Tales From The Ipe!

I sit by and watch the river flow. I sit by and watch the traffic go.

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Business Trip to Columbus Ohio

In March, I had a very brief business trip to Columbus Ohio, that got postponed due to a freak mid-March snowstorm. It got rescheduled for two weeks later, and the same day as Lily’s 9th birthday party. Why? Thankfully, I was able to book the last flight out to Columbus on Sunday night with my coworker. After the party, we cleaned up, I finished packing, and then was off to Newark.

The flight was ultimately very delayed about 3 hours due to missing aircraft.

“Where’s the plane, United?”

“It’ll be here real soon, We really mean it this time!”

While waiting, I chatted with my coworker, caught up on the news, and ate a poor man’s cheesesteak quesadilla from a take-out restaurant at the airport (because they ran out of bread.) We arrived very late in Columbus, and navigated our weary selves to the rental car center, and to our hotel, the Hampton Inn Columbus-West.

In the morning, we grabbed a complimentary-yet-sparse breakfast at our oddly-very-empty-on-a-Monday-morning Hampton Inn hotel, then went to the office. We worked for the morning as planned, had lunch at the office, then got unceremoniously kicked out. It was one of those, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” kind of deals. Don’t ask. My coworker and I killed some time, gassed up the car, saw some of downtown Columbus, then went to the airport. We had dinner at the airport, then had an uneventful trip back home. I got home around 10:30 pm.

That was it, folks. It was a fast blink and you’ll miss it trip. Downtown Columbus looked interesting, so it might be worth coming back to check it out for a night.

Lily’s 9th Birthday Party

Last Sunday, we celebrated Lily’s birthday a few days early by inviting about 20 kids over to our house for a detective-themed party. 

We purchased a detective / mystery story online, printed out multiple copies, purchased “detective” party supplies (pens, clipboards.) We also had kind friends and older kids play the various parts / suspects in the mystery of who dognapped someone’s dog before it could compete in the town’s big dog show.

I’m really glad we had help managing all of these 9 year olds running around our house, and to play various characters. I’d say the kids had a lot of fun, and our house survived in one piece. 

In case the mystery was kiling you, I played Officer Pickles.

In the evening, we put the house back together, my sister Julie and her family stopped by for dinner, and left to catch my 7:45 pm flight to Columbus Ohio.

My son Josh vs. peanuts everywhere, and Josh won

Josh has lived through a number of allergies growing up, since he was an infant. He was originally allergic to eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, and had some lactose intolerance thrown in there too. It was a lot to deal with, but some kids have it worse, so I guess he/we couldn’t complain. We spent many meals ordering specific food items, navigating away from many foods with eggs or dairy in the ingredients. His allergist (plus research that Namita found on her own) advised that we should stay away from all of these allergens, with the hope that the body would slowly grow out of these allergies. In the meantime, we continued to purchase expensive Epi-Pens, in the event of accidental exposure to peanuts, as well as ensuring his various school nurses kept him away from other kids and their meals. Kinda sucks to spend elementary school stuck at the “peanut-free” table.

We went painstakingly about it for many years. Over time, he grew out of his allergies to eggs, lactose, and even gluten. It’s opened up a world of food choices to him. About two years ago, his skin test and blood work showed little to no sensitivity to peanuts. Tree nuts yes, but no peanuts! Still, the allergist recommended that we wait another year to confirm the results. Last year, again little to no sensitivity. They put us on peanut challenge wait list (about a year for us to wait it out.)

In March, his name came up on the list, and we scheduled the peanut challenge. Unfortunately, we also got blasted with a very late March snowstorm, and the doctor’s office was closed. Unbelievable — we had waited three years for the peanut challenge, and a freak snowstorm blows in. Thankfully, they were able to slot us into a last-minute cancellation the following Wednesday.

We got to the doctor’s office around 7:45 am, filled out paperwork, and carried in his clear apple juice. Over the course of 4+ hours, Josh drank increasing amounts of peanut powder dissolved in the apple juice, which he said was somewhat disgusting. We got worried at first, because his tongue was tingling after the first dose, but it calmed down after some water. After each dose, we had to take pictures, and the doctor and nurses inspected him for allergic reactions. While we waited patiently, Josh hung out and worked on stuff.

After the last dose, Josh and Namita had to wait around for two more hours in the doctor’s office for further observation, and I had to leave in order to get to my own office, so I high-tailed it out of there to grab some lunch and then to the train station. I’m happy to report that Josh officially passed the peanut challenge. It’s been a long time to wait, but this was huge progress. Later in the week, Josh enjoyed a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for the first time.

He said it was delicious.

