Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Day After

This morning when we awoke and looked out the window, this is what we saw. The rain had slowed over the night and all of the water drained off via the storm drainage system of our community. The Roman Aqueducts got nothing on our municipal drainage system!

Yesterday, an all time record was set for rainfall in the Chicago area, the rainiest day in Chicagoland history. We fared pretty well through all of it. Our crawl space took on water, but I was able to set up a pond pump with a garden hose, pumping the water out from time to time into our ejector sump pump basin (pretty proud of myself for that). Some of the basement carpet got a bit wet from foundation seepage, so we wet vacuumed it a bit and set some fans up to circulate the air. All in all, we are very lucky. A house two doors down got 5 inches of water in the basement. In many suburbs around the area, residents had to be evacuated by boat.

We spent most of yesterday in the house, mostly because the water was so high in the street we were afraid to drive in it. We spent yesterday evening making homemade marinara sauce and pesto sauce from the tomatoes and basil we grew in our garden. We made ourselves a nice dinner and drank a little wine to get through the flood.

Yes, compared to how others have fared with flooding in our area and in our country over this past weekend, we are very lucky indeed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Always Wanted A House On A Lake.......

What would bring Colon Blow out of an over one year blog retirement to blog again? The Great Flood Of September 2008!

These pictures were taken outside of our home today. We have been living here since April of 1994 and have never seen our street flood like this before. Some of our neighbors that have been living here for a lot longer tell us that they have seen this happen before, but I get a different date, decade, etc., from each one of them as to when that was.

It has been raining for over 24 hours, and according to our neighbor Lois we have received over 8 inches of rain (she left her empty garbage can open, and measured it with a yardstick...good enough scientific methodology as far as I am concerned).

Good news is we have not lost power and are only experiencing some foundation seepage. Bad news is what is left of Hurricane Ike is headed our way tomorrow. Stay tuned for further developments!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Flashback: 2007 European Vacation Part 1, The Champagne Region of France

Those of you that read The Big Finn's Big Blog know that my wife and I vacationed with the TBFs this past May. Although TBF has already blogged about it, I have yet to post my take on that here we go!

We departed from Chicago on the afternoon of May 16th and landed in Basel the next day at around noon. The TBFs picked us up at the airport, dropped some of our bags at their house and soon we were on the road headed for the Champagne region of France.

I am not at all at ease with air travel, so consequently I do not sleep while flying. My wife does a bit better with air travel and will nap occasionally while we fly. As a result of 13 hours of air travel with little sleep, we both were pretty tired during the 4 hour plus drive to France. As you can see from the above picture, Mrs. Colon Blow finally gave into sleep while in the car by diving into a pile of pillows and blankets.

The next day we drove into Epernay, and toured the Moet Chandon facility. I really did not know what to expect when we toured the grounds. I guess in my mind I was thinking that it would look much like an assembly line plant, similar to a beer brewery.

I was amazed by the network of underground tunnels and cellars under the facility and the surrounding streets filled with thousands of bottles of champagne! I never imagined that the process of making champagne was so slow, manual and very old world.

That same day we walked through the vineyards surrounding Epernay. We found the scenery and surroundings to be quite beautiful and serene.

The next day, we traveled to Reims to visit and tour the Pommery champagne house. We experienced much of the same in terms of the tunnels and cellars, but this house made it a point to place some very interesting art and lighting throughout the cellars which made the tour a very visually stimulating experience.

Finally, I must mention the hotel that we stayed in during this part of the vacation. The Hostellerie La Briqueterie was nice enough, although I would not give it high marks for the room we stayed in or for the aloof service that we received from almost the entire hotel staff with the exception of the night desk manager. I did enjoy the outside garden and regret that we did not spend more time in it while we were there.

In summary, we had an interesting and enjoyable time vacationing in the Champagne region of France. I do not feel it was a good enough experience to justify a return visit in my lifetime, but I am glad to have experienced it and I am left with some very good memories from the trip.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nespresso Espresso!

Vacations are full of special experiences, memories and even sensory sensations. For the past few years, we have been vacationing with my sister and her husband (The TBFs) in Switzerland. One of the sensory sensations that always greets me when we wake up each morning at their home is the coffee that they make. It is very different than what I make at home and it is one of the ways that I finally come to realize that I am truly on vacation. The coffee that they make is more espresso tasting than what I brew at home. In previous years, they would brew it by using a Jura coffee maker. They have recently replaced it with a Nespresso machine. We were so impressed with how easy it was to use, we bought one last Sunday at Williams-Sonoma when we were out shopping with my sister (see my previous post). We fired it up today and enjoyed our first Nespresso coffee at our house!

