Monday, March 10, 2014

The Blogger is Alive and Well...and Still in Jersey!

Yes, we are still in Jersey and totally freezing our butts off!  Everyone here says, "you picked one of the worst winters we can remember to move here".  Other say, "it is never like this."  I am starting to believe they just want me to feel better about the weather since it is probably one of the warmest winters on record in LA.  I heard you finally got some rain in LA, much needed, but then you have mud slides.

Here we cannot quite see the end of winter but I keep looking at the 10 day forecast for a warming trend.  Come on 40's!   They have actually extended the school year due to so many snow days and it looks like we might have a couple more before March ends.  However, overall it has not been that bad, but sure, there are stories.  Like this picture of the Delaware River - totally frozen due to the low temperatures.  I am sure this would have made life easier for General Washington...possibly.  Then there was the storm early last month where it took me a full 4 hours to get home from work due to all types of delays and full trains going through Secaucus.  When people started acting like this was the last train out and the pushing started, I finally saw the other side of the East Coast.  But of course, what did I do, I carved a new path - took a train the wrong direction to Hoboken because that is where the trains were leaving from and easily got a seat on the next train.

Then there was the storm a few weeks back where we got about 16 inches based on my crude measurement (it went to my knee and we almost lost Rachel!).  After about 2 hours shoveling, Beth and I still were only about 70% of the way through it. In walks our snow angel and neighbor Gary.  Gary is smart and has lived here for a while, he has a snow blower.  He finished us off in about 10 minutes and I had two thoughts.  First, it might be time to invest but know as soon as I do it will not snow (which might be worth $600-$1000).  Second, where were you about 2 hours ago!!

Natural History Museum
A few weeks back we headed to the city and went to Natural History Museum to check out some dinosaurs. We saw a really cool IMAX movie on Mysteries of the Unseen World - you can see a preview of it by clicking here.  Rachel went around telling us how there are all kinds of little things crawling on us all the time and there was some extra hand washing.  It was a cold day as you can see from the pictures, but with the lure of Dylan's Candy Bar on the other side of town, we walked almost 2 miles through Central Park, which was absolutely gorgeous with all the snow.  Amazing what a little candy will do!

Winter Sports
Well the page has turned and we have a whole new slate of sports - all indoors of course.  Rachel is playing basketball which has been great and now has a few baskets to her credit.  As for Ian, remember that Air Jordan commercial where Spike Lee says "it's got to be the shoes!", well ever since Ian turned an ankle and I bought him high tops, he has been on fire.  His team has only lost once; the game he turned his ankle and against my better judgement convinced me to play the 4th quarter where his team tied it with under a minute but lost on a charity whistle with no time left.  (Yes, Dad is into hoops!)  He is also playing Indoor Soccer, which is a great, fast paced game.  It is played inside a gym with a soccer ball that feels more like a tennis ball.  Ian has a streak of 5 games with at least 2 goals in each.  His team is doing really well overall.  He is also practicing for the Woodcliff Lake Travel Baseball Team.  Yes, he is busy and so is Beth making sure everyone gets where they need to be.

Google Comes to Dorchester Elementary
I had the unique opportunity to become a teacher for a day at Ian's school.  I was invited in by his class to teach them how to become better searchers.  I took over their computer class and showed them how Google take 60 Trillion web pages and organizes them so they get the most relevant results.  Then we did a fun hide and seek exercise and finished up with some of the great things Google is doing these days including Project Loon, Google Glass and the Google Art Project.  You can click on each of these Links if you are interested in learning more.  I am headed back to the school to teach the rest of the 4th graders at the end of March.

Sledding & Winter Fun
It has been a couple weeks now, but we had our inaugural sledding adventure to try out the kid's Hannukah gifts from their cousins.  We found a local hill and had a blast.  The old fashioned saucer we found there was actually the fastest ride of all - some times there is no improving on a great design.

Frozen Lake
Our little lake has changed yet again as you can see from the pictures below this is a frozen tundra look. This lake is literally how I can track the change of seasons as we have seen a beautiful Summer turn to Fall and now to the deep heart of Winter.  I cannot tell you how great it would be to send you a picture of these trees with leaves on them.  I not get the joy of Spring Training for Baseball as it signifies that the deep thaw is soon coming to a close and it might get into the 50's soon (this morning it was 7 degrees and felt like my face was melting).

