Thanksgiving Break

Well, the long weekend isn’t over yet, but I figure not much more is going to be happening, so I can write about it.

The holiday weekend really started for me on Wednesday, because I worked from home and there wasn’t really much work going on all week anyway, so it was very relaxing. They sent out an e-mail around noon saying that PA sites were going to close at 2 PM for the holiday – surprise! So as soon as 2:00 rolled around I shut down my computer and relaxed.

Thanksgiving morning was pretty relaxing – since we weren’t going anywhere until later, GG and I slept way in, it was lovely. As usual, we were invited to two dinners, one with each of our families. This year, my family went to Maggiano’s for Thanksgiving, which was amazing. There was tons of delicious food, including awesome desserts. We were pretty stuffed by the time we were finished. Then everyone ended up going back to my grandmom’s house for a little bit (there was a puppy there). Eventually, GG and I headed over to his parents’ house. I thought we were going to show up there in time for dessert, but actually they hadn’t even sat down to eat yet, so we sat through the whole dinner (GG ate dinner #2, but I couldn’t – I did have a slice of pie, though). After dinner, GG ended up having some sort of ping-pong tournament while I watched “Elf” with his parents. Also, I’d been worried about what to wear for dinner that would be appropriate for both the restaurant and GG’s parents’ place, and ended up wearing jeggings with a sweater tunic, which worked out perfectly – seriously, jeggings are like yoga pants!

When we got home we ended up falling asleep on the sofa watching movies, so I woke up at 2 AM and could have just gotten dressed and headed out to a Black Friday sale, but that’s not really my thing, so we just went to bed, and once again were able to sleep in on Friday morning. Besides going to Elevation Burger for a late lunch/early dinner (GG hadn’t been yet – as I predicted, he loved it), we didn’t go out at all.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is the day that our town pumps Christmas music into our house all afternoon, followed by a parade on our street, huge crowds of people in front of our house to watch a Christmas tree get lit, and fireworks. Last year was the first time we were here to witness the whole thing – before that, we had some other plans every year. So since we didn’t want to be trapped in the house for that again, we planned to go to a movie and dinner, and hopefully get home after the whole thing was over. We went to see Love and Other Drugs. My review: way more sex, nudity, and cursing than was necessary; and I still don’t get what their relationship was, beyond physical; but the parts about the pharmaceutical industry were interesting. After that, we got dinner, and stopped at Zwahlen’s for some of their hot chocolate. We got back home and saw fireworks in the sky – oh no! So there was still about 15 minutes of crowds, fireworks, and loud music after we got home, but we timed things pretty well overall. The funniest part was walking through the crowds of people watching the fireworks and walking into our front door, in the middle of it all. Also, the poor kitties were terrified :o(

Things That Are Making Me Mad Right Now

Sister Wives: I didn’t like this show the whole time it was running, and after seeing the “Honeymoon Special” on Sunday where it was like it was suddenly dawning on the original three wives, “Wait, this isn’t fair!” I’m just totally fed up with them. Meri, Janelle, and Christine, awaken!

This goat cheese I got at Trader Joe’s: It’s okay, it’s just not what I expected – it’s really more like a brie than a regular goat cheese. Not crumbly enough to put on my salad, too hard to spread on a cracker, and it’s like 40% rind. Last time I get that one.

A Young Man Speaks About Modesty: “While most girls look at a guy and see the whole person, a guy will look at a girl and be tempted to view them in parts. The parts of a girl’s body that a man gets distracted with are the legs, breasts, and butt. So please, DO NOT make these parts of your body the main focus of yourselves unless you want to be leading men into sin by lusting after you and treating you as an object instead of a child of God.” So what about the guys who are into arms, or feet, or furries? Hellooo – anything can be sexual to someone! So unless you’re going to advocate burquas (which still wouldn’t take care of the furries), maybe you guys should either learn to control yourselves or just wear blindfolds.

Annual Reviews: In this new company, a big component of the annual review appears to be reviews from your peers. I had to give the names of a bunch of people for my manager to contact and ask for reviews of me (and I wasn’t supposed to clear it with them first, which is weird, because if someone were going to ask me to review them I’d want a little advance warning). We also got a spreadsheet where we have to review everybody in our group – which is really awkward for me since I’ve only worked with maybe 20% of them. But, I got to write a review of my counterpart from another group, and he is so fabulous, I hope it got through in what I said about him. He’s a seriously great guy, we’re a great team, and I can’t wait until he’s back from his secondment next year so we can work together again.

The Holidays: Thanksgiving is going to be redonk this year. But my real concern is Christmas because I’m just not into it. Last year I was so good, I had presents for everyone, wrapped in thoughtful and environmentally friendly kitchen towels and reusable shopping bags. What will I do this year? I think everyone will just get gift cards. Maybe they will match the total of the gift cards I receive. Because isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas – to earn back what you spent on everyone else? …No?

Everyone having babies: I know people really like them and it’s like their life’s goal to have kids and if nothing else it’s what our bodies were designed for and really the purpose of our existence is just to produce more of ourselves. However… I just don’t get it. I don’t need one. But all my friends have either got them or are working on it, and one by one the No Kids Fun Club membership is dwindling. I have decided that GG and I need to take advantage of our relative freedom and unrestricted time and money by doing as much awesome stuff as possible.

Weekend Fun and Friends

A couple events with friends that we had planned in advance ended up happening this weekend. It’s so hard to get everyone together – both of these things were the result of lots of group e-mails and an online survey that I put together!

On Friday night, I went out to dinner with some of my good friends I met at work – one who I still work with (in a different department), and two who aren’t there anymore. There were originally supposed to be more coming, but in the end it was just the four of us. I actually see or at least talk/e-mail with these girls pretty regularly, but it’s rare for everyone to be together, so it was fun to catch up with everyone! We ended up staying at dinner really late – I thought maybe it was getting to be close to 9:00, then one girl looked at her watch and was like, “Guys, it’s 10!” Considering how well this worked out, in general, I think we should try to have girls’ night out dinners one night a week, on a Friday after work, in this good central location.

Oh, and after much deliberation and surveying, we went to Seasons 52 for dinner, which was awesome as usual. We shared a delicious flatbread appetizer, and also split a side order of “squash trio” with our entrees – totally random, but that squash was really good!

Saturday morning, GG and I got up early, collected MB and A, and drove up to New York to see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson on Broadway! (Well, we drove to north Jersey, where we took a bus to NYC – I would never drive into the city, and now that I know the secret of the bus, I would also never again take the train all the way up there.) This was our first time buying bus tickets from a machine instead of on the bus, and you wouldn’t think it would be so confusing, but it was. We successfully bought them and ended up New York, though.

I’d written out a detailed schedule that allowed lots of time for getting lost or other delays, so we actually had time for a quick lunch when we got up there. We ended up eating at the Shake Shack, which I’ve walked past many times now but have never been to. It was good! Between us we had burgers, hot dogs, fries, and a milkshake, and I think everyone was happy. And they have Mr. Pibb! After lunch we found the theater but still had a bunch of time to kill, we walked over to Times Square where there was a marching band a huge crowd on bleachers. Sports fan A figured out that it was a rally for the Notre Dame/Army game in New York that day.

Finally it was time for the show. The Public Theater, where GG and I saw the show off-Broadway this summer, was decorated pretty decadently. The Broadway theater was even crazier! Everything is red velvet, columns were covered with furs, there are tons of taxidermied animals including a horse hanging from the ceiling right in front of us (we sat in the balcony), and strings of lights covered the entire ceiling. The lights were actually pretty awesome – they were in a few different colors, depending on the lighting on stage, and they really enveloped the audience and made you feel like you were part of the scene. The show itself was fabulous, of course. A couple things have changed since we saw it, a few lyrics have changed (I noticed because I’ve been listening to the soundtrack CD pretty much non-stop since I got it a couple months ago), some of the actors are new or are playing different roles than before. But it was fantastic – and MB and A loved it too!

In my planning, I’d found a restaurant near the theater that was well-reviewed. I figured it would be good to have a plan for dinner since a Saturday night in New York City would probably require reservations or something. This place didn’t take reservations, but filled up quickly once they opened. So we got there before they opened and again had some time to kill. We walked around the neighborhood for a bit. While walking around, we actually found another place, The Brickyard, that we decided looked a little better. They were already open and could seat us because they hadn’t started serving dinner yet. So we had a fantastic meal there, with a huge selection of beers for the boys!

After dinner, it was back to the Port Authority, onto the bus, back to NJ, back to MB and A’s place, air in GG’s tires (thanks to A’s air compressor, haha), and back home, where we attempted to stay up for Saturday Night Live but only caught about half of it.

Today was a pretty lazy day, I just caught up on food shopping and laundry. I’ve been sitting here on the sofa with my laptop and a rotation of cats for most of the day.

Concerts, Kids, Clocks

This weekend was my band concert. I was pretty unenthused about several of the pieces we were playing, but then there were a couple I really liked, and overall it went very well. No major screw-ups from the band, just a few screaming kids in the audience, especially during the quiet parts – as usual. People: by owning a child, you are making a choice to not go to events like this unless a) you can leave the kid elsewhere or b) the kid is old enough to understand and be able to sit quietly. It is rude and inconsiderate to the band, who rehearsed for months and is creating an archival recording, as well as the other audience members who have paid to hear the music. I make this PSA twice a year and nobody seems to listen.

My little chicklet MB came all the way from New Jersey to see the concert, which was a nice treat! After the show, GG and I took her and another friend to dinner – originally we were going to try the Cheesecake Factory, but there was a 1-hour wait (on a Sunday?! early?!), so we went upstairs to Legal Seafoods instead. They have very few choices for the non-seafood eater, but I had a yummy steak and everyone else enjoyed their fishes and we sat and chatted for a long time. People sitting near us probably thought we were insane – I mean, our conversation covered every topic, ranging from MB’s boring job to wilderness EMTs to placenta teddy bears.

Today was my last SOP retirement day – all of our legacy Policies and SOPs are now retired. Boo hoo. I had a communication to send out, which didn’t get sent until after 5 PM because I think some people don’t understand calendars (“articles due by Friday morning” does not mean “articles due by Monday afternoon”) or clocks (“I need to send the newsletter at 3 PM at the absolute latest” does not mean “I will wait indefinitely to send the newsletter and maybe it’ll get out before midnight”).

The Wedding Singer

I should probably post at some point before November is over, huh? We didn’t do anything special for Halloween, but I did eat at Chipotle for the first time. It was good, and an acceptable substitute for Qdoba, though I’d prefer Qdoba if given the choice. I do like their streamlined menu though. This week I’ve been busy with work and getting ready for our upcoming band concert – there were things I needed to print, and things I had to design and get ready to take to the printer.

Last night GG and I went to his friend’s wedding. It was sort of weird, because they were friends in middle school but then they went to different high schools and lost touch, and reconnected a few years ago on MySpace. So they’re good friends now, but we didn’t really know any of his other friends there. GG got to sit in with the band (well, just a keyboard and guitar) during the cocktail hour, which was amusing, and actually he might end up jamming with the keyboard player sometime – and maybe get some future wedding gigs?! The wedding was very cool, they actually had a private ceremony and then the majority of the guests came for the reception, in this historic mansion. And since the place had to kick everyone out by 9:00, the party continued at a restaurant nearby.

Other than that, I’ve had a pretty relaxing weekend. I guess I’ll make up for it next weekend when I’m super busy with band!

Surprise Tinto Dinner

You know what’s awesome about not having kids? You can decide on a whim to go out to a trendy and expensive restaurant and not have to worry about how you’re going to buy diapers or send someone to college (not to mention get a babysitter for the night).

GG called me at work on Friday to see what I might want to do that night, since we were both, miraculously, free. I thought of a couple places we could go, and then on a whim said it might be neat if we went to Amada for dinner (I’ve wanted to go back since we were there for our anniversary last year). Well, Amada is still super booked, as were a couple of the other Garces restaurants. So then I thought I’d check Tinto, and lo and behold, they had a reasonable 6 PM reservation open! So I made sure to get home from work on time so we could battle traffic into the city, get parked, and get to the restaurant. We actually got there a bit early and had a chance to walk around down Chestnut Street a bit before heading in.

We were seated in the main dining room area, though there’s also an upper bar with some seating, and a basement. I’d read the tables were very close together, and they were, but it was a lot like the tables at Les Halles actually, just trying to cram as many people as possible into a small space. Our waiter was very friendly and knowledgeable, and I couldn’t figure out who he reminded me of but finally decided it was Rob Cantor from Tally Hall.

Tinto is a tapas restaurant, and a lot of the plates are sized for sharing. So probably we should have pared down the amount of stuff we got… I guess we just figured, we ordered like 8 different things at Amada, so we should do that at Tinto too. Semi-mistake. It was an expensive and filling meal. (GG actually calculated that it was the most expensive dinner we’ve had together – more than Amada, or even Chelsea Prime, which was our previous record holder. Yes, he keeps track of these things, haha, because I wouldn’t remember!) But I’m glad we got so much because I wanted to try everything! We just ordered everything up front and then they brought it out in courses in an order that made sense.

We both had sangria (yes even me, I don’t usually drink) – I had the white because it was the sweetest, and GG had the seasonal (a little spicy, definitely tasted like autumn) and the red. First they brought us complementary mahon crisps with some sort of tomato-based sauce. Our first course I didn’t get a picture of, but it was the Mixto plate of three cheeses (not sure what exactly they were, but there was a sheep’s milk, a nice blue cheese, and a very stinky goat cheese that GG surprised me by eating and enjoying), and the asparagus in smoked tomato compote with mahon espuma. Second was the shortrib sandwich with bacon, asparagus, and celery root aioli; Patatas Asturianas, potatoes with tomato compote and la peral cream (basically tater tots with a cheese sauce, but they were seriously amazing); and green beans with almonds, dates, orange, and paprika sherry vinaigrette (I’d read that these were awesome and they were).




Since we were essentially eating a bunch of appetizers, we were taking the food from the dish it came in and putting it on our appetizer plates so we could split everything up. So between courses, people cleared away our dirty plates and brought us fresh plates and silverware. I don’t know if this is how you’re supposed to do it or not – some people around us were just eating off the plates the food came on, but we shared everything so that’s how we did it. The third course was the heaviest: lobster with grapefruit-vanilla nage and migas (that was GG’s, though I did try a bite); organic chicken with truffle whipped mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, and smoked bacon (the brussel sprouts and bacon were amazing, but actually the chicken was probably my least favorite of all the items we got); and the Bomba Rice with morel mushrooms, asparagus, and lemon oil (I was a little incredulous about the price, for rice?!, but I’d read that it was fantastic – and it was seriously worth it).



And of course we had to get dessert. We ordered two to share, but actually each ended up eating our own. I had the Mato Y Miel (goat’s milk mousse with orange-olive oil caramel, orange blossom gelee, and almond lace tuile), which GG didn’t like because it was basically like a goat’s milk cheesecake, two flavors he hates. He ate the Gateaux Basque (Basque cake, pastry cream, and black cherries), which was a bit too strong of a cherry flavor for me, but GG loves cherries, so it worked out perfectly.



So Tinto was amazing, and such a nice spur-of-the-moment night out! Sometimes no occasion is the best occasion for a fancy meal. Despite our best intentions, we passed out on the sofa after we got home. And slept in this morning – the house was too cold and the bed was too warm.

“Lullabye to nightmares, whisper low”

Man, daylight saving time cannot end soon enough. Monday night I was in bed, asleep, by 9 PM because it had been dark for so long already it felt like it was much later. I usually go to bed around 11. And then of course I woke up at 3 AM, because I usually get up at 5. I was awake for about an hour (Sacha was purring and snuggling against me so hard, he does that sometimes in the middle of the night, but I always think it means he’s trying to alert me to something!), and fell asleep again around 4, just in time to get not quite enough sleep by the time my alarm went off. Sigh.

