Thursday, April 30, 2009

Silly signs

Just a few more reasons why I always try to have my camera with me. Silly signs amuse me.

Likely intended to provide some awareness of a school/playground in the area, but I'm going to take it to mean "beware of teeter-totter AND children with floating heads."

I don't recall learning it quite that way in school. Special earbones? I wasn't aware that was a distinguishing feature of mammals. Merriam-Webster makes no mention of special earbones. Every other resource does, though. I think I glossed over this in my years of science education. Good thing the Museum of Natural History is here to set me straight.

You know some moron, mesmerized by the hypnotic beauty of the cherry blossoms, smacked his head into a branch and possibly (1) developed a small bump and accompanying headache and/or (2) fell into the Tidal Basin. Both possibilities now warrant the city posting signs for something that is glaringly obvious to anyone with the gift of sight. Oh, that reminds me - please exercise caution with hot beverages.

Neat and tidy liberal spray-painting defacing city property. Theoretically put in place before last November's election.

The best part is "signs paid for by Georgetown University" at the very bottom. Hush up, now, all you crazy college kids, and please stop disturbing your very wealthy neighbors.

On a side note, tomorrow I welcome a Texas visitor in the form of Jenny P, fresh off a week of imparting her knowledge on impressionable young minds at Pdub's national tax training. SO excited that she'll be here for the weekend, and I can't wait to see her!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flip-flop season

MISSING: The mild season that typically occurs between "winter" and "summer" made a brief appearance in DC before disappearing - possible runaway, although kidnapping is suspected. Answers to the name of Spring, and a reward is offered for its safe and timely return. Left-behind tulips, daffodils, and other bulbs are very concerned.

Ok, so it's not that bad outside, but is it seriously already time for temperatures in the 90s and a rather persistent sun? I think I just safely tucked away my winter coat about a week ago. Yipes. Anyway, here's how I sweated my way through the city this weekend.

In order to test out new flip-flops and flats before taking them across the ocean to brave the streets of Munich and Prague, I really wanted to walk this weekend, and not just minor walking, but a lot of walking. All over the place. So I did. And I determined that warm temperatures dictate flip-flops so my poor flat feet can breathe and and aren't trapped in sweaty shoes. Ick.

My Saturday feet, once switched into flip-flops from the flats mini-disaster, continued the quest for Tex-Mex. It can't hurt to have a fellow appreciator of all things Tex-Mexican accompany you on these journeys, so Saturday night Erin and I met for dinner at Cactus Cantina. They make their own tortillas with El Machino (score one for fresh tortillas!), the salsa's fresh, and plentiful patio seating is appreciated once the beating sun relents a bit. It was tasty...but not amazing. I would say it was nothing to write home about, but by writing about it right now...well, I kinda am, so that particular phrase doesn't work. Anywho...we walked about two miles down Wisconsin (good flip-flop test!) with the intent of grabbing a drink in Georgetown, but we were attacked by sprinkles and then the surges of a good ol' thunderstorm, so we put our wet flip-flop feet into cabs and took them home instead.

My Sunday feet did a lot of walking - through Adams Morgan, Mt. Pleasant, the zoo, the Natural History museum, and a meandering path home through Penn Quarter. I found lunch at Dos Gringos, which unfortunately had nothing to do with Mexican food, and walked my way through the National Zoo, playing dodge-the-stroller-and-crazy-kids the whole way through. Have I mentioned how fantastic it is that you can do so many great things here for free? Thank you, Mr. Smithson, for your generous and unexpected bequest. I basically walked straight through without stopping to see a lot of the specifics - I wanted to see the giant pandas, but not after catching a glimpse of the ridiculous line. Elephants are pretty cool, though.

