Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Ranch, The Game, The Ring and other Thanksgiving Tales

From The Feast:

I took Wednesday off from work for a nice long five-day Thanksgiving weekend.

For several years my family, along with my mom's two older sisters and their families, have spent Thanksgiving on my aunt and uncle's ranch which is about halfway between Austin and College Station, Texas. The token Aggie in my large Longhorn family, I appreciate the fact that the ranch is in close proximity to whichever city is hosting the annual Texas A&M vs. Texas football game.

For two years my brother and my cousin KH drove down from Dallas with the parents, while BH, her brother who is my age, and I would drive in from school. In a humorous role-reversal, BH and I got to be the ones crammed into the back of my dad's Tahoe this year with iPods, magazines, books and laptops. Nothing says "family time" like earbuds and recorded episodes of Entourage. It literally took ninja skills to get out of the car, I kid you not.

BH swims daily to stay in shape and consumed no fewer than two and a half bags of chips, a small package of donuts and a huge Lipton Brisk tea on our three-hour drive, just as a snack. He is literally pure muscle. I could only stare and wonder how he didn't visibly gain weight or feel like throwing up afterward.

BH, myself and my brother, LH, this summer in New York:

We arrived at the ranch around sunset, ate tacos, then my cousins and I all went outside to get a fire going and watch the stars come out. There is nothing more relaxing to me than laying (on a bale of hay, obviously), listening to a fire crackle and watching the sky light up. Away from city lights you can see thousands of stars, which always makes me remember how small I am in the universe and gives me such a sense of peace.

Everyone went to bed early, and I vaguely remember waking up at 6 AM Thursday morning because I could her The Moms and BH talking in the kitchen. KH and I dragged ourselves out of bed around 7:45 and as we rubbed our eyes realized that we were the last ones awake. The Dads were already awake, showered and working on the turkeys. The Brothers were all dressed and shuffling the Sports sections of the paper amongst themselves. (The Cowboys AND the Longhorns rarely play games on the same day- there was much to cover.) Such are holidays with my family.

From the ranch:

BH and I were the only ones who wanted to go to the game this year, which the college football authorities moved to Thanksgiving Day, so we ate lunch with everyone and headed to Austin soon after. Austin was uncharacteristically not busy, or at least appeared not to be until we got inside the game with the other 98,000 people who ditched their families for the game.

I hadn't been to a college football game in two years- since A&M won in Austin two years ago, so I was overdue. We were in the student section, and for anyone who has ever called me a fair-weather fan (how dare you), this was my day to prove you wrong. I watched every play go from bad to worse, and listened to all of the insults hurling out of the stands as the 49-9 score was finalized.

Of course we stayed in Austin that night, because my dear cousin had also arranged for us to stay the night in Westlake, where some of his younger buddies from college have been "house-sitting" for a professor who is out of the country. They showed me to my room and nonchalantly told me to watch out for scorpions.

Scorpions? Come again?! Keep in mind, this was a beautiful home in the Hill Country, not just some guy's college apartment.

Me: Back up to the part about the scorpions.
BH: You know how I drink water out of the faucet sometimes?
Me: Yes...
BH: Well last time I was here, I was reaching down to get some water and a scorpion was literally climbing up the drain. I had no idea what was going on-- I may have actually screamed. I'm sure you will be fine- just be careful.

About that time the guys, being noble, decided to check the bathroom for me, killing a spider in the process. "Oh yeah, here's one," one of them said. It was in the trash can, which apparently was "not a big deal" to anyone else. I didn't want to be dramatic, so I said good night and waited until I closed my door to inspect all the corners of the room and between the sheets and blankets with the light from my Blackberry for any other perpetrators who might want to bite me.

The next morning BH and I woke up early, and our bonding time continued as we got in the car again to drive back to the ranch. He was in a "talking" mood (probably because I kept handing him various McDonald's breakfast sandwiches), which the men in my family are not known for, so I set down my book and paid attention. My cousin KH and I like to joke that we only have a certain window of time to get questions in before our brothers aren't in the mood for chatting anymore, so you have to take advantage when you can.

