Monday, April 25, 2011

Sprout it out loud now!

What up everybody? 

         Spring is upon us and things are starting to grow so we here in the Elgin BVS House are starting a garden, which I for one am totally stoked about. Now you may be thinking, 
"This sounds familiar. Didn't the BVSers in Portland already do this?"

         Well, yes. Yes they did. But just because they got their plants in the ground first doesn't mean we stole their idea. We've actually been kicking around the idea of a garden for quite awhile now. We've just had a few obstacles that have prevented us from actually growing anything out of the ground yet. Mostly it's been freezing cold (bad for new growth) and raining (bad for working the ground and not entirely great for our enthusiasm about being outside) any day we've set aside to work on our garden. We can't all have the luxury of beautiful west coast weather. 

         However, we BVSers are a determined bunch and are not easily thwarted. With the help of our friend Anna we've got watermelons, green beans, basil and lettuce seeds planted in pots. Originally, the pots were kept at our office where there are nice big windows to let in lots of sunlight. But we couldn't leave the little guys all by themselves over weekends so they found their way to our house where they now reside in our impromptu atrium also known as my room.

         Growing has been slow for them since the last week has been cold and overcast with rain and occasionally snow (I keep telling the sky that it is April and it shouldn't be dropping snow on us but it doesn't like to listen to me). But despite the weather's efforts our little troopers are growing all the same. The lettuce has been doing very well. They are the over achievers of the group. They have all sprouted and are growing well.

         Just a few days ago we saw our first basil sprouts. They've steadily been coming in since then.

         And we've even got a couple of beans that shot up recently. This is a picture of the tallest bean sprout.

         So far we haven't seen anything from the watermelon seeds. But I think they'll catch up when it starts getting hot. Later on we'll also be growing other delicious edibles like tomatoes and peppers which I am most excited about.

        And here is the future site of the Elgin BVS House garden. This corner of our backyard is looking a little bare so I'm really looking forward to sprucing it up soon with some lovely vegetables, fruits and beans.

         We'll be taking a rototiller to this patch of land some sunny Saturday and hopefully we'll be able to start planting outside shortly after that. But that all depends on the weather.

        That's all for now. We'll let you know when progress with our garden is a little less halted.


Friday, April 15, 2011

BVSers Shed Their Locks

In the beginning there were two young men that were growing their hair out so that they could donate it to locks of love, little did they know that they were working towards the very same goal.


Then one morning in the van on the way to work, they started talking about their individual plans to cut their hair, which quickly turned into a bonding experience and something that they quickly decided to do.

You would have thought that that would have been the end, but no. Clara, who had just cut her hair for locks of love last summer decides that she might be interested in joining in on the fun. So while at work one day, she comes to Carol and asks her what she thinks about getting in on the act. They quickly agree to make it a house bonding experience.


This was not enough for the Four Musketeers, oh no, they decided that they should take pledges to raise money for the American Cancer Society and Locks of Love.

On Sunday, April 10th these four individuals gathered in the kitchen of their home. To shed some locks for "Locks of Love"

Then 39 inches later.

We raised, over $450 for the American Cancer Society. Donations were made from people at the church that we have been attending, along with our colleagues.

What does all this mean? Besides having a lot less hair, it means that we are taking something that we have been blessed with an abundance of and sharing with those that are less fortunate.

"Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers."

Thanks for your support, Love the Elgin BVS House.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Take me out to the ball game

Thanks to Don's blog last week you are all a bit more familiar with Elgin. Don's blog did leave out one thing: SPORTS! Lucky for you, that's where I come in :)

I'll follow Don's format and give you a breakdown of all sorts of sports options.

Sports to play in Elgin:

Volleyball- On Monday nights you can head to Christ Community Church for some open gym volleyball. A group of 20-30 players gathers and we break in to four teams. I appreciate that the group is made up of some pretty competitive players and our games are usually both well played and enjoyable.

Softball- The Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren has a slow pitch softball team each spring! So far a small group of us have begun practicing at least once a week. Although I grew up playing fast pitch softball and am still working on timing a slow pitch swing, it has been great to get back into softball mode. I am enjoying getting out in some gorgeous spring weather and playing ball! Any locals interested in playing on our team should contact my buddy Don.

Tennis- Although I'm not much of a tennis player, my housemates have tried out the courts nearby our house at Wing Park. We have some racquets at the BVS house, so I am sure this spring will offer many more opportunities for some good tennis matches.

Other general exercises- In the previous blog Don mentioned the bike path, a great option for warm but breezy Chitown days. There is also a local YMCA that provides scholarships for memberships. I spent the cold of the Chicago winter inside of the toasty gym running on the elliptical and using the weight machines.

Fantasy Sports:

Football- I missed the Church of the Brethren fantasy football league, but still got to attend the annual league Bears game party. I was always happy to hear staff walking past and discussing how many points their quarterback got that week, or just how well the wide receivers from the opposite team did. A little competitive spirit makes the days pass a little quicker.

