Thanksmas…and Beyond!

From http://countmeblue.blogspot.com/2007/11/
cartoons-of-week-late-edition.html

I’m pretty excited that Thanksgiving is in less than a week. Somehow, it sneaks up incredibly fast, so while things are crazy in our life right now, it forces us to stop and take a few moments to simply be grateful. It’s my second-favorite holiday, and I’m like a kid about Christmas, so that’s saying a lot.

I’ve heard a lot of friends and observed others complaining that Christmas comes on quite fast. There’s an argument about the holiday’s commercialism vs. the real reason for the season. Well, when I start hearing the Christmas music on the radio the day after Halloween, I don’t think that it’s that omnipotent being that controls stores’ holiday sales forcing it. For me, it’s that feeling of overwhelming love and peacefulness and good will that overtakes you on Christmas that is so powerful that it wants to be felt for more than just one day. I always thought that if, for some reason, I was a hermit, I’d still somehow “know” when Christmas Day arrived. There’s just something different about the day. It’s bigger than us.

So, I can’t complain when it starts spilling over elsewhere. The spirit of Christmas can be found on Thanksgiving; really, they’re both rooted in the same theme. It’s about love. It’s about finding the selflessness and humility within oneself. It’s about family. So, ultimately, aren’t they both grateful holidays? I’m thinking this is why society (or the higher-ups at Best Buy and JCPenney) have pushed Christmas into November…and October, at times.

This year, I’m trying something a little different for my loved ones as far as presents go. There are certain people that I’ll be shopping regularly for: the hubs (I’m his #1 giver now, plus I have to be in cahoots with Santa to make sure that my guy gets what he deserves — and he deserves lots for putting up with me!), my Secret Santa relative (my mom pulls names for each of us so that we don’t have to buy for 5 siblings), my niece and nephew (‘cuz they deserve it and Christmas means so much more when kids are involved), and pitching in for parents (who’s more important than parents?!?!).

However, I’m trying to give a more thoughtful gift for those who mean a lot to both Dave and I, so there’s lots of hands-on DIYing in store. I’ll provide some hints as we get closer to the big day, but since I know that some of these well-loved gift recipients are reading. *waves* Hi, guys! Too bad, you’ll have to wait to see what you get. πŸ™‚

This doesn’t mean that I’m not taking part in one of the fun aspects of the holiday season. While you may cry “Commercialism! Gross over-spending!! How dare you support this?!” I see it more as a morning of fun with my best friend. My sister, Mary, and I have a little tradition of attacking the early morning Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving. Her husband and his brother go after the possible-blood-spilling, sharp-elbows-needed finds (generally electronics), and we’re grateful for that! In the meantime, Mary and I look at our well-organized lists (created Thanksgiving evening, spilling over the ads which we already have memorized, thanks to the online updates) and determine what we need to get and where. We create a schedule and take along coffee or cocoa to keep the line-waiting bearable. There have been years that we sang carols in line — I recall 50% dirty looks and 50% smiles (and even joining in!) while flakes of white fluttered down. We don’t fight with folks, we’re cheery and have grins from ear to ear. It’s an awesome way to start off the true Christmas season, and I figure that when, one day, we have kiddies to buy for, it’ll still be an important tradition. This year, I don’t have as much to buy, so once we’re done with our early shopping, we’re going to do some Christmas decor shopping for ourselves at Hobby Lobby. So can’t wait!

So, what’re you all doing for the holiday season? Are you excited that it’s upon us, or does it depress you like it does so many others?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Actually so jealous of this picture. Dirty secret time:
I have a huge crush on these wide-plank wood floors.
*drools like Homer*

Go ahead and sing along. Yes, the corny Johnny Mathis version. Don’t scoff or sneer, it really is a wonderful time of the year. For me, this is the time of the year when, for whatever reason, the most good gets done around Casa de Dellecese.

