Monthly Archives: August 2009

Moving Complete!

Oh my goodness, that was crazy.

As most of you already know, this past weekend was Moving Weekend for us. We have moved all of five miles to the west to the lovely village of Volo, Illinois. Here’s how it went down…

On Friday takaza and I took care of some last-minute packing after work then relaxed a bit until fordshepherd showed up shortly after midnight.

Saturday morning the alarm went off all-too-early at 7 AM. We dropped Dan off to pick up the rental truck, then Ford and I dropped off the TV at the new place, picked up some doughnuts at Lovin’ Oven, and sandwich fixings at Garden Fresh. By the time we got back, the truck was already half-loaded! The next few hours were a blur, but I am amazed and gratified to report that the following wonderful and amazing people helped move everything out from the old place and into the new place: brianblackberry, Ford, fuzzbear, genet, grabstein_69, Ian, linnaeus, posicat, quickcasey, roho. shy_matsi, silverwind, Takaza’s Mother, Takaza’s Sister, tozier_wah, wolfbrotherjoe. We couldn’t have done it without any of you. Thanks, everyone!

We wrapped up the move at about 5 PM. After everyone had rested a bit (and regrettably several folks had to take their leave), pizza arrived from Giordano’s. aureth and jenwolf joined us after a long day of drywalling at their place, as well. There followed a memorable evening of friends, boozahol (who knew dirty martinis with pickled okra could be so good?), and much laughter. Highlights included Roho laughing until he couldn’t breathe over a certain story involving skidmarks, Ford macking on Dan’s mom (and getting shot down spectacularly), and a several things that probably shouldn’t be committed to a public posting 🙂

Sunday morning started slowly (for some reason…). Poor Ford didn’t get much sleep the night before so I made sure he got at least enough sleep to function (though not quite enough, evidently). Once he was up and about we went out and had a nice lunch at a local Mexican joint, then did a bit of fake fur shopping at Jo Ann Fabrics. We stopped by the house to find Roho and Genet had come over with their Samoyed, Briana. We hung out there for a bit then Ford and I went over to the old place to pick up a few things that had been left behind; looking around the place and comparing it to what we’re moving in to, I’m left with the indelible impression that our old place was, um, a bit of dump 🙂

Ford hit the road from there, and I came back to the house and spent the afternoon putting up blinds in the living room. Unfortunately, as I was stepping around hanging the brackets, I stepped on one of the sectional sofa pieces wrong and it broke 🙁 In talking with the guy who sold it to us, it’ll be cheaper to replace it then repair it (and the quality will be better), so I ordered the replacement today. Ouch. Anyway, two of the blinds are up and I picked up the third at Home Depot during lunch; I’ll be putting that up tonight.

We’re awash in boxes, the garage is so full of stuff that we can’t even park one car in there let alone two, only half the windows are covered, and there’s no art on the walls. But you know what? It’s ours. We have a home again.

Oh yes, and what usually follows moving? That’s right, a housewarming party! September and October are a bit busy for us, but it looks like the best time for a housewarming party is going to be Saturday, October 24th. Look for more information as the time gets closer!

Pacific Northwest Trip: Part 4

And now, the final installment!

We started the day with Takaza making some extremely tasty breakfast burritos. Since we weren’t on any schedule, we didn’t actually get everyone motivated until around noon. Linnaeus, Aeto, Mirko, and Roho elected to rent sea kayaks for the afternoon and cruise around Bellingham Bay. Takaza and Genet elected to stay at the house and relax for a bit.

Frysco and I decided to tour some of Bellingham. We walked around the Fairhaven neighborhood for a while and got a quick snack.

We walked down to the Alaska Ferry Terminal, where the ferries leave weekly for Ketchikan, Juneau, and points north, as well as to the Orcas Islands and Victoria. It was amusing to see the Homeland Security guys hanging around the sleepy little terminal – yes, they get international traffic, but only occasionally.

