Monday, November 30, 2009

And now...the end is here



I did it!!  Thanks to Sarah for all of the supportive commenting and initiating of NaBloPoMo craziness; Molly, Carolyn, and Kami visiting this month to give me cool things to write about and even more importantly, some much needed friend time; my sissy for providing encouragement on even the silliest of ideas; the new camera for many photography endeavors; Trinity for his honesty in how tricky it would be to actually post something every day; and all of you awesome people who keep up with my random ramblings.

Funny what you remember

These days I'll often open an Internet Explorer window, turn away for two seconds, and not remember what on earth I planned to do with said window.  Was I going to Google...or go somewhere else?  And if I was going to Google something, what the heck was it? 

I emailed myself my parking spot at BWI as soon as I parked my car in 6C-31 around 6:00 AM last Wednesday so I'd have that information easily accessible on the Blackberry and would know where my car was when I made my way back to it around 1:30 AM this morning.  Yeah, those crazy hours may have had something to do with it, but I've definitely spent 20 minutes searching for my car at DFW, so a safety email sure doesn't hurt.  I didn't trust myself to remember.

I can't remember the last time I left my home for any kind of trip without a day-of-leaving checklist.  I don't really think I'd forget to leave out some extra food for my fur child, but I've forgotten my phone charger plenty of times (blerg!), so now that always goes on the list.  This may be because I just like to make lists, but it's also quite possible I could leave the air conditioner on forever.

I forgot to pay my rent once.  ONCE.  Because I was working crazy excessive hours and barely knew how to get myself from point A to point B, I tell myself, but I took that worry and turned it into a monthly calendar reminder.

Yet somehow...I still remember home phone numbers of childhood friends, lyrics to an excessive number of country songs that received any amount of airplay in the 90s, and several 15/16 digit credit card numbers.  I attribute the last one to too much online shopping.  In which case...happy Cyber Monday, everyone!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Flaky goodness

You think I'm going to go on this long-winded ramble about pie crust, what with the title of "flaky goodness" and all...and I mean, flaky pie crust is just one of the best things ever, but in this particular instance I'm going to use the "flaky" to refer to actual flakes. 

Flakes of snow!  I've moved to the East Coast, supposed land of blizzards and winters galore, but where do I see my first snow of the season?  Good ol' Amarillo, Texas.  See, it does snow in Texas.  People don't believe me on that one sometimes, and I just have to emphasize that's it an exceptionally large state with a vast, vast array of climates.  And up here in the Panhandle...it snows.  Happy winter, everyone, and here's hoping the Amarillo airport isn't thrown into a tizzy with the wintry mix we're receiving today.




Saturday, November 28, 2009

Siblings galore

To the untrained eye, one might think I have just one sibling, a delightful gal who plays a key role in sister awesomeness.  To those in the know, I've actually had a rather large rotating cast of brothers and sisters in my life.  I daresay my dad, technology guru by day and cowboy by night, loves any number of his equine children just as much as he loves his human children*, and my human sister and I often refer to the horse crowd at our place as our brothers and sisters.  So, it's high time I introduced you to the rest of my "family."

The little girls, Dolly & Genie:



Sweet ol' Ginger, who was not too fond of the auto-assist illuminator on the camera and only wanted to be captured from afar:



The golden blur that is Nic on his way to dinner.  Also known as "Mr. Nickers" (by me, anyway) and "Pretty Boy" due to his general golden nature.



And of course, not just the ponies.  Meet Harriet, the rather faithful barn kitty who is quite proficient in killing rodents.  I know, I know, you really shouldn't name the barn kitties because their lives are a little unstable in general, but she's just the sweetest thing ever and had to be named.  Plus she looks an awful lot like Harrison.  Also not fond of the focus illuminator.  She usually looks much more pleasant and cheery.



And last but certainly not least, the faithful watchdog, Buckwheat:



So there you have it, my...slightly extended...immediate family of brothers and sisters.  Needless to say, I'm still working on the dusk/nighttime photography and assorted camera settings, and I'm skipping the editing on these pictures until they end up on my computer.  But you get the general idea.  Home, home on the range!

* Just kidding, Dad - I know the human kids are at the top of the list.  Phew.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vegetable? What's a vegetable?

Breakfast:  coconut cream pie and coffee.
Lunch:  Rosa's.  It doesn't even matter what I had, it was Rosa's.
Afternoon:  Sonic cherry limeade.
Dinner:  leftover Thanksgiving feast.
Later in the evening:  grabbing ice cream from Braum's with a couple of friends.

And I might have some pumpkin pie when I get home.  Just sayin'.

A culinarily delightful West Texas day.

And yes, I realize this is about the most desperate of the NaBloPoMo postings, but this is it for today, folks.  At least I kept my verbose tendancies to a minimum.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm thankful for...

...coming home for Thanksgiving and spending time with my family.

...turkey, cranberry sauce, and especially cornbread dressing made from my grandmother's recipe.

...pie.

...enormous Diet Cokes from Pak-a-Sak.

...the entertainment value of Wii.

...enthusiastic younger cousins.

...pie.

...a Cowboys victory.

...amusing scenes from the crowd at Best Buy that had started lining up at 7 PM.  Yes, we drove by just to check.

...sweet kitties who live in the barn.

...pie.

...hugs from my dad, and my mom, and my sister when she'll let me hug-attack her.

And that's just a today list - I have more to be thankful for than so many, and I'm going to try and be a little more mindful of that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

And now I should really be in bed...

...because I've been up since 4:15 EST this morning and it's getting a little late here in the central of time zones and I'll have been up for 20-ish hours once this is up and posted.  But I'm home for Thanksgiving, and that's enough to keep me going.  Well, that and the fact that I'm way committed to hitting my daily NaBloPoMo quota since the month is drawing to a close.  A few quickly uploaded, unedited pictures for you highlighting some of the day's events upon arrival in Amarillo:



I got to pick lunch, and it was totally Tacos Garcia.  I love this place too much.  Queso AND the Tampico plate, baby!  Thanks for posing, Amanda, and thanks for snapping away with the camera, Dad!



