Eagle Project: Part I

On a fortuitously cloudy but not rainy Sunday (November 5), Marcus and about a dozen of his friends embarked on Part I of his Eagle Scout project, which was to build a shed and water catchment system for a church in Purcellville, Virginia. The project took the better part of the day, but by the end of the day, both projects were completed.
There were certain conclusions to be drawn from this part of the project:
1. Boys, whatever the age, mostly eat like velociraptors.
2. Pizza is always acceptable nourishment to the aforementioned velociraptors.
3. Young boys (below the age of 12) and power tools are a combustible combination (fortunately, there were no trips to the emergency room—my only goal).
4. Boy Scouts are more punctual than school friends (unless school friends are also Boy Scouts).

Nonetheless, Part I was a great success!

project management

the new shed!

water catchment system

shingling the roof

all done!!

Note: the full Eagle Project is on behalf of the Saint Isidore Project (www.isidoreproject.org). Part II is to assemble garden-in-a-box kits and convince various houses of worship that their lovely country club lawns might be put to better use by creating a garden to grow food for the poor.  Stay tuned!

Disneyworld Redux (thanks to Hurricane Irma)

Disneyworld!! We have not been since last September. We were planning to go again this September, as a combination birthday/going off to college trip, but Hurricane Irma vetoed that idea. :(. So we rescheduled the trip to last weekend, when Marcus had a 3 day weekend. He brought a friend, Matthew, along for the trip. It was Matthew’s first trip, and it reminded us that there are certain rides we love because of the memories that don’t necessarily appeal as much to a teenage boy going for the very first time (can anyone say “It’s a Small World?”)


Because we had to reschedule the trip, the only place available for us to stay was the Four Seasons (it’s a hardship, but someone had to do it!). The rooms at the Four Seasons are much nicer and roomier than at even the high end Disney resorts, but there is, obviously, much less Disney theming and the system is not as tied in as at the Disney resorts. For example, while you can get Magic Bands at the Disney desk at the hotel, you cannot put park charges on it, and they don’t serve as keys to the room either. All of which makes perfect sense. And it’s a great add for Disney because there are certainly folks who would come and stay at the Four Seasons who would not stay at a Disney hotel. (We are not one of them, as you might have guessed.)
The new Pandora ride—“Flight of Passage”—the more popular of the two Pandora rides—is amazing. It’s a cross between Soarin’ and Star Tours and is an order of magnitude better than either. The premise is that you are flying on a banshee through the world of Pandora, so there’s a big screen like Soarin’, but you are on a contraption that mimics being on a banshee (a kind of giant flying bird). The banshee even breathes as it sits between your legs. It’s pretty mind-boggling and definitely a fantastic addition to the park. (Time to update the Disney tome!)

in the world of Pandora

We also visited Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney), which we have not been to for years. It, too, has grown and improved and is a nice place to visit in the evenings or whenever you want a little down time from the parks (as difficult a concept as that is to imagine).

Disney Springs

With the older one off to college, it gives the younger one an opportunity to catch up on the number of trips to Disneyworld count. This is Marcus’s 55th trip, so he has only a few more before he ties his sister. (Not that this is a competition or anything!)

Inn at Little Washington birthday dinner

It was our son’s 15th (!) birthday a couple of weeks ago and, in addition to feeling really old, we celebrated with a dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (at his request).

As usual, dinner was fabulous from the moment we stepped into the restaurant until we were wheeled out of the restaurant in a food coma.

Appetizers included the mélange of the Inn garden’s heirloom tomatoes with marinated fairy tale eggplant and local sheep milk’s feta

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to a tin of sin (American osetra caviar with peekytoe crab and cucumber rillettes)

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to a quartet of Rappahanock oyster slurpees (with sorbets of cucumber, cocktail sauce, horseradish, and wasabi)

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Additional courses consisted of a carpaccio of herb-crusted Elysian Fields baby lamb loin with Caesar salad ice cream

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to a crispy napoleon of chilled main lobster with osetra caviar

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to a pan-seared Maine diver scallop with Jerusalem artichoke purée, capers and tomato relish

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to grilled pepper-crusted black kingfish with shallot confiture and red wine reduction

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to crispy maple-glazed pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli

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to fontina-filled tortelloni on a sweet corn sauté with local shiitake mushrooms and patty pan squash purée

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to a chanterelle mushroom “meatloaf” with celery root purée and angry red sauce

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to a chop of organic milk fed pork with grilled peaches and potato purée

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Dessert included a miniature chocolate birthday cake

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to the Inn’s signature dessert of seven deadly sins (clearly gluttony is the one practiced most frequently here!)

