In the same way that a little part of me died with Mr. Rogers, I feel a tiny book-shaped hole in my soul.
As I’ve mentioned before, I watched a lot of tv as a kid. Still do, obviously. But back then, the vast majority of my days (pre-kindergarten) and then afternoons (kindergarten onwards) were spent with PBS. Sesame Street taught my mom and me simultaneously that C is for Cookie. I remember when the shop keeper (Mr. Cooper? Hooper?) died and when Gabby was born. (She’s now in college or something, btw, which utterly freaks me out.)
Mr. Rogers showed me how erasers are made. He took me to the Land of Make-Believe, which convinced me for quite some time that animals DO, in fact, live in clocks and wear watches.
And, of course, Reading Rainbow fed my already-ravenous appetite for books. I taught myself to read (how? Hell if I know) at some point before starting K4. I’m told that I often read books upside-down in the early days, so who knows how much actual “reading” was done. Luckily, Reading Rainbow did the reading for you, using illustrations, voices, and sound effects.
“Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner” became my favorite of all my high school speeches, including the use of voices, sound effects, and props. I loved that episode, not least because it involved the world of short-order cooks. Shutup.
Though I’m no fan of chick flicks, I was advised by persons of both genders that Julie & Julia was so much more. The phrase “food porn” may even have been bandied about, I dunno. Obviously, whatever these persons reported was enough to get my butt in the seat.
(Kidding aside, I’m a big fan of food, cooking shows, and Amy Adams. Trifecta.)
I was a little worried when the all-male couple sitting near me in the theater sang along to the entire “Fame” trailer, but they settled down pretty soon after that. There was the occasionally appreciative gasp whenever some delicious dish was revealed during the movie, but it was drowned out by me saying things like “SO MUCH BUTTER!” and “BONED DUCK!”
As the title indicates, this film is about two women. Julie is Julie Powell, government drone by day, cooking enthusiast by night. (Replace “cooking” with “entertainment” and she’s me, bada BING.) Julie works for the organization overseeing insurance claims for the World Trade Center site (the film’s set in 2002), so her workday consists of listening to sob stories. And sobbing along with them.
Less than professionally satisfying, you might say.
At her husband’s urging, Julie decides to quit her job and devote a year to cooking every single recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Also, she decides to blog about it, combining her loves of food and writing. Can’t say I blame her.
Juxtaposed with the story of Julie is, obviously, the story of Julia. You probably know Julia Child as the famous PBS chef. But the film explores the story behind that. Before she learned to cook, Julia was in government service. Her husband remained so for many years. Before she learned to cook, Julia had to get accepted into Le Cordon Bleu. It took her several tries. And getting said cookbook published took a whole lotta work, too.
Sure, the movie has plenty of eye candy. Say what you will about the French, no one does butter better. So much is cooked in this film—eggs, poultry, seafood, veggies….you really have to go after you’ve eaten. Otherwise it’s like taking a blind man to the circus: you’ll be too hungry to care what’s going on.
I won’t tell you whether Julie made it through all 524 recipes. You already know how Julia Child’s life ended up, so you’re halfway there.
(Once you’ve seen the movie, though, please read this for The Rest of the Story.)
Paul Child: “What is it you REALLY like to do?” Julia Child: “Eat!”
Investment strategies vary among people of my (dare I say “our”) generation, don’t they? Some people like a little risk. A little bang for their buck. They put money in start-ups and countries that end in –stan, assuming that some day they’ll be swimming in returns.
Some people moderate the risk by using indexes, or mutual funds, or CDs.
Then there are people like me. People who use the “coffee can under the mattress approach.” If I’d been alive in the Victorian era, I would likely have invested in bullion.* When it all hits the fan, I can access my entire net worth and start heading for the hills in approximately 37 minutes.
But I digress.