NCAA Tourney Bracket- About 15 staff members donated $5 to Global Food Crisis to submit a bracket. Our brackets were not overly successful, much like about 5 million other people who submitted brackets on ESPN. None of us picked the right final two teams, but then again very few people predicted a Butler v Uconn championship. After watching a rough championship game, Dan became our office champion!

Baseball- Although I have participated in fantasy leagues, this was my first time for baseball. The draft started out a little rough for me since I was somewhat unfamiliar with the majority of the players. However, I am really becoming a baseball fan! Thanks to some great batting averages from Buster Posey and Billy Butler and a .64 era from Tim Lincecum, my team won our first matchup! This is just week one though, and I've got a long season to keep changing lineups and following baseball statistics.

Chicago Sports Teams:

Bears- A impressive season followed by a long playoff run bought joy to many workers in our office. Unfortunately, that excitement was cut short by the Packers. Nonetheless, there is lots to look forward to next season, and I personally became a Johnny Knox fan! Although have not been a Bears fan, it was fun to learn about the team this fall, even if I go back to cheering for the Eagles next year :) Provided that there is in fact a NFL season.

Unfortunately, I didn't take this one, but the rest are all from my camera!

Bulls- I attended my first NBA game this week! It was a great game and like normal, Derrick Rose put on a show to beat Phoenix. The Bulls just won their 60th game this season. The last six times in history that the Bulls won at least 60 games, they came home with a championship! We shall see how that goes in the upcoming weeks. I would love to watch a few more games and another Chicago playoff run. I must admit that one of my favorite things about the game was seeing Phoenix player and former Hokie Zabian Dowdell!

Zabian! I'm hoping one day he will replace Steve Nash!

Cubs- This was the only Chicago team I was a fan of prior to moving to Elgin. I was fortunate to make it to a game late last season, and the BVSers are planning on heading to another game this spring. Although the Cubs are already 2 games back, here is to hoping that the season progresses! And, since Alfonso Soriano happens to be on my fantasy team, it would be great for him to keep slugging right along. Going to Wrigley field is a great way to spend a Saturday, and we have been able to get fairly cheap tickets. 

Go Cubbies!

White Sox- I will have to admit that I don't follow the Sox, or the American League for that matter, but the Sox have started the season 6-3 and are first overall in runs scored, and 3rd overall in batting average,  one base percentage and slugging percentage. 

A closing note: Just in case your main team plays in Virginia, there is always
 Thanks to wi-fi at the BVS house, I have been able to watch almost everyone of my Hokie football and basketball games :) Since I was in Elgin, I didn't take these pics either. 

The best seniors :) My boys Malcolm and Jeff!

Oh yeah, I was there for this one, somewhere in that mass of Hokies! 

HOKIES BEAT #1 DUKE!! Best game of the year, hands down :)
There is no place like Cassell Coliseum and I'm so glad I could be there!

my QB! Tyrod Taylor... watch out NFL

and my stadium :) Lemme know if you ever head to VA for a game, I'll be back there full time in the fall!

Peace y'all... and since this is the sports blog, GO HOKIES!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Don's Dollar Guide to Elgin

I think it's time I told you more about Elgin. You know, that town we live in. I went to lunch after church today, and commented on how dead it seemed. Spring has finally sprung! The sun was shining, we were walking through a courtyard called Fountain Square, to a nice place called Al's Cafe. And there was no one else around.

I'm not sure if the midwesterners just won't come out of their houses until they're sure it won't snow again - I quickly proclaimed that the snow was over on March 2, after a warm week, only to have it grow cold again and snow one last time! Or maybe the weather reports just seem too good to be true - 'Fifty degrees? Can't be!' To which I say, "wake up, people! It's April already! Go outside!"

So, in honor of springtime, I'd like to give my guide to having fun, eating, and exercising on the cheap in Elgin. There are three parts - eating out, cycling, and general culture tips. Enjoy!


We've been over the cooking rotation. This time, let's say you have friends over. You'd like to eat out. So where can you go in Elgin?  There are plenty of disgusting restaurants around including McDonalds and Taco Bell. But say your friends are allergic to chain restaurants. No problem - this list is all local, small-franchise, or independently owned restaurants in Elgin.

Colonial Cafe: A fun, cheap American restaurant on the west side of town. This is a favorite late-night snack stop when I'm out with a group of friends.  
Plus: Ice Cream Sundaes  
Minus: No late-night hours during the week

Elgin Public House, or EPH, is a decent-sized pub and burger joint right in downtown Elgin. Prices are good, and like any respectable pub, they have Chicago sports playing 24/7.
Plus: Half-price burgers on Mondays make this place affordable even for a BVSer. 

Minus: The setup is lacking - tables are close and there is no privacy, so you get to hear everything your neighbors are talking about. 

