Gifts

Weekend Birthday Bash

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Our friends from Richmond came up to spend a very special birthday weekend with us in NYC. They were supposed arrive at our apartment by 10am on Friday. That didn’t happen. There were significant snow flurries in NYC (nothing stuck), and the navigation system on the airplane was unable to make an instrument landing at LaGuardia, so while they were descending in NY, they we rerouted to Philadelphia.

I was tracking the flight in real-time and saw that it landed safely. I just didn’t realize it wasn’t anywhere near us… They ended up catching a 12:05pm flight from Philadelphia to LaGuardia, which got in at around 1pm, but that was enough for us to have rejigger Friday’s plans.

We had a blowout lunch scheduled for Rock-N-Sake. I have only eaten there once before, and loved it. I was really looking forward to introducing them to it. We ended up having to cancel that reservation (because they close at 2:30pm and reopen at 5:30pm). Instead, we went up to see Laura at her office and grabbed a light (and very fresh) lunch at Chop’t (a place I was interested in trying after hearing Laura speak highly of it).

(It’s been a long while since I’ve mentioned that clicking on any photo in any of my posts will display a larger image in a separate window/tab, so I’ll mention it again, now.) 🙂

Chop't

Chop't

We walked back to the apartment after lunch and relaxed for a bit. Not too long thereafter, we headed up toward Lincoln Center for dinner. We had tickets to South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont Theater for an 8pm show and we wanted to eat in the neighborhood. I searched the web and read a ton of reviews, and settled on an Indian restaurant called Sapphire.

We met Laura there. Unfortunately, Chris got hung up at work, and ended up joining us just as we ordered dessert. The food at Sapphire was simply extraordinary. The four of us who ate the Tandoori lamb all claimed that it was the best lamb we ever had. All of the other dishes were superb as well. As much as we were all looking forward to Rock-N-Sake for lunch, if we had eaten there, we would have opted for a very light dinner, and would not have discovered this jewel!

Saffron Shrimp

Saffron Shrimp

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

From there we walked over to see South Pacific. Laura thought of this as a special birthday gift for her dad, given his love for this show. She made a perfect choice, because love it he did! The two leads are exceptional. Interestingly, neither of the leads that we saw are the Tony winning actors. Kelli O’Hara left the show on March 7th and Paulo Szot took two month-long leaves, the second of which occurred during our show. Laura Osnes played Nellie Forbush, and David Pittsinger played Emile de Becque.

South Pacific

South Pacific

I suspect that Bob loved this show more than Wicked. As much as I enjoyed South Pacific, for me personally, there’s little comparison to Wicked. Since this was Bob’s birthday bash and not mine, South Pacific was the perfect choice! 🙂

When we got back, Lois and I conked out while the rest of them stayed up way too late watching the NCAA tournament.

Saturday morning we had breakfast outside on our deck. It was chilly, but the sun helped make it not-too-unpleasant. This was our first meal outside in 2009, so it was very special in that respect as well. As much as I love restaurant dining, there are few more special places to have a meal than our deck at the apartment, so I’m glad that the season is finally underway. 😉

Deck Breakfast

Deck Breakfast

After letting the food settle, Sally, Bob, Chris and I went for a long walk. Lois took care of things around the apartment, and Laura baked her magical Apple Pie for a birthday dessert. After walking roughly 2.5 miles, the three of them broke off and headed back to the apartment, making for a five mile walk in total. I continued on my normal walk, roughly 8.25 miles in total.

Mid-afternoon, we decided to foist our presents on Bob. He opened a bunch, one-by-one, but he had no idea what was in store for him as his special gift. After he thought it was all over, we broke out a package of gifts, specially created by his family and friends. In fact, it’s so cool that I will be devoting an entire post to it later on (could be as much as a week from now), but I’ll describe it briefly here as well.

We took a song by Colin Hay called What Would Bob Do, and seven of us wrote our own verses about our Bob. We then had it recorded by Jack Kapanka over a simple background acoustic guitar. We sent 100’s of photos to Jack, who put together a wonderful video synchronized to the words and music. He then produced a DVD of the movie/music. The song is 10 minutes long (we wrote lots of verses), and the result was phenomenal.

The six of us watched the DVD at least five times between Saturday and Sunday, and got a huge kick of out of it each and every time. In addition to the video, Lois created a book with the lyrics and photos, and some song-sheets with the lyrics as well. The full package was a wonderfully creative custom gift for a very special person, celebrating his life (to date) and his amazing accomplishments.

