Monday, November 30, 2009

adulthood

My Thanksgiving entertaining went smoothly and Brad and I enjoyed christening our new home for the holiday season. My turkey was moist and the other eight items that I made turned out well. We were blessed with the good company of two other couples who are dear friends and one guest who was a last-minute addition.

Yes, this holiday by far surpassed the last one.

I truly felt like a grown-up this year for two reasons:
1. I planned and prepared a full Thanksgiving dinner on my own without my mother, or anyone's mother, looking over my shoulder. And I loved it and I now feel confident that I could do it again.
2. Brad and I own a dining room table that includes a leaf, and we were outrageously excited to use it. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that it took thirty minutes and both of us crawling under the table to install it correctly last Tuesday night, but we finally figured it out and it worked out great.

I dressed the table with a Lenox Opal Innocence tablecloth and napkins that complemented my china. Desiring a low centerpiece to better facilitate conversation, I floated four large buff roses in one of my crystal bowls and added two taper candles in crystal holders to either side. I fell in love with some unusual twigs with orange berries at the floral shop at Eastern Market and as soon as I saw them, I had to have them! As you can see in the photo below, I scattered the twigs with berries around the table to add color. Very simple, yet just the look that I wanted.


Brad and I had a fun and relaxing, yet productive long weekend. We're very thankful for the many evidences of God's grace in our lives.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

a reprieve from the CB

Brad and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with friends this year, and I eagerly volunteered to host and to tackle the bird. I jumped at the opportunity to insert and use the leaf for our new dining room table. Of course now that I am in a panicked cooking and cleaning mode, I am questioning my rash decision. Why am I so much more nervous cooking for friends than I am for family? Restless dreams of raw or dry turkeys disrupt my sleep at night. I worry that I won't fit everything into the oven. My to-do list overwhelms me.

But even if the meal fares less than perfect, I am still thankful for the chance to cook it at home rather than eat it at a chain restaurant. Brad and I are really looking forward to a long weekend at home together.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 23, 2009

musings of a fan girl

I write this entry while exhaling a huge sigh of relief. I will admit that I was worried. But New Moon surpassed my expectations, and I can't wait to see it again.

I won't go into the nitty-gritty details of the many aspects that I loved (and the few that I didn't) because I don't want to spoil the experience for anyone. If you've already read the books, go see the movie TODAY. I promise that your time and money will be well spent. This movie is 100 times better than the first because it follows the book more closely and the acting is much improved. Even KStew is tolerable this time around (or maybe I've just gotten used to her?).

If you are still a Twilight virgin, now is the time, dear friends! Why wait any longer? Take advantage of this holiday week to get a head start on the books, which you should definitely read before watching the movies. I only recommend that you watch the first movie so that you can better appreciate the drastically improved second movie.

My viewing experience differed from what I expected. I bought tickets for the Saturday 4:45 p.m. showing. While I noticed several packs of teenagers, 75% of the audience was at least 25 or older. And I was amazed at the number of couples and MEN in the audience! So my husband had no excuse to bail on me once we were seated; he had plenty of other males with whom to exchange sympathetic looks. And the screaming and squealing were kept to a minimum. I had to hold a few back, especially at the end, but thankfully everyone seemed very interested in hearing the dialogue.

As Brad and I waited in line to enter the theater, we were greeted by three women my age who exited the theater furiously fanning themselves. When I made eye contact with them, they laughed and said, "Please excuse us, we're swooning." Brad rolled his eyes and almost left me at that point. But I persuaded him to stay and although he refuses to see the movie a second time, I do believe that he was moderately entertained. I will say that after seeing the ending (which was PERFECT!!!! and a wonderful segue to the third movie), I completely understand the ladies' reactions. I swooned too.

About three things I am certain.
1. I will attend the midnight viewing of the third movie, Eclipse, on June 30, 2010. Brad has put his foot down about midnight or repeat viewings, which I completely understand. But I will go on my own.
2. I don't care how cute or sweet the wolves are. I will always be a loyal member of Team Edward.
3. I can't deny it any longer. I am officially a Twilight fan girl, in only the best ways, of course!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

meal baby

Brad and I belong to a church that has a very young congregation; the majority of members are younger than thirty. Because we have so many newly married couples and young families, as one might imagine, the congregation experiences an explosion of new babies each year, making the meals ministry a busy and an exciting place to serve. I recently assumed the coordinator position for DC, which means that I schedule up to eight meals for members living in DC who have new babies or experience some other type of serious need. Other women coordinate the meals for families living in Maryland or Virginia.

Although I just began this position in November, I love serving the congregation in this way. And someone referred me to a free online tool that makes my job much easier: Meal Baby!

