Thursday, November 27, 2008

Food Update

First: Immediately after buying the white beast, Pamela and I celebrated with burgers at Portillos.

Second: Yesterday evening, we enjoyed Lou Malnatis pizza with the K family, and some friends of Bailey and Ty who were over for hijinks. It was really really fun to watch them interacting - and it reminded me of being that age, hanging out with friends at people's houses...

A highlight of the evening was two impromptu performances by Ty's friend Tim (doing some dance and singing - the man is shooting for BoyBand status), and Ty who did a little trumpet concerto, but was frustrated by not having warmed up (neither his lips, nor his trumpet which was in the garage...) - In my book, it took guts just to say "yes I'll play you something", and I was just proud that he went for it. I don't think I would have done a recital for family friends at that age... Though if memory serves, many of the family friends DID come see PG13 play at the park centers that we performed at.

So we really have been fitting a lot in...

Oh yes, so far, I've talked to two teen fans of Twilight who were somewhat "meh" about the movie - Bailey's friend Morgan, and our niece Lilli. They had a lot invested in their own imaginings of the characters and couldn't get past appearances. Lilli was horrified that the Cullen house was so different from the book. We all agree that whatever that character thinks she is, she is not OUR Alice.

Ok, now to catch up on Heroes - everyone's asleep (except Papa who is working on the rigging of the ship) so now is my chance.

More Details

With a full belly from the Thanksgiving Feast, I can reveal more details of the past few days:

1) Bella and Papa have been inseparable - they've been working on art projects nonstop and she has had a peaceful smile on her face. Their big project has been carving, painting, and decorating a dragon boat. This will join the pirate ship, raft, and dinghy on our dining room plate rail display area.

2) Some funny details about buying that car: The salesguy Max was a riot with strange one-liners and a manic enthusiasm that had us laughing. There were things in the car he simply didn't know about: As he walked up, he found out it had remote start. As he was showing the trunk, he found the video-game plug in area (with a standard power outlet). And there are some things he didn't mention that we're discovering - today I found out it has an activated XM radio. So we've got Satellite Radio.

You also learn that a Toyota is sold very differently from a BMW(mini) or Jaguar - the warranties are much different, roadside assistance, free tire service, and rentals for service are all extras in the Toyota world, while they're standard in the Jag world. And I guess they don't give you a full tank of gas anymore... just had to fill 'er up today. But that's all PROCESS issue - we have no problems whatsoever with the PRODUCT.

I drove Marshmallow Pearl back and forth from thanksgiving (everything in Chicagoland is... far... ) and really grew to love the beast. But I need to spend some quality time with the manual to find out more about the voice command feature, the hands free phone capability, the multi-zone climate control, and if there's any way to make the GPS lady get a British accent...

3) Isaac the maniac decided that his ideal Thanksgiving Meal consisted of:
- 8 ritz crackers
- 3 dill pickle spears
- 1/2 roll
- 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
- 1 chocolate chip cookie
- 1/4 banana with peanut butter.

For lunch today he sat with the full jar of peanut butter with a spoon. Whatever it takes.

Tomorrow we leave Palatine and head up to a waterpark for the day, and back to the ranch Saturday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

White Thanksgiving

We're in Chicagoland for Thanksgiving. The drive down was uneventful - the kids slept half of the way, which led to much late night mayhem once we landed in Palatine.

We bought a car.

I'll explain. One of our two cars is coming off lease in January, and Pamela was getting concerned with what to replace it with... something that is better at carrying multiple kids and could also support the inevitable dog. We had settled on the Toyota Highlander, preferably a hybrid, and hopefully used to take some of the sting out of depreciation.

The past couple of weeks we've been watching the used car lots in town to see if any relatively new Highlander Hybrids (07?) are hitting the lots, but none have shown up. The only ones we'd seen were 2006 with beige cloth - very basic cars. When we arrived in Palatine, Pamela and I thought: Chicago is a much bigger market, people go through their cars faster, and they seem to like to pimp them out with options a bit more... maybe there's something here!

