Friday, July 27, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

If you're like me, most songs have a vivid memory attached to them.

Last week I was listening to my iPod and the song Somewhere from Barbra Streisand's The Broadway Album began playing.

During my sophomore year of college, my friend Laura Kretokos skated to this song during one of the Miami University hockey games. I have long since lost contact with her, but I can still see her in my mind as she performed in front of hundreds of my college classmates.

As I listened to this song, I realized that Laura was just one of the many people who slightly nudged my life down the mysterious path of who I am.

I went Miami because a number of people from high school were going there. My dear friend Elizabeth also attended Miami and was much more socially comfortable than I. She was in a sorority and networked like nobody's business. As a sophomore, I began my darkest of years, with so many of my freshman friends now in fraternities or serving as RA's. The year before I rushed and applied for both but was not invited to join either group. That left me scrambling to find roommates for the next year. But there is a reason for everything.

Elizabeth introduced to me Laura, who turned out to be in my dorm that sophomore year. She had two suite mates, who took me under their wing that first semester and the two of them connected me to the Alpha-Phi-Omega service fraternity. And that second semester, I pledged and blossomed my 1.3 GPA would indicate.

A-Phi-O connected me to a wealth of friends including a wonderful woman named Chrissy. She was the beer chugging champion of A-Phi-O and we became fast buddies. After graduation, Chrissy moved out to Washington, DC. A year later, I decided to hoist my sails from Chicago and head east to join her & a few others from college.

It was three months into my DC venture when I began contemplating if being a waiter would be my destiny. Then Chrissy came home with a job announcement from her company. Two weeks later, I was hired as a meeting planner.

I hated the boss but loved the company. There was soon an opening in another department and I made the jump. The new boss was great and quickly became my friend.

And then, after a year or so, stopped being my boss and became my partner. Through that company we met two amazing ladies who wanted to be moms. And we all know where that led. :)

Stop and look where you are right now today. It's amazing see all the minuscule connections and decisions that would eventually get you and me to this point.

If Elizabeth had gone to another college.
If I hadn't gotten into the same dorm as Laura.
If Chrissy went a different city instead of DC.
If I didn't find the guts to pack a U-haul and move without a job.
If I found my own job instead of taking the one at Chrissy's company.


This is what life is...a whole bunch of "ifs". Each orchestrated with thousands of different endings that wouldn't exist without the prior one occurring.

The spouses and kids we write about today, might have been so much different if just ONE of our endings had gone awry. Sure we'd have kids, but would they be the same cast we've loved after all these years? Can you imagine a life without Peanut, Cheeky, the Goon Squad, 3B, Clare, Baby R, Sweet Pea & the Monk, or Lil Dubya? I can't.

Take a look at your path. So many times it's easy to see some bad situations. But honestly, all of them led to where you and I are today. I'm not sure if want to change that. Would you?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Possible? It Could Happen.

The other week we got into a conversation with Corey's moms about people we found attractive; musicians, movie stars, sports figures, etc. We joked about how some had aged and our interest in them faded because they just became too old. Harrison Ford is a perfect example. Hot as Indiana Jones; not so hot as Mr. Calista Flockhart.

During the midst of the conversation, one of the moms took us by surprise. "You know who else is hot? Kim Possible."

We reached back into our minds to try and remember what movie or band she was in.

"Wait a minute...isn't she a cartoon character?"

She nodded. "Yep, she and Jessica Rabbit are totally doable."

We all laughed on silly it was that she could find an animated character attractive. In a world of utterly hot folks to put on your freebie list, why would anyone pick someone where even the most remote of chances are...well, Kimpossible?

She defended herself quickly and asked if we had ever found a cartoon character attractive. I thought back and realized...shit, guilty as charged.

Every Saturday morning as a kid, my crush would join his friends for an hour of battling the Legion of Doom. With a bulging chest, pecs to die for and a nice form fitting Lycra suit, Aquaman was definitely the hottie of his time. And watch that guy run...woof!

I'm a huge fan of superhero powers, though I seemed to be attracted to the one guy with slightly limited uses. Though skiing on the backs of manta rays is cool, there's not much action one can do if all the danger is land based.

Besides I have a tendency to prune up real bad when in water for long periods of time.

It turns out that in the comic books, my prince did eventually find his bride. I'm sure she could appreciate the aquatic culture more than I, so it's probably better for both of us in the long run.

Did you ever fall for a cartoon character or is that limited to Corey's nut-job parents?


Sunday, July 22, 2007

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Yesterday, we went to my friend's wedding which took place in St. Michaels, a great little town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The wedding was a traditional Indian wedding and was filled with vibrant colors and delicious foods.

St. Michaels is also home to many antique stores and fairly inexpensive garden shops. We decided to take advantage of the drive and scour the shops for more things for our yard.

