Spring Break 2022

Our last spring break together as a family was in March (yes, this entry is a bit late). We really have no grounds for complaint, however. For several years, the college spring break for Jade coincided with the high school spring break for Marcus, and so we eked out a couple more years of spring break together than most families manage and feel fortunate for being able to do so.
A very wise friend of ours once told me that the way to get your children to continue to vacation with you once they leave the house is to choose interesting/fun places to go and pay for all of it. And so I bring you spring break 2022 in Los Angeles!
The kids started their spring break in San Diego visiting my parents (and eating). We then met up with the kids in Disneyland (Jade’s first trip to the mother ship!), where we stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel and spent 2 really fun days at the parks, riding rides (and eating). We then moved to Los Angeles itself (well, really, Marina Del Rey, for those familiar with SoCal) and did touristy things (and ate). We had a tour of the La Brea Tar Pits (very cool, with lots of bones and active tar pits still), a tour of the Getty Villa (it’s the classical antiquities part of the Getty—I will never look at Commodus in quite the same way again (in a good way!)), toured through the Getty Museum, and had an after hours viewing of the Griffith Observatory where we saw the Orion Nebula and an Orion star cluster, among many other things, and helped shut down the telescope for the evening. The common theme of all of the tours, for which we are immensely grateful, was the dedication and love of all the personnel we met for what they were doing professionally. Everyone was so excited about their work and loved sharing their knowledge with us. It was a good reminder to the kids that loving what you do is so important to leading a fulfilling life.
Memorable meals include Din Tai Fung (love, love those soup dumplings), Pink’s (an LA institution justifiably famous for its hot dogs), Spagos (a Wolfgang Puck restaurant that is still going strong after 30+ years), and Meizhou Dong Po (a transplant from China).
It was a fantabulously fun week with the four of us—maybe even more so because we know that opportunities like this, with all four of us together, will become scarcer as the years go on. I can’t complain—we’ve had more spring breaks together than we had expected and so each extra one is just a bonus. And this one was fun!

Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland
Cars Land at Disneyland
view from the Griffith Observatory

University of Kansas Basketball

We have extremely good friends (family, really) who are huge KU basketball fans and invited us to go see a game with them the first weekend of March. (To my K-State peeps: you know that I will always bleed purple and white, but the dodo bird in primary colors does have its moments, especially when it comes to college basketball. Not to mention that Kansans need to stick together.) Having grown up going to Kansas State basketball games at Ahearn Fieldhouse, seeing a game at Allen Fieldhouse brought back some really lovely memories.
It was Senior Day for the KU-UT(exas) game. (And, in an amazing coincidence, two of Jim’s cousins happen to be at the game as well.)

with Jim's cousins
with Jim’s cousins

The game itself was a grind-it-out-in-overtime-because-we-can’t-buy-a-bucket kind of game, which was both painful and exciting to watch. And the atmosphere was electric—loud, passionate, enthusiastic, and occasionally profane. It was fabulous! KU won in overtime and then we listened to some really touching and heartfelt speeches by the seniors.
We got stranded by an unexpected snowstorm in Kansas City flying back. Had we been stranded at an east coast airport, there would have been much yelling and anger towards the gate agents. But in Kansas City, while people were clearly unhappy, they did not feel the need to vent their unhappiness towards others, given that the weather was no one’s fault and out of anyone’s control. I like Midwesterners. We did eventually make it home (for those of you familiar with O’Hare, I made the E gate to C gate trek in 15 minutes!). And it was definitely worth it.
It was all the more fun, then, to watch KU make their run through the NCAA tournament and ultimately win the national championship. (And what a mind blowing game to win it all!)
Thank you, Sarah and Mark, for a wonderful weekend and an amazing experience!
And Rock Chalk Jayhawk! (At least when they’re not playing K-State…)

Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Graduation 2021 and Hawaii

Two joyous events, especially in a year like this one.

In mid-June, we celebrated our daughter’s graduation from Stanford (total brag: she graduated with a degree in math, with distinction, and phi beta kappa). The graduation was a limited in-person event (two fully vaccinated guests per student). Issa Rae was the graduation speaker, and she did an excellent job. In addition, we had two VERY lovely friends who opened their home for a reception after the ceremony for Jade and her friends and their families. It was a truly celebratory day, and I think everyone appreciated the moment even more than they usually would.

Graduation 2021

Our summer trip was to Honolulu a few weeks later. We rented a house and enjoyed spending time with family and friends. There was a beautiful ocean, there were many beautiful rainbows (Hawaii isn’t called the rainbow state for no reason), there was fabulous food (fancy and not fancy), and there were wonderful guests who stayed with us. It really was a perfect time to relax, eat, and have fun.

