Monday, December 6, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 6

Today's prompt for Reverb 10 was: What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

A few weeks ago I made the yummy mini-cupcakes that you see above (from Oh She Glows). They are amazingly delicious. In fact, it was the second time in just a few weeks that I had made a batch. I highly recommend that you give them a try since anything that involves chocolate cinnamon cake, spiced buttercream icing and candied walnuts is bound to be good! That same week I also made a veggie chili from scratch so that Jesse would have some food to take for lunch.

There are so many things I want to make! For starters, I'd love to make an apple pie from scratch and crochet a blanket. These are my next two projects and since my last day of work for the year is this coming Friday, I think I just might be able to clear some time to make these two!

Reverb Catch-Up: Days 4 and 5

The prompt for day 4 of Reverb 10 was: How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

The honest answer is that I didn't do this enough, so I wanted to make a list of the small moments with the hope that 2011 will contain many more of them. Whenever I observe Shabbat, I feel a sense of wonder. There's nothing like lighting shabbat candles and having a meal with those you love. I wonder at how time seems to stop and relaxation sets in. The noise of day-to-day life seems quieter and I appreciate life so much more during this day.

I also feel a sense of wonder when traveling. Meeting new people, seeing new sights and experiencing new things broadens both my sense of self and my sense of connection to everything else in the world.

Lastly, I feel a sense of wonder when surrounded by close family or friends. This past weekend Jesse and I attended the wedding of someone that I have known since I was four years old. It was incredible. Over Thanksgiving, we spent time with his extended family and it was perfect. I wonder over how on earth I got to this amazing place in my life.

The prompt for day 5 of Reverb 10 was: What (or whom) did you let go of this year?

I let go of some of my basic requirements for self-care. With work, grad school, a long-distance boyfriend (till May) and settling into living with Jesse, I haven't made myself as much of a priority as I would like. I need more sleep, a LOT more yoga, more sweating, more veggies, more meditation and more writing. I am heading in that direction and I can't wait to for 2011 to safeguard these practices so that I can be a better me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 3

The prompt for today for Reverb 10 is: Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (textures, smells, voices, noises, colors).

I would have to say I felt most alive during my graduate school graduation ceremony. The ceremony itself was hot, especially under the weight of our dark blue gowns combined with the bright lights shining on us. It was also boring, since they let everyone and their mother add their two cents in about what it means to graduate and "head out into the real world". The sound system was squeaky and I was nearly blinded as everyone's family members snapped picture after picture. By all accounts, I probably should have hated it.

However, I remember having the sudden realization that I was done. And it was like a giant weight was lifted off of my shoulders. For the first time since I was 15 years old, I would now only have one full-time job instead of either two jobs or a full-time job and school. It nearly brought tears to my eyes to think that I would now be able to experience free time for the first time in 13 years (though I am still working at being able to just relax). I could read whatever books I wanted instead of those that were assigned. I could come home from work, cook dinner and watch television if I wanted to. I could sleep in on weekends and even take vacations. And after three years of class, I now had earned a master's degree.

It was an incredible feeling.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 2

The prompt for day two of Reverb 10 is: What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing--and how can you eliminate it?

I loved this prompt because the truthful answer came to the surface immediately: me. I get in my own way. I am the problem.

I don't make the time to write, which is often the case of so many people who want to be published authors. I have to make writing a priority or I will never advance in it. Unfortunately, when other obligations and procrastinations pop up, this is often one of the first things to go. Could I live my life without spending time watching competing chefs, the Kardashian sisters and a high school singing group on tv? Sure. I could also stop surfing the web for books and clothes I don't need at night. And get more sleep so that I am not too tired when I get home from work to do a little writing before bed. So I need to just do it.

One of my goals in 2011 is to eliminate the noise, clutter and distraction so that I can set aside dedicated time to write. If I make a date with myself and block off the time in my calendar, it will happen. A good first start is getting back into daily journal writing. So thanks, Prompt #2, for giving me goal #1 for this coming year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 1

I've very much wanted to get back into blogging on a regular basis, so with that in mind, I decided to participate in Reverb 10. The purpose of Reverb 10, in the creators' words, is "to reflect on your year and manifest what's next." Each day in December, a prompt with be posted and I will respond to it here. If you would like to participate, you can sign up here.

