Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wintry beach

Went to the beach in Delaware for a few days. Not much open, except the movies and the outlets and some restaurants. No real surprise. The main point isn't to do anything; it's to do nothing. It's to read and fall asleep by the fire, cozy inside, looking at the pretty, cold snow, outside. Posts on the beach in the summer here at Small Town Little Rock and in the early fall, here at 26minus5.
Sunrise over the Assawoman Bay, Ocean City in the distance
Washington may have had a No-mageddon Sunday, but it snowed much more here, probably close to a foot from the looks of it. When we arrived, Clyde initially frolicked in the snow, then realized it was cold and looked like a little bunny hopping several inches in the air trying to get to a warmer spot.

video
Get me out of here!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Jefferson Memorial on ice

Frozen Tidal Basin

Snow and oysters

Took my tourist friend shopping in Georgetown yesterday. The snow was falling the entire time, which was pretty, but also very cold. I think her Arkansas climate customs made the shopping trip possible only thanks to the frequent stops inside warm stores. (And the same went for me.) There were lots of people out and about, which is always nice to see on a wintry day.

We went on a short tour of the campus, which was completely empty given that it's winter break. I can never pass up a chance to show it off though, and each time I visit, it continues to strike me as so beautiful and I once again can't really believe I got to spend my college years there. She was also a big fan of the mural on our wave house (should have taken a picture...next time) and I noticed the endowment houses on 37th were looking freshly painted and in brighter colors than usual.

We went to J. Paul's on M Street to warm up. The Redskins/Jacksonville game was on, and the Arkansas traveler was far more into the game than I was. I love the Redskins fervor in this town, and I'm really trying to become a football fan so I can be a part of it. It's sort of like deja vu from living in Arkansas, where the Razorback football schedule dictates everyone else's schedules. I bought the shirt, I went to a game in Fayetteville, I did the tailgating thing, but I just don't like football as a sport that much. 

But back to D.C. Snow and a raw bar is an excellent combination. Plus, fresh shellfish isn't so easy to come by in the hinterlands of landlocked states. We shared a dozen Blue Point oysters on the half shell.

Raw oysters on the half shell from Delaware Bay, N.J.
We also ordered fried clams and "frickles." It was pretty amusing to me that while dining with an Arkansas friend, we happened to find fried pickles, one of my favorite Arkansas snacks discovered at the Fordyce on the Cotton Belt festival a few years ago.

Fried clams and frickles and a cocktail

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bagel City's onion board

Several months ago, long before I moved back to Washington, my little brother introduced me to the onion board. The onion board is a very delicious type of flat bagel that is covered, I mean immersed, in onions. This is like the quintessential onion bagel. It is crispy on the edges, sort of like a pizza crust, and doughy and warm in the inside. Ours were the first batch of the day, and we had to wait for them to finish baking, but some waits are just worth waiting for.

The magnificent onion board

I mention that my brother brought me one before I moved back to D.C. because it was almost like a cruel temptation. You know how you don't know what you're missing -- until you do? I guarantee you that there's nothing quite like this anywhere besides Bagel City, a wonderful Rockville establishment, let alone Arkansas. As further proof of this, I'll reference my companion visiting from Little Rock, who was pretty much in Jewish culinary ecstasy at this place. Hamantashen, rugelach, whitefish salad, black and white cookies...these things just don't exist everywhere, and I know that from experience.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Back with a byline

Freelanced a profile for today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (the newspaper for which I used to work) on longtime staffer and native Arkansan Russ Sullivan, Democratic staff director of the Senate Finance Committee. Only subscribers can read the full story online, but here's the link anyway:
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette High Profile cover on Russ Sullivan

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The List

What do I have in common with Howard Kurtz, Annette Bening and Michael Douglas? Interpretations welcome on why my name appears here:
See page 50:
For now, I'll just sit here smugly, pretty sure I'm awesome.

Thank you to Jayne and Jon Havens for finding this little gem!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An homage to the Tombs

Washington City Paper's Scott Reitz writes abouts the Tombs:
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/youngandhungry/2010/12/09/the-tombs-a-basement-space-defined-by-its-shape/

Not really a place I'd ever expect to read a restaurant review of, or really expect any non-Hoya who's more than a few years distant from graduation to visit, but still kind of fun he highlighted it.

I still harbor a tad bit of regret that my Wednesday nights senior year were spent in the newsroom of the Georgetown Voice, making sure a paper was printed the next day, instead of at 80s night in that basement.

Too bad the reporter wasn't there around midnight on some Georgetown kid's 21st birthday. Now, that's where the fun begins.

First snow!


I'm not in Arkansas anymore

Monday, December 13, 2010

Things that annoy me about the Metro

1) The reverberating roar from below clearly means a car is approaching, and yet people still stand on both the left and right sides of the escalator.

2) Someone decides to bathe himself in cologne before getting on in the morning. Save it til you get to work. On a packed rush-hour metro, no one wants the headache your cloud of perfume is creating.

3) There's enough room for your body, but not enough for the purse that's hanging on your shoulder, so every inch you move, you're jostled. The alternative of putting said purse on the ground is far from appealing...who knows if that carpet is ever vacuumed?

4) A passenger has to have her hand just so on the railing, meaning there's nowhere for you to put yours unless you feel like holding hands with her.

I won't add the fire at Metro Center as a source of today's Metro-induced vexation. Fortunately, the delays on the blue and orange lines didn't affect me, but it's also not their fault a light fixture caught fire. At least no one was hurt. I guess I could end this post on a more glass-half-full note and say that I'd rather deal with a day full of inane frustrations than someone actually being injured by a fire on the mass transit system.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Basketball season

Being back in D.C. means going to all the basketball games at the Verizon Center I want. Pics below from a recent Gtown game and my first NBA game ever.
Hoya fans and Jack the Bulldog get in the game

HOYA SAXA
And then the Wizards game...
Surprised by the scantily clad cheerleaders. Is this common? Maybe I've been in the South too long.
Wizards hit a three
Close game!

Typical Sunday...

So many socks remain without their matches.
Sometimes order simply cannot be found in chaos.
Do washing machines eat socks for breakfast?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coffee cops

As the weather has gotten colder, it's harder to get motivated away from the coziness of my bed in the morning, I generally crave the warmth and comfort of my daily cup of coffee even more than usual, and it has become harder and harder to resist Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's prohibition on food/drink.
So, I get it. Using your commute to eat breakfast is not appealing to your fellow riders, and we have no desire to watch you leave a trail of crumbs behind you. Fortunately, this isn't the part I have a problem with.

I just want my caffeine! Back in Little Rock -- my source of all recent comparison -- I lounged around in the morning, drank a cup at home, brought my trusty Democrat-Gazette travel mug from my intern days in the car with me, and strolled in to the Capitol, coffee still warm in hand after my short drive, to rouse me, slowly, but surely, to a functioning intellectual level appropriate for the working world.

But here, it's a whole different story. With a half-hour commute (a quarter-mile walk on either side and the Metro ride), it's the opportune time to sip my coffee. Instead, I'm rushed to gulp it down at home before even leaving the house, all to spend the next half hour thinking about the delicious hot coffee I could be drinking, if only things were different. When I depart the metro, it requires significant willpower to avoid walking into one of my several coffee shops I pass on my way to work. But on principal's sake, I just can't purchase coffee on a daily basis.

But here's the thing. I face a constant internal battle about this. As I've said in a previous post, I don't want rats on my metro tracks like in New York. And I don't want to have to worry that the seats or carpet where I sometimes put down my bag are sticky with the residue of who knows what. I like our clean Metro and Metro platforms. Sometimes it seems like a small sacrifice to pay, and sometimes I'm wishing so much for my coffee that I just really don't care.

And what about that militia of de facto coffee cops? Do these people ride the trains all day long seeking out people like me who feel like breaking the rules once in a while? One day, this woman walked across the car to me to inquire as to whether or not I knew about the rule. She pointed to a sign on the wall stating it pretty clearly. Of course I knew the rule, I told her, but I'm really careful. She didn't buy it. She gave me a nasty look and then proceeded to stand guard, staring at me so I wouldn't dare take another sip. I bet she and her cohorts operate a list serve where they create a schedule of who's going to police which lines which days.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Acadiana has turtle soup!

I need this. Turtle soup is one of my most favorite things in this entire world, and I didn't know it could be found anywhere beyond New Orleans or New Orleans-inspired chefs elsewhere in the South.

It seems a little cruel to eat turtle meat - I get that. Especially after that chapter in Life of Pi when the shipwrecked main character leaves making turtles a meal until his last resort. But it's just so good. And drizzled with a little bit of sherry - amazing.

The first time I tasted it was at Commander's Palace in New Orleans a couple years ago. If it wasn't for a certain fellow Hoya who shared some of the best of NOLA cuisine at her rehearsal dinner, I might never have discovered this delicacy. Then I had it in Little Rock, at Ashley's at the Capital Hotel. I was pretty happy that the chef, Lee Richardson, was bringing his native New Orleans flavors to Little Rock. But Little Rock is so close to New Orleans.

Now to find an excuse to go to a fancy restaurant here...
http://www.acadianarestaurant.com/dinner.html

A bit about my new job

I've now been a part of the private sector PR world for three months. It feels like a lot longer than that. There are things I miss about being part of the communications team at Governor Beebe's office, and there are other things I miss about being a reporter at the Democrat-Gazette, but overall, I'm pretty fascinated with the work and feel consistently productive and fulfilled.

As a sample of things I do in the new job, below is a piece I contributed to Interfaith Alliance's quarterly newsletter.

No Religious Test for Federally Funded Jobs

E-mail
Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships by President ObamaAfter months of petitioning the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties to schedule a hearing on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Interfaith Alliance was pleased when Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), subcommittee chairman, scheduled a hearing for November 18th.

Not coincidentally, the day before the hearing, the Obama Administration released an executive order amending the Bush Administration’s 2001 order, which had established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives – renamed the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships by President Obama upon taking office. The new executive order took center stage on the hearing’s agenda, specifically its neglect in tackling the issue of religion-based employment discrimination.


Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued a statement expressing his gratitude for President Obama’s improvements to the executive order (most of which were recommended by a task force on which Rev. Gaddy served), which bring the office more in line with the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, Rev. Gaddy strongly criticized the order’s failure to resolve two specific gaps. First, the amendments still do not “require recipients of federal funds to form separate entities to assure no mixing of federal tax dollars and religious tithes and offerings,” and secondly, “The all-important issue of civil rights protections to guarantee no employment discrimination remains unaddressed.”

In other words, President Obama has yet to require houses of worship and other faith-based organizations that receive government money for community service projects to establish independent non-profit organizations to house and distribute those funds, and he has not responded to the serious issue of religious discrimination in hiring by religiously-affiliated groups receiving federal funding for their social service programs. Rev. Gaddy was a member of the task force charged with reforming the faith-based office by the President’s Advisory Council, which presented its recommendations in a March 2010 report. Those recommendations included a call for separate non-profit incorporation and the prevention of religious discrimination in hiring. Nonetheless, Interfaith Alliance is appreciative that both the White House and Congress are paying increasing attention to the nuances of these critical issues.

The frank discussion at the subcommittee hearing in November featured three key experts as witnesses: Douglas Laycock, Professor of Law and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia; Melissa Rogers, Director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School; and the Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Along with Rev. Gaddy, Ms. Rogers and Rev. Lynn both served on the Reform of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Task Force of the President’s Advisory Council and Ms. Rogers also served as the chair of the Advisory Council itself.

Unfortunately, neither the Obama Administration nor the U.S. Department of Justice sent a representative to the hearing, which was a major disappointment as the subcommittee members were unable to solicit a direct response from the White House on these crucial issues.

From his first remarks, it was clear that Rep. Nadler remains as frustrated as Interfaith Alliance with the “glacial pace of reforms,” as he called it. While he acknowledged the significant contributions of faith-based groups in providing social services to those in need, as well as the success these groups often achieve in reaching local communities quickly and directly, he expressed disappointment with the lack of secular or religious alternatives for program beneficiaries in some cases and locations.

The issue at the core of the debate is not whether or not a religious entity providing social services has the religious freedom to discriminate in its hiring practices; it is that such a group should not discriminate if it is receiving federal funds, which should be subject to the same constitutional protections as the taxpayers who provide them. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) explained:

“Let’s be clear: Religious organizations can still discriminate in positions paid for with their own money, just not those paid for with federal funds… Some people insist on discriminating in employment and therefore were barred from federal contracts. They now believe that the prohibition against discrimination with federal funds constituted a barrier that needed to be removed. Unfortunately, the faith-based initiative specifically removed that so-called barrier, and as a result…religious sponsors of federally-funded programs are not allowed to discriminate in employment with federal dollars on the basis of religion. That means that a person applying for a job paid for with federal money can be ineligible for consideration for that job solely based on religion.”

Rev. Lynn echoed Rep. Scott in his testimony: “It is terribly wrong to reject the best-qualified person for a secular job at a faith-based institution because he or she does not pass a religious litmus test.” The euphemism “preferential hiring,” he said, only disguises what is “labeled simply as discrimination, and it is ethically and legally wrong.”

But put another way, as Mr. Laycock argued in his testimony, the government should not dangle the carrot of federal grants to deter a religious organization from hiring like-minded people who may be the best to understand and carry out the organization’s mission. “[The government] uses the power of the purse to coerce religious organizations to become less religious and more secular, and that would be a fundamental policy mistake,” he said. “This committee should not try to force the administration into doing that.”

In her testimony, Ms. Rogers praised President Obama’s executive order for “creat[ing] more clarity, transparency, accountability, and constitutional compliance in these partnerships.” Even with the shortcomings, she said, the new order is significant because it represents many of the consensus recommendations of a task force and an advisory council made up of people with diverse, often divergent, opinions.

While the matter of whether or not the executive order legalizes or prohibits hiring practices based on religion remains unclear, the three witnesses did agree on one thing by the end of the hearing: Funds received by a religious organization through private donations and funds granted through the federal government should be separately received and overseen.

As Ms. Rogers concluded, a person can both be religious and respect the boundaries between federal funding and proselytization: “As a religious person, I am pleased that that requirement is there because I don’t want government meddling in religion. I don’t want it to tell a religious organization what they can and can’t say about religion, about matters of faith. So, if the religious activities are privately funded and cleanly separated from the government[-funded] program, then the religious organization is in charge of that, and as long as all the other things are observed, then that keeps the government out of meddling in the religious sphere.”

In response to the Administration’s failure to send a representative to address these issues at the hearing, the bi-partisan leadership of the House Judiciary Committee and this particular subcommittee recently sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder stating their intent to hold a follow-up hearing sometime this month. At this hearing, the Members of Congress have requested that Attorney General Holder or a designated representative be present to address specifically the issue of hiring discrimination.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wal-Mart isn't always the culprit

It's no secret that everyone likes to make fun of Wal-Mart on every possible occasion -- yours truly included, even with my love for Arkansas -- but this time, the image floating around claiming Wal-Mart was the ignorant conglomerate to market ham for Chanukah isn't true.
Of all things, it was Balducci's, that beautiful, elite market where every food lover is filled with sheer joy merely browsing fruits you've never heard of before and tortes whose chocolate shavings alone are more elegant than anything you could produce at home. Balducci's! What were they thinking?

Here's a NY Daily News reporting on the shonda:
http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/food/2007/12/06/2007-12-06_balduccis_offers_ham_for_chanukah.html

This news may be three years old, but I found the sign describing ham as "Delicious for Chanukah" just too hilarious not to reproduce.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Little Rock house for sale

Taking this opportunity to shamelessly advertise my lovely house in Little Rock's historic Hillcrest, now for sale. Come check it out. You'll fall in love.

Best parts are the large, private patio with Siddartha creek trickling by, fireplace, very large master bath with two sinks, jacuzzi tub and separate shower, second master with bath en suite, half bath for guest use and open, inviting interior floorplan perfect for social and family gatherings.

Please send to all your friends who might be interested in relocating to beautiful Hillcrest!

http://www.pulaskiheightsrealty.com/public/residential/10271439

My listing realtor is the excellent and talented Stacy Johnson, whose real estate blog can be found here: http://www.yourdailyrealestatefix.com/

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chag Chanukah Sameach

Tonight is the fourth night of Chanukah 2010. In honor of everyone's favorite not-so-religious Jewish holiday, I'm sharing the Chanukah remix of "Dynamite," from CNN's Belief Blog. It's about time we had a valid replacement for Adam Sandler's Chanukah song:
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/12/03/hanukkah-video-helps-jews-sing-new-tune/?hpt=C1

Amazing.

My firm held its annual Latkes and Vodkas party on the first night of the holiday. I've probably never seen so many varieties of vodka in one place, and I'll probably never again try the wild cherry flavor, which is way too Robitussin red to be a drink any adult should be tasting.

Former Vermont Governor and Presidential candidate Howard Dean made an appearance to light the menorah. I was rather impressed by his knowledge of not just the first Chanukah prayer, but all three. Who really knows the second and third ones anyway? Don't we just kind of mumble our way through those? He must have learned a lot on the campaign trail.

The Conn Men theme was a big winner.