In other news, my long weekend ended on Tuesday morning and it feels like I never even had a day off work. Except for all the e-mails I had to catch up on. I got a coupon for 50% off outerwear at Old Navy, so I ended up getting a coat, but not the one I posted about recently, it was another one I liked but GG gave me a weird look when I tried it on because it’s plaid. But it’s cute.

I made the most fabulous risotto for dinner last night, based on the meal I had when we went out on Friday. That meal was called Autumn Risotto, and it was plain risotto with squash, chestnuts, cranberries, and cooked escarole sitting on top. It was not what I’d pictured when I ordered it – plus it was very salty, and the cranberries were so tart they took away from all the other flavors. So my version is just the best parts, all cooked together. Since I usually just cook by “feel,” it’s hard to come up with a recipe, but here we go…

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups arborio rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 a butternut squash
  • 8 oz. peeled chestnuts
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Cut butternut squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread on a baking sheet, top with about 1.5 Tbsp butter (cut into chunks and placed throughout pan). Bake at 400* for about 30-45 minutes or until tender, stirring a couple times during cooking to distribute melted butter and expose all sides of the cubes.

While squash is baking, cook rice in chicken broth, until broth is absorbed. Then add the wine, cook until absorbed. Add 1.5 Tbsp butter. Last, add the water, cook until absorbed.

While rice is cooking, roughly chop chestnuts so they are approximately the same size as the butternut squash cubes. (Tip: Trader Joe’s sells steamed, peeled chestnuts in a box!)

When the squash is tender and the rice has absorbed all the liquid, mix the squash and chestnuts into the rice and stir to distribute evenly.

If you make this, let me know how it goes!

Long Busy “Vacation” Weekend

GG and I were both able to get some time off work, so we ended up with a four-day weekend. We decided to use our day off on Friday to go to the Philadelphia Zoo, something we both did a lot as children but had never done together. It was a gorgeous day, and we got there around 10 AM and aimed to see as much as we could see. I think we got to everything, except we did skip over a lot of the African Plains and some of the Bears. A lot has changed since the last time I was there, which was definitely 10-15 years ago. For one thing, they used to have a monorail that went around the whole zoo, and that was removed a while ago and replaced by a giant (tethered) hot air balloon. But the balloon wasn’t running on Friday, so luckily I didn’t have to ride on that. There is a really nice new cat exhibit where you can pretty much stand right next to tigers and stuff, if they decide to come up to the glass (which they did). They used to be in a big, smelly building, so this is nice for them. Also, the bird house is pretty cool now – you can actually walk through this rainforest path type area with birds just flying and walking around, loose. The primate building was new one of the last times I was at the zoo, and it opened in 1999, so… no wonder I didn’t remember it that well. The gorillas were really amazing to watch, but one of my favorite things from the whole day was the orangutan family! A lot of other things, like the reptile house and small mammal house, were a lot like I’d remembered them, but with improved informational displays – we actually learned stuff!



Up close and personal with the tiger


Rainforest bird exhibit


Orangutan family!


After a (too-short) nap, we met up with GG’s parents for dinner on Friday night. We ended up going to Theresa’s because I mentioned to GG’s dad that they serve “bunny bites” (saddest appetizer ever: rabbit nuggets with a carrot dipping sauce!), but apparently that is only on the lunch menu. Oh well, dinner was awesome, and then we walked around the corner a bit to make fun of that PBandU place, which is a cute idea but so poorly planned out, it makes me angry just thinking about it. I would love to go in there sometime and set them up with an assembly line, because it really shouldn’t take 30 minutes to make a peanut butter sandwich (true story).

Saturday was Homecoming at MU, so GG and I got up really early and drove out there early to be on campus and parked before they started closing roads for the parade. There is a lot of construction going on still, and a lot of things are closed. Also, the downstairs of the dining hall I used to go to is completely unrecognizable – they removed the mailboxes (those are now in the dorms), the convenience store I used to work at, and the little lunch counter, and replaced everything with a really nice looking combination store + prepared food counter. They even have fresh sushi! (I don’t know if I would trust MU sushi anyway, but there you go. People said it was good.)

