Thursday, December 31, 2009

Diary Entries From New Year's Past

A slight case of writer's block has set in as we're gearing up for our 2009 New Year's Eve celebration up in Westchester with friends. We're rushing around trying to get ready as my husband has high hopes of beating the traffic. I'm nearly finished packing for the overnight while my husband is spicing up his various homemade salsas.

We woke up to about two inches of snow so the hubs has had the TV stuck on the Weather Channel since 9AM. It's always very informative to know the temperature in South Carolina and how the roads are doing in Minnesota. I did hear the weather forecaster say many people feel sad around New Year's Eve. She's right. For some reason I always feel this wave of depression on December 31st. I think about how I wish I had done this or too bad that didn't happen. Projects we never did start. Additional weight gained rather than lost. Debts that didn't dwindle as much as we had hoped. Family members that are no longer here with us. Just sad thoughts.

I hate to bring you down.

It's just that I've never been one of those upbeat, positive types. That person I've always envied. That person with high hopes for the coming year. That person who usually sticks to their resolutions and accomplishes what they set out to do and then some. That person that will earn more money this year than last. That person that will, no doubt, look better this year than they did last year. Yeah, that has never been me. But that's OK. I accept that.

Curious to see what I had to say on New Year's years ago, I hit the diaries and here's what I discovered. It's sort of embarrassing, but I trust you guys. I trust you won't rub it in my face or make me feel worse than I already do.

As always, thanks for reading. It means a lot to me.

December 31,  1981 Thurs (I was 8)
I and my brother got in truble from the man at the store. (I swear, that's all it says!)

January 1, 1984 (I was 11)
Today I went to Shoppers Village and bought 2 pairs of neon earrings, pink socks, thick white laces and a big red brush. I also babysat for Mark and made $13. I got my pictures developed of Eddie. He looks so cute.

January 1, 1986  (I was 13)
Happy New Year!  Last night I slept over Serena's house. It was probably the best New Year's Eve ever. We both missed the ball fall, we waited all night and then at 11:59 we went into a roar of laughter, I almost peed my pants. Serena actually did and her parents got all mad! 

Uncle Tony and Aunt Sue are leaving tonight. They and Grandma and Grandpa ate over. Last night I was reading my old diary and all of a sudden now I miss Hofstra summer acting camp. It was so much fun! My hair is in five braids. It's 10:30. Good night.

January 1, 1989, Sunday (I was 16)

Last night I went to Val's party. She's so sweet. I slept over. It was better than sitting home with my parents and having nothing to do. The people there were extremely strange. I taped some of Val's music from her Smiths, Cure and New Order albums. I went home in the morning, very early. I got very little sleep. I'm so depressed. This blanket of cold depression has taken over. I don't want to go to school. I wish I could lose a lot of weight. I need to find some diet pills at Rockbottom. (An old drug store chain near our house.)

December 31, 1989 9PM (I was 17 and yes, I wrote the time!)
I figured I should make an entry, this being the last three hours of 1989. The end of a decade. So much has happened in the last 10 years of my life. I've gone from a child to almost a college student. I've even lost my, well, you know. Speaking of which, I miss Joe to the point of death. I miss my room, my phone, my cats. Joe didn't send me any flowers. I really don't feel like writing. I'm very depressed, lonely and bored.

-- I just realized that was the year I was in Florida for Christmas. I had a great time, but missed my high school boyfriend big time!

January 1, 1991 Tuesday at 4 am (I was 18)
Well it's the 4th hour of the first day of 1991. Joseph and I are finally breaking up. I always knew I'd start the year off right! Tonight Eric and Scott stopped by and the weirdest thing happened, I began to actually miss high school. Believe it or not! I miss the beginning of 11th grade when Scott and I just became friends. I hope this year's a good one.  I got my grades: Science 1.0, Health, 2.5, English 2.0, Message Design 2.5 and Sociology 2.0 Great first semester! I'm so drunk right now.

My resolutions are: 
  1. Lose 50 lbs 
  2. Improve my grades to a 3.0
  3. Find a new boyfriend!
  4. Make new friends
  5. Get into New Paltz (I was rejected and went to Community College the next year)
  6. Make some friends on Long Island (I did, and most of us are all still very close to this day!)

January 2, 1994, Sunday (I was 21)

New Years was a blast! Gideon (my college boyfriend) came in on Thursday around 5ish... Friday, NYE, we went into the city and went to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to an underground warehouse party. It was so cool. It was only $7 per person they gave out free bottles of champagne and I got drunk. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Eve of Yesteryear

When I was a kid, I loved New Year's Eve much more than I do now. It was so awesome! Until about the age of 11, my family and grandparents would drive into Kew Gardens to visit my great aunt and uncle. Kew Gardens isn't very far, but back then it was like another time zone. We'd park on what seemed like a Manhattan city street and take an elevator up a few flights to Aunt Marcy & Uncle Henry's apartment.

Most of the people we knew lived in suburban houses. It was strange visiting someone in an apartment. New York City apartment buildings were much different than houses. They were kinda like hotels minus the soda, snack and ice machines. I would try to stand perfectly still for a few seconds and inhale the various aromas found in city apartment buildings. I would play this secret game with myself and identify the different scents.

