Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Midwestern Road Trip.

I've been a little busy traveling around the midwest for the past three days. I just checked on the map, and I logged over 700 miles through the fine towns of Scandia, Mankato, Red Cloud, Superior, Manhattan, and more. Abbey and I left for north central Kansas Sunday afternoon, and returned Tuesday afternoon. It was so great to be with these fine folks, revisiting some of my favorite places.

We went to Willa Cather's childhood home in Red Cloud, Nebraska. This town is very close to my grandparents' farm, and Cather used it as the setting in six of her novels, including My Antonia and O Pioneers! I always loved reading those books because the land she described matched the place where the first six generations of my Kansas family lived.

Cather describes the land in "My Antonia" this way, "At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great." There's just something about it that crawls into your heart and claims you to be a part. Even in Virginia, far far away, I know the feeling of being here with my family and at home.

The quote took on new meaning yesterday after I dropped Abbey off and headed north into KCK. The weather was beautiful, and the track and soccer teams were busy at practice at my old school. I visited with my former staff, got dozens of hugs from my eighth graders, and relished being at Northwest. It was tough to be there too - I miss being apart of something like what is happening there, the constant struggle against neighborhoods, stereotypes, and poverty. I was happy, challenged and grew in those struggles.

After I left the kids and my friends, I cried and cried. I prayed that God's plan in Virginia will become complete, and that I will get an opportunity to serve in KCK again. My heart is with so many of those students and in their journeys. It's like Cather's characters and the land, my own ancestors...I feel a part of what happens there.

Meet Pippin - Newest Cat on the Farm.

And happy birthday to Andrea, my oldest bestie. Today is her birthday, and she loves specialness on her special day. That's why I am breaking my wordless Wednesday rules to wish her HAPPY birthday - from south OP to Brooklyn NY. Happy happy day!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Dickens Review of the Last 24 Hours.

It was the best of times...

and it was the worst of times.
I'm really glad to be home. I'm thankful for safe travels and for my family and brunch with girlfriends. It's been nice to run around town with my friends and family today, drink Boulevard Wheat and get a haircut that didn't cost $80.

There have been some things that haven't gone quite as well. We didn't walk the 10K this morning because it was pouring rain. My K-State Wildcats didn't pull out a win and a trip to the Final Four.

But they play when guts even when they are tired, and I heart Denny Clemente. And even with the ups and downs, it's still good to be home.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Purple Cupcake.

If you take Rachel to the mall, she's going to ask for a cupcake. It's very similar to the story line of "When You Give a Mouse a Cookie," and it usually ends up with Rachel getting two cupcakes from Cake Love. Yesterday I was totally excited to get a cupcake too - because it was purple!

Cake Love was featuring a special purple cupcake because K-State was playing in the Sweet 16.

Just. Kidding. I live in Virginia. People don't know how awesome K-State is...yet.

If you ask Rachel to take a picture of you with your purple cupcake in your K-State shirt, she's probably going to get all artistic about it. And she's probably going to showcase your splint from your broken ring finger too.

I think it may have been a lucky cupcake because K-State is advancing to the ELITE 8! I'm headed home to Kansas today, so I'll get to watch the next game with lots of K-Staters. And in a funny turn of events, I just finished a blog design for a Butler alum. Check out her new design over at The Beginning of Forever. It's a crazy small world.

Most importantly - go K-State! Every Man a Wildcat!

Quick revision note - the purple cupcake, as I mentioned above was not for K-State but for a great cause! Part of the proceeds went to support epilepsy awareness and Purple Day. The cupcakes were part of the Great Purple Cupcake Project. Thanks to Michelle who found me and left a comment so we could spread the word.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Teaching Notes - Desegregation and Demand.

I realized that I don't write very much about what I actually do during the day. If you were a casual reader of my adventures, you might not know that I teach a lot of rowdy eighth graders civics and English each day.

I want to write more about what I'm teaching because I want to remember. I spend a lot of time journaling for my graduate coursework, and some of it is worth sharing with you all too. You may remember these lessons from your schooling or have something worthwhile you think my students need to learn. And some of you need to learn these lessons again!

English: We are reading "Warriors Don't Cry" with our 8th graders right now. Written by Melba Patillo Beals, it is the story of the Little Rock 9 and desegregation in our schools. When I taught in Kansas City, my school was an all-white school before Brown v. Board of Education. By the time I was there in 2006-2009, we were very close to 100% African American and Latino students. The neighborhood had changed significantly, but it was also so neat to stand in my classroom and realize the history of the wood floor and cracked ceilings. It made me grateful for people like Melba who were brave enough to cross the lines.