Dad also has a way cool camera!  From Korea, circa early 1970s.  You should see the self-timer mechanism on this bad boy.  Highly, highly technical stuff.  We had fun playing with the camera toys.



The day before Thanksgiving is always, always pie day, and Amanda and I busted out the pumpkin and coconut cream along with some pretty rockin' pumpkin bread.  And cornbread for dressing tomorrow.  The oven was going through its Wednesday warm-up for tomorrow's big day.

Here's wishing everyone safe travels, good times with friends and family, flaky pie crust, plenty of reasons to be thankful, and pretty (and tasty!) pudding waves.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I should be in bed...

...because my flight leaves at 7:00 AM tomorrow and you know how I feel about mornings in general and it's just going to be rough.  And I'm flying out of BWI rather than the much more convenient Reagan, which means a bit of a drive in the morning.  But you know what?  I'm so looking forward to allllllll of this that I don't really care how much sleep I get tonight:
  • Haven't seen my parents since Christmas 2008 (this happens when you live halfway across the country!), and I CAN'T WAIT to go home and spend some quality time with my family.
  • I have amazing friends who will also be journeying to or living in A-town, and I can't wait to see them.  Kerry Marie, Sarin, Darcy Lee, Kahlich gals - here's looking at you.
  • Hello, it's Thanksgiving!  Time for pie and turkey and dressing and all that crazy awesome FOOD!  Oh, and I'll throw some thankfulness in there, too, I promise.
  • Not being at work. =)
Ok, I'm not so excited about my flight back to D.C. landing at 1:00 AM on, technically, Monday morning and then driving myself home and then dealing with a fur child who will probably give me this face...



...and cry at me for abandoning him and then waking up far too early to drive out to Tyson's Corner because someone happened to sign up for training that day.  Ugh. 

But for now, I'm going to think about family and friends and pie and all that I love about going home for Thanksgiving.  I can't wait.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oh, the places you'll go

Back in my youth (yes, I'm going to consider "my youth" behind me now), I created a "vacation destinations" list of a dozen cool places I wanted to go.  I always wanted to be a traveler and just never had much of a chance, but that didn't mean I couldn't dream.  The high school choir trip to Boston was pretty great (and it really was!  They crammed in a lot of good stuff that us high schoolers didn't appreciate as much as we should have), and I loved our family vacations to Colorado, but I always wanted more.  I wanted to cross oceans and explore and discover.

One quick observation - the fact that I made a list for this...well, I still make lists for everything, so at least I was being true to myself.

I regret never doing Honors College London/Paris program because it didn't "fit into my accounting schedule" and "cost too much."  Must impress appropriate priorities and experiences on impressionable young minds whenever presented with such an opportunity.

You know what snagged spots on the old "vacation destinations" list?  Well, I live in one of them now, so that's saying something.  And I've been to NYC four times and am heading back next month.  And I've also managed to knock out Hawaii and San Fran/Napa/Sonoma:
 


And Las Vegas (family Christmas vacay 2004!) and New Orleans and Germany:



And places I didn't even know I wanted to go, like Chicago (what a great city!) and Provincetown and Prague:



And my dreams have only expanded.  I want to go to places I'd never considered before, like Chile and Hong Kong.  I want to soak up the world.  I find travel to be eye-opening and life-changing.  And also potentially hazardous to your health - picked up hepatitis A and typhoid shots today in preparation for Bryan Family Christmas Cruise.  Don't worry, we're not sailing anywhere super-scary.  Although this might prove to be scary. 

Go see the world, people!  It does a body (and soul) good!

If you're curious, the widely varied original "vacation destinations" list included D.C., NYC, San Fran/Napa/Sonoma, Hawaii, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Virgin Islands (what??  Something must have inspired me...), London, Ireland, Italy, Australia, and Germany.  Some very specific, some very vague (as in, you know, an entire country or even continent), and altogether remarkably random.  I can live my life without visiting the Virgin Islands, but you can bet I'm going to cross London, Ireland, Italy, and Australia off the list.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

To decorate!

Worth decorating for a party of one?  Sure, why not!  So last night, that's just what I did.  Ummm...does it take a little bit of the holiday edge off if I decorated to the sounds of Arizona vs. Oregon in double overtime rather than "sounds of the season?"  Whatever the setting, the apartment is now minimally bedecked with some touches of holiday cheer.

You know, they could make those artificial tree needles just a touch softer since they require a certain amount of fluffing and un-smushing every year.  Slightly ouchy.  And while I'm not necessarily a huge fan of artificial snow puffs, they do a bang-up job of concealing power cords and unattractive metal tree bases while also providing a soft landing place for any snowflake ornaments that may decide to take off on an adventure in parachuting.  I love those little snowflakes!  Carrie and Jason gave them to me for Christmas a few years ago, and they're just perfect for my little trees.



When I unearthed the Christmas wreath for the front door, I also found my fall wreath I'd forgotten about, which involved a random burst of creativity, bargain purchases at Garden Ridge, and some hot glue gun adventures with Amy.  Sorry I forgot about you, little fall wreath!  Maybe you can make an appearance next year.

Oh, and I've got more than just the trees and wreath going on - there's the squishy snowman (with berry wreath backup) guarding the living room from his perch on the bookcase:



And if that theory holds, then apparently Kerry and Carrie are also keeping watch over the living room from the picture frame, which is kinda cool.  Although they're wielding bridal/bridesmaid bouquets, which are much less menacing than the squishy snowman's rather sharp and pointy spade/shovel thing.  And yes, I realize inanimate objects are not actually going to come to life and defend my living room in any way.

Ooh, there are also jingle bell snowflakes dangling from cabinet pulls in the kitchen, which I might have to rethink.  Yes, they're festive and shiny and cheerful, but I don't know if I can really handle a jingle of holiday cheer every time I want to grab a spoon or pull out a box of pasta. 

A bit o' holiday cheer to all ya'll out there, and...Bryan Family Christmas Cruise sets sail in almost exactly twenty-eight days!  Yee-haw!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time for school!

Saturday mornings are usually pretty sacred lazy time to me.  Sleeping in is considered highly necessary, usually followed by excessive cups of coffee and an indeterminate amount of time lounging in pjs.  There are some things that will get me up and going, though, like maybe an early kick-off for a Texas Tech football game or the promise of an awesome brunch somewhere. 