 

 

Lily and I picked up our pottery painting projects from Art Around the Corner

Last month, we all went to Art Around the Corner in Freehold NJ to paint on canvas and pottery. Lily and I had a chance to pick up our pottery projects this weekend, and I think they came out pretty well.

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Our pottery from Art Around the Corner in Freehold

St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl in New Brunswick

On St. Patrick’s Day, I met up with a few friends for an already-in-progress pub crawl in New Brunswick. I think it started at Old Bay, we hit two more places for drinks and dancing, and we ended at some point eating a very late dinner at Mamoun’s on Easton Ave. Good evening.

 

Namita’s 40th birthday party extravaganza in the Riviera Maya – Monday

Sadsies.

After breakfast, the ladies (plus Teo) tried to find some of the Wisconsin guests and their 10 am Zumba in the water class, but never found them. Namita and I ended up picking up some souvenirs for the kids at the gift shop, then heading back to pack our suitcases.

Although we had to check out by 11 or 12, we could have the bellman come to grab our suitcases, then we could hang out, eat, and drink on the resort until we had to catch our transportation back to the airport. I checked us out, then met the rest of our traveling companions on the beach. We had a few more drinks, then went to the hotel tub for one last dip.

I went to the nearby spa to shower, freshen up, and change my clothes. I met the rest of them at Kampai for our last meal (lunch.) We ended up lunching longer than expected, and ended up briskly walking to the main lobby.

Thankfully our limo (our limo!) had not left without us. We had an uneventful ride back to the airport, no delays with our flight, and no issues overall. Soon enough we were in the minivan and on our way home to New Jersey.

Overall, it was a really fun trip. We had some great food, enjoyed the sun, and met a lot of nice Midwest folks. I do wish the weather had cooperated more. Teo & Sofia never got to go snorkeling or parasailing, and none of us got to enjoy our beachfront dining experiences.

Namita’s 40th birthday party extravaganza in the Riviera Maya – Saturday and Sunday

I decided to combine the next two days, because we really spent the majority of our days in the pool drinking beverages, meeting very nice people from Milwaukee, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Saturday was kinda cool because Teo and I played beach volleyball with some folks, which was a first for me.

Cancun 2017 (102 of 115)Teo, Sofia and Nums did get beachside massages in the late afternoon, and I went to work out at the gym.

Saturday night we went to Rincon Mexico for dinner and we were supposed to see some fire show at the resort theater area. Unfortunately I got sick (bad indigestion or gas or something) and Teo ended up doing me a solid and running to the resort gift shop to pick up Pepto Bismol and Tums. Nums and I didn’t make it to the show, and Teo & Sofia caught the tail end, then went to the Guacamayas bar that stays open until 2 am.

Bummer.

Sunday was more time at the bar, plus Nums got another massage. We met a few more people from Nebraska at a hot tub on the Casitas side, and ended up drinking and chilling with them for another hour or so. Teo and I made two separate beer runs to empty our respective mini-fridges of all beer and champagne.

We grabbed Sunday dinner at Fuego, another Mexican restaurant. After dinner, we caught the last 20 minutes of “El Dorado Karaoke”, then got another two rounds of drinks at Guacamayas next door.

We had an opportunity for a beachside dinner, but the weather never cooperated in the evenings. For both Saturday and Sunday late afternoon and early evenings,  a heavy rainstorm and high winds would move in and hit the area. Both evenings during sunset, it was either raining or raining and windy. We never got to eat on the beach, so that sucked. Teo and Sofia had also planned to go snorkeling during the weekend, but the high winds cancelled excursions both days. Double bummer.

Our last full days of vacation were slipping away.

 

Namita’s 40th birthday party extravaganza in the Riviera Maya – Friday

Oh my, what day.

Cancun 2017 (44 of 115)We spent most of the day in the main swim-up bar at the El Dorado Royale. Based on our explorations, while there are 9 swim-up bars between the Royale and Casitas properties, 8 of them are  really quiet. Not to stereotype, but it seemed older guests liked the peace and quiet. We made our way to the big swim-up bar / pool and spent most of the day there. You’ve got three restaurants surrounding this pool so it’s the place to be, if you ask me.

Teo, Sofia, and Nums enjoyed drinks in hand-carved coconuts and pineapples after breakfast. We spent nearly the entire day in the pool. Of note, around 2 pm, we walked over to participate in the daily tequila tasting. For some reason, people kept pouring their shots into my cup. Sometime after the tequila tasting, we were all well… hydrated.

At some point, on the way back to our rooms, all the while stumbling / giggling, we stopped and swam around in a large salt water pool. Eventually we made it to the rooms, and got ready for dinner at the Casitas Italian restaurant. Wow, great food.

