I finally launched our new Birdorable website today. It was a lot of work but I am happy with the result. We currently have 581 different bird species and 1504 designs on 87,396 products. Go check it out at www.birdorable.com and let me know what you think.
2014 has been a great year. We got many things done around the house, did lots of fun stuff here in Florida, experienced our first cruise across the Atlantic and had an amazing time in Spain and Holland. Here are some pictures of our year, mostly for myself because I love looking back at these year-in-review posts of previous years.
That’s it. Happy New Year!
As I write this there are only a few hours left in the year. It has been a great year! We did a lot of fun things around the Chicago area and traveled to Holland in August to visit my family. Here are some pictures of our year, mostly for myself because I love looking back at these year-in-review posts of previous years, and it’s nice to go through our pictures again. Happy new year to everyone!
10 February: We had a lot of snow last winter, but it was fun shoveling the driveway each time, and good exercise too!
18 February: This day we took the train to Chicago and visited the Shedd Aquarium to see some nice fishes and the Art Institute to see some nice art.
20 February: Every year in February the Illinois Ornithological Society organizes a Gull Frolic at Winthrop Harbor. That’s me on the right in my thick winter coat. We’ll go there again in two months
to freeze our butts off to look at gulls and attend education seminars.
23 February: From January 5th through March 30th Amy did a raptor internship with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, which she really enjoyed. Here she is holding Darwin, an American Kestrel education bird, at her first solo walk with a bird.
10 March: Here we’re on a walk at Grant Woods Forest Preserve, one of two county forest preserves near our house. I biked to Grant Woods many times this year, which was really great. I’m looking forward to taking my bike out there again when the winter is over.
25 March: For a total of 19 times in the spring and fall this year we went downtown to volunteer for Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation’s Migration Rescue & Recovery. Each morning during the spring and fall migration period, volunteers look for injured fallen birds who have struck the tall buildings in downtown Chicago. Birds rescued by FCWR volunteers are treated at the Northerly Island bird hospital. Salvages are brought to the Field Museum.
16 April: This day we saw Jerry Seinfeld at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.
14 May: In May we went to the Biggest Week In American Birding in Ohio. We saw lots of colorful warblers at Magee Marsh and had a great time. One of the highlights was this rare sighting of a Kirtland’s Warbler.
17 June: Amy’s parents took us to Wrigley Field for two Chicago Cubs baseball games.
17 July: On one of the hottest days of the year we went to Taste of Chicago.
17 July: In July and August Michael Bay was filming Transformers 3 in Chicago. We went downtown twice to look at the action and see some stars.
9 August: This is a view from our house. The summer of 2010 was, weather-wise, the nicest summer I’ve ever experienced. So much sun, blue skies and nice temperatures! 😀
11 August: From 11 August until 1 September we visited our family in the Netherlands and did lots of fun stuff.
18 August: We visited the Papegaaienpark (parrot park) in Veldhoven, a sort of parrot, bird and animal rescue center and sanctuary near Eindhoven. The park took in its first birds in 1987 and is run by the Dutch Foundation for the Refuge and Care of Parrots.
21 August: At Biesbosch National Park in the Netherlands we rented kayaks with my family. A highlight was seeing a European Kingfisher fly low over the water around our kayak. This year we got kayaks for Christmas (thank you Santa!), so I hope to be doing this a lot more in 2011!
23 August: We took the train to Amsterdam for a day and did a canal tour.
28 August: This day we went to Antwerp and checked out the renewed train station pictured here.
30 August: Toward the end of our vacation in Holland we went to De Efteling amusement park. Here my brother Patrick and I are getting wet in the Piraña river rafting ride.
12 September: We did a lot of walking and birding at forest preserves around our area. This is Independence Grove, a Lake County Forest Preserve.
19 September: This day we drove to our nearest drive-in theater and saw The Goonies and Back to the Future on a big screen from our car.
9 October: In October we drove up to the north of Wisconsin for an Evenstad family reunion. We stayed at the idyllic town of Bayfield. Here we are on a ferry to Madeleine Island with a view of the beautiful fall foliage.
16 October: At the annual open day of the Illinois Beach State Park Hawk Watch Flint Creek was there with education birds and Amy volunteered. Here she’s holding a Red-tailed Hawk named 0511.
16 October: That same evening we drove to Durand IL to attend Saw-whet Owl Banding at Sand Bluff Bird Observatory. Saw-whet Owls are my favorite bird and it was great to see them catch, band and release three of the owls.
30 October: Flint Creek had an education program at the Wild Bird Center in Fox River Grove.
31 October: We got up early this morning to drive 2 hours west before sunrise to try and see the Whooping Cranes that flew south with Operation Migration. We were extremely lucky and saw 10 of the rare birds fly right over us following the ultralight aircraft.
9 November: This day we drove to Indiana with Amy’s parents to watch Sandhill Cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area, where they get together in the thousands! On the way we visited the Monon Train Museum.