City-style apartment buildings always have an undeniable aroma of bleach or cleanser often combined with ethnic foods, coffee and floral perfumes. It's not a particularly bad thing, but to me it's the epitome of city apartment living. I remember this same exact scent as it followed me to my minuscule Chelsea studio twenty years later. It also followed me whenever I would visit friends at their apartments in Brooklyn and around Manhattan.

Memories of New Year's Eve in Kew Gardens are far from thrilling, but to this kid, it was pure excitement. We never owned Connect Four, but my aunt did. My little brother and I would play Connect Four for hours and despite who won, my brother and I would repeat the famous, "Pretty sneaky sis!" line from the 1981 commercial every time. I could recite that commercial verbatim.

Aunt Marcy was the perfect hostess. She always made sure to serve up a delicious array of traditional snacks. Chilled sodas flowed freely throughout the evening. We'd feast on celery sticks with classic Lipton's Onion Soup Mix dip, pigs in blankets, chips and antipasto. Ah, Italians and their antipasto. Each salty bite tasted better than the next. My brother and I would lay on our stuffed little bellies, gripping couch pillows atop a neutrally-colored carpet. Anxiously we waited near the TV for the final 60 second countdown with Dick Clark.

My older relatives doled out pots and wooden sticks for us to bang and yell, "Happy New Year!" We'd laugh ourselves silly as Grandpa always took it a step further. Throwing the window open, he'd stick his arms and head into the frigid January air, and bang two pot tops together that sort of resembled oddly-shaped, mismatched cymbals. He had this two-finger-whistle which became his trademark noisemaker - he'd bust it out at our birthday celebrations as well. It sometimes scared the younger grandkids who weren't yet used to loud shrill noises. We'd often try to imitate that beloved whistle, but nobody could get it right.

I'm not sure why we stopped partying with Aunt Marcy and Uncle Henry in Kew Gardens. Maybe we simply outgrew it. I think we spent a few Christmas holidays in Florida, unintentionally breaking up the tradition. Sometimes my grandparents would host a similar get together at their house. One thing I do remember, was that Grandma would serve Bugles at her New Year's Eve parties. Be it a Frito or a Bugle, Grandpa loved his corn chips - I swear that man never met a corn chip he didn't like.

This year my mom's going to Connecticut to celebrate with my grandma, aunt, uncle and cousin. Deep down, I wish I was going. I would love to relive those family moments I remember from the early '80s. I would love to sit around with my family playing board games and eating salty snacks until our bellies hurt. Sadly my grandpa has since passed on, but we could bang pots and pans and keep his New Year's Eve spirit alive. I bet my uncle even knows how to whistle with his two fingers. He's from Alberta, Canada - that seems like something Canadian dudes would know how to do. Right? They're fun, lively people. Maybe next year.

How about you? What was your New Year's Eve like as a kid?

As always, thanks for listening.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not So Tiny Dancer

Driving home from Long Island to New Jersey, I passed The Plattduetsche on busy Hempstead Turnpike. Known mostly for their Octoberfest and summer beer garden, the Plattduetsche is a popular German restaurant. I don't have memories of being wasted on bitter beers. Nope, for me the first thought that comes to mind is my yearly dance recital I looked forward to while growing up.

Between the ages of 7 and 11, I spent several hours a week at Miss Diane's School of Dance. Miss Diane was married with kids, so I'm not exactly sure why we didn't call her "Mrs." Diane - I blogged about this once before - why are most teachers "Miss" regardless of their marital status? I'm just saying...

When I first started taking dance class, I wore soft shoes for ballet and shiny black patent leather shoes for tap. The class was divided into 30 minute sections - one for tap and one for ballet. I couldn't wait to wear "toe shoes." I had to wait until about fifth grade before I was allowed to buy toe shoes. Some crap about the foot being strong enough to support the body weight. I don't know exactly... but what I do know is that the day I finally got to wear those fancy toe shoes was one very important day. I loved the way they smelled. I loved the way the satin ribbon tied around my little chubby ankles. They actually felt like steel-tip slippers. I loved the way the toes were so tough that I could actually squeeze the tip of my toes and not feel anything while wearing those pretty, pink satiny shoes. I guess that explains why I loved wearing steel-tip Doc Martens later in my angst-ridden teens.

I remember the other girls had these awesome plastic boxy bags they'd tote their shoes to each week. They kind of reminded me of the boxes you kept your Barbies in. For some reason my mom didn't think these boxy style totes were practical. I was stuck with my free canvas bag from our local bank or whomever was giving out tote bag swag that year. Mom was always practical that way. In fact, I recall my dance costume making a great Halloween costume in a pinch.