Eventually, everyone in the group met up at a local Fred Meyer where we did a little grocery shopping. While everyone else went off to Boundary Bay Brewery to sample their wares, Takaza and I headed back to the cabin to relax a bit and get a start on dinner. Dinner was grilled burgers and hot dogs with potatoes grilled in foil with garlic and rosemary. Afterwards we played a fun game of Say Anything, then wound down the evening chatting and reading.

After a delicious breakfast of French toast casserole made by Genet, we piled everyone into two cars and it was off we went up the Mount Baker Highway. The town of Glacier, where we were staying, is the last civilization on the Mount Baker Highway before you enter Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. From there, it’s approximately a 20-mile drive to the end of the highway, up in the mountains. We headed east but before we got into the mountainous heights, we stopped at Nooksack Falls.

These beautiful 88-foot falls made a nice backdrop for exploration of the area and some fun pictures. Takaza played with time lapse photography a bit and took some nice shots of the river, including two of Linnaeus and me over 10 seconds where the rushing river behind us looks like smoke.

After the falls it was time to continue east into some of most enjoyable mountain driving I’ve done since I was in Europe. We drove up to Artist Point, the very end of Mount Baker Highway. At 5,100 feet above sea level, we were treated to beautiful views in all directions, and a nice break from the heat of the valley.

We goofed around on the snow a bit (the road had been plowed to make Artist Point accessible only three weeks prior) and admired the view for a bit, then it was back down the mountain we went. I was driving pretty conservatively, but once I realized that the weird smell I was smelling was our car’s brakes, I decided to take things a bit faster (sorry to my passengers!). I had fun, though.

After a brief stop at the cabin where we made a fine lunch of the previous evening’s leftovers, it was back into the cars for a trip back to Bellingham. We walked around Fairhaven a bit more, bought some fun tschochkes, and then had one final dinner together before Aeto and Frysco drove back to Seattle and Vancouver, respectively. The rest of us drove back to the cabin one last time and spent the evening packing, then chatting and relaxing before heading off to bed.

On our final day we loaded up everyone into the cars, cleaned the cabin as required by the (many) signs posted there, and locked up the place. After dropping off the keys, it was back to Vancouver International Airport via the Peace Arch crossing in Blaine. It was uneventful, and we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. After clearing customs, we had time to grab a quick bite to eat before it was onto the plane for the flight home. Our flight caught some good tailwinds, and although we left on time we got to O’Hare about an hour early. After bidding farewell to Linnaeus and Mirko, Takaza and I caught a ride home with Roho and Genet, where we promptly collapsed.

So there you have it! The Great Pacific Northwest Trip of 2009. It was a fantastic trip, and I really had a great time. You know you’re doing something right when you’re on vacation and you can’t quite remember what day it is, and you don’t really care, either 🙂 We’re already making plans for next year, when we invade Canada once again to explore Montreal!

Pacific Northwest Trip: Part 3

Right, so we’re picking up the story on Saturday, August 1. genet started us off with some excellent made-to-order breakfast sandwiches which were quite tasty. Once we got everyone fed, showered, and ready to go, we piled into two cars and drove…all of five minutes away. The good news is that it was to Wild and Scenic River Tours!

Genet has posted the pictures from this trip, and has done a great job captioning them. I’ll be linking to various pictures as we go, but here’s the whole gallery.

After some in depth research (read: intensive googling), we found that some of the best whitewater rafting to be found in the area was right around the corner from the cabin we were renting, on the Nooksack River. That section includes Class II and Class III rapids, so that seemed to be about the right speed for our group. We were booked for a 4-hour trip, with a nice lunch provided right on the river bank. Alas, kodi_pup was supposed to join us but had to bow out at the last minute due to work obligations. We missed him!

