Monday, November 24, 2008
It was announced today that the Government is going to give Citigroup an additional $20 billion investment—that's on top of the $25 billion that the failing financier received in October (part of the $700 billion bailout package Congress approved).
How much longer can this go on for?
And as I am just about to click "publish post," I see a "breaking news" story rolling across the CNN.com ticker: "President Bush says there may be more bailouts like the one for Citigroup..."
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I'm cheating today and posting this on both of my blogs (it's too good not to share everywhere!).
For our office's Thanksgiving "Feast," I volunteered to bring pistachio pound cake. I feel it sounds more complicated than it was, as I prepared a pound cake as directed then just added a teeny little splash (about half a teaspoon or less) of pistachio extract* and four regular drops of green food coloring into the mix. Also, this wasn't just any pound cake recipe; this was my grandmother's pound cake recipe and my very first time attempting a pound cake! I even went out and bought a flour sifter so I could execute the recipe exactly right.
Pistachio flavor included or not, I was impressed with the outcome! The pound cake crust was perfect and the overall texture and level of moistness were right on.
Without further adieu, my grandmother's sour cream pound cake recipe!
*I bought pistachio extract from King Arthur Flour for $6.95 plus shipping. I seriously warn you (SERIOUSLY!) to proceed with caution when using pistachio extract. It's INCREDIBLY potent.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Yesterday morning, our CFO (Beth) rolled her Feast contributions into the office using a little folding cart.
Katy: Oh, I saw lots of people using those little carts for groceries when we visited Italy!
Coworker Dave: Yeah, I see lots of those little carts in my neighborhood, except for people fill them with all their worldly possessions.
Coworker Laura: Yeah, it's either those or baby strollers.
*Our office Thanksgiving potluck is affectionately referred to as "The Feast"
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I was looking at my coworker Laura's blog when I realized I've never completed a meme on my blog before.
Wondering what a meme is? You've probably received them via e-mails (think "What's your favorite color?" and "If you could be a food, what food would that be?") I found this rather solid definition on this blog:
Last night, Dan didn't get home until about 9:30. There have been nights he's had to stay at work that late, but last night wasn't one of those nights.
We got a call from our friend Anna about a week ago, saying the disposal in her condo and her dishwasher weren't working properly. Since she's been living in Oregon for the past 14 months and now has tenants for her metro-Atlanta property, this would be a little bit of a complicated fix—logistically that is.
Dan volunteered his services. He said, "if it's just replacing the disposal, I can handle that."
So last night, after work, Dan went by Anna's Sandy Spring's condo to assess the "damage." One of the tenants, the son of the mother/son team, greeted Dan. After a few minutes of listening to how the disposal was so ceased it wasn't even allowing water to drain through, Dan realized a replacement was imminent. The dishwasher latch was an easier issue to resolve; the way the tenants had been loading the racks prevented the door from closing fully. All they needed was a tweak in their dish loading configuration. Seeing in that it might be best to just go ahead and do the disposal fix, he headed over to Home Depot for supplies.
A couple of hours later, the tenants were equipped with a fresh and functioning disposal. Dan the handy man.
This got me thinking more about all the kindness my husband exhibits on a regular basis. Take this past weekend, for example. With my brother moving from a house in the 'burbs to a midtown apartment, we agreed to host my mom and stepfather for Saturday night. So Friday night was spent sprucing up the house and preparing the guest bedroom. Not one complaint from Dan.
Saturday morning, we were up at a relatively early time and headed over to my brother's. I watched as Dan helped carry couches, bookshelves, dressers and a mattress down the stairs at the old house then up the stairs at the new place. Not one grumble or grimace. He would have never thought to not help Ben with his move. It's just the kind of guy he is. Flash forward to Saturday night. Dan was helping entertain two of my brothers, one brother's girlfriend, my mom and stepfather. He was refilling drinks and washing dishes. Here again with only a smile on his face.
When Sunday morning rolled around, after a field trip to the dog park with Roxxi, we wished my parents a safe drive home to Columbus, Georgia. Dan even mentioned later that day that it was fun to host everyone.
This kind of attitude is the norm. Always lending a helping hand, going out of his way, regularly making his friends, family—and me—feel assisted, loved and appreciated.
I'm one incredibly lucky gal to be with a guy like Dan...
Friday, November 14, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I sent messages today to both Dan's best friend Jason (Marine Recon Reserves) and my friend Derek (former Army Ranger) to thank them for their services to our country. As civilians, we have no idea what service people have either gone through or are yet to endure. I am appreciative, on this Veteran's Day 2008, for our heros both alive and fallen.
I'm reminded of a great article written about my friend Derek. I could tell you some about his history, but I couldn't begin to explain it as well as Robbie Andreu from the Gainesville Sun did in his July 2007 article. Robbie's article is below in its entirety. Derek had two tours in Afghanistan. During one of those tours, he met a special friend who inspired him to take some risks and take on some challenges upon his return to the States. Those risks and challenges led him to be a part of the 2007 college football national championship team. Anyway, you can read the story.
(And thank you, Derek and Michelle, for coming to our wedding. YOU GUYS ARE NEXT!)
By ROBBIE ANDREU
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Raphael's "School of Athens," in one of the Vatican's "Raphael Rooms"
(photo care of my friend Katie)
Michelangelo's amazing Pieta in St. Peter's (photo care of my friend Katie)
Tour guide boards outside the Sistine Chapel (photo care of my friend Katie)
Nero's bathtub, made of porphyry, in the Sistine Chapel (photo care of my friend Katie)
photo of St. Peter's borrowed from Wikipedia member Patrick Landy
One day of recapping down, seven to go. I better start writing these more frequently so that I don't mix up the little details not captured in the pages of my little blue notepad...
It was Saturday, October 11. We woke up around 8:30 in our modest bed and breakfast room to weekend sounds of Rome. Thanks in part to the previous day's nap, we didn't feel quite as jet lagged as we'd expected. The sounds of trucks delivery inventory and couples and families walking from here-to-there were, however, far less imposing than a week day. The city was still waking up.
Dan showered first, and was therefore first to sample the B&B's breakfast offerings. He found a "spread" of hard-boiled eggs, hard toast, Nutella, grapefruit juice, cereal and warm temperature milk. After he finished eating, he made me a small plate with some sliced hard-boiled eggs and a piece of toast with Nutella. I wasn't stoked about the breakfast, nor did I know if it was the standard, but it did the job. I donned long black pants and a lightweight sweater, as I remember hearing females' knees and shoulders must be covered in the Vatican and other places of worship.
We had plans to take the city bus over to the Vatican, plans that were shot down when we tried to board the bus and were shoed out of the doorway by a transit employee. Not knowing why we couldn't board but not having much time to think or talk about it, we snagged a cab. (We found out later that the buses have very strict rules around having a ticket. We didn't have a bus fare ticket and could have been fined an outrageous amount—something like $50—for not having our ticket if a city official boarded and checked everyone for their tickets. If we didn't have the funds to pay our penalty, the fine would steeply increase.) We knew we were supposed to meet our tour guide at 10. Pointing to the Vatican on the map worked just fine for our Italian cabbie.
We arrived at the meeting spot, a mosaics store directly across from the Vatican, about 20 minutes early. Given my penchant (or addiction?) to caffeine, an espresso was in order. Ahoy! There was a "bar" just a few steps away from our rendezvous location. We saw the man ahead of us order cappuccino—a most excellent idea.
As we waited for our fix, we looked at knickknacks and collectibles in a floor-to-ceiling curio cabinet of sorts. We were tickled to see a tiny (maybe two inches long by an inch wide and an inch tall) little replication of a Sweetwater 420 six pack. Funny to see an Atlanta microbrew memento in a coffee shop. Two cappuccinos were a 1.80 euros, I believe. And they were tasty. I learned that "Dietar" is the Italian equivalent to Equal or Sweet-N-Low, one of which I usually take in my coffee.
Upon arriving back at the meetup site, we saw several other people waiting for the same company, Through Eternity Tours. Most people were from the US, with a few from the UK. Two guides showed up at 10 on the dot, splitting our large group into two smaller ones. We were assigned to Ian, a spunky 23-year-old from Liverpool with a background in archaeology. He'd come to Rome about two years earlier from further south (maybe Naples) on assignment and fell in love with the city.
Since our tour didn't include skipping the line, we waited about an hour to get into the Museum's gates. Our guide reminded us that it was a Saturday, compacted with the fact that three new saints were being canonized later that day. We didn't mind the wait though, as our group was much smaller and intimate than many of the others we saw—and Dan enjoyed talking with Ian about soccer.
After being distributed headsets and walkie talkies and hearing a short intro from Ian in the courtyard, we started our tour of the Pinacoteca (a wing entirely dedicated to art). What an amazing experience! We saw panel paintings (some by Rafael, Caravaggio and Michelangelo), amazing tapestries and marble sculptures. Ian told us how one of the marbles in particular, was so rare and expensive that it was only used by "royalty" (including the pope). This stone, porphyry, can no longer be found. If you can call a stone extinct, porphyry would be "extinct."
Also during the tour, we toured the sculpture museum, much of which consists of busts. (I took a photo of one that looked like Screech from Saved by the Bell that would have been funny to include here.) We also visited the Raphael rooms (painted partially by Raphael himself, partially by his students, who didn't do as great of a job).
The Sistine Chapel was a sight to behold. It's beyond incredible that Michelangelo did the frescos on the ceiling when he was a young man AND had no interest in painting. Ian gave us a run down of the chapel and its art before we went in, using a large map in the courtyard, created specifically for guides. This way, he could allow us to tour on our own and not be subject the strict noise guidelines. (The story goes that he tried repeatedly to get out of the pope's assignment, to no avail. I am impressed he even had the audacity to push off the project.) To think about painting—laying or standing low on scaffolding when you really don't have a grasp of what you're painting due to the scale—is mind boggling. No photography is allowed in the Sistine Chapel.
We paused for a few photo ops before moving on to St. Peter's Basilica. Ian let us know that our tour would be ending officially before we headed inside, though he did say he would be available for questions if we had any. We entered. What a site to behold. The scale, magnitude and beauty of the worship place are difficult to absorb. Brumante, Michelangelo and Raphael, all astonishing artists and architects in their own rights, battled over how to handle the building's construction. As I write this, I wish I had my photos all over again. St. Peter's throne with its alabaster shrine above, with light beaming through. Michelangelo's breathtaking Pieta. The altar with its baldacchino (a giant structure that resembles a pavilion). The saying goes that the Statue of Liberty could fit comfortably under the basilica's dome. To think that something like this was constructed between the early 15th century and the early 16th century is unfathomable. I enjoyed the Sistine Chapel but felt this to be the most holy of our experiences at the Vatican Museum.
Ian joked early on that it's been said that if you stand in front of each work of art in the Vatican for just 60 seconds, you'll be there for 12 years. We were glad to have him take us through the highlights but still leave us some time to explore on our own. While we recognized a few pieces, such as Raphael's "School of Athens," we wouldn't have known what was noteworthy overall.
I would definitely recommend, if not insist, you do a guided tour if you visit the Vatican.
Beat but feeling enlightened, we made our way to a gelato stand (I insisted) before catching a bus to head home. By this time, we knew we had to buy our bus fare tickets at tobacco shops. These fare tickets were valid for 70 minutes (I think), effective immediately upon purchase. We walked around for a bit, pausing to take some photos, trying to find our correct bus. We eventually found one that worked, only to find that Roman buses can be packed like sardine cans. An old, homeless, Italian gypsy lady also made our bus commute interesting; she seemed to have all her earthly possessions (a duffle bag and two large plastic bags) aboard the bus and became VERY agitated if anyone got to close to her or her stuff. When we began talking about how we weren't seeing much familiar along the drive, we were pleased to find two fluent English speakers standing right in front of us. They suggested we jump off near the Vittorio Emanuele, which we did. After that experience, we weren't sure we wanted to ride the public buses again.
