Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday Words

"You can't have these preconceived ideas in your mind
about how life should be. Don't think so much.
Do things you enjoy with people you love.
Everything is always changing."
-Stephanie LaCava,
Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris

Monday, January 28, 2013

Things I Learned This Weekend

Even a Friday can't help me enjoy snow.
My love/hate affair with snow has been well-documented on this blog. And even though it's been three years since Snowmageddon I and II, I'm still not quite over my hatred of the white stuff. Even when all I have to do in it is make it to the metro, then the mall for a haircut, then back on the metro over the Potomac, then a bus home. Actually, yeah, even that stuff is annoying when there's white and wet stuff everywhere.

There is such a thing as a good haircut.
Another topic I've exhausted on this blog: my hair. But I think I finally found a good hairdresser up here, and it only took me five and a half years. She cleaned up my tragic split ends and then gave me some good face-framing layers. Pieces are still a bit scary short and don't quite stay up in my ponytail, but it's actually a good haircut, which really makes all the difference.

There's nothing like a bunch of pro-life high-schoolers to ruin the taste of Taco Bell.
One of the main reasons I'm able to handle the tourist madness that is Pentagon City Mall is because of the Taco Bell in the food court. On this particular visit there was a large group of Catholic high schoolers in town for the pro-life march held earlier in the day. One boy was quoting Revelations and there was a Father trying to round everyone up for the buses. As I fought the urge to instigate, they got up, leaving some of their trash beyond. Would it have been wrong of me to stand up and tell them what to do with their trash, since I so despise them telling women what to do with their bodies? Or would it have been a public service to remind them to work harder to protect this planet they're trying so hard to populate.

Taking down Christmas decorations makes a room seem very empty/clean.
Finally took down my decorations on Saturday, a week earlier than the end of January but I had the time and got to it. At first the room just felt very empty, now it just feels right.

There's nothing quite like watching a Carolina game with a room full of Tar Heels.
The ladies and I went to this year's new Carolina bar to watch the Carolina v. State game. There was lots of room, drink and food specials, and lots of fellow Tar Heel alums cheering on our (less than stellar) Heels.

Buffalo Billiards has an interesting interpretation of "side order of fries" .
Karey said side order of fries, and she got fries on the side of her chicken fingers. I said side order of fries, and got this massive basket for $6.99 that we ate off of all night, and still never saw the bottom.

If your team can't look good, at least you and your friends can look good.
Not that we looked good, that would be cocky. But compared to the team, we looked like super models. Except for my demon red eyes, which I can't get rid of.

The best way to mourn a bad basketball loss is with Krispy Kreme.
Carolina girls can't turn down the "hot now" sign. Thankfully, Krispy Kreme is always a win.

The coolest bumper sticker ever is in NW DC.
Doctor Who for the win!

Ikea thread is not very good.
Among other sewing problems I had on Sunday, the thread I bought from Ikea kept breaking. Apparently the Swedes don't sew as fast as I do? Or they buy their thread somewhere else, too.

The "Shawshank Redemption" is amazing.
This was the first time I saw this movie and oh my word was it amazing. Now I know why it was one of my Poppy's favorites.

Too much foreshadowing can ruin the moment.
This is in reference to this week's devastating "Downton Abbey" which didn't make me cry once. And I cry at everything. I'm going to blame it on all the dramatic moments that preceded it which made it not a shock to me. But I'm still a bit worried I'm broken.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ain't it good to know you've got a friend(s)

It's no secret that three of my favorite people on Earth are my three best friends from Carolina. Every year we get together at Christmas and every year it's wonderful. And, of course, every year I blog about it.

This year we gathered at Ocean Isle Beach to use Jan's parents' beach house that they have shares in.  It's a gorgeous house on the water.

We started with our traditional Mexican dinner with margaritas. The frozen ones were a bit too electric green in color, the guacamole wasn't fresh, but the food and company were great, as to be expected. Though the food may have been a little too great as I felt rather full and sick most of the rest of the night.

Once back at the house we did the usual eating, chatting, drinking, present opening, laughing, laughing, and laughing that we always do. We affixed mustaches to our drinks, gave the newly-engaged Brandie a few gifts, cozied up in front of the fire, and watched and sang along to "Bridesmaids."

Now, traditionally, I'm the lightweight of the group. I have the lowest tolerance for alcohol and always end up to be the first tipsy one. But because I didn't feel that well from the food, I was sober all night, and thus got to enjoy even more of the fun and festivities. The next part of which included...wrestling. First of the arm variety, and then the leg.

See, in college, we all arm wrestled once and Brandie absolutely demolished us. I mean, we barely put up a fight. I have absolutely zero upper-body strength so I knew I couldn't beat her, but I did hope to at least put up a fight. Nope. J and K did slightly better, but Brandie was still the victor. Repeatedly.

Then we moved on to leg wrestling. I thought for sure, given the length of my legs, I'd easily dominate. Nope again. I'm just weak all around. But it was fun and we laughed until we hurt.

Eventually we went to bed and then leisurely got up the next morning. We had breakfast and then went to the beach to see the ocean and take a few pictures. After a good lunch, some more chatting and laughing, we all went our separate ways.

It wasn't enough time, but it will do for a bit. Especially since we're guaranteed more than one gathering this year as B's wedding and wedding prep pretty much demand it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Home for Christmas

The day after Operation: Christmas Cheer came Operation: Home for Christmas. Which got off to a rocky start when my train was delayed 3 hours due to a fire on the tracks in West Philadelphia. I was so happy when my train finally arrived that I barely noticed that the license plate didn't say "Fresh" nor were there dice in the mirror

I was able to be home for a full two and a half weeks, which were jam packed. Serious busy-ness going on. I worked from home the first 4 days, wrapped all the presents, did a lot of baking, a lot of decorating, even some cooking, plus some shopping, visiting, and eventually some lazing, too.

These are some of the decorations. The top middle photo is the bonsai tree with some ornaments and a bow because Mom and I got a little silly. The middle photo is a bunch of the figure decorations. Daddy thought they looked ready to attack, so I put them in a more proper formation with the Nutcracker leading the way. The bottom picture is Daddy wearing the Christmas card holder as a hat. The big left picture is the tree, the most beautiful one in years according to the parents. The big right picture is the Christmas eve table scape with Grandma's china and Christmas tree napkin holders. Plus Mom's tree display in the center.

These are the cookies I baked. I did everything but the magic cookie bars. I even made some cookies that I don't even like. (Which weren't nearly as fun to taste test, of course.) I don't mind baking but standing up for hours did take its toll on my getting-older body. And I did swear. A lot. (Which I think Mom got a little too used to because she barely checked on me.)

This was the first year I contributed to Christmas Eve dinner. I made shrimp ceviche and baked brie. I'm not sure the change was fully enjoyed by all, but I thought they were good.

This is the second year that it has just been me and the parents first thing Christmas morning. It's still a little weird but better than last year, especially since everyone was able to come over in the afternoon. I always end up taking pictures at our gatherings and luckily everyone usually humors me. First set are our candid shots, second set are our posed ones.

And that was Christmas at home. Unfortunately, Mom was sick for about a week of it so we didn't get out and about as much as we usually do, though she did rally to take me to traipse around Chapel Hill, which was Heaven, of course. And the day before that I went with Daddy to Greenville, on what was supposed to be just a trip to Harbor Freight but we ended up adding several other stops and got home many hours later.

I'm the middle child so I never got the parents all to myself. So I'm not going to lie, it was kind of nice to just chill with them every evening, even when we were each huddled around our laptops and even when I was forced to watch HGTV or Duck Dynasty. I know I'm forgetting tons of stuff but know that I was in North Carolina, with my family, and it was good.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Operation Christmas Cheer: Botanic Garden

This was my first trip to the United States Botanic Garden located on the Mall, a mere stone's throw from the Capitol. When I used to live on the Hill and would take evening walks around it, I'd see the pretty glass building from afar, but never entered.

I'd heard about their amazing Christmas display and had meant to go the first weekend of December to capture some pretty photos for my Christmas card. Alas, I went out to celebrate a certain friend's certain engagement and didn't quite feel up to it the next day. (So if you see one of these pictures on my card next year, pretend to be surprised.)

I planned on being there right when it opened at 10, but didn't end up getting there until 10:30. Not a big deal, right? Nope, wrong. Every family in D.C. must have had the same idea and the line was way out the door to get into their famous train section. As much as I love trains is also how much I hate long lines, so I skipped the trains and headed straight for the Conservatory instead.

The main draw are the re-creations of famous D.C. landmarks and buildings made out of natural items like gourds and sticks. They were simply stunning.

Clockwise: Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial,
White House, Washington Monument

Capitol, Capitol Dome, Supreme Court

The Botanic Garden, Smithsonian Castle, and Library of
Congress, Jefferson Building (I think that's its name.)

I took photos of some of the pretty plants and the colors that really caught my eye.

There are lots of different sections and gardens that I was able to walk around, despite the hoards of people. There was also what they call the "jungle," which is several stories high, full of flora, and very warm. You can even go up a flight of stairs and walk around the "canopy." You can see the jungle in the background behind the lone train they had in the Conservatory.

I didn't really get photos of this section but I did take photos of one of the displays. I'm calling this "Reindeer Games" and I just love it.

Close-ups of some of my favorites. The one in the middle, clearly vogueing,
is my favorite.

I've lived in the city for 5 years and it's so nice to find something new -- and free -- to do. I'm definitely adding this to my Christmas traditions list and will also visit during the other seasons as well.

Wednesday Words

"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."
-Second Inaugural Address of President Barack Obama

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Operation Christmas Cheer: Capitol Tree, National Tree, and Willard Hotel

This week's goal is to get almost all of my Christmas posts done. We'll see how this goes.

I love the holidays every year, but this year I was especially determined to enjoy them. Sometimes I can get so caught up in the shopping and doing that I get too stressed to enjoy everything. So this year I started my shopping much earlier, and let myself be ok if I didn't get to do everything I normally do.

The result? I had an entire day before leaving for home – I'd even already half-packed for home – in which to do whatever I wanted. Thus I embarked on what I called Operation: Christmas Cheer. Which consisted of me doing my usual National Christmas Tree and Willard Hotel viewing, plus the addition of the Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Botanic Garden. Though my first stop of the day was the Botanic Garden, I'll start with the last three since I have so many beautiful pictures to sort through.

I've never made it to the Capitol Tree before, I'm not sure why. I expected it to be smaller but it was really quite large and majestic. I expected the Capitol to dwarf it but they really complemented each other.

The tree's ornaments came from people in Colorado and I took a few photos of my favorites. It wasn't too cold of a day and as you can see, the sun was shining and the sky was blazing Carolina blue, so I just took a few minutes to stand and stare.

After that, it was off to catch a bus to take me closer to the White House. (Figuring out even just one bus route along the mall is going to change my life.) Last year's tree was quite puny as it has just been replaced after the previous one was damaged during a storm. The replacement tree ended up dying and they replaced it with this much more grand one.

The state trees have different ornaments every year, with handmade creations encased in clear plastic cases. But this year some of them had decorated the outside of the case, like New York and Florida, or completely eschewed the cases like Idaho, who had gourds. Either there were new regulations this year or there have never been regulations and some states finally got creative, but they were much more impressive this year. My favorite was Florida, with their gorgeous orange blossoms that looked like glass.

This is Connecticut's tree. This was the day after the Sandy Hook tragedy and a little memorial was forming.

My last stop was to look at the outside and inside decorations at the Willard.

I used to only do the outside but I also love to go inside. Their main tree is full of all the past White House ornaments. They also had a pretty amazing gingerbread house.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Things I Learned This Weekend

A really bad Friday can be made so much better after a drink with friends.
And maybe a little crying. And some food. And a free shot from the bartender. But mostly after the friends.

Sometimes there is just nothing quite like lying on the couch all day and reading.
Which is what I did on Saturday. All day.

Grace Coddington really is extraordinary.
I spent the day reading her memoir that I got for Christmas. It was witty, funny, and full of information about the fashion and magazine industry and her role in it. 

A butcher block from the father makes a great, but very heavy, cheeseboard.
Thanks, Daddy. Doesn't it look good? That's after 5 coats of the oil and then I got bored.

George Mason University is really far.
So that's good to know.

Wedding showcases are fun.
And full of information. And people. Mainly women. Karey and I went with Brandie and her mom to a wedding showcase event with tons of vendors at Mason. Brandie got lots of information and we all got to taste a bunch of cake. Win win. Oh, and Brandie tried on a crown. So win win win.

Identifying stickers really help minimize the number of times you have to say "I'm just a bridesmaid."
Thank goodness.

If you're sitting in seats for a basketball court, you really have the fight urge to cheer.
We sat in the seats to watch a wedding fashion show. Thankfully, there were several opportunities to cheer: for the cute kids hamming it up and the guys dancing to that sexy and you know it song.

There's something beautiful about eating nachos while watching a fashion show.
One of my favorite things ever are nachos with processed cheese. Seriously, I just love them. The second worst part about Nationals games -- the first worst part being the baseball part of course -- is that their nachos are made with fresh cheese, no processed. Absurd! So I was thrilled that they had concession stands open where I could get this very large tray of processed goodness.

Losing to George Mason in the 2006 NCAA tournament still hurts.
And it hurts more when you have it constantly rubbed in your face everywhere you go in their arena.

The inauguration brings out the really big flags.
Like this one at Union Station.

Every day should include a Lifetime movie.
Like "The Surrogate Trap." Which was the perfect combination of crazy, dramatic music, and Canadians. Though, on second thought, most of my days already include Lifetime movies.

