Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Restaurant thoughts - Lombardi's

Sometimes, trying to schedule a dinner with four or more busy people can take forever.  Last Friday, the schedule gods smiled and my darling besties and I had dinner and exchanged our holiday gifts.  Better late than never, yes?  We love going to Lombardi's for pizza that reminds us of Italy, so that's where we met.

Surprisingly, for a Friday night, they weren't very busy.  But we'll take it!  The host took us upstairs to a room we'd never seen before.  Later, we decided that's where they take all the potentially-loud parties.  :)  There were only a few tables up here, but they all seated five or more people.  It became a pretty funny contest to see which table could get the loudest.  I think I can proudly say we won.  It was a little chilly in there, though, so I'm not sure we'd request that area again.  I believe we have now had terrifically fun pizza parties in each room at Lombardi's, though.  Unless they do another renovation... ;)

Lombardi's opened in 1897 and takes claim as the oldest pizzeria in the US.  It's in a great location, on the cusp of Little Italy and Chinatown.  We especially like going there because they use a coal-oven, which reminds us of having the best pizza in the world when we were in Naples.  Plus, the servers are all fun and it's a nice laid-back atmosphere.  It always makes us laugh at the look on the servers' faces when we EACH order our own pizza.  We tell them that's how it's done in Italy!  They look at us like we're crazy, then go about their business.  Our server last Friday, Louis, was no exception.  :)

We mostly all get a margherita pie, but a couple people thought outside the box and got different toppings.  Doesn't really matter what you get--it's ALL delicious!  The crust is thin and crispy, yet very airy and doughy (which is a perfect combination, in my opinion); the sauce is just crushed tomatoes, and the fresh mozzarella sits beautifully on top.  A kiss of basil completes the delicious taste sensation.  Lombardi's also puts romano cheese on their margherita pies, but I always ask them to leave it off.  I'm sure it adds some salty tastiness, but that's not the way they did it in Naples, so that's not the way I roll, either.  I'm such a pizza snob.  :)

Lombardi's also serves salads - they're pretty large, designed to serve three or four people.  We actually got one house salad and one Caesar salad, which was just right for our group of five.  The salads are very nice and fresh, with bold tastes in their dressings.

I also had a couple of glasses of the montepulciano, which were yum yummy, though they tasted better with the pizza than on their own.  So I may not search out that brand for a sipping wine, but it's fine as a tasty pizza wine.

The small pizzas come with six slices, and we all did pretty well in finishing them.  I left a piece, along with some crusts, but that's a good thing - leftovers for lunch!  Never a bad thing in that.

We also had a grand time exchanging holiday gifts (and our server was very cute when we left, telling us "Merry Christmas" as we exited.  He was a peach.).  Thumbs WAY up on Lombardi's and I need to start making regular visits there.  I loved it so much, I commemorated the pizza in a Hipstamatic shot.  You know it's love when I pull out the Hipstamatic.  'Til next time... :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Restaurant thoughts - Beacon

I took a friend out for a birthday dinner last night to Beacon.  I had been to Beacon before, once with my office holiday party, and visited the cozy bar a couple of times with my gal pals.  I have always liked its relaxed atmosphere and warm surroundings.  Last night was no different.

Our seats were in the back of the restaurant, near the kitchen, in a cozy little alcove.  It was definitely a cozy place to sit and chat.  And eat.  And drink.  :)

Our server, Carlos, was adorable.  He probably thought I was a wackadoodle, since I was so excited about everything.  I was especially excited about my cocktail:  a cranberry cinnamon margarita.  I told him I was disappointed they didn't have the cocktail LAST winter and I had been waiting a long time for one!  I believe he backed away gingerly.  ;)  But this is a good looking cocktail, yes?  It was deeeeeeeelicious.

Once I had decided I wanted to take my friend to Beacon, I took another look at their menu to confirm there were vegetarian options, since I occasionally pretend I'm a vegetarian.  I mean, hello, I really wanted to order the crispy duck confit leg, but I stopped myself.  Once I reminded myself that duck wasn't an option, I was very excited to see the fall vegetable risotto on the menu, along with a pumpkin-apple soup.  I went into the restaurant having already decided I was getting those two items.  Then, adorable Carlos told me about the special of the evening:  a pan-roasted red snapper, with parsnip puree and preserved lemons.  Um, SERIOUSLY?  I believe we all know how I feel about lemons, preserved lemons, lemon curd, lemon anything.  So now I had to completely rethink my meal choices!  Argh!  But what a delicious problem to have.

