Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Stay for a While (part two of a series)

(Start from the beginning)

I was a fugitive on the run. I was a fugitive on the run doing exactly the speed limit and frenetically looking around to make sure no one crashed into me. I have never driven so nervously in my life. That morning, I didn’t realize how much deep shit I was in, so I drove normally. But now… oh man… I could practically feel the other motorists breathing down my neck.

At least it was pretty early, so I didn’t hit any traffic. That is, until I was about a mile from the Framingham exit. I just kept thinking the word “no” over and over again. I was probably saying it out loud. I just didn’t want to be late and miss my chance at insuring my car.

I don’t have to take the Framingham exit. That exit dumps you on route 9, which is a relatively speedy road, and a straighter line to Westborough, but it’s no highway. The other option is to go on to 495 and hop up an exit there. More mileage, but it can be faster sometimes.

With the traffic as it was, though, I couldn’t wait to get off the Pike. I moved over to the right lane early and patiently let cars pass me (something I don’t normally do). Then I saw it.

When I had left the building at work just a short while back, I realized that I hadn’t moved the necessary funds into my checking account. The money was in savings, and totally accessible, but it wasn’t in the exact correct place. So I had halted in my tracks just outside the door of my building. I probably spent a full minute agonizing over whether to go up and fix it on my computer, go over to the ATM across the street (and in the opposite direction of my car), or just wait and go to my own bank’s ATM right around the corner from the insurance agency.

Those sixty seconds may have saved me. Because there it was, about sixty driving seconds away from where the traffic was backed up – a fender bender. No one appeared to be hurt, but as I pulled off into the exit ramp, I couldn’t help but think that could have been me.

Thank you, God.

“These Words” by Natasha Beddingfield was playing on the radio at that moment. It’s a song I always sing along with at the top of my lungs. But this time, I wasn’t singing to my fabulous boyfriend in my head. I was belting, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you” in the general direction of heaven.

Route 9 did me no wrongs, and I was soon pulling around on to Route 30. Route 30 didn’t learn how to be nice from Route 9, so I found myself stuck in a little bit of traffic – the back up from the ridiculous rotary downtown. But through sheer willpower, we all made it to our destinations. Or, at least, I did. I could care less about those other motorists.

I signed some things, I wrote a couple checks, I “mea-culpa”-ed, and I was on my way.

I had noticed as I crossed under 495 on my way to the insurance brokers that there was quite a bit of traffic on the southbound side. I was so not about to deal with that crap, so after a quick stop at the ATM to transfer the appropriate funds and grab some cash, I turned my (now insured) car westbound on Route 9.

Lucky I did, too, because I needed gas, and there was a pretty cheap gas station. A Sunoco, in fact. And Sunocos are awesome because they have 91 octane. That’s what flavor gas my car likes the best.

After waiting approximately forever for the idiots in front of me on the ramp get on to Route 20, it was my turn. Finally, I was on the way. 20 to 122 to 90 to 84.

Mmm… Interstate 84. My old friend. My dear old friend. Full of speed traps. Thank God for cruise control. Yes, cruise control. The only way to really ensure that the Connecticut cops don’t stop me for going 66 in a 65. Damn those Massachusetts plates. (Actually, really damn them, because they’ve been causing me trouble all day.)

So, there we are (me and my fellow motorists), bopping along the road, and I’m thinking to myself that I’m just going to make it. Sweet. I like being on time.

Then, I see it. That familiar and haunting sight. The sight no driver who is just barely going to get to their destination in time hates to see. Break lights.

“No! No, no, no, no, no…”

But yes, it was true. I had visions of horrible accidents or other nasty traffic incidents ahead. But I couldn’t imagine what was really to be found. Suddenly, everything was wet. The ground was wet. My car was wet. The trees were wet. The sky was falling, and the sky is apparently made out of our good friend water.

My windshield wipers couldn’t go fast enough. Half the cars had their four-ways on. I joined in. A good number of cars were just stopped on the side of the road, their drivers too nervous to continue. I couldn’t afford the lost time, so I pressed on.

The air smelled of ozone, and the sky occasionally lit up bright with lightening. It was close, but I didn’t think it was too close. We kept going, the rain came down harder and harder, but we had destinations in mind. Twenty-five miles per hour is better than zero miles per hour.

Eventually, and finally, the rain lifted, and we sped our asses back up to full speed. It wasn’t long before I was pulling off at the exit. Okay, it was long. It felt like forever. But that’s just because I ran out of water, and I was hungry. I got to my parents’ house, where my sister was waiting, parked the car in the driveway, ran up to the door, rang the doorbell, and spat out, “I need food, lip gloss, and a potty. Not necessarily in that order.”

