LA Trip Recap

LA Trip

LA was awesome!  I flew in super early Wednesday morning and got to spend the day with my aunt.  We went to the flower district and picked up a beautiful Thanksgiving centerpiece (which I forgot to take a picture of but really great Thanksgiving colors), we went back to her house where she cooked and I snoozed.  My sister and uncle came and we went to Brent’s for dinner–chopped liver and hot pastrami sandwich with matzah ball soup. . . . yuuuum!  We then went to A Sweet Design and picked up some cupcakes.  I may have gone to three different cupcake places this weekend so we shall do a comparison post in later on this week!

I then got to ride in my sister’s new (to her) Ford Mustang convertible. . . so much fun!  Thanksgiving day we went bowling with my cousins.  Every year they do a sport as part of the pre-Thanksgiving ritual.  Prior I had been to football and whiffle ball and then a few years ago they decided contact sports were not a good idea so bowling it became.  I may have sucked royally (never got above 60) but had a good time!  Then Thanksgiving dinner, mmmmmm!  All good there!  My sister wanted to get a TV so we went on over to Best Buy and she bought a nice Smart TV for a good price.  I knew I wanted a new iPad so we went to the mall but Apple was closed.  I did go to Victoria’s Secret and get some bras (really pretty ones too!) and Gap for clothes that were 50% off.  I got my iPad the next day so all was good there.  I also got a new bag for my laptop from DSW (Ivanka Trump).  I think those were all the Black Friday sales.  Friday night we went out to sushi with a friend of Danit’s.  The restaurant was meh.  The service was terrible.

Saturday we laid low and then went out to dinner at an awesome Italian restaurant in Los Feliz called Trattoria Farfalla.  The food was really good.  I had penne ala norma which had eggplant and lots of cheese and the star was the torta della nonna, so good!  I tried to get the recipe but they said they got it from an outside store.  Must. Make. Again!

Sunday I caught a cold and hung low while my sister went to work and then we met some good friends of mine for dinner at a Persian restaurant.  The food was good but because I was sick, I wasn’t really tasting (I hate that part of being sick).  We did make it to the 2nd cupcake place, the famous Sprinkles and tried their ice cream which was super yummy and I bought some cupcakes from the ATM.

I then decided it was my mission to fill my sister’s freezer so I made her 2 mac and cheeses, 2 lasagnas, a pot of chicken soup and 2 dozen muffins which I froze all individually:

Danit's Freezer

It was worth it and I hope she eats well for awhile!  I then met her and saw where she works which was fun.  We went out to lunch to a super good sandwich place called The Carving Board.  I had tomato and goat cheese soup and the turkey dinner sandwich.  I then stopped at the mall on the way home (sadly didn’t buy anything) and got more cupcakes from Velvet Cupcakes and wrote my sister a sweet note on the box for such an awesome weekend.

I ended up spending yesterday sick in bed and am still hacking. . . yes I was that person on the plane that we all hate :/.  Oh well.

Now back to real life. . .

Random question: I have one blog post that gets spam comments ALL the time!  Any tips to stop them?

 

 

Reflections

Simba

This week has not been an easy week.  My grandmother was hospitalized Monday night (she’s home and doing much better) but most of the week was spent with her in the hospital.  Then on Tuesday I had to put down my dear kitty, the one stable man in my life for the last twelve years.  It’s weird.  I keep hearing his meowing in the house and keep expecting to see him jump out when I come into the room.

One of my current jobs right now (one of six part time jobs!) is caring for my grandmother.  She is 90 years old and has lived with my parents for the past four years.  She is originally from Italy, came to America around 1948.  She suffers from vascular dementia so memory, including English as a third language, is often difficult for her.  But she’s a fighter and every time we think she’s not doing great, she rallies.  Although taking care of her is a lot of work, I can’t imagine not being here to do it.

Anyway, not sure what else to say right now but wanted to let you know I’m still out here somewhere.

More Fun Times with the Family: Hawaiian Islands!

