Friday, December 30, 2005

Shopping is crazy

Thursday's first order of business was to go to Leicester Square to the half-price ticket booth, to see what was available for last night. We got tickets to Blood Brothers, which has been here for ... 20 years, but we'd never seen it.

Then Mom wanted to go to the Wallace Collection at Hertford House, which she had been to once before. To get there, we had to go through Oxford Street (the big shopping street). It's clear that the after-Xmas sales here are as good as the ones at home, if not better. Oxford Street was packed with people yesterday, just like Fifth Avenue in NYC around Xmas. (I took a picture of how crowded it was). Everyone we saw was carrying at least one shopping bag. We had a yummy lunch at a little mediterranean place behind Selfridge's, and then went to seek out the museum. Unfortunately, we didn't get there until 4 (after our great late lunch) so we only had an hour to run through and see everything. :( We'll have to go back -- something we've found to be true all over the place!

Then, since we had nothing better to do we went back to Selfridge's to shop a bit. Mom and I looked at gloves, we wandered through the designer clothes, and then found the shoe department. (please, are you surprised?!) We started looking at boots -- there are a LOT of boots here -- and found some neat ones from Nine West. Mom even tried on a pair of boots that I would attribute to Pocahontas... but we didn't buy anything.

We took the ridiculously crowded bus down Oxford street to Tottenham Court Road, and killed some time in Borders before the show. Dad bought a book of jokes for 1/2 price -- I guess he felt he needed to re-stock! (On the one hand, it's great that he'll have some new jokes. On the other hand... now he has more stupid jokes to tell!)

Very rarely have I ever thought about walking out of a production at the intermission (or 'interval' as it's called here). Let me tell you, I was seriously thinking about it. Blood Brothers is a VERY depressing play (it starts with both main characters dead!). My main point of judgement for a musical is, would I want to buy the soundtrack and listen to it again? and the answer for this one is, NO WAY! My final impression after it was over was "waah, waah, waah." I am shocked to read some of the great reviews of it. Maybe I'm jaded by Les Mis, the Producers, RENT and the like? I dunno. I just wasn't impressed.

So we might spend some time at the British Museum this afternoon (if we ever get out of the Internet cafe...) and then we're going to see Phantom. I am excited to finally see this show. I will recognize some of the music, and maybe I'll have to get the soundtrack? and/or see the movie version that came out last year. We'll see.

Did I mention that it was supposed to be warmer today? Well, fat chance. Today it's rainy and windy and 4 degrees C (39F). When people talk about typical London weather, this is it! Blech. We were going to go to Hampton Court Palace today, but since there's so much wide open space there, we decided that staying in town was probably smarter -- and warmer! Oh well, another thing I'll have to try to do on another trip. Hmmm... Maybe on Tues. after mom and dad have gone?

Don't know if I'll find a network connection tomorrow, so I hope everyone has a great New Year's - enjoy that extra second we all get at midnight tomorrow! Here comes 2006!!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Yes, we're tourists

Yesterday (Weds) we didn't have time to come to the Internet cafe, we were too busy being tourists. :)

First we went to the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, where they were showing the Royal collection of Canaletto's paintings of Venice. The Gallery also displays some of the Royal collections of other things - paintings, sculpture, furniture, jewels, etc. - and a wonderful gift shop (or 2!). When we stopped for lunch before the gallery, we met a family from Fairfax, VA! I swear I don't know how these things happen to us... But anyway, they are here for the week and my parents recommended some shows for them to see, and things to do.

After the Queen's Gallery, we went over to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. The Museum part has only been open since February. It's all dedicated to Churchill's life, although it's not in chronological order... it goes from 1940 through to his death (which I suppose are the important years, WWII and after), and then explains his upbringing, his time in the army, etc. It's a very well-done museum, with interactive exhibits, movies, and lots of artifacts. We were there for 2-1/2 hours, and we didn't get to see everything! They closed the museum around us.

It is SO COLD here. We bundled up and found a bus that would take us from Westminster to Hampstead, right through the city. Unfortunately, it didn't take us all the way up to Hampstead where we needed to be, but we found another bus that did. My mother has become an expert on the London bus system. We had dinner at the Argentine restaurant near our house, Gaucho Grill. It was very tasty! I'll have to study up on Argentine wines-- the one we ordered was good, but it was just one of about a hundred wines they served, and I hadn't heard of any of them. Mom ordered Chilean Sea Bass, but was surprised when out came a whole fish! (Who orders fish at a beef restaurant?) They came out with a meat tray to display the different sizes and cuts of beef, sort of like Morton's does. (and almost as expensive...) I ordered the pork loin. Dad's churrasco steak was probably the best (duh). We may be going back there for New Year's Eve. :)

Did I mention that it's freezing here? They're having the coldest winter they've had in the UK in ten years. At least I finally figured out how to turn the heat on in our bedroom. Mom was sleeping under two down comforters!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

the pounding of little hooves

Was awakened this morning (even with the earplugs in) to what I thought was the sound of heavy rain. They had predicted snow for London, but nobody really believed it. So I thought it was the sound of heavy rain... Anyway, mom jumped out of the bed (we are sharing the big bed becase 1) dad still can't sleep lying down, and 2) there aren't any sheets on the other beds, and we can't seem to find the linen closet!) and ran to the window (this is beginning to sound like the Xmas story...) and looked out and apparently there were two rows of horses being led down the cobblestone street in front of the house! We are still trying to figure out where they came from or where they were going... there aren't any riding academies in the neighborhood as far as we can tell.

