So What Now?

March 18th, 2012 by matt

Ok, I know that a) no one reads this and b) I’m not supposed to write anything like “sorry it’s been so long since I wrote something” posts, but here goes one. Obviously, this site was originally set up to show people back home what I was doing. With timezones and whatnot, it was much harder to keep in touch with people in the US. At this point, I’m smack in the middle of this country, I have a phone with which to call people for cheep(sic) and it’s much easier to keep in touch, even with those people who aren’t smart enough to live in Chicago. Also, life doesn’t seem quite as unique when you can’t say you took a train to Paris or whatever obnoxious posts we would put up showing our fabulous life. Life is still fabulous, it’s just in a different way.

I’ve had a website of sorts in various formats since 1995. Mercifully, most of them have disappeared down the memory hole of the interweb unless you search the internet archive carefully. I keep all data I can, so it’s around, you just can’t find it in the public. Before I moved to the UK, it was almost an evolution of my teaching myself about computers. At first it was “what’s this html thing”. Then it turned into “what’s this perl thing”. The content has never been that important, although it was more so when I was a college student ranting on his web space provided by the school. Later it was about building my own server and writing some crappy code. Since I moved abroad, the computers have been packed up and have become obsolete and need to be retired. Instead, I have a hosting company to host it and the content is served by wordpress instead of my own homebuilt system from the days before there was a word for CMS or blog.

Point is, the blog needs to have some new purposes and I like having a web presence, regardless if anyone reads it. So, since travel and a life abroad is not where I’m at now, let’s take some of the side things I’ve been playing with and put them up here. For starters, I’ve been playing history sleuth. My first focus was our home. I’m still compiling things, but I have found a few interesting things about what is just another building that came into being as Roger’s Park was starting to boom and before it went to shit and then had what I like to see as a bit of a revival nowadays. I’d like to document that and I’ll put it here. I’ll lay it out from the beginning, some of the basic history behind it’s origins and see if I can’t flesh out some of the stories of the people who lived here. Let’s see how that goes.

Summer Storms

August 22nd, 2011 by matt

So, in the spirit of slowly waking up the blog and keeping in the theme of summer, let’s take a look at a little day trip we took. Our friends, Kara and Jim, have a lovely house in New Buffalo, the first town in Michigan when you come from Indiana. We wanted a little day out of the city, so we hopped Amtrak and spent a wonderful day by the sea—I mean lake. We had a couple of hours of warmth and sunshine, but there were storms afoot. Normally, being on the west side of Lake Michigan, we don’t get the bestest of views of our impending doom. On the east side, you end up sitting in bright sunshine until you see this coming:

Woah! That is a storm. The winds started to pick up, the black clouds swallowed the sky and then a big gust of cold air hit us as we were getting to the car and back to shelter. In the meantime, the wind was whipping the sand around and, let me tell you, that stuff hurts!

Anyway, we made the most of the weather and, even with some rain, had a wonderful time across the lake.

Summer Days…

August 22nd, 2011 by matt

The blogs not dead, just resting its eyes. And enjoying the summer! :-)

All Hail the Dark Lord (Day)!

May 15th, 2011 by matt

So one of the things I miss about life in England is the beers. English ales are something that is unique to that country. Like Italian coffee, you can find some of it (Fullers and Greene King can be found in most large liquor stores here), but it’s not the same thing. Unlike a nice Italian espresso, which I suspect is partly psychological, this uniqueness is more due to the fact that A) English beer is not pasteurized so won’t survive the trip across the pond B) is naturally carbonated, something that isn’t that popular outside of England.

I say this not to whine. In fact, I’ve been very happy to come back to the US to find that the microbrewery, previously something of a small aspect of beer-life in the US, has come into it’s own in the Midwest. There are at least 7 breweries in the Chicago-area alone, and countless others within a few hours now. And they’ve managed to establish a presence in bars throughout Chicago. I remember, in my younger days, if I wanted a beer that wasn’t one of the Big Three, I was usually out of luck, or had Guinness as my only option. Now, there’s a variety of beers in most bars and a great place to buy it for consumption at home.

