the past few weeks, condensed

Somehow it is already almost September!  While I figure out how I feel about that, here are a few highlights from the last month(ish):

1 // J & I have been taking a ceramics class at the Art League, the same school where I studied watercolor this past spring.  It's been a good learning opportunity, given that neither of us had much experience with the wheel and were basically both starting from square one.  We usually picked up dinner before class and ate together at this pretty riverside park in Alexandria, which always made for a nice date/FHE night.  Plus it's an excuse for me to eat sweetgreen once a week, which is a terrible BUT DELICIOUS habit.

I had to miss a few classes because of the bar exam, but in my absence Jason apparently transformed into a ceramics master - he is definitely the more talented of the two of us!  I kind of think he's our teacher's favorite, too, which is cute.

2 // My adorable little sister got her mission call! (!!!!!!)  She will be serving in San Jose, Costa Rica, for 18 months and speaking Spanish.  (I am like 95% so thrilled for her and a solid 5% jealous, because I would have looooooved to have that experience.  I will always regret that the age change announcement came just a couple years too late for me but I am so so proud that she is volunteering for this amazing opportunity!)

Isn't she so cute?  She is going to charm that entire country and I cannot wait to get to hear all about it through her letters.  Hopefully we'll be able to take a quick trip back to Arizona for her farewell Sunday! and also take a trip to Costa Rica at the end of her 18 months to pick her up.  Totally valid reason to visit, right?

3 // With the bar over, I have a few projects keeping me busy, but I've also been spending a lot of time at our rooftop pool.  It's a little weird to actually have time to relax and read for pleasure without feeling stressed that I should be doing something else instead!

I also invited a few friends and their toddlers over for a swim date, which was so fun.  Babies in their learn-to-swim inflatable getups = the absolute cutest thing.

4 // Earlier this spring we picked up tickets to the Phantom of the Opera.  We have both seen Phantom a few times, but obviously it never gets old, and I was pretty excited to see it again (especially at the Kennedy Center!!! gah I love that place).  

^ Seriously the prettiest venue.

BUT YOU GUYS - I know this is sacrilege after having seen it literally on Broadway, but I'm pretty sure this production was my favorite variation of Phantom I have ever seen.  It was amaaaaazing.  From the (literally!) exploding chandelier to the incredible set design (magic stairs!!!) to the slight-but-significant departures from the traditional choreography/stage directions --- I am so glad we got to see it.  By far one of my favorite experiences this year so far.

5 //  This past weekend my friend Jourden hosted a pie party and we provided the venue.  It was the first night in two weeks that it wasn't a disgusting 95 degrees with 80% humidity at 7 pm, so we relaxed up on the roof with friends and enjoyed the good company and nice weather. Everyone brought a pie, and in keeping with the late summertime season, I decided to make a strawberry & peach concoction inspired by a few different recipes.  We picked up fresh fruit from a local farmers market, because open-air markets are one of my favorite things in the world.  (This farmers market happens to be next door to our favorite movie theater which means we also caught a matinee of the new Star Trek movie which was SO GOOD but that's for another blog post back to the pie--)

The filling included the following, lightly tossed together:
- about 2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
- about 3 1/2 cups sliced yellow peaches, skin on
- a little less than 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp cornstarch (you could substitute tapioca instead)
- dash of ground nutmeg
- juice of 1 small lemon, freshly-squeezed

Once scooped into the pie base, I drizzled a bit of floral honey over the filling before adding the lattice crust, and before cooking I brushed on a light egg white wash and sprinkled turbinado sugar on top.

A few notes & thoughts:
- Yellow peaches are generally better for pies because they have a more intense flavor compared to lighter, more fragrant white peaches - pick those with the bright yellow-orangy insides and more darkly-colored skins. With some fruit/dishes I'd remove the skins, but for peaches and for a pie, as long as they're not too fuzzy I like keeping them on.  (Plus, then you don't have to deal with the added step of boiling + peeling.)
- If I made it again, I would (1) add a little more nutmeg and/or cinnamon (it got a bit lost amid all of the fresh fruit flavor) and (2) slice the strawberries more thickly (they would've held up better in bigger pieces).
- I'm still just not 100% sold on any one crust recipe.  This one was from the always-lovely Barefoot Contessa, and like all of her recipes, it's tasty and simple.  It also holds up really well - using chilled shortening is a fantastic idea. (You can find the recipe online, or it's in a few of her popular cookbooks, like this one.)  However, it lacks flavor justtt a little bit for me.  I like a crust that is delicious on its own!  Thus, the quest for the absolute best #1 pie crust recipe continues.


The one nice thing about having to be in Roanoke for two days this week: my hotel room actually had a pretty view.  Virginia, you beauty.