Anyway. We went to a Boxing Day party yesterday, given by a friend of my Uncle's (a New Yorker, natch) who lives in the renovated warehouse apartments over by Tower Bridge. (Here's a pic of Dad and Betty) What an AWESOME place to live! Apparently the rent is like £2,000 a month! The party was a mix of her friends and neighbors.... (more ex-pat NY gay men than I think were gathered anywhere else in London! ha ha ha) It was fun. I am amazed I was able to stay awake -- I avoided the wine and drank Diet Coke instead -- I think that helped. We also lit Chanuka candles, she was happy to have someone to sing the blessings with. Here we are at Betty's ---->

This morning has already turned into 2:30 in the afternoon and we haven't done much yet. We are at the Milano Internet Cafe that mom & dad found near Earl's Court -- it's brand new, and serves lovely paninis and lattes and has a huge room full of computers upstairs... and as far as I can tell, using the Internet is free as long as you buy a coffee or something. No wonder they spent so much time here!! Unfortunately, it's a little chilly. I think we'll have to find something to do and get out of here soon.

It did in fact snow this morning. Didn't stick to much, and it's basically gone now, but it did snow. We saw it. :) Wish I had taken a picture, oops! At least today I remembered to bring my camera for London tourist photos.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Made it across the pond! (can I go to sleep now?)

So, here I am at an Internet cafe near Covent Garden in London. Cold, grey, everything-closed-for-Boxing-Day London. But, I'm here! My parents seem to have survived. The house we're in is a little bit out of the way (not right in the city like we're used to) but it's a VERY nice house. HUGE. Big marble bathrooms, three kids rooms (of course, the one I napped in had no heat, so I won't be sleeping there any more...) a large kitchen, gorgeous sun room, and a big backyard, complete with wooden deck and basketball hoop.

Thanks to my cold medicine and antibiotics and nasal spray, the sinuses didn't have any issues with the plane ride... but even with the cold medicine, I didn't sleep much either -- between the guy snoring on my left, kid crying on my right and kid puking behind him. That poor mom -the whole plane was virtually silent when the kid coughed it up... we all woke up super-fast after that. Fortunately, it was also 5:30am UK time, and time for breakfast service.

It's supposed to snow here later, that will be nice to see. I'm hoping it warms up later in the week, though!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Road Trip!

Today, we embark on a journey to another continent! (ok, there's no WE, it's just me.) I slept late today but now it's time to actually buckle down and pack before I have to leave for the airport in a few hours. I just hope the rain stops. Blech. And mom says it's gonna be super-duper cold in London this week. goody gumdrops.

Yesterday was Xmas Eve dinner at Kelly&Jeff's. I have been going to Xmas eve dinner there for at least the past 6 or 7 years. The group changes, but it's always around 10-12 people. And Kelly always makes lasagna - excellent, spicy, meaty lasagna. And after we're all stuffed to the gills, we trade Chanuka presents. Hannah loves opening presents, but with her cousin Eric there, she wanted his matchbox cars (and really cool 18-wheel trailer) more than her My Little Pony or Dora's Greenhouse. And she couldn't understand why we weren't opening ALL of the big wrapped presents under the tree (not really *under* the tree, since Kelly got a pretty small one this year).

The keychains that I got from the Container Store that hold a tiny picture in the mouth of the dog/cat/frog/duck were a big hit with little Hannah's face peeking out. (I got an extra one which I'm taking to London to give to my mom, with Samantha's pic in it.)

Kelly and I managed to do something that we have only done once in the past - we gave each other the same present! We both wanted (and got!) the DVD of the first season of the Muppet Show. :) hee hee Kelly also gave me the "super-mensch" battery operated chanuka menorah-man, that lights up one candle a day and sings each time. But he's not coming to London with me.... I'm not sure the customs guys would get it. ;)

So I hope y'all have a Happy Chanuka and Merry Xmas, and I'll be sure to blog some when I get to London!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Chrismukkah, or Merry Hannamas?

Bryan is enjoying the holiday traditions "down-undah", which apparently has him pondering whether he should convert (yeah, mom wouldn't have a cow about THAT!). I wonder if he even remembered to bring a menorah with him in his luggage? ;)

But really, how can you argue with Santa on a surfboard?!

Too funny.

I am aleady done with my holiday shopping (with one or two notable exceptions) and wrapping. I guess I shouldn't say 'already' since tomorrow is Xmas eve! The only thing I absolutely had to buy today was a bundt pan, because I am making chocolate-chip bundt cake for Kelly's xmas dinner tomorrow...

[Hee hee, every time I say the word "bundt" I think of the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the WASPy family brings a bundt cake to dinner at the Greek family's house, and Mama can't pronounce the word bundt. :) ]

I would have borrowed mom's bundt pan, but hers was ... just plain scary. I think it's at least 40 years old! Now, I'm all for traditions and handing things down from generation to generation, but this bundt pan has clearly seen better days -- back when my grandma was using it! So, I bought a lovely pan from Williams Sonoma which I will now plan to pass on as a family heirloom. Actually, the one I wanted was the "American Star" bundt pan, but none of the local stores had it in stock, and it cost as much to have it shipped to me at the last minute as it did to buy it -- and it's on sale! So I might get one later, but for now I have a plain ordinary pan, which will do quite nicely.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Carbon Leaf is Cool! :)

Dani and I spent a few hours last night at the venerable 9:30 club (only my second trip there, but her third in a year) to see the Carbon Leaf "Winter acoustics" tour. I [heart] Carbon Leaf. They're so cool. I saw them on a morning show in the airport when I was on my way out of Birmingham, AL last summer, and I've been hooked on them ever since! :)

This was the only show I've heard of where they put chairs down at 9:30... they generally make you stand up for the concert(s). So it was very intimate with us all sitting there, more like a VH1 Storytellers or something.

The first five songs were brand new - they were mostly about the band's trips back and forth across the US while touring for the past two years. They were... interesting. There was a very country-western-y song (that made some of us want to go Yeee-ha!), a song about Native Americans (which was very good) and a nice love song called "unknown bride." Here's hoping they put these on an album in the near future.

Then they played most of the songs off Indian Summer, so we all sang along. And towards the end, we were treated with some Xmas carols (Greensleeves, and a nice 4-part harmony about... death.) I could have done without the Jesus-pushing, but I survived. The drunk birthday boy in the white shirt was much more annoying. I should have thrown my water bottle at his head!

