Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fun Times

This weekend, even though we've been world travelers, Corey and I journeyed to the fine town of Littlestown near Gettysburg to visit college friends. It was an amazing adventure and I'm so glad we went. The drive out there was gorgeous and productive (in terms of my knitting) and the party was a fantastic demonstration of Penn State football victory, darts, eating, and crazy night time antics.

The best part, however, was the drive home. Corey insisted we stop at a fun filled place called Mr. Ed's. It was a sort of elephant emporium, with peanuts for sale, stale fudge, and about ten million elephant statues. I don't know why Corey knew of its existence and I don't know why the store doubled as a candy shop, but we left there with my hands full of fudge and Corey's mouth full of red licorice.

Sadly, I didn't have my real camera with me. Instead, I took pictures on my cell phone. Here is Corey, posed with the elephants he loves so much.

As I walked around the store/museum silently making fun of the whole thing, Corey asked me why I couldn't just appreciate Ed's love for the elephants.

I suppose I'm just not able to emote properly. How could I not be overwhelmed? Look at the meaningful signs.

No matter how many elephants Corey showed me, even the statues from India, I was not moved to tears. Thankfully, Corey wept with joy for both of us as we ate candy in the car. He also turned the heat up to ten thousand degrees, both to imitate the African climate the elephants love and to melt my icy heart.

I think we should go there every Sunday.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


We drove around like crazy people this holiday because Corey doesn't get much time off from work. The hardest thing about being in a relationship for me has been the span of space between our families. We love living in Pittsburgh, but miss our families like crazy. We have been up to this point trying to see both families for both holidays (just because Corey is Jewish doesn't mean his family doesn't get together at Christmas!). This means driving six hours to New Jersey and having a whirlwind visit and then, two days later, driving almost three hours to Lebanon, PA for another whirlwind visit and then sitting in awful shopping traffic four hours back to our home.

And the worst part is that I have two more weeks until I go back to work while my little penguin is slaving in the bike shop. I made myself big long to-do lists to occupy my time, but I can't motivate myself to do things like scrub the toilets or put away piles of clothing. Somehow sitting on the sofa knitting or even just staring out the window is more exciting than washing the car in the freezing cold.

It all leaves me feeling very torn. On one hand, I could be holed up in Lebanon enjoying my family for a few days and taking advantage of their cable TV. On the other, I have a new husband whom I love to pieces and can't bear to think of him here all alone enjoying our Christmas tree without me. So I chose to come back and I also chose a new path for us for holidays going forward.

We will no longer drive around like crazy people. We will spend the whole of our Thanksgiving vacations with one family and the whole of our Christmas time off with the other. It will make my heart sad not to see my family a little less frequently, but at least I'll know I'll get longer and more satisfying visits with them.

It was a very big, hard move for me the year Corey and I started splitting up the holidays. Letting go of Christmas morning with my mom was probably the hardest thing I ever did and I still wonder what will happen next year when I'm waking up in New Jersey. Perhaps Corey's mom will wake everyone up at 7am yelling "Ho! Ho! Hoooooooooooo!" and then clap her hands while we open our presents. That might make the transition a little easier...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

World's Best Day

Today has been amazing. For starters, I successfully used up a lot of the perishable foods in my house by baking a breakfast casserole. All the cream, stale bread, canned peaches, and bananas and eggs are now in my belly! I even got Corey to eat a small bit of it.

Next, I discovered my reimbursement check was in from school for my New York trip. Bank account in the black, check. Credit card payment, ready to send.

Then, I made tons of progress on my new knitting project while watching season two of Queer As Folk, a flock of turkeys waddled through my backyard, and I got the fiction issue of the New Yorker in the mail.

Since it's almost three, I'm going to settle back with a bottle of wine and read a new Junot Diaz until Corey gets home. I love winter break!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yikes! Identity Theft!

I have always secretly judged people whose identities get stolen. Those people, I decided, were the ones who left passwords taped to their monitors or did banking on public computers. Turns out I was secretly throwing stones from a glass house!