One of these great local breweries is Three Floyds. Their best known beers tend to be on the hoppy side (ok by me) and an interesting wheat beer called Gumballhead. They market themselves as a microbrewery with the soul of a metalhead. One of the ways you know they are doing well is the popularity of their annual beer festival called Dark Lord Day. It works like this. Every year, they make a batch of an Imperial Stout called Dark Lord. They only make about 30,000 bottles of it (for a comparison, apparently they sell 9 billion UK pints of Bud Light every year). And they only sell it on the last Saturday of April. On the beer geek sites, previous “vintages” of it are usually in the top 5 beers in terms of quality.

Since we’ve left the land of beer festivals, and because it sounded like something we should check out, we tried to buy tickets. However, in previous years, the tickets sell out very fast or they crash the ticket website due to the volume. This year, they were limiting access to the festival only to people who had tickets to buy the beer and had set a hard limit based on how much Dark Lord they expected to brew. They also happened to put the tickets on sale while we were skiing, so we didn’t expect to get tickets. My mom was kind enough to try to get some for us. On March 19, at 1pm exactly, the tickets went on sale and my mom got the link to try to buy tickets. 5 minutes later, she got to the ticket buying point and, no tickets! They’d sold out in 4 minutes. Ouch! We figured no Dark Lord Day for us this year until we got a text from a very very nice friend of ours. He and his girlfriend had manged to get through and get 2 sets of tickets and offered the second set to us!

So, all this long winded writing leads us to the actual festival. We were a little nervous because we were afraid it might be a little too large for this small brewery to manage and become more of a fiasco than an actual good time. We were very very wrong. If you want to know what 6000 beer snobs (all willing to put down good money for an expensive beer) is like, Dark Lord Day is the place to be. Everyone was drinking interesting beers, the weather held out and, while very crowded, it was all very relaxed and orderly. Plus, metal music was blasting outside and live metal bands were playing inside. Kind of my nirvana :) . Let’s go to the photographic evidence:

Welcome to Dark Lord Day! Note the Dungeon’s and Dragons motif.

This is inside the brewery. Lots of random beers to sample, a stage to the right and lots of happy people.

Here’s one scene of the exterior. The brewery’s property isn’t that big, so people spilled out onto the adjacent properties (just commercial buildings in suburban Indiana). We spent most of our time outside. We found a nice spot, and just settled in.

It was a glorious day to be outside. I got a nasty sunburn (I have GOT to remember to wear sunblock) but people just set up seats on the grass near the brewery, drank beer, ate good bbq and enjoyed the day.

These were some of the people we hung out with. The four folks in the back were at DLD the previous year and had saved the 2009 Dark Lord to let it “age” and sample it a year later. They said it was still quite good.

So the main point of this day was to buy some Dark Lord Imperial Stout. It was also the main mission of 5999 other people. Now, unless Three Floyds were some organizing wizards, then there is no way they were going to avoid a bit of chaos and lines. This would be the line to buy 4 bottles of beer. There were three buying windows and you had a ticket for one of them. We had tickets for the 1pm and 5pm window and we learned after the first time to Relax because, at the beginning of the time periods, the line would back up for a mile. But once they started distributing, it got a whole lot faster. So if you were happy to wait an hour, you could just hop the back of a shrinking line. It was really not so bad.

Besides the beer of honor for the day, everyone brought their own beers. This being a beer geek thing, when done, people would line the empties along this spot so people could check out a beer they might not have heard of. That and it was kind of cool to have a long line of beer snaking along the side of the road.

Any way, it was a really good day. We met some interesting people, drank some tasty beers we might never have had before and just enjoyed a large crowd of people (not something I say very often). I hope Three Floyds can keep the tradition going and hope I can be lucky enough to get a ticket next year. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. In case you were wondering, here is the beer that gives Dark Lord Day its name:

It’s 13% alcohol and as dark as motor oil. The smell has a whiff of chocolate and coffee (they added Intelligentsia Coffee to it this year). The taste was amazingly complex, the coffee does not overwhelm (always a possibility with a beer that has coffee in it) and plays off the high alcohol nicely. It’s is definitely a sipping beer, something for after a very nice meal. Definitely worth the trip!

And, in case anyone is curious, homebrew batch number II is finished. I’m having my first taste now and it’s an improvement from the first batch. I borrowed a recipe from the homebrewers bible (The Joy of Homebrew) and made an American Real Ale. It’s not a Real Ale because I added priming sugar, but it’s still very tasty. The hops are Argentinian cascade and got along very well with the Amber Extract and English Yeast I used (no grains yet, that’s coming).