I cannot tell you how wonderful Hawaii is. I can feel my blood pressure going down after landing at the Honolulu airport. My east coast friends wonder why we don’t go to the Caribbean for sun and ocean since it’s so much closer. I’ve concluded that it’s best to smile and keep the magical island paradise of Hawaii as a west coast secret. 🙂

sunrise over Koko Head
Moon over Koko Head
Pali Lookout

Christmas 2020

In an act of foolhardiness, we decided to go to Hawaii for Christmas. This was foolhardy for several reasons: first, Hawaii has imposed some stringent covid testing requirements in order to be permitted to come; second, there were no non-stop flights to Honolulu due to the lack of flights, which added another wild card to the equation; and, third, we would have to be masked for the entire set of flights.

We decided to rent a house, feeling that it would be safer, especially for Jim’s mom, who was coming as well. It was a beautiful house in the Portlock area, right on the water, with plenty of space for everyone.

Hawaii’s testing requirements were that you have to have a negative covid test within 72 hours of your departing flight to Hawaii from an approved partner. We ended up taking 2 different tests from 2 different partners. Jim received his negative test on Thursday morning, but the rest of us didn’t receive our test results until late Thursday night (our flight to Honolulu left Friday morning). It was rather stressful. But at least we were all negative!

It was a very different trip to Honolulu than any of our others. We rarely left the house, other than to exercise or go grocery shopping. Jim and I did our traditional 7 mile walk around Diamondhead every morning at oh-dark-thirty. (Hawaii is the only place where I am a morning person, and that’s only because we don’t generally bother to change time zones.) We “rented” surfboards (and it’s in quotes because the surf shop actually just lent the surfboards to us without charge), and Marcus went out surfing every day.

Yinan and I taught everyone how to play mahjong, and we now have mahjong addicts as children. Yay for parenting!

The weather was sunny and 80 degrees every day except for the day we left. Not a bad way to spend Christmas!

view from the house

Christmas in Hawaii

Christmas star

Thanksgiving 2020

As with everything this year, Thanksgiving was a little different than usual. Instead of the usual 20+ guests crowd, we had 11 people total, 9 adults. Everyone had tested negative before they arrived. (The new prerequisite: don’t bring a side dish or flowers—bring a negative test result.)
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 11 is barely cooking Thanksgiving dinner at all. It was a surprisingly unstressful experience. We actually ran out of things to do at around 4:00 pm that day.
Our Thanksgiving menu is as follows:

Thanksgiving 2020 menu
Thanksgiving 2020 spread

Whatever the constraints, it is still a holiday that celebrates thankfulness and gratitude. We are indeed fortunate in our lives, and in this year of all years, we feel grateful for our many blessings.

Graduation Celebration – Pandemic Style

We had a high school senior last year, and graduation in June happened virtually, as it did for so many others. The school did its best by having the high school administrative team personally deliver our son’s diploma and by putting on a lovely virtual graduation. But we were determined to have some kind of celebration for him in August.
We decided, of course, that the best place to celebrate such an accomplishment was at the Inn at Little Washington. We had 21 people at 3 different tables, with families generally sitting with each other. Marcus selected the menu, so it included his favorite dishes at the Inn. (This was consistently pointed out by Jim, who noted that not all of his favorites were on the menu.) The event was beautifully done (it was the Inn, after all), and the food was amazing. Jim gave a lovely toast, Rem (his best friend) gave an amazing speech, and Jade actually gave a lovely off-the-cuff speech as well. Marcus, not surprisingly, rose to the occasion and gave a wonderful, heartfelt speech, mentioning everyone there by name and explaining why he was grateful to them. It was all pretty perfect, under the circumstances. And while it wasn’t necessarily the party we would have had for him if we could, being Marcus, it was more than enough.

New Year’s Eve 2019

We have marvelous friends (more like family) who, for some unfathomable reason, decided to host a New Year’s Eve dinner and invited us to help cook (the unfathomable part of it was letting us help cook). What that really meant, of course, is that they allowed us into their kitchen to create a gigantic mess. Who does this, other than family?

Anyway, the huge mess we created did actually result in a delicious dinner. The menu was as follows:

NYE 2019 menu

Apple Rutabaga soup (served with 2008 Louis Roederer Cristal)


Royal Petrossian Caviar station

caviar station


Tuna Fire & Ice (served with Mountain Field Treasure Junmai Sake)

fire & ice


Foie Gras on brioche (served with 2017 Bouchard Père & Fils Chassagne-Montrachet)

foie gras on brioche


Uncrab Cakes with Crab (served with 2017 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay)

uncrab cakes with crab


Wagyu and Marrow Bones (served with 1998 Rudd Estate Jericho Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon)

wagyu & marrow bones with potato soufflé


Bûche de Noel (served with 2003 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes)

bûche de noel

New Year’s Eve itself was celebrated with a bottle of 2006 Pol Roger (Winston Churchill’s favorite champagne)

I wish I could say that I didn’t eat after that for a month, but, alas, that is simply not true.

