Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Family Tradition

Every family has certain traditions to follow during the holidays. Some families go to church. Some families gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols. Some families light the Yule log or read from the Bible or chop down a live Christmas tree and decorate it on Christmas Eve in front of a roaring fire.

We’re not that kind of family.

My nuclear family is small—just my mom, my dad, my sister, and myself--but our personalities are big. We take up a lot of space, both emotionally and physically. We are loud. We are hyper. We curse like sailors. We burp and fart and yell. And at Christmas time, we generally gather at my parents’ ranch house in BEAVER COUNTY, Pennsylvania, and shout and laugh and fight and make up and stuff our faces and open some presents and watch a lot of TV.

I know I can count on eating stuffed cabbage, stuffed shells, pasta, potato salad, various cream-cheese based dips, and of course, cookies. I know I can count on pot after pot of strong brewed coffee. I know I can count on the dog barking so loudly that it turns my father’s clapper lamp on and off, on and off. I know I can count on my sister making me laugh so hard that I will spit some sort of liquid across some recently cleaned surface, causing my mother to scream at me. I know I can count on my mom tuning into Wish 99.7 FM, which plays Christmas songs 24 hours a day. I know I can count on spiceboy showing up late on Christmas Eve after a busy night at the restaurant, and that we’ll all greet him with shouts and hellos and hugs and a heaping plate of food.

There are always dogs barking and phones ringing and radios playing and televisions blaring and people talking at all hours of the day. There are mechanical figurines of Santa and Mrs. Claus perched on a table. There is a plush, 3 ft singing snowman in our living room. There is a miniature fiber optic tree in the kitchen, a full-sized Christmas tree in the living room, and two miniature plastic trees in our front garden. There is a Santa figurine that plays the saxophone and at least 10 scary nutcracker soldiers lining the mantle. There are Christmas lights thrown over anything that doesn’t move.

It’s a big, electric, plastic, spastic Christmas wonderland, and I love it. I love it in the same way I love Graceland or Wall Drug or anything that is glittery, over the top, larger than life. It’s utterly disorienting and thrilling and crazy and delicious and about as far from a Normal Rockwell painting as you can get.

I guess we’re just that kind of family.

Monday, December 19, 2005

New York Minute: Part Two

So I pushed my way down to Soho tonight to finish up my shopping. The train was packed, the streets only slightly less so, and the lines in the stores were long. I jostled for position, my arms laden with bags, and waited patiently while neurotic women held up the line b/c they could not choose between red or green or gold ribbon for their $50 hand cream.

My errands finished, I found myself standing all alone on the corner of Spring and Crosby. My day had been so long, and I so dreaded the slow train home that I wandered toward the bright red awnings of Balthazar.

I sat at the crowded bar alone.

And I ordered a glass of Sancerre.

And I watched the bartender pop the cork in a bottle of champagne, shake a martini, make an espresso.

And I listened to the loud echo of the voices around me, the pretty clink of an espresso spoon on a saucer, and the music in the background--something with an accordion, I think.

And the wine was so refreshing, so welcome, so perfect, that I ordered another, and I enjoyed the way things blurred pleasantly at the edges.

I swirled the pale wine in its glass. I swirled it again on my tongue and I thought of the great hope that comes with living in Manhattan--the hope that anything can happen at any moment. But I'm new here, remember?

One last sip of my wine.

One final nod at the bartender.

And I was on the street again, walking several blocks in the wrong direction before finding my way to the train.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


premenstrual syndrome
function: noun
: a varying constellation of symptoms manifested by some women prior to menstruation that may include emotional instability, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression, headache, edema, and abdominal pain called also PMS--(from

I love how they use the word constellation. A constellation of symptoms. How cute. And then there's the ominous emotional instability. How ugly. Ooooh--those premenstrual women are nuts--better watch out.

It's so obvious a man wrote this. Asshole.

I've been sitting here thinking about how I would define PMS in the East Side Girl Dictionary:

premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
function: noun
1. The once monthly arrival of my period, often preceded by sudden cravings for deep fried cheese products, cured meats, and viewings of Dirty Dancing or similar.
2.The stretch of time just before taking my sugar pills in which I may experience bloating, strange food cravings, and sudden feelings of hatred toward people in ridiculous puffer jackets who TAKE UP THE WHOLE SIDEWALK while walking too slowly down Lexington Avenue.