Turns out I'll also get up early (and not hit snooze even once!!  unheard of for me!  and it was actually early, not just "early" to me - wowza) on a Saturday morning to go to school.  Not "school" school, where even if you enjoy the subject there's a certain amount of "sigh, school again" resignation, but Nikon School!  I'm basically in love with my new camera, but there are so many more things it can do and I can do with it that I'm just not going to learn by reading books, much as I love reading books.  So, I decided to sign up for this class to actually focus for a few hours and learn how to use the small computer I'm holding in my hands.  9:30 AM - 4:30 PM (don't be fooled by that start time, I had to drive about 30 miles in always iffy D.C. traffic to get out that, which actually did equal a relatively early wake-up time, especially for a Saturday), nothing but photography.  Bring it on.

For the short summary...it was great!  I learned SO MUCH and met some great people and got even more excited about something I've always loved.  I am a little concerned that my inherent nature to overanalyze may lead to (1) me sitting in one place for hours on the National Mall taking the same five pictures over and over with different settings and different light to see how they turn out, (2) me sitting at my computer for hours editing said photos, and (3) me sitting at my computer for even more hours finding the best way to get those photos into printed form, whether it be a set of prints or a book or some massive beast that I'll use to wallpaper any available wall in my apartment.

Social/random highlights from the day:
  • Hotel conference center lunches are pretty much the same the world over.  It kinda felt like I was back in the dining hall days of the color-coded hell at the good ol' National Conference Center.  Eeekk!
  • Every class has that guy who thinks he knows everything.  Why is that?
  • Some degree of humor injected into the technical learning info is always, always appreciated.  Thanks, Bob and Reed!
  • I bonded with a stay-at-home mom of three married to an Army guy, a middle-aged trio who made the drive in from Richmond, and an elderly woman with an undetermined Eastern European accent over lunch.  Talk about different worlds.
  • What is it about conference centers and their inability to effectively control the temperature of a room to anyone's liking?
Technical highlights from the day:
  • I'm not going to go there, considering the most interested parties in this information likely consist of three:  myself (I got a new book and guides and took notes all day, so I'm set), my dad (we're going to have a camera pow-wow over Thanksgiving, so set), and Sarah (who's taking a similar class herself next month!  Go photography kids!  Set!). 
  • So...let's just say that I'm super-pumped about white balance and exposure control and highlights.
I don't think I'm ready for the more advanced Sunday session on color, light, and technology, but I might be up for it when they roll through Baltimore at the end of March.  Bit of a learning curve for me to explore over the next few months.
Now I want to go on photography expeditions and play with all the settings and take about eighteen thousand pictures in the next two days.  And then go spend approximately eleventy billion dollars on new lenses and editing software and accessories, accessories, accessories.  Oh heavens.

Does anyone else find it ironic that the photography course post has zero pictures?  I was slightly amused.  Don't worry, there will be many, many photos to come.

Friday, November 20, 2009

To decorate or not to decorate

In the next 35-ish days leading up to and including Christmas (where does the time go??), I look forward to embracing the spirit of the holidays and generally celebrating the cheer and good times.  I'm all for a carol here and there and twinkling lights and holiday parties and baking adventures and all that good stuff.  I can't wait to spend some quality time with my family.  I also can't wait to go to New York to see Carrie, Jason, Baby Alan, AND the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.  I love the holidays!

I just don't know if I have what it takes to spend any time at all decorating my apartment.  In the next 35-ish days, I will be out of town for 15-ish of them.  So if I decide to get inspired, I should really do it in the next day or two to get maximum effect from the holiday decorations. 

And it really would just be for me.  The odds of another human actually entering my apartment in the next 35-ish days - pretty slim.  And Harrison couldn't give a flip about holiday decor.  To his credit, though, he'll at least leave it alone and not try to choke down artificial snow.

I'm undecided, gang, on if I want to deal with it or not.  I have hot chocolate on hand, and Channel 433 is ready with "Sounds of the Season" should I decide to embark on the decorating adventure.  And should I forego the trees and snowflakes and snowmen...a few hours of my life back.

Besides, I might just hurt myself again in January when it all has to go back into storage.  Oh, and this year I'm going to be in the middle of the ocean on Christmas Day, which is going to be AMAZING, but it just generally makes the snowflakes and trees business seem a little off.  Maybe I should put up some palm trees with lights...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things

I'm at a loss for a blog topic tonight.  So, in the spirit of a true accountant, I'm going to make a list.  A list of 20 favorites.  As an "important document of my life, perpetuating various thoughts, moods, fashions, and trends" at a certain point in my life.  Well, that might be a bit much, but here's the list anyway, and despite my natural inclinations, I will try to answer as succinctly as possible:

1.What is your favorite book?  Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  I could read it over and over again and often do. 
 
2.What is your favorite song?  "Someday You Will Be Loved" by Death Cab for Cutie.


3.What is your favorite color?  Blue.

4.What is your favorite destination?  My bed.


5.What is your favorite memory?  Pretty much any one that involves a hug.


6.What is your favorite TV show?  Do I have to pick just one?  30 Rock.


7.What is your favorite movie?  I refuse to pick just one, but fine - When Harry Met Sally.  I laugh out loud at something different every time.

8.What is your favorite food?  Anything Tex-Mex!

9.What is your favorite desert?  Anything chocolate!

10.What is your favorite treat?  A spa pedicure.  With something chocolate.  And a glass of wine.  If at all possible.

11.What is your favorite car?  My beautiful 2000 Honda CR-V - it's paid for

12.What is your favorite piece of clothing?  Comfy pajamas.  Yeah, that's just how I roll.

13.What is your favorite fashion accessory?  I've become somewhat enamored with scarves over the last year or two.

14.What is your favorite perfume?  Oh, it's a toss-up: Lacoste Inspiration or Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue.

15.What is your favorite leisure activity?  Reading.

16.Who is your favorite author?  David Sedaris.  He makes me laugh.

17.Who is your favorite actor/actress?  I'll watch George Clooney in anything.  I just can't help myself.

