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.

Sugar, oh honey, honey

Friday, October 21, 2011

Topic of discussion around my office this week: best and worst candy to get trick or treating.  Lots of runners up for best!  Our manager whipped out a massive bag of SweeTarts and among them was one that 90% of us agreed was totally on the Worst list.

What do you think?  Love them or hate them?  What did you love getting as a kid and what did you hate??

Who wears short shorts?

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's the end of another Monday.  Weekends are just never, ever long enough.  I have nothing to complain about, though.  The biggest problem we're having in our house is that L refuses to stop wearing sear sucker shorts.  (Seriously, this actually is a problem.*)  We're in the latter half of October in what is apparently referred to around these parts as an Indian summer (read: temps in the low 80s).  Temperatures like this must be celebrated and wholeheartedly embraced! 

Our one big event for the weekend was one particular football game.  We mutually decided it would be best to watch the A&M/Baylor game (aka, the last football L-Squared Bowl for the foreseeable future) separately with our own respective people.  Honestly it was for the best and you'll just have to trust me on that.  This is not where the sear sucker happened.  It was not quite warm enough when we left the house that morning for shorts.

The sear sucker happened Sunday. 

All day. 

L could not be dissuaded from it.  We were out running errands and eating lunch together.  Both in our shorts in October.  Some people?  Totally wearing jeans, boots, and sweaters (overkill for highs in the low 80s, despite the fact that it's full-on fall now).  L defied all fashion rules and flaunted sear sucker.

I did manage to get him out of them when it came time for dinner, which was lucky, but I think that was more due to the fact that the temperature had dropped a little and he didn't know if shorts would be acceptable attire.  Our dinner reservations were at Graffiato (finally!), so that was fun since we are big Top Chef fans.  (Very tasty, in case you are wondering.)

I had L pull down my winter clothing so that I could switch out my closet sometime soon.  I was going to hold off, but the shorts may actually hasten this process, much as I don't want to embrace cold weather yet. 

My life is so hard.

*This is not actually a problem.  I mean I currently have friends with fertility struggles. My mom's wallet was stolen today.  My manager's mother passed away.  Those are problems.  Sear sucker in October doesn't have the same magnitude.

Also, in case you are wondering, The Lovely Bones  is so creepy.  I may or may not be unwisely watching it right now.  Which is 11:34 p.m. on a school night.  Stanley Tucci, you are insanely talented.

Three is a magic number

Monday, October 10, 2011

Big news!  A couple months ago, L and I talked about it and agreed we should expand our family sometime in the next year by way of a pet.  Which means a dog, although after cat-sitting Allie a couple of times, I think he sees the allure of  a cat, given our our current lifestyle and the fact that we travel for extended periods.  This all means I search online about once a week for the perfect dog for us.  I know we will get a rescue dog of some kind; when I see how many dogs there are out there that need homes, it just doesn't feel right in my heart to get a puppy from a breeder.  Plus, I honestly don't have the time or desire right now to train a puppy. 

I'd originally thought we'd wait til after Christmas to bring a pooch into our house, what with going back to Texas and cold weather and all, but after all the travel L's done recently (and with lots more on the horizon), I'm reconsidering my timeline.  Weekends all alone are just not that fun.  But, there are some major things to consider at this juncture that keep me from moving full-steam ahead.  First, most friends of mine that have dogs have parents, siblings, or close friends near by to watch their dogs when they go out of town.  A lucky few even have friends with whom they take turns dog-sitting for each other.  We won't have that option here and that's going to limit our freedom on an extra level beyond just making sure that we come home frequently to let the dog into the yard.  I really don't love that part of this.  Food and toys won't make much of a difference in our weekly budget, but vet bills and the cost of boarding a dog while we go gallivanting off to distant places will certainly change things.  However, in regards to vet bills, I actually can opt in for pet health insurance through work.  Yes, my company offers pet health insurance in the benefits package.  I laughed when I read that section of the benefits package.  I have no idea if it's worth it to do that or not, but it's nice to know it's an option.

The other thing that makes me hesitant to jump into the world of pet ownership is that I know pets just don't live forever.  One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was put the cat that I grew up with to sleep.  I wasn't anticipating it (I was keeping her for two weeks as a stress reliever for myself) but she was old and had had kidney problems for a while.  Thanks to my first job out of college, I was able to spot the signs of impending death (I mean everyone learned that at their first job, right?) and blah blah blah, I suddenly found myself asking JG and EBG to go with me to the vet one night*.  It was horrible.  And it broke my heart, because that kitty was a soul mate of mine on a certain level.  Five and a half years later, I still miss her and I still sometimes forget that she's not there when I go to my parents' house.  Honestly, it's scary to know that when we get a pet, I will face that same loss and heartbreak again.  But to be fair, the only reason it hurts when they go is because you have so much fun and love them so much while they are with you.  And I promise that's the end of the Debbie Downer part of this post.

So back to the fun stuff.  I've come to realize I want either a miniature dachshund** or a small beagle.  They fit the size (small-medium without being too extreme on either end, so, like under 25-ish pounds; basically, if our dog decides not to remember the training commands we teach him/her, I don't want it to knock people over or reach your waist if it jumps on you), personality, and grooming requirements (while long-haired dogs make the cutest of pups, I do not care to deal with constantly cleaning up long dog hair everywhere).  I mean in an ideal world, golden retrievers and labs wouldn't be quite as big, weigh as much, or shed, but that's not the case.  If you know me or you've read my blog for a while, you know that my parents' dog, Boomer, is a dachshund and I love him to pieces.  He's just so hilarious.  I don't know what the attraction is to beagles, but as long as they are small, there is something about them that I keep going back to.  Here's my most recent list of potential candidates to join our clan:

Allie McBeagle 










I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a sucker for the background stories on all these pups.  L already wrinkled his nose one time at sweet Gracie because he saw that she's a senior.  At the beginning of my dog searching, I totally admit I was turned off at the idea of getting an older dog, but it's so sad to see how many older dogs are out there that no one wants, and it's just because they're older.  I always see them and read their stories and think, "I could love you!"  I'm an easy target.  This is largely why I'm not allowed to go to Target alone on Saturday afternoons (it's right next door to PetsMart and Saturdays are when they always have their adoption events).

*By the way, want to know what good friends are?  Good friends are ones that will go with you to the vet to put your pet down and will stand by you while you cry your eyes out waiting for the end.  And then they take you home and check up on you.  I have some really good friends.

**FYI, I know that dachshund is spelled weird.  It's German.  But for the record, those Hs are silent and you do pronounce the C.  I used to have a picture of Boomer as my desktop background on my work computer.  I recently worked with someone for about 4 1/2 months and she would frequently comment that she wanted to get a a dachshund some day except she would pronounce it dashund.  So annoying.  Do not do this.

Party in the city where the heat is on

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

L and I headed south to Miami last weekend.  The warm, sunny weather was amazing (though we did not party all night on the beach til the break of dawn).  Mr. FBI is on an assignment this year in Miami, so we decided we needed to head down for a weekend and simultaneously enjoy spending time with fun friends and a free place to stay.  Mrs. FBI went down Thursday night and we joined them on Friday afternoon.  FYI - I still maintain that 4-day work weeks go by the slowest, but I do love working half days.  If you can't have a full day off, half days are the best! 

I'm now a huge fan of the flight to Miami, too.  The flight down was the smoothest flight ever and we were only delayed about 20 minutes for maintenance. (Almost every flight I get on these days seems to get delayed for some reason.  The last flight I was on was delayed 3 hours for maintenance.  The flight on the middle leg of that same trip also had problems.  Seriously, something happens 90% of the time for me this year.  It's not awesome.)  We were both extra happy with the flight to MIA because in addition to my ongoing bad luck with flights, L was coming off a really rough 24 hours.  He worked in Ohio and Midland last week, and he was supposed to fly from Midland to Reagan with a layover in at DFW on Thursday night and land around 12:30 ET.  He made it from Midland to Dallas just fine, but his flight from Dallas to Reagan was delayed til 10:30 p.m. CT and then it was cancelled altogether due to storms in Dallas.  Luckily his parents live pretty close to the airport so his dad came and rescued him and provided him with the comfort of a bed for the evening.  Down side: L checked his bag with EVERYTHING in it so he didn't have a toothbrush, change of clothes, or anything with him.  Unlike me, he does not keep spare t-shirts, shorts, toiletries, etc. at his parents house. (I pretty much live like a child of divorce and have duplicates of everything I might need at my parents' house for situations like this.  Plus it's a pain to travel with a lot of that stuff, although now I do it anyway because if we go to Dallas, we hit up both families and we always go to his parents' house first, so my spares don't help.  Oh well, such is life.)  L was back at DFW and on the 6:10 a.m. flight to DC.  When he landed, he discovered that his bag was lost (he learned later in the morning that it somehow ended up at Dulles) and when he called to check in with his boss, he received some frustrating news that required him to go into his office, which he wasn't planning on doing.  He also didn't get his bag delivered before we left the house to go back to Reagan for our flight to Miami.  It was quite the little morning he had.

So Miami... our hosts picked us up and immediately took us to CVS so L could get a razor and then we settled in to the condo.  Dinner that night was at a place on South Beach called A Fish Called Avalon (food was amazing, despite slow service due to the entire restaurant's computer system being knocked out by a massive thunderstorm that rolled through right after we landed).  After that, we walked up the beach and had cocktails at the Delano (awesome pool) and then walked inland to a place for a little dessert and some live music of the jazzy persuasion.

Saturday brought a gorgeous day of sunshine and a trip to the beach.  We were there for about 2 1/2 hours and while that may not sound like a lot of time, it was plenty for all four of us.  L is still burned to a crisp on half of his back (he was laying weird).  It's definitely sort of an ombre burn.  This was our view:

Just awful, right?  Hurts my eyes to look at it.  Pale sand and clear water = blech/THE WORST. 

Dinner that night was around the corner from the condo at B&B.  We stuck around the Brickell area for drinks before heading home for the night. 

The beauty of staying with these particular friends is that Mr. FBI happens to be quite the foodie and therefore made amazing restaurant reservations all weekend.  Sunday brunch was no exception and was actually both L's and my favorite meal of the whole trip.  Mr. FBI took us to his favorite restaurant, MGFD, in the design district.  I wish I'd taken pics of the food.  Sadly, all I have is a pic of the logo:

Cuisine is basically breakfast tapas.  L and I split orders of eggs, bacon, sourdough toast with house-made pineapple preserves and I tried the lemon ricotta pancakes.  I can't remember what else L ordered but EVERYTHING I tried was so fantastic and while I didn't try any of the other plates, they all looked amazing.  I highly recommend if you are looking for a totally sweet meal. 

Mrs. FBI and I dropped the boys off at the condo and then she and I headed to Ulta (we don't have Ultas anywhere near our houses here) and then she took me on a tour of where she lived while she was in school there (Coconut Grove and Coral Gables = not the worst places to live).  Then Mr. FBI took us all to the airport and we headed home, which was another super smooth flight.  Downside: finding two almost-flat tires when we finally found my car (which took a while... the three of us may or may not have wandered all over the wrong level in the garage for 30 minutes).  Seriously, I have the worst luck ever with tires, but so far, no further problems after inflating them again. 

More to come... just not enough time tonight.  But yea for fun trips!
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