Thursday, April 28, 2011

old habits die (real) hard

(I believe I warned you that sometimes I eat like no one is watching)

Lent has officially (and obviously) come to an end, and I have quickly returned to my old ways.  Life in the lead-up to Lent was really hectic, and then my parents arrived.  Subsequently, I didn't take sufficient time to hash out a post-Lent plan (I believe I also mentioned that I am a master avoider.)

Since Easter weekend alone, I have eaten at Chipotle, Acqua al 2, Georgia Brown's, the Thai place near my apartment, two bars, and the pay by the pound place at my office.  To be fair, that list represents some of the things I legitimately pined away for during Lent: Chipotle (enough said), Italian food I didn't slave over, BRUNCH (we'll have to discuss my cult-like love for this meal at some point in the future), Thai (a type of food I never even attempted to replicate in the LKTC),  snacks during happy hour (food envy soaked in alcohol is never pretty), and the amazing breakfast potatoes and the place in my office (I also love these in a cult-like and obsessive way).  

BUT, I'm genuinely surprised at how easily I've fallen back on the "oh, I'll just pick something up tonight" mantra.  It's one thing if I'm legitimately only doing that once in a blue moon (and eating leftovers for two more meals thanks to the take out).  It's quite another if Chipotle is once again able to recognize me both by sight and order. 

The good news is, not even a week has passed since Easter.  I can still chalk this up to "catching up on old favorites." But none of the things that drove me to this adventure have changed since Lent started.  I'm still not earning enough to eat out frequently.  I'm still not a naturally healthy eater.  I still want to expand my repertoire of cook-able meals.  

I need a plan.  I need to remember that I am a girl with a plethora of aprons, cooking tools, and spices in her LKTC.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

the perils of eating out

(I wish I could claim that I made all of this)

(But it's the Georgia Brown's leftovers)

Knowing that mom and dad's visit coincided with the end of Lent, I scheduled a full weekend of eating out, capped off with a visit to Georgia Brown's for Easter Brunch today.  Sophie and I have been attempting to go to brunch there for over a year, I kid you not.  

Her manager first told her about the genius concept: you get all you can eat for brunch, and you get an entrée to take home.  After a birthday brunch scheduling debacle last May (we learned the hard way that this brunch thing only goes down on Sunday), I realized a month ago that I should hurry up and make reservations for Easter Sunday.  

Luckily our dinner at Acqua al 2 was early-ish Saturday, because we were due at Georgia Brown's at 10 am yesterday. Even though I mis-advised Dad on a parking spot, we still arrived before the restaurant technically opened.  I knew our reservation was early, but I didn't realize they'd still be mixing up the peach tea and firing up the chocolate fountain.  

I maneuvered around a huge group of tourists to secure one of the outdoor tables under a big umbrella, and the gluttony began.  After a quick planning session, Sophie and I decided to attack the buffet in three rounds: breakfast foods, lunch foods, and desserts.  

The food was incredible.  The "best breakfast food" award goes to the pecan syrup covered french toast, although the breakfast potatoes (my first in 40 days) get honorable mention.  I loved the jambalaya and the green beans in the lunch round.  Somewhere between breakfast and lunch, I had to order coffee to refuel.  But by the time our third round came along, I didn't have hardly any room for dessert.  I still made a good faith attempt, and put a little spoonful of peach cobbler on my plate, and added a mini carrot cake to keep the cobbler company.  Then Sophie and I played at the chocolate fountain.  I watched a guy expertly cover a speared marshmallow with a thin coat of chocolate, and tried to copy his skilled application.  We wanted to keep coating things in chocolate, but were too stuffed to justify it.  

We realized quickly that chocolate coated marshmallows were difficult to eat gracefully (and this was the kind of place where you really do want to be as well-mannered as possible, after all, jazz is floating through the windows on to the patio). I made Sophie try first, and was just getting ready to try mine when a huge commotion came from the end of the patio.  

A waiter and one of the valet guys were trying to move a patio light away from an umbrella, and one of the globes fell off of the light pole.  Unfortunately before it crashed into the sidewalk, it hit a woman in the head. Without even checking on his wife, the woman's husband pretty much lost his marbles.  

So here's the thing.  I bet it hurt.  Probably a lot.  I'm sure it was embarrassing (I mean everyone on the patio was staring).  But this guy really did go out of his way to articulate his anger.  It quickly became very awkward for all of us on the patio.  

