Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Year in Review

2010 started off on shaky footing.  I was still reeling from a bad, mostly unemployed 2009 with the broadcast job that was sucking my soul. Luckily in January, I got out. I quit to freelance at a magazine for a few weeks, and just when it seemed it was all turning around, I found myself stranded in another bout of unemployment that left me feeling anxious, unproductive and unsure for months. While I know the bad economy was a problem affecting much of our nation, I often felt very alone in my struggles since most of my close friends and family had weathered through it okay, so it was very challenging time for me. Lots of interviews. Lots of rejection. Lots of nothing happening.

To keep me sane, I dove headfirst into a disciplined diet and workout regimen and wedding planning which surprisingly served as a creative outlet for me (also very strange predicament to be planning a wedding when you have no money in the bank. I have my generous and supportive mother to thank for that!) Inspired by my friends, I also picked up my camera in April and started the 365 photo project, which encouraged me to practice photography daily by taking at least one photo a day. I wish I had done more in my time off work, but my worry about money and my future paralyzed me, and so that's just the way it was.

My wedding, in the end of May, was seriously the happiest day of my life, and I couldn't have imagined anything better. It was amazing to have all of our friends and family celebrate our wedding in New Orleans, and I am thrilled to have married my best friend. After a fabulous honeymoon in Costa Rica, with a snap of the fingers, I came back home and I started to get steady freelance work again. Just like that, my life fell back into a steady rhythm, the worries of money and inadequacy slowly disappearing. Man did it feel good. I picked up a steady permalance magazine job with very sane hours and regularly did work from a handful of clients in the evenings and weekends.  The work is not particularly fulfilling or interesting. But I am good at it, the people I work with are nice, I have a lot of variety, low-stress and best of all, I just have an overall sense of gratefulness that I never had before. I am very happy with how things are now.

The second half of the year was fairly quiet and was spent building security again by working a lot, saving money and settling into married life, which did feel a little different. After such a long time as a couple, I didn't think our relationship would change. But now Dan and I are now a family, and our connection has definitely grown stronger.

Finally on steadier ground, I am pleased with how this year turned around. It wasn't perfect, but I feel content, and I have a renewed sense of optimism for the year ahead.

Here's my year in a nutshell:

The Good
The best day of my life.
Saying good-bye to broadcast news.
The s'mores machine.
Exercise-on-demand and hill sprint dates.
Swing dance lessons.
Fridays with Heather and Drake.
Calligraphy makes me really happy.
365 Photo Project.
Wedding planning.
My bachelorette party.
My friendship with Holly.
Bros icing bros.
Costa Rica and Monkey Heaven.
Philly Day trip
Seeing Hello Lonesome on the big screen.
V-town reception, Fly's Grave, Meat Pop-ems and Brett Jackson.
The year of the baby: It seems like everyone we know either had a baby or is currently expecting.
My favorite day of the year: Ocean Grove.
The joy of working.
The German woman.
Running a PR.
Going all out (and on faux Euro vacations) for our birthdays.
Still working our way through the 100 things list.
Holiday Mix

The Bad
The Ousting of Conan.
Orchard Beach.
Eating intestines.
Months of so many interviews, so many rejections.
The death of a wise man.
The death of a friend.

The Ugly
Getting yucky stomach sick once, twice, even on my birthday.
Spending New Year's Eve working in a thankless job in a news TV control room. At midnight, everyone got champagne but me (until five minutes later when someone realized I was there). Thanks guys. I loved you, too.

Favorite Books Read in 2010 (not necessarily written in 2010): A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer

Favorite Movies Seen in 2010 (not necessarily made in 2010): Up and The Social Network

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Weather Outside is Frightful

We had to cut our New Jersey trip short because there was a blizzard a'comin.'

By the time we reached Manhattan on Sunday, the flakes were already coming down.

We nested at home for the rest of the day. This is is how things looked outside our window on Sunday night. It was a crazy storm with lots of snow, high winds, even thunder and lightning! I believed we got dumped with around 20 inches of snow.

