(#23) Appreciate: January 1

When you’ve been sealed into a cardboard box and transported by way of a forklift with someone, you know you’re going to be friends for life.

Croft and I met in 2006 on Pali Mountain, home to Pali Overnight Adventures, the greatest summer camp the world has ever known. It was my first summer and her second. She was one of the group leaders, a middle-management-level counselor. We hit it off.

In 2007, she was a head counselor, and I was one of her group leaders. Our friendship went from rad to unbreakable. And the pinnacle of it came at the end of the summer when the camp’s entertainment director planned his biggest, baddest shaving cream and water balloon fight of all time.

He gathered camp leadership, asked us to squeeze into cardboard boxes (and we obliged…), handed us hoards of water balloons and instructed us to stay still. When we heard a forklift start up its engines, we all exclaimed in panic. After oodles of “too fat for the forklift” jokes, our boxes lined the pallet, and we rumbled off to the camp’s main field.

The campers sat on wooden risers, having been told there was an imminent camp-wide meeting. We couldn’t see a thing, but we could hear them laughing, until music started. The theme song from Batman boomed over the loudspeakers, and the campers silenced.

The ride down was a bumpier than the pick-up, that’s for sure. Once securely on land, we waited for our signal and burst out of the boxes, unleashing a fury of water balloons on the unsuspecting campers.

Trashcans sporadically lined the field, filled to the brim with shaving cream. Before our balloons could find their targets, we were sprinting for trash cans, loading our arms with shaving cream to battle. The kids screamed and squealed in excitement, racing to enact their revenge on us and all the counselors.

20 minutes later, with shaving cream clogging every visible orifice, Croft caught my eye and nodded towards the camp lake. I nodded my understanding, and the two of us took off running. The other female group leaders and head counselors joined our escape, and we ran until we were in over our heads in the lake.

We spent the next hour having a “meeting” on the inflatable trampoline, alternating between letting the sun dry us and catapulting back into the cool water. No matter how many times we immersed ourselves, we still found shaving cream in our ears.

Croft is one of those rare, precious people in my life that I don’t see often, but that when I do, it’s effortless and hilarious and wrought with intelligent conversation. Today we brunched at the Argonaut until the bottomless mimosas ran out and even we ran out of politics to debate.

She’s leaving next week for Kyrgyzstan and Russia for a year and leaving me with new laugh lines. I’ll miss her something intense and fierce, but I know when I see her next, we’ll make new memories to add to the spectacular ones we already share.

2012: you’re starting our more than right, you’re starting out perfect.
Brunch!

Where: The Argonaut, 1433 H St. NE
What: the veggie omelet (not on the menu, but if they have it, it’s life-changing!), cheese grits (!!!) and bottomless mimosas ($9!)

Gettin' serious with the female leadership in 2007 about "International Boys Have Cooties Day." I'm in the red and white shorts, and Croft is tall and fist bumping beside me.

Camp leadership team in 2007. The four girls in a row on the bottom, from the left: Hula, me, Croft and Giggles - the unbeatable team.

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(#23) Appreciate: December 30

I keep joking that last weekend I met the love of my life, right before hearing about his soon-to-be wife. The tragedy of it all aside, we shared some hilarious, platonic moments that keep making me laugh, literally, out loud, remembering them. He came and stood beside me at 4:00am at Jimmy Valentine’s last Sunday and, facing the bar, casually said, “Runnin’ just as fast as we can.”

Beat.

Without looking at him, I replied, “Holdin’ on to one another’s hands.”

We made eye contact and burst into the chorus, “I think we’re alone now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around” and laughed until tears stained our cheeks.

I remembered that story tonight sitting at The Queen Vic with Alicia, Eliot, Courtney and Eliot’s friend Ryan. We had our normal seats, our normal drinks and our favorite bartenders reminding us to breathe because we talk so fast and our conversations are so quick. For just a moment in the midst of our banter, I was consumed with joy.

With new friends and old, 2011 has been filled with memories that make me catch my breath to savor them.

Today, I also appreciated:

  • Souk! Alicia re-introduced me to our neighborhood Moroccan restaurant. They’ve revamped the menu since I was there last, the wine list is rockin’, and I hear there will be belly dancers soon! (Tip: the veggie plate is humongous and delicious!)
  • A day in bed. My body was exhausted – sore and tired from a few strenuous days of exercise. I got up and dressed at 1:00pm and took Theodore for a walk. I intended to run errands, but my body moaned a complaint, and I listened. I ended up in bed until 6:00pm watching The West Wing and napping. It was indulgent and luxurious and absolutely needed. I’m going to take more time for myself in 2012!

(#23) Appreciate: December 29

Today is my Friday before a four-day weekend. I thought about going out for drinks to start celebrating the new year early, but I went for a 3-mile run with my good friend Courtney instead. I only ran about two miles of it; I haven’t run in the past six weeks or so. It felt good, though, to get back out there. I’ve got the potential to run this triathlon next September, now it’s time to exceed my own expectations to make it happen.

Here’s to a year of more self-discipline.

(#23) Appreciate: December 28

Today I:

  • Indulged a craving for Five Guys cajun fries
  • Went to the Post Office (Old Post Office Pavilion!) to mail paperwork that I’ve had signed in a sealed envelope for 1.5 years (I’m really bad at mailing things)
  • Walked back from the State Department to the Press Building so engrossed in conversation and laughter with friends that 1.3 miles felt too short
  • Took Theo to the dog park and played fetch
  • Chair danced until I couldn’t walk without wobbling at The P Spot (crossing another goal off – #25!)
  • Made delicious stir fry with chicken, miscellaneous veggies in my fridge and leftover rice

Today and I are kind of best friends.

What did you appreciate today?

The closest Post Office to my workplace is the old Post Office Pavillion. It awed and inspired me today. I can't wait to do a clock tower tour and explore more of the inside.

 

 

(#18) Read and Review September: Room

“I can’t believe you’re reading that. It’s disturbing. Who writes that kind of book?”

My friend Allison jokingly mocks me for my choice in books. I go through them like water, so she has ample opportunity.

“What’s it about?”

“A sex-enslaved woman raising her young son while trapped in an 11×11 square room.”

I nearly asked for the jokes.

The premise of Room by Emma Donoghue is disturbing. That it’s told from the perspective and words of five-year old Jack makes it sympathetic and painful, on top of disturbing. I was apprehensive of it being inflammatory and provocative just for kicks or of it relying so heavily on pathos that it becomes gimmicky. Thankfully, I was wrong. The prose is deliberate and simple – the authentic thoughts and actions of a young boy’s perception of his life.

Jack doesn’t know that anything is wrong. His and his Mom’s room is the only world he has ever known. He believes that outside is part of space and that other humans are only as real as Dora the Explorer. He describes the games he and his mother play, their daily schedule, the breakdown of food they each get at meals as an average kid would a day at school.

Given the circumstances, Jack is codependent and psychologically stunted. Of all the themes of the book – sex trafficking, enslavement, rape, etc, one of the most controversial aspects is that Jack still breastfeeds. I’ll admit, it made me uncomfortable. But as I continued reading and found myself thinking about it when forced to set the book down, it bothered me less.

Jack’s mom is the real hero of the book, though Jack is monstrously heroic. Her heroism is in keeping Jack alive. They rarely have enough to eat, read, play with or room to exercise, but she perseveres and raises Jack as normally as possible. The breastfeeding is a physical example of her heroism, her ability to continue to sustain Jack.

While the room is a frightening place, the outside world is even scarier.

Donoghue avoids a trite “happy ever after” ending by reminding readers it’s rarely that simple. She proves she’s more than a shocks and thrills writer by taking her protagonists out of their square world and introducing them to life outside of it. For these characters who haven’t seen daylight in years (or ever for Jack), the outside world is full of physically and emotionally painful stimuli, like the sun and reuniting with family who believed you dead.

One of my favorite moments comes when Jack experiences stairs for the first time. He’s scared of them and has to crawl down on all fours. It’s a small thing, but it shows how thoroughly Donoghue researched and thought through the subject and how deeply she cares about her characters. She explores everything from Jack’s first experience of flowers and other people to how traumatizing and trapping ‘freedom’ is for his Mom.

