Lidia’s Again

For the second time in a week, I ate this afternoon at Lidia’s Kansas City, the Italian restaurant at which Tawn and I held our wedding reception.  Safe to assume I like the place.  The first visit was with colleagues.  This second visit was a lunch with family members, about 16 of us.

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Ava, previously the youngest great-grandchild in the family (pictured on the left with my mother) has been supplanted by Tommy, my cousin Alex’s son.  He’s pictured on the right with his mother and our grandmother.  It will be interesting to see how Emily and Ava react to no longer being the center of attention.  So far, so well…

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White bean and summer greens soup.  Flavorful broth and quite the kick from some chili flakes.

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Fried polenta squares with a dusting of Parmesan cheese.  Tasty but not oily.

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A roasted beet and peach salad my mother had.  What an interesting combination.

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A side of barley risotto.

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My entree – a rare beef panini (which wasn’t really a panini in the traditional sense) with fried onions and roasted bell peppers.  Potato salad on the side.  Pretty tasty.

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Homemade pasta trio.  I didn’t try these but everyone who had them really liked them.

Family members started arriving from out of town yesterday and will trickle in throughout the day today.  The big family reunion events are Saturday and Sunday.  I’ll try and get some pictures.

 

Happiness Flow Chart

Last week, Chris up in Toronto posted a happiness decision-making flow chart that I thought beautifully encapsulated life’s main lesson.  I thought I would share it with you here.

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I’ve been in meetings this week.  My boss, her boss, and one of my colleagues flew into KC to meet with me.  I’m flattered that they consider my rare visits to the US important enough to fly to meet me.  I’ll be in meetings through Thursday and then will have the weekend off for the family reunion.

In the meantime, the nieces wish I would stay home with them.  As she left for daycare this morning, Ava looked up at me and asked, “How many minutes do you have to work for today?”  Precious.

 

Lemonade Stand

Made it into Kansas City Saturday afternoon, greeted at the airport car rental return by two excited nieces.  By late afternoon the girls decided they needed to set up a lemonade stand.  Tray tables were set up by the curb, a pitcher of lemonade and a stack of cups placed on them.  Two handwritten signs advertised the goods and a portable stereo provided the tunes.

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Just opened for business with two enthusiastic entrepreneurs.

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Eventually, boredom sets in.  Few cars passing by and those that do, smile and wave but don’t stop to buy lemonade.  A neighbor walks by with her dogs, stops to chat for a while and donates fifty cents to the cause.

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Eventually, dad is pressed into service.  Another two neighbors come over and buy two cups of lemonade, paying a dollar and leaving their change as a tip.

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Eventually, Jasper is left to work the stand, looking forlornly for customers.  The day’s take: $1.50

 

Omaha

Before heading to Kansas City and the craziness that two young nieces can create, I drove north to Omaha for two days of acclimating to the American Midwest with Andy and Sugi.  (Better pics of the events on Andy’s blog.)  Since we first met a year ago when we were in the Omaha area for our wedding, Tawn and I have enjoyed having the opportunity to see Andy and Sugi several times, including in Taiwan last November.

Thursday evening shortly after I arrived, we headed out to Shucks Oyster Bar and Fish House to join Sugi’s sister, brother-in-law, and niece for Thursday Fish Taco Night.

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A dozen oysters on the half-shell.  Delicious.

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Fried fish tacos (also fried shrimp tacos) had a nice batter with just a hint of spice.  Different from the Baja-style fish tacos that I’m used to from San Diego, these were very tasty, too.

Thanks to a Tylenol PM, my second night in the US was a good one, sleeping straight through for about seven hours.  Sometimes I find that the best way to fight jet lag is to beat it into submission with some medication.  Sugi and Andy had both taken Friday off from work and we had a full day planned.  But first, some breakfast.

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Baily’s restaurant specializes in Eggs Benedict, including this type with a slab of tomato and thick slices of smoked bacon.  The eggs were perfectly cooked with a firm white and a golden liquid yolk.

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Our first stop was the Strategic Air and Space Museum a few miles west of town.  The museum focuses primarily on the history of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), the operational establishment in charge of America’s land-based strategic bomber aircraft and nuclear missiles until 1992, after which a military reorganization led to the closure of SAC.

As an aviation enthusiast, I found the museum very interesting.  Even people who aren’t so interested in aviation – Sugi, for example – enjoyed the visit as we went on a docent-led tour with Bob, a former Korean War pilot who had a wealth of information and a cute sense of humor.

