Tuesday, October 7, 2014

September was real

A question for the universe: if you didn't blog for the month of September, did the month of September actually exist?

As it so happens, I spent most of the first half of the month sick in bed avoiding back-lit screens of any kind, and most of the second half of the month on vacation in New Hampshire.  We typically spend a week each summer up in New Hampshire at Lake Winnipesaukee and then a week out in Pebble Beach with my family.  This summer a couple of obstacles (IVF, Blake's trial) kept us from our normal vacation schedule, so we decided to take a fall trip once Blake passed his deadline.

So, Blake filed with the court on Thursday night and we started the 9 hour drive up the coast on Friday morning.  Between the snacks and, the conversation, and the audio book we brought (In the Kingdom of Ice) the drive went by quickly and without any noteworthy incident.

It was fairly fall-like and chilly for a lot of the time we were at the lake, but we got a few glorious 80 degree days where we took full advantage of the water.  It was so nice to finally have a break from the doctors appointments and crazy trial schedule we'd been dealing with all summer.  We read books, kayaked, took boat trips across the lake, laughed while Bear did zoomies around the house-yard-beach-dock-water, ate out, gorged ourselves on ice cream, and watched old Cary Grant movies.  Basically, it was the perfect way to relax.

There's nothing quite like fall in New England.  The bright leaves.  The misty mornings.  The crisp air.  The blue skies. Sigh.  In fact, we even got engaged on a fall trip to New Hampshire back in the day.  Needless to say, it's a great place to be in October.

Well, without further ado and endless paragraphs, here are some photos of our trip before I get back to my regularly scheduled posting.  Enjoy all the gratuitous Bear shots.  Yes, I am fully aware that we have an unhealthy obsession with our dog.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shopping DC: Mid-Century Furniture

I'm not quite sure where this week went, but here were are at the holiday weekend already!  Blake is out golfing (I opted out of that one...), I'm lounging around the house reading and writing, and we've got fun plans for the evening that include furniture/building materials shopping (here and here) and eating at Busboys and Poets, one of our favorite local places.

So in honor of what is probably my favorite furniture store in the DC area, today's post is about where to find the best mid-century furniture (best being fact. not opinion ;))

1.  Peg Leg Vintage
Peg Leg is located in College Park, MD, just inside the beltway.  It's along Baltimore Avenue, only a couple miles from IKEA, so anytime I have to go to IKEA, I reward myself with a trip to Peg Leg afterward.  It's a great bribe.

The couple that owns the shop are just the coolest people. Every time I go in, I end up talking furniture with them for 45 minutes, and wishing I could stay longer.  Oh boy. I'm that customer.  They'll answer any questions you have about the pieces and even give you ideas for how to style it.  They'll encourage you to lounge on a chair you're eyeing - just to make sure it meets your comfort needs - and will even move other furniture around so you can get the full effect of putting your feet out on the ottoman while completely reclined in a Mister chair.  Do I sound like I speak from experience?

It's not a huge store, but their inventory is constantly changing.  Also, the owners said they always have 10-15 storage units packed full with other furniture, so if you're looking for something specific, let them know and they'll search for it for you.  Last time I was in they mentioned that they were on the lookout for a warehouse space so that they could display all their furniture at once for monthly warehouse sales.  I'm hoping that happens soon.

One of my favorite things about Peg Leg is that they don't spend time re-doing the furniture.  They just buy good stuff.  That way, they don't charge you an arm and a (peg) leg for anything.  I've been pleasantly surprised about how good the prices are.  I know it's off the beaten path, but I think their location also allows them to price things fairly.

2.  Modern Mobler
If you want to see some absolutely gorgeous restored mid century furniture, look no further than Modern Mobler.  They have locations on Georgia Avenue in NW Washington DC and in Kensington, MD along antique row.

Unlike Peg Leg Vintage, Modern Mobler's prices are not low, but I would venture to say that they're fair.  Each piece they display has been expertly restored to look like new.  They have a full-time restorationist employed for their two stores and you can tell that he puts love and attention into each piece.

So, you might not be able to go in and pick up a few items on a whim, but you'll be blown away by the eye candy.  The employees also know a ton about the furniture and are happy to answer questions.  It's almost a museum experience.