Last year, we were fast approaching our first holiday season in our very own house. I’m not sure why, but we got on a painting kick — first, the dining room; then, the living room. The dining room took place at the time of year when the pace of activities REALLY picks up — ie I wasn’t a huge fan of getting the job done, but Dave encouraged me that it needed to be done, sooner rather than later. So, using a couple of evenings in the middle of a hectic week, I rolled a more muted red over a *POW* of purple paint — much more rich and less in-your-face. Unfortunately, I was so miserable, I failed to put a 3rd coat on. It’s not THAT noticeable, but to me…of course, it is. Still gotta get on that one. Nothing’s ever quite *perfect*.

The following weekend, we rolled up our sleeves to lighten up our living room. It had been a deep brownish taupe; a good color, but just too dark for a living room. So, while we picked up the new red tone for the dining room, we grabbed a lighter taupe for the living room, and a back-up sandy color swatch as a back-up option.

This just happened to occur during the first weekend that it snowed, so there we were with the room torn apart, newspaper (always reusing, even before we were aware we were doing it, hee hee) everywhere, and Christmas music blaring from our local “Christ-Mix” radio channel (no, not necessarily Christian; the “i” is short). I’ve gotta tell ya that the feeling of FINALLY giving in to the Christmas hype every year definitely helps when you’re undertaking a labor-intensive DIY project. The experience brought Dave and I together more (it was one of the first projects we actually did TOGETHER, even though we’d been in the house for a good 6 months) and also taught me a valuable lesson: If you’re the better painter, odds are you’ll get stuck doing a majority of the painting. Dave’s incredibly talented at many, many things in this life; I’m envious of him for a lot of wonderful traits and characteristics. However, painting is one that he does not excel at. He can roll, for the most part, but who was the one at the top of the ladder when it was past bedtime, brush in hand? That’d be me. Whose partner-in-crime was holding a bright flashlight (lots of shadows!!!) saying what a great job she was doing? That’d be Dave. We’re good like that, though.

I LOVE the color of our living room. It’s a modern tan, yet “fits” with the age of the house. It made Christmas decorating a lot more fun.

Oh, and one final DIY project I performed before some holiday relaxation: a bit of a makeover surprise. My ever-sweet, -willing besties, Mary (my sis) and Beth (best friend for yyyyyears) came over the morning of Christmas Eve (while Dave worked — a shortened day, so we had to haul hiney) to help me empty, paint, and redecorate our tiny front “sun room.” It’s a room we were never able to use — here are the “before” and “after” shots. Man, was he shocked when he got home to see a new seating area, storage areas, etc. Oh, and the color was the other paint chip that we had picked as a possibility for the living room — which Dave preferred.

Sorry, no “cluttered, full o’ crap” “before” shot. I’d already moved it all out.
The antique rocking chair from my grandpa’s house.
Means so much to have it.

Any home improvement projects going on around your place this time of year? I know several of our good friends are going through the process of purchasing homes — eek! Good luck to you all! Us, we just put in a new front door (SO MUCH SAFER!!! I’ll be posting about it soon) and are making plans of projects around the house when the white stuff finally starts to stick – dependent, of course, on the newlywed/Christmas budget. πŸ˜‰ Don’t want anyone thinking that I’m not realistic or that we’re not normal. Money is not endless. Home improvement project plans, apparently, are. Planning, however, is free.

Sidenote: Wedding Bling

So, while I try to avoid theknot.com like high fructose corn syrup these days (since the wedding is minus 30+ days since happening — ie I’m already hitched and forever done with those stress-inducing web sites!), a link on my Facebook news feed caught my eye today: What Your Engagement Ring Says About You.

You should know that I ADORE my engagement ring, and love that my “forever bling” all goes together so well. The ring Dave gave to me is all the more important because it came from his grandmother — his mother presented him a couple of “choices” that she had inherited after her mother’s death, and he knew immediately that this one (after retrofitted with a new white gold band to match the setting) was THE one. It’s simple with delicate filigree detailing and clearly vintage-yet-somehow-still-modern. So, I figured it’d be neat to see if what they had to say is true.


Β 
Okay. If you were to get a look of me at this very moment, you’d know that the “Your style” isn’t 100% accurate. While I’m pretty traditional (kind of), I am not always utterly put together. Sure, I try, but not TOO hard. Currently, I’m adorned with my after-school uniform: sweatpants, T-shirt (my favorite “Feel Me, I’m Organic” organic cotton tee) and my ever-present green VERMONT on heather gray sweatshirt. Coziness! Who says newlyweds have to be all sexy ‘n stuff? Pish posh. I’ve always been one to buck some traditional ways — which is another reason I question the “Your style” verdict.

