A chronicle of my attempts to live a classy life as a single girl in the Nation's Capital

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Anne Burrell

Anne Burrell is a chef and stars in the Food Network show aptly named "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef."
Okay, so her hair is a little crazy. And she's a tad too orange.  And occasionally channels Kermit the Frog ( "BIG meat!") but I absolutely adore her.  She has a great sense of humor and her Twitter page (tweets? I dunno, I haven't really gotten into that particular technology) is pretty funny.  She also goes back and forth with Jillian Madison about her blog, FoodNetworkHumor.com, which is one of my favorites. So she has a sense of humor about herself as well--which scores major points in my book.
And did I mention that the woman seriously knows how to cook?
But the reason I secretly love her is that she is a little like me in the kitchen.  I am embarrassed to admit but I do occasionally narrate what I'm doing, sing about ingredients, say "hello" to things, or make exclamations like "oh yeah" or "wooo! Eggplant!"  My sister can attest to this as she has (for better or worse) been exposed to some of my odder mannerisms.  Yeah, I'm a little weird. 
Enjoy this remix from the foodnetworkhumor blog and try not to get "pappa al pomodoro" stuck in your head.

How to be Alone

As someone who lives alone (and loves it) I often have to deflect comments from others such as "Aren't you lonely?" or "wow, that would drive me crazy."  In a world that seems to be so obsessed with the idea of coupledom it can be really difficult for people to understand that I have never equated alone with lonely and that there are many things I actually prefer doing alone (museums, shopping, exploring new places). In a way, I see it as a sign that I am comfortable enough with myself and that I actually like myself enough to be able to handle it.
Which is why I was excited when I found this video on YouTube--she gets it!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Love and Other Disasters

I am a huge movie fan / buff so I am always hesitant to say that I love a movie.  And when I do, I am terrified that the person will take it as representative of my taste which is actually quite varied.
But on this unusually chilly August day, I returned to a favorite of mine, Love and Other Disasters starring the late Brittany Murphy.  It's not a great movie as far as cinema goes, but it is a lovely, fun, marshmallow of a movie.  The movie is meant to be a modern day take on Breakfast at Tiffany's which it only kinda does and I love the original too much to dare compare this movie to it.
But one thing that draws me to this movie over and over is the fashion--and Paolo.
Paolo--or Santiago Cabrera.  One of very few celebrity crushes I have.
And also Catherine Tate--a British comedian who I think is hilarious (favorite quote of hers from the movie "I told him I don't generally get into vehicles that cost less than my handbag. And he accused me of being a snob") .  But back to the fashion--it echos the 1960s and Murphy's makeup is what inspired me to give liquid liner a try and the '60s cat-eye wing thing (I don't know the official name); which I haven't perfected yet but I'm still trying.
LOVE this dress! Classic shift, sparkly, great pumps.  My goal since I first saw this movie was to find this dress.  I'm still searching.  I wish I could wear my hair like that--but my hair is too fine.
Simple black tank, understated and beautiful.  Love the lipstick color
Headbands=instant style.  I'm beginning to wonder if I should get bangs again... Thoughts? Wearing black again--always chic and in style. 
This is the only photo I found of the pink raincoat she wears throughout the film.  It has a large, floppy collar and with the black wardrobe she generally wears, the color adds a nice bit of whimsy.
Good close-up of her makeup.  I need to get a good nude lipstick ASAP.  Does this look work on blondes with fair skin though?
Even gorgeous while sitting on the toilet (she was hiding from someone in the apartment, not attending to any biological needs.  That would be un-classy.)
My posts seem to be rather fashion oriented lately.  Perhaps it's time for a makeover?  Or maybe just because Fall is approaching, which is always an exciting time of new beginnings for me.

And now, Santiago again...

Oh I do love this movie... Did I mention he has a lovely Chilean accent?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to School Shopping

One of the great things about my job is that I still get to indulge in youthful rituals like summer vacation, snow days and back to school shopping.  It's approaching that time when I need to refresh my wardrobe for the new year and I am so excited about the new trends I am seeing.  In a few weeks I will be hitting the mall and online stores.  
Downside is that I am now spending my own money rather than my parents...
In my recent issue of Real Simple (an amazing magazine you can check out here) they did a feature on the new "Luxe Ladylike" fashions for fall and I fell in love with every outfit they featured. This is exactly my kind of style: elegant, quietly sexy, and a little vintage.  I will be using these pictures as inspiration for my shopping.  I also love the makeup style on these models.  All photos are from the  Real Simple  website.  The original article can be found here (with shopping info--but the clothes aren't cheap!)

The back of this dress is a deep V cut.
Notice the hat... I could totally see myself teaching in this.

I'm on the fence about the faux fur, but love the skirt and top. 
In addition to hats, I wonder if I could get away with wearing gloves like this...
Love everything about this--must find a bag like that.
Not loving the pattern here, but the silhouette is great as are the shoes.

My goal: find great fall pieces like these that fit within my budget.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bring Back the Hat!

Tonight's episode of Project Runway featured hats by Philip Treacy, an avant garde designer whose hats look a little like something designed after smoking large amounts of illegal substances.  
But it's art --interesting to look at, creative and a little bit of humor. Other than Lady GaGa, I can't imagine who wears them in public...

"Dude--I have the best idea.  I'm gonna make a hat of other hats!"  Maybe not Treacy's exact design process--but possibly close. 
A nightmare-ish attack of... butterflies
Also useful for increasing satellite reception on windy days
These hats are fun to look at and the Runway challenge reminded me of something I am always saying: "we need to bring back the hat!"  In a time when shows like Mad Men are so popular, I am surprised I don't see more people adding this fun and elegant accessory to everyday outfits. Perhaps it's time I actually do something about "bringing back the hat" and purchase a few of my own.  Since I am obsessed with vintage items in general, I started with vintage stores.  Here are a few hats I am lusting over:
I love red accessories, and this color is perfect for fall! ( from The Vintage Hatbox)

I find this hat to be very elegant--and it offers great shade! (from Dorothea's Closet Vintage)
Sometimes I wonder if I am a little crazy--but fashion should be about taking risks right? I love the veil and feathers (Dorothea's Closet )
I love this one because it is a toned-down version of the large hat worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (from Amber's Attic)
Again wondering if I'm crazy to want this. (Antique Dress )

Love the color! (poshgirlvintage.com )

I could go on--I love browsing vintage clothing sites.  Maybe one day I'll actually buy something from them.  Is anyone out there also wanting to bring the hat back?  This is one accessory that needs to make a comeback!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to School Video

I got an email from my department chair today and she made a little video for us.  Some background: our school is under renovation (we don't even have ceilings...) and we all had to pack up our classrooms to move to temporary places for a few months. We have a bunch of trailers in the parking lot.  Also we had a teacher move to France to get married, another teacher has a baby due any week now and another just moved into a new house.  Oh and due to budget cuts we are on year 2 of no cost of living or salary raises.  The video makes me laugh so I thought I'd share it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day in the Life of a Teacher

After my previous rant, I though it might be helpful to do a little timeline of what a typical day is like. I am not exaggerating...