It's hard to believe I performed five years worth of dance recitals at that German restaurant. I remember the prep. I remember trying on my fancy costume. I remember how unbelievably exciting it was watching my mom spray my tap shoes silver, then applying colored bows and ribbons to the tops once they were dry. Miss Diane asked that we do this every year to our shoes to dress them up. We were also asked not to wear any underwear or undershirts under our costumes. Not wearing any panties felt very unnatural and was only done when wearing a bathing suit, but I followed her rules. She also asked us to avoid eating, although we were allowed to consume a light meal hours before the recital. I loved how my mom would always save me a few forkfuls of her fancy wedding-hall style-dinner the night of our performance. Once we were finished with our numbers,  I'd run to find my parents at their table and Mom would sneak me a couple of bites of her prime rib and mashed potatoes.
We would wait all year just for this late spring dance recital. Many of the girls would receive flowers or wrist corsages from their parents. The very first year I was one of the few girls going home flowerless. My parents had to deal with me crying after that very first recital. They were simply unaware that other parents bestowed beautiful corsages and flowers to their daughters. It was a tradition for our family of four to stop for ice cream after my recital. I'd prance around Friendly's in my festive costume as if I was this big deal dancer.

Miss Diane handed out a small trophy to girls who put in three years at her dancing school. On the fifth year, students received a larger trophy. Sadly, I can't find any of these at my mom's house. I think they were the only trophies I've ever earned because I didn't have to actually excel at anything. I simply had to submit a check each week and stick out dancing classes year after year. How difficult was that?

My mom says she kept me in dance classes to keep me active - she thought it was a great way to burn off calories. I guess that one hour per week wasn't enough to prevent me from being the chubbiest kid in our dance class. Why were dancers so darn skinny? I don't think this mattered much to me back then. I had a great time, skinny or not. I wish I had kept in touch with the kids from Miss Diane's. I wonder what happened to them all. Did any of them become backup dancers for Paula Abdul or something in the '90s? Hmm. You never know!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Cranky Next -Door Neighbor

It's crazy to think that 1979 was over 30 years ago. 1979 was the year my parents moved us to Nassau County, Long Island. The "new house" was a standard size brown and white cape on a busy street. I loved that we had a pool and a basement for my brother and me to play in. I loved that we had a big tree in the backyard. The one thing I didn't love was the nasty family that lived next-door. 

Before moving to that house, we lived in an adorable little ranch house in a Suffolk County town called Oakdale. We only lived in the ranch house for about a year or so, but I liked it there. Oakdale was a pretty town peppered with quiet streets, dandelions, duck ponds and trees with pink flowers.  I was only five at the time so that's about all I can remember. 

Our new block in Nassau County was cold and hard. Cars beeped and traffic would build every rush-hour morning and night so we always had to be careful on our bikes. Sure that sucked, but the one thing that really made our days hellish, were our elderly neighbors. Each and every day they would take turns peering out of their front door watching us with their beady old eyes.

They would report back to our parents if we stepped on their lawn. They would run out yelling at us if our bike touched the patch of property which was close to our driveway. The funny part is that they didn't have fancy topiary gardening or landscaping. They had a boring, flowerless front yard with a few boring bushes. 

These jerks were always aware of our every move. One night when I was about ten, I had a friend sleeping over and my folks were out for the night. My bedroom window faced their son's bedroom. Playing in my room, we noticed we could see him and his high school girlfriend making out. Shocked, we ran downstairs and reported our discovery to my babysitter. Her mouth fell open and she demanded we show her our vantage point. She encouraged us to tap on the window but I was nervous to do so. The babysitter insisted she knew him from school and said to just tap once so she could get a better look at his face. Like a bunch of idiots, we tapped.

Within seconds he was calling our house. She answered the phone despite my pleading for her not to. He complained to her about our naughty voyeuristic behavior. We stood next to her, nervously listening as she tried to comfort him, assuring him it would be taken care of.  When she hung up the phone, we made her swear she would not tell my folks. She promised she would keep it a secret. After all, it was her fault that we got busted.

Sure enough, as soon as my folks came home from their movie night, she reported us meddling in our neighbor's love affair. My parents were pissed. They sent my friend home and I was spanked that night with a hairbrush. I wanted to kill my babysitter and that asshole next door. Thinking back now,  if someone saw me making out with my high school boyfriend, I'd laugh or just shut the blinds. Who has the balls to call someone's parents over it?

As we got older the watchdog neighbors became tougher and tougher. I had friends who would beep their horns and pick me up. The old lady would question my mom as to who drove this car and who drove that car and if they could refrain from beeping their horns. When my folks went away, we'd throw somewhat tame pool parties. Cranky old bag made sure to fill my folks in on all the goings-on while they were away.

The old man has since passed, but was just as bad as his wife when it came to narcing on us. Always reporting to Dad how we walked on his side of the lawn or how our bike touched a patch of his grass, etc. She's still alive and kicking and every time I visit my mom, she's hanging out of her front door. Sometimes she calls me over to tell me something stupid though I pretend to be on my cell phone avoiding her as best I can.

When it snows, my brother shovels Mom's driveway and walkway. He was telling me that he can't help but shovel for her every time we get snow. He knows her sons live far and she's all alone and doesn't drive. He was saying today that even though he's nice enough to shovel her snow, she still bitches to him about how he should do this and that for her. We have decided that the next time she says something; he is going to rattle off all of the crap she did to us growing up. Someone needs to tell her how much she has sucked since day one.

Thanks for listening. I'm sorry to sound so mean, but after 31 years, it feels good venting.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day-After-Christmas Shopping Ritual

Every December 26th, my mom and I organize our day which revolves around scoring holiday cards for 50% off. It's like this obsession. Sure we could just get cheap $3 cards from Walmart next December, but that's not how we roll. We have a thing for high-quality holiday cards featuring artistic photos or drawings on them which always seem to have a $15.99 price tag.. I'm afraid to hear what my budget bloggin' buddy, Rainy Day Saver would have to say about this, as well as my many green friends who don't believe in sending cards. Eek! To combat my card-sending compulsion, I'm planning on submitting my used holiday cards for re-purposing/recycling at nonprofits such as St. Jude's.

When it comes to our day-after-Christmas bargain hunting; rain, sleet or snow will never stop us. We are two gals on a mission -- dressed and hungry for a deal. By 10 am we're on the roads searching for a steal. Our mental list includes wrapping paper, gift bags and tags but most importantly our overpriced cards at deeply discounted prices.

Ironically, we seem to find the best deals at the stores that may not be top-of-mind. For example, for the past ten years now, I've gotten the cutest cards at Barnes & Noble. Book stores always have lots of artistic gift wrap in addition to an interesting selection of cool holiday cards. I once found a bundle of 60 gift bags varying in sizes and graphics on sale at Bed, Bath & Beyond for just $5. I now have enough gift tags and bags, thanks to last year's sale, to last a life time of Christmases.

Years ago, we always did well at Hallmark stores on Long Island, however recently this hasn't been the case. It's nearly impossible for me to find Hallmark half-off after the holidays.  I'm not sure what the deal is, but every year I attempt to snag some fancy Hallmark cards half-off and am greeted with the same disappointment. The shelves are deserted and signs hang on shop doors stating they do not offer Hallmark cards at discounted prices. This year, I emailed their corporate offices to find out if this is a standard practice devised from corporate, or if it's simply a case of cheap store owners.

Yesterday we were turned away from a Hallmark store (as expected), looked at picked-over empty shelves at Home Goods and Marshall's, but as always lucked out at Barnes & Noble in Parsippany. Deep down, all I really cared about was getting my cute cards. I don't wrap many gifts thanks to the popularity of gift bags (which we always reuse and hope others do too!) so I'm not in the market for wrapping paper. In fact, I still have like ten rolls of Hello Kitty paper that I found at A&P one January at the amazing price of $1 per roll.

This year's bargain hunt consisted of simply holiday cards and that's it. I'm hoping to get to Bath & Body Works later today to see if they have some gingerbread or candy apple type hand soap half-off, but other than that, nothing major. My lack of enthusiasm makes me wonder if I'm losing my spirit or if my energy level is depleting with age. 

Do you have a day-after-Christmas shopping ritual? If so, what is it?

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Mental Hangover

It's Christmas Night and I'm a bit sad. I know this sounds very strange, but when it comes to big holidays and special events, I experience this overwhelming feeling of disappointment. It creeps up on me every Christmas night - like after we have cake and coffee. After the gifts are all opened.  Why? The truth, I hate that it has to end.

No more Christmas music on Lite FM. No more 24-hours of A Christmas Story on TBS. No more Christmas tree. No more houses and trees lighting up the neighborhood. I dread that feeling of packing up the tree, ornaments and wrapping paper until next year. No more Christmas cards arriving daily in the mail. No more holiday flavored lattes at Starbucks. It seems like such a long wait until the next year when we get to do it all over again. I honestly just hate how that upbeat excitement dies. I hate how the days return to an uneventful state of normalcy.

We spend months preparing for Christmas and it's over in like 48 hours. I'm not a big fan of New Year's Eve, so it's not like I'm all excited to get drunk and wild with friends one week from now. Every year, for as long as I can remember, by about 8 pm on Christmas night it hits me that it's over. It's sort of the same feeling I get on Sunday nights before a work week commences.

I went through this after my wedding too. Most people are relieved the minute that their wedding is over. Labor, sweat, tears, stress - everything involved in planning a wedding makes the bride nearly sick - me, I embraced every minute of it. When my wedding ended, I knew I'd feel sad - the same sadness that creeps up on me when we fly home from a vacation. I purposely planned a November wedding so that I would have Thanksgiving and Christmas to look forward to.

What's wrong with me? Why does this post-holiday/post-event depression make it sound like I hate my everyday life so much? I don't. I'm OK. I mean other than the fact that I wish I had a decent full-time job and a house, things are good. I love my husband, our kitty, my family and friends. I love our new car and our things. I love that my husband cooks and that we're sorta homebodies.

Wondering if others experience this post-holiday sadness.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel ... What are you wearing Christmas Eve?

Yesterday while packing up for Christmas Eve on Long Island, I asked my husband which sweaters he wanted to wear for Christmas Eve and Day.  Looking through our tops and sweaters, I simply tossed whatever seemed decent, into our small suitcase. For the past ten years, we've spent Christmas Eve at my uncle's along with about 20 of our closest family members. Typically the kids aged 12 and under, are decked in pretty holiday dresses, cute little red and green ties or sweater vests. We all "Ooooh" and "Awww" over them as they coyly smile knowing they're all cuter than the next. The girls saunter around in their cute Christmas shoes, matching purses, hair clips and other accessories. We snap photos and talk about how adorable they are and I know in ten years they'll be in jeans and sweaters just like we are.