Watching the DVD

Watching the DVD

Like I said, more on this specific topic in about a week. 🙂

Right after viewing the DVD a number of times, we walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House. We had a fabulous meal (as always), and waddled back to the apartment.

Duck House

Duck House

We all gathered in Laura and Chris’ apartment to watch the Duke game, and couldn’t wait for half time to dig in to the Apple Pie. Again, Lois and I called it an early night, and the rest of them continued on with more NCAA action.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

On Sunday morning, the four of them had breakfast out, and then walked up to attend church services. We then all met up outside of Joe’s Pub at 12:45pm. We had tickets for a 2pm show for Eden Espinosa. This was her solo debut in NYC. Of the many Elphaba’s we’ve seen in Wicked, Eden was by far our favorite, so we were really looking forward to see her at our favorite club.

We had a nice lunch before the show, and she came on, with a five-piece band at about 2:05pm. She has a fantastic voice, with a surprising range (she hits incredibly high notes, with amazing power, and sustains them, even though you think, or at least I think, she’ll miss them). It was a real treat to see her, though I have some small nits to pick with the show.

Eden Espinosa

Eden Espinosa

The volume on the band was too high. They are superb musicians, and there was no distortion, but the place is too small to play that many pieces at that volume. While you could make out Eden’s voice even at the maximum volume of the group, that’s sheerly a testimony to how hard she was belting it out (and sweating as a result, even though it was on the cool side in the club).

Thankfully, she also did quite a number of songs with only the electric piano or acoustic guitar for accompaniment, so it wasn’t all top-of-the-lungs all the time. That brings me to my second nit. Song selection. While she’s great at the full range of songs she sang, I so much more enjoyed the ones with solo accompaniment (not just because of the volume). I don’t think she needs to prove her rock capabilities, at least not in a place as small as Joe’s.

She had a surprise guest, Katie Thompson. She came out and did a solo number, accompanying herself on the electric piano, called What Turns You On (available on the MySpace page linked above). She has one of the better voices we’ve heard, and she plays the piano marvelously as well. It was a real treat. After that, she played another of her songs, and Eden sang along with her, a bit of harmony (beautiful), but mostly alternating verses.

Katie Thompson

Katie Thompson

They played a third song together (with the rest of the band accompanying them as well), and then Katie left the stage.

Eden closed the show with an encore, singing Defying Gravity. We would have been disappointed to miss this one, so we were grateful that she came back out and gave us a taste of Wicked. 🙂

Even with the nits, I was very glad to see her (and discover Katie), and I suspect that I was more critical of the show than the rest of our guests, which is also a good thing!

Lois Eden Laura

Lois Eden Laura

Bob Eden Espinosa

Bob Eden Espinosa

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Katie Bob Hadar Lois

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Laura Bob Sally Chris Hadar

Three of us headed back to the apartment to relax, and three more headed to B&H for some browsing (in anticipation of future camera shopping). We all met up at the apartment for a little more snacking on Apple Pie and Cupcakes (and two people even had some shrimp), watched the DVD again, and then we headed out.

We dropped Bob and Sally back at LaGuardia, then headed up to the house. Other than being colder than predicted, and the nuisance of being routed to Philadelphia at the beginning of the trip, it was a picture-perfect weekend, and we hope Bob enjoyed his birthday blowout a fraction as much as we did!

Happy Birthday Bob!

Home For The Holidays

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Until this year, our closest friends could always count on their family being together for the holidays. Their kids (our godchildren) went to school in the vicinity, or at least were guaranteed to choose home (Richmond, VA) for the school break at the holidays.

Now, things aren’t as guaranteed. Laura is married and living in NYC. There will always be the possibility that she will choose (or need to be fair and accept) to spend a holiday with her husband’s family (the other coast entirely). David is in Birmingham, AL, and may not even be able to take time off for some future holiday (e.g., he was unable to get away for Thanksgiving this year, and Lois and I spent it with him in Birmingham).

Thankfully, the kids (yes, yes, they’re fully formed adults in all respects now, but they will always be kids to us!) were able to come home for Christmas this year. Laura and Chris will be out in CA next week so they’re not cheating his family out of the pleasure of their company, just delaying it by a week.