I love to garden. A restful day for me is working outside for 10 hours if I could. I am constantly planting, transplanting, and moving both live and inanimate objects back and forth through the yard. As a neighbor once said, we are about one windmill short of a putt-putt course.

That didn't stop us from buying Mr. Suh, the newest piece of yard art for our back yard. In reality, Mr. Suh is our tailor who works in Old Town Alexandria and keeps letting out my pants as my trips to the gym become less frequent. But we like to name our things and Mr. Suh seemed like a fitting tribute to this Asian worker now prominently displayed in our backyard.

As I loaded the pictures onto my computer, I looked through the past three years to see how the garden has matured. Like children, you forget how much they've grown until you pull out old pictures.





Friday, July 20, 2007

Vienna Calling

There are times when you enjoying viewing a concert and there are times you just get completely sucked in. Last night was one of those times for me.

I found Vienna Teng through surfing the Internet three years ago and was immediately mesmerized. You can close your eyes and hear aspects of Tori Amos, however she brings about a clarity and calmness that goes unmatched.

If I have to work on a weekend, this is the music I listen to. It almost becomes this underlying soundtrack to the day. Whereas cranking the volume of a rock song gets your blood pumping, this soothes me as my energy increases.

I've always wanted to see three musicians live. Last year I got the privilege to hear one of those groups. I didn't think they could be outdone until last night when we went to one of the best places in DC for live music.

At 29, Vienna has such a command of her music and lyrics. She has studied classical piano since age 5 and began writing material at age 12. With a degree in computer science from Stanford, she worked for Cisco for two years before turning to music full-time.

Supported on stage by a cellist, a violinist, and a percussionist, there was an utter simplicity in how they performed but yet an unbelievable complexity to the music. The four of them performed as one although it was her voice that just connected with audience.

Sometimes a concert doesn't come close to what you hear through a CD. There is the energy of hearing a person live, but the precision is lost. Not this time.

I never thought I'd enjoy this concert as much as I did, but it was truly one of my favorites.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Games People Play

Last week, I spent five days at my folk's house. Since my parents recently moved, they were extremely excited to have us all visit, but they were most excited about the "grand kid area" they had created in their basement.

As constant yard sale vigilantes, the two of them can score some amazing bargains and thus have stocked their basement much like aisles 3-7 of Toys R Us. There is not a child in the Chicago area who would pick a better destination for their activities.

I am a purger who comes from two pack rats savers. They have kept a ton of our toys from when we were little. Let's just say when we move them to the nearest Leisure World, eBay will be paying for Corey's college education with the sale of these toys.

The most remarkable thing was watching how he was drawn to these items. A recent Star Wars convert, he immediately went for the Darth Vader action figure storage case. We They still have
21 of the figures, along with weapons, outfits, landspeeders and fighters.

Right along side were our old Adventure People. We have about fifteen sets of these and as you can see from the link, they are worth a fortune. Corey would have R2D2 on safari, Lando Calrissan cooking in the kitchen and Han Solo in a canoe. Each figure jumped into a foreign situation, but in my son's eyes, they all belonged together.

We celebrated Corey's birthday out there as well. He got a Spiderman car, a transformer and a game... Buckaroo. As he unwrapped it, I commented, "Wow, what a cool game."

My mom looked over. "That's what you said 37 years ago when we gave it to you. We gave you this game for staying dry for five nights in a row."

It's sort of hard to find a witty comeback after a statement like that.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Email

For some reason, my email address hasn't been working. I bought the domain name a few years ago and the email service seems to be pretty sporadic.

So I'm moving to gmail since the "recaps" one has become more than irritating at this point. You can snag the new gmail one off this page: or if I know your email, look for a an email from me soon.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

And if I don't have your email (cough--Dad Stuff--cough) , feel free to drop me a line.


Flying Home

It's the last day of our trip visiting my folks in Chicago. Why do vacations always seem more tiring than staying home?

Overall, it has been great. Corey has really enjoyed spending time with his grandparents and met his two cousins out here for the first time. His cousin Kevin is only a few months older than him and we were wondering how they would get along. Their conversations went a lot like this:

"Barrrlllppp.....I burped"
"pppfffttssd....oh yeah, that was my fart."
"Toooootttteerr.......I can fart too out my bootie."

Nice huh? 5 year olds will be 5 year olds. Whatever did we get ourselves into.

Corey has had a great time, watching Star Wars movies, playing with all my old toys and getting spoiled in general. We spent a day at Centennial Beach, which is this old quarry now used as a pool and beach. The boys also spent the day at the Dupage Children's Museum. Talk about a place that Purell would make a fortune.

The flight was low key, not that it's hard to have a meltdown in 90 minutes. God bless iTunes who thought it was a wise idea to include Little Einsteins in their programming choice.

We're coming home tonight so pictures later this week.