We did some searching and found the holy grail: a 2008 Hybrid, fully loaded with every conceivable option, driven for a year by a Toyota sales rep who put 20k miles on it, available for sale for $13k lower than the equivalent NEW model. We RAN down to Naperville and test drove it - there was no catch - it was purely the miles that caused the depreciation, not haunting/ghosts/murder or grievous hidden damage.

We made a deal on the spot, and we're driving it home (along with the car we drove down here...). Bella LOVES the car, and we're working on some names. The car is pearlescent white and flat out gorgeous. Hence the White reference in the title... though having written it, I imagine we'll have some sort of snowstorm around here... ;-> Right now, Bella's thinking about naming it "Marshmallow". I'm leaning towards "Cracker" but nobody's backing me up on that one.

Tomorrow is the big meal - it should be wonderful. A quote from Bella:
"I like Thanksgiving because there are always mashed potatoes. Plenty of mashed potatoes, and that's all right with me."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A hippo birdie

It has been a great Birthday run. Wednesday shortly after my last update, I met with Paul and Caesar for an amazing dinner at Trellis, the restaurant in my favorite hotel in Kirkland (Seattle), the Heathman. I had some steak, Caesar some Coq au Vin, and Paul had an increcible cassoulet with boar and duck meat. We felt very 17th century.

I did wind up finishing my big presentation for Thursday, about 3 hours prior to the presentation itself. I got it over to a Kinkos, picked it up (after discovering I had ordered it for the NEXT day accidentally - but they were quite accommodating), and made it out to the SeaTac conference center.

As it usually happens the actual attendance was a bit lower than expected - about 20 people, perhaps 1/3 were competitors/vendors, and 2/3 actually were interested. For some reason I was feeling VERY comfortable, and felt like it was a very smooth presentation. We had a lively Q&A afterwards, and then I was back to the hotel, having missed the last reasonable flight out of town.

I'm finally watching 30 Rock, which is a dream show, so I had some good laughs, then had another great dinner at Trellis, solo this time. Friday I flew home to a happy family, and had some great cuddles... Bella went off to a sleepover, so I put Isaac down and then my boys showed up for a birthday Avenging.

It was a wonderful line up of scotches - my new Glendronach 33 was a star, as was Ant's Bowmore 16 and Chicken's delightful Bunnahabin 12. We took a break to watch R.Kelly's flat out insane video on Youtube of "Real Talk" - oh my was that the most foul mouthed and hilarious video ever. Kids - no. DON'T LOOK AT IT KIDS. But dang. We finished the night watching Wall-E in Blu-Ray.

Saturday (the ACTUAL birthday) started with me and Isaac off to swimming: He was shivering again - that boy just has very little body fat, so I think he chills easily even though Foss keeps that pool at a comfortable 170 farenheit. (actually closer to 90). Then Pamela, Isaac, and I went and looked at some cars (the Jag is coming off lease in January, and we plan to get a dog in the spring, so we need a little more room... The Toyota Highlander is a strong contender right now.)

In the afternoon, Isaac forswore napping, and joined Bella and I in the basement for yes another Wall-E viewing. Everybody loves those robots. I could watch that movie every dang day. The new short at the end showing Burn-E, the one robot who was severely inconvenienced by Wall-E's exploits was just great.

After the movie (and waking Pamela from her long afternoon nap, which she deserved after 3 days of watching those kids while I galavanted around Seattle), I was off to Mae's: Yes, I went with 6 other moms to watch Twilight. After a drinkiepoo, we all piled into a minivan and went to the theater - arriving a full hour early so we could get the best seats.

Now you know I loved the books: Not the most challenging material in the world, but a ripping yarn (certain parts of book 2 notwithstanding). The movie was a very accurate translation of much of book 1: There were some details changed (Bella's caretaker role of her dad is not really there - they moved all meal scenes to a diner since the movie needed more than the 4 settings they cycled through in the book). But in all, it was a very rewarding experience: The budget was low low low - the SFX were definitely Sci-Fi channel quality, but the fireworks were there - Bella and Edward have some CHEMISTRY on screen, it cannot be denied. I also really liked the actor who played Jake... It's looking like the full series is greenlighted, so hopefully we'll have more of these movies pretty soon.

