Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflections on 2007

Every year on December 31st, the newspaper does a special feature where they ask all of their staff photographers to choose one story from the previous year that left a lasting impression on us. Since we've gone all interactive and multiplatform, they shoot video interviews with us as well. I'm pleased to report that for the first time in recent memory, I actually sound coherent in my video AND I only appear to have one chin (woot!). Actually toward the end, you can see a shadow my second chin, but try not to think about it. Ignore the extra shadowy chin! Please!

Anyway, if you click on this link here, it will take you to the page. Then you have to click on my last name. If you don't know my last name, you should know that it rhymes with "haul" and is frequently misspelled "gall," "gull" or "gual" by junk mail soliciters.

Enjoy! And Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Holiday in Pictures

I am sick. I have been trying to ward off illness for quite a while. I have this theory that if you're really busy and feeling unwell, you can stay ahead of the illness if you keep moving. If you slow down, you get sick. This sounds completely unintuitive, I know, but it feels really true for me.

I just kept working and baking and shooting and decorating and filming and shopping and editing and traveling and serving and clearing and smiling and unwrapping until my weekend plus two days off for the 24th and 25th were up, and I had to go back to work.

Even then, I've been busting my butt at high school holiday tournaments, including yesterday, when I had to spend five hours in a giant cement refrigerator sucking the stench of male, teenage feet straight off the tap. (That is, I shot hockey- the sport that smells like feet!- in a tied game that only ended after 27- no exaggeration- shots on goal PER TEAM). I started shivering and feeling nauseous, chalked to up to the rink temperature and feetstink, came home, continued to shiver feel gaggy on the couch and finally just took a damn sick day. Bleh.

Which gave me plenty of time to upload all the holiday photos in flickr.

Which flickr set should you choose?

Let's see...

Can't get enough Mop Dog?

Click here! It's Christmas, Part 1: Boston.

Do you have the Captain in you?

Did you see Mommy kissing Santa Claus? Want to see more photos of the guy who will the Best Man at our wedding wearing a Santa suit, which I am sure he will be delighted to hear that you saw on the Internet come August? Check out Christmas, Part 2: New York.

Did you grow up in a place that perpetually smells of cow poop? Are you charmed by a certain toddler who looks like he just unwrapped a winning lottery ticket instead of a snowman toy from T.J. Maxx?

(Gawd, when his face lit up like that, I wanted to buy him whatever he wants, ever. Considering I have that same feeling about a bunch of other people's kids, my wallet is all... ?!?! whimper, whimper.?!?! I kind of get why Santa does his thing, actually.) Check out Christmas, Part 3: PA.

Finally, do stories about my in-laws fascinate you? Want to see how thrilled (for real, no sarcasm) a 70-year-old man can be unwrapping a peace pipe bought at a yard sale? Want to see how pretty *I* look in a His'n'Hers matching khaki baseball cap WITH DETACHABLE NECK FLAP from my mother-in-law that Joel insists will not only come in handy on our honeymoon, but could indeed SAVE OUR LIVES in the Australian Outback next summer?

Check out Christmas, Part 4: Home.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oh. Uh... what? Hi!

Mmm... Christmas hangover. Excuse me while I unearth myself from this pile of greeting cards and mistletoe and shake off the eggnog haze.

Er. Blah. hi!

How was your holiday? Was it good? That's good. Ours was good, too. Busy. Lots of eating and driving and running up and down the stairs at my parents' house with giant bowls of pasta like the dutiful employee- Oops! I mean, daughter- that I am. Or try to be. Whatever.

Joel and I drove three and a half hours in a Suzuki stuffed with presents, cookies, pets (yup, all three) and camera gear. Ollie tried to climb my parents' Christmas tree and had to be held for the entire car ride (both ways) to prevent projectile feline vomiting. Bella wasn't thrilled about being relegated to the backseat, so she spent most of the trip pawing at the window controls and finding a way to release the safety lock on said controls, alternating getting her head stuck or rolling the window in the back all the down as we flew down the New Jersey Turnpike at 65 pmh. Fred was stuck in the Locked Box for Sad Cats the whole ride and performed his annual aria of suffering and woe.

