Archive for the ‘DC’ Category

weekend recap
May 21, 2012

Happy Monday!!  I have a short week coming up, then I’m off to Dallas for a friends’ wedding.  Eeek!!  I hate losing friends to adulthood.

As promised, Colleen and I partook in DC’s free Yoga on the Mall event this past Saturday, and we decided it was completely average.  We are glad we went, but it was hot and steamy on the grass and the speaker system was tough to hear for those of us in the back.  Colleen chose to play photographer for a few minutes during a particularly boring sequence…

Following our hour of yoga, we went back to Colleen’s apartment and got ready for a birthday barbecue.  I sadly did not get any pictures with hostess Ali, but she did make this delicious monstrosity of an ice cream cake that I feel compelled to share.

It was HUGE and negated any of the water weight I had sweated out during yoga.  You win, ice cream cake, you win. 

Have a great week and Memorial Day weekend!!  No matter what you do for the weekend, my only wish is that you spend minimal time in traffic.

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spring garden tour
April 23, 2012

It’s crazy to me that as I write this post, it’s in the forties with an outside chance of snow later–blech.  Get me back to bed.

On Saturday, it was sunny and gorgeous and surprisingly, just on the verge of being humid.  I had stumbled across some article advertising the annual White House Spring Garden Tour, and quickly harassed asked my friends if they wanted to go.  Long story short: most said no, two said yes, alarms were set, hangovers ignored, blah blah blah helllooooo garden party.

We showed up at the little visitor’s kiosk at EIGHT AM to get our tickets, and were astounded to see a line of extremely motivated tourists winding through the streets.  Luckily, after stuffing their tickets into their fanny packs, the rabid tourists sped away on their Segways to go snap up all the dehydrated ice cream from the Air & Space museum so that they would have enough sustenance tonot walk upthe metro escalators.  Ahem.

Guys, this tour is pretty legit.  I can understand why so many tourists seemed to plan their vacations around it–you can literally step right up to the White House.  Despite the fact that it must be the biggest security nightmare of the year, it’s a really amazing way to feel a connection with the daily, more mundane aspects of the President’s life.  The lawn was littered with pretty, educational signs showing past presidents and their wives planting trees–did you know that almost every tree on the White House grounds is commemorative for something?  It’s weird to think that if, say, the Oklahoma City bombing had never happened, this pretty whatever-tree behind us here wouldn’t exist.

lis, me, colleen

Look at this view!!  I had no idea that the monuments all lined up like this. 

We all noticed immediately that the gardens felt completely secluded from the city.  They were quiet, and there were actually a fair amount of places tucked away that would be completely hidden from any public eye.  In our little pamphlet we read that President Ford had built a swimming pool somewhere–and even though we looked, we didn’t see a single sign of it.  Sneaky sneaky, Gerald. 

This is the Rose Garden, site of some press conferences and countless photos of pensive, pacing Presidents.  (Alliteration!) 

Oh heeeyyyyy, Barack.  Let’s hang out because literally, I’m on your balcony.  Whattup.

The Presidential/National/Royal Band was on hand, playing all kinds of patriotic songs and even a little jazz.  Without a doubt, they put the party into garden party. 

We stopped by Mrs. O’s vegetable garden, which I actually found fascinating.  It was small, but our trusty pamphlet said it produced over A THOUSAND POUNDS of produce it’s first year.  One third of all the produce goes to a local charity that helps feed the hungry here in Washington.  In a little corner of the garden were plants that had been grown from heirloom seeds sent over from Monticello.  What a neat way to incorporate a little founding father action into your veggies. 

Oh look, Barack, now I’m standing on your putting green. 

lis, colleen, me

I am happy to say that my hair was doing a really lovely thing where it greases itself back so as to suggest that I am bald with a seven inch forehead, so we will never discuss these photos again.  But on another note, how pretty are my friends? 

Okay, enough about the friends, back to me, this is my blog, no?  I spent the rest of Saturday deep conditioning my hair (no joke, takes two hours), realizing that I need new clothes for spring (just kidding, Mom), and aggressively pursuing a new man who may or may not now be my boyfriend.  You will never know because then I would have to show him the above pictures in which I imitate a greaser with a never-ending forehead. 

Have a great week.

christmas snapshots
December 19, 2011

I’m about to dive into my monstrous pile of clean clothes in an attempt to begin the holiday packing process, but thought I’d share a few photos of my supremely festive weekend first.

