Best Buddies Miami 2016

We were in Miami this past weekend attending the Best Buddies gala.  Best Buddies is a non-profit that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with friendships, jobs, and leadership development.  The annual gala in Miami is always a fun event to attend—both in terms of helping a very worthy cause and because Miami has some of the best people watching ever.
This year’s theme was rock-and-roll.  There were Michael Jackson and Prince impersonators who were quite talented.  There was also Guns ’n’ Roses impersonators, which we had to ask about as neither of us were ever Guns ’n’ Roses fans.

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Bohemian rhapsody

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Santana’s surf & turf

Elton's piano

Elton’s piano

There were several celebrities attending, but the one I got a photo with is Nolan Gould, who plays Luke in “Modern Family.”  He is a super nice kid, very personable and low-key.

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Kesha was the entertainment, and while her voice leaves something to be desired, she puts on a fun show.  She also was quite lovely to talk to.  I especially like her since she admired my necklace (which is a piece of meteorite).
The weather was perfect—around 80 degrees and breezy.  We spent some of the weekend going to the Wolfsonian, a museum specializing in propaganda materials (seems somehow very apt right now) and walking through one of the outdoor malls.

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We also had a tremendous meal at Bazaar, one of Jose Andres’s restaurants, but more about that in a later blog post.

Folger Shakespeare Library London Board meeting

I am on the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Folger decided to have its June board meeting in London this year. The Board meeting itself was held at the British Library and quite productive. (Or, rather, getting to know the other Board members and the senior staff better was extremely productive. Hopefully, the staff, for whom this board meeting was orders of magnitude more work than normal board meetings, thought so, too.)

At any rate, we got to see not only the British Library, which had an exhibit not only on Shakespeare (duh!) but also had a punk exhibit, where there was the only document signed by all the Sex Pistols (kicking out one of the original band members and signing on Sid Vicious), but also two plays.

The first one was “Elegy,” which a board member who shall remain anonymous reacted to by saying he would rather cut off a finger than see it again. Someone labeled the play as a thought experiment, which I think is an accurate description. Note that I myself am not fond of thought experiments as plays.

The second play was “Romeo and Juliet” with Derek Jacobi as Mercutio and directed by Kenneth Branagh. It was a fabulous production—set in fascist Italy and superbly acted. As I get older, however, this play becomes less a romantic and tragic love story and more about the idiocy that results from an overabundance of testosterone. But I digress.

I stayed on an extra day and decided to spend it at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I emerged four and a half hours later. The museum is nominally about the decorative arts, but it really is so much more. It has everything from illuminated manuscripts to Leonardo daVinci’s notebooks (5 of them!) to ceramics from around the world to Islamic art to architectural models. Not surprisingly, the European exhibits are much stronger than the non-European exhibits, but everything is good.

V&A cast room

V&A cast room

V&A

V&A medieval room

Add onto that an obligatory trip to Harrod’s to check out the food stalls, and I would call this a very successful visit!

Folger Shakespeare gala April 2016

The Folger Shakespeare Library has the world’s largest collection of First Folios, the first publication of Shakespeare’s plays.  (They are stored in a huge vault, which is way cool to visit.)  It is an organization that provides scholarly resources for academic research, concerts and plays, and education curricula for K-12 teachers.  One of its missions—and the one that resonates most with us—is to make Shakespeare relevant to the 21st century.
The First Folios are currently on tour as we celebrate the Wonder of Will, otherwise known as the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s life.
I’m on the Board of Governors for the Folger, and the annual black-tie gala was held on April 18.  We raised over $400,000 for the Folger and its programs.  The kids came along and invited some of their friends as well.
I’m including some photos, including a fabulous shot by the Folger photographer of the Reading Room, which looks like it walked straight out of the 17th century (but with plumbing!)

Jim with actor Wendell Pierce

Jim with actor Wendell Pierce

with Denise Levy

with Denise Levy

the gang of 11th graders

the gang of 11th graders

the gang of 8th graders

the gang of 8th graders

the Folger reading room

the Folger reading room

You can find out more about the Folger at www.folger.edu, and you can find out where you can go see a First Folio on tour at http://www.folger.edu/first-folio-tour.

YMCA Gala 2015

This is an annual gala to benefit the YMCA – Fairfax County, which provides a variety of services—from childcare to summer camps to senior services—to residents of Fairfax County, Virginia.  I’ve been on the board since 2002 and roll off at the end of this year.  We’ve been attending this gala for almost that long and have fond memories of the event.  It’s the first black tie event the kids have ever attended (their first one was when they were 9 and 6).  It has also helped them to learn about philanthropy (and the etiquette of attending black tie events).
This year’s theme was “Finding the Superhero in Everyone.”  As usual, it was a wonderful event.  It’s held at the YMCA gym every year, and it’s always fun to see the gym decorated for the gala.  (It does also remind me a bit of a high school prom, but I have excellently wonderful memories of my high school prom, so that’s all right.)  Oh, and just for the record, I am the shortest person in the family.  Heels are the only reason that I’m taller than our daughter in the photo.  🙂
To find out more about the YMCA – Fairfax County, go to www.ymcadc.org/reston.