We drove back on Christmas and my mother-in-law made us lobster, which was a nice change from ham and turkey. The lobsters were full of boiling water and dried innards, which formed a thin layer of crust on the stovetop, counters and floor, giving the apartment a Christmasy smell of evergreens mingled with Eau de Dumpster Behind Red Lobster the day after. Hey, it launched me back on the pre-bridal diet. No complaints here.

I'm back at work and Joel is off until the beginning of January. When I left for work, he was busy doing laundry- swoon!- and had already taken Bella to the groomer to rid her furry head of dried lobster water crust. (I'm telling you, those lobster innards 'n water went EVERYWHERE)

I have tons of pictures that warrant a full post of their own and flickr links, but right now I have ice hockey footage to attend to. No rest for the wicked. I do want to leave you a photo of Aiden- oh, Christmas, how much more fun are YOU with a 17-month-old running around? You are so much FUN!- cuddling Ollie. I actually had to put my head between my knees to keep from collasping from the cuteness. For reals. People saw me do it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Fred: mmm favorite nubbly blanket mmm

Me: Hey, buddy... Can we try to take a picture by the Christmas tree?

Fred: But I don't WANT to.
Me: Please?
Fred: ...meh...
Me: Was that a yes?
Fred: Is The Kid gonna be in it, too?
Me: Ollie? I hope so. Bella, too.
Fred: I'm not movin.'
Me: Well, what if I pick you up?

Fred: I'll cut you!
Me: That whole "Big Bad Miami Gangsta' Cat" would be easier to buy if you hadn't been living in Stepford for the past five years, dude.
Fred: Mi Calle Ocho boyz-
Me: Oh, please. You were born behind a hibscus plant in a landscaped apartment complex in MIAMI GARDENS whose logo was a little golf course flag.

Ollie: Why his earses back? He no like mee?
Me: Oh, honey. He likes you just fine. Now, let's go sit by the Christmas tree.

Fred: I'll sit by the tree but I'm not looking at the camera.
Me: That's fine, Freddo.

Ollie: I posez like zis!
Me: Um, okay, that's a good start. Drop your chin down just a little bit.

Ollie: Like zis?
Me: Um...a little less "deer-in-the-headlights," little guy. Just relax and lower your head, okay?
Ollie: Mah feets stink.

Me: Kiddo, you kick sand over you own feces. You're a cat; it's a professional hazard. Look up, please.
Ollie: You sez chinsez down?
Me: That was before. Okay. Look! Ooh, waggly hand!

Ollie: Ah likes to play wif fingerzzzz!

Fred: say- waggly fingers?
Camera: *click*
Me: Gotcha!
Fred: Crap.

Bella: Yoo hoo! I'm over here! I'm ready! I'm ready and here!
Me: Hi, pumpkin. I can see that.

Bella: I've been learning my angles.
Me: You've been watching too much Next Top Model.
Bella: Are you gonna PhotoShop out my eye boogers?

Me: Uh... sure! Always, Belle, always.
Me: Joel, can you all try to get them all together?

Fred: Fat chance.

Bella: This is gonna take awhile.

Fred:Kiss my-

Bella: You know what? I'm outta here, too.
Ollie: Guyz? Guyyyz?


Me: You guys are all sitting like that? On your own? Really?
Camera: *click*

Ollie: WHAP!
Bella: Hey!
Me: AND we're done.

Fred: That was funny.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Just some friendly advice

If you have a friend who tells you repeatedly that his mother is crazy, and you hear Crazy Mother harassing her son's pregnant wife for Christmas card pictures featuring a baby that hasn't been born yet, (three months before the holiday, mind you) and you think that the nice thing to do is offer to take over all Christmas card photo responsibilities, because how crazy could she be and surely you and your pro skillz can make her happy, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Find the nearest brick wall and bash your head repeatedly against it. Maintain unconsciousness until December 26th.

Your friends won't blame you. They'll consider you initiated. They may even supply tequila to facilitate unconsciousness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stick a fork in me...

I'm done!

Every Christmas card has been written, stamped, sent. Packages of long-distance gifts mailed. Overseas-bound items are long gone Every gift has either been bought or made: edited, cropped, printed or play-tested, packaged or matted, framed and boxed, wrapped, bagged, taped, labeled, and be-ribboned. The house is decorated; the is tree up, wreaths hung, candles burning.

