Monday, September 27, 2021

TWTW - the anniversary one

Friday The day looked promising with coffee on the porch and a trip to Dog Beach at lunch where Mae started to flag, so we spent the afternoon at the emergency vet (UTI and dental coming). I caught some sunset action from the house. I was in bed by 10. MFD arrived with Gus and Billy Hicks at some point after.  

Saturday I was up so I hit the beach for sunrise, it is still way too peopley on weekend mornings.

MFD got me my desired pepperoni bagel from Wawa. He was working so I hung out and read until about 1 and also did some sorting and fall shit in the house upstairs. We spent the afternoon at the beach and the weather was perfect for us to spend the day reading and fishing and doing nothing to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. We topped it off with topo chicos on the porch, Gus pooping requiring clean up, and we both fell asleep on the couch. Very on brand all around for us. 

Sunday I was up at 5 then went back to bed. I was roused around 9 and we had breakfast at the OC Surf Cafe for the first time since 2019. It was our second time eating inside a restaurant since March 2020. We hit a new thrift store - O Sea Thrift - on the way home, then porched it upstairs in the afternoon. I made breakfast burritos to freeze and took off with the dogs for Philly around 4. Back there, I cut all the shit out of the flower beds, put a few of the yard Halloween shit out, then picked mums up from Jen's girls' dance fundraiser & chatted for about a half hour before heading home and re-potting those. I did a few loads of laundry, ate the coveted Trader Joe's hatch chile mac & cheese, and fell asleep on the couch around 11 to accommodate the old man dog. 

That's that on that. 

How was yours? 

Friday, September 24, 2021

We're going all out for 11

When it comes to weddings and marriages, I'm not a traditionalist so I'm not surprised I love our wedding eve photos more than our wedding photos, which is a lot because I love those too. But wedding eve photos from our photographer Lil and a few from Jenn are what you see here today. I feel like I got to enjoy the 9/24/2010 wedding eve more than the 9/25/2010 wedding day. Today, 11 years ago, we headed to Ocean City to take photos just me and MFD in literally all the boardwalk spots we frequent now that we semi-live here. I loved that. 
We took pics with our people on Strathmere beaches before doing a quick rehearsal at the Deauville.
My in-laws hosted a big spaghetti dinner at my request at their rental, which had a big ass yard that was perfect. MFD and some others went out, but I went back to our rental, let the dogs out on the beach and we stood out there for a bit, and went to bed. 
I loved that day, so much. Our wedding day was great too, but it was really the whole weekend for me and wedding eve was a huge part of it. It's the unsung hero that gets no love.

As you have surmised from this, tomorrow is our 11th anniversary. I don't mean to brag, but I'm going to. Since tomorrow is our 11th wedding anniversary, this month we are together for 20 fucking years, and we've known each other for 31 years...we went all out this year. 

I got MFD a root canal and possible extraction thanks to my health savings account. With a little help from nails too close to the sidewall, he got me two new tires on my new to me car that we have only had for two fucking months. And as a joint gift, we splurged on an emergency vet visit for Mae and are going to follow up with some sure to be pricey as fuck dental work for her trash mouth. We might top it off with some ramen for dinner tomorrow, and I don't mean fancy photographable pho, I mean Maruchen. The traditional 11th anniversary gift is steel but unfortunately since I am not a traditionalist as stated above, I did not steel myself for these. 

I definitely struck obey from the wedding vows, but we did keep for richer or poorer. And we know where this particular anniversary lands. 

In all seriousness, we are fortunate enough to be able to cover undesirable unexpected expenses even when they pile on each other in a quite rude fashion and we've weathered another year of good, bad, and everything in between together with our people by our side minus an important few no longer with us. And we really cannot ask for anything else in this life. 

Here's this year's collage of photos of us from every month of the last year - see this anniversary collage in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 20192020

1) September 25 - last year's anniversary we ate at a restaurant for the first time since March, Ike's outside on the boardwalk. 
2) October - my cousin Kristine's wedding
3) November - A warm day on the beach with just Gus
4) December - New Year's Even warm walk on the beach, the first time we've spent New Year's at the shore

5) January - Our usual photo is New Year's Day, always...except when there is no parade due to a global pandemic
6) February - Snow on the beach
7) March - the joy of working from home together for a year at this point
8) April - Warm day on the south end
9) May - We are voters, and when we can we vote together
10) June - This day was windy AF so we retreated and had lunch instead
11) July - Spent the Fourth weekend at the lake with Lori & Jack
12) August - Skyline Drive in Vermont
13) September - Double headbands, a rare occurrence, and in a who wore it better contest of headbands, I lose every time

Happy 11th Anniversary Eve, MFD. Thanks for the expensive gifts. 

