Monday, March 29, 2010

The Feast Before the Fast

This year, to celebrate our anniversary, which was yesterday, David and I went to eat at City Zen at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here in DC. I made reservations two months ago to ensure that we had a table on a Saturday night, and it was well worth the wait.
I like to document how we look each year on our anniversary. Here we are before we left for dinner:
At the restaurant, by the looks of things in this picture, you would assume it was a rather bland affair.
That is, until you see things from this angle. Aside from David, you get a fantastic view of the dessert course. I had Banana Fritters served with Creme Brulee Ice Cream. David had City Zen's own "Root Beer Float" which consisted of a sassafras souffle with some amazing vanilla ice cream.

As delicious as the desserts were, the other course were divine as well. I think what I appreciated most was the range of textures for the meal. From a savory panna cotta, to a deliciously light and airy clam chowder souffle cooked in a crepe, to a perfectly tender beef filet, the whole meal was fantastic.
It is a good thing to have enjoyed such a meal. Tomorrow, I am expecting my first Freshology shipment. Yes, for our anniversary, David got me the Freshology Get Slim plan which means that I will be eating delivered meals only for the next few weeks. That may sound awful, but I am actually really excited (except for the fact that eating only 1200 calories a day is going to be a big change for me to deal with at first). The menus look delicious and more than anything, I really need to learn portion control, which is what I am thinking that this meal delivery service will help me learn. If nothing else, then it will enable me to speak more authoritatively about the diet plans of celebrities.
If the food is as delicious as it is supposed to be, then I will finally understand why everyone in Hollywood is supposed to be thin. Basically, it boils down to the fact they they have no excuse if they can afford to eat like this all of the time. (And yes, I realize the fact that I am doing something endorsed by "celebrities" makes me a little bit silly.)
Finally, for good measure, here is a picture of Knightley looking a little scruffy. Why? Well, just because I haven't shared a picture of him in a while.

Unfulfilled Resolutions

Remember how I said that I was going to proofread my posts before actually posting them online? Clearly, I have not been better about that. I just re-read my Hilton Head nature post and found no fewer than seven grammatical or typological errors (and I am sure there are still some there now even after I corrected those). How embarrassing! Anyone who reads my blog on the same day that I post something, before I later review the post, must think that I am only barely literate. I don't blame them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Natural Hilton Head

When I was in third grade, I wrote an award-winning poem entitled, Loving Animals (It won the school and went on to win the county-wide poetry contest. However, one of my third grade classmates was not convinced and told me that her poem deserved to win because she wrote "about love." Even as a third grader I enjoyed the sarcasm quite a bit and told her, "Well I guess you didn't read the title of my poem."). The smash success of the poem was followed up by a play that I wrote on saving manatees that was performed to the elementary school by my class of gifted students. I played the kindly Fish and Wildlife officer who lectured the out of control speedboat drivers about the need to slow down while in the manatees natural habitat (even then, I also loved a good lecture). When I was the same age, I can be seen in Street family home videos lamenting to my mom that the Everglades Kite (a kind of bird) was "becoming extinct." I cared very much.

However, as with most things in my life, I didn't show much of follow-through and although I always cared about endangered species, I didn't grow up and become a Fish and Wildlife Officer or show consistent passion for the cause. My sister, Melissa, however did. She is the conversation biology major who grew up to work on two different wildlife refuges and now teaches the new generation about loving all things natural. Since she couldn't engage in many of the sporting activities of the trip, she led the way in participating in the nature activities.

First, there was the beach. It had sand, not as white as Pensacola Beach, but that did sparkle in the sunlight.