The Museum of Natural History is conveniently open until 7:30 these days and also offers the refuge known as air conditioning, so I spent some time wandering and taking in the highlights - giant whale replica and the Hope Diamond and a T-rex, oh my! I tried to get a shot to make it look like the T-rex was eating my head, but this is a little tricky to accomplish on your own with museum lighting and tons of people around. Next time I'll just feel silly and ask someone to do it for me. Or preferably go with a friend. I'd also been wanting to go see Nature's Best Photography Awards Exhibit, and since it closes next weekend, today's the day! Then I flip-flopped myself to Teaism for a refreshing beverage, flip-flopped a few blocks home, and flopped on the couch. After cranking up the AC, of course.

Prehistoric ponies...

...and my second elephant of the day, although this one is quite obviously no longer...well...alive...

...and a rather intense kitty from the photography exhibit...

...and a ginormous whale. Go museums!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fro yo & movie, yo

One of the local movie theaters in my hood, E Street Cinema, is part of the Landmark Theatre group, which I take as a very good sign given my love of the Magnolia in Dallas with its artsy, independent flicks and generally tasty, occasionally alcoholic, concession offerings. I do make it to the theater every once in a while to catch something that piques my interest before Netflix* brings it to me, and I'm even more inclined to take in a movie on a Tuesday night when you flash the words advance screening and free at me.

Previously I've relied on Trinity to throw the occasional free movie ticket my way (he wins everything, I swear), usually if his wife can't (ahem...doesn't want to...) make it. This time I was on my own, though, and through the good graces of the E Street Cinema Film Club, I actually won (!!) two free passes to an advance screening of Lymelife for last night. I figured any movie with the tagline "the American dream sucks" starring Alec Baldwin was worth a shot, so Dana and I made plans to walk over after work, grab a quick dinner, and line up for the viewing. Of course, when you work at PwC, the occasional explosion sneaks in and tosses aside your plans (as a note, explosions typically only occur on nights when you actually do have plans) I lost Dana for the evening and set out on my own. I did make some new indie movie friends while waiting in line and chillin in the theater before the show, and the movie was definitely entertaining. Plenty of humorous moments + some pretty serious undertones = laughing audience with a couple of gasp-worthy, if somewhat predictable, moments. Add it to your Netflix list. Oh, heck, you could even take it in at the theater.

You know what's on the way home from the movie theater and makes a nice treat on a relatively temperate Washington D.C. evening? Tangysweet! This is not the TCBY frozen yogurt of my youth or like any frozen yogurt I've ever really is both...tangy...and...sweet. And tastes like frozen...yogurt. Intriguing. A small classic + crushed waffle cone + blueberries set me back a tad more than the equivalent of my dinner (which, to be fair, was a Potbelly sandwich and not overly extravagant in any way), but everyone could use a tasty treat every once in a while. Mmmm.

* NetFlix history analyzer is a pretty cool tool. Not quite as cool as a spreadsheet, but still pretty cool. Do not click that link if you can't face the reality of how much you've spent on movie/TV show rentals over an extended period of time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Country music, take me home

I think I needed a little bit of home this weekend. And if you know me at all, one of my favorite ways to connect with pretty much anything or anyone, including home, is through food. Ok, not that Chipotle is remotely Texan at all, but it felt good to say "carnitas" and "guacamole" and go home with a massive burrito. Brisket comes a little closer to qualifying as genuine Texas food, and fortunately I'm here with friends who believe in smoking it and serving it with the appropriate sauce - none of pepper-vinegar Carolina business. Oh, and if you follow up this tasty brisket with a Pat Green concert, you pretty much feel like you're right back in Texas.

I'll definitely be back for more shows at the
9:30 Club - it's a smaller venue, kinda like the Palladium back in Dallas, and just a fun place to see a concert. Opening act was an unmemorable band from Brooklyn (has any great country act ever come out of Brooklyn?? It just didn't seem right...), except that the lead singer did make an impression with her choice of (and corresponding lack thereof) wardrobe. She was too spastic for me to get a clear shot, even with our great spot right by the stage.

Next up was Randy Houser, and the fact that I had to check iTunes to get the spelling of his name right lets you know that I hadn't really heard of the guy before, but he put on a decent show with much better music than the Brooklynites.