We ventured outside on Monday morning and discovered a hushed, white winter wonderland. Many of the streets were still unplowed and empty, including the usually busy Second Avenue (above). We came upon a handful of cars and city buses(!) that got stuck on the streets the night before.

Dan would have preferred to stay home all day. The reason for our outdoor excursion was that we were meeting with my German friend Tom and his brother Ken. I met Tom in Cologne, so I was pretty excited when he contacted me saying that he was visiting New York City for the week and wanted to see me. I was feeling ambitious and suggested we go on a walk in Central Park. But when we met up, it was immediately clear that everyone would rather sit inside a cozy cafe for a coffee and sandwich instead of walking in the snowy tundra.

So that's what we did--after Dan and Ken unsuccessfully tried to help move this guy's stuck car.

After lunch, we said good-bye to the boys (they headed to the place where all Euros go: Abercrombie and Fitch). I forced Dan to walk around Central Park with me, much to his dismay. Here are some of my pics.

I found the entire scene to be peaceful, beautiful and invigorating. Dan found it to be cold.  We didn't stay long.

The next day I had to go to work. It felt like I was the only person going into office that day. My commute had some obstacles.

A lot of people were complaining about how slow the city was cleaning everything up, but you had to find the sense of humor in the situation.

On Wednesday, we braved the bottomless puddles and slushy roads and met the Germans again for a nice dinner at Paprika. I daydreamed of visiting them in Germany for a second travel trip (Polish Ham? With Dan?)

On Thursday, we had a rare LA visitor, Francesca, who was visiting her family in Jersey. We drank wine and ate thai food and talked about the Mets, weddings, Newsies and such.

Five days later, they're still talking about unplowed streets on the news, but I am guessing most of the snow will be gone by Sunday since it's supposed to rain. That's the way snowstorms go here in New York. A big freaking deal one day and gone the next.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dan's First Polish Christmas

Throughout our relationship, Dan and I have always parted ways on Christmas, me to New Jersey and he to California. As marrieds, Dan and I decided that holidays should be spent together--making this the first year in our relationship that we have celebrated Christmas in the same state....this year, we picked New Jersey.

This made the holidays extra special, especially since we got to exchange stockings on Christmas Eve morning. In the past, we usually waited until New Year's when Dan returned from California, but this year we didn't have to wait. In fact, Dan even woke me up early that morning because he was so excited.

We made out pretty well. Santa got Dan personalized stationery, a monster-sized Slim Jim, peppermint bark, a record of his choice and an awesome Beatles poster.

Santa got me a tripod, Green Day rock band, blow pops in my favorite flavors, Japanese candy and doll, two headbands, a desert growing kit, and a Bon Appetit Cookie cookbook.

After stockings, we headed to New Jersey to celebrate with my family Polish style. I think Dan was nervous to break holy bread with my family and eat red borscht and five different kinds of fish, but somehow he managed okay. He had seconds and thirds.

Scenes from the evening:

Martin and Iza fry some flounder. (Nice apron, Martin!)

Annette fries the shrimp.

Dillon entertains us all. (I think my favorite part of the night was when Dillon went around the table gave every single person a great big hug and a "Merry Christmas." He's just the sweetest, sweetest kid.)

Audrey gave some hugs, too.

There was also some of this again.

Present opening!

Dan and me by the tree.

Maxim checking out the dessert spread.

On Christmas Day, Dan and I went to mass in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day eating cookies, reading and napping by the tree.

The day looked something like this.

In the evening, we dropped by Brian's house for dessert (because we needed more sweets).

The night looked something like this.

Here's to another merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cookie Bonanza 2010

This is what I gave my family for Christmas.

Six different cookies:

Jam thumbprints (pre-jammed)

Pfeffernussen (German spice cookies)

Peanut butter (my fave-from the Baked cookbook)

Double chocolate crackle

Sugar cookies

Oatmeal with cherry...all packaged in a tin!

(I also added in some spiced pecans and chocolate bark as extras!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All the Stockers are in LA...except us

They let us join in their west coast party for a bit.

I love these guys.

Case for the Butter Knife

For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to use this... to cut this open.

It wasn't.

