December 31, 2009
Made it to Nawlins! My buddy Myron actually ended up here the night before because he mixed up the dates (doh!) so he was here when I got here. Was a rainy day and night in the Big Easy, but it was easy to see how things were ramping up for new years, especially with Bearcat and Gator fans in for the Sugar Bowl. A plane full of fans makes for an unusually upbeat travel experience. Our attempt at grabbing some muffalettas was thwarted by a broken oven, so we settled for poboys instead, still not a bad first meal in New Orleans (as if any meal is ever bad here). We couldn't be any more central - our apartment is the place with the red door in the middle pic; right next to the Clover Grill and across the street from the bar. We can't help but stumble out into the middle of everything. I was pretty exhausted from the travel and never getting myself on an east coast schedule, so it was hard getting out last night (even though it was only a few steps out the door!), but once we did it was a fun night of beer, kareoke, and crazy characters that New Orleans always somehow manages to bring out.
Posted by Jon Berry at 12:34 PM
December 29, 2009
Nice day hangin out with my sister and nephew today in Baltimore - started with a haircut, which was needed (well, in my opinion at least) and then to a batting cages/baseball clinics place for Sumner to check out; then we headed to Fells Point, where I seemed to remember having my first sushi at John Stevens, oh, 15 years ago (shut up). First we got distracted by this large structure that turned out to be the gateway to a cemetery, and in true Baltimore fashion, were greeted by a raven flying over and landing on one of the gravestones. We made it down to Fells Point, but John Steves looked a little too nice from the outside, so we popped into Bertha's for some mussels and hot cider instead. On the way back home, we stopped briefly (it was freezing!) at the Miracle on 34th Street, a block of rowhouses that goes all out in their decorations for Christmas. A good locals-ish kinda tour with a Bawlmer accent, to be traded in tomorrow for a Nawlins one.
December 28, 2009
December 26, 2009
Our Christmas ritual is fairly typical. The only difference in recent years is that everyone sleeps later now that the kids are in high school and college. No complaints from me on that one. For once Mom wasn't the last one to bed - she beat both me and Dad. The main thing that keeps us up is presents left to wrap, but one thing on Mom's list every year is preparation for the breakfast casserole that has become a Christmas tradition. Its nothing fancy, and its just out of a newspaper, but its damn good. Here's the recipe in case you want to make it a tradition of your own:
1 lb mild sausage
2 cups milk
3 slices bread, cubed
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
Prepare the night before serving: lightly brown sausage and drain (press between paper towels until ALL grease is gone). Beat eggs and milk together and season with salt and dry mustard. Spray 9x13 Pyrex dish with Pam and layer above ingredients as follows: cubed bread, sausage, cheese. Pour egg mixture over this. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Serve immediately.
December 24, 2009
A few shots from our family's Christmas Eve. We went down to my sister Jayne's place in Harrisonburg for a huge traditional Christmas eve dinner cooked by Jayne and her husband Mark, and some presents with their family. Then back home to do all the late night last minute Christmas gift wrapping. Mom and I wrapped up around 5am with Dad still working on his as we left the stockings hung by the fireplace. To me, Christmas is not a time for posting coded religious messages, but a time to wish that whatever the holiday is for you, its a happy one. And a time to thank you for spending some time here with me this year. Merry Christmas.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:29 PM
December 23, 2009
Just a couple highlights from the last couple days in Virginia... I went with my folks to a party outside of town on Tuesday night, the main feature of which was a series of rooms decorated in different colors and themes in a pretty elaborate manor as part of a charity fundraiser. Earlier that day I had also noticed a comment on facebook that my friends George and Joe (whose wedding I went to in Boston a few weeks ago) were on their way from Jersey to North Carolina. I messaged that they should come visit in VA, figuring it understandably wouldn't fit in their schedule or route - but to my pleasant surprise, it actually did. So today they came through town and stopped for some lunch and a visit with the folks. Its kind of odd to see real friends in this environment, it definitely made a nice twist to being home for Christmas. And then later I went out with my niece and nephew to wrap up some late Christmas shopping, ending up at none other than Walmart well after midnight. I'm really not sure which of the three experiences was more surreal. Welcome to Winchester.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:53 PM
December 21, 2009
Back in Virginia for the holidays, but here are a few last slivers of Sunday in LA. Maybe its the snow or just the small town, but it really feels so far away. And quiet without the ocean waves. Sunday I squeezed in a fun trip with friends to see Charles Phoenix's Retro Holiday Slideshow at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. If you ever get the chance to see him, its great kitschy fun. Then spent the night and whole plane trip here working on some stuff for a project that turned out to be for naught. argh. At least I learned my lesson from that last flight on American and booked it on Virgin America this time, so the flight was a joy (except for working the whole duration. But at least their seats have power outlets!) blah blah. Now just a few more days of stress til Christmas...
