March

March 31st, 2014 | 10:05 am

March started out with a short business trip to CT for a few days. I drove up and back with two of my good friends and coworkers, which was a lot of fun. We were there for our annual all-hands departmental meeting, and it was the most fun one of these we’ve ever had. As of last year, we have an “engagement team” and they organized the meeting and other activities, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. And of course, it was great to see a lot of my coworkers who I don’t often get to see in person.

We got home just in time for our learning event to start, so I was busy for a couple weeks helping out with that. Our contractor C was in town for the first week, so I was out to dinner with her most evenings. And she’s getting married this summer, so we decided to throw her a little wedding shower while she was in the office, which was really fun, and she was totally surprised :o)

My other big work thing was that a major system we use was getting upgraded, and I am on the “change agent” team for my department. That ended up taking over my life for a couple weeks as I did demos (for individuals, small groups, and hundreds of people!), prepared, answered questions, rewrote procedures, etc. I will be so happy when everything is up and running! I got lots of great feedback about my work on the team, though. This is one of the first really “high visibility” things I’ve done, so I’m glad it’s gone so well.

Lots of new places are opening up in our town. MB came out and we went to the new Container Store on its opening day. It was actually kind of disappointing – very crowded (as I’d expected), the products were fairly expensive for things that weren’t really that unique, and there wasn’t really anything special going on for the “grand opening.” We had a fun day hanging out, though! And the new Chipotle is finally open! It’s in a horrible location with almost no parking, so it’ll probably start to frustrate me, but it’s nice to have somewhere that I can get a burrito bowl without having to cross a river.

Also this month:

  • New coworker started (who is also a friend and old coworker’s husband!)
  • I had probably the best annual review of my life at work, and am really excited to see what this year will bring
  • Continued going to yoga; these last couple weeks especially I feel like I’m finally getting the moves down and can now focus on breathing
  • GG and I went to a wine and cheese party, scoped out a friend’s new girlfriend (to report back to his mom), and made some other new friends
  • GG got a mural job at another local business
  • GG’s computer died :o(
  • I got a new computer to replace my current XP tower that I’ll have to take offline soon, as well as my “fun” laptop; it’s been getting to be a pain working off two computers, so I figured a laptop + docking station was a good solution. Now to redo my office!

February

February 28th, 2014 | 2:30 pm

OMG, another month went by without any other blogging! I know February is the shortest month, but seriously it feels like it went by in a flash!

The main theme of February I guess was the nonstop crazy snowstorms that affected everyone! Luckily, our power never went out, but lots of our friends had outages. The power was off at my grandmom’s house for a few days, so she came to stay with us for a little while, which actually was kind of fun. The snow also meant we stayed in more than usual, so I got to watch the Nye/Hamm debate live online over dinner, and we didn’t go out for Valentines Day. Instead, I attempted to make us a really nice dinner at home. It was good, but… did not go as planned. I made steaks with this chocolate/chili crust on them, and I found directions for starting steaks in a pan and finishing in the oven. Unfortunately, these types of recipes do not account for chocolate/chili crusts, so it turned out to be a horrible mess. (It was delicious in the end, though.) Thanks to the snow and power outages and whatnot, GG had several comedy shows cancelled (even one that I went to see!). And, because of the snow and holidays and various days off, I think it wasn’t until the last week of the month that I actually worked five consecutive days from the locations I was expected to work from!

We’d planned this out a while ago, but finally on Presidents’ Day weekend, we went to Ikea and got stuff to clean up and organize GG’s office/studio like he’s wanted. We added a tall bookcase, and swapped out his old desk for one that aligns with his existing desk, so it’s like one continuous surface. Next up: my office!

Speaking of my office, not that anyone really cares, but we just got “upgraded” to new laptops at work with Windows 8, and I hate it. For being the resident “techie” person, I’m kind of a curmudgeon when it comes to major changes like this. The computer itself is nice. It’s a touch-screen, which is annoying, but whatever. The Office 2010 software is an improvement over Office 2007. But Windows 8 is really not for the business environment.

We saw Wolf of Wall Street on Presidents’ Day (had wanted to go a couple weeks earlier, but even the movie theater lost power in the snowstorm!). It was so good. Much better and funnier than I’d expected, and I was pretty proud of myself for catching the references to The Graduate.

