Recently, my friend Jim posted a photo of a CD case to Facebook (it was the Smashing Pumpkins). He remembered that someone in college had borrowed the disc that goes inside it and jokingly asked whether “anybody want(ed) to confess after 15ish years” to having it. [CORRECTION: Jim has since clarified that the photo was of his replacement CD case. He had to buy a new one because the person who borrowed the CD also has the case.]
Which got me thinking: I definitely don’t have Jim’s CD, but it definitely wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. We did, after all, live in the same res college at Northwestern. When you live with your friends in college, you tend to borrow and share a lot of stuff. You’re young and poor, and people leave their stuff with you when they go on their externship in another city, and how many copies of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness do you really need in one place, anyway? It all makes sense at the time, and of course when you borrow things, you do s0 with every intent of returning it . . . some day.
But then the years come and go, and before you know it, you’re just throwing things carelessly into boxes and moving away. Then one day, you open those boxes and figure out that somehow, you walked away with TWO copies of “The Great Gatsby.”* Hmmm.
Did you — accidentally or otherwise — walk away from college with stuff that belongs to someone else? Better yet, do you still have these things, or did you return them . . . or did you just throw them out? And are you, like Jim, missing something that you know you lent someone and just never got back?
* Anup, I’m pretty sure the extra copy of Gatsby had your name on the inside. How did I end up with yours?!
Tags: everyday stuff · friends
Ever since the Blackhawks lost Game 7 of the NHL Western Conference Final* yesterday, I have been trying to think of upsides to their elimination from the Stanley Cup race. So far, I’ve come up with . . .
- “Well, maybe Blackhawks Convention won’t be as crazy crowded next month.” … WRONG. In fact, I think I read that it is sold out.
- “Maybe it won’t be as mad of a scramble to get tickets next season.” … WRONG. Forbes published a report last week that said Blackhawks fans are the most loyal in the NHL. This is absolutely correct. True, we do have our share of bandwagoners, but who doesn’t? Hawks fans are crazy, and many can’t decide whether Corey Crawford is the best or worst goalie in the history of ever, but they show up way before the game starts (ahem, Anaheim Ducks fans) to get their free bobbleheads, have some good stadium food and soak in the atmosphere at the United Center.
OK, so really, I just came up with the two, and I pretty much invalidated them right off the bat.
My husband points out that now I don’t have to be nervous, come Wednesday, when the Stanley Cup Final starts.
So essentially, it has come down to this: The upside of the Blackhawks no longer being eligible to win Lord Stanley’s Cup is, I won’t feel like vomiting all day every day on game days.
God forbid the Cubs ever make it to the World Series.
Thanks for another great season, Hawks!
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland or Disney World, especially during the holidays, you know there really is nothing quite as spectacular as a Disney fireworks show. Because they’re Disney, they spare no expense, so the pyrotechnics are amazing on their own merit. But something as simple as Cinderella’s castle just standing there and being lit up by color in the foreground just adds that element of awe that no other entertainment company can reproduce.
Here are some shots I took of the nightly “Wishes” fireworks show at Magic Kingdom last week:
Even though this was the nightly show and not a holiday special, it was so amazing that even though Magic Kingdom is a pain to get to (you park your car, take a cart to the transportation center, THEN take a monorail or ferry 1.5 miles more to get to the actual entrance of the park), we went to see it three nights in a row!
By the way, big BIG mahalo to my friend Steve Okubo, who helped me work out some crucial lens issues for fireworks shooting! :)
While I was planning our recent vacation to Central Florida, I decided to check Google for whether the region had anything worth exploring other than Disney World and Universal Studios. I didn’t come up with a whole lot, but I did find mention of something called Giraffe Ranch Farm Tours on a Visit Florida website. Giraffe Ranch is a self-described “licensed working ranch that specializes in exotic species as well as domestic cattle and horses.” Admission was less than Disney or Universal, but the ranch was about an hour’s drive from Lake Buena Vista, and I didn’t know anyone who had been there . . . but in the end, I decided to take one for the team, be the guinea pig and give it a shot. And I’m so glad I did!
For $75/person (again, way cheaper than Disney or Universal), you get a four-by-four tour of the ranch, which includes interaction with all kinds of exotic animals, including, of course, giraffes:
. . . which you get to feed!
. . . as well as llamas:
. . . tortoises . . .
. . . blackbuck antelope (OK, mostly, they just run away, but the fact that they can maintain their distance is the beauty of this safari-like experience) . . .
. . . ostriches . . .
. . . zebras . . .
. . . and my not-so-secret admirer, a camel:
(Seriously, that thing couldn’t keep its jowls off me. I turned my back for one second, and he started nibbling on my shoulder!)
