Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Philadelphia, again.

The funny thing about Philadelphia is that once upon a time, it was the setting for my first glimpse of adulthood. I was 16 and enrolled in a summer program for fellow media nerds at Penn. We were a group of hyper-motivated, weird kids who found ourselves and each other immensely fascinating. Living in a dorm together for six weeks - attending classes, working on projects, traveling - made for the coolest summer ever. (Yep, "coolest summer" for me involved school - go figure.) So this is what college is like, I thought. So this is what living in a city is like, I thought. I had the bug, and ended up attending college in Boston two years later, a city lover already. Boston was my first urban love, but without Philadelphia, it might never have happened.

Save for a quick weekend in college, I hadn't been back to the city since. This weekend, we hopped onto a quick 2-hour train (I'm giddy at how easy it is to do this now that we live in DC) and went to see the most fantastic play and stay with the most fantastic people. They're old friends of T's family and are responsible for things like this at our wedding:

A truly fantastic couple, H&D, married for over 30 years and still having goodbye makeouts each time one of them leaves to run an errand. Here's just one lovely thing about H&D: they say that T is the reason they ever married at all.

See, T's parents had tried and failed to set them up. They were all living in Philadelphia back then, and my in-laws arranged a meetup at a local bar. Only, the plan backfired - D went home with H's roommate instead of H. Oops.

Some time later, they were all going to a toga party and came to pick up H. She answered the door expecting to see my father-in-law. Instead, it was my father-in-law's pal D, the one who'd gone home with the wrong girl (who of course wasn't The One), and he was carrying a baby in his arms. That was little T decked out in a kiddie-sized toga. H couldn't resist the sight of D with the adorable towheaded baby. They were married six months later.

H & D still live in Philadelphia, in a 150-year-old townhouse on a great street in a neighborhood dotted with local businesses and neighbors who recognize each other. With a skyline right there. And everything walkable.

Upon our arrival, we engaged in Battle Martini: Shaken v. Stirred (I'm a stirred girl myself, it turns out).We explored historic sites, visited the building T lived in as a baby, and enjoyed delicious food. We saw a play honoring one of my heroes, and it was wonderful. We walked home and drank wine and played word games (T and I are out of practice). We woke up early and had breakfast at a little neighborhood cafe run by a French couple who are H&D's vacation buddies. Life is good for these two. Their daughter's almost out of graduate school and is moving to DC (!) in the fall. They're dialing back their workloads. They're ready to enjoy what's in front of them. The decade between 60 and 70, H told me, is what she calls "the sweet spot." They're living it.

And so throughout that weekend, more times than I could count, the Philadelphia thing hit me again. Once more, I got glimpses of what being a grown-up could look like. (Why yes, I'm still searching for that reality sixteen years later, aren't you?) This kind of life - the walking and the history and the knowing your neighbors and the local businesses and the vitality of it all - is very much the kind of life that T and I would like to build. Not to mention the kind of partnership that's at its center. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to make it happen (DC real estate voyeurism can turn into panic and depression really quickly, it turns out), but it's what we want. Someday. Maybe sooner rather than later. Our Life Plan feels a little less tenuous having seen a model of it in action, even if the steps to get there still feel enormous and slightly mind-boggling.

So progress, then. Baby steps toward the Plan. Found, once more, in Philadelphia. Who knew?

Any "Philadelphia moments" for you all lately? I'd love to bask in everyone's inspiration for a bit. With spring in the air, life feels so hopeful right now.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A week from today, we're in Brides Magazine!

As a kid who wanted to write from the time she could hold a pencil, being featured in a national magazine would seemingly be a lifelong goal. But being featured in a national magazine due to pretty pictures and the fact that I said "I Do?" Not really what my politics-obsessed newshound self had in mind. But hey, I'll take it!

A week from today, the May issue of Brides Magazines hits the newsstands, and our wedding is featured as one of their Real Weddings. Kind of surreal for this camera-shy girl. I did the interviews early this year, but have no idea what photos they'll be using or how they'll spin our little shindig. Only time will tell! I loved our wedding and I love the idea that a non-bridey-bride girl like me might see this feature and realize she's in good company. So to that: bravo!

