Monday, April 21, 2014

Annual Weighing of the Reese's Easter Egg: 2014

Every year around this time, I wonder for a moment why I keep this Annual Weighing of the Reese's Easter Egg thing alive. And in the next moment, I remember "water cooler conversation topic."  I don't watch Game of Thrones/Scandal/House of Cards/(or really any other show except NCIS and Hart of Dixie). I really don't have strong opinions on (non-Olympic) sports. I can almost guarantee that I have not seen the movie everyone else saw. Despite the fact that I read all the time, I am somehow never reading what everyone else is reading. This is basically why I am the worst at water cooler conversations and chitchat in general. I can do the weather and fashion. And once or twice a year, I can slip in this very specific knowledge I have about the peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio in Reese's Easter Eggs. It's enough to keep me doing it. 

Photo 23

So when I saw this year's Reese's Easter Egg peanut butter and chocolate weights on the scale, I think I said to myself "By golly, I think this is a record breaker year. I might be able to slip this into like four conversations this year!"

And it was. This year's Reese's Easter Egg had the highest peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio to date: 1.5 beating out the 2011 ratio of 1.46. Sixty percent of the egg's weight was peanut butter, topping the 59% peanut butter weight also reached in 2011.

And kudos to Reese's for keeping the Easter Egg at a packaged weight of 34 grams for the entire time I have been doing this. In a packaged food world where everything seems to weigh less but cost more, it just seems unusual. In the egotistical portion of my mind, I like to think that somewhere in the Reese's executive suite, a group of Reese's executives sits around a peanut butter cup shaped conference table and debates making the egg smaller every year. And every year, someone mentions "But that one girl who weirdly weighs our Easter Eggs every year WILL NOTICE." And that's that. And I would notice. 

Reese's ItemYear of WeighingTotal Weight (g)

Peanut Butter Weight (g)

(% of Total Weight)

Chocolate Weight (g)

(% of Total Weight)

Peanut Butter-to-Chocolate Ratio

Easter Egg 2014

35

21
(60%)

14
(44%)

1.50

Easter Egg 2013

36

20 
(56%)

16
(44%)

1.25

Easter Egg 2012

33

18 
(54%)

15g
(40%)

1.2

Easter Egg 2011

37

22 
(59%)

15g
(41%)

1.46

Easter Egg 2010

34

19
(56%)

15
(44%)

1.27

Easter Egg 2009

35

20
(57%)

15
(43%)

1.33

Easter Egg 2008

34

20
(59%)

14
(41%)

1.43

Original Cup 2014

21

8
(38%)

13
(62%)

0.61

Original Cup 2013

21

9
(43%)

12
(57%)

0.75

Original Cup 2008

20

8
(40%)

12
(60%)

0.67

Big Cup 2014

39

16
(41%)

23
(59%)

0.70

Big Cup 2008

40

10
(25%)

30
(75%)

0.33

I also reweighed the Reese's Big Cup this year. I last weighed it in 2008. I think I write every year that I need to remember to reweigh it the following year and forgot. This year would not have been any different except the line at CVS was really long and I they have every store set up so that you have to wait in line in the candy aisle. But instead of buy gummi bears  or peach rings, I actually remembered to grab a Big Cup. And at some point in the past six years, they have really changed that formula up. The weight on the package is still 39 grams but the 2008 ration was a terrible 0.33; the peanut butter accounted for just 25% of the weight. This year, the ratio is up to 0.70 and the peanut butter now makes up over 40% of the weight. Well done, Reese's. If you are going to market the Big Cup to peanut butter lovers, you need to make sure that peanut butter ratio is strong.

Hope you are all enjoying the leftover Easter candy deluge at your office today! And the water cooler chitchat that accompanies it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Charleston

At some point after the third snowstorm of the year, I was walking to work wearing more layers of clothing than I could count and yet the icy wind was still cutting through them all. As I speed-walked to the heated lobby of my building, skidding on the salt on the oversalted (but not at all icy) sidewalk, all I wanted, all I needed, was the prospect of warm weather. Just something to pull me out of this miserable winter funk. Just something to make this winter tolerable. Just something to make me not want to throw my winter coat away because I was so sick of wearing it.

On that day, the ten-day weather forecast offered me no hope of warm weather and so I booked a trip. To someplace warmer. The earliest date I could make it work was April 1st and when I was booking it, I laughed to myself “Way to go, it’ll be warm in DC by then for sure. Why are you even booking this?”

