Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eastern State Penitentiary

Beth had the great idea to go tour Eastern State Penitentiary, so Kim, Alex, and I met her there at 21st and Fairmount. We didn't know what to expect other than that it would be really really cool! The gloomy, overcast day was perfect for a trip to ruins of one of the historic prisons in America.

In its day, ESP was the most expensive public building, due to its individual cells each sporting heating, flushing toilets and exercise yards. The solitary confinement was designed not to punish the incarcerated, but to prove them with the opportunity to reflect on their crimes, and thus was called a "penitentiary." The cells were arranged in a radial floor plan with a central hub and tower from which 8 wings radiate out, surrounded by a thirty foot wall. This allowed for guards in the middle to simultaneously see all of the cells in the prison at any time. This influential floor
plan became the inspiration for over 300 prisons built world wide.

As part of the admission fee, each patron is given an audio-tour headset that provides a tour of most features in the prison. You can divert off the tour to visit several art installations and exhibits strewn about the grounds. We spent about 2 hours at the prison and were very satisfied with the tour. It was a great way to spend the afternoon seeing one of Philadelphia's most impressive landmarks.

More pics on facebook.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I know I posted that I would update this blog more now that I quit my job, but working on my house has really taken a lot of my time in the past few weeks. I had a few jobs that I really wanted to finish before school began since now I have time to start and project and commit the time it would require to finish. I wanted to remove all the damn mirrors that were left hanging on the walls when I moved into my house. I also had to fix the shower faucet that I broke a couple months ago, I broke the cold water stem so no leaking, but just only hot showers since I broke it. I also wanted to remove the wallpaper in the downstairs and paint the walls. My dad, who is retired, stayed with me for a week to help me work on these projects.

All these projects seemed as if they should take time to fix, but fixing the tub/shower faucet was a nightmare. After we took apart the faucet to figure out what the problem was, we spent the better part of a day driving around the city looking for the part to fix the broken valve stem. Eventually, I had to go online and order parts to fix it because no store, even specialty stores carried what I was looking for. I ordered several parts, but twice got something I had not asked for. And of course, they say if you open the item it cannot be returned, but you can't test anything without opening it first...and they charged me $10 each to ship the wrong item! In the end, my dad came back today to help me install a new tub and shower faucet. It took the better part of a day, but we did it.

Everything else just took time, it wasn't too frustrating, but just required labor. The mirrors came off the walls easily, but to my surprise, one wall of mirrors was hiding 3 layers of old wallpaper and a steel casement window that had almost rusted out. The wallpaper took a little effort, but came off pretty easily and the coats of paint on top is a huge upgrade over the wallpaper and floral borders. The window, though, will need to comeout and I'm having a contractor come over soon to look at it and give me an estimate on what it'll cost to replace.

Even after a week, it doesn't seem like that much it done, everything is just back to what it should be. But the window, though broken, doesn't leak and provides a lot of light into my once dreary house. As a reward for the work I did this week, I did finally buy the TV I've wanted for the past year, a 40" Sony LCD.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Poconos Weekend

This summer marked the second straight summer that we went up to the mountains with some friends to visit Aunt Fran and Uncle Dave in the Poconos. Last year, it was Kim and I along with Aileen and Amanda, but this year we brought along Erme and Ihab since it was so much fun before. Kim, Ihab, Alex, and I left on Friday in the early afternoon to try to beat traffic and make it into the Mountains for dinner with Fran and Dave. We had a very nice dinner at Big Boulder Lake, outside on the patio and met up with Aileen, Erme and Amanda at the house before our night out.

In keeping with tradition, we spent the weekend doing many of the same things that we did last year. Since we only two days instead of the long Labor Day Weekend we had last year, we had to cut a couple things out. We didn't get to make it to Tribute Fest, which is a bummer, but after getting ripped-off by not seeing fake-Bono last year, we didn't want to set ourselves up for something that wouldn't deliver. However, we did get to do many of the fun things we did last year, but with more people, like karaoke at Shenanigan's, playing by the lake, BBQ'ing at AF and UD's big house, playing games, and drinking a little beer. When we first got to the bar at 10:30 for karaoke it was pretty sparse with only a few other people there, but that gave us a chance to sing a lot and get the most out of our limited time. I'm not sure who came up with the idea to play Charades (probably me) after the BBQ the next night at the big house, but it was the most fun I had on the entire trip. We all tried to make clues that weren't too difficult but that would be fun to act out, like Christmas Tree, Tabasco Sauce, or Hulk Hogan.

This year we had planned to do something new: whitewater rafting, but the dam release did not coincide with our trip so we decided not to take the lazy float down the Lehigh. All-in-all, it was a really fun trip and hopefully, we can keep going in years to come. It's always nice to get out of the city in the summertime to the Mountains where the air is cool and refreshing. Thanks to Fran and Dave for hosting us for the weekend and I hope we didn't wear you guys out to much!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Trying to Blog More

I know that recently Kim and I have not been blogging as much as we used to. Part of that reason is because Kim didn't have internet for a while and was also starting a new job. A reason I haven't been updating as much is because I've been a lot more busy at work. However, now that Kim is paying for internet (wtf right?) and I am no longer employed, we will try to be less lazy, do more stuff, and write a little more.