The almost-last song was called "The War was in Color" - about soldiers in WWII. It was a good song, but it was sort of a buzz-kill. But all in all, a great night. I'd like to see them in a regular concert setting, playing more of the other songs I know.

I can't say whether this concert was better than Melyssa-with-a-Y: Depeche Mode!'>Depeche Mode last week, they were ... different. Both were tons of fun. :)

Friday, December 16, 2005

More tv-related blogging, very sad

I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face.

John Spencer, who has played Leo McGarry on West Wing for seven years, died of a heart attack. (Which is rather ironic, because his character had to retire from being the Chief of Staff because he had a heart attack on the show!) ... He was 58.

I have been so involved with "WW" since the beginning, I feel like they're my family. and I loved John Spencer all the way back to 'L.A. Law.' I don't know what they're going to do for the rest of this season - his character was running for Vice President with Jimmy Smits' Matt Santos for President. I even have "Santos-McGarry" buttons! (no surprise there, I know)

Sad, sad, sad. I watch the "in memory" segments on the Oscars and the Emmys every year, and some years I really bawl and some years it doesn't affect me that much. I often wonder what will happen when the stars of today pass on, like Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, John Travolta, or Pierce Brosnan. And now I know -- I am such a sap! :(

Random TV guest stars

Ok, so in the list of oddball things to blog, this is probably the oddest so far. (Yes, I'm home on a Friday night...)

I'm watching Numb3rs on CBS. They're doing an experiment in a lab to learn about arson. The "scientist" (guest star) who is helping with the experiment is ... Bill Nye the Science Guy! I wonder how many other people know who he is. Bryan and I went to a presentation that he did in the IMAX theater at the Air & Space Museum a long time ago, and I also saw him on Capitol Hill at CNSF's "Hill Day" once.

So, no, this was not a brush with a famous person, but he did used to -- wait, he still does! -- have a fun show on PBS that tries to get kids interested in science (which we really need in this country!). See, he even has a website!

ok, back to your regularly scheduled lives....

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Family update

In case you're wondering, the kid emails me multiple times a day. He's trying to get a job (or two) -- one with a computer company, and maybe also a gig as a tennis coach. He can't be down there for the summer and not spend time outside, after all! He hasn't found his own place yet, but he's staying with friends of my mom's. He's also thinking of going to Surf Camp. heh. And he has a cell phone, but I haven't tried calling it yet. Here's a pic...

Dad's ok. Mom just told me that it turns out he cracked SIX ribs, not two, which is why he's been in so much pain. But he's healing pretty well, and taking the pain medication regularly, now that the doctor told him he HAS to take them whether he likes it or not, because otherwise he won't heal.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Depeche Mode!

Sometimes I forget to blog the best stuff!!

Friday night, Gigi, Shelley, Valerie and I went to see The Bravery and Depeche Mode out at the Patriot Center. Fortunately, the snow that was predicted didn't really appear... the ice was by far more dangerous. So the concert went on. (YAY!) The Bravery is a band from NYC with members who are from Bethesda and Falls Church, so they had a lot of local groupies up at the stage.

The Patriot Center is really small. We were about halfway back up on the left (looking out from the stage) but we still felt really close. It was packed, and the crowd was mostly our age or older (except for the Bravery fans).

Depeche played a lot of the new stuff (which I'm not really super-hot about... I actually like The Bravery's CD much better -- it sounds more like the old Depeche!) and then they moved into songs from Violator, which was THE Depeche album from my senior year in high school. (They posted the setlist so you can see for yourself - we got 2 encores, which was excellent.) David is still "heroin skinny" but apparently he's clean. He does that weird skinny-guy dance like Mick Jagger! It was funny. Martin is just ... weird. But that's not unusual.

Other than the freeeezing cold, and the long trek to the Patriot Center, it was an awesome evening. Next weekend's concert is my latest favorite band -- Carbon Leaf, at the 9:30 club. I can't wait! Dani is going with me - she's gotten as addicted to them as I have now. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

USC has another Heisman Trophy winner :)

Reggie Bush! Here he is jumping over one of the UCLA guys in the big win last weekend.

Here's the link to the Sports Illustrated article

Can't wait to see what Reggie is going to do to those Longhorns on January 4th! :D

Friday, December 09, 2005

Safe in Sydney

Got a voicemail from the kid on my cell phone, and an email, too. It seems he has arrived safely on the other side of the world. He didn't say anything about being upside-down, though. ;)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Baby Brother's Gone Away...

... to Australia!

Actually, he lands in about 20 minutes in Sydney... that'll be 9:15am on Friday morning, Australia time. They're on Daylight Savings, so they're 16 hours ahead. Weird, huh? He missed Thursday altogether. (I guess he didn't miss much.)

He was really nervous right before he left, but I think anybody would have jitters like that. He has some people to stay with, and has signed up with an organization called BUNAC that might be able to help him find a job... We'll know when he sends us an email (or calls, but that's expensive!) that he has arrived.

In the meantime, I hope he has a good time! It's already 90 degrees down there, while we're sitting here waiting for 3-6" of snow. Not fair.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

There's Always Drama in Fratkinville!

As you have read here recently, "There's Always Drama in Fratkinville!" Dani said that to me tonight when I was on my way home from mom & dad's, and it just rang true.

Tonight, I had to call our neighbor, Bruce, to come over and help me change the lightbulb in the kitchen ceiling fan. Yes, I ought to be able to change a light bulb on my own... but a) it's a high ceiling, b) the fixture wasn't budging when I tried to turn it, and c) as it turned out, we didn't have a spare bulb!

So, Bruce (my hero :) ) came over to help me unscrew the fixture, and brought his own spare lightbulb to put in. Now I have to go to Lowe's to buy spare bulbs for both our kitchen light and his!

I have really had enough drama for one month. Really.

Monday, December 05, 2005

First official snowfall

They originally predicted up to 4" of snow, but the storm has now been downgraded to 1" to 2".... and so far it's been snowing since 1pm and it isn't sticking to the ground (except the grass and the cars). But that hasn't stopped the people around here from panicking! No sir! Everyone had to run to the grocery store yesterday and buy up all the milk and bread, and then off to the home stores to buy shovels and salt. It's crazy! You'd think we were going to have the blizzard of the century.

