Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter Vacation 2011

Happy Holidays and New Year! The end to 2011 has been quite a fun time for me. Seth and I took the last two weeks of the year off from work (actually the college is closed from Christmas to New Years, so I only had to take off a week!). We spend the first week just hanging out and having a good time. We went out a few days and also did a massive house clean (yay!), but mostly we laid low. Seth played a lot of his new online computer game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I did a lot of reading. Because I am a total nerd I decided that for the vacation, I wanted to read all of the Star Trek: Voyager relaunch books -- aka. the books that are set after the series ends. There are only seven of them, and I had already read the first two. At present, I have only a book and a half to go. I wouldn't say that they are my favorite, but it's fun "brain candy" reading for the break.

Very early this past Saturday morning, I headed down to Connecticut to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Mom and Greg in Bethany. I left super early and thus made it down in a record breaking hour and a half, avoiding all traffic.

We had a relaxed day for Christmas Eve. Greg and I went for walk with Demo on a trail he loves in Woodbridge that the local Boy Scouts set up. Demo is such a smart dog that he can run off leash back there. He also meets other dogs and gets to play and make many dog friends. 

After the walk with Demo, Greg and I made a trip to the local gym where I had the good idea to watch Netflix on my iPhone while working out on the Elliptical. For anyone who has an iPhone, I highly recommend this -- it was awesome! 

In the evening, we exchanged gifts. I got an awesome set of shoes, Nike Free Mary Jane II sneakers from Greg.

From Mom, I got a super intense workout program, Insanity: The Asylum.

We  also decorated the house for Christmas the next day. The mantle was made festive.

The table was nicely set for dinner. We used a silver and gold table cloth paired with gold chargers, Evesham dinnerware, the nice silver flatware, and Mikasa waters and wines. The beautiful flowers are, of course, from my Aunt Geraldine. Everything was very festive and all set for the next day when Aunt Geraldine and Uncle Jimmy would be over to celebrate with us.

Meanwhile, Demo waited patiently for Santa...

Christmas was loads of fun with visiting and eating. Demo received the world's largest bone! (Which was super smelly -- probably that made him love it more.) 

We had bacon and water chestnuts, steamed dumplings, and pigs-in-a-blanket for appetizers. We had a lovely chicken with mushroom pate and swizz cheese along with potatoes and salad for dinner. There were homemade cookies that Mom baked for dessert. 

I also got to talk with the Sibley's throughout the day and heard wonderful news from Seth's mom: his eldest sister is having a baby. I have already inquired about what color I might knit them a baby blanket in.

I traveled back to Massachusetts on Monday, stopping in Glastonbury to have a lovely brunch with Dad and Lisa, and exchange gifts. I received a Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor.

This is a lot of fitness stuff you might be thinking. You are right! It's part of my plan for my next workout program. 

As you may recall, I recently finished the 90 day TurboFire, cardio kickboxing and HIIT (high intensity interval training) program. I loved it! Since then, I have been wanting to complete the Insanity 60 day program, which I started last year and never completed. 

Insanity, is a very intensive plyometrics and max interval training program. Last time I tried it, I made it through the first month, but got busy and never committed to the second. For this year, I plan to complete the whole program. My motivation: I have the sequel program, The Asylum.

After returning from my Dad and Lisa's on Monday, I began the program with the Fit Test. The Fit Test is the first workout you do, and it serves as a benchmark throughout the program. The 25 minute test, has you do ten sets of exercises that you will see in the 60 days of the Insanity workout. You count the number of reps you do. You take the test five times and see your progress. I did quite well on the test with the cardio (less well with the parts that involved upper body strength), but totally kicked my butt, as it were. For the first workout on Tuesday, Plyometric Cardio Circuit, I was super sore. I continue to be quite sore in my chest today, Wednesday.  But I am keeping with it. I know that the sore muscles will go away. I will keep you apprised of my progress.

Seth and I are looking forward to Saturday and New Year's Eve. Dad, Lisa, and Seth's parents will all be visiting. A lovely evening with family. 

Happy 2012!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fun Times

Seth and I have been having a lot of fun times lately, starting with last Saturday, November 12, which was the sixth anniversary of our dating. I have been having quite a stressful week: work had been quite busy and to top it all off, my car had a breakdown and had to go to the dealership for repairs which cost $881! Seth planned a fun day out for the two of us. 

We woke up and Seth made me a lovely breakfast of eggs and toast. I usually drink a Shakeology nutrition shake for breakfast, so this was a treat. We then got in the car and drove to Northampton where we pursued the Twist Fair, a craft fair we both enjoy. There was loads of cool stuff, so that would be great to purchase and other stuff that was just nice to look at (and too expensive to even think about). I got some really cool bath stuff at a place called Aubrey Elizabeth Apothecary. They had soaps that looked like what they smelled like -- the one that Seth got me is a blueberry poptart. I also got two products for my feet which are great. (One smells like red velvet cake, the other like cherry mint -- and it tingles!)

