Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Delish and Nutrish

For some reason I have unearthed most of my favorite food discoveries in the Giant at 9th and O. For any of you who don't know, that is the biggest shizhole of a grocery store on the planet and I honestly fear getting a cap busted on my *ss every time I walk in. It is ghetto-scary. But unfortunately I am forced to visit two grocery stores because Whole Foods doesn't carry a single item with any preservatives, and I need my skinny cow ice cream sandwiches, fat free yogurts, splenda, and a host of other things that will probably give me cancer. But they won't get me fat, y'all.

While I'm hurriedly searching the aisles of the Giant, I discover these little organic beauties in my grocer's freezer: garden lites frozen souffles. Only 2 weight watchers points (for those of who who are fluent in WW) and they're all natural. I've had two different kinds and they were both pretty tasty! And, much like other bare essentials in my life, they can only be found at the blasted Giant.

Until I'm cooking for more than one person every night, I'm stuck with things like frozen souffles most evenings, so this discovery may seem mundane to most of you, but it's the little things y'all.

Opera last night was fantastic, but I was so exhausted from my weekend/maniac lifestyle in general that i peaced out after Ophelia died. Once the female protagonist is in the creek, Hamlet is dead to me anyway and I'm glad I didn't say through extra dude death scenes only to wait in line for a cab at the Kennedy Center.

Tonight is book club at the chic home of the lovely Jess F. (turns out all of my favs are named Jess these days) and I can't wait to sip vino and get some chat with my laaaadies. xo

Monday, May 24, 2010

A-list week

Happy Monday all! I'm back from a quick weekend trip to NYC and feeling a little fallout from my late bus ride last night. It took nearly SIX HOURS to get home, and we didn't arrive until around midnight. I am zonked. This old lady likes to be in her poodle pajamas by 9pm, lights out at 10pm sharp. Especially when I have such an a-list week ahead. Hopefully I'll get a good 7 hours tonight and feel much better in the morning...

Here's the lineup y'all- tell me this doesn't sound like a dream:
Monday: I have a hot date with myself to go to the Opera and see Hamlet (en Francais).
Tuesday: Book club with my brilliant besties where we'll be partaking in adult libations and discussing Fountainhead.
Wednesday: French class! Continued reading + discussion of L'Ecrivain, which is turning out to be a great read.
Thursday: Clean/pack/finish Casablanca/enjoy some red wine in my underwear while preparing for (drumroll please)....
Friday: DAVID and SUSAN T. SHOLTES ARRIVE IN THE DISTRICT. One long weekend with the fabulous 'rents, my sister and her boyfriend, my mang and me. This has been a long time in the works and I can't wait to luxuriously lounge in our big cabin in Middleburg, VA (a la Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor. For reals they both had horse farms out there and we'll be touring them mmkay.)

To make this week even sweeter, it will be followed directly by two additional fabulous weeks, wherein my very best bestie from Cali will visit for a long weekend, followed by 5 days in Florida for even more momma time. Stick a fork in me 'cause I'm done y'all.

And, in the spirit of capturing some reads from the past, here are some more books worth adding to your repertoire:

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (This book will be unlike anything you've ever read. Do get yourself an annotated version because the jumps in and out of reality, dream sequences and fictional religious history can be complicated...)

(Right after Pamela Chamcha finds out her husband has died:)
"The fact of being alive compensated for what life did to one. That night, in an oak-panelled dining room decorated with medieval flags, Pamela Chamcha in her most dazzling gown ate venison and drank a bottle of Chatea Talbot at a table heavy with silver and crystal, celebrating a new beginning, an escape from the jaws of, a fresh start; to be born again first you have to...well almost, anyway. Under the lascivious eyes of Americans and salesmen she ate and drank alone, retiring early to a princess's bedroom in a stone tower to take a long bath and watch movies on television."

"At Michal's wedding, however, he suddenly felt free. It was quite a ceremony, largely because the young couple could not refrain from kissing one another throughout the procedure, and had to be urged by the registrar (a pleasant young woman who also exhorted the guests not to drink too much that day if they planned to drive) to hurry up and get through the words before it was time for the next wedding party to arrive. Afterwards at the Shaandaar the kissing continued, the kisses becoming gradually longer and more explicit, until finally the guests had the feeling that they were intruding on a private moment, and slipped quietly away leaving Hanif and Mishal to enjoy a passion so engulfing that they did not even notice their friends' departure."