And happy birthday to Amanda tomorrow!

And happy weekend to the rest of you!


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Going away for the holidays? 8 perfect destinations for festive travelers

Pixabay - CC0 Licence

While most of us would agree that Christmas is normally spent at home with the family, in truth there is something special about - once in a while - spending the holiday on holiday. Going away at Christmas may not be for everyone, but it is worth experiencing the season in a magical far-off destination at least once in your life. After all, one of the great joys of traveling is the chance to experience different cultures and ways of life. And few things are more special and particular to a culture than the way they celebrate major events and festivals. 

Of course, picking your destination is important here. Not every country celebrates Christmas, and not all that do will celebrate it uniformly in late December (so if you’ve always wanted to see Kiev, read up on when is the best time to visit for Ukrainian Christmas). Many tourist destinations and resorts will lay on Christmas festivities in recognition of their clientele’s wish to celebrate, but if you’re looking to make the trip under your own initiative, do bear in mind whether or not you’ll be in a place where December 25th is just another day - it won’t mean you can’t celebrate, but there might not be much of a Christmas vibe.

With that said, there are some awesome overseas destinations (and some domestic ones, too), where a Christmas holiday can be spent in style - and below, we’ll look at some of the best places to go away for the holidays.

Iceland: Magical Christmas scenery

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If you want a destination that makes even the most special Christmas card look pedestrian, then spending Christmas in the secluded North Atlantic paradise of Iceland is a promising option. The streets do fill up with lights and trees, and you won’t go very far without finding a traditional Icelandic wooden booth selling warming food and drink. And you’re likely to need it, too - December temperatures in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik never get far above freezing.

Perhaps the best reason to spend Christmas in Iceland, though, is the chance to see the Northern Lights. Whatever you might hang from your tree on the average Yuletide season, you can be sure it will have nothing on the Aurora borealis as viewed from the banks of an Icelandic glacier. Also, you won’t need to dream of a White Christmas. In Iceland, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll have one.

New York: Silver screen, White Christmas?

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If you’ve watched any Christmas films at all, the chances are that they were set in New York: Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone 2, Elf, Gremlins (sort of), Santa Claus: The Movie, It’s a Wonderful Life… the list is surprisingly long, and it’s hard not to feel like a pilgrimage to the Christmases of your childhood when you head to the Big Apple for a festive holiday. There’s no doubt that the city pushes the boat out for the festive season, as the big department stores battle to outdo one another with remarkable window displays.

You can spend days walking around the city ticking off iconic traditional sights from those Hollywood blockbusters, like the huge tree at the Rockefeller Center (and just as importantly, the famous ice-skatng rink). One word of warning, though. Those childhood movies may have made you overly optimistic about the chance of snow - it’s possible, but far from guaranteed, though that shouldn’t spoil the magic of an NY Christmas.

Australia: Christmas in summer?

Because close to 87% of the world’s population live in the Northern Hemisphere, we’ve come to associate Christmas with winter - but if you’re Australian, it’s actually right in the middle of summer. It’s not unheard of to have heatwaves reaching into the 100-degree region, so not so much a White Christmas as a White-Hot one. Most cities will have recurring celebrations of “Carols by Candlelight”, where traditional songs are sung after nightfall, but it’s still pretty warm outside.

Australia gets many of its traditions from the British people who first colonised the island, and so there’s a fair chance of a traditional turkey-and-trimmings festive dinner. On the other hand, depending where you are staying, you may have the option to enjoy a grilled alternative including a hog roast. Eaten alfresco, it’s a rare opportunity to enjoy Christmas dinner in warmer temperatures and then head down to the beach.

Florida: Fairytale Christmas

Pixabay - CC0 Licence

Let’s face it, if you grew up in the West, a lot of your early memories of Christmas will involve Disney films and the familiar cast of characters we all know and love. That makes it more than permissible to spend at least one Christmas at Orlando’s DisneyWorld, where the kids can meet those characters and experience the Magic Kingdom Christmas decorations for themselves. 

Also, if you are planning to head to DisneyWorld for the festive season in 2021, be aware that it’s the 50th anniversary of the theme park opening, so this year it’s going to be a bit extra-special. It’s also going to be busy, so be ready for that, but it is likely to see some once-in-a-lifetime celebrations, so if you’re a Disney fan - or have some in your family - then this might just be the best Christmas of your lives.

