Friday, January 27, 2012

First Lady Letterpress

I'm briefly checking in from the settling of dust around here to give a huge shout-out to this amazing letterpress poster series from Two Paper Dolls featuring America's First Ladies. How ME is this??

You can go check them out yourself in Philadelphia next month, but until then, feast your eyes upon these beauties (which are... ahem... available for sale soon):

Yes please!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Demolition ditty

Embarrassing confession time: I have a weird of habit of singing the Peaches and Herb tune 'Reunited'* in my head during happy home-related events, but with my own lyrics. Three or four syllables work best.

For example, from last year at this time: "Pre-approval and it feels so gooood..."

Then: "Signing papers and it feels so gooood..."

"We bought a house and it feels so gooood..."

"Putting down floor and it feels so gooood..."

Today's little ditty?

"Demolition and it feels so gooood..."

It feels grand, actually.

*By the way, Peaches and Herb? Sooo much drama! The original duo, Herb Feemster and Francine "Peaches" Barker, are both from DC, so huge props to that. Francine didn't last, though, so Herb replaced her with Marlene Mack, but kept the name "Peaches" for the group. They had a string of hits in the '60s, and then in 1970, Herb decided to join the police force back home in Washington DC. He pounded the pavement as a DC cop for a few years until '76, when he wanted back in the showbiz game, but Marlene aka Peaches #2 was out. He set out to find a new Peaches, and hit the jackpot with Peaches #3, Linda Greene. This is the duo that struck gold with Shake Your Groove Thing and Reunited. These two recorded and toured through the '80s, when our boy Herb got the law enforcement bug again and this time became a deputized court security officer for the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Can you imagine? You're in court and suddenly you realize the officer leading you in is none other than Mr. Shake Your Groove Thing? Amazing. So in 1990, Herb found Peaches #4, Patrice Hawthorne, but they didn't really do much together because the Peaches and Herb combo #3, Herb and Linda Greene, were reunited to sue their old record label. The two never made real money from their big hits in the '60s, and as an eclectic man of many talents, you can imagine that our friend Herb probably really needed some cash. Herb and Greene won their case against the record label, and most likely shook their groove thing afterward. Is that the end of Peaches and Herb, you're asking yourself? Oh no! Since he didn't need his security officer day job anymore after his day in court, Herb jumped back into the music game and found himself a Peaches #5! Okay, so Wanda Makle, aka Peaches #5, didn't really work out, but Herb did not let that get him down and found himself Peaches #6. Peaches #6 is a big deal, folks... her name is Meritxell Negre and she's from Spain, making her the first-ever non-black Peaches! Breaking barriers right there. It's what Herb does. Their album was released in 2009. Nope, not making this up. So by now, in addition to scrambling for $8 to buy that album, you're probably wondering if Herb is a huge jerk for going through six Peaches since 1967 or if he's the sort of an everyman/underdog bound to be featured in a biopic one day. You know where I stand. He's from DC! He's an officer of the court! He is HERB.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back to (house)work

Changes are afoot in la casa this week, and I couldn't be more ready to rustle up some new energy in this house. I mean, it's been months! It's time to change up some stuff!

First up: our new dining room mirror. I swear we've tried every possible wall decoration arrangement in this room, but we finally, finally have it. I adore this mirror and the way it lights up that corner of the dining room. The slats of wood feel warm and homey without being over-the-top "country," and it manages to look rustic and polished all at once.

Here's a closer look at the yummy wood, along with a little forecast of this week's plans in the reflection. Get excited!

That's right, folks ... our much-hated wall is finally coming down! I'm pretty giddy about how much it's going to open up our living room, which currently seats only three people comfortably for tv-viewing. (Not cool during SuperbowlOscar season.) We're going to have some immediate challenges to tackle as soon as it comes down, chief among them "Crap, we have a zero-dollar furniture budget" and "Crap, where will we throw our junk now?" But going from a cramped sitting room to a more open one will be a drastic improvement even without a cozy new loveseat, so we're pumped.

Also shown in the mirror view is new dining room lighting. Our house's recessed lighting that was no doubt installed during a '70s-era DIY acid trip will be no more (in one room, anyway... for now). In its place, a chandelier that we scooped on sale with an additional one-day-only bonus clearance, the way my mama taught me (hi Mom). Oh, I can't wait. Can't wait!

Also on tap this week is some boring stuff: ceiling repainting (so that all the awful existing recessed lighting we remove in the future will be easier to patch), the installation of a new fan/light for the upstairs bathroom (so T no longer has to shave in a dense fog every morning), and some electrical work.

