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.


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.
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