Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ted's Bulletin, Eastern Market & Monuments.

I swear, I don't force everyone to go to Eastern Market when they visit. But I have been with almost all of my out-of-town guests since I moved to DC. I just really like this part of town and think it is a lovely place to spend a morning.

On my list of restaurants to try near Eastern Market was Ted's Bulletin. I stopped by recently with some visitors but the wait was two hours. Thankfully we had better luck on Saturday and only waited fifteen minutes. I think normal breakfast goers were out of town for the holiday weekend.

It has an old school feel inside. The deli display is filled with homemade pop tarts, snowballs and other baked goods. We didn't have any this trip, but I think I really want to eat the snowball sometime. The pop tarts are yummy too!

It was good, and I'm glad we tried it. The atmosphere is fun with a cute retro feel - they were playing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on the projection screen. The French toast was pretty good - I'd say it was fantastic but the next morning we had incredible french toast that blew it out of the water. Dereck's "Walk of Shame" burrito was stuffed with steak and eggs, and Jon really liked the biscuits and gravy too. Obviously Dereck had a chocolate milkshake for breakfast, and it won the highest marks on his tour of DC milkshakes. It really was incredible.

After brunch we walked around Eastern Market looking at all the vendors. I bought another map, this time of Virginia. I'll need it when I move to Kansas.

The rest of the day went really fast. We walked around Thomas Jefferson and FDR's monuments on the mall even though it was really warm. During the afternoon we cooled off by watching The Hangover 2. It was funny - new jokes but pretty much exactly the same plot as the first one. We had to clean up and get ready for another night out on the town.

I know it's only 9:15 in the morning, so I'm sorry if all this blogging about milkshakes makes you want a milkshake. It's not my fault.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Smithsonian and the National Mall.

I'm sitting on the couch looking at the photos from the past few days, and I can't believe all the things we did and places we went. Erica, Jon and Dereck arrived on Thursday morning, and Erica and Jon left yesterday for South Carolina. Dereck and I continued our marathon sightseeing tour through this afternoon when he flew back to KC.

I have photos from a lot of the things we did this weekend, but there are about forty more things we did beyond what the photos show. We were really busy. Thinking about it makes me want to take a nap. Alright. Another one. I already slept away part of this afternoon.

While I taught on Thursday, Erica and Jon went to Annapolis to see her family. Dereck explored Capitol Hill, took a tour of the Capitol and ate at both of Chef Spike's restaurants. He became a connoisseur of milkshakes in DC over the long weekend, but I'll reveal his rankings later. We grilled out with Rachel and Sol on Thursday night, which was super relaxing.

Friday, Erica came to school and got to experience the glory of middle school. Dereck and Jon went to the Air & Space Museum at Dulles before we met up for lunch at Taylor Gourmet. I found a new favorite hoagie with roasted chicken and delicious homemade pesto.

We headed straight to the Mall after that to see two of the Smithsonian museums. American History was rocking as usual - including a transportation exhibit I had never seen. Erica and I had our picture taken with an early school bus (picture far above). We also briefly walked through the Natural History museum. The Smithsonians are popular for a reason - they are just so well done!

We ate dinner at Tackle Box and had cupcakes from Baked and Wired. It was like having my graduation party again with more friends! Same waiter even as at the party last Saturday. We got all fancy (forgot to take any photos) and went to a speakeasy for drinks in Old Town. We finished our long day with a drink at an Irish Pub and it felt almost like we were in Ireland. Except we were totally in Virginia.

Two days of their trip documented. Three more full and fantastic days to go...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Oh, Little Brother.

It hasn't been that long since I saw Spencer - Christmastime - so only five short months. And he grew a LOT. I almost didn't recognize him when he got out of the car. Same adorable face, just really tall. I am beginning to get concerned he will be taller than me within ten years. I was thinking it wouldn't happen until he got to high school, but at this rate...

