Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Time to Focus on the New Year

Another year and another Christmas has finally come and gone. Now don't get me wrong I enjoy spending time with the family and such, but really the whole being stressed out for no real good reason just drives me crazy. It had been a few years since I felt the Christmas stress, but this year I nearly went crazy. It was the first year I didn't completely give out photos as gifts, there were a couple reasons for this including lack of truly great photos, time constraints and I figured you can only have space for so many photos. So this year I joined the rest of the world in the regular shopping world and had a difficult time. Thankfully I was able to do most of my shopping online, which made things a whole lot easier, but it didn't make it easier to find gifts for people. Either way it is over now and everybody got gifts they hopefully enjoyed and will have a use for.

The actual holiday itself wasn't very stressful, we did have to drive all over the place, but the time was spaced out nicely and allowed for some relaxation between journeys. On Friday night we went to my mom's house and then went to dinner at the Barking Dog before returning to the house and opening presents.

On Saturday morning we woke up and drove down to Jennifer's parents house in Connecticut. We didn't encounter any traffic and were there in no time. Since we were staying down there for a couple of days it was nice to kick back, relax and actually enjoy the holiday. I learned all about the Riebe Christmas tradition, such as lighting luminaries along the driveway, paella on Christmas eve, waking up at 5 o'clock to open presents and then going through stockings first?!?! and many other great traditions. On Monday the extended family from NJ came up for a meet and greet. Everybody was great and I think I fit in rather well with the whole bunch. We took off soon afterwards because we had to go up to my dad's for dinner.

Unfortunately we didn't have the same luck with traffic as we did on the way down. There was traffic in Waterbury and then near Hartford and again as we neared the Mass Pike. The entire drive we had been testing out a new GPS device I had received for Christmas that plugs into my laptop and gives directions. Once we hit the last bit of traffic we decided to truly test out the GPS. First we turned off the highway and it told us to make turns to get back on, but eventually it realized what we were doing and recalculated with a new route. It's a pretty cool little toy and I can't wait until I am in the passenger seat and really play around with it.

We eventually made it to my dad's, but too late for dinner. Instead we just hung out, exchanged gifts and then went home. It was nice to be back in our place for the first time after the holidays. I made up a rule that all of our new stuff had to go into the back room until we found a place for each thing. On Monday morning I woke up and put most of the stuff away before leaving for work and Jennifer put hers away not longer after I left. Finally last night we removed all of the Christmas stuff including the tree and now our house is back to normal with a few new things here and there. Phew we made it through another Christmas.

Brickett Christmas Photos

Riebe Christmas Photos

Now moving on 2006!!!! Wedding planning is now the topic of conversation as well as the primary activity in our house. I think Jennifer sat at the computer for six hours yesterday looking for places online. Finally at ten last night I made her shut the computer off and join me in the living room for a break. Things are slowly coming together and hopefully after checking out some places today we will have a where and a when. We are definitely shooting for somewhere around Boston in September or October. While this won't allow us to go on a honeymoon aftewards it is probably the best chance we have for getting married this year. I will keep you posted on all goings on and put up the wedding date as soon as I know. Who needs Save The Date cards when you have an LJ?

Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Brrrrrrr its cold

I can't believe how cold it has been the last few days. It is starting to make me nervous about January, because I know it is usually the coldest month. For a minute I began to think I hated the cold and then I remembered how miserable I was in the summer. When you are hot there isn't much you can do to cool down, but at least in the winter you can put on more and more layers. I hear it will be warming up in the next couple of days to the mid 30's which is very exciting. This weekend I plan to pick up my new skis and take them up to Sunday River.

I am really excited about tonight because one Dave Matthews Band is in town performing at the TD BankNorth Garden. As expected I will be in attendance at the show in the third row. For those keeping score it is my 48th show, which means sometime next summer I will be attending my 50th show. I can't wait.

Stay warm out there!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Question of Seven Words and An Answer of Just One

Last night Jennifer and I were strolling through the Public Garden in Boston and we stopped on the bridge over the lagoon, she thought we were stopping because of her request for a kiss on the bridge. Little did she know I had been thinking about this moment and in my mind stopping on the bridge hundreds of times over the last two days. As we stopped I kept looking around making sure we were completely alone, which is a tall order when you are standing on such a heavily traveled foot bridge. Finally when the last pedestrian had left the bridge and was no longer within earshot, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small white box, bent down on one knee, opened the box and asked, "Jennifer Rose Riebe will you marry me?"

In a state of shock and surprise she realized what was actually taking place in front of her and answered, "Yes!!"

Now I suppose I should go back to the beginning of the story, so you can all have a better picture of how all of this went down. So about a month and a half ago I hinted about asking Jennifer to my mother and asked about the diamond from her engagement ring from my dad. Now this diamond has enough stories behind it that it warrants its own livejournal entry. Anyway eventually she gave me the diamond on the one condition that I was not allowed to show Jennifer the stone. Since I am bad a keeping a secret I immediately made Jennifer aware of the passing down of the diamond, but obeyed my mother's rule and did not show it to her.

The next weekend Jennifer was up in Vermont and I called her sister, Melissa, to see if she would like to go on a shopping trip with me to Brockton. Now for years at State Street I had listened to WBCN and everyday they would play these quirky commercials from Romm and Co. jewelers. Now I reasoned that maybe if there ads were awkward it was a good sign of how good they might be as jewelers, sort of in the same way that athletes are bad at acting, but good at sports. So I decided to try out Romm and we drove down to their little store in Brockton. Once inside I told the sales person what I was looking for an antique setting for my pear shaped diamond. She immediately went over to the case and pulled out a beautiful setting and I knew it was exactly what Jennifer wanted. However since it was such a big purchase I asked to see others, but they didn't compare to this one. With the help of Melissa we debated different metals and different versions of the ring and I finally came to a decision. The next step was to look at the diamond so I could know it whenever I saw it in the future. At first glance the diamond didn't have the shine of all the diamonds I have typically seen on women's fingers, but I just figured it was because it was from the late 70's. The salesperson took it off to clean it and came back with one of the shiniest diamonds I had ever seen. Turns out it wasn't out of date, but just a little dirty. I learned about my diamond and it was wrapped up to be shipped off to Chicago for its custom made setting. It was supposed to take about four weeks, so the waiting game began.

I told a few people about my purchase, but for the most part kept it quiet, well at least I tried. Time passed and I began to think about how I would actually "pop the question". I knew a couple things, first I wanted to do it outside, second I wanted it to be a place we had been before and finally I wanted it to be a public place so we could always go back there again and again. My initial thought was Odiorne Point State Park where we went on our second date, then I thought about Plum Island since it was an important commonality on our profiles, but the more I thought about these places the more I realized that the current weather and short days would limit the times when it would be possible. Then I began to think locally, there aren't many nice places outside in Somerville or Cambridge for that matter, where we had been together. However Boston had a few nice spots and one in particular stood out for me, the Public Garden.

Earlier in the year we had taken a wine class on Comm Ave and one night after the class it was snowing and we were walking through the Public Garden. It was a magical scene, with snow falling, the skyscrapers lit up all around and I remember being so happy and so in love with this amazing person. We stopped on the bridge, giggled a bit at just how happy we both were and decided that it was such a wonderful night we should go get some dinner instead of just going back home. Looking back it was almost like a scene right out of a movie.

Back in the present I decided this is where I would ask her to marry me, now all I needed was for the ring to get back from Chicago. The wait continued and life went on, and things were wonderful. We did notice though that with BoCaNO being on a Thursday we only had two week nights together, and following in the footsteps of two of my closest friends, we decided to start a date night. The first date night was supposed to happen last night. The original plan was to go skating on the frog pond and then go out for dinner. I thought the ring might be in for last night, but wasn't sure and then got concerned that somehow people might draw parallels between my proposal and the proposal on my favorite sitcom, Mad About You. Paul actually proposed to Jamie while skating at Rockefeller Center in New York. Luckily for me the forecast turned bitterly cold and we ruled out skating as a viable option and settled on a nice dinner.

I got the call from Gladys at Romm on Monday morning. She said the ring was beautiful and more importantly ready to be picked up. I was so excited I couldn't help but tell somebody and Miguel was the first person to know about it. I left work early and drove in traffic down to Brockton. The whole time I was thinking of what I would tell Jennifer if she called and asked where I was. I picked up the ring and headed for home and realized I had one more thing left to do before I could actually give her the ring, I needed to ask for her father's blessing. The whole way home I thought about how the conversation would go, I know Jen's family really well and definitely had nothing to be nervous about, but it is still a huge thing to ask a father for his daughter's hand. Once I made it home I hid the ring in my desk and dialed Jennifer's parents house. I easily got the question out and was given the green light for the final step in this oddly stressful endeavour. Jennifer finally came home from work and I tried my best to act normal and more or less accomplished the goal, although I was a bit hyper all night long. I slept fairly well considering all of the things that were going on in my head. I was concerned about the ring, wondering if the location was right, thinking about what I was going to say and worrying about how I would focus at work the next day.

Yesterday we woke up and I once again tried to contain myself so I didn't give Jennifer any clues as to what was going to be going down that evening. All day at work I couldn't stop thinking about what I was going to do and was sweating profusely. I made reservations at Via Matta near Park Plaza so we would have a warm place to go after. I left and went home to prepare for our first date night. I took a shower and shaved, which I feared would make her suspicious, but I made up a great excuse as to why. Finally she came home from tutoring and we were on our way into the city. I had the ring in my blazer pocket and kept a hand on it the entire ride in on the subway. Once in the city we began walking through the Common, her first comment was about how it reminded her of the night we walked in the snow after the wine tasting. I breathed a sigh of relief, because my plans were starting to line up perfectly. We walked across the Common and chatted about school, work and regular things, just like a couple might do on a date night. After crossing Charles Street we entered the Public Garden and walked towards the bridge. My brain began racing about a mile a minute as we approached the bridge. Jennifer then pointed out just how beautiful the Garden looked with all of the snow and lights on the trees. Once at the middle of the bridge she asked me if I would stop and give her a kiss. Once again as in our first date when she pulled me in for the first kiss, I was thankful that she had acted so I wouldn't have to. So she thought we were stopping because of her request for a kiss on the bridge. Little did she know I had been thinking about this moment and in my mind stopping on the bridge hundreds of times over the last two days. As we stopped I kept looking around making sure we were completely alone, which is a tall order when you are standing on such a heavily traveled foot bridge. Finally when the last pedestrian had left the bridge and was no longer within earshot, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small white box, bent down on one knee, opened the box and asked, "Jennifer Rose Riebe will you marry me?"

In a state of shock and surprise she realized what was actually taking place in front of her and answered, "Yes!!"

We embraced and mumbled things I can't exactly remember right now, it all happened very quickly. After about a minute I asked her if she wanted to put the ring on or not. She was so caught up in the moment that she forgot to even look at the ring. I placed it on her finger and she let out a squeal of delight. We enjoyed the moment for a little while before I told her we had reservations at Via Matta and should start walking over towards Park Plaza. I also told her that she would not be allowed to call anybody until after dinner, because we needed to enjoy the moment for ourselves. Before we left the bridge though we stopped a guy walking along and asked him if he would take our picture. I felt I have been so good at documenting everything with my camera that this moment should not be missed. The smile on her face was priceless and could see just how happy she was, which made me extremely happy. The entire way to the restaurant we laughed about the future and how we were getting married and all of the silly things people talk about after such an event.

We happily walked into the restaurant and were quickly seated. The meal was wonderful and certainly a perfect fit for our wonderful evening. Jennifer couldn't stop looking at her ring and giggling. Let me tell you, once a woman gets one of those things on her fingers, they go a little wacky. We finished our dinner with some delicious desserts, I wanted to spare no expenses on such an important day. Once outside I told Jennifer we could start calling people and we both set out calling our parents as we walked back to the subway. Everybody was ecstatic and the phones were passed around both between us and between parents. We finally made it back home and even the apartment felt different. It will definitely be a night I remember for the rest of my life, one of those once in a lifetime moments and you know what I wouldn't change a thing.

Click to zoom.