This morning at 8am I got a call from Chase. They usually call me when I am on vacation. Actually, I kind of love them because as soon as I make a purchase somewhere other than Pittsburgh, the phone rings. "No, no," I tell them. "It's me! I'm just here buying museum tickets in Chicago because I am glamorous!" Not today.

This morning, the charges were for things like porn in California. Or several small charges to iTunes. It all got very confusing because I use the card a lot and have been doing a lot of Christmas shopping. Turns out the last time I actually used the card was for a purchase on Amazon. I usually love Amazon, but now hate them.

I suspect Amazon of compromising my identity not only because they were the last place I used the card, but also because of the spam email I now get. My brother-in-law taught me to use a different email address with each company. (I can do this because I have my own domain name) So when I bought my Amazon supplies, I used Shortly after this fraud call, I checked my mail and had zillions of junk emails in my account using the Amazon email.

Since my Amazon purchase was for a used book through their marketplace, I first suspected the sellers. But then I read Amazon's information about financial transactions and realized they must be the culprit. They have a system where I pay Amazon and Amazon pays the book seller, so the leaky information came straight from the big evil corporation. Not from the little book seller. I feel significantly shaken up to stop online shopping for a bit until I can find some really secure methods. Clearly, Amazon does not have these and will no longer be enjoying my business.

I guess identity theft has become so standard that the Chase people really didn't need to involve me in the process much. I just said I didn't make the charges, they canceled my account and are mailing me forms to sign, plus a new card. Only because my credit card company is so on top of things was this a minor inconvenience instead of a huge disaster. I just hope my Southwest flight credits carry over to this new account!

Monday, December 17, 2007


When I was in elementary school, the BEST days were when they would hand out those recycled paper catalogs filled with books you could order. I would circle almost every book in red ink and beg my mother, insisting that I might die of ignorance if I couldn't have them all. She usually made me whittle the list down to like three books. What an ogre, right?

Anyway, the best of those books to arrive was As the Waltz Was Ending, by Emma MacAlik Butterworth. This was a book sent to me when they somehow put an Anne Boleyn book out of print and thought I might like a substitute about a little Austrian ballerina. Turns out I did like it. Butterworth described in beautiful narrative detail her training with the Austrian ballet before World War II turned her life to poop.

I wanted to be a ballerina. I practiced barre exercises like Butterworth described, alone in my room holding the book and leaning on my bookcase. I always wanted to go to the ballet, to watch the young women and pretend they were her. I thought I would have secret insight into their bloody toes and aching thighs.

Almost twenty years later, I finally went to the ballet! I went to see the Nutcracker yesterday, and it was exactly like Butterworth described it! When the toy dolls came waddling out of those boxes, I felt like I could feel them in there, holding their breath and getting their eyes ready for the stage lights. When the Arabian dancers slid around the stage like they were on ice skates, I felt I knew exactly what the other dancers were thinking as the puffs of wind brushed their faces just off stage.

When I got home last night, I wished I could re-read my book to live it all over again. But it isn't here with me. It's hiding in a box in the closet at my parents' house far away. Instead, I'll just stay up all night Christmas Eve and pretend again that I am an eight year old girl in Vienna, about to take my first curtain call.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I went to Williams-Sonoma yesterday to spend the rest of our wedding gift certificates. I put the trip off for a long time because it's dangerous when I go into WS. This time, I found the sale bin. Baskets and baskets filled with discounted pumpkin-flavored food stuff! I kept hauling out $2 mixes and oils and sauces, making a pile beside me on the floor.

The sales staff came over every few minutes to take my pile to the register and tell me about products that were not on clearance, but I kept my focus on the important things: pumpkin spice bread kits. I bought four. I had grand plans for them for upcoming holiday parties.

When I got home, I engaged Corey in the baking process. He argued with me for a bit about the amount of butter in a stick. Surely it couldn't be 125 grams when his cell-phone calculator reveals it to be 112.5? How could this be? Something was amiss in the recipe!! He got out the food scale and everything. (This is a man who measures out the amount of water needed to boil pasta)

As I hissed at him to just hand me more butter, I stopped paying attention. I added four times the amount of water I was supposed to! Instead of making just one loaf of pumpkin bread, I had to make all four! Worse, Corey had to get the scale back out and scoop more Smart Balance (we don't actually use butter, you see). And we only had five total eggs where we needed eight.

