10,000 pictures later

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This is a landmark picture for me.  It marks the point where my camera started recording images to a new folder because I had surpassed the four digit file system.  Yes this is the 10,000 picture taken on my trusty DSLR.  If that seems like a large number – it is.  My problem with taking pictures is that I will take very many and then sort through them later.  Or sometimes I forget to sort through them.  My mantra is that it doesn’t cost anything to store an image on a memory card, so why not fire away.  As an example, this is a picture that my housemate asked me to try and take, and I probably tried 20 different settings, none of which I liked.

This milestone has forced me to reflect on the holidays and photography sessions I have been through to get to that number.  Do I take better pictures than when I first started?  Yes, definitely.  Most of that is understanding how my camera works, which is a continuous process for me.  I was also helped by a new lens, and some tips from friends.

I enjoy my hobby, and look forward to really learning how to compose shots better and see the world in a different way.

Goals for 2013

Each January right around the New Year celebrations I make a list of goals for the upcoming calendar year, and also have a look back at how well I managed to do on my list from the past year. I choose goals instead of resolutions, because I don’t need to change my life – rather I have some things I would like to achieve. Let’s start with my list for 2012, and my analysis of if I met these goals.

1. Visit five new countries. Not quite. I did manage to get to two new countries (Czech Republic and Germany) but also visited some old favorites again (France (x2) and Spain).  Although this doesn’t count as five new countries, I’m still happy with my travels.

2. Compete in an organized race. Success.  If you have read my site for a while, you may have seen the recap of my Tough Mudder.  It was tough, but a lot of fun and a turning point in my year.  I might even do another one this summer if I can get my friends to join me.

3. Gain 10 pounds.  Success.  I just hit the scale this morning and am definitely 10 pounds heavier than I was at this time last year.  In fact, I’m going to try and gain 10 pounds again this year.  It will be easier now that I have a good routine and training buddy, as well as the opportunity to take my bike out for long rides again once the weather warms up.

4. Try as many new things as possible.  Success?  I’m not really sure how to quantify this one.  I definitely pushed myself this year to say “yes” more often than “no”, and I enjoyed doing so.  I took more risks, spent more money, and slept a lot less relative to previous years – but all in the spirit of having fun.  So yes, success.

Not a bad year, all things considered.  So how about the year to come?  After some quick reflection on the goals I put forward for 2012, I would like to carry those over into this next year as well, but that isn’t all.

1.  Play a new sport.  Or at least new to me again.  This could be something that requires a holiday environment like skiing or scuba diving, but could also be picking up something like ultimate frisbee or golf again.  Sports are an important part of life, I need to get back to it.

2. See the Aurora Borealis.  This one will be a double whammy becaues it will likely take me to a new country as well.  I can’t be guaranteed to see anything, but at least I’ll try.

3. Submit one of my pictures to a competition or gallery. I have been encouraged by friends to think about submitting my work somewhere.  Regular readers of this site get to see my best shots featured in a weekly gimmick called Foto Friday.  I have also put them all up in a picasa gallery so you don’t have to click through all of my posts, but sometimes the stories that go along with them are the best part.

4. Learn a new language.  Or at least try to learn one.  I failed miserably at this one in 2011, but I want to give it another shot.  Part of what I like about being over here is traveling, and all the different languages you hear, so why not try and be like EVERYONE ELSE in the world and learn a second language?

I have a feeling that this next year is going to be a good one.  Not only will it bring a lot of change in my life, but also a lot of happiness and fun.  I look forward to what 2013 has in store.

Hologram concerts

If you are at all plugged in to the music (or pop culture) scene you will by now have heard of the Tupac hologram that graced the stage at Coachella festival recently.  Although it may not have actually have been a hologram, it was a piece of digital mastery and worth searching for a good youtube clip to watch.

Yes, that is right, even though Tupac has been dead since 1996 he once again performed on stage with partner Snoop Dogg (above).  And this wasn’t just some recorded concert footage played back, this was movie studio trickery.  I read somewhere that whoever put this on used a firm known for high-class computer generated imagery (CGI) in movies.  The figure for such animation is rumored to be between $100-400K.  I also read that Hologram Tupac might be going on tour with some of his old friends, not surprising given the initial investment.

Of course this new technology got me thinking.  Is this cool or creepy?  How real and believable would a performance like this be?  Many celebrities raved about the realism of the digital Tupac, but I wonder.  I suppose it can either be seen as a money grab, or a celebration of his life – probably a little of both.

Will the likely success of this “ghost tour”  inspire the estates of other dead artists to do the same?  Would you ever pay to see a hologram in concert?  Who would be good candidates?  Michael Jackson?  Kurt Cobain and Nirvana?

My thoughts are still out on the issue, although I’m leaning toward not liking the idea of seeing a digital interpretation of an artist on stage.  What do you guys think?

Please stop the ringing

Put yourself in my shoes for this simple experiment:  Find a place that is completely quiet, devoid of any mechanical or natural noises (like a listening room, or maybe bedroom late at night) and sit in peace and quiet for a few minutes.  Do you hear anything?  I certainly do.  I get a constant high-pitched ring.  I currently suffer from a symptom called Tinnitus, which is defined as the sensation of sound in the absence of an external source.  What is the cause of this problem?  Well to get at the problem, we should first understand the complicated organ that is the human ear.

I’ll turn this over to a handy explanation from the British Tinnitis Association.

Essentially it is a very sensitive vibration sensor but is particularly designed to receive the minute longitudinal vibrations in air that make up sound waves. The human ear is broken down into 3 parts: the outer, middle and inner ears. The outer ear is in essence a funnel that ‘catches’ and focuses sound waves down onto the ear drum or tympanic membrane. The middle ear takes the relatively low intensity vibrations of the eardrum and ‘magnifies’ them through 3 little bones: the malleus, incus and stapes respectively. Finally the vibrations of the stapes are transmitted through the oval window membrane to the fluids of the inner ear (cochlea). It is here, in the inner ear, that the fluid vibrations lead to bending of the minute hair cells of the cochlea. It is this bending that causes tiny electrical signals to be passed through the auditory nerve to the brain where they are interpreted as sounds that we can then make sense of. The human ear can detect sounds from 20Hertz (very low pitch) to 20,000Hertz (very high pitch) but is particularly sensitive to sounds in the range of 500-5000Hertz. These are the so-called speech frequencies and are especially important for human social communication.

The ear is also able to deal with a huge range of sound intensity (volume) from the quietest whisper or rustle of grass, to the sound of a jumbo-jet taking off! As the range of sound intensities (volume) which the ear can hear is so great, a logarithmic scale is used to measure the sound levels. This scale is called the decibel scale. So a sound of 20dB is not twice as loud as a sound of 10dB but in fact is 10 times as loud! Unfortunately, the ear, and in particular the cochlea or inner ear, can also be damaged by exposure to too much of the energy it was designed to detect. In other words, too much noise can cause damage to the ear and even make you deaf!

So too much noise could cause the ringing I experience?  What have I done lately that involves excessive noise?

I took this picture at the Ministry of Sound, one of two live events I went to recently that had very loud music.  And although the MoS boasts a  system capable of putting out 150dB worth of sound waves, I don’t think that this is the only problem.  I wore musicians earplugs which are designed to attenuate the sound without limiting the frequency range.  It is normal to experience hearing loss or ringing in your ears after an event like a concert, this is called a Temporary Threshold Shift.  It is believed that TTS is due to metabolic exhaustion of the hair cells of the cochlea. This can recover with a period of ‘rest’ as the background noise levels fall, and most people recover within a day or two.

So if it isn’t concerts, what are some other reasons for my tinnitus?  Most of you will probably suggest that I always have music playing and that music usually funnels through my headphones.  While I acknowledge that it is possible that my ears are exhausted because of my constant music playing, I’m not convinced that this is the cause either.  The volume of music pumping through my Sennheisers is not really much higher than the background noise where I work, I just prefer to listen to The Black Keys rather than the refrigeration unit on our -80C freezer or an annoying labmate.  And actually, I would argue that I listen to music all the time because of my tinnitis.  I do not enjoy silence because I never actually get it, so instead I drown out the ringing with music.  I have thought about this one a lot, and it hits home.

In fact, the more I think about it the more I am convinced I have suffered from tinnitus for a long time.  Individuals that have experienced a Permanent Threshold Shift won’t necessarily notice a loss in hearing, but but often report difficulty understanding what people are saying, particularly in the presence of background noise.  Again this one hits home as I have a hard time hearing people in the pub or when out to dinner, which may be part of the reason I am loud (not discounting alcohol and the fact that I am American though.)  PTS is due to damage or even death of the delicate hair cells of the cochlea, and this is very likely what has happened to me.

