DC Weekend Play-By-Play


It’s weird, how they say you can’t go home again and yet — you can.  You just purchase a plane ticket and pack a bag and there you are.  This weekend we traveled back to Washington, D.C. (our home for the previous five years) and spent a few days in our favorite city, visiting with our favorite people and eating at our favorite places.  This isn’t a recipe for a perfect tourist weekend, but here’s a DC resident’s perfect weekend in our Nation’s Capitol.

FRIDAY NIGHT:  land in city and sleep in the guest room of your bestie’s house.

SATURDAY MORNING:  eat Bethesda Bagels.  Recommendation:  bacon, egg, and American cheese on an everything bagel.  Grab coffee at Quartermaine next door.  If you go with a friend one of you should order coffees while the other stands in line for bagels because, unless it’s snowing or raining the bagel line will be out the door.

SATURDAY ERRANDS:  close your old bank account.  Or, you know, whatever.

SATURDAY MORNING HANG-OUT: meet your best law school buddy for coffee at Politics and Prose Bookstore‘s Modern Times Coffeehouse, the place where you studied for all of those finals before they instituted completely unacceptable laptop policies that ruined everything forever.  Recommendation: London Fog.

SATURDAY LUNCH-ISH: brunch/lunch at Open City in Woodley Park.  We learned that the music makes babies dance.  The service can be a little slow so make sure to tell the waiter exactly what you want the first time.  Recommendation: Greek Pizza, BLT, iced mocha.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON HANG-OUT:  Smithsonian’s National Zoo.  Avoid boring pandas but be sure to see the Lions.  They are awesome.  Best part of America are the Smithsonian’s river otters.

SATURDAY DINNER: Coal Fire Pizza in Gaithersburg. Recommendation:  Dark and Stormy, Ring of Fire Pizza (Italian sausage, banana peppers, and spicy marinara).

SATURDAY POST-DINNER:  Celebrate your friend’s birthday back at her house with carrot cake and red wine.  They are a perfect pairing.

SUNDAY MORNING:  Grab a coffee and cheer for your husband and friends as they run a ten mile race around the National Mall.  Take in the monuments for a bit while it is sunny and relatively warm, but head toward brunch by 10:30.  It’s definitely time to eat.

SUNDAY BRUNCH:  Ted’s Bulletin on Barracks Row is a bit of a wait, but totally worth waiting for.  Recommendation: homemade poptarts (strawberry is the best), sausage biscuits and gravy.  If you’re lucky you’ll see the cadets marching around with their giant guns.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: After a shower for the runners, head down to H Street to hang on the back patio of the German Biergarten.  Recommendation: the hefe-weizen that is “very carbonated,” pretzel buns with mustard.  The mustard is the best part.

SUNDAY EVENING: Return the rental car and grab your last dinner at The Silver Dinner, airport edition.

We landed in Chicago late Sunday night and it was technically early Monday morning before we were back in our Condo in the South Loop.  We both worked today and we are exhausted, but our wonderful weekend was worth every minute.

2013: A Year in Photos

It’s funny how you forget your own life, how the good things slip into the dusty corners of our memories the way a favorite sweater can be lost in the back of an over-full closet, missing an entire season of usefulness.  When I think over the year, I note how hard it was to wait for information about where we would be moving, and how frustrating our whole moving experience was because of the HR delays.  But when I look at the photos from this year, I remember how wonderful it was, how blessed we have been with the best of friends, and how happy we are even though we are quite far from those we love.  And so today, I’m taking a few minutes to look back over 2013 and appreciate the many gifts, experiences, travels, and opportunities for growth that came my way this year.

My first meeting at the EEOB!  If I'd known about this meeting in advance I would have dressed better.

My first meeting at the EEOB! If I’d known about this meeting in advance I would have dressed better.

Strawberry Picking with friends and family!

Strawberry Picking with friends and family!

Leadership tips from Fake George Washington at Mount Vernon.

Leadership tips from Fake George Washington at Mount Vernon.

A visit to DC's Police Memorial - an often forgotten but lovely area near Judiciary Square.

A visit to DC’s Police Memorial – an often forgotten but lovely area near Judiciary Square.

We drove up to Philly to see some history.

We drove up to Philly to see some history.

And stopped over in Atlantic City, NJ on the way home.

And stopped over in Atlantic City, NJ on the way home.

hiking with friends

A hike along the Potomac with friends.

A view from the President's Box of the Hubby's graduate school graduation.

A view from the President’s Box of the Hubby’s graduation.

Three photos from our trips to Gettysburg.  Here's number 1.