Our table and the table next to us seemed to be in unspoken agreement that the man overreacted.  It was an accident, and fortunately the globe of the lamp was more aluminum than cast iron in nature.  The valet clearly looked completely bereft and in need of a pat on the back or a hug.  

It makes you wonder how you or your fellow brunchers would react.  I'd like to think we would have shaken it off and handled it a bit more eloquently than this couple did, but it's hard to say.  Lord knows I've had my moments with, say, Comcast. {To be discussed in the future, but I feel like the past 6 months or so of my life have been full of revealing moments like this one}

Anyways, we (and everyone else on the patio) managed to shake off the incident (and I managed to subtly eat my chocolate covered marshmallow during the commotion--score).  We took everyone's advice and took our entrée "to go."  In a moment of groupthink, we all ordered the fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  

After an afternoon of wandering Old Town Alexandria and "last call" mass in Capitol Hill, we came home to our leftovers.  I heated everything up in/on the stove, and we had a huge and delicious dinner.  Although brunch was a bit expensive, we decided that it was entirely worth it, and that next time, we'll be more deliberate and strategic to get even more out of the buffet.  

Look out Georgia Brown's, we'll be back.  Just don't seat us near those patio lights, please. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

well, i always wanted to see the pentagon...

(my new bed frame!)

(pre-outlet shopping fuel)

(you're never too old for an Easter basket)
{and if you think you are, my mom will set you straight}

Happy Easter!  My parents are here visiting for Easter weekend, and while it hasn't exactly gone as I originally planned, I'd say it's turned out just fine (I hope they'd agree). 

Around the time I left work Friday, they arrived, having carted my new bed frame 400 miles in the rain.  Rain became the theme of the night, and it poured as we untied, unloaded, and brought in the frame.  It kept raining as we drove out to Seven Corners to get my dad a hair cut.  We shivered as we sat by the windows at Chipotle and enjoyed my first burrito bowl since early February.  We darted out of Target covering our heads with my new storage containers and mass supply of toilet paper (look, when you get down to the end of your very last roll, you are suddenly inspired to stock up "extreme couponing" style).  

Saturday I had planned for Dad to golf while Mom, Sophie, and I shopped at the Leesburg outlets about 35 miles outside of DC.  Shopping has been elevated to an art form in our house, and Sophie being a surrogate daughter, we knew she was up for the whirlwind trip.  Mom and I were on the hunt for dresses to wear to my cousin's upcoming wedding, and Sophie was happy to come along and see what she could find, too.  We never intended to subject Dad to this torture, but the weather had other ideas in mind.

When we woke up Saturday, it was cold and rainy.  Not at all the kind of weather you'd want if you were going to be outside all day.  So Dad was a good sport about it, and decided to join us on the trek to Leesburg.  I advised that we ignore my GPS and instead we took Route 7 almost the entire way there to avoid the toll roads the GPS was directing us towards.  No, I'm not that cheap, but, my driver's side window doesn't exactly function right now.  Paying one toll via the rear passenger window is one thing, paying half a dozen each way is another story entirely. 

Knowing we needed to be back by 4 to get ready for an early dinner, we set off at an impressive pace, but were coming up empty-handed.  We are not the kind of women who typically visit any shopping establishment and walk away disappointed.  Luckily Sophie and I basically forced mom to try on a cool dress at Banana, and that became her go-to wedding dress, but I was still dress-less.  

And then came BCBG.  I should probably not be allowed to go in that store.  I love dresses.  All kinds of dresses.  Dresses I may never have an occasion to wear.  Dresses that need serious alterations and then will be supposedly perfect.  So Mom rounded up pretty much anything in my size, but we had our eye on this one dress that we spotted in the window.  All the sizes on the floor were either 8s or 12s.  So the saleslady said she'd check the back.  No luck.  Well what size is on the mannequin? She agreed to check.  It was a 6.  I reluctantly retreated to the dressing room with plenty of other options.

Then, miraculously, the picky high school girl 2 dressing rooms down decided the top of my dream dress "just didn't look right."  Her mom had noticed me prowling the store for said dress in my size, and handed it over.  SOLD.  

At this point it was pouring down rain, so poor Dad couldn't even wander around outside (even after we bought him a sweater at United Colors of Benneton to help him stay warm).  Although he pretty much exhausted his shopping options when he realized Restoration Hardware was far from the Home Depot variety of hardware, so I think he was content to sit and drink Starbucks. 

Once dresses were located, we had to secure the perfect shoes (at this point I'm sure Dad would have preferred being soaked and cold on a golf course).  At Nine West, my mom rejected a pair of shoes due to the platform on them (they were not, she decided, age appropriate).  After we circled the store, I decided that since I have yet to hit the quarter century mark, they were age appropriate for ME.  And they had them in a FIVE! every color except what I needed.  So as I stood towering in the black pair, clutching the tan pair in one hand, other hand on my hip, I told the sales guy (yes, guy...ONLY men were working there....smartest or creepiest idea ever? you decide) that I pretty much didn't care what he had to do, I wanted these shoes. He told me he'd have to ask his manager if they're allowed to call other stores to check availability.  I'm sorry, what?  You're telling me you DON'T want to sell shoes?  When he saw that I wasn't moving (or taking off the black pair in exchange for my own shoes), he scurried off.  

I got the shoes (or at least I think I did...we'll see in a week if they arrive at my door or not...).

Later, we all piled back in the car to head to Acqua al 2 before Easter Vigil on Capitol Hill.  We had realized Easter Vigil was going to be a lengthy affair (confirmations, baptisms, etc), and decided to go later on today instead.  So we were en route to a 5:30 dinner with no post-dinner plans.  My mistake...I just crossed my fingers that the amazingness of Acqua al 2 would distract everyone from my poor planning. 

Now, we just had to figure out how to get there.  My GPS refused to accept the address, saying it was in a "restricted area."  We later learned exactly what that meant. 

I jotted down the directions from Google Maps, and we headed off, hoping for the best.  Everything was going swimmingly until we had to get from the GW parkway to 395 N.  I'm still not sure we did the right thing, because we took an exit, and next thing you know, we were on the Pentagon reservation.  While it's not illegal to drive around the reservation, it certainly didn't seem like the best route.  Then again I've driven in/around DC approximately twice in my time here, so when my Mom would ask "is this the right thing?" I would just have to throw up my hands.  

So we did a little loop around the Pentagon, giving the parents an up close shot of my former (and hopefully future) workplace.  And then we went from zero other cars (on the reservation) to insane traffic (on 395).  Somehow we managed to find our proper exit, and even found parking right by Eastern Market, which surprised all of us.  

Dinner at Acqua al 2 was amazing, as it has been the past 2 times I've been.  There's not a bad dish on the menu, and I love the way the restaurant is set up and decorated.  It was the perfect reintroduction to eating out.  

Even though the day didn't exactly go as planned, I think/hope everyone enjoyed it.  Today we're going to Georgia Brown's for their huge brunch/dessert buffet, and then going to mass tonight.  At least that's the plan...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

updating the resume

(I've always been consumed by my sweet tooth...sometimes literally)

Tuesday's attempt at stress baking was, well, stressful.  I wandered in and out of more stores than I should have admitted, and still came home to a tragic butter shortage (but arrived with plenty of bread and cheetos).  I still tried to make cookies happen (I'm a bit of a one-note baker), and while it wasn't total disaster, they certainly weren't up to par to ship halfway across the world (apologies to the DC coworkers who politely ate them regardless).

I had every intention of making a more coherent grocery trip yesterday so that I could work out a little more stress on a second batch.  Instead I met a friend I hadn't seen in ages for some long-overdue catching up.  She suggested her favorite bar in DC, and mentioned the prospects of a pitcher of mojitos. I was a little hesitant, given my obscenely low tolerance and fear of repeating that night I ate wine for dinner.  But when there's no pork in the crock pot, and you feel like your work life is fraying at the seams, it's pretty easy to let a friend to talk you in to seeing if the solution can be found amongst a mass of mint, lime, and rum.  {So far, no dice, but they were, as she promised, the most amazing mojitos ever}

I made a midday trip to the Safeway near my office and once again walked out with an embarrassing quantity of snacks (have I mentioned I cannot turn down a grocery store sale?), but also managed to remember the butter and the mini chocolate chips for the second go at cookies.

When I got home from work and threw the dough together, I went to add the mini chocolate chips. As I poured the first few in to the dough, something looked off.  Probably because these were just plain old boring normal sized chocolate chips.  Poisonous? Hardly.  Not what I meant to buy at all? Absolutely.  

I'm beginning to think I need to remove "detail-oriented" from my resume after all these grocery store debacles (among other forgetful moments).  It is obviously a bold-faced lie.  

Kind of like the time I got totally called out for claiming on my resume that I spoke intermediate Italian. 

So here's the thing.  Once upon a time, circa fall 2008, I spoke decent Italian.  I'm a language person.  A grammarian specifically.  Try not to be too jealous of all that coolness.  

I kept it on my resume, because I was in slight denial about how much my skills had slipped since I came home from Italy (and I'm one lazy bum).  

And then one day, a former coworker passed said resume along to a contact of his who was recruiting for overseas jobs (not in Italy, mind you.  no, in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc).  I half forgot about it, and moved on to hiding from my former boss (who was possibly one of the more formative but frightening people I have ever encountered).  

Until my desk phone rang, and I unwisely did not screen the call.  Initially I thought it was a wrong number.  I could not understand a single word the guy was saying.  As I was trying to politely hang up on this mystery caller, I began to really listen to what he was saying.  

He was speaking Italian.  Oh.  Oh dear.  

Now, to be fair to my supposed skills, I could actually understand every word he was saying.  But by this point, I was so flustered (and embarrassed about what my nearby coworkers must be thinking) that I only answered him in English.  I'm sure this was really impressive to him.  

After I yelled at the former coworker for not warning me, I sat down to compose an email in Italian to the recruiter, claiming that the element of surprise negated my ability to speak articulately (in any language).  

And then I updated my resume.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

and then i watched oprah

{i've graduated to the real stuff}

You know how sometimes, you know bad news is coming, and at least you get to brace yourself?  Yeah, today was not that day.  

Today was the kind of day where the bad news comes out of nowhere and just kind of taps you on the shoulder and says "surprise!!"  

The lectures I received at the beginning of my current assignment instilled in me the fear of blogging about work. So I'll keep it simple and vague.  My team is undergoing an internal merger right now.  It is not going splendidly.  Something that I have devoted significant time to has fallen victim to this organizational change.  I am incredibly disappointed and frustrated.  

I stuck around work, not quite sure what to do or how to react (I had some ideas in mind, most of which would have gotten me escorted off the property). Finally I threw in the towel as the nagging headache refused to dissipate and I worked myself further towards an unfortunate temper tantrum. I threw on my flip flops, packed up my bag, and declared that I'd be back when I felt like it (not entirely sure what the time frame is on that).  

I decided some stress baking was in order, intending to send some cookies to my friends in Afghanistan.  I stopped at the Safeway near my office prior to my walk home.  Fresh bread is an essential part of cookies arriving in edible fashion to a place that far away (it keeps them fresh), and yet I walked out of Safeway with sour cream, milk and tic tacs (don't ask, because even I'm not sure).  So I popped in to the CVS on the next block, and strolled around with a new tooth brush in hand, but couldn't find bread.  On to the CVS at the top of the punishing hill on Clarendon Blvd.  I found myself paying for bread (finally!), a tooth brush, and a less than snack sized bag of puffy cheetos (which I consumed in embarrassingly short order on the remainder of the walk home).  

It was at this point that I started to feel like the crazy train wasn't jut pulling up to the station.  It had arrived, I had climbed on, and there was no telling what I might buy (and/or eat) next.  {not only am I stress baker, I'm an angry eater}

I made it home, had a conversation with the door man about my love for cheetos (only the puffy kind, of course), and came upstairs to discover that I was out of butter.  I think I stood forlornly in front of the fridge for 5 minutes pathetically thinking to myself but I needed to bake but I have no butter but I needed to bake but...

Naturally the last thing I want to do when I'm already stressed is jump in my car and go to the grocery, so I found the downstairs convenience store calling me despite its exorbitant prices.  Closed due to an emergency. Oh FINE.  

And then I watched Oprah.  

Well, in case you don't also make a habit of walking out of work at abnormal hours because you hear the crazy train calling, I'll tell you what Oprah was broadcasting today.  The story of a family whose baby daughter received a heart transplant due to the selfless decision of a woman to donate her baby son's organs after he unexpectedly died.  The two families met for the first time on the show.  

Well, let's just say if I wasn't a mess before that...  

I need a drink, and it's finally five o'clock. {and happily, my parents will be here soon to recreate the "cheers" from the picture at the top}

Sunday, April 17, 2011

wait, what's going on? you look tan

Last night, I discovered the club-appropriate equivalent of the kryptonite coat (a throwback reference to the jobless jenny days). To celebrate a quarter century of my good friend Alicia, I had to go digging through the dress closet (also known as the coat closet, which has 1/4 coats, 3/4 dresses of all varieties).  I needed something that was both club-friendly and could withstand the torrential downpours we were getting yesterday, ruling out the majority of my nicer dresses. Out of sheer desperation, I finally chose a dress I bought ages ago on sale from Urban Outfitters.  I thought it was unremarkable at best (and possibly unflattering at worst), but I went with it.  Turns out it was a big hit, and awakened whatever tee tiny part of me likes to dance.  Since you can't halfheartedly celebrate a 25th birthday, I didn't exactly retire the kryptonite dress and call it a night until closer to my normal wake up time.  And then I woke up at my normal wake up time.  I shot the dress a few dirty looks when I rolled over, looked at my clock, and realized I had been asleep for approximately 4 hours.  

After giving in to my extreme morning-person gene, I very grudgingly rolled out of bed and made my way out to Capitol Hill to meet my friend Torey for coffee and a stroll around Eastern Market.  When it was time for Torey to head home, I steered in the direction of the metro.  Then I realized it was 2 on a sinfully perfect weather Sunday and I had nowhere to be until 6.  

Why not just walk home? 

For some reason, I listened to that guilty little inner voice pushing for exercise and exploitation of the weather, and not the very tired inner voice advocating for an afternoon on the couch.

So I set off walking, roughly following the path of the blue/orange line metro through the city.  I popped into the botanical gardens for a bathroom break (and for the flowers, of course; but seriously, free museums make for great stopping points).  Then I walked along the mall, and up 12th to M, and along M until I turned in to the Energizer bunny whose batteries just up and quit.  

By the time I was nearing Farragut West, I was basically incapable of walking a straight line or really even standing up straight.  I stumbled to the metro and poured myself on to a train.  Somehow I made my way to Allie's couch.  Small miracles.

Despite the exhaustion that eventually took over, I couldn't have been happier with my afternoon.  I hadn't brought a book or notebook, and my phone's battery was nearly drained, so there were few distractions (aside from the ever-amusing behavior of fanny pack-clad tourists).  It was just me, the sun, and a lot of Johnny Cash. And after nearly getting blown away Mary Poppins style in yesterday's wind and rain, the re-emergence of the sun had me practically swooning over DC.  

By the time I showed up for Sunday girls' dinner at Leana's, I had been outside nearly all day (hence her shock at my less than Casper-ish skin tone, and the quote that titles this post) and walked about 8 miles.  My body hates me just a bit, and I think my kryptonite dress is smirking from the corner, but this whole weekend was so very worth it. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011


(after a brief fascination with fish, I decided it was so not my thing)

I'm a master at avoiding things I don't want to do.  I'll walk the 2 miles to work instead of taking the 5 minute bus ride, because really, who wants to go to work? I'll walk a mile extra to avoid switching metro lines (DC residents might be the only people not wearing a puzzled expression at this one), I will take the train or drive to prevent Miami airport-esque breakdowns.  

One thing I've been wholly unable to avoid during this Lent adventure is touching raw meat.  I've never been interested in vegetarianism (I already don't get enough protein), but raw meat freaks me out in a very visceral way.  I just really, seriously do not like touching it. If I can get it from container to skillet without actual meat contact, I do a bit of a victory dance. 

Add that to my general disdain for seafood, and it's just plain torture.  So when Allie and I settled on fish tacos for our last Friday night dinner, I was clearly not thinking rationally.  This would involve me...gulp...touching RAW FISH.  

Seeing me barely touching the edge of the flounder fillets and wrinkling my nose as I seasoned them, Allie laughed and said "I'd offer to do this for you, but I think it's character building" and offered me a fork.  

The tacos turned out so-so, but I don't exactly blame my light touch with the flounder.  My heart just wasn't in cooking Friday dinner, and the lack of enthusiasm led to a passable, but not remarkable, taco bar.  I didn't even take any pictures of it (or of the lemon pound cake I made, and consumed mostly by myself, which isn't at all embarrassing to admit).  

But as unexcited as I've been about cooking some days during Lent, it's been a character-building experience (in the least formal sense of the phrase).  I can avoid touching gross raw meat now and then.  I can get around legitimate cooking once and a while.  But most of the time, I just have to man up and put on the apron.  I think we can classify that as progress from my days of Kraft mac n cheese and peas for dinner.

Now excuse me while I go reserve a cab to avoid the miserable weather tonight...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

the saran wrap dress incident

Well, I promised my sister just yesterday that I'd knock it off with the baby pictures for a while.  But then I made bacon and peanut butter toast for dinner, and that just doesn't lend itself well to photographs. 

So instead I offer you yet another picture capturing the suspenders trend that apparently seized Atlanta around 1988. I can't decide if my mom just really like the matching accessories thing or if my little pants wouldn't stay up without some assistance (feel free to weigh in, mom).  

Anyways, I have a point, I promise.  

Today I had a similarly embarrassing wardrobe issue.  In my typical morning sprint from bed to bus, I failed to notice the saran wrap phenomenon my work dress had going. I don't know how, because it was really quite bad.

I think something funky happened to my tights in the wash (yes, I know tights probably shouldn't even go in the washer, but I'm lazy), and it turned them in to dress magnets.  The static cling was so bad that it was literally as if my dress were made of saran wrap.  

Walking around peeling your dress off your tights all day is, well, just plain awkward.  And to think...I own not one but four slips that could have negated this little issue (mom, aren't you proud?). 

The saran wrap effect was easily the most unfortunate aspect of the day, but I think it just threw me off all around.  I tried to drink my coffee sideways (yeah, that went about as well as you could imagine it might).  I dropped just about everything I tried to pick up.  I was a litttttle snippier than I should have been to a particularly frustrating coworker. 

So now I'm just being intentionally antisocial (I mean, the kind of attention you'd get at a happy hour with a saran wrap dress is not the kind I go for) and planning on wearing pants tomorrow.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

cooking class

At my sister's behest, I'm giving the baby photos a rest (she's convinced I resembled a gerber baby while she resembled a monkey alien baby--until I can talk her out of this, I'll stick with photos of food {or cropped baby photos}).  

And anyways, how could I not show you the deliciousness that my coworker whipped up for me tonight? Normally I'm just relieved that I've turned out edible food that looks passable in photos.  This dinner experience, on the other hand, was well beyond just "passable."  

My coworker Moizza was based in our Cairo office until it was evacuated (I trust that I don't need to explain why), and now she's back in DC until the evacuation orders are lifted. Selfishly, I'm happy she's back--there aren't many young people in my office, and we hadn't had the chance to get to know each other well because she deployed to Cairo shortly after I started.  But my cruel bosses decided her skills were in much higher demand overseas than in DC, so she's on her way to Dulles right now, and I won't see her for at least three weeks.  

Yesterday she generously offered to leave her spices in my care while she was away, and even suggested cooking dinner for me with said spices.  That'd be a resounding yes.  

Today after work, we came back to the LKTC, and first assessed the protein situation. My inability to walk away from a grocery store special means that my freezer is well stocked.  After recovering from her slight shock at my excessive supply, Moizza selected enough chicken for tonight and some leftover for the week.  Next she said all she needed was sour cream or heavy cream and lemon juice.  I'm sure she thought that any woman with several pounds of protein in her freezer would keep a variety of dairy in the fridge. My fridge, however, is currently full of bacon, beer, and a britta (the essentials in life, I would argue).  We popped down to the basement convenience store (convenient? yes.  priced accordingly? heck yes) and bought sour cream and dessert.  

Back up in the LKTC, my spice lesson began as she started our meal of chicken korma.  Moizza explained that every family has their own unique spice mix, tailored to individual tastes.  She taught me hers, and then started the heavy lifting.  First the onions were sautéed until translucent (a process she called "sweating"), then the spices were added (aka "toasted").  This part of the preparation essentially calls for constant stirring, which Moizza faithfully did until a blob of spice paste flew up on her shirt. The turmeric, she warned me, will stain pretty much anything it touches a bright highlighter yellow, so she tried to wash it off immediately.  Of course I had thought about offering her an apron at the onset, but forgot.  Luckily she was wearing black, and general crisis was averted (and an apron was then offered).  

Next the chicken went in and got seared a bit before the sour cream and water were added.  The whole pot gets covered for a bit to help the chicken cook, then it can simmer uncovered to help the water absorb more.  At this point, the LKTC started to smell like some kind of heaven.  Fortunately I had boiled edamame to snack on, which is possibly the only thing that kept me from diving head first into the pot of chicken korma.  But I digress.  Once the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened, the finished product gets ladled over rice.  

Yep, it's that easy.  Or so Moizza made it look.  I fully intend to try it myself, and I imagine there's a decent chance of it falling more in to the "disasters" category than that of "success stories," but it was so amazing that it's worth a shot (and either way, it'll make for a good story). 

ps-any time I feel like writing, but can't think of anything good or interesting that has happened lately, I'm suddenly in a totally LKTC-worthy situation.  Like the day I came home to a bowl of rotten potatoes.  Hello inspiration.  Or today, when the best thing I had going for me was the discovery that women in their 20s have huge pupils and never need their eyes dilated (thanks Dr. Weiss).  Then Moizza graced the LKTC with chicken korma.  I like this pattern.  

Monday, April 11, 2011


So, before I delve into the (more recent) meaning behind the title, let me just say I love my sister.  I realize this picture, in which I'm clearly attempting to thwart her attempts to crawl, might lead you to believe otherwise, but I promise, it's all good these days.  I'm not really sure what was up in this particular shot...maybe I was just mad that my parents were dressing me in suspenders (no, really, guys...what was up with this wardrobe choice?).  But obviously I was busted, on film nonetheless, trying to keep my sister down back in the day, so, that's a little embarrassing.  

My rebellious streak continued well in to kindergarten, when I was busted for my monopoly on the play doh "restaurant" in my classroom.  I have apparently never been a fan of delegation. 

After my otherwise kind kindergarten teacher chastised me, I kept much more on the straight and narrow (if you think I'm joking, you obviously don't know that I went to an all girls' high school and lived in fear of our headmistress and her propensity for dispensing demerits). 

So in the spirit of full disclosure, this past Thursday, I bucked my long-standing trend of relatively upstanding behavior and I ate out.  Yes, I tumbled right off the proverbial Lent wagon.  It was far from glamorous.  No, I fell hard.  Right in to a big old plate of Paolo's spaghetti alla bolognese (yes, I actually make a mean bolognese myself).

I could make excuses (there was a lot of wine involved, I was still traumatized from the rotten potato incident, I've been punishingly stringent with the rules up until now, etc), but there's no getting around the rapid descent from the original Lenten guidelines.  

Listen, I'm not proud of it, but, it happened and I have spent plenty of time feeling guilty over it.  More importantly, I can't take it back, so I see no point in apologizing excessively or trying to explain it away.  

I still know why I decided to try this adventure in the first place, and I've clamored back up onto the wagon.  

PS--I actually did some time-consuming cooking this weekend, maybe in an attempt to clear my conscience(?).  I made spaghetti and meatballs for a friend's birthday Friday, and baked what turned out to be a tasty blueberry buttermilk cake for girls' dinner Sunday. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

the shutdown showdown

This is the picture I was hoping to find when I was having a particularly grumpy day last Friday. I think it is hilarious.  No one quite remembers why my sister and I looked so ticked (although maybe it was those shoes?), but we look like someone just told us we had to give up all our barbies or something.  

I'm glad I didn't find it last week, because it's a far more appropriate photographic summary of my feelings on the government shutdown showdown than anything that was going on last week.  

I don't know how many of you live outside of DC/VA/MD, and subsequently how much news coverage the potential government shutdown received in your town (although I'd love to know--comment!).  In the news (print, radio, tv) here, it was ALL ANYONE TALKED ABOUT FOR DAYS.  

It was also all anyone talked about at work (and away from work). Nothing productive was accomplished--it was like the day before summer break around my office for at least a week.  

Will it happen? How long will it last?  If they don't introduce the new budget by Tuesday, they won't have time to vote on it...  Will I be deemed "essential?"  How will I pay my rent?  What will I do if I can't work and all the museums are shut down? (ok, maybe it was just me asking that one)

I think the significance of a shutdown was/is lost on a lot of people outside of Washington.  

Setting aside your political opinions, your ideas that all federal government employees are lazy and overpaid, think about what you would do if you unexpectedly lost your income indefinitely, and with very little prospect of backpay?

Just because Congress can't compromise, life, and more importantly, expenses, go on.  To know that you have to sit on your hands at home, and eventually dip in to your savings to pay the rent and the bills, is frightening.  I know that I personally had a "danger zone"--the point at which I'd no longer be able to pay rent if the government was shut down.  And compared to most people I work with, my bills are practically non-existent.  I have no debt, no kids, no real responsibilities. 

I remember watching the news and seeing some slightly extremist congressman surrounded by supporters with crazy signs.  At the end of his speech, he said "if the other side doesn't want to compromise, I SAY SHUT IT DOWN" and everyone behind him cheered wildly.  I would be shocked if those people were anything but tourists.  

No one I know in the government, Republican or Democrat, wanted it to shut down. It is, simply put, a massive undertaking full of uncertainty and questions.  

Can you imagine all the things you would need to wrap up if you knew that as of midnight, it would become illegal for you to touch your work Blackberry?  email? any work at all? (note: it is illegal for one to incur any expense while in a non-pay status) What in the world should your out-of-office say?  (one coworker suggested "I will be back in the office when Congress passes the budget and successfully completes the ONE task they are legally bound to undertake each year")

Friday was one of the busiest days I've had in recent memory. I left work later than I normally ever do (and especially late for a Friday).  I had guests coming over to celebrate a friend's birthday, so I didn't really have much time to process my impending "unemployment."  We all talked about it a bit at dinner, but everyone here is pretty weary of it, so we quickly moved on to birthday celebrations. 

Later that night, sitting at a booth at a bar, one of my friends said "so, how do you know that it's officially shut down?" and it just so happened to have just struck midnight.  We decided to check the news to make it official.  

I nearly dropped my Blackberry when I saw the headline that a deal had been struck.  

Not that I was over the moon about an indefinite break from work... But I had spent the entire past week hearing of nothing but the shutdown.  I had spent Wednesday and Thursday trying to concentrate on work as we received conflicting guidance that put everyone in a tizzy.  I spent Friday frantically wrapping things up. By the time midnight rolled around, I was no longer in denial about the situation, and had gotten to the point that I was optimistic about what I could accomplish in my personal life while it was illegal for me to touch work. 

The total 180 by congress threw us all for a loop, but it was a welcome last-minute compromise (although I will be singing a very different tune if we're facing yet another shut down next Friday)

Naturally we celebrated the news by dancing the rest of the night.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

last one to clean her kitchen is a rotten potato

(proof that I was not always put off by raw meat {it's a tiny little fish, i promise})

No, I did not learn the wrong childhood metaphors.  I found a rotten potato in my kitchen today.  I'm not sure if you've ever encountered a rotten potato before, but it is possibly one of the more disgusting things I've ever come across in a kitchen before (and that's coming from a girl who avoids touching raw meat at all costs).  

So, I remembered to defrost my last steak this morning (despite my post-girls' night tequila haze), and planned on having it with mashed red potatoes and garlic.  I have little baby red potatoes on my counter, but intended to cut up the slightly older, larger red potatoes and use those before they went bad. 

Way too late for that, friends. 

I took the first potato off the pile and it felt fine.  I smelled it to be sure, and then I noticed the OTHER two potatoes.  I couldn't even really see the one at the bottom of the bowl, because the middle potato apparently decided enough was enough.  Either he was going to be used, or he was going to mutiny.  And mutiny he did.  (Note: I don't really normally think of food as having a personality.  This traumatizing experience has convinced me otherwise).

The middle potato was lying belly up with a jagged, gaping hole in it.  There was a pool of black goo at the bottom of the bowl, and the hole in the potato exposed yellow liquified grossness.  I just stood there for a minute staring at this huge, disgusting mess (seriously, I couldn't even bring myself to make you look at a picture to prove that I'm not exaggerating, it was that gross).  Then the smell hit me like a brick wall, and I couldn't get that bowl of rotten potatoes into the trash fast enough.  Yeah, the bowl was sacrificed.  

Don't judge me until you've confronted a similarly traumatizing rogue potato incident. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

captain grumpy pants

It's Friday.  I got to wear jeans to work today.  All the bosses were out of the office.  It's Allie's turn to cook Friday dinner.  I have friends in town this weekend and next.  My family descends on DC in a couple weeks.  

And yet I am captain grumpy pants lately (not, sadly, an April Fools joke).  I can't decide if I need a little vacation from work (possibly I told a coworker "use your WORDS" today...) or if it's the weather (I swear, for the past three or four days, it looks like the same [indeterminate] time all day long because of the non-stop clouds and drizzle).  Either way, I'm hoping Allie's risotto and a little bit of wine will snap me out of this rut.  

Until then, I leave you with the evidence that I was destined to be a messy cook.