Then again, it is also possible that the fluid in my head due to a cold that won’t go away is the cause, and the caffeine in the tea I drink all day actually stimulates the nerves in my ears, amplifying the ringing.  Perhaps this is true and my symptoms will disappear once I get healthy?  Not a lot of hope in this possibility from me, I’m sure that I’ll always suffer a little bit.

The good news is that my life has not been seriously affected by the ringing in my head.  I don’t lose sleep at night or have problems concentrating like some people, probably because my brain filters out the noise most of the time and I have learned to live with it.  I might also try to give my ears a break for a couple of weeks to see if the “rest” helps those little cochlear hairs to stop going crazy.  I’ll be sure to let you know once I don’t hear anything.

Goals for 2012

And a quick year in review.  2011 was certainly one hell of a roller coaster year, full of all sorts of ups and downs.  This past year also brought some big changes in my life, some good and some bad, but all different.  Rather than rehash everything that has happened, I thought it might be more appropriate to evaluate the goals I set up for myself in 2011 back on January 7th last year.  Here they are along with my assessment of how well I was able to achieve them.

1.  Save money. This was a success.  While not a lot of money ended up in the virtual piggy bank, it was definitely more than the previous year, so chalk one up in the accomplished category.

2. Learn a new language.  Fail.  I’ve put about as many hours into learning a new language with my fancy Rosetta Stone software as I have installing the software on my computer.  Maybe next year.

3. Visit four new countries. Almost.  I can pick three new countries off the list, but due there was a travel gap for a few months there.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  I can definitely make up for this one in the next year.

4. Come home earlier. Another fail.  Although to be fair not all the time.  I probably call it a day at work at a reasonable hour 60% of the time, but the other 40% not so much.

In summary, I’d say by putting the pieces above together, I met about 3/4 of my goals.  I’m pretty happy with that all things considered. So what about 2012?  Well, just as last year, I like to think that I lead a pretty good life so resolutions isn’t the right term, more like goals.  And here they are.

1.  Visit five new countries

I actually think that four is a more acceptable number, but I have to make up one from last year (rough life, I know) so five it is.  I already have two of them picked out.

2. Compete in an organized race

This comes from my need to say that I completed a 10K or something similar.  Although I have a strange hankering for a serious challenge, so I might go ahead and sign up for this, you know because the London marathon is boring booked.

3.  Gain 10 pounds

This one might sound easy, but I’m not talking about adding a spare tire.  And if you know me well you will be aware that I have always been a skinny guy, so I’d like to add a little muscle on my frame.  Easier said than done for a guy who works too hard and doesn’t eat enough.

4.  Try as many new things as possible

Ok so this is a resolution parading as an abstract goal.  With some serious self reflection in the last six months I have decided that life is too short and that I should make the most of it.  So my goal is to live life outside my shell a little bit and try as many new things that come my way as I can.  I bet I meet some fun people and make some excellent memories in the process.

What about everyone else?  Do you guys have any goals you care to share?

The South Coast of England

About three weeks ago we had what they call an Indian summer here in Oxford.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous for over a week, maybe even the best stretch of the year.  Who knew that the best weather is in May and October?

Anyway, I was determined to get the everything we could out of the sunshine, so I rented a car and we took an impromptu trip down to the South Coast of England.  We started in a place called Lyme Regis, and made our way East along what is called the Jurassic Coast to Bournemouth.  Not a long trip, but a very busy one for a one day excursion.  Even though the rest of the country had the same idea, we still managed to have a fantastic day.

Click on this link to head over to my Picasa web album, there are 57 pictures in there, most of them annotated.  Here are some of the highlights:

We started the day bright and early (on the road by 6am) in order to avoid traffic, and get the most out of that glorious sunshine.  This picture is looking down the all-rock beach of Lyme Regis.  A quaint little town.

Just down the road from Lyme Regis is a place called Charmouth, which is supposed to be home to an amazing fossil collection.  I felt like we were little kids again running around picking through rocks, stuffing them in our pockets, and then showing them off to each other.  No major fossils found, I suspect most of them are in the gift shop available for purchase.

We then drove along until arriving at a place called Seatown.  My goal was to get to an overlook called Golden Cap, but the signage here is terrible, so we missed it.  Not to worry, the cliffs we did find may have produce an even better view.  This picture is looking down back toward the West.  I wish this picture did the view justice, but as good as we are with a high-powered camera, nothing quite captures the scale correctly.  I could have stayed up there for a while.

