Monday, August 31, 2009

Random Act of Kindness

Tonight, while doing laundry, I stopped at Starbucks for a refreshing iced beverage. For most of the summer, Starbucks has been giving out a "treat receipt," meaning if you make a purchase before 2:00 pm, they give you a receipt that acts as a coupon, granting you any grande iced beverage for $2.00. Since every morning starts at Starbucks, I had a receipt. Unfortunately it wasn't with me, it was at home on my night table because I had emptied my pockets before going to do laundry. A woman heard me concede that I didn't have my receipt and offered me hers. She didn't need it, she opted for a warm beverage tonight. Her gesture was so nice and so random. It made my night.

Sometime this week, perform a random act of kindness for someone. Tell me about it!

Things You Don't Want to See on a Sunday Morning

Yesterday morning I got up and took a walk to my Starbucks to relax and have a cup of coffee. I lingered, watching people go by, looking at the dogs parked outside while their owners came in for their caffeine fix. It was cool but a pretty day. But I had sat there long enough and it was time for me to move on and do something productive with my day.

I approached the intersection of Ashland and Bryn Mawr and heard the sound of screeching tires. I looked up and saw a silver SUV approaching the intersection, apparently attempting to stop. In front of him was a man on his bicycle, stopped at the center of the intersection, perhaps waiting to turn. Well, the SUV didn't stop in time and the bike was hit, the man flew off the bike and went down hard. The SUV stopped, the driver jumped out and the man on the bike was screaming in agony. I called 911, while I was on the phone, others approached and were apparently doing the same thing. At this point, there were people in the intersection helping the cyclist, advising him to stay still. He appeared to not be seriously injured, but I'm sure he's covered in bruises today. it could have been much worse. First, a police car arrived, then a fire truck, then an ambulance. It all happened pretty quickly. I didn't wait to see what, if anything happened to the driver of the SUV. I'm just relieved it wasn't worse.

Thankfully the remainder of my Sunday was much less eventful.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Anatomy of a cake

For Dan's birthday, each of us decided on a dish to bring for dinner. I decided that I would make dessert. The plan was to bake a birthday cake knowing that I'm close enough to a few decent bakeries that if I messed it up, I could still bring a cake.

Baking isn't an issue for me. It's the decorating process that I found daunting. Originally my friend Steve was going to be my teacher, but the weekend we were going to have the party was switched so I was on my own. Below are the various stages of the cake.

The recipe was one from Cooks Illustrated Magazine. It was simple but from the ingredients I could tell that the finished product would be moist, thus making a good layer cake. This cake would be a two layer cake.

I decided on a chocolate icing, and a raspberry filling. Below, I've created an outer border of chocolate icing and I'm adding the raspberry preserves.

Layers are stacked and the cake is frosted.

Now the decorating begins. To contrast the chocolate color, I chose a light blue. Slowly I added gel coloring, and this was my final result.

Before actually writing on the cake, I practiced on waxed paper. I had never worked with a decorating bag, I've never written in icing.

Next up was the outer border. I haven't quite mastered the star tip to where I can create the peaks and valleys but I think it looks pretty good. Okay, there's a spot to the right that's kind of messy...

The cake was actually finished at Dan and Luis' house. I had to wait until I placed it on the pedestal to add the blue bottom border. Again, my technique isn't perfected, so it's one big strand.

After a delicious dinner and a walk, Tina and I put the candles on the cake and brought it out.

When we all sat down to eat, I was pleased that the cake was moist, full of flavor and it held together. I don't mean to brag, but it was delicious. It was a lot of work but also great fun, and worth it.

I'm on Tour

Saturday, I bought myself a new toy - The Blackberry Tour!

I kid you not, I think cell phones are internally programmed to fail at about the time the contract is set to expire or at the point where a customer can upgrade. Truth be told, I was beginning to have a problem reading the display on my phone. With my contact lenses in, I need reading glasses to see small print. My arms were no longer long enough to hold the phone at a distance where I could read it.

Dan recently upgraded to a Blackberry. He seems to like it. Again, I followed his lead and decided to make the switch. My previous phone was the same phone as his, except mine was orange. I got it not long after he got his. I almost got one the last time I was due for a phone but they seemed too big at the time. The Tour is wider than my last phone but it's thinner.

