Wednesday, February 24, 2010

better buy this one

Longtime readers know that I'm a library girl. I believe in and support the public library system and I rarely buy a book unless I've already read it, loved it, and plan to read it again.


But when I'm 143rd on the library's hold list for my book club's April selection?



Geesh. I'll never get it by April. Time for an exception.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

grrrrrr

Is there anything more likely to ruin my mood than when my work computer crashes? How about when my computer crashes for the second time in two months?


While my technician rebuilds my computer for the second time, I am using my student workers' computer. I can access my office's server and the Internet. But these days without my computer make me realize how hard it is to live with Microsoft Outlook.


Technology makes things easier, right? It also paralyzes me when it doesn't work.

Monday, February 22, 2010

really giving up

I am losing my mind. And apparently everything else.


It happened again.


See Exhibit C.



 

After I thought it couldn't get any worse, one of my brown gloves went AWOL last Friday, leaving me three options to get through the rest of winter: no gloves, my Nike running gloves, or Exhibit D (below).

 


Just kidding! My running gloves had better stick around because they'll be working overtime until spring.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

giving up

Winter needs to end sooner rather than later. Some of my winter accessories have had it.

Allow me to present Exhibit A.





 
What's wrong with this picture? This glove mourns its partner, who went AWOL somewhere in DC right before the first snowpocalypse hit. Considering the frayed lining, these gloves were bound to retire soon anyway. I have been to three stores in the past week and can't find a single pair of nice black leather gloves for sale. It's too late in the season—I'll have to wait until next fall. In the meantime, my black running gloves are better than frostbitten fingers. The Nike swoosh on my hands looks really classy with my fur-trimmed wool coat! No matter how cold my hands are, I can't bring myself to wear my nice brown leather gloves with my black coats. I'll freeze before I clash!

Next, consider Exhibit B.

 

My stiletto heel is about to break off, and my cobbler can't fix it, leaving me without a pair of black boots for the rest of the winter and rendering several outfits unwearable until I buy a new pair. But where do I find knee-high black boots in my size—which is gargantuan and not easily found under normal circumstances—this late in the season?

Ugh. Spring, where are you?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

barbados bound

I made good use of my snowcation last week. I researched and booked our vacation this summer. And if the title of this post didn't give it away, we're going
to . . .

(drumroll)

. . . Barbados!
102 days and counting . . . I honestly don't mind the snow, but I will be ready for some quality beach time at the end of May!




Monday, February 15, 2010

Komi love

I choose unremarkable years to celebrate big. For my 33rd birthday, Brad and I dined at Citronelle. Prior to our arrival, I hadn't done my homework and I was in no way prepared for a bill that nearly gave me a heart attack and ended my life right there at the dinner table. At the time, I felt incredibly guilty for setting a record for our most expensive meal for only a 33rd birthday. Why not celebrate big at 35 or 40? What makes 33 so special?


Well, 33 turned out to be very special because I became a Ph.D. later that year. Maybe that dinner was a precursor to the celebration that would follow my dissertation defense—a celebration that still continues today.



Because we couldn't get a reservation at Komi last year, it rocketed to the top of my preference list for this year. Getting a reservation nearly gave Brad a heart attack as he tried to get through for about thirty minutes as soon as they opened their books for our preferred date, but he was ultimately successful, and landed an 8:45 p.m. slot last Friday night.


We celebrated 36 big. Very big. So big that we set a new record for our most expensive meal. We should probably celebrate Brad's birthday again because my night out was more than double the cost of his. But he's free to choose whatever restaurant he wants. Is it my fault if he makes one choice and I make another?


If you're interested in dining at Komi, you need to be prepared that it's going to be incredibly expensive. There's no way around it. Make peace with it, move on, and enjoy yourself. It's worth every single penny, and Brad and I can't wait for an excuse to go back.

Let me begin this review by saying that the atmosphere was perfect for my taste. The restaurant is intimate and tiny—only fifteen or maybe twenty small tables at most—and dimly lit. You know how important restaurant lighting is to me, and Komi met my expectations. Phew! Relief washed over me as soon as I stepped inside the restaurant. It was dark and perfect!