“Go to the bathroom, then!”…

August 1st, 2006 • 8:08 am • dinane • Posted in Family, Life, MusicComments Off on Stay for a While (part two of a series)

Stay for a While (part one of a series)

When my sister IMed me on Friday, my mind couldn’t have been farther away from music. I mean, how could I think about exciting happy things when I had only hours before realized that I was driving an uninsured car?

Let’s rewind a bit.

Thursday night, Mike handed me my mail. This happens a lot. I almost always forget to get the mail. I then almost always just kind of give it half a glance and throw it into the pile on the table. This drives Mike nuts. Yet, somehow, I am unable to fix this terrible habit of mine. Luckily, on Thursday, I had the presence of mind to actually read the return addresses on my new mail. One thing caught my eye.

The RMV? They already sent me the change-of-address stickers for my license and registration. What the hell could this be?

So I opened it, and read it. Baffled, I read it again. By this point, Mike’s curiosity took over and he asked me what it was. He probably developed this curiosity because I was swearing and making all kinds of upset-Diane noises. Basically, I had just received a letter telling me that my registration would be revoked on August 4th if I didn’t get them proof of insurance. Dun dun dunnnnnn!

Mike looked at it and told me what I already knew. “Call your insurance people first thing in the morning.” So I did.

When I called my lovely local insurance rep, I started with my back story. I have a new job, my old job used to take care of my insurance for me, I guess I have to renew my insurance myself, can I please do that now, yada, yada, yada… She interrupted me. “It tells me here that your insurance was terminated. Please hold.”

What the fuck?!

Luckily I didn’t have too much time to stew before some kind of “tier two” support answered the line. I gave her the same story, and she told me that my insurance was canceled because I didn’t pay. Funny enough, I vividly remembered paying them.

I told her that, and she said she would look for more information and call me back. It was just about noon, but I waited for a while for her call before deciding I was far too hungry to just sit there. So I hurried my ass over to Au Bon Pain and bought myself a soup, a chunk of bread, and a cookie. The soup and bread were to nourish my body. The cookie was for my crying soul.

I ate at my desk, patiently (okay, not patiently) waiting the return call. It didn’t come. I finished my soup. It didn’t come. I chomped down the last bit of bread. It didn’t come. I nibbled my cookie until it was gone. It didn’t come. I came to realize that she had just let me off the phone so she could have lunch. Bitch.

So I did what any person freaking out about their car insurance would do. I called them back at 1:01. Tier-two answered the phone herself. She explained the situation to me and told me how it would be. Premier says they haven’t received payment. So they canceled my policy. They informed the registry. They informed my insurance brokers. No one told me. Why the hell did I have to learn this from the registry when it was too late?

I had done some research too, by the time I called back. I figured out that the insurance payment I had made was in fact for my renters insurance, not my car insurance. They are handled by different companies. I used to have both deducted from my paycheck, so I never noticed or had to pay attention. So when a bill came from Travelers about insurance, I paid it and thought I was good to go. Not the case. Even though I have the same brokers for both insurances, they are not actually the same insurance company.

I was fuming. But I knew there was no way I could undo any mistakes – mine or their’s. I told her that I would do whatever was necessary to get my car insured and immediately because I had places to go and famous people to see. That’s when she told me I’d have to pay in full for the next year.


But like I said, my car needs insuring, and I need to drive it. So we made arrangements. Totally illegal arrangements. Because their nearest office is still far outside the range of the T, so I’d have to drive my uninsured car to them.

I told my group lead I’d have to leave work early. I told Mike everything that happened. He tried to help me find some way to get it done in Boston, but it wasn’t possible because I’d need a receipt for the overdue insurance no matter what, and my rink-a-dink insurance brokers wouldn’t take any kind of payment over the phone or by fax. So, when 3:30 rolled around, I took off.

I felt like a fugitive…

July 31st, 2006 • 10:25 am • dinane • Posted in Family, Life, Music202 Comments »

Welcome to the Crazy

My sister is a special person. Okay, I admit, I am special too. Special runs in our family. I wanted to share some special with you, so I am going to show you some insight into what could have been a quick IM conversation between my sister and I.

