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Have I mentioned? I happen to like walking tours.

2 Feb

Image Source: http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/washington-dc-tours

While you were at the gym, honoring your New Year’s Resolution, I was quietly tackling a couple more items on my 40×40 list. In this week’s update:

#7 – Take an official walking tour of DC. 

This weekend I took my first ever guided walking tour of DC. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I love DC and I love walking tours. I’ve just never made time to play tourist in my own city. Coming out of two weeks of near-zero temperatures, today’s balmy 52˚ forecast made me think the timing was right for a walking tour. And it was.

I joined DC by Foot for a “pay what you want” walking tour of the National Mall. I was hoping for a neighborhood tour, but they run a limited schedule during the winter, so the Mall was the only real option that worked with my schedule.

I’ve logged many hours on the Mall doing things that most tourists would find pretty cool – attending the Library of Congress’s Book Festival, playing kickball, watching a kite festival, enjoying Screen on the Green movies, witnessing presidential inaugurations, rallying against the Keystone XL pipeline – so I was worried I’d find the tour a bit disappointing.

Fortunately, I was wrong.

Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/fb/Jefferson_Pier_and_Washington_Monument.jpgThere were two things I saw on this tour that I had never noticed before: One was was the Jefferson Pier. It’s a small marker just west of the Washington Monument, indicating the original intended location of the Washington Monument – AND the prime meridian that L’Enfant proposed. Interestingly, while the meridian idea never took off, apparently whenever NASA measures distance in the universe, they use the Jefferson Pier marker as the starting place. Pretty cool.

The other thing I’d not noticed: The “graffiti” on the back of the WWII Memorial: Kilroy was here. Although I was familiar with the expression, I hadn’t heard the story of its suspected origin before.

Legend has it, prior to WWII James Kilroy was a rivet inspector in a shipyard in Massachusetts. At the end of each shift, he scribbled “Kilroy was here” to indicate where he’d left off. During the war, sailors started finding this phrase all over their ships – and when they compared notes with other sailors, they found that Kilroy had been there, too. Since it seemed Kilroy was inexplicably omnipresent, people took up scrawling the phrase wherever they went, helping Kilroy cover the globe – and bathroom stalls.

In any case, pretty cool that it became so linked with WWII, that it’s there, etched on the back of this memorial.

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

In addition to the knowledge I picked up along the way, I enjoyed a few of the unscripted aspects of the tour. For example, when we kicked off, at the highly trafficked corner of 15th and Constitution, our guide made a point of saying that was usually the noisiest place on the tour. His words must have jinxed us – because for the rest of the tour, we had hundreds of Canadian Canada Geese pass over us, honking more fervently than the DC drivers.

[Note: My original post called them Canadian Geese, but my dad, the ornithologist, told me I’d made one of the most common mistakes in birding. Apparently they’re Canada Geese. I don’t even want to figure out the mechanics of this grammatically.]

And when we were standing by the Washington Monument, a young guy walking by interrupted our tour to ask , “Do you know how many flags there are circling the monument?”

“Fifty,” our guide answered confidently.

“Really?” the guy asked, “Because I heard it was like 54 or something – the states and the territories?”

“Nope,” our guide said. “I’ve counted them.” The guy thanked him and started to walk away. Our guide continued, “Do you know what the other question I get here a lot is?” The guy shook his head. “How do they get them to all fly in the same direction?” our guide offered.

The guy stopped and stared and shook his head. “Whoa – you’re right. Now that I look at them, they ARE all going in the same direction… why is that?”

“The wind,” our guide said. The guy smacked his head. “You got me! Man!”

And that’s why you should always join the tour and pay what you can. Otherwise, you’ll be shamed.

Did someone call me chicken?

7 Jan

Image Source: http://www.disneymike.com/blog/whole_chicken.jpg

Since everyone just made New Year’s Resolutions and is constantly posting about their progress on Facebook (good job – you joined a gym!) I’m going to share a progress update from MY mini-bucket list for the year, which I kicked off on my birthday back in October.

One of the items was to roast a whole chicken. I know, especially for someone who cooks as much (and I’d like to think as well) as I do, roasting a bird should be old hat. Yet despite the fact that I routinely make roasts, when I made my list I had never dealt with an entire bird.

Two reasons: CAVITY and GIBLETS.

Just thinking about a chicken’s “cavity” reminds me of the metaphor Chris Farley trotted out in Tommy Boy: I can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take a butcher’s word for it.

You understand now, right?

Image Source: Maxine from HallmarkSomething about watching my hand disappear into a chicken, unsure if “giblets” await, makes me a bit queasy. Maybe I’d be more comfortable with a turkey, where I could open that sucker up and get a good look before losing my elbow to it?

And the word GIBLETS? That just implies that you aren’t even dealing with real anatomical parts – it’s more like a bag of mystery parts that have no real anatomical names. As in: This grab-bag contains one ovary, half a liver, four inches of intestines, a spleen-ish looking item and what might be a fallopian tube.

Now that I think about it, maybe I’m scarred from the Thanksgiving when I was in college and the house of guys living next door to us invited my roommates and me over for dinner. The meal itself was great, but I still remember opening our back door that morning to find what we thought was a severed penis on our stoop. (It was during the height of Lorena Bobbitt and in my defense, none of us knew what a turkey neck looked like.)

In any case, I bit the bullet and decided to make a chicken for our New Year’s Eve dinner this year. I thought it would be nice to ring in the year with one more item crossed off my bucket list. As it turns out, I got lucky with the bird – it was organic and the giblets were already removed so the cavity was as clean and smooth and vacant as the Capitol Rotunda on Christmas Day.

That hurdle crossed, I got to the fun part: seasoning the bird. The Thanksgiving turkey that my friend Lisa had made was so addictive that I decided to take a page from her book and prep my chicken with bacon butter.

Here’s the recipe if you want to make chicken that’s like crack. In a food processor, combine until it’s a smooth paste:

    • Fresh thyme
    • Fresh rosemary
    • Fresh sage
    • 3 cloves of garlic
    • Cooked bacon (I used six strips of center-cut)
    • 3 T. Butter (room temp)

Anywhere I could work the skin loose, I slid in a thin layer of this butter. Then I rubbed the entire outside with it before salting and peppering. I stuck half a lemon and a whole bulb of garlic in the (once-scary but now benign) cavity, then criss-crossed the legs and tied them in place like a proper lady to make sure nothing slid out during the roasting. Then I stuck the whole thing on a roasting rack on top of sliced onions.

While it was cooking, I made myself a toasted roll – and spread it with bacon butter. Then I made mashed potatoes – and added some bacon butter. And when it came time to sauté the green beans? You guessed it.

Basically, the entire meal was an ode to bacon butter.

I wish I would’ve taken a photo of the final result for this post because it did Norman Rockwell proud. I mean, that bird was golden and glowing and tasted as fantastic as it looked. I just can’t believe it took me almost half a lifetime to attempt it.

Now if only I can find a restaurant that makes bacon butter sushi…

My cat hates me. Allegedly.

14 Dec

Image Source: Icanhascheezburger.com

My sister shared this article with me that claims it’s been scientifically proven that cats don’t love us.

(For the record, the subject line of Alicia’s email was, “Lies, Lies! All Lies!”)

As I write that, Miss Moneypenny is sitting on my lap, staring up at me with an adoring look. Thanks to that study, I now know to interpret that look as, “This is a nice, soft, warm surface.” And when she greets me at the end of the work day by flopping on the rug and making excited air muffins, I now know it’s simply in anticipation of the meal that will follow.

Thanks, Science, for bursting my bubble.

Now that I realize my cat is a manipulative little liar, I probably won’t ever get another one. And that’s too bad, because I had some really good names picked out for my next cats. Since it looks like they’ll go to waste, I’ll put them out here for any suckers who decide to bring another feline into their home:

  1. Pussy Galore. This was Alan’s original suggestion for Miss MP’s name, but she wasn’t big enough to pull it off.
  2. Furry Lise. Preferably if you own a piano for the inevitable Fur Elise/Furry Lise confusion that will ensue.
  3. Octopussy. Ideally for a cat hoarder’s eighth cat.
  4. Dutchess Furgie. Only if the cat lets other cats clean its toes. Or becomes a spokes-cat for Science Diet.
  5. Mr. Meowgi. For a cat who can catch flies with its paws, or is willing to wax on/off the floor.
  6. Furdinand. For a huge, friendly bull of a tomcat.
  7. Mewly Andrews. This is one of my nicknames for Miss MP because she is talkative; the other variation is Drooly Andrews, because she slobbers when she’s overly excited. Either could work as a stand-alone name.
  8. The Best Cat-Owner Ever. This is Alan’s suggestion. He thinks it’s a good way to reinforce your own awesomeness while talking to the cat. As in: “Does the Best Cat-Owner Ever deserve a treat?” Or taking it to the vet, when they call, “We’re now ready for The Best Cat-Owner Ever.” Think of the envious looks you’ll receive.
  9. Ms. Everdeen. For people who read The Hunger Games and know that the main character’s name is Katniss Everdeen.
  10. ???     Your call! What ridiculous names are you willing to give up since you now have confirmation that cats are secretly plotting an uprising?

40 x 40: Progress & Failures.

11 Nov
Wine country

Heaven on Earth: Sonoma.

It’s been almost two weeks since my birthday and already I need to update my 40×40 list – partially to mark my progress and partially to amend my list since I’ve already screwed up. (Too bad one of my items wasn’t to cultivate a practice of “self-forgiveness,” because I could totally check that box while blowing off the more difficult things on my list. Next year…)

So here are the updates – mainly to keep myself honest:

#9: Explore wine country with Alan. CHECK. You’re read about our adventures in Carmel, Monterey, and Hearst Castle – but we spent the last five days tooling through Paso Robles, Napa and Sonoma. I’ll blog about it soon, but the trip was all that I’d hoped for when I added it to this list.

#19: See the sunset over the Pacific. CHECK. Did this not once, not twice, but THREE times in the last week. Who’s a lucky girl?

© 2013 pithypants.com

Please note the Spartan t-shirt – worn the day we beat the Wolverines.

#10: Completely avoid Diet Dew every day for one month. IN MOTION. It hasn’t been a month since my birthday yet, so it’d be impossible to achieve this one, but I’m off to a good start. I’ve gone 13 days without a Dew. And I really had to avoid temptation on our trip because one of our B&B hosts had even stocked our mini-fridge with a can of Diet Dew for me.

#26: Review the books I read on Amazon. IN MOTION. I’ve actually taken this a step further – I’m reviewing EVERYTHING. This might be one of those unhealthy manifestations of my compulsive personality, because I’ve already earned a “Top Reviewer” badge on TripAdvisor – and I just started reviewing things a week ago. If there’s a “stalker” badge, I might earn that soon.

#27: Swim 50 miles. IN MOTION. I snuck in two miles before we left for vacation. Snuck might be a bad word choice, because there’s really nothing sneaky about flailing around in the pool, gasping for breath as you count laps and pray the lifeguard won’t need to intervene.

#23: Write 50,000 words toward my next novel. UMMM. I’d planned to do this by participating in NaNoWriMo (kind of like Movember, but instead of growing a mustache, you write a book – potentially as embarrassing, but not quite as creepy – unless it’s about mustaches). As it turns out, that was a horrible thing to attempt when starting a vacation. I found that I wanted to write blogs and jot notes about our vacation, so we’re going to need to revisit this one.

#33: Do an inversion every single day. UMMM. I’m amending this one. It should say, “Develop a daily inversion practice.” Because that’s the end goal, and it is REALLY HARD to remember to do something every day, cold turkey. Especially when you’re staying in a hotel and you really don’t want to put your head remotely close to the carpet.

So that’s my progress. And before you judge: How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? That’s what I thought.

40 x 40 Challenge: Happy Birthday to Me!

30 Oct

Image sourceL http://cdn.themetapicture.com/media/funny-dog-birthday-cake-sad.jpg

Today is my 39th birthday. That gives me one year before I celebrate the most infamous milestone of midlife. And buy a corvette and get a trophy wife. Oh wait – sorry, women don’t do that. Got confused for a minute!

Seems like a good time for a bit of reflection to reconnect with my friends and family, my curiosity and creativity, and my health. In that spirit, I’ve created my list of “Forty by Forty” – a mini bucket-list to be completed before I turn 40.

