Friday, October 28, 2011

The Know It All

Although this book has been on my To Read list for years (I came across an article by the author that I clipped out the month it was published, back in 2005!), it wasn't until Summer lent it to me that I actually read it.  And many, many thanks to my wonderful, bibliophile of a cousin who pushed it into my hands.
AJ Jacobs set out to read the entire 2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica- 33,000 pages, around 44 million words- in one calendar year.  His father, an expert tax lawyer who has published his own series of non-fiction books, attempted this feat and only made it to the Bs; AJ Jacobs is determined to finish, although everyone he knows is extremely skeptical.  Spoiler alert: he gets to the end.  It's the journey that's so fun to follow, though.  Throughout the year of EB, he picks up random bits of trivia (Hey, did you know that the Berserkers was a tribe that went into war naked?), tries out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, tries desperately for a child with his patient wife, joins Mensa, takes a speed reading class...the man stays busy.  Through it all, though, he questions what intelligence really is.  How will all of these facts make him smarter?  Will it?
A great read that you can breeze through.  You may learn a thing or two!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Lately, I am really feeling funky nail polish.  This is Rust, by Forever 21, and it is the perfect thing for fall: copper glitter.  I've layered it over an eggplant purple polish for a darker look, and put on three layers at once for tons of pizzazz.  For less than $3, it's my best accessory for gloomy autumn days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Toffee Chocolate Chip Bars

Oh, goodness.  Making these bars was a huge mistake.  I baked them Monday night and somehow, half the pan is already gone.  Could it be a cookie monster?  Did Mia jump up onto the counter and finish some off while we toiled away at work?  Is John Paul sleep eating?
Okay, well, to be fair, I brought in some to the office for my co-workers.  They were snatched up like...well, like delicious blondies.  But they're so good, I can't keep my hands off of them, either!  My version is extra thick, as I don't have the 10x10 inch pan the recipe calls for and instead used an 8x8 inch.  If that's your problem, too, add about 5-10 minutes on to the cooking time, and tent with aluminum about halfway through (it'll cook in the middle without burning).
As long as you don't have a diet to stick to, definitely try these fall treats.  Your co-workers and fiancee will love you more.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weekend in Chicago

Haley and I went to Chicago, then Urbana, IL this weekend to celebrate my wonderful mother's birthday face-to-face-to-face.  Seriously, we had such a good time!
The trip started off in Chicago, where Mom, Haley and I spent the night in a swanky hotel and had a fancy-pants dinner of delicious tapas.  The lobby of our one-night home was so cool we hung out after dinner!  How cute are these girls?
Friday was a daylong shopping excursion on Michigan Avenue in search of Haley's bridesmaid dress.  We were pretty bundled up; chilly, chilly weather!  P.S. We found the dress.  Whew!
We saw a Lego-fied Woody at a mall.  (John Paul's reaction: Is that a Woody made out of Legos?!  DAYUM!)
Very bravely, we went to the American Girl Doll store.  Oh my goodness, everything was inside of this store, even a doll hair salon (where you could pay $20 to get your doll's hair braided), "electric" doll toothbrushes, doll snow cone was a girl's dream.
Eventually, we made our way back to Urbana and the gorgeous farmer's market.  How pretty are these tomatoes?!
There was really good kettle corn there.
The trip ended with a trip to Black Dog, where Haley indulged in their burnt ends (the juicy "butts" of barbecue briskets).  I may have had a little bite or ten.
I love these ladies!  Thanks for a relaxing, lovely weekend- I can't wait to see you again soon!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Before I Go to Sleep

I generally don't go for thrillers when I pick up books from the library, but this one got fantastic reviews.  With excellent reason: Watson has crafted a taut suspense that kept me up at night.
Christine suffered an injury several years ago that left her without her memory.  She begins each day thinking she's a single 25-year old woman, only to be jolted back to reality when she looks in the mirror and sees a married woman in her 40s.  She has no recollection of the past two decades, her marriage to Ben, her head injury.  Her therapist encourages her to keep a journal of what happens to her every day, including her interactions with her husband, Ben, and what she remembers of her past life.  Her therapist, though, tells her that the journal must be kept secret, as Ben is prone to fits of jealousy.  When she starts reading through her older entries, Christine realizes that something in her life is amiss, especially when she comes across an entry that simply says, "Don't trust Ben."
Suddenly, Christine's tenuous grasp on her identity slips.  What has Ben done?  Why are there so few photos of their two decades together?  Why does she have to hide her journal away?
I could not tear myself away from this debut novel!  I read it in just a few days, staying up late and eating cereal for dinner to make more time for each chapter.  You've got to pick up this book, if only to remind yourself of just how riveting the written word can be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Homemade Szechuan Noodles