I think winter has finally found DC, as it has been CHILLY here for the past week.  I can’t wait to be back in the Bay Area where, according to numerous Facebook statuses, it’s mild and not too windy.  Crossing my fingers that the cold doesn’t travel with me when I head back on Thursday.

les, beales, me, thiel

On Thursday, my friends and I ventured to the White House to see the National Christmas Tree.  According to legend the news, this particular tree came all the from the Sequoyah Forest in Northern California.  On its long journey, it made numerous pit stops where children were invited to sign the protective covering over the tree, which I think is a very sweet tradition.  (Fun Fact: in this picture, I was convinced that that beautiful orb right by the Monument was the moon rising–nope, it was just a spotlight for the tree.)

We also grabbed SIXTEEN DOLLAR DRINKS at the Willard next door, which were quite tasty but still not worth SIXTEEN DOLLARS.

Also at the Willard (where the lighting was really bad, apologies), I saw my first gingerbread house!  I’ve been surprised by how hard these are to find in DC, since it seems like even homeless people in San Francisco have them.  This one, while not the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen, reminded me of all the ones Lisa and I used to see when we would go to SF for a weekend with our Grandparents.

les, thiel, SANTA!, beales, me

We found Santa’s Workshop right next to the Christmas tree, and took a hasty but memorable picture with Santa.

Yesterday, we went to Zoo Lights, an annual event where they decorate the Zoo with millions (??) of lights.

It’s almost embarrassing how much I, a 23 year old, enjoyed Zoo Lights.  The whole zoo is pitch black besides for the lights that they have on the trees and on displays, so you really get the full effect.  At one point we walked by a row of trees whose lights were flashing in time to music!  It was amazing.  I then and there decided that when I have enough money to contribute regularly to charity, the Smithsonian is going to be one of the ones I support.

zebra!

 How great is this???

chameleon!

And this!!  I mean, WHAT?!?!?!  They made a chameleon eating a fly out of lights?!

wolf!

A lonely wolf!

panda!

And of course, the Zoo Lights wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory panda.

I also finished up my Christmas shopping this weekend, so I am now officially EXCITED for the holiday season.  I’m going to throw on Love Actually while I pack up my suitcase and prep for the rest of my short week.

I hope you’re enjoying (read: not stressing) this last week before Christmas, and I’m sending you Season’s Greetings from here in Washington DC.

morning run
December 9, 2011

I started my three day weekend off today with the most amazing morning run I’ve had in a long time.  Sometimes there’s nothing quite like waking up early, throwing on some layers, and hitting a great trail for a long, sweaty run–it’s so satisfying to feel your whole body rise to the challenge of a tough workout.  I love feeling my heart ramp up at the beginning of the run, slightly unsettled by my brains’ ambitious plan, but slowly calming down as my muscles warm up and my blood starts flowing.  It’s kind of amazing when you stop and think about everything that has to come together in the human body in order for it finish a quick 6 mile run: lungs, heart, brain, muscles, joints, sweat glands, plus every little thing in between.

I picked one of my very favorite trails to run this morning, the Mount Vernon trail that stretches right along the Potomac.  It’s completely flat and outrageously scenic, two things that help a run feel significantly shorter than it is.  I don’t usually have my phone with me, but I did for some reason this morning, so I stopped frequently to capture a few of the sights I was seeing.

Pretty monument–and you can see the Jefferson Memorial on the very right side of the photo, the big round dome thing.  You can also make out the 50+ tour buses waiting in front of the monument–the bane of all DC drivers.  That one other tall spire in the background is actually the Old Post Office Building, the second highest point in DC.

 

Another monument picture–isn’t the sky beautiful?!

Here’s the Arlington Memorial Bridge, if you drove over it towards the left side of the picture, you’d be in the middle of Arlington Cemetery (still haven’t been there!).  The white squarish building to the right of the end of the bridge is Mr. Lincoln, and the whitish blob right behind the bridge is the Kennedy Center.  Right to the left of the Kennedy Center you can just barely see the National Cathedral (haven’t been there, either!), which is close to where I live.  You can’t see it in the picture, but on my run I could actually see the spires that had broken during the earthquake.

More bridge!  Think of how amazing this would be at night with Lincoln and the monument all lit up.