Komi offers no menu or choices. While they inquire about preferences and allergies when you arrive, everyone in the restaurant basically eats the same meal, and when I say meal, I mean about twenty courses. Most of the courses come as small plates, which consist of about one or two bites per person. Brad and I counted at least twelve light appetizers, one or two heavy appetizers, a pasta course, an entree, a cheese course, and three or four dessert courses. Dining at Komi takes time. We began at 9 p.m.—we were late due to traffic and snow/parking issues—and we left at midnight.

What did we eat? A more appropriate question is what did we NOT eat? The first few courses consisted of a number of raw items prepared in delicious and unusual ways: salmon, tuna, flounder, and scallops. We ate octopus and figs and truffles and caviar.  We ate prosciutto and green apples and pita and goat. We ate cheese and tarts and animal crackers and homemade lollipops. We ate it all, and savored every last drop and crumb. If you are a really picky eater or hesitant to try new things, Komi is NOT the place for you. Remember that you are at the chef's will: you will eat whatever he puts in front of you—there is no choice in the matter. I've never eaten at a restaurant like this before. I loved not having to deliberate over the menu or feel jealous that Brad made a better selection. Tasting so many dishes was exciting and fun. The three hours flew by. I agree with what many other reviewers have said: dining at Komi is not just a meal, it's an experience.

We didn't do this, but Komi offers wine pairings with the meal. We were content with a nice bottle of wine from Greece, but it would be fun to try the wine pairings next time.

Komi reminds me of Citronelle in that it's very expensive, boasts spectacular food, wine, and service, and offers one set price for food. But while Citronelle seems to cater to an older, stuffier crowd (Brad and I were by far the youngest and poorest people at Citronelle when we went), Komi appeals to a younger, hipper clientele. We saw plenty of other diners who looked to be in their thirties. Neither the staff nor the atmosphere could be described as stuffy. My only complaint about Komi, if I am forced to offer one, is that I think they should suggest classier dress. I don't want to pay hundreds of dollars for dinner and see other diners in jeans, even if they are a designer label. No one would dare to wear jeans to Citronelle. I'm not suggesting a business suit/black dress expectation, but the jeans just seemed too casual for the classy experience that it was.


We loved Komi. Go. It's worth it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

the day of pink

I always wear pink or red on Valentine's Day. I can't help it—I gravitate toward those colors in my wardrobe and only after I'm dressed do I realize that I resemble a giant heart. I would never be caught dead in a Christmas sweater, but something about donning red or pink on Valentine's Day doesn't bother me at all. Brad and I cared for six little girls in our church's nursery during the service this morning, and all six wore some combination of pink, red, hearts, or all of the above. So precious!

Brad's and my Valentine's Day tradition has the year off because the restaurant is closed on Sundays, which is just as well because my birthday dinner out (a full review will be posted on Monday) should count for at least two or three occasions. I've spent the afternoon making and delivering a baby meal to some friends. I fed my valentine the extras from this meal, which he happily ate. Leftovers on Valentine's Day = true love.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

unexpected birthday gifts

Last year on my birthday, the weather was so warm and beautiful that I ran on the National Mall wearing a tank top and shorts. This year, I am snowed in and off of work for the fifth day. I rejoice in unexpected birthday gifts. You see, I have never worked on my birthday during the ten years I've been at Maryland. Because of my job's flexibility and autonomy, I've always been able to schedule meetings and other responsibilities around my birthday so that I could take the day off. But this year, THIS YEAR, I had resigned myself to working at least a half day because I teach on Thursdays. And although my boss, being the sweet and generous man that he is, would have covered class by himself, I felt too selfish and guilty to ask him to.


But now I don't have to work at all today because we are still snowed in. And although I've only left the house one time in the past week (I braved the snow and went running on Tuesday morning before the second blizzard hit.), I still don't have cabin fever yet. In fact, I'm hoping for another snow day tomorrow! Let's just call this week a wash, shall we?


My most significant unexpected birthday gift is that Brad is here to celebrate with me. Weeks ago, he scheduled a business trip for February 9th and 10th and I teased him about cutting it awfully close to my birthday. This past Monday afternoon when the weather forecast promised another blizzard, he panicked about getting stranded out of town and missing my birthday. Given the wretched weather we've had the past two days, he most certainly would have been stranded out of town for the rest of the week. But he called his boss late Monday afternoon and obtained permission to postpone his trip. He got up early on Tuesday morning, went to the grocery store, and came back with my birthday cake and flowers. Yes, he was two days early, but he wanted to be prepared in case we were snowed in again and he couldn't make it out. Blizzard or not, a birthday girl's gotta have cake and flowers, right?

And because Brad did all of those things, my birthday can now go on as scheduled. We'll just be tucked away at home, like we have been for the past week, but that's just fine with me. It will make venturing out to Komi tomorrow night even more enjoyable.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

easy and delicious

This snow has really put a damper on my socializing. The French toast I made at home this past Saturday morning—with margarine rather than butter, fat-free milk, low-fat bread, and diet maple syrup, blech!—was such a disappointed compared to a much anticipated, very fattening breakfast at Eastern Market with our friends, Derek and Susannah. And Brad and I missed spending the 3rd Annual Brad Whittington Memorial Superbowl party with our Tennessee friends. I still made two game-watching snacks at home, but it wasn't quite the same.

The snacks are delicious, simple, and sure to inspire compliments. Here you go.

Buffalo Chicken Bites
Note: This recipe is from Weight Watchers and provides the same flavor as wings without all of the fat!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup wing sauce  (I like Frank's)
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (I like Frank's Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce)
1 tsp worcestershire sauce (does anyone really know how to pronounce this word?)
2 tbs butter
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
carrots, celery, and blue cheese dressing on the side

Directions:
1. Combine the three sauces in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and add one tsp of butter, stirring until melted.
2. Melt the other tsp of butter in a skillet. Add the chicken, and cook until browned. Add the pepper sauce mixture and cook for about one minute longer, tossing the chicken in the sauce. Serve with carrots, celery, and blue cheese dressing.



Goat Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Rosemary Dip
Any other goat cheese lovers out there?

Ingredients:
2 small logs of plain goat cheese, chopped into small pieces
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 jar sun-dried tomatoes (julienne cut, with oil and herbs)
crackers of your choice

Directions:
1. Place the goat cheese, rosemary, and tomatoes in a tupperware container and seal. Shake well. If the mixture seems a little dry, add a bit of extra olive oil from the tomato jar.
2. Serve with the crackers of your choice.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

unreal

Since Thursday, February 4th, I have not done the following:
  • seen anyone besides Brad (and my next-door neighbor Bea, while shoveling)
  • worn make-up
  • styled my hair
  • driven the car
  • exercised
  • ventured more than 20 feet from my house
  • donned anything dressier than yoga pants and a t-shirt
  • eaten anyone's cooking besides my own
Oh, but I have done tons of reading, writing, web surfing, cooking, cleaning, and shoveling!

Old age has turned me into a hermit, but this is getting ridiculous. After four days without leaving the house, the university is closed again today and most likely tomorrow if we receive another 10-20 inches of snow as predicted. And this Thursday is my birthday, so let the snowdays continue through the rest of the week! Will anyone really get anything done if work resumes on Thursday or Friday? Let's just call it a week and try again next Monday. Mother Nature wins this round.

Monday, February 8, 2010

highlights of snowpocalypse 2010

Thanks to a busy workweek and a coupon for free delivery, a week ago—before snowmageddon was a blip on anyone's, or at least my, radar—I ordered two weeks' worth of groceries to be delivered on Thursday night. I rejoiced in my perfect timing as I drove home from class on Thursday evening and passed nightmarish grocery store parking lots with atrocious lines of cars and no available grocery carts in sight.

My joy continued on Friday morning when my employer, not known for taking a proactive approach in bad weather, surprised us all and closed for the day without a snowflake in sight. Yes, Friday morning classes could have proceeded as scheduled. But then the thousands of faculty, staff, and students making a mad exodus from a campus with very few entrances and exits would have caused a nightmarish traffic jam. It has happened before. A few years ago during a snowstorm, the university closed at 2 p.m. and my car did not exit the main gates of campus until at least 3 p.m. The line to exit campus was nothing but a parking lot—a very snowy one.

Brad worked from home on Friday, and I was happy to have him safe and warm at home with me.

As of noon on Saturday, we measured 24 inches in our backyard, which was incredibly exciting! I don't know the final number of inches, but it continued to snow until about 5 p.m. on Saturday evening.


Our neighbor's tree capsized under the snow's weight. Luckily, only one large branch broke from the tree in our front yard, and it landed neatly in the yard and not on our car. What a nice, cooperative limb. It was even relatively easy to move, once we shook the snow from it.


Our young, red maple trees in the backyard didn't look so good. Their fragile limbs bowed under the snow's weight and Brad and I worried that most of their branches would break and the trees wouldn't survive.


My fearless husband embarked on a brave mission to save the day, and our trees: he crawled underneath the trees and shook them free of snow, causing minor avalanches to fall upon his head.


 

Brad's okay though, and he saved our trees. Thanks Honey!

We cleared the front steps while we could still squeeze out our front door, but unfortunately, we forgot about the deck off of the office on our second floor.

  

Oops! I doubt we'll be able to access our second-floor deck until at least April!

This storm made us thankful to be a one-car family. As inconvenient as it is at times to share a car, we were both incredibly relieved to only have one car to dig out. With both of us shoveling, it took us ninety minutes to free the car.

 

And now we don't dare move the car for fear of losing our parking place forever. We worked hard to clear that parking place; we're going to hang on to it as long as possible.

Digging out the car was the only unappealing part of this weekend. Brad and I have been blessed with uninterrupted electricity, a stocked refrigerator, plenty to read, and a summer vacation to plan. Yes, the cold weather motivated us to research destinations for our tropical vacation this summer. More on that later.

After the last blizzard, we vowed to buy a second shovel, more salt, and a pair of snow boots for Brad. We bought a shovel and salt, but poor Brad still doesn't have any snow boots. We won't make that mistake again. With the way this winter is going, there could be additional heavy snowfalls in our future. The boy needs some boots!
 

Friday, February 5, 2010

think positive

As some of you prepare to be snowed in for another weekend, remember one thing: in less than two months, the cherry blossoms should be in full bloom.




Spring will be here before we know it. Don't be discouraged by the cold and gray this weekend. Instead, think pink!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

the oscars

I love Oscar season. During January and February, Brad and I go crazy seeing movies every weekend—sometimes watching two in one day—in attempt to see as many nominated films and/or actors as possible. But ten movies are nominated for best picture this year! I could barely keep up when there were just five.

What do you think of the nominations? Who is a shoo-in?

I was happy to see Up nominated for so many awards. I'm a sucker for simple stories with powerful messages.

Monday, February 1, 2010

cheater

I used to be such a monogamous reader, a true one-book-at-a-time type of girl.

Now that I've ventured to the dark side, I am like a snowball barreling down a steep and icy slope. My affair began so innocently and has now blossomed into something scandalous. Books surround me and tempt me and overwhelm me. Yet, I can't bring myself to finish one before starting another. I do finish every book I start—I can remember one exception in the past ten years.

Take, for instance, what I'm reading now.
  • The Bible: Brad and I are on a quest to read the Bible all the way through together, and we read it and Carson's two commentaries that help us make meaning of the passages and keep us on a schedule.
  • Two books for two different groups from church
  • War and Peace
  • My current fluff selection that I use as a reward for making progress in War and Peace
  • My book club's February selection
  • Grammar Girl's Daily Devotional
  • A book on CD during my commute to and from work
That's a total of ten books. I feel like such a cheater.