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Unemployment, Interrupted

Mar 25, 2010

Okay, so I haven't been completely forthright with you.  I interviewed for a slew of jobs and landed one that's pretty awesome, and I started yesterday.  So yay for that!  Now I won't have to take back all the clothes I bought!  And no more mopey blog posts, I promise. It has been a rough week though -- ceiling started leaking again last night and then it actually cracked, so I slept on the couch due to fear of a porcelain bathtub crashing through the floor above me "Money Pit"-style and crushing Noli and me in our sleep.  My chiropractor was very sypmathetic and hopes I get back in my 100% latex bed soon (I know that sounds weird but believe me, latex is the way to go.  No coils to cause pressure points = best night's sleep of your life). 

Anywho, remember how I said I was going to start training for a 5K?  That was on an off day when I was bored and Margaret had somehow gotten me pumped up to the idea, since she just ran her first half marathon last weekend.  She had her cute shamrock tee shirt on and was stuffing her face with cupcakes since you can eat whatever you want the week after a race, and in that moment it seemed like a good idea.  So Tuesday I started the Couch Potato to 5K program.  I had to go to Target, so I grabbed a shopping bag and began my brisk 5-minute walk. 

Not bad, feels pretty good. 

Then I had to run for 60 seconds. 

Nothin' to it.  I can do this.

Then I walked for 90 seconds. 

Too easy.

Then I had to walk for 60 seconds again.

Ooh, shin splints comin' on.  I can do this though.

90-second walk.

Thank You Lord Jesus.

60-second run.

OMG everything hurts.  Are my ears bleeding? 

90-second walk. (I can see the Target sign in the distance -- not sure if it's a mirage but it looks beautfiul.)

60-second run.  60-second run.  Hello!  Run, legs! 

But no, they would not run anymore.  That's right, I made it roughly 10 minutes.  And I am still paying for it.

So today, in my gorgeous new Banana Republic suit (made of Italian fabric!), I asked my new boss what he thought the problem was.  (I've heard from several people he is an avid marathon runner, so I figured showing some interest in his passion might score some brownie points.)  (Mmm, brownies.)

"I'm training for a 5K, but I really hate running.  My whole body hurts after only a 10-minute jog!  What am I doing wrong?"

"Your attitude is lousy, that's your problem."

Oh.  Ummm... 

"Also, you aren't wearing the right shoes."

How does he know?  My cute little gray suede New Balances are just fine!

"You can't wear shoes just because you think they're cute.  You have to go to a running store, get assessed, pay the extra money, and wear what fits your running style."

Is the man a mind reader?  And then fear struck me.  I was going to have to wear neon orange tennis shoes.  Well, white with neon orange.  My dad is a runner and he had a pair a few years ago, and I remember thinking they were hideous, but he loved those shoes.  I just want to wear gray suede!!!  Hmph!

Ugh, I am going to do this, though.  So Saturday I plan to drag myself to some running store in Georgetown and buy proper shoes.  My chiropractor does think I need to take it easy, though.  My lower back is very fragile.  (Am I paying him enough?  This man says all the right things!)

Don't cry -- buy a bag and get over it! (And if that doesn't work eat a cupcake.)

Mar 23, 2010

Welcome to Day 2 of Mary El's unemployment.  Really it's Day 7, but I considered last week a vacation, so this is officially Day 2.  I spent a lovely week in Atlanta watching the trees bloom and smelling all the daffodils (my favorite spring flower), and then I cried all day Sunday.  The crying wasn't unemployment related, but not having a job to go to the next day didn't exactly quell my depression.  Oh, and my flight home was delayed almost three hours, so I got in around 1:30 a.m.  And my bed was wet because the people above me keep messing with their hot water heater and it explodes and I get to deal with it. (This is the second time this has happened.) 

So yesterday morning, when my puffy eyes finally opened and I got my clammy body out of my damp sheets, I did what any girl on the brink of losing her mind would do -- I went shopping!

It started off as a harmless trip to Target.  I had seen this lamp in Atlanta and wanted it for my apartment.  It costs $29.99, exactly the amount of credit I had on a little gift card, so I wasn't actually spending money.  I took only two shopping bags with me to make sure I was limited in purchases, just in case.

But when I walked in to the shopping center at Columbia Heights, I remembered a Marshall's was on the first floor.  My mind raced -- What do I need at Marshall's?  Something...something...a new journal?  That'll do!  I walked over and began browsing. 

A new suit?  No, I just bought a new suit.  Point 1 for Practical Me!

Baby clothes!  Oh yeah, Joy just had a baby girl.  She needs at least two outfits from me for sure.

Ooh, votive candles, those are always necessary.

And then, I saw this:

DKNY watermelon leather satchel

(Obviously I bought it because it's hanging in my closet with my other bags.) 

Okay, but before you judge me, check this out:

Original price

My price

I couldn't find a journal, but hey, I saved five bucks!

Oh, the Target lamp.  They were out.  So I have to go back today.  And, um, I spent my $30 credit.  And some more.  (I'll take some of the stuff back when I get the lamp.)

Anyway, Sarah bought a gorgeous Coach bag  that she got an amazing deal on during her first week of unemployment, so I figure this is all part of the process.  (What is "the process" you ask?  Not sure, but I'll let you know when I find out what I'm talking about.)

Last night at 3:48 a.m. I woke up to bed wetness again.  Ceiling leaking.  Again. 

I finally dragged myself out of bed at 11:30 the next morning, and my lovely roommate had left me breakfast:

(The keys are for our neighbor's apartment since we are dogsitting Bailey.)  (And yes, I said breakfast.)

Bailey Boy!

So today I will launder all my bedding -- again --, eat another cupcake because it's 2 p.m. now and I'm feeling hungry, go see if my lamp came in, watch "New Moon" because I still haven't seen it (stupid swine flu), and possibly start training for a 5K. 'Cause I'm gonna need to burn these extra cupcake calories.

