Dazzled

I have exactly seven more like twenty minutes to write before dragging myself out of this bed and heading to work, and my hair is neither dry, nor brushed, so this is going to have to be a quick one. After a lot of semi-public threats, Eric and I got properly engaged last night, meaning that he got down one knee in front of the manhole that exploded on our first date and asked me to be his mountain woman. Note to Dad- you owe Eric 10 sheeps, 50 chickens and a flat screen tv.

I have to say it’s nice to be proposed to, and told how great you are at everything for five minutes. It doesn’t happen nearly enough in life. My self esteem is not terrible, but when you hit yourself in the face with a 5 pound handweight while lip synching to a Taylor Swift song in the middle of a chest fly, sometimes you think “I’m kind of a f*** up.” And also “do I need to go to the hospital?” Let’s just say there’s a reason why she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.

Anyway, we are working on our self-evaluations at work and after last night’s praise fest I have a feeling I’m going to be exceeding expectations in all categories, except maybe punctuality if I don’t haul ass starting in a few minutes. NO PRESSURE.

I don’t expect that life will become all about wedding planning but to some extent I will be writing about that, and I apologize in advance. Nothing could be more boring. But, I will try to spice it up with my signature zip and zeal.

First order of business: was there a ring? Why yes and I’m glad you asked, because it’s pictured below “in situ” on the bedside table in a fancy box, right next to its friend Martha Stewart Weddings and one of the worst books ever, Catherine Hart’s Dazzled: the largely unreadable yet strangely compelling tale of a beautiful woman forced into jewel thievery in late 19th century Washington DC. The unconvincingly named “Andrea” (pretty common in 1870 right?) gets into all kinds of stupid trouble but eventually gets her man, which is why I thought Dazzled would be right at home in this idiotic vignette!

(CONFESSION: Actually I didn’t think the idiotic vignette through at all. Both the romance novel and wedding mag were already there. To be fair to myself, on my kindle I am reading about the Comanche wars, so I don’t completely suck.)

It is rose gold (PINK!) and a gray rose cut diamond, sparkly with many deeply ingrained flaws, which is why I find it relatable. The lady who made it, Katrina Lapenne, did a fantastic job and I cannot recommend her enough if you are in the market. I was like “hmm I don’t have nice things, will I break it on my bike?” and she was like “here’s a periodic chart, allow me to explain to you all about how metals work.”  As a result, we felt really confident about our purchase. We are not big spenders, so while the amount we spent is modest compared to THE TACORI COUPLE I read about in some bullshit spam I got recently, it’s a lot to us and we like for our money to go to small businesses, & our tax dollars to gay friendly locales where possible. Independent business lady? Check. NYC? Check? Hand holding every step of the way as we placed our order? Check. World, take note: this woman is getting it DONE.

Speaking of which, it’s 9:13 and I have to get out the door, but I’ll add links etc later.

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Breakfast Empanadas and Getting Married

Not the most appealing photo I know, but I have 10 minutes until I have to leave for work, so you will look at this breakfast empanada picture AND YOU WILL LIKE IT.

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My friend mrs. super-awesome likes telling stories on me, especially my “wake and bake” tendencies and no I’m not talking about pot. I am not a good sleeper, never have been, so once my six hours is up I pop out of bed, ready to run, bike, or if I’m feeling nasty, make breakfast. Today I was trying to get rid of some oldish flour (we get mealy worms if it lays around to long) and a lot of crap in the fridge- specifically some vegetables, ground turkey and 3 eggs of dubious provenance, but surprise! I boiled them and they turned out great. We also had some great olives leftover from a party last night, so it all got sautéed with some garlic and onions in the fry pan. The resulting mix was a little dry, so I threw in a couple of spoonfuls of gazpacho that was kindly given to us by our friend Mary Adams. That and few teaspoons of hot sauce made it perfect.

I used my regular pie dough recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, but doubled the salt and halved the sugar. I made the double crust recipe and plenty of filling, and froze half the crust and the leftover filling for an easy breakfast sometime down the road. If you were thinking of coming to DC for a visit, now’s the time! Trust me, between our collection of DVRed “Bones” episodes and the empanadas, you want to be our houseguest.

