Monday, December 25, 2006

Home for the holidays

I'm not home anymore. Well, actually, I am home. In my NY "home," which really isn't where the heart is, as they say. At least not for Christmastime. I just got back from a little more than a week-long trip to Michigan, and the last few days have been kind of a blur. I stood up in Lindsay and Trep's wedding on Friday, so in addition to the usual holiday happenings, there was lots to do surrounding that: bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, gift-finding, lots of salon and beauty parlor time, and of course, the wedding itself. I've been looking forward to this wedding for so long (since we were kids, really). And I wasn't let down. Everything was so beautiful, from the flowers to the heart-shaped cookies made by Lindsay's grandparents. Lindsay was gorgeous and I'm pretty sure everyone shed at least a tear and then danced it off later at the reception. My mom and brother flew in from Florida for the wedding, and for the first time in more than a year, the four of us were all back in the house. There's no better feeling than waking up to the sound of mom downstairs making coffee and my dad snoring down the hall. Well, there are better sounds, but none more comforting. We held a huge Christmas party on the 23rd, inviting everyone from co-workers to neighbors. My parents have held some large parties in the past, but this was definitely the biggest. I've never seen more people crowded in those rooms. We did our gift-opening on Christmas Eve and ordered Chinese food for dinner at my aunt's house. Then it was off to the airport early this morning. My mom and brother are probably on their way back down south right now. Once again, I feel cheated on family time and I'm not sure that's ever going to change.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wedding countdown

We had her bachelorette party on Saturday night, but I still can't believe Lindsay's getting married this week. I've been looking forward to it for more than a year, and I picked up my dress from her house yesterday, but now, it's actually here. Well, it will be in three more days. And then she'll be Mrs. Trep, a name I've only associated with Chris' mom, back when she'd bring snacks to track meets or Science Olympiad contests.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The gift of life

I'm a wimp about a lot of things. I don't like roller coasters. I can't swim in the ocean without thinking there's a shark or some scary creature darting around my feet. And I really don't like needles. So the thought of freely giving up my blood, facing that drawing needle without the orders of a doctor, has always given me the shivers. But I decided to get over it. Or at least just try it. I'm healthy. I don't have HIV, or Hepatitis C, or a laundry list of other diseases they ask you about on the registration form. I haven't had a tattoo in the last year or surgery in the last three months. I definitely weigh more than 110 pounds. Check, check, check. And I'm not exactly wealthy -- check -- not a blood donor requirement, but seeing as I don't have extra money to donate to charity, why not give in a way just as valuable? Arguably more. So today I gave blood. Not going to lie, I was scared. Right arm out, fist clenched, eyes shut tight, a pinch, pressure, plastic bag fills, it's filled, release, deep breaths, tingling, juice, an escort, cookies. I survived. No passing out, no nurses repeatedly poking at my veins. Not a big deal. Have I overcome my fear of needles? Definitely not. But I've learned to suck it up.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I have great friends

I was feeling really down this weekend. Just really lonely, which always tends to spiral into a thick depression that's tough to shake. And Abbey must have noticed when we talked last night, because shorly after I woke up this morning, she made a surprise visit to Port Jefferson with Adam. We walked downtown and made a trip to the outlet mall with the intention of Christmas shopping that really turned into shopping for ourselves. It was just what I needed before heading into another long week.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

O Tannenbaum

I bought and assembled my Christmas tree this weekend. It looks a little Charlie Brownish, but that's what you get for $17.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving break

We ate these...

And did lots of this...
Some might have felt like this...

But most of us felt like this...

And one couple did this...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Please return my stuff

This post is dedicated to you, the lowlife who stole the care package sent from my mom. The mailman remembers climbing the stairs and placing it in front of my door at precisely 2:05 p.m. on Monday. Yet just three hours later, it was no where to be seen. I hope you're enjoying that spice rack, a late housewarming gift. And the serving tray decorated with photos taken during my trip to Europe, enjoy that, too. If I knew you were actually using these things, I might feel a little better. But I'm pretty sure that once you opened the package and found these worthless items (worthless to you, at least), you probably tossed them in the nearest dumpster along with the 80s T-shirt you took a couple weeks ago.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Neighborhood watch

I'm walking from my slightly scary parking lot to my apartment after work today, talking to Abbey on the phone, when I pass a car with a Nevada license plate idling in the driveway. A scratchy, cigarette-damaged voice yells "Hey Sweetie, did you hear what happened today?" I look into the car window and there's one of my neighbors from the next-door building, an older woman who moved in not long ago. "No," I say, a bit confused. Apparently, an armed woman robbed a bank on a nearby street and is still on the run. "Sweetie," the woman says in that cheap waitress voice. "Lock your doors and your windows and scream as loud as you can if you see anything. I have three sons and they'll be over in a second if anything's wrong. Do you have anything to put in front of your door?" OK, it's nice to know that someone's looking out for me, but I'm a big girl, and honestly, I'm not that concerned about the robber at large. But here's where things get more strange: "Sweetie, when you get into your place, flash your lights three times, or else I'm calling 911. Seriously. I want to bake for you." What? Do those sentences actually belong in the same breath? "Do you like chocolate?" Yeah. "Brownies or cake?" Um, either. "Do you like lava cake?" Yes. "Mint, raspberry, or chocolate." I'm so confused. Any of those are good. "OK. Here, take down my number. Don't hesitate to call. That woman is desperate." Who are we talking about now? I manage to end the conversation a good ten minutes later. At least until I walk about five feet away from the car and then she's talking, or rather yelling, again about the robber and how the school was closed and to be careful. I say thanks and goodnight, walk upstairs, flash my bedroom lights three times and hope she sees them.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Two years left