18.Who is your favorite singer?  Singer and not band?  There I go dissecting a very simple question...I'll go with singer and go with Mat Kearney/Ray LaMontagne.  Augh, that's two!!

19.Who is your role model?  I don't have one.  I blaze my own path.  Deal with it.

20.Where is your favorite place to be?  A happy place.  Generic, I know - translate that to sleeping in, vacation, in a hug, and basically not in my cubicle.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Televison...possible intervention needed

I think DVR is an enabler.  I spend too many hours escaping reality and indulging in ridiculous TV shows because...I can watch everything more efficiently!!  That makes it ok...right? 

No, it's not ok.  I know it's not.  But at least I fast forward through commercials and the completely irrelevant parts of the shows that focus far too much on sequins and flab.  Which at least makes it a little bit better.

In the interest of full disclosure and possible self-humiliation, I'm going to share my entire list of series recordings.  Enjoy.
  1. 30 Rock (it's laugh out loud hilarious!  Liiiiiiz Leehhh-mooooooon!)
  2. No Reservations (unfortunately not new at the moment, but I'm kinda in love with Anthony Bourdain and all of the amazing places he visits AND all of the FOOD!)
  3. Top Chef (my money's on Kevin - I mean, he used bacon jam and pretty much won over my heart)
  4. Biggest Loser (some fast-forwarding involved here, especially since spunky Rebecca got the boot)
  5. Glee (I LOVE musicals and therefore LOVE this show, even if there are some cheesy plot holes.  I almost bought the soundtrack.  I am in LOVE with this show.  Apologies for the three uppercase loves.)
  6. The Office (Must See TV still exists!)
  7. Modern Family (loving it more every week - yay for funny new shows)
  8. Daily Show (dose of liberal)
  9. Colbert Report (dose of conservative)
  10. Iron Chef America (culinary showdown, baby)
  11. Barefoot Contessa (I pretty much want her kitchen and her job)
  12. Tyler's Ultimate (most of the savory ultimate recipes involve bacon - it has to be good)
  13. Dancing With the Stars (I can't help it - the sequins...shiny, shiny!...draw me in)
  14. Mad Men (WHY did Season 3 have to end?!?  I'm going through withdrawals on Sunday nights at 10 PM)
  15. Crossroads (I delete about 80% of these, but sometimes there's some pretty cool music)
  16. Project Runway (this season has been subpar, but I'm sticking with it - go back to NYC!!)
  17. Inside the Actors Studio (James Lipton is wacky, but if there's someone on I care to know a little bit more about, I'll tune in)
  18. Amazing Race (I kinda want to be on this show.  Or maybe I just want a whirlwind tour of the world...without the crazy challenges.)
  19. Community (funny...and then not so funny...and then funny again.  I can't decide if I'm keeping it or not)
  20. Survivor: Samoa (yes, yes, I've been a Survivor person this season, which I'm a little ashamed to admit.  But...the social dynamics are kinda fascinating this time around)
  21. How I Met Your Mother (I'm finally all caught up on this one and watching the current season!)
  22. Say Yes to the Dress (don't judge - it's amusing background noise, and can't a girl dream sometimes?)
  23. Next Iron Chef (it's filling the Sunday night void left behind by Mad Men)
  24. Julia/Jacques Cooking at Home (have you ever watched this?  Julia and Jacques are hilarious!!  I love how she orders him around)
I also have every episode of Planet Earth saved.  And some assorted movies, just in case.

Caveat - I do not watch all of those shows religiously.  Some sit on the DVR forever or hit their four-show save limit and cycle in and out.  But maybe I should get away from the TV and do a little bit more living.

Oh, wait!  Glee's on!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's a day for everything

Did you know today is Homemade Bread Day?  Yeah, me either.  It certainly hadn't crossed my radar screen until one of the D.C. food blogs I track in handy dandy Google Reader pointed it out.  Would I usually celebrate Homemade Bread Day?  Knowing me, it's quite possible, but I'm going to go with a negatory on that one simply due to my lack of awareness.  Am I going to celebrate Homemade Bread Day this year?  You betcha!  I mean, I need something to blog about today, so why not some tasty bread?  Although...at the moment I'm assuming it's tasty because it's still in the oven and I don't know if it's ACTUALLY tasty or not, but based on what went into it and my batter taste tests (absolutely necessary, by the way), I'm going to say it's safe to call it tasty.  Phew.  Besides, I ate the last of the apple cinnamon buttermilk cake for breakfast this morning (that's right, cake for breakfast - just do it), so why not make another baked good that will pass for breakfast fare?

Not wanting to overanalyze or complicate the whole bread adventure, I opted to skip yeast and go the quick bread route.  Besides, who has time to let dough rise these days?  Maybe on a weekend, but certainly not on a weeknight.  Off to allrecipes.com, type in "apple bread" for a quick search, and go with what comes up highly rated.  It's pretty reliable.  So I made this because it has "breakfast" in the title and is therefore automatically healthier/more acceptable for consumption in the AM hours.  I used Honeycrisp apples because I bought a slightly obscene number of them when they were readily available everywhere during their short peak period and they've now gone a little past peak living in my fridge and aren't overly appealing to bite into:



I subbed in a 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for the white (healthy healthy!  ignore the butter, it's healthy!) and did half brown sugar and half white sugar for some extra oomph.  Just in case you care, which I seriously doubt you do.  And yes, a slightly more sane person might have just eaten an apple for breakfast instead of incorporating it into a baked good. Truly healthier, tons easier, and doesn't create a single dirty dish.  But wouldn't you rather add this...



...and sugar and spices and carbohydrates and mix it all up and put it in the most gorgeous Emile Henry baking dish received from dear friends...



...to create something tasty that makes your whole apartment smell awesome?

Happy Homemade Bread Day, ya'll, and happy breakfast/snacking/dessert times to me.  I really love baking.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

So it's sunny and warm, but I want...

...to fully embrace fall.  Especially culinarily.  Which in part gave rise to last Friday's apple cinnamon buttermilk cake (well, the fact that I want to culinarily embrace fall coupled with the fact that I needed something comforting after the wine mishap).  Apples are sooooo fall!