So I talked about the five days it took to get to Hawaii.  That part was super relaxing and a lot of fun but I have never been to Hawaii so I was super excited to be able to experience not just one but three different islands.  That is the beauty of cruising!

We started in Hilo on the Big Island.  Here was the only place that we did a cruise-run tour.

Hilo

Macadamia nuts are huge and we went to the Mauna Loa Macadamia nut farm.  Of course we got samples of nuts and we also got some ice cream with macadamia pieces, yum!  The top middle picture is my parents in a nature area of the macadamia nut farm.  Our tour guide brought back a variety of fruit, etc onto the bus including an enormous avocado and awapuhi, which I had heard about in shampoo.  He actually squeezed it and liquid came out-talk about an easy shower method!  I was ready to grab that avocado–it was amazing compared to what we see on the mainland!  We then went up to Mount Kilauea-an active volcano.  Even though I live in Oregon and Mount St. Helens is less than an hour away and I’ve seem smoke from the distance, being only yards away was much more intense!  I love the picture of my dad and I and I think I am going to frame this one and the picture of us at Mount Rushmore as a tribute to the two state parks we went to.

The bottom left picture is Rainbow Falls.  We only had a very few minutes there before it was back to the ship where my mother realized she didn’t bring ID with her.  In her defense, she had never needed it before.  Thankfully, after a bit of extra scrutiny, she was allowed back on the ship :).

Hilo/Kona

On the tour we also stopped at an orchid farm.  I learned that an orchid on your left ear is taken, right ear single and looking and on the back is follow me home!  That night we cruised to the other end of the island and on the way had some magnificent views of Mount Kilauea, which unfortunately couldn’t be seen with the camera.  We docked at Kona the next morning.  So for something to be labeled 100% Kona coffee, it has to come from a certain, narrow strip near Kona on the big island.  The town of Kona was very cute and we hung out at the beach and just walked around.  I did my first shopping and got a pair of sandals and a hair stick with shells on it.  The hair stick was at a local outdoor market that was happening and the woman said that she was only selling her family’s items and that it was all based on what they had been doing for generations.  There was also the random Oregon pride happening!

Maui

The next day was Maui.  We docked outside of Lahaina and took tender boats in.  I loved the little old ladies who were hulaing as we came into port!  We actually spent the day with some friends of our who own an apartment in Kaanapali.  It was great and we got to hang out on the beach and at the pool all day.  Lahaina has one of the biggest Banyan tree which was amazing to look at.  It is 137 years old and more than an acre big.

The first night we went and saw a magic show at Warren and Annabelle’s.  It was a somewhat odd but very entertaining show and I’m still wondering about some of his tricks.  Annabelle is the ghost who plays the piano prior to the show.

Maui

The second day we shopped.  Most of my spending definitely happened in Lahaina where I got another pair of shoes, two skirts and quite a few other things!

The next day we docked in Honolulu.  We were actually supposed to do a city tour and a tour of Pearl Harbor but the government was in day three of shutdown and the tour was canceled.  I was actually really bummed because this is a historical site that I’ve always wanted to go to.  I guess that means I have to go back to Honolulu.

Honolulu

Instead we hung out at Waikiki Beach.  The beach was super crowded but I could see the tourist appeal.  It was my dad’s birthday so I made sure to buy him a kukui nut lei (I love that he’s wearing the shirt I bought him in Alaska as well!).  My parents had actually honeymooned in Honolulu thirty five years ago and we saw the hotel they stayed at!

We spent the afternoon in the International Market which was a lot of touristy items but still fun.

Honolulu

I totally became enamored with the picking of oysters and getting pearls.  My mom and I ended up getting rings, I got a pair of earrings and another pearl.  She actually only charged me for the first pearl and one of the pearls had two in it (which I made into earrings) so that was fun.  Obviously, they make the money on the settings which weren’t cheap!

Overall, I have to say that the Big Island was my favorite-it wasn’t overrun by tourists and was green-reminding me of Oregon.  In fact the tour guide told us a great Hawaiian Proverb:

“When the Heavens Weep, the earth lives”–I find that to be a beautiful reason for rain causing greenness!

