Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Well, I was going to write a meditative post about New Year's resolutions and the desire for transformation and the formation of habit--but then we discovered that Baci ate a whole stocking's worth of chocolate and have been actively monitoring him for signs of toxic shock. (So if that entry sounded like a snooze, you can thank him for being spared it.)

Instead, I offer you a glimpse into our New Year's Eve, past and present. For the third time, we will be joining our friends Andy Secunda and Kate Hess (recently engaged, btw) for their annual Steakapalooza at Peter Luger's. If you're a carnivore, this is about as close to heaven as it gets.

I made a film of our hijinks there last year--click on the photo below, and remember to hit the "watch in high quality" tab unless you prefer fuzzy video to clear.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This Is Why I Left My Computer Behind

I could scream. I could swear and I could shout, but I have too much to do, so if you will just let me vent to you, I would greatly appreciate it.

I have so many wonderful pictures to share with you from our trip to the Yucatan that I decided to create a slide show. That was the fun part that I let myself overindulge in, time-wise--getting the music just right, the title sequences, etc. But then I had a problem when I exported it into a .mov file, so my dear husband graciously updated all my software in case it was a bug, and this took more time (time when we should have been cleaning and prepping for the 18 people who are going to be dining here on Christmas Eve), though it did fix the problem.

And then I had to upload it to YouTube, which took another hour, because it is a large file, and then yet more waiting, as they had to process it, only to find out that there were further problems: the audio was messed up, and the picture quality was crap.

But in for a penny, in for a pound, right? So I got an account with Vimeo, which is supposed to have superior image quality as compared to YouTube, and I set my computer to upload the file before I went to bed last night. I woke up this morning, so excited to see what it looks like, and guess what? "There was a problem converting this video! Please contact Vimeo help."

So now I realize that not only did I spend an entire evening (all told, probably six hours) on this, but I have also created a slide show that will only work if I show it to you in person, on my computer. Grrrr.

It's not a new story, I know. We've all gotten caught in technology time sinks. But it smarts all the same. If you have actually made it to the end of this long whine, I thank you for your time (time that could have been spent prepping for your big dinner/performance/party/exam) and offer you this: my favorite photo from our trip to the Yucatan.

More to follow in the old-school, reliable, TRAVELMONKEYS format.

Peace on Earth,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We're Back from the Yucatan

And oh, there's so much I want to tell you.

I want to speak of the perfectly-sized waves and the soft white sand, of the spider monkeys who snuggled against us and searched our pockets for peanuts, of half-excavated Mayan ruins made only more beautiful by the jungle's encroachment, of crazy underground caverns filled with fresh water where one can backfloat while looking up at bats and stalactites, of singing geckos and basking iguanas, of living without electricity thirty feet from the water's edge (no lights, no internet, lots of candles, lots of books), of taquerias and Mexican sweet buns and papaya and pina and avocado avocado avocado.

And one day, soon, I will.

But first I must get my house and work in order. I must stock up my larder and purchase some firewood so we're ready for the six inches of snow that is rumored will hit New York tomorrow morning. And then, as a reward, I will allow myself to download the contents of my camera and begin some more in-depth posts about the trip.

In the meantime, Feliz Navidad, and thanks for not getting annoyed with me when I lapse into Spanish.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Folks, I don't know how to tell you this, but the rumors are true.

We're going to Mexico.

Not permanently. Just for a few days. A little over a week. Closer to two weeks.

Twelve nights on the beach. Well, eleven on the beach and one in the interior, somewhere closer to Chichen Itza. Maybe Valladolid.

Even crazier? We're leaving behind our computers. And our iPhones. We're staying on the beach in a cabana with lots of candles and no electricity. We're bringing books. Paper. Pens. Playing cards. Sunblock.

Will we get bored? Oh, I hope so. It's been years.

Feliz Navidad, and we'll see you on the other side.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Some pictures from our overland sojourn to Brick, New Jersey, to celebrate Thanksgiving with Mike's extended family at their amazingly huge house known as The Compound.

Well, not from the journey, actually, more like pictures once at the destination, but I'm trying to keep to the theme of TRAVELmonkeys and I didn't think to bore you with pictures of us while on New Jersey Transit. But I will say that at 45 minutes from Penn Station, it's a super-easy trip.

And New Jersey Transit is perfectly happy to transport well-behaved dogs (unlike those idiots at Amtrak), so Baci was able to join in the fun.

As promised, we played a LOT of Rock Band. Pictured above are Mike and Mary's cousins--Dave on the drums, Kris on the bass, and Kris's son, Conner, on the guitar.

And this is Kris's husband, Martin, and his dad (also Martin) DEEP-FRYING the turkey! I have been hearing about Americans burning down their decks/garages/homes using this dangerous method for the past five years, but after having tasted the results, I have to say: the risk is worth it. And it only took an hour to cook!

There were almost as many dogs as there were people. This is Pat, a friend of the family, with her dog Snickers, brother to the other dog, Sammy, who lives at The Compound year-round.

And this is Thelma. She and Baci hit it off immediately.

All the dogs stayed close to Aunt Angela, who was prone to THROWING MEAT at random.

The humans stayed close to her as well, because she was prone to THROWING 5 KINDS OF PIE and 3 KINDS OF STUFFING at us.

The next morning, even more family came to visit, including their Aunt Marianne and Uncle Cook. Uncle Cook's signature contribution is the sign, which he makes new for each family occasion and which they've been holding up in family photos since 1973.

All in all, a wonderful time with wonderful hosts and much, much to be thankful for.

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Obsession

Mike and I don't have a video camera. But our digital camera allows us to take little movies. We've been buying from the Canon family for a while, and the older versions made movies without sound and at 16 frames per second, lending the footage a choppy, Super 8 kind of feeling--instantly nostalgic. But our newest camera (a Canon SD1100 IS) and the models we've been using for the last couple years actually take pretty good footage.

I tell you all this because I just launched iMovie for the first time and have discovered how easy it is to turn that footage into highly watchable and sharable YouTube clips. Travelmonkeys Readers, take note: this could change everything.

For my first offering, I invite you to watch how I spent the bulk of my Thanksgiving holiday: playing Rock Band with my extended New Jersey family in Brick. Mike's sister joined us for the week and is featured here on vocals. Click on the picture below, and choose the "watch in high quality" option for best results.