Moving right along, we drove along the ocean to the Isle of Portland to see the famous Portland Bob Bill lighthouse which is pictured above. The lighthouse is fully automated so in the “summer” you are able to climb all the way to the top and see what it sees, unfortunately October is not in season.

We then drove for a while to get to the natural landmark called Durdle Door.  It is named for it’s huge natural limestone arch on the right hand side of the picture above.  I have to say this was pretty neat to see, but it wasn’t my favorite stop on the tour.  Maybe because there were hundreds of people there, but I enjoyed the cliffs we sat on earlier much more.  If anything, I would have skipped this one to spend more time at the next stop.

Ahhh the beach.  Unfortunately for us, we got here toward the end of the day, so not a lot of sunlight (or warmth) was left.  I did still manage to go in the ocean, because after all, you basically have to go in the ocean every chance you get.  (Right Dad?)  And yes it was so cold that it took my breath away when I went under.  I don’t know how the Brits do it.

I really enjoyed our short little trip to the coast of Dorset.  It was a nice reminder that England is an island.

Review of Wasting Light

The Foo Fighters officially released their seventh studio album, and their first new music in almost three years.  As promised about two months ago, I have listened to the new album, and submit to you my review below.

Officially released this week, the album was unofficially “leaked” on the band’s own Facebook page on April 1.  Although this was no April fools joke, you can listen to the entire album streaming here, and if you are me, you have a soundcloud plugin for the Chrome browser, and ripped the entire album.  And I’m not worried about pirating the music either, as the bands superstar frontman Dave Grohl equates file sharing to making and sharing mix tapes as a kid.  According to Grohl: “the most important thing is that people come and sing along when we pull into town on tour, sharing music is not a crime. It shouldn’t be. There should be a deeper meaning to making music than just selling downloads.”  Amen brother, after all, it is only compressed audio.

Back to the album.  I think it is pretty safe to say that for Foo fans such as myself, this album was well hyped.  In a pitch to get back to the roots of making rock music, Grohl built a studio in his garage and the entire album was recorded to tape.  No computers, no frills, just rocking.  I suppose it helps that they brought in legendary producer Butch Vig, who helped craft albums such as Nevermind by Nirvana and Garbage by Garbage.  Wasting Light also brought in the return of original Foo guitarist Pat Smear, and guest appearances by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and Husker Du legend Bob Mould.  So with the star-studded cast and old school production, could the album really live up to the publicity?  In short, yes.

One good aspect of the Foos throughout the years is their singable choruses that go right along with the radio-friendly singles.  But perhaps an even better aspect is the live show they put on, and how their songs are reproduce in a stadium setting.  Chelsea and I can attest to this latter point, as we saw them live in Rochester, NY and both agree that this was one of the best concerts we have ever been to.  This album hits on both points above, radio playability, and rock concert anthems.  I can easily hear a bit of both in this one, which is what helps the Foos to be such a successful group in the age of dwindling album sales.

I have listened to the album probably everyday since downloading it, and I can certainly hear influences from all their previous works.  What I mean by this is that many of these songs would fit seamlessly onto their old albums.  For example, the song “White Limo” sounds very similar to “Weanie Beanie”, which Dave recorded on his own for their first album.  See for yourself:

I happen to really like the raw, screaming rock found in the original Foo Fighters album, so I like both of these.  However this may not be of interest to the casual Foos fan, and luckily for them “White Limo” is a bit of a black sheep on Wasting Light.  “Bridge Burning” is currently my favorite song, and sounds a lot like it could be on an album from one of Grohl’s side projects Them Crooked Vultures.  Their first official single “Rope” could have been put on what is arguably their best album, The Color and the Shape, and I think you can hear Pat Smears influence here.  The tracks “Dear Rosemary” and “Alandria” are two well rounded, well constructed rock songs, that just might hit the radio down the line.  “These Days” and “Back and Forth” are the two weakest points of the album, although I wouldn’t rule them out from radio play either.  These would have fit in on In Your Honor or Echoes Silence Patience and Grace, two more recent FF albums that try but are a bit of a tired sound to me.  “Matter of time” and “Miss the misery” are two classic Foo Fighters songs, easy to listen to but not life-changing.  The second to last song “I should have known” sounds unlike many songs the Foos have produced before, and might be some sort of homage to their influences, and still hits.  And we are to the final song of Wasting Light, “Walk”.  I’m not sure what I think of this one, at first it sounded like it would be in some sort of sports montage, but the more I listen to it, the more I enjoy the range in Grohl’s voice.