The prompt for today, December 1st, is:

One word. Encapsulate the year in one word. Explain why you are choosing that word. Now, imagine it is one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

The first word that came to mind for 2010 was completion. I completed my master's degree--after three years!-- in May. Jesse and I completed the long-distance portion of our relationship (hopefully forever!) when he moved down to DC in the spring. We moved in together and completed making a home together. I feel more settled and calm. While I know it is a never-ending process, in so many ways, I feel much more complete than I did at this time last year. It's a great feeling.

The word that resonates most for me for 2011 is movement. Both the literal and figurative kind. I'd like to find physical activity that I like and want to do often. I want to get back into a regular yoga practice. I need to move forward on figuring out what I want to do professionally, or at least the next couple of career steps. I want to learn to value micromovements , as well as the slow, gentle, be-good-to-your-body-and-soul-type movements, in all areas of my life and see the beauty in them instead of simply obssessing over the large ones that may produce quicker or more visible results.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Revelry Review: Great House

This was one of those novels that is so good, you need to wait some time before telling others about it. It requires a bit of internal processing before you can verbalize that way that it affected you. It is one of very few books that I ever wanted to go back and read more than once, if only to revisit the way the beautiful prose made you feel. This is a novel that I wish I had written myself, especially since I have always been interested in its main themes. I highly recommend that you read Great House by Nicole Krauss.

Not wanting to give anything away, I will say that Great House is a novel made up of several people's stories, all of which revolve around a single desk. The stories intertwine as the reader is carried along a journey through many years, many countries and many lives. It explores themes of loss and memory, as well as people's relationships with each other, with history and with time.

The prose is so beautiful that at times I found myself reading and rereading lines, each time having them take my breath away. One quote I liked in particular was, "We search for patterns, you see, only to find where the patterns break. And it's there, in that fissure, that we pitch our tents and wait." She also writes that the characters "bend...around the shape of what they lost, and let everything mirror its absent form."

Unlike The History of Love, which is another of Krauss' fantastic works, this novel is a not as optimistic and rather quietly reveals the tragic melancholy, longing and loneliness that each of its characters has lived. You can read reviews of Great House here from NPR or here from the New York Times. It is no wonder why the New Yorker named Krauss one of its "20 Under 40" writers to watch this past summer.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

On being a healthy foodie.

I love to cook. Love it. I find it meditative and relaxing. There is nothing I love more than making sure my boyfriend (and friends, family, etc.) is well fed. I also like the challenge of finding a new recipe and creating a great meal or dessert from scratch. There are so many dishes that I still want to learn how to make, from spinach empanadas to homemade pies. I think these are great skills to have. However, I hate having delicious sugary desserts or an overload of calorie-heavy meals in my apartment because I will eat them.

Luckily, my boyfriend also likes to eat lots of veggies and healthy meals, so that helps. I may start trying my hand at things like homemade granola bars or veggie-filled stews instead. I think my problem is that it makes me grumpy that I can't cook, bake and eat like a "normal" person. Portion control is not something that comes naturally to me.

How do you balance being someone that loves to cook and bake with someone that wants and needs to get healthier and lose weight? Has anyone else experienced these same feelings? Does anyone have any good healthy vegetarian recipes or resources they can share?

{Photo credit: Lara604}

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Other than a few book reviews and some delicious dishes, I have been mostly absent from this blog for a few months now. The reason is that in August, I somehow managed to injure my back. I have three degenerative discs and one that is bulging. I've been completely out of commission since then, unable to even do so much as go for a long walk. I've been depressed and eating badly as a result.

So, after three months of this, I decided that when so much is out of my control, I need to take back control of what I can. I've started Weight Watchers again, this time with a focus on portion control and eating good, whole foods (rather than the obsessive, crazy points counting I did the first time). I lost 3.8 pounds in the first week! Once I get back from New Jersey this weekend, I am going to try yoga (even if I have to lay in child's pose for an hour) and get back to working out little by little.

There will still be book reviews here and a lot of yummy food, but I am hoping to get back to my original intent for this space: a place to discuss all aspects of a well-lived life, beginning first and foremost with self-care.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weekend Eats

Channa masala, brown rice, green beans and whole wheat naan. I got the recipe from Eat, Live, Run. It was spicy and delicious!

Then, to celebrate my favorite month of October AND a three- day weekend, I tried my hand at these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. They are light and cake-like with a subtle hint of pumpkin and spice. Perfect!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Revelry Review: The Weight of Heaven

South Asian Author Challenge: Book 4/5

When I first read the synopsis of The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar, I have to admit I wasn't all that excited. I had heard she writes beautiful fiction about Indians and Indian culture, but a book about two Americans who go to live in India? I was skeptical at best.

Turns out Umrigar can do it all. The story opens after Frank amd Ellie's young son has passed away. Their fragile state and complex emotions have been slowly eating away at their marriage. Then Frank accepts a job offer to go run an American company in rural India and they both see this as a chance to start over. While Ellie falls in love with the country and the locals, Frank's job continues to provide obstacles and frustration as the workers complain about low wages and the townspeople become enraged that the company is taking their trees for its own profit. Frank spends his free time with the son of their housekeepers, Ramesh, who fills the hole that the loss of their son left. However, it isn't long before Ramesh's own parents are unhappy that Frank and Ellie are treating him like their own child.

The plot has several twists and turns (with a final sucker punch of an ending). The reader is led into a world that is driven by misunderstandings, both cultural and personal. Overall, this is a beautiful novel with complex and dynamic characters who will linger in your mind long after you've read the last page. I can't wait to get my hands on Umrigar's other works.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Revelry Review: Room

When you are a book addict like me, it is not often that you come across something completely unlike anything else you've ever read. Room by Emma Donoghue is such a book.

I've seen many reviews of this book. Not only has it appeared in the fall book preview section of nearly every magazine I read, it has also been written up in the New York Times and The Washington Post, not to mention just about every other national paper. Donoghue herself has been interviewed all over the web, including here and here. Needless to say, the hype surrounding this book left me a little wary. Could it really live up to the expectations I had?

Yes, yes it could.

This is the story of "Ma" and her son, Jack. They are both being held hostage by their captor in a small room. In fact, Jack, who celebrates his 5th birthday in the beginning of the novel and whose voice is used to tell this story, was born there and considers it his home. With a small skylight as their only window to the area that Jack simply calls "Outside", they have created their own world inside "Room". Jack sleeps in "Wardrobe" at night, in case a man known only as Old Nick comes. His Ma goes to great pain to give Jack what she can given her circumstances, but little by little the reader is exposed to just how small their world really is. Without giving much away, their lives suddenly expand beyond the confines of "Room" and they are forced to leave familiarity behind and deal with "Outside" head on.

I admit it took me awhile (at least 40 pages) to adjust to reading a book that is narrated by a five year old who has only ever interacted with his mother in a tiny room. In fact, I nearly stopped reading. However, Jack's voice is this novel's genius. Even given that this sort of crime has appeared more and more in the news in recent years, I had never even considered many of the psychological and child development issues of people who have experienced what Jack and Ma have. The mental scars of their experience linger long after they have become physically free.

Audrey Niffeneger, the author of The Time Traveler's Wife, said, "Emma Donoghue's writing is superb alchemy, changing innocence to horror and horror into innocence. Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it's over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days." I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fall Book Preview

One of my favorite things about fall is that the book industry seems to pump out all of its big, juicy reads just in time for purchasing for the holidays (or, in my case, pre-ordering every last one of them!) Here is a preview of some of the books coming out between now and December that I am oh-so-very-much looking forward to:

Room by Emma Donoghue. This one actually comes out today and yes, it has already been delivered to my Kindle. This novel was seemingly inspired by the Josef Fritzl case, where he kept his daughter locked up in their home. A summary of the review: Jack, a 5 year old boy, has lived his entire life in a single room with his mother, visited only a nighttime by a man known as Old Nick. It is the only world he has known, but it is a prison for his mother. When their world suddenly becomes larger than the four walls they are used to, the consequences are "piercing and extraordinary".

