Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our first party

Yesterday was all highs and lows. The low came early, when I felt a migraine coming on as we were waiting on line in Zeller's to pay for new glassware. Nick and I had gone out early to pick up my repaired boots at the shoemaker ($10 CDN for a complete repair and re-sole) and then get what we needed for the party later. I had the anti-migraine stuff with me, which helped, but I still needed an hour or two in a darkened room before I started to feel ok, which happened by early afternoon. While I was out, Nick and the girls went shopping at Pennington's for some clothes for Nikki (jeans and a shirt) and my kids set themselves up at different stations in the house to do homework.

By the afternoon it was better, and Nick and I shopped for snacks, beer and wine for later. When we got home everyone did their own thing (thang?) for a couple of hours and at about 4 we started to set up. The kids were great -- didn't even need to be asked. They set to work arranging platters, designing how and where the food should go, all cheerful ("a useful engine is a happy engine", or something like that from Thomas the Tank Engine.)

At about 5 everyone started to arrive, and by about 6 they were all here -- everyone we know on the Island. Randy and Alison were first, followed by Gloria and Eddie. Then came Susie, Donna and Norm and finally Nicole. It was great -- we had a blast. The house was full of people and conversation and laughing, and the kids spoke with everyone. We had a great time, and decided to make this an annual event. There was too much food (of course) and everyone who hadn't been here got a tour of the house, with all due accolades to Susie (who Liv adored: "Susie, don't go!) Nicole spent a lot of time with Nikki, Nick and I chatted with everyone, the kids were entirely engaged. We talked about wine-making (Eddie and Randy both make wine), and graphic novels (Donna and Norm's son is an accomplished graphic novelist -- his books are amazing) to clothes and Sex in the City to hip replacements and the Canadian health system to the economy to real estate to Scrabble and the postal service and the need for better restaurants in Summerside. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves; Nick and I certainly did and the kids had a blast. We'll make plans for Susie to come to NY (hurry and stay with us!) and follow up dinners and get-togethers and all manner of things. A great evening.

When everyone left and we'd cleaned up most of the stuff we played some Catch-phrase -- the youngest (Liv, Nikki, Jamie) vs the oldest (Matt, Nick, me.) Liv's motto: "retards rejoice!" and they won, to our chagrin. Nick and I didn't make it past 3 games, but they kids stayed up and kept playing.

And today we're off. We have a very civilized afternoon flight so the morning will be easy. Quite a difference from the Halloween trip when Nick and I were on the road at 3:30 a.m. We'll be sorry to leave, as always, and will set to work making plans for the next trip.

Adieu, PEI -- we think we will miss you most of all.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fun and games

Yesterday's other activity included games. Matt challenged Nick at ping pong. Nick won both games. Nikki, Jamie and I played darts. For some unknown reason I seemed to be winning before I had to quit to tend to the turkey. My good performance was nothing more than beginner's luck, and I passed my darts to Matt (not sure how he did.)

There hasn't been time for Scrabble, and we haven't broken out the Boggle or Jenga, but there's always today. We've had very few whining "I'm bored" moments; pretty miraculous considering the age of our kids. But there's always today.

American-Canadian Thanksgiving

We did it! We had a great Thanksgiving dinner, with all the trimmings. Cooking began at about 9, when Nick and I started to prep. The kids started rolling in according to the usual sequence: Liv, Nikki, Jamie and finally Matt (that's been the order each day.) The kids helped with whatever tasks we gave them.

We cooked throughout the day, breaking only so Nick and I could drive into town and take care of a few errands (paying taxes and utilities, mostly) and only one more quick shopping for things we turned out to be missing (12-inch skillet, for one.) It poured all day, making it that much easier to spend the day inside cooking. The weather rained out the early evening block party that seems to be a tradition, which was for the best -- we had dinner uninterrupted.

Everything came out really well, much to our surprise, particularly the turkey which neither of us had cooked before. It came out well, crisp outside, moist and full of flavor inside. There were 2 kinds of potatoes (of course, this being PEI), stuffing, lots of roasted vegetables, cranberry relish (with pears and ginger) and more, more, more. Seemed like everyone loved everything, and the hope is that they'll love it as much today because we have a breathtaking amount of leftovers.

The kids helped with the cleaning -- some cheerfully, some grudgingly -- but no one was spared and we got it done quickly and efficiently.

