My Best-Of 2011

For the past two years, I’ve been writing up these best-of lists. So I’ll try to keep it up.

Movie: 50/50
This movie was not what I was expecting, but it was much better. It was really sweet and moving, but still very funny.
Runner Up: Black Swan – I’m pretty sure I saw this in January, and therefore it counts. Beautifully creepy film, even though the black/white and mirror symbolism were a little heavy handed. I love that the ending was kind of open, though I like to believe that she died, having finally given the performance of her life.

TV Show: American Horror Story
We were turned on to this show by friends around Halloween. We got caught up and then continued watching weekly. It was sufficiently creepy and didn’t shy away from anything. As many mysteries as it introduced, it solved (unlike some shows, cough cough Lost…). I have no clue if or how they’ll be able to continue it for another season, but even if only this one season ever exists, I think it’s enough.
Runner Up: Work of Art – You can read my thoughts about this show here, but basically I think it’s one of the realest reality shows on TV, despite the poorly explained challenges, and in the end the judges made the right decision about who should win this season. I especially love the thoughtful critiques, and how the guest judges are artists known for whatever style/medium they are working with that week.

Book: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
I’d almost forgotten I read this book in 2011, but I read it in January, so it does count. I never wrote a review about it, but it is a beautiful book with a sort of unbelievable story, and the bad guy gets it in the end. I wish it had turned out differently with Jacob and Orito, but that’s the way the story goes…
Runner Up: The Help – I was probably the last woman in America to read this book, but it was very cute. My main problem with it was the way it ended – I know life doesn’t wrap up neatly, but I think we were owed more of a conclusion than the open ending that there was. I still want to see the movie, though.

Album: Tally Hall, Good & Evil
After many delays and setbacks, Tally Hall’s second album was finally released, and it is amazing. Seriously, amazing. Listen to it all the way through, and when you reach “Fate of the Stars” you will see how perfect it is. We saw them live for the third time, as part of their Good & Evil tour, and the show was great. I’m not sure what the future holds for Tally Hall, but I hope whether they are together or working on their own projects, they continue creating fabulous things.
Runner Up: They Might Be Giants, Join Us – It’s a good album. Really good. But… it had the misfortune of being released within weeks of Good & Evil, which won first place in my heart and MP3 player. And the wacko fans when we saw them live did not earn them any extra points.
Honorable Mention: Cynic, Carbon-Based Anatomy – Beautiful album, but it’s just a 5-track LP. They were awesome live, too.

Restaurant: Garces Trading Company
For the third year in a row, my favorite restaurant is a Jose Garces joint. GTC is probably the least formal of the Garces Restaurant Group restaurants, but I think it may be my favorite. We went to celebrate my birthday, and it was such a perfect evening. And did I mention… the cheese plate?
Runner Up: Chelsea Prime – Our second ever visit to this restaurant was on GG’s birthday, and it once again did not disappoint. We each cleaned our respective plates. Not to mention, the service is amazing, and there’s a nice view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Vacation: Atlantic City
This wins by default, as it was the only non-work-related overnight trip I took this year, but it was a great kind of last-minute trip (well, nothing is last minute for me, but I got this LivingSocial coupon and we just decided to go for GG’s b-day). Everything worked out great and we had a nice time, despite the questionable view from our hotel room.

“‘Tis the season for the giving and I give what I get”

My last week of work was crazy. People were trying to get stuff done by the end of the year, and what they don’t realize is that I am the last stop for a lot of stuff, and I need to do work before something is “ready,” so I was very busy trying to keep up with everyone’s requests. I actually was in the office most of last week, including Thursday, which was the last day my site was open. I’m technically off now until January 3, but I do have to check e-mail daily to keep up with stuff. Except Christmas – I did not check my work e-mail on Christmas!

On Thursday night, we were invited to hang out with a couple friends who are home visiting from Arizona. They invited a bunch of people to meet them at their favorite BBQ restaurant here (this place catered their wedding). Too bad GG was getting blood drawn the next morning and had to fast for 12 hours! It would have worked out fine if we’d been home for the evening, but it was torture for him to sit in the BBQ restaurant, which smells fabulous, and only be able to drink water! Then we all went out for ice cream afterward, which also smelled delicious, and which he also couldn’t eat. Don’t worry, I made up for him and ate quite a lot :o) The BBQ was delicious, but even better than the meat was their mac & cheese – I would go back just for that! And of course it was great to see our friends! Apparently they hadn’t told their families that they were coming home for Christmas, and surprised them by showing up on their doorstep. I wish they had taped that!

