Friday, February 26, 2010

At least it's over?

At the moment I'm curled up in bed, listening to NPR, checking in on my work e-mail, sipping coffee, listening to the wind howl outside, and blogging. Why, you ask? BECAUSE I CAN.

Oh, how I've missed this bed.

The movers came yesterday, three weeks after they picked up our stuff and two weeks after they said they'd arrive. We made it work to the best of our abilities for those three weeks, but ...

Oh how I've missed this bed.

We are not done with this company. Besides owing us a refund for how horrible their service was over the three weeks we waited, they also took it upon themselves to do the following:

  • Smash some of our super-nice patio furniture
  • Smash the side of our great-looking living room bookcase
  • Tear off the hardware of our coffee table trunk
  • Scratch the visible corner of our wooden bed frame
  • Scratch and mar with white paint (?!) our dining table
  • Okay, scratch pretty much all wooden furniture
  • Do something weird to the bottom of our couch
  • Break a lamp
  • Irreparably dent a stainless steel trashcan
  • Etc.

It takes a true commitment to be this awful, don't you think? We're submitting claims forms and taking pictures and hoping for the best. So I'm just going to hang out here in bed for a while and try getting over it all.

Moving on soon from this stage of transitional whine, I promise.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dress my bed!

I'm sad to report that the downtown DC West Elm is closing. Really, I am. But I'm happy to report that all items in the store are now an extra 15% off already marked-down prices. Gotta focus on that silver lining, because despite the bigger picture problem of retail downtown, I really wanted a new headboard. And I might have been stalking one from West Elm for some time now. Yesterday, I scored it... at a major discount!

There's something really satisfying about purchasing a new headboard. It feels quite adult of me, and I love that I bought it myself. We've owned West Elm's tall bed frame for years, topped with another WE headboard that T found as a floor model. The headboard worked fine, but I've never loved it. I like to think it'll make someone on Craigslist very happy soon. This one, though? So soft and pretty without being too feminine. And how fantastic would it look with a brightly colored wall behind it?

It's funny... I've been having so much trouble finding bedroom decor inspiration. Our current stuff is the bedding in this photo, and while we love the color and the vibe, the fit of the duvet has never been quite right for our bed.

So we're open to something new, but what? Looking for new bedding has been such a nightmare. Everything out there right now seems either white or pale gray (not interested), pastel (too girly for T), bright but terribly designed, or made of fabric that makes me cringe. What's a color-lover to do when it comes to bedding?

While we're talking bedding, let's take a step back in time...

See, there's the whole matter of "single Maggie" bedding that comes into play from time to time. T and I have a long-running joke about the colors and prints that I'd surround myself with if not for him. When applied to bedding, the term inevitably refers to something shockingly bright and printed, probably from Anthropologie. When he met me I was living the single Maggie lifestyle, and oh how I miss this bedding:

I had a deep purple bedskirt and a million crazy pillows and my social justice prints on the walls. Of course I did. And he fell in love with that girl, I'd like to remind him! Bright colors and loud prints and all!

I can already hear him calling for his sunglasses after that image...

Give me your best bedding inspiration. I feel like I've seen 'em all, so prove me wrong.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ask me anything (except about #$*&#$*&#)

In lieu of lashing out at today's news that there is yet another moving truck delay (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), I've decided to calm down and answer reader questions instead. Any narrative here on Freckled Citizen would no doubt be filled with expletives and all-caps letters regarding the now-Thursday delivery of our stuff. Let's avoid that, shall we? Instead...

You can see what I've answered so far here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Color me a little less crazy

To call a place a home, I really need a red wall somewhere. And so instead of wallowing in our move-related misery, we decided to channel our angst into some good old-fashioned wall-painting. I now have my red wall. Two, actually! And I have a yummy olive green wall. And a sage green bathroom. And a silvery-gray office. And blue walls to come! I'm an unabashed color freak, I know. Take a look at our progress... from bare white walls and depression to something a little more me (please excuse the dark photos... doing the best I can over here with a now half-broken camera as well!):

Hello kitchen! It's there somewhere underneath the paint-related sprawl. But my new rug really does tie the room together, wouldn't you say, Lebowski?