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Andy and Sugi in front of the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane which is dramatically displayed in the museum’s entry lobby.  The museum has two hangars with about two-dozen aircraft displayed, many of which have been expertly restored.

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C-47 Skytrain, the military version of the classic Douglas DC-3 passenger aircraft.  Over 10,000 were built for World War II and General (later President) Eisenhower identified the C-47 as one of four pieces of equipment critical in winning the war.  The other three were the jeep, the bazooka, and the atom bomb.

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B-1A Lancer – This bomber was actually one of four prototypes built to test all of the systems before full production of the bombers – redesignated the B-1B – began.

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F-101B Voodoo – an all-weather fighter/interceptor designed to protect America from incursions over the North Pole from Russia.  Was also operated by the Canadian Air Force.

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B-17G Flying Fortress – A heavy bomber that was critical to America’s success in World War II.  More than 12,700 were made and more than 4,700 were lost in combat missions. 

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B-25N Mitchell – A medium bomber that was made famous by Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo, a 1942 surprise attack by 16 B-25 bombers launched from an aircraft carrier hitting five cities in Japan.  The success in this attack helped lift the sagging American morale in the wake of Pearl Harbor and damaged morale of the Japanese civilian population, who had been told that their homeland would never be reached by bombers.

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After a few hours at the museum, including a disturbing special exhibit about the Nazi’s eugenics experiments and extermination programs, we drove further west to Lincoln and visited the James Arthur vineyards.  Yes, wine in Nebraska!

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The tasting room (and the winery behind it) is located atop a small hill with a cute garden around it, the perfect place for an afternoon tipple.

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We tried tastings of a half-dozen different wines along with a sampling of local cheese produced by the University of Nebraska’s agricultural department.  The best of the James Arthur wines were the semi-sweet whites, the grapes of which are well-suited to this climate.  The reds were not as good.

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Beautiful skies and rolling fields of corn and soybeans lent a pastoral look to the passing landscape.

After the wine tasting we drove to Sugi’s parents’ house on the north side of Omaha.  Sugi’s sister was celebrating her birthday and I was fortunate enough to be invited along.  They live on 20 rural acres with a sweeping view of the countryside.

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Sugi’s mother prepared an elaborate dinner including baked lobster tails, grilled beef teriyaki, and clams boiled in a garlic-sake broth.  She didn’t want any pictures taken, but Andy and I both managed to snap a few shots.

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Sugi’s mother is passionate about horses and has two that she trains and shows.  Taylor, her niece, loves the horses and they seem equally fond of her, following her from the barn to the exercise yard.  They probably know that she usually comes bearing carrots!

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Taylor riding bareback on Callie, a beautiful 13-year old mare.  Lest you worry for her safety, Callie’s grandfather was standing in the back of the picture, cleverly hidden, holding her leg.

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Cowgirl Taylor is eager to ride the open range.

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Sunday morning after another relaxing night’s sleep Andy, Sugi, and I went for breakfast at WheatField’s, a local chain of German bakery restaurants.  The selection of baked goods was overwhelming.

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The cute indoor patio seating area, which was a bit over air-conditioned.

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Wanting to enjoy some fresh seasonal fruit I had the peach crepes for breakfast.  As pretty as it looks, the dish was a little disappointing.  The flavor was very one-dimensional and about one-quarter of the plate would have been more than enough.  The yogurt they drizzled on top wasn’t substantial enough to add anything to the overall flavor.

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Andy ordered a seven-piece serving of Ron’s Honey-Drizzled Fried Chicken.  It was really well-prepared and the honey does add a nice touch.  You’ll be glad to know that Andy did take a few pieces home.

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Sugi’s choice was probably the best – half egg salad and half chicken salad with a side of homemade chicken mushroom soup.  You can tell how cold it is in the dining room by noticing that a skin was already forming on the soup’s surface.

After that filling breakfast I hit the road for the three-hour drive back to Kansas City.  Thanks again to Sugi and Andy for a wonderful start to my visit.

 

Flight to Los Angeles

The flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles (and then on to Kansas City) was smooth, thankfully.  I flew EVA Air, a Taiwanese airline that I fly regularly.  Service was good, prices competitive, and the food actually was pretty tasty, too.

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Since I fly back to the US about twice a year, I qualify for “silver” status in their mileage program.  One thing I like about EVA, something that sets it apart from most airlines, is that silver tier status gives you lounge access.  When having to show up to the airport so many hours in advance and having long connection times, having access to a lounge is nice.  The picture above is the one in Bangkok, which is by far the nicest of the EVA lounges that I’ve seen.

