Friday, August 22, 2008

Kiawah, Day Six

Vacation so far . . . .

It all started out so well. Cracker Barrel on the trip down. An upgraded room greeting us upon our arrival. The discovery of the Official Best Cocktail Ever, the sweet tea mojito. (Yes, that's right-- it's my two favorite drinks combined.) Flowers and champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in our gorgeous room.

Sadly, what was shaping up to be the best vacation ever has been significantly marred by death and rain. More specifically, my paternal grandfather (and heretofore my only living grandparent) died on Sunday night, just after we arrived at Kiawah Island. So Wednesday for me was spent using the most insanely overpriced plane ticket ever to fly from Charleston, through Atlanta, to Nashville, renting a car to drive to Horse Cave, Kentucky, for the funeral, driving back to Nashville (and getting caught no more than five miles into the return trip in the worst traffic I've ever experienced, causing me to call and leave multiple screaming messages on David's voicemail), flying from Nashville to Charlotte to Charleston, and driving back to the resort. Not the best day ever, but what can you do?

Since I arrived back at Kiawah, it's been pretty much non-stop rain. The "rain bands" from tropical storm Fay are drenching us, and although I'm grateful that we're not facing the worst of the storm, day two of gray skies and constant downpours has me going a little stir-crazy. I was prepared for afternoon showers and thunderstorms, you know, after I'd had a chance to sun myself for a few hours in the morning. This rain, though, has been relentless.

In the meantime, we've been reading, reading, reading. Which brings us to a little photo pair that demonstrates one of the differences between David and me. My idea of "beach reading" is pretty much mindless, chick-lit crap:

David's is, um, a little more challenging:

And, lest this post end up sounding too much like a pity party, we're still having a terrific time. And we still get to look out from our balcony and see this:

Not too shabby, I'd say.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sweet Lips

Poor Sadie.  She stuck her tongue out as I snapped a picture, and this is what we got.  

What?  Are the lips a little too much?  I was going for Angelina, but I fear I've turned out more post-collagen-injection-Meg Ryan.  

Happy Birthday, Mike!!

When I married David, I knew I was getting a prince of a guy. But I also married into the greatest set of in-laws a girl could ask for, including a terrific brother-in-law. Like his parents and brother, Mike is extraordinarily smart. He's frighteningly good with numbers, and he has put many of our friends on his terrific budget system ("it sets you free!"). He's a charmer and can talk to absolutely anybody, and he works a room like no one's business. He's also absolutely hilarious, a born storyteller. He had us all in stitches during his toast at our wedding:

My favorite Mike quote, though, occurred a couple of hours prior to this photo, right after I'd walked down the aisle. Mike was David's best man, and he and my sister were up at the church altar with us. I had just handed my bouquet off to my sister and turned to face David, when Mike leaned over to give me a compliment:

"Your nails look really great."

It still cracks me up that, of all the things to notice on a bride, he zeroed in on my manicure. But that's Mike-- he doesn't miss the details.

I've long known that David and I are both incredibly lucky to have siblings who are truly our friends. Today, Mike officially joins David and me in the land of the thirty-somethings. Happy birthday, Mike! I hope it's a great one!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When David's away, Lauren rambles all day

There's not much happening around Casa Petroni this week. David is in New York City for work, which required him to get up at the ungodly hour of 4:45 yesterday morning to catch a 6:50 flight. And wouldn't you know, his flight was delayed. Shocking. S'okay, I'm sure he didn't need that extra hour of sleep, anyway.

With David out of town, you can be sure that my evening yesterday consisted of some serious sofa + TV time, and a dinner of pepperoni, nuts, wheat crackers, and olive tapenade. Mmmm, healthy.

It also consisted of a two-hour trip to the Target Greatland out on Route 50. We usually do our Targeting at the location by our house, and we usually go together. I was driving by the Greatland location yesterday for an appointment, and I couldn't resist its siren song on my way back.

I learned that I should never, ever, be permitted to visit Target unaccompanied. It's possible that I might have purchased two pairs of shoes:

(It's possible that, in my excitement, I took pictures last night with my iPhone to e-mail to David in New York.)

It's also possible that I might have purchased a dress, three tops, two necklaces, a pair of earrings, lotion, mascara, powder, vitamins, headbands, three bottles of spray sunscreen, one tube of face sunscreen, tooth flosser refills, and two canvas storage bins for my closet.

I'm not saying that I actually purchased any of these items, mind you. Just that it might be possible. I admit nothing.

And if that was my rockin' Monday, what had the weekend held in store for me? David worked until about midnight Friday night, so I'm pretty sure I sat in our office and read blogs all evening.

Saturday was far more productive, even though David was-- you guessed it-- at work almost all day. We woke up early and headed out to the local farmer's market before he had to go to the office. It was a gorgeous morning, almost bordering on cool. It was the kind of weather that makes me wish for fall, a common wish for me once we hit August. (My fall weather wish also makes me hate September a little bit, with its stubborn insistence upon hanging onto summer-ish weather.) Sadie was excited for the walk, and we bought yummy chocolate croissants at the market.

I hit the gym for a yoga class after our walk, then watched the Tivo-ed Olympic Opening Ceremonies. (Which were admittedly amazing. I seem to remember our opening ceremonies in Atlanta being pretty lame. Of course, I would have been angry if my hometown had shelled out the kind of cash for the ceremonies that Beijing apparently did.) I cleaned up the back patio, where we're constantly clearing of leaves, and I started cleaning out my dresser and closet to dontate a bunch of clothes to charity.

David was planning to golf with Michael, Maureen, and our friend Jason on Sunday morning, which meant going to Mass on Saturday evening. We tried to run an errand after Mass, but the store was closed. We had over an hour before we were supposed to meet Michael and Maureen for a dinner to celebrate Mike's birthday early.

What to do when we're dressed for dinner with over an hour of free time?? Cocktails, of course!

We dropped into EatBar for one of my favorite cocktails, the Wimbledon. It's a basic, girly cocktail consisting of vodka, strawberry puree, and champagne, with a rim of strawberry Pop Rocks. It's no longer on the menu, but they'll still make it for you if you ask nicely.

Except . . . they wouldn't. I mean, the bartender said he would, if that was what I really wanted, but come on, it was really just vodka and strawberries, and how creative was that?

"But, um, the Pop Rocks," I squeaked.

"Sure, there are the Pop Rocks. But you can still do better," the bartender insisted. "Let me make you the Alchemist. I promise you'll like it. If you don't, I'll make you the Wimbledon."

I guess he made me an offer I couldn't refuse, because I was suddenly watching him throw together a concoction that involved some sort of elderberry liqueur, rye, lemon juice, lavender simple syrup, a shake of lavender on top, and a raw egg white. Because I like my cocktails with a little bit of danger.

I was suspicious. "Trust me," the bartender assured, setting the cocktail in front of me with a flourish.

I sniffed. I sipped. And lo, it was delicious. Smooth and not too sweet and smelling lavender-y lovely. So if you go to EatBar, ask whether James is bartending, and ask him to make you the Alchemist. You won't be disappointed.

Appropriately cocktailed, we met up with Michael and Maureen for huge slabs of beef at Ray's the Steaks, known for its terrific meat and non-existent decor. It was good, but after eating at Ray's twice, I think I'm just not sufficiently taken with the food to put up with the hassle. They don't take reservations ahead of time; instead, you have to show up in person around 4:00 on the day you want to eat to snag a dining time. The service is good, but hurried, and the menu expressly states that Ray's will ask you to move it along if you linger too long after eating. I love going out to eat with Mike and Maureen, or with other friends, and I find it a little stressful to need to worry about how long we're taking at the table. I guess I just like my steak with a little more polish and a little less hustle.

Sundays are always a little weird when we've gone to Saturday Mass. I wake up not knowing what to do with myself. David had left at the crack of dawn for golf, so I leashed Sadie up, donned my iPhone and headed out for an hour-long walk. The time between the walk and when David got home was sort of lost in a haze of puttering. I think I watched the last half of Stranger than Fiction, which you absolutely must watch if you haven't seen it before. It's creative and charming and clever, and I always cry a little at the end. I loaded a bunch of CDs onto iTunes that had never made it onto the computer, in preparation for vacation(!) next week.

I eventually decided it was time to run myself through the shower (seriously, not having to get ready for Mass on Sunday mornings throws me off), just in time for David to get home and take me to Baja Fresh. Yay for steak tacos! Not so yay for running errands to the golf store afterward! Yay for taking a nap after the golf store!

We ended the day at a new-ish restaurant in our neighborhood called La Strada. The weather was beautiful, so we sat out on the patio for dinner. The food was tasty and the service attentive, and we definitely plan to go back.

Ah, the weekend . . . when David was home and not stuck working in New York. How I miss you, weekend. (And how I miss you, David!)

So, um, yeah. That was exceedingly rambling. Sorry 'bout that. But my mom is reading this, and moms love to know the details of their children's lives. So let's just blame this on Mom, shall we? Hi, Mama! Love you!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Just in case you were wondering how the hair came out . . .

