Happy Birthday, JT (yesterday)

February 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Posted in Holidays, Miscellaneous | 2 Comments
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Yesterday was Jason’s golden birthday!  Happy birthday, J!

jt-baby_0003Look, J – this is you 31 years ago!  (held by big brother, Kevin)

The celebration included me working all day and Jason doing something (although, I’m not sure what, because I was working).  I did catch Jason eating ice cream cake for breakfast… it’s his birthday tradition.

At some point, he went to the MegaMall by himself to pick up lunch and do a little shopping.  And, look!  He came home with my Christmas present – an awesome new Fossil purse.  I’ve been whining about “needing” a new purse lately, and I think he did a pretty great job!  Yeah, it’s a month late, but worth the wait!  (In his defense, I was initially going to pick one out myself, but couldn’t decide which one I liked the best.  I’m so glad that he just picked one for me!)

Later in the day, we went out for pizza at Black Sheep Pizza, and it was delish.  Our night on the town was pretty short-lived, though, because I had to head back home so that I could work more.  Not a very exciting birthday for Jason…  so we might try again next weekend?

A final farewell to Christmas 2008

January 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

I know, I know. You’re like, enough already! Christmas was 2 weeks ago! But, I just returned to my house full of Christmas decorations, and our break went by too fast! (that, and I’m in denial about how much work I’ll have to do on my current major project at the office). So, I thought, that for just one last post about my favorite holiday, I’d show you some pictures of cute Christmas-y decor that we witnessed during our Christmas break.

I love this little tree in the apothecary jar! I’ll have to remember this idea when I fill my apothecary jars next year!

This is Bernie, the Elf-on-the-Shelf that we spotted at J’s cousin’s house. Bernie reports to Santa nightly and each day he’s spotted in a new hiding spot. Better not be naughty with this guy watching… (J’s godson thinks he’s “creepy”)

J’s other cousin was a fan of the ornaments-in-a-vase decoration, something that I loved and did in my own house.

Another ornamental bowl full of glittery ornaments adorns the table holding our Christmas feast.  Note to self: get glittery ornaments for next year.

This is where we spent Christmas.  Beautiful, no?  The garland-wrapped and bow-clad lamp post in the foreground has me yearning for a lamp post of my very own.  Also, I am recently digging the hanging or multiple wreaths on the house.  Usually, I’ve spotted them hanging in windows, but I love how they’ve hung them below the windows (so you can still see out!).

Christmas 2008 Projects

January 5, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Posted in Holidays, Homemade | 3 Comments

I didn’t complete many projects for Christmas, but I thought I’d share the few that I did complete, now that all the gifts have been given.

First Project: Book plates.

For: my mom, who is a voracious reader, and who loans out her books a lot.   Ignore the bad picture and the name scrambled to protect the innocent.  I had a really great time making these, so if anyone else wants any, let me know and I might be able to arrange it!

Second Project: Picture Frames.

For: J’s sister.  This one isn’t really as crafty a project as the book plates or my home-designed Christmas cards, but I was still really excited about it.  Bridget recently moved into a new apartment and mentioned that she needed something to hang on the walls.  Instead of just giving her frames, I wanted to print out a bunch of photos so that she could just hang them on the wall.  I don’t know about you, but when I get empty photo frames, they tend to stay that way for quite a while before I manage to find something to put in them.  So I thought that, even if Bridget hates the pictures I chose, she can hang them as-is for a while and change them at her leisure.

You’ll notice that the upper right photo isn’t actually a photo.  Instead, I made a monogrammed piece.  I’ve seen quite a few monogrammed frames, pillows, plaques, etc lately and I think they’re charming.  So this is my version.  Using Illustrator, I bolded Bridget and her boyfriend, Sean’s first initials (B & S).  The text surrounding the initials is an Irish blessing, since Bridget (and actually all of J’s family) is fiercely proud of her Irish heritage, and because I thought the wording was appropriate for someone starting a new job and living in a new apartment.  The poem reads:

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!


Third project: Picture Wall.

For:  J’s parents.  Jason and I gave his parents a few of our wedding pictures to add to their picture wall for Christmas.  But!  Their picture wall was pretty full already…  So when they left to go to the Cape on new year’s eve, and jokingly told us that we could rearrange their photo wall, we took them up on it.  Here’s the before photo:

I pulled all of these pictures off the wall, added the new ones that we gifted them, and arranged them on the floor.  Once I was happy with the new arrangement, we began hanging.  We tried to use as many of the nail holes that were already in the walls as possible, and we also tried to cover any nail holes that we didn’t use so that J’s parent’s wouldn’t be left with a hideously holed-up wall.