Besides his height, Spencer is also not short on personality. He says the funniest things. My favorite moment was at the graduation party. We looked up to find that Spencer had put himself in the corner, facing the wall in a chair.

Tracy went to talk to him first. Do you know why he was pouting? As he told Tracy, "Victoria loves Finley more than me. And that baby." (The baby is Braden!) Nothing she could say would convince him otherwise.

So I went to work. I told him I did, in fact, love him tons. And I let him pick out a cupcake first. I also promised he could wear my cool mortar board. Apparently this is a stage he's going through right now - he keeps us all on our toes. But that smile is so hard to resist!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Royals v. Orioles.

Tuesday evening, Vicki, Daniel and I went to see the Royals play the Orioles in Baltimore. It's a little bit tricky to do because the traffic leaving DC headed to Baltimore is terrible after work. But we got there - and I graded all my students' papers in the car!

I love mascots, so I insisted on taking our picture with these bobble head Orioles. The birds throughout history cracked us up - who thought the Cuckoo bird was a good choice? He's just so angry.

Vicki used StubHub to get us GREAT seats. This is the view - practically behind home plate with a great view of the whole stadium. We were only heckled a little from the Orioles fans around us.

I think when I move back to Kansas City, I might buy a Royals shirt. Mostly I just wear ones from my collection of free shirts from the game, but I think I'd probably get enough wears out of it in KC. Plus, this one says "Brett" on the back, and I'm getting really tired of answering questions about George Brett.

One fan kept asking things like, "Were you even alive when George Brett played?" and "When is he gonna bat?" So I retorted with comments about Cal Ripken. Whatever. Cal is the George of Baltimore.

We ate pretzels shaped like "O's," and I had a bratwurst fully loaded with peppers and sauce. It was perfect with a glass of "Natty Boh," a Maryland area beer. It's full name is National Bohemian, and it's roots are in Baltimore. I liked it, especially with that yummy bratwurst! Vicki had french fries that I dipped in Old Bay and ketchup. I'm soaking up all the Chesapeake area food while I can.

We're still winning when Daniel took this photo - we would lose in the bottom of the 9th. But it was fun to see my sixth baseball stadium (Wrigley, Fenway, Kauffman, Rockies, Nationals, and now Baltimore!), and cheer for the Royals.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Graduation Party at Tackle Box in Georgetown.

After the graduation at George Mason, we made our way through the crazy Northern Virginia traffic to Tackle Box in Georgetown. Easily one of my top three favorite restaurants in DC, their new party room above the restaurant was perfect for the party with family and a few friends in the area.

Everyone was relaxed and in the mood for some fun, drinks from our own little bartender and the best seafood. The floor to ceiling windows give a great view of Georgetown.

I had plenty of family on hand for the celebration. My dad, Tracy, Gabby, Blake and Spencer came from Indiana. My great aunt and uncle Kathi and Ted came from Delaware, and Mom and Lauren came all the way from Kansas for the festivities. And Tackle Box. They know how good the food is there.

Look at all the K-Staters at my party! We'll probably submit this one to the K-State magazine and call it a reunion.

After drinks and dinner, we had cupcakes from Baked & Wired. As far as we are concerned there are no other cupcake stores in Georgetown.

I kind of want to have this party again tomorrow. Everything about it was SO perfect - my friends, family, good food and sangria, fun location, and cupcakes all together in one spot. Thanks to everyone who came and made it a great party!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good Things About Graduating.

Here are some great things about graduation:
  • We wore green. A lot of it!
  • We could sit in any order within our program so I sat by my friends!
  • Adrienne did not have her baby yet so she could be there with us.
  • My family came from Kansas, Delaware and Indiana to be there for the event.
  • I did not have to give a speech this time - way less pressure than back in college!
  • I got a hood.
  • Sometimes if people didn't have their hoods on straight they looked like dinosaurs with spiky tails. Awesome.
  • My little brothers wore navy blazers. Too cute. They also waved at me from the audience a bunch.
  • Our professors gave us all hugs after we walked off the stage.
  • There were pockets in the robe. I kept extra bobby pins in mine.
  • My aunt Kathi wore a white beret. She's classy.
  • The graduation speaker spoke for ten minutes. Short and sweet for real.
And only one not great thing...
  • I still have a few papers and five days of class before they mail me my diploma.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blunch at Westside Local.