Canned Food Challenge: Days 6 & 7 (BINGE)

Mar 14, 2010

So apparently when two city girls are forced to only eat what is in their apartment for a week, this happens:



Saving money?  FAIL.

Oh, and the funniest part, we didn't know what the other was doing all day. 

Wanna see what we got?!! :)

This dress inspired me to make lilac my color for this season.

Gorgeous Ann Taylor cardi with taupe pencil skirt

Another gorgeous cardi

Essential Banana Republic suit made of Italian Fabric (that's what the tag reads) -- pants are a little tight but they will be my "goal" pants.

New  black flats!!!

Adorable cotton dress with pockets and green shrug (Tried on a similar one at Ann Taylor Loft for $90 that made me look like a cream puff.  This one from Old Navy was only $30.)

Summer dresses, flip flops (on which I plan to glue or pin some sort of embellishment) and skinny metallic bow belt (coudn't find one anywhere until Old Navy on sale for $10! Rock!)

Another cardi.  Can't have too many, right?

Margaret's finds, including the cutest trench I've ever seen (for $60 at Nordstrom Rack!)

Noli barking at all the bags.

Don't ask me how much I spent.  Sudden unemployment thrust me into a shopping haze and I didn't look at price tags, I just swiped that pretty plastic.  I've already got my "take back" pile ready, don't worry.  I feel like my purchases are justified because I have lost weight and all my pants are giving me serious saggy butt, so I needed a new suit (check).  Plus I threw out my all-time favorite black flats on Friday when I was cleaning out my desk, so I needed to replace them (check).  Plus Ann Taylor Loft was have a 30% off the entire store sale and Margaret and I had both seen this peach sweater we loved and I had to have it for spring (check)!  Then I realized I needed a skinny metallic belt to go with it (check).  And that outfit looked so cute I figured I should just get a few other spring things (check).  
I found a jar of Nutella stuck behind some coffee in another cabinet, so I ate that on some toast for breakfast yesterday. The commercials say it's nutritious!

Also, I ate Subway on Friday.  But Margaret had brunch, lunch, and dinner out on Saturday!  And we both ate out for lunch today.  And I'm probably getting dessert with my house guests later. 

Speaking of eating out, Wendy's has a new fish fillet.  I hate fish fillets, but they suddenly sound amazing. 

Week one of the challenge is coming to an end, and I fear we have barely dented our store of packaged goods.  Not really sure if I can afford another week of this.

Canned Food Challenge: Day 5 (Food Hoarder Extraordinaire)

Mar 12, 2010

Last night's dinner:

Chicken Divan was a hit! Only fresh ingredient - chicken.  Well, the broccoli was fresh, but Margaret had already bought it.  Everything else was found in the cabinets.

Also, we have fabulous friends.
For Margaret & Mary El -- how cute!  Thanks Priscilla!

Yum!  (For tomorrow.)

And now for some sad news.  I found out yesterday funding for my contract ran out, so it's possible I'm out of a job as of Tuesday.  For at least two weeks I'll be on unpaid leave.  So I'm taking advantage of the situation and taking a little "vacation" to Atlanta to see the fam and watch the azaleas bloom.  This cuts into the challenge, and that's unfortunate because we have a long way to go before we get through our cabinets!  But honestly I have been eating way too much and I'm kind of relieved for a break from that, especially since I just bought three new dresses from The Limited (Swept Away, Chambray Bateau, and Tunnel Belt Shirtdress) in size 8 (in good faith that I will fit into them by spring). 

But until then, the challenge is still on.  I brought more of that Panang curry chicken for lunch, along with a pear.  Fridays our building has free breakfast, so I got a beloved bagel (although they only had poppy seed and plain, and obviously I got a plain because who wants to arrive to work with poppy seeds in their teeth?) and slathered on some butter (it's better than cream cheese). 

Update from Margaret (NOTE: She went to work before I woke up at 6 a.m. so she could get off early today.  CaaaaaRAZy!)

Since I left so early, I was going to give into temptation and just buy breakfast.  Corner Bakery Chilled Swiss Oatmeal was worth the pain of extending one more day.  :)  Then I realized I had packets of oatmeal I had forgotten about in the bottom of my desk drawer, so I cut up and apple and banana to supplement and had that for breakfast!  I did go and get a Starbucks coffee because I am in a serious caffeine emergency.

Lunch: Leftover chicken divan, carrot sticks, granola bar (I will find out if it's the Kashi -- I am making her get rid of those.)

Dinner: Something from the house?  Not sure yet.

Food items found while cleaning out my desk:

100 Calorie Smart Pop (only one bag used), Ziploc bag of dried mangoes (have been in there at least 3 months), 4 Granny Smith applesauces (yummy and healthy!), Australian licorice - "Best Before 28 Feb 09", dried apricots (expired last summer), three packets of oatmeal, half a bag of sugar free Lifesavers butter toffee (serving size is FIVE! only 45 calories! perfect after-lunch treat), sour Jelly Bellies, 6 lychee gummies, container of prunes, can of mini Snickerdoodles (only 4 left), 2 fun size bags of Cheez-Its (might as well throw those out), Tupperware container with tea cookies (who knows how long those have been there), one oatmeal cream pie, 2 Kashi granola bars (huh, mine weren't that bad), 2  Quaker chewy granolas (dark cherry chocolate, yum!), half a box of Reese's pieces (how did I forget those were in there?), one Biscoff cookie from Delta (that's going in the trash for sure), honey roasted almonds, wasabi soy almonds, box of holiday chocolate cookies, sesame cashews, ARE YOU STILL READING?, maple candy, maple lollipop, Skittles, pistachio crackers, various herbal, black, and white teas, Williams Sonoma peppermint bark, hot chocolate, Butterfield's Cherry Buds, green Tabasco sauce, OMG the suitcase I brought to take everything home is already filled up, what am I going to do?

Oh, did I mention we are going to have FIVE house guests this weekend?  Silvia is coming over, and I have a friend and some of her friends coming today for a convention.  PRO: More of our food will get eaten.  CON: I don't know where they're going to sleep.  (I remembered this morning that they were coming, yikes!)

Canned Food Challenge: Day 4 (Attack of the hot dogs...and cupcakes)

Mar 11, 2010

Wednesday, 8:19 p.m.: Temptation is coming at me from every angle.  Sarah wrote me an email earlier telling me about the new bangles she bought and all I saw was "BAGELS."  Not only that, but I got really excited thinking about bagels and was actually disappointed when I correctly read about the great accessories she found.  Then I got this in my inbox at work:

Seriously?  Is this a joke?  That evil, patriotic hot dog is taunting me, just look at him.  Ha Ha! You can't buy me!  I shall dance in front of your face and taunt you with my deliciousness!

In other news, since all of your lovely comments, we have decided to have the dinner tomorrow night.  Margaret is out as we speak buying chicken (fresh meat! hooray!), and she will use broccoli she already has and...get ready...BREAD CRUMBS!!!  The one ingredient she was afraid she'd have to go buy was two cans of cream of chicken soup.  Upon inspection of our stash, we had exactly two cans of cream of chicken soup.  Not really sure why.

Since we're having guests I'm spending the evening clearing off our counters and organizing this madness, as well as boiling my two chicken breasts to make Panang curry chicken with coconut milk, red peppers, and broccoli for lunch tomorrow.  Ate some of the split pea poop soup for a snack before working out, and now I'm hungry again.  Crab cake here I come!


Still reeling from the hot dog email, this morning I came to work with a bad attitude.  For lunch I brought my delicious Panang curry yet felt unsatisfied.

I checked my email, and what I saw changed my life:


Over by the water cooler...knock yourself out.



Before bothering to look at any other emails, I popped out of my chair and walked, well, skipped maybe, over to the water cooler.  Sitting on a nearby table with rays of heavenly fluorescent light shining down upon them were two boxes of a dozen cupcakes each -- but not just any cupcakes, BUZZ cupcakes.  I almost couldn't believe my eyes!  I opened the first box -- dark chocolate on chocolate, Guinness, and bacon cupcakes.  BACON CUPCAKES!!!  I opened the second box.  Red velvet with chocolate shavings and six whole Buzz originals, my favorite!  I only took a Buzz, but I am going back in 9 minutes (that will have been an hour) for seconds. 

Oh you betcha I'm gaining weight on this "diet."  I'm turning into a hoarder, food style.

Cupcake Update:

I just went back for another cupcake.  They were all gone but the Guinness ones.  I shoulda nabbed a bacon cupcake when I had the chance!


Update from Margaret:

Brought chicken divan for lunch -- a sampling of the dinner I made for tonight (2 CANS of cream of chicken soup!!!).  Also brought carrot sticks and a nasty Kashi granola bar for later as a snack.

Yesterday I opened up the box of Kashi granola bars and found that I had broken off half of one and left the other half in the wrapper, so in my "Soldiers-are-dodging-IEDs-I-can-eat-an-old-Kashi-bar" style I just grabbed it and ran out the door.  After eating my soup, I went to break off part of the Kashi bar, and it was so hard that it went flying everywhere -- Kashi crumbs were all over my lap, on the floor, in my chair.  I just sat there frozen for a minute and then quickly started picking up crumbs before anyone came by and realized how un-classy I really am...

What are you doing Friday?  Do you want to check out a jazz club on U St?  Or we could go to Sala Thai and and eat din din at home then go there for tea and coconut rice.  (And then extend one day to our canned food time?)

Is it worth it?  I mean, if we go out we have to order something, right?

UPDATE: 1:54 p.m.

Subject: Pie

There are two pies over here.  A chocolate and a coconut one.


This is getting ridiculous.

Canned Food Challenge: Day 3

Mar 10, 2010

We've decided to cancel dinner Thursday.  Margaret says it's because she double-booked, but I know the real reason.  Yesterday she was trying to figure out the menu, and she had the idea to make chicken divan. 

"What chicken are we going to use?" I asked.

"You have some in there, I've seen it," she said.

"Two chicken breasts are not going to feed six people," I responded.

"Well, I'll come up with something!" she chimed.


I'm squared away with food today.  I brought a little cup of milk and some Honey Bunches of Oats for breakfast.  For lunch I'm finishing that turkey sandwich I found in the office mini fridge (I got it last Friday so it's not terribly old), putting on some fancy mustard that I have, also sitting in the fridge, and Granny Smith apple slices, also found in the fridge.  Dinner will be a leftover crab cake with brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes.  I didn't need to order two of them since Old Ebbitt's makes their crab cakes with pure crab meat, almost zero filler, but I figured I'd have dinner for tonight if I ordered two.  I think that's cheating, and Stefanie suggested we add a day to the challenge every time we go out.  (Ouch!)  Will discuss with Margaret as soon as I hear from her about her food situation today. 


Update from Margaret:

Breakfast: the last of my Kashi cereal with yogurt (that would be plain...blech) and frozen blueberries, half a grapefruit, and coffee (of course!)

Lunch: can of soup, carrot sticks, and a bag of snacks (one organic rice cake, some dried mangoes, a half a granola bar (don't ask me why, but I must have only eaten half a few weeks ago)), and an apple

Dinner: TBD :)

What do you think about breaking our rule and buying chicken?  Originally I had thought NO WAY, but then in order for us to make use of all this canned stuff, I think we're going to need some sort of meat, and since it's a perishable item? 

