Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

In honor of tonight’s Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, I have gathered pictures of some of the most well decorated and creative Christmas trees. I hope that these help inspire some of your own decorating! Enjoy!

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Birthday Celebrations!

I love Birthdays. When I was younger, I would start planning my birthday months in advance and I was normally able to spread my birthday celebration out over a few weeks. I consider this particularly impressive considering my Birthday normally falls around Thanksgiving and many times, holidays can trump birthdays. But not me, forget the turkey, pilgrims and Indians, come the end of November, I was the center of attention.

My mom threw awesome childhood birthdays. They were always held at home and full of fun activities. We would play games, do some sort of craft (make your own t-shirts, puff paint pillow cases, sand art, etc), do a candy hunt, eat “dot cake” and end with an incredible scavenger hunt around the house. Sometimes things got a little wild (mostly thanks to Ryan, Mark and Chris – the 3 boys who were invited to every party) but everyone left our house happy! I definitely miss those days.

Another birthday tradition in our household would be birthday dinner. Not an unusual tradition, when it was your birthday, you were able to pick whatever you wanted for dinner that night. Well every night since I can remember, I had spaghetti, caesar salad and garlic bread. Even when I turned 21 on Thanksgiving, my mom made me a special plate of spaghetti while everyone else ate turkey. And while this seems a little “over the top” I absolutely loved that my mom didn’t let my special day get overlooked. I will always remember that birthday/Thanksgiving and be so thankful for my caring family.

This year, I celebrated my birthday in typically “molly fashion” (i.e. many times!) I started the day with Matt’s family – we had grilled muffins for breakfast (one of my favorites) and opened some very thoughtful presents. Before we jumped on our train to head home, Matt’s mom presented a cake with swirly candles and I was treated to “Happy Birthday” by the Englehardt trio!

Then after a 4.5 hour train ride, Matt cooked me an amazing spaghetti dinner while I set up the Christmas tree. After dinner I opened some presents that my mom had sent me and listened to the Christmas album my sister sent me on iTunes. It was lovely.

THEN, the celebration continued at work today with a mid-afternoon ice cream party!

    

And the party continues with a birthday dinner on Friday that Matt is organizing with some of my friends. You only turn 29 once, why not celebrate it for a full week?

Thank you so much to all of my friends and family members who make me feel so incredibly special for being born!

Happy Thanksgiving

I am celebrating Thanksgiving this year with Matt’s family. This is the first time that I am celebrating Thanksgiving with his family and I am very excited about it. I am part of the “dessert” crew and I have been testing out recipes the past couple of weeks. I am going to be making “crack pie” as recipe from the NYC restaurant Momofuko’s Milk Bar. I hope it goes over as well today as it did in the office!

We are starting the day of with a 5K Turkey Trot and then home to make my pie and watch a little of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In the afternoon, we are heading over to Matt’s Great Aunt’s house who is hosting Thanksgiving dinner at the age of 92!

Here’s to our first holiday together as husband and wife! I have a lot to be thankful for today, and every day.

I am going to start calling Matt "Thunder Hawk"

For an amazing history of Thanksgiving, please visit my colleague’s blog here.

Cliffs Notes: Black Friday

A Quick History Lesson
Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at 4 a.m., or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the shopping season. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005.

The day’s name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1966 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that “Black Friday” indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are “in the black”.

For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00, but in the late 2000s, many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohls, Macy’s, Best Buy, and Bealls) will open at midnight for the first time. Walmart will open at 10:00 on Thanksgiving night and Toys ‘R’ Us at 9:00. In 2010, Sears was open on Thanksgiving day.

And Now the Fun Part
In the days before the internet, shoppers relied on television commercials and newspaper ads that came out on Thanksgiving to alert them to the “door buster” specials and “one day sales” that took place on Black Friday. Now, with a few clicks of a mouse, shoppers can arm themselves with coupons, sale information and even participate in the madness without leaving their home.

Already, some deals have begun (see Amazon’s week long sale and Walmart’s pre-Black Friday sales). For me though, the real fun is being out among the masses. Just seeing folks running through the mall while carrying armloads of shopping bags gives me joy. The added benefit of picking up a few items on sale is just icing on the cake.