Another thing I love about this bridge is that it seriously has the BEST statues at each end.  On the Lincoln side is War and Peace, I think, and they’re these stunning golden gods with staggering war horses next to them.

Hey there, Mr. President!!  I’ve always loved the Lincoln Memorial because if you look at the back of a penny really, really close, you can see a teensy little Lincoln etched into the copper (brass?  What is a penny made out of??).  Think of all the billions and billions of places those little Lincolns have been!!

This is at Gravelly Point, one of the best places in the entire city.  (It’s technically in Virginia, but literally a 40 second swim away from the Jefferson Memorial.)  It’s no more than 30 feet away from the runway at the Reagan National Airport, and it’s the coolest feeling to be chugging along the path and have a huge airplane come in for a landing right over your head.  The plane is so loud it consumes you for a few seconds, and you feel the engines in the ground under your feet and smell the gas right as it passes you.  The whole 5 second experience is intoxicating.  (When it’s warmer, I want to go to the park and lay on my back in the grass and just watch the planes land, one after the other.)  I swear the people in the plane could probably see the color of my eyes from the comfort of their seats.

It’s really easy to imagine how, on 9/11, no one thought anything was unusual about the plane that eventually hit the Pentagon, because the planes fly so close to it as is.  They come in so low over both the bridges, and then suddenly swoop down into Reagan at the very last second.  The Pentagon is catty-corner to the airport; I bet people just thought it was a little off course or something before realizing what was about to happen.  Sad and scary.

I stalked the plane to its gate–and was close enough to see the people getting off the plane!!  Watch your backs, tourists! Heehee.

One last one–and I obviously didn’t see this on my run even though I would have LOVED to–just because it’s the most amazing picture I’ve see all week.  If this doesn’t make you smile in the slightest, there is no hope for you.

I know my Hoos got crushed by Virginia Tech a few weeks ago, but this little guy is all set to go for our upcoming bowl game.  Wah-hoo-wah, baby!!!

Hope you have a great weekend!  I’m off to check out a cool Degas exhibit and hopefully buy all my Christmas presents in one marathon trip.

halloweekend
November 1, 2011

Happy Day-After-Halloween!!  Did you dress up this year?  I pulled out my standby firefly costume, which is a general crowd pleaser and super comfortable.  Win-win.  Les was creative and threw together a jellyfish costume, and Colleen was a self-explanatory nurse.  Moores was…comfy? 

virginia swimming!

Anyways, our truest-to-Halloween celebration actually came on Friday night, a freezing and rainy evening.  We all hiked down to Old Town Alexandria for a ghost tour!  Boo!!

Beales had done a ghost tour when her friend Gemma was in town, so the activity came highly recommended.  I had also heard nothing but good things about it, so I was anxious to go on one myself.  We all figured that there was no better time than Halloween to be spooked, so reservations were made. 

After dining at the always good Pizzeria Paradiso–I had a beer called “The Hopsecutioner,” muahahahaha!–we met our tour guide at the Visitor’s Center.  She turned out to be none other than Sarah Fairfax herself–of the very family that Fairax County is named after!

sarah fairfax showing us her grave

Knowing that I was going to be blogging about this event later, I wrangled all the wonderful tour guides into a picture with us.  They could not have been nicer!

I loved that they were in character.  A ghost tour is one of those activities where the more into it everyone is, the more fun you have.  There is no such thing as too nerdy when participating in a ghost tour.  (The same cannot be said of activities like, say, learning square dancing in seventh grade P.E., or the remedial drivers ed classes at the DMV.) 

Sarah Fairfax took us all over Old Town, through graveyards and into historic churches.  She would tell us creepy stories every time we stopped, usually about a haunted house or a corrupt undertaker.  She spoke in Yoda-talk: “Strange, is it not, that these flowers are blooming at the end of October?” and “See here, you shall, the grave of my husband’s second wife–speak of her you may, but I refuse.” 

in the graveyard!

My favorite story was one about an undertaker who, always interested in earning an extra buck, “invented” a new way of preserving corpses.  It was a common problem in DC summers that bodies would deteriorate quickly due to the heat and humidity, and so corpses had to be buried within a few short days of death.  At one point, a young man died, but his family was too far away to see him before he was buried.  They offered the undertaker a large amount of money if he could keep the body intact until the whole family arrived, and he unwittingly said yes.  Having no idea how he was going to fulfill his promise, but motivated by the money, he begged the butcher across the street to loan him a corner of his freezer.  And suddenly–this entrepreneurial undertaker had a new way to keep corpses looking presentable.

BUT the story is not over.  Sometimes the bodies he would lay on his blocks of ice were not in the cleanest conditions.  Soldiers were dying in the Revolutionary War, and were coming to him bloody and unkempt.  When the ice got too dirty for the butcher to allow in his freezer, the undertaker would buy it from him at a very reasonable rate.  Then, always greedy, the undertaler would resell his dirty, bloody ice to unsuspecting bartenders, usually under the cover of night to avoid unhappy buyers.  And when that dirty ice made it’s way into customers’ drinks, the bartender had to think on his feet–and so came the Bloody Mary, Strawberry Lemonade, and Cherry Coke. 

Creepy!!!  And actually pretty gross. 

ewwww!

We ll decided that the ghost tour was a great Halloween activity, but probably could have been a little better.  My thought was that with the increase in quantity of tours (due to Halloween), the quality might have decreased a little.  There were so many groups combing the streets of Old Town that not everybody could go to the coolest places, leaving some tour guides with less scary material.  I also wished we could have asked Sarah Fairfax questions–she was usually very far in front of the group, and didn’t seem open to pesky tourists asking her things.  But all in all, it was great, and I highly recommend ghost tours around Halloween, and also when you have visitors in town.  A great way to see the sights and get in some history! 

 

 

national gallery of art + andy warhol
October 26, 2011

I believe I mentioned this in one of my previous posts, but I am a big fan of Andy Warhol’s art.  I like how you are unable to look away from his crazy use of colors, and how the seeming inane repetitions remain implanted on your brain even after you turn away, like how the sun is imprinted on your eyelids if you look right at it on a clear day, or how you continue to hear the blaring bass from a dance club even when you are home in your quiet apartment, the remnants of the night following you home. 

Whenever I see works by Warhol, I always think about this random, unrelated print by Craig Damrauer:  

via

Isn’t that so true though?  I look at Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings and Warhol’s colored Marilyn Monroe photograph and think, man, I seriously could do that.  But I, we, no one ever did. 

I drew my inspiration* for my framed hi print from Andy Warhol’s Campbells soup cans.  See?

*inspiration=hangover

 

Ehh?? Eh? (There’s a lot of elbow nudging going on here.)  Definitely some similarities. 

Regardless of the obvious parallels between myself and Warhol, I still like his stuff.  So when I heard there was not one, but TWO exhibits of his lesser seen works coming to town, I was excited.  I chose this past Saturday, grey without being gloomy, to visit the National Gallery of Art for my first time.

I’m a huge fan of doing museums by myself.  I think it’s from the annual summer vacations my family used to go on, 99.1% of the time to museums only, where I would be bored to tears looking at colonial artifacts and reading about Civil War battle strategies.  I would stand in front of (probably the world’s most amazing) painting and pick my nose, growl at strangers, and chew on my hair until my parents would be so embarrassed that they’d take me out to the rental car where I would blissfully play with the automatic windows.  In short, a nightmare for everyone involved. 

My appreciation for art/culture/history/sightseeing has improved dramatically since those days.  I still believe, however, that there is absolutely no shame in spending .001 seconds looking at an exhibit, or skipping it entirely.  Everyone has different things that appeal to them, and you are not obligated to act interested in every single grain of dust that floats by just because it’s famous.  So, I fully support museum-going alone–it is my perferred method.  Nobody is judging me for skipping the Something Something gallery, and I don’t have to wait on someone while they read the Blah Blah plaque. 

So I went to the Art Gallery by myself, obviously looking like a baller because 43 people asked me for directions on the way there, to go see the Warhol: Headlines exhibit.  This time, I was that person reading the whole Blah Blah plaque–and I learned a lot.  (Huh.  Who would’ve thought.) 

The introduction described Warhol’s obsession with Consumerism, and how he viewed the media as just another product, its’ loud and visual headlines the label on another omnipresent package.  Warhol was especially attracted to the subjects of death, disaster, and celebrity, and loved the “stark contrast between the sensational and the mundane.”  [Source.]  He started to satiate his interest in the headlines by simply replicating them, two virtually identical images.  As he studied them more, perhaps becoming more frustrated? more engrossed?, he began twisting and manipulating the front pages until they reflected less the news of the day and more the inner workings of the artist. 

As I wandered through the exhibit, I thought it was interesting to see Warhol’s liberties with the headlines expand.  I got the sense at the end of the exhibit that he was just so fed up with the outrageous front pages and the rather dull news that was being reported; it seemed to me that he relished clawing apart the papers and piecing them back together into his own vision.  There was almost a franticness to his art–this message MUST be changed!  I liked it.

I bought an overpriced catalog book on my way out–the NGA has the best gift shop!–and it’s sitting on my coffee table.  I actually should read it, since it has full pages of text dedicated to explaining each work, and I would thus be more knowledgeable when reviewing the exhibit here.  But I really enjoyed just looking at each headline without necessarily knowing the history behind it–this way I can make my own.

bobby’s burger palace
August 30, 2011

Happy Tuesday, Bloggies!  After weathering Hurricane Irene without a single problem, I am looking forward to a long swim tonight and a fun-filled Labor Day weekend.  Can you believe summer is almost over?!  There was a teensy chill in the air this morning on my walk to the metro, and it made me soooo anxious to splurge on new fall clothes.  Another sure sign that summer is waning–my local bar has now switched their Sam Adams seasonal ale from Summer to Oktoberfest.  Wahhh.

Anyways, work friends and I tried a new restaurant last night– Bobby’s Burger Palace.  Following our celebuchef stalking trend (think: Spike Mendelsohn), we were anxious to visit the recently opened Burger Palace in hopes of sighting Bobby Flay himself.  It opened its doors two weeks ago, and has recieved largely positive reviews so far, so we thought it would be great inspiration to get us through a grumpy Monday.

The restaurant is an extremely casual place, with a super funky, seventies-ish decor.  You order at a register, and then the burger comes straight to you in a matter of minutes.  There’s a really cool long, curved “bar” area that faces the kitchen, which is where we sat.  (We also saw tons of loners at the bar, so if you were ever craving one of Bobby’s burgers but had no one accompanying you, you would be in good company at this “bar.”)

The other seating option is large, communal tables, which is also a cool idea to me.  Because honestly, what else are you there to do besides wolf down a humongous burger?  You don’t need your own private table in a secluded corner to do that.

The menu is limited.  Bobby offers about 10 burgers, all with regional influences.  He has one meatless salad, but zero other veggie options (besides fries).  That seemed a little callous to me–vegetarians are people too!  I didn’t even see a little asterisk saying that any burger could be substituted with a veggie patty.  Hmpf.  Anyways, with the mindset of “Go big or go home!” Lis, Michelle, and I all went for it.  Lis ordered the classic burger–but “Crunchified:” Bobby Flay’s signature addition to burgers. 

That mystery layer is potato chips–an artery clogger if I ever saw one! Yum.  (Also, please note the lamest little leaf of lettuce a poor burger has ever seen.)

I went for the Dallas burger: bbq sauce and coleslaw. 

Michelle attacked a Philadelphia burger: grilled onions and peppers, smothered in Provolone.

Lis even managed to fit her burger monstrosity into her mouth!!  I call that talent.

1,000 calories later, the three of us had empty plates and bulging bellies.  Almost ashamedly, Lis and I decided that we liked Spike’s burgers better.  My Dallas burger was good, but didn’t have a crunch element that I was looking for.  Lis said that the potato chips on her burger didn’t add anything to the taste, and that the whole thing was a little underdressed.  Michelle, having never been to Spike’s, was perfectly happy with her Philly burger. 

Bobby’s is undoubtedly a good deal.  There’s no denying that the meat on the burgers is delicious–and there’s a LOT of it.  Also, beers are only $3.50–WHAT?!  So I got a burger and an Anchor Steam for 12 bucks, which is really hard to beat in this city.  That being said, however, Bobby’s didn’t blow us away.  While Bobby seems like less of a butt nugget than Spike, the flavor in Spike’s burgers is just remarkable.  So, glad we tried the Burger Palace, but we’re not itching to go back. 