However, I’d say that the relationship and wedding descriptions are spot-on. Dave IS my best friend (not that I don’t have others). How could you marry someone who you didn’t trust talking about, heck, weird health issues or awkward financial situations with? Or giggling like Peter Griffin when one of us quacks (okay, when I quack) or shout “Approved!” at Target (or Lowe’s…or Christmas Tree Shop…or….). Hmm, come to think of it, he’s usually the one laughing at me. And I like it. πŸ˜‰ But when he comes out with something unexpectedly hysterical, I give props and laugh until my belly hurts. It works.

And, as for the wedding. Hee hee. Yeah. That whole “takes a lot of planning to make things look this effortless” is SOOOOO painfully true. And, yet, we never really “lost it” in the midst of planning. I think I just got pretty introverted and kept a lot of the stresses in, rather than turning into the infamous bridal monster. It got to the point where, if it wasn’t already thought of in my planning, it just didn’t matter. And, after the fact, I heard so much positive feedback that the day was so personal with clearly well-considered touches that it was palpable — wahoo! Totally what we were going for — that and a laid-back FUN time. So, it was pretty unfussy and relaxed…but still completely romantic. Hard not to with a satin wedding dress, Rolls Royce, calla lilies, a birdcage veil, a setting like Beardslee, and one’s very own Prince Charming-meets-Jimmy Stewart-meets-Cary Grant-meets-every-nice-person-I’ve-ever-met. *sigh* What a great day.


Add some filigree around the diamonds and you’ve pretty much got my band.
Perfectly suited for the engagement ring.
There’s no ring in cyberspace similar enough to my engagement ring.
Seriously, an original. Aaaaand I can’t get a good enough picture of it. Sorry!
Β 

Inside the Honeymoon: Final Edition

“So…what’d you do?” “Did you do anything fun?” “How was it?” I assume when people ask these questions about our honeymoon, they’re actually, genuinely wondering about our escapades while there. (I usually have a pretty dirty mind, but when it comes to Dave and I, we don’t divulge a s-i-n-g-l-e thing; we’re pure as the driven snow…which never made much sense to me — once you drive on snow, it’s not so pure anymore, is it? Great, now I’ll have to look up the origin of that saying.)

It sounds pretty bad, what with my only being *gulp* 28, and it only being about a month post-honeymoon, but I’m starting to forget what we did! It seems like SO long ago!! Life has a way of sneaking up on you and stealing precious memories and moments. So, what you’ll see is what I can recall. πŸ™‚

A lot about our wedding bucked convention, and I LOVE that. When people said something wouldn’t work, I tried not to let it get me down. Sure, my thoughts were running until I just decided to relax and have fun… “Will they really USE the Flip cam?” “Will the pie cut as well as a cake?” “Will the vintage car show up at the right time?” “Will we actually have time to eat and enjoy our food — seriously?” and, most importantly in MY worrisome mind, “Will the ‘father/daughter dance’ alternative work??” And, of course, it all worked just fine. Better than fine.

One thing that EVERYONE was 100% correct about, though? We. Were. Exhausted. Nevermind the champagne and other…*ahem*…”libations” we thoroughly enjoyed with our awesome friends. That night, I had to run to my mom’s house to pick up lots of the “oops, I forgot several important toiletries…and my toothbrush and brush…” items, which I didn’t expect to have to do, and by the time I got home it seemed like bedtime. Regardless, we stayed up opening presents, crying, reading cards, crying, jotting down who gave what, being touched to more tears…get the point? Oh, and throw in a heavy dose of spoiling Beardslee, who knew something was up — and that we were overflowing with guilt about leaving him for more than a day. Granted, we had my mom and sis, who are Class “A” spoilers, watching over him, but it was a bit step for us.

So, it took a little while to leave on Sunday, but we weren’t in a hurry. (Heck, we were early and had to wait for our room, after all.) Here we are saying ‘bye to the kid…

Face nudges. Daddy’s feeling SOOOOO guilty for leaving.

