Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding Meaning in Life and Tacos.

Sometimes I sit and ponder about the meaning of life. Why am I here? What is the purpose of my existence? Am I really doing any good in the world? 

Then I introduce the British intern at work to the concept of Taco Tuesdays and the clouds break, the seas recede and angels sing. I should be an ambassador. 

And less you think that Taco Tuesdays are out of a box, plain Jane affairs at out house, last night I made Chickpea Tacos*. Basically, you use seasoned, roasted chickpeas instead of meat. Chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans, but that just sounds awkward to me, like I am cooking up a Muppet for dinner or something. I love chickpeas. I could probably write an ode to them.  I eat them plain, in salads, and in more hummus and falafel than a human probably should. 

Add a little fresh lettuce from the backyard garden (it survived Irene!), tomatoes and a ripe avocado, and you got a dinner worth wearing your fancy pants for. 

Someday I will eat dinner when there is still natural light pouring through my kitchen window.

*I used the recipe from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook, which includes a recipe for homemade taco seasoning, which I prefer to store brands. This cookbook and the blog/website are currently my go to resource for quick meals, and when you don't come home until exactly 12 hours after you left that morning, you need quick meals. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Songs of the Week: Joe, James and Laura

Man, there is a lot of music out there. Sometimes I want big and full music with more instruments and voices then you know that to do with. But right now is not sometimes. Right now I am craving more striped down, more simple music. One guitar, one voice.

Let me introduce to  you three singer/songwriters that I can't get enough of right now: 

Joe Pug of North Carolina/Chicago, IL: Hymn 101: I've come to test the timber of my heart

James Vincent McMorrow of Dublin, Ireland: The Sparrow and the Wolf

And of course, Laura Marling of the UK: Good-bye England .  Tickets for her September DC show are still available. It will be lovely. Guaranteed.

Favorite Photos: South Dakota

This one time, I crashed a family reunion in South Dakota. A reunion where I am not related to any of the family members by blood or marriage. But for some reason they keep letting me hang out, and eat all their food, and sleep on their couch, kinda like Goldilocks.

South Dakota is big and beautiful. I don't know if I could live there, but I could definitely visit a couple more times. 

 Apparently, you can meet your God at the Rushmore Express

 Crazy Horse

Give me a home where the buffalo roam . . .

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hello and Good-bye Irene.

Who is tired about talking about natural disasters?
And ridiculous reporters on TV talking about natural disasters?
Oh me.
So this will be it.
My one and only telling.
Pay attention.

There once was a hurricane
They called her Irene.
She came and went.
And knocked down a lot of branches.
Then the sun came out.
And we ate lemon cupcakes.
With chocolate frosting.
The end.

But the storm did leave behind one great and lasting puzzle.
The local store was completely out of fresh blueberries and strawberry pop-tarts, all other flavors were stocked.  I got to thinking, did one person buy out all the strawberry pop tarts? Or did a lot of different people really have them on their last night on earth grocery list?  Are they the new hot item on some processed pastry black market? Why just the strawberry flavor?
The world may never know.

And since every other music blog and radio stations is doing cliched natural disaster play lists, I don't want to be left. Here are the two bookends, the first and last, of the one that I created.

It all starts with an earthquake (Its the End of the World as W Know It--REM)

After the storm, the I run and run as the rains come (After the Storm (Mumford & Sons)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Life According to My iPhone

I passed this picture of Woody Guthrie in the LOC, and I just adore it.
Ice Cream Social with the girls. (mint chip, of course)
Screen on the Green @ Crystal City (500 Days of Summer)
Someone stop me before I turn into one those people who takes pictures of their feet in awkward pigeon toed poses
Bob Dylan view
Wilco sighting! Or at least a Wilco poster sighting
Picnic lunch with homemade falafel
The walk home 

*idea for post from Rockstar Diaries, obviously still working on spacing issues. 

Billy Collins:Vade Mecum

A little while ago I sent out a call for recommendations to help me expand my poetic horizons. Billy Collins was one of the replies.  I find the below this week, and I can't stop reading it.

i want the scissors to be sharp
and the table perfectly level
when you cut me out of my life
and paste me in that book you always

--billy collins, "vade mecum"

Favorite Photos: Outer Banks, North Carolina

Seeing all the footage of Hurricane Irene hit the North Carolinian Outer Banks makes me sad.  I have spent many, many, hours sitting on those beaches daydreaming and soaking up the sun and every good thing that life has to offer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

In Case You Missed It

This week's favorite finds from those series of tubes that we call the Internet:

It's been awhile since I mentioned the banjo. Banjo, banjo, banjo. Just trying to make up for lost time. NPR had a nice little piece about the history of this fine instrument. 

