Vacations & Holidays

I think I'd rather go outside and play...

<group_rant>

Okay, everybody together now!

1...

2...

3...

While we don't hate you, Katie, we are very displeased with the fact that, starting tomorrow, you are on vacation from work until January 2. We find this to be exceptionally distressing and thoroughly unfair, especially since we do not get the same number of days off.

And we are disgustingly jealous.

</group_rant>

<self_pity>

Especially me.

Since I want to be home with you.

Totally not fair.

</self_pity>

<uncontrollable_sobbing>

*sniffle*

</uncontrollable_sobbing>

<acceptance>

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That our flag was still there...

I love that the Fourth of July holiday wound up in the middle of the week. Of course, I would not have minded a long weekend by having it fall on a Friday or Monday, but breaking up the week right in the middle was pretty nice, I must say.

On Tuesday night, Katie and I met up late to go see License to Wed. Not a spectacular movie by any means. In fact, parts of it were just downright bad. But if you go into it realizing that Robin Williams is not even a quarter the actor he used to be and that now he's a guy that just relies on over-the-top behavior to get a few pathetic yuks, then you'll be okay. Clearly, it was he that ruined the movie for us. Not that the rest was great, but we can easily pin a vast majority of our frustration on him and his "acting." Discussing it afterwards, we think we would've preferred someone like Dustin Hoffman in the role. It would've made for a better movie.

The next morning, we slept in late and made ourselves breakfast. Then we watched this week's episode of Miami Ink and flipped on the full version of the Concert for Diana on our Music: HD channel (I guess it's part of the VH1 family since it kept all the VH1 commentary throughout).

Let me tell you, NBC dropped the ball with their Matt Lauer-hosted, one-hour rebroadcast of the show. Katie had been looking forward to the concert for a couple weeks and so we watched it. They played, maybe, a grand total of seven songs of which only two were even decent and then they kill it after an hour??? What? They had something better to play on their fourth-ranked network over the summer dead season? They butchered the entire purpose behind the concert which was to capture Princess Diana's love of music and the arts and share it with the world. All NBC execs did was pick out a few of what they considered to be the more popular artists and play one song by each. They missed out on letting the world see a ballet company that Diana loved as well as reproductions of several songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals sung by some of the artists that made them popular on Broadway. Between each artist, they would either flash over to commentary by VH1 veejays or to a pre-filmed testimonial on how Diana affected the life of someone personally. The person would speak to the camera accompanied by archival footage or photos and then, when it was done, the camera would show that the person was in attendance at the concert.

The full-length concert was very well done and the Princes William and Harry did a fine job planning this six-hour spectacular (with help, I'm sure) only to have it slaughtered by Never Broadcasting Cualidad (okay, I was having trouble with the "C" so I resorted to Spanish. Sue me).

Of course, during this concert, we were cleaning the lower level of our house. We finally gutted our pantry closet and made it much more usable. It's quite nice now actually. We followed this up with shopping for new bikes. I think we found ones that we like and may go buy them this weekend. We've been using the same old $70 Target-purchased bikes for six years now and they're just not holding up well. This has a lot to do with the fact that for the first three years we owned them, we didn't have a garage in which to store them, so they stayed on our back porch during the winter and I would have to clean the rust off each spring. Not pretty. So we'll soon have new ones. Yay!

And now, the fireworks! As we did two years ago, we headed to St. Charles, the next town north on the Fox River, and watched what I consider one of the best suburban fireworks displays around. They did not fail us this time around either. Brian and Jen drove up for the display and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed them, too. It was about 25 minutes long and we had prime seating right across the river from where they were being launched.

God, I love fireworks. And me, of all people, forgot a camera. Go fig, eh?

Hero du Jour: I would be remiss if I didn't mention my eternal gratitude to Baba (I know it's not his name as I'm pretty sure this translates to "Papa") of Baba's Groceries, a small Indian grocery store in the strip mall where we parked for the fireworks. On a day when everyone either closed early or never opened in the first place, Baba kept his tiny little grocery open until just an hour before the fireworks started. On this hot, muggy day, he made a killing selling water bottles and snacks to the lumbering masses that forgot to bring their own and needed some cold refreshment. Smart man. And he was a nice guy, too. "Oh yes, those are very good cookies!" he said to me as I tried to figure which Indian cookies (made in Canada, of course) to buy. I chose the Pista cookies and they were, as he promised, great.

Asshat du Jour: A recap of our Fourth of July holiday would not be complete without pointing out the fact that Katie's earth science teacher kept her in class on the third until 9:15 at night. With people wanting to leave on holiday combined with the fact that half the other classes at the college were canceled and those that were in session were being let out a little after 7:00 p.m., you'd think this yahoo would be kind enough to forego any additional teaching. Nope. Instead he makes Katie and her class finish out the time with an hour-long video about how weather changed the course of World War II.

I hope you all had a good holiday as well.

Oh, and if you haven't submitted song lyrics for the second Lyrical Challenge, please do so today. I'll be picking one lyric per person and posting them tomorrow to have you vote on which ones you want me to use.


Sit down and talk to me...

Let's see... story about guys who made me ashamed to be male and human or my creative writing about flying over some of the most fantastic scenery ever? Well, I've got the latter recorded in my Moleskine, so I think I'll opt for the former before it fades from memory forever. Wouldn't want to disappoint Sandra by forgetting the story. Sound cool to you?

I want to say this was Friday morning in Vegas. Katie was out doing some of the girlie things that bridesmaids do and my brother and I decided to head poolside. We searched for nearly 10 minutes for chaise lounges before we finally found a pair at the very last pool furthest from the hotel property. We were the final two lounges in a row about 10 feet away from the actual pool. Right next to us were two guys in their early 20s.

My brother and I sat out and tanned for about 20 minutes before going into the pool. We went through this routine once or twice more. However, on the second-to-last tanning session, I heard one of the guys next to me on his cellphone talking to some buddies about coming down to the pool and hanging out and drinking some beer. Yeah, whatever. No big deal.

In our final time in the pool as we were passing around a Nerf football we purchased the night before, I looked over and saw that the two guys now had two more guys with them. They were all standing up talking and drinking basically because they had no place to sit. We watched them as we continued passing the ball to ensure that they didn't try to take our seats. Several minutes later, my brother and I got out of the pool and headed over to our lounges. We were cooked and ready to head in.

We sat on the ends of our seats and dried off. My brother grabbed his Blackjack and started to check messages and whatnot. I figured we would just get up and go leaving our lounges for the two new arrivals next to us.

However, during the next several minutes of my brother's message checking, I started listening in to what they were saying. And I quickly changed my mind about simply ceding our chairs to them.

"Oh, I'd never get it on with a fat chick... no way!"

Dear Christ no. Please don't tell me I'm sitting next to assholes (that's a quarter, I can afford it).

"Well, I did it once with one, but only because she had an awesome car."

And I am. Yay.

