My Best-Of 2012

For the fourth year in a row (and just under the wire), I’m trying to put together a best-of review. I’ll confess up front, I don’t remember reading one actual book this year, so that category is out. [Edit – 1/7] According to my Goodreads list, I did read two books in 2012: Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland and a book written by a guy GG knows about his experience with IBS. Neither was super impressive, so the category is still out. [/Edit] I’m planning to get a Kindle soon (!), so hopefully I’ll have lots to choose from for 2013. 2012 seemed to come and go so quickly, I don’t even know if I remember what all I did/saw in these categories, but I’ll try.

Movie: The Cabin in the Woods
I have to just say, this was a really tough choice for me, as I saw some amazing movies this year: Cloud Atlas, Les Miserables, The Master… However, Cabin in the Woods was one of the most original movies I’ve ever seen. It really turned the horror movie genre upside down and inside out, and I have been recommending it to everyone since we saw it.
Runner Up: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Ok, maybe I’m going sort of lowbrow with my choices here, but I reward originality! Yes, this was based on a book, but the story was so original and really wove the vampire thing into actual history in a clever way. The special effects were also great, and I think this movie deserved more attention than it got. (Also, I guess Benjamin Walker is just doomed to play badass versions of former presidents.)

TV Show: The Office and 30 Rock
Both of these shows are in their final season and they’re tied for my top pick. The Office, I felt, was going downhill for a while but they’re really turned things around in this last season and the story is getting pretty good. Also, I love that they’re throwing in little meta comments – like a couple episodes ago, some of the characters were trying to find a private place to have a conversation, and one of them goes, “Well, a documentary camera crew has been filming our every move for the past nine years, but I think we’re safe here.” 30 Rock is consistently hilarous and has the funniest lines to quote, so I’m really sad to see it go, but you can tell all the actors probably want to move on to bigger things anyway. I just hope they reveal what the deal is with Kenneth!
Runner Up: Fringe – Also in its final season, but not by choice, so the story has to be quickly wrapped up, and it feels like it’s moving way too fast. I wish they’d let this show go on longer, because it’s awesome.

Album: Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid
Amazing, amazing, amazing. I would love to see her perform live (she was actually in Philly this year, but we had other plans). Definitely watch Janelle Monae, she is going places.
Runner Up: The Lonely Island, Turtleneck & Chain – Does this get an honorable mention because it was pretty much the only other album I bought this year? Perhaps. I think I like it less than Incredibad because there is more cursing, so it’s harder for me to sing along with, but musically it’s a step forward for them.

Restaurant: Poogan’s Porch
It’s hard to choose from among all the amazing places we ate this year, let alone on our Charleston trip, but this place wins for their amazing smoked gouda mac and cheese. Seriously, fly to Charleston right now and order a bowl, you can thank me later.
Runner Up: Amada – Second time on the list for this Garces Group restaurant, but it’s amazing and we ate here twice this year: once at the Revel Casino location when we were in Atlantic City, and once in December as GG’s Christmas gift to me (and, ok, for himself too).

Vacation: Charleston
GG and I took our first real vacation in several years, and GG told me on our last night there that it was the best vacation we’ve ever taken. We’re still talking about when we can get back. This trip had everything we like: food, historical stuff, food, sightseeing, museums, food, shopping, and food. Did I mention the excellent food?
Runner Up: Washington, DC – My only other overnight trip that was not work-related, but even this was work-related since I met up with some coworkers there. But we had fun doing the museums, and the weater turned out to be beautiful. I also had dinner with an old friend from elementary school who I hadn’t seen for years, so that was nice.

