Thursday, December 18, 2008

my version of baby-picture christmas cards

In response to the adorable holiday cards/belated thank-you notes we have received, all fronted by the pictures of super-cute newborns*, I have decided to post a series of "Awww!"-inducing photos of dogs. 

*Happy holidays to Layla, Maggie and big sis Nina, Eliana, and Daniel and Sofia!

First, meet Hudson. Hudson is the resident dog at a new salon just up the street, SalonBlu. After walking by the shop several times as it was being built and after it opened, Jim decided he was going to give it a try. This was a big step. You see, Jim generally follows the following procedure** for choosing a stylist:

1. Find barber shop.
2. Determine if barber shop charges more than amount of cash currently in wallet.
3. If no, get hair cut.

In fact, I would venture to say that no one who has ever trimmed Jim's hair would, in fact, refer to himself as a stylist.

His last cut, however, was different from every single previous cut in that it was a little longer on the top than usual, and it was a good look for him. So recently, after letting his hair g
row (unintentionally) for way too long, Jim decided maybe he'd give a higher-priced salon (one clearly aiming for the gay clientiele, and specializing in actual, you know, styling of hair) a shot.

Bill, the owner, did a very nice job. It clearly earned Hudson's approval. And neither the stylist nor the dog attempted the hard sell of products. All in all, a good salon experience.

**I am told this is the most commonly-used procedure in the handbook of male grooming.

Next, we have Miss Ellie. Most of my readers are familiar with Ellie -- most of my readers, I think it's fair to say, are actually occupying the same house*** as Miss Ellie...when she lets them.

Ellie is a truly gorgeous, if somewhat insane, purebred Shih-Tzu. She has perfect posture, a perfect face, the perfect size -- the breeder visits and laments that she didn't show/breed this one, who, as the runt of the litter, was predicted to grow up too small to show. 

She is, however, wilful as all get-out, and apparently getting somewhat computer-savvy. If emails start arriving in my inbox with peculiar typos and/or lots of "grrrrrARFARFARF" in them, I'll know something is up.

***Mom, I think you should make sure she doesn't have online shopping access.

Oh, right, this little guy! I couldn't possibly leave Milo off the list! Jim and I are both a little sad that he'll be spending his first Christmas without us, but he will be well cared for by my coworker Beth and her family, which includes two little girls desperate for the promised new puppy coming sometime in the spring**** to their home. To make sure he is looking his best for his trip to stay with the Denton/Carrier family, he's going to get a holiday haircut tomorrow. 

And perhaps a Santa hat.

****No, "Beth" is not a pseudonym for Michelle Obama. Or is it??

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

culinaeria (borkborkbork)

As an anniversary gift, my adorable husband got me a gift certificate.

WAIT! This is a good thing. The gift certificate was for a cooking class at the just-opened, just-around-the-corner CulinAerie .

I took some time investigating the calendar, which, since they just opened, only runs until the beginning of February. Still, there are several classes that I've considered signing up for. Sadly, the "pizza" class was for teenagers.

Kidding! Well, no, it *is* for teens. But I did consider signing up until I realized that.

However, I'm not kidding about the fact that "Sauces" is a three-parter and I just can't commit to that at this point.

It came down to the "Tapas: Beyond Tortilla Espanola" class, and the "Breads for Beginners" class. And while I'm very interested in the tapas, I really want to go and have the space to mix, knead, and shape some sesame chapati, French pain au lait, Moroccan country bread, and banana walnut chocolate bread.

So, I'm going to attend that class on Sunday the 21st. Jim and I will definitely reap the benefits of what I bring home. Let's just hope I don't sign myself up as their fulltime assistant...I need the income from the other job I have, which I truly enjoy.

Even if it doesn't result in crumbs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

cruet to be kind

So a while back (I can't remember when), my mom gave me the spoon rest that she always had in our kitchen when I was growing up. She had the one from my grandma's kitchen, and thus it was something of a generational passing-along, if you will.

Of course, at some point, something fell out of a cabinet onto Jim as he was trying to get it, and the spoon rest shattered.  It wasn't a huge deal; sure, I didn't have anywhere to rest my dormant-but-in-use spoons, but really, a saucer stands in just fine.

Not terribly long thereafter, Jim was doing something else and broke one of the cruets -- I think the olive oil cruet broke first.*

Yes, I said "first." That's because another time, Jim** was doing something in the kitchen, and lo! The balsamic vinegar cruet also shattered into nothing.