I’ve been continuing my yoga class at the gym, and I really wish they had yoga more than once a week! I tried a special class they offered called ABsession, which nearly killed me. The yoga is so much more my speed :o)

The month ended with the first of a string of important work events. This was a multi-site meeting that I helped to run at our site. Despite a few technical difficulties, everything went well here and we got lots of good feedback from the senior leaders who attended. Learning Week 2014 Part 1 here we come…

January

January 31st, 2014 | 2:00 pm

So what else did I do this month, besides trying on clothes and putting cats to sleep?

Well, the month (and year) started out awkwardly, at a really weird New Year’s Eve party at which GG was supposed to perform comedy. It was a “black and white” party, so we had to dress in just black and white (I cheated and wore gray boots). The event promoter who organized it did kind of a terrible job, so while it was a beautiful venue with lots of food, a bar, a band, and comedians at the ready, nobody actually showed up until about 11 PM, when just a few people started trickling in. We thought we’d be done well before midnight, so after waiting around for hours, all of a sudden it was time to hurry up and tell jokes (which did not go well), and then we took the other comedian home, and then it was midnight, and then we went home.

As has become our annual tradition, GG and I took a day off work and went to the Farm Show in Harrisburg with our friends L and S. We hit up the food hall first for an invigorating morning milkshake, then toured around the whole complex (we even found a new spot we hadn’t known about before, which was full of vendors!), then went back to the food hall for lunch before heading out. I think we ended up buying more “stuff” this year than we have in the past – GG got some wine, I bought some cheese, GG has these meat sticks and things he likes and has to pick up every year now, they’re now selling nuts so GG got a big bag of black walnuts, I bought some kind of hair accessory… Oh, and the new hot item of the show this year, the bacon? I was a little disappointed.

I got a bad cold (my first one in over a year, maybe?) just in time for this all-day training thing I had to be in at work. I just chugged tea all day and was miserable. I just couldn’t shake it, but luckily we also had plenty of snow days from work so I could get some extra recovery time at home.

I started going to a yoga class that I really like. It’s like regular yoga, except sometimes we hold hand weights.

American Horror Story ended, meh. I mean, I guess the right people lived and died, so that’s good. But it was barely “horror,” and there was nothing really that shocking. I hear the next series will be about communism in the 1950s, so I’m curious to see how that goes. I also binge watched the first two seasons of Girls one weekend while I was sick, and we have HBO for free until April for some reason, so I’ve been watching season 3 as it’s airing now.

My Second Stitch Fix

January 29th, 2014 | 4:15 pm

If you’ll recall, I tried Stitch Fix for the first time earlier this month, and the results were not so great. However, I know that a lot of people had bad experiences the first time around and their fixes dramatically improved once they’d sent in that first round of feedback. So I was able to squeeze in one more fix before the end of the month.

This time, I asked for a jacket and/or cute tops to wear under a jacket, in preparation for a couple work events I have coming up soon. I also gave them a link to my review of my first fix, hoping it would help them to see the pictures and my full feedback (there’s a character limit when you leave feedback for each item on the site).

I cheated again, and when I got the notification that my items had shipped, I went on the site to see if I could get a peek of what I would be expecting. Looking at the names of the items, I was not thrilled. Mixed metals? High-wasted cropped pants? A pea coat? However, as I started googling the items and looking at pictures, I could sort of put together why they had chosen these pieces, based on my previous feedback. The pants actually looked work-appropriate. The loose top came in colors I loved. The pea coat was still kind of random but I liked the style and the price looked good.

When my box came, I excitedly opened it, thinking all my comments from the previous fix would have been addressed. However, the note from the stylist (a different one this time) didn’t really mention anything from last time, and barely touched on my request for business casual clothes for work events. Here’s what I got:

Tulle “Glenn Front Pocket Pea Coat” – $58
I’m not really a “red pea coat” girl, but I liked the looks of this one (loved the pockets, collar, and cinched waist), so decided to give it a try. When I put it on, I actually laughed out loud. Not only could I not button it, I couldn’t even get the two sides to touch while I had it on. I also could not move my arms. Immediate return.




