Friday, May 28, 2010

Conan in Canada!

I have become kind of sort of obsessed with Conan O'Brien. Not in a "I have a shrine to him in my closet" way, but in a "I wouldn't mind if we met at a coffee shop and he realized I am the best friend he has been waiting his whole life to find" way (sorry Andy Richter). And so, last Saturday David and I went to Toronto to see his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour.

Neither of us had ever been to Toronto before, so we did some sightseeing before the Conan show. We went to Steamwhistle Brewery, which was right across from the CN Tower. Though I always love touring breweries, I was very excited to go on this particular brewery tour because they let someone blow their signature steamwhistle after the tour is over. And by someone, of course I mean ME! I blew that steamwhistle like a professional.

David is enjoying one of his free samples Steamwhistle's Pilsner, the only beer they make. Since the brewery is run by Canadians, they freely and politely hand out free samples at the bar like their job is not to sell the beer, but to give it to you for free. It was not lost on me as we wandered through Toronto that Canadians are the nicest people I have ever encountered. In fact, they are about as nice as people tell me I tend to be - TOO nice. Perhaps I am secretly Canadian myself???? I certainly felt as if I was finally among my own kind.

For dinner, we tried Susur Lee's restaurant, appropriately titled Lee. Susur Lee is currently competing on Top Chef Masters (a Bravo TV show), and he is our favorite contestant because he is so intense. The food was AMAZING. One of the dishes we ordered was also a dish he cooked (and won with) on Top Chef Masters - chicken with basil and green curry sauce - and it was the best thing I have ever eaten.

And now, the main event...CONAN. Shown above is David and me right before the opening act started - check out my classic Dorkface smile! We had amazing seats. AMAZING. The first balcony in Massey Hall extends fairly close to the stage, and we were seated in the front row.

Conan's opening act was really great, but then Conan (and then Andy) came on and I promptly forgot about the opening act. (Okay, okay, not completely, his name is Reggie Watts.) The show did a really good job of incorporating the gags that made all of us (okay, maybe just me) fall in love with Conan on Late Night/The Tonight Show without feeling like it was old material.

Conan did a fair amount of jamming with the Legally Prohibited Band, and during the last number, he came up into our section to rock out and hug people. I did not get a hug, but I was only four people away from him. I think he looks really dreamy in this photo.

After the show, David and I waited in a ridiculously disorganized line (chaos, really) to buy me a Team Coco t-shirt. As we (finally) exited the auditorium, we noticed a crowd of people standing next to two giant tour buses. A few minutes later, the band members began to exit the building and mingle with the crowd. And then a few minutes after that...Conan arrived to sign autographs! The crowd got pretty intense. I never have sympathy for celebrities when they complain about dealing with mobs of fans and press because they get paid millions of dollars to do their job, but I have admit that I don't think millions of dollars would be enough to help me handle that crowd (and it wasn't even that big of a crowd). Everyone was yelling and pushing, trying to get even just an inch closer to Conan. Cameras were flashing off continuously, and everyone was shoving something in Conan's face so that he could sign it. It was hard for David to get any clear photos of Conan because we were in the middle of the pack, but you can kind of see his hair in the picture above (right as David was taking the photo, a guy standing in front of me held up his Simpsons DVD case for Conan to sign, so that pink box is completely blocking his face).

I waited patiently for my turn to get my ticket signed, and Conan did sign it! His pen was running out, so my autograph resembles a few loops rather than "Conan O'Brien," but that doesn't really matter so much to me. I made sure to thank Conan for signing my ticket, and David thinks he heard me and responded back, but it was honestly hard to tell 1) because it was so loud to begin with and 2) because I tried to make my way to the back of the crowd so that the people behind me could have their turn and be closer to the front.

*sigh* The whole thing was just magical. Conan is so dreamy. Oh, and my husband is too, for securing me tickets to see Conan :)

This weekend the fun times will continue as we head to Massachusetts! On Saturday we will be headed to the cottage (along with Brian and Jane) to help Ken and Carol put the dock in, and on Sunday we will attend Rob and Abby's wedding.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pomp and circumstance

Almost two weeks ago, I (officially) graduated from Penn and participated in the 254th Commencement ceremonies. Though my initial interest in donning the cap and gown was related to my parents' wishes, now that it is over, I am very glad that I did.