I really can't eat three courses anymore, so once I saw the new dessert on their menu, a lemon-lime steamed pudding, I knew it was time to throw pre-conceived notions to the wind, and instead of soup and entree, I opted for entree and dessert.  My oh my, what good choices I made.

My friend got the crab bisque to start, which he very generously let me taste.  Oh.my.golly.  It was DELICIOUS!  Very smooth and flavorful.  And very aromatic.  It was presented with a little crab cake in the bottom of the bowl, then the server (one of many nameless-food-delivery people we met) poured the bisque around the crab cake.  A very pretty presentation of a delicious dish.  It had a tiny bit of warmth/heat in the background from ginger, I think, and we think maybe sherry?  Just a note.  I was kind of regretting I didn't get it myself, but oh well.  I did get a photo, however.  Doesn't that look good?

Once the soup was finished, we very quickly got our entrees.  Not only were they both beautifully plated, but they were so artfully presented so the delicious smells just wafted up and grabbed you before you even took a bite.  And, may I say, I already have a contender for my favorite dish of 2012.  Carlos' recommendation of the red snapper was spot-on.  I LOVED it!  It was fresh and flavorful.  The fish was perfectly cooked, with crispy skin on the bottom, with a smooth, buttery and rich parsnip puree underneath, and an emulsion of preserved lemons and parsley as the sauce.  Oh, and there was a touch of saffron in the sauce, with some preserved lemon rinds on top as garnish.  Seriously, I had to stop myself from licking the plate.  I'm sorry my very dark iPhone photos can't do the food justice.  I suppose I should've turned on my flash.  :(

My friend got the scallops, served with artichokes and a brown butter almond sauce.  It also had another sauce with a bit of heat and sweetness.  I'm trying to figure out what it was--harissa, maybe, with a touch of tomato paste?  It doesn't say on the menu.  But it was yum yummy, too.  Oh, and they bring you a little crock of sauteed spinach for the table.  Also, tremendously delicious, especially as dragged through my preserved lemon emulsion.  My poor pal just watched as I ate most of the spinach.  Pardon the lack of spinach-photos...
We seriously had to stop ourselves from scarfing the food down like a couple of animals--it was just so delicious!  But we restrained ourselves and ate like adult humans.  Mostly.

After the dinner plates were taken away, delightful Carlos was back with dessert menus.  He highly recommended the chocolate chip souffle (which sounded good, but...hello...lemons) and the huckleberry/pear crisp, which also sounded delicious.  It came with cranberry ice cream!  Cranberry could be my second favorite taste-sensation!  I toyed with getting that, but stuck with my original choice of the lemon-lime steamed pudding.  My friend got the crisp, thankfully, so we could admire that delicious cranberry ice cream.

His dessert was very yummy, but I really preferred my dessert.  I don't think I'd ever had a steamed pudding before, but it was delicious.  It was soft and pudding-y, but also cakey.  The consistency was kind of the perfect middleground for me.  It was served on top of a crisp meringue cookie, and the sauce was a citrus mascarpone sauce.  I believe there were also a few chopped macadmaia nuts tossed around.  This dessert just SCREAMS my name.  I will probably be dreaming about it for awhile.  I highly recommend it.

All in all, we had a fantastic time at Beacon.  Well, we always have a fantastic time, but it was certainly heightened by the locale.  The service was prompt, but not rushed, and no one made a move to make us leave, even after three hours.  They just kept refilling our water goblets and smiling.  Oh, AND they gave each of us a discount card for our next visit!  Woo hoo!  I can go back and try the winter vegetable risotto and the grilled pineapple trifle (which I also almost ordered)!  Of course, they'll probably describe some special dish which will sway me, but who cares?!  I definitely look forward to my next visit...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review - Look Back in Anger

I bought an inexpensive TDF ticket to the new Off-Broadway revival of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger last night.  I’d never seen the play staged, and had probably read it last about twenty years ago, so I was really looking forward to seeing it.  Unfortunately, though, I’m the only one looking back in anger.  I didn’t enjoy myself in the extreme.  But I’m only looking back at the first act, because I couldn’t take it and I left at intermission.