A few of the songs were hits right away, and a few of them will probably continue to get the skip treatment on my iPod, but overall I liked it a lot.  It might be number 4 on my list of Foo Albums, with the potential to move up.

At least 2 to 3 spins

How many times do you have to listen to a song before you know if you like it?  Does this number change depending on the artist?  These are questions that popped into my head this week, but really I think about them every time I hear a new album or song.  I usually have a rule that I have to listen to a new album at least two or three times in its entirety before I can decide if I like it.  And one of these times has to be at high volume.  But the dawn of the $0.99 single has changed the way we listen to music, so I usually have to hear a new single on the radio or Spotify a few times before I can judge it.

Surprisingly, my two-three listen rule is different for new vs familiar artists.  For example, Chelsea has been singing a song the past couple of weeks that I wasn’t familiar with, so I asked her all about it.  I’ll let you have a listen:

I liked it.  Right away in fact.  I like the old-timey sound she has, and even if you don’t like the song, you have to admit she can really belt it out.

So back to my thoughts.  I am familiar with a few of Adele’s songs, but not many, and again, I took to this one right away.  Maybe that is because it’s just a good song – Radio 1 seems to think so.  But getting a lot of airtime on big radio isn’t always only because your music is good, sometimes it is based on reputation.  For example, Radio 1 is also playing a lot of Eminem’s new song with Dr. Dre “I need a doctor”.  I didn’t like this one right away.  I’ve listened to it a few times and I’m not sure I’m sold on it.

I actually find myself a little over-critical of some of my favorite artists.  I own every Eminem and Dr. Dre album, and am a fan of their music, even though some of those records are not very good.  So I suppose I listen to a song or album two or three times because I want to like it.  I mean I like the artist, and this is their new stuff, so I should like it right?

What about you guys?  How do you test drive your music?  Do you buy new albums by your favorite artists out of loyalty before knowing if you like the songs?  I will always listen to a new album or song by an old favorite artist, and more often than not I’ll play it enough that I’ll start to like it.  I’ll have to pay attention this coming year when my favorite band (The Foo Fighters) come out with their new album, and Dr. Dre finally releases his much-hyped comeback project.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

525749 minutes and counting

As of yesterday morning last week, that is how long Chelsea and I have been here in the great country of England.  On one hand, I feel like a whole whirlwind of events and changes have happened in just one year, but on the other hand, I can’t believe it has already been a year.  I thought I would use this occasion to write yet another list and reflect a little on how our lives are different here in another country.  I submit to you a list of things England does really well.  Next post will be all the stuff we miss about the USA.  In no particular order:

England have it right

1.  Pubs

The concept of a real English pub is hard for me to explain, and much easier to experience.  The atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed, and you can be assured to get both a solid ale and some grub while there.  The lighting is low, woodworking old, and there are not too many tables or places to sit.  A nice local pub is something that I wish everyone could have, although we don’t really have a favorite yet.  There are over 60 on our pub map of Oxford, so we’ll be sure to get back with our favorites once we have visited them all.

2.  Beer/Ale

We love the beer here.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Bells Two-Hearted as much as the next guy, but the English really have a knack for ale.  People here always correct me, because the term “beer” usually refers to ale, and lager is in a class of its own, although I use beer interchangeably.  The lager here isn’t anything to write home about, but there are SO MANY good ales that I rarely have the same one twice. The ale here is served at cellar temp, but since the weather is 45F in the winter and 55F in the summer you can be sure a fairly consistent product is being pumped from those old stone cellars.  The slightly warmer temperature actually enhances the flavor of the malts and when combined with the lower level of carbonation, makes for a beverage that is both tasty and really easy to drink.

3.  Public Transportation

This makes the list because we have managed to survive here without a car, and will continue to do so.  Chelsea uses her bus pass to get to and from work everyday, and although there are occasional blips on the radar, the buses are usually really quite reliable in town.  Additionally, we have managed to travel all around the country by train or bus, and have only rented a car a couple times.  Long distance rail and bus tickets aren’t incredibly cheap, but when you consider that the converted cost of gasoline is $7.86 per US gallon, and that we would have to pay through the nose for insurance and parking for a car that we own, we are perfectly happy letting someone else drive.