Local: Inside the B’nai Zion Synagogue

May 1st, 2011 by matt

So, a while back, I posted a little bit about an old synagogue around the corner from us. One of the biggest comments about it, beside it being quite pretty with some interesting history, was “boy, it sure would be cool to see inside”. I agreed and had thought a bit about how to go about it. To me, the idea of knocking on what is now a school for small kids seemed fraught with pitfalls as a hairy man with no children asking to look around seemed like it could be construed in a negative way. As it were, our neighbor Seth noticed an announcement that made it a whole lot easier. This weekend, the Rogers Park and West Ridge Historical Society was having their annual local open house and, among the 9 places you could visit, the synagogue was among them. Easy!

I’m going to focus on the synagogue here, but the tour had a nice slice of the area, including some nicely restored/remodelled houses and a lovely old church as well as some art galleries and public art. We began with the synagogue since it was close by and first on their self-guided tour. I personally had no idea what to expect as I figured the school had repurposed the whole space to their own needs and perhaps it would be more of a “here used to be the seats” kind of a tour. We were in for a surprise. The front door to the temple was open, a new thing since normally the school uses the side of the building as their public entrance. We were led down to the lower levels where the community hall was as well as a small lower temple:

As you can see, there are some signs of use by the school, but it appeared to be more of a storage kind of thing. Inside the community hall section, there was a door to a kitchen which still proclaimed it’s kosher roots saying “This is a dairy-free kitchen” which was a nice touch to still see 10 years after this had been used by the Jewish community. At this point, it was a somber “look at what used to be” kind of visit. Then we went upstairs to the actual temple.

It was as though the doors had been locked 10 years ago and everyone just went home. The school had, whether by design or out of respect, kept the temple in exactly the condition they’d purchased it. It was quite awesome. We were met in here by Hank, who wrote a great writeup about the temple that I used as a source in my last write-up. He too, was pleased at the way the school had treated the temple. We also met a woman (whose name escapes me), who had come from Michigan to volunteer for the day as she had grown up in Roger’s Park, went to this temple and her family was one of the first members of the congregation. It was fun to listen to her reminisce about life in the area (ice skating in winter, where she sat during services, ETC) when this was a temple of 20,000 familes and a focus of Roger’s Park.

Next it was time to poke around a bit more. At the front, there were two doors leading up to the choir stall up top. Inside, it was like a time capsule or sorts.

That would be the old AV system. Still mounted on the wall from who knows when. As we went upstairs, we found some places the school was using for storage, but you still had the impression a lot of the temple was simply left as a memory. From the back windows, you could see our house, which gave it a nice personal touch. We made it up to the top and looked out over the empty congregation. Here is the view from the choir:

I particularly liked how, while this was a grand building, this being a conservative Jewish temple, they kept things elegant, but simple. It is possible to inspire awe without the glitz (not that a little glitz has it’s place).

In case you’re thinking “No way this isn’t in regular use now”, allow me to share this photo of the seats:

A thick coat of dust over everything. And if you don’t believe in ghosts, then where did those footprints  near the aisle come from?? Ok, those are mine. Lovely old seats that are no suspended in time. I’m really glad we got the opportunity to see this piece of history. Thanks to the RPWR historical society for organizing this and to the Lake Shore Schools for taking care of a wonderful piece of history. I’ll post some more raw photos with details tomorrow if you want to see a little more of it.

DIY attempts

March 30th, 2011 by carolyn

Over the years we have accumulated a fair amount of books.  Matt and I are both readers and have trouble letting go of the books we read.  We have collected travel guides, novels and textbooks and I have also managed to amass a huge amount of photo albums.  While we both would love to have a proper library or at least a room with walls covered with books someday, that is not in the cards for now.  So we decided to start out with purchasing a few cheap bookcases to house our collection.

Once we purchased the bookshelves, we thought we might make an attempt at sprucing them up a bit.  I did a bit of internet research and came across this great post about painting laminate furniture.  Following Lindsay’s advice, I set up shop in the basement and sanded and primed away.  Once the shelves were prepped we made a trip to our handy local hardware store – which we love – and came home with a quart of “threadless grapes” paint and polyurethane.

