Friday, April 27, 2012

Battlestar Galactica. Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Bill Adama.

Last weekend, I did it.  I finished watching Battlestar Galactica, the rebooted series based on the 1980s miniseries.  It took a lot of time and got really dark, but I'm so, so glad I watched it.  I think it was the best wedding gift I could have given JP, as he's described the show as the "greatest fictional plot arc in the history of the world."  With build-up like that, you better believe I had high expectations and it didn't let me down.
As I mentioned in a previous post, BSG is about the survival of humans as they eke out a living in the most hostile of environments: space.  In this reality, humans created cylons, robots that eventually rised up against humans and started the human-cylon war.  Cylons are banished from the human planet, but return after a few decades to decimate the human population.  Less than 50,000 people are left after cylons annihilate the planet, and left to try to survive in space on the ships used for luxury living, waste compacting, mining, and military protection.  The Battlestar Galactica is one of the oldest ships in the "fleet," having been used during the human-cylon war, and was scheduled to be retired on the day of the cylon attack.  The battlestar is used as the new military base, and most of the main plot points happen on this ship.
The show is four seasons long, and it's a brilliantly thought-out plot.  Yes, it's a sci-fi show, but everything is grounded in reality; no aliens or space beings pop up.  Cylons are made by humans, so it makes sense that their stories are intertwined.  There are surprises throughout the series starting with the second episode, so I won't go into too much detail into the actual plots of the show. 
I can tell you a bit about some of the main characters, though, who became huge topics of conversation for JP and I around the dinner table.  William Adama, captain of the Galactica, is a man who stands by his convictions; seriously, I would follow him anywhere.  Lee Adama, his strongheaded son, has followed in his father's miliary footsteps, though the two butts head frequently and he has a shaky relationship with Starbuck/Kara Thrace, another military member who is also connected to both Adamas.  The former Secretary of Education, Laura Roslin, takes over the presidency in the wake of the attack, and is battling breast cancer as well.  Then there's Gaius Baltar, a genius scientist who always puts himself first and contributed to the attack in the first place.  Along with these core human characters, there's a host of others intricate to the storyline: Saul Tighe (the Executive Officer of the Galactica), Tyrol (officer on Galactica), Six (a cylon)... the list goes on.
Obviously, the biggest plotline of the show is whether humans can/will survive in space.  Throughout the seasons, bigger social issues arise: what rights, if any, do non-humans have in society?  What makes a person/thing human?  Should abortions be allowed if the very survival of humanity at stake?  Can democracy thrive in such a concentrated space?  You'll watch some episodes and just be itching for discussion afterward.  In addition, there's the whole personal relationship aspect of the show; when there are less than 50k people left in your civilization, it's difficult to maintain the same relationship with mankind.  I read articles about this show being excellent for couples to watch together, as there's a lot of political and military intrigue, along with soap opera plots with married couples and families. 
For anyone still thinking this sounds like a huge waste of time unless you're a sci-fi nerd, I'll point out that the United flippin' Nations hosted a retrospective panel on the show upon its conclusion that discussed terrorism, human rights, and armed conflict.  This show tackles the heavy stuff in a poignant, realistic way that world leaders have respect for.  That's insane!  Consider my mind blown.
Let me just close with this: I don't regret any of the 40+ hours spent in front of the TV finishing this epic story.
So say we all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Namesake

Another honeymoon read, albeit one I've meant to read for years.  Jhumpa Lahiri's novel about the immigrant experience in the United States, assimilation into a different culture, and family is beautifully written and tightly edited. 
Gogol Ganguli is born to an Indian academic and his wife, both recent American citizens.  Ashoke (dad) and Ashima (mom) go through the traditional practice of naming their son with a formal name chosen by Ashima's grandmother, but her letter with the name is lost in the mail.  In a rush, they name their son Gogol, after a Russian author Ashoke was reading when he was nearly killed in a train accident while living in India.  Although the name was supposed to be a placeholder, it sticks for most of Gogol's life, tying this Indian-American to Russia.  Gogol eventually changes his name, in hopes it will give his life some anchor to America, then marries a fellow Bengali, which again attaches him to another country.  What part of our lives is decided by factors out of our control?  Should our parents' customs also be ours simply by birth, or are we truly free to create our own life untethered to countries and cultures?  What do we owe our family name?
This book clocks in at under 300 pages, making it a leisurely, one-day read.  Lahiri doesn't mince words, but her prose is lyrical nonetheless.  Ashima and Ashoke are the parents anyone could have had: Ashima pushes her children to be studious, social, and respectful of their culture, and Ashoke wants them to take advantage of the opportunities awarded to them in their country.  The traditions change, but I was struck by the familiarity of this family with parents from half the world away.  A beautifully constructed work, perfect for a day of travel.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Peanut butter cup-chocolate chip-pretzel cookies