You all know how I hate leaving at intermission (I went back and looked at my old reviews and noticed I haven’t left a show for quite a while, thankfully) – I can generally find something of value to get me to stay.  A good-looking performer, a wish to see how a scene turns out, a realization that things could get better in the second act.  But, sadly, I just couldn’t find anything on that stage that enticed me to see how the whole thing played out.  Well, I can’t actually use the term “on that stage” here.  Perhaps “on that apron” would be more precise. 

If the director decided to only use the apron of the stage to increase the claustrophobia of these characters’ lives, it didn’t work for me.  It just made everything awkward and stagey and dumb.  When actors had to exit the room to go ‘upstairs’ or ‘downstairs,’ they sat on the steps at the side of the stage and waited for their next entrance.  Or leaned against the hand railing on the far side of the audience.  That didn’t work for me at all.  And sitting on the edge of the apron with their legs dangling off the stage?  Didn’t work for me either.

None of the acting worked for me, either.  The guy playing Jimmy Porter was just bad wrong.  It was as if he had chosen to do scenework for a beginning acting class, and had come in with every gesture, every inflection chosen in advance, regardless of what the other actors would give him.  So everything was mechanical and false.  And there wasn’t any ‘anger’ here, no high stakes.  Just some yelling, and some sarcastic nonsense.  I did not buy one minute of his interpretation.  The gal playing his wife was shrill and false as well, though I suppose you could say it’s a valid character choice for her, but I still disliked her a lot.  They had no chemistry, and without these two having chemistry, the whole plot of the play falls apart.  The other two actors in the first act made little to no impression on me because I was hating on the leads so much.

I will also admit to being completely distracted by the garbage on the set and the possibility of cockroaches everywhere.  There were many bits of food laying around, along with a whole head of lettuce, which I believe they then made into a salad which everyone ate (do people really eat salad at tea time?  and would these people really eat fresh vegetables?).  SOOOOO distracting to me.  All I could do was worry about cockroaches and food poisoning.  And bad acting.

It’s probably mean to be so harsh on a show in previews, and one in which I only saw the first act.  AND I suppose part of the problem was that I was exhausted and can feel a cold coming on, so I had NO patience for bad acting and bad directing (and possible cockroaches).  But it just made me so mad that this play, which could be so relevant to today, with young people simmering with pain and rage and discontent but unable to make a connection, was put together so poorly.  In my opinion, of course.  I fully expect this to get raves and run forever.  Though the gents next to me walked out with me, saying “this guy is just BAD.”  Great minds and all that, but, in the interest of full disclosure, much of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves…

I need to see something else, stat.  To get the crabbiness out of my brain.  I wish I could see Follies again.  Sigh.  I’ll probably look at TDF again next week, since I don’t have a show officially scheduled until the end of February, when I see Albee’s Lady from Dubuque.  UPDATE:  I've been reminded that I'll be seeing the Encores production of Merrily We Roll Along in early February.  So Sondheim WILL save me.  Probably.  :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Revisiting "Follies"

You may recall my post about my previous visit to Follies - it wasn't an altogether happy experience, mainly due to a seat neighbor.  Well, last week, my boss was standing outside my office and read a piece of mail aloud: he had been invited to see the show again, as a Tony voter, before it closed.  I immediately shouted out, "PLEASE TAKE ME!!!"  He very kindly did.  So, today, finally, I had my Follies transcendent experience.

Of course, I'm predisposed to have a transcendent experience, I guess.  I wanted one so badly.  I pretty much started crying from the entrance of the first spectral showgirl, and didn't stop until we left, though I will say the first act moved me much more than the second, which seems backwards.  Oh well.  I still felt so much aching and longing and beauty and joy.  It was lovely.  God, I love Stephen Sondheim.

The songs are all so lovingly handled, they're like master classes in acting.  I felt that the pace of the book scenes was tightened up since I saw it last, so I really felt the show move.  And yet, as it moved forward, it still seamed to float--a gossamer web of beauty.  I barely wanted to breathe, so I didn't disturb the magic and the connection I was feeling.

