Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My New Coat!

I managed to find the Marshalls coat - that I liked the other day - in the right size at the Newton store yesterday.

I put it to good use today with the snowy weather (it's Teflon-coated since it's a snowboarding jacket!)

This isn't the most flattering angle of the jacket since I don't like the leather patch on the front of it but it really is cute in person!

New Dress I'm in Love With

Of course it's from Anthropologie.

Natural Sunlight Dress

I love the deep grey with the pop of yellow, the chrysanthemum flower print (very Japanese) and the contrast of the embroidery. Hopefully this will go on sale in the next couple of months so I can snag it to wear to a wedding (the only formal occasions I attend!)

Here Comes the Snow

I watched the snow estimates climb from the original 4 - 6 inches, to 5 - 7 inches and now 8 - 10 inches.

Knowing that the storm was predicted to start around 11 am, I stopped by Shaws on my way to work to pick up movies from Redbox and to pick up enough food for the next few days.

I was out of work by 11:30 am, my boss had left minutes before me and had called me to tell me the roads were already bad and that I should leave as soon as possible. I took her at her word and left immediately. There wasn't much to do in the office anyway and there wasn't many people actually in the office.

This is what my drive home was like (don't worry people, it was taken at a red light).

The roads were definitely slippery but not too bad at that point. It only took me an extra ten minutes to get home.
Now I'm worried about Andrew's drive to Newton. He's coming all the way from New Bedford and he just got released from work around 1:40 pm. I really wish his office management had let the office go earlier considering the state of the roads.
This is what Cummings Road looked like when I pulled in.

I cleared off the walkways but I'm sure they're already buried. At least the snow is light and fluffy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas is for cats too

As Ben demonstrates with his new toy

More Snow?

I woke up this morning to a light coating of snow on the ground and a weather report telling me that three to six inches is predicted for tomorrow between 7 am and 7 pm.

My first thought was that I can’t believe we’re getting more snow this month, after getting so much a week ago and after seeing runners in shorts jog past melting snow banks last Sunday in 60 degree weather.

My second thought was that I’m glad Amy and Rich’s flight gets in tonight before the snow. It’s kind of funny to think that their flight left Narita at 3 am this morning while we were asleep and is still in the air as I type this.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dinner at the Publick House

Continuing the trend of eating out, Andrew and I met up with Phu, Pete, Kate and Jen at one of our favorite restaurants, the Publick House in Brookline.

Their Belgian Frites are incredible - french fries with your choice of two dipping sauces. We usually go with garlic mayo and the beer mustard and it's making my stomach rumble just thinking about it.

Here are the two jerks that were sharing my cone of fries eating them all while my back is turned!

Jen was seated in a better spot, as she had access to both cones of fries.

I was still pretty full from lunch so I went with a new menu item, the pumpkin fritters. Publick House used to have these incredible pumpkin raviolis but they have mysteriously disappeared from their menu (our waiter said that they were unpopular, which I find very hard to believe since anyone I know who's ever had them has loved them). For some reason, fritters made me think some sort of rounded pancake instead of the "meatballs" I ended up with.

The waiter warned me they were more like dessert which made me hesitant to order them as I didn't want a completely sweet dinner. Jen was kind enough to promise a piece of her chicken sandwich for a taste of the fritters, which was enought to convince me to try them.

I ended up being disappointed by fritters - they had a very weak pumpkin flavor with the biggest punch of flavor coming from the garnish, the golden raisins.

I should've just gone with a double order of the frites as my meal - very unhealthy but soooo good!

Eating Out Too Much

Preparing for my two week trip to Japan, I cleared my fridge of most food and I haven't made time to go to the grocery store since.

This means that all day Friday, Andrew and I snacked on leftover Chinese food from the Silvia's Christmas Eve dinner and luckily, we ate out all day yesterday! Not very healthy, so I'm definitely going to the grocery store today.

Yesterday, while Andrew and Phu had lunch in Saugus with Phu's sister and brother-in-law, I hit the South Shore Plaza mall with my cousin Andrew.

We were both starving when we arrived at the mall, so our first stop was the Cheesecake Factory (surprisingly, we 0nly had a ten minute wait).