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Tokyo and the US-Japan Leadership Program

We traveled to Tokyo in late July to participate in the US-Japan Leadership Program alumni weekend but arrived a few days early so that we could do the important things in Tokyo—Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland. 🙂

(Our son came with us on the trip, but our daughter was doing her community service project and wasn’t able to make it.)

We had never been to DisneySea, and it was a really fabulous experience to visit a Disney park where everything was new. Our favorite rides there were Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Indiana Jones ride (which is based on the horrible Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull movie). There is a Stormrider ride that is somewhat similar to the Star Tours simulator ride that is also very well done.

Tokyo DisneySea

Tokyo DisneySea

We had only been to Tokyo Disneyland once before. Once again, the Winnie-the-Pooh ride was our favorite (and it’s the best version of the ride in all of the Disney parks, hands down). We also loved the Buzz Lightyear and Monsters, Inc. rides there. And we are continually fascinated by the different flavors of popcorn available in the Tokyo Disneyland park—honey, chocolate, curry, teriyaki, and regular. Curry popcorn was the Ms’ favorite flavor, but Jim was NOT a fan.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland

It was also fun to compare the design and rides with all of the other Disney parks. Yes, I know we are hopeless Disney addicts!

We ate at a one Michelin star teppanyaki restaurant called Ukai-tei. It was an interesting combination of classically trained teppanyaki and classically trained French chefs in one restaurant (and chef). The food was fabulous, and it was a great experience.

The USJLP alumni weekend was a tremendous amount of fun. There were over 70 Fellows who attended, and many more Americans than typical. The nice thing about having a critical mass of Fellows is that you don’t feel as much like you’re intruding on the delegates’ fun and bonding. It was really lovely to see all the Fellows, catch up on their news, and meet the delegates (some of whom I already knew from DC gatherings). There was even a bonding amongst what we hope to be the future generation of USJLP-ers!

future USJLPLers

future USJLPLers

Oh, and I can’t forget that only in Japan can you find square watermelons!

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Sips & Suppers 2015

Sips & Suppers is an annual fundraising event in Washington, DC held to raise money for DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table. Both organizations have missions to eliminate hunger and poverty in Washington, DC, especially for children and families.

We love this event where various generous folks open their homes to guests and to well-known chefs who come in from all over the country to cook the meals. This year, we attended a dinner prepared by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse (www.chezpanisse.com). Alice pioneered what is known now as California cuisine, with its emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. As you can imagine, the dinner was a delectable meal that filled the senses.

We started out with various hors d’oeuvres, including slices of bread toasted in the hosts’ fireplace and topped with cheese or a tapenade, raw oysters, and Jose Andres’s Iberico ham.

The first official course was a saffron chicken consommé with herbs. The consommé was incredibly flavorful and the herbs nicely balanced out the richness of the broth with their astringency.

Next up was a shellfish salad with black truffle, preserved lemon, and garden lettuces. The shellfish consisted of incredibly succulent lobster and scallops. Now, anything topped with black truffle is bound to be delicious, but the freshness of the seafood made the salad even more special.

The entrée was Jamison Farm rack of lamb served with Moroccan spices, couscous, and roasted heirloom carrots. Alice and her staff had converted the hosts’ garden plot into a firepit to roast the rack of lamb. As a result, the lamb had a smoky flavor and a crust that was unbelievable.

The palate cleanser was a citrus and date salad. The date was so fresh and ripe that it tasted like candy.

Dessert was sweet semolina crêpes with honey ice cream. Alice brought the honey from Berkeley, and it had an incredibly delicate floral flavor. Yum!

The guests were also incredibly star-studded, even for Washington, DC. We had prominent journalists, former and current senior government officials, and leaders of other communities, all of whom were delightful and informal. The normal guests were a lot of fun to talk to, too!  (At least, I hope we were.)  🙂

In addition to Alice, the other chefs were David Tanis, Ignacios Mattos, Nico Monday, and Amelia Monday.

You can find out more about DC Central Kitchen (www.dccentralkitchen.org) and Martha’s Table (www.marthastable.org) at their websites.

