28 October 2011

Second Week in October 2011

Monday didn't start so good. I woke up with a migraine, and went right back to sleep. I ended up working just a half day. After work I met the usual group at DJ's Dugout to watch the Bears play the Lions on Monday Night Football. So Monday didn't end so good either.

I know it's pretty popular to be on the Lions bandwagon, but the Bears pretty much held them in check except for two big plays, I wasn't impressed with them, and I sure wasn't impressed with the Bears either, the stat line sure makes it look like we could have won that game. Stop me if you've heard this one before, we just didn't look smart, giving up two big plays and penalties. I'm just shaking my head as I type this.

Tuesday I went to work, and after work I went for a walk with VK down at Ak-Sar-Ben village. I had dinner with VK, her roommate Amber, and one of Amber's coworkers at Crave at Midtown Crossing. It was a very nice place with good ambiance. My meal was competent, VK's was really good. Dessert was very good.

Does anyone besides me think perhaps nice restaurants should have a regular menu and a foodie menu. I think nice restaurants sometimes try to unnecessarily challenge people with something different. The best restaurant meal I have ever had was in a hole in the wall place in Chicago, it was a very simple chicken and tomotoes dish over rice that was just perfect. Every professional chef I have ever met wants the people they cook for to have a good experience. Obviously each diner has their own opinion on what a good experience is, but it starts with food that is adequately prepared. Unfortunately, the issue with my food was that I thought the pasta was undercooked ... I also thought the VK's veggies were overcooked.

I took Wednesday off of work. I did some chores, and made a new friend...


On Wednesday night I went to RCIA. I was not confirmed in the Catholic Church, and I feel that it is something I should do. This will be one of my regular weekly items through the end of May.

Thursday after work I went to Theology on Tap. I saw some people I haven't seen in a while. The free food disappeared at an alarming rate. Fortunately, I was first in line. I felt bad for the speaker, Father Carl, who didn't get in line fast enough. I was going to offer to buy him a meal, but someone beat me to it.

Friday was Merinda's birthday! So at lunch I went and picked her up some gifts. After work I took a nap, overslept, and was running late for the dance (I was meeting some people there who had not gone before). I'm not very good with being late, and I'm not really good with being hungry either ... and I was both. I snapped at poor Cecily, who just wanted to help, then made Marilou go and get me something to eat. The rest of the dance was really fun. After the dance, about ten of us went out to Village Inn, I just giggled the whole time ... yep, I said giggled.

Saturday I hung out with VK and we ate dinner and went for a walk. Sunday morning I got up and went to church way out west with Beth. Immediately after church, I went directly - er, well, I got sorta lost due to construction - to the annual trip to Vala's Pumpkin Patch.

Bente got picked for a cheerleader for the pig races.
Her pig stopped running and ate some vegetation.

I think they had the pressure up too high, everyone complained about sore legs...

...or sore backsides.

Jenny backed right into me.

I forget who thought up this shot, but it was a good idea.

The corn maze (shouldn't it be called a maize maze?) had an outer space theme.

I'm still not sure how Mark avoided this shot.

You can see all of my pictures from Vala's here. I'm sure you can find pictures of the event on Facebook.

Later in evening I met the usual group at DJ's Dugout for the another Bears game. This one had a much better result than the one on Monday. Go Bears!

19 October 2011

First Week in October 2011

Monday and Tuesday were both boring days because I didn't do much because of my neck still hurting from whatever I did to it on Saturday. Wednesday it got a little better. Thursday, however, it had begun to loosen up and I went to work and by the end of the day, I felt fine.

After work I went up to the first session of the fall Theology on Tap Series. The speaker was Teresa from the Pro Sanctity Movement. She spoke about modern saints. It was my second time seeing her, she is a sweet woman, what a great example of living a life in service to others.

On the way home, I dropped off some of Anne's favorite chips, Frito Kettle Cooked Spicy Cayenne Cheddar at her house. I can find them all the time at Hy-Vee, but I know that she has a tougher time locating them.