The bar exam is [finally, finally] over.  It's weird not to wake up and immediately open those damn Barbri books to start reviewing mortgage priorities or local government immunity or secured transactions - but man, I'm glad to be done with it.  And even though today I still have that weird residual anxiety I sometimes get after big exams, it was so nice to have the time to leisurely walk around a grocery store today and meet a friend for lunch.  Freedom!

Thanks to everyone who sent me/us good luck texts/emails/messages this week! It's always such a comfort to know you have a whole group of friends & family supporting you when you walk into that testing room.

....and now I'm going to get back to cleaning out the refrigerator, because apparently my brain will need a few days before it can totally relax.  thanks a lot, bar exam. 

scenes from the fourth

Took a break from work & bar studies to have the best holiday weekend.

On Saturday morning we finally got a chance to bike down to Alexandria with friends for breakfast.  The weather was PERFECT and we left early enough that the Mt Vernon Trail wasn't too crowded with runners/cyclists.  We ate at this little place called Extra Perks (right by our art school, actually!) with cute little sidewalk seating.  I will never say no to a fresh mango smoothie and a bagel with lox.  Never.

After church on Sunday it was officially Fourth of July vacation time!  After two consecutive summers of doing the sit-all-day-on-the-Mall thing, which is so fun but quite a big production, we were ready for a change.  It was great to get out of the city into cooler weather and rolling hills and spend a day or two on the water with friends....

....even if it was a little bit rainy.

^How beautiful is this lakehouse?!  It was so fun to be there with so many good friends all in one place!

Before the storm rolled in we spent some time on the lake, which resulted in some pretty hilarious photo shoots I MEAN wakeboarding/wakesurfing/waterskiing sessions.

...but major props to my husband, who is actually really really good at waterskiing.  I had no idea! 

He also won the prize for "most hilarious wipeouts," which everyone knows is really the best award you can win.

Since we left the lake a little earlier than planned because of the rain, we still got back to DC in time for the fireworks! - which is great because Jason's fourth favorite thing, after (1) dogs (2) barbecue and (3) hiking to waterfalls is (4) fireworks. We arrived home right at 8:35, got on our bikes, headed to the Washington Monument, and stopped just outside the security entrance with a great view exactly 9 minutes before the show started.  It was way better than sitting all day in the rain/fighting through the crowds of tourists on the sidewalks.  (Though I have to say, the fireworks weren't quite as impressive this year, what with all the clouds/rain/etc.) Still cool though!

Bar studying is still the bane of my existence, but it's only so loathsome because this city is just so good in the summertime.  We're trying to spend every spare second outside, which includes lots of evening walks to the riverfront park near our apartment to read or have picnics in the grass.

At this point, I'm just dreaming of post-bar exam travels, free time, and getting a lot more sleep.  So close!

the great DC food tour // months 4-6

Welcome to the second installment of the Great DC Food Tour 2016! (prior installment here.)
Writing these posts makes me hungry.

Where we went: Montmartre
This pretty little French bistro is just down the street from Eastern Market, in our favorite part of town.  We went here on a Friday night to celebrate my birthday.  (Pardon the poorly-lit photos; I blame it on the inconveniently-placed streetlight out front of the restaurant.)  It's such a cute little place, and it was particularly fun for me to hear the owner chatter away in French to her bartender and sous chef.  I miss it.

What we ate:
We started with mussels! which was a new experience for Jason, and he liked them!  The server came out with the platter of moules mariniΓ¨res and it took me straight back to too many dinners of moules frites at the Grand Place in Brussels. soooo good! These were pretty tasty, especially paired with a warm demi-baguette, though next time I'll think we'll try the basquaise.  

For our entrΓ©es, Jason chose the hanger steak and I picked the caramelized scallops.  Sometimes I suffer from the curse of wishing I had ordered what the other person ordered, but you guys, THOSE SCALLOPS.  Not only were the green chickpeas super tasty, but the lemon-caper butter!! (anything with capers. anything with lemon. yummm) The whole thing was SO DELICIOUS.  Honestly, probably the best scallops I've ever had.

Where we went: BΓ‘nh MΓ¬ DC Sandwich

This little marketplace/deli selling traditional Vietnamese sandwiches is about a 15 minute drive from downtown, in an area of Falls Church that is full of ethnic eateries and markets.  (We also like Pho 75, which has a location right around the corner. yum.)  Though there is no seating or space to eat inside, everything is pretty inexpensive, and it's a great place to stop for a cheap, tasty, quick lunch.  Keep in mind that they bake their bread fresh on-site daily and run out on busy days - so don't wait until the last couple hours of the day.  There is also a minimum $10 purchase if you're using a credit card, which can be a bit tricky if you only want one $4.50 sandwich.  (They also have a buy 5 get 1 free deal, which obviously we did not need haha but would be good for a bigger family!)

