hurricane attire

Some may wear galoshes and rain coats. We prefer more formal attire when hurricanes hit the east coast.

Okay, not really — we actually attended a fantabulous black tie wedding in Center City Philadelphia on Saturday night, so we still got all dolled up despite Irene’s appearance! We had such a magnificent time that we completely forgot there was even a hurricane outside.

I thought ahead and wore my hair half-up due to the crazy humidity that surely would have left me looking like Monica in the Caribbean had I worn it down. It took me over an hour to do that myself… yes, just that simple poof took me an hour. I have a newfound respect for hair stylists. Also: this was the first time I have ever seen Nick in a tux. I think he looked mighty dashing.

How was your weekend? Did Irene ruin your plans or just make them more eventful?

bike love

I’ve never been much of a bike person. Until I laid eyes on this beauty.

That is my Aunt’s bike that she generously let me borrow last week while we were down the shore. It’s brand spankin’ new, and she’s nervous to ride it, so I couldn’t possibly just let it sit there all by its lonesome. Nick and I went for a few morning rides around the island and I felt like the belle of the bike ball (if ever there were such a thing) on my seafoam green Schwinn. With an extra cozy padded seat and a cup holder, thankyouverymuch.

Nick found it hilarious that his wife, the self-proclaimed bike hater (I have a bony butt and most bike seats hurt like the dickens within 2 minutes), woke up excited to ride bikes morning after morning. He finally understands that when something comes in such a pretty package, I am bound to fall in love with it. I equate it to being the KitchenAid mixer of bikes.

And now I want one.

a sparkly fourth

I’m still getting back in the swing of things after a nice extended weekend down the shore. On July fourth, we joined a group on a chartered boat to watch the Atlantic City fireworks from the bay. It was a great time, and watching the gorgeous sunset while awaiting the fireworks was a nice bonus!

last photo from my mom’s iPhone

What did you do for the fourth?

giftapalooza 2010

Christmas is, by far, my favorite holiday. And not just because there are gifts involved…though opening gifts with my family is a FUN event. When it’s Christmastime, I love the festive spirit in the air, the homes bedecked in sparkling lights and luminaries, the cheerful music, the excuse to watch holiday movies (we saw It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen a few weeks ago), the tasty treats, and the abundance of family time. It’s all so warm and cozy, and there is nothing else like the holiday season! I’m sad that it’s now officially over and the chill in the air is a lot less charming — now it’s just plain cold. Blerg.

I did my best to get shopping done early this year or ordered things online, so I really never felt stressed about getting things done. And, we all know how pleased I was with myself that my cards got in the mail on time. We also kept the home decorations at a minimum since few people ever see our apartment over the holidays, but all of our Christmas cards taped onto the panes of the French doors separating our living room and my office made things just festive enough without a lot of work. (You can see our mini tree peeking out on the left!)

But…back to the gifts! We spend Christmas eve with my dad, stepmom, her mother and some of their friends for gift exchanging, good food and good company. Christmas morning consists of my mom, stepdad, brother, sister-in-law, Nick, and me, all gathered at my mom and George’s house. With the fire glowing and the Christmas tunes spinning on Christmas morning, we go around and each open one present at a time, so it takes about an hour and a half to get through everything. We don’t even go overboard (like we used to) with the gifts themselves — it just takes a while because everyone gets their turn! Nick did not understand this when he first started spending Christmas with my family — he wondered why we didn’t just tear into those gifts one after another and get it done so we could eat and nap sooner — but I think he’s finally learned to appreciate the way we do things. Each gift, no matter how large or small, gets its own time in the spotlight as the recipient excitedly tears open the package, which is likely meticulously wrapped, if SIL Kim or I had anything to do with it. Nick and I get another shot at exchanging gifts later that evening, when his parents join us for Christmas dinner.

I got some lovely gifts this year — some that were on my wish list, and some that were thoughtful surprises. Here are some of my favorites:

Grey Chuck Taylor All Stars; Neo-Geo belt in Lilac from Anthropologie; aqua Divine Twine; Color Study locket from verabel on Etsy; recipe cards by Rifle Paper Co.; Astro Pants from lululemon; DSW, Fossil, and Stephen’s gift cards (the gifts that keep on giving!); and this flip style case for my Kindle.

The favorite gift that I gave? This army watch from J.Crew that Nick has been blabbing about for months. Any time he mentioned it I’d brush it off, saying it was more than we budgeted for each other this year, maybe next year, but little did he know that I bought it on sale the day before Thanksgiving! I loved his reaction of genuine surprise, and he has already picked up a few more bands to go with it.

What are your favorite gifts that you got lately, for Christmas or any other reason?

a birthday pizza crawl

Last week, my dad celebrated a milestone birthday. While he’s a pretty simple guy who is always happy with any gift for the gesture alone, I really didn’t want to get him just another round of golf; my brother and I wanted to do something a little different this year.

If there’s one thing our dad loves more than golf, it’s pizza. My brother and sister-in-law came up with the great idea of taking our dad on his own New York pizza crawl, and of course Nick and I were on board from the moment they uttered the word “pizza.”

My brother, John, did his research and mapped out a whopping six pizza shops throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn that we were going to hit up (perhaps a little ambitious!). I put together some score cards, Nick, my dad and I headed to John & Kim’s place in Brooklyn, and we were all off on our mission to eat some amazing NY pizza.

