Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween, or, Being a Goofball and Getting Away With It

I'm antsy with excitement about the weekend ahead. My pal H arrives this afternoon for a weekend that includes a fun dinner tonight, some rallying tomorrow, and a little Halloween gathering tomorrow night. We decided to launch a local pub crawl from our apartment, which gave me a great excuse to break out the boxes of decorations I've had since those legendary college Halloween parties we started throwing in 1997.

Take these spooky candelabras, for instance, which had a few timeout years back in the day due to their fire hazard potential during raucous flip cup matches. Adult apartment with nice furnishings in a prohibitively expensive and therefore small space = no flip cup! Although there's always the patio...

There will be decidedly less beer this time around, and I'm skipping fake spiderwebs everywhere, too. Just a small little crowd taking in the local scene. Fanny has contempt for this approach, by the way. As a Halloween kitten she thinks we should go big or go home. I remind her it's not college anymore. Hell, it's not even graduate school anymore.

Since I'm way, way, way olderwiser  now, I know enough to prevent the rookie mistake of eating all the Halloween candy before guests arrive. This is why I not only refuse to open any bags of candy until Saturday, I've even hidden them from myself (and umm... will hopefully remember said hiding place tomorrow). Speaking of the rookie days, here's a treasure - the dreaded costume box, forced upon anyone who dared show up sans costume. This collection is pretty finely tuned, actually - consisting of a few basic things I bought during Year 1 and growing annually with the props that drunken partiers left behind at our place.

Oh, and my "Michael's bag of crazy" costume? I left a hint for you in one of these pictures. Let's just say I'll be straddling the very thin line between "abstract artistic expression" and "hot mess." In a feminist- and conservative-approved manner, of course.

Go get after it this weekend, everyone. After all, laughing at ourselves is the best kind of laughter.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Women I Love: Martina and Chris

Please tell me that you've all seen at least one "30 For 30" on ESPN. I don't want to hear that you're not a sports fan, or that you hate documentaries, or that you never watch ESPN. I don't want to hear it, because this documentary series celebrating ESPN's 30 years on the air is the best thing on television right now. (And yes, I say that knowing full well how many groundbreaking scripted dramas and comedies are currently on the air.) Like all my favorite sports-based art, the series either leaps outside or steps back inside with each story. For one story "30 For 30" will shrink inside of the news, peering within and poking under the bed of the story. Then with the next, it will expand to take note of the societal, cultural, and political undercurrents of that single moment in sports. That Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City is my favorite book about sports is a telling indication of why I love "30 For 30" so much. It's the book I wish I wrote, following the threads of change and the currency of place and politics that run through it all.

Take "30 For 30"s piece on Allen Iverson, for instance, which tells the tale of an infamous player, but does so in the contentious context of where he came from, which colors everything differently. (Freckled Citizen Trivia of the Day: my mom grew up in the same apartment complex Iverson did in Newport News, VA.) Or how about The U, digging into the cult of the University of Miami football team in the '80s, in all its coke-white splendor. Or June 17, 1994, which in brilliant - brilliant, I tell you - pacing, shows us just how many sports stories were unfolding during the the OJ chase, all in live action. I could keep going. I could bore you with my Sox pride again, I could tear up about the poignancy of Vlade Divac, I could talk about the brilliance of paralleling Tupac with Tyson, or I could simply geek out. What I'm getting at here is that there is a "30 For 30" for everyone. There is a "30 For 30" for you.

Last night I finally got around to a "30 For 30" I'd been saving for just the right moment: "Unmatched." The film explores the relationship of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, from what they call the greatest rivalry in sports, to their enduring friendship today. It's a remarkable piece about the strain of rivalry, the bonds of friendship, and most of all, about respect. Watch:

Martina and Chris grew up together. They practiced together before matches, even during the heat of their rivalry. They loved and hated one another. For fourteen years of women's tennis, one of the two of them was #1 in the world. The rankings shifted, but their bond did not. They were each other's biggest ally and biggest defender, even though their careers would have profited enormously had the other failed.

These women are an absolute delight to watch and to listen to, each remembering in many cases the triumphs and details of the other's career before they do their own. We learn about life off the court, too - how Chris accompanied Martina back to her hometown after she defected, watching for the communist leaders to applaud the hometown hero. We learn that Martina introduced Chris to her second husband, and wore a dress to their wedding. We learn that Chris defended Martina's sexuality at a time when no one else would do so, and that Martina would correct reporters who brushed off Chris as "America's sweetheart" by calling her the toughest woman in tennis.

There are few people in life you can call in the middle of the night and say that you need them. Martina and Chris are that person for one another. They're each other's rock, still. Through it all.

Watching these two powerhouses hang out in a dreamy beach house, walk along the beach, go for a jog, and drive off into the sunset, it occurs to me how rare it is these days to have the pleasure of watching women over fifty who aren't from Hollywood simply be. It's an honor and a treat to watch these women in conversation, confessing sins and doubts, in awe of the brashness and confidence of days gone by, but absolutely comfortable in their own skin. I grin when they laugh. I grinned a lot.

So maybe, just maybe, if you haven't yet found the "30 For 30" that's for you, this could be the one. It's amazing stuff, watching these two in action. Go find out for yourself, and start grinning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bulleted curiosities

Since I was last here, some strange and wonderful things happened.
  • I had another fab Skype date with a far-away pal. Technology, you complete me!
  • I attended a birthday party full of Brits and Americans known to take on pseudo British accents.
  • The Yankees lost. THE YANKEES LOST!
  • T finally acquired his DC driver's license, seven months after our arrival. Yes, we're slack, but the DMV hours here are simply ridiculous. The burning question: just how long will it take us to get DC plates on our car? (Because the plate is so cool, I might be a tad more excited for it than I am lazy about battling the DMV again.)
  • We attempted to run errands, but upon finding nearly every road out of DC (as well as several within DC) closed, we simply turned around and came home.
  • T officially became a blogger! If you are also a Virgo hockey goalie, this blog is for you!
  • Lots of eating and drinking (my faves). Not so much in the way of burning calories, but heh, that's what the week is for.
  • Halloween costume brainstorming
  • Halloween party brainstorming (oh it is ON)
  • Dinner at the apartment of T's family friend, who just moved to DC (yay awesome women living in DC!)
  • Getting lost in suburban Virginia in search of a Michael's craft store (there are no craft stores in all of DC, seriously) for costume makings ... but not being able to be annoyed because the foliage is drop-dead gorgeous right now. Getting lost is the new leaf-peeping.
  • Receiving the ultimate surprise from T: an afternoon appointment at Bliss for a Triple Oxygen Facial! He knows how much I loved getting these before our wedding, and how much I've missed them. Husband of the Year.
  • Somehow topping off the facial: dinner afterward at our favorite DC restaurant J&G, so good I didn't even care that my face was the color of my ginger salmon tartare.
  • Our cat Fanny's new thing: repeatedly waking us up by banging a painting against the wall with her paw. Bonus points for timing that with the neighbor's howling dog last night. 
  • Weekend anticipation. (already) (it's going to be awesome)
So here I sit, with a huge bag full of crazy from Michael's that is somehow going to turn into a cute costume in a manner of days. I think I need to buy a glue gun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall dahlias

My mom's yard and garden in NC are gorgeous right now. Had I been focused on much besides the family's new addition, I would have spent hours out there snapping photos. I was worried that when I got back to DC my rather neglected garden would shame me. But surprise, surprise - things are looking pretty good!

The key to my heart, though - as you well know - are the dahlias. The dahlias! They're amazing me right now. Take a look at the red that's moved into the dahlias I've been calling Pretty In Peach. I could stare at them all day. Prepare yourself for some floral gratuitousness.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

C'mon, get happy...

