Thursday, January 28, 2010

progress

After consulting an expert, I realized the window treatments best suited for my dining and living rooms were too complicated for my amateur sewing skills, so I gave in with glee and capitalized on the January sale—yet another reason to love this month—at Calico Corners in Old Town. My deco fold shades should be delivered in mid-to-late March.

I feel immense relief to have finally made a decision.

The ugly curtains that currently service my first-floor windows have really been weighing on me. Yet the overwhelming number of fabric and style options paralyzed me from replacing them. And, regardless of sale prices, custom-made window treatments are expensive, and I wanted to be sure of my decision. Whether we like it or not, Brad and I will be stuck with our new decor for a while.

Nine months after bemoaning my challenges with art, I've finally made progress on that front as well. Using a picture of our old block, I designed a large oil painting at Photo Fiddle to fill some of the gargantuan space above our couch. The piece, as best as I can tell from the online view, is bright and alive and will hopefully bring a vivid splash to our neutral walls and furniture. It should be delivered next week. I have several other prints that are ready to be framed and hung.

I'll post pictures in March after the shades arrive. Thanks for your encouragement and advice!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

a flip

I rudely stared at my friend's hair for hours last night—I recognized a difference, but I couldn't identify what it was. She finally confessed that she parted her hair on the opposite side, and encouraged me to try it.

And so I did today.

It feels strange. I look weird. And I'm not convinced that my hair will actually cooperate and stay over on the opposite side all day.

But the flip adds volume to my roots, an unexpected benefit for those with naturally straight, flat, and fine hair like me. Maybe the new look will grow on me. Or maybe I'll just save it for days when I need a little boost.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

birthday dinners

Those who have read my blog for a while know that Brad and I take a trip or dine at a fancy restaurant rather than exchange birthday and anniversary gifts. We began this practice when we got married, and it works well for us. Neither one of us has to stress about selecting the perfect gift or how much to spend. On birthdays and anniversaries, we frequent upscale restaurants that are normally out of our price range and splurge on nice wine and all of the courses. We consider this tradition a real treat and look forward to it each year.

Brad's birthday was yesterday, and in line with his quest to dine at every steakhouse in DC, he chose Bobby Van's this year. We had a good time and the food was good. The atmosphere, though, left a lot to be desired. Longtime readers know about my dislike of bright lighting in restaurants, and Bobby Van's was a real disappointment in that regard. We may as well have sat underneath a spotlight! And I know I have no right to criticize decor considering the number of still-blank walls in my own house, but the walls and furnishings were really barren. The Caucus Room still remains our favorite steakhouse in DC.

Last year, I had a difficult time choosing the restaurant for my birthday dinner. This year, the choice was easy: the restaurant that I couldn't get into last year! If reservations are difficult to obtain, the place must be phenomenal, right? The surest way to make me want something is to make it unavailable.

Komi only accepts reservations thirty days in advance, and Brad called on the designated day as soon as the restaurant opened, but it still took him twenty minutes to get through to speak to someone. After all of that, the best reservation that he could get was 8:45 p.m. on a Friday night. That's what happens when your birthday falls so close to Valentine's Day. All of the courses supposedly take nearly three hours to finish, so we'll be there way past our bedtime.

I've been told that dinner at Komi is not just a meal, it is an experience. I'll let you know what we think. My fingers are crossed for low light!

Monday, January 25, 2010

34 and counting

Today is my sweet husband's birthday, and although he does not read this blog, I can't let the day pass without publicly acknowledging his big day.

Happy birthday, Sweetheart!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

tropical dreams

Another reason I love January is it puts me in the mood to plan a vacation. With our ridiculously active vacations the past two years, Brad and I are ready to relax. Even though a trip to Greece tempts me daily, I am determined to do nothing but lie on a beach this year. Yes, we could spend a vacation on a beach in Greece, but I know us: Brad and I would feel compelled to see all the sights too, and then we'd return home exhausted like we usually do.


We've decided to go the tropical route the week of Memorial Day. We haven't taken a tropical vacation since our honeymoon to Aruba almost eight years ago!


Based on my preliminary research, I've narrowed our short list to the following destinations:
  • Barbados
  • St. Barts
  • Grand Cayman
  • St. John
Gentle readers, have you been to any of these paradises? If so, please comment with your thoughts on EVERYTHING (e.g., hotels, restaurants, beaches, activities). Personal recommendations mean a lot to me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1,287 pages to go

I began reading War and Peace and so far, I like it! I've read 101 pages, but have barely made a dent in this massive tome. My bookmark's placement in the picture below makes it look like I'm still reading the introduction, but I promise that I'm about to begin chapter XXIII.


The 1,388 pages of the story—not including the biographical note and the introduction—are quite dense. The words, typed in a tiny font, are loaded onto the pages. Notice in the photo below that very little white space exists on the pages. When one chapter ends, the next chapter begins immediately—no page breaks!



While I cannot define at least one word per page, I am pleasantly surprised by the abundance of dialogue, which in my opinion, makes any story easier to read. The chapters are rather short, which also helps. Thus far, I've read 100 pages about high society parties, so it's been fun, but difficult to keep the multitude of characters straight. My arms grow weary holding this gargantuan book in bed at night. And it really weighs down my purse!

My plan to accomplish my more challenging reading goals this year (i.e., the classics) seems to be working well thus far. Although I have many pages to read in 2010 and I can already feel the clock ticking, I haven't been able to resist my favorite Christmas gift. I set a page goal each day in War and Peace, and after meeting it, I reward myself with at least a chapter or two of one of the Twilight books (aka fluff). I'm almost finished rereading The Twilight Saga, and then the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series will take over the fluff role, which will also fulfill another 2010 reading goal. Perfect! Balancing challenging with light reading will get me through this. I hope.

Friday, January 15, 2010

isolation

A planned electrical outage in my office building forced my staff and me to work from home this week, and it has been okay. Starting and finishing my workday early, dressing casually, and not packing a lunch have been the highlights. I finished creating and updating most of the documents for my spring course and I began a number of other projects this week. I was more productive than I expected.

I did get a little lonely, especially after Brad left on a business trip on Wednesday (meaning that I was home alone at night too). The money that I saved on gas this week I more than spent on heat. We keep our house cool during the day when we're at work, but even though I cranked the thermostat, I never felt warm.

This week has made me realize the random things that happen during the day when we're not home. Even though it has a brand new battery, our smoke detector beeps sporadically during the day, probably an average of once an hour. It rarely does that at night. I was also surprised by the number of people who knocked on the door to solicit me for something. I quickly learned my lesson and stopped answering the door. And the telemarketers, well, they just never stop, do they? We never use our home phone and it rarely rings when we're home anyway (And if it does, we don't answer it.). But during the day, telemarketers call our home number over and over and over.

If given the opportunity, I would work from home again. But I will be glad to see other people on Tuesday!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

the pioneer woman

Perhaps I am late to the game here, but I recently discovered The Pioneer Woman and her recipes bring me happiness. Every recipe of hers that I have tried thus far has become my new favorite: spinach salad, sherried tomato soup, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and braised short ribs. I could go on and on. Her recipes are keepers!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

a tumble

In my five years as a runner, it happened today for the second time: I fell.

And it was not pretty.

Or at all graceful.

But at least this morning's low temperature required that I bundle up, so my running jacket and pants saved me from a scraped and bleeding hand, elbow, and knee. (The last time this happened, it was summer, and my hand and elbow didn't fare so well. AND, a park full of people witnessed that debacle. Only two people and one dog saw me fall this morning.)

Thankfully I didn't rip my jacket or pants or I would have had to crawl home in embarrassment.

The fall occurred during my first mile, but I jumped up, brushed myself off, and pressed forward, determined to complete my five miles. I hadn't pulled myself out of a warm bed at an undesirable hour just to return home defeated. My shoulder and elbow ached for two miles, but then the pain went away and the running took over, like it always does.

Running can be a wonderful distraction or a pain-inducing hobby that inspires humility. For me, it is both.

Monday, January 11, 2010

january joy

Have I mentioned that I adore the month of January? Allow me to explain why.

1. January is Brad's birth month. His birthday is my favorite day of the year.
2. January kicks off a new year. Motivation is high and hope springs eternal. During January, I actually believe that I can accomplish all of my goals.
3. The holidays are over, which means that I survived and the holidays seem very far away.
4. My students do not return to campus until late in the month, which means that I have three student-and-meeting-free weeks of work until the chaos begins. I love these quiet weeks to organize my files and prepare for the semester.
5. January is usually my slowest month in terms of social engagements. I turn into a hermit. And that's a good thing.
6. A holiday occurs in January, providing a lovely three-day weekend.
7. The weather, though cold, is often crisp and beautiful, and is usually perfect for hot-natured runners like me.
8. The best movies of the year are in the theaters in January. And I make time to see most of them.
9. The college football season ends and I get my husband back.

Move over, May and June. January is a real contender for my favorite month of the year.

Friday, January 8, 2010

movie time

Now that my movie-watching season is in full swing, I have two recommendations for you:



Seriously, go see both movies this weekend. Any recs for me?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 goals

The only reason that I put these goals in writing is to hold myself accountable. And I publish my list here so that you, dear reader, can give me some tough love if I begin to slack!

So, here we go: goals for 2010, divided into three main categories.

Writing/blogging
I will:
  • keep this blog updated an average of three times per week
  • read at least two books either on grammar or the craft of writing (this one overlaps with my reading goals, but oh well)
  • continue to take at least thirty minutes per day, six days a week, to write freely about anything that I want
Running
I will:
  • run 600 miles this year or an average of 50 miles per month
  • enter and complete one race that is new to me (distance does not matter)
Reading
(Note: Rather than set a numerical goal this year, I have certain authors/books that I intend to read.)
I will:
What do you think? Can I do it? Or am I out of my mind?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 reading goal

One year ago today, I publicly stated that I hoped to start and finish 26 books in 2009 (books that I began reading in 2008 did not count in my total for 2009), including at least two classics and at least four nonfiction selections. And because I not only love words, I also love numbers, here are my stats (thanks to The Bluestocking Society for part of the template below):

Total Books Started and Finished = 36
Average Books Read Per Month = 3
Best Reading Month = July (8 books)
Worst Reading Month = January (0! I spent the month finishing books from 2008, which I did not count. I regret the decision to not count them!)

Total Pages Read = 15,797
Average Pages Per Book = 439 (check my math... is this correct? If it is, yay!! I do tend to gravitate toward the hefty ones!)
Average Pages Read Per Day = 43
Average Pages Read Per Month = 1,316

Total Fiction Books Read = 27
Total Nonfiction Books Read = 9
Total Classics = 4 (also included in the fiction tally)
Total Books Reread = 5
Total Chunksters (450+ pages) Read = 16

I am satisfied with my reading results for 2009. Check back tomorrow for my 2010 goals.

Monday, January 4, 2010

the longest day of the year

For those who have enjoyed an extended break from work for the last week(s), please know that my thoughts are with you today, as the world wakes up and comes to life again and millions of people return to work.

The first business day in January just may be the longest day of the year.

But I also bet that by lunchtime, you may begin to feel as though you never left. And by Tuesday or Wednesday, those glorious days away will be a distant memory. And by Thursday, your eyes will be on the weekend, and it will arrive before you know it.

You can do this.

And hopefully, so can I.

Good luck!

Friday, January 1, 2010

two years down, ??? to go

Two years ago today I gave birth to Dr. Blondie, a dream that I conceived during the last year of my Ph.D. program. Doctoral students, especially those in dissertation mode, are experts at coming up with distractions - anything seems more appealing than crunching numbers, editing hundreds of pages of text, reading yet another journal article, or (eek!) writing that dreaded first draft.

I am so glad that I made myself wait until I became an official "Dr." before launching this blog. Writing for myself and for you, Gentle Readers, several days a week, brings me great joy. And I know that I would not have fully embraced this blog (or its associated joy) had I started it while pounding out my dissertation.

Whether you have been with me from the very first post, or just found me last week, please know that I appreciate your reading and commenting on my blog, especially when there are so many funny and interesting blogs out there and not enough time to read them all. Here's to many more years together!

Happy New Year!