I went with a burger and fries while Andrew enjoyed the Teriyaki Chicken, accompanied by grilled pineapple and bananas as a garnish.

I was proud of myself for resisting dessert but I did help myself to a taste of Andrew's strawberry cheesecake.

As for the shopping portion of our trip, I actually returned empty-handed.

It's funny, I kept hearing news reports of how retailers were offering great bargains to lure shoppers in . However, I felt like most of the stores we visited were running the exact same promotions they were before Christmas, which weren't that great to begin with. Plus, some stores (Gap and Banana Republic), definitely had more discounts online than they did in their stores.

Andrew was successful in snagging some shirts at AE with the gift cards Amy and I had given him as birthday and Christmas gifts as well as a very nice sweater at Hollister (so nice, I wish Hollister had offered them in the ladies section as well!). And I was pleased to learn that he shares my affinity for kelly green.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Dinner in Plymouth

Exhausted by all our hard work (eating and opening gifts), Phu, Andrew and I decamped in Andrew's room and fell asleep while watching TV, while Amanda and Adam did the same downstairs in the Silvia's family room. Poor Tom and Charlotte were the ones who worked hard making Christmas dinner, which was ready (and making the house smell delicious) when we woke up from our naps.

As you can see from the sideboard where Phu is serving himself, we had the choice of turkey, mashed potatoes and carrots, creamed corn, traditional Silvia family stuffing, green bean casserole and steamed broccoli.

As you can tell from my plate, I ended up going with a little of everything! This included a roll, cranberry sauce and marshmallow fruit salad from the table, making me very happy and very full at the end of the meal!

After breaking for clean up and a game of Apples to Apples to give our stomachs times to digest, it was time for dessert!

As you can see in the pictures, we had the choice of Harvey Wallbanger cake (dessert from the night before), chocolate candy cane cookies, cinnamon tarts, Russian tea cake cookies...

brownie bites with Hershey kisses, baklava from Athan's Bakery in Brookline (thanks Pete!), pumpkin pie and a chocolate trifle (Kahlua cake to the Silvia family, as Andrew likes to point out).

Andrew demonstrates how one should eat chocolate trifle/Kahlua cake - with a big spoon!

Under the Christmas Tree

I think we spent over an hour opening presents on Christmas morning.

There was definitely a theme to the gifts I gave Andrew and his family - As Adam put it, "This is the first year that Santa brought Japanese stuff!"

This isn't the best picture but Andrew's Dad Tom gamely put on the kamikaze headband I brought back for him, along with a Santa hat.

Andrew looked rather maniacal while modeling one of my gifts - katana swords.

Even Ben the kitteh wasn't forgotten by Santa - Phu shows off Ben's new toy.

As for me, I was blessed to get some really great gifts. Including some things I had mentioned in this very blog (a sure guarantee I would like them!), including the Stockholm Floral apron from Phu and the Back to Basics Apple Peeler and the Simply Vera Leather Flats from Andrew. Plus three more of the Harry Potter series on CD, making any long drives in my future a much more pleasant experience!

In addition, you'll hopefully see more geocaching blogs in the future (with found geocaches) since Andrew and I bought ourselves the Earthmate GPS PN-20 unit as a joint gift from Santa:

This should be infinitely more accurate than my TomTom driving GPS system.

Christmas Morning in Plymouth

Christmas morning was jam-packed at the Silvia household.

Everyone was awake or starting to wake around 8:30 am.

Andrew and Phu were kind enough to accompany me to the nearest Fed Ex location (Raynham) so I could pick up a package that didn't get delivered on the 24. Apparently, due to the bad winter weather, FedEx got behind on deliveries and actually had employees work on Christmas day from 8 am - Noon.

I was initially disappointed since I had tracked the package all day on the 24th and it was projected to be delivered by 3 pm. By around 8 pm at night, the status was finally updated to "Delay beyond our control." However, I did see FedEx's notice about being open on Christmas Day and I was determined to pick up that gift.

I must say that I was impressed with Zales for holding their end of the bargain by processing and shipping my purchase within one day (I tracked the package from Texas to Memphis to East Boston to Raynham within a 12 hour period). I also appreciated how friendly the FedEx employees were, even though they were working on Christmas Day.

Once we were back at the house, I quickly wrapped the gift and placed it under the tree.

