Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a tour of trees

One other Christmas Day tradition includes visiting the National Christmas Tree. This year, we opted for a tour of trees.

First, we started at home, admiring our own, and setting up timed shots with the camera.

Our beloved tree

We can easily kill 30 minutes just trying to get a couple of pictures.

Playing with the camera's timer

Then, we ventured to see the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse. It was packed, as usual. The tree's a little chintzy, in my opinion, but I do love the smaller trees representing each state, commonwealth, and territory, the yule log, and the many small trains racing around the giant tree.

National Christmas Tree

On a whim on our drive home, we decided to park and walk up to the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, something I'm embarrassed to admit we've never done in the more-than-ten years we've lived here. This tree was much more authentic than the National Christmas Tree--we could see its branches and ornaments and imperfections; it wasn't just a cone-shaped structure with a massive, lighted net stretched over it. The area surrounding this gorgeous tree was not crowded at all, and we could walk right up to the tree and stand there for as long as we wanted without being jostled or pushed along. And, who can beat the United States Capitol as a backdrop?

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

I'm never sorry to see the holidays end and a new year begin, but I will miss these trees!

Monday, December 27, 2010

my someday Christmas goose

Our cozy Christmas dinner for two
I grew up eating fondue on Christmas Eve and ham and turkey--or both--on Christmas Day. Brad and I have continued the fondue tradition with our own little family of two, but we've implemented a new meal for Christmas Day: rare-to-medium-rare beef tenderloin.

We both love this meal. It's delicious and simple, yet elegant. Beef tenderloin requires little preparation or time in the kitchen, allowing me to spend more of the holiday relaxing with my husband.

I've prepared beef tenderloin for several Christmases now, but I sometimes long to try something new. Rack of lamb, duck, and goose all tempt me. Someday, we will eat goose on Christmas!

What are the staples of your Christmas meal?

Friday, December 24, 2010

merry christmas

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

Merry Christmas, Gentle Readers!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

priceless

For the first time in our 8.5 years of marriage, Brad and I are claiming this Christmas holiday as our own. Starting tomorrow, we'll have 11 straight days in our own home together: no work, no traveling, no company, and, Lord willing, no sickness.

This lengthy, rare time at home alone with my husband-of-the-year is my favorite Christmas present ever. And, it's one that can't be bought.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

how I'm doing

When I wrote this post, I was in the numb stage. The grief hadn't hit yet and I naively thought I could avoid it this time around. But I was wrong. I've had my share of the yucks recently.

I've been social, yet antisocial. I avoid hoards of mommies and pregnant women--two populations that are painful for me because I can only have so many conversations about children and pregnancy and remain sane--and opt for coffees and lunches with one or two close friends instead. Friends' pregnancy announcements, no matter how thoughtfully and compassionately delivered, can put me into pity-party mode for days. I tasted these feelings before, when Brad and I dealt with only infertility. But multiple pregnancy losses have increased my jealousy, anger, and woe. It stinks to try to rejoice for a friend while suppressing feelings of miserable sadness for yourself. I am not proud of these feelings. They are an ugly side of what I'm going through right now.

Brad and I have undergone the tests to see if some fluke on one of our sides is causing these miscarriages. The good news, praise God, is that both of us are in perfect health. The frustrating news is that there's nothing the doctors can do to "fix" our miscarriage problem. They say the losses are because of chromosomal abnormalities, which can't be prevented, and they're likely to continue. If we get pregnant again, we face an increased risk of another loss. This news has been heavily weighing on me, and it is not helping my battle against fear. Brad and I are so compatible! How can our DNA be so incompatible? But then I think of our friend and his wife, who are now on their sixth pregnancy, bravely marching on, praying that this one works out, and I feel encouraged by their faith, courage, and perseverance. I continually remind myself that while statistics can be useful, they are not the determiner of life: God is.

