something blue

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I know that it’s cliche to write about weddings today of all days. While I did not get up at 3:00am to watch the royal wedding (though I did wake up at 3:00am for other neurotic Chelsea reasons) by the time I got out of bed at 6:00am to do my physical therapy exercises, I caught more or less the meat of the royal event without being intentionally in a sleep deficit. But if I had had others to join me in the drinking of the Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, trust me, I would have made the move from bed to living room a tad bit earlier.

If I may, let me muse for a moment over the whole “should we watch it or should we not” pressure. In my opinion, it’s a world event. Prince William will be King of England. He may be a king in name only, but let’s give respect where respect is due. Second of all, I personally am very up to speed on world events. I don’t watch the Jersey Shore. (I don’t even watch American Idol.) I understand what the “debt ceiling” is. I watch C-SPAN for god’s sake. So let me enjoy something light and happy. Don’t judge me for wanting to see two people express a very public display of affection and commitment.

In 1981, my almost 12-year-old self watched Lady Diana marry Prince Charles. I had never had a boyfriend (and was probably just on this side of thinking that boys didn’t have cooties) but I was enamored with all things royal. I cut out of magazine photos of presumed designs of what her dress would look like. I had a coffee mug commemorating their engagement. I woke up at 2:00am to follow the coverage. But given all that, I cannot say in all honesty that even at that age I was bought into the fantasy. Did Diana’s later courage to divorce Prince Charles in the most public of ways give me the validation to terminate my own marriage?

I can feel you rolling your eyes, but at the same time, I cannot for sure say no, just as we can’t today predict how today’s betrothal of Prince William and Kate Middleton will impact weddings to come. Will brides imitate her dress? (Personally, I think Kaitlan could totally pull off Kate’s look. And bridesmaids… you should demand a dress as flattering as that worn by Kate’s sister.) Prince William and the new Princess Kate are a modern royal couple. She is older than he is. One can presume they have had sex. (Does anyone else remember the release of the details of Diana’s embarrassing examination that showed she was a virgin?) She rattled off  his obnoxiously long name in the right order. And held her flowers with seemingly steady hands. An inspiration.

The one question I have, which I am sure would be answered by a quick Google search, is what shoes did she wear? While her dress was timeless, how fun would it have been to mix it up with a sassy pair of shoes in an exotic color? Maybe even use it as her something blue. I know that if I ever get married again, I will pay way more attention to the shoes than the dress.

But the bottom line is that while today millions worldwide fawned over the ceremony joining this couple, it was really a private moment between two young people in love. Their demure pubic kiss may have passed with the blink of an eye, but I have faith that in their alone time, they were able to embrace the significance of the day. And hopefully, in the process, she flashed him a rocking royal blue satin heel.

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my girl-crush on Gwyneth Paltrow

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.babble.com/family-kitchen/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/GP.jpgI am not usually drawn to blonds, but I admit it. I am totally in like with all things Gwyneth Paltrow. (Except, with all due respect, her singing.) Ever since I saw her in the movie Se7en with her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt, I’ve had a soft spot for her movies. (Except, with all due respect, the ones in which she sings.) How many times in my own life have I had a Sliding Doors moment? And the period pieces? Love. How I wish I could do a British accent.

I so wanted her and my other crush, Ben Affleck, to make it as a couple. That would have been quite convenient. But alas, he took the J.Lo detour. Gwyneth assumed a macrobiotic diet. And in some chronological order that I don’t know without looking it up, she won an Oscar, lost her beloved father, met Chris Martin from Coldplay and had babies named Apple and Moses. I still marvel that they didn’t notice (or perhaps they did) Apple’s full name is one vowel away from being Apple Martini.

Then, aside from looking hot for the Iron Man movies, Gp sort of slipped under the radar for me except when I came across the random shot of her in my InStyle magazine. She is definitely the consummate trend-setter, making every look seem effortless (except that one goth ensemble she wore to the 2002 Academy Awards). Something about Gwyneth’s style makes me want to grow my hair long, buy a closet of white cotton blouses, and wear Tod’s driving shoes.

A year or so ago, my friend Adrienne introduced me to Gp’s website and newsletter Goop. Goop! I love Goop! Granted, I am pretty sure I will never stay in any of her recommended hotels in Paris (unless I am there on my next honeymoon). I won’t be doing her insane detox program (though only Gwyneth could make me think twice about drinking kale juice for breakfast). And I certainly didn’t need to see her list of international apothecary drugstore products to know that I am a sucker for such a thing (after all, I discovered the Boots line that Target now carries when studying in the UK in 1991.)