13 November: This night we attended an Owl Prowl at Ryerson Woods in Lake County and saw our first Illinois Barred Owl, which is Amy’s favorite bird. The picture above is that of Meepy, a Barred Owl in FCWR’s education program.
20 November: This day Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation released a rehabilitated Great Horned Owl at a public event in Winnetka. Amy handled Justice, a Great Horned Owl in Flint Creek’s education program.
12 December: Our front door decorated with Christmas lights.
I registered the domain wolfstad.com just over 10 years ago and this blog has been around for about half that time. I haven’t been writing here as much as I used to, but it’s fun to look back at old posts and see what we’ve done over the years. I was just looking at Google Analytics and checked the most popular blog posts over the last 5 years. Here are 10 posts with the most pageviews:
- Hidden security tags in Old Navy jeans (01/2006)
- Quechua’s toss-and-go “Seconds” tents (07/2006)
- Top 10 budget things to do in Chicago (01/2006)
- The Rat Temple of Rajasthan (04/2006)
- Did you know there is beef in Pop-Tarts, M&M’s and Mentos? (09/2006)
- Top 10 things to do in Tunisia (02/2006)
- Brilliant bar concept at Footsie in Paris (10/2005)
- 10 Chicago Firsts: Famous Inventions (01/2009)
- Top 10 things to do in South Florida and the Keys (12/2006)
- Woodstock, set of Groundhog Day (12/2005)
The year is almost to an end. 2009 was my first full year as an American resident, after moving here from the Netherlands in September 2008. Here is a list of my personal favorites of the year 2009:
Best Experience: Space Shuttle Launch (16 November 2009)
We drove to Florida twice this year to try and see a Shuttle launch. We first tried in June for the STS-127 launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour. We spent a week in a hotel on the Space Coast but bad weather and a leaking fuel tank made NASA scrub the launch. We got tickets for the causeway again for STS-127 and finally saw the lift-off of Space Shuttle Atlantis on 16 November. It was spectacular.
Best Movie: Star Trek
I haven’t seen Avatar yet, so my opinion on this can still change before the end of this year, but for now J.J. Abrams’ new incarnation of Star Trek was my favorite film of the year. The actors were great, the story was awesome, the special effects were amazing! I am looking forward to seeing more of these. Runner-up: Up!
Best Bird Sighting: Barred Owl (19 November 2009)
When driving back from Florida in November we stopped at a small nature reserve in North Carolina called Great Swamp Sanctuary. We saw lots of Pileated Woodpeckers, heard our lifer Carolina Chickadee and the best bird of the day (or year!) was a Barred Owl that flew across the path right in front of us and landed in a nearby tree.
Best Waterfall: Niagara Falls (29 April 2009)
In April, when my parents came to America to visit us, we took a roadtrip to the Niagara Falls for a few days. We drove from our home in Illinois through Indiana, Michigan and Ontario and spent the night on the Canadian side of the falls. The next morning we all got soaking wet on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. We had a wonderful time and were very impressed with the magnificent falls.
Best Pizza: Flippers Pizzeria
I’m not a big fan of the thick American-style pizza that is served in 99% of pizza places here. The best pizza I ever had was the pizza napoletana in Naples. These thin pizzas made in brick ovens are simply delicious. The closest to the style and taste of this pizza that we have found in this country so far is at Flippers Pizzeria in the Orlando area.
Best Kick-in-the-pants: CafePress Announcement
We own a few webshops where we sell our designs on print-on-demand t-shirts and gifts. At the beginning of this year we were mostly using CafePress and business was going well. In April, CafePress suddenly announced some major changes that hurt thousands of shopkeepers, including us. We lost a lot of money from this awful announcement, but it was a great kick-in-the-pants to start moving our designs to other (better) PODs, like Zazzle.
Best Book Signing: Buzz Aldrin (22 July 2009)
On July 22nd we went to An Evening with Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell organized by the Adler Planetarium and afterward Buzz signed my copy of his book Magnificent Desolation. Runner-up: At the the Midwest Birding Sympsium in Ohio we had The Sibley Guide to Trees signed by David Sibley, author of North America’s best bird guide.
Best New TV Show: Modern Family + The Middle (tie)
There are a few new TV shows this fall that we are watching, including FlashForward and V, but every week I look most forward to ABC’s Comedy Wednesday with two of my favorite new shows: The Middle and Modern Family. Though not as good as, say, Seinfeld or Arrested Development, these are two excellent sitcoms.
Best Newly Visited Museum: Harley Davidson Museum (16 April 2009)
In April we drove to Milwaukee to visit the Harley Davidson Museum. The purpose of our visit was mainly to see the Indiana Jones exhibit, but we were surprised at how much we enjoyed the museum, considering we are not motorcycle enthusiasts. The museum has a huge collection of motorcycles and other Harley-Davidson memorabilia, and the history of the company is extremely well laid out in beautiful displays.
Best Holiday: Groundhog Day in Woodstock (2 February 2009)
Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray is one of my favorite movies, and we now live just 30 minutes away from the town where the movie was filmed: Woodstock, Illinois. Every year around February 2nd this cute town organizes Groundhog Days, with special events. We had a tour of the filming locations led by the movie’s location manager and on the actual day we got up early to see Woodstock Willie predict six more weeks of winter.
Best Mammal Sighting: Black Bears (19 November 2009)
Driving back from Florida in November we had to make a detour through Smokey Mountains National Parks because of a rock-slide on the interstate. To our surprise we saw two American Black Bears close to the road. It was the first time we had seen bears in the wild.
Best New Sandwich: PB & Banana
When visiting a 50s Diner somewhere this year, I ordered their “Hunka Hunka Love” sandwich. It was the first time I had a grilled sandwich with peanut butter and banana, and I was sold! I have since made many of these at home and I love them. Peanut Butter, Banana and Bacon was apparently Elvis’ favorite sandwich, but I find it fine without the bacon.
Best Parade: St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago (14 March 2009)
On March 14th we went to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago and had a great time. The parade took about 3 hours and we burnt our faces in the bright sun as we stood there catching candy and free gifts thrown from the floats. About 400,000 people watched the parade, and I guess at least twice as many were in the parade. Seeing them greenify the Chicago River was very neat to see too.
Best New Lunch Place: Noodles & Company + Sweet Tomatoes (tie)
When we moved to the US I was afraid that we’d have to mostly have burgers and fries when on the road, but we’ve found a few really nice restaurant chains with some nice vegetarian options. Two of my favorite ones ares: Noodles & Company (love the Indonesian Peanut Sauté) and Sweet Tomatoes (delicious soups, salads and the corn bread is so yummy).
Best Soda: Pepsi Throwback
Most of the soft drinks made in this country use high-fructose corn syrup as the sweetener. I don’t like the syrupy taste of these American sodas and it makes me feel bad too. There are just a handful of alternative brands that use natural sugar, but they are hard to find around here. Pepsi has limited runs of Pepsi Throwback made with real sugar and I like this a lot. They just started another limited run this week and I stocked up for the next months.
Best New Computer Game: Tales of Monkey Island
The original Secret of Monkey Island (1990) is my favorite computer game of all time. I was really excited to learn earlier this year that a new adventure with Guybrush Threepwood was in the making: Tales of Monkey Island. I’ve been playing this game lately and I love it. It’s a great new Monkey Island adventure.
The last two times we were in Orlando, we picked up these catnip toys. Arby and Alex both loved them so much.
We’d gotten them catnip toys in Holland but they were totally not interested – for them it was the American stuff or nothing.
Last week we spent an afternoon at Downtown Disney. We looked for the Good Kitty / Bad Kitty nip toys but could only find these new ones.
We’re still unpacking from the trip and these were sitting in a bag downstairs. I noticed Arby rooting around in the bag – when I checked, I found the toys. We’d forgotten about them so Arby found them himself!
It’s still good stuff. Disney catnip is the best!
We woke up this morning to a new backyard bird: a Blue Jay! Finally we saw one of these beautiful birds at our home. I called it a few days ago when I wrote that we were overdue on a Blue Jay. Pretty cool:
This is my 300th post on this blog. To commemorate today’s milestone I thought it would be fun to have a look at the stats and see what our most visited posts have been over the years. These posts are all pretty old as they have had the most accumulative hits over the years:
- Hidden Security Tags in Old Navy Jeans
- The Rat Temple of Rajasthan
- Pirates of the Carribean 2: a rip-off of Monkey Island?
- Top 10 Things to do in Tunisia
- Quechuas Toss and Go Seconds Tents
- Pop Tarts with Beef Gelatin
- Top 10 Budget Things to do in Chicago
- Scuba in Europe’s Largest Swimming Pool
- Top 10 Things to do in South Florida and the Keys
- Driverless Robot Buses Crash
Over one year ago, at the beginning of 2008, I signed up for a web hosting package at UK2. I needed an SSL certificate which they offered with a special package, so I ordered that too. I had lots of issues with their service and the SSL never worked. After dozens of emails with the UK2 support desk I decided to get my money back and I canceled the service. I thought that that was it. Fast forward to this year. In January 2009 I suddenly received an invoice from UK2 of £54 for a website I never heard of, a co.uk real estate site. I sent UK2 an email about the mistake but never got a reply. Several days later the amount was taken off my credit card. I did a whois on the domain and found an address in London with my email address! Obviously UK2 had mixed up my details with another customer. More »
Today we signed the lease on our new place in Round Lake Beach. Round Lake Beach is a village in the north of Lake County IL with a population (in 2007) of 27,959 people. There are a lot of lakes around, so that part of the name makes sense, but I’m not sure yet what the ‘beach’ is all about. It sounds like a sunny place in Florida, but believe me it is very cold there right now. We found a nice new-ish house with a garage, 3 bedrooms and a large yard. We’re going to be pretty busy the next couple of weeks moving our stuff, buying more stuff and decorating our new home with all of the stuff.