Friday, July 31, 2009

Harrison, I don't think we're in Texas anymore

Casual observations on DC life that remind me just how far away my Texas is:
  • I was running errands one weekend day, sporting some well-worn jeans to accompany my Austin City Limits t-shirt (thank you, Carolyn!!). The checker at the grocery store asked me, "oh, is that a band?" Sigh. I didn't even know how to begin responding.
  • I occasionally get funny looks for saying ya'll. I think it sounds a hell of a lot better than "yous guys" it's more efficient.
  • "Tex-Mex gravy sauce" is not anything that belongs on top of a cheese enchilada. I believe you were attempting to refer to and possibly come nowhere near creating something known as chile con carne.
  • I didn't find name-brand Rotel until Friday, June 5, 2009. I bought more than my inadequate cabinet space should really accommodate.
  • The only Target in D.C. proper has this whole parking garage thing going on. I pay at least $1 to park my car and go to Target. What?? Sometimes I resort to driving to Alexandria...which is in another state entirely. That continues to fascinate me. I think I've mentioned this before, but it merits one more.
  • I got stuck at the light at the corner of 6th and H. Oh, and I got stuck as a pedestrian, not as a driver of a vehicle, which is another observation in and of itself. Anyway, I hate missing that light because then I just have to wait it out - almost home, nowhere to turn. Except that I can turn, walk about twenty feet to Chinatown Express, and order takeout - steamed pork dumplings and Szechuan beef. Dinner, solved.
  • One weekend I went out with Stephanie & Shane and one of his buddies for dinner. This is not an odd occurence - I go out for dinner all the time no matter where I live. What did I do for dinner, you might ask? I whacked crabs with a mallet, flinging shells about and extracting all the crabby goodness.
  • A few weeks ago when I walked past the Gallery Place - Chinatown Metro station, there were two men selling baby turtles. What?? And people were buying them.

Happy weekend, everyone - watch out for turtles at Metro stops and flying bits of crab shell.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Handwriting's demise

As part of my excessive patrolling of various news outlets throughout the day (do you know just how many hours a day I spend in front of a computer? And how vast the Internet is? I spend too much time trying to keep up with it all, I know I do), I came across a Time article mourning the death of handwriting. Yes, I'm the type of person who clicks on articles with headlines like that, much in the same way that Thomas is drawn to NPR. Anyway, the author laments on the general sloppiness of today's handwriting, especially from the young'ens, but also wonders if it's such a big deal that handwriting is going by the wayside.

I mean, think about all of the ways we communicate now that don't involve touching quill/pen/pencil/amazing 10-color pen I was so excited to use back in the day (please tell me someone else remembers those) to paper. Email, texting, instant messaging, blogging, Twittering, Facebook, MySpace...and even just picking up the phone, for crying out loud. We don't need an eloquently written Declaration of Independence these days, just a 1,743 page budget bill for the great state of Wisconsin that some poor minion had to type out. I can type pretty accurately in the 80 wpm range (I even tested myself to have a semi-accurate statement for you), so why would I want to bother to write something out when I can type it a gazillion times faster (obviously not scientifically accurate, but surely you've come to expect a touch of hyperbole from me)? Handwriting skills come in pretty handy when you're a doctor, but I can think of few other professions where your handwriting actually comes into play. Hey, since doctors seem to do a less than stellar job in the area, perhaps a course or two in the art of script could make its way into the med school curriculum.

It's actually painful for me to write for long periods of time. I have this absurd way of gripping writing utensils - quick, just pick up a pen or a pencil and take a look at your finger placement. You're resting said pen or pencil on the finger you use to flip people off with, right? Well, first of all, don't give anyone the bird - it's not nice. Secondly, take a look at my odd finger placement. I put a death grip on the thing. Essay tests were the bane of my existence. My hand was ridiculously cramped and tense at the end of all of that writing, and I'm afraid I may have developed lasting finger bumps. It's unfortunate that this wasn't corrected early on my childhood. I blame it on public education...but perhaps that discussion is better saved for another time. Actually, I think I had a pretty decent education...uh oh, tangent. I'll wrap up that one right now. Let me just say that it's probably good for the health of my right hand that I can type up, rather than write out, all of the state tax articles I'm composing these days.

