Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Minty Goodness

I have always had a thing for mint. Mint flavored almost anything is amazing: gelato (of course), granita (or the Baltimore equivalent- sno-balls), tea, dark chocolate, white chocolate, hot chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse... really any chocolate-mint combination. I add mint syrup to caffe lattes at Starbucks; I add dried mint to tabbouleh, couscous dishes, and many other recipes were it does, and does not, make sense. I adore mojitos... and, truth be told, I can really just eat plain mint leaves.

This is another oddity that I cannot completely blame on being "foreign" nor can I blame it on being American. I once found an astrology book that claimed that Aquarians (of which I am one) have a penchant for mint and chocolate combinations, so perhaps I will blame it on being born in January. Who knows.

However, in my adventures to get to know DC better, I stumbled across a store, and subsequently a groupon for, Schakolad- a chocolate factory in downtown DC. And, low and behold, they sell mint chocolate truffles. I am hooked. Sadly, the groupon was a gift, so I could not stock up on these famously delicious little treats. However, now that I know they exist, I shall make it a point to revisit this minty experience in the near future.

Other exciting mint discoveries:

Georgetown cupcake's daily special for Saturday is a mint cookies & creme cupcake- I have not had it yet, but, oh, I will...

There is a "Three Musketeers" chocolate bar out there that has incorporated mint in it!

And though I have not seen it in a long time, I once found in Canada a Sprite and mint combination, Sprite Ice... maybe we can rally and get it back into production.

Monday, May 24, 2010

1, 2, 3, 4....

For the first time, I participated in a census. The process was entirely more boring than I would have guessed, but I thought I would still do a blog entry in honor of this once-in-ten-years occurrence. I thought I would also point out the much more interesting questions that used to be involved in the nationwide polling. Here are some interesting facts about "our country tis of thee" pulled from past censuses (censi?):

In, 2009 the estimated population of the U.S. was 307,006,550, of which 50.7% are female. That doesn't sound like a huge difference, but it means that there were 214,904 more women than men... it feels like that at a club.

Only 54% of the population lived in the same house in 1995 as the one they were living in in 2000. Based on my own statistics, had I participated in the census, I would have been counted as one of these people.

In the year 2000, there were 11.1% foreign born persons. Though I am not one of those people, my parents are. And I would like to think that this 11% is part of the reason I have such fun, "foreign-type" activities to do!

In the same year, 17.9% of people spoke a language other than English at home. This was another interesting question not asked in this year's census... Now that I am living alone, and no longer live with my french-speaking parents, I am not sure what I would respond. I don't think speaking Italian to my cat is what they are getting at with this question.

And lastly, a question that was near and dear to my heart during my two weeks of horrific, 2-hour commuting from Baltimore to D.C., the mean travel time to work in 2000 was 25.5 minutes. This seems quite low to me; I guess it would with my history of commuting.

In comparison to these relatively interesting stats (at least I find them interesting), this year's census seemed to be more focused on whether the apartment was vacant or lived in and with how many people. There were no specific questions as to lifestyle in the census. So it was really just a count, a bit of a wasted opportunity in my mind.

For really fun statistics on the U.S., I would recommend reading Bill Bryson's book, "A Stranger here Myself." There is a whole chapter on real statistics demonstrating how many people are injured by bedding, doors, and other seemingly inane objects. A fascinating glimpse into our national IQ.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Critter Crazy

There are moments when I think I have definitely missed my calling. These moments are usually after the end of "So you think you can dance" when I want nothing more than to leap across the room and pirouette down the hallway, or move my legs as effortlessly and intricately as a tango dancer whens she entangles and untangles herself from her partner.

Many other moments, however, these feelings come from noticing the extent of amusement I get from observing animals. They don't even have to be real animals. The Microsoft cat and dog truly entertained me when I discovered them as "helpers." More recently, on my quest to become more Google-world savvy, I added pet turtles to my iGoogle page. They swim along when you pass your mouse over them, and yes, sadly, this also makes me smile...

I suppose that being easily amused can be endearing, like seeing a baby that is playing contentedly with a set of keys. However, at 31, I am not sure what that says about my development...

My Pet Turtles

Regardless, this character trait also explains why, having lived in DC not even 2 months, I have already visited the National Zoo three (3) times. That is 3 out of 8 weekends that I have spent time observing, laughing at (and perhaps with) and cooing over animals... I am the 2010 Dr. Doolittle.