We spent a few minutes freshening up before catching a cab to our dinner destination—Ristorante 34. The place came on recommendation from Ian, our tour guide from earlier in the day. Before I write out what we enjoyed, I must say this was probably one of the best meals we had during our entire visit. Not to mention the waitstaff was very friendly and the atmosphere was great. We dined on a delicious caprese salad, the house specialty ravioli ("Ravioli 34" included herbs, pine nuts and ricotta), grilled lamb with arugula and tomatoes and some house tiramisu. I tasted some lemoncello, and we both enjoyed a half liter of house chianti. Mmmm. Yum. This place is almost a must if you visit Rome. (Thank you for the recommendation, Ian.)
Since we were right down from the Spanish Steps, we navigated our way over to them. We were surprised to see the lowest steps littered with beer cans and wine bottles but delighted to see the amount of nightlife activity. (We heard later that Roman law recently outlawed food on the steps but didn't seem to mind the bottles). After walking many, many flights of stairs, we enjoyed fabulous views of the city's lights. Hearing someone liken Rome to "Italy's Manhattan" upon our return made a lot of sense.
A taxi brought us back "home" for the night. Another night in paradise, as far as I was concerned. We prepared mentally for our next day's activities: tours of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum as well as finding our train tickets and enjoying more amazing food and wine.
Little nuances and quirks. We all have them.
I was telling a colleague the other day that I can't stand to drink water from a coffee mug (something just doesn't feel right about having crisp, fresh water out of a piece of ceramic with a handle) but I don't mind drinking tea or coffee from a pint glass. Bizarre, I know.
Over the past few days, I started thinking about the oddities that excite me or bother me. Here are a few.
- Strongly prefer little spoons and salad forks, unless I'm in a formal dining environment, in which case I'll put aside my favoritism and use the appropriate silverware
- Can't stand to fall asleep with a parched throat (I keep a glass of water next to the bed)
- Find it very difficult to sleep with socks on
- Like my hot food and drinks HOT and my cold food and drinks COLD, sometimes meaning more trips to the microwave or refrigerator (for ice) than the average bear
- Almost always have to write thank you notes (or else I feel guilty and like I didn't absorb my mother's teachings)
- Often dislike my own craft and art projects because I have/had perfectionist tendencies (and maybe pictured the "finished products" better in my head than they turn out)
- Can't deal with country music, even after living in Georgia and Alabama for a combined 18 or so years
- Like surprise to stay surprises (I actually was really sad two years ago when I stumbled upon what Dan would be gifting me with for Christmas, even though it was a great gift)
- Can't eat chicken if I feel like I let it defrost then hang out in the open air for too long
- Hold onto articles of clothing with teeny stains, convincing myself I'll wear them again one day (then never wear them again)
- Can barely function without a layer of chapstick (preferably the Blistex brand in the teal tube) slathered all of my smackers
- Have a ritual of checking IMDB on Sunday night's for the weekend's top grossing movies
What are your little nuances?
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
My Aunt Vera—a very successful caterer, mail order confectionary business, cooking class instructor and mom—is a successful woman on so many fronts. You can read more about her and the history of her business (Very Vera) on her web site.
While she can make a mean sour cream pound cake or caramel layer cake, she has also created a wonderful business model overall. She built Very Vera from the ground up, starting in 1984, using a love for entertaining and a many family-inherited recipes. She's had to move her Augusta, Georgia business many times as her business grew and needed more space. She caters for the Masters each year, has been featured in countless magazines and on countless television programs, runs a tight ship and now even has a line of her desserts carried by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
So was I ever delighted and honored to hear that she wanted to write about ME and my marriage ceremony to Dan for her November "Last Bite" article. Thank you for the compliments and fun memories, Aunt Vera, and for handling the beautiful flowers at our wedding. We are and were so thankful for your classic and beautiful touch.
Photo is of a bridesmaid bouquet my aunt so tastefully put together, held by my dear girlfriend Maria