Three photos from our trips to Gettysburg. Here’s number 1.

Three photos from our trips to Gettysburg.  Here's number 2.

Number 2.

Three photos from our trips to Gettysburg.  Here's number 3.

And number 3.

Cherry Blossoms at Jefferson Memorial

A view of the Jefferson Memorial during Cherry Blossom season, taken with a friend during my lunch break at work.

A tour of the Law Library of Congress, including the [no longer active] card catalog.

A tour of the Law Library of Congress, including the [no longer active] enormous card catalog.

July began with a small-town parade in Clarkston, MI.

July began with a small-town parade in Clarkston, MI.

Also?  Fishing.

Also:  Fishing.

We visited San Francisco's best nature spots (and Alcatraz).

We visited San Francisco’s best nature spots (and Alcatraz).

We tasted wine grown among lavender fields...

We tasted wine grown among lavender fields…

We saw dozens of harbor seals resting in the sun.

We saw dozens of harbor seals resting in the sun.

We searched Muir Woods high and low for banana slugs -- until I finally found this one.

We searched Muir Woods high and low for banana slugs — until I finally found this one.

And then, it was time to go.  We left behind our first apartment as a married couple...

And then, it was time to go. We left behind our first apartment as a married couple…

And we drove across the country to set up our homestead in the Midwest.

And we drove across the country to set up our new homestead in the Midwest.

The journey was made easier by my best friend, and tastier by the cookies her aunt gave us on our pit stop in Pittsburgh.

The journey was made easier by my best friend, and tastier by the cookies her aunt gave us on our pit stop in Pittsburgh.

We spent some time getting to know our new city...

We spent some time getting to know our new city…

And took advantage of our geographical proximity to Touchdown Jesus, cheering my Fighting Irish to a devastating loss.

And took advantage of our geographical proximity to Touchdown Jesus, cheering my Fighting Irish to a devastating loss.

And escaped for a weekend away celebrating a good friend's happy marriage.

We escaped for a weekend away celebrating a good friend’s happy marriage.

We had a few lovely visits from family and friends before it got too cold for pleasant outings.

We had a few lovely visits from family and friends before it got too cold for pleasant outings.

But even with the cold weather, Leo feels right at home.

But even with the cold weather, Leo feels right at home.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving with both sides of our family...

We had a lovely Thanksgiving with both sides of our family…

And have enjoyed the festivities leading up to our first Christmas as Chicago residents.

And have enjoyed the festivities leading up to our first Christmas as Chicago residents.

I decided to blog this week.

I decided to blog this week…FOR YOU. Because I know how you’ve been feeling these last few weeks. You’ve been missing the random stories and theme-less posts you are accustomed to finding here. You’ve missed hearing about how I decided to eat healthy for a change so we had bacon and cake for dinner, or how I tried to go to the gym and kind of fell off the treadmill, or how I freak out when my favorite make-up is on sale and try to convince everyone to buy it.

Well do not worry for one more second: this week is the week we get back together. And to start closing the gap between us, a brief photo-history of the last month:


A fountain in Chicago’s Grant Park.


We bought bikes.


My hotel in DC from my very first business trip. I now have a credit card that says “United States of America.”



The Branson, MO airport is INSANE. And I made a new friend there!


We had so much fun in Arkansas for my friend Amanda’s wedding! I was in a ton of pictures but don’t have many, but here’s one with a fellow bridesmaid.

These are the fountains where I eat lunch on Fridays.


This is my church, the Chicago Temple.


And this, my friends, is the funniest photo-bomb ever.

Road Trip: Live Blog

Live blog of road trip for your personal enjoyment. Refresh for updates.

9:45 AM Leo in the car, meowing but feeling his special snack. On the road.

10:53 AM south mountain welcome center has fantastic bathrooms.

11:02 AM the mix CDs become essential during traffic.


11:35 AM goodbye Maryland and hello Pennsylvania!


11:59 AM Getting on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and it is our first toll.


12:30 PM (ish) Allegheny Mountain Tunnel.


12:32 PM Inside the tunnel.


1:12 PM Pay $7.85 to go to the bathroom at a combo McDonalds/Co-Go. Then back on the Turnpike.


And Kristen takes the wheel at 1:15 PM.


Entering Pittsburgh at 1:46.


Meanwhile at home, H and friends finish loading the truck and close the door for the last time. See you later, #101.


Squirrel Hill Tunnel at 1:59 PM.


2:20 PM surprise visit with Kristen’s aunt, uncle, another aunt, and cousins.


What a cutie!


3:30 PM Primanti Bros. sandwiches — holy cow delicious.


4:12 PM Oops, wrong turn. Thanks a lot, Tom Tom. Back on the road with 439 miles left to go.

5:27 PM Lordstown, Ohio.


5:58 Holy caffeine, Batman! Triple grande peppermint mocha and 13 gallons of gas in the tank. 345 miles to go.


7:38 PM Start to lose it. Saved by a friendly text message.


9:25 PM Finally out of Ohio and in Kristen’s home state. First thing we see is a semi-truck full of camels.

11:18 PM We finally made it to the hotel!

7:27 AM Welcome to Chicago!!!

Real Life

Hi Friends.  It’s been a hot minute since you’ve gotten an update, so that’s what you are getting today!  Hope you are doing well — can’t wait to hear about your fabulous lives as well.


I told you how I signed up for a writing class thing for the summer, remember?  Well, it doesn’t start until July 1st but during June I’m using Elora’s 30-days of writing prompts geared for finding your purpose.  I’m not even half-way through the prompts, but I’m loving how they excite me about writing and also kick me in the butt for being lazy and not prioritizing my gifts in my own life.  If you’re interested in purchasing the prompts, you can get 30 days of prompts for only $30.  It supports a great writer, and it supports you as a writer, so it’s basically win-win.


In our last update, I mentioned that I might have a position in Chicago but that it was tricky and not certain and that I wasn’t sure if it would be with my old job or my new (same agency but different division) job or something altogether unexpected. . . Well, it’s settled now and I officially have a position and I officially start on August 12th — the same day H starts his new job!  It’s a dream come true for making our physical and financial transition smooth and I am so excited and thankful that it worked out.  I mean, I couldn’t imagine a better scenario.

Well, unless Rahm called me and was like Hey, MB, we really need a lawyer to work for us in the City of Chicago and really, you are the only one we want.  So can you come and re-do our land-use policies and make sure our master plan doesn’t accidentally (or intentionally) discriminate and be in charge of ending homelessness and economic development grants and just spend all of my city budget helping people? And can you please wear jeans and a blazer to work every day, because dress pants just aren’t our style.  That would be a pretty great scenario too. 

The Daily Grind.

H is fishing three days a week and reading Game of Thrones during his well deserved summer break after graduate school, and I’m enjoying my job a lot.  I’m incredibly busy and working on some organizational planning efforts that are complicated and messy and exactly the kind of projects I love.  I’m doing a lot better at getting to work early on time and getting full nights of sleep, and I’m trying to get to the gym twice a week and eat fewer calories and more vegetables.  I even had a glass of wine and a BLT instead of two glasses of beer and a cheeseburger at Trivia last night.  Impressive, I know.

Our Move.

We’re still planning to find an apartment after the July 4th holiday and move up the first weekend in August.  Now that we both have start-dates for our jobs, it’s getting more real.  Once we find our new place in only SIXTEEN DAYS!!! we will schedule our movers.  Between now and then, I’m going to start  going through some of our things and packing/donating.

Let’s talk about donating for a second — do you guys ever feel like Goodwill doesn’t want your donations?  On the day of my last drop-off, I was asked if the clothes I had in sacks had been dry-cleaned and were on individual hangers.  I’m not dry-cleaning t-shirts, but I don’t want to just throw them out.  Is there a better way to donate used items that still have some life in them?

We’re also looking at a lot of furniture stores, because we have a lot of things to purchase in the coming months and want to be responsible about such large expenses.  For a new sofa, we’re considering Basset Furniture — we really liked their selection and service.  We also found this AMAZING coffee table (minus the wheels) but it seems weird to pay so much for something that looks so simple. . . not that furniture making is simple, just that I wish it were so I could have whatever kind of furniture I wanted.  (P.S. Sorry this photo is a little blurry.)



We spent last weekend in Virginia Beach, and we had so much fun EXCEPT that the traffic on I-95 from DC toward Richmond was HORRENDOUS.  When we left at 10:30 a.m. I anticipated arriving by 3:00. . . but it was actually 6:30.  That’s how much traffic it was.

But, it was so fun to get away, and I only took one picture!  Below please find Virginia Beach’s favorite drink, the Orange Crush.



My Guitar

MB and Dad

My dad does not use Facebook, so changing my profile photo and posting a one-sentence shout out isn’t a very effective way of making him feel special. But my dad is probably the biggest fan of this blog ever, even when I forget about it for days weeks at a time or write something ridiculous that could bring shame upon his house.  He tells people about it.  He consistently tells me he likes it.  And for a man who keeps his feelings to himself most of the time, that’s a pretty big deal.

– – –

My family didn’t really celebrate ALL OF THE DAYS the way some families do.  We would mention the days, say “Happy Whatever,” and maybe make a card or special dessert or small gifts, but we spent so much time creating the celebration for the people at church that the parts for just us were smaller.  We were always a little more focused on getting things done, or, when things were harder, just getting through the days.  My mom made sure to have those little gifts for my sister and me, but when it came to my dad, you might go four or five years without something on the exact day it was expected to appear.  And then, every few years and with really no indication it was coming, he would burst onto the gift-giving scene out of nowhere with something that took a lot of effort.

For my eighteenth birthday (or maybe twenty-first? I think eighteenth…) he came home with a beautiful guitar with the strings lowered a bit to make it easier for me to learn to play.  I had mentioned that I wanted to learn to play, and had messed around with the guitar that was lying around our house, but I had no idea he was going to get one for me.  And I love it — even though I’m still not incredibly skilled at playing it this many years later.  It survived the tornado in its giant plastic case and it moves around with me.

Every time I take my guitar out of its case I think, for a moment, how unexpected that was, and how much it cost, and how much he (and my mom) love me.

And then I start searching high and low for a pick — where do all the guitar picks go? — and yell at Leo the cat who is trying to make a new home inside my guitar case and usually end up putting my guitar away and watching TV or making dinner or texting a friend.  Because that’s life, and that’s what we do.  My guitar sometimes stays in its case for weeks or even months at a time, but each time it comes out, I remember.

Thanks, Dad.

Photo re-cap of my workday

Alternate title:  why working for America is sometimes awesome. 

I have so much more to write, but things have been crazy and so my five-things post, my things I loved during May post, and my life-move-standard-update post will just have to wait until tomorrow.


Today I was sent to a meeting at the EEOB (that’s the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) and it was awesome.  I went through security and sat in a meeting inside the exterior White House gates and I walked past the Administration’s General Counsel’s Office. . .  and I took a few photos to prove I was there.

Recently Updated

*Sorry about this awkward outfit, it was a rough morning and I did not know about this prime photo-taking opportunity before I arrived at work today. 

Memorial Day Mini-Road Trip

This weekend started on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. and has been going strong ever since!  We went on a mini-road trip to celebrate H’s birthday, and came home a little early today because tomorrow is a pretty big day:  H and I are going to be helping one of our VERY BEST friends paint the house that she JUST CLOSED ON last week.  How weirdly cool is it when your friends buy homes?  We’re really growing up, now, aren’t we?

Eggs with border

We started off Friday morning with soft-boiled eggs and toast, because it was H’s birthday and H loves runny yolks.  I just started making soft-boiled eggs — we’d always poached before — and it is so much easier and superior to poaching.  You just boil a pot of water, pop your eggs in for 5-6 minutes, peel and eat over toast.  That’s it.  No water-spinning or finger-crossing required.

We packed up the car and headed a few hours north to Philadelphia, PA.  Home of Ben Franklin and America.  Or so they say.  Mostly, we saw a lot of rain and the new Star Trek movie.  But — can we just talk for one second about the wonders of the Reading Terminal Market?  It was fantastic.  The Market is a giant warehouse-type building the size of a couple blocks and full of delicious things.  We ate lunch at Dinic’s (roast pork, provolone, and broccoli rabe sandwiches) and split a cup of Basset’s ice cream.

By far my favorite part of Philadelphia was The Tubby Olive oil and vinegar shop.  There were dozens of flavored vinegars and olive oils that you could taste in-house.  They even had little tasting spoons like at Baskin’ Robbins.  We tasted a ton of balsamic vinegars, discussed our favorite flavors (white peach? black cherry?  espresso?), and settled on the fig balsamic, which is one of their most popular varieties.  When you check out, they wrap your bottles in paper and include a recipe sheet designed for that flavor of vinegar/oil.  Cute, right?

2013-05-026We had a nice dinner at a restaurant that somehow specialized in wine and beer and cheese (our three favorite things!) and since it was so gross and rainy, we grabbed our jackets and walked to the movies.  The theater was dry and warm , so it rounded our evening out well.

This morning we had breakfast at a cute diner and then headed toward Atlantic City for part two of H’s birthday adventure.  It had stopped raining, but the bathing suit I optimistically packed did not make it into the Atlantic Ocean since it was a just a high of 71 . . . I stayed in my jeans and jacket all day.  Happy “summer,” everyone!

