Monthly Archives: May 2007

We’ve Got Movie Sign!

takaza and I have been wanting to see Waitress since it was in limited release a few weeks ago. Here’s the trailer. It’s a light romantic comedy, and it co-stars Nathan Fillion. And even better, it can’t be cancelled by the Fox Network in mid-run!

We want to see the movie on Saturday at the Regal Cinemas 18 in Round Lake Beach. We’ve got two options:
1. See it at 2:25 PM, then go by Garden Fresh Market afterwards and pick up fixings for grilling up a tasty dinner, or
2. See it at 5:00 PM, and go out for dinner someplace afterwards.

So, who’s interested, and what time works for you?

Memorial Day Weekend, Part the Second

…and we pick up our program on Saturday night, already in progress.

Saturday night a good number of folks headed home, but Rusty, Simba, and Sirius (along with my mom) crashed at our place, and Linnaeus, Jaycee, Nyuni, and Erin crashed over at Roho and Genet’s place. The lot of us met up for brunch at our old standby, Las Vegas Restaurant in Antioch. After a pleasant meal, I took Mom back down to O’Hare so she could catch her flight home, then returned to our place, where everyone else had gone after brunch.

The afternoon and evening were full of games and fun. We played Cranium (which, as usual, was about 30 minutes too long), then some TransAmerica, as well as some Lupus in Tabula. Throw in noshing on leftovers and an occasional break to watch “Ace of Cakes” and you’ve got a lovely day with friends. I went to bed at about 11:30 PM, leaving Rusty, Linnaeus, and Dan to play a few more games of TransAmerica; Dan came to bed around 2 AM.

Monday we had set aside to do absolutely nothing. Paul had gone home after the game wrapped up, so Rusty was our only guest, which was fine – he’s family, so he qualifies as a low-maintenance houseguest 🙂 The day was spent pretty much just lazing around in the living room. Dan got up at about 1:30 PM, and we munched a bit on still more leftovers. I got curious and after asking a few questions, I downloaded the client and now, heaven help us, both Dan and I are on Second Life.

Here is Dunc McMillan. Theoretically, he’s an anthropomorphic Siberian husky. I may need to work on a better avatar.

And here is Dunc sitting with his partner, Takaza Guffey. Isn’t Takaza just the cutest thing?

I don’t see getting too involved in Second Life much more than I am involved on FurryMuck, which is to say as a glorified IRC client. But hey, it’s there and maybe I’ll have fun with it. We closed out the wonderfully relaxing day with our new Monday habit, since Heroes has gone away for the summer: Doctor Who. We’ve had all of the second season sitting on our Tivo for quite some time, so we’ve started watching those, beginning with last night’s “Christmas Invasion”. Hmm. David Tennant is no Christopher Eccleston, but he’s definitely growing on me…

So that’s our Memorial Day weekend. Now we can start worrying about other fun stuff, like Anthrocon, and FRAC, and MFF, and all the usual stuff! 🙂

Memorial Day Weekend, Part the First

Yep, it was a weekend so big it’s going to need two posts!

Going into this weekend, both takaza and I were somewhat disappointed. For the past two years we have hosted Wuffmeet on Memorial Day weekend, a gathering of 30-or-so friends at a local hotel for a weekend of hanging out, good food, and lots of fun. This year, between conflicting schedules, lack of money, and general lack of interest (perhaps it was too soon after New Year’s?), Wuffmeet just didn’t come together. So we went to Plan B: Hanging out at Duncan and Takaza’s. We spent a good bit of last week cleaning the house, shopping, and making plans. I’m very pleased with the way things turned out, and I think Dan is too.