My goal today is not to vouch for one investment vehicle over another. Or even to decry the inequitable treatment of my gender throughout history.** Rather, I would like to complain about my bank. Which is actually a credit union tied to federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named.
Until recently, I had a pretty good deal. I was earning 2% APY on my checking account. That’s right: CHECKING. TWO PERCENT.
(All of you who scornfully laughed at my 2%-induced joy, please leave the room. Nothing else in this entry will interest you. Thanks.)
As you can imagine, I was pretty psyched. Earning interest on accessible money? It’s the American dream, and I didn’t even have to buy shares of Google. La la laaaa, suck it, Madoff.
Oh, BUT THEN.
But then I notice while banking online that my APY mysteriously dropped to .5%. For those of you playing at home, that’s a pretty steep drop. That’s a 75% drop. That’s a “We told you that rates may be subject to change, so keep f----ing that chicken and have a nice day, ha HA!” drop.
They had me where they wanted me. But I wasn’t going down without a fight.
I asked to get switched to the new Rewards Checking. 4% on the first $25,000 and .75% on everything after that. Not as good as what I had, sure, but doable.
Until I realized Rewards Checking requires 12 debit purchases a month. The credit union rep helpfully noted that that’s “Three a week.” O RLY? Yes, I’m familiar with the concept of simple division, thank you. It’s my mad arithmetic skillz that got us into this mess in the first place.
I’m not sure about you people, but I don’t buy nearly enough stuff to require three debit purchases a week. I’d end up walking to 7-11 and buying the newspaper with my debit card. How would that go?
Clerk: “That’ll be 82 cents.” Heather pulls out card. Clerk: Oh, just take the damn paper for free. Heather sadly puts card away.
Thus I’m stuck with .5% APY, which—even by my paltry standards—is pretty pathetic.
Anybody know where I can get some war bonds?
* Of course, this assumes I would have married a robber baron or something, since woman in the Victorian era were not allowed to VOTE, or OWN THINGS, or have very many RIGHTS in general, but let’s not go there. It’s a touchy subject—my caps lock key can attest to that. Ba DUM bum. ** FISH. BICYCLES. IT’S ALL I’M SAYING.
During a recent deader-than-dead day at work (such is the end of the fiscal year), I was browsing through the archives of 15 Minute Lunch. One of the entries referred to LifeGem, the company that makes diamonds out of people.
You read that correctly. It makes diamonds out of people.
And I think that’s crazy. Not good crazy, like deep-fried Oreos or Angelina Jolie. Just plain bonkers.
What worries me is that I would appear to be the target audience for something like this. Why, you ask?
Reason number one: I like shiny things. I have been to natural history museums in three states and the District of Columbia. Every time, I bypass dinosaur bones, pottery, and mummies in favor of the gems. The heavy metals. The minerals. If it’s colorful or bright, I’m there.
Yet the thought of turning grandma into bling does not appeal to me.
Reason number two: I have an odd fascination with death. Not so much the moral/philosophical aspects. Or the biological ones—corpses freak me out just as much as the next girl. I’m more interested in the procedural aspects of death. I like visiting cemeteries, whether it’s Arlington National or some quiet country graveyard. (Fun fact: I made my friend Amanda go to a cemetery while visiting her in Raleigh, NC. Funner fact: She is still my friend.)
I have already made preliminary considerations about my parents’ funerals. Well, and mine, too, but for some reason that seems to be more taboo. Let’s look at it this way: while I may never get married, I will almost certainly end up dead. So you take your wedding dreambooks and smoke on THAT for a while.
Anyway, even though I’m all for making the funeral as exciting as possible, turning the body into jewelry smacks of impropriety. I may send you home from my funeral with a piece of cake. I will not send you home from my funeral with a piece of me.
Reason number three: I love a good deal. Like me, I imagine any stone made from me would be short and flawed. But in the proper setting, I bet I could fetch a fair price. Granted, that buyer would have to be off-the-hook crazy, because EW EW EW.
