Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hidden America

I'm  about half way through this book - Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of The Unseen People Who Make This Country Work -  and am really really enjoying it.

The author, Jeanne Marie Laskas, spent a good bit of time traveling around the US, learning about jobs that most of us give very little thought to, but in many cases have pretty big importance in our lives. Like Coal Miners, Air Traffic Controller and Cowboys. Or people whose lives and passions are so different than many urban and suburban people can relate to - like the desire to be an NFL cheerleader, or the gun culture that is a foreign concept to urban east coasters, but is a way of life for those out West. 

I still have a few adventures to go - an oil rig, her time with the driver of an 18 wheeler and her experience at a landfill. All jobs that are pretty important to me living my life - gas for my car, goods I purchase being delivered by truck and not having to think about where trash goes after it leaves the dumpster outside my building. But all jobs I've given next to no thought to. Ever.

If you're looking for an interesting, fast paced non-fiction read that opens your eyes to some of the behind the scenes inner workings of our country, well, this is your book.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Peer Pressure

A few weeks ago my company started bringing in a catered lunch once a week. There's a long and complicated back story as to why they are doing it, but nonetheless, I think it's silly and a waste of money. I was pretty open about my feelings about it as the rumors swirled that it was going to happen and decided I wasn't going to participate. Because I'd be a complete hypocrite if I did, and because I think it's silly and a waste of money, so I have no desire to participate.

Since it started I haven't made a big deal about it. When people asked why I wasn't going to get food the first week I told them, and then dropped it. I don't care if they eat the food, and I'm not telling them not to. I'm just not joining in, still either bringing my lunch those days or going to one of the roughly 15 options within a 3 block radius of the office to pick up lunch.

But apparently several of my coworkers are bothered by my nonparticipation. Today one came in my office and asked if this was the week I ended my strike. Um.... It's not a strike. If it were I'd be picketing the food line. Instead I was sitting at my desk doing work. She kept pushing and I finally asked if I was going to need to sing my peer pressure song from 7th grade chorus.

Oh yes, that opened up quite the can of worms, of course resulting in me (sorta) singing the song. I don't remember the whole thing, just the first verse and the chorus.

I tried to find it online, but I can't, so no YouTube clip for you, just the (inspiring) lyrics will have to do:

(Imagine finger snapping, kinda like the Sharks & the Jets)

Everybody does it, it's the thing to do
It's exciting, it's delighting, it's completely new
You'll love the funny feelings that it
takes you through
I tell you everybody does it,
So why not you?

I'm not gonna do it!
do da da do do do
That's all there is to it
do da da do do do
Whose to say you're right and I'm wrong?
I'm not
going along

It's great, huh? And it works!

Well, at least it made my coworker laugh so hard she forgot to bug me about the stupid lunch thing, so I'll consider that a success.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013


I had never heard the term catfishing until a few weeks ago, with the whole Manti Teo thing. I'm pretty sure that's not how his name is spelled, but I've paid such little attention to the story I'm not really willing to take the time to look it up and figure it out.

But, even without paying it much attention, it's hard not to have heard about it. For those who have been living under a rock, catfishing means to lure someone into a relationship with a fake online persona.

SNL did a sketch this weekend, spoofing this show on MTV based on unraveling these relationships and finding the true people behind them. After seeing the sketch I set the dvr to record the show overnight last night. I watched two episodes this evening and... I am so totally hooked.

The first one I saw ended well, even though both parties weren't as they seemed from the get go, once they came clean with the truth they still wanted to pursue a relationship. The second one ended better than I expected, at least in front of the tv cameras, but not so well for either of the parties involved in the 2 year relationship. I've cut myself off for the rest of the evening but still have one more recorded episode to watch and easily five more new ones scheduled to record over the next few days.

Just when I felt like I finally had outgrown MTV, they go and suck me right back in!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

The first thing on the agenda yesterday was to go to the library in my friend's new town so she and Bug could get library cards. As an obsessive reader I have to say I have never been a more proud Aunt Stacy than seeing those two kiddos so excited to go to the library. Especially once they found a giant Curious George stuffed animal to cuddle with while their mom read to them.


Speaking of obsessive reading, I've been reading the book The Price of Politics for over two weeks now. It's Bob Woodward's look at the negotiations on the fiscal issues between Congress and the Obama Administration spanning the past 3 1/2 years. It's interesting for sure, but a slow read and I can't say I'm retaining much from it. Well, other than more cynicism over our very broken political system.

I've got about 180 pages to go and I want to finish it, but I'm just not sure I can. Maybe if I were more of an economics nerd, then it would be an easier read.

I'm still obsessed with Fun., most specifically the song Some Nights. I have a new playlist on my iPod named Bandwagon and I listened to it on repeat all weekend.


Yesterday, I went to a wine tasting, then at dinner I had an Orange Crush. Today I went to brunch with my former work bestie, former boss and current boss and we had a Mimosa Bucket. I honestly can't recall the last time I drank on back to back days. If I had to guess I would say it was a year and a half ago when I went to the work bestie's wedding and drank at the welcome reception the night before and at the wedding the following day.

I don't not drink, but I don't really drink either.


My boss was especially shocked to hear how I spent yesterday and that I was the one to suggest the Mimosa bucket today. Seriously shocked.

But, I think I may have earned some brownie points.

They are calling for ice/sleet/freezing rain early in the morning. Not the best way to kick off the work week. In an effort to be prepared I just went outside to salt my stairs and walkway in hopes of avoiding a slip and slide effect. Of course, me being me, I was wearing flip flops and no coat while prepping for the wintry mix. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Make New Friends But Keep the Old, Revisited.

Last January I wrote a post with the same title, and it was mostly focused on my own quest to make new friends in my new(ish) environment.

Revisiting the topic today was inspired by an old friend, who actually was mentioned in that old post. 

I met her a little over a decade ago, when we were both working together. We got to be close friends pretty quickly, and of the best variety - the kind you can call up and make spontaneous dinner plans with, go on fun girls' weekend trips with and even crash with for a few weeks when your lease on one apartment ends before the lease on the new place begins. She moved up to the Maryland suburbs of DC and not long after that I ended up across the river in Northern Virginia. It wasn't the same as when we worked in the same building and lived a few miles a part, but it was much better than the distance we had when I was still in Richmond.

Her family recently made another move, across the bay to the Eastern Shore. Now she's definitely too far for spontaneous plans and slightly too far dinner plans, but still close enough for an easy day trip or an overnight visit, which is what this weekend entails. As she and her family have been settling in, the message to make new friends, but keep the old, has been one she's shared frequently with her daughter, and also been thinking about for herself.

It's tricky when your circle of closest friends develops with a lot of help from geography. Especially when a move takes place. Life is so hectic these days it's hard enough to make time to see the friends who are close by, in your neighborhood or your town. The further away they get, the less you are able to get together. It's a fact of life, and new friends in a new place is important.

But so is keeping up with those old ones. This afternoon was a great opportunity for that to happen. Several of us made the trek across the Bay Bridge today for a girls day out. I was the oldest of the old friends, in both age and longevity. The other two were women my friend met when she first made the move to Maryland and today was the first time the four of us hung out as a group.

We headed out to a winery, and had high hopes of following that with some antiquing, but the wine kept us busy far longer than anticipated. It was such a fun afternoon, filled with lots of laughing and lots of learning - a bit about wine, but mostly gossip about the town and it's residents and the life story of the proprietor of the winery. We certainly left knowing way more about him than necessary, but, he makes pretty good wine and gave us a good recommendation for dinner in the next town over, so we'll forgive the oversharing.

It was such a nice day. Nice for me to hang out with some new people and do something a bit different and really nice for my friend to have the people important to her come spend some time on her new turf, relaxing and having fun.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hey Ho Fun.

I'm a bit late to the bandwagon on this one. Well, I've known and liked these songs for awhile, but in a casual sorta way. But in the past few days, well, I've gotten a bit obsessed, with them and their style.

If the title wasn't enough help for you, here you go:

The genre is indie folk and it's one I'm a bit hooked on. This is the first new music/style that's really captured my attention since I discovered Ron Pope a few years ago. Yes, I'm feeling total bandwagony on this one, as opposed to like I discovered someone unknown with RP, but I don't care. I like what I like and that's all that matters.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Speaking of Art...

In December I bought two new pieces that I love from a Baltimore area artist whose business is called Found Studio.

I ended up seeing her work back to back weekends, first in Baltimore and then in Richmond. It was the holiday giving season so I should have been making purchases for others. But nope, all for me.

My first piece was a pendant one, like these:

Mine is hanging in a high up spot in my kitchen and the photos I tried to take of it don't look so good between the bad lighting and the tricky angle, so I snagged one from the artist's Facebook page instead. The pendants themselves are actually made of fabric and the piece is kinda decoupaged or maybe it is some other artistic method that is actually nothing like decoupage, since I really don't know what I'm talking about. I just know I loved it when I saw it and still do. 

The following weekend this was the piece I fell in love with: 

This one is mixed media too - the birds are actually fabric. It's not big, I'm thinking it's 6"x12", but the colors just pop so much that it really grabs your attention. 

In addition to the mixed media pieces, Kacey also offers prints, which are awesome as well. I just personally have a huge problem with the follow through of actually putting a print in a frame and then hanging a frame on the wall, so sticking with the paintings/already mounted pieces gets me halfway to getting to enjoy the art on my wall!

I already have the purchase of another piece from Found Studio in the works, according to my roommate we needed something else to finish out a grouping she was putting together in our hallway and I said "Ok, I'll buy something." 

Based on my love of this stuff I have a feeling this third piece won't be my last!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Amazing Art

A big part of why I went to Richmond last weekend was to go to the Chihuly exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Apparently I've been living under a rock as I had never heard of Chihuly until December. He's a glass artist who does HUGE installation pieces that are so so impressive.

My pictures certainly don't do it justice so I'd definitely suggest going to see one of his shows - in Richmond before February 10 or at one of many other places where his installations can be found.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Best Pictures

I don't see a ton of movies, and looking back over the past several years I've only seen one of the best picture nominees each year. So I'm feeling quite proud of myself that this year I've seen two!

I saw Silver Linings Playbook and Argo.

I saw Silver Linings a few weeks back and liked it, though I find it hard to describe. A friend was talking about seeing it this weekend and referred to it as a romantic comedy and I couldn't really agree with that. There is a relationship element, and there were some laughs, but it's a pretty heavy movie, with a lot of drama going on.

Speaking of drama, there's Argo. That did bring on some laughs, lots of sitting on the edge of my seat and some tears as well. I'm completely amazed it's based on a true story. Though, the interwebz say that some dramatic liberties were taken to add to the drama in the movie, as one would expect.

I doubt I'll see more of the nominees for this year's Academy Awards, especially not in advance of the show, so I can't say that either of these should be the winner, but I can say I understand why they were nominated.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugural Memories: 2009 Edition

I was one of the approximately 2 million people that attended President Obama's Inauguration in 2009. 

It was my second day of living in the area and while I knew it was going to be cold and chaotic, I also knew it was a once in a lifetime experience that I didn't want to miss. 

My roommate did the research and mapped out our plan. We drove to Landmark Mall, in the West End of Alexandria and took the free bus service that dropped us off at 14th and C Streets, just south of the National Mall. And then we started walking and ended up in quite the sea of humanity. There were mobs of people and barricades all over the place. 

Somehow we ended up standing in the turn lane on the still open 15th street. General traffic wasn't going through, but buses filled with marching bands for the parade and emergency vehicles were still using the road.  Yet, we were allowed to stand there. We were between two sets of barricades and it was crowded, but not like the packed in crowds actually within the barricades. 

From our spot on 15th street, just in front of the Washington Monument we were about a mile from the ceremony. We couldn't even see the platform, well, except on the jumbotrons. And the crowds went on for about another mile, back as far as the Lincoln Memorial. 

But even though I still was watching it on screen, it was so awesome to be there. The people around us were so friendly and nice. Talking, hugging, smiling. The atmosphere was charged with excitement. 

I thought about going again this year but decided that my experience in 2009 was one that can't beat. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

All About the Food

I don't obsess over Richmond restaurants too much. I have a few favorites that I miss and do think about often, but for some reason this weekend more and more places I used to love are popping into my head and I'm planning my days around hitting up as many of them as possible while I'm in town.

I'm skipping my all time favorite, Edo Squid, because I did get there in December. Every where else I'm hitting up on this visit it's been 9 months or more since I've been to. Craziness.

So, what are these wonderful places you ask?

First there's Sticks. A yummy kebob shop with the best hummus ever and an awesome cilantro lime dipping sauce. I love this place so much opening up a franchise of it in Northern Virginia is on my "if I won the lottery" list. I expect to eat here twice this weekend, and return home with a platter for me and one for my roommate in the cooler I brought along.

There are a lot of Mexican restaurants in Northern Virginia. But all the ones I've come across are on the upscale end. The ones I love so much in Richmond are the sloppy Mexican kind. Cheap prices and yummy food. There are several local chains I enjoy, but Casa Grande was the one I chose for this visit.

One of my friend's is celebrating her birthday this weekend and we scheduled a mid-afternoon sweet treat of crepes at Baker's Crust. My favorite is the Diablotin. It's amazing.

Pizza has also been on my mind since I got to town. I'm still not sure which of the two places I miss I'll get to - either Extreme Pizza's Holy Cow or Superstars Cheese Explosion, but both have a take and bake option and one of them will be dinner tonight, while watching football.

Hmmm... I'm both starving and stuffed just reading over my list!

Saturday, January 19, 2013


I'm spending the weekend in Richmond and am blown away by all of the change I've seen today.

Usually when I come down I stay with friends and spend much of my time in their new neighborhoods as opposed to my old ones. This weekend I'm at a hotel, thanks to a soon to expire Marriott rewards certificate.

Staying with friends gives me more time with them, but staying at a hotel makes it feel like I live here again. In fact, my hotel room is a suite and is not that much smaller than the last two apartments that I lived in down here.

Tomorrow and Monday are packed with seeing lots of old friends, but today was my day to just enjoy being here. Basically a re-do of what a typical Saturday would have been like, many years ago.

I got down here in time for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, then I got my nails done at my favorite nail place. I went to a movie, checked into my hotel and then went out to pick up take out at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants.

Yes, I used the word favorite a lot in that paragraph.

But in the midst of all of those old favorites I ended up being blown away by how much has changed since I moved away.

The shopping center with my nail place has been completely remodeled. Thank goodness I could still get a manicure for $14 that includes a back massage while your hands are wrapped in hot towels. The movie theater I went to was very close to my old apartment, in a building that was a steel plant (or something like that) when I was a resident of the neighborhood.

And then I got to the West End. A few months before I moved away two new shopping centers opened - one with a Trader Joe's, the other with a Whole Foods. Now in between the two is a "town center" type place. Complete with retail on the first floor, condos about and townhouses all around. I felt like I was back in Northern Virginia, not Richmond.

I'm not really bothered that things are changing around here, I think it bothers me more that I am missing out on the change. I love where I live now, but I also know I could move back here in a heartbeat and be really happy. I've seen changes here and there over the past four years when I've come to visit, but tonight, driving out Broad Street and seeing how much is different was a bit eye opening.

Not good or bad, just different.

Friday, January 18, 2013

DC: The To Do List

Today is the four year anniversary of the first night I spent actually living inside the Beltway. (woohoo!!)

And there are still a lot of great DC sights I have not been to. What follows is the to-do list of place I want to go and things I want to do in this great metro area before I hit my five year anniversary. If any of these are appealing and you want to tag along, just let me know!