I am very excited not only for this one to be released (October 12th) because also I will be hearing Nicole Krauss talk about her new novel, The Great House, at 6th and I Synagogue on October 18th. I adored The History of Love so I have been anxiously awaiting her next book. From the review: "The novel consists of four stories divided among eight chapters,
all touching on themes of loss and recovery, and anchored to a massive writing desk that resurfaces among numerous households, much to the bewilderment and existential tension of those in its orbit, among them a lovely American novelist clinging to the memory of a poet who has mysteriously vanished in Chile, an old man in Israel facing the imminent death of his wife of 51 tears and an esteemed antiques dealer tracking down the things stolen from his father by the Nazis."

David Sedaris writing animal-themed stories. Need I say more? Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary is due out on September 28th.

The Poets Laureate Anthology is the first anthology to gather the works of all 43 poets laureate. I will be attending a reading from this book that will include Billy Collins and Kay Ryan on October 6th. The English major dork in me has been overjoyed since I first heard about this book and the event!

You didn't think I would forget to include some cookbooks, did you?? Baked Explorations, the sister cookbook to Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's first cookbook, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, is headed to a bookstore near you on October. Both cookbooks provide new takes on classic desserts. I loved the first one-what's not to love about a root beer bundt cake and black forrest cookies??--so I am hoping that this one will prove to be equally as delicious.

Appetite for Reduction: 100 Fast and Filling Lowfat Recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is due out in early December. Every recipe she writes has turned out to be utterly delicious, so my kitchen and I are awaiting this one's release.

I love Colleen. I love her podcasts. I love her outlook. I hope I also love her new cookbook, Color Me Vegan, which is also due out in December.

Monday, September 13, 2010

DC Vegfest 2010

Jesse and I headed over to DC Vegfest this weekend, which was held at our alma mater, George Washington University. It was a lot of fun last year, so we looked forward to experiencing it again. I managed to score one of the last tote bags they had filled with some trials of veggie-friendly food and other products. Then we immediately got in line to get ourselves some of what Vegan Treats brought to the event. I got a peanut butter bomb and Jesse got a berry cheesecake. Take a look at these babies:

We had a delicious lunch of Ethiopian food from Dama Ethiopian Restaurant. Then we found a spot in the shade to see Chef Tal Ronnen's cooking demonstration.

After lunch I got coconut water to drink. Check out the coconut man machete-ing my coconut!

Mmmm, coconut water.

We got some new cookbooks and Jesse got a shirt that says, "Eat Like You Give a Damn". Amen. What a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Falafel "burgers" with a cucumber yogurt sauce from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger. SO good! This is a smaller sized cookbook but, based on this recipe, I think I am going to give every single recipe a try!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Delicious Dishes: Pesto Bread

You MUST make this pesto bread! Here is why:

1. It's super easy, requiring only a mixing of ingredients, 8 minutes of kneading, 2 hours of rising and some spreading of pesto and parmesan.

2. It's beautiful. By rolling it up like a jelly roll, slicing it down the middle and braiding it, it comes out looking like a professional made it. The recipe even has a full page of pictures of a how-to.

3. It's delicious. It's like garlic bread's grown-up, sophisticated cousin. I could eat this every day and not tire of it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Revelry Review: Cutting for Stone

South Asian Author Challenge, Book 3/5: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Sister Mary Joseph Praise is traveling from her homeland in India to Ethiopia when she meets Dr. Thomas Stone. They end up working in the same hospital for several years. One day, when she doesn't show up for work, her colleagues find that she has been concealing the fact that she is pregnant with twins.

One of the twins, Marion, narrates the novel. The first half tells the story of Sister Mary Joseph Praise and the second half picks up with what happens to the boys after their birth during a time of a coup in Ethiopia, living with adoptive parents and Marion's decision to move to the United States. This sweeping novel touches on just about every topic one could imagine: birth, death, love, rules, politics, medicine, family, responsibility, etc. The characters are some of the best developed that I have ever encountered. I wish, however, that there had been slightly less medical jargon/scenes (the author is a MD in real life), because I started to get caught up in trying to understand it and, in the process, got diverted from the pace and beauty of the novel's prose.