There is something seriously nerve-wracking about putting holes in your in-laws walls, but I persevered. I actually have a hard time putting holes in ANY wall (which is why we don’t have any pictures hung in the house) because I’m always afraid that I’ll change my mind later and then have to patch all of the walls.  So apologies to J’s parents for any holes that we made that you may have to patch in the future.

Anyways, here’s the finished product:

I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out.  I added plastic footing to the backs of the pictures so that they would stay straight – because if one picture is out of line, it’s really obvious.  I hope J’s parents love it, and if they don’t, they can always take it down or switch up the pictures.

Back in MN

January 4, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Posted in Holidays | 1 Comment

On Friday, we made the long drive from Philly to Chicago. In Chicago, we hopped on a train that took us to Milwaukee, where my parents and Barley dogg were eagerly awaiting our arrival.

We were pretty exhausted after all that travel, so we chatted with the fam for a bit and then went to bed. Saturday, I was treated to eggs and bacon by Trevor, who, at 10 years old, is a better chef than I am.  We decided to head down to the Weddings and Occasions fair at WI State Fair Park to chat with the lovely picture this! photobooths ladies.  And, they let us take our photos in the booth, even though we weren’t planning on hiring them anytime soon.  Aren’t they sweet?

Saturday evening, my grandparents came over for a late Christmas dinner celebration.  My grandma and grandpa P even wore their matching plaid Christmas pants!  We ate dinner, chit-chatted, and opened some very awesome gifts.  It was a very nice dinner that I didn’t capture photographically because I accidentally left my new camera in Jersey (grr!) and once you go SLR, you can’t go back.  Seriously, my point-and-shoot is cute, but definitely not as good as the SLR!  (Fortunately, J’s parents are going to ship my camera!).

Today, we woke up and headed back to MN, where we were greeted by a blanket of snow and an almost-clean house.  Thanks to everyone (especially our parents) that made our Christmas 2008 wonderful!  But, as they say, there’s no place like home…

Christmas in Philly, Part 3

January 2, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Holidays | 3 Comments

Today, we begin the long drive back to Minnesota. Thank goodness we have awesome friends and 4 ipods to share the journey!

Since Christmas, we’ve been busy out and about. We spent Friday lounging around at J’s parent’s house, and then headed out to visit our friends, Phil and Nicki, and their adorable almost-two-year-old daughter, Cecilia. She was too cute, showing us her blocks and shape sorters. Phil and Nicki are great parents – it is a little strange (and amazing!) seeing friends parenting like real grownups. It makes me wonder when we got old enough to actually have and successfully raise children. Hmm. Because I still definitely feel like I’m 12 years old.

Saturday, we headed to downtown Philly with J’s family.

J’s cousin, Stacy, and I on the Speedline (train).

Philly. I just kind of liked this alley shot.

Our first stop was at Macy’s. We stopped to watch the light show, which was 15 minutes of lighted snowmen, nutcrackers, and evergreens on a huge screen. Julie Andrews did a lovely voiceover and a light Santa appeared riding a train.

The light show

Our second stop was the Dickens Village. It’s an almost-life-sized diarama of A Christmas Carol, complete with creepy fake people whose hands were not proportional to their bodies. Aside from the fact that I hate being herded through small spaces with lots of people in them, it was charming. Thanks to Bridget and Jim (J’s uncle) for introducing me to this Christmas experience. I’m told that the entire family has gone other years, but they decided against it this year and went shopping instead. After some shopping, a few of us hit up a Mexican bar nearby and ate delicious guacamole and drank margaritas and beer.

At the awesome Mexican Bar

Then, we headed back to South Jersey to have dinner with the fam.

An awesome sign in the train station.

Bridget and Jason on the way home.

J’s aunt and uncle served snacks and pizza, and we hung out with a few family members that we hadn’t seen yet. I made friends with Charlotte (J’s cousin’s daughter) and we played with the new kitchen that she got for Christmas for a while before the rest of the family warned her that I might try to steal it from her. Because her kitchen is a) bigger than mine, and b) has an oven and dishwasher.

Charlotte and I

Sunday, we attended mass and then had a lazy day around the house. We sent Kevin, Amy, Peter, and Lucy on their way to Indiana, and Bridget and Sean headed back to their apartment. So then we had the ‘rents to ourselves! We went out to dinner with them and 2 of J’s cousins, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.