[Editor’s Note: The text below has been edited for spelling and content. I left my sister’s love of lowercase letters alone, though.]

her: what the hell, the world is upside down
me: And inside out
me: You should dance now.
her: that too
her: no
me: Wiggle your butt
me: Go on
her: no
me: Do the duck!
her: i am sitting on my butt
me: Then no one will know you wiggled it!
her: it is occupied
me: I’m gonna go, chickie
her: have fun at the gym
me: I want to get to the gym and get home and shower and do laundry
her: i went this morning
her: can you read roman numerals?
me: that’ll be expensive
me: Yes
me: 1981
her: marcies [Ed: this is how my sister always spells the French word for thank you, mercy.]
me: No problem
me: M == one thousand
me: C == one hundred
her: i knew that much
me: L == fifty
me: X == ten
her: i got lost in the xs
me: I == one
me: Why do you care, by the way?
her: copyright date
me: For a footnote or something?
her: i am looking up history of a piece i swear just appeared out of nowhere
me: ok…
her: so far my historical analysis is written in 1981
her: thanks for helping me out on that by the way
me: I was written in 1981
her: ill give you credit if you want
me: Ooooo… are you going to be published?
her: is your name ‘firefly lullaby?’
me: Hahahaha
me: No…
me: Though I like fireflies and lullabies
her: no i am researching a piece that we are teaching to a 5th grade choir…
her: 5th grade choir pieces just simply appear out of nowhere
me: Okay
me: I’m gonna go now
her: bye
her: the composers name is biff fink
her: i am not making that up
her: kinda wish i was
me: Well, you know, fireflies…
me: I’m really leaving now.
me: Bye
her: bye

So, as you can see, neither one of us lives in the same reality as the rest of you. We don’t even live in the same reality as each other. What you really should know is that this conversation is pretty tame compared to the ones we have out loud on the phone or in person. Over AIM, we can’t just read each other’s minds…

When my sister was little, it took a long time for her to speak. This was most likely my fault. She blames me, at any rate. I was the official Sarah Translator. I knew what each syllable of nonsense meant. I think she appreciated it at the time…

Funny thing, though, my sister still occasionally drops back to grunts and goos. Lucky for my parents, though, I still have the skills, and I can still turn her babble into English.

This is for you, Sa:


March 21st, 2006 • 11:44 am • dinane • Posted in Family, UncategorizableComments Off on Welcome to the Crazy

Thank You Bruce!

Route 302 always feels kind of like a rollercoaster to me. It twists and turns. It goes up and down. There are quick bumps, long downhill stretches, and steep inclines. And, most of the time, the northern end of the road is completely barren of people.

The town of Wilmington, CT does a reasonable job trying to keep everyone driving up there in line. I mean, how could you not be careful when there’s a speed limit sign every 50 yards? Oddly, though, it’s not always the same number…

I was late, so I was probably going too fast. It was dark, much darker than it gets even in the suburbia of my home, and I had my high-beams on. My radio was blasting The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner as I sang along. I know every word and ever note on that album.

As I approached route 44, my ride on the rollercoaster was over, for the time being. I would get to ride it back home. The bright lights of CVS shone in the distance, and I called my sister. “I have reached the point where the roads meet.” She had called earlier and told me to call her when I got to route 44. She said she was on her way to get Carla and they’d meet me at the door.

My sister, Sa (or Sarah if you, you know, want to know her actual name), had invited me (ME!) to come down to UConn to see the King’s Singers with her. My sister, who used to punch me in the arm, wanted to spend time with me. My sister, who I hated until she was 18 and I was 20, thought of me when she found out that the world premier a cappella group was coming to her school. Let’s just say I was excited.

Sa and Carla did in fact meet me at the door to their dorm. They plopped down into the seats of my car, and told me where to go. It’s not that I’ve never been to Jorgensen, it’s that I am very, very good at getting lost. For that matter, when I got to their dorm and saw them in the doorway, I raised my arms up in triumph, as I had found the right building!

Much to their dismay, we ended up parking in the garage. They’re students, and prefer to save money over all other things. I’m lazy and I prefer to take the easy way out and pay the price. (In this case, the price turned out to be free, as all of the gates were open on the way in and out. So, Sa, if you’re reading this, you had nothing to worry about.)

There’s a manhole cover in front of Jorgensen auditorium that has always, in my memory, been steaming. It doesn’t matter the temperature outside, steam and water vapor pour out of this manhole cover. Oddly, there’s another manhole cover not more than 10 feet away that never steams. I don’t know what’s down there. I probably don’t want to know.

Sa had apparently handed Carla the tickets. As we approached the doors (still 5 minutes before curtain, I wasn’t too late!), Sarah reached for them. Carla, obviously not paying attention, just handed all three back to Sarah. Much laughing, and Sarah gives Carla and I each a ticket. After the stub was ripped off by the usher, I glanced at the seat number and row to get an idea of where we were going.

BB 8

I blinked a few times, and looked again.

BB 8

“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered as we walked towards the front of the auditorium, along the runs of carpet that are probably as old as the 50 year old building. My sister grinned as we approached the second row. She told me to thank Bruce. “Who’s Bruce. I didn’t just meet him… I met… Dan?” She had introduced me to a couple people who were picking up their tickets at the window as we entered the theatre.