What are we wearing? The majority of guests ages 17-37 are wearing ordinary sweaters and dark jeans. None of us make an effort to wear red or green. Nope, we're in black, brown, navy - whatever colors are popular that year. None of us are wearing snowflake earrings or Santa broaches. If anyone's wearing holiday socks, they certainly aren't showing them off in any way. None of the men are in ties and if any of the women are in dresses, "slacks" or skirts, they are most likely over 50.  In fact if you snap a photo of several of us on the couch, you would never know it was Christmas Eve.

<---My husband with his bowl haircut and holiday velour.

Rewind to the old days ... I asked my husband about his holiday fashions and he told me about hideous tartan plaid pants, ties and vest outfits. Looking back at old photos, I noticed my brother and I were also dressed in uncomfortable holiday dress clothes. I saw myself in some shiteous fashions such as a long red, snug, t-shirt dress. Luckily that year I appeared a bit leaner than usual.

 In another Christmas Eve photo from 1980, I'm wearing an ugly white blouse with a green and gold vest. In 1982, I'm in another fancy white blouse with a knitted red wreath pin. I recognize the red skirt as one that my grandma made for our school's holiday performance. Every year, the girls in the glee club wore red skirts with white blouses. One year my mom sewed silver garland on the bottom of my red skirt - it was the coolest - I loved it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Foods From The Past

Today one of the blogs I follow mentioned a food I haven't heard of in many years. Remember the egg in a basket? My grandma and mom made these for my little brother growing up. In case you've never heard of it, it's basically a cute fusion of an egg with toast. To be honest, I don't think my mom ever made this for me since I've always been a scrambled egg fan. They're really cool now that I think about it. Since I don't have any kids, I may need to make one for my husband -- he calls me the breakfast chef.

Remember days when you had a tummy ache and Mom would make you something bland? The famous food for the sick, both at our house and at Grandma's, was Pastina. Maybe because we're Italian??? After I had my gall bladder removed, doctors said I could basically eat anything, as long as it wasn't fried. I didn't believe them, so I stuck to a bland diet for the first month. What was the first thing on my shopping list? Pastina of course. Make some and I promise you'll feel like you're three years old again. 

When I was five, my mom would make these awesome sandwiches that looked like happy faces. She would use olives or carrots as eyes and maybe a celery nose and half of a tomato slice for a mouth. Grandma would make us peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I made one the other day. It's not as tasty on whole grain wheat. Prior to the '90s, all of our sandwiches were served on white bread When it came to a standard sandwich, I preferred them cut diagonally or in quarters. Sometimes I still do this.

Today while baking my final batch of Christmas cookies, I realized that I didn't make any of my family's old recipes. Honestly, I don't think I've ever liked the old family cookies very much. I'm not a fan of cookies with nuts, peanut butter cookies or those buttery spritz cookies squeezed from a special cookie gun. I noticed cookie guns are a very popular item on most wedding registries. Instead, this week I made boring Toll House chocolate chips (recipe taken right from the bag). Sugar Cookies ala Martha Stewart and Gingerbread cookies (recipe taken from the McCormick website -- they made my ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Another popular Christmas dessert my family loves is called Struffoli - they're honey balls. I can't stand them! They're sticky and just like these little little puffs of dry pastry. I think they're totally gross and it has nothing to do with who made them. I've tried them at various holiday gatherings. I just don't think they're very tasty. As with most menu items, they're a hit with everyone, but me.

Every Easter, my grandma would make several weird pies or breads. Another Italian specialty. One was a meat pie filled with bits of salami and other meats I don't particularly like. Obviously a favorite of everyone's. Grandma would dole out slices to my relatives. I passed on these funky pies. I'm so not a good Italian. Even looking at photos makes me feel a little ill. The other pie wasn't as bad, I think it was called spaghetti pie or spaghetti bread. It was basically spaghetti, egg, cheese and flour - it wasn't that bad, but I always thought it was a bit weird. The family loved it!

Do you remember any weird dishes your family looked forward to every holiday? Are there any foods you loved as a child that you don't really eat much of today? As I write this, I'm craving an egg in a basket! Not a fan of soft yoke, I will have to fry it well. I'm sooo totally making this next time I make us breakfast!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Many Scents Throughout The Years

I recently found and purchased a perfume from my past thanks to eBay.  Years ago while living in NYC, I became good friends with a hip, trendy and beautiful girl who worked in fashion. She always wore the latest designers and scents. One particular designer fragrance she often wore was Ultraviolet by Paco Rabbane I was smitten by the scent and had to own this perfume.

The year was 2001 and I was just getting to know my husband whom I met online. I wore Ultraviolet every time I took the bus to visit him in his New Jersey hometown. Whenever I smell Ultraviolet, it reminds me of when we first met. I love this scent more than any other perfume basically because it takes me back to that exciting time in my life. There's nothing like new romance!