Monday, we met our friend Sara, her husband, Michael, and 8-month-old daughter, Starlie at the Manayunk Brewery. Michael is also a homebrewer, so him and J speak the same beer language (you know “hops” and “bitterness” and all that). Anyways, Starlie is adorable, especially when she crinkles her nose and smiles at you. Sara and Michael are both doing well and are fantastic parents. I got a lot of insider here’s what happens when scientists have babies information from Sara, you know, just in case I mature from Age 12 to old-enough-to-handle-kids sometime in the next 10 years. Anyways, it was a fun lunch and good to see Sara and Michael again since it’s been a few years.

J outside the Manayunk Brewery

Monday evening, we went shopping with J’s parents and then out to dinner. Tuesday, JT, his mom, and I went to his cousin’s basketball game. Later that evening, we headed into Philly to have dinner with our friend, Melinda. We had a great time catching up with her, even though we just saw her in October. She has the coolest row home, and if we ever lived in Philly, I would hope we could get a row home like hers.

Our New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet. We did a little shopping, ordered takeout, and watched The Office at J’s parent’s house. His parents headed to a party in Cape Cod, so the two of us were left to fend for ourselves. I think we did a good job, although JT managed to eat THREE panzarottis (deep fried pizza turnovers), and I’m fairly certain that they are not very good for you.

New Year’s day wasn’t much more eventful. We visited his grandma, picked up lunch, and spent the rest of the day doing laundry, packing up, and working (yep, it’s not the first time this week that I’ve pulled out the laptop to do real work. sigh.).

2009 Goals

January 1, 2009 at 10:40 am | Posted in Holidays | 2 Comments

Yep, we’re making resolutions for the new year. And decided to post them here. Maybe we’ll be more motivated to follow through if you all know what we’re up to. Or maybe we’ll fall flat on our faces and then you can all laugh.

Jen’s Goals

  • Reduce sugar intake to levels comparable to normal people (I have been eating seriously excessive amounts of sugary foods lately. I blame the holidays.)
  • Workout at least 4 times/week
  • Find a local church to attend
  • Organize a dinner date with friends at least once/month
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle! figure out what we don’t use and reuse/repurpose it or give it to someone that can use it. I’m on a serious mission to clear the meaningless clutter from our lives. (On the other hand, I have such a hard time getting rid of meaningFUL clutter, so I hope to reorganize it in a way that we can see or use it regularly).

Jason’s Goals

  • Reduce soda intake to just a few a week (I’ve done it before, so I know I can do it again)
  • Increase water intake (a parallel to the aforementioned goal)
  • Workout on a somewhat regular basis
  • Find more dinners to cook (so I’m not cooking chili or tacos every night)
  • Put more effort into the house goals
  • Brew at least one batch of beer each month

House Goals

  • Remodel the kitchen!
  • Remodel current bathroom or create new bathroom. Either way, we need a bathroom with a fan this year (because the nasty black mold in our current bathroom is a health issue, and because my husband is destroying my towels/bathrobes with the bleach he sprays to kill the mold).
  • Paint, hang pictures, and furnish/organize the Study, Bedroom #3, and our bedroom
  • Install closet organizers in the our bedroom closets
  • Begin glazing the windows that need it the most. Repair any broken windows (we’ve got at least 2-3 window panes that are cracked).
  • Finish the landscaping around the house so that we no longer have big piles of dirt up against the house.
  • Do something about our back door. As of now, we can only really unlock it from the inside, and it’s quickly becoming a pain. I think we might need a new door, or at least a new door frame.
  • Create a reasonable monthly budget and stick with it.

Ambitious?  Yes.  But I think we can do it.

What are your goals for the new year?  I’ll be checking up to make sure you follow through with them…

2008 Highlights

December 31, 2008 at 7:14 pm | Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

Here’s where I brag about all the cool stuff that happened to us this year. So, if you hate bragging, you might want to skip this one.

