Category: Real Life

On opening the windows, shaking off the dust, and blogging again

I have that feeling now, that feeling where the weather starts turning warmer and you want to clean everything and throw out all of your winter clothes and go shopping.  Spring fever or something like that.

I’m finally home.  My traveling isn’t over forever, but I don’t have any work trips planned for at least a month and I’m settling back into a more normal routine.

I’ve missed you all.  And I’m excited to be back, but also nervous that it’s silly to blog after being away for months.  (But, honestly, blogging is a little silly at its very nature, so whether or not there will be readers really doesn’t increase or decrease its inherent silliness, am I right?)

Work has been — hard.  I’ve been traveling and stressing out and making presentations and filtering spreadsheets and loving every minute.  I’ve never felt more grateful for anything than I have felt these last few months for the continued opportunity to work hard in a job I love.  I’ve had really terrible jobs, and I know how depressing and terrifying and boring it is to feel like your time is not used well and you aren’t accomplishing anything because I have lived that life too.  A lot.  (If you are there right now, I’m sorry.)

I’m also learning first-hand how important it is to set boundaries for myself.  Everything in moderation.  When I’m caught up in my work, months can pass without me remembering to get a hair-cut, go out with my friends, paint my fingernails.  And let’s not even talk about laundry.

When you’ve been going nonstop and working a lot its easy to convince yourself that your work is very important and that because your work is important, you are important too.  And that is a lie.  Just because your job is hard or your hours are long does not mean your job is important.  And, whether or not you work a lot or your job is important does not make you important.  You are already important because you are a person who loves others and who is greatly loved.  Being a person who is alive is AWESOME.

I’m mostly writing for myself today.  And this is what I need to hear, every day, but especially when things feel insane or tedious or impossible or just plain boring.  You too?

 

Thanks for joining me here, my friends.  It’s been too long, hasn’t it?  How are things? 

Last-Minute Party Food for the #POWAW Book Release Party!

This past weekend, my friend Emily and I co-hosted a book release party for our friend Rachel Haas.  And somehow I thought my role as co-host meant I would show up early to help out and bring a platter of bacon-wrapped dates.  And Emily thought it meant she would host and handle drinks and I would bring all the food.  We laughed about it all weekend because for two professional writers, we absolutely failed on the communication front!

I figured out what was going on Thursday afternoon, the day before the party.  I was on a conference call and I saw a text message pop up saying something like:  We have 20 people coming tomorrow night and I’ve got all the drinks covered — can’t wait to eat your delicious food!  (This is a paraphrase.  It actually took me a few messages to catch on because (a) sometimes I’m kind of dense and (b) my brain was focused on some awesome spreadsheets.)

If I’d realized what was going on a little earlier, I would have spent a lot of time planning an awesome menu for Rachel’s party — because she wrote an entire book and we are totally psyched for her huge accomplishment — but since I only had from 6 p.m. Thursday to when I went to sleep and from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Friday when I had to leave for the party, we had to focus on easy, fast, tried-and-true favorites to get the party started.  Emily created the most beautiful party environment, and I think the food turned out pretty great too.

blog photo 2

Here’s what I did:

  1. Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  I doubled the version and when it was going into the oven it looked too soupy, but when it came out of the oven it was golden and delicious.  Macaroni and Cheese is vegetarian-friendly, super filling, and not too expensive on your party budget, so it’s a go-to for me when I need to feed a crowd.  I made and baked this Thursday night, and then reheated in the oven at Emily’s on Friday night.
  2. Bacon-wrapped Goat Cheese Dates.  You just put the tiniest bit of goat cheese inside the dates, wrap them up with raw bacon, skewer with a toothpick and bake at 375 until the bacon is crispy.  Super easy.  We prepped these on Thursday night and then baked them at Emily’s house while the party was getting started.  Bacon smells great while cooking, so it’s a win-win for everyone there.
  3. Barbecue Meatballs.  Grab freezer meatballs and throw them into the your crock pot with barbecue sauce.  I used a combination of Sweet Baby Ray’s, peach jam, apple cider vinegar, maybe a little Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and water.  I kept adding stuff until it tasted good to me.  Follow your heart here.
  4. Hummus Platter with Vegetables.  I used Sabra hummus but transferred it into a fancy container and topped it with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper.  I hate how raw broccoli feels dry and scratchy in your throat at parties, so I skipped it and went with baby carrots and sliced red and green bell peppers instead.  Since the mac-and-cheese and meatballs were a bit heavy, the lighter hummus and vegetables offered a healthier option.
  5. Peanut Butter Fudge and Chocolate Fudge.  Cupcakes, cookies, cakes — I would usually bake something lovely for such a huge moment in a friend’s life, but since time was limited (and honestly, so was our fridge space!) I went with an easy, quick dessert:  fudge.  I’m sure there are really delicious ways to make fudge that are not easy, but for both of my efforts, it involved pouring things into a bowl, microwaving that bowl, stirring the contents of the bowl, pouring the melted contents into another container, chilling, and chopping.  So easy!  The small bites are party-friendly.  But, since some have peanut allergies I’m really careful to keep the peanut butter fudge separate so if needed, it can be swept away and the party can be allergy-free.

And the reason for the party:  Rachel’s New Book!

If you’re interested in fairy-tales, new fiction writers, or just making someone feel awesome, click through here to purchase Rachel L. Haas’s new book, Portals of Water and Wine.  I’m so impressed with Rachel’s tenacity to get this book written and out into the world — I think we could all learn a lot from her commitment to her art.  Here she is on Friday night, talking about her writing process and reading a selection from her new release!

Not Guilty Pleasures

I like to say that I don’t have any guilty pleasures.  From time to time I’ll even correct someone, asking why they should feel guilty about enjoying the things they love.  It goes something like this:

Friend:  You know, watching that show Dating Naked is one of my guilty pleasures.

Me:  You mean, one of your pleasures.  Why feel guilty about something you love?  Plus, that is a great show.  (I mean, it really is great, isn’t it?  You can reach out and touch the awkwardness.  And who knew so many 25-year-old virgins watched VH-1?)

But the thing is, with all of the above-quoted bravado, I really do feel a bit sheepish about admitting some of my favorite things.  I keep them to myself and really only talk about the “cool” things I do.  Which may be why this blog is sparse of late. . . Anyway, when I do reveal some of my less cool activities, I protest the “guilty” label but find myself blushing a bit or doing that awkward smiling thing where you really aren’t happy but your face is stuck in smile-mode and then suddenly you realize that your face is SO TIRED OF SMILING that it feels as if your eye-balls might pop out of their sockets.  So probably I still feel guilty about it.  However, I’m faking it until I actually achieve my desired level of enlightenment.  Like a pro.

This week, I’m right in the midst of one of my NOT GUILTY pleasures:  reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.

I know, I know, it’s 850 pages of ridiculous time-traveling historical fiction that is mostly a romance novel.  And yes, it is true, there aren’t any dragons so it’s nowhere near as good as Game of Thrones.  [I did spy a 18th-century version of the Loch Ness monster in there, but it wasn’t scary, so I accept this criticism.]  But sometimes, when you spend so many hours walking the path of giant spreadsheets and the technical application of specialized jargon written by congressional staffers and interpreted by regulation and applied and defined by administrative boards, it’s nice to have a little magic in the evening.  Even if it is completely ridiculous and even if the romance parts stopped being interesting a few hundred pages ago.

And so, I just wanted to tell you:  I’ve worked two eight-hour shifts and mopped the kitchen and cooked dinner for my husband several times but also, I’ve had the first Outlander book in my possession since about 6 p.m. on Sunday and I’m already 567 pages in.  It feels good to tell the truth.

 

So, do you believe in guilty pleasures?  And have you read the Outlander books?  Am I completely insane?

This is not about Back to School

It’s Wednesday and I’m headed to work and my Feedly is full of mommy bloggers and not-usually-about-motherhood bloggers talking about sending their kids back to school, or sending their kids to school for the very first time. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate these situations. I love my friends who have kids and I often even love their kids. I like the BTS photos on Facebook, sometimes leave comments, and even said a little prayer for a few young ladies I am especially fond of.

But seriously, internet, I need a little variety in my morning commute. For any of you out there looking for something different, this is for you:

1. It is hot today in Chicago.
2. I just walked past Garrett’s Popcorn without purchasing anything. Huge personal accomplishment.
3. Today I am wearing a dress from Ann Taylor. It is navy, tan, and white with a zipper down the front. To be honest, I could do without the zipper.
4. I mean really, what is it with fashion zippers? They are not as good-looking as everyone thinks.
5. My office in Chicago has a really fantastic view of the city and Lake Michigan but it is so hot all the time that I have to keep the blinds tightly shut to keep the sun out. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the view.
6. I am really terrible at wearing shoes. Matching shoes that I own to outfits that I own is very difficult for me. It’s a daily struggle.
7. At work, I keep one pair of nude pumps at my desk and I wear them every day. And I get compliments on them almost every day. For the first two years, I wore a nude pump from Nine West with a fake snakeskin pattern. For the last 18 months, I’ve been rocking Anne Klein pumps with a shiny patent pointy toe and a matte everything else. And a stranger said “Hey I like your shoes” to me last Thursday at lunch. In six months these will probably be worn out and I’ll need a new pair.
8. I’m starting to feel silly now but I want to get to a solid ten items before posting this ridiculous list.
9. We are almost finished re-doing the guest room in our condo and now we are starting to hate every other room for not looking as good as the guest room.
10. I don’t have to fly back to DC for 11 straight days from today and I am so excited! That puts me home for a solid 16.5 days, which honestly feels like 100 days after the last few months.

Have a great day!
PB

What I’m Into: Summer 2014

Well, it’s September.  Holy cow.  How did this happen?  The summer has flown by in a blur, but there were a few pockets of awesome mixed in too.  Here is a quick rundown of some of the things I loved (or learned) over the past few months.

 

I went to a professional soccer game.  It was crazy fun.  Did you know that fans throw beer into the air after each score during DC United soccer games?  Yeah, me either.  They do.  (Pro tip: do not wear your suit to the game even if you are going after work.  Dry-cleaning is expensive.)

blog photo soccer game

 

I ate a lot of not-so-great restaurant food, but I also enjoyed some pretty yummy DC meals during my lengthy hotel stay.  For example, have you ever eaten a scotch egg?  It’s a soft-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, and then breaded and deep fried.  I think.  I tried this one at the Copperwood Tavern in Shirlington (Arlington), Virginia.  It was delicious.

scotch eggs copperwood tavern

 

During the rare minutes I wasn’t working or traveling this summer, I mostly (a) went to dinner with friends or (b) watched Netflix in my hotel room.  But one weekend when H was in town we drove out to Theodore Roosevelt Island for a little wilderness.  Did you know that even though they drained all of the water out of the fountains on Theodore Roosevelt Island and closed the island’s bathrooms for repair, the landmark is beautiful in a weirdly Soviet way?  It needs a lot of love and attention and Teddy deserves better.  I was excited to finally visit the Island and — disappointment all around.

Eagle Island

 

I took a four-day weekend over the Fourth of July and flew to Chicago to drive to Detroit to spend the weekend with extended inlaws.  I caught two huge fish and one tiny perch and bought my own fishing pole (named Ice) and a camo fishing hat from Bass Pro Shops.  It was potentially the best weekend ever.

IMG_2422

IMG_2420

 

This summer I also saw two pretty cool people get married, ate a TON of Kansas City barbecue, went to brunch with some pretty fabulous people (really, tons of Brunch.  That’s my kind of summer.), and learned a lot at work.  After 60 days away, I’m feeling pretty comfortable in my skin and more confident about what I want out of my life.  Which is to say, a cool job is cool but it isn’t enough.

