Tuesday, September 28, 2010

National Book Festival & Chinese with the Martins

Saturday, we made our annual trip to the National Book Festival on the Mall. Love this event! Last year, we went with our friends Brendan and Jessi, and we met up with them again this year.

Jessi was lucky enough to meet The Pioneer Woman and have her book signed by Ree Drummond herself! I am jealous but happy for Jessi! If you don't already read The Pioneer Woman's blog, you need to jump on over there and bookmark it. Do it now. I'll wait here...

Last year, it was rainy and cold! Here are pics from last year, note the sweatshirts, people!
This year, it was 95 degrees outside!?!?! Ummmmm... hello, Fall? Please do your job. It was way too hot.

We still had a great time, though. We listened to a talk from Steve and Cokie Roberts that was fascinating.
I sat on the ground and ate a rocket ice pop. Highlight of the afternoon.
A little background on the book festival for you: It's basically nerd heaven! There are all these tents set up on the mall and they have topics like "history and biography" or "contemporary arts" and there are all kinds of authors who give talks about their books and the topics they're experts on. It's great. You can also buy books and wait in long lines to get them signed.

Michael is always the kid in class who raises his hand. He's very much a participant. He wanted to go up to the microphone to ask Steve and Cokie a question. But you know me, I'm the always hesitant, head nodding, non-verbally communicating wife that gives the looks that say "what are you about to say?"

Michael: "I'm going to go ask a question. Will you hold the mic for me?"
Me: "Absolutely not." (I was not going to contribute to this potentially embarrassing situation!)
Michael (to Brendan): "I'm going to go ask a question. Will you hold the mic for me?"
Brendan: "Sure!"

Off they go, and Jessi and I, sitting on the ground, communicate, non-verbally of course, "oh boy..."

I darted up to the front to try to get a picture of our boys asking a question, but I couldn't get a good angle.
You can kind of see M if you look closely, in the very middle wearing a white t-shirt. Yes, it was hot enough to sport just a white t-shirt.
I ended up back at our original spot since I couldn't get a good shot. They went to Michael to take his question!!

Michael: "You guys have spoken about juggling a marriage where one partner has a high profile, successful career, I'm wondering what advice you could give a newlywed couple in that same situation?"

They laughed. So did the crowd. Everyone loved it. Including me, who is now feeling like a total schmuck for not wanting to hold the microphone! By the way, Steve and Cokie said it's really important to celebrate each other's accomplishments, then they said something about the joy of grandchildren.

I said to Jessi: "I hope there's some good in between being newlyweds and grandchildren!"
I was proud of him. It was cute. And now he'll be C-Span famous! Yay.

We didn't get pictures with Brendan and Jessi because we had a little bit of drama issue thanks to me. I never fail. I swear, I really am ashamed of myself sometimes. I'm learning to be more open about my struggles, so again - I'm just going to throw it out there!

It was REALLY hot, as I've mentioned before. Michael and I were both feeling it. But he, in particular was having a hard time cooling down. This meant he needed to drink a lot of water. I was giving him a drink as he asked for it, and I rolled a cold bottle of water on his neck, and I fanned him with the book festival program. We were moving slowly and I was frustrated. I usually walk behind M because if I walk in front of him, I tend to not walk at a good pace, and I get too far ahead. Well, all of this combined left me feeling like a water boy. I get that I'm his wife, and I want to be there to help him, obviously. But nobody wants to be a water boy. So, I was kind of feeling down. Then, at one point, M was going to go to an ambulance to get an ice pack! I was so upset! I mean, really, was this really a medical emergency? I do not like for him to get special treatment of any kind, so I stomped off out of the last talk we were listening to and went to a concession stand to buy a bottle of water. Then I was sent back to get a cup of ice, which they wouldn't give us, but anyway... the point is I was being a total brat.

After the book festival, we hopped on the metro to Chinatown to meet up with Michael's Aunt Teresa and Uncle Terry at the National Portrait Gallery, where we enjoyed a great Norman Rockwell exhibit. It was the personal collection of Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas.
This particular painting totally captured my "water boy" feeling I was having that night:
I pulled myself together though because I did not want to be an immature brat in front of family. Uncle Terry and Aunt Teresa are huge blessings in our life and we were psyched to see them and enjoy the gallery and dinner together. We ate Chinese in Chinatown!
My favorite part of dinner was the GIANT lazy susan! It was fun rotating our food (we shared 4 entrees, family style) all around the table.
The Martins under the Chinatown arch thingy! I don't know what those things are called. Someone help me out with that, please?

Lessons learned from Saturday: Do not act like a brat. Scratch that. Do not be a brat. Still working on that one. Majorly. Gonna take lots of work. Also, Chinese seafood dishes should not ever go into doggy bags. We were totally those people who bring stinky Chinese onto the Metro. I'm sorry to everyone who rode in that rotten smelling Blue line car Saturday night. I will not do that again, I promise.

What's For Dinner: Seafood Spaghetti

This one was a Michael request. When I'm making my weekly shopping list, I usually ask him if he's craving anything. Most of the time, he isn't. He likes whatever I cook. I'm lucky like that. But this particular week, he said "spaghetti with shrimp and scallops."

Okay. I hadn't ever done that before. But I knew I could wing it. I had a bag of frozen scallops from Wegmans in the freezer. We always have a jar or two of store bought spaghetti sauce on hand. I had a coupon for $1.00 off a fresh seafood purchase (which I used to buy shrimp). I chopped up an onion, a red pepper, and a green pepper (which I also always have on hand, it's my magic trifecta for everything!) and some freshly grated parmesan cheese and viola! Dinner.

Boil the pasta, drain and keep it warm.
Chop up onion, red and green peppers, saute in olive oil and oregeno, then mix into warmed up jar of store bought spaghetti sauce.
Steam shrimp with as much Old Bay as you can.
Pan sear scallops in 2 tablespoons of butter (after thawing)
Mix everything together.
Serve with salad, garlic bread and white wine.... and live happily ever after.

Jazz in the Sculpture Garden

I love the National Mall at dusk.

The night that we met up with Will and Jamie, Michael and I enjoyed a "date night" listening to Jazz in the Sculpture Garden. What fun! There were TONS of people gathered all around the fountain and the garden. We had some wine, and food, and it was a great experience. We definitely have to do it again next summer!
Random: Before Michael moved here, I was out exploring the city by myself one night when I came upon this fountain and I just knew then that I wanted to bring him to this very spot!
My hot date!
There I go sneaking pictures of him again! :)

Hanging with Will & Jamie

I've been meaning to post about this for weeks. Now that I have the time, I'm actually going to do it! A few weeks ago, I finally got to meet a woman in person who I've come to know through the internet. The beautiful Jamie Goodwin. Jamie and I are blog friends. We've talked about the whole wheelchair thing a few times and have a special connection because of it. Jamie has been paralyzed since she was a teenager. She and her husband, Will, experience some of the same joys and frustrations as Michael and I in this life that is love, and marriage, and disability. The Goodwins were in town for the Glenn Beck rally, and we met up with them the night before to scope out the scene on the National Mall for their trip the next day.
We met up at the Smithsonian Metro (outside the elevator, naturally) and walked/strolled together all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial. We hit it off and enjoyed sharing "war stories" on the metro on the way home for us and back to the hotel for them. I was really encouraged by our visit with them. Will and Jamie have been married for more than 10 years, and I was struck by how effortless it all seemed for them. Especially Will. I suppose I was really keeping an eye on his reactions because we kind of play the same role. We're the ones not in wheelchairs. Will was just effortless. He held Jamie's hand and pulled her in her chair as they strolled together. He really opened up, chuckling at times, telling funny wheelchair/paralyzed related stories.
I loved it. I want to be like that. Effortless. We're only a year into this. So, there's hope yet! Right now, when one of those "war stories" happens for us... I tend to hyperventilate at the time, then about 15-16 hours later, I do find it funny. I'm hoping to improve that time!

The New Place (PICTURES)

Here are some pictures of our new place! We are finally finished unpacking and decorating. Please use your imagination, I took these pictures with my iPhone so they're not the greatest quality, but you can get the idea.
Living Room.
Dining Room.
My bathroom.

