A look back at 2011

I love the annual year in review.  I look forward to the TODAY SHOW's yearly recap of the host/ anchor's antics and CBS Sunday Morning's Remembrance of the Stars and Famous who have passed on.  It's a chance to reflect and smile, sometimes laugh or shed a needed tear. After the end of a year, whether it be good, bad or indifferent you have some psychological distance to be objective and assess what worked and what didn't.  We all want that clean slate on the start of the new day of the new year, especially if the previous one was terrible, like so many of us did at the end of 2010.  2011 for me and the family was pretty fantastic.  Looking forward to the Leap Year of 2012 makes me excited for all the new possibilities in store for us.  A shout out to a blog I follow,  All and Sundry, aka SundryMouring, where this idea originated. Here's my annual recap of the year,  I bring you, 2011, The Year that was...
1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?  Bought a house and moved out of state!  We owned the house we lived in for 9 years in South Philly, but I DIDN'T own it, Liz did.  When we purchased Moore Street, I was still at The Restaurant School and had little to no income and my credit wasn't great.  We lucked out that we purchased it when we did, before the markets got crazy out of control pricey and then bottomed out.  We were dumb lucky, didn't refinance to get ourselves in any financial trouble and consequently were in a good position to sell the house.  This enabled us to think big and take a big step forward to moving to a small town, close to the City, easy to commute to and from and giving us  more space.  My name is on this mortgage and I'm now a resident of the State of New Jersey.  Finally, this South Philly Girl has moved up in the world!
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? As I say each year, I don't do resolutions.  I wanted to be a calmer, less reactionary person and I suppose I am slowly reaching that goal.  I wanted to continue to keep healthy, eating and exercising and I did.  I'm not as fit as I was in 2009 but someday I will be again.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? YEP! There were a number of new babies born in our friends lives and we almost had a new nephew born in the closing moments of 2011 - he came into the world on 1/2/2012 instead.  In 2011 we welcomed Anderson, little brother to Callum. 
4. Did anyone close to you die? Yes.  My grandmother, Faye, died on August 24, 2011.  This was the closest death I experienced this year.  I spend a great deal of time with her from the Fall of 2010 until her death.  I haven't written about her death though I've contemplated many things I wanted to say.  Faye was my step-grandmother, married to my Poppy.  She lived until she was 91.  This last year of her life was not a good year, I watched her physically fade away while her mind stayed mostly sharp.  Faye was a feisty, fiery, strong lady, sort of like an R-Rated version of Lucille Ball.  She cursed every day and could make a sailor, truck driver and gangsta blush with her use of the word f*ck!  Those last days with her and her last lucid words and conversation with me were to tell everyone if we didn't like what she had to say and what she wanted, to tell them to go f8ck themselves.  When I asked her if this is how she wanted me to remember her and to tell people what she said, she said, "Yeah, F^ck 'em!"  God Bless you Faye for being the only relative I had who truly loved me and who even gave a damn.

Our dog, Hamlet, also died in 2011.  He lived to be 15 1/2 years old and I was in his life since he was 3 years old.  Hamlet was a true Alpha Dog, aggressive until his last days.  He was diagnosed with some form of lymphoma over 4 years ago and was given 6 months to a year to live; he last three more.  When Nate was born, a friend remarked that he might move on once he knew he wasn't needed any longer.  Damn dog lived 2 more years!  The last year was marked by a rapid decline and by summer we knew his time was coming to an end.  For a long while I felt that he and my grandmother's lives were linked.  They were, in my mind.  I was convinced that once one went the other would go soon too. It didn't quite happen that way, the both lingered on for a while.  We finally had to make the choice to put Hamlet down.  He was skin and bones, had no energy and his quality of life was minimal.  Two people made astute comments about his well-being; Liz's grandfather, Grandpa Bill, raised dogs and ran a kennel.  He asked Liz how much worse did we want him (Hamlet) to get? Our friend, Roberta, who works at the University of Pennsylvania Animal Hospital and is a teacher and animal pathologist, told us that with his near-blindness, possible dementia and other host of problems that living in a new home would be upsetting to him where he didn't know his way around.  Plus she said it was a decision we would have to make, as the dog wouldn't just lay down and die peacefully.  Once we heard that, we knew it was time.  That old dog managed to make his last days count.  He caught a mouse in the Moore Street house during the last week we lived there! Blind, barely able to walk, eat or move, he caught a mouse! Thanks Hamlet! You went out with the same spunk you in which you lived your life!
5. What countries did you visit? I really need to change this to States.  We went to Staten Island a lot during 2011.  To some New Yorkers, Staten Island might as well be another country! Parts of it are like a Little Russia, Little Italy or a Little Caribbean Island.  We took a fun driving vacation for a week, visiting Liz's dad and family in the Lehigh Valley area, visited a local farm and lots of candy shops.  During this same week, we drove to Hackettstown, NJ to visit Liz's college roommate and her family, along with more candy shops!  We stopped off in Staten Island for a few days with Liz's mom and step-dad.  We took our annual Down-the-Shore Family Vacation in Sea Isle/Strathmere New Jersey, creating what we hope will be a new extended family vacation tradition.  
6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011? Focus.  A new car (maybe even a Ford Focus!) I find I get easily distracted and would prefer to play, bike, blog than do house work, work-work, or anything that one has to do.
7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
The biggest and best ones are these in order of importance: 
October 24th - The day our house on Moore Street Sold for sure.  Once the house inspection and all the issues that came up were resolved we knew we could finish packing and move forward with buying our Collingswood, New Jersey home.  
December 17th - The day my best friend, Rachel got engaged to her long-term beau, Jim.  Someone remarked that getting married a bit later in life means you skipped passed your first marriage and divorce and get to go straight to the marriage that will last!
November 30th - The day we got the keys to the Collingswood house.
October 22nd - We attended 2 weddings in one day.  One was for our friends, Kate and her partner Meghan.  We were honored to be invited and to witness the commitment of these two young women.  The other wedding was for my friends Sue and Aaron, the originator of the SueCrew Biking Team.  This is another wedding of two people who were smart enough to miss the first young marriage and get to the real good stuff in our "Adult" years.  
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? There were quite a few! Buying the Collingswood House.  It's much larger and more grown-up and finished. We have a garage and parking!
KODAKGallery.com picked my food photo portfolio and photos to use on their website for a project and I was the featured FaceBook Photographer of the week.  I was paid in flattery and $20 bucks for a few of my best food photos.  I received over 500 hits on the blog from my being the featured photographer of the day!
My biking story, road to wellville and an healthy breakfast recipe were featured as a guest blogger post on The BicyclingHub.com blog.
After only living in Collingswood for 2 weeks, a video and blog post I created about the Annual Collingswood Christmas Light Parade of Trucks was featured on the CollingswoodPatch.com website.
My favorite Street Artists and graffiti artists who's work I document gave me original works of their art as gifts.  Meeting these guys was one of the highlights of my year and validated my photographic endeavors.  
9. What was your biggest failure? Not writing more.  I have so many ideas and I wish I had the time to devote to writing more of my "stories."  In the new year, I'll be writing the darker tales of my life on another blog that I'm creating, called The Onion Girl.  Stay tuned for details!
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Not really but I'm not as fit as I once was.  I've had a minor, nothing health scare which propelled me to finally get to all of my doctors, from my head to my toes.  
11. What was the best thing you bought? See #8!  Or Nate's wagon that he got for Christmas.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My friends and the family who I've picked to be mine.  Thanks to this wonderful circle of people with whom I've been blessed I have acceptance, love and support.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Very much the same as in 2010 - Politicians, more so this year since so little changed and our Country is in such a mess.  My mother - once again she disappointed me not so much because I expected anything from her but because she is still M.I.A. and nuts.  There's a story there, but I'll save it for another blog.
14. Where did most of your money go? To moving expenses, tolls, commuting expenses and all the related costs to buying a new house.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? New furniture.  We bought a new living room set for the new house - large sleeper sectional, large chair w/ottoman, storage ottoman unit for the couch and accent table.  We were also blessed with many gifts for the new house, the biggest of which was indoor/outdoor all-weather wicker porch furniture that the previous owner of our house left for us.  It was a substantial cost and she was beyond gracious and generous in leaving it for us, not telling us at closing so as to not appear self-serving.  She's a real top gun star for that act!
16. What song will always remind you of 2011?  It's a Great Day by the Fresh Beat Band (see #37 for full answer!)
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier
b) thinner or fatter? a wee bit fatter - well, maybe more than a wee bit.  Certainly a lot flabbier and pouchier.
c) richer or poorer? hmmm, both? I make a bit more but it costs a lot more to live.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Told people that I loved them; biked and exercised more; did more writing.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Eating.
20. How did you spend Christmas? Another lovely Christmas Eve at Church doing our annual church family gathering. There for the marathon sessions of services, dinner, and services.  Nate and I were in the nursery from about 8:30 pm until after midnight.  It was quiet again, not as cold as the previous year (I found the thermostat!) and peaceful. Christmas Day we visited with Liz's Dad and wife, siblings, nephew and aunt.  We had a crazy loud and fun time.  Boxing Day we had a lot of people to the house, most of whom had not seen the new place yet.  It was loud, boisterous, merry and gay - in all ways!
21. Did you fall in love in 2011? I've been in love with Liz for over 12 years and with Nate for the past 2.  Like the Grinch, my heart grows two sizes bigger each year.
22. What was your favorite TV program? Boardwalk Empire, Leverage, Luther.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Not really.  I still loathe the Republican and Tea Parties.  I hate the unions because they don't help their members.