PS My email notification for comments hasn't been working well at all. My apologies if I haven't responded back.

PPS Drop by Family of Choice and congratulate my friend Bacchus. He and his partner have finalized the adoption of their son.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Food for Thought

Clare's Dad and Stuff in my Brain both tagged me with this quick meme. Here's the rules:
  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Include the state and country you live in.
  • List top five favorite local restaurants.
  • Tag five other people and let them know they've been tagged.
You all know I live in the nation's capital, where there's a protest every other weekend, one of the country's worst baseball records this year and no voting representation in Congress. DC has some great places to eat, but most of us travel within Maryland and Virginia pretty fluidly so all my locales will be in this area.

My favorite place of all time is this hole-in-the-wall called Capitol BBQ. Located on H street in the Gallery Place section of town, this was the place that catered my 40th birthday party. BBQ pork sandwiches are about my favorite food ever and all the fixin's that come with it are pretty pleasin' as well. The place has a hot & mild sauces and serves pork, chicken, ribs, brisket and turkey. The sides kick total ass (especially the pasta salad) and nothing on earth beats their banana pudding.

My 2nd favorite cuisine is why I'm choosing Cubanos as another one of my choices. This is in Silver Spring, MD and is about as authentic Cuban as you can get. From the grilled bread to the plantanos to the ropa vieja & mi terra, the dishes are well proportioned for the money and service is always great.

Italian is dominated by the Dino restaurant. Owned by a couple who were wine connoisseurs (Somollies--how do you spell it?) in Hollywood, they came to DC a few years ago and opened an awesome higher-end place right on Connecticut Ave NW. There are special wine pairing menus all the time and the appetizers are to die for. Much of the menu allows for half-entries so that you can try two different meals each time. The atmosphere is great and the tables are spacious.

You want traditional Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine? There is no place better then Marakesh downtown DC. With two seatings a night, this place serves a nine course meal and explains the traditions behind each dish. During the middle of dinner, a woman comes out and performs a traditional belly dance..which is not like the stuff you see on TV at all.

Rustico is a new place I discovered from my friend, Jill. Located in Alexandria, VA, it has some of the most innovated foods and presentations I've ever had. Their pizzas are amazing--I highly recommend the duck bacon and brie-- and the Mosaic trio (three mini entrees) all have beer pairings along with them. There is a good size bar area as well as a sit-down restaurant.

So who am I tagging? I'm going to be selfish and tag five locals so I can learn about other great restaurants in the area.

Brian at Story of the Turtle
Kelly at O for Obsessive
Papa Bradstein at the Bradstein Household
Lisa at Lemon Gloria
Mamma at Mamma Loves

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The Fairy Chronicles

OK, get your jokes out of the way early. No, I'm not renaming my blog. Yes, I get the joke about being a fairy (far from it, if you met me.)

Honestly, I was asked to review a series of books called The Fairy Chronicles. The stories are about a world where fairies live among us disguised as ordinary nine year old girls. In the FC world, fairies are fixers, displaying courage, strength, concern, etc. as they work to protect Mother Nature (and other kids) from harm. Each fully-illustrated book is about a different fairy, with her own talents, wand and mentor. And each story has an inspiring and positive message.

The 100-page books introduce a lot of concepts and explanations along the way, sometimes at the expense of the story. While I understand that this helps set up future books, you could definitely feel the difference in writing when the author is trying to explain concepts versus the character plot lines.

My disadvantage was that I read them as an adult and didn't have that benefit of hearing a child's thoughts as the story progressed. I enjoyed the special powers and how each girl assumed the role of a different animal or flower. It felt very X-men for little girls.

What I really didn't like was the long belabored distractions into socially relevant items such as recycling. The fairies were doing something and then we divert into two pages (which is a lot in a child's book) about recycling, keeping the earth pristine and how to set up nine different bins for disposing of glass, aluminium and paper. All good things mind you; just a lot to be teaching in a small book. The story just got overwhelming with details in those parts.

I decided to the pass the books along to Clare's Dad, who has a five year named...well, Clare. Here's their review:

The books are more directed toward girls at least 8 years old I’d say, but Clare liked it (she’s five). Thanks to Tinkerbell, she’s very into fairies right now—it was probably the author’s intent to build on the popularity of Tinkerbell. (There are new Tink books out now too where she has a lot of other fairy friends and there’s a movie coming next year.) We got started on the book slowly, but once we were a few chapters into it, Clare was really excited to keep reading. She liked the flowers and insects being fairies, and likes talking about what the fairies are wearing and what their special powers are. The pictures were very popular with her obviously. The only thing she didn’t like were the gremlins. We had to convince her that we didn’t have gremlins in the house because we have enough stainless steel and vacuum cleaners—at least the author gave us that to work with.

The stories are now available for purchase at Amazon or on the site list above.

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