The thing about Hilton Head is that, although it is a big time resort destination, considerable pride has been maintained in preserving natural Hilton Head. This of course, is in contrast to the tackier developments of Myrtle Beach up the coast. As proper Southern girls, we learned from the movie Shag that respectable young ladies do not go to Myrtle Beach without their parents' permissions. Probably the reason for this has to do with what happens to the human psyche when we wantonly destroy nature. However, it is perfectly respectable for young ladies to enjoy the wonders of Hilton Head with its natural surroundings like Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge:
There, the wading and swamp birds live in abundance, like these two Anhingas, identified by Melissa as "pretty common swamp birds":

The Pinckney Island refuge also provided a few grassy areas ideal for taking a nap and enjoying a perfect spring day:

Just be careful where you rest, or course, as there are American Alligators (a threatened species), lurking in the brush:

Aside from my leaf project in seventh grade, when I had to identify 60 different trees through their leaves, I am not so good at identifying the flora as the fauna. However, I do want to point out how lovely the mix of live oaks and palmettos are, and how the combination of trees provides the most glorious shade around.

I just love this picture of Sarah checking out the reedy tidal marshes:

And also this one with her leaning on a palm tree:
Melissa is at it again, this time with Mom and Jordan, trying to identify another critter:

We move on now to our dolphin spotting excursion. Again, let me comment that the weather couldn't have been better for a few hours on the water in Broad Creek and the Calibogue Sound. Here is Jordan enjoying the sunshine:
And here is Melissa and a very unsightly picture of myself.

Here is a picture (from the water) of the Disney Hilton Head Resort where we stayed. I love how from the water, you cannot see what an immense complex that it is and that they kept so many of the trees and shade when they built the resort.

In the water, we observed ospreys carefully attending to their young in their lofty perches.

Jordan demonstrated his talents as wildlife spotter extraordinaire, by pointing out the dolphins for us.

They were a beautiful site to behold, even with my poor wildlife photography skills:

The incredible thing about Hilton Head's ecosystem is that you can see it working right before your eyes. Broad Creek's oyster beds are at the foundation of that ecosystem's infrastructure.

As the shells break down, they get carried into the Sound and deposited on these shores, where the sound of the waves beating against them is absolutely wonderful. You can't see it here, but amongst these shells were two American Oystercatchers, which was a new species of birds that Melissa saw that she was able to check off in her Sibley's bird guide.

With Melissa having successfully identified a new species that she had not seen before, we knew the Hilton Head nature experience was complete.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Baby Showers and Bad Decorations

I am going to divide the remainder of my Hilton Head pictures into two blog posts that describe to large categories of most of what we did in Hilton Head: sporting events and nature. However, one activity (well, besides eating which I also have pictures of) doesn't really fit either of those categories. While we were there, we decided to have a baby shower for Melissa and Jordan. The above photo shows Melissa enjoying a book I got for the baby at FAO Schwartz in New York, ironically for a book about a tractor. I got the book specifically because I thought my dad would enjoy reading about driving his tractor to his grandson.

We had lots of fun, and Melissa and Jordan enjoyed opening their presents.

That picture above is Melissa receiving an African Lullabies album which actually came courtesy of my good friend Suz who had an extra copy.

What I do not do well is decorate for things. I am a notoriously bad decorator. I can't even tell you how much energy it took out of me to blow up these balloons.

I realized, that I didn't have any signage offering congratulations to the parents to be. Therefore capitalizing on this recognition and remembering one of my favorite Dwight moments from an old Office episode, I wrote this:

Only the facts, here folks. That is all I know how to do.

Water Water Everywhere (Just Maybe Not Enough of the Clean Kind)

In case you don't have a subscription to National Geographic, let me tell you, the April issue devoted to global water issues is a must read. Every article is interesting and takes me back to Ms. Wagg's IB Geography class, my Water Law class, or my International Environmental Law class. Excuse me for thinking that water is the most important issue in the world. In my view, there will never be peace in the Middle East and that has more to do with water scarcity than anything else.

The issue features a fantastic issue on the cancer that is Southern California in their overuse of water and the audacity of self-importance that led too many people to live in a place where human beings probably shouldn't live (or plant tropical plants in their yards, at the very least). Every time I think I might be starting to go soft on Southern California, I read something like this and I am reminded again of all of the arrogance that went into creating that place by stealing other people's water. I don't like Roman Polanski, but Chinatown always will hold a special place in my heart for its fictionalized (but based on reality) account of the water stealing history of Los Angeles. I realize this is probably not an issue that I can discuss rationally with other people, but man, it really burns me up and I seethe internally, although these days, rarely voice it externally (I am trying to be nicer to people regardless of whether or not they understand the ramifications of water policy).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Publication Interruption

I am interrupting my Hilton Head coverage, because while I was in Hilton Head, I found out that the article that Amanda and I wrote was accepted for publication into Law Library Journal's summer issue. So now, the second guessing myself begins. It isn't like the bar is particularly high to be accepted for publication in the law librarian world. Generally, I am underwhelmed at the quality of what is out there in the law library world. However, I expect that something that I write that is presented in a scholarly format will be of high quality. After re-reading my contributions to our article, I get this nagging feeling like what I wrote is complete crap and at the end of the day, other people will think I am a complete idiot. Of course, it could be that in the law librarian world, the person that I would most like to emulate is Morris Cohen, and the likelihood that I will ever contribute that level of scholarship is pretty low. I just have to do something more worthwhile than the average young law librarian who is more interested in promoting their useless Twitter feed than actually making a contribution to legal research and scholarship.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Charleston - A Very Good place.

If I am a wealthy woman when I retire, then I would love to live in Hilton Head. The beaches are moderately appealing (I am a tough beach critic), I could play tennis nearly every day and enjoy nature. Not bad. However, if I retire a very wealthy woman, then I would love nothing more than to live in Charleston, South Carolina in one of the lovely, well-kept homes that line the waterfront battery. In fact, I cannot presently think of a more ideal location. Charleston combines my love of so many things. First off, the city has a fascinating history that has been painstakingly preserved.

I have maintained a lifelong dream of owning a historic home that comes with a label like this:

Living in a home built by a "prosperous Huguenot merchant" would make me feel like I am living in a song written by The Decemberists, and appeal to the same historic sentiments that cause me to do things like join the Daughters of the American Revolution.

How about the history of this home?

Could you imagine living in a home where actual Civil War history has taken place? Wow, it would be worth altering your life to accomodate all of the preservational rules and regulations that accompany living in a historic home.
Not only that, but my romantic sensibilities would be delighted to spend the evening imagining the ghosts of Civil War widows wandering these balconies and porticos:

Though I then may be old with "wandering", I could sit out on the porch, feeling the wind from the harbor, and in such a place be done with my practical compromises and allow myself to feel things deeply once again.

I could walk on streets and admire the careful deliberations of neighbors, determined to find just the right floral accompaniments for their window boxes.

From behind wrought iron gates, I could plan the perfect garden.

And in the light of springtime sunsets, I could reminisce about perfect days past.

Not only is there the larger, romantic history of one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, but the city holds an important point of personal family history as well. My parents met in Charleston. My mother was a new schoolteacher, straight out of graduate school at the University of Virginia. She came to this Southern city with her Irish Setter, Kelly, and her sailboat, thinking it would be the perfect place to make a life. She met my dad, a young Naval engineer stationed in Charleston, working on nuclear submarines. Charleston must have been a very romantic place for both of them; before they were engaged to each other, they each were engaged to two other now nameless, faceless individuals. But fortunately for my sisters and I, they eventually found their way to each other, otherwise our unique DNA might have never been formed.

Before they left the South Carolina coast, my mom had given birth to Sarah (seen here with her friend, Brian) in the Naval Hospital. Although they moved away when Sarah was only a month old, in the Southern world, you are from where you are born, so coming back to Charleston had to feel like some kind of a homecoming for Sarah.

And of course, later on, Melissa and I came along. Now, as we await the birth of Melissa's son, it felt right to come full circle to the place where our little family started.

It is our own kind of history.

When I am old and very gray, I could be very content in a place like that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hilton Head, an Introduction

I took many, many pictures in Hilton Head; far too many for one blog post, in my humble opinion. We had so much to do there. I will have to upload a few at at time. After all, that will give me something to blog about over the ho-hum of the next few weeks when I don't have another event that I am eagerly anticipating (except for dinner on Saturday night at City Zen at the Mandarin Oriental here in D.C.). Also, in the midst of a really great time with my family in Hilton Head, we received some really unexpected bad news as well. I don't know how to process the uncertainty of the bad news and what it means for the future, but I tried my best to buck up and enjoy the time with my family. As the repercussions from the bad news unfold over the next several weeks, blogging about Hilton Head will give me something good to think about as a distraction.

We enjoy, in turn, the rocking chairs at Harbourtown. First, here are Mom and Dad:

Here are David and I, enjoying the same chairs on a pleasant evening:

Melissa (oh so-cute and oh so-pregnant) and Jordan show us all how to relax:

Finally, Sarah and her friend, Brian, from Boston, get in on the rocking chair action:

I know, you must be thinking to yourself, well, with excitement like rocking chairs, what possibly can I expect to see as a follow-up to this post about Hilton Head? Just you wait. If you think rocking chairs are exciting, you have to see all of the other excitement that Hilton Head brought.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bolero, Coq Au Vin, and Other Ways to Humiliate Yourself

I have mentioned before my affinity for the BBC teen comedy "The Inbetweeners." It can be so very crass, but yet, so very astute in explaining the awkward navigation of adolescence. I particularly like the protagonist, Will McKenzie, who is hilariously awkward, but actually very bright and driven. Last week's episode featured his 17th birthday. Will desired nothing more than to have a sophisticated dinner party with his mates, and maybe a few girls. Of course, the girls were no shows and the adolescent boys couldn't eat the coq au vin that Will had laboriously prepared without cracking raunchy jokes about the named entree. Will's plan for a sophisticated, urbane evening was completely ruined.

In high school, my friends had dress up dinner parties where we tried to intelligently discuss current events. We tried to be mature and grown-up in the way that we thought we should be. However, when I entered college, I thought to myself, so this is how high school was supposed to be. I wanted to be every bit as urbane and sophisticated as Will McKenzie, but was faced with the prospect of group dates of miniature golf, which was the lot of a BYU freshman living in the dorms. I tried everything in my power to resist. In fact, I soon developed my own "sophistication" litmus test, the Utah Symphony date.
Each year I lived in Provo, my parents purchased me Utah Symphony season tickets for my birthday. These tickets were appreciated for many, many reasons, but one of the truths about them is that without them, I probably would have never dated in my college years. For whatever reason, I was not the BYU co-ed that was much sought after in the way of dating. I had plenty of guy friends, but they liked me because at 2 am, they could call me over to their apartments, say something misogynistic and then be entertained as I went off on a verbal tirade for the next two hours (in retrospect, this might partially explain why they were not interested in dating me). Perhaps they were my friends because they were entertained by my fixation on North Carolina Basketball and my ability to engage in sports trash talk. They just certainly did not want to date me.
Because I was not actively pursued for dates, I had to buck up the courage for my own dates. However, I didn't want to waste my time asking just any boy out, either. The Utah Symphony date was the perfect option. If he went and we managed to have a good conversation, then I might consider him worthy of time and consideration. If I really thought I liked him, I might ask him to dinner at a nice restaurant before to see if he could pronounce foie gras correctly. I don't want to overstate the frequency with which this happened, because I really only went to the Utah Symphony once per month, and many of those months I was content to go with a girlfriend or a sister. However, when these dates happened, they usually did not go well. The hilarity that would ensue probably wouldn't make a TV show as watchable as The Inbetweeners, but there was plenty of post-adolescent awkwardness.
More than one of these dates fell asleep at the symphony. One wanted to play the preschool game "I Spy." The embarrassing part is that even with this clear lack of sophistication, if the boy was cute enough, I probably still was willing to kiss him later on in the evening. One of these awful symphony dates, I dated for a couple of months (until I got wind that he "cheated" on me with some girl from Ricks College. I should have known, based on his gauche symphony behavior). But here is the most embarrassing part: long after we had stopped dating, I called him up in a panic one Saturday because the friend I was supposed to go to the symphony with that evening had cancelled because her boyfriend came into town last minute. I asked him if he wanted to go. I recall very specifically that he laughed into the receiver and told me he already had a date for the evening, but would be happy to set me up with someone on a blind date. It is still a pretty cringe-worthy experience, but I refused his offer and decided to go to the symphony alone. As Ravel's Bolero closed out the concert that night, I felt a crescendo of resolve, and with its triumphant conclusion, I cheered that I would happily attend the symphony alone rather than humiliate myself again that way. So, from that time forward, if I decided to ask someone to go with me to the symphony, I made sure that I knew they would at least have interest in the music, even if they did not have interest in me. I wish I could say that experience was the end of humiliating myself in the dating world of Provo, but I still had a few more years of that ahead of me.
What I am saying is this, Will McKenzie, I look forward to all of the awkwardness your character still has coming, because your earnestness is entirely relatable.