Friday I took the day off, mostly because it was my on call incentive half day anyway. In the morning I ran a bunch of errands. In the afternoon, I ran ... literally, almost two miles. I realize that I am in the middle of an exercise lull, I'm just not motivated. While I am trying to keep some of it routine, it's been very difficult. I hope to be able to get my motivation back, and at the very least be able to meet my goal of 365 miles of walking this year. I'm right around a mile a day, so I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

I had dinner with Kevin at the Hy-Vee buffet. He talked about all of the changes in his life ... as usual, he was a good listen with non-typical observations. We headed up to the usual Friday dance. After the dance was over, I went to Village Inn and sat and talked to Matt and Vivian until almost 0200. That's a pretty good evening, dinner and conversation, dancing, and dinner and conversation.

Saturday I went with VK to her brother's wedding. It was very nice wedding, the ceremony was at Saint Paul's Methodist Church in Papillion. The reception was downtown at the Embassy Suites, like I said very nice. All of VK's family was there, including her grandparents from Norway.

Congratulations Mindy and Isaac!

No, I didn't pick my own shirt or tie, that's why I look so nice.

Somewhere in Norway, people are laughing about this picture.

Part of the reason that I'm including this is because I got Bente to pose for it, captured it, and processed it almost exactly like what I envisioned in my mind ...
the other part is that it's a good picture.

At least two people have 'borrowed' my pictures for their Facebook profiles ... stealing is a compliment, right? Anyways, I took a mess of pictures, you can find them here. VK actually posted pictures to Flickr, who knew, you can find her pictures of the wedding here ... including one of an obvious case of cloning. Just one quick rant, I don't understand how the DJ, in a family atmosphere (there were kids running everywhere), could choose a set list with half the songs having swear words in it. I'm not naming the company, but it's not the first time that I've seen it happen from them.

I left the wedding about 2230, then went over to Kaleb's for the rest of his game night. I played zero board games, but enjoyed some Rock Band and more 'Around the World' Ping Pong. It's amazing how sore that game can leave you feeling the next day.

Sunday I slept in, then met Maggie for a photo shoot downtown for the Miss Heartland Swing Calendar. The photos turned out well, but it turns out they don't want any portrait pictures, the suggestions are a little different than what we did, and so probably none of them will be usable for the calendar.

I thought it was fun, but it was probably about 40 pictures too long for Maggie (I took 206). She started to lose a little patience with the wind and her hair. I tried to get her out of the wind and talked to her in Merry's voice about the ring of power to get her to laugh. You can find the rest of the pictures I took uploaded here ... it's a work in progress.

Later in the day I went to church, then came home and actually watched TV ... football, so not like a show or anything. I think it was a good week.

17 October 2011

Fourth Week in September 2011

It had to end some time, eleven days off of work, and finally I'm back to the grindstone. Part way through the work day, a coworker asked me to swap on call next week for this one ... sure. That could not have worked out better for me. So now I'm on call, so an already slow week is looking slower by the hour.

Tuesday after work VK brought some dinner over to my house, thank you. We ate downstairs in the basement because Troy had fallen asleep upstairs on the chair. Wednesday I finally got all my pictures from Cowtown uploaded, and had over 4000 hits over the next 24 hours. Thursday and Friday were slow both from a work perspective and a personal time perspective. You think I could have caught up on my blog, but no.

Saturday was Frank's housewarming party, and it was all day. I got there right around 1130, and didn't leave until 2345. I did leave in the middle of the party to go grocery shopping, then to church, then shopping again with Sarah.

Insolera BBQ Party Oct. 1, 2011 1 of 42 - Lisa
Even if you had been there,
you still wouldn't have known what was happening. Photo credit: Lisa

Insolera BBQ Party Oct. 1, 2011 25 of 42 - Lisa
I don't know if an explanation could help this one either. Photo credit: Lisa

Insolera BBQ Party Oct. 1, 2011 25 of 42 - Lisa
What's a three letter word meaning "Takes all the fun out of
a can of whipped cream"? ... 'MOM' Photo credit: Lisa

Lisa took all the pictures. I am still not sure how this works with Facebook, but it is possible that you can see them here. The only downside to the entire day was somehow pulling a neck muscle while watching TV ... I knew that idiot box was dangerous.