I may have somewhat renounced my country roots and turned to the Shins and Death Cab for Cutie and Ben Folds and...oh, plenty others...but I'm always up for a Pat Green show because he's pretty much guaranteed to amuse and entertain. As a side bonus, he also happens to sing. Here he is belting it out into some guy's cell phone that was tossed on stage:

And professing his joy that the club is smoke-free (I cheered remarkably loudly) while going on a rant about all the second-hand smoke he's inhaled at concerts over the years:

He also lost a $1,000 bet to a band member who managed to land a guitar pick in his shot of tequila. And threw $50 at a guy in the audience who booed him, shouting "there's your refund, get the hell outta here!" in the middle of a song. And was rather supportive of his sponsor for the evening, Jagermeister. Good show, and just enough cowboy boots and country to make it feel like home.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Not a crumpet in sight

It's not often that you get to enjoy high tea at the residence of the Finnish ambassador (in my own personal experience, anyway - maybe someone out there has a more personal connection with Pekka Lintu), so when offered the chance to skip out on work a little bit early for such an occasion, you take it. One of our PwC partners bid on a "high tea for up to 30 people" shindig at a recent charity event, and upon winning he graciously invited the current "tour of duty" gang to join him for this experience. I put "tour of duty" in quotes because I think of it as a rather military term, and it's not like those of us here in DC have gone into enemy territory to protect our country or anything. Enemy territory, hmmm....the Beltway crowd and Yankees (this is not the South, I don't care what those Virginians say) all around...maybe I should rethink that phrase. I digress....back to foreign relations and tea and all that good stuff.

Speaking of foreign relations, those are probably more important to an ambassador than meeting a bunch of accountants/lawyers/businessy-types, which possibly explains why Mr. Lintu had actually departed for Finland earlier in the no, we didn't actually meet the ambassador. We did, however, meet his rather charming wife, Laurel Colless, who's not Finnish at all but fascinating in her own right, working diligently to bring energy efficiency and green thinking to the world at large. A couple of actual Finns were present, which lent an air of authenticity to the whole endeavor...even if they were the au pair and housekeeper #1.

We had quite a spread for our high tea experience - the usual beverage options of tea, coffee, water and the like, and quite a few appetizer/dessert options, including cured salmon, a salmon-quichey thing, roast beef and beet something (I think a lot of people were scared of purple food - come on, guys, go for it!), cucumber sandwiches, mushroom and rice pastries, strawberry-mint mousse cake, cookies, and assorted other carbalicious items I've forgotten about. I'd love to have pictures for you, but whipping out my camera in their home would have felt a little intrusive and disruptive of the whole high tea experience.

It was an odd feeling to walk around through their home, children and dog underfoot, and take tea on their expansive, gorgeous back patio, complete with pool and sauna. Also complete with multiple housekeepers/all-purpose staff who graciously greeted us at the door, poured beverage refills, and quietly snuck in to relieve us of dirty dishes. Oh, and not that we could really use the sauna - I mean, business casual doesn't exactly lend itself to steaming - but it's nice to know it's one of the perks of ambassador living. Actually, one of the most fascinating parts of the whole experience was seeing this home smack in the middle of DC with an enormous backyard and space all around. I guess you can have space in the just have to have the right connections along with the accompanying financial means. It's just fascinating to me that this is their home, and they have a guest book and brochures waiting for you at the front door.

As much as I don't want my personal space invaded by tea-seekers all the time, I think I could handle the ambassador life. Send me off to Spain, please, or Italy or Greece or anywhere I might like an extended vacation. I'm guessing my government wouldn't care to foot this particular bill at the moment...or ever, for that matter.

Did sneak in a couple of pictures there at the end, mostly to obtain evidence of something that said "Finland" to document the experience.

All in all, I learned a little bit about...Finland, saving the Earth, Finnish cuisine, living the ritzy life in DC, and my coworkers. And while our treats were delicious, we weren't exactly filled up on our cured salmon and assorted baked goodies, so Dana and I made our way to Dupont Circle and spent a pleasant evening on the patio (yes, the patio! It actually kinda feels like spring here in DC!) at Veritas sharing some charcuturie (so much more fun to say than "cured meat," right?), cheese, and a rather tasty cabernet. Not a bad Thursday.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fruit is better with a crumbly topping

After a remarkably unsuccessful trip to my neighborhood farmers market last Thursday evening after work, I was feeling a little down on spring produce. I went with precisely one thing in mind - asparagus. It was much needed for my veggie contribution to the Easter food extravaganza, and why not pick up the asparagus from the guy who grows it instead of the faceless corporate supermarket six blocks the other direction? Three cheers for the farmer! Except in this case...there were zero vegetables to be found. Seriously, ZERO. I don't know if it was a function of me arriving around 6:15 when the whole thing kicks off at 3:00 and there was some crazy run on veggies, or maybe it's still too early in the season for the veggie guys to think it's worth the trip, or maybe they should rename the whole thing from "farmers market" to "local purveyors of soap and orchids," because that's about all there was to it when I showed up.

Faceless corporate supermarket stepped in to save the day, of course, and asparagus is even on sale. I'll try to support the little guy, I really will, but give me something to work with here.

Faced with nature's bounty and lots of "sale sale sale!" signs at Safeway (there, now it's named but still faceless), I got a little carried away with produce purchases, forgetting that 1) I need to lug this stuff home and 2) I am one person and can only eat so much, and non-canned/boxed things only last so long. I don't think I've ever knowingly had rhubarb in my life, though, so I had to buy some and figure out what to do with it! It's fun tackling mystery ingredients!

This is what I did with. Strawberry-rhubarb crumble. It was really, really delicious. Especially with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. If anyone's actually inspired to make that, you might go with a tad less flour for the fruit or maybe substitute some cornstarch, but now I'm going all baking-girl on you when I should just be enjoying dessert.

Photo is completely courtesy of Deb at Smitten Kitchen, although mine actually did look remarkably similar to that. I figure it's always a good sign when your kitchen adventures turn out a product that looks pretty much like the picture you were striving for.

Speaking of produce abundance, I still (yes, a week later) have a pineapple I need to hack into. Oh, to be the Vaughns and have cool things like a pineapple corer/slicer to make this task a little bit easier. It might be time to invest in the awesome chef's knife I've had my eye on to assist last weekend's knife purchase with my produce disassembly. Or maybe I should just escape from the kitchen. Oh, yeah, I also made blackberry streusel muffins by slightly adapting a recipe from good ol' Betty Crocker, which provided me with a rather tasty breakfast option for the week. Must escape from the kitchen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taxes, our taxes

April 15th is here! That used to mean a deep sigh of relief and an early departure from work to grab an adult beverage with some friends to celebrate the fact that we're still alive. Followed by a deep, deep sleep. This year for me, though, it's pretty much...well...just another day. It's odd being so less aware of the deadline.

Three cheers for all of my 4/15 tax friends who have survived another busy season! Well, the busy season of calendar year taxpayers...don't think about fiscal year ends today. Just think about TABC or Vino 100 or possibly a bacon cheeseburger, and nothing more than a bacon cheeseburger, from Sonic.

If you'd like to send a tacky/humorous/offensive Tax Day greeting card to a friend, acquaintance, or random email address (Trinity, I'm curious as to what your 4/15 adventure could entail), check out the selection at Oh, normal-ish people probably don't quite as worked up about this day, do they? I wouldn't know - I'm one of the crazy accountants.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter orphans

I don't usually make the trip home for Easter, primarily because 1) it typically falls right in the middle of crazy tax season and 2) I don't get quite as worked up over chocolate bunnies as I used to. Actually...scratch #2. That excitement will always hold true. Still, it would be nice to spend the holiday surrounded by loved ones and enormous piles of delicious food.

My cube buddy and her husband, similarly in the 1600-ish miles away from home situation, also opted to stay in the area for the holiday weekend and were gracious enough to open up their home to Easter nomads and orphans such as myself and other assorted friends. Show up with some food to share, a bottle of wine or two...or three...or...yeah, we had a fantastic time. While I missed my Dallas "family" time with wonderful friends there, I did have a really great Sunday with newfound friends. I mean, it's hard to go wrong when you show up bearing a very large dish of Barefoot Contessa's mac and cheese. This is dangerous, deliciously dangerous. You'll want to consume ridiculous amounts of its cheesy goodness, and when you add up the nutritional content of the ingredients...well, you know you should limit yourself, but it's an excellent special occasion dish o' starchy goodness.

In closing, I give you my favorite Easter candy and the only one I allowed myself to purchase during a grocery store binge that included approximately $40 worth of cheese. Yeah, I know, not exactly exercising self restraint on the cheese front there, but at least I held back on the chocolate. I give you...Cadbury Mini Eggs. Delicious chocolate center, crisp candy shell. Go buy some now that Easter has come and gone and they're at least 50% off. Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sports...with water?

I come from the land of football. And basketball. I now find myself in the season and geography for things like regattas, lacrosse matches, and the Frozen Four, which helps me better understand why baseball is widely considered the sports tie that binds this great nation. It really is everywhere with at least a general public understanding of the sport. Granted, my favorite part of a baseball game is the food and beverage (perfectly legitimate reason to indulge in hot dogs and beer!) and not necessarily the sport itself, but that's beside the point.

This land I come from, this land of football and basketball known as West Texas, also happens to be remarkably lacking in bodies of water. I still get a thrill driving across bridges here and probably will continue to do so for the rest of my life - I mean, there's water actually flowing down there. With waves. I may have seen spotty patches of murky "water" in the Canadian River during my youth, but I certainly don't recall ever seeing that water actually go in any direction. Unless there happened to be some freak flash flooding. Hence the crazy water passings and flood markers in Palo Duro Canyon. I'm guessing no one's ever taken in a sculling match at Lake Meredith, either.

Anyway, this minor fascination I have with water combined with a general interest in sports and finding things to do here other than the usual led me to the edge of the Potomac to take in some of the action at the George Washington Invitational Regatta. Well, the aforementioned things and the fact that I think it's fun to say "regatta." Let me just mention that the entire experience might have been a little more enjoyable if the sun had decided to peek out and relieve us of the rain and general chill in the air, but I'm not sure if that would have helped much. It just wasn't that exciting. I mean, it was cool to watch people haul these ridiculously long rowboats around and listen to the crew leaders bark out commands through their headsets, but then they take off down the river and...well...just kinda disappear for a while. I think I'll stick with my Olympics viewing where they have strategically placed cameras and some commentator banter.

I did witness a near collision between the MIT gals and the Cal guys, which could have been interesting.

However, they made it out of and into the water with no major incidents.

And they're passing under the Key Bridge! Go, tiny-far-away-can't-tell-who-you-are rowers, go!

I salvaged the rainy day and somewhat disappointing sports outing with some retail therapy. Borders and Sur la Table and Cole Haan rarely let me down. My next book and awesome new knives and way-on-sale flats (thank you, Carolyn!!) make any day better.

I think I'm ready for football season to roll around. And it's going to feel really wrong living in Redskins country.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wasting my time

I'm an avoider. When faced with what I perceive to be a potentially unpleasant or overly taxing (yes, obvious play on words there) task, I turn to pretty much any and everything else to distract myself from what I should really be doing. Don't worry, I always get my stuff done - sometimes I could just do it a little more efficiently, that's all. I actually do better work under a little bit of pressure - solid deadlines, those speak to me. The "oh, whenever you have a chance to get to it" guideline pretty much ensures that it's going to the bottom of this week's to-do list, only to be pushed to next week's to-do list (and possibly the next week as well) until I self-impose a deadline.

My work schedule has definitely gone through some adjustments in the past couple months. There are certainly a few things that pop up every now and then with some sense of urgency, but I'm not nearly as deadline-driven as I used to be. This is a little dangerous, because it affords me the opportunity to just...put things off. Hence the aforementioned self-imposed deadlines. Otherwise I could come frightfully close to accomplishing absolutely nothing. Besides, when I put things on a list and keep track of them, I get such great satisfaction from checking them off. I even have a "box" system that I'll add next to certain items once they've already earned one checkmark but may have generated a follow-up item....oh, I should really stop with this. Now I'm just scaring you, or maybe you're knowingly shaking your head at me.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite "wasting time" activities at work, most of which are easily and discreetly accomplished with a strategically-placed browser window that can be easily minimized:
  1. Having recently met the author and enjoyed the book that resulted from the blog, I'm currently working my way through Orangette from start to finish. And when I'm all caught up here, you can bet I'm moving on to Smitten Kitchen and doing the same thing.
  2. Playing with this blog. I come up with random ideas for posts and start typing them in...and yes, a decent chunk of this appeared between approximately 4:53 and 5:11 today when I just couldn't take it anymore.
  3. Constantly checking Serious Eats for the latest updates.
  4. Online shopping. In a quest for fiscal responsibility (says the girl who's leaving for Europe in 29 days, but you have to live a little, right?), I've lately taken to adding items to my Amazon wish list rather than actually purchasing them. Plus I have no room in my small-ish DC kitchen for a food processor or Le Creuset cookware.
  5. Finding cool things to do in DC. This involves perusing DCist and Washingtonian as well as assorted blogs, including DC365 and Penn Quarter Living. Plus whatever Google might turn up.
  6. I probably check the weather forecast three times a day. Why? I have no idea. Other than the fact that I now sit remotely close to a window and can actually perceive weather changes as well as the position of the sun.
  7. Daily checks of credit card and bank account activity. This, of course, is to ensure the safety of my credit score and therefore totally justified.
  8. Browse recipes. From everything to the boozy cupcakes that might show up in "my bakery" (pretend that's me throwing air quotes around that wishful phrase) to what I could throw together for dinner that night (that risotto is really tasty, by the me, click that "throw together for dinner" link). Favorite places for this include many of the aforementioned websites. I sure do think about food a lot.

I should probably stop numbering a list of all the things I do during the work day when I should actually be working. Of course, all of this time-wasting results in my having to put in a little extra time at work to accomplish the real work things I actually need to do. Imagine if I actually worked all day! I could reclaim some evening time! Hmmm, although I tend to waste a lot of that time, too - avoiding laundry and dishes by watching DVR'd (can I use that as a verb?) episodes of truly thought-provoking programs like...Wings....and...Tyler's Ultimate. I highly value my leisure time, but maybe I should be doing more productive things with my time...delicate balance.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sunday brunch-day!

If you spur-of-the-moment invite me to brunch on a Sunday, odds are pretty high that I'm going to say yes, even if I already put away a rather large bowl of cherry-vanilla oatmeal. I adore the concept of brunch. It opens up the traditionally accepted window of "breakfast food" time to cover all of the AM hours, definitely early PM, and can stretch even later, all depending on what time you decide to roll out of bed, really. I love breakfast. I LOVE breakfast. I ♥ breakfast SO MUCH.

I ♥ it that much more when combined with gorgeous spring weather, good conversation with a new friend, and subsequent exploration of Georgetown in all of its historic prettiness. Dana and I met at Leopold's, a modern-ish, Euro-chic restaurant in Georgetown with some pretty fantastic pastries. I kicked things off with a pain au chocolat, which took me right back to memories of Parisian breakfasts at "our" bakery across the street from our accommodations where we fell into a coma-like sleep every night from sheer exhaustion. Every day should start with flaky pastry concealing a chocolate treat. Please see expression of joy and Parisian "ooh la la!" to your right. Start with pain au chocolat, add mimosa and Manchego-carmelized onion-olive tart, subtract unnecessary greenery as side dish/garnish, and you end up with a pretty pleased me. Plus they had these super cool flower barstools that were nice and cushy. Have I mentioned yet that the weather was absolutely gorgeous?

