Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's The Most Wonderful Time...

This year I'm just not in the mood for Christmas.  I want to be in the mood.  I want to be excited about Christmas.  I want to think about things that are pretty, shiny, sparkly, and whimsical.  I want to enjoy the prospect of being able to start again with a new year, and, maybe, unlike year's past, a new me.

Last week, my company had one of the many holiday parties scheduled for this year.  This one was department-specific, and happened to be in good ole' New York City.  In my mind, New York is quintessentially Christmas, and visiting the "city that never sleeps" at this time of year usually gets me to feel more holiday-ey.

The stores are all decked out with unbelievable displays, bars and restaurants are filled with people gathered with friends, the Union Square holiday market is in full swing, and Times Square and Broadway are filled with tourists catching shows and having dinner before making the pilgrimage up to 48th St and 5th Avenue to catch a glimpse of the world renowned Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.  That larger than life fresh cut tree that's draped in millions of twinkling lights, looking over an ice skating rink where new loves hold hands trying not to fall down with an audience of thousands looking down upon them and parents try to teach their children how to glide across the ice with ease.  Opposite the plaza from the tree, stands Saks Fifth Avenue, whose facade is lit up with decorations that blink to a chorus of classic Christmas carols.  To get to 5th Ave from the tree, you have to walk through a canyon of lit up angels with trumpets in hand, making you feel like all this grandeur is just for you.  It really is magical.

So, since I haven't been quite up to the holiday madness this year, I decided that I'd meet up with Greg after my work holiday party on Friday, and we'd go up to Rockefeller Center to see the tree to get me into the Christmas spirit.

Well, all I can say is, it was kind of disappointing.  I don't know what happened.  It could have been the fact that I had imbibed quite a few glasses of wine and was more on the drunk side of sober, or it could be the fact that I'm getting older, or it could have just been the crowds of millions constantly bumping into me as I tried to take a peek - but the tree just didn't do it for me this year.  I took a few pictures with my phone - but as stated above - I wasn't exactly stone cold sober (and the people were bumping into me) so all my pictures came out kind of blurry - but here's the "best" of them:

Not so impressive, right?

Here's a picture taken off the official Rockefeller Center website (gives a much better illusion of the "magic" that the tree brings to life):

And here's an even better picture taken by some random person, whose picture I found doing a quick Google Image search:

In my mind, that is the tree I should have seen.  I think our first mistake was trying to see it from the side rather than from the "Angel" point of view - meaning we entered Rockefeller Center from south of that canyon rather than facing the crowds heading directly into that area.  I'm all for getting away from the crowds, but that seemed to be the fatal flaw.  We didn't even really see the angels, and we also didn't see the Sak's Fifth Avenue facade - leaving my holiday spirits in the same rut they were in to begin with.

I have a few more days to get my act together and get my Christmas spirits high.  I just found out that my Mom won't be working on Christmas Eve, so hopefully me, my sisters, my brother-in-law's, my Mom, and my nieces can all gather at my sister's house early on Christmas Eve to sing carols and drink holiday sangria together.  And if holiday sangria can't do the trick, I really will be worried.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Best Travel Mug...EVER!!!

Last weekend I traveled to south Jersey to be home with my mom and my sisters so that we could continue our annual tradition of baking a MILLION Christmas cookies that we can give to our nearest and dearest friends as gifts for the holidays.  It was a ton of fun being with them, making a mess, and baking up a storm!  Here's a shot of our end-result:

Yes, those are full size buffet trays.
Each filled with multiple layers of  artery-clogging , delicious treats.

Anyway - on Sunday morning, my two youngest sisters and I decided to attend mass with my Mom.  Although none of us are really religious, my Mom is, and it makes her happy when we go to church with her, so we did.  Of course, none of us decided we would definitely go until we only had 10 minutes to get out of PJs, comb our hair, and put on some decently non-wrinkled clothes.  As we were rushing around upstairs getting ready, my Mom offered to make us coffee to take along on the ride in travel mugs.  I happily accepted her offer, and just before going out to the car, I threw some milk into the already-prepared cuppa' and hopped into the car.  The coffee was very hot, and I burned my tongue taking the first sip.  Needless to say, because the coffee was so hot, I didn't finish all of it on the 10 minute drive to the church.  Sad that I had to abandon my coffee in the car, I left the mug in the back seat and begrudgingly went into church with narry a half a cup of coffee trying it's hardest to get me to fire on all cylinders.

