Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Family Dinner Inspiration

I was making dinner last night to the sound of the children giggling in the next room (the giggling isn't relevant, but it's very crystallized in the memory, though I'm not sure why because they are always together and almost always giggling. The meal was going to be BBQ chicken enchiladas with the leftover crockpot BBQ shredded chicken I'd made as sandwiches the night before; the enchiladas were a new creation and mostly successful, though the "mostly" can mostly be blamed on the new enchilada sauce I tried. It appears that Trader Joe's can occasionally let me down. Anyway, exiting the parenthetical-), and I realized I was tired of most of the things I've been making. I'm in a recipe rut. And this is just the time when I should be blazing new trails of deliciousness. I have the time, the desire, and the necessity, I just need a few new ideas. So I thought I'd ask you all- what are your favorite, fool-proof midweek meals? Or your favorite weekend meals (mine is this Bourguignon because it takes forever, smells amazing, and makes me feel like a cooking wizard).

A few of our fail-safes are:

- Pasta with homemade Tomato Cream Sauce. I love this recipe. It's quick, delicious, and tastes good on any pasta or ravioli. Plus, the only fresh ingredients you need to have on hand is some onion and minced garlic (we always have a 12 pack of organic tomato sauce from Costco on the floor of the pantry; I go through those cans quicker than my 12-pack of diet coke that sits right next door).

- Chicken Barley Chili. Delicious, different, healthy, and hearty. A JP favorite.

- Stir fry and rice, usually vegetarian because we do it later in the week and I'm out of fresh meat but not yet out of fresh veggies with the sauce from this recipe (sometimes we make the whole recipe, steak and all and it is delicious), plus whatever random Trader Joe Asian food appetizers we have in the fridge (love their shu mai and gyoza).

- Tomato soup with grilled cheese. This recipe is fantastic and so easy.

- Chili, several varieties. I have three chili recipes that I like- a beefy one, a turkey one with lots of veggies, and a vegetarian bean one. I make whatever sounds best at the moment and serve it with cornbread. I often eat more cornbread than chili.

- Chicken verde enchiladas and variations of the same. I have two recipes I love, and the rise of the supermarket rotisserie chicken has made it a much quicker meal to make. Also a good make-on-Sunday-for-Monday meal.

- Black beans and rice. Microwave steam a bag of frozen rice (usually brown, sometimes jasmine), warm a can of black beans, preferably with some onion and garlic sauteed in the pan first, but we're flexible. Top with whatever you have in the fridge- diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, etc. The kids love this.

- Breakfast tacos. A "Thursday" meal (when you're out of everything fresh you bought on Saturday) that requires only tortillas, scrambled eggs, cheese, and an extra whatever- turkey sausage (we usually have some frozen), bacon (though never for us because JP hates bacon; I know, it's weird, and even weirder, over the years I've lost my taste for it as well), diced tomato, hash browns or other potato product, and salsa. If you have leftover stale tortillas chips, you can turn the scrambled eggs into migas and put those in the tacos too. Put it all on the table and have everyone make their own. And now your fridge is really empty.

- Pizza. Most Fridays. This dough recipe (or refrigerated dough from Trader Joe's if the thought of cleaning my kitchen aid mixing bowl just seems like too much on that particular evening) with marinara sauce (usually TJ's, sometimes leftover homemade), and whatever I can dig up in the meat and cheese drawer. My favorite is sliced meatball and black olive. JP is a cheese purist. The kids love everything.

the source of the giggling I heard while making the above-mentioned bbq chicken enchiladas

What about you? I feel like I'm missing some regulars that could be in the rotation. I don't mind cooking- I've really come to enjoy it actually, but sitting down with a piece of paper on Sunday wracking my brain to think of meals for the week has become my last favorite part of the weekend. I should add that I have two meaty spaghetti sauce recipes I adore but I wouldn't call them "regulars" because they feel special when I go through the effort (and we really don't eat much meat, so they tend to fill the meat quota for the week). And there's this chicken and wild rice soup recipe that is fabulous (I add a bunch of vegetables to it), and there's an oven jambalaya recipe from a family friend that Claire inhales, but those aren't what I'd call "regulars." I need something new to add to Wednesday and Thursday nights when my inspiration from the weekend is starting to wear out.