 

AND THEN I came home.  It was beautiful.  I crashed the first night in Chicago and then got to work, making our two-bedroom condo overlooking the city mine.  My return home was one year after our move to Chicago (weird how anniversaries work, isn’t it?) and only a few days before our fourth wedding anniversary, and I didn’t want to enter this new year without fully unpacking from our move and settling into our space.  We still had a few boxes of photographs and art pieces that needed to be hung, and we had crammed all of our excess belongings into the guest room closet (seriously, it was treacherous), and it was time to dig in and clean out.  We made a huge contribution to Goodwill and have a few more furniture pieces headed that way next week.

 

I built these flower boxes on my balcony when I got back to Chicago.  And by built, I mean I purchased them from Home Depot and encouraged my husband while he attached them to our balcony with screws.  But I planted them myself and so far only 1 out of 10 of these plants is showing signs of death.  And only a slight shade of death, so that’s a pretty successful planting experience for this black thumbed girl.

flower boxes

 

Here is a photo of my beautiful clean kitchen.  I emptied every cabinet, dusted and cleaned, scrubbed the appliances, rearranged our dishware and even set up a cookbook display to add some extra color.  It doesn’t look exactly like this every day, but we are trying to maintain.

clean kitchen blog

 

And, while cleaning and sorting and donating has taken up a lot of my non-work minutes, we’ve also made sure to spend a little time out in the city.  Chicago is a beautiful place to live, and I’m so happy to be home.

chicago love

Today’s post is part of Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into Link-Up.  To join the link-up or check out other posts, please click here.

 

When it’s good to be home

Light a candle
Take a bubble bath
Make a cuppa tea
Bake bread
Shop for groceries
Use real dishes
Cuddle
Pet Leo
Clean the litter box
Run the dishwasher
Check the mail
(Pay the bills…)
Make the bed
Wear different shoes
Take a sick day
Sink into the sofa
Visit a friend
Go to church
Eat real pizza
Walk to work
See the skyline
Be a family

20140808-194110-70870365.jpg

Long Bridge Walking Path, Arlington

I left work around 6:30 tonight with no plans and no energy and no real desire to do anything.  I ended up getting a burger from Good Stuff and going for a walk.

The calorie math on this arrangement looks something like this:

Good Stuff Eatery Calories:  +5,000,000

Walking 2 Miles Calories:                     -167

Total Calories :                             4,999,833

I wanted to eat on a park bench overlooking the water.  I thought I could walk to the water.  I didn’t want my fries to get too cold but I wanted a good view, so I walked over to the Long Bridge Esplanade Park to grab a bench and eat my dinner overlooking the Potomac.

I’ve actually been wanting to walk until I found the waterfront near my hotel for a while now, but never made it home from work early enough so I could explore in the last few bits of daylight.  I’m much too nervous and responsible to wander around at night in the dark.  I know that so many of you are strong independent women and I am one of those too about most things, but walking too alone at night still gives me the heeby-geebies.  (How do you spell heeby geebies?)

Only two problems with this picnic plan:  First, Long Bridge Park doesn’t overlook the water so much as it overlooks the rail road tracks by the water.  And second, there aren’t any  benches, exactly.  So, I sat on a concrete stub and ate my cheeseburger and a few luke-warm fries while runners jogged past staring hate bullets in my direction.  [Yes I can eat a cheeseburger and still look this good.  No I don’t know why you are laughing . . .]  Unbeknownst to me I was chowing down in the middle of a popular Arlington running trail.  Nothing makes a cheeseburger taste flat like the mournful, jealous, slightly-judgy stares of dozens of runners, while running.

But even though I didn’t work out great for the eating part, Long Bridge Park is weirdly beautiful.  As you walk out on the path you think you are walking immediately toward the Washington Monument.  Reagan National Airport is right across the water from the path, so you can sit on the concrete stubs and watch the airplanes take off and land at the airport.  Soccer fields line the grassy areas between Crystal City and the edge of Virginia, and young-ish people were playing ultimate frisbee and running soccer drills and generally having a great time.  You don’t see crystal-clear water and shiny monuments on this side of the Potomac — you see lily pads and marshes and railroad tracks.  I kind of loved it.

long bridge walking path

When I’ve been in the City too long, I crave the wilderness.  Tonight I found a tiny piece right in my [hotel’s] back yard.