“I used Bruce’s student ID to buy your ticket.”

“Thank you Bruce!”

After a discussion with the usher to figure out which seat was which (they weren’t numbered), we sat down. I looked up at the stage, which sat without adornment. The only things there were six music stands, arranged in a semi-circle. A brief announcement to turn off our cell phones came over the loudspeakers, and then the house lights went dim.

The King’s Singers were all wearing the same dark grey suit. They each had on a different colored tie: pink, green, blue, orange, red, and yellow. They started right away with an upbeat tune in Italian. Their facial expressions told me that it was funny and that I should laugh… but I didn’t know what they were saying. After they finished, the gentleman in the pink tie gave us a description of the “non-pc Italian madrigal.” My sister leaned over and said, “I love madrigals!”

They continued with the six song set of Italian madrigals, with the pink tie narrating. It didn’t seem to matter that I don’t know Italian, save a few words. Their explanation and facial expressions told me everything I needed to know.

The next set was only one song. It was written by an American composer, though the text was Japanese. Jackson Hill’s “Remembered Love, Unforgotten Dreams” was by far my favorite piece of the night. I may not have been able to understand the words, but I understood the music and the lyric. It was ethereal and had large amounts of eastern influence. I don’t know what else to do to describe it. The base melody is still ringing in my ears. I hope I can find it on iTunes.

The third set was in French, and also included some non-PC tunes. The intermission followed, and after following my sister as she wandered around looking for her roommate, we sat back down (unsuccessful). The piece that followed intermission was Paul Drayton’s “Masterpiece.” I believe it was the green tie who introduced this piece. He told us that it was a modest title for a modest piece with modest ambitions to describe the last 400 years of music history in nine minutes. It did so. I’ll let you know when recordings are available – they haven’t released that piece yet. You should really hear this one for yourself. It is amazingly outrageous and outrageously amazing.

They ended the night with some pop tunes. A couple of Simon and Garfunkle, one by Queen, and a couple by the Beatles. My favorite of those was “Blackbird.” I’ve heard a lot of covers of that song. This is now my favorite. It was amazing. During this set, some of the singers were doing some light vocal percussion (think I-8 before Julia taught us how to spit). I leaned over to my sister and said my only negative comment of the night: “They could use to spit a little more.”

My quick-witted sister responded immediately, “Well, duh… they’re British!”

After a standing ovation, our multi-colored-tie-wearing friends came back on stage to do one more song. They made a few jokes about doing songs in Greek, songs with the word “Jorgensen” in them, and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Turns out that last one was less of a joke, as they started singing it. In Italian. It was hilarious.

I was sad when the house lights turned on and the stage door shut for good. We walked out to the lobby, where Sa found that “Masterpiece” was not yet available to buy. She introduced me to a variety of people whose names I’m sure to have forgotten, and we left the building. Sarah and Carla were off to the movies, and I had to go home lest I turn into a pumpkin (I’m so old!). I hugged her and thanked her for inviting me. I said goodbye to Carla, walked past the steaming manhole cover, and back to my car. My drive home wasn’t full of any particular excitement. Though I did get to ride the rollercoaster of route 302 again.

February 10th, 2006 • 9:10 am • dinane • Posted in Family, MusicComments Off on Thank You Bruce!

Wesołych Świąt

My dad can’t cook. Or at least, my mom doesn’t let him cook. There are only three exceptions to this rule. On Easter, he is allowed to make Easter Borsch, which is basically just kielbasa, black bread, hard boiled eggs, and copious ground pepper floating in the water the kielbasa was cooked in. It tastes better than it sounds. A few weeks or so before Christmas, he makes fruit cake. This is only because he’s the only one who eats it, and no one will be making it for him! And then there’s Christmas Eve.

Every Christmas Eve of my existence, with only one or two exceptions, I’ve woken to find my dad putting a pot full of the water potatoes had been boiling in out on the front porch to cool off. Most of the time, he’s already mixed the potatoes, pepper, and farmer’s cheese together, and we just have to wait for the starchy water to cool down. He then usually offers me and my sister one of the several kinds of special holiday breads for breakfast. I prefer panatone. He prefers poppy seed bread.

We prepare by getting out three cups. We have two identical (though different colors) ones that my sister and I like using and one other that my dad has used forever. We clear off the kitchen table, the kitchen counters, and the dining room table. The dining room table gets a layer of kitchen towels – this is where the pierogi will go when they’re formed. Flour is scattered across the kitchen table and the marble cutting board my dad uses. We briefly fight over which rolling pin is best and who should get to use it.

