Sunday, November 29, 2009

Visiting my Sister

Since we were in the area we also wanted to visit my sister. When we called them to come and visit she wanted us to pick up something for them from Ikea since it would mean long drive for them otherwise. There was a mall next door to Ikea so L. and I decided to walk around to stretch our legs. The mall ended up being a lot bigger than we thought and the extra crowds made it two hours before we came back out. This made it so we also hit traffic so we ended up getting to my sisters house four hours later than planned. Boy did I feel guilty.
It was really fun playing with their kids and we had fun chasing them around the house, and in the evening we had fun talking while playing a game that we seem to have gotten everyone hooked on, Canasta. The next morning while they were at church to make up for arriving late and since my sister is quite the master chef I decided to share one of my recipes that I’m kind of known for: stacked enchiladas. They were a hit.
While preparing the car for the drive home (replacing the air filter and wind shied wipers) My nephew honked the horn while I was under the hood. I blew up and yelled at L. to not let the kids do that because of my ears. The problem being that my Nephew felt terrible and was moping around and crying for making me mad. It wouldn’t have been as bad expect the last time that they visited I had blown up over something stupid also. I never realized how much my current high stress level was affecting how I interacted with kids. (Basically having a short temper) That is something I will have to work on.
The good news is that we were able to use technology to get us home while avoiding traffic. We used the maps in our phones to figure out where the traffic was and the GPS to route us around it. Most likely it took us just as long to get home as if we would have driven through the traffic but this way it was a leisurely drive through the country side instead of being stuck on a turnpike getting charged a toll to inch along the road.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

The day after Thanksgiving is known as “Black Friday”. The first day of the year that stores profit margins go from “in the red” to “in the black”. It is considered the first official day of shopping for Christmas presents. It is famous for the sales and early morning specials for stores. People buy newspapers for the advertisements and plan ahead over which stores they will go to and may even split it up amongst friends to get better deals from spread out stores. While the best sales are in the early morning on Friday, usually sales of some sort last all weekend.
Since we are moving to London however I was not to interested in the black Friday deals. I was already getting rid of stuff mentality. The problem is that we all woke up early and were bored of things to do around the house by 9 or 10 in the morning. So we went to the outlet stores with L.’s aunt and uncle since they were planning to get some clothes for Christmas presents for their kids. We parked across the street from the mall since the mall parking lot of was full and people were yelling and honking horns for parking spots. I have to admit that it was fun shopping for little kid clothes since we could show it to her (so we know she would like it ) but she wouldn’t remember it by Christmas. We could only take a couple of hours of being bumped around and long lines so we went home and had Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and decided to go bowling instead of more shopping. (A much better choice.) In the evening I quickly drove over to Target and bought gingerbread house building kits. L. and I had done it twice before and it seemed like a better way to kick off the Christmas season than shopping. Each adult was paired with a kid and we had fun gluing on gumdrops with frosting.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving

My friend had found some “sew your own moccasins” at a discount store, but only in extra large sizes. So he bought me a pair. (Finally my large feet pay off.) While at first I thought it was cool to be able to sew shoes, I quickly got tired of pulling everything tight (it took about 3 hours of work.) However it did make it worth it to give me a pair of moccasins to wear for Thanksgiving weekend. It very much put me in the festive spirit.
I-95 is kind of notorious for having traffic on weekends with Thanksgiving being the worst. So many people drive between Boston, New York City and Washington DC that the whole area is referred to as Bosco. We had planned to leave early Thursday but we both got off work early on Wednesday and we were already packed so we left early to skip the traffic rush and it worked. I have never liked driving through New Jersey. That part of it is just depressing, and the hazy fog wasn’t helping to cheer up all the refineries.
We arrived in Washington DC way earlier than we expected so L.’s uncle was still at work at the Pentagon and he offered to give us a tour. We got a tour of the areas of the Pentagon that didn’t need security clearance for, and it is funny how much of a museum it is inside there. Apparently it’s all about showing heads of state the history/power of the American military: funny, weird, and cool all at the same time. We left L.’s uncle there to work and drove on to their house to visit.
Thanksgiving to me is all about visiting with family. One of the fun things we did was to all pile on the couch with all our young cousins and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. While I did enjoy it, and watching my cousins reactions. There really seemed to be a lot of lip synching people on floats, and not that many giant balloons, which is what the parade is famous for. The other favorite part of Thanksgiving is making Persimmon pudding. Everyone seems to like it when I make it but I had to make sure the bring the Persimmons with me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

West Coast traveling

With T.’s wedding being in remote part of Idaho, it was actually cheaper to fly into Seattle and rent a car there and drive the extra 4 hours instead of flying into Spokane and get the car there (between the airline tickets and car the difference was about $350) After driving back from T.’s wedding we had a day in Seattle before needing to fly out. L.‘s brother L. with his wife and baby also came with us. Traveling with a little baby was an interesting experience too. Everyone has told L. and I that as soon as we have a baby there is no way that we will be able to travel at the same level that we do currently. While we did have to make changes in the way that we traveled I think that it is not impossible to do it. We also visited with L.’s aunt who lived in Tacoma.
Being in Seattle there is a very different vibe. There really is a cultural difference between west coast and east coast. The distance between things is one aspect. Even downtown the roads are not as narrow. It changes from city to suburbs must quicker and suburbs are much more spread out. There are other differences too though. I don’t know how to explain it, there is a much more laid back feeling. The local people spent time looking around too, instead of just the tourists. There is much more of a hippie culture (recycling and the environment are much more integrated into the culture). I think that no matter where I live I will always be more of a west coast person then east.