And then there is her recently released cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. I have to admit, I bought it on a whim. I tend to be a little skeptical of celebrity cookbooks. Sophie Dahl’s attempt, Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights (which I actually first read about on Goop) sits in my kitchen without a single recipe having been prepared from it (though her recipe preludes are very entertaining and the photography is brilliant). But in two nights I have made three recipes from MFD and they all were fabulous. Even the kids cleaned their plates, which held such green things as kale and zucchini.

I do have to mock a little. Aside from her slightly preachy comments on organic and unprocessed foods (we know, we know) her recipes are peppered with comments like “good for the working parent” but none more so than ten-hour chicken. Having just roasted a chicken for the boys, which they declared “the best chicken in the world” I thought I should take a look. She bills this recipe as the perfect dish for the busy working parent. According to her recipe, put your whole chicken in a 200 degree oven before you leave for work in the morning, and when you get home that night, the chicken will be done. Yeah. Except most of us don’t have help who stay at our houses during the day to make sure they don’t burn down when we leave the oven on unattended for ten hours. An editor didn’t notice that maybe this is a great recipe for a cold Saturday when you don’t intend to leave the house but might not be not appropriate for those of us who neurotically check and recheck the knobs on our gas stoves before we leave the house in the morning?

But I forgive. After all, last night, my kids ate kale. Tonight, they ate fried zucchini spaghetti which is only significant (since they like zucchini) in that usually Jack won’t eat foods that touch. But he never once complained that his vegetable and his pasta were co-mingling in the bowl.

And if her recipes are so good, how bad can her detox program be?

something new

Adam and Kaitlan, captured seconds after the proposal (and acceptance)

Love is in the air. While some fear the arrival of spring for its pollen-laden ways, Adam, the young and handsome suitor of Kaitlan, whom I refer to more as “my former LC in the Warner office” than I do by her current title in our present office, took advantage of the soft pink canopy provided by the cherry blossoms to get down on one knee and pop the question.

So last Monday morning, amid the “how was your weekend” questioning, it didn’t take us long to notice that Kaitlan was sporting an eye-catching gem on that one finger reserved for such magnificence. The requisite screaming, oh-my-godding, jumping up and downing and hugging ensued. And by lunch, the past issues of Trading Carbon and National Journal on our office coffee table had been replaced by copies of Martha Stewart Weddings and Southern Living Weddings. (We did keep the publication Wills and Kate: A Royal Love Story that Sara kindly brought us back from the UK on her last visit.)

After all, we are an office of almost all women, joined three days a week by one of the company’s founding fathers (whose own daughter is getting married this summer) and four days a week by Max the Intern, whom we are constantly apologizing to for our female-centric conversations. Let’s just say, Max is learning about not just energy policy, but heel heights, purse colors and outfit accessorizing.

Wedding bells toll for us daily now as we grill Kaitlan on updates to her planning. We are happy she has a date set. We peruse her dogeared pages of said magazines to see what dresses have caught her eye. We’ve all shared our worst bridesmaid dress story, a conversation that has been held more than once since we all have more than one worst story to share. (My worst story isn’t my own, but belongs to my friend Chris, who at her brother’s wedding had a wear a teal-colored sheath that just reached over the socially necessary places to cover, with a purple-colored skirt that you tied around the waist and could take off for dancing later, and purple shoes. But then when you took the purple skirt off, you were wearing teal and purple in the days before color blocking was stylish.)

It’s hard to not dispense with a dose of unsolicited advice when someone young is getting married. Just today, when Kaitlan told me that she promised her maid of honor that she’d pick a dress that could be worn again (haven’t we all heard that) I advised her to not bother. Really, no one ever wears the dress again. It’s an honor to be in someone’s wedding, and that’s worth the price of a bridesmaid dress you will wear once. I mean, how many times have you worn a non-bridesmaid dress only once for a less significant event? I’m certainly prepared for whatever dress I buy for the happy occasion (Janna, be on the lookout please) to not necessarily come with a second-wearing in mind.

While Kaitlan has to be on the dress ball, it’s a little too early for me to plan what to wear to a wedding that’s a year away. In the more immediate term, I have to break the news to Jack and Colin that their beloved Kaitlan is getting married. I’m not sure whether they will be disgusted (because getting married is totally gross) or disappointed (because they both nurture a serious crush on their former babysitter). This is one subject her wedding magazines don’t cover.

seeing red

The Valentine's Day Trench Coat

As anyone who has read my posts since I left Beatrix in the dust knows by now, lately I have been embracing color. This is very unlike my typical Northeastern default to wearing black most of the time. Black is usually my go-to color and certainly was the color of choice to camouflage Beatrix those two dark months of back brace confinement. But after ten days of being able to integrate more color into my wardrobe, I can honestly say that I have been pleasantly surprised.

