Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Christmas

One year, the day after Thanksgiving, my mother opened off the holiday season by sliding a cardboard box filled with two gigantic stuffed bears down our front staircase and calling out "Here comes the Christmas crap!"

When I was very young those two bears were my size and magical; at that point I was a teenager and they were just two oversized stuffed bears -- as my mom aptly put it, "Christmas crap."

I guess it's easy to believe that the Christmas season is beautiful and mysterious and anticipatory if you're five; if a string of lights wound around a doorway causes you to exclaim, as my sister once did, "It looks like the entrance to Disneyland!"

Later this afternoon I am going to take that damn tree back to the Target, and tomorrow I am going to go to Eastern Market and see if I can find something a little less plastic with which to adorn my dream apartment. It probably won't be a full-sized Christmas tree, but it will be something. Maybe candles, or handmade stockings. Maybe a plant. I don't know.

I could go all DIY and make my own decorations, but my creative instincts are best kept to experiments in cooking. (This morning I tried; I took some tissue paper from an ATL bag and folded it into quarters and attempted to cut it into a snowflake, like this one guy suggested to do on the NYT. It looked like a three-year-old had done it. I put it in the recycle bin.)

So I'm sitting here, staring at my apartment, which is otherwise filled with lovely natural wood and my pretty parquet and my five framed photographs of places I've been and my sixth framed cutout of the newspaper on the day Obama won the election, and now my ghastly plastic tree, and thinking "well, if I put handmade, locally-made red and green candles in the windows, if I maybe bought some hand-knit stockings and hung them across my bookcase, if someone at the Eastern Market is better at hot-gluing things to pinecones than I am and maybe I bought one of those and put it on my table... then would it feel like the anticipation of a holiday?"

What does one do to herald in a season when one is too old to believe in the magical properties of a stuffed bear, too "discerning" to consider a string of colored lights around a door transformative, too depressed by the news of the Black Friday mob death (not to mention the grossness and the ugliness of all the disposable plastic garbage available at Wal-Mart and Target) to want to do a lot of shopping, and too unsure of what the best ways are of returning any sense of celebration to a holiday that has long lost its ritual, but maybe it would be nice to have something special in one's apartment, because it's friggin' Christmas for Christ's sake!

Oh -- and too frugal to believe that one should spend a great deal of money on this kind of thing.

(Btw, GoriGirl, thx for the suggestion re: potted live plant. Will look for one when I am out tomorrow morning.)

Friday, November 28, 2008


When I was a kid, I used to love to look at the Christmas tree. It seemed so peaceful, so pretty. There were two ornaments I particularly liked, for reasons I can't remember why -- a little gingerbread boy and a little gingerbread girl. One year I was infatuated with a set of "realistic"-looking birds that someone had given my mother and which ended up on the tree. But mostly it was the lights against the nighttime darkness.

(Our tree, Christmas 2004.)

It's a Blue family tradition to put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, and since I do enjoy keeping traditions alive and I am going to be hosting my parents and my aunt and my sister in my dream apartment for Christmas 2008, this afternoon I went to the Target and I bought a tree and I came home and I put it up.

I want this Christmas tree out of my house.

It doesn't feel peaceful and it doesn't feel right; it feels plastic and gross and ugly. And it's not because I went and bought the cheapest one, either (though to be fair I bought the second cheapest one). It just looks awful, especially after I came back from the Target and read online that a man had been trampled to death this morning at a Wal-Mart:

By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but it was hopeless.

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains.

They broke through the glass doors.

And now I have a stupid plastic fake Christmas tree in my dream apartment, which is otherwise only filled with things I like.

I want to take down the ornaments and unstring the lights and put the tree back in its box and take the box back to Target. And then I want to -- I don't know -- maybe go to the Farmers' Market and buy some gourds or something, or a poinsettia, or maybe buy nothing at all, because the whole thing has thoroughly depressed me.

People decorate for Christmas because we to celebrate the season, and because we crave ritual and all of that. But this tree isn't any kind of a celebration. It's ridiculous, and ridiculously ugly. It's completely, 100% anti-Christmas.

So after I take it back, then what do I use to decorate my apartment?

More Pictures From My Life

Here are more pictures I've taken recently (and some not-so-recently, but I just finished pulling all of the pictures off of my cameraphone):

The Obama HQ in Stafford, VA. It's a little hard to read, but the sign it is covering reads "Heart & Soul: Ari's House of Dance and Performing Arts." (It's about time the arts supported something besides themselves!)