Al's Cafe is another restaurant in downtown. It's at this point I stop and reflect - having grown up in Delaware, I am used to eating out once in a while. The choices were always Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Macaroni Grill, or drive to Pennsylvania. I'm not saying Delawareans aren't creative. Just that, if they are, they probably left a few years ago. Whenever we ate out, we expected to wait 30-45 minutes for a table to open up, since every one else was eating out too (again, we're not creative). Fast forward to living in Elgin - all of a sudden,  I have real, unique choices of restaurants. What a blessing! I know there are millions of people who will wait, and not get to eat tonight. What's more, for some reason Elgin is not overcrowded with diners every day - I have never had to wait for a table in my nearly two years here.

So, back to Al's - it's more American food. I think you're getting a hint at my eating preferences.  
Plus: The best milkshakes around. Period.  
Minus: The restaurant is very small. When it warms up, there are tables outside, though.

Toom Toom Thai: This was a different Thai restaurant in downtown Elgin, before the building was renovated and painted deep red. It's a husband and wife combo, with the Mrs. cooking all the food and the Mr. somewhere in the back crunching numbers or doing something hopefully productive. I'm still not the most adventurous eater, but they offer something for everyone regardless of where they are on the exotic food scale.  
Plus: Chicken fried rice for my limited palate.  

Minus: Ignoring the fact that they really only have Thai food, which is understandable, there's no downside to this restaurant.

White Pearl: Another family-owned restaurant, White Pearl is authentic Chinese food on the west side. The sticky rice comes in wicker baskets, and a big screen TV plays CNN so you can watch "the news" while you eat! Plus: Fortune cookies after every meal Minus: Sometimes the fortune is missing.

In The Neighborhood is last on my list. This place really is in the neighborhood. It's only two blocks from our house, and that makes me love them that much more. They serve soup and salad, but what you really want is one of their original sandwiches. Reubens, turkey clubs, and swiss and roast beef are my favorites, but their menu is full of ideas. You can even make your own! Without a doubt, this is my favorite place to eat. Convenient, cheap, and delicious is the perfect trifecta of awesomeness!  
Plus: They cut prices, so now a sandwich, bag of chips, and a drink is only $6.
Minus: As a volunteer without a real job, I could accidentally eat here too much and go broke.


In trying to stay fit and active, I started biking last year. Very quickly, I learned how not to get crushed by cars.

Mainly, even with reflectors and bright colors, you'd better assume you're invisible on your bike when in Elgin. If someone does notice you, forget about it immediately afterwards - it is the exception, not the rule.

Of course, always ride with traffic. Do not emulate the guy on Dundee who plays chicken with oncoming cars.

The best advice I can give on riding your bike is: stick to the trail. There is a bike trail along the Fox River that runs from Aurora to Algonquin - almost 40 miles. You can cross into Wisconsin and continue on their Fox River Trail.Except for a few minor road crossings, you don't need to worry about cars. There will always be the tough pro cyclists in training, who will make you feel scrawny and inadequate, but you can joke about their shorts and be on your way.

Lastly, wear a helmet. A full head of hair does not count. Listen to your mother!


I have only a couple of minor tips on the culture in Elgin. FAQs, if you will, of living in this northern Illinois town/suburb. I've mentioned this to a few people, as my working theory of existence in the midwest. I believe, whole-heartedly, that midwesterners are the nicest bunch in the USA. Coming from the hustle and bustle of the East Coast, I usually try not to make eye contact or acknowledge others in public - that's how we do it. Don't you dare recognize me in the grocery store! You aren't there!

Living in the south, folks seemed much nicer.  The famous Southern Comfort Hospitality. But it seemed like a sugar coating. Deep down, after getting formalities out of the way, people would talk behind other's backs and gripe just like us northerners. Sure, everyone said hi, and asked how I was doing, but it seems forced - like a requirement of being southern.  (for more, talk to a southerner. Or read the wikipedia article).

In the midwest, you see a mix of all sorts - Chicagoans will speedwalk right past you without blinking. Last week, the city sent a plumber in to install a new water meter - rather than ask where it was and get to work, we started talking, and I could have actually tried to befriend him if I wasn't in my pajamas. So, if you live in the Midwest, be prepared to be confused, I guess. You can't tell by looking at someone if they're open to talking in the grocery store, but you can try.


Everyone who's aware of it uses the library. Rich and poor coexist, however briefly, to enjoy a common pool of reading and viewing material - Ayn Rand is rolling in her grave.

Kids get the day off of school for Casimir Pulaski Day. I can only assume he's the guy who invented the chili dog.

If you're looking for date ideas, according to this site, you need to leave. Chicago is nice!

When driving, always pay attention - your lane might vanish at any point. This could be bad if there is a car next to you. Sure, the giant white van you drive will win any fight.

Your organically-grown Midwestern friend,