Monthly Archives: November 2011

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

One of the few things left on my “to do” list while living in the northeast was to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year seemed to be the year to go: the weather this November has been unseasonably warm, we weren’t leaving town,and our turkey eating plans weren’t until later in the afternoon. Here’s how the day went:

4:00am: Wake up, get ready and head to the train station.
The best choices we made at this early hour: making egg sandwiches at the house before leaving, buying round trip tickets from New Brunswick to NYC and back.

6:45am: Head to the C/E train uptown toward 72nd and Central Park West. I had researched and read the night before that the express train runs on the local stops so when the express train came first, we hopped on and lucked out – 72nd/CPW was the third stop! The coolest thing happened on the subway and I’m bummed I didn’t get a picture of it! Our subway cars we’re FULL of parade goers but one station was PACKED with all of the brightly colored dancers that were heading to the start of the parade. There were so many of them, we had no idea how they would ever fit on a subway train full of people. Somehow they made it to the parade. See!

7:30ish:  Arrive at the corner of 71st and Central Park West.  Decide that there is a fairly open spot to stand on the corner and rather than continue to push further up Central Park West, we stay here hoping our view of the parade stays this clear!  We spend the next hour and a half chatting and eavesdropping on the conversations around us.  By the time the parade started we’d formed a little group with the people around us and we were all so excited for the parade!

9:00: The parade started!  Because we were so close to the beginning of the parade route it didn’t take long for the balloons and floats to make their way to us.  For the next two hours I was like a kid in a candy store!  It’s amazing to be in a crowd of people all so excited and the balloons are magnificent in person!  We had so much fun snapping pictures, oohing and aahing and watching the eyes of all of the kids lined up in front of us light up as they saw all of their superheroes go by!  Spiderman was definitely the big hit on my little corner.

11:00 or so: Santa Claus!  Now I’m not a believer in or a big fan of Santa Claus, but I will admit, this float was magnificent and it really was an amazing end to the parade!  All of the kids get SO excited at this point and everyone talks about how it “ushers in the holidays”.  Santa was pretty spirited too – he did a great job showing his jovial character and having a great time interacting with the spectators.  It was a fantastic finish!

11:15am: We were among the first to see the end of the parade and as soon as it ended, we booked it up to Amsterdam and 72nd to hop on the 1 train back to Penn Station.  It was great to be among the first crowd to head back and feel like we were moving away from the crowds still watching the parade.  It was a great walk up to the subway station.  I’d been in NYC on Christmas Day but it is something else to see all of the hustle and bustle on Thanksgiving Day!

Noon: Back on the NJT towards New Brunswick and a fantastic afternoon and evening with friends giving thanks and sharing a wonderful meal!

In all, the parade is one of the best things I’ve done since moving out here.  It is just a parade with floats and balloons and all but it is magical to see it in person and it’s great to see it through all of the kids that are there.  I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to go.  It was another one of those things that I was able to cross off of my life list.  I grew up watching and admiring the parade on TV and it really was a dream come true to see it in person.

DIY Christmas Wreath

After a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend spent at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and enjoying great food with friends, I was feeling festive and wanted to create something in the spirit of the holidays for my house.  I’m not particularly crafty.  As a matter of fact I don’t think I’ve ever actually successfully made anything.  My mind is pretty creative though.  I have tons of ideas swimming around in my head for things to hang on my walls, curtains to hang over my windows, and ways to add meaning to the things in my home, I just don’t always know how to make it come to life.

For some inspiration and how-to tutorials, I went to pinterest of course!  I decided that a homemade wreath was a great place to start.  I’ve always wanted to hang a holiday wreath but I always cringe at the prices for pretty wreaths in the stores.  I figured I could find something fun and try to make it for less that $25!

These were my two inspiration wreaths:

 

I liked the look of the twiggy wreath on the right, but Travis didn’t like the colors of the yarn. So, I found the second wreath (left) for color/arrangement inspiration.