lis, michelle, me

 

earthquake day
August 26, 2011

So by now, I think that the majority of the U.S. is aware that the east coast experienced a 5.8 earthquake on Tuesday.  Luckily it appears that, besides a few toppled angels at the National Cathedral, there was minimal damage and no one was hurt.  As for me, I was at work in my Arlington high rise, just finishing up a meeting, when the whole building started swaying.  Everyone immediately started playing a game of prarie dog, poking their heads up above their cubes and looking around anxiously.  My supervisor was actually in the elevator during the quake, and was positive that the cables were about to break.  When he got out of the elevator, he told us all to go outside, so we joined the mass exodus flooding the stairwell.  Someone later said that there were cracks in the walls, but I don’t remember seeing them.  (I noticed that people had a tendency to over-exaggerate in the aftermath of the afternoon: I overheard my coworker tell her dad that the earthquake lasted two minutes!  False.)  We all gathered in an empty parking lot, rattled, each trying in vain to get on our phones and call all the necessary people.  Luckily, I have a Twitter (so THERE, all you nay-sayers!  Twitter IS handy!) and was thus able to get the most up-to-date info.  We milled around outside for about an hour before the building briefly opened back up to allow everyone to get any belongings they had left behind.  I wasn’t sure if the metro was running, and didn’t want to battle it out on a crowded platform with stressed women and farty old men, so I hitched a ride with coworker Suzannah to her apartment only a few blocks away. 

Surprisingly, we proceeded to have a WONDERFUL afternoon.  We popped in a movie (Something Borrowed–not as good as the book) and opened some Woodchucks (can you say Monroe Hill #2, spring semester of fourth year??), and relaxed.  I also found her new iPad, which was an endless supply of entertainment for two girls looking to blow off some steam after a tumultuous few hours.

Her iPad (and most Macs) has a photobooth app, which lets the user distort pictures in a variety of ways.  I proceeded to make myself as beautiful as possible:

Just kidding guys.  This NEXT one really shows me at my best:

Stunning, I know.  Photobooth really captures my best features.

Suzannah and I had so much fun just messing around with her iPad.  It was one of those semi-surreal five minutes where everything is funny–all the circumstances align to make the most ordinary events hilarious.  Perhaps we were so wound up from the earthquake, or from being out of the office at 3 in the afternoon, but we were cracking up.  Her dog, Bitsy, kept wanting to join the fun, but this was an adult-only party.  (Obviously.)

Suzannah also found her most flattering angle:

She was also wildly successful in giving me nightmares for the rest of the night.

I don’t remember the earthquake being particularly scary–it would be better described unsettling because so few people had ever experienced one, and the DC metro area was so inadequately prepared to deal with it.  I don’t think anyone was ever fearful for their lives, but it was certainly a jarring 30 seconds that forced everyone to deviate from their typical Tuesday routines.  (And don’t we all hate that?) 

I know that everyone in California snickered and adopted their favorite know-it-all position, but the earthquake was an unknown phenomenon here.  Imagine L.A. going through the 2009 Snowpocalyspe–all the career lifeguards would be running around with their heads cut off, using their surfboards to try and clear paths to the beach.  (I tease.)  Everybody has things they never have–and never want to–experience, and for many Washingtonians, an earthquake is one of those.

Luckily, Suzannah and I recovered our wits in the amound of time it took to pop open a beer, and had a really great afternoon.  If a casual observer saw the crazy pictures we spent an hour taking, they would have no clue that we had just lived through an earthquake.  (Dramatic enough??) 

I leave you with one last gem before I abandon my computer to buy a flashlight and bottled water in preparation for a lovely weekend with Irene.

indulging my desire to live the trendy life
June 15, 2011

Surprise!  Yesterday was my 23rd (!!!) birthday, and, in the magic that only birthdays bring, it was a most fabulous evening.  As it was a Tuesday, and all my BFFs are working ladies, we really couldn’t get too crazy.  So, I instead used my birthday as an excuse to sample one of the trendiest, most talked-about restaurants in the DC area: Rasika.  It’s a modern Indian establishment in charming Penn quarter, and has recieved many honors and praise in the few years it’s been open.  I had heard from a few coworkers that it took two plus weeks to get a reservation, and that the food was phenomenal, and the little elitist in me immediately needed to go. 