After the film, we all headed down to Wildfire for steaks and drinks. I decided that since I was an honorary girl for the evening (I don't believe there were ANY adult males in the audience who weren't chaperones), I'd have a proper girl drink - a Pomegranate Martini. We got home well before midnight, and sleep came quickly.

Today (which is still my birthday) I enjoyed an avalanche of facebook greetings, a lazy morning by the fire, and a lot of cuddles from the kids.

We pack up and head to Chicagoland tomorrow for the Turkeyday, after I teach my class at 6am, of course. While down there, Papa will be helping me test drive more cars, Lilli will be playing with the kiddos, Pamela will be chilling with her holiday entertaining magazines, and all will be well with the world. And Portillos will definitely get a visit. Or two.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ah Food.

It's been a while since I waxed philosophical on food. Today is a food day.

I'm in Tacoma yet again (and will be biweekly for the next few months, just for a night at a time at least). This is my 4th or 5th visit and I'm getting to know the sights a bit, and had driven past a very home-y looking place a few times called "John's Hob-Nob". As I had been up since 5, caught a 7:30 flight, and reached the area by 10am local time, I was famished, and decided to try the Hob-Nob.

The walls were festooned with pictures of old ships, the wooden booths and formica counters spoke of a very different time - this is an old place. Must be still around either because it's good, or because it's convenient.

Fortunately it was good. VERY good. I had a classic Waffle, Eggs, and Bacon special with a side of Rye toast and coffee. Every single component of this breakfast was exceptional: The bacon was crispy, and somehow dissolved before it even hit the back of my throat. The eggs were un-greasy, the waffle was light and fluffy, and the toast had a lot of caraway flavor. There was not a crumb left on my plate, and I emerged SATISFIED.

Now, a few blocks away, there's been a place that has gripped my interest as well, and I had been planning to visit it, but having read an enthusiastically positive review of it, I have decided I do not need to visit it:

"Fingers are crossed for not only the liquor license, but the food permit that will allow Acme guests to chow on some fine eats. And by “fine eats” I’m talking about frozen Swanson dinners and Costco pizza. Hell yeah, that right there is some good drunk grubbin’."

Yeah, that's not really a place I'm at in life. We shall pass.

In Home News: The furnace has been replaced, and our home is habitable again. Thank you all for your concern.

Isaac has learned how to climb OUT of his crib now - Pamela had put him down and was in the basement cleaning when he walked into the room. She watched him pull himself up, swing a leg over, and gently lower himself with his wiry powerful arms. The kid is a maniac. We've put a gate on his room, but we suspect he'll just vault it like a hurdler.

He's also holding true to form by having an injury to his face: He tripped on the sidewalk yesterday and skinned his nose. He's like a little Rudolph. These things never seem to dampen his spirit, though we also suspect his molars are coming in - he's drooling like a basset hound/bull mastiff mix... I have to wear a tarp when we're wrassling.

Allright, I'm doing a 2 hour presentation tomorrow that is only 1/3 written, so I'd better blog off and get writing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


The weather outside is frightful, and inside it's not much better: When we had the 3rd floor redone, we added in a furnace to heat and cool the third floor and the kid rooms. Last fall we added in a gas fireplace for our first floor living room. Last WEEK, our basement furnace decided to die. So while the kids are warm at night, the family has been collecting in the living room most of the time, with occasional trips to the basement where there's electric baseboard heat.

A new furnace will be installed tomorrow (Monday) and I can hardly wait. The old one was about 14 years old, which is a typical lifespan for this model: It had additional damage from some bad draining (rust), so the repairs would have been PRETTY expensive (not as much as a new furnace, granted, but we're also buying peace of mind, and with the furnace that old, it'll be another thing and another thing to die...)