I have no clue what I'm doing with it. I've figured out how to make and receive calls. I even figured out how to send text messages and picture messages. I've updated my contact list. I downloaded an application for Facebook so all of my contacts with Facebook now have their facebook pictures in my phone. I'm still learning, it'll be a while. It's fun. It's no iPhone but I think I like this just fine.

Now if I can just figure out why it vibrates from time to time...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Perhaps I'm Getting Old

When I was a teenager, I liked clothes. I actually still liked clothes, but when I was a teenager I actually cared about brands and labels and what was current. In my 20's I cared a bit less, though I did my best to stay current. I did the same in my 30's but I had a few things that I considered basics that I hung on to that may or may not have been in style. Now that I'm in my 40's I purchase a few things each season to stay current but I'm also looking at whether they'll last for a while.

There are some trends that I don't understand. One in particular is the billboard style branding of sweatpants; more specific is the plastering of a brand name or slogan across someone's ass. To me the purpose of that is to draw attention to the wearer's ass. I require no help looking at a nice ass. I'm pretty good at finding them, then appreciating them when I do. If I'm with a friend, I'll direct their attention towards it, I'm giving in that way. What I don't need is to see "BABYDOLL" or "APPLE BOTTOM" or "PUMA" plastered across someone's rump.

Why am I mentioning this? Well today, while having lunch, I watched a family - Dad, mom and their young daughter, perhaps 3 years old, walking outside. The daughter was wearing track pants with "PUMA" across the back. I found that to be in very poor taste. It's fine if a grownup wants to be a human billboard, but I don't think it's right to dress a child like that. Like I said, maybe I'm just getting old.

What do you think? Do you care about fashion? Would you be a backside billboard? Would you let your kids be one?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dancing With the Stars - Season 9

Contestants have been announced for Season 9 of Dancing With the Stars. The biggest cast yet has been announced. There are some very interesting contestants, I will comment on them in the next couple of days. It looks as though it will be a very fun season.

Happy Birthday Dan

Next up in the list of great birthdays in August is Dan's birthday. Today is Dan's Birthday, he's 41 today. A year ago, right at about this time, 6 close friends were sitting on a private boat on Lake Buena Vista in Florida enjoying the gorgeous fireworks display over The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Never have I kept a secret from someone for so long. We began planning the trip in January 0f 2008, the adventure began to unfold three days before his actual Birthday. A series of envelopes containing clues lead Dan to the conclusion that he was going on an adventure, luckily it included all of us. Definitely a memorable event for us all, especially him.

This year there was no trip. We're planning to get together this coming Saturday to celebrate. I can promise that there will be plenty of food and good times and we'll make plenty of new memories.

Happy Birthday, to my very best friend, Dan.


Dan and Luis, June 2009

Polo, Dan and Me, June 2009.

Happy Birthday Belinda Carlisle - August 17, 2009

While most of the gays celebrate Madonna's birthday (August 16), I practice a different religion. On August 17, 1958, Belinda Carlisle was born. She just turned 51.

She looks pretty damn great for 51, too! This is video that was shot during the Go-Go's recent round of shows back in April. She had just finished her (very brief!) stint on Dancing With the Stars. This video shows that she learned a little something from it. I think her fringe skirt is an homage to her dancing days, look how she shimmies in it.

Vocally, Belinda sounds really good on this clip. I wish the audio was better. It's still fun to watch so please enjoy it!

Millennium Park and Buckingham Fountain - August 16 2009

On Sunday August 16, I went down to Millennium Park in the evening to walk around and look at two new temporary pavillions that have been installed to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago.

This is Cloud Gate, aka "The Bean." It's a 33 foot tall sculpture, weighing in at 110 tons. It's made of stainless steel, pristinely polished, causing it to be completely seamless.

This is the view through the roof of one of the temporary Burnham pavillions. This one is designed by Zaha Hadid, of London. It's constructed of a metal frame and covered in a perfectly sewn fabric cover with clear vinyl panels on top thru which you can see part of the city skyline.