My Life in France by Julia Child (Not a must-read, but if you're even remotely infatuated with French food and culture, it makes for a nice trip across the pond.)

"When she swept by me and out the door with a slight Mona Lisa smile on her lips, I asked my neighbor in line why the maid had been given such deferential treatment. 'She has a new job,' the woman explained, with a knowing look. 'She now works for la comtesse. Did you see how she's dressed today? Now she's practically a comtesse herself!' I laughed and as I approached Madame to give my order, I thought, 'So much for the French Revolution!'"

"After returning to Rouen, we stopped in for lunch at La Couronne, where we ordered exactly the same meal that we'd had on my first day in France, more than two and a half years earlier: protugaises (oysters), sole meuniere, salade verte, fromage blanc, and cafe filtre. Ah me! The meal was just as sublime the second time around, only now I could identify the smells in the air quicker than Paul, order my own food without help, and truly appreciate the artistry of the kitchen. La Couronne was the same, but I had become a different person."

Here's to a great a-list week! xo

Friday, May 21, 2010

Former lives

Another week comes to an end and I'm off to Manhattan after work today via my second home, the Bolt Bus. Which is actually a really nice bus (leather seats, wireless internet), but a bus nevertheless. It's been over one month since I've set foot in NYC and I must say that the bus ain't lookin' so bad! I can't deny that I've missed the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of." (Love Jay Z y'all. The Hova and Beyonce own quite a bit of real estate in NYC, including a restaurant/club called "Spotted Pig" that I've been meaning to try for ages. You can take the girl out of the dirty south, but you can't take the dirty south out of the girl.)

Being that I've only had this blog for about 4 months or so, my book reviews are limited to the books I've read since then. Oh small percentage of my loves! But lucky for us all, I've always kept a book journal, in which I write down some of my favorite quotes from favorite reads. So please join me on my walk down memory lane (to be continued because there are too many to share in one day)...

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
(Not the greatest read, but some very interesting and disturbing religious discussions, centered around the crazy Mormons! Can't get enough of these nuts! If you're at all curious about the bunk dogma that polygamists use to justify their freaky lifestyles, I recommend you suffer through this Krakauer.)

"My own view of religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race. I cannot, however, deny that it has made some contributions to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calendar, and it caused Egyptian priests to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they became able to predict them. These two services I am prepared to acknowledge, but I do not know of any others." ~Krakauer quoting Bertrant Russell.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(This is absolute must y'all. There are so many brilliant lines from this book that my journal runneth over.)

"But if they had learned anything together, it was that wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good."

"Dr. Urbino caught the parrot around the neck with a triumphant sigh: ca y est. But he released him immediately because the ladder slipped from under his feet and for an instant he was suspended in air and then he realized that he had died without Communion, without time to repent of anything or to say goodbye to anyone, at seven minutes after four on Pentecost Sunday."

"He did not live to see his own glory. When he recognized himself the irreversible symptoms that he had seen and pitied in others, he did not even attempt a useless struggle but withdrew from the world so as not to infect anyone else. Locked in a utility room at Misericordia Hospital, deaf to the calls of his colleagues and the pleas of his family, removed from the horror of the plague victims dying on the floor in the packed corridors, he wrote a letter of feverish love to his wife and children, a letter of gratitude for his existence in which he revealed how much and with how much fervor he had loved life. It was a farewell of twenty heartrending pages in which the progress of the disease could be observed in the deteriorating script, and it was not necessary to know the writer to realize that he had signed his name with his last breath. In accordance with his instructions, his ashen body was mingled with others in the communal cemetery and was not seen by anyone who loved him."

Love a good tragedy! More fabulous literary moments to come. Have a lovely weekend all- happy reading and sipping and swirling! xo

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review: The Shack by William Paul Young

**Please be advised I express opinions below about religion, which is a very personal subject - please do not take offense! Just my opinion y'all.**

The Shack is a tale about Mackenzie "Mack" Phillips, who struggles with his faith after his youngest daughter, Missy, is abducted and murdered on a family camping trip in Oregon. Mack's family leaves to visit relatives and he is lured by a letter from God to visit "the shack," where Missy's bloody dress was found (her only discovered remains) years before. He arrives and the shack is supernaturally transformed into a warm, lush cabin, surrounded by beautiful gardens. It is there he encounters manifestations of the three persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father takes the form of an African American woman named Papa, Jesus Christ is a Middle-Eastern carpenter, and the Holy Spirit physically manifests itself as an Asian woman named Sarayu.