When we showed up we were introduced to Tyler, who owns Wild and Scenic. He struck me as a capable, laid back guy who loved what he was doing (and was a sharp businessman, too). They got us outfitted with wetsuits (necessary, since the water was mostly runoff from glaciers, and averaged about 45 degrees F), which fit with varying degrees of comfort, and helmets. We lined up for a group picture, then piled into the bus, which was, um, yeah. It got us there, anyway 🙂

When we reached the put-in we stood around for about 20-30 minutes as Tyler explained the equipment and basic safety procedures, including the Three Important Rules:
1. Stay in the boat.
2. Stay in the boat.
3. Don’t get out of the boat.
Of course he also reviewed what to do should you accidentally forget these three rules, too. For all that there was a lot of joking around, I really got the feeling these folks knew what we were doing and we were in good hands.

After all the explanations it was down to the boats. Takaza, Mirko, and I were in one boat with three other folks we didn’t know; Linnaeus, Roho, Genet, Aeto, and Frysco were in the other boat. They had one of their crew in an inflatable kayak running ahead of us as we went downstream; his job was to take pictures and video of our trip. Once we pushed off, we were in the thick of the rapids almost immediately. We bumped hard into a rock that sent me pitching across the raft into Takaza’s lap and almost shoving him out of the boat, but we recovered.

The rafting experience was amazing. There was more paddling than I expected, but it was usually in quick bursts. The guide in our boat would read the currents and direct us to row forward, back, right, or left so that we would be in the proper position to navigate through the rapids and avoid the worst of the obstacles – boulder, trees, sand bars, etc. Once we got the hang of paddling and anticipating the bumps and dips, it was quite an exhilarating ride.

We took a break by putting into an area out of the current and several of the Wild and Scenic crew jumped off a huge boulder into the frigid water. Linnaeus, Aeto, and Roho were nuts and took the plunge as well. Takaza and I opted not to 🙂

Then it was back to the rapids, and these were a bit more intense. Unfortunately, Genet became preoccupied and forgot the Three Important Rules and got bounced out of the raft. That set up a minor rescue operation where she unfortunately got dragged across the rocks a bit and got rather bruised and numb from the cold water. Fortunately, they get her back in the boat and we continued down the river.

We pulled up on a sand bar not long after and the third boat (with the Wild and Scenic staff in it) broke out the supplies they had brought: drinks, salmon and cream cheese, and deli sandwiches. We relaxed a bit and the warm sun took some of the chill off. The group got to see some fossils that had been found along the river, as well. After a bit, it was back onto the rafts, but this portion of the trip was much more sedate – mainly just a brisk trip down the river with minimal rapids but some really impressive scenery along the way. The trip was over too soon.

One of the more amusing things about the whole excursion was the staff. The fellow in the kayak was pretty funny and enjoyed showing off (the comment was made that he worked maybe 10% of the trip and got to screw around the other 90%); one of the more memorable fellows was a heavily-tattooed guy who was quite friendly and funny to talk to. Whenever we were along the road (mainly when putting in and taking the boats out), he would shout at passing cars, “RAFTING! RAFTING! RAFTING! WHY AREN’T YOU RAFTING?” As we rode back to our cars, we asked him if that form of advertising ever brought in anyone. His response was something like, “Well, not that I know of. But if someone did come in based on that, we know we’d get along with them!”

After the rafting trip we relaxed a bit back at the cabin and tried out the hot tub, which was judged to be quite acceptable. Then Aeto, Frysco, Linnaeus, Mirko, Roho, and I drove down the road a bit to Deming to find one of the important local venues I’d read about: The North Fork Brewery, Pizzeria, Beer Shrine and Wedding Chapel. There we sampled some of their beers (verdict: not bad, but they’re no Sailor Hagar’s), got some munchies, and chatted a bit. It was a nice way to relax after a strenuous afternoon.

Once we got back to the cabin, it was my turn for dinner: grilled Asian-marinated pork tenderloin, grilled asparagus with rosemary, lemon, and goat cheese, and grilled corn on the cob. It was quite tasty, and really capped an excellent day.

Still to come: Kayaking, Mountains, and the Wrap-Up

Moving, and Washer/Dryer for Sale!

I haven’t forgotten that I’m halfway through my Pacific Northwest trip report, but things have been a bit crazy over the last few days. You see, on Friday, we bought a new home. Hooray!

