Archive | April 2011

4th Anniversary

Four years ago today my husband and I said “I do.” Although we relocated almost immediately to Washington, DC, we are en route to California for the weekend. The reason behind our trip is to attend the wedding of a childhood friend who sang during our ceremony. By the way, this is wedding #5 for the year, in case you are keeping track.

But it isn’t all for him.

Despite having to get up early and travel on our anniversary, it will all be worth it since it means spending our special day in San Francisco. If all goes according to plan (we haven’t had a lot of luck with that when it comes to flying recently), we’ll be walking through the city by noon and—hopefully—enjoying a sunny, clear city day.  I can’t wait to see our accommodations at the French B&B my husband picked out and have a romantic dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant.

After a lazy Friday morning in the city, we’ll spend the rest of the weekend visiting with family and friends. It seems like the perfect reminder of how this weekend felt four years ago when we had the chance to gather 160 of the closest people in our lives together in one space. I couldn’t ask for a more special weekend.

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Garden Update #3

All things garden are going well. Two weekends ago, my husband and I  decided to plant some of our tomato, cucumber and leek seedlings. We hoped that the extra week in the ground would help them take root before we go out of town for — wait for it — the fifth wedding we are attending this year.

During the past weekend we went back to the garden to check on everything and finish planting. There had been a cold snap during the week and unfortunately some of the seedlings we had planted before weren’t looking very happy. Thankfully we had more of everything continuing to grow at home and were able to add more tomatoes and cucumbers to replace the ones that were in dire straights.

During our time at the garden, I was excited to see that some of our direct sew seeds — particularly the snow peas and arugula — had really taken off. Hopefully the warmer weather we are expected to have along with frequent rain showers will keep our little plants happy for the next few days.

I am anxious to see how the four types of tomatoes, four types of peppers, leeks, kale, arugula, spinach, garlic, cucumbers, snow peas and green beans turn out this season. I’m also looking forward to using our herbs — we’ve got sage, cilantro, parsley, basil, purple basil, curry, dill, oregano and thyme planted and hopefully growing. If everything managed to grow as it should, we will end up with quite a lot of produce from our 4×12 plot!

Once we returned home from the garden on Saturday we set to work planting some additional herb seeds in pots on the front porch. There is simply nothing better than easy access to fresh herbs. We started cilantro, basil, purple basil, mint, oregano and thyme to go along with our crazy rosemary plant.  I’m also thinking that the cilantro may do better in the shade of our porch than it will in the plot during the height of the summer.

In fact, we have so much rosemary and sage at the moment, that I made small arrangements to give away at a dinner we hosted this weekend. I also created a good sized herbal arrangement for our kitchen as well. Even if we don’t get around to using it, at least it smells lovely!

Woe is my Internet

For the past five days, I have spent the majority of my time sans internet. Because of this, I have also spent what feels like half of my life on the phone with Verizon telling them for the 837th time what my call back number is and the model of my modem. I mean, don’t they keep this information in your file? After four days and 8 phone calls — one which lasted for 43 minutes (seriously, I am not being an exagaraptor about the calls), I was finally able to schedule an appointment for today.

I was shocked when the technician (who was here about 2 months ago and replaced the line from the house to the phone box) arrived only 20 minutes into my 4 hour block of possible appointment time. When he departed, all seemed well. He had had the speed of my internet service increased (because for some reason the last moron reduced the speed) and thought that would solve the problem. And it totally did. For an hour.

When I called Verizon again, the company was able to locate the same technician (who may become my new BFF) and sent him back over. An hour later and the internet is back up and running. This time he said that the rain actually highlighted what he thinks was the larger issue all along — the cable connecting our phone box to the pole in the alley was incredibly damaged. When he climbed up to take a closer look he found that it was so corroded the cable crumbled when he touched it. This week has been incredibly windy and he thought the outages (and occasional returns) of my online capabilities had been caused by which way the wind was blowing.

Working from home without the internet has been a struggle. During the past four days, I have worked at my in-law’s kitchen counter, a friend’s couch and another friend’s dining room table. While I am grateful that so many people are willing to loan me their homes as a temporary office, I would be overjoyed if the technician’s work this afternoon meant my internet problem was actually solved. Not only could I actually get some work done in a timely fashion, but I would no longer need to spend half of my life on hold with Verizon which, not surprisingly, I have have grown quite tired of.

I’m trying to be optimistic, but after the past year of really rough service, we’ll see. The one upside of spending a good part of today stuck at home without internet meant I cleaned the bathroom, washed dishes, did a load of laundry and worked through some of the clutter in the office and downstairs. But now that I am back online it’s time to get to work. Sorry housework, you’re back on hold.

Accidental Neighborhood Watch

Yesterday we got a really special wake-up call.

At 6:30 we heard someone pounding on a door and yelling “We have a warrant, open up.” As the people in the house weren’t opening up, the pounding and yelling continued and it didn’t take long for noise to wake us, or for my husband to get to the window and see what the heck was going.

There were a number of officers surrounding the house across the street. Since moving into our house a little over two years ago, we’ve never really been sure who lives in what I have deemed, “the sketchy house” since so many people tend to come and go. Despite that, we have always been aware that someone who lives there runs a tax business out of the home thanks to banners and signs at the house and flyers shoved under our windshield wipers about the services they offer.

After peaking through a gap in our curtains for a minute or so, my husband came back to bed saying, “Guess which police it is?”

Side note: There are a ridiculous number of different police forces in DC including the regular Metropolitan Police Department, the Social Services Police, the Capitol Hill Police, the Housing Authority Police — the list goes on and on, in fact there are even Library Police.

But back to the story, I guessed a few random ones, but I was barely awake and I was wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Finally my husband couldn’t wait any longer and blurted out, “It’s the IRS criminal investigation division!”

Oh irony of ironies, the IRS police were raiding the “tax” house on DC’s tax day! I couldn’t get over it. We speculated whether this was planned to maximize information gathering or just for the humor of it all.

One of the joys (I guess it’s a joy) of working from home is that I get to see what happens on our street throughout the day. Despite how much things had quieted down in the morning, when I came back from the grocery store around 10:30 am, the block was alive again. There were so many unmarked, black cars, I couldn’t even park. In fact, they couldn’t really park either and one of their vans had backed up onto the sidewalk between two cars since that was the only way it sort of fit into a space.

About 13 officers were coming and going from the house, bringing out box after box. The rest of the neighborhood seemed kind of excited about the raid. I got a sense that everyone hoped it might mean no more “tax” business and all the extra cars it brought to the street. By about 1 pm everything seemed to be finished, the cars had left and the door was finally closed at the sketchy house.

For all the items that the officers removed from the house, they left the business hours sign on the front door. Although I still have no idea what really happened yesterday, I am pretty sure that no one is getting tax assistance at that location anymore.

Cupcakes Galore

The only good thing about a delay in the more permanent appearance of spring weather is that I have had some additional opportunity for baking.

I mentioned awhile back that I was on a bit of a baking spree, trying to get in all my tasty treats before it warmed up and I dare not turn on the oven. We went through a bit of a cupcake making spree — I made a post-Valentine’s batch of chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and pink and red decorations, a “birthday” batch for some friends who had just had a baby, and then I made an Irish batch for St. Patrick’s Day. Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Irish cream frosting and green sugar — yum.

Last weekend I was craving a sweet treat, so I decided to go traditional and mixed up some chocolate chip cookies. I have to admit that only about half of the cookies made it into the oven since I ate a good portion of the dough. Thankfully both the dough and the cookies were delicious.

Now I have to figure out what else I can make before the days get too warm. With the rest of my week somewhat clear during the calm before the summer storm, I am grateful for a few quiet(ish) days — days that can be filled with baking!

I’ll be making an applesauce coffee cake for Easter brunch and, after finding some blueberries in the freezer, I think I will make some muffins this week as well. Unfortunately I can’t seem to come up with any reason to make cupcakes this month. But hopefully coffee cake, cookies and muffins will suffice.

Bags, bags, bags…

For over a year, all of the stores in DC have charged 5 cents for every bag you need at the check out. Even before this tax was implemented, my husband and I typically took our own, reusable bags to the store. But once you had to pay for bags, we made sure we were always prepared. Buying a bag was like admitting failure. So on the off chance we stopped at the store without a bag, we couldn’t give in. We’ve walked home with veggies in my purse, food in all our pockets and a five pound bag of sugar under one arm to avoid buying that darn 5 cent bag!