Note to self. Don't do that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Windows of Manhattan

I have lived in New York City for eight years, and yet I have never gone to see the famous holiday window displays at all the major department stores.

"Where have you been?" said Dan, as if he goes to see decorated store windows every day. He doesn't. I believe he did it once years ago when his parents were in town.

Don't get me wrong, I usually catch a glimpse of a window or two every year (I don't live in that deep a hole), but I have never tried to visit them all in one walking tour. And so on a very chilly evening this December, I decided to finally do it, just like the tourists, and bring my man Dan with me.

We started the tour at Macy's, walking to Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barney's and finally ending at Bloomingdale's. We thought that every store did a pretty good job at coming up with a window that best reflected their brand and target audience. Macy's did a spin on Miracle on 34th St which had moving figurines, music and narration for the kiddies. Lord & Taylor did a slightly more upscale "Christmas Memories" highlighting Christmas then and now.

Me standing by the Macy's window.

Dan was not very pleased with the Saks windows that depicted rich bitches in glamorous clothes looking annoyed and bored with the children that played around them. Dan called it "sad."

Oh look, and there's the Christmas Tree! (This is my version)

This is Dan's version.

What about me and the tree?

Bergdorf had the best windows by far. They had a travel theme, and while each window matched the luxury sensibility of the department store, they were completely magical, sweeping you away in the spirit in awe and wonder. The detail was amazing.

Dan salutes to Bergdorf.

Barney's was a major disappointment after that. They had partnered with the Food Network so their windows showcased statues of all of their chefs. It all seemed a bit like corporate marketing to me, with logos branded everywhere, and did not invoke the feelings of Christmas. Bloomingdale's didn't really do anything to their windows and by that time, our hands and feet had turned into ice cubes so we were perfectly fine with that. We settled into Patsy's Pizza Restaurant nearby for a warm meal that felt amazing after that long, cold walk. The hardest part was going back outside. Baby, it's cold out there!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Mix

The Christmas spirit continues in the Team Squeen household.

We mailed out our Christmas cards this week. I have been mailing out Christmas cards since I was 12 years old, so I am pretty hardcore about the whole thing. However, now with Dan involved--we getting married and all--I don't think Christmas card send-outs have ever reached these levels of awesome.

We decided over two years ago that we would make a mix CD for our first joint holiday card. You read that right: OVER. TWO. YEARS. AGO. We had the discussion right about the time we got engaged in October 2008 and decided we will do it in 2009 when we got married. But we ended up not getting married until 2010, so the mix was postponed another year.  All this means is that Dan has been tinkering with this thing for ages. Yes, sometimes I would find ourselves in the middle of July listening to every single version of "Little Drummer Boy" available on iTunes for just the right version.

That said, I saw all the heart and soul and hard work that Dan put into this mix, and I wanted you all to know about it. He has a true talent. If there is a such thing as a job where you make mixes, he would be a star employee.

Here I am doing some card stuffing a few weeks ago. Based on my ideas, my talented work friend Liz helped me create the look of the album, and I was in charge of packaging it all together.

We're super excited about the positive response we received, which makes a second holiday mix...feasible. Don't get Dan started. Oh wait. He already did.

Some other fun Christmas things that happened over the weekend. My friend Meagan's mom was in town, and Meagan invited Julie and me over for dinner and to trim her tree.

Here's Meagan.

And Julie (Mom didn't want to be pictured). The tree was so lovely that it was quite a surprise when Meagan told me after wards that after we had left and they had gone to bed, the tree toppled over!

This weekend, Dan and I accomplished a long-time dream of mine and made gingerbread houses. Initially, I planned to make them from scratch, but that seemed like too much work, so I ended up buying us kits with ready-baked gingerbread and frosting.

On Saturday, we built the houses and then let them set overnight.

The following morning, still clad in pajamas, we decorated our houses while cold rain pounded the windows. Here's me with our little gingerbread village.

Dan's house is on the left and mine is on the right. I asked Dan why he has a dead gingerbread man on his lawn, and Dan said that he is not dead, he's making a snow angel. Just in case you were wondering, too.