Friday, July 31, 2009

Love and Politics (and Most Beautiful)

Many years ago in graduate school, I teamed up with a nice guy named Martin for a semester-long project. Smart guy with a dry sense of humor, family-focused, outdoorsy... "I'm running for City Council next year," he told me. And so he did, and he became a progressive voice on an Albuquerque Council that dealt with housing policy, community-based planning measures, living wage matters, and the like. We kept in touch over the years through local politics, and Martin (by that time Councilor Martin Heinrich) became a key ally of mine on a transit project I was working on in Albuquerque.

Fast-forward to one dark and stormy (not really... but felt that way) night in the spring of 2006, when I met a cute guy who was working on the congressional campaign of then-NM Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who was trying to unseat the wretched Heather Wilson (a nightmare of an elected official who'd held New Mexico's 1st District for far too long). That cute guy and I dated for months, through a tiring campaign for him and a lot of Big Life Questions for me. The election ended badly - a mind-numbing (weeeeeks long) recount that ended up naming incumbent Heather Wilson the winner by 879 votes. On the bright side, I eventually married the cute campaign worker, so there's that. ;-)

Fast-forward two more years to 2008: Guess who decided to run for the very same congressional seat that we so narrowly lost in 2006? You got it: my former classmate Martin, who by that time was Council President. By 2008, I was living in Dallas, but I helped out with Martin's campaign when I could, including flying back to Albuquerque to co-host a fundraiser (really an excuse to eat lots of green chile, but hey, 'twas for a good cause!). We eventually decided to spend Election Day 2008 in a place close to our hearts (sorry, Texas) and spent the day getting out the vote for Martin and Obama in Albuquerque's South Valley. That night was amazing - surrounded by people I love, seeing this absolutely historic presidential win, and cheering on a bright, young, dedicated progressive that I just happened to know as he was elected to Congress.

Had a Democrat won that seat in 2006, who knows what might have changed for Trevor and me... But she didn't win, and the loss was heartbreaking, and we moved to Dallas instead of DC, and a friend of mine won the seat in the very next election cycle instead. Funny, huh?

This is all backstory to introduce U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich (D-NM). He was elected president of the 111th Congress' freshman Dems this year; he's been fighting the good fight since his arrival and making his New Mexico district (and me) proud. But guess why I'm chuckling about good 'ol Martin today? Because this just happened:

Ha ha ha... oh yes. That's "our" (I know I'm not in the NM-01 district anymore, but I consider myself honorary at this point) congressman, my former classmate, who was just named The Most Beautiful Person on Capitol Hill.

That, folks, is a happy ending* for everyone. ;-)

* just the beginning of Martin's fight for progressive values in Congress, mark my words... but "ending" for the sake of blog post closure and all

Friday I'm in Love

Here's what tickled my fancy this week:

Teddy: In His Own Words

This HBO documentary about Senator Ted Kennedy hits all the right notes, and reminds us of why his moniker "Lion of the Senate" is an accurate one. Kennedy's lifelong fight for healthcare and his stalwart defensive of progressive ideals is often forgotten by those who only follow the tabloid-ism of politics. Here, controversy isn't glazed over, but given just the right treatment: as blips in a life of public service marked by unimaginable tragedy and a will to soldier on.

The Modified Full Skirt

I've been hoping for a return to A-line skirts for ages, as the popular flounced skirts of recent history make me look like an unfortunate 1950s teenager. Finally, there's a new skirt shape in stores that I love, a hybrid of the full and A-line looks: flounced just enough to be flirty and fun, but still close to the waist up top for a flattering fit. My favorite thing about these skirts? They're perfect for work and play, depending on how you dress them up or down. And um, POCKETS. I've been jumping on new pieces since I haven't purchased skirts in ages. My new faves are this Anthropologie skirt (Anthro has been the worst about carrying only flounced-all-to-hell skirts the past couple of years, so hooooray!) and this BR number.

Great Writing

I've been reading Cornbread Nation 1, the first anthology on Southern food writing from the Southern Foodways Alliance (a fantastic organization, by the way). Each chapter is such a gem: my favorite so far uses the tale of competing barbecue sauces from two rival brothers in South Carolina as a metaphor for modern race relations in the South. It's exactly what food writing can and should be. And good news for me - there are three more editions after this one! For another kind of reading, check out this terrific piece of satire, "Bush Frequent Presence at Shopping Mall," where the former president is imagined as a restless retiree annoying food service and retail employees. Hilarious. Good writing cures all for me - even during a workweek from hell like this one. (Hat tip to The Squawker for the original link.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My kinda snacking

I received the new issue of Gourmet yesterday, and I have a question...