Several more comments such as this were passed among them. Then I heard one of them say, "I hope these guys next to us leave soon. I want their chairs."

The mental gears began to grind.

My brother hung up his phone and looked over to me to see if I was ready to go. I said not quite. He asked why and I relayed what I heard to him. He hung his head in disgust and asked what my plan was. I told him my plan was simply to leave when I was good and ready.

"Good and ready" arrived in the form of two 50-something women who were sharing our earlier frustration searching for lounges. I looked over to them and asked if they were, indeed, looking for a place to sit. They confirmed that they were and I offered them our seats. They were more than happy to accept. I remained seated until they were close enough that it was clear to everyone around us that they would be sitting in our lounges and no one could try to cut them off in a mad dash to sit down.

We walked away to profuse thanks from the two women and we also stopped about 20 feet away to make sure that the jagoffs didn't try to bargain them out of the seats. They didn't, so we continued on.

I got knucks and a "nicely played" from my brother.

I felt good about myself the rest of the day.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): As Katie and I were unloading our suitcases last night and separating the clothes into washing-machine-ready piles, I overheard her as she discovered the side pocket containing dirty underwear and socks... "It smells like crotch!"

I couldn't stop laughing for five minutes.


Welcome back...

What the holy heck happened here while I was gone?

My stats are through the roof, subscribers to the site are way up, and all my guest bloggers get a ton more comments than I get? On my own site??? Is this a sign that it's time for me to give it up and just let you all take over? Wow.

But I suppose this is what I get for letting the peanut gallery run rampant here on kapgar... they all bring their own nuts along with them. Hmmm.

I must take a second to thank all my guest bloggers. While I have not yet had a chance to read all the guest posts, what I have read has rocked! You are all awesome and very near and dear to my hearts. If I had a cool Friendship Circle rating system like Dave does (I'd link if I could find it on his site), you'd all be Circle 1. But I am curious how Dave's post yesterday wound up attributed to Snackie. Did I miss something?

So how was Vegas? Quite nice! Thanks for asking. We really did have a blast to be perfectly honest with you. Much moreso than I ever thought possible or ever wanted to have considering I was not looking forward to going. The ironic thing about it all is now that we've gone, I don't think we're welcome back. Katie and I violated two cardinal rules of vacationing in the city of Lost Wages.

  1. We came back with more cash than we left with.
  2. Despite being in the city of sin and buffets, we lost weight. This has never happened to us on a vacation ever before in our lives. We're shocked.

How much money and how much lost weight? For money, not a lot, but enough to make us smile. And I dunno the number of pounds exactly but I forgot to put a belt on my shorts one day and they were literally dragging down to my hips and Katie was hiking up her bridesmaid dress the entire night of the wedding. As much of an inconvenience as that may be, they are more than welcome and we hope they decide to extend their stay with other outfits we own.

Vegas itself was quite nice. But a week there is far too long. We were dying to come home by Friday of last week. However, I have compiled a list of things I learned about vacationing in Las Vegas in an extended post should you be so interested.

Continue reading "Welcome back..." »


The sky's the limit...

Some aspects of the Vegas trip may be looking up a little bit... just a little.

Remember how I was griping last year about how useless our frequent flier miles proved to be when we were flying out to San Francisco?

Wait a sec... looking back through my posts, I apparently never did gripe about it. What the heck??? I found a post in which I optimistically noted that we planned to use our points. But I seemingly never updated you on the fact that we were never able to because American Airlines makes using their points nearly impossible.

I swear I typed up this post. Maybe I chatted with one of you about it? Sandra, perhaps? Jeez, tack another one on the list of signs that I'm losing my mind.

Hmmm. Interesting.

Well, the hope for SF was that we would save money on the airfare by using the points we had amassed. When we signed up for AAdvantage, we were told 30,000 points would get us tickets "anywhere in the contiguous 48 states." This proved to not be the case by the time we finally got ourselves up to the 30K level. By that time, the necessary amount jumped to 60K and, even then, there was no guarantee. Sorry, no grandfathering of members from the old "promise." So we never used the points and swore to ourselves that we would find a way to finally use them and cancel these worthless accounts.

And find a way to use them we did.

We're flying to Vegas first class, baby!

Neither Katie nor I have flown first class ever in our lives, either before our time as "Us" or after. This should be fun.

But you wanna hear the funnier thing? My parents and their neighbors will be on the same flight as us... back in the regular seating... back with all the dregs of airborne society... the cloud-bound losers... the Mile-High Self Loathers... (can you tell I'm hoping they read this?).

Sorry, Mom and Dad. But this opportunity presented itself and we had to take it.

Mwahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Ha.

Hey, considering the cost of airfare, I doubt Katie and I will ever be able to do this again. So I gotta enjoy it while I can.


This is ourselves, under pressure...

First, to the demons that clearly were possessing me for last Friday's far-too-beautifully-written-to-possibly-come-from-me post, I do thank you. But do you think, next time (if there is a "next time"), that you could send the Supplemental Demon in Charge of Spell and Grammar Checking? As cool as that post turned out, I found myself correcting about a half dozen different errors throughout it. So not like me. One or two is acceptable. Six to eight and I bang my head against a wall repeatedly.

It really hurts after a while.

So, I'd appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks.

And moving right along...

The two-week countdown to Vegas is now on. And I'm looking forward to this trip even less than I was several weeks ago. The thrill of travel always seems to take a backseat to practicality as you sit around making the final arrangements before you leave. We've arranged with our neighbor to water our outside plants and collect our newspapers. We'll soon put a stop order on our mail. And we're also going to start putting things aside to be packed for the trip.

Packing is far and away the worst part. How little can you get away with packing while still bringing everything you need?  What should we bring for entertainment? What should we take as carry-on luggage and what can we safely risk putting in the underbelly of the plane?

This last question terrifies me the most considering someone Katie met this past Wednesday.

She was talking to this woman at a local drug store while shopping. She was in town visiting her son and his family and flew out. The reason that she was shopping despite being on vacation is that she was waiting for her heart medication to be filled. Seems that the airline security checkers wouldn't let her take all her heart meds on board with her because they exceeded the maximum amount of three ounces of liquids that they allow on board. Even though she had a prescription for them, she couldn't bring them on board. Oh, and they wouldn't let her dump out a little to make it all equal three ounces. Instead, she was forced to put them in storage under the plane. And the airline lost them. All of them. And she was spending her first day of vacation on the phone with her doctor getting emergency refills to avoid dying.

Some vacation, eh?

But it gets better. The woman who was waiting in line in front of this elderly lady to file a loss complaint at the airline counter was in tears because she had traveled out here to Chicago for her own wedding. And the airline had lost her wedding shoes, headpiece, veil, and undergarments. Luckily she had the dress in carry-on with her. The others could potentially be replaced in time for the wedding.

