Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's been a while--and my football picks paid the price

I've been out and about this holiday season and finally came home yesterday morning around 3:30am, a little worse for wear. The hardest part was losing in my Fantasy League playoffs last week after a 9 game win streak. It's a sad week when my kicker with 14 points bests every other offensive player in my roster (except the quarterback) who combined for very disappointing 31 points. Yes, that's COMBINED! An unexpected fat egg from Arian Foster and worse, a -2 from Danny Amendola didn't help my numbers at all.

The second hardest part was losing my top spot in fanpool. By Monday morning, I was sitting in second place by 2. And worse, I have been second-guessing my picks all monring for this final day. This is probably the least confident week I have had all season. And of course, it's the most important. I haven't had the nerve to watch any of the games yet.

On the plus side, last night, Michigan State pulled out a 17-16 win over TCU in last night's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Unfortunately, due to its 10:15pm East Coast start time, I passed out before they won, but made my morning waking up to the news. Hopefully it's a harbinger of my day. Fingers crossed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Can we hang in there Peyton?

The Bowl game schedule has been released and Michigan State is slated to play against TCU on 12/29 in the Buffalo Wild Wings in Arizona at 10:15PM, ET.  PM!!!  Man, I hope MSU has a LOT more stamina than me to play in this Bowl game against TCU. 

Anyhoo, this was a rough week in the FanPool but fortunately for me, it was for most everyone.  I'm still clinging to my overall lead by a narrow margin:

And speaking of narrow margins:

I barely beat Paul in our fantasy football match-up this week.  But FWIW, a Win is still a Win, no matter how narrow the margin is and my win streak is up to 7.  Currently I'm leading in the league with most wins by 2...

Can Peyton and I hang in there for the rest of the season?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving weekend

It was a great Thanksgiving weekend--starting with some traditional Thanksgiving noshes:

I also made a gluten-free vegan pumpkin pie and vegan coffee cake!

But the exciting part was a visit from our friend Tom and his boys on Saturday--just in time to be enlisted in the Garnet Army for the big South Carolina victory over Clemson:

Very pleased I got Tom hooked on Green Smoothies:

And Tom, being the devoted Dallas fan he is, was a great reason to actually wear my Dallas Dat Nguyen shirt on Sunday gameday.  And he appreciated my debut effort of the Dallas City Satchel--he was very good-natured about the stitching mess on the strap, especially when I compared the project to a typical Dallas game this year--great and efficient start only to see things maddeningly fall apart and not go as planned when it was almost done.

For posterity's sake, the kids (because they grow so fast):

Can't wait to meet up again!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Still feeling Peyton Manning

After my mid-season slump, things definitely turned around after that for me, football-wise.  Now a couple weeks later, I'm still feeling pretty Peyton Manning though he and I have hit a few bumps.  Last night he threw an interception--but the Broncos still won (though not by the spread, argh!).  For me, Michigan State lost another heartbreaker by 3 points this weekend.  They have lost their last 5 games by a TOTAL of 13 points.

Anyhoo, on the positive side, I have regained my top spot in my football pool (though a win by SF by 5 tonight would be super):

Side note: I took on the handle of MissTaylorSwift this year when I didn't get an immediate invite to the football pool and said I was going to crash it like Taylor Swift did at that Kennedy wedding.

Also, I'm currently leading in my first season of my fantasy league as well.  Really psyched how Doug Martin exploded this year.

So to your health, Peyton Manning.  We're in this together, it seems.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Junior Honors Regional Orchestra

The girl made Regional Honors Orchestra again, though we missed her performance.  It was the last home game of the USC Gamecocks and since we live right by the stadium, we got snarled in the post-game traffic.  Fortunately, I had dropped her off earlier in the morning for rehearsal. The girl did get a shout out from the director of the String Project orchestra, which we were psyched about:

Glad she got to see the performance.

