Monday, August 30, 2010

partied out

August turned out to be a much busier month socially than I expected. Here's a list of all the people (besides Brad) I fed and/or hosted this month:

  • my work staff (6 adults)
  • friends from church for the CHBC North BBQ (34 adults, 6 children)
  • another group of friends for a BBQ (10 adults, 1 child)
  • one couple who recently became new parents (baby meal for 2 adults)
  • my college friend, her husband, and their twins stayed the weekend with us and we cooked out to celebrate her birthday (8 adults, 2 children)
I also enjoyed eight lunch/dinner/coffee dates, one girls' night out, one book club, and one restaurant week dinner.

I'm tired. And in honor of another school year beginning today, it's time to settle down: no socializing this weekend. I need some hermit time before September turns out to be just as busy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

baby faces

The freshmen who have moved in all week are exactly one half of my age. Did I look that young when I began my first year of college? When did college students start looking so young? And when did I grow so old?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

one of the best views of DC

I hate that I don't have a picture for this post!

Has anyone been to the POV Roof Terrace at the top of the W hotel near the White House? This hotel used to be named Hotel Washington, but W Hotels took over and did a major renovation. I used to frequent the rooftop terrace years ago with friends for birthdays and girls' nights, but hadn't been back since W Hotels took over. Brad and I went there for a drink after our Restaurant Week dinner at TenPenh last week and I had forgotten how much I love the view from the rooftop terrace. It literally takes my breath away and makes me whisper to Brad, "We live here!"

We've been DC residents for ten years now, but the city's beauty never grows old.

Monday, August 23, 2010

feeding many

Earlier this summer, I decided that Brad and I needed to meet and become better acquainted with members of our church who live near us. I drew boundaries on a Capitol Hill map that basically equated to a five-block radius from our home (give or take) and combed through the church directory to identify every member who lives within my area.

Fifty members--more than I expected--were eligible for my invitation list.

Now that we have a house and yard, and a little more space than we used to, I decided to invite everyone on the list to a BBQ. I figured that many of them wouldn't be able to make it anyway and I couldn't bear to redraw my boundaries and leave anyone out.

More than 35 members responded that they would attend, plus several children.

Brad asked me what I had gotten him into.

It's been a few years since I cooked for a large group. I used to nearly kill myself cooking for large groups by making 20 different dishes that would take me days to prepare. But this time, I decided that simple would be better. We offered burgers (regular, turkey, veggie) and the fixings, pasta salad, fruit salad, mozzarella caprese, chips, and brownies. Brad manned the grill and I was able to prepare most of the other food ahead of time. And, I didn't even have to take a full day off work to pull this event off--only a couple of hours!

The BBQ went so well. We had a mix of young and old, single and married, and couples with and without children. Every person there knew at least one other person, but no one there knew everyone. Because the food was so easy, Brad and I were able to mingle almost as much as our guests. Meeting your neighbors in a small group of 40 is much easier than trying to find them on Sundays in a crowd of more than 800.

I sense a tradition in the making.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

plant killers

Dear Washington Examiner Delivery Person,

Thank you for the free paper delivered to my home once a week. I don't read it, but I still appreciate your generosity. What I don't appreciate, however, is your throwing the paper on top of my plants in the front yard and crushing them to death. Please work on your aim.

Sincerely,

Dr. Blondie

***

Dear DC Recycling Collection Person,

I am grateful for your picking up my recycling each Thursday morning. But may I ask a favor? After you remove my waste, please don't throw my blue recycling bin in the middle of my new flower bed. It's been a long, hot summer, and although most of what I originally planted there has died, I have a few survivors, and your flattening them with the recycling bin doesn't help the situation.

Sincerely,

Dr. Blondie

***


Dear Squirrels,

You took advantage of my first-time-home-owner innocence last summer and wreaked havoc on nearly everything I planted. I came back fighting this year and you backed off a bit, and mostly just harassed newly planted fruits and vegetables (but I still got a tomato harvest, so HA!). Thank you for leaving my plants and flowers in the front yard alone. They are fragile, and after the other two perpetrators' atrocious acts addressed above, you were certainly capable of finishing the plants off. But you didn't, and I appreciate that.

But don't believe that I will let my guard down for a moment. We can never be friends.

Be afraid,

Dr. Blondie

Monday, August 16, 2010

serious scholar or fun fashionista?

Last February at my annual eye exam appointment, my optometrist said I was on the fast track to needing bifocals. Having just turned 36, my eyes were prematurely losing the ability to focus--this normally happens once you turn 40 or older. He updated my contact and eyeglass prescriptions, and recommended progressive lenses in a new pair of glasses that would ease my transition to bifocals later on. It had been at least five years since I had gotten new eyeglasses, so I was sold . . .  as soon as my new benefits year and healthcare flexible spending account started in July.

I debated between two pairs: dark brown Gucci frames that made me look schoolmarmish and super smart and cream/beige BVLGARI frames that went well with my hair color and were just plain fun.

Which pair do you think I chose?

Go ahead, think about it.

I chose FUN! My scholarly days are over.


My new glasses came in last week.


The Gucci frames looked too dark against my light hair and complexion. I typically avoid wearing beige and cream tops as they wash me out, but something about these frames just seemed right.


Aren't they fun? They're different and I like that I don't see them on every other person walking down the street. Here's the side view.


I love them. And although I never wear eyeglasses in public, I feel glamorous lying in bed at night and reading my book while wearing them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

a summertime tradition

Growing up in the landlocked Midwest, I had never heard of crab season until I moved to DC. Eating crab legs at (insert your restaurant of choice) are NOTHING compared to pounding, cracking open, and digging meat out of whole Maryland crabs at a shack right on the water. Brad's first boss here in DC introduced him to this practice, Brad showed me the ropes, and now it's one of our most beloved summertime traditions.

There are plenty of crab shacks in this area, but our favorite is Fisherman's Crab Deck, located right on the water on Kent Narrows, across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. You can sit inside or outside, but we always wait for an outdoor picnic table. The hostess usually overestimates the wait time, so it never takes as long as she predicts. Plus, the Crab Deck has two bars and a beautiful dock to hang out on while you wait. All of that being said, I do recommend arriving early. In this circumstance, I prefer dining while it's light outside to enjoy the  view and sunset. Eating crabs can be hard work, and to avoid injury, you need to see what you're doing.



The outdoor seating area opens up to a small marina. Boats pull up and dock right at the restaurant.


The Crab Deck offers an extensive menu, but we go there for the crabs and have never tried anything else. The staff covers the picnic table in brown paper, brings the crabs on a tray, and provides no plates or utensils (except for a small mallet and knife necessary to pry open each crab).


Dining this way gets messy and be forewarned that the crab smell permeates your pores, hair, and clothes (so don't make plans to meet friends afterward unless you want to overwhelm them with your stench).

You throw the remains of the crabs right on the table.


A highlight of the trip is picking up dessert at Dairy Queen on Kent Narrows on the drive home. I knew nothing about eating crabs when I moved here, but this small-town girl knows Dairy Queen and can never drive past one without stopping.

Are you a crab lover? Which crab shack is your favorite?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

the list is growing

Biographies of the authors slated to attend this year's National Book Festival are now posted. Now that they are more than names on a page, I have a few more must-see authors to add to my list!

follow me

This blog needs a major design makeover--one more item to add to my to-do list. I finally added a follower box on the right side of the page, although I must admit that I'm not exactly sure what it means to follow a blog. But if it makes your blog reading easier, sign up!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

why I should not read so much fiction

I'm not the most creative person in the world, but I do have an active imagination. When a book gets under my skin, I think about it excessively, and even begin to convince myself that the impossible could happen. When I finished The Twilight Saga the first time, I remember staring at each person I passed on the street and wondering if he or she could be a vampire parading as a human. A few of them certainly looked like a potential Cullen!

When I finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain, a story narrated by a dog, I went for a walk and saw a dog who I was certain could talk if given the opportunity. Even to this day, because of that book, I firmly believe that dogs understand much more than we give them credit for.

Now that I've finished the final installment of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series, it's happened again. I see Lisbeth Salander EVERYWHERE! Last weekend on the way to Virginia Beach, Brad and I took a break from driving and in the restroom, a petite young woman with a boyish figure, black hair, multiple piercings and tattoos, black t-shirt, and a surly expression washed her hands in the sink next to mine. I couldn't take my eyes off her. After she left, I ran outside to tell Brad, "The girl with the dragon tattoo was in the restroom!!"

He thought I was crazy.

Am I nuts? Or does this happen to you, too?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

a decade at UMD

Ten years ago today, I began my career in higher education at the University of Maryland. On that day, I never thought I'd still be here--in the same office, even--ten years later. But, three titles later, I don't have one job responsibility today in common with my first position, which is a good thing. Maybe I haven't gained a breadth of institutional experiences, but I have grown professionally in the past decade.

Numerous aspects of my job and office have made it impossible for me to leave. Let me tell you about a few of them.
  • I work with phenomenal people. Do you want to spend 40+ hours with irritating, insensitive people? I don't either. Lucky for me, I don't have to. My boss and I have worked together for nearly nine years. We get each other and work well together. I've worked with the other three full-time employees in the office for more than nine, eight, and three years respectively. My graduate assistant is beginning her fourth year with me. (I got lucky and snagged her at the beginning of her Ph.D. program!) Even the student workers in the office stick around. Two of them just graduated in May; they began working in our office when they were freshmen.
  • My smarty-pants students challenge me, but I get to challenge them, too. There are few jobs in higher education where you can work closely with the same small group of students for their entire college careers. People change so much between the ages of 18 and 22, and it's fulfilling to watch my students grow and develop and to know that I played a small role in their maturation.
  • I'll never get rich working in higher education, but there are other perks, plentiful leave being one of them. What other organization completely shuts down for the winter holidays, spring break, and blizzards? My annual and sick leave accrue at alarming rates, and I never have time to use it all. And it's not because I am a workaholic who never takes days off. I enjoy vacations and staycations and plenty of Fridays off during the summer. And I still barely make a dent in my vacation and sick banks.
  • A second perk: tuition remission = free Ph.D.
  • A third perk: Maryland's insurance and benefits are amazing. How many other organizations provide substantial coverage for infertility treatments? Not many. And although ten years ago I had no idea I'd need such coverage, this benefit has been a deal-breaker for me in terms of accepting other job offers. Working with the same staff for years has allowed me to build strong relationships, which come in handy during life's inevitable bumps in the road when I need a helping hand, a compassionate ear, and perhaps an extra day or two off.
It's been a wonderful ten years. Cheers to the next decade!

Friday, August 6, 2010

August: love it or loathe it?

A friend's recent blog post reminded me of something I had forgotten since Brad no longer works on the Hill.

Capitol Hill staffers love what educators loathe: August.

Yep, August dread has begun here. Anyone with  me?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

beach weekend

Some time ago, Brad and I received a gift certificate from BnBFinder that could be used at hundreds of bed-and-breakfast (B&B) inns across the United States. The gift certificates never expire and they are easy to use (i.e., no blackout dates, few restrictions). If you know someone who frequents B&Bs, these certificates make a perfect gift.

Not everyone enjoys B&Bs. Brad and I have now stayed at six of them, and we've always had delightful experiences. But, I do think it's important to carefully research the B&B before you go--not every B&B is a quality place, and you probably need to spend some money to guarantee a decent one. Brad and I love B&Bs because of the quaint rooms, welcoming innkeepers, out-of-this-world breakfasts, homemade cookies at teatime, and other amenities that make for a very personal experience.

Our gift certificate covered one night's stay at Barclay Cottage in Virginia Beach, so we only had to pay for the second night.

Loved the double wrap-around porches!

We normally stay right on the ocean when we visit the beach. But when offered a free place to stay for half the trip, I will make an exception. B&Bs aren't usually located right on the water, which is why we never stay at them when we go to the beach. But Barclay Cottage was only three short blocks from the ocean, and the innkeepers supplied us with anything we could possibly need at the beach (e.g., chairs, towels, umbrellas, water, snacks, etc.).

We enjoyed a break in the summer's never-ending heat wave and laid on the beach all day for two days in perfect comfort. We even braved the icy water twice to bob in the waves--our favorite beach activity besides lounging and reading. It was an easy, relaxing, and well-timed getaway.

Growing up in the landlocked Midwest, I was almost 23 years old before I ever saw the ocean. Now that I live within a three-hour drive of the Atlantic, I want to kick myself that Brad and I don't take more beach weekends. We go to the ocean every summer, even if it's only a day trip. But this past weekend convinced me that we need to make more of an effort in the future to spend some quality time at the beach.

Monday, August 2, 2010

space issues

One of my weaknesses as a gardener is that I'm a horrible judge of space. I have a difficult time predicting how much room plants will need as they mature to full size. It's a good thing I never wanted to be an architect, landscape or otherwise!

Unlike my hot and thirsty perennials in the front yard, the backyard continues to thrive, probably because the plants were well established by the time the heat wave began in early June. But I have a problem.

My flower bed looked so bare when I first planted it in April. At the time, I was tempted to add a few more plants to fill things in a bit.
 
April 2010

I'm so glad I endured the naked look because the bed is bursting right now without one inch of extra space.

July 2010

I love that my Knock Out rose bushes are on their fourth bloom of the summer. The dahlias and snapdragons have quadrupled (at least) in size.

I'm no better at spacing out fruits and vegetables. I made the mistake of cramming four plants in my tiny new bed.

June 12, 2010

And now the green pepper, eggplant, cantaloupe, and watermelon are all fighting for space. The cantaloupe has resorted to spreading out into the back yard, adding yet another mowing challenge for Brad. Notice my wild-as-ever herb garden in the background of the photo below (I've already cut it back three times).

July 2010
Crammed and overgrown--that's my gardening style. I strive to make the most of the little space I have.