(And not that your ideas need to conform with my personal food guidelines, but I am at peace with my status as a picky eater and feel only a small amount of shame in noting that we have a few dietary restrictions: no shrimp or other shellfish (shrimp is like coffee to me- I want to like it, I feel as an adult I should like it, and yet, I can't even muster the will to put it in my mouth to try it), absolutely no curry (even the smell makes me feel nauseated, I have no idea why), and nothing too rich (I've never had a fettucine alfredo that didn't leave me writhing in pain, though admittedly, it's probably been 10 or 15 years since I've had any for that exact reason). There are others, but I can work around pretty much anything except the above three. Landon is not a big fan of meat, JP does not like ham, bacon, or any fatty meats, and Claire thinks we're all crazy and will eat absolutely anything.)

I look forward to your ideas! And now, off to bed. Probably to dream about food.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I got caught in an archives vortex tonight- one of those things where you look at your blog stats and see a post visited that you forgot you'd written, so you click on it, and then you click on "next post" or "previous post" and then start jumping around remembering things you'd forgotten and reliving things you remember but had forgotten how strongly they were felt. Both good and bad, it's all in there. I avoid everything between October 2007 to early 2008, which is too bad because I feel like I don't get those strong reminders of the good in Landon's babyhood, but good because it's 11:30 p.m. and I don't feel like crying. I read about the days after Claire was born, her first Christmas- one post I remember writing with a heart so full of love and happiness I nearly ached with it. I found myself in the spring of 2011 when JP was on month 8ish of his last job search, the happy posts when he got one, and the transitional ones as we figured out how to be a two-demanding-job household.

I read some of my very favorite posts- words that crystallized what I was feeling at the time so well I can't believe I found the words to describe it, and others that were obviously filler should probably be deleted. I read about fun weekends that I love having in print and less fun times that don't need to be in print at all, but I know it helped me to write them at the time.

I read these things and I wonder why I'm not writing more now, when writing has always helped so much before. Why am I not writing about JP's job search and how much it hurts me to watch him go through it? It seems that this time, unlike so many others, I don't have the right words. Maybe because it's such a big thing that it's hard to capture, and yet its daily emotional impact can be so small that it feels false to waste too many words on it. We have wonderful weekends completely dominated by laughter, our kids, and holiday fun. Then there's a day with another rejection where we let ourselves wonder, secretly and separately, what if he can't find something here? There are only two jobs left for which he has applications pending in the area. And then what if he can't find something great somewhere else? What if this goes on for longer than the 6-9 months of our worst-case scenario? What if? What if? And it's not really the practical, not yet, it's the emotional. He wants a job and a career. He wants to work- he's good at working. He's smart, he's driven, he was the teleworking victim of a large layoff. I hate watching the struggle, hate worrying that I haven't said something that I should, hate knowing the other times I've said something I shouldn't, hate when I don't know what to say at all. But on the other hand, my lack of words might come from the fact that I'm actually, finally in a pretty good place to handle it. I no longer want to cry in my office at random moments. I don't stare off into space on the couch or sit in my car in the driveway and prepare before walking in the door. Basically, I have a grip on myself and my deep-seated fear of uncertainty and that has been helpful.

Family members ask, "how's JP doing?" And I appreciate it, the checking in, because it's certainly the biggest thing in our life right now and they love and worry for him. But there isn't really an answer. He puts on a good front and jokes about it in all public moments, he hurts and worries and doubts in others. So he's just going- looking, researching, planning out his next business idea while he waits for responses from job applications. He's still on his laptop at home, some days everything seems exactly the same until something (usually JP himself) reminds me that it isn't and that moment is hard. A hard without words. He's pretty much given up on 2012. New jobs aren't being posted and companies aren't moving to fill the ones currently up. The rejections he's received have all been electronic- he hasn't even been called in for an interview. Things will move in the new year. They have to, and most of the time, I believe it's true.