After dinner we settled in to play Catch Phrase. Our first series broke by family, and I must say that the Lurries did well. Helps a lot that we share common memories. The girls were all on the same wavelength for anything to do with pop culture, Matt and I could read each other's mind on anything having to do with politics and history. The we broke up into different, non-familial teams to see what that would be like. It was Liv, Jamie and Matt on one side, Nick, Nikki and me on the other. Fun in a different way. Tremendous amount of laughing -- we'll always remember a blind James Earl Jones, the 15th President of the US, boob tubes and mammograms. Very fun, and we played for hours.

It's just after 8 here, and I'm the only one awake. I love the quiet morning here, with no sounds besides birdsong and the tapping of my typing.

Later today we'll go shopping for everything we need for tonight's wine/beer and snacks get-together, scheduled for 5:00. Probably about 10 people plus us, which should be nice.

And then tomorrow we head home. Before we leave Charlottetown we're going to have lunch at the Old Triangle -- the Irish bar we found last time which was memorable for two reasons: our favorite Celtic fiddler Roy plays there on Sunday, and Liv had a Mediterranean penne dish she still raves about. Mediterranean pasta in an Irish pub in PEI -- why not?

Friday, November 27, 2009

planning and prepping

Yesterday was fun -- lots of fun. Nick and I were up early working on menus and shopping lists, while the kids slept. By about 11:30 everyone was up, and hungry, and consensus was reached that going to a dinner for breakfast was the way to go. We found ourselves at Maid Marian's diner, where our group ordered dishes including the Sherwood Forest Special and similarly-themed breakfast plates. Very generous and very cheap -- whole plates of eggs, toast, potatoes (pronounced of course as "padadas") for about $5.

From there to the magical kingdom of Sobeys for the shopping. The kids love it there, and we managed to find everything -- even the more obscure ingredients -- plus the ridiculous number of snacks everyone needs to have at their fingertips.

In the afternoon, everything was put away and we split into groups. Liv and Nikki went to the tatoos place: for Nikki there were some revisions she needed and --horror of horrors -- an empty spot on her back. Liv only wanted her cartilage pierced. Matt and Jamie played games, Nick and I read until we joined them for a pretty funny game of Catch Phrase, which we only stopped because of a drop-by from Randy and Allison, who brought us some homemade candy and got to chat with us and the kids.

Dinner at Lot 30 in Charlottetown, driving through fog so thick it reminded me of nothing but "Long Day's Journey." Dinner was excellent and everyone really enjoyed it.

By the time we got home it was after 10 and Nick and I retired to bed while the kids stayed up and hung out. Don't expect to see them for a few hours. Shortly I'll start the cooking -- I want to do the stuffing and all the sides this morning so we can devote the afternoon to the turkey. It's my first one; even with all the Thanksgivings I've done I've been spared the actual turkey -- my mom and aunt always provided. So we'll figure it out, using the many magazines we've brought here.

Dinner will be interrupted when the neighbors gather at our house for a tradition that includes putting up the holiday signs and a parade which culminates at someone's home for hot drinks. The kids may not join but out of neighborliness we will, and we'll invite them to tomorrow's wine/beer and cheese gathering (downgraded from a cocktail party after we realized that we'd like to do this in a way as nice as possible with the least possible amount of work.)

O Canada!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Our Thanksgiving menu, in development

Here's what it looks like, so far:
  • Roast turkey
  • apple stuffing
  • baked sweet potatoes
  • roasted vegetables
  • maple-glazed carrots
  • crispy roast potatoes
  • cranberries with pears and ginger
  • salad
  • some sort of pasta thing, tbd (for Nick's kids)
We'll probably just buy bread and dessert. Matt is the most accomplished cook of the kids -- he'll be put to work independently. Liv can help (though her attention span is limited.) Nikki will help Nick (skills rudimentary) and Jamie has offered to help with cleaning, since cooking isn't in her wheelhouse. Lots of potatoes in the meal, as both a tribute to PEI's major crop and the fact that all our kids love potatoes, no matter how prepared.

In a couple of hours we'll head to Sobey's to shop (Liv loves that store so much that we are forbidden to go there without her.)

Should be a fun and unique Thanksgiving.