I love this color. This is the little nook where our dining table (a bar table, really) and a bookcase will go.

The whole effect, as seen from our patio WHICH FINALLY HAS NO SNOW!

Wheeee! More red! We can't reach the top of it without the step ladder that's in the moving truck (the ceilings are ten feet-ish in here), so this is it for now. And we picked up this tv stand at Ikea because our old tv stand is too long for this space. We're not sure we'll be in this apartment longer than a year, so getting an investment piece to fit this funny space or mounting this huge boy tv on the wall both seem like a silly idea. So, a piece of furniture we can ignore instead. Works for now!

Here's the guest room/office, which is a pretty silvery gray. There's no overhead light in this room, and as our only lamp inexplicably broke, we're having trouble finishing this room during our nighttime painting sessions. But I'm definitely liking its direction. The opposite wall will be a pretty cornflower blue lined with bookcases, and that top section you see will be a deep navy blue. My new desk is more practical than lovely (it's an Ikea Expedit), but since I'm working from home now, a strong organizational system will be really critical for me. I don't think the desk will look nearly as industrial once it's filled with my work things and topped with crazy wedding cans topped with fabric pomanders. I'm really looking forward to having a bunch of our wedding stuff in here. It all makes me so happy to look at, and I think it'll be perfect for an energizing work space. Bonus: the adjoining bathroom will feature a shower curtain made from some of our wedding table fabric!

Here's our master bath in a pretty sage green. The real star, though? This shower head we installed in our awesomely large shower. Seriously, folks, it's the best $60 at Bed Bath and Beyond you'll ever spend.

C'mon, furniture... we are waiting for you!
(current ETA Wednesday, Feb 24)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The transitional lifestyle

Hello, reporting live from 18-20 days without our stuff, thanks to the most horrible moving company of all time! What moving company, you ask? Oh, not the cheapest we considered - the one with the best rating! The moving company that will be properly reamed once my belongings are in my possession again! At least four more nights to go, maybe six. Can we make it? Here's a little snapshot into our days:

Oh, hello morning! Oh my god, why I am in so much pain? Right, because my back is on the floor again. Because if we don't wake up every two hours to reinflate this air mattress, we end up this way. Pain. Ow. Hurts. I haven't slept in a real bed in so long. Well damn, cat, try not to look so triumphant about the fact that you have a bed and we don't. I can see you gloating through your slumber!

Okay, breakfast time! Maybe eggs this morning? Toast? Crap, I just remembered how much of a pain it is to make breakfast here. The one pan I brought is stainless, which is a bear with eggs, and to toast bread I have to broil it in the oven and take it out the exact second it's ready or the fire alarms go off. Again. Hey, Fanny, don't give me that look - at least you have a toy! I don't even have a can opener!

Ugh, I think working from home makes this place seem even barer. It's driving me crazy in here! Must. Get. Out. Maybe go out for lunch? Oh wait, of the three pairs of shoes I packed, only one is snow-appropriate, and I'm so sick of wearing those boots that only match half of the tiny portion of clothes I brought with me that I'll die if I have to slip them on again. I'll just have a slice of cold pizza and enjoy the lovely kittens instead. What the... Fine, cat, I can see that you're also dreaming of escape from this empty existence. Tough life! At least you can run around in here!

Afternoon, this means T is home to study for his big certification test! We're so cozy and cute, both using the same old card table from my parents as a desk, papers surrounding us on the floor. This is awesome. This is what it's all about. Although, I am kind of sick of working... and my butt is totally sore from the uncomfortable chair. Maybe I'll go finish painting the bathroom instead. It's the one little area of space I can control in this crazy empty place. Only, crap, no step ladder! But conveniently, I have a 6'3 man around to finish the upper trim. "T! Can you come in here for a minute?" We're definitely not getting any work done this afternoon... Kittens! Make it okay! Tell us we won't get fired! Oh, I'm sorry Switters, what was that? You HOPE we get fired? Because we should be punished for putting you through this hell? Hmph.

Fun! Dinner out to avoid the reality of our living space! Let me just get dolled up... Oh god. The same clothes again. I swear I'm never wearing these pants again. At least I can make the rest of me look great. Or... not. My skin is awful. Where are my favorite masks and scrubs? No hair products, even. A shower with only trial-sized bottles in it. Grrrrrrrr. Fanny, really? If we leave for dinner instead of taking you out of this hellhole you're going to inflict lead poisoning on yourself? You're not kidding around this time, you say?

Dinner was great, feeling happy. Can't wait to go home and curl up in front of the Olympics with a glass of wine. Shit. The Situation. I forgot about it. To turn our "bed" into a "couch" we place it horizontally against the wall and use the pillows as back support. So sick of it. And we have to drink wine out of plastic cups. And then reinflate in two hours. Dammit, Fanny! Put down the pencil! I promise it'll be over soon! Life will return to normal in less than a week!

(We hope.)

Monday, February 15, 2010


An important part of moving to DC for me is to regain some of my old sense of self: the me that was super-engaged in politics big and small, issues far and wide, and worked to make the world a bit of a better place. It's not that I didn't care while living in Dallas; caring is part of my DNA, and you might recall that a rather important national election took place while I was there. Regardless, the atmosphere in Dallas and the opportunities to engage there were not fulfilling for the girl who had her pick of elections and causes in Boston and Albuquerque before it.

This is not as much of an indictment of Texas as it sounds. Some of my favorite women are from Texas: Molly Ivins, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, and my dear friend Marjorie. There's a backbone to these women that I admire like heck, a steely liveliness that very much reminds me of the committed people I knew and loved in New Mexico. But to say that this strain of Texas-style activism wasn't running through my life in Dallas is fair (it's no secret that Austin is much more my kinda town anyway). Much of this disconnect with Dallas was because from the moment I moved there, we had an eye on moving further east, and were never quite sure how long we'd stick around. My lack of engagement in Dallas does say something about Dallas, but it also speaks to my hesitance to grow roots where I ultimately didn't want them. I put myself - my favorite parts of myself, really - in a tough position.

But now, in Washington, DC, a city we moved to with no plans for a next step, a place we might even like to stay forever... a big part of me is rejoicing in the level of engagement that it promises. Tonight, a week after getting here through the storm to end all storms, I attended an event that reminded me so much of Me Before The Big D. Right down the street from our apartment at Busboys and Poets, a really wonderful tribute to the late Howard Zinn took place (it'll be broadcast on C-Span soon for those of you interested). I sat there before women like Amy Goodman and Marian Wright Edelman feeling absolutely at home... and homesick at all that I've missed. It was a much-needed turning point for me.

I love the feeling I have tonight: not just waiting for my new life to begin (which is the mindset I've been stuck in for three years), but making plans to create that life for myself. Ever since I left home for college, my big moves have all been for other people. I stayed in Boston for love. I moved to New Mexico for love. I moved to Dallas for love. But I - we - moved to DC for me. It's the first time I can say that, and I promise to make the most of it.

I forgot how humbling empowerment can feel.

Friday, February 12, 2010

On barbecue

My brother sent me this video today, and it's too good not to share. It's basically this book set to song, and it makes me grin.

I'm reminded of two Thanksgivings ago, when we were here in DC celebrating with T's sister and fantasizing about being able to live here, in this city right in between our families. The capstone for me - beyond knowing that the fam is just a five-hour drive away - was biting into a real eastern North Carolina barbecue sandwich at Eastern Market, served with collards. That weekend, there was no doubt we had to figure out how to get ourselves here. And now here we are, having finally stumbled upon the plan that made it happen. I now live in a city with eastern NC barbecue, folks - this is huge.

Maybe this weekend I'll find myself some homestyle barbecue and celebrate being back East. Both my sisters-in-law are here this weekend (including A all the way from Europe!), so we're sure to get into some kind of trouble.

To finding where you belong and then getting there (even if it takes longer than you might have wished), and to whatever style of barbecue suits you best... Happy weekend, everyone!

The failed minimalist cooks

I'm not cut out for a minimalist kitchen. I love having a tool for every purpose, a new vessel for every stage of a dish. I regularly fill an entire dishwasher before we've even eaten dinner. The bare essentials that I brought to DC with me - for what was supposed to be a mere three days until the moving truck got here - stopped being enough for me right about the time the second snowstorm hit.

