Friday, September 16, 2016

Handyman in the House

Our garbage disposal has been broken for a couple of weeks. We haven't called the landlord yet, since it's really not a big issue, but it's starting to smell a bit because you can't fish out all of the food pieces out of the drain (and I'm getting tired of sticking my hand down there. gross). 

Instead of asking Nate to figure out how to fix it, though, I decided to fight the patriarchy and take the matters into my own hands. Irina, the handywoman. (Ironically, as I type this, "handywoman" autocorrects to "handyman." Fight the patriarchy, autocorrect!) 

Anyway, I was ready for this big project. I got out the toolbox. I pulled up a Youtube video on how to fix garbage disposals. It was on. Turns out, all you have to do is push the reset button at the bottom of the disposal. But hey, the disposal now disposes again, and I have me to thank for that! 

Friday, August 19, 2016


Last night, I stopped in at a records store. I've wanted a record player for a long time now, but the search for one has not proved very fruitful. It seems like a lot of the old record players are either very expensive or in bad shape, and the new ones that look old are pretty crappy quality (isn't that true of pretty much everything these days?).

Anyway, as I was browsing the boxes of jazz records, I imagined taking home and playing ones that looked unfamiliar and interesting. It felt magical, imagining sitting on the couch with Nate in dim light, with someone's beautiful voice and sound surrounding us. That record-quality sound.

It's also unbelievable how many artists there are and have been. So many musicians I have never heard of and will probably never know.

It then occurred to me that it would be really neat to have a Jeri Southern record. I first heard her sing on NPR on a drive home one night. I made sure to write down her name and then find her on Pandora. She wasn't as well known as some of the greats, like Etta James or Ella Fitzgerald, but I fell in love with her voice and music. I looked in the "S's" section, but she wasn't there. I asked the guy working there, and, unsurprisingly, he had never heard of Southern, but he told me to look through a single box that contained all of the vocalists. I had little hope, since it was only one box. Nat King Cole. Frank Sinatra. And then I saw it! A Jeri Southern album!

The guy was just as surprised and almost as excited as me. 

Now, I guess I'll just have to get my hands on a record player...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sidewalk Sale

When Nate and I first moved to DC, we decided to get rid of some clutter.

Moving really does that to you -- makes you want to get rid of all the clutter. I've counted, and in the past 5 years, I've moved 4 times. You really start to hate all your stuff after the second or third time. Like, why do I have so much junk? Where does it all keep coming from??

It's odd because I probably couldn't name 10% of what I own, but it's hard to get rid of things. I start to think: oh, I may need that later, and oh, this is of sentimental value, it can't go. Though, after a couple rounds of packing and unpacking, that gets easier.

Most of the things we decided to sell were kitchen supplies. Having lived apart and then in one place, we were combining two kitchens, so we kept the better-of-the-two spatulas and colanders and containers. It was actually a lot of fun chatting with people and bargaining. We even ended up with $60 (though I'm sure one guy was pricing some of my law books to sell on Amazon later)! Another guy almost bought our spice rack that still had some spices in it, since we were too lazy to clean the jars out. The rest of the (unsold) stuff we ended up donating to our favorite place: Goodwill.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Sailing on the Potomac

In the world of law firms, the companies (at least the larger ones) wine and dine the summer associates as a way to entice these law students to choose them as a workplace upon graduation. By wine and dine I really mean dine and trip. Can I use "trip" to mean "take on trips"?

Apparently, when the economy was booming, back in the early 2000s, law firms (especially the New York ones) planned really extravagant adventures. This might be a myth, but when I a law student, I heard that one law firm gave their summer associates $5,000 to spend in 48 hours. Crazy, right? The lavishness has calmed down, for the better I think, but the free lunches and dinners and events still happen.

This year, my firm took our summer associates on a sailing trip on the Potomac and invited a few of us regulars to join. I quickly signed up (because, obviously). The boat was smaller than I expected -- which now that I think about it makes sense because it was, after all, a sail boat -- but for some reason I was expecting more of a big boat, something sturdy. Really, I was hoping that it would be a bigger boat because I was afraid I'd get seasick.

The last time I was on a boat (whale watching in San Diego), I got so nauseous I had to lie down the entire time. Which wasn't as bad, since no whales surfaced that day. So, I didn't miss anything. But I knew I couldn't really lie down on the boat this time if I got nauseous, because, you know, it was full of people I work with. That would've been embarrassing.

But it sounded like a cool (and free!) trip, so I went anyway.

Sailing ended up being a lot of fun. The breeze felt really nice, and I tried to face forward most of the time, so no headache and no nausea. Although, every time a boat passed us and we got its waves, I could feel the equilibrium in my inner ear freaking out. I guess it makes sense that waves cause motion sickness, it just never occurred to me for some reason. But thankfully, aside from the occasional pesky passersby, the river was calm and gentle.

Is there anything not to love about the sky, the water, the sun? Such beauty we are blessed with as inhabitants of this planet.

And manmade beauty. I love the Washington Monument. I love seeing it from all different points of the city. I love when I turn a street corner, and it appears unexpectedly. It's simple and strong and it grounds me. It's a constant. It's a reminder of home, even if home has only been home for a little while. I suppose this is how Parisians might feel about the Eiffel Tower.

So there we were. Sailing on the Potomac, watching the sun set on this gorgeous city, colors changing from blue to orange to pink.