It's nearly impossible to find Ultraviolet by Paco Rabbane in stores today, but I will always try to find a way to snag a bottle of this sweet purple potion just to relive those memories of 2001-2002. If I close my eyes, it's as if I'm sitting on that New Jersey Transit bus, my heart fluttering as we inch along Rt. 46 closer to my new guy. I memorized every store, gas station, Jersey diner and strip mall along the bus route that year. Once we passed Target, I would text him so he knew when to meet me at the bus stop by the Wendy's.

As a child, I loved Jean Nate. I adored Jean Nate's fancy French name and grown-up aroma. Every year at least one of Mom's students would give her a gift set for the holidays, which she would let me keep. I loved that it came with fancy dusting powder. I felt so mature wearing ladies perfume. Whenever I drowned myself in Jean Nate, I imagined for a moment that I was rich, famous and powerful and lived in a fancy deluxe penthouse in Manhattan - just like Arnold and Willis Jackson and Kimberly Drummond from Diff'rent Strokes. Did I mention Jean Nate is made by Revlon?

I moved on from Jean Nate and found a perky, pretty scent, Love's Baby Soft. What preteen girl from the '80s doesn't remember wearing this lovely scent? Packaged and successfully marketed in my favorite teen magazines like Tiger Beat, Love's Baby Soft truly was the perfect perfume for a twelve-year-old girlie-girl. The color of the actual perfume was pink and the name was as innocent as the sweet powdery scent.

I don't remember what, if any perfume I wore between ages of 13-14, however, I'm pretty sure 1988 was Red Door by Elizabeth Arden and Poison by Christian Dior. Both are so strong and older-lady-like when I smell them today. That year, my math teacher wore White Linen. I found a bottle in my mother-in-law's room recently and wanted to vomit thinking about obtuse triangles and pentagons. Feel free to read about that here.

Christmas of 1989 was the year of Colors by Benetton. If I were to smell that again, it would be as if I jumped into a freaky DeLorean and shot back to high school only Crispin Glover wouldn't be my dad. Colors was a memorable Christmas gift from my parents. Memories of Christmas time with my high school boyfriend, Joe and our teenage love affair would fill my head. I'd probably feel sad, but in a good way.

Between 1993-1994 I was all about Elizabeth Arden's Sunflowers. I had the shower gel, lotion, perfume, shampoo - you name it, I had it. I was obsessed with Sunflowers. My friend Tarah would often sleep over after pulling an all-nighter studying for midterms or a late night of partying. She insisted on teasing me. After her shower, she'd would always say, "Oh hey, I used all of your Sunflowers shower gel AND shampoo. Hope that's OK." Of course as soon as I got over Sunflowers, they started carrying it at CVS.

I'm trying to remember what scent my mom or grandma wore. I don't think they wore anything really. My mom was always very natural. When I was a little girl, I can remember her often slathering Oil of Olay on her face. She swore that it would keep her skin looking younger and reduce the chance of having premature wrinkles. I wonder if it worked? Though it was most likely her constant use of sunblock, never lighting a cigarette and rarely drinking alcohol that kept her skin looking youthful. I always wished I had taken after her in the complexion department. In my adult life, I still break out and have rough oily/dry skin while her face to this day feels so soft.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Show Me The Money!

This weekend our area was hit pretty hard with snow. The total accumulations range from about 4 inches in Westchester to 2 feet in South Jersey and Long Island. Sure it looks pretty, but yesterday some folks on Facebook and Twitter were commenting about the cleanup. Folks over 30 want to know, "Where are the kids looking to earn a few bucks by shoveling their neighbor’s driveway?"
I've noticed this trend since the late '90s actually. I was still living at home and my brother and I would help shovel my mom's walkway and driveway as well as the old lady next door. I'd moan about how when I was a kid, I'd do the entire block and come home sweaty and beat, but with almost $100 in my pocket. The kids on our block were all grown up and had real jobs now.  Driving by, we never saw youngsters shoveling.
We're left wondering... What's the deal with today's youth? Is it just a New York/New Jersey thing? Is it due to all of the newer tech distractions such as way better video games, the internet and text messaging? Could it be an increase in allowance? I only received about $10 a week and tapped out at $20 a week once I was old enough to earn my own spending money. Could it be an increase in school work? I've heard news reports of students receiving much more homework than we did in the '80s.
When I was a kid, all I ever want to do was earn money. When I was sixteen, I even wrote an article about it for Seventeen magazine. Unfortunately although they paid me for my submission, they never printed it. I was crushed, but what can you do.

For years, I ran lemonade stands in front of our house - it was the only benefit of living on a super busy street. When I wasn't selling lemonade, I was running small book and toy sales on our lawn - again cashing in on the traffic. In the end, I found the lemonade garnered the most income.  There was once a sweaty guy doing construction on the house across the street. He popped over to my table holding a big Tupperware tumbler. He handed me $5 and asked me to fill it up. It was so amazing, I decided to close up shop and took the rest of the "work day" off and enjoyed a swim in our yard.
By the age of twelve, I had a busy babysitting schedule which included most of the little kids on our block and my cousins who lived around the corner. It occurred to me that there were so many small children on our block that I could actually run a daycare program in our basement.
Grudgingly my parents gave me the OK, though my dad was concerned about his home owners insurance. I promised I'd keep the kids in the basement and not allow anyone near the fenced in pool area. He agreed and "Allyson's Day School" was open for biz and survived two successful summers until I outgrew it.
I had approximately ten students, including my little brother and maybe my cousins - I'm not sure. I organized each day to include a drawing hour. I had the kids draw something based on a particular theme, "Today you must draw a picture of your favorite animal" or "Today you must draw something square-shaped." Snack time was every day at 11 AM. I would serve happy youngsters Pathmark brand fruit punch and a handful of cookies or pretzels. I would read them a story and we'd play different educational games. To spice things up, I held special events like "Skit Day" and "Sports Day" which included different obstacle courses and ribbons I made for the winners.