Fun times with the Family

So as I mentioned last week, we had an amazing vacation.  Of course I brought my fun camera and took a lot of pictures.  It was a long trip (12 days) so I’m splitting up the vacation into two parts to share.  Today you get to hear about the cruise portion and Friday I’ll post about the islands.

So the cruise departed from Ensenada but we picked up the buses in San Diego-something about each cruise ship needing to make an international stop, I think probably for tax reasons.  We were very lucky in our bus ride down and because my parents have high cruise ranking, we got on a much earlier bus.  Some passengers apparently had bad bus experiences.  The worst part for us was the sitting on the dock at the pier for an hour.

Generally speaking when we get on a cruise, it’s relatively early in the morning, around eleven.  This time, it was close to four.  We had three rooms: my parents had a room with a balcony, my sister and I shared an inner cabin and my brother had an inner cabin as well.  The room was fun and it was great because there was a couch to sit on.

The boat was something like 16 stories high.  Seriously, these boats are cities on water.  This one was fancy enough that it actually had a real grass lawn on the 15th deck.  They held concerts out there and there was a glass blowing studio up there as well.

Cruise Pictures

 

There is so much to do on these cruises!  First of all, you go from meal to meal.  On most cruises you have a set table and time for dinner.  We didn’t have this officially on this boat but we ended up eating dinner at around 6:15 every night and always sat at the same table.  We developed a real camaraderie with the waiter and assistant waiter.  Our waiter was a guy named Franky and our assistant waiter was an awesome girl from Belarus named Yulia.  She was 23 and this was her first experience.  We also became friendly with Faruk, the waiter for the table next to us, from Turkey.  He explained to us a lot about the culture of staff on cruise ships which I found fascinating.

A big thing my dad and I love doing on the boats is going to the art auctions.  This time I won a piece of art and bought two Snoopy images.  My dad bought a bit more than that.  This is actually where I’ve really discovered my taste for art and developed a passion for certain artists such as Tarkay and Peter Max.

We also attended an Iron Chef competition between two head chefs and learned about the inner workings of the crew and ship from the captain and some of his lead staff.  Our captain was Greek and made a morning announcement every morning at ten.  Very funny.

One day my father and I participated in a walk-a-thon for Breast Cancer research, walking a mile with both crew and other passengers.  We spent a lot of time sitting in the sun poolside, just enjoying.  There was a fabulous bar called the Mixology Bar that used really fun and fresh ingredients like rose petals and dried ice for their drinks.  I fell in love with a blackberry tasting drink that smoked.  My brother tried an avocado margarita and I also liked a drink called Coming Up Roses which was created for an Oprah show.

Cruise II.jpg

 

We were celebrating my sister’s graduation on the ship but it was also my dad’s birthday so we made sure to let the staff know and they made cakes for each of them.  There were two formal nights on the ship that are always fun, you get to dress up and see all the other passengers in their best.  Another difference between this ship and others I’ve been on is that overall, people were more dressed up for dinner.  I think I wore a skirt most nights and then fancier dresses for the formal nights.

Cruise III.jpg

 

Another cool feature of the ship was a huge Australian Ficus tree (I think) was growing in the middle of the ship.  It was suspended in that big red planter and probably was about eight stories high including the planter.  I also fell in love with double hammocks they had and spent many hours overlooking the water and reading.

This was by far the longest amount of sea days-it took five days to cross the ocean from Mexico to Hawaii but it was a great way to get in the relaxation mode!  There was never a time I was bored-so many activities happening throughout the day and I brought about fifteen books with me (I read ten or so on the ship).

Friday: Hawaii!

Family Vacation: Ensenada to Hawaii

Celebrity Boat As I mentioned, I recently went on a HUGE family vacation.  In May, my sister graduated university.  Originally she and my parents were thinking about doing a trip just the three of them but in the end, they decided to take all of us on an AMAZING trip!