Monday, November 16, 2009

T.’s Wedding

My wife’s brother T. was getting married. Not only that he asked me to be his best man. Why me and not a friend? Well he might have asked since he was feeling guilty for flaking out on me for not going to Burning Man, or he couldn’t depend on any of his friends to be there. I wasn’t expecting it, but whatever the reason, I was honored (I’ve never been a Best Man before) and decided to do the best I could and enjoy the experience.
The duties of the best man seem to center around a toast and the bachelor party. Since they had someone else doing the toast I just had to worry about the bachelor party. T. didn’t want any of the generic activities (strippers, gambling, general debauchery) so I tried to center activities around what he liked. Cooking big steaks, watching movies, and pretty much just cousins and brothers being there (racing go-karts had to be cancelled). I couldn’t resist getting a cheap blow-up doll in place of a stripper to get a good laugh, and I borrowed a projector from work for showing the movie. Of course my bad was searched at the airport and there was an extra smily drawn on the card from airport security.
L.’s aunt had a timeshare allotment that she had to use up so everyone got rooms next to each other at a nearby resort. It made it a lot like a family reunion too. We spent the day before setting up for the wedding (they had so many little decorations that had to be pinned up.) I also got my finishing fitting for my tuxedo. I am tall enough that I am used to having a hard time finding the right size, but instead all the working out I had done was lost since they only had tuxes for either tall and skinny or fat, no tailored coats.
The day of, as the best man I was also in charge of “decorating” the car and hotel room. They made me promise to not wrap the car in toilet paper so instead L. and I filled it up with balloons with a nice big sign. All of the cousins were livid that they didn’t get to help out with the decorating since T. had usually been the one to lead in decorating their cars. For the hotel room we covered it in rose petals, delivered all the presents and created a special bouquet to leave on the bed. I taped a bunch of colorful condoms to sticks and took that to a florist where they wrapped it with babies breath and cellophane to make it look good.
The wedding itself, I think was done very well. They made sure that every thing moved along quickly by doing things like merging the reception line and food line into one. I also liked an idea they had by having a dance for all the married couples. As the song went on they asked people married longer and longer to sit down until there was only one couple left. They then asked for the advice of what kept their marriage together for so long.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween 2009

The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze: Imagine 4,000 pumpkins give or take all carved and lit. Yeah the first time I heard about it I thought it sounded lame too. But they use good artists and had some pretty good themes. Using 6 or so pumpkins to make a full size skeleton, dinosaurs, aliens, and pirate ships. The orange glow from everything; it really looked cool. Now the secret is that there are foam pumpkins that are carved too so they reuse some year to year, but I figure as long as they are carved then it is better than wasting the food.

Sleepy Hollow Haunted Hayride: We couldn’t resist taking a hayride through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Of course they just told stories while in the cemetery so they are still respecting the dead, then once outside the bring out the guy dressed as the headless horseman. I think they over did it though by trying to work in Henry Hudson too. From what I could follow it ended up being pirates fighting with zombies under control of the witches looking for a necklace that the headless horseman stole. I mean it is Sleepy Hollow, go with the headless horseman theme and stick with it.

Halloween Night: Both L. and I were working on costumes that failed. I was trying to finish the idea that I had started originally for Burning Man. The idea of 1000 little L.E.D. lights spread out over a suit. The problem is that the cloth that I bought just would not work with the stiff metallic thread. So when the day rolled around we looked through the costumes we already had from years past. L. decided to be Rapunzel, she just needed a wig. I decided to be the Japanese anime version of “Strong Bad”, an internet cartoon (homestarrunner.com) that was also known as “Stinko Man” (Yeah I know, obscure. But that is my goal.)
We met up with some friends and headed down to the parade route in lower Manhattan but it started raining, then raining hard. It would not be fun walking around in a drenched costume so we decided not to be in the parade. (I had made my mask at the last minute and the glued on felt was started to peel as the glue got wet too.) L. and I decided to head to a party she had been invited to in Time Square. When we got to Time Square I was wanted to take pictures of our costumes so I put my mask back on and a crowd of Japanese tourists ran over and started taking my picture so I guess my costume went over with someone, even if they probably had no clue who I was (they spoke no English) After posing with them for a few pictures we headed for the Bar where all of L.’s friends were. They had a costume party and the costume that I had spent an hour putting together with a mask that never did dry ended up winning first place. (I personally thought that a guy that arrived late should have won since his costume - Marvin, the Martian - should have won first place.) My prize was a bowling party for 9 people.
Now it just so happened that one of the world series games was going on at the same time, and the Yankees were one of the teams playing. So half the bar was people yelling at all the TV screens for the baseball game and the other half was us. I have never been into baseball. But having it as a background thing to watch, where it was a world series game, and it was a local team in the running, and there were other things to do when I got bored with the game, it made it actually fun to watch.
Of course we needed to take the train home so we made sure to leave the party early enough so that we could catch the last train home at 2 A.M. It was obvious that everyone on the train, didn’t want the party to end so the party just kept going. There were a lot of people passed out, lots of people dancing in the aisles, and everyone comparing costumes with each other.