Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Brunch

Now that I don't have to spend every millisecond of every weekend studying, I've been able to slowly re-emerge as a normal part of society. My latest proof? The Sunday Brunch.

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This weekend, Erika, Brett, and I ventured out to Eastern Market on the Metro with minimal hassle, and we wandered around 8th Street waiting for our reservation time, and happened upon Stitch DC, Capitol Hill! Believe it or not, I did not go inside (mostly because it wasn't open yet...). On Brett's recommendation, we decided to try a new place called Belga Cafe.

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Its a Belgian cafe, so the menu was in some variation of Dutch. I leave the translation to my brother. (I translated Brusselse Wafels, and that was good enough for me.)

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The meal started with pumpkin bread -- surprising but delicious. We ordered a round of coffee and orange juice, and chatted about how different it is to be lawyering rather than just law-schooling. (We determined that mostly there's just more paperwork.)

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The food quickly arrived, and we tucked right in after I forced everyone to take a picture of their dish.

I had Belgian Waffles with red berries:

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Erika had Groene Eieren (Green Eggs, I think...):

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And Brett had 4 Kazen Kroketten, which was a frisee salad with fried cheese and bacon:

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And, to top it all off, we split an order of fries with Belgian mayonnaise (which, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be the same as American mayonnaise, so far as I could tell).

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Delicious. This must be what it feels like to return to the land of the living. I think I like it. We should do this every weekend, you guys. Seriously.

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(After our brunch, I rushed back home to meet up with Steven so that we could join some of his work friends in buying fireworks for our Fourth-of-July celebration. We had assumed we'd be passengers in someone's car, but surprise, surprise, we were informed that we would instead be driving ourselves. To Pennsylvania. And back. The fireworks place was pretty neat, but needless to say, we are totally exhausted. Pictures and a full report to follow.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mid-Year Check-Up

June is a great time to gauge the progress of the year. Remember these? Written on January 1, 2008. Let's see how we're doing...


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#1, not so much, but about three weeks ago, Steven plotted out a mile-long stretch of sidewalks around our house, and promptly decided that (a) he was officially not going to drink soda anymore, and (b) he was going to run that mile course every single day after work.

After about a week of watching him run and seeing him get skinnier before my very eyes, I got jealous and decided it was time to join him. I've been going steadily in the mornings for maybe a week, week-and-a-half now, and although my knees are barking something awful, I'm feeling good, healthy, lighter, even. (Although we did buy a scale from Target the other day, and the number it reflected when I stood on its little obnoxious metal face was obscene, so I will not be sharing it with you, dear reader. Rest assured it is about 30 pounds heavier than I was in 2004. Deelightful.) (However, and in my defense, it read three pounds lighter yesterday. Hope springs eternal.)

#2 - Check mark. :) (Now if DC would just process my stinking application, we could knock out all three and I could put bar admissions behind me forever.)

#3 - We're still waiting for the final chips to fall into place before we go get qualified, but as we wait, the interest rate on our savings account has reached a whopping 16%. Yeah, you read that right -- our savings rate is 16%. Why? Because Anthony Kim is my new hero. (Unfortunately, we can only deposit a maximum of $100/month into the account, so my dreams of hitting the bankroll are falling a wee bit flat. Nevertheless, 16 percent of $100 is still sixteen bucks in my fat little savings account. Grow, money, grow!)

#4 - Blah. They're consolidated, and I'm begrudgingly writing checks to someone named Sallie. Let's leave it at that.

#5 - I bought myself a pretty little college-ruled notebook the other day, with the intention of writing Morning Pages right after my morning mile-long run (see #1 above). So far, its been pretty successful, and it really does help provoke your creativity. I wrote the first set of Morning Pages last night, and the second set this morning at Starbucks. And right after I finished the set from this morning, I grabbed my Starbucks and walked out to my car, and I had a lightbulb moment about work. Not anything super-crazy-creative (it involved an Excel spreadsheet, which basically spells death to creativity most of the time), but it was a creative solution to a problem I've been having in keeping track of my billable time at work. And as I have (slowly) learned in my life, seeing quick results = Heather will likely keep doing this results-producing thing. Go mighty Morning Pages!**

#6 - I bulldozed through my whole collection of chick lit here at the house, and as I was browsing at Target (I must really love Target, it's gotten two mentions so far) the other day, I realized that I wanted to buy about 15 of the newest bestsellers on display. My fuzzy math informed me that 15 books at $15 a piece means probably not the wisest decision for my "read once and promptly shelve it" philosophy of books.

Thus, my fancy-shmancy new library card is winging its way to me via the United States Post Office as we speak. Nothing better than free reads on the government dime, I say. (Besides, my tax dollars pay for those books, so buy 'em at Target or loan 'em from the library -- either way I'm getting hit in the wallet.)

So, I suppose that given the above benchmarks, 2008 has been pretty successful so far. January to June has whizzed by me like a preschooler hopped up on Pixie Stix, so I'm sure the rest of 2008 will be eager to catch up. Here's hoping my tired old body can keep up with my increasingly-impossible ambitions. :)

(**For those of you just dying to know the mind-numbing details: The workday tends to escape me, billing-wise, and all of a sudden its 4 PM and I haven't written down any of my billing for the whole day. And then I have to double-back and read through my sent items and try to figure out what the heck I've been doing all day. So my nifty new Excel sheet is laid out in 15 minute increments, and every 15 minutes, I'm forced to fill in the little box with some basic details of what I've been up to for the past quarter-hour. "Telephone call with X, email to Y, draft document Z," and so forth. And presto changeo, there's what I've been doing all day! It helped tons, and I'm a happy camper. At least, I'm happy for now -- something tells me I will tire of this new write-it-down-twice system pretty quickly. We'll see. It worked for me for today, and that's all I'm asking at this point.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Filling the Well

There are times when sitting at a desk and pounding away on a keyboard can start to suck away your soul.

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Times when you've had enough of page after page of Times New Roman text.

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Times when there's really, really nothing on TV.

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And it's been wisely written that the best way to refresh your mind and replenish your creativity is to "fill the well." This is usually accomplished by going somewhere and experiencing something colorful, something fun, something simple and beautiful to renew your perspective.

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Yesterday, Steven and I moseyed down to my new favorite place for filling the well.

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Nestled off the road, seemingly in someone's backyard, its magnificent and quaint, all at the same time.

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We got there just as they were about to close (around 6 PM), but they gladly let us wander around and take pictures. A couple other customers were there too, and no one seemed antsy about staying open plenty longer until everyone had their fill.

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It will come as a shock to all of you, I am sure, to discover that my credit card remains intact and I did not buy every single plant, tree, shrub, and herb on the premises.

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(Mostly because they wouldn't fit on our porch.)

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And lest you think I went and got brave all of a sudden to take the picture below, I will confess that all of my "bee pictures" were terrible -- I forgot to bring the zoom lens and so any decent pictures of the bees would require the photographer to get right up in their grill. Which I had no intention of doing. Heroically, Steven stepped in and summoned the depths of his bravado to snap this one:

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Not half bad, dear. (Also, even though they didn't sting you doesn't mean they can't sting. They are perfectly capable -- they were just unmotivated. And I was not about to motivate them.)

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A tangential note: One Easter, awhile back, my younger brother Matt brought home some baby chicks from the pet store. They were adorable little yellow puffs of Easter-ish fun. My family, never being the type to turn down a new pet (or three), quickly adopted the little baby chicks as members of the family. One Easter or so later, the baby chicks became full grown chickens who, at sundown each day, would roost on my dad's head as he sat on the back porch drinking coffee.

Unfortunately, one of the baby chicks turned out to be not a chick but a dude, who grew up into a rooster. My parents soon discovered, to their dismay, that a rooster's instincts will indeed remain strong even in the backyard of a suburban neighborhood. After the umpteenth wakeup call at sunrise, Mom and Dad decided that it was time for their chicken-and-rooster brood to leave the nest. The Huff Chickens were sent off to a farm, and we were never really sure where they ended up.

I said all that to say this: Mom and Dad, I am happy to report that Steven and I have located your chickens!

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They are living happily at Heather Hill Gardens. Fat and plucky. :) They told us to send you their love, and also they would like another shipment of chicken feed, please.

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Hi Huffs -- no worries, all is well up here.

Between following a herd (flock? gaggle?) of chickens around, risking life and limb to capture bees-on-film, and soaking up all the delicious colors of summertime flowers, I'd say my well is pretty well filled to the brim. Which must mean that its time to put my nose back to the work grindstone. Ha.

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(Happy early birthday, Mom and Matt!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Early Harvest

Hello world! Guess who's suddenly sprouted!

