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)