I do remember thinking it was a big deal to learn how to write in cursive. And let me tell you, I went all out it with. I wrote with such vivacious loops and squiggles that it was probably impossible to tell the difference between a page of my so-called handwriting and a page with random circles covering it. A tip of my hat to parents, teachers, and friends who managed to decipher the doodles I passed off as handwriting. I've now migrated to writing with mostly printed capital letters and a mix of cursive/print lowercase letters. And those letters change. Sometimes the "f" is cursive and sometimes it's not. It's less loopy and bubbly than it used to be - I'd like to think that's to get it a little more legible and a not a general statement on my demeanor, but I probably am a little more cynical at the age of 27 than when I was learning cursive in third grade.

I think there's something about the handwritten word than the typed or texted or Facebook'd word that carries a stronger message, though -- it also implies a real connection to the recipient. I'd recognize my mom's handwriting anywhere, especially after years of recipe cards, "to" and "from" notations on Christmas gifts, cards for every occasion, and even those grocery lists. It might kill a little of the holiday joy when you pick up Santa's note on Christmas morning and realize that it's in Mom or Dad's handwriting...but at least the note is there. I try to do my part in a small way through the occasional unexpected card or sticky note, and I'm a religious sender of postcards.

You know, in the last week or so I've been the recipient of the following handwritten items, all of which lifted my spirits: postcards from Budapest and Paris, a thank you note for a baby shower gift, and...oh, welll, I suppose that's all. But it is nice to find those thoughtfully written treats among the bills and Crate and Barrel catalogs.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Erin & The Kerries/Carys/Karrys

I'm fond of using the phrase "forever people" to refer to those friends I have (family members, you're automatically included as "forever people" - because of your general amazingness, not through any bloodline obligations or anything) that I know I'll have...well, forever. I had a fortuitous meeting with two of these forever people (although we certainly didn't know it at the time) circa August 1993, fluorescent-lit classroom, middle school across the street from a cattle pasture. Yes, you read that last part correctly. Bonds were formed, many sleepovers were had, and Kerry, Carrie and I have been fantastic friends, sharing in all of those life experiences along the way, for the last...oh, holy smack...sixteen years or so. Oh, and blog post title? I think at one of the aforementioned sleepovers we had the brilliant idea to form a girl band and take the world by storm - I mean, that's the perfect name for our group, which was always much easier to work with orally than to spell out.

It was definitely time for an Erin & The Kerries (for my sanity, we're going to stick with that spelling for now) reunion, so Kerry made a trip into DC last Thursday night for a little quality time here in my city before we made the trip up to NYC to check in with Carrie and her boys. So, so good to spend time with Kerry and catch up over Thai food, wine, amazing chocolate dessert goodness, and RFD's overwhelming beer selection. We stayed up late talking and slept in, which is definitely in tune with my body's natural schedule, then did a little DC exploring over on the national mall with some time in the Natural History museum (shiny things! outer space stuff! rocks! ocean craziness!) and then lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian (which I've already raved about before - they really do have an amazing selection of food) before grabbing dinner provisions from Chop't and making our way to our bus to NYC.

Yup, the bus. Texas certainly doesn't have competitive bus service between Dallas and Austin and Houston and San Antonio, so this is a little bit of a foreign concept to my new-ish East Coast self, but up here it's a perfectly common thing to find yourself on BoltBus or Megabus or one of the many other service providers who run regular routes between DC, NYC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and plenty more of these East Coast destinations that are really not all that far from one another. We opted for BoltBus on this trip, and while we did initially have some concerns about the potential smelliness of the gentleman seated directly in front of us, the ride was perfectly pleasant...albeit a little lengthy given the rush hour traffic getting out of DC. I'll take the traffic, though - it's hard to argue with the bus when it costs about 1/4 as much as the train.

So we made it to New York! Quality time and several tasty takeout meals were shared with Carrie, Jason, and the latest addition to the family, this extremely cute little guy who is all worn out from the big move over the weekend:

It was so great to see these girls (and guys! used to be "guy," but the little one up there moves them into plural territory) and catch up on life and spend some quality time together, even if it did involve squashing a few new apartment bugs.

Kerry, I hope that you've figured out how to follow my blog so you can actually see the glowing review I've given you in the preceding paragraphs. Oh, and there is precisely one picture of the three of us from last weekend...I'm counting on your camera to come through for us.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crazy signs, German & Czech edition

I was flipping through my pictures the other day (digitally flipping through them, of course - I don't remember the last time I actually printed some out. Must make use of those prepaid prints I have on Snapfish...), and I remembered just how many crazy signs we encountered on our journeys through Germany and the Czech Republic. You've seen the crazy signs of D.C., courtesy of me, a couple of times. Ok, they might not be considered "crazy" to all, but I find them amusing and entertaining in some way, so now you're going to get Crazy Signs, German & Czech Edition from yours truly. Enjoy.