Seriously, what's up with the puffer? Who decided it was back? It's all Old Navy's fault (have you seen those ridiculous commercials?). I hate you, Old Navy.

premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
function: verb
Best explained if used in a sentence:

Me (to spiceboy): Don't talk to me right now. I'm PMS-ing.

premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
function: adjective
Best explained if used in a sentence:

spiceboy: Why are you changing your outfit again? That outfit was fine.

Me: Because I'm feeling bloated and all PMS-y and nothing fits right!

What's your definition of PMS? Feel free to share. Maybe we could combine all of our answers together into once handy PMS guidebook--kind of like the Zagat's Guide of PMS.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas Present Update: I'm Still Going To Hell

Here's what the numbers look like so far:

10 = Number of days until Christmas

5 = Total number of Christmas gifts purchased for loved ones

8 = Approximate number of Christmas gifts I still need to buy for loved ones

2 = Total number of Christams gifts I purchased for a loved one but once I brought said gifts home they smelled so good that I started using them for myself and so I can no longer give them as gifts and now I have to drag my lazy ass back to Soho to buy more.

10 = Revised number of gifts I still need to buy for loved ones

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Who Smells Bad? I Smell Bad.

So yesterday I went to see my dermatologist, who prescribed me a new face wash and cream that’s supposed to reduce redness.

I was so excited to get up and use it this morning—sure that we I would see less “rose” in my rosey cheeks immediately.

Well, it doesn’t work that fast. And you know what else?

The face wash is sulfur-based.

Which means it smells like rotten eggs.

Which means that I smell like rotten eggs.

Even after re-washing w/ my normal face wash and applying liberal amounts of face cream and liberal sprays of vanilla scented perfume, I still smell like rotten eggs.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas Gift Shopping: Or, Why I'm Going Straight to Hell

People for whom I must buy Christmas gifts:

spice mom
Misc. friends

Gift purchases so far:

Mom = 0
Dad = 0
Sister = 0
spiceboy = 0
spice mom = 0
Misc. friends = 0

Purchases I have made for myself while I'm supposed to be shopping for others:

1 hideous-yet-cute plaid skirt
1 blue sweater trimmed with lace to match aforementioned skirt
1 black lace camisole
1 black dress that makes me look really skinny

Am I a bad daughter/sister/future wife/future daughter-in-law/friend?


But am I a well-dressed bad daughter/sister/future wife/future daugther-in-law/friend?


Saturday, December 10, 2005

New York Minute

2 things to share:

#1 First Snow

Yesterday was the first true snow fall of the year in New York--over 5 inches in Central Park, according to the news reports.

It was my first New York snow, and I loved it. When I walked out the door, the street was completely covered, and a mom and her two young children were having a snowball fight on the sidewalk and laughing and screaming in delight. As I passed by, they smiled at me, and I smiled back.

It was so beautiful outside that I decided to walk the 20 blocks to work. The snow was coming down so hard that the huge, fluffy flakes soaked my coat and my hair. On the sidewalks, the women shuffled along slowly in their fashionable scarves, hats, and boots--why is suede so in this year, anyway? they lamented to each other as they picked their way over the frozen curbs and through the slushy crosswalks.

New York is not like Boston. In Boston, the snow builds up over time--it starts in December and it pretty much sticks around until February or March. In New York, when the snow comes, it comes hard, fast, and beautiful (just like everything else in the city), and if you're not paying attention, it melts before you even have a chance to enjoy it.

It's as if the city is so hot--heat from the subways, from the manhole covers, from the buildings and the concrete and the delivery trucks and the cabs and all of the people breathing and talking and laughing and yelling--that nothing sticks.

How can snow possibly stick in a city that is always moving?

#2 Something Small

Today I picked up lunch at the corner market. Everyone was bustling about and there was Christmas music playing and bags of roasted chestnuts on display by the door. A woman questioned the man working the cheese counter. A man plucked a single, perfect pear from the fruit stand. At the deli, a man yelled, "Number 68!? Is there a 68 here?"

In the air, there was a smell like cinammon and pine boughs and something powdery and I shuffled through the crowd with my basket and felt the simple joy of being part of something so small in a city that is so large.