I always feel good after I vote. It's easy to feel insignificant in this country, like you're just one of millions. But after punching in my votes for the people I think should lead this country, I still feel like somehow my voice will be heard. I hope we wake up to a new Congress tomorrow morning. One that can drag this country out of the mess it's in, or at least keep it from sinking even deeper before 2008. Halfway there.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wanting more than a phone

I was talking to a friend from Illinois the other day who moved out here not long ago for a job. I asked him about his family and I found out that besides having Midwest roots in common, we also both dealt with moving in the same way. "You're going to think I'm crazy," he said. "For a long time after I came out here, I hated talking to my family. I wouldn't pick up the phone." He hated talking to them because he loves them, and misses them, and a ten-minute phone conversation just isn't enough. I felt, and still sometimes feel, exactly the same. It's painful. Because as much as you love to hear their voices, all you really want is to be sitting in the same room as them. And no matter how hard you try not to, they'll tell certain jokes that make you cry instead of laugh.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Happy Halloween!

There was one problem with our "Saved by the Bell" costumes: We found pretty much everything we needed on the shelves of Target. That's OK in terms of convenience and price, but it also meant we looked very much like the girls walking around in the mall, outfitted in leggins, skirts and scrunchies because it's fashionable, not because it's funny. We, on the other hand, just wanted to impersonate a pair of Bayside High School's finest: Kelly Kapowski (Abbey) and Jessie Spano (me). So when we showed up at one of the bars in downtown Port Jeff, we got more than a couple funny looks from people who must have thought we took the latest trend a step too far. We tried prove we weren't really freaks by flashing pictures of our "boyfriends" (Zack Morris and AC Slater). And I sang a couple lines from Jessie's caffeine-induced version of "I'm so excited." Eventually others showed up in costume and we stopped caring what people thought. It was a really fun night, and for the record, you'll never see me in those black leggins again. At least not in the real world.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Who's your Tiger?

I don't think you ever lose pride for your hometown teams. Proof: Me and Abbey, recent East Coast transplants not caring how dumb we look in our Pudge and Kenny masks. Go Tigers!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pumpkin party

Growing up, my mom always hosted an annual pumpkin-carving party at our house where neighbors, family members and friends gathered to make their Jack-o-lanterns. I loved it. Halloween wouldn't be complete without pumpkin carving, so I held my own party this weekend. See the photos for the outcome.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Key West Reunion

What happens when you reunite a family in a warm climate, with numerous open-air bars and a fifth of vodka in a hotel room? Look no further than the photo above for your answer. This past weekend was sleepless, boiling hot and caused me to battle a pretty nasty cold in the days following it, but above all, it was just a really good time.
Key West has always been a traditional vacation spot for my family. My great aunt and uncle used to own a condo there and we (which includes my mom, dad, brother, aunt, uncle and cousin) claimed it every Thanksgiving for a span of five or six years. But when the condo was sold, our family trips became less frequent. So in honor of a slew of milestones -- my uncle's 60th birthday, my cousin's second wedding anniversary and my aunt and uncle's 40th -- we planned to meet in Key West once again for a one-night stay. Coordinating the trip, however, wasn't as easy as it used to be. My brother drove from Orlando, dad flew in from Michigan, me from NY, and my cousin and his wife from Tennessee to meet up with the rest of the crew in Tampa. The next day we drove south to Fort Myers and took a boat to Key West, where for the next one and a half days we ate, drank, shopped, watched the street performers give a send-off to the setting sun and laughed, a lot. I hope that we can continue to continue the tradition.
The photo, by the way, is of my dad, my brother and my cousin Dean, who drank enough to think that wearing lampshades as hats was a good idea.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

East Lansing on the Hudson

Despite the awful ending to the MSU/Notre Dame game last night, I had a great time watching it. I met Kory, Lauren and Michelle at Blondies, a sports bar that plays a lot of Big Ten games. MSU alumni filled the back room to watch the game, Tennessee fans crowded the front room and a couple Buckeyes fans lingered outside, still excited about their victory earlier that day. I ran into a girl who lived on my floor in Holmes Hall sophomore year, bought an official "I 'Sparty' NY" T-shirt and screamed the fight song every time we scored. Lauren and Michelle morphed into MSU fans for the night, learning a little bit more of the cheers each time around. It was almost like being in the stands, except we didn't have to sit through the rain that fell in the second half. And there still was the familiar swell of shock that quiets the crowd when the gamelong lead is killed in the last few minutes of play.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My balcony!