There are a lot of websites the comb the internet and put all of the sales in one place. These are a great resource, especially if you don’t get a local paper delivered to your house that contains the store circulars.

Black Friday News
Black Friday Ads

Black Friday Info
Coupon Sherpa (Contains store opening times)
Top Ten Black Friday Blogs (lists some of these sites plus more)
Ask Men (Lists out the top 10 best Black Friday Deals)

If you’re not Facebook “Friends” with your favorite retailers, now’s the time to “Like” these retailers. More retailers are going social, offering special discount codes to preferred friends on Facebook and Twitter. “It’s a good idea to add your favorite stores to your friend list — at least for the time being,” he says.  Retailers like the Gap are even providing Facebook Credit as rewards to users who sign up for its email newsletter.

Another new trend consumers can take advantage of to make the most of leaving the house Black Friday is the explosion of mobile apps that enhance the shopping experience. Keep your smartphone at the ready on the big day to fact-check any deals before purchasing. The best app for price-scanning: Red Laser. And the best app for mobile coupons: Coupon Sherpa. With the Holiday Gift List app you can track your spending and stick to your budget while FourSquare can help you take advantage of local sales and deals based on location, or even freebie restaurant offers of cheap coffee breaks during your shopping spree.

Compare prices. According to ConsumerAffairs.com, Consumer Reports found an electric percolator “on sale” at Kohl’s stores and Kohls.com for $61.99, a discount from the regular $69.99. But those prices are higher than the $59.99 manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Using a Web search, CR found better deals. The best price was $30.03 plus $8.21 shipping at Sale Stores.

Check reviews on sites such as Cnet and make sure you’re clear on the features of those electronics that you are considering. Black Friday is all about rock-bottom prices on no-name goods (or those that aren’t so familiar). That’s fine if it’s not going to be your primary TV, or if you only need a limited number of features on that Blu-ray player.

Look for coupons. Once you know what items you intend to purchase and the stores offering these products for a great price, see who will sweeten the deal. Department stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s regularly offer coupons that can take an additional 20% to 30% off sale prices. And many online retailers allow you to stack percentage-off or free shipping coupon codes on top of Black Friday prices, making one seller’s price for that cashmere sweater cheaper in the long run. You can find coupon codes on sites such as Gottadeal.com, eDeals.com, Slickdeals and RetailMeNot.

Good luck and Godspeed! Please eeport back on any incredible deals you may find (or hilarious stories you may experience!)

All I Want for Christmas

Oprah has her list of favorite things. Ellen has 12 days of giveaways. Rachael Ray has her ThanksGIVE-AWAY. And now, I have my own. Don’t be confused, this is not my Christmas wish list – but rather a list of products that I love, some I own, some I have given as gifts. Either way, I am excited to announce my first annual Wish List!

The Little Things Wish List

Dogearred Jewlery
Yes, this is on Oprah’s list too, but I have been a fan of this jewelry, particularly their necklaces for a long time. By sister first introduced me to this wonderful online jewelry box and since that time I have given necklaces as presents to many friends and family members.

Sequin Apparel
I love the holidays because it is the one time of the year where you can dress up like a 5-year-old ballerina and totally get away with it. Here are a few of my choice sparkly pieces.

Amazon Kindle

A few years ago Matt’s parents gave him a Kindle. To be honest, neither of us really wanted a Kindle. At that time, we were in the “I love turning the page” camp. Well needless to say, after reading one book on it I was in love. I quickly adopted the Kindle as my own. Matt is currently reading the Hunger Games on it now and I have a feeling he might become hooked – both with the series and the Kindle. And with their ridiculously low prices it is a great present. I have demo-ed the Kindle Fire at work and I have to say, while it is much smaller than the iPad, it is pretty sick.

 Erin Condren iPhone Case

I love Erin Condren for stationary and cards – I even ordered some holiday labels to attach to presents this year! But I absolutely love the personalized iPhone cases that they added to their product roster this year.