Our first stop was Totonno’s in Coney Island… aaaaaaand it wasn’t open yet when we arrived at 11:30. Oops. We made a game-time decision to add DiFara’s to the list (knowing that we could get there before their noon opening and be one of the first groups in line, as it gets crowded FAST) and headed there.

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Number 94: Ms. Winfrey

Last Thursday, my mom and I jetted off to Chicago so I could check one more thing off of my 101 in 1001 list:

94. Go to a taping of Oprah

Let me tell you — it was FUN with a capital F-U-N. With it being Oprah’s final season of her show, we knew we had to find our way there soon if we were going to get there at all. Having a flexible schedule and a mom who is retired allowed us to book this somewhat last-minute trip when we lucked out with tickets (you can submit requests here), and we are so glad that we did. We were able to see guests Jon Stewart and Liza Minelli (the show airs today!), and went home with some fun loot (no trip to Australia, though ;).

You can tell by the sky that the sun was just coming up when we got to the studio around 6:20am; Oprah is probably the only person for whom I will wake up at 5am!

No photos are allowed inside the studio, so we snagged this shot outside after the taping

If you have the chance to go before the show ends, DO IT! It is so. much. fun.

Our trip was only Thursday to Saturday, but we still managed to see a bit of Chicago; I was there last year with Nick, but my mom had never been to the windy city. The weather was positively delightful on Thursday and Friday, and rain came just as we were heading to O’Hare to catch our flight home on Saturday, so we didn’t mind at all.

Anyone else planning to get to an Oprah Winfrey Show taping before the end of her final season? How is your 101 in 1001 list going?

small shore town love

We had an absolutely delightful long weekend at our new family shore house… the kind of weekend where I forgot to take lots of pictures because I was too busy relaxing/laughing/stuffing my face. (Yeah, I have renamed the weekend Caloriefest 2010 and it was NOT good for my diet. Oh, well.)

I did manage to snag some photos of this gem of an ad for a local dive bar. Small shore town, I adore you.

It’s true — their ATM is always broken. Now, that’s honest advertising if I’ve ever seen it. And don’t forget, they “got the greatest cheesesteaks,” but you’ll have to go to the end of the world (and then one block to the left) to get one. Fantastic.

This is pretty much what the rest of the weekend consisted of:

Nick dug holes. I lounged around with a great book and zero people coming between me and the ocean. Heavenly.

animals are pretty

We took a little trip to the Philadelphia Zoo last weekend with some friends — Nick got a year-long membership for his birthday last August, which includes entry for the two of us, along with entry for two guests, AND free parking! It’s a great deal, and we have already gotten our money’s worth (or, rather, my mom’s money’s worth, since she’s the one who gave the membership to him!).

all photos by me

The Philadelphia Zoo is America’s oldest zoo, and if you’re ever in the area, you should check it out. Going while the weather is still cool is a plus if you have the option, since it’s never quite as crowded as it is in the summertime.

a very Claremont Christmas

Has everyone recovered from the holiday craziness and gluttony? Last weekend was such a lovely long weekend spent with family; Christmas was delightful, as always. We didn’t win the Gingerbread House Decorating Competition this year (I demand a recount!) but I think our house still came out great. See?

This year, we bought pre-made gingerbread houses from the grocery store, and we all shared candy and icing… except, there was one twist that Kim added this year. Each couple could bring two additional “wild card” items that only they could use. The only rule was that they had to be edible. Our items were Juicy Fruit gum (which we used as siding), and we planned ahead and baked our own gingerbread to add dormer windows and a chimney! Things did turn out slightly wonky and the windows were waaaaay out of proportion with the rest of the house, but hey — we tried. And our house smells really good whenever you walk by it :-)

We ran out of black nibs for our roof… to cover the empty area I suggested we use the blue icing and call it a tarp — our gingerbread contractors pulled out of the job before it was finished ;-)

We had a blast opening gifts and just spending time hanging out. Nick and my brother bonded over potato peeling…

And we later put on our holiday finest to get a little family portrait by the tree.

I have off again today after a few days of work and we will be enjoying another long weekend to celebrate the new year. Nick and I will be heading out for our customary New Year’s Eve dinner at our favorite fancy Chinese restaurant tonight, followed by the ball drop in our town and some midnight smoochin’.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s Eve, whether it be festive and fancy or low-key and lovely. Happy New Year to you!

PS- my “Merry Christmas” post was actually my 200th post on Claremont Road! I’m movin’ up in the world… ;-)

the Drapers

We’re big fans of Mad Men on AMC, so we decided to be Don and Betty Draper for Halloween this year. We were both able to pull our costumes together mostly with things we already owned, so that always makes it more fun for me than getting something store-bought that comes in one package. Oh, and I look pretty funny in a blonde wig with my super dark eyebrows (which I attempted to make more blonde-ish with yellow makeup, but succeeded instead at making them sort of green), but I don’t mind adding a silly factor.

Nick bought the Fedora at Target; I bought the wig and white gloves at Halloween Adventure; we already owned everything else. I wore two skirts underneath my dress to give it a fuller 60s look without spending money on a petticoat.

What did you dress up as for Halloween? Do you go the store-bought-in-one-fell-swoop or pulled-together-on-your-own route?