February 2012 Archives

Fish Fry Review: St. Peters Ashton Church

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My, how quickly time flies... it seems like only yesterday when I was at St. Peters in Ashton, enjoying their wonderful fish fry... looking back, it wasn't "yesterday" - it was nearly two years ago!

Yikes!

I had the chance to revisit this fish fry a few weeks ago, and I'm proud to report that little has changed from the last visit. The fish is still awesome, the venue is still the same, it still only cost $11, and you will still require some patience...

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When we arrived a few Fridays ago, we were greeted by a looooong line - so long, in fact, that we were required to begin our wait OUTSIDE of the church:

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Thankfully, it was tolerable outside - the weatherman said it was something like 30F, and the winds were manageable...

Once inside, we purchased tickets and settled-in for our long wait by purchasing several $2 adult beverages. It floors me that you can buy cans of Miller Lite, Bud Light, and MGD while standing in a church... when we purchased our tickets for the fish, the kind gentleman who took our cash suggested that tonight's line was a "4-5 beer line" - that told us we should probably "stock-up" for the wait. In addition to the adult varietals, we purchased a few sodas and waters to help balance things out.

Here's a picture of the line... at this point, we had already waited for a solid hour:

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As mentioned, the Ashton church fish fry will set you back about $11 per person... but be prepared to wait for your turn at the table. To say that this fry is popular would be like saying that Michael Jordan knows a thing or two about basketball... it's an absolutely crazy event. It doesn't help that the church only offers the fish fry on a handful of dates; it starts in late October, and averages one-per-month through April.

To help pass the time, there are numerous excellent art-exhibits, compliments of the students. You may or may not enjoy this art as much as we did:

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Standing in line for nearly 2 hours will do strange things to a person. As we approached the dining area, I began to feel delirious - was it the excitement of knowing that succulent fish was waiting for me? Was it the influence of several beverages? Or was it the fact that everyone, including the numerous pictures and statues were giving me "the eye"?

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Ok... so, that may not win me any favors with "the big man," but oh well. It's all in good fun.

Soon after taking that photo, we could see the dining area... this place knows how to pack-em-in... these are tables full of lucky souls, all enjoying the wonderful deep-fried cod from St. Peter:

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Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, we were lead to our table, where we were seated with 8-9 complete strangers. Waiting for us at the table were plates of fresh-fried cod, piping-hot fries, warmed green beans, and homemade bread.

By luck of the draw, we were seated with a complete fish-fry-animal... this "gentleman" looked like something from a ZZ Top video and was obviously there to inhale as much fish as humanly possible. I'm not exaggerating when I say that he honestly took 8-9 pieces of fish from the first plate, and that he lunged at people who dared take a piece for themselves.

As such, my fist plate looked like this:

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...and that would be the theme for most of the meal... the hostesses would bring out a fresh plate of steaming-hot fish, and Mr. ZZ Top would promptly commandeer the plate, take 6-7 pieces for himself, and then begrudgingly relinquish the plate to the rest of us...

The fish itself was decent. Certain plates were phenomenal - fresh, flaky, lightly battered, fully flavored, and absolutely succulent. Other plates had clearly been over-cooked... the fish was dry, rubbery, and lifeless... it's probably the nature of the beast when you're trying to serve fresh, hot fish to a few hundred people at a time. I'm guessing certain plates sat longer than others prior to being served.

St. Peter's does nail the batter - every piece of fish featured the perfectly applied batter, with a hint of salt and pepper. It was never too thick nor too thin, and it clung to the fish without fail. The fish itself was also delicious - nary a sign of grease, and the fish was extremely mild yet flavorful. Quite honestly, the only thing that was occasionally "off" was the texture, and I blame that on the church trying to crank-out so much fish at once.

So, it goes to prove - it you land a good table with ordinary (read: human) people, and you can manage to snag fresh fish, you'll be in good shape at Saint Peters. But, if by some stroke of bad-luck, you happen to land at a table like mine, you'll suffer.

The fries - decent. Crinkle-cut, nicely fried, lightly salted. The canned beans - canned. Watery, warm, just like you had in the old grade school cafeteria. The bread -acceptable. I'm told the coleslaw was "passable."

At the end of our meal (Mr. ZZ-fishzilla was still going strong after 30-35 minutes of pounding fish), we accepted a small dessert - this piece of strawberry cake hit the spot:

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Simple, and obviously homemade, it was the perfect end to our evening.

Despite being seated with Mr. Fish, I still endorse this fish fry with complete confidence. Its standing in the overall ratings stands strong.