My spirit is definitely a bit brighter when wearing color; I don’t miss that sickly glow that black can often cast on your skin. Don’t worry, I’m sure this is not the end of my relationship with black clothes. I have too many black dresses, sweaters and blazers in my closet to eschew my beloved black forever. But for now, I am obsessed with red.

Recently, the DC metro area has been plagued with a tug-of-war, not between political parties (well,  yes, between political parties) but between winter and spring. And the end result has more often than not been rain. Some days, the rain is accompanied by sticky humid weather. Other days, the rain is cold, steady and miserable. Both types of weather events call for my perfect red trench coat that I bought for myself (from Janna) for Valentine’s Day.

However, Thursday in DC was in the mid-60s and sunny, so the red trench stayed home. But feeling of festive spirit — and knowing I had three sets of drink plans — I pulled out of the closet archives a dress (same cut as linked here but different fabric and slightly different shade of red) I bought from Betsy Fisher a few years ago to wear to the happy hour that celebrated my 40-minus-one birthday (or 35-plus-4, depending on how you like to do your math).

Observation number one: nothing attracts compliments more than wearing red. It never ceases to amaze me how wearing a red dress (or a red trench) captures so much attention. Especially when said dress or trench is paired with the perfect shade of red lipstick (Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Rebelle). More strangers make eye contact. More random people offer you wishes for a good day.

Observation number two: red is empowering. There is certainly no fading into the woodwork when one is wearing red, so you really do have to own it. As one of my guy friends put it yesterday, “you look like a little red sports car in that dress.” People make way for you in a crowd. You get what you want.

Observation number three: I need more red in my wardrobe.

While I still have 9 days left until Lent is overt (I gave up shopping for Lent) I am already contemplating how I can incorporate more red in my life in a way that accommodates the fact that I have a list of home improvement projects to fund. And did I mention that I had to pay taxes? A lot of taxes? As my friend and accountant Kara put it, I need to invest in something other than my pretty clothes and good wine.

I’m guessing she didn’t mean a little red corvette.

bag lady

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My Scout is the size of the pink one but in the orange color.

I am by no means a small purse woman. I usually blame the fact that I have to carry a larger-sized handbag on my being a mom, but when was the last time I actually toted around crayons, pacifiers, or matchbox cars in my bag? Frankly, the real issue is that I can never narrow down exactly what lipstick I want to wear (and often I combine two or three colors to make my own custom-perfect shade) and honestly, lipstick takes up a lot of space.

Okay, maybe not.

But I also have this huge wallet. When I bought it four years ago, I remember the sales woman at Nordstrom saying, “this is lovely, and it can double as a clutch.” Seriously? Where would I put my lipsticks? In the change pouch? I don’t think so. And while I do have a few clutches in my repertoire, I have to admit that I rarely use them. I need my keys. I need my iPhone. I need my iPhone charger since my iPhone only carries a charge for about 45 minutes these days. I sometimes carry my iPod too (especially if I’m metro-ing) because if my iPhone dies and if I am stuck with an 18-minute wait for the orange line in the direction of New Carrollton, I want something to listen to.

Then there are my eyeglass cases. I can sometimes get away with only carrying one, and the regular glasses and the sunglasses take turns being housed it in, but it has to be the bigger of the two cases because my sunglasses don’t fit in the case for the eyeglasses and if I am going to PT or the gym or some place where I might need to take both pairs off, then I need to bring both cases.

I didn’t really keep any of this in mind when I asked my friend Janna from The Finicky Filly to order me the Kate Spade Essex Scout in orange. In my spatial-judgmentally-challenged mind, it looked like it wasn’t that much smaller than the purse I had been using since August. After all, I wasn’t buying the Kate Spade Small Essex Scout. But in practice, my new orange purse is small. It can barely fit my mammoth wallet. I have to narrow my daily lipstick selection down to two options (today’s choices were the Trish McEvoy “Instant Pick Me Up” Lip Shimmer and the new Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Bonheur). My keys seem too bulky and of course I need my iPhone charger. (The iPhone was conveniently being carried in my coat pocket.) No iPod. No crayons, pacifiers or matchbox cars.

The other night, my seven-year old saw my new purse laying on my bed and started petting it.

Colin (adoringly): Mommy, is this your new purse?

Me: Yes, do you like it?

Colin: I love it. (Pause.) When you don’t want it anymore, can I have it?

