I've been in D.C. in the bone-chilling winter, in the sticky, sweltering summer, and in the lovely cherry-blossom-filled spring, but this was my first visit to D.C. in the fall.
And what a lovely visit it was!
The weather was mostly magnificent this weekend, cool and crisp, perfect for a sweater and tights. Zandria and I even had drinks on the outside patio of a restaurant Friday night, although we failed to take any photos documenting this (what kind of bloggers are we, anyway?).
It rained one day, pouring just long enough for me to get soaking wet on the long ride up the Dupont escalator, but by the time I dashed across the roundabout to the CVS and purchased an umbrella, the sun had come out again. And then, as if the world was apologizing for my having spent $10.99 on the flimsy umbrella, I found a twenty dollar bill without a soul around to claim it.
D.C., I think I'm falling for you all over again.
On the Metro this morning, I was sitting next to an older man who was holding a large, clear Tupperware container full of Nilla Wafers on his lap. What's strange about the situation was not the container of wafers, however, it was that the man's outfit--the pants and the shirt and the sweater--were precisely the same color as the wafers. The outfit and the cookies were such an exact match, from head to toe all golden yellow, it couldn't have been on accident. Maybe he was attending a potluck where one was required to dress as the food they contributed?
These are a few of my favorite photos from one of the hotels we stayed at in Mérida. The hotel, Luz en Yucatan, was a real gem.
The pricing system for a night's stay depends on your perceived level of personal success, with the hope that the wealthier travelers will be sufficiently sporting to help to subsidize the less wealthy. Before receiving a price quote, one must choose between being exceedingly successful, moderately successful, or not at all successful.
Free beer upon arrival!
Plus! Free shots 'round the clock! I mean, really, does life get any better than all this?
The website says this: "We eschew rules and regulations so that you can more easily free yourself from the usual constraints and prohibitions. Indeed, were there an "authority figure" on premises, we would encourage you to "DISOBEY." All this in an effort to enable you to exhale and fully participate in our slightly skewed but decidedly benevolent reality."
There were in-room hammocks, too, although I was afraid to actually fall asleep in the thing, fearing the hammock would somehow come detached from the wall causing me to crack my back on the tile floor. Sometimes I can be quite adventurous, sometimes not so much. Will, on the hand, is very adventurous. Just look how adventurous he is:
If you find yourself in Mérida, it's really worth a stay.
Person 1: Should you raise your children to be decent or should you raise them to be fit for society?
Person 2: Isn't a shame a person can't be both?
Huh? Waitonesecond. This makes no sense to me.
I think that I am both decent and fit for society. And I probably think that you are decent and fit for society, too. In fact, I think that a decent person fits much more nicely into society than a person who is not decent. Not decent people end up in jail or fired or hated by their waiter or lacking decent relationships.
Do you agree?
Last night I was visiting Costco.com for, well, for what I can't really even remember right now, when I was completely sidetracked by something highlighted on the front page.
That there would be a Shelf Reliance Thrive emergency food kit, the ultimate in emergency preparedness planning. It's a one year supply of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods for one person, which will be delivered to you in 14 separate boxes for the bargain price of $799.
I find this extraordinarily fascinating for several reasons, the first of which is that, due to overwhelming demand, any orders placed after 10/08/09 will not ship until 11/16/09. That many people have paid $799 for 78 gallon-sized cans of dehydrated food? Is there something we don't know?
Perhaps more fascinating, not to mention comical, is a video on Costco's site, in which a friendly lady named Natalie teaches us how to make a peach blackberry smoothie using the dehydrated products. It's so easy! After you re-hydrate the dehydrated fruit by soaking it in some liquid that appears to basically be Tang, you simply blend up the fruit in your blender with some frozen yogurt and ice. Voila! Garnish with a flower and Natalie swears your dinner guests won't even know it isn't fresh.
Here are my questions:
1.) If you are in an emergency--an emergency so dire that you are resorting to your Thrive emergency food kit, eating foods that have a shelf life of 20 years(!)--do you really think you'll have electricity to run your blender?
2.) If you are eating dried whole eggs from a can because of said emergency, where the hell are you getting your frozen yogurt and ice?
3.) If, in fact, this emergency food kit is being promoted not for emergencies, but for everyday use (which it appears to be), where the hell do you live that you can't get a fresh piece of fruit? A space station?
After October 18th, the cost of the kit goes up $200, so act fast! Just think how popular you'll be at your End-of-the-World dinner parties with those delicious smoothies!
I have finally finished pondering love, death, happiness, and the meaning of life. Here it goes.
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
2. What is your greatest fear?
Fear itself (really, though, I can't actually say my greatest fear because I am afraid that saying it might make it come true. Sort of like telling your wish after blowing out the candles)
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
5. Which living person do you most admire?
President Barack Obama
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Reading blogs when I should be reading textbooks
7. What is your current state of mind?
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9. On what occasion do you lie?