Ok, so ABSOLUTELY NOTHING can take place in this street. Especially young children chasing balls.

Czech dogs are apparently very ashamed of the fact that they must "go" in public. At least the city kindly provides everyone with bags.

And a detail shot of the bags! Were the slippers necessary?

So...are you supposed to add water to your coffee? Or can the water stand alone?

No, there's not a separate "baby" restroom - just clarifying that there's a changing area available. I think.

She's really excited about her giant ice cream treat. So...I thought I would share in the excitement.

Caution! You could be electrocuted at the monastery!

No plastic boots on the escalator? rainboots? I'm still confused by this one.

Caution: crossing for children with books and bows. All other kids...don't mind them.

I hope their slogan only applies to creatures of the sea and not, say, any people who happen to be swimming that day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I think I kinda need a Segway

Last month I drove into the depths of the forest for a sister fun weekend in Durham, so this time around my sissy made the drive up for a weekend of history, Harry Potter, and happy times (I ♥ alliteration, I just can't help myself) here inside the Beltway. Thursday evening arrival = easing into the weekend with some tasty pizza at Ella's, a quick grocery store trip for breakfast provisions, and some Harry Potter prep with a viewing of #5. Oh, we really wanted to make scones for breakfast, but when every recipe we found called for copious amounts of both butter AND cream, we decided to not cut two years off of our respective lives and make this peach french toast bake instead. It's really, really tasty. You should make it. I'm thinking maybe with apples...or nectarines...or blueberries...or any fruit, really, because it's just good. Uh oh, there I go on this food thing again. Time to rein this in.

Or let me just talk about our next food item! Small burgers and Cajun fries at Five Guys, which provided the perfect sustenance for our very demanding...Segway tour!! Ok, it really wasn't that demanding at all because you just stand there while zooming through the city, which is kinda the coolest thing ever. But go ahead and load up on some protein and carbs before you start. It's ok. I am way overly ridiculously excited and SO HAPPY pumped that we did this Segway tour with City Segway Tours (apologies if I sound like a canned advertisement there - but this really was a pretty cool experience). My sis had never been to D.C. before, so we thought this would be a really good way to see a lot of the major sights in a nifty way.

We got there a little early to fill out necessary paperwork and waivers, pick out our way cool helmets (check out sissy in the pink - totally fun), and get scared silly by the safety video they show everyone before you even touch a Segway. I mean, after this ten minute disaster-filled video spot, we were both a little nervous about stepping aboard one of these things, even though the nice guy at the office reassured everyone that these were "worst case scenarios" and "not likely to happen" to any of us. Oh, thanks so much - that's very comforting as we have recurring visions of concussions and crushed limbs. With our fears only slightly calmed, we set out with our fellow group of travelers (eight of us to one guide, which was a great ratio - you get one on one time for training, can always hear what she's saying, etc. etc....geez, they really should get me to do some advertising) and spent a little time getting to know our Segways before setting out for our city adventure. Now, you really get the hang of the Segway pretty quickly. Wobbly at first, a little uncertain, but in no time I was zooming around, hitting max speed and executing turns like Are there Segway pros? Anyway, it was so much fun. I'd already gotten a glimpse of pretty much everything we encountered on the tour, but it was coupled with fun facts from our awesome guide Karen AND zooming around on a Segway. If anyone coming to town has any interest (ahhh hmmm, Vaughns?), I'll totally do this again. We went by Ford's Theater and FBI Headquarters and the Department of Justice and the Capitol and the White House (where we had to stop for a motorcade!! Still no idea who it was, but it was someone important, I'm sure) and several museums along the Mall and the Treasury and all kinds of neato-Washingtonian things.

We rounded out our Friday evening with dinner at Teaism and some quality time at the movie theater taking in H.P. #6. I'm inspired to re-read #6 and #7 - forgotten so many of those little details that I'm sure are worth rediscovering. And I'd say go see the movie, but I think everyone who reads this who has any interest in seeing the movie has already done so and/or chatted/blog-commented with me about it. Oh, go see it anyway.