Matt gets punk'd

We got here without incident. Flights were on time and we managed to have fun during the layover in Montreal -- we perched in a cafe and talked and laughed. Got to PEI by 5, local time, and decided to have dinner at Brothers 2 before we went home. Over dinner, we started to tell Matthew what to expect at the house -- very basic, intermittent electricity ("did you bring candles?"), heat only on alternate days, no laundry, hard water, unfinished construction ("we're hoping it's done by now"), and that really it was best to think of the place as a trailer. As we neared the house we really had him going and he was asking why no one told him this and we said that was simple: he might not have come. He was pretty panicked as we turned the last corner, and we were laughing our heads off. Nick said he'd wanted to tell him but that I stopped him. Matt's anxious response: Nick -- I always liked you best.

Then we arrived, and walked in the front door. He was in equal measure blown away and relieved and immediately happy and at home. He took the tour and then made himself at home. He loved everything and once he relaxed said that he could imagine us spending less and less time in NY. Great fun.

We hung out a while and then the kids went downstairs to play darts and we went upstairs to read. For Nick a new book about infantrymen in the Second World War, for me the new book "Bright-Sided" by Barbara Ehrenreich.

It's about 8 a.m. now, and only Nick and I are up. We'll work out the Thanksgiving menu and then shop later.

It was a good travel day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How the pie came out

The Emperor Brutus

The Emperor Jones was astonishing. Brilliantly staged and acted and so intense that when it ended there was stone-cold silence; it took the audience a few moments to collect themselves and start what became thunderous and protracted applause. I loved it. Nick -- not so much, but that was because he was tired (woken by a car crash and concomitant dog barking) the night before, and because the seats were so uncomfortable (they were.) But wow. Wow. Wow.

Today stretches ahead. Nick and Holly are going to the park. I'm working and catching up, and then in the late morning I'll start an apple pie. It's Nick Malgieri's recipe and he's never steered me false. Then a lazy afternoon (during yesterday's lazy part of the afternoon we watched the new "Taking of Pelham 123" -- fun, diverting movie.) After that Liv has SAT tutoring and then we're off to dinner. I've got a running list of topics darting restlessly in my head: Liv's talent agent meeting, Matt's travels over the break and study-abroad plans, Holly, status updates. It'll be fine. If not fun, I'll take fine. I'm the only one among the three of us who isn't nervous. I feel the same way about it than I do about any meeting I attend (once you strip out my belief that any meeting I'm in is my meeting -- hmmm, wonder where Liv gets it from.)

We'll also probably do some pre-packing for Canada, though Nick and I have brought and left so much up there that we can pack light. What a pleasure that is.

Let the healthcare reform debate begin!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Week's end

So Liv has a meeting with the talent agency on 12/7. She's breathless with excitement, though from her comments and questions it's clear that she thinks this is her meeting, which of course it is not. When I told her she was being seen for print, her comment was: "but I don't want to do print! By the way, what is print?"

By the 7th -- a day we hope won't live in infamy -- she'll have spent some time with Jen to prep her and she should be ready. Timing's nice in that we have our 3-way dinner tomorrow night with her dad and the more good things that happen for her the easier it should be. Maybe, marginally. I'll play the connective-tissue fill-in-any-conversation-gaps role, which isn't much of a stretch for me.

This weekend should be lovely. We were meant to have dinner last night with Lamia and Mirwan, but they had houseguests so we're rescheduled for a few weeks. Tonight we go to see The Emperor Jones at the Irish Rep -- very psyched. And of course dinner tomorrow. I'll be doing as much take-out as eat-in (we're going to Ben's): a sandwich for Nick and a bunch of stuff for Matt, who'll get here Tuesday night for our journey up north.

All the kids are so excited for our trip, which is delightful. We fly Wednesday morning.

I'm circling in on scheduling the hip replacement surgery. We're aiming for mid-to-late January at HSS and I'm waiting for specifics.

And the beat goes on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I go to the doctor

We went yesterday to see Jose. I expected a review and conversation about my three options, but that wasn't how it went. He did an exam, showed me the xray from the arthrogram and said I really have no choice but the hip replacement -- that what I have is a very arthritic hip and nothing else will work. He explained -- and this helped me understand -- that the damaged labrum actually caused this arthritis to develop so quickly and so severely.

Before we could even ask questions he anticipated and answered (most of them.) Time in hospital: 3 days. Time out of work: 3-4 weeks. Restrictions after recovery: none except for the most extreme yoga positions. Implant material: titanium and ceramic. Location and length of scar: he showed us. Length of surgery itself: about an hour and a half. Hospitals where he operates: Lenox Hill and HSS, my choice. Length of time the implant will last: 20+ years.