I came home today to find this. I suspected that I might be getting a new balcony when they started popping up on the building next door, and it was confirmed with a handwritten note placed under my door the other day by the apartment manager Lou. (Isn't that just a really stereotypical name for a landlord?) The construction workers put up some of the wooden supports yesterday. And today it was the hole in the wall, the doors and a ton of dust along with them. My apartment is crazy dirty right now. White chalky stuff is covering my couch, my floor, my computer and just about every little space you can imagine. I only vacuumed a small part of my living room since I assume they'll continue to make a mess tomorrow. In the end, having a balcony is definitely worth it. It's a place to sit in the summer, more room to put people during a party (should I actually ever meet enough people to have one), and the most important role for the moment -- a place to put a pumpkin for Halloween. My only question now is how long until they're going to raise the rent?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A must read

I recently finished a really great book that's pretty relevant to next week's headlining news - the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It didn't tell the story of the people in the towers, the passengers on the planes, the firefighters who responded or the government's response. It took a subtler, but just as powerful approach. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," by Jonathan Safran Foer, follows 9-year-old Oskar Schell throughout New York City on a secret mission: to find the lock that matches a key owned by his father, who died in the World Trade Center. This fictional story is definitely a tearjerker. Oskar, a super intelligent outcast who is constantly inventing devices in his head, writes letters to Stephen Hawking and calls vaginas "VJs," keeps a box of "things that have happened to me," including successive photos of a man jumping from the towers. As he wanders through the city, he meets a cast of characters just as strange, each with their own pain. His humor and bluntness is both uplifting and sad, and a look at how Sept. 11 might have affected those who were left behind.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The end of summer

Already? It went by so quickly. But that's definitely what Labor Day symbolizes. (That is, besides the whole honoring the work force thing.) I spent my weekend at the Jersey shore once again. One of my old roommates, Emily, was staying with Abbey so we all headed down on Saturday morning in pouring rain courtesy of Ernesto. But the storm didn't prevent us from hitting the beach -- with garbage bags as makeshift raincoats. As soon as we stepped away from the shelter of the shore houses, the wind was overwhelming. I felt like one of those crazy people you see reporting from the scene of a hurricane on The Weather Channel, struggling just to stand and speak without a bucket of sand entering their mouths. The sight was amazing, though. I've never seen waves so huge. It was a line of constant white crashing on the shore. Emily, Abbey and I hid behind the bathhouse while the guys ventured out a little farther. After 10 minutes or so we were all hurting from the sandblasting and headed to a local bar looking lovely, as you can imagine. We spent most of the day there, watching MSU "mash Idaho's potatoes" and playing Bingo.
Somehow, the next day was beautiful and we sat on the beach for a while, sans garbage bags. The guys and girls of the shore house threw their annual Labor Day party that night.
Now the weather's getting cooler, which makes me happy for fall, but sad for winter. I wish we could just skip over that season and start with spring again. Or summer.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Life's been too normal

So here's a slightly less scary photo from Miranda's visit, just so you didn't think we really look like aliens.
On another note, I haven't had any weird encounters in a while. Things have been pretty normal. Until today. I stopped at the grocery store after work to pick up some much-needed food, among which was a head of broccoli. I thought it looked fine as I put it in the plastic produce bag. Green. Fresh. What more could you ask for from broccoli, right. Well, apparently the check-out guy felt differently. "Honey, you don't want this," he said, making one of those scrunched up little kid faces. Then he tossed the bag over his shoulder, hitting the cash register in the lane next to him. I just kind of stared and then said "OK, thanks" a bit too excitedly. I have no idea why I thanked him. I just really didn't want to offend a guy like that. Who knows what would get tossed next, or if I'd even leave the store with any food in my cart. He mumbled a couple other things before announcing the total; maybe it was an inspection of the grapes, or the lettuce. However, it was only the broccoli that got cut. I think I'll stop at the competing grocery store tomorrow and try to buy some of it there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another visitor

Miranda, one of my high school friends, came to visit for a few days. We spent a good amount of time making dumb pictures, like this one, but we also managed to see a bit of the outside world. We ate dinner at Smithpoint, a beach on the south shore, discovered that one of the local bars offers $1 beers on Monday nights and learned how to navigate around LaGuardia airport, after getting lost and stuck in deadlock traffic a couple times.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mom visits

My mom flew into New York this weekend. It was a short visit – less than 48 hours – but we really did a lot. We spent Saturday on Long Island, mostly in Port Jefferson. After opening up some birthday presents my mom packed in her luggage, we walked downtown for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant I've wanted to check out. I'm not used to having many choices when I'm out to eat; when the meat dishes are ruled out, most lengthy menus can be reduced to just a couple vegetarian-friendly options, which usually include a salad, some type of sandwich and possibly a pasta dish. So it took a while to pick a selection. Afterward we walked in and out of some of the shops and had a drink on the roof of one of the waterfront restaurants. The weather was really perfect the entire weekend. We drove around for a while after that, making stops at Kohl's and Trader Joe's, neither of which exist yet in Florida. The Trader Joe's stop was especially painful for my mom, who picked up frozen and refrigerated foods left and right only to replace them on the shelves after she realized they'd never survive her trip back home. I guarantee you that a letter to Trader Joe's pleading for a southern expansion is in the works.
For dinner we headed back to Port Jeff, to a pizza place my dad really enjoyed when he was here. Then we waited in a ridiculously long line at Maggie Moos for desert, where it was obvious that the employees really just wanted to lock the doors before anyone else came in. We woke up early on Sunday to catch a train into the city, my mom's first visit there. We met Abbey near Penn Station and set off at high speed to keep to with our packed itinerary. Our whirlwind tour included: the Empire State Building, Macy's, Times Square, veggie burgers at McDonalds (as far as I know they're only sold at the golden arches in NYC), Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, 5th Avenue, FAO Schwartz, where we played on the giant piano, and Central
Park and Strawberry Fields. Although there's so much more to do, I think we covered a pretty fair share of the city in the time we had. And by the time we headed back to the train station I don't think anyone felt like walking another step.

