Monday, November 30, 2009

The end

Dear Lord. Hallelujah. Holy Shit. NaBloPoMo is over. I did it.

This month I . . .

celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall;

made mulled wine;

engaged in a massive paperback swap;

visited some museums;

looked into pig ownership;

got a new job;

read some books;

bought a piece of the University of Maryland; and

began an apartment hunt.

I feel good. I feel accomplished. Ready for the next project. Next year: NaNoWriMo, a month of novel-writing about a Russian girl living in the DC area!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No, I will NOT pay $1,950 a month for your smallest one bedroom POD

I have begun my apartment search in earnest, and so far it seems impossible to strike the perfect balance between affordability and likability. I am going to miss this place:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My new favorite place in DC POD

Yes, the Library of Congress, and it is a stunning piece of building. Its main reading room looks like this:

and one day, as a special treat, I will spend an afternoon there and just read and read.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I bought a brick today

This Black Friday, I sat at home in my big girl sweatpants and did something good. But for very selfish reasons. Instead of doing any shopping, I donated $450 to the University of Maryland. This donation essentially purchased me a brick. But not any brick. A brick that will be engraved with my name and installed somewhere in the alumni center plaza level or gardens. My very own Hollywood star. Of sorts.

As I am close to giving up hope that the business school or the business school building will ever carry my name -- they have already been claimed by R.H. Smith and Leo Van Munching, Jr., respectively, oh and I don't happen to have millions of dollars lying around -- I bought myself a brick, and that one little brick will have to carry my name. Instead of the Katya T. School of Business or the Katya T. Hall, I'll at least have the Katya T. brick to point to.

It should be engraved and installed by Maryland Day in April. I can't wait to go see it. Take pictures with it. Sign autographs. Etc.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What the Dog Saw

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures
by Malcolm Gladwell

You could literally read this entire book online for free -- it is after all a collection of Malcolm Gladwell's essays from The New Yorker. I chose to get the book, since I am a books person, obvi.

The essays are grouped into three categories: "Obsessives, Pioneers, and other Varieties of Minor Genius", "Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses", and "Personality, Character, and Intelligence". There is an essay on the inventor of the birth control pill, an essay about Cesar Milan, the "dog whisperer", an essay on ethnic profiling. Very diverse topics that are written about in that special Malcolm Gladwell way. There is almost a formula to the structure and style of any piece he writes. A formula that can easily be parodied. The piece of the formula that never ceases to put a smile in my brain is his physical description of every person that makes an appearance in the writing. Someone or other is always a "handsome man, thick through the chest and shoulders, with a leonine head and striking, oversize features." Another character will be a "slender, soft-spoken woman with red hair, [who] recalls her time in Mali with a certain wry humor." I always smile and think of Bridget Jones, who remembers to introduce people with thoughtful details ("Perpetua, this is Mark Darcy. Mark's a prematurely middle-aged prick with a cruel-raced ex-wife. Perpetua's a fart-ass old bag who spends her time bossing me around.")

My favorite essay is called "Something Borrowed". A playwright heavily borrows from a psychiatrist's published memoir of the psychiatrist's life and work as well as Gladwell's New Yorker profile of the psychiatrist. The Tony-nominated play not only incorporates details of the psychiatrist's personal life, it verbatim copies passages of Gladwell's essay. Is this plagiarism? Gladwell goes on to talk about the evolution of music and how musicians and artists sample from each other and music evolves. Similarly, the playwright was not using Gladwell's written words to write another profile about the psychiatrist, she was using his words to create something new. Is this plagiarism? Something to discuss at the dinner table tonight. Happy Thanksgiving!

4 out of 5

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I keep coming back to how funny this SNL digital short is:

It is especially funny if you've seen the original Twilight movie or at least the trailer.

It also makes me think of Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein,

which is good entertainment in its own right, but incredibly hilarious if you compare it to the 1930's Frankenstein film, coincidentally something that my 10th grade English teacher did for a few weeks of class after having us read the book.

I have nothing to add regarding the latest Twilight movie, New Moon, other than GO TEAM JACOB.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Merging and acquiring

Number of gum pieces I "nervous gum-chewed" today: need to cut down to one pack a day.

Number of How I Met Your Mother episodes I watched tonight: 5.

Number of times today I've thought about moving back to Maryland in February: 4.

Number of times I listened to Grizzly Bear's "Slow Life" today: 3. But probably many more than that.

Number of new Christmas albums I bought today: 2.