Brides Magazine: Not Just For Girls Who Like The Word "Bride"

Tick tock, tick tock, one week to go.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Typoman Cometh

I would like to wage war against typos. Be on notice: this is the moment my internal campaign goes public. I abhor typos, nearly as much as I detest grammatical errors. The question of whether typos or grammatical errors are worse is a personal one for us all. Is an indifferent shrug or lack of attention paid to how words are supposed to be spelled better or worse than a painfully ignorant attempt to employ grammatical techniques, even if done horribly wrong? This debate of mine speaks to my favorite mood-brightening blog, the brilliant "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. I mean, really, this blog is the stuff of magic:

I can scan my eyes across a page of print and see the its/it's and you're/your errors in an instant. This happens so often, in fact, that I sometimes think typos and bad grammar possess a magnetic pull toward my line of vision. They are everywhere. Oh, and commas? I like them. When they are used properly. Enough said. But I digress with the bad grammar; the focus here today is typos.

Know that I do not recuse myself from this indictment. When I catch a typo in something I've written, I want to plunge my head into a vat of boiling water. Typos seem to happen far more on this chatty little blog project of mine than in my "real" writing (note correct use of quotation mark signaling sarcasm), which I think speaks less about my devaluing of said blog project and more about my general frenzied mental state these days. I explain all of this to ask a series of questions:

Wouldn't you agree that our social security numbers are our most important piece of identification when it comes to data?

Yes? Me too! Okay then:

Wouldn't you agree that anyone who's ever lasted one day as a college freshman will forever have their social security number seared into their brain, that it's one of those numbers that is simply impossible to forget even if numbers aren't your thing, like pi equaling 3.14?

So glad we're on the same page! Now, then:

What kind of person not only doesn't know their social security number front and back, but actually gets it wrong when filing their taxes, a time when crucial items of identification are not only on the brain, but likely spread out on a table before them?

What I'm asking here is:

How in the world does someone make a TYPO in their SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER on their TAXES?

I mean REALLY?!, right? Now the obvious question:

Can this person's typo be construed as a personal vendetta against my preference for conscious typing and IRS-funded European vacations?

Imagine our household happily skipping along, planning our European getaway and eagerly awaiting the funds designated to pay for said getaway. Until, oops, what's this note from the IRS? It says we have already filed taxes, and therefore our latest return cannot be accepted? Because one of our social security numbers has already been used?! Because someone probably made a typo on their tax form? A typo on their SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER? A typo that turned their social security number into, oops, ONE OF OURS?

Fun, fun, fun over here!

On Monday we will get to experience the joy of going to the IRS headquarters to discuss this matter with a friendly agent, one who I expect will share my disdain for typos and the people who make them. I'll be sure to report which medieval torture device will be used to exert punishment upon the errant tax filer.

In the meantime, we are off to Philadelphia for the weekend to see a tribute to one of my all-time heroes, the late Molly Ivins. When I'm reporting next week on the punishment reserved for folks who make typos on the single most important detail of their identification, I'll also be sure to note whether Kathleen Turner's voice is as wonderfully raspy on stage as it appears on screen.

Happy weekend, everyone. Get those social security numbers of yours straight, why don't you?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Roasted and Citrus'd

One of my favorite flavor combinations is the deep smokiness of roasted vegetables combined with the bright lift of citrus. This time of year is perfect for eating this way. Roasting channels cool nights, but citrus signals that warmer times are ahead. Here are two dishes to get your Roasted/Citrus'd groove on perfectly - Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette and Parmesan Roasted Broccoli:

Momofuku's Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

Why no photo, you ask? Because it was one of the last dishes I made before we moved and life was crazy. Also, I wasn't entirely successful with this - I burned the cilantro crisps. But Momofuku for 2 has a fantastic (as always) photo, and a write-up of how the recipe should work. This recipe is so damn tasty, even with burned cilantro crisps (you could totally skip them if you're already intimidated, or just focus on them instead of getting distracted like I was that night). Have I mentioned how good a read Momofuku is, by the way? And you're warned: Chang's fish sauce vinaigrette will have you craving it on everything.