On to the next one: kids that make the Regional orchestra have the opportunity to try out for the Honors State Orchestra--fingers crossed!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Am I supposed to be somewhere?

It's a little disconcerting when I get a text like this from Southwest Airlines:

Considering I'm not flying anywhere today. Or at least I think I'm not.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

SC State Youth Philharmonic Strings Orchestra

The girl had her first performance with the Strings Orchestra in the SC State Youth Philharmonic.

It was lovely.  We're looking forward to when she plays with a full orchestra--either the Rep or Youth Orch.  When I was younger and played violin, we played with a full orchestra, which included woodwinds, percussion, and occasional brass like a French horn.  Here and in SoCal, it seems they feature strings-only orchestras.  Maybe due the large number of kids playing? Or is this how it's all being done now?

Anyhoo, proud of my lovely girl and glad for a little downtime after a busy weekend.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Academic Team Meet

Today, I got up at 5:15am to follow the girl's academic teams' bus and watch the meet today.  It took me a bit to catch on to their format: A "toss-up" question is asked and any one on either team can buzz in and earn 10 points with a correct answer.  Then that team gets first crack to answer 3 "bonus" questions that the team can confer briefly and produce an answer together.  If their answer is wrong, the other team gets a chance to give a correct answer.  Each correct bonus answer is also worth 10 points.  A total of 20 toss-up questions are asked, so a minimum of 20 questions up to 80 questions are asked.

It was excruciating to watch.  It was all I could do not to yell, "C'mon Man!"  It was so frustrating to watch questions the kids should know go unanswered or incorrectly.  Les Miserables!  Adrenalin!  de Tocqueville!  war of 1812!  Mark Twain!  The teachers/coaches said they keep busy with scorekeeping to not get distracted with wrong answers.  I wish I had had more Words with Friends games going on.

To the girl's credit she did answer some questions that surprised me so I was pleased to hear her buzz in and say Libya, Phillip II, Soviet Union, New England Patriots, and Genji.  And despite that her team didn't make it to the semi-finals (there are 3 teams from her school), the girl ranked 4th overall of all competitors (about 40) in correct answers. 

A bonus for me driving 80 miles out for this meet:

Gas for less than $3 ($2.919)!

I'd say this was pretty much a good day, right?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We have a way of shutting that whole thing down

First off, I know that between family and friends, we may have voted for different presidents, but can we at least agree that it's a good thing that the candidates that adopted the weird pro-rape/anti-choice platforms did NOT get elected last night?  My faith in humanity has been restored since Todd Akin ("If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down"), Richard Mourdock ("I came to realize life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen"), Roger Rivard (who quoted his dad's belief that "some girls rape easy") were not elected to office.

I'm also happy to see that Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington are on board with not trying to deny gay citizens the right to marry.  On a side note, when is Emmett C. Burns, Jr. back up for re-election?  If you didn't hear, Burns, a Maryland Democratic delegate tried to silence Baltimore Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo's support of legalizing same-sex marriage in that state.  Against free speech and civil rights?  OUT of here, please.  At least it drew a response from Minnesota Vikings' Chris Kluwe which was definitely entertaining and on point.

There were a number of women elected to the Senate last night as well which is kind of big deal, considering that about 20 years ago there were only 2 and now there are 20.  Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, is not only their first female senator but she will be the first openly gay senator of the US.  Groundbreaking times 2!  Actually, isn't it kind of sad that being elected a senator as a female is still considered groundbreaking? Or being openly gay is?

Last night, we went to vote in our district, and waited and waited to use one of the 3 voting machines.

We were told by the folks running the polls that we were pretty smart to bring our folding chairs for the waiting:

Finally, two and a half hours later, we emerged as voters!

Until next year--

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday got sunnier

Yesterday, temperatures were slated to go down into the low 30s and my mom still didn't have power/heat. All local hotels were booked by folks who had the foresight to think that the electricity would be out more than 5 days. We were in a tight spot, but in the last hours, someone kindly volunteered to take my mom in. And just about an hour before she was to go, the power came back on. It was such a sweet relief, all around.