Even better: initially we had planned on painting the lower level (living room/dining room/breakfast area/kitchen), plus the three bedrooms upstairs. It was looking like it was going to be a long slog of work (although the assistance of genet and takaza‘s mom would have made things easier), but on Thursday we got a call from the painting contractor who had painted the place initially. He does painting jobs in the evenings as well and quoted us an excellent price to do the painting for us. His timing was fortuitous, since the amount of cash we were supposed to bring to the closing was a lot less than we had initially expected, so we actually have the reserves to pay someone to do the work. Sold! Plus, we get to keep our sanity intact.

We celebrated on Friday night with Genet and roho by setting up some folding chairs in the breakfast area, ordering some pizza, and enjoying a couple of beers. On Saturday, we dove into the projects we had planned: I replaced the kitchen faucet with something a little better suited for us and I installed a ceiling fan in the master bedroom while Dan and Lydia prepped the garage floor for coating. On Sunday, I did some fabric shopping with Dan’s mom and we picked out material for the curtains in the guest bedroom, then Lydia and Dan’s mom helped us put down an epoxy coating on the garage floor.

So now we’re into the home stretch before the big moving day on Saturday. Last night Dan and I moved all the boxes that we have packed down to the office, pretty much filling that room. Tonight I’ll be breaking down the shelving unit in the garage and we’ll be taking that and the chest freezer over to the new place. We’ve got some packing to do tonight as well – hopefully we can clear out a couple of closets and maybe a little more of the kitchen.

Oh yes, we also seem to have a washer and dryer that we don’t need – the washer is a GE Model #WCSR2090G5WW and the dryer is a GE Model #DBXR463GG7. These have never been used, and they retail for $850 together – we’ll be happy to sell them for $500 to whoever is interested.


[Cross-posted] It’s been six years since the last time we put something like this together, but the time has come again for the LAFF Dinner and Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind Outing (hereafter referred to as TMLMTBGB)!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dinner – still being determined, but it will be on the north side of Chicago or near suburbs. Dinner will start around 7 PM.
TMLMTBGB – At the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60640 (at the corner of Foster and Ashland). We’ll be taking out place in line at around 10:15 PM. Doors open at 11:00, and the show starts at 11:30.

How Much?
Dinner will be in the $10-$20 range, tax and tip included. TMLMTBGB is $9 plus the roll of a six-sided die ($10 – $15)

What the Heck Is It?
Dinner is a meal that is typically eaten in the evening…oh, that’s not what you’re asking about.

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is a production of the Neo-Futurists that is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. What is the show? In their own words:

Too Much Light…, with its ever-changing “menu,” is an attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. The single unifying element of these plays is that they are performed from a perspective of absolute honesty. We always appear as ourselves on stage, speaking directly from our personal experiences. Each short play is written by a performer, honed by the ensemble, and randomly collaged with twenty-nine other plays through high-energy audience participation. Each week, these plays shift as ensemble members add new plays to the existing body of work. Each night of performance, we create an unreproducable living newspaper collage of the comic and tragic, the political and personal, and the visceral and experimental.

In short, it’s fun, it’s exhilarating, it’s theater that will make you laugh and make you think.

We’ll have more information coming soon. The last time we put together a Too Much Light outing, we had 30+ LAFF members show up. Let’s see if we can beat that!

Pacific Northwest 2009: Part 2

When last we left our intrepid crew, they had just crossed the border back into the United States on Friday, July 31.
linnaeus, roho, mirkowuff, and I were running about an hour behind schedule. takaza and genet had left Vancouver at lunch time to go to the grocery store to stock the kitchen and check into the rental house; they beat us to our destination. Frysco, using his keen local knowledge to not get lost, and aeto arriving from Seattle after having dealt with a bizarre traffic jam, also beat us there. Eventually our merry band all converged at our designated dinner spot: Nimbus Restaurant in Bellingham, Washington.