It's not as though brides don't already have enough to worry about in the final few days before their wedding (in this woman's case, this past Saturday), but now she was forced to replace vital elements of her wedding gown that had already been taken care of once before. All I can say is that if the airline balked at paying ANY value for the lost items (she is at the mercy of what stock the local boutique shops have available at such short notice), the person in charge of making that decision should be beaten.

Yes, I realize that it's not the desk clerk's responsibility when luggage is lost. But the least they can do is show sympathy to these people who have lost very personal and, sometimes, life-giving things due to the irresponsibility of some of their coworkers. I find it completely unforgivable just how uncaring airline employees are about such matters. We, as travelers, are nothing but additional paperwork to them and, therefore, we don't even merit a hint of compassion. The least they can do is slide us a card with a name of their superior and a direct phone number so we can give them crap directly. But, nobody at all wants to take responsibility for these lost items. The buck keeps getting passed around and around in a giant, mad, never-ending circle until we, as the victim, get so frustrated that we have no choice left but to accept the apology-lacking pittance of money they give us to replace our items. Asshats.

So yeah, Katie's carry-on item will be her dress and shoes and we'll each also have one change of clothes on board with us. The rest we'll have to risk in the underbelly storage and pray nothing happens to it.

Typically, when we travel, we pack light. Everything we need is in our carry-on bags so we don't have to worry. It's a wonderful skill we've developed. However, being a wedding that we're going to Vegas to attend, we have to pack a lot more than we normally would.

And, thus, we have one of the many reasons I'm not looking forward to traveling in a couple weeks. But this is, like I said, just one of many.


Happy birthday, dear Katie...

Okay everybody, let's get lined up!

Sopranos and altos in the front. Yep, that's right. Can we cluster all the sopranos right in the middle and have the altos flank them on the sides? Perfect!

Tenors... I need you to surround the sopranos and altos! Yes, that's it!

And basses, you know what to do. Yep, you got it. Great, we're ready!

On three.

One...

Two...

Three...

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday, dear Katie!
Happy birthday to you!

And many moooooooooorrrrreee!

Candle30_1 Today is a big birthday for Katie. Admittedly, it's not one she's been looking forward to, but I've been trying to convince her that it's really not so bad. You know that fifth anniversary of her 25th birthday? Yeah, that's the one.

However, I think my words can only do so much to ease her suffering. After a while, I'm sure I sound like a broken record. Plus, it probably comes across as a 32-year-old guy trying desperately to make his own age not so bad.

So, can any of you help? Tell her it's not a big deal? It's just a number? That she can be "thirty, flirty, and fun"?

All joking aside. I love you, Kate. Happy birthday! I hope you enjoy your gifts and your dinner tonight. It's going to be nice actually celebrating one of our birthdays on the night it actually happens for once.

I love you!


We wish you a Merry Christmas...

I am absolutely dying to give Katie her Christmas gift. I mean it. I’m dying. I’ve had the thing in my grubby mitts for a couple weeks now and it’s killing me.

However, the fear of her not liking it is balancing out the equation a bit.

Do I want to give it to her, or do I not want to take the risk?

Do I?

Don’t I?

Dammitalltohell!

The thing I’ve got going for me is that everyone I’ve either shown or described the gift to has absolutely loved it. That’s a plus. But Katie is certainly not “everyone” and that’s why I’m still worried.

Can I just give her the damn thing (well, “things” would be a bit more accurate although it’s only one of the gifts that I’m truly worried about) already?

Grrr…

Well, anyway, just in case I don’t get a chance to post again (we’re going to be traveling all over the place and I can only hope I will find a chance to sneak on the Web a bit, but I make no guarantees), I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and whatever other holidays are happening around this time that I may be overlooking right now.

Tune in soon for my end-of-year wrapup.


Pieces, pieces, pieces of me...

Not quite my traditional mystery photo ID game, but still something interesting all the same.

The following photo shows (pick one)…

A. A visual representation of James Frey’s profits and future earnings potential after Oprah had her way with him and his book A Million Little Pieces.

B. A new strain of melanoma contracted by metallic surfaces.

C. The drain in our kitchen sink after two nights of making Christmas cookies.

Drainage

If you answered “A,” you would be correct.

Nah, it’s actually “C.” Yeah, we’ve spent the last two nights rolling out and baking four different types of Christmas cookies. Of course, Katie did a vast majority of the work. But I tried to help. Dunno how much help I really was, but I tried. And that’s all that truly matters, right?

Right?


Thy leaves are so unchanging...

Well, let's just say if these "leaves" do change, there's something very wrong happening in my townhouse because this is a fake tree.

As stated over on Flickr, it's taken us two weeks, but the damn thing is finally done! YAY!!!! Now we can stuff all the storage containers back in the attic... only to have to take them back down in a couple more weeks.

*uncontrollable sobbing ensues*

Well, enjoy it anyway...

Christmas Tree

In case you're interested, about halfway up the picture, to the left of the white bear in the red vest and just above the small green knitted wreath is our Bananas For You ornament. Right smack dab in the center of the tree where it belongs!

Oh, and a big ol' "thank you" to Dustin who bought me Firefly: The Complete Series on DVD for my birthday. I am sooooo looking forward to watching the rest of this series. And, yes, I do know and love the theme song very much. Damn fine one. Been a part-time earworm for some months now.


I'm just a sentimental fool...

Clearly, SJ thinks I hold some mystical control over the heavens. Not only did my birthday fall on the same day as the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, but it also "just happens" to be the annual Day of the Ninja... and we all know my long-held belief that ninja kick pirate booty.

Do I have some secret ability to make the stars align in my favor? Do I control destiny to make everything work out my way?

I'll let you in on a little secret... yup.

Okay, enough self-aggrandizing.

My haul this year included money and gift cards, with which you can never go wrong. Good stuff. However, I also received copies of Fables, vol. 1: Legends in Exile, and Ghost World from Karl (you rock, Karl), which were very cool surprises. And Katie picked me up Scrubs, season 3, and season 4, as well as 24, season 5, on DVD and an iTunes giftcard.

Bananasforyou But despite all this complete and utter coolness, you wanna know what was my favorite gift? It was the Hallmark "Bananas for You" Keepsake ornament that Katie got me. I absolutely love it.

Admittedly, I have a thing for cool Christmas tree ornaments. Especially when Katie buys them for me because I always know she's going to have put some personal thought into it and it will have some special meaning to the both of us.

Plus it hearkens back to when we first started dating. We started seeing each other one week to the day before Christmas in 1998. Being such a new relationship, I wanted to get her something as a gift, but without it being too over the top. I didn't want to scare her too much early on by giving her some huge gift. Could've been bad, right? So I got her a Keepsake ornament of a black lab puppy that was wrapped in Christmas lights. I think it's still one of her favorite ornaments.

And this one is just as special to me. In fact, as soon as I got home, I grabbed a hook and put it on the tree.

Of course, it remains the only ornament on our tree so far.

Yeah, we really need to get around to finishing that.

Whoops.


That's what I want...

