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

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

Book review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

Dark Road to Darjeeling (Lady Julia, #4)Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered this series a few years ago, upon the recommendation of the lovely folks at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop (located in Seattle, of course). The series takes place in England (mostly) in the 1800s. Lady Julia Grey comes from a family of wealthy and eccentric aristocrats. She manages to trump her family’s eccentricity contest by marrying a “man in trade” (horrors!) who is half-Gypsy to boot, whom she met when he was investigating her first husband’s murder. (See the previous books in the series–“Silent in the Grave,” “Silent in the Sanctuary,” and “Silent on the Moor,” all of which are excellent.)
The author has a spare and understated writing style that is a genuine pleasure to read. The historical period is well-researched, and her characters are flawed and appealing. The mysteries are also well-plotted and well-paced, with secondary characters that are three dimensional and interesting.
This book–the 4th in the series–is no exception. This particular book takes place in India and gives nice historical detail about tea plantations without ever giving the reader the feeling that you’re reading a history textbook. The story is possibly the darkest one yet in the series and so compelling that you find yourself hoarding the last full book in the series (“The Dark Enquiry”) because you don’t want the series to end.
If I had any complaint, it would be that I wish the author would spend less time writing novellas for the series and more time writing another full-length novel!

View all my reviews

Halloween 2014

Our 13 year old suffered childhood trauma (his words) upon being told he was too old to go trick-or-treating this year. And our Chinese was insufficient to explain the quintessentially American way of celebrating Halloween to our exchange student. (I’m not sure our English would have been sufficient, either—it is surprisingly difficult to give a coherent explanation of Halloween to someone who has never experienced it.)

Nonetheless, we celebrated Halloween, American-style. Jim dressed up as a man-eating shark:

man-eating shark (aka Jim)

Our 13 year old was Star Lord (from “Guardians of the Galaxy”), our almost-16 year old was a Tardis (from “Dr. Who”) [the Tardis on her head lights up, by the way], and our exchange student was Artemis (at least, I think that’s who she was).

Artemis, Star Lord, and a Tardis

Star Lord & a Tardis

We inflicted ourselves upon friends who have two little boys, so our 13 year old STILL got to go trick-or-treating, under the guise of taking the boys around and arrived back triumphantly with a huge bag of candy. It’s all about gaming the system…