begging for bipartisanship

When I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1997, it was admittedly with bright eyes. I had just completed a master’s degree in a totally unrelated field, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that I wanted to work in Washington.

Quick talking and good timing got my foot in the door in a Senate office, launching the Capitol Hill career I wanted. Was it everything I expected? Absolutely not. It was more. Thanks to the sage guidance of the statesmen I had the honor to work for and the mentoring of the high-quality bipartisan core of staffers I spent my days with, I had a most fulfilling and eye-opening experience.

But today’s Congress is not the Congress I lived and breathed. By the way, I’m not bitter just because I am supposed to be in New York this weekend with a friend who works in House leadership. I’m not just bitter because it feels like my finances would be safer stored in my mattress than in my current investments. I’m bitter and sorely disappointed in the utter lack of cooperation and bipartisanship being displayed by today’s crop of politicians.

Let me add a side note to illustrate my point: the bill I worked tirelessly to see enacted in my early hill days, a landmark bill that provided for the restoration of the Everglades, was signed into law by President Clinton in an Oval Office ceremony which included Governor Jeb Bush, who was governor of Florida at the time, on the very day that the SCOTUS ruled on Gore v. Bush. But the bipartisan delegation present for the ceremony put aside their political differences for 45 minutes to honor this momentous step in the preservation of a national treasure.

I’m convinced that when it comes to today’s fiscal conundrum, if none of the leaders involved could tweet, post an update to Facebook, hold a press conference, issue a press statement or otherwise opine about the status of the negotiations, there would be a deal right now. But let’s not kid ourselves. Neither party has any interest in solving this issue when instead of looking at the ramifications of national default on interest rates, retirement accounts, and oh, say, the reputation of the United States, these so-called leaders are instead looking at polling numbers, the 2012 election, and the calculus of whom this battle hurts more.

August 2nd is still days away, so there is time to liquidate your assets and hide them in your preferred safe place. There is still time for a bipartisan outcome. Wouldn’t it be better if instead of posturing and politicking, we could release our leaders to strike a deal that keeps America’s credit standing and saves our face internationally? Then, afterwards, we can roll up our sleeves and decide how best to pay down America’s huge credit card debt. We might despise the federal deficit, but let’s admit it, whether your weakness is war, tax cuts or social programs, we all benefited from the running up of said debt, and we are all going to have to sacrifice something to whittle it back down.


desperately seeking… I wore the J. Crew Minnie Pant. I like the Minnie and was told by Rosanna at DC Style Factory that I look good in Minnie when she audited my closet last spring and advised that I should buy a pair in every color. (By the way, I highly recommend a closet audit.) But really, while the Minnie is good for what it is, it is not my perfect pant. And I want the perfect pant.

In June when I was vacationing in New England (I love the way that sounds) and spent a day at Crane Beach with my friend Nicole, I noticed that she was wearing the Minnie. My mention of the Minnie led to a discussion about our own personal experiences in pursuit of the perfect pant.

We dubbed the perfect pant the Audrey pant, envisioning something that Audrey Hepburn would wear. But when I googled “Audrey Hepburn pants” I didn’t actually encounter any photos of her wearing what I think Nicole and I both seek.

What is the perfect pant? Well first of all, it’s black. And it has a flat front. And it has a straight leg. But it isn’t capri, which for us shorter women does not hit at the right point of the leg since all pants seem to be designed for the woman who is 5’11”. It isn’t that I am afraid of the tailor. I like the tailor. I use the tailor. I need to visit the tailor and soon. But the tailor, while good, is not capable of hemming my pants to that perfect fashion forward length that Nicole and I both desire. I don’t want the hem to drag. I don’t want the hem to be too high-watery. No floating hems (ugh!) or worse, a mullet scraping the ground behind your shoe when you walk. (Actually, maybe the floating hem is worse.) Essentially, we want an inseam that is longer than 27 inches and shorter than 31. No flare. No skinny. No bootcut. Just straight and classic. Oh, and please. I have birthed two babies so I prefer that the waistline fall somewhere between a high-waist reminiscent of the 80s and hang-off-your-hips-navel-revealing.

Nicole’s method for finding this perfect pant is to write to J. Crew and hope Jenna Lyons listens. My method is to appeal to my female readers to see if anyone is enlightened (and lucky) enough to own this pant. I’d be willing to buy the perfect pant in multiples just to ensure I always have it. If you direct me to the perfect pant, there is most certainly a reward. Or at least, a shout-out.