Then it’s time to bring in the starchy water. Babcia’s recipe is typed (as in by a typewriter, remember those?) onto a creased recipe card. In the corner of the card is my grandfather’s initials – he transcribed it for her at some point, probably having to force her to “measure” as she went. The recipe for the dough calls for “4-6 cups of flour,” one egg, “some of the water from the potatoes,” and “a heavy pinch of salt.”

But my dad’s been doing this enough, he knows what that means. Pile in some flour in a bowl with some salt on top. Put a dimple in the middle and mix in the egg with a fork until everything’s dry again. Then add potato water, stirring with your hands, until the texture’s right. It is completely done by feel, as it has been done in our family for generations.

We gear up for a fight with the dough as my dad hands us each a small ball to work with. Flour goes everywhere, rolling pins fly back and forth, the starchy, protein filled dough stretches and contracts despite our efforts to keep it big and flat. We cut circles with our cups, and at this point realize that my dad has all the filling. My sister and I then hijack the pot, and start filling our pierogi. The scraps go into a pile in the back of the counter, and we pick off another small ball of “firsts.” Rinse. Repeat.

When I was in middle school, I added some complexity to this shindig. I got the idea that blueberry pierogi would be super tasty and that I should make some for a school project about heritage. They were a hit with the other kids and my family, and we’ve been making them ever since. So the last couple batches of “firsts” get filled with 4-5 still-frozen blueberries.

My sister doesn’t actually like potatoes (no, none of us understand how that could have happened). So, she takes some of the “seconds” to make plain “pierogi-noodles.” She usually shapes them into different shapes, always including at least a Christmas tree, a wreath, and a candy cane. The rest of the “seconds” get the same treatment as the “firsts.” The “thirds” only get used if we forget to throw them away…

Each pierogi gets lined up on the towels in the dining room as they’re made. My dad and I neatly line ours up, and my sister tries desperately to disturb the pattern of half-moons lined up on the towels. My mom, who has been hiding in the shadows the whole time, usually comes out to take a few pictures as we near completion.

Christmas Eve mass is at 4:30, and by the time we’re done manufacturing pierogi like it’s our jobs it’s almost 3:00. At this point, we fight over who gets the first shower (usually me) and who’s stuck going after my sister (usually my dad). My sister takes epic showers. There’s only so much hot water in the heater. The third shower is always tragic.

My dad makes us remove our socks before leaving the kitchen, and cleans the flour off the floor while we shower. I’m not sure, but I think that may be his favorite part. He really loves vacuuming and cleaning in general.

When we get back from church, we put the big pot on to boil. Meanwhile, my mom puts frozen shrimp in the strainer to thaw. I melt down some butter and make a half-assed attempt to clarify it. My dad carefully sets the table with the Christmas Spode that he and my mom have been collecting one piece at a time since they met, making sure to set one extra seat, following tradition.

Once the several gallons of water come to a boil, the super-cooking-team-of-awesome gets back into action. All while we eat handfuls of shrimp. My sister transports pierogi into the kitchen, my dad submerges them in water, and as they come out, I coat them in butter “to keep them from sticking” (to say nothing of how good butter tastes…). This process continues for approximately forever, as we cook each potato pierogi and “pierogi-noodle,” even though we’ll never finish them all.

We do give it a valiant effort. They get slathered with sour cream and devoured in three pieces. Some years, I’ve eaten as many as a dozen or more.

When we have filled ourselves nearly to the brim, we put the water back on for the blueberry pierogi. We cook them as my mom clears away the sour cream-encrusted plates. My dad usually tries to keep his, claiming wastefulness, but my mom talks him out of it.

We eat the blueberry pierogi coated in cinnamon and sugar. Along side this desert we have hundreds of cookies and breads and cakes. At this point, our stomachs pretty much explode. We pack the now-solidifying butter-crusted leftovers into the fridge to be fried in future days. Food comas start up, and I really couldn’t tell you much else of what happens on Christmas Eve.

All of that adds up to Christmas Eve meaning far more to me than Christmas itself could. My Babcia’s recipe is the only thing I know of her, since she died two months before I was born. On her birthday. And I look like her. Yeah, I know that’s weird.

Moving on. Christmas Eve is awesome and full of tradition. And I’m looking forward to it eagerly.

I hope every one of you has a super awesome Christmas and Christmas Eve. And if you don’t celebrate such holidays, I still hope this weekend is super awesome for you. And on behalf of us Christians and Christmas-only-Christians, I appologize profusely for all the Christmas music you’ve been subjected to on the radio for the past month or more.

December 23rd, 2005 • 11:10 am • dinane • Posted in Christmas, Family2 Comments »

The Eventful Weekend Conclusion!

