we'll take a cup of kindness yet

We're just about to dash out the door with a Crock Pot full of vegetarian chili, a basket of corn muffins, and a case of beer, on our way to our friends' place for a New Years Eve celebration. The plan tonight is to hunker down against the blustery blizzard outside, eat hardy food, and let the good times flow.

This will be our 11th New Years Eve together, and we've spent every one with our friends. The groups have changed, but our style of ringing in the new year usually involves someone's living room, potluck-style eating, and a lot of laughing. I'm happy to keep up the tradition.

I sat down a few times today to reflect on 2008, and every time I tried to write something down it didn't come out right. 2008 was full of more ups and downs than any other year of my life, and it's hard to write about that without sounding gushy or trite or melodramatic.

So, 2008, we part bittersweetly. 2009, you are a great mystery, but we've got plenty of hopes and ideas to get you started.

Happy new year, friends!

*photo: New Years 2006, our self portrait.


May all your Christmases be bright

under the tree
Originally uploaded by nicolemperle
11:11 PM Christmas night, sitting around the living room with Dad, sister, and husband. Fire is roaring, opened presents strewn around the tree, cookies and chocolates out on the coffee table.

It's been a good day. Hard at times-- the first Christmas without my grandmother and Patrick's grandmother. I think we all found ourselves in moments where we just really missed them. We muddled through those moments and enjoyed the togetherness (and a darn cute toddler to keep us all entertained). Lots of laughing, plenty of eating, all around warm and relaxed.

Our first married Christmas meant spending the whole holiday together- no more splitting up between houses or separate Christmas mornings. It meant two stockings for each of us (one at each house), and a new level of belonging. My favorite part was experiencing it all together.

Merry Christmas.


Bonus wedding video

We recently received a few little video snippets from our wedding, courtesy of our wonderful photographers. We didn't hire a videographer, so seeing these little bits as they trickle in is a lot of fun. I've posted a handful of the videos on Flickr. You can see them here.

This video is me dancing with my dad. My dad picked the song we danced to, and didn't tell me what it was beforehand (I had no idea until the moment it came on as we walked on to the dance floor). He chose "You are my Sunshine" (the Sara Gazarek version), which was the song he sang to me the day I was born- and has been singing to me ever since. I was surprised when the initial song came on, and then surprised again when the song faded into "My Girl". It was very sweet, despite my lack of coordination-- I'm glad I had these moments with my Daddy-o on such a whirlwind day (and his choice of songs was perfect).


Another reason to binge on holiday cookies

I was up until 2:00 this morning attempting to put together a Blurb book of our wedding photos for our parents, who are chomping at the bit for actual physical copies of our photos and thus can't wait for the one that's coming from our photographers. We won't get the Blurb book in time for Christmas, but if I can manage to send it in tonight we might get it by the weekend after Christmas, which is acceptable, right?.

While Blurb's software is very user-friendly, the whole thing is taking for-ev-er. The high-res photos, plus a not-so-new computer have made the process painfully slow, which has made me grumpy.

I'm about to sit down for another many-many-hours of delight working on this thing, and I'm not stopping until it's done. Or until I'm rocking back and forth staring at the walls and muttering nonsensically.

Photo: one of our wedding photos by Upstate Photographers.



It sounds like things continue to be rough in the Albany area, which was slammed with an ice storm Thursday night in to Friday morning. My parents are on day three with out power, and they've been told it won't be restored until Wednesday. There are lots of trees down around the house-- Dad spent the day today sawing limbs and trying to heat the house with the fireplace to prevent frozen pipes. They're staying with my aunt and uncle a few towns away until the electricity at their house comes back on.

Part of me is a little sad to miss the excitement, although I know it's not all fun and pioneer games. From what I've heard, many suburbs are experiencing a sense of community this weekend that they've maybe never had before. My mom spoke to more neighbors today than she has in the 12 years they've lived there. It's one of those 'good coming from bad' situations-- and Ice Storm '08 is sure to become the stuff of legends! I'm glad to be warm and ice-free in Western Mass, but I can't help but feel a little bit jealous when my parents share their tales of survival! (I can't help it-- I grew up reading The Boxcar Children and Little House on the Prairie!)

Meanwhile, we spent the weekend here getting into the Christmas spirit. Last night was Art Walk, dinner with friends, and a viewing of that holiday classic, Christmas Vacation. Today we baked loads of cookies and put up our Christmas tree (the first tree we've had since 2005-- our last apartment didn't allow real trees. Boo). It's just so nice to spend time in our own home.

(Photo by Patrick of our newly-hung lights. And that little guy isn't our actual tree-- just the little place holder.)



We did not get snow (sad), or ice (good) like our neighbors to the north, east, and west. The Valley seems to have sheltered us this time around, and we're just left with a lot of slush and mud. I'm glad we have power and clean roads, but I can't believe we haven't gotten any real snow yet. Update: Check out Ice Cream Diaries for some photos of the weather today in the rest of New England vs. the Pioneer Valley. (I'm on my way to stop in to Mt. Tom's for some eggnog ice cream to bring home. And I probably won't be able to resist the gingerbread or the Festivus ice cream, either.)