As if on cue, the NYT crossword this AM had "br" puns (though those of you who get the NYT at home know this was LAST week's puzzle - we're a week delayed here in the twin cities). So "where's the brief", "brand in boston" that sort of thing.

Isaac perhaps from cold, perhaps from early cabin fever, and perhaps from teething (we suspect molars) has been a bit of a nutcase these days - lots of instant tantrums, lots of "pick me up put me down PICK ME UP" action. Today we sat and listened to Raffi and sang together, which was just a bit sissy for me, but he loved it. He then had his new favorite snack of carrots and cucumbers with ranch dip, and drifted peacefully off to a nap.

Bella has been attending art classes Thursday afternoons: The teachers give them guided exercises to work on perspective, scale, colors, and whatnot, but she's free to be creative within the exercise... and I must say that her "personal" artwork around the house has taken a quantum leap forward - she's really drawing some wonderful pictures.

This morning, she wanted to "draw some funnies" like we have in the past - but she decided to do all of it - writing, drawing, labeling. The picture was of her cryin, getting her hair pulled by isaac, who is smiling. What makes it insane is she drew a thought bubble above isaac's head showing the same exact scene in miniature: "He's dreaming about pulling my hair, and his dream is coming true". Helpfully I suggested it would be even more funny if she drew a tiny thought bubble over Isaac's head in the thought bubble... increase the regression... and she agreed. But right about then Isaac decided to rip the paper which led to some massive screaming. Fortunately Pamela was ready to whisk Bella off to church.

And now they're back! Time to go spend some family time huddled around the fire.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taping times three

Today I took a loooooong lunch break and snuck over to Time Out to teach BodyPump at 1:15. Yes, it was another attempt to tape my performance (the first attempt foiled by a malfunctioning camcorder, my second foiled by someone in frame doing something they shouldn't have been doing). So this was try three, and it went very well (I think.)

And I had a great audience, including Pamela! As we were talking over our schedules last night, we figured out that we were both planning on attending the same class, just with me on stage. She parked herself far off to the side so lurked in my peripheral vision more than I would have liked, but I guess for the taping I'd want to not be giggling and making googoo eyes at the participants.

A fun little goof up: Prior to the class, I met with Jeanne the club owner and she wanted to see some of my BodyAttack coaching. I ran through two tracks, and felt oddly spent: Everything felt off about the tracks and I chalked it up to nerves about Jeanne's watching - she's a total perfectionist. I was figuring I needed to hit the woodshed pretty hard in the coming days to improve...

By about the third track into Bodypump I finally figured out the problem, because it was affecting the class too: There is a speed control on the CD player, which lets you speed up or slow down the track significantly. Turns out the cd player was set to FASTER - at least 5-7% quicker, which is very noticeable. And with a high speed cardio workout already, pumping the speed up that much is frankly insane - which is why I was gasping for breath. In Pump, it didn't impact the tracks too much because the were slower to begin with, but I'm glad I caught it before the later techno tracks.

Regarding BodyAttack: The Perfectionist has decided that we need to dry run it full volume full microphone 20 times before we launch in front of others. I've done it 4 times so far and have improved each time. Even today's horrible superfast rehearsal was great because she literally didn't do any move I didn't announce, so I needed to cue way harder than I'm used to. I am excited to see how good I'll be at 20. Also, my body will have adapted and I'll be able to jump straight up clearing 6 feet, and will be able to hold my breath for seven minutes.

Tonight Pamela is out with her Vegas Buddies (the Free Range Mommies), so I put the kids to bed: They were plenty wound up. Bella insisted on Go Dog Go for HER book tonight... it really is a wonderful book. 30 min after lights out, I hear Isaac hollering "IT'S BROKEN". I come in to find him naked, having pulled off his jammies and he has busted the zipper. Also he has sucked on the footies, so it's a bit soggy too. That KID.

Monday, November 10, 2008

From the Plane

Out my window I see mountains... I'm flying to San Francisco for a quick series of meetings and will be back Tuesday night in time to tuck the kids into bed. Today, the flight attendant called me by name. Well, tried to - it's a long last name. But I guess that's what happens when you go Platinum.