Happy Holidays

The last few weeks have been all about the holidays. MB, L, and I had our annual “take a day off work and go shopping in KoP” day, which was lots of fun but a long day. At work we never really got a party for our department, but a couple of us got together for a happy hour, which was… interesting… and we also had our huge site holiday celebration, which was fun because I was with friends and got to see some other people I used to work with, but compared to the last two years’ celebrations it was kind of lame, food-wise. (I actually felt bad, because I’d been talking it up to some new people who hadn’t been to one yet, and then it was kind of a let-down.) We also had a holiday party at L and S’s place in Harrisburg (the same day as like 3 other holiday parties we were invited to!)

This has been a really busy holiday break. I usually try to plan a project around the house to do while I’m off work, but I just haven’t had a free day to work on anything! Which is not a bad thing – and maybe I’ll take a random day off in the new year to paint the bedroom I was hoping to do this week.

My time off started on Friday, Which I used to run some errands. Saturday and Sunday I cleaned and prepared for Christmas, and finished up shopping and wrapping. Monday I cleaned, prepped food, and went to Christmas Eve dinner with GG’s family. On Christmas, my family came to our house for lunch and presents, and then we went to GG’s parents’ house for presents and dinner with them. Everything went really well on Christmas, and especially for my part of it, I think everybody enjoyed the food I served and the gifts I gave, so I felt good :o)

The day after Christmas, we went out to NJ to visit with MB, A, and baby R for the day. That baby is not even two years old and knows every letter of the alphabet!. If you start her off, she can sing a number of Christmas carols reasonably well. She’s pretty funny, too. I was playing Play-Doh with her while MB made dinner, and she knew all the shapes and colors and animals I was making. She also knows all the animal sounds, except I did teach her that night about the sound an elephant makes. And I taught her a new phrase, “raise the roof!” (with accompanying roof-raising hand motion). GG and A had fun playing guitar for hours and hours and hours. MB and I chatted, and MB made the most awesome chicken fajitas ever – she sent me the recipe for the marinade, can’t wait to try it next week!

Thursday was our day for what has become a holiday tradition: take the train into Philly and see the Comcast Center holiday show, then have lunch at DiBruno Brothers. The show this year was pretty much the same as last year’s, but we got there a little early so we got to see more of the little bits they show between the hourly holiday shows. The best part was that they randomly showed all these clips of Charleston, SC! GG and I were freaking out, like, was this planned just for us?! He asked the people there, and they said they have clips of 27 cities that are shown at random – I think it was a sign for us though! Like last year, there was some foam “snow” that fell at the end of the show. New additions this year were that the giant “presents” behind us lit up (they may have done that before, but I didn’t remember it), and there were some bright flashing lights that lit up at certain points in the music. Lunch was also nice, and then we wandered over to the cheese counter, tried some things, and went home with a couple wedges..!

Today was my annual haircut. I didn’t get as dramatic a chop as I usually do, but I figure by the end of next summer I’ll be ready for another haircut and will have enough to donate for sure. I just wanted to get it done now because the length was bugging me and the ends were a little scraggly. No photos yet, but I’m sure there will be some soon because tonight I get my big Christmas gift from GG, a fancy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants! Stay tuned…

Still to come this week: seeing Les Mis, going to the Maya exhibit at the UPenn museum, hosting some sort of New Year’s event, and maybe a trip to Home Depot to at least get the supplies for my project??

“There was a shopping mall, now it’s all covered with flowers”

Oh goodness, what has happened in the past 9000 years since I last updated? We had Thanksgiving with GG’s family, that was nice, and it was also nice to not be rushing between two houses and trying to eat two meals. Then that weekend we went to MB and A’s for “Friends Thanksgiving,” which was even nicer because of course we all actually wanted to be there ;o) I cooked (brussels sprouts with bacon!), and a lot of people brought stuff, and MB and A had prepared a huge turkey. And my favorite baby R is just as cute as ever, and so smart! She says the best stuff and has the cutest giggle :o)

GG and I watched the new “Trapped in the Closet” episodes. Of course, we were disappointed in the end and I’m sure there will be more coming. (R. Kelly has said he wants to make like 80 chapters? Or 80 more chapters?! He said the story of Tina’s face twitch alone will take 3 chapters to explain!)