Mom and Lauren are here now for graduation. We're busy all day today with brunching, graduating, and a little party in Georgetown. Funny to see them again because we just hung out last weekend in Kansas City on my stealth mission home to secure a job.

Last Sunday afternoon we tried to see the Diana exhibit at Union Station, but there was a mix-up with the tickets. Totally not our fault, by the by. We'd already planned to have lunch at Westside Local, and we were delighted to find a Blunch menu instead of a lunch menu.

Westside Local has a great drink menu, and we decided it was not too early to have a refreshing drink. Wine, cider, beer, delish.

The food was good there. They messed up Tara's order, but I'm pretty sure she was pleased with the final result. Megan got a wee bit tricked with her omelet combination, but hey, the eggs were local. Lauren was borderline OBSESSED with her fried chicken and biscuits. Mom and I split the hamburger, but I put a fried egg on mine. Obviously.

And they know how to fry french fries at this place. I'm considering becoming a local at Westside Local. It was that good.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Whoops. That was a little while between posts. Something sort of awesome and big happened though while I wasn't writing.

I got a job. EMPLOYED. In Kansas City again, starting in July.

Yep. But the story behind the job, which I'm totally excited about, is really a story about God's perfect timing. Last Tuesday I was totally doubting all of the choices and the move. I hadn't heard anything about the job I applied for in mid-April, and I wasn't optimistic about the process. I was really worried that they would ask me to come back for an interview during any of the coming weeks. That had the potential to be terrible. Between graduation, company coming, and the state tests at school, there was no time to go home for an interview. I could have made it happen, but it was stressing me out.

So then on Wednesday, I was plugging along, teaching 8th grade and preparing for my last grad school meeting, when I got an email. Interview - Friday or Monday. Like in a couple days.

I called and told them I would be there on Monday. They offered to Skype the interview, but this is sort of a dream job, so I wanted to be there.

A frantic search for tickets ensued. The first airline tickets from Reagan National were $800 round trip. Not ideal. So we got more creative. Southwest Airlines let me use one of my flight rewards on Saturday afternoon, and I found a return ticket for only $190. Not bad with five days notice.

The timing was perfect. Missing school wasn't ideal so close to the tests, but Monday was the best possible situation because the classes are only 42 minutes. My grad school presentation was first thing in the morning on Saturday morning. A bunch of things I needed to do before Mom and Lauren arrived were done. My heart felt calm, and I was pretty ready.

Things went well. Job secured. More about that later. But most importantly - God is good. His timing is most perfect and he's better at planning than I am.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grad School Update (Again!)

On Saturday we presented our research to our peers. It was the final step in a year's worth of research and really hard work. We had a sweet looking display board and a podcast describing our research with our students. It's available on itunes too, just in case you're interested.

This is my good looking group and our professor with our poster. I made Adrienne take photos because it will be good for baby Avery to know that at 37 weeks pregnant, her mother was still very committed to education.

Here's the update - more things are crossed off than last time. July 1st is getting so much closer!
  • Research paper with team (46 terrific pages) Submitted May 5
  • Research presentation Given May 14
  • Graduate (May 21)
  • Curriculum Project Paper #1 3-5 pages (June 15) Submitted April 18
  • Curriculum Project Paper #2 3-5 pages (June 15) Submitted April 21
  • Portfolio Chapter #1 4-8 pages (June 26) Submitted April 30
  • Portfolio Chapter #2 4-8 pages (June 26) Submitted May 15
  • Portfolio Chapter #3 4-8 pages (June 26)
  • Portfolio Chapter #4 4-8 pages (June 26)
  • Portfolio Chapter #5 4-8 pages (June 26)
  • Metaphor 1 page (July 1)
  • Curriculum Project Paper #3 3-5 pages (July 1)

Love it. Love them. Love how great it feels to be done with our research, outreach and presentation. We're not experts, but we are certainly more knowledgeable now about building student empathy, responsibility and motivation.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Two Babies.

For Rachel's birthday, Sol took her to one of our favorite restaurants for her favorite salad. I watched the two little guys, my first time watching both by myself. I did babysit two little girls almost exactly the same age last weekend - I'm going to become a pro at two babies two years apart!

Braden did pretty well. He took a bottle from me, which is more than Finley can say about his success as a baby. He hated bottles. Baby Braden napped for a little bit, so Finley and I worked in the garden. We fed the plants, watered them, wore gardening gloves (fourteen sizes too big for Finn), and planted one last pot of flowers.

I managed to pull together dinner for Finley, which is tricky when the baby is a little fussy. I walked away from Finley's high chair to swaddle Braden, and then I came back to find Finn with a combination of spaghetti-o sauce and milk smeared all over his face.

It was pretty adorable. And messy.

I chased him around till I got him wrangled into the bathtub, taking a few photos first. Taking photos of yourself and a two-year-old using a mirror is pretty tricky.

And just as I was about to put Finely into the bathtub, I turned around to find him peeing on the floor. He thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever done. His new little potty was three feet away.

Oh boys.

Friday, May 13, 2011


This afternoon I let the girls work with my instructional assistant and the boys stayed with me. Apparently, I hate myself. Things eighth grade boys say:
  • One time I used the girls bathroom.
  • Oh yeah, one time I went in the girls' bathroom and there was a couch! How come they get a couch?
  • Once I was walking to the bus stop, and I pooped my pants.
  • Did you like ET? Were you even born when that movie came out?
  • I can do forty triangle pushups. (Followed by a demonstration, obviously.)
  • Do you listen to Cyndi Lauper? What about Eminem?
  • Did you recommend me for honors history? I'm good at history. I know all about Hitler.
  • Who are you going to prom with? (We don't have a prom. We have an 8th grade dance.)
  • I feel like we're bonding today.
  • and four inappropriate your mom jokes.
One of my professors did her research about cooperative groups and she says it IS possible for students to get work done and talk. Not a lot of work, granted, but I think we'll keep trying to make these occasional same gender groups work. The girls were so grateful when they came back from the library. Sort of like I'd saved their lives. The sacrifices I make...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Confession.

In the style of my friend Mrs. Gray House, here is a Wednesday Confession for you. In the past two months, I bought four pairs of shoes (and a pair of cycling shoes for spinning at the gym. Those only kinda count because I can't wear them anywhere else!)

The purchases are pretty justified and two of them are from EBAY! Thanks, Lauren, for teaching me about cheap new sneakers from ebay.

When Lauren worked for Collective Brands, we bought tons of shoes from Payless, Sperry, and Saucony. When I visited last spring, the Saucony experts fitted me in the Progrid Hurricane. They got pretty beat up with a year of hard wear, but I loved them so I replaced them with the sweet aqua and white combo above. I love the arch support.

The newest pair are the neutral pumps that arrived yesterday from Nordstrom. The "Vickiy" pump (why is it spelled that way?!) are tall. I'm always debating about heels because I'm already on the tall side. But these heels are pretty, on trend, and with only a 3" heel, not that tall.

I am a pretty loyal Sam Edelman consumer. His flats are my favorite to teach in all year long. The Hamilton sandal is perfect for teaching until June 21 and walking around the city.