Margaret M “Emer High Waisted Cropped Trouser” $98
When I was doing my little preview search, I decided these pants didn’t look horrible, and assuming I got them in a color like black or gray, I could totally wear them to work. I was even willing to overlook the high price. Well, the pants I got are Burgundy, and they’re a little more cropped than I would like. They actually fit pretty nicely, but I felt kind of like I was wearing clown pants, and I definitely didn’t want to spend $100 for that experience. Return.



41Hawthorn “Mission 3/4 Sleeve V-Neck Blouse” – $48
My first thought upon taking this out of the box was that it was very sheer, but I added a cami underneath and it was ok. The real problem was that it was a tiny bit tight over my chest. And then the v-neck really puts it all out there. And the puffy sleeves. But… as I wore it, it kind of grew on me. I even put together a whole outfit, as suggested on my card. I decided to keep it!



41Hawthorn “Benson 3/4 Ruched Sleeve Blazer” – $78
This is the piece I was most excited about. It’s a jersey material blazer and I’d seen it in other people’s fixes; and as long as I got one in a reasonable (i.e. boring) color, I could use it for work. It came in gray! Now… it is a little tight when I button it, but I can button it. I have another jersey blazer, but it has these peplum ruffle things and sometimes I feel a little silly in it. This one is more of a classic blazer shape… and I don’t have to button it if I don’t want. Keep.



Bay to Baubles “Janet Mixed Link Necklace” – $28
I was a little concerned when I saw the name of this because I thought it meant it was mixed metals, and I really do not do goldtone. I was pleased to see that it was actually a mix of two types of (silver) chain! Turns out I really like it, and the price is right. Keep.



As predicted, my second experience with Stitch Fix was not perfect, but was a definite improvement over the first time. As I said in my feedback to them, they seem not to understand breasts and how things fit over them. I will probably hold off on scheduling another one for now, but the next time I have something coming up, or am just feeling dissatisfied with my closet, I will definitely set one up.

I wrote this review as a customer, nothing was provided to me by Stitch Fix or anyone else. However, the links above do use my referral ID, and if you choose to give the site a try, I’d love if you use my referral link!

Read about my first Stitch Fix experience here!

Katrina

January 27th, 2014 | 9:57 pm

As I mentioned before, Katrina had been sick for a little while. She had stopped eating and was throwing up a lot several months ago, but I got some anti-nausea medicine from the vet and that seemed to take care of the problem. She’d lost weight, wasn’t eating as much, and she just wasn’t herself, but they couldn’t find anything else wrong so we just chalked it up to her getting older and her appetite and attitude changing.

Even though she had gone back to eating mostly normally, she continued to lose weight. I got her some supplements to help her put on weight, fed her extra meals, and asked about it at the vet. They said I could bring her in some day and just put her on the scale to check her weight. So I brought her in one afternoon in mid-December, and asked if maybe while we were there, the doctor could just take a look at her again. This time… the vet noticed something. There was some kind of mass in her abdomen. It wasn’t there when she’d been to the doctor a few months before, but just as a cat’s lifespan is compressed compared to a human’s, things that could take months to develop in a human could develop in weeks in a cat. They referred us to a specialist for an ultrasound to see what it was and figure out next steps.

A couple days later, we took Katrina for her ultrasound. They shaved her entire belly and a good portion of each side. The vet there came back and gave us the news: she had the feline equivalent of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a tumor, her liver and kidneys were enlarged, and she had fluid in her chest. Treatment would be chemotherapy, but the chances for success were not good, and even if the treatment were successful, the cancer would come back. GG and I talked about it, and decided not to pursue this treatment, and instead keep her as comfortable as we could for as long as we could. We spoke to our regular vet later that day and she confirmed that that would be the best thing to do (in fact, she didn’t even mention going forward with any other treatment).

So we tried to enjoy Katrina as much as possible over the holidays. The nice thing was that GG and I were home a lot, so we could be with her and keep an eye on her. She went downhill pretty quickly, though. She’d already not been herself, but it got worse. She slept in random (seemingly uncomfortable) places, she couldn’t jump up onto furniture anymore, she ate less and less (despite drugs to help her appetite), her weight continued to drop (petting her was basically like petting a spine with fur). The vomiting had pretty much stopped at this point, but the amount of bloody diarrhea went way up. So we got other drugs to help with that, and they worked, but she continued to avoid using the litter box. Then I guess the fluids in her chest kicked in and she started sneezing and wheezing. It was all the time, but especially when she ate or drank (maybe leaning her head forward made it worse?).