4.  Radio 1

I suppose this item on my list may be relative to all the bad radio stations in Ithaca and East Lansing, but I really enjoy BBC Radio 1.  They are always hip to the newest music, and really seem to have their finger on the pulse of what is cool and about to hit it big.  I also particularly like that they record their programs and stream them online, so that I can listen to Judge Jules next time I feel like a bit of a dance in my head at work.

5.  Mobile phones

“I’m not sure why, but Britons have really embraced the mobile” is a direct quote from my friend James almost two years ago.  All of the carriers here seem to have quite the array of new phones, and being the gadget geek that I am, I am almost always envious of the newest releases.  We have been content with the coverage here too, as there are many companies to cover what is really the size of one of our states.  Another aspect that I think the companies do well here is the pricing.  Chelsea and I got new phones for free (including my Android phone), and each get 200 minutes a month, unlimited texts and 500MB mobile internet for about $60.  And we feel ripped off.  So many companies offer competitive pay-as-you-go plans that you really only pay for what you use.  For us that would have been about $15 last month.  My first cell phone plan back in 2000 wasn’t even that cheap.

6.  Proximity to places that we want to visit

This point isn’t really about the English culture, or anything to do with the UK except for its geography and the logistical advantage that is London.  Basically, we can get anywhere we want to go within the continent for cheaper than it costs to fly from Detroit to Chicago.  Our list of places to visit continues to grow as we meet new people or visit new places, but we aim to get to 4-5 new countries per year for the next few years, and are super glad to be living in a place that is so easy to get to and from (save for the snow disaster a month ago).  Another bonus of living just an hour outside of London, is that it makes it easier for ALL OF YOU to come visit.

I’ll continue to update the post as I think of more, or feel free to add in the comments things you like most about it here.

***UPDATED***

7.  Indian Food

As Kim pointed out in the comments, I didn’t really make any comments about the food here. Well, mostly because we aren’t super impressed with the food here, although I suppose there isn’t a more appropriate place in the world to get fish and chips.  Anyway, I can’t believe I forgot about Indian food.  When we lived in the US, I had tried Indian once or twice at restaurants, but mostly just made a few dishes with our friends Sarah and Nirav.  When we came here I was amazed at the sheer number of Indian places.  I actually heard a quote the other day that more chicken tikka masala is sold in the UK than India.  Anyway, whether you like the coconut curry, chicken from the tandoor, or pickled lime with those funny Indian nachos (poppadom), you can’t really go wrong with Indian food here in the UK.

All you need is love

I have many topics to blog about in the coming weeks, but the first I wanted to tell the world about is one of the best “firsts” you can have: our first anniversary.

Just over a year ago, Chelsea and I got married on a magical night in Falmouth, MA.  I say magical because the clouds parted and we had an absolutely perfect day as far as the weather was concerned.  Leading up to our anniversary, we finally got to sit down and go through the 800+ pictures our photographer took.  We had skimmed them before, but it was a lot of fun to go back and laugh together at how much fun we had that night.  We also want to say THANK YOU again to all our friends and family that made the trip out to the Cape to celebrate with us.  It really was everyone else that made it such a good party.

As for our actual anniversary, we didn’t do very much.  To put this decision in context, in the 365 days following August 14, 2009 Chelsea and I have been through quite a bit.  Together in no particular order, we sold a house and all of the contents in it, moved four times, traveled at least 18,000 miles, visited five countries, worked tirelessly at new jobs and began our life in another country.  Of all the things we deserved on our first anniversary together, a nice day off was on top of the list.

We had a very lazy day, topped off with a nice dinner at one of Raymond Blanc’s restaurants and a movie here at home.  The first anniversary is the “paper” one, but we aren’t into big gifts, and couldn’t really think of anything to get each other since neither of us wanted stationary.  We weren’t without any tradition though, when we got back from dinner we had a celebratory semi-surprise waiting.

Moet and Chandon Imperial champagne, raspberries and chocolate.  We enjoyed these three items on the night morning we were engaged, on the night following our wedding, and now on our first anniversary.  Although it might not seem like much to drink a cheap champagne together, it means something to us, and that is all that matters.

I know deep down that all the crazy things we have been through together have only made us stronger.  After a fast and furious first year of marriage, I am happy to say that whatever the future brings, I’ll be just fine as long as I have Chelsea.  I guess the Beatles were right.

Happy Anniversary again Chels, I love you.