sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

July 15, 2010

fresh churned, nl, and so in love
posted by soe 7:42 pm

So often I’m surprised when Thursday shows up. This week, not so much. It’s been a slow week and I’m glad the weekend is only waiting for one more workday to arrive. But it can’t come before we look back at three beautiful things from the past week:

1. Rudi and I attend a fundraiser at a local hotel that gives us tastings of homemade ice cream. The caramel tastes of butter and burnt sugar. And the mint chocolate chip, made with herbs grown on their back patio, combines a nice mint flavor with bits of shaved chocolate. I refrain from licking out my cups — but only just.

2. The National League won the All-Star Game for the first time since 1996 and the one player representing the Nationals, Matt Capps, got the win after striking out Big Papi. The Mets’ David Wright went 2 for 2 with a stolen base. And for one night, I felt something like appreciation for the Braves and their players.

3. Over the weekend, as I mentioned earlier, we had the good fortune to attend the wedding reception of two good friends. As Phillip got up to give a speech thanking everyone for attending and sharing what good fortune he had to be able to share his life with Susan, his face was alight with love for his new bride. And Susan, sitting at the table next to him, also shone with peace and contentment. It was just one of those moments when everything — and everyone — clicks into the right spot in life and is just where they ought to be.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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posted by soe 2:31 am

Does anyone have a granola recipe they’d like to share?

I made up a batch tonight, and, while it made the house smell lovely, it’s not all I was hoping for. I mean, it’s fine, but it’s not great.

So far, I’ve tried Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio Granola and Mark Bittman’s Crunchy Granola. They’re perfectly serviceable recipes. They just don’t create the sort of granola that you write blog posts about. (Or, I suppose, they do, but not in a flattering way.)

So, anyone got a recipe they love? I would prefer one that isn’t prepared in a crock pot, since we don’t own one, but otherwise I don’t have any requirements. I prefer a bunchy granola, but would be happy with a flaky one if it had superb flavor.


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July 13, 2010

ten on tuesday: where i live
posted by soe 11:42 pm

This week’s Ten on Tuesday is focused on things you like about where you live:

1. How protective we are of our identity. Coming from New England, I know how touchy one can get when outsiders confuse New Hampshire and Vermont or try to make New York part of New England. But that does not begin to compare to how a D.C. resident feels when someone tries to claim that they live in Washington, D.C., when, in fact, they live in Virginia or Maryland. Also, that if you are referring to us as “Inside the Beltway” or “Washington” it is obvious that you are not referring to the local municipality and its citizens but to the federal government.

2. Height restrictions. People (particularly our friend John) will tell you that more high density residences are the key to keeping open spaces open. But I still love that in D.C. how high a building can be built is limited. (Contrary to what people will tell you, it is not restricted by the Capitol dome, but by the width of the street the building sits on.) With a few rare exceptions, no building in D.C. is taller than 12 stories, which means that you can always see the sky, unlike in many cities.

3. Green space. The District has a lot of parkland, ranging from triangular pocket parks where three streets meet to the C&O Canal towpath, which runs between a defunct canal and the Potomac River. Plus, we have Rock Creek Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country and where you would swear you’d left the city limits when you’re inside it.

4. Political awareness. Whether it’s because they work for someone in the Capitol or because they have no representation within it, nearly every person in the District knows a great deal about politics. Sure, people elsewhere know plenty, too, but I bet D.C. is one of the few places where half the population can reliably tell you how many electoral college votes we get. (For the record, it’s three.) Plus, we’re a die-hard, indigo coursing through our veins kind of place, where marriage equality was recently legalized and medical marijuana is also likely to become law. We’re so heavily Democratic, mayoral and council seat elections are routinely determined in the primary race, rather than in the general election, and District law has been re-written to force non-majority party membership on the Council.

5. A wide diversity of food. Yes, you can find chain restaurants and crappy hot dog vendors. But you can also find farmers’ markets every day of the week at various spots around the city and Eastern Market handily located on Cap Hill. And the restaurants range widely from New Haven-style pizza (not as good as pizza in New Haven, but far, far better than anything else within 300 miles) to Ethiopian injera to Salvadoran pupusas to chili half-smokes. There is a growing awareness of vegetarian food (finally!). Asian restaurants are starting to filter in from the Virginia ‘burbs. There are always plenty of fancy restaurants for celebrations and we have a growing supply of cupcakeries and independent coffee houses.

6. Free cultural resources. Sure, New York may have more museums, but we’ve got them beat by allowing free access to nearly all of ours. The Smithsonian is an amazing resource to have at your disposal — from the Museum of the American Indian to Air and Space to the National Zoo. We also offer a number of great, free festivals down on the Mall from the National Kite Festival in March to the recent Folklife Festival to September’s Book Festival. And that doesn’t even look at the daily Millennium Stage offering at the Kennedy Center, Friday night jazz, or the plethora of outdoor film screenings during the summer.

7. A well-balanced transit system. Our Metrorail system is clean. We’ve got lots of bus lines. We’re building a street car line or two. They add more bike lanes every year. You can walk lots of places. And you generally can find street parking in your neighborhood if you have a parking permit.

8. Politics and Prose. One of the best bookstores in the nation. Knowledgeable, friendly staff. Daily author readings. A great members’ program. Remainders. And a decent cafe, to boot.

9. Local sports. Our beleaguered Nationals now boast the first winning pitcher of an NL squad in 14 years. I’ve seen women’s world cup soccer at RFK. I’ve seen a friendly match between our men’s club and one of England’s premiere-league teams. I’ve seen men’s and women’s basketball. We’ve got a roller derby team, a tennis team, and a women’s football team. I hear rumors we have an ice hockey team. Maryland has a football team that claims to be from here (note the Washington reference in #1 above). We host one of the largest open-entry marathons in the country. And if you walk around town any night of the week, you’ll see we have amateur-level sports in beach volleyball, kickball, rugby, softball, bocci, ultimate frisbee, crew, and cricket.

10. Dupont Circle. My little ‘hood has grown more … mallified … since we moved down here, but it still offers a fantastic place to live. There are public spaces, bookstores — of both the new and used varieties, a music store, a tea house, two indy coffee joints, two cupcake shops, an ice cream shop, a gelateria, two 24-hour drug stores, and, soon, a yarn shop. Yes, we lost both our movie theaters. Yes, high rents and greedy landlords have driven out a number of adorable little shops we liked. But, overall, you can’t beat the above list combined with the quiet streets that spur off from the main drag as a place to live.

I could go on. But I won’t. But you can. Share in the comments what you like about where you live.

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sometimes there’s some truth in those old sayings
posted by soe 12:56 am

You know those sayings: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Or “When it rains, it pours.” Or “Where there’s lightning, there’s often a thunderstorm.”

Oh, you haven’t heard that last one?

Around 9:30 tonight, Rudi, Julia, and I were sitting out on the Mall, having a perfectly lovely evening. A brief spattering of rain had gone through downtown just around 5, which dropped the temperature down but didn’t seem to raise the humidity or soak the ground, making it perfect for the inaugural showing of this year’s Screen on the Green.

Yes, there was the odd flickering of lightning, but mostly it seemed to be of the cloud-to-cloud variety, so it didn’t bother us at all as we enjoyed our picnic and cartoon short (Marvin the Martian!). We moved on to the main feature, Goldfinger, and had just finished our cupcakey dessert and followed James Bond to America when the drops started to patter down. Julia and about a third of the crowd had already packed up when the emcee came over the loudspeaker to announce that due to a fast-moving thunderstorm, they were very sorry, but they were going to have to cut the film short — oh, and could we please leave RIGHT NOW?!

Which we did.

Except maybe they didn’t emphasize that fast bit enough because we hardly had time to get our bikes unlocked before the rain was pouring down and the lightning was crashing around us. We and about a hundred of our neighbors dashed (dashed is a relative term when carrying a chair and lugging a 45-pound bike) up the steps of the west wing of the National Gallery of Art and hung out on their front porch while the worst of the storm passed through downtown D.C.

We waited for the rain to go into a lull and for the thunder to tell us the storm had moved out of immediate proximity before hopping on our very damp bikes and pedaling home.

Just after we left the Mall to head north, the rain (sans electricity this time) started up again. Rudi and I just pedaled through it, trying to avoid the biggest puddles and to give ourselves plenty of time to brake. And, luckily, drivers gave us a wide berth, probably because they felt sorry for us in our bedraggled state.

Okay, so it might not have made for the best movie-watching, but it’s definitely an evening we won’t soon forget. And that’s kind of cool.

But if I see smoke anytime soon, I’m pulling out the marshmallows…

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July 12, 2010

i’m not done with this weekend yet…
posted by soe 12:26 am

May I please have another?

I admit that sometimes I squander my weekends away. I mean, I appreciate them greatly — each and every time — but sometimes I do that from a prone and unconscious position. And sometimes from in front of the computer.

But this weekend, I promise, I used it wisely.

I started it by heading to Teaism with my knitting and enjoying a lassi and chocolate salty oat cookie in the lovely summer evening. Then I joined Rudi, Sarah, and Julia for a 3D showing of Toy Story 3. I laughed. I cried. I’m not sure that it was better than Cats or even than cats. But it was quite good. And then we went out for pizza and stayed out late just chatting.

Saturday, I slept in a smidge. I did some laundry. I ate tuna fish sandwiches with Rudi. I finished a book. We drank lassis. (Not lassies. That would be weird.) We watched the blue jay baby figure out how to get up to the air conditioner. I got my toenails painted a sparkly purple. We went to the Washington Club where we and others celebrated our friends Susan and Phillip’s recent wedding. It was lovely. The food was terrific. They had the loudest string group I’ve ever encountered, which helped add to the festive atmosphere. They had a whole table devoted to desserts. And, most importantly, Susan and Phillip just looked so utterly happy and in love. We all finished the night at the bar next door.

Today, we watched the Tour de France. We watched the World Cup final. I went to the farmers’ market. I ate a very tasty French pastry and drank strong tea. We went to the pool. We went to the garden and watered and weeded and planted. We dined on blueberries and corn on the cob and chicken and zucchini. We watched an episode of The Mentalist and the last of the latest batch of Miss Marples. I played with the cats. We admired how much the baby blue jay has grown and changed in the four days we’ve known him. We chatted with our families. I finished the next clue of the sock I’m test knitting and encountered no snags.

And yet … yet … I want more time. I want to read another book. I don’t want to clean, but I want to achieve some semblance of tidiness. I want to listen to a baseball game on the radio. I want to go berry picking. I want to go on a bike ride. I want to call up friends and chat with them about what they’ve been up to lately. I want to barbecue. I want to picnic. I want to get up early and doze on a blanket in the early morning sunshine.

I admit it. I’m greedy. I just want more.

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July 8, 2010

visitor, patriotic explosions, and our neighbors to the south
posted by soe 11:11 pm

A short week which means that I am a bit behind on the correct day of the week. It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for three beautiful things from my past week:

1. Last night there was a weird thunk in the window well, which we assumed was a neighborhood rat. This morning, when screeching awoke us, come to find out that it was a fledgling blue jay who might have left the nest a day or two early. After Rudi’s attempts to lift it up to street level were met with vicious attacks by blue jay parents, we spent the day worrying about the baby’s fate. And this evening, when we returned to find it still alive, if a bit groggy, we tried to figure out a way to get it out of the window well without starring in our own version of The Birds. But, come to find out, fledglings often spend quite a bit of time on the ground before they learn to fly. And the Internets suggest that we just leave it be and it will eventually fly out on its own. Yay for learning things — and for education literally in front of our noses!

2. The Fourth of July in the U.S. means fireworks. We took ours with a serving of national monuments and patriotic music. This year’s display was the best we’ve seen in the seven years we’ve been here and Rudi has the photos to prove it.

3. We caught the final hours of the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Monday afternoon, where the highlight of the three exhibits was definitely Mexico. We learned about tequila. We watched a craftsman casually insert tiny inlays of cedar along the body of a guitar he’d built, hardly even needing to look at what he was doing. And, at the end of the day, we watched four men climb to the top of a hundred foot pole. One of them stood atop the pole, playing his flute, dancing, and jumping to pay respect to the four cardinal directions and then the four, with their festive pink plumed headgear, attached themselves to ropes and spiralled down to the ground in the Danza del Bixom Tíiw, the Dance of the Hawk, which honors the Lord of the Corn. Hillary got photos of the ceremony earlier in the day. The Smithsonian has a video.

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