Number of new jobs I got today: 1.

Yes, I got a new job today, officially. At the same accounting firm, in the same office, on the same floor, in the same cubicle. But a new job nonetheless. Say goodbye to "Federal Tax Services Katya" and say hello to the sexier "Mergers & Acquisitions Tax Katya". On my business card I've crossed out "I prepare tax returns" and wrote in "I'll merge your acquisition!" Hah, I kid. But seriously, how hawt is that.

I am still learning about my new group, and the wealth of information and skills that the rest of the group has that I need to catch up on is making my head spin. But! That's the kind of spice I needed to add to my job right about now and I am thrilled to get the opportunity. Less focus on calculating estimates and preparing tax returns and extending those tax returns. More focus on research and writing and assisting the tax return preparers with technical issues and analyzing tax returns that have already been prepared by someone else. Yeah, my eyes are getting droopy too. Good night.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The food issue

Sometimes I like to think of myself as a foodie, even though I don't cook much or eat expensive meals often. It's probably the reading about food and the food industry. I fucking LOVE reading about food.

This morning I made an omelet* with chanterelle mushrooms and shallots (all from the farmer's market), an English muffin with farmer butter and rasberry jam, and Starbucks Via coffee. As I devoured my brunch, I concurrently devoured this article from the New Yorker about the Michelin Guide in New York City. Delicious!

*Don't get your hopes up -- I haven't used the new cast iron skillet yet. But hoo boy will it be good when I do.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Putting together a wish list

Rothenburg, Germany, October 2008

 What is on your Christmas wish list?

-Le Creuset dutch oven
-set of knives, but probably just need a chef's knife and a paring knife
-a TV?
-cash money to invest in a comfy leather reading chair?
-books, books, books?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Salt and pepper

After an impromptu happy hour tonight, I found myself at Macy's haggling over the price of a cast iron skillet. I have brought it home, the honeymoon is over, and now I must learn how to take care of it. First, it needs seasoning. Pursuant to my research project on seasoning cast iron skillets, this seems to be the simplest method:

Up next: frittatas and cornbread!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This time last year . . .

...I was sitting at the Marks & Spencer Cafe on Grafton Street, sipping coffee and watching people at the flower stall.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA, November 2009

How fun would it be to have a pet pig? Everyone else is doing it.

Here are some good options, courtsey of Petfinder:

"Fergison is a 4 month old male pot belly who will probably mature to be around 90 lbs."

"Norton is a 1.5 year old male that was fed a bit too much. He's very sweet and now on a strict diet. He likes to have his pillow to lay his head on. He gets along well with dogs and adolescent children."

"Poor Wilbur the pot-bellied pig was brought to our shelter after being attacked by a pack of dogs."

"Pork Chop (also known as Frankie) is a 5 month old, male pot bellied pig. He escaped from his owner when he was 2 months of age and roamed the area of Glocester until he was captured on 10/30/09."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Snow Hill

This past weekend I visited the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Where? I have no idea where that is. Especially since the Tom Tom had to find us a minimum of three alternative routes before we were able to arrive at the front door and not at someone's locked gate deep in the woods.

But we made it. And there, I was formally introduced to the paintings of Andrew Wyeth, and in particular, my new favorite painting, Snow Hill:

Wyeth painted this picture to mark his seventieth birthday -- each ribbon representing a decade -- and it is absolutely stunning in person. The setting is a hill overlooking Kuerner Farm, which was a major source of inspiration for Wyeth thoughout his painting career. The figures are his models from his earlier works. They dance around a maypole during Christmas time, perhaps celebrating in anticipation of Wyeth's death (Wyeth lived to be 91 years old however).

It's a sureal scene. And just beautiful.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The reason I haven't yet organized and posted photos and told you stories from this wonderful weekend is because I have been running around printing shipping labels and cutting up grocery bags to serve as book wrapping. You see, tonight I entered into a committed relationship with

I had known about PBS for some time now, but after seeing it in action this weekend, I asked it out on a date, and it said yes. I set up an account on the website and posted ten paperbacks that I had laying around and taking up valuable shelf space -- books that I had not particularly enjoyed and that are not classics to keep in my collection -- and immediately received two credits, or the option to pick out two books that someone else has and does not want and will ship to me. Well hello, A Christmas Carol and Julie and Julia! Within about fifteen minutes, I got requests for two of the books that I had posted. Once I send them out tomorrow morning and Meg and Maureen receive them in Kansas and New York, respectively, I'll get two more credits.

