Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Food Post

Ottawa has some GREAT places to buy food. In the market, there are stands full of fresh berries and vegetables grown on local farms. There are tables full of all things maple. There are adorable French bakeries and shops devoted to nothing but cheese.

However, none of these compare to the Italian grocery store I found yesterday. Imagine -- a store with nothing but floor to ceiling pastas, pasta sauces, olives, cheeses, desserts, espresso beans, aaaahhh!! It was sensory overload. I walked through every aisle. I bought fresh fettucini, roasted red pepper sauce, a wedge of fresh parmesean, a tub of hand-selected olives from the olive bar (squeal!), a six-pack of Pelligrino, and, best of all, a box of mini chocolate chip biscotti. After I came home and cooked the food, I brewed some coffee and indulged in about half the box.


I am already hungry for dinner. I think I will stop at the hot dog stand on my way home. This isn't just any hot dog stand. The lady grills them while you wait, and she has about 7 jars full of different toppings. My new fave topping: dill pickles.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Busy Weekend

My first full weekend in Ottawa consisted of the following:

A bike ride that accidentally went too far and ended up being about 20k long. Ouch. All I wanted to do was bike along the canal. I got to a stopping point, decided I wasn't tired and made the fateful decision to take another trail along the Ottawa River. By the time I decided I was tired -- I had to bike all the way back. Uphill. God bless the person who decided to open up a hamburger stand on the bike trail. It made a nice stopping point about 3/4 of the way through.

A 2k walk to the Museum of Civilization on Saturday after the 3 hour bike ride, then a tour of the Canadian history exhibits from Vikings to Pierre Trudeau.

A worship service at the First Baptist Church across the street from my hotel where I unexpectedly ran into someone I knew -- a friend from work who was part of the Stanley Cup watching party last week.

A walk to the War Museum and a tour through Canadian conflicts from the Boer War to the trenches of WWI (I actually walked in a trench--Ottawa museums are so interactive!!), WWII, Korea, the Cold War and peacekeeping missions of the 90s and present.

An unexpected walk through the Aboriginal People's festival in front of the War Museum. Native Canadians are known here as Aboriginals, First Peoples, and sometimes Mohawks. They were wearing some of the biggest feathered headdresses I have ever seen and I got to see part of a dance and hear the drums.

Groundhog sightings: 2
Chipmunk sightings: 1

Thank you Gator for asking follow-up questions. This blog is intended to be interactive. To answer your question about the weather, it's been sunny and very refreshingly temperate with highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s. In other words, the weather is ideal.

I LOVE Ottawa and am looking forward to showing my visitors around in the next two weeks!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Things I Like in Ottawa: The National Gallery

This was my view last night from the beautiful National Gallery of Canada.  I loved the museum. It was a very interestingly-designed building containing all different types of art - modern, classic, experimental, and with a special collection of Italian art on loan. But the best part was sitting outside at the museum's cafe with this view of the river and the back of the Parliament building. The weather was perfect, the birds were chirping, and the atmosphere was so peaceful.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I've Landed


Day 1:

I've arrived in Ottawa. Day 1 of new travels is always the hardest because you're in a completely new place and don't know where anything is, don't know a single person, and basically feel like a fish out of water. I spent the afternoon trying to get settled in my hotel and learning my new surroundings.

The flight was NOT what I was expecting as far as transit from one major capital city to that of its closest ally. There wasn't even a jet bridge to get on the plane so we had to walk down metal steps then back up more steps to actually get on board. The plane was the same size as the ones that fly from Dallas to San Angelo. The flight took about as long too -- a little under 2 hours.

The Ottawa airport was tiny too! Very clean and modern looking, but definitely small. I got new Canadian money from an ATM then got a taxi to take me to the hotel.

The drive from the airport to my hotel was really pretty. We drove along the Rideau Canal and I saw lots of people out on bikes and kayaks. I unpacked all my things then went for a walk. I found the national art museum (love!! I can't wait to go through) and the Beaux Arts neighborhood where there were a LOT of really neat, different restaurants with sidewalk seating. I found one that looked good and had a sandwich, fries and raspberry wheat beer.

Now I'm about to walk to the grocery store and will probably have an early night.

Bye from Canada!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wild and Precious is Going International!

We'll be brining you blog postings from our neighbor to the north! And I don't mean Oklahoma!

Scarlett is going to be in the land of maple leaves and Mounties for 5 weeks and there's no WAY she would leave Scout behind on a trip this major. They have big plans for the Ottawa Invasion.

Watch this space for more on the Canadian adventures of Scarlett and Scout.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Of China and Church - Easter Reflections

{Scarlett here}

Yesterday I read this article in the New York Times. It's about how members of a Christian church in China were detained for trying to hold an Easter service in a public square.

This breaks my heart. I can't imagine not being able to go to church on Easter Sunday, the most special of all Sundays, and I am humbled and worried to know that Christians on the other side of the world are probably still in jail for exercising a right that I often take for granted. It takes a lot of courage to believe in your Savior so much that you will willingly risk jail time to worship Him.