We went on a cruise that was repositioning from Alaska to Australia.  I love cruising–this was my fifth cruise and first time on Celebrity.  I’ve done two Mexico cruises–one Royal Caribbean and one Carnival, a cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and then last summer a cruise to Alaska.

The five of us started in San Diego and took a bus down to Ensenada.  We then had a five day voyage across the ocean and then island hopped.  We spent two days on the big island-spending one day in Hilo and then cruising overnight and spending the next day in Kona.  We then spent two days in Maui and then a day and a half in Oahu.  I’m posting some of the photos from my phone but will post more pictures next week from my fancy schmancy camera.

A cake in honor of my sister's graduation

A cake in honor of my sister’s graduation

Tenders to the islands from the boat

Tenders to the islands from the boat

IMG_1936

Mt. Kilauea

Mt. Kilauea

View

Looking from boat to shore and beach to water

Looking from boat to shore and beach to water

IMG_1907

Chilling on the cruise ship

Chilling on the cruise ship

Ducks!

Ducks!

Celebrating dad's birthday

Celebrating dad’s birthday

I will definitely write more about the trip and each of the islands next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foodie Fridays: My Birthday, Salt and Straw, Kugel!

I turned 31 last week, eek!  I’m trying to start my 31st birthday on a healthy kick. . . I am doing the C25K app with my mom three times a week and yoga an hour every day–feeling great!  I’m also trying to eliminate non-natural ingredients out of my beauty products and food-I’ll write more about that in a future post.

In the meantime, my birthday was a great time!  It was the first time in several years that I haven’t been working on my birthday–the life of a camp professional involves summer working :).  I started the day at my favorite massage place: Coldwater Creek Spa and had a 90 minute massage with scalp addition–heaven!  I had a $20 coupon for my birthday and they took that off the total of the treatment which was awesome!  Then I walked around the outdoor mall and went to The Loft where I had $15 to spend from a birthday coupon.  I found a cute shirt on the sales rack but it rang up full price.  The lady knew that I had found it on the clearance section so gave it to me for $15 which meant it was a free to me shirt!

Then I brought flowers to my mom, after all, she’s the one who did the hard work!  The biffle sent me flowers and balloons–non helium because I can’t stand those!

Birthday Balloons

The tradition in our house is either we pick a place to go eat or my mother will make dinner.  I decided since it had been years I wanted my mom to make me dinner.  So she made my favorite childhood dinner-one that I had for many birthdays: Marinated grilled salmon, sweet noodle kugel and salad with creamy french dressing (homemade).  Because the kugel is so amazing I am going to share the recipe at the end of the post.

Birthday DinnerSweet amazing food!

Then we went to Salt and Straw.  This is similar to Ample Creamery which I went to with the bestie in April or May.  We happened to get there right before the line was out the door and around the corner so we only waited about twenty minutes.  Well worth it!  Salt and Straw Ice Cream

I tried a bunch of them and they were great!  I tried the Pear and Blue Cheese and thought it was really good but wasn’t sure about a whole cup of it.  I ended up getting the Cinnamon Snickerdoodle and the Sea Salt Caramel.  I was not disappointed!

Salt and Straw

 

I loved the mugs!  The decor was very industrial which works for the neighborhood it was in.  I went with my mom, brother, grandmother and my Portland grandmother (not officially a grandmother but she has been since I was a year old!)

SaltStrawFam

My Portland grandma is on the top and my brother, mom and grandmother on the bottom.  She’s looking good for 90!

Now. . . kugel.  This recipe first came about at my Bat Mitzvah-the caterer made it for Saturday lunch and it has been a family favorite ever since.

Maxine’s Kugel

Ingredients:

4 eggs

8 ounces sour cream (I usually use non-fat)

5 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup margarine, melted

1 quart non-fat milk

6-7 ounces dry noodles

1/2 cup cornflakes

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Directions:  In 9×13 pan, place 6-7 ounces dry noodles.  Pour mixture of eggs, milk, sugar, sour cream and margarine and stir.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Mix cornflakes, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over kugel and bake one more hour.