The White House on Election Night. Surprisingly, the picture doesn't at all do justice to how many people were actually there.

The spread of food at my housewarming party. I love my apartment. Everything is so minimalist and clean, and I have that fantastic view. Sometimes I think I will never be so lucky as to live in another place with such a beautiful view.

The food, close-up. Realized when it was all on the table that nearly everything was brown. Meh. Also, I need a large pitcher so I can decant things like that jug of apple cider and maybe make it look more inviting.

My friends and I call this the "Epic Fail" construction company. Mostly because we live our lives dictated by internet memes.

A few places have gone out of business recently (none sadder than Olsson's Books and Records). This one amused me because, next to the giant Blue Screen of Death, there is a piece of printer paper taped to the window that says "Ask About Our Reverse Mortgage Plans." Guess that one didn't work out so well.

One of many new bank mergers. I want to know how much they paid to get Regis and Kelly involved. Also -- and it's hard to tell from the picture itself -- the fake smile on Kelly's face looks a lot more like she's in extreme pain. Either she's horrified by the direction her career has taken, or those skinny jeans are cutting off her circulation.

Two Kheers + Time = PIE

It's a little hard to tell that there's a kheer under there because I kinda went nuts with the garnish. But here's what happened:

The party invite I got said that dinner would be served around 6:30 and that people could come earlier if they wanted, to socialize. I arrived at 7:00, was the first person there, and was able to help my hosts do some of the cooking. The other guests all came around 9:00 p.m., and it was quarter-to-ten before the hosts insisted we stop chatting long enough to move to the table for food.

There were two kheer-like desserts in attendance: mine, which was a lot closer to a rice pudding than a kheer, and another one which used vermicelli. Both sat in the kitchen waiting their turn to be brought out, and both ended up sitting in the kitchen, forgotten, for hours. When the various desserts were served (there were many, because nearly everyone had brought something), the guests were appropriately excited about having both kheer and "rice pudding" until we realized that both desserts, having sat unattended for nearly six hours at this point, had dried out completely. (The first guest to take a bite of my kheer said, kindly, "should we add some more milk to this?") We ended up with one dish of hard, crunchy rice and one dish of vermicelli that had swollen to the size of spaghetti noodles.

Luckily there was also pie, and plenty of it.

Despite the fact that we forgot about the kheers, it was a great party. Or, perhaps, because of the fact that we forgot about the kheers, it was obviously a great party. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I was going to write one of those perky Thanksgiving-style posts, in which I listed out a rememberance of items, people, and places for which I was thankful.

I thought of it yesterday at lunch, when I -- having put the final touches on a project that has been keeping me busy non-stop for the past few weeks -- let myself take a complete lunch "break" and found myself walking uptown, as it were, past the place where I temped when I first arrived in the city.

No one was sitting in the park today, but I walked around its perimeter anyway and remembered how I had ached to have pretty clothes and to get to go to work with smart, fun-looking people like the ones I saw in the park.

This time, I was wearing one of my ATL dresses and my high-performance MBTs and had an invitation to go out to the movies in the evening and was meeting another group of friends the next day for Thanksgiving dinner.

I was, in every sense of the word, thankful.

My phone, meanwhile, was vibrating repeatedly but I didn't bother to pick it up; it was too much work to fish it out of my keyring purse and punch all the little buttons with gloves on.

When I got back to the office I opened up my phone and found out that there were bombs going off, all over Mumbai.

It's hard to respond to something at which I stand at so great a distance and simultaneously am linked to so many people who stand much closer; sending long-distance hugs to all of the people I know who are connected to the city is the strongest thing I can think of to do.

But it has put a pallor on the day, particularly considering that the hosts of the Thanksgiving party I am going to attend in a few hours grew up in Mumbai.

When I sat at my laptop and thought "what am I going to write about that encompasses all of the emotions of this strange day?" I decided to procrastinate by going back and looking at the posts I wrote on Thanksgiving Day last year.

Last year, I had just come back from India and celebrated by making kheer for Thanksgiving dinner.

This year, a year's better at cookery, I'm going to make kheer again. Not exactly for celebration this time, but as a way to remember both Thanksgiving with my own family (this is the first Thanksgiving I've ever celebrated without them) and to do something that is the cooking version of sending out long-distance hugs.

