Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree(s) 2012

After the Christmas Tree sagas of 2011 and 2010, I thought it noteworthy to write an update about our 2012 Christmas tree.  For the first time in the over 20 years Don and I have celebrated Christmas together, we did not get a real tree. Between Ashley's play and not being able to find a reasonably-priced cut your own place, we decided to stick with a "fake" tree.

The tree did manage to stay upright -- despite the best efforts of Lucy the kitten. Lucy did manage to break a dozen ornaments, but Don has mastered the art of Super-gluing items together and patched them back up again.

As we did in 2011, we had a Coca-Cola tree in the Coca-Cola themed family room, and a food-themed tree in the kitchen. We found a good sale on fake trees and bought a fourth one for 2013. This one will be put up in the dining room and include Disney ornament on it (no, our dining room does not normally contain a lot of Disney items in it).
Also of note in our decorations is our nativity set. About 11 years ago Don and I were on the hunt for a nice nativity set -- a quest that took us to many stores in numerous states, but we never quite found one we loved. We found ones that were very, very nice by Lenox and other such companies, but with anticipating having a family, we didn't want one that would break during baby's first Christmas. We found cheap ones in the dollar store, and places with price tags not much higher. Then my Florida grandmother (Grandee) passed away in October 2001. While my mother was cleaning out her condo she found her nativity set and passed it on to us. I think of her every year as I unwrap the pieces, and again as I carefully put them away for another 10 monhs (or so). 

Undecorating tends to take place over Martin Luther King weekend. Just too much work to take the decorations down too soon. 

This weekend I'll finish taking down the decorations and thinking about Christmases past, present and future.

A Day at the Movies

Two and a half years ago when I stopped homeschooling Ashley and sent her to a bricks and mortar school I made a mental list of all the ways I could spend my new found free time. I would clean out every closet, volunteer, make amazing meals every day, bake lots of homemade treats, and check out all the new releases at the matinees.

I'm not Donna Reed or June Cleaver, but most nights I do make a home cooked meal, and sometimes I even bake treats (last week I made Scotch Bars for Don's birthday). As many of you know, I do volunteer, sometimes too much. My closets still need to be cleaned, though. Until yesterday, I did not see a single matinee.

Yesterday my running buddy, Sharon, emailed me to see if I wanted to see "The Impossible" with her. She is on a quest to see all the major Oscar nominations before the awards ceremony next month. My first inclination was to say no. I had a to do list a mile long. The kitty was at the vet being spayed. The usual Monday chores (groceries, laundry). A 45-minute run was on my training schedule and the forecast called for temps in the 50s, even though it is January. 

As I was mentally listing my reasons no, I remembered this simple desire I made to myself. The wish to see more movies. Plus another goal to say yes to new adventures.

There are a lot of movies styles I don't care for -- psychological thrillers top that list. I quickly Googled the movie, decided it was one I would enjoy seeing, plus I would go with a friend. Why not?!

The run happened. The groceries were purchased after the movie. The kitty was picked up after the groceries. Lunch was eaten two hours late (probably should have picked up a sandwich from Wegmans while I was there to eat on the drive to the kitty clinic, but was feeling indecisive). The to list was pushed off to today. Alls good.

As for the movie, I enjoyed it. I was enthralled by their adventure, even though I was quite certain they all lived until the end. Some parts of it would have been deemed as contrived had they not been part of their true story. 

My take away was "buy trip insurance in case the horrendous happens." 

I wondered what happened to the lives of the family post-movie. A Google search (yes, as a trained librarian I should be able to use a source better than Google) brought up two good articles:

As a warning, the first article will spoil the movie if you plan to see it.

Today's lesson: when a friend invites you to do something fun, say yes and worry about the details later.

One last thought -- the first showing of movies is only $6 at the local megaplex in Hamilton.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

University Creameries

Last weekend we drove to Newark, DE to visit our friends Jean and Bill. Jean and I first met in 1993 when she started to work for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. We attended their 1994 wedding. About 5 years later Jean told me about a job opening in the development office at Rider University. We had the pleasure of working together for a couple of more years before I moved onto Princeton Day School's Alumni and Development Office.

