Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday From The Road #1- Cali Girl

Just driving along, minding my own really, I do most of my non-work related business from the car (because I'm never home) and I found these treasures! I love attitude, or at least a little flair. This Friday From the Road....

It says "Chill out" and the license plate says "Lov Cal" 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bubbles Off The Port Bow!

Who doesn't love bubbles? But it's not something you see floating by your 12th story apartment window everyday. Looking like the opening to a Disney Movie, Lindsey and I went out to investigate, and apparently so did everyone else on ourside of building. Low and behold, our neighbs below us, full grown adults mind you, were "testing out" the new bubble machine they bought for their nieces. Right...30 minutes later, they ran out of bubble mix. I suggested Linds and I head over to Toys R' Us and "test out" a bubble gun for ourselves.

Ready For Combat

For National Military Appreciation Month, 630 WMAL and Skin-can-do owner Sara Damelio teamed up for a combat-ready drive. She whips up this all-natural skin-balm for her spas in her kitchen and one day found out it really helps on sand-flea bites. You know who suffers the worst from those little crustaceans? Our guys and gals over in the big sandbox (I have a brother and a few friends over there and I've heard first hand.) So she started sending her balm with troops as the left the States. Throw in the do-good listeners from the station and we've got a real mission on our hands.

We were hoping to raise enough to send 500 jars over. By the end of the month long push- we hit around 800. THAT'S EFFING AWESOME. I know it doesn't sound like much, but heck if we can offer anything to help, skin cream or otherwise, why not?! So when Sara laced up to hand out the miracle in a jar at BWI - I tagged along with her.

At first, the Air-Force team seemed a little confused about what we were throwing in their care-packages. For many, it was their first tour and they had no idea what to expect. So not only were we the harbingers of skin relief, we also served as bearers of bad news. Luckily, right behind us were the USO volunteers handing out Girls Scout cookies, a perfect distraction.


Sure, there's 5000 miles between us, but my sister Carly and I usually check each-other's vitals at least once a week. That's why we are on the same cell phone plan. To get the scoop first hand. Then BAM I see this in my news feed. Gimpie brakes her arm and I find out about it A-MONTH-LATER on Facebook? Yeah stick that in your box and shake it.

Friday From The Road # 2: The Mix on the Bus Goes ...

This Friday From the Road....

Agh I'm a loyalist..can't help it. So when I saw one of our stations planted on the back of the metro bus, I got a little psyched. 

No, Really, Thank YOOOUUU, Customer DISservice

My momma raised me well...(she would have used 'good' there, I said she raised me well, not taught me grammar). And a major point in her curriculum included thank you notes and such. I can remember her sitting her spawn down the morning after Christmas or our birthdays with a list, blank greeting cards (she bought in bulk...know anyone like that?), and a pen. And those buns didn't budge from the table until we pumped out a a thank-you to each gift giver.

Last summer, the we Benson clanners trekked out for a little camping action in the Grand Canyon. Being that I am a frequent flier program maven, I booked my reward flight round trip out of Vegas using USAIR. Well oops - I broke my foot - yeah shut up - and my mobility plans were slightly altered, and by altered I mean a complete detour to San Diego with the fam for some ER attention.

Ironic that I can get two helicopters down the face of a canyon to lift me out of a nearly impossible ravine (pilot will back me up on that) but I couldn't get the airline company to reroute my reward flight to leave out of San Diego instead of Vegas. No worries the delightful customer service rep tells me: my flight is good for a year out of Sin City, so I can just book a flight in and use my reward flight out. So I try it.

Silly's never that simple..You guessed it. I've got a big fat No sitting at the end of that plan. Not even an "I doubt it." Just a straight up no. So you know where I told them they could stick their reward miles? Yeah that's right...right back in my account.

So I escalate that sucker to the second customer service rep, and get an ok - just need $100. Well wouldn't you know it...I, of course, conduct all of my business on a cell phone while driving - and my purse was in the trunk. (Unlike my friend Liana - I don't have the number memorized. Noted for the next time.)

