Sunday, March 28, 2010

Boats, blossoms, and banners

Let's go a little more upbeat than the last post, shall we?  Something along the lines of actual D.C. adventures and good times with friends?  Yes, let's do that.

Last Thursday I took a slightly extended lunch break for two of my favorite things - in no particular order, (1) a Five Guys cheeseburger, AND (2) meeting an out-of-town friend at the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop after his or her journey from a train or plane to escort said friend to my home for a dropping off of the stuff.  One Jason of the New York variety came into town for a couple of job interviews, some general good times, and the comfort of my apartment's sofa bed.  Happy to oblige.

Highlights! Yes, of course the first highlight I would mention involves food. Thursday night dinner involved a boat. A beautiful wooden boat full of sushi. We made the incredibly short walk over to Momiji for a little Sapporo, a little sake, and a whole lotta...well...rice and fish and such. Don't tell me you wouldn't be swayed by something called the Sushi Love Boat (really, disregard the "love" part - completely unnecessary - we're talking BOAT of sushi here), offering up 12 pieces of nigiri, three rolls (dragon, California, and tuna), and two spicy tuna hand rolls. And it literally comes to the table in a giant wooden boat. There's something to be said for the art of presentation. I didn't actually take a picture (shocking!!), but it looked kinda like this and was extremely awesome:

Friday was pretty work-ish for both of us - long day of interviews and general job stress for Jason, medical ick and work blah for me - and at the end of that long and rainy day, all I really wanted to do was chill and sit on the couch. So we did. Delivery of Thai food deliciousness, a little NCAA tourney action, some mind-bending from the Coen brothers, and done for the day. Thank goodness.
Saturday, though...sweet, blessed Saturday dawned bright and beautiful, and we took full advantage of it. A little time walking through the National Gallery Sculpture Garden, remembering our Parisian adventures...

...followed by a little time in the Natural History Museum, investigating the mysteries of Darwin and the depths of the ocean, where scary and enormous giant squid roam...

We also made our way over to the American History Museum, where it became pretty clear that tourist season (or maybe just spring break) is in full swing - line stretching out the door.  Here we go!

That didn't deter us from spending some quality time with the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, sexy George Washington carved out of marble, Kermit the Frog, Julia Child's kitchen, sparkly First Lady dresses, and C-3PO.  Quite a cast of characters, really.  Oh, and W!  This one's for you, Dad, and no, I was not shunned by any liberals as we snapped the picture.

After getting in the requisite museum visits, we took to the outdoors to truly enjoy the beautiful spring day...and the cherry blossoms!  Yup, it's that time of year again, so we wound our way down to the Tidal Basin and around the Washington Monument, taking in the fluffy white blossoms and the sky dotted with colorful kites courtesy of the Smithsonian Kite Festival.  After fortifying ourselves with crab cakes from Old Ebbitt Grill and some quality Borders wandering and purchases, it was time to head back home - a few blocks for me and a few hours on a train for Jason.  Spring has definitely sprung!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Hippocratic Oath is not for me

Blogging's been a little off for me lately, for any number of reasons - and don't discount the power of laziness.  I love my sleep.  However, I've also been a little distracted by some pain and worries, and since I'm not typically a great sharer of personal issues, coupled with a tendency to overanalyze and worry excessively, I think I'll vent and share for a bit.

Traditionally, I don't do too well in dealing with medical maladies...of my own, or really even of others.  I'm not excessively squeamish, and I can handle your run-of-the-mill, bit-o'-blood-here-or-there injury, but when it comes to close-up dealing with my own injuries that have any degree of ick  I vividly remember some post-op recovery time from the extraction of my wisdom teeth, those days filled with ice packs, a liquid diet, and hydrocodone-induced naptime.  However, I remember absolutely nothing about getting from the bathroom back to the couch after Mom helped me pull out the bloody cotton wads packed into every inch of the back of my mouth.  Because I fainted.  Not good.  Thanks again, Mom, for being a truly excellent nurse.

I'm not exactly a daredevil.  Never had a broken bone in my body (knock on wood!).  While I've encountered my fair share of bumps, bruises, and scrapes over the years, along with the occasional and less common "yes, I grew up out in the country with horses" incidents involving electric fences and barbed wire, there wasn't much to be concerned about.