I have one pot and one pan. One knife. Two plates, two bowls, two saucers. Two plastic cups. One travel coffee mug. A set of flatware for us each. I managed to sneak in a Microplane and a garlic press, but oh, the things I didn't realize I'd covet... 

See, staging meals around the single pot and pan turns out to be the most difficult aspect for me of living so sparely.There's no simmering a sauce separately from the food, or roasting one dish while I'm sauteeing another, unless I plan on doing single-dish meals alone. Which perhaps might have been the smartest choice. My way, I end up washing and washing and washing everything for reuse. [Looks at dried-up hands and shudders.]

I was craving brussels sprouts, and thought the roasted greens would go nicely with a spicy andouille and garbanzo bean soup. I began the brussels first, caramelizing the onions, then transferring the onions to one of our plates while I roasted the sprouts in the same All Clad skillet. After the sprouts were done, I mixed the caramelized onions into the dish, along with some walnuts (which I toasted on the lid of my skillet - told you I'm getting inventive over here!) and some freshly grated parm. Fairly manageable in a single pan, and really delicious.

But the soup I'd been craving? You'd think soups would be my go-to, one-pot meal, as well they should be. This soup is easy to prepare, simple enough that I didn't need to buy many ingredients, and flavorful enough that I could avoid buying spices I already own in that moving truck.

I lined up my cans of garbanzos and had my fresh ingredients all ready to go. And then it hit me: no can opener. No can opener! We tried knives, a wine bottle opener, anything we had on hand. No go. And so a choice presented itself: cry over one of my favorite winter soups not coming to fruition, or rethink. With the winds howling outside and icy snow slamming against the windows, running out to the store again wasn't an option.

I'd purchased enough groceries for a few meals, carefully planned based on minimal ingredients and tools/vessels required. I threw my original meal plans out the window, laid out all my fresh ingredients, and decided to make a go of it. Here's what I came up with:

Andouille Vegetable Soup

It's a mess of everything fresh I had on hand: andouille chicken sausage (some mean person bought all the pork at Whole Foods before I got there), kale, red bell pepper, potatoes, basil, shallots, garlic, chicken broth, dark beer, and a little salt and pepper.

So no can opener. No original soup. But on weeks like this one - which I know we will *always* remember with fondess due to its absolute craziness, but I'm still allowed to be OVER IT, k? - I felt pretty good about this mishmash in a bowl. And it was yummy enough that it made me forget all about that original plan for a while.

(Until I started fantasizing about my wine glasses.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I don't really have any new material. I'm working from home in an apartment whose entire furniture collection consists of an air mattress, a card table, and two metal folding chairs, so saying there's a lack of inspiration here is an understatement. Snowmageddon 2 that I referenced yesterday? It's here, alright. The sounds of the wind outside are absolutely frightening. It's as if I've moved to a frozen tundra peppered with national monuments. Insanity.

Some friendly tidbits from the local weather folks:
  • "We are living through some of the most extreme winter weather we'll ever experience in the metro region this morning."
  • "There are hazardous walking conditions throughout the region. It is recommended that you stay indoors unless absolutely necessary."
  • "YOU CAN QUICKLY BECOME DISORIENTED IN WIND-DRIVEN SNOW AND COLD." (okay, I added the hypen there, because I'm a hyphen-Nazi like that.)

You get the idea. And I dare not call the moving company and ask when our stuff is getting here now. Since I can offer nothing else, here are a few photos of my whiteout view from the home office:


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Far from settled, but here

We made it! While moving out was as full of headaches as it always is ("wait, we forgot to pack up this drawer!" as the movers pull away from the building...), we did it. We piled into the car with some shell-shocked kittens, a big boy tv, a small bag of clothes each, an air mattress, the barest of kitchen items, and off we went...

Day 1 (Night 1, really) we drove from Dallas to eastern Mississippi, then crashed in a totally sketchy motel. On Day 2 we made it to my parents in NC, full of laughter at Dan Brown's writing (really, Dan? the lame villain you've written actually hand-crafted that piece of vellum he's using for this ritual from a living lamb?) and ready for a reprieve from road food. Given that Snowmageddon hit DC over the weekend, we were wavering on whether we'd make the trip or delay it a day, but woke up on Sunday and decided to give it a go. The roads were actually great until about 30 minutes outside of the city, and even then it wasn't dangerous, just really slow.

Here's what we found when we arrived in our new apartment Sunday night:

That's our patio with 2 feet of snow on it. Hmmmm.....

I drove T to his first day of work the next morning and felt like quite the winter weather badass doing so. Some of the roads are clearer than others. The best have one clear lane open for traffic in each direction. The worst look kind of like the street across from our apartment (which just yesterday was still full of snow-covered cars):

Turns out we're supposed to get dumped on again tonight. At first they called for just a few inches - no biggie, really, when there are snowpiles taller than people at every intersection. But then the weather gods said 10 inches. And then the local NPR newscaster came on with, "I'm really sorry to have to report to you all that we're upping the snow prediction by another eight inches." So here I am, writing in the first few minutes of the official "winter storm warning" window, and the City is officially expecting 10-20" snow tonight. On top of the 2-3 feet already here.

But never fear! I have a fridge full of food and can cook to my heart's content all throughout the storm... ummm, no I can't. We didn't have room for many kitchen items in the car, so I'm surviving on the barest of essentials here. Without my collection of special ingredients, the pots and pans to cook them in, and the tools to transform them, we'll be eating Plain Jane for a while longer. I only hope Snowmageddon 2 doesn't delay the moving trucks. Not being able to make the perfect snowed-in soup is killing me. Also, I'd kind of like to wear a different pair of pants.

And by the way, what in the world are we going to do with our patio furniture when it gets here?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's happening

Right now movers are putting all gazillion pounds of our belongings onto a truck. I'm sitting at work drowing in deadlines. We didn't sleep very much last night. Okay, we haven't really slept this entire week. We're bruised and sore and have tape gun scratches and a permanent case of the dust sneezes and are a tad unsure how all of this stuff is going to fit into our very nice but much smaller DC apartment. The cats are locked in the bathroom, and they are pissed. Did I mention I'm at work, drowning in deadlines with the worst timing in the history of bad deadlines? But we asked for this, and it's still pretty awesome.

Tonight the Champagne Thursday girls are meeting me out for a fun farewell dinner, and while I already warned them that I accidentally packed up all my nice dinner clothes and thus will be wearing a thin cotton dress and hippie boots with dark undereye circles instead of appropriately festive attire, I did not warn them that I'm running on fumes and will be loaded after just one sip of bubbly. Which, now that I think about it, will make for a more entertaining evening...

Tonight we will sleep on an air mattress, and tomorrow after work we leave in the car, packed to the gills with mammals, electronics, and provisions for the week. Friday night: Jackson, MS. Saturday night: Raleigh with the fam. We decided Dan Brown was appropriately brainless suspense for the drive, so the audiobook of his latest thriller set in DC is on tap. We'll leave on Sunday after breakfast, and will be in our new city that afternoon. Oh, and there's a "near-blizzard event" going on there this weekend, by the way. Just for added excitement. With any luck, we can cruise into DC on Sunday afternoon and admire a landscape of calm white snow and still air, collapse on the air mattress in our new place, crack open some beers, and listen to the Superbowl (go Saints!) on the radio, old-school style. And then we wait for our stuff to arrive (it'll take days), and toast a new beginning. Cheers to that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Things I'll Miss: The Restaurants