I myself am camped out at mom & dad's... had to turn on the heat for the first time this year. I love the smell of the radiators heating up. At least the house will be warm enough for me to sleep in!

If the snow actually starts sticking, the Federal Government will likely shut down. (They're very nervous about all of their employees getting to work safely. Probably because nobody in this town knows how to drive in the snow, but they all have SUVs so they think that makes it ok.) And if the government shuts down, we do too!! Yay!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

He's alive!

Mom and Dad went out yesterday with Mehreen, one of the English interns who came to DC last summer. Mehreen brought her camera, so we have actual photographic evidence that Dad is alive and doing reasonably well (as evidenced by the beer!). :)

Here's mom and Mehreen. Maybe they should start giving mom some of the drugs that dad's been taking? ;)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Friday, December 02, 2005

It's Official!

OK, it's officially the "holiday season" -- they played Adam Sandler's Chanuka Song on my radio station this morning. :) I had to stop everything and sing along.

Here are the lyrics (and guitar chords) -- of course, on my ABC/Disney radio station, they don't play the part about "marijuanicah"

So Happy Chanuka! (Don't quibble with me about the spelling. That's how I spell it, other people spell it plenty of other ways) ;) First candle is lit on Christmas Day this year. (I think)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

LA Pictures posted!

I uploaded my pictures from the Getty, USC and the Petersen Museum.


Family photo!

So, for the past five years (at least!) every time we get all the "kids" together, we take a group photo. Starting last year, we added Samantha to the mix! :) So here's this year's pic, taken on the steps at Tutu's, after we stuffed ourselves at 2nd Thanksgiving (is that like the Hobbits' second breakfast?) .

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Home sweet Apartment

Yes, I love Southern California, it's true. But I have to say, I like being back in my own apartment. For one thing, nobody is snoring in the next bed (or next room). Plus, I missed cooking my own food (which was only possible after a quick but expensive trip to the supermarket), and I get to wear clothes that haven't been rolled up in a suitcase for two weeks!

Of course, there are things that I miss about California, too, like Samantha's giggles, Marc's fresh-brewed coffee, and not having to go to my office everyday. Hmmm... what does that tell you? I did notice that my right arm hurt after work yesterday - it was the first time in two weeks I had worked with a mouse for a full day! I need to go back to the gym!

I really wish I had something more exciting to talk about... but I spent the second half of my day in a neverending meeting. Mind you, the meeting was about a huge project that I am looking forward to working on, but the meeting just dragged on and on and on. And on. And on. you get the picture. I couldn't stay awake for half of it - I felt so bad, because there were only 3 other people in the room!

We are planning our holiday party for the office in two weeks, which will include a potluck lunch and gift-swap. I am trying to decide between making that spinach salad (the one that made me sick - I'll just avoid the goat cheese this time), or buffalo green beans, or maybe baked artichoke hearts. Any votes from the peanut gallery?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

no more goat cheese for me!

as a p.s. to my Saturday post... that wonderful spinach salad with walnuts and goat cheese is very bad if you are lactose intolerant, as I am. I have a very selective memory sometimes... or maybe it's wishful thinking -- "Eh, just a little bit can't hurt me." Well, I was wrong. Soooo wrong. So, apologies to my brothers who had to endure my complaining. I take full responsibility, and I will never do it again (at least, not with goat cheese!).

And thanks for a great visit to sunny SoCal! See everyone soon!

Black Friday - and I didn't even shop!

Samantha (and Mama and Dada) had a tough night on Thursday, none of them got any sleep. :( So we bagged our plans to go to California Adventure and took it slow on Friday. We had breakfast at Denny's - Samantha really loves those cheesy eggs! - and then just vegged at the house. Each of us took a nap of at least a few minutes at some point during the day- it was really good for all of us.

We tried to go to dinner at Shien's for sushi, but it was superduper crowded, so we ended up at Hana instead. The waitress was so nice to us, and Samantha enjoyed her miso rice (white rice soaked in miso soup). We stuffed ourselves with sushi... crunchy roll (with shrimp tempura inside) and lots of spicy tuna roll for the boys, and a sashimi roll (no rice, wrapped in cucumber slices)... Teri ordered a Philly roll (salmon and cream cheese) but, ugh. Too weird.

Today we went to Teri's mom's house (we all call her "Tutu") for our second Thanksgiving lunch/dinner. We had almost as much food, but this time there was some more greenery involved -- green beans with almonds and (my favorite food network recipe) spinach salad with walnuts and goat cheese -- along with mashed potatoes and potato salad and stuffing and turkey and ham and rolls. As if I didn't overeat enough on Thursday! And more of Teri's yummy pumpkin surprise for dessert. I really have to get that recipe.

This time, instead of taking a walk around the neighborhood, we took a short drive and then a walk - around Downtown Disney! We had to go get the 50th anniversary golden ears. Of course, they won't embroider them in Downtown Disney, so Jae had to go into the park to get them for us (with his Annual Pass, he gets in for free). So now we have ears. Of course, Bryan sent me home with his ears, because he doesn't really want to take them to Australia.

Before I left to come back to Marc's (closer to LAX for my flight out tomorrow), we took the standard 4 kids picture - plus Sam, of course. I'm waiting for Jae to post it or send it to me so I can link to it.

I can't believe the kid is going to Australia for four months. I cried in the car after I said goodbye to him tonight. I know he'll be back, and I know we'll email and he'll blog (HE'D BETTER!) but it was just sort of sad. :( Bye, little brother! Good luck!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thank goodness for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Thursday was spent at Jae's step-sister Dawn's house, with Judy (Jae's mom) and Geoff (her hubby, Dawn's dad) and Dawn's husband Greg and daughter Kasey (6 y.o.), and Dawn's sister Michelle and her friend Rachel. So all in all there were 10 adults and 2 little ones. Oh, and a dog and five cats and a bird. :)

We had a few hours of chit-chat and movie-watching while waiting for the turkey. Bryan and I watched football.