After reading this, I started to think of how lucky I am to be able to worship freely, and how sad I would be if I would ever have to miss worship on Easter Sunday. Then I remembered that one year I had. It was the Easter I spent in China.

For most people around me that day, it was an ordinary Sunday, and a work day for me. The season had changed; they always seemed to change so quickly and abruptly in China. One day it was bleak and cold, and the next day winds swept through bringing lots of pollen and dirt flying through the air and all of a sudden, lime green leaves began to sprout on the trees. I was teaching English at a private language school and the weekends were my busiest days.  The school administrator marked the occasion by bringing in a box of hot cross buns from the bakery to put in the teacher's lounge. I appreciated the gesture, but was really bummed that I was the only one out of all of my coworkers and friends who attached any religious significance to the day, and who mourned not being able to be in church. I heard that there was actually a Christian church in the Chinese city where I lived, but it was controlled by the Communist party. Even if I had Sundays off, I don't think I would have been comfortable worshiping there. (The reason Christianity is suppressed in China is because nothing is supposed to be higher than the Party.)

I was in China for 7 months, which is the longest stretch I've ever gone without ever going to church. It's interesting to try to figure out what being a Christian means in an environment like that when for all of your life, being a Christian has meant, if nothing else, going to church on Sunday. I'd like to say that I figured out, in the absence of my usual Sunday morning ritual, how to extend extra compassion, grace and love to my fellow man to make up for not being able to worship as usual. That I filled that empty cup with other good things.

The truth is, throughout the latter months of my time in China, it was all I could do to hang on to any sense of inner peace for myself, much less try to extend it to others. I read my Daily Guideposts nightly, which I think was my saving grace. In some way, that book made me feel connected to my Christian brothers and sisters even if they were a world away. As far as being able to discuss religion with anyone, when my coworkers--the only ones in that whole country of 1.3 billion I could speak English with--asked me about my faith, if I prayed, if I went to church, I answered them honestly, and my responses were usually met with derision. They made fun of me for so many things, for being from Texas ("small-town redneck" and "backwards"), for being an American ("sheltered know nothings who try to run the whole world but don't know anything about it"), for refusing to disrespect George W. Bush even though I have no love lost for that man but will not insult my own president in a foreign country, for not denouncing the Iraq war because my friends were fighting in it ("imperialist"), for trying to acknowledge the 4th of July (they tore down the red white and blue sign I put on my door). For all of those insults, they really hurt my feelings. But when they tried to make fun of me for being a Christian, it didn't hurt my feelings in the slightest bit. It just made me pity them. I suppose that's something.

When you get right down to it, the blessing of going to church isn't so much in the polished pews, the dress clothes, or even the beautiful music and thought-provoking sermons, though I love all of that. It's getting to be around people who believe what you do, who support you in struggles and who share in your joys and who understand the deep peace of knowing that God still speaks. Not having that in China made something inside my heart shrivel just a little bit. My faith didn't dwindle, but my joy did. (Thankfully whatever shrank has since been repaired.)

Back to those brave people who only wanted the joy of worshiping freely with other Christians on Easter morning. They have my respect, my sympathy and my prayers. I hope that if they're in jail they will soon be released. I hope that the day will come soon when they can worship freely and in peace.

Blessings to you,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the soul

My friend Work Girl sent me this gem today. She wrote it awhile back and was generous enough to share it with us. I hope it will lift your spirits like it did mine.

"the soul" by Work Girl

There are some very simple things to understand about the soul.  It is the one thing that never perishes, it does not run along the same course as the body but has the freedom to grow younger and lighter as the body gets older.  Its spirits can rise even as physical form is assaulted, beaten down.  It is not fettered to common sense, physicality, fatigue, time.  The soul actually maneuvers, lives, breathes, acts outside of time.
Talk about a miracle.
Conversely, the soul can wither and fade even at a person's peak of physical health.  It can crack as the body gets stronger, break as the mind learns more and ages experientially.  The soul can be the transient opposite to any situation.
The soul proves God more than anything in nature ever will because it proves His image outside of time, space, culture, matter, tangible forces, scientific absolutes.  And yet it is an absolute and can be proved everytime someone smiles peacefully and contentedly as they lay dying of cancer or as an Olympic athlete fights depression and inadequacy after winning a gold medal.  There is nothing scientific to prove about that.  It is simply labeled something aloof and indeterminable like 'the human condition' and set aside as a silent component of life not to understand but certainly to marvel at abstractedly upon hearing a story of someone gaining hope as they begin to starve stranded in an imploded mine.
The soul lies completely unseen, intangible, and yet its form is known and felt every moment as though it were a ponderous giant sitting on our head, filling a room... or as though it were a panther, strong and stealthy, stalking the situation with intentional force.  Sometimes the soul behaves as a fairy fluttering through the forest shedding rainbow glitters, dusting everything with evanescent brilliance.
But here, we have to give visual, physical image to the soul in order to communicate it.  Because the actual soul is unseen.
But it is not unknown.
Even though neither the strongest microscope nor largest telescope could distinguish it under the most focused scrutiny.  Could you imagine if a scientist one day expounded the startling declaration that he had captured a soul and taken a picture of it? How much do you think that image would sell for?
A soul is beautiful without being seen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scarlett's LA Adventure

A few weekends ago, I got to have a fabulous LA adventure with my mom. It was an absolute blast. We got to see all of the glamorous sites of Rodeo Drive (helLO opulence), tour stars' homes (well, their neighborhoods anyway... HelLO Harrison Ford), and have some fun in the sun on the Santa Monica Pier.

