Monday, August 31, 2009

Two Bummers: Festival of Lights & the Zune HD Premiere

So this is a funny story... we were sitting around the living room Saturday morning, and I was online looking for things to do... since it was raining, I was mostly checking out museums and the like. We didn't really have any specific goal in mind for the day, when Jonathan (out of the blue) mentions that there's a "Festival of Lights" in New Jersey somewhere. Apparently a kid who lived on his floor during his first year of college was from a town that "gets all kinds of traffic for this festival." Well, I knew nothing of it it, so I googled it. Low and behold, it was taking place that same day. And it was only 25 minutes away. Well, that decided that!

We did a few various things during the day, hoping the rain would die down. We left around 4pm for this festival, which has a carnival and food vendors, merchants, and games like a "diaper derby." Well, we get there and it's still kinda wet, but at least no new rain was falling. The inclement weather seemed to keep everyone away though, and we ended up walking everything in a short amount of time. The ferris wheel that graced the publicity poster wasn't up, I'm imagining because of the wind? We asked a few people about whether the boat parade (and the lights) would be making an appearance, and whether the fireworks would go up. Nobody seemed to know.

It began to rain before long, and luckily we had packed our ponchos. We put them on, and hung around for another ten minutes or so, before deciding that our time was better spent elsewhere.

We popped over to Mount Laurel for a little shopping. Costco is over there, as is a Jos A Bank (which gives Jonathan a corporate discount), and there's a DSW shoes (although not as big as our local one). I called the festival number several times, waiting for an announcement that they would be going to the "raindate" of the following night. No such change in the message was made. We went on home, since the rain was just getting worse.

The next morning, I called again, hoping that the message would either be gone, or it would be modified to indicate that they would be doing everything that night. No such luck... it was still the same message. The internet did not seem to help with this strange scenario (partly because the event is so popular that they "hardly need to advertise"), and at 7pm I gave up calling.

The plan after church on Sunday was to head down to NE Philly, where there was a Best Buy that would be featuring the new Zune HD (Microsoft's mp3 player). The item hasn't come out yet (mid-September), but many people have pre-ordered it (including us). Now, we're big fans of the Zune... Jonathan's had his almost three years, I got mine shortly after we were married, and both of my siblings also got them Christmas before last. I follow several Zune feeds on my Google Reader, and found out on Friday that among the few Best Buys selected to showcase the new product, one was near us. So we drove the 10 miles and arrived without fighting too much traffic.

We walk in with high expectations, and there were no signs pointing us to the item! After scouring the mp3 section, I asked a worker about it... she was puzzled as to how I heard about it, but mentioned that a table had been set up in the middle of the store. We headed over there to find no crowd, no lines, and just one Zune HD. The promoter wouldn't let us touch it, and wouldn't really discuss the applications/marketplace features. He made a brief comment about its internet capabilities, but had very little to show us. It does make a great output in HD to a television (or projector, apparently), but he only had a few things on there, so no great demonstration could be given. They did have the non-working version you could hold to get a feel for the size/weight(lessness), but our plan of being there for an hour or so was squelched when there was little to see and little to learn.

We wandered the store for a few minutes, and I did pick up the 25th anniversary edition of The Last Unicorn, which is flawed as I find out (they've censored a few scenes in what was a G-rated movie in 1982), so now I need to decide if I want the remastered video and audio, or if I want the full version (an earlier dvd did come out five or so years ago)...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Friends Bar & Grille

The "younger crowd" at Jonathan's work put together a Happy Hour after work at Friends Bar & Grille in Newtown. We got there shortly before 6 and they were just getting a table together, and a small group was still there when we left at 8:30. The grand total was probably about 14, which was good.

Aside from meeting a lot of people and discussing various commonalities (awesome courses we took in undergrad, hobbies, living in Melbourne, FL), we had some good food. I adored the fries that accompanied my chicken parmigiana sandwich, but the chicken itself was very bland, and the sauce very runny. Jonathan went in on a pizza with Andrew, a thin crust cheesesteak pizza. I had a bite and it was quite good. The guys each had three pieces, so it must have been good, too! Jonathan and I also shared a crock of the french onion soup... the broth was good and there was plenty of cheese, but the presence of sesame seeds no the bread was an undesirable addition.