The Christmas gift shopping season has now begun in earnest for us. Actually, for me, Katie has to buy both a birthday and a Christmas gift. She's got ideas but is having trouble finding them. Or so she says.

I got notification that one of my gifts for her came in yesterday. I looked on the doorstep this morning, which neither of us really go by all that often, and, sure enough, it was there.

I was so happy that I got to it first. Now it's hidden somewhere in our house and, as soon as she reads this post, I'm certain she'll start combing the place looking for it.

Heh. Sorry, writing that last sentence made me think of Spaceballs. The scene where they're, literally, combing the desert looking for Lone Starr, et al, and they use giant combs...

Spaceball Officer: You find anything?

Trooper #1: Nothing, sir.

Spaceball Officer: You find anything?

Trooper #2: Nothing, sir.

Spaceball Officer: Did you find anything?

Smart-ass Trooper: We ain't found shit, sir!

Spaceballs_combing

Okay, enough Mel Brooks for today.

But, if I know Katie, she really will start scouring the place. Will she find it? Only time will tell. But I'll know if it was found. Mark my words, I'll know.

I'm evil.


We make plans for big times...

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Derived from Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse"... “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Such an eloquent statement. And one that applies to our weekend quite well.

Katie and I had such grand plans for this extended holiday weekend and yet it seems as though we completed only a fraction of them.

1. Clean up our house entirely.
Done for Thanksgiving, but it went all to hell yesterday.

2. Clear both our TiVos' "Now Playing" list of the two weeks' worth of shows that had built up on it.
Almost. We have one show left from those two weeks (last week's Studio 60) and whatever was added to it last night. However, I, personally, have about eight hours of Veronica Mars, Heroes, and Day Break backed up. Sometime on Saturday, I kinda decided there was no way I was ever going to get to all of it and simply deleted the first two episodes of Day Break and killed the Season Pass. As much as I like Taye Diggs, it was too much to catch up on and, since I never saw a single episode, I wasn't going to be missing much. I'm already pretty well invested in the other two and would like to finish them up.

3. Decorate for Christmas.
We certainly pulled out all the containers of decorations. Hence why #1 somewhat undid itself... the containers and decorations are now strewn about our home cluttering up what was once a beautifully clean homestead. We did get the tree assembled and got it all plugged in, as well. However, none of our ornaments are up at all. That will likely kick in tonight when we get done working out at the gym. Wish us luck.

4. Shop for Christmas presents.
We actually did a big chunk of this. Okay, maybe not that much. But at least we have about a quarter of it actually purchased and a list of what we will be buying for the other three quarters nearly complete. Just figuring out what to buy is a majority of the battle each year. Some of our relatives are not easy to buy for, let me tell you.

5. Do something with the leftover Thanksgiving food.
Katie made cream of turkey wild rice soup, a la Panera's cream of chicken wild rice, and it's damn good. She also made a turkey boullion base (sp?) that can be used for any number of other things. So, at least the turkey carcass is now gone from our fridge and we have room to put stuff in there.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Make such big plans only to watch them die upon attempted execution? You would think we'd learn. But we don't.


All the love gone bad turned my world to black...

Here are a few practical life lessons learned today...

1. Hosting a Thanksgiving get together with family results in garbage and recyclables the likes of which are not seen at any other time in a calendar year. Jeez!

2. There are no Black Friday sales that can quite compare to sleeping in next to the person you love. And then laughing at all the suckers who are complaining about having been awake since 4:00 a.m. Heh.

3. Before hanging up your outdoor Christmas lights, plug them in to make sure they still work.

4. Even if you're a militant looking woman dressed in camouflage pants shopping with a friend dressed similarly, the "she-mullet" is dead. Give up the ghost. Cut it off. Please.

'nuff said.


There's nothing meaner than a turkey with a scatter gun...

I would just like to say that preparing a Thanksgiving dinner is that much better when you have Lou Malnati's pizza and three bottles of wine coursing through your system.

A tip either for next year or this year if you haven't started your cooking yet.

Take note.

Of course, you should also take note that the three bottles were divided amongst four people.

[Title lyric from Peter Greenstone's "Jive Turkey"]


Give it away, give it away, give it away now...

At the gym last night, Katie and I started assembling our to-do list for Thanksgiving. As always, we are hosting the feast for my family and it, of course, requires meticulous planning. A quick peek at our lists reveals...

Around the house...

  • Clean spare bedroom/office (my brother and his fiancee are spending the night before TG with us to help with cooking)
  • Clean all bathrooms
  • Finish trim around front door (we replaced a piece of our door frame a few weeks ago and still haven't fixed the trim; but the door is secure)
  • Clean kitchen
  • Set up big table for the meal
  • Hide lots of crap

Things to buy...

  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Green beans
  • Pie crust
  • Pumpkin pie ingredients (whatever they may be)
  • Flavored water
  • Soda
  • Seagram's 7 (my dad loves his 7&7's)

Mind you, these are but a taste of each list. God only knows how much else is on there and how much more work will be needed over the next couple weeks in preparation for this event. Will the carpet we ordered be delivered and installed in time? That would require some additional prep work as well.

My God, I don't think this much planning goes on in the Pentagon War Room (I still imagine it being quite akin to Dr. Strangelove... don't ask me why, but it just doesn't seem that far off the mark).

But, despite all the work, one of the good things that comes out of this is that I get me some K.A.K.C. (Kick-Ass Katie Cooking). Katie is a fantastic cook and Thanksgiving is her time to shine for all to see. I will have to take pictures of the finished product and share with you all.

What do all you, my fair readers, have planned for the holiday?


Living dead girl...

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Kevin and Katie Apgar, 31 and 29 years old, respectively, were killed in a freak accident at Universal Studios, California, on October 30, 2006, the day before Halloween, also known in popular lore as Devil’s Night.

Kevin and KatieThe couple, pictured here in one of their last known photos, was posing in front of the Universal Studios globe when the sculpture came free of its moorings due to excessive winds. The globe rolled toward the unsuspecting couple as they, according to shocked onlookers, were preparing to take another photograph. As they hammed it up for the camera, the globe rolled over them and continued on a brief path of destruction through the amusement park.

The two former residents of Geneva, Illinois, were badly injured but not dead yet. Not until a group of good Samaritans, in an attempt to stop the globe’s destructive tendencies, set up a barricade of ropes. The sculpture, a trademarked icon of Universal Studios, was inadvertently slung backwards instead of coming to a halt. It finally came to rest atop the bodies of Kevin and Katie, crushing the life out of them forever.

Visitors were horrified by the morbid assemblage of flattened flesh and bloodied souvenirs. Theme park officials made quick work of cleaning up the mess and restoring the globe to its display. Their haste ruined any chance for crime scene investigators to examine the accident site.

Subsequent visitors to the park have noted that the temperature seems to drop upwards of 20 degrees when they stand where the couple was killed. Others have heard ghostly wails around the globe and have watched as mooring anchors for the globe mysteriously loosen themselves. One visitor shared a photograph he took of his wife near the sculpture featuring two ectoplasmic human forms standing to either side of her.