The ranch also has pygmy hippos, Indian rhinos, a warthog and a whole slew of other species I can’t even remember. But by far, my favorite part of our visit was feeding grapes to ring-tailed lemurs!
Feeding the lemurs is $20 extra per person and is well worth every cent. Lemurs are among the world’s most primitive primates, and while they aren’t very smart, they are definitely cute. Their paws are soft like human babies’ hands, and they have a very intentional grip. And they will climb all over you, including in your hair, to get to the guy on the other side of you who’s holding out a grape.
Lex and Elena, who own and operate the ranch, are well-read and well-spoken and have years of experience in looking after these and many other animals (they also own a larger ranch in Florida, and Lex used to be a zookeeper), and they’re really good about answering any questions about the animals, conservationism and their community. Lex even referred us to a great soul food restaurant nearby (Steph’s, if you’re ever in the area) for lunch afterward.
Again, this place is pretty far from Florida’s big tourist attractions, but it’s well worth the drive and expense — and having to call between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Eastern time (the only hour in which Elena takes calls) to make a reservation. The Giraffe Ranch tour is a hands-on experience unlike any other you’ll have in Florida, perhaps unlike any other you’ll have anywhere in your entire life, especially if you’re a city slicker like me. I’d definitely do it again!
I’m proud to say that I came up with this recipe myself! OK, so the basic chocolate chip cookie part is pretty generic . . . but I did add a couple of ingredients to “Hawaiian-ize” it: shaved coconut and roasted macadamia nuts.
‘HAWAIIAN’ CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 oz chopped, dry roasted macadamia nuts
- 7 oz shredded, sweetened coconut
- 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add the eggs (one by one!) and vanilla extract.
Incorporate 1/2 cup of dry mixture and mix to combine. Continue at this pace until all dry mixture is incorporated. Reduce speed to ridiculously low and use the mixer to fold in macadamia nuts and shredded coconut. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in chocolate chips by hand.
Scoop roughly 1-inch balls and flatten slightly (just so they’re not round) on baking sheet. Bake until coconut at edges of cookies is browned, about 14 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature . . . if you can stand to wait that long.
Yield: Approximately 8 dozen — but they will go really, really quickly.
- Macadamia nuts are notoriously difficult to roast without burning. Or so I’ve heard. I haven’t actually tried it myself because I am super lazy like that. So do yourself a favor: Mauna Loa (now owned by Hershey) sells Dry Roasted Macadamia Baking Pieces! And you can buy them on Amazon! And they taste great.
- Conventional wisdom would call for more like 1 tsp of salt, but I like the taste of salt to balance out the sweet in my cookies, especially since shredded coconut adds even more sweetness. So I typically just pretend I’m using only 1 tsp, but I make it a heaping teaspoon . . . and whatever else happens to fall into the dough, falls into the dough.
Tags: food · recipe
December 30th, 2013 · 1 Comment
A few weeks ago, some friends and I had plans to meet up for Christmas-ish dinner. One of our group of friends, Irene, was unable to attend because she lives in the Bay Area, so we planned to FaceTime with her so she could kind-of still be there. Then another friend, Nick, came down with a rather violently symptomatic flu — and, in the interest of not being grossed out, we decided against using FaceTime with him (plus, there’s a chance we’d interrupt a nap or something anyway).
For several years now, I’ve had a tradition of including geographically (or otherwise) challenged party guests via a little gimmick I like to call Heads on Sticks. It all started one day when I decided that Ryne Sandberg needed to come to a gathering with me, so I printed out a Ryne Sandberg face and mounted it on some disposable chopsticks. Another time, my friend Tina couldn’t come to a party because she was going to be out of town, so Tina’s head-on-stick represented her at a friend’s house. Bill Adams was spotted with a few of us at Murphy’s on Merchant Street when he was actually in Baltimore. And so on. I don’t recall how many times this has been done, but photographic evidence exists of at least these instances.
So of course Nick had to be at our dinner. And he was! We even surprised Irene by showing “Nick’s” face as soon as she answered her FaceTime call. Many laughs were had.
FaceTime with Irene.
FaceTime with Irene . . . from Irene’s perspective.
Wil, pictured above, thought it would be hilarious if we were to anonymously send Nick-on-a-Stick to Nick, just to see how he would react. More laughs were had, and we agreed to embargo all photos from that evening that included Nick-on-a-Stick until the prank was up, including a real gem of a group shot.