At nearly 700 pages, it is a long novel and a big time commitment. However, it is one that is worthy of the dedication to finishing it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Snapshots of my vacation.

Jesse and I began our vacation with a trip to the outlets in Freeport. I scored a pair of Cole Haan flats for only $32! Then, later that night, I treated myself to some time at Soakology, a teahouse and foot sanctuary. They lead you downstairs to sit on overstuffed couches and chairs that are up on platforms. Then you soak your feet in warm warm of the scent of your choice (mine? mint chocolate!). They refill your water three times over the course of an hour. I also got a 20 minute foot massage and some red chai. It was amazing and the perfect way to begin the week!

Maine blueberries are just about my most favorite thing ever. They are smaller and sweeter than anything we can get here. I enjoyed this blueberry and lemon tart from the Standard Baking Company.

My Mom and her boyfriend came up to visit and meet Jesse's parents. Here we are looking like we got dropped into a Maine themed postcard.

A shot of the sun setting on the bridge.

Our most favorite vegetarian restaurant ever, The Green Elephant. I had tofu tikka masala, a blueberry soda and Jesse and I split a chocolate and orange mousse cake. LOVE this place! It was one of the best meals I ever had. From there we wandered around the Portland Museum of Art, which is free on Friday nights.

We spent a day at Old Orchard Beach. We walked on the beach, ate pier fries and played mini-golf.

On Saturday, after the second of one the best meals of my life at Street and Company, which was beyond incredible, we headed about 30 minutes north to the lake house (affectionately called "camp") that Jesse's family rents every summer. We spent the days doing camp things--sleeping, reading, eating ice cream, playing cornhole and ping pong, swimming, canoeing and challenging each other at board games. Oh, and making friends with the wildlife.

Here are Jesse and my Mom in the canoe.

This picture is a good example of what camp is like. Relax by the water, read and enjoy doing nothing! Overall, the trip was amazing and far too short. I fall in love with Maine more and more every time I visit.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Revelry Review: Medium Raw

I recently finished reading Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook by Anthony Bourdain.

Now, I should confess to you that I LOVE Anthony Bourdain. I watch episodes of "No Reservations" endlessly. I think it is smart, well-written, honest and interesting. Tony goes places and does things that I can only dream about. I loved Kitchen Confidential too, mostly because I spent a few years working full-time as a waitress and thought it was time that someone was honest with the general public about restaurant life.


Either it's my old age or Tony's that has led me to conclude that Medium Raw is just a tad too....well, mean. Don't get me wrong--I found it interesting and I like reading his point of view on the food world. Let's face it--tons of bad food-related media is thrust at us daily. But was it necessary to essentially filet Alice Waters? And I know he hates the Food Network, but I didn't know just how deep that hatred ran. I don't like Sandra Lee either, but his description of her is a bit over the top. It felt like essay after essay kept getting more and more angry.

I should back up and say being over the top and a little gruff is why so many of us love Anthony Bourdain. I just wish this book had read more like the honest critique he is known for and less like one big attack on all things mainstream in the foodie world.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Delicious Dishes: Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup

I have a confession: I have a soup obsession. Even in the middle of the summer. To me, soup is the perfect meal.

Despite it being very warm outside, I tried making the Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup from Two Blue Lemons. It was fantastic. Filling enough to feel like a whole meal, delicious and nutritious. I also made another loaf of bread with the dough I had in the fridge. Seriously, you HAVE to try the method Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day! It's so easy to have fresh bread whenever you want! I am glad I tried these two together. It will be the perfect dinner when the weather gets cool this fall.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Revelry Review: Every Last One

This past weekend I finished reading Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. I loved two of her previous books, One True Thing and Black and Blue, so I decided to give this one a go too. What I had forgotten in the many years since I read those other two is that Ms. Quindlen is a master of making you feel the terrible emotions that people go through when they experience a tragedy.