Germany: Christmas markets, mulled wine and so much more

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If some of our previous entries have been about the Hollywood glitz version of the festive season, then Germany is very much an antidote to the silver screen feel of the others. In just about every major city across the country, there are traditional Christmas markets that can easily feel like a step back in time - although, because this is Germany, they are still resolutely efficient and well-planned.

The architecture of German town squares, the splendid castles and ornate town halls, should feel anachronistic set next to the funfairs that are often a major part of the market layout. Somehow, they don’t, and this makes it an absolute joy to browse from stall to stall, buying traditional ornaments and souvenirs, sampling the warming cups of Gl├╝hwein and tasty Christmas treats. Enjoy a currywurst in a bread roll and then, if you have room and a sweet tooth, nibble on some stollen - a popular marzipan-based festive cake.

Thailand: Christmas in a Buddhist country

Christmas is not a national holiday in majority-Buddhist Thailand, but tourists are a valued part of the scenery and there is a significant ex-pat community - particularly in the big cities like Bangkok. So you’re not going to feel uncomfortable celebrating Christmas among the beautiful buildings and lit-up streets of the Thai capital. The traditional mode of city transport, the tuk-tuk, is often given a festive glow-up as the drivers festoon them in ornaments and Christmas lights.

In the more coastal tourist resorts, particularly the stunning Phuket, you’ll find bars and restaurants serving a mix of tasty Thai cuisine and more traditionally Western fare, and the hospitality sector is very much ready for a mix of tourists and people who have made Thailand their second home. Thailand itself may not celebrate the season in the way most Western countries do, but it will facilitate a dream Christmas holiday for you.

A Danube Cruise: Multiple cities in multiple countries, one Christmas

Pixabay - CC0 Licence

The Danube is one of Europe’s most important rivers - it flows through four capital cities on the continent. Those are: Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary), Bratislava (Slovakia) and Belgrade (Serbia). These are also some of Europe’s most beautiful cities, with the former two in particular among the most idyllic destinations for a holiday at any time of year. With snow dusting their streets and stone buildings, though, they are even more rewarding in the festive season - and just like in Germany, the Christmas markets are something to behold. 

Perhaps one of the most essential stopping points, though, is not a capital city at all. Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is arguably Austria’s most culturally-important city and is stunning enough to make you weep. Additionally, it is the setting for one of the best-loved musicals of all time, The Sound of Music. Some of the movie was actually filmed here, so you’ll have the chance to tread in the footsteps of Maria, Liesl and Captain von Trapp. And what could be more Christmassy than that?

Scotland: Stay until Hogmanay

While there is a lot to love about many of Britain’s cities at the festive end of the year, it’s an inconvenient truth that London can get too busy, too smoggy and too expensive to be a great Christmas trip. Head North instead to the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Its free galleries and museums are an excellent place to shelter from the frequently freezing Caledonian winter weather. The highlights include Princes’ Street’s big wheel and a lot of excellent bars around George Street which provide a wide selection of fine Scotch whiskies.

Going away at Christmas isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for every year, but if you’ve ever considered it, the above destinations are some of the best in the world. They’re also well worth visiting outside of the season, of course, but they’ve got something special about them when the Christmas spirit is in the air.

This post was written with the Life According to Steph audience in mind

Thursday Thoughts - there's an opera out on the Turnpike, there's a ballet being fought out in the alley

1.I love a warm fall where you just need a long sleeve in the morning or night but can still wear shorts. I don't need to be wearing leggings and boots and sweaters on September 22. But I would like to not expire from humidity. As of last night, it's finally porch weather again so Bruce sits waiting for passerby to fawn over him and we headed out there after Dog Beach too.

2. MFD cleaned the porch and put out the fall/winter carpets while I was in the city this week. I'm waiting on the arrival of my pillows and am picking up pumpkins today or tomorrow. I put some fall stuff out upstairs in the house at the shore too, I don't go crazy with seasonal decor like I did when I first had a place of my own but I do like to change a few things out. Philly house is next.
3. Happy birthday, Bruce Springsteen the man. 71 today. Happy birthday Jenny Leslie also!
4. Hiiii, do your own research people. Get vaccinated I am sick of this shit

5. Never say never me is back - I did my first reel on Instagram last night as a practice run because I'm introducing them in my job. I prefer to fuck social media shit up on my own account so I know what I'm doing on professional accounts. And I fucked it up last night and had to re-do so I'm happy I stick with that policy above all else. Mae was the subject. She usually travels in a pair with Gus but she's been weird this week so I kept her with me. 