We then headed to the dining room table to open up our Christmas stockings.
This is a shot of the dining room table - I loved the candle and nutcracker centerpieces (Andrew's mom had an impressive nutcracker collection that was displayed throughout the house), the handmade Swedish horse napkin rings and the stockings that were hung at each chair.
This is a shot of my stocking:
It was jam packed with lovely things, including a cookie recipe magazine, the OXO cookie scoop I really wanted, an Ove glove and Silpat baking liner from Andrew (he told me I really needed the glove since I manage to burn my hand each time I bake), measuring cups and measuring spoons and mini pie pans - clearly, everyone knows that I like to bake!
Then it was onto the best part - breakfast!
Andrew's mom made the traditional Silvia Christmas breakfast: an egg/cheese/bread casserole and coffee cake.

Here's a shot of Adam dishing up the casserole - I can't even tell you how good it was. It was nice and crispy on top and the egg portion had a wonderful texture. It was so good I had two helpings!

The coffee cake provided a nice contrast to the savory casserole. What Andrew's mom considers a "simple" coffee cake is in fact a beautifully shaped and delicious ring of dough, cinnamon, currants and frosting - yum!

Fortified with all this food, we were now ready to tackle the pile of presents under the tree!

Candy Cane Kiss Cookies

I chose Candy Cane Kiss Cookies as my Christmas dessert.

I liked the recipe because it is a twist on the usual peanut butter/chocolate kiss combo and it allowed me to use the pretty candy cane seasonal kisses.

Like Peanut Blossoms, once you pull the cookies from the oven, you need to place the kisses on right away.

This gives the kisses enough heat to soften through without losing their shape. The recipe had the kisses in the freezer before you put them on the cookies. I think the next time I make these, I'll just keep them at room temperature because this batch didn't soften enough for my taste.

You can find the recipe for these cookies on Beantown Baker's blog

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Effin' Christmas!

From my kittie-nephew-reindeer, Ben

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Memories

As I was slipping through old photos while visiting my parents, I came across this gem:

One of the few times I was on TV - AFKN (Armed Forces Korea Network) in Seoul, Korea. I had to be either in kindergarten or first grade. I don't know who the heck is interviewing me but I remember that I asked Santa (on the TV screen) for a Care Bear for Christmas - specifically, Cheer Bear.

What I got instead was Love-A-Lot Bear:

My Dad was always in charge of getting the Santa gifts and I'm sure to the poor guy, one pink Care Bear looked exactly like the other.
The other things I remember about "Santa" was that he always left his gifts unwrapped and that he preferred beer and crackers over cookies and milk (this is what my Dad assured me and Amy). Apparently, he was right, as the beer and crackers were always gone on Christmas morning.

This is a picture I found that shows our butt-ugly (but beloved) aluminum Christmas tree that we grew up with. It was old even back in the eighties, since my parents inherited when they got married in 1971 from my Dad's aunt. We loved that tree, even though it could scratch you if you weren't careful. My Dad finally threw it out a few years back without telling the rest of us. It took Mom and Amy a while to forgive him for it.
I think this picture was taken in 1990 as it must be the year we lived in Hawaii based on how tanned Amy and I look. Amy was in the third grade and I was in the fifth grade. The white spot is from my flash since this is a picture of a picture, but I think you can still make out my favorite part of the picture - Amy's expression of excitement!

Joyce vs. Jet Lag, Day Three

I'll admit it, I was prematurely smug in my last post.

By the time 9 pm rolled around, I realized how tired I was.

I went to bed immediately, reading a few chapters of Breaking Dawn (the last book in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series) and ended up falling asleep around 9:30 pm...

...only to feel wide awake at 1 am. I fear my jet lag has won this round.

I've been up since. I spent the next three hours, ensconced in warm blankets, finishing Breaking Dawn.

Now I'm going to finish the baking I didn't get to yesterday.

I'm hoping I'll feel tired enough for a nap later on so I'm not dragging by tonight.

After all, I've got a semi-busy day planned.

This morning: baking and a possible nap

Noon: Picking up Phu for lunch. We'll need to stay near Newton since I want to make sure I get my mail (and any possible packages) today.