Here are a few snapshots of our weekend:

Our Favorite Hangout


Scout and I have many things in common. We love fashion, we love books, we love travelling, we love writing, we love double entendres. We love plotting our futures. And more often than not, while we're scheming, talking and kibbitzing, we're drinking coffee. Sometimes together at my mom's kitchen table, or at Scout's kitchen table, or at a booth at the Sutton County Steakhouse.

I'm sure it's no surprise to any of you that we love to hang out at coffee shops. Today, we're going to treat you to a mini-tour of our favorite coffee joints. Mine is 2 blocks from my new apartment in a ritzy suburb of Washington, DC.

It's called the Bayou Bakery. (Yes, that's snow on the awning. Curses.)

I love this place. One the one hand it's funky and upscale because, duh, this is Yuppie Town, so it has to be stylish. On the other hand, it has down-to-earth Southern touches that make the Texan in my soul jump up and scream with glee. Example: the people at the table next to me are eating buttermilk biscuits with honey. There's New Orleans jazz piped through the speakers. There are light fixtures made out of Bell jars. Love.

It's Sunday morning, the perfect time to sit and relax before heading to church. Here's what I treated myself to:

We've got my order of beignets* piled with powdered sugar,** chicory coffee in a French press with lots of half and half and raw sugar, and my Message bible for a little morning inspiration. I love my Message bible because it's a translation that's easier (for me) to follow than some others and really brings the Word alive. A gem from this morning:

My grace is enough, it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Not pictured is my bible bookmark: a picture of Baby Scout from her 1st birthday party invitation. It makes me smile every time I open it.

I've got a little more time left here to finish my coffee and read the Washington Post and New York Times online.  I love lazy Sundays!

*Beignets are Cajun/French donuts made famous by Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.
**Ask my dad sometime what happens when you inhale a pile of powdered sugar before you take a bite.


{Scout's hangout coming soon!!}

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Egyptian Friends


I'm not here today to give my political views on what's going on in Egypt. Today, I just want to tell you about my Egyptian friends. They are weighing heavily on my mind because I'm so worried about their safety and their future. By telling you about them, I'm hoping that I can show some personality and humanity behind all of the TV images of rioting mobs and unspeakable violence. To me, those people gathered in  squares in Egypt's largest cities aren't just unnamed masses. My friends might be among them, friends who helped me through a hard month in Egypt, friends who I'll never forget.

I went to Alexandria, Egypt, one summer in July a few years ago. I wanted to study Arabic, so I signed up for a program and booked a plane ticket. At this point, I'd already traveled to 20 foreign countries so I thought I was a savvy traveler and that my days of culture shock were long behind me. I was wrong. My first few days in Egypt were terrifying, mainly because everything was SO foreign to me that I didn't know what to do or how to be. I was petrified of leaving the walls of my room by myself because I didn't know what would happen if I walked around on the streets alone. The heat, the unruly bustle of traffic, the unfamiliar language, the unfamiliar way people dressed, the jeers I got from men, and the jarring call to prayer blasted on the loudspeakers 5 times a day freaked me completely out. On my first day, a monk at the convent I stayed in walked me to a McDonalds. That meal was about the only thing I ate for 2 days. I was too scared to venture out to find anything else.

Then I started my Arabic school and met some of the most wonderful people who made me feel welcome, who (slowly, slowly) taught me how to read, write and speak, who took me to mosques, hookah bars, and to a Muslim wedding, who made me laugh with their jokes and made me think with their tough but respectful questions about the US.

First is Afaf.

She was a language teacher who worked with me on vocabulary. She was also an expert on ancient Egyptian history and could even read hieroglyphics. And in the male-dominated culture of the Middle East, she was a rare example of a female entrepreneur. She started her own tourism business and led tours around Cairo and Luxor. She was funny and vivacious, and very open with me about her Muslim faith and was willing to answer any of my questions. One day I asked her, "Afaf, why do you wear that head scarf? Doesn't it make you feel oppressed?" I will never forget her answer.

She said, "No! I wear it because I am precious. God made me so special that only my husband can see me without it. You can put a tomato out on the street, but a woman is precious and she must be covered." If that's the way she feels, who am I to tell her differently? Afaf guided me through a mosque and even taught me all the motions that Muslims go through when they do their prayers. She wasn't trying to convert me, she was just trying to explain.

Next is Sallam.

Talk about personality! He introduced himself by saying, "My name is Sallam. That means peace!" This guy was a huge flirt, and all of my female Italian classmates (and ok, me too) thought he was adorable. He always had that huge smile on his face and was free-spirited and fun-loving. He told me his favorite place in Egypt is Luxor, except for in the summer because it's too hot. One time he saw me typing an email on the school's computer and just marveled at how I held my hands on the keys and how fast I can type. He thought it was amazing and said one day he wanted to learn to type like that.