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Yep, all it took was a weekend away, and my little baby plants have gone and grown up. A few of my green beans even looked big enough to harvest and eat! So, of course, that's exactly what I did.

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I actually picked off six beans and ate them for dinner just now, sauteed in a little olive oil with salt and pepper. They were as fresh as fresh could possibly be. I love them. In my next life, I want to be a farmer. (Alternatively, in my next home, I just want to have a vegetable garden. The idea of combines and missing limbs sort of scares me away from farming as a career.)

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This morning, Pringles and I ventured out into Old Town Fairfax for a little car trip. Pringles was extra sad last time we left on a trip without him, so I figured I'd give him a little ride in the car while I did some Saturday morning errands. He traveled into Walgreens with me (in a little carrying bag -- yes, I am that girl), and then when we got back in the car, he stuck his little furry head out the window and sniffed the wind.

I had been hoping to go to a farmers' market this weekend, because it just seems like the right thing to do on a Saturday in June. On the way back to the house, I saw a sign that said "Community Farmers' Market." Right by the house! Hooray! So, of course, Pringles and I stopped in for a little visit.

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There were all kinds of great fresh fruits -- I opted for a little box of cherries.

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Also, since I've been on a homemade breads kick lately, I bought some fresh bread. Chocolate Walnut Bread, to be precise.

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It is fantastically good. So good that I'm not sure you'll even get to see what it looks like unwrapped before we eat it all up.

We spent our Saturday afternoon at an adorable little garden place, and I got some fantastic pictures, which I will post later because its getting late.

Happy summer everybody!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Goin To The Chapel

My dear friend Julie got married this past weekend. Steven and I attended both the rehearsal (picnic) dinner and the wedding + reception, and we took seventy-bazillion pictures. :)

The rehearsal was, in true Southern fashion, an outdoor barbeque picnic. The tables were adorned with magnolia flowers, and the food was fresh and delicious.

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Our bride-to-be was glowing and happy -- so cute!

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Upon our arrival, Julie's mom promptly nametagged Steven as "bride's friend." My name tag said "bride's college roommate/photographer." It made me smile, because it kinda sounded like I roomed with her and was simultaneously her photographer. In college.

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After much feasting on BBQ and homemade salsa, people started toasting the bride and groom. I wanted to stand up and say something, but I had no idea how to encapsulate my entire decade-or-so of knowing Julie into one little tidbit. (Also, as Steven reminded me after the rehearsal, I tend to get nervous in social speaking situations like that. Give me a podium or a courtroom, fine, no problem. But give me a gathering of close friends requiring a sentimental anecdote with a "moral of the story" ending? I get all sweaty-palmed and gummy-lipped.) I think I said something about how I was an angst-ridden freshman in college and used to constantly whine to Julie that I'd never find love, and how Julie used to always keep telling me that I'd find someone perfect someday.

At that point in the story, I said, "And then I found Steven." And Steven stands up and goes, "Hi, I'm Steven." Everyone laughed, and I summed up my little story by saying, "And now, Julie, you've found love, and we're so happy for you."

Then Steven proceeded to steal the show with his own rendition of how he met Julie. Essentially, as the story goes, in the first few weeks we dated, I made him come to a restaurant to have dinner with Julie, so she could see what he was like -- you know, the old "see how the roommate likes the new boyfriend" thing? Steven told the tale hilariously, calling it The Interview, and gesturing to show the 'bead of sweat' that rolled down his brow as he tried to dress up to make a good impression.

The crowd erupted with laughter, and people were clapping him on the back at the wedding the next day, telling him what a show-stopping and entertaining toast it was. One guy even told Steven it was the best toast of the night. I laughed and said, "Yeah, he showed me up big time!"

"He sure did," the guy said, but then quickly backpedaled. "Oh... um, I mean, no offense or anything.... this guy would show anybody up."

He is a charming one, that Steele.

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The next day, we drove to an IHOP near my parents' house to have breakfast with Mom, Dad, and my youngest brother, Chris. It was fabulous and far too short.

Once back in wedding territory, I hoofed it to Julie's parents' house to help take pics while she got hair and makeup done. It happened to be a fabulous occasion to try out my new flash, which worked swimmingly.

This is the bride's sister, Christina, holding a mirror so both Julie and her almost-sister-in-law (also Christina) can see the hair-in-progress. Both Christinas were fantastic and kept me laughing.

