My Best-Of 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Christmas Tour(s)

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

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

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

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

2013 Goal Wrap-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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