Saturday, September 24, 2016


The new cat situation is going great. 

Doki is half the size of the other two, but is the boss of the house and does whatever she wants at all times. She chases Papaya around less than she used to, but the pecking order is still clear. 

However, this one - formerly Oki, now Michael - is our favorite by far. Unfortunately I think half the reason we like him best is because of his face, which makes me feel shallow, but he also has a tiny nervous meow and is very reserved, which I think makes us want to work hard and win his love. He does sleep at our feet every night and if I toss and turn at any point he comes up to the head of the bed for a few purrs and pets. It's extremely endearing. 

Doki likes to wedge herself next to me on the couch. She is very small. We share one cushion. 

Here she looks big but I assure you, she is not. 

This was an exciting moment, as Papaya usually behaves as though she's afraid Doki will kill her. There have been a handful of times they've all been on the bed or couch together, and mostly they do coexist fine, but we have a ways to go before actual friendship. 

All three!

But seriously, look at Mike.

How could we not like him best? Sorry, girls. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sully Takes LA

Every time a grandkid turns 5, my mom takes them to LA for a few days for a special trip. This time, Sully is the new 5-year-old, and the trip fell over Labor Day weekend, so my sister and I invited ourselves along. I hadn't been back to LA since we moved away in 2005! Eleven years!

I arrived at LAX on a direct flight mid-morning and rented a car and then sat on the 405 trying to get to the Valley, just like old times. It is really odd going back to a place you used to live after an 11 year break, particularly someplace so distinctive as Los Angeles. I don't know what I expected, but I was surprised at how thoroughly LA is still LA. Smog, traffic, car chases, helicopters, etc. It kept being the same all this time!

The first thing I did was meet my friend Joanna at her house in North Hollywood, and we walked to Pitfire for pizza and sangria, which we used to do all the time when we lived there. Except now she has a five year old son, Kristofer, and I got to meet him too and it was awesome. 

Then I drove to our Cousin Marian's house in Sherman Oaks and got there just as everyone was arriving from their later flight into the Burbank Airport. Then everyone colored! (But not me.)

On Sunday we drove to Pasadena to go to a children's museum, but first we drove by to see my old apartment building, which is just as ugly today as it was in 2005. Good old Madison Luxury Apartments.

We went through the drive-through at In-n-Out and got cheeseburgers! Yay!

Sully, naturally, does not eat cheeseburgers, only french fries & milkshakes.

The Kidspace Museum in Pasadena turned out to be mostly outdoors and was perfect for providing all sorts of entertainment for a few hours.

Mom & Hillary got really into trying to build a roller coaster out of pipes.

Sully got halfway up this wall and then suddenly realized he was halfway up the wall and we had to get him down.

In the evening I went over to see my friend Natalie and her family. They live in Northridge near where I used to work, so there were a lot of hot spots to drive by and see, including Casey's Tavern, where we used to attend Saturday night potlucks with the otherwise elderly regulars, and the convenience store parking lot where Ben lost his keys on the Night of Tequila Shots with Jimmy & Lexie. 

For dinner we went to Follow Your Heart, a famous vegetarian cafe & market (inventors of Vegenaise!), which was my favorite lunch space when I worked at Luminent. It was exactly the same, wood paneling and all. 

I've been thinking about this burrito for eleven years. 

Natalie and I then went to a tiki bar and had some fruity drinks and awesome conversation. I miss my SMARTS friends! There's really nothing like spending time with somebody you've known since you were 9 years old.

On Monday we joined everyone else in LA at Santa Monica beach. Sully was absolutely fearless, running straight into the ocean over and over.

Our part of the beach was actually not that crowded. Amazingly, we scored a parking space right next to the pier.

After a couple hours on the beach, we headed up to the pier, which was unbelievably packed. Sully was uncooperative about posing for a photo.

There were sooooo many people on the beach nearest the pier. Walk down a little bit, dummies!

Sully wanted to play a game, which I felt certain was throwing money down the toilet, but incredibly he made a basket on the first try and won a stuffed animal, all by himself! Labor Day Miracle!

There were hundreds of people playing that Pokemon game on the pier, wandering around staring at their phones. I guess this is me being old, but I would pay a lot of extra money for a vacation where nobody was allowed to walk around staring at their phone.

On Tuesday I had to leave from LAX at 9:30, so I left Marian's house in Sherman Oaks at 5:50am. The 405 was already insane! 5:50am! But I made it in plenty of time.

It was great to see my friends and Sully and spend a little time in LA, but it was a whirlwind trip! Being there made me wish we had gone back before now; I'm not really sure why we haven't. Benjamin is on board with going for a longer trip at some point in the not-too-distant future, so hopefully we can work that out!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Look what I goootttttt.....

Because my mouth moves faster than my brain, we now have three cats. An acquaintance was telling me she had to give up her house and pets for reasons out of her control, and before I knew what was happening I'd said, "I can take the cats!" And then I thought, "oh man, Ben is going to kill me." But then I asked to see pictures of them and when I saw the fluff, I knew it was fate. The next day they came to live with us. 

This is Doki. She is very small and aggressively affectionate. 

Oki is her brother, much bigger and a little more suspicious of us. He's coming around, through. 

Papaya was like this. 

