Blech (and No Bagels!!)

Today was filled with two of my least favorite things to do:
- the dentist for some drilling of cavities
- the auto mechanic, which has become a minor odyssey in its own right

After looking forward to getting my car back all day I took two buses to the garage to pick it up. I got out too early by mistake and had to walk five blocks, but arrived at the shop only to hop in, start up the car and have the 'check engine' light flash on immediately. (Defective, despite being brand new, ignition coil or something.) This drama was enhanced by the fact that the mechanic and I are just recently patching up our relationship after I was very angry at them for having me drive out in a snow storm last week only to turn me away because 5 people drove up in the time I'd called ahead to come in. I edited my Yelp! consumer review to reflect their fickleness, and they were miffed at me. We reconciled just yesterday. I think sensing the tension, they had one of the mechanics drive me home, which I was grateful for since it exempted me from another round of public transportation.

But now tomorrow I will be doing exactly what I did today: waiting for the auto mechanic to call. I'm so aggravated to lose two vacation days that could be filled with useful errands to figuring out how to get where I need to go by bus and train, and the inevitable walking and waiting outside on street corners that this activity entails. A usual 15 minute drive takes a half hour, if the buses arrives at fortuitous times. And Jason wonders what makes me so grumpy at the end of the day. (But I now also have a greater appreciation for the hardship of those who don't have enough money for their own cars and insurance and are at the mercy of CTA to get to work every day.)

I also kind of thought some girl was going to run off with my cell phone after I let her use it on the bus today. She didn't even say thank you when she handed it back to me.

After my dentist appointment the dentist advised me that I cannot have sticky, chewy foods for two weeks, like bagels. Not that I eat bagels ever day, but now I am adding the Bagel Ban to the list of injustices that have befallen me today.

Gifts We Did Give (Because World Peace is Hard to Wrap)

Since it's now safely past the Christmas holiday, I thought I might share some of the highlights from gifts we did give this year.

Just like shopping for my own sister, thinking of what to give Jason's sister, Courtney is most fun. (Getting gifts from her is terrific too.) For the newly married lady, I found these trinket dishes from Jenny Blasen Pottery on Etsy. This was something I never realized I needed until after I began wearing an engagement ring and wedding band every day. Continuing our theme, Courtney and Lorenzo also received the Nest Newlywed Handbook Since Jason and I are only a year into it ourselves, I think the best advice we might give is that one year is too soon to be giving advice of your own.
I also picked up these cute earrings at a craft fair, and we threw in a XBox game, Fallout 3, for Lorenzo. Jason's been crazy obsessed with this game set in a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. and I don't mind it because the soundtrack is dreamy, sad, jazz vocals which float into the living room from his office... the reverie is just interrupted by spurts of machine gun fire from time to time.
For when she's able to wrench Lorenzo away from the video games, there's also the 2009 Zagat Guide for San Diego Restaurants. I like this as a holiday gift, since they are available by the end of the year and it's something that people probably haven't picked up for themselves yet. It also fits into most stockings handily.

For Jason's Aunt Cherie & Uncle Charlie, the guests most keenly intrigued by the more unusual types of beer in our fridge while visiting this summer: Microbrew of the Month Club. The gift promises "twelve premium microbrews from award-winning, independent breweries across the country" each month. I'm told the first round was aptly delivered on Christmas Eve. Cheers!

For Jason's parents, gift certificates for good dinners out in Columbus. It doesn't come close to rivaling the unique adventures Jason's mom sends us on but we try our best. And there were iTunes gift cards for the younger cousins who only remind us that we're not so young anymore when we can't think of anything else to get them. (A conversation over what to give that begins with, "What are the kids into these days?" inevitably should end with a gift card.)

Finally, I picked up a few 'seasonal soaps' in pretty boxes for hostess gifts and quick retaliation for gifts I wasn't expecting. ("Why yes, OF COURSE I got you something too! Let me just run and get it!") The box itself is so pretty that gift wrapping isn't even necessary. And when paired with a small mix CD I made, it's a nice little (inexpensive) gift.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and got everything they were hoping for, and maybe more!

