Sunday, January 30, 2011

End of vacation

I did lots of eating and shopping the last couple of days in Newport Beach.

Thursday night we went to The Crab Cooker and ate crab legs, soft shell crab, and crab cakes. Mom got shrimp and scallops.

Friday was a day of shopping at Nordstrom Rack and Marukai, then dinner at Il Fornaio. It's funny how I've developed a routine, even on vacation. This was only my second trip to Newport Beach, but last year we also went to Marukai and Il Fornaio and The Crab Cooker.

I did try two new places on this trip: the Newport Beach Brewing Company and Bandera, where I had a salad with rotisserie chicken, corn, goat cheese, and chopped dates. Yum!

Thankfully both of my flights on Saturday were without incident. As difficult as it was to say goodbye to Yukie and the warm weather and having wash-and-go hair, I am glad to be back to my regular life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flashbacks at the Newport Beach Brewing Company

Since we’re not grad students anymore, Julie and I thought we’d try one of Newport Beach’s nicer places.

Back Bay Bistro's build a burger menu (with vegetarian options) looked good. But they’re closed on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, even during Restaurant Week.

So I suggested Sage, but their creative American cuisine included only one vegetarian option.

Off we went to the Newport Beach Brewing Company.

Did we order the garlic beer fries? No, we got distracted by the $8 pitcher/$8 pizza deal and added some nachos for good measure. (You can take the girl out of grad school, but you can’t take grad school out of the girl.)

We spent a lot of time talking about 1997: our grad school cohort and how many people left after the first quarter; the old Father’s Office — when there was only one location, in Santa Monica; the Library Alehouse and the Red Sweater Guy.

We wished our cohort-mate Jason was there. He would not have left beer in the pitcher and ended the night with water or soda, as we did.

It was wonderful to talk about how life has changed, and how it hasn’t. Maybe someday we'll graduate from bar to bistro. But until then, cheers with a pint of Bisbee's ESB!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TP and TV: Papa's visit to Camp Christa

Spending my days in sunny southern California, it also warms my heart that Papa is enjoying her visit to Camp Christa. Christa took care of Pops last year, too.

She said Papaya was an angel. Can you believe we're talking about the same dog?

This year, Christa has been an especially good sport. She took Pops for walks in the coldest weather we’ve seen all winter. Papa emailed me after her first day:

Auntie Christa let me sleep on her bed. Don't worry Mom I was not rude. I stayed really still at the foot of the bed and we both slept all night long. Then this morning Auntie Christa put on like a million layers of clothes and we went for a walk. I met a new friend named Smudge and some old guy named Jim. Then Auntie Christa made me breakfast just the way I like it — three tennis balls right in the middle of things!!

I have my own spot on the sofa with a blanket and Auntie Christa opened the blinds so I can see outside.

Sounds good, right?

I later got a message that Pops was grounded from sending email. Despite a walk and a game of snow-drift Frisbee, she had decided to shred a roll of toilet paper while Christa and Ian went out to dinner.

She’s still allowed to watch TV, though — educational stuff like the State of the Union address.

Clearly Pops feels really comfortable at camp.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blizzards and blitzes

The brief version: Instead of MKE/DEN/SNA, I got rebooked on a flight to Chicago with a connection to Orange County.

The longer version: “Heavy snow” (the airport’s terminology) delayed that flight, too. As did the de-icing process and having only one runway for all the takeoffs and arrivals.

Things didn't improve when I arrived at O' Hare, where the L and H terminals are not very close. I had a shin-splint-inducing walk/run in heels while carrying my purse, coat, tennis racquet, and carryon bag stuffed with my laptop, clipboard, magazines, and hardcover books.

I need not have hurried. My flight left 10 minutes before I got to the gate.

Good thing O' Hare has those convenient rebooking phones. I could depart four hours later, if all went on schedule. At least I didn't have to re-check my bag at a different airline and go through the security check again (as I did in MKE).

Another bright spot: I watched the first half of the Packer game at an airport bar while eating a better-than-mediocre chicken pita and fries, among the blue and orange people and a couple of very vocal and drunk Green Bay fans. Not as much fun as last week’s festivities, but still.

I watched the second half of the game in a nearby waiting area. Toward the end of the fourth quarter, I heard a woman at the bar yell, "Oh, no!" a split second before I knew the Packers won.

By then, I was the only person clapping. But I clapped anyway. Onward!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oh no Papa, not this garbage can too!

It's a new year, but old habits die hard.

To my horror, I've realized that the garbage saga has gone on for over two years — almost as long as Papa has lived with me.