Such is life. Those cruets were kind of blah anyway, and it isn't as though these substances don't come in perfectly handy bottles of their own. I just happen to like the decorative and easy-pour nature of countertop cruets.

Well, a while back, we bought an uber-cheap spoon rest at Bed Bath and Beyond. At the time, I had suggested we possibly splurge on the stainless steel version, but Mr. Maltese professed his adamant avowal that he would not break anything in the kitchen ever again, that he would pay attention to the placement of items, I agreed to go with the  black china spoon rest.

At the time, I noted it was about $3, so replacing it wouldn't be a big deal anyway. Jim shot daggers at me when I said as much -- after all, there was no way that thing was going down on his watch.

Over time, I also lamented the loss of the cruets, so my mom, masterful shopper that she is, found a wonderful set from Williams-Sonoma and gifted them to me. (I adore them; they are far more elegant and also utile than the el-cheapo set I had before.) 

Cut to today.

{Leigh's work phone rings; Jim's cell is caller ID.}

Me: "Hey?"

Jim: "Can I put stain stick on a sweater to get out balsamic vinegar?"

Me: "What is the sweater made of?"

Jim: "I don't know. Guess I should take it off."


Me: "What were you putting balsamic on?"

Jim: {beat}

Me: {knows what is coming}

Jim: "I wasn't. But I was reaching over the cruets to put away silverware and the balsamic went over, and in saving the cruet--"

Me: "You got your sweater."

Jim: "Yeah. And ... the spoon rest."

Me: "Oh, whatever. It only cost $3. What's the sweater made of?"

Jim: "It's beige, and, um, ... cotton."

Me: "Stain-stick it and throw it in. You're cool."

Jim: "Woo."

Me: "Next spoon rest? Stainless steel."

Jim: "... Definitely."

*Maybe the vinegar broke first. I really can't recall.
**I'm not ascribing blame, here. I think I was involved in one of the incidents. I'm not really sure, because I don't remember being there, but it's definitely possible I witnessed or participated tangentially in at least one of these events.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the fact that this posted on our anniversary is eerie...

...because this is totally us.

Happy third anniversary, Jim!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

turkey lurkey

So I just ordered my Thanksgiving turkey from Whole Foods. I realize -- having noted all the fresh and available turkeys still there the day before the holiday last year when I popped in for other supplies -- that pre-ordering was not absolutely necessary.

However, there are only five of us, so I really did not want to get stuck with an eighteen-pound turkey. Eight to ten pounds will be plenty, so that's what I set aside.

Even btter, though, is the promotion they are running to keep down crowds on Wednesday the 26th: Pick up your turkey between 10 and 11 p.m. on Tuesday the 25th, and get a free wheel of Brie.


OK, so you, personally, may not be excited. But let me repeat: Free. Wheel. Of. Brie.

Fine, you think, free cheese. Yes, milk and dairy prices have gone up in the past year or two, but really: Who cares that much about cheese?

And if you think that, you definitely have not spent enought time around me, and by "enough" I mean "any." Yes, I am likely to have fallen asleep already by ten in the evening, but I will wake myself up, get dressed, and drive to Whole Foods to pick up my turkey if it gets me free Brie!

I love cheese, and pretty much never turn down a double- or triple-crème. "Never look a gift cheese in the mold," I always say.* I don't currently plan any Thanksgiving dishes that would be enhanced by the addition of a very creamy cow's milk cheese, although if I put my mind to it I probably could come up with one. I'm sure it will be perfectly happy to find its way into the hors d'oeuvres, though, and the rest of it ... well, that can be my personal treat on Sunday night, when all is said and done, we've overdosed and leftovers, and I just don't want to think about cooking anything before the work week kicks in.

If it even makes it past the (four-minute) drive home, that is. Did I mention: free Brie?

Excuse me; I think the Manchego in the fridge is calling.

*I have never said this in my life, but now I kind of want to.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

All together now: Awwww!

This is totally the cutest thing I've seen, and it totally makes up for the stupid tear-jerky nature of the Obama infomercial.

P.S. I'm highly aware that the Senator did not write this himself (99% sure on that). Still -- if I were the intern who got to do that response, I'd be proud of myself for that for, oh, the rest of my life.

Monday, October 13, 2008

only time anyone ever hopes for a root canal

I believe in personalized license plates that are funny, or quirky, or clever. Our family had a BMW Z3 convertible with the plate Z3PO for quite some time (and I was ridiculously proud of my mom for coming up with that one.) I totally would have driven around with TK-421 or 1701-D* if I'd been able** to get them on my first car back in highschool.

When it comes to vanity plates, though, I don't believe in them for certain things, particularly bragging (IMRICH on your Maserati, for example) or sexual innuendo (QT PIE is just silly). I also have a bit of a gut reaction against plates that act to champion your political views. For example, what if you're lobbying a cause that becomes law? Then you just seem out of touch, or out of date.

Or in the case of this plate, what if you're lobbying a cause in a truly idiotic and at the very least incapable-of-informing-others manner? For example: Does Mr. or Ms. DrillNow believe we should drill off-shore? In ANWAR? In his/her licensing state of West Virginia? Everywhere? How much drilling? When should it stop? When is "now" anyway?*** 

I realize there can be a lot of misinterpretation. It's entirely possible the owner of this plate was not someone shouting "Drill Baby Drill!" at the television along with the crowd at the GOP Convention. 

Benefit of the doubt, people. I, for once, choose to believe that maybe the driver is just a dentist.

*I wanted NCC1701-D, but Missouri, at least at that time, had a six-character (plus hyphen) limit.
**"Been able" meaning I actually requested them, and both were taken. Rock on, geeks of Missouri!
***This link thrown in just to up the sci-fi/geek factor of this entire post.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

mahna mahna

This weekend, Jasmin came to visit, which is always fantastic. We talked about books, the Olympics, wine, Michael Phelps, food, Olympic gymnastics, traveling the world, Bob Costas ... ok, so maybe it was a wee bit Olympic-heavy, but whatever.

We did our fair share of DC-ish things too. It's restaurant week, so we had dinner at Zola yesterday, which was pretty awesome, not just for the food but also because the design is kind of stunning. It was clearly fit into an odd space, but it plays on and uses the adjacent International Spy Museum theme and to great effect. Jim and I want to go back and sit in one of the super-cool red booths. Very Mata Hari.

Before dinner, Jasmin and I did a whirlwind tour of the Portrait Gallery, through the presidents and Herblocks' sendups of them, the posters-as-portraiture exhibit, the Zaida Ben-Yusuf photography show, and the hip-hop exhibit, among others. We even restrained ourselves at the gift shop, although it was supremely tempting to get the Barack Obama and Family Paper Dolls for Jim (yes, they make a McCain version too -- this town may be political, but not precisely partisan).

And prior to that, we went to see the Jim Henson's Fantastic World traveling exhibition at the Smithsonian. I highly recommend -- nay, I almost demand -- that you go see this exhibit when it comes to a museum near you, whether you have young children in tow or not. I had no idea that Henson was such an amazing artist beyond the field of the doodles that turned into Muppets later in life, nor that he had made some way-out wacky student films in his day. For example, he painted an elephant. Pink. Which makes me wonder, how did he get a hold of a real elephant, and how long did it stay pink?

There was an awesome moment, too, when Jim, Jasmin, and I were standing in front of the case holding an actual Bert (circa the 70s) and an actual Ernie (circa the 80s, with rubber duckie in hand). A toddler with a mop of brown curls ran up, parents lagging behind. "It's Ernie!!" he cried. "And Bert! Look! It's Ernie and Bert!"

"Yeah!" his mom answered, with what appeared to be mostly unfeigned enthusiasm (seriously, this exhibit is more for adults than kids, really). "It's Ernie and Bert!"

"And the rubber duck!" the kid added.

There was consensus all around that, yes, it was Ernie and Bert and Rubber Duckie, and how cool was that? I think Jasmin and I just about lost it from the cuteness of the whole thing.

(By the way, am I the only person who somehow thinks of them only and "Bert and Ernie" and never "Ernie and Bert?" Is it a rhythmic thing? Hm.)

Anyway, while the exhibit comprised more than the Muppet era (think commercials and The Dark Crystal), there was also a case with Mahna Mahna and the two Snowths, which made me and Jasmin both wish the museum had a looped video of the track playing.

I mean, Mahna Mahna is like It's a Small World: It sticks in your brain and you can't help but sing along to it even as it drives you nuts. Which I guess might have a negative impact on the exhibition's security guards, but really, you can't have the Muppets without the music.