  1. Library of Congress. With as obsessed with reading as I am can you believe I've never been there? Must fix this. Soon!
  2. Eastern Market
  3. Roosevelt Island
  4. National Building Museum
  5. Embassy Tour Day - when a bunch of the Embassy's open their doors and let the general public in to look around! 
  6. Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
  7. Holocaust Museum
  8. Phillips Collection

And out course I'll be sure to blog about it as I check these places off my list!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Archiving it all

My other stop on Sunday, in addition to the Hirshhorn and the Starbucks of Awkwardness was the National Archives.

The National Archives was another place on the list that I had never been before. I saw the big features - the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, the current exhibit on JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis and my favorite space - the public vaults. 

This is the exhibit that shows all of the records kept. As someone whose work inbox has 2000+ emails, I can appreciate keeping records. There were a number of interactive exhibits, combining old info with new technology, which is pretty cool, but what I loved the most were the sampling of letters that have been written to the president. 

Like the one from a soldier returning from World War II who wrote a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt asking her to be his child's godmother, or the 12 year old boy who wrote to Reagan that his mom told him his bedroom was a disaster and he wondered if the president would send him federal disaster aid to help him get it cleaned up. 

The one that caught my attention the most was one that Fidel Castro wrote, when he was a teenager, asking FDR to send him $10 as he had never seen a US $10 bill. I'm not amazed that it was saved, it seems like everything is saved, but I was amazed that years later, when Castro rose to power someone actually stumbled across that letter from a young teen and realized who that boy grew up to be. 

Our country has a really amazing history, and I'm really glad we've got the National Archives to sort it all out. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fictional Favorites

Finally, we're midway through the month and I'm just getting around to posting my fiction favorites from 2012. 

So, without further ado... 

My dad was the one who suggested I read 11/22/63 by Stephen King. When he first brought it up I told him Stephen King books weren't my thing, but I soon learned this one was nothing like It, Cujo or any of the other scary stories I remember King writing in the past. 11/22/63 is historical fiction with a sci-fi twist. The main character is told about a portal that will allow him to travel back in time and possibly prevent JFK's assassination. The book was long, over 800 pages, but the story was really engaging and it moved quickly. 

Sticking with a numbers theme, The 500 was a face paced DC based thriller. It's filled with twists and turns and surprises and makes you wonder what is really going on inside the Beltway. If you like the tv show Scandal, you'd probably enjoy this book. 

I'm a big fan of Vince Flynn's books and the one that came out this year was no different. Of course, you already know that, from this post

Totally switching gears, the family dramas I loved the most included Those We Love the Most, Domestic Violets, and The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D

And, don't forget those from my top 10 list!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A little bit of culture

As I mentioned the other day I played tourist a bit on Sunday, including my first visit to the Hirshhorn Museum.

It was a foggy and miserable day outside....


but the art inside was intriguing and inviting. Here are a few of my favorites:

A spiral of 'wine' bottles

This was actually a series of 8 or so foot tall wooden
blocks with a circle in the middle. They were aligned
so I snapped this shot at one end, looking through them all

The snake was made of backpacks, to represent
all of the bags left behind by school kids when an
earthquake struck. 

Only the center stool has it's legs on the ground. 

Of all the cool pieces I saw, the ones that got me thinking the most where these two: 

And what I was thinking was - did they come attached or not? And if they actually arrived as hundreds (thousands?!?) of individual porcelain (I think) crabs and rebar rods, who had to put them together? And how did they know if they did it right?

Luckily, I had some one to ask those very questions! A friend I grew up with works in Art Conservation and is on staff at the Hirshhorn. I sent her these two pictures after my visit and my questions and she said it varies from installation to installation, but in this case the staff at the museum was largely responsible for setting out each and every crab as well as every one of those rebar rods. I would not have been excited about going to work on that day.

I definitely enjoyed my visit to the Hirshhorn. This exhibit is there through February 24 and it's certainly worth checking out.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Today was a Monday

A very Monday-ish Monday in fact.

Too hectic, too much stress, and just blah. Blah, blah, blah.

So I decided to go with something a little different for today's post. A recipe in fact. For comfort food.

Not the the incredibly deslish but incredibly unhealthy kind, but a soup that is super tasty and filled with all things healthy (minus a few teaspoons here and there).

It's curry lentil soup and it's seriously the best. One of my coworkers made it for me when I was recovering from surgery a few years back and I'll admit, I was doubtful at first. I'm not a big fan of spicy, so the curry part had me nervous (it's not a spicy soup), and I don't know that I had ever eaten lentils at that point, so I was fully prepared to hate it.

But I didn't. I loved it so much I got the recipe, and now I'll share it with you, complete with some tips and adaptations I've made along the way.

Curry Lentil soup

2 large onions
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic minced
6 ribs chopped celery (2 1/2 cups)
3 carrots chopped (1 1/4 cups)
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
5 c. water
5 c. chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. dark brown sugar or molassas
2 TBSP ketchup
3 c. coarsely chopped plum tomatoes
2 c. lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/2 c. dry sherry

Cook onions in olive oil until soft.
Add garlic, celery, carrots and cook 10-15 min. or until softened.
Add everything else.
Simmer 2 hours or until lentils are tender.

