Wednesday, June 30, 2010

musings of a fan girl--part 2

After being pleasantly surprised by New Moon and vowing to attend the midnight release of Eclipse, I can't believe it's come and gone, and here I sit at nearly 3 a.m., hyped from my awesome outing tonight, and dying to tell you all about it. I had a fabulous time. It was such a neat experience to share this movie with other fans who love the series and characters as much as I do. I'm now sold on midnight premieres for beloved series--who's going with me to see part one of Breaking Dawn on November 18, 2011?

Our arrangements could not have worked out better. Thanks to Emily's ticket-buying prowess, we obtained tickets for the very first theater that opened at Gallery Place, which meant that we were the first group to enter. Jessica, Emily, Sunshine, and I met up at 10 p.m., drove to the theater, found parking right away, bought some snacks, and joined the line.


We even got free posters! What do you think Brad will say if I hang my poster in our house? I have a horrible feeling he'll resurrect his Tennessee football pictures (in bright orange frames, nonetheless) from their graveyard in our basement to spite me. Perhaps I'd better not risk it. I fought tooth and nail to put those football pictures to rest.

This is only a very small portion of the line. Fortunately, we were near the front, and then got bumped to the very front when our theater opened.


We scored great seats and let Sunshine, who is a real trooper with being more than seven months pregnant and up past her bedtime, sit near the aisle in case she had to take a bathroom break.


But she didn't--she couldn't bear to miss a minute of the movie.

Ah, the movie. Sigh. Eclipse is my FAVORITE movie of the series thus far. But I knew it would be. I could tell from the previews that it would be a quality production. I won't say too much because I don't want to spoil anything for fans who haven't seen it yet. But I will say this: whether you are Team Edward or Team Jacob, you will be very satisfied. Jacob has some great lines and scenes (and Taylor Lautner can act!). And Edward, oh Edward. The closeup shots of his perfect face, his smile, his humor, his love, his devotion--need I say more? Team Edward fans will get what I'm talking about. Robert Pattinson lightened up this time and wasn't quite so troubled; he better portrayed the Edward from the book that fans hold so dear. Even KStew has lost her nervous ticks; I noticed hardly any blinking or stuttering.

This movie is action packed and really funny, which was a surprise to me! The cinematograpy is breathtaking, and while no movie can capture every scene and emotion from a book, this movie makes a valiant effort. It's a decent representation of the book, which is what any true fan wants anyway.

And now, when can I go see it again?

Fellow Twihards, what did you think?

Monday, June 28, 2010

prepping for the premiere

  • Read the book. Check (X 3).

  • Reread my favorite chapters. Check.
  •  Read The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner to prepare for the Eclipse move. Check.
  •  Purchase movie ticket as soon as they go on sale. Check (thanks Emily!).

  • Participate in a Twilight movie marathon (watching the first two movies: Twlight and New Moon). Check (last Thursday, thanks girls!).

Now that round one of summer fun is over, tomorrow night begins the next chapter of my summer activities! My friends Emily, Jessica, Sunshine, and I will brave the throngs of screaming teens, tweens, young women, moms, grandmothers, and a few brave men to attend the premiere of Eclipse at 12:01 a.m. on June 30th.

I am ridiculously excited about this outing. And I'm also quaking-in-my-bootsstilettos scared about it.

First, can I really stay up until midnight when the movie begins? I'm not worried about falling asleep during the movie--unlike New Moon, there should be plenty of scenes with Edward that will keep me awake. But I'm such an early-to-bed girl and I can't remember the last time I stayed up until midnight. Second, we're meeting at 10 p.m. and going straight to the movie theater, but is this early enough? I have no idea how chaotic it will be, and we definitely want to get good seats and sit together. Third, will I be able to truly listen to and enjoy this movie or will there be too many distractions? I adore these books. I love this series. I want to hear every line. I don't want to be annoyed by unnecessary shrieking and hyperventilating.

Unless I'm the one doing the shrieking and hyperventilating.

But I'll try my best to maintain control. After all, I have an image to maintain. Also, if Brad ever caught wind that I acted that way, my marriage just might be over.