Bubble Wrappd
I absolutely love buying things on Etsy. Supporting the “little guy” always feel so much better than going to big chain stores and the customer service and care that goes into this products is always amazing. The wooden signs that Andrea Chapman creates and adorable and add just the right amount of inspiration and holiday cheer to those little nooks and crannies on your bookshelf of office desk. LOVE these!

Crate and Barrel Holiday Decor

Bone China Snowflake Hurricanes

Decorating for the holidays is one of my most favorite things to do. Growing up, the day after Thanksgiving was almost a bigger deal that Thanksgiving. We would often wake up and participate in the madness that is Black Friday – not so much for the sales (although, we usually found some pretty good ones) but more for the experience. Then we would spend the afternoon putting up hundreds of holiday decorates. By the end of the day, our house would be turned into a winter wonderland! Abby and I have tried to carry on this tradition in our own homes, but it will take some time before we build up a bounty of decorations that rivals our mom’s. I try to keep my holiday decorating “classy” – my fake Christmas tree has white lights and all silvery/glitter ornaments. Crate and Barrel has great decorations that you can use year after year that don’t make your house look like the scene Santa’s Village in you your local mall.  I bought these for Matt’s mom last year. They are especially good because you can keep them up all winter long!

Abby’s Recommendation: Custom NikeiD Running Shoes
These are an incredible gift because the shoes can fit any personality. With the ability to select your shoe style, colors and patterns, designing the shoe is just as great as wearing them. Plus you can put your name on them (or anything for that matter) so no pair is alike. With NikeiD gift cards, you can give the gift of creativity and fitness!

 Matt’s Recommendation: Garmin GPS Running Watch

With this watch you can turn a jog in the park into a highly calculated training run. By tracking your distance, time and elevation you are armed with all of the information to improve your running.

A Tree for New York City

Last year, I wrote a post about the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Matt works near Rockefeller Center and on November 12th when he was walking to work, he passed by the Christmas tree that had just been brought in for the holiday season. I used this pictures in my post where I wrote about the history of this famous tree. That day my blog was Freshly Pressed and a few thousand people visited “The Little Things” that day to read more about the holiday festivities of New York City.

As I  wrote last year, many Rockefeller trees are given to Rockefeller Center by regular citizens (I know, I was shocked too when I learned that there wasn’t a giant tree farm outside of NYC that supplied giant Christmas trees). Members of the Gardens Division of Rockefeller Center, scout in a helicopter for the desired tree in areas including Connecticut, Vermont, Ohio, upstate New York, New Jersey, and even Ottawa, Canada. Once a suitable tree is located, a crane supports it while it is cut, and moves it to a custom telescoping trailer that can transport trees up to 125 feet (38 m) tall, although the width of New York City streets passing through Rockefeller Center limits the height of the trees to 110 ft.

Most New Yorkers don’t learn the history of the tree until the night of the tree lighting when the commentators tell its story. Thankfully, I have an “in” to this year’s tree – my amazing Grandfather!

This year’s Rockefeller Christmas tree hails from a small town in Pennsylvania called Mifflinville. This town is just 5 miles from the little town that my grandparents, aunt and uncle home. So you can imagine their excitement when they learned that the very tree that brought me blogging fame and glory last year, would be coming from their neck of the woods for this year’s holiday season. My grandfather diligently cut out the newspaper articles and mailed them over for my blogging purposes!

A crane jockeys the 75-foot, 10-ton Norway spruce from the yard of Nancy Keller in Mifflinville PA on Wednesday November 10th.

This year’s tree was nearly cut down by its owners 30 years ago; however after giving it a little pruning, he decided to keep in on his property. Thankfully he did. While driving along Interstate 80 last march, Rockefeller’s head gardener spotted this 75-year-old, 75 foot tall Norway spruce and knew it would be the perfect tree for the world’s most famous tree stand. After months of preparations and frequent visits to tend to the spruce, the official decision to send this tree to New York City.