Ch-ch-changes... I like 'em. Full report on how our hired hands did next week!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dinner break

A tummy full of riches, this weekend. My social butterfly self is spent. And full.

Friday night: Fiola. I'd been to their bar before (best Martinez in DC, hands down), but the food was just... I can't even describe it. Another level. New favorite DC restaurant, already. Faves: smoked gnocchi, deconstructed lasagna, lobster ravioli.

Best surprise ever? Leaving the restaurant with some of our favorites and walking out to a Winter Wonderland. We'd been inside from 7:30 p.m. - 1:00 a.m. and had no idea. (I told you we loved Fiola.) And so it was beyond fun to step out into this sight after dinner.

Saturday night: Graffiato. I hadn't been back since they opened, so it was fun to check in on it again. Mike Isabella's doing just fine, never fear. Faves: spicy pork meatball with polenta, roasted cauliflower, maple-bacon brussels sprouts.

Sunday night: Toki. Why yes, my addiction to their ramen is still a thing. This time I met up with Mary so she could mark a culinary resolution off her list. We ate fried pig ears, so we could say that we did (and I just did). Fave: always, always the kimchi hakata with Toki endorphine sauce.

This week: back to the kitchen. No booze. Being a little quieter. Curling up in front of the fire.

January is an underrated month.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I think I have a new writing project. This is good, because my life has been fairly absent of one for a while now. And this is also not-good, because said writing project clearly isn't filling this space right now. If my grand plan materializes, though, two shall become one (no, I will not improperly use numerals... AP Style or bust!).

At any rate, the biggest grin on my face this week came from my new friends, who just happen to be gold and sparkly.

These shoes have haunted me for ages. I couldn't justify the price when they were in stores, well over a year ago. And of course, as soon as they vanished they were all I thought about. I've searched outlets, I've stalked eBay, I've spent a lot of time thinking about these shoes. All for naught, until the perfect pair finally appeared on eBay, never worn and in my size. You can bet I showed off my new friends to unsuspecting FaceTime acquaintances. 

Sparkly shoes are always a good idea. But sometimes, some weeks, sparkly shoes are a really, really good idea.

Have a sparkly weekend, guys.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Three bright spots

Since posting that amazing champagne office cooler earlier this week, I've been working from my company's suburban office. And wouldn't you know it, there's not a champagne delivery system to be found! Oh well. Despite the week being a general blur of work and budgets and spreadsheets oh my, I did have three fun bright spots:

1. Lunch with two of my high school favorites. I adore the hometown (even though none of us live in our hometown anymore) crew.

2. Downton Abbey. I originally assumed this show wasn't for me, as I have little patience for Victorian comedies of manners and Jane Austen, and figured this show was a sendup of the same. HOWEVER, this show is none of those things. First, it's set in a fascinating period, a more modern one than I first realized (Season One ends with the announcement that England has entered World War I). Politics is fascinating at this time, particularly in regard to gender and class. Society is changing entirely, and we can see all of it through the lens of one estate. Second, the cast. THE CAST. Oh, Maggie Smith. Oh, these characters! Third, the show is written by Julian Fellowes, he of the brilliant 'Gosford Park.' Had I realized this last year I would've been on this show something fierce. But instead, I Netflix'd all of Season 1 Wednesday night in a glorious marathon session, which was insanely rewarding, so much so that it felt gluttonous.

And of course, I'm totally on board with Season 2. I watched the first episode last night.

I found this description of the show randomly, and thought it was perfect:

If Stefon, the in-the-know city correspondent for “Saturday Night Live’s” Weekend Update, were to describe it, the breathless missive might go something like this: “The hottest show on TV right now is “Downton Abbey.” This British import, found on your local PBS station, has everything: housemaids, stable boys, lords and ladies, secret passageways, conspiratorial whispering, scandalous affairs, scheming servants, stolen kisses, garden parties and snuff boxes. It’s packed to the hilt with formal dinners and fox hunts, carriage rides and clandestine glances. You’ll be struck by the grandeur of how the upper crust lives, and marvel at how the lower ranks make it all possible. New this year: A world war holds the household’s rapt attention, but not rapt enough to forget about sibling squabbles and manservant maneuverings. Don’t miss taking a look at this world, where valet is pronounced “valette” and a ringing telephone is a “devilish thing to behold.”
Who else is on the Downton Abbey train?

3. Emmylou. This song was brought to my attention by this longtime fave, but originally showcased by this new fave. I can't get it out of my head. Bonus: these Swedish phenoms are playing DC in a couple of months!