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 to 3 red bird’s-eye chiles, thinly sliced, seeds intact
Combine the fish sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chiles in a jar. This vinaigrette will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
(recipe also gives versions for frying or using cauliflower)
Serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons very thinly sliced cilantro stems, plus ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 2 pounds brussels sprouts
  • ½ cup puffed rice (like Rice Krispies) tossed with ½ teaspoon grapeseed oil and ½ teaspoon shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice powder) 
1. Combine the vinaigrette, cilantro stems, and mint in a bowl, and set aside.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil in an oven-safe wide skillet (12 to 14 inches) or 3-quart sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil slides easily from side to side of the pan, add the cleaned and trimmed brussels sprouts cut side down. When the cut faces of the sprouts begin to brown, transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking, about 15 minutes. The sprouts are ready when they are tender but not soft. 
3. Heat about 1 cup of oil in a small sauté pan or skillet—the oil should be ½ inch or so deep—over medium-high heat until a deep-fry or instant-read thermometer registers 375°F. Fry the cilantro leaves. Make sure the leaves are dry and fry them by the handful, dropping them into the oil and agitating them with a slotted spoon or spider so they don’t clump together. Give them 5 to 10 seconds to crisp, then drain on paper towels.
4. Toast the puffed rice: Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute or so, until it's hot, then add the puffed rice. Toast, stirring occasionally, until it's aromatic and perhaps a shade darker than it was when you added it to the pan, just a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
5. Divide the brussels sprouts among four bowls (or serve it all out of one big bowl), top with the dressing, and toss once or twice to coat. Sprinkle the fried cilantro and puffed rice over all, and serve.

Hungry yet? Here's one more Roasted/Citrus'd recipe for you, discovered by my hometown pal Heather. 

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
from the Barefoot Contessa

The earthy warmth of the broccoli paired with bright lemon is a total winner. Just like the puffed rice in the brussels sprouts recipe, the toasted pine nuts here add a satisfying crunch. This dish is good enough that it prompted a "we don't eat enough broccoli" conversation at our dining table.
Serves 4
  • 4 to 5 pounds broccoli
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.
3. Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Auntie 3.0

You know how much I love being an aunt. Besides my gracious brother bringing my ridiculously adorable niece Taylor into the world, I also have my sister to thank for my insanely cute nephew Liam. Liam is enormous (as in, he's an 8 month old wearing 24 month clothes) and bald and happy and just so freaking fun to hang out with.

Liam is making some waves on the homefront as a baby model (for real!). Hanging out with my sis last week while we toted around the huge football of giggles that is Liam is hilarious... I felt like I was with celebrity spawn. Routine scenes from strangers around us include:

"He is the cutest baby I've ever seen!"

"Oh my word... look at him!"

"He is HUGE!"

[Countless people including single guys who do not consider themselves baby fans seeing Liam and unconsciously breaking out in a huge smile as they walk by.]

So yep, he's kind of a big deal. And you can see his cute little self in Cary Living magazine this month!

You might remember that my sis stood beside us on our wedding day as the Best Woman just eight days before she brought Liam into the world. She rocked it.

Pregnancy suits her, doesn't it? I'm spending this morning bragging a little because I've finally been given the green light to share some news that I've been bursting holding in for over a month:  

My sister is pregnant again!  

Liam will be a big brother to a another cutie just sixteen and a half months younger than he is. I'm beyond thrilled for Lisa and my brother-and-law... and giddy about having another niece or nephew in my life! Bonus: now that I live so close, I can spoil them all whenever I want!

Monday, March 22, 2010

OIY: Order it Yourself

There were supposed to be DIY moving announcements. They were to be made out of our moving boxes: postcard-sized cutouts of cardboard with clever sayings stamped on and some great-looking twine holding the package together. Kind of like this.

But there was also supposed to be furniture a week after we got here instead of three weeks later. And none of it was supposed to arrive broken. And record-breaking snowstorms weren't really in the picture, either. So when those moving boxes of ours finally got here, I didn't want to hang onto them a second longer than I had to for unnecessary crafting. Except for those boxes I still can't get around to unpacking, of course - I really like hanging onto those, apparently:

 So no, there are not DIY moving announcements. Instead, there is Tiny Prints to the rescue, and an adorable little moving announcement that all I had to do was order. "I" to "we," of course.

Sometimes, life needs a shortcut or two. I'm okay with that. Lots of work catchup to do this week after spending five days in NC, and then I have *got* to get my office in shape, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring fever

I'm spending the rest of the week down in Raleigh to be with my grandmother, who's not feeling like her usual spunky self right now. While I'm traveling - and while recuperation and rejuvenation are on the mind anyway - join me in anxiously anticipating the arrival of spring over at EADL. In addition to tapping my foot impatiently for the new season to arrive, I also use more exclamation points than any adult rightfully should, so there's always that for entertainment.

The weather at home this week is low to mid-'70s and sunny, so I think my timing for that post might have been perfect.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prague and Vienna and Ljubljana, oh my!

In the excitement over picking up our lives and moving to a brand new city, a big event on our calendars got a tad overshadowed for a while. Now, though (thanks largely to the nice tax lady at H&R Block), our excitement is back in full-swing: we're going to Europe in six weeks!

One of T's sisters is getting married in Ljubljana, Slovenia in early May. She and her fiancé (who is an old college teammate of T's, so they go way back) were both in our wedding, and we're thrilled to go and celebrate theirs. Here's what the NY Times has to say about Ljubljana:
FROM the 16th-century fortress walls atop Castle Hill, the view of Ljubljana is exquisite: waves of red-tiled roofs, turquoise domes, spires and, here and there, lacy bridges spanning the green Ljubljanica River, stitching the two sides of Slovenia's capital city together. The overall effect is that of a snow-globe town in the foothills of the Alps.
Ummmm..... okay! To top it off, A&A are getting married in a castle... seriously! It's a wee bit stunning:

With regard to planning the trip, we wanted to make the most of our little European family reunion without spending a fortune or taking too much time off work. We finally have a plan - a combination of good logic and fantastic sightseeing:

The details:

Stop 1: Prague

I have so many friends who just adore this city... I can't wait to see it for myself. We're looking at spending two and a half days there, so we've gotta make it count!

Stop 2: Vienna

I couldn't resist using this 1902 photo outside of the Vienna Court Opera - isn't that spectacular? We'll have 1.5 days to take this city in... short and sweet, but it looks so lovely!

Stop 3: Ljubljana

Four days of partying with my rather fantastic in-laws and cheering on one of our favorite couples ... I am pumped!!

So tell me, those of you who've been to any of these cities: what's on our must-do and must-see list? Time will be short, but we're excited to gogogo once we get there. I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Simple Salad with French Vinaigrette

Oh, how I love salads. Not in an annoying girl-not-eating-on-first-date way (by the way, I've never been that girl), but in a hearty, voracious "I will now compose the perfect salad for this moment and it will kick ass" way. Salads matter. I go through phases with them in my own kitchen, showering one with attention for weeks and then firing it from the runway when I'm bored. For a record three months, though, this salad has kept my attention. It's sneaky, this salad - so simple yet somehow so rewarding. So before I proclaim it "out" and send it to the workroom to pack up its things, I thought I'd share it here.

The first and most important ingredient: the dressing. I found it via David Lebovitz, whose post on french vinaigrette is exactly why I love his blog. He doesn't just throw out a recipe; he sets the stage. He muses over mustard and complains at length about how balsamic vinegar is misused in dressings. He makes the case for sherry vinegar and then charmingly includes photos of freshly-washed greens drying en plein air. And finally, the recipe. Here it is in all its glory.

French Vinaigrette
from David Lebovitz

Makes about 1/4 cup - you'll want to double this if your head(s) of lettuce are especially large

1/2 small shallot, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
(or red wine vinegar if you don't have sherry vinegar - but I recommend taking this excuse to buy sherry vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
(I love Maille Dijon Mustard so much I eat it with plain crackers as a snack. The stuff is like crack to me.)
3T to 4T olive oil
Fresh herbs, if desired
(I love making this dressing with fresh flat leaf parsley, but any herb you love will do - or none at all!)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, vinegar, and shallot. Let stand for about ten minutes.

2. Mix in the Dijon mustard, then add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir well, then taste. If too sharp, add the additional olive oil and more salt, if necessary. Add more mustard if you like as well.

3. If you wish to add fresh herbs, it's best to chop and mix them in shortly before serving so they retain their flavor.

4. Plan on adding freshly ground black pepper to your greens before dressing the salad.

This dressing will keep for about eight hours at room temperature. I like to make it while dinner's on the stove and I can throw everything together when it's fresh.

Maggie's Simple Salad

It doesn't get any easier than this, folks. Or more delicious! 
(For now. Until my next salad phase strikes.)

French vinaigrette
Soft greens (I usually do a combination of red and green leaf lettuce)
One apple, cut into strips (Pink Lady apples are my fave)
Handful of walnuts
Sprinkling of cheese if you want some (I've done a slew of different cheeses - it's pictured here with freshly grated Parm)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Add freshly ground black pepper to your greens and mix in apple slices and walnuts

2. Dress the salad and add cheese, if desired

3. Eat! Make silly noises and utter weird groans because it is so good!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

One hopeless consumerism item for you this week, and two more videos. What can I say... videos have been doing it for me lately. (Why yes, my books are sitting neglected on my bedside table... can you tell? Give me a break, at least I finally subscribed to the Post! Being a bookworm again will commence once I can walk into my closet and I have art on the walls, okay?) Um, anyway, back to my picks for the week:

Two Paths Trench

It's raining this morning, which makes me think that I really "need" this trench. Very early birthday present to myself?

NASA Scientists Plan To Approach Girl by 2018

Pitch perfect, this video. Full credit to my sister-in-law for bringing this brilliance into my life. Seriously, watch it. Cackle. Weep with delight. Thank me later. (ps: While we're talking The Onion, I sometimes fear I'm turning into this guy.)?

The Runaways

Whatever, naysayers, this movie looks kind of rad. I know there are legions of Kristen Stewart haters out there, but I'm not among you for two reasons: A) I haven't seen any of the Twilight films B) I have seen Adventureland. But more importantly, Dakota Fanning all growns up and rocking it onstage? I want this movie to be 2010's Whip It.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Little finds of mine

To answer some recent queries, a little spotlight on two favorite items around our apartment:

1. My I Love Eastern North Carolina pillow, from this post.

I know, isn't it ridiculously cute?

The pillow is from Etsy seller Love California, and is even more adorable in person than in the photo! I'm actually going to order another one from her, so I'd better act fast before all of you read this and get your own orders in before mine. Here's why Love California wool felt pillows are amazing: she can make pillows for every state, she offers 13 colors, and you can have the heart placed wherever you'd like! So go get your state pride on in pillow form! I kind of want to have one for each of my favorite places. Is that overkill?

2. My "utensil crock," from this post.

Please enjoy the junk on the table in the background

This is actually a planter! I searched high and low for a utensil crock to solve my old kitchen problem of When Kitchen Utensils Attack. I was using three different standard-sized crocks (they were flame Le Creuset, imagine that) and it was a constant battle to find what I was looking for, have all my utensils clean at the same time, and keep them inside the crocks. I soon discovered there aren't any crocks made for the size I needed, so I began searching Etsy for potters I liked who might do a custom order. No such luck. Finally, I started the search for planters, knowing I could get closer to the size I needed and hoping I could find something decent. After almost going the windowbox route (thinking I'd stain or paint it to match the kitchen), I landed upon this planter at the Nicholson-Hardie Garden Shop in Dallas. It's 16"x6" and fits everything with ease while also looking a lot less cluttered. My only remaining task now is to create permanent dividers inside for better organization. I have cardboard dividers in there now as a temporary solution. All in all, though, a much better system for me. And thanks for noticing!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Collards for Jill

My heart and head are someplace else today. Eastern North Carolina, to be exact.

