Here’s a quick highlight reel from the past few weeks. I’m sure I left out some important details, so please forgive me for the quick buzz:
Dad drove up from NJ on the 20th, and after a quick meal at the Halfway, I took the wheel and drove us back to Hopatcong. It was snowing in Boston-land, but once we got a bit west it mostly ceased. We made good time and didn’t really encounter any big problems. Getting home we were greeted by Mom, Aimee, Aiden and the dogs. It was the first time meeting Aiden and he was just as cute as the avalanche of pictures have portrayed him. Aimee and Aiden had to fly back to Tennessee before Christmas, so we celebrated early. Saturday morning we drove down to Grammy and Grampy’s neighborhood for lunch with them, and then returned to Hopatcong to sit down around the tree and open gifts. Everyone seemed to enjoy the gifts which were exchanged, and I got all kinds of stuff. I got a bunch of cooking-related books and items, which was cool. I also got a few more seasons of South Park to further round out my collection.
The rest of our time in NJ was great, I even had the opportunity to make attempts 3 and 4 at “Mission: Kolach”. 3 continued the improvements I had managed with attempt 2, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I think everyone else was more forgiving of it than me, but I intend to keep working on it until it’s perfect. But I was able to get the crust much less thick by kneading less. I’m going to knead even less next time and see what happens. Attempt 4 was somewhat of a disaster in my mind. I mis-measured the butter and added 8 tbsp. instead of the 6 I had been working with. I’m also going to get a second loaf pan so I can make a double-recipe. I took the original recipe, which made 4 loaves, and quartered it, but that left some of the measurements odd (1.5 egg yolks, for instance), so by making two loaves I can eliminate those weird measurements (which I ended up rounding up to avoid having to deal with it).
On Christmas Day, Dad took Corinna and I to the Newark Airport for our flight to Michigan. When we got to the airport we found out our flight was delayed by two hours. We went to the bar for a few drinks to kill some time, and while we were sitting there I saw David Zayas (a.k.a. Lt. Angel Batista from Dexter) approach the bar, I did a double take, but without mentioning anything to Corinna, when he stepped away from the bar and sat in the booth behind me, she saw and heard him and came to the same conclusion. We didn’t bother him, but we just silently geeked out in our booth.
We arrived at Coco’s parents’ house around 9:30pm, and much of the family was already there. We mostly just decompressed and hung out with everyone. The next day we observed Wigilia, and everyone was there. It was really cool, and it was fun watching all the kids open their gifts. The Wigilia meal was huge but delicious as always… I actually felt like I was going to explode. This probably wouldn’t have been considered very festive, so I managed to hold myself together.
We spent the rest of our time in Michigan visiting friends and family. We drove up closer to Detroit to visit Corinna’s Great Aunt and Uncle. Her great aunt has been ill lately, so it was important that we got up to see them. Afterwards we headed over to the Raz’s abode to visit
The trip back to Boston was pretty uneventful, occuring mostly on time and after a short taxi ride to Watertown we were home. I turned right back around to go to the markets to get supplies for our New Years party, and afterwards crashed into the bed for a nap to recharge. Everyone came over around 9pm and seemed to have a great time. The party broke up around 2am, and while we had a ton of leftovers I was actually expecting worse. The next morning I went out first thing to redeem my Xbox voucher, and after some AV-setup wrangling (and a trip back out to Best Buy for a forgotten accessory) I was up and running. I basically played with it for the rest of the day… You can find me on Live as “dos burros”.
- Wrapping paper or gift bags? Almost all wrapping paper.. I think the only bag I used was for the Yankee Swap at work.
- Real tree or artificial? Artificial; We want a real tree, but since we evacuate Boston for the last 10 days of the year it’s not really practical.
- When do you put up the tree? We had it up soon after Thanksgiving.. Since we aren’t actually home on Christmas we figure we might as well make the most of it.
- When do you take the tree down? I believe the plan is some time in January.
- Do you like eggnog? Yes, both the supermarket and boozy kinds
- Favorite gift received as a child? Commodore 64
- Do you have a nativity scene? No.
