Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving: The Aftermath

Not sure why I picked this title - it sounds rather ominous, when in reality, Thanksgiving was wonderful. Anywhoo...

Man, that whole "clean the house on Saturday" idea was a great one. It really gave us much more time on Thanksgiving day. We actually stopped and took little breaks, and we were ready before anyone showed up! Go figure. This was the year I decided I was not going to get pissed off if people showed up early and we weren't ready. (One year they started arriving as I was stepping into the shower.) But this year our advance preparations paid off.

I picked up my niece Lauren (since she is currently sans vehicle) and my aunt Mary. When we got back, everyone else was here. I introduced Lauren to everyone then showed her around the house, since it was her first time here. Then I helped Joe "set up the buffet" (his words). We put all the food out on the kitchen counters, said Grace, and formed a line. How fortunate we are to have so many good cooks in the family. Everything was absolutely delicious and we all ate until we couldn't fit anymore inside us. Then we had dessert!

We had a lovely time, and everyone left by about 8:30. Joe, Lauren, Mary and I sat at the kitchen table and talked for another hour, and then I drove them both back to their homes. I was so glad to get back to my home, put on my flannel pajama pants and T-shirt and relax on the sofa! We watched TV together until 11:30 when Joe went to bed. I came up at midnight.

I didn't realize how tired I was, but we both slept until 11am on Friday! I don't think I've ever slept that late, even when I've been up half the night. But it felt wonderfully luxurious to sleep until I was ready to get up - no alarm clock, nothing to disturb my delicious sleep. Joe had to get up at 7:30 and let Jordan outside to pee, but then he came back to bed and fell asleep again.

Friday turned into a day of relaxation and shopping from the comfort of our TV room. As you may know, Joe is a fan of HSN (Home Shopping Network) and would watch it for hours and hours if I didn't protest. But Friday they were having their day of Christmas gift specials so we watched and shopped. We really found some great gifts at prices you couldn't beat at a regular store, even on sale or with a coupon. We got 7 Christmas gifts and never had to get dressed! In fact, we stayed in our pajamas the entire day. Around 1pm we heated up those delicious Thanksgiving left-overs for lunch, then continued watching TV and relaxing. (The main benefit of hosting Thanksgiving is having all the left-overs.) Joe even went back to bed for a nap. Around 8pm we put a frozen pizza in the oven and that was our dinner. Back to relaxing and TV watching. We never showered, we never got dressed, we never left the house. It was fabulous.

Sat we slept until 9:30, showered, dressed, and headed west. We stopped at Kerry & Hugh's and watched as Hugh and Jose installed their new stove. Its a gorgeous retro stove that looks like something from the 1920s. Then we had lunch at Five Guys, and Joe and I headed out to Front Royal for some real, in-store shopping at Big Lots. (Note: Not all Big Lots are created equal. We've been to 2 other Big Lots closer to our house and both were disappointing. If you really want a bargain shopping experience, go to the Big Lots in Front Royal.) We came home with 9 more Christmas gifts, plus several items for ourselves. It was fun! For dinner we heated up those yummy Thanksgiving left-overs and watched TV the rest of the night.

Sun we slept until 10. I watched home improvement/home decorating shows on TV and Joe surfed the internet. Then Joe washed up the last of the Thanksgiving platters and I got out the leaf blower for 'Round 2'. This time I took sinus/allergy medicine to ward off the sinus flare-up I experienced the last time I blew the leaves. It worked. Then I put away the last of the Thanksgiving paraphenalia and vacuumed the main level of the house again. Joe vacuumed upstairs. All day we kept asking each other 'What do you want to do today?' I offered a few suggestions, but Joe never said yes or no to any of them, so we just kept doing little things here and there: cleaning, putting things away, watching TV, surfing the internet, etc. Finally at 5pm it became apparent that we just weren't going to do anything else outside the house. Besides, it was dark now, and a light sprinkle was falling, so it seemed best to stay put. For the 3rd and final time, we heated up those dwindling but wonderful Thanksgiving left-overs for dinner and settled in for a relaxing night of TV. We watched several shows on Logo, which was fun.

