Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Wisteria Lane

I shot off a vague tweet yesterday about a letter that was slipped under our apartment door sometime during the day. While we're pretty sure that we weren't its intended recipients, it's sort of creepy to know that some angry person out there in the ether thinks someone they hate lives in our apartment.


I know what you're thinking: Most of the sentiments expressed in this letter don't even make sense! It's like someone chose a bunch of magnetic poetry words & slapped them together into this semblance of sentences - but it's still unsettling, no?

On top of it all, Nathan & I don't even have fathers! Thanks for the reminder.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Front-Page Story, Guts & Glory


I know I'm not the only Newsies fan in the world. There are other people out there who are like, "Oh, that was my favorite movie growing up!" or "Oh, I know the words to all the songs!" I don't begrudge these people their Newsies fandom, but I have a claim to stake: I am probably a bigger fan than you are.

When Newsies first aired on the Disney Channel back in 1994, I stood glued to the television & screamed for my father to start the VCR. I watched that darn VHS tape so many times throughout the years that it began to fall apart - just in time for the DVD to come out. I not only know every song lyric, but I know every single word, spoken by every single character. I even know the dance moves. I know casting information & filming missteps. I wrote fan fiction, for crying out loud. I used to dream of seeing - or even performing in - a stage production of Newsies, a real-life dream come true. I never wanted to be Sarah, the embarrassingly meek female character; instead, in my head, I was a top newsie, one of the organizers, like David & Jack. (Cowboy. They call him Cowboy.)

Newsies inspired me to become a journalist - no joke - & whenever I stay up late writing, I think of it: For a dreamer, night's the only time of day. It also informed my activism, allowing me to believe that if you rouse the community for your cause, a parade will come marching down the street to back you up. And perhaps above all else, Newsies was one of the key aspects of my relationship with my childhood best friend, Christina. We used to watch it over & over, quoting & re-quoting, swooning over Jack & Spot Conlon & Mush, whomever was our Newsies crush du jour.

This morning, Christina & I scored tickets to see Newsies on Broadway. I'm not even going to tell you how much we paid for them, because you'll judge us really harshly. It's not about the cost. Can you put a price on a friendship? (Cheesiness alert.) For us, this is the culmination of our childhood dreams. We're putting together a whirlwind trip to New York City, me from New Hampshire & her from Tennessee, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see our favorite movie come to life & spend a weekend being the kings of New York.

There I be. Ain't I pretty? It's my city.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

You Gotta Fight for Your Rights

I remember the first time I learned that someone I loved was (is) gay. I was a 14-year-old freshman in high school & dating Sergio, who was 17 & a senior. During a phone call with my aunt, she asked how the relationship was going, & I confessed that I wondered whether the age difference was an issue. "Alvarez is older than I am," she told me, "and we still work!" Until that point, it had never occurred to me that there was only one bedroom in my aunt & Alvarez's house. "Roommates," my family had always called them. When the phone call ended, I stood at the top of the stairs & called down to my mother. "Mom?" I asked. "Is Aunt Joan a lesbian?"

As easily as that, I began to identify as an ally. I went on to intern at the Family Equality Council & worked a legislative assistant on civil rights, including LGBT equality, during my time at the Religious Action Center after college. I've served as managing editor of Fusion, an LGBT issues magazine, marched in a pride parade, & have just generally done my best to work for equality whenever possible.
I have a really difficult time respecting differences of opinion when it comes to civil rights. I do my best to be respectful of other people's views, but it's really hard for me to see any other side here. As I see it, it's as basic as treating people fairly, & I just can't see any other side to that.

When I learned this month that my hometown gym, the city-owned Natatorium, is discriminating against same-sex couples in their membership options, I quickly signed onto a petition asking them to change their policies. Then, I shot off a Facebook message to Shane, the guy behind the petition, asking how I could help. Shane attempted to get a couples pass for himself & his new husband & was turned away, told their marriage "isn't real" despite the fact that they were legally married four months ago in Washington, D.C. His husband, Coty, is a disabled Iraq Wat veteran who uses the Natatorium for water therapy; Shane is his caretaker.

Calling upon my limited PR experience, I sent a few informal pitch emails to popular LGBT blogs & news outlets, & I was beyond thrilled to see sites like Bilerico Project, Huffington Post, and The Advocate pick up the story. Shane's hard work went viral, & his petition received so many signatures that our hometown's City Council members blocked emails from Change.org because they were receiving an email every time someone signed! (By the way, that's the lamest response action ever.) Many of these supporters have written on the Natatorium's Facebook wall to express their disappointment in the gym's policies.

