Christmas 2007 Report

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. went above and beyond and got me a Donkey Cigarette Dispenser. While I don’t smoke, I love donkeys, so this alone would have been an awesome gift, but she then instructed me to operate the dispenser. A pencil shot out of the ass’ ass (haha) and it was wrapped in a piece of paper reading “Good for One Xbox 360”. I had been talking about getting one for awhile now, so this was a real nice surprise. While it was weird to me to celebrate Christmas a few days early (and at night, to boot!), I soon got over it and enjoyed spending time with kith and kin. We popped in Christmas Vacation and dug in for the night.

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 , Andy, and Colin. We headed for dinner over to Game Works, which is kinda like Jillians’ used to be, an adult arcade with several bars. The food was only so-so, but it was great catching up with the Razzies, as the past few visits to Michigan we’ve had limited exposure. Their kid could easily be the “token cute kid” in a sitcom if he developed a catchphrase (although “I SIT DOWN I SIT DOWN” might be a good start). Also, I can’t remember the last time I was set loose in an Arcade, so I had a great time. Corinna and Amy kicked it DDR style a few times. Andy and I stuck mostly to vehicle games, although we did go for a few rounds in that Jurassic Park shooter. When we got back to Chelsea, we dug into the Pats game with Kim. The rest of our time in Michigan was pretty laid back and quiet (at least in comparison to having 19 people sleep in one house!) We had a wine and cheese movie night with Corinna’s parents and watched #99 and #100 on my video list for 2006.

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”.

Return of the Corn


returned from South Dakota on Friday around Midnight, we managed to get a few hours of sleep in before piling into Hawkeye and heading down to NJ. 

was visiting from TN, and I hadn’t seen her in quite awhile (Christmas?).  I also used the opportunity to trade cars with mom for the week and bring the crap I’ve kept in their basement to the new place now that there’s room for it.  It was a really busy 36 hours or whatever…  Saturday night we all went out to Outback to celebrate Father’s Day a little early (since we were all in town at the same time). 

was accompanied by Stosh and her “stepkids” (she and Stosh aren’t married, but she lives with him and helps take care of the kids when they are with Stosh).  They are cute kids, but a handful, and totally reminded me why having kids is a bad idea… =)

Anyway, I was in the basement with Mom and Dad, who were helping me spelunk the basement for my stuff, and helping me bring it out to the car.  My dad was bringing out a box to the car when I looked into my plastic Rubbermaid coffin and noticed the infamous can of corn.  I quickly sprung into action, grabbing the can and bringing it out to the car with the intention of hiding it in his car..  Unfortunately, he caught me as I entered the garage, and quickly proclaimed “Damn it!!”  Apparently, he had just put the can in the coffin a few minutes prior..  This was extra special, because this is EXACTLY how this whole can fiasco started almost 10 years ago when I was packing up to move to RIT (in late August or early September 1997).  The ball is back in my court… for now…

On the way back from NJ we stopped over in Manhattan for a few hours to visit with Sara, Dave, Sappha, and Finn…  To save time, I drove directly to their place down by Battery Park, so we could just blast up the FDR when we were done as opposed to taking the PATH back to NJ then driving from there…  The Holland Tunnel was awful, but the TomTom got us there without too much hassle…    Sara made some awesome baked Mac & Cheese, and we caught up for an hour or two before we hit the road…  Mom’s Honda Pilot treated us pretty well, but I really don’t like driving such a big car, especially when I can’t see out the back..  Fortunately I didn’t have to do all that much backing up…

We got back to Watertown around midnight, and we quickly settled in for the final episode of The Sopranos..  What a way to go out, it was everything I could have hoped for…  Exactly the kind of way I had hoped the series would end, I mean, I wasn’t “expecting” how it turned out, but I really hoped many of the “all wrapped up nicely” theories that were floating around leading up to the finale were wrong…  I’ll leave this spoiler free for awhile, but I’ll try and come back to it at some point…

Christmas 2006 – Part 2 of 2

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.

We arrived in Newark on time, even though the pilot thought we’d arrive 20 minutes early.  Turns out that even though we were ahead of schedule in the air, the ground was congested, so we ended up circling and blowing our lead.  The traffic at the arrivals area was pretty bad, but after 10 or so minutes of looking we finally saw Dad, who was there to pick us up.  It was smooth sailing on the way back to the house, though, and we arrived in no time flat.  Corinna needed some supplies, so we borrowed the truckster after saying hi to Mom and the dogs, and headed out to Rite Aid, which was closed…  So we headed over to Byram, where we found the Shop Rite closed…  Luckily the CVS came to the rescue.  The advantage of going this far out of the way, though, was that we were able to see quite a few light displays..   I even took Corinna past the Sign Art graphics display, which was a little underwhelming this year (more of the same).

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.

Homes for the Holidays


 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.

Turkey Weekend

and I headed down to Jersey after work on Wednesday.. We waited until 6:30pm or so to avoid traffic, which worked, until we hit torrential rain in New York state. The traffic wasn’t bad, per se, but the rain really slowed us down. We arrived sometime around 11pm, and crashed pretty quickly. Thursday morning I woke up to the turkey preparations, which were already under way. This year, my parents had access to two kitchens, as our neighbors across the street were out of town and we were watching their house. This inspired my mom to pick up two 20lb. birds! This way we were able to feed 16 people with plenty of leftovers! Corinna prepared Alton’s Cranberry Dipping Sauce, which I was always curious about, and was awesome.

