Sunday, October 28, 2012

A hurricane's a comin'!

So. A hurricane is approaching Washington (and basically everyone in the mid-Atlantic). Perhaps you've heard?

I'm ready, I guess. Water reserves obtained. Assorted flashlights and lanterns and my End Of The World Box* freshly battery-ed up and ready to go. Non-perishables in the pantry.  AC unit removed from the window. Car stowed in a hotel parking garage down the street (and costing me a small fortune, though obviously far less than it would cost to replace a windshield or something). A 900-page book to finish and a stack of unread magazines at the ready.

*The End Of The World Box (not its real name) is this all-in-one contraption that includes a radio, tiny TV, LED lantern, siren, and who knows what else, given to me by my mother SEVEN YEARS ago and not used since except, occasionally, to listen to 'Wait Wait Don't Tell Me' on Saturday morning.

Last night, we sat outside eating frozen yogurt, staring at the sky. It's an odd feeling, just sitting around waiting for something to happen. Since we've been expecting the (HISTORIC! UNPRECEDENTED! HUGE IN DIAMETER!) storm for days, we've all had time to prepare (obviously a good thing), but also time to panic (for those who are prone to such things) or fluctuate between varying degrees of malaise and mild concern (me). My area of town almost NEVER loses power (during snowstorms or whatever), but I'm sure no one will be spared this time. (At least it's not 95 degrees and humid, or mid-January and freezing!)

In the 11 years I've lived in DC, I've experienced both Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and last summer's derecho, so I'm trying to reconcile this with those experiences. But Isabel was during college, when I was young and oblivious and living in the dorms, and the derecho last summer--while extremely destructive--only lasted a few hours. This is going to be different.

So, here I sit, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Let's get this over with. Stay safe, ya'll.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An open letter to tourists visiting Washington, DC

Dear visitors,

Hello! Welcome to Washington. I hope you enjoy your stay. 

DC is a wonderful place to experience with kids. My parents brought my sister and me to Washington for the first time when we were in elementary school. We had a fabulous time, and I even decided to attend college here and make it my home after graduation. That said, while I think it's awesome that you and your three hellions adorable children have decided to visit my beloved city, allow me to offer you some words of wisdom that will keep me from wanting to kick your ass make your trip more enjoyable.

DC's subway system is great. If your kids are anywhere like I was at their age, they'll find it more entertaining than most of the actual museums and monuments. You'll want to take it everywhere. But when you do, please, listen to the announcements. When the train operator says "doors closing," he's not kidding! They're closing! They're not like elevator doors that will re-open if you (or your backpack or stroller or your child's head--seriously, I've seen it) is in the way! GET OUT OF THE WAY. And, for pete's sake, don't try to hold the doors open. Know why? Because you will break them! This is a surefire way to get a train full of riders REALLY pissed at you, because they will offload the entire train and make everyone wait until a new train arrives. And guess what? When that new train arrives, it will be EVEN MORE FULL than before because now there are TWO trains-worth of people on it. So, please: don't block the doors. It's not hard.

Once you've gotten safely onto the train--congratulations!--and the doors have closed without incident, please HOLD ON. Don't be too cool for school or too good for the handrails, because inevitably YOU will be that jackass who loses his balance and falls over when the train starts moving, landing in the lap of the lady next to you or knocking over 15 other passengers who are just trying to read The Economist or Fifty Shades of Grey on their Kindles. The handrails are there for a reason. We are all using them. You should, too. And hold onto your kids (and make THEM hold the rails), lest they go flying across the car and whack their heads on an armrest or something. Just hold on. Please.