I'm just kidding. Kind of.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

turtles and books

Besides renting the car and exploring the island one day during our vacation, the rest of our days in Barbados were very much the same: breakfast at the hotel, beach time in the morning (including a daily swim out to see and snorkel among the turtles) and reading, pool in the afternoon and reading, and dinner.

One of Barbados's main attractions is snorkeling among the wild sea turtles, who just so conveniently nest right off our hotel's beach, which meant we didn't have to pay to go on a snorkeling cruise to see them. Brad and I simply checked out free snorkeling gear and life jackets from our hotel and swam the 100+ yards out to sea to meet up with the snorkeling parties.

I was a little nervous about this escapade at first, but the turtles are very friendly creatures and will come right up to you. Even though we did this activity five days of our vacation, I never quite got used to coming nose-to-nose with one underwater--I often screamed through my snorkel pipe!

Some of the turtles are quite large.


And some are small. Here's a picture of me touching the back of a baby turtle.


Had I planned better in advance, I would have thought to purchase an underwater disposable camera at Target, where they only cost $8 or so. Instead, we forked over $26 for one at our hotel's gift shop.


Most of the pictures didn't turn out well, but we did get a few cute ones. The picture above is one where I held out the camera. Why do those shots ALWAYS turn out to be the best?

I also read a lot on vacation. I finished almost four Sookie Stackhouse books. I say almost because I stepped off the plane in Miami, the connection on our way home, walked straight into the first bookstore I saw, bought The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, and began reading it immediately. (This book was released in the United States on June 5th, the day we returned home. And, it's available for free online until July 5th, but I had to buy it anyway to add to the rapidly growing Twilight shrine in my house. And, fellow Twihards, read it before you see Eclipse next week. Parts of the Eclipse movie are based on this novella.) I almost finished Bree Tanner on the flight home, but not quite. So I completed both of my "almost finished" books the next day, bringing the total number of books read during my week off work to five, which isn't bad.

It was so wonderful to have little to do but relax and read. Brad and I are now huge fans of do-nothing vacations.


This post concludes my series on Barbados. Stay tuned for my next bout of summer fun next week.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

dining in the dark

Longtime readers know about my obsession with low lighting at restaurants, especially for date nights or special celebrations. I refuse to eat under a spotlight and I've been known to get up and leave if the restaurant's lighting blinds me. Well, let's just say that every future birthday dinner from now on should occur at a Barbados restaurant because almost all of them fit my preferences to a tee: dark (I'm talking no light at all except for a tiny votive candle on the table--perfect!) and intimate.

Barbados scores an A+ for restaurants with phenomenal views. From what I remember, Aruba had few restaurants with decent views, but pretty much the only option in Barbados is to dine while gazing at the sea!

To celebrate our anniversary, Brad and I chose the island's gem: The Cliff. The food was very good--not outstanding, especially for the prices--but good enough. However, the setting and overall ambiance were more than worth the visit.

The sun sets early in Barbados--by 6:30 p.m.--so we arrived just after 6 p.m. to have a drink in the lounge above the restaurant and enjoy the view. The covered deck wraps around the building and provides a panoramic view of the water.


As the sun went down, the torches came on. Look behind me.


It was as impressive as Survivor's Tribal Council set, but not nearly as cheesy. The picture below really doesn't do the setting justice: it was exquisite. The lounge is the second story of the building, and the restaurant covers the bottom level--we scored a perfect railing table with a full sea view (even though it was dark by then).



I don't have a good picture of our table, but we sat right over the water and could see stingrays swimming right beneath/in front of us (thanks to a large spotlight aimed at the water to both showcase and attract the creatures). Luckily though, the spotlight didn't shine on us, or we would have had a problem. Brad and I dined in the dark and enjoyed the the show in the sea. It was a lovely eighth anniversary celebration!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pioneer Woman at the National Book Festival

It's true! The tentative list of authors at this year's National Book Festival on Saturday, September 25th lists Ree Drummond as confirmed!

Two others names immediately caught my eye: Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections) and Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). I plan to scrutinize this list once they have the bios finished and posted.

Which author are you most looking forward to seeing?

Monday, June 21, 2010

downgrading to upgrade

The hotels in Barbados are small and somewhat intimate. You will find few highrise buildings on the island; most hotels aren't taller than three stories. We stayed at Tamarind Cove, located on Paynes Bay in St. James, on the west side of the island, where the water is very calm and swimming and snorkeling are common activities.

I don't take many beach vacations, but when I do, I value staying in a room with an amazing view. I want to fall asleep and wake up listening to the ocean waves right outside my window. I want to see uninterrupted blue as far as I look in either direction. I want to feel the breeze wafting off the water. In my opinion, a well-located room with a view is worth a splurge.

And, in my limited experience, I've always believed that ocean-front rooms trump ocean-view rooms, correct? Ocean-front rooms are more expensive, which equates to "better" in my mind and is exactly the reason that I paid a little more for an ocean-front room in Barbados. But this was not the case at Tamarind Cove.

Brad and I checked into our room and I immediately ran to the window only to be devastated. Although the room was large and nicely furnished, the view stunk. We were in the hotel's main building, which was set back from the sea quite a distance. And although our room completely faced the ocean, a line of tall, thick, ancient trees stood between our balcony and the sea, revealing the beautiful blue water in patches, but not providing anything close to the view I had hoped for.

Brad and I unpacked and went to grab a quick dinner while I fretted about the room's view for about two hours. I was so disappointed that after dinner, I decided to inquire at the front desk about the hotel's room classifications. Although I often embarrass Brad with my particularity when it comes to hotels and restaurants, I am so glad that I asked about this situation because we were immediately downgraded to the best room in the entire hotel (another benefit of traveling to the Caribbean during the low season--they have the flexibility to do that).

Yes, I said downgraded. And no, we didn't get a refund, but at that point, money was not important. We moved to a room that I loved, and it was worth the cost of initially paying for what we thought was a "better" room. Apparently, Tamarind Cove has three ocean-view rooms that the staff consider the hotel's gems. Why they are classified as ocean-view instead of ocean-front blows my mind. If you ever stay at Tamarind Cove, make sure to request room 305.

I wish I had pictures of our first room as a BEFORE picture, but I don't. Let me show you what we ended up with.

We had a breathtaking view of the sea through the sliding balcony doors on the right in the picture below and a view of the sea and one of the hotel's pools through the other window.


Here is a view of the room from the other end.


We even had a view of the sea from a cute window above the sink in the bathroom.



Our balcony felt as though it towered right over the water.


And it did--look how close we were to the water's edge.


Before we visited Barbados, a friend told me that interacting with the Barbadians was always a highlight of her trips there. And I have to agree with her. Brad and I had several occasions where a Barbadian bent over backwards to make sure we were enjoying our vacation. They were a very accommodating people. I didn't even complain to the front desk clerk about our first room; I simply asked her to explain their classification system. She could sense my disappointment and immediately offered to move us to a better room, no further questions asked. She made it so easy.

And Brad joked that she saved our vacation.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

new planting beds

My parents visited last weekend. Because they are both so handy and they like to feel useful, I came up with a project for us to work on: beautifying the small patch of ground in front of our house in between the sidewalk and curb. Here's the BEFORE picture, taken in mid-April (so imagine the mess it had grown into two months later: completely choked with weeds!):


It took us nearly all day on Friday to complete the project (the soil was as hard as a rock and very difficult to work with), but I love how it turned out:


Projects like this make me realize how sedentary my normal work day is. My parents are used to manual labor, and this project barely phased either of them, but I was exhausted at the end of the day. Brad and I never could have done this on our own, and we were incredibly thankful for my parents' help. Plus, my mom brought almost all of the plants from her yard; I didn't have to buy much. AND, the plants are all perennials, so assuming they survive the 14-hour drive to DC and the transfer to a slightly different climate and soil type on a 90 degree day (not ideal), I won't have to replant the bed every year.

Here's a view of our front area, without the tree and with the new flower bed.


We had some wood left, so my dad made me another small bed and conveniently attached to my bed in the backyard that houses my peppers and chives so that Brad won't have to mow in between the two. Aren't I a considerate wife?


I filled the new bed with cantaloupe, watermelon, eggplant, and green pepper plants (basically, all that the store had left that I didn't already have). It may be too late in the season for these plants to amount to anything, but a girl can dream!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

no more tree

Last summer, we trimmed low branches from our tree in the front yard to make the space appear more open and to let in a little more light. When winter rolled around, we fell in love with the steady flow of sunlight that filled the living room. This year when the tree budded, my despair increased as our living room grew darker and darker during daylight hours as the leaves opened up.

So, we had the tree cut down last Friday.

Here is the BEFORE picture. Ignore the car in the way and the light pole running through the middle of the picture.


The guys from Bartlett Tree Experts did a wonderful job. I only had one casualty in my yard: a very small branch on one of my peony bushes was snapped off. Other than that, none of my landscaping or flowers were ruined. Here is the tree lined up to be chipped in the machine and then taken away.


And finally, the tree is gone. Here is the AFTER picture. Again, ignore the light pole.


We have light in the living room again, but still plenty of trees in surrounding yards to provide us some shade and the greenery that we love. I can now plant flowers in the front yard that require full sun. Let's just hope I can keep them alive in this sweltering heat.

Monday, June 14, 2010

not a lawyer, but I have heart

Although I'm a bit behind on my projected miles for 2010, I can check one of my running goals off my list: I ran a new-to-me race on Saturday, the Lawyers Have Heart 10K.

And boy, did I feel inferior completing the registration form when I had to mark "N/A" for so many categories: my current firm, my former firm, my law school alma mater, my law-related professional development, etc. Brad and I laughed at how the different law firms tried to outdo each other with creative slogans on their employees' race shirts.

Although the weather was sunny and hot and I ran slower than normal, the race organizers, with the exception of hanging the start/finish sign backwards, did a great job. Four water stations for a 10K race is just unheard of, at least in my experience. But we had FOUR! And they passed out cold, wet, heart-shaped sponges at miles two and five! After I sopped my face and head with the sponge, I stuck it down my shirt to keep me cool, which it did for the next few minutes. What an unexpected blessing!

Running on Canal Road to the Georgetown Reservoir and back was woodsy (which meant full shade--YAY) and breezy. I felt like I was in the country. I didn't enjoy the last mile or two back to the Georgetown waterfront in full, bright sun on the Whitehurst Freeway, but overall I would say that this race is decent and I would consider running it again.

Most importantly, finishing this new-to-me race brought me one step closer to meeting my 2010 running goal. Now, back to catching up on those miles . . .

Thursday, June 10, 2010

pale and paler

It's kind of comical that Brad and I love beach vacations so much when neither one of us can be out in the scorching Caribbean sun for more than 30 minutes at a time (and this is when we're lathered up with sunscreen). We spend a lot of time hiding from that pulsing ball of fire that is in no way our friend.


We snorkeled almost every day. The sun was particularly vicious to us the first day and we both got a little red.


We got a spot of color the next day, or perhaps it's just our light clothing setting off our tans (or should I say burns).

And, after our final day in the sun, still not much progress in the tan department.


No one commented on our awesome color after we returned. A colleague of Brad's even had the nerve to ask Brad where his tan was when he learned that we'd spent a week in Barbados.

Did this guy not notice Brad's hair color? And his freckles? Brad has never had a tan in  his life. But I'm so thankful that he still loves vacations in the sun!

We would have issues if he didn't.

a bit about barbados

Before last week, Brad's and my only Caribbean experience was our honeymoon to Aruba eight years ago. We loved Aruba. And we loved Barbados. But they are different islands in numerous ways.

Although we visited both islands during their low season, Barbados seemed much quieter than we remembered Aruba being. The beaches, pools, and restaurants in Barbados were virtual ghost towns, which we loved because we didn't have to fight for beach huts, pool chairs, or dinner reservations.

Prices were a little cheaper too, which is always a good thing.

Whereas Aruba boasts huge resorts, many of them in high-rise buildings, this is about as tall as they got in Barbados.


Our room was the one on the very top--more about our room in a future post, tentatively titled "downgrading to upgrade".

We stayed on the platinum coast, the west side of the island, where the Caribbean Sea gently laps the shore. There are few waves, no currents, bath-like water, and lots of sea turtles and coral. The majority of the hotels and restaurants are in this area.

It's pretty there.


I have never seen such calm saltwater in my life. Look, barely a ripple in the sea.


Although the coral invaded some of the swimming areas, it provided interesting scenery for snorkeling.


The southern tip of the island has more waves. Brad and I visited Surfer's Point.


The east coast is rocky, dangerous (because of strong currents--swimming isn't allowed there), natural, and deserted. It was beautiful!

My sweet model on the east coast . . . 


Barbadians drive on the wrong opposite side of the road. We rented a car one day and embarked on an adventure.


Thankfully, Brad took the wheel and not me. (He NEVER would have allowed me to drive in Barbados.) Brad was a fearless driver and did a great job, until we were almost back to the hotel and he drifted too close to the curb on the left side (while preparing to turn right ACROSS traffic) and we blew out a tire. Luckily, a nice policeman helped us change it. I giggled a few times when Brad attempted to turn on the blinker, but the windshield wipers came on instead. (Their cars are mirror images of ours--every gadget is on the opposite side.)

Stay tuned for more vacation posts!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

missing my office from last week . . .

. . . because what more do you need than sunscreen, a comfy lounging chair, water, sunglasses, a picturesque setting, and a good book?

Brad and I are easing back into the real world. And even though we've never taken a vacation where we did so little, I have LOTS to tell you about (and show you through pictures), so stay tuned for several Barbados-related posts over the next week or two.

Until then, back to catching up at my real job . . .

Monday, June 7, 2010

bountiful berries

Before I moved to our new house, I never knew wild strawberries grew in the city--I'd never seen them on Capitol Hill before. But my yard has loads of them. Check out the overgrown beds/walkway (that we plan to rip out and beautify very soon) in the backyard that leads to the dog leg area of our house.


Look closely. See those little red dots in the picture? They're miniature strawberries--hundreds of them!

Here's a closer shot.


These little gems actually make me really happy when I find them--they're just so cute and unexpected. Who doesn't love a strawberry, even if it is a weed?

Friday, June 4, 2010

the most beautiful blue

As I prepare to leave behind the beautiful blue Caribbean water, I have another blue, this one at home, on my mind.

The picture below is my dream: my next door neighbor Bea's mature, established, huge, loaded, perfect hydrangea bush with the most beautiful blue flowers I have ever seen.


Isn't the color of her flowers what any gardener dreams of? Her flowers are the perfect shade of blue--and not a hint of pink or purple. Here's a closer look.


While Bea's bush is my dream, here is my reality: brand new, tiny, not at all established, fragile, and still PINK (despite my efforts to add acid to the soil and turn the blooms blue).


Sigh.

Gardening is a great lesson in patience. I told Brad that we absolutely cannot move to a new house until my rose, peony, and hydrangea bushes establish themselves and bloom throughout the season. I'm not going anywhere until my hydrangeas produce blue flowers!

It's a good thing we love our house because we may be here for a while.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

deadhead

I still have several garden-related posts in the pipeline, so I've extended gardening month(s) on this blog through June.

To keep my flowers looking like this


I do a lot of this.


I don't even want to know the number of hours I spend deadheading flowers. I peruse my planting boxes and beds before and after work each day. As you know, I value tidiness, and removing dead flowers encourages new blooms.

It takes a lot of time, but I can't imagine my life (or my yard) without flowers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

eight is great

Today I have an excuse to post my favorite picture from Brad's and my wedding, taken exactly eight years ago. (For the story behind the picture, reread last year's anniversary post.)

I continue to praise God for his blessing of marriage, and for the many ways that he's strengthened Brad's and my relationship this past year. I cannot imagine celebrating life's joys and enduring life's disappointments with anyone else.

In honor of our eight years of wedded bliss, allow me to share eight reasons why I love my sweet, smart redhead:
1. He knows that cupcakes instantly cure my surly moods
2. Brad does 100% of our laundry, and he knows which of my clothes need to hang dry better than I do.
3. He prays with me, and for me, every day.
4. He forgives my embarrassing breach of etiquette.
5. Brad chose to celebrate our seventh anniversary in extreme physical pain because I wanted to.
6. I admit I am persistent. And it always takes a while, but he eventually gives in.
7. Brad refuses to read my blog because of posts like this (one of my favorites, but not at all his taste), but still appreciates and encourages my love of writing.
8. Brad effortlessly handles all of the small things that stress. me. out.

Cheers to another year!