On Friday, after a few last-minute cleaning tasks in the kitchen, I joined roho, genet, midwestcougar, and nyuni over at The Firkin for dinner. It was a pleasure to see Nyuni again (who apparently I had met at MFF a few years back, but it was during one of the “Chairman’s Receptions”, so I was a little hazy on that 🙂 He’s a fellow homebrewer and has a fine appreciation for beer, and The Firkin is the perfect place for that! Dinner was tasty and the beers were plentiful. It was quite enjoyable. Once I got home, I put the pork butts in to brine and put a nice, spicy rub on the beef brisket and put them all into the fridge.

On Saturday morning, I woke up unconscionably early. This gave me time to make coffee, catch up on e-mail and LJ, and generally enjoy a quiet hour, before going to work on the smoking. We had two eight-pound pork butts and a nearly-nine-pound beef brisket that needed to be smoked. After getting the charcoal lit and well-stoked in the firebox, I added chunks of hickory and apple wood. After a few hours, it looked like this:

As you can see, it was a bit rainy, but fortunately I had positioned the grill under our balcony and covered the balcony with a tarp, so the grill stayed nice and dry. I put the meat on to smoke at 8 AM and was able to follow the temperature of both the meat and the smoking chamber using a handy gadget I quick-ordered from Amazon on Thursday (bless you, Amazon Prime – I {heart} $2 next-day delivery). At 1:30 PM, I pulled everything off the smoker and wrapped each one in foil and put them into an over at 300 degrees F to finish off the cooking. After re-rigging the grill a bit, I started up a couple of charcoal chimneys in the main grill portion and then used those coals to grill 30 hamburgers and 16 bratwursts.

As expected, most of our guests showed up after the projected 2 PM lunch time, but over the next few hours we were joined by (big breath here) roho, genet, midwestcougar, nyuni, serinthia, todd_riverden, linnaeus, siriuswolfstar, simbalion, wyldekyttin, uncle_vlad, datahawk, foxish, steviemaxwell, magicpaw, rcking, nymphara, rustitobuck, Dan’s mom, luckytheevildog, and quasiskunk (I think that’s everyone).

In an additional bizarre and random occurrence, I got a call from my sister that my mom, who was flying from Portland, Oregon to Greenville, South Carolina via O’Hare, was going to miss her flight and probably be stranded in Chicago for the night. Right after we had finished slicing the brisket and pulling all the pork and we were about to start setting the food out, I got the call from Mom that she was at O’Hare. I jumped into the car and about the 90-minute round trip to the airport and Mom got to hang out with some of the folks who were at the party (she mainly stayed in the garage “smoking lounge”). So it was a weird twist, but it was a real pleasure to see her again.

The rest of the evening was filled with Apples to Apples, consumption of Beverages, and general merriment. Thanks to all the folks who brought side dishes (Robert’s orzo salad was tasty!), desserts (Jaycee’s ever-full boxes of cupcakes!) and drinks. That many people in our little townhouse gets a bit crazy, but we have so much fun hosting these parties and I hope everyone had as great a time as we did.

Next post: Sunday and Monday – Las Vegas, games, werewolves, and new addictions!

Aww Yeah…

As of 8 AM, there is an 8-pound beef brisket and two 8-pound pork butts on the smoker, with a combination of hickory and apple wood providing the smoke. This is gonna be good.

BTW, if anyone in the Chicago area wants some apple wood, have we got a source for you!

Go Go Gadget Airfares!

Woo! We just bought plane tickets to Anthrocon! Depart from O’Hare on Tuesday night at 7:05 PM, return from Pittsburgh at 2:35 PM on Monday afternoon. The total cost? $93 each, including taxes and fees. Sweet! We need to figure out the logistics of getting to and from the airport, but for that price it was worth it to lock in the tickets now.

Other than that, it’s a last-minute push to finish off the cleaning today, then there’s the party tomorrow. Happy fun time!

Midweek Already? I’m Not Ready!