I heard about the New York City marathoners who still came to New York despite the cancelled race and volunteered in Staten Island. Reminded and moved me that people can really open their hearts and lend help in trying times. Like the reported 3000+ linepeople/tree professionals that traveled from out-of-state to help out in New Jersey and New York to get power back up and the person who would let my mom stay with her--I am so grateful that there truly are so many good people out there.

I was able to relax and enjoy the big Nebraska-Michigan State game:

Even though the Spartans lost another close one.

Fortunately, this Halloween pic of my nephew, Madhu, in Illinois cheered me up:

His name actually means "honeybee"--so perfect!

Then today, I got the bills paid, did a little baking, and made my donation to the Red Cross (including the girl's collected donation of $4).

And to top it off, I'm crushing in my fantasy league game (thank you, Doug Martin!) and with Atlanta beating Dallas 19-13, I'm in the top spot in my football pool going into tomorrow night's game.

Definitely a sweet Sunday.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Recovering from Sandy

It's definitely been a fretful few days communicating with my friends and family in New York and New Jersey--some by phone, some by less-energy-using text, and some by wait-and-hear e-mail.  It was definitely a great relief to me that my sister and her husband were in that lucky swatch of New Yorkers with uninterrupted power considering they had a toddler and newborn with them.  Some of my friends in downtown Manhattan were without electricity and water.  Some camped with friends further uptown, some pieced together a life that included showers at the gym.  Fortunately for them, the power came back on last night and one, watching tv for the first time since Sandy hit, was heartbroken at the images of destruction brought on by the storm but so grateful for all the work of first responders, utility workers, and volunteers.

Along with those folks, I've been especially grateful for the thousand-plus linemen who have traveled from out-of-state to help NJ PSE&G work 24/7 to get their power back up.  As of last night 1 million customers had power back, with 600,000+ left to go.  Unfortunately, my mom is still in that 600,000+ group and we've been fretting a bit with the temperatures dropping this weekend and all local motels/hotels booked up.  Major props to my mom who has kept calm and carried on.  Also to my friends in NJ still without power--they've been lucky to have such a tight community to bond with.  It's amazing that a community becomes tighter and stronger when disaster strikes.

And here I sit in unaffected South Carolina, mixed feelings of gratitude and worry, hoping that recovery from Sandy will happen soon for everyone.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I didn't prepare as well as I usually do for Halloween, with a recent return from NY/NJ and Hurricane Sandy/Frankenstorm happening days before.  After talking with some friends and family the Northeast that some were determined to have Halloween for their kids, I motivated and put together my costume:

The more impressive part about it was that the girl wanted to wear it as her costume for trick-or-treating. Kind of made me feel cool:

She also tried to collect money for the Red Cross, but I guess a lot of folks weren't interested in donating to a teen girl they didn't know with a homemade container.  But the $4 she did collect is on its way to the Red Cross!

I was glad to hear from my sister that lots of kids were celebrating Halloween in Brooklyn.  And that my nephew was an adorable Curious George:

Back here in SoCar, we made our usual barfing Jack O'Lantern:

but our doorbell only rang twice. Sigh. Now we have about 5 pounds of candy to eat!

Hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Argh, Sandy!

Or Frankenstorm, if you prefer.  Either way, down in South Carolina, we just suffered high winds for the most part.  Unfortunately, my family and friends are pretty much locked in up in New York and New Jersey.  Besides all the crazy flooding and trees knocked down, power is out for my friends and mom in NJ and my friends in downtown Manhattan.  Fortunately, folks in the outer boroughs have power (knock wood!) including my sister with her little ones in Brooklyn.  The hospital that she gave birth at last Thursday had to be evacuated last night as the generators went down--so glad my sister and niece came home last Saturday!