Friday was my day to do my final shopping to prepare for Christmas lunch (did I mention I had volunteered to host my family on Christmas?). There weren’t going to be a ton of people, and I had a little menu planned, but my mom kept asking if there would be enough food, so I sort of panicked and got a bunch more stuff. Then GG and I went out to dinner and picked up some more food while we were out. So I was definitely prepared for Sunday. On Saturday I did as much cleaning and advanced food preparation as I could – mixing up dips, chopping things, etc. Then Saturday night was Christmas Eve dinner at GG’s grandmother’s house. Dinner was good, and it was nice to hang out. Also, her enormous orange cat came out of hiding (he usually hides from strangers) and let me pet him (he usually growls and bites strangers). When I got home, I did a little more food prep before bed.

I kind of hate the actual day of Christmas. All the preparation and build-up, and then it feels like such a wasteful day while it’s happening. I make charitable donations for everyone as gifts, but then I feel bad that they won’t have stuff to open, so I get a bunch of little things, which feels like a waste. And I feel inadequate, like I didn’t spend as much on them, but really the bulk of the present budget went into the donations, that’s just not a tangible gift. Which is all to say… I was kind of unsatisfied with what I gave everyone as gifts this year. Except GG, I got him exactly what he wanted: a huge wide-screen monitor for his music computer. He’s so happy with it! And he says it’ll increase his productivity while he’s recording, because he can fit everything on the screen at once, and won’t need to switch between programs.

After we did our own presents at home in the morning, GG went to his parents’ house for breakfast while I finished cleaning and preparing for lunch. He got home around noon and helped me a little bit, then people started arriving at 1:00. Almost everyone had either been somewhere else already that day, or was going somewhere else afterward, but we all had a nice visit for a few hours. And there was way too much food! My main entree was a pasta salad, which I was really worried about because my mom kept pushing for sandwiches. But everyone loved it! And I made about three times too much, whoops. We also had a couple kinds of dips, with veggies and crackers; delicious crostini, which looked very festive with roasted red pepper on a white cheese topping; my grandmother brought potato salad; and my mom brought sausage balls, baked brie, and a couple of pies! Plus we had a wide selection of drinks, from beer to eggnog. Overall, it was very successful – despite the stress of preparing, I do enjoy having people over. I loved hosting Thanksgiving a couple years ago. I’d do this again.

After we had things pretty much cleaned up, and the food packed away (despite sending everyone home with something, there is still a lot of stuff left in our fridge!), it was time to head to GG’s parents’ house for more gifts and dinner. This was the Christmas of Scotch, that was all GG and his dad and brother exchanged with each other. There were also lots of jokey gifts, as well as lots of food items (GG’s parents know at this point that I don’t like getting “stuff,” so they always give me food and snacks, plus my mom gave me lots of fancy soup and dessert mixes, and GG gave me a bottle of white truffle oil).

So besides checking work e-mail and eating leftovers, we’ve got a full week of plans for our vacation. Today I was supposed to go do some shopping, but that didn’t happen. So on deck for the rest of the week is: the shopping that I’d planned to do today, having dinner with an old family friend of his (who apparently doesn’t believe I exist, because who would marry GG?!), my big haircut, our [somewhat] annual train trip into Philly to see the Christmas display at the Comcast building (plus lunch somewhere in the city), a visit with MB and baby R while GG and A play guitar for the day, and for NYE we’re having an early dinner with another couple and then going home to ring in midnight from the comfort of our own sofa. Plus there’s my home improvement project that I’ve planned for this week (because don’t I always plan a project for when I’m home from work over a holiday?). Hopefully I get everything done that I want to do.

“And she stands beneath the mistletoe, screaming”

Even though we had no plans in advance, we had another lovely weekend. On Friday, I had my site holiday party at work. It was good (though not as mind-blowingly amazing as last year), and I got to see a lot of people I don’t usually see, which is what I was hoping for. After work, I decided on a whim that I wanted to try this restaurant I’d heard of, Melt Down, that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. Google Maps couldn’t really find the address, nor could our GPS, but the site links to a Bing map that seemed to have the right address, so we used that and headed out. After driving for an hour through bad evening rush hour traffic, it was clear that we were not headed to the right place. GG called the restaurant, and apparently nobody there knew where they were to give us directions. But they told us the name of the store they were next to, and the GPS could find that address, so we eventually made it there. And now that we know where it is, we’ll definitely be back! I had the Brie Melt Sliders and GG ordered the Ham & Cheddar Melt, which were good on their own but also delicious with the dipping sauces (our favorite was the Truffle & Garlic). GG was fascinated with their old-fashioned milkshake machine, but we didn’t order any this time – maybe next time, now that we know where this place is!

After dinner, we decided to stop by the mall that was nearby, since neither of us had been there before, and maybe we could find something to get for dessert. I jokingly said that we should get an Orange Julius – the joke being that just about every Orange Julius on the east coast is now closed. Guess what – there is a combination Orange Julius/Dairy Queen at the Montgomery Mall! It was a Christmas miracle! We ran across the mall to the food court to get our drinks before this one went out of business, too. Then on the way back to the door, we stopped by a bookstore that actually was going out of business, and picked up a few Christmas gifts.