They also have a lot of beers on tap, but we didn't have any.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Phillies Game!

Lockheed had a Family Day thingy for a Phillies game, and it was a lot of fun. The opponent was the Arizona Diamondbacks, which is a team I had previously never watched.

We got to the parking lot a little after 4pm, as there was a 3-hour tailgate before the first pitch at 7:05pm. We carpooled with Andrew, who was driving a Chevy Equinox that week and had a tailgate of sorts. We parked back-to-back with Ryan, who was rocking out the back of his Corvette. There was a ton of food and plenty of waters, Monster drinks, and sodas. There were hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, sausages and peppers, caesar salad, and a penne pasta dish. There could have been more side items, but everything was good. I tried the pasta and had a chicken sandwich (with cheese, bbq, and pickles), and was happy with both of my selections. Jonathan tried the burger and the chicken sandwich, and enjoyed both as well.

It was sweltering out, and it was a rough few hours waiting for something more exciting to happen. We registered for a chance to win some Eagles tickets, but otherwise just entertained ourselves listening to music and chatting with others walking by.

We headed for the stadium with throngs of others, and were greeted with "My First Phillies Game" certificates. Our seats were really up in the nosebleed section, and we were remarkably close to the foul line pole at third base. The stadium was absolutely packed, with 45,712 in attendance. I have never been to a game that full before, but it did seem like there were several organizations present. It was Jewish Heritage Night, and a few Universities seemed to have delegations there as well. The game was pretty exciting, as the Phillies scored 12 runs, including three homeruns. It's neat that they light up this giant Liberty Bell and move it to "ring" when a homerun is hit (video at the bottom of this post). There were also at least two broken bats, possibly three (those always fascinate me!). For all of the Jewish people in the audience, they had a bottle dance before the first pitch, a group of children do a ring dance of sorts at one point, and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was sung in pre-recorded Yiddish. Definitely not your ordinary game!Still, the Phillies are a good team, and the crowd seems to adore the team and cheer for favorites, so it was fun getting into it. Hopefully this is a great omen toward all of the professional sports in the area (Eagles and Flyers in particular!).

We left at the top of the 8th to avoid the traffic (it was a blowout anyway). We found a secret route back to I-95 and were able to bypass a lot of traffic.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kyla's Time in PA, part 2 of 2

Monday morning was when we were able to move in to the new place. We got there around 10:30am, and promptly rearranged some furniture. The layout quickly grew on both of us. Jonathan left to go to work shortly before noon, and Kyla and I checked out the internet and television. Then we headed out to explore the complex (free Starbucks coffee, hot chocolate, and Tazo tea in the leasing center during business hours), and saw the mailboxes, dumpster, recycling bins, and fitness room, among other things.

I wanted to see what the nearby mall was like, so we drove to the Oxford Valley Mall (about ten minutes away from the apartment, maybe less if you make the lights). In terms a few readers would understand, I'd equate Oxford Valley to Governor's Square, and Franklin Mills to the Tallahassee Mall. For the non-FSU alums, Oxford Valley is mostly chains, while Franklin Mills is more independent or small-franchise shops. In a neat boutique called Deb, I bought a belt for $1.06, down from $10.99. There was actually a Disney Store in this mall (haven't seen those in forever!), and we checked out an amusing array of merchandise... Dodger, Cleo, Percy, and Meeko were featured stuffed animals!

We got to Delia*s and saw that you could get a $10 gift card just for trying on a pair of their jeans! So we each grabbed a pair (ended up being the same style in different colors and sizes) and ended up loving them. We headed toward the register and the salesgirl mentioned there was a BOGO 50% off, so we headed back over to the jeans wall and grabbed more pairs (two styles, various colors). In the end, we each bought the same two pairs of jeans, which was pretty funny. I should also mention that this is the very first time I've bought two pairs of jeans from the same store on the same day since I was fourteen (I'm incredibly picky with jeans!).