Being on the mall for the Inauguration is awesome, but so is sitting at home in my pajamas, on the couch, eating cinnamon rolls.
It was just so warm. So, so warm.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday Words

"She was an earnest little thing who had a way of blinking distractedly behind the thick lenses of her glasses when she was nervous; the kind of girl, Rusty thought, who might treat herself to a mental breakdown about fifteen years after graduating summa cum laude from Smith or Vassar."
-"Under the Dome," Stephen King

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An Open Letter to the Pretty Little Liars

I realize that I'm 29 and possibly shouldn't be watching a show about teenagers. I also realize, as the roommate once pointed out, that the show isn't exactly meant to be realistic. However, as I've become quite emotionally invested in/obsessed with this show, I can't just sit idly by while these characters make such poor decisions. So, attention Emily, Hanna, Aria, and Spencer:
  1. Stop going to scary places at night. Especially the woods. Seriously, have you never seen a horror movie? Nothing good is ever going to happen to four teenage girls alone in the woods.
  2. But, if you insist on finding yourselves in scary places in the dark, keep a flashlight on your person at all times. Maybe even spring for one of those high-powered spotlights. Also, consider looking into some weaponry, or at the very least, a self defense class. I think all of us would feel better if you would just learn to break someone's trachea.
  3. Stop keeping secrets from each other! Every episode you learn some shocking new thing and keep it from each other, even though at least one other person is also being tormented by it. Gosh, the fact that I even have to explain that to you, it's no wonder you're being stalked.
  4. Anytime you go into a room, close all blinds and curtains. Get multiple locks for every door in your home and get a house alarm. A good one.
  5. Find someone smart and have them create some sort of attachable mirror, like on a car, that you can wear so you always know when someone is behind you.
  6. If something bad happens, it's 99% likely it's A. So stop, especially you Aria, with the confused, doe-eyed "who would want to hurt little ole us" schtick.
  7. Consider just leaving Rosewood. Seriously. For 4 17ish year olds, y'all have seen, done, and know entirely too much. It's veering into "One Tree Hill" territory in terms of how much bad stuff can happen in one small town. (And I swear, if you make the most evil character need a heart transplant and then have a dog steal the heart out of a cooler in the hospital, I will stop watching.)
  8. Figure out a way to make Toby be not bad, not A, and not a terrible jerk who is ruining all men for Spencer in the future.
Thank you for your time. I will now go back to doing adult things like paying bills, emptying the dishwasher, and wearing below-the-knee skirts.*

*Haha, fooled you. That's not happening now/ever.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Used A Saw...

...and I didn't lose any fingers!

Now, if you're like several of my friends, and upon reading this exclaimed, "Who in the hell let that klutz use a saw?!" Then you'll find the answer several times below. Hint: It starts with "D" and ends with "addy."

When I was home over Thanksgiving, Daddy taught me how to use the band saw so I could cut some wine corks for a Christmas gift. (These particular corks later became cork coasters for my friend, Jan. I also made a cork memo board and a cork necklace holder for my other besties.)

Bottom line: This saw is awesome. And I kind of want one. And as soon as I figure out what I would use it for, where I would put it, and if my insurance covers domestic accidents, I'll just place the call to Daddy and he can pick up the one we already picked out at Harbor Freight. (Because, yes, of course that happened.)

Wednesday Words

"Her writing style – usually challenging, frequently polarizing, always provocative – went on to challenge the conventions of the English language, shaking its very skeleton to radically reconstruct the relationship between words and meaning."
-Maria Popova re: Gertrude Stein

This quote was taken from a short essay on Stein for The Reconstructionists, "a yearlong celebration of remarkable women." Popova's writings are paired with the illustrations of Lisa Congdon, whose website and blog you should also check out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Either because I don't really care for the day, or because it's not a lot of fun to take pictures of people eating, but I never take pictures on Thanksgiving. Until this year!

We spent the day at my sister's house. This was the first holiday since she and her family became vegetarian/vegan, but it worked out just fine. I even tried some tofurkey. Which I never need to try again.

It was a low-key day, as ours usually are, with just a lot of eating, talking, drinking, and then cleaning. And as the pictures show, there was also some cheesing (from the nieces), reading (of ads), posing (with a turkey placeholder), lazing (the dog), and drinking WHILST cleaning (me, obviously.)

A siblings pictures WITHOUT one of us in a graduation gown.  This just doesn't happen very often.  (And we almost never get to pose with a lumberjack.)

It was a good day and if it hadn't of happened two months ago I might have been able to write more about it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Celebrate Good Times

Way back in November one of my best friends got engaged! So then way back in December we went out to hang out and celebrate, of course.

This is B with a glass of Prosecco and the engagement card I got her.

She liked that the card matched our drinks. I like that she let me try on her ring. So shiny!

Perhaps because we were celebrating such an important occasion. Perhaps because we hadn't hung out for a month. (Gasp!) Perhaps because we just tend to get a little silly when we go out. But whatever the reason, the night took us from a restaurant to a hotel to a bar, plotting and laughing and chatting (and drinking) all the way.

We ended up at Hotel Monaco, which for some reason we gravitate toward.

Where we like to take silly pictures in the bathroom mirror and anywhere else that strikes our fancy. (Like this chair.)

We were both hating life a bit the next day, but you only get engaged once, hopefully, so I think it was worth it.