St. Peters = WIN

Food = 4.0 stars
Service = 5.0 stars
Value = 5.0 stars
MISC = 3.0 stars

They only serve it once a month (on average) and they only serve for a few months per year, but it's worth the wait and price. Not every plate will be perfect, but all things considered, it's a damn solid fish fry (eeek! did I just just say that about a church-sponsored fish fry?!)...

He's sexy and he knows it...

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Took a little liberty with the LMFAO song, "Sexy and I know it" -

"When I walk on by, girls be looking like 'damn he fly'
I pimp to the beat, walking down the street in my new L.A. Freak, yeah -
This is how I roll, animal print, pants out control,
It's RedFoo with the big afro
And like Bruce Lee I've got the claw...

Girl look at that body, Girl look at that body, Girl look at that body -
I work out"

What? Oh no - I'm not talking about me... I'm talkin' about Shiloh. He's been hitting the gym, cutting back on carbs and really focusing on his abs. See?

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HA.

And truth #2 - that's not actually Shiloh; I saw the picture on woot.com's message boards today and just about spit coffee all over the place. Someone at work mentioned it looked like Shiloh, so I figured I'd share it with everyone.

Enjoy.

Totally Looks Like...

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Malachy, the 2012 Westminster winner totally looks like Phil Spector, no?

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....tell me I'm wrong.

Snakebite: New Wheels

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While this year's winter hasn't been particularly difficult, it is rather challenging to ride a carbon-fiber road-racing bike or an aluminum-framed road-racing bike (both with 20mm wide tires) on anything other than pristine road surfaces.

That's not to say I haven't taken my aluminum-framed bike out on a trail or two, but I'll be the first to admit that those rides were definitely "white-knuckle" all the way... when you're working with about 0.75" of tire tread width and riding on crushed pea-gravel, things can get interesting.

I had been contemplating purchasing an off-road bike; I researched mountain bikes, but ultimately decided against one as I didn't need (or want) a bike with suspension (shocks). Shocks sap a lot of your pedaling power; the super-fat tires on a mountain bike also add to the efficiency-suck.

As keen observers will recall, I test-rode a Ridley Cyclocross bike almost a year ago, and really liked it. A cyclocross bike offers the best of both on- and off-road worlds. You get a lightweight, stiff, efficient frame (great for road riding and putting down some serious power) along with the versatility of a wider (about 1.375") tire, off-road capable brakes, all wrapped-up in a riding position and style that mimics a traditional road bike.

So, I knew that I wanted a cyclocross bike. But, I didn't want just any cyclocross bike. No sir. While it's true that I'm a complete sucker for carbon fiber frames, quite honestly, they scare me. Carbon fiber offers tremendous stiffness, rigidity, ride compliance, and light weight. It is, unfortunately, very vulnerable to impact strike damage.

Your carbon fiber bike tipped over? Whoops - you'll probably need to replace the frame. My Cervelo's frame cost just about $3000...

Based on my carbon love/fear relationship, I figured I would sleep much better at night if I had an aluminum (or titanium or magnesium or chromeoly) framed cyclocross bike. You don't handle a "cross bike" with kid-gloves... they're meant to be punished.

I also wanted a good groupset. The groupset consists of the components that attach to the frame and fork - i.e., shifters, derailuers, cranks, brakes, and hoods. I knew that I wanted "middle-of-the-road" components... I didn't need a $2500 DuraAce set, but I also wanted to avoid a $300 disposable set.

So, my options were limited. I spent several weekends researching and checking out bikes from: Cannondale, Specialized, Trek, Salsa, Ridley, and Kona.

After scouring countless forums, articles, and stores, I narrowed my decision to the Ridley X-Bow or the Kona Jake The Snake. I ultimately decided on the Kona because it was quite a bit lighter and featured a better groupset and wheel set.

I drove to Milwaukee where a little shop called Cory The Bike Fixer had a nice selection of Kona bikes, Salsa bikes, and Surly bikes. The folks there were super helpful and accommodating, and after a few hours of test-riding, swapping pedals, clamping in-and-out of the trainer, and sharp negotiating, I was heading home with this in my car:

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Oh, whoops!

Truth be told, Fleefer did ride along with me yesterday - she made a great co-pilot and companion. But to get back to the story, at around 4:00pm, I had this beauty sitting in the back of the 'ole Prius:

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I can't say enough great things about Derick, Cory, and the fine folks at Cory The Bike Fixer - they were super cool, non-pressuring, and extremely helpful. The shop was busy, yet they took excellent care of everyone that ventured in to the store. It's so refreshing to find shops like Cory's and Cronometro - both are true gems.