I can't say too much without giving away the heart of this book, but here is a brief summary: Mary Beth Latham is married and has three children. The first half of the book weaves an intricate portrait of the ins and outs of their family life. It is pretty ordinary. Then something absolutely horrible happens. I was pretty blindsided because I had purposely stayed away from reviews of this book so that I wouldn't know what it was. Simply put, there is a Before and an After for Mary Beth and the rest of the book follows her as she attempts to give meaning to the After.

I cried. And then I cried some more. If you've read Isabel Allende's Paula or Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and liked them, then you might also like this portrait of grief and loss.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Delicious Dishes: Bhindi Masala

This weekend I made Bhindi Masala (Okra curry) using the recipe I found over at Two Blue Lemons, with the addition of a ton of spinach. It was the first time I ever had okra. While I didn't love the okra itself because it seemed tasteless, the recipe was yummy and quick. Next time I might try adding chickpeas and some green beans.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Baking bread!

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you my biggest accomplishment to date: I made bread from scratch! Baking bread has been on my bucket list for a few years now and I never just buckled down and tried it. I'm so glad I did!

Truth be told I used the recipe and method from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It was so simple! The only needed ingredients were yeast, water and salt. The recipe makes three loaves and you can store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, so you can have fresh bread whenever you want. Next up: Experimenting with more recipes in the book, as well as the more difficult ones in The Breadbaker's Apprentice.

You can listen to Peter Reinhart's TED talk on the art of baking bread here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Revelry Review: Secret Daughter

South Asian Author Challenge, Book 2/5: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

This novel tells the story Kavita, a woman from a small village in rural India who is forced by her husband to surrender her newborn daughter to an orphanage. In their culture, sons are prized and daughters are seen as simply another mouth to feed and dowry to pay. At the same time, Somer and Kris, a childless couple in California, are seeking a way to finally become a family. They decide to look at adopting and go to an orphanage in India that Kris' parents recommend. These two stories become weaved together in a novel that spans approximately 25 years.

I loved this book. It's a touching and beautiful portrayal of what it means to be family. It deals with ideas of love, loss, roots, culture clashes and a sense of belonging to a place. The characters were all well-developed and I identified in some way with every single one of them. I loved that a novel that begins with a story about how little girls are seen as worthless morphs into a novel about what it means to be a woman and all of the roles that woman may take on over a lifetime regardless of where they are in the world.

You can also read this op/ed by the author on the 100 Million Lost Girls of India.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Delicious Dishes.

Last Friday night I made Chef Chloe Coscarelli's panang curry with tofu. It required a lot of chopping but it was so worth it! I can't recommend this recipe enough. I added red and yellow bell peppers and green beans to her recipe. I also pan fried the tofu before adding it in. It was like dining at a Thai restaurant without having to leave the house!

Monday, July 12, 2010


We had such a fantastic weekend! One of my friends from college came to visit from Texas. It was full of laughs, memory making and new adventures. I love the friends that you can see after much time has passed and it feels like you just saw them yesterday. In the very best way possible, I felt like a tourist in my own city this weekend. I need to get out and explore more often!

We started with a visit to the new Nationals baseball stadium to see them take on the Giants.

We got to see Strasburg pitch and purchased tickets for when the Nationals play the Phillies in a few weeks (I can't wait--the Phillies are my team!!)

On Saturday we headed to the Tim McGraw concert!

You can see why this weekend was affectionately dubbed "Big Beer Weekend 2010".

Jesse preferred a giant plastic guitar that was half margarita and half strawberry daiquiri.

On Sunday we went over to the National Harbor for lunch at Rosa Mexicano and some wandering.

This is where they moved The Awakening sculpture.

Much to my very excited surprise, they opened an entire store dedicated to peeps here! It's a shrine to the ooey-gooey sugar-coated marshmallow goodness.

Love me some peeps!

