Saturday, December 21, 2013

Three times a present

Linda likes kitchen gadget items. If I'm not careful I'll be eating 7-minute brownie bites out of Perfect Tortillas for the rest of my life. For a long time we agreed on one - the SodaStream. I have to admit that I drink a lot of Coke (less now since I quit smoking). I was under the impression that you put the carbonation canister into the SodaStream and then the flavoring and when you pumped it, out came soda. Boy was I wrong. You carbonate water into seltzer and then dump the flavoring in. So it makes seltzer and you buy cola syrup from them. How the hell is this an all-in-one soda maker. It's a damn bubble maker. I could literally fart in a bottle and get the same effect. I decided to hate the SodaStream.

We visited friends, Jim and Sue, in Virginia a few weekend ago. Naturally they had a SodaStream so Linda got hot on the idea again. I decided to continue to hate the SodaStream. Because I only want her happy, I spent about an hour in Photoshop to carefully sort through the seemingly endless models of bubbly water makers that are almost identical, by cutting out unnecessary rows of information. I arrived at a conclusion and ordered her a SodaStream for Christmas from a 3rd party retailers on Amazon.

A few days later it arrives. As I'm about to wrap it to put it under the tree I realize it's the wrong model. Oh well. She can open it and I'll deal with the exchange after Christmas. In the meantime I'm going to verbally abuse Wayfair for sending me the wrong thing this close to Christmas (the one they sent was also $30 cheaper than what I ordered).

A few more days later another SodaStream arrives. It's the right one. I haven't heard back from Wayfair and there wasn't enough time for them to ship it anyway. I must have ordered one, forgot and ordered another. Looking carefully, #1 is from Target.com. I have no charge from them, no orders in my Target.com account and only one order in my Amazon.com account. The new one is actually from Wayfair. Apparently, the universe sent us a bubbler.

While on the phone with Matt, who is supposed to be counsel, but is spending more time in hysterics I get a message from Jim. I bet he sent it because Linda loved his. But we've never exchanged gifts. Hmmm... Voicemail is making Christmas visit plans. Wasn't him. Shit. Back to the universe theory. For shits and grins I asked him if he knew anything about this. He initially denied it, adding to the confusion, but then admits that Santa came early for our engagement. Problem solved, right? You wish.

While on the phone with Jim, Wayfair responds to my rants, saying they've contacted their warehouse and another one, the right one is on the way the next day. I have the one I ordered from Wayfair already. I have the other model from Jim via Target.com already. I don't want another one. I tell them to eighty-six the replacement. She agrees. Whew. Jim tells me to return his in the store instead of shipping Wayfair's back. Double whew.

Shit. I have to fill Linda in. I can't let her open Jim's, addressed from me, on Christmas morning. Plus we're going to see Jim and Sue before then. She needs to know. I make her open the present early, nearly against her will. She gets excited and thanks me. I tell her it's not from me. I go to the closet and pull out the one that would have been from me. Now we have 2 sitting out until we make the decision about what to do with each of them based on convenience.

Oh... 2 days later that third one, that Wayfair canceled, arrived and they aren't sure if they want it back. So now we have 3 of them in the house. I can carbonate the entire city's water supply. I still have to pour flavor in separately. Now, I REALLY hate SodaStream.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Vacationing for a meal in Italy

Almost. It's actually Eataly. It's actually Heaven... at least for us it was. As only other Italians can fully appreciate, Linda and I will do just about anything to shovel stinky cheeses and cured meats into our faces as often as possible. So there's a place called Eataly and it is a glorious, fresh Italian farmer's market that's a square NYC block. Peppered throughout are restaurants that use only ingredients from the market. You can get fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, pastas, cookbooks, wine, cooking tools, coffee, desserts and more. Since there are restrooms; all I need is a cot and I see no reason to ever leave. Think of any 5-year old you know and picture them in their favorite section of Toys R Us and you can imagine me in Eataly.

They don't sell furniture but we found a fantastic Italian throne. I now have 3 tasks - find how the buy the throne, figure out where to put the throne, convince Linda to let me do both of the above. I may need to rethink the order of those events. Although she seemed to enjoy it.


Isn't she adorable?

