Somerset, 2014

Our friend Rebecca was getting married in New Jersey, so Forest, Vanessa and I caught a ride down from the Boston area with Cris, staying over two nights.

Friday November 7, 2014

I arranged to work from home this day so that we could take off at around 4pm. Cris came to get me first and I claimed shotgun since my knee injury was still bothering me. I was still thinking in terms of bike routes when I directed Cris to a turn and he went that way even though in the end with doubling back it would have been faster the other way, oops. Forest and Vanessa were ready for pick up and we made our way down to Memorial Drive, hitting a gas station before getting on the Mass Pike at the Allston/Brighton tolls. Rebecca had suggested a way to go that avoided the worst of NYC, 90 to 84 west, then take 87 south to 287 south since the hotel was right off of that last highway.

Since we were hitting the road just before supper time we'd discussed food options and all talked each other into stopping at Firebox in Hartford. Forest actually nabbed us an 8pm reservation as we were inching through traffic on the Pike, but it turned out that the highways cleared up enough for us to reach Hartford at around 7:30. We got rock star parking right in front of the restaurant and were directed to the bar to wait until our table was ready. They had a fall themed cocktail on the specials board, a Martinez made with house infused apple crisp gin, so three of us grabbed that while Cris stuck with sangria. We had just made enough inroads into our drinks, and another party had left and opened up the end of the bar so I had a place to sit, when we were called to our table. I wasn't one hundred percent impressed with my Martinez, so I ordered a very yummy sounding Junipero and lime cocktail from their regular cocktail menu, and it was much better. The others shared a big bowl of mussels as an appetiser, but I was content with bread. My main course was a just barely not overcooked salmon filet on a bed of delicious veggies. I went with the fig ice cream for dessert, and also got a straight shot of the apple crisp infused gin to see what it tasted like outside of the cocktail - harsh is what it tasted like, I think they used a pretty cheap gin, I left most of it in the glass when we got up to go. Service was leisurely, we ended up not getting out of there until 10pm.

I ended up dozing on and off for the rest of the drive, and I think the back seat was full of sleepers too. Cris was suffering through some slow music, not wanting to take his eyes off of the narrow parkway to mess with the CDs or his phone, so once we realised that we tried to stay awake to talk to him. It was close to 1am when we pulled up in front of the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Somerset New Jersey. Cris kicked us out of his car, but graciously let me pick through his tie options to grab a blue birches one since I'd forgotten to bring mine. He then went a minute further on to his hotel next door. Forest got us checked in as we stood around a bit shell shocked at the crowd and noise, I guess another wedding had just finished and the guests were milling about the lobby and the function room on the first floor. Our room was just off the lobby on the first floor, but just far enough away that the noise from the public area was completely muffled. At first we were a bit confused by the very low hangars in the closet (my dress was pooling on the ground), but after seeing all the bars in the bathroom, and a roll in shower rather than a tub, I figured out that we were in a handicap accessible room. I wasn't in my knee immobilising brace any more, but it was nice to have the bars for extra support. We just hung up our nice clothes, changed into PJs and fell into the beds.

Saturday November 8, 2014

The curtains didn't get drawn all the way the night before, and the heat was up a bit too high, so I ended up waking earlier than I might have liked. Around 9 I think, but F&V were also stirring so I asked if they wanted to come get the free hotel breakfast with me. That was a yes, since we had the sense that we were in the middle of nowhere without a car. It was advertised as a hot American breakfast, which translated to waffles, eggs x 2, and meat patties in addition to standard continental breakfast offerings. The hot water didn't taste like coffee, and the juice didn't taste like sugar, but the only other things I felt like braving were the sealed yoghurt and an English muffin. Michael and Elizabeth appeared as we were finishing up and vacating the table for the next wave of breakfasters. Forest and Vanessa weren't satisfied with the coffee on offer and were planning to walk to the Starbucks. The only problem is that it was a half an hour walk away and there were very few sidewalks. I decided to go partway with them so that I could hit the area with a few pharmacies so I could get a wedding card (I completely forgot to bring one with me). While I was in the lobby looking at the maps and delivery lists that the front desk clerk had given me, I spotted Johanna - it took her a while to figure out it was me since she had popped out of her room without her glasses to grab some breakfast food before it disappeared. She invited Vanessa and myself to go for pedicures with her, but we weren't sure when we'd be back. Michael and Elizabeth had gone off to see a movie at 11am, we definitely weren't going to make it back for then.

The three of us took off walking up Davidson Road, mostly single file, on the grass where there was any. We got a 20 foot piece of sidewalk where we went over a bridge. We did walk right past the Palace, where the wedding and reception would be later that night, so we found out it would be possible to skip the shuttle in a pinch. The verge wasn't very nice to walk on for high heeled shoes though, so Vanessa voted for the shuttle if at all possible. :-) We finally made it to an intersection and saw a side walk on the other side, hooray! They decided to join me going right to the pharmacy, and they lucked out in that there was a Dunkin Donuts next door so they could also get coffee. We spotted a bistro in the strip mall across the way but didn't go to explore since we were going to meet back up with Cris and Hyson at the hotel and take a car-enabled lunch trip. I grabbed a card, some water and a deodorant as well since I'd forgotten to pack any in my last minute throw everything in the suitcase rush the day before. Walking back felt easier and safer, we were walking against traffic this time so could see it coming.

We hung out in the room for a little bit, I think I wrote up my card then and there, tucking the Honeyfund certificate inside, and then Cris and Hyson arrived to pick us up. Michael had suggested the place that he and Elizabeth had eaten the day before (they'd arrived much earlier than we did), so we headed out to the Stagehouse Tavern. They were setting up for some sort of function, putting up wooden screens and lighting sterno cans to keep food hot - the scent didn't do much for my enjoyment of my meal. We all shared a big thing of nachos, and I went big with a seafood fra diavolo pasta dish, not being sure when we'd eat after the wedding that evening. And more tea, I was still feeling a bit short on sleep. The others wanted to grab some alcohol for the after party, so we hit up a liquor store on the way back to the hotel. I spotted a black pepper and mango honey wine and couldn't resist grabbing a half litre bottle (spoiler alert: that was way too much liquid for a novelty purchase). Cris dropped us off back at our hotel and we ended up just hanging out in the room until it was time to get ready. I had a semi-involuntary nap after curling up on the bed to read, but I think the other two managed to stay awake and read the afternoon away.

At around 4, I got up to iron my shirt, deciding to wear my St. Harridan suit rather than a dress that evening. It turned out to be a good call, it was a bit chilly inside the venue and I left my jacket on the whole time. Took me two tries to get the tie tied correctly, but it did end up going well with the dark grey suit. I put on a bit of powder foundation and then spaced on the fact that I'd probably cry during the ceremony and put on mascara as well. Forest waited until the last minute to suit up, so Vanessa and I were ready before he was, but at around 5:15 we were out front being directed to the shuttle van. I had a moment of wondering if I'd be able to climb up into it (stupid knee), but one step at a time still works. Our driver was a bit confused by the time change and the incorrect dashboard clock, but he got us next door to The Palace with only a pause to quadruple check the wedding party names with the guy directing traffic.

We pulled up under a portico to the left of the huge building and were waved in by uniformed door people. The women had on black ties and vests, so I was sort of glad that my suit was lighter and I'd foregone the vest. :-) The immediate area was set up for a cocktail hour, but we were the first to arrive. We checked our winter coats and came back into the entry way and found that servers with trays of champagne had appeared. Forest nabbed us some drinks and we stood around chatting and accumulating people. Elizabeth appeared and then Michael and both reassured me that my suit looked good, and I wasn't getting any dirty looks from the non-friend guests so I relaxed into fully enjoying the night (I'd checked with Rebecca ahead of time that she would be okay with me skipping wearing a dress). The room had a mix of high and low tables, fancy fixtures and lots of blue lighting, with two bar areas set up. As more and more people arrived, we shifted a bit back to not block the way between the door and the coat check and bar. Soon enough, Palace staff were ushering us along a hallway and into the area set up for the ceremony.

