Friday, March 31, 2017

Cherry blossom bliss

I had the loveliest long weekend in D.C. reconnecting with friends, enjoying lots of good food and drinks (of course!), and sightseeing outside the usual museums and monuments. I'll do separate posts on food and bookstores, so here I will summarize everything else! I picked March not only because it had been simply too long since I saw Hannah (since we moved to our respective cities!), but also because it was her birthday month! We like to celebrate as much as possible :)
On Saturday, Hannah and I-along with every tourist and most residents-went to the Tidal Basin to view the blossoms. I somehow lucked out with my random trip timing to coincide with the perfect weekend for cherry blossom viewing and the start of the festival. We took about a million photos trying to get that postcard view, and I think we succeeded!
We also made a point to actually take a cute photo together as we almost never do-and that turned out to be the only one all weekend. Whoops!
Saturday evening we had a reunion of sorts with another friend from our childhood who has moved to D.C. and his family! We were all going to the Red Baraat concert and went to Saad's fancy apartment courtyard for a cookout beforehand.
Red Baraat were amazing and so much fun to dance to! Unfortunately my allergies caught up with me and I had to leave a little early, but it was well worth it.

Post-Sunday brunch we took a walk through the city, including the City Center designed by a group from NYC-hated by many D.C. residents, but I'll own up to really enjoying it. Maybe it's my NYC roots showing through, but the design and stores really appealed to me-and the pink lanterns for cherry blossom season were perfection!

That evening we all went to see the new Beauty and the Beast and LOVED it. Part nostalgia factor I'm sure, but it really was beautifully done. We managed to restrain ourselves in the theater, but Matt and I definitely irritated the other Metro riders by singing the whole way home.
On Monday, I pretty much just walked around the city apart from lunch with Jen, but honestly that's one of my favorite things to do-especially when it's warm and sunny enough to get a sunburn! I'm not usually into risking skin cancer, but after (during?) this winter I couldn't be upset. I may have also made a pit stop for sorbet...before sitting outside and reading with a beer. Pretty much killing that whole relaxation thing!
Returning to the real world wasn't easy, but it's helped by thinking about my next vacation...I'm pretty sure I should always have one booked! I'm already looking forward to my next trip to D.C. and Hannah and Matt coming to Boston!


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Entertainment Weekly 3.25.17

Can I really continue to call these weekly if I keep missing Saturdays? If you object, please let me know...but Entertainment Bi-weekly just doesn't have the same ring to it!

Reading: Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. A beautifully written and engaging story of two friends in Naples in the 1950s. She evokes the emotion and complexity of female friendship and growing up while painting a vivid backdrop. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Listening: It is try-pod month so I figured I'd pull one of the podcasts to which I subscribe: Dear Sugar Radio. Fantastic advice, very entertaining and heartwarming commentary, and extremely relateable sitatuons. Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond are the best.

Watching: I finally watched 13th. It was so so good but obviously heartbreaking. Don't ask me why I though it was a good idea to watch it on the plane following a trauma conference, but I did. I highly recommend it (as did everyone months ago when it was first released) as well as reading The New Jim Crow. Gotta keep educating yourself!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Update: Empowering your neighbors

For those of you following the sign saga here is a quick update.

Mom spoke at the HOA board meeting on Monday about the inconsistent enforcement of the "no signs" rule. The result is that they say they will be enforcing it across the community.

However, it seems that the vice-president has not yet taken down his sign. Clearly this is not a priority for them, unlike signs calling for us to treat our neighbors well.

As frustrating as this is, I'm so proud to be related to people willing to stand up for what is right, for equality, and be willing to be uncomfortable-and make others uncomfortable-in that quest.

Go Mom and Alvan! You can do it!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Backstreet's back!

For the month of March, PVDonuts created a totally '90s inspired menu. They change up flavors on a monthly basis, rotating in specials for holidays as well. When I saw that all the forbidden treats of my childhood were going to be available in much more delicious form, I knew I had to create an opportunity to taste them all. When Dad saw that they had a St. Patrick's Day special called "Luck of the Irish", a brioche style filled with Guinness chocolate mousse, topped with a stout chocolate glaze, and finished with a pipette of Bailey's, he immediately requested I get two-one for sampling and one all for him.

I had some friends over to help in the demolishing of said donuts, but only managed to get pics of the food! We were having too much fun laughing and singing along to the '90s music (ok, maybe the last part was just me). Accompanied by a quick frittata (gotta balance with some protein), chocolate milk-to which I may have added some homemade kahlua, and plenty of coffee, it was the perfect Saturday morning!

We couldn't come to a consensus on the best flavor, but everyone had their favorites. Of course Dad preferred the Luck of the Irish, while Rici and Svenja loved the Hershey's chocolate milk. Georgina picked the Dunkaroos...and I couldn't decide! My top selections included Wildberry Poptart (a filled brioche) and the Cinnamon Toast Crunch monkey bread...but I wouldn't turn down any of them!
Anyone up for another donut trip?!


Friday, March 17, 2017

Empower those around you to act in love.

A big part of my work is empowering people. I work to empower children and teens to speak for themselves, to feel confident in the bodies, beliefs, and actions, and to create the relationships that they want. I work to empower parents to advocate for themselves and their children. I work to empower coworkers to create the most positive and supportive environments possible for the youth.

In recent months we have seen an increase in people being empowered in the wrong way: to act in hate and fear. I almost wrote the wrong people, but that is incorrect-I want all to be empowered, but to act in love and support of others. Words are important, people!

While many continue to fight the good fight, there are far too many people trying to turn back the clock on human rights. It is showing up in big and small ways-one petty way is exemplified in the experience of my mom and stepdad in North Carolina.

They are as liberal and outspoken as I am, and therefore stand out a bit in their condo association. I'm lucky to be largely surrounded by people who feel as I do, so rarely feel that I am taking a risk in speaking out (though that has been the case at times). They are not so lucky.
Mom and Alvan have had this sign up in their yard for a while now, and were recently told they had to take it down as it violated the HOA rules-that signs cannot be displayed in "common areas". Management said they could have it up in the window-where obviously it is significantly less visible.
A neighbor had this sign up and was told to remove it as well. However, other signs, flags, and lawn decorations of neighbors have remained without comment from the HOA. During the election, there were many political signs throughout the neighborhood. These were present from both sides, but unfortunately you can probably guess which way it skewed. No comment was made about these-I'm guessing because it would have been far too obvious to tell only people with signs supporting Hillary that they were not allowed.

While they have moved the sign into the window for now, they have informed the HOA that unless all other signage/flags in "common areas" come down, their sign will be going back up. I can't believe they have to have this fight, but there it is. These small actions-on both sides-add up, and the side of love and equality will overcome.

Please do your part to empower people in the right way and toward actions of equality. This is the only way we will overcome those acting from selfishness, hate, and fear.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Happy birthday, Triss!

Today is my kitty's birthday! We don't actually know the specific date, as she's a rescue, but we decided on the Ides of March for her litter-15 years ago. I can't believe it's been that long, but hopefully we still have many more years together :)
For those of you who don't know the story of how I got my sweet Trisscuit: when I was in middle school, I went one day with my mom to the dealership where she got her car worked on and we happened to witness a surprise in the parts trailer. One of the employees had found a brand-new litter of kittens! They had no idea what to do with them, so naturally mom and I offered to take them off their hands. The kittens were too young to survive on their own, so we had to bottle feed them while we searched for momma cat. Thankfully we were able to catch her fairly quickly, so she and the babies lived in my bedroom until they were old enough to adopt out. Lucas (my brother) and I were saddened to lose them, but understood that we already had a cat and a dog. However, Easter was coming up and we had no idea that we were about to get the best surprise. When we looked at our baskets that year we were so excited to find collars with tags for our favorite kittens in them.
Mariel, my kitten, eventually did not come home one day when I was away at college. I like to think she just decided to stay with the family with a fireplace, as she would often come home smelling of smoke. Triss was originally Lucas' cat, but after I finished graduate school and was moving into my own place, I asked if I could take her with me. She had stayed at my mom's house while Lucas was away at college and was not a big fan of the dog. Thankfully everyone agreed and Triss has been with me ever since!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ladies' night!

I'm sorry to say I have zero pictures of my recent night out with my girlfriends, but I still had to give a shout out to an awesome evening. A few of my girlfriends and I have been talking for ages about doing a girls night out and it finally came to fruition last weekend. I also successfully managed to make worlds collide-one of my childhood besties with coworkers. We had such fun at Brass Union-and my sleepover at Elly's was pretty great-we got to debrief the hilarity of the evening as we laid about the next morning and got some treats at Union Square Donuts (clockwise starting from the top left: sea salted bourbon caramel, maple bacon, vietnamese coffee, and brown butter hazelnut crunch). 
I suppose this is less about the specific events of the night, and more the general feeling. One thing that has been challenging about both moving and having a significant commute is the difficulty of creating groups of friends. I can build individual friendships pretty effectively with a little effort but curating a group-squad if you will-is surprisingly different. I've had several of these groups throughout my life and am so grateful for them. Back in Ann Arbor I was lucky enough to have a number of friend groups from my different interests and activities, as well as a roommate who was one of my closest friends-and very talented at friend-dating! 

The feeling when I am with my girlfriends, laughing the night away, is a special one. These girls, whether I have known them since first grade or my first day at my new job, have already been there for me in some emotionally challenging times. Knowing that they are there for tears or laughter, listening or laughing, is truly amazing and I am beyond grateful to have people like them in my life. 


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Entertainment Weekly 3.11.17

I missed a week or two...whoops! Don't panic, everyone-I'm alive and back with more commuting entertainment!

Reading: I finally got the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss from Overdrive! My friend Scott recommended them to me before I left Ann Arbor, and while they are not my usual genre (fantasy/scifi but not young adult), they are very engaging. The level of detail in the world created within it really is excellent and the characters make you root for them.