We decided we wanted to shop and bring home deliciousness, but... we were very hungry. Unless I suddenly started making triple the amount of money, we needed to eat first so we could have some self-control. We chose La Pizza La Pasta and got on the 45 minute waiting list. Good time to do some recon around the market, but first, let's stop by wine bar for cool, refreshing glass of verdicchio. With wine in hand we roamed around, making mental notes of what to go back for later.

We got buzzed that our table was ready. Empty stomachs, big glass of wine and menu with fresh Italian meals - one of everything kept coming to mind. In the end, we got 2 antipasto dishes to start. One included slices of 4 meats - salamis and prosciuttos and the like. The other was 3 cheeses and a honey mustard with almonds. As an aside, I've recent fallen in love with sweet mustards on either stinky cheeses or soft goat cheese. Try caramel mustard on a smoked cheese. Anyway... take a look at these culinary delights. Don't ask me what's what.



Then we went on to have pumpkin ravioli in a brown butter sauce and pizza with spicy salami and buffalo mozzarella. We were so excited that we couldn't manage to get pictures.

What kind of Italians would we be if we didn't finish up by stopping by the dessert bar? I got some trio of chocolate cake, she had a mini tiramisu and, of course, we both had espresso. 




Well sated, and still in the clouds from our earlier event - see Details if you don't know what that means - we set off to shop for more deliciousness to bring home. We exercised some self control and came home with two kinds of fresh pasta, a couple blocks of cheese and a small variety of dried, cured meats. Yes that's with self control.

What better way to finish a day like yesterday? It was the food adventure that was the pretense to get her in the city in the first place.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Details

Details are a funny thing. They are always part of something larger, yet we always let them win out over the larger end goal. And then one day you wonder why you're letting the details take any kind of starring role in your life and you grab life by the you-know-whats and do what's right for you.

Linda and I have been together for almost two years. As a matter of fact, as I'm writing this it is 2 years since first we met. We've been living together for a while now. It's no secret that we are best friends. We do everything  together and we're usually hysterical laughing in the process. One day I'll tell you about the time I crowned myself "King of the carpet section" in Home Depot.

Throughout the transition from military to civilian, pseudo-southerner to prodigal New Jerseyan, and unemployed to employed the concept of making an honest woman of Linda took a back seat to the details of the process to make that happen. Then I got asked a question by 2 very important people - "What's the hold up?" and I thought about it and I realized there wan't one. At least not a legitimate one. It was just one of those things that we planned to get to - and as long as it remained a vague thing in the distance, we'd never get any closer.

So it was time to pull the trigger. Linda just so happened to be out of town one weekend so I took a ride up to the family jeweler in Morris County, along with my mom, and for hour upon hour we pored over the endless rows of gleaming and sparkling rings. Finally, I began whittling down into a short list of potential winners. I found 2. One was too much of something and the other was too much of something else. Somewhere in the middle was the key and my buddy just happened to have one in stock. That was that. Then the real fun began.

The event was planned out. All I had to do was survive until the delivery date. No matter how sure we are of the answer, we still manage to make ourselves nervous wrecks. I'm sure every engaged or married guy can attest to this.

Linda has a thing for the Brooklyn Bridge. She takes pictures of it, she had a painting above her bed and she once told me (nearly 2 years ago) that she always wanted to be kissed on the Brooklyn Bridge. So I had to get her there. We also go on "food adventures." It's a thing we do where we travel near or far to some off the wall or famous or specific place to eat. For this one, I chose Eataly in Manhattan (a separate entry on that is coming). I was halfway there. As you know, I'm also big into photography and she is learning. "Let's take the cameras with us while we're out on our Eataly adventure on Saturday," which also gives me a place to hide the ring box.

To avoid raising suspicion I got lost in Manhattan with a couple of wrong turns that led us to a block from the Brooklyn Bridge. I haven't gotten lost in Manhattan since I was 6, but she bought the whole thing. Screw it. We're here. Let's walk up and get some shots. Right up to the middle we walked. I put down the backpack with camera gear and her ring as we surveyed the photographic angles. Well... she did that. I tried not to throw up over the side of the bridge from nerves. There are people all around us. We decide that we're better off getting some distance from the bridge, but we had to get at least one shot from the middle.