Although as Des and Nick will warn you, toddlers tend to love it so much that they watch it again and again and again and OHMYGODWHYWON'TITSTOP?!?! Yes, we can watch it again.

This one's for you, Nina.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

flower power

So yesterday, coming back from Wall-E with Eoghan, we came in the loading dock doors on the lower level. As we were waiting for the elevator, Jim handed me a bouquet of flowers.

No, this time, he hadn't put one over one me by stopping in for "Kleenex" or something. Rather, he'd grabbed them from the settee in the elevator lobby.

For which I give him credit, as I hadn't done so. "Oh, yeah, I saw those there earlier," I said. "Do you think we can take 'em?"

"Beats me. Should I leave them?" Jim asked.

I shrugged. "Nah, I mean, they were there, like, yesterday," I said, glancing at Eoghan for confirmation. Why, I don't know, since Eoghan hadn't been on the terrace level of our apartment since, um, ever. But still.

So we brought the random bouquet upstairs. I made the mixture of plant food and water, put it into a vase, cut the stems, and stuck the whole thing in. (I'm not good at arrangments; I leave that to my mother, who is wonderful with such things.) It looked nice, and basically wasn't dead yet, which was enough for me.

Then this morning I was making breakfast, and I looked over at the vase and said, aloud, "What the hell?!"

Because the water?

Had turned bright pink.
I kid you not. And seriously, science geeks, I do not understand this particular chemical reaction. I mean -- was the plant food to blame? The flowers themselves? What the hell kind of reaction is going on in my vase?

But in the meantime, I guess, well, meh. My flowers are still alive, which I can't always say the day after sticking a bouquet in water. If water so fluorescent it seems radioactive is to blame, then I'll take it.

Even if it really doesn't go with my color scheme.

je t'en prie, paris

So my cousin Bram, after posting something like four gajillion photo albums on Facebook of his recent trip to Paris (I salute you, Bram -- that's quite an organizational feat), decided to make a "Best of" album so that we don't have to flick through the eight googlezillion pictures he actually uploaded.

One immediately caught my eye as being the actual visual representation of my personal Parisian ideal. I actually almost started drooling with a weird kind of location-hunger; my eyes turned into little cartoon stars and my stomach turned flips, as my brain said, "!"

Sigh. I can trace the roots of my francophilia way way back, but there's no denying it; I'm a homesick French wannabe. We'll see if I manage to rectify that ever in life -- a little cottage in the south of France or a wee nineteenth-century apartment in Paris. The biggest headache is convincing the folks to move with me, since Mom doesn't like to fly enough to come visit on a regular basis.

Oh, and speaking of Aix*: I also reconnected with members of the French family with whom I spent much of a summer in high school. The eldest daughter, Marie, had been an au pair for my next-door neighbors, and now the eldest next-door neighbor daughter is an au pair for Marie's little ones! And, apparently, Cady managed to get Marie using Facebook, so: Je te remercie, Cady, pour trouver mon ancienne amie.

Anyway, Marie now lives near Aix-en-Provence. Again: droooool...

Yeah, it's a big ol' Facebook-meets-France lovefest (...not that kind) in my house today, to be capped off by mini-burgers and cupcakes. Which are totally French, thank you very much.

*Aix. Aches. Yeah, I even make myself groan, I'm so punny.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

babies, babies everywhere

So it's spring/summertime, when a young woman's fancy turns to thoughts of "Holy crap -- everyone I know is having a baby!"

Well, not yet I. (Relax, folks -- more on this below.) However, two friends have just added to their families, and two more are in the process of doing so. Hence, on this Father's Day, I thought I'd give a little shout-out.

Please welcome...

Maggie Halter (little sis to Nina), born May 29, 2008.

Congratulations, Des and Nick!


Anne Frances McHale (little sis to Benjy), born June 13, 2008.

Congratulations, Jeanne and Matt!

And keep an eye out for...

The Yang Triplets (!!!), due sometime this fall, along with their cousin, Fetus Farnham. Yay, Christie and Ted and Becky and Chris!

Yeah, it's a little crazy. The Maltese side of the family is going from zero grandkids to four all at once -- exciting!

So plenty to practice on for the next year or so, at which point, the time will be ripe (pun intended) for yet another grandkid -- this one for both Maltese and Shapiro sides. I mean, given how fast the fish died, we just want to make sure we can keep a dog alive for a whole year before we take on a human being. We're working our way up...but don't fear; the blips are on our radar, in pink and blue.