After seeing Julie & Julia last weekend, we were inspired to think of different themes or takes we could undertake and then blog about. I haven't thought of anything good, but for now, just sharing pictures and stories from our adventures.

Meanwhile enjoy this comic from

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Last day at work

Last Friday was my last day (as well as Chris') at the Dreyfuss Lab. I'm sure that most of you know that Kim also left the lab the week before because she could not stand the prospect of being there without me. But I left on slightly better terms and like her, on to greater things--a Ph.D program at Penn studying Biochemistry. Regardless, leaving the lab after three years, was still a little sad for me: cleaning out the bench and desk I had for the last two years, sorting through and throwing away most of my samples, and of course saying good-bye to many friends.

However, in order to forget my wallowing, we had a happy hour in the lab and went out afterwards. Since Chris and I were the guests of honor, we got to pick the beer for our party; but neither of the beers we originally wanted were available, so I chose alternatives: a variety case from Unibroue and Clipper City. The case from Unibroue was very expensive ~$70, but well worth it, especially when you consider how tasty they were and that all of the beers in the pack were at least 8-9% alcohol. The Clipper City Heavy Seas case was less expensive, but packed a good kick with 4 beers featuring 7+% alcohol. Clipper City beers are very good, brewed locally in Baltimore, and tend to be cheaper than most offerings from other crafter brewers. The happy hour was nice because a lot of people that don't often make it out came and even Lili, notorious for leaving at 4:45 everyday stayed until almost 6:30 drinking and hanging out. And as a reward for my years of hard work, I even got a hug and kiss from Gideon!

After happy hour, we took the 34 Trolley to 50th and Baltimore Sts. to one of Chris' and my favorite places: Dock Street Brewery. Dock Street usually has 5-7 house-brewed beers on draft, but mainly, the have great food especially the fries and pizza. Kim left from her new job and met us there, while Chris rode his bike from work. They got the restaurant a little early, since the rest of us took the trolley from lab, which worked out since the restaurant was starting to fill when I arrived with the rest from work. We got several pitchers of beer, my favorite being the Amarillo Pale Ale, and three large wood-oven baked pizzas for the ten of us to share. Some people were tired and ready for bed while others had families to get home to, but the party raged on. Chris suggested another West Philly gem to take the party, the back patio at Gojjo

To the unsuspecting, Gojjo is just another neighborhood West African Restaurant, but the back patio is very nicely constructed with pavers on the ground, landscaping, sturdy tables, nice lighting and even a TV tuned to local sports. I did not know that the back existed, so I was skeptical at first but it was a really nice surprise. Chris' high school friend, Joel, met up with us here and we stayed for a couple of hours drinking and telling stories. In the end, we stayed past 11, drank 4 pitchers of beer for $34 (yeah cheap too!), and had a great time.

As always, more pictures on facebook

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kristen and Adam's Wedding

This weekend we were happy to attend the wedding of Kelly's best friend and our old friend, Kristen Z. (now Kristen P.). Before the wedding, though, there was a lot of traveling! I had off on Friday (since my last day of work was Thurs) and Mike took a half day so we hit the road around 12:30pm. We headed to Rockville, MD to pick up Mom and then drove to Dad's place in Richmond, VA. After some frustrations and then later good luck with traffic, we arrived in Richmond around 6:30pm and headed out for a nice dinner at Ruby Tuesday's and some shopping. We also discovered the reality show "Say Yes to the Dress", which follows salespeople and customers at a high-end bridal boutique, and it was surprisingly entertaining and appropriately wedding-themed.
Saturday morning, we left for North Carolina, all dressed up in our wedding clothes. We arrived in Raleigh just in time to grab a quick bite and meet up with Alex (who was visiting his other grandparents in Pinehurst, NC) before the big event. The wedding took place at Sacred Heart Cathedral in downtown Raleigh. Kristen was beautiful and the ceremony was lovely. Kelly performed her bridesmaid's duties admirably.
The reception was at the Hilton in Durham and we had a little time to rest up before a fun night of dancing. As always, the Dittmar family represented well on the dance floor, with Kelly starting off the dancing with Kristen's 8 year old cousin, Peter, who got just about every lady in attendance to sign his dance card. :) It was a great night and we were all so happy to be there to see Kristen take this big step in her life! (Check out lots more pics on Facebook)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

University City Dining Days at Marigold

West Philadelphia/University City has its own week of Dining Specials separate from the rest of the City at least once a year. Kim and I have taken this opportunity the past two years to go out and eat at a restaurant we normally don't go to. Restaurants participating in Dining Days will offer prix fixe meals with some choices for each course, with restaurants offering dinners from $15 to $30. Kim and I chose restaurants from the highest tier because we felt these restaurants offered the best value in terms of food. Last year, we had a very nice meal at Rx and so this year, we though we'd try another neighborhood BYOB, Marigold Kitchen.