Room isn’t a long novel, but it’s content is so emotionally charged, thought-provoking and raw that it took me several weeks to read. It was worth it, though, every disturbing page.

Purchase Room on Better World Books.

Read the New York Times review of Room

Do you have book recommendations for my monthly read and review? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments or email me at 27before27blog@gmail.com.

(#23) Appreciate: December 27

This.

I listened for about 33 seconds, trying to deduce the songs before impatience won over, and I scrolled to the bottom of the page to find out which songs made the cut. The list is the best part!

Here they are, the Top 25 Songs of 2011 (as listed on Jezebel):

  • Adele – Rolling In The Deep
  • Adele – Someone Like You
  • Black Eyed Peas – Just Can’t Get Enough
  • Bruno Mars – Grenade
  • Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song
  • Britney Spears – Till The World Ends
  • Cee Lo Green – F* You
  • Enrique Iglesias – Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)
  • Foster the People – Pumped Up Kicks
  • Jennifer Lopez – On The Floor
  • Jeremih feat. 50 Cent – Down On Me
  • Katy Perry – Firework
  • Katy Perry – E.T.
  • Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
  • Lady Gaga – Born This Way
  • LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem
  • LMFAO – Sexy and I Know It
  • Lupe Fiasco – The Show Goes On
  • Maroon 5 – Moves Like Jagger
  • Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
  • OneRepublic – Good Life
  • Pink – Raise Your Glass
  • Pitbull – Give Me Everything
  • Rihanna – S&M
  • Rihanna – We Found Love

(#23) Appreciate: December 26

My room is swept, dishes are washed, laundry is folded and hung and dinner is served: a well spent post-Holiday day off.

Spaghetti squash lasagna: one of my favorite meals to make and eat!

I use this recipe as my base and have built my own off of it. Here’s mine:

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash
2 spicy Italian sausage links
1 chicken breast
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small-medium onion, diced
1 small can (8 oz) tomato paste
1 cup pasta sauce of your choice
1 cup shredded Mozzarella (more to taste)
1 cup shredded Parmesean (more to taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic – minced, grated or diced
salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil and red pepper to taste

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a baking pan. Halve the spaghetti squash (the yellower the better, riper) and place cut side down on the pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until you can easily insert a knife. Set aside and let cool. When cool enough to touch, de-seed by removing the top (browned) layer. After, use a fork to scrape the squash. You will get thin strings that look like noodles. Empty both halves, placing the ‘noodles’ in a separate bowl.
  • Keep oven on at the same temperature and grease a deeper baking pan.
  • Meanwhile, slice zucchini and squash – put aside in separate bowl
  • Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; tear sausage into bite-sized chunks
  • Add sausage to heated pan until browned. Drain grease & wipe grease off from pan.
  • Add olive oil to heated pan. Saute onions and garlic until onions begin to brown. Add chicken and saute until cooked through.
  • Add tomato sauce, tomatoes & seasonings. Stir and add in meats.
  • Place a lid on pot over medium heat until boiling.
  • Layer the baking pan with half of the spaghetti squash noodles, zucchini and squash, meat sauce and mozzarella. Repeat. This should make two layers.
  • Cover the top in Parmesan.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until Parmesan is melted.

 

(#13) Join a Social Sports League: The Birds and the Skeez!

I admit it, when someone says they want to join a sports league, maybe a Skeeball team isn’t your first thought – maybe like your third. It’s unfortunate because skeeball rocks (and rolls! …)! It’s better than kickball, though I know those are fighting words in the District of Kickball.

You remember Skeeball, right? It’s that arcade game with a lane, nine balls and a series of holes worth different point amounts.

This game!

So how did I find myself competitively playing a children’s arcade game?

Back in the fall I mentioned to Roommate E and Roommate Clare that I had a hankering to join a social sports team. Most that I had checked out- Bocce, kickball, softball, etc, were too far away and too early on weeknights to be feasible. We filed the idea under, “Probably never gonna happen.”

The next week, Clare sent us, along with her girlfriend Sarah and one of their other friends, an email from United Social Sports about a competitive Skeeball league. The league is hosted by the H Street Country Club – a mere two blocks from our house (check!), and games are on Sunday nights (double check!).

It took us approximately three seconds register our team: The Birds and the Skeez.

Some Birds and the Skeez team trivia:

  • We’ve never won a game. Not a single one.
  • We get progressively better each game! Last game, one of our players rolled a 320. At this rate, in four seasons we’ll be competitive!
  • We win the “most improved” drink ticket award without fail. It’s, frankly, impossible to not.
  • We may be really, truly awful, but we always, always have the most fun and the most team spirit.
  • Speaking of spirit, there was a spirit night mid-season. We killed it.

Yes, this happened, and yes, I'm still embarrassed. #goteam

The District loves its social sports leagues, and now I get the hype. They’re fun, relatively inexpensive and a great way to meet people. Did I mention fun?

When you’re thinking about registering for your next social sports league, don’t overlook the best of them all: Skeeball.

What: United Social Sports

When: Winter season starts in January – check individual sports for dates, times and locations!

Where: Check individual sports for locations, but our league is at the H Street Country Club – 1335 H St. NE

Cost: Sports differ; skeeball is $46 for a 7-9 game season with a shirt and lotsa opportunities for drink tickets!

If you want to play but don’t have a team, shoot me an email at 27before27blog@gmail.com! We may have space on ours or be able to hook you up with another one!

(#23) Appreciate: Christmas

Today I’ve been thinking about my Christmas traditions and memories. I’ve exchanged multiple of each with friends and loved learning about theirs. My family can be, shall we say, intense and loud, but it’s the most loving, open-armed place I know, and I intensely and loudly love them.

Here are some of my Christmas traditions and memories:

  • My extended family opens gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve and with immediate family on Christmas morning.
  • My mom, brother and I stay up into the wee hours of Christmas morning baking, talking, drinking and laughing. It’s my favorite tradition.
  • We eat baked ham and salads, slaw, chips, etc on Christmas Eve and a big turkey dinner on Christmas Day. My cousin John makes Cajun fried turkey. It’s the best.
  • This is the second Christmas I’ve been away from my family. The first I spent in Thailand for 10 days in 2009 while in the JET Program.
  • When I was two, my brother (six) saved Christmas by reminding our Mom there were no gifts under the tree from Santa. She fixed it, and I believed.
  • About 10 years ago my brother and I got fabric and sewed (well, he sewed) mom a stocking. We did the same thing for our stepfather the year they married. It was our first gift to him.
  • At 16, my first boyfriend and love gave me a beautiful white gold ring our first Christmas. When we broke up, I told him to propose to me with it someday. He wore it as a necklace for years.
  • My favorite childhood Christmas gift was a foam balance beam. I was about 7 years old and wanted to go to Yale and be an Olympic gymnast.
  • My little cousin was born on December 25, 1999 at 6:26am. The whole family spent all night in the hospital waiting to meet him. It’s one of my all-time favorite Christmases.

This year I built new memories with new friends to add to this list. Tonight I ate a delicious spread of cheeses, crackers, breads, olives and salsas with Eliot, Alicia and Alicia’s absolutely fantastic mom. I’m so touched that they included me in their family. We chowed and drank wine while watching The American President and quoting every other line. It was a sweet, beautiful Christmas in the District that I’ll remember for years to come.

What are your Christmas traditions and memories?

Theo enjoyed Christmas, too!

(#23) Appreciate: Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tonight I went to dinner at Founding Farmers with Eliot (of accoutre.me local fame!), Alicia and Alicia’s mom.  It was our first time there, and it made for a delicious Christmas Eve meal. I went All-American with their avocado burger (nom), and I tasted Eliot’s pot-roast. This isn’t your average boring roast; it’s divine. As an added bonus, all the ingredients are fresh, local and farm-raised.

We wandered over to the National Christmas Tree and National Menorah and meandered until we found everyone’s state tree and our hands were too cold to take more pictures. Our bus pulled up as we got to the stop. That’s our kind of Christmas miracle.

We topped off the night with ice cream and booze-infused caramel whipped cream and a doggie play date.

I thought I’d be spending Christmas without my family, but I just spent it with a different family.

May your holiday be love-filled wherever you may spend it.

A very merry D.C. Christmas