I still need to take pictures of M's bathroom and our back porch. Real pictures, not phone pictures. I'll let you know when I get around to that.

Zucchini Muffins

After I baked those pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, I had the urge to bake once again! Yeah! I love to bake and I haven't had time to do a lot of it lately. We had some zucchini that needed an assignment and I was itching to use this super cute KitchenAid Chef's Chopper I got as a gift waaaayy back at my bridal shower!
This little sucker is powerful! It only holds 3 cups of anything at a time, so I had to chop the zucchini in about three different batches, but that's okay! I loved using this little machine. I think it's earned a permanent place out on the counter! I can use it for veggies, nuts, coffee and who knows what else.

This was my first time making zucchini muffins and they were a hit! I found this recipe online:

3 cups grated fresh zucchini
2/3 cup melted unsalted butter (I used salted, that was what I had on hand)
1 1/3 cup sugar (can be taken down to 3/4 cup if you're watching that sort of thing)
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch of salt
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in grated zucchini and then the melted butter. Sprinkle on baking soda and salt over the zucchini mixture and mix in. In a separate bowl, combine flour, nutmeg an cinnamon. Stir dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. Stir in walnuts, raisins or cranberries if you're using them. Coat each muffin cup with vegetable oil spray. Distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups, filling each one completely. Bake on the middle rack until the muffins are golden brown, and the tops of the muffins bounce back when you press on them, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes. If you do add nuts and/or raisins or cranberries, you'll probably have more than enough dough for a dozen muffins. I was able to make 14, and I could have made 15 because my last two were obese!

I chose to add cranberries AND walnuts. Because I do not ever brush off an opportunity to take something to the next level! Michael and I managed to eat about 7 of these. I took the other 7 to work, and the guys loved 'em!

First Guest in Our New Place

Last week, we had the chance to entertain our first guest in our new place! A friend of Michael's from way back in his childhood days (kudos to Facebook for re-connecting them) Tim Rose, met me at the White House for a little press room tour, then he came over for dinner.

Tim has one of those fascinating, super cool jobs that I could hear him talk forever and forever about! You can just tell he is a salt of the Earth kind of guy. He was a joy to have over. I forgot to take any pictures of dinner, but yes, it was a success!

There were Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies involved. My first batch of the season, and they just never disappoint.

We're hoping Tim can come back to visit us again soon! Maybe next time, with his wife and kiddos.

The Metro

I am actually a big fan of the DC Metro system. I take it to and from work every day. And we just moved across town so we could live super close to a metro station. It's clean (unlike the NYC Subway), it is expensive, but it's convenient and generally reliable.

They do have issues with escalators and elevators, however.

I personally am freaked out when the escalators aren't working. Now, I will hop on and ride a working escalator with moving steps with no problem. But the second it's not working and just turns into a staircase, I am freaked out! I feel dizzy looking down at my feet, and I'm afraid I'm going to fall!

I love this guy's rap about the Metro. Check it out.

Michael and I have to be vigilant about checking the status of the elevators, because that can make or break our trip. Recently, we were going to go to a Sunday night "All Church Celebration" at the Lincoln Theater in DC. I checked the status of the elevator that morning, it was good to go. Then, that afternoon, after we had walked all the way to the station, and got downstairs we heard on the intercom that the U Street Station elevator was down. So was the one at the next stop. So, we would have had to walk like 10 blocks and I knew there was no way we would ever make it to this church service on time. We tried to go, but I'm just going to lay this out there for you folks. I had a total anxiety attack and cried like a baby on the train! Thankfully there wasn't anyone around except for my husband, who was trying to be encouraging and enduring. But I just couldn't handle it. Realities like this sometimes smack me in the face, and it's so much more than an elevator that's not working. I feel like it's the entire universe conspiring against us, to keep us from having a "normal" life, and I hate it. We ended up just going back home. We ended up having a good night, just being together. But it was still sad. And metro elevator outages still make me mad. Ugh.

Caribou Coffee: Fail

Recently, I thought I'd switch it up and instead of getting my classic "Grande Bold" at Starbucks, I'd hit Caribou Coffee instead.

I've brewed Caribou coffee at home before, and loved it. I've been to Caribou for Mochas and Lattes and had good experience. Plus, it's more on my way to work than Starbucks.
Plus, I had a gift card... so, I went.
Right off, I knew something was off. My coffee didn't smell right. Eh, but I liked the packaging and I liked the idea of trying something new, so I drank...
But this is all I could drink. It was GROSS. I threw the coffee out, people. You know it's bad when I'm throwing coffee out. I have more left on my gift card though, and friends tell me they are big fans of Caribou, so I'll try again... someday. For now, even looking at the pictures still makes my stomach do loopdy-loops. Ick.


Please sing the Fergie song as you read the title to this blog entry. Thanks.
My job covering the White House has some glamorous moments...
like when I got to go to my first Presidential News Conference a couple of weeks ago, and I got to sit in the THIRD ROW, a new personal best! It was pretty sweet.

But there are also times when I run into things like this at the White House...
Glamour, baby!

The good news is they have finally made a Barbie modeled after me.
Here I am covering the White House...
Yeah RIGHT. We all know if that Barbie was me, she'd have un-perfect hair, and she'd be wearing flip-flops!

Some other funny scenes from my work adventures lately. I got to stalk out the Duggars! I think I counted a grand total of 16 Duggars spotted. I did respect the wishes of their bodyguard and I did not interview them, but I did keep count. And I did run in to a bunch of them when they were eating dinner at McDonald's!
I scored a sweet behind-the-scenes-exclusive interview spot at one event recently... and forgot to take ANY pictures. How does that happen? I did get a co-worker to take a picture of me with some giant coffee filters I found in a hotel kitchen.

Ha! I need those suckers in my house, yo! I think my blue suit is very Hillary Clinton-esque, don't you? It's not a pant suit, by the way. It's a skirt. And the skirt currently does not fit, but we aren't going to talk about that. We're going to talk about Hillary Clinton.
I recently covered a big speech she gave. As you can see, this was another highly glamorous assignment, in which I sat in a room and watched Hillary Clinton on a giant TV, giving a speech. I did notice how fabulous she looked, though. And I even dedicated a Facebook status to her fabulousness. Then, the next week... this happened.
Girlfriend wore her hair up in a clip at the UN! Um.... now, we all own these clips. But they are generally appointed to such tasks as pinning the hair back during face washing, or pulling the hair up while one watches TV in the comfort of their own home after a hard day's work. At first, I thought, no, this can't be... someone snapped a photo of Hill at an extremely unfortunate time.
But... no, she was definitely just rocking that clip. One one hand, I applaud her. On the other hand, I have to wonder, was it really that bad? But then again, ladies, if you know the feeling of a bad hair day, sometimes you really are THAT done. So, maybe she was.

Another horrific thing that can happen is being 'upshot' in a photo. I mean, even Michelle Obama, who is beautiful, and elegant, and buff, can end up looking like this, when the photo is upshot.
This post probably seemed a little random. Forget seemed, it was. But I have these thoughts, I have to put them out there somewhere. So, there you go.

Glamorous, baby.

Through His Eyes

Sunrise one morning as I drove in to work

There's certainly one part of marriage that can feel a bit.. hmm.. shall we say, encroaching? I mean, there's this other person always up in your business. Right there when you wake up, right there when you go to bed. There's no place to hide your 'dirty laundry' LITERALLY! They even significantly contribute to your amount of dirty laundry!

Michael and I certainly do our fair share of getting on each others' nerves. My nagging to his singing made up songs. His forgetting to pick something up to my pouring out his drink and putting it in the dishwasher before he's done with it.

But one of the great, beautiful things about being married is the chance to see the world through someone else's eyes. M and I see things quite differently. I tend to look at things way ahead, or in the rear view mirror. But he takes it all in. He picks the berries, smells the flowers, takes breaks, naps, and appreciates everything. I, on the other hand, am always in some sort of made up competition, even if it's with myself, and I'm always trying to beat the clock.