Another fall food to me is...hot wings?  Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and go with it because I hardly ever indulge in this particular treat, and when I do, more often than not it's coupled with a football game, which is traditionally a fall activity.  Done.  And that's what I had for dinner on Saturday night as I indoctrinated Dana in the ways of college football.  Poor thing went to NYU, home of the Violets (no matter what this bobcat might have to say about it), and never truly experienced the joy that is a brisk fall day filled with tailgating and college football cheer.  Although it's darn near impossible to recreate the true Texas Tech experience here in our nation's capital, we could at least make our way to Molly Malone's, the local Tech alumni bar, to take in the game and decent bar food with fellow Red Raider supporters.

Football viewing included a few key lessons, specifically:
  • "Texas" typically implies "University of," not Texas Tech, so we got in the habit of saying "Tech" and giving a guns up rather than a hook 'em.  Critical, critical points.
  • Practice saying "ya'll," "fixin' to," and "howdy" to lend air of authenticity to poser Texan.
  • Yes, "horned frogs" are actually creatures (we caught part of the TCU-Utah game), and "pokes" is an acceptable shortening of "cowpokes" for the OSU Cowboys.  Mascot humor for a Violet.
  • Us Texans git mighty worked up about a football game.  I and/or my comrades may or may not have screamed/shouted throughout the game and pounded the bar more than necessary.
I will say it's awesome that someone brought along their iPod with the Tech fight song and had it hooked up the bar's audio system so that we could celebrate appropriately when the Red Raiders actually scored.  Ahhh, my people.  Land of cowboy boots and a little too much makeup on the gals and the good ol' boys who get awful worked up about each and every play.  That's home to me.  Too bad the boys couldn't pull it out - it's a little rough when you're pinning your hopes on the guy who's sporting a broken ankle/foot.  Oh, for the glory days...perhaps last season's victory over Texas that DIANA AND I WITNESSED IN PERSON:



On a slightly happier note, Sunday brought additional culinary embracing of fall - the weather was gorgeous and not especially fall-like, perhaps a touch more Indian summer, but I completely ignored it, braved the craziness that is the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon for supplies, and proceeded to stir a pot of Pioneer Woman chili* and bake buttermilk cornbread while screaming at the Cowboys and their inability to get their crap together.  Felt like fall to me.

Shout-out to Sarah for introducing me to Pioneer Woman.  No shout-out to any sports teams, specifically Texas Tech Red Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.  Shout-out to sister for patiently listening while I chatter aimlessly about dinner plans.  Shout-out to Diana and Trinity for the awesome new Tech shirt, captured in all its glory by a couple of buzzed gals who desperately needed some sausage and sundried tomato Matchbox pizza after the game:



Shout-out to Dana for playing Texas Tech fan on Saturday night and for generally being awesome.  Shout-out to Tom Brady for giving me great fantasy numbers this week, even if they did WAY screw up the end of the game.  And...out.

Ok, out after I point out that I posted this around 12:20 AM, so it totally counts as my Monday post for NaBloPoMo.  Sweeeeet!  Officially more than halfway there, gang!  Out!

*If you ever find yourself making this chili, here's my take - add all optional ingredients, taking care to not get jalepeƱo hotness embedding under your fingernails (oops), and essentially double all spices.  That = deliciousness.  Slightly spicy deliciousness.  So dial it down a notch if you can't take the heat.

Why can't weekends be longer?

And now, the thrilling (ok, maybe not thrilling, but there was more to it than just sitting on the couch all day, which I come dangerously close to on the occasional weekend) conclusion to Weekend with Molls! After failed attempts at dinner reservations pretty much anywhere for Saturday night, our outing to District Chophouse pleasantly yielded pretty delicious results. There's something to be said for filets and pinot noir and starchy sides, and that something is "yum." We hung out in my hood for the rest of the evening...and into the wee hours of the morning...at a couple of local bars where we met some...interesting...characters.

After our late night (or early morning, depending on how you look at it), there are few things that satisfy better than Five Guys. We needed grease, and, well, they delivered:



Maybe a little bit of shock there, but rest assured it's mostly burger joy.  Burger joy and praise to the healing powers of Diet Coke.  Thank you, Five Guys.

The weather on Sunday was unexpectedly gorgeous, so we took advantage of the opportunity to walk around the National Mall and take in the sights.  Stops included the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, assorted gardens around the Smithsonian Castle (remember the purty flowers?  Just gorgeous!), a very quick trip through the Smithsonian Castle itself (hot and stuffy in there, and we didn't immediately see anything of interest, so we were on our way), and plenty of shopping adventures at the museums.  Yeah, we weren't overly interested in the exhibits, but there was plenty of shopping to be had.  Did you know that the Museum of Natural History offers panda greeting cards made with real poo?  Well, neither did I.  Ick.  We didn't purchase those.  Purchased plenty of other things, though, mostly courtesy of the American History Museum where they showcase all kinds of cool things in the gift shop.  I mean...the "museum store."  Whatever, Smithsonianites, it's totally a gift shop.

We also had some good adventures in utilizing the timer feature on Molly's camera, and after several attempts at the exact same photo - yes, we finally got a good one!



I had a great weekend with you, Molls!  I appreciate the visit more than you know and MISS YOU!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend with Molls!

I'm getting spoiled with all of my visitors.  After I celebrated my birthday in style with C & K, the very next weekend Molly graced our nation's capital with her presence so we could have awesome friend weekend.  A girl could get used to this.


Although plans to take off a Friday afternoon at work didn't exactly pan out (oh, work), we did get in a nice lunch at La Tasca where we enjoyed pork wrapped in pork (bacon!!), a little sangria (yes, I had to go back to work, but who couldn't use a glass of sangria in the middle of the day?  it was vacation!), and a few other treats with limited redeeming health qualities but lots of tastiness.  I drew Molly a napkin map and handed her my keys, and she set out for some D.C. exploring (in the chilly, chilly weather!) while I journeyed back to work and wrapped up the blah. 