We celebrated Christmas: Part II this past weekend. This is Melanie, doing her "Christmas dance." This is exactly the sort of dance that always made my dad tell me to "slow down" when I was a kid. Even over Thanksgiving this year, at age 28, I was dancing around the driveway in a similar manner, doing my imitation of the cats Greco-Roman wrestling (I was playing both parts), and my dad told me to "slow down." Heh.

Melanie's a great kid; she really is. She gets to be "the Main Angel" in her Catholic School's Nativity play. She gets to bring the Baby Jesus (a doll) to Mary, skipping over the whole Labor and Delivery part. She wanted to practice by carrying around Baelin, who is getting bigger and chubbaloo and completely delicious.

(He left out a huge burp right after this was shot. Not a great pic of him. Sorry, little buddy.)

It occurs to me that I'm holding Baelin in this picture the same way I'm holding my sister's dog. Aw, other people's babies.

Anyway. Back to the Crazy Christmas To-Do List I've been knocking out.

I've undertaken two long baking sessions. In the first I made about a dozen different varieties of cookies into big trays for my office party, Joel's co-workers and parents, my sister and brother-in-law, the pet-sitter and mail carrier.

chocolate chip*
molasses cookies
gingerbread cut-outs
peanut better fork cookies
sugar cookies*
oatmeal raisin*
cranberry white chocolate
thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam
peanut butter blossoms with candy centers
Pillsbury Christmas tree cookies*
Ranger cookies

*Some of these were pre-mixed, premade Tollhouse and Pillsbury break-apart cheater cookies.

The second session was mostly a gift for my Nanny. She was famous for her Christmas cookie trays in her day. She made seriously complex cookies: sand tarts and pignolis and fruit-and-nut varieties and pinwheels that involve cooking pitted dates with grated orange peel on the stove.

Nanny gave both me and Amanda handwritten cookbooks when I was about 12. She taught us herself, by her side, in her kitchen, but so much of what made things "right" was in her hands. She knew so well, so innately, what she was doing that her instructions in the cookbook are sometimes incredibly specific and sometimes really vague. My dad has mastered her meatballs. Amanda's gotten really good at making her marinara sauce recipe and pasta dishes and dough rings of deep-fried deliciousnes; I've been trying to replicate the pies and cookies.

She wrote this dedication in the front:

"To Angela:
My Miss America for always. If and when married, you will be my Mrs. America. To my granddaughter with all my love always, Nanny."

I feel closer to her when I cook her recipes. She's still alive, of course, so I call her on my cell from gourmet shops and Italian delis, looking for the exact type of canned almond paste she's been using since the 1940s. This delights her to no end. She's getting a thick throw blanket for Christmas, a framed photo of the two of us that Joel shot on Thanksgiving, and a tray of the ridiculously complicated cookies. Some of the recipes I've got down cold, some are... in need of improvement. I know she'll appreciate the effort.

So yeah. I've also been chasing the pets around, trying to get a nice photo of them by the tree. I think I finally got one, which is a post for another day. Of course, all the cards have been sent, so maybe it's part of next year's design. Because I am DONE!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Boxer

And in one corner....

Ollivander Holyfield, using the Christmas tree as his beat bag.

Friday, December 14, 2007


So Michelle gets some kind of bonus prize for leaving comments that spark full entries. (M- I can give you shards of broken auto glass! Yay! Sparkly!)

So... The town of Vount Mernon itself has a dodgy reputation. There are parts of it that border the Bronx that are renowned for dog fighting and prostitution. However, the part where I live has a good reputation. I've lived here for five years this coming Presidents Day. I always said, "Well... Despite the Bronx/border reputation, my street seems really nice. I know the burglars don't stand around welcoming you to the neighborhood, so I have to go with my gut instinct."

And for years, my gut instinct was solid. I never had a problem. I've always felt really safe walking Bella at all hours of the day and night. We had a weird situation a few years ago with a crappy downstairs tenant, but it was mostly a domestic issue with his ex-wife and child support and occasionally the smell of marijuana drifting up the stairs. My landlords had him evicted as soon as they legally could.