Friday, August 11, 2006


I got a new laptop at the lab, a super nice Macbook Pro. My favorite feature, besides its really sleek look and the pop-up menu at the bottom, is Photo Booth, a program that allows you to take pictures of yourself with the little camera on top of the screen and seriously alter them. (Leah and Jason, I think I had as much fun as you two did with this program!) These are some of the results:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Scary thought

I'm tired of the world being scared. I don't want to "Look out for suspicious activities," as the signs posted at train stations, outside of ATM machines and in the parking lots of fast food restaurants will tell you. I don't want to wonder what the guy sitting next to me on the plane might be carrying inside his suitcase or in his British sports drink, or watch the nightly news to discover what "deadly food" is lurking in my fridge, or what vicious bacteria is living on the bottom of my purse. Al Qaeda, orange and red alerts, freeway shooters, west Nile, North Korea, SARS, Iraq, bird flu, Iran, Israel, nuclear missiles, shoe bombs, university kids arrested on terror charges. And now, I must fear toothpaste. And mouthwash, and baby formula that hasn't been taste tested in front of a TSA official. Watch out. That bottle of face lotion might have been expensive, but it also could be deadly.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I met Abbey, Adam and Walt in the city yesterday to celebrate my birthday. I left work a little early and took the train into Penn Station. From there it was a short walk to Carmines, a family-style Italian restaurant that Abbey loves and planned for us to eat at. Right outside of Times Square, Carmines was really busy, even on a Tuesday night. The wait time for a table was about an hour, but it was worth it. Afterward, we had a couple drinks at Heartland Brewery before heading back to the train station. I'm still amazed by the energy of the city every time I visit. I'd love to live in Manhattan, or closer to it. Just for a couple years. I know it would be overwhelming, not to mention expensive, but it's one of those things I want to try. It's like that "Suncreen" song that used to dominate the radio suggests: Live in New York, but leave before you get too hard. Live in California, but leave before you get too soft. Sounds like a good plan, right?
But, anyway. Back to the birthday. The people in my office "surprised" me at work, although I was already onto their plan. My boss asked me to come back to the building in the afternoon for a meeting, (I switch offices after lunch), and I immediately became suspicious, knowing that usually an email is sent out for things like this. Of course, there was no meeting when I returned, but there was cake in the conference room.
The only downside to the day was my ride back home, when three drunken guys about my age started making fun of everyone in our train, including me. They catcalled at an older woman in the front of the car, asking how much she was worth, talked about the dangers of high cholesterol when two heavier girls sat in front of them and hurled homophobic-inspired slurs at a younger guy with eyeliner on. I was dubbed as "fatty," by one guy, although "kind of pretty," by the other. His friend vehemently disagreed. Basically, they were top-of-the-line, not to mention kind of ugly, jerks who should probably take a good look at their own bodies and personalities before being so mean to others. The worst part is that no one really said anything back. After trying to ignore them for a while, I made a couple comments that did no good. It's tough to get the strength to speak up when you're a girl who knows she'll have to walk by herself through a dark parking lot along with the creeps when the train stops. However, for as large as their bark, the boys must have been scared for their own safety once the train stopped. They stayed seated quietly once we reached the end station, waiting for everyone else to de-board before they moved.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lindsay's bridal shower

If Mrs. Crutchfield ever wants to switch up jobs, she could definitely make a go at a career as a wedding planner. Lindsay's bridal shower on Friday night was so nice, with chocolate martinis, watermelon strawberry mojitos, a tablefull of deserts and decor inspired by Martha Stewart. I flew in Friday morning and stopped by Lindsay's house a couple hours before the shower to help set up decorations. Under Lindsay's mom's direction, we attached ribbons, Japanese lanterns and white lights to tents in the backyard, set up tables of food, gifts and centerpieces with miniature roses. It probably would have worked just fine for the actual wedding reception, still four months away.
Each guest was given their own martini glass, which was filled by the neighborhood "moms," who doubled as bartenders for the night. Fighting against the estrogen-heavy vibe, Trep filled his with beer.
The friends from high school (and earlier) dominated the games, including putting pictures of Trep and Lindz in chronological order, answering questions about Lindsay's life, and predicting which questions about Trep she'd get right or wrong. And I got to see Michelle, who used to live next door, and was a permanent fixture in our childhood games of kick the can and hide and go seek.
The rest of my short weekend home was super busy. I got to visit with two sets of aunts and uncles, my cousins Brian and Nikki and their almost one-year-old son Jakob, and Carl. My dad and I had lunch at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Cedar Gardens, and we ate dinner in Greektown on Saturday night. I really miss those places. Lindsay, Trep, Carl and I went to Fishbones for a drink later on Saturday and of course ran into a couple people from high school. (A visit to a SCS bar wouldn't be complete without that). And I managed to squeeze in two loads of laundry that I brought along with me because I'm lazy, broke and didn't feel like battling the cockroaches in the basement of my apartment complex.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Homemade cookies and John Mayer