We had an earthquake out there; people made fun of us, and we made fun of ourselves.
Side note:  I understand the East Coast vs West Coast trash talking thing, I mean aren’t we all gangster rappers at heart?  But it really isn’t about an earthquake. It is about an unexpected event. If Southern California got a blizzard, you can’t tell me that all them drama queens (why yes, I used to be one of them), wouldn’t freak out too. So everyone hold hands, be nice, eat some pie, you know, be like Midwesterners.

The 10 year anniversary, and re-issue of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, with new songs. I love the movie ("I thought you were a toad"), and I absolutely adore the soundtrack in all its old time mountain music, good time gospel goodness. The soundtrack won a Grammy and helped revive a little bit of love for  Americana music. The Coen brothers always have good music in their movies.  

Someone invite me over for dinner so I have an excuse to make these Cherry Limeade Cupcakes. Please. 

I want to take up cross-stitch, just so I can make this:

Local Eats: Zengo

When out of town friends come to visit they always ask for restaurants recommendations, and I always say, “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t eat out very much.” Then I started this blog and I have come to realize that I eat out a lot.

Last night, I joined a lovely group of ladies for dinner at Zengo  the hip Latin-Asian restaurant in Chinatown. That's right, it is Latin-Asian fusion, this is the big city, folks. 

Food is served tapas/family style, which I love. You get to order a bunch of different things, share it among friends, and you avoid those awkward side wise glares when the person next to you orders something that looks way better than what you ordered.

We tried/devoured:

Thai Chicken Empanada; amazing.
Soft Shell Crab Tacos: close your mouth and eyes and make sound effects good. Seriously, I think I might start dreaming about these tacos. 
Green Papaya Salad: Eh. As well seasoned (ha!) Thai food eaters, we all found this salad quite bland, and it didn't seem to actually have papaya in it.
Pan Roasted Scallops over a sweet potato/black garlic puree. Divine. Scallops are usually a hit or miss, they have to be cooked perfectly or they are just gross. These were perfect.
Beef Tenderloin Palomilla: pretty good, but was basically a good fajita mix
Beef Brisket over Oaxaca Cheese Mashed Potatoes: This is what they serve in heaven. Punches may or may not have been thrown in order to get the last couple pieces. 

Dessert: In all the desserts were a little disappointing (so I don't feel bad that the picture is awful) and I was tempted to just order some more crab tacos. 

Crema Fresca Mousse Cake
Frozen Tres Leches Cake
Mexican Chocolate Tart: my favorite, I love the combination of cinnamon and chocolate.
Nuttella ice cream

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Made This: Blackberry Cobbler

In the midst of a crazy week, long work days sandwiched in between an earthquake and a hurricane, I felt like I needed some order, so I decided to bake. Baking, I fully admit, is a work in process talent. I fight against the exactness of if, but I also find comfort in it.  No guessing, just obedience, the simple assurance that if you follow the rules, you will get a sweet reward. And sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to do. 

There are millions of things to bake, but nothing sounded better than blackberry cobbler.  

So at 10pm last night, when I should of been getting ready for bed, I instead pre-hearted the oven, and pulled out the mixing bowls. 

This cobbler wasn’t just a random food thought popping into my head. Lately, I have been thinking about the uncle and aunt that raised my father.  Sure, they had their quirks, but they also lived some pretty amazing stories.  A couple times when I was a kid and we lived in California we would travel up the coast to the tiny Oregon town that my dad grew up in for a visit  On one such trip I remember picking blackberries and bringing them home to Aunt Millie which she made into a warm for the soul cobbler. Now that this sweet couple have both finished their sojourn here on earth, I treasure that memory of sitting in their tiny kitchen, with a warm bowl of dessert and hearing stories of times gone by.  

Add a side scoop of vanilla ice cream and you got the perfect comfort food and for an hour or so, or until the next warning/alert crawls along the tv screen, order is restored in the universe. 

Post Script:  Did you know that it is called cobbler because the top crust is suppose to look like a cobblestone street?  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Song of the Week: Frightened Rabbit

I have a friend whose favorite movie is Braveheart. You just have to utter the three little words, “Sons of Scotland,” and she physically cannot resist the urge to recite the whole warrior speech with plenty of vigor and dramatic hand gestures. It is quite a fun game.

I will admit, I usually join in at the end, freeeeeeeeedom. I cannot resist a good battle cry.

This is the same friend who has barred me from stepping foot in Scotland without her. This is getting increasing hard to do. But since I am such a good friend, I just go hang out in the Lake District instead.

