Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kayla Ruth

My brother, Ryan, and my sister-in-law, Lauren, became first-time parents tonight to Kayla Ruth. Seven pounds, nine ounces. I got to see the proud parents and new addition to the family tonight. She's just adorable and Eric and I are thrilled to be "uncle" and "aunt!"

Monday, January 28, 2008

NKOTB Reunion!!!!

Okay, I'm not making this up. I'm hearing New Kids on the Block are going to be reuniting! Apparently, there will be some kind of official announcement next month. The NKOTB website is up and running with some old video from the 90's that I couldn't get to work very well.

Anyone else kind of excited about this??? I'm going on thirty but an announcement like this makes me feel eleven years old again!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Reason #458 Why I don't Like Mainstream Radio

The other day, I happened to be flipping back and forth between radio station. I briefly stopped on a former favorite station of mine to listen to one of those hysterical music contests. You know, listen to 1-2 notes and name the song. It was ridiculous.

Anyway, the DJ makes some comment about a David Bowie song, which in his opinion, is a great song.

Then he mentions on the air how he'll talk to his station manager about getting this particular song.

I guess its not on their top 20 approved playlist. I like my public music stations because the dj's can play whatever they'd like! The other day, the morning dj pulled out some old, obscure record album from the sixties! Apparently, nobody still plays records on the air but this dj did! She made a comment about "hoping it would work!" And it did!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Movie Madness

It seems that I'll either go forever without seeing a movie or I see a bunch in a short duration of time. In the past week, I saw three good movies, all rented from Netflix.

A week ago, I saw Freedom Writers. It was a riveting film. You've all heard of that one. I would certainly recommend it.

Monday, we were going to see Juno. But with the whole Norton fiasco, we really couldn't leave him for even a couple hours. Plus, I pulled something in my back on Sunday. I'm still trying to recover, though I am feeling a lot better. Much of my time was spent on the couch this week!

So instead of Juno, we watched Waitress. Have you heard of it? A hit at last year's Sundance. Bittersweet and comedic both. Keri Russell plays the main character. The talented Adrienne Shelly wrote, directed and also starred in the movie before being murdered in her apartment by her contracter. What a sad story. Bittersweet. We really liked the movie though. It made us smile and feel, too. Rent it. I think you'll enjoy.

A couple months ago, I heard a particular song from a soundtrack I couldn't recall on one of my beloved public radio stations, WFUV. I loved the song so I spent months hoping to stumble across it on iTunes.

And guess what? The other day I found it! The song, Falling Slowly, is from the soundtrack to the movie, Once. And the song was nominated for an Academy Award also! So guess what? I rented the movie and bought the sountrack. It's a modern day musical filmed more like a documentary than your traditional romantic comedy. In a nutshell...

Boy is a street musician in Dublin. He fixes vacuums by day. He has an ex in London.

Girl is a Czech street vendor (living in Dublin). She lives with her mother and young daughter. She has a husband in the Czech Republic.

We spend a week with these two characters as they develop a friendship and "write, rehearse and record songs together." Their music is simple and lovely. His beaten-up acoustic guitar and her piano melodies. The chemistry is real and the story is touching.

I won't tell you what happens. See for yourself.
Wanna see Alvin sing the same song?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cat is out of the Bag

I didn't want to detail the scandal surrounding the previously mentioned wedding vendor. However, we got our money back and it's all over the news so I'm ready to spill the beans!

After Eric and I got engaged, one of the first things we made sure to do was find a photographer. We met with somebody from Celebration Studios, a tri-state wedding photography and videography company. Celebration was referred to me by a coworker whose daughter is getting married a month before we are. They were recommended to her by some other happy clients.

CS had many different locations all throughout NJ, NY and Philadelphia. We met with Karen Towerton from the Montclair office. She offered us a phenomenal package which included a videographer too! I should have realized it might be too good to be true.

The catch? If you pay up front, you get a 20% discount. The red flags should have popped up then. Over lunch that day, we decided to book this company. We were later able to choose our photographer based on an online gallery of some samples of different photographers' work. We then met him in person and were really excited about his style and thought he'd do a wonderful job shooting our wedding.

Things were fine until last month, while perusing message boards on The Knot, I came across some negative feedback about CS. I was shocked. The more I dug, the more information I unearthed. Brides and grooms, married for 1, 2, 3, even 4 years, still waiting for wedding albums, videos, proofs, all paid in full. Some turned in baby pictures to be used as a montage for their videos. Phone call after phone call, email after email, they were fed lie after lie. And by late fall, it was impossible to get a hold of anybody by phone.