Monday, December 12, 2005

No Skiing

I had originally planned to go skiing this past weekend, but when I woke up to my alarm at 6AM I realized it wouldn't be worth the 7 hour round trip drive to ski for around seven hours. So I have decided in the future to spend the night in Amesbury and put myself an hour head start. So instead I dropped my new skis off at REI to get them hooked up with tele bindings. Afterwards we went to my mom's house and then did some shopping in Salem. On Sunday I spent most of the day online shopping for Christmas presents and became extremely stressed about gift giving. After spending a couple hundred dollars and only being halfway done I wondered what it was all for. I wish we could all just agree to spend quality time together on the holidays instead of all this damn shopping. Luckily Jennifer came home and calmed me down and amazingly enough my stress level went down quite a bit.

To further relieve my stress I worked on a little electronics project. You see I had two of those "tape on a rope" units. The white one had a good cable, but the tape part was very loud. The black one had a quiet tape part, but a faulty cable. So I did a little cutting and taping to form a multi colored "tape on a rope." It took me a couple of trips out to the car before I perfected it, but it works.

I did another constructive thing this evening. You see I was looking for a wine balance holder for a yankee swap on Friday night, but was unable to find one anywhere. If you don't know what I am talking about it is a piece of wood with a hole in it. A wine bottle can be inserted into it and it will balance parallel to the table. So I set out to make my own and after a little hand sawing, drilling and sanding, the thing worked. I couldn't believe it.

Okay thats it for today.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Return to St. Louis

St. Louis Sightseeing

St. Louis Zoo

Busch Stadium Demolition

The Wedding

Our Christmas Tree

Another busy long weekend, which involved lots of walking and surprisingly a lot of video game playing. First let me get everybody up to speed Jennifer and I had to attend a wedding in St. Louis of Jennifer's co-teacher from last year. The wedding was on a Friday, but since Jennifer was reading at the wedding we needed to show up on Thursday night for the rehearsal dinner. I took the last two days of the week off and we left for Manchester airport early on Thursday morning.

I flew Southwest for the first time and was introduced to general admission plane seating, this is where you get to pick your own seat as soon as you walk on the plane. Now in theory this would be a good thing, but the reality of it is that people go sit in line forty five minutes before the flight, so it doesn't give much flexibility in how you spend the hour before the flight, you can't just wander around the terminal to pass the time. Anyway we boarded the flight and noticed a few small children at the front and I insisted we get back to at least the seventh row to avoid any screaming babies. So we sat down in a nice seat, I grabbed the window because Jennifer is kind enough to let me have my way in situations like this. We look across the aisle and notice two women, the one against the window is rather old and frail, while the one on the aisle is younger, but rather obese. After looking closely at the pair we notice two things, first is a black dog, which was probably a little bigger than the average housecat and second is a clear plastic storage bin between the two which contained a decent sized parrot. My first thought is we need to move, because its going to get crazy over there, however at this point we might end up sitting in aisle seats of different rows back in the plane. I argue that we need to stay there and not risk getting a bad seat. Jennifer agrees and we sit and watch as the show across from us begins. Once the doors are closed the heavier woman takes out two surgical masks and puts one on before helping the older woman put hers on. Now the parrot comes out of his storage bin and the heavier woman is playing with its beak, all the while the other woman is trying to hold the dog. Right before take off the aisle seated woman decides to take a photo with her camera phone of the other woman and bosses her into smiling. Finally the plane starts down the runway and the woman buries the parrot into her over sized chest and carefully rubs his head. Once in the air for a little while you might think things would settle down, but it just gets wackier. The animals are now moving all about. One minute I look over and the woman has the parrot on top of her head and the next she has the dog behind her like a pillow. The flight attendants keep stopping by and talking, but I don't really know what they were talking to them about. When the in flight food was served the larger woman doesn't remove her mask, but instead just lifts it up while she eats or drinks. It was truly a priceless flight. After we landed in Chicago, they stayed on the plane, because they were continuing on to Phoenix, now I thought this was the last I would see of them, but I was wrong. After telling my mom the story on the phone I looked over and saw the heavier woman running back towards the plane carrying a McDonald's bag. Later we walked by the McDonald's it was in a completely different wing of the airport, all I could think at that point was "I'm lovin' it."

