Thursday, September 30, 2010

best trick ever

I got my flu shot yesterday morning at the University Health Center. The nurse administered the shot in my left arm because I am right-handed. As she got to work, she told me to wiggle my toes on my right foot. I did, and then she said, "You're done!"

I felt nothing! It was amazing. It was the best shot I've ever had and I will definitely use this trick again.

What needle distraction techniques work for you? Please share. I foresee more shots in my future.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

fall flowers

Fall is here and it's time to say goodbye to summer in my front yard. The Salvias have done well, though. I hated to pull them up and waste perfectly good flowers.

Overgrown Salvias that are still blooming
But a gardener has to move on. I still have plenty of the summer look left in the backyard (and too many flowers back there to pull up and replace).

I decided to go with fall mums--my third set of red flowers in the front yard this year!

The Mum Family

I did add a small touch of yellow (the smallest planters), but the plants have yet to bloom.

The Mum Children

I can't NOT choose red. Red flowers speak to me. They draw me in. I like their look in front of my house.

The Mother Mum
 Now all I need are a few pumpkins on the steps and I'll be set for fall.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I met her! Twice!

Another National Book Festival has come and gone. And even though I was frustrated with the schedule this year, I still found plenty of authors and activities to keep me busy. I arrived promptly at 10 a.m. and didn't leave until after 5 p.m., even though it was nearly 90 degrees and sweltering. I've learned through my seven years of attending this event that undesirable weather, cold and rainy or hot and suffocating, does not deter true book lovers. They will attend and stay until the very end, no matter what.

Brad and I walked to the festival (just over a mile from where we live) and arrived before the crowds did.

With my bag, schedule, and poster--ready for the day!
My friend Emily and I scored great seats to see Ree Drummond, better known as the Pioneer Woman. While we waited for Ree to take the stage, we listed to Spike Mendelsohn, a local celebrity and owner of Capitol Hill's Good Stuff Eatery. I still need to check out his newest restaurant on the Hill.
The Pioneer Woman--we were only four rows back from her!
Ree (yes, we're on a first-name basis now) is delightful! Even though I had three other authors I really wanted to see during her time slot, I am SO GLAD I chose her. It's fun to meet a stranger I feel like I already know because of her blog. She was exactly what I expected in many ways and still different, too. After her session was over, Emily and I walked outside and there she was! I blew off Diana Gabaldon's (Outlander series) session to meet Ree and get a picture with her.

Dr. Blondie, Pioneer Woman, and Emily with the U.S. Capitol in the background
Then I floated around for a few sessions. I heard Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian), Ken Follett (Pillars of the Earth), and Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). 

Jam-packed tent at Ken Follett's session
Brad blew off college football and his beloved Vols to attend the book festival with me (proof that he loves me!), but our reading tastes differ, so we went our separate ways. He spent most of his day in the history tent, one that I didn't step foot in! I did meet up with him right as he tuckered out and headed home around 2:30 p.m.

Love the crowds, tents, and Washington Monument in the background
After I met Ree, I treated myself to an early Christmas present and bought her cookbook for her to autograph. I've never participated in the book signings at the festival before because the lines are always atrocious and would keep me from hearing authors speak. I got lucky with Ree--I only waited in line for 45 minutes. Granted, most of that time was spent standing with the hot sun beating down on me, but it was worth it because she remembered meeting me earlier in the day.

Pioneer Woman and Dr. Blondie, both a little flushed from the heat
I then jumped to Jonathan Safran Foer's line to get his book signed for a friend, but after waiting 30 minutes and not moving an inch and hearing that the wait would be at least another hour, I bailed and went to see the final two authors on my list: Katherine Patterson (Bridge to Terabithia) and Judith Viorst (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day). I am so glad I ended my day in the tents for teens and children. Just like last year, I find enthusiastic young readers and the authors who write for them such an inspiration.

Most readers take for granted the blood, sweat, and tears that go into writing, editing, and publishing the books they love so much. This festival is a fabulous way to honor and celebrate the gifted men and women who work so hard to educate and entertain us through their writing. Plus, it's a great excuse to get together to talk about books. Can't wait until next year!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

my plan of attack

Mapping out my day at the National Book Festival is such a grueling task, especially this year because the schedule stinks! (Seriously, did they let a rookie create the schedule this year? I am so mad!)

Here's my tentative plan for Saturday:

10:35 a.m. - 11:05 a.m. - This is a painful decision to choose one of four people I really want to see, but I think I've got to go with The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Back ups: Laura Bush, Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections), and Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games triology). Because four popular people are scheduled so early in the day, I'll have to bypass seeing Isabel Allende at 10 a.m. to get a spot to see Ree.

11:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. - Mad rush to the fiction tent to try to squeeze in to see Diana Gabaldon (Outlander series), who currently has the most votes (by far) for "favorite author" (meaning there's NO WAY I'll get anywhere near her pavilion)

12:45 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. - Ken Follett (I haven't read Pillars of the Earth yet, but I'm dying to.)

2:05 p.m. - 2:35 p.m. - Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

My day begins with a mad rush and the afternoon is rather empty. But I'll pop into other sessions to fill the gaps. Maybe I'll find a debut author who excites me. Let me know if you'd like to meet up at the festival--I'll be there all day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

groceries at target
Is it true that all Target stores are adding a grocery section?

A number of people have raved about grocery shopping at Target, and I had to make my every-other-month trip there anyway, so I decided to check it out, excited to cross two tasks off my to-do list with one errand.

Maybe it was because the Target I went to near my work is not particularly nice and it's on the small side, but I was underwhelmed and frankly, pretty disappointed. Thankfully, my grocery list was small--it only included 15 items and very little produce, so I was able to find all but one item: pancetta. Is Italian bacon really that uncommon?

I have no idea if my weekly grocery list is typical of most shoppers, but 90% of it usually includes fresh produce and meat, dairy, and what I consider fancy cheese. I buy little frozen food and only the bare necessities in canned and dry goods. I buy less produce at the grocery store during the summer because of my beloved farmers' market in my backyard.

On this particular grocery list, I only had three produce items: grapes, bananas, and garlic. Although I found all three, I was disappointed with the selection and the quality. I bought them anyway because I didn't want to have to make another stop. (This was before I realized that Target had no pancetta and I would have to stop at a grocery store anyway.) This store's meat section was scary and they had few options in the dairy cooler.

Target seems great for canned and dry goods. Cereal is cheap there, and because Brad eats the same cereal for breakfast every morning, I stock up on his favorite. But I probably won't venture there again with my full grocery list.

What's your experience been? Am I being too harsh? Should I give it another try, perhaps at a bigger and nicer store?

Monday, September 20, 2010

a day on the bay

Every time I eat crabs, I think about how I'd love to spend a day on a boat sailing the Chesapeake Bay. But I'd never done it--I didn't even know how to do it--until my friend Emily figured it out and invited me. Emily, Dawn, and I spent the most glorious day on the bay this past Saturday.

setting sail
We boarded the Lady Sarah at the Annapolis City Dock just before ten on Saturday morning and spent the next two hours sailing to St. Michaels, Maryland, and admiring this view.

The Chesapeake Bay
St. Michaels is a darling town full of quaint shops, bed and breakfast inns, restaurants, and history.

Harbor at St. Michaels

We wandered through shops, ate crab cakes at The Crab Claw, climbed a narrow, circular staircase to the top of a lighthouse, and enjoyed the perfect weather before hopping back on the boat to sail back to Annapolis.

The Lady Sarah
We could not have picked a nicer day to sail.

Enjoying the sun on the trip back
I highly recommend this excursion. Four hours sailing the Chesapeake Bay and over three hours in St. Michaels is the perfect amount of time to both relax and explore.

A gorgeous day on the bay with sweet friends--an outing doesn't get much better than that!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

getting my money's worth

I remember when I first began working full-time, I cringed at the amount automatically deducted each paycheck for health insurance. Even in my youth, I knew I was lucky to have a job that not only offered insurance, but paid a large percentage of the premiums. But, in those days of student loan repayments and entry-level salaries, my meager paycheck had to stretch much farther than it does now, so I guarded every penny. And I never went to the doctor for more than an annual check-up, so it felt like I was just throwing money away every month.

I added Brad to my insurance plan when we married because my policies provide better coverage at a cheaper cost than any of Brad's jobs have. But neither of us went to the doctor much, so I continued to watch my hard-earned paycheck dwindle--at double the rate this time.

A couple of weeks ago I received a nine-page statement from my insurance company detailing my medical claims during July and the first part of August. From July 1st through August 13th, my insurance company was billed $17,531.75 from 18 claims. That total does NOT include any fertility drugs or procedures. So, imagine how high the total would be had those drugs and procedures from earlier this year been included!

A quick glance at my paystub and a rapid mental calculation revealed that the $17,531.75 billed over only six weeks this summer by far exceeded the portion of the premiums I've paid for over ten years. Not that you want a reason to put your insurance to work, but rest assured that the longer you live, the more likely you are to get your money's worth out of it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

basil or bust

As usual, my herb garden is a hot mess. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sage is fighting the mints for rule of the garden. Last year's victor, parsley, after surviving Snowpocalypse, bowed out early in the season. It had already been through enough, I guess. The basil plants are small trees. Look how tall they are! They reach my chest.

I foresee an excess of basil pesto in my future.

Last year, my herb garden lived until the first snow in early December. I stuffed my Thanksgiving turkey with my own herbs. Here's hoping Rosemary and the rest of the gang persist until Christmas this year!

Monday, September 13, 2010

the author schedule . . .

. . . is now up! I'm mapping out my plan of attack . . . and, UGH. Who created the schedule this year? Four of the six authors I really want to see are scheduled for the 10:35-11:00 a.m. time slot. This  has never happened to me before!

Decisions, decisions.

heart protectors

Guarding the house last week got me thinking about a different kind of protection, something we all long for and need, but it often eludes us. Human hearts are powerful and vulnerable. They lead us into love as well as disaster. They brim with joy and hope, ache with care and concern, and throb with hurt and jealousy. Another person knowing and protecting one's heart creates intimacy. It may be your mom, spouse, brother, mentor, or best friend, but in my opinion, if you find one person in your lifetime who not only knows and understands your heart, but strives to protect it, you are truly blessed.

Brad can sense a cloud on my horizon before I can. He digs out the underlying issue(s), gets me talking, and listens until I can giggle again, which is a sure sign that my mood's on the upswing. He knows exactly what others say (or don't say) that causes me pain, even if I paste a smile on my face and never reveal my crushed feelings to anyone. He pulls me away from cruel or insensitive people. He talks sense to me when I need to hear it and practices tough love sometimes. But he also hands me tissues and sits with me for as long as I need him to, even if my meltdown occurred at the most inconvenient moment. He takes his job as my heart protector seriously.

I guess I need to cut him some slack the next time he fails to notice my new haircut.

Friday, September 10, 2010

eggplant love

I have a baby eggplant!

Although Brad hates it, I can't wait to make Eggplant Parmesan, with my eggplant, of course. It's one of the few dishes I make that Brad's allowed to decline. He's tried it on at least eight different occasions, so I'm satisfied he's given it a valiant effort. So, his "pass" just means more for me!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

fashion police: come on in

Gentle Readers, I need your advice. I wait until Easter to wear open toe shoes. I put away my white skirts, pants, and capris on Labor Day. I am a traditional gal and I like to follow the rules. But this year, I have an item I can't give up: my faux Dolce and Gabbana purse that I got for $20 from Max, my favorite purse vendor in Georgetown.

This bag has been my constant companion this summer. It's the perfect shape (love slouchy), size (I can fit a pair of shoes, a book, and a water bottle inside), and color (goes with almost everything). It's not exactly white. I'd describe the color as pearl with a faint gold shimmer.

Do I need to retire this bag for the season? Is it too summery to carry in the fall or year round?

Be honest. I need help.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

hermit holiday

Brad and I had a great weekend keeping to ourselves. No offense to any of our friends--you know we love you. But we needed to catch our breaths.

Biergarten Haus
We slept in, read, ate yummy dinners at home, and ventured out of the house a few times. On Saturday, we ended up on a brief crawl of H Street, and frequented three places we hadn't been to. Because the weather was perfect, we decided to try the Biergarten Haus, a new German place with a killer outdoor area, for lunch. Brad loved the flatcreens mounted on the walls of the garden so he could watch college football in the crisp September sunshine. I loved the large tables and authentic decor. What we didn't know before we arrived, though, is that they only serve brunch on Saturdays, and pancakes and German sausage don't mix very well with hefty steins of beer. We were starving, so we split the three wurst platter, and then moved on to our next destination.

Star and Shamrock
We enjoyed more food and football at the Star and Shamrock, H Street's newest Irish tavern and deli. We loved this place--it's so cute and the food was really good. We will definitely go back.

Before heading home, we stopped in at The Pug for a drink and more football. The Pug is a hole-in-the-wall tavern--one of the first of the H Street revitalization efforts--and is a staple of the neighborhood.

I recently read on a blog that 14 new bars and restaurants have opened on H Street in the past year alone. Please, please, please stay in business! H Street is only one block behind our house and while increased traffic and tighter parking will be a pain for residents as the neighborhood continues to improve, we'll happily deal with it if the value of our home skyrockets.

On Sunday night, Brad and I took the long way home from church to enjoy the gorgeous evening and ended up at Ted's Bulletin on Barracks Row. A rootbeer float and a peppermint milkshake magically appeared in front of us. (I have no idea how it happened, I swear.)

Brad's treat on the left and mine on the right.

Capitol Hill Peeps: If you haven't been to Ted's Bulletin yet, go. Today. And on a side note, Capitol Hill is exploding! It's no longer the sleepy, residential neighborhood I moved into a decade ago.

We guarded our home on Monday and then threw caution to the wind and took a quick walk to Stanton Park in the afternoon. I made Brad's favorite meal for dinner on Monday night and that was our weekend. I'm ready to socialize again, but I'm already looking forward to the next weekend we have with no plans, oh, say in January.

Monday, September 6, 2010

standing guard

Happy Labor Day! The weather is beautiful and Brad and I have the day off work, but we will not be leaving the house today. Why? Although we've had no problems since last Labor Day, we're paranoid of history repeating itself.

Although we both desperately need to get out and go for long, long runs (I'm embarrassingly behind on my miles for the year), it won't be today. I'm standing guard at the front door and Brad's got the back one covered. We're armed with fierce looks and golf clubs. No one will get the best of us this Labor Day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

fern and sprout

Mama Fern & Baby Sprout, late August 2010
Fern's baby officially has a name: Sprout. I'm not very original in my naming, but the names I choose are fitting.

Besides the name, I also decided that Sprout is a boy. There's nothing at all feminine about the stump in the pot.

Mama Fern keeps growing, and I worry that her leaves will brush the ceiling again by next summer, necessitating another surgery. I'm already nervous about cutting her in half again. I don't think I could bear it if I accidentally killed her. At least I have a year to mentally prepare for it. If surgery is not feasible, we will just have to move to another house with higher ceilings.

What do you think Brad would say to that?:)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

more than a consolation prize

photo credit:
I'm no Angelina Jolie, but I've always considered myself an adoption advocate. My aunt and uncle adopted their two sons. I know several others who have adopted children. I believe in life, and what better gift than to provide a child loving parents and a home?

But now that Brad and I are faced with the option of starting our family by adopting, it's an understatement to say that I feel . . . reluctant.

I applaud noble people--those whose first choice is to adopt . . . people who strive to save orphans . . . couples who seem to effortlessly look past their infertility to adoption with joy . . .  those who see adoption as a perfect opportunity to live out the gospel. God adopts his children into his family, so why is it difficult for me, as a Christian, to want to do the same?

If I'm totally honest, adoption feels like a consolation prize and a harsh reminder of our failure thus far. In my grief, it's easier to think about what adopted children aren't rather than what they are. Friends suggest adoption to me, and I burst into tears.

Even though I know I am not in control here--the Lord is--it's excruciatingly difficult to let go of dreams . . . dreams of our biological children who inherit Brad's red hair and my naturally straight teeth (or, on the undesirable side, my ears that stick out or Brad's big feet) . . . dreams of watching my belly grow with new life . . . dreams of giving birth . . . dreams of hearing that first cry.

My selfish heart knows that these dreams don't matter one bit in the long run, but it stubbornly clings to them anyway. Adoption also doesn't rule out having a biological child. Even if we do adopt, the Lord could still bless us with a biological child--it's happened to plenty of others. But embracing the idea of adopting has been a bigger struggle than I anticipated.

Recognizing that this is an area of growth for us, Brad and I have joined a group at church that is reading Russell Moore's Adopted for Life, which explores the scriptural basis for the priority of adoption. Brad and I hesitated to join this group, but we recognized the sin in our hearts, and were convicted that talking with other Christians about these issues could help. Even if we never go through the adoption process, we'd still like to be more open to it. And if adoption is the Lord's plan for us, well, we  have some work to do.