Blah blah blah.  Too much?  Too bad, I'll just wax rhapsodic.  Oh, ok, there are some issues.  Jayne Howdyshell didn't blow me away this time, like she did last time.  I don't know, she seemed a tad more mechanical.  Ron Raines STILL isn't a good actor, but my god, when he sings "Too Many Mornings," it hardly matters.  The music and the emotion just swept me away.  If HE didn't sweep me away, I'll live with it.  :)

Jan Maxwell is still divine, and I liked Danny Burstein even more today.  And I just find Bernadette Peters enchanting.  I fully understand people's problems with her interpretation, but it works for me.  Maybe because I understand Sally and how Bernadette is playing her.  Wasting years of her life over an old love, real or imagined, is something I can relate to.  Knowing whether things really happened the way we think they do--her acting choices are crystal-clear and shattering.  I could quibble with Bernadette's highly-visible emotion during "Losing My Mind" (it might be nice to get there myself), but it still was right for the creature she had created.

"One More Kiss" - gorgeous.  Both ladies were sublime.  And Elaine Paige completely blew me away.  I enjoy her well enough, but today, she was so ON and specific and right.  She was fantastic.  Much crying followed.

I'm so fortunate I got to see this magnificent show again, especially from the fantastic seats my boss got (thanks, boss!).  It's haunting and gripping, funny and tragic, gorgeously costumed and beautifully presented.  A perfect afternoon.  Excuse me, whilst I go to iTunes to download the cast recording and cry some more...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One short year ago... (tmi alert)

As I transfered everything from last year's desk calendar to this year's, I noticed a doctor's appointment notation.  Sigh.  I tried to put it out of my mind, but today is a blustery day, and my mind is blustering about.  One year ago today, I received the news that would shake me up and see what I was made of.  I know I should be looking forward and putting all this stuff behind me (I mean, doesn't my statute of limitations of bitching and complaining run out soon?), but I find myself replaying events over and over, like a movie I keep watching and hoping will have a different ending. 

That day, I entered Dr Julie Halston's office pretty nonchalantly, considering I had had the 'procedure' three times already, and each follow-up consisted of a long wait in the exam room, a wound check, draining of fluid and benign, yet high-risk pathology report/diagnosis.  Same old, same old.  Since I had done the routine so many times before, I didn't even take anyone with me to the appointment.  And, if I recall correctly, the appointment went pretty much as planned, at first.  I sat in the exam room for a LONG time, she came in, asked me how my kids are (she seriously can't remember that I don't live in New Jersey with two kids), checked the wound and drained it.  Then, she sat down, opened the file and said, "Well, I wasn't expecting this."  Oh, that's never good to hear!  She said the path report showed DCIS, and I should get dressed and come into her regular office to chat.  That clearly set me on a brain whirl I didn't want to be on.  But I did what I was told.

She put a box of kleenex down in front of me and told me she thought I should have a mastectomy.  Wow.  No beating around the bush here.  Then she said I should talk to Dr Pay in Advance (who has been my oncologist for three years) immediately, though there was plenty of time to decide.  I just kept repeating I didn't want a mastectomy.  That's pretty much all I remember--I was very emphatic that I didn't want to lose the breast.  In fact, I knew Dr Pay in Advance was going to want me to consider one anyway, regardless of this pathology report, but I had kept putting her off.

While all this was happening, I realized that I forgot to charge my cell phone.  I kept turning it off and on, to try to save power.  Finally, I got through to one beloved gal pal, choked out "It's not the worst news, but it's not good news, either," and god love her, she immediately met me at a nearby diner, where I continued to cry and insist I didn't want to lose the breast.

Four blurry, watery weeks later, I had a double mastectomy.  And I'm still trying to figure out where, exactly, I changed my mind.  I knew I wasn't attached to my breasts, cosmetically.  I've never been about how I look.  I just went from being certain I wanted to keep them, to being certain I wanted them BOTH off.  Even Dr Julie Halston was surprised when I said I wanted them both to go, since the DCIS was only in one.

I guess, ultimately, it's my very bad habit of avoidance and denial that strangely led me to the more drastic surgical option.  My whole life, I've tried to avoid bad news.  I simply ignore it, which is so immature and stupid, but that's what I've always done.  If I don't think about something, then it doesn't exist.  From parking tickets to debt collectors.  Trying to not think about breast cancer is really hard, though, but I think I sort of rationalized that if I had them both off, I could not think about it anymore.  Which is also immature and stupid, but I really do kind of think that's where I was going.  If I had chosen the less invasive option, the lumpectomy and radiation, I would've kept the breast, but I would've been reminded, every single day, for at least six weeks, while I was having radiation, that I had breast cancer.  And I would've worried every day that it would come back, in one or both breasts.  That became the less appealing option more and more as the three weeks and the many doctor appointments went on.  So...we had the big 180.  At least that's how I think it happened.