We are the same age and at a similar stage in life, thus our conversation ultimately turned to relationships and dating. I got to ask questions about his previous relationships; what he learned from them, what he liked and what he would change in the future. I gained valuable insights into the male mind from someone who I love, trust and respect.

If I could get him to start drinking water out of a glass, I could probably set him up with one of my friends.

*FYI this got longer than I intended so there will be a Part II supplemented tomorrow. (I know, you can hardly wait!)

"There is precious little hope to be got out of whatever keeps us industrious, but there is a chance for us whenever we cease work and become stargazers."
- H.M. Tomlinson

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Feast

My friends started a tradition many years ago (in high school) of having what is now lovingly known as "Thanksgiving Feast." Back then it was just an excuse to eat Thanksgiving food twice, our metabolisms could easily keep up, and each of us just asked our moms to make an extra of something they were already making anyway.

The Feast, while still attended by many of the same people year after year, is always hosted by MK, who sends out an Evite that includes a poem that she makes up herself. This year she even managed to include some election banter and the gate code to get into her apartment building. She and my friend SR live together in uptown Dallas, so they were co-hostessing the event.

Nowadays we all have to do the cooking ourselves, which is fine because my friends are great in the kitchen. People who have never been to The Feast are always surprised at how serious everyone takes their cooking responsibilities. I walked in with my friend RW to the apartment, which was warmly lit by lamps and candles, to see people greeting each other while holding casserole dishes, my friend SR in the kitchen (apron on, whipping up potatoes, not a curled blonde hair out of place) and see MK topping off wine glasses in one hand and setting out a platter of baked brie and crackers with the other.

You know, just a regular Sunday night.

The food never disappoints. The company isn't bad either. New friends and old always mingle well together at The Feast; probably thanks to the wine and the interesting playlists MK always has going on her iPod. I think the first year we did it, we went around the table and did the "what are you thankful for" thing... but since there are about 30 people hovering around the apple pie with crumble topping, we opted to socialize instead.

I brought broccoli cheese casserole; a favorite every year at my family's Thanksgiving gathering. My dad's mom, who passed away several years ago, was the queen of Thanksgiving. I think the first year that everyone had to cook without her was a disaster because know one knew exactly how to do her recipes with the same finesse.

Her signature dish was really her cornbread stuffing, but my favorite has always been her broccoli cheese casserole. After making it for the first time ever on Sunday, I don't know how anyone does this with anything less than four hands. I think I know my way around the kitchen but this was seriously labor-intensive.

Nothing was made easier by the fact that there are no instructions written down anywhere. My own mother wrote down the ingredients, probably 12 years ago, on a torn-off corner of a yellow legal pad. That's it. She knows all of the amounts and instructions and baking time by heart. This meant that meant that every 90 seconds or so, my mom got a "what's next?" question from me while I was cooking. I even tried to do that thing where you balance your phone between your head and your shoulder while stirring and pouring and talking, which only resulted in cooked rice littering the stovetop and several broken-off sentences on my end while chatting with my friend BF.

Apparently multi-tasking is one of the cooking skills I have yet to master.

"Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence."
-Erma Bombeck

Monday, November 24, 2008

Style Points? What are Style Points?

I went over to hang out with my friend HR the other night in Dallas, who came home for the week from Houston. I had a message from her when I left the gym on Saturday morning; she called because she knew I would be interested in watching the Texas Tech and OU match-up that night, and so we made a date.

Our beloved Texas A&M football team has basically been stuffed into a locker and forgotten this season by all the other Big 12 South teams. It happens. In the throws of a "rebuilding year" we've been watching ESPN GameDay after Fox Sports Southwest show covering OU, Texas, and Texas Tech all beat each other up on and off the field all season. Oklahoma State even got a few punches in at one point, and now they are hoping for a huge (read: highly unlikely) upset over OU this Thanksgiving weekend.