Last is the one who's closest to my heart. His name is Amr, and, looking back on it, he's the closest I've ever come to having a Muslim sweetheart.

He's from a small town and his dad is a preacher (well, an imam), so we had that in common. (Sidenote: you know how if you say you're from small town Texas, people ask you if you ride horses to school? He said the same thing happened to him except it was camels.) He's a really bright, intellectual guy who speaks impeccable English. He teaches at the best university in Cairo that's one of the most reputable universities in the whole Middle East. He taught at my school for that summer to make extra money.

One evening he invited me to a sidewalk cafe where we had non-alcoholic beer (like all good Muslims, he didn't drink) and talked about life and politics. He invited me to his apartment (which is a HUGE deal in this society and was probably a faux pas to have a member of the opposite sex unchaperoned in your living room) where we ate dinner and talked to his friends and roommates. He had to do most of the interpretation because I don't think they spoke English. Then one night, we were walking along the beach to a concert and he grabbed my hand and held it as we walked along the shore. As an American, this is about as mild a form of physical affection that you can get. But in Egypt, and in public no less, this was a major break with convention. It was sweet.

His dream was to study in London or in the US, but he said he'd prefer England because he'd heard that it was really dangerous for Muslims to live in the US and was worried that he'd get beaten up. He eventually did get to go study or work in London for three months and said it was a wonderful experience.

When I heard about all of the rioting, I emailed him to ask if he was OK. It took him a few days to get back to me, but eventually he was able to write back and say that he appreciated my email, he was OK and would write more soon.  That's the last I heard. I don't know if he's involved in the protests or not.

I get knots in my stomach when I think about what my friends might be going through right now and what their futures might hold. Every time I see pictures of the riots in the paper, I search the crowds for their faces.

I want so badly for them to be safe. I want so badly for their futures to be bright.

I'm sending them all the prayers my heart can hold.~

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No Mo' Snow

I sit here on my perch in my corner apartment watching a dazzling winter snowstorm from my floor-to-ceiling windows. Big, fat flakes are falling to the ground. (And the snow is coming down hard too. Heh.)

Some people might say it’s beautiful. (And OK, right now, I’m warm and cozy on the couch in my sweats under an electric blanket drinking hot spiced chai and home two hours early from work and my view does kind of look like what Frosty would see from inside a snow globe.) But if you want to know the truth, I HATE SNOW.

It makes such a mess and is scary to drive in. And the day after, the snow on sidewalks and up against the curb turns brown and gross. It makes dirt stick to your car. Have you ever had to scrape snow and ice off your car while it’s still falling? Ugh!!!

I used to not be this way. I used to think snow was picturesque and I used to be pro-snowman building. This all changed for me on a dreary winter day, December 20, 2006. At the request of my good friend Gator, I will tell you the story. Lean in close…

…As I said, it was December 20, my 24th birthday. I was working as a receptionist in downtown Denver. The snow started to fall in the morning, and it fell hard. Coloradans are hearty folk and don’t believe in missing work because of snow. I had to do some major arm-twisting with my boss to be able to leave by noon. By then, at least 6 inches of snow had already accumulated and it was still coming down hard. I got in my Acura, got on the highway, and hoped for the best.

It was treacherous driving. A few miles from my apartment, the already slow traffic came to a complete standstill. I moved maybe 6 inches in the first hour. And the snowfall had turned into a legitimate blizzard, a total whiteout. I could only see through a tiny 4-6 inch square on my windshield, and, through that, only the taillights of the car in front of me. My wipers were getting so caked with ice that they were useless against the onslaught. Every 30 minutes or so, I’d roll down the window, lean out as far as I could to grab the windshield wiper and knock some of the ice off with my scraper. The snow was blowing sideways and would whip into my ears and blow my hair all around my face. It was terrifying. I wasn’t able to move, I couldn’t see, I didn’t want to get out of my car for fear of being run over by an out-of-control vehicle, and worse: I was low on gas, low on cell phone battery, and had to use the bathroom.

After at least four and a half hours of being stuck like this, I finally made it up to the intersection where I could turn around. I thought that I might make it home if I took a different route. However, there was an incline to get to the on-ramp to the interstate, and my Acura just couldn’t do it. My car did amazingly well up until that point, but then it just … gave up. It wouldn’t go forward. When I tried to back down, it wouldn’t go backward. I was stuck. And the blizzard was still coming down.

At this point, my memory gets a little fuzzy. It had been about five hours and I was rapidly losing the will to carry on and barely cared what became of me. I resigned myself to living out the rest of my days in a car stuck on the on-ramp.  A police officer appeared and tapped on the window. I rolled it down. He asked me how I was doing. I told him that my car was stuck, my cell phone was dead, I was almost out of gas and it was my birthday. He said happy birthday. (Thanks, buddy.) He asked if I needed help. I’m like, duh.