Since Friday was Linnaeus’ birthday, we thought a special place for dinner was in order. I recall with amusement the look on huskydoggeh‘s face as we discussed plans for the trip a few months prior when I told him we were spending the day in Vancouver before going down to Bellingham for dinner; I suspect it was akin to saying we would be spending the day in Chicago before going down to Kankakee for dinner 🙂 Nevertheless, the choice turned out to be an excellent one. Nimbus is at the top of the tallest building in Bellingham. This isn’t saying a whole lot since it’s all of 14 stories, but the view of Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound as the sun sets is just spectacular. The evening skyline of downtown Bellingham was quite pretty as well. The service was excellent as well. The real question, though, was how was the food? Oh my, the food…

First off, there were the drinks. Their bartender was quite a talented fellow, and we had a blast working our way through the specialty cocktails, including the Cucumber Craze (cucumber water with Hendrick’s gin) and the evening’s winner, the Garden Martini (basil, gin, lemongrass, and simple syrup). The latter was so good that Mirko got an audio recording from the bartender describing how to make it 🙂 And then there was the Watermelon Enfuego (watermelon, vodka, jalapeno water). Takaza ordered this for me as a surprise, and it was certainly a surprise! It received the nickname “Liquid Hate”, but Linnaeus had the best description of it: “It’s like a knock-knock joke that ends with a horrible racial slur.” The sad thing is that I kept sipping it until it was gone 🙂

And then there was the food. Takaza had a filet mignon that was excellent; Genet and Frysco’s steaks were unfortunately a tad overseasoned. Linnaeus got a four-course chef’s tasting (unfortunately, since he was on the far end of the table I.m not sure what he received); Mirko, Aeto, and I splurged and went for the chef’s seven-course tasting menu. Oh wow, that was good! How good? Well, here’s how it went (with pictures for most courses, provided by Mirko):
1. Vegetarian BLT: Heirloom Tomatoes, Local Head Lettuce, Smoke Portabellas, Avocado Puree, Shiitake .Bacon., Brioche (Yummy! Takaza even liked the mushrooms!)
2. Alaskan Halibut: Golden Beets, Rainbow Carrots, Horseradish Creme Fraiche, Shaved Fennel, Italian Parsley (Amazing)
3. Heirloom Tomato Salad: Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato Water Gelee, Marjoram Frozen Yogurt, Savory Pine Nut Granola, California Olive Oil (Loved the tomato gelee)
4. Hawaiian Long Line Ahi Tuna “Poke”: Grilled Watermelon, Braised Kombu, Sesame, Cilantro, Scallion (Tuna to die for)
5. Tofu “Wellington”: House Made Tofu, Exotic Mushrooms, Puff Pastry, Melted Leeks, Dijon, Shiitake .Bacon. (Meh. It was tofu.)
6. Pan-Roasted Duck Breast: Lentils, Seared Apricot, Crispy Cauliflower, Apricot-Curry Reduction (Sadly, the least successful dish – the flavors didn’t meld well)
7. Flourless Chocolate Cake: Hot Chile-Chocolate Mousse, Apricot Puree, Habanero Glaze, White Chocolate Whipped Cream (An excellent finish! The habnero heat complimented the chocolate so well)

The meal, the company, and the view were all wonderful – it was a really great evening.

After dinner we piled into our cars and drove east on Mount Baker Highway for about 45 minutes to the small town of Glacier, Washington. We had rented a lovely house there and I was very pleased with the accommodations.

We had four bedrooms and a loft; Aeto and Frysco wound up in the lower level on air mattresses. They probably had the coolest nights of anyone – we had the misfortune of being in the Pacific Northwest during the worst heat waves of the year, with temperatures getting up to 90 F even in the mountains. Fortunately the evenings were cooler, and Aeto and Frysco were kind enough to bring fans from home, making things much more bearable.

Wow, two entries and we’re still in the first few days? I suspect the next few days will be summed up much more quickly, though they were still very enjoyable!

Coming Up: Rafting! Rafting! Rafting! Beer! Kayaking! Grilled Meat!