Once back at the house, I spent the majority of the evening dialing-in my fit by adjusting the seat height, seat angle, seat-to-bar distance, bar height, and cleat positions, all in the name of getting a safe, efficient, and comfortable fit. While I really dislike my trainer, it does help when setting-up a new bike's geometry. You can hop on-and-off, ride, adjust, and repeat as necessary.

I snapped one quick picture of the bike at around 10:30pm, just before heading to bed:

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Sunday came along, and I spent the morning cleaning the house, doing laundry (all bedding, quilts, blankets, etc), and running errands. I then snapped a series of photos, which I'll post here with minimal description/info:

Left-side profile:
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Monster headtube assembly:
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Great paint scheme:
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Hidden cables (they run inside of the tubing):
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Compact crankset with BB30 and some new Crank Bros. "eggbeater" pedals:
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If you look behind the sprocket, you'll see the fluted (for strength) chainstay:
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Ultegra rear derailuer:
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Cantilever brakes allow for lots of clearance; these are nice Avid Shorty 6s:
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Shimano wheelset (I just liked the angle of this picture):
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4-season tires! Trail, snow, rain, mud, road - nothing to stop me...
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Despite it being rather windy today, I decided to layer-up and take the new steed out for a ride. I threw on a long-sleeve Smartwool NTS wool base shirt, some riding bibs, and my matched-set of Sporthill 3SP pants and top. That Sporthill stuff is stellar - windproof to 35mph and warm to 20F. I doubled-up on gloves, put on a pair of IceBreaker wool socks, and hit the road.

The road ride was fantastic. The bike was smooth, responsive, and "zippy" - it didn't feel like a big slug on the dry pavement. I made my way to a nearby trail and hopped-on. The new bike handled the combination of mud and snow without any problems - it was stable and sure-footed, predictable and comfortable, although a few spots of the trail were extremely rough, and I got a good "shaking" at times.

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And a quick picture of yours truly, all bundled-up:

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I rode a wonderful 22-miles in just under an hour-and-a-half. Even though it was only 30F and the winds were gusting in excess of 20mph, it felt g-o-o-d good to be outside riding, rather than stuck on the trainer. After the ride, I donned the running shoes and went out for a 4-mile run. Not a bad day, especially for a cold, mid-February day.

The only downside to winter riding? The mess. :-)

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I think I'll buy some fenders for the new ride... right after I give it a bath.


Oh, and for anyone that may be interested in a cyclocross bike, check out the Ridley X-Bow that's over at Cronometro. It is an absolutely superb bike, and I was honestly this close to going with it instead of the Kona. Call and ask for Scott, and he'll be more than happy to help you out. The guys at that shop are absolutely TOP NOTCH - you'll be in good hands. As I mentioned earlier, there are few shops that I trust and appreciate - Cronometro and Cory The Bike Fixer are definitely on my (very) short list of "good guys."

Fish Fry Review: The Draft House

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Date of review: Friday, January 27, 2012

When one of my co-workers suggested that I join him and his brother for a fish fry, I resisted. I had been rock-solid with my 100-day commitment to not cheat on my diet - hadn't missed a beat. I was afraid that a fish fry might push me into the land of temptation... the thought of crispy, beer-battered, deep fried cod (or perch or walleye or blue gill) sent my tastebuds-a-watering...

When I learned they were heading to Verona to visit the Draft House, I checked online to see what type of fish options were available; I saw the usual suspects - cod, perch, walleye, and baked fish. Hmmm... this sounded like it might have potential. I could sample the fried varietals while using the baked as my mainstay. And so, I decided to join them.

10 minutes after the Friday quittin' time whistle sounded, I found myself in Verona, searching for a parking spot at the packed Draft House. Once inside, I was a bit shocked by the Draft House - it was quite large, featuring two floors and a separate dining area. It was crowded, busy, and loud, but we put in our name for a table. After a quick stop at the bar for a round of beverages, we settled-in at a high-top table and waited.

Our wait was short-lived; a table in the dining area opened-up and we were promptly seated. The waitress was expedient and extremely friendly - she shared the fish specials, the sides, and the soup options. One of the soups caught my attention: the vegetable beef barley. I placed an order for a cup; she sped-off to grab an appetizer (spinach artichoke dip) and the soup.