Christmas in the City



We're back from our quick Christmas trip to New York City to see family and be silly tourists. Grandma shared stories over Christmas dinner about Johnny, the family cat in Slovakia. He'd sneak into the smokehouse and try to jump up and grab the curing meat. And then, Grandma mentioned, "Johnny had kittens." For Johnny, this was a far happier ending than the story of Grandma's pet rabbit that she'd found in a field, who later turned up on the dinner table.
After Christmas dinner we headed into the city and our hotel off of Times Square. Ah, the throngs of people. It was crazy crowded, as my photo of Rockefeller Center will attest. There is a skating rink down there somewhere, but we quickly shrugged off any desire to see it after looking at the crowd. Same story for looking at the Christmas displays in store windows like Saks Fifth Avenue. We could see well enough from the emptier sidewalk, across the street. We scoffed at anyone who suggested it was cold. At 30-40 degrees, NYC was warm compared to the temperatures we left behind in Chicago. "This isn't cold at all!" we declared in self-congratulatory fashion to each other as we walked around.
We also marveled at the pageant that is Times Square. There's an entire store that's dedicated to M&Ms, and you don't even see any candy until you get to the second floor. Better yet, it's open every single day until midnight - including Christmas Day. I momentarily considered an M&M umbrella, but realized I was just getting pulled into the moment. (I regretted what seemed like a wise choice when it began raining later that night. M&M umbrella, where are you when I need you!!??) Jason delighted in the country's only NHL store, and I found our way to the Sanrio store.
There was good food, Good Burger literally. And the big floppy pizza slices I miss so much after moving away from the East Coast. For our learning and betterment we visited the Theodore Roosevelt birthplace, a brownstone on the Lower East Side, as well as the Tenement Museum. (Adeptly navigating our way to both via the subway.) The Tenement Museum was intriguing; half of the tour takes you through the building as it was left years ago, with the layers of flaking paint and wallpaper once hung by the people who lived there. Then you walk through the apartment as it looked when inhabited, complete with beer bottles on the table and laundry hanging on the door. (The virtual tour gives you a sense.) I later realized that the tenements were really not much smaller than my grandmother's apartment on the Upper East Side, where she noted regretfully, the rent has been raised this year - to $544 a month. (60+ years of rent control!)

What If I Told You...

Remember those 1980's Folgers coffee commercials where restaurant patrons secretly had their fresh-brewed coffee switched with Folger's crystals? And they were astonished that they didn't know the difference?
That was the feeling I've had not once, but twice, lately as I've flipped through a magazine's pages and seen a beautiful piece of jewelry. It's not something I could afford, I figure. But I look at the maker's name anyway, just for kicks (and for that day I win the lotto.) It's hsn.com - Home Shopping Network! I can afford this jewel! Who'd have thought this wasn't fresh-brewed coffee?! (This is the same remarkable feeling that comes over you when you see something you might actually need in the SkyMall catalog.)

All the careful work of their PR person to raise HSN in my esteem, and possibly even put its website in my Bookmarks folder, has fallen flat though, since I go to the website and the products are even there.
Like going to the coffee pot to find it empty.

Although this necklace did have me tarrying on hsn.com for longer than I intended:Janice Dickinson Asymmetrical NecklaceBut I'm going to have to check back later to see if the Loulou de la Falaise earrings I spied in Domino are ever coming back.

Past Due

I remember waiting in line at the Frankford Public Library while the librarian stamped each of our books before we left to drive home with Mom. Stopping for a soft ice cream cone (swirl) across the street first, of course.
These bookplates from One Good Bumblebee make me nostalgic. But nowadays when I lend a book I'm usually just implicitly giving it away, since I've already read it.

Merry Christmas

Vacation So Far

It's my "Christmas Break" and there's always that tension between wanting to kick back and just watch a lot of Law & Order or make the most of daytime hours where long-postponed chores can be crossed off the list.