Fall Fashion Finds

Fall Simply Soles Wish ListWho isn’t dreaming of fall? As I have previously established, it’s almost all that I think about. As if the Sweat Ceiling 2011 weren’t enough to send my daydreams in the direction of crisp October afternoons and brilliant foliage, I had to go and get the Simply Soles Fall Preview Catalog. I believe I previously referred to this catalog as “shoe porn” but it’s so much more than that. They sell purses. They have accessories. Jewelry. And I want it all.

I play this game with myself sometimes. I go to a favorite online store, put everything I want in the shopping cart, just to see how much the grand total would be if I could indeed buy everything. (Let’s just say when it comes to outfitting my fall wardrobe, I am in love with more than a mortgage’s worth of precious finds from the latest Simply Soles catalog). The way this game plays out is that I negotiate with myself. After putting together the “dream shopping cart” of everything I want, I go back through and ixnay the items that are too much like something I already own. I think critically about what outfits I could pair with the items in question. I don’t always look for versatility. But if I am making an investment, I want it to fit in my wardrobe without requiring additional purchases. The said good(s) should enhance my “look” and of course, I love something that I know is unique. I don’t want to be in an elevator in the Dirksen building sporting the same something as someone else, unless that someone is Adrienne (whose office is in the Dirksen building and who seems to share my taste in Chie Miharas). Of course, there is the matter of budget too. I have a cap. If I want to exceed the cap, I have to cut elsewhere, and/or go seek additional revenue. Imagine that for a formula?

While a picture is worth a thousand words (and all my favorite items look so pretty when pictured together) I do have to briefly expound upon each of my new true loves. First, the footwear. The Bettye Muller Treat in Platino might be my new favorite child. I actually own this pump in buff (the palest pink) and when I bought it, in my on-line review I wrote that I wanted a pair in every color. Two is a good start. As for the Frye boot, it is the perfect shade of distressed gray. I have been cruising for a tall gray riding boot, but nothing struck me as quite right until I saw this beauty. And I know a Frye boot will last forever, which immediately gives this item frontrunner status. The orange Dana Davis is the wildcard here. You know me and my pop of orange. I want to wear it with jeans, a structured blazer, and a great scarf.

Speaking of, does anything say fall more than the perfect scarf? While I usually opt for solids, this Orla Kiely acorn print in my favorite neutral hues has definitely caught my attention. And the Fornash necklace would work with just about every item in my fall wardrobe. (I have already tried it on mentally with everything hanging in my guest room closet where off season clothes wait to be worn.)

But really, the crown jewel of my list of needful things is the Isabella Fiore satchel. This bag screams autumn. It is busier than my usual handbag choices (I can see those of you who have seen my neon orange Kate Spade Scout rolling your eyes) but this bag has both the structure I like and the space I need.

While negotiators hole up in their partisan hovels, taking our economy to the brink, I am going to be playing my own budget game, but with less severe worldwide consequences. And if I reach a stalemate with myself, I might even resort to eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

hard as nails the going gets tough in this city, well, often, the tough get a manicure. I know it seems like a shallow thing to think, do and write about in these dark and sweaty times. The world economy is on the brink of collapse due in total part to the partisan posturing of political leaders in DC. This weekend, bombs rocked Norway, the home of the Nobel Peace Prize. And in case you hadn’t noticed, a massive heat dome has been sitting menacingly over our country.

Sometimes you just need to get away, even for 45 minutes.

Those who see me on a regular basis probably have not missed that I like dark nail polish. I can’t quite go as far as the black shade that my friend Kara carries off so well, but I usually wear polish as dark as I can get that isn’t black. This obsession started nearly 20 years ago. I was recently out of college and read in some fashion magazine about Chanel nail polish in Vamp. Oh, how I coveted Vamp. But my post-college budget did not have room for a $25 nail polish. So I admired from afar. Then a friend of my dad’s heard me mention Vamp and surprised me with my very own bottle.

Even today, equivalent shades at a better price point like Essie’s Wicked or OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark are my go-to when I am having my nails done. But in the summer, sometimes I feel pressured to at least try to embrace a brightness of color. Sometimes that color is coral. Sometimes red. But usually after a few “happy color” manicures, I revert back to my old ways. After all, I am a self-professed creature of habit.

I had just that kind of manicure a few weeks ago. I loved the bright purple in the salon. It looked great on my toes with sandals. (I am one of those people who wears the same nail color on toes and hands.) But after about two days, I was done with it. I was sitting in a meeting, distracted by my own nails, wishing I had taken the polish off that morning. As if to torment me more, I then ran across a post announcing Chanel’s new limited edition fall nail color line-up. I became singularly focused on wanting the greenish color pictured in the middle. Peridot. I’m no more a green nail polish wearer than I am watermelon, but I had to have it.