Saturday we had a lazy morning and then headed out for lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian, which has by far the best dining options of any of the Smithsonian museums. The café area works cafeteria-style and is divided into five areas based on regional Native American food...which is in sharp contrast to the other museums' culinary offerings of McDonald's and Pizza Hut. Sissy enjoyed a smoked salmon sandwich with a strawberry-mint tea while I, in a nod to the Great Plains dwellers of the Texas Panhandle, devoured a pulled-buffalo sandwich with chayote squash slaw and a pineapple-coconut agua fresca. Oh yum. We made an attempt at a tour of the Capitol, but realized it was a little late in the day to snag a spot, so we satisfied ourselves with stops at several museums: Natural History, American History, and Air & Space, along with a brief walk through the National Gallery of Art. There's just an absurd amount of awesome things to see in all of these museums, so we really tried to hit the highlights - giant whale, Hope Diamond and other shiny things at Natural History; Americana galore, flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, and First Lady finery at American History; and a little bit of everything at Air and Space, including the Spirit of St. Louis, Wright Flyer, ginormous missiles, and all kinds of cool outer space things.
We rounded out Friday evening with a Nats game and then hit up several memorials and monuments by night...and why isn't the Jefferson Memorial lit up at night? I thought I was losing my mind for a minute, but it was definitely where I thought it should just be...just very, very dark. A brief Google search yielded no relevant information there, so I'll continue to be confused until I invest a little more time into finding out. Oh, and if you walk around to the back of the Lincoln Memorial at night, the lights are wonderfully positioned to make some excellent shadow puppets.

Sunday brought Georgetown explorations, including a really tasty and delightfully affordable lunch at Tackle Box, some shopping (H&M! Is this ever going to show up anywhere in Texas, by the way?), ice cream from Thomas Sweet, and quality historical neighborhood explorations.

I'm so glad my sissy got to come into town for the weekend! We'll have to make this a recurring event...even if the traffic to and from the forest is a little more ridiculous than either of us would like.

Monday, July 20, 2009

You are aware they will occasionally burst into song and dance?

I'm a musical junkie. I incessantly tortured my sister, most definitely not a musical junkie, during childhood summers by more often than not opting for Rodgers & Hammerstein selections when we each got to make our own Hastings selection. I was a season subscriber to Dallas Summer Musicals with the Vaughns. I'm prone to occassionally burst into song...I would say song and dance, but the "dance" part really isn't there, so we'll just stick with song. I just irrationally love musicals!

Fortunately, Dana also falls into the "musical junkie" category, so I have a buddy here in D.C. to accompany me to these kinds of things that turn off a lot of other people. Last week we went to the Kennedy Center to take in a performance of Spring Awakening. I didn't really know too much about this one, just that it did remarkably well at the 2007 Tony Awards - that warrants a viewing in my book, especially when it gives you the chance to go explore the Kennedy Center.

First, the building. It opened in 1971, but the wheels started turning in 1958 when President Eisenhower signed legislation creating a National Cultural Center - in his honor, one of the theaters is named after him. The building now functions as a living memorial to John F. Kennedy, who was instrumental in fundraising activities to get the center up and running. I didn't realize that it housed so many performance spaces and hosts so many different arts performances - ballet, theater, jazz, contemporary dance, chamber music, and performances by the National Symphony Orchestra. There's also a free performance every day at 6 PM on the Millennium Stage, which I think is pretty great - it affords people who might not otherwise be able to attend a performance the chance to take in a show.

I think my favorite part of the building is the terrace that wraps around the entire structure with a great view of the city. Wander out before the show and catch the view with some sunlight, and then head back out afterwards to see everything all twinkly and bathed in moonlight. So pretty.

As for Spring Awakening, I really enjoyed it. The story is set in Germany in the 1890s, teenagers fighting the system and growing up, poor parents who can't bear to tell their children the truth about sex, etc. etc. The music in the show is by Duncan Sheik, very rock and roll vibe, and it was awesome. If the tour heads through a city near you, pick up some tickets and check it out. Caution - mature adult themes and partial nudity...we didn't realize the whole "partial nudity" bit until we were walking into the theater and a large sign warned us. But now you've been sufficiently warned.

I'm in love with the Kennedy Center. Coming up on my calendar - Ben Folds playing with the National Symphony Orchestra and Cate Blanchett in A Streetcar Named Desire. And that picture's totally not mine, but it sure is pretty. The Kennedy Center has spindly columns in the styling of 1970s harvest gold, which certainly sets it apart from the grand Roman/Greek/really-old-style columns adorning so many of D.C.'s distinguished buildings. Bring on the shows!