- Hardest person to buy for? Mom
- Easiest person to buy for? Corinna, usually
- Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I honestly can’t think of one, but even if I could, I probably wouldn’t call it out..
- Mail or email Christmas cards? None, we’re lame.
- Favorite Christmas Movie? Three-way tie: Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Die Hard
- When do you start shopping for Christmas? Late November, usually. I’m often done weeks before Christmas.
- Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I have both re-gifted a gift as well as recycled it in the environmental sense.
- Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Grandma’s Kolacs and Christmas Breakfast
- Clear lights or colored on the tree? Colored
- Favorite Christmas song? Dominick the Christmas Donkey
- Travel for Christmas or stay at home? Travel a lot
- Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yes
- Angel on the tree top or a star? We don’t have either yet
- Open the presents Christmas Eve or Morning? My family traditionally opens on Christmas Morning, Corinna’s on Christmas Eve. But this year my family observed Christmas on Saturday Evening and we aren’t getting to Michigan until Christmas Night.
- Most annoying thing about this time of year? If I could teleport instead of travelling, that’d be awesome.
- What I love most about Christmas? Spending time with the whole family together
- Favorite animated holiday TV show? The Spirit of Christmas
Corinna and I spent some time setting up our Christmas Tree tonight… It is so awesome! Our generic to unique ornament ratio is pretty bad right now, but I’m sure before too long we’ll have too many ornaments to actually put on the tree… :)
I just dumped a buttload of random phonecam pics into my Flickr Photostream. I had a bunch of them sitting on the phone dating back to before our trip to Spain and figured it was about time to get them handled…
and I have never had a Christmas tree here in Boston.. Our last place was way too small, and beyond that, we leave for the last two weeks of December each year, so we not only aren’t around to enjoy it, but also aren’t around to take care of a real tree. But since we purchased our new house and have some more elbow room, we decided to get a fake tree to get a little pre-game Christmas cheer going on…
I’m not a huge fan of fake trees, in fact, I protested for years when my family switched to fake trees until they switched back… But buying a real tree for our house and having to take it down and dispose of it BEFORE we leave for our Christmas holiday.. Well that is just crazy…
So we began looking for a good fake tree, which turned out to be much more difficult than I had imagined.. We went to Sears to learn that all their trees were pre-lit except for one, and any of the trees that looked remotely real were $200+. We then swung over to Target, and they too only had pre-lit trees, which was frustrating. I’m interested in using some of the new LED lights on our tree, since they use much less power than traditional lights and I suspect they are far more durable than the notoriously awful mini-lights… But if the tree comes pre-lit, I would have to dispose of those lights, not to mention I suspect I’m paying premium price for the lights on the pre-lit tree.. So I retreated to the Internet…
I found lots of options online for non-lit trees, and settled on a model from Christmas Trees Galore. Obviously I didn’t see the tree in person, so I can only hope it looks good once it’s been delivered and we set it up, but it was $100 less than many of the trees we were looking at and I’m not paying some factory worker to put lights on my tree…
I’ll try and be a little less wordy in this half of the story; that last part was about 10x longer than I originally intended. I did go and update part 1, as I unfortunately omitted Amy, Andy, and Colin. My only defense is that I knew I was getting way too long-winded and was trying to stop the bleeding.
Anyway, with our supplies in hand we settled in for the night, poured some egg nog and wine, and vegged out. Stosh and
brought over a bottle of Captain Morgan Tattoo, which is rather tasty. Larissa decided a year or two ago that the only night of the year she was going to drink is Christmas Eve. And she makes up for lost time… We tried to do the typical Christmas Eve night of classic Christmas films (Christmas Vacation, Christmas Story, and Die Hard), but only made it through the first before everyone was ready to pass out. That Pennsylvania Dutch bottled Egg Nog knocks me out every time.
After a good night’s sleep it was time for Corinna to experience the wonder of a Graham Christmas Morning. Aimee and Ben weren’t scheduled to arrive until late Christmas evening, so we decided to go ahead without them. After everybody wandered out into the living room, and
and Stosh arrived, and was “awake”, I started “playing Santa” and passing out gifts one by one. There was a ridiculous number of gifts this year, to the point where I actually started to think we should tone things down a bit… Anyway, we finished opening gifts and I then got ready to prepare breakfast.
