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.