Since then, big things have been happening in our little hometown: The mayor made asinine statements, comparing same-sex couples to LeBron James (yes, really). The Ohio ACLU got involved. The city government sought legal counsel. The local newspaper published my letter to the editor. In discussing next steps, Shane & I decided to organize a call-in day to ask supporters to bombard our mayor's office with calls. So far, about 200 people have RSPved for our Call-In Day to Ask the Nat to Recognize All Families, & we hope to recruit a few more by Tuesday, the big day.
It's truly amazing to watch so many people mobilize for a cause they believe in. I can't help but be proud of my friends & neighbors, who have spread the word, signed the petition, & asked how they can help. I'm proud to call myself a civil rights activist, & I feel fortunate to have a background in policy work & communications that allowed me to lend valuable support to Shane's already-impressive efforts. And though I can't say for certain whether the Nat will change its policies to be fairer, I do know that the heat is on - & we're not planning to turn it down anytime soon.

Start around the 10:00 mark to see our local PBS station go to town (no pun intended) against the Natatorium regarding its current policies.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Things You Shouldn't Yell in a Starbucks

"STALIN WAS A FRAUD!"
Tell that to the two old men sitting caddy-corner from me. I'm actually biting my tongue in an attempt not to laugh. Except... I sort of wonder if these guys are Holocaust deniers, too. Less funny.

I liked the Rahhhhbit Buble conversation a lot better.

WAIT. I just heard him mention "The Greatest Tenor in the World, Jonas Kaufmann," which means this convo is taking a distinctly Buble turn! And while the name "Jonas Kaufmann" might lead you to believe that the tenor is, in fact, Jewish, Google gives me no evidence of that. But wait! But wait! The guy is now talking about the Holocaust - one of his closest friends lost his parents in a concentration camp.

OK, so I'm glad they're not deniers, but AM I A PSYCHIC, OR WHAT?

Photo credit

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My 700th Post! On a VERY Important Topic.

Today's topic is laminated lists.

We've all got one. Don't pretend like you don't. Significant other or not, we've all got a mental list of celebrities who we can't help ogling. Even if you're not a person who cares about celebrities (whatever, I see you watching Celebrity Cook-Off over there. Team Joey!), it's human nature to have a few red-carpet crushes.

Luckily, my wonderful significant other is quite forgiving about the fact that I have such a list, as he, of course, has one, too (Allison Brie tops his, I believe). At the moment, mine is as follows:

  • Matthew Gray Gubler
    My love for Criminal Minds' kid genius is so well-known amongst my friends that in my single days, my former boss actually let me know, with quite a bit of excitement, that the bartender at a D.C.-area bar looked exactly like him (sadly never confirmed by me). Something about this brainy, sweater-vested nerd sets my heart aflutter. Those cheekbones! Those tweets! Le swoon. 

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt
    My crush on this now-mainstream heartthrob dates back as far as Angels in the Outfield and only grew stronger with his adorable stand-out performance in '90s classic 10 Things I Hate About You. Today, after starring in blockbusters like Inception, this dimpled cutie tops many a laminated list. Still, I like to fancy myself a bit of a JGL hipster: I liked him way back when!

  • Michael B. Jordan It might be creepy for me to include this Parenthood actor on my list, as he was just 15 when I first became a fan. In 2002, he played Wallace, my favorite character on The Wire, & I was thrilled to find him playing Vince Howard on Friday Night Lights (which has perhaps ousted Dawson's Creek as My Favorite Show Ever). I was also thrilled to learn that he has since become very attractive.

  • Tim Riggins
    Taylor Kitsch is sexy, but he's sexiest when he's playing Tim Riggins, everyone's favorite bad-boy football star. Drinking? Womanizing? Crime? Tim Riggins did it all... & yet somehow, he did it all with so much charm that none of it mattered. In fact, it only served to make him sexier. A Rebel with a good heart? Tim Riggins, you have my heart. Texas forever.

I really struggled to come up with a fifth celeb to top this list, & I feel like I'm missing some really obvious love of mine. But who? I tossed around plenty of ideas, including Ashton Kutcher (those lips!), John Mayer (those pipes!), Barack Obama (presidential appeal!), Christian Bale (Newsies!), & Zach Gilford (more FNL love!), but I ultimately decided that no one else deserved to go up there with these four beautiful men.

Pardon me while I make cartoon heart-eyes for a bit.

