Sunday, August 29, 2010


I am really behind in my blogging, so let me just give you a few updates from the last few weeks.

On our last day in Visalia, we spent a lot of quality time with the family, first by visiting the grandparents and then with a family dinner with Henry, Susan, David, Monica and Michela. I always tell Dan that he is so incredibly lucky that all of his four grandparents are still in great health and spirits. (All of my grandparents are long deceased and I never had the opportunity to meet either of my grandfathers). Throughout the day, I decided to take a portrait of all four grandparents, and when I came back to work, my co-worker Kara showed me how to make a nice collage in Photoshop. Here is how it came out:

You can click on it to make it bigger. What do you think? Technically it is not perfect, but I love having a picture of all four of them together. I think it's kind of funny that the men in white are facing one way, the women in florals facing the other. Completely unplanned. I am thinking I might do a portrait collage of my own family. It's fun.

The following weekend, I headed to NJ with my friend Meagan and her mom Kris for a good old fashioned barbecue. Meagan loves to coming to visit me in NJ so much that when her mom was coming to visit NYC from Michigan, she asked if we could do a barbecue at my mom's place. I am glad she initiated the idea because then my mom invited Pete and Annette and it became a nice little family gathering. I haven't seen my brother since the wedding! Because I wrote in my blog that we enjoyed visiting LA, everyone in my family was acting like we had already made the decision to move out West and my mom even gave me her blessing! We haven't made any decisions people! This week, we watched Spike Lee's New Orleans documentary "If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise," which revitalized Dan's desire to live there (his thought: I can fix things!) and decreased my own (my thought: wow, things there are still pretty messed up!). And we're still talking about staying in NYC for a bit longer. So like I said, we haven't made any decisions yet. Believe me, you will be the first to know.

We were super lucky this weekend to be blessed with the presence of Emily Jackson who was making a pit stop in NYC from Switzerland for the weekend before heading out to Los Angeles. She said she was delirious and tired but was such a joy and burst of energy. We met up with her and Adam and Nell at Congee Village for a delicious Asian feast, and then we grabbed some beers and headed to Adam and Nell's rooftop. I think Emily is pretty happy to be back in the States.

Have you ever seen anyone more excited to get a six pack of Magic Hat?

And lastly, there is a new Kunka! Clayton James (CJ) Kunka born this weekend. We both guessed the baby would be a boy and we were right! Strangely, they didn't call him Luther, which was my Dan's suggested name for him.

Congrats to Dan and Jacey. What a cutie.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A party & a ghost

Dan said I shouldn't bring my camera to the west coast reception reasoning that since we'd be the guests of honor, everyone would be taking pictures of us. I don't remember one person asking us to pose together, and I think there is one picture of us from that night out there, taken by Dan's Uncle Jim, and this is it:

So I have no pictures to share with you. I think everyone was having too much of a good time to take pictures, so it's not the worst thing in the world...(though if you ever come by our place, I can show you this funny little photo album from the party we got in the mail from Bob and Jan Parkman).

So basically how this party came about is that when it became clear that we wouldn't be able to invite ALL of our favorite people to our New Orleans wedding, Dan's parents decided to host a second reception for their friends and family in Visalia, including Dan's grandparents who couldn't make it to the wedding. It was great because Susan and Henry took care of everything, and Dan and I just had to show up and look nice. Dan wore a bow-tie! I wore the white dress!

Dan's parents did an amazing job in choosing this cool little restaurant called The Lunch Box as the venue. It was a festive evening of yummy food, people meeting and greeting (a lot of new faces and names for me!), New Orleans jazz music (thanks to the mix Dan worked so diligently on in the last few weeks), California wine with labels that had our names on them and the most important part to any good party: a wonderful assortment of desserts including a yellow cupcake tower! Thanks to my in-laws for planning such a memorable and lovely party!

After the reception was over and only the LA friends and Brett Jackson (now an LA friend) remained, we decided to end the night at Visalia's all-time famous haunt (literally!): Fly's grave. Since I have known Dan, he has told me stories about Fly's grave and about being chased down by "the light" of Fly's ghost. Even though I have been to V-town a few times now, this was a part of the tour that I only heard about and not seen....until now.