I call back the next card in hand. And I'm told repeatedly this time, from half way across the world (Judging from the accents I'm going with Bangalore), how sorry USAir is, but that just isn't allowed. Reeeeealllly? Then why did two other reps clear it and were ready to give me back my miles? Supervisor Please! Oh well my supervisor is going to tell you the same thing...Well FABULOUS...let me hear it from their mouth then.

45 minutes on the phone and three states later in my "office" (MD, DC, VA), I FINALLY reached Phyllis in North Carolina. Boy did we hit it off- she was my Paula Deen in shimmering butter. In her sweet-tea cooing drawl she told me she would talk to her supervisor while I was on hold. Clearly timing is everything and my cell drops the call.

While I'm frantically retracing my steps through the maze of customer DISservicers, brace yourself...Phyllis called me back. She looked up my number on my account and CALLED ME BACK. This is what it's come to - a gesture that used to be expected, I am now eternally grateful for - way to lower the bar millennials! Then she not only put my unused miles back in my account - she refunded my entire trip. Here was a woman who I'm sure listens to RAGErs like me all day, and was still able to use her brain and help a sista out.

You bet I wrote that woman a thank you note.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saving Second Base

My darling friend Angela has finally figured it out - If you want me to show up..put it on my g-calander. It can be something as insignificant as a grocery shopping trip - or as important as saving the Ta-tas. That's what we did - she signed us up to walk and save the ta-tas. You're welcome.

And yes it was rumoured the new First Lady was down on the mall, getting her pink ribbon on...but we must have missed her. We did however, meet Gordon the Gekko and Angela's mystery man. This is also the day I met Angie's coworker Johnney. More stories to come, but he is quite a character. oooh we call that forshadowing kids...

Always In Moderation

From the woman who brought you words of wisdom like, "you can pick your friends, and you an pick your nose, but you can't pick your friends nose," comes this thank you note.

My brother, sister, and I usually get a gift together for my mom's birthday - but being so close to mother's day and 2,500 -5,000 miles apart from each other makes coordination a little difficult. So this year I ordered her a chocolate cake to be delivered. Here is the thank you note I received in return.

"My dearest daughter Jennifer (always good that she remembers my name and that I am the ham of the family.)
Thank you so much for the fabulous chocolate cake-by-mail! It was delicious! Goodness, I was so surprised as I thought it would be a cake-free birthday, since Goose (grandma) was out of town (on a cross-country RV trip). It was extremely rich....wait for I found that if I kept it refrigerated and/or frozen, I could eat a much larger portion at one sitting! Call me! Love Mommie"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Take A Bow

Helen Mirren on stage in DC. I'm a total theater-moron and I even know that's a big deal. When I first heard the rumors back in the spring... I mentioned it to Linds. Well she about had a heart attack on the spot. Then the details started to trickle in. She would be playing Phedre at the brand new Shakespeare Theater downtown.

It would be the only American appearance for the National Theatre of Great Britain on their International Tour, and they selected DC. Chew on that New York. And guess who will be playing her ill-fated step-son....yep, Dominic Cooper. Ring a bell Mamma Mia fans? He was the fiance in the movie. It gets better.. Wait for it... we managed to get tickets.

It was a perfect night. Linds and I grabbed pizza at Edna's in Gallery Place before walking over to pick up our nearly-impossible-to-get tickets. While we were killing time we splurged and bought copies of the academy award winning actresses' memoir, then made sure to have them signed.

I'm not even going to attempt to give my opinion on the show, other than it was nothing short of perfection. We were watching Helen do for stage, what Maryl Streep does for film. Not just hit the right lines and memorize what must have been impossible dialogue from Jean Racine's 17th century classic, but she completely owned it.

Ben Brantley in The New York Times wrote, "Ms. Mirren remains not only incomparably majestic but also compellingly credible. Her Phedre is a more extreme blend of artifice and conviction, but boy , does she make it work in Nicholas Hytner's modern dress interpretation."

