Happy Channukah, Merry Xmas & Happy Holidays. Warning: the adorable videos may make you smile

‘Tis the season! The holiday season is upon us, and tonight marks the first night of Channukah (which means my birthday is quickly approaching)!  On a personal note, it is also a memorable night for Mr. Fiancé and I, as tonight marked the first time we have lit the candles on our own menorah that we bought together and the last time we will celebrate Channukah as a dating couple.   A big Happy Channukah goes out to all my fellow heebs.

“Oh Channukah Oh Channukah, Come light the menorah, let’s have a party, we’ll all dance the hora. Gather round the table, we’ll give you a treat…”

To help spread the holiday cheer, I thought I would share with you some awesome holiday goodies that I came across today.

Lastly, I want to share these three videos that come to us from Jessica. They are just way too cute not to spread around the smiles and cheer. Thanks for sharing Jessica! She has a few more holiday videos, so be sure to check them out!  These are guaranteed to put a smile on your face and bring out the holiday spirit.  Enjoy!

Puppies’ first Christmas, it really doesn’t get any more precious than this. I love the one that gets stuck in the Santa hat. I just want to wrap them up and take them all home! But can you imagine training them all?

Great parody/mashup of the Channukah story with songs like Stayin’ alive, Born to Be Wild, Can’t touch this, and Move Like Jagger and more.

These sailors look like they are fun people who sure know how to get in the holiday spirit. I want to be friends with them!

People always say Merry Christmas this time of year, but for those of us who don’t celebrate it, it can get kind of old. Since you don’t always know the person’s religion, I prefer saying Happy Holidays, across the board to everyone. Happy Channukah, Happy Kwanza, Merry Christmas & of course Happy Holidays to all!

Happy Holidays to all!

The last day of work and the first time on the silver screen

Today was one hell-of-a-day! A big day of firsts.

Today I said goodbye to the only job I have ever known professionally, post college.  It was actually a really long day, I worked a full day and was one of the last to leave. On my last day! Some coworkers were surprised that I had any work to do at all and that I didn’t leave early. I actually had a couple of things I had to finish and fires to put out before I left. It was anything but a stress-free last day! I am the type of person who can’t just walk out and leave something incomplete for someone else to have to pick up so I wanted to make sure absolutely everything was done and explained before I walked through the doors for the last time.  Some people left without saying goodbye today, and others were sure to stop and give a hug and wish me luck. HR now does an exit survey, rather than an exit interview so I’ll have to fill that out soon. I wasn’t even asked to turn in my keycard, but I did anyways. I set my out of office to “I no longer work at (insert company name here). Please call… etc.” That was a bizarre message to write, let me tell you. But hitting apply on that didn’t seem as weird as it did when I hit send on my No Host Happy Hour invite.  I wrote about how it seemed so surreal to be leaving and as if I was stuck between awake and dreaming, but today I felt very much awake. Today finally felt real and right; it felt like I was ready to hang my coat on the past and begin this new path. #happydance. (yes, I did just hashtag, just keep reading.)  It is a very peculiar feeling to know that I don’t have a job to wake up to in the morning, or the day after. I have a week off before I start my new gig on 9/21.  Instead, tomorrow I am going wedding dress shopping for the first time with my mother!

After work, I saw Contagion with a friend I met on the movie set. We were extras in the movie! Hurray for knocking something off my Life List! I knew the exact take they were going to use before the movie even started. I leaned over and said, I guarantee they will use the final take of the day. And sure enough, that is what they used. At least my scene made the movie! In my initial post about my experience, I wrote:

I am in the scene where Matt (yes, I’m on first name basis now) gets in a fight with a fellow survivor. Then Randy, one of the survivors, shouts that there is another truck that might have food over yonder and everyone makes a mad dash for the truck. Be sure to look for him because I was right beside him during some of the takes.”

 Turns out, they cut Randy. Sorry, man! The scene kind of gets spliced in, kind of juxtaposed into the movie .  It all just happened so fast without much explanation. I don’t think I really would have known what was happening if I wasn’t an extra.  And it doesn’t makes a whole lot of sense without Randy’s introductory comment.

Let’s play a game of Where’s Waldo?!  In this photo, the four of us are all in the black circle and I am the one in the white/blue coat. You can see my blue scarf if you know it is there. See the black circle? See me??