Therefore I must come to the conclusion that while the LifeGem process may work for some people, I’ll stuck with ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Labor Day dawned a bit rainy. We’d celebrated by sleeping rather late. Draw your own conclusions.
As we checked out of the hotel, I snapped a few pictures to show you how lovely it really was. Nice job to TheBoy.
Colonial Williamsburg, Redux
Several of CW’s buildings had been closed on Sunday, so we nipped into a couple that we’d missed. Figured we might as well do it up.
Here, the dining room of one of the taverns. The guide at this location was actually the only one that disappointed me the whole trip. She was in modern-day clothing and seemed very…retired.
I demand a hoop skirt, at least.
Yes, there was another giant pickle. I’m sorry.
Like Yorktown, Jamestown is divided into two parts. The actual historical location, and the shiny new museum/re-creation. Since we were running late (this is apparently what happens when you sleep in), we only did the shiny.
As I approached the re-created fort, I sang that “For glory, God, and gold, and the Virginia Company” song from Pocahontas. To myself. Not quietly. Shutup.
At the Discovery Center, a canoe was being made. Which, to my surprise, involved fire and scraping.
THAT can’t be fun.
There were three ships you could board. Some of them even had parts you could enter. One such part had two entrances, only one of which had a closed sign:
We totally snuck in. And since we didn’t see the entrance with the “Closed” sign until we came back out, I don’t even have to blame my utter inability to notice blatant signage.
One Final but Unrelated Experience
On the drive back, TheBoy needed to stop at Starbucks to get some large and caffeinated. I decided to try the pumpkin spice latte that everyone raves about.
The verdict: cinnamon-y.
So there you have it. We made it back, safe and sound. My entire suitcase smelled like Yankee Candles thanks to day 1. Could’ve been worse.
Next up: Chicago over Columbus Day weekend. IT WILL BE EPIC.
My apologies for the delay between parts 1 and 2. I had to perform some data manipulation. By which I mean I had to re-write parts 2 and 3.
Since Colonial Williamsburg (CW) was the centerpiece of the trip, an entire day was allotted for it. (Yorktown and Jamestown only got partial days.) For those who haven’t been there, CW is a village populated by historical re-enactors, who go about their daily lives in historical occupations. You’ve got three types of sights in CW:
Behold, the silversmith:
Honestly, if you’re into an archaic trade (cooper, wig maker, etc.), what better place to practice than somewhere like this? Answer people’s questions, all while getting to show off your mad silversmithing skills.
2. Guided tours.
Behold, the Governor’s Mansion tour guide:
Several of the bigger buildings (Capitol, taverns, jail, etc.) were guided tours. A costumed interpreter walked you around and talked about the who/what/why of the building.
3. Stores and restaurants.
Run by people in costume but not purporting to know anything besides how to run the register.
Anyone want a soap ball?
We ate lunch on days 2 and 3 at a place called The Cheese Shop. And on both days, I had a pickle that was almost as large as my sandwich.
Let’s please not explore the Freudian connotations inherent in my meal choices.
Decorative Arts and Folk Art Museums
CW has two museums right in the village itself. They’re actually housed in a former asylum. Weirdest building re-purpose ever?
Unless you consider straightjackets a decorative art, that is.
Dinner on day 2 was Mexican food. I have a picture of the appetizer only because once my flautas arrive, I dive in headfirst.
And that’s all that’s fit to blog for day 2.
Tomorrow: Pocahontas, trespassing, and one fancy beverage.
Hey, Heather, where the frak is the rest of Labor Day weekend?
I have Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown recaps written. Ready to be posted today and tomorrow.
But the laptop issued by federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named encrypted the files on my flash drive. And I'm having trouble decrypting them. I need Jason Bourne and I need him now.
Then again, when has that not been the case?
Anyway, rest assured that I'll post as soon as I can. Those of you on Facebook can see extensive albums there. Those of you not on Facebook will have to wait until Monday.