While I'm simultaneously wishing I wasn't so far away and appreciative that I now live closer to the homeland than ever, check out my latest EADL post on urban patio gardening. I'm looking for your tips on turning my patio green.

A new idea this morning: can I grow collards out there?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Steel Gardenias

How many viewers recognized the gardenia in Best Supporting Actress Mo'Nique's hair as an homage to Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award?

Mo'Nique's acceptance speech was short, simple, and powerful. "I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she had to, so that I would not have to," she said.

Endure she did. According to Salon, "Hattie McDaniel was barred from attending the "Gone With the Wind" premiere in Atlanta, because it would have been against Georgia law for her to sit in a theater with white people. She was not only the first African-American to win an Academy Award but the first to be allowed into the ceremony in anything but a serving capacity -- they stuck her at a table in the back. Although she was a talented singer and comedian, she won Hollywood's grudging respect by playing a maid named Mammy. And during her tearful acceptance speech (below), she said bluntly, "I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race." It was 1940. Here's the video:

Any wonder that Mo'Nique wanted to reference that moment? She's currently at work on a film about McDaniel, by the way. Honoring who came before her: nicely done.

Also bringing more to the Oscar table than meets the eye is Best Actress Sandra Bullock. Her acceptance speech was gracious, funny, warm, tender, real... all the reasons she's been labeled America's Sweetheart for so long. But as her tribute to her mother and her understated nod to her husband revealed, there's much more there than meets the eye.

Rewind the tape to the night before the Oscars, where America's Sweetheart Turned Best Actress recieved an award of a differnet kind - a Worst Actress Razzie for the deplorable "All About Steve." Not only did Sandy B show up to accept the award, she owned the moment. This is how you turn lemons into lemonade with a smile:

Grace under pressure in two very different ways, from the leading ladies of the night. Women to learn from, these two. Congratulations.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Calling Spring...

Last night's Oscar telecast? A little meh. I was pretty disappointed that we didn't get to hear a live performance of now-Oscar winning Best Song "The Weary Kind," which further proved the utter pointlessness of having twice the number of Best Picture nominees this year to introduce. But Jeff Bridges as Best Actor... yes! And the first female Best Director... yes! And not having to hear James Cameron shout, "I'm the king of the world! Again!"... yes! And pretty, pretty dresses... yes! My top three have me dreaming about spring:

Rachel McAdams in Elie Saab

Anna Kendrick in Elie Saab

 Maggie Gyllenhaal in Dries Van Noten

Speaking of spring, after a great and productive weekend with my parents, a few patio projects outside are promising me that a new season is on the way, too. More on that soon.

In the meantime, I'm looking for telecommuting time management advice over on EADL. If you also work from home and struggle with distractions from time to time, go check out the comments - there are some fantastic tips over there!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

Oh, Friday I'm Love, how I've missed you! Although my folders are bursting with fun finds, I wanted to do videos today due to my short attention span. See, I'm busy - my parents are driving up later today to spend the weekend with us. DRIVING UP! This has not happened... ever. I've always lived an airplane ride away. I can't wait to see them and kick some apartment ass around this place. But the fun doesn't end there: on Sunday, my pal Richard is staying with us, too. Check in over on Twitter on Sunday, where I'll surely be Oscar-tweeting to my heart's content while Richard makes me giggle-snort with snark. But enough intro... on to the fun videos!

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Nope, this isn't new. But I'm still obsessed with it. We play this commercial all the time around here. Just amazing. Amazing, I tell you!


We are huge Community fans. Here's just a taste of why. Go watch the show, seriously. And yes, that is Joel McHale wearing tiny gym shorts on the front page of the website. You might want to check out the full episode from last night...