So for the kind reader who emailed me to inquire how things were going, they're just going- up, down, generally forward. Hopefully we'll have news early in 2013 (and fingers crossed that it doesn't involve a move to a city without an SEC office... or really any move at all, as long as we're wishing). And thank you for being here, reading, when I have the words and even when I can't seem to find the right words at all.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Four Days of Festiveness

It has been a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. Four days is always a nice respite from work and schedules and everything else, but something about knowing, with absolute certainty, that no blackberry new email alert can touch me, makes it particularly wonderful. I do genuinely miss some of the work I used to do at the firm (and I definitely miss the salary), but weekends like this make me wonder how I could ever go back.


On Friday we headed downtown to attend the Fort Worth Parade of Lights. We parked in my office garage and walked a few blocks over to our reserved seats (best decision ever- $28 for the whole family, proceeds to charity, and we had 2nd row seats we didn't have to set up or get there early to reserve ourselves. It was my one carefully selected splurge of the Thanksgiving weekend, justified by reminding myself we didn't have to pay for gas to drive to visit anyone.)


The parade consisted of 106 entries, mostly firetrucks, high school marching bands, and a LOT of horses, all bedecked in lights. Notable entries included a Scottish bagpipe club, miniature horses pulling carts, a dozen Elvises riding motorbikes, the Fort Worth unicycle club, and bedazzled fire trucks from every town in the metroplex. The kids LOVED it.


Santa and Mrs. Clause were on the last float and then we high-tailed it out of there to get home for a late dinner and the reading of our first Christmas book of 2012.


On Saturday we drove out to Flower Mound to go to a Christmas tree farm. We thought we'd be cutting down a tree, but as it turns out, we were just selecting them from a forest of stands.


Still, the kids had fun with the hay bale pyramid, merry-go-round of death, multiple bounce houses (which explain why Landon isn't in any pictures- we couldn't get him out of there), and little play jail that I think must have been left over from a haunted maze the farm puts on every Halloween.


We selected a very handsome tree and decorated it that night.


As usual, the kids were more excited about taking out and playing with the ornaments than actually putting them on the tree.


Though Claire did get pretty excited about creatively hanging up the super cheap, breakable little balls that were all missing hooks.


I found them hiding behind the tree for the rest of the evening, it's their new favorite hang-out spot.


JP has been busy all day covering our giant tree with all the lights we own (15 strands for one tree trunk; I can't help but think how pretty my house would have been all lined in lights, but wrapping a tree in lights has always been an odd dream of his and who am I to stand in his way?) and I love seeing him so happy, even if he tries to turn off my Christmas music every time he walks by the speaker in the kitchen.

new view from the back windows when we come home at night

I read this post on Momastery a few days after I posted this one here and it sums up so nicely why I like getting everything done early for the holidays- though in my case, it's not the kids who have the gimmes, it's me. At first, I started doing all of it early when I was at the firm and realized that while I couldn't predict my schedule in December, if all the "must do's" were done, I could at least enjoy the precious moments of down time without running to stores or stressing about my to do list. And now that my schedule is predictable, it's still so nice to be done and just enjoy my family and all the fun activities that pop up around this time of year. And this year in particular, with no room in the budget for all the extra "perfect" items I'm certain I would find in stores and online if I allowed myself to look, it's enabled me to simply enjoy my husband and kids while we play in the leaves in the front yard and snuggle on the couch watching Christmas specials.

nap time; with snowmen stolen from the couch decor

The kids are sleeping, JP is anxiously awaiting nightfall so we can turn on the giant tree o' lights for the first time, and I'm about to make a turkey pot pie with Trans-Siberian Orchestra playing as loud as possible without waking the little ones. I hope you all had a fun, restful, thankful weekend!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving, Party of 4

Did you know today is not a federal holiday? We get Columbus Day and Veterans Day- two days I've never had off before in my life, but the day after the eating of copious amounts of food and the world's most delicious pumpkin pie bars, which I totally went and had two more of after the kids went to bed-- that's a day I'm supposed to drag myself to work to read accounting memos and financial documents.

I tried, I did. I got up, got dressed- even did my hair, and headed out, planning to make just one quick stop at Wal-Mart to pick up the one thing I'd picked out from the Black Friday circulars (a heavily discounted lego set for Landon) and the next thing I knew I'd stopped at Costco and Target and then headed back home to unpack and put out Christmas decorations. JP was quite surprised to see me. Today is just not meant to be a work at work day. It's a shop and hang out and get out Christmas decorations day.

But before we get to today's doings, we have to go back to yesterday. Thanksgiving Day- our first one spent as a little family of four without traveling to be a guest or entertaining guests of our own. My parents and brother are in Colorado visiting my sister and our trip to San Antonio has been pushed back a few weeks to allow my grandpa to get stronger. JP and I flirted with just taking the kids out somewhere. Neither of us likes turkey very much and we figure this is the last Thanksgiving the kids won't have any memory of when they're older, so why not go out for margaritas and fancy Mexican food? But tradition prevailed and so I spent the day cooking and baking. As it turns out, cooking for 4 is really not so different from cooking for 14. Once we decided to do a traditional Thanksgiving, we found we couldn't bear cutting out any of the usual dishes.

First we had pumpkin pancakes, turkey sausage, fried eggs, and apple cider for breakfast. Two bowls and three messy pans later, I decided that maybe next year we'll do cereal on Thanksgiving morning (though it was all delicious). I prepped a few dinner side dishes and then turned to signing Christmas letters while the kids watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Favorite moment: Landon asking, "Mommy, when can we see this in human?" "You mean, in person?" "Yeah, that!".

Then there was more cooking while JP raked leaves (of course) and the kids tromped around the yard "making soup."


A very fancy soup.


I dug out our fall decor bin from the closet and prettied up our tiny table.


And then, one cranberry and apple stuffed turkey breast, some cornbread dressing, a green bean casserole, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, gravy, and tray of rolls (all crammed into my tiny oven at various times in the cooking rotation) later- we dished up!


Buoyed my memories of childhood Thanksgivings in my parents' house, I'd bought the kids some sparkling apple cider as a special treat.


They were quickly addicted.


Claire in particular was in need of an immediate intervention.


I made these pumpkin pie bars for dessert with homemade whipped cream and omg they were SO good. I ate four. Two in front of the children, two secretly after they went to bed.


We ended the day on the couch watching Christmas specials on TV, feeling full and happy and glad we'd gone full turkey. And now that it's officially "after Thanksgiving," I get to dive into Christmas! Frank Sinatra holiday station playing, Christmas tree decorating, and Christmas cookie making, here I come!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend Work

Today Landon told me tonight, "Mommy you're really lucky. You get to stay up late and watch movies after we go to bed." And it's true, being a grown-up is pretty awesome like that. (The desserts-at-will are pretty great too.) But know what's less awesome? Home maintenance. And this past weekend was chock FULL of house-cleaning-good times.

It all started with the big girl room change-up. That motivated me to switch out the kids' fall clothes and update their "keeping forever" and "use again/give away one day" clothing bins. Then I decided to clean out the rest of their closet, when I happened upon some picture frames from their rooms in Austin. I decided the collages needed updating, now with new pictures of the two of them together (like these), and now they're waiting for JP to hang them up. Then, on Sunday morning, the big projects began: I was gazing up at the two skylights in our sun room and noticed how grimy and covered in dirt and leaves they were. We'd been thinking a hard rain would clean them, but google and experience have now shown me that will never happen and they must be scrubbed by hand every 6 months or else you risk the panes becoming permanently cloudy.

Our skylights are plentiful and hard to reach, and our roof is borderline "unsound" in certain areas (yay!), so I wasn't sure if 200 lb. JP should be crawling around up there. I googled "skylight cleaning" and discovered the average charge is $8/window. We have forty skylight windows. And so a 200 lb. JP quickly found himself gathering a tall ladder, two buckets, homemade cleaning solution (ammonia + rubbing alcohol + water), some car wash sponges, and a hose draped across his neck like a stethoscope.

Hi JP!

4 hours of scrubbing, rinsing, scary climbing positions, and 3 fresh buckets of cleaning solution later - the skylights are sparkling!


I forgot how clean and pretty they could look. And JP didn't fall off the roof- or crash through the roof- once! As a reward, he got to move on to raking the 5 tons of fresh leaves our giant trees have dropped all over the front and backyards since last weekend, and then do a little gutter cleaning as a bonus for all his efforts.

Inspired by the sparkly skylights, I got out my economy bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels and started on the giant windows that stretch across the whole back of the house. Apparently, we've never cleaned those either, and whoah were those exteriors filthy. We now have more natural light than we know what to do with.

Next, I moved on to the kids' toys. I've been meaning to organize them since we unpacked and I just randomly dumped equal portions of the whole motley collection into various canvas bins, but I just never felt that right kick of motivation as I sat on the couch each night watching the food network. But then yesterday, while in Target buying the ammonia needed for my skylight cleaner recipe, I purchased a few new plastic bins and some super sticky post-its and walked out of the store confident I could conquer the world (organizational office supplies will do that). And so I gathered all the kids' toys from every nook and cranny of the house (and they were tucked away everywhere) and dumped everything on the floor in the play room and started sorting:


Ta da! I threw things away, gave things away, and found nicely labeled homes for everything else. I'm quite pleased. Organization makes me even happier than wine.


While their parents were being so productive, the kids made a tent and played in it for 4 hours. I'm not really sure what they were doing in there, as I had all their toys with me and I wouldn't let them touch them during the sorting process (it's a delicate art), but they seemed to be having fun.


We capped off the night with homemade jambalaya, a trip to the fro yo place for everyone's good behavior and hard work, and a 3-fleece-blanket-full-family-snuggle viewing of Disney's "Sophia the First."

I can't say this is how I ever pictured my weekends going, particularly when JP and I were dating and our weekends consisted of drinking, sleeping, and studying (and making out when we were supposed to be studying), but honestly, I enjoyed just about every minute of our weekend work and I love how shiny my house feels right now-- shiny and sparkly and ready to get dressed up in holiday decor!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Big Kid Bear

Another day another milestone.

After Claire successfully potty trained herself a few weekends ago (not one accident in 2 weeks, even at night!), we officially packed up all diapers and diapering accessories, including the changing table that has been a part of our lives since July 2007. It is weird. (Also, awesome.) And after that step, there was nothing left to do but send the crib out the same way as the changing table (dismantled; in the garage) and graduate Claire to a big girl bed.

A changing table used to be here.

I had the bed frame ready- it's the set that used to be in Landon's room in Austin, the same beds that my sister and I slept in when we shared a room in LA and Houston until I turned 9. That bed was my first big girl bed, and Val's first big girl bed, and now it is Claire's. I love that.


JP spent his Friday afternoon bargaining with mattress stores to get a ridiculous price on a twin + fancy mattress pad. He got a base board cut at Lowe's (we use that instead of a box spring because it costs about $10 and keeps the mattress lower to the ground). I bought the bed-in-a-bag online from Target because I was a fool and didn't buy it in the store when I fell in love with it over the summer and now it's only online, not on sale, and requires $10 in shipping fees. But it's exactly what I wanted, and the whole down comforter + sheets + sham + bed skirt still cost half of one PBK quilt (though I did indulge in a clearance PBK owl pillow a few months ago, which, nicely enough, coordinates perfectly with the hot pink and polka dot Target bedding).

Ready and Oh So Excited!

I love using solid color comforters- it's an easy way to coordinate a boy/girl room and it allows the kids the freedom to change out the sheets over time. In 3 years Landon has gone from trucks to trains to super heroes and his cozy comforter remains the same. When I opened the bedding package on Tuesday night, before we'd purchased her bed, Claire was so excited that she insisted on sleeping with the polka-dot pillow case. Each night, she would curl up in a little ball in her crib and I would tuck the pillow case around her so she could "be cozy." Can you imagine fitting under a pillow case? Two is so adorable.

Inaugural bedtime story! Also, my hand looks freakishly large in this picture.

If it's possible, Landon was even more excited than Claire. I got to pick the first story to be read in Claire's bed (since crawling into Claire's crib to read was not happening) and went with "Oh My Baby, Little One," one of my very favorites. We tucked the little Bear in, gave her kisses, and shut the door.

