Sunday, August 23, 2020

August At-Home Beerfest and COVID-19 Update

We're back with a video we filmed a few weeks ago.

Since the COVID-19 closures started in March we haven't taken any vacations and Holly hasn't run any races.   Our trip to China (for Dave's 50th) in May/June was canceled and shutdowns caused us to cancel the substitute trip to Japan.  Holly's spring race (a marathon in Fort Collins, CO) was canceled as well as the Rock and Roll Chicago Half Marathon.   With the current state of affairs we canceled our 25th anniversary celebration in Jamaica in November.   

Add to all this an extended work furlough for Dave and Holly have reduced salary periods and week-long furloughs a few months......

Boating was a great activity to get us out of the house, but COVID-19 changed the dynamics of the Chain o' Lakes.   People decided boating was a great escape and there are a lot more boats on the water, and a lot of inexperienced new boaters.  Tuesday evenings became the best time to go out.   In our part of Northern Illinois no one followed social distancing or mask guidelines so the lakeside bars became risky options.  We resorted to take-out and patronizing the few restaurants that were following the guidelines.

Boredom gave birth to the idea of having an At-Home Beerfest.   Since we usually do a global beer celebration (Beers from Around the World) for the Olympics Opening Ceremonies, and they did not happen this year, we came up with a more localized version.   Basically Dave assembled a mix-a-six at the beer store of brews we've never tried before.  Hopefully this brings a few minutes of fun into your day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Galaxy's Edge and Festival of the Arts Figment Brush with the Master's Scavenger Hunt

Just in case you are a little nostalgic for Walt Disney World, here are three videos from our January trip.

These videos, as well as many others, can be found on our Youtube Channel.    You can subscribe and get updates of when a new video is posted.   We are closing in on 1,000 subscribers and would love to get over that hump.

Video 1:  Walking Around Galaxy's Edge with a stop in Oga's Cantina and a ride on Smuggler's Run


Video 2:  Galaxy's Edge Rise of the Resistance full experience with portions from the queue and full ride video

 Video 3:  A tour around Epcot's World Showcase playing Figment's Brush with the Masters scavenger hunt game.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

2020 Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival

Unfortunately not many people are going to get to experience Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival this year.     It was only running for 10-or-so days before Walt Disney World parks shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19.  Our trip was booked months ahead of time and the concept of social distancing was coming into play towards the end of our trip. Luckily we left Orlando for home on schedule, before the announcement of the park closures.

Overall impressions:  Same festival, different year.   With Epcot's construction a few things were out of place and there wasn't the usual grand display at the park entrance.  The butterfly house was between The Land and Imagination.

Things we experienced
  • We played Spike's Pollen-Nation Exploration scavenger hunt game.
  • Enjoyed the temporary entertainment in Canada - Marc Angers and FriendsThis is the best act we've seen in the Canadian Pavilion since the departure of Off-Kilter.
  • Took in 3 Garden Rock Shows:   Peabo Bryson in the front row, The Orchestra featuring former members of ELO, and The Guess Who.
  • Ate or drank something from most of the festival food booths.   
  • Had dinner with friends at Takumi-Tei, the newish restaurant in the Japan Pavilion.  We had excellent service and food.    Our table enjoyed the omakase (tasting) menu along with wine/sake pairing.

We put together a 20 minute video from our festival experience which includes all the locations of Spike's hiding spots, some topiary characters, Marc Angers and Friends, and bits from the three Garden Rocks artists we watched.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Brewery Hopping Brooklyn and the TWA Hotel

During our time in New York at Christmas we made plans with friends to spend a day in Brooklyn brewery hopping.  The day of fun would be capped off with a stay in the newish TWA Hotel at JFK Airport.    We’ve had our eye on staying here someday and Christmas vacation was the perfect time for a visit since we were all ready in New York.    Usually we drive from Illinois to visit our families, and were planning to do so again this year, but then we came to the realization that our last night of the trip was going to be spent AT AN AIRPORT so why drive? 

We met Rich and Amanda at the hotel before venturing off in an Uber-filled trip around Brooklyn.  Dave grew up near New York City but never ventured into Brooklyn.  

Breweries visited:

Interboro:  Kinda what you want and expect from your first Brooklyn Brewery experience.  Graffiti style art in a light industrial area filled with garages and metal shops.  Music inside was edgy hip-hop and you could see into the whole brewing section. Beers were very good and the staff was nice and patient with us as we obsessed over building perfect flights.

Grimm:  A few blocks away was the polar opposite of Interboro.  Grimm was in a bright and airy building with large communal tables, high ceilings, and an overall cheery feel with some colorful artwork.   Alt-Indie was the music choice and beers were served in stemmed glassware. 

Arrogant SwineNot a brewery…. Arrogant Swine is a bar/restaurant in an industrial section that looks to be going under some slow gentrification.   Holly and Dave requested this stop because they caught it on a food show that put the spotlight on their waffle-iron mac and cheese.   Atmosphere was similar to Interboro’s but with less appealing bathrooms.    Most of the food was excellent.