Unfortunately, Dana's true motive for getting me out and about really had to do with something far less polite than pastries and civilized conversation. She's being initiated into the hallowed sisterhood of bridesmaids (rookie!) and has been designated the official bachelorette party planner. I, being from the South where people tend to marry just a tad bit earlier than native New Yorkers, am well-versed in this particular realm of planning, and Dana had requested my expertise. So after our pleasant brunch among sophisticated Georgetowners, we soon found ourselves surrounded by a decidedly different crowd at Pleasure Palace, discreetly tucked away at the end of a row of shops on Wisconsin. That's right, these are the lengths I'll go to for friendship. After I made some tacky comment about spending the Lord's day in a sex shop, we escaped with minimal party supplies and determined that she would do a little better finishing up her shopping online. Oh, the power of the interwebs.

After escaping from the sex shop, we walked our way down P Street towards Dupont Circle to take in the general cuteness and oldness of Georgetown. I mean, these places are ridiculous and gorgeous and I want to be a gazillionaire and live there. How much more Americana do you get than red brick and navy shutters? Plus on the roof they have cool little scary birdie sculpture things - I'm assuming these are to scare away the real birdies and keep them from pooing all over the historical beautifulness. Even the 7-11 in Georgetown is cute.

We parted ways at the Dupont metro stop, and I wandered into the circle and took a seat on a bench to watch the world go by. Quite a collection of people, really. I witnessed some apparent cheerleading practice that I think was intended to be a fitness class, and the chess scene at Dupont Circle is really pretty fascinating. My chess skills need some serious work before I'll consider taking on these guys. Sat on a bench, read my book, and enjoyed the sunlight...only because I had the foresight to douse myself in SPF 55 before leaving home. Otherwise I would have immediately sought out the first open space under the saving shade of a tree. Yes, I am just that pale. What a great afternoon.

All of the above was slightly marred by the fact that I was suffering from the beginnings of what turned out to be a fairly nasty cold, but I fought through the stuffy and the sore to enjoy the spring weather. I'm concerned that it could turn into a sweltering summer very quickly. You know, as soon as it's done freezing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The old & the new

I think I knew I would miss most of the following things (we're keeping people off this list - you know I miss you, and if I have to type it all out I might just cry), but now that I'm settling into life without them, it surprises me a little bit what I actually miss. I realize quite a few of them are related to food, which I just can't help. I'm not as emotionally attached to my laundry detergent as I am to my breakfast items.

  1. Bluebell ice cream. There's plenty of other tasty ice creams out there, but nothing's quite the same as Bluebell. Is it bad if I've already looked into having it shipped to me? Don't worry, I won't spend that much on ice cream.
  2. Mrs. Baird's bread products. Apparently I'm very supportive of my Texas food suppliers.
  3. Smucker's red plum jam - do they not believe in red plums here? Perhaps this is just the bunk grocery stores I've tried - I can't believe you let me down, Harris Teeter in Columbia Heights. I even went to the Smucker's website, typed in my 20001 zip code, and found that Harris Teeter's shelves are supposed to stock this item. Please don't make me go to Virginia for red plum jam.
  4. Parking lots that don't require you to pay for them. I've never had to pay to park at Target in my life...but I do now! Well, if I go to the one actually in DC and not in suburbia. Yes, the Target in the neighborhood currently undergoing a gentrification project with glaringly obvious warnings to the druggies in the area.

Ok, it's not all about missing food and vast, free parking lots. There are some new discoveries that I'm really enjoying, too (and I promise they're not all food-related):

  1. Pedestrian signs that actually count down the time you have to dash across the intersection. No guessing on whether blinking yellow means you'll live or die, and yes, I'm referring to you, stinky light at the corner of Pearl and Flora. I know my Dallas Pdubbers understand that one all too well.
  2. Walking. To the grocery store, to work, to dinner. It's awesome. Even when it's freakin' cold. Although I am ready for spring weather to stick around.
  3. Cool new experiences - trying new restaurants, making new friends, seeing things I've never seen before. Breaking out of my shell a little bit.
  4. Working 50 hours a week instead of 80. Sorry, my fellow P-dubbers, I know that many of you are in the deep depths of busy season - you know I know your pain. And you're almost there!! Except for...fiscal year ends. And odd quarterly things. Ok, it's a vicious cycle.