He got some other cop, and the two of them held onto my arms as we walked down the interstate on-ramp to a police SUV at the bottom.  I got in the back of the SUV, and the two officers, whom I still think of fondly, let me pick the radio station and chatted with me on the 2-3 mile drive home. They couldn’t actually turn into my apartment complex because of the snow. They got as close as they could to the nearest curb. I waved goodbye and walked about a quarter mile through thigh-high snow to get to my front door. My hair was wet and ropy. My clothes were drenched, and when my roommate opened the door, I’m sure she saw a wild look in my eye.

A few days later, I, with the help of some friends, a big jeep, and a tow rope, recovered my car from an impound lot. It had snowed AGAIN after they put it in the lot and it was stuck in ice and had to be jerked out. I almost didn’t make it home for Christmas and, on my move back to Texas, got stuck at a trashy truck stop in Durango on New Year’s Eve thanks to another storm.

Since then, I’ve hated snow. Living through Snowmagedden last year didn’t help. I’ll save that story for another time, but let me just say that I put the ‘crazy’ in stir-crazy.

Dreaming of fruity drinks on tropical islands,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Work Girl: Eating Our Way Through Central Texas, Part 2

{Work Girl}

We've all heard the old adage 'the way to a man's heart is through his stomach'.  For our recent road trip through Central Texas, this morsel of wisdom also held with equal truth 'the way to Scarlett and Work Girl's heart is through bbq.  And not just any bbq.  Texas bbq'.

Scarlett and I rolled hard into Austin looking like we had been run hard and drug wet.  I can't adequately express the mini's dilapidated, pathetic demeanor.  It started raining as we began our journey to College Station, and the drizzle and occasional torrents were still flowing strong in Austin.  Fortunately, Scarlett decked us out in style at the historic and majestic Driskill Hotel in the heart of downtown Austin, right on 6th Street.  We were both speechless with appreciation upon our first bedraggled step into the decadent lobby.

After a short siesta in our size XXXXXL complimentary Driskill robes, we were refreshed and ready to paint the town red. 

Scarlett's bubbly and lovely galpal swooped us up in style for dinner at Lambert's BBQ, where we joined her significant other and enjoyed specialty cocktails muddled and swirled by the bartender who also happened to be her handsome, single, actor cousin.  The night was already off to a terrific start.

The bbq itch must have been equally strong in both Scarlett and me as we ordered brisket and pulled pork, an uncommon practice for either of us.  But, Lambert's confident attitude and classy style assured us this would be a special experience.  First, we savored deviled eggs and pickled olives and shallots which alone would have been enough to call the night a success.  This was followed by the barbequed brisket and pork that truly felt like cutting into butter and had such warm, smoky flavor that it was easy for us to stuff ourselves senseless and remember why Texas is famous for its bbq. 

We ended this perfect meal with Americanos and dessert.  Scarlett ordered:  fried apricot pie.  I ordered:  pumpkin bread pudding.  Both topped with homemade vanilla ice cream.  Need I say more?  We needed to be rolled back to our hotel room, but it was worth it.  And, it's safe to say we both lost our hearts to Texas bbq that night, and I can't wait to go back and lose my heart again. ;-)

Scarlett and I did not stop there but enjoyed an amazing breakfast at the Driskill's famous cafe & bakery, hiked to the Capitol, and lunched before beginning our journey home.  As we rode into the sunset with stomach's grossly extended and laughter brimming, we marked down another triumphant adventure... of eating our way through Central Texas.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whatcha Eatin? Part One: Aggieland