At first I thought Jude Law’s character was just a journalist but soon realized he was a blogger when one of the scientists (Mr. Gellar on Friends) says to him, “A blog isn’t writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.”  Clearly, being a blogger myself, I chuckled, leaned over and said, I beg to differ!

I remember in the casting call they said all the extras would be unrecognizable in hazmat suits and that we were the lucky few that wouldn’t be in suits. Some people were, but not as many as they initially said. I guess they changed some stuff around. Most extras just had protective medical masks on. The movie itself was just okay. It was kind of anti-climatic. I enjoyed it because of my personal tie, and the phenomenal cast. It takes a lot for me not to like a movie so I can’t say I didn’t like it but it definitely isn’t one I would run out and say it’s a must see.  There were some parts that were breezed over and never fully explained. I am not sure why we had to look so sick and deadly during filming, and why I wasn’t allowed to wear mascara! I mean I wasn’t even allowed to have nail polish UNDER my mittens! I think someone took their job a bit too serious, saying you can hardly see us! It seriously creeps me out how easily germs spread and how disease can wipe out an entire population. All I have to say is wash your hands and cover your mouth people! After touching a subway train, before you eat or after you touch/cook raw meat. I walked out with my hands inside my coat sleeve and used purell instantly.   Even though it wasn’t a great movie, I still must own it. After all, it was my first time on the big screen!

Saying goodbye to my first job, going wedding dress shopping and seeing my scene on the big screen are all exciting firsts. Sometimes doing something for the first time is scary.  It means putting yourself out there. Taking risks. Challenging yourself.  But without firsts, you cannot have seconds. You cannot learn and grow. Cheers to a big day of firsts!

 Have you done anything for the first time, recently?

I’m on a boat! You sure this isn’t just a floating city?

Some people have been asking, “Where is your post about your vacation?” I honestly debated because the goal of this blog isn’t to be a diary. However, due to popular demand, I have decided to share a bit about the week that I spent at sea with Mr. Fiancé’s family.

There were four pools, two on each side separated by the Central Park in the center, 8 floors down!


I love traveling and cruising is a great way to do it. While different vacations require different things, sometimes, cruising can be a perfect vacation – you have sun, entertainment, travel, professional photos, lodging, casinos, and 24/7 food, all-inclusive, in one spot! People cook for you and clean up after you. I love laying out and relaxing on the pool deck,  a strawberry daiquiri in hand, listening to Caribbean music like Bob Marley or UB40.  (Tell me you hear Red, Red Wine and don’t think of the Caribbean?) This t

Mr. Fiancé has the sweetest, most loving little Nanny any grandchild could ask for.  Her goal in life is for her family to be happy so it was her pleasure to take both her children and their respective families on a Royal Caribbean cruise for a week. All 11 of us ate dinner together every night, served by one of the best waiters I have had on a cruise, bar none.  Even though I will not officially be part of the family for another year, I am lucky to have been included on this family trip as if I were already family.

My own family loves to cruise and I am lucky enough to have been on all the major cruise lines and to the Caribbean before. So, where we went this time was not important. I was just absolutely thrilled to be included. We were scheduled to go to Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas; and St. Maartin. The Oasis, was a bit on the big side, to put it mildly. Afterall, it is the largest ship on the seas, today. It is bigger than some towns! There were 5,000+ passengers and 2,000 crew.  Our first port was Nassau, where we explored the Atlantis for a bit. Apparently without purchasing an expensive day pass, you can’t really see much. Womp! When we got back on board, Mr. Fiancé’s brother told us we were changing course due to a hurricane! That little jokester, I thought he was kidding. But sure enough, there was a note in our stateroom that said we were changing course due to a tropical storm that was 100% likely to become a hurricane.  100%? Yeah, that sounds like a guarantee to me. GET ME OUTTA HERE! So the Captain made the executive decision to avoid that and head west to Mexico. I heard some passengers complaining, and I really can’t understand why. Would you really rather travel straight into a hurricane? Really people?  You are on a vacation, on a boat, floating in the sea. Be thankful there is radar technology to detect this. Stop complaining and enjoy your vacation. We thought it might affect us when we were returning to Florida, but it dissipated near Haiti. Thank goodness!  The seas were like glass and we had the most perfect weather you could ask for. I even saw dolphins chasing the side of the boat!  Dolphins! In the wild!  Every cruise I go on, I always look over the edge but never see this. I was like a little girl in Disney World for the first time!