It’s been a bit crazy this week as takaza and I make preparations for the weekend. Mainly just getting things cleaned up, etc. but also running errands. yesterday I stopped by our favorite local butcher to order some meat to smoke this weekend. We’re going to have rather a lot of meat, since I wound up ordering two pork butts (yes, that’s a pork shoulder, and no I don’t understand the vagaries of butcher-ese) plus a beef brisket. Each butt is going to be 7-9 pounds and the brisket will be 8-10 pounds (with fat attached; probably more like 6-8 pounds of meat once cooked). If we see the 50% yield on the pork that I did the first time I smoked (this will be better quality, so I expect more like 75% yield) we’re looking at putting between 13 to 17 pounds of cooked meat on the table. Hope everyone is hungry! 🙂

The other big news on my mind is Anthrocon. Besides some slight changes to my staff (and welcome to woodychitwn as my second-in-command in Artists Alley/Con Store), I was taking a hard look at our travel plans. We typically leave the Tuesday evening before the convention, spend the night somewhere in Ohio, the roll into the con at around noon on Wednesday. First off, leaving Tuesday night after work means trying to leave town on the evening of July 3. I expect it’ll take at least double the usual time if not more just to clear Chicago and surrounds. Which leaves us driving way too far too late at night, or having to drive further than we’d like on Wednesday morning. Plus, there’s the expense of the gas (assuming $4-ish per gallon), the hotel Tuesday night, the tolls, the food along the way, and the parking at the Westin.

Then, the thought occurred to me: just how much is airfare? If we fly out from O’Hare Tuesday night after work, we can stay at the La Quinta near Pittsburgh International very cheaply due to Dan’s points there, then catch the express bus downtown Wednesday morning. Monday morning, it’s as simple as catching the bus back to the airport. And after totaling all this up, it’s actually cheaper to fly than to drive. Couple that with the kind offer from linnaeus to carry a few other items in his car for us (i.e. booze) and flying suddenly becomes a very attractive possibility. Dan and I will talk this over tonight and probably have a decision in the next day or two.

So, to do tonight: install the new shower head (which, according to Amazon, is currently sitting on our front porch), clean both showers (we have a stall and a tub/shower in the master bath), then start in on dinner. Busy busy busy!

Mercy Me, What a Weekend!

What a fantastic weekend! And yes, sumatrae, this is another post all about food 🙂

On Friday, we met up with roho, genet, linnaeus, feren, lady_curmudgeon, and a host of other folks from R&G’s gaming group for dinner at Bombay City Indian Restaurant in Gurnee. takaza was pushing his boundaries a bit, but I was really happy that 1.) he was willing to try it, and 2.) he really liked it! The restaurant manager(?) approached our group of 14 and suggested we try ordering family style, and since there were a number of neophytes he suggested a set of entrees, including chicken tikka masala, rogan josh (lamb in a tomato and onion sauce), lamb badam pasanda (lamb cooked in cream and nuts), chicken biryani, and saag paneer and mutter paneer (cubes of cheese cooked with spinach and peas, respectively). The nan (bread) was yummy, and I loved my mango lassi. It was a fantastic meal, and both Dan and I look forward to visiting Bombay City again soon. To answer your question from Friday, posicat, I definitely recommend this place! Apparently it’s only been there for about a year.

The weather on Saturday was perfect. I had to fire up our new grill to season the inside of it. I figured that once we had it hot we might as well use it, so we invited Roho and Genet out to help us inaugurate the grill. They were kind enough to stop by Antioch Packing House and pick up some amazing 1.5″ thick strip steaks. I picked up some yellow and red bell peppers, onions, and corn, all of which got grilled up with the steaks. I still need to work on my charcoal grilling technique (I’m sure the hair on the back of my hand will grow back eventually), but the nice thing is that the grill has enough surface area that if I keep the coals to one side, I can position the food at various distances from them to control the cooking. The steaks came out perfectly, and the entire dinner was delicious! Dan and Roho baked up some tasty puff pastry/peanut butter/chocolate thingies for dessert to cap off a great evening.

