Sunday, August 5, 2012

Top 100 Ways I Know I Married the Right Man No. 74

74. Sometimes, he acts frighteningly similar to my father. For example, a conversation we had this morning:

Me: What's the weather supposed to be like today?
Bert: Great for landing on Mars!!!

He's been glued to his NASA and JPL apps all day and is seriously considering staying up till 1:30 a.m. to see if Curiosity makes it. I consulted with the Momster this afternoon, and she reports that Papa V. is exhibiting similar behavior. I am doing my best to encourage him and suggested we pull out the aluminum foil and make some hats to celebrate. We'll see how it goes. ;)

Top 100 Ways You Know You Live In NOVA: No. 98

98. You hit a new low of pretentiousness where an ice cream shop has the gall to not carry sprinkles because "the ice cream tastes too good for sprinkles."

News flash, scooper party-pooper. (Yes, I thought that one up on my own.)

1. Desiring sprinkles has nothing to do with the flavor of the ice cream. It's a texture thing. Obviously, you've never heard of those ice cream aficionados known as chunk spelunkers. (That's a Ben & Jerry's term. Can't take the credit for that one.) Nor do you seem to take them seriously. I'm almost offended.
2. Your ice cream wasn't that good. Not even close.

Oh well. Live, learn, and check that place off the list. Should've gone across the street. ;)

(Sorry for the lack of blogging lately. Work's been a bear. My old boss retired Friday and my new one starts a week from Wednesday, so it's been a bit nuts. I didn't get out of bed until 3 p.m. yesterday, which roughly translates to DEFCON 2 as far as my health prognosis goes. Feeling much better today though. Even with the disappointing ice cream cone. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

D.C.'s Best Cupcake No. 7: Sprinkles, Part Deux

So I still haven't actually been to Sprinkles - currently planning an excursion in August when Sister V. comes down - but according to this Washington Post article, D.C. is getting its own 24-hour Cupcake ATM!!! Granted, Georgetown is not nearly as convenient as say...mmm...Arlington, but when those 2 a.m. cupcake cravings hit, at least there won't be any traffic! :D

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cooking No. 15: Jose Andres for the Garden Café Catalonia

I can’t take credit for either one of these beauties - or even the photographs, for that matter! My friend T. took these shots of our Jose Andres lunch at the National Gallery this past Sunday. For our entrée, we ordered the empedrat de mongetes amb bacallà, aka the white bean salad with vegetables and Catalan salt cod. We split it between the two of us–they were out of Drew’s first choice–and, minus the inevitable fish/garlic bad breath, it was perfect: fresh and pleasantly pungent.

For dessert, we split the peres al vi amb gelat de vainilla, pears poached in red wine with vanilla ice cream. I usually don’t care for pears, but these had a nice sangria-esque vibe going on. Top that with ice cream and–needless to say–they didn’t last long!

The restaurant also has a Catalonian buffet set up for the exhibition. It was a bit pricey for the two of us, but I would have loved to try the cold cherry and tomato soup. The recipe is online here and looks simple enough. Maybe I’ll give it a try!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Date Night No. 4: Derecho Style

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Welcome to our weekend. Here I am, writing this on Monday afternoon, and all I can think is, "I need a weekend from my weekend." I'm being dramatic, of course. We were only out of power for a day, our apartment was never warmer than 78 degrees, and I only had to throw out 1/2 gallon of milk, 1/4 pound of bacon, and one chicken breast. (Who knew small grocery budgets were so black-out friendly?) Our neighbor had a tree land on their car and a lot of folks are still in the dark, so I can't complain.

The weekend was off to a lousy start even before the derecho rolled through. Originally, Drew and I were going to get dinner in Rosslyn and then catch the free, outdoor movie in Gateway Park, but after a long, hot week at work (for both of us), we canned that idea in favor of vegging out at a proper, air conditioned theater. The second-run cinema near our house was showing The Hunger Games, so we decided to give the cheap seats a shot. However, we didn't count on not being able to find parking in time for the show. (Sometimes I miss sprawl and its glorious acres of asphalt. *sigh*) I wasn't too keen on missing the beginning of the movie, so we turned around and went back home. The storm hit around 10:30, killed our power almost immediately, and terrified the cat. I went to bed early, because that's the kind of day/week it was. Just put me out of my misery, please.

Our friend Amy visited on Saturday on her way home from vacation and I'm afraid Drew, Nibbles, and I cut a pitiful sight: tired, hot, and cranky. (Well, Drew and the Noo were only tired. I was the only Triple Crown winner.) Thankfully, Amy has seen me at my worst and dirtiest in the middle of the African Bush, so she wasn't frightened away. (We had enough hot water for showers Saturday morning, so I'm sure that helped too!) Old Town had power, so we had lunch at Pizzeria Paradiso and shop-hopped to stay cool. By four I needed a nap - because I physically cannot do heat - so we went back to the mercifully-still-cool apartment so I could recharge my batteries. :) Amy left after dinner at Don Pablo's in Potomac Yard - what's with Alexandria having all the power?! - and Drew and I holed up with our four candles and iPhone lights. (Note to self: BUY A MAGLIGHT! And maybe some other disaster supplies… Talk about being the least prepared on the street. :P)

We'd just drifted off to sleep around 11:30 when the condensers for our building - conveniently located right outside my window - whirled to life. Now, there's something to be said for the silence and darkness that accompanies a blackout. It is nice in a slow-you-down, focus-on-what's-important, look-at-the-stars kind of way. But there's also something to be said for air conditioning in 100 degree heat. And in this case (and for maybe the first time in my life), I support the latter. Whirl, baby, whirl!

So Sunday things finally got back to the normal and planned. (Except for our Internet, which came back with the power, but left Sunday night only to return again Monday.) We went to church, swung by Target to replace a few empty/depleted perishables, and cooked lunch on the stove. (I missed having a gas stove this weekend! Even when they cut power in PA during the whole Irene mess, we could still cook!)

After lunch, we metroed into the city for an afternoon at the National Gallery with our friends T. & E., specifically to see the Joan Miro exhibition, "The Ladder of Escape." I didn't know a lot about Miro, so it was an interesting exhibit to walk through, especially after I sat through the exhibit movie and had more of a clue. (Surrealism is not my strong point. ;) Afterwards, we had lunch in the garden café, whose menu was redesigned with Catalonian cuisine by chef Jose Andres (T.'s fav! :) for the exhibit. Proof that he is an amazing chef? The huz ate white bean and salt cod salad and LIKED it. Wonder of wonders, I need to take a few notes from that man's cookbook. :) (The red wine poached pears for dessert were amazing as well. And I don't even like pears!)

Because we ate out way more than normal this weekend - although completely justifiable considering the circumstances - I don't even know where the date night budget should begin and end this week. Do you ever have off weeks like that? Weeks were everything goes haywire and at some point you just stop caring? Ugh. Lunch on Sunday was probably around $25 - close enough. No date night this week - Drew's going to PA to clean up some loose ends from our move in February - so we'll start afresh the weekend after that. We should be sufficiently recovered by then.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

BTOTD: On Perspective

I’ve always thought that everyone should work retail at least once in their life, if only to experience the humiliation and indignation of being uninformed and unimpowered and constantly reminded of both by the thankfully minor (but unfortunately loud) portion of the population that thinks shopping is a life or death situation. Once you’ve worked in customer service, you really have no choice but to act somewhat reasonable towards others in the field. Constant interaction with strangers–pleasant, angry, or otherwise–is not any easy job.

I’ve done this. I’ve worked retail. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. But with one month of professional customer service under my belt, I’ve decided to add a caveat to my mantra: In addition to working retail, everyone should be required to spend a week or two in a third world situation. Because it has come to my attention that what this world needs is not love – although love is nice and it certainly decreases the number of angry phone calls and hang ups I receive – but perspective.

To put it succinctly, if you are not dialing 911, your problem is not an emergency. Therefore, you are probably going to have to take a number and it’s probably not number two. But rather than camp out on my soapbox, I thought I’d offer a few insights and tips about the overall world of customer service–good or bad–and how to navigate the ropes with as little collateral damage as possible.

