Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'll See You In My Dreams, Kevin Costner

I love to sleep. Love. It.

That decade I spent at the beck and call of nursing infants and nightmare-riddled toddlers left me a woman who values sleep over almost any other natural function. I'm grumpy if I don't get my Sunday nap, and practically nonfunctional if I don't get my customary almost-eight hours every night.When I have a lot going on, though, interrupted sleep is the first symptom of tension.

(Well, almost the first. Have I mentioned my attitude? Ahem.)

Now the accumulating to-do lists and crescendo of responsibility leading up to this weekend's shindig are beginning to creep into my cherished nighttime hours. Last night I woke with a start to worry about things over which I have no control.

Ack! Why does construction make the campus look so shabby? Ick! Why didn't I get the back entrance to the house painted? Yuck! Why doesn't it RAIN already?

When I finally fell back to sleep I had dreams whose interpretations would stump Freud. I woke not completely remembering what and who had pranced through my REM stages, but with a clear knowledge I had just dreamed about:

1. An inability to find my make-up bag,
2. An inspection visit (I was the inspector) to check on a sorority's initiation rituals, and
3. Ed Asner and Kevin Costner setting up one of those elaborate courses of dominoes where one tipped tile knocks down an intricate pattern of thousands more dominoes. Then the two of them took me out to lunch.

Oh, yeah, it's a trip  inside my head right now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Am I Missing Here?

The floral delivery guy arrived at my office yesterday and to my delight handed me this gorgeous bouquet. It's not my birthday or anniversary, so these lovelies are a sure sign of one thing:

MomQueenBee is just a tetch crabby these days, and is uncharacteristically (ha!) sharing this discontent with those around her. If I had to guess, I'd give credit for my attitude to several factors:

The heat, which is KILLING me this summer.

The upcoming weekend, during which my mad lack of cooking skillz will be on display for the extended family (plus the associated stress of wondering whether those dozens--really! dozens!--of dozens of cupcakes in the freezer are going to emerge edible).

The complete and utter lack of awareness by our national leaders that they are in the process of destroying our nation.

I offer that last observation with the customary caveat that I am practically a cavewoman when it comes to my ignorance of political nuance, but what am I missing here? It seems obvious that those of us who have (whether we have a lot or a little) are going to have to give more, and those who have not are going to have to get less.

Husband is on the local school board, which is navigating the same budgetary upheavals as most local district. One line item that has been deferred repeatedly is the allocation used to buy textbooks. As a result, the district's textbooks are in dire need of replacement. Last night, despite his natural inclination as the Most Frugal Man in the World, Husband proposed to the board that it add a minimal tax levy to support the replacement of the textbooks. (And when I say minimal, I do not exaggerate: It would have cost our family about $10 per year, which is less than most people in Small Town spend at Sonic in a month.) The proposal died for lack of a second.

I sighed when I heard about the textbooks, but really, this is just a local version of the high-stakes squabbling going on at the national level right now. All involved are so afraid of budging an inch from where they have planted their flags that the abyss between the flags is threatening to swallow all of us. We are risking our nation's future because those who have are unwilling to give, and those who have not are unwilling to give up.

I think I'm understanding why Husband thought I needed flowers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

You Say Tomatoes, I Say...Not Many

When the summer started, I thought I would keep track of how many tomatoes I harvested from the six plants I have in containers in the back yard. After all, this was a not-inconsiderable financial investment: $18 for plants ($3 each), $15 or so in super-special potting soil, $20 for primary-color-coordinated pots, $6 at a garage sale for the rusty blue wheelbarrow that elevated this from container garden to Artful Yard Installation.

Want to know how many pounds of tomatoes have been harvested so far? Well, take a look at this picture and you'll see. I think that total weight is quantified as "Not Worth the Effort."

It has been educational, though. Did you know that tomatoes require a temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold? No, I didn't know that, either.

I truly believed my tomatoes would reciprocate the love I was showing them in trudging out morning and evening to soak them in the lukewarm water that comes out of the hydrant now, even as the thermometer climbed above 100 degrees day after day for the past month or so. "Yummy! I'm watering you so often that you are going to reward me with lots and lots and lots of tomatoes!" I thought, innocently.

As it turns out, optimum tomato-growing temperature is between 65 and 80 degrees. Ha, ha, ha! We hit 80 degrees in Small Town in May and haven't looked back.