BUT WAIT. I'VE THOUGHT OF SOMEONE ELSE. How could I forget Kal Penn?! I've long loved him, no matter how horrific the Harold & Kumar films are (do not go see the Christmas special). I saw him once, from afar, at the White House gates. So close, yet so far away, & with so many Secret Service agents between us...

Monday, January 23, 2012

In My Life...

I'm not usually a sucker for memes, but every once in awhile, a good ones comes by that I just can't say no to. My real-life* friend Jaclyn over at Snap, Crackle, Pop (she also runs the awesomely successful Etsy shop Jac & Elsie) posted one such meme today, & I'm joining in. This one is great!

I present you with 10 things I'd like to see happen in my lifetime, posted here in no particular order:

  • A published book with my name across the cover - and not one of those self-published deals, either. We're talkin' the real thing, publisher & all.

  • No need for the American Cancer Society, Komen for the Cure, & all organizations like them - because a cure for all cancers has been found & this horrible disease has been eradicated once & for all

  • REDACTED BECAUSE MY MOTHER HATES HAVING A DAUGHTER WHO IS A BLOGGER. No, seriously, she sent me an email saying, "Take my name off that list," so you don't ever get to know what this one is about unless you saw the first iteration of this post. I'm salty, can you tell?

  • A long, successful Coast Guard career for my boyfriend, complete with a hefty retirement package at the ripe old age of 41

  • A female president! I'd prefer, of course, that she be more like Hillary & less like Sarah & Michele, but politics aside, it will be truly amazing to see a woman in the Oval Office some day.

  • A day when healthy eating is more commonplace than fast food burgers & bag of Cheez-Its. Perhaps this one is hypocritical because I love Cheez-Its as much as the next girl, & I'm not the healthiest of eaters myself. But I'd love to see a time when CSAs & organic goods are the norm & some of the crappy temptations have disappeared from grocery store shelves.

  • Total equality for LGBT individuals, both domestically & abroad. This means marriage equality, an end to workplace discrimination,& no fear of bullying, persecution or violence - the works!

  • Some major victory for a Cleveland sports team, LeBron be damned!

  • An end to the so-called Religious Right, which bullies our country & our Congress in an effort mold our nation to its bigoted, narrow-minded, "faith-based" views

  • Lots of travel for me! Greece, Italy, Egypt, Peru... my list is long & thus far untouched.

OK, there are a few long shots here, to be sure. What about you? What would make your list?
     

    *It's funny to say that Jaclyn & I are real-life friends, but we kind of are. We went to the same college & worked for the same campus newspaper, but at different times.We have a number of the same friends & have met once in person, but we've only become friends through blogging. I'm looking forward to seeing her again in May, when we can really call ourselves real-life friends!

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Service = Serve Us?

    Since my iPad incident, I've become a rapt reader of Consumerist.com, the website that so kindly posted my story in an effort to spread the word. While the site's commenters often represent the dregs of the Internet, the site itself has proven informative & interesting as far as learning about business practices both good and bad. Because of Consumerist, I've begun to place even more importance on good customer service, as many of the stories they post make it painfully clear that so many businesses are doing it just plain wrong.

    In the past, a few of you have told me you appreciate that I so often report my experiences, both good & bad, to the companies who provide them. With this in mind (& after being blasted on Facebook today by the nasty owner of a Chicago wine shop) I thought I might recap a few of my best customer service experiences in recent memory.

    • Graffiato
      After an unfriendly run-in with a hostess at my favorite D.C. dining spot, I shot off a tweet to the restaurant & owner Mike Isabella to ask what was up with the icy attitude. Manager Nick emailed me almost immediately, securing my group a reservation & apologizing for the hostess's nastiness. Amazingly, when we arrived at Graffiato, Nick led us to a booth with a prime view into the kitchen & put in free appetizers & prosecco for us! I was blown away - and the food was, as always, phenomenal.

      • Popchips
        When my favorite snack company sent out an email announcing that the first X number of responders would receive some delicious free samples, I was all over it - but when I clicked through to enter my name & address, I found that Washington, D.C., was not an option in their drop-down menu. Upon my getting in touch to let them know, Popchips promptly added D.C. to the list & sent me a whole box of chips to thank me for pointing it out! Nom.

        • ASOS
          The pretty party dress I ordered from this online retailer shipped last week, but when I clicked through to track the package, it said "Destination unknown." Worriesome, right? I posted my concern on ASOS' Facebook wall & received quick & friendly response asking me for my order number, followed by a personal note from an ASOS rep that assured me my dress was, indeed, on its way to Portsmouth. This all happened within the span of, say, 10 minutes, & my dress arrived two days ago.

        • The District
          I can't say enough good about my first (and so far only) experience at this Portsmouth restaurant. I'd planned for Nathan's birthday scavenger hunt to end at The District, so in advance of our meal, I called & spoke to Jana, the hostess, who happily agreed to help out & even called me the day of the reservations to make sure everything was set. I arrived at the restaurant early, sans boyfriend, with a gift that I handed off to her with instructions for our server to bring it out with our dessert as a final surprise. Amazing food, even better service.

        Unfortunately, for each of these positive experiences, I can name at least three negative ones, like: the time a server dumped a pitcher of margarita over my friend's head & only took 1/3 of the pitcher price off our bill (Alero); the time I found a rock in my spicy fried rice & didn't get so much as an explanation or apology (Tasty Thai); the time only half of our food came out & we were charged for all of it anyway, just because they eventually packed it to-go (Ping Pong Dim Sum).

        The point is this: Good service goes a long way. Though I may complain loudly about bad service, I also try to make a point to hold up good service as a shining example of how all companies should act - because a job well done is just as important as, if not more important than, a job that pisses me the hell off. (It should also be noted that I tip damn well for good service, as I encourage you to!)

        So tell me: What are some of your best & worst customer service run-ins? Have you ever taken to the social media  streets to make a case against the places that have treated you poorly?

        Thursday, January 12, 2012

        All Atwitter About Online Happiness

        This post has been brewing in my brain for days, maybe months. Years, even. The topic is one that’s overdone to the point of cliché, but I, never one to sit on the sidelines in silence, can’t help but add my proverbial two cents to the cluttered public sphere.

        Our topic? When Twitter goes awry. Dun dun dunnn. Lately, I've found myself avoiding Twitter, in particular because it seems that every time I sign on, I end up embroiled in some conversation that only serves to frustrate me. Recent tweets that have stirred up mild to full-scale controversy include: clarifying that my boyfriend is in the Coast Guard, not the National Guard ("Do you think he's better than National Guard soldiers?"); asking whether it's acceptable to say "Happy New year!" mid-January (apparently I'm hostile to kindness); and expressing my view that those who are unwilling to tip service industry workers should not take advantage of service industry services ("They already get paid!"). To varying extents, each conversation left me feeling like some sort of villain for tweeting simple things that were interpreted to uncover nonexistent malice on my part.

        My friend Amy just wrote quite eloquently on this topic, & it inspired me to finally assemble my words (but please be assured, this is not a response to her piece). She writes that we should make a concerted effort not to contribute negative energy or ideas to the Twittersphere (sorry for using that awful word), and that if we regularly find ourselves embroiled in online controversy & negative conversation, we should reevaluate what we’re contributing to the space. While I can certainly get on board with the idea that we should all put more thought into the things we say online (and in person!), I believe a large piece of the problem lies elsewhere.

        Though there is a lot of unnecessary anger & negativity on Twitter, I think much of our individual frustrations lie in the fact that we follow too many people we'd never be friends with if we met them in real life, people who we would butt heads with no matter what. (Thanks to my pal Ashley for helping me come to this conclusion by coming to it herself.) When we disagree with the majority of someone’s views or dislike a large piece of their personality, the rest ceases to matter. If 50% of things a person says grate on you, it’s going to be difficult to pay attention to the 50% that don’t – in this case, that is to say that if complaining is your biggest Twitter peeve, you’re going to notice every single complaint someone tweets & likely gloss over the other, more positive things they have to say.

        Now for the part where I talk about myself a lot. The Me I personify online is largely the Me of offline, too. Because I very much like Offline Me, I'm not interested in changing her or her matching persona, Online Me, for the sake of people who would not like me to begin with. Am I a super-negative person? No. A hundred times no. Yes, I am a strong personality with strong opinions, but here’s something interesting: I can't remember a single time when one of my tweets has offended one of the many real-life friends or acquaintances who follows me on Twitter. This leads me to believe that either my friends are meek & don't tell me when they think something is offensive (unlikely, as those aren't the kind of people I'm friends with!) or that they understand the way my real-life personality translates onto digital paper. Does that mean I need to do a better job of conveying the good aspects of my personality online? Perhaps, & I'll take that point (& work on it). However, I think it also means that, based on my real-life personality, these people can distinguish tone & intent through limited 140-character statements and know that I never (OK, rarely) have negative or nasty intentions. They are people who like me to begin with – and so they like me online. Similarly, people who like me online would probably like me in person, and people who don’t would not.

        What I'm trying to say is that, yes, we could all benefit from evaluating our contributions to the online sphere. We could all benefit from a little bit of introspection, a look into why we sometimes say things online that we probably wouldn’t say to someone’s face. However, I also suggest that we should make a concerted effort to stop following people we wouldn't like anyway, particularly if they aggravate us to the point of making our social media space a less enjoyable place to be – which is bound to foster negative interactions & hurt feelings. Rather than telling people they need to be more positive, less sarcastic, more this, less that, I suggest we recognize that we are all, in fact, very different, & we’re not likely to appreciate or enjoy the same types of people in real-life or online. Telling people who they need to be in order to make us happy fails to recognize and respect individuality, including the fact that different things make different people happy.

        Controversial conclusion: If we stick to folks who "get" us (& vice versa), we're able to be ourselves online without worrying about the people who seem to interpret everything we say the wrong way. Does this lessen the beauty of social media that allows us to befriend people different than us who we might never seize the opportunity to speak with or get to know in real life? Yes, yes, yes, & don’t get me wrong: I certainly don’t suggest we unfollow every person who’s a little bit different than us – rather, that we stop trying to mold people’s personalities into our own expectations of what makes someone follow-worthy. There's a reason we like the people we like in real life, & there's no reason to abandon our principles of what makes for a worthwhile friend for the sake of diversifying our online space.

        Chai and Chauvinism

        It's 33 degrees out, but my Weather.com app tells me it "feels like 25." I'm not wearing gloves because this is my favorite kind of weather, & chapped hands are a necessary evil if I want to enjoy the cool winter air. I'm holding a medium soy chai latte with one shot of espresso, & I'm feeling unnecessarily victorious over corporate capitalism because it's purchased from someplace other than Starbucks. My car is a block & a half away, & I have a phone call to be on within the next few minutes, so my step is brisk, my focus sharp.

        I feel the sizzle on my hand before I even noticed it's happened, a quarter-sized drop of my warm beverage running down the webbed part between my thumb & forefinger. I stop, visibly annoyed, licking it off while trying to balance my drink, my lunch, & my massive Longchamp bag that hasn't been cleaned out in, um, awhile.

        When I look up, someone is laughing at me, a 30-something man leaning against his car in the post office parking lot watching me struggle. "Good catch!" he shouts jovially.

        "Could've been worse," I say with relief, laughing at myself & enjoying a quick moment of bonding with a stranger.

        "Could've been worse!" he confirms. "You could've spilled it all over yourself! On those great boobs!"

        Sighhhhh.

        I like to think he said "boots," as my brown leather Bakers boots are pretty great. I'm going to tell myself that's what he said, because the idea that my only outside interaction all day would be so disappointingly vulgar is, well, disappointing. Did my ears deceive me? It's possible. Unfortunately, it's also possible that they heard him perfectly.

        I repeat: Sighhhhh.

        Wednesday, January 11, 2012

        Actual Ridiculous Questions That I Have Actually Been Asked

        Look, I know everyone's really tired of the "Shit ___ Say" videos. I love Katiey's post, "Shit Everyone Says: When A Meme Goes Into Overdrive," which talks about how she, as a single white woman, has said at least three things from, like, every one of these video she's watched - including Shit Guys Say, Shit Asian Girls Say, Shit Baby Mamas Say. Today, I submitted a post of my own to Jewesses With Attitude about how sadly unfunny I find Shit Jewish Girls Say to be. (Has that guy ever met a Jewish woman?)

        And then I found Shit Christians Say to Jews, & I fell in love with this meme all over again.





        I grew up in a city in Northeast Ohio woefully lacking in diversity. To my knowledge, my mother & I together made up 50% of the Jewish population! With this video as my inspiration, I thought I'd share with you a few things people have actually said to me regarding my Judaism - some of these more than once.
        • "What do you think about the situation in the Middle East?"
        • "Do you only sleep with circumcised guys?"
        • "You don't look Jewish." 
        • "Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?"
        • "I used to think all Jewish people had horns."
        • "Have you ever seen Schindler's List?"
        • "So do you hate Arabs?"
        • "Do you guys have your own version of the 10 Commandments?"
        • "Jesus was Jewish! So I know he loves you, too."
        • "Wait, but your hair is blond."
        • "I used to work with a Jewish guy! Maybe you know him. David Cohen?"
        • "What is a synagogue?" 
        • "Do you to want to eventually move to Israel?"
        • "I just feel so bad. I don't want you to go to hell."
        • "I love Jews! They're the Chosen People."
        • "So, like, what do Jews have against Jesus?"
        • "You don't have a Jewish last name."
        • "Oh my God, you can't eat bacon, right?!"
        • "Well, your dad wasn't Jewish so you're not, like, a real Jew."
        • "Are you, like, a Jew for Jesus, or the kind of Jew that doesn't believe in him?"
        • "You totally don't have Jewish hair!"
        • "Do you ever miss Christmas?"
        • "My mom said I can't be friends with you because you're going to go to hell."
        • "Are you half-Jewish or full-Jewish?"
        • "I'm a completed Jew. Do you know what that means? It means I've accepted Jesus as my savior."
        • "You're lucky. Seth Rogen is so cute!"
        • "What's the deal with those guys with the curls & the hats?"

        For the record, every time someone has told me, "Hey, you don't look Jewish!" I've longed to reply with, "Hey, you don't look ignorant!"

        Monday, January 9, 2012

        Shameless Self Promotion

        After much internal debate about whether Facebook pages for blogs are "worth it," I decided to just go for it... & I sure wouldn't mind it if you liked me!

        Sunday, January 8, 2012

        Fashion, Police Me!

        You know, you guys are really nice. Yes, you. The response to my last attempt at fashion blogging was so positive & kind that I decided I'd give it another go. Brace yourselves.

        I've been hoarding these photos in my phone for a month or two now because, let's be real, I don't look nice every day. I work from home, y'all. Some days I don't even wear real pants. But now that I seem to have accumulated a critical mass, I decided it was time to round 'em up & post 'em for your judging pleasure. There are at least three looks in the bunch that I seriously dislike, including one that I absolutely loathe. Hey, sometimes experiments go wrong. I included them for the sake of honesty. Everyone has bad days!

        Things I've learned:
        • I prefer pants but almost always wear dresses.
        • I need to learn some new ways to style my hair. 
        • I think winter is my favorite season because boots are my favorite shoes.
        • I own far too many necklaces & not nearly enough scarves.
        • Must. Acquire. More. Cardigans.
        • I might be pigeon-toed.

        And no, I didn't bother to move the cat's food & water bowls before taking these photos. I mean... I'm not a real fashion blogger. They can keep their tripods & fancy photography. Low-budge works just fine for me!
         
        Please bear in mind that I almost always shop alone, & Nathan tells me he likes almost everything (the boy must be lying), so I don't get much feedback. I just wear what I like & whatever seems comfortable & not hideous. I'm pretty comfortable with my style, but if you feel the need to be brutally honest with me, please don't be too brutal, for I am a sensitive flower.

        Also, is it creepy that I just posted 16 photos of myself? I feel like the most vain person alive. All in the name of blogging, yo.

        PS: I've gotten some surprisingly nasty responses to this post (off the blog), including people who've asked why on earth I'd do this. I thought it was fun & didn't realize it would cause some sort of uproar. I share basically everything about my life - why wouldn't I show you what I look like?

        Friday, January 6, 2012

        The Conclusive List of Wonderful Sandwiches

        I am not, nor have I ever been, a sandwich person. Sandwiches fall apart. Sandwiches get mushy. Sandwiches contain cold cuts, & I dislike cold cuts. Sandwiches contain condiments, & I dislike condiments.

        But every once in awhile, a great sandwich comes along – a sandwich so tasty that not even a sandwich-hater like me can deny its delicious allure. Here, friends, in no particular order, are the Top Five Greatest Sandwiches Of My Life:
        • Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwich
          Wolfgang Puck Express at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center
          I’m going to be embarrassingly honest with you here: I don’t even remember what made this sandwich was so good. All I know is that as I ate it, I proclaimed aloud to my mother, “This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my entire life,” & it's held that title - or tied for it - for a solid five years. Despite my poor memory, it makes the list based on the lasting impression it made.

        • Pesto Veggie Panini
          Me & Ollie’s in Portsmouth, N.H.
          This simple sandwich is simply delicious. It’s made with basil pesto, sundried tomato mayo, tomato, red pepper, alfalfa sprouts, red onions & melted provolone on Me & Ollie’s homemade sourdough, served with pretzels on the side. I don’t even like vegetables, but I love this sandwich.

        • Chorizo & Potato Grilled Cheese
          Melt Bar & Grilled in Cleveland, OH
          Calling this behemoth a grilled cheese is like calling the Titanic a boat: technically true, but there’s so much more to it! Melt specializes in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, & their chorizo & potato creation is, hands down, my favorite. It’s also too tall for me to bite into. Every go-round with this sandwich results in my needing to nap immediately.