Pacific Northwest 2009: Part 1

Wow, it’s been a crazy week since we got back, but I wanted to get a writeup of our Pacific Northwest Trip started in hopes that I’ll actually get the whole thing posted. For those coming in late, this trip was to celebrate linnaeus‘ 40th birthday, similar to the trip we made last year to Napa Valley to celebrate my 40th birthday. The trip was a lot of fun to plan, and I was very happy to see that it fit Linnaeus’ tastes well 🙂 As with my trip, although he knew the general area where we were going, the details of where we were staying and what we’d be doing were a secret.

On Thursday, July 30, I wrapped up work at lunchtime after a particularly hectic week. takaza knocked off work early as well, and we carpooled with roho and genet down to O’Hare Airport. There we met up with mirkowuff and Linnaeus. We got checked in easily (yay for Roho’s United Premiere status which saved us all from paying baggage fees!) and our flight was only an hour late taking off. Takaza and I were able to move up to exit row seats so the four-hour flight was actually quite comfortable.

We landed at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) at around 8 PM local time. Passport control was a breeze – the Canadian immigrations agent went so far as to start help Linnaeus get through more easily since he didn’t know where we were going or what we were doing. Customs was literally nonexistent – we walked right through unimpeded. Strange, but welcome. We caught the airport shuttle to the Four Points By Sheraton Vancouver Airport in Richmond.

It was amusing to realize that my pre-trip research didn’t mention that the Four Points was in the heart of Golden Village, the home to the second-largest Asian-American community in North America. The net effect was as if we had stepped off the plane into the middle of Hong Kong – a little disorienting, to say the least! We decided to take advantage of the pan-Asian food opportunities in the area, with me, Roho, Linnaeus, and Mirko opting for sushi while Genet and Takaza chose McDonalds.

Friday morning I was awake entirely too early (though others in our group were awake before me). Eventually we assembled in the lobby and walked down to the nearest Tim Horton’s for a quick breakfast. I was surprised to find that Tim Horton’s coffee really is pretty good, considering what it is. When we got back to the hotel, everyone got packed up and we piled into two cabs to take us to downtown Vancouver.

(From here on out I’ll be peppering the story with some of the pictures that we took)

We got downtown to Canada Place, departure point for many Alaskan cruises, shortly before noon. We picked up our rental cars from National Rental Cars (we saved a bundle by picking them up downtown and dropping them off at YVR), then Takaza and Genet took their leave in one of the cars. The remaining four of us met up with frysco, who works only a block or two from Canada Place.

We took the Seabus across Burrell Inlet, the sound that separates Vancouver and North Vancouver. I’d hoped for a brisk, wind-in-your-hair fun ferry experience, but since it’s all enclosed, it was rather more like…a bus. That bobs up and down a bit. Ah well, at least we got some unique views.

Once we arrived in North Vancouver, it was off to our target for lunch: Sailor Hagar’s Brew Pub. Frysco put up with our phone geekery while we enjoyed some truly excellent beer. I enjoyed some very tasty steak bites wrapped in bacon, while Mirko had a curry bowl and Linnaeus and Roho each ordered poutine, which was horrifying yet delicious. Our waitress was very friendly and helpful and knew some easy marks beer geeks when she saw them, plying us with samples of their beer selection and various brew pub brochures. It was a very enjoyable lunch!

Walking back to the Seabus after lunch we were greeted by one of the local denizens, who was very cute (and pretty much ignored us. It goes with the breed…). Once back in Vancouver, Frysco took his leave to run by his house, and we promptly got…well, not lost, just slightly turned around 🙂 Once we got on Route 1 we found that traffic was frightfully backed up so we tried to take a few detours, leading us to explore areas of Langley we might otherwise not have seen (see? doesn’t that sound better than “lost”?).

Finally, we reached the Aldergrove border crossing into the US, and with the exception of an incredulous border guard (“How do you all know each other again?”) we passed through without incident.

Coming up next: Dinner in Bellingham! Liquid Hate! Rafting! Rafting! Rafting!