{Scarlett here}
Hello everybody! This report is coming to you live from my home state of Texas. I've been sent here for work and took a few extra days of vacation to see some of my favorite cities and friends in the Lone Star State. I met up with my ol' pal Work Girl for an epic road trip across Central Texas that involved 1) loud, prolonged laughter, 2) awesome hotel rooms, 3) singing along to the radio in her Mini Cooper and 4) making lots and lots of good memories. However, the definitive part of our trip, the one thing that everything else revolved around, ended up being -- you guessed it -- food.
I looove food. I've always enjoyed going out to eat, and one of the things I miss most about not living in Texas are my favorite food groups: Mexican, bbq, and fried. Sure, you can find imitations in Washington, DC, but let me tell you, it's not the same. So I set out on this vacation with very specific ideas about exactly where and what I wanted to eat.
My first foodie experience was in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. I had a gourmet, 5-star breakfast at the buttcrack of dawn on Saturday morning. In a gas station. With a two police officers, a judge, and a detective (my very own brother). Most cops get donuts and cheap coffee for breakfast, right? Not these. I was treated to a first class meal of yummy breakfast tacos and freshly brewed coffee at what's billed as a five star restaurant. You just have to walk past a couple of gas pumps and through the potato chip aisle to get to it. I also got to catch up on on the lastest scuttlebut on crooks, theives, and ne'er-do-wells. I'm telling you, this was better than cable tv.
I went back to the police station with my brother, where Work Girl picked me up to start our road trip. (Let's hope that's the LAST time you have to pick me up at the police station, right??) Our first destination: College Station, home of Texas A&M University, our alma mater. I hadn't been back since I walked the stage for my Master's two years ago. Combine my excitement about going back with about 8 cups of coffee that I'd had that morning and I was practically bouncing around the Mini Cooper like a rubber ball. We intended to be in College Station in time for lunch but because of rain (yeah, let's blame it on the rain) by about 12:30ish we were still on the road, getting hungry, and needing a(nother) bathroom break. We were conveneintly passing through Small Town Texas and noticed a Dairy Queen. We decided to pull in to use their facilities and agreed that it would be rude to not order anything. To be polite, we decided to get a blizzard: chocolate, with Reese's Pieces. It was a nice prelude to our much-anticipated triumphal entry to College Station and Wings n More, our favorite local restaurant (don't judge.)
Both Work Girl and I had fond and vivid memories of Wings n More. We'd had dates there. Lots and lots of dates. We remembered exactly how it looked, exactly what the waitresses wore, and exactly how it was supposed to taste. So when we walked in and noticed some changes we were alarmed. First of all was the menu. Not only did it look different, they'd changed the minimum number of wings you had to order from 6 to 10. (OK fine, I'll get 10.) Second was the ketchup bottles. They used to have those red cylinders with the little plastic cones on top that allowed you to create designs on your French fries. No more. Those have been replaced with fat Heinz bottles. So much for the smiley face I was going to make. And they got rid of the huge rolls of brown paper towels on each table and instead had a pristine stack of white napkins. Sigh. Grudgingly we ordered the wings, the fried pickles, the chicken tenders and fries, the Dr. Peppers and the side of ranch, hoping against hope that it would come out the same as we remembered but fearing that these imposters who took over the place might not know how things are supposed to be run. At least in that regard, our fears were misplaced. The pickles? Delish, hot and crispy. The wings? Spicy, messy and juicy, just how they're supposed to be. The fries? Delectable, despite the tampered-with ketchup. The Dr. Pepper? Just as good as we remembered.
The rest of our food experience in College Station was also divine. We went to La Bodega for dinner and had the BEST baja-Cali tacos. I chose the pulled pork while Work Girl tried the sushi taco. I paired mine with a frozen margarita swirled with sangria. Yum! The next morning, or ok maybe it was noon, we went to our favorite coffee shop hangout, Sweet Eugene's, for brunch. I have spent HOURS in that place, reading, cramming, and consuming just about every latte combination they have. This time I got a cappucino and a jalepeno, sausage and cheese kolache. Work Girl had a non-fat chai and egg and cheese bagel. We sat in a cute little table near the window while we enjoyed our food and reminisced. The whole combo was so good that I had another. (What, those kolaches are small.)  We capped off our visit to College Station by driving through campus and looking at our old dorms, our old dining halls and our old classroom buildings, awww.
And with that, we set out in the rain for Austin. To find out what we ate, um, I mean what we saw, um, I mean all of the culture we consumed in the state capital, stay tuned for more from Work Girl.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Whatcha' Wearin'?


  I got an amazing text from Scarlett at 6:30 this morning as I was dressing for work.  It made me smile for two reasons:
1.  Because she was somewhere amazing living her dreams...which makes me very happy for her.
2.  Because I was standing in my bathroom in an AWESOME Betty White t-shirt that was her Christmas gift to me.  The girl knows me well.  :)

  For Texas standards, it is FREEZING this week.  No snow, just bitter (for us) cold.  My campus administrator has allowed us to wear jeans every day this week if it helps keep us warm. I got to thinking, I wonder what fab outfit Scarlett is rocking today?  A phone message later we have a blog assignment: "What I Wore".  "What I Rocked to Work Today".

  A little background info.  I am an elementary physical education teacher.  Before you conjure up images of chain smoking, tube sock wearing, trucker hat sporting, gym teachers, please keep in mind, THAT IS NOT ME!  But seriously, I can't believe I am paid to play with kids.  I love what I do!

  I don't always love dressing the part.  I love fashion.  I love clothes.  I do not love gym clothes.  I do what I can to make it my own.  Here is what I wore today:

The Boots!  A Christmas gift from my father.  I feel like one bad, mammajamma in these beauties.  I literally kick open doors when I wear them.  I don't smoke, but I'm dying to stamp out a cig with my flying peace hearts.   I only wear boots one way, always outside my jeans, a la riding boot style.

 I wore my hair in a messy bun and wrapped this adorable knitted head wrap complete with a knitted rose.  Another awesome Christmas gift from my Aunt.  The red hoodie is by Under Armor and is issued to the coaching staff.  I love this hoodie.

The bag is Louis Vuitton's Tivoli PM in classic monogram.  This was a very unexpected gift from my Mother.  She knows I would have NEVER bought this for myself.  I'll carry it for the rest of my life!

Look closely.  Why yes, those are Western pinup beauties.  A belt I borrowed from my sister to wear with my favorite pair of seven year old skinny jeans.

My favorite thing to wear:  My baby.  I love her.

{Scarlett's turn}

~Hello~ to all of our new followers, and a warm *bonjour* to our friend in Paris! We're so happy all of you stopped by and we hope you keep coming back.

I have to say that putting my photos up with Scout's makes me feel a little bit like I'm trying to race a donkey in the Preakness. She's an immensely talented photographer and has top-of-the-line equipment. I'm a "hmm, I think I got everything in the shot that needs to be in but if not, oh well" kind of photographer and have a dinky digital camera from 5 years ago.

