Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
I couldn't wait to get home and make my planned dinner - a mini homemade pizza on soy pita bread. It was going to be glorious: olive oil, grape tomatoes, shallots, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil.
(Can we just talk a bit about how much I love fresh mozzarella? It is one of the few cheese varieties that doesn't send me to bed early with stomach cramps. And calcium! Yay!)
I preheated the oven, drizzled some olive oil on the pita, and tossed it in the oven to crisp up a little. I chopped veggies, sliced the mozzarella, tore the basil, and went to check on the pita.
Nothing. No heat. No toasty pita goodness.
Now, I am lucky enough to have a lovely gas stove. When apartment searching a few months ago, I distinctly recall telling Jen that I had one demand, and one only: a gas stove. You wanna-be chefs know how it is - electric stoves suck!
I was also lucky to grow up with a gas stove and learned their inner machinations early on. I can re-light a pilot light with the best of 'em. Well, pilot lights for the burners.
I knew that the pilot light in the oven was out and that deadly gas was filling the kitchen with each second! Time was an issue! I was hungry, dammit!
Problem was, the pilot light for the oven was way in the back. On the bottom. My arms? Like T-Rex.
I didn't want to singe my arm off, but had no way to recreate the wire match holders that The Lady always used to light candles and pilot lights.
Or had I?
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Well, it was long. Over 1000 pages, and it took me a very long time to read (it's been a few months since I first cracked it open). It sat on my shelf numerous times as I read other books. I wasn't really compelled to read it, and there were days when I would only read a chapter at a time.
It seems like I am composing its death sentence here, yes? It sounds like it's not worth the effort, right? On the contrary...
This book was excellent. BUT. It is not for everyone. Let me just start by saying that many online reviewers have pegged Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell as "Harry Potter for adults."
No no no no no. NO.
The only thing that this book shares with Harry Potter is magic. And that is all. And it certainly isn't the same kind of magic found in Harry Potter. If you want a quick read, then... well, read Harry Potter. This is not a quick or easy read. It is difficult and time-consuming, and it must be read very carefully (there are footnotes, people. Footnotes!), but it is SO worth it.
Susanna Clarke has created a masterpiece that feels like a historical text at times (she uses people and events from history, like Napoleon, Lord Wellington, and the Battle of Waterloo), and like fantasy at others (faeries, other worlds, incantations). And concurrently, by diligently sticking to the social norms of the time, she has created a text in the style of Jane Austen. It is unlike anything I have ever read.
JS&MN is - to completely overuse the word - magical. Its writing is absolutely superb. There were slow parts, yes, but Clarke's prose made even the dullest subjects interesting. The social commentary, the historical details, and above all else, the character development, make this book one of the best I've read in years.
What is about, you ask?
Set in the early 19th century, magic has been absent from England for hundreds of years. The mysterious departure of the Raven King, a man brought up in the land of Faerie, removed magic from the lands. Learned men study theoretical magic, but no one has actually been able to practice magic - not for lack of trying, however. They are just unable to make magic work.
When Gilbert Norrell sweeps into London from Yorkshire, determined to prove that he is the only worthy magician in all of England, he demands that all theoretical magicians cease their studies immediately. With help, he quickly climbs the social and political ladder, proving himself indispensable to both the Prime Minister and Lord Wellington. His popularity is at an all time high after performing magic to help a man and his new bride.
But when Jonathan Strange enters his circle and grabs London's attention, Norrell seeks him out immediately. You see, Strange announced that he, too, is a magician, and Strange is threatened. Strange becomes Norrell's student, and while Strange is eager to make advances in his studies, Norrell cuts him off from his famed Yorkshire library, limiting Strange to theoretical texts only.
And the practice of magic is strictly forbidden.
As you might imagine, Strange does not take well to this prohibition and before long, the plot thickens, as they say. Strange begins dabbling in darker forms of magic and soon the world around him changes, his loved ones change, and he puts the whole of Europe in a panic.
Norrell is a fascinating character in that his pride and social ineptness have removed him from society and severely limit his abilities to be a leader. When challenged, as he soon is, he retreats into a world of secrets and refuses to give up power. He desires change, but is terrified to return to the past -- the past of the powerful Raven King.
Strange also desires change, but he will stop at nothing to get it.
Don't let yourself revert back to college by ignoring footnotes -- the information included there is almost always important to the plot, because it includes stories and lore of the Raven King's past. (Not a spoiler - the Raven King is kind of a big deal.)
I can say with all certainty that some people are going to be underwhelmed with this book. It moves slowly, plot points seem to fade away, and there doesn't seem to be much going on. At the same time, others will gobble this book up.
If you feel yourself losing interest, or wondering when it's going to pick up the pace, do try to stick with it. It is immensely rewarding.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
This is kind of a weird thing to write about, but a distant member of my family, a man I don't remember and never met, was murdered recently.
He loved the outdoors, and found peace there. He loved his daughter. He was a good man. He put his life on the line to save the lives of others, and his sacrifice has delivered him to God.
I didn't attend his funeral, but my mom sent me a poem that was read at the service. As someone who feels most at peace when in nature, I had a strong connection with its message. I hope that my second cousin, Richard, is now at peace.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water,
and I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
I picked up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at 12:10 this morning, read until 6:30, slept until noon, and finished it at 6 this evening. I am happy that it's finished, upset that it's over, and 100% completely satisfied with the outcome. It was perfect.
I must say, also, that I was pretty much right on with my predictions. A few missteps, but I guess I can't be right all of the time. Hrmph.
That's all I'm going to say. I'll wait on my review for a few weeks - I don't want to give away a single thing to any of those snail-like readers out there :)
OMG though, people. FINISH it so we can discuss!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The Lady teaches fifth grade, and so had already been on the Harry Potter bandwagon for a few years. She had been trying desperately to get me to read them, and I kept blowing her off. One summer, during my college years, we were camping near Jackson, MI. I had forgotten to bring something to read and she confidently handed me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (she had the first two books in the car - to bully me into reading? I don't know...)
By nightfall, I had completely devoured it and had started on Chamber of Secrets. Eventually I ran out of light, and had to sit my ass just inches from the campfire so I could make out the text.
Yes, I am awesome.
This series has always been a classic tale of good versus evil. It closely follows the monomyth (or Hero Myth) formula, and in this pattern, the hero does not die. He is tempted to quit, considers the "dark side," and hates his life at times, but eventually comes to accept his fate.
I am actually going to be waiting in line on Friday night, BECAUSE I AM JUST THAT AWESOME, and Amanda will be joining me. I'm not sure if she agreed to accompany me because of the drinks we'll be getting beforehand or the fact that she gets to borrow it when I'm done, but either way, I'm glad!
I mean, it's not like I'm dressing up or something (I'm really not). But I will take pictures of anyone who does! So if you're planning on being in costume at the Borders at Metro Center... beware!
I recently had an hour-long conversation with my dad about the series, and asked him if he could remember anything like this phenomenon in his lifetime. He mentioned getting excited about reading the Narnia books, and read them one after another, but they had been published a few years before he was old enough to read them, so he never had to wait for the next book. Plus, advertising certainly wasn't what it is now. When you add in the popularity of the films, in his opinion, nothing like this has ever happened before.
And it's over a book, people. A book!
The Harry Potter series is accessible, enjoyable, and teaches good lessons. This series got my teenage brother to put down Maxim (well, for a little while, anyway). This series got kids excited about reading again, and once they finished the series, they moved on to other books (His Dark Materials trilogy, anyone? OMG READ THEM). This series paved the way for similar books.
This series has captivated so many.
It's sad that it's coming to an end, but it's far from over. Like Narnia, kids will be reading this series forever. And they'll be better off for it! (Grumble, grumble, walking to school uphill both ways...)
So. Anyway. My predictions for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
1. Harry will live, but not after considering a move to the dark side. He will defeat Voldemort after the tragic death of a mentor and friend (Hagrid).
2. Ron and Hermione will live... and live happily ever after together.
3. Hagrid, Snape, Wormtail, and Lucius Malfoy will die. And some OOTP members and Death Eaters for good measure. And, unfortunately, a member of the Weasley family.
4. Snape is GOOD and will sacrifice himself for Harry.
5. I will cry.
I can't wait.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Sometimes I get all full of shit and decide that I need vitamins like RIGHT NOW I NEED VITAMINS OR I MIGHT FALL AND BREAK ALL OF MY BONES AND DIE.
So I bought these last night:
Trader Joe is a funny dude. The tortilla chips are dubbed "Trader Jose's," the pasta is "Trader Giotto's," and the Pad Thai is "Trader Ming's."
Dietary Supplements and things that are supposed to be all-around good for you? Trader Darwin.
I do not have any sort of fairy dust luck with women's vitamins. One-A-Day brand? I left work early that day due to THE VOMITING.
These pills? Are the size of horse tranquilizers and look like concentrated fertilizer. Very green. We shall not even discuss the odor.
OH. And gentle on the stomach? My ass. I took one five minutes ago - WITH FOOD - and am already nauseous.
Perhaps I am not meant to take vitamins. Perhaps I am meant to get osteoporosis at age 28 since I hate dairy and you cannot make me like it, GOD.
I will just drink this and everything will be taken care of for me. Right? It has vitamins and minerals. So it's like the same thing. Right?
Friday, July 13, 2007
And secondly, one of my best friends in the world, Kelly, got a little good news of her own - in the form of a diamond ring.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Monday, July 09, 2007
It wasn't fully decked out (the sign out front was still a normal 7-11 sign), but a few things had been changed:
Get your squishee and donut at the 7-11 on Carlin Springs, Arlington, VA. Near Bailey's Crossroads (Carlin Springs/Route 7).
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
I love sweet things. Fruit has sugar, yes, but it is fruit, so it's not ALL bad, right? This is a version of the best salad ever, originally eaten by me at an O'Charley's restaurant in Belleville, Michigan. They call it the California Salad, but to avoid any lawsuits, I will call it the Sweet Summer Big Fat Orgasm Salad.
Sweet Summer Big Fat Orgasm Salad
baby spinach leaves
Toss all ingredients together and drizzle with a lovely balsamic vinaigrette.
I think that the original recipe calls for bleu cheese crumbles, but as even the thought of cheese makes my stomach curdle, I decided against its inclusion. I hope you understand.
Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for the ugly-ass bowl. Someone left it at my house after Thanksgiving and never claimed it. It's hideous, but it is the perfect size for the Sweet Summer Big Fat Orgasm Salad.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
I was up ON TIME. I made myself a Full English Breakfast (minus the meat products). I was at work two minutes EARLY.
KEEP IN MIND that this was a Monday.
I was extremely productive in checking my email and responding to the multitude of twats who have no idea who they are emailing and are either asking for money or offering "enlargement creams," whatever the hell that means. I even did a few very important things, because I am very busy and important.
And yes, it was then time for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Staff Picnic! Yay! Each year, the lowly staff members are given a limited number of tickets to purchase overpriced food from the Folklife Festival vendors. This year, we had the choice of recipes from Virginia, Northern Ireland, and the Mekong River. It's Free Food Day in all its glory, but we always make sure not to get too excited...
For once, the food options looked great at all three places. After very little debate, I got myself shepherd's pie and an iced tea (I love shepherd's pie. Good lord). The cost? $12. Well, $12 in food vouchers. Gah.
Though a small portion, it was delicious and quite filling for me, but that... doesn't say much. My appetite is not really indicative of the rest of the population. Even so, three minutes later? We were hungry again.
We strolled down the Mall to the Virginia eatery place. We waited in line for twenty minutes (you should see my lovely sunburned shoulders) for the strawberry shortcake dessert, and just when we were about to order, it was announced that they had run out.
So we walked back to the Northern Ireland tent to get the vanilla ice cream with Bailey's (we'd been calling it boozy ice cream since we saw it on the menu, and I'm really not sure why it wasn't our first choice), and they ran out as well. No boozy ice cream! Boo!
So I got a Guinness. At 1:30 p.m. On a Monday.
The world's best employee.
It was sooooooo gooooooood. I don't drink Guinness often because it's a freaking meal for me and my minuscule stomach, but oh! was it nice. Ohhhhhhhh.
We sat in the tent area (I wasn't allowed to leave the area with my evil liquid contraband). And then I realized that it was 3:00 and I had been down on the Mall since nooner. Amazing. Like I said -- the world's best employee.
I hauled ass back to work, and... I don't know if time flew or if I passed out from my liquid lunch, but all of a sudden it was time to go hang out with Merrick!
Twas a very good day.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Here are things that you might hear from such a woman:
"Thanks, it was marked down 75 percent!"
"I know, and it was only A DOLLAR! Go to the mall now!"
"It doesn't fit exactly, and I'm not crazy about the color, but it was practically free!"
I hit up Pentagon City this weekend, mainly because I had already metroed my ass all the way to Old Town from Capitol Hill for the sole purpose of getting myself a Turkey Tom sub from Jimmy John's.
Yes, I did. And it was SO worth it.
On the way back up the yellow line, I decided that some retail therapy was in good order, and alighted at the mall. It wasn't too crowded, surprisingly, for a Saturday afternoon, so I immediately high-tailed it to The Limited.
I adore The Limited. It is one of only two shops in which I can enter (the other being Esprit), spot an item I admire, and immediately make a purchase without the hassle of navigating the dreaded changing room. I know my size in anything at The Limited, and it is such a relief to be able to bypass that time-wasting step.
Most of the time, I am an absolutely awful shopper. I am that rare woman who doesn't actually love to shop. It's a chore to me. I enter the mall with an agenda, I hate to deviate from that plan, and I will avoid trying something on AT ALL COSTS. I hate slow walkers, window shoppers, and indecisive shopping partners: "I don't know... is it worth it?"
You do NOT want to ask me this question. I am the world's BEST enabler. I don't care if you just told me that you have a negative balance in your checking account -- if you show even the slightest amount of adoration toward a sweater or pair of shoes, I will do anything in my power to make sure you leave the store with that item in hand. I don't do this to be mean, I just think that people should have nice, pretty things. Especially women. We deserve many nice, pretty things.
Right, so, The Limited. The other weekend, I was in Michigan, and found myself at a very lovely mall. I also found myself coveting a gorgeous, white, strapless dress at The Limited. Sadly, the price tag was much too steep for my tastes, and I regrettably left it behind.
Long story short, I bought that dress on Saturday. For $23.99. DAMN STRAIGHT.
Feeling brave, and a little high after my SHOPPING COUP, my next step was a big one: Forever 21.
K-10 and I lovingly named it Forever Slutty, because there is no way in hell that a twenty six-year-old like me should be shopping there, but sometimes you can find some amazing, understated pieces (of course, this is only if you can get past the fact that their low prices are sometimes attributed to fabrics of mediocre quality and possible sweatshop construction. Well you know what? I make a chimp's wages, so I OVERLOOK IT. We can't all be shopping at BCBG, DAMMIT. (Oh BCBG, how I love you...)). It does carry the T.J.Maxx stigma, however - you have to dig to find something even remotely attractive. I usually avoid this place like the freaking plague, but I had a good feeling.
The retail gods must have been smiling down my way, because I found two dresses, both in my size (though I did try them on - you just cannot take that risk at Forever Slutty. Not with their return policy, anyway), and both nowhere near inappropriate.
One of the dresses - a pretty, summery, flirty little number - didn't have a price tag. After a few minutes, the assistant manager gave up and charged me $15.
I went home, tried on all of my lovely dresses, and spun around in circles like a princess. And then I had some wine.
It was GLORIOUS.