I don’t think that Colin realizes that while the cross body style of my bag is very Indiana Jones, he can’t fit his entire retinue of treasures in the Essex Scout. Maybe a couple of his smaller twig wands, a Lego gun and one of the knives he cut out of cardboard. But certainly not all his rocks, his corks (he has a lot of these) or his bottle cap collection. Not to mention his lip balm (he is my son, after all). But that is beside the point since I am far from giving Colin his own Kate Spade purse, even one that has been used.

This week I was lucky. It was rainy, so I didn’t need the sunglasses, and since I was carrying around my computer bag, I could use it to stash the surplus items that I didn’t fit in the purse. And I was only carrying around one cork.

Yes, I have a cork collection, too.

closure

photo courtesy of Tom Lawler

All last week, those of us living and working in the nation’s capital and some beyond waited with some combination of dread, fear and anticipation to see if our nation was headed toward a federal government shutdown. Not to make light of the very serious implications of a shutdown, but in the spirit of how I approached my confinement with Beatrix, I was preparing a post on “shutdown chic.” Some offices had pools on how long the shutdown would last. I even saw that local eating and drinking establishments were offering shutdown specials. Of course, others were taking more serious measures, like trying to figure out how they were going to support their families if the furlough lasted for any extensive period of time. We jested, but not really.

While most cheered, some actually groaned when The Powers That Be, running the shot clock to the very last second, reached agreement (for now) and averted shutdown. During this preceding week of uncertainty, my first real shutdown threat since I moved to Washington in 1997, I myself took some time to reflect on the services the federal government provides, those things that are just expected and which most people probably don’t realize cease to be performed under shutdown conditions.

I mean, everyone thinks they hate the government, right? But aren’t they just confusing the government as a whole with the government’s role as tax collector? I have never heard someone say, “you know, I just don’t pay enough taxes.” But on the other hand, I’ve never heard anyone say “wow, I am so thankful for a national defense.” The bottom line is that those taxes we pay fund the operation of so much we take for granted in our daily lives. Our federal government might not be totally efficient. There is definitely waste. But given the size (and I’m sorry, it isn’t going to get smaller folks) and scope of what is provided, I think we get a pretty good bang for our buck.

Let’s take, for instance, something that my own children were concerned about regarding the shutdown threat: the Smithsonian Museums. You know, the ones you get to go to for free when you visit Washington, DC, or if you live here, where you go on a bad (too hot or too cold) weather day? There are nineteen Smithsonian museums (which is why it’s funny when one is approached by a tourist with the question, “where’s the Smithsonian?”). In addition, there are nine Smithsonian research centers and the National Zoo. Have you ever noticed that you don’t have to pay San Diego Zoo-style admission prices to get into the Zoo in DC? Well, it’s a federally funded institution, supplemented in great part by private donations. And in the event of a government shutdown, the entire Smithsonian system in closed. If you planned your vacation to see you favorite mega-fauna frolic in the bamboo and there happened to be a shutdown, no admission. Your child has been dying to visit the Air and Space Museum? In a shutdown, it’s closed. There was even some question as to whether there would have been a Cherry Blossom parade this weekend if the government had shut down. All those high school bands from across the country that practiced and fund-raised all year to come here and march would have been sorely disappointed.

My kids, of course, were concerned as to whether someone would be there to feed the Zoo animals. It seems this type of worker is what we call “essential.” But I don’t see how you choose. At the risk of coming off too existential, can’t you make a case that everyone is essential?

Let’s take something that is a little less warm and fuzzy. Literally. I know border protection is important to many people. Being first generation American on my mom’s side of the family, I have to admit to having a soft spot for those foreigners wanting their own taste of the American dream (and now that I have put that in writing in a public domain, I guess I can never run for elected office). Many of the functions of the Department of Homeland Security (such as border control) would have continued as usual under a shutdown, but I highlight it here because I wonder how many people actually realize that this is one of the many services that mainstream America considers important that are paid for out of the federal coffers your tax dollars fund.

How about the National Institutes of Health? Would they be able to accept new patients? In a shutdown, would passport applications or renewals be processed? How about Federal Housing Authority loans? Would tax refund checks be sent?

I don’t mean to sound all DC-preachy, I just think that the federal government could use a little more love thrown its way because for all that it does that you hate (like collect taxes) it actually performs a lot of services that you just may like. And use.

I won’t say we are out of the shutdown waters forever. There may still be a discussion on shutdown chic. But at least for now, on Monday morning, federal workers will be riding the Metro and driving on our federal highway system, making their way to work. I am happy that the Giant Pandas will be fed, and of course, that at the U.S Capitol, it will be business as usual. If only business as usual included a little less partisan bickering. I think that is a style we can all agree needs to be shut down.