Off to Michael’s I went, armed with inspiration and a desire to stay under $25.  Since I’m not generally crafty, I needed to buy everything for this project.  I decided on a couple of different colors/textures of yarn, two different sized Styrofoam balls, and a medium sized twiggy wreath.  Travis is a weird guy and already had a glue gun with the little glue stick things.  That was a bonus!  I also picked up a container of bells and a couple of twigs with berries and pine cones.

First up I had to make all of those little yarn balls.  Since, again, I’m not overly crafty, this took some trial and error for me (and my awesome helper)!  We discovered that you basically just have to wrap the yarn randomly around the Styrofoam for it to “stick” to them and pull the yarn as tightly as possible around the ball as you go.

To assemble the wreath, I basically just used a hot glue gun to hot glue various yarn balls into place and then I filled in the extra space with a little bit of greenery, berries, pine cones and a few festive bells.

Here’s an in-progress (about half way done) shot:

And the finished product:

For my first attempt at craftiness I think I did a pretty good job.  I now have so many additional ideas swimming around in my head for other small ways I can make the house look festive for not a lot of money!  Speaking of money – I think I came in under budget.  My receipt at Michael’s said I spent $32.  However, I spent $5 on Christmas ornaments and technically I didn’t use all of the bells, styrofoam balls, and I didn’t come CLOSE to using up all of that yarn.  So – I think I’m under $25 AND I have some leftovers to decorate other places in the house!

I hate Verizon. I killed them with Google Voice.

While there is competition in the cell phone market, it’s hardly competitive. For whatever reason, it always seems as if there is really only one option for a service that you “need”. We loved T-mobile. Unfortunately, when we moved out here to to Newark, the service wasn’t reliable enough to be useful. The pricing between Verizon and Sprint is pretty much the same.

If you ask me, any service that requires you to be locked in is immediately suspect. When that contract is up and you need a new phone, like now, because pieces keep falling off, that huge discount on that fancy device is alluring. The two year hit seems easy to swallow.

But what sort of company simply passes off taxes and fees onto the customer? All that government stuff should be covered by them. I’m sorry, are they not rolling in money? Can they not simply increase the price when my contract is up. Apparently, the contract is only one way. They can increase taxes and fees, but I can’t get out. (Although you can change any aspect of your plan whenever you want, just not cancel it.) When I signed up for the contract it was $70 for the family plan, $10 for the extra line (mine), and $60 for 2 unlimited data plans which included all sorts of fancy messaging. Taxes and fees of course can’t be estimated (cause they increase EVERY month). That’s a base $140 minus the 15% NJ Teacher’s Union discount which hopefully would off-set the taxes and fees. I have yet to pay under $160. Apparently, billing was just restructured so I can now expect over $200 including the discount…every month. Taxes and fees this month are $50.

After a long sweaty bout of screaming obscenities and calling them bad bad names, I decided to execute my right as a consumer to not give them my money. Of course, I can’t cancel the contract, but I can alter it, including closing extra lines attached to the account. I have a home phone that doesn’t get used thanks the to the Optimum Triple Play (which I hated up until this point, but that’s another rant). They can’t port a cell number to a landline unless the area code matches.

To the rescue is everyone’s favorite Big Brother, Google. Google Voice phone numbers are free. I have been using it as a business number that forwarded to my cell. Now, it forwards to my home number. For a $20 one time fee, Google called Verizon, took my cell number, and closed the line for me. Texts go to my email. Since I am only out of wi-fi range for 10% of my life, I should be alright. I can even still use my smartphones wifi to get my messages.

I simply do not need, nor do I want to be, that easily accessible anymore. You people have become far to comfortable not leaving voice messages or thinking texts are acceptable for important information. I’m bringing contact back into being apart!

I am seriously considering a Pay-as-you-go Virgin mobile hotspot and a iPod Touch. $10 for 100mb or 10days and it rides any towers Sprint has access to. Pretty handy for the 10% I don’t have free wifi.

My favorite thing? All cell phones are legally required to ALWAYS make 911 calls, activated/on a plan, or not. As a customer, I am paying “NJ 911 System/Emerg. Resp. Fee = $0.90” every month. WTF?!