Monday, November 28, 2005

From James' Dad's Vault

I forgot to mention in my Thanksgiving wrapup that my Dad recently came across this delightful old gem: The publicity photo of The Roaming Guitars, the folk band that my Mom and Dad were in back in the late 60s and early 70s.

The Roaming Guitars: Tina, Ruben 1, David, Pete and Ruben 2. Click the photo to see a larger version of the pic. (c. 1968-1972)

It was pretty much a living room band, with a set list consisting of mostly Beatles covers, some Spanish songs (i.e. "Guantanamera") and other period classics (like Peter Paul & Mary's "I Dig Rock and Roll Music.")

A close-up of my Mom and Dad in their hippie days ... although my Dad insists that he and my Mom didn't qualify as true hippies, since they were "straighter than a laser beam." (c. 1968-1972)

They never actually recorded anything professionally (unless you count the bootlegs my dad recorded on his old reel-to-reel recorder). But they did have a few notable live gigs, including a local access TV channel in Pacifica, CA. They also performed at the grand opening of Serramonte, a big mall in Daly City that was state-of-the-art when it opened in 1968.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Happiest Turkey on Earth

As a follow-up to my original post about Marshmallow, the freshly-pardoned National Turkey (see The OC's Newest Resident) I thought I'd post an actual picture from the Disneyland Thanksgiving parade where Marshmallow was the grand marshall.

Marshmallow, as the grand marshall of the Disneyland Thanksgiving parade, holds his head up high. (11/24/05)

Unfortunately I wasn't there to take a picture of Marshmallow myself, so this picture from Yahoo Photos will have to do.

Congratulations Marshmallow!

Thanksgiving 2005

Just got back from San Ramon this Thanksgiving. We didn't do a whole lot other than hang out with the family. We did venture out to do some shopping on Friday, but only later in the afternoon (just Target and World Market). We didn't do anything crazy like get up at 6:00 am to be among the first in the store. Then on Saturday we took Anna to see Chicken Little, which was pretty good. That's about it.

Here are some pics:

Tim, Malena, John Paul, Dad and Anna smile before digging into our Thanksgiving feast. My older brother Robert (or "Bobby" as family members call him) showed up late. We knew better than to wait. (11/24/05)

Baby brother John Paul had a great time blowing out the dinner candles after our meal. (11/24/05)

Little sister Anna shows off her fierce white boots. We didn't have the heart to tell her that white boots after Labor Day is a big no-no. :) (11/24/05)

Anna and John Paul ham it up for the camera. (11/26/05)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The OC's Newest Resident

Today I learned that Tim and I are going to have a new neighbor: Marshmallow, the National Turkey, who will be living out the rest of its natural life at Disneyland — a mere 7.5 miles away from the Tim and James house.

Orange County's newest resident: Marshmallow, the freshly-pardoned National Turkey. (11/22/05)

Apparently every November, the president is presented with the National Thanksgiving Turkey — and promptly issues it a formal pardon, sparing it from the White House Thanksgiving dinner table. But unlike the turkeys reprieved over the past 15 years, Marshmallow will not be sent to live out its final days at Frying Pan Park, an animal farm in the Washington DC suburbs. Instead, this afternoon, Marshmallow flew to Disneyland on United Flight 197 to LAX. First class, no less.

"From one turkey to another, you are hereby pardoned." (11/22/05)

On Thanksgiving Day, the 37-pound, 18-week-old turkey will be honored as a grand marshal of Disneyland's Thanksgiving Day Parade, after which it will live out its days at Santa's Reindeer Ranch in Frontierland.

I would go see the parade, but our annual passes expired last month and we decided to take a year off before signing up again. Hopefully Marshmallow won't mind the wait.

By the way, does anyone else besides me think it would be funny if one of these years the president didn't pardon the National Turkey? Just once I'd like to see the president say, "Nope, let's eat this one!" :)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Desert Adventure — Sunday

Sunday morning we decided to check out the new Sam's Club that had just opened up just over two weeks ago. It's also where Tim's mom and dad recently got part time jobs to keep them occupied in their retirement. It turns out that Tim's dad is pretty popular among the employees there.