Hey, Heather, why didn't you live-blog The Office?
I find myself at the beginning of season 6 in a not-single status. This has never happened before. Suffice to say that in a battle of TheBoy vs. laptop, laptop loses. (Who wins in, say, a battle of TheBoy vs. fudge? Answer: EVERYBODY.) While Gossip didn't bowl me over, at least everyone knows about Pam.
As promised, here's the beginning of my Labor Day travelogue. It turns out that we saw a LOT of stuff. Dang.
Stonewall Jackson Shrine
On the way down, I noticed signs for the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. Yep, that’s right: SHRINE. I requested to visit the shrine. Motion granted.
The shrine turned out to be the building where Jackson died. You can’t tell from the photo, but inside were two overly-helpful park guides. One insisted on showing us alternate routes to Williamsburg. THANKS, MAN, WE GOT IT.
Bonus: this lovely glade, perfect for a picnic lunch.
I was blessed with the most fantastic signage on this trip, you guys. Lettering EVERYWHERE.
Virginia’s Historic Triangle, Leg 1: Yorktown
Our first stop upon arriving: the Yorktown Victory Center. Both Yorktown and Jamestown had a National Park Service-run historial aspect and a shiny, privately-funded museum-y aspect. WE only had time to visit the shiny parts. Sorry, NPS.
Yorktown’s displays included an encampment. We saw them fire a cannon. It was ridiculously loud. On the plus side, it smelled like fire. Fi-yah!
Did you realize there was such a thing as an octant? I thought it only went up to sextant. Shows what I know about water navigation.
Also part of Yorktown: a farm. Not just any run-of-the-mill Wisconsin cow farm, either. No, my friend. There was tobacco to be had.
Williamsburg Lodge (The Hotel)
At this point, allow me to briefly show a bit of the awesome hotel room TheBoy booked for us, including a bed that could have slept 12 (hush), a couch that I wanted because it was both checkered AND magenta, and a patio with lovely view.
Yankee Candle Village
You’re probably familiar with Yankee Candle products from your local mall, airport, or Cracker Barrel. Williamsburg has “Yankee Candle Village.” A LARGE candle store is the focus, but there’s also fudge, toys, and more Christmas items than you can shake a stick at.
For some reason, I believed until quite recently that The Skulls was a horror movie. My crippling innate fear of skeletons probably has something to do with that. You know the whole crystal skull scene from Indiana Jones? NOT COOL. Anyway.
After the recommendations of several acquaintances and further research, though, I discovered that this film has nothing to do with horror. Rather, it has everything to do with education, elitism, secret societies, and cute boys. In short, many of the things I love.
The Skulls is a fictional examination of the real-life Skull and Bones society at Yale. That’s right: it’s a real society. Though I could never in a million years get into said society, I’m fascinated all the same. They have nicknames. They meet bi-weekly. They pull hijinks. It’s like a family that you only have to deal with twice a week. SIGN. ME. UP.
Anyway, back to the film. Joshua Jackson plays the “genius from the wrong side of the tracks” role of Luke. He’s a rower who wants to be a lawyer but can’t afford law school. I guess the rowing career path isn’t nearly as lucrative as one might think. Luckily for Luke, the Skulls want him. After the initiation stunt, Luke gains both entrance to the society and a life-long film-long buddy in Caleb (Paul Walker). However, unfortunate events (including the death of Luke’s former best friend, Will) lead to estrangement and a duel.
That’s right: a duel. Say what you will about secret societies, they do dueling right.
You have a fair amount of “let’s expose their evil secret society” juxtaposed with “let’s keep our secret society unexposed,” of course. Little bit of running. The aforementioned pistols at dawn. A pre-CSI William Petersen. Men in robes. You know, the usual.
While the film didn’t bowl me over, I did enjoy the insider perspective. Again, as someone who will never be on the inside of anything like this, a movie is my best chance.
