The Year 2010 in Review

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Dear Family and Friends:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!

Another year gone. The past twelve months have been quite the ride, and while I'd like to remember all of it here are just a few highlights:

Countries/States visited: Nevada, Utah (thrice), California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Florida, Bahamas, Wales, Ireland, England, and Italy.

Favorites: attending my first traditional Seder; hiking White Oak in Shenandoah National Park; picking strawberries, blackberries, and peaches; unlimited yoga for an entire month; making my own traditional Afghani kite; hosting a baby shower; a day-trip to Capri off the coast of Italy; reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA); monthly massages (Best. Idea. Ever); Selected Shorts podcast; seeing Trans-Siberian Orchestra live; watching a shuttle launch; Sky Meadows State Park; Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear; live theater; family reunions; falafel; new relationships; and Sunday morning walks.

Not-So-Favorites: going to court; losing my camera; parking tickets (yes, still); anger; shoppers minus their carry-your-own bag(s); and accidentally formatting my SIM card.

I'm grateful for this past year; for its adventures and for its vicissitudes. I appreciate the Savior in my life, He is my constant. I am surrounded, both far and near, with people I love. To be honest, I'm one lucky gal. May your holiday season be filled with clarity, love, and reflections of what matters most.


Holiday Plants: Part II

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Poinsettias scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, which literally means “the most beautiful euphorbia.” We commonly associate the poinsettia with Christmas, but this has not always been true. A native of Central America, the poinsettia grows wild in southern Mexico. It was unknown to Europeans until the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards in the 1500s. By the 17th century, Spanish clergy in Mexico were using the poinsettia in their Christmas holiday celebrations. The plant gained the name “Flor de la Noche Buena,” Or “Flower of the Holy Nights,” because they “bloomed” at the time of the holidays. However, the flowers of the plant are actually the small yellow buds, surrounded by colorful modified leaves called bracts (which are sometimes confused for flowers).

In 1825, the United States sent Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett to be our ambassador to the newly independent Republic of Mexico. Poinsett, a plant collector, explored Mexico’s countryside and noticed a dramatic shrub growing along the roadways and around churches. He sent it back to the United States. As the unusual plant gained popularity, one of the United States’ great historians, William H. Prescott, was asked to give this plant a name. In 1836, with admiration for its collector, he suggested “poinsettia.”

The U.S. Botanic Garden is bursting with this festive holiday plant and the Smithsonian even put together a video celebrating this seasonal beauty.

Holiday Plants: Part 1

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mistletoe has long been associated with mythic properties. It was thought to be powerful because it grows without roots, bears fruits in the darkest days of the year, and seems to appear as if by magic in the branches of trees. We now know that mistletoe is not magical: the plant is parasitic (relying on the host plant for water and minerals) and its seed are deposited in bird droppings on branches.

The mistletoe is
Phoradendron leacarpum which is native to the Virginia/Maryland area and is also the state flower of Oklahoma. It is usually found growing on oaks, elms or maple. For the ancient Druids, mistletoe was the most potent of the sacred evergreens, with sprigs hung over doorways and windows to keep the evil spirits of disease from entering a house. Mistletoe berries were thought to be medicinal, but when eaten they can be toxic. (They are under current investigation for potential as a chemotherapeutic agent.)

The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is attributed to the ancient Norse goddess Frigga, whose son was killed by a mistletoe wood arrow. Her grief was so great that the other Norse gods resurrected him. In gratitude, she declared mistletoe to be a plant of peace, and decreed that people who pass beneath it should exchange kisses.

As the song says: There'll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing, so get out there and enjoy a little holiday cheer!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What do I worry about? You posed this question last night.
I evaded it, as best I could.

What do I worry about?
A lot.
Who doesn't?
And why does knowing what I worry about really matter?
Does it help you know me better?
Does it expound on the complexities of another?
Does it gash open vulnerabilities, raw and exposed?


For starters I worry about the speed of this relationship. I worry that you have expectations of me that I may not be able to fulfill.

For most of my life I've worried that I'll end up alone.
That I'll never marry. That I'll remain celibate and without children of my own.
And because of that, I worry about my commitment to a gospel and a church that celebrates all things family and few things single.

I worry about not being good enough.
Pretty enough.
Intelligent enough.
Conversational enough.
Funny enough.
Daring enough.
Caring enough.
Loving enough.

I worry that I'll spend the rest of my waking hours behind a computer monitor, not doing what I really love.

I worry that I might lose my eyesight or that, like my father, I'll die at age thirty-eight.
I worry that I might one day have to leave my beloved city of D.C..
I worry that I might not travel to all the places I want to before I die.
I worry that my worries are so time consuming and detrimental to my soul.

I worry that, because of all these worries, I'll never be loved.
By myself.
Or by another.

