Thursday, May 31, 2007

How to cook a super-easy super-delicious steak

I've been cooking for myself since I was 17. And I love steak. In fact, if it's not my favorite food, it's definitely in my top 5. But I never managed to cook a steak that I liked. So, for years and years and years, when I wanted steak, I'd go to a restaurant. Or to my parents' house.

But last week, I finally learned the trick to cooking a fantastic steak. A mouth-watering amazing steak. But more importantly -- a foolproof one-ingredient steak that even an idiot can prepare.

What's the secret?


Yep, you read that right. And yes, I was as shocked as you. But it works. Trust me.

Here's my recipe:

Step 1. Melt butter (or in my case olive-oil margarine) on grill pan over flame.
Step 2. Add steak, seasoned with small amount of salt and pepper to grill pan, with small amount of butter on top. Cook until medium-rare, turning halfway through.
Step 3. Put on plate, perhaps with side dishes.
Step 4. Cut into small pieces and eat, chewing slowly and thoroughly, so as to (a) not choke and (b) savor every delicious morsel.*

Oh, and kids, make sure you turn the vent fan on. You wouldn't want to inadvertently set off the smoke detector.

*And, for those of you that know of my distaste for kosher food -- and frustration with antequated Jewish dietary laws -- this is also yet another reason why kosher steak just doesn't taste as good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

To ipod or not to ipod

I somehow managed to break my .mp3 player this weekend. It still works -- for now -- but I can't change the volume. The good news is that playing the new Maroon 5 CD really loud is really motivational at the gym. (Not so much for The New Pornographers or Ryan Adams. But I digress.)

So, now I need to make a decision -- iPod or not. Last time, Justin convinced me to go with the non-iPod -- and then he bought an iPod -- but now he's come full circle.

But I think I might have come full circle on this too. Over the winter, I ripped all my music -- as of today, 11475 songs, or 43.79 GB -- onto a portable hard drive. And while that works fine with Windows Media Player, let's face it, buying digital music through iTunes is now the standard. Plus, there's a size issue -- everything I own could easily fit it all on an 80GB iPod. Or I could get a nano, preferably one of the (Product) Red ones.

Of course, I could just get another Rio. I really liked my old one, plus, it's cheaper than an equivalent iPod. But that's probably true for a lot of the non-iPod .mp3 players -- most of which I know nothing about.

Then again, do I really need a new .mp3 player at all? I mean, this still works well enough for the gym, at least for the time being. Plus, I have the Motorola SLVR, which works with iTunes (it holds 100 songs), and which I use on my very short commute. In a worst-case scenario, I could just start taking it to the gym.

Decisions, decisions.

Give me your phone number -- or your wallet

I always thought that one of the first things they taught in criminal school was that you shouldn't try to date your victims. Apparently, I was wrong.

Two men robbed a U-Haul store around 3 p.m. Sunday, taking an unspecified amount of cash, according the store's owner. But instead of fleeing, one man lingered and tried to strike up a conversation with the woman he had just robbed.

"He stuck around and was trying to get the female employee's number," U-Haul general manager Patrick Sobocinski said. "She said he was just saying, 'Hey baby, you're pretty fine.'"

Then again, someone who uses "Hey baby, you're pretty fine" as their pick-up line is not likely to be the sharpest tool in the box.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My latest foray into the art world

Forget painting: Earlier this month, I took a beginning glassblowing class at Glen Echo with DSL and I.

It was harder than it looked at the Renaissance Festival. You have to keep moving the glass, and you have to do all sorts of things to make the shape -- without managing to burn yourself on the metal tools or thousand-degree molten glass.

Ultimately, we made vases. Or drinking glasses. Or something that can hold pencils.

It was supposed to be purple, but now I can see that I picked up some streaks of blue from the guy that went before me.

I think it's better looking from the inside. See?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

An open letter to The CW Television Network

Dear Dawn Ostroff (and the rest of the CW):

At 10:01 last night, I began my boycott of your network.

Even though it's one of my favorite guilty pleasures, I will forego the remaining episodes of One Tree Hill. This summer, despite the dearth of palatable television (including Rock Star: Insert-Band-Name-here), I won't bother to catch up on repeats of two shows I enjoy -- Smallville and Supernatural. And I will not be watching Hidden Palms, even though the trailers hearken back to three of my favorites: Beverly Hills, 90210, Dawson's Creek, and The O.C.

Most importantly, this fall, I'll pass on Josh Schwartz's Gossip Girl, even though it seems like it would be right up my alley.

No, as of last night, you, and your network, are dead to me. You know why.

See, you're not the biggest network, and you can't be expected to compete with American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. Which is exactly why you shouldn't.

Instead of mindless drivel (searching for the next Pussycat Doll? Puh-leez.) you should have opted to continue to broadcast smart television for thinking people. Even if it might seem a little girly.

It pains me to admit this, but I could have forgiven you if it was just Gilmore Girls. After all, seven seasons is more than fair. But Veronica Mars has so much more story to tell. Three seasons just isn't enough.

I somehow managed to get over Buffy and Angel. But this is the last straw.

Consider my advertising revenue lost. Permanently.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two steps forward, one step back

I hadn't checked in with my grandmother in two days. When I'd call at night, her line would be busy -- and then, it would be too late to call. I assumed, though, that no news is good news.

Just to be safe, I called her first thing in the morning. Good thing I did, since my grandfather was unresponsive again last night, and had gone back in to the ICU. I worried all day, and even looked at tickets to fly back home over the long weekend.

She called me a little while ago, to say that he was much better again today. He was talking and wanted to get out of the hospital bed.

She was upset about one thing, though: He keeps telling all the nurses that they've been married for 55 years, instead of almost 62.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Doing better . . .

My grandfather woke up from his coma on Wednesday. When we left on Tuesday, things weren't great, and the doctors were preparing us for the worst. But the next noon, the start of visiting hours in the I.C.U., my grandmother and I walked in, and she said, "Hi honey. Dara and I are here."

He opened his eyes, looked right at me, and said "Oh, hi Dara. How are you?" as if nothing had happened.

Nana and I were stunned. Happy, but stunned, nonetheless.

My mother cried when I told her the news. She had been calling in every morning waiting to hear if we needed her to find a flight back from Europe.

Still, things are pretty difficult. He can speak, but he's not entirely lucid. Sometimes he recognizes people, sometimes he doesn't. He has no concept of time. And until this afternoon, he had no idea what had happened to him -- but he did know that he was sick.

The family started going back on Wednesday, when they moved him out of the I.C.U. I flew back to D.C. this afternoon, figuring that things are well enough that my grandmother can manage -- hopefully with a little help from my sister. And if not, at least now I know that I really can be at my grandmother's front door in under five hours.

And, while I'm at it, thanks, everyone, for your kind thoughts.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Alone with my thoughts

It's been a rough day, and I'm not quite finished processing things yet.

The rest of the family decided to stay at my grandparents' house tonight. So, I'm alone at my parents' house -- and it's weird.

My parents aren't here. The dog, sadly, isn't here.

It's too quiet.

Mostly, though, I've realized that it's not my house. It's not my home. It's just where my parents reside.


This evening, at the hospital, I watched as my sister's big green eyes filled with tears. She couldn't help it. Later, she said that she wouldn't have cried if my mother had been there.

I know what she means. My mom has a way of making everything easier for us -- for everyone -- to handle. I wish she were here.

Update: This is the note I left my parents the next morning.

It's a good thing that, after all these years, they sort-of "get" me.

Family business

I'm heading to Florida tomorrow for the aforementioned family stuff. Keep us in your thoughts -- or prayers if you're the praying type.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Celebrity Campaign Contributions

Wanna know what celebrities, athletes, and others donate to campaigns? Click here.

This totally changes how I feel about Anderson Cooper.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Book club update

I've made some more progress in the blah blah book club: I finished all the E.M. Forster on the Modern Library list. I think I liked A Room With A View the best, but that's because it was the least serious.