Instead, we sailed to Costa Maya and Cozumel.  In Costa Maya, we went to a beach with an open bar. At the port, there was a pool in the middle of the shopping area.  We swam for a bit, until his cousin puked in the pool. GROSS! Even if I saw a shark, I don’t think I could have gotten out any faster! I bolted.

Costa Mayan port pool. In the distance you can see The One and Only Huge Boat.
I think they forgot they were writing in English.

In Cozumel- I saw a jewelry factory and ate Mexican food! You would think Mexico would have the best Mexican food, but sadly, I make better guacamole.  But the water in Cozumel is GORGEOUS!  Crystal clear sea green, turquoise blue and deep blue, all together. Four of the grandchildren and I went on a snorkeling catamaran. There were a lot of people on this excursion, but to my surprise, the fish around the reef still came near the swimmers anyways.  It completely astonishes me that under the water’s surface is an entirely different world.  Sharks, whales, dolphins, sting rays, octopus, fish, and all kinds of sea creatures, all have their own life that you cannot see when you are floating atop the water. But when you snorkel or scuba you get a small glimpse into their world.

Does it getting any prettier than this?
Would you buy anything from this store?

Back on the boat, I realized it surprisingly didn’t feel big at all, despite its 16 floors, 7 ‘neighborhoods’ and endless entertainment opportunities.  In fact, I wondered if I explored all there was to see on the ship because it was just so easy to find your way around. It was the most brilliantly designed ship I have ever been on. I am not kidding, you could fit an entire other cruise ship inside it and not know the difference!  One comedian even joked the Norwegian Sky passengers were relaxing in port  on their top deck tanning until The Oasis pulled up next to it (hear: Star Wars Imperial March song) and suddenly the sun was gone!

The back of the boats are lined up. Look how HUGE The Oasis is!

The boat has beautiful tree-lined Central Park neighborhood in the middle of the boat. That’s right, trees on a boat!  Necessary? No.  Brilliant? Yes. Listening to a guitarist play classical music, under the stars, sitting in a park, while floating at sea was extremely relaxing and pure perfection! There was a full-sized carousel, a zip line, two rock-climbing walls, a basketball court, putt-putt course, and a simulated surfing wave pool in the back of the boat.  I wanted to try the zip line and FloRider, but didn’t have the chance. There was just so much to do and so much sun to soak up.

Central Park. Yes, this is on a Boat.
Park benches

Most boats have the running track on the same level as the pool causing joggers to trip over people laying out. Not this behemoth.  It had a state-of-art gym and a designated open-air private running track equipped with motivational signs to keep you going. Genius. We saw the Broadway hit Hairspray and a water acrobatic diving show during the sea days.  The boat even had a floating bar that vertically moved from floor to floor, but this was anti-climatic and actually quite problematic if you had to use the bathroom.

Despite the hurricane detour, this was one of the most delightful cruises I have been on. I came back from vacation feeling rejuvenated, refreshing and relaxed.  Isn’t that what a vacation is supposed be like?!

I had 1 1/2 of these puppies. Look at that portion size!
Carousel in the Boardwalk neighborhood


Look what Nanny did on a 2 cent machine!! I can’t even get one row!
Alice in Wonderland chair

How do you like to travel?  Have you cruised before? What is your favorite cruise line? What is your perfect vacation?

Extra! Extra!

I have a Life List of things I want to accomplish during my lifetime.  One of the things on my list is to be an extra in a movie. Last summer, a coworker told me in passing that she got an email about a casting call and I asked that she forward it to me.  Mr. Fiancé and I went to the casting call, where we learned the movie title and some of the cast members.  We were also told that most the extras would be in hazmat suits and thus unrecognizable.  I thought, well doesn’t that figure? The one time I have the opportunity to be an extra, I won’t even have a chance to be seen. (cue: Alanis Morissette’s song Ironic.) A few months passed and I finally heard back.

