An American Girl in Washington

The List

Posted in Book Learnin' by AGinDC on 30 December 2012

I’m constantly being asked for a list of my favorite movies, books, websites, etc. Not just the things I like, but the basics that, in my humble opinion, everyone should know. The TV shows that everyone is talking about, the books everyone has read, the websites that keep you updated. A lot of girls haven’t ever seen a James Bond flick, a lot of guys have never heard of McSweeney’s, a lot of people have never read Prelude to Foundation, and we’re all sadder for it.

I’ve lived all over the world and country and been in a million different situations and having an eclectic knowledge of history and pop culture has saved me on countless occasions. I’ve connected with major funders over a shared love of Anne Rice, I’ve had long nights with strangers over wine in hostels waxing lyrical about Trouble with Tribbles (the first and greatest Star Trek episode ever), and the lessons I’ve learned from Madame Clicquot, Richard Branson and Jackie Kennedy have helped make me the person I am, and hope to be.

There is so much to learn from great stories: leadership lessons from Captain Sisko, inspiration on a long day from K’NAAN, healthy eating motivation on Grist.com, and it’s easier to connect when you have at least some of the same baseline knowledge as others. I’m a culture whore, I love watching, reading, and absorbing absolutely everything. The value of liberal and eclectic knowledge cannot be overstated. So here is a short list of stuff I think everyone should know.

STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW

(This is a short list. I’ll keep updating it as I think of other things. For more, email me. If I’m missing something awesome, email me. kat@katcalvin.com)

Books

Websites

TV/Movies/Web Series

  • Star Trek (Original, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine)
  • Star Wars (all six)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Doctor Who
  • Firefly
  • West Wing
  • The Wire
  • Boondocks
  • Jeeves & Wooster
  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Community
  • Top Gear (The U.K. version, NOT the U.S. version of crappiness)
  • Avengers series (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Avengers. Watch the Hulk but it sucks)
  • Every Batman movie ever, for historical reference
  • Cleopatra
  • Indiana Jones Series
  • Matrix (including Animatrix)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Angel
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • James Bond Films
  • Planet Earth
  • All Tarantino films
  • Lord of the Rings series
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Harry Potter
  • Casablanca
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Carmen Jones
  • Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Music/Podcasts/Listening (I mostly focused on stuff not everyone listens too, Top 40 would have been too obvious.)

  • NPR (especially A Prairie Home Companion,  Car Talk, the Kojo Nnamdi show if you’re in DC)
  • Nerdist podcast
  • Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast
  • Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin podcast
  • Star Talk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson podcast
  • Sam Sparro (song- Black & Gold)
  • K’Naan (song- The Seed)
  • John Hiatt (song- Blues Can’t Even Find Me)
  • Dave Matthews Band (album- Away From The World)
  • Sia (album- Lady Croissant)
  • The Black Keys (album- Brothers)
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet (song- The Blossom of Parting)
  • Florence + The Machine (EVERYTHING)
  • Jack White (album- Blunderbuss)

Magazines

  • Wired
  • Fast Company
  • Vogue
  • Town & Country
  • Fortune
  • Time
  • W
  • Popular Science
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My AMAZING Veggie Ratatouille

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 22 December 2012

I am having so much fun with this pseudo-Vegan thing (that’s what I’m calling it since I’m not giving up eggs or honey or wearing leather and cashmere). I keep making the yummiest foods and finding out that my favorite restaurants make amazing meals that I never thought about. They even had pizza, which I LOVE, at my contracting gig and I didn’t even want it. I had an apple instead.

One of the things that got me really excited about my winter experiment was this article about veggie Ratatouille. It looked so amazing that I could not wait to try it. I really wanted to do it with butternut squash and luckily this week’s box from Washington’s Green Grocer had some! So today was the day. I combined the recipes from Oh She Glows and the NY Times and added some food of my own and here it is!

The AGinDC Veggie Ratatouille of Yumminess

1 Butternut Squash
1 Zucchini
1/2 Eggplant
1/2 Sweet Yellow Onion
1 Tomato
2 Turnips
2 Minced Cloves of Garlic
1/2 Cup Veggie Broth
EVOO
Handful of Fresh Green Beans
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
Fresh Basil and Thyme
Salt + Pepper
(Ingredient amounts are not exact. Do what feels good.)
 