Although I don't really think about it constantly, I do still feel a vague unease, or unsettledness, in myself.  Not that it will come back, because I know the chances are practically non-existent that it will.  And I know they told me it would take me at least a year to physically feel like myself again (which, hopefully, will miraculously occur first thing in the morning on Feb 10) but I'm sure it will take longer.  I have so far to go when it comes to regaining what little physical fitness I had before all the surgeries.  I never thought of myself as having nice abs before, but when you completely lose them?  You miss them.  I remember the gal in Dr Vera Wang's office telling me to be careful about slouching, because it's a natural physical response to a mastectomy, and I could end up with 'frozen shoulder' or a permanent hunch.  So, in my zeal to NOT slouch, I think I threw my shoulders too far back, unwittingly stuck out my stomach, and forgot to pull in my abs.  For a year.  It is, frankly, incredible how grotesquely grotesque they are now.  And I still find myself slouching every now and then.  Is that a lose-lose scenario?

I know I have to get back into shape--why get rid of your cancer-y breasts if you're just going to get fat, with high blood pressure and then have a stroke climbing the subway stairs??  I have GOT to put on my new pedometer that my wonderful sister got me for Christmas (RIP, old pedometer, lost in the smoke damage of the Post-Mastectomy-Fire-Adventure-Of-2011).  Fingers crossed I make it to the elusive 10,000 steps every day.  Today, of course--no pedometer.  Dumb.  I guess my pre-emptive avoidance and denial mode caused me to oversleep by two hours this morning.  Whatever.  But I keep asking myself, do I really have the energy to get fit?  Ugh.  It took a year to get this bad, it will take way more than a year to right the ship.  After all, I'm not 25 anymore.  I hate being fat, but the thought of the dedication and hard work I'll need to put in is kinda daunting.  I mentioned the whole avoidance and denial thing up above, yes?

I also wonder if my vague unease is due to the fact that I have told practically no one outside my intimate circle of dear friends and family about what's going on.  Or, I guess I should say, what WENT on.  I have over 400 Facebook friends (which is a blog post topic in itself, yes?  400??!  seriously??!), but I think maybe 30 people are aware of my situation.  Why have I done it that way?  I have one friend on Facebook who pours out her heart and lets everyone know every horrible sad thing that happens to her--the outpouring of love and support she then receives is heartening, but it just makes me so uncomfortable.  Maybe I'm taking the avoidance and denial thing too far in that I don't want to think about the bad news SO MUCH that I won't let any good wishes in, either.  Because they'll remind me of the bad news.  That is lame, right?  Private is private, but avoiding telling people because you don't want to talk about it is silly.  Or is it?  Part of me has considered 'outing' myself and just getting it over with, but I can't quite seem to get there.  I try to be inspired by a couple of blogs I read by breast cancer survivors, but when they talk about being the center of attention at parties because they joke about fake boobs, I mentally turn away from that (not that I haven't tried to joke about them in the company of my intimate pals).  I guess I just have to accept my manner of dealing with things as mine, and just get over being annoyed with how other people do it.  Perhaps, I would annoy THEM!  :)   Besides, I'm not sure I want the look in everyone's eyes to change when they look at me.  From, 'oh, there's Tari', to 'oh, there's Tari, she has breast cancer.'   I already have a few people who just stopped chatting with me once I confided in them.  And I know that's their problem and not mine, but still.

Blah blah blah.  Wah wah wah.  I hope you're rolling your eyes right about now, if you've even made it this far.  I think want to turn a corner, but my brain doesn't seem to want to tag along.  But I thought if I put the whirling dervish that is happening in my brain onto paper (as it were), it might fly out of my head and let me be ready to move on.  To whatever is next.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Holiday Musings and a Top Ten list. Already.