Abbey came to visit me this weekend in Port Jeff and I'm so glad she did. We had plans for a night at the bar on Friday and a drive over to the Hamptons on Saturday. After encountering a scary, blue-bearded bum and a delay on the LIRR, Abbey made it here safely and we followed through on the first part of our plan. Although a little later than expected, we still made it downtown to a bar called Billies that I've been wanting to check out. It was a fun place with a laid-back atmosphere, but it was really busy. Abbey and I were super excited that they had photo hunt, a video bar game we played continuously at Ricks in East Lansing. Of course, we also ran into someone with a U-M hat who didn't attend the school, which we complained about for a while. And Abbey got called out on her Midwestern "accent," which I really don't think exists.
We woke up the following morning to cloudy skies and a forecast for a day filled with rain and thunderstorms. Sure enough, it started raining on our trip to the bagel store for breakfast, so we called off the trip to the beach and substituted it for more rainy-friendly activities. We bought all the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch, at least we thought we had it all. And then we walked downtown to pick up the brown sugar that we'd overlooked the first time around, making a stop at the puppy store and a couple other shops along the way. I haven't made cookies that haven't originated from a box or a tube in many years, probably not since elementary school days, so Abbey definitely led the way on this one. With cookies baking, we watched one of three movies we rented and then went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant not far from my apartment. We watched the second movie after dinner, at least I did, Abbey fell asleep halfway through as usual. But she snapped back to life right after. We both had a hard time falling asleep even though we had to get up super early this morning to catch a train to the city. Earlier, we both had drank a can of Tilt, one of those caffeinated, alcoholic orange-type energy drinks, and I'm convinced it worked on some kind of time release that didn't kick in for about an hour. So of course we did the only thing we could to pass the time before sleep hit us: sing along with old John Mayer songs. That's right, Room for Squares style. It was definitely quite a sight and a flashback to high school. In fact, the whole day was reminiscent of a sleepover we might have had 13 or so years ago. Minus the Tilt, that is. Sometimes you need a reminder of how nice the simple things are in life.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

NY resident for real

I've survived not one, but two trips to the DMV without being eaten by one of the grumpy ladies behind the counter. Whether its the Secretary of State, the DMV or whatever your state calls it, tell me, why are the people who work at these places so unhappy? After staring at the number on my paper ticket for an hour and a half, I'm definitely not in the best of moods. And these women (I'm yet to see a guy in this job) only worsen the pain. But, like I said, I've survived this round and walked away with proof of my new residence. Including not one, but two license plates to replace my single old blue. Now I just have to figure out how to put them on. Help, anyone?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Underage no more

It's true. My brother is officially 21 years old. Although it seems like he's been 21 for years, at least in the drinking aspect. I flew into Orlando to help him celebrate on Friday, as did a couple of his friends from Michigan. We had big plans for his first (legal) bar experience, which included a taxi and a cool bar downtown. But once 1 a.m. rolled around and there was still no call from the cab we called more than an hour ago, we took matters into our own hands, or really into Jeff's hands, as he drove us down the road to the first bar we could find. With last call at 1:45, there was no time to waste. We ended up at Wing Shack, or Wing Hut, or some shady bar with an extremely drunk DJ and a name to that effect. 1:30 p.m. We didn't think it possible to get drunk in 15 minutes. But three rounds of shots later, we were wrong. It might of helped that the bartender's name was Kendra, as was a girl on the other side of the bar, and she was thrilled have the trifecta present. I'm sure it resulted in drinks that were a bit stronger and quite a bit larger than normal. So although short, I'd say the night was a success, and a huge headache in the morning.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Just thinking

Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you made just one decision differently? It really doesn't apply until you graduate high school, at least it doesn't for me. I'm not talking about deciding whether to go to class or not to go to class, or to do drugs or not to. I'm talking about the decisions where you have two or more possible options, all of which seem equally appealing. Life is really mapped out for you throughout the early school years. You know that first grade is followed by second. And 11th followed by 12th. You can choose classes and prom dates, but any drastic changes are usually the decisions of your parents, and you follow, because you really have no choice. After that, each decision is actually your own. Think back. What if you had attended a different college? Would you have the same friends or even the same degree? What if you had held out for a different job or settled for another one much earlier? Would you be living where you are now? Would you be in the same city, or state or country? Sometimes I'm grateful for the decisions I've made, because it's hard to imagine life much differently. But what if we could pull a "Choose Your Own Adventure" with our lives. Would you play?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Long weekend