5:30 am : Get up and get ready for school.
6:40 am: Arrive at school and get in line for copier to make necessary copies.  Also answer questions from students who are already here and have some urgent need
7:00am: Go to classroom.  Review lesson plans for the day, double check copies and open email.  I have about 20 from overnight.  Only 2 of those are junk mail. The rest fall in to these categories: 1. Last minute freak-out from procrastinating students (OMG I need more time!) 2. Parents wanting to know why their student's grade isn't higher (see #1) 3. Administration updates on things like schedules or paperwork that MUST be completed today  4. Counselor's setting up conferences with parents or Special Education department setting up IEP reviews. 5. Newspaper stuff (I am adviser for the school paper)
 I don't get to reply to any of these emails-- I just see what's there.
7:05 am " Oh crap! I forgot to copy this crucial document!"
7:10 am: Return from copy room.  Listen to stories about Harry Potter and/or Twilight from excited students, field questions about upcoming projects, listen to sob stories about why said projects aren't done.
7:25 am: The school day officially begins.
7:25 - 8:55am: Teach Pre-IB 9 English. Also battle with students who want to spend the 90 minutes texting, gossiping, trading Silly Bandz, sleeping, or talking about last night's game of CoD. (If you're a teacher you know what those are and why those students don't have their homework). Occasionally deflect questions about my age or dating habits. 
8:55 to 9:00am: Monitor hallway during class change.  Tell lovestruck couple that the lockers are not appropriate place to make out and that they need to get to class. Tell another student to stop jumping up in an attempt to punch the ceiling. They look back at me with blank faces.
9:00-10:29 am: Teach another section of Pre IB 9 English.  Deal with similar issues. (also notable: I have been standing since 7:25)
10:30-12:08: Teach journalism I-IV (in ONE class!) and send kids to lunch. During this class I have students in 2 different rooms I have to run between.  While in one room, a girl gets bullied in the other.  Parents email me about this later. Students are also all over the building on interview assignments. I am bombarded with 10 different questions at once ("so-and-so missed their deadline, what do I do?" "How do I do X in photoshop?" "OMG! Indesign just crashed and I didn't save!!" "Does the name or said come first in attribution?" "Who should I interview? What do I ask?" )  Try not to let my head explode.  Discretely take migraine pain meds at some point.
12:10-12:40pm: LUNCH!  I get to talk to adults finally! (teaching is a job done in isolation).  Several students interrupt lunch. And yes, we are talking about them.
12:40-2:15pm: My planning period.  I spend about half responding to those emails, which have tripled now.  The other half is spent running around the school doing administration stuff or things for the newspaper and grading essays / student work.  No planning actually gets done.
2:15pm: the kids are supposed to go home.  They don't. Usually there are about 5 in my room.  Some want to hang out, some want extra help.  I continue to work with various students until about 3:30 or 4:00 pm. Also during this time, I meet with parents if a meeting is scheduled and call parents if there is a need. Sometimes I get one of the 5 kids to run across the street and get me something from McDonalds.
4:00 pm: The building is finally quiet.  I work on grading papers or planning. Fight off sleep (there have been occasions where I fell asleep at desk with pen in hand over a paper).  Wander the halls to talk with other teachers (again, about students or their parents) in attempt to stay awake.
4:30 pm: Go home.  Loaded down with my computer and a stack of papers.
5:00 pm: arrive home.  Turn on TV and continue to grade papers for 1 hour
6:00pm: Dinner and break
7:00 pm: Review and tweak lesson plans for tomorrow.  Make sure all handouts are ready to be copied
8:00 pm: Finally stop working.  Though probably still reviewing tomorrow's plans and any student crises in my head.
10:00pm: Pass out and get ready to do it all again.
Total time spent working: 13 hours.  To my friends: this is why I often disappear during the school year.

Other considerations: 6 times a year I am at the building until 10:00pm for press nights, weekends are often spent planning and grading.

And yet, despite all this craziness, I love my job and (most) of the kids I teach.  Each day is different and forces me to be creative and think on my feet.  It may make me completely exhausted but I wouldn't trade it for a more conventional office job that probably offers higher pay... Maybe I'm a little crazy but you kinda have to be to do this job.

Hosting a Dinner

One thing I remember about Thanksgiving--besides the awesome food and gravy--is my mom slaving away in the kitchen.  No matter how much prep work she would do (and it was a lot) she would always be working hard at the last minute to get all the food out.  She would say how hard it was to really enjoy the food when you were so stressed out from getting it all together. She would also always quote Julia Child-- "You're alone in the kitchen, who's to know"-- and then scoff at the open plan of our house that resulted in everyone clustered around the counter staring at her.  