We then went to The Roost, a tasty cafe in Northampton with amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. I got a sweet grilled cheese and Seth got a savory one. Delicious! 

We then went home for a while to just hang out since we'd been out all day. We considered going to the Mount Holyoke dance concert happening that night because we do love dance, but I was feeling tired from such a crazy week. We had a nice quiet dinner out at one of our favorite Amherst restaurants, Pasta e Basta, and then came home to watch a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation. A lovely day!

On Wednesday of this last week there was more fun to be had. My colleague and friend, Barb, is a leader of the Women's Group at her Church. They were having an annual bake sale, which Barb, good lady that she is, helps coordinate. Barb has been having a challenging couple of weeks herself with deaths in the family, her dog getting sick (but she'll be okay), and her washer breaking down. Poor, Barb! I made some chocolate chip cookies for the bake sale to help out. There were four dozen. Although there would have been more if Seth and I didn't eat so many!

This weekend was the most exciting set of activities yet! For my Chanukah / Christmas gift, Seth got us tickets to see La Boheme in New York. So amazing. Seth and I love opera and go to see the Live in HD performances that they show at our local Cinemark movie theatre, but we've always wanted to go see the real thing.

On Friday, we took the Megabus to New York. Megabus is a discount bus that is quite nice. We were picked up at the local mall about 10 minutes away from our house, where we could leave our car overnight, and brought straight into Manhattan. The bus trip cost $16 for the two of us (so only $8 each) round trip, and the bus only stopped two times, once in Holyoke and once in Hartford, so it was pretty much a direct trip. We left Amherst at 11:50 p.m. and reached New York around 3:45p.m.

We decided to stay at the Broadway Hostel again, where we stayed last time we went into New York. It's at 101st and Broadway on the Upper West Side in a nice neighborhood and very cheap. We paid $120 a night with taxes. As luck would have it, we got upgraded from the dorm room we reserved to a personal room with a private bath. Quite nice.


At the hostel, we changed into our fancy opera clothing and took the 1 train to Lincoln Center. (All the subway signs were in that seminal font Helvetica -- I think I am obsessed with it! We played a game on the bus identifying as many uses of the font Helvetica as we could on our trip into the City.)


Despite my many trips into New York, this was my first time to Lincoln Center.

It is absolutely breathtaking. The opera house is so lovely.

As is the entire plaza.

We went into the Met Opera early to pick up tickets at will call and to browse the gift shop. We then walked around looking for a place to eat. We were hungry, so we settled on the very close P.J. Clarke's, which served what I can only refer to as pub-style food. After supper, we headed back for the opera.

The opera house was equally amazing inside as it was outside. Look at those chandeliers -- how unique!

Needless to say, La Boheme was extraordinary. The sets were beyond belief, the talent was unequaled, the spectacle was outstanding. The second act included what must have been at least seventy people on stage, a parade, and animal performers (a donkey pulling a cart and a horse and carriage). The third act included and outdoor set in which there was snowing. The first and final acts, took place in the garret where the artists live and featured and amazing roof line. Spectacular!

The second day, we decided to do the tourist thing. We went to Rockefeller Center. Seth was hoping to pick up a game that was getting released early at the Nintendo World Store, but the line was too crazy.

We did get to see them working on putting up the tree at Rockefeller Center. It's so huge, it arrives in parts and is assembled -- crazy.

We then walked over to Times Square, where Seth has been wanting to go again. We walked around (and purchased a hat for me, since my ears were way too cold).

We saw the theatres were some of the Broadway shows are playing.

We then hopped back on the 1 train and headed down to Christopher Street to meet Clela and her boyfriend, Ivan, in the West Village for some lunch. We got there early, so we wandered around a bit, poking around a cool independent book store, and getting Seth a giant cookie at a bakery. 

We had a lovely meal with Clela and Ivan at a very cute place at 50 Commerce Street in a lovely residential area of the City. It was great to see Clela and Ivan, and we made plans to them to visit us in Amherst in January -- fun times!

After that, we headed back uptown a little so that Seth could see the Empire State Building. He was disappointed that there wasn't much to do other than go to the top of the tower, so we left.

Before taking the Megabus back, we stopped off in the Lush store at Herald Square (the North America Flagship store of Lush apparently), to pick up some of their special holiday products. It was crazy in there, but I got a bunch of cool stuff.

Then after a quick stop to pick up some supper, we were back on the bus at 4:50 p.m. and heading towards Amherst for a 8:45 p.m. arrival. We had a great trip but were super glad to get back home to our comfortable house and lovely Lily!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fall Happenings

First a bit of wonderful news! The stove install is finished. They came back on Wednesday and in about two hours were done. The project started with holes in the ceiling / floor.

There was also a hole cut through the roof where we now have a chimney.

Inside, the holes are now filled with the PL vent pipe. It is painted a discrete off white, the closest they could come to our wall color for high temperature paint. 