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Good selection of food in the lounge, including this gaeng kiaw waan gai – sweet green chicken curry with rice.  Really tasty!

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In Taipei I had a four-hour connection and had some time to look at a display they have celebrating Taiwanese ceramic arts.

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This piece is called Skeletal Bottle, by New Zealander Peter Collis.  Beautiful, no?

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Beautiful serving bowls.  Wish I could have bought one.

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They have three pieces, one unglazed, one with the decoration partially painted, and a finished piece that has been glazed and fired.

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On my flight from Taipei to Los Angeles I had booked economy class, which on EVA’s 747 includes seating in the upper deck.  The seats up here have about 35 inches of pitch, versus 33 inches downstairs.  Compare that to 31 inches in economy class on most US and western airlines.  I asked for an exit row seat and got the “window” seat right next to the exit door.  Great legroom but no window.  Plus, there is a little “exit’ sign that was right above the armrest, and kind of restricted where I could put my arm.  Probably should have just stuck with the aisle seat I had a few rows forward.

Not complaining, though.  The seat was pretty comfortable, I was able to sleep about five hours on the eleven hour flight, and the selection of films was good.

 

Ann Landersish – What to Make of this Dilemma?

Just before heading to the US for my grandparents’ 90th birthdays, I received an interesting message in my inbox.  It seems I’m turning into an ersatz Ann Landers.  What advice would you give this guy, whom we will call Reader X?

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Long-lost relatives?

Hello Chris. You and Tawn both seem to have really insightful perspectives on life. I have been reading your blog for a few years. I never comment on your entries though. Hopefully your wisdom and advice will guide me through this dilemma. You could even post it on your blog to see how other readers would do in my situation. But please keep me anonymous. Thank you!

I have been taking road trips with this group of friends every summer (about 6 of them) for a few years. This year I was excluded and never invited. In fact I didn’t even know that they were on a trip until they updated their facebook statuses.

Considering all the planning and coordination involved, I am pretty sure they didn’t just simply forget to invite me.

My questions are:

1) Should I confront them or play dumb?
2) Should I even hang out with this group of friends anymore? I would think that by excluding someone deliberately was an obvious hint that they didn’t want that person in the group anymore. Would I appear clueless and stupid if I hang out with them again?

Now, I responded with some initial thoughts to Reader X, which I won’t share with you at the moment.  The next day, he replied with the following message:

Hi Chris. Thanks for the reply. … It would be great if you could present your readers my dilemma. Sorry I don’t mean to hijack your blog.  Your readers seem really mature and level-headed when facing life problems as well.

I decided to hear the truth so I messaged one of the girls in the group. I said “I can’t help but notice that I wasn’t invited on the trip. I’d like to know why. I’m prepared to accept any answer, but I want to hear it from you.”

She said it was thrown together quickly. But with hotel booking and coordinating each other’s schedule, it definitely didn’t happen spontaneously. In the past, they would plan the trips weeks ahead.

Then she said they only had one car. That explanation doesn’t really make sense because they know I have a car as well. Also why would they invite 6 people in the first place when the car could only accommodate 5. The explanation is clearly flawed.

So what now? Accept and believe. Or accept and move on?

So let’s put it to you, the “mature and level-headed” readers of my blog.  What initial advice would you have given Reader X and, now that he’s confronted one of the girls who left him behind, what advice would you give him for going forward?

 

Escape the Rains

A news report in Wednesday’s paper indicated that a weak La Niña system is building up in the western Pacific, which will result in heavier than normal rainfall throughout Asia.  Sure enough seems to be the case here in Bangkok where, despite reports of a severe drought in the northeast of the country, we have had quite a bit of rain to kick off rainy season. 

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Late Monday morning we had several hours of nonstop torrential rain, much more than we usually get at one time.  As you can see from the picture taken from my balcony, the soi (alley) on which we live was flooded enough to brush the undersides of passing taxis.

My poor maid was caught in the rain while eating lunch on her way from one of the other houses she cleans to our condo.  She was eating at a streetside vendor and stayed there under and umbrella, hoping to wait it out.  When the vendor asked where she was heading, he shook his head and told her that the area floods and that she had better head out right there and then, or else abandon all hope.

Sure enough, when she arrived at the condo she was soaked.  I told her that next time it is raining so hard she should just call and cancel; no need to brave the floods.  A bit later she pointed out that where she lives out by Sukhumvit Soi 101, the sois don’t flood.  With all the expensive condos around here, she tsked, the streets shouldn’t flood.

So much for location, location, location!

I’m headed to the airport.  Talk to you soon.