's kinda interesting.  Turns out, that's new.  From the 2020 page : This year’s label features The Three Graces; three iconic towering sequoias from the Mariposa Grove in California’s Yosemite National Park. This is only the second time in its 46-year history that multiple trees are shown t

Morton Arboretum Fallen Tree Jungle Gym - January 2021

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If you head to the Spruce Plot on the main loop of the Morton Arboretum and park your car directly across the loop from the tall Spruce trees, you are also close to this fallen tree jungle gym.  Walk out of the plot across the main road and go straight.  Soon, you'll find a sunken valley that has a lot of fallen timber.  There, you'll find this mess of tree trunks that you can climb on - just like our kids did in the photo below.   I'll say it again:  COVID took a lot from us and others.  But, it gave us this simple joy: 

Firewood Consumption - January 2021

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Here's a look at the five firewood racks that we have in and around our house.  (I have another aack at the back of the property, but we use that one for fire pit wood.) These were full with Oak, Cherry and Birch early this Fall and by early January,  we've just about completely exhausted the supply.  First, the pair of outdoor racks along the fence line.  On the left, you see some of the recently split Ash (or Walnut??).   On the right, you see some of the unprocessed Norway Maple that came down this Summer.   I've just ordered another two Face Cords of wood that will be delivered next week to fill these up, but I'm thinking I should get the rounds out first so I can split them this Winter. Next up, below, is the Oak rack that I keep on a side stoop. Two months ago, it was full .  Today, it is empty but for a coupe of pieces that I'm keeping on hand to test moisture content over time. Now, we move into the screened porch.  The double rack (photo below) has about a

January 7th Update - Christmas Amaryllis 2020/2021 Edition

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The last time I posted photo showing off this season's Christmas Amaryllis bulb was over this past weekend , but the photo was from 10 days ago on December 28th.  Today - these photos below are *from today* - our wax Amaryllis bulb is still throwing off blooms.    Here's how it looks from what I'm calling the front.  Blooms are closely packed together and the height is just - Chef's kiss - perfect.  Not too tall and leggy which means they usually flop over.  This waxed bulb is compact and short. And, if you look closely at the flowers, you'll see that it is even producing new, about-to-open blooms like the one you see below: Around back, you'll see some of the blooms in decline that I need to pinch off. I'm not ready to give a final analysis of this waxed bulb Amaryllis experiment, but, right now, despite getting a late start, this thing has been pretty great.

Walt Disney and the Tam O'Shanter Restaurant

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I was thumbing through a book that Nat bought for her Dad for Christmas about the early years of Disneyland and came across this caption for one of the photos.  Talks about how Walt Disney and his early Imagineers (which, I'm not so sure were actually called that at the time) had a favorite restaurant:  the Tam O'Shanter.  The caption reads:  "Opened in 1922 and designed by Hollywood art director Harry Oliver, the Scottish-themed Tam O'Shanter in Los Feliz was one of Walt's and his Imagineers' favorite restaurants.  His regular table was number 31, and the eatery still has autographed sketches by studio artists hanging in its lobby.  Oliver's fantasy architecture, which was popular during the 1920's and plentiful in the area, would influence the designs of buildings in Disneyland." The DisneyFoodBlog has a proper review up about the place and includes some photos of Disney art, including a piece that was drawn by the man, himself .  Neat.

Pizza Parlance: What is a Frico Edge?

