“It’s just a full day’s drive away”

Last week was so off-schedule, but it was really good. Though it will be nice to get back to my regular routine this week.

After the holiday Monday, I worked from home Tuesday morning and then drove up to Connecticut with my co-worker, K, in the afternoon. The drive was not bad, we didn’t hit any traffic, and got to our hotel when we expected. Our boss was also in town last week for a different meeting, and we’d planned to all have dinner together, but he had to cancel. So K and I went out ourselves to Mystic Pizza. There was a bit of a wait for a table, and the lobby was packed. One of the groups there was a pair of new parents with a tiny baby that had way too much stuff. After arguing with the hostess over whether his contraption stroller would fit in the restaurant, the dad took the wheel part of it back to the car while the mom held the baby in the top carrier part. Then the baby started getting fussy, so mom started poking around for something in her diaper bag while the dad reached down and started soothing the baby. “Did you wash your hands?!” the mom snapped at him, while shoving a bottle of hand sanitizer toward him. K thought it was the crying baby that was annoying me while we waited, but it was actually those obnoxious parents! In the end, they decided the baby was too fussy to stay, so they ordered some pizza to go. Right after that, K and I were seated. Maybe it was just because I was so hungry, but that pizza was really good!

On Wednesday morning we left early to get to the office because neither of us had been there before, our meeting started at 8:30, and we were told to get there early because the head of our group was making a special appearance at the beginning of the meeting. Our journey to the meeting room was seriously like the Weiden + Kennedy bit on Portlandia. The campus is huge, so I figured if we start at the building our group sits in, the meeting room couldn’t be far away. First the security guards at the gate didn’t know where that building was. We went to where they told us, then a woman in that parking lot told us where we should really go. We got there and started walking through the building, and realized the room numbers were not formatted like the one we were looking for. A woman there explained that we needed to go up the stairs – no, not these stairs, another set of stairs – then down this long hallway that connects several other buildings, to get to the building where the room is. Having hiked over there, we started looking for the room. It was on the 4th floor and we were on the 2nd floor. In an open atrium area, I saw an elevator on the 3rd floor, but there was no corresponding elevator where we were. So we took the stairs up to the elevator, took the elevator to the 4th floor, and then walked all the way to the end of the building, and there behind huge wooden double doors was our conference room! Anyway, our morning meeting went pretty well. Then we met up with some other co-workers for lunch, followed by a department-wide meeting in the afternoon. Then I had the chance to sit in the neat “open seating” area where my CT co-workers work. It was fun, though I don’t think I could do it every day, it would be way too distracting. That is a really interesting office, though – lots of colored walls and artwork, and a variety of seating areas. I can’t imagine any adult in a suit squatting down on one of the colorful little tuffets around the office (the ones pictured here are not even the weirdest ones!), but they sure look fun.

We went out Wednesday night for a celebratory team dinner since our project was wrapping up. It was actually really fun. We were all seated at a long table, and kind of ended up splitting into people talking about kids and work, and, the fun end of the table! Guess which end I was on. We had a hilarious conversation, and our consultants are really a blast, I’ll miss working with them when the project ends. Thursday morning, K and I worked from the hotel a bit, then headed home in the late morning. I was home by 2:00, unpacked, and back online by 2:30.

I worked from home Friday, too. GG and I went out for our usual “date night” (or at least, “going out for dinner night”), and used a coupon for TGI Friday’s, followed by a coupon for Coldstone Creamery. And we both got our watch batteries replaced! It was a busy night.

GG went out on Saturday morning to jog at Valley Forge Park, and after a while I looked out the window and it was solid white outside. A snow squall had started up! At that same moment, GG called me – he was as far as possible from his car, there was nowhere for him to go, and unlike my previous snow squall experience, this one didn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Just in the time that we were on the phone, several inches of snow had already collected on everything. He took shelter in a log cabin, and I threw on some clothes and headed out to pick him up. Of course, by the time I got him the snow finally had stopped, but by then he was too cold and wet to really continue. I spent the rest of the weekend catching up on housework, errands, DVRed shows, and relaxing. On Sunday night we went out for sushi (non-seafood sushi for me). As of this week, I’m back to bringing lunches to work, and cooking dinners at night!