Love and happy Father's Day to all!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

dinner conversation à la dorks

Scene: My husband and I are discussing the Hollywood-centric lives of friends.

Me: "I wish I were in that sphere."

Jim: "I'm sorry."

Me: "Oh, that wasn't meant to malign you. Just a thing. And besides, I am. Because of {friend's name redacted}."

Jim: "Yes. You are in the penumbra.

Me: {weird look} "Yes. I ... am in the penumbra."


Me: "What does that word mean in law terms?"

Jim: "It ... what do you mean? How did you know it's a law thing?"

Me: "Because it essentially is Latin for 'shadow' and so ..."

Jim: "OK. It means things sort of vaguely outside the limits of a ruling, so if the ruling falls here {makes sphere shape with hands} and you're just here {slightly larger sphere shape} then you're in the penumbra."


Me: "So you see how it comes to mean this."

Jim: "Yeah, and you're right, I only know this from law stuff."


Jim: "We're smart."

Me: "Well, I don't know about that signaling "smart" per se. I just know Latin."

Jim: "Yeah, but there are a lot of people who don't remember their Latin so long after they graduated high school."

Me: {glare}

Jim: "I mean ... eleven years after ... You're ... I love you?"

Win: Me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

when the planet turns up the heat...

...get out of the kitchen.

Or at least, that would be the logical approach. And I am, usually, a logical human being. Most of the time. I think.

Not when it comes to dinner, though -- particularly if I have a craving for something. Granted, that "something" right now happens to be gazpacho*, which I think makes a lot of logical sense.

(Or it would, if tomatoes weren't suddenly carriers of salmonella. Thanks, tomatoes, for your perfect timing. Luckily, it seems that cluster (on the vine) tomatoes are safe, and so I can proceed with my gazpacho plan.)

Jim, meanwhile, has been asking me to make a frittata for quite some time. I'm getting used to these requests of his, even though I do every now and then wonder what ovophilic pod person has taken over my husband. Granted, this is mostly because, when I met him, he would turn tail and run from pretty much any egg dish, which was a shame as quiche was one of my specialities.

That must have converted him along the way, since now he seems to get these cravings every so often, particularly when the weather makes heavy meat dishes somewhat unappetizing. (He still is tentative in the face of most scrambles and your average runny-yolked poachee, but it's progress.)

Of course, making a frittata involves turning on the stove and either the oven or broiler, so it's not entirely weather-appropriate.
But it's close enough. So tonight, we shall have a wild mushroom and spinach frittata and gazpacho, satisfying two cravings with one...well, dinner.

Hm. Speaking of which, is it lunch time yet?

*This is a fairly common craving of mine. In fact, I feel as though I've actually blogged gazpacho before. The heat is just making me too lazy to check.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

genet-hic! predisposition

Milo really likes the bar.

I think mostly that's because the lowest level of the bar, where most of our liquor bottles reside, is right at eye-level for him. And maybe kinda shiny? I'm not really sure.

All I know is, the other night he grabbed a mini bottle of rum and decided it was a chew-toy. We took it away and assumed that was the end of it.

...Until tonight, when I was distracted from my bowl of chocolate ice cream by the following yelp:

"Milo! Give me back my bitters!"

Dog is clearly a drunk. Heh.

But really, he's so cute. He's huge! Seven pounds, I think, or thereabouts. And really needs a haircut. He also loves his little bed, which, if he isn't sleeping in it, he turns upside-down for fun,

and he gets super-excited whenever we give him new toys. He also has a shiny brass tag that says "Maltese," virtually guaranteeing that anyone who reads it will think either "Wow, what an unusual specimen of the breed!" or "Wow, how stupid are this dog's owners, as it is clearly not a Maltese!" He is very into shoes, which amuses me inasmuch as I always sort of think of dog + shoes = cliche, but Ellie likes my mother's shoes (usually only one of a pair), and Milo has the same thing with mine. Maybe our feet smell more like us than we know?

Still, given his choice? He keeps returning to the bar.

I knew he was the right pup for me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

puppies are perpetual toddlers

I am desperately in love with my puppy.

He really makes every day better -- even the ones he makes worse by, say, peeing in the corner with no warning and no provocation. (Such days are becoming fewer and farther between, thank heavens, or I might have to buy stock in the carpet cleaning companies.)

