Monthly Archives: January 2008

Good News Everyone!

And the good stuff keeps on rollin’…

First and foremost: as takaza mentioned, he was offered and accepted a position at his company’s headquarters in Buffalo Grove, IL. That’s about 20 minutes closer to us, and they’re right next to the Buffalo Grove Metra station. Even better, it’s a significant bump in pay and a much better career path for him. I’m so very happy for him! It also moves him out of the toxic environment that he’s in now, which makes me even happier. There will be a 30-day transition period, but as of March 1 he’ll be in his new job. Hooray! That’s also very near the Westin Chicago North Shore, where Midwest FurFest 2008 will be, so he will be helping to scout out restaurants for the Restaurant Guide on his lunch hours 🙂

More good news: I filed my taxes for 2007 the other night and found out that between federal and state taxes I have a refund of $1,300 coming my way. Woohoo! Of course, after spending some time looking over newegg.com at all the sexy laptops, I realized that mine gets me where I’m going (albeit slowly) and that the money will go better to pay down debt. Not nearly as much fun, but hey, it will make life a lot more fun later. Here’s a very handy tip: if you use State Farm Insurance, log into their website. On the left is the link “FREE tax filing” – click on that and you will be taken to the Turbotax website, where you can get access to Turbotax Deluxe for free – including free federal and state e-filing. That saved me $58 over last year. Sweet!

As Dan mentioned, we’re hosting his family and friends for dinner and games on Saturday night. If you’re interested in joining us, let me or Dan know by Friday night (so I can shop and cook accordingly). Having read through the Cooks Illustrated French Onion Soup recipe I’m all about that. I just need to figure out if it’s possible to roast multiple chickens in our oven or if I’m going to need to re-think things. That may become roast pork 🙂 Since it’s his sister’s birthday, dessert will be birthday cake from Lovin’ Oven Cakery. Nom nom nom!

Random Stuff

None of this makes a coherent single entry, so you get a bunch of random stuff:

I just finished a quick meeting with my boss. Granted, he technically only had two months of me being an employee of $employer (in addition to the nine moths prior working the exact same job as a contractor), but he gave me an excellent annual review and is very happy with my work. This makes me positively giddy 🙂 Speaking of work-related things, I had lunch earlier today with tozier_wah, which was very cool since he just works across the campus from me. We need to make that a weekly thing or something. We had a great discussion about Midwest FurFest and I think I might have something to keep him busy during the con this year 🙂

Yesterday I was all virtuous and stuff and went ahead and got my voting for next week’s primary out of the way. It was very cool that the Lake County website had a sample of the exact ballot that I would be presented with so I was able to do a little research on the local candidates and make some informed decisions. Plus I had a nice chat with the poll workers, who were very nice folks.

We’re having takaza‘s family over on Saturday evening, along with some friends, for a night of gaming. I’m working up a nice menu too – maybe French Onion Soup, and roasted chicken. I think we need some more wine – perhaps a trip to Wine Knows is in order. We also need to do some thorough cleaning of the place, which is pretty standard before company. It’s one of the reasons I like to have company over with some regularity: left to our own devices, we keep the clutter to a minimum, but I need a reason to get really motivated to deep clean and take a toothbrush to the baseboards 🙂

Apparently, I’m going on a trip in a week and a half. I say “apparently” because, well, I don’t know where I’m going. You see, Dan has put together some kind of trip for us to celebrate my fortieth birthday, and all I know is that we’re flying off…somewhere (he won’t say where)…for a four-day vacation. About all I know is that it’s domestic, since neither of us have valid passports, but other than that I have no clue. I also know that no amount of begging for clues from Dan will yield any further information, so I probably appear annoyingly incurious, but I’m very content in the knowledge that Dan knows me well, and whatever he has put together will be truly amazing. And whether it’s amazing or not, I’ll have my love there with me, so that makes it amazing in itself. (I’m sure he’s made all kinds of posts in his journal about this that I can’t see, and all of you who have read and heard about this from him are dying of laughter. Hey, I’m OK with that. I’ll just sit here in quiet anticipation 🙂

Oh, and one last note: I would note that one of my favorite coffees, Dark Roast Sumatran, from one of my favorite coffee providers, Alterra Coffee, is on sale at 10% off. With shipping by Priority Mail only $4.60, if you order a couple of pounds (like I usually do) it’s comparable to buying coffee off the shelf from some of the higher-end providers. (I also recently discovered the Brazil Traditional Dry, which is simply outstanding as well).