If you were also thinking, “that is the kind of woman I’d like to marry,” well you’re going to have to get in line. After 3 years of biking, feral cats, and brain surgery Eric is going to make an honest woman out of me. Technically, I am not engaged as there has been no formal “rose ceremony” ala The Bachelor but we are planning on getting married late this year. 2011 was a tough one and we are looking forward to starting out 2012 on the right foot, so the tentative plan is to do it on New Year’s Eve.

Speaking of big parties, weddings are totally ridiculous, as are a lot of people who are involved with them. I went dress shopping after a 25 mile bike ride (I showered!) and couldn’t really reconcile the usual sweaty, grimy me with this person ensconced in chiffon, being fawned over by underpaid yet over enthusiastic lackeys. They hand you jewels and flowers and spin you around and you’re supposed to think “wow” but if you’re like me you think “weird.”  May I recommend Shannon at J. Crew bridal salon though? That girl is smart, funny, and knows how to keep it real.  She left to get some water and when she came back I had put on ALL the necklaces, “HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?” I can’t help it, it’s like going into a fancy bathroom where there’s complimentary hairspray and gel and other amenities, there is no way I’m walking out of there without a Winehouse (RIP) style beehive. Shannon caught the vibe and did not talk to me about “my big day” or any BS except to remark that dead of winter sounded like a great time to get married.  I totally agree! She did a great job picking dresses that would more or less present as “tattoo free,” so, A+ Shannon. Still I looked pretty awesome, like a real live girl.

One question that is plaguing all of your hearts and minds is WHAT ABOUT A RING? You know you care: I am getting one made by this lady, because I’m so goth. Not sure what it will look like but here’s a ball park:

Corresponding with her has been a dream come true. Other sellers I tried to contact on Etsy were unresponsive. That’s no way to run a business, KyleAnnMetals of Santa Barbara! I hate to give negative feedback on the actual Etsy site because you never know, technology isn’t perfect, also someone could be going through a bad time and I am loathe to make it worse. Here on my blog of course, it is trash talk city. But, Eric and I work hard for our money and it makes us feel good to give it to an independent business lady who makes time for clients. Not to mention, she works out of NYC so any tax we pay goes to a state that allows the gays to marry! Take that, Santa Barbara.

Eventually, there will be a honeymoon, and if all goes well it’s going to be bada$$. Two people, four wheels, 8 panniers and 390 miles between Berlin and Copenhagen on our bikes. I love vacations where carbing isn’t so much of an indulgence as a necessity. That will all take place sometime in the spring or early summer. Wish us good luck and good weather.

Any other exciting details? Not really, except that we’re excited, love each other and our families, and are looking forward to uniting like Wondertwins. Also, to finessing the ridiculous Human Resources situations we were in last year with ease. I cannot say this enough: support marriage equality. I wouldn’t have gotten married anywhere without it. GO DC! Please, if you are getting married in a state that doesn’t allow for same sex marriage consider making a donation to an organization that supports equality. There are many but Lambda Legal is a safe bet. Advocating for sick and bereavement leave without solid marital status is a nightmare, dealing with doctors and hospitals is no picnic either.  I can’t comment on it here but trust me, defending your relationship to strangers is heartbreaking, particularly in situations when you are already under stress. People who love each other do not deserve scrutiny and judgment at any time, but particularly in time of need. It’s hard to imagine why any homophobic people would be reading this blog, but you never know, so in short: whatever you think of homosexuality, it’s no skin off your back to be compassionate, honestly.

Good marriages are like good debt ceiling negotiations: made of compromise. Eric only let me write this half assed announcement after I promised to take back the mean things I said about the “film” NAVY SEALS “starring” Charlie Sheen and weirdly, Titus Welliver of Deadwood (though TW would probably punch me in the face for mentioning it). I DON’T KNOW WHY, NAVY SEALS IS SUCH A GREAT MOVIE, ESPECIALLY HOW THEY MADE THE SOUNDTRACK EXACTLY LIKE TOP GUN AND THE PLOT INCLUDES A FAKE GOOSE DEATH DRAMA.

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MS RIDE, plus, bless me father for I have sinned, it’s been a month since my last blog entry

Been very busy here. In the past few weeks I decided to become a triathlete, get plastic surgery, take ballet lessons and plant some rose bushes. In sad news, my grandmother (mother’s mother) died and so I’ve been back and forth to the Eastern Shore quite a bit. She lived to old age in pretty great health, all things considered, so it’s hardly “tragic” in the way, say,  pediatric cancer is tragic. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t sad.

I also spent a restful week cat sitting up in Palisades. What a nice neighborhood that is! Every morning I jogged around the reservoir, or walked to Dean and Deluca in Georgetown for my morning coffee. In the evenings, I watched Univision and played with the cat. One unfortunate evening I went to Black Salt and witnessed some of the whitest people I’ve ever seen acting super white. And I guess by white I mean privileged, obnoxious and with barely suppressed evil urges. Hey, it takes one to know one. It was hard to decide who I hated more at that moment, them, or myself. “They” won in the end. So the final word on Black Salt: DO go for the mussels, but DON’T sit at the bar, especially if you’re not drunk, “married but looking” and wearing madras shorts & baseball cap. And if you are even two out of those three things, go there, RIGHT NOW. You will love it.

So yes, mostly I just exercised a lot that week, so much so that my one pathetic and dingy sports bra could have been cracked in half with a strategic karate chop. Trust me, I thought about it.  I felt so bad for smelling up my friends the super-awesomes’ apartment! They really deserve better than that. So on the final day I cleared up my sweaty gym clothes, vacuumed, and febreezed the hell out of the place, praying that the Ultimate Fighting Locker Room smell I seemed to have spread throughout the premises would magically recede.

Well, it did not, not because I have incurable BO, but because someone actually died in the building. Yikes! Upon learning of this development, I did not know whether to be reassured or unsettled. Both, I guess. The takeaway is, I don’t really feel like I can ever wear that one sports bra again, mostly because it’s hard as a rock, in addition to being haunted.

Thus, I am stopping by the Gap in Georgetown today as they apparently carry reasonably priced but high quality exercise apparel. I need some shorts with key pockets & so forth, and a couple of tank tops. I have been running in this one pair of very lightweight cargo pants, but the waist no longer fits and I was forced to safety pin them to my crusted sports bra so they wouldn’t fall down as I ran towards the coffee shop. I looked at my bank account and was like WTF- I am not a hobo, why live like one? I mean, I can afford pants that don’t need to be pinned to my shirt. Barely.

So, I am planning on buying some clothes, wearing them out of the store, stuffing this sheath in a bag and doing my 20 mile-ish bike loop in the 105 degree heat index, and why? FOR MONEY  THAT’S WHY! That’s right, I am signed up to do the MS Ride the weekend of my birthday (June 11th) and have done ZERO fundraising. That’s not true. I got two donations from total sweethearts that I was not expecting, but since then, I’ve gotten completely derailed.

I am happy to make up the difference between what I’ve got  now and my goal but thought I’d give it one last shot, so as an extra special incentive, anyone who makes a donation of $10 or more gets a free Starlingtons CD and a thank you note. Never heard of the Starlingtons? You’re in great company! In fact, the entire world minus about 300 people, most of whom are family. But before I became a plastic surgically altered, ballet dancing, rose cultivating triathlete, I was a country music singing sensation. Don’t believe me? Put your money where your mouths are : make a donation today!  And email me with your home addresses at librariansgonewild@yahoo.com, especially the two ladies who have already donated.  As an extra incentive, I’m going to attach a picture of my muffin top, barely constrained by safety pinned pants. It ain’t pretty- but just think, every dollar is contributing to a major improvement, both in the lives of people with MS as well as my waistline. Thanks everybody!

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Blahblahlemon workout attire: or, “living conciously while shopping blindly”

I’ve always been suspicious of Lululemon’s “AMAZING” workout clothes. Sure, it’s nice to have a fairly high-rise, form-fitting tank top on when you’re bending over but guess what? Everyone makes them, and they don’t have to cost $52 plus tax.

Just to make sure I wasn’t being a totally cynical jerk, I walked into the store once and sure enough the experience did nothing to abate the sensation that we were all being had. I just wanted to run around shaking people and yelling “they’re made of people. PEOPLE!”

Regardless, you could buy something at half the price and spend the money saved doing something meaningful, which is the kind of advice that Lululemon would seem to encourage, see this “manifesto”:

so inspiring

so inspiring

while falling far short of reality.

Brand loyalty is a powerful thing. That’s why those Mac commercials starring Justin Long and the Bill Gates-type actor seemed like overkill to me. Between product placement in popular films and television shows, minimalistic product design and packaging, and the musicians who lend their talents to well devised commercials WE GET IT. Apple products are for the cool, creative, good looking people we want to be, Dells and HPs are for the office wonks we really are, so we retaliate with Droid phones marketed to people yearn to be “over” Apple (guilty!) so it’s the same old story, and I fully admit to being both a victim and a perpetrator of the problem.

It’s more or less silly and harmless, except that when you think about it, in this country some of the most meaningful votes you cast are with your paycheck. And unfortunately, there are a lot of brands that promote unity with the earth, holistic living, blah blah blah while making money hand over fist through child labor, cult like tactics and oh, yes, wildly lying about stupid stuff like clothes made out of seaweed.

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If you have $100 to spend on yoga attire, there are many more ethical and affordable options. For example finding clothes in a pile of hobo urine on the street, which I think is what I’m going to do after watching Never Let Me Go and getting really depressed about disposable human beings and how that relates to labor practices that enable the production of cheap goods for wealthy, privileged consumers. Two of whom, let’s face it, are probably you and me.

Now do I make ethical consumer choices all the time? Not necessarily. However, I find it particularly rankling when a company’s brand is at direct odds with its practices. Does Ann Taylor sell scarves produced by children in Indonesia? I have no idea. Probably. But they aren’t selling themselves as mindful, so while I may not bother shopping there, I’m also not going to bother blogging about it either. The day they start deceptively packaging their clothes as part of some kind of holistic & earth friendly ideology, IT’S ON ANN TAYLOR.

If you simply must have the Lulu clothes, I’m not going to give you any grief about it. Just don’t be hoodwinked by their (admittedly wildly successful) marketing campaign, or believe you are supporting a company with lofty values or practices. It’s all talk and they are laughing like Buddha all the way to the bank.

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plastic surgery!

Actual letter to parents & sister, only partially redacted. Any recs for plastic surgeons in the DC area are welcome. Any recs for procedures I should go ahead and get are NOT. I already hate my pores, nose, crow’s feet, and muffin top enough as it is and don’t need to be told that CONSERVATIVELY a brow lift and 100 units of botox would also be for the best:

Hi there Mom and Dad! Guess what? I think I need a plastic surgeon. Not for the typical Hollywood reasons, I’m actually saving the facelift till I’m at least 37. However, one of my earlobes has split, partially due to a traumatic volleyball/hoop earring accident in 1994, and partially due to me being too cheap and lazy to do anything about it over the past 17 years. I always kind of figured I’d get it done someday and I guess that day has arrived. I must say, it looks kind of awesome though, like I was in a fight on Jerry Springer.  But, Eric seems to find it repulsive so I’ll defer to him.

It’s just my earlobe and it’s looked like crap for years, so, like I really care how it goes other than that it heals with no infection? Hell I’d get it done by a veterinarian if it was legal. So do you have any recommendations for how to pick one? I’m pretty sure this would be out-of-pocket, so I’m wondering if doing it on the Eastern Shore would be more expensive than DC, or less? Should I just suck it up and call________ [someone I went to high school with who is now a plastic surgeon]? I mean what would be more fun than said high school classmate drawing circles on my face and telling me all the other things that I should have fixed because I look 59 years old. Someone kill me!

PS I had to cc Laura on this due to the imagery of that selfsame classmate using a laser pointer to highlight my many flaws. Ideally this would be happening in front of an entire room full of our old classmates, I’m taking a calculus test I forgot to study for and not wearing any pants. Sorry Laura, hope the earlobe part doesn’t make you barf! Also the pantless imagery!

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MS ride

Good morning. I hope you have all enjoyed my brief break from blogging. You might not realize but I am deep within that critical “hype building” phase… minimizing supply and theoretically creating demand before skyrocketing to fame and glory through blogging: “how can we miss you if you never go away,” etc. I’m happy to say we have been busy.

In the past couple weeks, I have:

gone to a Nats game

eaten some damn fine fish and chips

checked out a “gourmet” empanada shop

listened to some amazing jazz piano at the Kennedy Center

tried making my own yeast dinner rolls for the first time

given a tour of the Capitol to a very cool baby (and his mom)

glommed onto some friends’ summer beach house plans, thank you friends!

gotten a very reasonable mani/pedi in Dupont Circle

bought some yams and Brussel sprouts at the Dupont farmer’s market, first time to the market in 2011!

went on a 20 mile bike ride two twenty miles bike rides

attended not one but two Civil War related book talks

made miso soup with sweet potato dumplings, mashed sweet potatoes with rosemary, and sweet potato scallion pancakes. Can you tell I’m a little obsessed?

gotten great news: one of my best & oldest friends is moving to town!

been gifted a dining room table and a car, without going on The Price is Right

So, I’m a pretty lucky person overall. One day when I strike gold with this blog, I hope to translate all this good fortune into $$$ for the many organizations I feebly “support” now- basically voting and slipping some folks the occasional $25 or $50.

I might not be good at making money, but I AM very good at riding a bike and living in tents, and finally there’s a way for me to exploit these talents for the greater good. I signed up on Monday to do the 150 mile “Beyond the Beltway MS Ride with Eric on the weekend of my 34th birthday. My life is not always what I want it to be- which is basically planning a wedding while pregnant and rolling around in piles of gold- but life with MS presents an added level of difficulty that is difficult for most people, including me, to comprehend. I am trying to raise $500 or more but will take whatever I can get to help people with MS get the care and support they need. Find out more (or donate!) here.

 

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the quality of PF Changs in the privacy of your own home

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Have you ever longed for the cheesy appetizers of your favorite chain restaurants but are too lazy to figure out wtf is up with suburbs? I hear you loud and clear. The good thing about trying to duplicate them in your own home is that you decide what goes in them- for example, Eric hates water chesnuts so I substituted slivered almonds- and you don’t have to worry about creepy additives in mass produced foods.

These are my versions of the lettuce wraps from PF Changs.

First, season a chicken breast with garlic, ginger, five spice, salt and pepper and brown it in olive oil, then transfer to a 350 to 400° oven to finish.

Add more oil to the skillet if needed and saute half an onion, diced, along with a few more tsps of minced garlic and ginger.

While that’s going on, quickly blanche some shiitake mushrooms, baby corns, red pepper, julienned carrots and bean sprouts.  I did about a cup each to have enough for leftovers.

Drain well, roughly chop and add 3/4 to the skillet, reserving the other 1/4. I stirred in a little teriyaki sauce and a few squirts of siracha in, but use whatever condiments you like. I imagine hoisin or peanut would work equally well.

Once the chicken comes out of the oven and cools a bit, chop or shred and stir into the skillet, along with a handful of slivered almonds and green onions.

Serve with butter lettuce and extra teriyaki, and plenty of napkins for slobs like us!

This along with some egg drop soup made quite a tasty and more or less healthy meal with lots of vegetables, protein, and strip mall panache.

Egg drop soup

(this is where the other half of that onion comes in handy, and also the reserved vegetables)

Saute onion, garlic and ginger in a tbs or two of olive oil.

Add two cups chicken broth and one cup water.

Stir in reserved blanched vegetables from above and bring to simmer.

Stir a tbs of cornstarch into two tbs water, drizzle into soup to thicken.

Beat together: 1 egg and a few tsps vegetable oil (I used sesame here). Drizzle into hot soup, stirring to break up the egg mixture.

Garnish with green onions and wonton crisps if you have them. We skipped the crisps, but you might miss them as egg drop is a little on the boring delicate side. Or just throw in a little salt and pepper like I did. You are still saving yourself a bundle of sodium and msg just by not ordering takeout.

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