I'm now reading Edith Wharton, mostly because I already have two of her books -- and have seen both movies -- but also because The Post just reviewed a new biography of her, and she seems interesting.

But more importantly, I have a new goal. When I finally finish this list, I'm going to read all of the books mentioned on Lost. (I've already read 15 of them.) And then I'm going to polish off this list of the 100 Greatest Novels of All Time. (I've already read 26.)

Update: Thanks to Mean Bean Machine, I just found this list of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I'm glad they're giving me a long time to finish this, but I think that if I ever want to finish, I'd better get cracking.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lawyers and money

Despite the late night, yesterday was a pretty good day to be a lawyer. But then I think about the judge that's suing the dry cleaner for $67 million for losing his pants, and I remember why most lawyers suck.


There was an interesting article in last week's Miami Herald about how prosecutors and public defenders in Florida aren't being paid enough money to pay their bills -- the current starting salary is $40,000 a year. By way of reference, first year associates at big law firms in New York and other large cities are being paid as much as $165,000, not including bonuses.

In my last semester of law school -- a little more than 8 years ago -- I did an internship at a public defender's office, and loved it. Not to be cliché or anything, but it was a life-altering experience. After graduation I was offered a job to be a public defender in a different city for $28,000. I really wanted to take that job. Alas, I wanted to pay my rent just a little bit more. Ultimately, that was why I went back to get my masters' degree.

When I left the government to go in to private practice, my family -- especially my mother -- seemed really impressed by the salary, and the nice office, and all of the other perks associated with the job. But when I left my big law firm job, my mom said she was proud of me -- because she thought that deciding to do what I wanted to do -- and that all that money wasn't worth not doing it -- couldn't have been easy. I thought it was strange for her to say, but I think I understood what she meant.

At least once a week, someone at work will ask me whether I miss working for a firm. And every once in a while, I make the joke that I only miss it on payday.

Long day

I left my apartment at 8:30 a.m. to go to Newark, NJ for a hearing. I just got back to my apartment 10 minutes ago.

I am very tired. And my feet hurt from walking from the train station to the courthouse, through construction debris. And my hand hurts from dragging the brief bag all that way. But I'll get over it. Over all it was a pretty good, albeit long, day.

But something totally random happened: Two other firms sent associates to watch our hearing, and I sort-of knew one of them from law school. Well, he knew me and knew that I had gone to the same law school as him (I graduated a semester earlier). I recognized his name when he told me, but only because someone I used to work with had asked me if I knew him. Weird, right?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Virginia Gold Cup: A Cold Day at the Races

On the way out to The Plains, I was thinking I would write a blog photo essay entitled "On what it's like to be young, waspy, and Republican." Even as I was sitting there amongst everyone in my green plaid sundress and crisp white cardigan, it seemed like all of the pink shirts and seersucker (on guys) and pastel dresses and hats (on girls) were things to be mocked. But I only had my cell phone in my teeny-tiny little purse, and my friend forgot to charge her camera battery. So no pictures.

We got there around 11 am, and it was horribly overcast and freezing cold. And, for some insane reason, at that time, my friend's employer's tent had no coffee or tea or hot water or space heaters or, well, anything except alcohol. So, I started drinking mint juleps to warm up. With every sip, I would shudder and then feel a tiny little bit of warmth radiate through my body. But, on the most part, I wasn't getting warmer. The food eventually came, but even that didn't help.

At some point, my frozen little body meandered over to the concession area where I bought a t-shirt to wear over my sundress, which made my upper body a little warmer -- but my poor legs were still exposed to the elements. Why a t-shirt? Because the souvenir stalls had sold out of sweatshirts and fleeces. All of the women in the entire place were freezing. Women who had never even been up close to a horse before were buying riding jackets to zip over their candy-colored frocks.

Someone told me that it was warmer in the port-a-potties, but I didn't care to check.