Friday, December 09, 2005

An Apple A Day

Yesterday, when our mail guy made his morning rounds, he placed on my desk a square box. Inside the box was another square box that contained something called The Williams Sonoma Giant Caramel Apple. One of my clients sent it to me for Christmas.

I’ve never heard of it before, but it seems like one of those treats that people “ooh” and “aah” over—and one of those cheesy catalog gifts that I love to make fun of. But I also love getting presents, so I was grateful, yet skeptical.

The apple was huge—the biggest I’ve ever seen—bigger than a softball or a grapefruit. It was covered in squiggles of chocolate and layers of caramel and chunks of almonds. In spite of my disdain of holiday mail order catalog food, my mouth watered just looking at it. I knew the right thing to do was to take it into the kitchen and let my coworkers have at it. But then I got a phone call and I got distracted and I put The Gigantic Apple back into its box and left it on my desk.

Later that afternoon, I wandered into the office kitchen and discovered that some other kind employee whose parents obviously taught them to share had not only received The Gigantic Apple as a gift, but also had sliced it open and arranged it neatly on a plate for all to enjoy. I popped a piece into my mouth.


It was chewy and crunchy and salty and sweet all at the same time. The nuts were toasty and the apple was tart and the caramel was just gooey enough. In short, The Gigantic Apple was holiday mail order catalog food perfection.

I knew in that moment what I would do. I would carry my Gigantic Apple home with me. I would wait until spiceboy was safely out of the apartment, then I would slice open The Gigantic Apple and I would eat it in a frenzy of pure holiday gluttony.

And that’s exactly what I did.

The thing about The Gigantic Apple is that you don’t get tired of eating it. You know how when you eat too much of something sweet and then you feel like you need something salty to balance it out and then you crave something sweet again so you keep switching back and forth? Well, because The Gigantic Apple is both sweet and salty, there’s no need to switch.

I ate The Gigantic Apple while sitting on the couch and watching The Food Network.

I ate it while sitting at the computer, surfing the web for Christmas gifts for my loved ones.

I ate it while reading about Britney and Kevin’s marital problems in Us Weekly, and I ate it while reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

I ate it until my stomach cramped and my vision blurred and my fingers and toes began to tingle.

And even with all of that eating, The Gigantic Apple is so gigantic that there’s still half of it left.

This morning, while waiting for the water to get hot in the shower (which can take up to 10 minutes on some days), I pulled the apple out of the fridge and ate a hunk of it for breakfast. When I pulled back the shower curtain to climb into the shower and found that the water was still cold, I dashed naked across the apartment and grabbed yet another piece of The Gigantic Apple.

It’s a sad state of affairs, I know. But if you had The Gigantic Apple in your house, I bet you’d do the same. I’m powerless against it.

And since I’m a big nerd, I might as well admit that I can’t wait to go home tonight and eat The Gigantic Apple while reading Harry Potter. I wonder which one I’ll finish first?

Monday, December 05, 2005

O Christmas Tree

This is what a Christmas tree looks like when you live in a normal-sized apartment.

This is what a Christmas tree looks like when you live in a 350 sq ft apartment in Manhattan.

True, it may not have all of the splendor of the Christmas trees of our past, but I happen to think it's pretty special.

It's our first New York Christmas tree, and spiceboy surprised me with it last night when I got home from work.

I couldn’t love him more.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Christmas Presents--Or Why I'm a Neurotic Pain in the Ass

I really really love getting Christmas gifts.

But I have this thing about presents. I’m really nosey and will stop at nothing to find out what my gifts are. I've been this way since I was a little girl.

On Christmas Day, I usually always know what my gift is, and the gift giver knows that I know what the gift is, so I always feel exhilarated yet vaguely disappointed that the element of suprise is gone. But mostly exhilarated b/c I figured it out. It's like solving a riddle.

Twisted, isn’t it?

Fortunately for me, spiceboy is an excellent gift giver. He’s tasteful and extravagant without going too over the top. His gifts are always thoughtful and special. Except for the year he bought me luggage. But we won’t go into that right now.

For me, figuring out spiceboy's gifts is the ultimate holiday challenge--something to keep me amused in the days leading up to Christmas. In years 1 through 3 of our relationship, spiceboy fell for my seemingly innocent tactics hook, line, and sinker:

me: So what are you getting me for Christmas?
spiceboy: I’m not telling you. It’s a surprise.
me: Oh, come on! Just one little hint?
spiceboy: Okay, but just one.
me: Yay!
spiceboy: Okay, it’s [INSERT CLUE HERE]

Poor spiceboy.