Before dating JP, I rarely got cravings for Asian food.  I'm not crazy about Japanese cuisine, and Chinese was wayyy too salty for my tastes.  JP, however, introduced me to Thai, Indian, Korean fare, and my taste buds are forever grateful.  I love that the ingredients are pretty simple (noodles, veggies, protein), but the sauces keep things interesting: orange sauce, sesame sauce, soy...the list goes on.
When I saw this recipe for homemade szechuan noodles, I jumped on it.  Most of the ingredients of the sauce were already in my pantry, and it's packed with flavor.  Peanut butter, tahini, garlic, fresh ginger... they don't sound like the perfect mix, but try it before judging.  It packs a whollop!
Don't be afraid to add more veggies to the mix.  I actually sauteed the peppers a bit before adding them to the noodles, but would gladly add carrots and water chestnuts next time.  
A brief note about the gluten-free noodles- we tried brown rice noodles, but I'm not totally sold on them.  They're got super mushy after reheating, and were heavy.  I'd stick with whole grain or regular ol' white pasta in the future.

P.S. Happy 300th post!  Goodness, time flies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weekend photos

We saw this car in ATL last weekend.  All of these stickers really say, "I'm trying too hard."
She's just awfully cute.  Especially from the ground angle.
Reading material for the weekend: Anthology, Design Sponge, Real Simple.  Domesticity achieved.
She is wonderful, and today is her birthday.  I love you, Mom!  Can't wait to celebrate in Chicago this weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Long and Slinky

Dress: Gap
Shoes: Nine West
Earrings: April Daze
Y'all, this dress was less than $20!  I've been on the lookout for dresses I can wear for wedding-related events, and this one fits the bill (and budget) perfectly: wonderfully soft, white and dove gray print, interesting cutout back.  I absolutely love it, and wore it to dinner with John Paul on Tuesday night (his birthday tends to spread out over a few days.  What can I say; I'm glad he was born.), even though it's crazy long and needs to be hemmed before I wear it for real.
Even though I would generally say black wedges are too heavy for a floaty white dress, the black trim around the collar helps it feel cohesive, and the hem is so long you can barely see the shoes.  The cutout design on the wedges make them feel a bit more late-summery, so I went with it.
Such a great buy!  Is there anything better than finding a great piece on a serious discount?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This weekend

John Paul and I spent the Columbus Day weekend in Atlanta.  He drove down for work on Wednesday with Mia, and I flew down on Friday to meet up.  We had such a great, relaxing time!  There's lots of space for our baby girl to run around so you can bet she was a happy camper.
John Paul got caught up playing soccer with a neighbor, who was reluctant to give up the ball.  Alex has moves on the field!
It was great to get some down time with JP's family, like his sister Belen (on the left) and cousin Olga (on the right).  We ate a lot of great food, saw a movie (50/50), and, the best part of all, saw John Paul's favorite band live on Sunday night.
He's been loving Thrice for a long time, and with good reason.  They've been around for over a decade, and make really great music.  We've seen them together three times, although this was definitely the most memorable.  First of all, Belen came with us.  We generally go to concerts just the two of us, but it was so much nicer to have someone to chat about the show with afterward, and getting to see how psyched she was hearing them play live was a hoot!
Second of all, after the band played, the lead singer (Dustin Kensrue), played an acoustic set across the street!  I've never been to a show that intimate before, but it was pretty nuts getting to be so close the music and hearing the singer's voice so clearly without a microphone.  I thought my man was going to burst with excitement.
He even posed for a picture with us and wished JP a happy birthday!  I loved seeing John Paul so thrilled with the whole experience, and wish every show I went to had that kind of atmosphere.

As you can imagine, the 11-hour drive back to DC on Monday was a non-event after that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Birthday to my Man!

My man has conquered another year.
Happy, happy birthday to the handsomest, funniest, sweetest, compassionatest man.  I hope your 26th year is the best yet!
I love you so much!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ready Player One

This book was so much fun to read!  Cline has taken 80s nostalgia, a dystopian future, MMORPGs, adventure, friendship and romance into one awesome story.  
The year is 2044, and Wade Watts is trying to win the world's biggest online gaming competition.  James Halliday created the OASIS, an online program everyone in the world logs on to.  You see, the environment and economy has gotten so bad that public schools are overcrowded, trailers are stacked on top of each other in ghettos, etc.  OASIS allows people to use technology to log into another world and bypass the ugliness of the earth.  James Halliday died five years ago, and left the world a puzzle to solve: find the three "eggs" in OASIS to win his vast fortune.  Wade Watts is an gunter (egg hunter) who has studied everything 80s in order to come out on top.  Halliday was notoriously obsessed with the decade in which he was born, and every gunter has done research on all of John Hughes' films, RUSH albums, War Games, and anything else 80s you can think of to win the money.  Watts is up against time, other gunters, and corporations interested in taking over OASIS in order to win; can he make it happen?
Okay, does that synopsis make sense?  There's a lot going on, but Cline folds everything together in an interesting and fun twist.  I had a great time reading it, and it's a perfect segue into fall.  Well done, Ernest Cline!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Solar Decathlon 2011

Over the weekend, John Paul and I hit up the 2011 Solar Decathlon on the National Mall to look over the houses up for consideration.  The SD was developed to promote innovation in environmentally sustainable architecture; there are tons of great ideas for space-saving furniture, new ways of using old materials, even just ways of easily integrating "green" living with your daily life.
University of Maryland ended up winning the competition, but all of the houses were so cool!  Below are a few pictures of my favorite things we saw, that are easiest to picture in a house.  A couple pictures were taken by my mother; thanks for sharing, Mom!
Here's a lightweight stool that's sewn together!  There are three legs, and they're stitched to the seat with really thick yarn-like material.  What a cool idea.
A copper backsplash in a kitchen- easy to clean, and will patina nicely in years to come.  That color against the medium wood grain is gorgeous, isn't it?
One of the houses had quotes and sayings burned into the wraparound patio.  Beautiful.
A drying line built into a back porch.  Such an easy idea, and something you could definitely use on a regular basis!
This kitchen island has bookcases on one side- something I wish my current home had.
What would you do with your home to save space or be greener?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A few more photos...

In the past couple of weeks, I...
...sauteed and ate collard greens with cranberries and pine nuts.  Vegan and tasty!
...saw this beautiful bench on the Mall.  How gorgeous is it with the roots attached?
...had an artichoke night with my boo.  I steamed the artichokes, he made the aioli.  If only we could do that every night!
...ate individual peach cobbler for dessert.  Oh my gracious, they were sinfully good!
...ended last week with a rainbow over Georgetown.  Does it get much better than that?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My life in a few photos

Hello, you wonderful readers!  I apologize for being off the map for the past couple of weeks.  There is no excuse, but would it help if I say there was a long visit from my mom, the National Book Festival, and lots of delicious food?
My mom and I got pedicures in Dupont Circle during her visit; it was terribly relaxing.  They asked if we wanted coffee, water, or champagne.  I think our answer was pretty obvious.
I would like to think that she came up solely for me, but the Book Festival was going on that weekend!  Here is Julianne Moore, discussing her children's series, Freckleface Strawberry.  She is gorgeous and well-spoken and great with kids.
Brian Selznick wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which is a beautifully and thickly illustrated book about a young boy who lives in a train station.  (It's going to be a movie by Martin Scorsese this November.)  He's a dynamic speaker- really enjoyed hearing about his creative process, which involves lots of research.
Amy Chua (we were in the back- trust me, the view was better in person!) defended her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which details her strict upbringing of her daughters.  The tent was pretty charged with opinions of her parenting style, but I really enjoyed her talk!
Summer joined us!  It was a great day- low 70s and cloudy.  We had a great time!
On Sunday morning we trekked to the Dupont Farmer's Market, where we picked up honeycrisp apples and peaches.  Yummy!  Also had brunch, then headed back to the NBF for the second day of speakers.
I really enjoyed Joshua Foer, the guy who wrote Moonwalking with Einstein.  Very articulate and, not surprisingly, the memory champ did not use any notes.
My Sunday ended with Garrison Keillor.  He recited sonnets he had written; they were lewd and hysterical.  I could listen to him speak all day.  What a wonderful closing author!