1. Preheat oven to 375. Use these excellent instructions to figure out how to cut a butternut squash. Roast them in the oven with a couple of tablespoons of oil for as long as it takes for them to get tender. The NY Times said 25 minutes. They lied. It takes more like 40. Then again, I have a really cheap oven… so just keep checking.

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2. While the squash is cooking , cut up all of the other veggies. Prepare a super big skillet.

3. When the squash is done, or almost done, throw the onions, garlic and enough EVOO to lightly cover the bottom of the pan on mediumish heat.

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4. Once the onions and stuff have cooked a bit (5-8 minutes), add the zucchini, eggplant, and turnips. Let cook for 5-8 minutes (until they look almost done).

5. Add the squash. Cook for a few minutes.

6. Add the peppers and green beans. Cook for a few more minutes. (See what I’m doing here? No matter what veggies you add, just be sure you add them in order of how long they take to cook).

7. Add the basil, thyme, salt, pepper. Cook some more.

8. Add the tomatoes and broth. Let simmer.

9. Eat!

You can eat this alone or with a baguette (garlic or not), quinoa, couscous, brown rice, potatoes, or whatever else. It’s crazy delicious.

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Yum!

Veggie Box!

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 20 December 2012

My new box from Washington’s Green Grocer came in today! I got lots of butternut squash for the yummy veggie Ratatouille that I’ll be making this weekend and lots of kale for super healthy juice. Also apples, of course, grapefruits, which I’m thrilled about, and potatoes, which are going to keep me fat, even on a vegan diet. WGG also has just about every kind of food to buy so I ordered some eggs from a local farm as well. After reading about layers in factory farms in Eating Animals, I’ll never buy eggs from a grocery store again. And fresh eggs taste so different, I can’t wait to have one! It’s been two weeks and I still haven’t wanted meat or dairy, so that’s exciting. I don’t know how long I’ll go before I start going into withdrawal but getting all of these yummy veggies delivered to my doorstep certainly helps! =)

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You Can’t Beat Cray

Posted in All about moi by AGinDC on 20 December 2012

I have always been obsessed with having balls. Not the rubber kind that you play with outside, but cajones. I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe being a girl who got picked on a lot. Maybe always being the only black kid in class. Who knows. But for whatever reason, I have always needed to be just as tough, just as strong, just as able to eat anything, drink anything, do anything as everyone else. And I HATE being bested.

Okay fine, so maybe I’m just competitive. A little bit. That could be it.

This need to have the biggest balls in the room has led to some awesome things, but has also led to a serious reluctance to ever give in, when I’m wrong, yes, but ESPECIALLY when I’m right. No Buddhist am I. No great compromisers here. I’m right. You’re wrong. Get down on your knees and admit it and then I WILL CRUSH YOU. These are my fantasies.

Unfortunately, being an adult and being a professional means letting things go. It means sometimes letting people get away with being idiots, liars, or just wrong and not pointing it out. It means biting your tongue. And it means sometimes doing things that you don’t want to do because it will just make the problem go away.

But it’s soooo painful.

So now I’m at this point where I occasionally do things that may get a little press and attention. Which means I’m also at the point where I’m starting to attract negative attention as well. Especially from people I am trying to help. I was recently hit with one of the most laughable legal threats in history, and my first instinct was to pull out “lawyer me” and go balls out with my Olivia Pope-style revengy-ness. I wanted to crush this person until they couldn’t be crushed any more.

But then, reasonable me, who as suddenly popped out of the same hole that NPR-listening me and vegan me crawled out of (that whole being “I-just-turned-29-and-have-one-year-to-turn-my-life-around-before-I-die-and-slash-or-turn-30”) stopped me and made me rethink some things.

And here’s what I realized:  People are cray. Not crazy. C-R-A-Y. Cray.

The whole world is populated by a lot of Fox News watching, Croc wearing, self-esteem lacking, insane clown posse pre-adolescent adults who don’t know their arse from their pigtails and have no idea how to get along in the real world. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing. Cray people are going to be cray. Corrupt people are going to be corrupt. Assholes are damned well going to be assholes. And no matter what I do, how much I fight, or how much I may think I’m just standing up for myself, these people will remain cray. It’s like giving a zombie a glass of milk and thinking they’ll be okay in the morning. Nope. Still zombie.

So, in light of this, I’ve come to realize that acquiescing isn’t me being weak. It’s me having a life. It’s me saying “Alright cray. Put down the baseball bag, take your pills, and I’ll just do what you want and back away slowly”. Because you can’t beat cray. All you can do when you’re in a room with the cray is creep towards the door and get the hell out of there. They aren’t going to change. So you have to.

