O Christmas Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

After surviving hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, Matt and I immediately switched into Christmas mode. On Saturday we went out and bought our first real Christmas tree together. This was always a magical experience for me as a child. About a week after Thanksgiving, my family would drive over to Clark’s Farm and walk through the maze of Christmas trees searching for the best one. Christmas music would be playing over the speakers, Christmas lights were strung around the farm and more often than not, there would be snow on the ground. Once we picked out the tree, we would strap it to the top of the car and drive it home. My dad would string on old fashioned colored lights before we went to town adding ornaments, each of which held special significance to us. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. So, when Matt and I decided to ditch our fake tree for a real one, I wanted to recreate my childhood experience.

Although Hoboken is a lot less intense than NYC, it is still pretty urban. There aren’t farms to buy your tree and sadly, there is no snow. We went to Home Depot to get some lights and Matt convinced me to look at their trees. We walked over to the trees, which were located on the second level of a parking garage, not quite the magical experience I was looking for. The trees were all bundled up so it was hard to tell which one was “the best” but after a few tries, we picked out one that we thought would be good.

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As we waited in line, I began to question our purchase. Standing in the cement parking garage, with a tree that I couldn’t fully see, I came to conclusion that I just couldn’t do it. I told Matt to put the tree back and we left. I know– sort of a bratty move. But this was going to be our first tree and I wanted the experience to be more memorable. I mean, really… we were in a parking garage!

We drove up the street to a local nursery that had a hand painted sign out front that said “Fresh Christmas Trees for your Home.” I knew we would provide a good home for a tree so in we pulled. Immediately I knew I made the right decision. There were lights strung up, Christmas music playing and the trees were all unwrapped so you could get a good look at them. The man helping us made sure we got a great tree — he wouldn’t let us take home something we didn’t love. It was a great experience — well worth the increased price we had to pay as compared to Home Depot (right Matt?)! We even got to take photos of ourselves as elves before we paid!

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Matt lugged the tree into our apartment, definitely a sight to see since our tree is probably 11 feet tall!

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And, just like his father, he couldnt’ wait to start vacuuming up the needles once the tree was standing!

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Since our ceilings are 15′ high, we knew we wanted a big tree – I just had no idea how fat it was until we got it inside!

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Getting the lights on the tree proved to be a challenging task, especially for someone with a slight obsessiveness. Matt finally made me stop fidgeting with the lights and poured me a glass of eggnog to enjoy in front of the tree.

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We still need to add some ornaments and a tree skirt but the tree is looking good and our apartment smells wonderful. Here’s to the magic of Christmas!

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!

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!)

Cyber Monday

After the turkey has been carved, the parade has passed Macy’s on 34th street and the relatives return home we come back to work on Monday, a little rounder around the belly. While we have enjoyed time away from the office, many people will return to work exhausted from the holiday festivities. And this is only the beginning. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we can focus on the remainder of the holiday season. For many of us, this means stringing lights, hanging ornaments and breaking out the Christmas music. It is the most wonderful time of the year and sometimes the most tiring. However, I for one, think it is entirely worth it.

After Thanksgiving, my mom sister and I participated in the craziness that is Black Friday. While my mom and Abby stocked up on Christmas presents for nearly everyone on their list, I concentrated on myself (talk about holiday spirit). As they walked around the store finding things for cousins, aunts, grandparents and friends, I walked around the stores picking up things for myself. This year, I am having a hard time coming up with good ideas for presents, and since I know what I want, it was simply easier to shop for myself. And clearly, I was trying to make the most out of the great sales! Unfortunately, when we returned and looked at our purchases, I realized that I was no closer to being complete with holiday shopping.

So now I am sitting at work, scanning the websites of stores. Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday immediately following Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The term made its debut on November 28, 2005 in a Shop.org press release entitled “‘Cyber Monday’ Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year”. In 2009, it was reported that consumers spent $887M online on Cyber Monday (excluding travel), the second highest spending day of 2009. Data has shown that Cyber Monday online sales have always been driven by considerable buying activity from work locations. That pattern hasn’t changed. After returning from the long Thanksgiving weekend with a lot of holiday shopping still ahead of them, many consumers tend to continue their holiday shopping from work. Whether to take advantage of the extensive Cyber Monday deals offered by retailers or to buy gifts away from the prying eyes of family members, this day has become an annual ritual for America’s online holiday shoppers.

So for anyone else who is sitting at work scanning the sales, here are some of the top deals going on right this very instant. So make yourself some hot chocolate, set your Pandora to Christmas music and let the festivities begin! (Please note that the first three sites are all part of my registry – what a strange coincidence!)

Crate And Barrel 

The Deal: Stemware, barware, dinnerware

Houseware giant Crate & Barrel is offering 25% off on all kinds of items, across the store, from martini glasses to starter dining sets.

Macy’s

The Deal: The better question is, what isn’t on sale?

The magic of Macy’s includes clothing, jewelry, home goods and kitchen tools. Just enter the code “CYBER” into the coupon code before checking out.

REI

The Deal: Up to 30% off winter gear, clothing and camping supplies!

Great gifts for all of those outdoorsy relatives. Check out the steep discounts on Padagonia jackets and Smart Wool socks. Just in time for winter!

Kohls

The Deal: Pillows, mattresses, watches, outerwear

Retail giant Kohl’s slashes prices on its site 35% to 60%, on everything from watches and jewelry to outerwear and home goods.

Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft

The Deal: 40% off EVERY THING plus free shipping

For the fashionista on your list. Use code “ENJOY” at checkout.

Victorias Secret

The Deal: Dresses, jackets, shoes

Victoria Secret is offering up to 70% off select bras, underwear and sleepwear. Shoppers who buy sleepwear will receive a free pair of slippers if they use the code VS10SLEEP at checkout–and anyone can receive free shipping on their order if they enter the code SHIPVS1. Get your holiday jammies before it is too late!

Check out these sites for other great deals:

Handmade gifts

Photo gifts

Sports gifts

Unique gifts

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Every year millions of tourists come to New York City to catch a glimpse of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and skate a few laps around the world-renowned ice skating rink. The tree gives people a reason to celebrate. It serves as a symbol of hope, a beacon of peace and is the official sign that the holiday season is upon us. This year’s tree arrived in Rockefeller Center this morning and will be raised later today. No matter how hard I try to hold off on celebrating Christmas until Thanksgiving has passed, it is difficult not to be excited by this sight.


(A special thank you to Matt for stopping to take these pictures on his way to work!)

Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933 (the year the 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened),the unofficial tradition began during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when workers decorated a small 20 foot balsam fir-tree with strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1931. Some accounts have the tree decorated with the tin foil ends of blasting caps. Click here for a photo tribute and history of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

Many Rockefeller trees were given to Rockefeller Center by donors.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. This year’s tree is  74 feet tall and hails from the town of Mahopac (in Putnam County) which is located approximately 50 miles from Manhattan.  The 75-year-old Norway spruce, is especially meaningful since it comes from the yard of 9/11 first responder and firefighter and was found on September 11th of this year.

Once at the Rockefeller Center, the tree is supported by four guy wire attached at its midpoint, and by a steel spike at its base. Scaffolding is put up around the tree to assist workers in putting up 30,000 lights attached to 5 miles of wiring. The star that has topped the tree since 2004 is 9.5 feet in diameter and weighs 550 pounds and is made out of the famous Swarovski crystals.

This year, the annual Christmas at Rockefeller Center tree lighting celebration will take place on November 30, 2010.

Tasting the Forbidden Fruit

 

Growing up, our household had a lot of holiday traditions. Some of these have since ended, but some are continued to this day.

Most years, I ran in the Memorial Day Road Race. It started as something that I did with my father. I will never forget the first year we ran together. I was in Kindergarten and 5 years old. We “trained” by running around the block near my house. At best, the block covers a total distance of .5 miles and we probably did this 2-3 different times before the race. This was plenty of physical preparation for the 5K run. Unfortunately what my dad didn’t account for was the massive amounts of psychological training I should have been doing.

The race ends with a 100 yard stretch that is lined with the friends and families members of people participating. Well, as we ran down this stretch, I burst into tears. I am not sure what triggered this, but I can tell you that it was a fair warning for my parents for all of the tears that were to come as a result of tennis matches, soccer games, swim meets and all other competitive atmospheres. I finished the race, placing 3rd in the 8 & under division (I can’t imagine there were more than 5 kids in this age group…) and proudly brought my medal into Kindergarten for show and tell the following Monday. For many years after, I participated in this race, often with a different family member.

On Halloween, our town wouldn’t have trick-or-treating on the day of Halloween OR at night. This lead to problems when the New England Swimming Top Ten Banquet often fell on the weekend of trick-or-treating. We probably attended that banquet for 10 years in a row, and would find ourselves sneaking out early so that we could make it home for the last couple hours of trick-or-treating. Either that or we would be coming from a soccer game…

The 4th of July normally meant watching fireworks from CMC (one of the hospitals that my father worked at) and Easter was a family brunch at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference center… I know, I thought that one was weird too. Christmas was matching PJs on Christmas Eve and for the past 15 years, the Candlelight Service at the Bedford Presbyterian Church.  Thanksgiving brings cooking, the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and many times charades with our family friends, the Possees. However, the tradition I like the most comes the day after Thanksgiving.

While I certainly participate in the shopping escapades that make up Black Friday, the tradition that I am referring to is the welcoming of Christmas. I have a strict “no Christmas” policy until Thanksgiving has past. While I am not a huge fan of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, I do think that the idea of Thanksgiving is one that should not be forgotten. Everyone races to get to Christmas and I find that this holiday gets overlooked. So, as a way to honor Thanksgiving, I don’t listen to Christmas music, set up decorations or truly start my Christmas shopping until that day after Thanksgiving. 

That being said, I LOVE Christmas music. From the Friday after Thanksgiving straight through to Christmas Day, I don’t listen to anything else. I have created countless Christmas Music stations on my Pandora and know the words to basically every Christmas song ever written. I find myself tempted to listen to christmas music, especially if I enter a store that has their holiday decoration out in full force. However, it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.

Today, while I was sitting at work listening to my “classical music” Pandora station, a song came on that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. When I switched my computer screen over to the Pandora website to see the name of the song, I knew immediately that something had gone terribly wrong. The song that I was listening to, and enjoying, was none other than Angels from the Relms of Glory, a 100% Christmas song. I immediately changed the channel, but it was too late. I had tasted the forbidden fruit and I want more.

I now find myself trying to fulfill my musical appetite with the likes of Taylor Swift, the cast of Glee and Something Corporate. Unfortunately all I crave is Mannheim Steamroller, the London Boy’s Choir, and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. It is going to be a long 3 weeks…