5 Things I love Today

Today marks my first day of 21st grade! I mean, I guess since I am done taking classes and am also teaching, it isn’t quite the same, but I’m still counting it. 21 long years in education. Even though I really love what I do, every summer I feel an acute sadness that vacation is over. Teachers out there- I know you are with me. If I was to make a list of what I don’t love in my life right now, it would be this: I had to put on real clothes today and leave my home.  But! That’s not a very helpful blog post. So instead, here are five things I’m loving today. (And as always, the title should be sung to the beat of this song.)

  1. Food News. I love a good podcast. I got hooked on Juliet and Jacoby from their reality TV podcast, and even James will join me for Food News. I’m running a half marathon in November and sometimes it is only those podcast that keep me dragging my way through those training runs. [Reality TV sidenote: Obviously I am loving Bachelor in Paradise, but I’m trying to limit how many times I blast my Bachelor Nation membership across the internet, as I hope someday to be gainfully employed in an institution of academic learning.]
  2. Kayaking. Last week was orientation all day long Monday through Thursday. So. Many. Meetings. To make it worse, DC decided to whip out glorious late summer weather all week. Breezy sunny days with low humidity and perfect temperatures. And there we were freezing in ugly rooms with overzealous AC. But on Friday, a couple of us from my department took advantage of our spare day to hit the Potomac from Fletcher’s cove. We kayaked (read: floated) for awhile, soaking in a last day of summer bliss before the semester starts up. DC really is perfect: big city on the inside, beautiful nature less than 20 minutes outside.
  3. The Office. Somehow I never saw more than a season or two when it was actually on, but that makes it all the more exciting to burn through episodes with James. Married people- find a show and laugh together. It’s my favorite thing.
  4. Dinners that take zero planning. This week we tried out Blue Apron, using a coupon to get $20 off our first order. I strategically planned ours to cover these early days of the semester where things are a little crazy. It was really exciting not just to try new foods, but to have all of the thinking taken out of cooking. I love cooking, and even enjoy planning, but sometimes it is nice to have home-cooked, but not home-planned food. Plus, individually portioned things in tiny containers makes my American Girl doll-loving soul rejoice.
  5. Gelato. We have a great little gelato shop near us, but I have only been once in all the years we lived here… until this weekend when we went twice. Friday night it was the perfect cap to dinner with a friend, and Sunday we were rewarding ourselves for a hard day of adulting the day before. When James was gone all last fall, he hid gift cards around the house. When I was having an especially rough day, he sent me clues to find one and take myself on a date. (I know, not our first long distance rodeo.) I saved the gelato one, because there’s nothing I love more than ice cream with my love, and we finally used it Sunday.

What are loving this Monday?

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Mary Neven & Lee

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PS: Yes, the wedding party did make a donut run in the middle of the wedding day, and yes, it was a VERY GOOD IDEA. Take note all ye brides to be… the way to make the “best day of your life” THE best day of your life might just be a pile of donuts in the middle of wedding photos.

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We should do this.

ambarbrunchSometime back in the spring, we got talking about bottomless brunch at Ambar with a group of friends. You remember the one– it’s the one that undid an entire weekend of plans with its siren song of bottomless mimosas and endless waffles. We sat around discussing it and then we said what everyone of our generation always says:

“We should do that sometime.”

When we say that, we aren’t really intending to do it, we aren’t setting concrete plans, we aren’t moving closer to that esteemed quality of reliable commitment — we are just blandly making plans that we never intend to keep.

Fortunately for us, we have a friend in our group who keeps all commitments, and who instantly pulled out his phone and suggested we pick a date, something that thoroughly shocked our millennial sensibilities. But select we did, and we all started talking through the soonest that the group of us could get together…

…which turned out to be last weekend. That’s right, when we set about making plans in late April, the first date that worked was mid-August. We are hoping to do a repeat outing sometime around Valentine’s day.