Yeah, loyality is so hard sometimes.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1305 execution of Braveheart himself, William Wallace, and I thought a little Scottish music was in order. But instead of a pipe and drum band, which is what everyone is expecting, I thought I would share a nice little tune from one of my favorite Scottish bands, Frightened Rabbit:

Some of the Scottish charm comes from their lovely brogue, so as a bonus, here is a short interview with Frightened Rabbit's singer Scott Hutchison. You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Whole Lot of Shaking Goin' On.

Preface: this is going to be a long bugger, so you may want to go get a sandwich and use the powder room before beginning.

The East Coast had an earthquake today. A 5.8ish to not be exact.

Let me tell you about my day. Normal day, normal stuff. La, la, la. Then just before 2pm the building started to shake.  We have a lot of construction going on in our building so at first I thought it was just some building improvement action. But then it didn't just stop, but got stronger.

As sad or frightening as it is to think about, the reality of DC is that when your building starts to shake, your first thought is not that it is an earthquake. Your first thought, or I guess second, if the construction thought has already come and gone, is that your building has been hit. A bomb. A plane. Thank God, this was not the case.

I grew up in Southern California, so I have been in a lot of earthquakes, small and big. That doesn't make them less scary. Hello. The. Earth. Is. Shaking. But what it does mean is that you have experience and the knowledge of what to do somewhere filed in the back of your head.

By the time the big shaking was happening, my brain finally caught up. The first rule of being in an earthquake is to wait until it stops shaking. As soon as the rumbling stopped, I grabbed my bag and and as the locals somewhere say, I got out of Dodge.  I didn't wait for the emergency sirens to go off, or for the chain of command to let me know I could leave my desk. I left my desk, out the door, down the stairs, across the foyer, out the main door, across the street and to the park. I clustered with my office mates until it was determined that it was going to take hours for our building to be cleared for re-entry, and we were sent home.

Home. Across the river home. And Metro was down. Of course, Metro was down, I mean, it is Tuesday. So, what to do? Queues for buses and taxis were already starting to form. I'm too impatient.  I also didn't like the thought of just waiting around for the trains to start running again. Who knows when that could be? And when they did start to run, half the city would be cramming themselves in the cars. No thanks. So I started to walk. I knew I had a friend in the Rosslyn area that was home, I knew I could crash there.

I work in the Capitol Hill general area, so this little afternoon walk would be around 5 miles. It was pointed out to me I walked almost the exact route of my upcoming, 10k. So this whole earthquake, was in reality, the Universe's way of keeping me up with my training. Yeah, the world does revolve around me.

But if there was ever a perfect day for an apocalyptic walk through the nation's capitol, today would be it. The weather was lovely, especially for August, I had comfortable shoes on, plenty of music on my ipod, and even though phone coverage was a little spotty, I could still text. God bless whoever invited texting, and everyone that kept me company on my trek.

Actual texts:
Me to 3/4 of my contact list: Holy, holy crap.
[good thing this wasn't a real disaster, those are not the most romantic or dignified last words]
Me: You know those end of the world films where people roam the streets aimlessly? Yeah, that's me, today. I am pretty sure that I will be attacked by a zombie any minute now.

The General: This will teach you to be in a disaster movie without me.
[The General is a huge, I mean ridiculously huge, fan of disaster films]
Speaking of zombies, during my little walk through the city I came to the realization that the first group of Washingtonians to turn into crazed zombie like creatures scavenging the city, most likely to turn to cannibalism,  would be Congressional staffers, hands down.

So I walked, and walked, get a little tan and enjoyed the city.  Did some people probably over react? Maybe a little, but this is DC. As much as I love this city, we do have the tendency to over react to anything that changes our collective daily routine. Snow, for example, throws us off every year. What is this magical white stuff falling from the sky?

 I think that I have gotten used to it all, the constant talk of the end of civilization as we know it. But no matter what you see on tv or in the news about the quake, yes we did freak out a little bit, but there was no looting, no blood, nothing on fire, people for the most part, took a deep breath and got on with their lives.

Pictures from along my walk:
Crossing the Memorial Bridge

Walking past Arlington National Cemetery

Following the parade of young professionals 

 Passing Iwo Jima

And when I finally met up with my friend, we went and got milkshakes, in celebration of the world not ending! Also, the my soulmate was sitting at the next table over. He was wearing a blazer with elbow patches AND was reading a book.
And any day that ends with milkshakes can't be that bad.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I am one of the searchers . . .

Some days you are minding your own business and then BAM all of a sudden you find your entire life explained in black and white.

"I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains,, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know - unless it be to share our laughter. 

We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.

For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves."

( from "There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves" by James Kavanaugh)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Lazy Saturday

Yesterday was a lazy Saturday.

I went shopping for brie filled dates,
sparkling lemonade,
and good European chocolate.