The vet hadn’t told us how long we might expect Katrina to live, but I don’t think she was too optimistic. She gave us medicine about a week’s worth at a time. Finally, on Friday, 1/3, I made an appointment to take her to the vet the following Monday. I figured we’d let them check her out one more time; if there was something that could be done to improve her situation, of course we’d do it. But most likely, we’d be saying goodbye. She was barely eating, and I don’t know if she was drinking. I was worried we’d come home one day and find her dead. And most importantly, I know she was not comfortable. She was all bones, and she couldn’t even do her favorite thing: eat.

On Monday, 1/6, I ended up working from home so I wouldn’t have to rush home from work to get her to the doctor. So I got to spend one more day with her. GG met us at the vet’s office, where she was examined. The vet said she was dehydrated, which confirmed my theory that she wasn’t even drinking anymore. We could all just tell it was time. I’d been planning to stay there while they gave her the shot, but by that point I was crying and GG said he couldn’t be in the room and I didn’t want to just be there crying by myself, so we left her with the vet staff. Everyone who works there is so nice, I didn’t feel bad about it or like we were abandoning her. I just wanted my last memory of her to be a good one.

Everyone immediately asked if we were going to get another cat, like we need to maintain a level of three cats at all times. I think we will just enjoy being a two-cat family for a while. I’m pretty sure Katrina was the reincarnation of my childhood cat, Harry. They were both fat ladies who did their own thing, but when they felt like being snuggly, they were such loves. Harry used to suckle on my pajamas (we think because she was taken from her mom too young as a kitten), and while Katrina never did that, she came so close a number of times, like one little lick. Also, she would have been born around the same time we had to put Harry to sleep. So my theory is, someday, I will meet a cat that was born in January 2014 with that same cat spirit.

As for the boys, I don’t think they really noticed at first that Katrina was gone. She had pretty much checked out in those last few weeks, and they weren’t really spending a lot of time together. For a long time, the saddest thing I could think of was the fact that Ivan and Katrina were so close, and one of them would have to die first and the other would be so lonely. But I don’t think Ivan really realized she was gone until a week or so later. Then he started walking around the house meowing, and he seemed very concerned. I think both he and Sacha are ok now, though.

Katrina, you were my little love and my beautiful girl. You shed more than any cat I’ve ever known. You were the only cat who would willingly let me pick them up and carry them around. You had an attitude, but when you were in the right mood, you were so very sweet. And of course you were a good sister to Ivan. You were kind of the worst cat, but I love you and miss you, my little baby girl >^..^<



My First Stitch Fix

January 7th, 2014 | 8:53 pm

After reading a lot about it, I decided to sign up for a Stitch Fix. At this point, I’m sure everyone and their brother has heard about this service, but just in case you aren’t familiar:

  • You sign up and fill out your personal profile to tell them about your size, budget, lifestyle, and style preferences. Even with this extensive survey, there’s some things that might not be covered, but there’s also a free text box where you can add additional info, and you can even link to a Pinterest board to show them things you like. One thing I wish they’d ask, which they don’t, is for your actual measurements. I felt like just giving my bra size and pants size didn’t allow them to fully appreciate my weird body shape.
  • You schedule a “fix.” There’s a bit of a wait – I signed up on December 3 and didn’t get this delivery until the beginning of January. You can schedule them when you like, or sign up for a monthly subscription. There is a $20 styling fee for each fix (more on this later).
  • An actual human being personal stylist chooses five pieces (clothing and accessories) for you, based on the preferences you gave in your profile, and any additional instructions you gave when scheduling your fix.
  • When your delivery comes, you have three days to try everything on in the comfort of your own home, to see how it all looks with your own clothes. I love the idea of trying things on in a natural environment, and being able to see them with stuff you already have! They also provide styling ideas for each piece if you are outfit-challenged such as myself.
  • If you decide to keep anything from your box, the $20 styling fee you already paid is credited toward your purchase. If you keep all five items, you get a 25% discount on everything (so do the math, because if you wanted four items, sometimes it works out better to keep all of them and just give away the one you didn’t like). Anything that you don’t want, you just send back in the pre-paid envelope they provide.