Flying the friendly skies

Having spent a decent amount of time in airports and on planes over the last few weeks, I have some observations/rants/diatribes on the whole flight experience:

  • For the love of all that is holy, PLEASE do not lean your seat back, therefore seriously impeding my ability to do anything with my laptop and/or knees, unless you actually plan on sleeping. If you promptly lean your seat back and then spend the duration of the flight hunched over your tray not even sitting back in your seat…blerg. I believe that reclined seats are acceptable only on international flights.
  • I realize personal space is somewhat limited in those main cabin seats, but let's go ahead and observe some basic rules of personal space bubbles. The armrest is actually a fairly good indicator of where your body mass and appendages should stop - the idea is to stay in your own seat. If you feel the need to poke your elbow 1/3 of the way into my seat, I would like you to just go ahead and pay for 1/3 of the seat. Or at least trim your arm hair.
  • How could you NOT know about the liquids, people? If you haven't flown in the last eight years or so, I might forgive you, but for the rest of you, get with the program.
  • Please do not attempt to carry on five bags. You get two. And they don't care if you got a great bargain on some comforter and couldn't squeeze it into your suitcase. Who buys a comforter when you're away for business or pleasure? It really must have been a great bargain.
  • I have no problem with you bringing a small meal onto a flight that includes what might traditionally be considered a mealtime. You might even be able to get away with a smelly meal as long as you eat it quickly and hand off your garbage. Don't let a smelly lunch sit out with you for eighty-three minutes before you decide to consume it. That's just nasty. We don't want to smell those smells any longer than absolutely necessary.

Ahh, that feels better. Better to let it all out on the blog than end up in a mid-air altercation with one of my seatmates.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Texas...feeds me body and soul

Manny. Gloria. Chuy. Rosa. They're some of my favorites. I consider them close personal friends. Let me share tales of our recent time together.

I was in Dallas last week for a few days on a strategically planned trip to combine work responsibilities with wedding festivities...and a haircut, since it fit into the schedule. I think I may have trust issues with my hair. Anyway, as part of my rotation program here in D.C., PwC pays for two home office visits a year, so I opted to schedule trip #1 to conveniently coincide with College Friend Wedding Weekend. I flew in Wednesday afternoon with enough time to meet friends for drinks and then indulge in amazing meal #1...Manny's. Oh, brisket taco and spinach enchilada, how I've missed you.

Work all day on Thursday, complete with presentation to my group while I attempted to share somewhat helpful tidbits of knowledge. Ding, work requirement fulfilled! We must celebrate at...Gloria's! Major props to dear friend Diana for organizing a rather large group of us a month ahead of time so we could gather en masse and consume excessive amounts of bean dip, coupled with chile rellenos and chicken enchiladas. Yes, I feel my waistline expanding. I'm ok with that...I need this the way people crave nicotine. Are the pharmaceutical companies working on any food patches? That could conquer your cravings? I think there's a lot of money to be made there.

On Friday, I managed to squeeze in a little more Tex-Mex in the morning hours by meeting dear friend and fellow Pdubber Molly for brunch at Cafe Brazil - she went a more traditional French toast route, but I was still dealing with my Tex-Mex tapeworm and needed the breakfast relleno. It was awesome. And it was even better spending quality time catching up with a friend. After kicking off my day with an Anaheim chile and a plethora of chorizo and still needing my fix, I indulged in a Chuy's extravaganza for dinner. Chips with creamy jalepeño and a steak burrito the size of my face. I'm grossing myself out a little bit by reiterating what all I ate last weekend, but what's done is done. I accept the consequences to my personal health and wellbeing and the damage done by excessive amounts of cheese and grease.

Saturday was wedding day! The Vaughns had a full house for the weekend: Diana + Trinity + Duncan + Hazel = the usual gang. Add in me + Thomas + Jessica + sweet baby Addison + Finn the beagle and you've got quite the party. Diana and Jess both had bridesmaid duty all day, so I hung out with the boys and Addy for the morning and afternoon. This included a trip to Rosa's where I exercised little to zero self control in consuming the vast majority of my taco plate dinner. Oh, and I bought a piece of chocolate cake, too - I at least had the decency to bring that home and pretend it wasn't there for a full twenty-four hours before giving in to the chocolate goodness.

The wedding!! I met Jen and Mike, also known as "bride" and "groom" on one July 11, 2009, through Diana and got to know them during and after college, and we've spent many a fall weekend together cheering on the Red Raiders or just hanging out. I'm so glad I was able to make it to Dallas to join them for their wedding day - everything was beautiful, and Jen's smile just had me smiling all day long. Congratulations, you two! Oh, and your festivities also provided us with motivation to go to Whataburger in the wee hours of the morning and enjoy some taquitos. I'm going to add that to the Tex-Mex tally for the weekend. Bacon for me, of course.