GG went to work for a little while on Saturday morning, so I built some furniture and rearranged a room. I’m very happy with how it turned out! When he got home, I suggested that we go out to lunch, and then hit up HomeGoods for some more Christmas shopping. This shopping trip was a big success – GG had never been there before, but I think he’s decided it’s now his favorite place for gift shopping. And we got some pillows there that Katrina is completely obsessed with – I think because of the feathers inside? The rest of my day was spent relaxing in preparation for SNL, which was another good episode, Jimmy Fallon was great.

Today has been my day to catch up with chores and food shopping, laundry, vacuuming, all that stuff. I had to finish up early because there’s a lot to watch on TLC tonight: “My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas,” “Geek Love” (awesome and currently in progress), and “All-American Muslim.” Then I’ve got to get to bed, this is going to be a busy week both at work and at home…

Linky Thursday 12/15

Canon EOS C300 = Awesome: GG sent this to me. I don’t understand 95% of the technical stuff he’s talking about, but still found it funny. “This guy is upset because he dropped his ice cream cone and he’s not handling it like a man.” “Canon Log sounds like a turd.”

Correlation or Causation?: I love infographics. And babies named Ava caused the U.S. housing bubble!

George Takei Wants to Unite Star Wars Fans and Star Trek Fans in War Against Twilight: “What’s needed today now, more than ever, is Star Peace.”

Single White Feline: My BIL says his favorite part of this video is “the constant purring.”

“I think the rock ‘n roll girls in this world want apologies”

I took the day off work last Friday to do all my Christmas shopping. I went to a lot of places and did pretty well, but I’m not quite done. I’ll finish up this week, just need to get some little things.

On Saturday, we went to Harrisburg for our friends’ Christmas party. GG was all set to spend the night there, which was really stressing me out since I had so much I had to do the next day, but I packed some overnight things anyway. The party was lots of fun, and my worrying ended up being for nothing, because everyone left before 11 and GG was at stage 2 of his drunkenness, when he gets loud and annoying, and about to enter stage 3, when he gets sleepy, so I convinced him to let me drive home.

It was nice to be able to wake up in my own house on Sunday instead of waking up in Harrisburg and having to drive two hours to get home. I did a lot of errands and chores, getting ready for the week. I’m off to a busy start so far, because today I had to facilitate a big meeting at work, I had to get there at 6:30 AM! Luckily, we had a lot of support at our site so it wasn’t especially stressful for me once we got set up and ready.

After work I made the mistake of going to the post office to ship something – even though I’d heard on the radio this morning that today was traditionally the busiest shipping day of the year because it’s the last day you can send things to arrive in time for Christmas. I have never seen a line that long at any post office, ever. It was literally out the door. The whole time I was out in the lobby waiting, I thought, “Well it’s so busy, I’m sure they have all the registers open.” Once I got inside, I saw that no, the only had two of their four registers open! I’ve never seen more than two registers open there, no matter how busy it is. Not only that, every customer was trying to do something stupid. No, you can’t ship that printer in a box that’s falling apart. No, I don’t know what you’re sending, but if it’s insured you can’t have it rattling around in a huge box. If you’re doing something that requires two forms of identification, you need two accepted forms of identification. Sigh. I’d like to suggest that post offices have two lines: one for customers who are prepared, and one for people who are going to do something stupid.

I’ve decided I’m cutting my hair in January. I’ve been putting it off, for some reason. I wanted to donate it this time, so it’s currently crazy long. Some days it bothers me so much, there’s just so much of it and everyone comments on how long my hair is. But then other times, when it’s behaving, I think it looks really nice this long. It makes a nice ponytail, I can finally make a decent bun, and it’s almost long enough to do a hair bra (haha). But, I’ve always wanted to donate my hair, and it will grow back. So, a couple more weeks to go, and then I’m getting chopped for sure!

Linky Thursday – 12/8

From the Vault: A History of High-low Fashion: An interesting look at how Target has been promoting “high-low” style since the ’80s. As Target Addict pointed out, the 1990s prices are pretty much on-par with today’s prices!

baconlube: So… This exists.

Black Friday Shopping Prank: It was a mistake to try to watch this at work, because I was already crying laughing at “daddy butter.”

The 12 Most Baffling Genres of Stock Photo, Explained: “Because you know my name and we talk all the time, friend. Please stop feeding me.”

I Want My Hat Back: This book is adorable.