It snowed two days before I left. Maybe I was just a bit psychic in my booking of the trip.

So on a Monday night, I dropped my winter coat off at the dry cleaner with a dramatic “I am totally done with this coat for the year” and on Tuesday morning, I found myself in Sunny! Warm! Charleston, South Carolina. And stepping outside the airport into that warm air, I felt myself get my spark back. (I know that sounds cliché and cheesy but my gosh, this winter sucked the life from me.)

And I spent my morning wandering all of cobblestone sidewalks of Charleston into the shops and coffee shops tucked away on side streets. And staring at all of the amazing houses.

IMG 4349

And I spent my afternoons sitting on a park bench in the waterfront park reading while sailboats floated by and dolphins jumped up from the water.

IMG 4335

And then my evenings were dinner at a great restaurant.

Photo 19

Repeat four times. That was my vacation. I didn't do too much but I did everything I wanted. And I never even had to wear a jacket. Just sunscreen. It was THE BEST. 

I picked Charleston because I think everyone in my Instagram feed has been on vacation there in the past year and my vacation plans can easily be swayed by filtered to perfection pictures. It is quite the photogenic city!

IMG 4353

Charleston appears to be the flower box capital of the East Coast. 

IMG 4351

And unfailingly polite and nice. This sign in DC would have some legal disclaimer about the implications of throwing the ball.

IMG 4337

Sweetgrass roses in the City Market. Also known as VERY EXPENSIVEgrass. (But very cool!)

IMG 4359

Sunrise on the waterfront. Take that miserable winter.

Charleston, unlike any other city I have ever visited, ALWAYS merited this response when I told people I was going there “Oh, you HAVE to eat at <insert name of a restaurant>.” Normally people tell things to do, shops to visit. Nope this city was all about the restaurants. And I was totally okay with it. So in the spirit of paying forward all of the restaurant wisdom that was shared with me, here are my recommendations for you (Note: I won't even attempt to write some food critic-y review. My vote can be won with a great bread basket so take these reviews into consideration with that in mind.) (Note Number Two: Vacation food pictures do not annoy me.) 

Husk – This is actually a bucket list restaurant for me. Reservations are a bit hard to come by but I got lucky and had dinner there my first night. Note to self: never visit a bucket list restaurant on the first night of a trip. Because every other restaurant that follows on the trip—while independently stellar—will pale in comparison to the bucket list restaurant. This was the case with Husk. I was prepared for a letdown. It had to be overhyped, right? Nope. From the front door of the Victorian house it calls home to the lemonade with cinnamon(!) ice cubes to chocolate chess pie for dessert, it was just the best dining experience. The food was outstanding and the staff genuinely seems so happy to be working there. Gosh, I loved this place. 

IMG 4321

The chocolate chess pie tasted like the little Cadbury eggs with the crunchy shell. I think I sighed after each bite.

FIG – Like Husk, FIG’s menu changes daily based upon which locally sourced ingredients are available and, I suppose, based upon what the chef feels like cooking. On the ride into Charleston, I saw a billboard that asked if I could name 20 vegetables in the next 2 miles; I could name 15. In honor of that, I ordered the Salad of Nine Vegetables; I could identify five of them. I am apparently a D student when it comes to vegetables. 

Poogan’s Porch – For the famous fried chicken, obviously.

Poogan is a dog, by the way. Dining solo is not always something I am comfortable doing. That I made and kept one solo dinner reservation, let alone four was an accomplishment for me, actually. But dining solo always causes me to fret about what exactly to do while I sit there. You either end up accidentally awkwardly staring at other diners and then quickly averting your eyes or looking like you got stood up on a date but still decided to stick around and eat your feelings. And so I passed the time by reading the restaurant’s website on my phone. And that is how I learned Poogan was a dog. And not an old man. For some reason, I thought it was like Mean Old Man Poogan’s Porch or something.

Magnolias – My favorite bread basket of the vacation.

Photo 18

Black Tap Coffee – Not a restaurant, but great coffee. Which is what powers me. I loved the lavender latte.

And that was Charleston. Thank you Mother Nature for smiling on me with the great weather. I needed it. 

Photo 20

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Pot Roast Affirmation

Growing up, Sunday dinner was basically a given. Church in the morning and dinner at 3 o’clock. That was every Sunday. How I ever ate dinner that early and survived is still a mystery to me.

At some point between then and now, Sunday dinner fell by the side. Possibly when I moved into a small place and lacked a dinner table. I obviously answered “no” when I asked myself “If you make dinner on a Sunday and eat it off your coffee table, does it still count?”