I would act satisfied with this clue, but little did spiceboy know he had fallen into my trap. The next day, I would question him again about the first clue and build upon that until I could get another, more specific clue. I did this every day until I had a pretty decent idea of what the gift was, supplementing my interrogation with random apartment searches for telltale receipts, catalogs, online activity, etc.

Then I would pounce on him with my findings, as shown by this example from Year 3 of our relationship:

me: It’s a Kate Spade handbag, isn’t it?
spiceboy (his face carefully blank): No.
me: Yes, it is!
spiceboy (his face carefully blank): No.
me: I know it is.
spiceboy (breaking eye contact with me): No, it’s not, so you just better give up.

As luck would have it, one day not long after the Kate conversation, I was getting blankets out of our storage closet (this was when we lived in Boston and actually had closet space) and I found a gaily wrapped box.

“Aha!” I cried with glee.

“You weren’t supposed to find that,” said spiceboy with despair.

I immediately began examining the wrapping paper for gaps so I could partially unwrap the gift and get a glimpse of the box (a favorite tactic of mine). spiceboy shook his head in disbelief at my immaturity, but he had a trick up his sleeve: He'd wrapped the box with double sided tape.

Smart guy, isn’t he?

Still, I would not give up. Every time his back was turned, I ran to the closet and worked at the wrapping paper until I was able to peel back one of the seams a tiny, tiny bit. Sure enough, beneath the paper was a lime green box—the hallmark of Kate Spade packaging.

On Christmas morning I was triumphant and satisfied as I opened my lovely gift. It was a nylon Sam bag with pink snakeskin trim. Lovely. After I hugged and kissed spiceboy and thanked him a billion times, I tried on the bag w/ a variety of cute outfits, and said things like: I knew it was a Kate Spade bag! I knew it!

I have issues. I understand this.

After nearly 5 years together, spiceboy is totally on to me. He no longer keeps presents at our apartment—he has them shipped to his mother’s house in Pittsburgh.

Damn it.

And my once successful conversation tactic has been rendered powerless. Our gift conversations go something like this:

me: So what are you getting me for Christmas?
spiceboy: No.
me: Please? Just one hint?
spiceboy: No.
me: But…
spiceboy: NO.

In fact, spiceboy has become so adept at catching me in the act that last year, he even faux-searched key websites at Christmas time b/c he knew I would check the cache in our computer to see what he’d been up to.

Damn it.

But this year, before I even had the chance to commence with my holiday badgering, something completely unexpected happened.

You see, I’ve been shopping around for pearls to wear with my wedding dress, but I’ve been feeling kind of lost about it. I want something simple and stylish without being too “grandma” and without putting myself into serious debt. A friend directed me to these pearls.

I know it’s J-Crew or whatever, but I liked them and decided to go for it. I have a billion other wedding related things to obsess over, and I knew if I let it go any longer, the pearls would soon become a big issue for me. And I just don’t want that kind of hassle right now. So yesterday afternoon, I went online and bought the pearls.

Last night, when I was changing out of my work clothes and spiceboy was in the bathroom peeing, I casually yelled through the door that I ordered my pearls.

spiceboy: What! Why did you do that?

Even though through the door, I could hear the alarm in his tone.

And that’s how I found out what I was getting for Christmas. But do you think I could play it cool? Do you think I could act like I didn’t suspect anything?

Of course not.

me (bursting through the bathroom door): Oh, my God! You’re getting me pearls for Christmas? That’s so sweet!

spiceboy (huddling close to the toilet): Jesus, I'm trying to pee!

me (retreating out of the bathroom): Sorry.

When spiceboy came out of the bathroom, I tried to get all cuddly and thankful with him, but he merley sighed in annoyance.

"How do you do it? I don’t understand how you figure it out every year. You ordered those pearls on purpose."

I couldn’t believe it. He thought I faked the pearl purchase to flush him out.

"No! No! No! I really had no idea! I just wanted the pearls."

"Uh-huh. Yeah, right."

He doesn’t even believe me. The irony.

But if I had suspected he was getting me pearls and I had wanted to get the information out of him, that's exactly the tactic I would have used.

He knows me so well.

Damn it.