Sunday morning was to be the Christmas Carol service at church. The chancel choir was singing five songs, in addition to the standard three hymns, and other bits of music. There was also going to be a variety of other instruments and choirs doing their things. That is insanity of it’s own kind, until you compare it with my very Catholic parents coming along that morning.

I definitely have a hard time reading my parents’ reaction to my joining a Congregational church. I know it was the right thing for me, and I think they more or less understand. But my mom was insistent in checking it out and seeing what it was. Through a series of events, they were coming up for the Christmas Carol service. I went in early for the last minute choir rehearsal, and my parents met up with Mike at our apartment.

Normally, the choir sings from the back of the church, up in a balcony. But this week, music was the center of everything. So right in front of the first row of pews, two keyboards were set up. In front of those was a row of bell tables, covered with the carefully arranged hand bells. In front of that was a small space where the steps up are. And then there was us – the expanded Christmas choir. We were all very much crammed in; there was just barely enough room. Of course, there wasn’t room for the ministers… or the weekly flower arrangement… but those things were managed.

The service was really awesome. At least I think so. The singing was fabulous, and the children’s choirs (yes, there are two, one for the little-little kids and one for the ones who can read) were adorable. The flautist was a professional, the violinist was only a freshman in high school (she’s going places!), and the bells were simply amazing. If you have never watched hand bells before, you really should find a way. They just… I mean… I can’t even begin to explain. It sounds beautiful, and the manipulation of the various instruments and people is like a dance. Amazing, I say. Amazing.

After church, my parents went on home, and Mike and I hurriedly wrapped the presents for the kid who’s name we pulled off the Christmas tree at church. They were due that day, but I’d forgotten! At least we had bought them already. And, in a fit of things that amuse only me, we had exactly the right amount of cute snowman wrapping paper for the presents.

We brought those back, ran around like chickens-sans-heads, and then followed in the path my parents took down to Connecticut. After all, it was my dad’s 60th birthday!

We were listening to the football game on the radio on the way down (“moving from the right to the left of your radio”). The Patriots didn’t suck! It was awesome. Mike slept through most of it. Oops.

When we got down to my parent’s, my sister was already there. She quickly signed the card, and I put the present with the other one from my mom. “Happy Birthday, Daddy!”

Much of the rest of dad’s side of the family showed up shortly after, and they were joined by some of my parents’ friends. The football game stayed on til the end of the party. It went rather well, I say. Yay!

Once that was over, we were actually willing to be sociable. My cousins’ kids (ages 11-14) occasionally played some Christmas songs on the piano, while we ate, talked, and generally made fun of my dad. My mom made enough food for several armies, and we all ate well. Music and talking continued up ’til dessert. Dessert included the most awesome thing ever conceived by mortal man (or at least by the Shady Glenn chefs) – egg nog ice cream. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was made of egg nog, or just the fact that I haven’t had real ice cream (as opposed to frozen yogurt) in months, but it was superbly awesome.

My dad opened his gifts, which were predominated by beer. His boss (who used to work for my dad…) and good friend gave him two pairs of Christmas boxers. Special. Definitely special. My mom gave him the new Seinfeld box set (complete with puffy shirt), and my sister and I gave him a photo printer. My dad loves taking pictures. Now he can make some real copies!

We helped him print his first picture, and made sure he knew what was going on. It is a pretty awesome little device. He seemed excited.

Then it was time for the drive home. Which was followed quickly by the falling asleep. Which was followed all to soon by the waking up to go to work. Ugh. Mondays.

December 16th, 2005 • 9:34 am • dinane • Posted in Christmas, Family, Music1 Comment »

Back to Reality (part six of a series)

(Start from the beginning)

The craziness of the reality of the season continued yesterday, as Mike and I finished putting up our Christmas tree. It’s a pretty little tree… I mean… 7-foot monster… See, I wanted to get a 4-5 foot tree, but turns out that it’s more difficult than I thought. Lowe’s didn’t have anything shorter than 6, and those were very dry and dead looking. We ended up with a narrow 7-footer, which is nice because it’s a real tree :-D. It’s cram-packed full of ornaments, and we didn’t even hang them all. We ran out of room! Maybe I’ll take a picture for you all tonight with my camera phone.

How about we finish off that Thanksgiving story!