Corinna and her family started asking me while we were still in Michigan what our Christmas Traditions were… I had never really given this much thought, but other than opening presents and stuff, we have never really had too many traditions. For years, the routine was to open presents at our house, drive out to Bernardsville and visit with Grandma and Grandpa (Dad’s folks) for a few hours, then drive to Martinsville to visit with Grammy and Grampy (Mom’s folks). By the time all that visiting was done there really wasn’t much time to do anything else. My dad’s parents passed away, and in recent years we’ve been getting together with Mom’s side on Christmas Eve. So it’s only been in the past few years that we’ve really started to form some semblance of tradition that didn’t involve travel. :) 3 years ago Mom won a gift certificate at Sussex Meat Packers from work and we decided to get a bunch of breakfast meats to have on Christmas Day. I made pancakes from scratch, as well as french toast and eggs at that first breakfast, and everything was a huge hit. So we’ve continued this new breakfast tradition since (sans french toast, I’m afraid). I love cooking, and I love breakfast, so I don’t think it’s that bad that I end up spending a few hours in the kitchen on Christmas morning.. I think next year, however, I’m going to try and get my parents to get an electric skillet to help streamline the process. I simply ran out of range surface area this year while preparing the sausages so I had wait until they were done before I could really start the pancakes. I used some advanced technology (foil and a back heating pad) to keep the stuff that was done warm, though, so everything was still warm when it was time to sit down. Everything was awesome, although I wish I had let the bacon go a bit longer, it wasn’t crispy enough.
Aimee and Ben arrived much earlier than planned, which made me regret not waiting for them to arrive. I think next year I’ll suggest we just eat and wait for them. I feel like I never get to see Aimee, and I hadn’t seen Ben since their Wedding (I think), so it was good seeing both of them, even if it was only for a few days. Chuck eventually came over and we just hung out, ate junk food, drank, and caught up. Corinna and I got Chuck a copy of The Matador for Christmas, so at some point we gave it a spin, and it’s still hilarious.
The next day, everyone got up early to meet Grammy and Grampy in Chester. The rest of the family was able to get together with them before we arrived, but Aimee, Ben, Corinna and Myself didn’t have that chance… Of course, we met at the Park Chester Diner, which is my Grandparents’ favorite halfway point. I was able to scratch my THC (Taylor Ham and Cheese) itch, and Corinna had some disgusting looking oatmeal and “fruit”. That afternoon I was able to watch my dad fly, and subsequently, crash the new plane he got for Christmas. It was a pretty light crash, though, so it was airworthy again with a little TLC.
The next day, Corinna and I met up with my friend Amy at a diner (surprise!) in Parsippany. This was complicated by our lack of a vehicle, fortunately my father offered up his pimp ride. I was able to find the diner thanks to my new GPS Navigation System. It was great to see Amy and hear how well things have been going for her.
I forget which night it was, but Corinna decided it would be good of me to cook dinner for the family. We decided on turkey meatloaf, steamed broccoli and cous cous. It was surprisingly well received, but I doubt my family would tell me it sucked, so… Chuck came over for dinner too, and he was very apprehensive of the meatloaf. It won him over, apparently, as he raved about it quite a bit afterwards (it could have been lowered expectations, though).
Corinna came down with some kind of plague on Thursday, so we just ended up hanging out at the house. I did take a mid-day break with Chuck and his brother at White Castle…. Boy howdy, do I love those little burgers.. That night Larissa and Stosh came over and we watched Little Miss Sunshine, which nobody besides Corinna and I had seen yet. It was still great, although I think I didn’t enjoy it quite as much the second time around.