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Here's a peek of what I looked like most of the weekend. (See me?)

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I couldn't keep all of the family members straight, so I made myself a chart, of sorts. (It helped.)

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At the chapel, we found the dressing room and Christina helped Julie into The Dress.

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Jewels spent the last nervous minutes writing and re-writing out her vows.

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I was terrified she was going to get that red ink on her dress.

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(She didn't.)

The ceremony itself was beautiful, as wedding ceremonies always are.

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I spent so much thought-energy on snapping pictures that it didn't even sink in that ohmygosh--Julie'smarried! until later at the reception, when I saw her dancing with her dad. I shed a little tear, it was so sweet.

The reception was straight out of Southern Living magazine -- Steven and I both decided that it was very "antebellum" in a beautiful way.

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We sat with another of my dear friends, Jenn, and relaxed and enjoyed the reception food.

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More accurately, Jenn and her friend Andrea gracefully enjoyed the reception food, whilst I did a faceplant into my plate and chowed down, because I was totally starving at that point. (To all you wedding photographers out there, you have earned my utmost respect -- wedding photography is SO much more difficult than I had anticipated -- that is some seriously hard work, lugging that camera around all day and snapping away!)

While I stuffed my face, the newlyweds danced their hearts out.

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And so did the flowergirl and ringbearer.

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(This little guy is going to have the girls chasing after him in no time.)

At the end of the night, we made the new couple run past some open flames. Just for fun.

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Steven also enjoyed the sparklers.

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Perhaps a little too much.

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He almost lit his car keys on fire.

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All in all, a lovely weekend wedding for a lovely couple. Congrats, Julie and Shawn, and I promise to send you all seven billion pictures on CD as soon as Steven takes me to Target to buy some CDs to put them on. :) (Hint, hint, Steven. Also, can I buy a new summer dress since we're going to Target anyway?) :)

Enjoy your honeymoon, you two!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Duly Sworn

The Swearing-In ceremony for the Maryland Bar was today in Annapolis. Annapolis is a very cute city -- I had lunch on the bay overlooking the boat docks and feeling the ocean wind in my hair. And then I jetted off to the Courthouse for the ceremony itself, which was actually really inspiring in its tradition and history. (Women lawyers have come a long way since suffrage-days, and even in the last 60 years, we've greatly advanced in the practice of law. It must have been a very different thing going to law school as a woman in 1940. Ok, getting off my soapbox now.)

Because I know you are all just frothing at the mouth to see all the pomp and circumstance, the Court of Appeals has a webcast of the ceremony HERE. The sound picks up after about 3 minutes.

Enjoy.

(PS - Wedding pics from this weekend are on the way, but I'm not done uploading them yet. It was a beautiful wedding and I have roughly 1400 photos to prove it!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Road Trip

(Before I begin with our usual array of minutiae, please take a moment to send up a prayer for the Mulvihill family, who have recently experienced a very tough loss. They are strong, brave people, so I know they will be okay, but still, they need all the comfort and support we can give them right now. Jenny, Josh, Jay, and the rest of the Mulvihills - we love you, we are thinking about you, and I wish we could come give you a big long hug, and then just sit with you and drink some coffee, just so we could be there for you. Know that we are there in spirit. Love, Steven and Heather.)

It stormed like crazy these last few weekends, and Steven and I tried our hand at storm-photography. Apparently, if you can accurately predict a lightning strike (read: taking 47 pictures of the dark sky in hopes that you'll catch the lightning in one of them), you can get some pretty neat shots.

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Of course, for every one of these pictures, I have about 50 of these:

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It will likely be a while before we get that publishing deal for the Stormlovers Pictorama book.

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Today, we set off for the faraway lands of the Deep South, to attend a wedding for my old college roomie! (She is not actually old, its just that college seems like it was a really long time ago...)

And when college roomie calls, we haul.

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The roads were hot and hazy, so we blasted the AC and the tunes.

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Along our drive, we saw a few places which we aptly named: "If Dan Steele Lived In Virginia."

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Notice anything in particular?

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What? We just thought these were some really nice plots of land.... :)

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And now we've arrived in Athens (home of R.E.M. and crazed college football fans), and much picture-taking has commenced. We're headed to the BBQ/rehearsal dinner here shortly. Stay tuned for my first foray into wedding photography!