Thursday, December 30, 2010

How It's Made: Cotton Yarn

Thank you Giant

The letter I submitted to Giant Customer Service:

I want to thank you for opening your store on Christmas Day. If it were not for you, our Christmas dinner would have been all sides and no turkey. Here's the story:
I bought a fresh turkey from an unnamed grocery store and the expiration date was for sometime in January. So I put the turkey in the refrigerator and did not open it until Christmas Eve at 9pm. My husband and I had planned to brine the turkey the night before but when we opened the turkey, a sulfurous smell filled the kitchen. It had to be tossed in the trash. What a waste! We went back to the unnamed grocery store but they had closed at 7pm. And were closed on Christmas Day. That is when I started crying. Luckily my husband was driving and we went to Giant next. Although the store was closed for the night, it would open on Christmas Day at 8am. Hallelujah! Hope restored! So on Christmas day we woke up early and were at the store at 8:01am as the store opened its doors. We were in luck! They had a fresh turkey available! We paid and thanked the cashier profusely, rushed home to brine the turkey for a few hours before popping it in the oven.
It was a Christmas miracle. Our turkey was the centerpiece of the table, delicious and juicy. And although there would have been plenty of food without it, it just would not have been the same.

Thank you Giant for making my Christmas a joyous one!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Not only was it great to spend time with my parents but while they were here, they did SO MUCH around the house! After repeated attempts to get them to just relax, I let them do what they wanted. My Mom was constantly cooking and washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Plus she did laundry and changed the sheets on the guest bed before she left. My Dad replaced my kitchen faucet, put in a new toilet paper holder in the guest bathroom, adding a dusk-to-dawn sensor to the exterior house light so that it only turns on when it's dark, checked my fireplace, got my bathroom faucets working better and added weather stripping to the balcony door to keep the cold air out - and the hot air in! He was even going to install new light fixtures in our kitchen but Max and I couldn't agree on anything. In addition to all that, they went to the gym almost everyday. And my Dad started writing a blog.

Not my idea of a vacation but they seemed happy about it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Empty house

My parents came down from Canada for Christmas. It was great having them here and I was sad to send them off yesterday. Max is back at work today so it's just me and the cats. Here's a quick recap of the past week.

My Mom at the train station
Iceskating with my Dad and my neighbor's child, Caleb
Lunch with Mom and Dad at Rock Bottom
Checking out some recipes. The next morning we had barley for breakfast. It was good!
“The Art of Seuss: A Retrospective” Walking through a renowned, museum-quality exhibit that showcases artifacts and memorabilia celebrating the art of Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel.
Me and Max at ICE! How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Me and my Mom

Dad and Mom at the Gaylord National Harbor

Dinner at Rosa Mexicano

National Harbor

National Christmas tree in Washington, DC

Dinner at Carrabas

Chinese for lunch including beef noodle soup, green beans and pork, fried dofu and pot stickers

Mom cooking the sausage for the stuffing for Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner with my parents and Max

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Despite the cold, on Thursday I finally went into DC to see the National Christmas tree, train set and the state trees this year. There was a helicopter that was shuttling back and forth to the White House.

Had dinner that night with our friend Slav at Carrabas in Bowie, Maryland.

Afterwards we went to see the Winter Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park in Prince George's County. It's open 5-9:30pm every night until January 2 so you should go if you can. Only $5 per car and TOTALLY worth it!

Last night we got together with our neighbors. What a great way to spend Christmas Eve!

Hope you are all enjoying the holidays. Be good to your family. Spend time with your friends. Remember to say thank you. And for every meltdown, try to get a little perspective and think about the things that are really important.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hello Kitty

My Dad had a recent business trip to China. He saw a feral cat in a park in Hong Kong and took these pictures for me.

Apparently the cat didn't move the whole time he was there.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Driving update

Haven't done one of these in awhile... maybe I didn't want to jinx it but after three months I can honestly say - I'm driving! Sometime in September (I think) I started driving to work everyday. Then suddenly I was driving to the mall, taking the highway to get there! Driving in the dark! And the rain!

I don't know what came over me but at this point I am now comfortable driving pretty much anywhere minus the 495 beltway around DC and in DC city itself. Not bad considering all those years that I couldn't drive much at all. So yay!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekend in New York

I had a day off on Friday so Max and I spent the weekend in New York!

On Saturday, as part of my Christmas present, Max bought tickets for us to see the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes. It was amazing! Like a Disney show, the Nutcracker, and a Christmas mass all in one. There was even a 3D element for Santa to get from the North Pole to Radio City Hall. I cried three times.

I took my picture with a Christmas Elmo (dressed up for tips), saw the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center, got some coffee at Starbucks, and made our way to the beginning of the holiday window tour (doing a little shopping along the way - I bought a new purse and matching wallet). We had lunch at Cafe SFA on the 8th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, mostly because I desperately needed a break from all the crowds and my feet also needed a break. Lunch was good - my only complaint was the tiny bathrooms with only two stalls. Picked up something for my sister and got it all fancy wrapped.