So... I took a knee, seemingly to retrieve the camera and lens while asking her "did you figure out what you want to a take a picture of?" I then grabbed the box, hoisted it up and followed up my original question with "or would you prefer to marry me?" She collapsed in a heap alongside me, screaming, smiling, shaking and crying all while unsuccessfully trying to answer the question. Finally she eked out a "yes" and tried to take the ring and put it on herself. I took it and slid it on her finger and there we sat, laughing, crying, smiling, hugging and kissing.

Once she calmed down I told her a very important story. On the day of our wedding, she will be the 4th Viglione to wear that stone. It was a diamond in a ring of my great-grandmother in the late 19-teens. She gave it to my grandfather who used it to ask my grandmother to marry him. She gave it to my father to give to my mom. My mom gave the stone to me to give to Linda, making her #4 to wear that 100 year old diamond you see below.

And so we walked off the bridge as Mr and Mrs to be and The Adventures of Jason and Linda started all over again.







Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saving lives

As the recurring activities of life proliferate, the adventures have less time and are less likely to worm themselves into your life. And then a 5 month old, furry adventure worms its way, not just into your life, but also into your heart.

As everyone knows, we're cat people. Well, I was and now Linda is. We have our 3 crazy babies; 1 of which is watching me type this and eat a snack as if I'm depriving her of the very oxygen needed to sustain life and another that is climbing over me as if this laptop doesn't exist. The third is perfectly well behaved elsewhere in the house.

Every week or two, we go to Petsmart to get supplies, like food and litter. Of course we stop by the kittens who are waiting to get adopted and spend some time with them. The poor furries are all alone in their cages all day so we like to interact a little while we're in the store. Last weekend, there was an adoption event and we met a couple that spends their time working with a local rescue. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to help out and do something bigger.

We can't adopt because... well... we already have 3 of our own and we just don't have the room. Besides, 4 cats is a little crazy (we aren't ashamed to admit it). On the other hand, Linda has never had the pleasure of having a tiny kitten around. So what is the middle ground? We decided to foster. A couple of days later we got a call from the couple who told us that someone dropped off a 5 month old kitten that needed to be fostered. Right behind the phone call was an email with pictures. That was all it took. We were in. On Tuesday night, they dropped off the little one and Linda named her Lucy.



She was a ball of energy that explored the entire house nonstop, generally at high speed. She was so little that her back legs moved faster than her front so she just kinda hopped sideways around the house. The other 3 were a little unsure of her and there was lots of hissing. By the end of last night they were all peacefully co-existing with some hints of friendship.

Today was another adoption day. We took her down there and hoped for the best, although we weren't sure what the best was. Getting a forever home was the ultimate goal, but it was obvious that we weren't quite ready to say goodbye just yet. We were surrounded by cats of all sizes, one more friendly and cuddly than the next; all looking for a home and someone to love them all day. We had to get out of there. Off to run errands we went, looking at my phone nearly constantly to see if we got an update from the shelter - nothing.

Right around 3pm, the event was slated to end so we went back. As we walked in, there was a mom with 3 little girls who were "oohing" and "aahing" over our little Lucy. I went over and started talking her up. We  took her out of the cage and let them pet and hold her and get a sense for the little lover that she was. They were just as hooked as we were when we first met her. Sure enough, they decided to take her home. In the event things don't work out, we left our number so we can take her back and try again at the next adoption event.

And if they are a good match, she'll stay with them and we'll take in the next one. We didn't dream of how important this would be, for the shelter, for the kittens, for Linda and I as people and for us, as a couple. We left that shelter so filled with joy and pride and also about to burst into tears at any moment. It was such a sad scene. There are always more cats than homes and even more cats than cages. That means that some of them have to be put down. Who they choose and why is anyone's guess. It's all determined by animal control. We understand how hard and expensive it must be to take care of all of them, but watching a perfectly healthy cat be put down just because it drew the proverbial short straw is heartbreaking.

We met this little guy, who was born without eyes.
He was amazing. All he wants in the world is to fall asleep on your shoulder. Luckily, he got adopted today.

Then we met another guy who is FIV positive. It's like HIV for cats. It's fairly prevalent in cats though. He also got adopted today.

These 2 brothers love each other more than anything in the world, but one has an abscess in his eye. They did not get adopted unfortunately, but that's because they come as a pair.


