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!

Deer Valley 2019

We are creatures of habit, even if we prefer to call them traditions. Tradition dictates that during Presidents’ Day weekend, we join our ski-loving friends in Deer Valley for a weekend of skiing.
To be sure, our family can best be described as 2 non-skiers, 1 reluctant skier, and 1 enthusiastic skier. The enthusiastic skier (the 17 year old boy) has now skied a total of 1 weekend a year for the past 5 years and tackled his first black diamond slope on Sunday with control and skill. See below:

Despite the 1 in 4 skiing enthusiast ratio in our family, we thoroughly enjoy the weekend. Deer Valley is the Nordstrom of ski resorts, with excellent customer service and friendly staff (not to mention good skiing). Park City has a cute and fun downtown to walk around (we are particularly partial to the Park City Jewelers.) 🙂 Our contribution is to cook dinner (this year it was cioppino one night and make-your-own-pizza one night). Most importantly, we love spending time with our friends. We have known them for over 25 years, and we appreciate the relatively quiet time over the holiday weekend to re-connect and form new memories together.

Deer Valley

2018 New Year’s Eve Dinner at Métier (Washington, DC)

As consolation for not being able to go to Hawaii over holiday break (a First World problem, I know), we celebrated New Year’s Eve with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Métier, the younger sibling of Kinship, headed up by Chef Eric Ziebold and his wife, Celia Laurent.


To our delight, the kids decided that they would rather have dinner with their parents than hang out with their friends to celebrate the new year (I suspect us raving over the food had something to do with it).

We think Eric is one of the most gifted chefs we have ever encountered, and he certainly performed beyond our expectations once again. Once we arrived at the main dining room, we began with an Avocado Carpaccio with persimmon glaze, shaved radish, minced brioche croutons, and Ossetra caviar.

avocado carpaccio

Next up was a Russet Potato Pancake with braised quince, spiced crème fraîche, smoked salmon roe, and pumpkin coulis. Who knew something as rustic as a potato pancake could taste so elegant and delightful?

russet potato pancake

Koshikari Garlic Fried Rice with aoyagi clam ceviche, marinated bok choy, crispy shitake mushrooms, and yuzu kosho-clam broth followed. No further words are needed.

koshikari garlic fried rice

The most impressive dish of the evening was a Confit of Savoy Cabbage Agnolotti served with roasted Brussels sprouts, hazelnut broth, and Périgord truffles. The dish was impressive because to be able to create an agnolotti that tasted of essence of cabbage is a superb feat of creativity and cooking.

confit of savoy cabbage agnolotti

Chatham Bay Cod En Persillade was next, accompanied by hay smoked leeks, celery root, pickled celery branch, and Maine lobster bisque. Heavenly.

cod en persillade

And, in case you weren’t quite full enough, the Métier Borscht was served, complete with a grilled Martin Farm beef calotte, heirloom beet tapenade, tempura, and à la Grecque and beet-infused beef consommé. Amazing.

métier borscht

We ended this delightful meal with a Vanilla Olive Oil Parfait served with citrus salad, Meyer Lemon curd, blood orange sorbet, and Niçoise olive meringues. As Jim said, “For a non-chocolate dessert, this was amazing.”

vanilla olive oil parfait

Service throughout the evening was friendly, unobtrusive, and skilled. It was truly a memorable way to celebrate the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019!