A couple of days later, Wil sent Nick-on-a-Stick out in the mail, a task that was more challenging than we’d anticipated. We created a specific Facebook chat for the co-conspirators, separate from the Facebook chat all of us usually use to communicate, and Wil posted these images there:
Success! (H. Simpson is a reference to The Simpsons: Tapped Out, an iOS/Android game that all of us play except Nick, who tried it and decided it wasn’t for him. We wanted to be mysterious, but not to the point where Nick wouldn’t be able to identify any suspects.)
We sat on the photos . . . and waited.
Oh, and we used delivery tracking. Or we tried. Wil informed us that the package was scheduled to be delivered the next day, December 21. But I entered the tracking number on USPS.com on the 21st, when we didn’t hear from Nick, and the website informed us that delivery was then scheduled for Christmas Eve.
So we waited some more.
Fast forward to Christmas Eve, 4:30 p.m. Alternate Facebook chat was abuzz with anticipation. But then Wil started to have doubts: “Maybe I did the tracking wrong. I used the automated system but didn’t put the tracking sticker on it.”
So it was a whole week after our dinner, and we could only assume that Nick had received the envelope.
For days, the conversation dragged on:
“Maybe he really doesn’t know who it was?”
“Or he’s getting back at us.”
“It’s a battle of the wills!”
“But he must be stymied, right? It’s unlike Nick to be silent if he knows it’s us.”
“Yeah. I’m sure he would have said something. Maybe we need to start talking about Homer.”
Seriously. Days and days and days of conversations like this. We even tried baiting Nick in the original group chat, asking him whether he’d received any unusual mail lately. No dice. His replies were sporadic, and we found out that he’d been having a frustrating week, totally separate from our issue. So we felt bad . . . and so waited some more. We wondered whether he was mad. I personally wondered if he’d contacted the postal inspector or things had otherwise gotten serious.
Finally, today, I couldn’t take it anymore. Nick was active on the chat, so since I knew he would respond, I posted the group photo (below) and asked him if it looked familiar:
He said no and that he thought we had superimposed his face on the group shot we had previously posted to Facebook — we took one without Nick-on-a-Stick, too, so that we would have something to post. But then Wil posted the screen caps from FaceTime, and Alice mentioned that some postal employee was driving around with Nick’s head on a stick in his/her vehicle.
Nick’s response upon realizing what was going on: “I’m on a frickin stick!”
Nick: “Oh! That’s what that is at the Post Office.”
Nick: “It was from B. Simpson LOL so I never went to pick it up!”
Irene: “Lol!!!!! . . . It didn’t fit in his mailbox!!”
me: “And dammit, why does your building not have a parcel box?!”
Wil: “He does have a big head after all . . . ”
So now Nick has gone back and is laughing at our epic prank fail. This may not seem as ridiculous to you as it is to those of us who were directly involved, but consider that these shenanigans spanned a period of TWO WEEKS. A complete epic failure on all levels. “So epic,” Irene quipped, “it’s classic.” Indeed.
Moral of the Story: Don’t be a no-show at dinner. ;)
Tags: everyday stuff · friends
November 10th, 2013 · 1 Comment
No matter how many bootlegs you see on YouTube, there is nothing quite like seeing your favorite band in concert — or, even better, seeing your favorite band in concert in their home town. This isn’t to say that musicians don’t give it their all at every venue in every city, but surely there is an extra energy that comes from sleeping in your own bed, spending time with your family and, of course, performing in front of the home crowd. Songwriter and lead singer Jon Foreman always introduces his band by saying, “We’re Switchfoot, and we’re from San Diego,” so of course when we saw that Switchfoot’s latest tour would not be coming to us, we knew that we had to go to them — and there was no question as to where that should be.
The Fading West tour is unique for Switchfoot in that they are not just playing music: They are also debuting a feature film they have been working on for several years now, “Fading West.” It follows the band as they perform and surf around the world, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia. In addition to being a great surf film and rockumentary, “Fading West” is also intensely personal and poignant, a balanced look at the costs and benefits of life on the road. And of course the soundtrack is pretty awesome!
After the film, the band plays a slightly abbreviated set — shorter on the number of songs than what you’d expect at a regular concert, but definitely not short on energy and surprises — and answers questions that the audience submits via Twitter during the intermission. Super fun. Here are some of my favorite shots from their performance at San Diego’s Balboa Theatre. They’re not the best photos ever, but I must admit, I was a bit too caught up in enjoying the performance to focus!
Of course we also got the VIP package, which included a meet-and-greet. Always, always, always get the meet-and-greet option with your favorite band! In addition to getting to meet (and greet, haha) people you look up to, you end up with great shots like this:
Plus, we got them to sign a photo we took with them a few years ago at Turtle Bay. Never mind that I didn’t have photo paper or card stock and so I ended up printing the photo on a manila folder (seriously, look what’s in Tim’s hand on the left side of the photo above). Having a chance to chat with the guys — and drop the hint that they should come back out to the middle of the Pacific again soon — was the perfect end to a great evening!
Tags: music · travel
Image (c) Warner Bros. Pictures.
It’s extremely difficult to review “Gravity” without spoiling it. I went into the theater not knowing anything about this movie other than that George Clooney and Sandra Bullock get into trouble in space, and that it really stressed my fellow moviegoers out. I walked out completely blown away. I highly recommend going to see it with that blank slate.
All right, but you didn’t click over here to hear me say that. So . . .
- The special effects were amazing. I was going to say that I don’t know how they did it, but I didn’t want to seem like an idiot, so I looked it up. This Popular Mechanics article kind of explains it. I still don’t get how everything looked so realistic* when they didn’t actually film it in space or in some kind of zero-gravity chamber. Dammit, Jim, I’m a scientist . . . but I’m not a rocket scientist.
- If you have the opportunity to see “Gravity” in 3-D or IMAX or both (yeah, I don’t really know whether or how those things work), DO IT. Yes, it costs more, and you may want to vomit, but it is completely worthwhile in this case. (What the heck are you doing at a space movie if you’re prone to motion sickness, anyway?) It will turn this from a movie you could be watching on your living room TV into a surreal delight. 3-D works really well in conjunction with the concept of anti-gravity.
- The acting was not bad. It wasn’t Academy Award winning material, but it was believable. My inability to be moved to tears by Sandra Bullock should come as a shock to no one.
- Speaking of actors, I can’t recall ever having seen a major motion picture that had no extras in it. Well, there were a couple of people who didn’t have lines, but they were . . . well . . . (highlight the rest of the paragraph if you really want to know, but DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU) . . . dead astronauts. And the other astronaut’s family, who only appear in a photo. So that was interesting. For the sake of people who enjoy doing background work (I count myself as one of them), I wouldn’t want this to be a trend, but it definitely works for this film.
Basically, go see this movie. Do it now, before someone spoils it for you. What the heck, even if they tell you who lives, who dies and that Mission Control is voiced by Ed Harris (oops — oh, come on, that’s not a spoiler!), you will enjoy “Gravity” anyway because it is just that kind of unique movie-going experience. Absolutely stunning.
* DISCLAIMER: I am not an astronaut. Perhaps the movie wasn’t realistic at all, but everything that happened seemed like it could’ve worked, at least in my head.
October 14th, 2013 · 1 Comment
A few months ago (sorry for the “old news” — I’m still catching up on blogging!), my friend Rebecca and her husband, Robert, came to visit from Corpus Christi, Texas. I have known Rebecca for a few years through cancer advocacy work, and she is such a die-hard crusader, she had earned this vacation a million times over. Plus, I just love her, so it was great to spend time with her!
Rebecca is a big planner, so she had asked me for some recommendations for her Hawaiian vacation months in advance. Since I’m not much of a beach-goer or outdoors-person, I’m not very good at suggesting the kind of things people are usually interested in when they come out to the middle of the Pacific . . . but somehow, our conversation took a turn towards luaus. It occurred to me that I had never been to one myself. I got in touch with my friend Sharon, who hooked us up with her staff rate at Germaine’s Luau, and before you know you it, we were booked for double date in Kapolei.
I’m not gonna lie: The luau show itself was super corny! But I think that was part of the fun, and the tourists around us were definitely into it — and we laughed quite a bit, at least. It was kinda cool to see the different forms of native dance from across the Pacific, probably more so for the tourists who I bet didn’t know that there was more than one type of hula and even more so for the brave (and/or inebriated) ones who got up on stage to try things out. The fire dancing was amazing, too. As far as food goes, the bread was a little dry, but you can’t judge a luau on mainland food like dinner rolls; this event is all about the freshly prepared kalua pig, and that was absolutely a winner. And did I mention that there were drink tickets with admission? So there’s that.
I would wholeheartedly recommend going to a luau if you’re going to be visiting Hawai‘i — heck, even if you live here and haven’t been to one before! I can’t vouch for all the different companies out there, but I can definitely say that we had a great time at Germaine’s. Kapolei is really far from Waikiki, where most tourists stay while on Oahu, but Germaine’s has shuttle service from the hotels, so you don’t have to worry about driving all the way out to the west side and/or getting lost at Kahe Power Plant. Definitely a good deal for a fun evening!
Fire poi balls!
Pulling the pig out of the imu.
Rebecca and Robert.
We got lei-ed at the entrance. :)