This realization has made my life so much easier. I no longer feel the need to be RIGHT. I just feel the need to live my life. And since the cray keeps coming, I need to get used to giving up the fight.

AGinDC

All The Small Things

Posted in Uncategorized by AGinDC on 16 December 2012

I know I’m not supposed to be drinking alcohol this month but today I had to break into my favorite wine. it’s vegan, so I wasn’t technically breaking any rules. I’ve been under a dark cloud and I haven’t been able to figure out why. I didn’t figure it out until I was trying to keep it together at a Christmas party that didn’t meet expectations (nothing ever does. Probably my fault for keeping expectations so high). I glanced at a television and CNN was on, talking about the 27-year-old teacher who died protecting her first graders in Newtown. And then I realized. I don’t usually get emotional about national tragedies. I’m extremely cynical and pretty stoic most of the time and I hate it when people get worked up over things that have nothing to do with them. It seems self-indulgent and desperate, a selfish cry for attention at exactly the wrong moment.

But for some reason this really affected me. And then I realized, I’d spent the last 36 hours imagining that that was my old first grade classroom. Without knowing it, I’d recreated the room in my head and had worked out every scenario for how I would have protected my students. How I would have barricaded the door, where I would have hidden the children, how I might have gotten them out of the tiny cracks in the window. I’ve imagined what I would have said to them, what story I would have read, what might have been going through their heads. And I watched every one of them die, over and over again. I even dreamt about it. I was only 21 when I started teaching, I didn’t know what I was doing and I wouldn’t have had any idea what to do in that situation. Subconsciously, the tragedy at Sandy Hook took me back there and I sank into a depression without even realizing it. Here I am, crying again as I type. This is ridiculous.

Columbine happened when I was in high school. I was a sophomore or junior, I don’t remember which. But I do remember when it happened. It hit so close to home. I went to a white, upper-middle class high school in the suburbs of a very wealthy state. The school treated those of us in sports, in the arts, in Leadership (Yes, we had a class called “Leadership”. We planned dances and pep rallies.) like demi-gods. We could be late to any class, go where we wanted. Got balloons delivered to celebrate game day, opening night, a choir concert. Everyone either had money or pretended to. We all wore khakis and Doc Martens (It was the Pacific Northwest. In the 90’s.). As one of the very, very few black students in a very large school, I knew what it was like to be marginalized, but I made up for it by being overly-involved, overly-intelligent, overly-eager to please. But I also saw all of the kids from the parts of town nobody noticed, who were ignored, teased, and forgotten. After Columbine, I realized that it would be shocking if there wasn’t a shooting at my school. We were so ripe for it. I wasn’t so worried about me, I knew I was leaving soon (I must have been a junior) and I guess I felt as invincible as most 16-year-olds. But my brother was starting high school the next year, and I was terrified that he might fall victim to a massacre.

I knew I had to do something to keep him safe and the only thing I could think of was to make use of a school tradition, the Prides of March. We always spent March celebrating the pillars of the school, arts, academics, athletics, probably something else that starts with an “A”. Now that I’m older, I get the irony of celebrating the supposed great achievements of our school on such an infamous occasion but back then I guess we thought it was cool. Or something. I knew the month would be spent celebrating the same 40 kids in our school of over 2,000, the kids who were worshipped and whose letter jackets were already overflowing (mine even had custom-made images on it, a luxury that my single mother couldn’t afford but had made happen so I wouldn’t be left out). I thought that maybe, if I could do something to recognize everyone else, maybe I could prevent a shooting for at least a couple of years.

I told my teacher that I wanted to recognize all 2,000 students in the school for something they were good at. He laughed and said I could use the resources but that I didn’t realize how hard that would be. He told me not to be disappointed when I gave up halfway through the month.

I couldn’t recruit any volunteers except my best friend, Rachel. I was 25 before I realized what a good friend she’d been. We got a list of every student and set out trying to find a way to send balloons and a note to every one of them before the month was out. We drew a giant ram’s head (guess what our school mascot was) on the lunchroom wall and decided to post the name of each student as we recognized them. We started with the easy ones. Every sport, choir, theatre, our friends. Then we asked around and got a few more. Every day we wrote notes and names and blew up balloons and sent them around the school. The first 1,000 weren’t so hard. But then we had two weeks left and half the school to go. The half no one knew.