HA!  She buckled under the pressure!  But I must ask you, dear readers, what should we do? 

(Note: Please leave comments here and not on Facebook so everyone can join in the discussion. :) Thanks!)

Canned Food Challenge: Day 2

Mar 9, 2010

After cleaning out the cabinets last night, I got inspired to cook some meals.  First up, lunch for today.  Even though I have a working lunch today and we're allowed to buy lunch in such cases, I decided against it.  The amount of food we have is staggering, really.  Margaret even suggested we extend the challenge to a month instead of two weeks.  We'll see, I'm not sure I can commit to that yet. 

Anyway, back to cooking.  I found these Indian rice/lentil/tomato packages that you just microwave and they're ready.  I also had two half chicken breasts with teriyaki/sesame sauce on them that were also microwavable.  I put both of those in Tupperware and then whipped up some lemon pepper/sea salt green beans to add on top.  Voila!  Healthy and delicious lunch! 

For emergency meals, when we don't have time to throw something together, I put a bag of split peas, a cup of onions (frozen and already chopped because I hate chopping onions), two cups of carrots (Margaret bought a huge bag of them fit to feed a family of five), three basil sausages cut up, and a box of chicken broth in the Crock pot and let that sit all night.  It made the apartment smell like poo but I'm guessing it's going to taste really good.  Plus, I read recently that dieters that eat soup lose more weight than those eating the same number of calories from other foods. 

After all that preparation, I forgot to do something for breakfast.  (I actually considered eating some of the split pea soup.)  So in my haste to get to work on time this morning I spooned some yogurt into a container and threw on some frozen blackberries.  I didn't notice until later that the yogurt was plain (which means it was Margaret's, sorry dude), and I can't stand plain.  I thought maybe the blackberries would sweeten it -- but no, when I started to eat it at my desk I discovered they had freezer burn and were gross.  I frantically looked for a Splenda, but I was out.  I forced three or four spoonfuls down my throat and then gave up and opened a can of fruit cocktail (there are many more cans where that came from).  That didn't squash the hunger so I ate a granola bar.  I only have two left, and that worries me.  Must be better about preparing breakfast!

8:30 a.m.: Tried to find space in our mini fridge for my amazing lunch, but it was packed.  Whose half-eaten sandwich is that?  And that giant container of apples?  Ranch dressing?  And a jar of Dijon mustard?  When I saw the mustard I realized in horror that all the food was mine.  Ohhh help. 

10:00 a.m.: Emergency coffee.  Lack of proper breakfast plus caffeine has made me hyper and antsy.  Dying for lunch.  On the bright side, the lady at Dunkin Donuts apparently didn't speak English because I asked for a Splenda three times before she understood me, and then she handed me three packets.  "I just need one, thanks," I said, but she kept shoving the three packets toward me.  What a waste, I thought as I walked away.  Then I realized that no, it's not a waste, because I just got free food!

11:30 a.m.: Update from Margaret:

(Note: We rode in to work together this morning and discussed how we were going to host a dinner this Thursday night.  We had decided last Friday to have some people over but forgot about it until this morning, and now we have to figure out what to make.  I suggested we bend the rules and go buy ingredients.)

We can totally make Thursday night work!  I think you just want an excuse to buy more food!  Just think about the Great Depression where people had to eat whatever they had.  We live life too "easily"--our Soldiers are getting blown up in Afghanistan by IEDs, we can eat canned food!  (FINE Margaret, geez, pull out the big guns!)

Breakfast: Egg sandwich (since I was running out of time I didn't really cook it thoroughly, and the egg whites ended up being kind of if I die today you can have all my clothes), 1/2 grapefruit, coffee.  (You saw it in writing, folks.  I'll have to lose 15 more pounds to fit into her clothes, though.)

Lunch: Salad with all the veggies I bought and some raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  A little bag of random assorted snacks to satisfy my mid-afternoon cravings (organic rice cakes, granola bar, dried mangoes (thanks dude! :)), banana and apple.  In case the salad wasn't enough, I brought half a raw sweet potato to heat up in the microwave.  I will make many enemies today since it takes about 5 minutes to heat up.

Dinner: We'll see what I feel like after my run, but I'm kind of liking the sound of that poopy smelling split pea soup.  We can supplement that with salad as well.

Tomorrow I have a wine, dessert, and cheese party to go to.  I'm thinking some of our [10+ boxes of] cookies look gourmet, yes? :)

Yesterday I had to go to the mall and strategically planned my route through the food court to hit Annie's pretzel samples and the Asian BBQ chicken lady.  There were no pretzels left but the Asian chicken lady gave me a huge piece of chicken which I promptly DEVOURED.  On my way out I made sure to stop by Annie's again, but to no avail.  I think they recognized me and I sensed their disgust when I wandered up to the counter "casually" to sample. 

I feel her pain -- at Dunkin Donuts this morning I was overcome with the desire to buy cookies, not even donuts, cookies.  What is that?  I never buy that kind of stuff.  I don't know if I could resist buying a warm, fluffy, buttery pretzel. 

I'm having dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill tonight with my brother-in-law who is in town for a few days, so I won't be eating soup just yet.  I'm thinking oysters to start, maybe some crab and artichoke dip, a petite filet medium rare (with blood on the plate...mmmmmm), and some mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy.  It's a special occasion so I'm sure we'll order dessert as well.

This actually poses a problem (Margaret has come to the same realization): are we going to gain weight during this challenge?  The [very full] tables are swiftly turning...

UPDATE: Just got back from my amazing lunch, only to find McDonald's addict who sits next to me has brought a McDonald's 99-cent butterscotch sundae to his desk.  "I bought it for medicinal purposes," he told me and explained he has a scratchy throat.  I've never heard of eating ice cream to cure a throat issue, but suddenly I feel strep coming on.

