Monday, December 26, 2011

Dillon and me: A Christmas Love Affair

I like kids a lot, but they usually ignore me. I try to be friendly and fun, and in response, they run in the opposite direction.

So you can imagine my surprise when my grand-nephew Dillon requested that I sit next to him at Christmas Eve dinner.

Who, me???!!!

And what a meal it was. Dillon and I bonded over our borscht, fried shrimp and pierogis. I love a child who eats a beet soup.

After dinner, we had a surprise visit from Santa Claus! Here's a pic of Santa with Dillon and Martina. Audrey is hiding behind the couch. "I don't like Santa," she explained after he left.

(Doesn't Santa look an awful lot like Martin?--weird!)

Jesus was in the house, too. Here's Pete and Audrey.

Kasia and Andrej.

Santa brought a sack filled with presents including these awesome boxing gloves. Dillon got knocked out a few times.

Annette was the most excited about Cookie Bonanza. I was pretty stoked too!

The 2011 Cookie Bonanza Menu included: brown butter toffee blondies, gingerbread men and women, lemony slice + bakes, outrageous chocolate cookies, peanut butter surprise and 1950's sugar shuttles.

Then there was lots of cuddles (and fake burps) on the couch. When Tiffany (Dillon's mom) told him to stop force burping, Dillon said, "I can't handle it."

For dessert, Dillon decided that sitting next to me wasn't close enough.

We tried on Dan's glasses.

This is about the time my mom told us to stop. "It will hurt his eyes!"

When is the last time you heard someone say that?

At the end of the night, Dillon told me in confidence, "I like you a lot."

I like you a lot, too, Dillon.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Most of these pictures were taken by Pete and Jen! Thanks for capturing the night so well.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


It's our last East Coast Christmas -- for a little while at least -- and with half our lives already in moving boxes, and the other half needing to be put into moving boxes, we decided it didn't make sense to buy each other more "things," things that would just go straight into their cardboard graves for who knows how long.

But if you think this means no presents at all, you really don't know us, 'Hamsters.

We continued our tradition of stocking stuffers, but this time with a focus on our future destination. We decided to get each other "gift certificates" for activities and experiences in LA -- like passports to a good time. We want to be able to explore our new city, and make it as easy as possible to do it. The move will probably be a little stressful in the early goings, and that's all the more reason to scope out activities we will each enjoy and to put aside the time and bread to make them happen.

So inside our stockings this morning was a series of homemade cards, created with the other person in mind. (Ain't we adorable?)

I got (clockwise from top right): two tickets to a Dodgers game, an issue of the LA journal Slake, reservations for two for the Art Deco walking tour of LA (I thought about getting Yvonne the same thing!), a little Amoeba money (that picture is me going through the bins while Yvonne sits in thes in the corner, uh, patiently), a birding expedition in the wetlands outside LA (!!!), and a donut run. (Have we talked about how vastly superior California donuts are to East Coast donuts? Example: out here, people have never even heard of an old fashioned! Trying to explain it to them is a lot like how I imagine it would be to explain rock and roll to someone who's never heard it before. Think about that for a second...)

Yvonne's cards were much less well made, though I was proud of my 5th grade desktop publishing skills. Clockwise from top right: a drop-in yoga class at the Jacksons' neighborhood studio, admission for two to the LA Arboretum and Botanical Garden (this place looks awesome, btw), admission to Joshua Tree National Park (Yvonne has been dying to go here), a cupcake at Susiecakes (the best in LA -- and we have a connoisseuse here who knows!), and a cooking class at the Silverlake vegan spot Spork (I'm excited for Yvonne for this one; the place comes highly recommended, and the co-owner I talked to on the phone could not have been nicer).

Good things await!

Merry Christmas, indeed!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

To Do List

December is always a busy month, but this year there is so much more to do.

In addition to Christmas card writing, cookie baking, shopping and all those fun things, we have got to condense our entire lives into 25 boxes.

