Nosy Bitches Swap Love

Last Monday (I know, I know, I’m really bad at blogging!), I stumbled home from my office holiday party at the late hour of 8:30 pm. No, I did not get drunk at my office holiday party. That would be really unclassy. But, I am at an age where my liver just throws its livery little arms in the air and says, I give up!, and I continue to get drunk even when I stop drinking after a reasonable beverage or three. So, by the time I got off the subway Monday night, I had gone from slightly buzzed to actually-pretty-drunk.

When I got into the lobby of my apartment building, I registered excitedly that there was a package waiting for me on the entry table. It did not faze me that the top had been cut open. As I said, I was intoxicated. I wasn’t joking.

I made it up to my fourth floor apartment and gleefully sifted through the contents of the box. I then proceeded to watch a documentary about Charles and Ray Eames that was airing on PBS with E, who was barely tolerating me.* I passed out around 10 pm, woke up the next morning, and went to work. Sometime that afternoon, I thought to myself, “Wait a second, I got a package last night! A package that was mysteriously open when I retrieved it from the lobby! I think it was my Nosy Bitches Swap Package!”

But I couldn’t remember what was in it.

The lovely Bunny of Bunnies’n’Beagles orchestrated a non-denominational gift swap for folks who blog and/or are on Twitter, and I was lucky enough to participate. That afternoon I rushed home to gather up the components of the package that I had scattered about my apartment the previous evening, and was thrilled with what I’d received!

The inimitable Robin from HitchDiedย and Double R Diner sent me a card warning against accepting candy or gifts from strangers, a handmade bookmark featuring an illustration of my fabulous section of the map, and 2 items with geographic significance: Zombie Gum to represent her home, Pittsburgh; and I Feel Relatively Neutral About New York to represent mine (and my feelings thereabout). The book is hilarious, the bookmark is awesome, and, as you can see above, I opened the gum that Monday night and have enjoyed it thoroughly. Also, Zombies.

It was so much fun to shop for my Nosy Bitch, and to receive this artifact of Internet awesomeness in the mail this holiday. Robin got married shortly before I did, and her blog was one of those that got me through the marathon that is wedding planning. I was so glad to be a part of this swap, and to feel like a bigger part of this community of bloggers that I stalk than I deserve to be. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks, Bunny!

I still have no idea why the package was open.

* E and I are currently tearing through Parks & Recreation on Netflix, and just watched the Season 2 episode where Leslie gets drunk and knocks on Dave’s door to tell him how awesome she is. While Leslie extolled her own virtues, E looked at me and told me that was what I was like when I’m drunk. I told him he was pretty lucky, then, because obviously I am hilarious and awesome.

In the Holiday Spirit

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Last Monday night, E and I followed the signs from the subway station to “Ditmars Forest,” the slice of sidewalk in our neighborhood that has been overtaken by fresh-cut evergreen trees available for purchase. After just a few minutes of holding trees up for inspection, we selected one: a 4-ish foot high Noble Fir that looked much fuller and more symmetrical on the sidewalk than it did once we got it home.

But get it home, we did! I spent the evening wrestling with dollar store strings of lights and ornaments from CVS and Ikea (and a few special ones we’ve picked up over the last few months, such as that zebra up there). While I worked, I listened to theย Bonanza Christmas album, which was an inexplicable but integral part of the Christmases of my childhood. At the end of the evening, we had a glowing, sparkling tree in the living room, with the bald side tucked up against the TV stand.

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This is our fourth Christmas as cohabitants, and the first year we bought a tree. We’ve always talked ourselves out of the expense, and the work, because we visit family for the holiday and reckoned we wouldn’t be able to enjoy it anyway. But this year, I put my foot down (and, since E is int he throes of finals, did just about all of the related work). I’m glad I did. The tree is lovely, and it makes our tiny, stupid apartment feel more festive than my paper snowflakes ever do.

More than that, every time E walks through the living room on a study break, he grins from ear to ear and tells me he loves the tree. Usually I’m the one pushing seasonal decorating and activities; he tolerates my whining about going pumpkin picking in the fall or to see the giant trees around the city. But his excitement about the tree has been a welcome reminder that the people in our lives can and will always surprise us.

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Girls’ Weekend in the City of Brotherly Love

This afternoon I returned to New York City from Philadelphia, where I had spent approximately 25 hours with 2 of my wonderful lady friends for our second annual girls’ weekend. The whole thing came together in something of a crazy blur — we went from, “Oh, are we getting together this weekend?” on Monday to boarding a bus to Philly Saturday morning with a hotel booked and tentative plans to do, well everything.

Our mantra was “Nerds by day, Woo Girls by night,” and,ย predictably, we better fulfilled the first half of it than the second.

Saturday we wandered through an Occupy Philadelphia march, checked out the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and ended up at an Irish pub after Whiskey Bar told us there would be at least a 2.5 hour wait for burgers. No, really. It was kind of crazy. We ended the night with White Russians at the hotel bar instead of oontz-oontzing as we had originally planned, but it was for the best. We’ve reached the age where a few drinks makes us more tired than ready-to-party. So, even on girls’ weekend, we were hitting the hay at midnight.

Sunday morning we found a really adorable breakfast place, and then we ran up the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and headed over to see what was, for me, the highlight of the weekend: Eastern State Penitentiary.

The prison was built in the 19th century with the goal of rehabilitating prisoners — they were all kept in solitary confinement to reflect on their crimes, and their identities were protected even within the prison by having them wear hoods so that they wouldn’t face a stigma once they were released — and underwent many changes until its closure in 1971.

Today, it is a museum. When it was originally built, the city was a mile and a half away. Since then, Philadelphia has grown to surround it; there is an elementary school across the street from the wall of the prison, and a Christmas tree lot in front of the gates.

I grew up taking day trips with my family to see Old Newgate Prison in Connecticut, so I’m no stranger to prisons-turned-cultural-attractions. Full disclosure: I love them. I think it’s fascinating, although I am no fan of our current penal system. So visiting this massive structure was kind of my favorite thing in a while.

We got to see Al Capone’s lush cell (above), and learned about the indoor plumbing and central heat systems dating back to a time when the White House still had outhouses, and we learned how to open cell doors and how the guards observed many prisoners from a single location.

Right now, most of the prison is only accessible by guided tour, but it seems that during the summer you get more or less free reign of the place. So guess what we’re doing this summer? Mutter Museum/Eastern State Double Whammy of Weird, anyone? I’m pretty excited.

This was, embarrassingly, my first visit to Philly since moving to New York, which is sort of ridiculous. Round trip bus tickets were 22 bucks, and we got a cheap, nice hotel in walking distance of a lot of the things we wanted to see. It was awesome. Philadelphia had an interesting vibe — a mix of skyscrapers and colonial buildings, wide sidewalks and grand boulevards. I can’t wait to explore it more, though right now I’m waiting for the soreness in my legs to ease after walking all over the city.

I also can’t wait for the third annual Girls’ Weekend. We’ve set the bar a little higher this year by venturing to Pennsylvania. Next year, there’s a good chance that at least one of us will be in a new location, so perhaps we’ll go further afield then. In any case, a weekend with good friends is just what I needed at this time of year, when E is busy studying and I am looking for things to do as the weather turns cold. Philadelphia proved to be a great city to host us!