Paradoxically, however, I still have mixed feelings about zoos and keeping animals in captivity. Yet, when I see that zoos make people appreciate the diversity of animals, then I recognize that zoos are essentially advocacy tools for protecting animals and their habitats. This helps me, in part, overcome the tugging at my heart at seeing them behind bars.

But, look at these pictures! You have to admit that these animals are entirely too amusing:

Playing Hide & Seek behind the Fence with visitors

Watching disapprovingly as his friends fight over the wooden box

Trying to fit the ball in her mouth, to show it whose boss

I have no idea...

I really think that at the heart of my fascination with animals is that you find raw emotions: enjoyment, depression, boredom, anger, friendliness, reclusiveness, fear... what you see is what you get.

Animals, unlike humans, don't analyze, fake, misconstrue, create delusions or play games with their emotions. If a pet is mad, it is usually because you took their food away or left them alone. If fearful, it is because you are bigger than them and can inflict harm. If happy, it is because they have a ball/treat/attention. Life is simpler... at least from my vantage point.

I suppose there is the theory that what we detect as enjoyment is actually a facade covering a conspiracy. Any cartoon cat has been modeled after this hypothesis.

Remember this song??

However, whichever theory you subscribe to, I think most can agree that animals make our lives fuller. I leave you with one more amusing tid-bit, an email I got from an unknown source, Cat Journal vs. Dog Journal:(I suppose I am even amused by animal emails...)

Entries in a dog's journal:

1:30 PM - ooooooo. bath. bummer.

Entries in a cat's journal:

DAY 752 - My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another house plant.

DAY 761 - Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair...must try this on their bed.

DAY 771 - There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise. More importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

DAY 774 - I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird, on the other hand, has got to be an informant, and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room his safety is assured. But I can wait; it is only a matter of time......

How can this not entertain you??? Do you have any funny animals pics/videos to share?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wanderlust meets D.C.

Although I don't kiss and tell, I suppose I owe you details about the date that I mentioned.

Here are some things D.C. and I have done together:

Visiting Benin, Serbia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, among other fascinating countries...

DC's Passport day let me explore the embassies of a ton of foreign countries. It was totally up my ally! There was even an official paper to collect passport stamps. It reminded me of my Around the World party, where I created a similar contraption to capture all the different drinks available at the party.

Meeting a fully-uniformed Bobby...

Going to the U.K., Italy, Ireland, Greece... well, their foreign embassies at least. Another Passport day, European countries this time. I can't really get enough.

Hearing Jovanotti sing in person...

A Jovanotti concert at the 9:30 club. Jovanotti is an Italian Rapper/Pop icon. He can perhaps be compared to Eminem (a non-vulgar version) in that he is not to everyone's liking, but he is certainly well known.

Seeing overly tall French women known as "Les Marquises"...

Part of a street performer's festival at the French Embassy.

Eating falafel and hummus at an International Bazaar

The Muslim Women's Association put on this fantastic Street Bazaar with amazing food, beautiful clothing and great jewelry.

Drinks at Mie N Yu in Georgetown

A pan-Asian-Middle Eastern lounge and restaurant.

Savory Crepe Dinner at Cafe Napoleon

Just like being in a Parisian Cafe!

Mid-day Dessert at Georgetown Cupcake

(Of the Lava Fudge variety!)

If you haven't noticed a pattern, perhaps I should admit that yes, most of these aren't what you think of when you think of D.C. In fact, save the cupcake, all of these things are fairly foreign, or at least foreign influenced. I can assure all loyal D.C. residents that I do intend to do the traditional D.C. sites as well (most of which, shamefully, I have not done... even having grown up nearby).

However, that is what I am enjoying about D.C. When I feel like being in this city, I can walk in front of the White House or go for a stroll on the National Mall. When I get those inevitable feelings of wanderlust, I can humor myself and pretend to be in any variety of countries. Short of living in Disney's Epcot Center, I don't think there are many places that can cater quite as well to my delusions of travel.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Recalling Past Trips via Junk

This call by Trip Advisor got me thinking about all of my own, to put it gently, crap.

Those of you who think I am bad now should have seen my sister and me in our adolescent years. We collected everything imaginable. No really. Think of something (under $20, non-and-never-living, and g-rated) and at one point or another, one of us had that collection: buttons, pins, posters, stickers, keychains, magnets, trolls, postcards, paperweights, t-shirts, and you get the point.

The strangest item though...

Perhaps a foot-shaped rock (that thoroughly entertained me) from Ostia beach right outside of Rome. I kept that in my possession for quite some time... though in all my moves I am not sure if it made the final cut or not. hmm... I have some digging to do.

What kind of weird things have you collected?


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