Thursday, January 14, 2010


Perhaps tired of covering the struggling US economy, the media reflected on the year and decade past with endless 'best' and 'worst of' lists. Being the list lover that I am (now if only I could make a career out of that), I decided our impromptu New Year's Eve party would follow the trend. Jess and I came up with a bunch of list titles such as 'Best Movies 2009' or 'Favorite Fads of the Naughts' and encouraged guests to complete them. The easiest and most enjoyable list to complete was 'So You Think You Can Douche 2009 - aka Douchiest People of 2009':

1. Tiger Woods
2. Kanye West
3. Jon Gosselin
4. Octomom
5. Speidi
6. Richard Heene (of balloon boy fame)
7. Rod Blagojevich
8. Levi Johnston
9. Eliot Spitzer/Mark Sanford
10. Tareq and Michaele Salahi (White House party crashers)

Of course, we were just rehashing the stories and characters that already received enough media attention, but we had fun with it. Were there more headline-makers that made us exclaim, 'what a douchebag!/fame-whore!' in 2009 than in past years or has reality television, 24 hour news networks and the internet just been more adept at luring them and bringing them to our collective attention? I don't know, but I can't wait to see what 2010 brings.

Anyway, though I feel NYE is always a bit anticlimactic, Mickey and I have managed to spend the holiday in different places: 2003 - San Francisco, 2004 - New York, 2005 - Seattle, 2006 - Columbus, Ohio, 2007 - LA, 2008 - Kyoto, Japan and now 2009 - Sydney! We were excited to spend the last night of the year at our apartment, avoiding the madness of the Sydney crowds, but maintaining a prime spot for watching fireworks over the harbour.

Years before moving here, we knew that Sydney was one of the best places to spend NYE: they're one of the first cities around the world to ring in the new year, they put on an incredible fireworks display and it's summer! I don't think I'm the type who'd wait six hours in Times Square for the ball to drop, but the whole idea would seem much more appealing if you could celebrate among warm, summer breezes instead of below freezing temperatures.

I would have liked to watch the 9pm fireworks show (just for those with early bedtimes!) at our friends Thor and Jennie's house across the harbour, but heavy pedestrian traffic and restrictions made the two-party option almost impossible. So, we hosted a small gathering for those south of the bridge and toasted the occasion with champagne to wash down the fish tacos. Our feast was casual, guacamole-intensive and made all the sweeter by Jess and Chris' glutard peach cobbler.

Though jetlagged, Mickey and I managed to keep our eyelids open for both the 9pm and midnight fireworks displays. And funny enough, it wasn't any of our guests who nabbed the best spots on the balcony, it was the fancy DSLR cameras on their tripods. Indeed, it felt that there were more cameras than people in attendance on NYE. Of course, the fireworks were spectacular (this is Sydney after all!), but partially obscured by clouds and smoke.

And now that I've partaken in Sydney's over the top fireworks NYE extravaganza (and have the pictures to prove it, thank you, Chris, Mike and Mickey), I feel that I need a stamp in my holiday/life experiences passport. Fireworks? Check! I've earned a free pass that allows me to spend my future New Year's Eves cozily cuddled next to Mickey on the couch, guilt-free. Thank you, Sydney.

Monday, January 11, 2010

California Christmas

Our week at my mom's in southern California was, of course, much quieter than our baby-intensive week in Ohio. Indeed, my mom took such good care of us (me, Mickey, Nic and his girlfriend Kat) that we were reminded that we are still very much the kids of her household. She prepared a series of great meals while we basked in a comfortable week without responsibilities playing Wii golf, wrapping presents and binge-watching the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

My brother had the misfortune of being born the week before Christmas (December 19) and thus gets all his presents for the year in the span of one week. And during that week, most people are focused on the birth of Santa (or was it someone else?) not his own. Anyway, I feel for the guy so I always try to make sure I give him distinctly Christmas and birthday presents. Because he enjoyed Wii golf so much when he visited us in Sydney, I figured (pre-scandal) that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 would make a great gift.At first, when Nic started really getting into the game and his character of choice, Scottish golfer Hamish McGregor (who does the worm when he hits birdie), I was sure I was right. He loved the gift. However, when he wanted to play the game on Christmas morning instead of opening presents, we knew he was an addict. I'll have to be more careful about selecting video games next year.My other favorite Nic story from the holiday has to do with his hair. About three hours before our classy family Christmas party at my aunt's house, Nic looked like a mountain man. His beard was out of control and the hair on his head was no better. Because he's such a handsome guy, his lack of grooming was a tragedy. Kat was too sweet to tell him what's what so I offered to pay for a professional cut and shave. We found the perfect black barbershop, masculine enough for my brother's taste, cheap and he was thrilled with the results. So were we. The Christmas party and my brother's new 'do were a huge hit. I caught up with some cousins I hadn't seen since before my wedding two and a half years ago. As always, the food and decorations were fantastic. Perhaps a little too fantastic because my aunt's greedy six year old nephew didn't understand that Christmas parties don't involve party favors and kept begging for an ornament from their tree.
Swept up in the Christmas spirit, my mom and I decided to host a similar though smaller party at her house for Mickey's parents (who had flown in from Cleveland to escape the cold) and aunt and uncle. Because catering for our group involved working around various dietary restrictions (gluten free, sugar and flour free and meat free), we decided to let Costco do some of the cooking. Thankfully, Mickey's family didn't protest. Though a wide cultural gap exists between our two families, they genuinely enjoy each other's company and bond over a shared love of Indian food and us. Seeing everyone laughing and eating together was one of my happiest moments of Christmas 2009. Well, it's between that and the remarkable sales at Banana Republic.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