If it turns out well, I'll take it to the dinner along with the bottles of wine my hosts requested me to bring. (This year, at least, it will fit in with the other foods.) If not, I'm pretty good at eating my own cooking.

And to everyone in or connected to Mumbai: my thoughts are with you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Yoga News

So I've overextended (that's a fancy way of saying pulled, right?) the muscle underneath my ribcage. Not sure what muscle that is, but I do know that it hurts.

I talked to my yoga teacher about it and she said that it happens to a lot of students if they push themselves too hard trying to do Marychasanas A through D. This makes sense because I am nothing if not a push-too-hard kind of person. She prescribed deep breathing exercises (to bring healing oxygen to the sore muscles) and suggested a few modifications for me to use in my daily practice until it stops hurting and I can go back to pushing-myself-but-not-too-hard.

I can kind of predict how well my day is going to be based on how my yoga practice is in the morning; days where my body is responsive and my breath is focused tend to be really good days, and days where I have physical (or occasionally mental) issues tend to be not-so-good. Which meant that today, where I spent a good portion of Mysore class feeling like a giant waste of space because I was only able to mark through half of the postures, was pretty terrible.

Bleh. On the plus side (sort of), the yoga studio will be closed over the Thanksgiving holiday, which means it will be a good time for me to rest my overextended muscle and maybe start working my way back into things. (I was able to do friggin' jump throughs last week and I am so irritated that I can't do them this week!)

Why do I take Ashtanga so seriously? Because it is that awesome. That's why. ^__^

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yoga Rest Day

At the beginning of my Ashtanga practice, whenever Saturday rolled around I was all "dang, it's yoga rest day! but I want to do my yogas!"

Now I'm all "BRING IT."

I guess I've reached another stage in my Ashtanga practice: the stage where I should probably start going to class 3x per week instead of 2. I'm getting into more difficult postures now, the ones where I have to be "placed into" the posture by my yoga teacher because I'm not yet flexible enough to find the posture on my own. I've been working on Marichyasana D for three weeks and haven't been given another posture (the posture I referred to on my Twitter yesterday was a closing posture), which is completely fine, because I am having enough work getting myself in and out of Marichyasana D and still haven't found a way to unlock it.

I'm also a bit perturbed because after a lot of work I was able to do successful jump throughs (not jump backs -- still haven't figured out how to get my knees pulled in enough for those), and then after a few days of being able to do jump throughs I suddenly couldn't any more, no matter how tightly I tried to tuck my legs in.

So I need to start going to class more, and I probably need to start getting up a little earlier to do so (gaah! 5:30 a.m.!). But I wouldn't do it if I didn't find Ashtanga completely intriguing, and if I wasn't enjoying myself. (I still think that Ashtanga uses the parts of my brain that used to get excited about playing video games: the parts that are all "ooh, how do I defeat this monster, maybe if I try this way or that way, ooh, now I did it! and I get to move on to the next level, which is 95% exactly like the previous level except for this one harder thing...")

Sometimes I look at the other students in Mysore class and think "wow, if I keep this up someday I will be doing what they're doing -- and that looks really hard!" Sometimes I think "why aren't my hamstrings as flexible as everyone else's? darn my short-legged genetics!" And sometimes I think "I wonder if I'll still be doing Ashtanga in ten years? I wonder if I'll still be doing it when I'm 80 years old? I wonder if it fights osteoporosis?"

But mostly I think "I need to come to Mysore more often."

Which means 5:30 a.m.

These days I (and my muscles) really appreciate yoga rest days. ^__^

Friday, November 21, 2008


A good chunk of my cultural education, as a child, came from the bi-monthly Signals catalog that arrived at my parents' house.

We never bought anything from it, but I read it cover-to-cover, and thus learned that Rumpole of the Bailey's wife was called "She Who Must Be Obeyed," and the names of all of Jane Austen's books as they corresponded to their giant boxed VHS miniseries sets, and that hobos drew drawings of smiling cats next to the homes of friendly women, and for only $29.95 you too could have a smiling cat to hang outside your home.

I learned, from the Signals catalog, that there were shows called Fawlty Towers and Are You Being Served? and Doctor Who, and the details of old-timey radio programs like The Shadow, and that Madame Alexander had made a set of very ugly dolls based off of the characters in Little Women, and even though they were very ugly dolls I wanted them anyway because I liked anything to do with Little Women.