And now, well... I feel kind of stuck. The apartment itself has some quirks, but for what we pay for it, it's technically a steal in this real estate market. The landlords are a little stingy with the heat and cranky about some stuff, like the times we're allowed to use the washer and dryer. They live in Florida all winter, though, in a condo certainly purchased in part with the nearly $60,000 I've paid them in rent money. Once they leave- right after Christmas every year- the heat comes on automatically with the thermostat around 68 degrees. No problem.

The landlords can be grouchy, but they are good people. Today Mr. M was the one who alerted me to my car situation. I had to go out and cover the big winter storm, which is shitty considering I had to shoot stills for tomorrow's paper AND b-roll for tonight's 5 p.m. broadcast. Taking $25,000 worth of gear out into sleet and snow in a car I can't secure because it has a broken fucking window and all the auto glass places closed early due to the constant melodramatic weather-related hand-wringing perpetrated by, let's see.. Oh, ME and my co-workers! Sigh. Basically I had to ride around finding people shoveling and salting and spinning their tires and shoot them from no further than five feet away from the car with the expensive gear that so doesn't belong to me AND- lest we forget- is missing A GODDAMN passenger window.

Although I did notice as I drove down my street in second gear at 3 mph that two other cars had taped-up passenger windows today. Misery loves company, I guess.

I came home briefly to transmit video in time for the 4:15 p.m. broadcast rehearsal, and while I was upstairs, the landlord surprised me by taping up my broken window and removing a lot of the broken glass from the front seat for me. I'm honestly quite touched, truth be told. It makes up for the fact he has never fixed my broken doorbell because he's going deaf and refuses to wear a hearing aid and repeatedly insists he can hear the doorbell ringing all the way up on the third floor from the porch and therefore it is fixed. It saves me from the door-to-door missionaries, so it's not all bad. Unless you're waiting for an important FedEx package. Then it sucks.

Where was I? Yeah. So the apartment has a perpetually broken doorbell, a laundry curfew, inadequate heat in November and December, poor water pressure and a cabal of CIA-trained skunks in the front yard. I have to schlepp 85+ pounds of video and camera equipment up three flights of stairs, which is taking a real toll on my back since I got outfitted with a proper broadcast-quality video camera.

It also has all hardwood floors, floor to ceiling windows and a fenced-in backyard we use for the dog and parties in the summer. It costs a little more than $1000 a month (discussions of money as it relates to real estate isn't considered rude around here) and we can have all three pets without a hassle. We really don't want to move, since we just won't find a deal like this anywhere else as long as we're renting, especially with the pets. The plan has always been to live here until we can buy something of our own. We're saving a down payment for a house, but it's slow going. It would be going faster if we hadn't had to pay $100 x 5 for BROKEN FUCKING CAR WINDOWS in the last three months.

Is the neighborhood going downhill? Maybe. Is this the work of a handful of petty thieves? Probably. Do I want a supercute 3 bedroom Cape Cod with a fireplace and a fenced-in backyard on the other side of the Bappan Tee Tridge? SO BAD I CAN TASTE IT.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Well, maybe they got him?

We think they nabbed the guy who's been smashing Joel's car windows, along with a bunch of other people's, apparently.


Love this quote from a cop:

"We believe this guy is one of the serial guys going around busting out car windows," Chong said. "This is just a brutal smash and grab - very primitive, really."

OH MY BLOODY GOD AND FUCK- Less than 24 hours after posting this, MY car has been broken into. Passenger window completely smashed, the inverter that I use to plug dying electronics into my cigarette lighter is gone.

I. Don't. Want. to. Live. Here. Anymore.

Menorahs and Mop Dog

Joel and I have decided to break our Christmas celebrations down into four parts this year. We celebrated Part One in Boston this past weekend at Amanda and Tom's house.

We have a little Hanukkah in our Christmas these days, which I personally love.

Artsy-fartsy black-and-white version...

And of course there are lots of gratuitous puppy pics.

My sister's dog? Is a mop with paws.

But he's a cute mop.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"Givers like me."