The parade was fun, L and S and their friend E met up with us, as did my great-great-grandlittle and her boyfriend, so we had a good little crowd. The parade theme was “Wild Wild West,” and a lot of groups did actually fit the theme, unlike past years. Some of our favorite acts were the Hobo Band, anyone with animals, the baton girls, the Temple Guard Drill Team (loved them last year too, they are awesome), and this guy who I will just call “the king,” he danced and chased floats and was absolutely nuts all morning. We have no clue who he is, but he seemed to have a good time. At almost the very end of the parade were the Parading Atheists of PA, which was actually kind of funny – five people dressed up as the Pope, the Devil, a skeleton, Buddha, and Muhammad.



Temple Guard Drill Team


“The King” prances along behind a float blowing fake snow


The Parading Atheists of PA


After the parade, we all went to HoPie for a lunch of pizza and cheese fries. We decided that we kind of hate watching the football games, so rather than waste our money, we just took a walk around campus to see the sights (and show E around, since she went to IUP). After we all decided we were done for the day, GG and I went to visit my brother briefly. And then we headed home. I was exhausted, and it was only maybe 4 PM by the time we got back. I passed out for a little bit, then we ordered Chinese for dinner and called it a night.

Sunday was a day to rest and catch up on chores. I sat down with my recipe scrapbook before going food shopping and for once I’m excited about cooking this week. Since TLC wasn’t showing much in the way of freak shows last night, GG consented to watch House Hunters with me (he secretly likes it).

So today is my last vacation day, except not really because I actually have to call in to a meeting at work in a little bit. Of course all this crazy stuff has to be going on during the two days that I’m off work, right? That’s why I have so much unused vacation time!

Wedding, Sweater, Sacha, Work

So what else have I been up to, besides shopping (okay, including shopping)?

Old People Wedding: Not that they were old, and they certainly acted young, but I went to a wedding last weekend as my grandmother’s guest where the bride and groom were 60, and besides another girl my age, and a bunch of little little kids, I was the youngest person there. It was actually fun and a nice day! The couple was kind of stressing how informal the wedding was, and it was a daytime thing, so I wasn’t sure what to wear that wouldn’t be too formal. In the end, I wore black pants, a white top, and a patterned cardigan, which worked out to be just fine. The food at the reception was kind of funny – it was all really good, but it was a weird assortment: salads, pastas, two types of chicken, quiche, sandwiches, french fries… It was as if someone gave them a menu and they just kind of checked off the foods they liked. But I’m saying too much bad about it – it really was a nice wedding and a fun reception, plus I was home before 6!

Sweater: From my list in my previous post, I actually did get a boyfriend sweater – actually the one pictured, which is from Target. It was really soft. But I was going to wear it to work today and luckily I ran it by GG (which I do with all new clothes), and we decided that it made me look too “hippy.” (As in, it made my hips look wide, not that it made me look like a free-spirit.) I think this one was just too long. I actually have a couple v-neck cardigans that are pretty much boyfriend sweaters, but were purchased a couple years ago before that was a “thing,” I guess. So maybe I should just be happy with what I have, haha. I returned the Target one today.

Sacha’s Check-Up: Sacha went to the vet yesterday for his annual check-up and shots. For such a tiny cat, he is impossible to get into the cat carrier! It took me forever to get him in, and he puffed his tail up so big, and then meowed like he was being tortured the whole way there, and in the waiting room. I thought he’d gained weight since last year, but he’d actually lost a pound. I wish he would gain weight, but he is naughty! Anyway, he’s in great health, teeth look great, etc., but the doctor noticed that his kidneys are different sizes?! She wasn’t sure if one was enlarged or one is undersized, but it’s the first time she’s noticed that, and he’s obviously been healthy, so we just have to keep an eye in case he starts acting weird. He’s healthy and naughty!

Work: For all my complaining about how busy I’ve been, this week was actually relatively quiet. I finished work on time every day. Until… today. I am not in the office tomorrow or Monday, but guess what – all sorts of emergency stuff is happening and I’m the only person who can do anything! It’s a good thing that I’m not going too far, because I will probably be working at least a bit on both of my days off. As an example – it is after 11 PM and I am actually working right now. Sigh.

Busy four-day weekend coming up! Wish me luck!