What excuse do I need to make these Vodka-Spiked Cherry Tomatoes?

Because I happen to have the most gorgeous pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes on hand. And I definitely have vodka. I feel like I need an event or something, though - one can't just sit around popping vodka-soaked cherry tomatoes into her mouth on a weekday, after all.

Or can she?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shopping PSA: BR Friends & Family!

Proud shopping moment: Overhearing a woman in the Banana Republic fitting room ask the saleswoman if she could put her items on hold until tomorrow, when the 30% off Friends and Family coupon will apply

Prouder shopping moment: Promptly putting the things I wanted to purchase on hold until tomorrow so that I can get 30% off, too

Proudest shopping moment: Frantically googling for the coupon and posting the link to the Friends and Family 30% off coupon right here, so that we can all save 30%

Here's what I have on hold:

Ruffle-front Shirtdress: Perfect for summer workdays in that it's cool and crisp at the same time. Pair with a cardigan and it'll take you right into fall.

Cotton Essential Skirt: In khaki (that color not online) AND black. The shape is great and the material is nice enough for the office, yet paired with a tank it's perfect for the weekends. Really, all the colors are fantastic. Blue... Grey... hmm.... ;-)

Go forth and conquer, folks! The coupon is good for 30% of all purchases at BR (plus Gap and Old Navy) for four days, in-store only, starting tomorrow.

Laziest dinner ever

These "watch me make dinner based on odds and ends in my fridge and pantry" posts sure are getting a lot of mileage lately. Is that because I'm feeling particularly inventive? Nope, just incredibly lazy. (In case there was any confusion about that.) It's hot, work is taking over this week, and I haven't made it to the market in way too long... such is life sometimes, right?

The easiest meals that rely on your pantry come in two forms: beans and pasta. Last night I went the pasta route. Here are the measly ingredients I scrounged from my barren refrigerator:
  • Lemons
  • Basil
  • Two eat-now-or-throw-out heirloom tomatoes
  • Scrap of parmigiano-reggiano
That's it, folks. As in, there was nothing else in the fridge except condiments, beer, limes (for gin and tonics, helloooo) and old takeout that needed to be thrown out. Here's where a well-stocked pantry comes into play. I'm a huge believer in the bulk section of my favorite natural grocer, and my pantry owes quite a bit to The Container Store. Putting in the time and effort to craft a well-stocked pantry is one of the best investments you can make for yourself - eating that way saves time (don't have to go to the market for every ingredient), saves money (it's much cheaper to buy whole foods from bins rather than packaged in the aisles), and gives you taste (these ingredients are also fresher than what you can buy in a box). Last night I pulled out a pound of wheat spaghetti and a couple cloves of garlic and threw together a tasty meal in under ten minutes. Boys night out meant that I was just cooking for myself, so I didn't feel pressured to have meat in the dish (when I lived alone I primarily ate vegetarian meals; these days, I really only eat that way when I'm only cooking for myself, which is strange, I know).

Here you have it, my laziest dinner ever - simple as can be to assemble, but packing huge flavor thanks to the lemon and fresh ingredients.

Fresh lemon spaghetti with tomatoes

Using random ingredients I had on hand:

1 pound wheat spaghetti
Two heirloom tomatoes (one big red, one small yellow), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh basil, chopped (probably 1/2 cup or so)
2 large lemons - zest and juice used
Freshly grated parm (probably 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup olive oil
salt + pepper

While the pasta's cooking, sautée the garlic and chopped tomatoes with a dash of salt, just long enough to bring out the flavors. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, parm, salt, and pepper, then mix with the freshly cooked pasta. Stir in chopped basil and tomatoes. Season to taste, and... done.

And guess what I'll be eating cold for lunch today?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Egregious acts of cuteness

It's 4 pm on a late July afternoon and I'm stuck in the office.

My niece Taylor is sad about that.

(but happy to be modeling a frock from her Aunt Maggie!)

Taylor thinks long and hard about spending a summer day at the office... she is not impressed.

The solution: "Come play with me on the beach instead!"