Presidents’ Day Day Trip

It was kind of last minute, but we decided if the weather was nice today, we would spend the day up in New Hope. Well, the weather was beautiful! I just had to catch up on a little e-mail for work (not everyone had the day off like my site did), and we headed out around 11 AM.

First we stopped at Melt Down for lunch. This was our second time there, and it was a more relaxing experience than the first time. I got the same thing I did before, the Brie Melt Sliders, and GG tried the Honey Apple sandwich. They were very good, and kept us going until dinnertime. Then we were back on the road, heading north.

Our next stop was Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, where we walked around and looked at the little shops for a while. We also stopped at the Penn’s Purchase outlets across the street, which may have replaced the Reading Outlets as “Saddest Outlets in America.” It’s a very nice outdoor mall, but almost every store is empty! Seriously, there are only like five stores open. One is the Coach outlet, and the rest are the Bass/Izod/Van Heusen trio that every outlet mall has.

After wandering around for quite a while, we continued up the road to New Hope. I feel like we haven’t been there in forever! But actually we were last in town in June to celebrate our anniversary. We parked in our favorite lot in the middle of town and then began walking. I had some coupons for free Dunkin Donuts iced coffees, so even though it was cold out and I don’t usually drink coffee, we cashed those in first. While we drank, we walked all the way to the end of Main Street. Usually we stop and turn around before we get to the last couple stores and the sidewalk ends, but I felt like I’d heard of this shop, The Bag Ladies, that was at the end of the road, so we stopped in. It is a cute store, and the women who work there were so nice! They sell Avon products and when I said I am an Avon Lady too (a very bad one), we had a long talk about the products and selling them. They showed me through the whole store, and pointed out everything that was on sale – which was a lot! I ended up getting two cardigans, and GG and I had a very nice conversation with the women. I’ll definitely make that a regular stop on future trips.

We of course made our regular stop into Farley’s Bookshop, which (not so) secretly we only go to to visit Butter, the resident cat. When we first started going there, we could find Butter wandering around the store, sometimes meowing at us before he walked away. For the past couple years, he could always be found sleeping below the CD or greeting card racks, and you could reach down and pet him and he’d roll over for belly rubs. Today, something new happened. We found him laying in the middle of the floor in the children’s book section. I knelt down to scratch his tummy and he was rolling around like crazy, so I just sat on the floor. GG sat down on a bench and started reading books, and Butter got up and went over to get scratches from GG, came back to me, sniffed around in my purse, and kept standing by me. Finally, he climbed up into my lap and just purred and purred. I always figured he would be kind of sick of people, with customers coming in and out all day long, and probably wanting to pet him a little. But it was like a) he remembered me from my 1-2 visits a year, or b) he was starved for attention. It was super sweet, and when we had to get up to go, he looked so sad that we were leaving. It was a really cute moment. We’ll be back, Butter!

After a few more stops around New Hope, we walked across the bridge to Lambertville, NJ, to look for dinner. Apparently, every restaurant in Lambertville is closed on Mondays. (We talked to this local woman on the street who started listing all these restaurants that were open, and we smiled and nodded, but had no clue what she was talking about.) So we walked back across the bridge to get dinner in New Hope, but everywhere we tried there was closed also. So we ended up at The Landing, where we have been many times before. In the summer they have a great patio by the river. But in the winter, you can sit inside by their nice fireplace. GG ordered his usual, calamari and chili. I had a roasted pear and beet salad, which was fabulous, and the chicken quesadilla. I feel like I still smell like the fireplace.