I've been doing a little work but that was getting a bit dull... I tried to watch a movie I had rented, but it was flat out terrible. I've really been enjoying the little news breaks on the Onion website. But the MOVIE they came out with (direct to DVD) is just painfully unfunny. I gave it 30 min that I'll never get back in my life... fortunately it was just airplane time. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some sketch comedy - the Peter Serafinowicz Show on BBCAmerica is sheer brilliance. But this was like bad MadTV.

In conclusion: I do not recommend "The Onion Movie". Now, on to the kid stories.

Last night I put the kiddos to bed (with Pamela's help, of course, but when I go out of town I like to be the "staying in the room" parent to maximize my cuddle time), Both were pretty wound up: Isaac is ready to move from the simple picture books to longer stories, so last night I brought out "Go Dog Go", which he sat bolt upright for. At the end, he demanded an immediate re-reading. At the end (spoiler alert - don't read if you don't know the ending to Go Dog Go) when the dogs are headed to the tree for the party, I read "What is at the top of that tree?", Isaac shouted "A PARTY!!!!" I'd say that kid is definitely retaining what he hears.

Hush Little Alien is a take on that Mockingbird rhyme (Hush little alien don't say a word, papa's going to catch you a goony bird, etc). It was one of his favorite books, but he's decided he likes a few songs at bedtime, so I turn out the light and sing him the book from memory. It's to the point where he's singing along now, so I need to mix in more songs. He doesn't like Mary Had a Little Lamb anymore (even with the secret third and fourth verses). I was singing him "Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins, and need to work on a few more I think. Maybe People are People by Depeche Mode?

Bella had a hard time winding down too: She grew concerned about her grandpas and wanted to know how old they were and whether they were going to die soon... I assured her that they're both healthy and had strong parents so they'll definitely be around to see her get married and maybe even have a kid. And probably even longer, with the advances in medicine. Well, that opened the door: she wanted to know why old people die, and why I think medicine will help them live longer. This got into a discussion of the circulatory system, why arteries are red and veins are blue, (and why there are "arteries" and "veins" - "can't we just call them tubes?" she asks) and how arterial blockage can be fatal. I stopped short of discussion cardiac catheterization, but we'll get there. It was very fun, even if it was a ploy to stay awake a little longer... if she learned something, that's a reward in itself.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Jenny weekend

Bella's friend Jenny spent two nights while we let her parents go off to Wisconsin for a vacation. It was fun to have 3 kids for a limited time, and very interesting to see the change in dynamics: Bella spent a lot of time in various states of jealousy depending on how much attention Isaac was getting from Jenny. And Mister Enthusiasm was definitely trying to be in the middle of everything!

Saturday we did swim class, and then some of us went to see Madagascar 2 (not Issac and Pamela) with some others in the neighborhood. Honestly, not quite as charming as the first, and with a lot more potty humor and violence. But there were some laugh out loud moments for me. Mostly I was just excited to see a preview for Monsters vs Aliens (no not THOSE "Aliens" - different ones). Looks like a great retro-feel monster adventure.

I had the boys over for Scotch Night Saturday, and it was again a remarkable lineup: We opened a Gordon and Macphail Strathisla 25 year sherry cask that Chicken and I had given Ant for his birthday some weeks back, and it was flat out mental how wonderful that dram was. We also revisited a young Caol Ila, an older Port Ellen, and Glen Scotia, whose subtlety may have been impacted by the Auchentoshan we opened with. We watched The Incredible Hulk, which was another great Marvel Movie - they're definitely on a tear with Iron Man and now this... can't wait for Captain America, Thor, and The Avengers (all in development).

Today was a lazy lazy day - very little was achieved. Pamela and I have decided to keep our "lazy sunday" policy, so no big projects. It felt good.

Isaac's eating keeps getting nuttier: Tonight he ate almost half of a cucumber with italian dressing. Smacking his lips - "I LIKE THIS!!!". We had some epic wrassling today.