I just thought she was being over dramatic... until I prepared a simple chicken dinner for 2 friends.

I did all the prep work I could.  The potatoes were chopped, peeled and in the boiling water when the guests came.  The green beans washed, snipped and ready to go in their pot.  The chicken finished and resting, table set and simple hors d'oeuvres sitting out with champagne.  And yet...

I ended up feeling rather frantic in a poorly ventilated kitchen for the better part of an hour trying to get everything together.  All there was left to do was mash the potatoes, cook the green beans and carve the chicken.  Oh and make gravy.  Actually that sounds like a lot left to do now that I think about it.  During this time my friends (thankfully) stayed out of the kitchen for the most part.  I was so hot in there and sweating a little that my hair fell completely flat and I swear my mascara started to smudge.  When we finally set down to eat, I was so worked up I didn't even taste the food.

I did still enjoy the company though and I bet it gets easier the more you do it, so I would have people over for dinner again. There are no pictures of the food but I did take some pictures of things beforehand.  I am a perfectionist, so while my guests probably didn't notice I had to make sure that the table was set properly.
The table ready for guests
 My mom always insisted on my sister and me doing this for family dinners because she felt it was important for use to know which side the fork goes on, how the napkin should be folded etc. in case we were ever asked to do it at someone's house.

She had a diagram like this taped to the inside of a cabinet (and I believe she still does today--the diagram was packed up and moved with other kitchen belongings)
And as I consulted this diagram online to figure out how the water and wine glasses were to be arranged, I actually considered printing it out and taping it inside my cabinet too...

I also got some flowers from Trader Joe's.  I bought a bunch of pink African roses and a bundle of lavender which smelled wonderful.  It probably would have been better in a vase with a wider opening but this was all I had--and it only cost about $8!  Trader Joe's is a great place to get flowers (and lots of other stuff too)

It was a fun night overall and the guests seemed to enjoy the food.

And now, a less successful dinner party (and a guilty pleasure of mine)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Homemade French Fries

Yesterday I was craving french fries. I didn't have any, but I did have a bag of white potatoes and some idea of what I needed to do.

It's actually really easy to do and the result was delicious! Here is my finished product:

I chose to bake the fries because I didn't feel like dealing with the mess of hot oil. The fries turned out perfectly crispy and were healthier when baked at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.

To make the fries:

1. Peel and slice a potato (1 small potato is about 1 serving). Try to make the slices about the same thickness.
2. Put slices in a bowl of ice water for at least 30 minutes (this get the starch out for crispier fries)
3. Remove fries from water and squeeze dry in between paper towels.
4. Put fries in a jelly roll pan (a baking sheet works too, but a jelly roll pan allows you to toss all ingredients together)
5. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and a dash of paprika.
6. Toss together so all fries are coated.
7. Arrange in a single layer and bake at 450 for 20 minutes or until crispy. Flip after 10 minutes.

I also found this ketchup at the grocery store. It's a new product and I highly recommend it. There is no corn syrup or chemical ingredients. Just simple tomato, vinegar, sugar and spices.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How NOT to Dance

Is this classy?  No.  Hilarious?  yes. 

I've said it so many times and I'll say it again: Men can not simply mimic the dance moves of women and call themselves good dancers.  There is no reason for a guy to ever "get low."  Have I known a guy to dance like this?  Sadly yes...

This video leaves me with a few questions:

1. Why is this guy from "blackbeachweek.com" interviewing a creepy, old white guy?
2. "The rippin' and the tearin'"?!?!  I don't even want that one answered. I'll just assume it's a result of too tight beach attire and horrendous dance moves.
3. Is the reason Rick has been coming to Hedonism II since 1988 because these dance moves aren't attracting any ladies?  Maybe time to add some more moves to your repertoire.  Or, maybe, act your age and stop wearing speedos.  Just a thought.

Watch with caution, you may have nightmares.  I've warned you.