Mind you, I will never give up my Starbucks coffee. However, it will be nice to have a Nespresso now and then while pretending I am vacationing in Europe. Nespresso, take me away!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Weekend At Chez Renee

I could blog about the last two weeks in May, describing our vacation with the TBFs (my sister and brother-in-law) in Switzerland, France and England, but I will save that for another time. When we departed Basel the morning of May 30th for home, my sister also left later that same day for a business trip in the U.S. When she completed her business last Friday, she traveled to Chicago to spend the weekend with us.

This is the first time that my sister has spent an entire weekend with us at our house, which she has named "Chez Renee". She usually stays at our mother's condo, which we have now dubbed "Chateau Jo". My sister came in late that Friday night, so rather than go out to dinner, we stayed in and snacked on assorted appetizers that my wife put together and drank some wine (of course).

Those of you that have read my blog for awhile (and as we all know, it would only take about 10 minutes to read every one of my posts) knows that my wife and I run the food pantry at our parish. This past Saturday was a distribution day for our food pantry and my sister generously offered to go with us and help with the volunteer work (she probably also wanted to see for herself that which is such a big part of our lives).

When she got to the food pantry, she decided to help out by making the candy bags we give to the children that come to the food pantry with their parents. She came up with a special mix of candy to put into the bags. I tried to mimic this mix and help her, but due to my lack of patience I soon gave up and let her handle it herself. She met all of our regular volunteers and it was obvious that they enjoyed meeting and talking with her.

One of the best stories I can relate from my sister's visit to the food pantry involves some fresh rhubarb that was grown and donated by one of our parishioners. This is not the first time that this particular parishioner has donated rhubarb from her garden to our food pantry and we always find it difficult to persuade any of the families to take it. This is mainly due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the families that come to our food pantry are Hispanic and have no idea what rhubarb is! Actually, I know what it is and don't want it either. My sister noticed that one of our volunteers was unsuccessfully trying to give one of our families some rhubarb. My sister quickly intervened and demonstrated how to peel and clean the rhubarb and suggested a quick recipe on how to prepare it. The woman clearly was interested as a result of this explanation and accepted the rhubarb. We were all amazed at how easily my sister accomplished this feat. Maybe she should be in marketing/sales at her company instead of what she is doing now!

That evening, Mom visited and we stayed home and barbecued instead of going out for dinner. We cooked nothing elaborate, just burgers, chicken and vegetables on the grill.

The next day, my wife had a bridal shower to attend, so my sister and I met our mother for lunch and did a little shopping. After that, we just went back to the house and relaxed for the rest of the day.

The next morning, Mrs. TBF left for New Jersey, vowing to stay again with us at "Chez Renee" next time she is in town. We hope so. We enjoyed having her with us and missed her as soon as she departed.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

To Blog Or Not To Blog...

...that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of fellow bloggers by remaining silent or to take keyboard in hand against a sea of blogger comments and by posting, end them?"

Methinks I will post!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Not a good day for the Irish!

I am not a fan of Notre Dame University.

I would not say that I hate this institution and their teams, but I am usually cheering for the other team that is playing against them. I feel this way because it seems that Notre Dame receives preferential treatment by the sports media and by the television networks. Notre Dame can have a mediocre football season and still get a bowl bid because of their fanatically devoted alumni and fans. The media knows that Notre Dame is one of those institutions that fans love, even if they are not an alumni of Notre Dame. A father of one of my friends loved Notre Dame and this father never attended a day of college in his life! Notre Dame seems to hold some kind of strange mystique for some people I guess. It's just like how some people get all excited about celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, and they are not of Irish descent. Somehow I believe these two oddities of loving of a college one has never attended and putting on a green hat while drinking green beer on Saint Patrick's Day are's like some kind of weird Irish-Catholic voodoo spell has been put on the people that fall into this group.

As I said earlier, I am not a fan of Notre Dame University. Obviously I took some pleasure from seeing that the Notre Dame men's basketball team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament yesterday, the day before Saint Patrick's Day, to lowly Winthrop University.

Did I tell you that I picked Winthrop to beat Notre Dame in the office bracket pool? I think I'll drink me one of those green beers now!