An American Girl in Washington

Book Review: The Prestige

Posted in Uncategorized by AGinDC on 10 May 2013

Image I read a lot. Obviously. Most of us do. I read a lot of everything, although in the last few years it’s mostly been business/enterpreneurship books and sci-fi. When I first read Isaac Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation (left in a cafe in a random small town in Cambodia) my life CHANGED. I read the entire Foundation series. I read the Second Foundation twice. I memorized the laws of Robotics. I was hooked. It was like nothing I had ever read before. Then came The City and The City by China Mieville and I fell in love. I am currently making my way through Mieville’s entire works. And then I will profess my love to him and propose marriage. Or at least that he keeps writing. HE IS AMAZING. For may reasons, but mostly because he writes like no one has ever written. The stories are different. The plots are different. The characters, the planets, the mystical elements, everything is different. And amazing. And mind blowing. It’s incredible.

So I’m always on the lookout for another mind-bending literary experience. Enter: The Prestige. I saw the previews for the film and wasn’t that interested. Hugh Jackman is way cuter as Wolverine. I knew there was a book but I really hate magic tricks (I wanted to punch the lights out of Penn and Teller when I saw them in Vegas) so I had no inclination at all to read it. But then, somewhere and somehow, I heard about how good it was and, because I am overworked and underpaid and needed a good book to read, I Amazon Marketplaced it (yes, that’s a verb) for 99 cents plus shipping and started reading.

And I couldn’t stop. Because this book is UN-BE-LIEVABLE. Seriously. It’s incredible. The subtlety of the story, the portrayal of the characters. The tension of the relationship. The way the story slips seamlessly from natural to supernatural before you even notice it. The ending. This book is EXTRAORDINARY. So incredible that as soon as I finished I lent it to my roommate and bought another Priest book, The Islanders, from my phone where I was standing. It was that good.

So obviously. I highly recommend it. Read the book. Read all of his books. And then read China Mieville too. Make your brain happy.


kat’s Ginger Stir Fry

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 17 March 2013

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Just made a super yummy stir fry dish. Highly recommended.








Ginger Stir Fry

2 fresh stalks of broccoli

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 orange bell pepper

1 cup diced tomatoes

1tbsp fresh chopped/grated ginger

1/4 yellow onion

2 cloves garlic

brown rice

coconut oil




soy sauce

Chop and sautee the broccoli in coconut oil. Add the chopped bell peppers and onion. Cook until as soft as you want them to be (the crunchier they are and less they’re cooked the better they are for you). Add the ginger and garlic. Toss in a little EVOO. Dash salt and pepper. Add tomatoes. Add soy sauce. Mix and cook. Add rice. Mix and cook a little more. Eat.Make the rice. Minute Rice is best.




A Yummy Dessert

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 17 January 2013

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In my quest for healthy vegan sweets today I came up with something that is neither wholly vegan nor completely healthy. And well, I didn’t come up with it today, but I usually make it for an ice cream topping and with mounds of sugar and now I’m making it with agave nectar.





Apple Walnut Nutmeg Yumminess

1 apple

1 pear

handful of walnuts

a LOT of butter



vanilla extract

agave nectar


Melt the butter in a skillet on med-high. Chop up the apples and pears. Throw them in the skillet. Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon. Throw in the walnuts. Pour in vanilla and agave to taste. Cook until it’s the texture you want. Eat and enjoy. Best with wine or hot tea or bourbon or scotch.




Cold Turkey

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 13 January 2013

I have recently made the unfortunate discovery that just because you go vegan doesn’t mean you’re always going to eat healthy. Giving up meat hasn’t been difficult at all. Giving up dairy is a little painful (cheese and ice cream!!!) but isn’t impossible. But the two things I can’t give up, and that, in fact, I doubled down on when I had to give up everything else, are fried potatoes and chips and guac. They’re my favorites, I can make them at home with little effort and all natural ingredients, and yet they’re still terrible for me. Especially the fried potatoes. The problem is, it’s hard enough giving up all of the stuff that isn’t vegan, but now I have to give up all of the stuff that is too! But there’s simply no use in eating well and doing Bikram and making sacrifices if I’m not going to cut out everything else that’s bad for me.