From Hot Christmas to White Christmas

On Saturday, December 12 we left a sweltering summer in Sydney and jumped straight into a white Christmas in Cleveland, Ohio. Previous visits to Mickey's hometown were dominated by family gatherings and left little time for sight-seeing. Likewise, we spent a lot of time with my in-laws this Christmas as well, but Mickey made an extraordinary effort to show me some of Ohio's tourist gems.
We spent a chilly afternoon driving through Amish country, reminding ourselves how much chillier it would feel in a horse-drawn buggy without heating. We stopped at an Amish restaurant and toured Heini's cheese factory which gets its raw material from hand-milked cows on Amish farms. Heini's allows visitors to taste over 50 different cheeses, including a clever green variety labeled 'Moon cheese.'

Mickey and I also explored the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and learned why Cleveland Rocks. Allow yourself an entire day there to get your $22 worth. We started watching 15 minutes of a U2 in 3D movie not realizing that it actually went on for an hour and a half! Don't get stuck watching all the videos because you'll want to see exhibits, too (except Jim Morrison's boy scout shirt, give that a miss. What's the point?)
Mickey's cousin Gagan treated us to a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA game. We watched Lebron, Shaq and the others eventually defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in a lively game.
Other highlights include excursions to Toledo to meet up with Mickey's college roommate, Mike, and to Pittsburg to see my best friend Allison and her munchkins at the Pittsburg Children's Museum. This is the best museum for young kids I've ever seen; every exhibit was interactive. Dacia and Timmy and I had a blast.
Indeed, playing with babies was the major theme of our trip. Our niece Priya (three years old) and twin nephews Isaac and Isaiah (18 months old) made noisy messes, but they were joyous, noisy messes and I learned to smile at the chaos. The story we keep retelling about the boys is that when we made the mistake of mentioning their Baby Einstein video out loud, they immediately understood what we were talking about and began working in concert to make watching the video a reality. One opened the DVD player and actually put the correct DVD inside while his brother handed us the remote and hopped up on the couch to get in prime Baby Einstein watching position. I spent much more time with Priya, the sweet little princess who demands less attention than her brothers now that she's a big three year old. I listened to stories about her friend Ariel for an entire week before learning that she was imaginary. My sister-in-law Bava explained that Ariel assists Priya with adjustments such as preschool, has every toy that they don't yet own and even works on the computer in the evenings for Aflac, coincidentally, the insurance company that also employs Priya's dad, Shaun.

Amish country and an NBA game in Cleveland, could it get more American? Yes, actually. We did our part to assist the struggling US economy and bought lots of stuff at one half or even one third the cost of these same items in Sydney. We were thrilled to take advantage of 50% off everything Christmas sales, but sad that it meant that others were a lot less fortunate this year.

I have so many warm memories that I'm forgetting that we nearly froze in Ohio. Toward the end of our trip we got a couple inches of snow, enough to look pretty, but not enough to prevent travel to our next Christmas destination, California with my family.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


When you put a lot of time and preparation into hosting a party, you sometimes create grand mental visions of how it will turn out. 'People will pour their drinks here, nibble on appetizers here,' you say to yourself as you rearrange your furniture to create new social spaces.

Rarely does reality live up to my sometimes impossible expectations when it comes to my entertaining prowess. Did people really like the food? I always second guess myself.

Thanksgiving 2009, however, was an exception. This was the third year we hosted an expat Thanksgiving on a Saturday following the American celebration and because the preceding two had been such a hit, we had high expectations for this year.

We spent at least three days preparing for the party, an absurd amount of time considering we were only responsible for the turkey and a gluten free stuffing. Still, the cleaning, shopping, decorating, ironing the linens, etc all adds up.

However, I believe Thanksgiving 2009 was worth all the fuss. Our ten guests appeared to have a great time, most of the food was eaten and the evening ended with us tracing hand turkeys and playing Taboo. I couldn't ask for much more than that.