Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom's birthday! By being born on New Year's Eve, she's always guaranteed plenty of parties on every birthday which is kind of cool—all those people out and living it up in her honor (even if they think it's to ring in another year on the calendar)!

I just spent a few days with Mom and the rest of our family for Christmas, and I was reminded once again how lucky I am to have her for my mom. We are fortunate enough to actually like being together, we have the same senses of humor, and just generally have fun with each other. In the post-holiday detox, I've been talking to some other people about their personal familial dysfunction, and it makes me appreciate anew how great my mom is. She doesn't always like what I do (and boy do I hear about it!) but she does always support me. I know she's always there for me, and that's invaluable.

Since it's her birthday, I'm taking this opportunity to give her a public shout out. Thanks for being awesome, Mom! I love you!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Resolution

It's a cliche, but another of my new year's resolutions is to lose weight. I read some advice recently that I thought was pretty good—that all resolutions should be fun, that way they are easier to keep. I don't think that giving up mac and cheese will be fun on its own, so I've brainstormed a way to at least make it more interesting and prey upon my competitive spirit. To that end I propose the Cash Prizes and Smaller Sizes 2009 Weight Loss Challenge.

Take a look and let me know if you're interested. It will officially begin on Monday, January 5, and all takers should be signed up by that date.

Monday, December 29, 2008

First Resolution for 2009

I've made this resolution before, but hopefully the second time is the charm. I continue to have an enormous—and I mean enormous—pile of to-be-read books. Christmas and trip to my favorite used bookstore near mom's just increased the backlog. So, just as I swore last year, I'm swearing again that I will not buy a book for a solid 12 months.

I only made it until March before I broke down this year. I am hoping to do much, much better in 2009. Right now I have approximately twice as many books awaiting me as I can read in a year. If I can just avoid used bookstores (a real weakness) I will have no excuses for failure.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Home with Camilla

I'm back home and stretched out on my couch with Camilla. My place is a hot mess, and I still don't feel up to snuff. Still, it's pretty good to have Camilla snuggled up beside me. I'd probably have stayed at Mom's for another day of R&R if it weren't for her, so I'm glad she's happy to see me. I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard (a Christmas gift from Todd) and resting. I want to get over this sickness quickly!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I'm sorry to say it, but I'm sick. I started feeling a tickle in my throat and a pressure in my sinuses late last night. I immediately sucked on a pretty gross-tasting zyrtec and took some vitamin C, but it didn't do anything noticeable. When I woke up this morning I felt a little worse, even. Since then I've napped twice and taken several doses of day-quil. I have another week of vacation to enjoy before going back to work, and I want to be well for it. I'm hoping that another day of laying low will nip it in the bud, but I'm disappointed that this cold sucked the fun out of my last day at home with my family. Tomorrow I'm on a bus back to NYC, where I'll continue to lay around.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yearly Day After Christmas Outing

Every year we try hard not to duplicate gifts, but every year there are a couple of things that have to go back to the store. This year the only thing I had to exchange was a book that I put on my wish list, forgot I put on my wish list, and then bought for myself. Duh. Luckily the line at Borders was short and the employees were feeling nice and let me exchange it without a receipt. I'm hoping to put together a movie outing (on my list to see: Doubt, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Frost/Nixon) but there is no evidence that we'll get our act together enough to actually make it happen tonight. Somewhat unbelievable to me, the rest of my family is lukewarm at best about all these amazing-sounding movies. I don't get it!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Feliz Navidad!

I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Gang's All Here

Veronica and Mike arrived just in time for our traditional Christmas Eve pizza feast, so we've got a full house. Since Shannon, Mom, and I have been baking and cooking all day, we were pretty glad not to be cooking dinner tonight, too. I think we're at about 27 desserts and counting. We've sampled each kind of cookie heavily, so I'm quite stuffed.

The rest of the night will consist of Veronica making us all watch Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, me complaining about watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, and catching random scenes of A Christmas Story, my personal favorite.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guiding Seamen to Port

Gummy penis, anyone?