This weekend is the only one between Thanksgiving and Christmas that we'll spend at home. All the others have us driving to Albany for one thing or another. So far we've made plans to clean (desperately needed), bake (really want to), and shop (no other time to do it!). I'm also hoping to fit in some couch time and some crochet time. Did I mention the photo books I have to finish? Oh, and tomorrow is ArtWalk Easthampton. And Winterfest at Eastworks.

Weekends really need to be longer than two days.

p.s. Some new posts on the ole wedding blog. I received a few very sweet comments this week so I figured I'd finish writing about a couple things before fully moving away from Prom to Altar.


Urban Outfitters vs. Faces

In case we needed another reason to support our locally-owned (and loved) Faces over the new Urban Outfitters on Main Street, Northampton-- Julia sent over this New York Magazine article about Urban Outfitters' pulling an 'I Support Same Sex Marriage' t-shirt from their shelves.

"Printed T-shirts are a staple item for Urban Outfitters, but in a rare move, the company yanked one from their California shelves last week. Tara Littman of Support Shirts designed the shirt in question, which features the statement "I Support Same Sex Marriage," clearly a hot-button item in the Proposition 8 state. Less than a week after it first arrived in stores and online, the shirt was gone."

The page linked to above links to some other articles on the same topic.

Something tells me Northampton won't like that attitude very much.

photo by me, the Faces window display last December.


Winter Song

This video for 'Winter Song' by Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles is adorable. It's a beautiful song and the animation is both melancholy and sweet. I especially love the part where the girls go sledding.

(Fun fact: Ingrid is the friend/roommate of a high school friend. I'd adore her music either way, but the two-degrees thing is neat.)


A Pandora success story

When I have the office to myself, I hop over to Pandora and let it pick some music for me based on artists I know I like. Over and over again, Vienna Teng comes up, and over and over I've loved what I heard. Her piano playing draws me in, her strong and beautiful voice steals my attention away from work and into her lyrics.

When I saw her on the Iron Horse schedule, I made plans with Patrick to see the show. That's where we were last night-- snuggled in to the Iron Horse with a couple hundred other people, sipping a pint of Steel Rail, mesmerized by the way Vienna played the piano. She built her set list out of requests shouted out by audience members, she told a story about each song, she poked fun at the uneven balance of slow songs over upbeat. Sitting inside that history-laden building surrounded by mellow and sweet music was the perfect way to spend an early December night.

Pandora led me (for free) to Vienna Teng's music. I spent money to see her live, and I will spend money to buy her albums. Artists who resist free access to their music should take note.

photo by Gordon Lai. It's not from last night but she was wearing that shirt. I'll update later with a photo I took at last night's show, if any of them came out at all...


Photo book recommendations?

We took hundreds and hundreds (ok, thousands) of photos on our honeymoon in California. We're photo nuts anyway, but we also had a brand spankin' new camera to play with (plus two old ones that we used on the trip). That was two months ago and we haven't done much of anything with the photos-- hardly anyone has even seen them. We uploaded a couple, but it was a busy fall and we never did much more. I'd like to do a photo book before the holidays, so I need to get moving.

I made a photo book of our engagement photos using Shutterfly because we had a coupon and it was a good deal. The interface was ok and the quality was fine, but it wasn't customizable enough for me and I don't plan to use it again. I've heard rave reviews of Blurb books, but I'm wondering if there are any other companies I should look at. I'm not looking to spend a ton of money, but I want good quality and an easy but highly customizable layout process.


Wreck Wreplica

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, will someone please make us a cake replica ornament for Christmas? I suppose some people might not want to be reminded of their wedding cake wreck, but I think it would be excellent! Every disastrous detail must be replicated so that we can hang it on our tree and tell the tale of The Cake for years to come.

On a similar note, I loved Aviatrix's suggestion in her comment on my previous post: "For your tenth wedding anniversary you should bring the photo of the wreck to a bakery and try to get them to recreate THAT."

My plan was that for some big anniversary down the line we'd go all out on an amazingly gorgeous cake, but I think I like her idea better. A perfectly replicated crack, perfectly unfinished decoration, and cardboard showing in precisely the same way. It's a plan!

Ok, this is the last cake post, the ornament was just too good not to mention.

photo courtesy of Etsy seller GorgeousRedhead


Cake Wrecks-worthy?

As you've probably heard, our wedding cake was, well, a disaster. I wrote about the whole thing here.

I've been trying to decide whether our cake was worthy of submission to Cake Wrecks, one of my favorite things on the world wide web these days. Obviously the structural issues alone do not warrant Cake Wreck fame, but compare the decoration on our cake to the cake photos we gave the baker for inspiration-- it just might be wreck-worthy.

Please consider these photos, sent to the baker and the idea behind the cake we wanted:

The idea behind the design was the alternating swirl-dot-swirl motif on the left, with the little frosting dots (seen in the cake on the right) along each tier. Simple.

Here's what we got:

Now beyond the obvious and heinous lopsidedness (due to the bottom layer collapsing entirely), please note the terribly blobby "dots" of frosting between the tiers. Here's one more, this time a nice close up (click on the photo to see it larger than life):

Those "dots" look an awful lot like mini marshmallows to me-- and they don't even continue around the entire cake! She just gave up. And yes, that's cardboard showing. A nice touch.