What we ate: Jason found this place through the Washingtonian's Best Cheap Eats list.  We both ordered the grilled pork as a quick lunch one day and it was delish.  The bread was a good combination of crunchy-on-the-outside/chewy-on-the-inside, and the fillings were super fresh and flavorful.  Definitely coming back here to try the BBQ and grilled vegetable variety, and also to spend a little more time perusing the marketplace!

Where we went: 
Texas Jack's Barbecue
Can you tell that barbecue is a theme in this household.
For this meal we recruited some friends to join us and made a night of it, which was really fun.  The restaurant is in Arlington and it's a big, loud open space with thick wooden tables and live music.  We loved the space (though it was a bit loud on Saturday night; we'd probably request an outdoor table next time).

What we ate:
Brisket, obviously.  Is there any question?  Also: coleslaw, cornbread (of course), and we also tried the ribs and mac'n'cheese.  Though I'm not sure it quiiiiite compares to February's bbq discovery (we're still dying to go back), it was pretty good!  I hate when brisket is totally drowning in bbq sauce, but theirs was flavorful and tender and just right.  The coleslaw was a little more of a salad - big chunks of fresh vegetables, not a ton of mayonnaise, lots of cilantro - which was more my style and not quite Jason's favorite thing ever.  Still highly recommend this place though! It's hard to find complaints about a good, solid barbecue joint.

Full disclosure: we ended that night at Sugar Shack, because they have very recently become our absolutely all-time without a doubt hands-down favorite donut shop in the entire DMV area.  So if you're needing an idea of where to go for dessert tonight..... ;)  (They're allegedly opening up a Shaw location this fall, which will probably be our downfall. THAT SALTED CARAMEL THO.)

requisite summer update, because i can't keep up with everything

1 // We spent a hilarious, sunny Saturday at Six Flags with some good friends.  I hadn't been to a theme park since the Yale & Princeton LDSSAs planned a joint trip to Six Flags New Jersey my junior year of college.....years ago. (!! when did I get so old?!)  

It was a blast, and especially fun with these darling kiddos.

^cutest little family!

2 // We built a coffee table, because the one I wanted was a trillion dollars.  I think it turned out pretty good! ...especially considering that it was constructed on our tiny balcony, given our complete lack of garage/backyard/driveway space. hashtag city problems

Building a piece of furniture for our apartment was on Jason's bucket list for this year.  Check!

Our photo is even featured on the West Elm website, which is hilarious.

3 // Many, many, many hours of this.

Studying for the bar exam is.....really hard.  Not necessarily because the content is super difficult, and I luckily enough have never been one to get testing anxiety or anything, but it's just....tough to stay inside with these books all day when (a) law school is technically over and (b) there are so many fun things to do outside!  But it's okay.  Just a few more weeks.

^Passing the bar basically requires memorizing every single thing in all of these [huge] books.  That actually sounds like it would be kind of a funny joke....if it weren't totally true. #help

4 // We've been working out with our local November Project tribe, and I'm a little obsessed. They are completely worth all of the hype.  My favorite workouts are their 6:30 am meet-ups on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  It is loud and crowded and sweaty and hard and so much fun and so cool to work out at such an iconic location.

5 // I've been really trying hard to finish this stack of books that has been accumulating on my nightstand for about the past year or so.  At this point I'm about halfway through my reading goal this year, which is great, but do you ever feel like there will never be enough space on your bookshelves for all of the books you want to read?  The struggle is real.

My unexpected recent favorite is Cutting for Stone.  A friend (hi Jill!) loaned it to me years ago - not kidding. circa 2013 - and I kept putting off reading it because it just didn't seem very interesting?  But I'm about halfway through and I love it.  The writing is so, so beautiful.  It makes me want to go to Ethiopia for our bar trip this year.  So good.

6 // And finally, earlier this week we hosted a viewing party for the Tony Awards, which was Haylie's genius idea and actually kind of a quasi-viewing party because most people were only half-paying attention.  (Except for any time Hamilton was performing/winning an award, obviously. (still cannot believe we were lucky enough to get tickets & i get emotional just thinking about it))

This is the worst, most un-post-worthy photo ever, mostly featuring a messy countertop -- but I had this moment where I went into the kitchen to get more forks, turned around, and realized I felt SO HAPPY and I just had to take a picture because I wanted to remember that moment and that feeling for forever.  I'm not sure anything makes me happier than filling our apartment with good friends (new and old!) and good food (thank you, husband, for single-handedly making all of the pizzas), where everything is loud and bustling and chatty and I am just so grateful, again, that we live in this amazing city with these amazing people.  Hashtag blessed, seriously.