So my tomato crop was easily held by the Spongebob Squarepants plate and bowl Husband brought back from our Washington trip as souvenirs for the Boys who stayed home. Apparently he thinks we still have toddlers, which at least puts my tomato misconceptions in perspective if we're measuring degree of misconception.

Next year I think I'll grow cacti.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Spooky Was That?

One of the nice thing about Boy#1's job, and my job, is that we can check in with each other by instant message during the day. That's pretty cool when he's exactly half a nation away and we don't see him very often.

Yesterday morning I was busy at work and knew this blog would be low priority, so I off-handedly messaged him: "Hey, want to write a guest post for Empty Nest Feathers?"

I am not exaggerating when I say it was not 20 seconds later that the first sentence of yesterday's post appeared in the little IM box, and within three minutes the entire post was there, complete with links and sounding more like me than I do. I've known for years that he was a terrific writer (his posts from Hong Kong were a stitch) but the exactitude with which he caught my voice was a little unnerving. And while the post made me laugh and certainly made my morning less rushed, it was a humbling experience: It took One just five minutes to out-MomQueenBee the MomQueenBee.

I'm going to have to start calling him Buzz.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Post Actually Was Written by Boy#1*

Hitting the road in the '77 Suburban, ca. 1995
I remember the first time that one of our children really traveled alone--when Boy#1 took off for here.

There's a fine line between "I'm so proud and excited that they can actually pack their own suitcases!" and "What on earth are you doing? What sane mother would even let her child drive to Small Rival Town 15 minutes down the road, let alone fly off to someplace halfway around the world?" And then, as if I wasn't stressed out enough (That leg problem last week? Probably just a long-delayed side effect.), One's flight was delayed by a flat tire on the plane, meaning that instead of getting to Hong Kong on time according to plan, he'd have to find his own way to the university.

Long story short, he made it there and back in one piece. As did Boy#2 when he traveled here, Boy#3 when he traveled here, and Boy#4 when he traveled here.

So when Boy#2 called last night to say he'd been delayed on his way here here but had finagled $500 in free flight certificates and a free hotel room and was trying to get bumped today so that he'd get enough flight vouchers for a trip to Europe, I wasn't surprised.

The Boys have a tendency to have their travel delayed in odd ways. When Boy#1 took off for Hong Kong, he was delayed by a flat tire. When Boy#3 went to Giant Metropolis with the band, well, they also had a flat tire. So it came as no surprise when Two called last night and said his plane had been delayed. Why? It had caught on fire. (And no, it's not all that reassuring to hear him say, "Well, at least it was on the ground and not in the air.")

Really, this was just a continuation of a long family tradition. On our first real family vacation, when Boy#1 had just turned two years old and Boy#2 was barely older than the milk in the refrigerator, we borrowed a pop-up camper and set out for Ohio. Worst decision ever. Between a schedule that would have killed the pioneers and one of the worst heat waves in decades, we vowed that this first vacation would also be our last. We kept that vow. For one year.

But eventually we lost our senses again, and purchased a pop-up. That green canvas wonder was our faithful companion and home away from home for trips across the country. Unfortunately, high on the list of memories associated with traveling with it are all the breakdowns we endured. We threw tread in New Mexico. We broke an axle in Colorado. In South Dakota, we put stickers on our suitcases from mechanic shops and dealerships across the state.

Finally we retired our faithful '77 Suburban which had carried those many miles, and replaced it with a practically new (to us) Suburban (air conditioning in the back seats--pure luxury!). Shortly after, we replaced the faithful old pop-up with a new (to us) pop-up, with air conditioning. Laura Ingalls Wilder would not have been impressed at our hardiness.

So what was the first thing that happened? Before we even got out of Small Town, the new pop-up decided to prove it could top the old one in orneriness, jumped the hitch at Busy Intersection, and almost killed us all.

So today, as Boy#2 tries to find a non-flammable plane to travel on, I have to remember: He learned to travel dangerously from the best.

*I'm serious: Boy#1 wrote this. I am a little scared by how exactly he impersonates me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hello, Cupcake!

Oh, the things my co-workers are called on to do as the "and other duties as assigned" part of their job descriptions. For the past couple of weeks, they've had to be cupcake tasters.

The party to celebrate my mother-in-law's 90th birthday is just over a week away, and in a moment of overconfidence I volunteered to bake the cupcakes. (Why? Why would I do that?) May I just say right now that those bakers on Cupcake Wars are completely lying to us. I mean, they throw a dash of dill and a splash of cognac into their nutmeg-scented vanilla bean cake with the creamy chocolate ganache, and in 30 minutes they turn out a dessert that Florian loves? Ha! Not buying it.

I wanted to put four flavors of cupcakes in the freezer well before the party date, but after my first recipe completely bombed (think sinkholes the size of golf balls) I knew I had to practice. I began taking samples to work for assessment by the creative types on my team.

They have become small cake experts, the sommeliers of the cupcake world.

"This is good, but just a touch too sweet, and I believe I'd add a little more espresso to the buttercream to cut that sweetness," one might say.

Or "I thought this was going to be terrible, because really, it felt like a rock when I picked it up, but it's great!"

Or "I think this is my favorite, although you might alter the cake-to-frosting ratio."

As I look at the remains of yesterday's sample above, though, I'm wondering if they are being completely honest with me. When I saw the picture of the last Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle With Mocha Buttercream, it struck me that not a single person was brave enough to tell me the frosting looked strikingly like something you'd put in a paper sack, take to the porch of the neighbor you don't much like and set on fire, then ring the doorbell and run.

Hmmm. I may never eat chocolate buttercream again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Teenage Brain

The comic strip Zits started to run in 1997, two years before we officially had a teenager, and we have had this strip taped to our refrigerator since 1999. It is so old that it curls at the edges and I had to hold it down with a couple of manicure-challenged fingers to take this picture.

In it the parents of 16-year-old Jeremy Duncan are reading the paper together.

"This is interesting," Mom comments. "A new study shows that a teenager's brain actually works differently than an adult's."

"Wow, that is something!" Dad responds. "Next thing you know they'll discover water is wet."

At that moment Jeremy enters.

"Mom, Dad, I've decided to buy a unicycle."

Oh, that writer (Jerry Scott) knows his teenagers, and apparently he also knows my 23-year-old. Today the UPS man rang the doorbell. When I brought in the package, Boy#2 was delighted.

"Oh, good! My ukelele is here!"

I am not even kidding.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Proud to Be an American

To phrase this in the kindest way possible, the MomQueenBeen family is not particularly athletic. Oh, we enrolled the Boys in summer baseball and swim classes and basketball leagues and soccer teams (both spring and fall) and during one memorable summer we spent every single weekday evening at the baseball field, but I did my own private little happy dance when Boy#4 hit eighth grade and aged out of the teams that have to take you because you sign up, regardless of talent.

We do love sports, though, and are the most appreciative of fans. When World Cup soccer is on, we watch. (We're also grateful when games are in the Western Hemisphere because that means we don't have to set our alarms for 2 a.m. to see the games, but that's another story.)

This year's U.S. women's team has been wonderful to watch. They have the heroic goalie, and the young kids, and the old gal with the steel-plated forehead who won my heart by chatting with the google-eyed youngster who escorted her into the stadium for the final game. This team played with wonderful energy and enormous heart as well as skill.

As I watched our team play Japan yesterday afternoon, I thought of when the Boys were younger. Every once in a while a kid just can't get a break. The class election goes the wrong way, the debate partner ends up on a different squad, the piano solo gets a II rating--all of these are part of life, but a string of them is demoralizing. Eventually the bad streak always comes to an end, but meanwhile too much chin-upping is painful. I remember once telling Husband how glad I was that one of the Boys had gotten a well-deserved good grade on a project. "He needed a win," I said.

Japan has had a horrendous year, with disasters both natural and man-made. They needed a win, so I'm glad that if the U.S. was going to lose it was to this team.

But I was proud beyond words of the way we lost. Unlike their male World Cup counterparts, these final teams played cleanly and as the models of sportsmanship they should be. No sliding tackles, no feigned injuries, no shrieking at the refs. When the game was over, even though they must have been heartbroken, the American players squared their shoulders and congratulated the victors.

When our Boys left for competitions when they were little, I always said the same thing: "Play hard. Play fair. Have a good time."

That's what our American women did, and they could not have represented their nation more nobly. They absolutely are winners.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Feed Them Because They Make Me Laugh

I was watching a spy show on basic cable last night when the beautiful villainess let loose with a word that wouldn't have been allowed over the airways not so many years ago.

"Blankety-blank!" she screamed, so loudly that Boy#3 heard and wandered in from the kitchen.

I should explain that while they weren't allowed unlimited television when they were kids, the Boys usually have been allowed to watch whatever programs Husband and I watch, including shows with other than G ratings. (That's only fair. If I had to sit through Barney then, they have to tolerate Burn Notice now.)

"Remember when we were little and someone on television said something like that?" Three said. "You always would say, 'We don't approve of or use that language in this house.' Well, ever since then I've wanted to use that rule on some random word, so from now on, every time I hear someone on TV say 'cow,' I'm going to say 'We don't approve of or use that language in this house.'"

Then he laughed and laughed, and so did I.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fair Is Where You Take Your Pigs

This is me. The eyes may be a little tired-looking, and what's with the ALWAYS needing a cut and color, but what beautiful skin I have.

Hahahaha! Fooled you!

This portrait only has beautiful skin because it is an Artist Rendition, and the artist chooses to not add nature's embellishments. If the artist were more truthful, my portrait would look like this:

And to be perfectly honest, it also would look like this, which I've thoughtfully labeled because I love my readers and don't want them to have to work too hard:

I used to tell the Boys, when they were whining about the brother getting to sit next to the air conditioner in the car, or about the brother who got to lick the mixer when I made cookies, that life is not fair. But a face that sports a zit and an age spot within three inches of each other?

Mother Nature isn't fair.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Answered Prayers

I've been vacillating about the proper tone for this post. Should it be breezy and off-hand?

"Hey, folks! You know how yesterday's post was titled 'Hot. Dry.'? Well, today's post is going to be "Poor. Chubby.' and let's see if I win the lottery and lose 10 pounds!"

Or should it be more amazed?

"Hey, folks! You know how I wrote yesterday that we were in an epic drought and it was hotter than Hades and my flowers are dying? Well not 10 minutes after I hit 'Publish' on the post it started to thunder and this morning we had almost two inches in the rain gauge."

Maybe I'll go for the spiritual angle--

"Hey, folks, I know God's in control, and I think He must shake his head in amazement when I complain about my flowers dying when He has so much bigger fish to fry, but isn't it incredible that He makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, and sometimes when we need it the most, He makes it to fall on us?"

Or maybe I'll just be thankful, and awed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hot. Dry.

This morning I was the den mother for a woman who's in town interviewing for a job at Small College. She's never been to Kansas, and I found myself apologizing for the patches of brown along the roadways.

"I'm sorry it doesn't look prettier--we're really, really dry this year," I told her.

She looked at me and laughed.

"In California right now it's completely brown," she said. "We're just glad it's not on fire."

When the weather is as hot and dry as it is these days, it's hard to remember that we're not the only ones rowing this boat across the desert. Most of us don't remember another summer like this one, when the temperature has been so unremittingly hot--over 100 at 9 p.m.--and when no rain is remembered or forecast.

I fret over my flower beds where insects have ravaged the rhubarb leaves in their search for moisture. In spite of my faithfulness in watering every day, nothing is thriving except the mint. Even the zinnias struggle, their hardiness no match for heat that begins before the sun is up. The water that pours out of the hose is warm.

As I mourn my flowers, though, I think of the farmers who are hauling water to livestock who can no longer drink at the dried-up ponds. Families who depend on wells for their water are resorting to bathing at home but hauling their dirty clothes to a laundromat in town.

I think of the people who have been chased from their homes by floods along the Missouri River this spring, and others whose lives were changed forever by the monstrous power of tornadoes or tsunamis or wildfire. Set beside those tragedies, my struggling flowers are barely worth mentioning.

But I have to mourn them, because they were mine.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to Move Rocks

As close as I'm going to get to a picture of Boy#4 unloading rocks
The nicest people in the world read this blog. Really! So for all of you lovely readers whom I left needlessly concerned, my leg is FINE. I think my artist's rendering abilities may have been just a little more graphic than the situation warranted. (What? Me, exaggerate?)

Anyway, the Calf-Eating Bruise had cleared enough by the weekend that Husband could no longer hear my whines of "But it's hooootttttt! And I have a bruuuuuuuise!" and we spent Saturday morning working in the heat-stricken wasteland that is our backyard. We are philosophically opposed to pouring water onto lawns ("Hey! Life is tough, Bermuda, and you might as well learn that now while it's only 111 degrees,") and the grass is showing the effects of the current heat wave. It is so opposite-of-beautiful that I can't bring myself to post the "before" pictures I took; just imagine tufts of crunchy brown grass scattered over bare dirt with Our Dog Pepper panting at the edge.