Sunday was the very-lightly-attended Midwest FurFest staff meeting. Before the meeting, though, we had to indulge in a bit of home shopping. You see, our pantry is nice, but I hated the way that our “liquor cabinet” looked – it was really just a collection of bottles that sat precariously on the wire rack. The bottles were prone to tip over, and it was difficult to see and access what we had. We also wanted to free up the space in the pantry, so we decided to go to Ikea to find a proper liquor cabinet. I’m pleased to say that we found the perfect thing. Dan did the assembly work and I helped secure it in place, and here’s the finished product:

Here’s the new cabinet. I wanted doors because I thought having all the bottles in plain view might suggest that we’re complete lushes. I love all the shelf space on the bottom.

And here it is open, showing all the boozy goodness! And hey, it’s not even completely full 🙂

I like it because it is shallower than the cart we had there before and it provides a lot more storage space – I now can have all my cookbooks in the kitchen!

So now we’re back to the work-week. We’re in a frenzy of listmaking in preparations for our Memorial Day weekend gathering (post on that to follow). That should be a blast too!

TGIF-ness

And the week has thus wound down. Hooray! It’s looking like we’ve got a lovely weekend coming up (well, Saturday, anyway – Sunday’s supposed to be colder and stormy). I’m up in the air about going to LAFF Softball on Saturday; both cars need a thorough washing inside and out, and I still need to fire up the new grill and “season” the interior before we do any grilling or smoking. So, we’ll see how things go.

Sunday will be the May Midwest FurFest staff meeting. Things are perking along there, and I feel better now that I’ve gotten the first of the confirmation postcards out. I need to sit down with neowolf2 and work out who’s going to do what this year as well. Maybe we’ll get some food afterwards, or not – we’re playing it by ear.

I’m looking forward to dinner tonight. We’re going to an Indian restaurant in Gurnee. It’s been ages since I’ve been to a good restaurant, and roho and genet tell us that this is a really tasty place. I can’t wait!

That’s it for now. It’s ice cream time!

Heavy cream, Chicken broth, 4-6 large lemons…

That’s from my shopping list, of course. Since I flaked yesterday and forgot a bunch of things when I went to the store, my penance is that I have to go back today. takaza‘s mom is coming over for dinner tomorrow so I need to get more pork chops, and I think I’m going to make a nice lemon sorbet for dessert.

Last night wasn’t so good. My back was killing me, even after a round of naproxen and some time on the heating pad. After waking up several times, I finally took some Tylenol 3 at about 2:30 AM to get some sound sleep and that did the trick. On the upside, last night’s episode of Heroes was quite excellent. You know it’s good when you have to pause the Tivo in the middle of the show and just stare and say, “Wow!”. One more episode to go, and it’s going to be a doozy.

Dan and I have talked a bit about FRAC (Furries Race Across Chicago) and it sounds like we’ve got some plans in place. It’s going to be on Saturday, October 13, and we’re going all-out this time. We’ll have a website for it, and we plan to have some players out at Anthrocon as well. Dan is going to set up a hotel room block for out-of-towners. For those veterans who are interested in working behind the scenes this time, we’re going to have some fun opportunities to help out, as well. We only have a very general idea of places we want to send people this time around, but we’re happy to take suggestions and also ideas for fun puzzles (privately, of course).

That’s it for now! Back to wrestling this protocol into shape…

Hiking and New Toys, Yay!

Neither Dan nor I felt up to cooking on Friday so we decided to seek dinner out. We stopped by Gurnee Mills to check out the tripods at Micomp that stormdog had mentioned (alas, they only had the floor model left, and that was rather beat up), then got some dinner at the taquiera at one of the food courts (they make delicious quesadillas!). After dinner, and as the mall was closing, we headed across the street and bought our first new toy of the weekend

Just a quick entry

Just a couple of things before we sit down to rot our brains with Survivor…

ovrclokd started my day off with a gigglefit as I read the link she posted: I Has a Sweet Potato. No, it’s not a picture of an animal with cute, poorly-structured statements on it, it’s something that’s far funnier than that. Just click. Trust me.