This post is intended neither as an ode to busyness, nor a critique of the same. Everyone I know is busy, which is strange, since we all seem to think that our own brand of busyness entitles us to special privileges or at least the right to whine. But busyness isn’t inherently bad either, as filling your time and life with good things is a good thing. The fact that we had to plan four months ahead for a brunch date is a testament to family that visits, friends who wed, work that lets us travel, etc.

But as we were devouring endless plates of brunch food, I kept on thinking that this meal only happened because we actually did it, actually moved past talk to action.

Don’t get me wrong- I am the problem. You are probably the problem. We are all the problem. Maybe some of you actually only make commitments you are going to keep, only plan things you can attend, never double (triple?) book yourself, but probably not. I do it all too frequently. And I never really thought about it until James was gone for those six months last year and I didn’t have a Person, didn’t have someone to make sure that I wasn’t alone at things, didn’t have a guaranteed guest at events I organized. I became really sensitive about people flaking out on me, and started dreading the pre-flake phrases, like “maybe we will stop by,” or “we’re trying to shuffle some things around,” or “give me a call if you end up doing something and maybe I’ll come.” I realized that what I wanted was to be worthy of scheduling, worthy of being the thing that didn’t get shuffled. When people missed things, it hurt the way it hadn’t hurt before, back when I was selfishly cocooned in marriage togetherness.

I have tried (though not always succeeded) to take that lesson forward. I’m aware of the people in my life who are exceptionally good at keeping commitments and how much that means to me. I want to set dates for the things that “we should do sometime,” and then  actually do them. I want to honor the people that I love with my calendar, my presence, my commitment.

Because when you do that, it means deeply invested friendships. It means bottomless brunch for four hours with good friends. It means less of stretching ourselves thin and more of growing roots deep.

I’ll eat four plates of waffles to that.


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Mad Hatter

hatA couple weeks ago, I did what many of you might have done: I spent some online time doing a little shopping over at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale, where items that are typically obscenely expensive become, for a very brief period of time, only moderately overpriced.

And by shopping, I mean filled my cart with approximately $536.27  worth of things that I absolutely did not need. BECAUSE THEY WERE ON SALE.

Then, I made myself a cup of iced coffee, gazed into my closet for a long minute, and slowly went through and removed every single item from my cyber cart, one by one. Because truth be told, I really did not need any of them. I say I do, I say that I NEED new jeans like these, since my Madewell ones (yes, the saga continues!) ripped straight down the thigh after less than six months of moderate wear.  But I don’t really need them, because my back-up jeans are more than sufficient. And I say that I NEED these leggings because everyone swears by their perfection, but I have a couple old pairs that still make noble appearances when I wear them around the home. And when I say that I NEED a new cute fall dress like this one, I really meant hat I just wanted something cozy and fresh.

I’m trying to do this when I buy things, trying to ask myself if I really, truly, need whatever it is. Ever since my massive closet purge, I have really enjoyed having less. Plus, my almost six week stint in a carry-on showed how wonderful a tiny wardrobe can be. I’m not opposed to adding something this fall to give my clothes a fresh look, but I don’t just want to pile on fabric , I don’t want to just fill my closet with random sale purchases.

[I interrupt this post for a public service announcement. Yes, I am mentioning that fall is coming. But not for awhile, and I abhor all premature fall welcoming. Go home Pumpkin Spice Latte- you are not welcome here. We are still summering.]

When I thought over my wardrobe for the coming months, I tried to ask myself if there was one thing that I was missing, one thing that I really wanted to jazz up everything else that I already had. There was. This summer I have lived every day in my cheap French panama hat, and I would really like some sort of fall hat. Something felty and colored, and not too much like a cowboy hat, but not at all like a beanie.

And most definitely NOT AT ALL like this, because this abomination of a head covering should not be allowed to exist. I mean, let she who has never worn a bucket hat and thought it was cool cast the first stone… but still. Please tell me these floppy messes aren’t coming back in.

I did a lot of hat trying-on at the mall the other day, coupled with lots of hat perusing online and I’m loving this plum/maroon number, this one in green (not shown online), this grey one, and this one — though it is flirting dangerously with the cowboy hat line.

But then again, I get nervous, because sometimes wearing a hat just feels… so pretentious. 4425bdfc9292a7eba3de997cb81a82bbAm I the only one who feels that? In the summer, it’s one thing. Sun protection, heat shield, humidity hair– hats are obvious solutions to all these things. But in the fall? They just seem reserved to the stylish elite, of which my member card must have gotten lost in the mail.

All the same, and much to the dismay of my husband, who might have confessed that he was a tad weary of ye old panama hat that I have worn daily all summer, I want to take the fall hat plunge. Any good ones that you ladies have found floating around the fashion world?

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Does everyone know what time it is?

Jordwatch-37Jordwatch-38Jordwatch-41Jordwatch-42Jordwatch-44jordcollage3Jordwatch-59jordcollage2Jordwatch-49…TOOL TIME!

If you read the title and the above  wasn’t your response, than we obviously didn’t grow up in the same glorious 90’s world of Tim and Al. Wilson- come back and give us your unending wisdom.

But in today’s world, you probably don’t know what time it is, unless you happen to be close to your phone, because we all stopped wearing watches sometime around late high school. I held on until part of the way through college, frugally buying one $12 Walmart watch to replace another, an endless chain of cheap silver watches with pastel faces. When the last one gave out sometime close to 10 years ago, I wasn’t even really that sad. Who really needs a watch?

Yet when you are in a long graduate seminar that just. won’t. end, you find yourself wishing for a watch. Pulling out your phone to check the time would be a terrible faux pas, but a quick glance at a watch- much easier to handle. I decided that I wanted to invest in a watch sometime during my MA, but every time I sat down to troll the web for one, my $12-watch buying self balked at real adult prices and I shoved it back down the list of priorities.

When Jord offered to send me one of their amazing wooden watches (or as I like to think of it, a “wearable time tree”), I was thrilled. I spent weeks deciding, hesitating between the Cora, the Sidney, and the Ely as if this was the single most important decision ever. I finally decided that the one shown above went best with my obsession (addiction?) with cognac leather.  I was still a little nervous if I could pull off the big watch look, but once it came, I decided I didn’t care if I could pull it off because I’m a little taken by my pretty wood watch. I love the deep wood color, the simple silver interface, and the tiny pop of glam around the edges. I feel like I am wearing a cool chunky bracelet… but one that can also tell me how long until dinner. I couldn’t wait to take a whole slew of pictures in the trash alley behind our house (high glamour- I know) just so you could get a fine look at that time piece.

James, on all the pictures of woman in front of bland doors/walls that clutter up the Jnternet to show off their style: “Why does everyone look down and throw their hair over their face? It’s like you are all in the witness protection program.”

Thanks James, we all appreciate your running commentary on all things Internet-fad related. But mostly I just appreciate your willingness to stand out back and document my love affair with this watch. I don’t really expect to take it off much anytime soon.

Watch- c/o Jord Watches / Pants-Madewell / Shoes-Clarks / Shirt-Old Navy / Purse-purchased in France years ago when I stopped to go the restroom in a department store and accidentally came out with a purse and a cocktail dress.


Wooden Watch Review

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Bottle this up.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to be one of those poised bloggers, one of those well curated spaces around the internet composed entirely of muted color palettes and carefully crafted posts. Sometimes I want to aspire to that glossy finish, that polished perfection.

But other times, I just want to share weekend recaps full of poor quality iphone photos, and then I feel really thankful that this space is just hodgepodgy enough for that.

And so, here is last Saturday, which was partially wonderful because I DID NOT lug around the big camera. That would have resulted in a way prettier blog post, but a way less enjoyable day. You’re welcome in advance for the resulting selfies.