Waiting for us just outside the doors after the third curtain call was champagne for the audience. Linds and I toasted to her brilliance, and our success on a perfect evening.

Let's Do The Time Warp Again

Leave it to our book club to pick THE-MOST-POPULAR book, and thus the hardest to find novel for our discussion. Throw in the fact that the movie based on the book, headlining Rachel McAdams would be opening the same weekend as our meeting?

Regardless we pushed through the high demand and managed to squirrel away a few copies of Audrey Niffenegger’s A Time Traveler’s Wife last month. Keeping with the theme of time traveling, we warped back in time to the Founding Farmers for discussion over brunch.

Brunch was a blast – we had a few new faces and a few old friends. I really love how the book club is become quite the melting pot of generations, Sigmas, and non-Sigmas. Seated at a family style table for 12, the 6 of us naturally attacked the waiter to see if he had any comments about the book. None..ok the movie…also nothing….ok Chick lit in general…still nothing …ok sir do you read? Well that segwayed him into a twenty minute monologue about Russian romance novels…next time Jen: don’t grill the waiter –unless it’s about the menu.

The idea of the restaurant is farm fresh – so everything on the menu is made from locally grown, for the most part organic ingredients. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference – but my Eggs Benedict was still scrumptious. Lizzie’s cornbread and waffles were amazing too.

As far as the book goes – I stood apart from the group. I loved the story. Now there are two types of great novels – those that are written beautifully in the prose, and those that are beautiful stories. This was the latter, not the former.

Although each chapter opened with a poem, Audrey steered clear of flexing any poetic muscles. Written like diary entries the two main characters took turns narrating their love story- which was as sweet as it was confusing. The chronology of the story bounces around like an epileptic with ADD who just discovered crack, but the author tries to ground you with a time frame under each entry. Word of advice – take notes as you’re reading.

The other point I had an issue with was when the husband and wife meet for the first time she is 6 and he is in his late 30s. When the get busy, she’s 18 and he’s still in his late 30s. Sure, when they are in the “now” there is only an 8 year difference, but when his zipping around…it’s a huge time difference. Last point was the whole dream sequence thing the author does – way trippy, I ended up skimming those.

But overall – I’d say it’s a 3 star read. The book tells a universal story – in this case it’s about a partner who has to leave without notice and the effect it has on his spouse, just remove the time-travel aspect – and there’s nothing bizarre about that story.

Fit For A Queen

For our book club read last June, we chose Amanda Foreman’s Duchess, the biography of Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire. Having seen the movie before reading, I was expecting the same seedy love affair between the unhappily wed but wildly popular Georgiana Spencer, great aunt to the late Princess Diana and Whig Party up-and-comer Charles Gray. As in her real life, the affair was hardly a chapter’s worth of material

What started as a dissertation for her graduate studies for the author, quickly developed into an 18 –month, 450 page study on not only the life of Lady G, but an historical briefing on women, power, politics, economics, and society in late 18th century Europe. To be honest – this should be required reading for anyone studying the time period. What I loved was the overarching thesis of the biography – women may not have had the vote, but given the status and opportunity, many had power – real power and in some cases political influence. For Georgiana – she affected public opinion and the vote.

Reading like an historical novel, this was a refreshing account more about the women who changed the Whig party than the aforementioned English tabloid scandal. An account of an inspiring, head-strong woman, forced into an unloving marriage, and given everything, but in reality, had nothing.

For the discussion we had lunch at Dino in Cleveland Park. I was at an Italian restaurant – of course I ordered pasta. Even the spaghetti was delicious. And for us orphans transplants in DC – it was the next best thing to spending Father’s day with our Dads.

Under the Big Top ...Or 8

“Breathtaking” - O’ Magazine

Well it will certainly take your breath as you are hit with the smell of stables walking in – and it will certainly hit your wallet too. Let’s start with your $48 - $200 ticket. Then throw in a $15 program. As you’re rethinking your brilliant idea to bring the kiddi pops – their going to want one of those $20 stuffed horses and a $6 pretzel at the concessions under the eight-tent Big-Top. But this show it’s absolutely worth it.