Monday, December 22, 2008


I'm free! No more work until January 5. I made it through one final day at the office (with a side trip to get Thai for lunch with Shannon, Micah, and Kimberly) and am now hanging out, happy as a clam to be imagining all the ways I'm going to spend two whole weeks. All I know is that I'll be baking a chocolate pecan pie tomorrow. The rest remains a mystery.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Shannon and Micah are here! The got into town earlier today, and we spent the afternoon in my apartment catching up and avoiding the arctic chill that has settled on New York. They’re finding ways to entertain themselves tomorrow (possibly with a trip to some museums) while I make it through my last day of work before the holidays. After that, anything goes. I’m finally finished shopping for and wrapping Christmas presents, so all that’s left on my holiday to-do list is baking a pie to bring to Mom’s. Otherwise it’s all fun and games until January 5th.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Day of Friends

Caryn, Larry, and Joey braved the slushy roads to visit me here in the city today. Really, it wasn’t about me at all, though. Caryn wanted Joey to see some of the city’s Christmas decorations and have a chance to take her picture in front of the Rockefeller Center tree. It was freezing but we toughed it out and got some good photos. And we were smart enough to approach the tree from the side, rather than head-on from 5th Ave. As crowded as it was where we were, it would have been much worse if we’d come at it from a different angle. I’m seeing Caryn, Larry, and Joey again on Christmas. Maybe Joey won’t double in size and pick up a whole new arsenal of toddler skills before I see her again this time!

After they left, I sped out to Queens for Kimberly’s birthday party, which was fabulous. I cannot praise enough the dinner that she put together. Every single thing we ate was homemade. That bread? She baked it. That pasta? Yeah, she made fresh pasta, rolled it out through one of those play-dough looking contraptions, folded them into pockets which were then filled them with homemade squash and parmesan filling. Seriously—I can’t do that. And then to top it off we had an amazing ricotta and pine nut torte for dessert. I did lend a spring form pan for the torte, though, so the night would probably have been a disaster without my help. :) Once we were all done oohing and ahhing over the food, we played surrealist games like Exquisite Corpse. Kimberly has promised to send out the products of our surrealist mind bending, and I’ll share some choice ones once I get my hands on them.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bioluminescent: Dinoflagellates in Laguna Grande

Todd and I also went kayaking in a bio-bay one night in Puerto Rico, and I think it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. This particular bay is filled with dinoglagellates, which are these teeny, tiny micro-organisms that glow when disturbed. Every dip of the paddle, movement of our kayak, or splash with our hand created a blue-green glow. I’ve never seen anything like it. We kayaked first through narrow and slightly windy water before reaching a fairly large estuary. Once we reached that, our tour guide (we were lucky enough to go with just him and one other couple, so it was pretty intimate) had us sit for a while to give us his spiel. The entire time he was talking I had my hand in the water watching the glow. It looked like a special effect you’d see in an X-Men movie or something. And for just a second after taking my hand out of the water you could still see the microorganisms glowing on my skin. So cool!

Todd asked our tour guide if we could go for a swim. Unfortunately, swimming is no longer allowed in this particular estuary. Our guide told us, though, with a wink, that sometimes people flip their kayaks and end up in the water. The other couple with us were not adventurous, but Todd and I took our cue and quickly “fell” into the water. It was so cool to see it all light up around us!

Since we knew we’d get wet, we didn’t take our cameras with us on the tour. I did find this youtube clip that is a pretty accurate representation of what we saw, though the color is a bit different. If you ever have the chance to do this, you should!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hiking in the rainforest

Todd and I went on two nature-oriented adventures in Puerto Rico, and the first was hiking in the El Yunque Rainforest. It was beautiful! We kept trying to describe it to each other, though we knew that none of the word we were using really captured it. Still, we kept repeating adjectives like “lush” and “verdant.”

The hike itself wasn’t that strenuous. We spent about two hours climbing up to the first peak, which is called the Cloud Forest. We didn’t have hiking boots and both wore our chucks for the hike, so the hardest thing was taking good care of our feet. The path was very rocky, and Converse really don’t provide a lot of support! The rocks also get pretty slippery, so I paid a lot of attention to not wiping out—I came close only a couple of times and managed to stay on my feet throughout.

Once we made it to the Cloud Forest, we took a few minutes to enjoy the spectacular view down the mountain. Looking straight out or up wasn’t much to marvel at—it’s not called a cloud forest for nothing! We were literally standing in a cloud, so when we looked straight out we saw nothing but a thick fog. We were awed by how we could watch the clouds actually move in on top of us and were loving it until we realized they were rolling in for a big ol’ rainfall! There we were, at the summit of a rainforest, standing in a cloud, suddenly getting wet. It started out as a cold but light mist, but within minutes it was a downpour. We hadn’t worn any rain gear, so it didn’t take long to get soaked through. We started quickly back down the trail, this time being extra careful for our footing. Things just got more slippery as they got wet and muddy.

