Party Post Mortem

We had a little party this weekend with many of my favorite people. Much good food was brought and enjoyed, I drank more than my fair share of berry blood orange sangria, and many brave souls pitched themselves against gravity on the Twister mat. Many thanks to all you who came out to help celebrate - you made it a fabulous evening and made me feel like one lucky punk to have such swell friends around me. Extra special thanks to R & D for starting up a "Hot Tub Fund" contribution jar for us - you guys are the best ever! We will definitely be having a hot tub warming party once we get one.

Advice for a vacation to Italy/Greece/Turkey?

One of my goals for 2009 is to plan and budget for a trip to the Mediterranean. J and I have long been talking about a Europe trip, but we keep putting if of for various reasons and lack of planning. So this year I'm going to buckle down and plan it, damn in. For this trip, we are thinking of spending about 2 weeks traveling around Italy, Greece, and perhaps Turkey. But what cities to visit? What sights to see? How long to stay where? How many different places will be reasonable to try to see? What time of year to go? These are things I have no clue about. My traveling experience thus far is rather limited so I could use all the advice and recommendations that I can get from you better-traveled folk. First order of business will be to decide which cities/towns/regions are must-sees and which we could pass up. Any suggestions?

Tee Hee Tee Vee

Tee Hee. My super secret Christmas present to the hubby arrived today! All 42 1080p 120Hz HD LCD inches of it. Surprises are fun - I feel so sly. Usually I'm not much of a splurger. Nor am I an electronics or home entertainment system aficionado. But J has been super awesome this year and totally deserves a sweet ass HD flat-screen to replace the old set from his college days. And now with my real job I can actually save up money to spend on things! And to top it off, our joint Christmas present to ourselves was a Series3 HD TiVo, which was just begging for an HD TV to go with it. So now we're all set and just have to get everything installed and working with everything else. Tee Hee.
Ta Da

Overtime Accrued: 18.5 days, Vacation Taken: 1 day ?!?

Being a private-sector contractor working for a federal agency, I am a salaried, exempt employee on the one hand, and yet, on the other hand, I also have to submit a daily time card for government accountability (snort). This leaves me in the odd position of knowing exactly how many hours I am compensated for vs. how many hours I actually work. Although I am not eligible for overtime pay, my company is very nice about approving comp time to make up for portions of extra time worked.

While ruminating upon what days to take off over the holidays, and how many of them to take as comp days vs vacation days, I decided to go back through my online time sheet records and actually tally the overtime hours that I've accrued this year. So I made myself a little spreadsheet and for each month entered in the number of standard federal work hours in the month, the number of billable hours that I'd logged, and the number of hours of vacation or sick leave that I'd taken. From this I formulated columns to calculate my monthly overtime balance for each month, and my cumulative overtime balance accruing from month to month. The timeframe tallied is from March 1st (when my contract started with my current company) and December 23 (projecting 8 hrs/day for the last 3 days I'll be working before Christmas).

The results?
Accrued Overtime Balance = 148 hours, or 18.5 work days
Vacation Taken = 1 day, Sick Leave Taken = 3 hours.

(note: It's not like I haven't taken any time off. In fact, I have taken about 9 comp days off so far, here and there when I could afford to get away. The overtime balance above is just for the extra, remaining hours that I haven't taken time off for).

Dishearteningly, this is an even greater discrepancy than I was expecting. Or maybe it's heartening. I'm not sure how I feel about it. In any case, the upshot is that I will definitely not be working the useless Monday and Tuesday between Xmas and New Year's that I had originally been planning to work. Also, I will be requesting them all off as comp time, rather than vacation. This will bring my total down to a more reasonable 12.5 to 13.5 days of un-comped overtime (depending on whether or not Friday the 26th, recently decreed by Bush as an additional Federal holiday, will count as a Holiday for me) and leave my vacation at 1 day taken, 9 days remaining. So hah. Then I can come back and start racking up more overtime in January! I wonder if my company rolls over or pays out unused vacation, or if I get to choose. Because there's no way I'll be able to take 9 days off by the end of February. More likely I'll be tipping the scales back in the overtime accrual direction.