There was much debate about how we would return to New Jersey. Originally we thought we’d take the Chinatown bus, but I wasn’t so into that as lugging our luggage and Christmas loot by hand to Manhattan and then from South Station in Boston to our house didn’t sound too savory. Many of my family members volunteered to drive, but they all seemed intent on driving here and back in one day. I tried to sell them on staying overnight, but everybody was reluctant. So finally Corinna investigated renting a car and we were able to get a one-way rental for like $100, which was priced similarly to the bus would be (it would have been $30 for tickets, plus getting to Chinatown NYC, and getting home from Chinatown Boston, etc.) Dad dropped us off at the rental place in Rockaway (directions, again, courtesy of the nav system), and they gave us a Toyota Matrix. It was an OK car, but I wouldn’t want to drive one on a daily basis… It felt weirdly geared, and constantly seemed to be revving too high. But what do I know?
One thing I do know, is that I have grown addictive to listening to music my way… This car only had a CD player without Aux in, so I couldn’t use my iPod, and we didn’t have any CDs, so we had to resort to Old Fashioned, Boring, Terrestrial Radio(tm). Holy shit did I miss Sirius on this trip with all of the driving we did. All the static, the constant changing of channels as you move from market to market, the never ending commercials, and the total crap they play.. After 260 miles of playing with the radio, we finally landed in Boston, I returned the car, and we crashed hard.
The end. So much for keeping it short.
It’s about time I wrote about the holidays this year… coco_b and I have never been able to celebrate Christmas together because it is such an important holiday for both of our families. This year, however, we figured out a way to be together, even if it did involve quite a bit of hectic traveling. Her family celebrates the Polish tradition of Wigilia on Christmas Eve, while my family does most of it’s celebrating on Christmas Day. So with some help from her family, who decided to celebrate Wigilia a day early on the 23rd, we decided to fly to Michigan on the 19th, fly to NJ on the 24th, and return to Boston via an undecided mode of transportation some day before the new year.
and I are jumping on a plane and heading out to Michigan to spend time with her family for Christmas. Tomorrow, we are borrowing a car from her folks, driving out to a suburb of Chicago to visit some of her family living out there, and returning to Michigan that same night. It should be a fun, but hectic, time. We are celebrating Wigilia a day early, on the 23rd, so that we can fly to NJ the evening of the 24th to celebrate with my family. It is going to be some hectic traveling, but it will be nice to spend Christmas together for the first time.. I also don’t know much about Wigilia, so it will be interesting to participate in that tradition too.
I slacked way too long again, so this is going to cover alot of ground.. Sorry if it feels bullet-pointy.
Christmas, as always, was awesome. Dropped
We all managed to stay up until Mom got home from work, and after some last minute wrapping we all retired to our beds. Everyone seemed to wake up around 9:30am or so, and we proceeded to open our gifts. A strange occurrence: We were tearing off wrapping paper when the doorbell rang. I stood up to look through the window, thinking “Who the hell would ring our bell on Christmas morning?” when I saw a mail truck! They were delivering mail on Christmas morning, which was also a sunday, one would presume that they were behind schedule, but I hope that fella got some good overtime pay for that shift. Amusingly enough, he was delivering a package for Larissa that contained gifts for me, so instead of wrapping it she just handed it to me and I ripped open the Amazon box. =)
Dad and my sisters all got different species of iPods, and I didn’t do too badly myself, not only scoring tons of great books and DVDs, but also a Blade CP Micro R/C Helicopter. I’ve operated R/C cars and was way into boats for awhile, but I’ve always wanted a Helicopter. Recently, my boss at Goodrich, Brian, got a Blade CP and all his talk about it re-lit that fire. It’s definitely going to be a long time before I’m comfortable flying it, but I’m already learning how to hover it and getting better at it every time I spin ‘er up. I nicked a set of blades pretty quickly, but I knew going into this that there would be some sacrificial trips to the hobby store when learning to fly.
I chilled at home for a few days, tried to meet up with everyone but there’s never enough time, so I did what I could… I spent the bulk of my time with the Family and Chuck, but also found time to catch up with Johnny,
Today we met up with Audra at the Kendall and caught Wolf Creek, a movie that really wanted to be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but didn’t quite make it. It wasn’t bad, imho, but could have been better. Tonight we watched The Big Lebowski (another Christmas gift) which I hadn’t seen in ages and Corinna had never seen!