We're adding stone edging to the fully-shaded edges, and with Boy muscle available, there was no reason for me to do anything but order people around. This is not as easy as I make it seem, but I know the secret of success when it comes to recruiting help on a hot summer morning:

Something to crow about
Bribery. Yummy, cinnamony bribery.

And since you can't have an "after" picture without a "before" picture, you'll just have to imagine how nice the new stonework in the yard looks, with its curving edges and Our Dog Pepper still looking puzzled by all the activity.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Friday, July 8, 2011

What I Love About Summer

This may be the shortest post I've ever written, because as everyone who knows me has heard me whine, I do not love summer. I do not like the heat and the consequent sweating, or the melting asphalt, or the heat-provoked sleep interruptions, or the kids down the block with their 2 a.m. firecrackers, or chiggers, or the lack of soup, or...well, I could go on and on, and often do.

So here is what I love about summer:

(Insert crickets chirping)

Hmmm. I meant for that line to be an indication of complete and total silence, but come to think of it, I do kind of like the sound of crickets, assuming I'm not trying to sleep and the cricket is chirping from behind the door of the bedroom. And cicadas? Yeah, I love the sound of cicadas.

And I love watermelon, and corn on the cob, and ooooh, homegrown tomatoes. The smell of wheatfields being burned off. That blast of cold air that marks transition between outdoors and indoors. So You Think You Can Dance on television.

T-shirts, bare legs, iced coffee. No slush tracks on the living room floor. Not worrying about Boys who may be traveling. My old Birks. Not having to fight for parking spaces on campus.

Boys at home.

And today, what I love about summer? College offices closing Fridays at noon during July.

Good times. Great summer.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Leg to Stand On

So, how is your day going? My day is proof that what one expects when the alarm rings is not always what comes to pass.

When I went to bed last night I had a right leg that looked approximately like the leg at right, only without the trim ankles and good tan. Oh, and with significantly more spider veins, but this is an artist's rendition.

I'm using an artist's rendition because as it turns out, photographing one's own leg is not an easy process. Go ahead and try it. I'll wait.

See? It's difficult, right? I tried to get pictures of my leg, because I simply do not overshare enough on this site, and I ended up with pictures of my skirt, of the hand that then held the skirt out of the way, of the side of my desk, and of half of my right sandal.

But back to our story: The first graphic is the artist rendition of my leg when I went to bed last night. This is the artist rendition of my leg when I woke up this morning:

What the heck? I woke up with a ginormous bruise that covers much of my calf. Because the artist rendering this life form is mostly inept, you don't see the nuance of shading and hue in the browns and greens and purples included in the bruise, or the horrified look on my face when I realized my right leg had spontaneously imploded. And before you ask, no, Husband had not kicked me in the middle of the night.

I went through my mental checklist: Pain? No. Swelling? No. Fever? No. Inability to walk? No.

This obviously was a serious injury, what with so many non-presenting symptoms that probably could kill me, so I called the doctor. Good Dr. D. was properly impressed by the size and coloration of the bruise, and with the help of an ultrasound diagnosed superficial phlebitis probably brought on by the puddle-jumping last week. He quite literally said, "Take some aspirin, and call me in the morning if it's not better."

I do trust Good Dr. D., but I'm afraid a couple of aspirin won't cure this leg.

As bad as it looks, I think we might have to call in a pedicure.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pearl-allel Parking

I've discovered something new since I began driving Pearl (OF DOOM) a month or so ago. It turns out that there are all of these parking places in Small Town that I had ignored during the years when I drove a troops-moving vehicle. Then, with a vehicle the size of the Queen Mary (the ship, not the actual queen), it was angle-in or keep driving.

This morning I went to visit Husband in his downtown office and the space right in front of the door was a parallel spot. I hadn't pulled into one of these tricky spaces since I demonstrated this skill in driver's ed, oh, so long ago, but as it turns out, parallel parking is like riding a bike. I took a deep breath, pulled up beside the car in front, and began backing in. Seven seconds later I was parked.