So according to Dan, this is how it was supposed to go down. We'd get to the cemetery, walk to the back and there would be a gravestone that said FLY on it. We would then knock on the stone and say "FLY FLY FLY FLY" and then hold hands and walk out of the cemetery together, and the trick is YOU CAN'T LOOK BACK. You get into your car and drive onto the main road and that is where you see a red light coming toward you. It's FLY from beyond the grave!

We all packed into two cars and drove to the cemetery, some of us with butterflies in our stomachs. (Usually I am a big scaredy cat, but I wasn't nervous at all). As we got close to the site, our plan was almost foiled when we got to a police checkpoint where they stopped all the cars on the road in case of drunk driving. Of course, our drivers were sober, but the police made some of us even more nervous and then Dan got a little disorientated. It was really dark. We drove too far and then turned around, and then we drove into someone's property--obviously not the right place. Just when this happened, some headlights appeared from behind out of nowhere. Was it the owner? Were they on to us? And that's when Ara appeared at the window, scaring the crap out of us. Apparently he came from the other car to tell us we were in the wrong spot but the sight of a man approaching the car made us freak the F out.

We finally found the cemetery, but were afraid that the car with the headlights would follow (it didn't). The sky was pitch black with billions of sparkling stars. We walked through the graveyard, speaking in hushed tones, until we reached Fry's headstone near the back. (Have to say, first time I have EVER been at a graveyard at night). We shined our cell phones over the tombstone to make sure it was the right one. At the same time, we all knocked on the stone and chanted and then holding our breaths (or so it felt!), we held hands and walked back to the cars.

We drove to the main road, and when we turned off, all we saw were the other LA crew's car's lights behind us. We thought to kill the lights but the road was kind of busy, there was no real shoulder and we were afraid of getting hit, so after a minute of not seeing anything, we shrugged our shoulders and drove off. So everyone in our car didn't see a thing. But it was fun.

The whole escapade felt like something out of high school; it reminded me of being a teenager again, driving around with a bunch of friends, laughing and doing stupid stuff. (You have to remember in NYC, it's very rare to drive anywhere unless you are in a taxi, so probably the last time I did this WAS in high school!) In a way the experience was better now because when I was 16, I was too afraid of getting in trouble to have any fun. In true teen style, we ended the night at Taco Bell (because we were SOOO hungry after all that delicious food at the reception...yeah right. We were just being pigs) and that's when we found out the kids in the other car saw the light. Remember, no one was behind them on the road.

So believe it or not, my friends. We have proof. FLY'S GHOST DOES EXIST!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Michela's Baptism

On the morning of our west coast reception, my niece Michela celebrated her baptism.

At 14 months, Michela was the biggest baby there (most of the other kids were only a few months old). But she was also the cutest. Look at that dress!

Parents David and Monica and godparents Dan and Francesca watch the priest pour holy water on her head. Watch the hair!

Dan's shining moment.

All smiles.

Look who's a big girl now. We learned at the after-party that Michela is going to be a big sister! David and Monica are expecting their second child in March.

My kind of girl. Michela dives into the cake.

My kind of man. Of course, Dan requested the slice with the big flower.

Michela didn't want her picture taken. Dan feels her pain.

Me and little miss M.

Father and daughter.

Dan and David shoot some hoops in 100 degree heat, GQ style.

He shoots, he scores!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

LA Story

Last weekend, Dan and I went to Visalia for our second wedding reception, but we first stopped in Los Angeles for a half-day. The visit, I have since figured out, seemed innocent enough, but it was actually a giant propaganda plan formulated by our west coast friends to make Dan and me want to move to the West Coast.

They did a good job. Pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty good.

First Ara and Sandy picked us up at the airport and took us to their adorable home (wait, not everyone lives in a cramped one bedroom apartment?) and proceeded us to feed us "meat pop-ems" made by Ara's mom especially for us. Well, especially for Dan. Considering he came up with the name. Meat pop-ems are essentially ground beef wrapped in fried tortillas. Once you start, you just can't stop, and we had quite a few as a midnight snack.