It was my first time at a Sam's Club; we're Costco members, however. (11/20/05)

It was actually a very nice store. Nicer than I had expected it to be. I was picturing it to be like Wal-Mart, which I hate. But it was nicer than than. And we were there at the height of free sample time of day, so I got to try a variety of different foods. We ended up walking out with a few things, including a couple of bottles of wine, tissue paper and gravy mix (don't ask).

Tim's dad is seen here threatening to throw out an unruly customer ... who coincidentally happened to be me! :) (11/20/05)

After saying bye to Tim's grandmother we headed back to California. But not before stopping to do something I've always wanted to do, but never had the chance until today: Go to a SONIC drive-in restaurant chain.

Sonic is kind of a rarity in California, although there are 28 branches there according to the Sonic website (compare that to the 838 locations in Texas, however).

On our way back to California, we stopped at Sonic — my very first time eating there. (11/20/05)

I had been wanting to go to a Sonic ever since I learned that Kelly Clarkson used to work at a Sonic in her home state of Texas. Tim, on the other hand, wasn't thrilled with the idea. What convinced him was when I asked if he would rather spend a half-hour at Sonic, or rather spend four hours in a car with me bitching about how he wouldn't let me go to Sonic. Guess who prevailed? :)

It was an interesting experience. I liked the fact that you can get Tater Tots with your meal instead of traditional fries. And the car-hop service was definitely an experience that everyone should do at least once. But to be honest, I don't think it's something I ever need to do again.

The look on Tim's face says it all: "I can't believe James made me go to Sonic." (11/20/05)

I realized that eating in the car creates all sorts of logistic challenges, like where do you put the dipping sauce for your popcorn chicken? I guess I really missed having a table. But I'm definitely glad we did it. And that's one more thing I can cross of my list of things to do in my lifetime.

Desert Adventure — Saturday

We had an early Thanksgiving with Tim's mom and dad and grandmother in that undisclosed location in the Southwest. Since it's only a four-hour drive (at the speeds Tim drives, anyway) we left at the crack of dawn Saturday and only stayed the one night.

Tim's parents' dog Pudgy may look big and tough, but he's actually a big kid. (11/19/05)

We didn't do anything too exciting, skipping the casinos this time around. We mostly hung around the house, played Skip-Bo and had a pre-Thanksgiving dinner Saturday evening. Tim's mom and Dad were doing really well. They just got part-time jobs at the local Sam's Club, which had opened a mere 17 days earlier, and it seems they both really like working again.

Tim's Mom, Dad, Grandma and Mr. Mischief himself take a moment from the game to smile for the camera. (11/19/05)

Tim's grandma Jean was doing well for the most part. She was still a little under the weather from a rash that she had been fighting. But her doctor gave her a good ointment which appeared to be working.

You got to watch out for these two. Tim and his grandmother are notorious cheaters when it comes to card games. (11/19/05)

Although we didn't go to the casinos, I did do at least some gambling by buying a Star Wars scratcher. But the force wasn't with me because it turned out to be a dud.

Here's my $3 Star Wars Return of the Jedi scratcher. The dark side won and kept me from winning $10,000. (11/19/05)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

An Homage to Canadian Cuisine

Okay, I realize this is pure blog filler at its best. But for some reason, Canadian food has been popping up in our lives recently, whether it's something that we ate or something on TV that reminded us about it. So here are three examples of Canadian food that rocks:

We picked up this curious food item in Canada for just 99 Canadian cents at a drug store in Montreal. We had never seen beans with maple syrup before. And maple syrup is a big thing in Canada. Even their flag has a maple leaf. We finally opened them up tonight. I loved them. Tim didn't. But that just means there were more for me! I wish we had bought more of those beans. (11/17/05)