Celebration Studios was going to be "new and improved," or so they claimed. They were just backlogged. Their design center was closed in order to restructure things, to make it better, they claimed. It was supposed to reopen January 2nd. However, on that day, a sign was on the door at the center in Clifton, promising a reopen by January 31st.

However, just a couple days later, there was a for lease sign hanging in the window.

It was that week, I started to really get frightened. I started spending every waking minute on the Wronged by Celebration Studios yahoo group. I found out CS stopped paying their photographers and videographers. Some are owed $10,000 or more. They quietly closed each and every office. Sales staff quit. Basicallly within the course of a week, there was nobody left working for this guy.

Except one office actually didn't close. Their Philadelphia office became Accent Studios. Marc Schwartz, the owner of CS, claims it's an unaffiliated business. Then why did it not only have an identical website until people caught on? Why is it owned by Marc's girlfriend, Shani Whittemore? Clients of CS claim that they booked with CS, yet their credit card statements say Accent.

Schwartz is claiming to have no money left. His lawyer says he's going to be filing bankruptcy. Then he won't have to pay back anybody. But where did all this money go? There were SO many shady dealings. It's been all over the news. Check out these links if you're curious.

By the way, we're sooo lucky that we disputed our charges with the credit card company. We got every penny back that we paid that scamming CS! Not everyone was so lucky though. Hundreds of brides and grooms may never see those pictures and albums they paid so much for. My friend was telling me about her coworker who hired CS to shoot her wedding this weekend. She paid up front. In cash. Even though she has retained a lawyer, she'll never see that money again. People have been filing criminal complants and there are a couple class action law suits that are forming against Schwartz.

And we found an awesome photographer to boot. We really did our research this time. His name is Josh Lynn and we can't wait for him to shoot our wedding!


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Absolutely Absurd!

Our lovely state of NJ is in debt. And a lot of it. $32 billion dollars in debt. Sounds pretty much typical for this country.

Our esteemed Governor Corzine came up with a plan a couple days ago to relieve us of this debt.

What a joke.

Many of our New Jersey roads are toll roads. Corzine's plan is, beginning in the year 2010, increase said tolls by 50%. And every four years, increase the tolls by another 50%...

He also proposes to add tolls to a stretch of Route 440, which is now toll-free.

Corzine thinks this pretty much only affect commercial vehicles and out-of-state traffic.

Well, he's dead wrong. Many, many, many of New Jersey residents commute to work on a daily basis on these toll roads! I'm fortunate that with the move, I don't have to travel the toll roads any longer. But prior to this year, I traveled the Garden State Parkway to work on a daily basis. I paid $2.10 a day in tolls, a total of $42.00 a month. Here's how the increase, if approved would affect a commuter, like myself, on a yearly basis.

Year Monthly Toll Expenditure

2007 $42.00

2010 $63.00

2014 $94.50

2018 $141.75

2022 $212.62

2026 $318.94

That's almost an increase of 10 times over a twenty year period. Gee, lets stop and think. Add that to the increased prices of gas, property taxes that never stop rising, and the astronomical cost of living in this state.

This plan would pay off half of New Jersey's debt. Tell me, how is it our responsibility to clean up the mess that others have left???

Just needed to vent.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Yay Yay Yay Yay!!!!!

I love Visa!!!! I never thought I would say that! But they refunded the money that we paid to the horrid vendor that I previously blogged about.

And I found a great florist for the wedding. She designed a lovely bouquet for me!

And a fun fact...

On this day in 1902, the state of New York declared flirting an illegal activity. It's true. I heard it on the radio today!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

What a week!

We've been ensconced in this madness for the past few days surrounding one of our wedding vendors. It's not something I can really talk freely about online, especially because we're disputing the charge with Visa now. We went with this particular vendor because they were highly recommended.

We paid up front for the services because we were offered a 20 % discount. We thought it was a great deal. And they were recommended and did great work.

Wow, how things change in a matter of months. After the CEO has been writing bad checks to employees and not giving clients what they have paid for, I think he'll be filing bankruptcy.

Keep your fingers crossed for us that Visa will follow through and give us our money back.

There's lots of chatter about this on The Knot as well as a yahoo group about it. It's just mind-boggling.