Within minutes she returned, appetizer, soup and a soda-refill in hand (she was good!). The soup was fantastic - it featured large chunks of tender beef, and rough-cut, root-style vegetables, with just a hint of barley. I sampled some of the artichoke dip and it was absolutely superb - very delicious. The dip was warm and creamy, and came in a large, whole-wheat bread bowl with a generous side of veggies.

We placed our fish orders; baked fish with baby-red potatoes for me, lake perch with hashbrowns for Chris and his brother. We chatted a bit; I waited for my soup to cool while they enjoyed the spinach dip.

Time must have flown-by, because before we knew it, our fish orders were presented, and I still had 3/4 of my soup left. I cast the soup aside and took a quick picture of the baked fish:

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As you can see from the photo, the baked cod was accompanied by the obligatory dinner roll, coleslaw, and drawn butter. The baby-reds are lurking just beneath the roll.

The baked fish was excellent - very delicate and fresh tasting; not a hint of fishiness or wateriness. The fish was firm and flaky; you could break it into perfect bite-sized pieces with only the side of your fork. The baby-reds were decent; a tad buttery and a tad overcooked, but passable without complaint. I didn't sample the roll or the slaw.

Everyone else's deep-fried perch looked like this plate:

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I was fortunate enough to snag an entire piece of the freshwater perch to sample, and boy am I glad that I did. The batter was expertly applied - it clung to the fish with amazing strength, and offered just a hint of chewiness with an excellent crunch. The batter itself was tasty - perhaps its because I had gone 30-days without a beer, but the beer flavor was obvious, as was a touch of salt and pepper. The perch was excellent; just a slight hint of fish-flavor (enough to remind you this was fish you were enjoying), and a nice, firm texture.

I didn't sample the hashbrowns, but am told they were excellent.

I could've easily polished off all of the lake perch on the table, along with my baked cod.

The waitress stopped-by a few times to make sure we were doing ok; she offered dessert, but we passed. I had another refill of my diet soda before settling-up my tab, which came to just under $15. Well worth it, in my book.

The Draft House = WIN

Food = 3.75 stars
Service = 4 stars
Value = 3.5 stars
MISC = 3.0 stars (sports-bar; loud; large; "cold" feeling)

In summary, this visit to the Draft House was quite excellent. It's getting hard to say exactly where fish frys should "land" in the rankings; based on this visit, I would say it may have been a top-10 visit... but there are so many stellar fish frys... I'm going to struggle with the overall placement. Suffice it to say, you could do much worse than the Draft House for your next Friday night venture.

I love cats... ...but not this much...

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Huge thanks to Amy for sending me this video - I can't stop watching it... nor can I stop laughing... The cat band, or more specifically the keyboard and guitar cats, are my favorites.

If you don't see the video on this page, go to YouTube and search for "Songify this: Can't Hug Every Cat"

Oh, and you're welcome.

Poutine post

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I'm assuming most everyone knows what poutine is, but for those not familiar, poutine is a dish that originated in Canada and consists of three primary ingredients: french fries, fresh cheese curds (not fried), and a gravy. I've never had a real poutine, although a year or so ago, I did sample a Wisconsin-variant while at the Sprecher brewery. Sprecher's take included french fries, beer-battered cheese curds, and queso. Yummy. ...man, I really need to get off of this diet...

So... why the unusual title for this entry? I've been extremely busy as of late, and haven't had a ton of time to keep-up with the blog - as evidenced by my 13-day lag between posts. As such, I've got a few things that I'd like to jaw about, and would like to combine them into a single post. I thought about calling it a casserole, a stew, or something "combo-ish" (mmm, Combos), but realized that I've used those titles in the past. And that's where poutine comes in - three stories all combined into a single post. That, and I'm hungry for some serious junk food.

Now let's dig-in to this dish before it gets cold.

First ingredient: running/eating/progress

As I previously mentioned, I'm in the middle of a 100-day commitment to eat well and to avoid going out for any type of drinks. I'm about 40-days along; I've had two cheat days - not any major blowouts, but I did cheat. Not too happy about that, but I've been incredibly dedicated on all of the other days, so I can't complain too much.

Looking back at my totals, I managed to log nearly 95-miles of running in January (averaged 3.77-miles per day; 25 days). My total caloric intake for the month of January was 35,401. I've shed 22-lbs and am sitting at 175 as of this morning. So, not a bad month. I know these last 15 are going to drop slowly, so I'll have to stay focused and not expect any rapid drops in February.