I think I am falling in love.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Out of office reply

I am phoning it in today. Literally. Well, I was going to even type this all out on my iPhone, but that would have been just a little too dramatic.

This weekend is all about friends and museums and farms and wineries and Amish food and Southern New Jersey. Tomorrow I'll have photos and stories.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mulled wine

Prague Old Town, December 2008

Tonight's experiments with the stove made me nostalgic for walking around the Christmas Market in Prague with a steaming cup of mulled wine, spicy and sweet. And by nostalgic, I mean I remembered the one time in my life that I have ever done that.

The mulled wine I made tonight was from a recipe a la Food Network/Ina Garten, found here. If you are too lazy to click on the link, the following is what you need to do to recreate your own Prague Old Town Square in December feeling:

4 cups apple cider
1 bottle red wine (she mentions a Cabernet Sauvignon, which is what I used -- an $8-$9 bottle)
1/4 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange zested and juiced (I got lazy with the juicing and just used 1/3 cup orange juice)
4 whole cloves
3 star anise (being very suspicious of the licorice-like smell, I only used one)
4 oranges peeled for garnish (I skipped the garnishing step entirely, meh)

Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each and serve.

It's too easy. Every night in November and December can easily be Prague Old Town Square night around here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mind of a toddler

I recently picked up What the Dog Saw, a collection of Malcolm Gladwell's essays from The New Yorker. Not having completed it, this is not my official review or endorsement, but I did want to share his opening remarks while they were still fresh in my mind.

In the preface, Gladwell says that his impulse to write many of these essays stemmed from a "curiosity about the interior life of other people's day-to-day work". What does a doctor do? What does it FEEL LIKE to be a doctor? Being a doctor is not the same thing as sitting at a computer, or driving a truck, or teaching at school, so when we meet one, we want to know all about what it's really like, taking care of sick people all day long. This common human curiosity first emerges when we are toddlers and we exhibit what is known as the "other minds" problem.

One-year-olds think that if they like Goldfish Crackers, then Mommy and Daddy must like Goldfish Crackers too: they have not grasped the idea that what is inside their head is different from what is inside everyone else's head.

And that's when I realized that I have yet to outgrow toddler-hood.What do you MEAN you are not a Democrat? What do you MEAN you like country music and the musical stylings of Journey? What do you MEAN you own multiple guns? HUH?!

I also liked his response to the haters, the readers who say "I don't buy it." I've encountered several such haters after reading Outliers and quoting it to anyone who would listen. To them, Gladwell says that his writing isn't meant to persuade. His writing is meant to engage you and make you think.

I'm buying it, Malcolm. Me! I am! (Therefore, so should everyone else.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Hand gestures

I did not go to class tonight as a reward for an unexpectedly stressful day. Which started with my commute to work in the morning.

Less than a mile away from the office, a stupid woman hit my car with hers. We were stopped at a light, me behind her. Her car starts rolling backwards -- she must have have been a Stick Shiftie as we were on a No Hills Road. Her car gets dangerously close to mine so I honk. She hits me regardless.

My first instinct is to scream WHAT THE FUUUUCK!!! Which I promptly do. She starts to wildly gesture with her hands and make faces at me, first in her side view mirror, then in her rear-view. At first I am clueless, then I begin to understand.

Hand Gestures says, "Do you want to pull over?"

Now, in our own special hand gestures language I say, "No, I don't want to pull three lanes over. My front bumper is probably fine. Besides, I have plenty of silver touch-up paint from the other two one time I dinged this car."

Then she says, "I'm sorry! I wasn't paying attention! That was really stupid."

And I say "Don't worry about it, Hand Gestures." And then I pass her and speed away. No harm done.

The rest of the day, it felt like everyone I have ever worked with at the office decided that today was the day to talk to me about starting that project or working on that other project, or completing that 20th project. When I flipped them the bird, in that special hand gestures language of mine, some of them did not understand.

Just kidding, I would never.

So, I am home early, and that means Biggest Loser. If you are anything like me, you get very emotional when you watch it. You are also secretly in love with Bob the trainer, who you think has a very real chance of being gay but you're OK with that, and when you purchase his Biggest Loser Weight-Loss Yoga video and fail miserably at completing Beginner Part I, well, you vow to give it another shot in a couple of days and maybe not go "full out" for the warm-up next time. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good Bye, Lenin!

Tonight, in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I watched one of my favorites, Good Bye, Lenin!