We were cold and soaked by the end, but it somehow seemed perfect. First of all, it’s a rainforest. How disappointing to not experience the rain! Second, there was something pretty magical about watching the clouds come and feeling the rain right at its origin.

We took countless pictures over the course of the hike, but I’m playing blog catch up at work (shhhh...), so I don’t have any at hand. I’ll update this post tonight, though, with some images.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Scenes from our vacation

El Yunque Rainforest

Todd holding a coconut on the beach

More of the beach--stunning and without another soul in sight

Anticipating my mallorca at La Bombenero

Love in Old San Juan

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Things I'm loving about this vacation

  • No alarm clocks
  • Pina coladas, mojitos, and bloody marys
  • Sea food
  • So much time with Todd
  • How my hair is kind of curly here
  • Guilty pleasure books
  • Drawing
  • Incredible nature found no where else in the the country

Monday, December 15, 2008

Old San Juan

Old San Juan is a beautiful old city--the architecture is really colorful and sort of reminds me of New Orleans. The streets are small, windy, and cobble-stoned. Todd and I started the day with a delicious breakfast treat: mallorca. It's a sweet bread, buttered, pressed (sort of like a panini), and sprinkled with powdered sugar. After that we walked around, taking in the sites and scouting for gifts for friends and family (I haven't been this under prepared for Christmas in many years). I ended up finding no Christmas presents, but I did find a way to spend some money on myself. I bought about a year's supply (I'm really not joking) of locally made soap. It all smells great and is made from rainwater, which I think is fun.

Todd and I met another couple over drinks in the early evening, and they adopted us a bit. They gave us great tips about restaurants to visit and what to see in San Juan. They also enjoyed being amateur photographers and took about a thousand pictures of us, which I loved. Here's just one of them:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I like the beach

When Todd first started talking about a beach vacation, I warned him that I wasn't much good in tropical weather. As it turns out, under the protection of SPF 50 and a beach umbrella, I'm quite happy on the beach. Day one of our vacation was spent lounging around, reading, swimming and body surfing in the ocean, and little else. It was fantastic. It's a pretty rare treat these days to have so little scheduled, and it's been great. To stretch our legs we walked along the beach and watched para-surfers, kicking in the surf on the way down and back. That was the most exertion we put out all day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Then We Came To The End

I’m so confused about whether I liked this book or not. I mean, I did, but there was something bizarre about it at the same time. The novel, the tale of one very bad period at an advertising firm in the early aughts, is effectively written from the first person plural perspective. The narrator speaks for an entire group of coworkers, recounting the group think, the petty frustrations, the affection, the crushes, the anxieties, the cliques within cliques. It’s funny and entertaining. It’s also disconcerting to leave an office where you live all these same minor dramas each day and then go home to read an only slightly heightened reality of the same thing.

Joshua Ferris has captured something not at all unique in a very unique way, and there was something hilarious/disappointing/affirming about confirming that our own workplace dysfunctions—which always feel so immediate and important—are played out in a million offices across thousands of cities the entire nationwide.

Ferris does try to get a little too clever for the book’s good in the conclusion, but it was satisfying nonetheless. This might be especially entertaining for those of you who are living the freelance or work-at-home life and miss some of the drama inherent in offices.

Here’s a short excerpt to give you a taste of the book:

We recalled looking at Frank and thinking he had six months, tops. Old Brizz, we called him. He smoked like a fiend. He stood outside the building in the most inclement weather, absorbing Old Golds in nothing but a sweater vest. Then and only then, he looked indomitable. When he returned inside, nicotine stink preceded him as he walked down the hall, where it lingered long after he entered his office. He began to cough, and from our own offices we heard the working-up of solidified lung sediment. Some people put him on their Celebrity Death Watch every year because of the coughing, even though he wasn’t an official celebrity. He knew it, too, he knew he was on death watch, and that certain wagering individuals would profit from his death. He knew it because he was one of us, and we knew everything.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Puerto Rico Bound

Todd and I fly to San Juan tonight! I’m at work for just a few hours today trying to wrap things up before forgetting about them completely for the next several days. I’ve packed bathing suits, flip flops, and one pretty dress in case we want to live it up one night. I’m bringing Fun Home (half way through it and loving it), Twilight (don’t judge me), and The Well of Lost Plots (I love that Thursday Next). I also packed Holidays on Ice so we can read Santaland Diaries and be extra appreciative that we’re on the beach instead of Christmas shopping amongst the hordes.