Mazel tov! You've made it to your destination. Now that you've disembarked, make your way out of the station. The Metro station agents are happy to give you directions if you're unsure which exit to use. Inevitably, you'll take an escalator to get up to ground level. But for the love of all that is holy, people, when you get to the top of the escalator, DO NOT JUST STAND THERE! Look, I'm sorry for getting all caps-lock-y about this, but HELLO. There are five hundred people right behind you. You are blocking ALL OF THEM. MOVE YO'SELF OUT OF THE WAY. We understand that you may need to consult a map/iPhone/sign/the North Star to figure out which direction you need to walk to get to the Air and Space Museum or the nearest Starbucks (or, in my neighborhood, the National Zoo). But must you do it directly at the top of the escalator? No. Your iPhone will work just as well if you move six feet to the side. 

Please, don't let this scare you away from using the Metro. It's a great resource that is by far the best way to see the sights. All that we, the residents of DC and the surrounding suburbs, ask is that you use some common sense. There are 700,000-some people just trying to get to work without incident. We're happy you're here, and we'll happily point you in the right direction or recommend a restaurant. We think it's wonderful that your children have the opportunity to visit such a culturally-rich place. We love DC, and we want you to as well. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Obligatory "what I've been reading" report

Like most of the U.S., we had a record-breaking heat streak over the last couple of weeks, with 11 days above 95 degrees and heat indexes (indices?) over 110. It was ridiculous. I stepped outside yesterday morning to a downright cool 75 degrees with a light breeze, and I nearly wept with joy.

The good thing about it being too hot to move is that I haven't felt the least bit guilty about taking to my couch with the AC on full blast and a book on my lap. Up to this month I'd been keeping pace with my annual book goal (60 books in 2012, up from 50 in 2011, but just barely. Over the last few days, I'm finally ahead again.

I'm currently 34 books down. Here are some of my favorites from the year so far:

State of Wonder (Ann Patchett): My book club read this book by the author of Bel Canto (among other things) earlier this year, a fascinating tale of a pharmaceutical researcher who heads deep into the Amazon in search of her mentor, who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug. Amazon describes it as "a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals ... where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side." Great description, gripping book.

The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern): Man, this book is beautiful. The story of a magical circus that appears out of thin air and a duel between Celia and Marco, two young magicians who have been trained by two rival instructors. The imagery is breathtaking, and the story is enthralling. I didn't want it to end.

Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand): The true story of Louis Zamperini reads like a thriller: an Air Force bomber pilot crashes over the Pacific during World War II, survives weeks on the open water while battling sharks, a floundering raft, debilitating thirst and starvation, and enemy airplanes, only to be captured and imprisoned by the Japanese.

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green): I quite literally read this book in five hours. The author is one of the two guys who wrote the awesome Will Grayson, Will Grayson (which I read last year), and I'm now firmly on the read-everything-John-Green-has-ever-written train. Yes, it's about teenagers with cancer, but it's also funny, irreverant, and raw. This is my #1 favorite so far this year.

Other stuff I've read and enjoyed:

The first two Game of Thrones books (George R.R. Martin): They take for-ev-er to read, but they're good.

The first two novels of The Spellman Files (Lisa Lutz): Totally enjoyable fluff, perfect for the beach or for when you've just spent weeks on a massive, dark Game of Thrones tome.

Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You: Holly is a big Tropper fan, and it's not hard to see why.

So tell me--what are you reading and loving this summer? I head to the beach soon, so I'm amassing my stock of books for the week.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

On being busy (or...not)

Last week, I read a piece in The New York Times that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. Titled "The 'Busy' Trap," it examined the culture of "busyness" and the premium our society places on always having something to do, always going going going.

"If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence."

The article struck a chord with me, but not because I'm one of the busy ones. In fact, I'm decidedly the opposite. 

"I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know."

Much of the time, I'm not really busy at all. Because I like it that way, and I actively schedule free time into my week. But I often find myself telling people I'm busy, however, not because I particularly care myself that I'm not busy, but because my friends are always busy--and always talking about it--and by comparison I feel lazy. Like they are somehow "better" or "more fulfilled" or something. I hadn't even realized that until I read the article.  "How've you been?" people ask me. "Oh, you know. Busy. Lots going on," I'll respond without thinking.

