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Holiday Playlist

Dec 20, 2012

Christmastime has never been that big of a deal in my family. Thanksgiving? Yes. Birthdays? Loads of fun. Christmas? We were always at my grandparents or traveling somewhere. Even as an adult, I've never gone out of my way to do anything spectacular during this time of year. Case in point: Last year at this time I was headed to California.

This is what Christmas in Cali looks like. Pretty sweet if you ask me!

I even spent New Year's Eve on a plane. (I learned my lesson about NYE years ago.)

It never occurred to me that this might be odd until The Boyfriend came along (henceforth he shall be called "The Boyfriend" -- no more "unicorn" talk out of respect to his masculinity). The Boyfriend views Christmas the way I view cheese (which is funny because he hates cheese; I don't consider it a flaw because it leaves more for me): The Best. Thing. Ever.

While I spend the next week learning about what I've missed out on for the past three decades (read: I'm going home with him for Christmas -- EEK!), I'd like to point out two things I don't need help with: 

Food. I love me some holiday fare, especially when we're talking about Trader Joe's seasonal treats. (I'm currently munching on Mini Peppermint Waffle Cookies, and I have chocolate cheese -- YES, CHOCOLATE CHEESE -- in the work fridge for a snack later, plus plenty of Peppermint Joe Joe's at home.) I'm stuffing as much of it in my belly as I can before January 2nd when I will quite literally turn into a pumpkin. Mmm...pumpkin... (As far as I'm concerned, pumpkin season is still going strong!)

Music. The point of this post. Some of my favorites below. Happy Holidays!

On Unicorns

Dec 12, 2012

Why haven't I posted on here in almost three months? I met a unicorn!

And you can thank him for this post, because he read my blog -- ironically and unfortunately he only read the post that drove the idea of the unicorn, which, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, is the mythical creature known as "The Eligible Man" -- and he thinks I stopped writing because of him.

The truth is, it's been really busy lately. I stopped writing for Borderstan as well because my job has been hectic (cannot emphasize enough that it's hectic in a good way), up until last month I was planning a big event with Washington Women in PR, and, well, I was busy with boyfriendy things. So in a way, he had something to do with the lapse in blog posts, but really, as I explained to him, I just didn't feel like writing. Not that this is a job, but it was nice to give myself a break and just be in the moment for a while. When I start getting paid to write this thing, we'll talk about more consistently posting.

But I'm back on track now, mostly because I have so many holiday posts I want to write! So without further ado, here's the 411 on The Boyfriend.

During the last days of summer, my friend Grace asked me if I was hosting a rooftop party before the weather turned cold. Although I lurv rooftop parties in the summer, I had grown weary of them as I seem to always be hosting. But I can't resist a request, especially coming from someone as chic as Grace. It makes me feel like I'm the hostess with the mostest, and that is priceless.

I sent out the invites, made a "Rooftop Party" Pinterest board, and bought tons of food and decorations, complete with a 'smores bar. When the day arrived, Grace emailed me to let me know she was pregnant and wasn't feeling up to coming. How do you get upset with a pregnant lady? So I revised the invite quickly and encouraged guests to bring single, straight men. It was supposed to be a joke (but not really).

Actual invite. Blacked out my address to deter the droves of other single, straight men who will want to jump on the missed opportunity after I publish this.

All night guests came and went, devoured the 'smores and complimented me on my rooftop party skillz. I thought, This is great and all, but seriously, I'm not doing these alone anymore. I had so much cleaning up to do, it was expensive and I was exhausted from cooking all day. Around 11 p.m. my neighbors came up, and with them they brought -- you guessed it -- a single, straight man. Too tired to care that much at that point, I was cordial but really just wanted to wrap up the party so I could go to bed.

About 30 minutes later I got my wish. Everyone left, and I began to clean up the roof. Then I noticed the single, straight man had stayed to help me. He brought everything down, and then, in the chaos of my wrecked kitchen, he offered to help me clean that as well.

"Oh no, I'm way too tired," I told him, more embarrassed than tired at that point. But he insisted, and in 20 minutes my apartment was cleaner than it had been in weeks. We sat down on my couch to relax afterwards, and before I knew it, four hours had passed. We talked all night. It was like one of those magical things you see in the movies and you always hope will happen to you, instead of meeting someone off of an online dating site and having a really awkward first date but a slightly better second one and deciding that if things work out you'll just tell everyone about the second date as if it were your first with a lie an embellished story about how you met.

Anyway, once the sun had risen and we were both feeling an appropriate amount of awkwardness, he asked for my number and if he could take me to dinner that week. I said yes, and he's been taking me to dinners ever since. Except that one time I took him home to Georgia to meet my family for Thanksgiving.