Sunday I was up and at DJs Dugout for the Bears and Panthers. We won to go 2-2, but we sure haven't looked good yet, also, leave it to the Bears to make a potentially easy win look exciting. Later in the afternoon, I went for a walk. That was it for a very slow on call week.

14 October 2011

Third Week in September 2011

Ugh, sore from Cowtown, and I'm going to be sitting for eight straight hours. It's Monday and I'm planning on hitting the road to Chicago by 1000. 1000 is a good time to start because it makes me miss all the traffic, unless the roads around Rockford and Cherry Valley are packed, which is rarely the case. My actual out time was around 1040, which is reasonable, since I didn't set an alarm. Unlike my fall trip home last year, there were only two relatively short construction zones that I went through on I80, making the trip relatively pleasant. I did do something that I said I would never do: I answered a phone call from work while I was on vacation, what else was I going to do in eastern Iowa?

I arrived at mom's, got settled in, and we went out to eat at Main Street Station for dollar tacos. The restaurant itself is the old railroad passenger station in McHenry, so it has a railroad flavor to the decor and drinks. Monday Night Football was on, but I mostly just enjoyed talking to mom. When we finally went home, I got her internet connection up and running. She called it a 4G, but what it really was is a Verizon MiFi. It wasn't tough to understand, but I get why people make technology so difficult.

Daisy is finally used to me!

Tuesday 'morning' I was up and mom and I headed out for breakfast at IHOP. I then went with mom running errands, and as always, Aldi's was one of the places we went. When we got back home, I went for a short walk around mom's neighborhood and then took a nap. When I got up, mom had made pork chops and potatoes, I love her potatoes. We then sat down and watched NCIS and NCIS / Los Angeles ... yep I said that I watched TV. I did a lot of TV viewing on this visit.

My last few visits home have really underscored my feeling that the 'vibe' in McHenry is slightly uncomfortable. It's not like I expect to hear a banjo playing at any moment, but there is an underlying tone to the town, like a feeling of sadness or tragedy that is implied, but never spoken about. Like the sun shining, but giving no warmth. Okay, I'm done with my waxing poeticallyish.

Wednesday after an unhurried morning, I had lunch with Michele at a place that both my mother and Michele recommended (the name is escaping me currently). It was a very pleasant visit with Michele. I like how my friends are unafraid to say just about anything to me, so I got some advice.

I contemplated my advice with a long walk on a path next to the railroad tracks that go from McHenry towards Richmond (I'm not sure they get all the way there though). Yes, I had my camera!





The entire walk was a little over 4.5 miles up and back. It went past McCullom Lake and about a half mile from Ringwood. I turned around after I passed a farm. If you'd like to see all my pictures from the walk, and there are lots of flowers, you can click here to see them. I came home and napped before going out later to eat at Applebee's with mom.

Thursday I took the train downtown to meet Jen for lunch, and surprise a lecture on Hypochondria. After I filled my brain with all sorts of interesting knowledge, we went over to eat at Heaven on Seven and I killed all those brain cells with a couple of New Orleans style drinks. We then walked back to her office, she went back to work, and I walked down the lakefront and back over to the train station. It was a short trip downtown, but that's okay, I got to see Jen.

I got home, had dinner with Mom, then headed over to my home away from home neighborhood bar, The Gambler, and met with Suzy, Tony, and Maureen. Yay for old friends! I haven't seen Tony in twenty-five plus years. He told some old stories that were hilarious ... and that I don't remember. I really enjoyed listening rather than doing most of the talking.

Friday morning I was off to meet my cousin Amy for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, about an hour drive to get there.

It certainly appears that we are related.

My mother worked at Penney's at Woodfield when I was a kid. My brothers and I spent many hours playing on that yellow-orange statuey thing waiting for her to get off work.
It's still there, and it's still ugly.

