Category Archives: City Love

Today’s One Thing

Do one thing every day that scares you. Eleanor Roosevelt

That Eleanor Roosevelt was quite a lady. I hardly ever take this advice. Most days, I do the things that I do most days, and very few of them scare me. True, some of them used to be scary.

Shaving my legs. Using the oven. Cooking without a recipe (ok, that one still sometimes is). Crossing the street. Navigating the city.

But now, I do all these things without a second thought.

I did something this week that scared me. I took the bar exam. The bar is one of those necessary evil things. If you want to be a lawyer, you can’t go around, you can’t go over, you have to go through. So, I went through it. Having conquered that particular large and scary obstacle (you know, fingers crossed), I started to ask myself: I wonder what else I can do.

That, my friends, is a powerful question. It turns out I have a lot of possible answers. I bet I can start blogging again, and keep up with it this time. I bet I can write a letter to a friend who moved away and tell her I’m thinking of her. I bet I can find an awesome bar at which to watch the Opening Ceremonies, maybe with some help from my darling husband. I bet I can take better care of myself and schedule the doctor’s appointment I’ve been meaning to schedule. And finally, for today:

I bet I can ride my bike almost 6 miles to meet a friend for coffee.

Six miles on your bike is not actually that far. For serious cyclists, I’m sure it’s barely a warm up. I am no serious cyclist. I have a bike that I sometimes use to get around town (when I can motivate myself to carry it down the stairs), but I rarely fo further than about a mile or ride longer than about 15 minutes. This ride would be almost an hour, and oh, did I mention it’s been crazy hot around here.

This scared me. My husband thought I was nuts. But, emboldened by my recent discovery that I can, in fact, take a two-day-long standardized test, I was determined to do it. So I left early this morning, before the heat was too bad, and rode my bike almost 6 miles to meet a friend for coffee. It was hard.

She brought her baby girl, who proceeded to climb all over us and eat blueberries with her tiny fist and be generally adorable. Tiny fists of blueberries make it all worth it.

I then did not bike home, but took my bike home on the metro. Hey, I’m overcoming things that are scary, but I don’t have to overcome everything all in one day.

I hope to keep up the blogging. I have missed it. Post coming soon on what else I’ve been up to!


City Love: Tiny Christmas Tree

I blog, I think. I want to blog. Somebody help me figure this whole thing out.

Today, I would love to tell you about my tiny Christmas tree, which turns out is a story about getting married. The tiny Christmas tree isn’t mine, you see. Or it wasn’t mine. It was my darling husband’s, and now that we are married, I guess it is a little bit mine too.

It stands approximately three feet tall and is surrounded by a red tree skirt that is so small that it was almost immediately obscured by our Christmas presents from his parents. When you plug it in, in lights up obligingly in white. We have decorated it with ornaments both average-sized (which look enormous) and tiny (which look just right).

Sometimes people tell us that this is our “first Christmas,” because we got married in January. That tends to not be my favorite thing that people say (it’s not like we met yesterday),  but they mean well, and there is some truth to it. It is the first Christmas in which we are married. In is the first time we will spend it together, and it will be with one of our families. It’s the first time we are our own family, and there certainly is something special about that. For one, I get a tiny Christmas tree, which is adorable, and keeps me appreciating what it is we have together.

Our apartment is essentially a modified studio, so there is not room for a big ole tree. This is a downside to living in the city, but for me, right now, it’s worth it. We have our little apartment, which holds everything we own (except Rosie the Mini, who lives outside), we have enough furniture and enough room to store the food we need. We may not have a bedroom door, and it’s possible that you can see every inch of the apartment from every other inch, but you know what, there is room for our tiny Christmas tree.

This is the optimistic perspective, and I try to hold on to it. But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes, in our baby marriage, we get sad because it seems like we aren’t there yet. That we are two grown-up married people who live under a tiny roof and just scrape by. That we don’t have the financial security to get a bigger place just yet, or do many of the things we want to do. And that can be tough, to look around and not quite have the life that we want. Despite our possession of one small Christmas tree.

But this is the point where I get to keep telling myself that what I have is enough. That I shouldn’t lament being young and broke and still in grad school. That it’s easy to wish for someone else’s life, someone else’s job, someone else’s bedroom door. It’s even easy to look at other people’s relationships and want what I think they have, which is silly, because I don’t really know what they have. I think it anyway. But those kinds of thoughts are not what it’s about. There is  a tiny Christmas tree twinkling away in my living room, and for all the world, it does not need to be eight feet tall. It’s perfect.

Someday, I have no doubt that we will have many of the things that seem out of reach, but for now, it’s just you, me, and our tiny Christmas tree. Some days, I get it. And I couldn’t be happier.

City Love: Trains!

Not the big ones that carry you and me to and fro, in higher volume than usual this week I’m sure, but the little ones that can be seen chugging and whirling along at Union Station starting today.

Union Station Holiday Train Show

I know, I know, it’s one more bit of Christmas before Thanksgiving, but it’s also absolutely magical. And if you’re offended by Christmas Creep – come back in December!

Sometimes, it’s really enjoyable to live in a city with surprises around every corner. Sometimes, you’re just running a quick errand when a train exhibit appears around a corner, complete with big-eyed kids watching the simple and beautiful locomotion unfold. It totally made my day, and made me think about how pretty the city is around Christmas, when it puts on its finest.

I can’t wait for the giant wreathes to go up on the front of Union Station, and storefront windows to be tended with care.

On the other hand, I can wait for the endless holiday soundtracks that play in stores, some of which have already started. Doesn’t matter how many times I hear it, Baby It’s Cold Outside will always creep me out. Back off, dude!

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, on the other hand, can stay. Also the Peanuts theme.

Now apparently I’m contributing to the ever-expanding holiday season by holding forth on my favorite Christmas tunes pre-Thanksgiving. For shame! When I should instead be extolling the magic of Thanksgiving, a holiday for which there are no presents to buy, and the main event is a meal shared with those you love. More on that tomorrow.

Until then, a Very Merry Thanksgiving Week to you all, and to all, a good night.

City Love: Cheap Eats

I feel that the only way to follow up yesterday’s more serious take on the recession and its effects on us is with a more lighthearted take. And apparently, that will take the form of me declaring my undying love for cheap, delicious food.

There is no one like a hungry grad student (except perhaps our cousin, the unpaid intern) to hunt down the best food and drink to be had for little money. DC is a notoriously difficult place to find good bargains for anything, and food is no exception. It has taken my parents years of visiting to get used to what our lunch tab will be, just about every single time.

But luckily, if you look around, there are good deals to be found. My favorite starting place for any culinary search is the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide’s Best Bets section. The editors break down their pics for things like best hamburger or best for groups or best vegetarian.

And sure enough, there is a Best Cheap Eats. I trust that all of these places are wonderful. But today I simply must tell you that a prime candidate for best cheap eats in the city is Taqueria Nacional.

It’s a hole in the wall place – you’d never know it’s there if you weren’t looking, but man oh man, once you find it, your DC taco scene will never be the same again. My personal favorite is the fish taco. Chorizo also blows me away.

Now I really want some tacos.

And I feel my mission today is complete – spreading taco love throughout the land.

What’s your favorite cheap food spot?

City Love: Cyclops Pumpkin

Guys, it turns out that this November is a terrible month for me to have committed to posting every day. But commit I did, so today I shall tell you the story of when I carved this here pumpkin:

We threw a pumpkin carving party. We called it BYOP. We ate pumpkin flavored things like THIS, and drank pumpkin ale. Next year, for Halloween, I highly recommend throwing or finding such a party of your own. It was super easy to put together (since the most challenging part of pumpkin carving is always finding the pumpkin!) and we got to have a fun, chill time with friends.

And we got to have a cyclops pumpkin grace our apartment for nearly two weeks. He was very friendly, and obligingly did not go moldy until after Halloween.

We had many spirited debates about whether he was a friendly pumpkin or an evil pumpkin. He does look like he’s smiling, so he might be friendly, but then again, that’s a lot of teeth. I ended up deciding that he unintentionally looks just like Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc. So, friendly it is.

Thanks, cyclops pumpkin. You’re the best.

City Love: Coffee Shop

I had the pleasure of getting coffee with two of my very favorite women today. We went to a hispter-friendly independent coffee shop where Micheal Jackson played in the background for almost the entirety of our chatting session. I’m not sure the people trying to work appreciated our laugh-filled gabbing, but I left feeling happy and healthy and loved, so I’m hoping my guilt will subside.

Actual quote from this conversation: Ooo, this is sexy. You should write about this on your blog.

UPDATED: The quoted person has corrected me. She said that our conversation was spicy. That it was.

Alas, I will not be sharing with you the sexy things I talk about in public, much to the dude on his laptop’s dismay, but suffice it to say that we laughed, we cried, and we assured each other that we could each get through another day.

There is something so simple and wonderful about sitting with a cup of coffee (technically, I got pellegrino this time) and a good friend and simply relaxing into each other’s company. Living in the city can feel very impersonal – you don’t know the people on the street or at the coffee table next to you or on the bus or in the office directly above yours – and it makes meeting friends for coffee feel like a minor miracle. There you are, sitting alone like everyone else, when “Hello!” “It’s you!” “I know you!” suddenly you have company. And as Charlie Brown reminds us, though happiness is being alone every now and then, happiness is also sharing and getting along and coming home to those you love.

I often find deep wisdom things that are meant for children.

Though many days, I’m the one working hard in the coffee shop, and there is something great about that as well, today, I got to be the one laughing with friends. Today was a good day.

City Love: Pho

I went and had pho for lunch today. I had only had this lovely vietnamese beef soup once in my life before, and liked it just fine. Then I watched a lot of Anthony Bourdain, and heard him wax rhapsodic on it’s complex flavors, it’s spicy goodness, how it’s his favorite thing to eat for breakfast, and somehow, my general positive impression turned into a deep love, before I’d even eaten bowl #2.  Suddenly, I was convinced that I, too, shared a profound affection for the beefy, brothy, noodlely goodness. I thought that maybe I had had it for breakfast once, and liked it. I almost heard myself repeating Bourdain’s about how there is nothing in the world like it. I’d only has it once! Somehow, I’d adopted his opinion as my own. He’s very convincing.

(It’s unfortunate that even though I know that the correct pronunciation is “fuh,” I still feel pretentious saying it that way. It looks like it should be “faux”. Self-consciousness aside, I will not fall for that tempting “o” in pho. Fuh it is!)

So today was the day bring that pho-bowl count up to two, and to see if I do in fact feel about pho the way my favorite peripatetic food show host does, or if I merely think it’s tasty. And the verdict? Tasty! I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch today, but found myself coveting the char-grilled pork across the table.

I’m actually glad that my fake pho-love has been brought down to size, because now it’s really my own taste and not one I adopted from a tv show host, inadvertently. The bowl I had was a Pho DC, and was HUMONGOUS. If you go, plan to split one. Also, that place is fancier than it seems from the outside. So lunch was more expensive than we planned. Live and learn.

And did learn today. I learned that, though I love Bourdain’s show a lot, I should not order the version of pho with tripe, even though that’s totally what AB would do. I am pretty ready to try new foods, but I haven’t yet made it to tripe. Someday! Dream Big!

Now I know, I should not judge every iteration of pho on two bowls alone. I really should keep trying different ones, and I’m sure I haven’t really had pho until I’ve had it in Vietnam. Need any traveling companions, Tony?