Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Snowy Halloween

Crazy, right?  The tri-state area was hit with a pretty massive snow storm this past weekend, and the destruction is unbelievable.  The biggest problem is that most trees haven't shed all their leaves yet, so the heavy, wet snow that fell on Saturday weighed down some pretty large branches, and caused the trees to bend, break, and, in some cases, be totally destroyed.  I had to work on Saturday because, well, anytime it snows, I have to be at work as part of my job.  While I was at work, Greg would call me to give me status updates on our house and property.  He said it was pretty scary for a while when it was dark in our neighborhood and all he could hear was the cracking and subsequent falling of trees and tree branches all over the place.

Thankfully we were only without power for a couple of hours, and none of the falling branches crushed our roof or our cars.  We're now in the process of trying to figure out how we will remove all of the fallen tree limbs from our back yard without spending a fortune...anyone need some free firewood?  It's yours for the takin'!

Because of all the down trees and power lines all over the place, our town officially cancelled Halloween for tonight, so I assume there will be no trick-or-treaters out and about in our neighborhood.  To me, this simply means that I'll have to eat all of the chocolate in my house now :)  

Below are some pictures of our back yard and driveway taken this morning.  Our entire neighborhood is full of properties with at least this much debris, and in some cases there's even more damage.  It's eerie driving around trying to dodge trees and power lines that are all over the roads.  Feels like a scene from armageddon or something...

This "branch" fell just in front of where Greg's car was parked...
only a few minutes after he moved it out of the way.  Yikes!!!

This is looking into our backyard from our driveway (our neighbor's garage is in the background)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My First Thanksgiving

Needless to say, November 2011's big national holiday will not be my first ever.  I've always celebrated Thanksgiving with my family.  When I was very young, we used to pack into my parent's GIANT Chevy stationwagon (and before you ask, yes, it was complete with the rear facing seat, or, as I always referred to it, the "back-back" AND wood-grain accent exterior) and drive three or so hours to my Grandmother's house in Northeastern PA.  I remember those drives being torturous.  We always had to wait for my Dad to be done with work to leave NJ, so, to avoid traffic, we usually ended up packing into the wagon around 9:00 PM Thanksgiving Eve.  It was about an hour past our bedtime, so me and my sisters were always in our PJs, and the back-back of the wagon was folded down, lined with blankets and pillows, transformed, magically,  into our "little house on the turnpike" bed for 5.  I'm sure that, according to Mom and Dad's plans, we were supposed to lay in the back-back, listen to a few Raffi lullabies, and fall asleep so that they could have some quiet time for adult conversation.  Well you can imagine how often those plans actually came to fruition.  Usually, one of us would start talking, the others would join, the youngest would start crying, someone would have to pee, another would feel car sick, someone's arm would be touching someone else's leg, and all hell would break loose in the back-back.  Oh the joys of growing up with siblings (and, I assume, raising children).  Maybe the reason I've never really witnessed my parents effectively communicating is because they were constantly stifled by their children's antics coming from the back-back.  But I digress.

Three hours or more (depending on traffic at the hellacious Delaware Water Gap) later, we'd be heading up Gram's muddy driveway, looking for a warm place on the floor to rest our weary heads. 

Thanksgiving morrning, I'd wake up to the smell of turkey cooking in the oven.  I'd go downstairs, hoping that some of my cousins would be there and awake also, to have breakfast and start helping with the set up process for the day.  My favorite thing to do was build the fruit tray.  It always had a pineapple center, and the trick was to get the apples, bananas, oranges and grapes to pile up at an angle so that the whole tray was symmetrical with the top of the pineapple as the largest peak on the tray.  We'd usually have a group of 20 or so.  The kids would all eat at the kitchen table, fully extended, sans tablecloth, with paper plates and cups.  The adults would eat at the dining room table, which was really a trail of several tables, dressed in table cloths and set with china from Gram's vast collection.  I'm sure it wasn't perfect, but I remember those Thanksgivings with awe just because there were so many to be fed, and we always had more than enough, despite my grandmother's kitchen being a "one a$$" kitchen, as it was so lovingly referred to by my Auntie Dot.

As I got older, my Aunts and Uncles (and my parents) started to have Thanksgiving at home.  I was probably 15 ot 16 the first time we had Thanksgiving at my childhood home.  It was weird because it was just the 7 of us.  I remember begging my Mom to just order pizza and to use paper plates, most of which was influenced by my desire to have an easy clean up.  I think I succeeded once, when Mom allowed us to have lasagna instead of turkey on the actual holiday.  Of course, we had to have turkey with all the fixin's the weekend after Thanksgiving to make her happy.  We spent a couple of Thanksgivings at other relatives houses (usually my Mom's sister's or brother's places) and once we even spent the holiday in NYC.  I was in the Macy's Parade in my last year of college, and my whole family came in to see me march, carrying the "Little Bill" balloon.  That was, so far, my favorite Thanksgiving ever.  But again, I digress.

This year, things are a bit different.  My parents aren't hosting Thanksgiving.  After much deliberation, Greg and I have decided to host our first Thanksgiving at our house.  We invited my family (including Grandma) as well as Greg's parents, his great Aunt, and our friends John and Helen.  I'm not sure how many people we will actually have, but I'm planning on 15.  I'm very apprehensive about hosting - we have never really had that many people for a sit down dinner in our place before.  PLUS we have to find room for everyone to sleep here, which means I'll be kicked out of my own bed for a few nights.  And, to be honest, I'm not always a gracious hostess.  I love my house (the inside anyway) and I like it the most when it's clean, and everything is in its proper place.  When my family visits, there's always chaos, just because of the number of people that encompass "my family."  Add Greg's parents coming and shacking up with us from Tuesday until Saturday, and I am pretty much guaranteed an out of sorts house for at least a week.  Which means I am going to be out of sorts, which translates to me becoming a cranky, selfish, whiny, angry person.  And Greg will bear the brunt of my frustration.