Yes, it's a lot of chopping, but once you knock that out it's just dumping everything in a giant pot and letting it cook. Now, for my tips:

  • I usually add some extra chicken broth, as the liquid tends to cook off on me quicker than the lentils are ready. 
  • Once I forgot to get tomatoes, so I added 3/4 of a jar of chunky tomato sauce instead. It still tasted yummy. 
  • Once you refrigerate it it stops looking like soup and looks more like stew/a giant container of cooked veggies and lentils. Don't worry, when you reheat it the veggies let go of the liquid and it returns to being soup.
  • This recipe makes a lot. I freeze at least half in single serving bowls so I can grab it for easy lunches when I need to. 

Let me know if you try it out - I hope you will! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Awkward Situation

After yesterday's day of ultimate laziness and a relatively early bedtime of 11:30 (trust me, that's early by my standards), it was no surprise to me when I woke up early this morning ( a little before 8. Hush. That is early for a weekend. By my standards).

Anyway, I knew if I didn't get moving there was a good chance that today would be a repeat of yesterday, so I got myself ready and was out the door by 9 am. I took myself out to breakfast and then spontaneously decided it would be a good day to play tourist downtown.

I'll elaborate on that more in another post this week (because bloggable material was also a motivator in getting out the door this morning and I'm not wasting that all on one post), but for now I want to focus on today's moments of extreme awkward.

I'm never far from a book that needs to be read, so I decided to take a break in my wanderings and park myself in a downtown Starbucks to get some reading in.

I got my drink and settled into one of the only open tables in the store and started reading. I had been there awhile, at least 20 minutes, when I noticed a woman I assume to be homeless, walking towards my table. I had seen her when I first entered the store, sitting at the table I ended up at, but it was empty once I got my drink and I figured she left. She approached the table and started putting her many bags down on the floor, in the space between the table and the condiments bar. Then she stood there. With her back to me, right at the side of the table for several minutes.

I was perplexed, but kept reading.  

Then she sat down with me.

I'll be honest, I thought about getting up and leaving, but... well, I didn't want to be rude. So, I just shifted my stuff that was strewn across the table closer to me and, just kept reading.

Then she started mumbling to herself, and then crying.

I had no clue what to do. I felt like I should ask if she was ok, but I had a feeling the answer would be no and really, what could I do to help make things better? Again, I considered leaving, but that seemed like it would have been even more rude now so... I just kept reading.

This all took place over the course of 5-10 minutes I'd say, maybe more. She'd stop crying, then start again. She's sit quietly, then mumble to herself. I just read. Mostly skimming actually, as I was close to finishing the book and as soon as I finished I could leave and not feel rude.

Then, she said "excuse me ma'am, do you have any money so I could get a drink?"

I answered honestly, I didn't have cash, but I offered to get her a drink. She decided on a tea, so I went and got it and then kicked myself for not asking if she needed something to eat as well.  I brought the tea back over, sat down and continued reading.

We spent about 10 more minutes sitting at the table together - at one point she asked if I wanted a sip of her tea, I declined - and I finished my book. I decided to put some money on a Starbucks card for her before I left, so she could get warm drinks again and have a reason to be in the store, out of the cold as today's weather was certainly an anomaly.

I left the store half feeling like I handled it well and half feeling like I should have done something completely different. I'm glad I resisted the urge to just walk away, and the urge to be confrontational about her sitting at my table (that one passed in an instant as I don't really have a confrontational bone in my body), and I'm glad she asked for a drink and that I thought to get the gift card.

But still, it seems so inadequate in the grand scheme of things.

And awkward. So very, very awkward.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lazy Day

I stayed home all day today.

Well, with the exception of dashing out to get takeout at 9:15 tonight, when the Ravens/Broncos game finally ended. And a most positive ending it was!

Anyway, I read, I played silly computer games, I caught up on some DVR'd programs and  cuddled with my cat. It was a completely and totally unproductive day.

And I don't care one bit.

Except for the fact that I am now documenting it for this silly blog-a-day thing I've got going on.

So my dear readers, the few of you that there are, can you ask me some questions? Or tell me what you want to hear about? Writing something in the comments that requires a post in response? I beg of you.

Because let me tell you, the excitement level that is my life these days is not much for inspiring writing material!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fluffy Favorites

There's a fine line between general fiction and chick lit, and an even finer line between chick lit and fluff.

Just because a book is written by a female author and features young, female characters does not automatically make it chick lit. And, just because something is chick lit, it doesn't automatically mean it's fluff.

Fluff is light, mindless, generally you know how it will end before you begin, but you also know you'll get some good laughs in along the way and read a nice, happily ever after story.

What I'm saying here is this list is subjective. Even more subjective than my other book lists because I have to subjectively put them in the fluff category is the first place, and then decide the best of the best fluff. But with that disclaimer in mind, here are my fluffy favorites from 2012...

From Notting Hill with Love... Actually is absolutely adorable. Filled with references to all of the best RomComs ever - those in the title of course, as well as Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman and more.

In Forget About It the main character fakes amnesia to get a do-over on her less than desired life. Hilarity ensues. Cute. Fun. Fluff.

Mary Kay Andrews books are quintessential fluff. Spring Fever was the one I read this year and it was a great, quick and fun read.

Stacey Ballis is another author who writes clever, funny and engaging stories. Off the Menu was another example, complete with recipes at the back for all of the yummy sounding treats her main character whips up!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blog-A-Day Dilemma

Sometimes I think I'm nuts for trying to do a post a day in January.