This site allows me to create a meal registry for each expecting family. I query the expectant parents for their likes, dislikes, allergies, and target meal delivery dates, and then I enter all of the information into the registry. Once the baby arrives, I add the email addresses of potential meal-makers and people can sign up online for a specific date to make and deliver a meal. The real benefit of this site is that meal-makers can indicate their tentative menu for everyone to view so that hopefully the family will not end up eating lasagna for three meals in a row.

This site can be used to coordinate meals for occasions other than births. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

mute

I've lost my voice, which has never happened to me before.

A sore throat over the weekend that blossomed into a full-fledged head cold by Monday turned into laryngitis late Monday afternoon after six consecutive meetings where I obviously talked too much.

I've tried every home remedy that I can find via google, but my voice is still unable to project above a slight whisper, which leaves me feeling incredibly frustrated. Other than a lingering scratchy throat, I feel fine; I just can't speak much or very loudly.

This morning I had a comical exchange with Ellis, my 85-year-old friend who runs/shuffles around the park each morning. After taking over a week off due to last week's rain and this week's sickness, my feet hit the pavement, or should I say brick, this morning.

Me (running up very close to Ellis with hopes that he will hear me): Morning Ellis!
Ellis: Morning (Dr. Blondie)! Where have you been lately?
Me (coughing and straining my vocal cords as much as I can): I'm sick!
Ellis: You been away?
Me (trying again): I've lost my voice.
Ellis: You went on vacation?
Me: (I just shake my head and run past Ellis, giving up.)
Another gentlemen walking next to Ellis took over for me: She's sick!
Ellis: She went out of town?
Other gentleman: No, the lady said that she LOST HER VOICE!
Ellis: Oh.

At least now I have a good excuse to forward all calls directly to voice mail. I hope for a comeback by tomorrow as Thursday is my teaching day. And I definitely need my voice to return by this Saturday, so that I can squeal with all of the tweens and teens at New Moon, which will likely cause me to lose my voice again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

a listening must

I acknowledge that I'm very new to this whole podcast thing, but please humor me today while I gush about my favorite podcast, the one that I listen to first and repeatedly: Grammar Girl.

The plethora of academic writing that I completed during my doctoral program, even though my program's focus was not English or grammar, turned me into a wannabe grammarian. I say wannabe because I will never consider myself an expert on the subject. But I do enjoy learning about it, and I constantly strive to correct mistakes and improve my writing. You already know that I am a huge fan of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips that are sent via email each day. Her two books are on my Christmas wish list. And now let me explain why you should faithfully listen to her podcast too.

1. Each podcast only lasts six to eight minutes and is focused on one very specific grammar-related subject.

Let me give you some examples of recent episodes I have found particularly useful: who vs. whom; which vs. that; correct use of the word comprise; persuade vs. convince; alternative vs. alternate; and using possessives with gerunds (don't worry, I couldn't have defined the word "gerund" before this episode either). Think you already know when and how to use these words correctly? I did too. But I implore you to listen to the episodes. I guarantee that you will learn something.

2. Because each episode is short and specific, you will not feel at all overwhelmed. And, she releases a new episode only about once per week.

3. Grammar Girl presents complex information in a simple way. She briefly explains the rule in question, and then uses many catchy examples to help the listener understand it. I often may not remember the rule verbatim, but I can usually explain it well by recalling her examples.

4. Her topics focus on grammar mistakes that a majority of people make every day. I usually feel very humbled by her podcast because I fall into the mistake-maker category more often than I'd like to admit, which usually prompts me to listen to a particular episode a second, or even a third time!

5. You will likely be able to apply Grammar Girl's tips immediately. Even if your job requires little writing, you will be amazed at how quickly you will begin to use her tips, even through informal means such as email or casual conversation. I most enjoy learning a new tip, and then correcting the mistakes on my students' papers. My honors students believe that they are smarter than most of their professors. I relish the rare occasion when I feel smarter than my students.

6. These eight minutes per week can result in a lifetime of improved writing. Your colleagues, friends, and family will thank you. You will feel more confident about your communication skills.

Subscribe today!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

uncomfortable

Only two hours into my twelve-hour workday and I already rue my choice of outfit this morning.

It involves what is arguably a woman's most despised garment: pantyhose.

Two factors necessitated donning the restrictive, itchy, usually too short, prone to runs and holes, and otherwise ghastly stockings:
1. It is November. Is it socially acceptable to go sans pantyhose this late in the year? Doubt led me to err on the conservative side.
2. Today's weather is a windy, rainy, and chilly mess. Even if I would have answered 'yes' to my first question, trust me, no one wants to see my pasty white legs covered in goosebumps. Plus, I just might have frozen to death.

I am going to be on campus until 9 p.m. tonight. What was I thinking?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the apple of my eye

I've tried them all,
each brand, each flavor.
But only one apple
wins my favor.

Granny Smith, Red Delicious, and McIntosh
aim to please.
But only the beloved Honeycrisp
brings me to my knees.

Gala, Braeburn, Fuji, and Pink Lady
only wish that they could compare
to Honeycrisp's sweet, yet tart taste
that I find so extraordinaire.

The other apples just don't have it;
bland is their best descriptor.
But Honeycrisp, nature's true dessert,
emerges as the clear victor.


Monday, November 9, 2009

more to read

Considering that I haven't yet started reading even one book that I acquired from the last used book sale that I attended, I probably had no business visiting my library's sale this past Saturday. But I can never resist my library, a good book, or a used book sale. Plus, Brad and I still have empty bookshelves, and what better way to fill them than by foraging through the bowels of a DC Public Library for hidden treasures?

I could have stayed there all day.

But after only about five minutes of searching, Brad found me with my arms overflowing with books, and he quickly decided that it was time to leave because we couldn't possibly carry any more books home with us (we forgot to bring a bag, of course... we'll be better prepared next time). Notice Brad's and my stacks of books in the picture. I'll let you guess which stack is mine. I found copies of three of my all-time favorite books!

We bought 18 books - eight hardcovers and ten paperbacks - for only $12.75. I scored five of Jane Austen's books this time! I still couldn't find a copy of War and Peace (which is part of my 2010 reading goal), so I will add it to my Christmas list.

Being a library lover rather than a book buyer, there's just something about a used book that comforts me. The relaxed spine, folded-over and tattered pages, occasional coffee drips, already-marked typos, and long forgotten receipts, post-it notes, and cards stuffed randomly inside give each book a unique character of its own. The more of these attributes, the better. For these are signs of attention and love; they show that a book has been read, and hopefully, enjoyed by many over time.

I love that.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

the wallet returns

Nearly two months after our break-in, a young woman who lives near us found Brad's stolen wallet abandoned near her front fence. We were all shocked to realize that someone, whether it was the thief or not, still cruised our neighborhood with Brad's wallet.

Predictably, all of the cash and credit cards were missing. But the crook left Brad's driver's license, insurance cards, library card, and a scrap of paper that contained his and my social security numbers.

The most disturbing item that was missing? Our wedding picture. Now why would someone leave most of Brad's identification, but take our wedding picture?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

podcast recs?

I've never considered myself to be a music person. While I love to read, and can talk about books and authors all day long, I can't hold even a five-minute conversation about music. I don't have a favorite band or song. I listen to the radio while driving, mostly for background noise rather than anything else. I never desired an iPod because I felt it would be a waste of money to buy an expensive device that I would rarely use. People often questioned how I could run long distances without music, but I detest the idea of tucking earbuds into my ears, especially when exercising (I have a strange discomfort regarding foreign objects in my ears; this may be the topic of a future post one day).

But ever since I fell in love with my new iPhone, life has quickly changed. I've quickly recovered from my aversion to earbuds and I now love to listen to podcasts while I cook and clean. This form of entertainment makes my mundane, daily chores so much more enjoyable! And on most occasions, I feel like I'm learning something while I mark items from my to-do list. But gentle readers, I need some suggestions. I only regularly listen to three podcasts, and while I love them all, I could use a few more in my queue. I currently listen to Grammar Girl, Books on the Nightstand, and a few random sermons that I've missed at my church.

Which podcasts are your favorites? Please share!

Monday, November 2, 2009

NYC Marathon wannabe?

Every December, I enter panic mode when I attempt to register for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, my, and apparently everyone else's, favorite spring race in DC. Due to the race's increasing popularity and myriad people attempting to register online as soon as the system opens, the server inevitably stalls, which means that it takes at least an hour to successfully pay the fee and complete and submit the form. I've experienced such difficulty each of the past two years that multiple people have used different computers on my behalf to secure me a spot. Last year, the 12,000 slots filled in under three hours. Each year, I grumble about this process and declare that there HAS to be a better way.

Last week I learned that the race organizers have changed the registration procedures for the 2010 race: they've instituted a lottery.

And I feel sick about it.

Generally, I don't have much luck with lotteries or drawings, so I fully expect to have to sit out next spring, which bums me out. The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler was Brad's and my very first race, and we've run it faithfully every year since 2006. Shouldn't four or more consecutive years of participation guarantee automatic entry? I wish!

I foresee this race quickly turning into another New York City Marathon, which only admits one-third of its lottery applicants. The NYC Marathon is on my must-run list, so I need to start entering the lottery now, knowing that it may take three or four years before I am accepted. Let's hope that the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler doesn't develop such a long waiting list. I can't bear to wait years to run it again.