For Dining Days, the menus are usually pared down from the restaurants normal offerings, but they will still to include vegetarian options for appetizers and entrees, which Kim obviously appreciates. As Marigold is a BYOB, we brought a bottle of red, a Wyndham Estates Shiraz, Bin 555. It was medium bodied, juicy and fruity, exactly what we both like in a wine pared with food. For an appetizer, I had a piece of crispy pork belly with fried green tomatoes on a bed of arugula with a buttermilk dressing and Kim had a salad of radish and snow peas. I really liked the balance the tart tomatoes added when eaten with the fatty pork belly. Kim tried a piece but was not impressed. Then, I had a perfectly prepared piece of seared salmon with dill potatoes and english peas and Kim had a Kalamata Olive pasta tossed with some vegetables. That salmon was the best salmon that I have even had made for me in a restaurant--it was just medium rare in the middle, a little bit translucent, and well rested so that it was evenly done throughout. Dessert, however, was a mixed bag. The blueberry biscuit was very good, but the peach cobbler with black pepper ice cream was a disappointment. The cobbler crust and ice cream were both overly salty and the cobbler was too small.

This is the second time Kim and I have been to Marigold, and the second time we were thoroughly satisfied. We always vow to go back but for some reason or another we just need the extra motivation to get going.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kim's 3rd Annual Summer BBQ

Since Kim's been in Philly, she's hosted a BYOM (bring your own meat) BBQ at her house for co-workers and friends. This year's BBQ was the third iteration and like the past two times, it was a great success. However, like in previous years, in order to host people at her house, the backyard first needed to be cleaned up. Alex and I helped Kim clean up the trash that migrates into the back and I bought a truckload of top soil to fill up holes and mulch to cover the large expanses of dirt. After all this work, the backyard looks great, I only wish I had taken a picture of what it looked like before for comparison.

For the BBQ, Kim made pasta salad, potato salad, dip for chips, rice crispie treats, cake cookies, and bought much more. I bought chorizo and zucchini, made guacamole, burgers, and hot wings. We also bought a lot of good beer and wine. Of course, many of our friends brought food to share too. Jeongsik brought delicious Korean-style chicken for the grill; Lili brought some spicy spaghetti; Ihab prepared some Middle-Eastern seasoned chicken kebabs; Anna Maria made several appetizers with prosciutto; Josh brought for the grill, tomatoes cut in half topped with garlic pepper Jack cheese, and basil; Zhenxi picked blackberries for us. Erme made some delicious cupcakes, which Lili's kids really enjoyed helping ice and decorate! And many (Daisuke, Aileen, Chris...) also brought drinks to share too, I was just too busy grilling to remember what everyone added to the party. But needless to say, no one went home hungry or lacked drink.

It was a lot of fun and well worth the time and effort it took to clean up the backyard. Now that all the hard work is done, I think Kim should host more BBQ's since all we would need to do now is invite some people and put some charcoal in the chimney starter!

Some people asked what was in my wing recipe, so I thought I would share it: you season the chicken wings equal parts chili powder, paprika and Lawry's Seasoned Salt with some fresh ground black pepper and then marinate them in hot sauce (I like Texas Pete's) overnight. Then I drain them thoroughly to make sure the marinade doesn't drop on the coals and smother the fire. I grill them for about 6-8 minutes on each side under medium-hot to hot coals to crisp the skin and then move them to the side to finish cooking through. The wings have bones that help keep the moist, but also requires more time to cook through

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Nice Weekend

Kim and I both had a great weekend. Well, I had a nice weekend, but Kim only had a partly nice weekend what with her parking ticket, dryer and washer going missing, no internet...

On Friday, after work, I drove to the Airport to pick up my sister from her flight out of Raleigh. She came home for her 10 year high school reunion and it was nice to see her and talk for the hour or so drive home to my parent's. We got home to have dinner with my Dad and then sat around the table talking until my Mom got home. I spent the night there because the next day I had a picnic with the Brandywine Bonsai Society, in nearby Kennet Square, Pa. The picnic/auction was just okay because I forgot to bring cash so it was just a really long picnic for me.

I had to get back into the city though because Ihab had some work friends over to his house for a small party on in his outdoor patio/backyard area. I did not know what to expect from his yard since I've seen some gnarly backyards in the city (Kim), but Ihab's was really nice. The area was mostly paved over with concrete with some established trees and little gardens dotting it. The trees also provided a good amount of shade to keep it cool. Like always, Ihab made some great food, grilled some veggies, spicy burgers, Middle-Eastern chicken skewers, and some Lebanese staples. Kim, Tina, and Anna Maria all brought desserts. Kim made a lemon bundt cake, Tina brought some Swedish cinnamon buns and candies and Anna Maria brought some outstanding cheesecake from Midtown. Even Kim, who normally doesn't like cheesecake had a big slice and loved it.