We sent letters to the teachers. Here is a list of your students, can you tell us something that each one is good at? Slowly, the notes came back. “Ryan is a beautiful artist”. “Mike is great at skateboarding”. “Jillian is a real leader in JROTC”. We started delivering balloons and notes to kids who had never received one before. We added their names to the wall. And finally, after a mad rush on March 29th, we finished. Every single student in the school had been recognized.

I never knew if this made a difference. I doubt it. It was a small thing, like spitting into a hurricane. But in a moment so huge, when everything seemed so out of control and I felt like I had to do something, anything, just to keep my brother safe, this was the most I could do.

Much of the anger and pain after Sandy Hook stems from the frustration that no matter how much we might want to hug a parent, comfort a child, or change the gun laws in America, we can’t. We can’t all storm down to Newtown offering free hugs and hot cocoa. We can’t bring back a little girl who is gone too soon. And we certainly can’t convince our nation’s leaders that maybe now, finally, we should do something about guns and mental health in America. All we can do is watch, and wait, and cry. And maybe, like the Prides of March, we can find the little things that just might make a difference.

Salad for Lunch

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 13 December 2012

Today I made a delicious salad for lunch. I had such a giant box full of veggies, I figured a salad would be awesome. I cut up lettuce, carrots, celery, apples, red peppers, and clementines, threw in sunflower seeds and made my own lemon vinaigrette. It was sooo good, and there’s definitely enough for dinner.

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Fruits and veggies for my salad.

It’s weird how much my eating changed after a job where I traveled all but three days a month. I ate out. Every. Single. Day. The closest I got to a home cooked meal was ordering room service. When I came home, I was still stuck in that pattern and my lack of food in the house became a running joke among my friends. The closest I got to cooking was putting a chicken breast in my George Foreman grill (although even that was too much effort most of the time), scrambling a few eggs, or throwing a Lean Cuisine in the microwave and pairing it with some broccoli and an apple. But most of the time, I would wait forever to eat, argue with myself about what two or three local restaurants to grab a meal from, and trudge out for something fast. When you think about it, it’s pretty sad.

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My salad!

But now I’m actually spending time in the kitchen. I’m thinking about food but not in a “Crap I have to eat something, what is it going to be?” way but in a “Yaay! I get to cook. What shall I make? I’ll look up food on Pinterest!” way. I’m eating delicious, healthy food, and I’m happy about it. And I just looked back in my food journal, it’s only been a week (and I know I’m in the veggie honeymoon period), but it’s been a whole week and I haven’t wanted meat yet. So that’s exciting.

I also just started reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s supposed to be good and he’s a great writer so I’m looking forward to it.

That’s all. Tomorrow I’m making turnip chips! Woohoo!

AGinDC

Everything Should Be Delivered

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 13 December 2012

If you’ve met me, you know I believe strongly in the principles of delivery and 24 hour service. And especially 24 hour delivery. It’s the only reason I wish I lived in New York. So obviously, grocery delivery and I are bffs (or at least, we were until I struck out on my own and no longer had an income of any kind, particularly of the disposable variety). So when I discovered Washington’s Green Grocer, it was the best thing ever. Every other week (the boxes are HUGE and I’m single so I don’t need one every week) I got a box of amazingly yummy fruits and vegetables from small, local farms selected by Zeke and his staff (amaaazing customer service, btdubs). In addition to my favorites I got all sorts of new veggies brought to me that I learned to cook and love. I was eating well, with a diverse group of veggies, and it was amazing.

Sadly, I took a job that required insane amounts of travel and I had to cancel WGG. But with my Winter Experiment starting I decided to start it up again! What better way to stick to a no meat, no dairy, no alcohol winter but with an amazing selection of yummy veggies being delivered to my door? And for only #32.50 for a box big enough to last almost two weeks, it’s also a lot cheaper than shopping for dirty veggies at my local Not So Safeway.

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So today my box arrived. It was full of celery, yukon gold potatoes, purple top turnips, fresh broccoli, red bartlett pears, bananas, fuji apples, red peppers, clementines and green leaf lettuce. It was supposed to come with portobello mushrooms and a cantaloupe too but mushrooms are vile and I only like melon in the summer so I switched for double broccoli and double apples, which I could eat every day.