Not exactly what I wanted, but fine overall.  I'm really just going to have to accept the fact that nothing, nothing I can do will make my hair turn under, or even just hang straight.  Flippy hair is, apparently, my lot in life.  I'm just going to have to deal with it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Vanity Plate of the Day

David actually saw this one a while back, but it's worth a late post. It's actually pretty clever, so I'm posting this with a nod of appreciation.

HOT2MTR (spotted on a bright red Mini Cooper with white racing stripes)

Congratulations, HOT2MTR!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Splitting Hairs

I seem to rely on the Congressional schedule for getting my hair cut and colored.  My hair appointments are multi-hour processes involving highlights, lowlights, between-the-foils color, cut, and blowdry/style.  (I know, I know.  You're shocked that my hair is not naturally a multidimensional reddish hue.  Sorry to disappoint.)  Because it takes so long, and because I never remember to snag a coveted weekend appointment weeks and weeks in advance, I generally end up letting it go until things are slow at work, and I head to the salon on a weekday afternoon.  Hence this Thursday's appointment.  

Every time I go, I'm tempted to tell my stylist to just do something new.  I've had the same hairstyle for roughly a gazillion years now-- flippy in the back, layer-y in the front-- owing largely to the fact that my hair will not-in-a-million-years-not-for-the-life-of-me turn under in the back or on the right-hand side.  It's annoying, but after fighting it for years, I've just decided to go with it.  

Here's my hair as of today:

Have I mentioned that I'm obsessed with our new Mac?  It can take your picture!

So the question is, what should I do with my hair now?  I had bangs going on for a while, but I was too lazy-slash-preoccupied to have them trimmed on a regular basis.  (See congressional schedule = haircut schedule, above.)  Should I brave it and tell the stylist to just have at it?  I've pretty much ceded my color to my colorist, and I'm happy with what she does.  I've just been a lot warier when it comes to the cut.  

I'd love to be able to take a cute photo into the salon, but I've determined that cute haircut photos don't really exist.  Every time I look through a fashion magazine, every photo is of a model with long, long hair of some sort.  Long and stick-straight.  Long and layered and wavy.  Long and pulled up into a messy-but-chic ponytail.  Every time I try to look through one of those "hairstyle" magazines, the styles are all hideous and unrealistic and asymmetrical.

Seriously, I see women all the time with cute hair.  Every time I see someone on the street whose hair I love, I'm tempted to run up to her and ask to take a picture with my camera phone, just to have something to show my stylist.  My question is, why are the cute hairstyles so unavailable in print?  Is it a conspiracy of some sort?  Am I missing something?

I'd appreciate advice before Thursday!!

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

There are so many things that I love about my job that it's hard to narrow them down.  I have a terrific boss; I work with smart, talented, funny people; I do interesting and (generally) meaningful work.  But hands down, one of the best things about a Hill job is recess.

Recess is the period of time when Congress shuts down so that members can return to their home states/districts.  It's often called "vacation" by the media, but I've found that most members of Congress use the time to meet with constituents and keep up with the interests of the folks back home.  

For D.C. staff, though, it's a wonderful time-- especially in August, when recess lasts all month.  Our hours are more flexible, we don't have to wear suits to work, and things are generally just a lot more relaxed.  It's such a nice change from the typical stress and frantic timetable on the Hill.  I actually feel like I can breathe for a while.

Best of all, recess is the time when Hill staffers can schedule vacation-- and we do.  This year, David and I have decided to spend our vacation down in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.  We had initially planned to do something more exotic and travel to Italy's Amalfi Coast, but the weak dollar and strong Euro sort of trashed that plan.  

Still, I'm beyond excited.  This will be a nice long vacation for us, and it should be a relatively low-stress trip.  We're driving, rather than flying, so we don't have to worry about paying extra if our bags are two pounds too heavy or fitting our toiletries into three-ounce containers or packing all my jewelry in my carry-on lest some dishonest baggage handler decide to help himself to my necklaces.  (Not to disparage baggage handlers generally, of course, but I speak from experience on that last one.)

David has never been to Kiawah before, and I'm excited for him to see how gorgeous it is.  I've been to Kiawah, but have never stayed at our hotel before, which looks amazing.  David has already booked three rounds of golf, and we've both booked spa appointments.  (I'm especially looking forward to the "Lowcountry Verbena Body Scrub."  Ahhhhhhh.)  We each have a stack of books that we've been saving for vacation.  I plan to spend my days by the pool, looking out over the ocean, reading my books, listening to music on my iPhone, and napping whenever the mood strikes me.  

We leave in less than two weeks, and we're literally counting the days!  David has added a countdown timer "widget" to our computer's "dashboard" (seriously, we're so in love with our new Mac!).  The widget tells me that we have 11 days to go.  

Hmmm.  Is it too soon to start packing?