To follow up on my "sore legs" comments from last week following my BodyAttack training: By Tues Night, I had finally stretched things out to the point of being able to walk again. Wednesday AM I attended BodyPump, and then ran through the full BodyAttack workout. And did the same Thurs and Friday. By Friday, I was starting to feel that this intense workout is indeed do-able, and my legs were certainly not in any pain. It's weird to be able to actually feel oneself getting STRONGER in a short period of time like that. My last bump like that was after the 3 day BodyPump training. Hmmmm... Intensity = results. Strange that.

For my BodyPump certification, I finally reviewed my videotape that I need to mail in: One of the conditions of the taping is that you are the SOLE instructor - nobody helping in the room. Any hint of that and you're immediately disqualified. So I was a bit disheartened to see in the first minute of the tape the club co-owner who was doing the filming caught in the mirror behind me coaching several people on their posture. You're watching me on stage, and framed in the bottom left corner is the mirror showing him correcting posture. So I need to re-tape now. Sigh.

I haven't blogged on the Obama Victory: I'm ecstatic of course, loving the fact that we have this great opportunity. I have many friends who went the other way - they had their reasons and I don't blame any of them (with the exception of my coworkers who really really liked Palin... more than McCain). And I think McCain's concession speech was wonderful: If he had brought more of that class to the end of the campaign and less of the dirt and smears, I think it would have been a lot closer. It was nice to see the McCain who I actually respected back in 2000, not the man who had continually compromised in the past 8 years to cater to "the base".

But I don't think Obama will magically make everything better: He's got a tough row to hoe, and 43 has left things about as bad as one conceivably could, short of a smoking crater. But I'm looking forward to seeing Obama apply his cool head, his sharp wits, and his ability to see many sides of an issue to the situation we are all in now. I'm not going to armchair QB his cabinet picks... Give the man some time to work some stuff out!

I'm off to San Fran for one night Monday. We're interviewing a candidate, plus I'm meeting with one of our senior consultants to plan out a new business line... should be fun. I also have to work on some major presentations for next week (!!!) where I'm presenting both to the board in Tacoma, and to a trade association in Seattle. Being in a different time zone or on an airplane with nowhere to go should help with that. ;)

Monday, November 03, 2008


So this weekend I did the two day training for Les Mills BodyAttack, and got my butt thoroughly kicked. I previously trained in BodyPump, which is a weights class: I was good and tired, but was able to reduce my weights as needed to survive. BodyAttack is a full running cardio class with tons of jumping. Having just come off of a big cold and a lot of travel, I don't think I was in the prime condition really succeed....

We ran through the full (55 min) class 3 times in two days, plus a few hours of technique work, plus two 45 minute "Fitness Challenges", which I'll spare you the details of... suffice it to say I did almost five hundred jumping plyoric lunges across the two days, plus a lot of running. By the end of Saturday, I had a mildly pulled hamstring, by midday Sunday, my calves were cramping, and by the end of the weekend, my calves were so tight I could barely walk the stairs.

BUT... I must say this is a really fun class and I can't wait to teach it. I'm working on the choreography, and may be able to start previewing it at the club next week... Despite the pain I was able to do all of the learnings, and led my class well too. I didn't get a full pass, because my legs were too tight for me to do the "proper" technique for the final evaluation, but I just need to retest with my club manager in a week, which won't be a problem.

Add to this, the class itself was very fun - 7 people from our club, and two "visitors" from Wisconsin who were a total blast to be with - we formed a pretty tight group by the end.

I'm off to Philly this afternoon and have dinner with one potential client, then a big presentation tomorrow.

In cute kid news:
Isaac grabbed a couple of Curious George books, pointed to George and declared "I like that guy!".

I'm very worried about what I'll do with myself on Wednesday: I've grown so dependent on the minutiae of every little poll hiccup, every twist and turn in the campaigns... and to have it done will just be wonderful.

Finally, there's a semantic blog checker that "reads" the blog and tries to tell if it was written by a guy or a gal at You'll be pleased to learn that I am, in fact, a woman.

More as I know it.... gotta get on that plane.