Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cherry Blossom Cakes

I can't remember the last time I ate cake. If I knew then it would be the last time I had cake, I'm sure I would have remembered and savored it; I used to buy whole birthday sheet cakes when I had the craving for cake.

But this bakery makes me so happy. Their cakes are a little pricey to just up and buy for a craving, but I'm CERTAINLY looking forward to a gluten-free devils food cake for my birthday in August.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

St. Elizabeths tour

Today, my mother, sister and I took advantage of the D.C. Preservation League's tour of the St. Elizabeth's grounds. My mom and I grew up in Congress Heights, and my dad grew up in Barry Farm, but none of us have ever really been inside the gates.

The gatehouse, which is under construction.
The original center building

Second story, fourth window from the left, is where poet Ezra Pound lived for years.

You can see clean through the front door to the other side.

They just don't make buildings like this one any more.

Instead, they make buildings like this - the new Coast Guard headquarters. Look at that view.

All of the mentally ill soldiers who died here with no family to claim them were buried on the grounds.

You can see more of the USCG construction from the cemetery.

And then look at this view. This is pointed toward Southwest.

And there, in the background in Northeast, and the Shrine.

We have one of the best views in the city over here.

A home built on the ground for a private, paying patient.

Old greenhouses. They'll be torn down, but replaced with buildings that evoke greenhouses.
I'm pretty interested in seeing how this project turns out, and how it impacts the neighborhood. The tour guy, a gentleman from the GSA, said that just the USCG building will mean 14,000 employees driving to the campus every day; this doesn't even factor in the second and third phases of site redevelopment, which had their funding pulled by the Republican Congress.

But for now, I'm glad they're opening the site up to the public. It's neat to finally see the thing that's taking up all the prime real estate in your neighborhood.


Even barber shops are grammatically correct here:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

my dissertation 101

I'm a doctoral student in the history department at Tulane University in New Orleans. I'm back home in D.C., though, because I've finished all of my coursework, my comprehensive exams, my language proficiency exam (in Spanish, if you're curious), and my dissertation prospectus. This means that I'm in the never-never-land known as ABD: all but dissertation.

It's kind of cruel for people to say, "You're so close! Just one step left!" Because the final step is researching and writing a book. But I digress.

The reason I'm able to come back home and live in D.C. is because my dissertation is about D.C. (and because I get paid to do research). So just like my classmate who writes about the Spanish Inquisition gets to go to Spain for a year, I get to come home for a year, to dig around in the archives to find the documents I'll need, that are mostly here (Howard, GW, MLK, LOC and NARA, I'm looking at you). Except instead of moving home at the end of the year, I'll already be here. Hooray! I never have to leave the city again!

So what exactly is my dissertation about? Well, right now, it's about the relationship between national civil rights organizations and our local movement for home rule (self-government and national representation). What does the civil rights movement look like if we tell the story from Washington instead of Birmingham? Does the time frame we tend to place on it change? Do the tactics? Do the major players? Did Washington's major demographic changes between 1945 and 1973 contribute to the success of the home rule movement? And by looking at the civil rights/home rule movement here, what can we learn about African-Americans' unique relationship to the federal government at a national level?

You can follow my research more closely at Free D.C., a Tumblr devoted to cataloging my dissertation process online. But if you're not, just be glad you got the newest version of my dissertation elevator speech: I've finally got it narrowed down to a cool 45 seconds, so no more boring people to sleep.

help buy books for Ballou's AP Lit class!

In New Orleans, I worked for a program called AdvanceNOLA, which worked to increase the number of AP courses offered in local public high schools, and then supported students and teachers with teacher-mentoring, weekly tutors, and classroom materials. Why? Because studies show that students from underperforming schools who take AP exams are three to four times more likely than their peers to graduate from college.

There's no AdvanceNOLA here. So when I saw this DonorsChoose.org listing over at Congress Heights on the Rise, I knew I had to donate. My parents met at Ballou. Seven of my aunts and uncles went there. The former principal of Ballou hired me to teach at his school in New Orleans. And when I finish my dissertation, Ballou is where I want to head back to the classroom.

If you're reading this, please consider donating $10.36 to fund Ms. Mortimer's AP Lit class. It's the cost of just one book; she needs 34. It's three lattes, or a burrito and a half (or the cost of a mixed drink at some shi-shi lounge on U Street). You can do it. Just dig not so deep into your PayPal account and help  a few hard-working, smart kids out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MHP + HRC = hooray!

Melissa Harris-Perry is one of the three professors on my dissertation committee. I had the privilege of working as her teaching assistant at Tulane this spring, and also worked as the volunteer coordinator on her husband's mayoral campaign. She is kind, generous, and brilliantly smart and funny. Melissa has never hidden her support for marriage equality, but it's fantastic to see her express her support this publicly.

Monday, June 11, 2012

my house is gone

So it's not the one I would have expected, but I'm falling in love with this house. I make sure to drive by it on the way home, just to marvel at how wonderful the yard is.

No major problems, just minor repairs.

Oh no! I just went to attach the link and the actual listing is missing from Trulia! My house with the big, beautiful yard was sold. I guess this is why hubs says not to look at anything until we're pre-approved and can make an offer.


the hike begins!

This morning, I woke up at 6:00 to drive my husband and his best friend from middle school out to the end of I-66. They've wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail since they were little, and life circumstances have generously allowed both of them ten days free to hike their first segment.

I dropped them off at Chester Gap, and they hope to make it to the Maryland-Pennsylvania border by the 21st. I'm not looking forward to being sans husband for ten days - despite his being a major distraction from establishing any kind of research schedule in the last week - so I plan to meet them for dinner at their halfway stop in Harpers Ferry.

Here's how I left them today - clean and smiling. Let's see what the next week brings.

