Monday, January 31, 2011

You might be moving REALLY soon if...

...the only things in your fridge are Diet Coke, milk (for cereal in the morning, obviously), and half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Don't ask why the chocolate chips made the cut (have you met me?) OR why they're in the refrigerator.

...your walls no longer have anything on them.  They look so naked and sad with their gaping nail and anchor wounds.

...you think "whatever!" about random carpet stains rather than try to actually get them out.  That's what the deposit is for, right?

...the DVR is only 16% full because you've been cleaning it out, trying not to miss those INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT shows you've had recorded for the last six months.  Which obviously weren't that important.  Oh, wait - I disconnected everything an hour ago, those shows are now GONE.  I think I'll live.

...you WALKED home from work for the last time on Friday.  Time to go back to the land of plentiful highways and gaz-guzzling cars.

...the thought of not sharing walls with ANYONE is consuming your every thought, given the noisy new neighbors who've moved in next door.  WHAT are you people DOING?!?

The movers are theoretically showing up at 8 AM tomorrow.  And I'm giving them a walkthrough, a rundown, a once-over, and then hustling Harrison over to the vet for a round of shots and a couple of days of boarding, which I'm sure he'll be THRILLED about.  So hopefully a lot of my stuff will magically disappear into a giant truck during that time.  Yipes.

One-way flight back to Dallas on Wednesday - a lot sure has happened in the last two years.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Challenges to the "eating well" portion of the healthy living plan

When it comes to the "hey, perhaps choose a vegetable over mac n' cheese!" debate that goes on in my mind, trying to figure out what to put into my body on a daily basis, it really helps to limit the whole eating out extravaganza.  Much easier to control myself and make healthy choices when a crisper drawer full of veggies stares me down.  However, there's a ploy out there from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington known as Restaurant Week that kinda gets in the way.  It's hard for me to resist three course, relatively reasonably priced meals at some of DC's finer dining establishments.
  • Masa 14 - Wednesday night helping of shrimp ceviche, pork buns, meatballs, and chocolatey goodness
  • Cedar - Friday night helping of butternut squash soup, short ribs, and chocolatey goodness
  • Oceanaire - Saturday night helping of clam chowder, pollock, and chocolatey goodness (I'm not predictable AT ALL when it comes to desserts)
Tack some wine onto all of those, of course.  Back on the wagon again shortly.  You know, after I finish this pizza for dinner.  And live without a kitchen for a week and a half or so as soon as this move commences, which is coming up remarkably soon.  Holy schmoly.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Holidayapalooza 2010, sweet babies edition

...and Dallas time is here!  Flew in the night of the 28th, jetted out the morning of the 31st, did a MILLION things in between.  A million things like...combing through all of our options and finding a really cute house to rent for the next year, checking out a couple of potential wedding locations (eeekk!), introducing Craig to the joy in my life that is Central Market, and stuffing our faces with deliciousness from the likes of Twisted Root and Chuy's and Smoke and Zorba's with some of my very best friends.  Oh, and a couple of their highly adorable babies.

Diana and sweet Gracie, just chillin' at Chuy's
Carolyn and tiny baby Rhett!  So glad I got to meet him and see his mommy!  And just to clarify...his mommy is Molly, not Carolyn.  Don't go confusing yourself on that one.
The baby transfer...always a delicate manuever.
Sweet Mr. Rhett is quite content with Kami
All the sweet baby pictures are here.  And I'm so, so glad I got to spend some time with my friends - I'll be back before you know it!

Holidayapalooza 2010, A-town style

...and now, landing in DFW the night of the 23rd.  And not going to A-town until the next morning.  Why is this, you ask?  Well, you try booking a flight from Norfolk to Amarillo within a day or two of Christmas and see what all you come up with.  That doesn't cost a bajillion dollars.  Hence a late arrival in the state of Texas, one night at the Hyatt Regency DFW (which was actually rather lovely and quite reasonably priced), and an early Christmas Eve flight into Amarillo...where I learned, in addition to the fact that baking adventures are generally always awesome, the following things...

Mexican food is, without a doubt, always delicious and guaranteed to produce a smile.  Love you, Abuelo's.
I love homemade Christmas ornaments, especially the bug-eyed gingerbread man.  He holds a special place in my heart.
I'm in need of some "keep calm" advice these days, for sure, as evidenced by the presence of this cute baby book in my stocking AND a "keep calm and carry on" coffee mug gift from my sister.  Deep, calming breaths...
Festive holiday socks are the BEST.  Thanks, Mom!
Nothing makes a man happier than beer, really.  Especially Shiner Holiday Cheer.  Doubly especially when it's cradled by a Seahawks koozie as gifted to my parents by Craig as semi-retaliation for their efforts encouraging him to become a Cowboys fan.  Oh dear.
A-town pictures here.  Enjoy.  Also, we spent a LOT of time playing with the Wii and generally chilling.  Also, I got to see some highly wonderful Sullivan gals who totally made my night.  Also, it's always, always nice to be home.  Really, really nice, actually.  Dallas time is coming...

Holidayapalooza 2010, Virginia Beach-style

Christmas season 2010 was a little all over the place.  Craig and I drove down to Virginia Beach on the 21st to spend some time with his parents, where I learned the following things...

The beach is always beautiful, even when it's freeeeeeeezing outside.
The city of Norfolk has mermaids everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.
Large, imposing battleships are much less scary when adorned with a wreath.
Water is alllllll around.  And it can come get you.  I'm still not totally comfortable with water.
I also learned that my future father-in-law is an exceptional board game player (especially one particular game involving military strategy), my future mother-in-law is a rather wonderful hostess, and some kitty cats actually do like Craig (ahem, Harrison).  Check out the pictures from the Virginia Beach adventures here.  More holidayapalooza to come...pretend I'm flying from Norfolk to DFW at this very moment...

Monday, January 10, 2011

The most ridiculous meal ever

That guy I'm going to marry (hmmm, maybe I'll just call him that instead of "the boy" or even "Craig") had a birthday last month, and because I'm such a delightful girlfriend-now-fiancĂ©e who wanted to plan a wonderful birthday dinner and eat dinner at this place myself because it's supposed to be basically the most amazing dining experience in the entire D.C. area and possibly of your life, I hit redial for the reservation line at Komi on November 18th from 12:00 to 12:45 until I finally got through to a human being.  You see, they open up reservations at noon one month to the calendar day before your hopeful-please-let-us-get-in dining date.  Ridiculous.  It's a tiny, tasting-menu-only, highly revered restaurant with only 38 seats, and yes, I managed to snag us a reservation.  Phew.  Craig's excited for this dinner...(trust me, that's his excited face - he's pretty even-keel the vast majority of the time)...


Dinner was...deliciously amazingly delicious.  And LONG.  We were there about 2 1/2 hours.  And we had five different people explaining and pouring and serving and taking care of us all night long.  My only other tasting menu experience was on engagement night when I was too "eeeeeeeeekkkk!!" to really appreciate it (and I'll tell you about it anyway, I promise), but this was pretty wonderful as far as dining experiences go.  Overall verdict:  1000x yum.

I "interviewed" Craig (less than a month later...not bad for the blog considering Spain hangs over my head) for some of his favorites from dinner, and here's what I got:
  • spanikopita
  • it was all good except for the brussel sprouts
What can I say - he's a man of few words and FAR LESS reactive/over-the-top crazy than I am about...pretty much everything.  Oh, the food...