We should really call this recipe "The only thing that can pull JP away from Top Gear."  I pinned these cookies a month ago on Pinterest (is there anyone out there who isn't completely sucked into that site?), and finally had some time to bake them yesterday.

HOLY BANANAS.  You have to make these cookies.  Make them for someone you love who loves you back and will appreciate how wonderful they are.  I used mini chocolate peanut butter cups, as I couldn't find peanut butter chips at either of my grocery stores within walking distance; I highly suggest you do the same, even if you can find pb chips!

I also crushed up pretzel sticks with my hands; in hindsight, I would just crush them in a bag with a rolling pin or something so they were a bit smaller.  They didn't stay as crunchy as I would have liked; if you use the same recipe with different results, let me know your secret.
The rest of the cookie is soft and chewy, with the distinctive sweet tastes of both milk and dark chocolates.  Peanut butter adds a nice slightly savory contrast.  Trust me, just whip up a quick batch.

We enjoyed these on the couch on a day filled with rain in DC, along with some puppy cuddling, followed quickly with a nap.  Few things are better than falling sleep on the couch with your family on a belly full of cookies.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The last 10 days in photos

Working at a Catholic university has its perks: I had Easter Monday off, meaning I could meet up with some friends for food truck Mexican food.  Veggie tacos to die for at Sol!

John Paul has such fancy espresso techniques.

Lucha libre superhero fan pull at Baked and Wired.
That's a lot of adjectives for a small decorating pice.

Last Friday's dinner at home: avocado salad with warm jalapeƱo dressing with key lime and clementine margarita.  Goodness gracious, it was wonderful!

Cappuccino at Filter in DuPont Circle.  Perhaps JP and I are too into the whole caffeine thing?

An afternoon last week spent baking cookies in the sunlight.

Mint green nails to start the spring off right!

JP and I did a morning hike with Mia in Rock Creek, and he made me a hippie with flowers in my hair.

Pancake batter pie from Dangerously Delicious Pie food truck at a DC United game.  Holy bananas!!  It's everything a dessert should be.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Disco Dog Park

Shirt: Stylemint
Shorts: Levi's
Sunglasses and Shoes: Gap (my wedding shoes!)
Earrings: Vintage

When the weather is beautiful, you can bet that JP and I are spending some time at the dog park with Mia.  I love this top: light and breezy enough to breathe, but the color gives it some punch.  These shoes were seriously a great purchase; at only $13, I plan on wearing them till they go out of style!
I love my new haircut!  I'm playing around with it way more than the longer style: lots of pomade, some curling iron, even a bit of faux-hawking.  Change is always a good thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin

I made the mistake of reading this gut-punching book during my romantice honeymoon in Mexico.  On the beach.  While drinking copious amounts of rum.  Such an odd combination.
For those who haven't heard, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a mother's look back at her son's childhood and adolescence, told through expository letters to her presumably estranged husband, Frank.  Eva had Kevin in her late 30s, and knew from his birth that he was a troubled soul.  He wasn't potty-trained until well into kindergarten, was caught by the police throwing large rocks at cars on a freeway, he was involved in a bloody incident with a young girl with eczema, among other queasy events.  Frank insists that he's just a normal kid demonized by neighbors and teachers; Eva never feels easy around her son, and this creates a rift between the couple.  Eva decides to have another child, much against the wishes of Frank, and soon Celia, the polar opposite of Kevin, is born.  Celia is meek and gentle, creating a perfect target for her brother's disdain.  It's not a plot spoiler to tell you that the climax of Kevin's story is a school massacre he orchestrates, although there is never a real reason listed for his planned murders. 
This book is definitely not for the weak of heart, and I found myself increasingly uneasy just reading it as the story went on and Kevin's temperament became more icky and evil.  It's not a stretch to say this is the opposite of a feel-good book; you'll put it down feeling emotionally wrought and exhausted. 
Can we really learn anything from literature like this?  I'm torn on whether this is an important book (brings into sharp focus our society's leering fascination with sociopaths, discusses the correlation between natural characteristics and learned behaviors) or just excellent birth control (trust me, the thought of having a child like Kevin will leave you with legs clamped shut).  Whatever it's ultimate purpose is, Shriver has written a provocative book that has stuck with me for several weeks, for better or worse.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Asparagus, Ramps and Mushroom Salad

JP and I spent about an hour yesterday browsing the produce available at the DuPont Farmer's Market, arguably the best in the city (yes, yes, Eastern Market is good, too, but I love the smaller scale of DuPont's).  There are greens all over the place in April, so we picked up some local asparagus, mushrooms, spring mix and ramps. 
Have you ever cooked with ramps?  This was my first time, but you can rest assured that it won't be my last.  A member of the onion family, they have the appearance of scallions with more bulbous roots and more greens, which can be kept attached to the root and eaten.  They're quite flavorful and pungent, so a few will go a long way. 
After doing some research on them, it was decided that we would just saute our veggies, place them on a bed of spring mix, toss with a simple lemon vinaigrette and add a few capers.  I did a rough chop on the asparagus and mushrooms, then separated the ramps from their greens, and heat everything individually on a hot pan with olive oil. 
This is the perfect spring meal: easy, local, satisfying.  Check your farmer's market to see what's available in your area, and make your own version!

Asparagus, Ramps and Mushroom Salad
1 pint mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 bundle asparagus, tough stalks removed if necessary and chopped into 2-3 in. segments
about 10 ramps, cleaned and greens separated
1/2 bag of spring mix
olive oil, for saute and dressing
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. capers

1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat, and cook mushrooms until browned and soft.  Remove from pan.
2. Add asparagus to pan and blister.  Remove from pan.
3. Blister ramp bulbs, and remove from pan.  Quickly heat ramp greens until soft, about 1 min.
Steps 1-3 should take about 7 minutes total.
4. Add a splash of olive oil, lemon, capers, salt and pepper to a jar, cover and shake until combined.  Toss with spring mix.
5. Arrange heated vegetables over lettuce, serve in 2 bowls, and eat!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Jamz

I signed up for my first half marathon in late May (!!), and have been tinkering with my running playlist.  Want a little peek?

"Wonderland" Natalia Kills (she's the British version Lady Gaga, but JP swears she has some Kanye within)
"When We Were Young" Sucre (dreamy pop)
"Primadonna" Marina and the Diamonds (sooo looking forward to her new album in a few months!)
"Anna Sun" Walk the Moon (they only have one EP with three songs on it, but I'm obsessed!)
"Some Nights" fun. (just download their latest album.  You won't regret it.)
"Go Outside" cults (twee pop, but accessible)
"Lonely Boy" The Black Keys (great beat and pacing song)
"Life's a Happy Song" The Muppets (no one can resist this upbeat soundtrack song)
"One Foot" fun. (a good reminder while running that you just put one foot in front of the other...)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sushi Bowl

After a week of indulging in all-inclusive drinks and food (yummy pina coladas and tons of tortilla chips with salsa, anyone?), it was time to reset the ol' taste buds last week.  I've been eying this recipe from Super Natural Cooking for several months, and finally had an excuse to really get my vegan-ness together.

The dressing of the rice is the real star of this recipe: citrusy with some raw sugar added for sweetness.  Honestly, I wanted to pour this on everything!

It's super-customizable for the seasons (add blanched asparagus in the spring, zucchini in the midst of summer, green beans in early fall) and meat-lovers (add chicken, pork, scrambled eggs, whatever floats your boat).  You'll love it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Androgynous streetwear?

Tee: H&M
Hoodie: American Eagle 
Blazer: J.Crew
Jeans: Levi's
Scarf: Vintage
Shoes: Toms
Purse: Fossil
Sunglasses: Gap

We got back from the honeymoon on a Friday, and by 5 the following day, my hair was chopped off!  It's quite short, but I'm really happy with the length and ease of my new style.  I used Ginnifer Goodwin as my hair muse; she's totally adorable, which is exactly what I'm going for in my daily life.
Except when I'm meeting JP for lunch on a day off and am dressing way down.  We had some Thai Chef in Dupont, then I spent the rest of the day writing thank-you cards and looking at wedding photos.  That sounds about normal, right?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Honeymoon in Mexico!

My only regret about our honeymoon is that it was too short!  Honestly, I loved Playa del Carmen, Mexico: beautiful beaches, friendly folks, lots to do (if we felt like it), and lovely sunny days.  We got in on Sunday evening, spent our Monday lounging on the beach in the morning, and took a snorkeling expedition in the afternoon.
 We took a boat to Xcaret and snorkeled around some coral reefs there.  I'm not very smooth, and ended up scraping up my wrist and thighs on some coral, but overall it was a very cool experience.
 We saw a sea turtle!  Una tortuga de la mer, if you will.  Or maybe not; I'm not great with Spanish.

The masks were truly the best accessory of the day.  It brought out the neon yellow in JP's eyes.
I like iguanas because it's the same name in both English and Spanish!  That made life a little easier.
We like each other.  No biggie.
On Wednesday, we explored some Mayan ruins at a national park.  It was hot hot hot and very sunny; look at how tan JP got just walking around!
Did you know that Mayans made up basketball?  This is an old stone hoop that dates back to 600AD.
We hiked up the tallest ruins in Mexico: 117 steps.  The 8-year old behind me counted them up and reported back the figure.
So cool!
Grabbed some lunch at a restaurant close to the ruins: Corona and bean tacos with a squeeze of lime.  This girl could not have been happier!
JP, however, enjoyed some flan in a plastic cup.  It was really good, too, but the Corona was better.
After lunch on Wednesday, we went snorkeling in some 'cenotes,' underwater caves.  Man, the water was so, so cold, but it was really amazing to be in these tiny spaces!  JP and I both felt really brave for swimming through the claustrophobic, dark water.  Holding hands every so often didn't hurt.
Thursday, our last full day in Mexico, was a day of laziness.  We staked out a queen-sized cabana and spent our time reading and soaking up the sun (while wearing SPF!  Be careful!).
I was on a strict hourly icy beverage regimen.  This was a pina colada with curacao, the prettiest pale blue with a bright orange slice.
We were pretty happy that whole day.
On Friday, we said our farewells to our honeymoon and head back to the real world, our new married life together, and MIA!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reception Photos!

We celebrated the reception in the White Room Rooftop and Loft, overlooking the water in St. Augustine.  It was a stunning night, and I absolutely loved every part of it!

 JP and I shared our first dance to Maria Taylor's "Speak Easy."  We don't dance often, so it wasn't the smoothest, but it was wonderful to have those 3 minutes of the song for just the two of us.
 We had a photobooth for the first few hours of the party, and guests took photos then pasted them into our guestbook. There are some memorable shots in there!
 Several guests toasted us, with my mom reading from a book she made especially for the event.  It was emotional and very sweet!
 Dad and I danced to Ben Folds' "Gracie," and it's one of my favorite moments of the night.
Our cake was made by Sweet Weddings, a bakery that JP and I lived behind in our first home together. I love the continuity of having them bake our wedding cake 4 years after we lived there!
 This wonderful sign was made by Etsy seller Nice, and was absolutely perfect for our sweetheart table.  It's now hanging over my dresser, and I'm planning to pass it on to other friends and families who want to use it in their weddings!
Then it was time to dance!  

 Megan caught the bouquet toss, and it was amazingly framed in this photo.  It's perfection.
JP and I exited via a sparkler tunnel, which was such a fun way to go!  Up next, honeymoon shots!

P.S. These are our professional photos by the talented, wonderfully patient and kind Ben Sasso.  He was the only photographer we looked at, and he couldn't have done a better job!