Most everyone knows that Dallas is a shopping town, but what not everyone outside of the Big D knows is that it's a fantastic restaurant town, too. Since the thought of shopping at Northpark every weekend makes me want to stab my eyes out, getting to know Dallas' dining scene was an obvious leisure activity to explore, food being my second love and all. DC is getting lots of press lately about its burgeoning foodie status, which is fantastic, because I aim to explore every cranny of it. But for now, a shoutout to some of my favorite spots in the Big D:
  • Abacus. As close as we live to this restaurant, our bank accounts are so very thankful we didn't go there more often. Simply tremendous food, every single time.
  • Bolsa. One of those "if only we'd had more time" places. Bolsa is new-ish and I have a feeling that fantastic things are only going to get more fantastic down there. Fresh, local, seasonal, and superb... with a crowd that always makes me wonder A) where did all these cool people come from?, and B) maybe we should've lived in Oak Cliff.
  • Fearing's. Between the insane people-watching at the Rattlesnake Bar (how many hours have I invested in jaw-dropped wonderment over there at the crowd? too many to count.), and the excellent food at Fearing's, you can't go wrong here.
  • Hattie's. Oh, Hattie's, you will forever occupy a corner of my heart. And it will be filled with your savory cloud of blue cheese cheesecake, shrimp and grits, pulled pork, and food that makes my heart sing.
  • Hibiscus. Hibiscus is so routinely delicious that I can't believe it doesn't make more people's favorites list. I've never had a bite of anything I didn't love there - or a sip, for that matter. Outstanding food that never, ever disappoints.
  • La Duni. One of our favorite 'hood hangouts for casual dining. From brunch to dinner to late-night dessert, just easy tastiness.
  • Lonesome Dove. So sure, this place is in Fort Worth, but what a meal. I'll say it again: blue corn lobster hushpuppies and mouth-watering meat. Vegetarians beware.
  • Nobu. Nope, not a local restaurant, but there's not one in DC, so I'm counting it here. Between two birthday celebrations at Nobu and a dozen dinners behind the sushi counter eating at the direction of the chef, I credit my love of sushi to them. I could eat their jalapeno yellowtail sashimi until my jaw fell off.
  • Perry's. Okay fine, now called "Place at Perry's" due to a lawsuit by another Perry's. But this place will always be Perry's to us, and is our "Cheers," in a way. T's been hanging out there for a decade now and knows everyone. On my first visit, our now-favorite waiter remarked to T that he could tell I was going to be a big deal. How can you not love that sort of foresight? I'll miss Perry's handsomeness, its comfort, and how much like home it feels.
  • Stephan Pyles. I first got to know Stephan Pyles through a six-course tasting menu over a work dinner, and there was no looking back for me. I adore his flavor combinations and inventiveness. I also regret that there won't be more time to get to know his Samar, which is new and a big hit with me.
  • Tei Tei. Mmmm.... high-end neighborhood sushi that requires an hour-long wait in the tiny bar even if you have reservations. I mean, it must be great to go through that, right?
  • Tillman's. It's what I love about Bishop Arts. When we're there I crave Hattie's first, then Bolsa, but when we're at Tillman's it reminds me every time of why it's the best third choice I could imagine. And also, the decor is ridiculous.
  • Toulouse. This little French bistro downstairs from us feeds us twice a month. In fact, if you called right now and asked about the couple who always orders two chop salads with chicken, one with no tomatoes, to go, they'd know exactly who you were talking about. We've loved having them so close. A delicious cheese plate just a call away (their truffle pecorino is to die for) is a really, really good thing.
  • Victor Tango & The Porch. I put these together because we think of them the same way: easy food that's quick and not too expensive and fun at the same time. I'll miss the crab and shrimp salad at The Porch (and still mourn their original tangerine gin rickey, now off the menu), and over at VT's I am forever indebted to their Pepper Smash and tuna nachos.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chuckles and cheers for Johnny

I have a new crush. Well, an old crush, but one who's come back in full force. And this crush looms so large that, well... it's determining how we transport a television to our new apartment and when we're getting cable hooked up. Because frankly, if you think I'm missing a second of the Olympics or Be Good Johnny Weir, you're kidding yourself.

I mean, seriously.

Be Good Johnny Weir is on the Sundance channel, and it is as fabulous as you would expect from a documentary series about "The Swan." It's full of sequins, bubble baths, one-liners, parody, and high drama in skates. And while I applaud fabulousness as much as anyone else, it turns out I have a genuine rooting interest in Johnny. I really do want him to do well at the Olympics. Also, I really want to see some of this in Vancouver:

Men's skating begins Tuesday, February 16, and Be Good Johnny Weir is on the Sundance channel on Monday nights.

PS: I tried posting clips from the show, but the code's funny. Go watch them here instead.
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