Weekend Update (and Beer Report)

Yep, it’s cold. Just like they said it would. It was 0° F out this morning and will be soaring up to 15° F by this afternoon…all with a 10-20 mph wind. Toasty!

So back to the weekend. takaza and I met up with linnaeus, datahawk, roho, and genet for lunch at my favorite suburban beer outpost, The Firkin in Libertyville. I had a fine time, sampling some truly excellent beers: Lagunitas Brewing’s Lumpy Gravy American Strong Ale (celebrating the 40th anniversary of Frank Zappa’s seminal album of the same name), Lagunitas Brewing’s Brown Shugga Barley Wine, and Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles Strong Dark Ale.
Given that the first was 7% alcohol and the other two 10% and 9% respectively…yeah, I really enjoyed those beers! The chicken and shrimp etoufee was only OK, but with beers like that, who cares? The downside is that for a little more we could have gone to Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood and gotten a much better meal, so The Firkin isn’t someplace we go all that often.
After lunch we all headed up to Roho and Genet’s place in Antioch and admired their bowling-alley-in-progress (well, not really – they’re installing hardwood floors, and feren commented on the similarity to a bowling alley…) and then relaxed with multiple episodes of Ninja Warrior and some fun conversation.

Sunday? Yeah. Lots of laundry. All day long. OK, and lots of Psychonauts, too, since I’m re-playing my way through the game. I also broke down the ten-pound pork loin we bought the weekend before into meal-size packages of pork chops, and then ground up the trimmings into sausage and froze that as well.

That’ll hold for now. More to write but I have to tend to a few things…

Random Things For Your Reading Pleasure

Hmm, so it sounds like most people will be getting a check for $600 from Uncle Sugar Daddy. Politics aside, about all I can see is that for us, it’s $1,200 that’s going to Visa. As I said to takaza, “Fiscal responsibility is boring.” But hey – less debt is a Good Thing. I still want to buy something frivolous, though – like maybe a sexy new dual-core laptop or something.

Cook’s Illustrated is looking for recipe testers. Heck yeah, I signed up! While I often have an idle yen to cook many of the recipes from their pages, this gives me the impetus to actually get off my butt and do it. Of course, I may need some help from friends in evaluating the finished products. Hmm.

It was a screwy morning today. As we approached Dan’s usual train station there were cars streaming out of it – never a good sign at 6:50 AM. Dan checked and Metra’s website said that a freight train had derailed in Antioch and no trains were running (which was not really the case). Well, phooey on that. I dropped Dan off at the Round Lake station and he wound up having to take an expensive cab ride to work from Glenview. Then, as I was getting some cash from the ATM on the way in to work I notice (after my transaction, unfortunately) that the lock on the ATM was half-open (it’s the type where when unlocked a faceplate pops out, then you unscrew it). I called the bank branch when they opened and they assured me that if the ATM had been opened an alarm would have disabled it. I’ll keep an eye on my account just in case…

Just Another Manic…Wednesday?

All work and no play blah blah blah. You know the drill.

Work has definitely picked up over the last few weeks, which is a good thing. There’s several large manufacturing expansions going on that bode well for plenty of work to do through 2010 and beyond, too – always a Good Thing!