After dinner, it was about 8 PM, just about everything in town was closed, and we headed home, where I got back online to catch up with a little more work, ugh. I think it every time we go there, but if it weren’t so close to NJ and prone to flooding, my dream would be to be independently wealthy and just own a little shop in New Hope where I could hang out and be a local, without having to worry about business doing well or not. It would be a relaxing little life.

Messed Up Work Weeks, Valentine’s, and My Need for Gadgets

This past week was kind of messed up. Last Friday was the last day of our really busy week, and we skipped lunch and then left a little early to get a late lunch with our visiting coworker before she had to catch her plane home. I said then that I was not leaving my house again until Sunday, and I did not. On Sunday, Jen came over and we went out for lunch and manicures. We went to this place at the mall that another friend had recommended once, and I think they were very good – not that I am a manicure connoisseur or anything, but they were thorough, the polish lasted for almost a week without chipping, and they didn’t chit chat in front of us in another language.

On Sunday night, GG took me out for a Valentine’s Day dinner. I’d asked him a couple weeks earlier to plan something for us on Valentine’s Day – didn’t have to be on the actual day, didn’t have to be anything fancy, I just wanted him to take responsibility and plan something. So he made reservations and wouldn’t tell me where, only that it was in Philadelphia, it was somewhere we hadn’t been before, and he knew I’d like it. I didn’t know where we were going until we walked into the building, because he covered all the signs! We went to Talula’s Garden, recently voted “best cheese plate in Philly,” which of course will score it major points with me. So obviously we ordered a cheese plate, and we went with the “American Cheese Champions,” which is a selection of six award-winning cheeses. They were good, but I found the portions a little small (and let’s not even get into the portions of the compote and stuff that were dabbed on the board). Honestly, I much preferred the cheese plate at Garces Trading Company. For our meals, I had the hangar steak, served with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and kale, and a side order of beets with orange zest and ricotta cheese. GG had roasted leg of lamb and a side of “roasted mushrooms galore.” We both enjoyed our meals, but again, not my all-time favorite. Finally, for dessert, I had the “Petite Cookie Collection,” which was a plate of four different mini cookies. And GG had the raspberry and citrus mousse, which was amazing and very refreshing. The atmosphere of the restaurant was really neat – you enter via this little courtyard, which is filled with Christmas lights and I’m sure in warmer weather is a really nice place to enjoy your meal. Inside, the building is an old hotel or bank or something, with crazy high ceilings. They have kind of cutesy decor with birdhouses and farm stuff. We were seated in a banquette in the bar area, where there were four tables along the window. On either end of the bench, there was a huge metal vent that was part of the original ventilation system of the building. The decorative grates are beautiful, but according to the manager (who apologized to the women on either side of me, but not me, I guess I didn’t look cold enough), they do get “drafty.” I was freezing. Overall, it really was a lovely dinner, and I love when GG surprises me with things he knows I’ll like. But would I go back? I’d rather go back to GTC first.

Because the previous week was so crazy with working, I decided to work from home three days last week, adding Monday in addition to my regular Wednesday and Friday. That really messed up my schedule and sense of time, but it was nice to only go to the office two days. I ended up going out to lunch with a friend on Tuesday, which turned out to be fine because then I didn’t go out for lunch on Thursday, when we usually get together.

This long weekend has been nice so far. GG’s been pretty busy with comedy stuff, so we haven’t been out to dinner together like we usually do. But we’ve been spending the days together. Yesterday we went out together to shop for a couple things. I was looking for a new MP3 player, because after six years (almost to the day!) and two batteries, my beloved Creative Zen is finally starting to go. It doesn’t start up, or the battery dies almost instantly, or it freezes and I have to pop the battery out. Also I’m finally running out of storage space. So I was looking for something similar, but with a little more space. Turns out, if you don’t want an iPod, or a little tiny thing like for exercising, you don’t really have a lot of choices when it comes to standalone MP3 players. The guy at Best Buy was saying he just uses his smartphone and a music player app, which didn’t seem like a horrible idea, but actually I just won an eBay auction for a used Creative Vision:M, so hopefully that works for me whenever it arrives. But in the meantime, we happened to go by the cell phone store and I just asked what the price difference would be if I upgraded my plan and got a smartphone. It turns out that I could get a smartphone sort of at a discount if I change plans and extend my contract for two years, but you end up paying full price because the balance of the cost of the phone is paid off in installments as part of your bill for who knows how long. So I’m holding off on that for now, though it was fun thinking about joining the rest of society with a smartphone, even briefly. I can do everything I need with my WAP-enabled phone for now :o)

