Friday, December 24, 2010

Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas 1974 with My Mom in Tacoma, WA

Christmas 1983 with My Baby Sister in Ridgewood, NJ

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

For the last three years, Gary and I have wanted to get a Christmas tree; this year, we made it happen. As I unsnapped the plastic storage container marked "Christmas" in big black Sharpie, the first two ornaments I saw were reminders of my life in San Francisco. One thing cancer makes you acutely aware of is that time is limited, which is why I decided to ask my mom for a very special Christmas present this year; specifically, I asked her to split airfare with me back to California. So this February, my best friend from NJ (Christine) is going to San Francisco with me to meet my best friend from my time working at Riordan (Diana) - it will be an incredibly special and fun-filled few days. Then, off to San Diego to spend two days with Christine, my mom, step-dad, sister and dogs. I've put off this trip for too long - I can't wait for part of my New Jersey life to meet up with my California past.

Ornaments: San Francisco Trolley and Riordan High School, SF

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baptisms and Birthdays

Recently, Gary and I had the honor of attending my good friend's daughter's baptism. One of the things that I most appreciate about being Catholic is the ability to symbolically celebrate life's important milestones: baptism, confirmation, marriage, anointing of the sick - all of these sacraments remind us that we are not alone; our faith and community are there to help us on life's sometimes bumpy journey. It's a nice feeling - not having to brave the big bad world all by yourself.

We have plenty of these moments outside of the religious context: birthdays, graduations, proms - events that mark not only the passage of time, but also new chapters in our own unique story. Shortly after the baptism, we attended Gary's grandmother's surprise 90th birthday. What an incredible few days - seeing the grand spectrum of life's beauty in these two precious souls.

Sophia Rae's Baptism

Sara Mae's 90th Birthday

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Time In The City

Last Saturday, we had an adventure in New York City with our friends Chris and Christine. When we arrived, the guys and girls split up for the first chunk of the morning. The first order of business for the guys was a haircut for Gary; and yes, Gary goes to NYC for a haircut every two weeks. His barber (Michael) was recently featured in the New York Times Style section and, as you can imagine, has quite a following.

Gary and His Barber: F.S.C. Barber, West Village NYC

While the guys visited the barber and a rare book store, Christine and I walked over to Chelsea Market, which is an industrially designed maze of vendors - offering everything from baked goods to clothes. It is also home to a few TV networks, including The Food Network, so "celebrity foodies" are sometimes spotted wandering around.

Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave

Notice the bag in Christine's hand? It's a box of gourmet chocolates from Jacques Torres Chocolates. And the coffee in my hand? That's a cappuccino from Ninth Street Espresso (best coffee in the City). These were just two little treats we picked up before visiting Amy's Bread for a chocolate croissant and an applesauce donut. After our Chelsea Market morning, we met up with the guys and walked over to Pastis for lunch.

Pastis, 9 Ninth Ave NYC

Pastis is the real deal - a French bistro with serious French food and serious French attitude...

So Christine and I practiced our pouty Parisian looks before her salad and my croque-monsieur (ham and gruyere cheese on a baguette) arrived...

After lunch, we walked to Soho so that Christine could visit her favorite yarn store (and pick out some amazing pink yarn for a hat she's making me). On the way to the yarn store, we stopped in at the world famous MarieBelle Cacao Bar and Tea Salon for two dixie-cups worth of premium hot chocolate - which cost a staggering $7 a piece (hopefully you can see them in Gary's and Christine's hands below)

MarieBelle, Soho NYC

Then we did a little shopping....

Christine Strikes a Zoolander Pose

Next - it was over to the legendary Pommes Frites for authentic Belgian fries. Pommes Frites only sells three things: 1. sizzling double fried wedges of potato perfection; 2. over twenty-six different dipping sauces for your fries; 3. drinks. In addition to sauces, you can also get your fries layered with the traditional mayo, onion and ketchup - which is exactly what Gary ordered (below):

Pommes Frites, 123 Second Ave NYC

The place is smaller than tiny, and only has two tables in the back of the bar. (Luckily eagle-eyes Johnston was able to commandeer one right away.) The best part about the tables is that they have custom built holes to keep your paper fry cone perfectly upright, leaving your hands free to dip away - as expertly demonstrated by Chris and Christine.

Then we walked around for a while, and took in the sites before making our way back to the West Village.

All day we had sporadically noticed people in Santa Clause costumes. It was a little weird - but we heard there was a parade or something, so we didn't really think too much of it... that is until we got closer to our car, which was parked by NYU. All of a sudden, literally thousands of drunk college kids dressed like Santas were everywhere... pouring out onto the streets, eating burgers in Five Guys, outside the bars smoking, inside pizza parlors - everywhere you looked there were swarms of intoxicated Santas.

We pulled out our trusty iphones to try to figure out what the heck was going on and learned that we were in the midst of "SantaCon" 2010. Basically, SantaCon is a silly Santa prank that started in San Francisco in 1994 - in which thousands of people descend on a location wearing Santa gear. Apparently it is a craze that has spread all over the world - they even had 70 thousand Santas in Moscow in 2006! Who knew?

Picture of SantaCon 2010 by my cousin who was there!

Believe it or not, by the time we reached the West Village, it was dinner time. Luckily, Gary and I knew just the place we wanted to take our friends: Scarpetta in the Meatpacking District, owned by celebrity chef Scott Conant - who became famous, in part, for his simple but amazing spaghetti with tomato and basil dish.

(Internet picture of Scott Conant and his signature dish)

After enjoying some of the best pasta in New York City was time to head home.

You may be wondering how I held up after all this eating and walking? Well, as far as the eating, for the most part Christine and I limited ourselves to small samples of whatever it was that we had ordered - but still, it was a lot of food and I have been fighting serious nausea all week. The walking was fine until the next day...when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I still feel creaky - almost a week later. So I guess you can say it took a bit of a toll, but it was a great day - one in which I really lived life to the fullest with some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Mother's Wisdom

"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere."

My mother, a polio survivor and 2011 Equestrian Paralympic hopeful, pictured here with her former - much beloved - equine partner Pan Pan

Friday, December 10, 2010

Emerson and the Icebox

I don't trust people who don't clutter their refrigerator doors with cheesy travel magnets, birth announcements, postcards and left over fortunes from bad Chinese take-out... refrigerators are empty canvases - patiently waiting to be turned into feel-good mosaics of inspiration and memories.

The latest addition to my own hodgepodge collage is an Emerson quote, which is too good not to share... "Finish each day and be done with it. you have done what you could. some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. tomorrow is a new day. you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

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