It's a beautiful movie -- funny, moving, artsy, historical. Recommend, recommend!

Be prepared to know fluent German. Or to read subtitles. 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cameo appearance

On a DC excursion this afternoon down U Street, whether disoriented from the chicken and waffles I had eaten for brunch or the frustration of restraining myself from buying any books at Busboys and Poets, I purchased this necklace:

I've wanted to add a cameo necklace to my collection for some vintage flair for some time now, scouring Etsy on several occasions. But when you search that site, you've really got to keep a close eye out for Regretsy:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Liars' Club

The Liars' Club: A Memoir
by Mary Karr

I finished reading the entire second half of The Liars' Club this morning in a frenzy, wanting to finish it in time for Book Klub, which is not even until Thursday night, but I am already getting anxious about the number of people that are descending upon my apartment, and will I have enough seating and enough rotisserie chicken to feed them all?

The Liars' Club is a memoir of a small-town childhood in the early 1960's in Texas. When you pick up a book such as this one, you know, before even opening the first page, that the writer's family was somehow dysfunctional, his/her childhood somehow messed up. The question is, how?

Karr's mother, a would-be painter, is an alcoholic. Depressed. She reads from a pile of books on existentialism and philosophy and laments her glory years in New York City. She has been married more times than Karr can fathom. Karr calls her Nervous. At the very end, you learn about the mother's true story, and I just cannot decide if it absolves her or not.

Karr's father, also a heavy drinker, is a union man working for an oil refinery. He and his buddies get together to drink beers and tell stories -- the Liars' Club they call it.

Her slightly older sister, Lecia, is really her center of gravity. Pronounced "Lisa", in my head I kept saying "Leesha, oh wait no, Lisa" as I read. Annoying.

The cast of characters also includes a strict and frightening grandmother who has cancer. An unidentified rapist and an identified one.

What amazes me every time that I read a memoir is the amount of detail and color the story has, even if the story takes place during childhood, when the writer may or may not have understood or known everything that was really going on at the time. This one is no exception. For most of this story, Karr is between six and eight years old. In the Acknowledgments, she thanks her mother, who for two years answered all questions freely and helped with research for the book. Unfortunately, this story did not really make me think about anything other than how distrubing it is.

3 out of 5

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shake it like a Polaroid

Tonight's post was going to be A Day In the Life in Fauxlaroids.

Here is me getting ready for work in the morning.

Fast forward to lunch. At The Costco.

I bought three books even though I am NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SPENDING MONEY ON BOOKS. It's tough being at The Costco and spending only $6.47 on lunch for two people and not going in to see all of the new releases and not SPLURGING A LITTLE.

And then I rode back to work.

And that's as far as I got with my project.

Sadly, I was not able to take any photos on my way home tonight of that horrible traffic situation I created on Leesburg 7. And then again in the Falls Church Whole Foods parking lot.  

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Report Card

Let's get off the Tax-Exempt Organization Abuses train for a minute and talk about my grades. On my SALT (State and Local Taxation) midterm from two weeks ago, the instructor provided ample opportunity for extra-credit. I took him up on his offer and got one hundred and seven points out of one hundred on the test. Today I received my mid-term grade for the Tax-Exempt class -- one hundred and five points out of one hundred and no extra credit questions on that test. And I am not even making this shit up.

Lord knows I am so ready to be done with my degree and be done with school. But when it is all over, what am I going to do without grades? [Whimper]. I need grades to let me know what an awesome job I am doing and/or overdoing. I need grades to stress me out and then make me feel relieved. I need grades to motivate my ass and reward my brain. You complete me, grades.

What if there were official grades for life? The dentist told me last week that my three wisdom teeth need to come out. After performing a thorough work survey of wisdom tooth extraction experiences and doing some light research on WebMD, it has come to my attention that I should have NOT done those things as I am now officially scared shitless. You could not be more scared than I am of getting wisdom teeth pulled. A+ for scared shitlessness. One hundred and five points out of one hundred for falling for guys that don't or can't want me back. Relishing reading and music? Double A, triple plus. Taking pride in my amateur photography attempts -- Smiley Face :) 

The one area where I would take a hit has got to be gift wrapping. Wrapping gifts. If I ever have any real or imaginary children -- let's call them Anton, Peter, and Lucie -- they will each be severely disappointed with Mama's crappy job of wrapping those perfectly square and rectangular boxes. Crinkled paper, pieces of box sticking out on one side and 5 extra layers of paper on the other, tape crisscrossing the entire mess. SEE MINUS.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dance Little Liar

I am currently having a love affair with this song:

Who can forget the unfortunate pink eye incident from the We Are Scientists show, but the Arctic Monkeys concert is another truly memorable concert-going experience. I came very close to being dead that night in New York City. Or at least I had overwhelming feelings of impending doom and imminent death when the high schooler mosh pit swallowed me up, sat on my head, and made me scream uncle. No joke, these kids were intense, almost maniacal, at least six years my juniors. And no, I did not feel bad about quickly figuring out the real purpose of my elbows. I spent that concert concentrating more on staying on my feet and having enough air in my lungs than on any band of brothers playing some tunes.      

