Wednesday, January 28, 2015

be still has moved!

It's 2015. Which means that it's been a whole calendar year since you've seen an update from yours truly. Gold star, Kat.

But! Good news! This little blog has now merged with my business website, & you can follow along! I'll be blogging about much of the same stuff with some new things too, like works in progress, delightfully designed products I come across, etc. So go jump on the bandwagon & hang out at RWS. Besides you know you've missed my sarcasm ;)

P.S. To make your life easier, I'll include an updated Bloglovin' link for you to follow as well:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

So go on. Say your goodbyes to this space & move on... to the new one. See you there :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

chocolate chip shortbread cookies

So…. hi! Remember me? I figured that the best way for me to get back into the world of blogging was to start with something short & sweet, and what could fulfill that promise better than chocolate chip shortbread cookies? Ha, I crack myself up. That pun wasn't intended until I reread the "short & sweet" bit. Man I'm a natural. 

Anyway… This recipe. YUM and so easy. It only requires 5 ingredients! Perfect for taking with you to Thanksgiving when you need to look like you put forth some effort when in reality there's so little time that you'll probably be baking these treats at 1 am Wednesday night. But be forewarned: this recipe isn't one you can just throw together and have cookies in 30 minutes. The butter needs to be at room temperature & the dough needs to refrigerate for at least 2 hours before baking. And if you're feeling like an overachiever, I think this recipe would be incredible dipped in dark chocolate & I'm pretty sure your guests would think so too ;)

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
Yield: about 3 dozen

8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners' (aka powdered) sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. In a stand mixer, beat butter and confectioners' sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in vanilla, then reduce mixer speed to low and add flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough.

2. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

3. Gather dough and place in between two sheets of parchment paper, the bottom sheet on a cookie sheet. Roll the dough into a rectangle shape 1/4-inch thick. 

4. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

5. After the dough is firm, preheat the oven to 325 F. Cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares.

6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.

Word to the wise: You might have noticed the cutesy cut cookies in the picture. If you do want cookies in some shape other than the cut squares, consider doing that before you refrigerate them for 2 hours. I didn't think about it until as I was pulling them out of the refrigerator with an idealistic "Oh, we have those fun biscuit cutters! Let me find those somewhere…" The dough is now firm by this point which means if you're cutting with some shape other than straight lines, the dough will crumble and your cookies will look less than amateur status, and you'll end up with shapes that look like the state of New York because it'll be harder to reform them than to just leave them be… So if you're cookie cutting them, do so before you refrigerate. 

And that friends is my first post back to the blog world. Sometime in the coming days or weeks I'll share our trips to Maine & Orlando, but considering that I haven't blogged in two months I'd hedge a bet that it won't be tomorrow ;) 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

this place called home

For orientation purposes, the string of horizontal lights is the tarmac landing lights at DCA, past that is the Washington Monument whose glow is made more noticeable by its scaffolding these days. The bright orb at the edge on the right is Nats stadium, and the smaller dot about an inch to the left of that is the Capitol. All of these things look WAY cooler when not seen through the blurry lens of an iPhone, but you can't carry a real camera while running now, can you?

I'm a lover of routines. I've always joked that it's because I was raised Methodist, but the reality of it is that habits tend to impact your life in minute ways. My latest habit is running in the half hour before the sunset. I blame the fact that I hate the heat & I'm a wimp, but it doesn't hurt that that half hour or so is also one of the most beautiful times of the day.

About once a week I run pass this spunky older woman and her dog, Fenway, who I've mentioned before, and it's as if I know their story, their bond. Fenway is a loving and endlessly curious pup whose owner has full trust in her. She bumbles along inspecting and meeting whomever she deems worthy, and her owner just keeps walking (not in an abusive way, just in an understanding way) as if to maintain the aforementioned pace of their walk. Simply put, they are each other's family. Sometimes I come across Fenway & her owner as they're playing catch, utilizing a staircase & Fenway's endless energy. Other days Fenway is exploring the rocks, looking for interesting treasures and playmates. But always they're happy together, appreciating one another in their time together, as if equal friends more than owner & dog.

Lately, every time I've run through Oronocco Bay Park I've passed three old men sharing the same bench watching the water. One has a cane, another wears glasses, and the middle guy always dons the same dapper hat. It's clear that they've been friends for awhile, that they have a mutual respect for their friendship as well as their silence. They all just sit and watch the water and the ducks and the people together. And seeing them always makes me smile because in my mind they have a grasp on the importance of life and friendships, that sometimes just being in the company of one another is enough.

I've noticed that for two Tuesdays in a row a wonderful overlap has occurred: sailboats. It's almost as if all these people who own these graceful boats have reached an agreement to spite Labor Day's premature end of summer, as the first day I noticed was the day after Labor Day. I'm all for the petition if anyone asks because few things are more intoxicating to look at while panting running than 20+ white sailboats gliding out on the Potomac right in front of you. To you sailboat enthusiasts out there, I beseech you to keep it up. Please and thank you.

But the thing that I appreciate the most on my running path is the sight I get to look at on the tail end of every run. If anything can motivate me to leave my apartment in the sometimes sweltering humidity, it's the view of the Washington Monument & the Capitol across the Potomac as the sun is setting. It's being able to recognize when the Nats have a home game when a giant glow of lights can be seen to the right of the Capitol. It's watching planes take off & land overhead as they direct themselves from/to Reagan National Airport and imagining what all the people onboard those flights are coming here to see or do. Some are here for business, some for vacation. Some are fellow citizens, young and old, seeing our Capitol for the first time. Others are from foreign lands whose curiosity has led them to see what it is that America is all about. 

These two minutes of my daily run are the minutes that give me perspective, that boost my energy, and that make me smile. They remind me that this place is home for however long we live here. That this place is home for Fenway and her owner and the three old men and all the sailboat enthusiasts. That this place is a mecca for understanding and appreciating freedom in this world.

Today those two minutes will reflect on what happened in this neighborhood & throughout our country 12 years ago. After driving around the Pentagon from what seems like all angles on regular errands and trips, it's hard to think that something so atrocious could happen to a structure so mighty, but more than that, that it could happen to our home. For me, 9/11 happened half a life ago & on a tv screen, but now that I live here, it's impossible to forget. But 12 years later, this place, our home, still stands for what it was built upon: its freedoms, and that is a beautiful thing. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Wood Between the Worlds

It's possible that I visited a magical in-between place this past weekend. Possible, but not probable. I mean the place really is an in-between, but who knows if it connects you to the realms of other worlds? Wouldn't that be wonderful? But before I get ahead of myself, let me explain:

In the spirit of checking things off our DC list, JB and I decided to explore Teddy Roosevelt Island and then to locate the DC version of the Bermuda Triangle: the mysterious place that allows one to actually park & walk around the Iwo Jima Memorial & the Netherlands Carillon (hint: take the 110/Jefferson Davis Highway between 395 & 66).

Teddy Roosevelt Island is located on the Potomac River between the Georgetown/Kennedy Center Waterfront area & Rosslyn, VA. It is place lost in time and can only be visited via a footbridge along the George Washington Parkway, and once you step onto one of the island's trails, it's easy to forget that you're anywhere near a city. You follow footpaths and boardwalks all around the swampy island, spotting skittish blue tailed lizards and jumpy forest toads (and if you're lucky, some deer friends, but alas, we were not on the VIP list that day).

 ^^just how thrilled does he look to be in this picture? Overjoyed.^^
 ^^the last glimpse of the real world for awhile^^

And then eventually, you meander onto this clearing paved in stones and granite honoring the protector of our land, Teddy Roosevelt.

It is eerie, especially when no one else is around. Eerie, but beautiful. And this is where my imagination and reality actually merged, because this clearing in the woods had two murky, stagnant fountains, perfect for jumping between worlds. I half expected to see Digory & Polly emerge from one of the fountains with their hands jammed in their pockets. If CS Lewis had been an American, I would have thought this memorial inspired his in-between place connecting Earth, Charn, & Narnia in The Magician's Nephew, but as we all know, he wasn't, so maybe instead the memorial connects to one of those magical fountains?? One can only dream.

Moral of the story: magic is real. my imagination heavily enhances my life and makes me longwinded. Clearly.