An official investigation is underway and lawsuits by surviving family members are expected. Park officials are also consulting with mediums to figure out how best to appease the unsettled spirits.

[Okay, maybe not the best, but Happy Halloween all the same!]


Memories... like the corners of my mind...

Well, depending on how long you've been reading kapgar, you may or may not know that I like to do a sort of highlights reel of trips we go on. This usually involves creating a list of "positives" and "negatives" and letting you all read through. The last time I did this was back in September for my Florida trip. So here goes with a good v. bad of San Francisco 2006...

The Positives:

  • Christopher Columbus Katie was with me
  • Going with my brother, Brian, and his fiancee, Jen
  • It was San Francisco, baby!
  • Katie was with me
  • Absolutely unbelievably stunningly gorgeous weather especially when compared to the rest of the country (sorry about the triple adverbs there; I felt it needed the extra emphasis)
  • Katie getting her very first digital camera and loving it
  • Katie was with me
  • Mondavi freebies - the tour and all the tastings, plus a discount on merchandise
  • Poppy Hills Golf Course freebies - yeah, I may not have detailed those for legality's sake
  • Katie was... well, you get it
  • Yet another cool car rental in California - the first time out there in L.A. two years ago was a Ford Escape, which was awesome
  • Seeing Paul's The Lost Blogs on the bestseller rack at Cody's Books
  • Having my Nintendo DS (rockin' Mario Kart!) for the trip home while Katie and Jen watched Friends on the DVD player
  • Great food
  • Fantastic scenery
  • Beautiful hotel
  • It was, simply put, great

The Negatives:

  • Small planes - it was an American Airlines S80, which I had never heard of and could find very little information about online when I looked. Now I know why, AA doesn't want you to know how small they are
  • Being delayed on return in Dallas/Fort Worth - why couldn't the mechanical problems have happened in San Francisco instead?!?!?!
  • Cost of the trip - not cheap, but worth every penny
  • Didn't get to meet Sandra, Jacynth, Mikey, Chase, or Karl - that bummed me out more than you know
  • No Web connectivity at either the Dell kiosk or Apple Store - WTF
  • Margaritaville in Sausalito closed down
  • Gas prices - but, some stations were still actually cheaper than here in Illinois
  • Dead DVD player - resulting in yet another California vacation trip to a Best Buy
  • Running out of space on my memory sticks - we had to purchase a 1 GB stick while out there; I've never taken that many photos before
  • Having to leave San Francisco behind

I find this to always be such a good way to wrap up a trip. Hope you enjoyed it.

Oh yeah, I've got four days worth of photos up on Flickr now. Stay tuned as I hope to have the final day's worth posted sometime later today. Thank God for lunch breaks.

Tomorrow: it's back to reality.


Days and days...

So would you all like to read the day-by-day of our activities out in S.F.? It's a pretty sordid laundry list of activities. You've been warned. Oh heck, I'll spice it up with a few photos since I've got the first couple days of shots loaded to Flickr (four more days of photos still need to be uploaded).

Here goes...

Sunday, July 30:
Jen sawing logsWe stayed up all night from Friday because it just wasn't worth trying to fall asleep for two hours only to wake up, shower, and pretend to be awake for the limo ride. Some of us survived it, some did not. We took a stretch limo to the airport and caught our 6:55 a.m. flight to Dallas/Fort Worth. My brother's flight, through his company was a bit different as it was scheduled by them, so he flew to Denver instead. The three of us then caught a 10:25 flight to Oakland. We got our rental car and drove across the Bay Bridge to the Marriott Courtyard in Oyster Point, just south of San Francisco on the 101.

That afternoon, we drove to Sausalito and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Nian Jing or some ridiculously difficult name to remember that is somewhat similar. Hell if I know.

We then headed up into the Marin Headlands and did our thing on Hawk Hill. That "thing" involved extensive photography, nothing else. Well, maybe some exploring of the abandoned gunnery outposts. Then we checked out some other batteries tucked further back in the headlands as well as some observation posts. There was a ton of hiking involved, but the photo ops made it all worthwhile.

We ended the evening with a joyride through the Presidio during which time we met the biggest imbecile of a security guard any of us had ever experienced. Moron.

Finally, back to the hotel.

Continue reading "Days and days..." »


Return to me...

Hey all. Just wanted to drop you a note that we are back and we are alive.

Actually, we got back really early yesterday, but I was too tired to post any sort of message to beat out the prepost I already had set up.

As for details regarding the trip, I still have a boatload of photos to upload to Flickr and quite a few thoughts to gather and handwritten notes (how archaic!) to develop into real posts first. So, be on the lookout for those over the course of the next couple days.

Stay tuned! I promise it will be fun.

Well, I can't really say that, can I? We're all our own people with our own idea of what constitutes "fun." Suffice it to say that it was fun for us and we hope it will be fun for you. Sound good anyway?


I don't wanna, baby, I don't wanna...

Nooooo....

You can't make it end! You can't take this away from me!

I. Won't. Let. It.

In case you were wondering, this is the last day of our vacation in San Francisco and I don't want it to be so. I figure if I bitch and whine enough, maybe the powers that be will allow it to continue in perpetuity.

Please, if you have the ability to allow us to stay here in San Francisco, I would greatly appreciate the effort. I would feel forever indebted to you. You would be my hero.

Make the week continue a couple more days. Delay the plane. Cancel it. Create some sort of inexplicable yet highly dangerous weather pattern over Chicago that shows no signs of letting up until, oh, say, next month?

Whatever it takes... I truly don't care.

I love this city. We both do. We would live here if there was ever hope of being able to afford a mortgage. Or a rent. Or a cardboard box, for that matter. This city ain't cheap.

Just let me stay.

Please.


Just keep on using me until you use me up...

It's kinda funny how well things work out sometimes.

Today is my dad's birthday and Katie and I are heading in to celebrate it with him and the rest of our family.

Tomorrow, of course, is the day we leave for San Francisco. Very early in the morning. And we would like to avoid paying the exorbitant parking fees charged in the long-term parking lots at O'Hare International Airport.

So what do creative planners such as Katie and I do? We go in and celebrate my dad's 61st birthday, spend the night at their house, and then use my parents for a free ride to the airport.

What loving kids are we? I know, I know. It's more than many of you can bear. There is just such a freeflow of love happening here on kapgar at this moment.

Heh.

Well, that was going to be the plan, anyway, until my brother offered us seats in his company-expensed stretch limo to the airport. Hmmm... parents in the early morning on the way to the airport or a STRETCH LIMO? You tell me which we're choosing.

Seriously, though, happy birthday, Dad! We love you ("we" being Katie and me, not me and my split personality).


It don't discourage me from trying...

If there's any one thing that I dread about our trip to San Francisco at the end of the month, it's all the walking that we are planning to do. No, I don't personally have a problem with walking. I do it every day. The problem I have is with the fact that I am sorely out of shape.