(I think, actually, we did buy something from the Signals catalog once. I convinced my parents to buy me a giant puzzle which featured images from all thirty-seven of Shakespeare's plays, for one of my birthdays.)

I hadn't thought about the Signals catalog in years until I saw one, addressed to "occupant," arrive with the mail at work (and get dumped, with the other catalogs, on the lunchroom table).

I brought it home with me and sat down to read it cover-to-cover.

Some things never change. They're still selling that "hobo cat drawing" woodcut. They're still selling the umbrella that looks like a bouquet of roses when it's folded up. They're no longer selling the personalized "authentic Egyptian hieroglyph" necklace where the hieroglyphs, miraculously, spell out your name; or the Jane Austen sets; or anything to do with Rumpole of the Bailey.

They no longer have the full page of iron tavern knots which they advertised would take hours to "untie;" I used to study them and try to figure out how the metal would have to be manipulated to separate the pieces.

The abundance of Celtic kitsch is now sharing space with a fair segment of Indian kitsch; I could have purchased a wooden plaque that read "Namaste," or a bracelet that read "Karma: What Goes Around Comes Around." They also had figurines modeled in "yoga poses" that looked nothing like anything I've ever done in my Ashtanga class.

After fifteen years the Signals catalog no longer reads like a cultural repository but instead appears like an effete Skymall (not to mention that all pop-culture references older than 2006 seem to have been removed -- Harry Potter claims some page presence, but there is no Rumpole or John Cleese or even Doctor Who, to say nothing of The Shadow). This is truly disappointing.

But it amuses me that they're still selling that hobo cat picture to hang outside your door. There must be a lot of women out there who want the neighborhood to know that they're the kind of person who would give a hobo food, at least in theory. ^__^ I wonder what happens when the real hobos show up?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Bowl

Though I'm not expecting gifts of any magnitude this Christmas, I occasionally indulge myself in what can only be termed a "Christmas Wish List." (If this were April and not November, it would simply be a "wish list.")

Admittedly, I should be wishing for practical things: a digital camera to replace the one that got lost-and-or-stolen in Delhi, a new laptop or notebook to replace my cantankerous machine which takes 1/2 hour to reboot (among other charming proclivities).

But this year, all my wishes are kitchen-related.

A spatula.
A teakettle.
A toaster. Maybe one of those toasters that does wide slices of bread.

I should probably just buy the friggin' spatula already (I've been handling all of my pancake- and egg-flipping needs with the edge of an all-purpose slotted spoon), but I'm still trying to fulfill my goal of setting aside two months' living expenses by the end of the year, and am monitoring my cash-flow very, very carefully.

So carefully, that when I mentioned to a friend that I was pining for a breadmaker, and my friend showed me instead how to make No-Knead Bread (won't bother with the hyperlink -- google it yourself, it's an internet phenomenon), and I realized that I would need a large mixing bowl to make the bread myself... well, I ended up electing not to go to the Richard Avedon exhibit at the Corcoran that weekend because I had to offset the cost of the initial breadmaking supplies, including the bowl. (No, I didn't cancel plans with friends. I was going to just go on my own, and ended up going to the National Portrait Gallery instead, which is my favorite museum in the entire city. I like studying the faces. It was also an amazing thing to go into the Hall of Presidents and to think that in a year Obama's portrait will hang on the wall.)

That bowl has more than repaid its $4.00 value. It's so -- I want to say "delightful," but I don't want to sound silly about it -- fantastic to have a large mixing bowl. I've never had a large mixing bowl before. I've always mixed things in old yogurt containers or large-ish generic Tupperware containers or other random non-bowl-like substances.

I think I've used that bowl every day since I've bought it. I've used it to make bread, I've used it to make yogurt, I've used it to hold chopped vegetables, I've used it to mix chickpea flour and yogurt to make karhi. I love my bowl.

It's so neat that one little thing can make me so happy. ^__^

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Too Many Stories!

I have way too many blog posts to write and not enough time to tell them!

Let's see...

  • I tried to make laddoos using a recipe from the internet, and they turned out like laddon'ts.
  • I had a party! It was awesome! There are pictures!
  • President Bush's email address is nuts and OMG Hillary SoS and Obama is so cool and I loved the article about Michelle Obama's booty and should I be one of those people who rents out her apartment for inauguration weekend????
  • I also have all these other pictures I've been taking, like the one of the Epic Fail sign, and I need to post them so you all can see them!
  • I bought a pair of gloves which is good because I didn't have gloves before, and they're the kind that go part of the way up my arm so they keep the whole thing warm, and they've got a diamond pattern knitted into the back and they're really pretty.
  • I've gotten to the point in Ashtanga where my yoga teacher is assisting me into getting into more complicated postures, and now I'm all "should I be going to class every day so she can assist me more?"
  • Also I read this Ashtanga book which was all about focusing my mind and stuff, and I'm like "I can do that, but then I would have to stop doing my daily practice while I play last night's Daily Show/Colbert Report on Hulu, and I don't know if it's worth the trade off, even if following the drishtis promises me inner peace and enlightenment."
  • I've made three more loaves of bread! They're still totally weird shapes because I've been baking them in my Dutch oven, but tomorrow I'm going to buy a loaf pan and that should solve the problem.
  • I saw Christopher Plummer speak tonight, and it was sad because he looked nothing like Captain Von Trapp but at the same time I wish that when I'm 78 years old I could be just as articulate and witty and intelligent as he is, never mind the face wattles.
  • Today's Questionable Content is just like the inside of my head is, most of the time. ^__^
I guess maybe I don't have to write most of these posts anymore. ^__^ Though I do want to share the ones that have the pictures.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


So if I were to be a "proper" cooking blog, I would have a step-by-step recount of everything involved in a particular recipe along with pictures at each stage.

I'm going to cut to the chase.

It's extremely gratifying to eat, in the morning, a warm-sweet cup of your very own homemade yogurt.

For some reason I thought that yogurt was going to be difficult to make and would involve, at least, a blender. But Madhur Jaffrey's instructions were simple: heat milk until it rises, simmer for one minute. Pour, little by little, into a (non-metallic) bowl in which you have already placed two tablespoons of yogurt. Stir the yogurt-milk mixture, cover it, and put it into a warm place, preferably a gas oven with the pilot light on. Wait about 8 hours.

In the morning I had yogurt!

It's a lot thinner than the yogurt I'm used to, but it tastes much better.

And, for a person who eats two pounds of yogurt/week (I buy a new 2 lb tub every weekend, and wash out the old tubs and use them to store flour and dal), it's a great way to save cash and cut out just a little bit more of those preservatives and additives that show up in things.

I love yogurt. ^__^

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bonus Food Post: My Bento

From the top: breakfast bento with Kashi, yogurt, and apple; lunch bento with aviyal, homemade bread with peanut butter, and apple; and then a closeup of the lunch bento just in case you didn't catch all of that awesome homemade bread detail the first time. ^__^

You will notice that my bento are not Totoro, despite the fact that I referenced Totoro bento in this post. I just can't bring myself to pay $50 for what would amount to a pretty lunchbox. (Sigh. Sometimes I regret being so friggin' frugal all the time.)

On the other hand, I think my lunch is cuter when you can see it through the box!

Food Post 3: Bread

I baked a bread!!!!

I know it doesn't look like much, but it's my very own and I baked it myself with 100% whole wheat flour and a No Knead Bread recipe.

I was so nervous throughout because I was sure that it wasn't going to actually turn into bread. First the dough didn't absorb all of the water, then it didn't form a nice tight loaf shape. I was ready for this mess to bake into anything but bread.

But it turned into bread! I was so thrilled. And it tastes fantastic -- better maybe than any bread I've ever tasted, but that's probably just because I'm so proud of being able to bake it.

Why did I bake my own bread? A few reasons: to increase the healthiness of my diet, to remember what bread without extra sugar and HFCS tastes like, and to continue on my (perhaps temporary) locovore kick. Also just to see if I could do it.

I'm so proud of my bread. Yay bread!

Next up: making (non-goat) yogurt.

Food Post 2: Goat Yogurt

You have to click on the clip above, if only to hear the music. It's from the 1968 television adaptation of Heidi (the infamous one that preempted that football game), and it's kind of the music I hear in my head every time I think of goats.

So when I showed up at the Farmers' Market, half-an-hour before it closed, and found out they were out of cow yogurt and only had goat yogurt left for sale, I said "I'll try that!"

Alpine hills, pretty red dresses, symphony orchestras, and happy children squirting goat milk directly into their mouths. Sounded delicious.

Not so much.

Do you know what goat yogurt tastes like?


For all goat yogurt is supposed to be easier to digest than cow yogurt, I tried it twice and both times it made me feel nauseated. The texture felt hairy. Putting fruit in it didn't help either.

I did, however, quickly find a home for my goat yogurt: I sent around an email at work asking if anyone would like a fresh pint and instantly got a response. So someone else gets a delicious present, and I don't have to waste food.

Next time I'll get to the Farmers' Market a little earlier.

Food Post 1: The Farmers' Market Is My New Church

There have been a few books I've read, in my adult life, that I can legitimately say changed the way I think about the world:

The Gulag Archipelago.
The English Patient.
Your Money Or Your Life.
Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?

And now, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Probably I should give more credit to Michael Pollan than I should to Barbara Kingsolver, since it was Pollan's infamous NYT article that first started me on the path towards what became a vegetarian lifestyle, but truth be told I read both An Omnivore's Manifesto and In Defense of Food and found them both... boring, when they weren't being polemic. Even In Defense of Food wasn't so much "in defense of food" and was much more "don't eat this, don't eat that, chickens get their beaks torn off at birth."

Barbara Kingsolver's book, on the other hand, made every part of me ache to give up my usual staples of imported bananas and oranges in favor of following nature's divine plan of eating asparagus in March, apples in October, and root vegetables in January. She has the ability, like my favorite cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, to turn a recipe into a story. And Kingsolver weaves her central theme: eat seasonally and eat locally, into every page of her book.

With that in mind, I hauled myself out of bed early enough to make it to the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Farmers' Market this Sunday. (This in itself was no easy feat, since I -- of course -- had to make time to roll out the yoga mat beforehand.)

The Farmers' Market is going to be my new church. If I combine the fruits and vegetables I can buy at the Farmers' Market with the grains and rice I can get at the Ethiopian grocery down the street, I may never have to go back to the Safeway again. ^__^

Since I already still had plenty of aviyal in the freezer from when I bought all of these vegetables,
I spent my time loading up on my favorite fruit: apples. I bought four different varieties of apples, none of which I had tried before, and none of whose names I can remember at the moment! Next week I'm going to branch out and try some different kinds of squash. I also want to make a window box for herbs, although I'm not exactly sure how to do it and I've never been able to successfully keep a plant alive, not since I was in third grade and we all planted beans in paper cups and mine never, ever, sprouted.

I don't have a good ending for this post, but consider it a precursor to the two food posts which will follow. ^__^ (And read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, if you haven't already.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama's Shoes

I love my MBTs. Love-love-love them. I'd like to buy the world a pair.

When I first wrote about my MBTs, I posed a question: what kind of athletic shoes does Barack Obama wear?

Well, now we have an infamous picture to give us a clue:

Ladies and gentlemen, the President-Elect of the United States of America wears Asics.

Should I change brands?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day

Here's what I remember.

Debating on whether or not to go to Ashtanga class in the morning because if I skipped it, I could be the first in line at the polls and then I could have even more time for volunteering. In the end I went to Ashtanga. (It was a great class.)

Straight to the polls after that, standing in line for just over 45 minutes before it was my turn. They offered me the choice between a paper ballot and the electronic voting machine, and I said "whatever's easiest," which I regret only a little bit because they gave me the paper ballot and I was hoping I would get to see what one of those fancy e-voting machines looked like.

Giving my (slightly unusual) last name to the woman with the voter registration sheets and hearing her comment "wow! there are two people here with that name!" Getting to tell her that, yeah, the other one's my sister and we live two apartment buildings apart.

Feeling a bit of chagrin while staring at the ballot and realizing I know nothing about any of the candidates running for any office other than President and Congress. I vote straight ticket where I can and skip the things like School Board, where I figure I'll let the parents sort that one out.

Taking my "I Voted" sticker into Starbucks to get my free coffee, which I load up with honey and cinnamon. Everyone in the Starbucks voted for Obama and we're all talking about how awesome it was.

Going home, showering etc. and heading out to Obama Headquarters in Arlington. On the way stopping by Ginza, a Japanese boutique in Dupont Circle, to give one of the employees the direct number of a person who would drive her to the polls. (All that phonebanking and the one person I actually, directly, helped push to vote for Obama came from a Saturday conversation in a Japanese boutique while I was looking at Totoro bento.)

Showing up in Arlington and being immediately shipped off to Stafford. Trying to remember all the verses to "Children, Go Where I Send Thee."