Except that would have actually required me to make dinner. A trip through the archives will provide evidence that cooking has never been my forte. That my tastes were picky. That I really just wanted to eat chicken nuggets. That I just never really enjoyed cooking. Those things were probably all true. 

But a few months ago, something had to change. And I wish it were some resolution to eat better or to learn how to cook. But it was neither. It was that packing my work week lunches was becoming the bane of my existence. I was out of ideas and I hated that nightly ritual of packing a lunch that I knew I would hate the next day.

So I rationalized that I would make one completely elaborate (for me) and delicious meal on a Sunday that I could have leftovers for lunch for the week.

I assumed like most of my rational ideas, I would get bored with it after two weeks. But I have been pleasantly surprised--and impressed with myself--by how much I have enjoyed it. From picking out the weekly recipe, to researching and finding the ingredients, to learning and YouTube-ing new cooking techniques (I can braise things now!), to enjoying ingredients and spices that I have always scoffed at as gross, I love that I now have go-to dinner recipes in case of a dinner party emergency. Which will only happen if you bring your own table or if you are cool with sitting on the floor and eating off my coffee table.

And yes, for a person like me who spent a whole year of her life devoted to baking whoopie pies, it is a strange new world for me when my Dutch oven, roasting pan, and cast iron skillet are getting more use than my cupcake pans and Kitchen-Aid Mixer.

But it's also not some revolutionary change that I am going to write or talk about ad nauseum because basically it's like "Congratulations, you cooked! The rest of us have been doing it for years!"

Yet there has been a life-affirming moment or two along the way. Well, really just one. I call it the Pot Roast Affirmation. Since those Sunday dinners of my childhood, I have had this notion that making a pot roast was basically the most adult thing you can do. When they handed me diploma at college graduation, instead of the blank card from the alumni association inside asking me to remember to donate back to the school, I fully expected there would a card with “Congratulation, you're an adult!” with the recipe for a pot roast on the back.

By my logic, I could somewhat successfully make it through life but until I made that pot roast, the Pot Roast Affirmation told me it didn’t count. Sunday dinner offered me a chance to change this.

And then that Sunday rolled around and I stood in the meat department snickering at cuts of meat like “pork butt” and realized maybe I wasn’t quite grown-up yet. (But for the record, I always want to live in a world where grown-ups snicker at words like butt and fart. I like that we can have a bit of our childhood sense of humor. )

But in less than 24 hours, I went from not even knowing what kind of meat was in a pot roast (“I need pot roast meat please!”) to making a completely delicious pot roast. I felt like such a slightly more competent adult. The Pot Roast Affirmation, it's a real thing my friends. (Kidding, nothing really changed. Except now I know how to make pot roast.) 

Some other Sunday dinners that I have made, most of which were delicious and worked great for lunch leftovers but have not had the life impact of the pot roast dinner:

Lemon Chicken with Olive and Potatoes: My favorite Sunday dinner. I have made it a few times now and it tastes better every time. The turmeric gives it a yellow hue that will make every one in the office microwave line give you the "Great, the whole place is going to smell like curry" side eye but it does not smell/taste like curry. So just give them "at least I am not warming up fish" side eye right back.

Chicken in Coconut Milk - I baked a whole chicken without setting the smoke alarm off! Victory was mine. The chicken was delicious; the sauce was good the night I made but less than appetizing for leftovers. 

Chicken with Almonds and Green Olives - If the entire recipe tasted as good as the almond coating for the chicken smelled, I would have been in heaven. Alas, I should have just eaten the coating as the whole recipe together was just bland. 

Provencal Beef Daube - My second favorite recipe! It involved the use of cooking twine. I had flashback to Bridget Jones' Diary and her use of green twine turning the dinner party soup green and assumed I would have had similar luck. But my cooking twine experience was fine. But Mark Darcy didn't appear at my Sunday dinner like he did to Bridget so it was basically a (t)win(e)-lose situation.

Fennel-Rubbed Pork Roast - My first time cooking with pork. This was good. Fennel and star anise have some amazing flavor powers, the latter making me want all the black jelly beans every time I cook with it.