By noon, the women in my tent were drinking mimosas so quickly that the champagne was running low. I stuck to the mint juleps, since they were apropos of the occasion -- and whiskey warms me up way faster than champagne. People were meandering around the tent, lining up at the rails when the horses came by, but I pretty much stayed put in my seat. When the horses would come by, people would cheer. I would say, "Yay, a horse," to whomever was listening. They'd laugh, which is bad, since you should never encourage me. So eventually, I was saying it whenever they played the music signaling the start of a race.

Most of the men, though, seemed okay -- since they were in long pants and jackets. Surprisingly, the white suits and pastel shirts and ties were not as hideous as they originally seemed. Although -- let this be a warning -- pink shirts and yellow bow ties do not go together. And don't get me started on seersucker.

Then the skies opened up.

Now everyone was equally miserable.

Even before the rain got bad, my friend had started asking around about whether anyone wanted to leave early. On her first go-round, she had about 20 people willing to leave as soon as they'd let us have a bus. But the woman in charge would not let us leave early, insisting that all of the buses would leave at 5:30 as originally scheduled. But people kept asking. Eventually the bus nazi relented a little and said that one of the buses would be opened so we could go sit in it and warm up.

Then, around 3:00, we were told that, as soon as a bus was full, it could leave. People ran for the bus. We rode back to DC with two extra people squished in, because we didn't want to leave anyone behind in the cold and rain. I was so thankful to get home to my apartment -- where I quickly changed into jeans and climbed into bed and slept for 4 hours.

So, that's it. I'm sure Gold Cup is cute and everything when it's warm and sunny. But rain and cold mixed with sundresses and alcohol do not equal a fun day.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Outgrowing clothes, not behavior

My sister is a lucky, lucky girl. My parents always made me share my stuff with her. I guess it's the burden of being the oldest child.

Unlike some people, she never cared all that much about shoes or clothes, and never managed to accumulate the sort-of collection that I'm known to have. But we were pretty much always the same size, so she never really got hand-me-downs. Instead, when we were in high school, she would just meander into my closet to pick out an outfit or a particular item to wear the next day. And more often than she would admit, she wouldn't give me that article of clothing back. (She also did it with a Def Leppard tape, but that's a story I've mentioned before.) And, truth be told, I usually forgot or just didn't care that much -- until I wanted to wear that particular item again.

Nowadays, she often complains about how she has no work clothing, so when I go home to Florida, I bring her some things that, for whatever reason, I am no longer interested in wearing. This trip, however, she complained to me that she had no appropriate shoes to wear to work, now that she's been promoted and is expected to dress like a manager. So I told her I'd find her something.

So, I spent most of tonight finishing cleaning out my closet -- which I had started several weeks ago. Admittedly, some of the urgency was to find something appropriate to wear to Gold Cup on Saturday. Now I have two large piles: (1) things to give to charity and (2) things to give to my sister. Her pile includes three pairs of dress shoes.

I don't really know why I still do this. I mean, she's 29 years old -- and gainfully employed -- so it's not like she can't go to the store and buy herself whatever she needs. But the pattern continues, ad infinitum.

Saving Eastern Market via the interweb

Check out these sites regarding Eastern Market:
First, courtesy of DSL: Rescue Eastern Market.
And then, courtesy of Rebound Designs (where I bought this awesome purse): Save Eastern Market.
And finally: Rebuild Eastern Market.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Photographer 1, Baked Beans 0

Did anyone else catch the story from late last week where Hugh Grant attacked a photographer with baked beans?

Baked beans. In a tub.

That just seems like the silliest thing. What, he couldn't find something pointy like an umbrella, or something heavy like an ash tray? Heck, he could have used his cell phone like Naomi Campbell and it would have seemed way less ridiculous.

Even better: Imagine having to tell your cellmates that you got arrested for hitting someone with baked beans.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Nothing is as it seems

I'm bummed today. I just found out that two of my friends -- who who I've known for years and years -- are getting a divorce. From my perspective, they seemed to be the perfect couple. And, until I heard the news, I never would have even thought that they were having any marital problems. But I guess you never really know what's going on from the outside.

It's particularly disheartening to me -- because as cynical as I am, I want to believe that things work out for the best. You know, fairy-tale endings and the like. It gives me something to aspire to.