Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Please ignore my bad-cologne smell today; it's not me, I promise!

My optometrist, although a nice man and a competent doctor, wears the worst-smelling cologne. The room just reeks when he enters and it's all I can do not to gag, especially when he invades my personal space while examining my eyes. I believe that heavy perfume and cologne should be avoided in all work situations anyway, but especially if your occupation places you in close proximity to others.

After my eye appointment today, I was chatting on the phone in my office and I noticed a bad-cologne-like smell. I immediately thought, "What man has been in my office and using my phone?!" About an hour later, I noticed the foul scent again and that's when I realized that I was smelling myself! My eye doctor contaminated me! I smelled my shirt and sure enough, it smelled like his cologne; that's how potent the darn stuff is. It's almost enough to make me find a new doctor.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

100 Calorie Packs Can Lead to 500+ Calorie Binges

Brad survived a bachelor party in Las Vegas this weekend and the few material goods that he came home with included several measly airline snacks from the return flight. Because I had a semi-sweet craving after my lovely dinner/book club outing with friends tonight, I came home and tore into one of the packages that I thought were mini Chips Ahoy cookies.

I'm not a naturally observant person and I obviously did not read the package before stuffing a few in my mouth. Have you ever eaten a 100-Calorie Pack of Chips Ahoy Thin Crisps? Don't bother. They consist of little more than air and are the sorriest product to flaunt the label of Chips Ahoy that I have ever tasted. These factitious cookies simply make me crave the real thing 10 times more than I initially did. I could polish off at least a 1/2 row of genuine Chips Ahoy cookies right now, especially the candy-blast kind. Or ice cream... that sounds delectable now too, but only chocolate-chip cookie dough. It all comes back to the cookie.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

34: The Year of ???

Now that I've been 34 years old for one week and three days, the planner in me continues to question which joy, challenge, event, or undertaking I will forever associate with being 34. I know that the magic in all of this is that I'm not a psychic and that whatever will define my year of being 34, either good or bad, is a complete surprise at this point. But I still long to know. I'm a naturally curious person and in most cases, utterly devoid of patience.

I'll never forget leaving my home state, the only state where I had ever lived, when I was 24. I remember that July day, admiring the beauty of Lake Michigan and the tenacious runners along the lake path, while driving along Lake Shore Drive in my packed-to-the-gills, sporty, red Toyota Celica, the Chicago skyline slowing receding in my rear-view mirror. I barely kept the car on the road because my eyes overflowed with tears, thinking about all that I had experienced there and wondering if I would ever return. Little did I know that I was off to meet my future husband!

Age 26 is forever marked as the year that I graduated with my master's degree and moved to my current home.

I officially "snagged" Brad when I was 27 and he proposed!

28 = bride, marriage, moving in together, and the beginning of the rest of my life

I began my doctoral program when I was 30. I think that the stress associated with turning 30 caused a temporary lapse in judgment when for some reason, I thought that additional schooling sounded like a good idea!

31 = the year of statistics. I spent the entire summer of 2005 in stats classes. I had class every single evening, Monday through Thursday, from June 6th - August 18th. I shudder at the memory.

The major physical challenge of my life occurred when I was 32 and Brad and I ran a marathon. I'll always associate that year with the marathon (and all of the long and early-morning training runs that led to it)!

I completed my Ph.D. when I was 33.... and this year will forever remain in my memory as the "year of the dissertation" when I lived in a cave. I honestly don't remember much about this year... only that I did it, and that I'm done now, and that in retrospect, it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.

What will 34 bring? Will I write a novel? Run another marathon? Travel the world? Or simply vow to sleep late and eat pancakes every Saturday? I vote for the last option.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Holy Spring!

It was 68 degrees this morning when I returned from my 6.5 mile run to the Lincoln Memorial and back. Holy hot (for me, when running, that is)! Thankfully, I checked the weather, so I embarked well prepared in my shorts and tank top with a full water bottle in hand. But nothing ever really prepares me for the first balmy run of the year. Temperatures higher than 50 degrees really take a toll on my body when exercising as I am not blessed with active sweat glands. At most, I glisten slightly, but what normally happens is that my face turns the color of a tomato, forcing me to constantly dump water over my head to cool myself enough so that I can actually finish the run. Someone needs to tell the National Park Service to turn on the water fountains on the National Mall. I stopped twice in hopes of replenishing my water supply only to find dry fountains. I know that we're technically still in February, and this beautiful weather is nothing but a cruel tease, but it was 68 degrees at 10 a.m. today... warm enough for some water, I think.

Brad and I both have the day off of work. As a federal employee, he is celebrating Presidents' Day and I am celebrating having comp time to use. I think that I got the better end of the deal though, as I am writing this blog with my free time while Brad is doing our taxes. I hear him cursing, so I assume that we won't enjoy a big, fat refund this year.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bistro Bliss

Because my birthday falls just three days before Valentine's Day, Brad and I always celebrate BIG for my day of honor, but lie low for Valentine's Day. Actually, for the third year in a row, we'll honor St. Valentine at a cozy little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in our neighborhood. Bistro Italiano consists of one tiny dining room in an old row house that holds about ten small tables for two. One waiter manages all of the tables, which normally results in slightly slow service, but the food is outstanding and super cheap (side garden salad = $2.50; pasta with marinara sauce = $6.95)! This mom-and-pop establishment draws its patrons solely by word of mouth. As far as I know, Bistro isn't even listed in the phone book, but it's always packed with diners and carry-out customers.

Three years ago, Brad and I discovered a special ritual at Bistro on Valentine's Day. Normally they don't take reservations, but they do for Valentine's Day, and they mark your table with an old-fashioned, hard plastic, "reserved" table sign. Slightly old school, but undeniably cute. And the waiter gives each lady a red rose at the meal's conclusion. Bistro Italiano nears the top of our list of favorite neighborhood joints and it's even more fun on Valentine's Day. Plus, I can't deny myself the baked cheese tortellini with pink sauce (my staple). Now THAT is bliss.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Homemade Birthday Dinner: The Irony

As I'm very much looking forward to Brad cooking dinner tonight for my birthday, the irony of the situation just hit me. You see, weeks ago, Brad asked me for home birthday dinner preferences. After mulling over a few ideas, I decided that he should fix one of the meals that I chose from Let's Dish back in January. At the time, I weighed the difficulty of each meal idea and tried to determine my level of stress at watching Brad attempt to cook each meal (not to mention, how many questions he would ask me during the process). I erred on the simple side, guided by the philosophy that the easier it was for him, the easier it would be on me.

However, being the brilliant Ph.D. that I am, the irony of the situation just dawned on me. I ACTUALLY MADE THE STUPID DINNER IN THE FIRST PLACE AT LET'S DISH! I spent quality time reading and following the instructions step-by-step. While I didn't have to chop vegetables or shop for the ingredients (which was HEAVEN, by the way), I still spent a Saturday afternoon assembling meals and believe me, it was fun, but it was WORK. Now all Brad has to do is follow the very-specific instructions on the bag, which means that he basically has to just heat the meal. This is in no way his fault, as it was my smart idea that he fix this meal in the first place, but I hope he understands his luck. Next year, I'm going to enjoy watching him sweat it out as he tries to make a quiche or something.

Birthday Season: Part II

Today is my birthday! I plan to celebrate turning 34 by taking the day off from work and cashing in a Christmas gift card for a Swedish massage. Brad will cook me dinner tonight, a real treat as I normally take charge of all food-related duties (but he does lots of other chores... no free rides in this house!). But knowing his discomfort in the kitchen and my take-charge demeanor, I'll end up coaching him through the dinner preparations from my spot on the couch. Oh well, at least I can lounge, with hopefully a cocktail in hand, while I supervise.

Brad and I celebrated my birthday by, predictably, eating our way through the weekend. While Brad always chooses a high-end steakhouse for his birthday, I select frou-frou, cozy, romantic restaurants. This year's selection included Kinkead's, a seafood restaurant in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Once we were seated, I opened the menu to read "Happy Birthday Rebecca!" printed at the top! The staff also gave me a candle on my dessert and a birthday present that consisted of a Kinkead's mug filled with sweet treats and a copy of my personalized menu. As far as personal details go, Kinkead's was definitely top-notch. And the food was delicious too. My only criticism is that their dining room was a bit too bright for my taste. We had a private table, but I enjoy low lighting when I dine, especially at a nice restaurant. The server humored me and dimmed the lights upon my request (I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm a bit of a high-maintenance diner during fancy meals), but it still wasn't quite enough. Other birthday weekend activities included breakfast at Eastern Market on Saturday and catching up with a few of my Lady Vol friends for brunch on Sunday.

Just in case you're interested, the following list includes a brief review of the restaurants that we've sampled for my birthday over the past few years:

2003: Sequoia: A summer MUST for casual fare because of the outdoor patio on the Georgetown waterfront, but if you're there during the cold months, the inside dining room (and menu) is actually suprisingly good and relatively inexpensive.

2004: 1789: I love, love, love, LOVE this place. We've actually been here twice and it is the quintessential DC restauant (an old, historic Georgetown row house that has 5-6 tiny little dining rooms that are all decorated with a different historical theme). I highly recommend sitting in the Civil War room... there are semi-private tables in an alcove and fairly dim lighting.

2005: The Tabard Inn: This place is another obsession of mine. We ate in near-total darkness, with only one lone votive candle lighting our corner. It was PERFECT - very sweet and romantic!

2006: Galileo: Wonderful Italian food, but after eating all four courses and paying a fortune, I became a little upset when I was STILL HUNGRY. The portions are miniscule and this fact alone makes this restaurant not worth the money.

2007: Citronelle: An experience that everyone should do once, but this is by far the most expensive meal that Brad and I have ever eaten. I definitely suffered sticker shock when we looked at the menu and I joked about how this birthday dinner should cover two birthdays. Who knew that 33 would be the year for my fanciest birthday dinner yet? Anyway, the experience is great; it's dark, the servers and chef spoil you, and you definitely eat plenty. But it is outrageously expensive, so be prepared...

2008: Kinkead's: see above

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Pet Peeve #136

I know that I am preaching to the choir here, but please allow me to bellyache a bit, as I sometimes enjoy taking a passive aggressive approach via this blog rather than confronting people directly. Anyway, I digress...

I am always amazed by the number of educated, cultured individuals who fail to understand that the "s" at the end of "Illinois" is silent. Originating from the Land of Lincoln, I am especially sensitive to this gaffe, and I never know how to correct people appropriately without sounding pompous. Here's what happened today:

An educated person who shall remain nameless: "Hey! Did you hear about the storms that swept through the Midwest... where was it? Oh, I think it was Illinois (pronounced il-uh-NOISE)?"

Me, before I could stop myself: "Oh, do you mean Illinois (il-uh-noi)?"

Other person, cluelessly and excitedly: "Yeah! That's what I just said - Illinois (il-uh-NOISE)!"

I mean, come on. I'll be the first to admit that I mispronounce my fair share of words. But Illinois IS a state; it's not some random GRE word that you've never heard of. There are only 50 states and any 12-year-old (or younger!) has heard the names of the states enough times to know how to pronounce them! Illinoians (il-uh-noi-uhns) find this mispronunciation somewhat comical, yet really annoying.

Therefore, let this entry serve as my public service announcement: don't forget to silence the "s"!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's DR. to You, Buddy

I'm teaching a brand new cohort of students this semester (155 bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked, currently-angelic freshmen) who aren't well-acquainted with me just yet as this course is the first of two that they take with me. I teach, support, and advise each cohort of students for a total of seven semesters (from 2nd semester of the first year to the end of the senior year), and I grow fairly chummy with most of them by the end of their undergraduate careers.

The current freshmen haven't yet learned that I allow and even encourage students to call me by my first name, so many of them cautiously address me as "Dr." orally and in e-mails. And here's the funny part: contrary to past practice, I don't correct them! Just between you and me, when I open an e-mail from a student and see it addressed to "Dr.", my heart sings! I credit this rush of happiness to the visual reminder that I'm done with school forever. Maybe it's also because the accomplishment still feels incredibly new, and this is the first time that I've started a semester as an official Dr. Or maybe I'm just vain and I take my thrills where I can get them. I figure that I have to put my degree to good use in some way... and intimidating naive freshmen into submission is about the only thing that the three glorious letters after my name are doing for me right now!

Occasionally, I'll hear from some clueless bloke who obviously lost his syllabus and therefore addresses me as "Ms.", which makes my teeth itch. Rule #1 in the academy: if you are uncertain of someone's title, always err on the side of assuming that a college instructor holds a Ph.D. rather than the opposite.

Let me share this guilty confession with the caveat that I'm definitely uncomfortable when friends or family, either seriously or jokingly, call me Dr. I honestly only enjoy hearing the title in professional settings...unless you want to send Brad and me formal written correspondence. We did receive a Christmas card this year (from a female friend who has a Ph.D.) that was addressed to "Dr. Rebecca and Mr. Brad...". Now THAT made my day.

Friday, February 1, 2008

No Healthy Eaters Allowed!

For many, many reasons, Brad and I simply adore our neighborhood. We dream of someday being able to cough up the requisite $800K+ for a 100+ year-old tiny rowhouse that "needs work" so that we can officially be considered Capitol Hill "lifers". We both break out in hives at the mere thought of leaving the Hill and moving to a more practical, affordable area (that would most likely NOT be in DC, as very few homes are truly affordable here).

I will write subsequent entries about the myriad quirks and characteristics that perpetuate my love for the Hill, but today I give tribute to one of my favorite vendors at Eastern Market. The Market Lunch counter sells the most amazing breakfast food on Saturday mornings and exudes an atmosphere that you rarely find anyplace else. A true local experience, the Market Lunch is a beloved component of Eastern Market to Hill residents. Every week, customers stand in a 30-45+ minute line that winds through the hustle and bustle that defines Eastern Market while others shop for produce, seafood, meat, cheese, baked goods, and flowers. Patrons place their orders for breakfast at an old-fashioned counter and with food in hand, take a seat on high stools at a long solitary table. It's kind of like a group meal because everyone sits at the same table. The owner strictly prohibits saving seats, reading newspapers, and excessive socializing in order to keep the line moving. Plus, as the long line basically wraps around the only table, hungry patrons stare at you intently, hoping that you'll wolf down your food and quickly vacate your seat. The grey-haired man with the glasses (in the picture below) owns the establishment and is a real legend on the Hill. He's famous for barking orders at his staff, harassing anyone who just orders plain pancakes instead of his popular bluebucks, and running a very tight ship. You will rue the day that you challenge Tom Glasgow, the strict-but-sweet entrepreneur. The somewhat chaotic Market Lunch experience occurs in the midst of crowds frequenting the many other vendors in the market, so a pleasant commotion simply surrounds you. It's bustling. It's happy. It's loud. It makes my heart tingle with joy each and every time.

Last fall, Brad and I struck up a conversation with a gentleman sitting across from us at breakfast. This man shared that he commuted from Woodbridge (45-60 minutes away) every single Saturday for breakfast. Recently, his doctor advised him to lower his cholesterol and he immediately feared that he would have to cease this weekly trip, because, as you can imagine, the Market Lunch offers no heart-healthy options. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, French toast, omelettes, sausage, you name it, but they don't even list so much as a fruit cup on their menu. This man, wanting to better his health but not relinquesh his breakfast, asked Tom (the owner) for an omelette made with egg beaters, to which Tom sternly replied, "We don't do that here. You'll need to go someplace else."

That's their motto. You don't like it? Find another establishment. The Market Lunch caters to no one. Don't ask for a substitution or a low-fat version. They post a large sign titled "The Rules" next to the counter. I actually find their "take it or leave it" attitude particularly refreshing, especially in this society where an inordinate amount of pressure exists to be all things to all people all of the time. Based on the length of the line every Saturday morning, the Market Lunch is clearly not hurting for business. And the gentleman with the high cholesterol? Well, Brad and I witnessed him inhaling eggs benedict with fried potatoes that day and we suspect that he's been unable to kick the habit. I completely understand. I'll be taking my place in line again next weekend.