We have tied "Warriors" into "Remember the Titans" to make connections about plot elements, character development and segregation in America. Like Brown in Kansas, it is easy for our students to connect to the movie story. "Titans" takes place just miles from here at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, and it is a very real story about relations in this area in the early 1970s. I was crying just watching the beginning yesterday - that movie gets me every single time. I try to hide my tears from my kids because they think I'm tough. Until they remember I have a broken finger and then they remember I'm actually weak.

Civics AND Economics: While the 8th grade social studies year is mostly focused on civics, it actually includes a lot of economics. And compared to civics, I think econ is SO MUCH FUN. I am 100% serious. You can only discuss the branches of government and criminal court proceeding for so long before everyone is bored. But economics is dynamic, and the kids can relate. They experience supply, demand, scarcity, and opportunity cost in their own lives every day. We just gave our kids their first test over econ, and they knocked it out of the park!

There is a lot of movement in the schools to teach more economics. Not just personal finance stuff, but the real nitty gritty of how economies works. I can be on board with that because I felt behind when I started in my first macroeconomics class at K-State. We'll be hitting economics in detail between now and June 25th, our last day of school.

Need a refresher on economics? Play this game, Coffee Shop, to review scarcity, incentives, supply, and of course, demand. Our students are addicted. To the game, thankfully not coffee (yet!)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Problems in Belle-ville.

Belle's been a high-maintenance pup lately.

First, we had to make adjustments around here to help Belle with her weight problem. More walks and less peanut butter seem to be helping. Just after I made the switch to the diet food, we all noticed an increase in shedding. Belle's short dark fur was everywhere! I brush and furminate. I vacuum and sweep. I wash and lint roll my clothes. Still, the dog fur is a never ending problem.

Monday I took Belle for a walk and then sat down on the deck to brush out some more of her winter coat. I kept her leash on her and worked diligently on the coat.

I was working hard so I didn't see the enemy approach. Out on the fence, Belle spotted her nemesis - the squirrel.

BAM! Belle darted for the back fence. SNAP! The leash got caught around the tip of my ring finger on my left hand.

The pain was instant, with swelling and bruising arriving soon after. Because I am a wimp, I made a stop at my doctor's office. She ordered an x-ray and buddy wrapped my finger. I ate Dairy Queen to feel better and gave Belle the silent treatment.

Let me be clear. My finger H-U-R-T. Tuesday at school I kept the fingers wrapped up and answered questions from nosy 8th graders. X-rays in the afternoon confirmed my fears.

Belle broke my finger.

I will have to buddy wrap the ring and middle finger OR wear a splint at all times for at least the next four weeks. Bad bad news considering the number of grad school deadlines I have during that time. And the number of blog entries that will be slower in creation. Typing with only 8 fingers is really difficult.

Let's recap in photos, shall we?

Wordless Wednesday will be back next week. Probably featuring KS prairie pictures. HOME!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Photos with Personality.

I took all these photos outside Saturday night when it was 65 degrees and beautiful. I was going to put them all together in a collage or use them for Wordless Wednesdays, but they were too nice to be crammed together. I wanted you to see all their pretty faces and catch a tiny glimpse of their plucky and precocious personalities.

Sam is smart. And incredibly kind. Two nice traits in anyone, but especially in a 4th grader. She helped me wrangle five boys to the movie Saturday. We are united in our survival.

You met Quinn already - the birthday girl! She was getting all changed and ready for her birthday party dress. She's a dolly. Look at those cheeks and arms.

And of course you know these faces - BROTHERS! I can't remember why Spencer is looking so excited, but he was happy about something! Treasure this moment and remember that happy face because he's always exactly like that. Sometimes four-year-olds get cranky and misbehave. I was dying looking at this photo compared to last Thanksgiving. He's getting so big! To his right is Mitch. He's got a good sense of humor, and he's occasionally clumsy. I can appreciate that because I was a clumsy sixth grader.

Jake is Sam's twin. He does a good job keeping up with the shenanigans of his slightly older and crazier cousins Coop & Mitch, but he's a pretty down-to-earth kid. I like a kid who can just roll with the flow. He's demonstrating the correct way to play lacrosse here - just in case I ever need to know.