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:38 PM
December 19, 2009
I mentioned in a traveltip a while back to be sure that you have signed up for a Frequent Flyer account for any and every airline you ever fly on. There's nothing to lose, and you may be surprised how miles can bank up over time. My European trip airfare as well as a couple others every year are always paid for with frequent flyer miles. Something I need to write more on is making a concerted effort to build up miles in a single account. This is how I pay for my overseas travel - while they aren't my favorite airlines, I recommend choosing one of the larger legacy airlines for this. For many reasons, I happen to have chosen Delta because it offers the most options for my preferred European travel spots as well as the best options for using miles for me. Regardless of which airline, online Christmas shopping offers you a time to earn a lot of miles for money you may already be spending. Nearly every airline has a miles shopping site. If you enter a merchants site by going through their shopping site, you will get miles for your purchases. For instance, say I wanted to buy a $20 item from Barnes & Noble. If I go to the Delta Skymiles Shopping site and then click on Barnes & Noble, it takes be to barnesandnoble.com, but when I purchase the item, I also get 120 miles (B&N currently is giving 6 miles per dollar) credited to my Delta account. Bonus. Most merchants offer 2-3 miles per dollar, but if you do some hunting, you can find the best option for whatever it is you are looking to buy. I have also been surprised by the merchants that participate - from large retailers like Apple and Best Buy to fairly obscure small specialty places. Use the search bar anytime you are about to buy something - search the item, or the merchant name, or a keyword. Beyond just Christmas shopping, you can even use this for regular items you buy anyway (drugstore.com, target, etc) or office supplies (staples, officemax, etc) to help build your miles account. The trick is remembering to do it - which I admit that I'm not good at. If you already shop online, there's no reason not to. Its a great way to get something back (beyond the joy of giving, of course.)
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:37 PM
December 17, 2009
I hate December. I was going to write a post apologizing for the lack of posts and explaining that I just can't come up with anything to write. I realized it's because I've been so overwhelmed lately by a project that just isn't going well and on top of that being completely behind on dealing with stuff for Christmas, which just adds to the overwhelmed feeling. But come to think of it, it seems like its this way every December. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and going home to see the family and events like the fireworks that happen every year, but it always seems like its such a busy month that it becomes day upon day of stress and always feeling more and more behind. I end up guiltily turning down Christmas parties and other events (who has time for that?!); neglecting things like the gym because of time, and then feeling run down and guilty because of it; and always just plain being overwhelmed by these vicious cycles that feed on each other. ack. I got yer Merry right here. In the last few days I've returned back to my Diet Pepsi addiction. I guess there are worse things I could turn to. And I certainly have friends dealing with much bigger problems than I have, so I have no room to bitch. I'm back in Virginia in a few days. At least the change of scenery should make for better blog reading. Bear with me.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:34 PM
December 16, 2009
December 14, 2009
Sunday was one of my favorite events of every year, the Holiday Fireworks in Manhattan Beach. This year was probably the best and most fun of any of our years of going. We always end up rushed to try and have dinner and get to the show on time. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me to start early and make a day of it before, but this year we planned it as a mini-pub crawl way and it couldn't have worked out more perfectly. Three of us kicked off the day at Noon with the bloody mary bar at Sharkeez before biking down to (my favorite) Simmzy's down by the pier, where the group continued to grow unexpectedly (but happily) to 11 or 12 of us. Just before the fireworks we ventured out to the crowd, but walked right down to a virtually empty parking lot at the base of the pier (and right by the speakers). It was the perfect spot for an amazing fireworks show set to Christmas music. The great show didn't end our night: we moved on to Ercole's, Manhattan Beach's oldest bar to cap our night (well, if you don't include the stop at the Kettle diner afterward.) But it really wasn't about where we went as much as the people - it was the best group we've had - and I don't think anyone (including me) knew everyone in the group before that day, yet everyone was open and friendly and a whole barrel of fun. It was like an old group of pals getting back together. I managed to take about 230 pics in the course of the night - everyone is laughing in every one of em.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:39 PM