Sure, there are times of year where I am truly, legitimately busy. But more often than not, I have plenty of free time. 

I like idleness. I always have, and I think it's largely because of my love of reading. My idleness is never really all that idle, because there's always a book to read (or a DVR'd Modern Family to watch, or a crossword to do), and that is--to me--enjoyable. Yes, it's leisure time, but I also view reading as educational and a sort of personal growth. And more than that, it's healthy.

The Times article pleased me a lot, not just because it removes the negative stigma from idleness, but because it frames it as a key component in mental health.

"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."

Anyway, it's a compelling argument that made me stop and think (and a lot of other people too, apparently--it made its way around Facebook like wildfire, and it received over 800 comments on the Times website). What about you? Are you the go-go-go type, or do you revel in idleness?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday roundup

Wow, a lot happened this week in the world. Here are a few articles that caught my eye:

As a lifelong singer--in church, in choirs, in the car, on any possible occasion that might annoy my friends--this is fascinating. (Hat tip to Mom for sending me this one.)

I was crushed when I heard about the death of Nora Ephron, writer of some of my favorite movies and some of my most quoted lines ("Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash." "Who belongs to this fish?"). This tribute by Lena Dunham, one of today's brightest young female writer/directors, is beautiful.

Regardless of where you come down on the healthcare debate, this piece on the Chief Justice is really thought-provoking.

And finally, amidst the flurry of people threatening to move to Canada because of the healthcare ruling (See ya! Enjoy their socialized medicine! Don't let the door hit you on the way out!), someone tweeted this gem (which may only make sense if you've made it to the end of the Harry Potter series).

Happy weekend, ya'll. If you're, oh, anywhere in the continental U.S., try not to melt.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In which I sacrifice my dignity for free desserts

Thursday, 4:15pm. Outside temperature: 95 degrees. My boss comes ambling into my office.

JK: I'm thinking about a frozen yogurt run.
Me: Yeah?
JK: Are you interested? I'll buy--
Me: Sure!
JK: --if you go get it.
Me: ..... 
JK: [Grins; looks at me encouragingly]
Me: You see, THIS is why people think I'm your assistant.* 
JK: ... Is that a no?
Me: No, I'll go. I mean, free yogurt.

*My title is Assistant Director, but he enjoys telling people that I'm Assistant to the Director.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Heard/Photo Wednesday: Partying with celery

During Annie's wedding in Iowa, I found myself--once again--skipping the cake and consuming large quantities of raw celery. So naturally, I had to document it for my colleague, who once pointed out my frequent commentary on crudite consumption. 

Me, mid-dance: Jay! I need to you take a picture of me with this celery.
Jason: ... Seriously?
Me: Yes. Please post it to Facebook right now.
Jason: ... 

Bad lighting, good veggies
Nobody can ever accuse me of not knowing how to have a good time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Honestly, I can't believe I just listened to a Captain & Tennille song

I've been listening to NPR's Songs of Summer 1962-2012 mix nonstop at work for the last week, largely because it's one of the most enjoyable compilations of songs I've come across in a while. (Jules wrote about it last week.)That said, given its long timespan and broad array of songs included, some of the transitions are pretty amusing. My favorites:

Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" ---> Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Candyman" ---> the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Mo Money Mo Problems"

"Glory of Love [Theme from 'The Karate Kid'] ---> Gnarl's Barkley's "Crazy" ---> Hanson's "MMMBop"

Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together" ---> Sean Paul's "Get Busy" 

The Bee Gee's "How Do You Mend A Broken Heart" ---> Carly Rae Jepson's "Call Me Maybe" 

Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" ---> Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods' "Billy, Don't Be a Hero"

Eminem's "Without Me" ---> Jim Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" ---> Beyonce's "Bootylicious"

Huey Lewis & The News' "The Power of Love" ---> Backstreet Boys' "Everybody [Backstreet's Back]"

The Carpenters' "Close to You ---> The Vengaboys' "We Like to Party!"

Stevie Wonder & Paul McCartney's "Ebony & Ivory" ---> Nelly's "Hot in Herre"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer cold, summer hot, summer Olympics

I've spent most of the last four days shut up in my apartment, avoiding the oppressive heat and trying to kick the cold I brought back from Iowa. I took a sick day and everything! Happily, this has coincided with my acquisition of HBO (the better to watch Aaron Sorkin's new show The Newsroom) and, thus, HBO onDemand, so I've watched the entire first seasons of Girls, Veep, and Game of Thrones. But you know what else was on all weekend?

The OLYMPIC TRIALS, that's what. And, well, you know how I feel about the Olympics. It's been exhaustively documented here and here and here and, wow, I really write about this a lot, don't I?

Anyway, the diving and track-and-field trials were this weekend, and the swimming (my favorite!) starts tonight and runs on NBC in primetime all week, with some gymnastics thrown in for good measure. These are particularly important, as I must find a new Olympics boyfriend, since my longtime love Aaron Peirsol has retired. Ryan Lochte is in the running (and I don't yet know whether Pieter van den Hoogenbandenbergenwhatever is competing), but we need to see who else is out there.

Luckily, the first full week of the Olympics is during our family beach week, which means I don't have to worry about it affecting my sleep cycle (and job performance) as much this year.

What about you? Do you prefer the winter games (ski jumping! figure skating!! short-track speed skating!!! biathlon!!!??!) or the summer (swimming! gymnastics! diving! decathlon!)? I can never decide.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A comprehensive list of items in the top drawer of my desk


Clockwise-ish from top left:

Teas (assorted): Bentley's, Celestial Seasonings, Bigelow, Throat Coat. What's your poison? I've probably got it here. Also some sort of gourmet chocolate tea, which Ashley sent home with me from Saint Louis last fall and which am guarding like it's the damn Ring of Endor.....Is that a thing? From Lord of the Rings? Or, wait, is it Mordor? Eh, whatever. I haven't read the books.

Apple cider vinegar (one bottle): from the time I was having killer acid reflux and read somewhere to dilute it in water and drink it (PSA, if you're thinking of trying it: it didn't really help, and it tasted pretty unpleasant.)

Zicam Chewables (one box, minus one chewable), which I bought last year when I had a cold, popped one into my mouth, spit it out in horror, and have not touched since, despite the fact that they were like $12 or some absurd cost

Lindt Lindor Truffles (1 bag) with only the white chocolate ones (which I dislike) remaining

Ritz crackers (1/3 sleeve), stale and mostly crushed 

Potato chips, classic (two bags)

Danish butter cookies (large tin): obviously I need to eat something with all that tea

Blue tissue paper (one package) and white ribbon (remnants of one spool): What, don't you keep your gift wrapping supplies near your vinegar?

Trail mix (one bag, half eaten)

Cheez-It Snack Mix 100 Calorie Right-Bites (one bag), stolen from a board meeting yesterday

Welch's Berries n' Cherries fruit snacks, with exactly two fruit snacks remaining in bag

* * * * * 
Not visible in photo:

Gladware with one stale cookie, sent home with me by my grandmother after a visit sometime in 2010 (it wasn't stale at the time, of course)

Apple juice (one bottle)

CD, Bach's B Minor Mass

Memoir titled Safe Passage

Coupons for Subway, expired

Seven pieces of Dolle's Taffy from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, which the president of our company brings back from vacation every year for the staff and I only take out of politeness, even though I can't stand taffy

Monday, June 18, 2012

My kind of town

I got back late last night after a late flight from O'Hare, on which my seatmate was a lovely girl who happened to be reading the exact same book I am (A Clash of Kings, for those who are wondering). She also happened to be a nervous flyer, a fact that she mentioned as we watched assorted emergency vehicles assembling on the tarmac as our plane taxied out for takeoff. (Apparently there was a problem with an incoming flight, though I'm assuming it ended okay, as I've seen no headlines about distressed planes today.) She understated it just a hair ("I don't like flying much."), though, because about 20 minutes into the flight, as I was settling into a light doze amid some very slight turbulence, I felt a hand grab my arm. The poor girl was clearly freaking out. So I spent the entire flight making conversation, talking her off the ledge ("Well, the flight attendants are serving drinks. They wouldn't be doing that if the plane was in trouble."), and generally distracting her. 

