Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A tourist in DC, part one

When I was growing up we moved quite often. As a result, my parents drilled into me that it is important to take in the sights wherever you live, because "you never know when you'll be moving." (My personal average is one move, to a new state or new country, once every three years.) 

Our current plans are to leave DC within two years, and once I seriously start writing my thesis, my life outside of work (so I've heard) will cease. This is why I have been pushing to hit all the remaining must-sees in the area in the coming months, and why you now see this first post in a series.**

On Sunday, we started off the morning with oatmeal at home, because we planned for that to be the last healthy meal of the day. Then we headed to Adams Morgan, a DC neighborhood known for its clubs and, more importantly, food you eat after you've been drinking a lot. Even on a sober stomach, Amsterdam Falafelshop was terrific. There are just three things on their menu: falafel, twice-fried french fries, and brownies. We had falafel, stuffed with our choice of fresh salads from the topping bar, and french fries red-white (ketchup and mayonnaise), which is the way I liked them in Germany. They also offered peanut sauce for french fries - is this a Dutch thing? - but I'll stick to the red-white combo.

Then we were off to Georgetown, to the bakery that won the Washington Post's "Cupcake Wars," Georgetown Cupcake. If you're a non-foodie, you might not know that cupcakes are very in right now. Some combination of desires for decadence, portion control and old-fashioned food have made them the thing to indulge in lately. Which explains why, although we got there only a half hour after they opened, I still had to wait in line 25 minutes outside the shop before I could get in to place an order. I had heard tales of longer lines, so I didn't complain.

Because we were still full of falafel, we saved the cupcakes for later in the day, and spent the rest of the afternoon strolling along the Chesapeake-Ohio canal that runs through Georgetown. The canal is ambitiously named, because when construction on it was started in the 1850's it was supposed to connect the Chesapeake Bay with the Ohio river. Twenty years later, however, they had only gotten as far as Cumberland, in western Maryland, and the railroads were already proving more effective than canals for transporting goods. So it was never used for commerce, although it's now an excellent walking/biking/boating path.

The extensive walking (and rather chilly weather) caused us to postpone attending the free concert on our agenda, and we headed home to eat cupcakes. It was then that I discovered an error I made when ordering. Because it was such an effort to get to the bakery, I purchased two cupcakes for each of us. However, these treats are such a perfect combination of sugar and fat that after one, the law of diminishing returns asserts itself, and we were forced to save the leftovers for the next day. 

**And we're looking any friends in the DC area who'd like to play tourist with us.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Interesting (but actually sad) fact of the day

Andrew is in the process of filling out some forms for the government. One question they asked was whether my salary alone is enough to support us both, and still keep us above the poverty line. (This is the government's way of checking whether my new husband plans to be a leech on American society.) We were hoping the answer would be yes, I can support us both, because then we'd have to fill out fewer forms. And, looking up the poverty level for two, I can indeed provide for my family. In fact, if you add our two salaries together (remember, we are both lavishly paid graduate students), the government has declared that the sum is large enough for us to support six children and still remain comfortably above the poverty line.

Does anyone else think perhaps the standards are just set a wee bit too low?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The big day

History is taking place just ten miles from my home, but like most Washingtonians I know, we'll be staying in. Although it was a temptation to "be a part of it all," that just couldn't win out over warmth, a good view of the webcast, and the lack of crowds in my living room. 

Here's hoping you're all enjoying the day, wherever you're spending it.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Like most of the country, we are suffering through colder-than-usual days. So (of course) today would be the day that the fire alarm went off. Luckily, my coworkers and I won't be detoured by such a triviality as fire. We all carried laptops or articles with us as we evacuated. After a few minutes we moved into the chemistry building next door and worked in their lobby until the alarm was turned off an hour later.


When I was a writing tutor (yes, that was my job in one of my past lives) I learned that one way to help people get over writer's block is to try different ways of writing. Instead of writing on your computer, grab a pen and write longhand. Or turn off your screen and type. (I use this one sometimes - it prevents you from constantly rewriting and forces you to just produce words.) My favorite way to write is with a fountain pen. Ahh, the smoothly flowing ink. The physical beauty of the words gives the illusion of well-crafted writing. That's an ego boost I can use.

Andrew bought me a fountain pen for Christmas last year. And I loved it. I wrote letters and drafts and checks. I carried it everywhere, until I lost it. All the wailing (and searching of the lost-and-found) did not effect its return, and we bought a replacement. But because I was so mad at myself for losing the first, rather pricey, pen, we got a more thriftily priced stainless steel nib instead of the gold nib. It was horrible. (I mean, it was no global economic downturn, but by golly the scratchiness and blots were outrageous.) So this Christmas Andrew bought me this pen, the Falcon. I used it this week and my life is once again delightful. I hope it will produce many, many pages of brilliant prose, which will handily fill my need for a dissertation. Surely a beautiful pen will help me produce beautiful research?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The big event

I didn't speak for six days. Six days! And it turns out that when I quit talking, my soft-spoken husband does not step up to the plate. It was very quiet at our house, except for my vicious coughing fits, of course. But I'm feeling much better today. So without further ado, I present the following highlight of my holiday:

"Why my English Wedding was So Very English"

1. The reception was held in this beautiful building. The interior was filled with exposed wooden beams and fireplaces, and I'm pretty sure one room had a tapestry hanging in it.

2. The before-dinner drink was sherry. I know that we do drink this here, but at an American wedding, I'm betting the aperitif would have been a martini or white wine.

3. The wedding cake was fruitcake. Cool, huh? It's the traditional wedding cake choice in England. And it's rather practical, because instead of worrying about butter cream melting when the cake is delivered on the day of the do, they can give you the marzipan-iced cake a few weeks beforehand. After all, fruitcake only gets better with age.

4. The main course was meat (mushrooms for the vegetarians), veggies, and roasted potatoes. No silly pasta or rice.

5. It also the custom, apparently, to feed your guests until they explode. If you arrived early to the church, there was tea and biscuits. After the short ceremony, we all headed to the reception for sherry and appetizers. Followed by the soup, the main course, and dessert. Then it was time for wedding cake. If you were still hungry, don't despair! A few short hours there was a full buffet dinner. It was all very good, but I must admit that I didn't really pull my own weight by the time we got to the buffet.

Unfortunately, there was one disappointment. Observe the following photo:
Note that only one person, my dear mother-in-law, is wearing a hat. It turns out that it's only common to wear them to summer weddings. And I was so looking forward to a stunning display of British millinery.

And now I've had two weddings, so I must be well and truly married.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Cough, cough

Did I mention I was going to England for two weeks? Probably not. These trips are just as common as a run to the grocery store for me nowadays....

I have many scintillating tales from the land of tea and, well, more tea, but they will be portioned out at later dates. First I must deal with my souvenir from the trip, a whopper of a chest cold. After five long days I went to the doctor and now I'm so doped up with meds that I'm not quite sure what my name is. The doctor also offered me a letter to show my employer why I can't come to work. I declined it, and it reminded me how happy I am to be in a profession where I don't have to show up every day. In research, your job is to get the work done, and your location and distribution of working hours are your concern. It's not a bad deal.