By far, the best holiday window was Macy's, of course, but my favorite of all time is still the ones I saw in Toronto at the Hudson's Bay Company. After dark, we went back to Rockefeller Center to see the tree again. It was a mob scene. SO MANY PEOPLE. (I was later told that the best time to go is at 2am.)

We had dinner at 9:30pm with one of Max's friend's, Melissa, at Le Souk, a Moroccan restaurant/hookah bar. The apple mojito was delicious! At some point, the restaurant switched over to an Arabic dance club. We stayed out until 2:30am I think. As we were leaving, I was hit on by a good looking 20-something guy. Highlight of my night!

On Sunday, Max and I had brunch with our highschool friend Angela and her husband Alan at their place. On a whim we bought them a three foot Christmas tree from a guy who was selling fresh cut trees on the street - which was perfect because they didn't have one. All in all, a great Christmas in New York weekend!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Old Arbor Turnery

Matthew Hutchinson, a friend of mine from high school, is the owner of Old Arbor Turnery, a full service custom woodworking shop which focuses on hand made and custom woodturned products. Take a look!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Morning Glory

Last night I went to the movies with a friend to see Morning Glory. It was so funny! There were many moments that both of us were laughing out loud. There's a great cast and The Weepies (a band that I like and went to see recently) performed one of the songs.

Check it out!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


On Saturday night, Max and I went out to dinner with one of his work friends and a group of her friends. We had dinner at Zatinya. The food was fantastic! Since there were six of us, we were able to order lots of dishes. My favorites were the Baba Ghannouge (not usually something I like), the Turkish Style Pastirma, the Kibbeh, and the duck roll that was on the Specials menu. Really liked the pitcher of Pom Fili too - white wine, vodka, triple sec, and pomegranate juice. Yum!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Holiday season

Over the weekend, Max and I put up our Christmas tree and lights. We also took our neighbor Caleb, who is 5, to the community holiday party. He had a little fun at the craft table but, sadly, had no interest in having his picture taken with Santa. I guess that's how it goes with kids sometimes. On the way home, we had a "Christmas Adventure" and took pictures with various Christmas trees - which I think was the most fun.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort (Cancun, Mexico)

Max and I spent last week in Cancun, Mexico at the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort. We were there with his parents, brother, and our good friend Missy. Overall we all had a good time.