I will be the first to admit that I was very skeptical about this book, both before I read it and within its first few chapters. Growing up surrounded by southern evangelism has been a big part of why I converted to Catholicism. I don't want mystification or modernization of what I feel is best expressed through tradition and ceremony. Why do so many protestants feel the need to make religion so casual and modern? I don't have any interest in a power point presentation and a guitar player at church, nor do I entertain the "sermons" of an uneducated man who thinks his literal interpretation of the Bible is the way, the truth and the light. I know not all protestant churches are like this, and I know there are some bad Catholic eggs out there. But we're all entitled to our preferences- again, religion is personal!

I was pleasantly surprised at parts of the book, despite my skepticism, but my review is not without its critiques. First, there is a theme of rejecting your "preconceived notions" of religion (e.g., God is manifested as a black woman in this book to spice things up). I think we're splitting hairs here, Young, and I'm not sure that this identifies most peoples' largest struggle with their faith. Try again. Another miss by Young- implying that people reject God and religion during times of adversity. But isn't that when we usually seek God and religion? I know exactly what I'm doing when my plane hits serious turbulence- sayin' my prayers y'all. But when I safely land? Ummm...planning my vacation casualwear for the evening? Texting my Momma so she doesn't have an anxiety attack over my whereabouts? (Love you Mom!) Last, but not least, I don't know that Young answered any questions for me. There were no "eureka" moments, like...OH! That's what you mean when you say "Jesus died for my sins!" OH! That's why bad things happen to good people! Faith is faith- you don't have all the answers and you don't feel like you need them to believe. So setting out to accomplish otherwise...well, it didn't provide me with any additional clarity. One hidden line in the book acknowledged this and implied that "some stories remain untold and we don't know why." That's more of an answer for me than trying to answer my questions.

What it did provide was some insight into Young's personal interpretation of the Holy Trinity, which was refreshingly accepting, open and free. Also he envisions some sort of heaven where God cooks scones with a butter and jelly assortment and I can get on board with that (seriously don't get me started on assorted mini-jellies. LOVE.). His dogma is all-inclusive and, despite limiting literal interpretations out there, we are all God's children and he (she?) is an accepting, forgiving force that loves us abundantly. He says "the Bible doesn't teach you to follow rules, it is a picture of Jesus." Rules are a way to gain independence from God's love and to give yourself the tools judge others. Thank you Young! I concur! And his focus on fantasy and dreams was creative and may help those of us who pray to open our minds to how we identify and listen to answers. But let's be serious, Salman Rushdie has completely ruined the trade of religious imagery for everyone else, including dear Young, and to say his attempts were inferior to 'ol Rushdie's would be an understatement.** But thoughtful nonetheless.

So overall, I dig his dogma, and I appreciate his personalization and explanation of the Holy Trinity. And I can see this touching someone who has just experienced overwhelming loss. But not a real source of answers for me because, after all, faith means not having all of those, right?

**Salman Rushdie is a British-Indian novelist whose style is often classified as "magical realism" mixed with religious historical fiction. His book "The Satanic Verses" contains mind-blowing Muslim imagery, which caused controversy in the Islamic world because of what was perceived as an irreverent depiction of the prophet Muhammad. Allegedly the poor fella still has to travel with a security detail because he's such a wanted man. Fab read y'all.*

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Though I usually wait until after our meeting to review a book club read, I have such a backlog of reviews to get through and I must begin with this one as it shapes some of my thoughts on subsequent reads (and subsequent life, for that matter). Not to mention, as you will see, waiting to gather thoughts from my fellow readers before truly forming my opinion would be oh so Peter Keating of me!