Depending on the weather tomorrow, GG and I plan to go somewhere for the day to take advantage of the day off. And then I have a business trip coming up this week, which will end up eating several days, when you account for travel time and such. We tried to get out of it, but they really want me and my coworker K there for a couple meetings, so off we go.

Freaky Thursday

My crazy weeks end tomorrow, and I couldn’t be happier. This week we hosted on-site activities for three days, meaning we had extra co-workers in from out of town, and we spent our mornings hurrying to get our work done and our afternoons running events, and then we would all go out for dinner. Today we were all dragging, and I can only imagine how we’re going to be tomorrow, but hopefully next week things will slow down. Then I’ll have one or two business trips coming up in the next couple months. I’ll be very happy when things slow down!

Something really funny happened tonight – I went out with our last visiting co-worker, just to do shopping and have a quick dinner after work. She had never been to Chick-fil-A before! So we went there for dinner and people watching. One of the most interesting groups we watched were four teenage girls who came in with a very old woman who was apparently someone’s grandmother. She didn’t seem to understand where she was or what food they were ordering for her, and then she gave them money to pay for it. One of the girls had car keys, so they obviously didn’t need her for a ride. So why did these four girls bring an old woman out to dinner with them? And then they started taking pictures of themselves posing with her. She made a comment about taking pictures while they’re young, and my co-worker said, “I figured it out! You know Freaky Friday? She is actually a 16 year old girl in an old woman’s body!” I’m still laughing about that. This girl is awesome, it’s been fun having her here these past couple weeks.

“Working on the tiny blueprint of the angle”

Oh I’m so far behind, I’m not even going to try to catch up. I don’t think I missed anything amazing. The horrible part is, I keep thinking about things I want to write about, but it’s like, while I’m drying my hair. I need to start keeping a little notebook with me so I can write down my ideas for later.

Another problem is that I’m crazy busy at work all the time. The group that I’m in 40% of the time (on paper) had their face-to-face meeting at our site, so I was with them for two days. And now we’re getting ready for our big learning event that starts on Monday. Remember last year when it was one crazy week and everything kind of went wrong? This year it’s three weeks, but hopefully we don’t have the problems we experienced last year. This past week was intense preparation, so I wasn’t even at my desk a lot of the time, and then next week I’ll be facilitating our on-site events and handling people’s questions that come in to the group mailbox.

Also remember my fruit-hating co-worker from last year? She’s in town for two weeks to help us out, so we came up with some weekend plans for her. Today GG and I took her into Philadelphia to show her some touristy stuff. We took the train in this morning and saw the Comcast Center (briefly – to answer my question, yes they do show other video things on the giant screens in the lobby outside of Christmas time), the Mutter Museum (which has changed a lot since the last time I was there, I guess due to its being so famous now), DiBruno Brothers, Chinatown, the Liberty Bell (we didn’t wait in the giant line to see it, there’s a window around the side where you can walk up and get a great view!), Independence Hall (from across the street because the whole area is chained off), and Reading Terminal Market before catching the train back home. Oh and we saw that new President’s House exhibit, which was very cool, and I was already familiar with Oney Judge from Drunk History.

So, tomorrow is my day to rest and relax and also do housework and watch Super Bowl commercials, and then the craziness starts Monday!