Boiled Omelets: This is a neat idea, I’d try it if I weren’t so wary of boiling things in plastic bags :o/

Thanksgiving, Work Stress, NYC

Lots to talk about…

Thanksgiving: The holiday was nice. We had an earlier dinner with my family, followed by dinner with GG’s family. For the first time ever, they didn’t even set us spots at the table because they figured we wouldn’t really be hungry by then (they were right). But we pulled up some chairs anyway. Then we hung out and watched videos of this crazy guy who used to go to school board meetings and complain unintelligibly about taxes.

Funniest quote of Thanksgiving:
GG’s grandmom: “There’s five different kinds of turkey. There’s Organic, Natural Select –”
GG’s uncle: “…Jive”

The rest of our long weekend was spent doing a big home project. We actually did go out on Black Friday to Home Depot, not for any sale shopping, but because we needed supplies. It took a little longer than I’d expected (because I had to wait for things to dry…), but I got the entire project finished by Sunday night, which was ultimately my goal.

Work: Last week was seriously crazy. As has been the case for the past several years, the first of the month is always a crazy day for me. But this time it was especially crazy. But I’d been planning for weeks to take a vacation day on Friday, the 2nd. There was a big project that was announced to me kind of last-minute, that was also supposed to be done on the 1st. No problem, I figured, I’d get it done and still be free to take the next day off. Well, it turns out that things didn’t get approved until like 5 PM on the 1st, and then all this work had to be done, and of course I am the only person who has the ability to do these things. So I left work on Thursday, came home, turned my computer back on, and continued working until 10 PM, at which time I was nauseous and headachy. It was not a good day. Stuff continued coming in over the weekend and even today, but for the most part, the project is done. In the end, it’s maybe not a huge deal, but I like things to be done with a certain level of quality, and with a certain level of speed and service, and I felt like, for reasons I could not control, I wasn’t able to deliver that. I shouldn’t stress about things like this, but I can’t help it, I like to do a good job.

NYC: The reason why I took the day off on Friday was because… GG and I finally coordinated our schedules and made plans to go up to New York for the day! We left things pretty open-ended for a while, but eventually decided on a nice agenda for the day:

  • We drove to New Jersey and took the bus over to the city, as we have done the last several times. This is definitely my favorite, most cost-effective, time-flexible way to get there now. we left around 9 AM and were in the city around 11.
  • First I wanted to go to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree. I’d never seen it decorated before. It was a big tree, but the decorations were not as magical as I’d hoped. (I understand the area looks more magical at night.) Also, anywhere where you’d have a good view of the tree, they had these fenced-off Kodak photo op areas where you could pay for them to take a picture of you in front of the tree. Blah.

  • Then we went to Shake Shack for lunch. We’d gone there the last time we were in NYC, and GG was looking forward to going back. I liked it, but after a second try, I think Elevation Burger is better.
  • We went to the MoMA. GG and I had never been there together before, and I was looking forward to seeing it with a fellow artist :o) It was nice, except for GG getting a stern talking-to from a guard for railing against Cy Twombly. (Yet for some reason, he has no problem with Jackson Pollock.) We started at the bottom and worked our way up to the 6th floor, and by the time we reached the top we were just beat! But we did go across the street to the MoMA Store – if I hadn’t had a full evening of walking and stuff planned, I could have done so much Christmas shopping there!

  • We had been thinking for a while about where to go for dinner, but in the end decided to try someplace totally new and unknown to us, and went to Stecchino, which I’d found online. It was great! We were pretty much the first people in there for dinner, but by the time we left, the place was completely packed. Our waitress was super nice, and dinner was delicious. GG had their appetizer special, which was basically meatballs with cinnamon and spices, served with a tomato sauce, and I ordered the cheese plate (which GG helped with a lot). For dinner, I had their beet salad, which I was worried wouldn’t really be enough food, but with the appetizers, it was plenty. And GG had the lobster ravioli, which was not what he was planning to order (he’d looked at the menu online in advance), but he made a last-minute decision and was very happy with it.

  • Our final stop was Carolines, where we saw Richard Lewis perform. GG was excited for it and seemed to have a good time, but I was miserable. 1) I was super tired, 2) the room was freezing cold, even with my coat on, 3) they had a terrible and ridiculous system of getting people into the room, 4) our seats were terrible, 5) to comply with their 2-drink minimum rule, we each had 2 (small!) Cokes, and our bill was $22(!). Also, I was just not into Richard Lewis. GG described his style as “stream of consciousness,” but it wasn’t even that, he never even finished one story or joke before moving on to the next thing. I didn’t laugh at all. And really, he wasn’t getting big “laughs” from the audience, which is the first time I think that I’ve ever seen a professional comedian not really make people laugh.
  • We booked it out of there and speed-walked back to the bus station. For the first time ever since I’ve been taking that bus, not only did it show up on time, it was actually early, and sitting there waiting when we got to the gate! Then we drove home and went to bed (oh, after I checked my work e-mail and did a little work at midnight/1 AM, see above).