After about three days of thinking such, I gave in and on a whim, drove out to Nordstrom to buy Peridot. I didn’t even try the sample on in the store (was still wearing the hated purple). I contemplated a manicure on my way home, but it was getting late and I wanted to get home and cook dinner. I was slicing a baguette to toast into croutons when the great slip of 2011 occurred. Let’s just say multi-tasking with a serrated knife is not smart. That knife cut right through my thumbnail, about half way down the bed of my thumb. It took days to stanch the bleeding, and even now, two weeks later, despite all my yogurt eating, my nail is not yet in a manicure-able state.

So Peridot, along with tall boots and sweaters, will have to wait a little while longer. Let’s hope in the meantime for a deal on the debt ceiling and a break in these sweltering temperatures.

the boy who lives

Why am I so obsessed with Harry Potter? Long before I gave birth to two equally-obsessed mammals, I devoured Harry Potter like I did Sweet Valley High romances when in the sixth grade. I had the advantage of the first two Harry Potter books being out when I first discovered the world’s most famous wizard, then I waited with great anticipation for each sequel that followed. Every time a new book was about to be released, I reread the entire series. That means I have read The Sorcerer’s Stone approximately six times (okay, seven if you include the time I read it to Jack and Colin).

The one book that I had not read multiple times was the long-awaited last book in the series, The Deathly Hallows, which I had read (until this weekend) a sum total of once. Of course, I meant to reread it before the first half of the movie came out last November, but decided instead to reread The Half Blood Prince, one of my favorites. Then kids, work, and other books consumed my time and before I knew it, we were on the cusp of the hallowed (no pun intended) release of part two (otherwise known in my house as “the eight movie”) without my getting in a repeat read.

That did not diminish my spirit. The boys and I re-watched a movie a night leading up to the premier. I cried at scenes I have seen scores of times. I prepared costumes for myself and the boys to wear to the movie and a costume party afterwards. I continued to read The Goblet of Fire to Colin, but found myself weepy for no reason. When my friend Amy told me that her 14-year old daughter had proclaimed the movie release of Deathly Hallows, Part Two as the end of her childhood, it struck a deep chord.

I know Harry Potter lives happily ever after, so why all the emotion? I’m too young to look at Harry, Ron and Hermione as my children, but obviously am too old and too muggly to regard them as peers. While the Harry Potter series depicts a world that either doesn’t exist or we are not a part of (depending on your hopes and dreams) there are profound lessons in the experiences of these fictional characters. In a time marked by a serious lack of cooperation being displayed by political leaders, our elected officials could learn to rally together to confront a crisis. In an era where people believe what they are told without putting in the extra time to investigate, we could all learn to double-check sources and put critical thought into our positions. And in a world where friendships are maintained via text, tweets, and Facebook posts, we could all stand to remember that our personal connections make us stronger and need to be nurtured.

It is safe to say there is no book series from my own childhood that impacted me the same way Harry Potter did. As my kids grow older, I hope they will continue to reread the books, learn new lessons, and of course, memorize new spells.

hot mess

this is what our air feels like to breath today

As this week’s more-than-balmy temperatures have clearly established, it’s summer. But this is not the summer of our youth. More than one million acres of the United States is covered by a so-called heat dome. Today’s heat index in DC is expected to reach 120. Do we really have to go to work and dress professionally? Shouldn’t the government give us a “heat index” day? I’d much rather have the city closed on a day like today than on a day when we get 6 inches of snow.

But I digress. While there probably isn’t much one can do to dress for the weather today, on a normal, low-90s hot and humid DC day, you can make wardrobe choices that will keep you cooler but allow you to still look professional. For example, from the time the post-winter temperatures climb into the 60s until it’s cool enough for tall boots, my legs are always bare.  Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, this is a choice not only dictated by weather. Overall, I am, you might say, anti-pantyhose. I wear opaque tights in the fall/winter, but there is nothing that would ever compel me to don a pair of pantyhose any time of year. Not even Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and ridiculously outdated royal protocol are likely to change my mind.

Royal fashion aside, if you are going to reveal bare legs this summer, I’d like to offer some seasonal rules to live by:

1. If you reject leg coverage for the office, your skirt length better be long enough and the material should be work appropriate.  I’m not a prude. I’m fun and adventurous when it comes to my wardrobe. But don’t wear a skirt-length that better belongs in a nightclub or at the beach. No one should look like a skin-tern.