The whole process was very straightforward but took a fair bit of time.  After a few weeks the pieces were complete and we were able to put them all together.  Below is the finished product holding our paperbacks.

Here is a close-up so you see the color and the little tiger and piglet happy meal guys (i’ve been carrying those around since Madrid 1998).

There is another one for photo albums.  Now we just need to purchase one nice sturdy one to hold all our textbooks.

Spring Skiing in Vail

March 27th, 2011 by matt

So, our winter was rather domestic. However, just because we no longer live 2 hours from Greece doesn’t mean there’s nothing to explore. Spring is here and it means time for a little travel. We begin the travels of 2011 with a skiing trip.  During one our lulls in blogging 2 years ago (man, I’ve been doing this for a while), we made a trip to Zermatt for a lovely ski trip. Carolyn grew up skiing a lot. And she’s an excellent skier. Her parents still take a few trips a year, usually to Colorado. Since this was the first time in a few years that that we were both on the same continent as Colorado, we decided to make a long weekend family trip of it, including my family as well. Everyone is still alive, which means it’s nice to see our families can get along. :)

Our goal was Vail, home of some damn fine skiing and about 2 hours west of Denver up into the mountains. My sister picked us up from the airport. There was snow in the forecast which is good, but it decided to come down about 2 hours too early. As we got closer to our destination, we found out that multiple accidents had shut the pass 10 miles from Vail. Due to this, we stopped in the last large town near the closure but, just as we were about to start the fun hotel hunting job for the night, the pass miraculously opened and, after a long, slow drive, we made it to Vail in time for a little sleep before an early wake up to hit the slopes. We awoke to this wonderous sight:

Behold, 9 inches of fresh snow, sun and blue skies! Now, everyone else I was skiing with had quite a bit more experience than me. This would be my first time snowing in powder. Apparently, when you get fresh snow, you make sure you’re first on the mountain for the day so you can make the most of it. We did just that and it was worth it. Here is a view from up in the mountains:

I can understand why everyone loves Vail. The location is beautiful, the trails are excellent and varied. I’m no badass skier or anything, but by the end of the weekend, I could handle some of the easier black diamonds. I have no endurance so I tended to burn out early in the afternoon and the altitude made it even trickier, but that meant Carolyn’s mom and I would just quit a little early and head down for drinks. No complaints here. As I mentioned, this was a dual family trip and my sister was a saint and did all the hard work by chauffeuring us around Colorado. Here would be me and my little sister:

My parents have not been much for skiing in a few years, but they came out to enjoy the other activities Vail has to offer. And see their wonderful offspring, of course! After our various daily activities, we’d meet up together for drinks and food. One night we had fondue in our condo and the other nights we ate out at a couple of the Vail eateries. On our last full day in Denver, some of us took a day off skiing and gave snowshoeing a go. Again, the altitude made it much harder than I expected, but it allowed me to get to a spot like this and just soak in the natural beauty of the Rockies.

Unfortunately, all trips must end and this was just a long weekend. We’re back in Chicago and wondering where spring is, but I’ve been promised is coming soon.

Mmmm…beer

March 22nd, 2011 by matt

Well, the beer is bottled and is being consumed. Allow me to show you what’s happened with it. When we last left the beer, it had just been transferred from plastic primary to glass secondary fermentation. This allows the beer to get a bit of a swirl and leaves all the sediment behind allowing for a clearer beer. This being homebrew, it’ll never be completely clear, but it really does help. After a week or so in secondary, it was time to bottle. Helping me this round was Dave.

The bottling bucket the beer is transferring to has priming sugar, a little more sugar to wake the yeast up so it eats a little more while in the bottles.

The plastic bit at the end of the tube pushes in when you hit the bottom of the bottles and, without a lot of air, allows beer to flow out of it. Some people buy new bottles, I was cheap and collected/drank my way to 40-60 bottles (and did a nice thorough cleaning of them before using them).

There it is, my first homebrewed beer in 12 years. I got 41 bottles of beer, but I should have had over 50. I lost a lot due to lacking extra water during the initial steps. Next time, I’ll remember to have 6 gallons of water as a lot of it boils off/spills into the stove when cooking the wort. At this point, the bottles were moved to a closet. The yeast, with it’s priming sugar treat, will now keep eating the sugars. In the fermenters, the CO2 that is the end product of the yeast eating the sugar was able to escape out of an airlock in the top of the carboy. Now, in the bottles, they are trapped by the beer caps and provide natural carbonation for my happy English bitter-style beer. A week later, I had my first sample. Let’s go to my stylish photo of the end product.