 ^^fyi, I looked & there were no buttons in the fountains. But there are presidential seals on the feet of the fountains. Teddy's gettin' fancy^^

Onto the DC-Bermuda Triangle, where you can't get much better views of the DC panorama than from this hill housing the Iwo Jima Memorial & Netherlands Carillon. Sad to say our real camera didn't tag along on this trip, but with views like that, it's on our list to revisit. As for this forgotten Netherlands Carillon, it was given to the US in thanks to the relationship our two countries forged during WWII while their country was under Nazi control. The Carillon contains 50 bells, all inscribed with with emblems representing different groups in Dutch society, and is guarded by two lions overlooking a field of thousands of tulips (aka I will be visiting next spring to see those beauties in all their glory). 

^^one of those rare times that rust is beautiful^^

Monday, August 26, 2013

free for all friday

As all great ideas do, this one started with Harry Potter. This past week as JB was purchasing tickets for the upcoming Potted Potter show at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, he saw an advert for their annual "Free for All" show. Hmm... free play? Yes, please.

Apparently since 1991, the STC has put on a free show for over 640,000 people (Shakespeare would be so proud). And it's obvious that this is a tradition well-loved by the community. Before our show began, the docent asked the audience how often they had participated in their Free for All, and the majority had seen at least 10 free performances, and some had even seen them all! Talk about dedication...

This year's play was Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, and it was simply superb. Feeling a bit rusty on the plot (since the last time I had visited it was high school), I was worried at first that it would take awhile to get into it. But the cast was so captivating, especially the two leads, Benedick & Beatrice, (both of which have been nominated for Tony Awards), that we were hooked within minutes of the play's start. It was such a fun night, and JB and I are still quoting some of the funnier lines to each other... Let's just say we can't wait for next year's performance.

 Hooray for winning lottery tickets so we didn't have to wait in the rain all afternoon! 
This was our view for awhile as we waited for the literal interpretation of "free for all" to begin: the mad scramble for seats. Thankfully our surroundings were fairly beautiful to admire ;)
The sneaky stage photo before the play began. I'm always amazed at how intricate a set can be: a spiral staircase, water in the fountain, a usable water pump in the corner. Such attention to detail!
The best place to grab a late night dinner: Gordon Biersch. And how lucky were they to inherit such beautiful interiors?
This clock just intrigues me. Beautiful & pseudo-precarious at the same time. It's a new term... just go with it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

my narnia-deprived childhood erased

Everyone has a streak of defiance built into their genetic code that comes out during their childhood & adolescence: disregarding the rules, breaking curfew, testing to see if the stove really is as hot as they (they being those parental people) say it is. You catch my drift. 

I was always an annoying stickler for the rules. I mean lame (still am, but I embrace it as part of my identity ;)). I never intentionally did anything wrong (other than that one time around the age of 7, I accidentally took a Lisa Frank heart stamp ring that probably cost $.50. But being too scared to tell my dad, I just coolly walked out of Montgomery Mall, looking back every other second to make sure security wasn't running after me. I never stole again. I petrified myself without needing the parental punishment, not that they ever knew it happened until probably now... But I've digressed). 

I was a boring kid.

My streak of defiance came in the things I read. Code word: nerd. I wore big ole Disney princess glasses & had a bob; there wasn't much else for me to go on. So when it came time for the cereal box panorama book report, about a third of the grade read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I just couldn't bear to be a part of such a popular movement. I had to be edgy. I read Gary Paulsen's The Haymeadow, mainly because my cool older brother suggested it, but in that pathetic moment of defiance, my entire childhood missed out on the wonder of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series.

So at the grand old age of 24, I finally read them. I could feel the 8-year-old me shaking her head in shame for waiting so long. While definitely children's stories, I loved the variety of plots and characters & the way that Lewis laid out Christian themes for his younger audience, especially in the last two he wrote, The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle. (Side bar: without a doubt I fall on the side that favors reading the books in the order he wrote them rather than the chronological order of the story). Plus, no lie, I have often thought of God as a Lion, so getting attached to Aslan took all of a second. 

I finished TLB late Monday night, and now I feel I must graduate to C.S. Lewis for Adults (did I not mention that I have never read anything by him? It's a bit sad, I know), starting with Mere Christianity, per my husband's request, and then The Screwtape Letters. It's turning into a C.S. Lewis fan party over here, and I just can't help it.

A few semi-related book suggestions:

+ If you love Harry Potter & the stories of Narnia (& possibly LOTR? I've never read them but I could see the connection) and wouldn't mind discovering a similar magical world story but on the darker side, you should read Lev Grossman's The Magicians. You'll see a lot of similarities between the way the story is set up, but all-in-all it's a good read (& it'll quench your need for a new realm to explore). My dad sent it to me as a surprise when I was in college, and it quickly became Priority No. 1, which at the time wasn't so great for my course load, but should convince you of how captivating it can be. 

+ To make my reading list even longer, I noticed while linking Grossman's book above that he wrote another a year ago that totally flew under my radar and must be read. Thank you weirdly wired brain for connecting dots that only you care about.

+ I also recently inhaled J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith's The Cuckoo's Calling, and loved it. If you're the type of person who enjoys a good murder mystery (similar to Sherlock Holmes' style), then this is the contemporary version for you. Also, can we talk about how she continues to create wonderfully in-depth characters & stories? Just incredible. Can't wait for Galbraith to write the next one.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

posing as DC tourists (without the matching hats or t-shirts)

Around these parts, the summer season is FULL of tourists. They're everywhere: wandering aimlessly along King Street, trying to blend in at farmer's markets & parks, but fooling no one when it comes to the escalators at metro stations (unless you're intending to continue climbing the stairs or wish to face the wrath of a commuter, it's an unspoken rule that you keep to the right to allow others to pass). It's a season that makes us really glad we live in Virginia rather than the District where everything is ten times worse. 

However, every now and then the tourist bug bites us, too, so we play the part & galavant about seeing things we haven't in seen in awhile/ever & eating at restaurants we've been meaning to try since we moved here for months. 

A couple of months ago, we went so far as to pen a mega list of everything we've been meaning to see so that we'll finally make the effort to go. Some of the things on our list: actually seeing all of the Smithsonians, instead of just the popular ones, because frankly we don't have the excuse of only visiting for a week; having a "Lost Symbol Day" because we embrace the facts that a) we're Dan Brown nerds and b) we love that the book was based in the DC area; embarking on a ghost tour of Old Town Alexandria, thanks to the recommendation of my good friend, Sarah (Enrichment Thursday: Ghost Edition!); & hitting up some lesser frequented places like Dumbarton Oaks and the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Garden.

Basically we got a list as long as Santa's, so recently we began checking things off. This time around we hit up the Botanical Gardens to see the corpse flower (yes, it's a real thing), the National Zoo (somehow I had never been?), the Natural History Museum, & took a few walks all around the National Mall.

^^Meet the corpse flower, which at its most alluring really does smell like rotting flesh so as to attract pollinators from miles around. We caught it on its last day of being in bloom, and as a point of reference it stood at 5' 2"^^
^^Em & I decided we might fit in quite nicely at the zoo (our husbands probably agree)^^
^^this is what resulted when I got pinned with a tail & asked to make an elephant sound. I clearly lost character fast.^^
^^However upon comparison, this guy at the Natural History museum looks far more regal than I ever could, so I've since traded in my ears & tail^^
^^reminds me of a certain Boston Terrier back home... Perhaps a relative? ;)^^
^^While trekking it to Good Stuff Eatery post-museum visit, we stumbled upon a peaceful oasis that we never knew was there (part of the Botanical Gardens). It should be understood that if I worked near the Hill, this would be my refuge from all the hulabaloo^^
^^still daydreaming about that cinnamon sugar pop tart from Ted's Bulletin^^
^^it's possible that the Washington Monument looks better with all that industrial scaffolding on it. Definitely is prettier at night from our viewpoint across the Potomac^^
^^impromptu pizza & concrete night. Our Shake Shack order probably wouldn't have resembled Frosty the Snowman on the first day of Spring had the waiter not put it under the name "Gordo"... Lizzie McGuire flashbacks, anyone?^^
^^A stroll about the Mall just isn't complete without seeing something weird. Yes, those are fish fashioned out of fruits & veggies mounted on top of cars^^
^^Yet another cupcake place beats out Georgetown Cupcake. Red Velvet in Chinatown- yum! (Baked & Wired is still our fave, though)^^
^^We couldn't pass up trying new things in Old Town, too. Killer ESP had some pretty tasty chocolate birthday cake gelato, while Haute Dogs was just so yummy. Ten points for guessing which was mine ;) #plainjane4life ^^