UPDATED: Canned Food Challenge: Photos

Last night I went ahead and cleaned out our cabinets to see just exactly what we have -- and find the alleged two bags of bread crumbs.  (Note: This is just what we found in the cabinets.  The fridge and freezer are a WHOLE other beast.)  This is what I found:

Because you can never have too many jars of fancy mustard.

HA!  Margaret was wrong!  We have FOUR bags/cans of bread crumbs!  Oh.

That's three rows of canned fruit.  I think we're covered.

And just in case swine flu returns, there's enough soup there for the full 7-day quarantine.

Popcorn!  Cheese Sticks!  Pringles!  Goldfish!  I think we're gonna be okay.

That's enough pasta, rice, etc., to start our own Ethiopian restaurant.  (There's more off to the side.)

UPDATE:  I forgot about these photos, VERY important.

Emergency Cupcake!!!

FAIL. (I promptly ate it anyway.)

Canned Food Challenge: Day 1

Mar 8, 2010

Looks like Margaret's idea isn't original (thanks for the link, Stefanie!).  But whatever -- game on!!!

I feel that Margaret has an edge on me already.  Since we moved in together two and half years ago, she has been the queen of taking leftovers to work for lunch and scrounging in the fridge to find something for dinner.  I, on the other hand, get bored easily and go buy new things every few days.  Plus, I hate leftovers.  Leftovers the very next day are okay, but for days in a row...oh gosh, I just gagged.  Last night I ate leftover meatloaf that I made last week, and when I went to bed I fully expected to wake up in the middle of the night dying of food poisoning.  After thinking about it for a while I was kind of hoping it would actually happen so I could call in sick to work.  Alas, I was fine. 

So what are we eating today?  I got a report from Margaret this morning:

Breakfast: granola crumbs (the last of the box, since I didn't buy anymore) and yogurt, two pieces of toast with almond butter and bananas on top, and half a grapefruit, and coffee.  [No my roommate is not a piggie, she is training for a marathon and ran NINE MILES yesterday.  NINE.  To all of you DC runner people that probably seems like nothing, but I personally think it's wackadoodle.]

Lunch: Leftover brown rice from Nancy [a friend whose apartment we had dinner at Friday night] (with a little of the chicken sauce...I ate all the chicken and veggies), leftover noodles, leftover asparagus and shrimp and kimchi. :)  [Margaret is on a kimchi kick.  I used to like kimchi until I was forced to eat Korean food for a year and a half and ate one too many strange smelling things to tolerate it anymore.  She inserted the smiley face because she knows reading about eating kimchi is turning my stomach right now.]

Dinner: PIZZA at Andrew's!!!  [A group of our friends gets together for dinner every Monday night, but I have a friend in town and am eating dinner with him, so I won't be eating pizza.  This is actually quite tragic because we all know how much I love pizza!]

Margaret's day of food is a lot better than mine.  As aforementioned, I'm not great with leftovers and not that creative with food in general.  Today I brought leftover oatmeal with bananas and apples (although I would have MUCH rather had McDonald's $1.99 oatmeal with raisins and apples, but I'll survive).  For lunch I made a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a pear, and for dinner I'll go crazy.  I'm thinking Tabaq, but we haven't decided on a restaurant yet.  It's directly across the street from my building and I am obsessed with their stuffed grape leaves!

Later Margaret wondered if we are allowed to buy coffee.  I think only in emergency situations...which begs the question, are we allowed to buy McDonald's 99-cent butterscotch sundaes?

UPDATE: Panic has set in.  I feel like I am dieting which makes me want to eat everything in sight.  Went to CVS earlier and was greeted by "UTZ: Quality Foods."  Suddenly Utz is the most appealing food item on the earth, but I'm not allowed to buy it!  Just ate a "fun size" (what's fun about that?) bag of Cheez-Its, but I only have two more and they have to last me two more weeks!!!  Am going to die of starvation/insanity.

UPDATE 2: Cheez-Its are sitting in my stomach like a rock. I usually only eat half a fun size bag, but I freaked out and ate the whole thing.  May never eat Cheez-Its again.

February was Canned Food Month...but we don't care!

Mar 6, 2010

The next few posts will be a little different.  Last week I made meatloaf for some friends, and I needed bread crumbs.  I knew we had bread crumbs, but our teeny cabinets are horribly unorganized and a major pain to dig through, so I didn't bother actually looking to find what I needed.  It was much easier to go out and spend $2.99 on a new bag. 

When Margaret found out, she laughed at me.  "You know we have two other bags of bread crumbs." 

That's when she came up with the idea for a two-week challenge to find out what else was hiding in the cabinets.  For two weeks we can't buy any food except fresh fruits and vegetables.  We must survive solely off of what we have in the apartment.  Not only will this clean out our cabinets, which is MUCH needed, but we will save money and push ourselves creatively.  We are allowed to go out to dinner and working lunches if need be (I have one of those planned next Tuesday), but otherwise we must bring our breakfast and lunch to work and eat whatever we can scrounge up for dinner. 

Look for my blog posts on our little culinary adventure -- they should be interesting and may even suppress your appetite!  I know I'm not looking forward to canned beans and corn for the next two weeks.  Hmm, I wonder how much weight I'll lose?

(10, but it felt like 500) Days of Winter (The Final Post)

Mar 4, 2010

Day 3: Sunday morning I woke up and realized that I hadn’t been to a church meeting in a while – with the holidays and all the snow, meetings kept being canceled. So Margaret and I decided to invite people over to sing and hang out. I was pretty amazed – travel times for friends who lived a mile or two away were upwards of an hour, but they still made it! About five of us gathered in our living room and I made Tassimo Chai tea (once you try Tassimo you’ll never want Starbucks again, although you can get Starbucks for Tassimo).

After a couple of hours our friends left to attempt a Metro ride home, but one friend, Jon, a student at George Washington, decided to stay. It was Superbowl Sunday after all, and going back to the dorms was not the most pleasant option. Margaret’s brother’s brother-in-law, Matt, also came over since he was in town for a job interview (which was postponed TWO WEEKS due to the weather…yes, he got the job!). Margaret and I had originally planned to go to a party in Fairfax, but obviously that wasn’t going to happen, so Jon and I ventured out into the paralyzed city in search of Superbowl food. I had stuff to make my dips but no chips to go with it, and that’s a big problem. The sun was out, so it didn’t seem so cold, and a few blocks down U Street a small grocery was open. The prices were exorbitant, but they had chips! We loaded up and made our way back. By kickoff time our apartment was filled with other friends who had to cancel their Superbowl party plans. (And also we’d found out schools and the federal government were closed Monday!!!) Everyone was rooting for the Saints, so I decided to be different and root for the Colts. Since this is the only televised sporting event I ever watch (unless the Braves make the World Series, but that hasn’t happened in years), I got pretty into it.

What is with that guy’s long hair? Eew!

Are we watching Eli or Peyton Manning? Peyton, right? I’m right?! Woo hoo I rock!

Hey, the guys that sing the song from CSI: Miami are playing!

What’s I vaguely remember this from last year.

When the Saints won I pretended to pout, and then I noticed something familiar on one of the Saints’ jerseys: “Stinchcomb.”

“Dangit! I forgot I know one of the Saints!” OMG, I was rooting for the opposing team of someone I actually KNOW (the brother of a friend’s husband). Well if that doesn’t prove I am the World’s Greatest Sports Ditz I don’t know what does.

Day 4: The snow had stopped but not melted, so I was afraid to take Noli out. She would certainly be lost in it, being half a foot tall and pure white. But she was so antsy I had to take her for some kind of walk. Surprisingly she leaped over snow heaps like a pro and searched for other yellow markings to cover with her own. It was pretty gross and sad. When I re-entered my building I ran into my neighbors, Daphne and Eric, who I’d briefly met but hadn’t really talked to. They have a dachshund, Huckleberry, and when Huck saw Noli he went nuts.

“Looks like someone else is going stir crazy!” I said to them, laughing. We walked up the stairs together and let the dogs off their leashes, and they began running up and down the hallway as fast as they could. We all just stood there watching them, knowing it was against the rules to let your dog off their leash but not really caring because they were having so much fun! Ten minutes into it our other neighbor, Marcy, came out with her dog, Bailey, and even though he’s an old man he wanted to play too. For 20 minutes the three dogs ran back and forth in the hallway until they all collapsed, tongues hanging out and tails wagging. When it was obvious they needed a break we all promised to knock on each other’s doors for more play times.

That afternoon weathermen were reporting 10 more inches of snow the next day. Although I was glad for the prospect of another snow day, it was getting a little ridiculous. Main roads were plowed but the side roads weren’t, and the Metro still wasn’t running normally. No one was out as they had been over the weekend, my soap opera was preempted for 24-hour news coverage of the weather (there’s a lot of snow and everything’s closed – we get it!), and I hadn’t worn real clothes in a while. I was getting less motivated by the second. So many things I could have done – organized my closet, cleaned my bathroom, updated my blog! But no, I can barely recall what I did. So that evening I took Daphne up on her offer and knocked on her door. The doggies played and we chatted and drank vegan cappuccino (which I think is just soy, right? I still don’t understand how vegans can keep track of everything they’re allowed to eat.). After a couple of hours I wandered back down the hall to my apartment and probably watched a movie then fell asleep, I don’t really remember.

Day 5: Yay I actually have an event today! I was technically working from home every day of the blizzard, but since not many other people were there wasn’t a whole lot to do. But Reserve Officer’s Association was having a convention that week (talk about bad timing), and it was only a mile from my building! I put on REAL CLOTHES (a gray Banana Republic suit with pretty green sweater and heels – HEELS! Not Uggs!), CURLED MY HAIR!, PUT ON MAKEUP!, and grabbed a cab over to the hotel.

I had lunch with two 3-star Generals, listened to a couple of military briefs, attended an awards ceremony, and then remembered we were supposed to get more snow that afternoon, which would surely send everyone into Panic No. 3. So I exited quickly and walked to the end of the block to catch a cab. I didn’t see any, so I started walking toward my building figuring that I’d catch a cab at a busier intersection. I told myself this for about six blocks. Not a cab in sight. Six blocks in I’d gotten the hang of digging my heel into the iced-over snow then yanking it out and repeating so I wouldn’t slide. I showed off my amazingly graceful leaping abilities every time I had to cross the street, which had 4- to 6-inch puddles of muddy, greasy slush piled up on the curbs. And that was if I was lucky. In most cases I had to climb over 2- to 4-foot snow drifts to get to the other side. I was doing pretty well until I came to one particularly challenging intersection. I dug in my heel and leaped…but when I landed I had lost my shoe. SPLASH! Barefoot. FREEZING! And GROSS. A nice man picked up my shoe, placed it on my foot, and snickered, “Nice Timberlands!” Ha. About that time it began snowing again. Really?!! I mustered up some determination and stomped (and slid) the rest of the mile home. When I walked inside I announced loudly to the concierge, “Anything men can do women can do – IN HEELS! HA!”

After a hot bath and some tomato soup with a grilled cheese, I forced myself to stay awake for Lost at 9:00. I guess Andy Baldwin was equally bored (actually he was not stuck in DC but was in Arizona or New Mexico or somewhere lovely and warm like that) and he asked me questions over Twitter the entire show. I really wish I had a clue what was going on – I had very few answers for him. (For those who share my sentiments, I direct you to this blog for your reading pleasure.)