The next morning, Kim and I met my parents and Frances at Ocean Harbor in Chinatown for Dim Sum. I haven't had dim sum in a long time, so I was really excited to go to Ocean Harbor. The food, as expected was great, and we had really good service from the waiters that kept our water glasses full and brought us a fork and knife for Kim. The cart ladies were helpful, bringing veggie dishes for Kim as well, as the good stuff for me: chicken feet, beef organ meat soup, shrimp dumplings, fried taro balls... For those of you considering going to dim sum, I would almost insist you go with someone who is Chinese or at least speaks Chinese. You need to assert yourself with the service staff and let them know who's the boss--white people are just too polite sometimes! After lunch, we walked around a little bit and saw some crazy old lady get caught stealing lychees from a streetside grocer.

And to cap off the weekend, Geoff had us over at his house for a fresh summer dinner. He made two cold soups, a savory strawberry soup with apricots and Vidalia onions and a gaspatcho. Next, we had a "Thai" cucumber salad, the recipe for which Justin got from a Meijer's in Ohio. And finally, Geoff made fritters from zucchini and other vegetables served with a yoghurt and herb sauce. The dinner was very nice, but what really made it fun was getting the chance to spend time with friends and catch up.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame

Kim, brother Joey, Alex, and I went on a trip to Cooperstown, NY this past weekend to tour the town where baseball was invented, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Ommegang Brewery. For me, this trip was the combination of two of my favorite things: fancy beer and our national pastime.

We started our trip early (at least for me) on Saturday morning and went to pick up Joey in Wenonah, NJ and see his new digs. His new place was much bigger than I expected and was very pleasant. From NJ, we then drove about North towards Cooperstown. The drive up was pretty short because traffic was moving briskly and we were catching up on stories. After about 5 hours, including a quick break for lunch, we arrived in Cooperstown for the first destination of our trip--Ommegang Brewery.

Ommegang is an American Brewery owned by Belgian company Duvel that makes very good versions of popular Belgium styles. The location in Cooperstown was chosen because it was once the hops-growing capitol of the US in the late 1800's and was already a tourist destination. Luckily we arrived at the Brewery right as a tour was beginning so we just jumped right in. The tour was very interesting as they showed us everything from the kettles where the grains are cooked and the fermentation vats in the brewering room to the bottling machinery and storage areas. The highlight of the tour of course was the free tasting of five beers: Witte (white ale), Rare Vos (amber ale), Hennepin (farmhouse or saison ale), Abbey ale (Trappist Double), and the Three Philosphers (Trappist quadruple ale). Although Alex could not participate in the tasting, he was a good sport to watch us gobble down several oz of each beer.

Following the tour of the brewery, we went to the hotel to unload the car and get settled in before dinner. Joe and I took a nap while Kim and Alex hit the hotel pool. When they got back, we headed out to Downtown Cooperstown to see the sights and grab dinner. We walked into Doubleday Field and visited several stores that sold mostly junk, but some gems were: a Phillies 2008 World Series edition of Monopoly and a really cool hat for the minor league team, the Montgomery Biscuits. The Monopoly set was $40 and they did not have a hat that fit me, so we I ended up walking away empty-handed.
The next morning, we woke up at 8 and got a pretty good free breakfast at the hotel before heading out to the Hall of Fame. It was cool that the admission tickets were printed with a Phillies themed graphic to commemorate their WS win last year. The Hall, as expected, was great and filled with all sorts of memorabilia from the founding of baseball in early 1800's to uniform pieces worn by players in the 2008 WS. It was amazing to bats used by Babe Ruth in his 60 HR season, Lou Gehrig's Uniform the day before he retired, Willie May's glove, and several Hank Aaron HR balls. My favorite article from the 2008 WS exhibit was the bat Joe Blanton used to hit a HR in Game 4 of the Series last year.

It was a fun trip, although too short, but I felt that we got to see everything that we were interested in. And according to Joe and Kim, the renovations the HoF made to exhibits really added to the fan experience.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July Fun

Yesterday, Mike, Alex and I spent the 4th of July holiday with our good friends the Wodnicks. Beth's parents opened their home (and pool) to us for the celebration. It was a big crowd, including the whole Wodnick clan, Megan Smith and Kelly. I had the idea for the Wodnicks to host an Independence Day party because Mike and I have been traveling a lot the past few weeks and we wanted to spend the holiday near home and the Wodnicks had a pool. For the past two years, the three of us have gone to Coney Island and see the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, but this year was just as fun without the long drive.

Mike and Alex came prepared for wiffleball (Mike brought 6 wiffle balls and 2 bats) and they were not disappointed. After John went over the house rules, the games were ongoing throughout the afternoon with almost everyone taking part at some point. However, the large quantity of good food and drink made it more difficult to get up and into the game. Then, we all cooled off in the pool before a BBQ feast with plenty of grilled meats and veggie burgers, salads, and fresh vegetables and tons of deserts.

After a rousing game of Apples to Apples, we headed out onto the golf course right behind the Wodnicks' house to watch the fireworks display. Everyone had fun oohing and aahing and picking their favorite kind of fireworks. It was a such a beautiful day, made more fun by good friends, good food and good fun.