Last weekend was quite lovely. takaza and I drove up to Milwaukee and did some shopping at Milwaukee Public Market, Alterra Coffee, and The Spice House. I had thought about stopping by the new brewpub near the Public Market, but that will have to wait for another day. We had a great time refilling our spice cabinet, and picked up some wonderful burgers (including some bacon and provolone burgers) and sausages from Ceriello’s. On the way home we did our weekly shopping at Woodman’s in Kenosha; we got some great deals on pork loin and something labeled “fresh pork” with no further explanation (it turns out it was boneless meat from the ribs).

On Sunday, we did gloriously nothing. Well, we did watch a couple of football games and the finale to The Amazing Race 12 (which ended like I expected it would, though not necessarily how I’d hoped it would). We also took the 8 pounds of “fresh pork” and, after a bit of butchering (and Dan shortening his finger by a sixteenth of an inch – he’s healing nicely, thank you 🙂 we ground it up and put it into one-pound packets and froze them. Now, when we want Italian sausage for pasta, we pull out of the packets, defrost it in a sink full of cold water (which takes all of 20 minutes) and mix it with Italian sausage seasoning. I still have a 9-pound pork loin to break down into pork chops and maybe a pork roast.

While most everyone is planning for other conventions (we’ll make it out there someday…) I’ve been spending a lot of time working on Midwest FurFest stuff, mainly writing content for the website, the new version of which went live earlier this week. I have a package to send off to one of our Guests of Honor this afternoon, as well, and I’m working on a decision for our third Guest of Honor too; I’m still waiting to hear from a few folks on that {poke, poke}.

While I’m out running errands after work today, I’ll need to stop by Garden Fresh Market – they have a sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.49 a pound. Yeah, I’ll be picking up a whole bunch of those, because that’s a fantastic price (hey linnaeus, I see that they have a store coming down your way, too – come to think of it, that’s not far from daveqat and jimcyl‘s new place, either). It looks like this weekend will be a bit more social than the last, which is kind of nice. With luck, we’ll be spending Saturday afternoon with good friends, good food, and good beer.

Oh, and because I missed it twelve days ago: happy birthday to this journal, which turned six years old on January 11th. Man, there’s been a lot of ups and downs documented here, but I’m really glad that I’ve stuck with it.

It’s a Difficult Monday

I started the day feeling completely out of kilter. Long lists of stuff to get done for MFF and for work, weaving in and out of each other, all seemingly insurmountable. After spending the morning across the campus and having gotten a very tasty chicken avocado wrap for lunch, things are looking much better. There’s still a ton of stuff that I have to get done, but it’s no longer quite so scary.

We had a very enjoyable weekend. Friday evening we had a lovely dinner with genet (unfortunately, roho‘s soul was still being consumed by his employer), then got to relax and unwind a bit. Following a lazy Saturday morning, takaza and I did a bit of cooking for daveqat‘s birthday party – Dan made cheezy mashed potatoes with bacon, and I made a warm potato-bacon salad (which was supposed to be a warm salad with bacon and Jerusalem artichoke, but alas, Garden Fresh had no Jerusalem artichokes in stock). For the bacon trifecta, I made pig candy, which was served with brie and sliced pears. Most people who tried it really liked it. The party on Saturday night was quite a lot of fun, and much booze was consumed.

On Sunday we met mirkowuff and perro for lunch at Osteria di Tramonto (yum!) then gave Perro a tour of the new MFF hotel. As he mentioned in his entry today, it’s going to be tricky: we have more space to work with, but the way that the space is divided up makes things rather tricky. I think that Perro will do a great job. By the way, Perro has also been named my Vice-Chair for this year. While traditionally that has been a role for the next chairman, in this case I don’t care about that. I’m more interested in making sure that we have someone who can reliably answer questions and act in the chairman’s role when I am unavailable.

Next up was the first MFF staff meeting of the year. I didn’t quite get it in under an hour, but I was close. We covered a lot of ground, and got a lot accomplished. Staff members, if you didn’t see the minutes on the staff mailing list, they have also been posted to the staff area of the Midwest FurFest forums. Sunday evening I got a bit of unwelcome news that is going to take some time to figure out how to deal with. Part of the fun of being con chair, I guess.