Happy (belated) New Year!

Disneyworld & an 18th Birthday

To be sure, we celebrate every trip to Disneyworld. And we certainly celebrate every birthday trip to the happiest place on earth. But this particular trip (the birthday boy’s 61st trip, to be exact) is best known as “the Galaxy’s Edge trip.”
If you don’t belong to the Star Wars fandom, then that phrase has no meaning whatsoever. So for those barbarians, I will explain that Galaxy’s Edge is the new Star Wars land, located in Hollywood Studios in Disneyworld. There is currently only one ride there, known as Millenium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run where you are the pilot/gunner/engineer for the Millenium Falcon. Anything else I said would spoil the surprise and be inadequately descriptive of the ride. But let me repeat the key takeaway here: you are ON BOARD the Millenium Falcon. There are no other words necessary.
The theming of Galaxy’s Edge is pretty amazing, even by Disney standards. Kylo Ren and his stormtroopers make unscheduled but frequent visits. Chewbacca and Rey also appear (and I’m told that there are stories of people who try and hide Chewbacca when the stormtroopers appear). You can play an online game assuming the role of a supporter of the First Order, the Resistance, or an ordinary scoundrel. (I was most displeased when our daughter decided to install surveillance equipment on behalf of the First Order. She will do anything for Kylo Ren.)
Despite her inadequate moral framework, we all had a memorable time exploring Galaxy’s Edge and the rest of Disneyworld, of course, as part of the oh-my-gosh-the-boy-is-legal birthday celebration.

entering Galaxy’s Edge!
blue milk or green milk? (blue is better)
the Millenium Falcon!
on board the Millenium Falcon
waiting to board the ship
Galaxy’s Edge

Hawaii: July 2019 version

By now, there isn’t much more that I can say about this little bit of paradise than I haven’t already said.

sunrise in o’ahu

So let me just mention the highlights of this trip, which include the following:

  • Continuing our 4th of July tradition of spending it with Dianne, John, Benjamin and Isabelle (this time in Honolulu)
Dinner at Chef Mavro
  • Getting to spend the 4th of July holiday with our former exchange student, Yinan
deep sea fishing
  • Unsuccessfully going deep sea fishing (not a nibble!) and having the entire group overdosing on Bonine, much to the dismay of the non-deep sea fishing group who discovered the Bonine-overdosed group was useless for the rest of the day
  • Parasailing, which was a really fun experience (it is eerily quiet 400 feet up in the air and, of course, incomparably beautiful)
getting ready to parasail
  • Meals at our favorite Honolulu restaurants—Chef Mavro and The Pig & the Lady (let the record reflect that I am the “lady”)

We look forward to our next trip to paradise!

sunset in o’ahu

Spring break 2019: Disneyworld

We were once again fortunate enough this year to have our college-attending daughter share a spring break with our high school son. After some consultation with the entire family, we decided to spend spring break at the happiest place on earth (aka Disneyworld). It has been many years since we spent an entire week at Disneyworld, and we were looking forward to an opportunity to do some things that we had not done in a long time or had never done before in and around the parks.
Our dual missions were accomplished successfully, as we all had a wonderful time and did things we had never done before (an encounter with Kylo Ren, anyone? He’s a bit scary up close and personal).

the daughter’s fictional boyfriend
3 guesses as to whose first time on Rock n Roller Coaster


Highlights included meeting up with friends whom we had not seen for 20 years who live in Orlando (I know, shame on us); meeting up with friends whom we see regularly but who loathe Disney in an attempt to brainwash them otherwise (our attempt met with modest success);

no love for the Pirates ride from the skeptics

and the velociraptor consuming a large pizza meant for 2-3 people by himself at Via Napoli (in Epcot) for lunch (I am incredibly envious of his metabolism).
The parks were crowded, but we rode all the rides we wanted multiple times and even saw some shows that we hadn’t seen in a while (including Festival of the Lion King and, despite the reluctance exhibited by the daughter, It’s Tough to be a Bug). We ate well, played well, and spent some quality family time together. As the velociraptor said, “This was one of the best spring breaks ever!”

Hollywood Studios
dripping wet from the Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom
we love Mickey!