A Different Sort of Sunday Drive

Washington Auto Show

Washington Auto Show

My husband convinced me to watch cars this weekend, not the animated movie ones, but the one’s under the bright lights at the 2012 Washington Auto Show.  For those interested in this event, there’s still another weekend to catch the two-story exhibited, and for those who are brought along for the ride, there’s plenty of comfortable seating, including the passenger seat of most of the cars on display.  The show features a full exhibit hall of American automakers, who certainly show signs of revival, along with a second exhibit hall of every other make and model imaginable.  Anyone car shopping can test out everything under one roof, but you won’t be able to drive it anywhere.  In fact, given the show’s location in the middle of the city, I recommend taking public transit to get there.


The Cupcake Craze (or Cure)

A half dozen of Georgetown Cupcakes

At least three cupcake shops reside on or near M Street NW: the TV-darling Georgetown Cupcake, the cult-favorite Baked and Wired, and the newer West Coast-transplant Sprinkles.  I’ve officially tried all three, starting with Georgetown Cupcake, only because it had a line waiting out of the door.  Then I moved onto the other two because they didn’t require a wait.  Baked and Wired serves larger, messier treats, with a smattering of icing on the top and the best cake base.  Sprinkles looks similar to the Georgetown Cupcakes up the street, perfectly crafted and smooth on top with a few sprinkles or other embellishment.

Georgetown Cupcakes are traditional and creative, and the seasonal offerings often steal the show. On a recent visit a few nights ago the menu favored chocolate items, from the chocolate2 to the lava fudge.  Both were delicious.  But it was the coconut that surprised me the most, not because I tasted it myself, but because my grandfather ate the whole thing and picked it over the milkshake I brought to make him feel better.  In my family, milkshakes seem to be the cure all from sore throats and wisdom-teeth removal to cancer and hospital stays, but the McDonald’s milkshake that I purchased was completely overdone.  The fast food chain no longer serve slightly congealed dairy products in a plain paper cup.  Now they make premium shakes in a clear plastic cup with whip cream on top.

Needless to say, I thought the cupcake craze could be confined to a few streets in D.C., but the confections really do make the perfect get well, farewell, or pick-me-up.

Wish You Well

Most of the time, I read books that provide an escape from the ordinary, everyday.  Occasionally though, I select a book that is meant to be familiar, and that’s the case with David Baldacci’s Wish You Well. The book chronicles the story of two children in the 1930’s who due to a family tragedy are sent to live with their great-grandmother in Southwest Virginia.  The location piqued my interest, particularly after my adopted hometown newspaper ran a story about how Marion was one of several towns under consideration for the movie setting.

The opening pages of the novel set the scene of a happy family, two children and their parents in a car, the whole world in front of them.  But after the accident, the story is confined to a few fictional small towns in Southwest Virginia, each linked by car, by horse, or by foot, with veins of coal running through the mountainside.  The pacing matches the children’s longing to grow up, but never seems to get there fast enough, and the overall plot takes a page from my favorite novel set in the same time, To Kill A Mockingbird.  The children gain a quirky friend; they face scorn in the town; someone dies; and a court case takes center stage.  All the while, they learn that it’s the character of the people in the town that matter.

I’m excited to see how one familiar town in Southwest Virginia takes a step back in history and transforms itself through the pages of Baldacci’s story.

Things that Go Bump in the City

We saw an early screening of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close last week. Though I was excited to see the movie because it stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, two of my favorite actors, I had little knowledge of the story beyond the previews.  It was one of the few cases where I hadn’t read the book first, though because the plot starts with 9/11, I knew the general direction of the film. Even as it was rooted in reality and a day that all of us remember, it had an air of fantasy in that this 11-year-old kid could wander the streets of New York City (always the streets, since he was afraid of the subway), overcoming his fears.  These quirks included being afraid of planes, tall buildings, elevators, and bridges, so he carries and therapeutic tambourine, which becomes the constant heartbeat to the film.

The young actor rightly becomes the center of the film and gives a stellar performance that captures hearts and minds, making me think about the parts of the city that I’ve adjusted to since living here – the constant planes overhead, the public transit system, the sound of sirens from the nearby fire station.  The sounds can take over at times.  Which is why it’s ironic that the other starring character of the film is an elderly man who never utters a word at all.  He communicates by paper and pen and a simple yes/no written on alternate hands. It’s the relationship that forms between the two of them that provides the narrative to the movie.


Thoughts on Whole Living

Perhaps the new year has reinvigorated my goal to get organized, but in the past week,  my reading selections have been inundated by Martha Stewart. First came the January issue of Whole Living magazine, one of my favorite subscriptions.  The first issue of the year debuts their action plan, starting with a cleanse.  Though I admire the ambition of the plan, I know I could never follow through with the daily challenges and the restrictive diet, especially when each morning its a struggle to figure out what to pack for work.

Then there’s the larger goals that surface this time of year, like the idea of moving back to the farm.  My book choice, which I finished in a record three days, was Josh Kilmer-Purcel’s The Bucolic Plague, which depicts the year-long adventure of two men from New York City who buy a farm for their weekends and turn it into a full-time business.  They continue to chronicle their fabulous adventures at http://beekman1802.com/, with each blog post as perfectly picturesque as the next.  The connect to Martha in this case is that Kilmer-Purcel’s partner worked for Martha throughout most of the year.

I can honestly say that this has been my favorite read of 2012. Not only is the story inherently interesting, but the details are well written, from the cluster flies and ghosts that appear much to the dismay of the residents to the description of the townsfolk and the trials of being a farmer.  The narrative stems from the idea that everyone thinks they know what it’s like to be a farmer, even if it’s only from childish games, or from what we learned growing up leaving on the outskirts.  The “Beekman Boys” write their own method of farmer, complete with success, failures, and reasons to laugh out loud and think about it another day.

A Sense of Direction

I spent some time this weekend in Georgetown, partly because I wanted a weekend close to home after traveling for the holidays, but mostly because I wanted to check out the sales, which were surprisingly reasonable, even on the busy M Street.  Other shoppers flocked into the stores, and like me, congregated in the sale sections toward the back of the one-story establishments and on the second- and third-floors of the multistory ones.  Several stores including J.Crew and The Loft had an extra percentage off, and I literally had  a $10 sweater grabbed from under my hands at Zara.  My only purchases were some lip balm from Sephora and a coffee from Dean & Deluca, both which remind me of watching the show Felicty in high school.  Little did I know then that I would one day venture into the city to live. It’s somewhat ironic, because even when I still feel out of place in the city, I always get asked for directions while I’m walking on Wisconsin Avenue. Fortunately, even with a bad sense of direction, I manage to point the visitor toward the famous shops and restaurants or toward campus, but their maps are little help to me.  Whether printed or on a phone, the maps never seem to match what I see on the streets, and I always have to turn them in the direction I want to go.




Happy New Year (and Welcome to D.C.)

So I’m a few days late with this post, but it doesn’t really feel like a new year until you write the previous year on a work email or a check and someone notices.  Happy New Year!  I never imagined last year at this time that we would be living in D.C., but a year can change everything.

Speaking of noticing new things, have you looked closely at the flag that waves just this side of the Key Bridge.  It’s not your typical United States stars and stripes, but one from a different era and inherently connected to the bridge.


A Little Bit about Evolution

Each year, I look forward to the holiday break, not just for the time I have to spend with family, but also for the days without work that I can spend immersed in books.  This year, I loaded my Nook with Ape House my Sara Gruen and  rented the movie adaptation of Water for Elephants before New Years.  Water for Elephants ranks among my five favorite books, with it’s intertwined stories of a 1930s circus and modern day nursing home view of a veterinarian who has lived a very exciting life.  Unfortunately, the movie cuts out the elder story-line, resigning it to the beginning and end of the film.  It’s the interplay of the family ideals that makes the story, from the death of the parents in the beginning to the children missing the circus in the end that frame the young man finding his family in the unlikely place of a traveling circus.

I had high expectations for Gruen’s next novel, Ape House, and though some have given it less than stellar reviews, the story was equally fast paced with enough odd characters to keep it interesting.  Again, the animals steal the show, from the first few pages where we learn about the bonobos’ sign language and their ability to communicate with humans, much like the Polish-communicating elephant is the key to the prior novel.  I didn’t become as attached to the main human characters in this more recent book, which may be its biggest downfall, but its glimpse into our evolution and overview of linguistics from all its characters created a good story that also examines the meaning of family.

My next book choice examines family from a more personal angle and one in the public eye, through Diane Keaton’s memoir Then Again.  Like the actress, it hinges on being uniquely entertaining and endearing.  Though certainly removed by a generation from my own view of the world and the actors that I grew up with, it’s passages from Diane and her mother Dorothy touch upon reoccurring themes – finding love and succeeding in an evolving world.