Last fall Jean retired from Rider University. She and her husband sold their home and moved to Newark, DE, home to the University of Delaware. Jean and Bill invited us down to check out their new hometown.

Knowing us as well as she does, Jean immediately suggested we start our tour at the University of Delaware Creamery. Well...for the cause, you know. ;) 
As winter break was still in session, the campus was very quiet. We were able to stare at the menu and drool over choices such as Peppermint Bark (white chocolate ice cream with crushed candy canes and chocolate chunks), Peppermint Hot Chocolate ice cream (mint chocolate ice cream with crushed Andes Mint candies) and Not-tella (chocolate hazelnet ice cream with a hazelnut graham cracker swirl). Oh they also have traditional flavors, but those were the ones we put into a giant 3 scoop serving. The creamery is run by university students as a way to learn how to market and run a small business, as well as features the milk from the cows on the other side of the parking lot. We've already determined this is a must-do rest stop when traveling south on I-95. Done right, we'd even avoid a $4 toll, and use that money to buy some ice cream! If only they had public rest rooms.

This is the third creamery we have visited. The second one was the Dairy Store at Michigan State University. We visited that creamery while in Michigan visiting Ashley's friend, Emma, and her family. 

MSU learned a key lesson -- the name really matters! If you are an OSU fan, how could you pass up a Buckeye flavor? Most, if not all, of their flavors were named after competing school teams. 

The mecca of university creameries seems to be at Penn State University, reputed to be the largest university creamery in the nation. It certainly was the largest looking operation of the few we have seen.

Always up for recommendations of creameries to visit -- they don't have to be on university campuses to count.

As a a side bonus, the trip helped me with my top goal for the new year -- spending more time with friends, especially those who have recently moved. Hopefully we'll see Jean and Bill back up in Lawrenceville for Music in the Park, and we hope to go to Newark for some minor league baseball or other fun activities in the warmer weather.

For now, I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dining with Lewis and Clark

Monday night we continued a five-year tradition of attending one of the Cock and Bull Restaurant's Evenings in the Colonial Kitchen series. In 2012 we dined with John and Abigail Adams, and in 2011 it was Oney Judge and Betsy Ross. The year before we celebrated Don's birthday by dining with Ben Franklin and John Hancock. The first year we dined with artists Sarah Miriam Peale, and her uncle Charles Wilson Peale. The first person re-enactors are each member of The American Historical Theatre in Philadelphia.

The Colonial Kitchen series runs on twelve consecutive Monday nights from January through March -- during the slow season for restaurants. From what I gather, the program started around the nation's bicentennial (1976), and has continued ever since. Prices went up about a dollar this year, which I only noticed because last year I made note of the price in this blog. The four-course meal is still quite a deal at $22.95 for adults, and $12.50 for children 10 and under. 

It is a challenge to find the right evening to go. Normally it falls off our radar, only to remember when there are only a couple of weeks to go. We find earlier in the season is better because the restaurant is much quieter and the actors have more time to spend with each table. This was certainly the case this year. A quick note: Lewis and Clark will be returning on March 18, so if you read this and wish you could meet them in person, you still have a chance this year.

Ashley is taking a class at Princeton University's Cotsen Children's Library called Cotsen Critix. The group meets every other Friday to learn about something literary related (a great idea for a future blog). Ashley has an assignment due this week for the class where she is to write a 3-page historical fiction story. She chose to write about Lewis and Clark's expedition from the perspective of Sacajawea's baby, Jean-Baptiste, otherwise known as "Pompey" by the expedition. Pompey was a  couple of months old when the voyage began, and about a year and a half when it ended. There really is not a lot written about his feelings on the voyage.

We used the dinner as an opportunity for her to do some research. That counts as first-person research, right?

Driving to Peddler's Village we talked through some questions: 

  • What was the baby like?
  • What did he eat?
  • Was he a good baby?
  • What was the most exciting part of the trip for you?
  • What do you think the baby liked?
And so on. 

We had no idea what Lewis and Clark would "remember" about their expedition -- after all it did take place over 200 years ago in 1805.