I've had a small-ish cyst hanging out on my chest since sometime in my college years, and it's never really bothered me.  Likely some scarring if I opted to have it removed, so I opted to just leave it alone.  The most I ever had to think about it was if I got a "hey, what's that?" - easily answered with an "oh, it's nothing."  Except that last week nothing became something as it turned angry on me and fairly rapidly quadrupled in size, shifted from Erin-pale to violent red, and generally caused a rather remarkable amount of pain.  We're talking constant, just-hurts-when-I-move-at-all kind of stinging, awful pain.  To the doctor (NOT my favorite place in the world) we go.

Drain cyst (two shots of lidocaine, but truly amazing levels of pain as I nearly squeezed off a medical student's hand), pack gaping hole in my chest with twenty-eight feet (yes, yes, slight exaggeration) of gauze, apply more gauze, cover with waterproof wound dressing.  Sample sent off to confirm I'm not infected with anything ridiculous.  Make appointment to return on Monday for check-up.  Politely refuse vicodin for when lidocaine wears off as one needs to be coherent at work after medical morning out, but do hit the pharmacy for week's worth of massive antibiotics.  Proceed to suffer varying levels of pain, concern, and mild panic throughout the day, day...but will spare you gory details.  Regret polite refusal of vicodin.

Not done.  Minor surgery needed to actually remove cyst walls.  Fabulous.

At the moment, concerned about:  current level of pain (less than pre-drain pain, but still a little remarkable), removal of packed gauze that it supposed to occur tomorrow by me (don't think I can pull that off, have unfortunately not befriended any doctors or nurses in the area who might actually enjoy that sort of thing - Minute Clinic, here I come, unless I manage to magically become medically amazing in the next day or so), impending surgery to actually remove cyst walls, presence of gauze and coverings on my chest for the foreseeable future, and scarring to come.  Phew.

While this cyst adventure is not nearly as concerning as Sarah's adventures with Wanda, it's still bothering me.  And I hope I didn't repulse anyone with discussing at all or descriptions - fairly broad strokes there.  But it feels better to just get the thoughts out of my compulsive-worry-prone head and onto...well, not paper, but a random page on the interwebs.

No one needs to see a picture of this, I know.  And I promise you won't.  But allow me to share the Wound Care Center at Bryan Place:

Yet another reason to love 3M, maker of one of the most amazing products ever (helloooo, have you seen the name of the blog?) - they also make this really cool wound dressing film (yes, I realize I'm referring to wound dressing film as "really cool" - I'm concerned about me, too) that conveniently holds gauze in place, is completely waterproof, and actually doesn't hurt when you peel it off.  Thank you, 3M.

Any ideas for cool scar stories?  Mom thinks I could go dramatic with this one...


I can't remember if I've ever failed to pick at least one of the men's NCAA Final Four teams.  Both of my title game teams are out and my bracket's generally shot to hell, but I'd like to at least redeem myself with ONE Final Four team.  So I'm sorry, Big XIIers, but for the sake of minor bracket salvation and family solidarity, I'll be cheering for my sissy's school tomorrow - go Duke!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day!

3/14!  That's right, one whole day dedicated to the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Dang.  While people might celebrate the day by compiling pop culture references or geeking out over Google's custom logo for today, you know how I plan on celebrating.  With the pie version of pi.  However, I don't need an entire pie hanging out in my kitchen, tempting me, so I made a baby pie.  A baby sour cream lemon pie, alllllllll for me.

I like this version of celebrating a day reserved for math and science nerds.  And yes, I realize by "celebrating" it at all makes me a nerd of sorts.  I totally know I'm nerdy.

Ok, so I didn't really conquer the rain and do anything DC-awesome this weekend...but I did have baking adventures, and that makes me happy.  Happier than being cold and wet and soaked with rain.  Three cheers for sour cream lemon pie and brown butter Irish soda bread and banana chocolate chip upside down cake!  The oven got a workout this weekend.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sing me one more song about old San Antone

I have a hard time with this East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, wherever-it-is-that-I-am world where people have NEVER HEARD of Pat Green.  I'm not saying you have to love his music or even know a single lyric, but to have never even HEARD of him?  I miss Texas.  I mean, I may be somewhat biased in this regard since he went to Tech and all and I feel some sort of loyalty there, but come on, people.