It is amazing to see people taking these challenging pets into their homes. We discriminate less for animals than we do for people, at times.

If Lucy loves her new home, the next guy that we'll take home is a 2 month old lunatic who ran in circles in his cage all day, when he wasn't climbing the sides of it like a rock wall.

The only time this little maniac calmed down was when he was in Linda's arms.


So far, this has been such an incredible experience. To bring an animal into our home and life, and care for it, give and get love, and turn her over to a loving family has brought us so much joy - more than we planned for. It's been so wonderful.

For now, the house is quiet and back to normal, but before long we will begin the next chapter in our adventure of helping out all the voiceless animals in need.

It fell in our lap, unexpectedly... and started purring.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Just visiting

I don't know if this event truly qualifies as an adventure, but it was a new experience for Linda and I as a couple and just for me as an individual. We went to my parents' house for Easter Sunday today. There were 7 of us, the additional 3 being my brother, his girlfriend and my paternal grandmother. We had entirely too much food, just the right amount of booze and wine and a great deal of laughs. This was not our first holiday together, as I was home visiting this last Christmas and Linda joined us on that day as well. However, this came together differently and in a way that it never has before.

For the last 10 years I have been around for Christmas ever year (except 2006 while I was in the Middle East). I hadn't made it home for any Easters and only 1 Thanksgiving. I may have happened to have been around for random Independence Days that coincided with a summer vacation, but I never went for the holiday. Prior to my departure, I lived in that house so I was ever-present anyway. But the mere fact that I was home on Easter and enjoying it with the family was far from the adventure.

Pre-military I lived there and was present because I was there. During my military stint I would fly in for the sake of the event and already be there. Today, for the first time, I went to visit my parents for the day. I left my house and drove to their's - no leave, no planes, not part of a bigger whole. It was just a day visit. Obviously, Linda was with me. We made something to bring (adorable dyed deviled eggs) and showed up there together. We hung out for a few hours, ate, socialized and left. At Christmas I was visiting and at my folks' house and she came over for the day. This was different. I was home but not really.

Every time we are together, my mother realized I am becoming more like my father, and let me tell you, of the 7 billion people on the planet there are about 6.99 billion worse people I could turn into. And as much as she complains that I have the same sarcastic sense of humor that usually makes her the butt of many jokes, she loves every minute of it. She joked that Linda and I act like a married couple, primarily when I complain (with the sound of defeat in my voice) about Linda's array of beauty products overwhelming every available bathroom surface and when I admit to having no say in the overall decor of our new home. My father enjoys talking with me on a whole new level. What was once a guiding hand in getting my life set up is now much closer to a peer in terms of home repairs and equity and all the other things we talk about as adults.

Linda is very much adopted as a Viglione, for better or for worse, and may not be able to escape even if she tried, at this point. She seeks refuge with my mother after dad and I use our wonder twin powers of sarcasm and jibing, yet is quick to distance herself from the fray when my mother seeks the same refuge in her. She has learned already how to not get roped into the mayhem.

At the end of the day, we packed up the car with the leftovers (enough to have fed the 7 of us roughly 7 times over) and headed home, but again I was not really departing as much as just going to my own home down the road. It was a unique feeling to arrive and depart as a couple, to visit without it being part of a longer visit, to know that I'm home but not quite home.

The adventure may not quite have been the day, but the understanding that our adventure and journey are much, much bigger. It served to reaffirm that our adventure is only just beginning. It will be quite an adventure with ups and downs, but we'll travel it together and when my family is involved one thing is for sure, it won't be dull. It'll be full of laughs and love every step of the way.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Transition Adventure: Part IV - Reunification

There was one piece of our new home that has been missing. Actually, they were 3 little furry pieces. Since arriving at my parents' house on the 10th of March, our little fur babies have been staying there. With the construction and the boxes, it was just not a kitty friendly environment. We've been working feverishly to get it all taken care of to get out of the mess and to also have our little furry family back with us.

Last night we finally made that happen, but it wasn't without a minor adventure, of course. We got each of the 3 babies in their carriers. A moment later I see Shadow walking around. Naturally I didn't remember to check the front gate when we put her in from the top opening. So she went back in and everything was clipped into place. It was time to tote them downstairs and into the car; Benny and Shadow in their gigantic carriers and Herbie in his little one (poor little runt of the family).

Three seconds before I open the front door to go outside, Herbie bolts out of his cage and hides under the dining room table. For those unfamiliar with my parents house, it's an open 12 room house with a finished basement. So when my dad blocked one doorway and I covered the other in an attempt to corral the little monster, he bolted again, tried to hang a right, scared the shit out of my mom who screamed and scared him in return, which caused him to turn on full afterburners and get out of sight.

Now begins the hunt for Herbie Houdini who magically seemed to be nowhere. As we sweep the rooms looking behind gigantic hutches, wall units, under tables and couches and inside of cabinets. We closed doors where possible after verifying he wasn't in rooms. We had isolated him to the 1st floor and 3 rooms, yet he was nowhere. We had just about resigned ourselves to leaving him there and letting him come out on his own, so my parents could keep him tucked away in a single room, but that required leaving litter and food and having the little ones split up (which they have never had to endure since adoption).

One last check behind the couch, that 4 adults had checked a dozen times combined, showed me a cowering ball of fur with glowing eyes. I found the escape artist! I carefully lifted him out and put him in the carrier, after verifying all clasps and latches were secured and we loaded the munchkins into the car. Of course, we forgot their sedatives so had to listen to a symphony of pathetic meow cries on the way home.

Upon arrival, Herbie darted behind our couch and we haven't seem him since. The other 2 have been exploring all night long, except for cat naps that Shadow took at our feet throughout the night. It's so funny to watch them check everything out and find new spots to hang out. All morning Benny and Shadow have been sticking close to me. So much so that this is my view as I sit at the desk and type this. I guess they are happy to have Mommy and Daddy back. We are happy to have our little family intact again, that's for sure.

Their movement has been limited to repositioning how they sleep.






Monday, March 25, 2013

Transition Adventure: Part III - Reintegration


The first night arriving home we spent at my parents' house. After that grueling trip, the last thing we wanted to do was drive even another half hour to the new place. That was for the next day, Monday March 11th. Unfortunately, the kitchen remodel that was supposed to be done prior to our return, was delayed. So the next morning we found our empty condo full of construction debris and contractors. Cable guy was coming on Tuesday and movers on Thursday. Cabinets weren't in. Countertops weren't even measured or manufactured, much less delivered. It was about to be hectic.

All that week we spent unboxing and organizing without about 50% of our place available, since the kitchen was unusable the stove and fridge were in the dining room, leaving little room for maneuvering. It is hard to get settled when you make more of a mess than you get rid of.

So since Monday, March 11th we have diminished a pile of paper about 5 feet high by 3 feet deep by about 10 feet wide. That is 150 cubic feet of paper. We've folder, bundled and tied it all up and about half that volume in cardboard. The kitchen is now completed and gorgeous and everything is away. We've learned the area; we've filled the cupboards and fridge; we've replaced lights, set up TVs and basically are close to completion. Still loose ends that need organization and finding homes for things and there are definitely surfaces that are bare and Linda is twitching to put knick-knacks on. Suffice it to say that the home part of the transition adventure is complete, for all intents and purposes. Anything else is aesthetic and inconsequential.

During this process, Miss Linda had a big birthday. She turned 30 just yesterday, the 24th. The night prior we went out to dinner. It was my plan to make it a surprise, but gathering folks during our adventure proved too lofty a goal for me, mostly because with my distance I hadn't met any so I was blindly inviting people based on names I recognized from her stories by hunting through her Facebook friends list. So I had to tell her. The seeds had already been planted, location secured and big rocks all aligned. All she had to do was finalize the head count and make sure nobody was left out (it's surprising how many people don't have Facebook). The event was a success. We had her cousins and friends from that group all together. In another group was people she went to school with. A couple of my friends that she's gotten to know were there. My parents were in attendance (Mom helped with many of the smaller details while I was gone). Finally, of course our mutual friend that introduced us came with his better half. She spent the whole night wandering and interfacing with important people from each area of her life and I have now met them all as well.

Our house is 99% settled, we've had time to socialize, she's back at work, I'm tidying up loose ends around here and transition is almost at its terminus.

There is still one major part of this transition looming. We hope to be able to update everyone soon.

Then our life truly begins and we can start all new adventures.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Transition Adventure: Part II - Journey

This is a little bit delayed, but I wanted to take the time to chronicle what has already happened to catch everyone up to what IS happening. So there will be more parts coming in the next few days to bring it all up to present day.

Linda arrived on schedule to find my apartment bare bones. It was me, an air mattress and the kitties. We spend the rest of the time in Biloxi cleaning the apartment from top to bottom and packing and planning and doing everything for the big move. We scrubbed walls and floors and shampooed carpets and Windexed everything in sight. We did manage to take time to get to our favorite southern BBQ spot called The Shed (if you know nothing about it, look it up on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives).

On Friday, March 8, 2013 I went on Keesler AFB for the last time to officially sign out of the military and begin my 104 days of paid leave (that I spent years accruing). It took a short time to go through the motions and I stopped by the office to say my final goodbyes before watching the base fade and get smaller in my rearview mirror.

The next morning before sunup we headed out from Mississippi through Alabama into and through Georgia before arriving, 11 hours later in Sumter, South Carolina - my previous military home of 5 and a half years. After briefly settling into the hotel room we met up with my Air Force dad, hero and mentor, Chief Master Sergeant Frank Dannals (ret.) for a casual dinner and some reminiscing. We lost an hour somewhere during the day when we crossed from Central Standard Time into Eastern Standard Time. After some chow, we crashed hard for the night knowing we had to do the same thing all over again the next day.

Sunday morning we were back on the road, once again before the rooster's crow, having lost yet another hour because Eastern Standard Time became Eastern Daylight Time somewhere amid our short slumber. And so we wound our way out of South Carolina and straight north through North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware and into New Jersey (which we obviously drove almost the entire length of), for another 11 hours before pulling in the driveway at my parents house, sporting balloons, a banner and some tears upon my arrival and replete with northern deliciousness after subsisting on fast food for almost a week.

And so after 96 hours of furious cleaning and 22 hours of nearly nonstop driving I was home, back in NJ, safe and sound. It all went as smooth as can be, save for a minor hiccup when the gas gauge decided to take a nap and we panicked thinking we had no gas and a major problem. We didn't kill each other, had lots of laughs and the drugged up kitties slept peacefully the entire way.

If only we knew then that the real fun was just about to begin, but more on that later...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Transition Adventure: Part I - Preparation

It has been a long while since I posted anything to this blog. Linda and I had settled into our version of normal: I was in Mississippi and she was in New Jersey. Her visits here came at regular intervals and we  spent most of that time in lighter activities that revolved around just spending time together rather than running around on blog-worthy adventures. But that is all about to change.

She is currently on a plane in Houston to arrive here in Mississippi for the very last time. This trip isn't so much an adventure, in and of itself, as much as it is a stage in an evolution that is very much an adventure. My tenure in the military has come to a close. I am typing this from a folding chair, MacBook Air on my lap and phone perched precariously on some cardboard boxes marked for the trash. Other than that, an air mattress, some microwaveable food and 3 very confused cats, my apartment is devoid of anything useful. The movers hauled all of my worldly possessions away today, bound for New Jersey.

Linda isn't coming here to visit. Her role, this time, is to help me in the final steps of my active duty journey and to be my co-pilot on the long road home (cats make terrible navigators as they can't read maps). So over the next few days we will be doing our "lasts" here in Biloxi and prepare for many new "firsts" upon arrival home.

One such "last" has already happened. Last night I slept alone for the last time, as did she. Jersey City will be a shared terminus. What only some of the world knew until this moment is that we will be moving in together in a 2 bedroom condo that is waiting. For the next few nights we are "camping in" on an air mattress; Saturday night will be spent in a hotel at the midway point; Sunday night we are hosted by my parents; and Monday through delivery of my furniture (probably next Friday) we will be on a temporary bed at the condo. After that we begin to settle into our new, joint life. So, I'll no longer be sleeping alone, save for the nights when I misbehaved and my kitten buddy and I are banished to the couch, I suppose.

So this is Transition Adventure: Part I. I pick her up from the airport for the last time and we come back here to the exciting world of Netflix movies on an iPad and Hot Pockets. More to come as we embark on this journey over the next week.