Since these need to be done in a year, they’re not the grand items of a life-long bucket list. I’m not trying to see the pyramids or raft the Nile. (Hopefully those happen in the NEXT forty years.)

Because life is good. And it’s often in paying attention to the little things that that we live life most fully. Here goes…

  1. See the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.
  2. Try sushi. I know, I know. I’m the only person in America who doesn’t like sushi. But it’s been ten years since I last attempted it, so I’m going to see if my palette has evolved. 
  3. Attend Nerd Nite DC. I’m a nerd and I’ve always been curious.
  4. Become a certified coach. Already enrolled, so unless I screw up, this should earn a checkmark. 
  5. Take a “Girls Trip” with my mom and sister.
  6. Practice yoga every day for one week. 
  7. Take an official walking tour of DC. I love walking tours. I live in a city that offers them. Why haven’t I done this before? No idea.
  8. Find the doors at the O Street Mansion
  9. Explore wine country with Alan. We’ve booked our flight, so this should get a checkmark. 
  10. Completely avoid Diet Dew for one month. Ideally, I’d like to give it up for good. But let’s start with a manageable goal.
  11. Get a library card from the Library of Congress.
  12. Sponsor one classroom project each month on DonorsChoose.
  13. Go Facebook-Silent for two weeks. This one already gives me palpitations, which probably means I’m addicted.
  14. See an exhibit at the Phillips Collection. Unbelievably, I’ve lived here almost two decades and haven’t set foot inside this gallery, only blocks from my place.
  15. Make a Halloween costume.
  16. Find a StoryCorps booth and record a story. Ideally with my dad. 
  17. Get professionally fitted for a bra. No sense giving in to gravity just yet.
  18. Get a new driver’s license. Actually, this is kind of a to-do list item. But still…
  19. See the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
  20. Send one handwritten note of gratitude to someone each month. 
  21. Record a podcast with my friends. Not sure what we’ll do with it, but I’m pretty sure it will be hilarious.
  22. Learn to change my bike’s rear tire. Although I hope I’ll never need to use this. 
  23. Write 50,000 words toward my next novel.
  24. Complete a Century Ride. Preferably with my sister. 
  25. Learn why ziplines are so hyped.
  26. Review the books I read on Amazon. I use other people’s reviews to shape my reading list – time to give back. 
  27. Swim 50 miles. Not all at onceI used to swim all the time, but it’s fallen by the wayside in recent years. Time to jump back in.
  28. Roast an entire chicken. Yep, I consider myself a pretty solid cook, but I’ve never actually cooked an entire bird. WTF?
  29. Compliment a stranger every day for a week. Different strangers… because otherwise that would be creepy.
  30. Volunteer for a cause I care about.
  31. Declutter my friendships. Prioritize the people who make time for me. 
  32. Do an inversion every single day. For non-yogis: this is basically just doing something upside down. Headstand, handstand, shoulder-stand – it’s supposed to be good for your lymph system and your perspective.
  33. Update my resume. Not because I want a new job, but to reflect on my accomplishments.
  34. Help Alan have a good 40th year. 
  35. No candy for a month. Ridiculous that I’m almost forty and still think Skittles count as part of the food pyramid.
  36. Host a scavenger hunt. 
  37. Break a rule. Easier said than done when you’re compulsive and risk-averse.
  38. Provide free sales coaching to someone who tries (poorly) to try to sell me something. 
  39. Contribute to Wikipedia. Not just in a financial sense. Edit an entry. 
  40. Go camping. I used to do it all the time, but haven’t since I got rid of my car. Time to bring it back!

What about you? If you weren’t designing a life-long bucket-list, but rather had to focus on something specific to do during the next year, what would make your list? I’m curious. 

Image Source: Matt Groening - The Simpsons, Fox Television

PS: Here’s the Donor’s Choose project I just sponsored in New Orleans for October:

Most of our students will be first generation college students. These students don’t get much help from their families in the college planning process. Our students are from the inner city and their needs are many, academic as well as socio-economic. I took over a high school library two years ago that has a fair book selection, but no budget for new books and very few up-to-date books on ACT, college and financial aid, careers and scholarship information. Our library has one up-to-date college guide and one scholarship book that are constantly checked out. I want my students to see all of the possibilities and plan the best future possible.