Being girls and all, we had spinach alfredo pizza and wine and settled in to watch OU take a commanding 28-0 lead. By the end of the second quarter the announcers had already started beating the dead BCS horse and began talking about how "style points" would come into play when deciding which teams will go to the National Championship and which will get screwed.

I had an email from my friend ND, a Texas grad, who evidently posted something she found making the case for the Longhorns in the BCS. She had rapid comments on it from guys representing OU and Texas, agreeing, disagreeing and using greater than or less than signs to try and get their points across. She had unknowingly created a monster.

"Style points," an ambiguous little term invented by the BCS, roughly translates to an end-of-season popularity contest that will ultimately elevate OU, Texas or Texas Tech above one another at the expense of the other two to play in the National Championship game. In case you haven't been paying attention; Texas beat OU, then Tech beat Texas, and most recently OU beat Tech. Each team has one loss, and the unbeaten SEC team Alabama is undefeated, meaning the most likely scenario is that one of these Big 12 South teams will end up playing them in the National Championship game.

Now you're caught up.

Since the BCS explains itself as thus: "It is not a playoff system. It is nothing more than attempt to match the No. 1 and No. 2 teams within the bowl system and to create exciting matchups in four other bowl games," you can understand why people have been up in arms for years over the fact that they have still done nothing to create a playoff system.

Since the game we were watching was not even close in the second half, HR and I started assigning "style points" of our own to each of the three teams. It got to be an ongoing joke throughout the rest of the weekend, so I thought I would include a few of my favorites:

Plus one to Bob Stoops, for being the poster child of white visors. Plus another one because you know he gives those out as SWAG during recruiting visits.

Plus one to Mack Brown for still having all of his hair. That's a rare accomplishment for men his age (57) these days. And look at that golf clap!

Plus two to Mike Leach for bearing an uncanny resemblance to Vince Gill. Long-lost twins?

Plus one for Sam Bradford. Someone decided to introduce him to Proactive after last season, which should really help his candidacy for Heisman.

Plus two to Colt McCoy for his name alone. Small town Texas kid? Named Colt? He was bred for this job.

Plus two for Brandon Carter, the Texas Tech player who aspires to be a professional wrestler and paints his face like this for every game. Dream big, kiddo. Minus one for the tongue ring though.

For sake of neutrality, I chose for each team to end up with three points. No pointing fingers- I'm just the kid in the locker, remember? Obviously the computers and the humans running the BCS have their hands full this year, since these are not the only one-loss teams in the rankings. Maybe the governance of the BCS will start listening to the American people and Obama and fix this mess one of these days.


"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."
-Vince Lombardi

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Filling the Harry Potter-sized void

At midnight tonight I will turn into pumpkin; becoming a teenager again for a few hours at least while I sit amongst them to see the 12:02 AM showing of Twilight.

I bought the tickets over a week ago; I have no shame.

I will don my Uggs and a fleece, (it's a bit chilly and I'll blend in with the young ones better than I would in my business casual), and meet up with my friend RM to get our Starbucks holiday drinks of choice.

We've done this before, but I won't even begin to tell you about the time we went to see TRL because that is just embarrassing.

Last summer we went together to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at midnight the day it came out. We have been emailing back and forth for weeks anticipating this movie; he just moved back to Dallas from New York (woo hoo!) but before he had even left NYC he made sure to lock in our plans for tonight. He's bringing his friend Kimberly too, who I'm already inclined to like for the sheer fact that she's totally game for all of this.

My friend BD in New York got invited to a pre-screening of the movie in New York and assured me that I will not be disappointed. She also transitioned that gchat conversation into an anecdote on a recent night out in the city, when she was bitten by a drunk guy who was hitting on her at a bar. He literally bit her. I guess he was trying to go in for the kill... (sorry, the vampire jokes have started). Maybe he thought he could be smooth like Edward Cullen, who even knows? Luckily there were other Twilight fans there to witness this transpire, and no, unfortunately she did not have a hickey the next day (I asked).

So needless to say, I can't wait for this Dracula meets Romeo & Juliet, meets emo teen angst and a Taylor Swift song combination. I don't think I'll be disappointed.

"I'd rather die than stay away from you."
-Bella, Twilight

Monday, November 17, 2008

Well-Kept Secrets, Vol. IV

I may not know much about men, but there is one thing I know for sure: they all love long hair.

To quote my friend Jane, completely out of context, "it is a truth universally acknowledged."

I was walking out of the house a few days ago, leaving to go run errands and see friends in Uptown, and my Dad casually asked about my plans. The first thing out of my mouth was that I was on my way to get a haircut then going to meet up with friends to watch a football game. He stopped abruptly, jerked his head around the corner and said "you're not cutting it all off- are you? You won't be getting it short again- right?"

"I'm just getting it trimmed and having the stylist clean up my layers... that's all."

"Oh, okay. Good. Have fun."

He never made any comments about my short hair for the years I kept it so in college, but clearly he was biding his time. I have since consulted with several other trusted males about hair length and the consensus is clear: keep it long. Got it.

Long hair is means more maintenance, and I've recently become privy to a few products that make my life much easier.

Product #1 was introduced to me at the Bumble and Bumble salon in Manhattan. I have a lot of hair, but it doesn't have a lot of body, and my stylist told me to use the Thickening Spray on my damp hair before blowing it out. It definitely adds body and makes my hair fluffy. It helps for big, soft curls.

Product #2 I found myself, while on a Target expedition for Biolage, Craisins and Clif Kids Bars (chocolate brownie). Pantene Pro-V Texture Pomade is the perfect finish for straight hair. If you live in any kind of humid climate, then frizz is always a factor. Rubbing a small amount on your fingers and running it through freshly-straightened hair gives you defined layers and smooth control without the crunch of hairspray.

Product #3 was recommended to me by a few friends who have drier hair and therefore can't wash it everyday. To keep it fresh between washes, dry shampoo works wonders. My big question was "how is this different from baby powder?" I don't like the smell of baby powder and I always think it makes me, a brunette, look a little too much like Martha Washington. I found a dry shampoo by Oscar Blandi called Pronto at Sephora, and have quickly become a fan. It has a lemony smell and takes care of those mornings when I hit my alarm more than five times.

Another good idea if you aren't great with your own hair, is scheduling appointments with a hair stylist for Saturday afternoons, that way your hair is cut and styled in time for Saturday night, and you've killed both the haircut and hairstyle birds with one stone.

Or you become friends with me and coerce me into coming over to fix your hair for you. That's what my friends do.

"Hair is the richest ornament of women."
-Martin Luther

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Name Abbreviations; A Non-Comprehensive Guide

I always abbreviate the names of my friends and family on my blog. I started doing that when I wrote in New York, and I figure it's safer this way, since everyone has jobs and whatnot.

My friends live in Texas, New York, Hawaii, California, D.C., Europe and many locations in between. They are wives, daughters, aunts and sisters to many, and they are the greatest women I know. We share one-liner emails, heart-to-hearts, and have flown all over the country/world to see each other. All are a huge part of my life and come up often when I'm writing, and I should have done this sooner but this might make it easier to keep up.

My people:

Childhood friends: we grew up on the same street as each other, carpooled to school and snuck out of the house together...

High school and college friends (overlap): we bonded in Student Council and then spent four years enjoying College Station, Texas together...

College and sorority friends: people I've loved since literally Day One of university life. We spent many nights together at date parties, which have now been replaced with weddings...

The New Yorkers: college friends who I moved to New York with; they both still live and work there...

LH: My (22-year-old) baby brother, who is a senior in college.

RM: Infamous. A friend from back in the day, he is the one guy who has been let in on the inner-workings of our Girl World. He once coordinated a Spring Break trip for himself and four girls by promising our fathers that he would protect and take a bullet for any of us. Not lying.

Insert several embarrassing photos here.

"One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world's end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame."
- Willa Cather

Friday, November 14, 2008

Enough with the generic

I love getting mail.

This week I've come home to find lots of richly embossed wedding invitations, save the dates in addition to the other bridal and bachelorette-related messages that my lovebird friends are sending out these days. Wedding Season 2009 is filling up rather quickly. I'm hopeful that this upcoming year, like the last two, will be one where I can still ignore the "and guest" on my invitations and go enjoy fun weekends with my friends, sans-date.

I also joined the 20-Something Bloggers network this week, meaning I now have access to thousands of strangers and their Internet musings. It's so addicting. Thought topics and opinions range widely, and I'm continually amazed at how honest people are online.

The combination of all the love-mail with the reading I've followed of my fellow 20-somethings has gotten me thinking that I don't put myself out there that much when it comes to dating. I'm available, and not.

My friend CT, who I studied abroad with, is studying abroad again, this time in Toulouse for grad school. (Who knew you could do that twice?) She emailed me recently to shoot the breeze and catch me up on the interesting life she's got going on in France, not the least of which notable facts was that she's living with a family who has not one, not two, but THREE attractive sons in our age-range. I know: when can I come visit? Even though, knowing me, I would smile, introduce myself and admire them from a distance.

Anyway, she asked me about my life and told me not to give her the "generic" version she reads about on my blog. Ouch. Me, vague? Never.

I put on a good song and dance when dealing with guys (or at least, I like to think I do). A product of my generation, I can carry on the witty banter of texting back and forth and the clever emails with the best of them. If desirability was determined by success as a pen pal, I would be highly sought after. The problem is face time. Actually spending time with someone when there's interest can get a little unnerving. Or a lot unnerving. I have rarely been around a guy, when there has been the "what-if" possibility looming overhead, when I haven't wanted to run for the door.

Why am I afraid of boys? (No really, I'm asking).

I remember hanging out with a guy friend in college, while we were both home for Christmas break, watching a basketball game together at my house, talking sports and life and whatnot, then driving him home. When I pulled up in front of his house I leaned over and gave him a hug, pulled away after an appropriately long friend-embrace and found myself really close to his face. We had the same look in our eyes but both hesitated just a bit too long and the moment was lost. I turned back to my steering wheel and he got out of the car, and though we spent more time together after that, we could never really recover that moment back.

So why do some people fall head over heels so quickly? Why do others have such a hard time being vulnerable?

I come from loving parents who have been happily married for almost 27 years. I have no reason not to believe in relationships, I DO believe in relationships, and I've never been seriously scarred by a guy, but it's really only because I have never let anyone get close enough to really hurt me.

I told one of my friends once that I thought my biggest misconception of love was that I thought, subconsciously, that it should make sense, when in fact the kind of guys I have found myself to be attracted to over the years have run the gamut of different backgrounds, ages and personalities... shy, loud, mysterious, conventional, rugged, clean-cut. The common denominator I have found is humor: they all made me laugh.

They also made me nervous.

A few of my good friends in Dallas are nicely settled into relationships, and every time someone gets engaged, as happy as I am, I'm still left wondering where the gap was bridged between awkward first embraces to being someones standing plus one everywhere.

Part of the greatness of living in New York was that, at 23, no one expected you to be considering marriage, or even a relationship. You should just be "having fun," which, don't even get me started on what that's supposed to mean. An unwritten societal expectation of growing up in Texas, however, is getting married young, somewhere in the early/mid-twenties range, buying a house and "starting your life", so to speak. I feel like there should be some happy medium between one night stands and happily ever after. I just have no idea where to find it.

I'm still not buying the whole "dating" thing either.

"If you would be loved... be lovable."
-Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hitting the links

Only in Texas could you attend a golf tournament in November and find yard-long margaritas next to hot chocolate on the menu, and see people drinking both.

God bless America and the great state of Texas.

The Nationwide Tour Championship was right in my backyard this past week. My usually quiet neighborhood was suddenly crowded with the droves of spectators and golfers who came out for the event. I knew this because I couldn't go anywhere without watching Cadillac Escalades circling, lost in my neighborhood because even the newest GPS systems don't show all of the new streets around here. I would know-- the tracking device on mine shows me as off-roading every time I leave my street.