Good Food to Eat

Around my house, sometimes Knightley is the one most eager to taste the food I make. I know he sure was a lot more receptive to the pulled pork that I made a few weeks ago than David was (David isn't a fan of pork, not even if it is Carolina style barbecue, which just hurts my heart). Of course, Knightley also enjoys chewing on plastic, so I don't interpret his enthusiasm for my cooking to mean anything more significantly about the quality of my cooking. Here, Knightley demonstrates his technique for making his way to the counter where the "sampling" can occur:

Yes, that was chocolate chip cookie dough that he managed to put in his mouth. No, I didn't let him swallow it. Yes, I fished it out of his mouth. And really no, I didn't put it back on the backing pan to bake.
Sometimes others enjoy my efforts. This year, the Capitol Hill Ward held the second annual Young Women's Mardi Gras party, where I made shrimp and sausage gumbo, but more to the Young Women's delight, lots and lots of beignets.

I don't know what it is about frying up some dough and putting a little bit of sugar on top that makes it so delicious, but it is a sure fire hit every single time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Book that I Love Desperately

Last year for my brother-in-law's birthday, I gave him a few Maira Kalman books, including The Principles of Uncertainty, which I thought he would enjoy, and two of the Pete books, What Pete Ate from A to Z and Smartypants (Pete in School), that I thought he would enjoy reading to his son one day. I have a profound appreciation for the illustrations of Ms. Kalman. However, I can state that in my view, in no place have those illustrations been put to better use than in The Elements of Style (illustrated). I have made overtures to the idea that I would try to be better with proofreading, punctuation, and grammar in my blog posts. Yet, catching up on all of those rules that I should remember from seventh grade can be so tedious. This is where this book comes into play. The illustrations are simply delightful, enabling me to withstand the tortuous references to all of the ways in which I am probably misusing commas.

Electronic Forever

I received so much delight from reading this article on Slate by Noreen Malone on the selfish audacity of wedding websites. When David and I got married two years ago, we had a bare bones website set up automatically by our wedding planner at Disney and primarily designed to get people information about making reservations at the resorts where we blocked rooms. In fact, I am ashamed to say, the purpose of said website was almost entirely to ensure that Walt Disney World made the maximum amount of money that it could from our friends and family by enticing them to book hotel rooms at reduced rates and purchase theme park tickets. There also might have been some links to where David and I were registered too. Fortunately, though, our website included no pictures of ourselves (much less slide shows or videos) and so the "Look at Me" syndrome was kept to a minimum. Nonetheless, wedding websites are at the intersection of the self-absorbed web and consumerism. Weddings themselves also showcase that intersection as well, even the small ones like David and I had.

For that matter, so are blogs, and that is something that I have struggled with writing this blog. I am comforted by the fact that my blog is of no real consequence in the world, so I don't operate under any assumption that anyone remotely cares about what I write here. But I am also aware that it is a little bit selfish, because why put any of this in a public forum if this really were just for me, as I like to think? Sure, I like the idea of being able to link to things (like said article) or post pictures or videos, but couldn't I do that without making this publicly viewable? I could, and for the record, there are plenty of things that I intend to keep private because I believe in a good old fashion sense of propriety. I guess (going back to my post from a few days ago), I am concerned less about the judgments that people make about me these days. However, being aware of this selfishness, I try to keep some aspects of the consumerism to a minimum. I may talk about things that I like, but I try to veer away from giving advice to other people about buying things. Furthermore, I don't consider my "lifestyle" as one worth emulating by other people. It isn't that I don't like my life; I do. Rather, it is that I don't presume that my set of tastes and preferences should be or would be shared by others. Who else wants to spend several weekends cataloging her own books by the Library of Congress call number system? It isn't an attribute of personality that I would expect other people to emulate. I don't go to other people's houses and think less of them if they don't have a cataloging system in place for their books. You can say that I am grasping at straws to justify my blogging, but at least I will admit to you: "Yes, well maybe I am."

I leave you with the best line from Ms. Malone's article:

"But the democratization of the Web creates an entirely new problem: It asks the virtual community to engage meaningfully with the idea of blissful foreverness in the same inherently judgmental medium that spawned Perez Hilton."

Words to consider, my friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Week Until Hilton Head

The last time that I was in Hilton Head, my sisters and I were singing the theme to "The Love Boat" in the Harbour Town Children's Talent Show and our Aunt Sarah was married to a tennis pro there. So, it has been awhile. I am counting down the days until next week. Not only do I consider this trip my "So Happy that Winter is Finally Over" celebration, but it means that I get to spend three days playing tennis. Even better than all of that, it means that I will be able to spend time with my favorite people on the planet, my family. It means birdwatching, beach lounging, and Savannah exploring. This winter has just dragged on and on and on some more, so excuse me if I am impatient to wear tennis dresses, swimsuits and sunhats.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Unnattractive Photos of Myself

Last night, I watched the Oscars pre-show for about ten minutes, before I had to turn it off in disgust. All of that preening and posing and self-congratulatory waste of everyone's time was just too much for me. The scene from Annie Hall comes to mind where Alvy Singer makes himself sick before he has to present an award. "They love to give out awards...Greatest Fascist Dictator, Adolf Hitler."

Last week I was feeling somewhat under appreciated at work. Yes, even in the law librarian world there is office politics and a social hierarchy in the affiliated professional organizations. But after being bitter about it for an afternoon, I realized that I stopped needing to feel validation from others to feel like an intelligent and worthwhile person. If I was looking for external validation, then I certainly would have never become a law librarian.

This led to a larger realization, that sometime in the past five years I have almost entirely stopped caring about how others view me. That doesn't mean that I go around being rude to people for no reason, because that isn't the kind of person that I want to be. Rather, it means I don't care if I speak my mind and someone dislikes me as the result of that. I don't care if one day I am galloping down the sidewalk with Knightley because he wants to run (and I still am wearing the dress that I wore to work that day) and people stare at me like I am crazy. I just don't care.

Case in point, I used to refuse to have pictures taken of me. Or if they were taken of me, I refused for them to be seen because in 9 out of 10 of them, I would look fat or I would be blinking, or my hair would be askew, etc. etc. etc. So only the pristine, Leslie approved ones could be viewed in public. But those pictures only reflect 1/10 of reality. Most days, life isn't perfect. Something is askew. Heck, I am chubby and I like food too much to say no when I sometimes should. That is reality.

So here to reflect that realization, are the other 9 out of 10 shots that wouldn't before have seen the light of day. In each of these pictures, I do not look good. Something is wrong. But I believe that a blog should reflect actual reality, and not just those too cute, too posed, too perfect days.

Here's to the rest of reality.

Hair blown in imperfect ways:

Awkward dancing moves causing my stomach to look like it goes on and on and on (not to mention the painful look on my face; If I knew that I looked this bad every time doing the "Pencil Sharpener", then I might not do it so much. Wait, that's not true; Now, I know I look like this, but at every dance party, I still break it out.).

Waiting for a Hillary Clinton rally, I look not all there:

It probably isn't possible for one to stand more awkwardly on top of a haystack in Mississippi than this:

They aren't pretty, but in every single one of them, I was having a good time. So why forsake memories for the sake of beauty?