Happy Friday, folks - here's to a calmer week ahead with more time to write and relax!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


On extremely busy work weeks like this one, I sometimes think it'd be easier to work from a "real" office instead of the home version. Mostly because I really, really like the look of this... and of course it exists in the pretend office!

Image found here and credited here

Speaking of champagne, our New Year's Eve redo was pretty fantastic over the weekend, in part because it was preceded by a visit from my sister on Friday. Bubbles on both nights is my kind of weekend. Here we are on our "New Year's" date, me and my decidedly unsick husband, at a delicious dinner at 1789. Champagne present and accounted for.

I have much more to say about the rest of our evening, but I'll leave that for another post... when I'm not bone-tired but resisting sleep because I don't want to dream about municipal project budget worksheets.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chicken and Leek "Stew"

When it became clear on New Year's Day that T's tiptoe into our family dinner of ribs, mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, and collards had been a very bad idea, I set out to make him something he could keep down: the most boring soup possible. You guys have been following my flavor palette for a while now, so you know that under-seasoned is not the way I typically roll. But the soup worked: turkey, white rice, and the smallest hint of celery and onion in the broth. Did you just fall asleep reading that description? Because I almost did.

A few days later, I'm not remembering that boring albeit digestible soup, but a dish I discovered last winter in Food & Wine instead. We made it on a rushed weeknight when it was cold and rainy, and made it again and again throughout the spring. I like to think of it as updated comfort food, fit for both quick dinners and sick loved ones. It would've worked perfectly in place of that boring soup - and been a lot less boring to eat, too.

This dish is described as a "stew," but there's not much broth at all, so adjust accordingly if you want something more traditional. Enjoy... in sickness and in health.

Simplest Chicken and Leek Stew
Adapted from Jamie Oliver

(photo credit: Food and Wine)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream 
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
  1. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender, about 4 minutes. Scrape the leeks and mushrooms onto a plate.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add the chicken and cook over moderate heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add the chicken stock and thyme and simmer over moderate heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the plate with the vegetables.
  3. Simmer the stock over moderately high heat until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken, leeks and mushrooms to the skillet and simmer over low heat until warmed through, about 1 minute.
  4. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream with the mustard and stir into the stew. Remove the skillet from the heat. Season the stew with salt and pepper and serve.
  5. Serve With Steamed rice.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's, then and now and next

Five years ago, T spent New Year's Eve with my family in North Carolina. He'd never met them. Just days before, he'd moved back to Dallas, while I was still living in Albuquerque. Life was a wee bit uncertain. There was a lot I didn't know, but one big thing I did: bringing this guy home to the family for New Year's was the best idea I'd ever had. Here we are that night, all shiny and new. T's still sporting his short politics hair. He hates this photo, and even though it doesn't flatter either of us, I can't help but love it, knowing that hours later he'd whisper things in my ear that we both already knew, but were both waiting on him to vocalize. (As usual, I'd jumped the gun weeks earlier.)

Five years later, we've come full circle. We were home in NC for New Year's Eve again with the family that he's firmly a part of, in a position so secure it's hard to believe there was ever a time when we hadn't yet used the L word. In a twist of fate that I'll choose to believe was just the universe giving us a year's worth of bad luck all at once - and not a cliched representation of the decline of passion after marriage - we didn't even kiss at the stroke of midnight this year.

T was sick. Miserable. Bedridden with the flu. Holed up in the bedroom of my youth. The entire weekend.

It was a very Influenza New Year's Eve. Oh, how times have changed.

Folk art paintings now take the place of Smiths posters up in my old bedroom, but there's still something sweet about tending to a sick husband in your teenage bed. Poor guy.

Downstairs, we tried our best to be festive without him. After five years of making memories in this house, his presence left a hole. But I set out the party supplies anyway.

My nephew Liam kept calling it a birthday party. And so during our "calendar birthday party" without one of our own, we ate smoked fish, beef tenderloin, green beans, and cheesy grits. We played games. We laughed at the kids and hugged a new puppy. We wore flats.

But most of all, we fervently wished for a 2012 that's a little luckier for our crazy crew, with a little less sorrow and stress than the year before. I'm fairly certain this was my family's wish in 2011, too. We're a patient family, I suppose. Although by the looks of her kitchen chalkboard, my mom may be getting less patient...

T tried to make it downstairs for the ball drop, but couldn't do it. Hence the saddest and cutest New Year's Eve text message I've ever received, sent from two floors above.

Now that he's feeling better, we've decided to just redo New Year's. We have lots of fun plans this weekend... why not add in a romantic countdown? So if you're out and about in DC this weekend, keep an eye out for two weirdos whispering to each other and checking the clock at midnight. There will most definitely be kissing this time around.
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