So, being fairly new the this 'real job' arena, my question to the lot of you is: In your experience, is this a pretty standard work schedule for a salaried/exempt employee in Silicon Valley? Or is this above and beyond the standard degree of pitching in extra to meet deadlines and get shit done? I am very interested in getting some alternate insight and viewpoints on this.


The quest for big 80s hair products

Does anyone have any suggestions for good kinds of really strong hold hair gels or hair sprays? Or techniques for turning normally fine, flat hair into ridiculous poofy 80s hair? (and no, I'm not prepared to have a head full of gelatin at this juncture). I am not generally a hair product person, so any advice would be much appreciated.

Also, does anyone know where one could purchase some cheesy temporary tattoos?

Post-Party Post

First off, I would like to tip my proverbial hat to all the fine folks who joined us for our winter warmies pajama party this weekend - thanks for making it a fabulous night all around. We ended up with a respectable crowd of 22 and got to see many lovely faces that we had been missing for a while. Robes and PJs were sported by nearly all, and we spent the night eating, drinking, playing games, and generally making merry.

One of the many reasons I love hosting parties is getting an excuse to do a lot of cooking and baking, so I tend to go a little overboard when it comes to party food and am prone to making a tone of different things all from scratch. This time around, I ended up making a spread of the following:

-Fig, Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Gallette (in the form of a stuffed braided pastry thing that I don't know what to call)
-Wine-marinated grapes
-Cheese plate of Brie, Iberco, and Asiago, with a trio of spreads: sage-pepita pesto, smoky sun-dried tomato and walnut jam, and lemon-thyme herbed goat cheese spread (okay, so I didn't make the actual cheeses from scratch, nor the bread and crackers served with; I'm not that overboard)
-Spicy fennel-rubbed roasted sweet potato wedges with saffron greek yogurt dip
-Roasted pork tenderloin medallions with pomegranate-cranberry-rosemary reduction
-Brandy-spiked pumpkin cheesecake
-Rum-spiked pumpkin pie
-Cinnamon-spice caramel corn
-(Originally there was also an autumn salad planned, with persimmons, pecans, cranberries, feta and a hazelnut-citrus-cardamom vinaigrette, but I didn't end up putting it together).

Adding to the mix, salix42 baked up a big batch of pecan ball cookies that were divine, Ms. Honeybee brought a tasty spinach-cranberry salad, M.S. brought a pot southern veggie soup, and flitterkit brought some TJ's peppermint oreo-type cookies.

On the drinks front, riodutchie mulled up two tasty batches of mulled wine and mulled cider (did I mention that I'm a horrible side-seat chef, btw? Poor Rio is very tolerant of my fretting), which we had keeping warm on the stove throughout the evening, and we had our usual card-table-full-of-booze-and-mixers. My Personal favorite drink of the evening was champagne with a glug of blackberry cordial, brilliantly concocted by one Miss L, dressed head-to-toe in pink thermals.

On the games front, we finally managed to crack open two of our still shrink-wrapped games that have been laying in wait. To start things off, I, a mere two drinks in to the evening, challenged the room at large to a match of PJ Twister. My challenge was met by a handful of brave souls who all found gravity less persuasive than I did. Our cat Loki took it upon himself to be our spinner for several turns, unable to resist the whirring hand. Then there was a game of team Pictionary, in which the green team clobbered the red team amidst ongoing argument over what constitutes a gesture, and after that, and game of Taboo, in which the girls trounced the boys.

The last of us departed or wandered off to bed around 3:30 am. paulwheeler, lt_kitty, flitterkit, salix42, D.S. and their friend M. ended up crashing over for the night. Paul snuck out earlyish to Dickens' fair, and the rest of us had a more leisurely morning, snacking on persimmon bread and left-overs, and lolling on the couch. Aside from pie and cheesecake, I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had very few leftovers. Win! I knew two desserts were going to be overkill, but I decided to make them both anyway for the sake of shortening my nagging 'bake-me' list.

After everyone had headed home, Rio and I went for a nice, refreshing walk in the rain and ended the day with a quiet, relaxing evening. All in all it was a fantastic weekend and I am reluctant to pry my head back into work-week mode. But, alas, there are deadlines and a lot yet to get done in this last full week before the holidays. So I'd better get to it.