After being freed from the chains of the cubicle, we headed to Dupont Circle for dinner.  Plans to enjoy some Mexican food (you know me too well) at Lauriol Plaza were derailed by the excessive wait time and ridiculously crowded bar, so we walked a bit and found ourselves at Bistro Bistro (I'm saying that in my head in the style of the Little Caeser's "pizza pizza!" guy) for French cuisine.  Service was laughably awful, but thank goodness the food was tasty.  Not wanting to stay there any longer than necessary, we miraculously managed to flag down our not-waiter and pay the check so we could escape to Veritas for some wine and girl talk.  Also, wine is much needed after you're almost killed by a bus.  Seriously, we didn't think he was going to make that corner.  And we froze.  Not an auspicious indicator of how we would react in any future life-threatening events.  Or maybe it was just the cold temperature and biting north wind that caused us to freeze in our tracks.  I'm going to stick with that.


We successfully hovered over a table and snagged it from two girls who headed elsewhere for the evening...but then we were somewhat commandeered by an obtrusive couple who claimed a more-than-reasonable amount of table and personal space by deceptively asking if they could pull up a chair.  In a valiant attempt to ignore them, we did what any sane girls would do and proceeded to order flights - bubbles for Molly and Spanish reds for me.  That's enough to bring a smile to anyone's face.  Bubbles, bubbles!





Victory was ours when we outlasted the mushy couple, so we toasted ourselves and our table space and then called it a night.


Saturday dawned a little less chilly than Friday, which was certainly welcome as we walked the streets of Georgetown.  More French food for lunch (it was just so adorable!) at Cafe Bonaparte followed by afternoon shopping adventures made for a pretty great day, and then we declined the opportunity to stand in line at one of the few sports bars in Georgetown (a line, really?) and headed home to catch the second half of the LSU game.


And that's where I leave you in suspense (I'm certain the anticipation is just killing you!) on Saturday evening and Sunday.  #1, it gives me a guaranteed topic for tomorrow (this NaBloPoMo everyday business can get a little tough), and (b), I've got to get myself ready to cheer on the Red Raiders with Dana at the alumni bar tonight, and if I don't start on that right now I'm going to be late and I hate being late and WHY does it get dark at approximately 4:37 now?  Ridiculous!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yay, it's Friday! Wait...the 13th?

Friday.  Oh, Friday.  TGIF has been part of our culture ever since man stepped foot in a cubicle, I would suspect.  I usually look forward to Friday with at least some degree of enthusiasm, even during busy season back in the day when you knew you were coming back into work on Saturday.  At least you could leave early on Friday, forget about work, and enjoy a real evening.

Did you realize today was Friday the 13th?  Superstitious, right?  The date didn't necessarily impress itself on me earlier in the day, but when I stop to reflect on the Friday I had...ok, nothing truly terrible happened, but it wasn't my most stellar Friday outing.
  • Didn't think to put on rain boots this morning because it wasn't actually raining when I leave the apartment.  Get caught in solid rain approximately halfway to the office and end up with chilled feet for a good part of the morning.  Also discover that right pants leg has decided to unhem itself and drag around on the wet sidewalk as I walk to work.  Lacking any proper tools, ghetto-fix pants him with tape upon arrival at office.
  • You know that rain?  Yeah, walked to lunch, took umbrella, got caught in gust that proceeded to soak lower half of pants.  You know the smell of wet dry cleaning?  It's not awesome.  And it stuck around for a decent portion of the afternoon.
  • Conference call with colleague from Switzerland.  Can understand approximately 60% of what he says (accent seems very French - is this a normal Swiss accent thing?  not sure), but can only truly comprehend (as in really understand and not feel entirely stupid about international tax) approximately 30%.  Blerg.
  • Receive request for a 4:30 Friday meeting.  Meetings should never be held on a Friday when they can run into the 5:00 hour.  Or maybe I'm just not overly committed to my job/entire career at the moment.  Oops.
  • After long week at work, decide to treat myself to well-deserved glass of wine while catching up on Thursday night shows (thank you, DVR).  Promptly knock over entire glass of (RED!!) wine, dousing chaise lounge and carpet with burgundy tidal wave and cascade of far-reaching droplets.  Have great hope for the chaise lounge due to powerful cleaner that has in the past removed both ink and Taco Bell hot sauce.  Not so sure about the carpet.  Currently attempting to work some kind of magic with baking soda paste.
  • Please refer to refrigerator incident, which didn't actually happen today on Friday the 13th, but the aftereffects of Operation Defrost 2009 mean that there is no awesome cheese in the refrigerator that could likely console me after the aforementioned red wine event.  Ok, I won't look to food for comfort.  Or maybe I will...
There's currently an apple cinnamon buttermilk cake in the oven (thanks for the recipe, Carolyn!), and I'm just hoping that works out.  Given today's events, I'm obsessively checking it to make sure I don't overbake.  I mean, there's no cheese around, so baked goods it is.  I'm certain a slice of that cake will bring a positive end to a less than perfect Friday.  Oven's beeping!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Right off the bat, let me state that I will draw no attention whatsoever to the year of your birth.  This is a celebration of you, not a number.  And now I'm going to go all extra-mushy on you.

Oh yeah, today is my mom's birthday, so I'm giving her a shout-out.  She's put up with me for all these years and deserves it.

Mom, you probably won't see this until the weekend blog catch-up reading, but just know that it's going up on your b-day.  Kinda like how I told you what was in your birthday package that USPS is holding hostage so you would actually know on your birthday.  It's one of those things.

I love you, Mom, because:
  • after a crazy day at work, you put that Jeep into four-wheel drive and plowed your way through all that New Mexico snow to rescue Amanda and I from the electricity-less after-school center.
  • you helped (helped?  I'm sure you did all the hard work!) sissy and I bake an absurd amount of cookies for a school event that never came due to the aforementioned crazy snow.
  • you taught me how to sew and didn't make too much fun of me for the crooked blue-jean quilt.
  • you always encouraged me to do my best.  My best in anything, no matter what it was, and thank you for faithfully attending those choir concerts.
  • care packages always help, whether I'm 18 or 28, and you know that.
  • the hug you gave me the day you dropped me off for my freshman year of college told me exactly how much you love me.
  • no matter how many recipes I flip through or cookbooks I buy, your pie crust is the one I'll love.
Ok, there's more, tons more, but that's all I'm going to do for now.  I'm feeling very Hallmark and also a touch sleepy.