So, to recap, my definition of a unicorn is:
  1. Single (not anymore!)
  2. Straight (yes, total dude)
  3. Christian (check)
  4. Employed (check)
  5. Taller than Me (6'2" ideal height!)
And the peripheral requirements are:
  1. Dark, curlyish hair (yep)
  2. Blue or green eyes (bluish/greenish -- pretty close to mine actually)
  3. Fair skin (palest one in his family, woo!)
  4. Swimmer’s build (yep, although he'd probably prefer me to say basketball player's build, so I'll just say "baller.")
  5. Muscly arms (yessssssssssssss)
  6. Enjoy theatre (umm...he enjoys theater, as in the movies, but what-evs, I can get over this one)
  7. Know how to cook (sort of, but even better, he is learning how to cook and I am teaching him, which is fun and romantic)
  8. Understand the importance of nice jewelry (the guy owns a watch collection, and I'm not talking Swatches)
  9. Never ever let me pay for dinner (nope)
  10. Prefer to live in the city (ehh...he lives in Alexandria, but he usually comes to me, so it's okay)
  11. Want kids (yep, but that's as far into particulars as I'll go, including why we even had that conversation) (okay it's because we got in a big argument about Santa Claus, and I'll just leave it at that)
  12. Not be too hairy (no back hair creeping out of his collar, check!)
(I kind of love that in the post where I first detail all this, I declare my love for Justin Bieber. He can't stand The Biebs. Probably a good sign.)

Also, a guy at a bar once told him he looks like James Bond. That's less impressive to me as someone saying he looks like Prince Eric or Superman, but it's all about the same. (For the record, I think he looks like Prince Eric or Superman.) 

So ANYWAYS...apparently unicorns do exist, and you better believe I'm not letting this one go. Great way to wrap up the year. Woo!

Emmys 2012: Someone Is Getting Paid Too Much

Sep 24, 2012

I guess I have to start watching "Homeland" now. It beat "Mad Men," "Game of Thrones," "Downton Abbey," and "Breaking Bad" for Best Drama. BREAKING BAD?!?!?!?!

My solace in this is that Maggie Smith won Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, because the Dowager Countess of Grantham might be the best character on TV.

"What is a week end?"

Also, "The Amazing Race" is apparently better than "Project Runway." I'm just not understanding.

Therefore, let's talk fashion to get our minds off of this craziness.

Looks I Loved:

1) Julia Louis Dreyfus in Vera Wang

The cut and draping are understated, elegant, age appropriate (that's key).

 2) Julianne Hough in Georges Hobeika Couture

One of my favorite colors, and what a nice homage to summer, don't you think? Love the petal detailing on the bottom of the dress.

3) Michelle Dockery in Louis Vuitton

If anyone knows how difficult it is to make pale skin work, it's me. Michelle is wearing the perfect colors to make her skin look creamy instead of washed out. The slate gray sheer top is genius.

4) Nicole Kidman in Antonio Berardi

I want this dresss! I love a little sparkle (we'll get to that in a minute), and this is such an unexpected way to do that.

5) Sarah Hyland in Marchesa

While I think she's a little young for this look (at 22 I would have gone with something more fun), it is really dreamy and romantic.

6) Jane Krakowski in Franco Kaufman

I love how these sequins make the dress look like it's made of a fine metal. The head-to-toe glitz is not overpowering, which is challenging to pull off.  

7) Sofia Vergara in Zuhair Murad

My favorite look of the evening. Sofia looks amazing, and this dress is a show-stopper.

Looks I Am Not Understanding:

1) Ariel Winter in Katharine Kidd dress and Brian Atwood shoes

I know prints are in, but what is going on here? The train is atrocious, the cut is unflattering, her hair is all wrong, and those shoes...ugh, they make her feet look ginormous!

2) Elisabeth Moss in Dolce & Gabbana

First of all, I find it interesting that "Mad Men" co-stars Elisabeth and January (below) traded hair colors. Bad move, ladies. Second of all, another hideous print. And the ruffles. And those shoes that I'm pretty sure I wore in 1995 when I represented my middle school in a public speaking contest (can't remember the subject of my speech, but I did say "hellish" and was really pleased that I got away with saying a bad word in front of adults). Elisabeth, your body is tiny and you're single now. Get with the program.

3) January Jones in Zac Posen

Not that anyone is suprised that January looks deranged at a classy event, but the hair makes me so sad. That mousy blonde is not working, and the slicked back/hairsprayed 'do is so disappointing. Some stylist is getting paid way too much.

4) Julianne Moore in Christian Dior

Julianne, you are not old enough to wear whatever you want and laugh about it on the red carpet! Lose the long sleeves, get a necklace if you're going to wear something that tight on top, and please do not ever wear this much yellow again.

5) Kerry Washington in Vivienne Westwood

Is it just me or does this look like something someone on my high school drill team would have worn to homecoming? This is what we call Glitter Gone Wrong. Granted, it's not terrible, but I feel like Kerry threw this on 10 minutes before the show. This is exacerbated with her sad, frizzy hairdo. Seriously, who are these people paying to do their hair?!

6) Lucy Liu in Versace

Not as bad as the previous glitter bomb, but only because Lucy is at least trying. The neckline is so weird, not to mention she basically looks like a disco queen going to war. I'm not feeling it.

7) Lena Dunham in something horrendous

Lena, we get it -- you're fat, tortured, and brilliant. Can we please move on? You're making a lot of money now, which means you don't have to be the ugly girl anymore. Stop hating yourself more than most people hate themselves (that's a direct quote), and please grow out your hair ASAP. I can't believe you chopped it off. UGH.

*Editor's Note: I am all about the unexpected heroine being a "normal" looking woman, but it's like Lena Dunham wants us to call her ugly. It's really starting to make me angry.

Things that Made Me Forget about How Much Lena Dunham is Annoying Me:

1) Edie Falco is 49.

2) Heid Klum's shoes.

3) Kevin Costner.

4) This tweet: @ jimmykimmel : Just opened a beer using Jon Hamm’s chin! #emmys

Style Me September: Week 1

Sep 11, 2012

As promised, I'm giving this fashion blogging thing another shot. I'm having trouble being creative with my wardrobe like I was in July. It's weird...I have way more fashion options in my new job, but somehow I feel less inclined to make a statement. I guess this is the difference between working in a giant federal building and a giant privately-owned one with a fountain and exotic artwork.

I have failed to do the Style Me challenge most days this month. August was extremely busy, and September has been worse. However, three times I succeeded:

Day 4: Made for Braids

Chambray Top: Forever 21
Necklace: Target
Shoes: Gap
Pants: LOFT
Hair: Braid Bun -- so easy. Twist on either side, braid what's leftover from the twists. Braid the rest of your hair (middle piece). Fashion each braid into little buns and pin. That's my spin on the tutorial I found. Here's the original (even prettier -- going to try to do the rope braid next time): 

Day 5: Gray or Grey

Jeans: LOFT
Correct spelling: Gray. "Grey" is for the British. I kind of hated this day because, despite gray being one of my favorite colors, I realized I had very few gray summer pieces in my wardrobe. I hope we get this challenge again in a couple of months when I can represent better.

Day 11: Pearls Please

Dress: NY&Co.
Blazer: Banana Republic
Pearls (faux): Forever 21
(I accidentally participated in the challenge today because I had to get dressed up for a visit to the Pentagon -- my first since I left. It was so weird being a visitor!)

As referenced a couple of posts ago, I had a huge fashion disaster my first week into my new job. A friend had taken me to dinner at Rosa Mexicano to celebrate the new gig, and unfortunately three days in I was already feeling ready to bid farewell to my blazer with dress/pencil skirt uniform, so I colorblocked and Ikatted all at once. The first thing my friend said was, "Isn't it a little soon to be dressing like that?" The second thing she said was, "Isn't that Mondo from 'Project Runway'?"


Obviously I marched right over to him and asked for a photo. He was busy figuring out his drinkie situation. I helped him, he thanked me, posed for a photo, and then engaged me in conversation for 20 more minutes. It ended with him GIVING ME HIS PHONE NUMBER. I did not ask for it, I swear. He voluntarily offered it up to me and told me to text him. I did. Three times. He did not text back. I'm honestly quite amazed that I didn't text him more or break down and call him.


You'll notice he's wearing toothpaste green and a belt with a steer and a heart on it -- plus cheetah print platform shoes, which you can't see -- and yet his outfit is totally awesome. Mine was not. And standing next to him I look like I weigh at least 100 pounds more than he does. (That might actually be true.)

The last time I was this disgusted with my clothes I happened to be in New York hanging out with Carol Hannah, also a "Project Runway" finalist. Why?!?!

So I'm back to my blazer and dress/pencil skirt routine...for the most part. Fall is coming soon, which means a style shift. Not sure I'm in love with the oxblood trend, but I can't wait to make the make the most of these... 

Hello lover.

My Fall TV Picks

Sep 4, 2012

One thing I love about my 30s is feeling zero guilt, shame or self-pity for watching so much TV. I love it. Jason Bateman, child TV star and adult comic genius, said once that he watched a ton of TV as a kid and turned out just fine. I, on the other hand, was not allowed to watch more than two hours a day as a kid, and, as you can see, I did not grow up to be famous, rich or married with two kids, as he did.

That's the thing about being in your 30s -- you are a bona fide grown-up. And because I had an *obviously* terrible childhood, I have a lot of catching up to do now that I'm calling all the shots. Also, I had a dream last night that my college ex, Stefan, -- who dumped me because he prefers Asian girls -- and I had reunited and become a modern day Bonnie & Clyde, except I chickened out and turned him into the cops. Of course I had to look him up on Facebook immediately, and sure enough, he has a bunch of photos of him with Asian girls all over his page. At least I know he wasn't lying. I shouldn't feel bad for getting dream revenge, right? Probably should be concerned that I'm dreaming about an ex from 12 years ago though...

Wait, what am I talking about? Oh yeah, TV. I think my point was that it's okay to watch a lot of TV if you don't have a boyfriend and decided to cancel your eHarmony subscription because, after an entire year of giving online love a shot, it's just not working. Moving on.

Holy moly, y'all, my fall lineup is sooooooooo good. I think we're getting back to a golden age, one like we haven't seen since the early- to mid-90s. (TGIF, "Friends," "ER," "Seinfeld," "Beverly Hills, 90210," "The X-Files," Hallmark Hall of Fame movies -- you know, all the good stuff before reality TV and the writers' strike ruined it all.)

Right now all I have is "Breaking Bad" (scratch that -- I didn't realize the last episode of this year was this past weekend...HANK KNOWS!!!) and "Project Runway," so I am PUMPED for fall this year. Here's what I'll be watching, in no particular order, except for the first one because I'm most excited about it:

The Mindy Project
Where: FOX
When: Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m., premieres September 25th
Why: Loved her on "The Office" (which will end after this season, and it's about time. Ricky Gervais was onto something when he ended the British version after two seasons), lurved her book and she tweeted back to me when I Twitter raved about how great this show is. She wrote "The Mindy Project" with the idea that the sidekick best friend in romantic comedies -- not the skinny blonde -- should be the main character, because she's the relatable one. I've watched the sneak preview pilot on Comcast On Demand three times already (watch online here). I haven't girl crushed this hard since "Bridget Jones's Diary."
Favorite Quote: "My body mass index is not great, but I'm not like Precious or anything, you know?"
Bonus Quote: Mindy: "I think he's Hugh Grant in About A Boy." Sidekick Skinny Blonde: "I think he's Hugh Grant in real life."

Once Upon A Time
Where: ABC
When: Sundays at 8 p.m., premieres September 30th
Why: All my favorite fairytale characters in one place and turned into real life people?! This is storytelling at its best. Yes, I said AT ITS BEST. Also love that the metaphorical knight in shining armor is a woman, even if she is a skinny blonde. SO EXCITED to see what new characters we get this season!!!


Favorite Quote: "You're their only hope." "Then they're all screwed."

New Girl
Where: FOX
When: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m., premieres September 25th
Why: In theory we should all girl hate Zooey Deschanel, with all her adorkableness and pretty bangs and velvety singing voice. But I think we all secretly want to be her a little bit. Plus, the guys on "New Girl" crack me up and make me wish -- for 30 minutes, once a week -- that I live with guys. Especially Fat Schmidt.

Favorite Quote: "I know you probably think cupcakes are totally lame. I know I do. So if you could do me a solid and take care of these extras." (Jess sucking up to her landlord, trying to get him to fix stuff in the apartment)

Up All Night
Where: NBC
When: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m., (premiere unconfirmed, possibly September 20th) (UPDATE: My guess was correct!)
Why: This show did not get enough props last season. Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph starring together with an adorable little baby girl? Are you kidding me?! They are so funny, endearing, smart...and that kid is super cute. I hope this is what my life will look like when I have a baby. Please watch so NBC doesn't cancel it.
Favorite Quote: "I just did a solo Target experience. It's actually a pretty eclectic crowd."

30 Rock
Where: NBC
When: Thursdays at 8 p.m., premieres October 4th
Why: Liz Lemon is my generation's Lucy Arnez. Tina Fey and the whole TGS crowd make some of the funniest TV we've seen in years. This show helped save NBC comedy, and while it's got some stiff competition now, it's hangin' in there.  But for the record, Stone Mountain, Georgia, is not full of Kenneths. More like Toofers.
Favorite Quote: "Woohoo! Another successful interaction with a man!"
Bonus Quote: "I'm not racist. Every night when I ride the subway home I'm terrified of all those teenage people." (Metro youths...*shudder*)

Parks and Recreation
Where: NBC
When: Thursdays at 9:30 p.m., premieres September 20th
Why: Amy Poehler is runner-up for funniest lady on TV, plus Ron Swanson's mustache is awesome. And who could forget Treat Yo Self? I know they're making fun of government, but Leslie Knope inspires me to run for office someday. I'm not kidding.
Favorite Quote: "Oh Ann, I always forget that because you're so pretty you're not used to rejection."

The League
Where: FX
When: I don't know, but I'm putting it in the mix on good faith that it will be soon. (UPDATED: Premiering Thursday, October 11 at 10 p.m. WOO!!!!)
Why: "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" got a little too out there, and this is what I imagine true bromances are like. Ladies love it because the sole female character is better at Fantasy Football than any of the guys. Watch with caution, though. It's FX, so anything goes. You will be yourself because you think the show is so funny.
Favorite Quote: "I'm going to tweet your face."

The X Factor
Where: FOX
When: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m., premieres September 12th
Why: Britney Spears is hosting, so this is really a no-brainer.
Favorite Quote: TBD!!! Especially looking forward to when people sing her songs.

The Walking Dead
Where: AMC
When: Sundays (TBD on time), premieres October 14th
Why: I'm a closet zombie lover, and it's filmed in my home state of Georgia, which, unlike Honey Boo Boo Child (I can't, y'all, I just can't), does not reflect badly upon Georgia, except for the whole zombies-taking-it-over thing. You know what I mean. I can't believe they killed off Shane -- twice -- but I'm really interested in the hooded zombie torturer, who we all now know is a woman. Girl power all up in this fall TV season! Props to the actors for not faking the stereotypical "southern" accent. Theirs sound almost authentic.
Favorite Quote: "I'm the one black guy. You realize how precarious that makes my situation?"

I think Jason Bateman would be proud, don't you? (New "Arrested Development" episodes next year!!!)

Style Me July: Week 3 (or the last week of fashion freedom before I have a fashion identity crisis)

Aug 22, 2012

Sooooooooo...I started writing this post almost a month ago, and I'm finally getting around to finishing it, exactly one month to the day that I started my new job.

Needless to say, the past month has been quite a transition and I'm LURVING it. Also, "Breaking Bad" is back on (and almost over for this year -- only two episodes left!), and so far the last five minutes of each episode have been collectively more disturbing than last season's finale, which may not sound like a huge feat, but I didn't think anything could beat an old man blowing off another guy's face via wheelchair bomb. "I want an empire," Walt says, effectively making me feel really good about being single and not being married to a tyrannical drug lord disguised as a mediocre white guy. Yay for positive life choices!

Anyway, here's the post that should have gone up in July.

My last week of work at the Pentagon was lovely, y'all, just lovely. I received a finer farewell than I could have imagined, and on my last day I cried three times. Was not expecting that. (Didn't I just tell y'all never to cry in the Pentagon?!)

I'm a little/lot late posting, but -- spoiler alert! -- I inadvertently quit the Style Me challenge this week when I began my new job at super hip PR firm, Edelman, and didn't know what to wear. Oh just next blog post will be about the worst outfit moment I've had since I went to New York and wore a gray cardigan with everything. (OMG...just realized there is an even stronger connection with the New York fashion disaster and this more recent one! If you follow me on Twitter you probs already know what I'm getting at here...)

Although I'm going through a bit of a fashion identity crisis since I moved over to K-Street-Corporate, I went out of the Pentagon with a bang (no not bangs...those will probably come soon though, as I'm getting really bored with my hair, as I do every time the season changes).

Day 16: Put a Bow on It

Bracelet: Forever 21
Necklace: Forever 21
Earrings: Eastern Market
Blazer: TJ Maxx
Dress: NY&Co.
Note: Can I just say that I hate it when people/magazines/whatever lists a garment that you can't see? But I'm doing it anyway because that's what you're supposed to do.

Day 17: Daydream Vacation

Dress: The Limited
Belt: Forever 21
Necklace: The Limited
Shoes: The Limited
Note: Yes, The Limited has shoes now and they are my new favorite pair for work! They go with everything, weren't that expensive (just waited for a one-day sale) and they are super comfortable.

Day 18: Bangles

Bangles: Texas Saree Sapne (bought in Atlanta to go with a saree I wore at Ashmi's wedding)
Dress: Target
Blazer: Zara
Necklace: The Limited
Watch: Target ($15 y'all! Okay, so the "rose gold" has sort of rubbed off, but c'mon. $15.)
Note: Indian jewelry is super blingy and pretty inexpensive. If you haven't stopped by a saree shop for kicks or otherwise, you totally should.

Day 19: Black & White

Skirt: NY&Co.
Note: I can't speak to coworker Bob's purchases, but I was pretty excited that he agreed to join in the fashion fun on this day. (Aww, miss him!)

Day 20: Long Necklace

Dress: Target
Necklace: The Limited
Earrings (that you can't even see): Banana Republic
Margarita: Austin Grille
Note: This was my last day of work, and I got to spend it at a BBQ in Alexandria. It was such a lovely way to say good-bye. Also on this day, the Plans & Strategy String Band debuted, and I was recruited to be the female vocalist. If I get my act together and transfer/edit the video, you just might get to hear me sing. Which may not be a good thing. But at least we'll all get an awkward laugh, right?
A quick update...
At a company happy hour last week, someone came up to me and said, "You're Mary El!" and I said, "Yes I am!" feeling very celebreté, as you might imagine. Turns out she reads my blog and follows me on Twitter and she's been wondering when I'm going to pick up my fashion blogging again. Honesty check: I had severe fashion insecurities before and during my first week here, and I'm still battling a fashion identity crisis since everyone looks like they stepped out of the pages of Glamour PLUS we get free ice cream on Fridays and I don't know how to say no, so my weekly goal (since February) to lose 5 pounds is turning into not gaining 5 pounds.
That being said, I gave myself one month to settle in, and the deadline has arrived. Let me figure out the photographer situation (oh how I miss my former one) and I'll get back on this. I might even try nail art. Deal?

Secrets of the Pentagon (woooOOOOooo!) (<-- Ghost Voice)

Jul 19, 2012

Since today is my final day working in the Pentagon, I thought I should share some secrets with you from my 4 1/2 years of working here. Don't expect me to tell you anything that's actually important, but if you are anything like me (a clueless, non-athletic girlie girl) and end up working in this giant building with hoards of intimidating, muscly (usually) men and super fit, awesome (always) women, you might find this post useful.

Hi! My name is Mary El and I'll be your Pentagon tour guide today.

Fun Facts: 
  • Construction on the Pentagon began on September 11, 1941 -- 60 years to the day that it was attacked by terrorists. Creepy, right?
  • If you chopped off the Empire State Building at its base (let's not) and laid it across the top of the Pentagon, it would not reach from end to end.
  • Roughly 23,000 people work in the Pentagon (make that 22,999 come next Monday), so it's set up like a little town. It has its own post office, dry cleaner, barbershop, nail salon, shoe repair (grumpy but does a great job), gym (try not to get distracted by all the hot, muscly men), clinic, CVS, florist, Best Buy, Adidas store and even a DMV (never a line), not to mention lots of dining options (including three Subways and two Starbucks).
  • The Pentagon was designed so you could get between any two points in seven minutes or less. The massive building -- supposedly the largest low-rise office building in the world -- has five floors above ground and two below, and it's around 17.5 miles if you walked every hallway.  
Really Fun Facts: 
  • You may hear of the "mythical" purple water fountain. It totally exists! Dazzle your coworkers by taking them there. It's in the 8th corridor, mezzanine level. When you walk out of the glass doors, you'll notice a wall painted purple with a water fountain mounted on it -- that's where the purple water fountain used to stand. Turn to the left and wind around the hallway to the right, and you'll come upon it. 
(I once got lost looking for it, and I asked a man to help me. I was too busy trying to impress my friend who was with me to notice the two stars on his flight suit. He happily obliged us and I felt like a complete idiot once I realized who I was talking to.)
  • The 9th corridor, 2nd floor houses the Pentagon correspondents from major news agencies. Their offices are narrow and long, and when it's time for them to go on camera they simply push back from their desk and turn on the camera mounted above their computer. The wall behind them is painted, so what you see on TV is actually what is in their office. I especially love running into CNN's Barbara Starr (power woman) and Chris Lawrence (soooo cute).
  • There is a bar in the Pentagon. Known by a couple of names, the "Bomber Bar" or "Fighter Mafia" is exclusively open to Air Force pilots, honored guests and hot girls (read: if you are a female and at least try, you are hot). It's somewhere on the mezzanine level around the 7th corridor, and it's open on Fridays after 5 p.m. (aka "1700"). Look for the palm tree, knock on the door across from it, and tell them Fish sent you. (I'm not promising you that will work, but it's worth a shot.) If it's your first time you will be required to take a shot of Jeremiah Weed, the preferred drink of fighter pilots. You'll probably get a migraine afterwards, but it's a small price to pay to say you've been there.
  • If you're giving a tour to someone, make sure to visit the Women's Exhibit on the 1st floor between corridors 6 and 7 on the E Ring. It showcases women's uniforms from the Revolutionary War to today, and some of them are really cute. I especially like the wool cape from the 1950s. 
Also, the Air Force has the best artwork -- go to the 5th floor, E Ring in corridors 9 and 10 to see it. 
  • There is one custodian who will freak you out, but he's harmless. He is Asian and will mumble scary sounding words to you if you engage with him. After your first encounter, you'll know who I'm talking about. You'll want to say "Good morning!" if you're a decent person, but trust me, just avoid any interaction and move on. The rest of the custodians are awesome, amazing, lovely people. Get to know them all by name.
  • Before you check out a guy, check out his left hand. The tour guides are especially cute, but under those white gloves are a slew of wedding rings.
  • If you have to cry (by all means DO NOT do it in front of anybody, especially someone superior to you), there's a room in a hallway in the 4th corridor, 1st floor, D Ring near the Pentagon chapel called the "Navy Reflection Room." It's a memorial to those who died on 9/11, and it's a perfect cover-up for you. People rarely go in there, and if someone does and sees you sitting there quietly crying, they'll leave you alone. I know that sounds horrible, but it can be a lifesaver.
  • Stock up on pens at conventions. The pens provided for your use, known by the brand "Skillcraft," are made by blind people. Thank you, U.S. Government, for employing blind people...but these pens are terrible. Every time I use one I think of this scene from "30 Rock":

  • When someone leaves your office for another job, take whatever good stuff you can find from their desk. Due to budgetary constraints, those pink Post-Its you want could be wait listed for months. If you work for the Army, blue folders are a hot commodity. Stash in a hiding place and reuse until they are literally falling apart. 
  • Get outside as often as possible. Most offices lack windows, and -- especially if you're a woman -- your body will miss the Vitamin D.
  • When in doubt, address anyone and everyone as "Sir" or "Ma'am." It made me feel like a kid at first, but it's a pretty great trick when you forget someone's name.
  • 8:30 a.m. (0830) is considered late. Mass Pentagon exodus begins at 3 p.m. (1500). 
  • Make friends with the police officers -- you might need a favor (or protection from a crazy person) one day.

  • If you're a peon, you are allowed to park on the premises (i.e. the parking lots waaaaaaaaay on the outskirts) five times a month. Metro is your best option. If you need to park, go to the parking office next to the Hall of Heroes and Pentagon Federal Credit Union (or "PenFedCredU," as I like to call it) and have your tag number handy. Get your pass the day before if possible. You will get booted if you don't. And I will never forget my correct tag number again.
  • The hamburgers in the center courtyard aren't half bad, and they have the best french fries in the building.
  • Facebook is a privilege. It will slow down your computer and crash your Internet Explorer, but be happy you have access to it. (Call your help desk and have them set you up with Firefox, it tends to handle outside websites better.)
 Lessons Learned:
  • Flirting with the tour guides is only fun as long as they don't ask you out. When they (he) do (did), of course you'll say yes because pickins are slim and they're (he's) hot, but later you may find out they (he) have (has) a girlfriend (let's hope she's not his wife) and you'll feel like a piece of poo. Besides that, a smile and hair flip here and there never hurt anyone (except that one time one of them got distracted and ran into a pole -- sorry!!!)
  • When you are in a heated conversation with a man, try your best to maintain the level of your voice. The higher pitched your voice gets, the less he will hear. Lord help you if you end up in one of these conversations with a woman.
  • Keep a black blazer at your desk. You never know when you'll get called into a meeting and need to spruce yourself up real quick.
  • High heels, good hair and a bright smile go a long way.
  • If you keep chocolate covered espresso beans on your desk, your coworkers will forgive just about any offense.
  • Make sure you can walk comfortably -- or at least be able to fake it -- in your shoes. A 7-minute walk is a long way in shoes that hurt your feet.
  • You will oft see girls in flip flops in the summertime and Uggs in the wintertime. You will be tempted to follow suit. Try to resist -- the servicemembers in uniform think you look ridiculous. (If you must wear either of these, change immediately when you get to your desk.)
  • Pay attention to the traffic laws when you do drive in. The cops will pounce on you if you even think about disobeying signs.
  • Don't burn bridges with anyone unless he or she is a criminally despicable person. It's all about who you know, and sometimes who your contacts know. Build up a tough skin fast, and try not to take things personally. It's just business.
  • Playing dirty only works if you're a non-criminally despicable person. These people will be on top often, and often you will feel incompetent standing next to them. Remember that you are not incompetent because -- guess what? -- you work in the Pentagon. Don't get caught up in the game. Instead, smile and say hello to these people every chance you get, and focus on being awesome at your job.
Although it can be an intense place, there are tons of perks that go along with working at the Pentagon. Some days you may find yourself chillin' in the cockpit of Air Force 2...

