Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Late summer dahlias

Before I started growing dahlias, they were my favorite flower. Six months after planting my Biltmore bulbs, I'm even more in awe of these flowers. They're so slow-growing and stubborn; I can't imagine the volume and control needed to compose things like my wedding bouquets on demand. A friend of mine from high school told me her husband's family has a dahlia farm; I must know more! I have four varieties outside in my little patio garden. Here's how they're doing:

These dark beauties were the first dahlias to bloom, and only come out to say hi every now and then. When they do, I'm a picture-snapping fool around them! I have two more starting to peek out now.

The peach dahlias have been my most prolific by far. The color is beautiful, but they're much smaller than the other varieties. Check out how many of them dot the background of this distant shot. (I've included some close-ups here and here.)

I've only had two blooms so far from the "Caribbean Fantasy" variety. The combination of yellow and pink is gorgeous... but both of them seemed to have the bottoms slightly sawed-off! Any thoughts as to why?

One section of my dahlia plantings has remained stubbornly bloomless for months, so I'm thrilled that this one has finally started to come out and play - it was my favorite when I picked out bulbs! Enter "Tahiti Sunrise." Come out out, pretty one, I'm waiting with my camera!

I'll be sure to chart this one's progress, although I fear I'll miss its best moments when I'm out of town this weekend. Ah well - hopefully it's out to play now for good!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Emmy hangover

Quick thoughts from last night's Emmys, which I loved. Thankfully, I got home just ten minutes before the brilliant opening number.

1. The Brilliant Opening Number. A tribute to every Glee fan watching the show - and appeasing enough that I could fully root for Modern Family the rest of the evening and not feel guilty. (Sidenote: Jon Hamm cameos in everything, please!)

2. Eric Stonestreet. Loved his win, loved "Mitchell's" tears. Me to T: "If your last name was Stonestreet, I probably would've changed mine."

3. Sofia Vergara. My favorite look of the night. This woman is flat-out stunning.

4. Jane Lynch's Win. She looked beautiful - and I loved that her wife and step-daughter were there with her. The best thing about Sue Sylvester is that the character is instantly iconic. Watching her eat the scenery on 'Glee,' you get the feeling that in ten years we might not remember Schu's name, or Rachel's, or Artie's. But we will always talk about Sue Sylvester.

4. Ladies in Waiting. Tina Fey, Jayma Mays, Elisabeth Moss, and Jenna Fischer: you looked fabulous.

5. Mad Men. I am not surprised, I have the utmost respect for the show, and I really enjoy watching it. That said, I was holding out hope for a "Dexter" upset. Have you seen Season 4?

6. Modern Family. Just thrilled for the show! The spoof during the Emmy's completely stole my heart. George Clooney for the win. As usual.

7. Jimmy Fallon. Nicely done, sir.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Unscripted weekend

We're off to Fenwick for the weekend, featured on the list of places I probably never would've experienced if not for the man I married. It's peaceful and New England and oh so Waspy, and it's truly gorgeous. Katherine Hepburn's former home is just a few houses away. Take a peek at Katherine Hepburn's Fenwick and Kate's Hometown to get a sense of the prettiness that awaits us tonight.

Kate in Her 80's

We're getting back Sunday just in time for the Emmys, which I confess was by design. I don't have a single memory of watching the Emmys in years past, but I can't wait for the awards on Sunday. The quality of television has improved so dramatically in recent years. Television is smarter and edgier and more real than ever before. And by "real" I'm not referencing the scourge of brainlessness known as "reality television," which when not in talent-based competition form I detest like nothing else (and even then am pretty picky). I'm talking scripts and performances and production value here. But in years past, tuning in for awards of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Season 53 of "ER?" No thanks. But this Sunday, diving into the goodness that was this year's "Modern Family," "Glee," "Dexter," "30 Rock," "Mad Men," and, scarily for me, so many more. I can't even imagine who'll take home Best Comedy and Best Drama ... it's more than I can take!

Honestly, so much good tv makes me nervous. I hate feeling tied to the tube, but I know there are more good series out there I'm not watching. I loved the first season of "United States of Tara," but haven't caught up with it since. And everyone who watches "Breaking Bad" raves about it - plus, it's filmed in my beloved ABQ. Also, I need to get sick and Netflix the entire series of "Damages" so I can know what everyone's talking about. And can we discuss the new Buscemi drama on HBO? Ahhhh!

See, I'm getting nervous just talking about what I'm not watching. But first: family contentment in Fenwick.

Have a happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Women on the page

I've been a terrible reader the past several months. I have several nonfiction books beside the bed, all half-plowed through. I have a stack of untouched magazines that I've carried with me on no less than three separate weekend getaways in hopes of reading, to no avail. I just recycled a huge pile of newspapers that went unread last week. Sure, last week was nuts, but still - enough is enough. The harsh truth of it is, as busy or as scatter-brained as I may be from time to time, nothing is as bad for my reading habits as the Internet. I have the power and ability to be a better reader than I've been the last six months, I fully acknowledge that. I am my own worst reading enemy, and I vow here and now to turn over a new leaf in September.

On that note, here are two books I did manage to finish recently. They're both breezy and engaging, and they both recount the lives of two fantastic women.

First up, the famously reclusive Harper Lee, in Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles Shields.

I received this book as a gift years ago, and forgot it was on the shelf until I read about a remarkable letter that Ms. Lee wrote to author Alice Randall regarding the legal dispute surrounding Randall's The Wind Done Gone, as featured in Garden & Gun.

The book is not so much a revelation of Ms. Lee as it is an overview of her life thus far, much of which I didn't know. I read this book picturing Catherine Keener in her Truman performance, wry and warm and handsome. Not a rigorous biography by any means, Shields gives us a gentle look into the places she lived and the people she knew - many of whom were told by Ms. Lee herself not to cooperate. I learned the frame of her life, got to know the stage, but I'm still wondering much about the woman herself. It seems incomprehensible at times to connect the social awkwardness and often rude sensibilities of the younger Lee with the woman who went on to charm a small Kansas town and publish a masterpiece, then again to withdraw and give up on ever writing again. Harper Lee is a mystery. This book, while delightfully written, only adds to that mystery. That said, spending time with Ms. Lee's sense of humor, Southern sensibilities, and earnest justice was time well spent.

Next up, the infamous "Insatiable Critic" herself, Gael Greene. I've already waxed poetic about Gael's status as one of my favorite Tweeters, so I knew I'd enjoy this book, which my pal H kindly loaned me. In a way, one could consider Gael's "more is more" approach the antithesis of Harper Lee's "less is more" life lesson. What can I say... I tend to favor more myself. Here's what I wrote about Insatiable on Goodreads* last night, where I couldn't help but make another comparison:

I'm sure it's easy to dislike Gael Greene. Too visceral, too confessional, too... much. Me, though? I can't help but like her. I like her breeze and her boldness and, well, her balls. She resides on the opposite side of my heart from Ruth Reichl. She's less a cook and more a show-woman than Ruth. She's less about where the rest of us eat, and more about where we should eat. Ruth is my everywoman, but I have some Gael in there, too ... no question about it. We shouldn't have to choose between Ruth or Gael. That we can have both women on our bookshelves, our televisions, and our twitter feeds is in itself a modern miracle. "Insatiable" is too long a book, and the quick-hit reports of restaurant happenings over a decade are unnecessary - there are other and better books for that. This book is at its best when Gael tells her story the way that only she can, with that unmistakable voice, that gorgeous sentence structure, and that openness that is shockingly rare these days, and incredibly alluring to follow. She is a class act, and to this woman whose most quoted line is "the two greatest discoveries of the 20th century were the Cuisinart and the clitoris" ... well, I will forever salute that.

I'm stocking my Goodreads "To Read" folder with goodies this afternoon. Tell me, what else should I add?

*By the way, are you on Goodreads? Find me!

City or beach?

It's pretty easy to get in a real estate funk livin' in the big city. We are not suburban types, which makes several factors more stressful for us as we househunt: space, neighborhood, transit accessibility, style, COST. Even still... walkable streets, people and activity around us, neighborhood shops and restaurants, urban parks, like-minded folks... these are the things we hope to continue to be able to prioritize.

Half of what I do for a living involves promoting lifestyles exactly like the one I just described, making them more possible through transit. We talk to community clients about the time savings and lifestyle benefits of one less car payment (or none at all), no commute, on and on. So I get that a higher pricepoint for a rowhome in the city comes with ample savings elsewhere. More importantly, I'm just happier this way.

But oh, the cost.

An Open House Sunday I wrote about here

I regaled my siblings over the weekend with the tragedies we've seen on Open House Sundays: the "value-priced" $500k rowhome that looked perfect from the outside, but was only 562 square feet inside. The places priced beyond our wildest dreams that still needed to be torn apart inside. The idea that asking for a third bedroom is the equivalent of needing to win the lottery (I'm not greedy, I just need a home office!). The concept that a million dollar home is not only not a mansion, it might not even have two bathrooms.

So here's my grand idea I shared with the fam: We forget about buying in the city, and instead keep renting, in a house in a great 'hood. And here's the kicker: we buy a beach house instead. Shockingly, beach houses are a fraction of the price of DC real estate. Also, in case you didn't hear that: beeeeeaaaaacccccchhhhh house! I think I've had beach house fantasies since I was in high school. But to have a retreat like this...