I walked New York-worthy distances on Sunday afternoon, in boots no less across our golf course, remembering how much I enjoy golfing on a beautiful day and wondering why it's been so long since I last played.

My childhood was not spent in dance studios or at dress rehearsals. I actually took my first ballet class in college, (which is another story for another time). While other little girls were learning tap and jazz, I was learning to tee up a ball and mark a putt. I worked at a golf ranch in the summers and played on and off through high school. I think I can fully account for why I walk so quickly everywhere; I was used to being timed at 18-36 hole golf tournaments for years.

Anyway, this is the perfect time of year for golf in Texas. It's not too hot, for once, it's slightly chilly but sunny, and the scenery is great... not to mention you can finally wear one of those pullovers that makes a swishing sound while you walk.

I don't golf much anymore, but it's not one of those things you forget to do overnight. Golf has a feel; a rhythm, and it's completely psychological. You battle more in your own head than you do against the course, weather conditions or distractions. It's completely you; sinking a 12-foot putt is the ultimate satisfaction, just as misguiding a wedge shot is the ultimate annoyance.

I was getting the golf bug even before the tournament this weekend because my friend BF just got a new bag and matching golf shoes. They're mint green (golf should be first a foremost fashionable, after all). Now I can't drive past the driving range, which I do every day on my way to work without considering the next time I might be able to go out and dust off my driver.

I might just need to find some snazzy new shoes first...

"Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course - the distance between your ears."
-Bobby Jones

Monday, November 10, 2008

Family Resemblance

My brother and I have a funny history. When we were very, very young we shared a bathroom, which lasted briefly because of my propensity to completely dominate space and takeover every inch of counter available. My curling irons and expanding need for both personal and closet space edged him out of his room and to one down the hall when we were still in elementary school; it was just better that way for sibling relations.

We are only 20 months apart, and after celebrating his most recent birthday, we are currently in the four month gap where our ages reflect only a year in difference, 22 and 23, respectively. My not-so-baby brother is now a senior in college at UT. Growing up we ended up with several family friends with similar-aged kids, and I met some of my closest friends while our brothers played little league games together. Having a sister my age and a brother his age were nearly prerequisites to hanging out with my family.

The day we discovered him to be taller than me was a turning point, and from that point on we've always appeared to be of a comparable age. I should also mention that, to the untrained eye and especially to anyone who has never met our parents, our likeness is not obvious. Our coloring is completely different- he has blonde hair, blue eyes and is tall with fairer skin which he got from my mom. I have brown hair, brown eyes more and "olive" skin (whatever that means- I'm not green or anything), which I got from my dad. We actually have similar smiles and noses and mannerisms, but those are things people who know us would gather. Obviously too, he is male, I am female, which has been the root of many misunderstandings over the years.

It all started in middle school, when I was in 8th grade and he was in 6th grade, and I was hanging out with some cheerleader friends waiting in the carpool line for my ride. My brother approached me to tell me he had tennis practice and left promptly for the gym. One of the girls I was standing with, who I didn't know very well, immediately steered my elbow out of earshot and started the interrogation: "Who was that? He.Is.So.Cute. Is he your boyfriend or something? What's his name?" Little did I know this would only be the beginning. "That's L," I answered, "he's not my boyfriend, he's my brother."

Of course it didn't end there.

His freshman year of college, I made the hour and change drive over to Austin to meet up with he and my parents for his first fraternity Parents' Weekend. We were finishing lunch, he offered to get me a drink, and after about 10 minutes of waiting I decided to go find one myself. I walked out into the backyard, where the bar was, and immediately saw my brother's back as he was surrounded by a gaggle of young sorority girls. "Of course that's why he went missing," I thought, smirking to myself. I called his name and walked up next to him, and he whirled around to say "Oh hey! I forgot about your drink..." and I looked past him to see four pairs of eyes glaring darts at me. I was completely confused.

Their expressions transformed to feigned indifference as he turned back to them, ushering me forward and said "hey, this is my sister A, she's a Chi-O at A&M!" Like a light-switch, their demeanors changed. "Omigosh! For real?!" they squealed, "L didn't tell us his sister was a Chi-O! So nice to meet you!" I smiled, introduced myself and forgot their names immediately after they had been spoken. At that point I excused myself to get a beer and walked back inside. They had initially percieved me to be a threat, which explained the death glares. Not the best of first impressions... let's just say he never ended up dating any of them.

The best, though, was the trip my brother and I took to London. I flew in from Germany, after my summer abroad, and he flew in from Dallas to meet me for a week. When we arrived at our hotel, the front desk attendant asked for the name on our reservation, so I told her and continued my conversation with L, trying to decide our plan for the rest of the day. She interrupted, confused at the request on the reservation. "And you wanted *two* beds?..." she asked. "Yes that's right" I said, thinking "of course we want two beds, lady." She shook her head and continued typing, and finally said "okay Mr. H and Mrs. H, here are your room keys." I couldn't correct her because I would have started laughing in her face, but I couldn't keep myself from giggling audibly before we got to the elevator. "We have the same last name, so she assumed we were married" I said, the humor of which was lost on L, who was jet-lagged and carrying my bags.

It's come in handy over the years, I must say, to have a him as a brother. Whether on a beach in Playa del Carmen, a pub in London or in a crowded bar in New York, I can always ensure I'll be left alone if I'm talking to the guy with the great hair and the deep, bellowing voice (just like Dad's). He taught me how to play Craps, and I showed him a thing or two about how to match belts and shoes. What else is family for, anyway?

"Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply..."
-Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Well-Kept Secrets, Vol. III

Everyone has their standby, no-brainer list of good restaurants. They are always a safe bet and while you may not be surprised, you know you won't be disappointed.

Soon after moving to Dallas, I discovered that my friend CC had a list, multiple pages long, of restaurants to try on her Mac, complete with recommendations, how she had heard of the place, price ranges and ambiance. This was not really a surprise, coming from the same friend who gave me my quote book and who is a master of all things organizational.

Her list has yet to produce a bad evening of dining out, so this weekend should not have been a surprise. CC's recommendation for Saturday night was a restaurant called Rise No. 1, in Inwood Village. I had read about it before, and then in one ear out the other, I forgot about it until she mentioned the name.

I should start keeping a list or something.

Our other friends KS, MG and BF were all game to try it, and after piling in MG's car together we found ourselves in Inwood Village... decked out for Christmas. Evidently retailers order all of their Christmas decor early in the year, which was prior to the crumbling of the economy, so they're now in a panic to get rid of it. Anyway, we meandered around outside for a while; waiting for the one table of five in the restaurant to vacate, and managed to squeeze onto the same bench in front while we chatted.

Once seated, we decided to try a French, pear-flavored cider that the waiter recommended. Not Ace Pear, for the record. It was less acidic and there were no playing cards on the label (aka totally classy). He brought water to our table in old, label-less wine bottles, which we drank like camels, and also freshly baked baguette and butter, which didn't last long either.

The restaurant, we had heard, was known for their souffles, so we each ordered salads to start and three souffles to share- creamed spinach, jambon and gruyere (ham and cheese, but so much fancier) and a sun-dried tomato and pesto chevre. They were all delicious, but none compared to dessert.

The chocolate souffle. Oh the chocolate souffle. We were a captivated audience as a waitress set the dish squarely in the middle of our table, a puffy cloud covered in powdered sugar. She wielded, in her other hand, a pot of melted dark chocolate to pour over the top. I don't think we even heard her say "enjoy" because we were too busy killing it. It was like sword-fighting with spoons.

The restaurant itself was comfortable; warm and inviting with bookshelves and wine racks lining the walls. It seems like an aspiring writer influenced the details; there were novels on the shelves, Scrabble pieces on the table and when we left, we discovered a Bingo-looking wheel that held not mints, not matches but quotes. Like a fortune cookie, but better.

And who needs a cookie when there's chocolate syrup to be finished?

"You will wait on your souffle, but your souffle will not wait on you."
-Rise No. 1 menu

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hail to the Chief

On this lovely, excuse me, on this Super Tuesday we're having, I can't help but remember the most exciting day I ever spent at the gym.

I know how that sounds, but stay with me people. You could use a break from the election coverage.

On a weekday morning in college a few years and two iPods ago, I was keeping with my usual routine of exercising at the Rec before class. I was probably listening to Justin Timberlake and watching SportsCenter, as was my pastime, when something odd caught my eye. It was a man dressed head to toe in black; complete business formal. He disappeared behind a column, and I became more distracted by watching the murmuring and pointing other students were suddenly doing. Had someone passed out on the thigh abductor?

That's when I saw the man in black again, only upon further inspection, this time I noticed he was also wearing a clear earpiece. I had seen Independence Day enough times to know what an earpiece and a black suit meant. Things clicked into place and I knew why he was there. The man with the earpiece moved around to reveal none other than former President George H.W. Bush. At the gym on campus. Lifting weights. In his work out clothes. His Presidential library is at A&M, and though he was in College Station often, he was usually at the Bush School and not in the middle of campus.

I'm sure many Americans will see a President, in person, at some point in their lives. But how many will randomly run into one, unexpectedly?

I knew he was in town because that I already had tickets to the forum he was holding with Coach Mike Krzyzewski later that week, and I somehow managed, through all of this, to stay running on my treadmill without tripping or having to push the Emergency Stop button. I watched, and ran, fascinated and wondering what I should do.

I was sweaty!

People were supposed to be wearing sweater sets and Jackie O hats and dainty gloves when they were introduced to Presidents!

How was I to proceed?

Eventually he made his way near me, until he finally ended up on a stationary bike in front of me, startling the girl he sat next to as she had been too engrossed in her US Weekly to notice his arrival.

The entire time he was nothing but gracious to every student who sheepishly passed and said hello or reached out to shake his hand; never in a hurry and never ignoring anyone. I ended up skirting past him, his guard probably had to laugh at how strangely nervous I was, and said "good morning!" in a cheery, unnaturally pitchy voice. He returned the gesture, we both smiled, and I kept walking.

And that was it.

I met an American President in Nike shorts and lived to tell about it.

"I do not mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God's love is truly boundless."
-George H.W. Bush

Monday, November 3, 2008

Early Voting

Late Saturday night, I arrived home from watching the much-heralded UT vs. Texas Tech game. I wasn't feeling great and wasn't really tired, and so I got ready for bed and snuggled into my down pillow-top mattress, down comforter and no fewer than five down pillows to read Eclipse until my Tylenol PM kicked in.

Around 12:22 AM on Sunday morning I was startled out of my vampire trance as my phone rattled on my bedside table. I had received a text from my life-long friend ND, who is a high school teacher slash beach goddess in Hawaii. (We refer to each other as "N" and "A", a la Serena and Blair, or "S" and "B" on Gossip Girl) It read:

A- No loss is worse than four years in Lubbock. Amen.

I totally agreed.

N- I hear ya, I thought for a minute there that their fans might cost them the game (twice). Season is not over, either!

She responded:

Amen! I hope Obama wins!

Oy. Agree to disagree on that one, N.

Goodness I love that girl.

Our friendship is such that we literally grew up across the street from one another, went to completely different Texas colleges and have different beliefs of American politics. She writes me the most laugh out loud funny emails and whenever she comes home for vacation (Texas is considered a vacation when you live on a resort in Hawaii, who knew?) we usually spend hours lounging and discussing books and life and romance (her specialty) all while refusing to take off her cowgirl boots.

Democrats and Republicans should actually try agreeing every so often. They would probably accomplish more anyway, and they would have more time to discuss what happened on tonight's episode of Gossip Girl, like N & I do.

"People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as jokes."
-Will Rogers