6. Other shore shots from this week of Dog Beach frolickers and the full harvest moon Monday night. If you have never stood with your feet in the water when it's a full moon, you should. The energy is present  and palpable in the water. It is a cool experience. Put it on your list. Crazy rip tides here this week. 

7. That time I went into the office dressed as Grimace, forgot my coveted Kouklet slices from DiBruno among other things, remembered how much I missed street shots, and picked up a new shampoo to try in person in a store. Alternatively titled: Tuesday
8. Having the blue corporate party in office doesn't do a fucking thing for human rights either. There's no excuse for what is happening at the border. It is not illegal to seek asylum, people should not be met with violence you can see on the faces of agents NO MATTER WHO IS PRESIDENT. Biden condemning this doesn't mean a motherfucking thing. Words don't mean shit. Treat everyone with dignity, root white supremacy out of Homeland Security, and abolish ICE flat out or you are not upholding democratic values. Fuck this centrist shit. And fuck anyone who needs to apply context to this situation as if rules and policies should come before human life and safety. If you're worried about who will pay for asylum seekers, worry about who is paying for corporate welfare because THAT IS ALREADY YOU AND IT'S BEEN YOU. Our entire immigration "policy" is white supremacy period. All images and captions can be found on Instagram. Unsurprising that the daughter of MLK is spot on everything.
9. Reminder, via Mimi Moffie

10. Ecards

How are you?

What appears beyond the hyphen in Thursday Thoughts titles is what I'm listening to when I'm starting this - this week is Jungleland by Bruce Springsteen

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Inside you the time moves and she don't fade

Yesterday I had to be in my office in Center City by 9, which I've had to do somewhere in the vicinity of 3,000 times since I started working down there in 2008. 

I was up and out by 6:35 since I was driving in from the shore. About 40 minutes from the office I realized I didn't have my access card that gets me on the building elevator and into our office. I got assistance on both, and reassurance from a partner letting me in that I was not the first one to do this by far this week. 

I went out and got lunch, which I've really missed doing in the city. I needed more than lunch so I decided on DiBruno, where I would pick an odd or end up at pretty much weekly for 12 years. I overshot it by a full block before realizing I went too far. 

Back in the office with a borrowed key card, I stowed my DiBruno stuff in the fridge, finished a project, and headed out. Forgetting my DiBruno stuff and unable to retrieve it because of the aforementioned forgotten key card. Everyone had left after the meeting so no one was in the office to let me back in, and my borrowed key card needed to stay in there so out meant out.

I was back at the shore by 4:25. Exhausted. Wrung out spent from doing not even a quarter of a routine I did weekday daily for 12 years before corona hit. Not even a train involved here. Which strikes me as absurd. 

It reminded me of a line from Jane Eyre which I think of often - "I tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon." Jane is speaking of an instantaneous tiring of the spirit, emotions and mind in regard to routine; but yesterday tired meant actually physically tired in my reference. I am a person who likes and thrives in routines, which is why the plunge into Coronaland was so hard for me mentally last year despite having no actual hardships compared to what other people were dealing with. I just never paused to consider how much energy expenditure my daily routine required and how much dips back into it would cost after an extended period of de-programming. 

All that to say it's not easy to return to even a well established routine when you have spent over 18 months trying a bunch of new ones on for size. We don't have a return to office and will likely continue operating as we have, going in when needed for a meeting, etc. We were not five days in the office, and we won't return close to it. I'm thankful for that, because going in now requires preparation and thought than it never has and that feels shitty like an elementary thing I should be better at. 

To anyone struggling to adapt once again to a back in full time, a new hybrid schedule, another office opening delay, kids back in school, new job or home, new boundaries set to protect your energy, or something just entirely different for you, give yourself some grace and extend kindness to yourself and others. Life is a big rolling adjustment period. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

TWTW - September style

Friday Leftover bagel + leftover salmon from the night before = excellent breakfast. At lunch I ran errands to get candles and pick up laundry. After work I sat on the porch with the dogs and read. Mindy arrived with Jax and Drew and friends for his birthday weekend and I retreated downstairs and read. MFD arrived with the old dogs around 8. 

