What’s going on

It’s been an interesting 10 days or so here, a stretch of time in which I managed to do almost no cooking, if you can believe it! Oh sure, there was the Greek chicken experiment of last weekend in which I discovered a deep dislike of dried oregano, which tastes a lot like aspirin to me. But once it was scraped off, the leftover chicken was pretty good in a cobbled-together chicken and broccoli casserole in cheese sauce — nothing fancy, but it warmed me during the cold days at the beginning of the week.

Last Wednesday night was for dining out in the city. I met up with Claudia of cook eat FRET at Insieme for a getting-to-know-you dinner and had an absolute ball. The food ranged from sublime (Oh, branzino, where have you been all my life?) to Why Is This Even On the Menu? (Sweetbreads, liver, etc. appetizer — I’m looking at you), but bookending the meal with a rye-based Manhattan and pear eau de vie turned out to be a really good idea, and made the late bus ride home much more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. And Claudia? She was every bit as warm, funny, and opinionated as you’d expect from reading her blog. I don’t even remember the last time I spoke to people sitting at a table next to me, but she just radiates such a good vibe we were all chatting away by the end of the meal. It was loads of fun and I’m already looking forward to her next visit to the city. (No picture of her or the meal because my rassafrassin’ camera died just as I was snapping the first picture.)

Of course, after this holiday weekend, travel is absolutely the last thing I’ll be doing for a while. Gil and I left home bright and early Saturday morning to enjoy Survivor: Tulsa for the evening. Five years ago last week, our friend Doug was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thanks to the skill of Doug’s doctors, his utterly positive attitude, and the support of his family, he has thrived; he and his wife Shannon (one of my great friends and former grad school roommates) have adjusted to their new reality with tremendous grace and courage and have brought two lively, smart, and happy boys into the fold. And so Saturday night, friends and family (and lots of kids) filled their new home in Tulsa to celebrate this occasion and wish them many, many more celebrations of the kind. I, for one, am already looking forward to the 10-year party. (Click on the picture below to view the full flickr set.)
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The night ended far too soon (as it would’ve even if it had lasted till dawn), and the next morning we boarded another flight to St. Louis to surprise Gil’s brother for his 40th birthday. I was standing behind Gil and didn’t get to see Bo’s face when he walked in, but I hear he was appropriately shocked to see Gil standing there. As always, it was fun to catch up with Jane and Miriam (my sister- and mother-in-law, respectively) and Jane’s parents were as inviting and funny as ever. And my nieces. Oh, my nieces! Well, you’ll just have to view the flickr set to see their shenanigans. I don’t know how Bo and Jane keep up with them, and if I’m ever sorry we won’t have kids, it’s when I’m with the girls. To say they’re silly and funny and spirited and smart is selling them short by a mile.

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Hope you all had a great Presidents’ Day weekend. If it was filled with even a fraction of the friends, family, and fun ours was, you’re lucky people!

A good day from morning till night

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Our friends John & Liz had a pool party at their place in Wappingers Falls yesterday, so Gil and I took Astrid out for a spin. There was swimming and grilling and socializing with people from 8 months to 80 years — all in all, a very relaxing day and a great start to the weekend.

In an odd reversal of patterns, Gil spent a lot of time snapping pictures while I spent my time socializing when I wasn’t sampling the goodies from the grill. [Click on the picture above for my Flickr set or here for Gil’s better and more thorough set.] I tend to be pretty anxious in party settings so it was wonderful to relax and have such an easy time of it yesterday. One of the women I met was an elderly widowed neighbor of our friends who had so many interesting observations and tales to tell — she’s traveled extensively, has broad interests, and is completely in love with her life. On a recent three-day visit to the city, she managed to visit SIX museums, see a Broadway show, and dine at Le Cirque and 21 (which she claims was absolutely worth the wait). All of which makes me feel a little guilty for not taking advantage of my time in the city more than I do!

But perhaps the most entertaining part of the day was meeting John & Liz’s son, Miles, for the first time. He’s an adorable little guy who’s turning into a gracious host in his own right — he kept my beer chilled during the hottest part of the day with frequent additions of ice cubes:

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