I pulled in an hour before curtain call (had the wrong time in my all powerful G-calendar) so rather than tempt myself with all the equestrian chochkies, I headed across the street to Costco for the new Dan Brown book and an alternative to the $20 dinner at the overpriced concessions.

I have to say, upon returning I found myself nearly front row – and that was the beginning of an evening that exceeded my expectations. I have seen several Circe shows and have always been obsessed with our other four-legged best friends so the opportunity to see Cavalia, as it made it’s second tour through DC, was extremely attractive. But let’s be honest, how much can be done with a horse - I really wasn’t expecting to be blown away. It’s not like horses themselves are going to be flying on the trapezes. Watching someone else ride a horse really isn’t that entertaining. This was BEYOND expectations. I’ll say it again, IT WAS AWESOME.

Before the show starts, I hear over my shoulder nervous first date conversations mixed in with a husband recapping the new window replacement options he was quoted today. What was missing were the kiddy giggles and cheers of the usual circus crowd. Although the show was family friendly – it seemed as though everyone dialed the babysitters club tonight. One thing is for sure – it doesn’t matter who you are – if you love horses – you HAVE to see this show!

Aside from the slightly disturbing opening video of a mare giving birth – the show is beautiful. On a simple stage, the horses seem as though they are on strings as they “performed” intricate choreography. I used quotes because trainer Sylvia Zerbini explained to me after the show – for them – this is a game. The show is contently being revamped to hold the horse’s attention, rather than training the horses, the trainers are playing an intricate game. And more remarkable – they are fearless when it comes to the 2000 on-lookers under the big top.

The horses weren’t the only stars of the show. Time flies as the performers both 4 legged and otherwise breeze effortlessly through summersaults, trapeze choreography, flips, vaulting, impossible jumps and dressage routines, and more flowing material than Tim Gunn’s Mood store.

As the performance came to a close – I took a little pick behind the curtain to check out the stables. That’s when I got a chance to really talk to the trainers and the handlers. And for the last little surprise – a stop by the Rendezvous tent – were I grabbed a glass of wine (of course) and had the opportunity to talk to a few of the performers.

A few weeks after the performance, a couple of the trick riders, James Buchanan and Renny Spencer, came into the pub with Jimmy’s family. Recognizing them immediately, we started talking about their amazing riding capabilities. Turns out Buchanan is from Alexandria. Small world folks.

Movers and Shakers

There's Auntie Jo....Going and giving them IMF Folks a what-for! Such a schoolin- they posted her on their IMF Blog

The gathering on October 1 in Istanbul, ahead of the IMF’s Annual Meetings, was the culmination of a five-month consultation with civil society organizations. The Fourth Pillar representatives, chaired by Jo Marie Griesgraber of the Washington-based New Rules for Global Finance coalition, presented their final report to the Managing Director–which they had earlier discussed with the IMF Executive Board.

Toasted On One Side

From the Megs Chronicles:

When the four of us lived together senior year of college - somehow our Team Awesome adopted the slogan "To Much Bling ...No Such Thing." I'm sure there was a story there but after a year of heavy seems that that memory has been erased. Nonetheless, when I moved in Megs had constructed a 5 foot installation on our wall of a diamond made of cardboard and aluminum foil. And Yes, after seeing that I continued to move the rest of my stuff in.

Fast forward 3 years...So Megs now works for an art insurance company and gets to touch really pretty fancy things. This is the email I got yesterday....I think I'm in the wrong business...