This was my first birthday as a real adult.  Last year, I was a college graduate, but I was coaching a summer league swim team, so my evil children all brought me balloons and cookies and espresso shots, so I felt more spoiled than I ever had in college.  (Their ulterior motive in hoping for an easier practice did nothing to dampen my sugar-induced high spirits.)  Yesterday, however, was literally a normal day: I got on the metro train and the other passengers were as bland as usual; my scheduled meetings went on exactly as planned; the sun wasn’t even shining for my lunch break.  I am not trying to whine and complain about how little attention I got on my birthday–I am merely noting the novelty of celebrating a birthday in the working world.  I feel as if a chapter in my book of birthdays has closed; a page has turned on the outrageous parties, songs and gifts, and a new phase has started fresh with classy dinners, “Happy Birthday” emails, and small tokens of friendship. 

I had a 6:15 reservation, so we donned our very best (our only?) day-to-night outfits and went there straight from work.  We had time for a quick drink at next door Oyamel (reminder to eat here in the future!  Awesome atmosphere.) before being seated at Rasika. 

The decor inside is sleek and very contemporary.  It reminded me of a really good movie soundtrack–it fits in with the film (or restaurant) so well that it augments the experience without you even noticing.  We were in a small secluded room that was bare of all decorations, but was great for a group of 23 year old girls who were getting drunk and loud from a nice sparkling rose. 

We started with their signature appetizer Palak Chaat, which even tentative Melissa enjoyed.  It was lightly fried spinach with all kinds of other things we couldn’t pronounce mixed in, and was airy and so melt-in-your-mouth delicious that I could have easily finished it entirely on my own. 

(I apologize for the lack of planning; all I had was my iPhone and a forgetfulness to document the meal.)

For our entrees, Michelle, Lis, and Melissa all got the Chicken Tikka Marsala, Allison got the Chicken Biryani, and I got the Andhra Vegetable Curry.  We discovered too late that barely any rice came with the dishes, so if you are a big rice-lover, definitely order extra (at $3 a bowl).  We got two naan, one regular and one garlic. 

Thoughts?  The marsala was delicious, if a little heavier and headier than I was expecting.

Allison’s biryani was by far the most unusual dish, as it came in a little pot with a seal of puff pastry keeping the steam inside.  The rice was infused with saffron, which was quite a treat for us, since it is generally out of our price range. 

Last but not least, my vegetable curry was good.  To be honest, if I’m going to order a vegetable dish as a main dish, I’d hope that the veggies would be substantial and delicious.  The ones I got, however, were just small carrots, a few pea pods, and some bay leaves.  I was really looking for some cauliflower or broccili, maybe some eggplant, or even just big hunks of carrots instead of dainty slivers.  That just might be my opinion though. 

Since I was celebrating a birthday, they brought me a festive dessert, with two little sugary cakes and a scoop of either saffron or pistacio ice cream (this was a point of contention between us).  The dessert was delicious and a literally and figuratively sweet way to finish off our dinner.

We packed up our stuff and made our way to Iron Horse, a funky bar by the Verizon Center that had a happy hour until 8.  I bought us all a thank-you round of beers, and we enjoyed an additional hour  arguing about who deserved to win American Idol.  It was an outstanding evening, one that did not try to be anything other than a very low-key birthday celebration and a gathering of friends.

michelle, allison, & lis

So what did we think of Rasika?  We loved the food, and the whole experience was great.  For the price and hassle of getting a reservation, however, we felt that we probably wouldn’t go back unless it was a very special occasion.  We’ve checked it off our DC to-do lists, and while it was a great night, we’re already looking ahead to the next thing.  (Friday night jazz at the sculpture garden?  Or perhaps a walking tour of DC’s haunted houses?)  Anyways, I had a great 23rd birthday, and am so thankful to have made such great new friends in just the few months I’ve been here.

me & melissa

girls on the run
June 5, 2011

Happy Sunday!!

Today truly has been a happy day for me, as my volunteering project came to a glorious and uplifting end.  Do you remember how one of my New Year’s resolutions was to get more involved in my community?  That resolution was the one that I probably took the most seriously, especially because I was fast approaching my six-months-in-DC mark with very little to show for it.  I spent a good month searching for an organization that spoke to me, because I wanted something where I could build personal connections with people and feel like my past was in some way relevant to the work I’d be doing.  In the waning days of February, I found the perfect group: Girls on the Run.

In a nutshell, Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a 12-week program that strives to build the self-esteem and confidence of underprivileged girls by training for a 5k race at the end of the season.  Twice a week, 12-15 girls get together with two coaches for a lesson, which usually deals with issues common to the 3rd-5th graders every day life (bullying, gossiping, drugs), and some running.