The pavillion, designed by Zaha Hadid. Is it a cocoon, or a maggot, or a shell?

Portion of the Chicago skyline as seen through some of the greenery growing in the garden at the park.

The Frank Gehry designed Pritzker pavillion. The metal webbing holds speakers. Guests on the lawn can enjoy the music just as well as those in the front row.

A dinosaur overlooking the skyline.

Buckingham Fountain. You may recall this as the fountain seen in the opening credits of "Married With Children." The water spout shoots 150 feet in the air.

The second of the temporary Burnham Pavillions, this one was designed by Ben van Berkel of Amsterdam

The Bean, at night, wearing the reflection of the Chicago skyline.

I love my city!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Here are Luis and Tina. Two very special people who do good things.

This past weekend, they walked 60 miles in support of the Avon 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer.

The walk began on Friday, early in the morning, in the rain. It didn't rain all day and the weather was otherwise pleasant. Saturday began in rain, this time heavier than Friday's showers. Regardless, they persevered, kept walking and kept smiling. It was a warmer day than Friday but they finished in record time. Sunday, they were up early and did their final round. Finally, a day without rain. Instead it was bright sunshine...and by 9 am it was already 85 degrees. This did not deter them. They walked their little butts off and finished by mid-afternoon.

The picture above was taken at the finish line. Are those smiles of pride or relief? Probably a bit of both. But the fact that they just finished walking 60 miles and can smile shows that they're pretty special.

Tina and Luis set out on this walk to pay tribute to those who suffer or have suffered from breast cancer. One of Tina's closest friends is facing a battle. Tina has been absolutely tireless in her efforts to be a supportive friend. She's amazing.

This cause holds a special place in my heart. I lost my Grandmother to breast cancer. Her story is unque. In the 1940's, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and received a clean bill of health. In 1988, the cancer returned. She fought a good fight but the cancer spread and in 1989, she died. She was a very cool woman, an "Auntie Mame" type of character with a lot of energy and a "can-do" spirit. She was born into a family who performed in Vaudeville acts and the family had a circus act. She did equestrian performances, doing acrobatics while on horseback. I just remember her always seeing to it that "the kids" (my sisters and I and our cousins) had a "cocktail" whenever the adults were having drinks (something bubbly with cherries in the glass). The adults were not allowed to have fun unless the kids were having fun.

If she were here today, I think she would be proud of me and I think she would love my friends. She would see a group of adults living a good life, being good people, having fun and doing great things. And, she would hug Tina and Luis and thank them for all of their hard work under such extreme conditions, for such a great cause.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Movie I Can't Wait to See!

I'm a fan of Julia Child. Loved her, loved watching her show on public television even when I didn't really understand what she was doing.

A couple years ago, I read her Biography "My Life in France." Immediately after, I read the most entertaining book "Julie and Julia."

Tomorrow, the movie "Julie and Julia" opens. Nora Ephron directed it and it merges both of the books. Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, and does so to a T. Amy Adams plays Julie Powell. Unsure if she plays her to a T but I'm sure she does a nice job.

Here's the preview of the film.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I have a sinus infection. I've had it for about 10 days. I've been fighting it. I've been hoping it would just work it's way thru my system and go away. They usually do. This one is stubborn.

I feel pretty good. I'm just stuffy and occasionally, ugly snot comes out of my nose, or I cough up something ugly. Saturday I had a couple nose bleeds. My head was hurting on and off. Not too bad, I mean it doesn't feel like I've been smacked with a tire iron, just a dull ache. It hasn't stopped me from enjoying my weekend. But enough is enough.

I work in a hospital. I had the receptionist call me when my doctor showed up to see patients. I told him how I was feeling and he yelled at me for waiting so long. I don't like taking antibiotics. I'm not one of those people who runs to get a prescription when I get the sniffles. My body needs to fight things on its own. That way when I'm really sick and need an antibiotic, it'll actually work.

I was given a prescription for an antibiotic, which I will take for 10 days. I took my first pill about an hour ago.

This isn't going to be fun. Already my stomach is making weird noises.

Oh, and I can't drink. That means NO vodka.

*sigh* It's just 10 days, right? I will be able to drink again by the 18th. :)