        • Breakfast Panini
          Popovers in Portsmouth, N.H.
          This sucker is definitely not just for breakfast! With applewood bacon, tomato, pesto, & fresh mozzarella on rosemary focaccia , it doesn’t sound like anything special, but it’s pressed so thinly that it’s like it’s gift-wrapped. Gift-wrapped bacon! It comes with a side of fresh cut melons & berries to help allay some of my bacon-induced guilt.

        • Cheddar Dill Tuna Salad Sandwich
          Totally Cooked To-Go, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
          What? A simple tuna salad sandwich? Yes. And no. This tuna salad sandwich is the tuna salad sandwich to end all tuna salad sandwiches. (How many more times can I say that phrase?) I used to call Totally Cooked before coming in to be sure it was on their menu for the day before coming in because if I arrived & it wasn’t, the disappointment was, obviously, debilitating.

        Runner up: My very own Big-Kid Grilled Cheese: muenster, goat cheese, baby spinach, crumbled walnuts & a smear of fig jam on ciabatta & pressed in my George Foreman, panini-style. It felt unfair to list this among my top five, as I made it myself. Still… it’s delicious.

        There you have it. The Best Sandwiches, period. What are yours?

        New England Eats

        I've made no secret of the fact that sometimes New England feels like a foreign land to me. What with the accents & the unspoken driving rules, I'm a fish out of Midwestern waters here sometimes.

        We've already discussed the fact that New Englanders refer to milkshakes as "frappes" & that I'm not a fan of the top-loading hot dogs buns popular here.

        • Lobster rolls
          This one is a gimme. Maine is, hands down, the country's premier destination for lobster lovers, & lobster rolls are one of the most delicious ways to consume this popular crustacean. Lobster rolls are buttery grilled hot dog rolls (not the typical weird New England kind) filled with a cold lobster salad concoction of tail, claw & knuckle meat & mayo. Did you know that some New England McDonald's even sell a seasonal McLobster Roll? Not a joke.

        • Anadama bread
          Made of cornmeal & molasses, this bread is a New England staple I've yet to see elsewhere in the country. I've never tried it, mostly because it sounds heavy & because the only place where I ever order toast (incidentally named The Friendly Toast) has such good cayenne-cheddar bread that I'd never dream of ordering anything different.

        • Whoopie pies
          Apparently Maine & Pennsylvania are duking it out over who "owns" whoopie pies. Legislators in Maine voted it the state's official treat last March, much to the dismay of Keystone State residents, who call these sweet treats "gobs" & contend that the dessert's origins come from the Pennsylvania Dutch. Regardless, believe me on this one: New England loves its whoopie pies. No complaints here!

        • Baked beans
          When ordering brunch in New England, your options are usually hash browns or baked beans. Say what? I love me some baked beans, I'd just never have thought to eat them from breakfast. Cookouts, yes, brunch no. But I guess it's not totally crazy: Why do you think Boston is called Beantown?!

        • Roast beef
          I can't find any Internet proof of this craze other than the fact that a Google search for "New England roast beef" brings up pages & pages of sandwich joints that specialize in roast beef, which I'd never heard of before moving here, aside from Arby's. I can think of at least three roast beef shops in Portsmouth alone.

        • Popovers
          A cross between a croissant & a custard, popovers are hollow, muffin-shaped pastry puffs that are crusty on the outside (in a good way) with a gooier, egg-like texture on the inside. They're great with jam & even better in soup, but I'd never heard of them before moving here.

        By the way, Wikipedia tells me that Portsmouth is famous for its orange cake, which is not something I've seen anywhere. It's a shame, too, because, hey, that sounds kind of delicious.

        So tell me: What foods are unique to your neck of the woods?

        Thursday, January 5, 2012

        Also Known As "Everything"


        Is this phraseology a New England thing or a quirky-brunch-spot-down-the-road-from-me thing?

        Wednesday, January 4, 2012

        Five Doller Holler (My Search for the Perfect Caricature)

        Have you ever used Fiverr.com? A coworker told me about it last month, & I'd almost forgotten about it until, during the course of some routine Facebook stalking, I saw that the subject of my surveillance had posted a caricature of her & her fiance. In the comments, someone asked where she'd had it done, & she directed him to Fiverr.

        Basically, Fiverr is an easy way to make a quick buck - five of them, actually. You tell Fiverr what you'd do for $5 (keep it clean, kids!) & visitors to the site have the opportunity to purchase your service/product/whatever. You follow through, they pay you $5, everyone is happy.

        In theory.

        Since discovering Fiverr, I've become obsessed with the idea of having someone do a caricature of me - & maybe of Nathan, too. We had a real-life one done last summer at Cedar Point, & the teenage artist rendering our images portrayed Nathan with an uber-skeevy trash 'stache that he has never had. It's framed in our living room but that doesn't mean I like it:


        Yeahhhh...

        So I've been on the hunt for a caricature artist whose work will replace or at least rival that. I have since paid $20 in Fiverr gigs (that's what each $5 offer is called) to try to come up with a dazzling cartoon version of myself.

        The first seller I chose sent me this:

        Hey, you did that on the computer, & you didn't even do it well! I wasn't born yesterday, bucko. This is most definitely not what I was going for. I could've made this myself using Picnik. Needless to say, this one was a disappointment, especially based on the other pictures this artist displayed in his portfolio of work.

        I chose the next artist, a college student, based on the wording she used in her gig: "I will manually draw you & turn you into a cartoon." Manually draw? OK! That's the element that was missing from the last cartoon version of me, so let's give it a go!

        Er, now I have my very own Sim! Seriously. While this is better than the first one, I'm not convinced it was, in fact, manually drawn, & even if it is, I'm more than a little uncomfortable with the fact that some artist in the Internet abyss spent time hand-drawing & shading my cleavage. Furthermore, why is my hair maroon, & why are my eyes so Cullen?! At least she got the eyebrows right...

        The third & final seller is a bonafide caricature artist who I was really excited to buy from. Because she charged $5 extra for every detail (color, body, colored body, etc.), I paid for two gigs & got a head with color. This one is fine, save for the fact that she gave me a skinny horseface, but given the bodies of work she showed as her examples, I feel like she really phoned it in for me. I also don't know that the extra $5 I paid for "color" (read: lots of browns!) was worth it, but I'll let you be the judge:

        Blah, blah, blah. These are all just so blah. Does my face not possess that certain je ne sais quoi needed to produce an adorable cartoon?!

        Or...

        Perhaps you just get what you pay for & this is what I get from turning to the Dollar General of caricature artists.





        (PS: I posted a gig of my own, if you're interested!)

        Tuesday, January 3, 2012

        Monday, January 2, 2012

        Hello, 2012, & Welcome! (Another Photo Retrospective)

        This was my first New Year's Eve celebrated outside of Washington, D.C. in five years. Observe:





        Going into Saturday evening, I wasn't particularly excited. In fact, I had a little bit of a temper tantrum, ostensibly because I couldn't find anything to wear but really because, gosh darn it, I just missed my friends. Although I certainly wouldn't have minded being in the District to ring in 2012, my worrying was all for naught. It was a pretty good with a pretty great night. I mean, come on: Could any evening spent in a feather mask be a bad one?

        Sunday, January 1, 2012

        12 Changes in 2012 (Also Known as "Resolutions")

        Here I am on a bandwagon! But it's a good one that I can totally get behind (er, on? No one wants to be behind the bandwagon...), so I find it acceptable.

        Fellow bloggers Stephany & Katherine rounded up a bunch of folks who want to make life changes in 2012; "resolutions," you might even call them. The difference here is that instead of setting lofty or ambiguous goals, each month, we'll each focus on one smaller goal, building better habits that we'll hopefully integrate into our lives.

        I haven't come up with my entire list yet, but I've set goals for the first three months of the year. Here we go:

        • January: Use my juicer every weekday. Nathan got it for me us for Christmas, & we've juiced every day since setting it up on Tuesday. We just spent $30 on fruits & veggies & are planning to hit the juicer once a day, weekends optional.

        • February: Drink at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water a day. I had to put some extra thought into February's goal because I'll be in Israel for almost half of it, but this is something I can (& should!) absolutely do while abroad.

        • March: Wake up by 8a.m. every work day. I've never been a morning person, & working from home hasn't helped me on that front. I start work at 9a.m., often in pajamas & a hoodie until I shower around, say, lunchtime. And this? Is embarrassing. It's time to start waking up at an adult time. Every single day.

        Other potential goals include: take vitamins every day; go to bed by 11p.m. every weeknight; work out three times a week; don't eat after 8p.m. (a.k.a. no snacking); go a month without alcohol/Diet Coke/meat... Yeah, we'll see. Let's start small, OK?

        Starting... today!
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