(Sorry, no food pictures. In the Sunday dinners of yore, we did not pause for someone to have a photo shoot over their perfectly arranged place setting. We just appreciated the good food and ate it. And my gosh, I am starting to think we were on to something then.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Maybe it's best if I don't interact with any humans, small appliances, or restaurant patios today

Yesterday morning I woke up in that strange place between annoyed and cranky for no reason that I could recall. Maybe someone had dream-annoyed me. After I went into the kitchen and started the Keurig and brewed a cup of coffee without actually putting a cup there to catch the coffee, I realized Sunday was going to be one those "Maybe it's best if I don't interact with any humans today" kind of days.

These kind of days happen. I am generally grateful when they happen on a weekend day because I can actually make it through the day without making my less-than-stellar mood anyone else's problem.

A few hours later, after vacuuming up my iPhone charge cord and having to untangle four pieces of the cord from my vacuum, I realized I should have taken the Keurig incident as a sign and escalated the day to a "Maybe it's best if I don't interact with any humans and small appliances today" kind of day.

Knowing my back-up iPhone charger was at the office, I did some quick analysis to see how long I could last without my cord and realized I would last about five hours without it. So off to the Apple store I went. On a Sunday afternoon. Basically the perfect storm of interaction with humans and small appliances. My mood was just SUPER on the walk there.

And then, as though someone thought "Let's throw one more thing her way and see how she reacts", all I could hear was music blasting from the speaker on someone's phones.

Let just preface this with two things. One, I hate speaker phone technology. Unless you are sitting in a place where you are absolutely certain no one can hear you, you can just assume that whatever music you are blasting or conversation you are having on speakerphone is annoying at least one person. Two, being an frequent rider of public transportation, I have gotten over the annoyance of people wearing headphones blasting music so loud that I can think "Wow, I never realized that that was what that lyric was about." I had to as a means of survival. Yes, I still find it incredibly rude but I can block it out. (Though you would think that those trendy, gigantic $200+ headphones would feature some sort of noise absorption technology). 

But I just cannot handle is when people blast music on the speaker of their phone. It is NOT a boom box!

This week I encountered two guys on Metro having what I assume was a Battle of the Bands with their phones. (My vote: The music was terrible on both.) I then encountered a teenage couple so in OMGinLOVE that walking down the sidewalk required a soundtrack of some love song. (I think it was One Direction. And yes, I hate that I know that.) And then the barista at Starbucks who thought that maybe the slowest moving drink line in Starbucks history would enjoy some rap background music, that it might put us all in great spirits. (Spoiler alert: The slowest moving drink line in Starbucks history did not enjoy it.) 

Fast forward to Sunday on the sidewalk, already in a bad mood and there was even more music being blasted at me from someone's phone. I was about to snap as I glared around the crowded sidewalk trying to figure out who it was. Everyone was a suspect. 

And then I burst out laughing because I caught the suspect red handed. That music wasn't anyone's phone, it was the coming from the speakers of restaurant patio I was walking past. 

You know your bad mood has hit rock bottom when you get mad at a giant patio.

(Though, note to the restaurant, if the music you are playing on your very nice patio sounds like it's being blasted from an iPhone, you might want to look into upgrading your sound system.)

But that funny little moment did put me in a slightly improved mindset to face the Apple store, a store I hate going to in the best of moods, so maybe it was a blessing in speakerphone disguise.  

Here's to a week of interacting with humans, small appliances, and maybe even a restaurant patio or two!

Monday, March 17, 2014

When high school fashion trends come back to haunt you

In the never-ending workout fashion catwalks that are my gym and Pilates studio, I noticed with much horror a new trend make an appearance early last year that is still going strong. It's that loose tank top with the exposed sports bra attached look.  Inherently there is nothing wrong with the look. As someone who always tries to look nice when I work out, I actually think it would be cute.

Except I have lived through this look before. Long before lululemon made it all cute and stuff, this look was THE LOOK during high school. And it's not like we were wearing it to work out, it was worn as general casual wear.  It was unfortunate. I shudder at the mere thought of it. 

I like to pretend all fashions that I wore before age 27 never happened. But specifically those I wore in high school are never to be spoken of.

Unfortunately, photographic evidence makes that impossible.

Tank

(It was a long, horrifying walk down fashion memory lane as I sifted through pictures to find this one. I am still cringing. )

Yep, long loose tank top over a sports bra, with Nike shorts that I am sure had a giant swoosh across my bottom, a giant GUESS? watch, and probably Adidas soccer sandals with socks. I was a walking name brand catalog which probably led to my current aversion to ANYTHING with a visible logo or brand stamp.

(Pirate hats were not part of the trend. I am not sure why I needed to clarify that except that I really didn't want you to think I walked around wearing a pirate hat. A fashion train wreck I was, but I had some fashion standards. Okay, probably just one standard: "Never wear a pirate hat except in a hat shop.")

But we ALL wore this outfit. This pic is from a high school band trip where the photos appear to show a contest in who could wearing the baggiest tank top. Why were the 90s so against tailoring and fit?

I remember that at the time, I appreciated the trend a lot because as always the overweight girl, there were few trends that I could participate in. This look was my jam! And it is entirely unfortunate that I thought that. But in my hometown, IT WAS COOL. 

I won't mock the fashion trends of my hometown because I really have no idea what was in style in other towns at that time. But I grew up in a very small farming community before the internet. It's not like most of us were reading Vogue. Most of our fashion trends were determined by the back-to-school JC Penney catalog, long before JC Penney kept trying to rebrand itself to be cool. Every so often someone would visit her cousin in like Chicago or California and come back wearing something that was actually in style and the outfit would get mocked and the outfit would never see the light of day again. And two years later, we would all be wearing that trend and you knew that person had to be thinking "TWO YEARS AGO I told you this was cool!" 

(For what it's worth this form of mockery not only deterred on-time fashion trends but also gangs. We had a gang problem in my town for like four days in the mid-nineties. Eventually everyone just started making fun of the gang and the gang disbanded because they decided it wasn't worth it and just went to the Farmerball game instead and then probably had a beer party in a corn field with everyone else. And a gang-free life was restored to the town and everything was right again. I am positive this type of gang deterrence would only work in my hometown.)

Looking back, it was NOT a good look and it was NOT cool and as a general rule, I try not to relive any horrifying fashion looks of my past. It's a matter of my personal growth.  But I was in Target over the weekend and sifting through the clearance rack in the workout clothes section and I discovered one of these modern-day sports bra-tank top combo for $6. And then I broke all my general rules and bought it. I am not sure what came over me. I am still working through it. 

Photo 17

But the thing is, it's not awful. Kind of comfy actually. Maybe we were onto something in high school. It's perfect for those days when I eat a big lunch and really don't want to go to the gym but I drag myself there a anyway but don't really want to put on my normal, more fitted workout tops because "Hello, food baby!" And the fabric has come a long way from what I am certain was a Hanes  tank in high school. 

So I will concede on this one fashion item that it is okay that I am wearing something that I wore terribly in high school. As long as it is worn only in a working out context.

And as long as it is never ever worn with a pirate hat. I do still maintain that fashion standard.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The wedge sneaker of restaurant bathroom trends

When paging through food magazines like Saveur, Eating Well, or Bon Appetit, often times my favorite articles are not the recipes, but the random little stories that the fill pages before all of the recipes. Articles like "To braise or not to braise" (it's very controversial, apparently) or "Composting in the City" (There are taxis in DC that will pick up compost from people like me that live in high rises and have no gardens.) I always learn a thing or two. Or have a good laugh.

Or in the case of a recent Bon Appetit article, raise my hands to my face Kevin McAllister-Home Alone style and scream NOOOOOOOO. That article? Anatomy of a 2013 Restaurant Bathroom. No, I do not have strong objections to bathrooms. We all need them and I think we are all grateful that restaurants have them. For this article, Bon Appetit sent one of its writers to visit many, many restaurants and had the person compile a list of popular trends in restaurants bathrooms. And you thought your job was weird sometimes.  

I had no problem with the designer soaps and cool sinks on the list. (I love cool sinks. If I had a big enough handbag, I'd steal the one in the bathroom at my dermatologist's office.)

Photo 16

What got me all up in arms was that restaurants no longer can write "men" or "women" or use the well-known standard men's bathroom /women's bathroom graphics. Nope. That's just sooooo 2012.

Since I think this trend has made its way to most of the restaurants I have dined at over the past few years, I can assure you that much like high-low hems and wedge sneakers, this trend needs to die. 

Because however trendy it may be, this is the reality for the diners of the restaurant. If the restaurant writes words on the bathroom doors, the words must be in a language that most of us are probably not quite familiar and often do not immediately make obvious which is which. Oh, that ends in an "a"! High school Spanish taught me that is the feminine version of a word. Except, dammit, I am at a Belgian restaurant. Why did I spend so much time reviewing the menu before I ate here and not the language derivations?

Or it's a graphic that is not always that clear as to what it is. It's like a Rorschach test of how badly you have to pee. Is that a skirt? Or is it sombrero? That looks like a beret. Is that handbag? Or is it a man bag? I have no idea. I give up! 

And inevitably, if you walk into the wrong bathroom, the person who is in there is seated at the table next to you and you just want to crawl under the table with the bread basket and calm the mortification with carbs. 

So what do I currently do? I stand in the dimly lit hallway of the bathroom--and it's always dimly lit which makes the bathroom door Pictionary test all the more challenging--fake fumbling with my phone so as to give the impression that I was just about to use the bathroom when I had to handle this very important matter on my phone. In reality, I am just waiting for the door to one of the bathrooms to open so that I know which is which. 

Which generally works well except for unisex bathrooms. But is the bathroom really unisex or did someone else get stuck in the hallway trying to figure out which bathroom to use and just storm in?

My Restaurant Bathroom Trend suggestion for 2014: Restaurants just kick it 90s style and put a simple M and W on the bathroom doors. But Employees Must Wash Hands, uh, let's keep that trend around for forever!

 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Picture Perfect Penmanship

Every time I scroll through Instagram, I can only laugh at how our world has become one where our online lives need to be styled picture perfect in social media. This is the only logical reason I can come up for the number of times I have encountered detailed articles on "how to style your coffee table." It's a coffee table. It doesn't always have to have a "style."

(My coffee table styling tip? "Put whatever stuff you like on it but realize you are going to be shoving it all out of the way so you can eat dinner off the coffee table while watching the Oscars Red Carpet Show. Also, it's normal for the remote control to be on the coffee table. You don't have to pretend it isn't." )

And I get the whole perfectly styled picture. I mean, I have done it myself. And I know there is usually a pile of mess like two inches away from the frame of my picture. But within that picture frame? My God, my life is like a magazine shoot. So with that thought in mind, I like to think--however cynical it may be--that everyone's photographed perfection is just two inches from a total mess and I never get a complex or jealous from other people's perfect pictures. 

Except for the handwriting posts. 

With greater frequency, people seem to be posting little handwritten notes/scriptures/grocery lists in perfect little spiral notebooks on Instagram all written in the most perfect penmanship ever. And I will be honest, I rarely read what the note actually says. Instead, I am giving the picture a side-eye and thinking is "I wonder how many times they had to write that before they got it perfect enough to post." 

Or do I really live in a world where that many people can write that perfectly on the first try?

As much as I love the art of penmanship, I barely hand write anything any more.  All of my notes/grocery lists/to do lists are kept in Notes on my iPhone. On the fly to-do lists and meeting notes at work are written so quickly that they look like hieroglyphics. 

So maybe I just have penmanship envy; I can live with it. Just remember, MY COFFEE TABLE IS STYLED BETTER THAN YOURS. (It's not. Promise.) 

 

Photo 15

 

Coffee mug, (half of) the Apple logo, spiral notebook, pen. Picture perfect nailed it.

Except for the stains on the coffee mug, I guess. And my pen is upside down.

And there is a giant pile of unsorted mail two inches away from that coffee mug.

Monday, February 24, 2014

How to dance without embarrassing myself…or not

You know that saying "Dance Like Nobody's Watching"?

I hate it.

In these times, someone is watching and probably recording it and if you look ridiculous enough, they are uploading it to YouTube.

And if I were to dance, EVERYBODY would be watching (both live and on YouTube) and cringing and thinking "Wow, is she having a full body muscle spasm? Should we call an ambulance?"

I cannot dance. I have no sense of rhythm. I am really not comfortable dancing and it shows.

I literally dread all dance-related events.  Legitimately, one of the best parts of getting older is that your friends are more inclined to say "We should totally do brunch!" rather than "We should totally go dancing tonight!" Bring on the Eggs Benedict and harp infused tunes if it means not having to feign excitement over mind-numbing techno music in a crowded room filled with strangers who smell either like sweat or like they dove head first in a cologne or perfume pool.

But I do sometimes--in moments of irrational thinking--think that I do want to be the person who enjoys dancing. But how do you learn? Is there a class? I don't want to learn how to ballroom dance or modern dance or whatever. I just want to learn how to dance like a normal person does when music is heard in a social setting. My high school gym class chapter of line dancing to the Boot Scootin' Boogie apparently never gave me this life skill.

And then maybe, just maybe, I found the answer.

Photo 15
Thank you American Airlines and your runway delay a few months ago for giving me time to read your in-flight magazine and allowing me discover this article. All that has stood between me and a lifetime of dance avoidance was just five steps. Who knew?!

So I gave it a try. In the privacy of my own home. With the blinds closed. (And there will never ever be video footage of this. So don't even ask.)