That’s it!  Super easy and super tasty!  It works great with a bagel and lox brunch or as a side dish with fish, etc.

 

 

Pride and the Right to Marry

Danitpride

 

This is my little sister.  I blogged about her last month when I went to Los Angeles for her college graduation.  I think my sister is absolutely one of the bravest people I know.  She’s also just a pretty darned awesome person and I’m lucky to have her as my sister.

When she was a senior in high school she called me one night in November.  I was living in LA at the time working on a master’s degree.  It was about ten o’clock at night and I was watching television with the bestie who was my roommate then and my boyfriend at the time.

She was so excited to tell me. . . that she was gay.  My response?  Yeah, I know.  Very anticlimactic and she still tells people about that when she talks about it.  She was so excited that I was the first person in the family she was telling and then I totally stole her thunder.

In all honesty, I think I’d always sensed, from the time she was in kindergarten, that she was gay.  But it was never a big deal in my book.  I used to kid that there was something in the water in my elementary or middle school because I seriously knew about ten people who came out to me in high school, including a somewhat middle school boyfriend, womp womp.

My second year of college I met a guy in my Shakespeare class.  He and I instantly developed an amazing camaraderie and I was somewhat interested in him.  It turns out he was married.  Also, in the middle of the quarter, he turned up to class with a black eye.  I was shocked and asked him what had happened.  He had come out to his wife (mother of his twin boys) the night before.  This dear friend of mine shared with me a little bit of his story.  He had sensed in high school that he was gay, but being from a small town in the Northwest and from a Christian family, when he told his father about it, his father told him to forget about it.  He then became involved with the woman he ended up marrying.

He was a few years older than I and a returning college student.  He eventually came out to his family, moved out of the small town and into Portland where he began seeing men seriously.  In so many ways he was happy and true to himself.

In 2004, in the midst of the Bush/Kerry election, Oregon was also voting on same sex marriage.  I was in a Family and Human Services program at University of Oregon and the people in my cohort were from a variety of walks of lives.  There were several in my close group of friends who were in same sex relationships.  It was a devastating blow to so many people I cared about when same-sex marriage was knocked off the tables in Oregon.

Over the last nearly decade I have watched as several different states have legalized gay marriage.  I have also watched as many states stood firmly against it.  The votes that took place yesterday in the Supreme Court: knocking down DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).

“Although Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy. He was supported by four more liberal colleagues: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. (link).

The second was the Supreme Court dismissing the appeal for Proposition 8 in California.  This basically says that “private parties do not have any “standing” to defend California’s voter-approved ballot measure banning gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock” (link)

I think my cousin’s Facebook status said it best: Sasha looked at me like I was crazy when I explained why I was watching tv this morning. “But Johnny and Collette’s mommies are already married and equal.” I started to explain and then stopped: her world won’t include gay marriage. It’ll just be marriage.

Sasha is three years old right now and I hope that she will see the day when everyone, including her amazing cousin Danit and all my wonderful friends who are in same sex relationships can marry legally just like myself and other heterosexual couples.

I am so excited about these huge accomplishments in the U.S. justice system and can’t wait to see where they go.  

 

From East to West with a dad and a cat

I have been back in Oregon two weeks tomorrow and I’m adjusting back into what life is here.  I’m sorry I’ve been somewhat absent.

So on June 1st I left New York and began driving to Portland.  Let me start by saying that my father is absolutely amazing.  With less than a month notice, he booked a flight, a car and took time off work to drive with me from Brooklyn to Portland.  It took five days and we hauled butt!

Here are some pics of our trip and the highlights:

Goodbye New York

 

Driving from Brooklyn through Manhattan–it was a good three year run!

Traffic Jam in New Jersey

 

Not a great start–three miles in 2.5 hours–a horrible accident in New Jersey.

Amish in Ohio

 

A horse and buggy in Ohio.