Happy Chanukah!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chocolate chip heaven

During my time in Little Rock, I discovered baking. Now I love it and I even have a couple staples -- chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cherry cookies. I found both recipes in former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier's Dessert University, which I bought after falling in love with (the beautiful photos of) his desserts he showcased at a speech and tasting during the Arkansas Literary Festival one year. Good thing I went to that speech. Those cookies have pretty much become my sure way of becoming popular :)

Since moving back to D.C., I hadn't baked yet for my family. Last night was the night. As the cookies were in the oven, my stepfather said, "There's nothing like walking inside on a cold winter night to a warm kitchen filled with the scent of chocolate chip cookies in the oven." I mean seriously, is there anything better?

Happiness in process

Happiness complete

One of these days, I swear I'll learn something more difficult than cookies...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Washington Monument...

...at almost dusk on a Saturday in November
Chronicling the Monument through the seasons

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Because it's only Wednesday...

and I feel like it should be Friday already...

Watch this hilarious and fabulously uplifting video:
Jessica's Daily Affirmation

You'll be laughing the rest of the day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lion cubs go for a dip

Frequent readers know I'm obsessed with baby animals, especially pandas.

The Washington Post and DCist posted amazing photos of the National Zoo's new baby lion cubs. The babies had to take a swim test to make sure they could stay afloat when not under the watchfulness of their keepers. As DCist pointed out, these are the zoo's first lion cubs in 20 years, so they're getting quite the hype. I'm thinking I'm going to have to take a lunchtime walk one day soon to see these little guys for myself:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2010/10/26/GA2010102605577.html?wpisrc=nl_most

http://dcist.com/2010/10/lion_cubs_swimming_lion_cubs_swimmi.php?gallery0Pic=1#gallery

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh deer Arkansas

My friends are always doing their best to ensure that Arkansas remains at the front of my mind. Thinking I might be missing Arkansas, one such friend directed me to the following link, the story of a deer breaking and entering through a window of a house in Stuttgart, Ark.
http://www.stuttgartdailyleader.com/features/x102608838/Deer-leaps-into-Stuttgart-home

Amusing, yes, but also rather disturbing. I'm most worried about the shards of glass that hurt the deer!

I think the best part of the story is the use of the word "leap" to describe the deer's behavior -- almost like he very deliberately and gracefully decided to make an appearance at the bedroom on E. Third.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So it wasn't a meth lab...

But it was still a drug lab. In a freshman dorm room. In MY freshman dorm. So, I can't help but reference this hilarious story of crime and punishment in the hallowed halls of my esteemed alma mater.

I know I'm a little late on the story, but give me a break. I was gallivanting through the streets of NYC this weekend in honor of ringing in the 2-7.

So here it is, as covered by TBD:
http://www.tbd.com/blogs/tbd-latest/2010/10/alleged-meth-lab-found-on-georgetown-university-campus-3596.html

Good old Harbin. I believe when I lived on Harbin 2, we won some kind of award for being written up more than any other freshman floor. For the record, I was not one of the more illustrious rule breakers in that crowd. Guilt by association.

I can just picture those poor little freshman being jarred awake at 6 a.m., forced to stumble downstairs before half of them even have time to contemplate the horrendous walk of shame they're about to partake in front of hordes of D.C.'s finest.

DC Spy covers it better than I ever could, so check out her commentary here:
http://ispythingsdc.com/2010/10/25/georgetown-students-tire-of-binge-drinking-build-meth-lab/comment-page-1/#comment-4178

Lest we forget...

Seriously, don't forget to vote.
Yours truly sent in her absentee ballot to Arkansas already. Ready for Mike, Joyce, Shane and Chad to make it happen.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sweet Anne


Today marks two years since so many lives were changed forever. Beautiful Anne Pressly, who was a striking ray of sunshine to all who were fortunate to know her, was taken from us far too soon. But as this week full of difficult memories approaches, I know that Anne would have wanted us to remember her in all her glory -- gorgeous, smiling, enthusiastic, engaging, so close to her close friends and always the life of the party. I can picture her so vividly telling me about a story she was reporting in which she had become fascinated, eating sushi with me at Sushi Cafe, running around Dallas at the Cotton Bowl, a true Razorback fan doing exactly what made her the happiest, recounting some hilarious story from her day at work that left her audience laughing for days, or leading a dance floor full of people in the Cupid Shuffle.

One of the most amazing things about Anne was this ability to bring people together. As she struggled to survive at St. Vincent's that week, everyone who loved her was gathered in a room nearby, waiting for news. And even in the hospital, where we couldn't see her or talk to her, she was the blossom at the center of new friendships that are now tied by an unbreakable and everlasting bond.

On the night she died, I will never forget how I couldn't help but notice that among the many friends wrapped in each other's arms, there were several pregnant women. Anne was no longer with us, but these new babies were almost here. And in the midst of so much pain and sadness, that cycle of life concept provided some semblance of beauty.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

White House in bloom

The view from the inside
Twice a year, the First Family opens the South Lawn to 30,000+ visitors to view the gardens. The tickets are free -- if you have some special VIP means of getting them. Thankfully, I do, but nonetheless, I doubt it will ever cease to be exciting to be on the grounds of the White House. There couldn't have been a more perfect day than today for the occasion -- gorgeous, sunny, warm, and not a cloud in the sky -- and the White House never looked so white. Up close, the place was basically glittering -- made me wonder how often they must paint it to keep it so pristine.

The tour includes photos of 20th century presidents and first ladies planting commemorative trees (the Clintons liked dogwoods), the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which dates to 1965, the Rose Garden from 1913, the Children's Garden, a little haven created by Lady Bird Johnson in 1969, and the Kitchen Garden, Michelle Obama's contribution. There is also a tennis court that doubles as a basketball court and supposedly a putting green and swimming pool, but the latter two seemed hidden from public view.

Pictures:



Oval Office - Does it seem right that I mostly recognize these windows and columns from watching President Bartlet head to sleep in The West Wing?
Rose Garden
West Wing

Kitchen Garden - with pumpkins for the season. 1,600 pounds of veggies have been grown since it opened in 2009.
Children's Garden, with castings of First grandchildren's handprints and footprints
Jefferson Memorial in the distance

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trivia at Wonderland Ballroom

Shockingly, AT&T works on the platform of Metro Center. Just as I was about to step onto the train to head home after work (oh, you had Columbus Day off? I'm pretty sure only the federal government deems it a holiday), my brother called to invite me to trivia night at Wonderland Ballroom.

I'd heard about the place for years but never been. Walking from Columbia Heights metro, it's on the corner of 11th and Kenyon, past a school soccer field and just kind of off by itself in the middle of a pretty residential area. The first floor is a small bar w/ patio outside. The second floor is where the magic is supposed to happen. 

Wonderland Ballroom
Now, I love Jeopardy as much as I next guy, and I do my share of crosswords -- in ink, just as my father taught me -- but this was NOT easy. The categories were so obscure, things like "serial killers," "sports teams that have relocated," "zombies," and "9/11." I must say, wasn't a huge fan of that last one being used in any way for anything that is supposed to be the least bit entertaining. My team was saved by my brother's friend who has only lived in Washington for a years but must study statues obsessively. We got 10 out of 10 on the picture trivia round, where we had to match up D.C. statues with their names (thankfully, we didn't have to conjure the names from scratch; they were listed on the sheet.) We were tied for first place after the first few rounds, then went down to 4th. But this gives me incentive to try again! It's all about the categories...if only there was one on geography or literature or something I knew about!

The place serves an eclectic menu including such run-of-the-mill items as burgers and chicken sandwiches and many many beer options (I asked what wines they had...they were in a box), in addition to gazpacho and believe this - fried pickles! It was ALMOST like I was sitting at Cotham's adjacent to the State Capitol with the Beebe girls. I couldn't get over my luck at finding this pure deliciousness I will forever associate with Little Rock in D.C.

Fried pickles -- and even better, spears, not chips!!

Great Falls

Spent part of a perfect fall weekend hiking the Billy Goat Trail and the towpath at Great Falls, something I hadn't done but once or so in the past several years.

Observations:
1) I don't know why I didn't do this more often as a child. I guess I didn't really discover hiking until traveling through Chile and moving to the Natural State (Arkansas).

2) It's rather hard to believe that the C&O Canal National Historical Park is only 10 or so miles from the middle of the city. I felt like I was somewhere else completely. There are no city buildings or streets in sight or traffic within hearing distance. Was an incredibly pleasant and peaceful way to spend a Sunday. Kind of like many a weekend at Pinnacle. I just might have found my new little haven.

Near the trailhead close to the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and Old Angler's Inn

C&O Canal

The Potomac

Love covered bridges

Pretty little house

View from the towpath

A heron eating a fish

My favorite scene of the day...beautiful, stoic heron