OK, so it's almost Friday again (I love the four-day holiday). But let me give a quick update of my Independence Day weekend.
I met Abbey at a huge house she was babysitting at on Friday night in NJ. The kids she watches have every toy, book, movie, game you can imagine. Including a big in-ground pool. I'm jealous. From there, we drove back to her apartment to make cupcakes, deviled eggs and pasta salad before going to bed. We woke up early to go "down the shore." That's how you say it supposedly. Omit the "to" and the "the." We stopped at Costco and bought a crazy amount of food: about 70 hamburgers, 50 hotdogs, three types of salads, a huge veggie tray, strawberries, and bags and bags of chips. Abbey still worried that we wouldn't have enough to eat. Don't worry. We did.
After laying out at the beach, where I got ridiculously burned on my back, we had a party at the house. There were supposed to be fireworks on Sunday. But a huge thunderstorm rolled in that night. It was really just as amusing. We all watched from the front porch as some of our drunken neighbors danced around in the flooded streets or on the tops of their roofs. The lightening struck so close in those scary bright lines that kind of make your heart jump, and it was all over in about a half hour. We went to a local bar later on, where I pretended to talk in Kory's huge 1993 Motorola, handing it off to random people and telling them that Zack Morris was on the other line.
We went to Bar A on Monday night, which is a different type of bar. Everything is outside, except for a room with a live band. There's a sand volleyball court with lounge chairs and tiki huts and all kind of cute beachy stuff. Although my favorite part of the night came after the bar, when Abbey, Rachel, Jim and I walked to a pizza place. We ordered cheese fries, which came with a free surprise -- a dead fly on the bottom of the plate. A second or two after we had our girly shrieking over with, Jim casually reached in and swooped the fly into his mouth. Which of course, caused an even greater amount of shrieking. Gross, but kind of impressive considering we hadn't even dared him. I definitely don't want to eat there again, though.
Abbey and I drove back to Saddle Brook on Tuesday morning and we saw "The Devil Wears Prada" for free thanks to a special she gets from the cable and internet company. And then we ate at one of her favorite Mexican restaurants. Yum.
Surprisingly, traffic on the drive home was light. Go figure. But I was still completely exhausted by the time I got back to my apartment.
Time off can be tiring. In a good way.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Weekend at the shore, or rather

just a weekend at the shorehouse, since the crazy amount of rain moving through the area day after day kept us inside most of the time. Even though we didn't set foot on the beach, I really didn't care. I still had a great time in Manasquan with Abbey, Adam and and rest of the shorehouse crew. I drove to Abbey's apartment after work on Friday, my first experience crossing the George Washington Bridge by myself. I've only crossed it twice since I've moved here and I can tell you that I'm definitely not a fan. Not because I'm scared of it buckling under too much weight and dying as my car is crushed underneath the water (although Abbey got me thinking about that by making a point to take the upper level in case that scenario ever comes true). I hate it because of the traffic. It's the one reason that my ride back home on a Sunday evening took an hour longer than expected. So frustrating.
Anyway, from Abbey's apartment, we drove together down to the shore. Followed by lots of beer, lots of laughing and lots of ants (which Abbey and I waged an aggresive war against). Just not a lot of sun.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Mets

I went to a Mets game last night after work with Abbey, Adam and Walt. It was such a sureal feeling driving into Queens, besides the traffic jams and angry semi drivers. (They are really aggresive around here). The best part was seeing the NYC skyline in the distance. Long Island feels pretty rural in some places, so it's easy to forget that I'm just a car ride away from all that. The game was great: lots of homeruns, which led to a Mets win. And the weather held out despite forecasts for thunderstorms. Most of all, I was just really happy to actually do something on a "school night" and see familiar faces.
On a completely unrelated note: I petted a llama today at work. A first. The lab has a market day every week, and today's attractions included two llamas. They're really soft, in case you were interested.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Domestic problems

Every time I think I'm actually grown up, something new pops up that I've never encountered before. And when it's all over, I think to myself "OK, now I'm really grown up." Last weekend's example: lighting the pilot light on my new stove. Let's start from the beginning. I was super excited for the stove's delivery, because 1) my old stove was broken and covered with rust and who knows what else from previous tenants; 2) it took at least a week of rescheduling delivery dates before it actually arrived, and; 3) I was getting plain old sick of using the microwave to cook everything. I come home after work on Friday and it's sitting there, sparkling white and brand new. I check the burners and warm up some soup. Perfect.
By Sunday, I decide to cook for real, and I "warm up" the oven. One problem, though. I open the door to put in my food, and there's no gush of escaping hot air. Nothing at all. And I notice a small sticker near the controls: "Important. Oven pilot lighting instructions located on inside of oven door." Sure enough, inside are six steps to a working oven, and to my dinner. Step number one tells me to remove the oven door by pulling it off the hinges. Simple, right? I think, you've got to be kidding. How in the world am I supposed to take off that thick door? I pull for a couple seconds, then call my mom. Pull a little more, and talk to my dad. I get a good grip and it finally comes off surprisingly easy. Out come the racks, followed by the metal bottom and I'm staring at the pilot, or at least it's what the instructions say is the pilot. Our family stove is electric, so my experience with gas stoves is minimal. This is probably why when I think of "lighting the pilot" I imagine the whole apartment exploding into flames. My mom apparently does, too, because she insisted I keep her on the phone line while I did the operation. We're probably both guilty of watching too many movies or special investigative news shows. "Did you know there's danger lurking in your kitchen? Tune in tonight to find out how to save your family from a killer oven."
I probably don't have to tell you there were no fires, not even a small poof as I held the match up to the pilot. Just a small flame that I never want to light again.