I'm grateful for that fortunate timing but I'll feel a lot better when folks get their power back on.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Feeling more Peyton Manning

Two weeks ago, I was feeling so Jay Feely.  But then the Monday night game happened.  The Broncos were shutout at 0-24 at halftime by the Chargers and by the end of the game, Peyton Manning brought them back to win 35-24.  I'm happy to report that I'm having a bit of a good turnaround this half of the football season myself:

- Michigan State finally won a game and delivered Wisconsin its first loss at home since 2009 this weekend.

- In the last 2 weeks of my football pool I have been short of the top spot by only one game.

- In my fantasy league, I beat two guys who tried to bring it (or at least had no players that were on a bye week).

Gotta say, it's better feeling so Peyton Manning.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Holy crap, what am I going to be for Halloween?

With this busy week, getting my first niece and all, I totally spaced that Halloween is happening in 3 days!  Any suggestions?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I guess I need more Resveratrol

Man, the doctors in New York are a tough crowd.  As I was standing with my BIL last Thursday while my sister was laboring in a triage room (all labor rooms were full), my sister's obstetrician looked at me and asked, are you her mother?  Similarly when I was mistaken for my nephew's grandmother, I just laughed and stammered that I was her sister.  The obstetrician then laughed and mentioned something about how ageless Asian women can look sometimes and that there was an Asian woman that worked in her office and would you believe she's 60?  Surprisingly, I wasn't quite comforted by this, but I guess I should take looking like an impressive 60-year-old as a compliment.

Fortunately, her delivery of my first niece pretty much let me forget the observation that I'm a hand-wringing granny--definitely worth this cutie:

Then yesterday, I got to spend some one-on-one time with her older brother while his parents were at the hospital with the baby girl:

Since I had to fly out this morning, I was kind of bummed I didn't get to see my niece come home from the hospital but I can't complain too much as I got some quality time with both my niece and nephew.  I look forward to next time, when I'll get to spend it with both of them together.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Welcome Josie

Just like her big brother, Josie waited until the Pats beat the Jets to make her appearance:

And she was totally worth the wait. So psyched I was still here when she arrived today and got to hold this sweetness firsthand. Big brother Augie will be so proud.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Had a Ben Affleck-Boston kind of day

A while back, I was raving about Gone Baby Gone with a friend and he said, ugh, what is it about that movie that just makes it look like the sun never shines in Boston?  I had to agree, Ben Affleck's Boston (in The Town as well) always emphasizes its grittier, shadier colors and tones.  On a side note, I am looking forward to Argo - great reviews from friends and pros alike.

Anyhoo, today I was back in the hometown and yeesh, it was such a Ben Affleck-Boston day.  I was running around taking my mom to doctors appointments and one of them had no record of our appointment.  This is annoying in itself, but when you travel to town and cluster appointments so these visits can be taken care of, it's totally frustrating.  I had also left some of the more tedious tasks for today and man, on a cloudy, miserable day like today, I just wanted to get a dozen Dunkin Donuts and call it a day.

Thankfully, the sun finally came out (about 2 hours before sundown) and made such a difference and brightened my day.  I don't usually think of myself as affected by cloudy weather, but combined with a lot of things going wrong, my waistline is lucky that I don't live closer to a Dunkin Donuts.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pats Beat Jets

Today was a great day to sit back, stuff my face, and watch some football:

With the biggest little Patriots fan:

And watch the Patriots beat the Jets:

Of course considering this big little fan has a sibling on the way, this win is hopefully a pattern of another exciting event to happen soon!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday back in NY

Today I got to spend the day with some old college friends (and half of my fantasy football league), when we met up in NY to celebrate Mike's bday.  It was great to see Mike and Tom again and I hadn't seen Joanne in forever.

We started with an awesome brunch at Paprika:

Then hit Salt Bar (where I enjoyed a tasty Lower East Side Car--haha, get it?!), enjoyed an Indian dinner, and got some candy at this neat store called Ame Ame, where they focus solely on candy and rain gear.