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to a peach tart served with almond ice cream

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It was an incredible meal and a perfect birthday celebration!

with Chef Patrick O'Connell

with Chef Patrick O’Connell

Water Gun Fight (aka Enjoying the Summer)

Our rising 9th grader (or, more accurately, our 14 year old son) decided that what was needed to make the summer more fun was a water gun fight with a bunch of friends.  He cleared the date and time with us, issued invitations to his friends (by text, of course), and on the appointed day, another eight 14 year old boys and girls showed up all ready to do battle.  (Most appropriate for a Quaker school, we thought.)

Weaponry and ammunition were provided:

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I can’t guarantee that a good time was had by all, but I can guarantee that EVERYONEwas sopping wet by the time the battle was over.

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As our son described it, “Best day ever!”

8th grade graduation

Our son graduated from 8th grade a few weeks ago in a lovely ceremony held at the school.  Being a 14 year old boy with only an embryonic frontal lobe (at best), he neglected to mention that he was part of an ensemble that was singing as part of the ceremony.  (If you knew the history of the non-existent singing genes of both the Lintott and Liang families, you would understand what a shocking development this is.)  Nonetheless, he did a lovely job (you can actually hear his voice during the performance).
It’s a little bittersweet to now have two children in high school.  I was a bit melancholy the week of graduation, but it was a sweet ceremony, and the kids were all great.  Our son has a great group of friends, which should stand him in good stead in high school.
I have already decided that come next school year, with a high school senior and a high school freshman, copious amounts of alcohol is what is getting me through the year! 🙂

filing in for the ceremony

filing in for the ceremony

singing (!) during the ceremony

singing (!) during the ceremony

graduating!

graduating!

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A B’Not Mitzvah in St. Thomas

A close friend of our son’s held her bat mitzvah in St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) at the site of a historic Jewish synagogue first built in the late 1700s. Her younger sister was having her bat mitzvah at the same time (the plural of bat mitzvah being b’not mitzvah, which is pretty much the extent of my Hebrew).

The ceremony was very touching and both girls did a fabulous job! The synagogue itself was beautiful, with its sand floor and whitewashed walls. The Torah was one that had survived the Holocaust, and the ceremony also honored two young girls, ages 7 and 10, who did not survive.

We arrived late Thursday afternoon, admired the beautiful views, and took it easy.

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view of St. Thomas

Friday was pool day. (Actually, every day was pool day.) Evidently, 10+ hours in a pool in one day is a totally fine way to spend a day for a 13 year old boy. So that’s exactly what we did. There was also the beach, the ocean, and kayaking.

Pool Day(s)!

Pool Day(s)!

Saturday’s ceremony itself was beautiful. Both girls did a fabulous job with their readings. The rabbi exuded such genuine warmth of spirit in everything he uttered.

The extrovert in our family had the time of his life at the party on Saturday night. There was food (a minor consideration when there’s a party), a speech to be given (that was surprisingly poised and articulate and heartfelt by the son), and dancing (with everyone).

A high point for me was the half-dozen or so moms who made a point to come up to me and tell me how kind and sweet our 13 year old was to all of the younger kids who were there. Even the little girl who announced that our son was her new boyfriend did not faze him, and he happily danced with her without (much) embarrassment.

Sunday consisted of more time in the pool and a snorkeling trip to St. John’s where we saw a variety of colorful fish and a stingray. Oh, and then there was more time in the pool.

All in all, it was a very meaningful trip to have our son be with his friend during this very important occasion and, of course, it was tremendous fun as well!

a fun trip!

a fun trip!