Friday, June 16, 2006

My blog turns one

It's hard to believe that I started writing here just a year ago because so much has happened since. During my first post, I was a fresh MSU graduate, back at home for the summer with my parents. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the last summer my family would spend together in one house. A year later, I'm living hundreds of miles away and working at my first "real" job. And so much more has happened in between. I've:
  • Worked at The Detroit News.
  • Watched my best friend move to New Jersey, my mom move to St. Pete Beach and my brother move to Orlando.
  • Covered a chemical plant explosion and a new "breed" of designer dogs.
  • Interned at Fermilab, in Illinois, and tried my best to learn about the world of particle physics.
  • Watched the MSU football team and the Pistons lose, again.
  • Saw my childhood house put up for sale.
  • Celebrated as my cousin Jakob was born.
  • Learned about neutrinos.
  • Moved to Switzerland for three months for an internship at CERN.
  • Visited Italy, France and the Netherlands.
  • Attempted, and failed, to learn French.
  • Ate a lot of cheese and chocolate.
  • Moved to Long Island and started all over again for the third time in a year.
  • Monday, June 12, 2006

    A look at Port Jefferson

    It was such a nice day that I took a walk downtown after work and took these photos.

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    My NY mom

    Carolyn, who I worked with in Switzerland, is originally from Rocky Point, an L.I. town close to my apartment. So when I first found out I'd be moving here, she gave me all kinds of advice about where to live, what beaches to go to, and what places to eat at, along with the phone number for her mom. It's so helpful to have a native show you around a new area, and that's exactly what Carolyn's mom, Gloria, did today. We went to McNulty's, a privately owned, homemade ice cream shop that reminds me of Wally's at home. Then we walked around Cedar beach, which is on the sound. It was a beautiful, sunny day here, although really windy. Afterward, we drove to downtown Port Jefferson and walked around the waterfront and browsed around in some of the stores. It's really comforting to know that there's someone in the area to turn to if I need help. So, thanks, Carolyn, for letting me borrow your mom for the day. And if you ever move to the St. Pete area for any reason, I'll let you borrow mine.

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    The first week...

    went pretty well. My first couple days were really nothing but administrative stuff: filling out paperwork in HR, getting an ID badge, taking training sessions on everything from general safety to counterintelligence (can you tell it's a government-funded lab?) and waiting and waiting for a lab email address and log in, which finally came around 4 p.m. today. I'm super excited about having "actual" benefits now. Growing up with two self-employed parents, our family never had worthwhile insurance. Just the kind that's only good in the case of catastrophic accidents. So the thought of coverage on prescriptions and dental is really exciting. I can't wait to use it so I can marvel at the reduced prices. However, I'm not excited for some medical appointments I have next week. As part of new employee procedure, I have to have blood work and a full physical at the on-site clinic. The physical doesn't bug me much, but I'm always squeamish around needles.
    I'm gradually adjusting to the area. Long Island itself is difficult to describe. Parts are really developed with LOTS of strip malls. There are your typical stores, such as Target and Home Depot, but there also are lots of mom-and-pop-type stores. Other parts are really rural and wooded. The lab is on hundreds of acres of undeveloped land and I've already seen numerous deer, groundhogs and these strange prehistoric-looking wild turkeys. In a way, it feels like I'm in northern Michigan. And I'm yet to see the entire area East of the lab, where the Hamptons and vineyards begin.
    On Tuesday night, I hung out with Adam from Fermilab, who's at the lab for a week. We met his friend from Queens in Northport, which is another cute LI town about 40 minutes to the west of here. We ate at an Italian restaurant that was BYOB, which Abbey tells me is common in area because of the cost of liquor licenses. I would have loved to see someone bring in a case of beer to go with their pasta.
    No big plans for the weekend. All in all, it's been a smooth week and I can only hope that next week will be the same.

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    My apartment

    Pieces of self-assembly furniture built: 5
    Number of really long sofas carried up the stairs: 1
    Hours spent in Ikea: 4
    Number of boxes moved from U-haul to apartment: too many to count.
    Result: Take a look for yourself.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    I'm here