Listening: A song, "I Can Do Better Than That", from the movie recording of The Last Five Years was on Spotify's Discover Weekly and it inspired me to listen to the full original off-Broadway recording from 2013. I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed that show-and how much it still moves me. "If I Didn't Believe In You" and "Still Hurting" never fail to make me tear up.

Watching: Dad and I saw Logan last weekend-of course! For those of you who know us this should come as no surprise due to his obsession with superheroes and my habit of watching all superhero movies and TV shows. It was rather gory for my taste, but that is true to the original character. I really appreciated the general character development, and the actress who played Laura, Dafne Keen, was amazing. I'm excited to see where she goes next!


Friday, March 10, 2017

Eating Elsewhere: Pittsurgh

Naturally when I visited my friends in Pittsburgh, good food was a major priority. We made it to a number of excellent places, and even when I couldn't enjoy the food as much as I would have liked (Sunday morning...oops), the service was fantastic.

Alexa and I started with an amazing vegan brunch on Saturday morning at B52. We shared the avocado toast (of course!) and had to have our coffee, especially after my delayed flight the night before. I then ate waaay too much of this dish, the kofta tofu scramble. It was perfectly savory and spicy-I need to find a way to recreate it! Alexa definitely enjoyed her seitan shwarma as well-it looked delish but I didn't manage to get a photo of it before it was devoured, ha.

Later in the day, we took a break from our busy sightseeing schedule to have a casual beer before Beerfest (the beginning of the end, perhaps?) at Roundabout Brewery. It was small but lovely-and the beer selection was excellent! It doesn't look like much from the outside, but don't let that fool you. 

Dinner at Umami was excellent-I was able to have ramen! Few places have vegetarian ramen that is also fairly authentic so I don't often have an opportunity to enjoy it. While I don't think as a vegetarian I got a full perspective on the menu, my taste of it was delicious. 

For my last meal in Pittsburgh, we headed to Apteka, a vegetarian Central/East European restaurant. Again, all truly fantastic dishes-I had the kluski slaski, while Alexa went classic with pierogi and Jack had the salatka zimova. We of course had to sample each others dishes, and I'd have trouble saying which was the favorite!

We visited a couple other places, including the excellent coffee shop next door to the apartment, Espresso a Mano and the French bakery La Gourmandine, both of which were very much enjoyed.

When visiting friends and family it is always a tough decision whether to go back to old favorites or try new places-I usually go for a mixture of both. And I'm always open to recommendations!


Monday, March 6, 2017

Pittsburgh Shenanigans

I've been making a concerted effort to take a weekend trip every month, and so far it is definitely working out! I recently visited my friends Alexa and Jack in Pittsburgh, a city I had no idea was such fun until I went for the first time last summer. That visit had only been about 13 hours-a pit stop on my drive down to visit my mom and that whole side of the family in North Carolina-so I knew I needed to make it back for a full weekend. Alexa and I were roommates her first summer (my second) working at camp, so we've got about seven years of memories and friendship.
Given our shared love of craft beer, she invited me down to attend the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival (thankfully held inside the Convention Center there). Boy oh boy was it fun-which is clearly indicated by the lack of photos I took. However, we did take a before and after...I'm pretty impressed at how well we held it together! Apart from the delicious variety of beers, a highlight was definitely the silent disco. They had three channels available on the headphones, so we weren't all dancing to the same music at all times, though there were certain songs we ensured everyone heard! Nobody else was quite as excited for "Footloose" as I was though, ha.
A lot of our time was spent enjoying delicious food, of course-brunch and all other delicious food is a priority for all three of us. I'll save that for another post, though, for those of you more interested in the city than pictures of everything I ate.

If you do visit Pittsburgh, I highly recommend a walk through the Mt. Washington district. There is an option to ride the trolley up and down the mountain as the miners did, though we just opted to drive up and walk around. There are numerous beautiful views of the city, though Alexa was quick to point out that they are much better when the vegetation is green-the end of winter is maybe not ideal. She was full of fun facts everywhere we went, including that Pittsburgh has the most bridges of any city in the world, including Venice! This area also includes some really interesting architecture and demonstrations of the class divide. The houses and buildings overlooking the river were beautiful, well maintained, and obviously very expensive. When we walked two blocks over the houses were significantly more run-down and clearly inhabited by those not in the 1%. Gentrification is real, people-it's only a matter of time before those two blocks change.

While Jack had to work Sunday night, Alexa and I attempted to see the tour of Book of Mormon-unfortunately there were no tickets to be had, either legitimate or scalped. We thought about going to a comedy show, but given her cold and the excitement of the night before, we decided to pick up a couple hot chocolates and head home to do some yoga and watch a movie. I'm so happy to finally have seen Brooklyn-and not just because Alexa and I had a good laugh about how I would have been the same person as the main character had I been living in that time period. It was a truly lovely story with the most beautiful cinematography-I think it has earned a place in my go-to movies.

While it can be difficult to live far from so many of my friends, I am beyond grateful to have them in fun cities and the opportunity to visit them and try new things. I'm already looking forward to my next trip to Pittsburgh-and theirs to Boston/Providence!