Best Buddies Miami 2014

In case you hadn’t noticed, fall is a busy time for us. 🙂 We traveled down to Miami for the Best Buddies gala, which was held on November 21. Best Buddies is a non-profit organization that helps developmentally disabled folks by providing them with friendships, jobs, and leadership training.

We flew down on Friday morning. Our exchange student and our 13 year old son flew down with some friends Friday night. Our 16 year old daughter was at a math meet in Princeton. (If you ever want to blow people’s minds, especially at a fancy smancy charity event, you tell people exactly that—that she chose a math meet over Miami for the weekend. Love my daughter!!)

This year’s gala was held at the Fontainebleau Hotel with a Southeast Asia theme. It was a huge success. The event raised over $2 million—a phenomenal amount!

Best Buddies Miami 2014

Best Buddies Miami 2014

Since the gala was Friday night, we stayed the weekend. Saturday wasn’t an ideal Miami day—it was quite windy and overcast, although it never rained. Nonetheless, it was still forty degrees warmer than where we had been, so no one was complaining. We played by the pool and then went walking around South Beach to show our exchange student what it was all about. Our son later solemnly informed us that he did not think South Beach was age appropriate for him. 🙂

Sunday was much more typical Miami weather, and we caught a few hours of sunshine before heading back to DC. It was a very relaxing weekend as we now brace for the chaos known as the holiday season!

Miami in November

Miami in November

You can find out more about Best Buddies at www.bestbuddies.org.

YMCA – Fairfax County 2014 Gala

We attended the Fairfax County Y gala on Saturday, November 15. The theme of the gala was “Unmask Your Potential” and Mardi Gras-themed masks were the order of the day. (To the woman who wore the two feet high peacock blue feathered mask, one word: Don’t.)

The gala raises money for underprivileged kids to attend day care and summer camp at the Y. While Fairfax County is an affluent county, there is a surprisingly high population of poor families, especially the working poor (those who make too much money to qualify for aid but not enough to afford childcare).

All five of us attended the gala in full mask regalia. The event was held at the Y in Reston. The gym was beautifully decorated, and it was quite the festive occasion.

2014 Y Gala

Getting ready for the Y gala

2014 Y gala

Most importantly, money was raised to help the underprivileged kids in the area. You can find out more about the Y at www.ymcadc.org.

Best Buddies DC 2014

The annual Best Buddies bike ride/run/walk in DC was held on Saturday, October 18. Best Buddies is a non-profit that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, both socially (hence its name) and professionally, by encouraging companies to hire people with disabilities and by providing leadership development.

The annual event is made up of a bike ride (100, 62, or 20 miles) or a 5K run/walk at the National Mall. Jim’s company put together a team of walkers, and our 13 year old and I arrived bright and early on Saturday morning. (Jim was traveling, and it was Homecoming for our high-schooler.)

Because the DC event is named after Eunice Shriver, I am never surprised when the weather is perfect for the event. (Even God would have a tough time crossing Mrs. Shriver, in my opinion.) This year was no exception. It was sunny and crisp, a perfect autumn day.

After finishing a leisurely 5K stroll, the afternoon events took place at Morven Park in Leesburg, the finishing point for the cyclists. There are all sorts of festivities and food there as well. The kids all ran around like banshees while the adults hung and chatted.

Here’s the group photo of Team Sterling at the walk:

Team Sterling 2014

You can find out more about Best Buddies at www.bestbuddies.org.

Children’s Ball 2014

The Children’s Ball, a fundraiser to benefit the Children’s National Medical Center, was held on Friday, April 11 at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC. The Ball was co-chaired by Yousef and Abeer Al-Otaiba (the UAE Ambassador and his wife) and Amy and Bret Baier.  There were over 900 people in attendance with a lengthy waitlist as well.

Thanks to the wonderful co-chairs, the Ball broke a DC fundraising record and raised $10.7 million for Children’s National Medical Center. The live auction included a Labrador puppy (which our children were strictly banned from bidding on).  Yousef announced at the end of the live auction that he had called the Crown Prince of the UAE and the Foreign Minister on his way to the event, and both agreed to contribute $1 million each.  And as a final surprise for the guests, Jennifer Hudson performed for the crowd, including a stunning rendition of one of my favorite songs, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (better known as one of the songs on the Shrek soundtrack).  🙂

Jim is Chair of the CNMC Board of Directors for another 2 months and 9 days, and this is one of our favorite events of the year.

Here is our family at the Ball:

Children's Ball 2014

Children’s Ball 2014

The kids also got to invite their friends. Here is our daughter’s group (minus one):

Jade & her friends

Jade & her friends at Children’s Ball 2014

And here is our son’s group of friends:

Marcus & his friends

Marcus & his friends

You can learn more about Children’s National Medical Center at www.cnmc.org.