"The water is warm!"

"Summer is for being a beach bum, silly... not a corporate office drone*!"

*smartest 2-year-old EVER, I tell you

Perfectly balanced

This is how you dress as a couple, folks.

The Obamas arriving at a reception for ambassadors at the White House Monday night

I'm almost positive her dress is Jason Wu. I say that because on Saturday I stopped in front of the Jason Wu display at Nordstrom and literally petted the gowns. This was one of the them. A girl doesn't forget such things.

While I'm getting my crush on the First Lady on, here's something for my favorite guy, who happens to have a crush on William Shatner:

Monday, July 27, 2009

'A Whole lotta happy' about my new poster!

I'm feeling some major hometown love right now.

I first saw this year's fantastic NC State Fair poster design via the IndieNC Blog, which ran an interview with designer Amanda Meares. This poster is right up my alley in every way possible, from the vintage typeface to the earthy colors to the homey feel. Take a look:

A second poster focuses on canning as a way to represent the agricultural heritage of the fair:

After falling head over heels for these designs, I promptly set about trying to win one of the posters to frame at home. While they'll be widely distributed around Raleigh, this long-distance Tarheel could leave nothing to chance by not securing one early. For two months now, I've been stalking the NC State Fair via their blog and Twitter account in hopes of winning one of their poster contests. And this morning... me, a winner!

My walls are eagerly awaiting their new decor. And I am eagerly awaiting late October, when my family has kindly scheduled their traditional fall pig pickin' to coincide with the last weekend of the fair. That way, my travel miles get more bang for the buck... double the NC goodness in one weekend. Trevor has never attended a family pig pickin' or the NC state fair, so it's "fair" to say his life will be forever changed that weekend.

October 23-25, this is what it's all about (vegetarians, shield your eyes):


Best advertising campaign ever?

"Such tragedy could have been easily avoided"

Wptt Contraceptive, via TheDieline.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stubborn Sundays

There are two kinds of Sundays for me. The first kind is my favorite kind: silly, lazy, stretching out and on. Days where the world gives you a slow smile back, where one little moment unfolds into the next with graceful rhythm. If asked, I'd say that Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I like that it's a day of taking stock but also of sizing up. I was married on a Sunday. My favorite newspaper of the week comes on a Sunday. Brunch was made for Sundays, as are lazy nights in.

But Sundays can be the cruelest day, too. I usually know it's going to be one of those Sundays before I even get out of bed. There's a foreboding sense, even before looking at the time, that I should've gotten up earlier, because sleeping in means the day will just go by faster. As one hour turns into the next, there's a feeling of time running out, and I can all but hear the hourglass sand. Monday morning is sitting there on top of it all, squeezing out the space in my lungs and shadowing over even the smallest pleasures. There's no way of working out of a Sunday funk; you just slog through and wait for Monday to come. Which is depressing.

I'm not sure why I wake up some Sundays to this feeling of airlessness. It doesn't have a thing to do with Saturday night (which was terrific) or necessarily about what I'm facing Monday when I get to the office (more annoyances, but nothing terrible). It might be a combined effect of all the small things that are sitting there undone - that other work project I'm neglecting for the more pressing one, the last of the thank you cards, the dirty laundry taking over everything, the fact that post-wedding I can't seem to keep a regular workout schedule, the five or so organization projects that I can't seem to get around to, either.... Maybe it's about something bigger: the knowledge that I'm not doing what I should be doing with my workdays, the bigger problem that I don't know what I should do instead, the distance from our family and oldest friends, the sum of it all.

It's an odd quandary, to feel this lucky and to be this happy, yet still occasionally wake up to these same stubborn Sundays. I wish I knew how to make them feel a little more productive.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday I'm in Love

This week, here's what I'm loving:

(500) Days of Summer

I don't need car chases or explosions in my summer flicks. Dizzying charm and a Brit-pop soundtrack are more my speed. I mean, connecting over "There is a Light That Never Goes Out"? Belle and Sebastian quotes? Could a movie be more fitting for me? Prepare to be charmed by this one; it's as genuine a summer flick as they come.


When I was a teenage girl, I had Mother Jones covers decorating my bedroom and wrote dense and out-of-(teenage)touch editorials in the school newspaper. But if the Internet had been around back then, I would have been an fbomb girl, and oh how these girls make me proud. Rock on ladies!

Shopping for my niece... and my nephew!

For two years now, I've been hitting up my favorite children's clothing stores, turning to the "girl" side of the store, and picking out adorable dresses and cute tops for my niece Taylor. Now that I have a nephew, though, I have the entire store to shop in! Let's leave the debate about how overly gendered children's clothes are for another time... right now, I'm just celebrating all the blue and brown shopping in my future! That's my handsome nephew Liam above modeling a little number he received in the mail from his Aunt Maggie this week. I love spoiling these little ones!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More housekeeping

I decided to move my frivolous little "Wanting" section over on the right sidebar from delicious to Tumblr. I wanted images! The reason I've held off doing so until now is that Tumblr, like so many other fun sites, is blocked at my office. But I think updating on the evenings only is a good tradeoff for the images. :-) Now "Wanting" will send you here.

I'm happy with my "Cooking" section staying on delicious, for now, anyway. I enjoy tagging interesting articles over there, and the recipes seem to work well in between politics, gender, and the rest. ;-) If anyone has another site to recommend for collecting favorite cooking links - one that is publicly accessible as a link - I'd love to hear it. But for now, as before, "Cooking" will send you here.

On both fronts, I now have some link updating to do!

Leftover cooking

There's nothing in the kitchen I like more than relaxing with a slew of fresh produce, a glass of wine, and a brand new recipe. But I have to admit, I often feel more accomplished when I fashion something on-the-fly using the odds and ends left over in my fridge - especially during those moments when there's no time for that glass of wine. Here are two recent examples:

The Need: Substantial side dish that could also stand alone as a hearty lunch the next day
The Solution: Stuffed peppers

We nearly always have red bell peppers on hand, and on this night had the remains of the last farmer's market run in the fridge with them: onion, tomato, lots of fresh herbs, and squash and zucchini. I decided to use 'em all, and did. Everything was diced except for the squash and zucchini, which I grated instead to mix up the textures (I will totally be one of those moms who can hide vegetables from her children if necessary, I have no doubt). I mixed the veggies up with some olive oil, seasoning, and a handful of herbs, combined with cooked wild rice, and I think I stirred in some fresh feta, too. Plop the tops back on those babies and bake. Done! (And then the fridge really was empty.)

The Need: A substantial breakfast that wasn't bread, grits/oatmeal, or an omelet (we were feeling picky)
The Solution: Frittata

We really had barely anything fresh left that morning - not even good-melting cheese (a major shocker for this cheese nut) - but we did have eggs. A frittata is often the perfect solution for this kind of morning. Again, the basics sufficed - we had one red bell pepper, a red onion, a couple of basil leaves, and the end of a parmigiano-reggiano slab. I cooked onion and pepper in a large pan, poured 7 beaten, seasoned eggs that had been combined with julienned basil over top of them, covered with a 1/2 cup or so of freshly grated parm, and let it set in the pan over medium heat. This is as basic a frittata recipe as you can get, adapted from Mark Bittman - for this amount, I might've gone with a smaller pan for a thicker frittata instead, but this worked well, too. I love frittatas because you can vary the basic recipe based on what you have on hand. Go Greek with tomatoes, fresh oregano, and feta. Or go just plain Yum with spinach and goat cheese. Really, anything will do. Delicious, with plenty for lunch the next day, too.

Good News/Bad News, optimist style

Let's play a little game that I like to call Good News/Bad News, with my perkily optimistic spin.

Good news: The dress I ordered on final sale from Rue La La was marked down from $175 to $39.99, and is totally cute out of the package!

Bad news: I wasn't aware that Original Penguin should be on my "C cups and larger order a size up" list. It's most definitely inappropriate for work... and kind of looks like a slutty 1950s waitress Halloween costume.

Optimist says: Wait, this could actually BE my Halloween costume! We're going to have to work hard to top last year's Hall and Oates ensemble, after all. Put T in striped pants, throw some glasses and perky paper hats on us, give us some name tags and notepads, and we are good to go! And this year, I don't think my date will feel conflicted about kissing me, either - I'll be 'stache-free!

Wanna try this with tabloid fodder?

Good news: The blight on humankind that is Ed Hardy appears to be dwindling in these parts... my sense of decency and good taste are rejoicing.

Bad news: Appearances in the tabloids of the esteemed Jon Gosselin seem to be on the rise, and he is almost always wearing an Ed Hardy tee, or worse - Ed Hardy ass-painted jeans.

Optimist says: Surely Gosselin will continue to be roundly mocked for his behavior - he's definitely not done making a fool of himself yet. That means he can self-destruct and take Ed Hardy down with him!

Your friendly news edition:

Good news: Renowned scholar Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. has the kind of neighbors that will watch out for his house while he's on vacation - and the kind of local police force that will respond to suspected break-ins.

Bad news: That doesn't mean his neighbors will watch out for him. Or, you know, even recognize him as the man who lives next door instead of just a black man trying to break into a home. Or that the local cops will believe that he's actually a resident. Surely black men don't live in tony Cambridge!

Optimist says: Time for Cambridge PD to have a learning moment. Just like the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Dallas PD before them. And it's a good reminder that the rest of us should acknowledge that yes, Virginia, we still live in a racist society. (Ignoring that fact isn't optimistic, you know - just naive.) Onward and upward.

(Very slight) changes

Two weeks into the new blog and I went and changed it on you. I know, I know, such a pain... but I felt like that pesky "the" was getting in the way of things. So here's to a "the"-less URL from here on out!

Change your bookmarks to

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new

In honor of last night's dinner of a steaming bowl of pho (even if I could only eat a quarter of it... have you seen the size of those bowls?), I am officially back in the business of eating and general gallivanting. See ya, stomach bug!

While my return to health does mean an accompanying return to my office and its now-towering pile of work, I prefer to ignore that fact for a moment and instead welcome a bright and cheerful addition to my life.

This spring when I was searching for a dress to wear to our Welcome Cookout the night before the wedding, I fell in love with this little number, courtesy of Nanette Lepore, one of my go-to designers for when I'm feeling girly.

Here's what I said at the time:

Hell YES, but not for this event: I only allowed myself to try on one dress in this category. It's a Nanette Lepore that I've been eyeing for ages. I adore what her dresses do to figures like mine. She and David Meister pretty much have the curvy girl market blanketed, in my opinion. This dress is in no way right for our wedding weekend. But while trying it on, I figured out what it is right for: My engaged friend Amy deciding to elope to an island and inviting a select small crowd at the very last minute, as her procrastinating self is wont to do. I will throw open my closet, grab this dress and my very favorite bright pink patent leather peeptoes, splash on some self-tanner, and run to the airport. Hear that, Amy?

The dress arrived at my doorstep yesterday in all its half-price glory, just when I needed a pick-me-up the most. And um, Amy still hasn't figured out their wedding.
Just saying.

In case you're wondering, here are my very favorite shoes that were destined to be part of the ensemble.

You know, I think I'll apply some self-tanner before heading out the door to work this morning, now that I'm thinking about it. It's been a long three days indoors.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Silence and vicarious adventuring

On a normal day, I'd be sitting at my office right now sending "please don't bother me" vibes to my well-meaning but also 30-years-older-than-me coworkers and wishing I could shut my door without seeming rude. I'd also be wishing my corporate internet allowed streaming media like the rest of the modern world, so that I could at least be soothed by NPR instead of Engineer Story Hour outside my door.

On a day when I'm able to finagle working at home, we'd be on hour six of NPR right now and I'd be multi-tasking to my heart's content - a little work there, a little social networking here, a little IM chatting there, all the while cooking up something yummy for lunch and thinking about getting crazy with some music instead of news for the afternoon.

But on days like today, when I'm getting over a truly yucky stomach virus and am still fairly delicate, I need silence. I crave silence. And so it's Day 2 in an apartment where the only sounds are the occasional kitty wrestling match. There is no streaming news. There is no multi-tasking. There is a small portion of chicken noodle soup that made me feel like a champion when I finished it. There is the print newspaper and a book. And there is only one blog today, which I found via my perennial fave Jezebel:

Jenna's Model Life is the kind of storytelling I love on days like today - great writing and wit and thoughtful introspection, which just happens to be set in the high-fashion/low-rent world of modeling (my world is perhaps a tad more low-fashion/high-rent, I'm afraid). There's travel and photography but there is mostly self-deprecation and bemusement with the world around you, of which I am always a fan. For a day when I want virtual adventuring along with my seltzer water, Jenna kindly delivers.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In sickness and in health

One of the ways my obnoxious independence rears its head the most is when I'm sick. The average scenario runs something like this: I slip out of bed in the middle of the night, slowly shut the creaky bathroom doors and turn on the fan, then proceed to throw up as quietly as I can. When I'm 3/4 of the way through, there will be a calm knock on the door and a patient and sweet voice asking if I'm okay, to which I usually respond by shouting at him to go away and leave me alone to my own disgusting self.

Since these episodes of violent vomiting are the only times I've ever really yelled at the perfectly sweet and sincere man I married, this behavior is fairly out of character for me. And somewhat of a joke between the two of us at this point, which extends to my family, too. A couple of years ago, my siblings and their partners visited to celebrate my birthday, and late into a night of many, many shenanigans, Trevor found my sister in our downstairs bathroom with the door locked. He calmly talked her into opening the door and asked if she needed anything, to which she said no, then he made her promise him that if she shut the door again she wouldn't lock it. My sister looked up from the bathroom floor, flashed him a dazzling smile, and promptly locked the door again.

This is all backstory to provide context for last night, where I was capping off a full 24 hours of severe stomach pain that I'd assumed was a nasty hangover, until the slightest things like the turns in our parking garage started making me nauseous. I couldn't get comfortable in bed - ranging from chills to fever fairly regularly - and didn't want to keep Trevor awake, so I came out to the couch to suffer in solitude. This was all well and good until about five hours later, at which point I still hadn't slept a wink through the discomfort, when I ended up expelling every bit of food I'd ingested that day into a carefully placed pot on the floor. This wasn't a subtle kind of getting sick, either - we're talking body heaves and the loudest possible grossness.

Sure enough, my would-be caretaker comes trotting out from the bedroom to see me puking up mac n' cheese in all its yellow glory. No door to hide that sight away. And because I was in such bad shape, I could offer no protest when he took the pot away to get rid of the mess, cleaned it out, and brought me towels and water and back rubs.

Resigned to my surrendered independence, I crawled back into bed with the accoutrements of a sick person all around me, arranged for me by my trusty nurse. Had I had a bit more time to think about the crushing defeat that my years of covert sickness just endured, I might have cowered in shame for some time.

But then fever hit again and I promptly threw up all of the water I'd just slurped down. With Trevor watching, of course.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday I'm in Love

There's no better way to reference the gloom rock golden days like a weekly series!

This week, here's what I'm loving:

Lonesome Dove Western Bistro

For two fairly seasoned diners living in a city teeming with fantastic restaurants, I did not expect to love The Lonesome Dove over in Fort Worth. Oh, how little I knew. Celebrated chef Tim Love does so many outrageous things to meat that my stomach starts growling just remembering our recent meal there. Favorites include blue corn lobster hushpuppies, rabbit and green chile chili, garlic-stuffed beef tenderloin, and my perennial favorite (North Carolina-raised pork lover here!), pork tenderloin. I haven't had such a meat-centric meal since our recent Tom Colicchio-hosted wine dinner at Craft, and I've gotta tell you... I'm feeling the Love. Bonus points for a great wine list and a really knowledgeable waitstaff. My two quibbles? The nearly-perfect red chile chocolate cake could've used a touch more chile, and the coffee could've used a major upgrade. Chile and coffee fiend over here, just sayin'! Sidenote for locals: Lonesome Dove was just added to Restaurant Week!

Blogging Connections

The divine ABCD's post this morning reminded me of something we were saying just the other day - the two of us feel like we've been friends for ages, but in fact have never met in real life! The next time I'm in New York, giving Amy a real life hug is at the top of my list. Because you know, as much as folks scoff about couples who meet online or are fearful of internet stalkers or the like, for some of us, the online world is a fantastic place to create lasting connections based on shared interests. I'm reminded of this every Thursday, when I meet up with three fab friends I met through blogging at a local half-price champagne night. Every week, we gab about life, love, and sure, maybe a bit of blogging gossip, too. But Champagne Thursdays aren't about blogging; they're about friendships. However I initially meet folks that I hold near and dear doesn't concern me. What we do with that connection is what matters, and for me, blogging has been a huge part of friendships that are as real as they come. So this is me crushin' on you, blog world!