2008 Bullets of Awesomeness

  • J turned the big 3-0 in January 2008, officially making him a crotchety old man (love you, J!). To celebrate, we took a trip to San Francisco in February, visiting J’s brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, as well as my college roommate, Mandy.
  • J and I insulated the attic, with the help of my super-awesome cousins Jennifer and Catherine.
  • The Perry clan took a trip to the Caribbean in March. It was so awesome. Loved it!
  • J broke up a lot of concrete, and I hauled it to the back yard. We dug a little, then called my family for assistance. Over a very rainy weekend, they dug the remainder of the concrete out and built a fence. A few weekends later, J and I installed a new brick paver pathway and patio (again, with the assistance of awesome cousin Catherine).
  • In June, I headed to Puerto Rico for a conference. So much fun!
  • Engagement photos and wedding planning consumed much of the summer and early fall.
  • I headed to my awesome cousin’s cabin for a weekend in July. J went snake hunting (seriously).
  • In August, we visited J’s family in Philly. They threw us a lovely shower and we had a great time! My family drove out from Milwaukee, so this was the first official meeting-of-the-families. (I think they actually liked each other! Yay!)
  • After Philly, I headed to Boston for another conference. Again, it was fun. I am so fortunate to have colleagues that I enjoy spending time with!
  • We got an awesome roommate from Sweden. Sanna was the best roommate we could have asked for!
  • J represented at our godson’s christening in CA.
  • My little brother went to college (my alma mater – I’m so proud!).
  • Family and friends threw me two additional bridal showers. I feel so blessed to have so many awesome women around me!
  • 3 words: BEST. WEDDING. EVER. (I might be a little biased, but it was amazing).
  • And we hid away in northern Wisconsin for our honeymoon. I slept for 3 days straight!
  • In November, we headed to DC, again for business. I love DC! And, as an added bonus, J’s parents and aunt and uncle came to see us.
  • Our first Thanksgiving as a married couple – and first holiday that we didn’t have to travel to be with family (thanks to my aunt for hosting).
  • Our first Christmas as a married couple (second Christmas together in Philly).

Can’t wait to see what 2009 has in store for us!

Christmas in Philly, Part 2

December 30, 2008 at 5:16 pm | Posted in Holidays | 3 Comments
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My mom is nervous because I haven’t posted in a while. Hi mom! See, it’s all good.

Anyways. Still having a smashing time in Philly. We’ve done all sorts of fun things this week, played with some seriously cute and/or cool kids, opened some presents and hung out with family. Excellent.

Earlier in the week, we hung out with the kids that J’s mom takes care of.  They are a blast!  Two of the three boys showed off their jump shots and I got to try out the action settings on my camera.  They couldn’t get enough of seeing themselves in mid-air (I seriously took over 100 of these pics, and they just kept going).

B smirks at the camera as he shoots.

R looks pretty graceful as he goes in for the dunk.

We also spent some time with J’s cousin’s family, and even accompanied them to visit Santa, where we didn’t take pictures because it was prohibited (I suspect because otherwise no one would pay the $20 for a 5×7.  Or at least, I wouldn’t.  Because I’m like that).

Christmas Eve, we all dressed up and headed out to church (or mass as it’s called around these parts).  After mass, we came back to J’s parents house and ate Chinese takeout.  Yummy!  And, look what J’s sweet mom made for me after reading about my family’s traditions:

Thanks, Debbie, for indulging this spoiled girl’s Christmas Eve palate.

And, although it’s not quite the same as my grandparent’s matching plaid pants:

J’s brother and dad wore matching white button-up shirts and khaki pants.  So, at least someone was rocking the twin costumes.  That makes me wonder whether J and I will ever have matching plaid pants.  Oh my.

J’s brother, Kevin, and our Godson, Peter

Poppy (J’s dad) holding his little princess (aka Lucy)

Our little nephew was so sick the entire time we were here.  His adventures even included 2 visits to the emergency room.  Poor guy!  But, his sister was quite adorable (especially in her little pink dress.  I swoon over baby girls in little pink dresses.) and very happy to let any of us hold her.  So, we tried to help when we could, but I stuck to my strict hand-off-the-baby-when-she-cries policy.  Fortunately, she’s a really calm and cool baby.

Amy and Lucy – I love this picture

The Christmas elves came on Christmas Eve eve and brought matching pjs for the kiddos.  It’s a new tradition for the family, and I love it.  In fact, I wish the elves would come for me (*hint, hint, JT*).  Because who doesn’t love a new pair of pjs?

Lucy models her new Christmas pj’s while sitting on Grammy’s (J’s mom’s) lap

On Christmas morning, we woke up and found apples and oranges outside our door.  Since J’s sister was missing, he thought it was a good idea to throw the fruit at me instead.  So sweet, that one!  We all gathered at the top of the staircase and then headed downstairs to open presents.  JT was especially psyched about the Phillies gear that he got, including a box set of a million hours of Phillies playoff footage on DVD.  I am less psyched about this gift (sorry!), mostly because I wasn’t that into watching the Phillies win the first time.  But, if that’s what makes him happy, I guess I could spare a few hours of tv time.  Sigh.

J *hearts* the Phillies

Then, we got all gussied up and headed over to J’s cousin’s house for Christmas dinner.  J and I had a great time.  If there’s one thing to be said about J’s family, it’s that they always have a good time together.  Seriously, you could lock these people in a dungeon together and I’m pretty sure they’d still have a blast.  Not that I am advocating for that.  I’m just saying.

Sean (J’s sister’s boyfriend), J, and Kevin

Debbie, Bridget (J’s sister), and J

Marcie, our lovely hostess, shows off her homemade salad dressing

Scott, our host, and his son Alex

After dinner, J’s godson, Connor, hit the hot tub in the backyard.  It was warm enough to go out without a jacket on that night… so the hot tub bubbles were the only bit of white outside (still no snow!).

Bridget and I wore coordinating outfits in red and black.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

December 24, 2008 at 11:01 am | Posted in Holidays | 2 Comments

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas!

Thanks for everything this year… I really couldn’t have done it without you.

Shoppers and Listers

December 23, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Posted in Holidays, Silly | 4 Comments
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A coworker recently sent me an online magazine article about 4 types of Christmas gifters – name drawers, card givers, listers, and shoppers. I kind of loved it.

Here’s an exerpt:

THE FOUR FAMILIES

In my experience there are four types of families: Name drawers, list makers, carders and shoppers. These groups do not play well together.

My husband comes from a clan of name drawers. In theory, I’m all for drawing names. Buying a single, more substantial gift seems easier than purchasing a bunch of smaller ones. But in practice, at least for me, it’s actually much harder.

My in-laws and their families are lovely people, but distance and duties mean we see them only once or twice a year. It’s hard to shop for someone if your most recent conversation with that person was about the weather.

Take, for example, Bill’s nephew — a guitar-playing, beach-dwelling, thirty-something sous chef with whom I exchange a few pleasantries about every third Christmas. (He doesn’t get home much.) What on Earth am I supposed to give such a person? A lifetime supply of guitar picks? An extremely nice whisk? Sunscreen? The women are easier — clothes can always be returned — but I’m never sure of size, and giving an XL to a M does not a festive Christmas make. What I wouldn’t give for a wish list.

I was born into a clan of list makers. Folks like us leave nothing to chance. No sooner has Thanksgiving ended than we’ve each jotted down our heart’s desires and sent them off to my mom. Then the phone calls begin.

“What should I get Jennifer?” I ask my mother. “Let’s see,” she says, no doubt scanning a clipboard. “Why don’t you do the gold earrings? Hoops, no wider than an inch-and-a-half. Not too shiny.” I hear my mother snap the lid back on her pen. “Good,” she says. “Your sister’s done.”

While I think lists make Christmas mistake-proof, my husband considers my family’s approach a bit too much like filling orders at the Amazon warehouse. (He’s got a point. Sometimes I can almost hear a voice yelling, “Hey Joe — shoot me a Paula Deen cookbook and that Simpsons calendar, and we can ship this box off.”) As far as he’s concerned, my family might as well exchange checks, go buy ourselves exactly what we want and meet for a nice lunch afterwards.

My older son, Bruno, takes after me. A confirmed list maker, he even provides Web site links to the exact items that will make him happy. “Remember,” he says each year. “No surprises.” I fear what will happen if Bruno falls in love with a shopper.

Shoppers buy into the romantic ideal of Christmas. They see themselves as Santa Claus. They spend December afternoons going store-to-store and Web-site-to-Web-site searching for the perfect gift. (Sometimes they get it right. Sometimes, like a tone-deaf singer, they’re about a half-step off.)

Shoppers think list makers are major buzz kills. We deprive shoppers of the chance to exercise their creativity. Shoppers are equally horrified by name drawers. Buy for just one person? You’ve got to be kidding. If Santa had that attitude where would we all be?

Nor do shoppers approve of carders — those folks who stick cash in a Hallmark or a gift card in a festive little folder and call it a day. (Carders, on the other hand, think all the rest of us are nuts.) Frankly, if you are a shopper, you really should stick with your own kind.

I’m a shopper. Jason’s a lister. Enter: two totally different approaches to Christmas.

I *LOVE* finding someone the *perfect* gift for Christmas. Something they’ll be surprised by, or something they will find really useful. I get just as excited – or, probably, even more excited – about giving out these sorts of gifts as I do receiving gifts of my own. I dislike buying gift cards, but would rather guess at what someone might want (and give the gift receipt in case they don’t like it).

Jason, on the other hand, not so much.  Gift cards = great! to this one.  Which is fine, but I’m not quite used to the buy-everyones-Christmas-gifts-in-30-min approach.  We finished his shopping today, and after only one short trip to Target, I found myself a little lost – like, wait!  this is really everything?  Whoa. So, I guess this approach comes in handy when one waits until the last minute to buy Christmas presents.

So what about you?  What’s your shopping strategy?  Start months in advance?  Or wait until the last minute?  I am loving our discussion of holiday traditions and strategies…

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