I love you, Mom, and I hope you had a fantastic birthday day!  See you in two weeks for Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Frost-free? Not exactly

Would you like to know what one of the most disgusting things in the world is?  Well, your answer doesn't matter, because I'm going to tell you anyway, but if you feel compelled to not know, please look away and skip to the next paragraph.  Go ahead, avert your eyes...last chance...it's chunky milk, people.  Milk when it's gone past being "just expired" and has entered into a state where solids are forming.  Gross-out.

Why on earth would I bring this up?  Well, in my kitchen, milk very rarely enters chunky stage - it's quickly put to use in cereal and baking applications.  And I've never had milk enter a chunky stage due to cooling issues with the refrigerator...but now I can check that one off the list.  After discovering less-than-chilled food and the aforementioned chunky milk, I investigated and realized that my supposedly "frost-free" freezer had managed to build up an impressive mass of not only frost but also solid chunks of ice that prevented any chilly breezes from flowing down into the refrigerator.  Drats.  And why hadn't I noticed this earlier?  Honestly, I'd been pulling nothing but the Brita pitcher out of the fridge for a couple of days and just missed the slightly not cool fridge breezes sneaking out, trying to tell me what was going on.  Oops.

First order of business?  Ruthless mass burial.  The tragic losses included:
  • An extended family of cheeses, including the shredded bunch (cheddar, mozzarella, four-cheese Italian blend, and four-cheese Mexican blend), stinky-even-before-it-goes-smushy gorgonzola, smoky sharp cheddar, pamigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, and a smelly herbed cheddar thing that I bought on a whim and wasn't exactly a huge fan of anyway.  But to the rest of the cheeses - I loved you dearly.
  • The condiment clan - salad dressings, sauces, salsa, mayo, etc.  May you find veggies and sandwiches in food heaven who need you.
  • The staples - butter, eggs, juice, delicious hazelnut creamer for my coffee, all of those mission-critical things that you count on having in your fridge.
Feel free to shed a tear for the tragic loss.  At least one tear for the cheese if nothing else.  A lot of good and somewhat pricey cheese was lost yesterday.

Let Operation Defrost begin.  After consulting the Almighty Omniscient Google in the ways of speeding the process along (I'm not exactly what you might call patient, especially when I'm working with a pretty small cooler that's in charge of saving my precious freezer items), I settled on the boiling water method coupled with some strategic chiseling and scraping.  Fortunately, there wasn't an obscene amount of buildup to deal with, and the whole process of sopping up the water and making sure everything was dry and getting all the nasty ice out really wasn't that ridiculous. 

And then, after the defrosting adventures and unpacking the cooler and sticking everything back in the fridge and freezer and leaving the fridge shut for more than an hour and thinking that everything was settled and right with the world again (other than the fact that my fridge is lacking some of its regular suspects, including really important things like butter and excessive amounts of cheese), I went to do a temperature check.  And the fridge wasn't feeling very chilly.  And I may have shouted something not fit for publication here.  And I may have grabbed my digital thermometer and tried to take my fridge's temperature before I realized that said digital thermometer's range is approximately 90 - 110 degrees Fahrenheit.*  This is when I stopped myself and went to bed.  And this morning I was greeted with perfectly chilled beverages (which is about the extent of my fridge's offerings now).  Phew.

Could I have called maintenance and had them deal with the issue?  Yes, yes, that's supposed to be one of the perks of apartment life.  But I'm capable of defrosting my own refrigerator, and sometimes a girl just needs a victory (even if it is against an appliance).

So...that's what I did last night.  Fought a battle with my refrigerator.  Not the most exciting way to spend an evening.  Fortunately, tonight promises to be much better.  Dana and I are headed to Art & Soul (Oprah's former chef runs the place!) for a belated birthday dinner celebration, because honestly, one can never have too many birthday dinner celebrations.  And I seriously doubt I'll need any space in the fridge for leftovers - I'm eating it all.

*It just occurred to me that I could have used my meat thermometer!  I might take my fridge's temperature after all.  Yes, I realize how I sound, and yes, you should probably be a little concerned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Find your inner pirate

I love Mike Leach, head football coach at the ol' alma mater, Texas Tech.  His play calls occasionally frustrate me, but he's just insane enough to be endearing.  And the man loves pirates.  I mean, loves pirates.  Please check out that endearing insanity and pirate love in his television acting debut (at least to my knowledge - it really wouldn't surprise me if he's snuck his way onto a set somewhere) on "Friday Night Lights."  You really don't even need audio - the look on Kyle Chandler's face pretty much sums it up.



Monday, November 9, 2009

The next hot spot

Every Sunday the Washington Post Arts & Living section does a few travel features, and you know who snagged a piece of the spotlight for the first weekend in November?  None other than the Texas Panhandle.  That's right, the place draws you in with its rich history and captivates with..."a vast, silent expanse of flat, arid land that is almost defiantly inhospitable to human activity."  Well, if that's not a selling point, then I don't know what is.

Ok, the article does go on to actually celebrate a few local spots, and while I don't necessarily think of the Panhandle as one of the world's most exciting travel locales, it certainly holds a special place in my heart.  Especially when the details section of the Washington Post directs you to fly into Oklahoma City to get to the Panhandle.  Oh, heavens, Amarillo at least has an airport.  It's even an international airport.

