Sunday, November 27, 2011

One holiday over, and another just beginning

Ron never finished decorating his turkey
I love Thanksgiving, and now it's over for another year.

All of the leftovers are nearly gone ... not that they look so appealing at this point.

My sister wanted to go to Longwood before the end of the weekend since the holiday lights are officially up.  Typically, it's bitterly cold when we do this.  But, after spending the past three years wishing that I lived in California, California has done us a favor and come here.  It was downright balmy this evening.

It was crowded, but not nearly as crowded as it could be.  I know most of my friends are going to be wandering over to Longwood during the next month, and everybody likes taking pictures when they're there.  Here are some tips for getting the best shots with a point-and-shoot camera.

1) Turn off your flash. Yes, you heard me right: turn it off.  The dark is so overwhelming that the flash isn't doing anything when you take a landscape shot.  Unless you're taking a close-up of something/someone, don't bother turning it on.

2) Turn on your timer. Most cameras give you options for time length (2 seconds, 7 seconds, 10 seconds, etc.)  Choose the 2 second setting.

3) If you don't have a tripod (99% of the time I don't have one with me), then make a tripod.  Find a ledge, a fence, a bench, a low wall, etc., on which to rest your camera or your hands.

4) Set up your shot as best you can.  You may not always be able to get the exact shot that you want because you'll be hindered by your impromptu tripod.

5) Turn on your two-second timer and take your shot.  The timer will release the shutter two seconds (duh) after you push it.  This is helpful because you will eliminate some (or all) of the blur that would be caused by your hand as you press and release the shutter.  (For the record, Ron taught me this trick.) Also, hold your breath and make sure that feet are planted on the ground (shoulder-distance apart) so that you're firmly balanced.  If you can avoid holding the camera to your face and instead rest it on a firm surface, that's even better. All of this contributes to eliminating blur.

Also, if you do have a DSLR, obviously you will want to open your aperture completely.  If you have an actual tripod with you, you can close it up a bit if you want to increase your depth of field.  Otherwise, one of the unavoidable trade-offs to this technique is very small depth of field due to a large aperture. Pick your poison: blur or small DOF.

Ron: I've been rethinking Christmas gifts, and I think I definitely want one of these. Don't worry, I'll find a spot for it.
On a different note, this year's theme in the music room is ... CANDY! My favorite.  The gingerbread houses are insane this year: replicas of the DuPont house and the Conservatory.  They're entirely edible, and even the gorgeous frosted windows are made of beet sugar.

The Conservatory

The DuPont House
If you look closely, you can tell that the roof is made of burnt cinnamon toast crunch. (God, I love cinnamon toast crunch. I'm not allowed to buy it anymore because I just sit and eat it until it's gone. Ron gives me this skeptical look and goes, "Really? Are you sure?" when I pick it off the shelf. I've learned to put it back.)

The space in the above photo is one of my favorite spots in the Conservatory.  If you look at the photo archives in the DuPont house, you can see that the DuPonts would drain this space and set up tables and chairs and entertain hundreds of people at one sit-down dinner.  When the space wasn't needed for entertaining, it could be flooded to provide an incredible mirror effect.

You would think a pomegranate bonsai would grow fruit proportional to the rest of the tree? Guess not.

Rose House from the inside ...
... and from the outside.
I'm sure that this won't be the last of my Christmas lights shots. It's still November for cryin out loud.

This long weekend has been so exhausting in such a good way.  Friday night was crazy--a lot of the people who I was hoping to see at our reunion actually came.  Two of these people were friends from sixth grade, Audrey and Melinda (yup, they're twins).  I ate lunch with them everyday in middle school, and I was always lucky and was scheduled in at least one of their lunch periods throughout high school.  And then college came and I literally never saw them again until the 5-year reunion and now the 10-year reunion.  I don't plan on going to another reunion again, so hopefully we won't totally lose touch again.

I was also really happy to see my friend Jackie, who has always affectionately referred to me as "Pants." I used to know the story of how I got that nickname, but I don't remember anymore.  Jackie and I had completely identical schedules for three years.  I spent all day, everyday hanging around with her.  I knew I would have trouble keeping in touch with Jackie after we graduated, and sure enough I totally lost track of her.  I've always worried about Jackie--I don't know why "worry" is right word there, but it is.  Every November 2, I would always just take a second to say to nobody in particular, "I don't know where in the world you are Jackie, but Pants is wishing you a happy birthday today."  It turns out that Jackie joined the Navy after high school, so she literally was all over the world on those ten birthdays.  Now she's back in this area for good, so maybe I'll bump into her more often.

Ron and I finished the night at Iron Hill with my best friend, Ama, and our other friend, Ben (also my junior prom date).  I think we managed to walk in the front door around 2am.  I didn't wake up until 10am the next morning, and I never felt awake at all on Saturday.  I'm old, I guess?

Thus begins another week at school.  How is it freakin possible that I have two weeks left to the semester? Three, if you count exams.  This is totally ridiculous, because this was the first day of school, and that feels like last Tuesday. And so returns the angst of "How do I slow things down it goes too fast and I can't keep up someone please help."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Scenes from the holiday

After a week of rain (Wednesday being especially nasty), we had a beautiful day for Thanksgiving.

Ron and I try to go for a stroll through West Chester on Thanksgiving morning.  Usually, town is completely, eerily dead.  Since we're always out with our friends for NBT (Night Before Thanksgiving), it's bizarrely odd to see the sidewalks go from totally packed with people on Wednesday night to completely deserted and empty Thursday morning.