I tried to keep the lists small. You can be certain I'll reevaluate in the future and come to realize a few more things. I'll even try to steer away from the food a little bit.

Oh, who am I kidding, queso flows through my veins!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Peak bloom = peak crazy

Last weekend when I checked out the cherry blossom madness, I thought it was a little crazy, a little busy. Crowds milling about, moving along at the pace of the person in front of you, angling for some pretty water/blossom shots.

Round #2 this weekend with Dana...truly crazy. Parade + street festival + gorgeous weather (with some West Texas-like wind, though - dang, it was breezy!) = massive, massive crowds descending on Pennsylvania Avenue and the Tidal Basin area. In the spirit of festivals and culinary adventures, we really would have liked to hang out in the Japanese beer garden and enjoy some kind of rice-laden cuisine, but these lines were absurd.

We eventually muscled our way over to the waterfront and did what we could to snag some good pictures. Of course, everywhere you turn it's just absolutely beautiful, so snapping pictures really isn't a problem unless you're trying to get a good artsy shot of the Jefferson Memorial.

For what it's worth, the blossoms seemed a little more white this weekend and a little less pink. That's about as botanical-analytical I'm going to get for you. Here's a few more for the road:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Supreme Court smackdown

Today was one of those days where I thought, "this is employer is going to pay me to stand in a line, AND there's a pretty neat-o experience waiting at the end of said line." My previous work on April 1 has typically consisted of much pulling of hair, consuming of Diet Coke, and fighting with spreadsheets, so going to hear oral arguments at the Supreme Court (in a state tax case, no less!) was a welcome change of pace.

This endeavor is not for the weak. If you want to sit in on the oral arguments in their entirety (and aren't one of those lucky press pass/privileged DC bar member types), you better set that alarm, because the line to get in starts forming during an hour when I prefer to be asleep. Our work informants suggested arriving between 7:00 and 7:30, so my fellow state tax buddy Stephanie and I set a goal of 7:15 to meet on the steps of the Supreme Court. She managed to beat the large group of sleepy high-schoolers making their way through the city...unfortunately, I did not. Neither of us beat the enthusiastic folks who showed up somewhere around 6:30 to kick things off...ick. They typically only seat 50-60 people for the oral arguments, so I was afraid we were going to end up waiting it out for nothing. Fortunately, Stephanie ended up with an actual ticket (#57!) and ALSO managed to snag two highly valuable tickets from the pair behind her who decided they didn't really need to get up close and personal with Polar Tankers, Inc. v. Valdez. Victory!! As we valiantly clung to #57 & #58, the powers that be allowed 50 people to file in a little after 9:00. Oh, please don't let us get this close just to make us miss out and end up at the office after all.

Of course the sky decides at this moment to open up with some sprinkles. Please please PLEASE let us in out of the impending downpour so we can hear all about state tax issues! Please! And again...victory! 20 more people through the door - phew, actual seats. Let the tax smackdown begin.

Hearing oral arguments before the Supreme Court is really a pretty cool experience. Justices dramatically entering courtroom en masse through curtains. Clarence Thomas (not even discretely!) sleeping, which is apparently nothing new for him. The rather imposing courtroom. Justice Breyer beating down counsel for the plaintiff and his inability to articulate exactly what he was trying to say. I mean, he really zinged him a couple of times. Scalia getting all animated about taxes. Realizing just how many issues come before the court and how remarkably varied they are. The action on the bench. The number of times Chief Justice Roberts puts his glasses on, takes them off, puts them on, takes them off. The highest court in the land in action. Moments like this are when I actually like my job.