Sunday, December 28, 2003

Christmas and the Aftermath

Another holiday has passed. Evelin and made the drive up to central Massachusetts on Christmas Eve in the rain. Despite the weather, the drive wasn't too bad until we reached Connecticut. It seemed that most of New York City decided to take a half-day before trying to take the Merritt Parkway up to New England. We bailed somewhere before Bridgeport and took backroads up to I-84, which proved a bit less trafficked (for the most part).

By the time we arrived, Evelin's parent's family Christmas Eve party was well underway, although we weren't the last to arrive. It was a bit of a whirlwind after the long drive, but good to see everyone. The annual Yankee swop went reasonably well. There had been a bit of discussion about the "theme" this year and Evelin made the decision for the group that it would be a white elephant swop; there were a few genuinely nice gifts that ended up being wanted, but more than a few of them were found behind the couch and other hidden places around the house over the course of the next few days.

Christmas morning was nice. Evelin's brother and his girlfriend slept in a bit, so we were all sitting around for a while before the present opening could start. All in all, Evelin and I did well this year: Her brother liked both the real and gag gifts: He'd asked for a hat and gloves -- "workman style" -- so he got a hardhat and some chunky leather gloves as a joke to go along with the toque and cycling gloves he wanted (he owns a bike courier business). Her parents got the new kitchen trashcan they'd wanted. Her sister got a new waffle maker (although it turns out she did want a Belgian one, except she said she didn't because she thought Belgian waffles were square), and her husband got the Tour de France DVD.

Evelin got some nice gardening tools, a pair of earrings, a nice felt coat, a few more Christmas bears, and The Two Towers extended edition DVD. I got some books, Zoo Tycoon, an ice-cream maker, and a Red Sox cap allegedly from Pedro himself. We also received some artwork: two pieces of pottery, a piece of Haitian metalworking that will hang nicely in a window, a small oil painting, and a nice watercolor.

Instead of going over to Evelin's aunt's house for Christmas day, we all decided to just have a chill time at home. The thinking was that we'd seen 99% of the same people the previous night, and most of them were going to be seen (by the women at least) on Boxing Day for Evelin's sister's baby shower.

Of course, Evelin's sister being six-month's pregnant did make the holiday one of the more stressful ones I can remember. Had the IVF cycle worked, things, of course, would have been a lot different, but since it didn't, Evelin and I both had some down moments during Christmas. For the most part, we both handled it well, but there were a few grumpy moments.

That evening, mostly to get out of the house, Evelin and I went to see Peter Pan, which I though was really well done: good special effects, stuck well to the original book, all in all very well done.

On Boxing Day, Evelin went to the baby shower (she'd made a gingerbread Noah's ark for the party) while I stayed at her parent's house and read through two chapters of her father's baseball book, One Glorious Season. He has been working on the book for years, but has just got an editor and he wanted me to take a look at how the first chapter that came back from the editor looked. All in all, it was good; she'd reordered some things in a way that made the chapter flow a little bit better and helped sharpen the focus in a few places where it'd strayed in the earlier draft. However, there were a few other changes that I thought weren't completely thought out, so I noted my comments on that chapter and on the next one slated to go to the editor. The book looks at different ballplayers who had one breakout year during the 1950s and then never really performed at that level again. There are a lot of interesting anecdotes and stories in the book, and hopefully it'll be well received whenever it gets published.

Saturday, we took off early to try and beat the rush home. It didn't work. Around Exit 8A on the New Jersey Turnpike, the backups were sounding atrocious at the bottom of the turnpike and traffic was heavy where we were, so we bailed, taking Route 130 to I-195 to I-295. And then, as we got down to Camden, they were officially detouring traffic from the turnpike to I-295, so things were slowing down again and we ended up heading across the river into Philadelphia. Except for a brief slowdown where I-476 merged with I-95, that worked out well.

It was around 2:30 p.m. when we got to Wilmington, and we decided to take a short break to visit the Brandywine Zoo. I had seen the signs for the zoo from the interstate before, but it never really clicked in my mind that there was a zoo in Wilmington. It turned out to be a rather small place, but with some nice exhibits. The enclosures were small and on the old side, but the animals seemed well acclimated. The Andean condors were hopping around and flying a little bit when we came in, but the binturongs (which is what I wanted to see; I'd never seen a live one before) were just lazing about on braches. The otter enclosure was nice and big, with a decent underwater viewing window, but the animals themselves were nowhere to be seen.

Back on the road, we hit a ton of traffic as soon as all the cars coming from New Jersey merged in with I-95, so we bailed and too Route 40 through Delaware all the way to Baltimore. It made the trip a little longer, but I think I'd rather have to deal with stoplights than stopped traffic on the interstate.

That evening we unpacked and settled in to watch The Two Towers in preparation for going to see The Return of the King today. Wow. I know the moviemakers took some liberties with Tolkien, but it a fantastic movie, and Evelin's already looking forward to the extended edition DVD of part three.

After the movie, we walked around Union Station for a while, and I ended up buying a hat. I've been looking at fedoras and other classic hats at vintage shops for a while now, but I had yet to find one that both fit and looked decent. So, when we passed Incognito Hats, I had to look around. There was one that I liked with a smaller brim, but Evelin gently dissuaded me -- "It's not in your best interest" -- from that one in favor of the Lite Felt Outback hat. It's not quite the hat I imagined getting, but it's fun for right now ... now all I have to do is get a press card made up for the band.

The other thing I found out is that while my head is big, it's not the freakishly large head I thought it was. The hats in the vintage stores must tend to shrink over time because I always seemed to need a size 8 hat, which aren't easy to find. In the store, size 7½ hats fit fine.

Tomorrow, the holidays end and it's back to work or at least back to a short workweek.

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