Everhart Park
You may recognize this from here ... the seasons change too quickly.
I cannot emphasize how EMPTY the sidewalks were--every store, restaurant, and bar completely silent, doors locked-up, chairs all meticulously placed on top of tables.

Gorgeous window display at Page's, which is actually a stationary store.
I really want this chandelier in their other window. Not sure where I would put it though.

We were out for awhile.  I really wish I had pictures from Wednesday for a comparison.  Finally, we had to get home to make our share of the dinner side dishes.

We brought roasted brussel sprouts, baked apples with sweet potatoes (first time we had tried it; we all agreed the recipe needs some tweaking), an extra turkey breast with gravy, and an extra pumpkin pie that we didn't need. (Better to have too much pie than not enough.)  It was a million degrees in the kitchen--not complaining though because I'm never prepared for the freezing cold.

My mom's table looked really beautiful.  She was wondering what to use for table placesettings the day before, but I guess she figured that out overnight:

Clementines with little "leaves" had everyone's name on them. 

Of course, I didn't get any pictures of my relatives.  What are my photographic priorities here?  I guess we all went home in some sort of food coma.  Totally worth it.

The Fluffs were on their own Thanksgiving night, and I guess this bothered them to be left out.  I came downstairs this morning to find the wishbone from our extra turkey breast on the kitchen floor, clearly gnawed to bits. I don't have pictures of the crime scene, but clearly nobody is feeling guilty about this.

Dear God.
So tonight is my 10 year high school reunion. This makes me laugh because my whole life is a freakin high school reunion.  I'm married to the guy who took me to my senior prom; I'm still best friends with girls who went to high school with me; all of Ron's best friends are guys who went to high school with us; my neighbors (who went to junior AND senior prom together) went to high school with us; one of my very BESTEST friends went to high school with me and has established her career at the same high school.  I know that I'm leaving other stuff out.  But do you see what I mean?  This morning, my other very bestest friend (who is our class prez and also in charge of all of this reunion nonsense) came over and we quizzed each other on the senior portraits in our yearbook. Our "Name the Face" record sort of stunk. I would say that we had a combined 60% recognition rate.  That percentage goes down if you ask whether we could come up with last names in the cases that we could remember first names.  Oh well.

Ron's on his way home from an impromptu football game with a bunch of high school guys, some of whom are here just for the holidays/reunion.  Reports are coming in via text (from people who are not even there) that he suffered injuries on the field.  Considering that he hasn't played football since the Fall 2000 Turkey Bowl (at the aforementioned high-school-that-won't-go-away), this is unfortunate but not surprising.

It's 2pm and I'm still in pajamas. Time to start my day already. I think it's 60-something degrees outside today? I'm going for a run ...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Art credit unknown

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Completely obsessed with ...

... the seasonal shopping bags at Eddie Bauer.

I love love LOVE them.  Apparently, it's an original work by Stine (as in "Christine") Bauer who is/was married to the original Eddie Bauer? (I didn't know there really WAS an Eddie Bauer because everybody knows that Ann Taylor isn't real.  You knew that, right? That's one of the first things they teach you there during your first shift on the floor.) 

The even have the image on serving pieces:

Image via here
AND it's also on blank greeting cards:

Image via here

I have no need for china. (I don't think I ever mentioned that I DID order the red "Winter Song" dinner and salad plates a few months ago--I've been using them for two months now.)  The last thing I need is more dishes. I have plenty of cards and stationary too.  You know what I REALLY wish I could do/have? I wish I could blow up this image to a very large poster size and put it in my kitchen from Thanksgiving through the end of February.  Currently, this guy is in my kitchen year round, and I LOVE it:

Love Park in Philly, looking toward the Art Museum

But, I would love to switch it out with the winter image.  I would try to use the shopping bag for this purpose, but even if my scanner could handle it, I don't want "Eddie Bauer JOY!" printed on it.  Maybe I'll wait for the cards to go half off and then see what I can do? Any thoughts? I know that I'm publicly discussing possible dabblings in copyright infringement, but I'm not planning on selling the image.  Rather, I'm planning on spending too much money on enlarging the image, framing it (however shoddily), and placing it in my kitchen. 

Whatevs. I know I have a lot of free space in my brain if this is the stuff I'm pondering. 

Tomorrow, I need to get started on some of the Thanksgiving sides that I'm bringing to my mom's on Thursday.  I'm actually going to bake a pumpkin pie rather than buy one.  (Somehow, we overlooked the pumpkin pie at last year's dinner and I have since sworn that this will never, EVER happen again.)  Don't be too impressed: I bought the pie crust and I'm using canned pumpkin. No Martha Magic in this house.

You know that grad school has scarred you for life (or a really long time, at least) when Thanksgiving weekend rolls around, and there's a voice in your head that goes, "How far am I on my term papers?  I've finished at least one of them right? Do I have all the books I need to write another 10 pages this weekend?  I REALLY don't want to go down Philly this weekend ... Ohhhh right .... I graduated. MONTHS AGO.  I haven't written a term paper since Spring 2008.  Jesus Christ. Nevermind."

HA! oh well.  So, I'll see you all for NBT tomorrow? You know who you are.

PS--big shout out to Ama who has finished writing her master's thesis once and for frickin all! YAAAAAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!