The timing is perfect, I ran out of my detox salad last night, and since WGG’s awesome website shows you exactly what you’re getting that week, allows you to make substitutions, and even suggests yummy recipes to go with each vegetable (and many more), I sat down and planned out my meals with the veggies I knew were coming. So, I’m making turnip chips (in the microwave!), I’m having lots of lightly sautéed broccoli and brown rice, and I’m making some yummy salads.

Who knew eating veggies could be this much fun? Oh, I might have forgotten to share my new healthy eating pinterest board so here it is!

Happy (and healthy) eating!

AGinDC

A Yummy Detox Salad

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 11 December 2012

To help me out with my winter experiment, one of my friends directed me to Oh She Glows , a super delicious vegan/veg website with lots of recipes that I can’t wait to try. The beautiful photography doesn’t hurt either!

Today, I made a detox salad which tastes great, even if it is a little chewy (lots of carrots, apples, and raisins). I included brussels sprouts, it was the first time I have ever tried them so I chopped them up really really small. I also included grated ginger root (I love ginger and just discovered that ginger root is a thing a few days ago. My new favorite tea is ginger root and lemon in hot water.) and I forgot the celery and decided to skip the maple syrup, but it still came out delicious! And surprisingly filling.

detox salad

 

If you want the recipe, go HERE.

It’s only been three days so I have no reviews of this process, except to say thank god for Chipotle. I don’t know how people eat healthy on the go without them. Especially now that it’s chilly out and I really don’t want salad when I’m outside. Also, little known fact: guac is free when you get a veggie burrito! I’ve been eating burritos (I figure I can have the extra cals in the tortilla since I’m skipping the unhealthy stuff) with brown rice, black beans, fajita veg, pico de gallo, lettuce and guac. It’s actually pretty good!

No idea what I’m making next, but try the salad!

=)

AGinDC

 

 

My Winter Experiment

Posted in All about moi by AGinDC on 9 December 2012

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with my weight for the last eight years. Ever since I woke up one morning shortly after my 21st birthday and split my favorite pants I have been fighting trying to lose the phantom baby that just won’t go away. I’m lucky that the weight isn’t extreme and that I’m still healthy and active, but being healthy and active and unable to shed even a single pound is a source of frustration in itself.

After eight years of exercise, personal trainers, diets, nutritionists, tears, self-hate and lots of Tracey Anderson, I finally decided to try something new and something old. I used to run all of the time in high school and I stopped at some point in college when I became a coxswain on the crew team and my shin splints became too painful. Since then I’ve done just about everything else and I walk 2-4 miles a day but I’ve stayed away from running. But it’s winter, my favorite time to run, and I spend all of my time in my basement working, which discourages me from working out indoors like I normally do, so I’m starting Couch 2 5k and I’m going to start running again. I joined Black Girls Run, found a running buddy, and am actually going to force myself to stop working long enough to get outside.

As for the new, I’ve been saying for years that I wish I had the self-control to be a vegetarian, and I’ve been denying my obvious lactose intolerance for about as long. So, for the next two months I’m going to give up meat, dairy and alcohol (sigh) and see what happens. I know I shouldn’t be eating meat, I know I will live a happier, longer, healthier and hopefully thinner life without it, and I know that obviously dairy and liquor are the devil after age 23 (for me at least). So, I’m giving it up for eight weeks and I’m gong to try my hand at eating the stuff I actually should be eating, like lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and water and tea.

This seemed a daunting task at first, but I’ve been doing lots of research, talking to my vegan and vegetarian friends (the good thing about being liberal and over-educated is that you always have a lot of vegan and vegetarian friends) and looking up delicious meals and I’m actually starting to get excited. i actually really really like vegetables (I could eat lima beans and avocados every day and be perfectly happy) and I eat the same thing over and over, even when I go out, so it’s kind of exciting to think about doing something different. I also haven’t cooked anything more challenging than scrambled eggs or popcorn in a while and it will be nice to give it a shot again. I even signed up for Washington’s Green Grocer again. It’s such a great deal. For $32.50 I get a box of fresh fruits and vegetables from small farms that lasts me for about two weeks. It’s way cheaper than eating out or even going to the grocery store and I get a new variety of veggies to try. I’m super excited actually.

So, we’ll see. I’m excited about this. Even if I don’t lose weight (at which point I may just jump off a bridge) at least I know I’ll be happier, healthier, have more energy, and hopefully after eight weeks it will stick and I can move forward only eating meat, dairy or alcohol on super special occasions. Or when I’m at my mom’s house.

Wish me luck!

AGinDC

 

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