"this is me wearing a $5m necklace- the Mont Blanc Lumiere.  It is comprised of over 3,000 diamonds.  The big rock in the center is over 11 carats and is DIF- which means- it's a flawless diamond.  BLANG BLANG"

and from roomie # 2, who shares Frank Sinatra and my birthday..Kate:
i would have to say that's pretty bad ass.  and yes...... too much bling is an impossible thing to achieve!  more bling more bling!!!  i think if that 11 carat had a twin they would look great on your ear lobes :-)

Thought for today: anyone can be born be team awesome crazy they have to be shaped, molded, and incubated.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Never Quotidian

Might as well have ripped this one straight out of Julie and Julia. Yesterday, the book club met at Cafe du Park to salivate over our French breakfast buffet and recap our latest read J & J. It was one of those rare occasions where more of us seemed to be there for the food and company than the book.

At the beginning of each meeting we do a small confessional to get an idea of who actually finished the required reading, how many watched the movie, and how many planned on finishing the book. The results respectively out of the five of us: 1,4, and 1.

Sure we talked about food, cooking, and Julia Child, but the only instance of the conversation veering close to Julie Powell was the question I had...if you were to start a project and blog about it....what would it be?  Some of the proposals included Carol's new biking obsession, our foodie obsession, our adventures as single Washingtonians. Lucky for me I guess, the Wahine is my very own calamity of errors.

As we were starting to loosen our belts a bit (thank god for croque-monsieur, french onion soup, a cheese plate to die for and eclairs a plenty.) Carol had a brilliant idea - 10 minutes later we were walking the 10 blocks from the Willard over to the Smithsonian museum of American History to see Julia Child's kitchen. That my friends, is why I live in DC. How many book clubs do you know can do that? 

How Can We Forget?

It's not often in the battle against mother nature is that Sigma Kappas do not emerge victorious, but such was the case for our memory walk Saturday morning. I had been planning and organizing the Sigma Kappa Memory Walk team for over a year. We joined forces with Mix 107.3, rallied over 150 walkers, and designed some awesome shirts to combat Alzheimer's. We had it all down - from the tent, to the shirts, sponsors, and well - the team.

Come the morning of, the weather just wouldn't let up - Linds and I pulled in promptly at 8 am only to be greeted by huge gusts of wind, and no tent...long story. So here we were, over 100 girls, trying to get our pictures done professionally, without catching pneumonia. 

At about 9:15 this morning Kim (zeta team captain)  and I decided to give the team the option to walk or retreat from the storm. By our call time at 9:30 you can imagine, our team had cleared out. I was so disappointed. In the DC Sigmas history we have never cancelled an event, regardless of the weather.

Although the day turned crummy, as the largest sigma kappa team in the country - we did raise over $8800 for the cause. So it ended well, and in my and Lindsey's case - with Greek omelets, coffee, and dry clothes.

When One Door Closes...Bliss...

Just like restaurant week, twice a year Washington DC rolls out the super-deals for Spa Week. And we were committed this time to take advantage of it! On the list were two big names I have been dying to try...Elizabeth Arden's Red Door Spa and Bliss in the W Hotel. For $50 a treatment, why not do both?

So first stop, Red Door, which is conveniently located literally across the street from work. It was a perfect day for a massage - rainy, gross, and demanding. Linds and I were signed up for the stress melting ritual.

Having only been to a spa once before, aboard Grandeur of the Seas en route to Bermuda, I had no idea what to expect back on land. Nor had I ever had a male specialist. Lets just say I was a wee bit nervioso. But within two minutes Rob had me wrapped up in relaxing oils and was rubbing my temples. From there on in I was free-falling into heaven. After an hour of wrapping, exfoliating, and head/neck/shoulder and feet rubbin Rob was my new best friend.

Of course, I rarely see my own roomie, so we decided to make of night of it and head into the city for dinner. The target: one fish two fish, from our old GW stomping grounds. Well as we were heading in, the rest of Washington scrambled to get out. My only saving grace was I was still flying from my treatment! Thank you Red Door. Over dinner I was telling Linds, I felt like someone hit my reset button.

The next morning I got a call from Earla - the spa consultant for Bliss bringing me more awesome news - they had an opening for the spa week special - an oxygen blast facial. I was in. Luckily, I had gone into work a few hours early, so slipping off for a facial mid-afternoon didn't feel completely indulgent.