The bride's side had filled up so the usher had us start filling in on the groom's side - it's always hard to know which one to ask for when you're friends with both members of the couple, but they dealt with us graciously. :-) I ended up next to Arlene and Hideki on one side, a strange woman on my left - she immediately put a big bag down and the straps touched my knee, making me jump. I explained it was my bad knee and nothing else came close to it while I was sitting, so I eventually relaxed - we only had a few standing moments as well. We were facing a white tulle draped area set up for the officiant, at the base of two sweeping staircases coming down from the second floor balcony. From where I was sitting, I could just spot the wedding party lining up in the hall upstairs. Soon Rebecca's brother Jeff appeared to officiate and John and the parents were processing up the aisle. Then the wedding party appeared in pairs at the top of the stairs, looked at each other, then turned and each went down one stair case, around the seated guests to the back of the aisle, and joined up again to walk down the aisle arm in arm. It was nicely choreographed. :-) Rebecca came down the stairs flawlessly in her floor length sheath dress, complete with train, and I could see her fighting against happy tears as she started down the aisle toward John. The ceremony itself was lovely, full of laughter and some tears, with readings done by Michael, and 80's references slipped into the customised vows too. :-) The joy and love beaming off of the newly married couple were easy to see and I was surreptitiously wiping away a few happy tears.

We were herded back along the hallway, but this time it was lined with servers carrying trays of small cocktails. I passed on the vodka gimlet in favour of a cosmo, but it turned out to be very sweet, should have braved the vodka. Cocktail hour turned out to be resist all the appetisers hour, the outer tables were now groaning under a raw bar, a carving station, a cheese table, a hibachi set up, and a whole pig! I had picked up my name card with table 13 on it when we came in, so I strongly suspected that we'd be having a sit down dinner as well, so I was able to restrain myself to one trip to the raw bar for some shrimp and oysters, but I also took advantage of the servers offering small hot bites as they wandered through the crowd. I was actually still a bit full from lunch, I could have eaten much less then and still been fine in the evening, though we didn't end up eating our main courses until close to 9pm. I got to catch up a bit with Shannon and Alli, luckily they weren't caught up photographing the event, as well as Quang and Naomi. My cocktail nemesis from Jen and Rich's wedding was also there, Clark, but I didn't let him get me any drinks this time around. :-)

Then another set of doors opened up to show a dance floor with DJ AddamBomb set up to spin tunes for us, as well as a big cluster of tables in the back half of the room, under a lower ceiling area to give it a cozy feel. The table center pieces were amazing, all white with huge flowers and feathers sticking up from the top. The open bar combined with extricable feathers soon led to a lot of people sporting long white feathers in their hair or suit pockets. :-) Dinner was leisurely, with a fried cheese first course coming first, and then a pause for speeches and Rebecca and John's first dance, and her singing to him. I was reminded that they both come from very tall families as I wasn't quite able to see over shoulders but I could hear the singing perfectly well. :-) Back to the table for the main course, a large serving of salmon (we had four choices, they all sounded good). It was a bit hard to hear the announcements from our table, I'm sure we missed some dances that were supposed to be for all X people, but since I couldn't dance, it was fine with me and I kept chatting. I was between Arlene and Hideki, and Quang and Naomi, with Cris and Hyson, and Alli and Shannon across from us. We were the centre table of friends at the back, and Forest would come over to chat since we both weren't dancing. It felt easy to mingle, I stopped over to talk with Jess and Jim for a bit as well, but kept retreating to my chair and glass of water for comfort's sake - I'd very slightly twisted my knee turning to catch someone during the cocktail hour and wanted to sit as much as possible. The wine served with dinner was a bit sweet for me, I ended up drinking lots of water as well as a couple of gin and tonics. The first one I got Tanqueray on request, the second they just gave me Bombay Sapphire without asking, so I got to compare the two head to head - I think I do prefer the Tanqueray in G&Ts.

Rebecca and John cut the cake, more dancing, and soon Addam had us ring the dance floor for the last dances. Quang got me out to sway to the last slow song, though I had to ask him to slow down even more since I had to be careful how I pivotted. :-) Then the floor started jumping to a B52s song and I skedaddled. :-) That was the last one, so I collected my coat before the run and kept an eye out for my room mates. We all went out to the hotel shuttle together, but only I made it on the one that was there. I had my key so I waved and planned to catch up with them in the room. There were some conflicting after party room numbers floating around, so I changed back into cargo pants and a sweater for floor sitting comfort and we went in search. Michael was loading up his whole booze stocked fridge onto a hotel dolly to transport stuff for the party, but we didn't see him at the bridal suite nor in his room, wandering around listening for the party with Tricia and Matt. It turned out that the hotel gave us the first floor conference room to use so we finally found them as we were heading back to the lobby to wait. I used Forest's church key (that I asked him to bring and it turned out to be the only bottle opener for a while) to crack open my honey wine. It turned out to be too peppery and sweet, I barely drank any. I was also too sober for the party and once the mezcal started going around and the noise levels rose, I bowed out with Vanessa and we headed back to our room to crash, maybe around 1am or so. I was pretty tired but decided to put my ear plugs in just in case, since I wanted to be relatively well rested for the drive back - I'd be the only passenger and wanted to be awake enough to help Cris stay awake. The heat settings were figured out now too, so the room was the perfect temperature for sleeping and I had a restful night.

Sunday November 9, 2014

My eyes popped open at around 9am and despite wanting to lay there and doze, my stomach was also awake. Cris wasn't coming to pick me up until 10:30, so I had time to get dressed and head to the breakfast room to appease my rumbling stomach. Shannon and Alli were finishing up their breakfast, running a bit late for their drive back to Boston, so I joined them. Turns out that they'd been in the room next to the after party hotel room after it moved out of the public space, but once Shannon remembered her noise cancelling headphones she was able to sleep (Alli was fine). I just had a cup of tea, some juice and a small yoghurt, not willing to brave anything else. Just after they said goodbye, I got a text from Cris saying that they were packing up to head over to get me. I had just enough time to head back to the room to pack, and Forest and Vanessa were up so I didn't have to do it in the dark. I didn't have much out, just the suit and dress in the closet and a toiletries bag in the bathroom, so I was done quickly and had time to run to the lobby and have them put a third of the room charge on my card. Then I went back to the room to sit and finish up my book before Cris and Hyson came knocking.

We said our good byes and headed out to breakfast. Hyson had a train back to Philly at just after noon, but Cris had found a diner that we could hit up. It was busy, but the group of people who'd checked in before us abandoned the wait for their table and we got it after barely sitting down to wait. Our pancakes and eggs arrived quickly, and I was given a free refill on my tea without the waitress even bothering to ask, nice. :-) It wasn't great tea, granted, but they had the big thing of sugar on the table as well as enough dairy to make it palatable. My pancakes weren't quite cooked through, there were raw spots in the center of the ones lower in the stack, but the fresh strawberries were good and the cooked ones were nice and fluffy. There was a bit of confusion over where to pay the bill, but I eventually took it up to the counter and then headed outside to wait for Cris since I'd become caught up in a scrum of teen aged girls and needed some space.

From there we headed to the Brunswick train station, having to circle a bit to get to the place where we could drop off Hyson. My knee had been feeling better enough to sit in the back seat, so I jumped out as she was getting her suitcase so that I could switch into the front for the drive home. We had to back track a bit to get to 287 to retrace the route we'd been given, the GPS really wanted to send us through NYC. We got an update that Hyson had missed her train, but the next one was in an hour and she'd found a book store in which to while away the time. Traffic wasn't too bad, but it was still a three hour drive to get to Cromwell CT where we were planning to stop and see Sean and Hilary and their girls. I was a bit stiff getting out of the car there, but soon walked it off. The toddler was sleeping and the kindergardener took a while to emerge from her room and break out of her shyness, but by the time we left she was planning a costume change and chattering away at us. :-) Quang and Naomi made it just after we'd sat down to chat, so we had a nice mini DND group reunion. :-) It's interesting getting a snapshot of the kids every few months, it's very much a blink and you miss a developmental milestone sort of thing. We'd seen them at apple picking in September this time though, so it wasn't that big a jump. Hilary made me a bagel and I snacked on some grapes as well, realising that this was my lunch and I wasn't going to last until we got back to Boston to eat. We didn't stay too long though, Quang and Naomi had dinner plans and I didn't want to get home too late either.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, traffic getting heavier the closer we got to Boston, people returning from leaf peeping trips out in the Berkshires. Cris volunteered to stop at a grocery store before dropping me off so that I could get some food for supper, and we made it through from the Mass Pike through Cambridge to Somerville and hit the Market Basket at 6:15 or so, just in advance of their 7pm closing time. I took advantage of the car to stock up on heavy things, as usual. :-) A quick hop over the ridge and Cris helped me unload my stuff from his car, though I somehow managed to leave my hat behind, I'll blame the dark and the relatively warm night. I brought my groceries up first and then came back down for my suitcase, then forced myself to make a quick dinner before diving back into my NaNoWriMo word smithing to catch up on the weekend's missed word counts.

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