…and Mommy giving some loving. Doesn’t he have a
suspicious look? “Tell me why you have your coat on.”

We finally left, after packing and grabbing some snacks, and had a VERY fun trip to Vermont. We decided to take the scenic route after a suggestion from my parents, driving through the back roads of Central New York all the way there. It was a perfectly gorgeous day and we gained a huge appreciation for some of the small towns in the area — we didn’t realize how historic and, at the same time, modern some of the small cities and towns are. Definitely worth a day trip or two!

When we reached Middlebury, Dave noticed he was having phone problems. Soooo…

“Hi, Verizon. I’m on my honeymoon, and…”
After discovering that our room wasn’t yet ready, we went for a walk around Middlebury. While there was a lot about the town to admire, we loved the cafe and, especially, their community theater — which had recently ended a special showing of Christopher Lloyd in “Death of a Salesman”. Of course, we sneaked in and stole tons of pictures of their recently-renovated building — gorgeous and classy, just what we’d like for ILTC.


The next day, we aimed our Sportage in the direction of Burlington (ie north). Along the way, we stopped in at the Middlebury Co-Op, which you can read more about here, and the famous Magic Hat Brewery. Of course, you’ve gotta taste what the locals have to offer.

After a day of LOTS of shopping and walking, we headed “home” to Middlebury. The city was hard to describe. I liked it, of course; lots of green initiatives and Vermont Fresh Network eateries from which to choose…but I can’t put my finger on a decisive description of the place itself. Perhaps I’d need to visit more than what we saw, like down by the lake.

So, after getting a good feel for Middlebury and Burlington, it was time to head down south and, alas, back home. But, along the way we had plenty of time to stop to look at antiques and check out other local shops. Here’s some of the fun we had…

The traditional “Antiquing in VT” uniform…
who knows whose head that was on!
…eeeewwwwww.
As Mom would say, I’m “in my glory.”
First person to leave a message as to the TRUE reason
I NEEDED a picture of this wins a prize. πŸ™‚
Anyone? Anyone?
My guy can read!
Practicing his anchorman skills.
aka HEAVEN ON EARTH!!!
You MUST visit here! The couple is awesome.
Their stuff is incredible. It’s home.

One reason we loved Branford Antiques? This baby…
now residing in our dining room (sans Victrola speakers).
So, this ends our tour of Vermont. We love going, so I presume we’ll have many future trips here…and Massachusetts…and Maine…and Philadelphia…and, of course, NYC…and Toronto…and Europe…and….

Side note: As pure as the driven snow

Meaning Entirely pure.

Origin

‘Driven snow’ is snow that has blown into drifts and is untrodded and clean. Examples of the precise text ‘as pure as [the] driven snow’ aren’t found in print until around the start of the 19th century; nevetheless, we have to thank Shakespeare for this popular simile. The complete phrase ‘as pure as the driven snow’ doesn’t appear in Shakespeare’s writing, but it almost does, and he used snow as a symbol for purity and whiteness in several plays. In The Winter’s Tale, 1611:

Autolycus: Lawn as white as driven snow.
In Macbeth, 1605:
Malcolm: Black Macbeth will seem as pure as snow.
Of course, the tradition of brides wearing white in many cultures stems from the association between the colour and purity. This was referred to as early as the 1400s, as in John Lydgate’s poetry for example, circa 1435:
Alle cladde in white, in tokne off clennesse, Lyche pure virgynes.
An alternative derivation of this simile has been proposed, which originates from an altogether different source. Mediaeval tanners used animal faeces in the leather tanning process – specifically dogs’ droppings, to which they gave the incongruous name ‘pure’. Some have speculated that pure referred to the white form of the said stools that used to be more commonly seen and that ‘as pure as the driven snow’ comes from that association. It doesn’t; the ‘pure’ name came from the purification of the raw leather caused by the enzymes present in the excrement and has nothing to do the ‘as pure as driven snow’.