What a change in pace from Red Door to Bliss. If Red Door was Brahms, Bliss would be Joss Stone. What a completely different approach to healing but neither better or worse.

Now, I have never had a honest to goodness facial - but this was great - my face has never looked so radiant. I could have sailed ships home safely, my skin was glowing so brightly. Working with Rhea was like hitting the gym with a girlfriend - good for the body and the soul, and so much fun. She whipped up a tailored mask, ran through a litany of treatments, complete with an oxygen blast, and even slipped in an arm/neck/and shoulder massage.

The special was $50 but the same treatment goes for about $70 regularly - perfect for a once-a-quarter regiment.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Babies Babies Babies

Congrats to auntie and now godmother Katie, her sister just had her baby shower in New York.

Congrats to my colleague Ty, who is due to have her baby girl in January. 

Congrats to my step-brother Jeff and his wife Kiana on their new baby girl - Madison. Here's the update from Momma Kim:  This is our newest grand baby, Madison Renay Estes.  She was born on July 22, 2009.  Her daddy is my son Jeff (Army SSgt) and her mommy is Kaiana.  Poor mom had a 28 hour labor.  We got the call early in the morning.  Hopped on a plane late in the afternoon to Olympia, Washington and we still made it there before Madison's debut. She is so sweet, good matured, and hardly cries.  She is just like her daddy.  His grandpa used to call him "Smiling Jack".  Daddy has been gone since she was 3 weeks old.  He will be back mid-November.  She came down to Southern California so both families could see the baby.  She is now 11 weeks old, and talks to daddy on the phone.  She is all ready for trick or treating with her cousins and Uncle Kyle. Hope all is well with you all! Honey Grams Kim & Poppa Matt (who is working now in New Orleans)

And congrats to my former professor Steve Roberts, who just published his baby, another book,"From Every End of the Earth," of which he generously dedicated to his students! "Friends: With no money out there for promotion I'm trying to publicize my new book, From Every End of This Earth, through social networking. Here's a link to a podcast and book excerpt, if you like what you read and hear, please send on the link, and some kind words about the book, to your own social networks. This book is dedicated to my former students at GW, which include many of you, and I'm deeply grateful for any help you can give. Best wishes. --Steve Roberts"

The Best Of The Best...

That's my cousin Kevin, this weekend playing for Navy's Lacrosse Team. Totally proud right now! I used to babysit this kid...and by babysit I mean receive a full brief on the Naval jet fleet by a 9-year-old, followed by  babysitter whomp plots by him and his brother, who looked about twice their age. My how things have changed....

Monday, October 5, 2009

In Love With The Boys From Jersey

Playbills may have been handed out, ushers may have walked us to out seats, but I remember going to a concert last night, not a musical. Last night, Linds and I were invited to Jersey Boys at the National Theater.  Written as the history of The Four Seasons, as told from perspective of the group's stars both in their own words, often conflicting versions and the music that sent them to the top of the charts. Never have I been so fully invested in a performance.

Ten minutes in, we were all clapping and dancing along as if we were the 16 year old fanatics they wrote the originals for. Sure, we all knew the words to the songs, but I bet two-thirds of my fellow theater-mates had no idea all those hits were from the same group. The acting was fabulous but what blew me away was last night's lead, Joseph Leo Bwarie, playing Franki Valli. I tell ya' if you put the two of them on a tape - I couldn't tell him from the real thing he was that authentic. So good in fact, the audience was on their feet for the ovation, and we hadn't even finished the second scene. And what Bwarie did for Valli's voice, Matt Bailey did for Tommy Devito's dance moves and New Jersey attitude. And then there's Joe Pesci - who knew he was so involved in the group's inception!?

The directing was as brilliant as the performers. Half the time, the quartet sang to us, the other half, they had our backs to them as we saw the fruits of their fame from their angle, bright lights, cameras, and screaming fans. 

Aside from Rent, this is the only other performance, I can't wait to see again!