We need to sell our furniture, donate to charity, throw things out and edit, edit edit. It's hard to decide what we can and can't live without. For Dan, the most important thing is the vinyl. For me, it's my kitchen stuff and my clothes. But then there's books and papers and stupid things that add up, like my yoga mat, framed pictures, electronics and my camera equipment. Dan thinks it will all fit in 25 boxes. I am not so sure.

Everything has to be packed with care. It's not like the stuff's going across town; it has to travel over 2,400 miles. We're still fretting/debating on how to get our stuff out there. After one dismal run at the post office, we're now thinking movers after all.

On top of this, I am trying to say good-bye to everyone. Since this is such a busy time of year, we decided not to have a going away party. Plus, I would rather have a little one-on-one time with my friends instead of a generic "miss you" and "good-bye" in a roomful of people. There has been lots of dinners/lunches/drinks with my favorite people; probably the most I have socialized in the last year. It's funny because everyone keeps acting like I have all this time. "Oh, I will see you one more time before you go, right?" Even the girl who waxes my eyebrows said that. Looking at my calendar, with nearly every date filled in with something or someone, the answer is probably no. This is it.

My emotions are so mixed that I just feel neutral. I don't feel super excited to be moving. I don't feel super sad to be leaving. It almost feels like I am going away to college, that this is some temporary measure. I will be going away for a while and doing my thing, but I will be back. What I sometimes feel is a sense of disappointment in myself. I guess everyone comes to New York City with a dream, and in my 9+ years here, I do not feel like I really "made it." Does leaving the city now mean that my dreams are dead? Will Los Angeles be the city of my dreams? Does it matter? Are my dreams even the same anymore? This is I think about.

And then there's the matter of getting a job out there. On top of everything, I have been updating my resume, trying to build my portfolio online and scouring job listings. But that will probably be more of a priority next month. There's just too much going on right now.

It does feel like we have gotten on the roller coaster. We have begun climbing up that first big hill, slowly and surely. We have no idea what lies ahead of us, and there is no turning back.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Countdown Begins

I finally bought my one-way plane ticket. I leave for Los Angeles on January 6--one week after Dan. I am going to spend one more week in New Jersey, cleaning up my stuff that has been sitting at my mom's house for the past decade and squeezing in some last minute quality time with friends and family. I was originally planning to be "responsible" and stay here to work a little longer while Dan gets settled. But my work prospect didn't meet my expectations and fell through, and I am kind of relieved that it did. I didn't really want to be staying here without Dan, commuting from NJ into the city each day and enduring another New York winter. I feel a million times better now that I have a departure date, and that Dan and I will be acclimating to LA and our new life at the same time.

Since I won't be staying longer, this week I finally "came out" about the news to my work friends. What a relief. I feel like I have been carrying around this huge secret forever, and now I can finally talk about it at work. It also makes it all feel much more "real."

How's this for real: Today, we started packing. We began with the framed pictures on the walls. Let me tell you, it's rather daunting to pack your life to travel across the country. Luckily, we're New Yorkers, and we really don't too much to pack because we have never had the space to accumulate a lot of stuff. But we're still going to sell/donate all of our furniture and be really choosy about what's going. It's crazy to think Dan only moved here from LA with two big suitcases! (The vinyl was shipped separately, natch.) It's kind of liberating to decide what do you really need. But also a real pain in the ass to pack everything as efficiently and carefully as possible. Schlepping this stuff to the post office without a car should be interesting. Yes, we looked into pricing and decided it would be most cost-efficient to mail everything!

I have been reaching out to people to plan final drinks/dinners/good-byes. With the holidays approaching, it is a strange time to leave because everyone is so busy and distracted. Dan and I don't feel as much in the Christmas spirit as usual, though Dan did hang up his wreath, our stockings and a string of lights in our apartment, just because. We're taking apart our apartment but decorating at the same time.

Dan has 27 days to go; I have 33. Holy moly!