Cancun 2017 (66 of 115)Later around 10 pm, we took a golf cart ride to the Royale lobby, and caught a cab into town (Playa del Carmen) and went to our destination for the evening  – Coco Bongo.  Now. I’ve been to the Coco Bongo in Cancun at least twice now, and I know it gets super crowded on the main floor. I highly recommended that we purchase VIP tickets ahead of time, which turned out to be an good idea. after all We were escorted to our balcony area, where we had waiters running drinks for us, and also escorting the ladies to the rest rooms as needed. The Playa Del Carmen version appeared to be smaller than the Cancun version, but I could be wrong. Still, very entertaining.

We ended up partying until about sometime an after 3 am, and only after we got the girls on stage to dance. Check that one off the list! We grabbed a cab, and we were home 30 or so minutes later.

What a day. What a night.

Namita’s 40th birthday party extravaganza in the Riviera Maya – Thursday

I began planning the centerpiece of my wife Namita’s 40th birthday celebration months ago. We discussed maybe even a year earlier of getting a number of folks together, flying somewhere warm without children, and relaxing. As the months ticked inexorably closer to Dec 2016, most people couldn’t make it. The good news is we had narrowed down the vacation destination to either Cancun or the Riviera Maya. Luckily, our resident “Always down to party!” friends Teo and Sophia were looking for a vacation.

The kids would stay over with their grandparents for the extended weekend (Wed night – Tues morning.) The four of us were leaving Thursday early morning at 3 am. We stayed up to finish packing (as usual) and we were on time to leave. We drove to Queens, dropped off the car at off-airport parking, did the whole get to the airport / check-in / security thing, and then waited around at the concourse. There were a lot of people at JFK even at 4:30 am.

Cancun 2017 (15 of 115)No issues with our United flight, and we arrived on time. Namita slept and I watched movies on my iPad. We fought past all the pushy folks selling ‘adventures’ and excursions, and found Lomas Travel. After waiting about 10-15 minutes, our Lincoln MKX limo showed up. I knew our agent Travel Tom was up to something, but wow. We enjoyed a very comfortable 45 minute ride to the El Dorado Royale / Casitas in the Riviera Maya.

We took a large golf cart over to the Casitas section and checked in at our own personal Casitas lounge. We had an excellent lunch at the Asian fusion restaurant Kampai then went to check out our fabulous rooms. I surprised Namita with an upgrade to the Casitas section, and Travel Tom surprised Teo and Sofia with a free upgrade to Casitas as well!

Cancun 2017 (39 of 115)We relaxed for a bit, then I went to check out the resort with Teo & Sofia. Namita needed a few more winks of rest, but she joined us later. The resort was expansive  – very stretched out with many pools, canals, etc. We were a little surprised to find the swim-up pools and bars closed promptly at 5 pm in order to get ready for dinner. We did hang out at one of the beachside bars to drink.

In the late evening, we had reservations at Fuentes, what they call a culinary dining experience. They have a rotating set of chefs come in to design a series of appetizers and entrees and desserts. They also make the meal in front of everyone, and have it on camera for everyone to see.

The Ipes go to Broadway to get “On Your Feet!”

Last Christmas, Namita and I didn’t want to purchase more “things” for the kids. Sometimes they use it, sometimes they don’t. Instead, we bought 4 tickets to see On Your Feet!, The Musical for Tuesday February 28 2017. Namita found this deal / event called “Kids on Broadway” which promotes getting kids interested in musicals. You buy one adult ticket, get 1 children’s ticket free. You had to see one of the participating shows that specific night.

I had to be in the office that day, so the family ended up taking the train right after school, and meeting me in Times Square. I made reservations earlier at Havana Central on 46th St. Come on, how fitting? Cuban cuisine for dinner, then a musical about a Cuban Latina crossover pop star? Besides a common theme for the evening, Cuban food is delicious. The restaurant was very crowded with many other folks who had come out for the Kids on Broadway promotion. We had a dinner reservation for 5:30 pm, but we didn’t get seated until 6 PM. By the time we received our entrees, it was 6:40 PM. We Ipes know how to hustle, and we scarfed down our dinners in 15 minutes. We quickly paid the bill, then jogged quickly to the Marquis Theater (also on 46th in the Marriott Marquis hotel), without messing up our perfect hair.

The show was very entertaining, and the entire family enjoyed it. I thought it was a little slow in the beginning, but the pace picks up 25% of the way in. The music is good too. Afterwards, we had an opportunity to stay after the show was over, and participate in a Q&A session with some of the cast members. We couldn’t stay very long, because we had a 73 minute train ride to still catch. We  grabbed a cab down to 34th St, then caught the next train (packed with Rangers fans) to Princeton. It was a long day for everyone, and we got home around midnight,

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