Adding to my insanity is my need to try to make the table/house look festive and nice without losing the charm of our house.  Currently, my dining table is fully extended, with a tablecloth on, and I've been trying for a week to figure out what to put in the center so that everything looks great.  I'm trying to figure out where to get enough chairs for everyone to sit on.  And I'm trying to decide what to include on the Thanksgiving menu - to make it special for my house.  I even asked Greg to have his parents bring down extra china so that we have somewhat matching table settings.  Basically, I've entered the month of planning stress which, I assume, is typical for first timers hosting this holiday.  I never thought I'd even consider using cloth napkins, but when I saw them while shopping for a table cloth, I couldn't help but grab a few packages to use for Thanksgiving.  Now I'm spending time trying to figure out how to configure the confounded things so they don't look awkward at a place setting.  I'm seriously detail oriented, and all the stupid stuff that people won't even notice is going to make me crazy. 

I might have to start doing yoga just for the month of November to keep me somewhat sane and to save Greg the headache of listening to me worry/complain/cry/freak out over every stupid little detail.  Wish me luck, I know I'm going to need it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Car of my Thirties

Saturday was bittersweet.  I woke up with a list of goals to accomplish, which included draining radiators, raking leaves, grocery shopping, laundry, and car shopping.  Naturally, car shopping was the priority since a) it's more fun than anything else on the list, and, b) it was a beautiful autumn day and I definitely didn't want to spend it at home getting typical household crap maintenance done. 

So, off I went, hubbie in tow, to the dealership.  I have been researching cars for several months, and had resigned myself to the fact that I needed a new car.  The trouble is that, my (then current) car, is the car I bought when I was in my early 20's.  It was my "THIS IS SOOO ME!" car - a periwinkle blue Mini Cooper Convertible with exterior chrome trim (if you ever watch the TV show Scrubs, it's pretty much the exact same car that Carla and Turk drove after they got married and ditched their Vespas).  I built my car - literally, chose every single detail about it - ordered it and watched, almost daily, online as my car went through the building process over in England.  I waited almost 3 months for my beloved Mini to get to the States, and got butterflies the day I drove it out of the dealership.  The car was ADORABLE -- fun to drive, had tons of aesthetic appeal, and is the reason I spent many summer mornings making unplanned trips down the shore, coolers and beach chairs in tow, with the top down and music blaring.  The car was AWESOME!!!  Of course, I bought Winnie (I named my car after Winnie Cooper from the Wonder Years) when I lived in an apartment, street parking was at a premium, and before I got married, before MY stuff became OUR stuff, and WE required much more of ALL stuff.  Back when I bought Winnie, I was more concerned about scoring free parking on the streets of NYC than I was about figuring out how to get a 6 foot long sheet of plywood home so that my husband can finish that bookshelf I've been waiting to have built in our family room forever.

When we made our move to the 'burbs a little over 2 years ago, I suddenly become painfully aware of why people looked at me sideways when I told them with bubbling excitement about Winnie.  The car was not at all practical for suburban least not for a homeowner in suburbia.  I can't tell you how many ways I had to contort purchases made at Marshall's, Pier 1, Home Depot, etc. to figure out a way to get something I absolutely needed at home back to my actual house.

So...on Saturday, I went shopping for a more "practical" car - something I can actually seat 4 passengers in comfortably, and something I can actually fit much needed essentials into without being the laughing stock of the parking lot.  It took me a long time to find a car that was fun and sporty enough to satisfy my need for a car I could like even half as much as I loved Winnie.
After months of research and a few test drives, I settled on the Acura TSX.  It's luxurious packaging (read: leather heated seats, nav system, power seats, moonroof, auto headlights, satellite radio, etc.) made it an easier sell for me.  When I went car shopping on Saturday, my plan was to negotiate the best price for the car and get estimates of trade in value for Winnie.  I was NOT planning on buying anything - I wasn't ready, or at least, I didn't think I was.  Needless to say, my day did not go as planned.  I ended up purchasing the TSX, which was influenced by a painful realization that the 2011 stock was dwindling fast, and to get the best deal, I had to move (especially if I wanted a say in what color I got).  I did get a great deal on the car (which I judge by a purchase price that was several hundred less than what Edmunds and KBB were showing as invoice prices). 

As excited as I was to be getting such a fancy automobile, I couldn't help but get teary eyed when Winnie was driven off by a lot attendant who couldn't figure out how to move the driver's seat back.  I think my husband was a little worried that he was going to have to deal with me crying for the remainder of the weekend.  He kept asking if I was OK, if I wanted to change my mind, if he could do anything to help make me less sad.  Finally, I turned to him, wiped my tears, and said, "No, I'm OK - this is the 'Car of my Thirties.'  I'm ready to move on, to accept that I'm growing up, and to do that gracefully.  This car will be a 10-year car, one that I will have adventures in as a 30-something.  I will be OK."  And, with that, we hopped into my new car, and drove home.

Later that night, my husband asked me what I think my "Car of the Forties" will be.  I turned to him and said "I'm getting a Mercedes b*tch!" 

Guess I haven't grown up too much...