The Saturday after Thanksgiving was going to be an interesting day. I didn’t know whether to be excited or to be nervous or to puke. Mike’s parents and my parents had met once briefly after a show that we both did quite a while ago. It was horrid. None of us wanted to be there. But this time, I was hoping that would not be the case. Then plan was to drive into Alewife, and take the T in to the North End for some Italian food, then hop back on the T to go on over to the Wang to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

Since the play was at a non-standard 7:30, we freaked out a bit about when to eat. We decided we should call and make a reservation at my favorite restaurant (Il Villagio) for 4:30, since there would be eight of us. After making the reservations the night before, I called my family and told them that they should come around 2:00, so we could leave at 2:30 and get to the station at 3:30. Once again, I way overestimated the time it takes to get into Boston. People say things like, “I thought you were nuts, but I let you do that anyway.” Seriously, if you think my estimates are outrageous, tell me! I’m a dolt, but I’ll listen to alternative ideas.

Anyway, my parents and sister arrived just at 2:00, and the chatter started. With 8 people, it becomes impossible to follow all of the conversation going on. But it seemed that people were generally happy, and that things would be going okay. After my some urging, and triple checking that we had the tickets, we headed out. Mike drove his family, and I sat in the back of my parents’ minivan with my sister. No violence happened in the back of the van, even though I was flashing back to various family drives.

My dad was driving, and had decided that he would follow Mike. I told him not to bother, that I would help him find the way, but he was insistent. That led to some craziness on 128. But we didn’t die.

After a relatively uneventful ride in on the T, we were about a half hour early, even though we left 15 minutes later than I had hoped. Woops! Luckily, they were happy to take us in early, as they were just sitting around (it was only 4:00 – seriously). We settled in and I made myself table captain. We decided to order some antipasto and some bruschetta (pronounced “broo-sket-ta” as my mom kept reminding me), along with two different nice bottles of wine. While we were enjoying those things, we ordered our dinners.

The reason I love Il Villagio so much is because of their gnocchi. My favorite foods include pasta, tomatoes, cheese, and potatoes. There is only one dish that I know of that can combine those things in one, and that is my absolute favorite food: gnocchi. Il Villagio just happens to make the best gnocchi I have ever had. They are lusciously fluffy and served with a cheesy tomato sauce that clings just perfectly to the little dumplings. I love this food. It is my favorite ever. I always eat too much of it. Woops!

We ate slowly and enjoyed every moment, but we still found ourselves with a ton of time before we need to be over at the theatre. We initially tried to find a place to hang out at Mike’s pastry shop, but it was just too crowded. Mike’s parents had been to a different type of pastry shop down the road previously, and were very excited to show us something about the city for a change. It was kind of a coffee bar / pastry shop, and they had some extremely good espresso. (Yes… I know… caffeine makes me crazy… but I love it!) I also had a piece of some very good tiramisu that was too large for me to eat. I barely made it through half, and passed the other half around the table.

After enjoying dessert, we went back to the T to go a few short stops over to the theatre district. In the summer time, this is a totally walkable distance, but in the winter, when it’s cold, it’s worth the $1.25. When we came up out of the station on the corner of the commons, Mike and I immediately started walking toward the theatre. We had studied a map online before we left, to make sure we wouldn’t screw this up, and there were also some very obvious visual clues. That didn’t stop Mike’s dad from pointing orthogonally to where we were headed, indicating that we were wrong and we should go this way. Luckily, Mike was quick to point out the Wang Center’s sign – no more than two blocks away – and the wandering around the city disaster was avoided.

As soon as the doors to the building opened, Sa (my sister), Kate, and I ran like mad to the bathrooms in the basement. We were among the first ones there, and after washing our hands noticed a line had formed. We were all thankful to have gotten through quickly. Unfortunately, however, we apparently missed hearing someone sing “White Christmas” out in the lobby. C’est la vie.

We eventually took our seats and settled in for the show. It was surprisingly good. I’m not saying I was expecting it to suck, but I wasn’t exactly expecting what I got to see. It was a cute and simple story, the acting was great, the singing was even better, and the tap dancing (yes, I said tap dancing) was out of this world. If you like old fashioned Broadway-style musicals, I highly recommend going to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Apparently, it opened in three theatres simultaneously three days before we saw it, so even Californians and New Yorkers can have the opportunity to see it along with us Mass… uh… the only name I know for people from Massachusetts is “Massholes” – but that really just applies to the driving.

Mike and I were bubbling with theatrey talk as we walked back up to the station, while I’m pretty sure our parents were telling stories about our childhoods to each other. Gag. Kate and Sa seemed to get along, and overall, it was pretty awesome. When we got back to our apartment, we dispersed to various beds scattered amongst two apartments and a hotel room. In the morning, my family was gone, and Mike’s parents left shortly after I left for choir rehearsal before church.

We resumed reality with church, football, and the next day – work. What can I say, I like not working. I wish I was heiress to some major and peculiar fortune so I could hang around with my friends and family all day every day. That would be sweet!