I got a lot of Christmas shopping done online, but I’m taking a day off this week and meeting MB and L for some hardcore last-minute gift buying. I also need to do all our Christmas cards! I have the list and meant to do them this past weekend, but I was lazy.

I had another very busy weekend with my side job a couple weeks ago, but it was a lot of fun and very very much worth it. Hope I can carry this momentum through next year! I’ve also been pretty busy with band. We’re in the middle of our holiday concerts right now, plus I’ve been designing and printing a lot of stuff (CD labels, oversized novelty checks, awards…). And speaking of designing stuff, I’ve also been asked to do some freelance web design work for a small business starting in a couple months (when the contract with their current design place is up), but in the meantime I’m helping them with social media. I met with the owner last weekend and helped him set up a Facebook page and Twitter, as well as claim their business on Yelp. Woohoo!

And I guess that’s about it! I’ve been so busy I feel like I don’t have time for my regular routines (when I went food shopping this weekend I had to dump out a bunch of expired coupons – usually I’m more on top of that; and I couldn’t even tell you the last time I vacuumed), but it’s a good kind of busy :o)

The Basket

A few months ago, I took a basket I wasn’t using, put a pillow in it, and sat it under the window in my office. Sacha was the only cat who figured out that this combination was the equivalent of a cat bed, and it became his special spot. On days when I worked from home, he would sit there all day with me. And I think he spent a lot of time there alone, too.




One day, I walked into the room and was stunned to see Katrina in the basket! She had figured it out too!



But Sach still wanted “his” basket. He did not seem too pleased that he had to share.



They couldn’t quite figure out how to make it work. First Sacha showed his dominance by just sitting where he wanted, despite the fact that someone was there before him.



Then Katrina tried to be the “top cat.”



But finally, they learned how to share!



(To be fair, the sharing thing is rare. As I write this, they are more in the position where Katrina is in the basket and Sacha is uncomfortably squished along the edge.)

“I’m busy taking stock of all the things that I’ve forgot”

Now that my two insane weeks are over, I can finally breathe… a little… before the holidays start.

Two weeks ago was my big concert for band. I actually had taken a couple days off work since I have all these vacation days to use up, and it’s a good thing I did, because we ended up having lots of problems with weather and getting things printed for the concert, so I was running all over and doing some things last minute. Plus there was our dress rehearsal, which was an extra night out of my schedule, and our concert was on a Saturday, which is my usual “getting things done” day. I couldn’t even make up the time on Sunday, because we went out to Lancaster for the day to visit friends who are about to move to North Carolina. It was actually the first time I’d seen them in a while, so I got to meet their one-year old baby, who makes the best angry face! And MB and baby R were there! And also somehow I found the time to bake cookies to bring.

Then last week was our big face-to-face meeting at work that we weren’t even supposed to have. You may remember several months ago that I was on a committee to start planning for a F2F at our other site, then that became a virtual meeting. Then I went to DC with a few coworkers so we could at least get together on our own time. Then I was on a committee to start planning another virtual meeting, and we found out last minute it was actually going to be held here, in PA! It was just two days, but it was a really good meeting, and went much better than I’d expected. I ended up pretty much being in charge of the icebreaker activity, and I think everyone loved it! (We did human bingo.) We also got some extra time to spend with our boss after the second day, and he actually met GG… and I’m not fired… so that’s good.