Until I find a way to infiltrate the Masons, that is.
For those of you wondering, I survived Virginia's Historic Triangle (Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown) in one piece. Granted, it's a tired/stuffed/dazed piece, but still. Pictures to follow later in the week.
Virginia has a gubernatorial race this year. Coming on the heels of last year’s momentous elections, this one’s been pretty quiet. Then again, that I still can’t rouse myself about Virginia politics might also have something to do with that. Is there any way I can legally vote a Wisconsin ballot for the rest of my life? Some sort of super-duper absentee thing?
Things are starting to heat up, though. Last Sunday’s WaPo exposed the heck out of a thesis written Long, Long Ago by the Republican candidate, Bob McDonnell. Written while he was a student at Regent University, the thesis involves some very… “conservative” ideas about women, homosexuality, and birth control. The whole issue has since turned into a bit of a firestorm here in the Old Dominion.
Now, I realize that you turn to this blog for a couple of things. Movie reviews. Food porn. The latest developments in Things That Piss Heather Off. Politics, not so much. So I’ll keep it brief.
Let’s start by looking at the article:
He argued for covenant marriage, a legally distinct type of marriage intended to make it more difficult to obtain a divorce. He advocated character education programs in public schools to teach "traditional Judeo-Christian values" and other principles that he thought many youths were not learning in their homes. He called for less government encroachment on parental authority, for example, redefining child abuse to "exclude parental spanking." He lamented the "purging of religious influence" from public schools. And he criticized federal tax credits for child care expenditures because they encouraged women to enter the workforce.
Dude, come on. Don’t get me wrong; I know plenty of people who feel the exact same way. They, however, are not running for governor of Virginia.
This is EXACTLY why I will never run for large-scale (read: state or higher) office, or become involved personally or professionally with someone who does. Like McDonnell, I attended learning institutions of “conservative” bent. Like McDonnell’s*, my views have changed. Like McDonnell, I stand to the right of your average Northern Virginian. But I know to leave well enough alone. I’ve been inside the Bob Jones University compound, people. I’ve used flannelgraphs. I know the words to “Twelve Men Went to Spy on Canaan.” Anyone with half a Google can find these things out. And they are not qualities that scream “must-elect” in any state but Utah.
Party loyalist that I am, I suspect I’ll still vote for McDonnell. Unless I find a way to work the Wisconsin angle, of course.
* Lest you worry that this blog is turning away from food completely, be informed that I typed “McDonald’s” at first. HAHAHAHAHA, filet o’ fish, what?
As wonderfully fierce as Tyra Banks is, America’s Next Top Model jumped my shark last season. I watched faithfully through the first twelve seasons cycles. Five continents. Dozens of contestants. Hundreds of hair weaves.
And I don’t begrudge any of it. Trashy moments aside (and oh were they EVER), I learned a lot about the modeling industry. It’s not just sitting. It’s walking, and wearing, and appearing, and all of that. Sort of a mix between art, psychology, and anorexia.
(Because, yeah, watching these women complain about being fat does NOT make one feel better about one’s self. One may have even thrown popcorn at the television set whilst booing loudly. Hypothethically.)
Anyway, I firmly decided after last season that the time had come for Tyra and me to part ways. She tried luring me back with her “short girls only” season. Then I realized that “short” meant “up to 5-7” and threw more popcorn.
Obviously, though, I need something to fill the void. See, in the same way that a balanced food diet includes grains, proteins, and vegetables, a balanced tv diet must include comedy, drama, and reality. I prefer my reality in the form of bitchy fashion, though travel fit the bill once upon a time.* What Not to Wear was good for a while until I realized I could watch it only while in a common area of my apartment building. And that common areas of my apartment building involve treadmills or washing machines. And that Clinton Kelly is best savored alone.**
So, on the suggestion*** of my good friend Lydia, I tried Project Runway. Several things made me like it. The show’s premise (aspiring fashion designers) was reminiscent of The Cut, a show watched by me and 17 other people. There was a guy from Minnesota. A woman used the phrase “I was meant for a bigger pond.” These are all things near and dear to my corn-fed heart.