Step 1: Strike (or fake) a confident stance. Fake it until I, yeah, I am never going to be confident doing this.

Step 2: Step-touch with the feet - plus hips. Flashback to every step aerobics class I have ever taken and hated. I was just waiting for the article to scream "And grapevine to the right!!!!" as I trip over my own feet.

Step 3: Bust out with a body roll. This is where it all falls apart. The instructions direct me to "move my head back and body roll down to my hips." And then roll right back up. This is not natural.

Step 4: Uncork the chaîné. I think the world might be a safer place if I am not uncorking anything in my dance moves.

Step 5: Remember: Less is more. Um, brunch anyone?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Missing the Olympic excitement of yore

Normally I feel like the Olympics are these two grand weeks where we all become over invested in sports and athletes that we do not care about for another 4 years.  You always end up overhearing some random conversation at the office about "Can you believe that luge finish last night?"  It's what the Olympics are all about!

But this year? I am having a hard time getting emotionally invested in any part of the games. And it's not for lack of trying. A snowstorm, frigid temps, and a long holiday weekend, I have nothing but time! And it started out strong. There were some epic Fashion Police texts with friends during the Opening Ceremony parade of athletes. But since then, it has just been various shades of blah.

And I have been trying to figure out why. There is no clear cut reason but I have some theories.

1. It is currently colder and there is more fresh snow in DC than there is in Sochi. Do they not do climate studies of Olympic sites? That there are skiers going sleeveless and news anchors are not wearing coats while I have to put 15 layers on and scale a snow bank to cross the street to go to the grocery store just makes me angry and resent the Olympics games a little. I want my winter Olympics to be filled with athletes and reporters and fans wearing puffy coats, hats, and scarves for functional purposes and not fashionable purposes. I want to be the one wearing them for fashionable purposes and not functional ones.  (My apologies to team Bermuda. During the Opening Ceremony, I mocked the athlete from Bermuda with a "we get it, your country is famous for the shorts. But it's the Winter Olympics." comment. As it turns out, he was the only one properly attired.)

2. There's no athlete that's the face of the Olympics.  There is always the one or two athletes who not only get all the hype beforehand but also then do really well at the Olympics and we all love them and get all excited. There is also that one athlete who is kind of a rebel/jerk and we kind of hate him/her but we still watch. There's just not those people this year. It's like Shaun White got a grown-up haircut and became boring. I mean, it happens. But when you are something cool like a snowboarder, you hope it doesn't. (Also, he must have the best PR team in the business. Never has a celebrity tantrum/destruction of a hotel room been so efficiently swept under the carpet. It would be prefix to any other celeb/athlete/politician's name from now until forever. But no one ever even mentions it with him. So strange! I feel like every-young-celeb-destined-for-a-meltdown might want to look into hiring White's publicist.)

3. The drama in figure skating this year seems all so…manufactured? I mean, the Russian figure skater (Plushenko?) withdrew before he skated. In Olympics figure skating dramatic moments of yore, he would have had a very dramatic moment DURING his skate. Possibly in front of the judges. Maybe with tears. And his arch nemesis would have been next to skate and glaring at him for creating a distraction.  And allegedly the top two American women's skaters (whose names I am blanking on. Didn't figure skaters used to be household names?) hate each other. But that's all we know. Lame. I mean, for those of use who lived through the Harding-Kerrigan scandal and French judge scoring scandal, our bar for figure skating scandal is SO MUCH HIGHER.

4. The figure skating scoring system sucks all the drama from the event. Damn you French judge in 2002.

5. The Internet ruins everything! (I feel like I need to follow this up with another old person phrase like "YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!") But you know the results before the primetime starts. It's hard to avoid them and everyone hates that person who expects everyone around them to be all SPOILER ALERT; it just isn't feasible in modern technological times. 

6. I do not understand what "slopestyle" means. America appears to be really good at it and I want to get excited about it but what is it? Are we just making up sports now? From the clips I have seen it appears to be gymnastics on skis or snowboards. But I thought that was covered by some other sport.

7. I don't think I can say this without sounded like a poor sport, but America isn't doing so awesome these Olympics, is it? I mean we are still winning things (we seem to be really good at bronze this Olympics) but I just expect us to be REALLY good at Olympics. So when I look at the medal count and see the American gold medal count at just four, all I can think is "that's all?" (We were really good in Vancouver, right? I am in not imaging that, am I? Or I am just brainwashed by how good we were at running, swimming, and somersaulting in the Summer Olympics?)

There are some bright spots though.

1. I really do feel bad for Bob Costas' eye infection situation. Mainly because whether it is pink eye or not, any adult with an eye infection is instantly subjected to an unlimited number of "Who over the age 8 gets pink eye?" jokes. It is honestly the most annoying part of having an eye infection: eye drops can cure the infection, nothing cures the inane comments that accompany it. But seriously, Bob, these are the two biggest weeks of your year every other year. And the problems with the water were well publicized before you left. No one would have judged you if you would have had a diva moment and demanded bottled Fuji water be shipped in just for you. I actually judge you a little for not making that demand. 

2. The three American men who swept the ski slopestyle are adorable and humble. Granted, they are young and look like they could be the cast of whatever trainwreck show ABC Family creates next and I just sort of hope they stay adorable and humble and/or have people surrounding them who are not totally crazy so they don't go all Justin Bieber on us.  Slopestyle boys, just say no to drag racing and egging your neighbor's house. (That one of them already has created a hashtag to get dates makes me a little nervous for them.)

3. I am really enjoying how quick everyone is to blame the uniforms for how badly the speed skaters are doing. It's the outfit's fault? Can we all start using that excuse? "I wrote this computer code poorly because my outfit is a wool-blend today."  Come on. Basic rule of fashion, you give an outfit a test run before a high profile wearing. For the average person, that means checking to make sure it does not cling or fall oddly so that when you wear it you are totally comfortable. Or to see if you need alterations or wardrobe tape. For an Olympic athlete, you test out the outfit! I mean, they did this, right? If they didn't, well, that's just dumb. But if they did, don't blame the outfits. Maybe everyone else just got better. (*I will 100% take this statement back if an evaluation of the outfits determines they were at fault. But I doubt it.) 

4. Everyone does seem really into hockey. I am really into the fact that my evening train commutes get a two week break from Caps fans heading to the games. They never wear jackets to the games and I just don't understand and it bothers me. Do they wear fourteen layers of clothing under the jerseys they sport? Because it is freezing.

5. The Today Show is never better than when they are at the Olympics. I normally never to get to watch it but a snow day and a few days off for the President's Day weekend have allowed me to tune in and it is always entertaining.

6. Ice dancing! When did America get so good at it? The American ice dancers seem delightful!

But there are seven days left to the Olympics so maybe there's hope. I mean Curling really heats up this week so JACKPOT! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Barre bar ponderings

A few Saturdays ago, the barre class I was in had reached the point every barre workout reaches where the shaking in my legs makes me wonder what would happen if I just walked out. I mean, I don't actually know anyone in the class so it would just be strangers judging me if I quit.

But I am not a quitter.  And the fact that the mental smack down I  give myself daily about the size of my thighs is not healthy and I feel a little better about it if I am being proactive about making them not so gigantic.  These two facts alone had me searching around the classroom for something, anything,  to focus on besides how much tiny little barre movements can hurt so much. 

And then I noticed the tattoo on the girl in front of me at the barre (bar? barre bar?).

"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."

Okay, I loved Friday Night Lights. The first season of the show and the second and third seasons of West Wing are the quality standards by which I judge all other television shows.  But much like I do not have "Barlett for America" tattooed anywhere on me, I do not have the signature line of Friday Night Lights inked on me anywhere either.

I mean I guess a line of dialogue is not unlike having a cartoon character or something else arbitrary tattooed on you. And even if the phrase has a deeper meaning than just Coach Taylor said it and you loved it, I feel like you would definitely be setting yourself up for a lifetime of "So, a big <insert TV show name> fan, huh?" 

But it did get me thinking about TV show catch phrase tattoo possibilities. Now, I do not watch a lot of TV. I am always the person who answers no to the question "Did you see the latest episode of/Have you Netflix binge-watched <Insert popular TV/Netflix/Whatever technology all you people are using now show>? But I do watch Big Bang Theory. And I think Sheldon Cooper's favorite catchprase "Bazinga!" might be a pretty great tattoo. Or it would at least give the person behind me in barre something to think about.

And the best part all of these thoughts? By the time I had them all, the worst of the barre workout was over.

(Full disclosure: I do not have any tattoos and unless a third-life crisis pummels me over into a wave of insanity, I probably will never have one.  It is just not my thing. And unless it's a line from a television show that I actually happened to watch and I am trapped in the workout studio from ballet-inspired-hell, I barely even notice them on other people let alone judge them for it.)