I had a couple days to get caught up, and then my entire weekend was taken up with parties for my side job. My parties on Friday and Saturday were really good, but were about an hour away from home so I was out pretty late both nights. On Sunday I participated in a fundraiser for this animal organization (it was originally going to be another party, but then it turned to going to this event instead). I didn’t really fit in there – there is nothing animal-related about what I do. Plus, I thought this group was a cat rescue or something, but it was more like a PETA-type group. I was stationed next to a table where they played a video of pigs getting slaughtered and had pamphlets about all the companies you should boycot, and also this woman came around and offered me a copy of an essay she’d written from the perspective of a turkey on Thanksgiving. (I wish I still had it, but I gave it to a friend who was also working there. It was laughable.) GG had come with me to help out, and almost vomited after trying vegan lasagna. I was disappointed in the vegan mac & “cheese,” myself. So to make up for the afternoon, we went to Elevation Burger for dinner. And then I was so exhausted, I fell asleep pretty much as soon as we got home.

Looking forward to a calmer week, with only two Thanksgiving dinners (one of which is with friends), and hopefully less of a workload, since a lot of people seem to have taken the week off. I’m like two weeks behind on the DVR, too!

#SandyHelp

I already donated to the Red Cross today, and it was a lot more than $10, plus it was matched by my company. So I feel I am allowed to complain about NBC’s Hurricane Sandy telethon. It reminded me of the episode of “30 Rock” where they recorded celebrities talking about a generic tragedy that hadn’t yet happened, so they’d be ready to go – and just as this occurred to me, Tina Fey made an appearance!

I understand that this was a major tragedy for a lot of people. I was personally extremely lucky to not be affected at all, and I’m trying to pass along my luck by helping out others. And I know that there were some people who literally lost everything. But I found the telethon a bit over-dramatic:

  • They performed songs like “Under the Boardwalk,” “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” and “Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway.” As one of my friends posted on Facebook, that’s like singing Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” for a 9/11 tribute.
  • They kept talking about how there were people who still don’t have electricity on. I know, it sucks. But remember the earthquake in Haiti? Those people didn’t have electricity on, and many didn’t even have electricity to begin with! We do not have it so bad here in the US.
  • Not to put the blame on the victims, because this really was a catastrophic event, but a lot of people did not take the storm seriously or prepare sufficiently. Probably because Irene was not as big a deal as they’d predicted last year, but this was not like Irene.
  • Even though it was clearly pre-recorded (referencing the Marathon that had already been canceled), they kept talking about how busy the phone lines were, etc.

And I won’t even start on the fact that in 1994, there was a huge blizzard and ice storm that knocked out our power for a week – we didn’t have electricity or heat, and couldn’t go anywhere because it was too icy – and nobody had a telethon for us…

Besides that, I have to say, a lot of places have been very cool about support for victims of the storm. My bank sent something out about how they’re waiving ATM fees and such; my company credit card is offering assistance in making travel arrangements and booking hotel rooms. I’ve seen lots of people from NYC sharing about restaurants and places where services are available, and doing nice things like this.

In related news, it appears that most of the local kids ended up trick-or-treating on Wednesday after all. But we were home tonight and ended up handing out candy to several groups of kids who did come around. Favorite costume: a blue Lego brick.

From the Other Side of Sandy

Last week my friend Sandy at work showed me that there was a tropical storm with her name. “Maybe I’ll become a hurricane!” Well, she did! As I wrote on Saturday, we were pretty well prepared with gas, cash, and food. I went out on Sunday to do some “regular” food shopping, in case our power didn’t go out this week and I needed to cook dinners. This was like noon on Sunday and the supermarket was not at all crazy.

On Monday morning, both our offices were closed, and I thought it would be a good idea to get some more D batteries. We had flashlights and and a lantern, but no spare batteries for the lantern, and none to run a radio. We went to Walmart, then Wegmans, and neither had anything other than AA batteries. Also, it was raining pretty hard. At Wegmans, we ran into a guy GG used to work with who now works there, and he said that none of the stores or supermarkets around had any batteries, but he thought Toys R Us might. They didn’t open for another 30 minutes, so we sat in the parking lot for a little while, but eventually I said we should just go home, they probably wouldn’t have batteries either and they weren’t an absolute necessity. So we went home and waited for the storm to hit.