I read,
wrote a little,
then read some more.

I thought of my Missouri friends
and wished I was there with them.
Did you feel my good vibrations?

I listened to music.
And when the brainchild came,
I danced to music.

I played notes and chords on various instruments.
Freeing the thoughts and feelings
that I haven't quite found words for yet.

Like a cat, I feel asleep,
a luxurious summertime nap,
under a window that was flooded with sunlight.

But as I was strumming along
on a cheap mandolin
that I had picked up for 20 dollars,

The thought came to me:
I am not a poet, a minstrel player
of olden days

With wealthy patrons
paying me to lay around
and write and play to my soul's content

But, what a nice thought.

In the chit chat of Monday morning elevators
my Saturday would be seen as
unproductive, do nothing,  and well, lazy

So I went out and mowed the lawn
finishing the last jungle corner
under the moon

Singing Irish drinking songs
out loud and with pep
disguised by the roar of mower

When I came back into the house
The Army Ranger t-shirt I stole from my dad
soaking in a gallon of sweat

I thought
with a smile
what a productive Saturday!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sounds: Cookie Monster/Tom Waits Mash Up

'Cause if you think about it, Tom Waits does sound a lot like Cookie Monster  . . . or maybe it is Cookie Monster that sounds a lot like Tom Waits.

Seriously. Awesome.

(If you are still confused, that is actually Tom Waits singing in the video, and those are actually Cookie's mad dance skillz.)

If you are unfamiliar with the great carnival barker that is Tom Waits, here are two of my favorites:
Blue Skies

Never Let Go

Faraway Adventures: Virginia Road Trip

My parents came for a visit a couple of weeks ago and we took a grand tour of the lovely state of Virginia. We all took 347 billion pictures, here are some of my favorites:

My favorite out of context picture (Mt. Vernon)

9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

 A Parade! (Colonial Williamsburg)

Banjos! (Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg)

 A Tambourine! (Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg)

Our Park Ranger tour guide warming up at Jamestowne. I heart Park Rangers.

Yorktown Battlefield
"To declare independence was one thing, to achieve it, quite another.
Here independence became real."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Local Eats: America Eats Tavern

(This post was originally combined with the post about “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam,” until I realized how long that would be.)

After our lovely tour of the “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam,” exhibit, my colleagues and I went to the America Eats Tavern for lunch. This pop up restaurant coincides with the National Archives exhibit, as our waiter pointed out, “First you go and see the exhibit, and then you come here to taste the exhibit.”

Chef Jose Andres (CafĂ© Atlántico) takes inspiration from legendary American cookbooks and other recipes that date from all throughout American history. To quote from the press material, “the menu showcases the fascinating history of our nation one plate at a time, whether it’s the origins of New England clam chowder or the introduction of grapefruit to America. “

Hamburgers? Yep. Po’boys?  Uh huh. Mac and Cheese? Oh yes, please. But these are not your out of the box, poor college student staples. They are fan-cy. Did I mention that they have 7 types of Catsups?  The menu is set up to be more of a tasting menu, meaning that each portion is relatively small, understanding that guests would get more than one course. Unless you are on your timed lunch break, then you just pick one course, become obsessed with the food, and try to budget out in your head how you can afford to come back and taste everything.

I had the Chesapeake Crabcakes with Pickled Watermelon Salad, inspired by a 1932 recipe from the Baltimore Hotel. Easily the best crabcakes that I have ever had, outside of Annapolis; the perfect ratio of crab meat and breading.  The combination of fresh watermelon, pickled rime, and goat cheese, was such a perfect balance of sweet, tangy, and creamy.  How many times can I say perfect in this description? Not enough.

And to add a little flare, I got a bottle of the original recipe Dr. Pepper.

I was, however, jealous of one my colleague’s, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. It came with the most adorable ceramic bottle of milk with a straw.  Serious envy.

And to make me more in love with this place; profits gained from the restaurant during the run of the What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? exhibit will be donated to The Foundation for the National Archives. That means that you can help preserve the country’s history by eating grilled cheese sandwiches and key lime pie. God Bless America.

Being an eatery of the “pop-up” nature, it is only open until January 2012.  The upstairs fancy restaurant part is pretty much booked solid for most of the run. Bobby Flay apparently was there the night before, oohhh.  There is limited seating in the more causal downstairs section. We have no trouble walking right in at 12 noon on a Tuesday and getting a table; however the place was packed with a line forming when we left.

If you are in the DC area, you need to put this on your list. And also, invite me, or at least tell me what you ate, in detail.

 After all, it is for ‘Merica.

Update: just in case you need a second opinion on how awesome this place it, We Love DC, reviewed it too (and they ate the same thing I did!).