Once the show from above ended we learned that our flight to St. Louis had been cancelled and we were put on a later flight, which meant we wouldn't be able to check in to the hotel before the rehearsal dinner. We walked around Chicago Midway airport searching for some Chicago pizza, but oddly enough there weren't any places serving pizza. After eating some lunch I played Mario 64 for about two hours. I downloaded it onto my laptop and have now managed to gather over 70 of the 120 stars you can get in the game. We finally boarded the plane and made it to St. Louis, unfortunately our luggage didn't catch the flight. We stood around for a while waiting and then stood around some more waiting for the next flight from Chicago. No luggage!! So we just went to the rehearsal dinner in our jeans, thanfully it was casual and we didn't really stand out. Later that night we found our luggage waiting for us at the hotel. We stayed downtown in a really nice hotel, which we got for the low low price of 40 dollars thanks to Hotwire. We were on the 16th floor overlooking the new and old Busch Stadium. Yes this is the stadium where the Red Sox won the World Series last year, unfortunately it been nearly completely demolished to make room for the new stadium. Notice I said nearly because every night while we were there they were doing the demolition with a wrecking ball until 3AM. Now at first this seemed cool, but once I tried to fall asleep it wasn't as much fun. The wrecking ball was crazy, the entire hotel shook with each wing of the ball. It makes you wonder just how loud it was at Ground Zero when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

In the morning we did a bunch of sightseeing which included going up in the Gateway Arch and a trip out to the Central West End. St. Louis was okay, there were still a couple things we didn't get to do, but they really need to get some cool things to draw in tourists. We went to one part of town that was supposed to be like Newbury Street and there was really nothing there. It was a great day and all, but it was also kind of boring. They do have a subway line, but it seems a bit unnecessary since there are parking spaces and parking garages on every corner. The only people that actually take the subway are people who can't afford cars, which made it a bit sketchy (think Ashmont train). We went to the wedding which was really beautiful. I mean it was a wedding so you know what went on. The reception was a little interesting though, thanks to the DJ. The guy was Adam Sandler straight out of the Wedding Singer, well except he didn't sing. He was dressed up in his tux and had disco lights, police lights and a disco ball. The music started off okay with the couples first dance, then father-daughter, followed by mother-son, but then the guy went right into the chicken dance. Haha I couldn't believe it. Next up you guessed it the Hokey Pokey and then Celebrate. He couldn't have been more cliche with the music. Celebrate was then followed by none other than the electric slide. At this point the bride and groom stepped in and asked him to play some newer stuff. So begrudgingly he played some "newer more upbeat" songs. He actually made a passive aggressive remark about having to play the songs. The music improved from that point on although every once in a while the DJ would make a random comment here or there that would make you shake your head in amazement. We left the wedding and made it back to the hotel in a timely manner.

On Saturday morning we started off the day by going to the Soulard Farmer's Market, because Jennifer always likes to check out the local markets. In the past we haven't had much luck with this (Roanoke, Asheville), but we had time to waste. The market turned out to be pretty cool and was really big. They were selling all sorts of fruits, vegetables and other foods. My favorite booth at the place was selling raccoons and beavers, how strange. After buying some tangerines and strawberries we shot over to the St. Louis Zoo, because everybody told us we just had to see it. They were right it was amazing. We started in the penguin-puffin house, where you are literally inches away from the penguins. Jennifer was mesmerized by the close proximity of the penguins and kept greeting each one as they swam buy with a quick and peppy "hi". I eventually dragged her away from them and we continued walking around the park. Some of the animals had gone south for the winter, but we still saw, lions and tigers and bears (oh my) and camels, leopards, cheetahs, camels and zebras. At one point we went in to see the snakes and turtles. Jennifer noticed an Egyptian Tortoise that had tipped over and couldn't right himself. Despite my telling her he would be fine she stood there watching him trying to coach him about how to flip over. Finally after about fifteen minutes he managed to rock himself over and we were on our way.

The flight home was uneventful except for me playing a lot more Mario 64. Yesterday we did some decorating for Christmas, instead of driving up to Amesbury in the snow, I came up with the great idea of walking to the local Christmas tree seller, buying a tree and carrying it home. It was pretty cool carrying the tree the half mile home, plus since there were sidewalks it was much easier than carrying through the forest, plus my car doesn't have a scratches on the roof or a pine needle inside. Only 20 more days to go.