The Kids

The Kids

Lois and I felt blessed to be part of the festivities this year. Not only did that include the seven of us spending a lot of quality time together, we also got to see quite a number of dear Richmond-based friends as well. That included being part of the annual extended family get-together on Friday afternoon. Not only are all of Bob’s relatives a joy to be around, they all bring special food creations for the rest of us to enjoy.

Some random shots from the various gatherings:

Brother and Sister

Brother and Sister

Proud Grandpa

Proud Grandpa

Friends Drop By

Friends Drop By

Dave and Hadar

Dave and Hadar

Who cares if I gained a ridiculous amount of weight in the past few days. It was worth it! Aside from Bob’s always-groumet meals (he made a spectacular Thai dinner for nine on Saturday night), Nancy brought over an artichoke dip that kept calling me back. While I singled out the artichoke dip, every single thing that I sampled was unbelievable.

This photo is too fuzzy for you to appreciate how good the food looked, in addition to the above-mentioned great taste:

Fuzzy But Delicious

Fuzzy But Delicious

Laura created little droplets from heaven, otherwise known as homemade dumplings (with Hoisin and Soy sauces for sweet and savory dipping):

Homemade Dumplings

Homemade Dumplings

Bob has been known to share with Sally on more than one occasion. This year, he raised sharing to an art form. In the first photo, he’s inconspicuously reaching over with his telescoping fork, and in the second, he’s successfully snagged a piece of Thai Chicken. It’s only fair, since he went to all the trouble of cooking it in the first place. 🙂

Telescoping Fork

Telescoping Fork

Caught Red Handed

Caught Red Handed

Good food, good conversation, great laughs. Who could ask for anything more? Well, we didn’t ask, but we indeed received more. 🙂

A year ago, I wrote about the best gift-giver in my personal circle. One of the many amazing gifts he’s given me was my first (and until now, only) GPS, a Garmin StreetPilot 2620. When I got it, in May 2005, it was the top-of-the-line Garmin GPS. It has served us extremely well over the years, but on occasion, it also acts up a bit. Of course, it typically acts up when I need it the most, so it can be quite frustrating at times.

Lois has complained to me for months that we should just break down and buy a new one. I kept resisting, as the old gal still has some good life in her, and it pained me to kick her to the side of the road prematurely.

Well, the decision was taken out of my hands (thankfully!). Our friends (including David, Laura and Chris) bought us a Garmin Nuvi 265WT. It’s so cool, I encourage you to check out the features at the supplied link. But, here are a few of the things that it has that our old gal doesn’t, aside from the obvious svelte figure. 😉

  • Battery-powered portability (with pedestrian and bicycle modes)
  • Bluetooth that turns the Nuvi into a hands-free speakerphone for my Treo!
  • Ability to download Google Maps addresses (with notes and phone numbers)
  • Real-time traffic reports (free, but ad-supported)

We love it, so thank you very much for the amazing gift, and the perfect timing for it.

We’re not the only ones who enjoyed ripping into our gifts:

Ripping Open Gifts

Ripping Open Gifts

If you’re curious as to how gifts arrive in Richmond, the answer is obvious, just like they do elsewhere, via Santa Claus. Sometimes though, Santa has his normal sleigh in the shop, and he arrives in Richmond in style:

Santas Alternate Sleigh

Santa's Alternate Sleigh

Lots of other things to be thankful for this holiday season, and we are indeed thankful for all of them.

One of them is the family dog. He’s 16 years old, which is pretty darn amazing. On occasion, he still has some pep in his step. Whenever he gets groomed, they put a bow on him. It looks silly, but no one takes it off. Since this was a holiday, they put on a colorful kerchief instead. Lois couldn’t stop calling him The Sherrif of Nottingham every time he trundled by. It was definitely cuter than the bow. We probably should have gotten him a tiny cowboy hat to go with it, though he probably would have growled when we tried to fasten it… 🙂

Sheriff of Nottingham

Sheriff of Nottingham

Here’s hoping that we will all have the opportunity to spend many more holiday seasons together!

Cool Christmas Gifts

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Just got back from a wonderful dinner, and enjoying watching people get real excited about watching their favorite Redskins beat the Cowboys to make it into the playoffs!

When we got back, our friends gave me two gifts. The first is a mug with a picture of a Shark on it, with the word “card” printed above it. “Card Shark”. Cool! 🙂

The second is a T-Shirt that is also a bona-fide WiFi locator. I had just recently read about it, that it was the current geek chic gift of choice. It’s very cool. Here’s a link to the online store.

Thanks to my current hosts for the cool gifts! 🙂