Monday, May 31, 2010

happy memorial day.

us flag

In honor of all the fallen soldiers… we thank you for your valiant service and sacrifice for our country.

Near Pete Ober – Will’s cousin who I was never able to have the pleasure of meeting.
IMG_0003 I could do better with my shots of Rolling Thunder but this is from several years ago from the car as we left Arlington Cemetery.  I know that a lot of Arlingtonians get annoyed but it is an amazing gesture of support.  We were heartened to see all the bikes headed toward DC on Friday as we were on our way out of DC.

And from my new blog love, The Pioneer Woman, a few links to a photo community assignment that she’s been working on in the last week.

Coming Home: Part 1
Coming Home: Part 2
Coming Home: Part 3
Coming Home: Part 4
Coming Home: Part 5

…I dare you not to tear up.

Enjoy your barbeques and beers and whatever else floats your boat (maybe even an actual floating boat), we’re headed to a first birthday party and probably to the pool. 

Commencement and our trip to Fallingwater posts coming soon.

edited to add: a bit of Memorial Day history from PW found here.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

tudor place – saturday may 15

Because my graduation ceremony was on Friday and Commencement was on Sunday, we had a free day on Saturday.

Susan had told me about this house tour that her boss had taken her and her fellow employees at Christmas time – Tudor Place in Georgetown.  Just the kind of thing that’s up my mom’s alley so that’s what we decided to do with our day.DSC_0048

The tour was a lot of fun with quite the mishmash of objects from the family – descendents of Martha Washington – throughout the over 100 years that the family had owned and occupied the house.  We couldn’t take pictures inside – no surprise there – but the grounds were beautiful and it was a gorgeous day outside.

The back of the house.


Taking a respite from the sun and walking.


A few shots from the garden: irises, the neatly coiled hoses, foxglove?
This was the family car in 1919.  If I remember correctly, it cost $13,500 in 1916 when it was special ordered.

I may or may not have wandered into the garden that was set up for a wedding that afternoon to take a few pictures.DSC_0074

After the tour, we made a special lunch trip to La Madeleine in Georgetown to satisfy Mom’s request every time she visits for a stop in to one of our favorite places from Houston.

We had a quiet evening of church and a homemade meal by yours truly.

In an effort to make Dad happy, I essentially made steak and potatoes.  I used a Real Simple recipe for Flank Steak with Balsamic Mushrooms and Arugula (link!) that I’m pretty sure that I’ve made before but added roasted potatoes as a side (Will and I would skip the potatoes and call it a meal).
YUMMMM!!  Even Dad liked it.  Though since I never can find arugula, I substituted spinach both times and it tastes great.

For dessert I tried another Good Things Catered cake recipe.  This time it was for Sweet Lemon Rhubarb Bundt cake.  I was being lazy about finding rhubarb and she said you could use strawberries (cut in large pieces) or whole blueberries – I went with the strawberry option.
This is my only prep picture even though I was actually using my Kitchenaid because I was trying (with Mom’s amazing help) to make dinner and a cake at the same time.  I felt really bad for Will when he had to clean up  because I generally make a mess with any new recipe period but this was 10 times worse than normal with me trying to do two major things at once.
Finished product sans lemon glaze – it never did cool off completely before we were ready to eat it.

DSC_0086 Also amazingly tasty!  This one will DEFINITELY get made again and not just because I heart my bundt pan ;-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

school o’ business – friday, may 14

A mere 9 months after I was finished attending classes. 

Nine months after my degree had been conferred upon me. 

Six months after I received my diploma in the mail. 

And nearly a month since I got my beautifully framed diploma back from Michael’s.

It was time for my actual graduation. 

My parents drove down on Friday to begin the festivities with the School of Business Celebration at the Charles E. Smith Center (aka the dinkiest basketball arena in which I’ve ever watched the Flyers play).

Well, first we went to dinner at Founding Farmers near campus.  Because the ceremony was at 7:30, we had early reservations and got to the restaurant even earlier.  The hostess told us that our table would be ready in about 10-15 minutes.

One drawback to Founding Farmers for those who are a little older and/or have bad knees is that the “seats” in their waiting area are very low to the ground – probably only about 2-2.5’ high.  We could have waited in the bar but there were no seats in the bar.  So we stood until I asked the hostess if it would be possible for us to be seated sooner because my parents really needed to sit down.  She said that our table was ready – well, we got seated but the other hostess still had to pull 2 tables together for us so they weren’t actually ready.

Now FF’s whole shtick is that the are one of the first green restaurants in the city – LEED certified building, locally sourced foods from farmers who follow sustainable growing practices, organic foods.  As a result the decor is a lot of neat reclaimed wood, the water bottles for the table are old school milk bottles, a lot of bamboo, and a few of the tables in the bar area appeared to be made out of tree stumps.

The menu was almost overwhelming in its delicious sounding choices.  We had a flatbread appetizer with brie and onion marmalade.  Mom and I ended up splitting a salad and in the end Dad gave a big portion of his lettuce wedge to Will.  Mom and I both had fantastic scallops with butternut squash risotto (only slightly marred by the presence of green peas).  Will had shrimp and grits (only slightly marred by lots of tomatoes) that were pretty tasty.  Dad had the prime rib – SOOO good.

We didn’t have time to stay for dessert but we did peruse the menu just to see what our options were. 

Sadly the rain that had been forecast for the day decided right then to rear its ugly head necessitating umbrella usage and dashing through the rain.  At least it was short lived. 

Of course the break from the rain turned out to be short-lived as well.  As I stood on the corner of G and 22nd trying to put on my regalia, there was a loud clap of thunder and literally 2 seconds later a deluge.  Thankfully Will was quick with the umbrella so Mom and I didn’t get too wet but Dad wasn’t as fortunate.  As we huddled with other graduates and family members next to Duques, I discovered that I didn’t know where I was supposed to be so there was a bit of fortuitousness to the rain.

The rain held off long enough for all the graduates to process across the street and into the Smith Center.  DSC_0013 Mother Nature really wanted to make her presence known however.  During the National Anthem, it must have started storming again because when she got to the “bombs bursting in air,” there was another loud clap of thunder.

Our keynote speaker was Marcia Bullard, former CEO of USA WEEKEND and founder and member of the board for Make a Difference Day, a day of service sponsored by USA TODAY.  She was kind of interesting but didn’t know her audience.  She seemed to get us confused with the undergraduates continuously referring to us as “millennials” even though the majority of the graduate school class was over 30 and not even close to being a millennial.  She did make an interesting point that I hadn’t thought of before.  She suggested that no matter what you’re doing with your career, you should give up a part of your time for service, in particular by serving on the board of directors of a non-profit that interests you – both to give back and to learn a different way of doing business.

Then it was time to “get our diplomas.”  DSC_0028I thought the way they do it is rather lame though I would guess that it’s a common practice.  We were all given a card on which to write our name and then hand to the person “reading” the names.  No order.  Not terribly special.  Very weird to me after our UD graduation wherein they called out the name of each and every graduate at commencement.  We weren’t even given an approximation of our diplomas, receiving instead GW travel wallets.

And all of a sudden it was all over and we were being pushed out into the humid streets (I’d actually defied all the rules and gotten back into the arena to meet up with my folks but we did lose Dad in the process).

We attempted to go to the reception in Duques but it was just too packed so we walked in one door and out the one on the other side.  The desserts at Founding Farmers were calling us.  We were told that the wait would be about 25-30 min but we were able to get seats at the bar.  And dessert was definitely worth coming back for.  Mom and I shared a huge bowl of chocolate mousse – AMAZING.  Dad had carrot cake and Will had a banana split.
Will’s artsy shot of the bar – the only picture to come out nice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

new music that we didn’t see but love anyway

If you ask nicely Ravi will make a sampler of 2-3 songs from each of the Coachella artists to preview beforehand so that you can become familiar with new bands and be able to strategize once the set schedule is announced.  Some bands are on just way too early to be worth the effort to get there and so even though you might really want to see something, you won’t get to.

As a result you end up with a few new bands that you really enjoy that you didn’t manage to catch on stage for whatever reason.

Here’s 2 that we really like:

The first is one that I am obsessed with – La Roux.  Oddly she’s this British chick who seems to be trying to reimagine the 80s.  SO FUN!
LOVE the hair!  And actually we probably could have pulled off seeing her on the first day but I don’t think I was quite as obsessed at that point and I think we were eating.  (sorry about the commercial that may or may not appear at the beginning)

The second is one that Will is obsessed with – One EskimO.  They were on the last day at noon – so even though a few of us were very much interested, it wasn’t happening.  They have a series of cartoon videos to go with the album telling the story of One EskimO and his lady love.  And the cartoon band features a few penguins which could have something to do with Will’s love.

Our favorite song is “Kandi” which samples a 1970-something soul recording and is a really old song that has been recorded many, many times both good and bad (do a search for “Kandi” on YouTube and you’ll figure out what I’m talking about).
the video is German but is the only version of the cartoon you can find that’s decent.

But even better – the song was featured on the season finale of Bones last week!

new music that we got to see and now love

We definitely came away from Coachella with a few new bands that we really enjoy and I thought it might be nice to share.

One of my absolute new favs is The Avett Brothers.  They were actually the first band we caught at Coachella.
this is one of my favorite songs (and the name of their album) but my real favorite is “January Wedding” but they don’t have a video for it.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - which you may remember me talking about in Day 3 - are totally chill and awesome.

We heard a small snippet of this from The Big Pink on Day 3 and it’s just such a fun, catchy song.

Another band that we only saw a small bit of but on the first day was Yeasayer with another super catchy song “Ambling Alp.”

So Phoenix was a band that was recommended by, um, Ruben, I think, that we got fairly familiar with before we got to Coachella so we were super excited to see them on the last day.  My Favorite is “Lisztomania” which you can’t embed.

But you might be familiar with Phoenix without knowing it because of this Cadillac commercial:

The actual song is Phoenix’s “1901:”

oddly specific fine

We were driving around downtown Sacramento when we spotted this sign across the street from the Capitol Building:DSC_0536Seems like an oddly specific fine, doesn’t it? 

Why $426? 

Why not a nice even $400 or $425? 

You might be able to tell that the amount is new, corrected on the sign with a big sticker.

Monday, May 24, 2010

sacramento, ca

Our last full day in California, we went further North to visit my aunt and uncle, cousin and her fiancée in Sacramento.  Given how tired we were, we got a late start and ended up having lunch in Pleasant Hill near Ruben and Sarah’s at a lovely bistro/bakery called ShaadZee (actually it was where we’d stopped for a snack the day before).  Super tasty.  Well, we actually stopped at Jamba Juice first hoping to get breakfast but we were a little late and thus opted for the JJ smoothie + ShaadZee lunch combo.

Afterward we did a little caching. We could actually walk there from lunch so I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the cool art deco movie theater there as we walked.DSC_0490
The cache was a virtual (meaning there’s no thing to find just a place to find and a few questions to answer) about the Soldier’s Memorial Monument in Pleasant Hill.  The monument is rather deco as well.
DSC_0494DSC_0497  This was our only cache in Pleasant Hill because the other 2 we tried to find – well, we failed after which we began our trip north.

First stop, the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA.  It seemed a logical stop on our way north given that it was supposed to rain (which, of course, it didn’t).
A small sampling of the jelly bean portraiture that they are so well known for.

The tour was actually really cool – of course, I’m biased because I heart factory tours.  We got to taste things as we went along and see all the various stages of jelly bean “life.”  At one point on the tour, they were making Very Cherry jelly beans and the whole factory smelled AMAZING!  I was really sad that we couldn’t take pictures because it combined 2 things that I love – bright colors and shiny industrial equipment. 

As we drove north, I was reminded of the California milk commercials – Happy Cows Come from California – by the scenery.DSC_0526

Our next stop was Will’s boyhood home in Vacaville.  Ok, one of his boyhood homes.  It didn’t hurt that we also found a cache nearby.
Present day and the pony picture that made this house “famous.”

We ended up in Sacramento early so we tried another cache before heading to Old Sacramento to wander and check out the Sacramento River before dinner.
The California State Capitol Building.

 DSC_0543DSC_0552DSC_0556 DSC_0567DSC_0572DSC_0561

We then met up with my aunt, uncle, cousin and cousin’s fiancée to go out to dinner.  Will hadn’t met my cousin and I hadn’t met her fiancée so it was fun.  Dinner was good too.  We went to 33rd Street Bistro

Eventually we made our way back to Pleasant Hill with the help of the lovely Suki – Sarah’s GPS.  Actually she’d been our faithful companion most of the day.DSC_0585

Our kind and generous hosts were still awake when we finally got back to the house.  Apparently the cats, Myla and Chloe can’t be facing each other.

And except for the trek back to the East Coast (boring) thus ends our fantastic trip to California.

american wife

american wifeWell, I finished American Wife a few weeks ago but I’ve been busy trying to blog about other things, cleaning for my parents’ visit, having to go to work (oh wait, that’s where I’m drafting this post…), and general life – errands, laundry, food, etc.

Curtis Sittenfield got the inspiration for the novel after writing an article about First Lady Laura Bush and commenting that it seemed like the First Lady’s life was like reading a novel. So a few years after writing the article, she decided that she should be the one to write that novel.

The story isn’t the life and times of Laura Bush but rather the fictional story of Alice Linden using major life points of LB to guide the narrative – life as a librarian, marrying a man with family money, husband’s purchase of a baseball team, life as First Lady to the Governor and then life as First Lady of the United States.

I rather enjoyed the book. I thought it was interesting that we don’t really think of the real lives that go on in the White House and the real backgrounds that happened before they got there. But even that’s not the point of the story – which is relationships. Relationships can be, and very often are, exactly the same as anyone else’s even though there might be more money, more notoriety, more power given to one couple over another.

What was most interesting was the idea that the First Lady might love her husband so much as to ignore his politics. To be in complete disagreement but never say anything to anyone purely out of love for her man. And this point was made again when, shortly after finishing the book, I read that Laura Bush had published her memoir (Spoken from the Heart) and, in the blurb I saw, seems to have admitted that she didn’t always support her husband’s views and decisions. Now I kind of want to read that too.

Curtis Sittenfield also wrote Prep: A Novel about a middle class girl from Indiana who wins a scholarship to an East Coast boarding school which I read several years ago and rather enjoyed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

pixar & a dinner saga

Sarah (Ruben’s wife) is a Technical Director at Pixar.  She has worked on Ratatouille, WALL•E, and soon-to-be-released Toy Story 3.  As a result, we were able to get a tour.  Super cool since there are no public tours.DSC_0481

There is a limited area inside the headquarters that anyone from the “outside” is allowed to see and even less where you can take pictures.  Here’s a few shots:
DSC_0460DSC_0465  DSC_0461DSC_0462

There are characters all over the place.
Luigi and Guido from Cars which oddly enough we didn’t watch until after we got back.
The Incredibles – Mr. Incredible, Violet, Elastigirl (aka Mrs. Incredible), Jack-Jack, and Dash.

Mr. Incredible has it in for my husband. Buzz Lightyear and Woody (Toy Story) in Legos.
Sulley and Mike from Monsters, Inc.

Of course the best parts were the parts we weren’t allowed to capture on “film.”  The exhibit at the time was for UP which happens to be our current favorite Pixar movie.  It was so cool to see the art that was created during the development of the movie.  It included the resin models for all the characters, sketches and paintings from character and set development, and lots of other really cool stuff.  And we were lucky because the exhibit was going to be changed over to Toy Story 3 soon after we were there.

Afterward there was nothing we were capable of besides a snack and a nap so we finished our trek to Ruben and Sarah’s in Pleasant Hill to crash until it was time to meet up with Sarah for dinner.

Now dinner… dinner was a story in and of itself.  Because the original restaurant that DeLunas had in mind turned out to be closed, we ended up at Havana in Alameda.  It’s essentially Cuban tapas.  The food was pretty darn fantastic so no problems there – those came with the bill.  Food pics first.

To begin with, the waitress got one of the plates wrong in the first round of plates from the kitchen.  Then it took forever to get the rest of the dishes we’d ordered to the point where the general manager brought us the rest of our order.  He didn’t acknowledge that anything was wrong but as a customer you know something is up when the boss is bringing out the plates.  Alright fine.

But then…we get the bill and it’s just the first round of dishes so we’re like “ok, they comped the dishes that had clearly been forgotten” and paid the bill.

Then we got up from the table to leave when the waitress came back to tell us that she’d forgotten a few dishes and needed to correct the charges and could we wait a few minutes.  So we sat back down to wait.

And wait we did as she came back to rerun the credit cards and then finally came back and said “ok, I fixed it and took care of the pitcher…. oh wait, you didn’t have a pitcher” at which point I think she kind of lost it.

So we waited another 10 or 15 minutes until the general manager came over to tell us what they had done to “fix” things.  He had decided to charge us for everything, take a whole $10 of the total, and gave us 4 coupons for $10 off our next visit (that couldn’t be combined and you had to spend up to a certain amount to use them). And then they had to run the cards for a third time which took so long that we finally got up to sign them at the door leaving zero tip, of course.

Clearly, the only reason to go here is for the food and not one bit for the service.  I don’t think Sarah will ever set foot in the place ever again since she believed, and I agree, that some if not the entire bill should have been comped after all the trouble they put us through if he really wanted us to come back.