We (read: me) really wanted to squeeze in a beach day-trip before summer came to an end. We toyed with going back to Dewey Beach, or maybe hitting up the Chesapeake beaches, but when the Washingtonian did an article about the best small towns within a couple hours of DC, the decision was easy: we were heading to Lewes, Delaware. Because if I was to have an epitaph, Greek epic style, it might just be “Hannah, who always did exactly what the Washingtonian told her to do.” Seriously though, it has [almost] never steered me wrong. We invited some friends to meet us at the beach, and we set out early Saturday morning for a day of road-tripping and beach relaxation.

Above you see roadtrip essentials: sleeping husband, matching shades, and Chick-Fil-A mini chicken biscuits.

We rolled into Lewes mid-morning, and I instantly knew that it was my kind of town because we were greeted with this cheery house:I’m pretty sure that it is inhabited by either a fairy godmother, or a wicked witch disguised as an elderly woman. I am ok with either.The beach itself was not quite as nice as we had hoped, as Lewes is on the bay side of a little jetty of land that separates it from Rehoboth and the ocean, but as a child of a landlocked state, my beach standards are low. There was sun, sand, water,…and beach snacks. Boom. Purchased entirely for its snazzy packaging, and I laid down and held it up awkwardly against the sky for this snap, just so you fine readers could appreciate the lavender and blue contrast. Don’t say I never did anything for you.

We spent the day with our friends Susannah, Josue, and their little girl Elise, who was a true beach champ despite her initial distaste for sand and the ocean. These negative sentiments are shared by my loyal landlover husband James, whose Italian beach experience this summer has officially ruined him for all other beaches. Together, he and Elise conquered their fears, going so far as to play in the sand and even enjoy some dips in the ocean. Elise finally fell asleep mid-ocean play, and if that isn’t the cutest thing, than I just don’t know what is.

After sufficiently burning our pasty selves, examining two dead jellyfish, and walking far enough down the beach to confirm that no, we can’t walk to the ocean part of the beach from where we were, we got to the REAL main event of a beach trip: Beach food.

Y’ALL. This ice cream stand might be the best ice cream I’ve ever had. That thing I’m selfie-ing with? It’s a frozen key lime pie slice dipped in chocolate. Glory. Plus, the stand had an amazing teal door, and our awkward portrait game was strong:Aren’t you so glad we have the internet so you can see important things like that? I really did dig around in my hardrive to try to find a picture of us in the identical pose from middle school (spoiler: Suze had head gear), but alas, you are spared because I can’t find one.After food, we celebrated with… more food. Seriously people- Lewes is a foodie paradise. We had great coffee, tasty salads and pizza, and walked all over that cute little town. We even managed to squeeze in a quick game of cards in between little Elise begging to take selfies like a pint-sized teenage tyrant.

The night ended with a perfect sunset and one last walk down the beach, before we parted ways and James and I drove home to the tune of a “Food News” podcast binge and a shameful late-night Burger King stop. I wish I could find a way to bottle up this weekend, to save it in glass jars to pour out when the winter months come. I wish that I could hold onto that feeling of skin tinged pink and ice cream dripping down my hand and splatting on hot asphalt. I wish I could save this weekend to wrap around me when cold months, when busy months, when exhausting months come this fall.

But if I was being really honest, I would have to admit that I wish I could save it even beyond that too. I want it to comfort me not just in this winter, but in all the ones to come, all the ones where life is so much more complicated, so much harder, so much messier than it is now.

It’s not that I don’t want the messy and the hard to come — I do. Every time that I go running, I hit Lincoln Park to do laps in the shade and I feel the tension. I run quickly on the grass path, while the brigade of moms with strollers runs one foot below me on the sidewalk. And even though I know all the logical reasons that have me running on that path, all the choices we have made, choices I stand by and support, it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes I want to be there, with babies and strollers and messy, hard commitments.  I want all the things that make carefree beach weekends more difficult to pull off.

But then again, I know that someday when I am on that sidewalk, pushing strollers and planning naptimes, taking care of a real house, settled in a career — I will watch the runners go by on the path and I know, I am positive, that I will miss it. I will feel a new tension, a tension of loving all that makes life so messy and hard and also missing those days when it felt easy. I know that I will miss what it felt to run on the path and glance back at the moms and their strollers, what it meant to be able to wake up and be heading to the beach 20 minutes later.

And so, I want to bottle up carefree beach weekends for those times too, whenever they come. I want to save these late summer days in all their fresh ease for the days when they seem like just a rose-tinted memory of easy living and simple joys. with hb1 preset

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Capitol Hill Coffee.

I have a pretty great summer schedule down. Housework, exercise, home puttering, emails and photography things in the mornings, then off to a coffee shop for dissertation research or semester prep in the afternoon. This gives me a chance to experience a wide array of coffee establishments across the Hill. For many moons, I feel like the Hill was a surprising coffee shop desert. There was Starbucks and one or two others, but the pickings were slim and unoriginal. But lately we have had a boom of cool spots and these are some of my current favorite haunts around Capitol Hill. And in case you are remembering my extreme distaste in coffee, you should know that I am in the process of reforming. During an especially lazy slump, I threw some coconut milk in James’ leftover coffee and gulped it down… only to find that coffee is BASICALLY MAGIC JUICE THAT MAKES YOU PRODUCTIVE. I had been eschewing coffee shops since Whole30 meant none of those tasty frothy drinks, but my revelation sent me back out in the streets with a new-found love of iced coffee. Adulthood here I come.

Bayou Summer2015-96 Bayou Bakery: House and gardens turned Cajun bakery and coffee shop, right on Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • Pros: Lots of seating, amazing atmosphere with tons of light, outdoor seating, and a full solarium, full menu for study treats and drinks.
  • Cons: Technically, they don’t want people spreading out with laptops all day, though I think they only enforce that during peak busy hours like dinnertime or weekends.
  • Best For: Laptop work (lots of tables), sunny days, coffee dates with friends.

Summer2015-99 Summer2015-98 Mia’s Coffehouse: Rowhouse turned tiny coffee joint right near my beloved Lincoln Park.

  • Pros: Tassttttyyyy drinks that fall outside the normal offerings, like horchata, it has an adorable interior, and is very calm.
  • Cons: Smaller menu, very limited seating.
  • Best For: Reading marathons, as depressing books are made better by sweet Mexican beverages.


Ebenezers Coffeehouse: Trendy and cozy café right near Union Station.

  • Pros: Love the atmosphere, tasty drinks that mimic Starbucks but are way cheaper, comfy chairs,
  • Cons: Limited space, especially table space.
  • Best For: Long days of reading.

Mia's Summer2015-89

And the tried and true chains that we  all love in spite of our desire for trendy new things…

Starbucks: You know the drill. The one on Capitol Hill has a great (and slightly hidden) upstairs room great for studying.

  • Pros: Those terrible for you Starbucks beverages that I crave, the upstairs fireplace and lonnngggg table, and the unspoken understanding that the upstairs is a quiet place.
  • Cons: Sometimes it is really crowded and tourists don’t always understand the silence rule. Also, the chairs aren’t comfortable.
  • Best For: Winter study days, laptop work.

Prêt A Manger: Love the food, love the spaciousness, and love when they clean out the breakfast stuff at 11ish and give it to hungry grad students studying nearby for free.

  • Pros: Lots of good food for hunger breaks, plentiful and comfortable seating upstairs.
  • Cons: A little sterile, lack of that cozy hip coffee house vibe.
  • Best For: Marathon days of paper writing/ exam studying.

What are your favorite coffee shops, in DC or elsewhere? (I’m looking at you Portland readers- I’m coming your way this fall and your reputation precedes you.) I think I will shift locations this fall to hit up some of the great new places that have opened on H Street… don’t worry, I will flood you with those later this fall. Because you were worried. Not.

Photos in this post are all from Bayou Bakery and Mia’s.

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