The conversation was nothing short of wow. Although much of it was not private, I am going to leave it off of her for now. I really appreciated it and her and the too short amount of time we had to visit. We only argued about one thing, whether or not the hostess hair was real or not. I said no, she said yes. Since I was on vacation, I had no where to be, but unfortunately, Amy had to go too soon.

I wandered around the mall, which hasn't changed much in 30 years. Priced a few Bears jerseys, um, no. Then went over to Ikea to do some shopping, oddly enough, I bought myself a birthday present, and looked around the place for all sorts of things. I did not overspend, thankfully. I went back to mom's house, and basically relaxed all evening (while she went out).

Saturday morning I was up early for breakfast with mom. I packed up the car, said my goodbyes, and left town. Just like last year, I managed to time my trip through Iowa City to match the ending of an Iowa football game. The traffic was heavy, but not stop and go, and an Iowa win ensured that it was friendly driving. It was like that all the way to Des Moines.

I was going no further than Des Moines, because I was attending a swing dance workshop weekend that both Rae and Larry, and Eve and Michael were teaching at. I found where the workshop was going to be, then headed over to Rae and Larry's house to unpack and get ready for the dance.

I'm not sure I can do this move.

The dance floor at the venue was incredibly fast.

The band was 4th Street Swing, Larry, Travis, and Jill play in it.

It turns out no one in the band wanted to sing Route 66
... I WILL, I WILL ...
I'm not exactly afraid of the microphone.

You can see all the pictures from the Swing Sensational Weekend here. After the dance we went to dinner at TGIFriday's, a Des Moines dancers tradition. I guess Travis really wanted to know more about everyone there, so he asked for everyone's most humiliating story. Well now, I guess after I shared mine, we're all good friends now. I got back to Rae and Larry's and fell asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, Larry discovered a circuit breaker had tripped, the one that included the spare bedroom I was in. He reset the switch, which turned on the overhead light in the room I was in, so I woke up all sleepyheaded wondering why Larry was turning on and off the light. We all had a good laugh about it in the morning.

Sunday I took three classes during the day. Had a nice talk with Eve about (my) dancing (she was my first partner in the Cowtown Jack and Jill). Then I packed it in and decided it was time to head home. The drive from Des Moines to Omaha was uneventful, except for listening to the Bears get beat by Green Bay ... yuck. When I got home I did a bunch of laundry, so my vacation ended well.

07 October 2011

Second Week in September 2011

Welcome to Cowtown Week 2011, it's the most danciful week of the year! Yay! I stuck with my tradition with starting a vacation on Thursday of Cowtown week and not going back to work for eleven whole days! Monday was dull, I didn't even watch the first Monday night football game. Tuesday I cut the lawn immediately after work. The light is really starting to wane pretty early in the day, I barely finished before it was dark.

Wednesday after work started my vacation! No more work until the 25th. I really needed a break too. I celebrated with a nice quiet night at home with lots of walking.

Thursday marked a couple of things, the start of Cowtown and VK's birthday. My first Cowtown related task was to show up downtown around 1100 and help unload Carol's Closet stuff. I got there, then Amanda showed up, and we set stuff up for an hour or so, but no Carol. I then waited for another hour and finally went home and relaxed. There was a some sort of miscommunication with Carol and what time I was going to be there, all of her stuff did get set up even with out my muscles.

In the evening I met up with VK and her family and we had birthday dinner at Outback Steak House. I really enjoy all the laughing that happens when they are all together. Nothing really to relate about it, but it was fun.

After dinner I headed downtown for the Cowtown welcome dance.

I wasn't actually expecting to get to the beginning of Cowtown at all,
so it was a pleasant surprise to get any dances in. Photo credit: Matt

After the dance several people wanted to go over to the Donut Stop. Since I knew I was going anyway, and had one seat left in my car, I thought I'd just throw it out to Andrew, and see if he wanted to come along. He said sure so we piled into my car and listened to stories about the adventures of teaching all over the country. Andrew liked the donut stop, probably the whole in the wall quality, and bought $18.88 in donuts, enough for every instructor many times over. Cowtown has provided some memorable moments, and this was certainly the moment of the event, though there were plenty of good ones. When we left, we somehow managed to squeeze Andrew, Corina, Maggie, and four dozen donuts into my car and back to the Eagles, and then for me, home.