Once upon a time, I had a garbage can with a hinged lid. I took the trash out regularly — took it for granted, actually, the way most people do. But Pops figured out how to knock over the can and spread garbage around the kitchen and living room.

So I bought a new garbage can. With a hinged lid that would open when I stepped on the pedal — a nice feature that meant I didn't have to touch the lid.

Alas, Papa could remove garbage without knocking the entire can over — an accomplishment of physics, really.

I did wonder how she did it without getting her snout caught in the lid. And how long did it take to pull each of those branches out?

One more try. I thought this was it: the garbage can that would thwart Pops. It has handles that lock the bag into place.

But Papa can detach the lid and pull on the sides of the bag, flipping it inside out.

I doubt it was the smell of the Top Ramen and candy bar wrappers — both of which were empty, by the way — that drew Papa. She has always loved to shred stuff, even in her previous life.

I think I'll go back to one of the old cans. (Plus, it's hard to find eight-gallon bags.)

The bigger question is, of course: Do I try to change the garbage can or the dog? It's always easier to change a product than a personality.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Green and gold get-together

Forest green isn’t my color. On Friday we wished that purple and berry were team colors, because then it’d be easy to dress for the occasion.

Still, yesterday’s Packer game was riveting.

Chris mixed up cosmos — the only Falcons-colored thing I consumed. I brought spinach dip and Katy’s lemon cupcakes (green and gold!) and parked in front of the kitchen TV with Mary, Carol, and Patty. Doug (who's a Vikings fan) and Hans (a Bears fan wearing a red pullover) didn't have anything invested in the game and wandered in occasionally. When we heard cheering from the living room, we knew when to watch the game on our TV.

In the fourth quarter, I asked, “Who’s the second quarterback?” (The answer I was looking for: Matt Flynn.)

Patty, with a straight face, said, “It’s the backup quarterback.”

Ah, who will provide such commentary when I'm on vacation during next Sunday’s game?

I’ll be thinking of everyone as they gather again at Chris’ house. We asked him not to move the living room chairs. Maybe everyone will bring the same food and wear the same clothes. Cheers to our green and gold!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter Kniffels

It was nice to leave the work week behind, starting with dinner at Katy and Paul’s.

Katy put together a fun tail-gating menu — sloppy joe’s and pasta salad — which helped get me mentally prepared for tonight’s Packer game. (Okay, so maybe I don’t need that much preparation.)

Christian, who’s 3½, has graduated from a sippy cup to a big-boy glass. And 6-year-old Miranda is almost the age Katy was when we met. Life is always changing!

Christian got the giggles when he and Miranda showed off their matching PJs. (If you think about it, matching PJs really are hilarious.)

After dinner, Katy and Miranda and I played Qwirkle, a dominoes-like game that was really fun. It also reminded me of Scrabble (you build with colors and shapes rather than letters).

We also played a few games of Kniffel, the German version of Yahtzee. And Katy sent me home with lemon cupcakes, which I will bring to the almost-impromptu playoff party I’m headed to tonight.

Comfort food, board games, hot buttered rum: all good ways to spend a snowy Friday night. Thanks, Katy!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oh no Papa, not the green tea!

My mom left a package of green tea on my kitchen table. Papa ripped it open in the living room.

She has been more of a terror than usual, repeating the New Year’s Eve garbage incident daily.

So I bought a new garbage can that has levers that lock in the bag. I'm calling her bluff; we'll see if it works.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcoming the New Year

I spent New Year's Eve at a party at Doug and Beth's. There was much booze, food, and mingling among their neighbors and tennis friends.

Chris mixed up margaritas and we played some ping pong. I then got schooled by Shappy and 9-year-old Colin, who said, "I'm better than you think I look."

It was a great time — just like two years ago — and we all counted down the New Year with Ryan Seacrest. After that, more ping pong with Doug — who won despite his scotch consumption.

My partying for 2010 complete, I came home to garbage all over the kitchen floor. It looks like someone was anxious and lonely on New Year's Eve but found solace in sugar and some pico de gallo from Qdoba.

Old habits die hard.

But Papa managed to not destroy anything while I was out this morning playing tennis.

Doug organized three courts (not too early), and the first annual Feldman Classic was a hit. I know I was happy to work off the margaritas and buffalo dip (which I discovered around 12:30 in the morning).

I'm not sure about resolutions, but I hope my year is like New Year's Eve was — a combination of friends, ping pong, tennis, and looking forward to some adventures ahead.

Happy 2011!