Senator Al Franken

The fact that a true progressive once again holds the Senate seat of one of my political heroes, the late Paul Wellstone, is truly heartwarming. But as Senator Al Franken said himself, "This seat belongs to the people of Minnesota, and so did Senator Wellstone, and so will I." As anyone who ever listened to his old Air America radio show already knows, Franken is much more than the bespectacled Stuart Smiley that he played once upon a time on Saturday Night Live. Franken is voraciously smart and hard-working, and is as much a stickler for policy details as any full-time wonk. This part-time wonk is thrilled to see Minnesota (a really fascinating state politically) finally achieve the representation it deserves, and for the legacy of Paul Wellstone to be a little more fulfilled than it was before. Onward, Al!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The difference between a "salad" and a salad

Last night I sent something back at a restaurant. I really never do this. Was it overcooked meat? Raw chicken? Nope.

Just a really, really crappy "salad."

Now sure, some of you might be saying, "But it's only a salad!" And I get that. The problem is, that was the restaurant's philosophy, too.

We were eating at a perfectly fine local establishment known for pasta that also offers some fairly nice entrees. It's not an expensive place, it's not a gourmet place, but it's a fine place, one that's better than the other food options in the shopping establishment it's located in and is a convenient place to grab dinner before, say, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" begins.

So no, I wasn't expecting culinary fireworks. But when I encounter a salad so carelessly thrown together, so obviously an afterthought on an otherwise well-crafted menu, I find that offensive. Seriously.

I should have known - I'd ordered a niçoise salad there several months ago and found it bland and lacking composition. Last night I ordered a glass of wine and a grilled shrimp salad and hoped for the best - I wasn't very hungry and we had movie tickets, after all.


Composing a salad is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. I love coming up with the perfect balance of greens and flavors. Do I want spicy arugula or softer red leaf? If I want the contrasting tones and textures of sweet, soft pear with crunchy, zesty red onion, well what type of dressing would work best? Or do I want an earthy mix of fresh-grilled asparagus with shaved parmigiana? I whisk and whirl away until I have a dressing that brings out the best in the food: a little more salt... a dash of mustard... a healthy squeeze of lemon juice... etc. And dressing the salad properly? Well, that's a whole different post.

I imagine Alice Waters sitting down to a salad like the one I was served last night and turning as green as the lettuce. Her writing on the magic of baby greens reads like romance novels; that prose wouldn't even recognize this dish as one of its subjects. A pile of bland washed-out green mixed with strips of pale apples and celery root that tasted like the same thing, which was to say, like nothing at all. Barely any seasoning or dressing of any kind. A few shrimp thrown on top. That's it.

The problem with a dish like this being on their menu is that is shows a disregard for flavor and a lot of laziness. If "shrimp with lettuce" is the dish, well then, fine. But don't call something a salad and serve something that gives salads a bad name.

When salads are done properly, they can be the most memorable part of the meal. Heck, they can be the meal - which is why we order chop salads with chicken to go from the French cafe downstairs 2-3 times a month. It's why in the dead of a Dallas summer, I crave the cold shrimp and crab salad down the street like no one's business. Those establishments understand the value in doing their smallest dishes every bit as well as their biggest dishes.

9.9 times out of 10, I'll finish a dish that I don't love rather than sending it back. But a plate of bad lettuce with some shrimp thrown on top that's called a "salad?" That's worse than cooking a main attraction badly, and it's unacceptable. And so I told them so.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Fiery," huh?

As I have vented elsewhere, the supremely gendered notion of a "temperament problem" irks me to no end. And if the woman in question is a Latina? Well, then, she must be "fiery," too.

So in honor of Sonia Sotomayor, who I'm thrilled to cheer on in her quest to become the first Latina on the United States Supreme Court, let's take in some "fiery" eye candy that's refreshingly free of cultural stereotypes. On to the pretty pictures!

Vintage glass drop earrings from WildArtDesigns

Natural Obsessions yarn so luscious it almost makes me want to learn how to knit

Don't try to get between me and a carne adovada burrito

A certain someone's red satin wedding shoes

I've been stalking the bracelet that matched this coral and gold emunique necklace for months. Sadly, the bracelet sold... but this necklace is equally lust-worthy

Breathtaking parrot tulips from La Vie En Rose

My all-time favorite Oscar dress, a Ben de Lisi on Queen Kate Winslet in 2002

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dead sexy letterpress

Oh, what? You haven't already gathered that I'm a total badass in this quick exchange we're having at this unassuming networking event? Fine, then. Allow me to fling my letterpress ninja business card at you while you cover your eyes in fear.

Letterpress Ninja Business Cards, from my latest letterpress obsession, Studio on Fire

Feel its wrath.

99 degrees at 10 p.m.

When it's that hot outside, I'm still all about dinners that are refreshing and uncooked. Luckily, we're in full-on tomato season and the market is bursting with local goodness. And oh how I love tomatoes...

A perfect assortment of local tomatoes at the peak of ripeness...

...makes the only dinner I crave* in the midst of a ten-day heat advisory and a stack of thank you cards to work on:

Local tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, plus some bread

Even better? Trevor doesn't like raw tomatoes, so they're MINE, all mine!

*and vino, obvs

Monday, July 13, 2009

Playing real estate

We are not in the market for real estate for three reasons:
  1. We just had a wedding (happine$$!)
  2. We just put one of our cars out to pasture and got something new with a warranty (now known as the Best. Word. Ever.)
  3. We don't know where we're going to live happily ever yet. Hint: it's probably not here.
So for all these reasons and more, it makes sense to rent. We love our apartment and love our neighborhood even more, and have nothing to complain about. But all that said... it's still really fun to look at our options. A favorite habit is looking at places with a completely different design sensibility than our own and imagining it infused with our character. Yesterday, we were in the mood to play real estate, and promptly fell in love with two places that couldn't be more different from each other. (As you'll soon see, we have a lot of big life questions to figure out before we buy... which part of the country to buy in is only the tip of the iceberg.)

Option A: The High Roller

This brand-new high rise is so stunning inside, it has to be seen to be believed. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer sweeping views of downtown Dallas that put every other showcase view I've ever seen of this city to shame. The entire interior of the building is designed by Philippe Starck - from the biggies down to your bathroom's hand towel hooks. An outrageous owners' room opens up to the pool, outfitted with a full catering kitchen, fireplace, lounge furniture, and more. And oh, the pool! Plus, full-on urbanity right outside the building. And one more time... the views! The patios! The ability to pre-game before hopping across the street to a game or a concert! Just amazing. The following rendering does absolutely nothing to suggest the luxury of this place:

Option B: The Oasis

My favorite kind of house - it looks small and unassuming from the outside and is a world unto its own inside. Currently owned by an adorable gay couple having a major love affair with all things Louis XV, the mind has to strip it down to really see it as it could be, with fewer ostentatious antiques and more of our humor. Perfectly sized rooms, one leading to the next. Completely calming inside, with big windows that fill every room with light. A true cook's kitchen... I would be in heaven in there. A cozy little office. A steam shower. A backyard that would breathe life into even the biggest hermit's capacity for outdoor entertaining. An intimate pool. A small guest house/studio. Space to garden. Still walkable to all the walkable destinations in our current neighborhood, but its own little world. Whereas The High Roller invigorates you when you step inside, The Oasis makes you take a deep breath and slow down. Sigh...

Gotta figure out this life stuff so we play this game for real.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barefoot summertime breakfast

Not many things inspire optimistic swells of goodwill for me quite like photos of the Obama girls. Getting an early start today (despite my aforementioned distaste for mornings) thanks to the installation of hardwood floors in the apartment above us, I settled in with the paper and breakfast and saw this:

A closer look... Michelle Obama entering the car where her girls were waiting after a meeting with the Pope:

This photo reminds of a time when "dressing up" meant giving in and finally putting shoes on, those weeks in the dead of the summer that seemed to stretch out like a lifetime. There were creeks to play and games to devise and, okay fine, books to read in the shade (nerd!). There are a thousand reasons why the Obama girls make me proud to be living in the White House, but this photo sums up the simplest sentiment in the best of ways - they're just kids being kids. Sure, they're in Ghana while their parents meet the Pope, and sure, there probably aren't any local creeks that they're allowed to go splash around in, but they're kids in the dead of summer all the same. And like we were, they're barefoot.

Feeling the July laze even as adults, we weren't up for any real cooking this morning, so I made us my standard weekday breakfast - one that I usually assemble in my office kitchen. Trevor had never had it before, and I think he was a fan - I barely got this photo taken before it was all scarfed down.

Whole grain English muffins with cashew butter and sliced bananas

Time to start our weekend... I wonder what kind of barefoot opportunities exist in Dallas?
Related Posts with Thumbnails