Monday, July 30, 2012

hello (dolly)!

Apologies for the radio silence, you devoted audience of five. It's funny, I seem to have the most to say when I should be working and/or studying. Now that I've handed in my final exam and have been on vacation for a few days, I just can't seem to sit down and type anything out. Which is just dumb, because I finally cooked something! Granted by "something," I mean "dessert for dinner," but you know, at this point if it's not takeout or ramen, I'm going to consider it a (homemade) success. Also, after working for twelve days straight for ten to twelve hours a day, I decided I deserved a treat. 


I'm honestly not sure how I even got the idea to attempt a single serving Hello Dolly, but it came to me as I was cleaning and packing in preparation for my little trip home to North Carolina. I had everything on hand, including graham crackers to crush up for the crust and a random can of sweetened condensed milk. A quick survey of the pantry turned up the remaining add-ins: butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, coconut, and pecans. I didn't even use a recipe, especially after last fall's Hello Dolly fail, I just kind of threw stuff in the mini pie pan until it seemed right. I got a little overzealous with the sweetened condensed milk, but it was still really tasty.       


My trip home has been a whirlwind (more on that later), and I'm not at all ready to head back to reality tomorrow...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

working for the weekend

It feels like it's about mid October right now. Chilly, rainy, overcast, generally icky weather. It all started Thursday night with a crazy window pane-rattling storm that brought constant lightning and cracks of thunder that felt like they were originating right outside my building. I'm normally a huge thunderstorm fan unless they're keeping me up at night. And this one was. But, it helped dispel the 100+ degree heat that was making me wilt. 

If it has to be disgusting outside on any given weekend, I'm glad it happens to be one I'm stuck in the office so at least I'm not missing gorgeous weather. Yesterday I worked so late I had to cancel happy hour with a friend of mine (the horror, I know), today I had to miss a friend's birthday celebration, and oh yes, I have this little final exam coming up on Monday. 

About that... I had every intention of going home from work last night and studying (contain your envy, folks). I even stopped at the nearby 7-11 to get a box of Kraft mac & cheese to facilitate minimal dinner prep time/maximum exam prep time. I feel like the 7-11 guy was totally judging my sad purchase, but maybe he was just pitying my tired face. I have no doubts that it was obvious how drained I was, by the way, because one coworker said to me "you look really stressed" and the other said "wow, you look exhausted" all within an hour yesterday. Thanks boys.  But I was so, so sleepy that I barely made it through a half-dozen flashcards before I called it a night.

how awesome of a Friday night does this appear to be?

Even though I willingly transferred to a part of my agency that has a super crazy workload every third month, I always forget how much it drains me! I'm really, really looking forward to next Thursday, at which point I will conclude twelve straight days in the office, and take a few much-needed vacation days. Until then, I'll be hugging a mug of coffee, wishing my sis and I still owned these awesome 90s sweaters for this freaky weather, and daydreaming about some family time.

 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

the final stretch

(Advance warning: it is far too hot, and I am far too stressed for cooking. Therefore this is general rambling about life, and not life+food, as most of my meals lately have been cereal or toast-based)

At about 10:45 Tuesday morning, apparently DC was the hottest place in the US. Probably because the sun was still rising over places like Death Valley. Either way, I think we can all agree that 100 degrees or more is HOT. And once again I blame the heat for my brain functioning on a seriously compromised level. 

Last week, I got off the metro at the wrong stop on the way to work, then Monday, I paid no mind whatsoever to the color of the train pulling in to the station and got on the wrong line on my way to class. And Tuesday? Tuesday I left work with the intention of going home to study for my final, and found myself instead buying four, yes FOUR, sweaters. On a record-breakingly hot day. When I had just finished complaining about being broke. And today might actually be the most embarrassing of all: I commuted to work with mascara ALL OVER my eyes.

Because, to circle back, the heat is melting my brain. In my defense, all four sweaters cost me $20 as part of an odd, off-season buy one/get one free sale on winter wares. I have no way to defend myself on the "should've web studying" front.  Definitely have no excuse for the raccoon eyes.

Speaking of studying, with my final exactly five days from now (the same day, by the way, that the quarterly report to Congress I work on goes to press), I'm right back in the grumpy place I was pre-midterm. I'm always like this before exams, public speaking, and doctor appointments. I spend far too long thinking about just how much I don't want to do the task at hand instead of just growing up and preparing for it. I daydream about skipping it, not preparing for it, avoiding it somehow. Extremely mature, really. So anyways, final exam stress + work stress + crazy heat = sad, defeated little Jenny. Much like actual little Jenny years and years ago. Not sure what heinously dreadful task I was facing this particular day, but I think my little four-year-old face says it all, no?  



