Posts by April M. Williams

Posts by April M. Williams, speaker, author and coach

Big Bowl Restaurant in Schaumburg Hosts Summer Roll Class

Big Bowl in Schaumburg treated their best customers to a summer rolls making class. When we eat lunch at Big Bowl, we always order these appetizers. Big Bowl Executive Chef Marc Bernard taught the session, assisted by Schaumburg Big Bowl Executive Chef Eddie Gomez.

We sat in tables of four with prepared fresh vegetables in front of us. Marc described the seasonal ingredients Big Bowl uses and their mission to serve local, organic and eco-friendly foods when possible. Marc highlighted the vegetable choice for make your own stir fry meals and noted where each of these items came from.

Big Bowl Executive Chef Marc Bernard highlights local, organic and eco friendly produce

Big Bowl Executive Chef Marc Bernard highlights local, organic and eco-friendly produce

Big Bowl sources produce from four local farms and many of which use organic methods. Marc recently bought a five acre farm that he and his partner work. Some of the vegetables Big Bowl serves are grown at the farm. Big Bowl Schaumburg General Manager Sean Schorp told me the staff at Big Bowl leased a two acre farm and they work the land themselves for more local produce. “We are growing garlic, cilantro and other foods for our restaurant. The only time it is hard to get amazing fresh produce is the dead of winter,” he continued. “Some farms are installing hot houses.”

Big Bowl Schaumburg sources produce from local farms

Big Bowl Schaumburg sources produce from local farms

Marc described each summer roll ingredient beginning with the package of hard rice paper or spring roll skins. We also had seasoned noodles, pickled vegetables, carrots, bean sprouts, red bell peppers, seasonal lettuce and chopped peanuts at our tables. Marc combined flat rice noodles with sesame seed oil, peanut oil, lime juice and fresh herbs. We saw how salting the vegetables and letting them sit draws out water and condenses flavors.

Marc dipped the rice paper skins, a hard plastic like disk which softens up when dipped in water, and stretched the sheet out on the workspace. He layered the fresh produce in the center and demonstrated the rolling technique. He pulled the rice skin tightly over the food while compressing the rest of the roll.

Big Bowl Executive Chef Marc Bernard demonstrates summer roll making

Big Bowl Executive Chef Marc Bernard demonstrates summer roll making

Then it was our turn to make Big Bowl’s famous summer rolls. Each of us started with a rice paper skin and filled the sheet with noodles and veggies of our choice. We rolled the rice paper over the colorful mix with varying degrees of success.

Big Bowl Executive Chef Marc Bernard offers tips to Noel F. Williams

Big Bowl Executive Chef Marc Bernard offers tips to Noel F. Williams

At the end our class, Big Bowl treated us to their tasty summer rolls prepared by Big Bowl’s chefs and served with a variety of tasty homemade sauces. Big Bowl Schaumburg is part of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises with 31 restaurant concepts.

Big Bowl on Urbanspoon

Big Bowl Asian Kitchen on Foodio54

Hydrobikes for Exercise or Fishing on Crystal Lake

Hydrobike in Crystal Lake? My friend Paul Myers offered to take me out for a hydrobike waterbike ride on Crystal Lake. Paul assured me the bikes were safe, steady and unlikely to tip. We left the pier on the water bikes with Paul’s dog as our mascot. Paul assured me I would not get wet though, as a precaution, I wore a life vest and I left my cell phone in the car.

A hydrobike looks like a conventional bicycle attached a small platform straddling two pontoons. Riders peddle to turn the propeller and drive the impulsion system. There are no engines and the morning was nearly silent so we could easily talk as we water biked around smooth as glass Crystal Lake.

Hydrobiking on Crystal Lake

Paul and his family live on Crystal Lake and enjoy regular family hydrobike outings. Paul’s puppy jumps right on the platform for these trips. Paul likes to take the hydrobike out for exercise early in the mornings. I quickly felt ease on the water bike and the only concern was when I wandered into a shallow, weedy area. A few seconds of back peddling was all it took to dislodge the thick water plants which had wrapped themselves around the propeller.

Paul Myers and his dog take the hydrobike out on Crystal Lake

Ray Buresch invented hydrobikes, the pedal powered waterbike, in 1989. He then founded Fun Watercraft. Paul told me he can easily waterbike about five miles an hour. The hydrobikes can easily be ridden in even the windiest and waviest conditions and they are almost impossible to tip over according to Fun Watercraft. You can even fish with a baitcasting reel from your hydrobike, something I didn’t have the chance to do the first time I saw this at Constitution Sportfishing San Diego. To learn more about these fun waterbikes, follow Hydrobikes on Facebook.

Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House in Algonquin Now Open

The Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House on Route 31/Main Street in the Fox River Center mall in Algonquin is now open for breakfast and lunch. The diner is bright and cheery even on the grey morning we visited. Decorated in a warm toasty fawn color, the newly remodeled restaurant includes high-end ceramic floor tile with marble counters and matching window sills.

A warm muffin right out of the oven started our meal. Plenty of choices on the menu! The extensive breakfast menu includes skillets, omelettes, frittatas, eggs Benedict and more. Three full plates brought my husband’s steak and eggs meal; it was so big.

Steak and Eggs at The Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House

Steak and Eggs at The Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House

My potato pancakes were delicious. Rainbow Restaurant makes them from scratch every day using fresh ingredients. The pancakes are never frozen or prepackaged. This is the case with all the foods at Rainbow Restaurant.

Potato Pancakes at The Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House

Potato Pancakes at The Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House

John warmly greeted us at the door and seated us promptly. Our server, Jan, was attentive and friendly. Staff topped off our coffee and water glasses regularly while swiftly clearing empty plates.

After breakfast, I spoke with owner Nick Dimitrelis. This is his second Rainbow Restaurant; the first opened in Elmhurst 30 years ago. His friendliness and passion for serving high quality and quantities of food came through. His goal for Rainbow Restaurant is to serve more than just pancake house fare. Every day the Rainbow Restaurant will feature specials starting at 11 AM such as stuffed peppers, meatloaf, BBQ spare ribs, lamb shanks, and baked Greek chicken. Each day the chefs cook two homemade soups from scratch.

Two chefs, one helper and a large staff keep the Rainbow Restaurant humming. I counted at least seven servers while we were there. Service was extremely friendly and attentive to our needs.

Owner Nick Dimitrelis and server Jan at Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House

Owner Nick Dimitrelis and server Jan at Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House

As a vegetarian, I asked about vegetarian options. Nick said at least two vegetarian dishes are on the menu and they are happy to customize orders to meet guest’s wishes.

Krisztina and John welcome guests at Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House

Krisztina and John welcome guests at Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House

Carry out service is available. Currently, Rainbow Restaurant is open for early breakfast through mid afternoon. The shopping center has plenty of parking stalls.
Rainbow Restaurant and Pancake House on Urbanspoon

Hawaii Geek Meet V Magic Island Honolulu Hawaii

Hawaii Geek Meet V at Magic Island in Honolulu, Hawaii was a blast. Geeks from around the Honolulu area came together for a beautiful day at Ala Moana Beach Park. Most of the attendees are affiliated with a group some might consider different or unusual. For us, we felt right at home. All we heard was “e komo mai.” Thanks for the warm welcome.

We met current and new friends from Bytemarks, Costumers Guild of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy, Pacific Outpost of the 501st Legion and Emergency Amateur Radio Club. One of the hams set up a HF radio and antenna right in the park up using a tree to boost his signal strenght. He chatted with other hams from around the world.

An ono buffet flowed across several picnic tables including new the malasadas from Zippy‘s, healthier fresh fruit and everything in between was enough to tempt anyone’s taste buds.

Ono Food at Hawaii Geek Fest

Large telescopes were trained on the the sun and we viewed sunspots or darker looking patches. Filters allowed viewing the sun without damaging our vision.

Various mock battles erupted throughout the day as Ghostbusters took on Darth Vadar and his crew. Gladiators and Stormtroopers reeked havoc as they roamed the land. The Pacific Outpost 501st Legion are a costuming group dedicated to the awesome bad guys of Star Wars.

Hawaii Ghostbusters

One of the members explained that Ghostbusters clubs from each state have their own patch. Above is the patch from the Hawaii Ghostbusters club.

All in all, a day of fun on the beach.

Pacific Outpost 501st Legion

Pacific Outpost 501st Legion are a costuming group dedicated to the awesome bad guys of Star Wars.


Hyper-Travel: 100 Countries in 2 years by Hardie Karges

I just finished reading Hyper-Travel: 100 Countries in 2 years – A backpackers Guide to the World and Soul by Hardie Karges. Reading this book is like a fast forwarding through a movie. Karges’ travel schedule is busier than airline employees. He travels through countries faster than some people change their clothes.

One of my favorite quotes: “Hyper-travel is the counting of your trip in countries, not days, weeks or months.”

This is a long book. My ecopy is over 200 pages, 8.5 x 11 size pages. The tale covers travel through 100 countries around the world. Karges groups his travel by area of the world then sets a plan to enter each country.

What I most liked about the book is Karge description of the flavor of the cities and types of food available. I am interested in the dining choices and types of dishes served in different parts of the world. I maintain a nearly vegan diet and ordering food when I cannot speak the local language concerns me. Karges eats a semi vegetarian diet including chicken and other foods not on my menu. He does make an effort to try local dishes everywhere he stays.

This is a budget travel adventure and dining is on the cheap. For me, these are the best places to get a real flavor for a region. Other challenges included finding low cost accommodations preferably with internet access. For those traveling abroad, be aware that internet service in most of the world is not as ubiquitous as it is in the United States.

Karges often talks about his wife Tang, an American of Thai descent. As a single traveler, he talks about being on his his own, away from his wife and his stressed marriage. Most of his lodging came with TVs and the book often includes comments on local television shows.

I admire Karges vast knowledge of each countries Visa or other entry requirements. Understanding the rules for 100 country, particularly with political changes was quite a feat. Also understanding with cash greases the political wheels is crucial.

Here is an example of the amount of ground covered in one of Karges’ trips. “East Mediterranean early 2009: February 16, 2009–April 16, 2009. This trip covers travel in the countries of Italy, Tunisia, Malta, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and France in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Each visit to a city includes an overview of the area and Karges perspective on the local culture. Scenic vistas, interesting foods and citizens are described. Here is a sample from “Tale Of Two Beaches: Cannes & Rimini”.

“Coming to France from Italy is definitely another dimension. The language becomes soft and swirly instead of hard and crispy. So does the food. The pizze and panini (that’s plural, Homeboy; trust me) become crepes and quiche. It’s raining when I first arrive, but the sun comes out almost immediately in some sort of sympathetic magic. The Africans here are selling sunglasses, not umbrellas. I think they’re all from the same hometown (the Africans not the umbrellas).”

Hyper-Travel: 100 Countries in 2 years by Hardie Karges is an adventure book for both who travel frequently and those who prefer to stay at home. Soak up the flavor of over 100 counties and fill you thirst for adventure.

Hardie Karges author Hypertravel: 100 Countries in Two Years

Queen’s Surf Cafe & Lanai Waikiki Ocean Views and Good Food

Queen’s Surf Cafe & Lanai in Waikiki offers spectacular ocean views and good food. Prices are reasonable at around $10 for most entrees. Outdoor seating offers an unobstructed view of the Pacific and incredible sunsets. Cheerful flowers spill out of colorful pots around the large lanai. Comfortable seating choices include picnic tables with bright red umbrellas outside or covered seating inside the gazebo.

The new owners transformed a run down beach concession stand which had been long vacant. The Queen’s Surf Cafe & Lanai is a gem and favorite with the locals. The crowds are there Friday and Saturday nights for live music and food on the grill.

Chili Frank Plate Lunch at Queen's Surf Cafe and Lanai

Chili Frank Plate Lunch at Queen's Surf Cafe and Lanai

Food is served on square wooden plates with an orchid. Pineapple garnishes, herbs and sauces are artfully arranged for picture perfect presentation.

Menu items include plate lunches and dinners, salads, soups and vegetarian items. Thursday nights feature made to order pastas on the lanai and live music. Friday and Saturday the grill is open, live music and fireworks. Queen’s Surf Cafe & Lanai is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Ocean views at Queen's Surf and Lanai in Waikiki

Ocean views at Queen's Surf and Lanai in Waikiki

Queen's Surf Cafe & Lanai on Urbanspoon

Magnetic Blokhaus Decorate Your Walls With Pictures

BlogCatalog Magnetic Blokhaus and artist Marg Rehnberg creates unique blocks to decorate your house. These pictures stick to any magnetic surface including walls. I recently visited Marg’s Magnetic Art gallery to see what these blocks looked like. Marg created an art gallery to display her blocks and provide decorating ideas.

I learned magnetic paint is available to turn any wall into a magnetic surface. The paint goes on like any other type of paint and dries to a deep charcoal color. Leave your walls as they are or cover with a color of paint that matches your decor.

Magnetic Blok Haus

Artists Anna M. Sourile, Elizabeth and Marg Rehnberg at Magnetic Blok Haus

Once the paint is dry, create your own art by arranging the magnetic blocks as desired. The blocks can be rearranged at anytime. Blocks come in solid colors, prints or even with your photos imprinted.

Follow Magnetic Blok House on Facebook.

Actor and Director Christopher Knight - yes Peter Brady at Magnetic Blok House

Actor and Director Christopher Knight – yes Peter Brady at Magnetic Blok House. Photo Credit: Anna M. Sourile

Animal House Shelter Huntley 2nd Annual Dash for the Dogs

Join Animal House Shelter for the 2nd annual Dash for the Dogs on June 9, 2012 at Citizens Park, Barrington, Illinois. Registration begins at 6AM and 5K run/walk starts at 8AM. Preregistration $25. Day of race fee $30.

Dash for the Dogs sponsors are still needed. See the Dash for the Dogs 2012 RunWalk Sponsorship Packet for details on how you can help out.

Animal House Shelter is active on many social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

Ester at Animal House Shelter awaits her forever home

Animal House Shelter is a no kill shelter in Huntley, Illinois. Lesley lrwin, President  of Animal. founded the shelter in June  2002. Animal  House Shelter is open daily from ll am to 7 pm, even on holidays. 98% of their dogs and cats are rescued from high “kill” shelters, pounds  and animal control  facilities in which they are usually  listed as strays, and almost always  scheduled to be euthanized. We rescue these abused and neglected  animals and rehabilitate  then mentally  and physically  in order to place them with the. best new family.

Mission Hope Chicago and Cubejumpers IT join forces at Crystal Lake Chamber

Mission Hope Chicago and Cubejumpers IT combined forces this past weekend for the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce EXPO 2012. The two organizations teamed up to raise funds towards sending care-packages overseas to US Troops.

“Our goal is to raise $500 for Mission Hope Chicago this weekend” said Steve Smith of Cubejumpers prior to event. “We appreciate everything they have been doing for our soldiers and want to further their cause.”

Cubejumpers Support Our Troops 6th Branch Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce EXPO 2012

Cubejumpers: Doug, Chris, Steve. Photo credit: Ben Thompson.

Steve with his EXPO team Doug and Chris, exceeded their goal raising $654 during the two-day event. Cubejumpers also provided laptop health checks to all donors giving more than $20 to MHC.

6th Branch Support The Troops Crystal Lake Chamber of COmmerce EXPO 2012

Photo credit: Ben Thompson.

6th Branch Soldiers served popcorn during the event, handing out over 1,000 cups of fresh popped kettle corn to very excited, and hungry attendees. Rental Max of Lake Zurich graciously donated the popcorn machine for the weekend, drawing hundreds to the Support The Troops booth.

6th Branch, Mission Hope Chicago and Cubejumpers IT raise funds towards sending care-packages overseas to US Troops.

Chris, Steve, Doug of Cubejumpers IT and Ben Thompson 6th Branch / Mission Hope Chicago raise funds towards sending care-packages overseas to US Troops.

The EXPO committee and the CL Chamber really did a great job with this event, they always go beyond the call of duty for their members providing nothing short of excellence. 6th Branch is looking forward to Community Cleanup Day on April 21st, which is sure to be another First Class event hosted by CL Chamber, co-sponsored by 6th Branch and many other great local businesses. Mark your calendars!

6th Branch extends a special thank you to everyone who attended and participated in the 2012 EXPO and especially to those who contributed, have contributed, and continue to serve our military heroes. They pray for every man, woman, husband, wife, father, mother, son, and daughter to come home safely and quickly…In the meantime, they continue to send love and support to those who risk it all in the name of FREEDOM. We cannot afford to take it for granted, Freedom is NOT Free.

Author Matt Brauer with His Hero Bob Newhart

Comedian and author Bob Newhart is Matt Brauer’s hero. Bob Newhart grew up in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, near Oak Park, in a working class family. His early career included pin spotter at a local bowling alley, law clerk and accountant before Bob’s comedy routines were picked up by local radio stations. The rest is history.

During our Algonquin Area Writers Group holiday book swap, I received a copy of Bob’s book I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!: And Other Things That Strike Me as Funny from Matt Brauer. With the book came the story of why Bob Newhart was Matt’s hero.

Through some wheeling and dealing with Bob Newhart’s crew, I arranged to get an autographed picture of Bob for Matt. He was thrilled to receive this gift. Thanks Bob!

Authors Matt Brauer and April M. Williams with a authographed picture of Bob Newhart

Authors Matt Brauer and April M. Williams with a autographed picture of Bob Newhart

All you Bob Newhart fans can keep up with him by following Bob on Facebook and Twitter.

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