Okay, admittedly, Katie and I have been back on the Weight Watchers bandwagon for just about a month now. And we've been doing fairly well. I have no idea what number of pounds we've lost and I don't care. Our goal is to make our current clothes fit better and our smaller clothes fit again.

Well, one half of that is coming true. We both are fitting in our current clothes much better. I'm wearing a pair of shorts that I wore last summer that used to be a bit snug and now are quite baggy. That's a good thing. Same goes with Katie. Her clothes look much better on her.

We haven't really tried any of our old clothes on just yet. Baby steps, people!

To further our drive to get back in shape, we also started working out again at the gym. Since the hill climbing is what will kick our ass more than anything else out in SF, we've been doing a lot of cardio. Heck, for the first time in more than a year, I was actually jogging on Monday and Tuesday. Katie jogged on Monday and used an elliptical machine on Tuesday. While she went for a walk with a friend yesterday morning, I went for a bike ride later that night while she was at work. Last night, we went for one of our long neighborhood walks.

As much as I hate exercise, it really has felt good to be back in the swing of it all again. It's only been a week and I am feeling better. I'm breathing easier. I have more energy. I'm sleeping more soundly and apparently my occasional bout of snoring has waned.

Okay, okay, enough of this Public Service Announcement.

Suffice it to say that I'm stoked about our trip. We now have a hotel booked. Our airfare is done and paid for. We only need a car now. And a plan.

Oh screw the plan.

Vacations are much more fun when you're a bit more spontaneous. I want to live a little out there.

If I can help it, the only planned event (other than the flight) will be a Giants game against the Nationals either on Monday or Tuesday. The only reason that will be planned is because the MLB refuses to schedule their games around ME! Selfish bastards.

I need to calm down. Where are my running shoes?


Latest Fun With Dead Trees review   - Stick Out Your Tongue by Ma Jian


Leavin' on a jet plane...

I'm pretty sure I did use that title previously for my Florida trip last September, but, c'est la vie. Deal with it. I'm not feeling particularly original right now.

Some good news and some bad news.

First, the good news...

GoldenGate-sm Katie and I booked our tickets to San Francisco for the end of this month. We will be out there for just about a week and staying with my brother and his fiancee in a suite at a hotel near the airport. Not as close to the city as we were hoping, but considering the lack of availability for hotels where we wanted to stay and the prices for the few rooms that were available, we took the cheap option... FREE, actually.

We will also have the opportunity to hang with Sandra, Mikey, and Jacynth while we're out there. That's going to be cool. Not sure when just yet. But we'll make the time. I hope the reality of me doesn't let them down.

Now, the bad news...

We aren't leaving for SF until the 30th. So we're probably not going to be able to meet up with Karl who leaves that day from BlogHer. I thought we might run into each other at the airport, but we're flying into Oakland instead of San Francisco. I'm bummed about this.

Finally, the unsure news...

I don't know when Chase is departing from BlogHer, so there is still a chance that I can meet up with her. Let me know, Chase.

Oh, and happy Independence Day to all my fellow U.S.ians!


I fell in a burnin' ring of fire...

Aren't vacations supposed to be relaxing?

If the trade-off is that the relaxing aspect of the vacation is earned by jumping through flaming ring after flaming ring just trying to book the damn thing, then this had better be the most relaxing friggin' vacation Katie and I have ever gone on because I'm going through absolute hell to get it arranged.

Knobhill In an attempt to save money and because we've earned it, we're using the American Airlines Advantage miles we have amassed over the last six years to get free airfare. We each had our own account through AAdvantage so we could gain these miles. Last year, we both finally crossed the threshold necessary to be able to get tickets anywhere in the contiguous 48 states and, as I only learned today, without any blackout periods whatsoever.

The catch is that, since we each have our own account, we will each have to book separately through the AA Web site. If we book on the phone, we will be assessed service charges out the heinie (yes, I said "heinie," although I'm not sure if I spelled it correctly). The danger of this is that we may not be able to get tickets where we can sit together nor necessarily even on the same flight. It's a matter of checking availiability (only a limited number of seats per flight are set aside for AA members) and praying.

Great.

And then there's the hotel. We could stay at the hotel at which Brian and Jen will be staying at nearly $150 a night, which really isn't a bad price. Or we could try to use some of our contacts and stay at a hotel quite a ways closer in town -- I believe a majority of these hotels are in the KnNob Hill area (see photo, courtesy of localpics.com); while another one is relatively close to the Embarcadero.

The price for these hotels is much better as we could potentially get a deal that would allow us to stay for half the total cost of where my brother is staying. And, being so close to where we plan on hanging out anyway, a cab or cablecar ride back after a night of drunken debauchery is much more reasonable. Heck, we may even be able to stumble home with relatively few injuries.

No, none of these are "cheap" hotels; all of them seem to be rated 3.5 stars or above. It's just a matter of me pulling strings and getting deals. But we have to find some membership code number and coupons for a Web site I signed up with years ago so I can use it as an identifier when calling to get the deals. Considering I signed up with the site so long ago and have not used them once, I can only hope that I can still find the coupons and codes.

Again... great.

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I need help!


This is kinda eerie... it was brought to my attention by Chase that the time that Katie and I will be out in San Francisco is right about the time of BlogHer. What's eerie about it is that I was thinking "I wonder if our trip now coincides with BlogHer?" Alas, it just might.

No, this was not intentional and I don't think I'm going to be attending or anything (I'm not sure how to entertain Katie if I were to go), but it does mean that I can meet more of you. I was already planning on meeting Sandra while I was out there, as well as, hopefully, Jacynth and Mikey. But I may be able to meet Chase, Karl, and Belinda now as well. Anybody else going to be in the area around that time?

Oh yeah, we are, for sure, going to be in the Bay Area from July 31-August 4 (those are the days my brother and his fiancee are going to be there). But Katie and I were going to try to get out there on the 29th and stick around until the 5th. These dates are very loose and dependent on the airfare we can book, of course. But, if it does work out, I'll let you know.

Maybe all this scheduling headache does have an additional silver lining.


Quick Update: I want to wish my uncle a happy birthday. So... happy birthday, UB!


Mama said...

First, I'd like to wish my mom a happy 60th birthday. As you might recall, we had the party for her back in April, so you can visit that post for some photos.

Happy birthday Mom. We love you.

On the topic of moms, Katie and I are going to take part in a charity 5K walk a couple hours from now to benefit Huntington's Disease, I think. I'm assuming it's Huntington's because we were asked if we wanted to do this walk in honor of our friend's mom who died of the disease about two years ago.

Katie and I have never done a charity walk before. We have no idea what to expect and we had very little notice (we just found out this past Wednesday) so we're definitely not getting any sponsors, I'm sure. But, if it all works out well, maybe we'll do these more often. It would be pretty cool.

So wish us luck.


But the fire is so delightful...