So what have I done so far?
- oil change for the car
- Law & Order
- tried my hand at skiing in WisconsinI can't say there weren't any falls; but at least there were not any injuries.
- took care of our living room window (details later)
- Law & Order
- Christmas tree up and decorated
- dentist
- finished reading my book(I recommend it. 576 pages seemed intimidating at first, but I flew right through it.)
- at-home manicure & pedicure to smarten me up for the coming holiday

It feels like a good momentum in just two days off. If the weather makes driving a more reasonable venture, I might try some cooking.

Oh My Darling

It's the season for clementine love. I picked up a crate Saturday, just ahead of the falling snow that went on into the night. I'm not sure if it's the part of me that in a former life must have been an English sailor suffering from scurvy, but whenever I feel like I'm going to be trapped (see airplanes), I crave citrus.
Who knew they could also illuminate the night by being carved into a candle? (From Apartment Therapy.) I bet that smells wonderful.
A co-worker advised me that the homespun approach to teeth whitening is to rub rinds on your teeth. Clean Teeth Blog confirms it:
"Many people take an orange peel and dry it out. They then use the rind to rub against their teeth to remove stains. The orange peel is very acidic and it will gently lift stains."

I'm a little tempted to try this Clementine & Lavender Body Balm out too. (From Etsy.) It's a solid, so it won't steal precious space in my TSA-mandated 1 quart ziplock for carry-on liquids. Another reason is my loathing of the scent of Hilton's toiletries, like choking on a bouquet of rotting roses all day long. Ick.

Tree

Our living room is filled with the scent of Christmas pine after I picked up a tree today. One small enough that I could tote it to the car and even put it in the trunk.

I made a quick decision on the tree, since the windchills were minus 30 today. I walked up to the guy working the lot, said I needed a small tree, he said "how about this one?" I asked if it smelled good, he advised me it was fresh and I replied "sounds good."

What I'll Do

I think I've discovered what I'll do all Christmas break: make outfits on Polyvore.
I started this outfit based on shoes I liked from J. Crew, but didn't think they'd go with anything. I've discovered that a print blouse can really pull everything together. Too bad this one is $400+. Gulp. (I've probably been saved from a frivolous purchase anyway, since the shoes are no longer on the J. Crew web page.)

Instead, now I like the pair below.)

Too Late for a Tree?

I can't stand looking at Rod Blagojevich any more. Makes me too mad. His neighborhood is not too far away from ours and in my dreams I walk up to his door and tell him to please just resign already.
So that I don't have to look at him at the top of my blog anymore, here are pretty birds from Martha Stewart.
We don't have a tree this year, but like last year, I'm having last minute, second thoughts and thinking of dragging out the decorations and maybe even trying to rustle up a little tree. What's funny is that I'll have to do this by myself because Jason would never approve of a tree purchase just five days before Christmas, especially when we're going away for part of the holiday. If he thought it was frivolous and poorly planned, he'd be right.
But it is Christmas.

That's Why They Call Him Blago

I've been trying to avoid it long enough, but it's true: our governor is... an idiot. An arrogant guy who probably lost all touch with what right and wrong look like.
All the positive glow we got from Obama, now tarnished by Rod Blago... It's funny how even the venerable Jim Lehrer notably pauses in his reporting to make sure he correctly pronounces Blagojevich. It took me by surprise the first time there was a pregnant pause of dead air, while Jim got his bearings before taking on the name. He did it twice the other night too.

Second, but Not Second Best

There's been some time spent on this blog honoring our first cat, Teedie. Not to be forgotten, our second is Piper.
After a few months she is less timid around us, probably because we're past the first two months where every time we cornered her, it was for a trip to the vet.
She's a little crazy though, and likes to steal things like gloves from our winter basket or earrings I leave on our bathroom counter. One night I woke up to the soft but distinct sound of something being dropped repeatedly on our hardwood floors. I got up to discover she was trying to abscond with my engagement ring.
She spills food out of her bowl everyday. A small cyclone seems to have hit after her every litter box visit (TMI?) She had worms at one point. She eats our houseplants. And no small carpet goes untossled in her path. But I love the orange bits of her fur which are brighter towards her belly, and how it looks like she's wearing ankle socks on her front paws, and knee-highs on her back legs.
She was a stray, left behind by her mother when she moved along with the rest of her brood. Sometimes Jason jokes that maybe Piper's mother knew something we didn't.
Despite her feistiness, she has at least taken well to Teedie. In a reversal, she is the Tramp, to his Lady. (He is a very pampered, indoor cat who hasn't known a day on mean streets.)
Ducking into the bedroom in the evening, we will sometimes catch them in a warm snuggle. See his white paws around her in a little hug? See her suspicious stare, and his lackadaisical, "oh, are you here?" attitude?