There were a few things he didn't explain and I didn't ask: what the rehab is like, for one, but there will be time for that. The discussion was quick, and most of the info just swirled around me and didn't penetrate. That's happening now. So I'll think about it for a day or so and then call to schedule. I really don't have any choice: the status quo is intolerable and nothing else is guaranteed to work. This is.

Film at 11.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Liv gets a bite

From an agent, who received the comp card from Jen today. It all happened quickly: Liv came to the office, visited with Jen, who emailed the card to CESD (happily also Liv's boyfriend's agent), who liked what they saw and want to schedule a meeting. Liv's feet haven't touched the ground since 6 this evening when we found out.

And Matt's study-abroad efforts are progressing. He's successfully clearing the hurdles of the process, and all signs point to a semester in Shanghai followed by a semester in Manchester. His timing is impeccable, given the role and importance of China in the world. Also very very cool. The timing of his interests has been unerring lately: for a career he wants to work in public policy specializing in education and health care. Could he be interested in anything more relevant?

Both these developments are very cool and very exciting. I'm so psyched for them both. And it should make our upcoming Thanksgiving trip smoother and more cheerful.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Another week, full and rich

It's been an interesting, meaty week. Very productive, from a work point of view, and busy from dawn til dusk. Some events of note include:

Last night

We had a lovely evening. Nick and I met at a bar called the Carnegie Club for a couple of glasses of wine before dinner. It's actually a smoking bar (Mayor Bloomberg, are you listening?) and once the place filled up it had an atavistic quality. Dark and smoky, the place was inviting. Apparently there's a dress code, and Nick was quietly chided for not wearing a collar. But they were subtle about it, so it was fine. From there we went to dinner at Beacon, a Waldy Malouf restaurant, all about grilling and wood roasting. Quite good. The main event was a production of Synge's play "The Playboy of the Western World" at City Center. We were pleasantly surprised (one review I read called it "ponderous") at how light and witty it was. Nicely done and we really enjoyed it. Overheard a woman next to us say that she was seeing "The Emperor Jones" next week, which was amusing because so are we. We liked this theater. Even though it's part of City Center it's a small, intimate venue (it's Stage II.) This was the first play in a four-play series that also includes upcoming plays by GBS and others, and we may do a subscription for the rest.

Today and tonight

We leave mid-day for NJ to attend a wedding: it's the daughter of someone I work with. Should be fun -- we'll get all dressed up and go play there. Liv has a concert tonight. She's seeing Peaches (who?) at Terminal 5. Tomorrow will be lower-key than the rest of the weekend. We have no plans save a house visit from Linda and a new client. Otherwise it'll be a hang-out day, and instead of doing our usual Sunday night cooking we'll go have Indian food, which Liv has had a poorly-concealed hankering for all week.

Three choices, all bad

I spoke with Jose (hip ortho) on Tuesday evening. This was our first chat since last Friday's x-ray guided injection. For all the subtlety and sophistication of medicine this measure seemed pretty basic -- gross, not fine. If the shot gives pain relief, then the problem is in the hip. If no relief, then not the hip. Hmmm. Jose said I have three choices, and in his words they all suck. They are:

a. do nothing and live with this a while
b. have another arthroscopy and see if there's a new tear
c. have a hip replacement

As aggressive and scary as option c sounds, it has more logic behind it. Option a is a Hobson's choice -- no choice at all. Option b is a half-measure; if there's no tear or anything else that can be addressed arthroscopically it will have been a waste. Option c at least guarantees that the hip pain will disappear, with the hip. I'm going to see him during the week so we can talk it though. I'll probably get another opinion, though that seems to be a fool's errand. Orthopedics follows a protocol which begins with the least aggressive treatment and moves inexorably to the most aggressive, though most people get relief along the way.

And I've done everything -- everything -- that the protocol calls for. This includes the most benign options like nsaids and mild painkillers, to physical therapy. It includes the medium-range options like injections of cortisone, both in the bursa and in the joint itself. And finally I've done the most aggressive of the least-aggressive options (also the gateway to major interventions): arthoscopic surgery. There are simply no other options available. But I'll get another opinion, see Isis (Joe's witch doctor) and do anything else that seems responsible and sober before I make the decision. But like political non-apology apologies, this is starting to seem like a non-decision decision.

More to come.

A military promotion

Whitney got a promotion! She's no longer a private first class -- now she's a specialist. We'll have to address the letters and packages differently, and we'll tuck in a congratulations gift in the next shipment.