It was a wonderful 4-day weekend, full of tasty food, family, laughter, sleep, TV watching, relaxing, and Christmas shopping. Just the way Thanksgiving should be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Preparations for Thanksgiving

Last night Joe & I went to the grocery store for all of our Thanksgiving dinner needs. We spent $127. but saved $31. with our Safeway Club card. Fortunately it wasn't too crowded and we got everything we needed except for the gravy. We forgot it, so we'll have to go out tonight and get some.

As usual, we are hosting the family at our house. Joe is making an 18 lb turkey, homemade dressing (my recipe, although he thinks its his), corn casserole (ala Paula Dean), peas, and biscuits. His sister Mary is bringing mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and macaroni and cheese. His sister-in-law Karen is bringing pumpkin pies and whipped cream. His mother is bringing the traditional Italian favorites: clementines and mixed nuts in the shells. His sister-in-law Denise is bringing a second turkey and potato salad. My aunt Mary is bringing sweet potato shuffle and orange sherbet jello in a mold. We also have a French apple pie and vanilla ice cream in case anyone doesn't want pumpkin pie. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine sure is!

There should be 17 of us this year, split up at three tables. We're hoping to eat at 4pm. Let's hope the turkey is ready on time this year.

My niece Lauren will be with us for the first time this year. In fact, this will be her first Thanksgiving ever, as Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate Thanksgiving or any other holiday. She seems very excited, and I hope she really enjoys being with us.

Last Sat Joe & I did our big, major housecleaning so that tomorrow while he's cooking I will just need to tidy up, set the tables, and get everything ready. All of the table cloths are washed. The 'good' dishes and 'good' flatware are clean and waiting in the sideboard, but I'll need to run the dishwasher tonight to make sure all of the 'everyday' dishes and flatware are clean too, since we'll need some of them.

I'm looking forward to a joyful day with tons of delicious food, family, laughter, and thankfulness for all we have. I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving as well.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Yuck. I'm feeling sick. My sinuses are hurting, I'm congested, and I have a sore throat. I think I have a fall allergy to leaves. It seems that every year, about a week or two before Thanksgiving, when the leaves are falling like crazy, I get sick like this.

I mentioned it to a friend who suggested I might be allergic to leaf mold. I hadn't really considered that leaves get moldy. My friend has a friend whose doctor said he was allergic to leaf mold, so I guess its legitimate. Plus, yesterday I spent about an hour and a half using the leaf blower. Today I have a significant flare up in my symptoms, which previous to the leaf blowing chore, had been slight.

I'm taking an over-the-counter sinus/allergy medication at night, which really helps dry me up and let me sleep through the night. When it wears off during the day I just blow my nose or clear my throat as needed. I don't like taking medication during the day at work because it makes me feel dopey - even the "non-drowsy formula".

The front yard looks like nice though.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Highlights of the film festival

The Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival was... GREAT!

Wed night the weather had once again gotten very warm, so I put the convertible top down and hit the road. Nov 9th at 8pm it was 73 degrees! My spirits were high as I sailed down the highway, singing along with Bette Midler (The Rosemary Clooney Songbook), RuPaul (Supermodel), and Madonna (The Immaculate Collection). I took my bag into the house, turned on the lights, and headed out to find a bite to eat and perhaps a cocktail. But... it was 10:30 on a Wed night. The only places serving food were fast-food restaurants, and although I enjoy the occasional foray into McDonalds and Taco Bell, I just wasn't in the mood for them that night. So I skipped the food and went right for the cocktail. I drove by the Blue Moon, but it looked to be closed, so I stopped at Partners Bistro. The wonderful and talented Matthew was entertaining the handful of patrons with his excellent keyboard skills and nice voice. I had a Malibu and coke.