  • the view from our concierge level room in the Nizuc section was very nice and with the balcony door open, you could hear the waves from the Gulf of Mexico
  • all the water at the resort is filtered through reverse osmosis so I didn't have to worry about brushing my teeth, showering, adding ice to my drinks, or swimming in the pool
  • A longer description follows but in summary the spa and salon services were great
  • free wifi available throughout the resort so we were able to check our email and Facebook while we were there. The signal was not consistent though and sometimes there was no access. There are some computers you can use but we never did.
  • the all-inclusive package allowed for free drinks and food including room service and the mini bar (which came stocked with bottled water, soda, juice boxes, beer, vodka, tequila, rum and scotch). The nightly turn down service included a special dessert and the TV turned to the instrumental music channel.
  • Free calls to the US and Canada which was nice because I was able to call my Mom twice while I was there.
  • At night, there was sometimes a little bazar set up selling all the usual stuff (ceramics, blankets, silver jewelry). I got a henna tattoo on my right arm for $40 USD and 2 nights later, the artist offered to touch it up for me for free so that it would last longer which was really nice.
  • one of the bars has swings which was pretty cool. I had a "Miami Vice" which is pina colada on top and a strawberry daiquiri on the bottom.
  • the soap, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion were from L'Occitane, really nice stuff.
  • the room service menu is pretty short but when I called to ask for nachos, it was no problem. Or getting toast at 2:30am.
  • The staff was very pleasant, friendly and accommodating. While they alway accepted our tips, they NEVER stood around waiting for them - not even a hint. Sometimes we tipped but we definitely did not feel like we had to. Probably did not give out more than $30.
  • our room had a two-person jacuzzi tub. We used it one night, which was nice but the jets were uneven - super pressure on one side and almost nothing at your feet.
  • the nightly entertainment was hit or miss. The Michael Jackson show was by far the best one.
  • the disco club was nice because we could go dancing but it was nothing special and not all that many people dancing. The music was good and we could make song requests too. The staff took care of us and one in particular watched our purses so we could dance without worrying about getting it stolen.
  • The shuttle buses between Nizuc, Sunrise, Grand, and the Spa were supposed to come ever 10-15 minutes but it was more like 20-25, and while it was okay to walk from the Sunrise to the Grand, it's too far to walk to the golf course and spa
  • The Vacation Points were a MAJOR source of disappointment for all of us. For my room, I had 1500 points and after 5 nights, I still had 711 points unused when I checked out. A longer description follows but in summary, the lobster dinner and Chichen Itza tour are not worth it.
  • Membership upsell. Max's parents felt that this was the major reason that we did not receive excellent service all the time.
As I mentioned, the points were very difficult to use up. There were not many options and many things were booked up and no longer available. Here's my advice:
  1. Definitely upgrade your room to the concierge level. It's the easiest use of points and comes with a 25 minute back massage at the spa, a room on the top floor of the garden style rooms with a better view, and a private dinner for two;
  2. Book the swimming with the dolphins tour and use points for a limo service instead of paying for a taxi. It is a fun activity and doesn't take you away from the resort all day. Cameras are not allowed in the dolphin pool area and that is so they can sell you their photos and video. For our group of 6, we were able to get them down to $238 USD for 136 photos and a 5 minute video. We were able to burn copies of the video when we got home so each person has a copy;
  3. If you choose to go into Cancun city, use your points for a limo instead of paying for a taxi.
  4. All the spa and salon services were great... but there was a limit on the number of points you could use - for me it was only 300 points. I chose the package that was $314 USD and paid the extra $14 myself. It included a body scrub, massage, facial and a 50 minute pedicure. Plus they have a nice hydrotherapy room with a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, and special hibiscus tea;
  5. If you're brave, sign up for the zipline tour. Max and Missy went and they said it was worth it. Of course there was an upsell to do other stuff like horseback riding and segway tours. If you don't buy anything, you have to sit around for an hour instead;
  6. Ordering special wine at dinner is another option. I looked at the wine list and it was alot of dry whites and reds - nothing really appealed to me;
  7. The Chichen Itza tour was only okay... I wouldn't do it again. The bus was completely packed, every seat filled. After a long bus ride, the first stop is at a store where they want to sell you souvenirs. Then you have to wait for your bus to be called to be seated for lunch in an outdoor area. (Of course, our bus was the last to be seated) Lunch is nothing special - orange slices, hot soup, jello, some kind of salad, and pulled chicken with soft tortillas. Beverages were not included and a small coke was $2 USD. After lunch it was another 20-30 minute drive to Chichen Itza. The group was split up into two groups - Spanish speaking and English speaking. We spent about an hour walking around the site with our tour guide giving us a bit of explanation about the buildings. We then had only one hour of free time to walk around some more, take pictures, and shop from the dozens upon dozens of local vendors selling wood carvings, t-shirts, dresses, ceramics, and souvenirs. If you can book a private limo, that is a much better option - that way you can go to see some of the other sites near Chichen Itza like Ek Balam (where you can still climb the ruins);
  8. DO NOT BOOK THE ROMANTIC LOBSTER DINNER on the boat. It is not worth it. The steak was cold and the lobster was overcooked;
  9. I would have liked to book a photography package for me and Max but there weren't any times available.
All in all, it was a good vacation. The weather was great and I could have easily spent the entire week by the pool or on the beach. I'd love to do another all-inclusive one day but I'd want one that did not have a membership option to push on me.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Woo-hoo, Everybody! The 2010 KNERQ GIVE AWAY has finally arrived!!!

All you have to do is...ummm...say something funny in the comments - whoever I think is funniest...WINS!

Wins what? You might ask. And then I would tell you that you're being nosy. And if you want to win something you should just try to be funny. How hard can it be?

I don't know. But it seems like every other blog IN THE WORLD right now is. X-boxes, cameras, other stuff that I can't remember. And I guess those are the blogs that probably have more than 15 followers (plus those of you that secretly read - there's no shame). Well, what would you want? Obviously, I don't have an X-box to give you. And I really like my camera and there is NO WAY I'm giving you my cat - so don't even ask...


Deadline to enter is Sunday November 28 at midnight ET.

Full disclosure: I've stealing this idea from Jenny B. Including most the message, which has just been altered to suit my needs.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Not My Sister's Keeper

Just finished reading this book and it was good. I picked it up at a yard sale because I knew I had the movie on my computer at home (thanks Dad!) but I didn't read it right away because I thought it would be sad. And it was a little but it was also very engrossing. Not at all girly so maybe I'll make Max read it eventually. Next up is something by Malcom Gladwell I think.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boyz II Men

Today is Max's birthday. To celebrate, last night we went to see his favorite band - Boyz II Men. Arrived fairly early to get a good seat and our friends who arrived later walked in with us. He loved it! Sang along with the music, smile plastered on his face. As a sign of how long we've been together, I knew the words to every song they sang except one from an album that came out after we graduated from college. After the concert, we bought the backstage passes to meet them. It was brief, only a minute or so, but he got their autograph and got to have his picture taken with them - and that made it worth it. :)

Boyz II Men are doing a Love Boat cruise in February for Valentine's Day and I know Max is thinking about it! I mean, who wouldn't want to renew their vows with Boyz II Men??