I never charged much, but babysitting and the day school helped support my teen magazine and TOPPS trading cards addiction. It seemed as if I were always collecting ET, Gremlins and The Goonies cards. I swear there were some cards TOPPS either only made one of or seriously made NONE of. I owned hundreds of cards, yet never a full set. There were always a bunch of cards missing.
By the age of 15, I was looking for real cash. I became obsessed with Esprit and J.Crew clothing and my parents were far from pleased with the price tags. Mom felt you could get an equally nice sweater from Sears or Penny's, so it was up to me to get out there and increase my cash flow.
Too young to work legally, I didn't want to deliver papers and sure, babysitting was quick and easy money, it simply wasn't enough. Most people were paying me a $3 an hour at best (according to my diary). Then one day, my dad introduced me to the dirty underground world of catering. Apparently, these family-run businesses didn't always follow the employment laws the way big retail outfits did. They'd sometimes overlook your age and eagerly put you to work. It sounded too good to be true.
Summer of 1988, I gave it a shot and paid a visit to our local wedding hall. The joint has since changed hands several times, but still exists as The Sand Castle. Walking distance to our home, this banquet hall was the best summer job a kid could have. I was too young to drive and didn't have a crazy social life on summer weekends since we were home all week anyway. I figured, what the heck. I could have my fun Monday-Thursday and kill myself Friday-Sunday earning a quick $150, plus tips.
The job sucked, but I kept it up until senior year. I would never recommend this work to anyone I actually like. It was exhausting and newsflash, people do not tip at weddings! At fifteen, I had only been to maybe two weddings. How the heck did I know? I was a sucky waitress, which meant I was often assigned to the band and photographer table. Luckily, those guys tipped. The bands would say, "Here's $20, keep the pitchers of water and soda coming." I thought, "Hey, you got it!" I think I even dropped off extra food "by mistake".
We'd work our asses off all weekend. Long 10-hour shifts that seemed never-ending. A reception is only 5-6 hours but we had to set up, clean up and sometimes set up for the next event. They worked us like dogs and treated us like garbage. It was the first time I was ever referred to by my last name on a regular basis. Dealing with drunken jerks demanding an extra serving of Prime Rib or people complaining that the Bride and Groom were too cheap to offer Fillet Mignon was the worst.
It's ironic that I'm writing this blog post now. Here I sit in my sweats, sipping tea as I delay my daily online job hunt. Laid off and looking to New Jersey to send me my generous $530 check each week to help pay my rent. Trust me, I'm not complaining about that amount either. It's much better than possibly any other state in the country. Just a bit funny when I look back at how hard I once worked at a time when people said to just kick back, relax and be a kid.
As always, thanks for listening.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What's On Your Christmas List?

This year my Christmas list is seriously minimal. Sure, I'd love a laptop of my own or a diamond engagement ring that's bigger than the one I already have. But let's be realistic. You reach an age where your lists are just that, realistic - maybe it has to do with the whole being married your money is my money type thing.

I think most people my age don't ask for much. Does anyone really expect a Lexus with a big red bow on it, sitting in their horseshoe driveway? That's a bunch of BS. Then again, I've never been wealthy nor will I ever be wealthy, so maybe it's just hard to visualize my hubby pulling the blinds open to reveal a brand new silver Lexus with a huge red bow on it.

About two weeks ago, my mom and I were discussing what hubs and I needed for Christmas and what we should get our family members, etc. We both agreed that when hubs or I need or want something, we typically just get it for ourselves. Sure there are luxuries, but I'm not really into expensive shoes and purses. I wanted a BlackBerry this year. Like most people, I waited for my free upgrade from Verizon. When it comes to footwear, I still wear Doc Martens. I won't lie, they run at least $100 on Zappos but I get about three years out of each pair. They're like indestructible.

This year, my list consists of Bath & Body Works hand soap (it's always on sale), anklets for the gym and a mani/pedi gift card. I'd love some Jadite or fake Jadite because I collect it, but I don't expect to actually get it. It's too much work, it has be purchased on eBay and who would bother with all of that? My husband is that guy who shops on Christmas Eve morning so it has to be quick and easy.

I looked back at a diary entry of mine from December 26, 1985. At thirteen, I received a "toasty warm electric blanket," Apple IIC computer and printer and "Summer Games" for the Apple IIC. Another gift which actually made me giggle reading about was... wait for it...  a White Nights soundtrack on tape! White Nights was this movie starring ballet sensation, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. My childhood BFF Serena and I LOVED Mikhail Baryshnikov! He was so handsome and muscular. We also especially loved seeing him in his tights. Ha ha!