There's only one question (thus far) that I can't tolerate and unfortunately it's a popular one: when will you try again? Some well-meaning people want to offer a solution and they think that another pregnancy will solve everything. Well, it won't. Replacement babies are a myth. Brad and I could go on to have loads of kids, but we will always grieve the ones we lost. Other folks pretend that emotions don't exist, so they don't dare ask us how we're doing or feeling (because we might actually tell them), and instead ask only questions of a practical nature, which I don't find at all helpful or comforting. In fact, I usually have to resist the urge to throttle people who ask me when we're going to try again.

2010, while certainly not my easiest or happiest year thus far, has been important and life-changing. I am learning to trust God in ways I never have before. My faith has grown exponentially. I am continually convicted of my sins and my need for a savior. I have received love and compassion from the most unlikely places and have developed instant friendships with people I barely know. Sweet sisters in the club have cared for me. Other friends, who have no experience with infertility and miscarriage, have shown compassion beyond what I thought capable. I hold a special place in my heart for those who brave the awkwardness to ask me how I'm doing and insist on a truthful answer.

Brad, my heart protector, remains one of God's greatest gifts to me. The Lord has strengthened our marriage through these trials, which I thank him for every day. Don't underestimate the stress on husbands, dear ladies. They feel the pangs of pregnancy loss, too, which are often overlooked because so much focus is on the woman. Insensitive people also pressure men about starting a family. Husbands deal with their wives' raging hormones, endless tears, and fears and anxieties, often feeling helpless because they can't fix the situation (and we all know how much men love to fix things).

If you see Brad, give him a hug and a pat on the back. He deserves this year's husband-of-the-year award. Anyone know how I can nominate him?

Monday, December 20, 2010

worth it

Every minute of the 3.5+ hours it took me to make boeuf bourguignon was worth it! Watch out, Julia. I'm a cooking machine . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

the tree's troupe

Our Christmas tree needed some friends.

I adored our wreath last year, so I bought another fresh one and dressed it up with tiny red bows.


The former owners of our house left behind these darling little trees, but they needed some holiday flair (aka more red bows).


The extent of my outside holiday decorating . . . 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

a sure sign of winter

I run my dishwasher more than I should for a reason: I've seen the toll that washing dishes the old fashioned way every day can take on youthful hands. But if dirty dishes won't do me in, then winter surely will. I woke up one morning last week with dry, cracked, and bleeding knuckles.  I use lotion every morning and am now applying cortisone cream to the worst spots.

Any tips? My hands need help!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

my spring will be less pink than normal

My worries from last year came true this year: the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler's lottery system didn't select Brad and me.

Does it matter that we've run this race for five consecutive years?
Can we qualify for it and skip the lottery?
Doesn't anyone care that it was the first race we ever ran and therefore it is dear to our hearts?
Shouldn't being the race's biggest fans count for something?

No, no, no, and NO.

I'm so bummed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas card politics

Although the holidays can be tough, one thing that makes them more bearable, in addition to my Christmas tree, is sending and receiving holiday cards. But, the whole endeavor can become so political, don't you think?

I send about 100 cards each year to a random assortment of folks. All of Brad's and my extended family members receive one, regardless of our relationship or communication (or lack of on both counts) with them. I've never removed a family member from my Christmas card spreadsheet, although I've been tempted to at times. We receive few cards from family members compared to the number we send, but we still feel obligated to send them. Go figure.

I send cards to a handful of Brad's and my childhood and college friends (and in some cases, their parents), but not to all of them. I also send cards to a handful of friends we've made here in DC, but again, not to everyone. And to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what determines the selection. I have no rubric. I have no A list or B list. I do keep a spreadsheet that I use from year to year, so once someone makes it on, he or she is probably on it for life. One sure way to get on my spreadsheet is to send us a holiday card. I can't bear to not return the nicety.

Occasionally, I'll have to delete people because they died (sad) or moved and left no forwarding address. A college friend and I have faithfully exchanged Christmas cards each year since we graduated in 1996. Although we haven't communicated much since then, our Christmas cards have always managed to find each other despite cross-country moves and married names.

What Christmas card politics do you deal with? Who makes your holiday card list? And how do you decide?