  1. As emotionally upsetting as your situation may be, don’t editorialize. Most of the people you speak to won’t be involved or responsible, and even if they are, they won’t care. They might be heartless, but most likely they just don’t want your baggage. Also, they’ve heard it all before. (Water off a duck’s back, baby!) Be persistent, but stick to the facts.

  1. Be willing to accept that you may be wrong, especially if it’s a situation you’ve never dealt with before or a subject you don’t know a lot about. If it’s not your job, the customer service rep probably knows more than you. Trust me, humble pie tastes better when it’s warm. If you’re wrong, own up to it quickly.

  1. It’s okay to ask to speak to a manager, but go up the company rope, one by one, even if it takes time. If you try and jump rank, no one will know what you’re talking about and you’ll annoy the higher-ups who try and stay out of the details. Stick with the people who deal with your situation on a day-to-day basis. They’re the ones most able and likely to help.

  1. Stay calm, cool, and collected. If I want drama, I’ll watch Lifetime. Hanging up or getting mouthy does not impress me and it does not help you. If you’re a repeat offender, don’t think word won’t get around. Talking about the crazies makes for great water cooler conversation.

  1. If you feel like you’re stuck in a merry-go-round of transferred phone calls or emails, don’t take it personal. Many large companies are spread across multiple locations and have a high turnover rate. People may genuinely not know who should handle your concern.

  1. And finally, if a company or business has a history of treating you this way, take your business elsewhere! You’re not going to change the company culture while swinging through their electronic phone directory, but money does talk. And if you have no choice but to do business with the company, join the club. I hate Comcast too. ;)

What do you think? Have you worked in customer service before? Did it change the way you treat others? Do you have any thoughts to add?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Date Night No. 3: North A-ton

This weekend, we had less of a date night and more of a date weekend, which I will take over the former just about every time. Saturday morning we ran the usual gamut of errands and chores, but by mid-afternoon we’d had enough of that. Drew had yet to see the neighborhood where I work, so we took a rare weekend bus trip up to my M-F neck of the woods – his first trip into the wilds of Northern Arlington.

Showing off while waiting for the bus. ;) I got an iPhone from work, so I've been working on my Instagram skillz. Poor Drew has to put up with being my constant subject.

We didn’t go into my office, but we did walk around the building so I could show him all its vital amenities - Starbucks, CVS, etc. (Have I mentioned I’ve made it my sad, new personal goal to earn a Starbucks Gold Card? Everyone and their mother has them here. I feel so left out.) After that, we took a quick turn through Crate & Barrel. I’ve been window shopping for a reasonably-priced/awesome living room rug for several months and came so close to finding one here. The Barker Rug in Blue matches our living room perfectly AND is on sale. The only problem? It doesn’t come in 5x7. And even if I had $400 to drop on a rug, 6x9 is way too large. (And 4x6 is way too small.) Figures.

So instead we bought three porcelain condiment spoons for $1 a pop, promised ourselves we’d hit up the C&B Outlet in Old Town for more rugs on the cheap, and went on our merry way. J

For dinner, we came ‘this close’ to buying shrimp po’ boys from a purple food truck parked outside of The Container Store (aka OCD“R”Us), but something about buying seafood from a truck gave us the willies and we ended up at Baja Fresh instead. While I’m all about supporting quirky eateries on wheels, I’m not big on Cajun food. Fresh pico and over sized burritos will win me over any day.

War of the iPhone cameras.

We finished off the night with an exciting game of “Can We Make it to the Next Bus Stop Before the Bus Drives By?” (Answer? Yes, until we chickened out and camped out on a bench next to someone’s Astin Martin parked on the street. Egads! Why don’t you just put a sign on it that says “HIT ME!”) and a Redbox-sponsored viewing of Captain American as part of my post-Avengers education. (Better than Thor, but still not as good as Iron Man.) We did stop by the C&B Outlet on the way home from church Sunday, but still no dice. The great living room rug search continues!

Ceramic Condiment Spoons x3 = $3
Baja Fresh = $17(ish. Drew has the receipt, but I know it was $16-something.)
Total = $20

Yay! Not counting $6 in bus fares–we both get commuting stipends from work, so we’ll just roll it into that–we finally stayed on budget.