(Obtained from The Phrase Finder, http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/as-pure-as-the-driven-snow.html)

Marching Band and Giving Thanks

The leaves have mostly fallen to meet a cold ground. The air is crisp, and from the moment that the scent of chimney fires reached my nose a month or so back, I knew it was the time of year to start giving thanks. In Upstate New York, this season can hit you in late summer, or flip flop between the occasional flurry and 60-degree days before finally settling in for a short burst of true autumnal behavior. I wouldn’t give up having four seasons for anything, but somehow autumn is my favorite — along with my husband’s. Why else would we get married in October, when I could’ve easily planned for a summertime event? It just didn’t feel right or true to who we are.

When I was younger, this season meant that our constitutions (honed and developed so keenly during the summer months to endure sweaty, faint-inducing hours practicing the strength behind perfect posture, playing and holding an instrument perfectly, rolling one’s feet, breathing at the perfect moments, and reaching a hundred pre-determined positions on the field) turned to being able to do all of the above in dark, muddy, beyond “chilly” conditions — and often in uncomfortable wool uniforms. Field band marching was more challenging to me even than running the mile each year — a huge pain in my butt, given my asthmatic fits. Yet, I loved it, and everyone in the band loved it, or else they wouldn’t have been there, putting up with the long night practices, screaming adults, and giving up beloved teenage Saturdays to accompany the football team at home and compete with other bands hours away until late in the evening. More than all the pain, yelling, laughter and incredible music (both on the field and on the bus), I remember and cherish the silence behind Fisher Elementary School.

Once we took the field and, later, when the final instrument silenced, there was a lot of waiting. Waiting for the director to give the drum major the signal to start. Waiting to punish us for a poor practice night. Waiting to teach us that sometimes, in life, you need patience more than you do talent. Waiting before finally sending us either to perform yet another run-through or, with a huge sigh of relief, home for the night. While waiting, it was inevitable that our eyes would glance upward to the stars. I’m grateful for the patience we learned, but also for the magnificent view, much like a globe of black construction paper and twinkling dots, that the field presented us. Crisp, perfect nights where all you could hear was the breathing of your band mates, who, of course, were viewing the same perfect scene. It was a gift that we never expected when signing up to be a part of the Mohawk Marching Mohicans or, in my case, being thrust by family dutyΒ  and honor to it (I don’t remember ever putting my name on a list). And I’m still grateful for it. I’m not sure that anyone we encounter who wasn’t a part of those very special, select years of marching can everΒ  really appreciate it. I know that it will be a shared secret that we hold; looking up at a picture-perfect, clear, star-riddled night only to smile slyly. The silent feeling that overcame the band as we watched a rare falling star noiselessly scrape across the darkness; no “ooo”s or “aaah”s, just knowing.

And, so, at this crisp, crunchy time of year, I am grateful for many things. Those old memories that, no matter what new memories arise, will always be a cherished gift in my heart. For the new memories of adulthood which constantly surprise me as “not what I expected” out of adulthood — and loving that they’re so very much better than those I imagined. Sure, I never met Peter Tork, but if I hadn’t been arm-in-arm with Dave at just the right moment, I wouldn’t have bumped into Paul McCartney (not that we’re comparing here!). I haven’t a single instrument in my house now, although I WILL, soon, someday, and I’m grateful that my future children will have an opportunity to widen their horizons with the integration of musical sensibility into their lives.

That I have the husband I never knew or expected would be so good and kind and supportive, I believe I will be forever thankful and wonder to myself, “Did my dad have a hand in this?” I always thought that he never left me anything, and was quite sour about it. But, at those moments where a budget is taunting me down with no sign of ending its choke-hold on our finances, or when, in the future, I’m staring down the barrel of unknown sadness or hardship, I’ll know that I was offered a lifelong gift that, with little doubt, was sent my way to treat me just as he’d have liked, and somehow the bad amends itself and my husband is still there to give me a “Thank God we’re through it” hug. Or, when I’m humbled by being asked to participate in a meaningful project that Dave, with unwavering faith and assurance in my ability, offers. I thank my father for Dave, and I thank his family and countless friends for making him as understanding and wonderful as he is.