When it keeps me out of trouble
10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Currently, my hair, which is at that annoying stage between short and just long enough
11. Which living person do you most despise?
Rush Limbaugh, et al.
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"Do you know what I mean?"
15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
16. When and where were you happiest?
Eating ice cream on the Ile De La Cité
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
To dance flawless classical ballet
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would deliberate less over insignificant details
19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being happily married six years later
20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
The legendary and mysterious Mona Lisa
21. Where would you most like to live?
Santa Barbara, California
22. What is your most treasured possession?
My wedding ring
23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
When politics and religion prohibit humanity
24. What is your favorite occupation?
25. What is your most marked characteristic?
My inability to say no
26. What do you most value in your friends?
Friendship without judgement
27. Who are your favorite writers?
Robert Hass, Kurt Vonnegut, Dorothy Parker
28. Who is your hero of fiction?
The Little Prince
29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
People who do the right thing, even when nobody is looking, especially when nobody is looking
31. What are your favorite names?
Liam, Liliana, Violet, Claire, Madeleine
32. What is it that you most dislike?
33. What is your greatest regret?
Not learning Italian and French when it mattered
34. How would you like to die?
35. What is your motto?
Be always kinder than necessary
I am happy to report that the Apple-Pear Crisp was a smashing success at last night's potluck, receiving loads of compliments. Of course, this is not entirely unexpected considering the fair amount of dramatics that I generated in the days prior regarding the dessert. I'm sure everybody felt obligated to commend me on the crisp, for fear that lacking substantial encouragement, I might never bake again.
The only hard part of the whole recipe was peeling and coring the apples and pears, which, coincidentally, was the part Will did. The rest of the recipe was a snap.
Of course I have something to say about President Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course I do. And, against my better judgement, I am going to say it here. And most of you will totally get what I am saying because I know you, lovely readers, but some of you will not get me at all. Because of this we need to get some things clear, very clear, right off the bat:
I am not saying Barack Obama deserved the Nobel or did not deserve the Nobel. I am not saying that the Nobel was premature or timely. I am not saying Barack Obama received the Nobel for his accomplishments or that he received the Nobel for nothing at all.
Here's what I am saying:
Let's get a little bit of class, America.
Let's stop with the name calling and the vitriolic rhetoric and the all-out rude reaction to the news. An American just won a prestigious international award, which he accepted in the humblest of ways. This is an occasion to commend, not vilify. At the very least, there is an expectation that Obama has the power to promote peace throughout the world and, as Americans, we should take pride in our nation, if not our President, for this fact.
I posted this on Facebook yesterday:
A lesson in class from Sen. John McCain: "I think part of their decision-making was expectations. And I'm sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we're proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category."A simple point: America let's be classy.
And, in response, I get a sarcastic version of this: BUT WHAT HAS OBAMA DONE TO DESERVE THIS AWARD? HUH?
The irony. Oh, the irony. Miss my point much?
Yesterday, some of the classiest members of the G.O.P. have congratulated Obama. They may not agree with the decision--they may, in fact, completely and utterly disagree with the decision and I suspect they probably do--but they responded with the utmost human decency to the announcement.
Governor Tim Pawlenty said that, whatever the circumstances, "when anybody wins a Nobel Prize that is a very noteworthy development and designation and I think the appropriate response is to say 'Congratulations.'" Agree or disagree, the appropriate response is to say congratulations. Now that's classy.
Look, I don't know purport to know anything about the Nobel Peace Prize. I don't know the requirements or the qualifications. I can barely name 10 recipients of the prize and, looking at the list, I can't even tell you who half the people are. I am sure this is the case for most Americans. What I do know is this: when somebody wins it, it's better to have a little grace than to go all Kanye West on the committee, acting like petulant children. America, where's your class?
There are times when trenchant dissent is a meaningful, important, critical part of American discourse; I think everyone should speak their mind about Obama's policies, for sure. Don't care much for Obama's health care plan? Say so. Certainly.
But when somebody wins a Nobel Peace Prize, the classy thing to do is say congratulations, or say nothing at all.
Congratulations President Obama.
I'm attending a potluck dinner party tomorrow evening. The hostess requested on the Evite that we respond with what we intend to bring to encourage variety in the offerings.
Because I am the way I am (indecisive, self-deprecating, noncommittal), I répondez with the following:
Yay! I will attempt to bake something (so that I can cross #19 off my 30 before 30 list) but, depending on what kind of disaster that turns into, I may end up just picking up something on the way.A few days later, a kind and encouraging email arrives in my inbox from a fellow attendee:
Hi Janet!(Followed by a delicious-sounding and seasonally-appropriate recipe for Apple-Pear Crisp, which I'll post after the jump.)
I couldn't help but notice your comment on Jen's invite that you need to bake something for a potluck. And, I want to support you in your 30 Before 30 list, too. Below is a go-to recipe that I've been making for almost ten years. It's from the "Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cooking Basics" (but I got it from a reprint in the LA Times, in 2001) and it always wins rave reviews!