However when shopping at a grocery store in Virginia we tend to pick up paper bags since they are handy for recycling and other random projects. And in Virginia they don’t charge you for them.

This week I went to the big grocery store in Virginia. As I was hoping to get a few paper bags, I didn’t take any bags of my own. It was a foolish move. I was incredibly annoyed to find out that the store no longer carries paper bags and I had to lug my stuff home in tons of plastic bags. The issue was made even worse by the check-out girl who felt that practically every item needed to be in its own bag. I mean, why would you put three cans in one bag? Or bananas in a bag with potatoes and a can? Apparently she does not buy food that can bruise or be crushed. I also had to tell her that I didn’t think the toilet paper needed a plastic bag, to which she looked at me like I was crazy, but honestly why would you put a sealed pack of toilet paper in a bag?!

I did my best to rearrange and consolidate my items before leaving the store since four bags were sufficient instead of 13, but I was still irked. I learned my lesson about not being prepared. Next time I will bring my own bags whether I think a store has a paper option available or not! On the bright side, my sister-in-law sent an email later in the day that she needed plastic bags for a green event where she could exchange 50 for an insulated reusable bag and we had plenty to offer her! If only I hadn’t consolidated earlier she would have been well on her way to getting an extra insulated bag!

Conscience of the Community

I can’t think of a better way to start a week than jury duty — who’s with me? No one? Okay, but in a way I was glad to be serving jury duty this week. Don’t get me wrong, I totally grumbled about having to get up and out of the house super early for my 8 am reporting time on Monday. And the idea of sitting in the courtroom without being able to work for a day or more was totally freaking me out.

I get that no one is excited about jury duty, but when you are a freelancer, jury duty can really have an impact on your life. Not being able to work can mean not making money. Thankfully, the way my project schedule currently is, I was grateful to be summoned for jury duty this week during a relatively quiet period before my crazy summer work storm.

When I had jury duty 2 years ago, I worked full time for a theater and actually enjoyed having a day to myself to sit and read. I had a 10:30 am call time, so I walked downtown from our apartment, was excused from a trial selection process after an hour or so of sitting in a courtroom, went to lunch with my husband, came back to the juror’s lounge for a few hours and then was sent home. At 2:30 pm. And being a full-time employee at a company meant I got paid for the day.

This time around I did not expect to have the same kind of luck. In fact, without a salary to rely on, I was pretty sure I would find myself on a 25 day case that last from 8 am until 5:30 pm every day. Or be a case like that terrible Pauly Shore movie where they jury is actually confined from real life for the entirety of the trial. Am I a pessimist? Well, clearly the answer to that is yes. Fortunately it didn’t end up being nearly as bad as it could have been.

***

I arrived at the courthouse at 7:35 am on Monday. After checking in, I snagged a chair in the back of the lounge by an outlet and got to work. By 10 am, I was in a courtroom and I was assigned to a case. Thankfully, it didn’t look like it would last 25 days. In fact the judge thought it would be between a day and a day and a half. The worst part of the morning was listening to the plaintiff’s lawyer. He was dreadful and clearly nervous. He repeatedly referred to the jury as the “conscience of the community” and used a terrible analogy in his opening statement that the trial was like a book. I found myself having to actively separate my irritation with him from my feelings about the plaintiff’s case.

We were sent to lunch at 12:15 pm and told to return at 2 pm, but when we got back we were informed that the judge had left for the day due to an emergency. So off I went looking for a place I could get some work done for a few hours before jazzercise. At least it was a lovely day, so I walked back up to Capitol Hill and got some projects out of the way.

***

Yesterday I reported at 10:30 am. Despite the delay on Monday, we were able to conclude the trial by about 3:45 in the afternoon. It was a civil trial and when the jury was sent to deliberate, my fellow jurors and I agreed on our four questions in about 15 minutes. We all felt that the case as a whole was a waste of our time and the court’s time, which irritated us. The “conscience of the community” spoke and while I doubt that the plaintiff’s lawyer was happy with our decision, I was glad that the eight of us had managed to agree and move forward quickly so we didn’t have to report for a third day simply to continue deliberations.

Now my civil duty has been served and I can plan to be called again in the spring of 2013. At least I won’t have to worry about that particular interruption to my work schedule for awhile!