Troy and I had worked out a deal, I was going to stay up late and wait for guests to arrive late, and he was going to get up when guests arrived early. My guest was supposed to arrive around 0200, but she was running late. I'd like to say I stayed up wide awake and alert, but I mostly slept in the big chair with the door open. Beccy finally arrived at 0315ish, I got up and went out to the driveway to help her in and ran smack into for Creighton student Liz. This led to some awkward conversation (by me) "um ... I know you ... uh, are you staying here?" It turned out only Beccy was, Liz was just in the car that was driving her here. I got Beccy settled and went to sleep.

Friday morning I woke up early and got ready to go downtown. I took one class in the morning, then walked down to the Brandeis building to get some Subway. I took several more classes in the afternoon. Around 1600 I went over to the front desk for my turn there, after about 5 minutes that changed.

Someone needed to be picked up from the airport. Katie was supposed to do it, but the plane was late and she had to play at a wedding. I gathered up Beccy, and Amy and we went to the airport to pick up someone we had never met before. I'm appreciative of the way that technology makes this easier and safer. We headed up to the airport and met Chelsea ... it turns out it is easy to spot a dancer at an airport. We got her loaded into the car and back to driving within the 15 seconds allowed for cars to stop in the airport lane.

We had a couple of hours until the dance, so it was get cleaned up, nap, and then head over to Roja for dinner. Roja is owned by the same company that owns Blue Sushi. As much as I like Blue, I thought I'd like Roja better, but I thought the food there to be more pricey than really interesting. I'll give the benefit of the doubt because I only sampled one item.

We then headed over to the dance and arrived around 2030. I competed in the Jack and Jill. I tried to take all my lessons from previous contests and apply them, unfortunately, I wasn't dancing particularly well, and the competition was really much better than I am. The cow treated me well to start, I got Maggie and Eve to start, but then the cow went back to his old ways and stomped me into people I didn't know. Many thanks to Micah for running my camera during the contest.

Maybe my stance is a little too aggressive, do they take points off for that?

It looks like I know what I'm doing here...

...but it's obvious I have no idea here, but check out Eve's leg muscles, seriously.
Don't forget, those are happily married leg muscles.

It's my old nemesis, The Cow.

Ben does a jig in the middle of the finals.

My favorite of the Friday night photos.

Once the contest was decided, it was time for 'resetting' the upstairs at the Eagles. Yes, JIVE members know how to clean it up. Many of the Omaha Jitterbugs have become Eagle's members because of our long association there. So many in fact, that we are starting to have some influence on the organization. For instance, the new dance floor downstairs, the building getting taken off the market, and most importantly, the breakfast served at the late night was not grease covered yuck, it was quite tasty. I would like to thank Ryan and Christy for this, it seems like their influence. About 0200 I gathered up the people I was driving, and we headed home. When we got there, people just kept showing up to be housed ... we ended up with nine in the house, not counting me, Troy, or Merinda. Sheesh.

Neither of the first two Saturday morning classes held any interest for me, so I hadn't planned on getting up early. So I let myself sleep until I woke up, wandered the house, and found it empty until there was a lone voice downstairs, Chelsea, everyone else had managed to catch rides downtown. We got ready, ran a couple errands and finally made it downtown in about 90 minutes ... sheesh. Fortunately, we were on time for the Indian Buffet that they served for lunch. Last year on Cowtown Saturday, I also had Indian for lunch. I was a little concerned about the plan to cater in food, but it turned out to be just fine, and it was not the mess it was last year.

In the afternoon I took a few classes, but more or less hung around upstairs. It was the public introduction of Billy and Lindsay's twin girls Dolly and Birdie.