We continued around the mall until Jonathan got off work. Then it was off to get some dinner. We went to Venezia again, this time picking up a pepperoni Sicilian and a fettuccine alfredo dinner. We finished off the pasta, ate maybe half the accompanying bread, but only got through about half the pizza. It was delicious, and I'd highly recommend it! (The pizza also worked well reheated over the next week.)

Tuesday morning the stuff arrived! I was very excited that we didn't have to wait two weeks like we did in California. We were quoted "between 11 and 2" and the movers showed up at 11:06, and were gone by 12:10. Everything made it, nothing was broken, and they took away all the boxes and packing materials, which was good. We did some minimal organizing, Jonathan went back to work, and Kyla and I went to play miniature golf at Golf Adventure, which is less than fifteen minutes from the apartment. It is an older course, no real theme apparent. There are a few rivers/ponds/waterfalls, with the water dyed a denim blue. The holes are pretty straightforward, with a few tricky ones (one which Kyla and I both struggled on, hitting the 6-stroke limit easily!). We were the only ones playing at the time, although there were people finishing up when we started, and a lone woman began playing as we finished. Then we ran a few errands and went to Ross (which was a mini-venture in itself since it was brand new and not in the GPS or listed by 411). We met up with JB and went to Taco Bell and Barnes & Noble. Kyla got The DaVinci Code, so hopefully she's enjoying reading it.
my hole in one :)

Wednesday afternoon, Kyla left. But before she did, the two of us went to the Philadelphia Zoo. Construction on I-95 caused us to take much longer than necessary to make a 40-minute drive, but parking was easy (though $12). We parked in "Zebra" and headed toward the park. I was hoping to get the AAA discount, but apparently if you want that you have to buy your tickets directly from AAA... good to know. We were able to hit the entire park in about 3 and a half hours, which was pretty good. Disappointments: no zebras or elephants were out. the nocturnal exhibit wasn't the best. the map isn't to scale or very descriptive of what's where. The baby sloths were adorable!

Giant AnteaterPanamanian Golden FrogPig-Nosed TurtleBlack-Tailed Prairie DogGibbonsTwo-toed slothsPygmy Marmoset

There are a TON of "extras" and feedings at this zoo which is neat. You can go up in a hot air balloon, ride a carousel, do paddle boats, face painting, ride a camel, and more. Obviously, we ponied up $6 each and rode the camels. They were Dromedary camels (aka 1 hump), and you sit behind the hump. They are REALLY bumpy (much more so than horses!), but pretty fun. For the same price, you could get your entire face painted to look like an animal... and while that was cool, being able to recount the experience of riding a camel is much more awesome. We fed lorikeets which was neat, especially for Kyla since she hadn't done it before. We also watched them feed the hippos (Cindy and Una), and the mangabey (no known name). I took a ton of photos of the hippos, and thus there's a ton that made it over here as well...

Heading out of the park, we passed by a mural with a lot of different animals painted on it. I had Kyla take a couple photos of me with two of the hippos on the wall. :o)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kyla's Time in PA, part 1 of 2

So imagine this post came just after Roadtrip, but it took a while to gather and par-down all of the photos. Picking up where we left off, Kyla and I had made it to PA on Thursday night, and her flight back to FL was the following Wednesday. On Friday, Jonathan worked a half-day, and we went to the Franklin Mills mall. Then we met Andrew for dinner (Outback has gone downhill, don't go there anymore), and saw Funny People. I wouldn't recommend the movie, except maybe the first hour or so.