Friday was pretty crazy… Corinna and I were planning on traveling into Manhattan to visit her friends Sara and Dave. Corinna decided that she wanted to do something “touristy” in Manhattan, so she plotted out a window shopping route that would take us from the 33rd street PATH station up 5th to 60th St. This wasn’t something that I was terribly interested in, and expressed displeasure, but never really made it clear how little I wanted to do it… When we got there, Corinna witnessed the power of this fully armed and operational battle station. It was a total sea of people, we could barely move, and by the time we hit Rockefeller Center we gave up. We jumped on the subway to head down to Sara and Dave’s (down by the World Trade Center pit). The rest of the night was tons of fun, though, so we were able to erase the bad taste of Black Friday Retail Hell.

Saturday was ‘s birthday, so we mostly celebrated that, going out to the townie bar Tidal Wave to celebrate after cake. It was a really weird bar; They had a football game playing on the big screen and pool tables in the back, but they also had a DJ spinning the worst dance dreck of today. I also, somehow, ended up as DD, so I couldn’t even drink it away. :P

The trip home on Sunday sucked SOOOOOO badly… A normally 4 hour trip took 6.5 hours, and Corinna and I were ready to tear our eyes out by the end of it… I was so freakin’ crabby and just wanted to find somewhere to hide…

Today I had a physical, my first real physical in ages… Apparently I am still inexplicably healthy, although I will have to wait awhile for the cholesterol and other blood tests to come back. My blood pressure was still pretty good at 110/76… Obviously I have to lose some more weight, but my walking to work seems to be helping in that department.

Even if the terrorists don’t win, we still fuck it up

Last weekend and I headed down to NJ… I was going to Wired NextFest to give a little support to , who was there representing Ensemble Robot. Corinna planned on heading into Manhattan with me so she could visit the NYPL as well as her college roommate and family. Friday night we drove down after work, me driving the whole way, Corinna watching 5 episodes of BSG as part of her massive catch-up effort. I made her watch the 4 hour miniseries the previous weekend, and in 8 days she made it through all of Season 1 and 2. We are going to have some people over this Friday to watch the terribly-named Webisodes as well as the Season 3 premiere. She’s an fracking junkie now.

Saturday, we parked in Hoboken and took the PATH up to 33rd. We grabbed a slice of mediocre pizza (Presto) and split up. I headed over to the Javits Center.. To be honest, NextFest was kind of a bummer.. There were some interesting things, but it really didn’t grab me… After seeing Gib’s panel discussion, I headed over to meet up with Corinna over at Sara & Dave’s place. They live down near Battery Park, so I took the opportunity to head over to the World Trade Center for the first time since 2001. It was really tough for me; I bounced back and forth between sadness and anger. I can’t believe it’s still a fucking hole in the ground. WTC7 has been completely rebuilt, but the crater looks like it hasn’t changed in ages.. I moped my way over to Sara & Dave’s, which gave me time to bounce back, and we hung out with those guys all night, eating some Indian food from Baluchi’s and catching up. We made it back to Hopatcong around 11am, and I passed out pretty quickly.

Sunday we hung out a bit for hitting the road.. Corinna plowed through another 5 episodes… She skipped out on the film club, but I headed over to Harvard Square to catch The Science of Sleep. It was enjoyable, but not great… I think Gael Garcia Bernal is overrated, and kind of annoys me, to be honest..

Buffer Zone

Even though the weather wasn’t interested in cooperating, this weekend was fantastic. A bunch of friends from RIT descended upon scenic Lake Hopatcong this weekend for the now annual Summer Outing. This year we actually camped in the back yard, which was rather full (mostly due to my gigantic tent, though). It’s tough trying to figure out who to invite, etc… The boat provides a good upper cap to the number of people, I’d hate to have to leave people on shore because I over-extended… Heck, a few of the people we were expecting were unable to show. But I guess if we grow too much we can always rent a second boat.. :P

Anyway, it was a ton of fun, we boated, swam, caught a flick (Clerks II), and drank. Another highlight of the weekend was tooling around with Air Hogs, which several people purchased… They are neat little toys, makes me want to get a real R/C plane to compliment my helicopter. This was also the triumphant return of my Helicopter, which has been out of commission for awhile due to a bad crash.

Clerks II was fantastic, way, way, way better than I had expected.. Working long hours again this week to make up for Friday, which I am taking off for Stellafane 2006. Then I am going to hide in Boston for a few weekends to recover from all the recent travelling…

A tired morning entry

A generally fun weekend… and I tidyed up the kitchen and started putting the shelves to use. They look even better populated than they did empty, I took some pictures; I try and get them up later today. We also installed some bifold doors in the closet near the bathroom, which was a bit of a chore.. Corinna thought it would be a simple job, perhaps puffed by the cabinet success last weekend, but I knew it couldn’t possibly go smoothly. We had to remove a shelf and shorten it by about two inches because it stuck out beyond the closet and the newly-installed doors were hitting it. Removing this shelf was a nightmare… There are also ~2″ gaps on either side of doors, which we had planned for and have wood to fill, but nothing is true in our apartment, so it is going to require some planing.

Sunday we went to Duxbury to swim in ‘s pool.. It was such a perfect day to spend in the water, we always have a great time out there, many thanks to Sir Adam.

The contractors are apparently going to start our bathroom renovations tomorrow, which is exciting… Even though they were supposed to give us 1.5 weeks notice, yet they called Corinna at 5pm on Friday saying they were starting Tuesday… So we had to have a mad scramble to get the tile and sink… On top of all that, I have to pad hours in the beginning of the week, as I am taking Friday off to go to Jersey for some boating with some of my friends..