Odds are that I won't need to know. Just saying - athletic ability is not my strong suit.

Cooper. The "not smiling" in photos comes with the hair. He smiles plenty in person - especially when prank texting my phone from the backseat. It's just a photo thing.

Jacquelyn or "JackJack" is almost three. She was fascinated by Baby Quinn and that made her a good companion because she never tired of handing Quinn toys or showing her books. I love that you can see the tiniest bits of orange on her sweet little face thanks to an orange soda. Her brother Hayes has the most ridiculous and piercing eyes for a five-year-old. I still call him "Baby Hayes" because before Spencer and JackJack and Quinn, that's who he was. When did they all get so big?

And me. As photographed by Spencer. See how he cut off the top of my head? Common problem with the 50mm lens and a 6' tall subject. He's forgiven for all his shenanigans because when I arrived Friday night, he greeted me the best way ever. Spence was playing in the hall, saw me come around the corner and yelled, "VICTORIA!" He came barreling down the hall and literally knocked me over with a hug.

Aren't you glad that I tossed in some anecdotes with the photos? You deserve it. So does the fam.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quinn is ONE!

My stepmom, Tracy, has a younger sister Tara. She lives close to me with her husband Brendan and baby Quinn outside of Baltimore. On St. Patrick's Day, Quinn turned one! We gathered from Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia to celebrate this little darling's birthday.

She acted like most one-year-olds with a cake - unsure about the candle and the singing. And then really sure that cake is delicious.

Hayes and Spencer acted like most five and four-year-olds with a cake - impatient and picky about which piece of cake they wanted. They were "so over" the whole baby smashing the cake routine. They wanted some cake with Elmo's eyes and ice cream. They agreed with Quinn that cake is delicious.

Quinn is a little darling and very active. So so cute. She was a great excuse to get everyone together for a weekend of family, food, and Elmo CAKE! Tara and I are planning a get together for Quinn and Finn soon - it will be just like an episode of GLEE!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Night.

This photo describes my Friday night up here outside of Baltimore with various family members.

Here's what you need to know.
  1. We weren't at Wegman's shopping for dinner. We already took over a pizza restaurant and ate. All those bags are full of dessert.
  2. Gabby, Mitch and Cooper are debating whether or not to eat those gummy bears off the floor. They each have a bag of gummies that weighs at least a 1/2 pound.
  3. We bought four different types of ice cream and got back to the hotel and realized it all had chocolate in it. Cousins Sam and Jake gave up chocolate for lent. We decided cookies and cream wasn't really chocolate (right?!)
  4. Spencer is holding a really cool frisbee he "found" in the store. No one paid for it so it had to be "returned" when we got to the parking lot.
  5. I forgot to mention that the bags also have five bottles of diet coke. Just in case there's nothing to drink at the hotel.
  6. I love Wegman's. I love my family. I love both of these things together.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Not an Ordinary Bench.

Wednesday afternoon I went into DC to babysit for my little friends Beckett and Elena. They live in a beautiful old condo building on Connecticut Avenue in the NW part of DC. I arrived a little early to make sure that traffic and parking didn't affect my arrival.

It was 60 degrees and sunny, so I walked around the building for a bit to enjoy the neighborhood. Be jealous. It was beautiful and still is! I found this great spot in the garden next to their place at Tilden Gardens where I could rest and read a little bit before babysitting.

I put my bag down, and I was getting ready to settle into my silly book when I saw this plaque on the bench.

I was about to babysit in the same building that Harry S. Truman - my favorite uncle and president - lived during his time in Congress. How cool is that?

That's what is so great about DC is that you can be minding your own business when you stumble onto a little gem of history. Or in my case, sit on it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: come visit.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Yesterday was a big day. Besides St. Patrick's Day, Paper Source, frozen yogurt, and the most beautiful weather yet this year, it was my blogiversary!

I have been blogging here at victoriaINvirginia for one year. That's longer than I have lived in Virginia, but this blog has been here for one year documenting my journey here. It's been a very good year where I have learned to depend on God for providing and showing me His plan a little at a time.

Looking back makes me a bit sentimental. The travels! The pictures! The adventures! This blog is full of details you probably didn't need to know about my life, but you clearly want to know because you keep coming back to the blog for more. Right?

Belle's a star around here. So's Finley even though he isn't my baby. Some of you come for the ridiculous things that I am capable of "accidentally" doing.

Rachel and Sol wrote a song about blogiversaries.

"It's your blogiversary.
It's your blogiversary.
It's your blogiversary."

Rach's blogiversary is coming up too so expect to be hearing this song quite a bit in the coming weeks. We're pretty in love with blogs, blog design and using this medium to make the world a brighter place. To celebrate my blogiversary, I gave my blog a new spring look. A few changes are still coming for the sidebars and titles, so be sure to come back soon.

And thanks for coming back. I'm just so stinkin' glad you're here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

One T-Shirt, Six States and the Luck of the Irish.

I have a lucky St. Patrick's Day shirt. I had no idea it was my lucky shirt till I started looking through past March pictures, and this green t-shirt kept popping out at me. Let's begin back in 2005...

2005: Denver, Colorado.
March 17 was the night before my Truman interview. I was pretty sad about missing my only college St. Patrick's Day but decided that interviewing for the Truman was an okay excuse. I wore my t-shirt in my sweet hotel room as I rested up for the big interview. Check out my newly pierced ears!

2006: New York, New York.
During my semester as a substitute teacher, I spent 10 days in Boston and NYC. It was my first trip to both big cities, and I had a great time. On St. Patrick's Day, Andrea and I went to the parade through the city and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And I wore the t-shirt again.

2007: Chicago, Illinois.
Spring Break with my family and Jennie. I had a newly broken heart, but I was trying to keep my chin up for St. Patrick's day festivities. We saw the green river, waited forever for pizza, and drank green beer and orange soda. Lauren, Gabby and I saw Wicked - a very green thing to do on St. Patrick's Day. Look how little Mitch is in this picture!

2008: Indianapolis, Indiana.
I was visiting my dad again for Spring Break which meant another year of St. Patrick's Day with kiddos. We had green breakfast with green pancakes and green hot chocolate. And chocolate because that's what the leprechaun leaves.

2009: Manhattan, Kansas and Falls Church, VA.
I am wearing the t-shirt again. However, this photo is kind of a farce because it was taken on Fake Patty's Day, only one of the greatest days to ever exist in Manhattan. Lu, Abbey, Tara and I pretended we were still college students and spent the day in Manhattan. Good times were had by all. For the real St. Patrick's Day in 2009, I was visiting Rachel & Sol in Falls Church. It was a very calm St. Pat's, but it was still pretty lucky as that was the day I met Penny, Rachel's principal and my future boss. I was NOT wearing the t-shirt.

2010: Falls Church, VA.
I have no idea where the t-shirt is. I will be teaching school on St. Patty's Day for the first time ever. I feel extremely unlucky about this whole situation. I might dye some food green just to make myself feel better.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up.

This weekend was full. That sort of feeling that you get after a nice relaxing brunch in a cozy restaurant. Energized and ready to set out and explore because you had such good conversations with people you love. I haven't eaten a meal by myself (except breakfast) since Wednesday night. And I'm okay with that. I like all this people time.

Friday night we went to dinner with our dear friend Vicki, visiting from Jamaica. Rachel wrote about it already. But what she didn't tell you was that I ordered a WEIGHT MANAGEMENT salad. I think this is an embarrassing and slightly ridiculous name for a salad. I tried to avoid saying the name out loud when I ordered by pointing to it on the menu, but this ended up being an even bigger commotion. So then I embraced it. And I'm telling everyone that the Cheesecake Factory has a WEIGHT MANAGEMENT salad on their menu. It was good, and it was two servings, just like everything else at the Cheesecake Factory.

I think the Cheesecake Factory has very good diet coke, my friends who have come visit are fantastic, and red velvet cheesecake is overrated. Also, embrace the WEIGHT MANAGEMENT salad.

Saturday day was for grad school which continues to overwhelm, encourage and inspire me as a teacher. Then Saturday night, Rach, Sol and I joined the movie group from our school for dinner at P.F. Chang's and Alice in Wonderland. I felt like a very special and lucky kid because I got Rach and Sol all to myself. Finley was at home with his buddy Calvin, and it was fun to eat out once without him. But then I missed him.

I think P.F. Chang's is good (especially during happy hour), my teacher friends are fun, and 3D is overrated. Also, please don't park on nails because you will get a flat tire.

Sunday was full of more loveliness. Brunch with Claire and Judah, my Truman bestie and her boyfriend, at Domku was the perfect start to the day. The food is Slavic and Scandinavian. And they served Abelskiver (pancake balls). Yes, please and thank you. The three of us ate them pretty quickly because they were perfect.

I think you can't go wrong with fried dough, I will miss my friend Claire when she is in Asia, and driving into DC for brunch is not overrated. Also, I would like more pancake balls from Domku.

In honor of Pi Day (3.14), I ordered porridge at Domku that came in this round bowl. Emily and Ryan came over for dinner and more Pi day celebrations. We had Shepherd's Pi and Peanut Butter Pi. Then we played a new card game called "Scrabble Slam."

I think I like any excuse for a celebration, my friend Emily is one smart vet, and that Scrabble Slam is overrated. Also, I lost EVERY game of Scrabble Slam by a lot.

Please come eat dinner with me soon. I might have gotten spoiled with all these shared meals, and I would like to break bread with you now too. Oh, and my car is in the shop with a flat tire so you'll have to pick me up.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thoughts About Birthday Cakes.

My roommate, Karilee, had a birthday last week. She had about ten people over for dinner, and I volunteered to make her birthday cake. And then I asked her what kind of cake she wanted because on your birthday you should choose the type of cake.
Keyword - should.
My little sister doesn't eat chocolate. When my birthday rolled around each July, we ordered a vanilla cake. It wasn't until I went to college that I learned that in other families the birthday kid picked the kind of cake or dessert. We always had white cake.

As I write this, I know that my mom and sister are rolling their eyes. The fact about the white cake is that it was the best cake I've ever had. Still to this day, it is the greatest white cake ever. Unfortunately, the "Cake Lady" as we called her, isn't in the business anymore. Otherwise I would buy each of you a cake for your birthday.

It was that good.

Back to Karilee's birthday cake. She wanted chocolate, and I instantly thought of our friend Meg's wonderful chocolate chip cake. It was so rich and delicious, and I knew Lindsay had the recipe. She emailed it to me, and I almost died. Seriously, my arteries closed up a little bit. The reason the cake was SO good had a lot to do with the 3/4 cup of oil in the cake.

I found an almost identical cake at Cooking Light but in a much lighter form. I followed the directions exactly as they were written and made this beauty of a cake.
Rachel is the only person who thought it tasted "light" but not in a bad way. It was well received at the birthday party and the leftovers were gobbled up at school lunch.

I would make it again because it was moist, and it came out of the pan. My biggest fear in cake baking is that it won't come out of the pan.

And most importantly, it was chocolate. I will spend the rest of my life making up for all the chocolate cakes I didn't get to eat as a kid.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday with Trumans.

Today a group of really nervous college juniors are interviewing for the Truman Scholarship. Last night I hosted a dinner for them in Washington, D.C. at Asia Nine to introduce them to area Truman Scholars. It's a pretty casual event, and we had about two dozen finalists and scholars gathered together for the event.

This photo is from the restaurant's website. I'm embarrassed to be a blogger sometimes when I'm with a new crowd, so I stole one of their photos. Asia Nine was a great spot for the dinner, a true miracle in DC because they willingly split the checks for 24 people. The service was wonderful, food was hot, and we were able to visit around our large table easily. They had several vegetarian options, which is good, because the Truman lot tends to include quite a few vegetarians. Remind me to tell you about the time that I hosted a finalist dinner at Jack Stack BBQ in Kansas City. BBQ restaurants are not vegetarian friendly. Whoops.

The scholars have a lot of fun telling the finalists about what we do in our real jobs, because very few of us actually do what we said we would do in our Truman proposals back in the day. According to my plan, I would have taught three years and then pursued a degree in education policy, probably at Stanford or Harvard. HA. Even on the days where students make me really really frustrated, I wouldn't want to trade my job for a policy position.

I might trade it for a fountain machine and an unlimited supply of diet coke. Like 7-11 or QuikTrip with every option being diet coke. All the time. Yeah, that's a tempting trade.

Conversation is always fun at these events. I love to hear about the things the finalists are doing as undergraduates - it makes me hopeful for the future. It should make you excited too. Water filters in Bangladesh, education standards reform, social entrepreneurship with rats and land mines - this is cool stuff.

I trade their cool adventures with harrowing stories of 8th graders in Kansas and Virginia and a few funny anecdotes from my application days. Like the fact that I watched "The Newlyweds" with Jessica Simpson before my interview. Or I like to tell them that during my interview the panel asked if I had ever been to the Teaching Hall of Fame in Emporia. And I lied and said yes.