...or hangin' out with a Medal of Honor recipient...

...or briefing the top ranking general in the Army.

You may get invited to the White House, eat cupcakes shot out of an Abrams tank or gain hoards of new followers on your blog when you write about a non-committal humanitarian who looks really cute in his uniform.

Above all (no, that is not a jab at the epic Air Force #fail of 2008), your time spent at the Pentagon will be one of the greatest honors of your life. Even on your worst day, remember that your work is contributing to our nation's defense and the mightiest military on earth.

Style Me July: Week 2 (and a bunch of other stuff from the bestest week of 2012 so far!)

Jul 16, 2012

Has it only been a week since I became a faux fashion blogger? much has happened. Bear with me, because I have a lot to tell y'all.

Day 9: Gimme Your Purse

Tote: Cynthia Rowley, $100 at TJ Maxx
Blazer: Atelier at TJ Maxx (It's been with me since my very first job up here in DC! I can't fit into the suit pants that came with it anymore -- MUST. SHRINK. BUTT. -- but the jacket has held up really well. I think the whole suit was around $65.)
Skirt: Talbots
Note: My previous work bag was a really cute Coach Poppy messenger bag.

After a year of throwing it under Metro seats, it had gotten dirty beyond the point of being able to clean it. Actually, I asked a saleslady how to clean it when I bought it, and she told me "with a rag and warm water." Yeah. That didn't work. So I needed a sturdy yet stylish bag that could handle all my Metro rides. This one does the trick. It's not a statement piece like the Coach bag was, but this thing will last me for years.

Side Note: This was the day I tendered my resignation at my current job. Definitely a bittersweet moment, but I'm SUPER EXCITED!!!! about my new job. More to come on that soon.

Day 10: Retro Moment

Shirt: Target $18
Bracelet: Forever 21
Necklace: H&M
Note: In case you can't tell, I went 80s. I know most people think "60s" when talking about retro style, but technically (and by "technically" I mean according to Wikipedia), "Retro is a culturally outdated or aged style, trend, mode or fashion, from the overall postmodern past, that has since that time become functionally or superficially the norm once again," AND "It generally implies a vintage of at least 15 or 20 years." And according to all the enthusiastic comments I received about my jewelry, I think it's safe to say the 80s have become the norm, superficially (what does that even mean?) or otherwise...and in small doses. Let's not get too crazy.

Side Note: This was the day I brought in cupcakes for a coworker's birthday. It was a new recipe and they were soooooooooo good!

Day 11: Dots & Circles

Jacket with Belt: H&M
Earrings: New York & Company
Note: I'm loving trying out summer up-dos. This one was particularly easy, and the video was fun to watch.

Side Note: This was the day my coworker (a man) alerted me to Sprinkles being in the building! I've trained these guys well. It will be sad to leave them, but I do feel as if my work here is done. If you work in the Pentagon and missed Sprinkles, they'll be back in August from the 13th to the 17th and the 20th to the 24th, and again in September from the 10th to the 14th.

Day 12: Sunglasses

Sunglasses: H&M --> $5.99 <-- (Perfect for me because I break or scratch up every pair I own. These have weathered being thrown around in my bottomless tote all season.)
Seashell necklace: Forever 21
Jacket: New York & Company

Note: Work suddenly got busy and my photographer and I couldn't get outside the one day we should probably have been outside to take a photo. (Note the G.I. Joe action figure under the computer screen, proof that we have a sense of humor here in the Pentagon. Oh the stories I'd love to tell...)

Side Note: This was the day I was supposed to appear in Dinwiddie Traffic Court (say it out loud and real fast for fun: DIN-widdie) for a reckless driving ticket I got over Memorial Day. The cop actually told me I wasn't driving recklessly, but he was going to ticket me as such anyway, and he was going to ticket me for having a brake light out. Pay attention to this detail, Virginia drivers: If you are going over 80 MPH in Virginia -- regardless of the speed limit -- you will be ticketed for reckless driving, which is a criminal misdemeanor. That means you can go to jail. I was going 81 in a 70, just like err-body else. (That'll teach me to drive a red car.) Anyway, I hired a lawyer and he got everything dismissed. If you need a referral, let me know.

Day 13: Hair Accessories

Headband: Forever 21 (I know you can't really see it, but it has little pearls on it and is really pretty.)
Cardigan: Banana Republic
Cami: The Limited
Belt: H&M

Note: Yes I know this is SUPER cheesy, but it was my last Friday in the Pentagon. It had to be done.
Side Note: My last day of work (this Friday) will also be the last day for the 2-star general I've been working for, for the past two years. As a farewell to him, we are having an office-wide BBQ. There's going to be a really neat surprise for him, which I was enlisted to be a major part of, and all I can say is it will be a prime opportunity for me to either epically embarrass myself or become a YouTube sensation. Or both. I'll keep you posted.

I skipped the weekend again (Mixing Patterns and Inspired by A Friend) because I had a blind day-date and didn't want to experiment with patterns, and my Sunday outfit of sweatpants and a dirty t-shirt would have insulted any friend I could have claimed I was inspired by. So instead, I offer you a DC rainbow, a lovely way to end a lovely week:

If you want to follow or participate in the Style Me challenge on Instagram or Twitter (it's not too late to join in!), check for and/or use the hashtag #StyleMeJuly.

Style Me July: Week 1

Jul 9, 2012

As promised, here are last week's outfits. (I'm really excited about pretending to be a fashion blogger!)

Day 1: Rainbow Bright

Dress: Max Studio, $50 at TJ Maxx
Necklace: Forever 21, $10.50
Note: I could have been more creative but it was hot, so this was the best I could do. Maybe that doesn't sound like a good excuse, but if you're living through this DC heat wave then you know what I'm talking about.

Day 2: Belt It Up

Dress: Target, around $25
Belt: Forever 21, around $15
Blazer: Zara, $90
Necklace: Eastern Market, around $20 (I should have worn it the day before to bring in more of a rainbow of colors)
Note: My photographer, @samanthareho, clued me into taking diagonal photos so you can see more in Instagram, which makes you crop your photo into a square. Genius! (Or maybe I'm just dumb. It was hot. Leave me alone.)

Day 3: Keeping Cool Trick

Jacket: H&M, $50
Blouse: LOFT, $25 on sale
Skirt: LOFT
Trick: Take off your jacket
Note: This was a super embarrassing photo shoot, as lots of people were walking by and commenting. The photos turned out well, though, and all the comments went to my head and made me think I was a model, until...

Day 4: Patriotic

Top: H&M, $5
Gold Pendant Necklace: The Limited, around $12 with coupons
Red & Gold Bangles: From Ashmi's wedding (matched my sari)
Skinny Jeans: LOFT, $60
Belt: Gap, $25 on sale
Note: These were taken on my rooftop and were almost as embarrassing as the photo shoot the day before as the rooftop was packed with people. The wind was blowing and made my top outline my faux mother belly, but I was too nervous to retake any photos, so this is what I ended up with.

*That bottom left photo is of me holding a cake that took me all day to make. It was supposed to look like this:

...but instead looked like this:

It was hot. I tried.

Later in the night, when I was requested to sing a Broadway rendition of Katy Perry's "Firework," I was unaware that another photo shoot was going on:
At least they were laughing at me and not with me. Wait. That doesn't make sense.

What I learned: That shirt is NOT flattering. (Good thing I only paid $5 for it.) I am not a cake baker. I will stick to cupcakes from now on.

Day 5: A Bright Pucker

Dress: Target, around $18
Note: I lurv this dress. I have traveled in this dress twice now, and it is so comfortable, easy to wear and flattering yet provides plenty of coverage. LURV. IT. I was in Maine for Joanna's wedding, hence the hotel bathroom.

Day 6: Channeling Audrey

Note: I decided to channel Marilyn instead because I had already planned on wearing this dress for the wedding, but Audrey would have been really fun to do. I'll try to mix Audrey in with another outfit later this month. The pose is weird because I was trying to do the Marilyn wind-blown look, but there was no wind, so I just look like I need to go to the bathroom.
Dress: I think Max Studio, will double check, $50 at TJ Maxx
Shoes: Enzo Angiolini at Macy's, $89 (they sparkle!)
Earrings: Forever 21, $3
Seashell Purse: Vintage, inherited from my great aunt

Days 7 & 8: A Short(s) Story and Swish Your Skirt

Due to the heat wave, I spent both of these days lying on my couch watching HBO on Demand, which I had for the weekend. I was way excited about watching episodes 2 through 10 of "Girls" (HBO teased the first episode on YouTube), but I ended up sleeping for most of the day and was unable to gain consciousness until the sun went down.It was literally too hot to watch TV, much less put together an inspired outfit. I actually had some cute madras shorts with a neon yellow t-shirt I was going to wear on Day 7, but I was too heat-stroken to walk to my bedroom and change. My neighbors were lucky I even had pants on. So I dressed up Noli instead.

That's Chanel, and that, coupled with her adorable, panting face, makes up for me not getting dressed for two days.

If you want to follow or participate in the Style Me challenge on Instagram or Twitter, check for and/or use the hashtag #StyleMeJuly.