Your J.H. Right Here

My observation is that the monogramming trend is back. Or at least cranked up for giving of holiday gifts that say, "This is really for YOU." Maybe it's the countless hours of Laverne & Shirley that Juliet and I watched as kids, but there's just one person I think of when I see a monogram.

Alliterative Necklaces from Anthropologie
Monogrammed Candlepots from Pottery Barn (because who doesn't need one of these! I am always forgetting where I put my candlepot at parties and end up picking up someone else's smudgy one. Then I have to wash my hands.) I know I mock, but I did briefly consider the Pottery Barn luggage tags. I like the bright colors and the little window shade that provides anonymity from nosy travelers knowing whether you're coming or going. But you don't even need the monogram for that.
This Pink Loves Brown Stationary is adorable. If you're really inclined to forget your initials, this is a bold reminder: Oval Wall Monogram from Etsy. (Better is this artist's headboard decal. Where was she when I lived in a tiny, tiny rowhome apartment with no room for furniture?)

No more fighting over whose pillow is whose with monogrammed pillowcases from Urban Outfitters.And in case they forget who that gift was from, monogrammed wrapping paper. This is when I start to think that monogramming is just narcissism, "I know that this present is for you, but let's not forget that it's all about ME."The original author of the monogram must be the individual who is primarily known for their initials: L.L. Bean. The first thing you should monogram here is those embarrassingly dorky, but useful Boat and Tote Bags.I took one on my honeymoon... with the luggage tag monogrammed "Bride" from Jason's mom.

And on the 7th Day, I'll Rest

Quite a busy day on Friday! In addition to it being our one-year wedding anniversary, it was also my office's holiday team builder.

Suiting the spirit of the holidays, and the year's economic challenges, we volunteered for half a day at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. They share the story of the foodbank with you beforehand, setting the tone for the importance of what you'll spend the day doing: 1 in 11 people in Illinois is 'food insecure' not having regular access to enough safe, nutritious food; reduced quality and variety of meals; and irregular food intake. 60% of the families served by the food pantry are below the federal poverty level - $20,000 year for a family of four.
It reminded me of my high school's community service requirement for graduation, and how it's been a long time since I made community service a regular part of my year... besides the charity 5k's and monetary donations.I worked the poultry line, stickering and packing boxes full of chicken. An ironic placement since my grandmother's first job coming to this country was cutting up chickens on a poultry line herself. We've come a long way, despite the continuing role of chicken.

And Jason and I have come to one year, so we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse, where gaucho waiters bring you sticks of meat until you surrender by flipping the coaster on your table up to the red 'stop' side. We were rapidly stuffed. I also enjoyed the recommended caipirinha cocktail which tasted much like a combination of my two favorite cocktails: margaritas and mojitos. Jason surprised me with a anniversary gift, aided by a little helper, a female coworker (Good advice, Rachelle & Tara!) Nancy, Jason's mom, also surprised us with a bottle of champagne, with a custom label wishing us congratulations on our first anniversary. It was one of those gifts where you exclaim with surprise at the gift, then look more closely and repeat the exclamation when you see the detail. Add champagne to my list of favorite drinks too, by the way. I didn't get Jason anything, except the gift of his being able to hold it over my head how generous he is, and how stingy I am. (We had *agreed* that dinner was our gift to each other.)

I tempered the celebrations since I feel a cold coming on, and my grocery bag Saturday showed it. I am enjoying the Yogi Tea Cold Season Sampler, since I was standing in the supermarket aisle trying to decide if I needed Echinacea Immune Support tea more than Throat Coat...or was it too late for echinacea since I already had the sniffles? And then my eyes rested upon the sampler pack. Breathe Deep is so far my favorite. They have free samples!
 

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