Milo had his first vet visit with me today. We went to Dupont Vet, which came recommended and was convenient and, you know, if you don't like your vet you can always change. So we went, and he was very good in the car and everyone thought he was the cutest thing on four legs (because he is) and then, you know, the very nice veterinarian stuck her finger in places that I'm sure Milo would rather not think about and eventually pronounced him in perfect health.

Also she noted his teeth are very sharp. IT IS NOT ME. THE PUPPY TEETH. THEY ARE SO SHARP.

Then in a wonderful twist of fate, Heather Armstrong of Dooce fame posted today and the last paragraph of her post deals directly with what happens when you think your puppy can handle itself on its own for, oh, let's say, thirty-three seconds.

Training a puppy is like training a small human being (read: child), except for the fact that by the time one usually trains a child, the child has started at least to pretend to speak the language, whereas the dog -- not so much. Note that I do not say the dog cannot understand language -- it most certainly can understand tone, and a far greater number of words than I think we'd generally guess if asked in one of those man-on-the-street trivia games. I just say that the dog can't communicate back in the same way, which is frustrating when you try to determine if looking at the leash hanging by the front door means "I have to pee!" or "Hm, I bet that tastes good" or "Q'plah!" (I said dogs understand words. I didn't say those words weren't Klingon.)

So our lives are a blur of picking up puppy/rushing puppy outside/repeating inane phrase over and over until puppy completes business/lavishly praising puppy/hoping puppy associates lavish praise with doing business outside/bringing puppy inside/watching puppy obsessively to make sure business does not magically appear on carpet.


Ad nauseam.

Sometimes literally.

Still, even when he wakes me at 4 a.m. for a bye-bye run, I love the little fluffernutter. And I think he loves us. Which is the best part of all.

Now if he'd just stop chewing on my toes...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

totally gratuitous puppy picspam

So, as most of my readership is aware, I have wanted a puppy for longer than I can remember.

Now, I'll be fair -- I was never denied a canine companion by my folks. We have always been a dog family, with at least one in residence. Two years ago today, La-Di-Da, the Shih-Tzu who was essentially my dog, passed away; and, in a stroke of fate, Miss Ellie, the gorgeous (if willful) one who now lives with my parents, was born. So, with the exception of a couple of months of grieving for La-Di before La Belle Miss Elle came home to the island, there has always been a dog available to visit.

Still, it's not the same as having a pet of one's own. I was crushed when every apartment I inhabited had a no-dogs policy. Jim grew up with cats, but he's allergic to them, and frankly I'm a little scared of -- or jealous of, maybe -- any pet that needs me less than I need it.

(I also always think cats don't like me. I realize that's not (a) unusual to feel or (b) necessarily untrue, but I felt the need to mention the sentiment.)

Anyway! Our new property management came over all smart-like and decided, what the hey, let's let people have dogs! I think this was a great idea, since there are a fair number of vacancies and/or units on short-term leases that I'm sure they'd prefer to fill, and the city in general is pretty dog-friendly. Or maybe none of that is true, but I still think the decision was genius because it meant we could get a dog.

And so, today, we did.

His name is Milo, and he is a nine-week-old Shih-Chon. His mom is a Shih-Tzu, dad a Bichon Frise, and apparently some people call this mix the "teddy bear breed" -- for obvious reasons. He was very very shy at first, and slept on my lap all the way home in the car. The apartment seemed a little overwhelming to him, but after a good nap in his crate -- which he took to immediately, either because of or despite the fact that it had a couple of old t-shirts of mine and Jim's in it to make it smell like us -- he became very playful. He already has a favorite toy (Squeaky Carrot) and is comfy in his harness (slightly less so in his collar). Right now, he's half-asleep on my toes.

We are in love. Milo Maltese is here to stay.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

recipe renovation

As anyone who has ever cooked dinner most nights of the week knows, it's very tempting to fall into a routine of making the same few recipes over and over again. For a while, every time my mother would call while I was making dinner -- which she did fairly regularly but definitely not every night -- I was making my turkey meatballs with some kind of sautéed vegetable. She finally said she started to think all I ever made anymore was turkey meatballs.

This is clearly not true. It's also not entirely false.