I called my mother. She talked me through it. How is it, at 26.6 years of age, that I cannot manage an egg crisis on my own? Why does my mom know that five eggs will turn out ok when the recipe calls for eight? When do I get this knowledge?

Fifty minutes later, I had four huge wedding-gift ceramic loaf pans filled with crusty pumpkin bread, and I had to stuff three of them in the freezer so they wouldn't get stale before my parties. I try to look at the bright side of my carelessness. At least I won't have to watch Corey use his nanometer on the Smart Balance before the next parties. Instead, we can just squabble about appropriate thawing time and relax.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I am taking a wee time-out from online Scrabble. Not to finish my paper or register Pittsburgh Rugby for dodgeball this winter. No, this break is to write about lawn balls.

We got one as a wedding gift. Here is us enjoying the lawn ball:

Corey's former roommate/current business partner and his lady-friend bought it for us. We are now white trash. In Lebanon, PA, where I grew up, people hoard lawn balls the way some women hoard cats.

Usually, the lawn balls show up next to lawn butts, or those black wooden cowboys leaning against light posts. Even next to plastic forest creatures or Virgin Mary icons. When I was little, I thought they were crystal balls that would tell the future. Now I know they are just strange.

We kept our lawn ball (or gazing ball) indoors for a long time while I sought the "perfect spot" for it outside. Corey began decorating it for holidays:

And he moved to to the front porch, where the mail carrier, Peggy, gets to look at it every afternoon.

In the spring time, I'm going to move it to the garden in the back yard and hope that it will keep deer and rabbits and turkeys from eating my pepper plants. For now, though, it will sit on the porch wearing a new hat for every Hallmark holiday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I am playing online scrabble with 9 different people on facebook right now. That's kind of inaccurate, since I am playing two simultaneous games with one friend. Anyway, I can't stop. I actually said the following words to a student tonight, who showed up on on time, responsibly attending his appointment. "Hang on, sir, I need to finish my turn on scrabulous."

Something is wrong with me. I am obsessed! I find I want to wake up in the middle of the night to see whether my friends have taken their turn yet so I can play a good word.

I walk around filled with rage that my cousin is beating me by hundreds of points or that my co-workers are also beating me by hundreds of points. This is so stimulating! I don't want to ever stop! Whoever invented online scrabble is the smartest person in the universe.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I jut got off a jam packed 71A. After all the bus cuts have settled, this route runs at 30% of its former frequency. Three times an hour versus ten. The bus was always a full one, and now that it is cold and rainy my morning ride was a wonder to behold. Perhaps there were smaller people on this ride or something, because I just know there were way more riders than usual. They were crammed in the doorways, clutching each other on the steps, pinned against each other between seats.

My good friend Patsy often points out that she hates exiting a full bus like that because she has to rub up against the private parts of the other passengers as she finagles down the aisle. Nobody is immune. Nobody is safe!

But one grumpy lady, wearing a sequined red hat and a holiday sweater with a smiling reindeer, thought nobody should touch her. She had an aisle seat near the front and as students entered the bus, she screamed at them. "Get that backpack off of my head! You are so disrespectful! Take it off!"

One rider looked amazed and apologized. "My gosh! I'm so sorry. It was an accident." He took the bag off and held it at leg level.

"Don't go hitting it off my leg, either!"

The poor boy looked horrified, not knowing what to do. His friend stepped in to help. "Lady," this dude said, "there are like 400 people on this bus. You are going to get bumped." Everyone around me made approving faces, silently encouraging this brave rebuttal. The two guys exited at 5th and Craig.

Another tiny little red haired person got on the bus, struggling under a zillion chemistry books. Her boyfriend helped to stabilize her on the rocking bus. The lady bellowed again. "Get those books away from me! Get 'em down! Down!" The couple really didn't know what to do. They kind of looked at each other and ignored her.

I wish so badly that as I squeezed past her two stops later, at Bigelow, that I had displeased her. I had the scene all planned out in my head. I would stomp on her foot and then I would have said, "Shut the hell up! You are not being persecuted!"

But I am a rugby player, well versed in evasive running. I can slide out of the 71A without anyone noticing and never once bump a penis, let alone a grumpy sequin hag.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Decking Duffield's Halls

After yoga this morning, I made Corey put pants on (I went to yoga wearing pants while Corey stayed home NOT wearing pants) and drive down the street to the tree guy, who was miraculously open for business! The man immediately bombarded us with questions, his white bowl cut flopping around in his excitement. He ran up and down the aisles of trees, practically pulling us along with him as his yellow rubber overalls squeaked like crazy.

"What do you want? I'll show you anything you want!!!"

Did we want a Douglas Fir? One that smelled like oranges? How about an expensive one? No, no, no. We just wanted an inexpensive, alive tree, please.

It turns out there is a lot to know about tree purchasing. Like do we want a fresh cut on the bottom so it drinks more water? We decided yes. Did we want to use string or bungees to strap it to the roof? We chose bungees, since we were only going 2 blocks up the hill. Also, do you tip the Christmas tree man? I felt like yes, so we gave him $2.

I felt kind of sad for the tree man because he was so socially awkward, but Corey said the man was just rural and rural people are like that. Who knows why Corey says these things? Either way, we got this lovely beauty home and set up in the tree stand the previous owners had thankfully left behind. (The one good thing!)

To decorate, I used all the ornaments I've had my whole life, plus a few juicy ones that Corey's mom gave me. Because of the wonders of public school, Corey made this:

Such yarn! Such painted macaroni! I love it almost as much as I love him. I can't wait until someday our own children have painted macaroni ornaments hanging next to their father's.

My elementary school was clearly more crafty. I made ornaments using felt, glitter, and glue. This bell is Corey's favorite of mine, which my mother donated. It features me giving what was then my biggest, brightest smile:

Because Corey was being such a curmudgeon, I played several albums of Christmas music while I decorated. He hates such music, so I helped myself to some loud singing along with Nat Cole and finished off the house by decorating our gazing ball with this fine hat:

I feel so much better about life now!

Friday, December 07, 2007


As I was walking to work yesterday, head buried in my collar to fight the cold, I looked up and almost walked smack into two tuba players. They were sliding down DeSoto street carrying enormous, shiny tubas, trying to protect the mouths of the tubas from snow and crap blowing in there.

And they were FEMALE tuba players! I love that! I feel like tubas are traditionally male instruments, so it made me feel happy that Pitt seems to have at least two ladies on that big horn. I just wonder why they were out and about. What, during the cold snap wintry mix, made them think, "I should take my tuba for a walk today"?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Woes of Graduate School

Yesterday I set out to purchase a Christmas tree. I understand it's a bit contradictory to shine a bicycle menorah in your front window alongside a Christmas tree. But Corey and I want to combine all our traditions. And this would be my first live tree and my first any sort of tree in my own home. I realized I have no idea how to go about buying a Christmas tree. I assume equipment is involved, and a water dish. But I don't know what to do!

So I asked Cookie from next door where he buys his trees, and he told me. His wife later stopped by to confirm that I should, indeed, buy a tree from the Jancey guy because his rates are the best around. She also complemented my work with the Wovel.

Anyway, I turned on the car and cleared off the snow and drove down the hill to Jancey, slipping through three stop signs and telling myself it was very unwise to be driving in such conditions. I drove to the joint, and there were no trees there! So I shook my head and drove to the church on Stanton and Negley, where they sold trees last year, and there were no trees there, either. I refuse to go to Home Depot, so I drove back to the Jancey place just in case I missed the trees.

No trees.

I parked in front of a fire hydrant and ran into the bank, where a police officer held the door open for me and called me sweetie-pie. I asked the tellers, "Why aren't there trees out there? The sign says there are Christmas trees!"

"Oh! Well he only starts selling at 4pm. Sometimes 5. He works at night, that guy."

So I can't even buy a Christmas tree with my work and school schedule. I also can't convince Corey to stop and buy one for me (he also has class at night and works late the other days), so I have to wait until the semester ends and I don't work at night anymore.