According to my entry that day, Serena got a Ouija board and of course we had to ask which boy in class wanted to be more than just friends with us. I was hoping it would spell out D-A-N-N-Y, but good ole Ouija was speechless. Maybe the spirits were off on Christmas Day?

Sadly, Serena ended our friendship soon after we graduated 8th grade which was devastating to me. Nearly every seventh and eight grade memory involves her in some way. We were inseparable, but her mother loathed me and at thirteen it's basically your parents way or the highway. She was a really good student and her mom was concerned that I was a distraction because I liked to call her on the phone, hang out, meet up with boys and see PG-13 movies.

Anyway, that pretty much sums up Christmas of 1985. It was an awesome year. A year when I had never heard of layoffs and furloughs. My parents were teachers - teachers always had jobs back then. 1985 was an innocent time. Long before September 11th. Long before my parents split up. Long before I lost both of my grandpas. Long before Grandma's memory decided to take an extended vacation. Yeah, 1985 was a really good year.

In case you care to view the White Nights trailer... Here it is.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Snowy Day

The big news of the moment is the possibility of  some significant snowfall that's headed for the New Jersey and Long Island area. Though it's not definite, we're still anticipating something.

It's kinda funny that no matter how old I get, this freakish excitement builds around a storm warning. This weird rush comes over me and it's all I can talk about with friends and family. Luckily my husband gets as equally excited. We check the windows together every so often to see if it's started. Then when it does, the curtains are left open so we can keep an eye on it. If the snow starts overnight, one of us is bound to wake up. If it's me, I can't help but whisper to him, "It's snowing! It started!"

I go through the same rituals as soon as our local news mentions the snow is coming. I make sure my phone is fully charged. Double check that we have bottled water, candles and matches on hand, just in case. Hey you never know. Today I made sure to pick up some basics ... bananas, bread and cold cuts. Growing up, my mom always served us tea and sandwiches when we were snowed in. When not dieting, I make sure we have chips and snack cakes on hand. Unfortunately for me, I'm trying to watch it, so this storm we'll be without that extra added deliciousness. I'm not happy about that either. I tend to crave a Ring Ding or handfuls of salty chips during a good snowstorm.

Tomorrow, I'll make sure my car is parked in a decent spot (one of the joys of being an apartment dweller) and stick my wipers up in the air like a fool. That was something I noticed when I moved to New Jersey. When snow is coming, people do this wacky thing with their wipers, pulling them up so that they point away from the car. It's really crazy and I'm not sure what the purpose is, but I do it too, that's if I remember to anyway.

I always loved a good storm. Thunder and lightening in summer and snow in winter. Don't get me wrong, I hate driving in it, even though this year we finally have a brand new four-wheel drive filled with gas and ready to escort us safely down the big hills in our town. There's something cozy about being home with hubby and our fur baby. We'll watch movies, stay tuned to The Weather Channel, play Nintendo games, eat, warm up with cocoa and tea. I'll try to convince my friend who lives next-door to come by for a bit. That's usually how it goes year after year in this apartment.

Hopefully by next winter, we'll be in a house, though I say that every year. That means we'll have to be sure to have ice-melting salt on-hand and two shovels. I don't even want to think about that. I've been spoiled living in apartment complexes. Since I left home, I've never had to worry about removing snow from driveways or walkways.

It's also funny how snow brings people together. Most people flock to pubs and diners no matter where they live. In my early twenties, I loved meeting my friends for coffee at the diner after being snowed in for hours at a time.

I'm sure my brother and I will text back and forth as we always do the minute the trusty weatherman announces a possible storm coming. Be it thunder or snow, we're both quickly thumb typing our phones about it. We keep each other posted throughout the storm, then talk about the aftermath. Were trees down? Did the lights go out? How did everyone manage with the snow removal and driving? Did anyone have off from work? With today's love of social networking sites, we're able to keep our Facebook and Twitter friends in-the-know. Everyone's status is a flutter with snow updates and photos.

Going through my old diaries, I found winter entries about snow. They were followed by dozens of exclamation points. It's crazy that I can still relate to the childlike passion in the penciled scribblings, "We're getting a big storm tonight!!!!!! I hope there's no school tomorrow!!!!!!" and "We got 10 inches of snow today!!! School is closed!!! WOOO HOOO!!!! We're playing Scrabble and drinking hot chocolate later!!!!"

Something I really loved to do back in the old days, was to build amazing snow forts. They were the coolest. They even had windows. I'd let my Smurfs live in the forts with me, then inevitably lose them within the pile of precipitation. Little blue bodies would surface days later as the sunshine warmed the snow. We'd go sledding near the Southern State Parkway. It was pretty flat where I grew up so that was about the biggest hill in town.
Silly how that anticipation and thrill of snow continues into adulthood. I'm sure people with kids can't help but embrace it. I'm a bit lazy in my old age. Maybe it's a good thing we don't have any kids. The thought of building a snowman doesn't have the same allure as it once did, but the hot coco, sandwiches and movies sure do!


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