We even checked out some of our old residences.  Our first apartment together was this weird setup where the two bedrooms were in the interior of the apartment and had no windows to the outside.  Instead, each bedroom had a window to the living room.  And the living room windows faced the courtyard.  The bedrooms were like caves and miserably stuffy in the summertime (we didn't get an air conditioner) even though we were on the 3rd floor.  Another interesting set up was that the bathroom was split into two rooms.  One had a tub/shower and sink and the other had the toilet and sink.  Pretty handy considering there was three of us.

When we passed by, it looked like the building had been seriously renovated (new door, nice buzzer system)--it looks so fancy and upscale now.  For current residents, I hope they upgraded the apartments as well.

The next place we lived (and where I lived for years after) was on East 9th Street.  I LOVED this place.  The big drawback was that we lived on the 6th floor and it's a walk-up.  Also at the time, the front door didn't lock, so some mornings, we'd have to step over a dude passed out in a puddle of his own urine in the vestibule.  The more unsettling one was the homeless guy who'd sneak in and sleep on the top landing of the stairs--he'd leave his very-specifically-themed p0rn magazines behind with some clothes.   But the location was (and still is) great (and eventually they got a lock on that front door).

Anyhoo, it was a great night of memories and catching up!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday in NJ

Running some errands in NJ and resisted these charming erasers, even though they are soooo me:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Landed in NY

Today I arrived at JFK at 7:45am to take Mom to some appointments and hopefully catch the arrival of my nephew's newest sibling.  After landing, my sister (who due any day now!) and I hit the SoHo Bloomingdale's for a fun event that her mom's group hosted.  All the beauty counters had a fun offer--my sister opted for the more pampering options like the hand massage and hair do-up, I went for the more instructive offers.  I got a matched sample of BB cream at the Bobbi Brown counter, my eyes were made up at the MAC counter, and I got the "perfect pout" at the Christian Dior counter, plus we both picked up samples at other counters.  Department store beauty counters aren't usually my scene but the super nice folks at Bloomie's made it real warm and fun--I loved it!  It was a super fun morning:

Then I caught up with my friend Dan for lunch:

Where we caught up after a brief discourse about the gray hair and weight adjustments from more than 15 years ago:

And enjoyed the BEST ramen at Ippudo:

Caught back up with my sister and her nuclear fam for dinner and to visit Augie's Uncle Justin and Auntie Amanda:

And catch Amanda's turn on 30 Rock as a cigar-smoking girlfriend of Jack Donaghy:

Great day packed with awesomeness!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Feeling so Jay Feely

As I reach the halfway mark of football season, I have to confess that my football season is just falling apart.  I want to scream.  Arizona kicker Jay Feely's two kicks yesterday were the perfect analogy.  Anybody see them?  Jay Feely kicks an amazing (and career-best) 61 yard field goal in the 4th quarter to tie the game 16-16 against Buffalo.  To my friends who don't follow football, that is HUGE, Linda!--35 yards is the "typical" field goal range.  It was shocking.  I remember reflexively shouting, "Hope he likes booty!  Because it's going to be raining booty on him tonight!"  I'm somewhat paraphrasing for the sake of this blog, though Paul did respond, "Hey, maybe not say that in front of your daughter."

Anyhoo, in the last seconds of the game, Feely has the opportunity to win the game with 38 yard FG but he hits the upright and it's no good.  They go into overtime, and Buffalo's kicker makes the game-winning FG.  You can bet Feely was folding up the umbrella--0% chance of a booty storm in his forecast.

For me, where do I begin?  I started out in my football pool in the number 2 spot after the first week and I'm now I'm swimming in the miserable middle.  I'm thisclose to making my picks and then completely reversing them all next Sunday morning.  Argh--and my fantasy league?  I've only won one match-up and it was with a guy who played a player who had a BYE week.  And Michigan State (and the Big 10, in general!).  Oy.