Among certain cohorts I've always been the perennial optimist, wearing a sunny smile and possessing cheer and confidence regarding whatever might come my way next. My disposition tends to be much more the stuff of Don Draper in the Season 4 Finale than the Don Draper of every other episode since 2007, and I like it that way. More and more, though, my good cheer had taken on a tone of sentimental ache. Maybe this is just me getting older? Hmmm. Take the stunning duet of "Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy" from last week's Glee, for instance. Melancholy perfection in every way - the perfect song for those voices. I've had it on constant replay ever since last week's episode.

(Also... since this song was ineligible for the Duets contest, can we discuss the ridiculousness of Quinn and Sam winning instead of Mercedes and Santana?! Thank you.)

"Forget your troubles.... c'mon get happy...." SIGH.

I once dated a guy who answered my neverending search for his good mood with "it's just my annual seasonal depression." I rolled my eyes. We didn't last much longer. And yet here I sit, looking out at the gray skies, playing melancholy songs, wishing I could somehow be doing four things at once and instead not doing much of anything. My blahness festers despite the perfect new nephew and some amazing days at home, a huge win at work, and my endlessly delightful partner in crime. There should be no blahness, and yet...

I want to make something amazing.

I want to write something real.

I want to know what I want, and be confident even if others don't agree.

I want to feel like I'm a making a difference.

Does it matter that I feel like each of these statements could be read with the word "again" at the end? Oh yes, cue the "time to recapture my brilliance of days past" parade. Someone Dial-A-Cliché before I get the chance.

Because on days like today, where my biggest accomplishment is working out to this hell via my computer while watching Season 1 of Damages on my television at the same time, something is a wee bit off. I'm sure I'll be sunnier tomorrow, but in the meantime, this is really the only thing that's working. 

I will not be a downer tomorrow. I will not be a downer tomorrow. I will not be a downer tomorrow. I will not be a downer tomorrow. I will not be a downer tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lucas' first weekend

This is my nephew Lucas. He's tiny and adorable, and I spent the weekend in awe of him.

T and I started calling him "Meow Mix," because he makes the cutest little kitten noises. He's eating hard so he can pack on a few pounds and get out of these preemie clothes. Don't his little mittens look like boxing gloves? I proposed satin shorts and a robe to complete his Halloween costume.

Liam is so proud to be a big brother. He remains ridiculously adorable. And I'm so proud of my sister for getting through an incredibly tough pregnancy and being such an amazing mom to her two (!) sons. You make me proud, sis!

And now, back to my easy existence free of demanding (however scrumptious) toddlers and newborns... What do I have to complain about, again?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October dreams

Ahhh... Boston in the fall. There's no better time to visit.

And I just love my college ladies. We had a pasta and wine weekend, capped off beautifully by Sportello on Saturday night. I had the most revelatory dish of pasta I've had in ages: agnolotti filled with a mortadella mousse and tossed with roasted vegetables. Oh. My. Goodness.

N lives in a great old house in one of those classic New England small towns that she's renovating in between keeping up with her two-year old son and a busy job. I loved seeing how her mid-century modern aesthetic is blending with the farmhouse appeal of her home. N's doing a great job... and it makes me want to put my renovating/decorating chops to work in a major way.

Speaking of... I wrote a post about where we are in the real estate hunt last week on EAD. Decisions, decisions. Really, I'd just love a dining room that I can build around West Elm's Wood Slices Organic Dinnerware. One can dream, right?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Boston Girls, reunited

Boston. The first city I ever fell for, hard. A weekend with my best girls from college, starting now, doing nothing but cracking each other up and remembering when. Thank goodness for our nerdy-as-hell-but-whatever-that's-just-who-we-are Honors Dorm, where I met three kick-ass girls that will forever and always be "The Boston Girls" to me: A, T, and N.

Please admire the late-'90s dorm decor
Oh boy.
We parted ways with the dorm after freshman year, much to the dismay of the 5,000 mice that liked to keep us company. Our chief accomplishment over the next few years was developing a widespread reputation as The Girls Who Throw Fantastic Halloween Parties. (We also figured out that whole hair and styling thing, too.) (Thank goodness.)

And it was Boston. We cheered on the Sox. We cheered on the marathon runners (including A herself, years later). We cheered on a certain local movie, shown here on a Southie marquee during the St. Patty's Day Parade.

We also cheered on this guy during spring break in Cancun.

And then we graduated, but not before one last throw-down at The Squealing Pig, the neighborhood bar where we congregated every Thursday for years.

We spread out across the country, but there were visits. The girls came out to see me in New Mexico. I went back east for THIS AMAZING EVENT OMG I WATCHED IT LAST NIGHT TO GET IN THE MOOD AND I STILL CRY AND GET CHILLS. One summer, we spent a week on the Outer Banks - the last week we'd ever spend together as single girls. I'd just met this guy and couldn't stop talking about him, even though I assured the ladies it wasn't going anywhere. Riiiiiiight, they all said.

And before we knew it, T got married. Hurricane Ernesto decided her picture-perfect Buffalo lakefront scene wasn't happening, and so we had the best garage party wedding of all time instead. So. Much. Fun. My all-time weirdest come-on happened at T's wedding: a guy asked if he could bathe me. Seriously.

A couple months later, N got married, and we headed back to Boston to be her ladies in brown.

N was the visionary who made gritty urban wedding photography a thing, I'm telling you.
And here we are with our gritty attitudes a little later. This shot cracks me up every time.

We surprised N in Boston for her 30th birthday the next year, and I finally brought that guy I'd been talking about at the beach for them to approve. They did.

For the next two years, we had individual visits, or 3/4 visits, but never all of us at once, until this.

And now, we have this weekend. N has a two-year-old boy. T has a one-year-old boy. A is engaged. And I'm me. And life is so very good with these three in it.

CSN Giveaway Winner

First, a big thank you to all who entered - I loved reading what everyone would scoop with their winnings! Here's a flower for your efforts - it's actually the first dahlia I've cut from the garden and brought inside to appreciate, which I can do while wearing a nightgown or, say, a lack of pants. (Please note, shirtless next door neighbor, that you are the only one who spends his days outside wearing nothing but gym shorts, and I do not want to see you half-naked every time I go outside to tend to the plants. Thank goodness it's finally getting chilly!)

Sorry, getting distracted.

The winner of the $45 CSN gift certificate is.....


I like your style, Team LC. I'll be in touch, and enjoy that Le Creuset!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Baba ghanoush!

Why the exclamation point, you ask? Am I that excited about making baba ghanoush for the first time? Well, sure - it's always my first order at Middle Eastern restaurants. But my exclamation point is actually an homage to T and his pal John, who call each other "Baba Ghanoush!" a la Wedding Crashers. So here you have it... baba ghanoush! So simple and delicious - why in the world haven't I been making this until now?

Baba Ghanoush
adapted from Mark Bittman

1 lb eggplant (1 large, 2 medium, or 4 small)
 1/2 cup pine nuts
 1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (more to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (more to taste)

1. Heat a grill to medium-high heat or heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Pierce the eggplant in several places with a thin knife or skewer. Grill or roast it, turning occasionally, until the eggplant collapses and the skin blackens, 15-30 minutes depending on size. Remove and cool.

2. While the eggplant is cooling, toast the pine nuts.

3. In a food processor, combine the eggplant and pine nuts with the remaining ingredients. You can add more olive oil or water if it's too thick.

4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and adjust salt, pepper, lemon, and garlic to taste.

5. Refrigerate for the flavors to deepen.

6. Enjoy the smoky yumminess with pita, while calling each other Baba Ghanoush!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You say Luddite, I say Old School

The "Glee" kids sing songs I've never heard. I only recognize teenage tabloid celebrities if their parents were famous. I google the acronyms my cousins use on Facebook. I read paper books. I'm fine with all of this; I'm no Phil Dunphy, after all. Not only do I doubt my life would be improved if I could pick Justin Bieber out of a lineup, I'm secure in the knowledge that I don't really care.