I interviewed myself and found out I LOVED the following from the Greek/Mediterranean-influenced menu:
  • the slightly-salty-but-in-a-good-way crudo course (pictured above), especially the one with the crispy caper berry garnish
  • tiny, adorable lobster rolls
  • the teensy half-smoke served with an IPA as part of our wine pairing - it was so D.C. and SO tasty
  • mascarpone-stuffed Medjool dates - it sounds really simple, but it was kinda amazing
  • our "main dish" - roasted goat with house-made pita and a host of garnishes, including tzatziki, hot sauce, and oregano sea salt that I couldn't stop sprinkling on every bite.  Yeah, and I asked for more bread.  It. Was. SO. GOOD.
  • frozen, tiny baklava for a dessert tasting
And after all of that and much, much more...we were incredibly full.  With very happy tummies.  And we had a fantastic wine pairing with all of this, which only made it that much better.  Everything's better when you start with bubbles and finish with a dessert wine that's actually delicious and not crazy-sweet.

OF COURSE I had my camera perched in the seat next to me, discreetly sneaking in shots here and there so I could attempt to remember what we were eating since we ate about eight million things...and then I was politely informed by one of our many attentive waitstaff that Chef Johnny would prefer that I enjoy his food the moment it hits the table.  Basically - please don't take pictures.  Ok, that's cool by me, even though I seriously doubt the food loses any of its deliciousness in the two seconds it takes for me to capture it for posterity and memory's sake.  Upon voicing this ("I really just want to remember everything we ate!"), our kind waiter had Chef Johnny write up the evening's menu for us.  Which doesn't quite cover it when everything is described in one word, but it definitely helps.  Thanks, Chef Johnny!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I'm not on the e-reader bandwagon...yet

I LOVE books.  Actual books.  Not fake pages on a screen that you "flip."  I just can't get into that.  Although I probably will someday.  Sigh.  How long can I resist the iPad when everyone I know is singing its praises?  Craig's had the NOOK (or is it nook?  Or Nook?  I can't tell...) for about a year and is pretty much sold on it, especially when he saw how many books and magazines I hauled around over the holidays to provide myself entertainment.  I think he was a little shocked.  Hmmmm....

I resolve to read at least 30 books in 2011.  And I'm hard at work on this one since that whole "lose 25 pounds" thing is going to test my resolve more than I had hoped.  Sigh again.  So I'll encourage everyone else to get out there and read, too, if for no other reason than it provides an escape from the life of spreadsheets or call center questions or screaming children or whatever it is that's testing you these days.  To that end, here are my suggestions from a selection of the 32 books I read last year.  I kept a list.  That's why I knew how many I'd read.  What, you're shocked?  This is me we're talking about.  Of course there was a list.

I loved these, please read them as soon as humanly possible:
  1. Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  2. My Life in France by Julia Child
  3. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
  4. Travel Writing by Peter Ferry
  5. Naked by David Sedaris
  6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
These were pretty good, too, go ahead and add them to your list:
  1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  2. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  3. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
  4. London is the Best City in America by Lori Gottlieb
  5. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  6. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Rereads for me, prompted by vacation and movie-viewing, that you should go ahead and read for the first time if you haven't already read them, or just skip Harry Potter if you have strong feelings about not reading young adult wizard fiction:
  1. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Girly books that didn't make toooooo much of an impression on me when I couldn't bring myself to read the books I felt like I should read to enhance my knowledge and bucket of cultural reference but that are probably quiet sufficient for a lazy afternoon on a beach somewhere:
  1. The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner
  2. Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
  3. The Other Woman by Jane Green
  4. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES read this crap book:
  1. In the Kitchen by Monica Ali

Here we come a-caroling

Still playing catch-up on the blog, so hope you guys enjoy all of these holiday-themed posts.  At least they're making an appearance in January instead of May or something.  Phew.

My D.C. time is coming to a close rather rapidly, and did you know that while I have done A LOT over the last couple of years, there are still plenty of things that just aren't going to happen?  The week before Christmas, though, I got to check one more thing off the list - a visit to Ford's Theatre.  Now, while I missed the "live historic interpretations by professional actors and National Park Service Rangers" that go on during the day (here's hoping the actors do the acting while the Park Rangers provide info and not the other way around), I did get to do something pretty cool - see "A Christmas Carol" in all of its Christmas wonder. 