I got home at 1am. So much for sleeping on the plane.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Photo Wednesday: Three Rivers

At the end of May, my family convened in Pennsylvania to celebrate my cousin Daniel's high school graduation, including an amazing dinner at the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto atop Pittsburgh's Mount Washington. The views of the city couldn't have been better.

City of bridges

Heinz Field, home of our beloved Steelers

Sparkly! (PNC field on the left, where a Pirates game was taking place)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Broadway, baby!

So I went to New York last week. Ashley, who was headed there with a friend for a theater trip, had called me just a couple of weeks prior to invite me along. Though I was to be in Pittsburgh for a few days to celebrate my cousin's high school graduation, I decided I could squeeze in a couple of days in the city and a show or two. So, for the second spring in a row, Ash and I started making New York plans.

Unlike last year, however, I was basically crashing Ashley and Dustin's (her friend from St. Louis) trip, so I was pretty much along for the ride. "There will be no sleeping in on this trip. Up and at 'em every morning to stand in lines," she warned me, referring to the lines for the TKTS discount ticket booths. But that was fine, so I bought my BoltBus tickets, and off I went. During the mere 48 hours I was there, we managed to:

  • See two plays and a musical:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Heard: Easter edition

Discussing Easter plans for with my boss who has two small, superhero-obsessed sons

JK: We're doing Spiderman Easter eggs. 
Me: Just as the Lord intended.

Happy Easter weekend, ya'll.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Better (really really really really) late than never

You all remember my Great Wall of Shame, right? The wall that has been blank--save for a framed cover of Survivor's Eye of the Tiger album (long story)--for the 4.5 years I've lived in my apartment? The wall for which I've had actual plans for four of those 4.5 years, and yet never actually took up a hammer and hung anything?

Well, about three weeks ago, this happened:

Hark! There are things! On the wall!

I didn't document the process, as there are eleventy billion websites with instructions on assembling a gallery wall, but once I gave up my must-know-exactly-what-I-want-to-display-and-plan-it-perfectly hang up (heh) and just stuck things in frames, it went fairly smoothly. It's not perfectly centered, and I'm planning to replace a couple of the snapshots and even add more, if I ever get around to getting new prints made (maybe in another 4.5 years), but I'm pretty happy with it. The wall is no longer blank! Victory is mine.

Next up: rearranging/redecorating the bedroom. Yikes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A to Zed

I'm not usually a big fan of the internet meme, but it's been a long week, and this seems good for a lazy Friday afternoon.  (Hat tip to Jules, who got it from Leah.)

A. Age: 28
B. Bed size: Full
C. Chore that you hate: Cleaning out the fridge. Usually I just wait until Jules visits and she does it for me. (Kidding. Sort of.)
D. Dogs: Love 'em, but don't have any.  I have dog yearning the way some women have baby yearnings.
E. Essential start to your day: Juice, preferably orange or cranberry.
F. Favorite color: Yellow, unless I have to wear it.
G. Gold or Silver: Silver, though I've started wearing gold jewelry on occasion.
H. Height: I always say 5'8", but in reality I'm a hair shorter than that.
I. Instruments you play: Piano, french horn, recorder (seriously!). I'll also rock a xylophone if given the chance.
J. Job title: Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications (My boss likes to refer to me as Assistant "to the" Director, etc, like Dwight from The Office in reverse. I've assured him that someday it will come back to bite him.)
K. Kids: 0
L. Live: Washington, DC
M. Mother's name: Susan/Sue to most people, Mom to me, Miss Sue to her students
N. Nicknames: Too many to list. Hannie to some; Pannie to Jules and her family; Arbadella, Poindexter, and #1 to my grandfather at various times; and assorted things related to my last name.
O. Overnight hospital stays: Um. One? Maybe?  When I had my tonsils out? I honestly don't remember.
P. Pet peeves: People who leave their dishes in the sink at work. People who don't hang up their wet bath towels properly AHEM GRETCHEN. The people in my neighborhood who leave six feet in between their car and the next one, thus decreasing the number of available parking spots on our street.
Q. Quote from a movie: "The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize." (Steel Magnolias"Mutual, I'm sure." (White Christmas)
R. Right- or left-handed: Right
S. Siblings: One sister 
U. Underwear: I'm... in favor of it? (How do I answer this?) 
V. Vegetable(s) you hate:  I like most of 'em, I just can't get behind lima beans. Too waxy or something.
W. What makes you run late: Inability to get out of bed in the morning.
X. X-Rays you've had: Wrist (broken). Chest (asthma). Dental (annually). 
Y. Yummy food that you make: I'm good with soups.  I think I get it from Mom.
Z. Zoo animal: Lions and bengal tigers. They're so beautiful.

Happy Friday, all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Recently, on Twitter (part C)

Of all the Brit-ified word spellings, the one that most amuses me is "yoghurt." Possibly because I always read it in Alan Rickman's voice.

Right now I'm really regretting not liberating more of those brownies from [Val's] kitchen last night. #superbowl

Was asked to set up Downton Abbey Lunch/Viewing Party & now my inbox is flooded w responses to the all-staff meeting request. I love my job.

OH at Starbucks earlier: "Tebow has God on his side, apparently." "Yeah, but Brady has Giselle on his." #patriots #broncos

Void dire would be a lot more enjoyable if one of the attorneys looked like Will Gardner. @MrJoshCharles #juryduty

My excitement about my huge new "Harry Potter From Page to Screen" book is rather unseemly for a woman of my advanced age, but whatever.

The advantage of watching The Nutcracker in your own home is that you can reenact all the dances from when YOU were in it 18 years ago.

Highlight of day: getting 2012 desk planner for work. Am gleefully adding appointments and events and birthdays. Am SUCH a nerd.

Was literally putting on coat to head home when I found chocolate cake in the kitchen. Back at my desk, eating it with a spoon. #fail #yum

I'm one of the 99%, but if the Occupy DC protestors are even remotely responsible for this traffic mess, I hope they ALL get arrested.

This "relaxing & reviving" cherry/cinnamon tea would be more effective if I wasn't petrified of spilling bright red liquid everywhere.

There's nothing like dropping many, many dollars on new tires to take the luster off of adulthood.

IT IS SNOWING ARE YOU KIDDING ME.  [Ed. Note: It was October.  Relatedly, it is now February, and today it was 56 degrees.]

Look, just because we're nearing 30 yrs old doesn't mean we're not going to sort each other into #HarryPotter houses over wine.

Watching football in sweats and simultaneously breaking in my gold platform bridesmaid heels. #classy #multitasking

Wow, I really don't know how I feel about this whole coconut water phenomenon.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Heard: Super Bowl commercial edition

Me: Every time I see the ad for that new show Smash, I think, 'Jay's going to love this.'
Jay: (sarcastically) Oh yeah, that one's going on my DVR for sure.
Me: I figured.  That and a flying bear documentary, right?
Jay: Let's not joke about that.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Heard: lunchtime conversations

S: Aw man, they [the takeout place] put a ton of bean sprouts in my soup.
Me: I actually like bean sprouts. 
C: Me too.
Me: You know what else I like?
C: Celery.
Me: .... How did you--?
C: You talk about celery a lot.
Me: I talk about celery a lot?
C: Kind of.
Me: [aghast] 
C: "I love celery! I sit next to it at parties."
Me: I-- that's-- huh.  I have actually said that before.
C: Yep.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

On passports and Pinterest

I woke up this morning in a panic about renewing my passport.