Then Tim Gunn appeared.
Where has this man been all my life? He’s like Clinton Kelly, aged to bitchy perfection. The man is able to say things like “Make it work” and “The sheen on this is fabulous” and people understand that it is so. He majored in sculpture. Tim Gunn is what Carson Kressley wishes he could be. What Clinton Kelly will be in 20 years. (Sculpture, people. SCULPTURE. Only in America.)
Project Runway with Minnesota guy and big pond girl might not have snagged me. But Project Runway with Tim Gunn has me hooked.
* Amazing Race, I’m sorry it had to end between us, XOXO, etc. ** Clinton, please pull a Neil Patrick Harris and come to network. *** By which I mean, I saw it mentioned in her Facebook status. She turned me on to Mad Men, you guys. That alone earns her a gazillion tv taste points.
I'm a big fan of brunch. Well, okay, let's be honest: I'm a big fan of every meal. But there's something about brunch's combining of breakfast food and lunch timing that I enjoy. I'm always on the lookout for a good brunch place; ideally, a ménage a french toast is involved.
TheBoy and I tried Co Co Sala last weekend. I'd done a disturbing amount of some Flickr recon and menu searching. What I found was encouraging and at least warranted further research.
Our reservation was for 11:30. Judging by the non-existent crowd, I'm guessing D.C. was sleeping off the prior night's revelry. What revelry, you ask? Just your typical Saturday night, baby.
TheBoy got the prix fixe while I just got an entree. We shared the appetizer and dessert, by which I mean that I may or may not have commandeered them. Whatever.
Here, the app: something chocolately and sugary and nice. But also, tiny—it was about the width of a quarter.
Here, the entree: s'mores french toast. Once I saw the phrase "s'mores french toast" on the menu, Co Co Sala went from "maybe" to "absolutely yes."
Needless to say, I polished that thing off in short order.
Here, his dessert: pot de creme. Again, it was TEENY.
Here, my dessert: pecan tart. A little sweet, but mostly nutty. Like me.
The service was very good, though the fact that the crowd was as small as the food may have contributed. Still, if you're looking for a tasting-style meal, you can't go wrong with chocolate.
“Why do the Yankees always win? The other team can't stop looking at the pinstripes.” –Frank Abagnale
D.C. isn’t sexy. We’re not hot like Miami. We’re not haute like New York. People here flash degrees, not cleavage. “What’s your sign?” More like “What’s your clearance?”
One fashion we do exceedingly well, though, is the suit. In the national capital region, business attire is in. We work in it, we date in it, we run errands in it. I’ve learned that you really need a Tide pen on hand at all times. Heaven forbid I get pulled into a meeting while covered in barbecue sauce.
So let’s talk about the suit. Those of you who attended the schools I did (or those like them) are actually better prepared than many. When I tell people that men at my college had to wear ties every day, I get a lot of funny looks. (Yes, I get a lot of funny looks for other reasons, too, but PLAY ALONG.) I’ve been wearing skirts for a long time; they’re just (a lot) shorter now. It’s more of the same for people like us.
I gotta say, though, 99.9% of the people I see every day did NOT attend the schools I did (or those like them) and they still manage to look GOOD. Perfectly-tailored suit, charcoal grey, thin pinstripe. Yes. We. Can.
Once upon a time at federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named, I and three executives met with officials from organization-that-I-actually-can’t-talk-about. While I probably should have been paying attention to the topic at hand, I couldn’t stop marveling at the fact that the four of us from my office were all in pinstripes (black, blue, and brown suits for them, black skirt for me). It was fashion serendipity.
I’m not saying pinstripes are the only way to go. I’m just saying that if you have to go, you might as well go in style.