I'm going to burn those camo shorts when he gets home.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

capitol at sunrise

To anyone I knew in New Orleans who never understood why I was so miserable there:

Why yes, that is our nation's capitol at sunrise.

It didn't have this.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

a truly DMV day

OK, so I can't even put all of today's awesomeness into words. (I just went back to read this after I finished, and clearly I can put today into words. Lots of words.)

I got a late start, thanks to the bottle of wine from our wedding. But I picked my baby sister up from her last day of the year at my high school (okay, our high school) at 12:15. I hung around for a while to chat with my favorite teacher and a former classmate who is now a teacher there. I told my sister she could have lunch anywhere she wanted as a "hooray, you finished your sophomore year" treat. And of course the little girl says Chick and Ruth's in Annapolis.

Have you ever had a Chick and Ruth's crab cake? They are amazing.The guy in the visitor's center scoffed when we said Chick and Ruth's had the best crabcake of all time, but when I explained to him that I just moved back from New Orleans, where they put dill and green peppers in their crabcakes, he was aghast. "Go to Chick and Ruth's already!" he said. Done.

Crabcakes, chili fries, pickles and unsweet tea? Um, heaven. Sign me up for round two. Then Libs and I started an African-American history walking tour of downtown Annapolis, but gave up when we realized we'd just missed the Banneker-Douglass Museum. We compensated by getting ice cream and candy from Kilwin's, then headed back to my folks' house in Suitland.

I surprised my sister by stopping in a mega-church's parking lot on the way home. She just got her learner's permit, and my parents refuse to let her drive their manual transmission car. So I taught her the basics in my 1990 Honda Civic. I was so impressed with how quickly she picked it up, until she forgot to push the clutch in as she came to her first stop, and plowed my car into a "parking for church elders only" sign.

Thank God my car is old enough to drink.

She regained her composure, though, and redeemed herself (and my clutch) with a few pretty successful drills of buying me imaginary curly fries in the drive-through lane of an abandoned Arby's. We got home just as our folks returned from work. My dad decided that celebration dinner was in order; my sister declared that it was pho night. There aren't a whole lot of Vietnamese restaurants in P.G. County, so we headed over to Fairfax, near where my husband grew up, and grabbed dinner. My mom hates pho, so watching her navigate the menu is always hilarious.

We picked up my husband from dinner with his mom nearby, and after picking up my car at my folks', we headed to the Revivalists' show at Velvet Lounge. Did I mention in my post about the show how incredible they are? SO. GOOD. While Nick sat and made friends/scouted for jobs at the bar, I walked down the street to 7-Eleven.

Let's talk about 7-Eleven. They don't have them in Louisiana. I was raised on a diet of Coke Slurpees, chili cheese half-smokes and Jamaican beef patties: what? my parents were busy people. I recently discovered that I was allergic to wheat, but there are two foods in the world I will never give up, despite what wheat they may bring: fried chicken and Jamaican beef patties. Do you know how long it's been since I had a beef patty? So I marched down to the 7-Eleven on U Street, and got two. The best part? The almost-skeevy dudes who hit on me on the way down were so clearly college educated, and respectful. Could I have done without the attention? Hell yes. But were they really nice, really interesting guys? Hell yes. It's D.C. What else would they be?

I got back as the show was over, and drove El Hubs back to his mom's house in Fairfax, since he's got a meeting with a friend out here early in the morning. But as I sit here eating this Kilwin's crab claw (cashews, caramel and milk chocolate), I realized that today is the kind of day that I could only have in D.C. Three states, one day, nothing but awesome.

I have been unhappy for a long time. And by a long time, I mean five years. Which is exactly how many years I lived in New Orleans. I loved my life today in a way I haven't loved my life since I left. Nick keeps asking, "Are you drunk? Are you OK to drive?" 

Boo-boo, I had two ciders. I just love being home. I'm OK to drive here for the rest of my life.

Monday, June 4, 2012

our first anniversary

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary today. In characteristic fashion, we did not-so-special things that feel awfully special to us, since we can't couldn't do them in New Orleans.

What does that mean? Lunch at Chipotle. A trip to the zoo. Dinner at Tony Cheng's Mongolian barbecue. Dessert and drinks at Old Ebbitt Grill (he was too full for oysters, sadface).

I love the prairie dogs!

Tearing it up at Mongolian barbecue
But most importantly, we had our first meeting with a realtor. She was beyond lovely - she's a keeper. The one. Our realtor. A far cry from the other realtors I've contacted, who don't return my phone calls or emails. I couldn't think of a better way to spend our first anniversary. The whole way home, Nick has been saying over and over, "We're going to be homeowners" and beaming. It's all pretty exciting stuff. Now, we're kicked back on the couch with a bottle of wine we saved from our wedding. You know, since eating year-old freezer cake is gross.

To my husband: May the brightest days of our past be the darkest days of our future. I love you.

He tripped over the broom the first time. This is take two.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

the revivalists come to dc

The Revivalists, a phenomenal band from New Orleans, will be playing here on Tuesday! What a happy coincidence to help me transition back to home.

They'll be at Velvet Lounge, at 915 U Street, and will go on at 9pm. $8 for 21+, $10 for the college set. Find out more about their music and their tour here.

coming home

Today was my first full day back inside the Beltway. I spent it with my parents, at their home in Suitland. We ate crabs, walked their new dog, and ran to catch the ice cream truck. My cousin came over to watch a movie with us. It was a wonderful day.

Molly is a six-month old Weimariner-mastiff mix. She also wears a size 9 shoe.

As I said goodbye to my mother, my brain scrambled to figure out when I could see them next before I left. That's when I realized I'm never leaving again. I can see my family any time I want.

I have never been so happy to be home.