Given my sports background, I knew immediately that this was the organization I wanted to donate my time to.  With such a rigorous swim schedule that started in middle school, I experienced first-hand the undeniably positive effect my sport had on my personality and life choices.  There were times that I was, without a doubt, a “Bad Kid,” but because I cared so much about swimming, I never got into drugs, alcohol, sex, late nights, or any other Bad Decision that was so easily available to girls growing up in a wealthy community.  Because I excelled at something, and realized around my freshman year of high school that I had all but cemented a future for myself in swimming, I was confident, proud of myself, secure in the happiness that swimming gave me.  The doors that swimming opened for me–and even more importantly, the ones that it shut–have molded me into the adult I am today.

Being able to look back at the positive impact swimming had on me made me want to share the gift of sports with other people.  Who better than a group of stunningly beautiful, swagger-iffic 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade divas, all of whom loved nothing more than the hours we spent after school talking and running and just being ourselves.  I HAD to be a part of it all.

I co-coached at the Brookland school up in northeast Washington, and my first day was a traumatic culture shock.  I walked into the after-care room with my Kate Spade bag, my iPhone, my Chanel perfume, my $120 running shoes, and found 15 African-American girls looking me up and down, deciding immediately that I had absolutely zero street cred.  Intimidated unlike I had ever been before, it took all of five minutes before the girls nodded their approval and welcomed me into their hearts with sad smiles and excited eyes.

We practiced twice a week for about an hour, and to be completely honest, it was a pretty big time commitment for me.  To get to the school by 4:45 every day meant I had to leave work by 3:45 at the latest–and I still had to work my standard 8 hours.  I was waking up at 5:30, metroing straight to Brookland after work, walking a mile from the metro to the school, giving 110% positive energy every day for the girls, walking a mile back to the metro, and finally heading back home.  I would be away from my apartment from 6:15am to 7pm every Tuesday and Thursday, which, smiling children or not, got to be pretty grueling at times.

The girls taught me one life lesson after another.  Their naivety and innocence about some subjects (gossiping) was so refreshing, but their surprisingly extensive knowledge of other subjects (drugs) was troubling.  For me, they just opened my eyes to things I had never thought about before–things that the path my life was on would never have given me opportunity to think about otherwise.  After Fran died, and after hearing the speech about living the “dash” between your years, I’ve really taken to heart the motto Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  Working with these outspoken, spunky, fabulous girls really got me out of my comfort zone, and I feel so privileged and honored to have spent 12 weeks getting to know them and their families.

Today was the culmination of all our days of hard running: the 5k race.  When I think of my lazy self in 4th grade, I would NEVER have voluntarily decided to run 3.1 miles.  PE was without a doubt my least favorite hour of the day, and any physical activity at recess was pushing it.  Hundreds and hundreds of girls turned out for the race this morning, a true testament to the niche that GOTR has found for young girls needing the encouragement and accomplishment that only sports can give.

My work friend Allison came out on a whim, and was blown away by all the love and support the girls got during their race.  She ran with Ciara, a 3rd grader with a permanently sunny attitude and boundless energy.

I ran with my girl Treshawna, who while sometimes had trouble keeping up with everyone in practice, really pushed herself today and had me working to stay with her.  At one point in the race, she looked over at me and confusedly said, “Dang Coach J, you’re SWEATY!”  (While I know she meant well, I am still recovering from the profound embarrassment of sweating through my shorts at the Nats game on Tuesday.)  She was driving such a fast pace that she didn’t seem to realize that 3.1 miles could be hard for the coaches, too!

The girls were ecstatic after finishing.  I was tearing up watching all of them hugging and showing off their medals to their parents.  When I think that today may have been the first time they’ve ever felt such a tremendous sense of accomplishment, I am both sad and thrilled to have been a part of it.  I think most of them thought they weren’t going to finish, and I could see the pride in their eyes that they were able to climb that proverbial mountain.

my girls with their medals

I am slightly depressed now that our season has ended.  We’ve had so many great times together, and I will miss seeing their bright, optimistic faces each week.  I can only hope that my meager two hours a week with them has made some difference somewhere–if it’s even the smallest decision that they either make or choose not to make as they get older, I will know that this season with GOTR has been completely and totally worth it.  I’m over the moon with pride for the girls, and so glad that I have been involved with such a tremendous organization.