On days like today you are certainly getting quantity over quality.

Or so I thought.

While watching the local news I was sitting here trying to decide what in the world to write about tonight. And then Jim Vance was doing a story about the Boeing Dreamliner and after hearing that what popped into my head was this:

Oh yeah, you know you want to sing along with this one. 

** Dream on... dream away.... I think I'm gonna have to stay... ** 

I wondered what ever happened to good ole Color Me Badd so I turned to the all knowing google and discovered that had I vacationed in Australia in December I could have seen them. Along with other artists from the 90's that I've never heard of (Soul for Real? John B? Shai? Anyone? Anyone?) And, that they were sorta discovered by Jon Bon Jovi when he went to see a double feature at a movie theater in Oklahoma. And, that we could be blessed with more beautiful music - oh yes! Because, their "final (as of now) single" came out in 1998. It's that "as of now" that gives us hope. 

And now, with only 21 minutes left to go on day 10 of my 31 days of posting, I feel like I've given you both quantity and quality. Cause really - that video along is quality. The added facts and your new knowledge that Color Me Badd is still harmonizing to this day, well, that's just icing on the cheesy early 90's cake!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Those 50 Nifty States

I have a friend who is in the midst of a move from Northern Virginia to Alberta, Canada. She has been keeping her Facebook friends updated and entertained with her family's journey - including touring the Jelly Belly Factory in WI and visiting the Jolly Green Giant statue in Minnesota.

Her posts have me feeling like I didn't make the most of my own cross country drive a few years back. My drive was from Baltimore to Southern Arizona when the Army decided that was where my cousin was going to live. I managed to mix work with my road trip, but also managed a few interesting and historical sites - The Brown versus the Board of Education Museum in Topeka, a cute zoo in the Little Apple (Manhattan, KS), a castle in Manitou Springs, Co and hot springs along the Rio Grande in Truth or Consequences, NM.

On day five of that six day trip my dad asked if I'd ever do a drive like that again. I told him that was not at all the time for that question. I needed some distance from the experience before I could answer him.

Almost three years later I'm pretty sure (but not positive) that I'd sign up for another cross country drive. Maybe not totally cross country, but I could use some strategic road trips as there are 19 more states I need to check off my list!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I've been on twitter quite awhile now. 

I think I started my first account sometime in the Summer of '08. I'd go back and check the origin date, but... I deleted that account around the Fall of '09. Then there was another account, started in the Winter of '09 and a final one, in the Fall of '10. 

The reason the first one ended up being deleted was because it became a big, messy mix of work and life.  And.... I decided that was too much. I like twitter as a place to find out news and info and share info, but I also like to be able to vent. Put my frustrations 'on paper' and be able to get them out of my head. In a completely non-confrontational way. 

The solution was two accounts - one my full name, the other a locked account with no connection to my name at all. And now, two years later I feel like I'm getting what I need out of that handy little social media tool. In fact, I've gotten more than I ever expected. 

The unexpected benefit of Twitter, one I never saw coming when I first started out there, is the friendships I've made. Who would have thought that 140 characters at a time could bring people into my life that could end up meaning so much to me? 

I can't really explain how it happened, how in the whole wide Twitterverse I stumbled onto my own little slice and then built some really solid friendships. Friends I turn to for the silly and the serious, friends I've had great adventures with and hope to have many more with in the future. Friends to talk football with, friends to talk books with, friends to provide comfort when I'm feeling down and who celebrate with me when things are great. 

So my dear tweeps, and you know who you are, I heart you. And I appreciate you and what you bring to my life each day. 

Monday, January 7, 2013


When I was seven years old all I wanted was a playhouse. We lived on a acre of land and I envisioned my own little house out back, complete with a front door and windows with curtains and a flower bed. I asked for it frequently and don't recall what kind of reaction my request got, but I do remember the surprise I got upon arriving home on one of the last days of the school year.

I got off the bus at my neighbor's house and walked over to my house via the backyard. As I crossed over the property line I noticed a big wooden board hanging from one of the trees in the far corner of our yard. As I got closer my dad looked down at me from up on a ladder and said "Look - I'm finally building that tree house you've been asking for!"

Um... yeah.

But I knew even at that young age not to complain and not to point out that a tree house was not really at all what I asked for. I just went with it.

And within a few weeks I had my own getaway in the back yard. Complete with trap door to enter, a big barrel as my table and another cut in half as my two chairs. My dad also built a slide as a second exit, but we never quite got the right material on it so you could actually, ya know, slide.

My friends and I were frequent visitors to that tree house for years. It was even where I ran away to several years later, packing up a bag of books, my pillow and some apples when I was mad about being grounded for something. I stayed all day, until my mom came outside and yelled out that my dad would be home soon. Then I promptly packed up and returned to my room before he got home.


Every summer when I was a kid we'd spend a week in Ocean City. We rented the same condo, on the bayside at 26th street. There was a dock there that we went crabbing from, and it was on a little inlet, putting it a good distance from the main boating lanes of the bay. The summer when I was 11 I had one of those little inflatable boats to take into the ocean with me. It even came with two oars, so one day during our week my dad suggested I try it out in the bay.  

Let's just say it didn't go well. I had a really hard time getting the whole rowing thing down and could not get myself back to the dock. I went in circles a lot. And then when it seemed like I finally mastered a motion other than circular, it was out towards that main boating channel. OK, so it was probably actually the tide pulling me out, but either way, it was not good. My dad kept calling out instructions from the dock. Telling me what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. It didn't work. I was drifting further and further away. So then he dove off the dock, swam out to me and pulled me back in. 

I thought my days of boating in the bay were over, but then next morning by the time I woke up my dad had already been out to get coffee and made a quick stop at the hardware store, where he bought rope. A long, long rope. 

He tied one end to my little rubber boat and the other to the dock and sent me back out into the water. I have no idea how long the rope was, but it definitely gave me plenty of room to play around in the boat, attempt to improve my rowing skills and still be reeled back in when I failed miserably. 


When I graduated from high school two of my best friends and I decided we didn't want to go to the beach for senior week, we wanted to go to New York City. We saved up lots of money, picked out the shows we wanted to go to and sights we wanted to see, got our Trip Tik from AAA and hit the road for the 4 hour drive north. 

My dad was NOT happy about this trip. I know he would have much rather me have gone to the beach since he knew the drinking and partying typical of senior week wasn't my thing. I don't actually remember how my mom and I got him to agree that I could go, but, he did. 

We made it to just outside of Philly with no problems. Then, well, there was a big, big problem. 

My car broke down. On I-95. On the shoulder of the fast lane. 

It was bad. So very bad. I called AAA and was waiting for them to show up when of course, my dad called to check on our progress. I had planned to call after the car was towed and I had a clue what was going on. I could feel his stress and worry through the phone, though he was trying to remain calm.   

Then, things got worse. The AAA tow truck never showed. They claimed the car was abandoned when they got there. It wasn't. Multiple police cars went by us, never stopping to see if we were ok, despite the hazards on and "Send Help" sign in the window (it was the bag the Trip Tik came in - thanks AAA), and we finally flagged down another tow truck. 

Who towed us to a lovely neighborhood in South Philly where we learned that a rod from the piston when through the oil pan, draining all of the oil and killing my engine. The day was dragging on and by the time we got this news it was about 2 hours til the garage's closing time. My dad talked to the mechanic who said we could stay there until they closed and then we could wait on the steps. 

Needless to say he drove quickly, making his way to Philly to get us. I was convinced he'd be taking us home. But he didn't. He drove us the rest of the way to NYC, made sure we got checked in to our hotel and then turned around and drove home. 

He may not have been happy with my choice, but he supported it anyway. 


Happy Birthday Daddy. I miss you every single day and will never forget all that you did for me. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Luck Runs Out

Mid way through this football season I bought this shirt. I think I ordered it during the Skins bye week, when the team was 3-6.

I wore it for the first time on 11/18, and the Skins won against the Eagles. Then they won again the following week, on Thanksgiving, in Dallas (!!!). It wasn't until the week after that, a Monday night football win against the Giants when I realized, my new shirt had 3 wins!

The following week, as the Skins prepared to play the Ravens I was visiting friends and jokingly mentioned the lucky shirt. Then the Skins won. That was the first time they had won four in a row in ages.

By the fifth win I posted this as my Facebook status:

Five weeks ago I got a new Redskins shirt. I think I'm gonna hang on to this one! #httr

Week six with the new shirt the game coincided with a family Hanukkah party. Normally I'd dress a bit nicer for a big family gathering. But, jeans and the lucky shirt won and so did the Skins!

I was beginning to feel like that beer commercial - where the guys hold the bottles a certain way to help with the field goal kick or where the 49ers fan returns to his old apartment to watch from the same spot where he watched the whole season when they won the Super Bowl.

The final game of the regular season was huge. Primetime, home game against the rival Cowboys where the winner won the division and a trip to the playoffs and the loser's season ended.

I wore my shirt. The Redskins won.

Today, my freshly laundered shirt and I were ready for the game. They started off really strong, but in the end they lost.

After coming off a 5-11 season in 2011 to a 10-6 season and the Division championship for the first time in over a decade I really have no complaints about the 2012 Washington Redskins.

And come September 8, I'll have my lucky shirt ready to go, as this ones powers have been proven in the regular season.

I just need to invest in a new, lucky playoff shirt in time for next January!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hail Yeah!

So that happened last week.

And tomorrow my beloved Redskins will host their first playoff game since '99.

These last seven weeks have been an awesome time to be a Redskins fan. But they've also taught me I'm not actually that good at being a fan of a successful team. I used to watch, hoping for a win, but being prepared for a loss, but now... now I get so stressed out about these games!

When you get to the playoffs, every team is good. Every team could win. (Though typing that as I watch the Vikings fall a part it's not the most believable statement at the moment.)

It has been a great season for the Redskins. And I'm not ready for it to be over.

Hail to the Redskins!

ps. Slightly outdated, but still so adorable and completely awesome...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Interruption in the Regularly Scheduled Blogging

I owe you two more book recap posts, but those will wait another day or so.

I had a long 24 hours, but a big chunk of it was spent with this cutie pie, so I can't really complain.

I took a vacation day today to hang out with Wiggles and her parents before they head back out west tomorrow. Last night after work I drove up to stay with my mom in order to maximize my time with the munchkin today.

We went out to breakfast at Friendly's and then back to her grandparents house to just hang out. 18 months is a fun age. She's got personality and she's like a sponge, just soaking up everything going on around her. She's got a pretty good vocabulary and is fairly easy to understand for the most part, but, when she isn't, it's damn funny.

Several times Wiggles started in on a monologue. She was fiesty, fired up and trying to tell us something. Unfortunately her mom, dad and I had no clue what it was. I wish I could have caught it on video, but I knew as soon as the camera appeared it would have changed her focus and ruined the moment.

I didn't even take a pictures of her today, the one above is snagged from her Aunt's Facebook page. I just enjoyed the time and was in the moment and hope it was enough to tide me over until she returns next summer.

(It wasn't. I miss her already. Thanks goodness for Skype.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Nonfiction Faves

Of the 114 books I read last year, 22 were nonfiction. Maybe I'll work on upping that percentage in 2013...

The best of the best were three memoirs - Carly's Voice, Next Stop and The Glass Castle.

The Glass Castle is Jeannette Walls' memoir that primarily captures her unique, and quite nomadic, childhood. From Northern California to the Southwest to Appalachia, her family moved frequently and was lead by a very eccentric father. 

Carly's Voice and Next Stop are both written by parents of children with autism, though with dramatically different stories from both ends of the autism spectrum. Both are powerful stories and represent the struggles families face with autism but some incredible triumphs as well.

Other nonfiction faves include:

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is the author's story of her solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California to Washington State. A lot of times what draws me in about a memoir is the extreme honesty of the author, portraying the roughest edges of their life. That was definitely what Strayed did here.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Completely different and laugh inducing, I thought Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me? was a fun read. Especially now that she has her own sitcom, it makes me appreciate her humor and style even more. I actually listened to this one as an audio book, which I think contributed to my enjoyment of it because Mindy was the one who read it.

Switching from memoirs to politics, I really enjoyed The President's Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity and Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, which featured very little of Palin, despite the focus on her in the movie of the same name.

Now that you know what kind of nonfiction I like, anything you want to suggest I add to my reading list for 2013?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reading Review

I mentioned on New Year's Eve that I won my ridiculous reading competition.

First up, was the goal I set with myself, of reading 80 books in 2012.

Mission Accomplished. By the first week in September.

I was a bit of an overachiever. 
Then part two was the friendly competition.

I won, but not by much. I closed out 2012 with 114 books, representing 39,318 pages and she ended the year with 109 books and 38,752 pages. Her books were longer on average, as I'm 5 books ahead but only 566 pages, but still... more books, more pages, victory is mine!

Someone asked me earlier what I won and I said bragging rights, but now I'm remembering we also had a $20 gift card to the bookstore of the winner's choice (B&N for me, Amazon for her) on the line... Yay! More books for me. :-)

Anyway, I figure if I put in all that time reading last year you all should get something out of it as well. I think I'm going to do four separate posts - overall top 10 list, best nonfiction, best general fiction and best chick lit/fluff.

I'll elaborate a bit on my choices in the genre based posts, but without further ado, my 10 favorite reads of 2012:

  1. Carly's Voice by Arthur Fleischmann
  2. The Street Sweeper by Eliot Perlman
  3. A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
  4. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  5. Run by Ann Patchett
  6. Heft by Liz Moore
  7. Next Stop: A Memoir by Glen Finland
  8. The Good Father by Noah Hawley
  9. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
  10. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Are any of these on your top list for the year? If no, what were the best books you read in 2012?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My year as a blogger

I've written 129 posts in the past year.

Not as many as most of the other blogs I read but, certainly enough that I can think of myself as a blogger.

I really like having this space, yet I still struggle with it as well.

It's been hard to find the right balance of capturing the day to day, my emotional ups and downs, my goals and plans, things I love, things that annoy me... basically, my life.

I read a lot of blogs, and I spend too much time on Facebook and I've noticed how many different ways people can use these social media tools. But of all of them, there are three main ones:

Some people present perfection. You know who they are. Their child is a gifted, precious angel who does no wrong and surpasses every milestone and accomplishment. Their spouse/significant other is engaged, involved and always helpful. They take fabulous trips, have great new gadgets and just exude this aura of the good life.

Then there are the complainers. The drama queens whose posts and status updates are all 'woe is me' and 'my life sucks' and 'why do bad things only happen to me.' All. the. time. They want attention. They want reassurance. They don't want you to point out just how first world their problems really are.

And finally, there are the people that never say much of anything, or at least nothing original. Their digital presence revolves around reposting and reblogging the words of others.

I'm not any of those people. I am certainly not living in a perfect world. And a drama queen is far from an accurate description. And I've got my own words to share for sure. I've tried to strike a balance of all of the above I'd say. I don't want this space to turn into a whiny, unhappy place so I really do try to accentuate the positive, but still not completely eliminate the negative.

I want this to be a place where I can just be honest, be myself. I so admire so many of the blogs I read where the blogger just puts it all out there. The good and the bad. The hard times and the happy ones. I've certainly managed some of that, but a lot of times I hold back from writing what's truly on my mind because I worry about the reaction from those real life readers.

While I don't have any actual new year's resolutions, I do have a few goals for this space in 2013:
  1. A post a day during January
  2. More posting in general. I had 129 posts in 2012 so I think I'll aim for 150 in 2013. 
  3. More writing what's on my mind, even when my mind is in an unhappy place.
Here's to one year down and many more to go.