Dinner in Wisconsin

Dinner in Wisconsin

the one big city we drove through in the entire country--Chicago

the one big city we drove through in the entire country–Chicago

The Cat in Minnesota

The Cat in Minnesota

Driving Dad

Driving Dad

A Bull

A Bull

 

Me and my cute hat

Me and my cute hat

Dad's favorite restaurant

Dad’s favorite restaurant

Dad in South Dakota

Dad in South Dakota

Exit to Wall Drugs

Exit to Wall Drugs

Me at Wall Drugs

Me at Wall Drugs

Dad at Mount Rushmore

Dad at Mount Rushmore

Beautiful Mount Rushmore

Beautiful Mount Rushmore

Father and Daughter at Rushmore

Father and Daughter at Rushmore

Cutie Kitty
Cutie Kitty
Wyoming Breakfast

Wyoming Breakfast

Pistol Wall

Pistol Wall

Pistol Pete's

Pistol Pete’s

Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, Montana

Tri Cities

Tri Cities

First sign to Portland!

First sign to Portland!

Beautiful Mount Hood

Beautiful Mount Hood

Initially I was slightly nervous about traveling over 3,200 miles in a vehicle with 7 boxes, 5 suitcases, 6 pictures, a cat and my father but I was pleasantly surprised.  My father was an amazing travel partner (even if he did only let me drive two hours the entire trip!)

Driving is also a super unique way of seeing the country-one that I never realized how much fun it is.  I will definitely always remember this time with my dad as a truly special time and I really will always appreciate what he did to help me!

Breakdown of the trip according to my father’s facebook page:

Day 1: Brooklyn, New York – Cranberry, Pennsylvania (420 miles)
• States: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
• 2 ½ hour delay in NJ due to traffic accident

Day 2: Cranberry, Pennsylvania – Tomah, Wisconsin (695 miles)
• States: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin
• Some traffic jamming in Chicago

Day 3: Tomah, Wisconsin – Gillette, Wyoming (895 miles)
• States: Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming
• Wall Drugs, Mt. Rushmore

Day 4: Gillette, Wyoming – Richland, Washington (946 miles)
• States: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington

Day 5: Richland, Washington – Beaverton, Oregon (244 miles)
• States: Washington, Oregon
• Lunch w/Nora & Danit

Thanks, dad for being an awesome dad!!!!

 

Flying Out West

So generally speaking I like to do a Foodie Friday post on Friday but this is a special occasion!  My baby sister is graduating college this weekend!  I am the oldest of three kids and my sister is the baby of the family, we have a brother in the middle-three years younger than me and five years older than my sister.  I’m sure I’ll write more about the rest of my family later but today I’m going to write about my sister!

Danit is eight years younger than me and has always been one of my favorite people in the world!  I remember the moment my parents told me they were having another child and I remember when she was born and every moment in between!  I know I have pictures from when we were younger but at the moment they are in boxes and scattered all around so instead I have pictures from probably the last ten years or so.

Danit and Rachel

The weekend of Danit’s Bat Mitzvah-nine and a half years ago.

Although it’s been about ten years since we’ve lived in the same city at the same time, we still talk on the phone and text every single day.  We did spend three summers at camp together, two of which sharing a room-now that is an experience!  But I think we made a pretty good team!

Danit and Rachel

The picture on the top left is us at the Oregon Coast in 2005 I believe.  Below that is Hanukkah 2005 and below that is my college graduation tea party in 2006.  The top right is Danit’s visit to New York in 2010 when we did a tour of the village and were outside Murray’s Cheese.  The bottom picture is from a family cruise in 2006 (and we are soon to be going on another one!)

Danit and Rachel 2

Top left is us at camp one summer, top right is at Avenue Q in 2010 in New York.  Bottom left is me and her at my MAeD ceremony–same school she’s graduating from!  And the bottom right is us on the family cruise at the safety drill.

She is graduating with her BA in Psychology and planning to stay in LA for the next exciting venture.  Right now she’s very interested in stage management and has been working on a lot of plays in the area.  I am super proud of her and so honored to call her not only my little sister but one of my closest friends!

I will definitely post about the weekend next week but for now, I am flying out west!