And now, the final day of our Christmas celebration.

I noted at the end of my last post that it was a very long night and a very early morning.  I did forget to mention one little detail... we were trying like heck on Christmas Eve night, after returning from McHenry, to find any store that might be open.  Yeah, the odds were pretty slim, granted.  It was 12:30 at night on what was now, technically, Christmas Day.  But we figured something had to be open that carried groceries.

Why?  We had no sweet potatoes.  We just completely forgot to buy some when we had gone shopping earlier in the week.  Now we were paying for it. 

Sadly, all grocery stores had shut their doors at 6 p.m. for the next 36 hours or so.

And this baffles me.

With all the bitching that some people do about how many Americans celebrate a Christian holiday, I'm shocked and dismayed that all those who complain seem to have no problem taking the day of Christ's birth as a holiday of their own.  Were any of these people doing the responsible thing and keeping stores open and working?  No.  I think that if you're going to bitch about celebrating Christmas, you should at least be productive whilst doing so.  I have to work during holidays that other people have off. 

Besides, I think grocery stores would make a killing on Christmas Day from all the people (I'd raise my hand, but I'm typing) who forgot some necessary element of their meal.

Well, we actually managed to find a Walgreen's and it was open and, lo and behold, they had sweet potatoes.  I doubt this was something they carry on a regular basis as it was sitting out on a cart and didn't have any shelf space. 

God bless agnostics at Walgreen's for remaining open.

The next morning (or, later that same morning depending on how you choose to look at it), we woke up at 8 or so and got ready to go to my brother's place where Katie would be prepping Christmas dinner for the two of us as well as my brother, Brian, and his fiancee, Jen; our parents; and Jen's parents who were in town from California. 

For the next several hours, she was cooking with a little help from the rest of us and it just never seemed to end.  She was bouncing back and forth from one mixing bowl to another and in between the stove and the turkey roaster.  I feel so bad for her and I tried to help, but there was only so much I could do and only so much control she was willing to relinquish (when she starts cooking, she gets in a zone and, sometimes, it's best to just step back).

But everything was incredible.  The meal was delicious; even the dishes Katie had never made before. 

We also opened a bunch of gifts that night and got some great stuff.

It was a good night despite how busy it was and how hot it got in that kitchen.

I think we might skip hosting holiday parties this coming year.  Sounds like a good plan.

Okay, I'm done with the posts about Christmas... I swear.


Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland...

On Saturday, Katie and I woke up from what was not the world's greatest sleep at the Wyndham (we found out from Dave that the reason we slept so well at Westin as opposed to the Wyndham is because they have something known as the "Heavenly Bed" and he often goes out of the way to stay at Westins for this very reason).

We noticed, as we left the hotel, that it had warmed up significantly outside.  Much of the muck snow that was collecting on the sides of the streets in Chicago was melting away and it wasn't looking like it would be much of a White Christmas.  I made a mental note to purchase another Christmas song from iTMS.  Unfortunately, when the time came, I forgot to actually buy it.  Dangit!

We then hiked the mile or so from our hotel to The Pancake House near Rush Street a bit northwest of the end of the Magnificent Mile.  Considering we walked what we did both to and from, we didn't feel so guilty about our meal: Georgia pecan pancake for me and a baked apple pancake for Katie.  Damn, they were good.  And huge!  And not that bad a price either.

As we ambled our way back to the hotel, we made a few stopoffs at Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, and the Apple Store.  Guess what?  I bought absolutely nothing at my Mecca.  I had a $50 gift certificate and I didn't spend it.  Well, primarily because I couldn't think of anything to buy.  Weird, eh?

We got back up to our room, showered, changed into our Christmas party clothes, and checked out.  There was, however, an unfortunate difference between the time by which we had to check out and the time when we needed to be at our next destination.  Somewhere in the vicinity of four hours.

Since we were heading to Arlington Heights (we were supposed to go to McHenry to open gifts with Katie's family; but they changed the schedule so we would open gifts after eating at her aunt and uncle's house -- makes much more sense as one is on the way to the other so we wouldn't have to backtrack), we continued on a little bit to the AMC in Barrington and watched The Family Stone.  I would highly recommend this film.  Very good, but horribly mismarketed.  All the ads make it out to be a comedy, but it is, in fact, a very powerful drama that has its comedic moments.  Check it out.

Even after watching the film, we still had time so we went to Woodfield Mall and Katie got a new sweater set for that night.  Considering this was supposed to be the busiest shopping day of the year (Christmas Eve), the mall was surprisingly sedate.  We even got parking only about five spaces out.  I was in shock; but happy at the same time.

We then made our way to Katie's Aunt and Uncle's house and had a good meal and opened up some really nice gifts.  We really had a good time and her Aunt and Uncle have a nice house (they just moved back from the St. Louis 'burbs this year).

Finally, we hopped in the car and made the trek back to McHenry for the big family gift opening.  Katie and I made out like bandits.  It was quite nice.  And, no, I'm not going to brag about what I got suffice it to say that I've got a lot to read in the coming months.  That's a good thing.

I think we finally made it back to Geneva around midnight and still stayed up for another couple of hours preparing some items for the Christmas meal we were making at my brother's house the next day.

It was a long day ...

... and a late night ...

... and an early next morning.


But the wind blew me back via Chicago...

I knew when I published both the December 23 and December 24 posts that things would never quite work out the way I had envisioned them. 

Why do I even bother?

I would've been better off posting some fluff links to Christmas sites to get everyone in the mood and just said "we're going to Chicago, see you in a few" and let it at that.

What I'm trying to say is that our visit to Chicago was only remotely like how I posted it might be.

I knew, as soon as we went to check in at our first hotel on Thursday night that my entire post was already blown to hell in a handbasket.

So, here's what all really happened.  And it's actually a bit more interesting than the false reality I created before...

We arrived at the Wyndham Hotel (conveniently located one block behind the Apple Store. Score!) at about 11 p.m. on Thursday night to check in.  We were really late because we went to Katie's parent's house for several hours and had dinner with them.  Then we went to Best Buy because we were trying to make an exchange on a Christmas gift for one of her brothers that didn't quite work out as planned. 

When we tried to check in, the guy at the counter (David the Hotel Checker Dude, or as I shall refer to him, "DtHCD") looked at us and said, "I have good news, bad news, and a proposition.  Which would you like to hear first?"

We chose "good news."

DtHCD - "The good news is that the Wyndham is a very nice hotel." 

Nice hotel, but a bad sign for things to come.

DtHCD - "The bad news is that we overbooked our very nice hotel.  We have a room if you absolutely are not in the mood for our proposition, but you two look like nice people who are in a good mood, so we hope you are willing to accept our proposition."

Here it comes...

DtHCD - "We would like to move you to another hotel for tonight and we will then have a room for you tomorrow."

Aye aye aye...

DtHCD - "But we will pay for your room tonight and upgrade you to one of our living room suites tomorrow night."

Come again...