Los Angeles - March 18th
As many of you know I get to LA from time to time for one of my clients.  I always feel bad that I don't see more of everyone, but I usually have a night here or a lunch there.  I am going to be back there on March 18th and had a cool idea and a way to maybe see a few of you - I hope.  I am going to be at Encino Little League watching some old friends teams play that night at 5pm on the Minors Field.  If you can make it out, I will be hanging out and would love to see you.

Vegans Unite
While this is not the most newsworthy thing, I figured I would share my latest THING.  I decided to try going Vegan (somewhat always been curious, but doing it for cholesterol reasons).  So if you see me eating some strange concoction, don't worry, it is just me being a bit more natural than I usually am.  For those that are Vegans, any recommendations or recipes are greatly appreciated.  The great news is working at Google makes this a lot easier as they have a great selection of Vegan options at every meal.  I get to reunite with my old friend - oatmeal and lunch is really the same, but I will be eating a veggie burger instead of a chicken breast.  Before I went off the deep end into VeganTown, there were a few cool desserts I saw a few weeks back.  Yes, Nutella Won Tons and PB and J FroYo!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The First Kiss of Winter - Week 14

First real snow
Back yard
Front Yard
This morning we got our first real taste of winter as we awoke to snow falling.  It is not exactly like Philly was on Sunday, but we expect a few inches by the end of the day.  Ian ran right out into it this morning and had a great time pretending he was in Philly on Sunday playing football in 8 inches of snow.  I love seeing how magical this is for the kids.  A winter wonderland.

Afternoon Update
When Ian got home from school he had his friend Jack over and after a quick stop at DQ (see the picture to prove it), they had quite a good time in the backyard playing football in the snow, building some pretty ridiculous sized snowballs and then Ian decided to make a snow angel.  We are pretty well covered, but not enough to get the kids their first Snow Day.   Here are a few pictures to give you a flavor for it.  The other boy in the pictures with Ian is his friend Jack and yes, they are eating DQ because why not!!
Ian and Jack and....DQ

More Special Guests from the West Coast
We welcomed my parents to town the past week and it was great to have them in town.  My kids absolutely love having them around and my dad got his first chance to experience Woodcliff Lake, which he called "charming".  They came for their tour of Google yesterday and much like everyone else, were sort of amazed at what is going on here.  Of course the food was a big hit - especially the Chocolate Decadence cake and the Espresso Creme Brulee. They are heading back just in time to hopefully not get stuck too bad in the snow and winter weather.

We also took a trip into NYC to see the holiday decorations.  I took a few shots of the windows to give everyone a flavor for it.  We also ran into some mice and then headed over to Rockefeller Center to see the tree.  I was having a great laugh with some native New Yorkers today that I was a bit disappointed by the tree itself.  It has been built up my entire life and you add to that the tree in the Grove in LA is massive, which they claim it is bigger than Rockefeller Center...and it is!!  Sure it is not freezing cold and does not feel like the holidays, but LA wins this one.  Just saying.

Hannukah, Oh Hannukah
Cartier Store in NYC
Beth and I went to a Christmas-Hannukah-Kwanza Mystery Masquerade party on Saturday night that a friend my mine was throwing and I got a bit carried away with our masks.  Let's just say we won the prize for most festive and most creative plus most thought we bought them or bought a kit.  I just had a vision and went with it. Happy Hannukah!!

Liberty Science Center
Beth made a great discovery 2 weekends ago when we visited this science center which is on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, but in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty.
Supposedly David Blaine is affiliated with it which to me is all you had to say.  They had some great exhibits including a temporary exhibit on the history of pro football.  Ian was in hog heaven and got to meet George Martin, the Hall of Fame defensive lineman who won a Super Bowl with the Giants.  Really nice guy with HUUUUGE hands!  He makes the rings look smaller than they are.  Both kids had fun trying on shoulder pads and the later on they both went rock climbing at another exhibit.  Finally, Rachel got to play with some marshmallows as she built her own molecule.  When you come to town, we got the family pass so we can take visitors!
Marshmallow Molecule

 Rachel - The Reading Machine
There comes a time when it just clicks and Rachel's light has not only gone off, but is on turbo mode.  Her ability has grown by leaps and bounds and the neat part of all of this is the fact that she is reading every sign when we are out.  It is like having a new toy, you just want to use it all day long.  To say the least, she is in a great groove with her teacher Mrs. Agovino who we all adore. 

Real Housewives of Woodcliff Lake
Beth had a girls night out last week with some great friends she has made through both the school and the synagogue.  The details of what happened are securely under lock and key but from what I know there were a few libations and possibly a game or two of ping pong.