I feel a little sad about that because I lined up all my ornaments yesterday--the ones my grandmother has made for every year of my life and the ones my godmother gives me each Christmas. I even have an angel for the top, now resting sadly on the floor in the living room waiting for a tree to protect.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Team Lev December

We got a sprinkling of snow the other day, so because we are home owners Corey went out and bought some salt at Home Depot. These are things you have to do when you own a home. Salt the walks.

I got very concerned about nature and the chemicals in the salt, so even though it was very late at night and they were about to close, I made Corey read the bags and find the best thing he could. This bag, apparently, is calcium chloride and is supposed to be ok to go into the water system. I don't know. I still feel anxious about it.

But then I woke up this morning to see the world transformed! Snow! My first snowstorm as a married person.

I went out to get the paper and realized Corey and I had not yet assembled one of our wedding gifts: the Wovel. A combination shovel and wheelbarrow that promised to make all our shoveling needs easier. I figured, hey, we are responsible for the walks and stairs. We don't want to get a fine or get sued or have one of our elderly neighbors break a hip when she comes over to yell at me for not moving the car during street cleaning.

So we assembled the beast. And my, was it large. Since Corey typically is the one wearing pants, I decided he would be the one to use the Wovel most often. There are different settings for how tall you are, you see. Look at the size of this thing! It didn't fit up the steps and as I finagled it out the door, we accidentally dug up our neighbors' oregano plant with the plastic blade.

I set out to shovel the walks while Corey turned the car on and started cleaning that. With every load I wheeled, chunks of oregano came flying out of the Wovel. I just know they are going to notice that. Corey says that's what they get for letting the oregano plant grow so it spills into our driveway. Our yard now looks a bit like a mint snowcone, with round little heaps of shoveled snow topped with an herbal garnish.

THEN I realized I had made a terrible mistake. The radio announcer told me with my alarm that YESTERDAY was the first day of Hanukkah. Facebook told me it wasn't until Thursday, and because I'm a dumb shiksa, I listened. I hadn't gotten out the menorah or bought candles yet, so before the sun came up, Corey and I lit the Facebook menorah in bed with my MacBook and I feel like that counts since he sang the prayer and everything.

After I took care of business with the walks, I rustled up the menorah and some birthday candles. Corey told me to melt the bottoms so they would stand in the little holders and I got us all prepped for this evening. Which I found out is also a faux pas. You apparently aren't supposed to even set up the number two candles until the right time. I fear I will never learn.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Chicago: A Visit

Our cab driver from the airport started our trip right by saying, in heavily accented English, "You like party? Music?" He blared this incredible Indian techno music as he gave a guided tour of the city. He even raised the roof a few times. We then went to a bar where there was no smoking. None! I didn't have to burn my coat or anything when I got home. I just got to enjoy teammates who I haven't seen in almost four years!

In the morning, we ate at a diner that served a basket of fresh bread. As if it were a swank restaurant. They also put a banana on the side of your plate. To save for later I suppose. I certainly liked it! Bananas in pocket, we went to the field museum and I looked at maps all day! Maps! They even had J.R.R. Tolkein's original sketches of Middle Earth. He was so meticulous. He calculated miles walked based on hobbit leg length and had sunset charts and stuff to make sure his writing sounded viable. I also enjoyed the cross-stitched maps of England and felt very lucky that young ladies like myself are no longer required to pass sewing tests to be considered appropriate women.

Because it was miserable and raining and there was lots of upset football to watch, we just stayed in Saturday night and alternated football and Guitar Hero as we ate Indian food in honor of our cabbie. Did you know you can have beer delivered to your house in Chicago? Late at night? It was like a miracle. I almost died.

Sunday morning, my new cabbie's credit card machine ended up being broken when we got to the airport. I felt badly that I only had enough cash to give him about half of the fare. I called the hotline to give him a customer complement in hopes that it would make up for least my flight out was on time.

All in all, I returned an energized, positive human being. Something about Lust beating me at Wii boxing and Jenny spanking me at Guitar Hero returned my sense of place in the world. I just love those ladies! Old rugby teammates are my crack. I am addicted and I just feel so good after I spend time with them.