Meanwhile, I charged everything I could think of. Our computers and phones were never unplugged. I have two external battery chargers that could be used for cell phones, so I had both of those fully charged, plus one extra phone battery. Our MP3 players have radios, so we charged those. And we charged our cordless power tools. GG made room to put my car in the garage, and he parked at the top of the driveway. I attempted to work from home, but there was really not much going on. 90% of the e-mails I got were about storm preparation and people’s cell phone numbers. GG and I mostly spent the day on the sofa, enjoying electricity. It got to be dinnertime, and since we still had power, I went ahead and made one of the actual cooked meals I had shopped for on Sunday.

The rain continued throughout the day and night, and the wind got pretty crazy. At one point, it sounded like something hit our house, and GG thought it sounded like metal, so we thought maybe we lost a gutter or downspout. The lights dimmed periodically, so I decided it would be a good idea to turn the TV off in case of a power outage. We watched movies on Hulu on GG’s laptop. I was nervous about a tree falling into the house, plus the wind sounded way worse upstairs, so we slept downstairs on the sofa. Even though or sofa is huge, it’s not really built for two adults to sleep for the whole night, but we figured out a way to fit. The cats kept waking me up by throwing up and stuff (they’d been acting really weird since Sunday night, obviously they could sense the weather). Finally morning came, and my mom called before my alarm went off, then my alarm, then my mom called again. So basically, I slept terribly. But every time I woke up, I saw that the power was still on. Plus I’d been checking the basement the whole time, and it was completely dry!

My office was closed again Tuesday, as was GG’s, but since the power was on I could still work from home. We took a walk around the house outside, even though it was still raining. There were tons of branches everywhere, and almost every leaf from every tree in the yard, but no damage we could see! (I don’t know what that metal noise we heard on Monday night was!) Weirdly, the leaves had blown in sort of a striped pattern. A lot of my friends lost power, at least for a little while, and I saw lots of pictures of flooding, and trees and branches falling on or near houses and cars, so I know we really lucked out. Some people are probably going to go several days before they get their power back. My company is opening up the showers at the gym for employees without power, and people can get water and hot meals to go. And watching CNN and looking at pictures like these, you can really see how good we had it.

Our town has rescheduled trick-or-treating for Friday, but kids around here are actually going to make out really well, because there are towns holding trick-or-treat tonight, Friday, Saturday, Monday (if they go to New Jersey), and next Wednesday – so an enterprising kid could potentially get five Halloweens! I’m not buying extra candy, so I plan to put a sign on the door tonight and hand out candy on Friday (which is more convenient for me anyway, as I have band practice tonight).

“Why the smell of burning autumn leaves?”

This was such a busy week. Every day was crazy, and I never felt like I got enough sleep. Last night for our usual night out, we went to Gypsy Saloon. GG wanted to take me there because he went last week for a special lunch at work. It was a neat place, and all the food was delicious. Plus, we saw a cat hanging around the neighborhood! After dinner, we stopped at the supermarket to get some storm supplies. They were already almost totally out of water, but we did get a pack, plus some other items. We still need to check our batteries, though. We haven’t lost power in any storms so far, including the hurricane last summer, so hopefully we’ll be ok. And with the last hurricane, we only had a couple puddles in the basement, so hopefully no flooding this time, either.

This morning I went out to top off my gas tank and get some cash, just in case. Then GG and I cleaned up the leaves in the yard. Tonight we went to the Movie Tavern for dinner and saw Cloud Atlas. It was a pretty crazy movie, but really good. I’ve read mixed reviews, but GG and I really liked it. (All the actors were great, but Jim Broadbent was my favorite!) I kind of want to read the book now. And hey, since I already read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I might as well just go ahead and read all of David Mitchell’s novels.