Anyway... the point is, seeing things through Michael's eyes has been, wait for it.... a blessing. Yep. It really has. I notice all kinds of things I never would have noticed before.

Like sunrises. Sunsets I always embraced, but sunrises are new, like this one I noticed as I ate breakfast at Panera one day, and I got up and walked outside to take a picture.

And this city water reservoir in DC I came upon because I was lost in a neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brokaw and the Thunder Shirt

Okay... so Brokaw, yeah, he has some issues. He barks like crazy when I leave the house. He barks like crazy when he sees someone walking by outside, or when he hears a noise in the hallway.

Enter... the ThunderShirt!! Cure to all of Brokaw's anxiety issues? No, but it sure is funny!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Country Getaway

This past weekend, we spent one night away in the "country." You may find this hard to believe, but drive about an hour and a half in pretty much any direction from DC, and you'll be in a rural (or at least almost rural) area! It feels like real America!

That's what we did. I found this cute little cabin for rent online. It's just outside the Shenandoah National Park.

Michael and I have a goal of making out in every National Park. And now I suppose we can add NationalS Park too, haha!

This little trip was just what we needed. It's so good for the soul to get out of the everyday routine, isn't it? So good to get close to God's creation. See. Hear. Smell. all that natural stuff!

I married a real nature boy, let me tell you. This boy would spend all day in the woods if he had the chance! I, on the other hand, prefer to have my hair dryer and my iPhone, you know what I mean?

We didn't even bring our computers. Our goal was to totally UNPLUG. Reflect on the last year and dream together about the future. One day driving on Skyline Drive and one night in the little wooden cabin worked. We came back so refreshed. It was an amazing, perfect trip.

Here are some pics:
This was our little cabin. Cabin #1.
This is the little restaurant right on site where the cabins are. We ate there for dinner Saturday night and for breakfast Sunday morning. Home cookin' on a buffet! We brought home some home baked bread that I'm pretty sure is 50% butter. Delicious.
Here's a look inside the cabin:
See what I mean??? VERY different from our every day life. We don't really do floral. Or carpet. Or anything country for that matter. But for one night, it was cute, quaint, perfect.
We even turned on the fireplace.
One of my very favorite things was the babbling brook that ran right behind the cabin. I loved watching it and listening to it. So. Peaceful.
We ate breakfast on the back porch. Dessert, of course.
This next part may seem a little inappropriate to share, but you know what? We're MARRIED, so there! And you know what else? I need to get over being so private, right? So, you know what was really my FAVORITE part of the whole weekend?
Yep. The hot tub. This is always a nice amenity, right? Well, for us, it's extra special. Neither one of us have ever imagined we would be able to enjoy a hot tub. There are a lot of logistics involved, you know? How will I lift Michael up and in there? More importantly... how will I get him out? What if he has some crazy blood pressure issue and passes out? When we walked into the room and I saw this, very uncharacteristically, I said, "We're getting in there." He looked at me like I was crazy. "I don't care if we have to call 911 to get out, we're getting in there." So, we put our heads together and came up with a strategy. We got in!! It was so great! And, obviously, we got out too :) And no, neither 911 nor some non emergency number were called to come rescue us! We did it!! Together. It was great. I'll spare you the details :)
It was unforgettable.
Before we checked in to the cabin, we enjoyed a beautiful drive through Shenandoah National Park.
It was so refreshing to be surrounded by the mountains. To feel small is good. Reminds us of how small we really are. We need that. At least, I know I need that. Michael wanted to photoshop out his bald spot here. I'd love for him to photoshop out my roots and love handles, but whatever!
We went on a hike on an accessible trail! SO GREAT to do something physical, together. We just strolled along and took it all in.
We found an apple tree!

We saw some other pretty cool things, too. Like this heart-looking tree stump.
We took some "senior pictures."
I love to sneak in pictures of him when he has no idea.
Fall is in the air! We are still several weeks away from Autumn but we did notice some leaves already changing. So pretty!

Such a nice getaway. We're already enjoying year 2!!