I stopped at the 24-hour Food Lion on the way back to the house and got a few necessities, which included cereal, milk, and this wonderful strawberry cheescake-flavored pound cake I wouldn't have gotten if Joe were with me. I had a slice of the cake as I watched TV, too excited to go to bed. I finally made myself go to bed shortly before 2am, and I was surprised the next morning that it didn't take me long to fall asleep.

At 8:30 am I left for the box office! I had already read a brief summary of all the films being screened and had filled out my ticket order form. As I stood in line for nearly an hour, I crossed my fingers and thought happy thoughts in the attempt that it would keep my selections from selling out before I got up to the ticket counter.

Success!!! I was able to get tickets to all the films I'd selected except one. It wasn't that the film had sold out, I just couldn't get the show times to fit into any of the openings in my schedule. Without further ado, here's what I saw:

American Potpourri Shorts, a collection of American short films that included 'Flix' a 2 minute animated film about the high price of theatre tickets and the temptation to buy pirated films, 'The Road Taken' another animated film without dialog about a woman's decision when she unexpectedly finds she's expecting, 'Pretty Ugly' a cute film about a funky high school girl who wants to go to the prom but not with any of her classmates, 'Pee Shy' about a group of boy scouts whose scary campfire stories get out of hand, 'I Killed Zoe Day' a whodunit murder mystery told in multiple flashbacks, 'Such Great Joy' about a woman who brings her new girlfriend to the engagement party being thrown for her and her ex-fiance, 'Night Swimming' about a gay teen and his best friend who begin to tackle subjects more complicated than swimming. Although I'm not a fan of animated films, this collection of shorts only included 2 animated films and both were very short. I enjoyed the collection in all.

My Summer of Love, a story about a working class Scottish girl who falls in love with a wealthy English girl. Not only is their summer of love complicated by their drastically different background, but it is further complicated when one girl finds the other has lied to her about several things. A bit of a strange ending, but very interesting and enjoyable. Recommended rental if you see it on Netflix.

Loggerheads, based on a true story of a young man fascinated with the loggerhead turtles of coastal North Carolina. He was given up for adoption as an infant, raised by his adopted parents (a preacher and his wife), then kicked out of the house at 17 because of coming out. His biological mother yearns to find him, and his adopted parents struggle with their feelings and their religious beliefs. Very nicely done. Recommended rental.

Saving Face, the story of a closeted Chinese-American woman who's widowed mother suddenly becomes pregnant at age 48. The mother is ostracized from the close-knit Chinese-American NY community and moves in with her closeted lesbian daughter. A cute story with a good message and a lot of laughs. Recommended rental.

Cote D'Azur, a film I saw this passed summer during the DC Pride Film Festival. This film shows that love can mean many different things: commitment, romance, family, tolerance. For more details of the plot, see my entry on June 5. In French with subtitles. Recommended rental.

Mysterious Skin, the dark tale of two 8-year olds who had played on the same little league baseball team. One grows up believing he was abducted by an alien. The other grows up to become a hustler. They meet in order to help each other deal with the truth of their shared past. Excellent cinematography and a compelling story. Recommended rental.

Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, the ficticous story of a controversial author and poet, whose 'muse' has been a mystery for decades. This film was too long (over 2 hours) and could have easily been told in much less time if the editor had picked a theme or two and concentrated on it/them. There were way too many 'messages' and the production quality was poor. Don't bother renting this one unless you have insomnia and need something to put you to sleep.

The Favor, a hilarious comedy about a female couple in Barcelona who want to have a baby. They try to implement a plan to drug one of the women's visiting brother so he will impregnate the other woman. Everything goes wrong, but you'll laugh out loud at nearly every scene. In Spanish with subtitles. Recommended rental.

That Man: Peter Berlin, a documentary about the self-created gay icon of the '70s. John Waters and Armistead Maupin contribute their impressions and recollections. On a scale of 1-10 I'd give this a 5. Although the topic, photos, and video clips were interesting, most of the dialog with Peter Berlin was vague and lengthy. I'd only recommend this if you are a Peter Berlin fan.