They served a ridiculous amount of food. There was turkey and honey ham and candied yams and stuffing and mashed potatoes and asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and gravy and cranberry sauce and rolls. URP! Just reading that makes me feel full. After dinner, we went for a walk... just to try to digest a little.

Kasey and Sam are so cute together. They just adore each other and won't go anywhere unless the other one is there.

After the walk, we had dessert... Teri's awesome pumpkin surprise - which she's making again for Saturday - and apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake and ice cream and whipped cream. URP again!

I hope everybody had a happy Thanksgiving! :) We get to have Thanksgiving dinner again tomorrow!

Dad update

Dad is apparently feeling better. He called us yesterday when we were on our way to Thanksgiving dinner, and he was in a good mood - but I think it was the drugs talking. He said they were giving him lots of good painkillers. :)

Mom & Dad will be flying home on January 2, which is six weeks after the accident. In the meantime, one of their friends is going over in early December, so he can deliver stuff like medicine and other things.

Mom says they found a movie theater with 2-for-1 showings on Wednesdays, so we know where they'll be every week!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My heritage, and my family

The L.A. adventure continued:

On Wednesday, Marc got up and made us coffee (I was awakened by the buzzing of the coffee grinder, which was so nice!) and then we went to get bagels. "It's only a few blocks further," he said. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that when he says that, it means it's more like a mile or two... and even after we parked, we ended up hiking up Ventura Blvd in Encino anyway because we had pulled into the wrong parking lot! The bagel place was in fact tasty... for future reference, it is across from the Versailles Cuban restaurant. :)

Then I dropped Marc off at work (bye, Marc!) and went to the Skirball Cultural Center to look around. Aunt Martha had told me they had lovely stuff, and she was right! There was a great exhibit called "From Haven to Home," which marks the 350th Anniversary of the arrival first Jews who settled in America. They also displayed the paintings of Max Liebermann, who was a contemporary of Degas, Monet and Renoir, although very few people have ever heard of him. Apparently his paintings are also on display in the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid - my favorite museum. In the lobby/hallway, there was an exhibit of photographs from "Sacred Spaces - Historic Houses of Worship in the City of Angels." Some of the photos were really beautiful. The Skirball center has a large shop, too, although all I bought was a little Jewish star with red, white and blue rhinestones. It seemed so... ME! I couldn't afford the huge American flag with Statue of Liberty silhouette, made out of license plates. :(

I asked the lady at the counter how long it would take to get to LAX if I had to be there in an hour, and she said, "leave now." She wasn't kidding. It took me over an hour to get down to the airport, so I had Bryan take the shuttle to Thrifty and I picked him up there. We were both starving by that point, so when Jae called to see where we were, we asked him to help us find an In-n-Out burger on the way to his house. YUM. Of course, we weren't all that hungry for dinner when we got to Escondido, but we couldn't have made it otherwise.

We dropped our stuff at the hotel, and went up to Jae & Teri's house. Samantha was a little hesitant at first, but she attached herself to Bryan and basically wouldn't leave him alone all night -- a 180-degree turn from the last few times we've seen her, where she wouldn't go near him or hardly talked to him at all. Jae & Teri posted it on the Samantha blog - "Uncle Bryan - from zero to hero." :) hee hee Unfortunately, Uncle Bryan was soooooooo tired, he fell asleep on the sofa over there before 9pm. So I brought him back to the hotel, and he was out cold by 10!

Due to the late hour, my Thanksgiving report will be posted tomorrow. Be patient!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More of my L.A. Story

So, for dinner on Monday we went to Border Grill in Santa Monica. EXCELLENT Mexican food. The restaurant is owned by the "Too Hot Tamales" who used to have a show on the Food Network. Really neat decor, too. The mango and guava flavored margaritas were both quite tasty. We were very tempted to order seconds, but we didn't. We were definitely too full to order dessert, even though it looked tasty.

We walked over to the Third Street Promenade and happened upon the Starbucks Listening Station. It's very cool - you can look up any song or group of songs from a bunch of different albums (150,000?) and burn your own mix disk, for ~$10. They also sell all kinds of CDs. It was written up in the Washington Post last August.

We spent way more time in there than we intended... almost an hour. By the time we left (and I bought a Nnenna Freelon CD), most of the other stores were closed. We got some gelato and went to Barnes & Noble, but we had to leave there before we spent any money. ;)

Tuesday, Marc actually had to go to work (which I think he regretted later!). I slept a little late, only slightly interrupted by his neighbors ringing their little bell, for reasons as yet unknown... and went over to the Getty Museum to meet him. Fortunately, I remembered the camera AND the battery this time, so there are a LOT of pictures. This is one of my favorites. I did not alter the sky color here - it was the perfect day for photography. There are some really interesting exhibits, and the grounds are just beautiful. I will have to go back and see the rest of it when I come back to LA.

We left the Getty with plans to go see the latest Harry Potter movie, but we didn't make it to the theater in time (traffic on the 405... UGH!). Instead, we went to the Petersen automotive museum. I think Marc was surprised that I actually wanted to go to a car museum, but I really liked it! They are having an exhibit of the "Cars of Heads of State" which was very interesting. We also went to the "discovery" floor, which was closed, but we still posed on the CHiPs motorcycle! :)

We went to dinner at the lovely home of my friends Don and Tamara Rosen. Tam made a lemon chicken (it looked just like the picture in the recipe!) and "par-waved" potatoes. Estella (just turned 4) and Melina (18 mos) were on hand for entertainment. One thing is certain - Dora the Explorer is just as big on the West Coast as she is on the East Coast! Dora actually made an appearance at Estella's birthday on Sunday. Wow.