We may not have everything we want; hardwood floors? Gutters? A new dining set? Tons of cashola? Happiness for every single friend and family member? No. Yet, I don’t remember a Thanksgiving that I’ve felt luckier, and I foresee a holiday season that rivals the joy that we felt 10/9/10. And, for that, I am utterly grateful.

Inside the Honeymoon, Part II: Nummies

And we’re back for Part Deux of our honeymoon adventures — what we ATE. While I don’t remember every little thing we indulged in, food-wise, I know that we were SO very impressed by the freshness of the food available in Vermont, even (or should I say “particularly”) in restaurants. Here I assumed that I would just eat to excess without a care to the organic or local factor of its ingredients; don’t we always do that during a vacation or holiday? Well, weren’t we surprised to find that we essentially had an easy locavore challenge during our honeymoon!
The reason that it was so simple to find locally-grown foods while practically eating out the entire time was because of Vermont’s Fresh Network. This organization’s goal is to connect chefs with local farmers to not only stimulate the economy but provide fresh, local food for residents. What a great idea, right?! We came back home and thought, “Why can’t we do that?!” Well, instead of sitting on our butts complaining, we’re actually thinking about what we can do to make our own. πŸ˜€

Anyhoo, so from the moment we walked into our hotel, we noticed the VFN logo (yep, our inn’s restaurant was local, too! It was green, after all) — and started keeping an eye out at other restaurant store fronts for the same logo. From Burlington to Bennington, it was there, that 4″x4″ sticker logo. I love that thing.

Our first meal in VT was actually eaten while we were waiting for our room to be ready.


And, did I mention, outdoors? It was a little chilly, but it was a perfect New England autumn day — why else would we have honeymooned in VT?! We grabbed our lunch at a cafe named The Hungry Mind (which reminded Dave of his old haunt, “The Thirsty Mind”, in Mass.), where they provided a side salad with every sandwich or panini. We grabbed all-natural beverages and a bag of (also all-natural) chips. Delish and perfect after searching high-and-low for anything that was open and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

What else did we find in Middlebury? Well, incredible gourmet food at Middlebury Inn, our hotel (also locally-sourced). Oh, and my favorite “CAN WE MOVE HERE?!” point of interest? The Middlebury Natural Foods Co-Op!!! It was like going to a traditional grocery store — only everything’s either all-natural, local, or organic — sometimes all of the above! While we didn’t eat here, we did enjoy visiting it (and buying some cheap organic soap). Here’s Dave, not realizing he’s in the shot…hee hee…and a vast array of local veggies!

Look at the SIZE of this place!!

Organic cat products, anyone?

Mmmm. Salad bar. Why CAN’T we live there?! (And by “there” I mean IN the co-op! ;-D)

Can we say “lunch every single day if I lived here”?

Me, loving it. Dave was incredibly supportive and even forced a picture in front of the place. πŸ™‚ Lucky lady!
So, both breakfasts were all at the Inn, as were two of the three dinners. Our first lunch was from the Hungry Mind (eaten in the park). Our second, in Burlington, was at New Moon. This was my side salad (I still wonder if they got the order wrong) and panini…

This place was terribly awesome. The food was all prepared/served from an “in the round” center island, and you could have them make any salad or sandwich imaginable. They also had soup and other things, but all in all it was just delicious and, again, another VFN participant. AWESOME!


By the time we left Middlebury to travel home, I don’t recall that we stopped to eat along the way. I almost think that we noshed on the snacks that my best friend (and maid of honor) Beth have given us — we don’t have a Trader Joe’s, and, knowing our propensity for organic/all natural goodies, she gave us a huge basket of snacks, several of which we brought along with us. We finally stopped in Troy (after a long day o’ shoppin’ along the way out of VT) for our final “honeymoon meal” at Brown’s Brewery. It was DELICIOUS and, while I’m not sure if the food was local or not, the brewery itself is about self-sustainability, the 3 Rs, and their own Clean Water Act (there’s a particular brew you can purchase which provides funds toward preserving a local reservoir…which I thought was purdy darn cool.

So, for the most part, our honeymoon food was not only ecologically friendly, but delicious! We couldn’t be happier that we chose Vermont as the site of our honeymoon. Next up? What we did to keep busy traveling around VT.