Is it time for March Madness soon?

I know what you're thinking.  There's still more than half a season left.  Jay Feely and I are going to have to shake off the past and move forward.

All right, on to the next week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saturday: Mud Run and SC Philharmonic

Yesterday I did my second South Carolina Mud Run (click link for post with more details and pix).  I'll confess a few challenges for this one, besides shirking running duties.  I arrived back from California late Wednesday night and despite efforts to get up regularly around 6am Pacific time when I was on the West Coast, I think I just made the adjustment to the Eastern time zone in time for the Mud Run.  Though I vaguely remember thinking yesterday morning, I can't believe I'm awake for this and was it this cold last time?

Also on my last night in California, it seems that all the indulgent food I partook in during the week I was there, decided to revolt.  Out of my butt.  Every hour, starting at 1AM.  Around 5AM, I deliriously questioned whether it's better to vomit out of my rear end or my face.  I realize with such clarity, that of course, I'd take the squirts over puking because I get to sit down.  I caught my flight with an ingested dose of Imodium and handfuls of Pepto Bismol tablets and Tums.  After fearfully eating only a banana and 6 Munchkins at the Dallas airport on Wednesday,  I spent Thursday and Friday, carefully trying to get the nutrition and water that drained out of me the couple of days earlier.  Not sure if I got there, as I was gun-shy to eat almost anything but plain rice.

Thankfully, I had a great team, all those concerns went out the window--it was another dirty, awesome time!

And later in the evening, I took the girl and a friend of hers to see the South Carolina Philharmonic:

Since the girl is in their Youth Strings orchestra, I thought it'd be a good idea for her to hear what to aspire to. Plus we know Winkie Goodwin, the guest pianist, so it was thrilling to watch her perform.  Afterwards, the girl said we should congratulate her and treat her to Sandy's for ice cream.  I told her it was a very sweet gesture but I'm sure that the orchestra had other plans for her and that, um...Ms. Goodwin wasn't 13 years old and probably wouldn't dig cotton candy ice cream the way she did.  But I decided ice cream for the girls was a nice way to end the night and we picked up stuff for sundaes on the way home.

Very satisfying Saturday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thanks to all my friends at work

This was a great trip to SoCal, not just for the usual good times with friends and food, but also the significance of being able to join my friends at work in the NAMI Walk.  Given this was such a personal cause for me, I was really moved by the support by everyone at the office.  We ended up being the 4th best team fundraiser!

I decided to update my dancing girl doppelganger on my office door that has been hanging from my surprise birthday with a collage of me with everyone in the office at various events throughout my career at the office.  I can recall the time and event of each picture--whether it was Halloween, an awards banquet, a move day, a gathering, a post-softball game pizza, a happy hour, and some just from this Walk.  I really cherish that I have such good memories with such good people.

I titled it after my favorite lyric from Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer":

Take my hand, we'll make it, I swear

Which is perfect. Thanks everyone for the NAMI support (and everything else)!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Eating in SoCal

I always, always have to hit Native Foods when I visit SoCal.  This time, per Linda, I had to try their new Bistro Steak sandwich.  My usual is their Reuben but fortunately, I had a friend who was willing to try both and we split both sandwiches:

So GOOD.  I wish, wish, wish there was a Native Foods in South Carolina.

Linda made me these awesome crepes with lemon butter (I helped make the butter!). The best part? She just goes for it. We were having coffee and she's like, "let's make crepes--I read a recipe and it looks real easy". And we did. I would have wanted to test them out and then worry how crappy they'd turn out my first time out but they were perfect:

I also had a dynamite dinner of homemade soup and baked bread at my friend, H's, house.  Though I think one of the best aspects was this dynamite tablescape with this awesome origami mobile:

and origami napkin:

I also got to try a new place, Taco Asylum, which featured all these eclectic tacos, like duck and falafel:

And wild mushroom and pork belly:

Always LOVE eating here in SoCal.