But it's been two weeks and she's settled in for the most part. There is still some minor hissing when one of them takes another by surprise, but in general:

It was a good decision. They needed some medical care as a result of living their first few years as outdoor cats, but it's been really good for me to have something else to focus on besides, you know, the cancer. They are both gorgeous and sweet and funny and that moment when they're all running around demanding breakfast and then sit side by side munching away has rapidly become the best part of my day. 


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Trip Report: Day 8: London (aka THE END)

I know everyone has been waiting with bated breath for me to finish up this trip, which has taken foreverrrrrr to get through. But I think my life has calmed down now so I won't be delinquent in the future. 

Anyway, upon returning from Paris we only had one day left in London before it was time to go home! We liked the British self-awareness regarding their ridiculous driving-on-the-left rules. As a pedestrian it was pretty disorienting going from England to France and back again in quick succession.

We went to the Victoria and Albert Museum first thing. There was a really interesting exhibit of British clothing through the ages and a bunch of other random stuff. I took a picture of this item, from the theatre exhibit, for Ben. 

They used to put it in the floor and dramatically pop actors out from beneath the stage in the middle of shows, but unfortunately people got killed all the time so it was banned.

Then we walked down the street to Harrod's.

Harrod's is a pretty weird place. Most of the bottom floor is food of all types, but there are also floors of couture clothing, electronics, toys.... all sorts of stuff. We bought some pastries, of course.

But not a bespoke cake.

We got lunch in a little cafe that overlooked one of the food halls.

And ended up on the toy floor, texting pictures of stuffed animals to Hillary to evaluate as potential gifts for the kids. Apparently these big eyed things are all the rage.

After Harrod's we went back to the hotel to pack and regroup and eat the pastries. Then we headed out for out last evening of adventures! We popped into the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon friezes.

And then went on our very last death march to our dinner reservation at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London. It sprinkled the tiniest bit on the walk - the only time it rained on the whole trip, which seems pretty amazing for Britain in early springtime.

Rules was everything you'd imagine the oldest restaurant in London to be. Doorman in a top hat, wood paneling with old paintings and taxidermied animal heads on the wall, game meat on the menu, the whole nine yards. The food was great, too! I ordered steak & kidney pie since I had never had it before and discovered I'm not the hugest fan of kidneys, but that isn't Rules's fault.

The last bottle of wine!

The next morning we took the tube to the airport and spent a couple hours in the Heathrow Virgin Atlantic lounge, which was every bit as nice as the one in JFK, then flew back to the United States. Nine days spent sharing a hotel room with my mom and we didn't kill each other! And we had a lot of fun and saw a lot of sights, too. 

Next up: we'll see!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Trip Report: Day 7: Paris

I had failed to buy tickets for the Eiffel Tower ahead of time, so when we headed over there first thing in the morning we were thinking we'd take the stairs up to the first landing or not bother at all. The internet made it sound like the lines would be impossibly long without an advance reservation. Surprise! There was no line whatsoever.

We took the elevator straight to the top!

It was warmer than the previous day, but a bit hazy for maximal city viewing.

For lunch we went to nearby Cafe Constant, which a friend had recommended. It was a tiny little place where we were crammed into a room the size of my office with forty other people, but the food was great and it was extremely reasonably priced. In general Paris seemed much more affordable than London.

The bread in Paris lived up to the hype everywhere we went.

Then we decided to walk up to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs d'Elysees. One lesson I took from our 36 hours in Paris is that it is much less compact than you might think, looking at a little map.

Finally we made it, though.

We walked all the way down the Champs d'Elysees and then took the Metro to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur. Here is where we had some excitement:

Coming up the stairs out of the train station, someone shouted, alerting us to the fact that a pickpocket was trying to open Mom's backpack! The kid ran away and we thanked the guy profusely. She didn't actually have anything in the pocket of the backpack except an empty wallet, having moved important stuff to a more secure location when we arrived, so we didn't worry about it too much and kept walking down the street.

Unbelievably, a block later the same kid showed up and tried again, and managed to get the wallet completely out of the backpack before she felt it. Before I had any idea what was going on, my 64-year-old mother was turning around, grabbing the kid's arm, and yelling, "You give that back to me right now!" AND HE DID. And then he ran away and we never saw him again. It was awesome. A bunch of Parisian pedestrians came over to check that we were okay and made disapproving noises and shook their heads at the hooligans trying to mess with the nice American ladies.

Anyway, after this we were on super high alert in the Montmartre area. At one point I thought someone had managed to steal my phone out of my purse while I had it tucked under my arm on a bench, but it turned out I had just put it in a different pocket.

Before we got to Sacre Coeur we waited for about twenty minutes (seriously, twenty minutes at least) to use this weird public bathroom stall that cycled through a full wash cycle between every user. Every single person in line was flummoxed by the whole experience and finally some dude started standing by the door pressing the buttons for everyone else because nobody else could figure it out.

At last, we arrived at the church! Mom sat at the bottom and read and I walked up all the stairs to the top. It was a gorgeous day, much warmer than the day before.

After this we went to a touristy restaurant at the bottom of the hill and got some tea and dessert, then walked back to Gare du Nord to catch the train back to London. On the way to the train station we got a bit lost and ended up walking through a neighborhood that appeared to be composed entirely of cheap wedding dress stores, one after another, with shady guys loitering around outside each one. What was actually going on there, I have no idea.

We were early for the train so we sat on the Eurostar balcony and read our books until it was time to go.

Arriving back at the Doubletree in London felt like coming home! We ordered room service. This is the Doubletree Hyde Park's version of a BLT. I approve.