I’ll try to post a bit from the beach and am making use of blogger’s ability to auto-post something at a future date. I don’t want to get this close to Blog 365 and drop the ball! So, you won’t be totally without A Blog Of One’s Own for the next little while. Just in case any of you were worried. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blue Christmas Tree

Very busy day today equals silly online quiz about the color of my ideal Christmas tree. I don't really get it, but I'm sharing it anyway.

You Should Have a Blue Christmas Tree

For you, the holidays represent a time of calm, understanding, and peace.

You avoid family fights, and you don't get too stressed out - even when things are crazy!

You like to make Christmas about making everyone's life a little bit better.

You don't get caught up in greed or commercialism. You're too sincere for that.

Your blue tree would look great with: Lots of silver tinsel

You should spend Christmas Eve watching: It's a Wonderful Life

What you should bake for Santa: Chocolate chip cookies

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We're The Big Three. We Don't Need To Compete.

I am pretty unimpressed by the idea of an auto bailout. I know it's important because of the ripple effect a failure of the big three would cause, but at the same time, I think if they would have created a sustainable business model, invested in the right technologies, and generally pulled their heads out of their asses, the current situation wouldn't exist.

Thanks to Kimberly for this great image.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's all about the baking

Something about this time of year always makes me want to bake. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas there are just so many treats destined for my belly that I can't help but make some of them myself. Tonight I tried out an incredibly easy sugar cookie recipe that I found on the internet. After remembering that my oven is two distinctly different temperatures on the top and bottom racks and reverting to only using the top one, the cookies all came out quite well. Yum.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book Club Drama

Did you guys see the NYT’s article about book club infighting? It was an interesting read, and I can see how a lot of what they reported may feel universal. I am counting myself lucky, though, as my book group has been spared most of this. Of course there tend to be people whose opinions or book selections more closely align with your own, or moments of exasperation when people veer off topic (since we have a lot of former coworkers in the group, I fear that this is actually more annoying for the few people who never worked at McGraw-Hill). All said, though, we’ve worked out a good system.

For each meeting, one member is the point person who organizes the date and time, spreads the word, and selects the book. Since we rotate, everyone gets the same opportunities to choose what we read, and we’re all equally exposed to everyone else’s whims. We’re lucky enough to all have similar inclinations in the types of books—we stick almost exclusively to fiction (Cold Blood was the only departure I can think of), and the books tend to be fairly literary. That said, I don’t think any of us complain when we’re entertained, too.

We certainly do disagree about books’ merits (I remain a loyal Sarah Waters fan, even though she took quite a drubbing when we read Night Watch), but we’re always respectful. I don’t think it hurts that we have a writers in our group, too, who offer a specific perspective and keep us all mindful of the work that goes into these books (even if we don’t like them).

The hardest thing about our book group seems to be getting people together. Schedules are always crazy, and it’s tough to find times when everyone can meet. Our group shrunk over the last few months as several people moved away, and I’m a little worried about how much I can attend once January arrives and I start grad school. This article reminds me to be happy for what we have, though.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Local Level

Tonight was the Three Parks Democrats holiday party. Most of their events have been very casual, so we were surprised to walk in and see that it was a much higher-end production. I only knew a handful of people there, but the were all the tried and true three park-ers who were present at all the trainings, events, and canvassing events I attended during the presidential election. I made a point of telling them that I'd like to stay involved even now that the national election is over. I think a a lot of important work is done at a local level, and I'd really like to start down that path. My fingers are crossed that this group will continue to be a good entry point.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Martians and Dora

This weekend was all about the kids. Friday was Todd and Dylan's shared birthday, which we spent at Mars 2112. It's not a place I'd rush back to (the food was gross!) but the kids had a lot of fun. There is definitely a theme park atmosphere there, and it was fun to see them so jazzed each time one of the alien characters made their way around the floor. Sofia was funny: she was completely shy the first time the pretty girl alien (cleverly named Q-T-Pi) came around, but by the time we left the restaurant, the two of them were BFFs.

