Summer Road Trip Plan

Last year, Greg and I took a two week road trip… heading north to Rhode Island, Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. There were whales, light house, lobsters and plenty of rain. This year, we are planning to head south. Here’s the map I just built.

Discovery flies over my office

The space shuttle Discovery flies over my office in Arlington, Va.This isn’t related to my normal topic (food!), but the retiring space shuttle Discovery few over my office on its way to its final resting place at the Udvar-Hazy Center. I managed to snap one photo before it soared out of site. Read more about the suttle’s last flight.

How to Get Kicked Off of Top Chef

Someone will have to "pack their knives and go."

I’m watching Top Chef again. Just like last time, I’m moaning that every season is the same. Apparently, the chef-testants don’t watch the previous seasons, because this year — just like all the rest — several have broken the show’s cardinal rules.

In honor of the show I love to hate, here are the top things I’ve learned to never do on Top Chef.

On Top Chef, never, ever:

10. Volunteer to be front of the house during the restaurant wars episode. Yeah, the other cheftestants told you that you are a combination of charming and efficient — making you perfect for the job. That’s because they are smarter than you and know this role is the kiss of death.

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Chronicles of Adulthood: I broke down and bought napkins

Martha Stewart embroidered fruit napkins: Please shoot me if I ever make these.

These days, like anyone plowing towards 30, I’ve gotten a lot of adulthood thrown at me in the last few months: a wedding, a house and a lot of new bills to pay. On top of that, I’ve been abandoning my hand-me-down collection of furniture and kitchen supplies. Thanks to the wedding registry, I now own a lot of the typical trappings of adulthood: matching towels, two changes of sheets and a complete set of silverware. Life does feel more official when you don’t have to drink wine out of coffee mugs and make scrambled eggs in a wok.

But despite the array of appliances and dinnerware that hid in my cabinets, I still didn’t have one thing that most normal homemakers own: napkins. Why buy napkins when paper towels do double duty as mouth/hand wipes and counter top cleaners? Napkins seemed excessive, expensive and bad for the environment. But more than that, refusing to buy napkins was my one last hold out from the just-out-of-college days when I used to make toast in a frying pan.

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What’s Taking So Long? Is it Yelp’s Fault?

People bashed us on Yelp

The Yelp button no one wants. Thanks Photoshop!

I have done a lot of complaining both online (here and here) and offline about restaurants that take way too long to open. Every time the news breaks that a new bar, restaurant, coffee shop etc. is coming to Alexandria, the owner sets an approximate opening date. “Before Christmas,” they say. Or “early spring,” another promises. The store front is renovated, the “help wanted” sign goes up, everything appears to be ready…. but why is it not open!? The promised opening flies by and anticipation turns into irritation.

I proposing a theory. I know nothing about running a restaurant, but it’s America, and I can spout off my unfounded ideas if I want to.

I’m blaming it on Yelp. The website and mobile app has alerted me to countless new dining options, weened me off guidebooks and helped this chronically indecisive diner figure out what to order. However, I now think it’s time for it to shoulder some blame.

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Joining the Composting Cult

One day, my compost bin will look like this one. I can only hope.

This week, as part of some New Years burst of ambition, my husband and I finally bought a composting bin.  For the six months we’ve lived in our house, composting has been one of those “we’ll get to it” activities.

It all seemed so mysterious — not the actual composting, but securing a container to put it in. Whenever I Googled “compost bins,” the Internet returned instructions on how to DYI one from scraps of wood or items scavenged from your neighbors’ trash. Seeing this, I filed the whole idea away in my “for later” brain storage area.  I am someone who hasn’t picked up a hammer since my ninth grade Habitat for Humanity camp. And we’ll see if that house is still standing.

So, after a brief trip to Lowe’s, I am now the proud owner of this.  Yes, like the reviews say, it is a piece of poorly crafted plastic.  Now, I am officially a compost-er.

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Why I love Trader Joe’s or Mo’ Choices, Mo’ Problems

Trader Joe's in Old Town Alexandria
OId Town Trader Joe’s: Where I am unfortunately on a first name basis with the man who does wine tastings

I’m very, very late to this not-so-scandelous expose on Trader Joe’s, but thank you Forbes (and Huffington Post for your round up with photos) for pointing out that more is not always better. I’m Trader Joe’s crazy, so not much of what the article reveals surprises me. But I love how the writer hit on the main reason I shop there: lack of choice. I love how shopping at Trader Joe’s requires making almost zero decisions!

Confession: I hate pumpkin pie and other holiday foods

Just admit it. No one like pumpkin pie

My mom called me a few days ago to ask an important question. “I’m just wondering,” she says. “Is it ok, if — now feel free to say ‘no’ — we have apple cake instead of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Last year, everyone just took a tiny little sliver of the pie, and rest just went to waste. I don’t think anyone likes it!”

Mom, you’re right. No one like pumpkin pie. I have one sitting in my refrigerator right now that my husband made in a fit of fall seasonal-iness. (Just making up words here!) We ate two pieces, and the remainder is still taking up room next to the coffee creamer. Right now as I type this, I feel like I should go throw it out. But I won’t. Special holiday food has a sacredness to it (like a present from a dead relative, a holy scripture or my pile of plastic shopping bags that collect under the sink out of guilt that I forgot my reusable tote, yet again). It can only be tossed in the trash when it actually starts to grow mold.

Yes, I don’t like pumpkin pie. While I’m making this confession, let come grinch-like clean with my other seasonal dislikes:

  • Turkey (most of the time) It’s so dry!
  • Apple cider. Too coyingly sweet.
  • Christmas/Easter ham. Out of all the ways of cooking pork, why this one?
  • S’mores. Love to camp; hate s’mores. Ugh…. marshmallows
  • Peeps. Yuck, more marshmallows
  • Frosting! And most birthday cakes. Yes, I’m the fussy eater at the office birthday parties that just picks at my store bought slice of cake.

Paranoia About Eating Alone

Every Wednesday for the past few weeks I have been teaching a class. It starts at 7pm and is down the street from my office. This means I can’t go home in between work and class. This means I have to eat dinner alone.

There are some activities that I prefer to do alone (shopping, also known as exersizing my extreme indecision and perfectionist tendencies). There are some things I don’t mind doing alone (eating lunch: it’s a moment of zen in the middle of cubical stress). And then there are things I do alone where I’m paranoid that everyone else in the place is staring at me, wondering why I don’t have any friends. Eating dinner is one of those things.

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