So sure, this is probably the stuff of fantasy, too. But seriously... kind of genius, no?

How do those of you living in expensive cities deal? No, really. I'm all ears.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

She's Alive!

It's true. And while I'm certainly happy to have a job, I do sometimes wish for a more sustainable pace, something a little steadier than a situation that goes from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. The speed limit (or fine, slightly over) is more my speed, thanks.

But since complaining about one's job is the death of any blog readership, let's discuss the other things I've been up to lately:


Yeah really, there hasn't been much else. Although I did escape home for a quick weekend to help my sister with the new nursery. Her doc thought it best she not travel to DC as planned last weekend, so I went there instead. We got a ton of things done for the new baby (only eight weeks away!), and managed more than a few laughs while doing so.

Seriously, every time I want to feel sorry for myself, I imagine trying to do more than my fair share while hugely pregnant with a 14-month-old screaming to be picked up. Then I realize I have it pretty easy.

Now to delve into all million unread items in my Google Reader so I can see just what you all have been up to while I've been away...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer potato salad

I mentioned yesterday that I made five pounds of potato salad for our concert tailgate and promptly left it home. The tragedy! Since T and I are now tasked with eating potato salad every day this week, I thought it'd be fitting to post the recipe here.

I'm actually pretty picky when it comes to potato salad. If it's too heavy or mayo-laden, I can't do it. This recipe is my favorite because it's just perfect for warm weather: it's cool and light and zesty and crunchy. Featuring greek yogurt and cucumbers, it also packs some of my favorite summer flavors. Give it a try if you're tired of your stand-by. And uh, it doubles nicely if you're feeding a group of concert-goers (or just yourself for waaay longer than intended). Other types of cukes and chiles work well here, too.

Tzatziki Potato Salad

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup Greek-style, plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Kirby cucumbers - peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 serrano chile, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook over high heat until tender, about 9 minutes. Drain, gently shaking out the excess water. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for about 10 minutes, just until no longer warm.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the yogurt with the mayonnaise until smooth. Add the cucumbers, chile, mint and dill. Fold in the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nice little weekend

First up, this movie is so much geeky fun in one sitting, it hurts. Really, go see it. It's perfectly cast, adorably video gamed-up, self-conscious and gentle and biting and sweet and funny, and the music (Beck!) rocks.

Second, our patio work continues. I've had this beaten-up table for years (see its original incarnation here) and haven't been protecting it from the outdoor elements at all. It's been getting some TLC of late as part of our makeover efforts outside (pics soon!). Here it is after the weekend, sanded/refinished/repainted and ready for waterproofing:

Third: Ray LaMontagne! Such a good show with David Gray. My pal Dan is nominating himself for Husband of the Year for seeing David Gray three times this year at his wife's request. I enjoyed my first-timer DG status, although did feel badly this his nice light gray English suit was nearly black with sweat by concert's end. The other tragedy of the night was that I left five pounds of potato salad I made for tailgating in the fridge at home because I accidentally packed two containers of quinoa instead. D'oh! Hearing Ray sing our wedding song live made me pretty giddy, though. The man is fantastic!

Finally, bedroom makeover at long last! While the rest of our place has advanced to "completed decor" status, our bedroom has languished in a sad state since we got here. We had photos of bedding taped on the wall, potential paint samples everywhere, boxed art lying around, etc. We found bedding at long last and jumped on this totally inspiring paint color to make it pop. I'm obsessed with the color! Here's a messy bedding pic with the bed still in the middle of the room for paint-drying purposes, but you get the idea. The room is finally on its way, which feels pretty great. Can't wait to decorate these walls and get myself organized in there now! I'll post pics once we're finished, which feels like it might actually happen now that this step is done.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

This is how I've taken to dealing with workday stress:

Parenthood! With my celebrity doppelganger Lauren Graham, above (oh how I want her hair). I love this show. My sister and her husband told me forever ago that I'd love it, and I already knew I loved the cast, but I didn't have mental space for another tv show last year. Hulu to the summer rescue! My tv boyfriend Peter Krause to ease the workday pain!

I'm writing up a storm today to get the weekend here already. I'm pumped to see this movie, and also to see this guy live on Sunday. I already warned our fellow concert-goers that we're going to have to make out during our wedding song.

Any fun weekend plans in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hello RED!

So how about a nail biting check-in? I am beaten down from work and travel this week, so 'fessing up my fingernail sins right now is like water off a duck's back. I'll confess it all right now, if it keeps me away from my ringing phone and dinging work inbox.

The good: The nails keep growing! I have cut/filed them three times!