My goal for stitch Fix was to tell them exactly what I like, and have them pick other things that I would like but may not have chosen for myself in a store. In addition to the survey, I gave them links to a Pinterest board and my outfit blog, and I got really specific in the comments about the colors I wear or don’t wear and more about my body type. In particular, I asked for tops that would not look like a tent on me! In the message when I ordered my fix, I asked specifically for skinny pants and maybe some tunics or something. So what did they send me?



Personal note from my stylist!

Styling ideas for my pieces.

Could be promising…

Sweet Rain “Beckham Short Sleeve Hi-Lo Blouse” – $28
Way too tight across my chest. Also, having been checking out other people’s boxes, Stitch Fix seems to send a lot of tab-sleeved tops, which I’m not super crazy about (they get lumpy under cardigans). Also, there was some tent action going on (probably would have been tentier if it were sized up to fit me). Return.

Fun2Fun “Ballenger Printed Sleeveless Henley Blouse” – $48
This was not only blousy and tent-like in the front, but somehow also in the back! And the pattern was kind of horrendous. There were 3-4 buttons at the neck, but the neckline overall came up way too high. Return.

Tart “Egan Layered Cross-Front Short Sleeve Top” – $68
$70 is a little expensive for a shirt I couldn’t even figure out how to put on the first time. I liked the pattern (even though I wish the tan dots were any other color, since I’ve pretty much cut tan and brown out of my wardrobe). The look was unique, but if the last one was a tent, this is a drawstring trash bag. And I just realized you can see my bra through the arm hole. Return.

Angie “Vivienne Printed Tie-Neck Tunic” – $38
I will make a confession: I saw my list of items before I received it. I went on the Stitch Fix site to update my credit card information, and didn’t realize that once your order had shipped, that would be the first thing you saw when you visited the site. So I tried to look up some of the pieces in advance, with limited success. This shirt, however, seems to be mentioned a lot in Stitch Fix reviews and is pretty well hated, so maybe they should take it out of their repertoire? The pattern kind of hurts my eyes, it comes down to my knees (I understand that it’s a tunic, but that’s kind of redonk), the tie neck is pretty horrible, and once again, it looks like I’m wearing a tent. Return.

Just Black “Adora Skinny Jean” – $88
When I asked for this Fix to contain “skinny pants,” I guess what I really should have said was “black pants that are skinny but appropriate enough that I could potentially wear to work with boots.” These were an Army green color, so I already knew I wasn’t going to keep them, but I tried them on anyway. They fit perfectly, except they were several inches too long. (Weirdly, as pants are almost never too long for me, but are sometimes too short.) Too bad! If they were black or gray, I might have dealt with the length, but that was just too many strikes against them. Return.

(Please excuse my disheveled appearance in the above pictures – I’d just gotten home from a very long day out.) It was a good effort, but not quite there from Stitch Fix. However, I know that the first box is often disappointing, and if you leave good feedback and give them another try, the stylists will improve their selections for you. So I’m hoping that’s the case, and I plan to give them another shot. All the clothes were really good quality, and the one thing that fit (the pants) fit very well (except the length). Again, I wish they would have asked for a little more specific information as far as actual body size, as I think this could have solved some of the fit issues. I may update my profile on the site with my actual measurements, though I’m not sure they have those details on the clothes they’re selecting, either.

The return process was really easy, by the way: I just went on the site, told them what I was (or in my case, wasn’t) keeping, and provided feedback on each piece. Since I want them to get better, I tried to be as detailed as I could about what I did and didn’t like. Then you just check out. If you were keeping anything, you’d be charged at this time and receive a receipt via e-mail. Everything I’m sending back goes in the provided, postage-paid bag, and I can drop it in the mailbox.

I wrote this review as a customer, nothing was provided to me by Stitch Fix or anyone else. However, the links above do use my referral ID, and if you choose to give the site a try, I’d love if you use my referral link!

Read about my second Stitch Fix experience here!

My Best-Of 2013

December 31st, 2013 | 1:22 pm

Keeping up with tradition, here is my best-of list for 2013. While thinking about what to include, I felt like I hadn’t really partaken of as much media as I usually do, but I think I have enough to put something together.

