Monday, November 17, 2008

Jack and Natalie

So, some of you might be wondering why I chose this title for my blog. It's the combination of two very special people in family tree--two people I have never met. I only know them through stories about them passed on by my family. Jack was my mother's grandfather, her mother's father. She called him Gaga (that's her spelling, because she pronounces it Gugga). His full name was Johnathan Banks Goldthwait--we think. One census record shows him as Johnathan, but my mom always thought it was just John. Who knows?! Either way, he was known as Jack in the every day world. I actually loved the name Jack before I even knew that it belonged to Gaga. I've always hoped to name a little boy that if I should be lucky enough to be a mother one day. Having the familial link makes me want to do it even more. I'm learning more about my great grandfather every day. My mom has always shared great stories in passing with me. From what I know he was incredibly kind hearted and a great confidant. Even though we've never met I've always felt like kindred spirits with him. So, that's where the Jack comes from. Natalie is the name of my dad's mom--my grandmother. I've spent my whole life trying to learn as much as I could about my Hungarian ancestry and all things Katona, but I recently began to realize that I was neglecting a huge part of my own history. My dad and uncle were raised my their widowed mother, her parents and her sister. Who they are has a lot to do with those people, and, thus, who I am has a lot do with those people. I think my dad quite possibly loved her more than anyone in the whole world. While his stories of her are few in numbers, they are always filled with great humor. In my family we joke a lot and certain things are Smith Traits (after my mom and her maiden name), and certain things are Katona Traits. In reality, though, I think a lot of the Katona Traits are also Feather (my grandmother's maiden name) Traits. I recently asked my uncle to share as much as he could remember about day-to-day details on my grandmother, Natalie. He took his time and produced a fabulous email filled with little memories and snippets of stories. I balled my little eyes out reading every word, learning about the woman I never met. Now I feel like I have a great glimpse of who she was and I am so grateful. And, so, she is the other name for my blog title. Ken and Sharon just doesn't sound as glamorous (sorry mom and dad), but I think they would agree that both of these people had a lot to do with the shaping of who each of them has become, and, thus, who I am today. I am hopeful I will get to pass these monikers on through my own children's names some day. As I learn more about both my great-grandfather and my grandmother, I will try to put little stories on here. Especially when I have a few uneventful weeks in a row, which is sort of the norm for my quiet and busy life. All my love.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Brooke & Nancy

I had the great pleasure of breaking bread with my good friend Brooke and her mom, Nancy, last night. They were in town for a long weekend to attend an immunization seminar in Bethesda. Earlier in the day I was scrapbooking with one of my good D.C. area friends Deb. She is a terrific scrapbooker, so I enjoy trying to learn new techniques from her and try to suck in as much as I can by pure osmosis. While Deb was busy actually making some beautiful pages I was sorting through pictures. I came across a handful of Brooke and I. Most of them were from our high school days, although we've known each other since we were tumbling two year old at Mountain Gymnastics. I have so many great memories growing up with Brooke and her entire family. It was fun going through the pictures and anticipating our dinner meeting. Anyway, we planned on going to The Sequoia restaurant in Georgetown. It is a beautiful, top-notch restaurant that overlooks the Potomac River. Unfortunately, when I called for reservations they were closed for a private party. Nancy, had seen something mentioning a restaurant called the "Bethesda Crab House." So, I called to make a reservation. I was hoping it was one of those restaurants with newspaper covered tables, where they hand you a wooden mallet and a pile of crabs. When the gentleman answered the phone I immediately asked if they took reservations. He said, "for crabs." I was a little thrown off my game, but eventually he took over and reserved me 12 medium crabs for 8:30. So, I met Brooke and Nancy at their hotel for a drink and some reminiscing. They were so glad to see the pictures I brought and we spent that time catching up on our lives and talking about the past a little. We decided to walk to the restaurant because the weather was fairly mild. We walked past some great shops and restaurants that I would love to go back and try--any takers??? When I thought we were coming to a construction dead end I saw the blue awning for our restaurant. We passed through a screened in porch with picnic tables and entered a fairly small, well lit restaurant, with a bar to the left and a huge drink refrigerator right inside the door. past the entrance there were probably 10 booths and a few long tables for big parties. And guess what? There was newspaper lining every table and a bundle of wooden mallets, too! Nancy and I were excited, and Brooke was intrigued. We ordered some cold beers, a dozen raw oysters, corn on the cob and cole slaw. All of it was great! Then our waitress brought out a big plate of 12 steamed crabs with what looked like a cup of Old Bay seasoning dumped on top. It was so great. None of us had been to a place like this at all. I felt sort of like a fraud, since I've lived here for almost 4 years now, and I'm glad I was able to check this experience off my list. as for cracking the crabs open and dealing with what was inside the shell (lungs, intestines, other assorted organs) I would say Nancy was not at all bothered, Brooke was slightly bothered and I was somewhere in between. I think Nancy and I finished off the most. The place wreaked of crabs and opening steaming "carcuses" at our table didn't help. Our fingers were completely covered in crab gook. As Brooke put it, "This place stinks like s**t and my mom just put some in her mouth...something about this just isn't right."We made an executive decision that we were done working for our food around 10:00. I think we will all be finding crab parts in our coats and purses for the next few months, as stuff was flying everywhere. And, in normal fashion, we were all "helpfully" offering our expert crab cracking advice to each other. It was quite a scene. On our way back to the hotel we stopped in at a Mexican restaurant and had a plate of mini sopapillas (sp?). Nancy decided at this point that she should prank her youngest daughter from my phone. As soon as Nancy lowered her voice in disguise Brooke and I began to laugh uncontrollably, falling off our stools and gasping for air. It was a funny and perfect end to a great evening. Brooke and I even made plans to meet for a drink with her sister and her sister's friend Melody next week when I am hope for the holiday. I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Marine Corps Birthday

Many of you probably know that November 11th, yesterday, was Veterans Day. What you may not know is that November 10th, is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Four years ago, November 10th just came and went in my world. Not any more. For John it is one of the most important days of the year. This is my fourth Marine Corps birthday with him. Finally I found the balance on how to celebrate this milestone with him. If you know John, you know a fine dining experience or gourmet meal is a pretty sure fire way to win him over. We celebrated with 2 inch thick rib eyes, a medley of vegetables and pecan pie for dessert. To top it off I presented him with front row football tickets for the Jets. He'll be going with his good friend--and old Marine Corps buddy--Ed "Wally" Walsh. John thinks Wally might be even more excited then him, so that is really awesome. Both of them are home grown New York boys and die hard Jets fans. I think they will have a great time. Now I just need to procure a parking pass on Ebay and they'll be set! All in all, it was a really great day and I'm so glad my fourth try was a success--John thought the tickets were a little much/extravagant--but I think he didn't exactly try to give the tickets back...