halloween 2013-???

I have way more Halloween costume ideas than opportunities to dress up for Halloween. This year, I was McKayla Maroney, an idea I had long before the rest of Christendom had the exact same idea. BOO. Anyway, I’ve already moved on to next year and beyond. Here are my ideas for the future.

Katniss and a Trackerjacker. This involves me wearing a Katniss costume (I like this idea because I would be warm and comfortable, and also I would get to carry a bow and arrow) and Freckles wearing a bee costume for a dog. Only a good idea if I’m going to a party where dogs are invited; otherwise, probably too popular. Everyone wants to see a dog in a bee costume.

Eliza Doolittle at the Embassy Ball. Maybe this is just what I want to look like at my wedding? Yes, gloves and hair and all.

Dr. Jill Biden. I don’t know what this costume would look like, but I just love her.

Taylor Swift. A girl can pretend for one night a year. This one is all about the challenge of finding the perfect wig.

Undead-Downton Abbey. Lavinia already looked like a vampire. (My mom thought season one was going to end with the surprise twist that they were ALL dead already.)

Mary Poppins (again). I was Mary Poppins for Halloween at least once as a child, and often just on random Tuesdays. But I never had this dress, which will have to be rectified at some point in my life.

Sally Draper. Maybe I just want go-go boots.


can’t dish it out if you can’t take it

I’ve been asked a lot in the last few weeks to compare my personal style to Suri Cruise’s. I portray Suri as a very fashion-conscious individual, so I think people expect that I keep up with the trends. And while I do love clothes, I am not nearly as knowledgeable as I pretend to be.

I also have been asked a lot what I think Suri and her peers will think of their childhood fame when they are grown-ups. I have no idea what they’ll think about the paparazzi pics, the magazine covers, or, sure, the parody blogs, but I do suspect that they’ll look back in amused horror at the clothes their parents dressed them in. I know I do.

I pulled out some photos of me from my childhood — I’m sure these clothes were trendy at the time, Mom. (I’m the biggest kid in all of these pictures. That never happens.)


Those are the best capri-length pastel overalls that money could buy. My sister is wearing windbreaker pants. (Enough said.) You can see the discarded matching jacket in the background. What a look. Cousin Evan’s sharp outfit withstands the test of time.


Would you call this look color blocking? Or just mismatching? I don’t ever remember that neckline style being acceptable, and yet Chelsea and I are both attempting the loose turtleneck look. I wonder if my outfit pieces started out the same color and then went through the wash separately. That wouldn’t explain why it fits so poorly, though. That Peppermint Patty doll’s clothes fit better than mine. I actually like Chelsea’s look, and she is rocking her trademark “some hair up, some hair down” style, which she was extremely committed to.

Make it stop. What is going on with the straps and the random green rosette and that blunt haircut? Chelsea knows not to be proud to be seen with me.


Rocking a half-shirt and a high-waisted skirt. Never come back, 90’s. Chelsea’s color-blocked dress would be wearable today. So would her haircut. Not mine. This may have been the period after my regrettable decision to cut my own hair. Drastic measures were taken.


This is probably the stupidest dress ever sold. Shoulder cut-outs, an insane pattern, a flamingo applique? It’s literally a head-scratcher, apparently. How did that baby (my cousin) manage to sleep when this dress was SO LOUD? I really want Annie Stamell to leave a comment here and say that she would wear that dress, because she probably would.


the only 21 books i need

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much stuff I own. Not, like, nice things, but STUFF — the DVDs and books and blankets and measuring cups I’ve collected. All it’s doing is creating clutter and weighing me down. If the zombie apocalypse started tomorrow, it would be hard for me to decide what to throw in my car and take with me. In the time it will take me to carefully pack the truck, I will surely be eaten. So I want to start trying to de-stuff my life, not just for the inevitable zombie apocalypse, but also to unload all this crap I don’t need.

Recently, the task was books.

I separated my entire collection of books into two piles — the books I will read again, and the books I won’t. (It’s highly unlikely I’m going to read my undergraduate Supreme Court casebook again, even though Justice Alito signed Article III in the reference section.)

The keep pile included only 21 books. Here are some of them:

Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing shooting scripts. I would rather read Sorkin scripts than any novel; he is my favorite writer, regardless of medium, and these two books are like brain candy. I flagged this speech.

The Time Traveler’s Wife. This is seriously my favorite book of all time. I love time travel romances, but too often, especially when these stories are on television, the logistics get all messed up and then I get ragey. (I’m looking at you, season five of Lost.) But the time travel details in this book never conflict with each other. My favorite part is the underlying message about fate: Clare loves Henry because he came to her throughout her childhood, and she recognizes him as an adult; Henry only goes to Clare’s childhood because they are in love in the future. THE LOVE COMES FROM NOWHERE.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. DON’T JUDGE ME IT’S MY FAVORITE. I love stories where a big group of heroes has to join together against a common enemy, like The Avengers or the season four finale of Alias. This is the best Harry Potter book, and I will defend it forever. It’s also my favorite movie.

Kate Chopin’s collected novels and stories. It’s just so efficient! Everything she ever wrote in one volume! This is my favorite short story of hers.

To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. Cliche, but duh.

The Lost Encyclopedia. I don’t know, I just love it.

Emily Post’s Etiquette. You’d be surprised by how often I refer to this book — do you tip on carryout? How do I respond to this passive-aggressive email? Who gets invited to bridal showers and bachelorette parties? USEFUL, even in a zombie apocalypse.

The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. There are a lot of cookbooks in the give-away pile, because this, plus Cooks Illustrated back issues, are the only recipes I need that I can’t get online. Need to know how to braise a chicken? Page 253.

Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique. The Feminine Mystique was originally published in 1963, and I am holding out hope that it will one day help Betty Draper stop being such a nasty-ass bitch.My copy has a lot of markings in it and an introduction from Anna Quindlen.

Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale. In a season three flashback episode of Fringe, young Olivia reads this 750-page book, and I think I ordered it from Amazon that night. It is masterful, a beautiful story about love and redemption and magic. (Also, time travel — are you sensing a theme?) Downtonian Jessica Brown-Findlay is playing Beverly in the movie, which is being directed by Fringe writer-director-producer Akiva Goldsman. Also there is a flying horse.

The rest of the books are going in a big cardboard box to set on the stoop. Free stuff, neighborhood!

revisiting my disdain for organized collegiate activities.

In high school, they used to have mandatory pep rallies, which was a surefire way to get me to sit like a surly bitch in the bleachers for an hour, openly hating everyone. I would have much rather been sitting in Calculus than at a pep rally. When was it my turn to have the rest of the school be forced to clap for me? Answer: never. They never force people to get peppy about the school newspaper or getting a 5 on an AP exam or the musicals or girls who are friendly but not popular. Man, even thinking about it now makes me angry — such utter bullshit. The injustice.

That really turned me against sports in general and football in particular. When I was applying to colleges, I wanted to go as far away from the SEC-obsessed land of my childhood as was reasonably possible. The fact that GW (where I ended up) didn’t have a football team was a draw for me.

I did have some understanding of NCAA basketball. My dad went to the University of Louisville, and it would have been impossible to grow up in my house without a healthy respect for the Cards basketball team. Here we are before a UofL basketball game. The red eye is on purpose because we are that committed to the team.


But basketball doesn’t generally involve tailgating, mostly because of the whole winter situation. At GW, I lived across the street from the arena, and I would usually be in bed until it was time to line up outside and complain about the cold.

My sister went to Auburn University, though, and that opened my eyes to how fun the college football experience can be. My first tailgate was at an Auburn game. I was like 22. Chelsea was a senior in 2010, when the team won the national championship, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her as stressed out and mean as she was during the 2010 Iron Bowl game. (And that’s saying something. She’s my sister.) My favorite Twitter-friend-turned-real-life-friend Anna Kathryn is also an Auburn alum — it’s how I knew she was a trustworthy individual. Both of them, smart and hilarious, know a LOT about Auburn Football.



In the south, college pride gives people something to rally around that isn’t, like, secession or Chick-Fil-A. For people who aren’t sociopaths, it fuels healthy rivalries. It is fun, when it’s about being proud of the whole school and tradition (or, for me, of the southern experience and of my sister), and not about celebrating mean kids who, yes, peaked in high school. 

My favorite part about the Auburn community, which I am appropriating even though I did not go there, is saying “War Eagle” to people in Auburn gear. I’ve started saying it to people, just because it’s fun. (It’s Auburn’s battle cry, but you can say it on the street to a fellow fan with the tone of a friendly hello.) Living up north — or, as far north as I’m willing to go, 5.3 miles northeast of Robert E. Lee’s home — when you swap “War Eagle”s with a stranger wearing a Tigers shirt, it’s always a pleasant five-second exchange. Because what you’re really saying is, “Damn, it’s good to be a southerner, am I right?” And they always say it back.

easy easy tomato sauce

The thing they don’t tell you about living alone is that you end up eating most of your meals by yourself or with the cashier at a fast food restaurant. (The drive-through clerk at the Maryland Avenue Checkers and I were on a first-name basis until the milkshake machine broke.)

I miss how my college roommate and I would, like, make microwave nachos on a Saturday afternoon and just go to town on them. It’s not that I couldn’t make nachos for myself, and it’s not like there’d be anyone to judge me for finishing the plate, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Consequently, I find myself struggling to feed myself meals that meet the following qualifications:

  1. Don’t take too much effort or make too much of a mess. It’s just for me, for crying out loud.
  2. Can be made in regular-size batches, with leftovers that will keep well for work lunches.
  3. Are tasty and at least slightly more healthy than Checkers.

One of my new favorites is this recipe for tomato sauce, which is adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s penne alla vodka recipe. The penne alla vodka is delicious as it is, but the basic tomato sauce recipe (cutting out the vodka and the cream — I know, the good stuff) is my new go-to.

I’ll make a batch of it on a Monday night and use it throughout the week — with penne and spinach, with rigatoni and basil, or as a pizza sauce. Best of all, it involves only a few ingredients and one pan. You do need a food processor or a small blender or basically anything that can puree. Alicia Silverstone’s mouth? No, don’t do that. That’s gross.

Easy Tomato Sauce

1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped small
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 minced garlic cloves
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes (or more if that’s your thing)

  1. Chop the garlic and the onion first, lest you regret it later.
  2. Use a fork to lift the tomatoes out of the can one by one, leaving as much liquid in the can as possible. (Save the liquid.) Put half of the tomatoes in your food processor and half on a cutting board. Puree the ones in the food processor until smooth, and cut the other ones up to your preferred chunk size. (A good chunky dice is what I usually do.) You want a total of 2 cups of tomatoes for the sauce — use the puree and the chunks first, and if you need more, use the liquid in the can.
  3. Heat oil in a large pan over medium. Add onion, tomato paste, and garlic, and cook until onions are taking on color and garlic is softening. Add the red pepper flakes and stir.
  4. Add the two cups of tomatoes and stir, then cook for about 5 minutes, or until hot.

So easy! And, when you think about it, this costs about the same amount of money as a can of Prego. (A jumbo can of whole tomatoes runs me about $2.25. A steal.)