Snug as a bug

We didn't hear a peep until Landon came in our room at 7 a.m. this morning to let us know that Claire had gone pee pee. "In the bed?", we asked. "No, in the potty." "Okay, then, go back and play in your room, we'll be in in a bit." And then we rolled over and snuggled, knowing the kids were happily reading books or doing whatever it is they do in the morning when we're not in the room. Big kids have their advantages- and at least my big kids are still little enough to need hugs and kisses and several rounds of "Wheels on the Bus" before I close the door and say goodnight.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spicy Bear and Holiday Pre-Gaming

Claire came down with a 103 fever last Thursday night. She was a snuggly hot potato and while I never want my children to feel bad, I do love being able to comfort them as they wrap their tight little monkey arms and legs around my body when they don't feel good.


She would not separate from my lap, and Landon would not separate far from her. Favorite Baby also stayed close by for comfort (as did pink blankie, which reminds me, we should really was that thing now that she's better...).

(on my "yap," with a book and bug as pillow, and baby and brother nearby)

Through the magic of grape ibuprofen Claire's fever was controlled all day Friday and seemed to disappear on Saturday morning. We had tickets to the Fort Worth Zoo Pumpkins and Pancakes member event, so off we went to ride the carousel and watch lions hunt for meat-stuffed pumpkins hidden around their habitat. Claire indulged in the former for the first time and Landon thought the latter was the highlight of the day.

Carousel; Landon wanted a horse, Claire wanted the wagon. Claire won.
Don't let the mohawk fool you, he's a pushover.)

Claire's fever popped back up Saturday evening so we spent Sunday morning watching Tangled for the 16th time in 2 weeks (between JP, me, and Landon being sick two weekends ago and Claire being sick this past one, we have had a serious Pixar/Disney overdose). That night we went crazy and ate out at a Fort Worth restaurant for the first time since mid-September. It was a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place with yelp promises of excellent enchiladas verdes and spicy homemade salsa.

Claire, ever our culinary adventurer, indulged in both:

big chip!

zomg so hot

omg, seriously. so hot!

beer me.


let's do that again!

Today was a federal holiday, and since I am now a federal employee, I got to stay home in my PJ pants all day! Claire hasn't had a fever since Saturday night, but she's still a little snugglier and more subdued than normal, so I kept her home with me while Landon went to school. She was snuggled next to me on the couch (under the germ-infested pink blankie) while I did things on the computer and she gave me a running monologue about her toys (2 wooden trees from a train set, small plastic starfish from who knows where, a fisher price little people dog from an Easter set, and two bangle bracelets). By the time she woke up from her nap at 5 p.m., my Aunty Lee's homemade lasagna was warming in the oven (omg so good; I ate a full cup of the sauce while it simmered on the stove for 2 hours yesterday), the entirety of my Christmas shopping was complete and within budget (thank goodness for the internet, online discount codes, and an oblivious 2-year-old who never looked too closely at the screen/Santa's workshop), and my Christmas cards were addressed and stamped (oy has that list gotten out of control; we have to stop moving and meeting new people).

There is still a lot of stress and uncertainty in our lives, and there are times when JP's job search, its lack of progress, and his flagging self-confidence make for mornings when I hide in my office before I can be myself to co-workers and evenings when I arrive home and sit in my car in the driveway to collect myself before I can walk inside full of smiles and support. I generally choose not to write on those days.

Today, was a pretty good day. I checked off all the items on my pre-holiday to-do lists and JP made a big fire in the pit in the backyard. Landon ran around in his old Transformer costume after school and Claire "helped" me make dinner and stamp cards. There are so many things I can't control right now, but I try to regain ground wherever possible. Like the holidays- I refuse to let them be stressful. I do everything in advance, sprinkling out the expenses over multiple credit card cycles, and I derive great peace and happiness from knowing the presents I've so lovingly selected for each kid will be sitting in my closet weeks before Santa gives them out.

Some days are bad; today was not. And at least I can always throw up a few pictures of the Bear to buy me time while I figure out how to write about both.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Six of my co-workers and Fort Worth best friends spent four days in DC this week. We got back last night (bumping up our flight several hours to avoid the snow storm that was headed to the East coast) and it was easily the best, most fun work trip I've ever taken.


First, it was with the six people who have started at the Fort Worth regional office of the SEC after I did. I genuinely really like all of them and feel so lucky to get to work with them. I just learned we are referred to as "the kiddos" by the rest of the office. I don't think I've ever been part of a named gang before, but they are all super smart, fun, awesome people, we are all about the same age and have all made the same general life/money/family decisions in leaving our BigLaw firms and joining the SEC. We laughed so hard at dinner on Monday that my abs were sore the rest of the trip.


Second, one of my co-worker's best friends and old law school roomates is a legislative aide for Senator Mitch McConnell, minority leader of the Senate, and she took us on a 3-hour all access backstage tour of the Capitol Building. It was amazing. Amazing. At several points I nearly hyperventilated (like walking around on the Senate floor) and one time I heard a co-worker muttering under his breath, "just be cool, just be cool." The four of us are political, legal, West-Wing junkies and omg, getting to go through the Senate cloakroom and touring the Senators' lounge and Vice President's office and walk around the House and Senate and blow past signs saying "Corridor Closed". Just amazing. The history: "oh this fireplace is where the fire started that nearly burnt down the Capital building in 1814, see the crack in the marble?", "this secret back staircase is where troops stormed in the War of 1812- see the bullet holes?," "this is Daniel Webster's desk from his time in the Senate in 1850 and here's his signature scratched in the drawer." OMG. So much history, so much power, and it's not like walking around an old church in Europe- it's our history and our government. We could have flown home right then and called the trip a success.


Third, food. I met up with one of my best friends from law school on Sunday night for a delicious dinner at Cork. Avocado toast, wood roasted goat on polenta, sheep's milk ricotta gnudi (and wine, obviously) and fabulous conversation. One of my co-workers worked in DC for 10 years before joining the Commission so she made the reservations for Monday and Tuesday night. Monday was The Pig and it was amazing. I'm not as adventurous as some of my co-workers (crispy pig ear salad? brain porchetta appetizer? no.), but my wild boar ragu and charred belly with apple cider glaze were both fantastic. But Tuesday was our winner at Birch and Barley: seasonal autumn salad, ricotta cavatelli, and the BEST complimentary bread tray I've ever had in my entire life. Mini pretzel rolls, kalamata rolls, and creme freche biscuits. I could have eaten two trays of bread and been done. And the best part was that because I don't eat breakfast and went cheap on lunch, my federal government per diem covered my fancy dinners just fine. It was such a treat and so much fun.

Fourth, Election night!! I am a political junkie. The first thing I do every day is read about 10 different websites and blogs from staffers and election corespondents. I am a passionate Democrat and literally yelled at the Bar when CNN called the election around 11 Tuesday night. It was awesome to be in DC- horns honking, fireworks going off everywhere, everyone glued to TVs in Bars drinking election night bar specials. A few of us stayed up for all the speeches and it was so amazing to observe our peaceful transfer of power (or non-transfer as it turned out to be) and know the White House was right down the street. Very special night.


I do love DC. I miss having the reason to get up there to visit JP's parents. On Monday morning I woke up early and couldn't sleep so I texted my closest co-worker to see if he wanted to walk to the White House. It was a little over a mile on a lovely morning and as a walked we both talked about how we wonder what other paths we could or should have taken as attorneys. We're both happy where we are, but it's hard not to be tempted by the lawyer capital of the US. And it was great to be in the Home Office and meet the other new enforcement attorneys and staff from DC and the other regions (the point of this trip was 2.5 days of enforcement training, which was actually a really good program even if it did involve 20 hours in a windowless basement room).

mother ship

One downside of my love of city walking (and staying in fun DuPont while working/touring near Union Station and Capitol Hill) was that I destroyed my black boots. The heels are wrecked and I screwed up the top of my foot so badly I had to wear my brown riding boots under my black suit pants on the last day. I was pretty horrified by the combo but there was no hope for it. And then after a long day in those I took of my socks last night to find blood on both feet from even my comfortable non-matching shoes! I think I walked about 12 miles in 3 days.


The trip ended with pulling up in the driveway and surprising JP and the kids by getting home before bedtime, bloodied feet and all, with Pez dispensers in my bag for the kiddos (free from the hotel; the kids were amazed at the candy technology) and lots of hugs.

(JP gave Landon a fancy new haircut; he loves it, I'm adjusting)

Now it's back to the grind. A happy grind, with just the slightest bit of wistfulness for the city where eating lunch in the Senate building cafeteria next to the SEC HQ and walking past historic buildings is an everyday event.