The next morning, we met up with Brett who, with Emily, is moving from Switzerland to Los Angeles!!! If that is not incentive to move out west, I don't know what is. We had a lovely breakfast in Silverlake and then we helped him look for apartments. (Emily is still in Switzerland wrapping things up). Wait, you can get a spacious place with multiple rooms, two baths and with outdoor space for $1,400? Oh, we see how it goes.

The Kunkas joined us for "lunch" at Diddy Riese, a place that Dan has been telling me about, oh, since the moment we've met. Every time we've been to LA, he always forgot to take me. This time I wouldn't let him forget. And yes, it was worth the ten year wait. At Diddy Riese, you make your own ice cream sandwiches. That's right, you pick the freshly baked cookie (chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, peanut butter, whatever) and your choice of ice cream flavor and you have your own piece of heaven for a buck fifty! Seriously, why isn't there a place like this EVERYWHERE, like my backyard? (Oh yeah, I don't have a backyard). It's brilliant!

Waiting in line at Diddy Riese.

Jacey convinced me to go "classic:" chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream.

I was not disappointed.

The Kunkas couldn't make it to V-town because they are expecting a baby in a matter of weeks! We don't know if it is a boy or girl.

Only in LA: Multi-tasking goes to a new level.

After filling up on ice cream, Ara, Sandy, Brett, Dan and I drove three hours to get to Visalia and see my in-laws and our west coast fam.

Michela got so big!

Dan had a wish list of what he wanted to eat in Visalia, so our first night, the whole family had dinner at Colima.

The Italian cousins are visiting Visalia for a month and got a kick of the Mexican food.

Ara and Sandy, our LA hosts and chauffeurs. Thanks guys!

Brett, Dan and Ara on Main St., Visalia.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Second Line

One of the best things about living in New York City is that you really do have everything at your fingertips. Sure, we may not live anywhere near New Orleans, but that won't stop us from joining in on a Second Line! That's right. On Sunday evening, Dan and I followed the Souls Rebels Brass Band in a bone fide New Orleans-style Second Line from W 58th St all the way to Lincoln Center....for FREE. It was pretty bad ass!

Of course, I wanted to photograph the whole thing which really utilized my beginner skills to the max. First of all, there were people everywhere so getting a nice and clean picture was nearly impossible. Second, I probably should have brought my zoom lens instead of the 50mm. I have gotten so used to the lightweight 50 that it's hard to part with, but in this case, I really needed more range. I know better for next time. Third, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to take pictures or be a part of the party. I saw a bunch of photographers running ahead to stand on top of stoops for awesome overhead vantage points. I knew their pictures would probably be better than mine, but I didn't want to stop dancing!

The New Orleans Indian getting ready.

She didn't crack a smile the entire time.

Parading down the street

All smiles.

The tuba player.

The Pirate.

Making a stop near the deli.

Hanky wavin'

View from above at Lincoln Center

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jersey Shore

Heather guessed right, the best day of the year is the one day when Dan takes me to the beach. (Orchard Beach didn't count). Usually we head to Long Beach because it's an easy train ride from Manhattan, but this year, Dan suggested we head down to the Jersey Shore which is a lot more effort because we have to take the train to my mom's and then drive a few hours. I was thrilled by his idea. The Jersey shore is so more my style, after all, I am still a Jersey girl at heart! Plus we got not one, but TWO barbecues at Mom's house on top of a day at the beach.

There are so many beautiful beaches in New Jersey (they are not all like Sleaze-Side--although that can also be fun in its own way). We opted to go to Ocean Grove, a tiny religious/lesbian/dry beach town (we don't get it either, but we love it) with Victorian houses, a wooden boardwalk, sandy beaches, two cupcake stores and some of the best and cheap ice cream.

We were surprised to see all these people there considering the last time we went there three years ago, the beach looked something like this.