I am embarrassed to say that I didn't do a darned thing today... I slept-in, I watched a few movies on AppleTV, and cleaned the house, but that was all. No running, no riding... I felt lazy. And now I feel like a real slug... I'll hit it hard tomorrow. Guess I needed a break.

Second ingredient: sleep aid

During the winter months, I like to keep the house cool. My thermostat is set to drop the temperature to 60F at night; I can throw extra blankets on the bed and am more than comfortable.

Unfortunately, my new bedmate (FiFi) doesn't share the same enthusiasm for a cool house as I do, and she certainly doesn't like to crawl into a cold bed. In fact, after I place her on the bed at night, she runs to the pillow and sits defiantly, as if to say, "Oh heck no! I will not climb into that chilly bed!"

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I'll crawl into the bed and beg Feef to climb in so that I can go to sleep. I'll raise up the covers, pat on the bed, do a Mr. Miagi-like "hot hands" to pre-warm a spot for her, plead, bargain, and demand that she crawl in. All without any luck. Instead, she usually lies down on the pillow and waits for me to turn off the lights (I have a remote for my ceiling fan).

Once the lights go off, she'll slink over to my pillow and will usually lie on my neck. And while she's only 4-lbs, she's pretty good at making any chance of some sleep (or breathing) seem impossible.

Finally, after an hour or so, she'll cave and crawl under the sheets. Then she'll curl-up into a tight little ball and press as hard as she possibly can into my armpit or belly.

Desperate to get a decent night's sleep, I broke down and bought a Soft Heat low-voltage mattress warming pad. I bought one with dual zones so that I could set one side for Feefer and the cats to be warm, and then leave my side of the bed cool.

It arrived, and I set it up. I read the instructions which indicated I should begin with both controllers set to "HI" and then adjust the temperature down as necessary. "Fat chance of that happening," I said. I set my side on "4" and the critters' side on "6."

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I lifted Feef onto the bed and she immediately ran to the pillow. The pad won't heat the bed unless you're actually lying on the mattress - I was a bit surprised to find cold sheets when I rolled-back the sheets and quilts. But within a minute, I could feel the heat radiating from the mattress pad. And so could FiFi - like a moth to the flame, she instantly zinged under the quilts and burrowed into my armpit. PERFECT!

Perfect until about 2am, when I woke-up, sweating like Scott Walker (our governor has an issue with appearing to sweat uncontrollably). That mattress pad was H-O-T hot! I looked over at the controller, which still showed a "4" for my side. I immediately dialed it down to "1" and began peeling away the quilts.

I looked over to the other side of the bed and both cats were sprawled on the quilts, legs outstretched, snoring. I could feel heat radiating from their side of the mattress. I leaned over and set their side to "4." They didn't seem to notice...

And then I wondered, "Where's Fifi? She's not laminated against my torso."

I lifted the last of the sheets up to look for her, and I found her "straddling" the two zones of the bed, fully outstretched, and slow panting - "Hehhhh!" (breathe in) "Hehhhhh!" (breathe in) "Hehhhhhh!" she was so warm, she was balmy feeling. I tried to move her and her pants turned into a soft growl, as if to say - "Don't even think about it."

I literally laughed at 2:00am. I swear I saw a steam vapor trail coming from her belly... but she loves it. Nights have been a breeze (for her), even if I feel waaaay too warm by 2:00am, even with my side set to "1." I think I'm going to leave my side off tonight, just to see how it goes.

The things we do for our pets....

Final ingredient: Chicago

I've been spending a lot of time in Chicago, thanks to my work project. This past week, I was in the windy city for 4-days, so I took advantage of a free night and visited a few shops along Michigan avenue, including Truefitt & Hill.

You may recall my interest in shaving brushes, creams, razors, and scuttles from a few years' back. Well, I was almost out of my favorite shaving cream (T&H 1805), so I figured I would head over to the Chicago Truefitt store and grab a refill.

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I also grabbed a new shaving brush, and enjoyed a straight-razor shave from the experts at the store (it's also a barber- and shave-shop). Wow. That was awesome. I'm not a huge fan of the new brush, but I'll give it a fair shot...

On my way back from Chicago, I was impressed by the "iced trees" - it was apparently much cooler in Wisconsin than in Chicago... I love it when there's a little moisture mixed with some freezing temps - these photos don't do it justice, but perhaps you'll get some idea of what I'm blabbering about...

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And there you have it. A trio of stories; none directly linked, but I'm hoping you enjoyed them. Now go get yourself some poutine, and have a great rest of the weekend.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2012 is the previous archive.

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