Breaking bread, literally, with other volunteers in Stafford, VA because I was the only one who had had the forethought to bring any food with me. (We shared a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich.)

Once again feeling that our GOTV work was as much symbolic as anything else; we knocked on doors all afternoon and everyone we talked to had already voted. (Not to mention that we were GOTVing in a very upscale neighborhood; these people didn't need any rides to the polls. The people who needed the rides were the ones like the young woman at Ginza, hourly workers who need someone to quickly shuttle them over and back before/after work or on a lunch break.)

Coming back, changing into a flirty little dress with the intention of meeting friends at a wine bar to watch the election results. We get there, bar's packed, so we change gears and go to a friend's apartment.

Color-coding a map. With crayons. Knowing it's going to happen and still being a little bit nervous.

Then: OMG VIRGINIA WENT BLUE!!!! (People told me it was partly my doing but really I think I did very little in that respect.)

Hearing "it's official: our next president is Barack Obama" from the man who brought integrity back to journalism, the host of the best f***ing news show on television, Mr. Jon Stewart.

After the immediate celebration, when the outcome was known and only thing left on the television was punditry, getting up to put on my shoes and go home to bed only to hear "wait! you can't leave before his acceptance speech!"

And as we all waited, we began to hear people walking outside of the apartment window, banging on pots and pans and cheering and horns honking and everyone moving as one mass (whose idea was it?) to the White House, and we debated whether to go and watch the speech tomorrow on Hulu like dorks but we waited, all of us antsy and me literally jumping up and down and we watched our new President-Elect Barack Obama from behind that somber reminder of bulletproof glass call out to all of us YES WE CAN and then we were off, in the rain, me wrapped in my friend's coat, giving hugs and high fives to strangers, all the cars stopping to let us pass through, to the White House where there were drums and cheering and singing and a giant cardboard Obama cutout being passed from hand to hand as if he were there crowdsurfing with us ('cause you know he would) -- and then we saw, unbelievably, in the crowd of 4,000, more people we knew, and we all hugged and took photos and jumped up and down and cried and then the lights in the White House went out and we said that the next day for sure Jon Stewart would talk about how President Bush tried to get all those damn kids off his lawn.

The most amazing thing was how peaceful it was. No one got hurt. No one got in any fights. (I checked the crime reports the next day.) We were all excited and many of us were drunk, but it was so joyous. Even when the crowd started singing together that "na na na na, hey hey, goodbye" song, even that was good-spirited. It was the very definition of peaceable assembly.

In bed at 2:30 a.m. Up the next morning at 7, rolling out the yoga mat.

Monday, November 3, 2008


My Obama-Biden Pie got picked for Yes We Cake!!!!!

If you like Obama and desserts you definitely need to check out Yes We Cake. You will not believe how many people out there are making delicious Obama-themed dessert.

Anyone out there making a McCain cake?


(googles "McCain cake," gets nothing)

yeah, didn't think so.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


This will be a quick post (I hope) and I probably won't post again until after Election Day.

It's at a moment like this when I sit and think "did I, as an individual, do enough to help support and promote Barack Obama?"

On the one hand, even asking the question is ludicrous. Obama's raised more money than any other presidential candidate in history, and he's a beloved international superstar.

On the other hand, we've got people like Joe the Plumber who clearly misunderstand Obama's policies (not to mention his background) and we've got a campaign of people working hard to make sure all those misconceptions stay at the top of their minds.

So what did I do to contribute to the Obama campaign?

I made two donations -- one symbolic, when I had very little money, and one that was a bit more substantial.

I spent several evenings phonebanking, although I didn't put in nearly as much time as other people I know.

I also spent one day canvassing in Virginia. I kept putting it off because I knew it would be a transportational hassle, and truth be told it was; I left my apartment at 2 p.m. and went from DC to Arlington, then was asked to hop into a carpool heading towards Manassas, then was driven from the Obama HQ in Manassas to a residential neighborhood, then spent 1/2 hour canvassing before it got dark and our team leader told us to pack it in. The travel time (round-trip) was nearly five hours, for just that little bit of canvassing.

So there you have it. That was my contribution. (I'm also going to do some volunteer work on Election Day itself, but I'll write about that later.)

Did I do enough? Well, I could have done more, that's for sure; and at the same time calling answering machines and spending hours in a car to knock on doors of people who aren't home also isn't, exactly, helping Obama. I mean, it doesn't feel like it's being helpful to spend time dialing numbers of people who won't answer. Making a donation feels much more helpful, and I'm glad I was able to contribute financially.

But out of all the hours I put into trying to contact voters who, 99% of the time, didn't pick up their phones or answer their doors, I did have one good conversation with one undecided voter. Interestingly, many of the other people I've talked to about their volunteering experiences said the same thing. Hours of what seemed fruitless work, except for that one conversation.

The team leader on the Manassas trip summed it up as follows:

"Look, we've got 5 million people working on this campaign. If we each have one good conversation with someone, even if that's all we're able to do, we'll have doubled Obama's votes."

So there you go.

We'll see what happens.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


So... my feet.

I like to think that I walk a marathon every week, which, considering that I log at least 17.5 miles just walking back and forth to work, seems plausible. I probably don't hit the full 26 miles every week, but I come close.

On August 5, I bought a pair of Champion brand "maryjane sneakers" from Payless for $12.

Sometime in mid-September, the velcro holding down the straps came loose, so I sewed it back on.

And about two weeks ago, I started having foot pain.

I think it actually started a bit earlier than that, but I didn't understand what it was; it was taking longer than the usual 1/2 hour for me to walk to work, and my legs were feeling heavier. (This I chalked up to a side effect of what I was reading on the scale.)

Then I started having heel pain in my left foot. Then in both feet. I decided it was time for a new pair of shoes.

First I went to Ecco, mostly because I knew that the Googlers wear Eccos, and Google is pretty much the smartest game going right now. (I wonder what shoes Barack Obama wears?)

I went over my lunch break, which was in retrospect a mistake. I also got a salesguy, who, when I asked if he had any Kriyas in stock, had no idea. "What's a Kriya?" he asked. Then he tried to sell me a pair of Ecco-brand high heels.

I ended up snagging a pair of Ecco Jumps. Not as sexy as the Kriya, but the salesguy couldn't find any. (Note to shoestores: I hate it when you hide your shoes in the back and make us ask for them. I also hate it when your salespeople put the shoes on me. I can do it myself, and better, and six times as fast.)

The first day, the Jumps felt fine. Then the next day I woke up and my feet were in can-barely-walk pain. I limped around for the next three days, trying to break the Jumps in, and only got more and more miserable.

So I went to the other shoe store on my block, a Comfort One outlet. There I got my feet "professionally" analyzed by a fancy machine that told me that my weekly marathon in the Payless Champions had caused problems in both my gait and my heels. (I got to see my feet on a giant screen with the heels lit up in red, and the salesguy asked me "are you having some pain there?")

Long story short, I spent almost two hours at Comfort One talking to the staff (who seem to know more about shoes and feet than Mr. "What's a Kriya?"), and tried on many different pairs of shoes and orthodic insoles in the name of relieving my heel pain, fixing my gait, and avoiding screwing up my "I had foot surgery in January" right big toe. (Boy-oh-boy, spending all that time in those Payless shoes is sounding stupider by the moment.)

And then I tried on the MBTs. I've actually blogged about these shoes before, without realizing it. To quote myself:

[I] wandered into stores and looked at these weird shoes that have soles like rocking-chair balances and claim to add "+9 Resistance To Your Abs, Thighs, And Butt!" (I wanted to take out my pen and add "And Ogres!" to the sign... but resisted. +9 resisted.)

Well, now I am wearing a brand-new pair of MBTs and I too have +9 resistance against thighs, butts, and ogres.

Seriously, team: putting these shoes on was like stepping into a little piece of awesome. All my foot pain instantly disappeared. My posture re-aligned. I can once again clear 2 miles in under 1/2 hour. And every step is... well, the shoes are supposed to simulate walking barefoot on sand, and it's been a long time since I've done that, but it feels right.

The best part, of course, was that I managed to get my pair for half price (current retail price is $260). What I did: I didn't buy any shoes after my two-hour stint in the Comfort One store. First I had to make sure I could return the Eccos, and secondly I had to do some research to make sure the MBTs weren't the foot equivalent of the Master Cleanse. Upon doing my research, I found out something very interesting: this year's MBTs were $260, but last year's models, if they could be found, generally retailed around $120.

So the next day I walked back into that Comfort One and said "I want a pair of MBT Boost Blues in a 38. Do you have that in the back?"

This time, the salesguy knew exactly what I was talking about.

And I am the happiest little walker on the planet.