    I'm exhausted, but I'm here and it feels good. My dad and I left SCS yesterday with not such a great start. Just 10 minutes on I-94, I looked at the back of our rental trailer and saw the door slowly creeping up. I frantically called my dad's cell phone as I watched one of my wicker baskets filled with bedding bob back and forth. But too late. Just as my dad pulled to the shoulder, the basket flew onto the freeway, shattering, and I ran over my own sheets along with the many other cars in rush-hour traffic behind me. My dad was able to recover two of the sheets, but we lost one. It was pretty much smooth sailing after that. Pennsylvania was just as long, if not longer, as I remembered, and we drove through a strong thunderstorm that followed us to New York. But we made it.
    I really like my apartment. It's not fancy or anything, and it's not that big compared to other places, but it seems huge to me. I like having my own space, that is, my own space that's not one room or that I have to share with a crazy roommate. My apartment is in a small complex in Port Jefferson, which is a village on the north shore of Long Island. I'm really close to the downtown area of the village, where there are restaurants, cute stores, bars and the waterfront. (Hence the name "port.") From here you can take a ferry to Connecticut or a train to NYC.
    And I don't think I mentioned this before, but I really owe a lot to Abbey for finding this place for me. She's been such a great friend these last couple months (not that she hasn't been for many, many years). She drove out here from New Jersey twice to apartment hunt for me, plus she helped my dad and I unpack last night along with Adam and Mason. It's so comforting to know that friends are around.
    My dad and I have been super busy today, buying carpet and kitchen supplies and most importantly for the moment, an air conditioner. It is really hot and humid. Tomorrow we hit up Ikea.

    Wednesday, May 31, 2006


    My room is empty. Really empty. As in it has an echo empty. I haven't seen it that way since I first moved into it as a kid, when I outgrew the small room my brother and I shared. It's kind of sad. And it's the one thing that keeps reminding me that this move is different from the others.
    I've become used to packing up and leaving. I've also become used to moving back home. So when I think about pulling away from my house tomorrow and driving to Long Island, I don't feel much. But I keep walking into my room as a matter of habit, wanting to plop on my bed, to watch the ceiling fan swirl until I fall asleep, to hear the cuckoo clocks ticking in the hallway. Except my room is in a U-haul in the driveway.

    Sunday, May 28, 2006

    Wedding season begins

    Doesn't it seem like everyone is getting married in the next six months? It sure does to me. I went to the first wedding in the pack on Saturday and there are quite a few left before the year's end. Tara's wedding was held around Lowell, where she grew up, and was probably much different from the rest I'll be going to. With plastic place settings, crazy groomsmen chugging wine from the bottles and a mounted deer head adorned with a bridal veil, the celebration had a definite laid-back feeling. It was nice to not worry about being prim and proper for a change. And despite a couple aggravations (a no-show best man and a dress malfunction) Tara looked so happy. What kind of a wedding would it be without imperfections, anyway?
    I got to see Tara and Sammy's adorable baby, Adriyanna, and hang out with State News friends. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were out in full force and I'm now itching my first bites of the summer.

    Friday, May 26, 2006

    Home for now

    I've been pretty busy, but let me give you a quick update of the last week. My mom, my aunt and I drove to Orlando on Sunday (from Tampa, not Detroit) to see my "baby" brother. He moved there last summer to start motorcycle school and is doing really well despite the somewhat shady neighborhood he lives in. I last saw him at Christmastime, when my family and I helped move him into his new apartment. The studio is now completely Jessefied, if you will, crammed with speakers, guitars, packages of hot fries and ramen noodles and ash trays. We spent the day shopping (actually for Jesse for a change) and walking around Old Town, a touristy area with stores and carnival rides. I hope to see Jess again soon, maybe for his 21st birthday if I can get a cheap flight.
    On Monday my aunt and I spent the day with my mom at the store after taking a quick morning walk on the beach. We flew home that night to a considerably colder Detroit.
    Since then I've tried to balance getting everything ready for my move with visiting friends and family. Arranging for electric, gas, cable and internet in the new apartment is making me feel grown-up and worried about all the new bills I've got coming.

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    From Switzerland to Michigan to Florida...

    I'm in Florida visiting with my mom. We're spending most of the days I'm here at her store because she has to work, which is a little boring, but fine with me. I'm just glad to see her again. There's something about your mom. Some connection you miss when you're separated. Maybe it's that whole womb thing...
    It's really hard to believe that a week ago I was still in Geneva. It kind of feels like a dream because everything at home seems exactly the same as I left it. Just a couple degrees warmer. I've really enjoyed catching up with relatives and friends so far, including my 8-month-old cousin Jakob who looks just like the Gerber baby on the food jars. I brought a package of cheese fondue home with me and made it for dinner for my dad and grandma on Tuesday night. Besides the chocolate, that's the one Swiss food I'll miss. My dad was an instant fan.
    I unpacked all my bags on Tuesday only to repack again for my trip to Florida. The weather is beautiful here: sunny and warm with a small breeze. My Aunt Arlene and I flew in yesterday morning, my Aunt Sherry picked us up at the airport and we immediately drove to my mom's store. I brought a huge pile of chocolate and other treats from Europe with me, which we've all been enjoying. And this morning my mom and I met with a guy about starting a Web site for her jewelry. I really think it's a great idea for her business, especially since she still has a lot of loyal customers back in Michigan. I'll post the Web address when it's all finished.
    I'm going to Orlando on Sunday to see my brother and then it's back to Michigan on Monday night. I'll try to bring a bit of the sun with me. They need it there.

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Round up

    This is it. I fly home on Monday morning. I've been to nine cities, traveling 2147 miles in three months. I've sent more than 30 postcards and bought way too much chocolate. And I don't even want to know how much it will cost to develop all the photos I took. Here are some that didn't get posted the first time around during my whirlwind tour of Europe.