Two other things of note:

I heard about this on Countdown, and immediately signed up. At the facebook site I saw lots of people I know, and this was definitely an effort worth supporting.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels

I've never even thought about Kate Moss, let alone quoted her, but I saw this on huffingtonpost and found it a pithy way to express how I feel about eating. Well done, Kate.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Holly's facebook

Here are Holly's friends, courtesy of one of the regular park-goers. He has trouble remembering her name, but here she is with her crew:

Such a beautiful morning

What a joy to wake up this morning and learn that the bill passed the House! I woke up early -- 5 or so -- and started wondering what had happened over night. I couldn't stay in bed any longer because my curiosity got the better of me. It's a great leap forward (use of that Maoist phrase amuses me, but not as much as when I hear a Republican use the words "let a thousand flowers bloom.")

Yesterday was a great day; lots of fun. We got done everything we needed to, including stopping at the jeweler to see if they could replace the earring I lost on the plane to SF two weeks ago. We hung out with Liv and Jon, played much Scrabble (Nick won one game and I won four -- as always he hates it when he wins because of what has historically always come next: crushing defeat.)

Saw a movie we really enjoyed -- The Informant. Very well done. Liv was encouraging us to see Where the Wild Things are, but we went our own way.

I was wrong about the percentage of pain reduction the anesthetic provided. It was one of those "you don't know what you got till it's gone" things. When it wore off and as the doc said I was back to my baseline, I realized how much relief I'd really gotten. Not 33% -- more like 5--60%. Nick is hopeful that what we now recognize as two problems (hip and back) can be addressed conservatively: the hip via cortisone which should make it easier to do rehab for my back. It would be great if he were right, but after a year and a half of this it's hard not to be skeptical. But we'll see.

Today will be fun, just fractured. Nick's taking Holly to the park now, and I'll do some work. Midday he'll leave for the island and I'll meet Sarah. Liv has SAT tutoring early afternoon and then we'll go on the (dreaded) errand to Verizon. When we're all back we'll cook dinner: I'm making the salami rosemary bread Nick and Liv love, and he'll make a great Sunday sauce for pasta. We're packing up stuff to send Whitney, and I heard from our boy soldier, who seemed down because of the mail delays. We'll wait till he gets package #1 before we ship more. Whitney has no problems with mail (and certainly not with email.)

More to come.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I'll see you in health! (Thanks, Steven Colbert)

The latest? I went to Lenox Hill Radiology yesterday for the hip injection. The place and people didn't have the same warm-bath-you're-in-good-and-caring-hands as some other facilities I've gone to. The big city hospital feeling gave me more of a sense of being processed than cared for.

It was quick -- a couple of small injections (all of which I felt) followed by the larger needles with the anesthetic, the cortisone and the dye. The anesthetic worked instantly, and I walked out of the hospital with less pain than I had when I entered. The doc said that'll last a day (it's already gone) but that the steroids will kick in anywhere between two and five days later.

I estimate about a 33% reduction in pain, which means I suppose that my problem is 33% in my hip, the remainder in my back. This week I'll speak with hip guy, and encourage a meeting between him, spine guy and me. We'll see if they're open to it.

But it's the weekend. We have stuff to do to catch up on errands and to-do's. We may go to a movie tonight, and tomorrow Nick will see Jamie (to tell him what he already knows: that she doesn't want to go back to college but instead wants to go to beauty school and learn to do hair), and I'll meet Sarah for coffee to catch up.

When Liv is awake and alert (which will be many hours from now) I'll talk to her about arranging our three-way get together with her dad, which I want to happen in the next couple of weeks, before Thanksgiving.

No, it can't be because of our gun laws

Horrifically violent week. The tragedy of Fort Hood is beyond comprehension, and then to find that there were two incidents (Orlando, Waukesha) that came hard on the heels of the massacre is beyond imagination.

Whitney wrote me about their take on Fort Hood:

that is madness. the army is now going to organize some time of class that is going to be mandatory monthly to add on to the suicide prevention classes and i'm sure there is going to be a lot of madness going on in the structure of the army too. See whenever incidents like this happen the army takes action but it isn't always the greatest action... it's going to be pointless whatever they decide to do but they will think its going to help. I'm sorry but i don't really believe suicide prevention classes will help to much, if someone has it in their head they are going to off themselves and its not just to get attention, they will do it. Unbelievable that this man just hauled off and massacred a bunch of soldiers who were at an SRP center! I'm dumbfounded and its so terrible that we are hear and nothing that bad is happening but now we have to worry about what nut bags are in the states.