We got a late start to the day because our car battery died before the trip started, and so it was nearly 1 'o clock when we got there. I spent most of the day reading and napping and I kind of forgot to go into the water. Dan went a few times. I did go on a walk and take some pictures.

Ah, the waves!

Ah, the waves again!

I kind of stalked the life guard stand.

There he blows!

And then I swear, this 18-year-old life guard started hitting on me and made me take all these pictures of his tattoos. This doesn't happen to me very often anymore. See what happens when you don't wear your ring to the beach?

Up in the air. (with a 1980's tint)

Main Street, Ocean Grove

Home too soon: Dan navigates the Garden State Parkway.

I am thankful for my one beach day but could you imagine if Dan suggested we spend a week by the beach? I would die with happiness! And he would die with boredom!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The best day of the year

The best day of the year is coming tomorrow. I can't wait! Do you know what happens????

Hint: The best day of the year doesn't always fall on August 7th!

Hill sprints

How do you you keep the romance alive after being together for so many years?

Yesterday, I invited Dan on a run hill sprints after work. He said yes even though he had already exercised that morning!

"Well, it's not often you invite me on an exercise date," he told me.

It was a hot and humid evening, still in the 80's, when we ventured out of our apartment and jogged to the nice big hill on E 91st St. Did you know that Dan refuses to run with his glasses so he can't see anything? I make fun of him every time.

When I invite Dan to workout with me, I am just looking for the camaraderie. But Dan always wants to be my coach: "Pick up your knees. Take longer strides. Be tough." He makes fun of my funky running form. I know I look dumb when I run, and I don't want him to tell me what to do, so I tell him so.

This hill seems impossibly long, and taking me about 50-60 seconds to sprint up it. We got into a pattern where I would start first and usually about halfway up, right around the time I feel like I am going to die, I can hear this little paddle of feet and see Dan breeze by me. Once he even turned around and flashed a smile. It took him 35-40 seconds to get up the hill. Even though it made me jealous, I am very happy that my man is more fit than me. I think it would be lame if he wasn't. Plus, he looked so nice and athletic and handsome running ahead of me.

I ran up and down 6 times; he did 8 times. And then we jogged home, and I made us spicy chicken sandwiches and sliced up watermelon for dinner.

If that's not true love, then I don't know what is.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Valentine to Glavin

When I went to our editor's apartment last week, I got to talking with our magazine intern, who I learned who not only goes to Syracuse University, but has the same magazine major as I did. We were talking about our common professors, and she informed me that one of my favorite teachers, Bill Glavin, died in May. I found out that he had lung cancer back in March, and I meant to send a card....hearing that news, what a punch in the gut.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I haven't many positive things to say about my experience at Syracuse, but the one thing that did keep me there was my major. I know it's hard to believe this now because my life feels so full, but when I say that I did not have any friends in college, I really do mean I did not have any friends. (okay, one...senior year). I was such a loner and spent all of my time studying. I was so quiet that my teachers didn't really notice me, but I loved my major and I adored my magazine professors, including Prof. Glavin.

I had him for two classes: Intro to Magazines and Magazine Article Writing. He had worked in the magazine industry years ago but was basically a writing teacher by profession. That was his passion. He just loved good writing and loved spreading his love of good writing. He told funny stories and had a good laugh. If he wasn't in the classroom, he'd be outside, shivering his ass off in the snow, smoking a cigarette. In the summers, he went fly-fishing in Montana. He loved The New Yorker and A River Runs Through It.

I was too shy to really say much to him, but I greatly valued his opinion, and I trusted anything he wrote on my papers. He was a fine editor, often scribbled nice things (keep writing! you're a great writer!), not only to me, but to everyone because he knew that writing was hard and the best way to make it better was to encourage it. I always imagined, to this day, if I ever wrote a book or a screenplay or whatever, he would be one of the first people I would send it to.

The last day of article writing class, which was one of my last classes in college ever, I remember he basically gave us a speech about life that left a big impression on me. I used to keep a journal during that time of my life and looked over the weekend if I had written about the speech. I had: "He basically told us to do what makes you happy. He said that only you can define your personal success and no one else can. There will be times in your life when you just have to follow your gut. Do it, even if everyone things you are wrong." His words meant a lot to me then and it means a lot to me now.