KCBCOf course Dave loved the place because they had a reggae DJ spinning.   Great spot that had a neighborhood hangout kinda feel with a modern coffee shop d├ęcor (subway tile and wood accent walls).   Beer was great and ran the spectrum of styles.  This was the kind of brewery we could kill a whole afternoon in.

Folksbier:  After a very long car ride (distance and traffic) we finally made it Folksbier.  Their focus was traditional styles of beer with a twist here-ot-there.   The tap room was in the style of a small neighborhood German beerhall.  We ate some hipster brand popcorn they were sell because the BBQ lunch had finally worn off.

Other HalfThis is where the people were.   Other Half had a open floorpan filled with people.   The lighting was low, the place was packed, and they were pouring a ton of beer.  Their beer choices were many and we enjoyed almost everything we had – Dave ordered a taster of some over-flavored barrel age stout that just stuck in your mouth.

TWA Hotel

The old TWA terminal in New York’s JFK airport was transformed into the boutique TWA Hotel in 2019.  The Eero Saarinen designed building is reason enough to visit with its curved lines, little hidden alcoves, and tunnels accessing wings of the property.   The flight center opened in 1962 and everything is crafted to bring as much of that period to life as possible.   Staff had replica period uniforms, there were rotary phones in the rooms, and the music in public areas was all 1960’s. 

Check-in occurred at the old airline check-in desk with either an agent or computer terminal.  We arrived before our room was ready and our checked luggage was put on the conveyor to store in the back room.  We booked runway rooms and looked over the International Terminal. We watched planes come and go all hours of the day and night.   It wasn’t noisy since they use the second-thickest glass in the country (The Pentagon has the thickest).    

Branding is everywhere.   The gift shop had a ton of fun merchandise! There is no chance you will forget you are at the TWA Hotel.  One odd item in our room was the trash mat.   Yes, a mat on the desk for your trash and recycle items.    Yuck!   Dave works in the hotel supply industry and passed the photo around the office.   No one has seen this before and thankfully it does not appear to be a trend.  There are plenty of TWA souvenirs to buy in the gift shop.

There’s a lot to do here for a day.   We noticed many people were visiting the hotel just for drinks on a date night. You can look at several old cars around the property, play in the Twister Room, get pictures texted to you from the photo booth, look at the replica 1960’s living room and Howard Hughes’ office. You can dine in the Sunken Lounge and watch the old departure board create pixelated art every few minutes.  

The public spaces were designed with Instagram in mind.  Many people were at the hotel just for a date night.

We were excited when it was time for our reservation at/in Connie – an old airplane converted into a cocktail lounge.  Of course they ran out of the plastic TWA wings that came with the martini.  

In the morning we braved the cold and watched the airport action from the rooftop heated pool (note:  Not a hot tub so not too comfy in 30 degree weather.  Also, we didn’t bring our phones to the pool in the morning so we only have the night photo.).  For food, the hotel offers a full-service restaurant, a quick service counter, and an intelligentsia coffee stand.

This was a very fun hotel stay and we recommend checking the public spaces next time you’re at JFK.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Catching up from Christmas

We decided to do a quick catch-up post since writing posts has not been a priority lately.  We've had a few home projects to do and some fun vacation planning occupying our time.

Christmas Time in Chicago:   We spent a weekend doing the Christmas Pop-up bar thing.  We loved Chicago Athletic Club's Pop-up bar last year, but it lost a little charm this year being the first bar of the evening (crowd still sedate at 5pm and we didn't have a few cocktails yet).   Sable's Miracle was as fun and festive as we remembered and we made a new friend with the person next to us, who also got the bartender to get Dave a taste of special bourbon.  Thanks Eric!  Macy's had new window decor this year that was very cute.  Frosty's Pop-up was a great place to kill 90 minutes, but it was smaller than we expected it to be and there really wasn't anywhere to sit.   We were happy it was near a ramem place and Off Color's Mousetrap    The Virgin's Cirese rooftop bar did a horrible job of executing the theme of their pop-up.  We experienced the newish Bamboo Room within Three Dots and a Dash.   The small bar requires a separate reservation and gives you the opportunity to learn more about the special rare liquors they use.  Dave wants an ice brander.  Dinners were at The Smith (great - would be good with a group) and Prime and Provisions (meh).   Stayed at the London House.

Christmas Travels:  While back east visiting our families we added a few new breweries to our list.  In Pennsylvania we took a short trip to Rumspringa in the heart of Amish Country.  Holly's hometown now has a promising new brewery - Raney Cellars    On the way to New York we stopped at Yuengling's in Pottsville to tour America's oldest brewery.  Pottsville has a lot of unique monuments dotting the town that would be interesting to tour around.   In New York Holly had her first visit to Hudson Valley Brewery followed by a stop at Sloop Brewing which is in an old IBM facility.  Of course we visited other favorites such as Spring HouseLancaster BrewingRushing Duck, and Columbia Kettle Works in their Lancaster location.

That's the quick catch-up.   Our next post will still be from the Christmas timeframe, but focus on our fun day with friends in Brooklyn and at the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport.