Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things I made - the orange and pink edition

Our bags are packed (again) and we're rushing off to Las Vegas (with bonus Grand Canyon visit) after work today. I have one billion things to get done, so no real blog today. Just the promise of updates from Vegas, Charlotte, being 29, and my garden.
Speaking of my garden. Look at this gorgeous monster.
No filter (why would you filter perfection)
My dahlia looked totally dead in mid-August, but with some serious patience and love, I came home to this gorgeous bloom on Monday. I am not often proud of myself, but I am seriously pleased as punch about this gorgeous lady.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

TYOE: Maryland (part 2)

More eating recommendations for any time you might spend in the Fredneck/MoCo area.

Isabella's has an amazing lunch tapas special. 3 ladies x 3 plates each = all the fried asparagus. Their plates are generous and delicious anytime but lunch seems like a no-brainer.  

Bonus points for popping into Muse, across the street, and buying a beautiful handmade stuffed animal for one of your besties, or any of their other amazing locally created trinkets and delights. 

I do not spend a ton of time in Charlestown, West Virginia but my favorite little monsters (ages 4 and 6) live there, and I have it on good authority that they are pizza experts, and they eat Papa Johns. So, clearly Papa Johns is the best in the biz, with a little Yellow Tail Shiraz blend for the grown-ups, hello Tuesday night.

Side note: this was the first time I have gotten to hang out with these kiddos in about three years, just us and not our entire enormous, loud, crazy pants family. It was so wonderful even though they are quite simply, the rottenest. 

I have a crafted a theory about the restaurants Voltaggio after having eaten at all four.

If you are looking for a fancy, lets impress everyone meal - you go to Volt. If you want to do this and have it not be an incredible strain on your wallet, you do it for brunch. 

If you are looking for a delicious dinner that will make everyone happy - you go to Family Meal. You make sure you have at least one order of duck fat fries for the table (maybe two if some people skipped lunch), and you order the fried chicken. Let your friends make their own choices, but don't mess around with this, it's fried chicken or its pack it up and go home.

If you need a sandwich, go to Lunchbox (duh). 

If you are just looking for some short eats and a craze-mazing cocktail, you go to Range. Having eaten dinner at Range, I can tell you it is not worth it. The price tag on a meal that makes you full is steep, and for the quality of food, impractical. We had some amazing bites, but that only made the bad ones all the more obvious. Get the rockfish, and the sunchokes, and anything that you can smear bacon relish on. Get a drink, be brave and order something with at least one word you don't know, and then be done.

When Congress continues to deny you buttermilk fried alligator bites, Good Stuff Eatery is getting all the sloppy seconds by way of some realdecent cheeseburgers. Get a milkshake, because you only live once. If you see Barack Obama there, tell him Rachel says hello. 

Pacifico has sangria. Apparently they have food too, but after all that cheeseburger, sangria is all you need to spend an afternoon catching up with your friend-who-is-family.

When you find out your 21 year-old sister has never eaten Greek food, lament her entire childhood being spent in Western Maryland, and then head to Ayse (pronounced Eye-shay). You must get the Brussels sprouts. This is not a negotiation. These are world champion Brussels sprouts. They are so freaking delicious. Get two, who cares, they're a mystical, magical vegetable. Then whatever other Greek food you need, which is mostly just lamb and cheese on fire.

For your final meal, you convince your Granny to take you out to lunch, and really the only acceptable place is Clyde's. Cross your fingers for seating in the hunting room and enjoy the bizarre placement of this kitschy Adirondack lodge in the middle of sterile, boring Montgomery county. Get whatever you want (a crab cake). Thank your grandmother for lunch and for telling you about all the ways you could be a better granddaughter. 

And then as you're leaving, get Chipotle at the airport, because there is a chipotle at the airport. God bless you, BWI. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TYOE: Maryland (part 1)

When in Maryland, you should:

Make sure your flight is as late as humanly possible so when you collapse at the Hyatt House (which is technically in Virginia) it's the best bed you've ever been in. Bonus points for the free breakfast including omelet bar.

Go when the government is shut down, essentially ruining all of your well-made plans (to go here for the best lunch and here for the cutest panda). 

End up driving around historic Annapolis just enough to be mad that its raining and you can't find parking. Get your perfection-on-a-bun crab cake sandwich and some cookies at Chick & Ruth's. Take them to the movie you are 15 minutes late to (in Maryland, crab cakes can be brought in anywhere).

Try to get on the Bay Bridge at 4 pm, on a Friday, before a three-day weekend. Take back roads, feel like chump (yeah, a chump that didn't sit in two hours of crawling traffic).  Arrive at your lovely Aunt & Uncle's house for amazing BBQ from Em-ings).

Go to a backyard Maryland wedding, one chock-full of love, and family, and bliss. One where a flooded backyard is not a cause for crisis, but just moving the tent across the street. Get muddy, drink a little too much, eat all the crabs. Drive through a foot of water (the tide is in, duh) to stay at this crazy lodge. Celebrate two really fun people and the villages that made them so great. Steal sea glass off all the tables at the end of the reception. 

Drive forever. Listen to as much Mike and Tom Eat Snacks as you can. Make sure you get stuck in beltway traffic ruining any nap-taking plans you might have made.

Watch one of your forever friends get married. Be rescued from a stink bug by your 8th grade English teacher (who is also the mother of the bride). Sit at a table with people you've known for almost 20 years. Be overwhelmed at the amount of love you have experienced. Eat a cupcake. Ponder all the delicious cupcakes eaten in the past 48 hours. Feel lucky that you know people with good taste in baked goods. Dance. Sing. Skip the after party. 

Crush the free Holiday Inn Express breakfast buffet. Twice. Day drink and reminisce at RFD. Drink more at Del Frisco. Break into some National monuments. Take pictures with the nice police officers who won't let you break into others. Sit on Einstein's Lap. Celebrate the city that feels like it has always been yours. Eat a pretty good eggplant sandwich with your Dad. 

(This trip was 8 days long, which is too long for one blog, more yummy food recommendations tomorrow).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Quick note on routine

I haven't been on a train in a week, which is one of the reasons for the sudden absence. When you make a routine, all parts of the routine are required. For me, writing blog posts, in the morning, on the train required all of that.

Instead, I've flown into Virginia, criss-crossed the entire state of Maryland, regained my rightful title as Best Cousin in West Virginia, and had several boozy, slightly illegal adventures in DC. 

But today feeling the overwhelming need to commute (and wanting to get into DC without sitting in traffic) I took the train and had my first routine blog. 

It looks a little different here: 

It makes for a nice change. 

Real blogs start again on Tuesday. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Don't Pull

I hit my wall.

After running on Dr. Pepper Ten fumes and my all-consuming fear of failure for the past three weeks, last night, I could not do it anymore.

So I went to bed, hoping I would wake up magically better or magically with all my tasks complete. 

Quite obviously, neither of these things happened. So I am force to keep running up against the wall, pushing it with my weak, flabby arms and the promise of being nothere in just 48 hours. 

Push on.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Five years of this.

We don't celebrate anniversaries.

We celebrate sandwich Tuesdays 
and Bike Accident day
and the weekends when all our favorite teams win.

We don't do presents.

We do far away adventures
and close to home adventures 
and drive through the night because we forgot to book a hotel room adventures.

We don't do flowers.
Because if you tell a guy once that you don't like flowers
You will never, ever get flowers
(Lesson learned).

We do:
Late nights on the couch.
Breakfast in mugs.
Bad fights that end in huffs.
Joint travel anxiety.
Walking far.
Staying in. 
Being scared.
Providing comfort.
Beer with fruit.
Shoes everywhere.
Bad photographs.
Good bits.

Here's to five years of whatever this is, and whatever it will be. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Sunday Wellies Love

On Sunday, my green Wellies and I made it through the rain and the last minute sprints across the quad with a ribbon fluttering behind me and the volunteer scramble and the medal ceremony where we unceremoniously switched someone's gender, and the out-of-tshirts and the too many bagels and the moment where the sky got blue and everything was great and the "thank yous" and the "you did it's" and "how does it feels" and all the mud that ever was.

Thank you green Wellies. For a final hurrah, we knocked it out of the park. 

Friday, October 04, 2013

Another Year Pt. 1

Its my birthday month! I don't like to celebrate my birthday as much as I just like to take time to think about how amazing it's been to take yet another trip around the sun. Here's the unfinished post I wrote last year. It is absolutely still true. Get ready for a weekly birthday post for the next few weeks as I prep for the last year of my 20's. 

I feel like I talk about traditions a fair amount. I don't know why, per se - but as I grow up and my life extends outward, I have found that traditions, both old and new, help keep me centered and inspire moments of reflection of how lucky I am in this little life of mine.

Sappy? Yes. But true.

Today is my birthday. I am 28 years old. Its a mellow birthday. I am easing into my late twenties slowly and quietly to avoid pulling a muscle. But luckily - slow and mellow is my favorite part of my newest birthday tradition.

For the past few years I have had the luxury of knowing when I wake up on my birthday that the day is mine and I can do whatever I want with it. If I want to carpe it. I can. Or I can curl up with a good book and let it wash over me. Most years it's been a little bit of both. But the rule is - no plans and no requirements beyond being happy.

So this year it was free donuts (guys, Beaver's Donuts gives you a free half dozen on your birthday if you can track them down. Fo' realz. Plus they give you a hat!)

...and coffee with Boyfriend who had raced back from a work trip to Kansas to spend the morning with me before giving me a kiss and promising dinner and presents.

Then a trip to anthropologie, a visit with one of the most important people in my Chicago-life, and now a moment at home to eat eggs and toast and be happy for all I've got.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Thursdays best Internet finds - the grass is greener edition

When I say my life is at Def-Con Bravo stress levels, that is only a gross over-exaggeration in that my job has very little impact on the world. It is stressful because I am bad at managing stress. I am particularly bad at managing stress that comes from things out of my control. I am stressed, but only because I am terrified of failing and I am leaving my success up to others.

That being said! One of the ways I deal with stress is thinking about all the other things I could be doing. I dream about other places, other careers, other whimsical things that strike my fancy. 

One of my favorite stress-relieving day dreams is here- at Longest Acres.

Reading this blog is like talking to the coolest girl you know who also happens to be the kindest and the most badass. Except she is a stranger. But I think we would be friends. Right? How creepy and stalker am I? I want to steal your life and be your friend. Yikes.

Her life doesn't sound perfect, in fact it sounds like it comes with all it's own stress and anxiety, but at the end of the day, when I have been sitting at a computer for 12 hours trying to make bagels appear out of thin air- it's the simplicity of her life that makes me so envious. 

It's not something I could sustain but to escape to a place where you get to control everything and find pride in that sounds pretty awesome. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Brain waves

I have said it a million times, but I am not being facetious when I say that Boyfriend and I are up most nights until at least midnight working. And there are bonus all-day-Sunday weekend additions too.

When there isn't football on, and we haven't devolved into being too zoned out to turn it off, the TV is on, to give us some semblance of just being two normal not-overachieving people. 

For the past month or two we've been watching Arrested Development, from the beginning, six or seven episodes at a time. Last week, on the orders of all of my Facebook friends, we added Broadchurch to the mix.

You should watch both of these shows. They're both amazing. If you're like me and never got around to AD when it was on- carpe the Netflix.

Broadchurch may require your local Internet dark alley, but it's so worth it. A stunning sea-side, small town with gorgeous cliffs and vistas is really the only place to set a show as gut wrenching as this one. So that people can have the mixed emotional response of, "I am so sad and this is so awful, Oooh I really, really want to visit this, why don't our sad things in real life have beautiful ocean-reflected sunset lighting them?" 

For a few days we were watching both Arrested Development and Broadchurch back-to-back because variety is the spice of any life that is devoted to spreadsheets. 

Those were the nights of the most bizarre dreams. In a weird, sick way, my brain found a way for these shows to fit together and the result was unsettling. 

So, for me, it's back to eight hours of West Wing back to back when I need to get my work done. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

My childhood with Marcella

Once upon a time. When boyfriend was not quite boyfriend yet, just a boy who made my chest hurt, he was trying very hard to impress me.

We were swapping memories and I told him I was going to make him one of my favorite meals from childhood - pasta with bacon, peas and ricotta. He said it sounded gross. To which I replied, you sound gross. 

In an attempts to win my affection, boyfriend went to the store to purchase all the things I said I needed for this meal.

"Why did you get black-eyed peas?"
"For your thing. You said you needed peas."
"Yeah. I need peas. Actual peas."

In an attempt to look like I handled crisis and change well, I went ahead and made the dish with the (eventually very incorrectly cooked) black-eyed peas.

When we sat down to eat, I could barely hold back my emotions.

"This is kind of ruining my childhood."

He stoically ate all of it, leftovers included.

Eventually, I must have made the dish correctly for him, and he was not impressed. He said he couldn't really taste the difference between this and the other version. 

Once again emotions rose up in me and I tried very hard not to punch this still-not-boyfriend in the nose.

This dish, and many others that came from the pages of Marcella Hazan's kitchen were such huge parts of my childhood happiness, it was hard (still is hard) for me to understand how they don't evoke the same emotions in others.   

The food of Marcella Hazan is the food of my favorite memories. This dish of everyday-excuse-for-bacon joy, rice salad of Nantucket summer nights, pasta al forno (with homemade bolognese) for birthdays and welcome homes. Any and all of these things, eaten the next morning, a bonus dinner for breakfast treat.

Boyfriend managed to stick. So did these meals. Every one now cooked in my kitchen too. 

Thank you, Marcella, for a delicious life.

Other people wrote about her too: In the New York Times, and the New Yorker.

Pictured: my first ever made all-by-myself pot of Bolognese.

She's pint-sized and amazing.