Wedding Wrecks were featured on Cake Wrecks today. Honestly, those cakes made me feel better about our charming little disaster. What do you think, was our wedding cake a certifiable cake wreck? I just might have to submit it to find out...

p.s. yes, after much back and forth, we got our money back. Add Image


Our town, all dressed up

I left work yesterday tired and a bit frustrated. I just wanted to go home and hibernate. As I turned out of the parking lot and drove up the street in the heavy winter darkness, Easthampton stepped out from its dressing room and twirled around, modeling its new duds. Every tree along Cottage Street was strung with white lights. Wreathes hung along the lamp posts. The windows of the shops were decked (out). Easthampton looked festive and fine.

The thing that struck me was that all of it felt so genuine-- it didn't feel like a shopping mall or a movie set, it felt like a small town putting its best foot forward for its residents. The town didn't get all dolled up for commercial reasons (to trick people into spending money using olde time nostalgia), it did it out of pride and respect, because the residents deserve to see it sparkle for awhile. The town had brushed off its holiday best, it was sitting up straight and waiting to be noticed.

When we moved here from Northampton, a friend who lives a few blocks away welcomed us and said he loves Easthampton because it's "grittier, more real". And while I love Northampton, I know what he means. There aren't really any tourists to impress over here, not yet anyway. The town is here for the people who live and work and create here. That isn't always the best philosophy for business, but the genuine sentiment behind the holiday get-up is a nice change of pace.

Thank you Easthampton, for making me sit up straight and notice you. (I promise we'll do a photoshoot later in the week.)

(There are some thought-provoking posts on Easthampton floating around out there this week. Check out what Jim and Trace have to say.)


My current career revolves around appreciation and gratitude. I spend my days expressing appreciation on behalf of my organization through correspondence, events, actions, and interactions. I'm sure my mom can't believe it, but I more or less get paid for writing/creating/acting out thank you notes of various forms.

So, last week, when thanking was all the rage, I started a list of things I'm thankful for in my own life. It's not a bad thing to do.

Right now, I am grateful for
  • the privilege of being married to an amazing person, whom I love fiercely. He challenges me, makes me laugh, teaches me, and loves me steadfastly (even when I drive him nuts). I'm also grateful that he's a really good hugger (the importance of good hugs to a successful relationship should be mentioned more often).
  • a loving family that I enjoy being around and isn't terribly far away.
  • marrying into a family that welcomed me (years ago) with open arms.
  • Calvin and his adorably awkward sleeping positions
  • new episodes of The Office and 30 Rock, watching them without commercials
  • being employed in a job that, for the most part, keeps me interested and makes me feel like I'm doing some good
  • the decision and ability to purchase our dream camera as a wedding gift to ourselves.
  • Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
  • far away friends who send letters and call just because.
  • the fact that we all got to experience Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
  • nearby friends who are always up for a night out or a night in
  • good coffee and favorite mugs that fit in my hand just right
  • pajama pants and cozy socks after work
  • shelves overflowing with books
  • hot beverages on cold nights (and gingersnaps on the side)
  • a view of Mount Tom; living and working in a beautiful place
  • tasty burgers and homemade ice cream within walking distance
  • giggling uncontrollably on the couch after dinner
  • a car CD player that works and rediscovered mix CDs of years ago.
  • Trader Joes' All Natural Peanut Butter (smooth, not crunchy)
  • my 'winter' playlist
  • NPR
  • the end of wedding planning (really. I'm so happy for our recently-engaged friends, and I loved our wedding, but I'm so very glad to be happily married and no longer planning a wedding! Like, I get giddy just thinking about the fact that we never have to plan another wedding.)
  • being able to talk to my sister during the day courtesy of Google chat (is that what it's called?)
  • President-elect Barack Obama
I could go on and on and on (more than I already have)-- what a lucky thing. I have a lot to be grateful for, which is worth remembering on the days when I moan about gray skies or the lack of a funds for a new wardrobe. It's really a very blessed life.


Moving in

For more than a year, I've been blogging about the process of planning our wedding and getting married over at Prom to Altar. I'm glad I documented the process, and I met some great people along the way. Who knows, maybe I even wrote a couple things that helped others plan weddings with a grain of sanity.

Now that the wedding is over and I'm two months into the wonderful adventure of marriage, I've decided to keep writing but away from the world of wedding blogs.

While I don't have a specific agenda for this space, there are a few things about which I plan to spend some time writing. To name a few:

-Maintaining balance: responsibility and creativity, work and home, yin and yang.

-Budget living/eating/gifting/crafting, etc. (as newlyweds, as young folks with financial goals, as an often one-income household)

-Life in a small town during a not-so-hot economic situation

Other topics will crop up, and I'll do my best to keep things interesting. I just need to keep writing.

(Yes, I'm aware that a Blogger blog is a bit JV for the wife of a web developer. I'm not going to put him through making me a blog until I prove to both of us that I'm going to keep this up and not embarrass either of us in the process. Here goes!)