On Saturday, we drove to New Hope (PA) and Lambertville (NJ). I was weirded out by how many people were downtown in both cities (New Hope a little more so). Lots of interesting shops, a ton of ice cream places, and dogs walking everywhere (on leashes). Jonathan got a cherry ice, and we walked around for a couple hours. We drove into Jersey for gas, since the idea of someone pumping your gas was new to Jonathan and Kyla, and I haven't seen it done in a very long time. Then we went to Philadelphia Park and watched the final two horse races of the day. None of us made good guesses on the first one, but each of our picks placed in the top 4 on the second race. We also tried playing Scrabble with the new Cheez-It edition, but it's rather difficult, so I wouldn't recommend it.

in between races this water truck came out and moistened the dirt. then a couple tractors raked it.
Sunday we went to do the Philadelphia Constitutional Walk, but suffered from a lot of rain. We also got parking-price-gouged the first two places we parked (and we're no strangers to paying for parking). But, now we know a few new things, so no biggie. We first went to the Independence Visitor Center, since we had pre-arranged a tour for 10am. We got our tickets, went through light security, and before long had Tour Guide Chuck leading us around. Pretty neat place, not gonna lie.
Independence Hall

Then we crossed the street and saw the Liberty Bell. I was actually expecting it to be much more crowded than it was! We got a few photos of the various sides, and read through the information about the Bell's history. I somehow had not known that the reason its name was changed from the State Bell to the Liberty Bell was because of 1830s abolitionists!

We saw a bunch of other places, but the "exciting" stuff picked up again at the Second Bank, where they have a portrait gallery that is quite extensive! I was amazed at the quality and variety in the bank, especially since none of us had realized what would be inside!
William Penn

Jonathan dashed out in the rain to bring the car over (we were quite a few blocks away by this time), and we headed over to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. PS - IF YOU GO THERE, GET YOUR PARKING VALIDATED!! We walked around some (Sundays are not the day to go, since about 1/3 of the market is Pennsylvania Dutch and they don't sell on Sundays), bought some apple cider and pretzels, then headed over to Carmen's Famous Cheesesteaks (cash only) for lunch. Kyla had a regular, I had a chicken, and Jonathan got his with pepperoni. All were good, although I'm not a big fan of cheese(chicken)steaks without sauce... I find them a bit dry. We headed out shortly thereafter, and with the sun shining, we continued with the tour.

We then parked near the Carpenter's house, in a metered spot which ran $4 for two hours (next to nothing, comparatively). We headed to Betsy Ross's house, which I enjoyed (it's like $2 or so to tour it). They had quite a bit of information on sewing back in the day, owning businesses, and her family life. I thought that they could have done a few things more in-depth (like her family tree), and the amount of speculation is a bit high (we're guessing she lived in a certain room, and have no idea if other families shared the home or if British soldiers also stayed there). Inside, we ran into one of the storytellers from the "Once Upon a Nation" program. She told us the story of Angelina and Sarah, abolitionist sisters. She was quite a good storyteller, and sold me on the program. You go across the city, listening to thirteen stories and collecting a star for each one. Then you get an ice cream cone. hehe

We went to Ben Franklin's grave (and passed a random fountain-garden with a hippo statuette), but it was mysteriously closed for the middle of the afternoon. We then went to see one of the oldest Quaker Meeting buildings, which was also closed to the public (Sunday, so they could have been in a Meeting). BUT, there was another storyteller outside! She told the story of a hunchbacked Quaker who was a rebel. We collected our second stickers and began toward a path that would allow us another four stories.

we also went and followed a crowd to where they were doing a town hall of sorts in the National Constitution Center... there was a Napoleon exhibit we didn't see

Lastly, we went to the National Liberty Museum, which we literally came upon on accident on the way toward the car in the rain. We definitely wish we would have had more time to check out the four floors! We managed to fly through two floors, just glancing at highlights as we kept moving. It was "pay what you like" which was amusing, since there were also posted prices... perhaps it depends on the day?
they have a Liberty Bell replica, and they even allowed us to touch it as it resonated from being rang
There was a section on Jerusalem
a painting with every President included, even Obama!
a fun exhibit made from jellybeans!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Farley Reunion

When I was a small child (read: under ten years old), one of my favorite things was big family gatherings. Birthday parties were a special favorite of both my brother and I, and we'd often turn the memories into bedtime stories by making our cousins "princes" and "princesses" of whatever city they lived in. But, once a year there was the Farley Reunion, held at my grandparents' house. I think what was most exciting about it was the re-arranging of the yard. Picnic tables would appear from the woods, the slide would move from the concrete patio to the hilly grass, and there were other small changes (like new pails for the sandbox!).