Us - "Ummm... where would we be relocated?"

DtHCD - "The Westin Chicago River North near the House of Blues.  It's a nice hotel as well and they have one of their corner suites reserved for you."

Us - "Well, okay."

We got our car back from the valet service and drove our way over to the Westin.  I wasn't sure what to expect as I didn't have a chance to look up the hotel online or see any photos or have any prior experience with the hotel whatsoever.  But when we got there... woah, mama!  It was a beautiful room.  One, we decided almost immediately, we would rather stay in regardless of what they were offering us at the Wyndham.  We couldn't possibly imagine a nicer room than what we were now staying in... and for free, to boot!

That night, we stayed in bed and drank some champagne and ate some chocolate covered strawberries I picked up from a place we love in Geneva.  We watched something on TV while we ate and drank, but I'll be damned if I remember what it was.

We slept in until about 9 the next morning and headed out to Marshall Field's in hopes of having breakfast under the tree.  Yeah, no.  If we waited, it would have been for dinner by the time we got through line.  Well, not literally, but close.  There was a two-hour wait once you got your pager for seating.  However, there was a two-hour wait simply to get a pager.

We looked around the store a bit to see what was available and then went back to Harry Caray's restaurant for an early lunch.  Much easier in and out and probably a lot cheaper.  The food was incredible as well.  Katie got boneless chicken vesuvio and I had baked lasagna.  Tasty.

After doing a bit more shopping in and around the State Street area, we went to Millennium Park and walked around a bit.  Hey, I saw several Segways!  Go figure that it takes me posting about it to actually start seeing them.  Of course, they were only being used by cops and, ironically enough, one of them must've been broken down because the cop was walking it instead of riding it.  Funny.

And, even though we were discussing nixing it, we did go to the Art Institute.  We didn't spend a lot of time there, but we saw the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean displays; the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibits; and the photography exhibits.  They were stunning and, in the photography exhibit, I found out about some new Chicago photographers that were incredible and I will probably try digging up some more information on.  Quite impressive work.

Next, we headed back to the Westin to grab our stuff and move back to the Wyndham.  Yes, the room we received was huge and we were not upcharged at all for the upgrade; but, when compared to the impressive beauty of the Westin, it just paled.  Maybe if we didn't have the Westin as a point of comparison, we would have liked it that much better.  But, it just seemed so impersonal.  Huge and vacant.

So we left and did some walking around on the Mag Mile.  First, we found Ethel's Chocolate Lounge in the North Bridge Shopping Center on Michigan Avenue.  Katie had discovered the Naperville Ethel's a few days prior and wanted to take me to this one.  It was wonderful.  Pricey, yes; but damn good chocolate.  Of course, while in North Bridge, we hit the Lego store.  As I've said before, once a geek...

After walking around for a while, Katie's feet and calves were getting a bit worn out, so we went to an AMC and sat for a bit and watched Fun With Dick and Jane.  Not a fantastic movie, but still enjoyable.  And, you must watch the end credits.  The beginning of them had Katie and I rolling with laughter.  If you know anything about the travails of modern business, you will love them, too.

Now that we were a bit more rested and relaxed, we hiked over to Ben Pao's Chinese restaurant.  Wow!  It blew me away.  Katie was here a few months ago while I was in Florida for Nano's birthday and she's been raving about it ever since.  We finally had a chance to go and I would recommend that you do the same when you're in town.


A flower on the table at Ben Pao

By this time, it was pretty late and we were dog tired.  We went back to the hotel and pretty much crashed.  Hey it had been a long day.  Yes, this was all just Friday.  Wait until Saturday.

More photos are available at Flickr. (ed. note... whoops, forgot to make this a link.  Sorry.)


Have a holly, jolly Christmas

Just a quick note to all of you to say Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah (Hannukah, et al), Happy Kwanzaa... whatever you celebrate.

Enjoy your celebrations.  Enjoy your families.  Enjoy your gifts.  Enjoy your food.

Katie and I will be doing all this.  And more.

I will be back tomorrow with a more comprehensive post and a Chicago update (severe update... not much worked out as planned). 

See ya then.


And in case you've no place to go...

I really wish that we could stay in Chicago another day.  However, we have one heckuva schedule ahead of us today.

First, we leave Chicago and head to McHenry to open gifts with her parents and her brothers. I'm not sure what the traffic will be like trying to get out of the city on the major highways on Christmas Eve.  I guess we'll find out the hard way.  If conditions were ideal, the trip would only take us about an hour and a half.  But this is Chicago, using Chicago tollways, in Chicago weather, during the holidays.

Nope, we're in for a major pooch screw.

But it doesn't end there. 

After McHenry, we're heading out with Katie's family to a holiday dinner with Katie's mom's side of the family (sorry, I typically hate to use a double possessive; but I couldn't think of a lyrically sound way to avoid it).  This will take place in Arlington Heights which, ironically enough, we will be driving by to get to McHenry.  Hmm...

Finally, after we leave Arlington Heights and go back to McHenry, we will, I think, head back home to Geneva.  That's a lot of miles and a lot of gas and, well, a lot of driving.  Will it be doPi or the radio?  I think doPi's gonna win this one.

If sleep doesn't prevail first.


Back in that same ol' place, Sweet Home Chicago...

Katie and I are now in Chicago.  And we've got some mighty big plans for what we intend to do today. 

Here's the sneak preview...

Breakfast under the Christmas tree at Marshall Field's
MiscmarshallfieldsSince this is the last year we will ever be able to do this before Marshall Field's becomes a *gulp* Macy's, we figured it's time to go.  She's done this many times in the past with her family.  But I don't think I've ever done this.  If I did, I don't remember it at all. 

Oh, and for the record, I will never call this place Macy's.  I don't care.  Just like I will always use the names Comiskey Park, Rosemont Horizon, and World Music Theater as opposed to the new names.  No, this is not some corporate sellout like the other three; but it's still just as despicable. This place has too much history in this town.

The Art Institute
We are both art junkies yet we've never been to the Art Institute together.  Heck, it's been years since either of us have been there on our own even.

Shopping on State Street and Michigan Avenue
Of course, we will likely hit the Apple Store amongst others.  I've still got a gift certificate from last Christmas to spend (I didn't have it with me on Black Friday because I didn't think we'd actually be buying anything).  Once a geek...

Lunch and Dinner Someplace
We haven't really decided where just yet.  We may walk around and just see what sounds good or appeals to our appetites at the time.  No, there won't be any Giordano's (sorry, Dave).  We had that last night!

Drinks in the Signature Room
If we can get in, we'd like to go up to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center and have drinks in their famous restaurant/bar.  Neither of us have ever been there, so why not?  We're not looking to eat there, so we hope we won't need reservations.  I think they do have just a bar, don't they?  Yes, yes they do.

Will we actually get around to doing all this?  I can't quite say for sure.  That'll be a whole other post sometime after this weekend.  I'll let you know.  And post the pictures.