Today Todd and I took Sofia to the Children's Museum, which isn't so much a museum as it is a fun place to wear kids out. Sofia loved that an entire floor was dedicated to Dora and Diego, and she really enjoyed the rest of the place, too. The funniest part was toward the end of the day when I noticed a dad sitting slumped against one of the walls, totally asleep. A few minutes later, Todd noticed another father doing the same thing on the other side of the room. The museum is apparently a great place to wear parents out, too!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Birthday to Todd!

Today is Todd’s 40th birthday! Last night we meet up with a group of friends to celebrate his entrĂ©e into a new decade after eating a scrumptious Greek meal at Snack in Soho. Over dinner we talked about goals for his 40s, and one of the things Todd said he wanted to try is something I’ve always wanted to do, too: sky diving! I’m quite sure I’d be terrified, but I think it would also be an amazing rush. We’ll have to do it soon before his old bones get too brittle. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The season of lists is upon us

New York Times released their list of the best books of 2008 this week. In keeping with tradition, I read almost none of them. My boss lent me Netherland a few months ago, so I did manage to get to one of them, but that’s the sum total. And, to be honest, I didn’t really think Netherland lived up to all the hype. It was good but not the best I’ve ever read.

Have any of you read any/many of these? I took a look at a similarly-themed post on Anne’s Fiction Writers Review the other day and saw that many people included The Good Thief among their best of the year lists. I haven’t read that one, either, but momentum seems to be with it.

What would you consider your personal best of the year? These don’t have to be books that published this year, just ones that you read in 2008.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I, me, mine, and my

Gretchen Rubin writes a blog about happiness: how to achieve it and how to maintain it. Every Wednesday she offers tips—small tools to try to break readers out of their usual routines. This week she suggests twelve mental exercises to drive creativity and problem-solving. Her idea is that exploration, challenge, and novelty are all key elements of happiness, and number three on her list of exercises is to write a letter (or in this case, a blog post) without using the words in this post’s title.

This blog is a place for personal feelings and ramblings, so avoiding these words is a little tricky. Is it possible to write something with immediacy and urgency without utilizing the first person? Here’s what’s not going to happen: this isn’t going to become some Seinfeld-esque situation where Tori thinks this and Tori feels that (remember the Jimmy episode?).

Anyway, it’s felt good to read a blog that is devoted to trying to be a happier person. There is definitely something effective about choosing happiness versus taking a dark pleasure in bad moods. And hearing what has worked for other people, where people have struggled, and what makes others happy has made for some interesting personal reflection.

One of Gretchen’s best posts centered on determining what “fun” really meant for her. It seems like that should be easy—we each know what makes us happy, right? But do we do things because they’re really fun, or just because they’re there? Is watching 30-Minute Meals on the food channel really fun or just easy and routine? Being able to identify fun increases the likelihood of recognizing it in the moment, which can only be a good thing. It’s also interesting to realize that everyone has a different (and equally valid answer) to the question: what is fun?

Anyway, The Happiness Project has been very worthwhile reading. As New Year’s approaches, so do the dreaded but somehow inevitable New Year’s Resolutions. While eating better and exercising more are always great goals, it’s nice to ditch the standards, do some critical thinking about how to be happy, and work toward bringing small joys into every day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Informal Poll

How many of you send out Christmas cards? I am sending them but wonder if I’m part of a dying breed. I’m not sure why, but I feel like they’re on their way out. I love sending them (it’s a nice way to reestablish contact with people I don’t talk to much throughout the year), and it’s always fun to get them. It’s a very organic part of my holiday decorating: it’s an odd mix of being familiar each year but always a little different.

Monday, December 1, 2008

American Gods

I finished Neil Gaiman’s American Gods over Thanksgiving. Shannon, Veronica, and Mike had told me both individually and in a literary gang-up that I should really read it. I hemmed and hawed, thinking that it sounded slightly more fantastical than my typical fare. I worked a compromise, telling them that if one of them got it for me as a gift I’d read it. And voila! A copy from Shannon arrived for my birthday in September.

The bar was set pretty high, since all three had raved about it, and I’m not sure that American Gods really lived up to the hype. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a very good read, though. The concept is extremely interesting, and Gaiman is certainly engaging. I won’t give it the absolute rave that Shannon, Veronica, and Mike did, but if you get it as a gift, it’s definitely worth a read.