Of course, we (all the Fratkins) love Don and think of him as a member of the family, but he has one HUGE mark against him - he went to UCLA! (spit three times) and he has taught Estella the fight song and the alma mater, so we were treated to a performance. Oy vey. She's only four! Give the kid a break, really. We stayed pretty late drinking wine and lychee-tinis (apparently a very hip drink!) at the Rosens, so by the time we got back to Marc's -- good thing I was driving -- he basically just passed out. Poor guy. ;)

In the next post, more on Marc's distance measurements (where's that bagel place?), the Skirball center, and Bryan's arrival in LA.

Blogging deficiency addressed


It was pointed out to me tonight that I have been doing all kinds of fun stuff in LA since Sunday, and I haven't blogged about it at all. Oops! So here goes.

Sunday, I flew out of cold, foggy Seattle and into warm, sunny LA. By the time I got to Marc's, I was starving, and it was already 3:00pm! But it was a little too late for lunch, if we were going to go to Engine Company No. 28 for dinner. So we went to the USC bookstore to get some 'guano' (it's a long story, it's basically the nickname for souvenirs and other cheesy crap that you get at amusement parks and other places) and walked around the campus a bit. Here's a picture of Matt Leinart's Heisman trophy. We noticed that there is an empty cabinet in the trophy area, so there's room for either Matt's or Reggie's trophy this year! :)

Dinner was soooo good. We made a reservation for 5:45, which was good because we beat out the pre-theater crowd. We had excellent steak and calamari and I tried the Louisiana-style crab cakes. Very good, but totally different tasting (much spicier than Maryland crab cakes). Then we went back to Marc's, and I made him watch Grey's Anatomy, which he had never seen (he doesn't watch much tv - at least not without tivo, so he can ffwd through the commercials!).

Monday we went to Marina del Rey to have lunch with some of the guys I know from the USC Information Sciences Institute. They took us to a great sushi restaurant. We tried to find a seafood restaurant in Venice Beach that I had been to last August, but since I couldn't remember exactly where it was or what it was called, we just sort of drove around aimlessly. Oops! I might have to go figure out what the restaurant was, just to make myself feel better, and convince Marc that I'm not crazy. (heh. fat chance.)

In the afternoon, we went to the LA Public Library to see the exhibit of Art Deco Travel Posters. The library itself is beautiful... and of course I managed to bring my camera but leave the battery plugged into the wall, so there were no pictures at all that day. UGH. Stooooopid. (and my camera phone doesn't take quality pictures, so that would have been a waste) Anyway, this is my favorite poster. Unfortunately, because the posters were mostly from private collections, they didn't have any reproductions for sale, or a book of the exhibit. So I settled for a postcard.

Then, Marc got it into his head that we had to go see the Bradbury building, which he swore wasn't too far away (I have since learned NOT to trust him when he says "it's just a few blocks"...) It was used in Blade Runner. We managed to sneak into the building before they closed - it was beautiful - the wrought iron railings and old crank elevators are amazing. But again, no pictures! Unfortunately, the Bradbury building is in a part of LA that I really don't think I'd want to go to by myself or after dark. So we hustled out of there and back to the car -- but not before stopping to look at the Subway Terminal building at 417 S. Hill Street. Marc knew the history of it and explained it to me, but I can't remember enough of it to put it here. Better you should just read it from the link.

Monday, November 21, 2005

And now, in the continuing saga of the Fratkins...

What a bit of news to wake up to -- it seems on their FIRST day in London (of a 3 week trip), my father fell in the shower and cracked two ribs and punctured a lung (It's called a pneumo-thorax). He's in the hospital, on plenty of pain medication. He can't *fly* home, so they are looking into ways to come home by ship... but all of the nicer crossing ships like the QE2 are in the Mediterranean for the season already, and a neighbor told them that the crossing would be really rough this time of year. My mom had better pack a lot of dramamine! It's a 6-8 day trip!

More news when I know more.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Here I am in the visitors' dugout at Safeco field. Linux also gave us baseballs with their logo on them. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"Can I quote you?"

Bill Gates came and addressed our meeting yesterday, announcing that Microsoft is getting into the high performance computing "space." In the hallway, my friend Jill and I were approached by a reporter from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, who asked us some questions, and tape recorded our remarks. and then I forgot all about it.

Today was ridiculously busy, from a breakfast meeting at 8am to our panel session which didn't end til 7pm. On the way back to the hotel tonight (after the Cisco party at the EMP), I remembered that I should check the newspaper- and sure enough, he quoted me! (read to the last three paragraphs)

I've been in the paper before, for my flasher collection, but never for something work-related. This is cool!

I didn't go to the Sheryl Crow party last night -- instead, Linux Networx had a party at Safeco Field (where the Mariners play). We got to go down into the visiting team's dugout and the field!! (We didn't get to go onto the *perfectly even* grass, just on the warning track around the edge) Dessert was served in the visitors locker room, and they had a pitching area, and they let us use the indoor batting cage. My pitches were lame -- I hadn't thrown any kind of ball that hard since high school -- I only hit the center of the target twice, at 30 and then 27 mph. ugh. I didn't bother with the batting.

So tonight I decided that as long as I had RSVPed, I might as well go to the Cisco party, even if I went alone. And I can now say that I've been to the EMP... I'm really glad I didn't pay the ticket price to see the museum. I'm not really a Hendrix or Dylan fan, although it was interesting to see their historical memorabilia and read about them. They also had a hip-hop exhibit, but I skipped that.

The coolest part was the big guitar sculpture that runs up the middle of the museum, and the area where visitors can learn to play guitar or keyboards or drums, do karaoke, or be in a "band" with other people. I went directly to the keyboards, and it made me wish I had one (again). Maybe I'll put that on my Chanuka list this year...

Pictures from Safeco and EMP will be posted soon. :)

Friday, November 11, 2005

If they work on supercomputers, are they super-geeks?

Next week, upwards of 7,000 engineers, marketers, technology officers, and others will converge on Seattle for Supercomputing 2005 (otherwise known as SC'05). We (I think I fit in the "other" category) will spend the week looking at exhibits of the latest and greatest technologies, listening to presentations, and most importantly, going to parties! Yes, it's true, these geeks really know how to party. Intel and Cisco are throwing their parties (on successive nights) at the Experience Music Project. Intel has Sheryl Crow coming to sing! I am so excited.