Day 6: If we thought we’d seen a blizzard before we were sadly mistaken. Not as much snow, but high winds, and it just looked nasty outside. I cautiously took Noli out to tinkle and I ran into Marcy in the hall on the way out.

“Don’t take her out the back exit – the wind picked Bailey up off the ground and threw him!” Bailey is about as big as Noli sans fluff, so she could certainly face the same fate. I carried her outside, found a safe place for her to go, and ran back upstairs. I’d been chronicling Snowtorious B.I.G. with my camera, but I decided against it that day. I was beginning to tire of it all. Marcy, Daphne, and I had a doggie play date at some point, and I must have watched movies the rest of the day. I really can’t remember. Time was becoming irrelevant. The highlight of my day was when People Magazine asked Tweeps what term they preferred for the big storm. Three people, including me, said “Snowtorious B.I.G.,” and @peoplemag tweeted the term with our names! A slew of people retweeted the message and I felt like a celebrity.

That evening I wandered over to Daphne’s with Noli. They had just sat down to eat some vegan lasagna and pop open a bottle of wine, but they invited me to join them. We knocked out one bottle pretty quickly, so we had to get into another one. I have no idea how much time passed, but at some point we decided it would be a good idea to move to my apartment and play Taboo. We had plenty of people to play with because our apartment had become the party apartment and people were constantly showing up unannounced. In that night’s case Matt had come over (still waiting for his interview) and Silvia was still stranded at our place. We sat in a big circle and were having lots of fun until Silvia, who’s a bigger prude than I am, got a little flustered trying to describe a word. The competitive and drunkish Daphne took the opportunity to really mess her up and started yelling out inappropriate words which I cannot repeat here, but trust me, it was hilarious. And if you could have seen the look on Silvia’s face! Poor thing.

Day 7: I was determined to be productive, so I set out a list of tasks for the day: Mani, pedi, work out, pack for trip. Oh yes, I had a trip Friday night to Atlanta, and by golly I was going. Sarah, Jon's fiance, drove over (she's braver than I am) and spent the day with me, so my list was neglected.  I accomplished two things (the last two) and groaned that evening when the dreaded alert popped in my inbox from Washington Post: “Federal Government re-opens Friday.”

Day 8 (Metropocalypse): Getting to work was challenging -- trains were running at 15-minute intervals (usually 5 minutes) so the platforms got crowded. This was rush hour, which means EVERY platform was crowded. So when the train finally came, it was impossible to get a spot (since I also had a suitcase with me). I had to wait 15 minutes for the next one, and I was determined to get it. For some reason I thought a cup of coffee would be nice to enjoy on a cold morning in the Metro, so I had no free hands. The train came, it was packed, I pushed my way in, someone made a joke about knowing how sardines feel, har har. The train jolted and my coffee spilled all over me and the guy I was face to face with. I apologized a lot and he smiled and said, "No problem, I'm not dressed up like you are." As I tried to brush coffee off my suit, he noticed I spilled a bunch on my boob...AND HE WIPED IT OFF FOR ME. In the middle of his act of kindness he stopped and slowly looked up at me, and he looked like he was going to die.

"I am SO SORRY. I can't believe I just did that."

Then other people around us start laughing. I mean, what do you do? The poor guy couldn't get away from me because we were packed in so tight. Thankfully the next stop was mine so I exited swiftly.

DC wasn’t expecting more snow, but whatddya know, Atlanta was. I watched my flight status all day, but it wasn’t affected. So at 4:30 I left for the airport. I arrived at my gate with plenty of time, only to find out the flight was delayed. Here we go… I fully expected the flight to be canceled as soon as I heard that. After a couple of hours (during which I completed my to-do list from the day before) it was.

“Well, guess I’m driving tonight,” I overheard a guy nearby say. I don’t know if it was the cabin fever or just my stubborn will to get out of DC, but when I heard that I saw my opportunity.

“Want a passenger?”

The guy looked at me like I was insane. “Are you serious? That seems kind of crazy.”

“Well,” I reasoned, “if I go with you then you won’t have to get a hotel, we can just drive through the night.”

So he called his wife to make sure it was okay with her (it was), and I called my parents to make sure it was okay with them (it wasn’t), and we were off!

Okay, in hindsight that’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Okay fine, it was probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. And, as my friend Stefanie pointed out, the weirdest. (Her response when I told her the story: “That’s weird. That’s weird. That’s weird. That’s weird.”)

After a long night of telling our life stories, listening to some strange Harry Potter-esque books on tape, and several pit stops at various Waffle Houses, we pulled into my parents’ driveway around 8 a.m. I shook his hand and he left.  What-ev, I still think it was worth it. Oh, but my dad was kind of mortified so if y'all could not tell anybody about this I'd appreciate it, thanks.

Days 9, 10, 11, and 12 (whoops, miscounted when I started these posts...and that's why I'm a writer, not a mathematician): I had a lovely weekend and bought a very expensive one-way ticket to get home.  Once I made it back to DC I needed to go pick up Noli from Ashmi's.  The snow had melted a little, but it had been raining so the top layer of snow was ice.  Very, very scary.  I got in my car, turned the key, and waited for the engine to start up...but nothing.  Stupid Winter killed my battery (I hadn't used my car since the grocery store trip).  I waited two hours for a jump, which cut into my Lost time and made me quite unhappy.  After a jump I drove to Old Town to get Noli. Unfortunately I turned off the car, and it turns out stupid Winter had actually KILLED my battery.  Raghav tried to jump it, but his little energy-efficient car couldn't do the task.  I threw it in neutral and we tried to push it into the parking garage (I was illegally parked on the street), but we both kept slipping on the ice.  So I had to call for another jump which took another two hours.  Finally around 1 a.m. I had a working battery and was on my way home. 