Behold! Beer! And a curious cat wondering why a glass is sitting on top of a flower pot. It’s a little dark, but the color was a nice medium brown and, while cloudy, was not too bad. I initially sampled it in isolation, with Carolyn around in case it tried to kill me. The taste was pretty good. I’ll be honest, I’m terrible at the whole describing flavors thing, but it was in line with a tasty session beer. The one you might drink over the course of an afternoon in a nice sunny pub. Not too exciting, but very drinkable. I’ve passed out a few for other judgments and, either my friends and neighbors are very very polite, or they truly enjoyed the beer. Success!

From this experience, I’ve learned that I need a bigger brew kettle (the wort creation phase was almost a fiasco with my pouring have the boiling word into a second kettle and spilling a bit all over the lit stove) and that my sterilization technique wasn’t too shabby. And, the whole thing was loads of fun and this will not be the last beer I make! :)

More winter adventures

March 13th, 2011 by carolyn

A couple weeks ago, I went out to the Berkshires with several of my college friends to celebrate our friend who is getting married in April.  We are scattered between Boston, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey and Chicago so we settled on the Berkshires as a central place.  We spent the night at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox, MA which is an amazing spa and hotel.

After making the drive to meet up on Saturday morning, we started the adventures with a snow-shoeing tour of the grounds.  There was still a fair bit of snow on the ground and there had even been a fresh couple inches the night before which made for a smooth trek.

After the snow-shoeing, several of us took part in the spa offerings.  I had a body wrap which was an amazing combination of ex-foliation, massage and relaxing wrap.  We also got to use the facilities like the whirlpool and steam room.  Overall a pretty relaxing and wonderful experience.  We packed a lot into our day and after the spa had a happy hour in our room followed by dinner in the resort restaurant.  It was a great weekend of catching up with old friends, exploring the winter wonderland in the Berkshires and looking forward to next phases in life.

I got a chance to visit with several other friends in Boston as I journeyed in and out from Chicago.  It was so nice to see the new homes, new babies and growing bellies (one friend had her baby 3 days after I left) of many Boston friends.  Hope to get a chance to see everyone again soon!  I’ll leave you with a cool view of Chicago from the airport.


Skiing

February 21st, 2011 by carolyn

In preparation for returning to the world of proper winters this year, I had high hopes of reconnecting with my love of winter sports.  As an east coaster who spent many many winter weekends  on the downhill ski slopes, I never quite found winter in the mid-west to be as action packed.  And believe me I gave it a far shot.  In my first few years living in Chicago I went to Alpine Valley and Devil’s Head ski areas in Wisconsin, got involved with an adaptive ski program, took some friends on their first downhill ski trips and even tried snow-boarding for the first time.

This time around I had a different thought.  Since down-hill skiing in the mid-west was probably never going to do it for me, maybe I should look into other options for winter sports.  My mom had handed down her old cross country skis to me and with all the snow we had this year I was hopeful to get to put them to good use.  I have already talked about my adventure with Anne around the neighborhood during the Blizzard of 2011 but that just got me interested in doing more.

The following weekend, my old roommate organized a group of us to go skiing in one of the Cook Country Forest Preserves.  Apparently you can ski in any part of the forest preserves from 8 am to sunset.  The area we went to at Camp Sagawau near Lemont, has trails and rentals and is very well maintained.  We had a great time but the trails were definitely crowded post-blizzard and my novice legs were worn out after a couple loops on the trails.

The following weekend another group organized a trip up to Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin.  They have a great network of nordic trails with loops up to 9 miles.  We headed to the Southern Unit of the park right near a great store and rental place, Backyard Bikes, which was a great pit stop.  We had beautiful weather (maybe a bit on the hot side actually) and enjoyed a few hours on the trails.  There were some intense hills, I mean like equivalent to downhill bunny trails, which can be rough on cross-country skis.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera but there were some great views and with all the miles of trails you could really feel like you got away from it all and into the wilderness.