Meriwether Lewis came to our table first. He had the most distinct way of pronouncing Sacajawea's name and the word in-DIE-an. It was charming listening to him. Turns out Lewis was the first person Jean-Baptiste saw since he delivered the baby. Pompeys Pillar in Montana is named after the boy.

After dessert, William Clark came to our table. He told us a lot about Jean-Baptiste's life. Clark educated Jean-Baptiste in St. Louis from the time he was four. Some highlights include Jean Baptiste met a German prince, with whom he traveled all over Europe and Northern Africa--places I have not been to even though travelling is much easier 200 years later. He went to California during the Gold Rush and eventually ended up in the Oregon Territory (the only member of the expedition to do so). There he died from pneumonia at the age of 61. Visit the Lewis and Clark Trail website for more details

I was most impressed just how knowledgeable they are about the life of the baby that was part of their expedition. Based on the snippets I heard of other conversations, they are both extremely knowledgeable about the lives of the men they were portraying. They each spent a lot of time at each table. Clark often sat down at tables to talk at great lengths with guests who wanted to pick his brain.

Ashley left with more than enough information with which to write her story.

Each week at the restaurant Tuckers Tales is on hand to sing songs, play tunes and entertain the diners. This year we had the pleasure of being seated near them. Even though we only see them once a year here, and on occasion someplace else, they remember us and catch us up on the news. A few years earlier we learned that Marianne Tucker shares Don's birthday, so we surprised her by wishing her a happy birthday. It is always a lot of fun hearing them perform. The love they have for each other really comes through, too.

The food is very good, and the entertainment top-notch. Now I'm wondering if we should return for another Colonial Dinner this year before Ashley ages up to the adult price. We still have a lot of people we would like to meet.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


For many years, Don and I found new places to celebrate New Year's Eve. We've honored the change of the calendar in Boston, Wilmington, Newtown, Haddonfield, Anaheim, and Berlin (Germany, not New Jersey). There was also a stretch of a few years when we celebrated with the Woodmans in Hamilton Square and burned calendars in a BBQ. This year's event was a combination of those events, but much closer to home.

For 15 years, Lawrence Township has held a Hogmanay at the Brearley House on Princeton Pike. Many of those years I heard about the event, and knew people who attended, but for one reason or another we did not go.

A Hogmanay is a Scottish tradition of burning of the old grievances of the past year to make way for good things to happen in the New Year. Well, I just made all that up. HERE is a link to what Wikipedia says about the event. It is a Scottish tradition, but one that lasts until the New Year, and this event just went from 6-9.
People gathered around the burning pile of wood and tossed in pieces of paper with their grievances with the past year. As I reflected upon 2012, I could not come up with something that went terribly wrong in my life. I have friends enduring cancer treatments. Friends who lost parents or other loved ones. Friends suffering from injuries, surgeries and health ails. Friends who lost jobs. And two friends who lost their homes due to Hurricane Sandy

My biggest grievance with the year was that I did not land one of the jobs I interviewed for in town. On New Year's Eve I was comforted by knowing I had a great freelance job that could lead to bigger and better adventures in the new year. On January 1, I learned the freelance opportunity was in the hospital on a respirator, with a slim chance of living. I didn't know that on the 31st.

The Hogmanay was a great chance to see friends. We bumped into the Dennis family as they were leaving, Pastor Katie, the Ballards, the Knabs, saw the Bohras, missed out on seeing the Davises, and I met Don's biking friend, Sylvia. I'm sure we knew a number of other friends at the event, but it was hard to see in the dark! I look forward to the return of Music in the Park next summer when I will continue to reconnect with friends at a fun event in Lawrenceville.

2012 Best of PillsPress

This is a good time to post the PillsPress Best of 2012 list.

Top articles (based solely on number of clicks):

Sandy Claws (39)
Music in the Park (38)
Plays in the Park (36)
A composting-we-will-go (27)
Don's Double Century (23)
A De-Cluttering we will go (22)
Santa Visits through the Years (22)

Only a couple of people read about our trip to Quebec.

The all-time most read article was A Tribute to Pine Valley (129). With any luck, Pine Valley will be coming back to life in 2013!