After lunch: Head to Wrentham (I know I'm asking for a ton of stressful traffic and craziness) in order to exchange a gift and return another item. I'm justifying this by thinking about how much worse it will be at Wrentham after Christmas.

Afternoon: Make it to Plymouth by 5 pm at the latest. Phu and I will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with the Silvia's and we're really looking forward to it.

Evening: Call my parents, Amy and Rich in Japan - it'll be Christmas morning for them!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today was a good day

After suffering a disappointment last night, I was expecting to wake up grumpy today.

But it ended up being a good day after all.

  • I had a complete night of sleep (granted, it was only 6 hours worth) but I didn't wake up at all before my alarm went off. Take that jet lag!
  • Work was pretty calm today and
  • I got to leave at 2:30 pm today!
  • Because I left work early, I was able to put on my pajamas, watch tv (White Christmas is currently on) and comfortably finish all my Christmas wrapping.
  • I now have the energy to start a batch of cookies (and the chance to try a new recipe!)

The only thing that is worrying me now are two Christmas gifts that are supposed to arrive tomorrow. At least they're not from

Monday, December 22, 2008 Sucks

I'm very frustrated/annoyed/disappointed right now.

I ordered a gift from on December 13 - not only did this give Overstock essentially 11 days to deliver the gift, it was one of the items that came with Overstock's special holiday promotion, promising free delivery by December 24.

I was tracking the item online and noticed it was delivered on December 20 - to Chelsea.

Chelsea you ask? I'm as confused as you are. I double check my order, and yup, both my shipping and billing address reflect my correct address in Newton.

I wait a day to see if it shows up at the house - after all, Chelsea could be some sort of sorting facility for USPS.

No package is waiting for me today so I give a call.

The CSR is very nice, tells me that "USPS often puts up the wrong information, so give them a call, confirm that it's been delivered to Chelsea, and call us back so we can send you a duplicate of your order."

After twenty minutes of fruitlessly navigating the USPS IVR system (and calling several different numbers), I decide to call Overstock back, tell them that USPS is confirming online that the package has been delivered to Chelsea and get them to ship me the order to the correct address in time for December 24.

The second CSR I talk to at Overstock is also very nice but after checking on my item, tells me it's sold out. He can only tell me that he will "put a trace on my item and get me a refund within 3 - 5 days." I tell him that I'm frustrated since I ordered this item with more than enough time, it's obviously a Christmas gift, and I am now concerned that anything I order won't make it in time. He expresses his apologies but can only tell me to "look for items with the guaranteed shipping logo" to get something by the 24th.

I want to tell him, "Look buddy, do you realize that the very order we're discussing had that exact same logo and look at where it's gotten me." Seriously, at the very least, Overstock should've offered free overnight shipping on an item of my choice. And we're talking something very small that wouldn't cost much to ship. I also tell him that this is the second time I've ordered from Overstock, and the first time I placed an order with them, I was shipped the wrong item.

You're thinking why didn't I just order another item? Because at this point, there aren't many items with that guaranteed logo anymore and what I wanted to order fell into a very specific category.

So the moral of the story is - may have nice CSRs but their service sucks. Overstock's guarantees have no weight and the way they process orders is crap, considering that they've now shipped me the wrong item and also shipped an item that wasn't delivered to address that was marked clearly as both my home and billing address.

Bah humbug. They've lost any future business and I intend on spreading the word as far as I can. It looks like Macys/Kohls/Target/Sears may be getting my money instead.

Baggage Update

Andrew's gift arrived basically in one piece - with the packaging a little battered - at some point this morning between 12 Midnight and 4:30 am - one less thing for me to worry about!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Back in Boston

After another long and torturous journey - starting at 11 am Saturday (Japan time) and ending 10 pm Saturday EST (12 Noon Sunday, Japan time), I'm finally back in Boston.