Sunday Traditions
That is a real fire!!
Ian and I have sort of crafted a new tradition on Sunday afternoons that combines our Man Cave with watching football, starting a fire in the fireplace and of course following our fantasy football team with the help of the Red Zone channel - maybe the best creation of all time!!  We had a good fire going last weekend and welcomed my dad into the fold although it took a while for the heat of the fire to overcome the 20 degree temperatures outside.  Ian has made it into his fantasy football playoffs and is now in the semis of The Search Agency's league.  Are you smarter than a 4th grader?

Traveling Man
I have been traveling non-stop the past few weeks so not a ton of foodie updates from Google but I will say that I think I have had brussel sprouts prepared at least 10 different ways now.  The highlight this morning was a broccoli, tomato, gruyere frittata with a side of asparagus.  No better way to start the day after walking in what was a beautiful light snowfall.

We will be in LA in a few weeks and will do our best to see everyone.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgivvikah - Week 12

Happy Thanksgivvikah
Happy Hannukah and Thanksgiving to all of our friends and family.  How crazy is it that we are here in November and it is already the 2nd night of Hannukah?  Even crazier that we had latkes with our turkey and stuffing?  We were at cousins on my mom' side of the family tonight and we feel so fortunate that Harry and Sally's family has adopted us and Lisa and Howard Bash have welcomed us into their home for the last two major holidays.  While we miss being with our family it is always good to celebrate with familiar faces.

Last night for the first night of Hannukah we celebrated by going to Dairy Queen even though it was about 35 degrees out and raining.
We are going to be transitioning from ice cream to hot chocolate here as winter is coming.  The big family surprise this year was a new computer - an iMac!  I have to say that there is something incredible special about what Steve Jobs was able to build at Apple.  Taking any new product out of the box is a special occasion and even the styrofoam configuration is so well thought out and elegant.  I am such a huge fan of what they have created and our new iMac is beyond spectacular.  
Rachel is already having a blast with the Photo Booth and we welcomed the new computer in with a Hannukah FaceTime with my parents, Owen, Robbie, Homey G, Liadan and Mirren.

Hannukah Decorations
Beth and the kids outdid themselves this year as they went all out on Hannukah decorations!  Beyond the usual dreidel and hannukiah pictures, we have lights all over the house and Rachel took it one step further by making a Hannukiah out of legos.  Incredible imagination!!

I was in Indianapolis for a meeting with a client and took the opportunity to drive down to Bloomington to visit my nephew Jake who is a sophomore at IU.  Even though we did not get the best weather, he gave me a world class tour of the school.  There is no doubt he loves that school and it was evident in his passion for all that IU has to offer.  I was blown away by the architecture which was not only gothic stone, but also consistent throughout campus.

When it came to lunch I told Jake to make it memorable and it was.  We ate at Motherbear's Pizza where the pies were top notch and the brownies were a nice added benefit!  He was leaving that night for LA for break and I took him back to the airport with me where we ran into what seemed like most of his school.  Thanks again for the tour Jake - I will be back in the Spring when it warms up a bit!!

Ian and the Redskins
Ian had an interesting assignment this past week where he had to report on a current event and he chose an article about sports mascots and the renewed controversy over the Washington Redskins.  It was amazing to see his little mind absorb the concept of how offensive this is to Native Americans and I don't think he will ever look at his Cleveland Indians hat the same again.

End of Soccer - Hello Basketball
I had a blast this year coaching Rachel's soccer team, Club America.  The girls were an absolute joy to coach and Rachel had a great time where she made many new friends, including her buddy Kayla Solomon (no relation, but her dad is also named Mike, so we had fun with that).  The league really created a program that focuses on a low pressure but competitive environment where the girls can all focus on building foundational skills.  Then at the end of each week we scrimmaged with the another team for 30 minutes.

Ian's team wrapped up as well and I was real proud of how he adjusted this year.  From the time he first start playing, Ian has been a scoring machine, but this team needed him for his ability to stop the other team from scoring.  He really took that on this year and while the team did not have a great last game, they really grew over the season and started to really share the rock at the end of the season.  Once they did that they were able to beat some teams that would have cleaned their clocks earlier in the year.

Both of the kids are moving onto basketball next and there is no rest for them as that starts up in a few weeks.  Ian will also be playing indoor soccer and we are all happy to go indoors vs. having too many more cold Saturdays rooting them on.

A little snow...
While it has snowed a little here and there, I still feel like it has not SNOWED.  You know, waking up in the morning, looking outside and everything is white.  I am not exactly bummed about that as that means I need a shovel and have a morning of work ahead of me.  But it also means building a snowman, snowball fights and snow angels.  The kids are starting to get the hang of bundling up in layers and so far it has been no big deal to them.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First Taste of Winter - Week 10

Jack Frost came for a visit this morning much to our delight!  When I stepped outside of the house this morning I figured it was just a little rain, but when I saw that tiny white flake come to a gentle rest on my black jacket, I immediately turned around, opened the door to our house and announced to the family that we had SNOW!!   Now, I was probably the only one in the office with an extra bounce in his step this morning, which made everyone basically say to themselves "he is the new guy from California, let's talk in February."  It is true that this really doesn't count at snow to a long time New Yorker, but to a kid from Cali, snow is snow and it is quite a wonderful sight to behold.

Revisiting Halloween
This was supposedly the first time in 3 years the weather cooperated and they celebrated Halloween on October 31.  Rachel was very excited to wear her costume which was a waitress from a 50's diner - Juniors.  I decided to compliment her outfit and went as a chef in her diner.  Ian went to the old standby, a football player.  Beth was a cat - another tried and true costume.  She took the kids trick or treating at a house that for the folks back home was similar to Ashley Oaks except they had platters of cheese and crackers as well as wine for the parents - a nice little touch!  When I got home from work, the kids got dressed up again and we took a lap around our neighborhood for a little more candy.

Fall Foliage - Got it just in time
By all accounts we moved back here during one of the best times a year and we were treated to quite a glorious welcome.  Most say this is one of the best Fall seasons they have had in some time.  You have to remember 2 years ago it snowed unexpectedly in late October before the trees had lost their leaves, which led to many falling trees on all sorts of things like cars and homes.  Then last October they had Hurricane Sandy.  Two weekends ago I had the sense this was too good to be true and on the afternoon of my birthday, we headed out to snap a few photos of the yellows, reds, oranges and browns.  It is a good thing we did as last weekend it was noticeably barren and day by day we are getting a better view of the lake nearby.

Chelsea Piers
We ventured out to Chelsea Piers last Sunday and after a game of bowling with the kids, we divided and conquered since there is so much to do there.  Ian and I went to the golf driving range and despite it being a little chilly, had a great time.  Rachel and Beth laced up their skates and went ice skating.  We finally all met back up at the batting cages.  Beth still has the softball bug from her Lair experience this past summer and Ian had a blast hitting left handed.

Anniversary Yogurt
Every family has these little traditions that have either lasted for generations or crop up out of nowhere.  Last year I had to catch a late flight to Phoenix for a client pitch so we had time for dinner, but not that much time.  When we got in the car nobody could make a decision and after debating it for 10 minutes I decided to do something out of the norm.  I pulled into Yogurtland and told the kids that today was their lucky day.  We are having yogurt for dinner and they could fill it to the top with as many toppings as they wanted.  No limits.  At first they thought there had to be a catch, but we were both like, "go for it - step up to the trough!"

Even though it was 40 degrees this year outside, the kids remembered what we did last year and wanted to do it again so we found a fro-you place in Park Ridge.  One year is a whim, but two years in a row is a tradition.  So we celebrated our anniversary with our kids, eating fro-yo and watching Flubber.  Not the most romantic evening, but fun was had by all!

Google - Dish of the week
I have been into brussel sprouts as much as the next person the past year or two, but it seems like I run into these little jewels almost every day at lunch and sometimes breakfast.  My favorite last week was a frittata that had goat cheese, brussel sprouts, and tomatoes.  What a great way to start a Friday.

Beyond the food, I am really starting to settle into the job and enjoying the challenge of meeting all the people at my new clients and agencies as well as educating them about digital marketing.  There are so many interesting and unique challenges at each one of my clients and for those that know me, I am creating a custom plan for each and everyone of them.

Movember - Donations Welcome Needed. Desperate for even a $5 donation!!
Well Movember is in full swing out here in the NYC Google office with over 50 guys growing mustaches to raise awareness for Prostate Cancer.  I am a full participant but had no name for what I wanted to grow until I saw it watching the Brooklyn Nets game.  I call it the Joe Johnson and even though he is on the downside of his career, I loved the look.

While the hair is growing, my personal fundraising is still bald as a baby.  So if you feel like supporting a great cause that had raised $500M in the last 7 years for cancer research, you can make a donation on my personal page by clicking here.