Ah the Poutine: French fries, covered with fresh cheese curds and gravy. A few days ago famous Canadiette Shania Twain was on Martha Stewart's daytime show and they made this dish. I wish I had seen it (Tom told me about it). It may look like a mess (which is literally what poutine means in French), but it was damn good. (09/29/05)

With nearly 2,500 restaurants across Canada, you can hardly go anywhere without seeing Tim Hortons. It's a fresh baked goods restaurant where you can get donuts and sandwiches. Although we didn't actually go there during our Canada trip (since we only ate at places we couldn't afford), we finally had the chance to try their fantastic donuts at one of their 250 U.S. locations when we were in New York. (11/07/05)

Way to go, Canada!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tim Goes to the Big Apple

One of our recurring dilemmas is our vacation time. Because I've always changed jobs every couple of years, I seldom get the chance to earn more than two weeks of paid vacation time. Because Tim has worked for his employer for 16 years, he gets four weeks of paid vacation time. So after we were in upstate New York, I flew back to California to head back to work while Tim flew into NYC to spend a few days with our friends Michelangelo ("Miche" for short) and Yaakov.

Tim, somewhere in Manhattan, with the Chrysler building in the background. (11/10/05)

I haven't written about them in the blog since we don't see them much, although Tim talks to Miche on the phone at least a couple of times a month. They've been friends about 10 years now ... in fact Tim has known Miche longer than he's known me.

Although he's lived in Manhattan for years and years and years, Miche is originally from Italia (which explains his thick accent). And he's TALL. At least six five. In fact the first time I met Miche, when I was still in my L.A. apartment, Miche had to duck to get in the door!

Tim snapped this picture of Miche in Washington Square Park. (11/10/05)

Miche makes his living as an author and book seller. He's written biographies of actors Montgomery Clift and Vivien Leigh, but his bread and butter is through his book business, which deals mainly in selling first editions to collectors.

About four years ago, Miche met Yaakov, a Ph.D-bound student-teacher at NYU. Although a resident of Manhattan, Yaakov is a native Israeli. He and Miche hit it off right away and now live together.

Tim threw himself in the line of danger to get this picture of Yaakov, Miche's partner, who was protesting something at NYU where he is a Ph.D-bound student-teacher. (11/09/05)

Tim was supposed to write in the blog about all the fun stuff he did in NYC, but you know how that went. :) So at the very least I thought I'd write about it and post a couple of his pics.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Trip to the Empire State — Monday

We had pretty much spent the last two days with Tim's grandma Helen in East Bethany, so late Monday morning we headed out to Buffalo where we met up with Tim's great aunt Gertie, the younger sister of Tim's Grandma Jean who resides in the Southwest (not to be confused with Grandma Helen in East Bethany). We always love spending time with Aunt Gertie, who is, bar none, one of the coolest senior citizens we know. She rocks.

We spent the day with Tim's great aunt Gertie, the younger sister of Tim's grandma out west. (11/07/05)

We took Aunt Gertie to lunch at a local Greek restaurant in Buffalo called Alton's. The food was okay, but the company was much better. Afterward we picked up some stuff for dinner at Ellie's Deli, a little place that sells all the great Polish food that no one has time to make from scratch anymore.

You can find such treats as pierogis (kind of like a big Polish ravioli stuffed with yummy fillings), kluski (potato dumplings), golombki (cabbage rolls; inexplicably pronounced "go-woom-ki") and placek (Polish coffee cake; pronounced "plot-sick"). We picked up some potato cheese pierogi's and kluski that Aunt Cindy can freeze and cook up for Grandma Helen one of these nights.

One of our stops in Buffalo was Ellie's Deli, which sells take-home Polish cuisine. (11/07/05)

We even took Aunt Gertie with us to Wal-Mart, where we helped Tim's Aunt Cindy with some shopping. Every time we go to Buffalo, we always seem to end up at Wal-Mart. And we hate Wal-Mart too! :) (We're Target people). On our way back to drop Aunt Gertie back home, we drove by St. Josaphat's Catholic Church, where Tim's parents walked down the aisle in 1960.