There are loads more options for skiing along the lakefront and in other spots in the Forest Preserves but with the warm-up and rain we have had, all the snow is gone.  I have definitely enjoyed my foray into alternate winter sports activities so far.  Other options remain such as snow-shoeing and ice-skating.  There is a city rink in Warren Park which is free if you have your own skates.  Any other suggestions of Chicago winter sports to try out?

Matt: Brewer, Baker, Patriot

February 12th, 2011 by matt

So we’re still trying to get ourselves settled and our lives in order. Part of that is just simply getting into a routine that suits us in our new world. One of the nice things about being back in Chicago is living in a house with space. As a result, we’re trying out various household activities to entertain and enlighten us during these cold winter months. Among these, I’ve taken to baking my own bread (going a month strong so far and still doing it every week). Well, one thing I’d wanted to take up in England but lacked the space and time was brewing beer. Back in my more innocent days, I had been a part of a trio of fellow brewers. This being college and us being under 21, we found this was a bit of a loophole and was an easy way to drink good beer without the whole fake-ID thing (I won’t go into details how). Being a bunch of geeks, we gave our non-commercial enterprise a name and a website. One of my partners in crime emailed this morning and I was reminded of this and managed to find the “Brewery” website. It’s from the internet archive and it looks like the links are dead, but it was a fun reminder.

Anyway, here I am, older, wiser and more cynical and I’ve decided to start it back up. It’s amazing how far American beer has come (but I’ll save this for another day) and I’ve since found out that two other coworkers who sit near me are doing the same thing. I went out a few weeks ago and bought a home brewing kit. Last weekend, before the super bowl, was my moment of truth. In my previous experiences, I was just a cog in the home brewing machine. I sat around, stinking up a dorm kitchen only really understanding some bits of the process (I believe my official role was the guy who broke things because I once broke our thermometer). As I found out, brewing alone can be a bit challenging. It’s not impossible, but there is always a moment or two that other people around you make it more fun. After finding out the hard way that my kettle was too small, I enlisted the help of Anne who was kind enough to keep me company and pitch the wort into the fermenter. But, besides the question of how to use the hydrometer and whether I was anal enough in my sterilization, the beer was happily bubbling away within a day. It slowed down in the usual expected time and I decided it was time to transfer it to the secondary fermenter (you do this to re-energize the yeast and clear out the sediment the yeast creates).

Here’s the brewer in the middle of transferring the beer from the primary fermenter to the secondary one. The beer he is drinking is Half Acre, not his own. Note the assistant brewer, aka. Simon, observing the process.

Here I am with the fully transferred beer putting it in the closet to keep it nice and dark while it hopefully keeps fermenting and clears a bit.

For those of you wondering why you transfer your beer in the middle of the process, this sediment is a good reason. It can impact the brewing and whatnot. Tons of dead yeast, yummy!

I had a bit of a sample of the beer and besides it being a bit flat, there were some good tastes going on. I hope that I can follow this post up with something in a couple of weeks saying my first batch came out tasty, but you never know. It’s a learning experience and it’s a lot of fun. After a batch or two, I’ll be much better at it and will hopefully be making some tasty beer. For now, here’s hoping for some beginnings luck.

A Little More Snow Fun

February 5th, 2011 by matt

Well, just wanted to add a couple of small tidbits to Carolyn’s excellent snow storm post. Our friend, Anne, took some videos that we think are pretty nifty. Here would be the Morse train platform around the corner from us in the middle of the storm. The wind was absolutely amazing. And, as long as you were inside and not trapped on Lake Shore Drive, the wind provided a nice atmospheric noise to enjoy from inside your nice toasty warm house:

Here is another view of our area in the middle of it. The wind spread the snow in some crazy patterns. The front of our building got completely covered, but the school across the street and our parking spaces had barely any. The alley our parking spaces feed into were slammed as well.

Finally, it took them a day or two, but eventually, our street and alley were freed from the snow. Here would be our road almost 24 hours after the snow had stopped:

Note how little snow is in front of the school on the right. This isn’t because it was well cared for (well, that helped). It was because the way the wind whipped around. Now, in the next few hours, the city managed to get a “plow” to our street.

It’s a monster. They are all over the city still, slowly digging the massive mounds of snow up that have been shoveled and plowed into big piles. I feel like the storm brought out a lot of good in our neighborhood with people helping to dig others out. It also brought out the annoying habit of people marking their street parking places (I can understand the intent but it rubs me the wrong way).