And for the awards portion of my presentation...first place and a very large number of gold stars to Carolyn for joining me on three of the four major legs of this Tex-Mex binge. I could eat this stuff all day every day, but I realize we don't all have that genetic makeup (I owe thanks to Dad for that one!), and she was an enthusiastic, willing, and brave partner in these gastronomic endeavors.

"Texas...feeds me body and soul." Ok, feeding of the body has obviously been discussed, what with all of the excessive calories mentioned in the paragraphs above. But feeding of the soul? I had the chance to spend quality time with dear friends and share in the joy of Mike and Jen's wedding, and that did more for me than the food ever will. And you know how much I love the food.

Happy Birthday, America!

Having flown back into D.C. from Boston on July 3, I took full advantage of our firm holiday on that Friday to...ummm...ok, do nothing exciting, just unpacking, laundry, and falling asleep at an oddly early hour, especially for me. I had to get ready to celebrate Independence Day in style, especially here in our nation's capital!

I was faced with a small dilemma for the evening's festivities and firework viewing. Option #1 - brave the crowds descending on the National Mall and attempt to track down friends while maintaining some semblance of a personal space bubble. Could possibly feed off of crowd enthusiasm while catching strains of the National Symphony Orchestra playing. Could be hopelessly lost and subsequently smushed by crowd. Could be amazed...but possibly be disappointed by effort vs. level of amazement ratio. Option #2 - Metro myself out to Arlington to meet up with undetermined amount of partiers for a rooftop bash at Dana's. Could have better position for viewing fireworks from my own rooftop, but it lacks presence of friends. Could be missing out on quintessential D.C. experience by moving further out from the bash. Could save an absurd amount of time in my day by not staking out a viewing spot entirely too early.

Rooftop antics, complete with fireworks, people! We had an absolute blast - it was so cool to see the fireworks going off above the Washington Monument with other fireworks all around the horizon from the suburbs and cities in the surrounding area. And while I think it would have been amazing to be on the mall for the spectacle, we had a fantastic view from a rooftop deck in Arlington. It was also nice to have absurd amounts of food and beverage at our disposal from a convenient kitchen rather than lugging what would have been an extraordinarily full cooler through the crowds.

Also...I've just about convinced myself to get an amazing new camera. Then this won't be fuzzy and show busted pixels (or whatever's wrong that's giving it random white the same place every time. So frustrating):

I could really get into this roof thing. When you don't have space for things like patios and yards, you find yourself on rooftops, more often than not having a fabulous time with a great view. And usually a nice breeze. And in this instance...a crowd rendition of the National Anthem to accompany the fireworks.

Don't we look patriotic?


Time to switch gears on the vacation setting - we're leaving our cozy beach town behind and headed for the city streets of Boston for some further East Coast explorations. After grabbing breakfast and wheeling ourselves and our stuff over to the ferry, we settled in for the ride back across the harbor, vanned ourselves to the Onyx Hotel, and set out to grab some lunch and walk the Freedom Trail. Oh, please see accompany shot of the skyline to get an idea of what the clouds and rain were doing to us for the duration of our stay. Not the most lovely weather to explore in, but at least it was nice and cool!

Clam chowda (more commonly known as "chowder," but you won't hear it like that here in Beantown) in a bread bowl at Quincy Market, yum! Strolling through the Public Garden, pretty! Tracking down the Make Way for Ducklings statue, cute! Did you know the swan boats in the Public Garden have been in operation for over 130 years and owned by the same family for all that time? And that Boston Common is the oldest public park in America? Just a couple of trivia bits for you.

Freedom Trail time! The path is marked through the city by a line of red brick laid in the sidewalk...except for the rare instance where construction blocks the trail and they've been kind enough to spray paint a red line along the plywood barricade. Seriously. Hey, whatever it takes to point us in the right direction! We saw some exceptionally old cemeteries, really old churches, crazy old meeting sites of the movers and shakers that innovatively sculpted this great nation, and...old. Lots of old. Which is just so cool! It's always been fascinating to me to think that Very Important So-And-So stood in the very spot where I'm standing now. We did make it across the Charlestown Bridge and over to the USS Constitution but skipped out on the very last section of the trail (it's a bit of a hike, kids!).