We drove by St. Josaphat's Catholic Church, where Tim's parents (and a few other of his relatives) tied the knot. (11/07/05)

On our way back to East Bethany, I finally convinced Tim to stop at Tim Horton's, a common Buffalo-area restaurant chain where they sell donuts and sandwiches. Supposedly they have really good coffee (which was the big selling point for Tim). It's named after Tim Horton, the late hockey player who played with such teams as the Toronto Maple Leafs and later, with the Buffalo Sabres.

Tim Horton's restaurants are all over the place in Canada and upstate New York. (11/07/05)

We had seen Tim Horton's all over Quebec when we were there a few weeks back, but it seemed we never had time to actually go inside. They're about as common in Canada and upstate New York as Subway. Incidentally, Tim the coffee connoisseur didn't think their coffee was all that. But their donuts were good! We also got a dozen TIMBITS (or "donut holes" as they're called in English) for Tim's grandma.

James poses with the goodies we got from Tim Horton's, a popular donut restaurant named after the legendary hockey player. (11/07/05)

Afterward we headed back to East Bethany where we spent our final evening with Tim's grandma and his Aunt Cindy.

I will share one funny story. Yesterday, Tim's Uncle Ronny briefly mentioned that he saw "Meet the Fockers" on cable the other night and how funny he thought it was. Well, after Grandma Helen went to bed tonight, Tim and I were up talking to Aunt Cindy about anything and everything. And we were laughing. Well, I guess we woke up Grandma Helen, who summoned Aunt Cindy into the room and asked, "What are you guys laughing at? Are you watching the Fockers?"

Trip to the Empire State — Sunday

We slept like logs the entire night. And we woke up to my favorite thing in the world: the smell of breakfast cooking. Cindy made us some cheese omelets, turkey bacon and rye toast. She also had a cheese danish, which Grandma Helen and I polished off (she had a really good appetite this morning).

Another day in East Bethany. (11/5/05)

After our showers, we put Grandma Helen in her bedroom for a mid-day nap, while Tim and I helped Aunt Cindy shampoo her carpets. And it was perfect timing since Bubba, who must have ate something he didn’t agree with, yakked on the carpet.

Then we got a surprise visit from Tim’s Aunt Joyce (not to be confused with Joycie the nurse) and her husband Uncle Ronnie. Coincidentally, it was also their 40th wedding anniversary. They had even brought their wedding album to show Grandma Helen, although I think I got the most enjoyment out of it (I always love wedding pictures, but looking at the 1965 fashions made them even more interesting).

Tim's Uncle Ronny and Aunt Joyce as they appeared on November 6, 1965.

Tim's Uncle Ronny and Aunt Joyce as they appeared on November 6, 2005.

After a while, Tim’s cousin (Joyce & Ronnie’s daughter) Debbie came by with her husband Troy and two kids, which was lots of fun. We ordered some pizza and hot wings and made a party out of it. It was really fun. I think even Tim’s grandmother really enjoyed all the activity in the house.

Tim's cousin Debbie with husband Troy and two kids Shane (left) and Nathan (right). (11/06/05)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Trip to the Empire State — Saturday

After picking up our rental car at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, our first mission was breakfast. After flying the entire night, we were starving.

The good ole Bob Evans restaurant, where they serve up some fantastic biscuits and gravy. (11/05/05)

We decided to find something in Buffalo, since the area where we were headed was pretty rural. We ended up at a place called Bob Evans, which even had a sign bragging about how good its breakfasts were. Tim got strawberry-stuffed french toast with a side of scrambled eggs and sausage links. I had two eggs (over easy), Canadian bacon, potatoes, and two biscuits and gravy.