Picture Mike took using the Fireworks as a flash strobe

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My vacation wrap-up

After a good week in Tennessee at the Great Smoky Mountains with Kenny, I cannot say that I am happy to be home. Of course, it was nice to see friends and everyone at work again, but I do not enjoy waking up before 10am nor do I enjoy going into work and spending 8 hours inside from the fresh mountain air and sunshine. Kenny and I had fun on our family vacation without the rest of the family and the rush of having to go everywhere and do everything.

That said, we visited almost everything in and near the National Park. We started out in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg at the North end of the Park in Tennessee. We climbed the tallest peak in the Smokies, Clingmans Dome on the NC/TN state line. We rafted near the east end of the park near the Pigeon River and spent the rest of the day hiking in Cosby. We saw Laurel Falls in the middle of the park and Abrams Falls in the very West of the Park by the Cades Cove, where there was a primitive road and a preserved fronteir settlement. And we camped at the south of the park in Smokemont, where I caught my first trout and we slept in our tent by a babbling creek.

All in all, it was great trip. We saw everything we wanted to, ate junk food, and still had time to watch TV in our hotel room. I would definitely camp again with Kenny!

You can see the rest of the pictures here on my Facebook album

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Post Vacation Transition

Mike and I both returned home from our respective vacations on Saturday evening. Alex went right from the airport to a friend's party and then got picked up by his Dad for a few days vacation in Pittsburgh. Even though we were tired, we wanted to get the most out of the vacation time we had left, so Mike and I went for a late dinner at the Standard Tap. After dinner, we walked next door to North Bowl to meet up with friends in honor of Joe's 30th birthday. Joe definitely had a blast on his birthday and we're glad we got to celebrate with him.

On Sunday morning after a tasty brunch at the South Philly Tap Room (best grilled cheese ever!), we drove down to Milburn Orchards in Elkton, Maryland to pick some cherries. At first, we were discouraged by trees with lots of old and moldy cherries, but eventually we found some good trees and ended up with a haul of nearly 6 pounds of white and black cherries. We finished off the weekend by meeting the other members of our dinner club at Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant for some tasty vegan dim sum. It was nice to see friends and prolong our vacation just a little bit longer before going back to work on Monday.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Disney Vacation Round-up

Since my last post, our family vacation to Disney World has ended, but I wanted to share some of the highlights. After a fun day at Epcot on Monday, the whole family went to Blizzard Beach, a ski-themed water park, on Tuesday. We all enjoyed the relief from the heat. Most of us rode Summit Plummet, the second tallest and fastest free fall slide in the world and clocked in between 50 and 60 mph!

Kristen and Steve had to leave on Wednesday afternoon, so while they did a little outlet shopping with Mom, Dad, and Kelly, Joey and I took the boys to the Magic Kingdom. I must say this was the worst part of our trip. It was SO crowded that even the outdated boring attractions had 45 minute waits. A big disappointment was that Space Mountain is closed for renovations. However, we got our Fast Passes for Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and enjoyed those rides, along with the Buzz Lightyear ride, the Monsters Inc comedy show and the Haunted Mansion. By about 3pm we were done, and enjoyed the rest of the day at the pool. That evening, the boys went to see Transformers, and Mom, Kelly and I hung out at Downtown Disney, did some dancing and ate some amazing Ghiradelli sundaes.

I drove Joey to the airport early Thursday morning and then Kelly, Andrew, Alex and I headed to Animal Kingdom bright and early. We got to ride the newest roller coaster, Expedition Everest, several times and also did the River ride, safari, and the Bugs Life 3D show. By the late afternoon, we had covered all we wanted to see, so we headed back over to Blizzard Beach to cool off.

Friday was our last day at Disney and we started the day auditioning for the American Idol Experience at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM). Alex and I didn't make the show, but we had lots of fun watching the other contestants. We had a full day at Hollywood Studios with multiple rides on the Rock N' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, some shows, and lunch and arcade games at Pizza Planet. We ended the day watching the finale of the American Idol Experience with the 7 winners of the shows throughout the day and then went home to get our last bit of swimming in before leaving on Saturday.

We had a really fun time with the whole family in Disney World and it was especially fun to catch up with our old friend, Andrew. We've already begun discussions on the next family trip!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kim's Vacation So Far

Since Mike posted about his trip, I felt that I should add a little something about my vacation. On Saturday morning, I headed to Minneapolis for the wedding of my good friend from grad school, Melissa. The wedding wasn't until 4pm so I had some time to hang out at the hotel with some other Chicago friends, Gina, Eric and their almost 3 year old daughter, Nora. I thought Nora might be shy around me, but she was totally friendly and playful even though she hadn't seen me for a year!

The wedding was beautiful and I was so glad to be there to wish the best to Melissa, Phil and their daughter, Delaney. It was great to catch up with several old friends from Chicago. We danced the night away at the reception to a really fun live band. I took lots of pictures which you can check out on Facebook.

On Sunday morning, I got up early and headed back to the airport and caught a flight to Philly where I hung out at the airport for a couple hours, met up with Alex and then boarded another flight to Orlando for our family trip to Disney World! Alex's friend from Aurora, Andrew, joined us and we just hung out at the house Sunday evening, swimming and catching up.

For our first day at Disney, we went to Epcot and hit all the major attractions. I think our favorite was Soaring, which is a pretty amazing flight simulator. Though a definite hi
ghlight was our stop to fake Germany in the World Showcase for some brats, pretzels and beers. We're having a great (though hot) time so far in Florida and looking forward to a fun week with the family. More soon!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First Day of Vacation!

Today is Kim and My first day of vacation. I dropped Kim off at the Airport this morning at around 5 am, and then directly from Philly International, drove to outside DC in Alexandria, Va to pick up Kenny for our trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. I got to his house before 8 and I drove southwest towards Tennessee. We stopped once in Lexington, Va, home of the Virginia Military Institute to grab lunch. The town was very nice once we got to it, but the school looked like a prison, every building had the same rectangular architecture and beige stucco exteriors.

After a few hours, we stopped to get gas (I'd averaged 29 mpg up to that point!) and Kenny took over driving duties as I napped. Finally, after a couple breaks, we made it to our Interstate exit by 4:30, and took the opportunity to check out Bass Pro Shops' Outdoor World, which was an enormous outfitter right at the base of the Smokies. I bought some more fishing supplies I didn't need and ended up buying a 3-day trout fishing permit ($33.50), which I found out wasn't required since you don't need a trout permit to catch trout in the National Park, just the regular permit ($16.50) so I ended up giving the State of Tennessee an extra $17! I'd better catch some fish now.

We had some of the Smoky's best BBQ, Bennett's Pit Bar-B-Que, for dinner, which honestly wasn't better than BBQ that I make. Kenny had the great idea of making a little man out of the left-over bones from the ribs I had from dinner. I think that we did a pretty good job, but you can be the judge:We turned in early to get plenty of rest for a full day of fishing and hiking in the morning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bat in the House

Today, I was scared more than I had been in a very long time when a bat surprised me in my basement while I was doing laundry. I was downstairs watching TV and doing the wash when a big black blur came flying down the staircase and into my basement. At first, I thought it was a pigeon by its sheer size, but the erratic flying and silent flapping informed me otherwise. When I saw the bat, I immediately thought of the Office episode where Dwight traps a bat in a trash bag over Meredith's head. However, I did not have ready access to a trash bag so I picked up the next best thing--a throw blanket!

After trying to chase it around, I saw a laundry basket on the floor and picked that up instead to try to corral the flying rodent. As the bat flutter around, I managed to shriek a couple times and stumble onto my butt before I managed to knock the bat from the air and hit it with the basket. It fell to the floor and I threw the basket over it. I didn't see the bat move after it hit the ground, so I think I dealt it a lethal blow with my expert basket swinging. I grabbed a pair of leather gloves from my utility room, picked up the dead bat and put it in the trash I was taking out for pick up tomorrow.

A flying bat turned an otherwise quiet night of laundry into a scene from a horror movie, but luckily I triumphed in the end, although now I feel bad about killing a bat that probably wanted out of the house more than I did. I had thought about taking a picture of the bat for the blog, but I thought better of it, plus I wouldn't want a permanent visual reminder of a flying rodent in the house I am trying to sleep in tonight.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Inaugural Game Night

For the past several months, Kim and I had a standing date on Wednesday to get together at her house for dinner and Lost. Megan, Ihab, Joey, and some of our other friends would frequently come to watch Lost with us. But now that there are not anymore Lost episodes, we thought it would be fun to still get together for dinner and games.

This time we thought it would be good to make Mexican food since it is cheap, delicious, and can be quickly made after work. We made rice, bean, bell peppers, guacamole, spiced ground beef, grilled chorizo, and the normal condiments. Aileen brought a tasty green salad from produce she got from her Co-op. To drink, I used fresh strawberries we picked on Sunday to make Strawberry-Lime Margaritas. Megan brought Choco-Tacos to finish the Mexican theme with dessert.

After a very satisfying dinner, we settled on playing Taboo. Ihab had never played this game before, but did pretty well save for one round where Kim buzzed him 4 times and he netted a total of -3 points. I hadn't played Taboo before either but it was fun and definitely something I would play again. At some point during the game, Kim got the clue word "Hostage" and with Ihab watching her, she gave hints such as "a Muslim would do this," and other words that Ihab took offense to!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jenny Lewis at The Trocadero

Earlier tonight, Kim and I went to see Jenny Lewis and her traveling band at the Trocadero Theatre in Chinatown on 10th and Arch Sts. I tried to bring my new camera, the Nikon D90 into the event, but the security guards told me that any camera with a detachable lens is considered a professional camera and thus I would need a photo-pass. So unfortunately, like the Bonnie Prince Billy show, I had to drop the camera off in the car. I need to find out how to get credentials so I can bring my camera into shows.

However, being camera-less did not detract from a great show by Jenny and her band. We arrived at the show a little late because of a great dinner of ziti, meatballs, and strawberry pie we had at home with Joey, but we still managed to get seats upstairs where we could see the stage and hear perfectly. Kim and I both heard every song we wanted to hear from Jenny's albums, as well as a great rendition of "Silver Lining" from her main band, Rilo Kiley's, last album, Under the Blacklight. We also enjoyed the new songs Jenny performed, which we both felt were more in-line with early RK album's energetic and catchy pop rather than the bluesy alt-country of Rabbit Fur Coat.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable show and I will definitely want to see Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley again next time they are in Philly.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stuff Mike and Kim (and Chinese People) Like: #4 Pick-Your-Own Fruit

Today, Kim and I took advantage of great weather to pick strawberries at Linvilla Orchards in Media, Pa. The 30 minute drive out to the country was nice and the orchard was very easy to find, just off of US 1 on Knowlton Road. We parked by the farm stand were treated to a hayride to the picking field about a mile away. Since early June is the peak of strawberry ripeness here in the Mid-Atlantic, we were expecting the cream of the crop and we were not disappointed. From my extensive strawberry picking experience as a child, I knew that the best ones would be far away from where people first arrive. We ended up picking about 10 pounds of strawberries for a cost of about $25.

Driving home with a tray full of strawberries, we had time to think about what to do with them all. In the end, we decided to eat some fresh, use some for strawberry margaritas, and make a fresh strawberry pie.

When we were children, my mother would often take us to pick fruit on the weekends, especially on Sundays after church and before Chinese school. I have many vivid and happy experiences from these occaisions. There is even video from when I first learned to talk, where my entire family picked about 100 pounds of black cherries.

I don't know why it is that Asian people like picking fresh fruit, I even talked about this with our co-worker Lili on Friday. I think the general consensus is that Asian people often come from places where many fresh fruits aren't always readily available, as is the case with my parents in Taiwan. And also, temperate climate fruits like cherries, strawberries, and apples are often very rare and expensive, so luxury associated with them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Casual Viking, Chimeras, Cold Cave, and Love is All at Kung Fu Necktie, 6-3-09

Last Night, I met up with Aileen and Erme to see the R5 Production show, Love is All at Kung Fu Necktie, a new bar in the Northern Liberties that hosts really intimate concerts. KFN is very convenient by public transportation--is just one block north from the Girard Street Stop on the Market-Frankford line, but I decided to drive since the show was likely to run long. The bar is a converted rowhouse with the first floor containing the bar and booth seating in the front, and the stage for the bands in the backroom. Upstairs they have an art gallery as well as staging for the performers.

We got there at 9pm and had a beer, while the first opening band, Casual Viking, was playing their set. We weren't really paying attention, but they played non-irritating background music for us to talk over. After the Viking's set, we walked up to the stage to see the next band, the Chimeras. The Chimeras were surprisingly good; a quartet which features Joe Cocker-like performance from the lead singer and guitarist, Walkmen-esque jangly guitars, and crooning reminescent of Dylan. They were so good they trigger an infectious bout of raised fist pumping. The next band, Cold Cave, was pretty cold and empty. From the time they took the stage until the finished, half of the crowd that stood by the stage had left to have drinks at the bar. We didn't know if Erme would make it through the show since she had to get up very early that morning, but Cold Cave was not good enough to end our night with.

We eagerly awaited Love is All through 3 opening bands and where utterly shocked when they took the stage because just minutes earlier the sax player, who was wearing a vintage Eagles tee, was standing directly in front of us with a drink watching the previous band. The lead singer, Josephine was hanging out in the front of the bar selling merch, and several other band members were just chilling around the bar before their performance.

Love is all put on a great show though. They play this high energy, dance-pop, that I would describe as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Grand Ole Party on Swedish methamphetamines. My favorite song was one about the guitar players flat that started with the line, "There's dust in every corner..." which drew laughs from Aileen, Erme, and me. The band was just fun and the audience, even the too-cool hipsters were dancing and jumping around.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Hundred Push Ups Training Program

So one of my New Year's Resolutions was to be better about working out. And though it took a little time, by this spring I'd really figured out a good routine. I think one of my biggest problems was finding the time to actually go to the gym so I've started working out at home. Mainly, I'm using videos by Jillian Michaels that totally kick butt. But sometimes I get bored with the same workouts and one night while searching for some alternatives, I came across the Hundred Push Ups Training Program. Basically, it's a 6 week program where you do increasing sets of push ups 3 days a week and by the end you're supposed to be able to do 100 consecutive push ups. Now, this was really appealing to me because as I started doing Jillian's workouts, I realized that am pathetic at push ups and one of my goals has been to increase my upper body strength.

The first part of the program is to perform a test to see how many push ups you can do at the start. I did this with Kelly and Mom while we were in Richmond for Memorial Day. I did 14 modified (on my knees) and Kelly did 14 regular push ups (yes, she's more hard core than me!). Mom was having some trouble with form and gave up on the challenge right there during the initial test. But Kelly and I have moved on and once I told Mike, he joined in too. I mentioned it at work and inspired one of my co-workers to start doing push ups in the lab! So, if anyone else is inspired, check out the site and join us!

I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to do 100 consecutive push ups but I'm going to give it my all. Look for an update in July to see if we did it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bonnie "Prince" Billy at the Trocadero Theater, May 22

Last Friday, my brother, Kenny, came up to Philly for a short visit and also to come with me and Kim to see Bonnie "Prince" Billy. BPB is the stage name for Will Oldham, an alternative-country, neo-folk, indie musician. I met Kenny after work and we went to Nanzhou Hand Drawn Noodle House for dinner. We greatly enjoyed our respective dinners: I had the Beef Brisket Noodle Soup and Kenny had Beef Noodle Soup. We took a short walk around Center City before going to the venue, where Kim met up with us.

Unfortunately, the concert was the most disappointing I have ever attended, but not because the music was terrible. There were several great performances of songs from recent records but also a lot of weird jams where everyone in the band was just playing layer upon layer of indiscernible noise. The worst example of this was when the band played the leading song from the new album Beware, "I Want to be Your Only Friend," but added a several minute interlude in the middle of the song, before it finally unwound to the end. To add insult to injury, they changed the tune of solos in many of their more melodic offerings. It was unexpected and confusing in a horrible way.

The bright spot of the concert aside from BPB's haunting vocals, was the playing and singing of the violinist that tours with him, Cheyenne Mize. I was honestly more impressed with how well the tone and timber of her voice matched and in many cases surpassed BPB. I had to google her later to find out more about her, but it appears that she has a new recording with BPB that was recently released, Among the Gold, and she is part of a Louisville group Arnett Hollow. And she is much cuter than BPB if I may say so:

(Photo from Flickr user:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New York for the Weekend

We headed up to New York City this weekend to celebrate our good friend Mike Hartwyk's 30th birthday. The weather forecast did not look promising but we ended up dry after a weekend of great fun. We arrived in the city on Saturday afternoon and met up with Nina in Manhattan before trekking to Brooklyn for dinner at Song, a great Thai place, with Mike H, David and Beth. After filling up on noodles and fried bananas (I had a whole fried Striped Bass!) we made our way back to Manhattan to meet some more folks for drinks at St. Jerome's Bar in the Lower East Side. The loud music made conversation a little challenging, but everyone enjoyed the $2 Bud for Happy Hour that lasted until Midnight! Our friends, Hannah and Ali, who are expecting a little boy any day now, come out to the bar for a while and Ali had a beer. We crashed at Nina's last night and this morning, we met Ali and Hannah for brunch at the Sunflower Diner. After a successful shopping trip to Uniqlo, quickly becoming a tradition of ours, we caught the Bolt Bus home. Rumor on facebook is there was some kind of trouble with the trains this afternoon and Ihab and Geoff were stuck in Trenton for hours so I'm really glad we chose the bus!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Woohoo Fondue

Last night, I hosted a fondue party for our monthly dinner club. We usually meet on Sunday but since May is such a busy month, it worked out to have it on a Friday night. This made food prep a little more rushed than usual but I think everything turned out great. I've been wanting to make fondue since my Mom got me a triple crock-pot (yes, 3 crock-pots attached to each other!) for hosting our family Thanksgiving dinner. I made classic gruyere fondue, feta fondue and, of course, chocolate fondue for dessert.

For the cheese fondues, we had cubed olive, sourdough and rustic white bread, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives, artichokes, apples and pears to dip. Preparing so many items for dipping took much more time than I anticipated, but it was worth it.

Although everyone enjoyed the cheese, the hit of the party was the chocolate fondue. Everyone just stood and hovered over it, not willing to take their eyes off the molten chocolate! We dipped: strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, Vanilla wafers, mandarin oranges, and homemade sponge cake.

It's a great that Ihab had fondue forks, otherwise I don't know how we would've made it work, but everything fell into place (triple crock pot, great cheese and chocolate, and fondue forks) to make this dinner club a success.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Phillies Game, May 12, 2009

On Tuesday Night, I was presented the opportunity to combine three of my loves: the Phillies, friends, and Dollar Hot Dogs! Needless to say, I had a great time. The Phillies beat the Los Angelos Dodgers, 5-3, in a great game. The Phils starter, compatriot of many of our Korean friends, Chan Ho Park, had a rocky start giving up several hits in the first inning, but settled down and pitched very well. He gave up just two runs over six innings and just two earned runs to win his first game of the season and the first as a Phillie. Also, exciting was Jayson Werth, stealing second base, then third and finally home all in the same inning. I had never seen a steal of home before let alone one on the catcher.

This was my third Hatfield Dollar Hot Dog game, and the novelty is starting to wear down on me. The park instituted a one beer per customer limit, which for us was fine. But not for the frat boys and sorority girls sitting in our section that were late for the game and were constantly walking in front of us during the middle of innings. Altogether, I had 5 dollar dogs and was more than happy with my effort, although in the three games, the number of hotdogs I've consumed has been decreasing from 9 to 6 to now 5. Kim though did get the chance to try out the dollar vegan dogs, which were also a dollar. I didn't get to try it out for a comparison, but she seemed to really enjoy her two.