3.  Miss Pixie's
Miss Pixie's is located on 14th Street in a newly revitalized area of DC.  It's not strictly mid-century, so you'll probably see it pop up on other lists, but it usually has some great mid-century pieces.

Some pros to Miss Pixie's:  It's a large space and they have a great revolving inventory of fun pieces.  It's also pretty moderately priced.
Some cons to Miss Pixie's:  It's right in the heart of hipster-ville and things that are "fairly priced" maybe listed a bit higher than they otherwise would be.  That said, it is great fun to people-watch in this area and I love over-hearing people in the store talking about what they're going to do with a particular piece.  Lots of great ideas!

After you're done getting lost in Miss Pixie's, there are a ton of other great furniture stores in the area to busy yourself in for the rest of the day.  And if you need a break from all the inspiration?  I recommend treating yourself to a Peanut Butter Bacon Burger and a milkshake (while taking in whatever black and white film they're showing on the wall) at the new 14th Street Ted's Bulletin location.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sneakadoodle Bear

I'm no dummy.  I know why most people read this blog.  It's not my writing and it's certainly not the beautiful photography (ahem).

I know Bear is my best feature.

And so I heretofore resolve to have more posts specifically dedicated to him.  He's an entertaining and slightly crazy pup, so I'm sure there will never be a shortage of content.

Bear got a hair cut about a week ago and he's been extra sassy every since.  I'm pretty sure it's because he can see better without all the fluff in his eyes, but maybe he just knows he looks dapper with his fluffy new 'do.

After a matting disaster a few moths ago, Bear no longer wears a collar.  I put his tags on his harness, so he wears them when we go out, but when he's at home he's a barbarian with no accoutrements to speak of.  Voila. No more super-mats on his neck.  I've also been making a habit of brushing him every single day, which is probably the most significant change in keeping the mats at bay.

Basically, I'll do anything to keep him out of the groomer on a regular basis.  We take him to get groomed every three or four months.  It costs twice as much as one of my haircuts, so it nearly kills me every time.  Good thing he's cute, right?

But enough about his grooming habits, here are four recent pictures of the little fluff ball (clockwise from top left):

1.  We were trying to put new sheets on the bed and Bear kept popping up to play in them.  We finally just put the quilt over the top of him and he popped his head out like "hi!!!!"  Sneakadoodle.  (What would we do without iPhones to capture these random moments?)

2.  We picked Blake up after his meetings at church on Sunday and Bear was over-the-moon about having an extra car ride with the windows down.

3.  When the groomer blow dries Bear's hair, it fluffs up in a big bouffant on his head.  It's hilarious and we always end up calling him "fluff head" for the first few days until it's under control again.

4.  This is Bear's "I don't trust you" face.  He jumped up on the couch next to me while I was reading, so I gave him some rubs, but I think he could tell that I was about to leave him to go do something without him.  He kept giving me the side-eye to show his disapproval.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Shopping DC: Books

Lately (while Blake was up in NYC) I've been eating all sorts of random things for dinner, so I've edged off the meal planning for a while.  I don't think my smorgasbord dinners would be all that interesting...and they certainly wouldn't contain links to great recipes.

Basically it's been like this:

Monday:  Chips and salsa and pickles.

Tuesday: Pita and hummus and raspberries.

Wednesday: Frozen enchiladas from my frozen meal stash.

Thursday:  More frozen enchiladas as leftovers.

Yes. It's been a classy affair over here.

So as I've been slacking on the meal planning posts, I thought I'd start on another series.  I love DC.  I enjoy shopping.  I adore lists.  Add those together and I give you "Shopping DC."

Mostly this is for my own good so that I keep it all organized.  Like I said, I love lists.

Where do you go in DC to buy books and enjoy the experience?  Well, in the spirit of lists and DC adventures, here is my first foray into "Shopping DC."

1.  Friends of the Library, Montgomery County Book Sale.
I've mentioned this place before (probably as the Wheaton Library Book Sale) because I visit it all the time.  I'm probably there at least twice a month and I leave with a stack of books every single time.

The Book Sale takes in donations from all over Montgomery County and organizes them into category and then by author last name.  It's as big as a Barnes and Nobel, but resides in the basement of the Wheaton Regional Library.  They've got a great kids section (with board books that look like they've never been used) and a fantastic young adult section (I got a whole set of hardcover Harry Potter books for $15.00) and a classics section with beautiful leather-bound copies...it goes on and on.

Most books are between 25 cents and a dollar.  So, whether you're looking for beautiful books for decorating purposes, or to build up your own library, or to purchase your book club books on the cheap, this is the place to do it.

2.  Capital Hill Books
Blake thinks of this more as Capital Claustrophobia Books (I sort of agree), but it's a great place to visit.  It's a used bookstore located right by Eastern Market and you feel like you're being transported through time when you walk through the door.

The best way I can describe it is 1 part hoarders episode, 1 part Harry Potter's experience at the wand shop on Diagon Alley, and 1 part Shakespeare and Company in Paris (minus the cats and the transient writers living in it).

It's worth checking out just for the experience and the great photo-ops.  Also, it doesn't hurt that it's across the street from the delicious breakfast options at Eastern Market.

Photo from here

3.  Politics & Prose.  Arguably DC's most famous bookstore...and the only non-used bookstore on my list.  Politics & Prose is a great store by itself, but my favorite thing about them is that they schedule so many events and author talks that you can keep endlessly busy satisfying your bibliophile needs.

They offer writing classes and support local authors.  They put together book signings and help sponsor the National Book Festival.  I've been to a number of their events at various locations throughout the city (my favorite was seeing Khaled Hosseini at the Historic 6th Street Synagogue) and am always impressed.  Don't forget to sign up for their email lists so you don't miss out on any of the events or interesting classes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I studied Linguistics in college.  Languages have always interested me, and I loved being able to study something that was also my hobby (and now I am qualified to flip a burger in three languages, yippee!).  I've had a niggling feeling lately that I've fallen off the proverbial academic bus, so I'm looking for ways to stay up on my linguistics research.

Which brings me to my first question for the void: does anyone out there have recommendations for interesting reads in the realm of linguistics or language?  It's sometimes so hard to get a sense of what's good from Goodreads, so I'll leave the recommendations to anyone out there who happens to have an opinion or recommendation.  Help?

But anyway.  I've been thinking for the past couple of days about a study I read back in the day about English language and violence.  I can't remember the name of the study, so don't quote me on anything, but the gist was this: language, and specifically slang, tells you a lot about the culture in which it is spoken.  More narrowly, English speakers use a variety of violent and/or war-like slang words...and what does that say about our culture?

For example:

"I bombed that test."

"Knock 'em dead!"

"That class totally kicked my butt."

"I'm so mad, I'm going to kill him!"

"I'm so tired, I feel like I got hit by a bus."

"That oral exam? I killed it!"


There are a ton of other examples that I can't think of right now (because it's Sunday night and my brain has been off for some hours), but it's a pretty interesting concept, don't you think?  Frankly, you've only got to turn on the news to see how violent a society we live in.

I speak French (but not well enough at this point to compare idioms) and elementary Arabic (heavens, I basically only speak "TV/24 Terrorist" Arabic...), but I'd be interested to hear how much of this exists in other languages.  Would a peaceful/pacifist country like, say, Sweden, have far fewer violent slang words in their language?  Would German speakers use more violent language than English speakers?

[These are gross over-generalizations about these two cultures, but there you are.]

AND. At what point does language start influencing culture rather than the other way around?  Can it?  Does it?  If we started speaking in less violent terms, would that make us a more peaceful people?  I doubt it.  But it's an interesting thought.

More often language evolves as the culture changes.  It's like the words we use to describe the internet (blog, web, etc.) or mass-produced items (fast fashion, McMansion, etc.) that only recently came onto the scene.  I think if Shakespeare visited suburban DC tomorrow, he'd be hard-pressed to understand what anyone was blabbering on about.  Then again, put me back in Elizabethan England and I'm sure I'd have just as much trouble understanding The Bard.

Now there's a thought.  How much violent language does Shakespeare use as description?  Has the language culture shifted that much since his time?

But, that's a study for another day...when my brain is on again.