Meet Argentina

Don't let the cuteness fool you: he is nothing but trouble

Don't let the cuteness fool you: he is nothing but trouble

This little bundle of trouble will probably crop up occasionally on the blog, so I thought I’d go ahead and get introductions out of the way.  Argentina, Internet.  Internet, Argentina.  Argentina is lazy, aloof, and absolutely adorable: in other words, a cat.  I’m slowly training him to be a lap cat, but for right now the corner of my desk is about as close as we can get.

Can you tell he belongs to a grad student?

Can you tell he belongs to a grad student?

Wanna know why his name is Argentina?  Well, see, Argentina loves the great outdoors.  This is his favorite hobby:

Also known in some circles as "fluffbutt"

Also known in some circles as "fluffbutt"

Argentina loves the great outdoors.  Loves. It. Wants to be a part of it so badly that he’ll sit at the windows for hours and chatter with the birds.  Sometimes the urge to go outside is so consuming that he will sit by the door and howl unconsolably.  This prompts a rousing rendition of “Don’t Cry For Me…”, hence the name.  I guess that makes me Eva Peron.  Or Madonna, but I think I prefer Eva.

Since he is quite insistent on his desire to explore the Great Outdoors, and I am equally insistent that the Great Outdoors in Baltimore is nothing more than a back alley with rats bigger than him (and he ain’t small), we’ve had to compromise.

Crazy Cat Lady? Oh Yeah. I'm there.

Crazy Cat Lady? Oh Yeah. I'm there.

I think he’s happy.  I’m happy. The neighbors get a good laugh.  What more can you ask for?

I wish I had this life.

I wish I had this life.

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Summer Picnic in the Rain

Last night was a great night.  I actually left the house and went downtown on a day other than Friday or Saturday!   My housemates and I packed a gourmet picnic and headed downtown to the Inner Harbor for a free showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The setup is pretty sweet: the movie is projected on a giant screen behind the American Visionary Arts Museum, which butts up against Federal Hill.  It’s like a giant ampitheatre, with people sitting all the way up the slope (which is pretty steep–we kept sliding off our blankets, and eating was quite an adventure).  The movie was just as good as I remembered from my childhood, and the rainstorm that passed through almost as soon as we unpacked our picnic didn’t dampen our spirits–just everything else!  We opted to stick it out, and were glad we did; the rain passed fairly quickly and the show got underway only a couple of minutes late.  We didn’t even notice we were wet–it was a warm night, and wine has a tendancy to warm you up.

One of the challenges of the evening was to have a completely free, yet entertaining and enjoyable evening.  The movie was free (of course) and the museum was actually open and admission was waived for a few hours before the movie started.  We packed a picnic to ensure that we didn’t have to buy dinner, but the challenging part was to make good food using exclusively things we already had in our kitchen.  I had to improvise a bit, but everything turned out really well, considering the constraints.  The menu?

Curried Chicken Salad

Curried Chicken Salad

Orzo salad with pesto, mushrooms, and tomatoes

Orzo salad with pesto, mushrooms, and tomatoes

Berry Tart

Berry Tart

Everything was delicious, if I do say so myself.  I made the chicken salad with poached chicken breasts, nonfat yogurt, a couple of ribs of celery, and some curry and tumeric powders.  I also threw in some frozen peas for good measure–I don’t know what made me do it, but I’m sure glad I did!  For the vegetarians in the crowd, I made some orzo, which I mixed with a pesto (basil from my very own herb garden!) and some chopped tomatoes and mushrooms.  Finally, the crowning glory of the evening (as evidenced by the fact that that’s the only thing that didn’t have any leftovers to bring home…) was the berry tart.  It’s essentially lemon bars, only I didn’t have any lemons but I did have some strawberries and blueberries that needed to be used before they went bad.  The crust is a double batch of shortbread–I figured for a picnic it needed to be substantial enough that one could pick it up and eat it without worrying about getting blueberries all over one’s shirt.  De-lish.  I would definitely recommend the cheap-o gourmet picnic + campy movie + summer thunderstorm as a winning combination!

Finally, I will leave you with a parting shot of sunset at the Harbor: it almost makes me think Baltimore actually does deserve it’s comical “Charm City” monniker.

I really do love this city!

I really do love this city!

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Staycation

A few years ago, I had an internship at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot. I also spent many a lunch hour out on the Mall amongst the tourists and the monuments. But eventually, my lunch became more interesting than the memorials, and the tourists with cameras were more annoying than the pigeons. It’s a shame, really, because they (the monuments, not the pigeons) really are pretty cool. I know it would be more interesting to have pictures of a trip to Australia or Bermuda, but in case you haven’t picked up a newspaper lately, we’re in the middle of a recession. So I opted for a “staycation” this year. I took the day off work yesterday, grabbed my camera and my socks to wear under my sandals, and rode the train into DC for a touristy diversion.

In the interests of being as touristy as possible, I started with the Mall. We have the Washington Monument:

This isn’t the original Washington Monument, you know. There’s one in Baltimore—not quite as tall, but designed by the same architect—that was erected several decades earlier than this one. You may be able to see a line in the picture where the color of the blocks changes; that’s where construction was stopped for about thirty years during the turmoil of the Civil War and ensuing national financial woes.

Then we have the War memorials: first, World War II and then Vietnam.

Both are beautiful monuments, but I dislike the World War II memorial, because it seems like it’s more of a celebration of victory than a reminder of the tragedies that wars cause. There’s something about walking along an endless wall of thousands of names, each name attached to a family that suffered a loss because of a war. It is both simple and profound—there’s no sound of water to drown out your thoughts, no quotes to read that suggest the necessity for the destruction of war, no statues that celebrate the involvement of troops from all states and on two fronts. Just a list of names, your thoughts, and glimpses of your somber reflection juxtaposed against all those names, begging you to never let something like this happen again. Revisiting the memorials through the eyes of a tourist helped me remember that.

Now, on to happier thoughts, shall we? How about…Dinosaurs!

Or Flowers!

These orchids are from the Botanical Gardens, a new find for me. It’s right next to the Capitol Building, and has plants from many different climates from all over the world. If flowers (or ecological imperialism) are your thing, you should totally check it out.

And finally, Art!

Can you guess what this is? It’s one of my favorites, tucked into a back corner of the National Gallery of Art. Here’s another hint:

Give up?

It’s Seascape at Port-en-Bassin, Normandy, and, like Seurat’s more famous A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte, is an example of pointillism, which I find fascinating. It makes me want to pick up a paintbrush and start experimenting. Maybe I, too, will define an iconic artistic movement. Or not. Baby steps, people.

That wraps up my whirlwind tourist experience. There’s only so much you can cram into one day.  Twelve hours wandering around the Mall with a camera around my neck left me feeling more cultured. And more sunburnt. If I were truly a granny, I would have remembered the sunscreen, right? Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

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