Technology, though, technology I care about. And admittedly, I was a slow-starter. I didn't know what e-mail was until my freshman year of college. I didn't get a cell phone until 2005. I still have a PC. But oh, how I love the internet. Blogging was the Hall to my Oates, making my [wordy] dreams come true since 2004. Social media was the Dylan to my Brenda, capable of elevating everything I did while also being quite a time-waster when it wanted to be. I didn't get a smart phone until 2008, late for someone who loved being plugged in as much as I did. But as soon as I had a Blackberry, I was hooked. Hooked! And still am, although admittedly ready to upgrade to an internet interface that isn't the phone equivalent of a dot matrix printer.

Vintage Curve. Yeah, it's vintage now.

Here's where I'm going with this: I'm at a technology crossroads. My poor BB is on its last legs - I have to restart the thing multiple times a day or it gets cranky. My contract's been up for months, but I really don't know what I want. On the one hand, waiting for an iPhone (rumored to be coming to Verizon in January) could be fantastic, for lots of reasons. Then there's Camp Droid, which thinks iPhones are becoming passe anyway (T's HTC Incredible certainly makes a strong case there). 

My decision is more ambiguous and a lot more embarrassing. It's all about the keys. I really, really, really like having a keyboard. No, not just because I was the best student in 6th grade typing class and have fingers that can fly like the wind. Not just because my typing exercise at a Boston Globe internship interview in 1997 elicited a "wow." Well okay, kind of. I like texting with the speed of lightning. I like never having to look at what I type, just like Mrs. WhatsHerName Who Never Imagined We'd One Day Type On Phones taught me. I like the sounds and assurances of rapid-fire tweeting. I do not like pressing glass to "type" on elusive square "buttons," then getting the letters wrong, then having to go back and correct them, and then getting frustrated and handing the phone back to T to find his own damn directions. Yes, one gets better at these things with time, but how much better? Future tweets should not all come with a side of pissiness! I am the top typist! The top typist cannot be stymied by a missing keyboard!
So here we go:

Choice A: Overcome the obstacle. Press on. Own the technology. Make that glass screen my bitch.
Choice B: Play to my strengths. Find a phone that brings together the best of both worlds: awesome internet and confident typing. Meditate daily on how owning a Droid 2 doesn't make me a keyboard-dependent Luddite.

Call it as you see it, web-savvy ones.

Monday, October 4, 2010

On (not) putting old habits to bed

I had a weird habit in high school and college, due largely to the fact that I was always staying up late in bed studying or reading: I'd sleep in a space just large enough for my body, with piles of books, papers, and notebooks all around me. As you might imagine, this sort of habit isn't conducive to sharing your bed with someone ("Hey there sexy, want to spoon over this pile of newspapers?"), and so it went away, mostly. But after a nap the other day, I couldn't help but smile when I walked back into my bedroom. I've grown up some, but not much. File this one away with eating grad school-style garbanzo bean creations for lunch.

What's one of your old-school habits you still find charming - even if no one else does?

CSN Giveaway for any room in your home!

When CSN Stores contacted me about hosting a giveaway, I was excited for you all - who wouldn't want cash to spend at any of CSN's 100 online stores? CSN Stores carry everything from a platform bed to lighting to "cat condos" - variety is not an issue.

Of course I can't host a giveaway without thinking about what I'd do as a giveaway winner myself. Because I'm a sucker for all things kitchen (and my wish list contains many pricey items), I'd take my winnings and go straight to CSN's cookware store, where I'd mull over three of my favorite brands: Le Creuset, All Clad, and Shun. My final selection would be a big-ticket item made a little less big-ticket by a CSN gift certificate: a Cuisinart Elite food processor.

CSN Stores is offering one reader a $45 gift certificate to any of their stores. To enter, tell me the following:

1. Are you a "pick out a $45 item" kind of person or an "apply $45 toward something big" kind of person?
2. What would you get?
3. Make sure your e-mail address is included in the body of your comment or in your blogger profile - if you win but I can't find your address, I'll pick someone else.

The contest is open until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 7, at which point I'll randomly select a winner using I'll announce the winner on Friday morning, before I jet off to Boston for the weekend. Good luck and happy shopping this week!
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