Party Up

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Once again, back after a multi-week absence. Where to start.... I feel it necessary to do a quick re-cap of my work holiday party.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures there.  I really am sorry about this because there was a lot going on.  I am also really sorry that it took me three weeks to finish writing this.  Since there are no pics related specifically to this, here's a picture of a Christmas tree:



A quick back story: I work for a very large firm with a reputation for throwing really killer holiday parties.  I'd heard about them from employees and a few lucky people who somehow were allowed to attend (this was the first year employees were allowed to bring dates) and L and I were excited to see what they were like firsthand.  (I especially was because this is the first time I've worked somewhere that actually hosted a holiday party.)  Because of the size of my firm, it would be logistically nearly impossible to have one holiday party for all of the employees in the national capital region to attend because there just wouldn't be a place big enough for everyone to gather, not to mention that we have employees coming from all over Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland.  As such, my firm hosted four holiday parties and allowed employees to decide which one they would attend.  My friends all managed to snag tickets to the event in DC, but by the time I logged in to get mine, there weren't any left.  So L and I decided to go to the event in Arlington in mid-December. 

Theme: General holiday festiveness

Attire: Cocktail/black tie (except I didn't believe this for some reason)

The party started at 6:30, but we had a busy day and didn't end up arriving til closer to 9:00 (semi-on purpose - who wants to be the very first person to the work party?? - and semi-accidentally... there was a big Cowboys game on that L wanted to see part of).  The party was in full swing and there was quite a show going on with regards to attire.  Sadly, I followed advice from a friend who went to the DC event that required a business casual attire, so L and I were on the more casual end of party-going attire.  Not inappropriately dressed, I just wished I'd worn one of my more fun dresses.  But oh well!  We saw everything- sequins, feathers, beads, lace, short dresses (like, too short for a conservative company's holiday party), long dresses, tight dresses, full dresses, tuxedos, suits, military dress uniforms... the works.  Seriously, there was some of everything.  Including a dress that wasn't fully zipped up.  And not one of that girl's friends said anything and I know they saw it, so that leads me to believe this girl was okay with her dress being partially unzipped and exposing her bra.  Or maybe the whole group was hammered.  Either is entirely likely.

Anyway, we rolled in to the hotel where the event was, checked in and got wristbands for the bar, and then entered the ballroom to scope out the scene.  The room basically looked like a wedding reception, just no cakes, bride, or groom.  There were food stations scattered around the perimeter of the room and there was a dance floor with a DJ in the center of the room, and instead of the bride and groom's monogram gobo projected on the dance floor, the company logo was projected onto the wall behind the DJ's platform.  Tables with seating were on each side of the dance floor.  When we walked in, no one was dancing and lots of people were sitting down eating.  At this point, I was surprised; there had been a lot of people at the bars, at the check-in table, and at the photo booth, but that number plus the number of people in the ballroom only maybe added up to about 400-500 people.  Not many considering a few thousand tickets were available for this event.  Confusing, but what do you do?  We grabbed food and seats and ate our dinner, all the while watching two middle-aged couples dance on the dance floor.  You know what's awkward?  Two middle-aged couples on the dance floor who are not slow-dancing. 

Eventually we grabbed more drinks and L went to check out the dessert selection.  We both were surprised by the number of people in the hallway and how loud it was out there (it was loud in the ballroom; they were not joking around with the speaker systems).  We decided it was about time to check out what else was going on.  GOOD THING WE DID. 

We walked down the hall and suddenly it opened up into lobby of sorts where there were seriously hundreds of people, all under the age of about 35, milling around talking and getting drinks from the bar stations set up in there.  And then we realized that there was another ballroom.  One where more people were.  One that was twice as big as the room where we'd eaten dinner.  We grabbed more drinks and made our way into the bigger ballroom and it was PACKED.  Every seat at every table was taken and you couldn't even see the dance floor because there were so many people dancing.  It just looked like a billion people packed together dancing and jumping around.  L's assessment: "This is where bad decisions will be made later this evening."  And I know he was so right.  It was the perfect setting for anyone to take action on an office crush.

The people-watching alone in this room was fantastic.  Quite a few tuxedos with ridiculous cummerbunds, military dress uniforms, and dresses that ranged from questionable to truly gorgeous.  The music was super fun - lots of party hits from college and high school, which means late 90s and early 2000s if you don't actually know me.  L almost spit his drink out when DMX's "Party Up" started.  His response upon recovering: "HOW IS THIS AT ALL APPROPRIATE FOR A WORK PARTY?"  A point well made.  My point: no one in that room didn't know that song.  L also was reminded of an important fact about me, which is that I know every word to Mo' Money, Mo' Problems and I'm not afraid to sing it, no matter where we are.  And now, a random picture of people dancing:


So that was my work Christmas party, aka, Stuff White People Like (holiday parties, buffet stations, DJs, cocktail/black tie dress codes, late 90s/early 2000s top 40 rap hits, and the list could keep going but I'll stop).  As white people, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and we're already looking forward to next year.

You know you're looking at a winner (winner winner winner)... cuz I'm a winner, yeah I'm a winner

Check out this fun clutch I won:


It just came in the mail today and I can't wait to use it!  Want one?  You can buy one here.

Another fun discovery this evening is mussels can be really tasty when you make them at home.


I used this recipe and I used half and half instead of heavy cream.  Pretty good!  I might crank up the garlic a big next time and use a little less crushed red pepper, but overall, a nice, tasty meal and inspiring for my first time trying mussels at home.

AND saving the best news for last: some dear friends of ours got engaged!  It's been a long time in the making and we are so excited to celebrate with them when we are all back in town after Christmas.  They are a great couple.  Woo hoo!!  Now I'm off to go deal with laundry and pack for our trip home to Texas.  Christmas is almost here!!!

Country roads take me home to the place that I love: West Virginia...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wanna see like 40 pics of our adventure from last weekend?  Probably not.  You might murder me for making the page take an hour to load in your window. 

Part two of our Christmas appreciation month!  When we got back from our Thanksgiving shenanigans and had had a day to unwind, I asked L if we could take a Christmas road trip to either Williamsburg or The Greenbriar in West Virginia (both known for being completely out of control - in a good way - at Christmas).  He immediately took the lead and started researching what events would be going on in both places during the weekend we'd targeted for travel and came up with the plan to drive to WV and spend Saturday afternoon at The Greenbriar and then head to Charlottesville (about halfway between where we live and White Sulphur, WV - home of The Greenbriar) for dinner and lodging.  People, the Greenbriar = A. MAZE. ING.  I don't really know how else to describe it.  It's just so opulent.  It's like an extra, extra, extra luxurious version of what would happen if The Overlook (the hotel from The Shining) and the "resort" from Dirty Dancing had a baby.  It makes the Dirty Dancing resort look like extra W.T. 

The general decor is modern Victorian chic - think lots of florals and stripes and insane crystal chandeliers everywhere- except an updated version of whatever is in your head.  Pictures online made me wonder if we were going to a hotel that was awesome in the 90s (think Waverly wallpaper, like the kind all over the house in Home Alone) but needed updating but still did an awesome Christmas bit, but that's not it at all.  Like, in the least.  The following is a picture dump of the resort (and I swear I was being picky when I included the ones below... I kind of took a lot of pictures):



The Greenbriar's "hall of fame"; the pictures hanging on the wall are all VIPs who stayed at the hotel.  Also, that hall is not covered in wallpaper; those stripes are all perfectly painted.  And this was a long hallway.

A sampling of their many Christmas trees:








I took pictures of the three bathrooms I visited:





Gingerbread house


  
One of several huge collections of toys for the toy drive.

Gazebo in the casino

Minted hot chocolate (super yum)


Huge tree on the front lawn all lit up.

The Greenbriar, lit up at night.

After we shopped and walked and saw and basically had our fill of The Greenbriar, we headed east to Charlottesville where we stayed at what has to be the biggest DoubleTree in America.  Unfortunately for us, biggest does not mean the most sound-proof, and we were neighbors with the most annoying family IN THE WORLD.  If you have kids, DO NOT LET THEM YELL ENDLESSLY AT 7 A.M. ON A SUNDAY!!  For goodness sake, take them out of the room or just give them something to satiate their needs.  Anyway, we arrived just in time to see RGIII claim his Heisman.  L was walking on air for the rest of the night!  It made an already great weekend even better.  Thanks to our un-awesome neighbors, I was up bright and early at 7 a.m.  L can sleep through pretty much anything so he wasn't disturbed at first, but eventually I had to turn on the TV to try and drown out the noisy kid next door, so eventually he woke up, too.  The good thing is that we were able to get out the door and off to Monticello early, so we were on one of the first tours of the day. 

Back side of Monticello

L and Me in front of Monticello.


Mom asked me what I thought about Monticello... it was nice and I'm really glad we went because it was something I'd really wanted to do since I moved up here, but truth be told, I enjoyed Mount Vernon a lot more.  That may be due to the time of year when I went to MV (beautiful spring day).  I don't know.  Definitely go if you're in Charlottesville because it's definitely cool, but don't expect the most amazing thing ever.

Also, there will be no Christmas card for me and L this year.  I tried countless times throughout our road trip to take a good pic and the one above is as good as it got, and you can't even really tell it's us.  We look like the fluffiest people EVER in all the ones we took at The Greenbriar, and in the other "good" one at Monticello that's closer-up, L's eyes are closed.  I planned to try and take some at my work holiday party, but no dice.  Hopefully we'll do better next year.

Long December

I made the executive decision at the beginning of the month that I wanted to do as much Christmas-y stuff as possible this month.  Because you know, that's fun and stuff.  (Note: L is not explicitly aware of this decision, though he has inadvertently taken part in some qualifying activities.)  Who doesn't love the spirit of Christmas? 

The first weekend's Christmas activity was hitting up JLW's Christmas bazaar, aka A Capital Collection, aka ACC.  I'll be honest and admit that I had high expectations for this event.  I'd missed it the last two years due the fact that it was on a weekend I was traveling for Thanksgiving last year and the year before, we were in Baltimore for my birthday (seeing Jim Gaffigan.  Who is hilarious.).  Add that to the fact that the JL of Austin has an amazing Christmas market (biggest in the country last time I checked and they go all. out.) and you can see how lofty my expectations were.  I assumed the nation's capital would be on a similar scale to Austin's A Christmas Affair.  I met a college/sorority friend there Saturday afternoon and we started hitting up the booths.  Honestly there wasn't much that knocked my socks off.  My favorite Eastern Market jewelry vendor has spoiled me to buying jewelry elsewhere and there's only so many dip and soup mixes that you actually need.  However.  Toward the end of the afternoon, we stumbled upon a booth that had all kinds of hats and fascinators and of course we went to town trying them all on.  Some of our faves:





And that's just the highlight reel.  There were quite a few more that we tried on but didn't take pics of.  If you're ever out shopping with a friend and you stumble upon a bunch of fascinators, do yourselves a favor and stop and try them on.  You'll laugh a lot.

The following week, I met my JLW committee for drinks and our monthly meeting at the Willard Hotel in DC. 


Ever wonder where the term "lobbyist" comes from?  This hotel!  The Willard is right by the White House and apparently petitioners used to hound politicians and/or the president while they were there enjoying adult beverages.  Yeah, you just learned something.  Probably. 

The Willard is kind of awesome on a general basis - there's a great bar and there's always a big event going on no matter what day of the week it is, so the people watching is great.  Even if you're not seeing important political people, you can check out all the pretty dresses when there's a black tie even happening (which is frequent).  At Christmas, they go all out with the decorations.  This is the big tree in their lobby:


I should've taken more pics of the decorations (seriously, they were everywhere) but I didn't want to go all amateur hour and be the annoying girl taking pics of everything.  Tres' touristy.  Instead I just quickly snapped a shot of their gingerbread replica of the hotel itself:


They are not joking around with the details.  When I arrived for my meeting, they had a choir there singing Christmas carols.  Again, would've taken pics, but it seemed all too papparazzi since I didn't know any of the choir members.  Instead I just squeezed by them and headed into the bar.

More yuletide adventures forthcoming.  For now, bedtime.

Party in the U.S.A.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

As previously mentioned, my birthday fell during our holiday jaunt in Texas.  It would've been challenging to bring L's gift with us on the trip in order for me to open it on my actual birthday, so instead he surprised me with my present a few days before we left so I could take my gift with me, if I so desired.  I gotta say, L killed it on my gift this year.  L has a history of giving awesome gifts many years and interesting gifts on some other years.  He's done pretty well for the last few years but he didn't ask em for any ideas or suggestions this year so I had no idea what to expect.  Meet my new friend Stevie:


I was seriously so impressed and shocked.   I did happen to want a new purse, but I hadn't said anything to him about it.  L just happened to take it upon himself to inventory my handbags in my closet and decide I needed a black one.  And then he went and picked this one out himself!  And wrapped it (which was extra cute because it took him several tries with several different rolls of paper; apparently most of the rolls didn't have enough paper on them to cover the whole box).  I was so surprised by the whole thing!  Definitely one of his awesome gifts.  Stevie and I have been inseparable ever since! 

Celebrating with the fam was also fun.  We rolled over to my parents' house on Tuesday and Mom had Sprinkles cupcakes for everyone.  Sprinkles = my fam's preferred purveyor of cupcakes in Dallas.


Dad was in charge of picking up the cupcakes on Tuesday afternoon. Obviously he came back with an extra cupcake for Boomer.  It's just not a party if Boomer isn't included.  If you're wondering why two cupcakes have candles in them, it's because my sister's birthday is a month before mine and Mom and Dad didn't get to celebrate with her, so we frequently do a joint thing for our birthdays when we're all together.  And if you're wondering why the cupcakes have weird numbers of candles, Mom's explanation to me was, "You're 31 so you get one candle.  Your sister is 34 so she gets four candles.  Pretend the extra 30 are there for both of you."  So nice of her to not jam 30 extra candles in our cupcakes! 

Boom loved his cupcake.  Here's a closer shot of our cupcakes together:


The bone on top was pretty cute.  If it grosses you out that our cupcakes were almost touching, I promise it's really okay.  His was just like a regular cupcake, but it was sugar-free and chocolate-free.  Here's Boomer eating his treat:


When you have something that exciting and good, you can't stop and pose for pictures.  You must take it and run underneath the nearest table so that you can gobble it down in a place where no one can reach you and steal your treat.  Totally worth the $2.50 if your pup needs a treat! 

But on the topic of Sprinkles, a word of advice: it's best not to ever place semi-loose cupcakes (especially from Sprinkles) in your purse.  I had a JL meeting and someone brought cupcakes for our whole committee, of which only three people indulged during the meeting.  Consequently, there were 21 cupcakes left at the end of the meeting, so our committee chair told  us all to take one home for ourselves and one for any husbands/boyfriends/roommates.  I grabbed two and wrapped each in a napkin and placed them in my purse.  It was rainy that night and my car was parked too far away for me to carry them down M and keep them- and myself- dry.  I got home to find my top-heavy cupcakes overturned and icing. was. everywhere.  Good thing L gave me my new bag later that night! 

But seriously, don't put cupcakes in your purse. 

Thanks a lot (you don't even know)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We went to three Thanksgiving events this year.  Two were hosted by friends (one here, one in Austin), one was with my entire family.  Both friend functions were standard "friend Thanksgiving" gatherings where everyone brings some kind of dish.  Any time I participate in a potluck event in the fall, I like to make the one dish that we brought to both Thanksgiving events.  I took it to a Junior League event in October that I can only refer to as The F-ing Catalina Wine Mixer (I should have taken pics; that was a funny/incredibly ridiculous story, but I didn't, so you don't get to hear about it).  It's always a hit.  It's a tradition from my family's Thanksgiving (one of my uncles who missed the last 3 Thanksgivings saw them this year and said, "I've been waiting for these for four four years")  that I love to sharing with new people.  It's so good, so easy, so inexpensive, and it's always a hit.  What is it? 


Bleu cheese biscuits.  And seriously, they are delicious.  I've given this recipe out so many times and until recently, none of my friends had made it.  Except one time in college I made them for a friend Thanksgiving thing that I'd totally forgotten about until I was reminded about it, so some friends may have tried them then, so they haven't lived completely deprived lives, which I found comforting to know.

You are in luck, though.  I'm sharing the recipe with you.  Without further adieu, I give you Bleu Cheese Biscuits.

Bleu Cheese Biscuits
What you need:
1 tube of regular-sized biscuits (usually 8 to a tube)
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 Tbsp bleu cheese crumbles

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Pop the tube of biscuits and cut each biscuit into quarters (tip: I use kitchen shears for this; it's just easier to me than using a knife.  Although a pizza cutter might also work well).  Arrange the biscuit pieces in a round pie pan.  Pour melted butter over biscuits.  Sprinkle bleu cheese crumbles over the biscuits (I usually just eyeball this part instead of using exact measurements).  Bake for 15 minutes.

Alternate methods: you can get really crazy and mix the bleu cheese and butter together if you want.  Sometimes I do this; other times I don't.  It doesn't make a big difference.  Also, full disclosure: the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter.  I accidentally used half a stick once and found they tasted just as good and were less greasy (and less fattening), so I always use 1/4 cup now.  However, if you want to indulge, by all means use a 1/2 cup.  That's how my aunt still makes them every year at Thanksgiving and they never disappoint.

Glamorous

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Yeah, so, I'm back after a multi-week absence.  Oops!  In that time, I went with a friend to go see Martha Stewart live and then L and I hit up Dallas (technically three times), Austin, and Shreveport (with two quick stops in Waco); went to a wedding; met three babies; I had a birthday; and we went to three Thanksgivings.  I'd planned to maybe do a post or two on the road but, well, we were a little busy.  This may or may not result in multiple posts about our adventures; I'm still debating on that.

So, Martha.  A friend of mine had an extra ticket and invited me to go with her.  I honestly had no idea what to expect, but I mean, it's Martha.  I knew I was probably going to like it.  I like cooking.  I like entertaining.  I like details.  And I like wishing I had a disposable income that allowed me to throw lavish parties for all the friends we don't have up here.  My friend and I met up for drinks at Round Robin (a lovely place that'll make you feel a bit glamorous, what with your fab drink in hand, people-watching/spotting, and seeing attendees arrive for whatever event may be held at the hotel; on this night, it was black tie and we had fun watching the dresses) in the Willard Hotel before the show (fun fact: that's the hotel where the term "lobbyist" was invented; also, they make a mean sidecar) and then walked over to the DAR Constitution Hall to see our gal. 

 The set where Martha and the interviewer were seated.

Martha has a new book, Martha's Entertaining, and it features parties and gatherings she's hosted in her own homes over the years at different times of day and in all the different seasons.  We weren't allowed to take pictures of Martha, so I just snapped this one on the sly before the presentation started because that's about as sneaky and risky as I was willing to be since I hadn't paid my own way in.


That's the cover of the new book (which is large - you need to like Martha and her style of entertaining if you own this book).  They had two big screens up on either side of the stage and this was what was on them when we walked in.  Someone with the Smithsonian gave an introduction and then Martha rolled out in a rockin' pair of leather leggings and a double-breasted, tuxedo jacket-style top.  Oh, and heels.  I hope when I'm 70 in the year 2050 that I wear something that is equally sassy, stylish, and effortlessly glammed out on a regular basis.  Leather leggings may not be the "it" thing of the moment by then, but I'd still at least be able to kick it in heels.  Also, I will definitely want Martha's hair.  You know how a lot of older women start to get really dry, frizzy hair in their late 50s and 60s and it never goes away unless their hair is professionally styled and then that only lasts like two days?  That does not apply to Martha.  Super smooth, swingy, shiny hair.  I also realize she has an income that allows her to buy whatever amazing products she uses and that those products may likely cost more than our monthly rent, but I hope I can do the same thing when I'm 70.  All I need to do is start a media empire; I guess I should get on that.  I've been putting it off for a while.

Anyway, Martha appeared in all her leather pants/shiny-haired glory and started by giving a talk about some of the parties featured in the book and she showed pictures on these two big screens as she spoke.  I was expecting her to be a bit stuffy and rigid, but she was actually really funny and relaxed.  She shared anecdotes about the different parties and her homes, several of which had the everyone laughing.  That lasted about a half hour and then a curator for the Smithsonian came out and interviewed her (they sat in the two chairs pictured above) for about another 30 minutes or so.  My friend and I both agreed we could have easily sat through a longer interview, but a book signing awaited so that was all we got.  We didn't buy the book and therefore didn't get Martha's sig.  Instead, we just headed home.  Definitely an entertaining hour; if she's coming to your town and tickets are inexpensive, I say hit her up if you like her style.

That particular day was also the day when random men seemed to feel I was approachable enough to ask for directions.  On my way to the Metro before the event and drinks, a SUPER cute guy (where are single friends when I need them?) asked me for directions while I was paying for my parking meter (fyi - if you're ever going to approach a stranger while they have their wallet out, do what this guy did and stand about 5 feet away so that it's clear that you're not going to rob the stranger).  On my way back to McPherson Square, a pair of guys was staring at the Department of Treasury and trying to figure out of it was the White House (if you're not from here - and you probably aren't if you're reading this - it's literally the next building east of TWH and it's so close to TWH that it blocks the view of TWH from 15th Street.  Also, the building looks kind of white-ish gray and has some similar architechture, so the question isn't as dumb as it sounds).  They stopped me and asked me if it was the White House and I explained that it wasn't and walked them around the corner to the actual La Casa Blanca.  Then we all snapped pics. 


They asked for museum recs; somehow in the two days they had been here they'd already hit up the Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, American History, Holocaust, Spy, and Crime and Punishment museums.  I have no idea how it's even possible to do those all thoroughly in that amount of time (except for American History; I totally know how to do the highlight reel on that one in under an hour).  I also don't understand why you'd go to any of the museums requiring an entry fee before you've hit up all the free museums.  DC is expensive enough on its own; why not take advantage of your tax dollars and do the free stuff first??  I gave them my suggestions and then I headed to the Metro, where I encountered all the lovely Occupy DC folks.  So glad that they and a myriad of homeless people are taking over the entrance to the McPherson Square station. 

Best pic I could snap of Occupy DC.  That man crossing the street is not part of the protest, as evidenced by his general cleanliness and attire.  Focus on all the tents behind the cars.  Those are the crazies that think camping right now is a good idea.

People are crazy.  If I were going to be homeless, you know where I'd never pick to live?  ANYWHERE COLD.  Especially anywhere that is cold AND gets snow.  That would apply to Northern Virginia and DC and really pretty much anywhere north of here.  Also I'd probably pick a place that was on the western edge of whatever time zone I was in because the sun is seriously setting at like 4:30 here.  I was shocked when I realized Texas gets at least a full hour more of sun right now than we do. 

And that's it for now.  Expect more posts soon.

Just Say Yes

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Random musings from the last two weeks…


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HSG, got engaged!!! I’m so excited! 2012 is already shaping up to be a year of weddings and we’re still two months away from it starting! Crazy, but definitely fun and exciting. Now if I can just find five minutes to actually meet HSG’s fiancĂ©…

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It snowed here. In October. Unacceptable. And of course it was while L was out of town (in Austin, no less; my blood was bubbling with jealousy already since it was cost-prohibitive for me to be able to join him, and then God decided to play a little joke and throw snow in my face. Too far, God. Too far.). This whole incident really drove home the following facts: 1) I am not a fan of cold weather, regardless of where I live, and 2) Snow really just makes me angry. Like, seriously angry, not I’m-just-a-little-annoyed-but-elevating-it-to “anger”-level-for-attention-or-something. I got home from work on Friday and tried to get the snow stuff out so that I would be prepared in the event that shoveling became necessary. I did a quick glance around the sun porch and didn’t see anything, so that meant it was all in the basement. Which still had a ghetto rope lock on it from the silly hurricane back over Labor Day weekend. That was the annoying icing on my anger cake, because of course crafty L with his Eagle Scout ways tied the most ridiculous knots to keep the whole thing taught and the door closed.* The sprinkles on top of the icing on my anger cake was the massive, dirty spider web that was casually draping across the stairwell and rope system. (Spiders are probably my #1 fear, as referenced here.) I ended deciding to go inside and open a bottle of wine and just deal with rope shenanigans on Saturday morning instead. That was a good decision because after some of my fury subsided, I found the shovels in the sun room. They were hiding behind a sad ficus tree. The snow didn’t start til Saturday, anyway, but once it started, it sure did not want to stop. This is a pic of what it looked like at 4:30 on Saturday across from the CVS I had to run into:


Looks like December or January, right? Right. Cue the anger resurgence. However, my anger ensured I would not be defeated by snow. Mrs. FBI and I headed into DC and had dinner at Oya. Sushi makes most things better. The really good news is that the whole snow debacle was basically like snow in Texas and it all melted within about 30 hours.

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We didn’t do anything for Halloween. No costumes and no big plans. I’ve gotten out of the groove of dressing up for Halloween and doing crazy things in the last 3-ish years. What I still do is decorate the house and OF COURSE I carve a pumpkin. Check out my awesome pumpkin that I carved while on the phone with one of my old roomies:


I got mad pumpkin carving skills, yo. That’s the fastest I’ve picked a design, cleaned out seeds, and carved a pumpkin in my whole life. Last year I swear I seriously spent about an hour trying to decide what to carve. Check out the way her hair is billowing in the wind. The key is the pumpkin carving tool kit, people. Don’t just use your kitchen knives or you’ll end up with a 3-legged cat like I did last year.

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Extreme coupon-ers freak me out and make me feel like an idiot for actually paying for my groceries. So I don’t watch that show. But I do clip coupons that come in the Sunday paper. I’m just not always that good about remembering to use them. I just try and buy stuff when it’s on sale and if I have a coupon and I remember to bring it with me, I’ll use it.


I went to the grocery store a few nights ago and scanned the weekly circular before I went. I made my list of stuff I wanted to get. I took four coupons with me; three were $1 off a specific item and the fourth coupon was for $5 off a purchase of $50 or more. I don’t remember how many items I bought, but the total was $105.20. Then I scanned my frequent shopper card and handed over my four coupons. I ended up paying $65.37. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? I was so proud of myself for saving $40 on groceries!!! (Okay it was $39.83 if you are really doing the math but please throw me a bone and just round up.) It wasn’t even really intentional! I’m definitely not on board with extreme coupon clipping now but it does inspire me to put a few minutes of time into scanning the circular and buying sale items.


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One of L’s good friends, The Professor, visited us last weekend.  We took him out in Adams Morgan on Friday night and ended up at Dan's Cafe, which is a place I never need or want to go to again.  The Professor and I didn't feel so hot on Saturday.  He may or may not have been unswallowing Friday night's fun all day long.  But he rallied and we did end up going out to watch the LSU/Alabama game.  I was proud of him!  Hopefully he'll make it back again in 2012 so we can take him where we'd originally planned to go on Saturday night.

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I knew today was going to be a really good day because on the way to work, I heard Thong Song by Sisqo (who apparently is ended up being gay, a fact which I find quite entertaining).  Thong Song is at the top of my list of "Songs So Funny/Awesome You Can't Not Love Them" list.  Consequently, I present you with a playlist I created today of songs that make me happy:

1. James - Laid
2. Snow Patrol - Just Say Yes
3. OneRepublic - Good Life
4. Florence + The Machines - Cosmic Love
5. Missy Higgins - Where I Stood**
6. Spoon - Anything You Want
7. The Bravery - Honest Mistake
8. Coldplay - Paradise
9. Tom Petty - Learning to Fly
10. Bloc Party - I Still Remember
11. Aloe Blacc - I Need a Dollar
12. Plug In Stereo - Oh Darling
13. Varsity Fanclub - Future Love
14. Michael Jackson featuring Akon - Hold My Hand
15. The White Stripes - My Doorbell
16. Ghostland Observatory - Sad Sad City
17. Matt Nathanson - Suspended
18. Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody
19. The Black Keys - Everlasting Light
20. OAR - Love and Memories
21. Dexter Freebish - Leaving Town
22. Coldplay - Lost+
23. Ryan Star - Losing Your Memory**
24. Indigo Girls - Closer to Fine
25. Dixie Chicks - The Long Way Around
26. Nelly Furtado - Try
27. The Black Keys - Lonely Boy
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Finally, no adult man should seriously drive a "'stang" that has a 1" clearance off the ground.  But just because they shouldn't doesn't mean they won't.
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*Except these weren’t actually even real knots. I know a little about knots (thank you, Camp Fern, for making me take Nature and learn how to tie knots for my advancements). A bowline would have easily done the trick and then been easy to untie. I don’t know what L did but it was not budging. The whole thing is still in place and just looks super ghetto. Or like we’re holding a prisoner hostage in our basement. (Disclaimer: we do not have any prisoners in our basement.)

**Not actually happy songs, per se, but I love them anyway.

Unpretty

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I mentioned recently that Champagne and Sprinkles and I play that name game, "Guess what horrible name/name spelling I just heard/saw."  We also have an ongoing search and debate about clothing items that are so ugly they're cute.  This started back in 2003 with a summery top I bought that really was simultaneously so cute but also kind of ugly (dark green and light green tie dye with smocking and some yellow embellishments).  I remember wearing it to Neredith's house one night and hanging out with the few friends that were either sticking it out for an extra semester or were in town visiting.  It had never occurred to me that my top my be visually offensive to anyone, but when Tiffany saw me, it was clear: she was not a fan.  I thought it was hilarious because her reaction was so strong!  To be fair, it you don't know both of us, we have very different personal styles.  Where she is naturally drawn to turtlenecks, I have an inexplicable affliction for anything tie dyed (hence the shirt in question), ombre, or dip dyed. (Seriously, I will automatically, unconsciously be attracted to ANYTHING that is color-treated in any of these types of methods.  It's like, magnetic or something.  I can't be helped.)

Anyway, I parted ways with the shirt in question when I cleaned out my closet to move to Virginia, but the legacy lives on.  C&S and I have owned many items since then that fall into this category, from purses to shoes to jewelry to articles of clothing.  My latest acquisition is the dress below, which I purchased exclusively for work.  In person, I think it's actually a very flattering cut (despite how the pics make me look - self portraits = THE WORST - I actually think it makes me look SUPER skinny in real life).  The issue is the fabric.  I don't frequently wear prints all over.  I'm getting better but I have a fear that I will look like I'm wearing a muumuu in certain prints. (Side note: sometimes I may have a light case of body dismorphia.  I'm aware I am my own worst critic.)  I also struggle with styling prints sometimes.  They can be overwhelming if styled incorrectly.  ANYWAY, the fabric of the dress in question is also a wretched polyester blend, thus making me wrinkle my nose at it further.  Something about the way it feels or the lining or something always makes me wonder if it's flame retardant or if it would just melt to my skin if I were in a fire.  Because I'm frequently putting myself in positions to be burned alive.  Know your combustible fabrics, people; it'll save lives.  I've been meaning to query my friends about this for a while (like since I bought it last spring) but I never remember to take a pic of myself when I'm wearing it.  I leave it for my lovely readers to decide: sah cute or uggo.  I'm to the point now where I look at the fabric and I just think corporate camo.  But good or bad and regardless of what anyone thinks, it's officially part of my wardrobe.




I got my haircut, so you can kind of see the new length. it took a week longer to get it cut due to my salon inexplixably deciding to close its doors on the day of my appointment (awesome).  Luckily my stylist tracked me down and I was able to reschedule for the following week.  I ended up getting about 4.5 inches cut off. There was sooooooo much hair on the floor.  My head literally felt lighter. Not exactly the same cut I posted in the first haircut post, but close enough.

Celebrate, we will, 'cause life is short but sweet, for certain

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our second anniversary is October 24.  Second anniversary traditional theme is cotton.  But here's the thing: that theme sucks.  So we aren't doing an official gift exchange (yet - the original plan was to do this later on but now I actually think it's just completely unnecessary).  And since the 24th is a Monday, our celebrating took place Friday night.

I like to be surprised on occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries (because hello, I'm a girl and it's frequently more about the thought and effort than the payout).  L's figured this out over the years (okay he knew it within the first six months - I shall wholeheartedly give credit where credit is due) and is very good about planning things and surprising me with them.  Per his instructions, I headed out to Reston Friday after work to meet L at his office and go wherever L had planned.  L gave me one clue about where we'd be going, and that was that we'd be heading somewhere west.  That gave me three ideas of where we'd go: Charlottesville, a resort in West Virginia (yes, there are resorts in West Virginia; weird, I know), or Frederick, MD so we could finally eat at Volt.  L planned a whole evening of surprises, and once we were about an hour into our road trip, he spilled the beans that we were heading to Frederick!  I was super excited.  We are avid Top Chef fans and we've been talking about going to Volt since I moved up here and we've never pulled the trigger.  I was pumped!

FYI- traffic on a Friday night heading out of northern Virginia sucks.  Took forever.  Snacks were involved, but only before I knew where we were going.  There was no chance I was going to lose my appetite and screw up our dinner plans!

So we finally got to Frederick and found our way to the bed and breakfast where we were staying (surprise #2).  We ended up staying in the bridal suite, which I found hilariously appropriate since it was our anniversary.  That really just meant that our room was larger (bedroom and bathroom, plus a sitting room and allegedly a kitchen that was behind a door I never opened).  I have no pictures so use your imagination.  Same typical b&b decor with lots of antiques.  Think Kleenex box covers, crochet bed canopy, and claw-footed tub.  I loved the tub until I took a shower in it Saturday morning and then I hated it.  I seriously never want to shower in a claw-footed tub ever again.  Felt like the shower curtain liners were attacking me (I loathe when shower curtain liners touch me - sick) and the pressure from the shower head was, like, totally pushing me across the tub.  And because of the 360-degree shower curtain liners that were like a cone around the tub, I couldn't escape the water.  At all.  Not on my list of favorite showering experiences. 

But back to Friday.  We changed clothes and walked around the corner to Volt. 



Close-up shot:


We were a half hour early for our reservation so we sat in the bar and ordered drinks. 

Apple cider fizz for me


Manhattany for L (a Manhattan with blackberry liqueur instead of cherry - amazing)

Apparently the Bryan and Michael (we're totes on a first-name basis, now) recently dropped a cookbook that is best summed up as gorgeous. 


We flipped through it while we sipped our libations and quickly discovered that if we owned a copy, it would be a coffee table book.  The gadgets and tools required are not for the novice home cook.

Oh and in case you are not aware, Bryan Voltaggio is the mastermind behind Volt.  And he's also the one who was runner-up in Top Chef.  This astounds me.

Then we were seated.  Surprise #3: we weren't sitting in the main dining room.  We were sitting at a chef's table where we could watch the action in the kitchen.  Our table looked like this:


At the table where we ate, we had the option to pick one of two six-course tasting menus.  We both selected the Kitchen Menu, which was a protein-based menu (versus the Market Vegetable Menu, which was, shockingly, based on vegetables):


I also opted for the wine pairings, because why not?  I'd never done a full meal with wine pairings by course.  If you're at Volt, you might as well go all the way.  L is not a red wine drinker and some of the courses were red, so he opted to stick with the cocktails. 

Then came the food.  Yes, I took pictures (much to L's embarrassment.  Sorry for the iffy quality of everything; my camera battery died as we walked up to the restaurant, so these were all taken on the sly with my phone) of each course.  It's a freaking chef's table at Volt.  We will not be eating like too often in our lives.  Once I pointed that out, L relaxed a bit.  Plus, I wasn't exactly making a scene about it.

First was a trio of appetizers, courtesy of Chef Voltaggio. 

From left to right: beef tartare, duck foie gras bulb, and salsify "oyster".  I think.  I may not have gotten all the words right and I certainly don't have all the details for you.  Everything was delicious.  That goes without saying from here on out.

First course:

Sashimi of fluke


At this point, I actually looked up and saw Bryan Voltaggio plating food and directing his staff.  Luckily for us, we were about 15 feet away and not sitting right next to where he was (I geeked out a bit).  Then he came out and presented a course for the group at Table 21 (there is one "table" that is more of a bar setting where all seats directly overlook the plating area, much like a bar at a sushi restaurant, and all diners in these seats have a 21-course meal.  Think like El Bulle, if you've seen that episode of No Reservations).  Here he is in action:


That giant cantaloupe/egg-looking thing is a celery root.  I don't know what cool way it was prepared, but it was so cool watching him open it.

  
Second course:

Goat cheese ravioli with brown butter air


Third course:

Black bass with nori porridge (porridge is a horrible word; it sounds gross.  I assure you this nori porridge was delectable.)


Fourth course:

Muscovy duck with quince, turnips, leeks, and coffee "dirt"


Then it was time for more pics of Chef Voltaggio in action plating food.  Our food.




Fifth course:

Lamb with Brussels sprouts, farro, Christmas lima beans, and spinach


And now, we break from our current program to be presented with a special course, courtesy of Chef Voltaggio, in honor of our anniversary:

Orange pistachio semi-fredo


And then it was back on track for our sixth course:

Textures of Chocolate (white chocolate ganache, chocolate caramel, raw organic cocoa, and chocolate sorbet)

I also opted for a cup of Voltaggio blend coffee, which was a. maze. ing.  Bonus: totally French press.  So good.

And then, one final plate, courtesy of the chef:

Concord grape fruit gelee, a cookie with chocolate, a truffle, and pineapple fruit gelee

There were fancier, more detailed names for each item, but honestly at that point I'd had six glasses of wine and a cocktail so I'm not a trust-worthy source for the details. 

Then it was time to head home.  We were both insanely full but oh, so happy.  Words cannot express how insanely good that meal was.  I've never had anything like it in my life.  The fact that you can raise the food to your mouth and smell one thing, and then take a bit and taste something totally different, and then, as you chew, the flavors change (sometimes once, sometimes multiple times, depending on the dish), is just so amazing to me.  

Neither of us was hungry for the breakfast the next morning, but since we'd told the proprietor we'd be dining, we felt obligated to go downstairs and eat.  After the worst shower ever, we packed up our stuff and headed down.  Breakfast = just okay.  There were claims of the French toast being "world famous", but I don't see it.  Also L and I were totally not fans of the incessant name dropping regarding Bryan Voltaggio and Michael Voltaggio.  It was out of control. 

Go to Volt.  Eat your heart out.  Totally worth the trip.
 
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