Anyway, I have realized that I have what amounts to just a few different preparations for each kind of main-dish protein that I cook. I have a couple of different marinades or sauces for pork, for steak, for fish of varied kinds, and, yes, for turkey (ground, in the meatball case). I have a slightly larger répétoire for chicken, based on whether I'm making skinless/boneless, on-bone, or a whole roaster, although some of the versions can be applied across chicken formats. Sometimes I'll make a special dish of herb-crusted rack of lamb, and I can riff on a frittata til the cows -- er, chickens -- come home.

And lest anyone ask, although knowing my readership I can't imagine many will -- I enjoy tofu. I just don't cook with it.

But sometimes, one gets bored of the same old same old. So, last weekend, when my best friend and her husband (squee!) were in town visiting, I threw a small dinner party.

My friend David -- the French-trained chef-cum-guybrarian (his word) at school -- and his wife came. Sam, inasmuch as he is still in residence, also attended. And David and I cooked.

First course: Kir royales with bruschetta.
Second course: Seared sea scallops on arugula with toasted walnuts, shaved parmiggiano, and white balsamic-truffle vinaigrette. Wine.
Third course: Mango granita. More wine.
Fourth course: Bacon-wrapped petits filets with mushroom sauce, chive-truffle-garlic mashed baby red potatoes, and herbed asparagus tips. Even more wine.
Fifth course: Truffles. Oh, and wine.
Sixth course: Explode. With wine.

No, actually, the sixth course was a few awesomely wonderful rounds of Movies in a Hat after the Bonners had departed to relieve their sitter from year-and-a-half-old Kennedy duty. (I had invited the baby, but apparently, despite her love of steak, she had better things to do with her evening, like watch Fraggle Rock with a sixteen-year-old neighbor girl. Sheesh. Silly toddlers.) I laughed so hard that I hurt for a day after. Oh, and we drank more wine.

Anyway. It was a triumph of the taste buds, and playing sous-chef was a blast. My apartment kind of still smells a little like scallops, but that doesn't bother me. I may not have professional chefdom in my future, but I can whip out a fancy dinner party, and that is pretty exciting ... particularly on another turkey meatball night.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I'm fairly convinced that 2008 will be remembered -- and not fondly -- as the year of the endless political primary. Which is kind of a shame, inasmuch as I am seeing all of these high school and college kids who are so excited and passionate about voting for the first time, and I feel as though they are going to use up all the political energy that life has granted them just getting through this season, and will forevermore be apathetic and disengaged.

Also, half-empty glasses are too optimistic for me. Can you tell?

So I'm a pessimist. Whatever. In any case, living in D.C. during this year is both fascinating and exhausting. The District, I have come to realize, is a pure industry town, and its industry is government. One cannot function here if one does not wish to expound upon and debate (or argue) at length about one's opinions; the concept of not even having a fully-formed opinion is anathema to life in this town.

Let's face it, though: I am not this kind of political animal. Sure, I have opinions about the country's and the world's social, economic, and political situation. For example, I think that our current party system and the electoral college are outdated, inefficient, and generally problematic. Discussing this, though, puts me in an awkward spot when everyone around me is busily at work within the current political infrastructure.

Typical D.C. cocktail party conversation:

Me: "Nice to meet you. What do you do?"

Average D.C. Resident: "I work for {insert name of prominent politician/government agency/massively popular or unpopular cause/lobbying organization here}."

Me: "Ah."

A.D.C.R.: "And you?"

Me: "I'm a registered independent."

A.D.C.R.: {walks away}

Before you lecture me, let me admit that I more or less knew what I was getting into when choosing to move here. I just thought -- ah, naïveté! -- that not everyone* would want to talk politics non-stop. But it's the common denominator in this town, the way I imagine the entertainment industry is in Los Angeles and finance can be in New York: When in doubt, talk democracy.

What's the point of all this whining, then? To say that I'm coming back** to this site not to make my position known. No, I'm going to indulge in my own small and inconsequential act of civil disobedience by blogging solely about nonpolitical things. I concede that this is not a grand departure from topics I've covered in the past, but I think the goal now is to give it more of a point. Hence, my new platform:

1. More creative recipes, and transparency in the development thereof.
2. In-depth analysis of the process of food preparation.
3. Exploration of conservative and liberal decor.
4. A bridge across the aisle from wine to hard liquor.

Just think of it as a different interpretation of "party."

*Conservative estimate.

**Please pardon the fact that I have been extraordinarily remiss in the frequency of my posting. I am going to try to get back to it, if only because it allows me to indulge my inner caterer.