Since we couldn’t swim or lay out, we did what any reasonable person would do:  spent the afternoon casino-hopping.  The cutest one by far was Caesar’s, and while I mostly forgot to take pictures while we were in Atlantic City, I have one shot of Caesar for you:

034-001We’re back home in our cozy apartment now, Leo the cat is cuddling up a storm, and the Grizzlies are beating the Spurs (for the moment, at least).  It’s been a lovely weekend already, and we still have two days left! I’ve really been needing this break, and am feeling more rested and peaceful than I have in weeks.

So, what are you up to this holiday weekend? 



In which I post a funny picture to make up for not posting blogs of substance

Canons are forever

PHOTO:  Above, Parkers Crossroads, West Tennessee (2008).  Below, Gettysburg, PA (2013). 

I have a lot to tell you, but I’m not quite ready to say it yet.  So, here’s a rock-solid truth:  THIS GIRL LOVES CANNONS.

1.  I tried to convince my senior class to purchase a cannon for our class gift.  No one else wanted to do it, but seriously — it would have been totally badass to fire a cannon off at every graduation.  A gift that keeps on giving.

2.  The best Independence Day celebrations involve shooting off cannons.  Also, period costumes because OH MY GOSH hilarious.  I love to see men in tiny short pants and knee socks.  It’s just too much, I can’t even handle it.  But honestly — I can.  Bring it on.

3.  The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is being celebrated with a full three-day reenactment of the entire battle beginning July 4.  I’m not sure I’m going there, but seriously — this is a thing that every person everywhere should know about and be talking about.  IMAGINE THE NUMBER OF CANNONS THAT WILL BE FIRED.

4.  When I was a middle-sized kid I lived in Edenton, NC and there were a ton of cannons (to be more accurate, like 20…or maybe 5) along the edge of the sound (it’s like the fancy NC name for bay) to ward off PIRATES.  Another thing I totally love.  Actually, pirates are NOT things, they are persons.  But I still love them.  Those cannons were paid for pound-for-pound with tobacco.  Seriously.

The end.

Christopher Columbus, Dirty Socks, Mavis Beacon, and Food Photos

“It is important to say the names of who we are, the names of the places we have lived, and to write the details of our lives . . . . We have lived; our moments are important . . . . Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist — the real truth of who we are:  several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside . . . We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so that there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.” 

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones:  Freeing the Writer
Within (1986), page 44.*

Life has been moving every day even though it feels like if we have to wait much longer for news we will turn to statues and have birds land on our noses and random kids leave dirty socks in our empty moats (Christopher Columbus, Union Station, real American tragedy).  To hold you over, I have pictures of some delicious food I have been making to excite your Monday evening.  Because, basically, since I can’t plan for the future or go apartment shopping or oh, I don’t know, tell my employer that i need a transfer to an actual city before the entire agency goes into budget lockdown, I cook.  A lot.


Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’s Plum-Poppyseed Muffins.  Actually, I made some pretty delicious mini-blueberry muffins for a work party last week as well.  I’m on a bit of a muffin kick — but I only like Smitten Kitchen’s muffins.  I HATE gross muffins, which is basically every other muffin I have ever made.

002 Red pepper, spinach, and feta frittata.  I invented this but mostly merged it together from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and my Better Homes Plaid-front-cover best-cookbook-ever.  Also, I love frittatas.  So easy and they seem fancy when basically it is just a fat omelet that you put in the oven.

001Margherita pizza.  I always thought that this kind of pizza was B-O-R-I-N-G but it pretty much was the most delicious thing ever.  But mozzarella is kind of expensive to eat all in one recipe.

003 So I admit it, I did not make these.  But HOLY CRAP they are so delicious I could die.  In case you can’t read the description above (hello blurry iPhone photos!) and the name “espresso pillows” just doesn’t do it for you, these jelly-beans of mystery are actually bits of espresso, toffeed, and then dipped in dark chocolate.  And you get to eat 22 for just one serving that has fewer calories than a banana.  Seriously, buy them now.

004And last but not least, delicious fresh-out-of-the-oven meatballs (baked and half-turkey to save us from an early death by meatballs).  Recipe courtesy of me opening Ina Garten’s Family Style cookbook, ignoring all of Ina Garten’s instructions, and just mixing a lot of gross stuff together.


*Note:  four “. . . . ” means a paragraph change occurred in the deleted text.  Three ” . . .” means same paragraph, but words/sentences deleted.

P.S. I’d also like to announce to you right here in this random and unexpected grammar section that I use two spaces after periods.  Because I am old school like Charles Dickens and E.B. White.  They seem like pretty cool renegades to hang out with.  So suck it, Chicago Manual of Style.  (But really I love you except for this one rule that I just cannot accept.  I blame Mavis Beacon typing classes.)

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