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This is the first in a series of posts that I'll get to over the coming weeks that place down markers on some terminology for the pizza-curious.  It has, thanks to Steve Dolinksy - a title:  Pizza Parlance .  The first term up in the parlance tag is Frico Edge.  The pizza you see in the photo below is really showing off its Frico Edge.  Or, simply Frico for those pizza nerds.   The guy who gave me "Pizza Parlance" - Steve Dolinsky - describes frico as something that happens.   He writes :  "The cheese darkens as it bakes along the sides, and while it may look like burnt crust, it’s simply a crispy, somewhat charred cheesy edge."   The frico you see below is one that was better in terms of my history of baking these pizzas. I made this Detroit-style pizza on Christmas eve and used a white cheddar (Cabot's Seriously Sharp White Cheddar) laid down and kind of 'packed in' to the blue steel pan to create this Frico edge.   Here's another look at the

Disney Pins - Puzzle - Christmas Break/Quarantine Project (Christmas Haul, too)

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 What happens when you do a couple of puzzles and your family notices?  And it is right before Christmas?  Well...that means you get MORE PUZZLES.  MOARPUZZLES.  This one, though, (as the kids say...) slaps .  <insert how do you do fellow kids meme> But...seriously....I am going to REALLY insert it here below. Why? Because, I read somewhere that if you start saying things that your kids have started to say, they'll start to think it is very UNCOOL.  So, I'm getting ahead of things with my kids and the phrase 'this one slaps'.   Well...back to the puzzle.  This scratches me right where I itch:  it is a Disney Parks pins puzzle.  Imagine laying down hundreds of Disney Parks pins and taking a photo of them.  That's EXACTLY what this 750 piece puzzle is.  See below for my photo of the box: You can find it on Amazon (non-affiliate link here, people), but go to your local toy store and ask them.  It is 18" tall.  By 24" wide.   I'm going to get this o

Christmas Amaryllis - Opening - 2020 Waxed Edition

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 Just two days ago, I posted a photo of our waxed-based Amaryllis Christmas flower from Trader Joe's and mentioned how one of the flower buds was set to open .  That photo was from Christmas Even.  Today's post is dated January 3, 2021, but the photo below is from December 28th, 2020.  Just three days late and we have a lovely opened red Amaryllis flower with a bright yellow stamen.  So, this flower did far better than most that we've had and opened just three days post-Christmas.   This is the first time that we did a wax-base Christmas flower bulb.  And, based on the experience, I don't think it will be our last.  Not only did the flower bloom close to Christmas, the stalks weren't too terribly tall - which usually means that you loose them to flopping over.  These were short and sturdy stalks and a nice bloom on top.  The downside to this version is that we have NO IDEA what variety of Amaryllis this really is, but we can guess if we look at the most common varie

2020 Ash Firewood - Beginning to Process - January 2021

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Back in October of last year, I posted some photos of a pile of Ash (or what I thought was Ash) firewood that I grabbed off of one of my neighbors who was taking down some trees .   After letting it sit around in the back of the yard for a few weeks, by the end of November, I had a couple of 2x4's from our basement project that I hauled back there to use as a sort of rack and stacked the rounds up on them to get them off the ground .  A lot of this stuff was wet and needed time to just dry out up off the ground.  Well...a month later, I found myself needing to get outside for 30 minutes or so and I decided to start to process some of this stuff.   Some of the rounds are cut to length.  But, a lot of them are not.  I don't have a chainsaw, so I decided to take a shot at the ones that were both small enough and cut to the right length.  I split them open and what I found inside looked a lot like I was expecting based on the previous pictures.  REALLY dark heartwood.  And lighter

Christmas Amaryllis - Waxed - 2020 Edition

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 The calendar says 2021, but I'm still talking (and posting) about our 2020 Christmas Amaryllis.  This year (a year unlike any other), we didn't go all-in with Christmas bulbs.  In fact, I'd say that if it wasn't for Nat saving the day, we would have likely just skipped our Christmas flowers/Amaryllis altogether.  We didn't go to Wannemaker's for their Holiday Open House.  And I haven't been in a hardware store in months.  But, thanks to an impulse buy at Trader Joe's, we have this small, unnamed Amaryllis bulb in a wax base that Nat brought home in mid-December .  I'm posting this in January, but this photo is old.  I took the photo below on Christmas Eve and you can see that the flower was just beginning to emerge.  I'd say that this one got pretty.close to being right in terms of timing.