The Fountainhead, written in 1943, was Ayn Rand's first major literary work and was followed by the more famous Atlas Shrugged (her self-proclaimed masterpiece expressing her philosophy of objectivism). I'll keep the plot summary short: Howard Roark, the protagonist, is an individualistic young architect whose life almost parallels that of Peter Keating, his superstar schoolmate. Roark consistently chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision, which always reflects his devotion to purist modern architecture. Keating is everything that Roark is not: he is obsessed with wealth, public approval and constantly subservient to the will of others (best exemplified in his satisfaction with classical forms of architecture). Throughout the book, the reader spectates the interactions these two have with each other and others, creating a 700-page web of complex characters and relationships. (MAJOR oversimplification alert)

[On a side note, it is widely speculated that Roark's character is loosely modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright. Although my obsession with FLW's personal life predates this blog, please do catch up to speed by enjoying Nancy Horan's "Loving Frank," which is a tremendous read detailing his juicy relationship and life with Mamah Cheney. Afterwards go and see his home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois. Then resume reading this book review.]

Rand herself asserts that Roark is the embodiment of the human spirit and his struggle represents the triumph of individualism over collectivism. Rand later writes in Atlas Shrugged, "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only substitute." Roark never compromises his principals, never seeks outside approval (personally or professionally), and never finds his vision "second-hand." He is a purely productive human ego: he does exactly what he wants, and is always fruitful while doing it. No laziness, no philanthropy (indeed, serving others is really a form of serving yourself and seeking societal approval...Franny and Zooey corroboration), no welfare state, and above all, no crowd-pleasing.

It is hard to articulate how deeply these characters develop, and how profound Rand's philosophy, which is expressed scrupulously in this lifetime plot. I'm afraid it's one you have to read to understand, but please see my earlier post on the empowerment possibilities. You are solely responsible for meeting your full potential, and, unlike seemingly most opportunities in DC these days, it isn't lurking around the corner at a cocktail party or networking event.

I don't have many problems with anything between the covers of this book, save one: there is no room for God in Ayn Rand's objectivism. Roark is an atheist and expressly states that his religion is himself: his vision, his productivity, his pure self. There is no higher power- you are at the helm of your own destiny. In order to reconcile this with my own views and still label myself a Rand follower, my first thought was to categorize Rand's philosophy into the "almost there but not quite complete" category. But that goes against Roark's fundamental purist values. So this is still an unresolved matter between Rand and myself and I'm very much hammering it out internally (my boyfriend I'm sure appreciates my dabbles into personal philosophy wile he's trying to enjoy himself on our road trips).

That being said, there are small details you can embellish and still stay true to Rand: like having a sense of humor. I'm not sure that the characters in the book lack one, it just probably wasn't an important element; neither here nor there really. And hobbies- maybe instead of doing absolutely NOTHING (which is ironically how Roark winds down- didn't make a ton of sense given his uber-productivity, but hell, I'm not the philosopher here), one could take French classes or join book club(ssss) or travel. As long as it is something you're doing for your own pleasure, not for the acceptance of anyone else (phew).

Rest assured that other characters seek to reconcile their lives with Rand's philosophy, and come close, which may be my consolation prize after I hash it all out: "No, he thought, I regret nothing. There have been things I missed, but I ask no questions, because I have loved it, such as it has been, even the moments of emptiness, even the unanswered- and that I loved it, that is the unanswered in my life. But I loved it."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


As we all know, I came from a very small town. Like cows-crossing-the-road and get-a-whole-week-off-school-for-the-livestock-fair small. To see men dressed up like Woody from the Toy Story was the norm, not only because that was the country style, but the functionality of boots, jeans and cowboy hats makes a lot of sense when you're working on the farm all day.

So I always have a special place in my heart for country folk visiting the nation's capital. However, I can't help but giggle at seeing the full cowboy regalia walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. Which makes me wonder, what must foreign visitors think when they visit DC and see this guy standing in line at the Smithsonian?

It is hilarious y'all! I mean, these people from far off lands read books about our country's history and imagine the days of cowboys and indians, then lo and behold they arrive in Washington to discover homeskillet snapping pics of the Lincoln Memorial with fresh horse shiz on his boots. Are they thoroughly mystified and maybe a little confused? Is this hysterical to anyone but me?!