Heights, a Merchant Ivory production, and possibly one of the best films of the festival. Four or five independent stories appear to be happening in the beginning, until characters from one story begin showing up in another story, demonstrating the whole inter-connectedness of life. Very 'Tales of the City', so of course I loved it. A solid and believable performance by Glenn Close. Recommended rental.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The saying holds true: Time flies when you're having fun. And we've been having some fun lately...

Fri evening Michael & Jamie (aka: The Newlyweds) came over for a little snack as we waited for their friend Missy to arrive at the airport. They picked her up and met us at Bangkok 54, a stylish Thai restaurant on Columbia Pike. It looks like a place you'd expect to see in Manhattan, with its high, open ceiling and sleek decor. We enjoyed a tasty Thai dinner and some interesting cocktails: I had a pumpkin martini and Michael had a Basil cocktail. Mmmm... Its fun to try new martinis.

The Newlyweds reminded us that the next day was the last of the Civitan Rummage sales until next spring. Imagining crazy bargains from vendors who didn't want to store stuff for 6 months, we decided to go. It was a bright, sunny, warm day, and I was overdressed with a long sleeve shirt. I hadn't paid attention to the weather. Two hours later we came home with a cute set of old aluminum canisters (sugar, flour, tea) and a 3-tier dessert stand. Fabulous bargains!

We changed into shorts and T-shirts, tossed a suitcase in the trunk and Jordan into the back seat, and headed south with the top down on the convertible. It was 72 degrees and sunny on Nov 5th!!! The traffic gods were on our side and we ran into no typical bad traffic on 95, so we got to Kerry & Hugh's log home in the woods in 2 1/2 hours. We had a lovely weekend talking, laughing, eating, drinking, playing pool, and watching movies. I hadn't played pool in years, but it was a lot of fun. Sun afternoon we headed home, again with the top down. It was clear and sunny, 76 degrees. Although I had originally been hoping for a cool, Nov weekend wrapped in fleece and flannel, this unusually warm weather was certainly welcomed by this convertible-enthusiast. Fun!!!

On the way home on Sun we stopped at Joe's mom's house, but she wasn't there. We headed over to his sister's house to see her new appliances. Her stove, dishwasher and fridge all broke at about the same time so she replaced all three with new stainless steel appliances.

This is a short week for me at work, as I am taking off Thurs and Fri to go to the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival. I am so excited! I've gone to the festival several years and have always enjoyed seeing the indy films. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but I can hardly stomach the typical 'Hollywood' releases, where the 'good' characters always live happily ever after and you can figure out how the movie will end after the first 10 minutes. The indy films are not made to appeal to the mindless masses. They're not made to make money. They're made to entertain, to tell a story, to make you think, to let you escape.

I bought a $60. RB Film Society membership, which entitles me to enter the box office one hour earlier than the general public, and to purchase all of my film tickets for the entire festival, rather than just the tickets for that day's films. I can't wait!

Joe enjoys the occasional indy film too, but he's not interested in spending an entire day watching 3 or 4 films. So he and his mom and Jordan will come up Fri night after work. I'll report on some of the films in a few days.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I have always been a fan of McDonalds. I really do like the food. I did a project on McDonalds in a business class I took several years ago. Despite the fact that McDonalds is known for their hamburgers, they didn't start out that way. The first McDonalds was a place to get milkshakes.

I can remember going to McDonalds with my family in the early 70s. Because my family was of modest means, we 4 kids were allowed to get a Big Mac, small fries and a small drink - OR - a cheeseburger, small fries and a milkshake. We were not allowed to get a Big Mac AND a milkshake... it was one or the other. I can still remember going there on Thurs nights after church, my sisters in dresses and me in a suit. The floor was brown tile, the chairs were rust colored, and the booths and tables were gold and beige. Yep, our McDonalds was stylin'.