Craig and I braved the freeeeeezing temperatures and brutal wind for the short walk from my place to our wonderful pre-theater dinner at Poste, a nifty restaurant located in the original 1841 General Post Office.  We warmed up with some ridiculous French onion soup and other tasty things, then took a quick stroll through the lobby of Hotel Monaco to soak up a little Christmas cheer.

Christmas cheer in place!  Also, bundled up to face the elements
We froze our way over to Ford's Theater a couple of blocks away, where I managed to take my gloves off long enough to snap just a couple of pictures before my fingers froze and crumbled to the sidewalk in a pile of frozen finger dust.  Ok, I still have my fingers, or else these incredible robotic fingers that are fairly nimble when it comes to typing.

One of the randomly cool things you come across in D.C. - old call boxes all over the city that have been painted to reflect something of historical significance in the neighborhood.  It's a pretty cool project!  Obviously, Mr. Lincoln and his untimely end pretty much dominate this block of 10th Street NW.


We got there just in time to sneak in and unbundle ourselves before the show started, so I snapped a few pictures at intermission - the stage all decked out all 1840s London-style and the box where Lincoln was shot:


Just another night at the theater!  Oh, in a theater of great historical significance while being filled with Christmas spirit.  Pretty cool night.  Actually, it was very cold.  But you know what I mean.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Snuggie power!

I think the whole thing was intended for laughs.  But little did Dad know that he was actually planning one of the greatest Christmas presents ever...I mean, an impulse purchase at CVS doesn't usually yield this kind of enthusiastic result. 

I think I've even laughed at other people for declaring their Snuggie love.  I believe a certain Vaughn might have a pink one...but at any rate, I'm now a Snuggie believer.  See below for proof.

Thanks to my fellow Snuggie believer and model for demonstrating its awesomeness.  It's a BLANKET with SLEEVES.  Why didn't I think of this?!?

Double Snuggie-enjoyment by both sis and I (and yes, those are crazy-delightful Santa socks, courtesy of Mom) while I'm attempting to figure out how to actually focus shots with my WONDERFUL new camera lens that the parents gave me for Christmas.  Must learn to not depend on auto-focus...

Getting all geared up for the Tech bowl game the night before - and yeah, I realize I look really tired.  Woke up at 5:15 on New Year's Eve morning to fly back to the D of C, but also determined to make it past midnight.  I'm not THAT old yet.

Zach LOVES the Snuggie.  A LOT.
SOMEONE decided they were tired during the Tech-Northwestern bowl game and wanted to take a nap...which was just perfect for a sneak Snuggie attack.  Oh yeah, and Tech definitely won that game.
Goooooooooo Raiders!  Snuggie power!!
  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Is there anything better than butter and sugar?

That may not exactly jive with the healthy living plan, but just go back in time a little bit, mere days ago, to the festive holiday season and your favorite things about it.  What's that you say?  Snow or time with family or giving and receiving or the general joy of Christmas?  NO.  These are NOT your favorite things.  Your favorite things are fudge and sugar cookies and toffee and cornflake cookies and homemade chocolate covered cherries.  You're welcome.

Sugar cookies are obviously WAY better with festive holiday colored sugar.  Although these sugar cookies don't really help at all because they are ridiculously delicious and I could eat twenty at a time.

The Cookie Whisperer's face of joy as she pulls out a perfectly baked batch.

Yes, I'm aware that I look somewhat ridiculous.  Ridiculous-LY ADORABLE!!  Ok, anyway, it's my grandmother's apron and a crazy elf hat from who knows where, but I can't help but get into the holiday spirit when cookies are around.

There's really my sister to thank for most of this deliciousness.  She's pretty awesome when it comes to baking/candy-making adventures.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Partyin' and chillaxin' in the NYC

Time to catch up on blog-worthy events!  And I definitely consider a weekend in NYC a blog-worthy event, especially when it includes time with my favorite (and likely only - it's a pretty unique name) Gajderoroberts clan AND celebrating upcoming wedded bliss with Dana and her stellar family and friends.  Although there wasn't really much that was all NEW YORK CITY about this weekend, which was a nice change.  I kinda like going to New York with some degree of familiarity and navigating Penn Station with minimal confusion and knowing how to get to various places in the city without appearing totally lost and just spending time with some good friends.  Works for me.
Setting:  approximately three weeks ago.  Not bad considering I've been in a blurry haze for the last month or so.  I blame Craig (not just "the boy" anymore - that's right, he gets a name!).  New York City - multiple boroughs and many train/subway adventures.

Reason:  Dana's bridal shower prompted the trip, and it's also impossible for me to go to that city and miss a chance to spend time with two dear friends and my adorable pseudo-nephew.
Friday evening arrival.  Greeted by friends, cheese, crackers, fruit, and wine.  Living room picnic ensues while cute little one snoozes the night away.  I love our living room picnics filled with tastiness and wonderful conversation.  A lot of life to catch up on in those couple of hours.  Delightful.

In tackling the weekend's events, one must always consider what Mother Nature has in store.  Unlike last year's horizontal rain and crazy random wind tunnels during this time of year, this year we just had...normal rain!  I know, I know, you were hoping for perfect skies and stories of "dreary winter?  what dreary winter?" - but alas, it was not to be.  At least Saturday was relatively weather-free, and I had a fantastic time catching up with Dana and spending some time with my surrogate East Coast family.  Love the Duffins!!  

Doesn't the bride-to-be look festive in her bedazzled sombrero?  I LOVE the sombrero flair!

Most of Saturday was consumed by the epic awesomeness that was the bridal shower and what I'll refer to as the after-party at the Duffin home, and then that blasted rain confined us to the indoors for a better part of Sunday.  Not that I'm really complaining.  I mean, we indulged in Eggs Benedict (homemade!!  way to knock it out of the park, Jason) and oodles of coffee and and spent quality time with a certain cute kiddo and just chilled.  Which was awesome.
So curious.  And adorable.

Ummm...Alan...you're not quite hiding all the way...

I see you!

Did you know you can have the Wii entertain and educate your small child?  How awesome is that?!?  Good work, Alan!
You can get the full spin from the weekend here on Picasa.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sometimes twelve-ish days away from work aren't enough...

...and I'm wishing I had another week of vacation just waiting for me, but it looks like it's time to start 2011 with a bang!  If "bang" includes back-to-back hour-long meetings in the morning.  Shablammy.  But I do have a lot of things to look forward to this year that don't include morning meetings.  There's a whole bushel of life events coming up (you know, minor events like moving halfway across the country AGAIN and starting a new-ish yet kinda old-ish job and GETTING MARRIED and suddenly being WAY outnumbered by males in my household and all kinds of other silly things), and along with those life events, I'm going to go ahead and throw a few resolutions into the mix just to keep things interesting:
  • Lose 25 pounds in the next ten months by actually kicking the healthy living plan into gear.  This isn't for vanity's sake, it's to be healthy.  And to actually fit into jeans that fit a year and a half ago.
  • Hit 100 blog posts in 2011.  I did it in 2009, but not 2010.  And while I won't exactly have interesting DC things to blog about, I love writing and photography and find that this is great outlet for both.
  • Read at least 30 books for pleasure.  I really enjoy reading, and with the insanity of life going on, I don't want to feel like I don't have time for one of my favorite escape mechanisms.
  • Start volunteering on at least a monthly basis.  I signed up to be a leader for Habitat for Humanity about two and a half years ago and politely excused myself from actually doing anything since I was moving.  Oh, like the same organization doesn't exist here.  No excuses this time around.
  • Maintain sanity during wedding planning and remember what's actually important about that day - you know, the whole getting married and committing to each other part.  Although I think good food is pretty important, too.  And I'm sure Craig would agree.
There you have it, kids.  Keep me honest throughout the year.

The angriest Santa Claus in the world and I hope you enjoyed your holidays and wish you and yours the best in 2011!