Well dang…. vacation is over.

I do have to say that for not having spent the week on a exotic,remote, tropical location being waited on hand and foot by a never ending stream of Polynesian woman (Fletcher Christian knew what was going one there !!!), it was on of the best vacations that I have had recently.

I ended up doing quite a bit of things and I think the biggest reason was that I got up everyday and went to the gym. It’s a good way to get the day started and prevents me from lollygagging the day away !!

Went for four nice little bike rides.


I had a gift card for Chili’s and we had a late lunch there one day:


I was not impressed with this burger.


It was my daughter’s birthday which meant FREE SUSHI at JuRin:


For me, this was sushi dinner “B”.


Also got a nice “Caterpillar Roll” .  (Eel) YUM !!!



Also being my daughter’s birthday, she had an sleepover with three of her friends.  I got to go out at 6am and get them doughnuts.


Vacation_005Did a little smoking on the smoker !!

Did another hunk of homemade bacon.  This time it did not turn out as best as it could.  I think that I had the heat too hot for a while, but I am getting close to getting to the perfect recipe and process.  Also tried smoking some salmon.  That also was not the best because of the high heat but it was still very good.  For good measure I put a slab of beef ribs on as well.


The doctor said I could have one beer while on vacation:


You’d be surprised at how quickly this was emptied.


We put a fence around our backyard about 13 years ago and I still had some leftover parts that I finally wanted to use up and get out of the garage.








TADA !!!

A new planter box !!



I think it will last 3-4 years before it goes onto the burn pile.


And now, another project:

I have some good skills with concrete and there are several things I can make: Bowls, plant stands, specialty bricks and some various do-dads.  The wife had a friend that she had previously given a brick to and she requested several more so we took the time to whip some out:


Combination of a sand mix and a pea gravel mix.


How much more simple can it be??


If you have a backyard, every proper house should have a wheelbarrow.




The wife has a kit of plastic molds and letters that are used to stamp letters/names/words on the bricks.  Even though the molds are plastic and the concrete doesn’t stick to it, it helps to give them a little spray of WD-40 to help release the bricks. (Helps with the clean up too.)




Like the bag said, just add water and mix !



While the concrete is being mixed, the letters are being arranged for stamping.



Concrete goes into the molds.



Have to wait for the concrete to set to just the right condition and then it gets the letters pressed in.

If the concrete is too wet, the letters blur and if the concrete sets up too much, it too hard to press the letters in.



Finished product.



This is one of my specialties.

Just trowel a fern leaf on the top and when it’s dry, peel off.



And of course, the clean up.

Does Pleasure Have Value?

When I am asked what I want for my birthday or for Christmas gifts, I always say “nothing.”  And I do mean it.  I’m not someone who really enjoys receiving gifts.  And from my own family, I don’t want people to spend money on something for me because they might feel obliged to have to give a gift.

As always, the story has a ‘But” coming in it.

Just trolling around at, I found this:


Heck, just the name alone makes me want it !!!

I know that this type of beer making device would not enable me to make quality micro brews, but gosh darn it !!!  It just sounds like a whole lot of fun (Fun for the entire family !!)

Should I drop some hints??

Illinois Falls in Beer Consumption

Illinois drops two places in consumption of beer

Your beer consumption is slipping, Illinoisans. So says a Washington-based industry group, the Beer Institute.

The state’s over-21 population consumed 28.9 gallons of beer per capita in 2011, the group reported, down from 30 gallons the year before. That ranks 28th among the states, down two spots from 2010.

“We’re all aware of it, but I don’t know if there is any one factor to explain it,” Bill Olson, president of the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois told the Bloomington Pantagraph.

However, Illinois still ranks sixth among states in total beer shipments received, which are not measured per capita. That’s the same rank as in 2010, but down from the No. 5 spot the state held from 2004 to 2009.

The top five states in per capita consumption last year were: New Hampshire (43 gallons), North Dakota (42.2), Montana (40.6), South Dakota (38) and Nevada (36.5), according to Beer Institute data.