It took a minute to get my bearings. Where am I? In bed. Am I late for work? No, it's Saturday. There's snow on the ground. Go back to sleep. But my passport! What about it? It's expired. So? So, I need it! Why? For the trip to Italy!

... The what?  Then I remembered a lengthy and rather vivid dream wherein I was preparing for a trip to Italy and for which i would obviously need my passport. It  was at this point that I realized that I shouldn't peruse Pinterest right before going to bed. I had been pinning stuff to my "Places to Visit" board, and obviously it was messing with my subconscious.

This morning, of course, I can't stop thinking about planning trips, despite the fact that, given last year's excessive travel, I  recently implemented the Air Travel Moratorium of 2012 (Except For When Necessitated By Weddings), which is a key part of Austerity Measures 2012, in which I tighten the reins on my bank account.

I'm mixing my metaphors a little, but you get the idea.

So: any thoughts on cheap but awesome trips to take this year--preferably within driving distance of D.C.?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Life List: Memorize 25 Poems (#2)

For Christmas my grandparents gave me Good Poems, an anthology of poetry edited by Garrison Keillor. I've been reading a poem a day, and this one made me laugh.

By Arthur Guiterman

No matter what we are and who,
Some duties everyone must do. 

A Poet puts aside his wreath
To wash his face and brush his teeth,

    And even Earls
    Must comb their curls,

   And even Kings
   Have underthings.

Moo points

Despite initially poo-poohing the whole blogging thing, my sister has joined the ranks of the navel-gazing elite (and has become the second member of the family with a blog referencing a Friends episode).  

Welcome to the interwebs, G! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Life List: Learn to make Yorkshire Pudding

Of the assorted nationalities that comprise my family tree--French, German (I...think?), Irish, English, who knows what else--I'd say the one that I felt most tied to growing up was English. This was in large part because my great-grandfather, who I remember a little, immigrated from England, and my grandmother still has family there who I have met. Both my grandmother and great aunt, despite having lived in the U.S. their whole lives, still have distinctly British qualities about them--habits, preferences, etc--many of which have rubbed off on me.

Not the least of these is a deep and abiding love of Yorkshire pudding. England is not exactly known for its dazzling cuisine, at least in comparison to the rich traditions of places like France or Italy, but no food says England to me quite like a traditional English Roast: roast beef, roasted veggies, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy.  During my semester abroad, I spent many Sunday mornings exploring the various churches and cathedrals in London, returning home for lunch at our local pub, which--like many pubs--boasted a delicious Sunday roast dinner.

For Christmas this year, we decided to forgo the usual turkey with all the trimmings and, instead, pull out another family favorite: roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.  And since learning to make Yorkshire pudding is on my Life List, it seemed like the perfect time to give it a go.  So I enlisted my father, our resident Yorkshire pudding-making expert, to teach me (with some assistance from the Joy of Cooking). And as it turns out, it's pretty easy to make, so without further ado....

Yorkshire Pudding
Traditionally, Yorkshire pudding was cooked in the same pan as the roast, allowing the drippings to fall into the batter as it cooked.  It was also used as a sort of "filler" course amongst poorer families who couldn't afford much meat.  Nowadays it serves as the starch, alongside the roast, root vegetables, and gravy. We also double the usual recipe, because you can never have too much Yorkshire pudding.  There were five of us at Christmas dinner, and we ate every last crumb of it.