Here’s a post-storm video of the lake the day after the blizzard. If you wait for 15s into the video, you might notice a solitary figure skiing. That’s Carolyn:

Anyway, let’s wrap up our coverage of this event with a couple of photo dumps. Here’s all the photos Carolyn and I in our photo dump and here is Anne’s flickr dump. Apparently, by next week, it’ll be above freezing and all this lovely snow will be gone.

Blizzard of 2011

February 2nd, 2011 by carolyn

Okay, so I didn’t quite believe them when they issued a blizzard warning for Chicago from 3pm yesterday until 3pm today (Groundhogs Day!). But 20.2 inches later (according to the National Weather Center) with crazy drifts up to 4 feet high, alleys full of snow, road closures, school closures and the like, I think its official. Everyone keeps comparing to the Blizzard of ’67 but I’ll just fill you in on the details of this time around from my perspective.  A bit different than the snow days we experienced in London.

Right around 2pm on Tuesday, the snow started coming down and it was coming down sideways due to the intensity of the wind. I was working downtown and encouraged to head home early so I headed to the train about 3:30 pm. After walking/being blown over to the Chicago red line stop, I entered the platform and found more people waiting than I have ever seen before. I waited (underground at least) one hour before I could wedge myself on a train. Now I will admit that I am not the most aggressive person and I wasn’t in any hurry but I let about 10 trains go by before I could get on one. Matt, who stayed at work until about 5pm, strolled down to the red-line and got right on the first train that came along, got a seat and made it home in about 35 minutes – record time.

I feel extremely fortunate that we made it home safely and without incident especially when I heard about the mess on Lake Shore Drive.  Over 900 cars were stranded for up to 12 hours and many cars are still stuck/buried keeping the road closed today.   Fortunately it appears there were no injuries or fatalities during the time people were stranded but it must have been horrible.   Here is an amazing photo of the scene from the Chicago Tribune.

We stayed up watching the snow fall and swirl and blow around for several hours last night. It was pretty amazing to watch how quickly it was piling up.  This was the view out our window last night.

And this is our street about 6-7 hours into the storm.

We woke up on Wednesday and the snow was still coming down. I had a snow day so enjoyed doing some projects around the house, digging us out with our neighbors and the trusty building snowblower, and managed to pull out the x-country skis and travel around the neighborhood and down to the lake with Anne and her snow shoes. Here are some photos of our travels.

Diving in the Snow

“Shoveling”                                Snowshoeing down our street

Ski Tracks

Chicago Sledding

That mound on the left is a car!                             Snow Plow?

The Lake, almost looks like another planet

Skiing on the beach

Other skiers at the Lake.  Remember this spot only a few months ago?  Looks real different now.

Check out this link to a photo gallery in the Tribune for more scenes of the Blizzard.  Anne took some videos of the progression of the storm which I will try to put up next.  Stay tuned!

All in all a pretty crazy day.  Too bad Matt had to work, but we managed to take another little walk around the neighborhood when he was done watching the dig out continue.

Read the rest of this entry »

Please welcome Simon

January 30th, 2011 by matt

Ever since Anna died in 2008, we’ve wanted to get a new cat. Chewy missed her terribly and we wanted him to be as happy as can be. However, with our traveling a lot and living in a small space in London, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to get one until we were in a more settled, larger place. Once we moved back to Chicago, we figured it was time. Well, that time is now. Let me introduce you to our new friend, Simon:

Simon came to us from Felines, Inc, which is a shelter just down the street from us. It’s a converted house and provides a nice environment (cageless and no-kill) for the cats. The people were super friendly and made the whole experience (it’s hard to pick just one cat!) smooth and easy. He’s been with us for 2 days now and he’s a sweet and playful cat. He’s adjusting really well. As I write this, he and Chewy are roaming the house sniffing each other out. The fact that they are not needing separation (at least for a short period) shows how nice a cat he is. Chewy is spooked, but curious and I think these two will be great friends. Here’s another picture of our new kitty:

I’d have better pictures, but it’s been rather overcast lately. I promise a lot (prolly too many) of him in the near future. I’m off to give our cats some more attention and help them adjust! Please join us in welcoming this wonderful cat to our world!