Saturday It was a beautiful beach day, and I got down there around 12. I started four books before finally settling on one and reading it through. The boardwalk was humid AF but solidly good skies and the not yet full moon looked fabulous over the ocean at night. I opened a gift from Shelby, swag from her short story The Lady of Rever, which you can find in All Worlds Wayfarer: Issue 10: A Speculative Fiction Literary Magazine. Check it out! 

Sunday I had the best friend dogs at dog beach before 8 and found one perfect shell and a rare blue sea glass. At 1 MFD, Mindy, and I went to the beach to watch the air show. I started another book, Mindy and all the kids left around 4, and I threw together salad and a sauce for dinner. Lolled around all night reading and watching the first episode of American Rust and some of the Emmys.

Happy birthday to our nephew Drew and my youngest brother Swan yesterday and my oldest friend Jen on Saturday!

Now it's just another Manic Monday with a busy work-week ahead. 

How was your weekend?

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thursday Thoughts - Start running the banner down, drop past the color come up through the summer rain

Appreciating the last full week of calendar summer, but not the fact that the sun is gone by a little after 7 now.

Failing the nightly skincare routine test of adulthood

Agreeing with Aja Barber on the AOC dress at the Met Gala. Click through that link on her name and read her latest three instagram posts though, starting three back and moving forward (so start with dress can be a form of protest). What are we doing to each other out here, people? 

Wondering where all the people defending this when it happened have scuttled away to. And why they're not up in arms about the National FOP posting propaganda then deleting it. Where are all the people who bitch constantly about Philly wasting money on things they don't think are worth it like art or removing racist ass statues? Everyone okay with this $2 million expenditure on something that never should have happened? That was well beyond one person, lied about in unison, and posted by the freaking national FOP? The irony in this is that they created this incident of disorder and anarchy and lied about it and now the City of Philadelphia has to pay for it. 

Failing to grasp ferocious anti-vaxx sentiment especially from people who have the smallpox vaccine scar that saved many people from looking like the left. Grabbed this from cousin Caitlin yesterday and it hits so many points I feel like screaming over. I am sick to death of hearing bullshit conspiracy things and flat out misinformation surrounding this vaccine from people who have no qualifications and think they've figured out a grand fucking government or big Pharma secret. Misinformation and conspiracy theories have no place in my orbit. I am simply done.

Liking this perspective. I have absolutely zero tolerance at this time in this life in this world for any hustle culture be a boss crush it shit but I do like to be able to salvage days that get away from me when I need them not to. Like when on a deadline. 

Running errands today - dropping some laundry off, picking up printed material, post office, Target pick up, ALDI...The Christmas Tree Shoppe just for perusal, not need

Living in Animal House, or Animal apartment as depicted below then expounded in two more bullets. The old dogs are back in Philly with MFD as of Tuesday night and the three Bs - Bruce, Ben, and Billy - are holding down the fort at the shore.
Visiting Dog Beach daily now that summer is over. Dogs can go there all year long, but summer is brutal with parking and people. We'll hit it daily until people beaches are open to dogs, then we'll do our walks there and head to Dog Beach to shell intermittently or when I feel like a five minute drive.

Getting used to life with a cat. Billy Hicks is more and more a dog cat daily. He plays fetch with Ben, wants to go outside when the dogs go, joins the chorus of animals demanding food twice a day, pounces around causing mayhem, sleeps in bed, wakes up when the dogs do and goes to sleep when the dogs do. He also likes to read. 

Listening to August and Everything After by the Counting Crows, which turned 28 this week. I was listening to it since it came out and I saw them for the first time in 1997 at the Bob Carpenter Center while at the University of Delaware. I am not a whole album person, an that's true with this one too, I always skip one song, but I will listen to the majority of it, always have and still do almost 30 years down the line. Coming from me, that says a lot.

Watching Nine Perfect Strangers. What a fucking weird show. 

Eating Food other people make. Dad and Carol are at the shore and Carol made Mississippi pot roast this week and it was so freaking good. 

Wishing Shelby of Big Hungry Shelby a happy birthday today - she has a short story coming out next week! 

Reading on the porch, finished the newest Kimberly McCreight at midnight last night (passable, but my least favorite of hers so far) and started Buses are a Comin': Memoir of a Freedom Rider this morning since Bruce got up at the ass crack. Thanks to those who joined us for Show Us Your Books on Tuesday. 

What's new with you?

What appears beyond the hyphen in Thursday Thoughts titles is what I'm listening to when I'm starting this - this week is Omaha by Counting Crows

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