Penn has a parade of the graduates to kick off the university-wide ceremony at Franklin Field. (Can you find me in this picture? I'd say it's just like "Where's Waldo?", but I am so pale that I am much easier to find in this sea of black gowns than Waldo is in those puzzles.) Being a part of this parade was a truly amazing experience. As the parade moves through campus, family/friends/faculty applaud and say nice things as you walk by. It was during this parade, when a random stranger said to me, "Oh - a PhD grad - congratulations, what an amazing achievement!", that it really sunk in that I did achieve something to be really proud of. I suppose that it is strange that it took words from a total stranger to realize this - my family and friends have all expressed their support and pride over the past few weeks (and thank you everyone, really!) - but it still hadn't sunk in until I heard that nice woman's comment to me during the parade. I think sometimes in the day to day shuffle of my laboratory life (and especially because I am also married to a fellow PhD), it is easy for me to forget that getting a PhD degree isn't this thing that everyone does all the time, every day.

The parade was led by bagpipe players, which to me just SCREAMS, "The members of this parade are graduating from an Ivy League school, just in case that wasn't already clear." However, despite this, the bagpipe players were pretty awesome.

David got a great picture of the Penn President, Dr. Amy Gutmann, as she passed him in the parade. Her graduation speech was pretty fantastic, and encouraged all of us to pursue the things we are most passionate about regardless of whether or not they fit into the "perfect path" we envision for ourselves. Call me incredibly cheesy / dorky, but I did feel in that moment that she was speaking directly to me and my type-A+ personality (even if there were 4,000 other graduates there with me). And her speech included a spontaneous "Hell no!" If only our commencement speaker, Jon Huntsman Jr. (former Utah governor, current Chinese Ambassador, and clearly aiming for the White House) had been so interesting and compelling.

And now, for the family photos, taken outside of the Penn Museum before the departmental ceremony...

David is smiling in this picture because he now has his real wife back, and no longer has to live with that crazy person that took over my body during the winter and spring months.

Posing with my parents and Jenn. They all gave me the beautiful flowers that you see in this photo, and surprised me that evening by giving me an iPad! I am SO excited and grateful, and I can't wait for FedEx to deliver it on June 2. I am sure when it arrives I will write a(n) (obnoxious) blog post about how cool the iPad is.

Me with my grandparents. I was thrilled they came for the ceremony too, and I think this is a great photo of us.

That night we ate pizza for dinner here. Marc Summers ranked their pizza the best he'd ever ate (on the Food Network show with the same title), and I can understand why. It was delicious.

Now that I am all done at Penn, I have moved to the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department at Cornell, where I am working as a post-doc for this guy. The Crane laboratory is a really nice place to work so far, and I am loving living in Ithaca with David. We even ride the bus to work together every day - how cute! :)

Our garden

It has been a hectic few weeks in the Hokanson household! One of the things that has been keeping David and me busy is the garden plot that we rented from Cornell for the season. (In fact, we will be weeding and watering it tonight after work!)

Here in this picture you can see our garden in the distance. You might be asking yourself, "But Sarah, there are several plots in this photo - how can I tell which plot is yours?" Why, it's the one blocked off with BRIGHT ORANGE HAZARD FENCING to keep the deer away. (Hey, it was SO much cheaper than the classy deer fencing used by everyone else.) I almost want to apologize to our garden neighbors for being next to them, and yet...I can't, because I secretly love the hazard fencing at the same time. And so, based on the fact that our garden is loud, proud, and we have no idea what the hell we are doing, we have appropriately named it the DANGER ZONE (sung to the tune of the Kenny Loggins song used repeatedly on the show Archer).

This photo depicts the garden directly next to ours, which is rented by a friendly farmer named John. We modeled our garden after this one because it seemed like John was pretty hardcore.

A closer look at the DANGER ZONE, next to John's peaceful garden of tranquility and farming excellence.

Here are our rows of seeds, modeled after John's. We planted two rows of flowers and many rows of vegetables, including cucumbers, collard greens, spinach, swiss chard, and sweet peas.

Here you can see the entire garden. The mounds towards the front of the photo are where our cantaloupe plants are planted. We also planted our herb plants from the wine and herb fest in the front left.

We are super excited to hopefully get some herbs and veggies to cook with this summer (IF anything grows, that is). Stay tuned for future updates as our plants begin to come in.