As you can see, the pipe is really not a bother at all, in terms of location and look. We're super happy that this project is done. The inspector is coming on Monday and we should be able to fire up the stove after that. Someone from the Farmer Supply will come hopefully next week to get us started and review the features of the stove.

Second, today Seth, his parents, and I traveled up to Rhinebeck, New York for the New York State Sheep and Wool Fair. We had loads of fun. 

There was awesome hand-made creations to see!

And vendors selling all sorts of neat items. Both those that had nothing to do with fiber and those that were just about fiber. (Mostly the latter.) 

(Cool upcycled cutting board -- this is the sparkling wine we used for toasting at our wedding -- awesome!)

We saw the shop Loop, which I often visit on Etsy. She sells unique art batts and yarn. Look at how skilled her yarn is. 

There were cute travel spinning wheels. 

One shop had astonishing glass-work items. There were knitting needles, crochet hooks, cable needs, and orifice hooks.

Of course there were many sheep. I petted lots of them.

This was the hugest angora bunny. So soft and fluffy. I wish he was in my lap, so I could be spinning his fur!

There were camelids. I love a good alpaca. These were not close enough for petting, sadly.  

While there were many things I enjoyed. I made on purchase. A pair of knitting needle earrings from Sassafras Creations.

Lovely fall fun! I had a great time at Rhinebeck and am looking forward to enjoying my new stove, hopefully later this week.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The new stove is (not) installed

It's the day that all the residents of 24 Webster Court (minus Lily, perhaps) have been waiting for. The day of the stove install! Things did not go to plan.

As you can see, the good news is that the stove and bluestone are here and in the house.

Both look quite nice. As you can see, the majolica brown enamel looks just as good against the brick as we anticipated. 

However, the arrival of the stove (and the delivery of our pellets) was all that got accomplished today. As you can see in the pictures, there is no pipe coming out of the stove. Why? Here is the story.

When Chad, our contact at the Amherst Farmers Supply (finally) came to our house to review the install for the stove, I asked if we could have the venting pipe for the stove, which would pass through the living room ceiling, the bedroom, and the roof, painted white. The pipe is otherwise silver and would be an eyesore. Getting it painted white would allow it to blend into the white walls of our house. Chad assured me that this was possible as there is high temperature paint. 

When the pellets were not delivered two weeks ago due to rain, I called Chad to set the new date and also confirmed the aspects for the stove install. Apparently, he did not write down about the painting of the vent pipe on my record either because when the gentleman came to install the stove today and I asked about the paint, he was surprised.

They brought in the stove and stone and laid it down, but the parts of the pipe need to be painted before the installation and there was no way they could get the paint today despite their best efforts. As a result, they were gone by 9:30 a.m. and will have to return on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. to finish the install, which should take three hours or so.

Needless to say, I am in a word, livid, but I want the pipe painted and will not compromise. At least the stove is here and the pellets. I will hold off on opening my celebratory bottle of prosecco until everything is done on Wednesday. I can only hope that Wednesday will be the end of this six month process.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In the Gym, Workin' on Her Fitness

As part of my master plan (!), I have been focusing a lot of my time and energy on wellness and fitness. At the present, this is divided into a few parts. Here are the updates from last time:
1. Exercise more.
Specifically with TurboFire at this point. I am currently six weeks in, so half way. I definitely have increased cardio indurance. I also am getting a bit more toned. I notice changes in my shoulders and in my core specifically. My legs seem unchanged, but I think TurboFire works them much less than it works my arms. I might branch out to more Beachbody workouts later.
2. Eat well.
Seth decided last week to start a lifestyle diet where he tracks everything in a food diary. I am doing this as well with an app for my iPhone, MyNetDiary. Great success! I have lost two pounds since we started a week and a half ago. I am also drinking, Shakeology, a very nutritionally rich drink from Beachbody. (Yes, I got a Beachbody membership so I can save 10%. If you're interested, you can visit my coach's website here. (She's my aerobics instructor at work, hence why she's my hook up.) I'll keep the membership as long as I am enjoying the Beachbody products, as I save more with the membership than I spend on it.
3. Keep zen.
This means being more relaxed about work and my crazy schedule in general. Staying calm and relaxed and not getting stressed. I attempt to mitigate my emotions (and not was time getting upset) as much as possible. Exercising more and eating well as areas of focus help me with this. Seth is a huge help here! I am also trying to spend my free time doing enjoyable things. Doing this allows me to look forward to upcoming events and keep focused when things are not so premium in other areas. Mind over matter!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Star Trek Fleet Captains

Based on our complete love of the last Wizkids Star Trek game, Seth and I picked up the newest one, Fleet Captains.

As always, super organized on the inside -- love it!

The rules are kind of complex the first go around, but they are also, in a way, intuitive. We played a quick run through, as time allowed, and I found it most enjoyable. It was like being inside an episode of Trek. (Plus, I got the Voyager as one of my ships!)

More to come about the game -- I will try to do a complete review when we play through completely and fully understand the rules.

Julia's Blanket is Done!