With those caveats in mind, without further ado, I present to you some snapshots of my wardrobe of choice today.

Here we have this:

I had some important meetings today so a collared shirt with a suit jacket was a must. However, I'm not 50 years old nor am I Janet Reno so I added my own personal flair to the typical corporate pantsuit uniform. I've got my popping fuchsia shirt (because I think that bold pink color adds a little je ne sais quoi), a snappy white vest, and a slate grey jacket with black pinstripes and accordion pleats at the bottom in the back (not shown). You'll also notice the snazzy purse that I re-conned from my grandma's closet on my last visit. I think it looks like a Chanel knockoff. (What, you don't raid your grandma's closet?) Also, if the picture were of better quality, you might notice the gold, diamond and sapphire ring that my other grandma gave me a few years ago. (I bet Kate Middleton is jealous of that.) Gold hoop earrings, a necklace with tiny gold beads, and a blinging gold watch complete the ensemble. Oh, so do black wedge heel boots (also not shown because I took them off as soon as I got home).

No DC-in-the-winter look would be complete without the outerwear. I give you this:

We've got my Gap overcoat, my bright yellow scarf from Eastern Market, my wraparound ear-muffs (thank you Mom) and my mittens with removable flaps. All of that almost, almost keeps me warm outside when I'm trudging through snow and waiting for the bus.

And with that, I bid you goodbye from my kitchen in the nation's capital.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Good Morning

  A few shots before I drove to work Friday morning:

 What greeted me when I opened the front door
Perhaps on their way somewhere warmer

In the mornings and during sunset, the land literally glitters silver, amber, and gold.  Absolutely beautiful.  

A shot from Saturday's photo session:
This is what hometown royalty looks like.  (Ahem, just ask Scarlett, she was once the Queen of our county!)


{This is Scarlett}

Today a friend emailed me to ask if I'd like to join her for a bike ride to Mt. Vernon.

Scout, has anyone asked you to bike ride to Mt. Vernon lately?

I'm curious what it would look like if we came up with lists of things we've been invited to in the last, say, 3 months or so and see how they compare. I'm not trying to see who got the most invites or who's the social butterfly, just want to see what people do for fun in the nation's capital vs. the goat capital. You in?

(BTW, my response: "Bike ride? I don't THINK so. But if you ever want to go out for milkshakes or chili cheese fries, count me in.")

~Scarlett's List of Invites~

*Dinner and a play
*House party (2)
*Networking happy hour at place that serves my *favorite* Vermont cheddar and apple pizza
*Another happy hour
*Black Swan at swanky DC theater that serves both alcohol and wasabi peas. (I had a glass of merlot and, in a nod to tradition, popcorn.)
*Blackfinn, a bar in DC, for my b-day. Thanks for that free bottle of champagne, Blackfinn!
*The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, a movie theater that shows old movies and serves pub food
*National Tree Lighting Ceremony. If ONLY I'd gotten tickets!
*Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. SO much fun with 80,000 of my closest friends.
*Starbucks. Yes, sometimes I go twice a day.
*The Galleria. If only I had $600 to spend on a purse... :(
*Hot yoga

Hmm. Maybe there are more but this is all that springs to mind right now.

Bye from DC! ----

{Scout coming atcha'}

First of all, I can't believe you turned down riding bikes on Mt. Vernon.  Shame on you.  ;)  Your list of invites is impressive and sounds like an absolute blast.  My turn:

~Scout's List of Invites~

*Ugly Christmas Sweater Bunco*

And there you have it, Folks!

Dude, I'm not even kidding you.  Although my list of invites is very small, I did have a couple of hotel stays this month!  You know how it is, Scarlett.  If you really want to do something, you gotta get the hell outta' Dodge.  And I did.

Mom, the baby, and I spent two wonderful days shopping in San Antonio for the Christmas Holidays.  We stayed at a beautiful resort that over looks the city.   There is something about San Antonio that makes me love being a Texan.  I think is a mixture of the History, the Tex-Mex culture, and the overall friendlyness of the city.

The next hotel stay was in downtown Dallas, TX.  The Big D!  It was perfect.  The hotel was only ten percent occupied.  We didn't see a soul!  Across the street was a super urban dog park and playground.  This playground was straight out of Yo Gabba Gabba.  I think I had just as much fun playing on the equipment as the daughter did.  A huge, huge, huge Christmas tree art made of metal and lights adorned the middle of the park.  Randomly, Christmas music would blare from hidden speakers.  It was almost eerie, but in a cool way.  I will forever cherish this memory:  P is freed from her stroller and happily navigating the concrete jungle.  Suddenly, the Christmas music blares from out of know where.  She freezes.  I giant grin emerges, and then she starts shakin' her little booty, right there, in down town Dallas.   The husband and I join in.  We must have been a sight to see!

  Most of my invites where family related.  Here is how we differ, Scarlett.  I'm sure we both pine for what the other has from time to time.  I know I would love nothing more than to throw on some heels and drink something fizzy from the rooftops.  I'm sure you would love nothing more than to get out of work, drive half a mile to your Mom's house and enjoy a meal she prepared just for you, just because.

