today i had my second srm holiday party. i guess i'm lucky to have straddled two christmases in the one year that i've worked here at the company. the festivities started right after our monday morning meeting, when we transitioned to our secret santa gift exchange. i was very surprised to see paula at work: she had gotten married just yesterday (her honeymoon won't be until next week though). after we opened our gift, we had three chances to guess who our secret santa was. i was michael's secret santa, i gave him a copy of worst case scenario survival handbook: travel. he correctly guessed that i was his secret santa on his third try. other gifts that were exchanged included a clapper (john's gift to matthew), charlie brown christmas cd, bicycle seat, fuzzy slippers, christmas hat, smiley face icepak, home depot gift certificate, books, and candy. surprisingly, no calendars, which seemed to be the most obvious present to give to someone during the christmas holiday, with the new year just around the corner. my secret santa turned out to be amanda (i'm glad i never asked her who her secret santa recipient was), and she gave me a little cardinal that makes a squeaky sound when you shake it (cardinals don't actually sound like that in real life) and an ecological trivia game. after seeing the cardinal, it wasn't hard for me to easily guess that amanda must be my secret santa (cardinals are our little inside joke, since st.louis has two sports teams named cardinals, and amanda can draw a mean cardinal if you ever ask her to).

(top l-r) amy, amanda, (anuj), eliza, john, michael, lisa, sarah, christine, rebecca; (bottom l-r) james, liz, matthew, et al.

the only blemish on an otherwise very joyous secret santa exchange was the fact that none of the three freelancers were asked to participate. what made it even more awkward was we did the exchange with them present in the room. while we were all laughing and getting presents, they sat with their backs to us working. i don't know, the holiday's about sharing, and it seemed very selfish of our company to cut out the freelancers like that. so it goes without saying that later that day when we had our holiday lunch at the harvest in harvard square, the freelancers weren't there as well.

immediately after the exchange paula and i went to the galleria to visit the apple store. elias had told me about it last week, but the news had completely slipped my head. it was only during the weekend when i was watching up on my mac news online when i saw the announcement of the grand opening of the apple store. by the time we left it was snowing heavily outside and when we got to the mall we were covered in snow. not even bad weather can stop us from seeing the new apple store however! when we got there, the first thing we wanted to see was the ipod. i think it's very cool, especially the thumbwheel, but i was expecting it to be more spaceform in design, but instead it felt like a wedge of clear acrylic. still a great product luxury item however, although a little too rich for my blood. if i had $400, i'm getting the airport. the thing about the apple store that struck me the most was how antiseptic it was. so clean, so much space, more like a museum than a store. it can be intimidating! fortunately there are apple store employees to help you out at every corner, although they got a little too helpful, bombarding us with several "can i help you with anything?" during our visit there. paula bumped into an old computertown repairman buddy of hers, now working at the apple store. with our appetite of oogling apple products satiated, we returned to the office, once again covered completely in falling snow.

noontime we headed over to the harvest in harvard square. i must've passed this restaurant a million times in my visits to harvard square over the years, but i've never been here before. we had a great seat, right by the window, and with the snow falling outside (although it was hard to see, the path leading to the restaurant is sort of in an enclosed alleyway), it was a very magically festive mood. the company covered two long tables and a circular table. the bosses sat at the round table, one long table was mostly guys, the other long table all ladies. as the only true single full time male employee of srm, i felt it was my prerogative to seat myself at the ladies table, which was exactly what i did.

before we sat down we were presented with presents courtesy of srm. everyone got a bag full of treats, one of the treats being a gift certificate of a generous sum for the galleria mall. this caught me completely off guard, i totally wasn't expecting anything more from the company other than giving us a free lunch. a welcomed surprise, to say the least! later there was a hushed discussion amongst the ladies as to whether or not they should be drinking in the middle of the day, if they had to go back to work. but in the end, the desire to consume spirits won over any hopes of sobriety. as for myself, i busied my liquid intake with water and ginger ale.

eliza, who sat next to me, would every 20 minutes or so take off her sweater because she was too hot, but then 20 minutes later put it back on because she was too cold. i don't remember much of our lunch conversations at the table. there was another discussion about book clubs, some talk on how cheap property is in canada (and how good the standard of living there is), and rebecca humored everyone with her spring break hedonism story. paula and amanda got busted in the bathroom, plotting to not return to work, when they discovered rose was in one of the stalls. it was only 3:30pm when the party came to a close.

after the lunch, i went with amanda, carrie, and rebecca to do a little christmas shopping in harvard square. it was dark and cold, the snow had ended but now it was raining lightly. a miserable night (actually still afternoon), but present searching can't stop because of some bad weather. i bought some scented soups for my sister from jasmine sola, and some hot sauces for my uncle matthew from cardullos. that still leaves my mother, father, 2nd aunt, grandmother, and my other aunt. five gifts. i've got 8 more days. we also spent some considerable time in urban outfitters, where carrie bought a jacket. i amused myself with hats and got yelled at for taking a photo in the store ("sorry, no photos!" said one of the guys, although he wasn't looking at me but rather this totally confused woman who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time - the only reason why she got busted was because i accidently took a flash photo).

later carrie drove us all home, where everyone learned that i am a very nervous front seat passenger (i think they also call that being a backseat driver). carrie dropped off rebecca first then drove me home, taking amanda back to the office to get her bag and then taking her home as well.