December 6th, 2005 • 5:03 pm • dinane • Posted in Family, Food2 Comments »

Back to Reality (part five of a series)

(Start from the beginning)

Okay, seriously, the month of December cannot possibly be “reality.” I don’t know what I was thinking. This past weekend was full of Christmas fairs and Christmas trees, and I’m still tired today. But that’s more for another time. How about that Thanksgiving story!

I had never been in a Kohl’s store before, so I did not know what to expect. Actually, I did have some expectations, mostly revolving around “yet another Target,” but they were proven wrong. Kohl’s is apparently much more like a J.C.Penny’s on steroids.

The place was massive. We were greeted at the door by festive sweaters and pink pantsuits. I think Kate almost bought the pink pantsuit. She loves pink. Kate and I wandered off and quickly lost her mom. I found exactly what I wanted to get for someone on my list and was ecstatic to find that it was on sale. We got sidetracked by the shoe department, but escaped without spending any extra money.

Halfway around the store, we found Kate’s mom again, in the flatware department. Other things were selected, carts were filled up, and we headed for the front of the store to check out. Kate’s mom said that when she went through there, the line had been absolutely disgusting, but when we arrived, we were first in line! By the time all three of us had rung up, however, the line was reaching further than I could see around the piles of future presents. Such great timing! Kohl’s was by far the best shopping experience (though the best deals were at Bob’s).

After cramming yet more bags into the back of the Pacifica, we finally left that shopping center to go across the street to Target (pronounced “Tar-jay,” for you classless types :-D). Just like a good mom should do, Kate’s mom reminded us that we probably had to pee. Conveniently, Target has a bathroom right when you walk in. Newly invigorated, we headed into our last stop for the day.

We breezed past the first half of the store, and I grabbed one small present on our way over to the Christmas section. We split up, looking for an artificial tree for Mike and Kate’s mom and dad. We arrived at a “frosted” 8 foot model, and as the clerk was helping us get a box down from a high up shelf, we discovered that once again, our cart was missing! This time, however, my small present was not to be found on any adjacent shelf. We were not pleased.

A new cart was found, and we crammed the box-o-tree into the main box. The child seat area was soon filled with ornaments and other bits and bobs, and I found yet another perfect gift for someone on my list. After I went running off to replace my purloined small present, we met up again in the middle of the store, when Kate and her mom had just picked out a replacement mirror for our hosts.

It was here that a strange man with a goatee said, “Diane!” I blinked a few times, trying to remember who he was, and he turned and yelled out, “Jill, come here!” OH! It was John, Jillian’s husband. Last time I saw him, he was beardless, and I was very confused by the transformation. Hugs, greetings, and goodbyes all happened too quickly, and we were suddenly checking out and slip sliding across the icy parking lot. For some reason, I was holding the mirror. I did not drop it.

It took some severe reorganization to get the tree, mirror, and newly purchased bags into the car. I was surrounded by bags in the back seat, and I think Kate had a bag in her lap up front. We were done.

Mike called to ask where we were, and we let him and the other boys know we would be back soon. Within an hour, we were packing up our stuff, hugging, and saying goodbye, all too quickly. Due to the proliferation of stuff in both cars, we ended up splitting up the girls and boys for the ride back to Massachusetts. Due to our respective hunger, we ended up driving straight to the Chinese restaurant. I don’t know what the boys were playing in their car, but our vehicle’s speakers were singing Christmas carols with us all the way down 495.

Thankfully, I was talked out of ordering three “gooey” (I don’t know where the hell that came from, but that’s what Mike’s whole family calls stir fry dishes) items, after we had already picked out some fried rice and the pu-pu platter. We didn’t even finish all that among the five of us. My excuse is that I’ve never in my life gotten a pu-pu platter. There’s fire involved!

After eating too much for the third day in a row (my stomach and associated digestive system was by this point screaming bloody murder), we went back to our various apartments to sleep. And sleep we did.

I snapped awake at 8:30 again, and went to baking up some breakfast. I made banana bread. I made little cranberry muffins. I made huge blueberry muffins. And I waited patiently for everyone else to wake up. Mike’s mom was up shortly after me, and joined me in watching some TiVoed food network programming while we waited. After Mike woke up, we watched some Iron Chef America (the asparagus episode – seriously? tongue? gross!). When Morimoto clenched his victory, I finally caved to my hunger and ate some muffins. Kate and her dad arrived shortly after.

We spent the new few hours eating quick bread, lounging around, planning for the day’s craziness, and waiting for the arrival of my family…

December 5th, 2005 • 11:35 am • dinane • Posted in Family, Food, ShoppingComments Off on Back to Reality (part five of a series)
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