It was wonderful to spend ten whole days at home with my family for the holidays.  I was a little worried at first, about being there for so long--generally, five or six days is best for all concerned.  But, probably because I hadn't been home since last Christmas, the ten days were a lot of fun for all concerned.  Oh, sure, it wasn't all rainbows and lollipops; there were little meltdowns and squabbles, but that's what makes a family a family.  Oh, and I didn't cry!  Well, ok, I cried on the plane, but controlled myself when I saw my daddy.  :)

I got NO pictures of food, for some reason.  And I had some tasty meals.  Oh well.  There was a turkey catastrope on Christmas Day, but there were plenty of side dishes to enjoy.  And I will admit to having a bite of ham (well, I had to have something on which to place the cranberry sauce, lol).  I highly recommend the carrots with brown sugar and mustard recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  Our New Year's dinner was also tasty.  Outside the house, the chicken sandwich (again, please don't tell the vegetarian police) at Michael Symon's restaurant bspot was terrific.  Not to mention enormous.  I think that piece of chicken was bigger than my head.  I ended up leaving half of it behind, but what I had was yummy--the breading had a little bit of spice, the bun was soft and yummy, and the coffee barbecue sauce I put on it was saucy deliciousness.  The best part of the lunch, though, was seeing a darling gal pal from college.  It had been much too long.  All I'll say about my lunch at Applebee's is:  boy, Applebee's doesn't like vegetarians.  And they must loathe vegans.  But the company (my sister and another dear friend from KSU) was delightful.  :)

Most of the trip was happily spent with my pip of a nephew.  My goodness, I love him.  From the moment I got there, with him hiding in the airport to surprise me, to the moment I left, again at the airport, but instead of hiding, he allowed me to hug and kiss him in public, we had a grand time.  Yes, we had a couple of little squabbles (we're both pretty spoiled, right?), but we both let them roll off our backs and had more good times.  No, I don't love his violent video games, but I do like watching him use his logic and intellect to figure them out.  And it's pretty adorable how he loves to have me watch him play.  (It was also fun to have Scooter, the family dachshund, who is also a pip, always want to sit on my lap.)  I have so many wonderful memories of my nephew from this vacation that I decided to do a top ten list.  So, I present my first top ten list of 2012:  the Top Ten Adorable Things My Nephew Did/Said During My Holiday Vacation.  Clearly, there are WAY more than ten adorable things to remember, but I'll just do my favorites.  They're presented in descending order...

10.  To surprise me, Danny left a new drawing and two stuffed animals he won for me on my bed in the guest room.
9.  Knowing how I love to read, Danny left two of his books on the guest room nightstand, for me to read.
8.  The bed in the guest room was a little hard for me to sleep on, so I moved out to the couch.  Danny brought me his SpongeBob fleece blanket, to make sure I was warm enough.
7.  Danny asked his mommy if we could watch a particular DVD.  He didn't like the movie all that much, but he knew I would like it, so he wanted me to see it.
6.  Tucking him in on New Year's Eve, he let me give him as many kisses as I wanted.  As he was falling asleep, he asked, "Can we please play more board games first thing tomorrow, Aunt Tari?"
5.  He let me sing Disney songs as we played Disney Monopoly.  Then he began to sing them with me.
4.  At midnight on New Year's Eve, of course his mommy had to get the first kiss.  But he then walked past his nana to say "Aunt Tari gets the second kiss."
3.  We watched the new Iron Chef, Chef Zakarian, and his first battle on Christmas night.  Danny rooted for Chef Z during the Next Iron Chef series, too, mainly because of the chef's Hello Kitty bandaids.  Anyway, after telling Danny about my new crush on the chef, thanks to the infamous "Shazam," Danny thought about it for a minute, then, through the rest of my trip, at random times, Danny would look at me and say, "Aunt Tari?"  I'd say, "Yes, baby?"  And he'd say, "...shazam."  It made me giggle EVERY SINGLE TIME.
2.  During that same episode of Iron Chef America, Danny left his usual chair and came to sit on the couch between his mommy and me.  When he sat down, he took my hand and mouthed, "I love you."
1.  Before we got in the car to head to a hotel for some swimming and a yummy/overpriced breakfast buffet, Danny let off a couple of leftover firecrackers in his front yard.  Before he set each one off, he'd shout: "Hooray, Aunt Tari's here!!"  Gosh, I love him.  My next trip can't come soon enough...