When we got home, Jesse and I watched my beloved Spanish team beat the Netherlands in the World Cup Finals (Viva la Furia Roja!), made some dinner and watched Burma VJ. So many good times were had this weekend! Hope you enjoyed your weekend too!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Money Talk Course

On Wednesday night, I started a course called "Money Talk: A Financial Guide for Women" that is being offered by my county. For $20 (plus $5 extra to bring your significant other), you get five two-hour weekly sessions on all things finances taught by a financial counselor, as well as one session taught by a accountant/attorney. They even included handouts and the book in the cost of the course. The topics of the sessions will be: financial basics, investing basics, investing for retirement, insurance basics and planning for future life events. As a bonus, it's held at the local library, so I can check out a ton of books on the nights I am there and stop buying them!

Since Jesse and I are both at the beginning of our professional lives and just moved in together, I thought it would be a great idea for us to both attend. We can use it as a way to get ourselves financially together individually, but also set goals together and talk through money stuff. I've read a lot of books on finances, including several by Suze Orman, On My Own Two Feet and Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money With Your Honey by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, and a few others. However, the benefit of having a live teacher to ask questions, as well as a roomful of people interacting and telling anecdotes, is above and beyond anything I have gotten out of those books.

In the first class we started with looking at how we view money at the moment. She had us fill out a "Money Coat of Arms" with four sections plus a middle section for a money motto. It was admittedly a little cheesy but the content got me thinking a lot:

One thing I do well with money: Pay bills on time and always more than the minimum

One thing I don't do well with money: Budget! Save! (Okay, that's two.)

One way that I enjoy spending money: On hobbies, like yoga, reading, crochet and cooking

One way that I have a hard time spending money: On responsible adult items I hate to have to fork out cash for because it makes me resentful, like dental procedures and eye glasses.

My money motto: I had a hard time with this one. Currently, or at least the last few years, it seems like it was "Spend like you're dying". Now it's more like "Be responsible and cautious but don't forget to live."

Some members of the class shared their responses. I was surprised to hear so many women say that they have a hard time spending money on themselves. That is SO NOT my problem! We also talked about creating a budget (she calls it a "spending plan" since the b-word turns so many people off!), setting SMART short-term (1-3 years), intermediate term (3-10 years) and long-term (10+ years) financial goals, credit card basics, ways to increase your cash flow and decrease expenses, organizing your financial paperwork and more.

This course fits in nicely with my long-lost but about to be revived "Sweat and Save" plan. The only thing I did for that in 2010 on the save part was to pay off my credit cards (they have since seen a little damage but nothing that can't be paid off again quickly). Hopefully this interests at least a few of you. I plan to blog about the remaining four sessions as well. If you live in the Arlington, VA area, I highly recommend you check this course out! Contact me for more information.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Revelry Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

On the train ride back from New Jersey this past weekend, I started and finished The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. I've seen this novel reviewed everywhere--magazines, blogs, newspapers, etc--so I was anxious to read it.

The story revolves around the life of Rose, who has an unusual skill: she can taste emotions in her food. This talent first develops when she is nine years old and is eating her mother's lemon cake, which she says tastes like absence and hunger. At first Rose tries to get rid of this ability by avoiding eating anything that is not pre-packaged and made by a machine. The story follows about 10 years of Rose's life and as she grows up, she learns to use the talent to her advantage. Along the way the reader learns about Rose's family through her peculiar skill.

Steeped in magical realism, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake lets the reader into the ins and outs of a family through food. A sense of loneliness and disconnect seems to pervade Bender's writing. While I wasn't completely blown away by this one, I continue to think about the book's lonely, quiet moments long after reading the last page.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Jersey

I spent the long 4th of July weekend in NJ with my family, friends and Jesse. For the first few days I couldn't stop checking out the sunsets in my Mom's backyard. City living can make you forget how beautiful nature can be.

My Mom and I did a little cooking, a little eating, a little wine drinking and a lot of catching up. I took this picture after saying, "Hey, Mom...pose for my blog!" and she responded, "How do I get to a blog?" Ha. Also? Please ignore the fact that she is already in her pajamas and has crazy lady hair.

This is the Ocean City beach. So, so pretty but so, so full of tourists. I miss this place a lot when I am not there.

Hanging out on the boardwalk for a bit. We spent our July 4th seeing two movies at the only drive-in movie theater left in NJ! I had never been to one but it was SO much fun! Hope you all had a great holiday too!