Monday, September 28, 2009

a happy accident.

I got up early and conquered some early gym time this morning before dedicating the rest of my "day off" to some quality time at the mall. Though my purchases were spread out over the day and from different shops, I soon realized (while doing a fashion show for myself, you know how it goes) that I had bought a very cohesive color set... even my off-season bikini fit the palette!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

the glass is half-full.

Things that are worth smiling about this weekend:

1. getting paid this week
2. seeing my sister at Villanova on Sunday :)
3. the return of crisp autumn weather after a humid week
4. this beautiful necklace (via littlebrownpen)
5. minnetonka moccasins
6. receiving a heartfelt Thank You note in the mail
7. my unhealthy addiction to The Tudors (I just finished season one!)

Hope your weekends are lovely and full of things to smile about.

Friday, September 25, 2009

trader joe's!

Today is a very exciting day here in my house. Trader Joe's, my favorite grocery store, is opening just over the Delaware River near Princeton! Granted, it's going to be very busy there today, but now we've got Trader Joe's just fifteen minutes away and I couldn't be happier. Since mum is going overseas for two weeks soon, the store opening is the perfect opportunity to stock up on yummy TJ's specialties before she leaves. I'll be looking out for chocolate-covered raisins, a nice crusty baguette, low-fat string cheese, maybe some meatless breakfast sausage, and their delicious easy Asian noodle bowls & vegetarian Indian dishes... well, to be honest, I'll have to probably restrain myself from running wild.

In college, my roommates and I loved shopping every week at Trader Joe's, so I'm sure visiting this store will remind me of them and our exasperation that we never ever won the raffle they offer when you shop using your own reusable bags. Maybe today will be my lucky day!

And here's a hilarious YouTube video that perfectly sums up the TJ's experience. I can't wait!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

hummus, burgers, & sufjan stevens

I've been a bad blogger, I know. I promised myself to keep updating this thing at least once a week, even if it meant a silly optimistic weekend list, and I haven't even held to that these past two weeks... so I'm sorry. I'm not even really apologizing to any of you, because I mostly feel disappointed in myself! But I won't get hung up on a lack of blog updates. Thankfully, there have been blog-worthy things in my life since my last post!

Restaurant Week has turned into Restaurant Two Weeks in Philadelphia, which is great news for those of us who love dining out & bargains. There are also a few restaurants offering a special $20 (yes, you read that right) lunch menu. Since I don't work on Fridays and my friend Chris only has class in the morning, we decided to start our Friday afternoon last week with lunch in the city at Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Society Hill that has gotten rave reviews since its opening. I'd wanted to go forever, mostly because I'd heard such good things about their hummus! And it really did live up to the hype.

Zahav offered four courses for its Restaurant Week menu, starting with a selection of small salads and a giant plate of hummus and fresh pita for the table. Because I love sharing, this worked out perfectly, as did the rest of the menu-- though my lunch partner took a little convincing. We then had fried cauliflower with a mint tahini dipping sauce as well as mini stuffed peppers, then moved on to two types of kebabs; one traditional Israeli merguez and the other a lamb and beef mixture. Though I haven't been eating meat lately, I had to give these kebabs a chance, and they were really delicious. Perfectly seasoned, served over tomato couscous and the other with some sort of cracked wheat that was really also couscous. I was slightly disappointed that the couscous wasn't the fat Israeli kind I love, but happy nonetheless.

My second-favorite part of the meal, after the hummus, was the dessert. We decided to branch out and for one of the options got a traditional dish, which was phyllo pastry made into a sort of light birds' nest, over ricotta cheese served with pistachio and rosewater. It was absolutely spectacular... a perfect blend of savory, creamy, and sweet. Even though we were already pretty full, it was light but a nice sweet note to end on.

All in all, a fantastic experience, though I won't be drinking Turkish coffee again anytime soon. They even slipped two "$10 off" coupons in with our receipt, so I'm hoping my parents will get a chance to check out the restaurant soon!

If you're interested in squeezing in a dinner or lunch during Restaurant Week, you still have time! Offers are valid until tomorow, Friday, and you can find a list of restaurants with menus here.

This past Tuesday, I was lucky enough to score tickets to see Sufjan Stevens perform at Johnny Brenda's, a bar in Fishtown. The tickets sold out in about ten minutes, but luckily I heard my alarm go off at 8 am the day they went on sale and had minimal technical difficulties. And so, after work on Tuesday night, I met up with Chris and his fancy camera, and we made our way north for burgers at Sketch, on Girard Ave. Aptly named for the semi-"sketch"y area wherein it resides, the place was awesome. The walls were covered with customers' crayon renditions of various burger drawings, including one featuring Gordon Ramsey, another quoting Pulp Fiction ("Mm mm mm, that IS a tasty burger!"), and my personal favorite, a small piece of paper stating that "Cats love Sketch Burger."

I ordered a smashed onion burger with horseradish cheddar and aoili, and Chris got a smashed onion too, but with blue cheese and Greek Goddess dressing. We also got an order of fries with wasabi and chipotle dipping sauces, AND milkshakes. My belly hurts just writing this, but I'd eat it all again just to taste that delicious first bite once again.

As if we weren't full enough, we then got a pitcher of PBC Kenzinger at Johnny Brenda's before the concert began. Though I probably should have passed on the beers right after all that food, the stomach pain dissipated once the concert began. I'd had the pleasure of seeing Sufjan twice before; the first time, at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA right after Come On, Feel the Illinoise! came out, and the second time, at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby. This was closer in feel to the first time I saw him-- small venue, great crowd, and a really great experience all-around. Though he played a lot of new songs, I really liked the feel of them... classic Sufjan but maybe a bit more experimentally synthesized.

After playing a slew of new material, he came up to the mic and thanked us for our patience. "Thanks so much for letting us experiment with all that stuff. It's been a real honor to play.. Sufjan is up next." And with that, he launched into some older songs, including "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." which, though slightly creepy, never fails to tug at the heartstrings. I took a video which hopefully I'll get around to posting soon.

What a handsome, talented man. New requirement for anyone interested in romantic involvement with me: must play banjo.

And finally, a special thank you to Chris for allowing me to use his beautiful photos here (he took all the Sufjan ones, duh). You should check out his Flickr for more-- thanks for being such a talented good sport!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

wet wednesday.

Today is a gray day in Philadelphia, and instead of moping and complaining that I'm cold, I'm instead reflecting back to Monday afternoon, when Chris messaged me around noon, and asked if I'd like to spend the afternoon at the beach. I'd just gotten in from yoga, so I took a quick shower, packed my book and a blanket, and we drove to Belmar, NJ to lie on the beach for a few hours. It was heavenly. The September sun is the best-- still warm in the daytime, but with a perfect breeze. While Chris and his brother surfed (or, more like sat on their surfboards hoping for better waves), I fell asleep, drooled on my arm, and soaked up the last of the summer's warmth. We ended the day with a trip to Surf Taco, and I got to have a Brooklyn IPA for the first time... it was deeeelicious. I'm a sucker for IPAs. (And the beach, which is news to me.)

Speaking of beer... today, Foobooz, one of my trusty web-based Philadelphia food & drink guides, released a list of their top 50 bars in the area. I was happy to see a few of my favorites on the list, and I'm looking forward to trying the ones I haven't been to yet! I've only got until January 8th, so I'd better get crackin'. You can find the list here.

It's also Restaurant Week in Philly, so I'm hoping to take advantage-- and new this year is a selection of $20 lunch menus, as opposed to just the dinner options. If I were wealthy, I'd probably have a day of crazy gluttony and do a lunch and dinner out in one epicurean swoop.

And, in closing:

Today I watched a bit of Live with Regis & Kelly as I was getting ready for work, and I awas once again appalled during the trivia segments, which I believe is featured every single day. And every single time I've watched it, this phenomenon baffles me. The trivia questions are most of the time related to the previous day's episode: what movie is our guest So-and-So starring in currently, what did So-and-So say was his or her comfort food, etc.
Keep in mind, I've watched the show maybe once every two months. Yet, I'd say 4 times out of 5, Barbara calling from Spokane or Theodore from Raleigh, for some STRANGE reason, missed the previous show and therefore can't answer that day's trivia question. But not to worry; they always come away with a $500 gift certificate from Lobstergram or some American-made china set. It just blows my mind that people call in to be contestants when their chances of winning are based solely on diligent spectatorship of Live with Regis & Kelly. I think today Regis Philbin felt the same way-- after another loser hung up the phone, he said to the audience, "Well, hopefully next time they'll actually watch the show!"