So, after I came to this horrifying realization, I spent the weekend frying and eating every potato I had, I made a big bowl of guac and ate it with chips, and now I’m going cold turkey. I’ll have to find other things to replace the salty, oily goodness of my former friends. I’ll have to learn to like sweet potato fries and kale chips and… i don’t know, other snacks. Sigh. This is a whole re-education process. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Goodbye old friends! Some day I’ll see you again!


Book Review: Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck

Posted in Book Learnin' by AGinDC on 6 January 2013

hsglWhen Sandbox got a new board member, an email went around introducing him and talking about his new book, Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck: What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur and Build a Great Business. It sounded great, and I’m always looking for more books to help me figure out what the hell I’m doing, so I bought it. But I have a bookshelf absolutely teeming with books I haven’t read yet and Amazon Marketplace is the most dangerous place on Earth for me, so I just got to this particular tome last week.

HSGL is about the four traits that the authors have determined make up most entrepreneurs. They have a nifty test you take online to find out how much of each trait you have and the book follows the pretty standard business book format of talking about each in turn, giving examples from relevant research and popular business leaders, and closing with suggestions on how to use each skill as and when it’s optimal. If you’re curious, I am Heart and Guts dominant with very little in the Smarts or Luck department. This will surprise no one. I pretty much run on instinct and Chipotle.

The book wasn’t bad, I have lots of little tabs sticking out of it (yes, I’m a nerd) and I walked away with some good quotes. The best feature is the chapter summaries, any chapter that wasn’t holding my interest was quickly skipped in favor of the cliffs notes in the back. Below, I share some of my favorite tidbits.



*Before doing anything else… founders need to generate widespread energy and inspiration. Purpose should always come before company, product and profit, especially during a business’s early stages.

*Purpose is about thinking explicitly of how you can change the world for the better and create businesses with integrity, on a values-driven system.

*Nuance can transform a simple functional transaction into an emotional experience.

*For any entity that has its eye on large-scale success, perfecting the offering at the smallest level first before scaling is critical.

*Think big but be willing and open to starting small.

*Businesses that can create a soulful cultural movement among their employees are rare, yet those who can have a remarkable advantage they should celebrate and preserve.

*Write an annual CEO memo to the board to clarify the big picture, create a powerful mechanism for alignment between boards and CEOs, and find a point of focus for the year.

*You can learn a great deal about customers by finding out what they are doing three minutes immediately before and three minutes after they use your product or service.

*Constantly know and refresh the 25 people in this world who could take your business to the next level.

*Guts-driven entrepreneurs aren’t fearless; they just know how to cope with, and maybe even thrive in, uncomfortable environments.

*At the foundation of a lucky attitude is humility. Successful business-builders must be aware of their shortcomings. Humility and vulnerability humanize leaders, embracing their ability to embrace luck.

Bikram for the New Year

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 6 January 2013

I live down the street from Bikram Yoga Capital Hill and I’ve been walking past it daily for almost a year now. I keep meaning to try it and once even went so far as to walk in and talk to them, but I’ve never taken an actual class. However, now that I’m preparing to turn 30 in 10 months, I’m not only still working on the whole weight loss thing, but I’m also gunning for inner peace at full speed. I was going to start running again and started Couch 2 5k a few weeks ago when I suddenly remembered why I stopped in the first place. I have bad knees, ankles and shins and running on concrete is the worst thing for me. In addition, running is not generally a peaceful thing for me. I blast my iPhone with punk rock or really bad girly pop or, if I’m angry and hate the world, Jay-Z, and my brain runs at full speed and it’s just not a process that leads me towards Nirvana. And then there’s the fact that I almost never stretch and running has never once, in my life, led me to lose a single pound, so it’s really just all bad, all the time.