100_3477 100_3475
Dolly and Birdie ... no, wait, it's the other way around, really.

Matt and Vivian need to have a boy, all the little jitterbugs are girls.
Honey and Mirabel show that they will be great dancers.

Notice that Christy, who is already a mega-fabulous dancer, is trying to learn something new. I'm sure there is some sort of lesson in this for me, if only I could grasp it.

When afternoon classes were done, I gathered up my riders and we headed home. I got a call just before I was going to turn on the highway, and it was from Chelsea, who was at a play at the Orpheum that just got out, could I pick her up? Of course I remembered ... I'll be right there. We turned around down Leavenworth Avenue and went and picked her up. When we got back to the house, we cleaned up, and Amy, Chelsea, Beccy, and I joined Joe at China Buffet. It's one of the best parts of dance events is getting to know people.

Kaleigh did hair before the dance for cheap, some smart ladies took advantage.

I told Josh and Maggie that I wanted to create conflict by having them
look away from one another. I think I created hilarity.

Nothing like a picture of two pretty ladies and dinner.

Once again Hillary and Terri defy explanation.

Andrew is my hero, his attitude is amazing and fun, I wish I had it.

Both Jess and Ben grabbed this for profile picture, it must be good.

The dance and contests ended, once again JIVE members cleaned up. Frank, Maggie, and I went over to Cubbies to get something to drink. I know I am prone to exaggeration, but I kid you not, we must have seen fifteen people from Cowtown all doing the same thing that we were. We headed over to the late night, went inside as a group to the 906, ate some food, and had some fun until 0200.

I believe Larry wanted to call this "The Deal". I just call it wrong.

That's a party!

Sunday morning planned on going to church with Bonny from Wichita. Because it was close to where she was staying, we went to Beth's church. We went in, I introduced Bonny to Beth, then Teri came in too, and I went to introduce Bonny to her, and they said "We already know each other..." What the ... So two of my friends who live 300 miles from one another, one dances, the other doesn't know each other? Sheesh. Just so you know, Teri's sister lives in Wichita. Who knew?

Bonny and I headed downtown to the Eagles. I didn't take any afternoon classes, but I did have my camera.

Really? This outfit was in Carol's Closet? Mia rocks it.

Not my best picture from the weekend, but easily my favorite.

This year's Corn Eating Contest was set up for immediately after the classes this year at 1730, and unbelievably, it almost started on time. I like having the contest at that time better because you don't have to starve yourself to compete. It gets sillier every year. I've given up 'competing', I had five ears this year, and felt like I was eating too much. My name was called out first, I took my seat (next to Mirabel), then Ben was next, he attempted to sit next to me ... but after getting corn soaked last year sitting between Ben and Matt, I chased him off, I almost felt bad ... almost. Nicole was behind the camera for this.

Maggie wonders what the heck is going on back there.

Now Mirabel wants to see what is happening,
but not at the expense of interrupting gnawing on her corn.

The randomness of it all escapes me.

It started with one kid, and ended with five,
I thought it took longer to produce them.

The future of the corn eating contest is in safe hands.

I didn't win, go figure. The winner was Bryan from Grand Marquis. I think more people like to be on the watching side than the eating side. I don't mind being in the freak show, especially since I can get up and leave and still feel good with only a few ears of corn in my tummy. I had no more riders, they all left earlier in the day. It was kind of quiet ride home, then back to the dance.

Bryan wears the trophy like only a Corn Eating Contest winner can.

Ben placed second in the solo Charleston contest.
He had great exit that I hope
someone (anyone) caught on video.

My last photo of the weekend, taken with a plastic cup over the flash. It stuck just far enough over the lens to make this effect. I like it.

You can see all of my pictures from Cowtown right here. Matt also has a few pictures here. Lisa put up some also, they can be found on Facebook, not sure if you have to be her friend or not to see them, but they are here. I went home as soon as the dance ended, and went right to bed so I could be up early in the morning and head to Chicago.

Thanks for reading what is probably my longest post ever.