My sentiments exactly, Reg.

Photos courtesy of NatalieMaynor and Khaz

Monday, September 14, 2009

wake up.

This gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. October 16th can't come quickly enough.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

the glass is half-full.

Things to be glad about today:

1. finally getting to try Honey's Sit-N-Eat this morning-- and it living up to the hype!
2. tickets to see the Get Up Kids reunion show on Nov. 6
3. cardigan weather
4. getting over the intimidation factor & finally trying a yoga class
5. my cuddly cat
6. "non-dates" that involve running through the rain, nice red wine, and lots of laughing
7. this song by los campesinos!

Make the most of these gray clouds and have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

sitting on babies.

I never liked babysitting much. I don't hate kids. I'm not particularly terrible at supervising children as they watch hours of the Disney channel. I'll even allow two popsicles after dinner instead of just one. I'm just not particularly fond of spending inordinate amounts of time with other people's children when I could be doing something more selfish and more fun.
But last night, during four hours of child-minding, something happened to me that has never happened before.

I don't love playing House, where I am almost always assigned to be the "pet cat", and I can't really stand Hide & Seek anymore, mostly because I'm too large to fit in convincing hiding spots. I think that most Disney Channel original movies are creepy because the stars obviously deal with a lot of sexual tensions playing "brother" and "sister" to each other. But you know what? Partly because I'm a good person and mostly because I'm poor, I'll sit through a movie about incestuous wizards, or give piggy-back rides until my energy is spent. And in general, parents seem pleased with me and willing to ask me back.

Last night, I was introduced to a new family that wants me to babysit overnight later in September. We decided that in order for me to meet the children and make sure we were okay being around each other, the parents would go out for dinner one night and leave me with the kids. So I went over, met each of the kids (two girls and one boy), and settled into my "babysitter" routine. Things were going fine-- there was pizza and copious amounts of Disney Channel and I even got to flex my underdog (see: definition number 6) skills outside when I pushed the little four-year-old on the swing. This same four-year-old was having some sort of existential crisis; when I asked him, in pleasant, first-time babysitting conversation, when his birthday was, he responded, "In eight minutes."

There's got to be some depth to this child, who perpetually celebrates his birth eight minutes from the present.

When the credits finally rolled in time to some tinny pop music sung by pre-pubescent tweens at the movie's end, I rounded up the children and informed them that it was time for bed. The girls were quite understanding, and headed to their very pink bedroom to put on pyjamas. The ageless existentialist, however, put up more of a fight. He proceeded to hide beneath his fire-engine pillows, refuse to come out of his hiding place, and then, without warning, muttered a phrase I have never before had to wrestle with.

"I don't like you."

To say I was stunned is an understatement. Granted, the kid is only four (maybe), but he's clearly quite precocious, if he can read Sartre in his spare time.

I turned and left the room, asked his sisters to assist him in getting ready for bed, and was only mildly comforted by the ten-year-old telling me that he doesn't really like anyone, not even her. "But I'm the babysitter!" I thought to myself. "I let him have pizza, and popcorn, AND two popsicles! I even cut up strawberries for him and gave him ten, like he asked."
What had I done to deserve such slander?

After playing with his dinosaurs and listening to a Dr. Seuss story read by his sisters, the tiny existentialist settled down to sleep.

I spent the rest of my time watching The Beatles Anthology on both VH1 and VH1 Classics, alternating between the two during commercial breaks. Cable television is a perk of babysitting that hasn't gotten old since the days I used to stick flyers in neighbors' mailboxes, advertising my services for $5 an hour-- we don't have any sort of cable at home. But even with Ringo, Paul, John, and George serenading me on the screen, I couldn't shake the fact that a blond four-year-old expressed his dislike of me so directly, and with no remorse.

Ten o'clock came and the parents returned home, tipsy and tired, and I trundled off in my car, money pocketed and the prospect of another night with this child on the horizon. I don't know how I can change his mind, but I'm planning on bringing my copy of No Exit and hoping for the best.

Photo courtesy of Tim Zim

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

the powers that be. oh, and september!

Sky over Delaware, 2009

I've had one of those days where I feel, without a doubt, that someone somewhere is looking out for me. Maybe it's the positive energy my sister has been directing my way while doing yoga every day; perhaps it's my optimism at the thought of the approaching cool weather; or maybe it's simply God looking down from up there. Whatever it is, I'm glad for it.

Today I was faced with the task of going into the office (a 50 minute commute by train each way, there and back) simply to sit and wait for a Verizon representative to come to my door, ready to magically fix our nonexistent wireless connection. I took advantage of the free day, and first took care of a few office errands. Then I met up with my friend Jimmy for lunch, as he works at the Arden Theatre just around the corner from ADROP-- we got delicious pizza nearby. It was great to see him! He's actually living in the house I inhabited last year at college, so hearing his stories and comparing them to my experience is always amusing, if a little strange. I decided, in the midst of our conversation, that I need to put my year in that run-down white house to rest, and never return inside its walls. My time there, with my wonderful roommates, was sacred. To interfere with the memory of every party, every fight, every meal we shared-- trying to brush the dust off all those moments would just ultimately end in disappointment.

After lunch, the sun was shining brightly and I felt very cooped up just staying inside my lonely, cavernous room, so I grabbed some paper and a pen and sat down in the sunshine on the stoop outside my building, ready to pen a few lines to some friends from camp who had been so kind to write me a few weeks ago. I was very content- my belly full of delicious pizza, the sun warm on my shoulders, and letters from lovely friends in my lap. I took a break from writing to rest my hand, and what do I see, but a Verizon truck, just down the street. I got very excited-- finally, finally I could get some help with this whole internet issue. But, unfortunately, the technician (who by now had put on her tool belt, walked in the opposite direction, waited a few moments, then taken off aforementioned tool belt) seemed to be unaware of my helpless presence just a block away.

So I ran after her. Yes, ladies and gentlemen; today, I chased a Verizon technician on the streets of Philadelphia.

And good thing I did. Bridget was truly a lifesaver. She was irate that no one had shown up to help me yet, and stood and coached me through a very firm reprimanding of the employee on the end of a 1-800 number. She called her dispatcher to let them know that though there had been a mistake and my service request was not on file, she'd be helping me fix my DSL issue. And then she spent over an hour in our smelly, mildewy basement messing with wires and Ethernet cables, until finally, we had a connection. In the meantime, we made smalltalk-- she lives in the city and gets very upset about the management at her company; even she, as an employee, has to deal with 1-800 numbers when she wants to subscribe for a service. But the negative aspects don't seem to sway her-- she's been working there faithfully for 11 years.

After the internet debacle, I decided to call it a day; there were no programs that I had to "coordinate" today, so once my office work was taken care of I was free to leave. Looking at the clock, I saw I had fifteen minutes to catch the train. I walked swiftly to the El, but, of course, a train didn't come until about 4:27, four minutes before my train home was due to depart. After frantically sprinting to the platform, I realized that my train was actually running 7 minutes late. I took a deep breath, and relaxed. I've just started reading The Human Stain by Philip Roth-- lots of downtime during the day has lent itself beautifully to my voracious reading habit. And so, once on the train, I settled down and read for the remainder of my commute.

Though I was tired when I got home, I decided to get over it and lace up my running shoes... and boy, was I glad I did. I love September's weather, and today as I was running through the neighborhoods close to my house, I came to the conclusion that September and I happen to be in a very healthy relationship. I love September, and it loves me back. When I feel cold after being in the final throes of air-conditioning, I can step outside and be deliciously warmed by the bright sun. When the day's heat is just about touching its limit, night falls and the air cools perfectly. It's like September knows exactly when to be overly affectionate, and when to back off. And September's sunny but chilly mornings make it really hard to get up in the morning-- and leaving a warm cocoon of blankets and facing the day is never easy.
Forgive my hokey style; I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love and it would seem that Elizabeth Gilbert has rubbed off on me.

Amsterdam, 2007

Tonight, I'm listening to Lightness by Peter & the Wolf with the windows wide open, and somehow, the cicadas seem to know all the words.