Speaking of cowboys, I'm off to Texas with my mang for the next four days. We're doing a whirlwind tour of Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. Life is just too short to never have been to Texas, you know? So we're taking life by the longhorns and steamrolling through the bucket list, which is the only way to take life in my opinion. ;)


Monday, May 10, 2010

Fountainhead preview

I finished the Fountainhead last night and while as a general rule I insist on writing the full book review post-book-club, let me spoil it for you and say I loved it and Ayn Rand articulated many things I have felt very strongly but never managed to accumulate into such a comprehensive body of thought- a true philosophy not intended for the faint of heart or spirit (and I'm not only saying this because it was 700 pages). Right up there with Catcher in the Rye in inciting urges of (1) disappointment I hadn't read it earlier in life; and (2) complete empowerment.

If you have any interest in architecture (purely optional), combined with any interest in professional achievement while to thine own self being true (i.e., not a politician or other - pardon my french - social or professional slut), do yourself a favor and pencil in the next month or so of your reading social calendar. Y'all won't regret it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Security follies

People I kid you not, these are two DIRECT quotes from yesterday (I cannot emphasize enough that I am not paraphrasing):

Approximately 7:00am: Watching the today show while straightening my hair in my underwear when I see an FBI representative responding to Meredith Vieira's poignant question of what exactly happened to the man whom the nation watched "suspiciously" changing his shirt in Times Square, stuffing it in a rolly bag, and rolling off screen to God only knows where. To which the FBI agent replies (which can only be represented in all caps, as most law enforcement officials suffer from some degree of voice immodulation disorder): THE MAN CAUGHT ON CAMERA SUSPICIOUSLY CHANGING HIS SHIRT IN TIMES SQUARE HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ATTEMPTED BOMBING IN NEW YORK CITY. WHILE AT FIRST HE WAS OUR ONLY LEAD, WE ARE NO LONGER PURSUING HIM AT THIS TIME. GOOD DAY.

(on a side note I would like to point the reader to the legitimately arrested terrorist and his problem of over-sharing with the authorities, i.e., how he's depressed since being foreclosed upon, accidentally foiled his own getaway car plan by forgetting the keys, all of this after having been read his frigging Miranda rights)

Approximately 11:30am: I receive the following chain of emails from my mother, who has forwarded them to me from the principal at her school:

First email (to all staff of THS):
We have a report of a strange man in black pants, green shirt, and a big backpack pacing in front of the school, walked in the double gates and back out. Contacted law enforcement, have since heard he walked on downtown, but we will stay in lockdown as a safety precaution and drill until I further notify you. Please assure your students everything is safe.

Second email (to all staff of THS):
The stranger that we went into lock down for has left town. Deputy CJ talked to him earlier this morning, but has talked to again. He is visiting from the United Kingdom and hiking and touring the US. He has covered the east coast and is now headed to Gainesville. All is well….Thank you for all your assistance while we were in lock down this morning.

(on a side note I would venture to say that none of the students at THS would ever see the light of day if THS were located in my neighborhood of downtown DC)

Seriously y'all. You just can't make this shiz UP.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Prettiest wedding cake ever

Isn't it though? This is just one of the aesthetic pleasures of my recent trip to Ireland. My mang and I had a fabulous time visiting his lovely family and attending the most beautiful wedding I've ever seen (or could imagine for that matter). I'll spare you more pictures of the castle- if anything, it was even more beautiful in person than in the pictures I've already posted from the website. All in all a nice (but short) trip and I'm struggling to get back into this time zone and my work! Not to mention I'm almost finished with Fountainhead and I have yet to formally prioritize my short-term reading list, my French book is in and I must start the first few chapters (even though I'll be missing the first class due to another trip with my mang- Texas in two weeks), and I have yet to apply Chanel's "Nouvelle Vague" which I FINALLY found in the Dublin airport no less (the left-most color in the photo below- those 2010 spring colors have sold like hotcakes and were fresh out in the States). I am BUSY y'all! (I hope you're catching my sarcasm here)

Also I listened to a podcast about the Romanovs this morning and am temporarily obsessed with the Russian Revolution and, more interestingly, the fact that some woman named Anna Anderson came close to fooling civilization into thinking she was Anastasia Romanov (whose death wasn't confirmed until 2009). As you can see, it's SSDD. (same shiz, different day)
Anywho, heading home to a full wine rack and a spectacular evening in the Mid-Atlantic! Happy Tuesday all! xo