SNL President Reunion
I love seeing the SNL presidents in one room together. Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond are perfect here, and how about Jim Carrey and Chevy Chase making an appearance? The best line, though, goes to Dana Carvey as #41, to his son: "Yeah, that second term of yours was a real victory lap, wasn't it, Dubbers?" I spit out my coffee.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone - I know I will!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kitchen first

With the exception of paint, a mail sorter, and a wall-mounted bathroom cabinet (also known as Item #2855 we have assembled since moving in), our walls are still bare. And there are still boxes, to be sure. But no matter. Because I now have cookbooks. And things to cook in. And a pantry. As the kitchen is the heart of a home, this progress tips my emotional balance away from focusing on the wreckage of the office and the wasteland of my closet. The rest will come. But this is now, and real, and good:

It's a city-sized kitchen, without question... but it's mine.

My sister-in-law totally noticed my color-coordination within minutes of coming over last night. That is why I love her. And I love this color-coordination! I need something to go on top to draw attention away from that gap. Picture frames looked too cluttered, none of my vases are quite enough of a statement, and I'm sick of candles everywhere. I'm thinking a tall vase (but not too precarious due to the crazy kittenz) for fresh flowers or an low oval planter of succulents.

Our solution for tight kitchen storage: this bookcase where ugly appliances are hidden underneath and pretty Le Creuset goes on top. Lest you think I have a flame Le Creuset problem, know that I own five more pieces that wouldn't even fit on the shelving. ADDICT! We're going to install glass doors on the top and I'll replace the plain knobs with funky "single Maggie" ones. But it's a start! I love you, Ikea Billy (you'll be seeing a lot of them - we have three more in white going into the office).

This island is intended to be extremely effective for me while cooking. I wavered between making it pretty and spare and having a nightmare of clutter in every cabinet, or just laying out everything I needed right where I'd need it. This approach won, and I think I'll be happier for it when I'm cooking. (Ignore the clutter of dining chairs in the back - there's a reason we're only looking at the kitchen today.)

PANTRY! This apartment was the only one we saw in DC with a pantry, so I do not take this little closet a quarter the size of my old pantry for granted, trust me. My stuff fits in there pretty well, although it's undoubtedly layered. But I can deal. Again: function over form in this kitchen.

Speaking of "layered," no more bulk products laid out to assess in an instant. But that's okay. As you'll notice, it's time for me to restock. Speaking of, does anyone know the best place in DC for bulk pantry items? The Whole Foods here left me wanting (not even any bulk spices? really?). Oh how I miss Central Market.

That's it for now! I would say, "Stay tuned for xxxxx tomorrow," but I can't promise anything. We're doing the best we can over here. And my parents come this weekend to be put to work - woo hoo!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

DC's Right to Marry

As a brand new resident of the District of Columbia, I'm so proud to say that gay marriage is now legal in my city. Beginning today, marriage licenses are being issued to all couples, regardless of orientation. I would go down to the courthouse to watch the joy (and inevitable protest drown-out) in person, but I think I might get too weepy. So from another corner of town, I'm sending my love to that big line of committed couples, whose world is a lot more just today.




Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Screwed by the screw

There may or may not be quite a bit of angst on my part regarding the amount of projects littering our apartment and my mental To Do list. Our place is certainly livable right now, but there are boxes and random items everywhere. To complicate matters, much of our ability to nest was stymied by the moving company from hell taking it upon themselves to break furniture that was supposed to hold nicely unpacked items. And so, we've been stuck.

Progress: T passed a big certification exam for his new job yesterday, despite cramming for only two weeks while most folks take months to prepare. This is obviously fantastic news on the career front for him, but it's also fantastic news on the home front for me, because I've been struggling to put our place together largely by myself for the past two weeks while he studied. And so in lieu of the celebratory dinner for his big career gold star yesterday, I whisked him off to Ikea and made him buy us the makings of new bookcases and storage solutions for all our stuff. Such a reward for his big accomplishment, right? The aftermath:

Scene: This morning, T getting ready for work

T: "We can start knocking off projects as soon as I get home."
M: "Okay. I promise I won't try to finish the bathroom cabinet by myself today."
T: "Good."