Movie: The Great Gatsby
This was pretty much a no-brainer – I was excited for this movie since the first time I heard it was happening. I love Baz Luhrmann, and this film did not disappoint. Even if the rest of it were terrible, I would have still given Gatsby my #1 spot just for the Rhapsody in Blue sequence at the party, which was so perfectly done. Really, a gorgeous film.
Runner Up: The Help – Remember, this is about movies I saw this year, not necessarily that came out this year. I read this book a couple years ago, and it was coming up for discussion at my book club, so GG and I rented this DVD as a little refresher. I was impressed with how well it stuck to the original story (a couple plot points were left out, but nothing was really changed), and it was really cute and well done – even GG liked it!

TV Show: The Office
After having gone downhill the last few seasons, they really turned things around leading up to the finale. I loved the way the show ended. I believe I shed a tear while watching, which is the mark of a good show, if it gets me that emotionally invested.
Runner Up: 30 Rock – Another finale that made me cry. I didn’t actually feel it so much the first time around, but re-watching the episode, I realized that the things the characters were saying were kind of like the actors saying goodbye to each other in real life, and that’s what got me.

Album: The Lonely Island, The Wack Album
The Lonelly Island’s third album is awesome and hilarious, but unfortunately, contains more cursing than the previous ones, which means I can sing along less. I wanted it so badly, though, in preparation for a long car trip, that this became my first digital-only album purchase!
Runner Up: Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady – Yet another excellent production from Janelle Monae, and it advances the whole “Archandroid” story, but I didn’t love every song on the album… I actually only love a couple of them.

Restaurant: Tria
This was another no-brainer. Early in the year, we went to a Cheese 101 class they gave, and then this summer we were finally able to get to the restaurant to have a meal there. I don’t like the fact that they don’t take reservations (especially if you have to plan a special trip into the city to get there), but the food is amazing and the people who work there are great (as they should be, considering they are required to take food training every week)! For Christmas, GG’s gift to me was a Tria gift card, so we went back again before the end of the year (and it was enough for more than one meal, so we’ll be going again soon).
Runner Up: Oh man, I don’t know, probably Garces Trading Company or Amada again. They are both amazing and I went to both of them this year :o)

Vacation: Atlanta, GA
I didn’t really travel too much this year, and barely traveled with GG at all. I don’t even know if this should be considered a “vacation” sine it was to go to a conference for my side job, but I had a great time (despite many issues with the event), and before we even left I already knew I would be going to next year’s. Also, I flew on a plane for the first time since 2000, and by myself for the first time ever!
Runner Up: Raleigh, NC – Made a super long drive by myself to visit friends, had a great time, and once again ended up feeling kind of empowered that I can transport myself when necessary :o) Also, Raleigh is a very cool town.

The Christmas Tour(s)

December 26th, 2013 | 2:05 pm

Last Friday, GG and I went into the city to see The Santaland Diaries at Flashpoint Theater Company. We had some time for dinner before the show, so we tried 500 Degrees. We each had a burger and fries, but GG is still talking about going back sometime for the Caramel, Apple Pie, and Bacon milkshake. After dinner, we went over to the theater, which is actually in a church! I’ve read Holidays on Ice and have heard David Sedaris read “Santaland Diaries” on NPR every Christmas for years, so I was familiar with the story and was curious to see how they would stage it. This was actually a one-man show with just a couple pieces of scenery (a chair, Christmas tree, some wrapped presents) and the performer changed his costume slightly between segments, eventually going from shirt, pants, scarf, and coat to a full-on elf costume with tights and jingle bell shoes and everything. He was very good and the show was funny, of course. Even GG liked it :o) Also, before the show started, the director came out to make a few announcements, but while he spoke he held up a sign that said it was the actor’s birthday and we should sing happy birthday when he came out for a curtain call, which we did, and he seemed genuinely surprised.

I spent the weekend doing errands. It was a weekend where we were actually, weirdly, free of any specific plans. I did end up meeting a couple people to pick up and drop off various things before Christmas. GG came with me on one of these trips, and while we were out, we stopped at a huge Asian supermarket we didn’t realize was so close to home. We’ll have to go back sometime when we can actually shop for weird stuff. (I also saw lots of nice bento boxes – are those still a thing I could sell on eBay?)