The South Center Township Police were hired to watch the property on Halloween weekend and 24 hours a day starting on November 2nd. And as a thank you to the tree’s owners, they have been invited to visit New York this holiday season as guests of Rockefeller Center. And in the spring, the center gardening team will return to Mifflinville to plant an umbrella pine in the tree’s place.

On the morning of Wednesday November 10th, camera crews, radio personalities and approximately 150 locals gathered to watch the chain saw make quick work of the soon-to-be famous tree. In about six minutes, one man sliced through the 5-foot-wide trunk. A crane slowly lifted the tree and loaded it onto the 115-foot “tree trailer” and made to drive to the big city.

The crane that lifted the massive Norway spruce was able to lay the tree on the 115-foot trailer specially made, and only used for, transporting the Rockefeller Christmas tree to NYC
Each branch on the 46-foot-wide evergreen had already been carefully wrapped and tied in place
Children inspect the stump and count the rings

The tree branches will be covered with more than 30,000 lights and topped with the Swarovski crystal star, a 9.5 foot diameter creation made from 25,000 crystals and another 720 lightbulbs. The lights will be lit for the first time during the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Wednesday November 30th and the tree will remain up through the January 7th for the thousands of tourists who visit New York over the holiday season.

But what is most interesting about this story is what happens to the tree afterwards. After the holidays, the tree will become lumber for Habitat for Humanity and any remnants will be ground into pulp for paper to be used in printing of “The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree.”

Thank you grandpa for providing this incredible story. It could not be more fitting that he sent me this story; my grandparents love Christmas more than anyone I know. Not the material aspect, but the joy that comes from decorating their house (they have made hundreds of homemade holiday decorations over the years!) and the beauty of a well decorated tree. Thank you for passing down your love of the holidays to my mom, and now to me. I can’t wait until next Sunday to send you pictures of my tree!

Visiting my Grandpa in Florida
So glad my grandparents made the trip for my wedding!

Why My Sister Can Never Get Married

This weekend, Abby came to New York for one of her former swimmer’s wedding last night. I was thrilled that the wedding was on Friday because that meant that I got to spent time with Abby on Saturday and Sunday before she returned to Virginia. I was especially excited to see her since we won’t be seeing each other over Thanksgiving as I am heading to my in-laws (I love saying that!) this year.

As most people who follow my blog know, Abby got a dog last February. Since that time, her visits to New York have been sort of frustrating for me since she would have this adorable, but high-maintenance, puppy with her. Add in the fact that Matt is terribly allergic to dogs so Abby and Bexley couldn’t stay at our apartment when they visited, my time with her on those weekend trips was very short. Thank goodness Bex is so cute, or else I might force Abby to get rid of her.

Bexley before her first 5K race this weekend.

Abby decided to leave Bex at home this weekend. And while I would love to see my niece-puppy, I was excited to have a dog-free weekend with Abby in NYC. It isn’t that I had a lot of fun things planned for Abby’s visit, but just spending time together, something we were able to do nearly every weekend when she lived in NYC, is one of my favorite things. She arrived at my apartment earlier today and we spent the afternoon hanging out, chatting, and doing some errands around the city. After getting pedicures together, Abby decided to go visit a friend for dinner.

I have never been good at sharing. I hate sharing my food if I am out at a restaurant, Matt and I each have our own tube of toothpaste (weird, I know), and I didn’t let Matt touch my iPhone for the first four months I owned it. But the thing that I hate sharing the most is my sister, especially now that we don’t live in the same city.

I am pretty sure that my sister feels pretty similarly to me – however, I am so lucky that she likes Matt and, inversely, that Matt puts up with us. Unfortunately for Abby, I am not like that. I don’t want to share her with anyone, not even her puppy!

So I am sorry to all of my sister’s future suitors – you need to acknowledge that you will always play second fiddle to me, or else I won’t give you my blessing. And let’s face it, my blessing is much more important than my dad’s; I am pretty sure Matt asked for Abby’s permission to propose before he asked for my dad’s.

So now I am sitting at home, watching Notre Dame take down Boston College, just counting the minutes until Abby comes back! Man, sharing is so hard!

Pouting because I hate sharing Abby