The last time we "spoke," I had emailed him about quitting my job and going to Europe. He immediately wrote back: "Congratulations! Your plans sound great. I am a great believer in pursuing passions, particularly for the young." He told me to keep in touch and said that my trip really interested him. He talked about how he was feeling sick and was taking medical leave but all he could think about was going back to teaching.

Even though we were never super close, I feel so sad about his passing. I found myself bursting into tears a few times. I think it's because when I think back to my time in Syracuse, I was so lonely and no one ever noticed me. And he is one of the few people who believed in me--even if it was just a little bit--and who I actually cared about in return. Years have gone by and I have a much better support system now than I ever did then. I haven't spoken to him in years. But I still, since I found out, I miss him having my back. It's like he was there all along, and I never felt it until he was gone.

Here is another nice tribute.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

You are what you eat

August 1st today, which according to Dan means that summer is almost over. Not true, I always say, but the last week slipped by so quickly, I did not have a moment to write.

So this is what's happening with me: Lots of Eating.

Last weekend, Dan and I spent Saturday night in Park Slope, where we enjoyed a barbecue with friends Meagan, Julie and Simon. Julie and Simon has the kind of apartment I openly drool about because there have an outdoor patio! a barbecue! vegetable plants! Oh, it my dream come true. Not to mention it has a lovely view of Manhattan.

This weekend, we hosted another group Brooklynites for dinner, this time at our place. Do you notice a trend where all of our friends live nowadays? Yeah, us, too. Anyway, our friends Annie and Mark and Heather and Willy hit it off at our wedding (two different worlds colliding!), so we hosted a triple date to bring everyone together again. (And Drake came too to make everything cute!)

I honestly can't remember the last time we hosted a dinner party, and it was so much fun to plan and prepare a meal from scratch, even though Dan totally freaked out on me about four minutes before our guests arrived because I completely smoked up the joint. (It's totally true. I totally did. You could barely see one end of the room from the other through the misty haze, and we have a really small room. This always happens when I put the oven too hot (even after cleaning it), and for the sake of good food, I like to pretend our oven doesn't do that. But it is a hard thing to get away with and Dan always finds me out. He's awfully clever.)

All of our guests were too polite to notice, and Dan later forgave me by saying that was one of the best dinners I've made (Why thank you, honey). I barely took any pictures and am regretful not to have any food pics or of one of Drake crashing out on our floor on a stack of pillows.

In case you are interested, the menu was chili corn custard squares for appetizer, a honeydew fresca for refreshment (plus plenty of wine), pork loin wrapped in pancetta (the smoke offender), my mom's style mashed potatoes, summer arugula salad with tomatoes, peaches and goat cheese, chocolate hazelnut gelato and a lime tart topped with blueberries and blackberries (inspired by the Nowaks, who sent us the tart pan the day before, thanks guys). The whole thing reminded me how much I love to entertain my friends, spend time with them and how I can't be heating up my oven like that anymore--though with food like that, it's so hard to resist.

The rest of this week, I worked overtime at a magazine sales meeting where I am now freelancing most of the time. I sat in meetings from 8am-6pm and then spent the rest of the night....eating. We went to two great restaurants I've never been Valbella (good) and Market Table (better). The coolest part about the meeting was that we got to visit the editor-in-chief's apartment for cocktails and it looked like one of those places you only see in a magazine. Oh wait, it was!

Unfortunately, I spent most of the sales meeting trying hard not to scratch myself. One week into taking my $450 ulcer medication, I suddenly got an allergic reaction and broke out into hives all over my body. My doc took me off the meds, the hives went away and the next steps to be determined next week. I am so mad about it, I don't even know what to say.

I am having major uploading issues, so no pictures today. So I leave you with that pleasant image of hives for the rest of your day. Okay, how about shirtless and buff French dudes doing a sprint workout in Central Park? That's a little better.