2. If you are a coverage “tween” and opt for Spanx, just a warning that we should not be able to see the signs of said underpinnings when you are sitting down with your legs crossed.

3. If you use self-tanner at least apply it correctly. One guy friend of mine reported seeing a woman on the metro recently who had only applied self-tanner to the bottom half of her legs. Personally, I reject self-tanners. I hate the smell. I hate the color. But if you must self-tan, at least do the whole leg.

I understand that some stuffy offices might not allow you to skip hose. If this is the case for you, I only ask that you please don’t wear heavy black tights on a 98-degree day. Seriously, Kaitlan witnessed a woman doing just that the other day. And today, Holly saw a woman wearing long black leggings. Pants are always a better (and breezier) option.

And ladies, be thankful that you don’t have to wear a so-called “lightweight wool” navy blue suit with your shirt buttoned snugly around the neck and a tie wrapped around for good measure. This is one area where we have one up on the boys.

summer in the city

I suck at summer. It is most definitely my least favorite season. First of all, who can expect to be presentable when faced with heat indexes of 116 degrees? If I wanted to live in India, I would move there. Secondly, maybe this is exclusive to DC and people who work with Congress, but summers are always the busiest time of year. So not only do you have to run from meeting to meeting, dressed professionally, but you have to do it in weather that puts even the heartiest of stock in jeopardy of swooning.

Granted, this three-day (maybe four, meteorologists are now saying) heat wave is not the norm, but how long before it will be? I love how health experts warn us to stay hydrated, keep electrolytes up, and most importantly, avoid caffeine and alcohol in this weather. Are you kidding me? I need the caffeine to keep the engine running if I am going to be forced to live as though I have a hot steaming washcloth wrapped around me for the next four days, and I have not yet encountered alcohol-free Chardonnay. Caffeine and alcohol will make these dog days tolerable.

I dream thoughts of fall (tall boots, cashmere, gloves, scarves) but also long for an ocean breeze or perhaps a chilly New England night that calls for a sweater. A down-and-back business trip to Portsmouth, NH on Sunday and Monday, where the forecast calls for a very manageable high of 75 degrees, seems too good to be true.

On the positive side, this morning marked the first time in seven months that I did not look with envy at a (crazy) person I saw out on a morning run.

glorious pasta

I have been slightly obsessed of late with the idea of making fresh pasta. I’m sure that those who know I like to cook are surprised to learn that I do not regularly crank out my own fresh noodles. I have to admit to having been slightly scarred by my first attempt, more than 15 years ago, when my roommate Cathy and I decided to make fresh pasta for her boyfriend-now-husband and my boyfriend-of-the-month. Did I jinx our attempt by buying fresh pasta as backup? Or maybe we relied too much on the fact that Cathy (née Licata) is Italian-American. Aren’t Italians born with the ability to effortlessly make pasta? Okay, her pasta maker didn’t come with directions. We could figure it out, right?


Fast forward to the present day. For the better part of six months, I have been watching the pasta making class schedule at Hill’s Kitchen, but every time a class was offered, I either had the kids or a can’t-get-out-of work event. It turns out my friend Adrienne bought spaces in the class for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day (too cute, I know) and after taking the class themselves, they very graciously offered to impart their new found knowledge on me. All I had to do was bring the wine.

I don’t think I have ever been so intimated by a bowl of flour, salt and eggs. I have kneaded many a loaf of bread in my day, and I always make my own pizza dough. But I admit to being intimated by these simple ingredients and what I was expected to produce out of them. Luckily, Adrienne was a patient teacher, so I followed her lead with my own well of flour and eggs. After we let our pasta dough rest (during which time we moved on from sparkling wine to chardonnay) on came the part that I most dreaded: turning the dough into long strands of edible glory.

By the time I had watched Adrienne’s tutorial with the pasta maker and took my first turn running the dough through it, I was hooked. Then I tasted the fruit of our labor (served simply with olive oil, freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil) and I knew what my next kitchen toy would be.

This morning, on a whim, a craigslist search yielded what I thought I might find: a couple looking to off-load their pasta maker, new in the box, a duplicate wedding gift they never got around to exchanging. It now sits in my kitchen, next to my already dogeared copy of “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” by local food writer Domenica Marchetti, whom I had the pleasure to meet in person at a recent book signing of said book.

As for dinner tonight, Adrienne was kind enough to send me home with extra pasta. My only struggle is what sauce to make.

I’m officially reunited with my kitchen.