I am an extra in a movie!!! And as a survivor!! No hazmat suit for me!  Look out for me in Contagion due out September 9, 2011 starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Lawrence Fishburne, directed by Steven Soderbergh.   I haven’t seen any trailers for it yet, but I’m guessing they should be starting soon!

The movie is about a contagious disease that wipes out the planet. Kind of like Outbreak. IMDB says, “An action-thriller centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak.”  As you will see in the movie trailer, Gwyneth contracts the disease and it spreads like wildfire.  The opening clip talks about how germs spread so easily and how often we touch bacteria and grossness to our face.  I might just become a germ-aphobe after watching this movie. But I have to go see it, I might be in it!

Mr. Fiancé couldn’t take that day off work that we were summoned for, so being determined to mark something off my list, I went to the filming all by myself. When I arrived on set, on Dec 10th, 2010, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.   The holding room had long cafeteria style tables that were all completely full.  and I even got a, “sorry that seat is taken,” snide comment. I felt like a little school girl trying to find a seat at the lunch table. A group of really great girls my age over heard this and made room just for me. The four of us strangers spent the whole day together as if we were long time friends. We had a blast!  We made friends with other extras and set crew.  People even asked if we came together. We made friends with a guy who looked identical to Professor Snape.  Seriously, if he ever needs a body double, I found his match.

After over an hour of standing outside in the cold, half asleep without moving, we found out that the directors were creating a plan B.  The original plan was to have an air drop of food to the survivors, but they couldn’t get the fans (simulating helicopters) to work properly so  the directors, right there on set the reworked it to be a food truck delivery.

We were instructed not to wear anything bright, neon or something that would stand out. I had put on eyeliner that day (if I was going to be in a movie, I wanted to look good!) but the crew made me take it off.  They didn’t even want me to have on nail polish (even under my mittens!)  They wanted us to look cold and like sick, tired and starving survivors.  We didn’t have to act real hard to look cold and we didn’t need makeup to make us look sick! Being out in the cold did that for us naturally!  Instead of hazmat suits we all had on heavy winter gear and medical masks “to protect us from germs.” The girls and I realized we were in the line that kept getting shafted. We kept being moved further and further and at one point our line was behind bushes! We all decided, we went there to be extras so after lunch we very slyly ditched our group and made our way closer to the set.

I am in the scene where Matt (yes, I’m on first name basis now) gets in a fight with a fellow survivor. Then Randy, one of the survivors, shouts that there is another truck that might have food over yonder and everyone makes a mad dash for the truck. Be sure to look for him because I was right beside him during some of the takes.  Depending on your birthday month, it determined if you ran for the truck or if you leisurely walked towards the food. This scene was filmed for probably 3 hours because it just didn’t look right. Finally, they told everyone to just run for it. I am very interested to see how these scenes turn out and what clip they use! After being out there for so many hours, I was legit cold.  I kept to the earthy colors all day, but eventually I needed my thicker scarf!  I took out my blue scarf to try to warm up. Plus, I kind of ripped my medical mask, so I needed to cover my mouth (from the contamination germs of course!).  If you see a blue scarf, that might be me!  Check out the trailer on IMDB and check out the scene at 1:33!!

Despite standing outside in the dead of winter for 7 hours straight with only a break for lunch (which was brought outside to us), I think we were pretty lucky.  It was 30 degrees instead of 10 below zero and the sun was shinning.  Even with snow boots, two layers of wool socks and winter gear, our toes were completely frozen. The celeb on site that day was none other than Matt Damon! (read: Matt DAAAMON) It was a long day, I’m not going to lie. But definitely one for the memory books.

I will admit, Matt  was outside with us, in the cold, for nearly the entire day.  Major kudos and respect for him now.  Actually, I have a new respect for actors and the whole process.  It can’t be easy to do the same one minute clip over and over and over again.  It took us 7 hours to get probably literally one minute of film.  He must have gotten in that fight for 30 takes. Can you imagine ‘being beaten up’ by Matt Damon?  That would be AMAZING! To think this movie has been in the works for over a year now – the process takes so long! It was supposed to come out in late October, but I just found out that it got bumped up to September! No complaints here.

At the end of the day, everyone started packing up and walking away.  One of the girls noticed Matt Damon still out and interacting with the extras.  He so kindly took this photo with us!