This December, the Arctic Monkeys are arriving in DC on the night of my Tax-Exempt Organizations final. Which reminds me, did you know that Harvard's endowment is as large as the Gates Foundation's? And as an institution that is recognized as a charitable organization by the IRS, with all of the appropriate and favorable tax consequences that this status entails, instead of using its tremendous funds to perhaps assist its medical and law students in completing their educations without ratcheting up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt in exchange for the students maybe providing their services in underprivileged areas -- you know, doing something charitable -- the school uses the funds to invest in a private equity and hedge fund portfolio. Do those investments sound like they promote a charitable purpose? Hardly. Is Harvard a charity?

But the point is, I can't go to the concert this year and redeem myself with the DC crowd. And the second point is, that one Tax-Exempt class last night was like sweet, sweet propaganda to my ears. A welcomed change from my War on High-Fructose Corn Syrup, it surprisingly came from a staffer who works for a Republican Senator from Iowa (who loves corn syrup). Worlds are colliding.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Slim to bullshit POD

On my drive home to change clothes and eat a sushi dinner snack before class, I thought, "Something interesting needs to happen to me in the next few hours so that I will have something to write about tonight." And then I went to my Tax-Exempt Organizations class, and the chances of something interesting actually happening became slim to bullshit. 

I did eat almost an entire pumpkin pie by myself within the last three days. And I did learn tonight that of all charitable donors, only about 30% or so itemize their deductions on their individual tax returns, i.e. only 30% of donors actually get a tax benefit (or incentive) for donating. And while the Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R, from Iowa, probably loves corn subsidizing) was pushing for all individuals to get some sort of tax benefit, even those individuals who take the standard deduction on their returns, he surprisingly got a strong negative response from the religious community who did not want to provide a "tax incentive" for charitable giving to its donors (most of whom probably do not itemize).

Hoo boy. Let me quit while I'm ahead and go enjoy these:

Monday, November 2, 2009

So far so good

It is only two days past Halloween and already I am thinking about my Christmas music. You see, I have this wish to some day be the proud owner of a glorious Christmas music collection/playlist. So far there is only:

Christmas with the Rat Pack

Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas

Josh Groban's Noel

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker (Kirov Orchestra & Choir)


Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful Christmas

So far so good. What is throwing the entire endeavor into jeopardy is Bob Dylan and HIS new Christmas CD, Christmas In the Heart. One part intriguing, three parts terrifying, it looks like this

and sounds like this.

I covet this album. And then I listen to the amazon song samples and my soul starts to instantly shrivel. A half hour later, I covet it again.

I mean, if you were in my kitchen, working diligently on a cookie batter, and the scariest rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that you have EVER heard starts blaring from the speakers, pop quiz, hotshot, what do you do? Back away slowly from the mixing bowl, throw the garbage can over to create a diversion, and run for the door? Not before you spit in my general direction and throw your arms up to the heavens?

I am going to need to do a little bit more soul searching concerning this one.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! POD

East Side Gallery, October 2008

My mom and I were recently arguing about the Berlin Wall. Well, first we were reminiscing about coming to America nineteen years ago on October 16. I don't remember much about the actual trip, just that soon after arriving in Bethesda, MD, my parents took me to Toys "R" Us where I got my first Barbie and an Etch A Sketch, and it was all wildly exciting.

So then I say, "Isn't it crazy that it's the twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling?" Here I was relying on credible sources saying the official date was November 9, 1989. And she goes, "No . . . the wall must have fallen after we came to America, not before. Your grandfather read five different newspapers, he followed the news, he would have been upset if he knew." I gloss over the part about him being "upset" and say, "No . . . I've read that it was 1989. It must have been before we came." We go back and forth. And then it dawns on us. "Maybe they didn't report it in Russia at the time?" "I guess not," she says.

From the archives: