Category Archives: midwest furfest

An Opinionated Guide To Restaurants At Midwest FurFest – 2021

This is an update of a post I made in 2019. While I have confirmed the places listed below are still open, I can’t comment on the impact of the pandemic on hours, staffing, etc.

Note that this is completely unofficial; it’s just me and my overblown opinions. Also, your opinions may be different from mine. I don’t care  Get your own blog!

Midwest FurFest used to publish a 20-30 page booklet of listings and reviews of local restaurants, but unfortunately when you have to print 5,000+ copies of anything (let alone a 20-30 page booklet) costs start to get prohibitive, and with the availability of Yelp and similar sites we had to make the difficult decision to discontinue the Restaurant Guide.

That said, I’m happy to offer a (completely biased) overview of restaurants in and around the Stephens Convention Center, though I will leave it to the reader to find exact locations on Google Maps.

Inside the Hyatt Regency O’Hare

  • Midwest FurFest will not be offering a con suite this year, unfortunately. Issues of sanitation and public health dictated the decision.
  • O’H Restaurant: a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food is good to really good, but it’s expensive hotel prices. The good news is that the hotel runs specials for all meals (including the breakfast buffet) that lowers the prices from crazy high to slightly expensive.
  • Red Bar: Bar/restaurant open late afternoons and evenings with has a small food selection available as well. The prices are also not cheap, and the service is usually regrettably slow, although they are actively working with MFF to improve this. It sure is convenient, though!
  • Perks, the coffee shop/gift shop. They have a selection of grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, but even better throughout the weekend they set up a food station (in the past they have offered on different nights Build Your Own Mac and Cheese, Mini Naan Pizzas, Tacos, and Subs) that is actually quite reasonably priced.
  • There are rumors of a food truck as well. Stay tuned to @FurFest for more info on that.

The Hyatt will set up larger food service stands (drinks, sides, burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs) that are on the expensive side but terribly convenient.

In the Stephens Convention Center

  • Expoteria: Right across the street from the hotel. Hours can vary. The food is cheap, and it is certainly…food. So there’s that.
  • Starbucks: In the ground floor lobby of the convention center. Pretty much your standard Starbucks, and the prices are surprisingly not inflated for the location.
  • There will be a concession stand in the Dealers Den in Hall G. Expect drinks, sides, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs that are on the expensive side but terribly convenient. The food is provided by a vendor which supplies many school cafeterias. I’m sure the similarity between the food quality is purely coincidental.

In the Parkway Bank Park Entertainment District

  • Five Roses Pub: Pseudo-Irish pub. Average.
  • King’s Dining & Entertainment: Bowling and restaurant. The place is loud, though fun with a group of friends out for drinks.
  • Adobe Gila’s: Mexican-ish. Not recommended.
  • Sugar Factory: Ridiculously overpriced tourist crap (think $19 burgers)
  • Bub City: BBQ. Haven’t tried but reviews aren’t terrible. Takes reservations on their website.
  • Park Tavern: The one bright spot. Gastropub with some good food selections and a great beer list. Service can be slow at peak times, though. Takes reservations on their website.
  • Fogo de Chao: Brazilian steakhouse. “The Meat Faucet”. Takes reservations on their website.
  • Hofrauhaus: Closed, and in the process of being replaced by a craft beer/pizza bar. Unfortunately that is still under construction and will not be open by MFF.
  • Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar: Closed, and replaced by Verlife Dispensary.

Also Nearby

A 10-15 minute walk south on River Road is the Fashion Outlets Chicago (fancy name aside, it’s a mall). The food court and other restaurants have some decent options that are quite affordable. A 10-15 minute walk north on River Road brings you to McDonald’s and also Giordano’s Pizza, one of the Holy Trio of Chicago deep-dish pizza restaurants.

A little further walk (or a short Uber/Lyft/whatever trip) south on River Road, two blocks south of the Loews Chicago O’Hare, is Short Fuse Brewing Company While I’ve found their beer decent (nothing stellar, but not bad), apparently they are doing something right as they were named Great American Beer Festival Brewery of the Year for their class. The food is pretty good, too.

Finally, a few miles south on River Road is Hala Kahiki Tiki Bar and Lounge. This is a shockingly legit retro tiki bar that has no business being tucked away in a Chicago suburb, but there it is. They have a huge menu, and the drink prices aren’t outrageous. You’ll want to eat before you go though – the food options there are pretty scarce.

Other good things to know: The Rosemont Entertainment Circulator is a free shuttle that runs nonstop all weekend and even late into the night. It stops at the CTA Blue Line station, at the front of the convention center, in the Parkway Bank Park, and at the Fashion Outlets Chicago.

Finally, Grubhub, UberEats, DoorDash, and other food delivery services are alive and well in Rosemont. Don’t be shy about using them to order as well!

A Quick Opinionated Guide To Restaurants at Midwest FurFest – 2019

This was originally published in 2018, but has been updated for 2019. Note that this is completely unofficial; it’s just me and my overblown opinions. Also, your opinions may be different from mine. I don’t care  Get your own blog!

Midwest FurFest used to publish a 20-30 page booklet of listings and reviews of local restaurants, but unfortunately when you have to print 5,000+ copies of anything (let alone a 20-30 page booklet) costs start to get prohibitive, and with the availability of Yelp and similar sites we had to make the difficult decision to discontinue the Restaurant Guide.

That said, I’m happy to offer a (completely biased) overview of restaurants in and around the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, though I will leave it to the reader to find exact locations on Google Maps.

So first there’s inside the hotel.

  • Midwest FurFest offers a con suite every year which has light snacks (think chips and such) and soda for free all weekend. We do not recommend you try to go through the weekend relying solely on this – any right-thinking nutritionist would scream in horror. This is located in the Rosemont Ballroom on the Entry Level.
  • O’H Restaurant: a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food is good to really good, but it’s expensive hotel prices. The good news is that the hotel runs specials for all meals (including the breakfast buffet) that lowers the prices from crazy high to slightly expensive.
  • Red Bar: Bar/restaurant open late afternoons and evenings with has a small food selection available as well. The prices are also not cheap, and the service is usually regrettably slow, although they are actively working with MFF to improve this. It sure is convenient, though!
  • Perks, the coffee shop/gift shop. They have a selection of grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, but even better throughout the weekend they set up a food station (in the past they have offered on different nights Build Your Own Mac and Cheese, Mini Naan Pizzas, Tacos, and Subs) that is actually quite reasonably priced.
  • There are rumors of a food truck as well. Stay tuned to @FurFest for more info on that.

The Hyatt will set up larger food service stands (drinks, sides, burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs) that are on the expensive side but terribly convenient. Rumor has it they are working to improve on these as well, creating themed “pop-up restaurants”.

In the convention center:

  • Expoteria: Right across the street from the hotel. Hours can vary. The food is cheap, and it is certainly…food. So there’s that.
  • Starbucks: In the ground floor lobby of the convention center. Pretty much your standard Starbucks, and the prices are surprisingly not inflated for the location.
  • There will be a concession stand in the Dealers Den in Hall G. Expect drinks, sides, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs that are on the expensive side but terribly convenient. The food is provided by a vendor which supplies many school cafeterias. I’m sure the similarity between the food quality is purely coincidental.

About a 5-minute walk away is the “Parkway Bank Park” (ugh, branding) with a lot of options of varying quality:

  • Five Roses Pub: Pseudo-Irish pub. Average.
  • King’s Dining & Entertainment: Bowling and restaurant. The place is loud, though fun with a group of friends out for drinks.
  • Adobe Gila’s: Mexican-ish. Not recommended.
  • Sugar Factory: Ridiculously overpriced tourist crap (think $19 burgers)
  • Bub City: BBQ. Haven’t tried but reviews aren’t terrible. Takes reservations on their website.
  • Park Tavern: The one bright spot. Gastropub with some good food selections and a great beer list. Service can be slow at peak times, though. Takes reservations on their website.
  • Fogo de Chao: Brazilian steakhouse. “The Meat Faucet”. Takes reservations on their website.
  • Hofrauhaus: German beer hall. Oompah oompah music. Tourists. Fun with a group of rowdy friends though. Takes reservations on their website.
  • Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar: Chain piano bar that just opened in early November

A 10-15 minute walk south on River Road is the Fashion Outlets Chicago (fancy name aside, it’s a mall). The food court and other restaurants have some decent options that are quite affordable. A 10-15 minute walk north on River Road brings you to McDonald’s and also Giordano’s Pizza, one of the Holy Trio of Chicago deep-dish pizza restaurants.

A little further walk (or a short Uber/Lyft/whatever trip) south on River Road, two blocks south of the Loews Chicago O’Hare, is Short Fuse Brewing Company I’ve found their beer decent (nothing stellar, but not bad), and the food is pretty good.

Finally, a few miles south on River Road is Hala Kahiki Tiki Bar and Lounge. This is a shockingly legit retro tiki bar that has no business being tucked away in a Chicago suburb, but there it is. They have a huge menu, and the drink prices aren’t outrageous. You’ll want to eat before you go though – the food options there are pretty scarce.

Other good things to know: The Rosemont Entertainment Circulator is a free shuttle that runs nonstop all weekend and even late into the night. It stops at the CTA Blue Line station, at the front of the convention center, in the Parkway Bank Park, and at the Fashion Outlets Chicago.

Finally, Grubhub, UberEats, DoorDash, and other food delivery services are alive and well in Rosemont. Don’t be shy about using them to order as well!

A Quick Opinionated Guide To Restaurants at Midwest FurFest

Note that this is completely unofficial; it’s just me and my overblown opinions. Also, your opinions may be different from mine. I don’t care 🙂 Get your own blog!

Midwest FurFest used to publish a 20-30 page booklet of listings and reviews of local restaurants, but unfortunately when you have to print 5,000+ copies of anything (let alone a 20-30 page booklet) costs start to get prohibitive, and with the availability of Yelp and similar sites we had to make the difficult decision to discontinue the Restaurant Guide.

That said, I’m happy to offer a (completely biased) overview of restaurants in and around the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, though I will leave it to the reader to find exact locations on Google Maps.

So first there’s inside the hotel.

  • Midwest FurFest offers a con suite every year which has light snacks (think chips and such) and soda for free all weekend. We do not recommend you try to go through the weekend relying solely on this – any right-thinking nutritionist would scream in horror.
  • O’H Restaurant: a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food is good to really good, but it’s expensive hotel prices. The good news is that the hotel runs specials for all meals (including the breakfast buffet) that lowers the prices from crazy high to slightly expensive.
  • Red Bar: Bar/restaurant open late afternoons and evenings with has a small food selection available as well. The prices are also not cheap, and the service is usually regrettably slow. It sure is convenient, though!
  • Perks, the coffee shop/gift shop. They have a selection of grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, but even better throughout the weekend they set up a food station (last year on different nights they offered Build Your Own Mac and Cheese, Mini Naan Pizzas, Tacos, and Subs) that is actually quite reasonably priced.

The Hyatt will set up larger food service stands (drinks, sides, burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs) that are on the expensive side but terribly convenient.

In the convention center:

  • Expoteria: Right across the street from the hotel. Hours can vary. The food is cheap, and it is certainly…food. So there’s that.
  • Starbucks: In the ground floor lobby of the convention center. Pretty much your standard Starbucks, and the prices are surprisingly not inflated for the location.
  • The convention center will set up larger food service stands (drinks, sides, burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs) that are on the expensive side but terribly convenient. The food is provided by a vendor which supplies many school cafeterias. I’m sure the similarity between the food quality is purely coincidental.

About a 5-minute walk away is the “Parkway Bank Park Entertainment District” (ugh, branding) with a lot of options of varying quality:

  • Five Roses Pub: Pseudo-Irish pub. Average.
  • King’s: Bowling and restaurant. The place is loud, though fun with a group of friends out for drinks.
  • Adobe Gila’s: Mexican-ish. Not recommended.
  • Sugar Factory: Ridiculously overpriced tourist crap (think $19 burgers)
  • Bub City: BBQ. Haven’t tried but reviews aren’t terrible.
  • Park Tavern: The one bright spot. Gastropub with some good food selections and a great beer list. Service can be slow at peak times, though.
  • Fogo de Chao: Brazilian steakhouse. “The Meat Faucet”.
  • Hofrauhaus: German beer hall. Oompah oompah music. Tourists. Fun with a group of rowdy friends though.

A 10-15 minute walk south on River Road is the “Chicago Fashion Outlet” (fancy name aside, it’s a mall). There is a food court there with some decent options that are quite affordable. A 10-15 minute walk north on River Road brings you to McDonald’s and also Giordano’s Pizza, one of the Holy Trio of Chicago deep-dish pizza restaurants.

Other good things to know: The Rosemont Entertainment Circulator is a free shuttle that runs nonstop all weekend and even late into the night. It stops at the front of the convention center, in the Entertainment District, and at the Chicago Fashion Outlet.

Finally, Grubhub, UberEats, DoorDash, and other food delivery services are alive and well in Rosemont. Don’t be shy about using them to order as well!

Fifteen Years Later

Once upon a time there was (and still is) a science fiction convention in the Chicago suburbs called Duckon. At that convention, starting in the early 1990’s, a series of panels and events centered around the furry fandom was established; it became known as the Furry Track, one of several programming tracks at Duckon. Over the years, the Furry Track grew and grew, through the efforts of Robert King and many others, until those attending just for the Furry Track represented a good-sized chunk of the convention, several hundred people.

I moved to the Chicago area in 1998, and attended Duckon. I made a lot of great friends there, and got active in the local furry group, Lake Area Furry Friends (LAFF). After attending the convention, I piped up on the LAFF mailing list that with the success of the furry track, we had the momentum to start our own convention! I outlined a few different approaches we could take, and what might be necessary to start the organization. I was quickly told to shut the hell up, but only because there was a group of folks that was already well underway in planning just such a thing. (My now-husband Dan was part of this group; he remembers that email and wondering, “Who the hell is this guy? We’re already working on this!”)

That was in 1999. The rest is history. Midwest FurFest made its debut in 2000. In the years since, I’ve been Registration Director, Convention Chairman, and, since 2010, Hotel Liaison. I have been a member of the Board of Directors from the beginning, and besides Robert, I am the only other founding Board Member still serving. I have made many, many new friends, and unfortunately damaged and lost a few friendships along the way. I was fortunate enough to meet and fall in love with my dear husband. We celebrated our Commitment Ceremony on Sunday night of Midwest FurFest 2001, and our Renewal of Vows/Civil Union in 2011. Midwest FurFest has been the home of some of the happiest moments of my life, and I am incredibly proud of what we have created. An ever-growing attendance of 4,000+ is an endorsement of that creation.

Over the years, though, the time commitment has risen. What started as “Oh, it’s Labor Day – I suppose we should start planning the con” has become a 14+ month cycle of organizing an incredibly complicated organization that takes 200+ volunteer staffers and another 50-60 on-site volunteers. The last few years have had me working more on convention-related work than the work I’m paid to do in the last month before the convention. I’m spread thinly – not only am I the Hotel Liaison, but I am also the Social Media Manager, Webmaster, Department Lead with several departments reporting through me, and general guy-who-does-stuff-that-needs-doing. I’m not complaining, mind you – I undertook all of this willingly, and for the most part I enjoy what I do. I am proud that the convention Twitter account has a personality, and has a reputation for its sense of humor and responsiveness. I have an incredibly talented and dedicated Hotel Liaison staff who are all a genuine pleasure to work with.

After fifteen years, though, the time has come to say, “Enough.” The convention work is taking too much time out of my life, the worries and stresses from January to December are making me cranky and unpleasant to be around, and I feel like I’m not bringing much in the way of new ideas to the party. I need a break.

After this year’s Midwest FurFest, I’m stepping back. I’m resigning from the Board of Directors and I will not have a management position. I will not be a part of pre-convention planning. Am I going away? Absolutely not! The drive to create and to help is still there, but it needs to be redirected. Tentatively, I will be helping Dan as Assistant Guest of Honor Liaison next year. I hope to also act as a consultant where I can, providing some institutional knowledge when questions come up. And in the future…who knows? I may get more involved in Midwest FurFest, or another convention, or…the possibilities are endless. But it is time for a change now.

I hope to see many of our friends at this year’s convention, which for me starts in just a few hours, when I show up at the hotel. This is going to be an amazing year – the date change, though difficult, means that we have much more time to set up, and will result in a happier and more effective staff, which I believe will make for a better convention overall. Wish us luck!

Midwest FurFest 2011

Oh my goodness, what a convention. It scares me to think that Midwest FurFest 2011 was my 12th MFF – twelve years of doing this. Yikes.

This was also my second year working as Hotel Liaison with the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. In one sense it was easier but in another it was a little more difficult – I knew the lay of the land and what my proper role should be, however a few months before the convention we were surprised by the sudden resignation of our hotel contact (to go to the Hyatt Regency Woodfield, ironically). Our new contact, Matt, was promoted from Meeting Concierge (who work with meeting organizers the day of the meetings to make sure they have what they need) to Convention Services Manager (who work with meeting organizers before and during the convention to nail down all of the little details).

I won’t lie – I made Matt earn his keep, but he did very well. I filled his inbox with emails and lists (and lists, and lists of lists). He put up with me and my special OCD tendencies, and I think that between us we totally rocked the convention preparations. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, mainly in convention preparations and scheduling stuff that the average attendee never sees, but I’m sure that we’ll do even better next year.

I know better than to try to list things day by day, because honestly by now it’s all a blur. What did my days consist of? Up at 7 AM, shower, check emails and monitor Twitter/Facebook. 8 AM, check with Security and other departments to make sure no one burned down the hotel overnight. Check in with Gir or Cheetah to make sure they were good for their shift. 9 AM – 10 AM, morning meeting over breakfast with chairman and staff leads to discuss any convention-wide issues or problem children. Check social media again, respond to any queries/issues there. Hit the floor and start the rounds of the hotel, checking in various parts of the con and making sure everyone was happy. Put in a shift or two as Hotel staff on call. Check social media. Get lunch around 3 PM, typically a quick bite from the staff lounge. Roam some more, check social media, then a real dinner. Go off duty around 7 or 8 PM (unless I was on call for the night). That about sums it up.

I had two fine folks helping me out in this craziness: Gir and Cheetah. This was Cheetah’s first year on Hotel staff and Gir’s second, and both of them did utterly fantastic jobs. It is awesome to know that I have people whose judgment I trust and I can utterly rely on to just make it all work. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re both awesome friends!

Somewhere in the middle of all of this (Friday night, to be specific), Dan and I celebrated the ten-year anniversary of our commitment ceremony with a Renewal of Vows and Civil Union ceremony (now that CU’s are legal in the state of Illinois). It was an amazing event, with scores of our friends joining us. We had a beautiful cake for the occasion, and Matt from the Hyatt surprised us with a huge tub filled with ice and bottles of champagne. I know that several folks took video of the ceremony, and we have a ton of pictures to post as well. And after the whole event, we had one hell of a party! It was a great night for us both, and I was so glad to spend it with so many friends.

The rest of the convention went extremely well, and as always we succeeded in making our charity cry. The convention attendees raised around $6,000 for them, and the convention was able to add a check for $12,500 on top of that. I have to admit that I always love that part of Closing Ceremonies! Once the convention was all taken down and stowed for the night, we retired to our room for a final shindig where we welcomed a small number of friends to join us. Nothing too crazy, but a really nice way to wind things down.

So now we take a break, rest and recuperate. The ideas are already flowing for next year, and it’s safe to say that I don’t see us as a convention resting on our laurels any time soon.

It’s Been a Busy Month…

Right, I have a journal here. I should actually use it 🙂

Just to update a few things before they totally slip into the past: Following the craziness that was Wuffmeet, takaza and I slipped into a comfortable winter rhythm. Our cooking has improved, or at least gotten more interesting, with the addition of a Sous Vide Supreme to our kitchen. We are still experimenting and testing recipes, but we’ve been really impressed with how it cooks steaks and other meats. The fish it makes is to die for, and butter-poached chicken is simply divine. The biggest trick is that seasonings behave differently with low-temperature cooking, so we are still learning what works, what doesn’t, and what we still need to try. I’m having a ball with is, and I’m hoping to bring it to Furry Connection North to provide some interesting snacks for our parties!

Our social life has gotten a bit quieter with the departure of close friends roho and genet to the wilds of the east coast as they move to the heart of Boston. While we were very sad to see them go, I’m really glad to see Roho get his life back from his (former) evil employer. We provided some small help in moving some of their furniture out of their house (I still feel bad about what we did to the wall in their basement stairwell, but I’m told it was a relatively easy fix). Once the movers came and loaded up their stuff, Genet crashed at our place for a few days with Briana, their pretty-but-airheaded Samoyed. She and Buddy got along great (as always), and it was nice to have the extra company. Once all of the contractors were done making their place super-pretty so it could go on the market, she packed up the dog and their two cats and made the long drive to Boston. Here’s hoping they can clear all the boxes out of their new place before summer! 😉

We have been having a lot of fun planning our upcoming cruise to Alaska, coming up around Memorial Day. Somehow our group has reached 18 people from all over – even someone from Sweden! We purchased a good bit of the various parts of the trip over the last month, including flights (Frontier Airlines, MKE-DEN-ANC/SEA-MKE), reservations at a fabulous little lesbian-owned B&B in Anchorage, trains from Anchorage to Seward (where our ship departs) and Vancouver to Seattle, and various shore excursions. Dan is thinking about putting together a group chat on Saturday, March 5, for everyone in our group so we can talk about coordinating schedules and answer any questions that folks might have. We’ll be sending around emails for that. This is going to be the longest vacation we’ve had, and I’m really looking forward to it! We’re already brainstorming ideas for group trips for next year as well, including an extended weekend in New Orleans, and a ski weekend at Sugarloaf in Maine. More on that after the cruise!

I should mention that on Groundhog Day we got buried with a blizzard. Twenty inches of snow fell in a very short time, and then the 40-50 mph winds kicked in. We did the smart thing and made sure we had everything we needed and when it started coming down we sat tight at the house. Work for both of us was closed (the first time in a long time!) and we spent the snow day relaxing and Genet made cookies! Our HOA dues have never been more appreciated as we watched the snow removal company try to cope with the huge drifts, though we did get into the act a little bit by excavating Genet’s car from the snow.

Somewhere in there was our first Midwest FurFest staff meeting of the year. It’s always rough to get started again after the last convention, but there’s contracts to sign and plans to get into place. The good news is that Hyatt Regency O’Hare was extremely happy with the convention last year, and now that we all know each other, the coming year will be much easier to plan. We have changed up our meeting schedule a bit, with more online meetings early in the year; this makes sense since most of the staff doesn’t really need to spring into action until the summer.

Oh, for those wondering: our conventions schedule this year is to attend Furry Connection North and Midwest FurFest and…that’s it. Since the cruise is so long and I only have ten days of vacation, Anthrocon just isn’t in the cards for us this year. I wish everyone involved with AC well, though, especially rooth and chanur2000, who will be taking over my and Dan’s staff positions there, respectively. Good luck, guys!

Finally, Dan and I will be hopping on board the Amtrak Wolverine this evening and taking the train over to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to hang out with the fine folks there for the weekend, and to help determine the beers that will be served at FCN’s sponsor lounge. It should be tough, thirsty work! Dan has planned a fun dinner for Saturday night as well. The fun doesn’t end there, as it appears that we will be visited by fordshepherd and bajahyena next weekend, when we will…well, those plans are a secret!

Off to work now – I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Random MFF Memory

I wanted to post this so I didn’t forget it, and because it amuses the hell out of me. As we were wrapping up on the Monday after Midwest FurFest, we ran into wingywoof and seritaph. Seritaph had a great commentary on tipping of hotel staff among fans (I’m paraphrasing somewhat here):

“They love us! Apparently the worst tippers are accountants and actuaries. They know the value of goods and services and won’t tip worth a damn. But fans? Fans just duck their heads and say, ‘I’m sorry we’re weird. Here’s twenty dollars.'”

And that’s OK, in my opinion. The more we tip, the more they look forward to us, and the better deals we get (and deals aren’t just limited to what’s in contracts and such. I couldn’t begin to list all the little bonuses and freebies we got as a convention because the Hyatt staff was willing to work with us!).

Con Wrap-Up, And A (Hopeful) Return To Blogging

My, it’s been quiet here lately, hasn’t it?

Most of you probably know why. For the last eleven (!) years I have been a staff member for Midwest FurFest. After serving as chairman for the last two years, this year I moved into the position of Hotel Liaison while my husband takaza took over as chairman. Now, being Hotel Liaison is no picnic anyway, but this was our first year at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and that introduced all kinds of new complexities – learning how to use the function space, establishing lines of communication, negotiating contracts and expenses, and a slew of other duties. Hotel Liaison is one of the few 12-months-a-year jobs with the convention (most department heads’ duties kick in maybe 4-6 months before the con) and in the final month before the convention I was easily spending 20-30 hours per week on convention-related tasks. Thus the lack of updating.

So. The convention happened. How did it go?

It. Was. Amazing. All of that planning and hard work was worth it. Everything came together extremely well, and when unforeseen hotel issues came up we were able to recover seamlessly and gracefully with no disruption visible to the convention attendees. As for the convention itself, it was a spectacular success. We set an attendance record for us (2,285) and all of the feedback I’ve seen has been almost uniformly positive. Our last year at the Westin was not a good one, and I think that adversely affected our attendance. This year really turned that around. In my experience, conventions can advertise all over, hand out flyers, sit at tables and promote the con, but what will really make you or break you is word of mouth. The word of mouth for MFF after this year is so strongly positive, I think we’re going to see a very strong year next year.

There is absolutely no way I can write a con report – it all went by too fast and there’s just too much. I do want to thank a few folks, though:

  • Mirko and Gir, my Hotel Liaison staff. You guys made the con enjoyable for me, and I hope you found the experience as rewarding as I did. I know you had little direction or idea of what you were getting into before the con started, but to be fair I had no clue either 🙂 Special thanks for Gir for stepping in on relatively short notice to help out!
  • Although I don’t know if she’ll ever read this, Jen Calderon, our Convention Services Manager at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare did an absolutely sterling job keeping the myriad details in order. She put up with my frequent emails, responded quickly and effectively to inquiries before the con and especially at the con, and showed truly remarkable patience and attention to detail. Every convention should be fortunate to have someone as talented as Jen to work with!
  • Perro, RB, and CharlesBear, who provided invaluable support, advice, and communication before and during the convention.
  • The many, many MFF staffers who were great to work with, and who made my job easier in the planning stages of the convention.
  • And especially Dan, my dear husband. He was Hotel Liaison before me, and was an invaluable source of information. We spent a lot of time figuring the fine line between providing advice and micromanagement, but once I put my ego away and listened to his very sound suggestions, we were both better off for it. I will continue to be grateful for his support, his knowledge, and his love.

(If I forgot to mention you specifically, I assure you that it isn’t because I hate you, it’s more that my brains are still a little scrambled 🙂

So that’s it. I wish I could say that I’ve got a bunch of downtime ahead. I have today off, at least, but after this I go back to work for a day, then we’re hosting Thanksgiving for friends at our place. We are providing coordination assistance for Misti and Joe’s wedding on Friday, but then I’ll have the weekend to collapse. Oh, and Dan’s birthday is December 1st – locals, keep an eye out for an announcement of a fun outing for that coming up! And now that the con is over, we can start making plans for Christmas, and Wuffmeet is right after that! Oh my, I need a nap…

Anyway, I do hope to return to update this journal a bit more often now that I have a little more available time. We’ll see how that goes!

Still Around

In case anyone is wondering, I am still around and still reading LiveJournal. Unfortunately, preparations for Midwest FurFest are eating all my creative energy and time, so I don’t foresee any substantial post (or maybe any posts at all) until after the con, which is in two weeks (ACK!). I still have a write-up of September’s trip to Montreal to post, and reminders of upcoming gatherings as well. Keep an eye out!

Recap-o-rama: The 2nd Annual Midwest FurFest Summer Picnic

Whoa, am I falling behind!

The most notable event recently was the second annual Midwest FurFest Summer Picnic, which took place on the weekend before last. We welcomed Gir, Nik, Cadyr, and Eddi over at our place that Friday night and did some prep work for the picnic (including Genet making five gallons of simple syrup for the sno-kones!). We packed it in on the early side, then it was up relatively early on Saturday. Picnic prep went quickly, though we were late leaving the house.

The picnic was amazing. We had over 150 RSVP’s, though the actual turnout was probably more like 135 or so. It was a beastly hot day, in the 90’s and humid. We set up two grills, one for Midwest FurFest and one for Furry Connection North. In the time leading up to dinner I was in charge of making appetizers, which I did with copious help from Linnaeus, Aureth, Genet, Roho, and Cadyr. Appetizers included grilled pineapple with cumin, quesadillas, grilled plums, grilled baby bok choy in a light peanut sauce, and grilled jalapeno peppers, stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. This was supplemented by an inspired addition on Dan’s part: he rented a sno-kone machine, which was perfect for the day. We went through about 80 pounds of ice, providing sno-kones for everyone (even bacon and peanut butter flavors!).

The main event came down to Furry Connection North’s Guacamole Bacon Bomb Burgers (secret ingredient: chopped bacon and scallions mixed into the burger!) versus Midwest FurFest’s Killer Bacon Cheeseburger (secret ingredient: 7-year-old aged cheddar cheese!). They were part of a delicious dinner buffet that included green salad, steakhouse potato salad, baked beans, and several trays of tasty dessert pastries. We had more than enough food (as always), but everyone seemed very happy with dinner and no one walked away hungry. I’m pleased and proud to say that Dan’s bacon cheeseburgers won the day, though Gir’s burgers were mighty tasty. Perhaps a rematch is in order?

The only downside is that the heat of the day and the hot grills took their toll – Gir, Dan, and Genet all had to take breaks because of the heat, and honestly early on I felt a little dizzy myself. Fortunately with lots of water and some time in an air-conditioned car, everyone bounced back and was able to return to the fray. Overall it was an excellent event, and I think that we succeeded in our goal to maintain awareness of Midwest FurFest during the summer months, recruit new volunteers, and increase community goodwill toward the convention. Certainly a worthwhile event!

Speaking for me personally, I’m wondering if the picnic isn’t getting a bit too big for us to be doing all the cooking (or any of the cooking, really). I’ve got some ideas for next year, but if we’re back to grilling for crowds again, I wouldn’t be too upset about that.

More about recent events in another post…

Smokin’ Up A Storm!

So, life has been interesting at work, though it’s not much I can comment on in a public journal entry. The good news is, I have a job, it’s not in danger of going away any time soon (as far as I know), and I’m keeping busy. Let’s leave it at that.

So last week takaza and I spent a little more time doing some housecleaning and dealing with some of the spring cleaning we had so artfully avoided the weekend before. This was because we were welcoming company. Plonq and Atara rolled in mid-afternoon on Saturday as part of their epic drive from Winnipeg to Ohio. We put together a nice dinner for them, inviting roho, genet, aureth, and jenwolf (alas, linnaeus‘s car blew up and he had to spend the day dealing with that and couldn’t make it). Genet made a tasty Asian slaw and banana pudding, and Aureth made a delicious (if sloppy) cherry pie. Dan made some killer macaroni and cheese with bacon.

For my part, I smoked a bunch of chickens in the smoker. Two of them I soaked overnight in a bourbon/honey brine, and two of them in a soy/ginger brine. Once I got the smoker up to a proper temperature, they smoked beautifully with some apple wood I had leftover from last year. Just perfect! The bourbon/honey brine was definitely the lesser of the two – some definite sweetness, but no real bourbon flavor. Everyone agreed that the soy/ginger was the real winner. We whiled away the night chatting and drinking some of Aureth’s excellent homebrew, but unfortunately I conked out earlier than I would have liked.

On Sunday, Atara and Plonq spent the day with Atara’s sister in Chicago, so Dan and I just hung around the house and relaxed most of the day. Roho and Genet came over in the evening and we watched the season finale to The Amazing Race (still not happy with how it ended, but it could have been much worse). We reheated the leftovers from the previous night, and I whipped up a simple Alabama white BBQ sauce that was absolutely divine with the smoked chicken. Atara and Plonq got home part way through the show and we spent the balance of the evening chatting and poking at our laptops – companionable geekery 🙂

On Monday morning we bid farewell to our Canadian guests as they continued their trip eastward. Looking ahead to the coming weekend, we have more company coming, as well as the Midwest FurFest staff meeting. This should be a fun one – it’s an in-person meeting at the Hyatt O’Hare in the middle of Anime Central, a 12,000-person anime convention. If anyone is at ACen and wants to stop by to say hi, we’ll be in the Hartsfield Room at the Hyatt from 2 PM until around 4 PM!

They Like Us! They Really Like Us!

I just came across this profile of The Neo-Futurists in Gozamos (“A Spotlight on Chicago Community and Culture”). As you may or may not remember, The Neo-Futurists produce the long-running play “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind”, which appeared at Midwest FurFest last year. There’s a great quote from Kurt Chiang, who was part of the ensemble for that performance:
What has been your favorite Neo-Futurist moment? I really enjoyed performing TML at the 10th annual Midwestern Furfest last summer. Those people were so kind and welcoming to us in their very specialized culture/geekdom (and I use “geek” in the a complimentary sense). They also dug the choatic dynamic of the show right away, which is rare for people who see the show for the first time.

(Summer, winter…whichever. At least they had a good time!)

Company, Meetings, and Dog Stuff

Well, that was a fun-but-busy weekend!

On Friday takaza and I finished up the last bit of housecleaning from the week in preparation for guests. I went ahead and bought a gas grill and propane tank, too. We’re not getting rid of the charcoal grill, I assure you! I love that smoker too much. No, this is for weeknight cooking, when we don’t want to fool with getting a proper charcoal fire going but would like something grilled and quick. I still believe that the flavor and cooking qualities of charcoal are superior, but when we had a gas grill in North Carolina we used it at least 3 nights per week. Now…I just need to put the fool thing together 🙂

fordshepherd and baja_hyena drove in on Friday night (arriving late enough that I had already gone to bed!), and r_bear flew in on Saturday. We decided on a late lunch at one of my favorite places that we hadn’t been to in ages, The Firkin. Their beer selection has always been top-notch, but we had found their food so-so. The beer was still excellent, but the big surprise was that the food was fantastic as well! We had a really enjoyable meal. We finished off the rest of the evening hanging out at our place and chatting (and, um, imbibing just a bit).

Sunday brought the Midwest FurFest staff meeting. It was quick and relatively painless, and after the meeting I was able to give some tours to folks who needed to see what was where. We had an early dinner at Red Bar in the Hyatt, and while the food wasn’t bad the prices were, um, hotel-like. In spite of that, I suspect I’ll be eating more than one meal there during the convention. Ford and Baja hit the road after the meeting, but RB and graywolf769 came back to our place and we hung out and chatted for a while. After Gray left for the ride back to Indiana, we watched a bit of TV and went to bed.

Dog-wise, we hit a great milestone this weekend. We tried giving Buddy the run of the house when we went to lunch on Saturday and again when we were at the staff meeting on Sunday. In both cases he behaved himself perfectly! As far as I’m concerned the crate is a thing of the past for him (thanks for the loan, roho and genet!). He seemed so much happier when I went home to walk him at lunch today, so I think we’re making the right decision. Health-wise, his digestive system seems to be working much better and he’s slowly gaining weight back into a more healthy range. We’re going to need to buy him a new harness because the medium-sized one is quickly becoming too tight! He was also a perfect gentleman all weekend with our guests, snuggling right up to them 🙂

So, now the new work week has started. There’s nothing crazy going on at work, thank heavens. I’ve got an appointment with my optician this afternoon, then I’ll probably go to work putting Boxee on an old server we have (not sure if I’ll put Windows or Ubuntu on there for the OS – we’ll see what happens). The new gas grill needs to be put together too – Dan may do that today or I’ll do it tomorrow. Generally speaking, though, it should be a pretty low-stress week.

(Oh, and if you’re waiting to reserve a suite for Midwest FurFest, watch this space! And , and Twitter, and our website, and our forums…)

What Have I Been Up To?

So, what have I been up to these last few weeks (besides, you know, answering questions)?

Well, back on January 17th we had the first staff meeting of the year for Midwest FurFest. Time to start it all over again! It was a good meeting, recapping some of last year’s activities, and including a walk-through of the new hotel space. We’ve got a lot of big plans, but it’s going to take some time to bring everything to fruition. I’ve got some items for the website that I need to take care of, and I need to get some information posted. That’ll come this week, I hope.

On January 23rd we braved some freakishly dense fog to visit aureth and jenwolf‘s lovely place in Hebron. Excellent company, some very tasty beer, and entertaining games followed. The next day I finished up my taxes and arrived at some very happy numbers (yay for first-time homebuyer’s tax credit, boo for not being able to e-file if you claim that credit!).

That week kicked off what may be my most stressful week at work since I started with $employer, and it’s been pretty crazy ever since. This has really put a damper on my time that I would be able to post to this journal, or even to think about posting anything since when I get home from work I just want to de-stress. Unfortunately, this trend will continue at least until the end of February, though I’m hoping that things will ease off a bit after that. It’s all but certain that I’ll be working Saturdays for the rest of the month, though.

At the end of January I squeaked out of work on Friday the 29th and takaza gave me a ride down to O’Hare Airport, where I caught a flight to Columbus to spend the weekend hanging out with fordshepherd. The ostensible purpose of the trip was to give him a weekend to relax and not stress, but we all know the futility of this – it would be like someone wanting to do the same for me 🙂 Anyway, it was a delightful weekend, with dinners with roby_panther and kai_darkwolf, cooking up a storm (and a lot of smoke) with crappy recipes from Jamie Oliver, and generally just hanging out and chatting. I had an excellent time!

This brings me up to this past weekend. On Saturday, Dan’s mom and sister joined us, along with roho and genet for a joint early-birthday celebration for me and Dan’s sister. We had a delicious turkey dinner, and I made a butternut squash risotto that turned out really well. Afterward we watched “Julie & Julie”, which is a really fun movie. Last night we took all those leftovers (along with a freshly-made bread pudding) to Genet and Roho’s place where they hosted a Super Bowl party. We were joined by linnaeus, Aureth, and Jenne. We had a whole lot of fun and I really enjoyed the game. The couple of beers I had didn’t sit well with me, though, and as expected I had reflux issues all night long. I’m dragging a bit right now with the combined lack of sleep and lack of caffeine, since I can’t face the acid of coffee right now. Maybe a soda before I head off to work…

Speaking of which, time to shower. Hope everyone has a great day!

Hi! Remember me?

Wow. This may be the longest I’ve gone without a substantive public post to LiveJournal since I started this journal. What has happened since I last updated? Here’s the short version:

  • Midwest FurFest happened. It was a great convention, though it was the usual blur for me. It was my second and final year as convention chairman (MFF has a tradition of two-year terms for its chairmen). I didn’t accomplish everything I would have liked, but I feel that I was able to keep the convention on its upward trend and overall people seem to be very happy. How do I know? Well, we’ve got this nifty survey up, and if you take it you can win a free room night at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare! My biggest personal regret from the convention is that it sounds like there was one hell of a party in our suite on Sunday night but I was just so exhausted and done with socializing that I wound up taking a nice relaxing bath and going to bed early. Oh, and rest assured that I will not be disappearing from Midwest Furfest staff! I will be taking over the position of Hotel Liaison for MFF 2010, just as we’re going into a new hotel. Whee!
  • Thanksgiving happened. We were pleased to welcome Roho, Genet, Bander, Shawn, Shadowstalker, and Tarin over for Thanksgiving dinner, with a delicious turkey made by takaza‘s mom. The food was delicious, and the company was fantastic! Incidentally, if you were at Midwest FurFest, you might have met Dan’s mom – she was Staff Liaison, and her job was to go around the convention and make sure that folks who were stuck in one location got an occasional snack and drink and had everything they needed. She was a tremendous help during the convention and I’m so glad she was able to make it!
  • Dan’s birthday happened. We rounded up a bunch of folks and went out for dinner at Wildfire Restaurant, which was really excellent. Dan ordered the martini flight (!) and even drank a few of them. Great steaks, and really tasty desserts.
  • A doctor’s visit happened. I found out that what I thought was carpal tunnel is in fact tendonitis. This led to a nice cortisone shot (ow) and orders to wear an arm brace for two weeks. I’ll be living on Advil for a while, I think.
  • And finally, a brief visit down to Urbana happened. mirkowuff‘s neighborhood revived the “Candlestick Lane” tradition on short notice, so he threw a small short-notice party to celebrate. We had a lovely time and got to see some great old friends and meet some new folks as well. It was a very pleasant weekend.

So now we’re pretty much caught up. What’s coming up? Well, we’re going to dog-sit this weekend, and hopefully visit either Evanston or Milwaukee to go to The Spice House and do some restocking. We’re flying down to South Carolina for Christmas. And of course there’s Wuffmeet coming up, for which we really need to start making specific plans for food. December is a trainwreck, as always, and it doesn’t look like January will be much better! But we’re having fun and all is right with the world, regardless.

We Did It.

I am tired.
I am hoarse – I have almost no voice left.
Did I mention I was tired?

But with 14+ months of preparation and untold hours of hard work by over 130 staff members, Midwest FurFest 2009 is done and was a huge success.

And now, I’m going to relax on the sofa, enjoy my mint tea, and not. Do. Anything.

And I’m going to feel damn good about it.

And Now, Here We Are

Twelve+ months of preparation (because planning for this started well before the last Midwest FurFest) and untold hours of work later, here we are at Midwest FurFest 2009, celebrating our tenth anniversary. This will be my final year as convention chairman, so it’s bittersweet in that respect. I wasn’t able to accomplish everything I wanted to do, but I made a good dent in it, so I’m not too unhappy.

Being chairman versus running Registration was a huge difference for me. It’s a lot less hands-on, and more management. In that respect it offered a welcome break from seven years of doing the same thing, but it introduced a whole host of new and interesting issues to be dealt with. All in all it’s been a worthwhile, if at times frustrating, experience. It’s been worth it, though.

As far as what this has meant to me as a person, it has been a tremendous experience in relinquishing control and letting other people do their jobs. Delegation, delegation, delegation. I know when I came into this position many staff members expected me to be a micromanager because I am such a control freak; I hope that I proved them wrong, or at least was helpful and constructive in what management I offered. I certainly appreciate the patience and cooperation that has been shown to me in return.

I guess I should say that I’m not going anywhere next year – I’ll be taking over the Hotel Liaison position, something that is sure to offer new and interesting challenges. But first I need to make it through this year’s convention. It’s going to be stressful, I can already see that. But we will work it through, and have a good time doing it.

I will receive a lot of thank-yous at this convention, and I can’t begin to say how much each and every one will be appreciated. But I would ask that you also take the time to stop a staffer or volunteer at the convention and thank them as well. I’m just the manager – they are the tireless folks who are doing the actual work. You would be amazed how much just a simple “Thank you” can turn around a crappy day and erase a bad experience someone has had. We are all volunteering our time to make this convention happen – nobody gets paid. Do your part and help people feel that it’s time well-spent.

And with that…I’m out of here! My email and web access will be spotty for the next five days, so if you need to reach me, my cell phone is your best bet. See you all on the other side!

Get ready for The Midwest Furfest 2009 Charity Auction!

(Copied from )

It’s now less than a month til Midwest FurFest! Time to start packing and planning! Of course, as you pack, you’ll want to leave some extra space for all the loot you’ll pick up at the Den, the Alley, and the Art Show. Rather than leaving that corner of your suitcase empty, why not turn it to a good cause – like cute fuzzy animals in need of rescue?

This year, Midwest Furfest’s Charity Auction goes to benefit Kane Area Rehabilitation and Education for Wildlife (KARE for Wildlife). KARE has been helping Illinois wildlife since 1995. Every day, they work to rescue injured and orphaned members of Illinois’s native species, such as foxes, coyotes and raccoons, as well as raptors. In addition, they are involved in local education and outreach, along with some of their non-releasable charges.

So how can your extra luggage space help KARE and the animals? Auction donations! That signed original fox piece that your boyfriend won’t let you hang on the wall? The gorgeous handmade blanket that you never use since moving to Arizona? The skunk tail you don’t feel right wearing since discovering your tiger side? All of these would find a great new home at Saturday’s charity auction!

Don’t have anything to donate? Come to the auction itself, and see if you can find something to pick up instead! Every year, the auction brings in unexpected, creative, incredible donations for our talented auctioneers to send home to new owners. Not sure if you’ll be interested? Come for the show anyways – the banter is half the fun, and KARE will be there with some of their critters to cheer folks on. And don’t forget to drop by the charity’s table to meet Vicki, her volunteers, and the animals.

For details including donation instructions, rules, and more info on KARE, check the latest on the website Charity Page

See you all in November!

What a Great Weekend…

And we didn’t really even do that much!

Last weekend, fordshepherd came up to visit. We were, of course, mostly selfish and kept the sheppie hidden away, enjoying a quiet weekend at home. We’re mean that way 🙂

Ford didn’t get in until late Friday night, which is how we found ourselves sitting down to dinner at Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood with linnaeus at 10:30 PM. They were quite gracious, though, and the meal was delicious. We left there around midnight, and spent the next few hours chatting and unwinding.

Saturday started predictably late. We shared an excellent lunch with roho, genet, and Roho’s mom, who I really enjoyed seeing again. Afterward, plans for a semi-fancy dinner sort of fell apart in a fit of laziness and contentment as we relaxed at home, watched some stuff off the Tivo, and enjoyed Ford’s company. Pizza was ordered, some truly amazing white port was enjoyed (thanks again, baja_hyena!), and we closed out the evening with a viewing of The Lion in Winter. Wonderful!

Sunday came all too soon. I enjoyed an excellent lunch at Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant and Winery with woodychitwn, ramalion, Ford, and Linnaeus (the peach bellini was yummy, the raspberry sangria not so much). The Midwest FurFest Board meeting followed shortly thereafter. The one item of note is that Midwest FurFest has a chairman for next year and that would be…Takaza! Yep, it all comes ’round again 🙂 The staff meeting was mercifully short, and then we took our leave of the merry crowd, dispatching Ford back Columbus-ward with his crew in tow. We spent the evening unwinding and making plans for our trip next week.

After such an excellent weekend, it’s tough to get back into the grind. Things were OK at work today, though, and the balance of the week should be busy, but no late nights will be needed.

Oh, and we’re working on the real estate front, but nothing new to report there just yet. Sorry, Mom 😉

MFF Summer Picnic – What a Rush!

Stop the train I wanna get off!

Yeah, we’re down to that crazy time of year, and last week I had a convergence of planning for the MFF Summer Picnic and Anthrocon as well as a high-pressure project at work. I was not a happy camper at all. Thankfully, takaza put up with my antics and I somehow muddled through two out of three problems (Anthrocon is still to come).

I wrapped up all but the last few details of the project I was working on Friday afternoon. That left me feeling pretty good as Dan and I went out to do some last-minute grocery shopping and get everything prepped for the picnic.

Here’s how it all went down…

Picnic Success!

(Crossposted from )

The First Annual Midwest FurFest Summer Picnic was a resounding success! We cooked up 120 New York strip steaks, 8 chicken breasts, all sorts of fun appetizers, and everyone enjoyed lots of potato salad, green salad, banana pudding, and cookies. It was a hot day, too – we went through about 25 gallons of Gatorade and 15 gallons of water.

I hope that everyone had as good a time enjoying all the food as we did putting the event together. Congratulations to who won the Fan’s Choice award for the softball games, and with that a $50 gift certificate to Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood. Also, after everyone had eaten, we selected three names at random for prizes. Congratulations to and , who each picked up a free weekend night’s stay at the Westin Chicago North Shore and to Cale, who received a $50 gift certificate to Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood! (And I apologize for mispronouncing your name, Cale – twice! 🙂

This picnic was of course a volunteer effort. As such, a few thank-yous are in order. Thanks go out to:

  • , for working with us to make a special LAFF Softball into something even bigger.
  • Our hardworking cooks, including , , , , and
  • Everyone who helped with setup and teardown, including , , , , and some folks who I’m sure I’m forgetting (sorry!)
  • The Westin Chicago North Shore, for donating the prizes
  • The Hampton Inn and Suites Lincolnshire, for donating many cases of bottled water
  • And thanks to everyone who showed up and made it such a fantastic day!

has posted his pictures of the day. has posted his pictures as well. Do you have pictures from softball and the picnic? Tell us about it in the comments!

Thanks again to everyone, and we look forward to seeing you in November!

P.S. – For those who asked about volunteering at Midwest FurFest, you can find more information right here!

Soup and Meetings

It was a busy and productive weekend. The busy part came on Friday and Saturday when we sent out impromptu invites for a small dinner at our place. After spending the afternoon doing a bit of cleaning around the house (yeah, we still have bits of Wuffmeet stuff lying around that we needed to clean up anyway), we welcomed roho, genet, and linnaeus, as well as last-minute additions tozier_wah and mirkowuff. We had a lovely evening of chatting while I made a tasty dinner of tomato soup with roasted garlic and herbs and pumpernickel grilled cheese with extra-sharp cheddar, apples, and thyme. Extremely tasty!

Sunday morning was a slow start, then it was over to the first Midwest FurFest staff meeting of the year. We did a bit of a post-mortem for 2008 and looked ahead to plans for this year. I’m excited about some of the stuff we have in the pipeline, and I’m very glad that the convention is blessed by such a capable and creative staff. takaza was feeling under the weather so I opted to pass on the post-meeting dinner and go home with him. We had a quiet night at home, and headed off to bed surprisingly early, by about 8:30 PM.

I should also mention that Dan and I had dinner with several representatives from the Westin Chicago North Shore. Really, not much int he way of business was discussed, but it was more of a “thank you” dinner from them. We had a great meal, and the company was excellent. Clearly, they do like Midwest FurFest and are excited to have us back this year.

Not much going on this week – work is pretty steady, and I have a couple of small projects to work on at home. We’ll be doing some brewing this weekend (the first time in about four years for me!), so I’m looking forward to that.

One Husky, Missing In Action

So what the heck have we been up to?

I know I’ve been pretty quiet since Midwest FurFest wrapped up. I’m mostly recovered at this point, and just sweeping up the last few bits of business before we put MFF 2008 to bed and can start looking toward 2009. Yeah, theoretically there should be a break in between there, but there’s no rest for the weary, or in this case, no rest for the chairman, as there’s staffing, website, and facilities issues for 2009 that need attention sooner than later.

In non-convention news, we had a lovely dinner last week with the Artists Alley crew and other friends up at Charcoal Grill in Kenosha, followed the next day by Thanksgiving dinner with takaza‘s mom with the usual huge amounts of food. We took home (and enjoyed!) many leftovers. And on Saturday night, we welcomed roho, genet, linnaeus, justincheetah, and calapurr over to our place for a yummy dinner of fondue and several bottles of wine (enjoyed in the fabulous gift we received from the Westin’s convention services manager). Cheetah and Cala spent the night and we had a nice lazy morning the next day before they had to head home.

And this week? It’s been pretty quiet. We’ve stayed in each night, though Dan’s employer’s holiday party was last night at The Cubby Bear North. While he was off at that I had an exciting evening of laundry, doing the dishes, and taking care of some much-needed sewing. Tomorrow I’m off in the morning to drop my car off for new tires (finally! After 50,000 miles, the OEM tires on there are getting far too slick, making starting from a standing stop an exciting exercise) then getting a nice 90-minute massage. Dan will pick me up after that and we’ll head over to meet Roho, Genet, and Linnaeus for lunch at a local French restaurant. I’m looking forward to it!

(Oh yes! And fancy new icon by sakuranym-kim. Woo!)

Midwest FurFest 2008: Thanks Where Thanks Are Due

One of the most humbling things at Midwest FurFest happened to me on Sunday afternoon after Closing Ceremonies. I was trying to walk from Ravinia Ballroom to the Westin lobby, and the trip took me 15 minutes. Not because of traffic, but because of so many people stopping me to hug me, shake my hand, and thank me for a great convention. And while it was tremendous gratifying and appreciated, I still don’t think I did half as much hard work as all of the staff did. During Closing Ceremonies, I said that there was no way I could thank everyone. But dammit, that doesn’t mean I can’t try!
Man, and you thought those Academy Award acceptance speeches were long!

And Now It’s Come To This

So here we are. In a few hours I’ll leave work, stop by home to check the mail and any last-minute deliveries, then head down to the Westin Chicago North Shore. My email access will be spotty to nonexistent between 2 PM today and Monday evening, so if you need to reach me, call my cell phone. Remember that while I can receive text messages, don’t expect them to be read immediately.

This is going to be an amazing convention. We have a hell of a staff and we’ve had 11+ months to prepare for this. We are going to rock that damn hotel, and we are going to make this convention a success. I hope to see many of you there!

Two Days To Go

Where in the past few years we’ve spent the weekend before Midwest FurFest working Windycon, this year we tried to take it easy. I met linnaeus down at the MFF storage locker on Saturday morning for some last-minute preparations. That was wrapped up pretty quickly, so it was back home to snuggle with takaza a bit and relax.

Sunday was nice and relaxing as well. Late in the afternoon we drove over to aureth and jenwolf‘s new place to help them offload all of their stuff as they move from Iowa back to Northern Illinois. It was good exercise and I’m glad we were there to help, though somewhere along the way I torqued my back a bit and I’m paying for it today. Ah well.

I’m boggling at the fact that we have only two nights left at home before we leave for MFF. Dan is working a half-day on Wednesday before heading over to the Westin, and I’ll be leaving work between 2 PM and 3 PM and be down there about 40 minutes later. Wednesday night will be the annual Registration bag stuffing (and hot tub soak? hmmm…) and then the wild rumpus will begin.

Oooh, and I just got a call that the staff badges are ready. Sweet! Guess I’ll be going down to pick those up on my way home.

That Was The Weekend That Was

Wow, I’ve not been good with the updates lately. A lot of that has to do with the nearness of Midwest FurFest – I’ve been working on a whole lot of convention-related stuff, and when I’m done with that I usually just want to put the computer away and not deal with anyone or anything for a while. But it was an eventful weekend and worth talking about.

On Friday I drove down to Buffalo Grove and picked up takaza from work, then it was down to linnaeus‘ place where we were joined by darkwolph. From there we carpooled down to the United Center. You see, we had scored some tickets to a suite to watch the Chicago Bulls play the Phoenix Suns. We were joined partway through the first period by mirkowuff, as well. It was a great game (Bulls won), but the suite was swanky – open premium bar, a full buffet, and a dessert cart to die for (little chocolate cups with Bailey’s Caramel in it? Why yes, don’t mind if I do!). We did a shameful amount of damage to a bottle of Morgan’s and discovered the deliciousness that is Effen Black Cherry Vodka as well.

Saturday was much more low-key, though we were joined by roho and genet for dinner. I made a tasty pork roast with braised potatoes (note to self: next time start thawing pork roast MUCH earlier!) and we relaxed while watching some good TV and enjoying an excellent Australian shiraz.

We finished off the weekend on Sunday with the last MFF staff meeting of the year. Everything seems to be well in hand and I am extremely happy with all of the work everyone has done so far. I’m looking forward to what is sure to be a very exciting and enjoyable weekend. We have some nice surprises, a lot of great programming, and some nice little extras that I am sure will please everyone. After the meeting we returned to Mi Mexico for dinner and I was gratified to see that my rave review which appears in the Restaurant Guide holds true – great food, great services, and a great value.

And here we are in the last full week of work before the convention. I have a slew of small projects to wrap up; my goal is to have all projects and everything we will need for the convention in hand by Friday so we’re not fretting about any last-minute items. Hopefully I can avoid more mornings like today, where I woke up at 4 AM fretting about some emails to be sent out and never really got back to sleep. I’m thinking it will be an early night for us!

I Voted!

…two weeks ago. Yay, early voting!

It should be an interesting day; I’ll be monitoring the news feeds and keeping an ear out for any useful news. Tonight, takaza and I will be heading down to linnaeus‘s place for the traditional election night gathering, one that I hope will be a lot more enjoyable than the one four years ago.

In the meantime, not too much going on. The weekend was fun, with a party over at justincheetah and calapurr‘s place, followed by a very enjoyable brunch on Sunday with friends.

Lots of small MFF projects going on, but I’d hate to spoil any surprises. I think people are going to be happy with all the cool stuff we have in the pipeline, though.

A Day in Chicago, and Winter Weather Arrives (Briefly)

For a weekend that kept me very busy, it was surprisingly relaxing. Saturday found me driving into Chicago to pick up a few things for Midwest FurFest. I was reminded once again why taking public transit has always been my modus operandi when traveling in the city. Between driving around fruitlessly for 30 minutes near the Lincoln Park Zoo looking for a parking space that wouldn’t cost $14 while I spent 20 minutes shopping, followed by another 20 minutes in Lakeview looking for parking (I lucked out there), getting around with a car in Chicago can really suck.

On the bright side, I did meet up with linnaeus for a tasty lunch, and we had some fun chatting while driving around. We also made a very important discovery: Binny’s in the South Loop has a bar. And no just a bar, but a “tasting lounge” where drinks are actually very reasonably priced, allowing you to drop, say, $7 for a glass of 18-year-old single-malt Scotch before dropping $75+ on a bottle of it. We only had a beer (I had the Allagash Belgian Tripel, Paul had the Two Brothers Tripel Ale. We both liked mine better 🙂 (Side note: I see that Two Brothers now has a brewpub open. Road trip to Warrenville, IL, anyone?)

When I got home, takaza had already gone over to spend the evening with his family. This was fine by me, since it gave me time to relax and unwind after a crazy amount of driving.

We were up surprisingly early on Sunday to have breakfast in honor of midwestcougar‘s birthday. We were joined by Linnaeus, furball2k, evan_li, and the quiet and possibly LJ-less Kevin. It was an enjoyable meal and it was fun to meet some new faces. Afterward, Dan and I continued the previous day’s shopping spree, picking up some useful things. Our travels took us out to Hoffman Estates, where we got a tour of the shiny new ultra-spendy theater there (Dan: “I’d like to see a movie here.” Me: “IT’S $35 JUST TO GET IN!” Dan: “I still want to see a movie here…”). We were also treated to a rather surprising five-minute sleet storm as the windy weather turned very cold.

We finished off the shopping with a trip into Cabela’s. I figured I needed a picture for the con book and since our theme is “North to Alaska” it seemed to fit. We had fun getting a couple of shots, but most of you will have to wait until the convention to see the finished product (I’ll send you copies, Mom 🙂

This week so far has been busy at work, but I’m finding some time to deal with MFF stuff here and there. This Friday we’re doing some family stuff, and I have a bunch of con-related stuff to work on this weekend. On a nice side note, we were able to trade my old iPod to Dan’s brother (who is part-owner of a Massage Envy franchise) for two 90-minute massages. I’m really looking forward to redeeming those!

Fun With Twitter And a Relaxing Evening

Well, I seem to have gotten on the Twitter bandwagon. I’m really not sure how much I’m going to use it personally, but you can follow me at http://twitter.com/DuncanDaHusky. Oh, and I can assure you that I will not be copying my tweets to LiveJournal. I’m not much a fan of that approach.

More interesting, though, is that I have established an official Midwest FurFest Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/midwestfurfest. I have found a very handy service that we can use to load up with notifications like “The Charity Auction will begin in 15 minutes in Ravinia DEF” well in advance of the convention. Additionally, we can also send out notifications of programming changes and, um, whatever else I can think of 🙂 I’m definitely very new to Twitter, so if anyone has suggestions about how to best use the feed, I’m open to ideas!

Last night, after a very hectic week at work, we were joined by roho and genet for an extremely relaxing evening featuring cheese fondue, some crusty bread, a couple of bottles of excellent wine, and chocolate fondue for dessert. After that was a screening of the Big Lebowski episode of Ace of Cakes, followed by the latest episode of Iditarod: Toughest Race on Earth. That show is really amazing, and it always really lifts my spirits. If you haven’t seen it I would highly recommend it – the cinematography is great, and the narrative is very well put together. This is definitely one of Original Productions’ (Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs, etc.) better shows. We saw Roho and Genet off at around 11:30 PM, then stumbled off to bed ourselves. Throughout the night my body reminded me why drinking several glasses of wine is a bad thing. Note to self: stock up on Rolaids.

So today I’m off to Chicago to do some shopping. I’m not sure how long I’ll be around, but we’ll see how the day goes. I suppose I’ll also swing by the MFF storage locker and pay for the coming year as well. Off to shower now!

Long Days at Work and Great Music

This is a crazy week at work, since I am working on a project I’m hoping to get done by the end of the week. Lots of paperwork, lots of time on the production floor, and lots of issues to keep track of. If I seem a bit remote when you message me during the day, that’s probably why.

This past weekend was OK. takaza‘s family came over on Saturday, but since I woke up far too early and had too little sleep, I was a terrible host and not very social. Ah well, we can’t all be 100% all the time. Sunday was a pretty lazy day of staying home and working on Midwest FurFest stuff, capped by an online staff meeting that ran longer than I would have liked, but still accomplished a lot. 30 days until the convention, and while there’s still a ton of work to be done, it sounds like everyone has things under control.

But that isn’t why I wanted to write this entry. The nights are turning cold, the leaves are falling from the trees, and we are well in the grip of autumn. This always gives me the occasion to pull out one of my all-time favorite albums, “When October Goes: Autumn Love Songs”. The schmaltzy title aside, this is one of the best and most atmospheric folk music albums I’ve ever come across. From Megan McDonough’s soulful reading of the title track, to Christine Lavin’s wistful “Getting Used to Leavin'”. this album definitely fits the season for me. My favorite song, though, is “Are You Happy Now?” by Richard Shindell, a talented singer-songwriter. The song has great lyrics like these describing a post-Halloween scene:

I’ve sat all night and now it’s dawn/And I cannot believe my eyes
There’s garbage strewn across the lawn/Where we once stared up at the sky
And streams of paper fill the tree/That hovered over you and me
Shaving cream covers the car/That we picked up in Baltimore
Though I know it’s hard to tell/I hope that what’s-his-name treats you well
I still maintain that he’s a bum/But it’s your money – have some fun

(Here’s a live recording of the song, but the quality of the audio does it a disservice)

So yeah. That’s what I’ve been listening to lately. Wow, I just realized that album came out in 1991. I first picked it up while I was working at WSBF-FM, the student radio station at Clemson University. I’ve loved this album for 17 years and I’ll probably keep on enjoying it.

Lots of Grilling, and a Very Busy Week

Holy cow, it’s been a while since I updated. Last weekend was a real hoot. Saturday was roho‘s birthday, so we got together with a bunch of friends and first hit Brightonwoods Orchards, then went back to Roho and genet‘s place for a tasty dinner of grilled meats and some excellent cupcakes make by takaza, including carrot cake cupcakes and my favorite, Boston cream cupcakes {drool}.

Sunday, we were joined by linnaeus and headed north to Milwaukee, first to Sprecher Brewing to stock up on cherry cola for Midwest FurFest, then a quick stop by Alterra Coffee to feed my filthy caffeine habit. Once done there, it was off to hegdish and drakeduck‘s place for a very enjoyable shindig featuring more grilled meats and some excellent company. It was great to meet some of the Milwaukee furs we hadn’t seen before, as well as some old friends we hadn’t seen in ages (hi Mistletoe and Tremaine!). Wonderful company, and Hegdish and Drake were excellent hosts. I look forward to seeing more of them!

Most of this week has been slow at work, which is good since that let me catch up on some MFF business. I’ve been very busy coordinating between departments, making my credit card squeak with a good bit of ordering, and working with some fine crafters out in California on some fun “spiffy” projects. Evenings have been spent enjoying the autumn chill by snuggling up with Dan on the sofa and catching up on Tivo’d programs. Some TV notes: Heroes is definitely getting better. The Amazing Race bummed me out by eliminating my favorite team. Survivor:Gabon is still in the early (boring) stages where the majority of the show can be watched on fast-forward. Chuck is fun, though we still have a couple of episodes to watch. Also sitting on the Tivo: Life on Mars, Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod, My Own Worst Enemy, and the balance of Reaper from last season. As much as I wish we could keep up with Pushing Daisies, we’re too far behind. Shows that are falling into the “Ain’t gonna watch it” category: Prototype This (so much potential, but so much suck), Knight Rider (too dumb for words), and Fringe (just can’t work up the interest).

As for plans this weekend, I may have to go in to work tomorrow morning for a bit. Then tomorrow afternoon Dan’s family is coming over – I just don’t have the motivation for cooking for a crowd, so we may just order pizza. Sunday I hope to do as little as possible, though we have an MFF staff meeting online in the evening. Just about a month to go until the con! Gah!

Right now, though, I’m listening to some excellent blues, Dan is cooking up a delicious dinner in the kitchen, and I have a very tasty beer in front of me. Life is good. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Beers and Dinners and Meetings, Oh My!

Now that was a busy, but fun weekend.

ramalion was crashing at our place on Saturday night and he had mentioned that he had never tasted my cooking. Those of you who know me know that this is a dangerous challenge! We invited roho, genet, and linnaeus to join us for dinner and I got to planning, digging into my online recipe stash to find some new and interesting recipes.

Prior to dinner, though, takaza and I met up with Roho and Genet at Wine Knows for their Fall Beer Tasting. It was a blast! So many good beers, but the real standout was the Browning’s Brewery Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, which is aged in bourbon barrels. Absolutely amazing! (And sadly out of stock. But Genet is going to check in with them later this week!) We picked up a couple of bottles of wine and some good beers, and ventured to the store, then home to start dinner.

Rama was there when we arrived, and Linnaeus arrived not long after. I dove into the dinner preparations. The menu included Eggs with Cream, Spinach, and Ham, Spinach and Bacon Salad with a Roasted Shallot and Dijon Vinaigrette, and Potato Gnocchi with Meat Sauce. I learned a couple of useful things:
1. Don’t start cooking an involved dinner at 6 PM. Fortunately, the beer and wine (and chips and salsa) helped maintain everyone’s good spirits when the food was served at 10 PM.
2. Gnocchi is neat and fancy, but it’s a pain in the ass. Next time, keep it simpler.
3. The Eggs with Cream , Spinach, and Ham is nothing short of astonishing. Saute the spinach with garlic and shallots, then coarsely chop and place in a ramekin. Simmer diced ham with heavy cream, then spoon the ham into the ramekin. Break an egg into each ramekin, then spoon the cream over the egg. Bake until the white is set but the yolk is still runny, and serve with buttered toast. Heavenly!

Sunday brought the Midwest FurFest staff meeting. The meeting went a bit longer than I usually like, but we got a lot done and made sure that no action items from the past year has fallen between the cracks. After the meeting, we adjourned to Mi Mexico, a new Mexican restaurant just north of the hotel (in the old Weber Grill location, for those who know the area). Wow! What a great find! Our meals were really fantastic, and they handled a large crowd of people extremely well. Plus, if someone is looking to eat cheaply, you’ve got a winner here, with $5.00 entrees available.

The rest of the evening was spent at home relaxing, working on some small MFF projects, and watching The Amazing Race (yay for the comic book geeks!).

This week is crunch time for the Midwest FurFest Restaurant Guide. We’ve got 120 restaurants listed and my goal is to have a useful review for every single one of them. Once that’s done I need to go to work on some other projects. No panicking yet, though – everything seems to be coming along nicely.

Bowling Movies and Real Estate Lust

Busy times before, and busy times ahead! It was a very full weekend, but we had a lot of fun.

On Friday, takaza and I met up with roho and genet for dinner at Las Vegas Diner in Antioch, then retired back to their place to watch The Big Lebowski (with white Russians in hand, naturally). It was my first time seeing it, and it was every bit of what I have come to expect from the Coen brothers. I enjoyed it, even if it seemed like half of the movie’s scenes could have been cut and left the main plotline intact. We also made a quick run to Wal Mart and picked up some nice lamps for our new bedroom set. I really should post some pictures of it now that we have everything in place.

We were slow to get started on Saturday, eventually leaving the house a little before 5 PM to drive around and look at rental house possibilities. We’re not unhappy with where we are now, but we know that we could do better if we must rent (and we agreed that we’re at least a year away from buying). We looked at some nice places in Wauconda, then on our way back stumbled across this jaw-dropper of a rental house. 4,000 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths with an in-ground pool on 6.5 acres in a very rural setting. Holy cats! Even stranger is the fact that it’s an $850,000 house that they’re willing to rent for $2,500 per month. I swear, if Dan and I could find a couple of suitable roommates, we’d jump on that sucker in a heartbeat.

On Sunday, Dan stayed home to deal with some workstuff while I hitched a ride with Roho and Genet down to colliedoc and hypersnazz‘s place for Straif’s belated birthday party. A good time was had by all, and I was very happy that the homemade caponata that I made was well received. Straif cooked up some tasty chicken katsu and teriyaki burgers, and Genet’s bourbon chocolate torte was simply sinful. We headed out on the early side so I got to spend some time with Dan before turning in.

Monday it was back to the grind at work. I spent the evening catching up on Midwest FurFest projects, answering e-mails and putting the finishing touches on some projects. Things are really coming together well, and I’ve got high hopes for this year.

Looking ahead this week, we’re getting together with linnaeus, Roho and Genet tomorrow to finally watch The Amazing Race season premiere. Rumor has it we might be hosting a lion this weekend, then on Sunday is an in-person Midwest FurFest staff meeting at the Westin. I may not have time to sleep, but at least I’ll be kept busy…

I’ve got a little project…

I’ve been kicking this around and while I have some ideas I don’t have the know-how to make it happen. This is a project for this year’s Midwest FurFest.

Imagine if you will: Your basic coat check at a hotel. Doors which fold open on either side of the opening, a counter about 3.5 feet off the ground. The top of the opening is about 7 or 7.5 feet off the ground. We need a light which can be either freestanding or perhaps clamp to the door (with suitable protection to keep from scratching the door). It needs to project out from behind the counter about 12-18 inches, high enough that no one walking by will hit their head on it. The light should flash, but it can’t be obnoxious, like a spinning strobe light. The light would be turned on and off from inside the coat check, so no fancy controls are needed.

I’m thinking something similar to a broadcasting studio “ON AIR” light, only one that says “VOLUNTEERS NEEDED”. Alternately (but not nearly as spiffy) a flashing light with a sign next to it that says, “Volunteers needed when flashing”.

Oh yeah, and I need one more thing: Someone to build it. Any takers? 🙂 You would be reimbursed for all materials used.

Apparently, I’m Less a Husky and More a Booze Hound?

Great googly moogly, it’s been a crazy seven days!

After work on Friday roho and genet came down and we grilled up some burgers and brats and celebrated the end of the week with a very tasty drink that included mango juice, pineapple rum, and Cointreau.

On Saturday I drove down to LAFF Softball while takaza worked on Anthrocon finance stuff. I had a great time hanging out with friends and generally socializing. After the game ramalion and I came back home to de-grungify, then Dan, Rama, and I met up with justincheetah and calapurr for dinner at Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant and Winery, which is located right in front of the Westin Chicago North Shore (MFF’s hotel).

We had a very tasty meal at Cooper’s Hawk; not quite the level of Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood, but better than Claimjumper. The price point is about the same as Claimjumper, too. I had the bacon-wrapped scallops, which came with a yummy mac and cheese and a fabulous mango salsa. I also found the wine to be surprisingly good – Cheetah and I ordered the “Red Wine Flight” ($12.95), 2 oz. pours of four of their popular red wines. Three were good, but their cabernet sauvignon, while OK, had some VERY non-cabernet flavors going on. When our waitress asked what we thought of the wines, I was candid in my appraisal. She surprised me with a sample of the cabernet sauvignon reserve, which I found to be excellent. She then brought Cheetah, Cala, and I samples of the oak-aged cabernet sauvignon (also gratis), but the reserve was by far the best of the night. The only downside of the place is that at peak times (like, say, on a Saturday night at 8:30 PM), it is extremely loud and crowded. Overall, though, it was a great meal and I look forward to going back. It will be a great addition to the Midwest FurFest Restaurant Guide, too.

On Sunday, we relaxed for most of the day and worked on Anthrocon stuff. In the evening we had the online Midwest FurFest staff meeting, where we covered a lot of useful topics. It’s coming up on Labor Day weekend, the point where people start to realize, “Oh crap! We have a convention to put on in less than three months!” and things really move into high gear.

Then came the work week. I had not one, but two projects moving into high gear this week. Both projects have involved a lot of time out on the production floor, and by the end of each day I’ve been exhausted. Today was a little different, since I spent most of the day in a mandated technical writing class, one of two. It was…yeah. As I observed to one cow-orker, “This is not the most productive use of my time that I can think of.” Tomorrow it’s back to the grind to wrap up one project and figure out some snags with the other. I’m looking forward to drowning my sorrows in Mongolian BBQ and good company tomorrow night, though!

Way Busy Weekend

Whoa. Been kind of quiet around here.

Work has been busy, and between that and Midwest FurFest planning I haven’t had too much to write about here.

Last week was linnaeus‘ birthday. We celebrated this by going out to one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago, Heaven on Seven. We carpooled down with roho and genet; Roho was kind enough to brave the horrid Friday traffic. the company made the time pass quickly, though, and we got there with time to spare. We were joined by simbalion, siriuswolfstar, and rustitobuck, and we had a very good meal. Not as awesome as usual (the halibut was only so-so, and the beef tips were served with an unfortunate Worcestershire-based sauce that was very like A-1 Steak Sauce), but the company and the very tasty drinks made up for it.

On Saturday I was up far too early to go in to work. We had some testing that needed to be done when the plant was not in production, and this was one of the few weekends we could do it. I got in at about 7:30 AM; by 9:30 AM the engineer we were working with had determined that the database he had prepared the upgrade files with was of a newer revision than the one on the production floor and that he had to completely revise his files. While he was doing that, I took off for home since there was nothing for me to do there. As I was leaving the parking lot I heard the dreadful “tick tick tick” sound of something lodged in one of my tires. A quick trip to the nearby tire store and a $30 repair later, I had the upholstery nail that had been lodged in my tire. Bleah. At 2 PM I got the call that they were ready to resume testing, and I went back in and worked until 6 PM or so.

Sunday morning was nice and lazy, which was pleasant and needed. At around 1 PM takaza and I drove down to steviemaxwell and magicpaw‘s place for a birthday party for Magicpaw and Linnaeus. Various folks were there and a fun afternoon of movies and games followed. We ducked out a little early to take care of our grocery shopping for the week, then came home and relaxed.

Back to the grind now. I’ve got a couple of projects going right now, one of which is in the process of wrapping up. The boss is out on vacation this week, so things aren’t too stressful. On my to-do list for tonight is to cut up the ten pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts we bought on Sunday ($1.59/pound!) so we can freeze it in smaller portions perfect for a single meal.

This weekend we’re hosting Dan’s family for a birthday BBQ for his mom; looks like the weather will cooperate so I suspect we’ll be grilling up some steaks. On Sunday there’s a possibility of another BBQ, but we need to see what the plans are there.

Midwest FurFest plans are slowly coming together. If you have mentioned to me that you were interested in volunteering and I haven’t yet directed you to someone, do please remind me because I have some departments in mind who could use a bit of a hand. We also have some loose plans percolating for Wuffmeet, especially on how to divide things up so Dan and I aren’t quite so stressed out the whole event.

The Calm Before The Storm

Before the craziness of this week’s preparations for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, we had a very nice weekend. On Friday we met up with linnaeus, roho, and genet for dinner in Antioch. We had originally planned to try out a BBQ joint I had read about, except we found that it was not only closed, the space was vacant and available for rent. Well. Instead, we walked down to the little Italian place a few doors down, Petrucci’s. As we were standing outside debating, one of the employees came out to cajole us into coming in. After she went inside, Linnaeus took a deep whiff and said, “Smell that? That’s Calvin Kline’s Desperation.” We shrugged and went inside.

After being seated, the waitress asked what we wanted to drink. I asked what beers they had on tap, and she…didn’t know. The manager came over and told us the beers they had: Michelob, Heineken, and Moretti (sure, they had a Peroni neon sign out front but they didn’t actually, you know, carry it). Evidently the three-beer beer list was too much to remember. Drinks arrived, and many giggles were had as we admired the Dunkin Donuts straws we were given. That was when I started pushing for just getting appetizers (a selection of fine frozen, fried cheese sticks, onion rings, etc.) and getting dinner elsewhere. I got outvoted, but we ordered the simplest possible thing we could: one sausage pizza, and one pepperoni pizza. To their credit, the pizza sauce wasn’t bad, and the toppings were OK. The crust, though, was terrible. It reminded me for all the world of cheap frozen pizza. Needless to say, we won’t be going back.

Saturday saw me at work in the morning while Dan slept in. He was awake and showered when I got home, and we headed out to run some errands. We happened upon a local coffee house now in its third incarnation since we’ve been in the area, and had a very tasty lunch there (they carry Intelligentsia Coffee! Yay!). Then it was up to Antioch Packing House to gather information on buying a side or quarter of a cow to fill up our freezer. We also picked up some excellent bacon and a couple of fantastic steaks. Once we got home we were joined by tozier_wah for the evening, and introduced him into how we have a small dinner for company: grilled NY strip steaks, baked potatoes with Monterey Jack and Parmesan, and grilled asparagus with rosemary and goat cheese, all accompanied with an excellent Australian shiraz blend. The evening ended with me nodding off on the sofa while Dan and Toz played Mario Kart Wii.

Sunday was the Midwest FurFest staff meeting. It was lightly-attended, as expected, but we got some good stuff done. perro has done a great job of fitting all the major events into the allotted space; now he can start thinking about the smaller panels. Afterwards we went over to Cafe Mistiko, a curious “European sports bar” that I really wanted to like more than I did. They made killer smoothies, and the saganaki was quite tasty. My crepe, “The Zembekiko” (Loukaniko [Greek sausage], tomatoes, peppers, and feta cheese) was only so-so, though. I’d be willing to go back and try something else on the menu, though. And lest you think of crepes as dainty little things, these suckers were huge, taking up three-quarters of the plate. I did also pick up a copy of the menu for the Japanese sushi joint next door and it looks like that may be next on the list of places in the area to try.

This week, we’re cleaning and shopping in preparation for the coming weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing some of our out-of-town friends, and hopefully repeating the fantastic time we had last year. Never a dull moment!

I’m Too Busy To Post! (Or Something Like That)

A relatively busy weekend and a very busy week.

On Saturday we went to a St. Patrick’s Day party; I had wanted to make something in advance but just couldn’t muster the motivation, and as it turned out there was more than enough food. The corned beef and cabbage was excellent, and the shepherd’s pie was really yummy too. Unfortunately, the evening was clearly taking a turn towards very heavy drinking, something that isn’t really a lot of fun to be around when you’re not doing the same (usually three drinks over an evening is good enough for me), so we bowed out early. Not that it’s any judgment on the people involved, just…not our scene, y’know? (and even less so takaza‘s, since he rarely drinks at all)

Sunday was the second in-person Midwest FurFest staff meeting of the year at the Westin Chicago North Shore. I was pretty happy with my preparation going into the meeting, and looking at the meeting notes so kindly provided by linnaeus, I see that we managed to keep the meeting to exactly an hour. This makes me happy. Over eight years, I think I’ve learned that 60 minutes is just about right for our meetings; any more than that and people get restive and the meetings become more of a trial for everyone involved. I think we had a good balance of stuff addressed during the meeting and stuff addressed in smaller groups afterwards. Several staff members who hadn’t seen the hotel got a tour of the place, and everyone seemed suitably impressed.

After the meeting and attendant after-meetings, we adjourned to Claim Jumper, which is located right next door to the hotel. Granted, we had a group of 16 people, but still – 2.5 hours from seating to paying and leaving seems a bit excessive. I will also say (and I preface this by saying that I’m very picky about my restaurants), I don’t have much interest in going to Claim Jumper again (sorry little_wolf!). I’ve eaten once at the Lombard location and twice at the Wheeling location and I have yet to really be happy with the food there. The prices are a bit high, but that’s because you are literally getting two portions (or more!) on your plate; if you don’t take the other half home you’re really losing out. Sadly, my fish and chips were more batter than fish, and the in-house beers were merely “meh”. Oh well – I have two months to try to find the next option for our after-meeting meal.

This week has been a little nuts at work for me. On Friday my boss dropped a quick project in my lap that had me running all over on Monday getting signatures and talking with other departments. Then yesterday, I spent the day across campus implementing a laboratory instrument that I’ve been trying to get validated for fifteen months now. Maybe now I can finally get it and all of the associated paperwork off my plate! Today will be spent back over there making sure all the lab techs are comfortable using the instrument, then I’ve got meetings for much of the afternoon. Fun.

Last night brought an enjoyable surprise, though. We got a call from Linnaeus asking if we wanted to join him for dinner. He had to meet up with roho and genet to return Briana, their floofy, brainless Samoyed, after R&G had spent the weekend skiing in Maine. We met up at BW3 in Vernon Hills and had an extremely tasty dinner (I tried the mango habanero sauce, which was really tasty but very burn-y too!). We also had a lot of fun playing NTN Buzztime, where I proved I still have my old College Bowl chops 🙂 Sadly, Roho was detained by his evil employer and unable to join us; this just means that we will need to get everyone together again and drink beer and play NTN. Oh darn!

Wednesday Morning Random Stuff

So this morning I’m off to the third day of the four-day “Intro to Statistics” course that I started last week (it wraps up tomorrow). I have to admit, having the break in the usual routine is nice, and today should be more enjoyable than last week since I won’t be running a fever or coughing up a lung. As usually happens with these things, I do still have a slight residual cough, and probably will for another week or so. This led me to get up at 2:15 AM to take some cough syrup, and I couldn’t get back to sleep until 3:30 AM. Ugh.

So I did finally pull the trigger on buying a new laptop. I went with the Dell Inspiron 1520 (2 GHz Dual Core 2 processors, 3 GB RAM, 250 GB hard drive) and picked up a very nifty discount through takaza‘s employer. Plus, it’s a color I suspect pinkleader will drool over:

Of course, I’d have felt better if I hadn’t read two scary pieces about Dell in Consumerist right after ordering, but I figure that’s pretty much life in the consumer laptop market these days. And I look at it this way: if anything goes badly wrong, I always have someone I can call. Hey kellicjtiger, would you be OK with exchanging laptop service for dinner at a fancy restaurant? 🙂

So following today’s exciting class, it’ll be over to the Westin to have dinner with MFF’s salesman there. Hopefully we’ll nail down a few important items, and maybe get some pictures of some of the suites that we’ll be offering soon, as well. But now, I’m off to class.

“Medium Pimping” With Out-of-Town Friends

Work work work, busy busy busy. It’s a crazy week for me, but it’s time to take a break a write a bit about the past weekend.

On Saturday, takaza and I took the train into Chicago and met up with fordshepherd and his “Bestest Friend” Julie (tsk, kai_darkwolf – you’re just going to have to try harder improve your friend status). We met up at Union Station and then jumped in a cab to visit the West Loop location of Wishbone Restaurant. We had a light lunch and a thoroughly enjoyable conversation about random things.

Afterwards we walked a block west and admired Oprah’s Harpo Studios, then across the street and into the Oprah Store, mainly for Julie’s benefit. Ford tried extremely hard to get us thrown out of the store for not showing the utmost reverence for the Great and Powerful “O”; it was vastly amusing to watch the oh-so gay male salespeople giving us the stink-eye as it became more and more clear that we really didn’t belong there.

Once we escaped there, we started what seemed like a short walk but wound up being about two and a half miles through The Loop. Following a quick stop by Intelligentsia Coffee (which we had to pass on, since the place was jam-packed), we walked up to Moonstruck Chocolate. We relaxed for a bit there with some conversation and hot chocolate, then proceeded up Michigan Avenue for our next stop, Vosges Chocolate (at Ford’s insistence). This turned out to be a good call – I tried the Bianca Cocoa, an astonishing mix of vanilla, lemon myrtle, lavender, and white chocolate. It was truly delicious. I also picked up a “Rooster” truffle, made of Taleggio cheese, walnuts, vanilla, and bittersweet chocolate. Delicious!

Our next stop was Galt Toys, since Julie wanted to peruse stuffed animals. Alas, their selection was limited, but Ford did find a plush cheetah that he decided needed to come home with him. Finally, we went to the Disney Store and I learned that Rémy is apparently an extremely popular character – so popular they can’t keep any merchandise with him on it in stock. Ah well. Dan did pre-order the 101 Dalmatians DVD, so at least it was a worthwhile trip.

It was time to go back to Ford and Julie’s hotel, some flophouse called The Drake Hotel. Ford wanted to take a cab, but I pointed out that it was a short bus ride. I was informed that one does not simply “take the bus” to The Drake. This would qualify as “medium pimping”, and was simply not to be considered. So we took a cab 🙂 Following a brief tour of Ford and Julie’s room (luxuriously appointed, and an ingenuous use of a relatively small space) and their dropping off their purchases, it was back downstairs and into a cab for dinner.

We chose the restaurant for dinner, so of course we had to pick our favorite restaurant: Heaven on Seven. The meal was divine, as usual, and I went with the “Feed Me Jimmy Junior”. This time around that included: crawfish cake in remoulade, small samplers of gumbo and turtle soup (the latter the highlight of the meal for Ford, I think), a Voodoo chicken enchilada, and strip steak over mashed potatoes. For dessert, I can never turn down their chocolate pecan pie. It was a stellar meal, and the company was excellent. We parted ways after dinner, as Dan and I headed back to Union Station and the long train ride home. It was a fantastic day out with good friends, and I had a really good time. Somewhere in the course of the day Ford extracted a promise from Dan and I that we would be visiting Columbus sometime soon, so I suppose we’re bound to that. Oh darn!

We got a late start on Sunday (gosh, I wonder why?), but Dan and I had to part ways – he to help his mother get her DVR running properly and get her tax information to help her file them, and I to the Midwest FurFest storage locker. I met up with linnaeus there and we dug around a bit, looking for some Art Show equipment and checking out what Registration equipment Paul would have to work with. For lunch we went over to Pierogi Place (yum!) and had a nice like chat over lunch. That evening, there was the online MFF staff meeting, which went OK but not as well as I would have liked – I forgot to call on a few people, and I completely forgot to follow up on action items from the previous meeting. I’ll need to take better notes before the meeting next time to remind myself of these things.

This week is, as I said, quite busy. Between some projects finally getting off the ground and lots of meetings, it’s going to be hectic. But things are going well, and I’m enjoying what I’m doing. That counts for a lot, I guess!

Games, Cooking, and Constuff

It’s been pretty quiet over the last few days, which might explain the lack of updates – not a lot of exciting stuff going on.

takaza and I had a pleasant weekend together at home. On Friday Dan was feeling like a bit of retail therapy and between gift cards and Reward Zone credits we had $75 of credit for Best Buy, so we headed down to the BB in Mundelein. We stopped by the Gamestop there to look at their used PS2 games and I picked up a couple of games I hadn’t played before: God of War and Destroy All Humans! (I’m about five hours into God of War and it’s a whole lot of fun. A little more gory than a lot of games I’ve played, but the puzzles are fun and the action keeps things interesting.) As for Best Buy…well, we never did find anything that looked interesting. On the bright side, the next item that comes up on sale, we’ve got a $75 discount waiting to be used.

On Saturday, we bummed around the house most of the day, except for a run to the grocery store. Sunday I made Dan the chicken and dumplings I promised him for Valentine’s Day (a few days late), as well as the delicious semolina bread from Cookwise. Mostly we just sat around the house and enjoyed doing gloriously nothing.

This week has been pretty interesting. Dan will be transitioning from his old job to his new job until the end of the month (gotta love those internal transfers) so he was at the old location in Mount Prospect Monday, Tuesday, and this morning, then he’ll be at the new location in Buffalo Grove this afternoon and for the rest of the week. As for me, I got a couple of important reports turned in and I’m at a momentary lull until everything gets signed off and we’re working against the clock to finish a couple of projects. In the meantime I’m catching up on accumulated Midwest FurFest correspondence, and trying to resolve an annoying lingering issue with the house rental out in California (they’re trying to charge us for damage that we’re not responsible for).

Looking ahead to this weekend, we’ll be going by the MFF storage locker on Saturday to try to track down some convention assets and answer a couple of questions. Since we’ll be out and about, we’ll probably make a couple of stops (I want to swing by Ikea) and maybe even be social. No plans yet, but we’ll see what happens. Sunday evening is the online MFF staff meeting, and we also need to put together all the numbers for the Point of Sale hardware and software for Anthrocon’s Artists Alley. Oh, and speaking of conventions, congratulations to tozier_wah for signing on to run the Information Desk at Midwest FurFest. We own your soul I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

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!