After walking up an appetite, we were ready for dinner at Union Oyster House, the oldest continually operating restaurant in America. You know all the lobster I mentioned before? Well, time for the ultimate lobster treat - an entire one. Just for me. Still looking at me with its beady little eyes and waving antennae. Thanks for tying my bib on, Carolyn. And were delicious, even if you were a little messy to rip in half and hack into.

After dinner we headed over to the Bell in Hand Tavern to stick with our theme of "really old" - oldest bar in America! Old old old! This state makes other states look like babies. Karaoke night was rocking the place, too...not quite the same as our drag queen karaoke night in Provincetown but fun all the same. Do you think our forefathers ever engaged in a night of karaoke? Didn't seem very historical, but it was definitely entertaining.

The next morning greeted us with showers, so we slept in and then opted for an event that involved moving around on wheels in a covered device instead of splashing around in flip-flops - a duck tour! These World War II amphibious landing vehicles can take you through the city streets and then splash down into the Hudson and zoom around. Talk about multipurpose. We had a pretty entertaining con"duck"tor (yes, I know) take us through several neighborhoods and share some pretty interesting facts about the city. I didn't realize that a pretty large chunk of Boston used to be...well...water, and that they just filled it in with a lot of dirt and some wooden posts and starting slamming a city on top of it. Crazy, I tell you.

Later on we met up with one of Carolyn's good friends from college (who's currently hitting the books at Harvard) for dinner in the North End (Boston's own Little Italy of sorts...just don't call it Little Italy to a Bostonian) at a fantastic restaurant, the name of which I've unfortunately completely forgotten. Oh, and there's no better way to cap off a great Italian dinner and time with friends than with dessert at Mike's Pastry. Chocolate chip cannoli. I was in sugar heaven.

The next day we donned our umbrellas and walked through the Beacon Hill neighborhood (so pretty!), then escaped the worst of the rainfall by enjoying some rather enormous pizzas at Figs. The rest of the day we explored Cambridge and Harvard, ate some exceptionally tasty ice cream, hung out with our Harvard buddy, ordered in some Chinese, and just enjoyed girl time.

Other observations/comments/silly little things:

  • Kami should totally become a dog walker, just like this guy.
  • It can be a little tricky to extract the edible bits out of a crustacean, but it's totally worth it.
  • I'm somewhat inspired to make my own cannoli. Or maybe buy the flakey, crispy, delicious shells and just fill them with all kinds of goodness.
  • There's something about entering red brick buildings covered in ivy that just automatically makes you feel smarter.

Sadly, all vacations must come to an end, and the site of our reunion became one for a farewell. Probably the only reason I didn't cry was because I knew I would see these girls again in just a few days with my upcoming trip to Dallas (which is no longer's already happened. I'm just writing this so long after the fact. Getting caught up, getting caught up!). Oh, travel, I adore thee.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Back from my sanity check vacation! Ok, so I was back from vacation quite a while ago, but you know how sometimes life just gets busy and you have take care of silly things like work instead of important things like updating your blog? It's actually been driving me really bonkers that I haven't gotten this post up already - I doubt anyone else is all that torn up about it, so I'll try to take it down a notch on the self-flagellation.

Anyway, better late than never, and since I'm type-A anal and only believe in posting about events/life happenings in the order in which they originally took place, I have to back up and tell you all about Provincetown and Boston before I can move on things like the
4th of July and Dallas and….ok, better get started.

Over the last two summers, I've had some really great trips with two of my favorite girls - Carolyn and Kami. We've explored the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, tackled the hills of San Francisco, eaten our way through Chicago, and floated down a river or two. So of course it's time for...airport reunion with Carolyn and Kami in Baltimore! Now, Baltimore is not our destination of choice - merely a stop along the way to Boston and Provincetown for a week or so of Cape Code and Beantown adventures. First and foremost, getting out to BWI from my home in D.C. is a little tricky. It's far, far away. Past the last Metro stop. Then you get on some shuttle bus that's a mystery to me (although probably not that complicated, but I'd rather just stick with one mode of transportation to get out there), so I opted to just drive it. It's far, far away, especially with traffic.

It is a pretty quick hop, skip, and jump to Boston, and after arriving at Logan, we opted to take a water taxi across the harbor the catch our ferry to Provincetown. A water taxi! Again, I'm still that West Texas gal who doesn't quite know what to do with all of this water, so I thought it was kinda nifty to drop our luggage into a little boat and zip across the water. We had a little time to kill before our ferry, so we wandered into Boston for a couple of hours where we discovered cute parks, adorable puppies, and tasty beer from Mr. Sam Adams and his summer ingredients. Refreshing.