After the movie, we went over to Wegmans to see if there was anything else we could get to prepare for the storm, and ended up getting a bunch of cheese… so I guess if the power goes out, I’ll just have to eat it all so it doesn’t go to waste. We also got a few packs of the GoPicnic hummus and cracker meals. I really like these for a quick, healthy, and portable meal. I first got a couple for us to eat on our drive down to Charleston, and I’ve had them a few times since then. They’re satisfying and don’t make you feel gross afterward.

But… hopefully this storm turns out not to be as crazy as they’re predicting!

“Now I’m totally resting, I’m reclining, while I’m driving”

Last weekend, GG and I went out to my alma mater for Homecoming. We didn’t end up going last year because there was a freak blizzard that day, so it had been two years since I was there. Campus is so different! They finished the huge addition to the Student Memorial Center, which is a big change. We met L and S out there and watched the whole parade. Soon they’re going to tear down all the dorms on the south side of campus (where I lived for three years) and replace them with some modern dorms, so we swung by there after the parade for old time’s sake. Then we ran into some of the current Brothers from our fraternity, so L and I talked to them for a while about what was going on with the brotherhood these days. Then we had lunch and headed home at a reasonable time. It was a nice day.

Then this past weekend, I drove (by myself!!) to Washington, DC. On Friday night I met up with one of my oldest friends from elementary school, who I hadn’t seen since 1996. She lives there now with her husband and twin babies, and we all had dinner together. It was so nice to see her, and we want to make plans with another of our old elementary school friends soon. Since all of our face-to-face meetings have been canceled for the year, some coworkers and I made plans to get together on Saturday so we could at least see each other. We went to the Newseum, and the Natural History Museum. I hadn’t been to DC since probably middle school, and had never been to the Newseum, which is new, so that was very cool. And besides that, we just had a really nice day together. Sunday morning we had breakfast, and then I drove home (by myself!!) – it was actually a really pleasant drive, the weather was beautiful and there was no traffic, I even got home at the exact time the GPS said I would.

Since I missed out on my entire weekend, my schedule for the week is pretty screwed up. Plus, GG and I are both so busy with various activities every night this week. Let’s see if I ever get it together and cook dinner some night…

“Maybe I am better off alone”

Last week (Friday through Thursday), GG was on a cruise to Bermuda with his parents and brother. (I could have gone too, but cruises aren’t really my thing.) It was weird, because GG is usually a very communicative person, but there is no cell phone service in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. So it was definitely the longest period in the last ten years that I hadn’t even spoken to him on the phone. It was a very quiet week. He did send me a couple e-mails (internet on the ship was like $.65 a minute!), and they were hilarious! I could definitely tell that he was having a great time, and it was probably a good thing that I didn’t go, because I would have just been a wet blanket.

Instead, I surprised him by organizing his closet, and did a bunch of other stuff around the house I’d been putting off. I also entertained myself by going to see The Master, and taking my grandmother out for dinner (she shocked me by suggesting a Mexican restaurant, initially complaining about how exotic the menu was, but then enjoying her shrimp tacos). The time actually went pretty quickly. They were home Thursday morning, and I took the afternoon off work so I could come home early and see GG. I enjoy my alone time, but it was nice to have him back :o)

On Saturday, we went out to Harrisburg for S’s 30th birthday party. He decided last year that he wanted a roast for his birthday, and GG, being his only friend with comedy/roast experience, was the default MC and headliner. So GG and a few other friends performed, and I think everyone did a really good job! We were all laughing through the whole thing, it wasn’t like there were any awkward, uncomfortable silences. But the funniest part was completely unintentional: one of his friends couldn’t attend, but recorded a rap song to be played at the party. So they played it before the roasting started, and used the DVD player to play the CD. When the song ended, the DVD player was turned off but the TV was still on, and it was this scene from Star Trek: TNG with Picard playing some weird flute! Maybe you had to be there, but the timing was perfect. For the rest of the night, we all agreed that the best part of the performance was Picard on flute.

I think we’re now busy every weekend for the rest of the year, or close to it. I just want to nap!