Perfectly spaced in front:

Perfectly (almost) spaced in back:

With room to spare. Thanks for the little beepy warnings that I was getting close to the car in back, Pearl, and go, me!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


It's been a whirlwind of re-entry, so today I'm serving leftovers: This picture is left over from our hotel stay but didn't seem to fit with the post I wrote about things I'll miss

But I do miss the elevator. 

This was one swell elevator, practically magical in its ability to appear quickly even though there were several hundred people at the conference. It moved smoothly and made it from first floor to tenth floor in about three seconds flat. 

The best part about it, though, was its voice. 

This elevator had a mellifluous, feminine voice that announced the floors in tones so dulcet that you wanted to step off on that floor whether your room was there or not. The voice was welcoming and hopeful--"Sixth floor! Going up!" "Eighth floor! Going up!" 

Then it would get to the top floor and you could just tell it was sorry you weren't able to go a couple of floors higher. 

"Tenth floor--going down," she would say sadly as we left the car, the announcement trailing off dejectedly. 
I've decided this is going to be part of my life. As I came downstairs this morning I announced "Second floor, going down."

The Boys don't think I'm at all crazy when I do things like that.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Home Again, Jiggety Jog

A view not found on the Arkansas River
We're home again! The flowers and the dog and the homesitting Boys are still alive and well, and it was wonderful to see the checkerboard fields of home under the plane as our puddle-jumper jumped through the storm clouds. (Whoa. We were in the exit row and I found myself frantically reading the instructions for popping the escape hatch.)

Good as it was to see home turf, there are things I'll miss about our home-away-from-home in the nation's capital. In no particular order, I'll think nostalgically about these little luxuries in the hotel:

The coffeemaker. Even though I've always only wanted one coffeemaker (the one I don't own yet) I've never really coveted one of these single-serving models. I like coffee verrry strong, and this didn't seem to give enough latitude for adding just a few more grounds. But oh boy, was this coffee good, and brewed in the time it took for me to put on my earrings. I needed something hot to drink because...

...this was the actual number on our thermostat. How do I say this with gentility? Ladies of my age sometimes have a wee bit of difficulty sleeping through the night during warm summer nights, but it's expensive to cool a monstrous home such as ours when the exterior temperature is in the three digits, so I love being in a place where someone else's name is on the utility bill: We cranked that baby down to where I was comfortable and I slept blissfully, thank you very much. Of course, part of the reason I slept so blissfully was because of this:

It turns out that our 20-year-old mattress isn't quite as comfy as I assumed it was, at least in comparison to this pillow-topped wonder. When I told Husband that I wanted a king-sized bed, he agreed, but pointed out this size mattress would mean I couldn't open my closet door. Hmmm. I guess I have a hard decision to make. 

The one hotel amenity I really don't want in my own home is this:

It turns out that when it's illuminated and magnified eight bajillion times, the speck of mascara I've been trying to scrub off my eyelid is a freckle. Or an age spot, since I haven't noticed it in the last half-century. Freckle, age spot; potato, potahto. Either way, I don't need to see it.

Today I woke up back in the House on the Corner, and while I'll miss the big monuments and little luxuries, it's good to be home.

It's where my heart is. And my clean clothes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

This Is Great, Too

Husband and Boy#1: Best. Tour Guides. Ever.
You-all know I love Small Town, right?

I do. I love its friendliness and its compassion and its bluegrass festival every fall. I love that my house is within five (large-ish) step of where I work, making my commute approximately four seconds. I love that when we're out of milk for breakfast I can put the bread in the toaster and get to the grocery store and back before the toast pops up.

But people, there is something about being in a town where good-looking tour guides take you to crowded burger joints that were started by famous chefs, and even if that chef was kind of a jerk and I didn't like him much during his season of Top Chef, I've forgiven him because his restaurant invented something called the Obama Burger and the Milky Way Shake, and may I just say that these put the Ahhh! in cholesterahhhhl.

I won't bore you with the details of the meal (why, yes, I did take pictures of the greasy paper sack the fries came in) except to say that we decided to walk from the restaurant to approximately Connecticut in an attempt to purge ourselves of the guilt from its decadence. But then we left the restaurant and looked to our left and forgot all about our good resolve.

Why, hello, democracy. You're looking mighty pretty tonight

And we looked to our right and the sun was hitting the Library of Congress just right, and the air was soft and warmish (while Small Town, we love you, was hitting 105 degrees), and we forgot everything except how this town is kind of magical and seductive.

No wonder nothing ever gets done here.