Enter: yoga. I’ve tried yoga a few times. I never really make it through. It seems boring and painful for no reason. I get that a lot of people really love yoga and find inner peace and all and that’s great. But I’m more of a high-impact, super competitive, no-pain-no-gain kind of girl and yoga just makes me want to die of pointlessness. But, there’s a lot about it that seems useful, and I’ve been wanting to find a way to like it. Which is why I tried Bikram. The whole hot yoga thing sounded promising, since sweat is obviously good for you in more ways than I probably know of and I figured it was worth a shot. I thought it would be like normal yoga in a sauna so going in I prepared myself for lots of meditating and downward facing dog and awkward stretchiness. Wrong!

It turns out, Bikram is like the Nascar version of yoga. It’s really hot, the moves don’t last more than 30 seconds or so each, you’re constantly moving, and the instructor talks faster than I do, which is quite an accomplishment. In fact, if the role of yoga dominatrix doesn’t work out for today’s instructor, Kendra, she has a promising career as a Southern auctioneer.

Bikram is incredibly painful and really really sweaty and it’s possibly the least cute that I have ever looked, which is saying something. But it is also really athletic, which was exactly what I was looking for, it’s incredibly challenging and the competitor in me loved that I could compare myself to everyone else, wonder “How do they do that?” and then push myself a little harder. By the end I was both glaring at Kendra, who I began to regard as an evil apparition sent down to torture me, but I was also really glad that I was there and couldn’t wait to come back again. So, for now, I’ll stick with it. But just twice a week I think. I don’t think I can handle much more than that.

photo (3)After what felt like a long walk home, I made a kale banana smoothie (I’m in for the day) and drank it while I made a red potato version of my new ratatouille standard. I’m desperate to find a healthy way to eat potatoes since they are quickly becoming a staple of my diet and I would like to refrain from frying them. So I made them with broccoli, green beans, red pepper, onion, garlic, carrots, rosemary, thyme, cumin, salt, pepper and veggie broth. Yum. I’m going to listen to Prairie Home Companion and recover the feeling in my legs and then chow down. One thing’s for sure, I’m way too tired to get much work done.



Spicy Breakfast Banana Smoothie

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 4 January 2013

Once I decided to do this whole vegan thing it became pretty clear pretty fast that smoothies and puddings would become a big part of my diet. So, I broke down and bought a blender (this one):


and started making smoothies. I don’t think I wrote about my kale smoothie attempt. It was delicious (kale, banana, coconut milk, almond milk, ice) but raw kale should only be eaten when you are single and in for the night. And even then, I was kind of torturing myself.

So, last night I decided to make a smoothie I could drink for breakfast. Now that I’m doing this temporary doc review project, gone are the days of my Cleopatra-like late mornings followed by television followed by a long, leisurely brunch. Now it’s Kashi bars, breakfast burritos from District Taco, or nothing. So I made a smoothie that was actually pretty delicious, and that survived the night in a bottle and made it to this morning. I do need to go out and get like, protein powder or flax seeds or one of those other things that you’re supposed to add to smoothies to make them more filling and better for you. Anyways, here it is. No measurements of course. And no pictures b/c it looks a little brownish and weird in my glass bottle and I don’t want to scare you away from trying it.

Spicy Breakfast Banana Smoothie

2 Bananas
1ish cups each of coconut and almond milk (or 2ish cups of the combo)
Large dash of nutmeg
Large dash of cinnamon
Handful of walnuts




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This Week’s Washington Green Grocer Box

Posted in AG Goes Veggie by AGinDC on 3 January 2013

I was going to get this box every other week but I’m eating so many vegetables (yaay!) that I was almost out. So now I’m doing it every week, which is awesome because I’m getting a lot of fruits and veggies for $32 a week. This week is a bit of a standards week. Lots of my favorites: avocado, potatoes, red peppers, bananas, apples, lettuce, etc. Yum!

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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, 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.


(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.



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)


  • Wired
  • Fast Company
  • Vogue
  • Town & Country
  • Fortune
  • Time
  • W
  • Popular Science

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
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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