Fast-forward seventeen years: since I'm living in the northeast once again, I was able to attend this year's Farley Reunion (first time since 1992 for me). The location has changed, and those in attendance have shifted somewhat, but it's still a good time.

Jonathan and I set out from our place, and were pleasantly surprised to find that our destination was about twenty minutes closer than planned, so we detoured a bit and followed some signs for "NJ sweet corn" and "cheese." We came upon a small stand stocked with vegetables and a small refrigerator with dozens of eggs and some cheese. We looked over the various kinds and chose two blocks, paid (aka added up our total and put some money in a jar), and headed toward the Reunion.

We were the first to arrive and sign the register, which I flipped through later on to see all of my mom's previous sign-ins. As we helped move around some food, others started to arrive, and by 1:30 or so we were all eating. We sat with my grandparents and my Uncle Carl (among others), so it was good to catch up, talk about our new place in Pennsylvania, etc. Chatting was followed by the annual meeting (and the first time I paid attention instead of gallivanting off to the slide or a big wheel) and photograph. What was particularly unique this year was the performance of several Country songs by Ann Brown. My grandparents had a great time dancing, and there were eight or so of us on the dancefloor at one point (which is pretty good, considering there were about twenty people in attendance this year). My grandfather even got up on stage to join Ann for a few numbers. Things began to wind down, and since it was early yet, we opted to head over to Rocky Top for a bit....On the way to the Reunion, I was a bit frustrated with not recognizing anything. I assumed that I would, at least a little bit! But, as we trucked along into Califon, it all came together for me. Once the A&P was in sight, I rattled off the other surrounding stores/businesses (well, what they used to be) to Jonathan. We made a quick stop on the way to add another cousin to the happening and ended up getting a short opportunity to visit more family that I haven't seen in a very, very long time (and a cousin I had not yet met). I was quite excited by this surprise, as I have reconnected with this bunch a little on Facebook over the past year or so.

Then it was on to Rocky Top, which had been my grandparents' house when I was little, but now houses my Uncle Carl and his family. It's changed some, and now has a really nice deck and pool. We sat out there and talked for a couple hours, and Jonathan and I headed out shortly after my cousin Erica got home from work, since we still had to go to the grocery store before it got too late. We took a different route back, confirming that it's only just over an hour's drive. The proximity is still a little surreal for me, since I've been so far away for so long. Now it's only a matter of time before we venture a bit farther to see my paternal grandparents and other family on my dad's side.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tyler State Park & the Library

It's really starting to seem that Florida is the only state that's even trying to charge for state parks anymore. Jonathan and I went exploring at the nearby Tyler State Park last weekend, and found out the place is huge! We drove through a good chunk of it, located the disc (aka frisbee) golf course (27 holes here!!), the canoe rentals, and the dam, among other things.

We discovered that not only do they have horseback riding, biking, and hiking trails (and cross-country skiing in winter), there's also fishing (and ice fishing in the winter), soccer, a couple playgrounds, and a lot of open space (which we found out later was for winter sledding). There's even an area for ice skating, although the depth of the ice is not monitored.We walked a couple trails, including the somewhat-overgrown exercise circuit. There were many people there, lots of dogs, and even two of my colleagues from graduate school! Small world (but we're finding that quite a bit up here, since we ran into a friend of Andrew's at the grocery store two days after meeting him!).

It was rather beastly hot, so we didn't stay at the park too terribly long. We headed for a little air conditioning by popping over to the local library and getting our cards (which was rather tricky, as we didn't have any of the "required" documents and just got a note from our complex instead, LoL). The library five minutes away is nearly half-full with children's books, so we'll probably check out the one fifteen minutes away next time.