It is a boon to bare.
But cast not away therefore your confidence.*

This is not meant to be.
And so I think I shall worry less.
Because worry is waste and life ought not be wasted.

*Hebrews 10:35


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lately I've been a little occupied.
Occupied in a good way.
And what with all the holiday hoopla blogging often takes a back seat.

On an up note, my greeting cards have all been sent!

Stay tuned for holiday happenings and pictures.

Christmas Classics

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This song comes from one of my favorite holiday movies that features a star-studded cast with interweaving love stories. In addition to Love Actually, some of my other favorite holiday movies include:
It's a Wonderful Life
Meet me in St. Louis
The Bishop's Wife
White Christmas

Now to cozy up with a mug of hot chocolate and homemade peppermint marshmallows

Grateful List: Washington DC Edition

Friday, November 19, 2010

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway.
I love My City.
Love. It.

In celebration of our nation's capital I've compiled a brief list of my favorite things.
Appearing in no apparent order, they are:

  1. Eastern Market
  2. Amsterdam Falafel
  3. Tidal Basin
  4. Kayaking the Potomac
  5. Kennedy Performing Arts Center
  6. National Cathedral
  7. Torpedo Factory
  8. National Arboretum
  9. Kenilworth Aquatic Garden
  10. U.S. Botanic Garden
  11. Hirshhorn Museum
  12. Phillips Collection
  13. Woolly Mammoth theater
  14. Westminster Jazz church on Friday night
  15. Biking the Mount Vernon/Capital Crescent trail
  16. Gravelly Point
  17. Cherry Blossoms
  18. National Portrait Gallery
  19. Buzz Bakery
  20. Mayur Kabob
  21. Restaurant Week (January/August)
  22. Newseum
  23. Shorts Film Festival
  24. AFI in Silver Spring
  25. Strathmore
  26. Woodend Nature Sanctuary
  27. Great Falls
  28. Hello Cupcake
  29. Miriam's Kitchen
  30. Thanksgiving Walkathon
  31. Dairy Godmother
  32. E Street Cinema
  33. Nationals baseball game
  34. Ben's Chili Bowl breakfast
  35. Georgetown Cupcake
  36. Old Town Alexandria waterfront
  37. Huntley Meadows
  38. D.C. LDS Temple
  39. Signature Theater
  40. Library of Congress
  41. UMD food co-op
  42. Bike to work day
  43. Three airports
  44. Crafty Bastards craft show
  45. National Gallery of Art
Whew! That's a lot of gratitude. And while this list is constantly changing, I consider myself beyond lucky to live in a city that I love. 

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Food

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I recently finished reading Eating Animals by the brilliant Jonathan Safran Foer. Understandably food is a delicate issue. No other day-to-day experience is so universal (although one might argue the necessity of breathing). Food is not breath. Food is both communal and personal. Earlier in the year I touted the principles of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (primarily eating in season) in a newsletter for the US Botanic Garden. (After reading that, I gave up bananas.) Each author provides a different angle on the choices they've made. They are food advocate; one a recent vegetarian, the other not.

Approaching the holiday season is an appropriate time to tackle the idea of food gluttony to be more precise. Overindulgence becomes a competition sport. We roll from party to party, noshing on baby quiche, skewering chilled shrimp, and nursing a sugar comma for nearly a solid month. We take plates of goodies to social gatherings and even gift food to friends and neighbors. I'm part of that. I love that. Food is, and always has been, a prominent piece of my life. Shopping for and preparing it. Sharing it. Waxing eloquent (read: conveying guttural moans of delight) to both family and friends. Food is nearly always the first topic of conversation with my family members. Every. Single. One. We build traditions around certain dishes. We relish the stories savored in each offering. (JSF talks to the idea of storytelling and food, providing countless examples that the two are inexorably linked.) Yet this past Halloween I shared in every part of my family's annual holiday meal, except the main dish. I didn't eat it. I couldn't persuade my mother to use a meat substitute, and since I've given up red meat for good, this was the sensible choice on that occasion. And, apart from my mother, no one noticed that I didn't put a heaping pile of goo on my plate. But here's the rub, while I may have given up one animal product, I still eat chicken. I still love sushi. And turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas? Well, they are about as American as apple pie (hold the hot dog please!) and over inflated patriotism.

But something is shifting. When I learned, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that turkeys cannot reproduce naturally I felt ashamed. As I watched documentaries like Food, Inc. and Fast Food Nation I am haunted by what Michael Pollan, another food advocate, calls The Omnivore's Dilemma. Should I care? Does it matter? What choices am I making to make a difference? The scriptures indicate that the flesh of beasts and the fowls of the air, have been given to us by the Lord and are ordained to be used with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly. And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.* The trouble is, this was written at a time when meat was processed more humanly. People knew where their meat came from then. In fact, most of them were the farmers earning their livelihood from the poultry, pigs, and livestock they processed. That doesn't exist anymore. Factory farming is the norm. It turns my stomach and makes me angry. But I still eat butter. I indulge in ice cream and yogurt far too often. I'll never give up cheese. So how do I reconcile being a crusader against meat consumption while still eating products that clearly come from the same slaughtered animals? While nearly half of the year is spent crafting recipes from my CSA and farmer's market finds, when it's easy to let go of carnivorous cravings, I'm standing on the verge. Ready to commit to a life with no meat. At least for now. My choosing to not eat fish and chicken is a personal choice. It's a hard choice, but it's one I feel I need to make. It isn't one I can force on others. It is one I will often have to explain. It is a decision I'd like to talk reasonably about, but it is one that makes people uncomfortable. When I read jaw-dropping statistics, when I look at the giant corporations that are not interested in feeding the poor but turning a profit, when I know that animals don't live a life that they are naturally suited for (roaming, nesting, producing offspring, enjoying fresh air and sanitary living conditions), when I feel healthier eating grains, lentils, fruits, and vegetables, when I know that by abstaining from meat I am not contributing to environmental pollutants caused by factory farms (which produce 99% of all consumed meat), when I appreciate that I actually live in a place where I have the option to not eat meat, when I make amends for the cruelty that I am indirectly responsible for, then it becomes easier for me to give up this temporary sensory experience.

I will continue to struggle to allow other people, who are informed and have the facts, to make that decision for themselves and their families. I will continue to encourage others to seriously evaluate how they vote with their mouths and to make decisions to buy locally and try perhaps only eating meat for one instead of two meals a day or perhaps even eating it only two or three times a week. As I venture into a new world of advocacy I'd like to be open to the possibilities. Open to how this will create a dialog rather than a divide. I'm hoping it will. I am, after all, only one. But one, after all, is one more.

Be Human. Be Touched.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Last week a friend directed me to an interesting article that had somehow escaped my attention. I'm grateful he sent it. Go on and read it, or at least scroll through the images, it'll only take a minute.

"Touching Strangers" is a beautiful concept. The photographer places two strangers in position where they are physically in contact with one another. They sit or stand and then he opens his lens.

I've long lamented, we are a touch-deprived species. This is made more palpable by the solitude of self so prevalent in our western culture. Where else are people so vigilant about observing the social custom of personal space? Where else do people actually step away from you if you dare infringe on that invisible boundary? (Do you step away or do you stay put? I generally stay put.) Touch is something that comes naturally to us when we are children. We are coddled, held, stroked, soothed, washed, and kissed. Not only by adopted/biological caregivers, but often by strangers. Sadly, as we age, this overlooked sense is slowly snatched away from us.

As a single gal it can be hard to fill my weekly, monthly, and yearly touch quota. I don't live in close proximity of family. I don't hug co-workers, mainly for fear of a sexual harassment suit. I don't engaging in promiscuous behavior. So where does that leave me? Monthly massages. Which a degree. Invariably though, I'm left with an insatiable craving for more. More human contact. And while I am not one to claim 'physical' as my primary love language, I am a proponent that there is power in the intimacy of touch. (Confession: on occasion, I have to restrain myself from taking the hand of the stranger standing next to me on a crowded metro. That sounds bizarre, I know. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn't.)

In the early 60s the psychology of the day taught that indulging one's own children with excessive hugs or kisses (meaning more than once a year), was detrimental to their health. One brave researcher, Harry Harlow, studied this phenomenon in monkeys. He proved, in fact, the exact opposite was true. Noting that unconditional love and the craving to be comforted by touch was a necessary part of healthy development.

Images from 'Touching Strangers' indicate that some people are uncomfortable with the idea of touching a stranger; their body language betrays them. Others seem keener to the idea. The temerity of the project is intensified by the composition and color. It is both moving and striking. Reaffirming my conviction that to truly be human, we must allow ourselves to be touched.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens.

-Fay Weldon

A poem.


And more...

All in one week.

Too fast?
Frankly, I'm a little speechless.

More Gratitude Give Me

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I store up my gratitude. It often goes unexpressed. While I may be quick to send a custom letterpress card after a road trip or birthday gift, I forget daily gratitude. We all do.

But today, during this traditional season of thanks, I'm grateful for:
1. A stranger that knocked on my window at a red light to let me know my rear passenger tire was low. Indeed it was. Frighteningly low.
2. Being invited to participate in a diversity focus group on my campus.
3. Butternut squash apple soup.

Being Brave

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last week I sent an email to someone I'd deliberately lost touch with.
It was brief, but conveyed my message.
Mentally I'd been waving an olive branch for far too long; trying to forgive both parties. Trying to let go.
But I could fool myself no longer.I had to make a move.
Had to let him know.
(After weeks of deliberation and consulting with an enlightened friend, I summoned up my courage and screwed it to the sticking place. )

I waited for a response, certain none would come.
It did.
And we arranged to meet.


We meet for lunch this afternoon.
It was awkward at first, but then things gradually warmed. I may have gushed too much; filling in the space of the past two years.
I was happy and nervous all at once.

I'm trying not to think too much about the future.
What could be.
What will be.
For now, I'm just grateful I acted.
For doing something that scared me.
It was a lesson I needed. A moment of clarity.
A place of immutable truth.

Best Volunteer Gig

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's true. I say it all the time. I have the best volunteer gig. Ever. I'm beyond lucky and this little love affair is going on two years now.

(Photographic evidence of my adoration taken this past weekend.)

We are gearing up for a busy holiday season. (The months I garner the bulk of my volunteer hours.) If you've never been to the USBG during our extended December hours—Tuesday and Thursday nights— you're missing out. Make an early resolution to treat yourself to pure holiday magic. Maybe, more than once!

Feeling Art

Friday, October 15, 2010

A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.
Gustav Mahler

Nothing could be more accurate. After hearing the National Symphony Orchestra perform Mahler's 5th Symphony last night, I was reawakened to the inexplicable beauty woven into the masterpiece of each composer.

Music— the expression of what can not otherwise be expressed.

Mahler's adagietto movement was stunning. Then I read the program notes. No wonder. The adagietto was inspired by his meeting and falling in love with the woman he eventually married. At the seasoned age of 41.

I must get to the symphony more often.

Endless Summer Over

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Then, just like that, summer morphs into my favorite season.

As leaves turn to pomegranate, hay, and pumpkin I feel a slight warming of my spirit, even as the weather starts to turn. And while I've been mourning the loss of our generous CSA (which suddenly made Wednesday evening a lot more ordinary), I turned my grief into an inaugural batch of butternut squash apple soup— peppered with copious amounts of my new favorite spice, turmeric.

I would like to think this will be my personal season of change. A season for more love and gratitude. For more tolerance of others and self. For more compassion and grace. The process is gradual and is just beginning to bud. In the end, I think it means I'm on the road to becoming a better version of myself. One that I again recognize and truly accept.

How to NOT be a total schmuck at online dating...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lessons learned from

1. Pictures: I get it, you're attractive. You have a glowing athletic frame. Your ex-girlfriend (pictured clutching you in several shots) adored you. Your Mom loves you. Your dog already appears to be the love of your life. Your abs are so solid you could grate cheddar on them. You have traveled the world (indicated by several landscape only images). Huh? But 25 thumbnails. Seriously? Twenty-Five! Who needs that many adulating portraits?

2. Cliché parade: Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, seems to Work Hard, Play Harder. Which is marred by the fact that the whole lot of you are really laid back. Oy.

3. Girls, Girls, Girls: Call me a girl and I'll cut you. Promise. A gal, sure. A lady, most certainly. A sophisticated intelligent sexy woman, by all means. But a g-i-r-l. No way! I'm not under age 13. And if you really are, in fact, looking for a girl, I'll find you on To Catch a Predator.

4. Naming Names: If your name is Bill, I'm sorry. We are not a match. (Something about a Rodgers & Hammerstein earworm that starts spinning every time I say your name. Like a tree he'll grow. With his head held high...)

Stay tuned for other musing about my latest self-inflicted impulse purchase.

Summer Reading: Final Thoughts

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Summer started with a classic novel, then moved into a fast-paced international mystery (which made me ache to plan a trip to Spain).
Followed, finally, by a collection of this, that, and the other.

On occasion, I get into a reading funk. Does that ever happen to you? Why is that? Fortunately, my funk only lasted two weeks and was shattered by the brilliance of one Anne Fadiman*. Her little book about books was a delicious celebration of language, editing, inscriptions, and reading on location. All in a digestible essay format.

In addition, I've picked up Salt: A World History for the next book club selection and The Story of San Michele, inspired by my trip to Italy (which yes, I do eventually plan on writing about). My hope is, that it will satiate my reoccurring dream of purchasing a vacation home on the intoxicating island of Capri and eating gelato the rest of my days.

*Ms. Fadiman is a kindred spirit and no true bibliophile could argue otherwise.

Wordless Wednesday: Florence

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I returned to an old lover today. He enveloped me in a cloak of green, slightly golden around the edges. Walking over his splintered boardwalk, cattails swaying over my crown. I soaked in the memory of our first cognizance.
I'd left him last autumn, and so I'd returned.

Returned to his beauty. Where I'd seen fireflies and foxes; otters and owls; tree frogs and turtles; egrets and elderberries; wild turkeys and wildflowers.

No bikers.
No joggers.
No dogs.

Teeming with transcendent life, a near silence surrounded me.

I sat.

Just myself and my thoughts.
Hands intertwined, his familiarity felt like home.
A home I'd missed.

And I walked on.

Modern Day Yente

Take two.

Let's see if the electronic Yente can find me a find.
Catch me a catch.
Yadda yadda yadda.

(Golden star if you guess the site I'm on.)

Hosting 101

Monday, September 13, 2010

1. Introduce your guests to one other. (Especially if the gathering is fewer than a dozen.) Otherwise, uhm hel-lo, that's just awkward.

2. If parking isn't obvious, let your guests know in advance.

3. When serving food, especially sweet offering, serve water. At the very least.

Because I'd like to enjoy myself at your next social gathering, I've graciously shared these common sense tips. You're welcome.

Travel Gone Wrong

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Or should I say Photos gone MISSING.

Yes, 1,000+ photos of my international trip GONE.

I'm DEVASTATED, of course.
And it makes me want to write about Italy even less.

Lost bags. Delayed flights. Missed connections. Lost cameras. Unexpected sickness. An Italian ATM machine that stole my card.


I guess that's just part of what it means to be an international traveler.

Ps. The only reason one should ever go to Naples is for Pizza. (Trust me, Naples is not a nice place.) However, they have pizza so amazing that if I had the discretionary funds I would. not. hesitate. to have a Margherita flown to me every weekend for the rest of my life.

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Words: Wisdom

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.

Henry David Thoreau

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Mental Paroxysm

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Living in a city like DC means, among other things, that if you wait long enough eventually all the worthwhile restaurants, celebrities, and theatre productions will trickle down from That City up north. So, yesterday afternoon I arrived early to stand with a crowd of strangers for a chance to snag Pay What You Can tickets to Sarah Ruhl's play, In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play.

After settling into the second row, house lights lowered, I was immersed in a two and a half hour production that left me both exhilarated and exhausted. You see, while the actors were being physically stimulated (with a contraption similar to the one pictured, which I snapped in the lobby during intermission), I was awash in the titillating mental activity of separating the playwright's various themes. Societal expectations of women/men. Science and sexuality. Relationships. (At one point, frustrated by her inability to breast feed her own child, the main female character utters the line: I suppose that makes me an inadequate woman! Which of course sent me into a reverie of what it means to. be. adequate.)

The production elicited layers of laughter. Uncomfortable laughter. Honest laughter. Laughter that then turned to tears. The final scene was a blur of snow and skin, where the two main characters finally begin to break down the metaphorical wall(s) that had keep them relegated to separate rooms.

My only regret? Not having someone to dissect the play with as I made my way home.

Falling In

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It was no coincidence that I saw Eat Pray Love over the weekend. It was just what I needed. A gals night out. Epiphany after epiphany. One hunk of hot gorgeous man. Healing tears. And so forth. (I'll be the first to admit that it's been a couple years since I've read the book, so the translation from book to film might have been a little off. But really, who cares?) It captures the essence, which, to me, was the most important element of the experience.

You see, I'll be traveling to Italy in a couple weeks.
Yes, Italy.

In preparation I've already loaded up with three Rick Steves' travel guides. Seriously, who does that? Really. Do I need three guides for one country? Apparently, yes.

Last night, I came across a few passages from Bill Bryson's chapter on Rome in Neither Here nor There.

Rome was as wonderful as I had hoped it would be, certainly a step up from Peoria. It was everything Stockholm was not— warm, sunny, relaxed, lively, full of good food and cheap drink.

I walked through the gardens of the Villa Borghese, up and down the Spanish Steps, window-shopped along the Via dei Condotti, admired the Colosseum and Forum, crossed the river by the Isola Tiberina to tramp the hilly streets of Trastevere, and wandered up to the lofty heights of Monte Gianicolo, where the views across the city were sensational and where young couples were entwined in steamy embraces on the narrow ledges. The Italians appear to have devised a way of having sex without taking their clothes off...

Having said this, Rome is not an especially good city for walking. For one thing, there is the constant danger that you will be run over. Zebra crossings count for nothing in Rome, which takes some getting used to.

I love the way the Italians park. You turn any street corner in Rome and it looks as if you've just missed a parking competition for blind people. Cars are pointed in every direction, half on the sidewalks and half off, facing in, facing sideways, blocking garages and possible way out would be through the sun roof. Romans park their cars the way I would park if I had just spilled a beaker of hydrochloric acid in my lap.

Even the litter didn't greatly disturb me. I know Rome is dirty and crowded and the traffic is impossible, but in a strange way that's part of the excitement.

Italians are entirely without any commitment to order. They live their lives in a kind of pandemonium, which I find very attractive. They don't line up, they don't pay their taxes, they don't turn up for appointments on time, they don't undertake any sort of labor without a small bribe, they don't believe in rules at all. On Italian trains every window bears a label telling you in three languages not to lean out the window. The labels in French and German instruct you not to lean out, but in Italian they merely suggest that it might not be a good idea. It could hardly be otherwise.

Meanwhile, I'll be doing my best to blend in; looking somewhat fashion savvy amidst all that pandemonium.

Games I Play During My Commute

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

1. Pick the color of the day based off the number of people wearing the same color sitting/standing close to each other.
Today's color: blue.

2. Find someone I know. Either on the escalator, platform, or in my car.
Today's count: 1.

3. Make up life stories about people, based strictly off what they're reading.

4. Count the number of men wearing pink dress shirts.

Today's count: 2

5. Find two people also sitting/standing close to each other, of either gender, wearing nearly identical outfits. (Just watch. You'd be surprised how often this happens.)

Summer Reading: Part Two

This is just a smattering of what I've been reading, as I desperately attempt to reach 50 books in 2010.

{ just finished }

To Kill A Mockingbird by Nelle Harper Lee is the seminal classic I read every August. Why August? Three reasons: I believe one's favorite book should be read annually, it's my birth month and when I received the book nearly a decade ago, the story starts in the summer. For book club this Thursday I'll be leading a discussion about the novel's less transparent themes.

{ also just finished }

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley is just the type of book you can pick up and devour in one sitting. Apart from the pretty book cover, which I believe is a vintage mattress, the book both dispels and affirms the idea that ALL New Yorkers are neurotic. Good thing, otherwise there'd be no stories, or cake, to indulge in.

{ trying to currently read }

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton is one of those book club suggestions that I immediately feel guilty about for NOT having read it yet. Unfortunately, the tedious high society characters make it even tougher to find a compelling reason to finish. (Side note: NOT finishing a book also induces large quantities of guilt in my bibliophile DNA.)

{ started this morning }

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson is all kinds of funny, one I'm not certain is commute appropriate but is engaging enough to keep me up to the wee hours of say 11pm. Oh, and his sentiments about carrying a backpack the size of a horse...yeah, I get that.

{ up next }

Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk by Tony Dushane came to me through another blog post. I have a sneaking suspicion that the overly zealous adolescent protagonist might unearth repressed memories of my own overly-religious formative years. To that I say, bring it.

Piccolo vestito nero.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Every woman needs one. A little black dress. In this case, I've been on the hunt for a LBD suitable for travel. (You know, something I could wash in a sink and wear over and over and over. More importantly, something for my upcoming adventure.) And can I just say, this dress is perfect. Perfect. It's lightweight, comfy, has a hidden zipper pocket on the right hip, a built in camisole, a pleasant slimming effect, and can be worn in endless cardigan/t-shirt combinations. I'm tempted to get one in port.

Having My Cake

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Turning a year older, especially entering an age bracket reserved for ostracized single LDS folks, can be traumatic. And while I've always loved my birthday (Loved that having it in the summer meant no school. Loved that, growing up, it was tradition to enjoy the same special Mexican meal— taquitos, refried beans, and rice with generous amounts of homemade guacamole. Loved that pool parties and piñatas were usually involved. Loved that I got to share the exact same birth date with my dearest best girlfriend, which we discovered when we just 12. Loved that multiple celebrations were the norm.) I broached yesterday's anniversary with a little more trepidation. You see, I wasn't ready to blow the candle out on another wish, the same wish I'd been making for years, only to have it fade into oblivion.

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Truly. It was a luxurious extended weekend, which included a road trip, a day off work, and some cathartic morning yoga. I received phone calls from two women I admire more than I can say. I arranged my own little gathering and baked a chocolate-chip zucchini cake with loads of chocolate frosting. I enjoyed the tactile sensation of opening actual greeting cards. I had a heart-to-heart with my recently married friend after all the other guests left. And when the group gathered to sing the usual birthday anthem, I smiled into their shining faces, thanked them for their friendship, and didn't blow out a single candle.

Weekend in Pictures

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: Shadow of the Wind

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Set in Barcelona just after the second world war, the novel begins in the cemetery of forgotten books, where Daniel, the young protagonist, eyes the spines of thousands of books in an effort to restore one abandoned title to its rightful reader. He selects Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax. Instantly, Daniel is thrust into a mysterious plot spiral, where he is pursued by a mirage-like, disfigured individual who is after the book he refuses to let go of.

Complete with unrequited adolescent love; floundering fisticuffs and outright violence; mansions in disrepair; an array of complex characters (the most endearing of which is, Fermín Romero de Torres, a tawdry transient whom Daniel befriends and who then comes to work in his father's bookshop); familial relationships and the never too trifle theme of enduring love.

I loved this book because it was really a novel for bibliophiles. (We'll be discussing it tonight at book club.*) In addition, there's something immensely rewarding with a book coming full circle as it wraps up the story line. It's a wonder that such a gem escaped me all these years. But now that I've read it...I can't recommend it enough.

My rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

*Especially interested to discuss Zafon's schizophrenic depiction of women characters throughout his novel.

Six bajillion times more effective.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Remember waaay back when I assembled a list of 30 things to do while I was 30? Well, I kind of fizzled on my list around Snowpocalypse. Just ran outta oomph. However, I didn't want to abandon my list altogether, which is why I gave myself permission to make changes. Which is just what I did. Looking back, I have enjoyed many memorable moments over the past year.

So, without further adieu, here it is: my modified and nearly completed list.

* Climb the National Cathedral steps
* Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at night
* Maryland Renaissance Festival
* George Washington's Old Grist Mill
* Free summer Saturday @ Corcoran Gallery
* Read Atlas Shrugged ✓
* Soar to the top of the Empire State Building
* Visit dear friends and Yosemite in California

* Pay off credit card debt (closer)
* Experience a traditional Sedar
* Day trip to Fallingwater (July 31...anyone in?)

* Abandon DC winter for the Bahamas
* Hike Old Rag
* Bike to work
* Spend a Saturday biking Martha's Vineyard
* Washington Printmakers' Gallery
* Monthly visits to Miriam's Kitchen
* Nationals game
* Transcribe Dad's journal (in process)
* DC Roller Girls
* Watch Meryl Streep bake croissants
* Tangier Island
* Visit the Lake District in England 
* Stargazing
* Start the New Testament
* Phillips Collection
* Join a CSA
* Outrun the changing of the Guard on Britain's Mall (pronounced Maw)
* Day trip to Longwood Gardens

* Fall in love...WITH MY LIFE

How about you? Have you set and accomplished any meaningful goals over the past year? 

What's on your list NOW? Let me know if you've borrowed from my list, started your own list, or been inspired by someone else' s list.

Lessons Learned

Friday, July 9, 2010

In the past month...

1. Always, always, ALWAYS spend that extra $40 bucks on travel insurance. Trust me.

2. When buying electronics, ALWAYS keep your receipt. Seriously.

(Alternatively, not that I'm condoning purchases at Big Box stores, just make your small/large electronic purchase at Best Buy. They found my three-year-old receipt in about three seconds.)

3 Reasons I'll Never be a Vegan

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

1. Ice cream

2. Yogurt

3. Cheese

Golden Valley

Thursday, July 1, 2010

There is a scene from one of my favorite films that has been replaying in my head
for the past month.

I use to watch this film on an annual basis. It was my emotional catharsis. 
You see, I needed this film. It both shook and shaped me.
I internalized and identified with the characters.

On two occasions I even played portions of the film for different academic audiences.
It wasn't a box office sensation. In fact, few people had actually see,
much less heard of it. (Which was, after all, fine by me.)
Because in a strange way I felt I owned this cinematic experience.

While I can't recall the last time I watched (read: wept) through this film,
I've been experiencing the visceral reality of this moment.
Again. And again.

-You happy?
-What kind of happy?
  Just happy.
-You know my kind of happy? 
  How stupid. I forget. When you ask a question, it means you have the answer waiting.
  So go ahead, tell me.
  Come on.
-I'm not telling you now.


-You know, I don't want to be somewhere else anymore.
              I'm not waiting for anything new to happen...
              not looking around the next corner and over the next hill.
              I'm here now. That's enough.
 That's your kind of happy, isn't it?
- Yes. Yes, it is.

Perhaps I'm beginning to understand the significance of that moment.
This moment.
Living in the NOW part of things.
Not waiting.
Not looking.

It's a process.
A process that, for me, is beginning to unfurl in an unexpectedly beautiful way. 


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

About a week ago I was feeling brave. So, against my better clear-headed judgment, I decided to venture back to the site of my past experiment.

It was simple.
Update my profile.
Plunk down a few bucks.
And venture forth with new found optimism.

Today I met Walt.
As in 'Captain! My Captain!'
His profile seemed normal enough, so I sent him a brief note.
To which he promptly responded.
Good sign, I thought.

I sent him another note.
To which he responded, "I want to let you know I have a panty [sic] fetish."


You would think I'd have learned.

Ps. I promptly blocked said offender and reported him as a non-compliant LDS dating site ruffian.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Ever feel like you lost an entire week of your life?
That was me last week.
All week.

What with all the international cavorting my body was bound to put the breaks on at some point.
It did.
And did it ever.

I'm grateful I had that week of wretched human frailty, because today I got up and could breathe.
Could resume my morning walks.
Could swallow without pain.
Could put away the little packs of tissue and giant box of Sucrets.
Could feel life restored.

And for all these little things I feel immensely grateful.

Walking Wales

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Highlights from a 10 day visit to Ireland and the UK as recorded during my visit.

This morning started off with a traditional Welsh breakfast, no blood sausage—which I did try in Ireland—complete with a rather peculiar piece of bacon that had the body of a spiral ham and a trace of a bacon tail. Same animal, so I foolishly thought it made little difference. Au contraire. Our dinning room companions were quick to inform us that Brits could never find passable bacon in the states. Little wonder since it was a bit of an anomaly even for my palate. And the toast? Well, I nearly choked on my toast; which was served on a little silver drying contraption. If you ask me, I'd say it was near lethal.*

Thoroughly stuffed, our driver (the husband/owner of the Ingledene B&B) dropped us at South Stack, a lighthouse not far from where we were staying. We descended several steps hoping to climb the 200 steps to the top of the lighthouse; only to discover, half-way down, that the gate was closed. No entry. A tad dejected, we turned around and headed back to the top. Apparently we had arrived a little too early for opening on a Bank Holiday.

The remainder of the day, a little over five hours, was spent along the Coastal Path trail. A walking/hiking trail that hugs the shoreline and runs the entire diameter of Anglesey. We, of course, only needed to find our way back to the B&B, so we set off in search of a bright ambling adventure surrounded by tufts of pink seathrift, dancing yellow buttercups, wild roses, queen annes lace, delicate white and lavender orchids under food, meadows of fragrant grass, a yew like shrub that donned a small yellow blossom and emitted a cocoa butter fragrance, and salt sea mixed with whiffs of warm allium. It was the melding of springtime under a canopy of sunshine and a smattering of clouds. More perfect conditions could not have been had.

Along the way we saw gulls, razorbills, and vigilantly looked for one of only 12 pairs of nesting puffins; talked with amiable volunteer guides; took a detour down to a rocky beach strewn with bottles and debris; side-stepped giant cow pies and walked alongside herds of munching bovine; passed through a series of wooden gates; climbed stairs attempting to stay along the barely visible grass-trod path; slung legs over stone walls and continued on through a tidy trailer park; greeted fellow walkers; dodged a growling canine; came upon a little red sailboat atop a giant sea of sapphire; stopped to drink in the wonder of it all and tried, in vain, to capture the sublime beauty in a few pixels. It was impossibly gorgeous and I think (nay, now know) that I shall cherish this day as one of my favorite memories of the entire trip.

*My traveling companion wrote a thorough exposition on all of the food we ate. A salivating salute to be sure. However her blog is private, otherwise I'd let you read more about all the other delicacies we dinned on.

Ireland: Temple Bar and Trinity College

Highlights from a 10 day visit to Ireland and the UK as recorded during my visit.

From Dublin airport I managed to navigate us to the 16A bus, heading towards the City Center. Our purpose: locating Abigail's, an urban chic modern hostel, located in the heart of the Temple Bar neighborhood. (I'd been informed it was the place to stay, and indeed it was.) The district was a buzz of pubs, bridges, and local color mixed in with a good deal of tourists. At night, the faint street sounds and pulsing music drifted up to the third floor of our hostel windows.

Day two: we started off the morning at Trinity College, arriving so early that we ended up doing a little self-guided tour before our official tour with Jack, a college junior studying law and wearing the most striking Kelley green socks, started. He lead us through the four main squares of the school that started in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth II. (A little ironic, considering women weren't allowed to attend the college until 1904.) I adored how walkable the entire tour was and indeed the entire capital city. We ended our tour at the Book of Kells—a manuscript like none I'd ever seen— known for its exquisite calligraphy and ornate coloring, that mirrored the intricacies of Japanese artwork. As I hovered over the small glass case in a dimly lit room, I tried to imagine handling the vellum of the rebound Gospels, wondering how it would smell, trying to soak in the moment of being in the company of such an extraordinary book.

The tour ended after a visit to the Long Room, where I stood at the entrance struck by the shear awe of the moment (a reoccurring theme throughout my trip). I stood, gazing up at the long barrel ceiling and old folios arranged only by their size. Like the Gods in their heaven, researchers peered down in silence from their upper perch . It was dim. Musty. Marvelous. The perfect amalgamation of the tragedies and triumphs of the Irish people.

Wordless Wednesday

CSA baby

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Early spring, back when the weather still teetered between the brutality of winter blasts and the hope of a new beginning, I started exploring the option of buying into a local CSA. It was an exciting prospect and since I already had the longstanding summer tradition of weekly trips to the Farmers Market (either the Downtown FM in SLC, Penn Quarter, or Old Town Alexandria), it just made sense. Both to my palette and my wallet.* So, I asked a dear friend to split the cost of a full-share for a total of 16 weeks, making us the proud parents of a CSA baby. My first!

I give you: Potomac Vegetable Farm Share, Week 1.

(From left to right: sugar snap/snow peas, eggs, beets, oregano, chard, dill, huge lettuce head, kohlrabi, garlic curls, and buttermilk bread.)

*In truth, the cba of this venture will likely be a wash...since I'll still need to supplement with fresh fruit and cheese during my weekly outings.

Summer Reading

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On page 14, after relishing this passage, I knew, instantly, I would love this book.

"The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep."

And you?
What's on your summer reading list?

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