Mass was fine, nothing earth shattering happened, although, the homily (the part where the priest talks to the congregation after he's read the gospel), was delivered by Catholic evangelist, Gary Zimak.  He didn't have anything earth shattering to talk about either, but he was, at least, interesting to listen to (afterall, you can't be an evangelist and not be charismatic) but, what I got out of his talk was that his facial expressions are extremely similar to those displayed by the actor who plays the character of Nick on one of my favorite TV sitcoms - The New Girl.  (His real name is Jake Johnson, but he will forever be Nick to me.  He's acted in lots of movies you don't even realize until after you become a fan of The New Girl - like the other day I realized he was in 21 Jump St - saw the movie when it first came out, but didn't realize it until I was watching it on showtime.  But, as always, I digress.)

Gary and Jake even look like each other a little bit when they're not making any crazy facial expressions!  Case in point:

Jake Johnson
Gary Zimak

Take away Mr. Zimak's glasses, and add some grays to Jake's hair, and I think they would look like the same exact person.

ANYWAY...what was my point?  

Travel Mugs...RIGHT!!!!

So, after church, we go out to the car, and I make a comment about knowing my coffee, that's been sitting outside in 40 degree weather, won't be warm enough to drink anymore.  My sister Adrea tells me that she bets it will still be warm since the travel mug I used is the best one they have at home and it keeps things warm FOREVER!  SO, without much faith in any travel mug's ability to keep coffee warm enough for me after an hour in a tempered environment, I open the mug and take a sip...and HOLY CRAP BALLS!!!!!  The stuff is hot.  Not lukewarm.  Not pass-able.  IT'S HOT!  (I feel like I should make reference to a Jay-Z or Usher song here - but I'm totally drawing a blank on that one.  Fill in to your liking.)

OH Wait!  That reference should be to Nelly - that's why.  "It's getting HOT in here..."blah blah blah.  I know, I ruined it.  But it just hit me and I had to share.

OK, OK, OK!  Back to the mug.

Seriously.  How is it possible that my coffee, poured well over an hour ago, and sitting in a cold car, could still be hot???  By keeping it in a THERMOS brand mug made with ThermMax Insulation - that's how!!!!  Apparently, the same company that used to make those giant milk bottle things that fit into a lunch box that you had to bring for lunch every day filled with milk because your parents didn't trust you to use your quarter to buy white milk instead of chocolate at school every day - now makes super heat keeping travel mugs for your use and enjoyment.  I was FLOORED!!!  I've been using Starbucks brand coffee mugs for many years - and - seeing as it's a Starbucks branded thing and it costs an arm and a leg to buy - I assumed they were the best heat-keeping travel mugs my hard earned $20 could buy.  And, because I thought I already owned THE BEST, I thought I was just going to have to go through life drinking my lukewarm coffee from my travel mug when I got to work.  There were days when I would get to work and go to take my first sip of coffee and be so disappointed with the temperature that I wouldn't drink it at all or I'd go to the microwave, put the coffee into a ceramic mug, nuke it to get it warm again, then put it back into my travel mug just to be able to drink that necessary one cup I have each day.

Well, after this amazing discovery, I immediately considered taking that awesomest of awesome travel mugs off my Mom's hands.  She has enough stuff already...right?  

Well I made that joke...And was immediately threatened with death if I dared to even think about taking the thing home.  Gosh Mom!  I'm your first born!  Give a little, huh?  Clearly, she wasn't having it.