My trip wasn't too bad, except for:

  • Feeling nauseous for the last five hours of the flight, so much so that I skipped all meals on board (which isn't that much of a hardship now that I think about it).
  • Being delayed for an hour on the runway at Newark (waiting for a plane to pull out from our gate) and then waiting another hour for my baggage to arrive. Then I had to go through Immigration, Customs, Agriculture and Security, check my bags again and run towards my gate as it was supposed to take off at 6:15 pm (the screens showed it delayed to a 6:30 takeoff) and my watch was showing 6:20.
  • Having my flight from Newark leave at 8 pm (1 hour, 45 minutes later than it was supposed to), after sitting on the runway for another hour awaiting permission from Logan airport.
  • Having my third piece of luggage, which is Andrew's Christmas gift that I paid extra to check on my flight, missing when I landed in Logan. Current status on this is that Continental received the box and sent it out for delivery (apparently, the delivery service is 24 hours so it could arrive at 3 am) so I won't get too nervous about it until tomorrow.

Best part of my trip was seeing Andrew waiting for me at Logan, with a bouquet of white roses (my favorite). First, he had arrived early at my place and shoveled out the walkways from Friday's snow storm and had thoughtfully picked up a breaded eggplant pizza for dinner.

Waking up on Sunday morning, this is the scene that greeted my eyes

My car buried under snow from Friday's storm and a fresh coating from today's storm.

This is how high the snow was on top of my car - I had to clear one of the back doors so I could grab my scraper.

This is the view from the other driveway - Phu's car is buried right next to the house and Andrew's is parked at the end of the driveway. The snow was so heavy that it cause the hedges lining to the driveway to bow over and block part of the access - the first time I've ever seen that happen!

My fridge was pretty empty after being gone for two weeks so we headed for the nearest supermarket, a Shaws. From the parking lot, it was clear that everyone was stocking up on groceries in the middle of the storm.

We spent another 2 hours shoveling out the walkways and clearing off the cars tonight - which would've taken even longer if it hadn't been for my plow service and for my neighbor's snow blower. Quite the welcome, considering I was enjoying 60 degree weather in Japan!

Scenes from Sagami Depot

On my last full day in Japan (Friday), my Dad, Rich, Amy and I headed over to Sagami Depot for a quick drive around base and a look at the stores off base.

Sagami Depot, along with Camp Zama and Sagamihara, make up the three bases in the Zama area.
Zama has most of the offices, some housing, the PX, the middle/high school and its own commissary (where my Mom works).
Sagamihara has most of the base housing, the elementary school, the biggest commissary, and the movie theater.
Sagami Depot doesn't have much at all - although it's the biggest base by far, it's filled with a bunch of warehouses and is basically used for storage.
It has a tiny, TINY housing section, with a small commissary, a gas station, a small library and the Sagami Lounge (a small club that serves meals).
The reason we visited Depot was due to the fact that my family lived there for the first 2.5 years we were in Japan. While Zama and Sagamihara are only 5 - 10 minutes apart at most, Sagami Depot is a good 45 - 60 minutes away on a normal day. It was a complete surprise to be placed there, as I would guess a good 90% of housing is located on either Zama or Sagamihara. I can't say it was a joy to be so far away from the rest of Zama (in fact, my whole family celebrated when we moved to Zama the summer before my senior year) but I did meet Camie and her family on Depot. We bonded over the fact that we were "Depot Rats."
WARNING: These picture may be very boring for anyone who hasn't lived at Depot!
This is a look at the housing area from a large field that borders it
A view from the main entrance of the housing area
A closer look at housing - if I recall correctly, Camie lived at the end of this street in that row of houses you can just make out.
This is a look at what most of Depot looks like - empty fields surrounded by Japanese buildings and housing off base.
This is the area right off Sagami Depot - the one good thing about the base is that it's located next to a train station.
The only bad thing was being stuck at the train crossings, waiting for JR trains to pass (like this one).
I had to include a shot of one of our favorite hangouts as teenagers - Mister Donut (the Dunkin Donuts equivalent)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas On Base

So after I noticed Christmas's presence off base, I decided it would only be fair to show what I've noticed on base.

There are holiday banners hanging from the light posts throughout base:

The scary teddy bear (we call it the frog sign because of his crazy legs) Happy Holidays sign by the gate that leads to Soboudai-mae train station:

And the traditional holiday signs/greeting cards that are made by the different battalions, MWR businesses and organizations on base. These used to be on golf course road, facing the gate that leads to Green Wave park and Sagami Depot, but now have been moved to face the road for South Camp Zama:

Here's a close-up of one of the signs I found charming: