There are only a couple of weeks during the year when the sun shines on the fa├žade of the Chicago Board of Trade Building at the angle you see here. I happened to have my camera with me the other morning, so I captured it.

With the morning sun shining at this angle, you can really see the detail on the statues and carvings on the front of the building. Here’s a close-up:

I have a long history with this building: my first job in downtown Chicago was here (in 1986) and for a while I had an office on the 11th floor (next to the clock, to the right as you see it here) that looked up LaSalle Street. I spent many long hours, late nights, weekends, and holidays here. I was even involved in evacuating the building during the Chicago Flood of 1992.

Currently, I work across the street from the CBOT, so I get this view every day.

Here’s another shot of the building that I took on the morning of Bike the Drive, complete with eerily empty streets:

This past Sunday the 11th annual Bike the Drive event was held on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.

After riding the 30-mile route, I took the time to ride around downtown Chicago a bit, and wound up at Millennium Park, where I shot this photo of the Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) sculpture.

There were over 20,000 participants and the weather was beautiful. Another of our favorite cycling events!


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May 222012

A classic martini, created by my lovely wife.

We had a storm blow through earlier tonight, and at the very end we saw this in the Eastern sky. Becca grabbed my camera and captured the rainbow.

We usually wait until mid-May to set up the patio furniture and put the canvas on the gazebo, but we had a small window on Sunday morning where we were able to get it done. So why not set the video camera up and do a little time-lapse?

This entire operation took about an hour, and you’re seeing it in under a minute.

Right after we got everything in place, it started pouring and didn’t stop for several hours. At least we’re ready for when the nice weather starts.

May 012012

With Cinco de Mayo coming up this weekend, it was time to make my Margarita Cake again. And once again, it was a huge hit with my family and coworkers.

Here’s a link to my previous post about the cake.

This year, I managed to find an orange cake mix (very popular this time of year), and once again I used Cuervo Tradicional. The one new trick I tried this year came from Cook’s Illustrated: instead of using oil and flour on the bundt pan before cooking, I used a mixture of 1 tablespoon melted butter and about 2 tablespoons of flour, mixed it into a soft paste, and then smeared (the magazine says “brush” but where’s the fun in that?) the mixture in the pan. The cake came out of the pan perfectly.

And soon it will be time for Taco Friday. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Apr 242012

Becca’s sophomore year is heading towards the conclusion, so of course, she’s been working diligently in class while prepping for finals.

And playing “Draw Something.”

So when she sent me a very colorful expression of how she felt her time could be better spent (the word “bored” figured into it) I responded with a photo of a banana that was sitting on my desk.

These are the moments I’ll look back upon wistfully when I’m old. I’m sure of it.

Today’s clip is “Farewell to Paradise” by Emitt Rhodes.

Rhodes is most often referred to as “the one-man Paul McCartney,” because he wrote, performed, and recorded his music entirely on his own in his garage studio. And yes, his music absolutely has a mid-60s-to-mid-70s McCartney sound. He’s been a cult favorite since his debut album came out in 1970, and legions of ProTools- and GarageBand-equipped home musicians have recently embraced him as one of their own.

A blogger at named Spike_1 wrote a great review of Rhodes’ last album, 1973′s Farewell to Paradise, which also serves as a nice introduction to the artist and his music. I suggest starting there if you’re interested in learning more.

I came into “Farewell to Paradise” via, of all people, Vic Damone, who did an easy-listening version of the song in the early 1980s. Despite the sugary arrangement I found something truly haunting about the tune and the lyrics, and I had to learn who was originally responsible for the song. Once I did, I was down the Emitt Rhodes rabbit hole.

The song is a lament and a lullaby, with feelings of both sadness and hope. You may find that once it gets in your head you won’t be able to let go of it, and knowing that every sound in this recording is the product of one guy will impress you.

Here are links to the Emitt Rhodes best-of collection at iTunes and Amazon.

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Apr 102012

I reconnected with some dear, old friends of mine a couple weeks ago. These people own an electronics repair shop and I’ve made many referrals to them over the past 15 years, primarily through my Joe’s Radio Page website.

Apparently, they appreciated my referrals because when I called them to ask a question I mentioned who I was and the manager of the shop immediately brightened and told me to get in there because they had something set aside for me since the last time I visited, about 10 years ago.

The gift was a bottle of Calvados, an apple brandy from France. My only previous experience with Calvados was as a component of a French dessert, where it was poured over something good.

Our first experiment with this stuff was a cocktail made with ginger ale. The drink was both sweet and powerful, so it’s not something we’ll want to jump into every day. We’ll try some more recipes, and I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to fit this into this fall’s Apple Butter festivities.

Last year, we decided to start a collection of 2007-vintage wines that we would open on our anniversary each year. We worked with the wonderful people at Wine Discount Center and Binny’s to build our assortment, taking into consideration the wine we like now and those that are likely to age nicely.

This year (on our fifth wedding anniversary) we had our first uncorking, which was a 2007 Ribera del Duero Pesquera Crianza from Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez. The tasting was a success and the wine was delicious.

When we originally tasted the wine last year, we thought it was complex with some balanced fruit notes. Wine Spectator described it as a “crisp, firm red with lingering notes of smoke and clove.” They also thought menthol and herbal flavors overshadowed the black cherry, which we didn’t find to be true.

Our recent tasting notes:

Drank with Lisa’s homemade Italian Meatball soup– started with an olive-fig tapinade (an idea Lisa got from our recent dinner at Retro Bistro) over italian bread, and then moved on to the soup.

Lisa: “It has cool fruit flavors– a little sweetness, but not a lot. Dark fruits, like cherry, medium body.”

Joe: “It’s become more smooth in the year that passed. Not getting any menthol or herb this time around. Dry at the finish.

Our collection includes more Spanish and French wines, so tune in next year to see what we pull from the cellar.

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