The original version of this, which includes my equally bummed-looking little sis, was posted months ago, but I really don't think there's any better way to capture my current state of being, minus a present-day photo, and I look as rough as I feel right now, so no camera is coming anywhere near my tired face.

For now, I'm going to continue on in my general state of denial and think happy thoughts about escaping to someplace a little like this...

(taken summer 2007 on the last family Maui trip)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

winging it

Funny things happen when you're broke and lazy. And by funny, I mean kind of sad. You force yourself to leave a perfectly awesome happy hour after a few drinks to trek home through the torrential rain so you can eat a free meal. You try to make your own caramel instead of using prepackaged squares because the local grocery didn't have them. You make your own coconut milk.


Last night, I left a particularly stressful class (in which we discussed our final exam, which is a mere six days from today...), and the entire walk home, all I could think about was how badly I wanted Thai food. Specifically some sort of red curry. And how I really, really did not want to cook it myself. But, I've been spending far too much lately, especially on food, so I had settled on making my go-to quick dinner: pasta with peas and corn. Snooze. 


As the water for pasta was boiling, I decided I should at least give curry a shot, but a quick rustling through my pantry turned up exactly zero cans of coconut milk. I did, however, have some rice milk in the fridge and a bag of coconut flakes in the pantry. Worth a shot, I decided. If it failed, I'd already be halfway to my usual dinner. 


Surprisingly, it was a total success! If you also are craving curry, lacking in coconut milk, and happen to have milk and coconut flakes on hand, a quick simmer/steep/strain process will get you a totally curry-worthy ingredient!

Ok, so maybe if you're more skilled in the kitchen, this isn't a super-exciting discovery, but I was thrilled, and yes, a little surprised, it worked. To the freshly minted coconut milk, I added a couple of teaspoons of curry paste, a few drops of oyster sauce, and a couple dashes of brown sugar. I threw in (cooked) vermicelli and spinach. It was no Thai take-out, but, it hit the spot for $0 instead of the $20 the takeout would've taken me. And unlike the caramel fail, it didn't leave me wanting to chuck food across my (tiny) kitchen.      



And now that I've gotten that little burst of enthusiasm out of my system, back to my thrilling day of caffeinating to make it through the sprint to next Monday, when the report I work on goes to press, and I take my final exam. (A week from today will basically be the best day of my summer, is what I'm saying, because I will a)sleep in, b)finally take a deep breath and relax completely) 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

(not so) salty

I'm not quite sure how I managed to let this weekend slip away from me with nothing to show for it except a half-successful batch of chocolate chip cookie bars, but here it is, Sunday night, and I don't even have that much. Well, to be fair, I left the pan of them sitting at work, where I spent nine hours of my day today. Not that I'm bitter about it or anything. 


Anyways, you should try this salted caramel chocolate chip cookie bar recipe. Only unlike me, you shouldn't be too lazy to trek to a store that actually has caramel squares. Because if you go all Martha Stewart and try to make your own, and don't pay close enough attention to what you're doing, suddenly you'll have hard-as-cement caramel that you couldn't pay to play nice and combine with the requisite heavy cream. And then you will just chuck all the dough into a square pan, throw it in the oven, and convince yourself that your coworkers will be just as happy with plain old chocolate chip cookie bars that don't have a layer of gooey salty caramel (even if you won't). 


I didn't take any snapshots because, well, I'm lazy. And horribly exhausted and absent-minded and constantly behind in life. I think I need a hefty slice of non-caramel-y chocolate chip cookie bar, a glass of wine, and a good night's sleep... 


But this is what they should look like. Mine looked just like the recipe for once. You know, minus the caramel. Now, about that wine.


from the recipe





Wednesday, July 11, 2012

must get out

In the words of the ever insightful Maroon 5, "this city's made us crazy and we must get out." Or at least it's making me crazy. And I must get out. Soon.  


I haven't really been home since March, which, even including my time living abroad, might very well be a record. I did go to Denver a month ago for my cousin's wedding, but that was such a whirlwind trip that was so markedly bookended by my flight anxiety that it doesn't quite count as a vacation. 


But just when I thought I couldn't possibly make it to the end of July to make my escape, mother nature came to my rescue. Last night, on the way home from happy hour, I was super-confused to find a plethora of people mulling around, refusing to take the final escalator out of the metro. Turns out it was pouring. I mean comically raining (sound familiar?). Raining so hard that everyone who saw me preparing to make my exit looked at me like I was crazy. But I was starving and sleepy after a few drinks, and so ready to get home, so I whipped out my tiny travel umbrella, took off my sandals, and splashed my way down the street. 


I got home looking a bit like this, despite the umbrella...



My hair ended up wet and wavy, and I regretted wearing a white blouse, but it was the best walk home I've had in ages. The streets were practically deserted. I had one of the busiest thoroughfares all to myself as I hopped from puddle to puddle. With lightning flashing in the clouds and the occasional rumble of thunder as the only distractions, it was serene and perfect. It couldn't have come at a better time. It's funny how DC always redeems itself at the last minute, isn't it?   

All I had was my iphone camera, and having already cracked the screen of the poor phone, I was trying to avoid also dropping it in a puddle, so here are a few of my attempts to capture the sheer volume of water I encountered.  







Tuesday, July 10, 2012

detox

I still haven't cooked anything lately, unless of course microwaving some peas and carrots counts? Right, then. I did at least finally, for the first time in maybe a month?, make a trip to the grocery for week-long sustenance. I erred on the extremely healthy side, only buying things that were bland and/or were recently plucked out of the ground or off of a tree. I generally have an unwavering commitment to a decidedly less puritanical diet, but I am making a desperate attempt to appease my digestive system, which, as I mentioned Sunday, is staging a bit of a revolt against the aforementioned (horrible) food intake. Losing five pounds in the span of a weekend, while perhaps fortuitously timed given that it's bathing suit season, is not particularly pleasant or healthy.  


I'm feeling slightly more human today, thankfully, but I'm pretty tired thanks to the crazy summer thunderstorm that rolled through the District last night approximately an hour after I'd finally settled into a deep sleep. I'm hoping a few more days of eating mostly fruits and veggies has me feeling back to my old self before the sprint to the end of July really kicks in later this week. To say I'm looking forward to some time away from work (and from DC) in August would be an understatement. 


In lieu of any new recipes to offer, all I have is the very amateur-hour, but still kinda cool (if you ask me) little video of the last five or so minutes of the DC fireworks, filmed during last Wednesday's last-minute rooftop dinner celebration in honor of America's birthday. Something about fireworks...I just can't stop watching them. Kind of like I can't stop eating watermelon and drinking strawberry beer. What? That counts as a fruit, doesn't it? 

{note: I wrote this last night after class, NOT at work today. I do not endorse drinking at work. Most of the time. Kidding. Sort of}


video




Sunday, July 8, 2012

derailed

This heat. I just can't. It is completely inescapable and horrible and draining, and all sorts of other adjectives I can't think of right now, because I'm so, well, drained. I realize it's summer and all that but this just too much. 


I'm also feeling really rather awful. Not sure if it's the heat, my horrible diet lately, or a combination of the the two, but my stomach is not happy, not at all, not even a little bit. It's put a bit of a damper on the to-do list I was hoping to knock out this weekend before I have to work the next couple weekends in row.  


But, angry stomach and horrifying heat aside, it's still been a pretty good weekend, full of reading, shopping, lunching, and churching. It didn't really get off to a proper start on Friday until after I climbed off of the train I was trapped on for an HOUR in a tunnel outside of L'Enfant station (without cell phone service at that). After that little adventure, thanks to a different train re-railing further north (caused by, you guessed it, the heat), I found my friend at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden, where she was, much to my relief, waiting with a few bottles of clandestine wine and a spot for both of us to put our feet in the fountain. Much to her relief, my mysterious hour of radio silence was not on account of my having been kidnapped, mugged, or otherwise endangered.  


snapped by my friend, after I'd sufficiently calmed down post-metro delay
another Jazz in the Sculpture Garden shot by my friend (mine was far less artsy)

I suppose it was better than last Friday, when the temperature was also hovering near 100 degrees, and I was strapped to a heart monitor, which, in case you were wondering, is super uncomfortable to wear when it's 100 degrees. It's pretty uncomfortable in general, but especially when it gets really toasty out, and the probes are sticky and itchy. It's also quite the conversation piece, as one of the five probes rests smack in the middle of your upper chest, and if you're not aware in advance that you'll spend 24 hours hooked up to one, you don't think to wear a shirt that would disguise it. If you're lucky like me, that surprise will coincide with a retirement party at your office at which all of your (nosy) coworkers have gathered. 

So anyways, that's why I was on my way to the cardiologist before work the other day: I had to return the lovely monitor for their analysis. I'm happy to report that, at least for 24 hours, my heart functioned precisely as it's meant to, aside from a small heart murmur that the doctor discovered as part of the hour and a half I spent in his office on "heart monitor Friday." Side note, I also got to see my heart via ultrasound that morning at his office, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever.

And with that excitement behind me, all I really want is a week with sub 100 degree temps and no metro delays (and ok, a vacation to look forward to would be nice, too). I think I can hear my fellow DCists laughing from my perch on the couch, but hey, a girl can dream. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

happy birthday, america!

Last night around 9:15, it finally got dark, the whole city got quiet, and the sky was illuminated by the annual DC fireworks.  It was a very heart-swelling, "I love this city," moment, which, I realized with some surprise, was my third time feeling that way, as I've now passed three consecutive July 4ths here. The whole thing was a bit nostalgia-inducing, as holidays tend to be, and I couldn't help but think of everything that's changed in my life since the 4th last year, and of all the amazing places I've spent the day in the past. But enough of that, here are some fun pictures. And later on, a little bit about how I spent the day, which, surprise!, I actually got to take off (I genuinely thought I'd be at work). 

fortunately these clouds held no fireworks-dampening rain



really cool timing - big old orange moon rising + fireworks


fireworks launching + moon rising (again)
 
So anyways, when I realized I'd thankfully have the day off, I decided to turn down my sweet friend's invitation to her pool and to stick close to home to avoid the obscene heat. Ever incapable of relaxing for long, I found myself in the LKTC (despite the 90+ degree temps).  A friend who lives a few minutes away also didn't have fireworks-viewing plans, so she said she and her boyfriend would drop by for the show, and for an impromptu dinner.


I started with these champagne jello shots that she suggested I make for our little last-minute celebration. When I made it to the grocery, they didn't have any pineapple jello (or jalapenos or mint leaves or...), so I went with strawberry instead and popped a few slices of pineapple and a few slices of strawberry in my mish mash of shot glasses.  I tried one them with my breakfast to make sure they were ok (don't judge...you have a mimosa with brunch every so often, right? ok then). They were pretty tasty! They only have about half a bottle of champagne among all the shot glasses, so they're pretty harmless. 

the saddest little jalapeno I ever did see (but was the one and only jalapeno at both Whole Foods and Safeway...)

strawberry champagne jello shots with pineapple and strawberry slices

Once the jello was setting, I threw corn in the oven for one of my favorite repeat offender recipes, roasted corn with lime (as seen here and here). I have to say, this time around I decided to supplement the roast corn with cooked frozen corn, and I honestly couldn't tell the difference, although maybe my palate is just highly unrefined. Point is, I think you can get away with not heating your oven up to 450 F on a 98 degree day, and just use frozen corn. 


While it cooled, I got everything ready for a make your own rotisserie chicken platter. I take exactly zero credit for this, as the chicken came already-roasted from the store. I can handle 15 minutes of oven time for corn, but a couple hours for a chicken? Yeah, it's just too toasty for that. 


Although the champagne jello shots were festively colored, I still felt like we needed an "American as apple pie" type dessert (that didn't actually involve apple pie being baked in my oven). Enter peach ice cream. I shouldn't even admit this, but I used frozen peaches. The peaches at my local grocery store were rock-hard, and I figured frozen was better than un-ripe. We ended up too stuffed to eat the ice cream, but I did sample it, and I could barely taste the peach flavor. Maybe I should've gone with the un-ripe but un-frozen peaches...


After all that cooking, I got some "life-stuff" done. I did the dishes, painted my nails a festive red, cleaned my apartment, and worked on my paper for class. I know, I know. Try to contain your jealousy at that line-up. Such a glamorous life I lead... But knowing that I'm heading in to a crazy three or four weeks at work and in class, it was honestly nice to just stick around the apartment and get things done. 

a bit sticky, but relieved at the lack of rain!

I'm happy to report that the weather cooperated, and we were treated to an amazing show, minus the headache of the crowds on the Mall. There really is nothing like celebrating the 4th in the nation's capital, and I'm glad I stayed in town this year for the holiday. Happiest birthday, America!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

shudder


Happy birthday to my dad! He's already beat the odds and gotten a hole-in-one twice, but I wish him another one just for his birthday! Once again, I would love to be home celebrating with the family, but, the busy cycle at work kicked off yesterday, so I'm basically tethered to my artificially lit little cubicle unless I'm at home sleeping, in class, or on my way to or from one of those two places.

Speaking of commuting, wmata was tough on me yesterday. I had to stop by the cardiologist's office on the way to work (yes, cardiologist. yes, I'm awfully young to be saying that word. yes, that story is to come). The cardiologist is, in fact, on the way to work, but, I ended up waiting 15 minutes for a train, which then sat in the station for 10 minutes before carrying on towards Arlington. Not exactly how I was planning to start my Monday, but at least it was a good excuse to buy a pick-me-up in the form of a fancy cappuccino this morning. 

My favorite wmata-related thing that happened yesterday, though, was easily being asked out by an old man. {Note: "old" in this case means over double my age. I realize my parents are that age, and I don't think of them as old. However, when it comes to being asked out, anything more than 10 to 15 years plus my age is "old."} 

Anyways, I was minding my own business, listening to music, rushing to class, and then it went something like this:

Old Man: "How are you today?"
Me: maybe if I ignore this person, he will think I didn't hear him {then, I made the fatal error of glancing in his direction}
Old Man: "I said 'how are you today?'...{I hesitantly remove one earbud} oh, are you talking on the phone?" 
Me: {then I made my next fatal error by being honest} "oh, no, music"
Old Man: "where are you headed?"
Me: this is how an episode of "Criminal Minds" starts, right? maybe if I tell him I'm going to class, he'll realize I am WAY TOO YOUNG for him. "I'm headed to class"
Old Man: {obviously undeterred} "oh where do you go, GU?"
{Interlude of me talking extremely vaguely about where my campus is, despite his probing questions, then the train pulls up}
Old Man: "do you mind if I join you?"
Me: do I have a choice? is this a bar? no, it's a metro. get on the train, you idiot, and let's just get where we're going, which, hopefully is NOT the same place.
{Interlude of me making obvious attempts to talk about ANYTHING but myself. See: "Criminal Minds" reference. I got on a pretty great tangent about the new Rush+ thing on metro and how it was ruining my life. Train rolls in to a station where, praise the heavens, the old man is disembarking} 
Old Man: "so could I interest you in lunch some time?"
Me: {fatalist error of them all} "maybe"

I wrote my work number on his metro card {apparently I at least had the presence of mind not to give him my personal number}, and off he went. Once the metro doors firmly shut behind him, I immediately started wondering a) why I'm incapable of either being honest and saying "heck no you creeper" or lying and saying "well, my boyfriend wouldn't like that very much," b) if I'd just met a serial killer, or just a late fifties dude who really likes younger girls. {And I shudder to think just how young he likes them, since I was just hit on by a middle schooler a couple days ago, which goes to show that I don't exactly look my age} 

So yeah, if I go missing, it was a silver-y haired man in his fifties who was wearing a jetblue pilot's uniform and toting a wheely suitcase. I don't remember his eye color, because I was avoiding eye contact like my life depended on it. I think I need to stop watching so much tv. And being so nice to strangers.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

sandy

Hi friends. I'm currently riding a bus through rural Delaware, eating a whole bag of tootsie rolls, and day dreaming about moving to the countryside and running barefoot through corn fields. Never mind that you probably can't even run through a cornfield. That's why it's a daydream, people. Anyways, I'm on my way back to DC after an all-too-brief one day vacation at Dewey Beach. Clearly one day wasn't long enough, but really when IS a vacation long enough? Anyways, more on today's adventure another time.

Far more pressing, you ask? Maybe I finally cooked something? Well, it's cute that you think I'd fire up my stove in these 100 degree temps we've been enduring, but I'm actually here with some crazy pictures of the aftermath of a big storm that tore through the DC metro area Friday. I was actually totally ignorant to the extent of the storm, as I was so tired after Friday happy hour that I heard the thunder, and just kind of rolled over and went back to sleep. Which is funny, because I'm both a light sleeper and a thunderstorm lover. I was also totally unaware of just how powerful the storm was until two things happened. One, I got hit on by a middle schooler. Two, I saw all sorts of scary things (below) when I walked out of my apartment.

How does the middle schooler hitting on me relate to this? Well, in an attempt to finally catch up with a friend, I agreed to meet her at the Pentagon City mall. The mall was teeming with the plethora of DC and VA residents who were without power and thus bored and steamy at home. Brilliant move on my part, right? So while I was waiting for my friend, up came this baby-faced kid, who asked me the time, harmlessly enough. Let's just say it spiraled from there, and I shooed him away pretty quickly. I realized far too late that I should have let him keep going so I could see his face when he learned I was nearly double his age.

What can I say? It's been quite the weekend. Back with more soon!