So, like every logical 30-something, I decided to "Google" the product, and found that Thermos makes whole line of vacuum-insulated coffee mugs and tumblers, including ones that have leak proof seals (the one my Mom has dosn't have that - so take THAT Mom!).  These suckers guarantee to keep hot beverages hot for 5 hours, and cold ones cold for 9 hours!  One review I read said that someone had used one of these things to hold iced coffee for a day, and, when he got home to wash the mug, he found out there was still whole ice cubes inside...after sitting in an office ALL DAY!!!  How is that even POSSIBLE???  I don't care how, really, all I know is that I had to have one. So, off to Amazon I went, and, thanks to my nifty Prime subscription, last night, my new favorite piece of kitchen gadgetry arrived.  I am using it this morning, and even at 10:30, my coffee is still hot and tasty.  I love this thing!  No longer am I forced to rush through drinking my coffee trying to ward off the inevitable cooling down to the point of non-drinkability.  Now, I get to enjoy every sip.  At my leisure.  I may be drinking coffee ALL DAY!!!!  Yeah, it's that good.  Here's a photo of my favorite travel mug (and lots of my various desk stuff).

This baby doesn't look like much, but it's AWESOME.  Seriously.  Thermos isn't paying me to say this at all - but hey, guys, if you're reading this and WANT to send me a free one of these gems, I wouldn't object.  Just sayin'.

And, the best part?  Totally leak free.  I literally sat this thing upside down on my desk this morning, (while it was still full) and peeled off a sticker with a bar code from the bottom, and had to keep it that way for probably 5 minutes, to get all that sticky residue off with tape.  Not one leak!

Sidenote: why do the companies that make stickers for barcodes not make stuff that peels off cleanly?  It's such a pain in the buttox to get that sticky stuff off sometimes.  I mean, come on!  Thermos can make a container that keeps beverages hot for hours on end.  How hard is it to make an adhesive that sticks without leaving behind residue???

Anyway - I think I'll be buying another one of these today.  They make one that's red on the outside that I'm kind of in love with.  The color change is apparently worth ten more dollars since this one cost me $17.99 and the red one is $27.99 - but honestly, I feel like I will be able to keep this thing for years without having to replace it.  Let's hope I'm right!

Sorry for the long post, I'm just SO EXCITED!!!!

Happy 12-12-12 everyone!!!!!  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Oh! To be a Tween Again...

Last week, Greg and I were lucky enough to see the Broadway performance of Newsies.

Which is based on one of my favorite all-time movies EVER!

It was released in 1992, when I was just a young lass of 11 years, and still thought it possible for me to one day be rich, famous, and a pop singer/movie star.  Due to my inherent lack of experience and wisdom that can only come from aging and facing reality in life as we know it, one of the reasons I was so enthralled with the movie was the cast of young men.  Boys, really.  Boys who could act, sing, AND DANCE!  And who were absolutely, without a doubt, hands down the CUTEST boys I had ever seen in my life.  All scraggly hair, with bright eyes and shining smiles - THEY were who people LIKE ME (in the adult verion of myself as seen from my tween-y perspective) ended up falling in love with, and, naturally, one day marrying before we lived happily ever after.  Take a look at this fantastic compilation of clips from the movie.  I mean, COME ON, what on-the-brink-of-hormonal-explosion tweenage girl wouldn't think that the all-star, talented, smooth chested, wise-ass smirking, newscap wearing, boyish smiling cast  lead by a twinkly eyed Christian Bale, is OMG - TO DIE FOR???

Anyway, the play was AMAZING!  There were lots of noticeable differences from the movie, but they didn't detract from the story or make watching it annoying if you know the movie by heart, like I do.  The songs were similar, but not exactly the same as they were in the movie, and there were some new additions that made me understand why the show received a Tony Award for Best Original Score.  I was glad we went to see it and would recommend it to anyone who likes the movie, or just likes well produced, talent riddled Broadway musicals.

In case you're curious, here's a pic of the twinkly eyed not-so-smooth chested man I did marry...true, he's not the best singer in the world (thankfully, he's also not the worst!), but he'll dance up a storm for me any day...even in public places...just to make me smile.

And, yes, he'll also do dishes with my sisters and brother-in-laws after a long day of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the masses that are my family.  I may not be rich, famous, or a movie star, but I sure am a lucky gal.