Looks like we’re going up to Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin. It’s still up in the air whether we’re going to the Southern Unit or the Northern Unit, but either way it should be a pleasant hike with some good company. I’m really looking forward to it.

A minor annoyance: when I was buying stamps yesterday I wanted to buy postcard stamps that I could use after the rate increase that goes into effect on Monday. They’d happily sell me several 100-stamp rolls of 24-cent postcard stamps…which won’t do me much good when the rate goes up to 26 cents. When I asked if they had any of the new 26-cent stamps, I was informed that they didn’t have any of those in stock. Gah! I understand that postcard stamps are in less demand, but it’s less than a week before the rate hike, and they don’t have the stamps in? Since when did the post office become a JIT operation?

There. I feel better 🙂

Hump Day (My Lovely, um, Weekly Hump?)

The Midwest FurFest confirmation postcards arrived yesterday from Vistaprint. In the past, I printed up all the postcards myself, front and back, then cut them up, the put labels and stamps on them, then mailed them. That was fine when it was just a couple hundred. Last year, I mailed out close to 800 postcards. It was very clear that it was time to choose a different route. takaza did a fantastic job sourcing a vendor for who would pre-print the postcards, then he worked with film2edit to come up with a beautiful design for the postcard front. When I got a look at the finished product yesterday, I was thrilled! It’s a quality print job, and the cost was a quarter of the quotes that we got locally, and they sent the cards to us four days earlier than we expected them. I’d really recommend Vistaprint!

So, my task tonight is to stop by the post office and buy a whole bunch of (new, improved, more expensive) postcard stamps to stock up for the year, finish stamping the hundred-odd cards I have in hand, and drop those into the mail (I’ve got one in the for you, Chilly, so you can see the finished product!). I need to stop a couple of other places as well, but that’s fine – the weather should be nice, and it’ll be good to cruise a bit with the windows down and some good music playing. Once I get home, it’ll eithe rbe pork chops of pierogis for dinner, depending on how motivated we are (and what the sell-by date on the pork chops is!).

Speaking of music, thanks to everyone for their music recommendations yesterday! I hope to sit down tonight and sample a little of each artist. I promise I’ll let you know what I think (and if anyone else has suggestions, feel free to add them). Now that I have our MP3 library in order, I’m steadily adding to it. We’ve also found a neat new way to use it: Orb. This is a nifty utility that lets you stream your MP3 library to the web painlessly – no IP spoofing, no client software needed. You load up their Flash-based site and it handles everything for you. The biggest downside for us: one connection per username, so if Dan’s listening and I log in, I knock him offline. The site offers some sharing functionality that I need to investigate further, though.

Aaaaand back to work!

Tuesday Links and Stuff

Good news! Sort of. Fox has announced when they’re going to burn off the last two episodes of Drive: the least-watched night of television of the year, July 4. Thank goodness for Tivo!

Here’s a huge shocker: Amazing Race All-Stars winners Eric and Danielle are no longer dating (video link). Fortunately, they each have $500,000 to soothe the pain. {grumble, grumble}

And finally, a bit of comment-whoring: I’m interested in finding some new music, and I’m seeking recommendations. My tastes run to contemporary folk and folk-rock, Celtic, and guitar-based rock. I’m fascinated with combinations of genres, like Celtic rock, or Klezmer jazz (cf. David Grisman). And vocal harmonies are always welcome. So…what do you suggest?

I Spent The Weekend Cooking

(Yeah, yeah, I know. Big surprise, huh?)

This past weekend was most excellent. Very low stress, and I got to try some new and cool things.