Hopefully it helped one of the finalists that was nervous this morning, and he or she said, "If the girl who watched the Newlyweds and lied during her interview could win the Truman, then surely I can too."

Dream big America.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Belle, On a Diet.

Everyone's favorite canine heroine is as lovable as ever. And lately there is a little more Belle to love. When I took her for a check-up and vaccinations a while back, Belle weighed nine pounds more than when she left Kansas City. I wasn't that concerned at first because she was always a little skinny so I thought it was probably just the decrease in her puppy appetite.

But then I began to really notice the extra pudge around her belly. On Sunday, Rachel tried to take her on a six mile run with Copper. Belle was exhausted after two miles. They tried again on Tuesday, and Belle was exhausted again very early and ended up walking with me instead.

Oh Belle. Poor poor Belle. The whole situation is made worse because I know that a lot of this is my fault. I spoiled her during the long winter with puppy biscuits and not enough exercise. And peanut butter, oh, the peanut butter. It made her happy, and she would leave me alone for awhile to clean it off her bone.

We're walking more thanks to the return of warmer temperatures and melted snow. And the other day I stopped at the pet store to pick up this bag of dog food. It's the same brand Belle's been eating, just lighter. I also bought some doggie treats that are "lite."

Look at her face. She knows she's been put on a diet.

So far, so good. No complaints at meal time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Brunch Review: The Lodge.

I knew immediately when I stepped into the Lodge that it was the kind of place you can trust for a good brunch. The atmosphere is a funky and homey blend, and according to Andrea it is huge by Brooklyn standards.

Look at all the warm woods and antler chandeliers. Cozy, huh?

We were out for a very casual Sunday morning brunch (along with the rest of Brooklyn) so we were delighted to find out that mimosas and Bloody Marys were two for one, at only $9 a person. Yes, please, and thank you.

I don't care for Bloody Marys. But I do care that it is served in a Ball canning jar. Perfect! I wish the mimosa was that big too...

The menu included hearty biscuits, egg dishes, french toast and buttermilk waffles. Apparently many people (my bestie Andrea included) like to eat burgers at brunch, so they are common on the menus in Brooklyn.

Andrea's burger was huge and rare - the way she ordered it! I knew there was a little Kansas left in her, eating that huge rare burger. The little bites of burger I had were yummy. I'm from Kansas. I have an opinion on good beef, and this easily passed the test.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so of course I went traditional with pancakes and sausage. They were pretty heavy on the buttermilk which made them perfect for soaking up syrup. The blueberries were sparse, but added fresh pops of flavor.

Brunch is my favorite time of the day to eat "out." The whole day is ahead of you. Girlfriends are honest and conversation is casual.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I Would Be a Bad New Yorker.

I'm on the bus headed home from New York City. When I get back into DC, it will drop me off smack in the middle of downtown DC about two blocks from a metro spot. It will be easy for me to navigate around to the Metro and home to my quiet Virginia suburb. But no matter how comfortable I feel in my own big city or in Chicago, New York City always wears me out.

I love New York. Visiting Andrea and being a quick bus ride from my "oldest" best friend is fantastic. But moving there is out of the question. I would be a terrible New Yorker.
  1. My skinny jeans are not skinny enough.
  2. I have a dog that is really accustomed to having a backyard.
  3. I prefer waiting until the subway has stopped completely before standing up to get off. (In DC, you can tell out-of-towners because they stand up to exit so early. In NYC, if you aren't standing up, you are clearly not a New Yorker with important places to go.)
  4. I do not own riding boots to tuck my skinny jeans into.
  5. I get lost too easily. And sometimes the roads in NYC and Brooklyn start to all look the same. Bars. Restaurants. Tourist shops. Repeat.
  6. The best grocery stores to me have more than four aisles. And customer service counters.
  7. I am overly obsessed with famous people. Seeing them in New York City might make me act like a fool. I had to sit on my hands so I didn't wave at Jimmy Fallon during the rehearsal.
  8. I like driving my huge SUV around town.
  9. Public school teachers don't make very much money. And NYC is pricey.
  10. Every time I see a NYC cop car, I wonder if Olivia Benson and Elliott Stabler are inside.
I could get used to the walking. Eventually my body would catch up with all the late nights out in Williamsburg bars with Andrea. I would put on a few extra pounds eating slices of NY style pizza and bagels, and then walk them off again.

(me in Union Square)

But I think eventually New York and I would want to break up. It'd be one of those "let's be friends" sort of break-ups where everyone mutually decides that it is for the best. We'll still see each other sometimes, and have a great time, but we won't be committed into anything serious. It's for the best, really.

NYC Good Eats: Andy & Vic Edition.

Andrea and I had a busy Saturday that included carefully planned sustenance around NYC..

First stop, Bagelsmith in Williamsburg on our way into the city.

New York bagels are something special. They are big and serious. Because of the way they are boiled and then baked, they are a little chewy in a good way. Not unlike most New Yorkers, they are a little bit of tough on the outside.

Andrea's bagel was a whole wheat everything with scallion tofu "cream cheese." There was no cream cheese, and instead they made tofu look like the real stuff. I don't know about this, but Andrea swore it was good. This is NOT a knock on tofu - I have purchased it several times in the last few months. I just really loved the real walnut raisin cream cheese generously schmeared across my whole wheat bagel.

After the MOMA and the Tim Burton exhibit, we shopped around Union Square for awhile. Then it was time for more food, specifically frozen yogurt at Pinkberry.

I got the medium (don't judge) and all of the fruit the man could squeeze on the cup of coconut and original yogurt. Apparently, it was magic "have as many toppings as you want" day, so Andrea and I both loaded up with all the toppings possible. Good news is that there is a Pinkberry headed to DC soon so I don't have to sit around longing for frozen yogurt for too many more days.

We saw "The Ghost Writer" in Union Square with my friend Vishal. The movie got great reviews, and they were accurate. We all really liked it!

Time for more food. Dereck, eat your heart out, it's New York pizza at its best.

At Carmine's in Brooklyn, there were a ton of beautiful pizzas to choose from for dinner. Andy and I added a cannoli and calamari to our huge slices of pizza - including one slice of veggie, eggplant, pesto, and CHILI DOG.

So good. So good. And then we were so full. The end.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Heart NBC.

I arrived in NYC early (miracle) and made my way clumsily to Andrea's place of work. We left my suitcase and carry-on in her office and grabbed a yummy sandwich in Rockefeller Center. Andrea went back to work, and I started to wander.

First stop, the NBC experience show where I picked up a few things for my NBC junkie friends. I had every intent of going to Times Square because it is a very New York thing to do, but then I saw a sign for the tour of the NBC studios.

"Why not?" I thought, "I love TV." I bought my $20 ticket (a big pricey!) and waited in line with a bunch of families from the midwest and south.

They told us that we had to turn our phones completely off because our signals could interfere with the earpieces in the news ears. I complied, but then I was suspicious because every NBC staffer was on THEIR blackberry or iphone.

First stop, Studio 3C, home of Brian Williams. MSNBC is right next door, so we could see people doing the news live too. The studios are really cold with refrigerated air because the lights make it 30 to 40 degrees warmer. Refrigerated air doesn't add any moisture that could harm the equipment. According to the NBC page who was my tour guide (not Kenneth), Brian Williams actually writes a lot of the news he shares each night.

Next they took us to the studio where Dr. Oz films. I don't watch the show, so I wasn't that impressed BUT it is where Conan filmed before he took over for Jay Leno before he was kicked off. Truth.

The final tour stop was the SNL studio. Friday is a good day for a tour because they bring all of the sets in on Fridays. Tonight Zach Galifianakis (Alan from the Hangover) is hosting and I got to see him rehearsing. Alan! From the Hangover!

The tour was officially over at this point, but earlier in the tour an intern from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon stopped by and asked if any of us wanted to hear Jimmy tell some jokes. Um, yes? Each afternoon, his staff brings in about forty random people to sit and listen to Jimmy read the jokes from the monologue. Depending on how they go over, he decides what he is going to do for the taping.

Jimmy came out in street clothes, and he was awesome! He would read one of the jokes for the first time, and then depending on how much we laughed, he would make some marks about it. I laughed a lot because he's funny and I wanted him to feel good about himself. Fridays Jimmy writes his thank you notes on TV, and he also practiced those for us with the music and everything. You can watch the whole episode here. Know that I laughed at most of the jokes before he said them, so you could say that they are Victoria approved.

I was pretty giddy about the whole NBC experience. I love TV.

After NBC, Andrea and I made it to Brooklyn. We went to a great Thai restaurant and out around town for a bit. We've got big plans for today too. You can follow our progress around town here and here. Viva New York!