“Beer Institute” (gonna have to look into that!!)

I’m doing my part for Illinois, I’m drinking for 3, maybe 4 other people to get the numbers back up.

Beer Test # 1

In response to another blog post  I thought that I could do some “Beer analysis” too.

The grocery store where I normally shop sometimes has a “Make Your Own 6 Pack” option where they collect beer that has come from other 6 packs or 12 packs that for various reasons are not complete.  There are times when you can find some really good stuff in that bin.

This is the selection that I was able to buy.  Yes, there are only 5 beers being shown.  I bought 2 of the “Grolsch” because the only other beers would have been Bud Light, Coors Light or Miller Lite.  I didn’t consider those to be good for this purpose.

My personal beer history:

My first taste of beer was when I was 12.  My best friend was having a birthday party sleepover for his 12th birthday. (innocent story so far!!)  We were in the family basement which was completely finished with a bowling game, pool table and a full bar !!! (now the story goes bad!!)  Probably about 11 pm, one of the more adventurous young friends had the bright idea of getting a beer to pass around.  Being this to be about 1976, the popular beer at that time was “Old Style” and a bottle was taken out of the bar fridge.  The beer was opened and the first person took a sip.  There was a pregnant pause as the rest of use were waiting to see what would happen !!  Someone said “How is it?” and he kind of made a sour face and then smiled and replied “It’s good.”  I think we all knew he was lying.  The bottle came around to me and I already did not like the smell of it.  My parents were not smokers or drinkers, but every New Years Eve they hosted a card party and most of the other adults did smoke and drink.  The following morning, the downstairs smelled of stale cigarette smoke and stale beer.  Because of that, I was already thinking the worst.  The bottle came up to my lips and as soon as it made contact, I knew that I didn’t like it.  I faked taking a sip and passed it on.  This went on for probably 15 minutes until almost all of the beer was gone.  I think everyone else knew that I wasn’t drinking it.

My next beer wouldn’t be until I was 17 at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich.

First, I’m just going to list the beers and the complete analysis of each one:

Grolsch #1

I like it


I like it


Don’t like. I can see why people hide the taste with a lime.

Old Style

Meh, could go without ever drinking that again.


Don’t like.

Grolsch #2

Tasted like Grolsch #1, could drink 50 more of those.

Yep, that’s my entire detailed analysis of those beers.  As soon as I started with the first one, I knew that I would be unable to describe sufficiently the taste, quality attributes etc of the beers.

The taste of beer, like food is subjective and everyone has their own standards for it. (but there is good and bad !!)

On a side note, when I drank the Old Style, it occurred to me that I had not drank an Old Style since the Cubs/Cardinals season finale at Wrigley Field, 10/05/1986.  Sometimes very strange as why we remember certain things but there is another story behind that.

I have always wanted to try making homemade beer.  Alton Brown shows how “easy it is:


Recently we had a snowstorm.  Now, for Northern Illinois in the winter time, that is not at all remarkable.  But as with the rest of life, “Timing” is everything !!

The snow started about 11 am where I was and by about 2pm there was all ready about 2 1/2 to 3 inches on the roads.  My boss let me go at 2pm (one hour early) and these are the photos of my drive home.

This was also a Friday and it seemed that everyone had been let out early as the tollway was jammed packed.

What should have been no more then a 45 minute drive, (33 miles) turned out to be 3 hours !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There were no accidents, no cars in the ditch and yet I had to drive 10 miles an hour.  I don’t encourage reckless driving, but we could have gone at least 45-45 mph.

When I was a young’n and growing up in my little town in the cornfields, these were the kinds of roads and conditions that we may have had to drive on for 2-4 days !!!

Interim Chicago Mayor Micheal Bilandic possibly lost his job due to a snowstorm and it almost seems that since then, no politician would be willing to lose his or her job because of snow removal and there seems to be a lot of overkill in the politics of snow removal and far too many drivers demand/expect roads to always be clear and dry !!  This was not much noticed until the recent economic downturn and most cities don’t have unlimited snow removal budgets.