After stuffing ourselves, we headed out to East Bethany, New York, where Tim’s grandmother is currently living with Tim’s Aunt Cindy. The first one to welcome us was Cindy’s dog Bubba, who saw our car at the end of the very, very long driveway.

Aunt Cindy's house in East Bethany, where Tim's Grandma Helen currently lives. (11/05/05)

Grandma Helen was awake and in her chair when we walked in. She actually seemed a lot better off than we had anticipated. That was a big relief, especially for Tim. She has some paralysis on her left side, but she hears, speaks and interacts well.

Once we settled in, and Tim’s Aunt Cindy felt comfortable that Grandma Helen was in good hands, she left to attend to some business. Somewhere along the line, all three of us fell asleep only to be woken up by Joycie, an in-home nurse that lives next door. Although Joycie has a habit of speaking a little bit on the loud side (probably due to the fact that she works mainly with geriatric patients), she does seem like a breath of fresh air. She’s very nice, and especially good to Tim’s grandmother.

At night we made some turkey and stuffing for dinner. Shortly after Aunt Cindy came home. We watched TV for a while (Iron Chef America) then headed to bed shortly after, where we fell asleep to the soothing sound of her fish tank, which totally relaxed us.

Aunt Cindy's pond fish, with whom we shared a bedroom. She had brought them in for the winter. (11/07/05).

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Trip to the Empire State — Friday Night

We recently scheduled a trip to visit Tim’s grandma Helen in upstate New York. This is the grandma who at age 85 had a pretty serious stroke last March. We’ve been wanting to visit ever since then, but they recommended that we wait a few months to give her time to recover.

Taking off from JFK International Airport. You can barely see it, but the Manhattan skyline is in the background. (11/05/05)

With me working now, I couldn’t take very many days off. So to maximize our time there, we took the redeye Friday night. For me, it was a night of firsts. First time taking the redeye. First time flying out of Long Beach airport. And first time ever taking JetBlue.

Our flight took us from Long Beach to New York’s JFK airport. Despite the really annoying diva in the window seat who kept needing to get in and out, the flight went really well and we managed to get some sleep.

At JFK, while we were transferring, I was relieved to see that two monks were on our flight. In my mind, that meant the flight was blessed. Although the flight from NYC to Buffalo was only an hour, it felt like five minutes since we slept the entire way (and for me to skip the free beverage and snack meant I was really sleepy).

When we finally landed in Buffalo, it was 8:30 a.m. Saturday and we were exhausted. I think our first time flying a redeye may also be our last.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone! We got into the Halloween spirit this year by decorating the house and handing out candy to the kids. We got about 50 kids this year. Not bad, but far from our record of 80+ kids two or three years back.

Our theme this year was The Nightmare Before Christmas ... since it practically is Christmas, at least in most retail locations. So to bring our theme to life, we made a Jack Skellington cut-out to post on our front door.

Our door greeter was none other than Jack Skellington ... not bad for a 39-cent posterboard, a pair of scissors and a Sharpie. (10/31/05)

Then, on the door-length fogged-glass window next to our front door, we made a back-lit shadow image of Jack and Sally in Halloween Town. It looked pretty good, I must say.

Our back-lit shadow image turned our pretty well, I have to say. (10/31/05)

We completed the effect with music from The Nightmare Before Christmas Disneyland holiday CD. We had so much fun putting it all together, I think we'll expand on it next year.

Here's the view from a few feet back. Happy Halloween everybody! (10/31/05)

.... One more thing ...

Tom and Christine sent me some cool pics of the awesome costumes that Christine sewed herself. Unfortunately, the Halloween party they went to Saturday night was so lame, no one hardly paid any attention to their costumes. So in tribute to Christine's hard work (and excellent results), I thought I'd post them here.

Christine as ... Dolly Parton! Although Christine already had some of Dolly's attributes, the costume really made them pop. (10/29/05)

Tom as ... Anakin Skywalker! In his version, however, Anakin is large and in charge! (10/29/05)

Great job T&C!!!