24. What was the best book you read? I still don't read much and I used to love to read.  I waste too much time on Facebook reading status updates.  I've started reading the New Yorker again though.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery? I'm more out of touch with popular music this year than ever.  Maybe Robyn - many of my facebook friends seem to love her and she sounded good on SNL.
26. What did you want and get? A new house!
27. What did you want and not get? A car.
28. What was your favorite film of this year? We didn't see one movie in the theaters.  I can barely remember renting or streaming much.  Harry Potter part 7B?  It was good.  
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 44 this year and I cannot remember what I did!  I think it was a low-key year.  We went to dinner to a local pub, it was all forgettable.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Not having to stress about time.  I felt as though I never had enough time in a day, week or month.  Towards the end of the year, from October and all of November I felt as though we were never going to get Moore Street packed and ready to go.  We did it and I still cannot believe we survived the move!
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011? Making do with what I already have.  Shopping my closet and accessorizing with scarves and jackets!
32. What kept you sane? Biking and Nate's laugh
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Kelly McGillis, she's an inspiration and classy lady.
34. What political issue stirred you the most? The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and all of the latest posturing on Gay Marriage issues and abortion.  These are not the problems in our Country.  These are not the real reasons why we are such an economic and moral mess.  It's just easier to blame our problems on these issues because if fires up the ultra religious and conservatives and takes the focus away from  doing real work to solving America's core issues.
35. Who did you miss? I miss my grandmother, Faye.  She was my last connection to my grandfather and the last of the good part of the family.
36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011: Anything is possible.  Liz believes that great things can and should happen, all you have to do is work to make it so.  I never thought we'd actually get ourselves together to clean out the old house, declutter it, and pack up the basement to get it ready for sale.  It was possible and it happened. I also never imagined we would find the home of our dreams but we did.  We looked, we believed and we made it happen.
37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.  We have watched a lot of NICK Jr. this year with Nate.  Our programs of choice are either Curious George or Yo Gabba Gabba and not much else.  Sometimes if we have Yo Gabba Gabba on and the show ends, the Fresh Beat Band will be on before or after and there's a song that is in almost every episode called, Great Day.  Nate started singing/humming it one day, out of nowhere.  It was around the time he started to say more words.  Hearing the song, hearing him respond to it and like it was an incredibly special day and I love the song even more.  It's catchy, it's got a good beat, and yes, you can dance to it!


  1. I'm very happy for you! It was quite a year for all of you. Here's hoping 2012 is even better!

  2. Such a beautiful post Denine!!!


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