  Next time I'm eating my mom's oven BBQ'd chicken, or sampling fried wild turkey at the ranch from the hunting cabin, I'll think of you.  But only if you silently raise your fizzy drink from somewhere swanky and fab for me.  :)

Bye from 90 miles north of Mexico and 60 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Peak

{Scarlett here}

When I was little, we lived in a tiny town of about a thousand people. Moving to a town of two thousand people when I was 6 was a HUGE upgrade because they had a Dairy Queen and a Pizza Hut AND a doctor, all in the same town. No Wal Mart, no McDonalds, no movie theater and no mall, but I could get a Blizzard whenever I wanted. As you can imagine, growing up like this forges a unique perspective on the finer things in life.

As a little girl, I remember one of the most exciting things ever was driving through Midland, Texas, and admiring the skyline from the back of my parents' station wagon. It was amazing. It was probably about like what Dorothy felt when she glimpsed the Emerald City for the first time. I was just in awe of how tall the buildings were. Skyscrapers, my parents called them. Wow. I'd never seen buildings so tall that they actually brushed the sky. I craned my little neck to gaze up at them, trying to see all the way up to the top, in wonder at the marvels of human ingenuity that could build such amazing things.

Fast forward to me as an 18-year-old, moving off to college. I had hit the big time. I was moving to College Station, Texas, and would be right in the thick of city life. There was traffic! And more than two traffic lights! An Olive Garden! (The luxury!) A mall! A Target! Lots of ice cream places! (squeal!!) AND a huge movie theater. It was official: I had landed in the middle of a booming metropolis! And I loved every minute of it.

There's been a lot of mileage between where I sit now and the 18-year-old who thought the Olive Garden was the height of sophistication. I'm not exactly sure of the exact time and place that I realized that College Station is not, in fact, a "booming" metropolis and that Midland, Texas, is just a *little* more dusty and barren than the Emerald City. It might have been that summer I spent in Paris. It could have been my post-college move to Denver and my job in a REAL skyscraper downtown. (I always felt so grown up in my high heels with my Starbucks cappuccino in hand as I walked to my job in one of the tallest, shiniest buildings in Colorado's capital city.) Or maybe it was living in China in a city of 5 million, which, to the Chinese, was a mere backwater, that put my previous experiences in perspective.

I like the apartment I'm in now. It's the nicest place I've ever lived. There are granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. We have floor to ceiling windows that go all the way around the living room. I love sitting on the couch with my coffee and being able to look down on the street and watch people and cars go by as I watch TV.

At the end of the month I'm moving to a place that's even more wonderful, if you can believe that. It's a gorgeous apartment home with the same nice countertops, high ceilings, huge bathrooms and a balcony. It's in the best part of town too, with all sorts of shops, restaurants and bars near by. It's where all the hip, young people live. But despite all my newfound urban sophistication, I KNOW that little girl who was in awe of the skyscrapers in Midland is still somewhere deep down inside me.

How do I know? Because the very BEST thing about my new place is that it will be within walking distance...

...of The Cheesecake Factory.

How could life ever get better? I have reached the peak of all human achievement.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Things I Learned in 2010

{Scarlett here}

1. Traveling in the US can be just as much fun as traveling overseas. SoCal, I love you. NYC, you're exhausting but for V, I'll come back anytime (as long as we can go to bed by 8:30). Orlando? That was a fabulous time that I'll never forget. VA Beach and Asheville, Annapolis and Charlottesville, I'm glad you're close enough that I can drive. And there's nothing quite like visiting Texas, though sometimes I wonder why they don't stamp my passport when I cross the Red River.

1a. But they DID stamp my passport when I went to RIO!!! Now I know what it's like to have visited 5 continents!

2. I came into my own as a professional. I know that because I can say what I do without giggling (most of the time).

3. My heart is stronger than I thought. It shattered into a million tiny pieces, but now? I'm SO much happier because I figured out who I am as just *me.* Not me + what he wants me to be - what he doesn't want me to be.

3a. All the good reasoning in the world can't change someone's mind.

4. People don't just fake their deaths on soap operas. Bizarre, right? I'll have to explain that one later.

5. I love blogging. It's my creative outlet and I'm SO glad I started. And even though I don't do it as much as I used to, I often think about my favorite bloggy friends (I know you know who you are because I comment on your posts!) and wonder how you're doing and send happy thoughts your way.

6. I stink at making pork loin.

Oh wait, that was tonight, not 2010. Close enough.

7. I have the BEST friends. You are supportive, encouraging, fun, smart and beautiful and I am SO lucky to have you in my life. (YES, I'm talking to you!)

8. If the sign in the parking garage says "no right turn," they mean, "NO RIGHT TURN."

9. Double-stuff Oreos + I Love Lucy = a great way to spend a Saturday morning

10. I can RUN! Who would have thought? The Marine Corps 10k was one of the most fun things I have ever done in DC. I've already signed up for 2 more races this year.

11. A positive attitude goes a REALLY long way.

12. God still speaks.