We started out on Friday evening by meeting partran for dinner at Osteria di Tramonto in Wheeling (I note that there are plans to open another Osteria di Tramonto in Rosemont at the new Le Meridien hotel there). The meal was excellent, as always. We took the opportunity to sit at the counter into the kitchen and were rewarded with some entertaining banter with the chefs, as well as a complimentary plate of steamed mussels! I’m normally not much of a fan of mussels, but these were just delicious. I had the veal saltimbocca, while Dan had a seared (monstrous) pork chop. The meal was great, as was the company. We had a great time. Good luck, Partran, as you head out west in a few weeks!

On Saturday I was up and about early for my project of the weekend: smoked pork butt (or pork shoulder – same thing). It was a very educational project, and I learned a lot about smoking. I went to Home Depot bright and early and picked up a small bag of charcoal (Kingsford Briquettes – none of that match-lighting stuff!), a chimney charcoal starter and a five-pound bag of hickory wood chunks. Once I got home, I made up a dry rub for the pork (a mixture of a couple different dried chiles, onion and garlic powders, Turbinado sugar, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, allspice, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and pepper), applied it, then went down to fire things up. The smoker worked reasonably well, but I learned something: the higher-end smokers (i.e. $150.00 or so) are a lot more adjustable, with vents on the top and bottom to help control the temperature. Ours is…not a high-end smoker. Alas, it has no vents. This meant that instead of maintaining the ideal smoking temperature of 225-250 degrees F for 10-12 hours as I was hoping, instead it ran closer to 275-325 F for about 7 hours before I ran out of charcoal and the fire died. I improvised by wrapping the pork butt up in foil and put it in the oven for another three hours at 275 F until it came to 180 F internal temperature. Perfect! We let it cool a bit and then pulled all the meat off, shredding it, and throwing away the bones and fat and chewy bits.

How was it? Oh. My. Goodness. It was utterly delicious. Unfortunately, I also learned that a 6.3-pound pork butt reduces down to three pounds even of pulled meat once you’re done. I think in the future, I’ll probably go for things which take less smoking time, like poultry or smaller cuts of beef or pork. The temperature thing may be sorted out by more carefully metering in the charcoal, but overall the experiment was a success. I need to remember: “Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good.” Just because you can’t get everything exactly perfect, doesn’t mean that you can’t get a damn fine result out of what you’ve got.

On Sunday I made up a batch of Miss Piggy Barbecue Sauce and the finished sauce was just wonderful – sweet, spicy, mustardy. Yum! To compliment the BBQ, I decided to make Alton Brown’s Asian Slaw. Once dinner time arrived, roho and genet brought potato salad to add to the menu, and steviemaxwell brought his usual charming self (and sodas as well 🙂 takaza made Texas toast for the BBQ and I’m pleased to say that we went through half of the Miss Piggy sauce – I think Stevie had a small serving of the Bulls Eye sauce I had on the table, but everyone preferred the yummy mustard sauce. The slaw, unfortunately, was a disappointment. There’s a whole lot of interesting flavors in there, but they don’t come together in a cohesive whole. For the amount of preparation that goes into it, I wasn’t happy with the final product. No one cared, though because, dude: BBQ. So, so good.

The meal was capped off with a yummy yellow cake with chocolate whipped cream frosting that Dan made and decorated festively for the occasion of the finale of The Amazing Race. We watched the show, and most of us were disappointed in the results. But Stevie’s weird anyway, so we’ll discount that. We followed this with some Simpsons and Family Guy as we struggled through our digestive torpor, then saw everyone off for the evening. Hmm – we need a new excuse to get folks over for dinner on a weekly basis 🙂

Interesting Survey Results

The University of California, Davis Department of Psychology has released results of a survey of the furry fandom. The online survey was intended to identify the types and motivations of people within the fandom, and included both general demographic questions and sets designed to measure perceptions of furries towards themselves and their view of the perceptions of others towards furries. Over 600 furs participated through 22-26 February.
More background and results below the cut.