Some of my Panhandle, and specifically, Amarillo, favorites, just in case you ever feel the need to explore that flat, arid land.  And yes, there will be a lot of food involved.  Specifically...Tex-Mex.  There's a lot of other delicious food, of course, so I'll wax nostalgic on those in connection with something else.
  • Tex-Mex rules.  Go to Tacos Garcia and order the Tampico plate.  And then go to Rosa's for anything (and at least one tortilla) and Leal's for the green chile queso and Abuelo's and The Plaza and I wish Paradise Too was still around.  The waitresses knew my family there.  Best nachos and Spanish rice EVER, and Mom and Dad would always spring for the Andes mints at the end of the meal.  I loved that place.  Oh my gosh, Taco Villa!!
  • Stanley Marsh 3 signs.  Not III, 3.  Yes, he's that kind of guy.  A eccentric rich guy who gets a kick out of getting people to put up crazy signs like these all over town:

  • The Tri-State Fair.  I didn't realize what a good show they actually put on until I stopped in at some really unforgettable fairs in Abilene and Lubbock (we're keeping the comparison in the smallish zone, kids - of course the Texas State Fair is awesome) and developed a greater appreciation for the fried ice cream from Amarillo's finest vendors operating out of trailers.
  • People are generally nice here.  That finger lifted off the steering wheel is a greeting, not the finger.  The land of ya'll and howdy.  Something to be said for that.
  • Semi-seasons.  It totally snows in Texas.
There's more, but that'll do for now, ya'll.  Except for one last sunset.  And a few power lines stretching across that vast, silent expanse of land.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Flowers is purty

Molly and I had a great weekend, which I'll tell you alllll about later, but for right now I'm exhausted and am merely going to offer up a tiny selection of pictures from one piece of today's adventures.  We took advantage of some unseasonably warm weather (70 degrees here in the D of C!) to walk around and explore, and it turns out there are some pretty cool gardens around the Smithsonian Castle.  Enjoy the close-up flower shots - a little bit hazardous with all the bees buzzing around.  Bzzzzzzz.








Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kittehs!

My wonderful friend Molly is in town for the weekend, and she loooooves kitty cats, even though they give her terrible sniffles.  Harrison senses her deep love of kitties, and he's been trying to keep his fur to himself and even spent part of last night snoozing peacefully at her feet.  In honor of celebrating ridiculous cats everywhere and in honor of not spending very much time on this blog post so I can spend more time with my friend, I give you some moments from icanhascheezburger.com, which never, never fails to make me laugh. 






Friday, November 6, 2009

Mo' music, please

While impatiently waiting for my crack pumpkin spice latte this morning at Starbucks, a little cardboard stand that I'd forgotten about for the last couple of months had been shifted to a new spot, commanding my in-need-of-caffeine vision.  The Starbucks pick of the week!  Every week (somewhat inconsistently, though - there have been several weeks where that little cardboard stand sat empty and forgotten) Starbucks sets out a stash of iTunes download cards for a free song or music video from a selected artist.  No choosing, of course, you just get the specific song/video from their artist of choice.  You never know who you might find sitting in there, just waiting for you to pick them up take them home!  I've had the pleasure of getting to know M. Ward, The Tragically Hip, Gomez, The Decemberists, Airborne Toxic Event, Andrew Bird, Melody Gardot, and Wynton Marsalis a little bit better, just to name a few.  My musical tastes have definitely expanded over the last few years, and this has been a fun way to expand my iTunes library and try out some new artists.

So, if you're feeling frugal or maybe just looking for some new tunes, swing by Starbucks every so often and snag one of the cards.

I basically just wrote an advertisement for Starbucks, didn't I?  Sorry about that.  They do make some dang tasty beverages.



Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bday wkd redux

A much shorter title this time around, just to make up for the excessive length of the first one.  Phew.

Ok, back to this bacon and champagne business.  My dear sweet friends brought me amazing treats from Texas in the form of Central Market tortillas and coffee (Taste of Austin, I ♥ you so much) with grand plans to make breakfast tacos to kick off the actual birthday.  Breakfast tacos we did, complete with crazy-thick slices of smoked bacon (everyone needs bacon on their birthday!) and some accompanying mimosas for sipping.  A hearty and heartwarming start to a rather drab and cloudy birthday day.  Oh, and as you can see, Almond Joys and Goldfish also made the journey to Texas - they understandably couldn't let the tortillas and coffee get lonely on the plane.

With breakfast tacos in our happy tummies, we headed out on another walking adventure, braving wind and a few clouds as we made our way around the National Mall with a stop here and there.  I will never, ever get tired of the National Museum of American History, and we made a stop there to check out Julia Child's kitchen and the flag that inspired the national anthem.  More walking walking walking as we made stops at the Washington Monument:



and the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial:



and some more beautiful fall trees:



and then through the Foggy Bottom/GW neighborhood to catch the Metro, where we encountered silly frat boys and one of the perpetual signs of college life, the ubiquitous red plastic cup (even though this one was sadly discarded):



After stopping in at Dupont Circle for some sustenance at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, we took our tired selves home for a break before meeting Dana at Oyamel for birthday dinner.  Of course it had to be Mexican food!  Mmmm, margaritas and guacamole and chilaquiles and plenty of cheese and tasty little tacos.  Now, we're talking old Mexico Mexican here, not Tex-Mex (somewhat sadly), and when the menu holds itself to that kind of authenticity, you might find something like chapulines on the menu.  Chapulines are...grasshoppers.  And at Oyamel they serve them sauteed with shallots, garlic, and tequila in a taco.  And I just had to try it.

Go ahead, finish your gagging and gasping now.

You know, it didn't taste half bad, but the texture thing was a little challenging.  I just had to!  I might be getting old (ok, I realize I'm not really that old, but I felt a little old at times last weekend), but I will always have my sense of culinary adventure.  Dana was the only one who captured the little grasshoppers with her camera, so you're just going to have to wait a little while for that one.

For the remainder of the birthday evening we beat out a man with a whistle to hail a cab amidst the raindrops and head out to U Street with a couple of stops for some drinkin' and dancin' with the Haloween crazies crowd.  There were definitely some unique costumes out there, but I think we made a pretty spectacular foursome of normally dressed people.

Brunch/lunch at The Diner in Adams Morgan in the rain, and then all too quickly it was time to head to the airport and hug my girls goodbye.  Fantastic birthday weekend, though, and I'm so glad I got to spend time with Kami and Carolyn!

You can catch my pictures from the weekend here, and I have a feeling there might be a post later in the month (this every day business could get a little bit tricky!) with some photographic detail of the grasshopper taco.  Because honestly, how many of you have chomped into a grasshopper taco?  I'm guessing zero.  And some pictures of the experience will probably help keep that count at zero - it's in your own best interest to just live vicariously through me on that one.