Start with all your ingredients at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The year in review

True to form, I'm a few weeks late on the annual year in review post, which has popped up in various forms all over the blogosphere, including on Holly's blog and Jules' too.  I had planned to do it during jury duty the week after New Years, but instead I was picked for a panel and found myself sitting through a seemingly endless voir dire process. But better late than never! Perhaps that shall be my mantra for 2012.  Here we go...

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Lots of things! Booked a trip on a whim. Ate a $200 meal. Watched my sister get married.  Went to a Red Sox game. Set an ambitious goal and met it. Dropped a lot of dollars on car repair. 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions? 
Well. Yes and yes/no-ish.  I set a goal to read 50 books in 2011, and I totally did it, ya'll! Ten points, Gryffindor. I shall be blogging about that shortly.

The other resolution was to go join a gym and go regularly. And I did! Four times a week....for a month (it was March). And then I let my membership lapse.  But I rejoined last week. 2012 is the year, folks! 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? work friends count? If so, then yes: two people.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?
No other countries, but I traveled quite a bit domestically, mostly with or to visit friends or family, or for weddings (SO MANY WEDDINGS): New York City; Pennsylvania; New Jersey; Florida; South Carolina; Tennessee; Boston and Vermont; Norfolk/Williamsburg, VA; West Virginia; Saint Louis; and Georgia.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Better self-discipline with regard to a) going to the gym and b) finances.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
November 5: the day my sister got married.
October 22: the day my best friend from childhood, who i hadn't seen or spoken to for three years, got married in a tiny, perfect backyard wedding (with a bonfire!)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Honestly, I'm pretty proud of the book thing, minor as it may be. It feels good to have stayed on track with something for the whole year, even if it is something that I love and that comes naturally to me.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Biggest? Well, I don't know about that, but i most regret fizzling out at the gym. And it started out SO WELL.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Aside from a handful of colds, and the Mysterious Leg Weirdness of Summer/Fall 2011, not really.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My iPad! Tickets to Company in New York, which led to an awesome trip. The perfect black cigarette pants. Le Creuset for G's wedding, which got the reaction I was hoping for ("Shut the front door. Are you kidding me?!"). Gorgeous shoes, marked down to $17, my size, and the only pair left.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Travel. Weddings. Unexpected car issues (new tires and smashed mirrors).

13. What did you get really excited about?
Travel plans and visits with friends and family. My sister's wedding.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," which--while awesome--was on the radio ALL THE TIME, and Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory," mainly because of that righteous sax solo.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?
Same. Same. Poorer (see also: all those weddings. It was an expensive year).

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Kept up with the regular gym-going (are you sensing a pattern?).  Better meal-planning.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Frivolous spending.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In Tennessee with my parents/sister/brother-in-law, and then in Georgia with the grandparents/aunts-n-uncles/cousins.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
There was a lot of good TV this year, but Modern Family, New Girl, and The Good Wife stand out. And I became OBSESSED with Downton Abbey.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
Again, a post is forthcoming on the many books I read this year (get excited!), but the ones that most stuck with me were Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna, and, for sheer can't-put-it-down-ness, The Hunger Games trilogy.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
Adele's entire 21 album. New discovery Laura Marling. The Milk Carton Kids-- I will be forever grateful to Luke for pointing out their free-to-download albums.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
I saw more movies this year than usual...but i really don't remember what they were. I really enjoyed Crazy Stupid Love. And I finally watched the last Harry Potter movie, though technically I watched it on the second day of 2012.  But other than that...?

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I spent a perfect, low-key 28th birthday (the best kind!) at our local bar & grill with a bunch of friends.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Wow. I really can't think of anything. It was a pretty excellent year, all things considered.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Whatever is clean.

....Oh, you want more than that? Ballet flats. Cardigans. Scarves. Lots of dresses all year. Lots of boots in the fall/winter. I just...wear what I like on a given day. But that's true every year, not just in 2011.

26. What kept you sane?
Reading. My friends and family. Lots of tea.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Always, always have something to look forward to.

Oh, and WebMD is the enemy.