The bad: I cannot stop messing with them unless they're perfectly painted.

Picture me on the train back from Philadelphia the other night, with a brain of mush and pounding sinuses and tired eyes. There's no way I'm doing work or trying to read anything. And oh look! There are my nails that I painted days ago with work-appropriate nude polish that has chipped around the edges, which has prompted me to subtly sharpen the edges with my teeth over two days of mind-numbing meetings! I will now proceed to pick off all the polish over the next two hours!

And then the next day, polish-free, I will subtly nibble at the edges of those nails while editing and pretend it's fine. But it's not fine. Addict! I am powerless without polish.

Unpainted and daaaaangerous: 

Red to the rescue!

My sis has been trying to stop biting her nails, too. She's visiting next weekend, and I told her if she holds out from biting, we'll leave the baby with the boys and go get our nails did.

HA! Things I did not expect to say!

I think these red nails are improving my mood. Grant application due date: August 23. I will be a happy, happy girl when we press 'submit.' Maybe I need red the rest of the month.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dusk in DC

Too much business travel featuring coughing and sneezing lately, not enough time to enjoy this sky from my Northwest DC perch:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

Ahhh... weekend! I need this one, how about you? Join me in a round of applause for paper and Paul this week:

Side Street Stationery

I stumbled upon this stationery this week and have been repeatedly peeking at my bookmark ever since. The urban form! The pennants! The colors! 

studiokmo's Mapcuts

I've long crushed on papercuts (I'm looking at you, Rob Ryan), and have a slew of them favorited on etsy. It's easy to forget a hidden gem that way, and I'd completely forgotten about these gorgeous papercut maps until Paper Crave's post this week. Studiokmo's mapcuts are spectacular - perfect stuff for this paper-lover and city-lover.

Paul Rudd, way back when...

Crushing on Paul Rudd isn't exactly ground-breaking, but I have no shame. Here's a video of Paul way back in the day when he worked the Bat Mitzvah DJ circuit. Ahh, humble beginnings... that hair! that outfit! that enthusiasm! (Via the crudely flamboyant man who makes me laugh like no other, dlisted.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fresh from the garden

Today for lunch I ate my first garden tomato. Here it is straight from the garden - and look at those adorable little peppers growing behind it!

Simple summer meals like this one taste so much better to me when the tomato and the basil were picked just feet away from my kitchen. (Next up: how to fit a cow on my patio to facilitate homegrown mozzarella for 100% all-me caprese ... hmmm.....)

Here's the rest of my lunch today:

One of my favorite things to eat when it's sticky outside is chilled cucumber soup. This soup is gorgeous and cooling and delicious, but I barely used anything from my garden to make it. Next year, I'm definitely planting cucumbers - we eat too many of them not to give them a shot ourselves. As for the rest of it, while you all know how well my basil's done, my mint and dill haven't done nearly as well. Even though it's already August, I might try another mint plant. So many people I know have a mint bonanza outside, and all I can figure it that my mint plant is a dud - and possibly in a container that's too small. I don't know anyone successfully growing dill, which makes me feel a tad better that ours didn't last. But we are dill freaks, so I'd love some tips if you have them for next year.

How are your August gardens taking the heat? What are your latest garden-fresh eats?

PS: The eagle eyes among you might have spotted hints of a new patio and garden setup outside. We did some fun stuff out there, and I'll get pictures as soon as we're closer to having it done.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sunshine when you need it: Lemon Quinoa With Asparagus And Feta

I'm home from an unexpected work trip to Tampa, where the only sunshine I saw was my adorable Olive Manna travel coffee mug. Not so much sunshine when you're locked in a windowless conference room for days on end. At any rate... I am home but barely staying afloat amidst deadlines, which is too bad, because being away makes me want to do nothing more than play in my garden and cook in my kitchen. I have some fun new things to share, but for now - an old standby recipe, which I recently fell in love with all over again when I made it for my cousin. She's vegetarian and her mom is allergic to gluten, so this dish is a homerun for both of them. (Also: unbelievably delicious.) Enjoy!

Lemon Quinoa With Asparagus And Feta
Via Cookthink

2 cups quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
3 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces feta, crumbled
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Bring 4 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in medium saucepan. When the water boils, add the quinoa and stir. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the water, 15-20 minutes. Set aside covered for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
2. Meanwhile, prep the rest of the ingredients. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it's hot and shimmering, stir in the shallot. Cook, stirring often, until the shallot is light brown, 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the asparagus and thyme and cook, stirring often, until the asparagus is tender but still bright green, 8-10 minutes. (Add a tablespoon or so of water halfway through cooking to steam the asparagus a little).
4. When the asparagus is done, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the quinoa, then the crumbled feta, lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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