Although I was tired as hades the next day, I was thrilled the Metro was operating normally and work was not canceled.  If you live here you know snow is STILL on the ground, but next Monday it's supposed to be 60 degrees!  Spring better be on the way or I am making a sign that reads "Snow No Mo" and protesting outside the Pentagon.

(10, but it felt like 500) Days of Winter (Part 2)

Mar 3, 2010

DAY 2: My eyes opened and I willed them to shut again.  I could tell I hadn't slept 10 or more hours, which is mandatory for the first day of the weekend.  But they wouldn't shut.  I pulled my arm out from under the warmth of my down comforter to check my phone for the time. 8:17 a.m.  Entirely too early.  I put my phone down and nestled back under the covers to escape the cold air in my room (living above a parking garage is only a good idea because you get cheaper rent).  Noli noticed I was moving around and crawled over the bed to greet me with kisses.  I squinted my eyes and blew in her face to make her stop, but that just made her bark and act crazy.  So I hid my face under the covers too...and then I remembered...SNOW!

I flung the covers off and leaped over some dirty clothes to get to the window.  I pulled back my gray damask velvet burnout curtains (yes they are gorgeous) and looked down at the alley below.  There were at least 15 inches, maybe more.  I smiled big and hopped up and down a few times.  I looked over my shoulder at Noli and she was doing the same thing, only her tail was wagging furiously as well.

What is it about snow that makes you feel like a kid again?  Last winter, right after the first snowfall, a DC blogger ( wrote: "I walked out the door and ran into my neighbor.  I almost shouted 'It's snowing!' in his direction. But in my embarrassment, just looked up to the sky and grinned. He grinned back."  Just like her, I had really gone into this snowstorm trying to be all adultlike, but seriously, when that snow begins to fall -- and even more, when it sticks and accumulates enough to actually do something with it -- all care is pretty much thrown to the wind. 

I slipped into my pink fuzzy slippers and walked into the living room.  Everyone was still asleep -- I felt like the kid who wakes up early at the sleepover and resists jumping on people to wake them up.  Then I had an idea.  I'd recently bought a bag of Pillsbury Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, and no one can resist that warm, homey smell on a cold morning.  I placed them on a baking pan, slid them into the oven, and by the time they fluffed out and got all toasty on the top, people were wandering out into the living room.  As we peeled layers of cinnamony pastry apart, we all stared out the window at the 20 inches of snow (Mayor Fenty confirmed it had broken a record by then), and it was still coming down hard.

The night before MetroMix had listed all the snowball fights. This time the one in my neighborhood was safely tucked away in Malcolm X Park, not in the middle of 14th Street where scary off-duty cops in Hummers could threaten our lives.

"Are y'all going to the snowball fight?!!" I asked as everyone licked icing and cinnamon off their fingers.

"Umm, I have to study," Margaret said. (She was studying for the GREs. Booooooring!)

"Umm, I don't feel well," Margaret's friend Jenny said. (Sick on Snowtorious B.I.G. day?  Tragic!)

"Umm, maaaaaaaaybeeeeeeeee..." Margaret's friend Silvia said. (We all know what maaaaaaaaybeeeee means.)

So I called Jamie. "WELL DUUUUUHHHH!" she answered.

Around 1:30 Jamie showed up, had a bowl of chili with me, and then we put on our snow gear and headed out into the storm. It was interesting walking four blocks in 20 inches of snow. The funny thing is, you're having so much fun and you're so excited about the stinkin' snow that you don't realize you are wearing yourself out. So by the time we reached the park I was not as prepared for a giant snowball fight as I would have liked to be (that's my story and I'm stickin' to it).

In pretty typical Mary El fashion, I wimped out after the first snowball hit me. By a kid. Oh yeah, the entire neighborhood had showed up, including dogs and babies, and everyone was participating.

Since I've never learned how to make a decent snowball (a friend later gave me the tip to spit in it as you're packing it), mine were falling apart as I threw them, and I was therefore no competition to the other side. Seriously, this one kid and this one dog were WAY better than I was. The kid was small so she could sneak up on people, and the dog had springs installed in his legs and was jumping straight up in the air and catching snowballs before they could hit anyone. No joke.

Anyway, I persevered until an ice packed (it had to have been, probably had rocks in it, too) snowball slammed into my open eyeballs. I swear to you I was blinded for at least 3 seconds. My friends know that when I am doing some sort of sports activity and I get some sort of injury, I am finished. I turned to tell Jamie that I was finished with the fight, and as I did a similar snowball hit her in the face. Well that was it. We spotted the perp, found our own ice packed snowballs, and snuck up behind him just like that evil child had done to us. As soon as he stood still we threw our snowballs straight at his head, and BAM! Right into a tree! Wow my aim is awful.

Several attempts to give him a concussion later, we gave up and decided to go home. But as we walked toward the stairs we noticed a crowd had gathered and were sledding down the stairs! People were using anything they could find -- lids to plastic bins, trash bags, baking pans. Jamie and I got in line and, due to lack of preparation, we used our behinds. And let me tell you, waterproof pants act just fine as a makeshift sled. We zipped down the two flights of stairs and rolled onto the walkway below. So much fun!!!

After a couple of trips down, we ventured into the unpopulated regions of the park where the snow was untouched and perfectly powdery.

It just felt right to fall into it and make snow angels, so we did. The snow was so deep that when I fell into it, it felt like a little igloo surrounding me. Who woulda thunk that in the middle of a busy city we could find the most peaceful place on Earth?

Lying in the snow, we realized we were pretty tired. We stumbled back toward U Street and decided to stop off at Busboys and Poets for something hot to drink. Of course I had to order pizza as well because I can never pass up pizza if it's available. After our afternoon refreshments we parted ways and I dragged myself back to my apartment. While I soaked in a hot bubble bath, Margaret made fajitas. Isn't having a roommate grand? A couple of movies later I was drifting off to sleep and praying for a snow day Monday.