I also remember going to the new McDonalds built near our house in the early 80s, when 2 of my 3 sisters were married and none were living at home. It was close enough to walk to. I remember my best friend Rodney would come over for the weekend, and we would walk without any parents to the McDonalds and 'dine'. Going to McDonalds then meant independence. We both got small allowances so we could order whatever we wanted. I remember the thrill of ordering a Big Mac, fries AND a milkshake! The decor of this McDonalds was a bit more hip. It had a tan/gold tile floor, beige chairs and booths, and navy blue tables.

I can remember in the late 80s when a new McDonalds opened near Potomac Mills Mall. The mall had been open for a few years, so when they began developing the land surrounding the mall, McDonalds bought in. But this was a special McDonalds - it had a 1950s theme! The floor was black and white checkerboard tile, the booths were covered in sparkly red vinyl, there were photos of 1950s film and music stars on the walls, and record albums hung from the ceiling. Sometimes I'd meet my friends there for dinner when I was working at the mall. Not long after that, a drive-thru only McDonalds was built on the other side of the mall. There was no customer entrance or seating area; it was strictly a drive-thru.

In the mid 90s I was living with my first boyfriend in Gaithersburg, a growing community within a reasonable commute to DC. The McDonalds near our house was rather new, and had the latest, hippest color scheme: purple, teal green, and raspberry! Yeah, that's right. It was colorful. As I recall, this was the first McDonalds that gave you a cup so you could determine your own perfect ratio of ice and soda.

In 1998 I began working in Herndon, after having moved back to VA in 1996. The McDonalds near my office was located in a shopping center. I don't mean out in the parking lot of a shopping center, but rather, IN the shopping center, between the bagel place and the cellular store. It must have been the smallest McDonalds ever, and it was always crowded. A year or so later they opened a new, normal size McDonalds half a block up the street. I have been going there for about 6 years now. It is hands down the most efficiently run fast food restaurant I have ever been to - ever. Even on the busiest days at the busiest times, you never wait in line more than a few seconds. You place your order and pay, and by the time you put your change or debit card away, your food is ready and on your tray. It should be the model for all fast food restaurants. My only complaint is the woman whose job it is to wipe down and restock the condiment area. Lots of times when I'm in a hurry I find myself waiting for her to finish wiping the 3 droplets of coke from the stainless steel counter before I can grab my straw and run out the door. But its a small price to pay for such great service otherwise.

Then there's the McDonalds closest to our house. From its color scheme, it appears to have been decorated in the mid-80s, with its southwestern hues of dusty turquoise, dusty peach, and beige. There are even wallpaper inserts on the walls with a southwestern, American Indian motif. The food and service are usually good there, but occasionally there is a problem with the a/c in the summer. The left side and the main counter area will be fine, and the right side will be noticeably warmer. But when you're really in the mood for chicken McNuggets with hot mustard sauce, one does what one must.

Last Fri when Joe & I were headed up to the beach, we decided to stop at a McDonalds in our town (not the one closest to our house). We were really surprised to see that it had recently been remodeled. I nicknamed it the 'Bistro McDonalds'. There are no booths, and no stationary chairs bolted to the floor in front of the tables. The lighting is dim, coming from tiny spots in the ceiling. There is a circular ceiling 'sculpture' with indirect lighting behind it, too. There are tall tables with high bar stools, and some regular tables with silver aluminum chairs. Instead of wallpaper, the walls are covered in a faux granite material (likely a laminate). There were large flat-panel plasma TV screens mounted in the corners of the ceiling, playing CNN. It was the wildest thing I'd ever seen in a McDonalds! With this 'Bistro McDonalds' we began to wonder what would be next? I've already seen a DVD rental machine in one McDonalds. Credit and debit cards are accepted at all McDonalds, including the drive-thru window. So what's next? Maybe a partnership with massage therapists to knead your muscles while you eat? Maybe a partnership with Starbucks and the local beauty school so you can get a pedicure while you sip a latte? Who knows, but I'm sure that whatever it is, it will be successful.