One of my basketball games was cancelled today, so I unexpectedly found myself with three hours to kill. I drove around one of my favorite little towns with the good sushi place, put gas in the car, ran the little errands that I can sometimes carve out of my crazy, unpredictable work schedule. I started to drive in the general direction of the town where my late game is, and I saw a woman about my age take off in a full-on run, uphill, after a bus she had clearly just missed.

I rolled down my window and asked if I could drive her to catch up with the bus. She jumped in the car (luckily not a serial killer) and caught her breath. We were chatting, and she was on her way to the mall where she works. I needed to drive right past the mall to get to my next assignment, so I offered to just drive her the way there, forget the bus.

We started chatting, in one of those instantaneous friendships that sometimes fall into my lap, and she mentioned she was late to work because she just broke up with her ex. He had called, and she was discombobulated. I laughed out load and told her I've been there, done that, in terms of both the lateness and the heartbreak. The ex-boyfriend sounds like bad news. She said, "This seems like an omen, you dropping me off at the mall right after he called." Hmm, how so? "I've been telling myself since the breakup that from now on I only want to be around people who are givers like me." Huh. Givers like me. Best. Compliment. Ever.

We exchanged emails and cell phone numbers. I hope we hang out.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Friends in the Little Glowing Box

Hiya! Who's tired from my longwinded rant against racism? C'mon, who? Get those hands up. Yeah, me too. Just my way of saying this one will be a little lighter today, but lengthy as well.

Michelle asked me in the comments below where I find all the blogs that I read? The short answer, I guess, is to say that I find them through other bloggers. I read a lot of blogs- see the Big Bad Blogroll- and I read the comments on a lot of them. I occasionally click through to a commenter's blog if I like what he or she had to say. Sometimes bloggers link to other blogs, and well... It all snowballs somehow.

It all starts with Alissa, really, back when she was dating He Who Shall Not Be Named (No, not Voldemort. Voldemort doesn't live in New Jersey) in the late 90s. Anyway, her ex-boyfriend started blogging back before "blogging" was a word. He had an online journal. In Ye Olde Days of Yore, we may have called it a "home page." He wrote about... what? Weekend plans, friends, what he ate at the Melting Pot, marching bands, whatever. I found it strangely compelling, reading the daily goings-on of someone I knew and considered a friend but didn't interact with daily.

Alissa, whom I've known since I was 5, started keeping an online journal, too, and it was a great way to stay connected with her while I was at college. After I graduated, I was coming out of a deep clinical depression, and I just felt so good to be free from it. I also had a lot of free time on my hands compared to the end-of-college thesis double major crunch, and I liked that blogging gave me a way to write about it all. Once I moved to Miami, the blog became more of what it is now: funny stories of the Weird Shit that happens to me, the Weird Shit that Fred does, photos, etc.

So I just started writing more, and reading other people, and blogs beget more blogs. A few examples, maybe? Let's see.

Okay! Got one. Alissa wrote a book review of a novel she had just read on her blog. Ironically, it was a novel about blogging and how it connects you with people, how Friends in the Little Glowing Box of your computer become friends in real life. Her book review wasn't harsh, but it wasn't a LoveFest, either. And then, oh crap, the author of the novel found it and commented on her blog. The author was... a little offended. Liss handled it with grace, as per usual, and the author offered to buy her a pitcher of margaritas in the end.

Based on all that, I ended up checking out the author of the good-not-great book's blog. She had a feature called "help" highlighting different needs and causes, from underfunded libraries to individuals in need. She featured a request from Rob, a father whose daughter had been diagnosed with a complicated and rare neurological disorder who was trying to raise money online to buy her an assisted communication device, which he called a Big Box of Words. His writings about his daughter's diagnosis were beautiful.

Rob was a long-time blogger, much like He in NJ Who Must Not Be Named, and he wrote about politics, computer geekery and music until his daughter got the diagnosis. The online community rallied around his family in a way I've seldom seen before or since. I've continued to follow his daughter's progess on his blog, and I'm looking forward to reading his book.

Not long ago, Rob linked to Danielle, a medical student who also substitute-teaches special education classes, referring to something she had written about children with special needs. Her blog is fantastic: funny, touching, well-written, insightful. Her entries on her med school rotation in the morgue are hilarious. I can't stop reading her.