Friday, December 10, 2010

how to create a profusion of houseplants

I understand that houseplants, and plants in general, intimidate some people. But the benefits of plants are endless, and they really are much easier to care for, keep alive, and reproduce than you think. From one modest Heart-Leaf Philodendron--my favorite of all houseplants because it doesn't need much light or water--I've created an army: two pots at work and at least five pots at home.

Let me show you how to do it.

Make sure your plant is good and healthy. The leaves should be a lush, dark green (not yellow, brown, or lime green) and the vines should be long, like in the photo below.


See how long the vines are in the picture below? They will grow forever if you let them. In Brad's and my old apartment, the vines stretched at least ten feet once, before I cut them off.


Snip off the vines with a pair of very sharp scissors. I normally leave a healthy amount of greenery in the pot, but trim off everything that spills over the edges. Don't worry--it will grow back.


Snip each vine just below a leaf, like I did in the picture below. Then, remove the bottom 1-2 leaves. Once exposed to water, the little nubs (I'm SURE there's a scientific name for this, but hey, I'm no botanist) where the leaves were will sprout roots.


After this step, you have two options: plant the snipped vines in a pot of saturated potting soil or stick the vines in a cup full of water. If you're a novice, and want to watch the roots grow, choose the latter option, which is pictured below.


Keep the vines in the cup for two to three weeks, changing the water every few days. You'll notice long, thin, black/brown strings forming on the "nubs" on each stem--these are the roots! Once you notice the roots forming, you can plant the stems in potting soil, making sure to keep the soil very wet for another couple of weeks so the roots can grow and establish themselves. The stems can be tender and may break easily, so clump a few of them together and plant them in bunches. After a couple of weeks of wet soil, just treat the vines like any other plant and water them whenever needed.

May you create Heart-Leaf Philodendron armies, too, and never have to buy another houseplant again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

julia wannabe

I received both volumes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Christmas and I can't wait to dive into them. I want to make a few nice meals in the upcoming weeks when Brad and I are off work for the holidays. The Boeuf Bourguignon is at the top of my list. Does anyone have other suggestions?

Monday, December 6, 2010

blondies unite!

There's another blogger with my name, only she goes by Doctor Blondie. She googled her own blog recently, but found mine, and contacted me. We both claim the Dr. title (she's an MD, I'm a Ph.D.). We both have blond hair (hers is natural and mine's slightly enhanced, or, as I like to say, brightened). And, we're both runners! Imagine that!

I think we're going to be friends.

Friday, December 3, 2010

reading like a champ

I've been running, running, running, and now I'm reading, reading, reading. Just yesterday, I hit my running goal. Hooray! But regarding my reading goal, well, I'm a little worried.

I've read TONS of books this year--more than in 2009--but I've gotten distracted from reading what I said I would. As of this entry's publication, I have 2+ "required" books left for 2010: the last two in the Lord of the Rings series (I've started the second one) and something, anything, by Richard Russo. (I'm thinking it will be Empire Falls unless someone persuades me otherwise.)

I have 28 days to read over 1,200 pages. Can I do it?

It's going to be tight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

evergreen forever

Gentle Readers, it's time for my annual tradition (and the #1 reason my husband boycotts my blog) . . .


Oh, Christmas tree, how I long to spend forever with thee! You're back again, indefinitely this time as Brad and I have no travel plans in the foreseeable future, which for you means no departure date. Fear not! We won't kick you to the cold curb before Christmas or the day after so we can leave town assured you won't burn our house down. We picked you up on the Friday after Thanksgiving, two days earlier than usual, and with no end date in sight, well, you may still be here come March.

Even though I question others who keep their Christmas trees up long after the holiday is over, you're changing my attitude. You are so splendid that you could easily become my forever tree.

Of course, Fern and Sprout will be enraged if you permanently steal their prime, sun-filled location, but what can they do? They won't burn the house down. Let's not worry about them just yet. For now, it's all about you.

Once again, you are exquisite. How do you do it year after year? Towering at just over eight feet, you're lush and full, but not at all heavy. Your branches cascade to form the perfect cone shape. You hold our beloved ornaments, most of which are hand-me-downs, with care. Our new shades are the perfect canvas to showcase your elegance. And luckily for all of us, their red hues blend in with your color scheme. Your fresh-cut aroma--wow. Delicious. Energizing. Comforting. Inspiring. Home. Us. Love. Memories. Tradition. The slightest whiff of you brings tears to my eyes. Like I need another reason to cry these days! But you provoke tears of joy, so it's okay.

You are a special one, dear tree. No matter how severe the yucks, one glance at and sniff of you will wipe them away. You twinkle. You dazzle. You lift spirits. You heal. You have no idea of your awesome power.

Stay, darling tree. Stay here with us, forever.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

seasonal confusion

Oh, Impatiens,


and Snapdragons,


how I love your ignorance that tomorrow is December.


Your incessant blooming has saved your lives. I intended to pull you up months ago, but I just can't bear to get rid of still blooming flowers.


I will enjoy your beauty until you either give up or the first snow wipes you out. If you so desire, feel free to stick around until next spring. Your colorful blooms will lift my spirits on the imminent dreary and cold days ahead.

Monday, November 29, 2010

turkey takeout

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving! I said it last year, but nothing makes me feel more like an adult than whipping up a holiday meal by myself. For the third time in my life, I took responsibility for Thanksgiving dinner, and everything turned out great.

I highly recommend a fresh turkey from Market Poultry at Eastern Market--juicy and delicious!

This year I did do something new, besides change my table decor and prepare a couple of different side items. Brad's parents came in for the holiday, and Brad and I also invited a couple from church to join us. At the last minute, the couple from church got sick and couldn't make it. For a moment, after worrying about the couple's health, I panicked about what to do with the certain excess of food.

And then a brilliant idea came to me.

The church listserv.

I advertised that people were welcome to join us OR they could get carryout from our meal. Within minutes, I had a couple requests for takeout. After Brad's parents, Brad, and I finished eating on Thursday, I put away the leftovers we wanted and gave everything else away. I felt so happy to feed others, and also that my three days of laboring in the kitchen would not be automatically thrown away because we ended up with way too much food.

Crisis averted. When in need, you can always count on the church listserv.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

thankful

From my table  to yours,


I wish you a day of celebration.
 

May you know God's mercies upon you.


And may your turkey turn out extra moist.


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Gentle Readers. Thank you for being such an enthusiastic and loyal group to write for.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

key ingredient

For years, I toiled to make the perfect mashed potatoes. I tried adding ridiculous amounts of milk, butter, cream, broth, and half and half, but the potatoes never turned out creamy enough, until last year, when I discovered the key ingredient.

Fat-free cream cheese works just as well as the original kind. Add a block, along with some fat-free milk, a little butter, loads of salt and pepper, and fresh rosemary (my special touch, courtesy of my beloved herb garden) and you will have some second-and-third-helping-worthy mashed potatoes. Plus, the cream cheese keeps the potatoes nice and moist so they taste almost as good reheated in the microwave.

I will never make mashed potatoes sans cream cheese again. May your mashed potatoes on Thursday give creamy a new name!

Monday, November 22, 2010

farewell farmers market

How do seven months pass so quickly? I feel like my beloved backyard farmers market just opened. Wasn't May 1st just yesterday?


The market's last day of the season was Saturday and I tearfully said goodbye. I miss it already. Next May feels so far away. But during the cold and potentially snowy days ahead, I will dream of flowers, organic greens, Honeycrisp apples, fresh bread, butternut squash, corn on the cob, tomatoes of all types, and all of my other favorite farmers market things.

Friday, November 19, 2010

the first and last article I will ever read in sports illustrated

Runners, aspiring runners, and supporters of runners, you MUST read this article in a recent Sports Illustrated. (Trust me, I have never picked up this magazine in my life, and I never plan to again, but Brad knew that this article would speak to my heart. And it did.)

You may be devastated, like I was, that Pheidippides's famous 26.2 mile run from Marathon to Athens wasn't really 26.2 miles, and that it probably didn't happen at all. (That's okay. I still plan to take a vacation to Greece, visit Marathon, and pretend the legend is true.)

But you will be encouraged by the stories of some of the finishers of the recent marathon in Athens, which celebrated the Battle of Marathon, and Pheidippides's legendary run, 2,500 years ago.

The article's author gets it. If he hasn't run a marathon, he's certainly spent substantial time around people who have.

Brad declared his official retirement from marathons after we completed the one in San Diego in 2009. But this article spoke to his heart, too. And I'm saving it just in case I can use it to lure him out of retirement.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

mums = massive fail

The elementary school across the street from our house is an eyesore, but I do enjoy the beautiful fall mums planted there.



Look at that vibrant color!


The school has one up on me this year. Look at my mums below. See the hint of color on a few of the blossoms? That's the color they're supposed to be: a rich, brick red. Most of the blooms are brown because they're dead.


I have no idea what happened, but all five pots of my mums are dead. Can mums not tolerate plenty of direct sunlight? Does anyone know? I've tried to be diligent about watering them.


I'm disappointed the mums didn't last through my Thanksgiving company. If you have tips for keeping these plants alive (for next year), please share!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

managing the yucks

Losing a loved one, breaking up with someone, getting fired, finding out you (or loved ones) have a terminal illness, seeing a dream go down the toilet . . .  these are all events that can kick off what I call a "yuck phase", a period that's more than just a bad day or week. Having a severe case of the yucks can leave you feeling blue, isolated, ostracized, weepy, numb, and like you're the worst company ever.


I battled the yucks from July through September. And even though I felt like they got the best of me most days, praise God that I overcame them eventually. Brad and I are keeping our heads above the yucky drowning waters this time. Prayers help. Friends help. Comments, emails, and good thoughts help. Thank you all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

chin up and soldier on

Brad and I have suffered another miscarriage, a chemical pregnancy this time. From the beginning, the nurse cautioned that the pregnancy might not be viable, and it turned out not to be. Of course, we're disappointed, but are not overwhelmed by grief like we were last time. It's a loss, and another setback, but as my doctor said, we can't let fear paralyze us. We've got to stay in the game if we want to win.

This command is easier said than done. I never considered myself a fearful person until I experienced a miscarriage. Anxious and worried at times, yes, but not fearful. But once miscarriage strips you of all feelings of control, it's so easy to let fear overcome you. A friend of mine, also a two-time member of the club, told me that she's scared to get pregnant again. I understand how she feels.

A friend and his wife have had five miscarriages (but no baby yet). After the devastation of my first miscarriage, I often thought of them, and wondered how they handled so many consecutive losses. But I better understand now. Even though fear and anxiety are pervasive, hope springs eternal. Miscarriages are so common, but you never believe you'll have one. Then it happens and you grieve and consider it a one-time fluke. It happens a second time and although you're more nervous about the future, you believe that surely the next pregnancy will be successful. You take each loss as it comes, and cling to hope. Praise God for providing comfort, hope, courage, persistence, and faith. Think of how many babies would not have been born had their parents given up in the face of adversity!

Brad and I have no idea what the Lord has in store for us, but we know that he is sovereign and good. We see his grace in our lives. We are growing in faith and we feel our dependency on him. God works for our good and his glory. We pray that others see our experiences as a testament of this truth.

Thank you to those who pray for us. We appreciate it so much, and we ask you to please keep praying. Pray that we guard against fear and anxiety. Pray that we don't lose hope. Pray that we trust in the Lord's sovereign plan.

Last Christmas, one of Brad's aunts gave me a bracelet with the word "courage" inscribed on it. Little did I know how prophetic that bracelet would be for me in 2010.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

little things that will keep you up all night

One night last week, I had insomnia, which, praise God, rarely happens to me. Despite being exhausted and falling asleep while reading my book in bed (looking glamorous, of course), once I turned out the light, my eyes remained wide open. I eventually fell asleep for a few hours, but woke up at 3:30 in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. I initially blamed my sleeplessness on the start of a head cold: scratchy throat and stuffy nose. But when the alarm finally sounded, ending my night of misery, and Brad and I got up and made the bed, I realized the true culprit: Brad's pillow.

Somehow, Brad's and my pillows had gotten switched and I didn't realize it before going to bed. While tossing and turning, I thought my pillow felt flatter than normal and I couldn't get comfortable, but I never once suspected that I had the wrong pillow.

I've never been picky about pillows, but I am now certain that this is what kept me up half the night. Am I crazy? Has this ever happened to you?

Brad, who insists on a pancake-like pillow and is far pickier about pillows than I am, had his best night of sleep in weeks with my fluffy one. (Grrrr....) I had to fight him to get it back.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

goodbye garden

I nearly broke my back this summer beautifying my backyard, until the end of August, when I quit. I haven't weeded, pruned, deadheaded, or tidied things up back there since the conclusion of our entertaining month. Dinner parties ended, the company left, and I got lazy.

The poor yard suffered a slow and excruciating death.


Especially my little garden.


On Saturday, I called it quits and vowed to try better next year.


I ended up with a decent final collection of produce: green tomatoes, tons of yellow bell peppers that are still green, jalepeno peppers, and another eggplant (significantly smaller than the first one).


Brad and I filled seven large trash bags with yard waste. And I haven't even touched my flowers yet, many of which are still blooming.


Goodbye, garden! Only five long short months and I will lavish you with attention again!

Monday, November 8, 2010

so this is how the rest of the world lives

I love being a laptop and a mac girl now. I feel like I have a new best friend--this computer follows me everywhere. Here I sit, blogging in front of the TV with Brad next to me on his own laptop. So this is what everyone else has been doing for years! Owning a laptop takes multitasking to a whole new level.

This new toy, though I love it dearly, is not entirely a good thing. I used to limit my computer time at home to blogging or looking something up on the Internet if I needed to. But now, whoa. If I'm not careful, this little laptop will suck me in and before I know it, my night is over.

When Brad and I begin Skyping with each other from different rooms in the house, someone, anyone, please take our laptops away.

Friday, November 5, 2010

like old china

I have a motley collection of students in my class this semester: lovebirds, Pig-Pen, and now a brand new group--the fragile ones. These students have tender hearts and end up with hurt feelings easily and often. They take constructive criticism and questions about their research project personally and they act as though my feedback will either make or break them. With every other student or team, my constructive criticism goes in one ear and out the other. To have students not only listen to but care about what I have to say astounds me. 

I tiptoe around these students, who are like old china--ready to shatter at the slightest pressure. I'm often at a loss for how to deal with them. I want to give honest feedback, but I have to carefully consider my words and delivery. I give them the grades they earn, but when I write that "B" or "C" on top of the assignment, I grimace a little, knowing that hurt feelings will ensue.

After class one Thursday, I complained to Brad about having to coddle these sweet, but breakable students. He looked up from the TV and said, "You, of all people, are complaining about others being too sensitive? Are you kidding me?"

My husband, he nurtures me, but he also calls it like he sees it.

So, I tiptoe, and cheer lead, and try to deliver bad news (and bad grades) to these precious, fragile ones with care. Life will toughen them up soon enough. I don't need to be the one to do it. I want to prolong their sweetness as long as possible.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

#8: please shower

I have one more item to add to my "how to improve your chances of getting a job list": don't stink. Literally.

I interviewed one of the sophomores in my class for an undergraduate teaching assistant position next semester. Although he "dressed up" for the interview (collared shirt and khaki shorts = dressing up for college students), answered my questions appropriately, and seemed to really want the job, there was still a problem--a huge one, in my opinion. His body odor made my eyes water. That 15 minutes trapped in a small conference room with little ventilation with him almost made me vomit. Did he not know that he stunk? How could he not know?

I actually like this kid and was disappointed not to hire him. He's smart, friendly, and conscientious, but apparently not with personal hygiene.

Monday, November 1, 2010

a year of meals

Last November, I began coordinating the making and delivering of meals to DC church members in need. Two other women at church coordinate meals for families living in Maryland and Virginia. 

In the past twelve months, I have set up a total of 158 meals for 20 families: 18 had new babies, 1 family moved across the country, and 1 mother underwent surgery. I have emailed with over 100 volunteers, and 85 of those have made at least one meal this year. Many have made two or more meals.

Here's the thing: I don't feel like I've done anything. My faithful meal makers and Meal Baby make my job so easy. I love serving the congregation in this way and it's been a real blessing to get to know some new people.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

dahlia explosion

Remember the sweet little dahlias I planted in the backyard in April?

Four tiny pink/purple dahlias in the center of the picture between the rose bushes
Well, now they look like this.

Dahlias - 10.23.10
They've wreaked havoc on my orderly flower bed, but I'll take the mess for the hundreds of blooms I've enjoyed this year. And it's almost the end of October and the plants are still blooming! I love dahlias--they're such perky, happy flowers and I'm pleased to have gotten my money's worth. If they don't come back on their own in the spring, I'll definitely replace them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

new trend?

While running the Army Ten-Miler this past Sunday, I noticed a disturbing new shoe style: gloves for feet.



http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/

How could anyone run ten miles (or farther) while wearing these shoes? Have you seen them? I had never noticed them before, but I saw at least four runners wearing them on the course. (Brad saw at least that many, too.) They have a very thin sole, which I assume means little cushion or support. And the material between my toes would not only bother me, it would certainly rub blisters.

I scoff now, but will I be wearing these soon? Is this a trend I should look into? Runners, what do you think?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

love update

The lovebirds in my class have both applied to work for me next semester as undergraduate teaching assistants. I interviewed both of them yesterday, one right after the other. (They signed up for adjacent interview times and came to my office together.)

I have almost double the number of applicants that I need. Do I dare hire one but not the other? If I hire them both, will they sit next to each other during staff meetings and maybe even hold hands? Will I die from their cuteness?

Would they ever guess that their blossoming romance now has an audience?

Monday, October 25, 2010

i'm a mac girl now

www.apple.com
I got a new computer for work: my first laptop and my first Mac. And I am so confused!

I knew that Macs were much different from PCs, but I didn't anticipate starting at square one with my computer training. A co-worker had to show me how to shut it down the first time.

I figured that the only way to learn to use this thing is to dive right into it. I ripped off the band-aid and unhooked my work PC last Friday, so now it's Mac or nothing.

I'm hoping that using a Mac becomes as intuitive as everyone keeps telling me it will. In the meantime, I'll plan on all computer-related tasks taking twice as long as they should.

Friday, October 22, 2010

oh, fiddle dee dee . . .

I finished Gone with the Wind! And I loved it!

Male readers, don't shy away from this book. I am already pestering Brad to read it. (How long do you think he'll hold out?) This story is magnificent and contains plenty to keep men and women equally entertained. The writing is exquisite and Margaret Mitchell pulls you into a Utopian Old South that will stick with you long after you read the last page. I love this movie, but the book is much better. (Isn't that always the case?)

I am so pleased to add this book to my list of all-time favorites. This list includes my ten favorite books that I could read again and again. I have another list that I call "books I respect". Gone with the Wind could go on either list, but because it captured my heart in a way that only beloved books do, I put it on the favorites list.

I am so relieved to have found a winner. I've read so many books this year that I was starting to get discouraged that I hadn't found a new favorite yet. But, I finally did. And, now I'm sad it's over. I have a touch of the book finishing blues.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

white house garden tour

We had a full weekend. After frolicking at the pumpkin patch and wineries on Saturday, we went on a White House Garden Tour on Sunday afternoon after church. We enjoyed the warm, beautiful weather while we sauntered around the grounds.

The best part of the tour, in my opinion, was that you could get so close to everything.

Right outside the back door of the White House!

We enjoyed beautiful views in every direction.

Washington and Jefferson in the background

The tour was packed with people, but it was self-guided, and the staff allowed you to mosey.

Back of the White House - flowers on every level, even the roof!

I had seen the West Wing from a distance before (barely), but never this close (except on TV).

10 yards from the Oval Office
My favorite part was the First Lady's kitchen garden. But I was surprised at how far from the White House it is. The chef could never leave dinner cooking on the stove and run out to pick some fresh thyme on a whim to throw in (like I do). It would be nice to have a staff to keep the garden perfectly manicured and loaded with award-worthy-looking produce.

Kitchen Garden
If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend this tour!