Needless to say, I was in need of a dose of Texas last Saturday, so I rounded up a couple of fellow Texan ex-pats and we made our way over to the 9:30 Club for the sounds of home.  We even managed to get there in time to snag our prime spot right up by the stage...I refer to it as "our" spot since we were pretty much exactly where we were last year when Pat Green came to town, which I thought was pretty cool.  Ok, it wasn't exactly the same - I'm not sure if they were expecting a stampede to the stage or what, but we had some pretty serious barricades blocking us from getting closer than three, four feet away.  Watch out for those rowdy Texans!

Texas flags flying from the second floor seating. Cowboys boots and hats in abundance.  An abundance of acoutis guitars.  Ahhhhhh.  Just what I needed.

This time around was a little bit different from last year's show.  I didn't bother taking my camera since, sadly, the 9:30 Club won't let me use it in there...and both batteries for my trusty old Olympus were completely drained when I thought to check it on my way out the door.  Opening act this year was someone I'd actually heard of, Wade Bowen, who was far superior to the crazy overalls lady from last year.  Pat was a little less drunk this year, and they couldn't quite recreate the infamous pick toss.

But all in all, a pretty great evening of country music and a little bit of home here in our nation's capital.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The perfect pick-me-up

I'm in a state of sadness and depression now that the Olympics are over.  You'd think I'd be over it by now.  But no...I find myself still wanting to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A!" at any available opportunity and am contemplating checking out the Potomac Curling Club just to see if I have a chance at making the 2014 Sochi team.  There really aren't many things that could snap me out of this.  However, I knew I could put faith in an old friend to get me into the present, looking forward rather than back.  


You know what finally showed up at work last week?  I've been waiting for this day for a long time.  GIRL SCOUT COOKIE DAY!!!  Thin Mints and Samoas, you are mine.  Never mind that I could easily eat my way through my recommended daily caloric intake in the form of chocolate covered goodness.  This was exactly what I needed to snap myself out of my Olympic funk. 

By the way, Girl Scout Cookie Season also reminds me of Troop Beverly Hills.  I can't tell you how many times my sister and I rented that for summer entertainment.  Anyone else up for dancing the Freddie?  Ok, no dancing going on here, but I further embraced the chocolate concept...

Last weekend (actually, the weekend sad that this blog post has been hanging around in draft form for so long.  I should just give up on it.  But I won't!  It's really important that you all know about these super important...baking...adventures...ok, sorry, just proud this one turned out well, so bear with me) I also embarked on my most ambitious baking adventure to date: chocolate babkaAs I casually brought up babka in conversation (yes, I do these things - apologies to my co-workers and friends), the reactions ranged from "what the hell is that?" to "oh, yeah, Elaine had to settle for the lesser babka!" to "hey, a chocolate bread cake thing sounds pretty good."  It was a bit of a foreign concept to me, too, but you can bet I tagged that recipe as soon as it popped up in Google Reader.

This was truly a baking adventure of the adventurous sort.  It involved...
  • the rather sturdy and reliable KitchenAid mixer nearly rocketing off the counter.  Six cups flour + two sticks butter + four eggs + a cup and a half of milk + dough hook + approximately 10 minutes of strenuous mixing = near disaster.  Crisis averted.  Thank goodness.
  • finely chopping 2 1/4 pounds of chocolate by hand.  I could have used a food processor.  But...I counted the excessive chopping as exercise, which enabled me to eat more babka later.  It all worked out in the end.
  • 3 1/2 sticks of butter.  Go ahead, have a minor heart attack on my behalf.  Paula Deen would be proud.
  • a LOT of time in the kitchen.  A decent chunk of my Saturday.  What else am I going to do, though?  Explore Smithsonian museums and be on the lookout for early cherry blossoms?  Oh, right, maybe I should get on that...
I didn't take any pictures because it was a rather involved process - several mission-critical moments throughout.  But it actually turned out looking a lot like these pictures, which made me excessively happy.  Quite grateful for the twist and tuck picture - it reassured me that yes, it should look like the chocolatey goodness is about to burst forth through the buttery dough.  Yum.

Oh, and when I run out of Thin Mints, I can always make my own.

Ok, ok, I promise I'll get out of the kitchen and go do something cool and DC-ish to write about.  Yes, it's supposed to rain all weekend, but I won't let that deter me.  Perfect day to slap on some rain boots and go explore...something.