Ok, maybe the parties aren't the most important part... I'm probably supposed to go to some of the seminars (Bill Gates is giving a keynote after all) and try to learn something. But the other big deal is who is giving away what in the Exhibit Hall. How I'm going to get through 105,000 sq. ft., I have no idea! But I have promised to bring back t-shirts and other goodies for some folks in my office, so I'd better do it. Every year it's a competition among the vendors to give away the coolest swag - and you can never tell what's going to be the "hot" item until you get there. I'll have to take some pictures of the vast sea of geeks. It's not unlike CES in Las Vegas - only the stuff they have there is much more fun - and more affordable for the average person!

I leave DC at 6:30am on Sunday morning (my own fault... I should have found a later flight). I have to remember to bring one of those spare fold-up suitcases!

Monday, November 07, 2005

He's cute, and he cooks!

My new favorite chef on the Food Network is Dave Lieberman (Good Deal with Dave Lieberman, Saturdays at 1:30pm). He's cute, he's Jewish, and he cooks tasty, quick recipes with inexpensive ingredients. :) Too bad he's only 25. heh. He made nice little potstickers, which I'd love to do, but I haven't been able to find wonton wrappers in my supermarket. I must be looking in the wrong place. hmm....

Speaking of the Food Network, we are SO over Rachael Ray - she has a magazine now? and three - no, four - different shows? can you say overexposed?! I think she thinks she's the next Emeril. Really. To be honest, DJ has been annoyed by her for a while... and I have to admit that she can be a bit annoying - she's just too cutesy sometimes. Although the "candy sushi" that she made for Halloween was very creative. (rice krispy treats and twizzlers rolled up inside fruit roll-ups and sliced across. looked just right!) :)

...and yes, I tape Dave's show on Saturday afternoons, I DO have a life. (says blog-girl...) but DJ has abandoned me for 10 days to go on a Caribbean cruise, so I have to amuse myself somehow until my trip to Seattle for Supercomputing '05.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Where's George Clooney when you need him?

Here we are in the ER in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon! You can't see the dried blood on mom's face (consider yourself lucky) or on her shirt, or her purse, or her blazer... I went and got some paper towels and wiped her off a bit after Greg took this picture. At least she was in good spirits!

The stitches were removed today, and the doctor said that they did a nice job in Atlanta. phew!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Awww.... he's so cute!

The National Zoo's baby panda, Tai Shan (tie SHON) -- which means "peaceful mountain" in Chinese -- took his first steps today.

He was born on August 2, weighing in at less than 2 pounds. Since then, he has grown to over 15lbs, and has more than doubled in length. The public isn't allowed to see him yet, but he's supposed to have his "debut" in December. In the meantime, some local stores are collecting "pennies for pandas" by offering special items for sale - like the chocolate-dipped macaroons (black and white, get it?) that Whole Foods will sell after Thanksgiving! yummmmm.... I can't wait to "meet" him. :)

Monday, October 31, 2005

Never a dull moment with the Fratkins

So, it's 3:00 on Sunday, and I'm getting ready to go to my room and relax before getting dressed for the big shindig at the Fox Theatre. I'm amazingly calm, because everything is done and ready. Then my cell phone rings. It's my mom:

"I fell down and I'm bleeding all over the place. I'm up by the music and arts center. Come get me."

... Because I really needed some more excitement in my day!

So I grab Greg K. from SURA and I run to the rental car, and we drive up there. A nice group of people had gathered to help her, so they brought her water and ice. We took her up to Piedmont Hospital's ER. They looked at her right away, but then they said it was going to be 3 hours before a doctor could see her. And of course she had to play Jewish mother, so she made us leave her there! (and she made me promise not to call Dad...) She finally got back to the hotel at about 9:15pm, with five stitches in her eyebrow. She seems fine, I was the one who almost had a heart attack! :) (Greg took a picture of us in the ER waiting area, I'll have to post it.)

Can't wait to get home to DC tonight. I'm exhausted!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Welcome to Hot-lanta!

Well, ok, it's not that hot. It's only 51 now, it'll go up to 65 tomorrow. We have tickets to the Georgia Tech homecoming football game against Clemson... but it's on at the same time as the USC game! Bummer! I'll have to have my mom send me text messages. :)

Went for a tour of the CDC today... didn't actually get to see anything except the inside of one of the office buildings, but then again, do you really expect them to take the tourists on a tour of the high security labs where the guys run around in bunny suits? I don't think so. But they have a beautiful brand new multi-million-dollar campus (just opened this month) with a waterfall and nice stone steps... I guess if the people who work there get too stressed out, they can go sit outside for a calming experience. heh.

My friend Michelle from business school lives here, so I got to see her for the first time in... three years! She looks gorgeous, she's lost 40 lbs! :) We went to dinner at Murphy's Restaurant in the Virginia Highlands area. It was yummy! (if only the kitchen had been able to cook Michelle's filets properly - medium well means NOT PINK! ugh.)

I wish I had brought something to knit or crochet, but I'm too afraid to breathe my cold germs on the sweater I'm making for Samantha, so I haven't touched that in a week. But I'd better get a move on, it has to be finished by Nov 23rd!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My big brother thinks he's funny...

... so he sent an email to his joke-of-the-day list, with my blog URL and some text from the Dilbert Newsletter about why people start blogs: (my responses in blue italics)

People who are trying to decide whether to create a blog or not go through a thought process much like this:

1. The world sure needs more of ME. (NO, I don't think that at all.)
2. Maybe Ill shout more often so that people nearby can experience the joy of knowing my thoughts.
3. No, wait, shouting looks too crazy. (and I shout enough already :))
4. I know Ill write down my daily thoughts and badger people to read them. (I haven't badgered anyone! If I were badgering you, you'd know!)
5. If only there was a description for this process that doesnt involve the words egomaniac or unnecessary.
6. What? Its called a blog? I'm there! (For the record, I have been thinking about starting a blog for a long time, but when I finally got around to doing it, nothing interesting was going on in my life. That will hopefully change soon.)