See... now that I'm working from home, I'm finding it difficult to strike a good balance between the work I get paid to do and the projects screaming for my attention all around me, all day long. T knows I struggle with this, coming in after work and seeing 15 fewer boxes in the apartment and me not exactly behind my desk and on the clock. I think the balance will be easier for me to strike once things are a tad more manageable around here. I hope so, anyway. And so this morning, remembering my promise to avoid the bathroom cabinet, I looked instead to the deceptively simple flat Ikea box that held the cube shelf that will be home to my cookbooks.

My thought process: "So simple to construct... I can knock this right out then get straight to work... for my next break I can put all my cookbooks inside... maybe I'll find inspiration before I go the grocery store later... it'll be so great to get this out of the way... I'd be crazy not to do it..." Despite that condescending illustration in the instructions, of course:

But here I am an hour later, with arms all achy and body all scratched from try to wrestle the final pesky screw into place, and I still haven't gotten to the work I get paid to do. Or checked anything off my list. And sure, why not waste a little more time and write up this story? Wait, what, it is 11 a.m.?! And through all this, that screw is just mocking me.

Fine, Part #104323, FINE. I cannot conquer you alone. I should've waited for help. 


Monday, March 1, 2010

Happily reunited: product junkie and products

It doesn't get much worse than being without our bed for three weeks. But I'll tell ya... as much as my back hurt during our spell of unplanned urban camping, my skin didn't fare much better. I had basic moisturizer and travel-sized shower products with me, but that was it (oh the whining!). So this weekend, in the midst of our broken furniture and boxes upon boxes to unpack, I happily reunited with these goodies. I mean, if you're going to be facing a heap of broken patio furniture, at least your skin can glow while doing so, yes?

Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Mask

The only thing I miss about wedding planning was my excuse to get expensive facials on a regular basis. Oh Bliss, your triple oxygen facial is to die for! Lucky for us all, they make a to-go version that's really fantastic. It doesn't do nearly what the real thing can achieve, but any time I need an instant pick-me-up, this bottle is what I turn to... and dang if it doesn't produce results every time. (I was actually jonesing for a skin recharge so much while waiting for our stuff that I splurged on Bliss' new Triple Oxygen + C Energizing Cream... so far, so good!)

MD Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel

I got hooked on this two-step system six months or so before our wedding, and never looked back. I'm telling you, a wedding's all it takes to ramp up one's skincare routine. These do such a brilliant job of evening and brightening skin tone and texture. I was absolutely desperate to have these little pads of magic back!

Origins Clear Improvement Mask

I worked for Origins in college, and this mask is still my go-to when I need to suck my pores clean of gunk. It just plain works. And oh how I needed those pores sucked clean this weekend...

Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque

Love this product - so sheer and clean, yet really effective to combat dryness.

Origins Modern Friction

The best face scrub I've ever used, hands down. The texture of your skin after using this stuff is completely changed once you rinse it off. LOVE.

 Bliss Blood Orange + White Pepper Sugar Scrub

 As if I needed another excuse to spend lots of time in the shower now that we have a fancy shower head... But this jar of goodness will give you one. I just adore this product. The creamy smoothness, the SMELL... the best. I have other products in this line, too, but this one's the big winner for me.

Davines LOVE curl enhancing shampoo + conditioner

I love these products, and my hair was very much over the travel-size drugstore shampoo I'd been using for three weeks. The shampoo is lovely, but the conditioner is out of this world fantastic.

Fekkai Coiff Bouffant Lifting and Texturizing Spray Gel

My lack of daily hair styling is half laziness, half natural hair texture... and this stuff doesn't make me feel guilty for never picking up a blow dryer and/or straightening tools. Hey, if it ain't broke...

Fekkai Luscious Curls Cream

As stated previously... give me a product that makes my styling laziness look like something purposeful, and I'm yours. The texture of this product is perfect for me.

Origins Out of Trouble Mask

When all else fails and you have breakouts anyway, this mask is what you need. It's like a boot camp instructor for your face, yelling at it to clean itself up pronto. Sometimes we all need a little ass-kicking, after all.
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