Finally, I just finished registering for Furry Connection North. We’re still working on the accommodations, but we should have that nailed down in the next few days. Woohoo!

Hooray for Half-Pony, Half-Monkey Monsters!

It’s Friday and I’m feeling random.

So it appears that we’ll be going to Furry Connection North (April 11-13, Ann Arbor, MI). It will be the first convention I’ve been to in a long LONG time where I haven’t been on staff, so it should be an interesting experience. Once we get our rooming situation sorted out I’ll go ahead and buy sponsorships for takaza and me. If things work out, it appears that there may even be a Fine Potables Party there!

We need to make a couple of side dishes for a birthday party this weekend. Because I’ve never really cooked with Jerusalem artichokes (and because everything is better with bacon) I’m going to try making Warm Salad with Jerusalem Artichokes, Bacon, and Radicchio, a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s newest cookbook. I don’t have a lot of use for Oliver, but hey, the recipe sounds tasty. I just hope it scales reasonably.

Speaking of food-blog related stuff, I’m sad that I didn’t win anything in the Menu for Hope 4 raffle results that were announced today, but they did raise over $91,000 for the United Nations World Food Programme. That’s just amazing. I look forward to participating in Menu for Hope next year! (and I’ll probably mention it more next year because not only is it a great cause, the prizes they were raffling off were extremely nifty)

Finally, yesterday I introduced a cow-orker to the amusement that is Jonathan Coulton. That reminded me to go back and listen to some of his songs I haven’t heard. My new favorite of his is Skullcrusher Mountain, a tender tale of an evil overlord attempting to impress his less-than-willing female captive:

I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don’t like it
What’s with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don’t like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

I Wanna Know What’s Goin’ On

Wow. I just realized I haven’t really posted much of substance for a couple of weeks. We hosted a kickass New Years Eve party from December 29th through January 2nd; everyone seemed to have a great time and we really enjoyed ourselves as well. Amusingly, the hotel called takaza on the 3rd asking if we wanted to book for next year. I guess this means they like us a lot!

We limped through the rest of last week at a severe sleep deficit, and had a truly lovely weekend of doing pretty much nothing but vegging on the sofa and watching a whole lot of Tivo. On Sunday we did a spot of shopping, stocking up for the week’s groceries as well as attempting to fill our shiny new freezer (hah! That’ll take a while). It was really nice to have a couple of nice, quiet days of enjoying each other’s company and ratcheting down the stress levels.

This week has been relatively unexciting as well, though last night I had a lovely dinner with moryssa, talking over Midwest FurFest-related things. I also took the opportunity to swing by Woodmans and pick up a few things I can’t easily find at our local grocery store, specifically cinnamon chips, as well as caramel chips and peanut butter chips from a regional company, and some Callebaut semisweet chocolate chips, just because 🙂 I see some fun baking in our future!

We don’t have a lot planned for the rest of the week. We hope to get to a birthday party on Saturday, and then Sunday is the first Midwest FurFest staff meeting of the new year. That should be a good meeting; I’m hoping that we can go ahead and assign what functions are going to be where in the new hotel as early as possible this year, and that’ll be a good start for the process.

Time to wrap up before heading home!

Great Googly Moogly

OK, stay with me here. See, a bacon cheeseburger? That’s for wimps. No, what we need is a bacon burger – a burger…made out of bacon!

And if that’s not enough, you’ve got to put cheese in the middle of the patty.

Then, you’ve got to dip it in beer batter and deep-fry that sucker!

Finally, add cheese on top, and there you have it: The Bacon Burger 2.0!*

* – Defibrillation paddles not included.

Quote of the Day

From an NPR news report on the New Hampshire primaries: “[One New Hampshire voter] says that there are several candidates that he likes, but he is most excited by the prospect of reporters following the candidates out of town and not stopping him to ask him what he thinks every hour of the day.”