Ferry time! We had debated going to Martha's Vineyard for a few days, but the logistics to get over to that little island were a little more than we wanted to deal with, so the ninety minute ferry ride from Boston to Provincetown seemed like a good solution. And it was! We got on board just as soon as the raindrops started to come down and set out across the ocean. A little bit of cheap wine, some cute Italian greyhounds who really wanted to be our friends, and a few sunset pictures later, we made it to Provincetown and headed for our bed and breakfast, the Black Pearl Inn (arrrgh, mateys!).

Ok, let me pause for a moment to discuss a little Provincetown background for those of you out there who might be unaware. It's well known as a gay and lesbian friendly little beach getaway, and I can't tell you how many times I was reminded of that by anyone I mentioned P-town to before heading out. Of course, this was only reaffirmed by the crowd we traveled with on the ferry as well as the friendly gay couple who owns and runs the Black Pearl Inn...and the "I have two mommies" shirts at the gift stores...and a jewelry store named Spank the Monkey...and the entertainment options in town, to be discussed further a little later on. All of that said, it's an adorable, welcoming community with vacationers of every kind crowding the main street and enjoying the seaside ambience.

I'm getting the feeling this could all get a little lengthy, so I'm going to hit on the hghlights of Provincetown:

We had the entire third floor of the bed and breakfast to ourselves, which included a private deck on top of the roof. When the skies cooperated, this was a fantastic place to relax with a cup of coffee in the AM hours…and a glass of wine in the PM hours. Had a great view of the harbor and the cute little town. Ahhh, I love relaxing. An essential component of vacations.

Tons of cutesy shops and galleries all along Commercial Street, the main drag, if you will, of Provincetown. Ok, most of them were cute. Some were….a touch provocative. Or carried clothes that I only briefly considered wearing in the early nineties. Popcorn top, anyone? Thanks for never letting me have one, Mom, especially if I actually expressed that desire.

Lobster rolls at the Lobster Pot, where a blinking lobster told us when our table was ready. Lobsteriffic. In fact, I had several forms of lobster cross my lips in P-town (with more to come in Boston!) - lobster roll, lobster slider, lobster arrabiatta pasta. I think that covers it.

Puppies everywhere! I thought Kami might die of dachshund happiness. Arnold the poodle was also a fan favorite.

Drag queen karaoke at Governor Bradford's. Yes, you read that correctly. Featuring your hostess (host?) for the evening….Dana Danzel, decked out in a shiny silver pantsuit. When we got there, it was a little slow, but the evening definitely picked up and even included a performance or two from the (fully clothed) Naked Boys. Unfortunately, we did miss their naked show. Or maybe that's a fortunate thing - our giggles might have killed the atmosphere or something.

We got some sunshine one afternoon!! In order to take full advantage of the temporarily gorgeous weather, we rented bikes and rode all over - out to a rocky jetty, the beach, the beachy wilderness, all the way through town. So, so much fun, even if I did have a minor sand incident (which slows you down very quickly, just in case you were wondering) and a close encounter with a wrong-side-of-the-road-cycler. Oh, and it was also quite a workout, which I'm going to say justifies everything I ate. Which is not the case at all. But I'm going to stick with it. Look closely and I promise you'll see Kami and Carolyn on those bikes. Photography while biking can also get a little dicey.

When the weather gets you a little down, I highly recommend a cozy room filled with good friends, sweet treats, and a few episodes of Sex and the City. I was actually pretty impressed that our B&B offered a DVD player, and equally impressed that Kami thought ahead to bring the DVDs.

There's no such thing as too many sweets. Chocolate caramel fudge, peanut butter bomb, saltwater taffy, brownie cheesecake ice cream…and that was just me. Mmmm, sweets. Especially beachy sweets like saltwater taffy. I just love that stuff!!

Is there any way to hang a hammock in my apartment? That might look a little odd…but so relaxing. I'm a little bit in love with the Northern Lights Hammock Shop and their air chairs.

For all of the photo goodness, check out the Picasa album, which has the whole trip in there. Boston post coming up shortly. I love Picasa, by the way. You should totally use it if you don't already.

All in all, we enjoyed our beach town time, even if the weather was a little uncooperative at times. There's nothing quite like exploring a new place with some good friends...good friends who appreciate food the way you do. I think I need another bike ride along the beach.