On Monday we had plans to attend a Christmas tour through Philadelphia Urban Adventures. We always go to the Comcast holiday show, and we wanted to check out the Love Park Christmas Village as well, and I saw a LivingSocial deal for this tour that went to those places plus a few others, so we decided to give it a try. While this tour was better than that chocolate tour we took, in that the tour guide was knowledgeable about the city and actually told us things we didn’t already know, it still wasn’t what I expected from a tour you spend money for. We met at the clothespin sculpture across from City Hall, and it was pouring rain (and continued raining for most of the tour – we apparently are unable to take tours on non-rainy days). Our first stop was the Macy’s light show, which is a big deal for kids (but actually kind of lame for adults). Having paid money for this tour, I might have expected that the tour company had some kind of arrangement with Macy’s to get us a good spot to view the show. Instead, we were crammed in with the crowds and I could actually only see half the display. The best part actually was the huge, historic organ, which didn’t come in until the end. They should have done all the music on the organ. Next we went to the Reading Terminal (the Convention Center), where we learned some interesting tidbits, followed by the Reading Terminal Market, where we had 15 minutes of free time. What can you do in 15 minutes at the RTM?! GG and I panicked and ended up getting smoothies and Amish pretzels. I can’t imagine what people who’d never been there before thought. We walked through the city a little more and went to the Christmas Village. This is a new thing they’ve been doing for the last couple years, and it was cute, but would probably be nicer on a cold winter night than a warm, wet afternoon. GG and I got some caramel apple cider (recommended by his brother), and we had some more free time to explore around a little. I think I saw most of the booths, but I’d like to go back there on our own next Christmas. Then we headed to the Comcast building for their holiday show. There were a few updates to the video this year (and they no longer close with those kids singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” which is good because they’re probably all in their 20s by now), and they again squirted out a sprinkling of foam “snow,” but this time they did it twice during the show and I think we were standing right under a foam snow sprayer, because we got drenched. Then they took us to DiBruno Brothers and gave us a few minutes, which wasn’t even enough time to do anything, again, and finally we ended in Rittenhouse Square. Again, we did learn a few little interesting things along the way, but in general there was no special access, we didn’t meet any shop owners or anything, and at the stops where we had free time, it wasn’t really enough time to accomplish anything. So for next year, we’ll go back to doing our own thing.

On Christmas Eve we went to GG’s grandmother’s house, as usual. There was lots of seafood and usually they make some non-seafood thing for me, but this year I made and brought a tray of my own baked ziti. Then Christmas morning, GG went to his parents’ house for breakfast while I stayed home to clean and prepare food for when my family came over in the afternoon. We had a nice early dinner and had fun exchanging gifts, then I cleaned up and we went back to GG’s parents’ house for dinner with them, followed by more gifts! GG loved my “big” gift for him, a GoPro camera – as I predicted, he’s been playing with it ever since I gave it to him :o) I got a couple surprising gifts, but the best were gift cards especially Amazon GCs which I had specifically requested (for the Kindle! and other stuff). Overall, a very nice Christmas day and lead-up to it, but I am so glad to be able to undecorate now!

2013 Goal Wrap-Up

December 21st, 2013 | 1:48 pm

There are still a few more days in the year, but I’ve pretty much checked out at this point, so let’s take a look at how I’ve done on my 2013 goals.

  1. Read 25 Books
    I missed, by a little bit. According to Goodreads, I completed 19 books in 2013 (may squeeze another one in there before the end of the year), with four more in progress. Considering I read two books in 2012, this was a huge improvement!

    Of the 19 books I read, 7 were fiction, 5 I’d call memoirs, and at least 3 left me really frustrated with some or all of the characters. At least 8 were somehow educational.

    Having a Kindle was kind of a blessing and a curse – on one hand, it is so convenient to read on! On the other hand, I have this weird hangup about spending money on books, so I got caught up, especially in the beginning, in the fact that the books I wanted to read were not available through my library and I didn’t want to spend money on them. My new thing is cashing in my Ebates earnings for Amazon gift cards, and using that to cover book purchases.

    Another encouragement to read was the fact that I started a sort of book club at work. Some coworkers and I were regularly recommending books to each other, so we decided to get together once a month and read and discuss the same book. It’s hard to coordinate everyone every month, but it’s been fun and we read four books together this year.

  2. Send 2 Cards/Letters per Month
    Nope.
  3. Be a Better Blogger
    This didn’t really happen. Most months I was lucky to get one post written. I blame a number of factors, including the ease of sharing things instantly via Twitter or Facebook, and the fact that most of my other regular blogger friends have tapered off as well, either moving more to another platform like FB, or just disappearing… I still want to keep a blog for myself, so I do try to at least check in and summarize what happened in the last few weeks.