Disneyworld…the ultimate Americana experience

We now have a third child (a temporary one, before you all get too excited about the news). Yinan is an exchange student from Beijing going to our kids’ school, and she is staying with us for the school year. She is a lovely person, and my only concern about her is how she could put up with our weird family for so long.

Anyway, we decided to celebrate Marcus’s 13th birthday by—you guessed it!—a weekend at Disneyworld. Naturally, Yinan came along (as well as one of Marcus’s best friends). You can’t get a more quintessential American experience than Disneyworld.

With the help of Disney’s guide service, we managed to get to all four parks—Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom—in two days. Even more impressively, we spent the first day entirely in Magic Kingdom and managed to hit the highlights of three remaining parks all on the second day.

There isn’t much to say about Disneyworld that I haven’t already said, either in previous blog posts or in my travel tome about it. That being said, it was really an even more amazing experience to go with someone who had never gone before. Yinan was a great sport about it—tried every ride and food experience (as you know, with us, it is also about the food).

And Tarl, our guide, was fabulously super. Without him, there would have been no possible way to hit three parks in one day (plus lunch, of course).

Happy birthday, Marcus, and welcome to the United States, Yinan!

on Space Mountain

on Space Mountain

Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)

Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)

with our guide, Tarl

with our guide, Tarl

Awesome Con 2014

Because Jim and I are awesome parents, we took the kids to Awesome Con at the Washington Convention Center on Sunday, April 20. This was an interesting sociological event. Awesome Con is unlike Star Trek conventions, which are dedicated to one show (more or less) and are totally obsessed by that one narrative (not that I’m admitting to having gone to Star Trek conventions, mind you).

Awesome Con 2014

Awesome Con 2014

Awesome Con is mainly devoted to Dr. Who fans (or Whovians, as they like to be called) but there are also some Star Wars, Disney, and Sherlock (the BBC version) fandoms there as well. We saw a trio costumed from the Disney movie “Up” (Kevin—the bird, Russell, and the Ed Asner character), lots of Dalek and Dr. Who costumes, and the occasional convention-as-an-excuse-to-dress-in-skimpy-outfits costumes.

We also saw J. August Richards, better known as Mike Peterson/Deathlok in the television show “Agents of Shield.” He could not have been nicer, chatted with the kids, told us that his makeup took 2 hours to put on and ½ hour to take off.

Jade with August Richards (aka Deathlok)

Jade with August Richards (aka Deathlok)

Marcus with August Richards (aka Deathlok)

Marcus with August Richards (aka Deathlok)

We really had a lovely time at Awesome Con (well, maybe the kids and I had a nicer time than Jim, who is not as enamored of the nerd crowd as the rest of us). It was certainly a unique, although fun, way to spend Easter Sunday!

Hope all of you had a lovely Easter as well! (Although not necessarily at Awesome Con.) 🙂

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.

A Palo Alto Wedding

I took our 12 year old son to Palo Alto for a cousin’s wedding on March 15.  We arrived in Palo Alto late Friday night (which was made even later with a request for a late-night snack of black truffle French fries).  Once we finally got up on Saturday, we made the obligatory brain-washing visit to Stanford and walked through the Engineering Quad.  It was one of those gloriously sunny 80 degree days that Palo Alto specializes in (what a woman I talked to briefly called “stupid nice”).

the Stanford Quad

the Stanford Quad

an aspiring Nerd Nation member

an aspiring Nerd Nation member

The wedding itself was one of the loveliest ceremonies we’ve been to.  I was only sorry that Jim and our daughter couldn’t be there, too.  And it was wonderful to see my parents and all my relatives and catch up on what they’ve been doing.  (Although our son, after being presented with a plethora of cousins he never knew existed, decided we had too big of a family.  He wasn’t reassured on being told that this was the less populated side of my family.)

the kayak wedding cake

the kayak wedding cake

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note the Chinese Coke cans

note the Chinese Coke cans

Naturally, after a weekend of glorious weather, we came back to DC and had 10 inches of snow overnight.  School was cancelled on Monday, and I suspect it will be July before school finally lets out!