Then, there's Dooce. Dooce is an uberblog, possibly the most famous one out there, written by Heather Armstrong. I heard her on NPR for a segment about being fired from her day job in 2002 because of things she wrote about her co-workers and her boss online. (The word dooced has become a slang word online for getting fired because of your blog.) Obviously, that's something I've thought about carefully, so I checked out her site. Heather writes about her daughter and husband, her battle with depression, her decision to leave the Mormon Church. She posts a different picture of her dog every single day. How could I resist? :)

She recently posted a link to Daily Coyote, the journal of a woman in Wyoming who's raising an orphaned coyote pup. She is an AMAZING nature photographer, and the coyote pup is really, really freakin' cute. I'm afraid that checking out this site is going to occupy you all for the next 3o minutes. (You should probably cancel any plans you have for that time. I'm sorry.)

Speaking of nature photography, I just found Pioneer Woman, through a comment on Daily Coyote. She gets thousands of comments and publishes a calendar of her images, so she's pretty well-established. I've just never found her, but now I'm addicted.

Then, there's Amalah. I found Amy when I was reading Dave Barry's humor column about two years ago. He linked to her site in the context of her husband's foodie site. She had just had a baby, and her entry about thrush and breast-feeding was hilarious. I kept reading, watching her son grow, and laughing. Her entries about her dog and her cat keep me coming back, too. She got a job for ClubMom, which is going out of business January 1st. She basically recapped and highlighted compelling parenting blogs.

Which lead me to... Following Elias. Christy lives in Alaska and writes about her son Elias, who was born four months early. FOUR MONTHS EARLY. He is gorgeous and amazing and flies over the ice with his walker- helps with his cerebral palsy-and his dog Tonsina. She's a hiker, kayaker, mountain biker and wild animal whisperer. We're emailed back and forth a few times, and I consider her a friend. True, she's a friend I've never met, and I only know her through my little glowing box of a laptop, but a friend nonetheless.

ClubMom (turns out you don't have to be a mom to read it..) also led me to Untangling Knots. I read Karla's blog every single day, ever since Amy linked to it a year ago. She gave birth to her son, who is healthy and wonderful, the day I started reading. She may be lurking in the comments. (::waves::) I only delurk there, occasionally. She also writes with great love about her daughter Ava, who died after only a few hours after she was born. I read Karla's archives in one sitting, and you should, too. She is strong, and smart, and a wonderful mother. Grab some tissues first.

I also link to Shannon often. She was a friend of Gwen's, another one of my real-life best friends who keeps a blog, but we didn't really get to know each other until we starting reading blogs. And there's Cindy, who dated a guy I was friends with in high school. They broke up years ago, and both married other people, including Cara, whom I also read. Cindy and I have never met in real life, but we talked on the phone for the first time a few months ago. You'd never know it was our first chat.

I frequently get the question, "How do you have so much time to read all this stuff?" The easy answer is that my job requires me to spend hours online everyday. I have to transmit hours worth of photographs and video footage from the field, without a satellite truck. I use my laptop and a wireless transmitter, and it's easy to check on the blogs a few times a week while the data is moving to the newsroom.

Aside from the fact that I'm practically connected to the Internet from a plug at the base of my spine, the deeper answer is that there's a kind of grace in connecting with people through words and photos that you wouldn't ordinarily have the opportunity meet. I was the queen of pen-pals in elementary school; it's kind of the same thing. I put myself out there with my heart on my sleeve- in real life and online- and so do my friends in this little glowing box.

It's one of the more unique Internet phenomena, but I genuinely care about them, about people I've never me. I want to know the results of Amy's son's latest speech therapy assessment. I'm thrilled that Christy passed her licensing exams to be a school counselor. I want to see if the little coyote pup and the wildlife rehabilitator's cat are still getting along; I'm actually worried for the cat's safety once the coyote grows up. I want to check in with Karla, see the photos from her son's first birthday.

I guess... I just make the time to check blogs because I want to, because there are real people with beating hearts out there, writing and bonding and forming communities, just on the other side of their own little glowing boxes.