Now, before you say I failed, I picked up an additional goal in the latter part of the year of becoming a little more physically fit. After a few months of weekly meetings with a trainer, plus being more active on our own, I hadn’t lost any actual weight, but I felt “less fat,” and I think that’s just as important (especially considering my original goal for myself wasn’t weight loss but just to do more activity). GG has been using the gym at his office, and I’ll probably join a gym as well, and we plan to continue meeting with our trainer in the new year.

“It’s a special night of anticipation, the moonbeams strong on the old band shell”

December 16th, 2013 | 8:18 pm

Christmas seems to have suddenly attacked! The first week of December I had a cookie bake-off at work (which I organized, and which got rave reviews!), and then that Friday was my annual Christmas shopping day with MB and L. This year was a little different, because I actually started my Christmas shopping really early (like, back in July) and picked things up as I saw stuff that would make good gifts. Much of the rest I’d taken care of online. But I still had a couple things I wanted to look for, and of course it’s just nice to spend a day with a couple of my good friends. We ended up hitting the Philadelphia Premium Outlets, Ikea, and the KoP Mall, followed by an early dinner at Seasons 52 before we all crashed. (And I didn’t even have an hour+ drive home, unlike the other two!)




Last week featured what I’ve been calling the “mandatory party” at work (hastily organized by our department across multiple sites, due to jealousy over our successful cookie bake-off); it wasn’t actually so bad. There was a good turn-out and people brought good snacks and we played some word games. We were scheduled to have our first two concerts of the holiday season, but the first was cancelled due to snow and ice, so we just had one, which went well.

On Friday, I hosted what is probably the best party I have ever thrown or will ever throw. From the beginning, it promised to be good: guests were invited to bring a dip for a “battle of the dips” (I provided chips, veggies, and other dippers); we had a “photo booth” area set up with a backdrop, hats, signs, props, and a camera on a tripod; but what nobody knew was that I’d scheduled a special performer. Tons of people were canceling on us at the last minute, and all I could think was, “You’re going to be really sorry when you see that you missed a clown!” I’m not sure exactly where this idea came from, I was talking to a coworker about wanting to do something special for our party, and somehow came away with the idea of hiring a clown. I got bids from a couple performers, and ended up going with this company that books all different performers, so I didn’t know exactly what I was going to get. The party was going great, everyone had been there for an hour or two, when there was a knock at the door. GG knew he was on door-answering/coat-taking duty, so he opened the door. If nobody else had come to the party, I really just wanted to see the look on his face when he saw the clown. He did not disappoint! He turned to me and asked, “Um, did you hire a clown?!” Yes! The clown wasn’t really decked out in a full clown outfit, which was slightly disappointing. Also, she was there to make balloon animals, and the only shape she could make was a dog. If I’d hired her for an actual kids’ birthday party, I might have been upset that she couldn’t do all the shapes and things, but as it was, it kind of added to the silliness of it! First person asked for a dog: easy. I asked for a cat: also a dog. B asked for a T-rex: it’s a dog! S asked for a giraffe: a dog with an extra-long tail (yes, tail)! It was a super fun night, and I think everyone had a great time! I don’t know how I’m ever going to top that. Oh, and the winning dips were MB’s Bacon Jam, JB’s Baked Brie, and JH’s Cookie Dough Dip (which I will be making for myself soon)!





After all that excitement, GG and I had planned to go to New York for the day the following day, but the gross weather scrapped those plans – and I’m glad we stayed home, because I was beat! This week, we have more holiday concerts, parties for band and work, a pre-holiday family dinner, and GG and I are seeing a live performance of David Sedaris’ “The SantaLand Diaries.” In addition to all that fun, I now also have cat stuff to deal with: despite getting her appetite back and not throwing up all the time, Katrina has continued to lose weight. I had her back at the vet today, and they examined her and found a mass in her abdomen that wasn’t there a couple months ago. Apparently, tumors and things can grow faster in cats than they do in humans. It could be an enlarged organ or something, but to make sure, she’s going for a kitty ultrasound later this week :o( I don’t know what we’re going to do, I guess we’ll see what we find out. Send good thoughts for my little girl this week.