So, I'm like, SWEET! No need to break out the old Betty Crocker or spend time surfing the Internet. I'm all for things I need just arriving in my inbox when I mention a need. (At this time, I will just go ahead and point out other needs I have and, were these items to appear in my inbox, I would be eternally grateful: an amazing business associations outline, a job offer, a gift certificate for a Banana Republic pants suit, an invitation for an all-expenses paid weekend getaway, tickets to Elton John in concert).
I'm all set to whip up an Apple-Pear Crisp, but when I take a look at the recipe to make a shopping list for the ingredients, I realize I have questions. I pop off a quick email to Remy, in which I reveal my cluelessness about baking for potlucks:
OMG! What do I DO about the fact that this dish is best served WARM? Do I bring it unbaked to Jen's house and use her oven? Or do I bake it before I arrive and, if so, won't it get cold before dessert time? Ack! So much for a "Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cooking Basics," huh?Remy responded immediately, suggesting that I just reheat it at Jen's after cooking it at my place (duh) (Remy doesn't say "duh" in response, that's my own addition. She actually said that my reading the recipe ahead of time was an "expert move." Ha!).
In any event, after verifying with the hostess that I can reheat in her oven (is it proper potluck protocol to assume you can use the oven or should you call ahead?), I am going to make the crisp, cooking it in advance and popping it in the oven for a few to re-warm it when dessert time rolls around. I'm hoping for a successful crisp.
If you aren't as dramatic as I am, you can probably handle The Complete Idiot's Apple-Pear Crisp. I mean, really.
I'm still working on my answers to the Proust Questionnaire, and encourage you to answer, too, if you haven't already done so. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a few more fun links.
+ Martha Stewart answered the questionnaire this month. She claims to deplore "any type of indecision" (which is the trait I most deplore in myself), but then goes on to be rather indecisive throughout (although, perhaps if I didn't labor over all the questions and simply answered indecisively, I would already have mine completed).
I promise to finish mine this weekend and hope you will, too!
Will and I are standing in Costco yesterday, when I discover something that looks mighty delicious: spiced pumpkin bisque. Two big containers of the stuff for $8.99. I hold up the package and exclaim to Will across the refrigerated section, "OMG! Pumpkin Soup! Yum! Let's get it!"
Will is not impressed by the pumpkin soup, not even when I clarify that it is pumpkin bisque, actually, which is a fancy sort of pumpkin soup. Will does not think we should buy the pumpkin bisque. Will vetoes the pumpkin bisque.
Why? Oh, well, Will thinks we should make pumpkin soup from scratch, using a real pumpkin. He thinks it will be much tastier, this hypothetical real-pumpkin pumpkin soup.
There is only one person to blame for this:
Our friend Gavin, who is a superb chef, is always wowing us with fancy sorts of dishes, using all variety of fresh ingredients and I just know that he is somehow behind this pumpkin soup situation. When Will saw that packaged pumpkin soup, I am about 99 percent positive that Will thought, "hmmm, what would Gavin do?" And What Would Gavin Do (WWGD)? Gavin would make the soup from a real pumpkin. I verified this in an email to my friend Jenny, Gavin's wife, who responded that yes, that is definitely what Gavin would do and, in fact, she remembers a similar sort of conversation in her house last fall regarding soup.
She reports that Gavin made the soup. Will Will?
I'm asking the Typepad Question of the Day today! Here it is:
I'd pick two:
Junior Mints (for everyday eating) and Chowards Violet Mints (for visiting dignitaries).
What would be your official White House candy?
Everything about being a locavore can be summed up by The Jam:
1. Jam is (at least) twice as expensive at the farmers' market than it is at the grocery store.
2. Jam is (at least) twice as tasty at the farmers' market than it is from the grocery store.
3. Jam is (at least) twice as fresh at the farmers' market than it is at the grocery store.
This is the case with most foods we ate during the month. The food was more expensive by quite a bit, particularly the non-produce items such as the olive oils, jams, and almond butters. There were also significantly fewer choices since we were eating what was in season, within 100 miles. We went through 18 baskets of strawberries, at least a dozen zucchini, 15 cartons of almond milk, and a boatload of pears.
Despite the expense and the limited options, the experience was fantastic. We learned to make-do with whatever the farmers had to offer. We ate healthier by a long shot--nothing prepackaged or laden with preservatives. Best of all, the foods we ate were delicious, noticeably more tasty and more fresh than grocery store goods.
We even made our very own jar of jam during the month, a small batch strawberry jam that consisted of only two ingredients: strawberries and sugar. No high fructose corn syrup. No weird chemicals that you can't pronounce. Just plain old strawberries and sugar.
Yesterday, our locavore experiment ended, and we went off to the supermarket to get a few things that we had gone a month without: bananas, orange juice, macaroons. We passed right by the jam aisle, though, deciding that it is worth the few extra bucks to have simple jam that actually tastes like real fruit. Who would've known?