I just wanted a way to share goofy stuff with my friends, and tell stories once so I don't have to keep telling them over and over. (Plus, my brother doesn't like football, so half my posts probably seem pointless to him) :P

I am working toward a theme on this blog, but I haven't decided what it should be. If you have any ideas...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Trojans did it again!

... and this time, with far more flair and much better passing yards. Leinart had been a bit off his game for two weeks, since he got that hard hit at the start of the Arizona State game. But he's back now, and set the new Pac-10 record for career TDs! (Hadn't thrown a TD in two weeks!) He threw three to Dwayne Jarret (#8, see pic.)

So between Leinart and Reggie Bush, who ran 84yds for a TD on a punt return, the Heisman voting is going to be very interesting! :)

As Sports Illustrated put it, USC is "back to normal." Phew!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

They should call it "nightmare" football

I was doing so well. My brother was helping me (shhh... he's a ringer) and I was 4-0 in my fantasy football league, and in second place.

That was two weeks ago.

Now I'm 4-2, fifth in the league, and my QB, Marc Bulger of the St. Louis Rams -- who has been putting up GREAT numbers -- got hurt in the game last night, and it looks like he'll be out for TWO WEEKS! UGH.

How did I get roped into this, anyway? Well, I do have this small competitive streak... ;)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Ok, I know it's early for Halloween, but check out the creative carving that this guy does -

My favorite has to be the Mount Rushmore group.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

the bigger the kitchen mess, the better the food. really.

This month, Cooking Light magazine had a recipe for pretzels. I thought, what the heck, I've never made anything like that before. So I bought some yeast, and got down to business. It turns out it's very labor-intensive... but that's not the first recipe I've made recently that required a lot more work than I expected.

[I have to say, having watched the pretzel-makers at Auntie Anne's helped a bit, I knew how to spin the dough to make it the right shape. See, all that time at the mall pays off!]

I started at 8:30pm (that's a bit misleading, because you have to let the yeast set up for 5 minutes and then let the dough rise for 40...) So at 9:15 I started actually making pretzels. By 10:15, I had about 15 of them all done!

Here's a picture of the finished product. The second batch is in front, they're darker. They're all YUMMY! I might have to make these again... but maybe at mom's house where there's more counter space. :) Better talk to me soon if you want one, I might have to eat them all!!!!! (and in case you're wondering, they're only 2 WW points each.)

USC WINS 34-31!!

USC WINS 34-31!!

It was an epic battle. They'll be talking about it for WEEKS. I have no voice left, but boy, it was worth it! Phew. That's the kind of ending that gives people heart attacks!

Made it a happy birthday for mom, too. :)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Good thing nobody sends snail mail anymore...

DRAT! I just realized that the one file I didn't copy before I re-installed Windows was the data from my Palm III. Now, mind you, I haven't actually used the Palm handheld or synched it with the computer in about two years, but I was keeping everyone's addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, baby birthdays, etc. in there... and now it's all gone. :(

I sent out a pleading email... we'll see who responds. On the upside, I guess it'll make sending Xmas/Chanuka cards a lot simpler!

Fight On!

Saturday is the USC-Notre Dame football game! It's a biggie. (It's also my mom's birthday, but she decided that she's ok with watching football "as a family" -- in a sports bar -- as her birthday dinner. She's so cool!)

I have been a USC fan since birth, basically - and I didn't even go there! My dad did. He graduated... a few years ago. ;) So we all go to Bailey's at Ballston to watch the USC games with the DC Alumni club. It's a nice big crowd, too. (I'm going to have to go to the USC Bookstore when I go out there at Thanksgiving and get myself some new t-shirts and such.)

I have two "real" alma maters - Rutgers (undergrad) and Maryland (MBA), but really, Rutgers football sucks. It hasn't improved since I went there a decade ago. Maryland is much better at basketball, although they're not doing badly so far this year. But the USC crowd is just so much fun! So that's where my loyalty is.

So come one come all, Fight On at Bailey's on Saturday! Now if only we could figure out if the game's at 2:30 or 3:30...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Chatimah Tovah

... is the official greeting for Yom Kippur - it basically means "May you be sealed [in the Book of Life] for a happy year"(Technically, of course, I'm not supposed to be online tonight because of the holiday, but I'm still working on completely reinstalling everything on my computer after the big crash two weeks ago.)

The big crash happened, strangely enough, while I was at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for a conference with a bunch of supercomputing geeks. It's a really cool lab (if you're a science geek) -- they do all kinds of amazing research. They took us on a tour of the site where the Spallation Neutron Source is being built. They explained it to us, but I couldn't possibly explain it here... I'm not a scientist! Read their website. If you look at the picture, under the word "Linac" in the top center is a water tower. That's where they took us to look over the site. It's HUGE.

Anyway. That fateful afternoon, I got a weird error message. Apparently my Windows XP decided enough was enough (this laptop is 3 years old, after all...) and died. Boom. [when my brother looked it up, he found that it was a common problem in 2002, which is when I got my machine.] The wonderful IT people at Oak Ridge gave me a Windows install disk and tried to help me with a parallel install, but that didn't work. (must remember to send them a thank you note!) To make a long story short, I paid Dell $99 to help me -- not under warranty any more -- and they did NOTHING! ZIP! SQUAT! (Note to self: BACKUP! BACKUP! BACKUP!) Eventually, I figured out that my stuff was still there (phew!), and my office sysadmin figured out how to burn it off to disk(s) - 5 of them in all. After a tedious reinstall, I now have a working laptop again! :)

What does all of this have to do with the High Holidays? Well, I'm truly thankful for the assistance of my friends and family: Jae, who suggested Knoppix, and Jeff, who burned me the CD, and Mohamed, who saved my stuff!!! I hope to be able to do something nice to repay them in the coming year.

And to the rest of you, if I have offended you or otherwise caused you harm in the past year (intentionally or unintentionally), I apologize. I wish us all a year of peace, health and happiness.