28 April 2010

Wednesday Wisdom: World Travels Edition

Wanderlust, once again, is on my mind.  Truthfully, it's never far from my mind.  But warm weather always seems to bring out the worst pangs. 

* Did you know the BBC offers free online language classes for beginners?  I'm signing myself up for French to see if I can get back on track with learning French after I gave up two summers ago. 

* Did you know that you can actually touch Mars?  I was going to write a post about this the other day before work took over my life.  At the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, there is a tiny exhibit that lets you reach in and touch a little piece of a Mars rock.  A friend and I wandered the museum on Sunday, and that was probably my favorite part.

*  Did you know that once you leave the U.S. and Western Europe, the odds of encountering a squat toilet increase exponentially?  For girls, this takes more than a little getting used to.  Some tips and tricks are good to know in advance, but the more you use one, the more likely it is you will find a technique that is your own no-fail method. 

* Did you know that while the Love Canal may have been the basis for starting the Superfund, there are still plenty of toxic sites in the U.S.?

* Did you know D.C. made the top ten list of least wasteful cities in the U.S.?

* And, did you know that the best, cheapest seafood risotto you'll ever have in your life is in a tiny village on the shores of the Adriatic in Albania?  True story -- I still dream about that risotto. 

27 April 2010

Minor Meltdown

Yesterday was one of those days.

The kind where as fast as you run, the farther you fall behind. 

The kind where it takes 4.5 hours in front of the copier, 2 ink cartridges, and an entire box of paper just to get your project started.

The kind where, 10 hours later, you still have quite a ways to go. Like more than half-way to go. 

The kind where you have to call someone and yell at them for sending too many big emails too soon.  And then tell them to stop altogether for the foreseeable future.

The kind where people expect you to get things done, but then either don't want to return the favor, or get mad when their request gets buried behind something else. 

The kind where you finally call it quits for your sanity.  

But once you finally get home, still catch yourself crying out of exhaustion and frustration and irritation and yes, a bit of a fear of failure. 

The kind where you find yourself looking forward to a good workout class, but when you get there, find out your class has been cancelled.

So it becomes the kind where you console yourself with chocolate pudding and strawberries and climb into bed early. 

But the catch is, today promises much more of the same, only with a shorter working day thanks to an end of day appointment.  

*Sigh*

23 April 2010

Newsy Randoms (Sort of)

* I wasn't really planning on doing another randoms post, but my mind is running randomly today and I can't seem to focus on anything long enough to make a coherent, normal post.

* Yay for Fridays!  It's sunny and beautiful and I can see the glow of sunlight over my cubicle wall.  I hope it is as warm outside as I imagine it to be.  Days like today, I just want to hit the open road.  But the rest of the weekend is supposed to be cool and rainy -- not quite as much fun for random roadtrips.

* I have heard news this week, that while not unexpected or surprising, still made me sad and a bit scared for the future.

* I have also heard news this week that makes me happy and hopeful and excited for the future.  Really happy.  So much so that I'd much rather laze around and daydream about the future than do anything else.

* I am so thrilled to see my favorite dogwoods in bloom again.  If I ever own a house with a yard, you best be believing I will have dogwoods planted in the yard.


* We are officially on the countdown!  There are now less than 90 days before My Love returns home for keeps!  We have already begun counting the days.  Saying "months" just makes it sound too long. 

* Water aerobics have resumed again.  After 3 classes, I'm already down 5 pounds.  Yay for breaking that horrible, awful plateau!


* While I really am not much of a shopper these days (I'm too frugal to spend money on clothes that will be too big in 6 weeks), I have learned exactly how I will handle future shopping trips with My Love...

* I am happy to be wrapping up an intensive, exhaustive, "short-term," "quick and easy" project that has stretched out three months at work and caused more than a few headaches.  I'm just awaiting final approval on my report of findings and recommendations before I can consider it officially off my to-do list.

*  I hate the days I forget my ipod at home.  I never really realized how loud my neighbor is when he's on the phone.  When he talks to me in person, he's quiet.  How/why is he so quiet in person and so loud when he's on the phone?

20 April 2010

Beauty, Beauty, Beauty

Lately, I've noticed a familiar conversation sneaking into my daily chats with My Love. 

It starts out innocently enough.  We chatter about our day and talk about something that struck us as unusual about the day. 

For My Love, that might be the discovery that the lady he has ordered meat from for the last two years actually speaks flawless English.  And to his indignation, never told him. 


More often than not, my unusual moment tends to fall along the lines of, "So I walked in, wearing nothing but ratty sweats, no makeup, my hair in a messy ponytail (because, lately, I'm over looking perfect everytime I leave my apt), not giving a damn about anything other than picking up my takeout, but every single head in the place turned."

And every single time, without fail, as I recount this episode to My Love, I begin musing about why everyone started staring at me when I walked in.

Was it because I looked like such an awful slob?
Was I ridiculously underdressed?  Even in a country full of underdressers?
Did I have a bird in my hair?
Something in my teeth?
Did someone say "the next person to walk in the door will be the future Queen of England?"
Am I really just that fat and ugly?


The Peace Corps, however, has taught My Love patience, if nothing else. 

Every single time, without fail, My Love sighs patiently and says, "They look because you are beautiful."

Well, let's be honest here.  He usually has some smartass answer like, "Gee, you're right, I can't imagine why all the guys turn to check out the hottie."

But then he always tells me, "They look because you are beautiful."

And every single time, without fail, the truth of that statement catches me off-guard.  Always.


I know, consciously, when I really think about it, I am beautiful.  I am a healthy weight.  I am proud of my changing body.  I have worked hard to lose weight and tone up.  I am slowly but surely buying clothing sizes much smaller than I ever have before. 

But unconsciously, in the default corner of my mind that I spend way too much time listening to, I'm still the fat, ugly girl. 

Why?


Because I was always overweight.  Because even though I know my clothes don't look good on me because they are too big (and that's a good thing), I still feel frumpy.  Because after years of looking at other girls and comparing myself to them, I still have yet to really realize that I am now one of the skinny(-er) ones. 

It's tough to admit that to myself.  Much tougher to admit it publicly.

But now that I have my eating habits under control and my exercise routine (pretty) consistent, I need to working on teaching myself to always believe I'm beautiful. That I've earned the right to feel and believe unabashedly that I'm beautiful, even if the scale is still stuck at a weight that's only my mid-point weight loss goal. 

So, I've been collecting powerful role models.  Ones I admire for being beautiful, healthy, but most importantly, real about their own struggles and challenges in accepting their looks.  (Yes, I am aware that beauty and looks should not be the only basis on which I judge myself -- but I already have a high level of self-confidence -- I know, and more importantly, believe, I am a good, beautiful person in personality and spirits -- I need help learning how to accept the external beauty in addition.) 




(All the stunning prints first seen here.)

19 April 2010

District Dining

Amazing. 

Even with all the food I ate this weekend, I can still squeeze into my skinny jeans and touch my toes.  

I sure didn't expect that. 

*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Friday night, I met up with the lovely Mb and her bro, Zab for happy hour sushi at our standby, Wok N Roll.  C'mon, $1 sushi and $2 beers?  Who can ever resist?

But the best part?

The very best part?

After happy hour, Mb and I decided to check out Fro-Zen-Yo.  Let's just say Mb and I found our self-serve, cheap, yummy fro-yo nirvana.  Mb's review hits the nail on the head.  Fro-Zen-Yo, we'll be back. 

*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Saturday night, I met up with Tiger and some of her friends for a gluttonous dinner and drinks.  

The evening started off with drinks at Elephant and Castle on Pennsylvania Ave, which, I swear, everyone who has lived in DC for at least six months has been to at least once.  

If you have lived in DC for six months or longer without going to Elephant & Castle, you aren't doing DC right. 

The whole focus of the night though, was on dining at Fogo de Chao, and going into their famed meat coma.  I'd heard about the restaurant many times, but this was the first chance I had to eat there.  Even with reservations, our group had to wait a bit, but not as long as I expected given how busy the Saturday night crowd was. 

Once we were seated, we were each given a coaster with a green side and a red side.  Green means "bring me more meat!" and red roughly translates to "give me a chance to eat this mountain of meat on my plate."  

There's an all-you-can-eat salad bar, where, in my opinion, the best thing offered was their cheese selections. We also had cheesy rolls, garlic mashed potatoes, fried bananas, and polenta.  All of which is included in the price. 

However, the highlight is the skewers of meat circling the dining room.  If the green side of your coaster was flipped up, waiters would stop by and offer you different cuts of meat.  It could have easily been an orgy -- I definitely ate more than I normally do because I tried a little of everything that came by.  

But truthfully, I was a little disappointed with the meat -- every cut I sampled was delicious for the first bite or two, but then after that, it was always much, much too salty for my taste.  In a traditional restaurant, I'd have sent back my meal.

Disappointment with the overly salty meat aside, it was a great experience, made better by all the cheerful, chatty dinner companions.  And then we wrapped up the evening with a nightcap at Round Robin, another DC drinking institution. 

16 April 2010

Friday, Finally


It's been one of those incredibly long, never-ending weeks.  And to make it even more confusing, I didn't have any high-stress, must-do, worrisome tasks this week.  But depsite crawling into bed earlier and earlier every night this week, I have been exhausted.  I mean, exhausted.  Nodding off on the couch at 8:30 exhausted.  To the point where I've been checking my lymph nodes just to double-check that the nasty mono is not trying to sneak back into my life. 


I fall asleep hard, but then wake up suddenly two hours later.  Roll over and fall asleep hard once again.  Rinse and repeat all night long.  It's been going on all week. 


Weird, right?


So, needless to say, I'm hoping for some extra sleep this weekend. 


Regardless of my current inability to recall important conversations from Wednesday afternoon or why I need to ask so-and-so a pressing question (which I've long since forgotten), I still have had a good week.


Things that made me smile this week include:


*  Water Aerobics.


*  Sunshine on my walks home.


*  My bro telling me he wished I could have joined his road trip to Boston this weekend.


*  My other bro winning the lacrosse game that sends his team to the national championships! Go Lakers!


*  The realization that it now less than 13 weeks before My Love finally comes home. (And yes, we are already starting the countdown...) 


*  The fact that everything is green again.  Hard to believe we were buried under record amounts of snow just two months ago.


*  Completely paying off the last balance on my credit card.  (Such a short-lived happiness...thankyouverymuch dental insurance for not covering what you said you would.  *sigh*)


*  Immense pride in a massive project My Love completed.


*  Plans and get-togethers with friends that make me laugh.

15 April 2010

Summer in the District

Summer days are almost here again!


I love summer in DC.  Well, once I survived that first miserably hot and sticky humid summer.  Once I got used to humidity, I fell in love with DC's summer charms.  And this year, I plan on living it up. 

On my list of things to do this summer:

* Ride my bike to Mt. Vernon.


* Key Lime Martinis at my favorite U-topia.

* Happy hour swirly margaritas on the patio at Lauriol Plaza.

* Wander through Dumbarton Oaks.

* Wander through the Museum of Natural History.

* Wander through the FDR Memorial.

* Picnic at Jazz in the Garden.

* Dine at Fogo de Chao.

* Enjoy so-bad-for-you-but-oh-so-good eats at Ben's Chili Bowl.

* Happy hour eats at Wok N' Roll.

* Check out fresh fare at FoundingFarmers.

* Get 90% of my summer food from farmers' markets.

* Find the best gelato in DC.

* Dance at U Street Music Hall.

* Dance on the rooftop of Clarendon Ballroom.

* Window-shop the flea market at Eastern Market.

* Work on my tan and daydream about travel at Gravelly Point.

* Swim at least five laps without stopping in my gigantic pool.

* Watch a movie at the Uptown.

* Watch a movie at E Street Cinema.

* Check out the Old Post Office Tower.

* Check out Mount St. Sepulchre.

Any other must-adds I need to include?  Anyone want to join me on some of these adventures?

14 April 2010

Wednesday Wisdom: Randoms

* Did you know that rainbow eucalyptus trees are real?

* Do you know what they call a bear with no teeth?

* Did you know the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan has shrunk dramatically over the last 30 years? 


* Do you know all these cool edible flag images?  I missed two.

* Did you know the Chinese put mayo on their fruit salad? Or that Italians combine mustard with candied fruit?

(Answer: a gummi bear! Duh.)

13 April 2010

If You Need a Little Pick-Me-Up

Go to Google.

Type in "Who's the cutest?"

Click on "I'm Feeling Lucky."

Have a great afternoon.

12 April 2010

Spring Break, South Carolina Style

Last week, I spent five days in the sun and sand of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my parents and my bro, PMac.  Sadly, DMac's spring break schedule is different, so he couldn't join us.  


It was a fantastic (and sorely needed) spring break!  The weather was sunny and in the upper 70's the whole time I was there.  Unfortunately, it was also really windy -- even after three days back in DC, my face is still peeling from the windburn.  

The plus side to traveling with my family is I can get away with packing less because whatever I forget or don't pack, I can bum off of someone.  On this trip, I lived in my swimsuit, gym shorts, and one of PMac's many ridiculously oversized sweatshirts.  Even on the beach.  Fashion trend setter I was not.  But I was definitely comfy.  How I managed to actually get the tan I did is still beyond me. 

We camped right on the beach.  Our campsite was maybe 50 feet behind the dunes.  It was great!  

My days were spent sleeping in (you know you're officially an adult when sleeping in is 7:30!), taking long walks on the beach, poking around for 987 seashells to add to my collection, riding bikes, reassuring my bro that life really is awesome in college, gossiping with mom, teasing dad, eating lots of delicious home-cooked meals, and losing every single game of cards and yahtzee I played. 

Easter Sunday was also Mama Mac's birthday, so my Dad and bro surprised her with tickets to see Legends in Concert.  I can now say I've seen Rod Stewart, George Strait, The Temptations, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis live in concert.  It was a "tribute" show full of impersonators, and no surprise here, the Temptations were phenomenal.  Seriously, they were the best act by far.  Marilyn Monroe was funny, and the others were alright.  

Later in the week, PMac ditched us for a few days to hang out with friends, so my Dad treated my Mom and I to dinner and a show at Dolly Parton's Dixieland Stampede.  Truthfully, it was hokey.  It was something to do, but probably would have been more fun with a few kids under the age of 5.  Jokes from the show include zingers like "He named his pet chicken 'Nugget.'"  *Groan* right?  But the frozen peach Bellinis were fab.  

But mostly, the trip was focused on relaxing, chilling with my family, and enjoying the great weather.  

And I came back to DC with a much more relaxed state of mind, some new seashells, and the start of a tan.  

08 April 2010

Weekly Randoms Round-Up

*  I was in Hallmark the other day, buying cards for Easter and birthdays, and decided to go ahead and buy my brother's graduation card while I was there and not rushed for time.  I found the perfect card for him.  But then I also found a card "for the parents of the graduate."  I bought it for my parents.  Because when PMac graduates, my parents graduate too.  And that deserves some acknowledgement - they got three kids through high school and into a fantastic university - so, three cheers for them! 


*  Surprisingly, happily, My Love is on-board with this idea.

*  Why is it the busier I am, the busier I get?

*  Why are all my coworkers so shocked to discover that I don't buy my breakfast smoothies - I make them?

*  It has taken me a very, very long time not to get all "Ma'am is for my mother!" everytime someone in my respectful workplace calls me "Ma'am" instead of "Miss."  Yes, in my mind, if I'm not married and under the age of 30, I am a "Miss."  But I know "Ma'am" is a sign of respect, so I've learned not to feel old.

* Sparkly nail polish is one of the things I love best about being a girl.

07 April 2010

Wednesday Wisdom: Internet Privacy

We all know there's a loss of privacy once you start using the internet.  I'm all for choosing what and how much information is out there.  However, I try to control what the world can see about me.  I Google myself regularly to make sure there's nothing out there that shouldn't be.  I stalk WhitePages to make sure I'm not listed.  I set Facebook to private.  And even here, revealing details are kept to a minimum.

But, sometimes, there's a greater loss of privacy than should be tolerated.  


Click over to Spokeo and do a search for yourself.  

Scary how detailed that loss of privacy is, isn't it?

Even scarier to imagine how much more information is available to those who pay.

And scariest of all?  People who have never used the internet, like my 80-year-old grandmother, are listed too.

Not cool, Spokeo, not cool at all.

To clear your information, find the teeny-tiny privacy link way down on the bottom of the page and follow their directions.

02 April 2010

Love/Hate


I love my neighborhood.  I really do.

It is not the "it" neighborhood to live in.  It is not "cool."  It does not have a vibrant nightlife scene.

But just the same, I adore it.  Everything a girl could need or want is within a mile walk from my apartment.  Lots of Mom and Pop restaurants, some not-bad bars (even if there's too many sports bars for my preference), my favorite little place, shops, coffee, groceries, the library, multiple parks, bike paths, Metro stations, both my corporate and client offices.  There's pretty trees and flowers to soften the harshness of all the concrete and buildings.  What more could a girl need or want?

But there comes a time every.single.year. that I hate my neighborhood.



Yes, that's right. 

I hate my neighborhood during Cherry Blossom time. 

Why?

Because my neighborhood is tourist central.  There is a ton of hotels, two bus tour friendly food courts, and a mall (because when you visit the Nation's Capital, your tour isn't complete without a stop at the Gap). 

And it is jarring and shocking and startling to discover that I cannot walk anywhere without giving directions at least twice, or get on Metro without watching tourists pile up like dominos at the top or bottom of the escalators or the turnstiles, or to walk into the mall without being carried on a sea of neon-t-shirt-wearing middle school bus tours. 

After 5 years down here, you'd think I would expect this, but no, every spring, I get knocked off guard by the sudden realization that there are 68679 buses everywhere I look and a gazillion tourists. 

In a few weeks (okay, okay, more like a few months), I'll get used to the tourists again.  But for the two weeks of Cherry Blossom time, I cannot stand tourists. 

But on the flip side, my wallet sure loves Cherry Blossom time....it always kicks off my self-imposed, two-month shopping ban since the mall is more crowded and packed with middle schoolers than a toy store on Christmas Eve.