I am glad to see my scene in the trailer!  At least now I know it should be in the movie. So many scenes get deleted, I didn’t know what would happen!  They took so many takes, I am very curious to know what clip winds up in the movie.  I even have a lady date with one of the girls from the set to go see ourselves star in the movie!  GO SEE IT!! 

Question, so if you can’t see me in the movie, or they don’t use my scene, does that still count as being an extra? Would you still mark it off your Life List?

Have you ever been an extra in a movie? What was your experience like?  If you see Contagion and you spot me, let me know!

Drinks, Dinner and Dragons

In college, I had my share of Thursday nights where I would go out as if it were the Saturday, because lets face it, not having to go to class on Fridays, was pretty much amazing. But there were also many Thursday nights where I would stay in.  Sure, now I go out for happy hours, dinners with friends, and the occasional activity, but as I have gotten older, those Thursday night crazy adventures have dwindled down to just about slim to none (except during softball season for work, those stories to come later…).  So when the opportunity arose to get drinks with a friend and go to a concert last minute, I decided to embrace being spontaneous.

Earlier in the week, I was given a gift card to The Signature Room.  I thought it would be fun to grab some (overpriced but free, thanks to the gift card) drinks with a very dear friend.  In case you aren’t familiar, the Lounge is on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building and it overlooks the entire city. It is known for its expensive drinks and breathtaking views. At least the views are free.  We both ordered a Peach Martini and watched the sunset. Doesn’t it look like the sun is an enormous explosion over the horizon? The photo on the right is a view from inside looking out at the lake from the 95th floor.

I do not think I’ll be having sushi for a while. We had an hour to kill before the concert started so we walked around and of course the only place without a long wait was a sushi restaurant. Now, usually that wouldn’t make me think twice, except I already had it twice this week. Oh well. At least it was a sushi restaurant I hadn’t tried before. Bonus points for trying something new. We had a dragon roll, sweet potato roll and of course, spicy tuna. Nom! Nom! Nom! When we’re together, there are always lots of laughs.

Earlier this afternoon, I received a Facebook invite for a show tonight featuring this local band called I Fight Dragons.  I have been a longtime fan, so I called my friend up, told her about it, and we decide it would be fun if we went after drinks to hear some live music. As I said in a previous post nothing beats a live concert.  The music of IFD combines pop/rock songs and electronic sounds using Nintendo game systems. That’s right, an old school Nintendo NES rock band! How clever and unique!  And they actually have the game controllers set up and play on stage. The group recently signed with Atlantic Records and have been working on their new album called ‘Cool Is Just a Number’ for about a year now. Three of the members are from my home town (actually one from a neighboring town) and are some of the nicest and down-to-earth guys around.  Packy, one of the guitarists/vocalists, who actually reminds me of John Lennon,  is one of the most talented guitar players. *Flashback time*  I vividly remember this one talent show in elementary school where he played the drums so passionately and intensely that his glasses flew off of his face in the middle of a set.  He finished the song without being able to see.  (FYI – He had the Harry Potter glasses many years before the books were ever even written.) We all knew at that moment, he was destined to go places with that talent.

Tonights show was so much fun and had a really good turn out.  I even ran into some old friends I haven’t seen in a while, so that was great to catch up with them. The music is awesome and you can tell they are having fun on stage. The crowd was chanting IFD, IFD, IFD. The two story venue was small but a great place to see a band play. I am in awe at how talented these guys are.  It makes me wish I could play the drums or guitar.  Too bad I’m tone deaf, have no rhythm and I can’t sing to save my life. I think there is something to be said for guys who can play instruments and sing.  When we were younger, if you played in the school band, your peers thought you were dorky.  Now if you play in a band, people think you are sexy. (If you are reading this, and you are in a school band – good for you! Keep it up!Do not give in to peer pressure or take your peers seriously. Someday your talents will be appreciated! )

Here are some songs from I Fight Dragons. Money / Welcome to the Breakdown / The Faster The Treadmill.  Check out their website, and if they come to your city, I highly recommend you go to their show. Mark my words, I have faith they will make it to the top.

Sometimes the best nights aren’t planned. Here is to having an awesome, spontaneous night on a random Thursday.   Do you go out often on Thursday nights (post college)? Do you know of any bands that are undiscovered or not household names that you love? Please share the music love!

Love, Caryn