A thorough nightmare. And it was a dreadful week in other ways (if not for us personally.) The teabaggers and their hate, the instant reaction of right-wing talk radio to the tragedy, the rise of the conservative movement and the melding of them with the remaining shreds of the GOP -- it's odious.

The tea party movement reminds me of nothing so much as George Orwell's 1984, always one of my favorite books. There have been Orwellian connections in government and politics for some time, particularly during the Bush administration, with its doublethink, perpetual warfare and the use of fear to unite the country. But it's the hate that brings 1984 to mind -- the way that the party transformed everyone's desires and passions into fear and loathing and then harnessed that hate in service of the state. It's the Two Minutes Hate, all day and night. People on the right are exploiting fear and hate, but let's see what happens: once you've created a mob and whipped it into fury, it's hard to control.

Canada looks better and better.

Friday, November 6, 2009


It's been a good week. Busy on all fronts -- my work, Nick's work, Liv's school -- but productive and with the right momentum. Liv's school concert was Wednesday night at a church near Lincoln Center. My parents joined me for the event, and it was absolutely wonderful. The choruses sang a range of classical songs, peppered with a few traditional spirituals and one pop song (the very cute Build me up buttercup.) All together a great evening.

Tonight we were meant to go see the Royal Family, but my diagnostic hip injection was rescheduled for this afternoon, so I gave away our tickets to my new assistant. It wasn't the play we were most looking forward to (that distinction is currently held by the new production of O'Neill's "The Emperor Jones") so it was an easy decision to make.

It'll be a nice, easy weekend. Errands and other stuff we're behind on because we were away last weekend. Lots of playing time and hanging out time. Liv's going tonight to what she ironically refers to as the world premier of her boyfriend's film -- the movie he and his friends made during their summer program at the NY film academy. Nick is having brunch with his daughter Jamie on Sunday, and I may see Sarah for coffee.

Spoke at length to Matt yesterday, and he sounded better than he has since he parachuted in to Amherst. He got the swine flue vaccine because the school identified him as high risk. He was funny -- said the shot had no side effects save one: he was suddenly filled with undying love for President Obama and a desire to work for him in any way he could. I laughed my head off.

He's much more focused in his academic and career interests: he wants to work in policy on education and health care. I'm impressed. And he's got a girlfriend. Nothing improves your mood like a new relationship. She also has a circle of friends he really likes, who are (of course) politically engaged. So all good on that front.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How we almost won $30,000 CDN, but didn't

Nick bought Canadian scratch-off games -- we play them here all the time, particularly the Scrabble-like ones. He bought one we'd never seen, based on Boggle. Very confusing but we thought we figured it out. When we finished the ticket and scratched the boxes that seemed to indicate what we'd won, we were shocked. One box said $3 (ok), one said $75 (nice) but the astonishing one was the box that said $30,000. Nick was so excited he could barely breathe. I held my excitement, just in case. I think he was already spending the money in his mind, and we decided to go to the nearest Kwik-way to find out. Our heads were filled with math -- splitting the money, guessing at taxes. The clerk at the shop scanned the card and told us we'd only won the $3 -- apparently we accidentally scratched one of the wrong boxes. It was an exciting 10 minutes, anyway. Nick didn't feel better when the clerk said he'd had a recent customer with a similar experience who ended up winning nothing -- at least we had the $3. The receipt for that win now lives in our memory box, to remind us of our folly. And there was a clue that we missed; if we'd noticed we'd have known we couldn't have won. The ticket said the max prize was $30,000 -- our supposed winnings totaled $30,078. It was all there in front of us but we missed it. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

The rest of the weekend was great. Halloween was fun. Susan came over for drinks, and we had a great time. Then the official trick-or-treat window opened, and we had about 30 kids. We suspect that fear of swine flu suppressed the normal activity. Everyone we talked to was worried about the flu, and in everything we read while we were away it seemed the entire country was obsessed.

We left Sunday morning, on a 6:00 a.m. flight. Brutally early -- that's how our day began. The alarm went off at 3:30 but we were both already awake. Of course we were happy at the other end of the trip when we were home before noon and had the whole day (though we were a little too tired and foggy to really enjoy it.) But a great weekend. We also did some pre-planning and pre-shopping for our November visit. We're going to have a little cocktail party and invite everyone we know (pretty short list, but it's a start) over for drinks and snacks.