I finally ventured into the world of casual sneakers with the Nike Eclipse. Highly recommended by my friend Lindsay (she is literally an expert on the subject), I was wary of all the bright colors currently available online. So I kept looking around until I found the Livestrong Eclipse from last summer on ebay. They are perfect for teaching, especially because we wear a lot of t-shirts.

So that's my confession. And I love all four pairs.

Purple Iris.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Garden Grows On.

In the busy season of the past few weeks, somehow I managed to plant a garden. New baby, trip home, grad school frenzy and weeks of company, but somehow it still got planted. Because we had a really warm spring, the garden is growing quickly. It's already so very green!

Thankfully all the hard work we did last year, building garden plots, mixing special soil and mapping out garden plans, made it easy to plant many things this year. Because I am moving home in July, I didn't stagger the planting. I put it all in at once!

I read last year that seeds would save from year to year if you put them in an airtight jar in the fridge with one of those moisture absorbing packs. I was nervous, but the beans have already sprouted so the seeds must have been fine. The lettuce and beets from seeds look fine too!

We took our tomato planting up a notch this year with four varieties growing as vines on our netting. I have to break off the little arms so it grows up up up and not into a big bush. It is painful to do and feels counterproductive, but it totally works. We had lots of green tomatoes last year, and a few yellow and red ones that survived the bugs. One of the varieties is "Early Girl" so I'm hopeful we will have tomatoes earlier in summer.

My rosemary, oregano and chives all survived the winter. And the chives are out of control. Finley and I like to break them off and smell them - I've got to cut them way back. I planted two more basil plants this year because they are a favorite too!

There are lots of squash and zucchini, onions and two different types of hot peppers. I think I should put a cucumber in too, and Sol has his heart set on pumpkins. Sometimes Finley drives by in his Cozy Coup and gets out to help me. We're watching the strawberries very closely because it looks like we will have an abundant crop. They also survived the winter and are thriving in our little plots.

We did NOT plant broccoli and eggplant again. Broccoli wasn't worth the cost and work, and we don't like eggplant. I think I plotted one tiny section of radishes, but I have little hope for them. I was too late for the radishes, which is too bad. We're feeding and fertilizing much more regularly this year, but the soil from last year is so rich and dark I think everything will grow super well regardless. Total cost for this year's garden was about $130, so we might actually save ourselves some money on produce this year. Maybe?

But as Sol says, the real point of having a garden is the hobby and the pride. And showing off to your friends that you can grow something. We love it, not for the cost saving measures, but because it is convenient and SO fun to cook with stuff from our backyard.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

The great thing at moms - and mine in particular - is that when they look at you, it is clear that they love you. In a totally earth shaking way. When I'm telling a funny story, being a little dramatic, or struggling through a problem, I can hear the love in her voice and I can see the compassion in her eyes. It's like she sees that little girl and her practically a grown-up little girl at the same time and is immensely proud.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! You are the best.mom.ever. (And also on Twitter now!)

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Four Books of April.

Hiiiiiiiiii. Guess what? We submitted our 46 page paper with 20 pages of appendices last night for grad school. We've been working since August on our research together, so it feels GREAT to cross it off our list. You can cross it off yours too! Major work getting done.

Somewhere back in April, I also squeezed in four books.

A Visit from the Goon Squad was on my to-read list BEFORE it won the Pulitzer for fiction. I'm cool like that. Also, I didn't love all of it. I think I understand why it won the Pulitzer, but it was a little complicated at some points. Maybe some extraneous characters. But there is a chapter near the end where the story is told through a power point slide show, and it is so good I cried. It was one of those books I stayed up late to finish. I think I struggled with it because I read it right after another book written in a similar style with multiple perspectives. Anyways, I would recommend it if you like to read Pulitizers or like power point.

Smile is an adorable graphic novel that the reading specialists at school practically shoved in my hands. It took me less than an hour to read, and it's super cute. Every girl who had braces or felt awkward in middle or high school (and everyone does) will like it. It's an autobiography and pretty sweet.

Moon Over Manifest won the Newbury, a big deal for juvenile literature. Some bloggers thought it was an unusual pick for the Newbury, but I did like it. I hosted book club, and we talked about it, and we all were glad we read it to the end. My grandmother, a retired reading teacher, also read it and found it more enjoyable on the second read. I think that's probably true because you would appreciate the characters so much more!

I follow the owner of an independent bookstore in Kansas City on twitter. While she makes me feel pretty guilty about the love I have for my Kindle, she also provides excellent book recommendations on a regular basis. She's the reason I picked up The Tiger's Wife. It's a story that weaves between present day Serbia and Yugoslavia, through all the war and division. It's a big story, and almost a week later, I'm still pondering some of the parts. I really did love it. The Tiger's Wife needs to be savored, carefully thought through and enjoyed. I read a bunch of reviews of the book after I finished and was humbled to learn the author is younger than I am. Yep, born in 1985. Good job, Tea Obreht.

I'm planning a trip to Serbia in summer 2012 to visit my friend Vicki who will be working there for the State Department so I was constantly marking places and things that happened in the story. A country with such a recent history amazes me.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Willa Cather.

Photo by me in Red Cloud, Nebraska. March 2010.

I love Willa Cather. She's from Red Cloud, Nebraska, about thirty minutes from where the first six generations of my Kansas family lived. So when she writes prairie stories about immigration and bravery, I feel like I'm getting a peek into my past. My Antonia is my favorite Willa Cather book, but I also love Song of the Lark which takes place in Colorado. My senior English research was about Willa Cather, and when they asked me my favorite book during the Truman interview, I said My Antonia.

After a little bit of stressful Monday, I climbed in the car to head to the gym. When I turned on NPR, I heard a man talking about Willa Cather. And My Antonia! Listen to the story here. It's only 4 minutes, and he makes a convincing case for reading My Antonia. The man who is telling the story also has family ties to Red Cloud, which endeared him to me.

So I'm moving My Antonia high up on the list of my books to reread. It feels like the right kind of coming home book before my move in July, rich in the prairie and familiar characters. And Antonia is so brave. We all need more examples of brave women.

Monday, May 2, 2011

One for the Patio, Please.

Saturday night while I was house sitting, I decided to take Belle and walk to Del Ray for dinner. No agenda, just food. There are a few places with patios, and I was thrilled we could get a table outside at Cheesetique. Kansas City readers - it's like The Better Cheddar, but with a wine bar. Yum. I had read about it before and had browsed inside, so I was really excited to try dinner.

And totally okay with dining by myself.

Belle lounged while I ordered and enjoyed every.single.bite of my muffaletta. The fresh mozzarella was delicious, and so was the rioja wine I ordered. Look at me, all grown up and drinking red wine.

By myself.

I was dining solo al fresco because I wanted to be. I could have driven back to my house and eaten with Rachel and Sol or tried harder to meet up with my friends who live close by, but I wanted to do this thing by myself.

I've written before about being single and meeting someone, and I totally want to end up with someone. I believe (about 80% of the time) that God has picked a perfect mate for me. Some days I have my doubts as another friend seems to pass me by getting engaged or straight up lap me by having a kid. Or two. But I think in the end, I'll be with a partner that loves me.

The last couple years were good for me. I made decisions that I wanted to make based on the things that were important to me. I did date a little which is a story I keep meaning to write down but continue to avoid. It's not serious - just a little funny and embarrassing, and clearly, fruitless. But I mostly traveled, taught, studied and shopped. And spent so much time with people I love.

Because I'm an extreme extrovert, dining by myself is probably not going to become the norm. But I have noticed a shift in my thinking. It's more okay with me to do things by myself, move back in with my mom, and go to my high school reunion without a date. It's not the end of the world.

Aren't you proud? I am. I think you have to like yourself to be able to do things by yourself.