A really neat part of this adventure was seeing the houseboats. How do you get electricity to them?! It's amazing. And they look so cute and cozy. Maybe a riverboat is in my future...

(Oh, side note. Instead of boardwalks or waterfront condos, one side of the river is peppered with military housing and CIA/FBI-and-who-knows-what-else structures. There were a couple giant buildings that had no widows whatsoever. Why would you put a windowless building on the river bank?? Just wasteful, if you ask me.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Bar

Today and tomorrow, all across the country, people are taking the bar exam. Many of my friends are these unlucky individuals who happened to have graduated from law school this past May.

I truly feel for them. At the same time, I'm beyond happy that I'm not in their shoes. You couldn't pay me enough.

I still can't believe that I took the bar. What's more is I can't believe that I passed. I still pinch myself sometimes ... did that really happen? Did I actually pass?

It was the absolute worst two months of my life. Worse than that time I got my tonsils taken out, and it literally hurt to breathe for an entire week. Those two months were such a mixed bag of being terrified and at the same time not being able to care, that I spent more time watching TV than studying (we're talking MediumUnbreakable Kimmy SchmidtI Love LucyGhost Whisperer, other shows with lots of seasons). I just couldn't force myself to study all day, even though I knew that I had to, even though I knew that I couldn't be a lawyer without passing, even though I knew I wouldn't take it again if I failed. And then what was it all for?

... maybe I'd take it again in February.

At times, I felt angry. Angry that I had just finished three less-than-happy years of law school, just took final exams, and now I had to pass this beast of a test to prove that I'm ready to be an attorney.  Even though I had already represented real clients and had real cases in school! I was mad at the guild structure of the profession.

I was also convinced that this was the first sure step to producing anxiety-ridden, depressed lawyers. Poor Nate had to deal with me frequently sobbing and saying, "I can't do it." The last month was especially hard. There were a lot of tears. A friend of mine (who, by the way, I had no idea was also taking the bar in the same city!) gave me a ride home after the first day was done. He was so jumpy and restless when he got in the car, I thought he was having a panic attack. Honestly, I'm not convinced that the bar is the best rite of passage to becoming a licensed attorney.

The day the results came out, I woke up early and opened up my computer. Nate was also up, lying quietly on the couch. My hands were trembling. My heart was pounding. I typed in my log in and incessantly pressed refresh. And then the numbers appeared. I couldn't even figure out if I had passed at first, because the numbers were divided between two parts of the exam (day 1 and day 2). I did the math and said uncertainly, "I think I passed."

"I think I passed!" Nate came over to look at the computer, and with a shaking finger I pointed at the numbers.
"You passed!"
"I passed!"

I leaped off the couch and started running around the house, screaming "I passed!" "I passed!" It really riled up the dogs. I called my mom and yelled at the top of my lungs "I PASSED! God must've switched out my answer sheet!"

I even came up with a tune that I kept singing the entire day: iiiii passed the bar, (pause) i passed the bar, iiiii passed the bar, (pause) i passed the bar. Let's be serious, though. I sang that song for an entire month.

And that, folks, is the story of how I got the right to practice legal magic.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

That Time Nate Used a Planer

When we were in Vermont recently, Nate (a Vermont native) decided to figure out how to plane some boards to make a floor for the cabin (which he built a couple summers ago, but that's a story for another time).

Lizzie and Grace - the cousins -  came over to help out.

(Woodworking Rule #1: Keep the goggles on. Protect thyself from the flying wood pulp. Even when sitting on the porch, drinking beer from a mason jar, like a real backwoodser.)

I know nothing about planing*, floor boards, or constructing. But it turns out you want your planer** to be on something big, sturdy, and flat. And since Nate didn't have that, he made it.

*Planing: running boards through a machine to make them smooth and even. 
**Planer: the thing that does that.

(Woodworking Rule #2: When you don't got it, make it.)

Fasten some wood to some plastic legs and screw some more wood on top, and voila! You have yourself a planer mount. Can you do hashtags on blogs? #resourceful #woodwhisperer
No? Alright, we'll save the hashtags for twitter and move on. 

Is all the green making you dizzy?
That's Vermont summer. (Nate's friend once said that he needed to get back home to the Southwest asap because there was just too much green!)

I'll leave you with this treat from the 90s. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

City Living

After work, Nate and I went to Adams Morgan, a cute neighborhood in DC filled with bars, outdoor seating, and bohemian boutiques.

(Not the best photo, but it was dark and all I had was my crappy phone camera.)

We spent about an hour and a half at Tryst, enjoying a bowl of watermelon and a couple of drinks outside and chatting about all our plans and ideas. We walked home, holding hands, as heat lightning played above our heads. Have you ever seen heat lightning? It's when there's lightning but no thunder.  It's pretty amazing.

While we were walking, we heard someone playing jazz on the trumpet. We sat on a bench to listen and watched the lighting dance to the music. It was such a magical time.

And then the storm came.

The clouds grew bigger and thunder awoke. Then rain drops hit my arm, and then my nose, and then the sky decided to get serious and let them come.

Nate and I ran home, still holding hands.

(At least we didn't get drenched like last time.)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fourth of July (Part II)

My not-quite-patriotic outfit

On Sunday, my friends and I went to a cute vegan place for brunch and had pancakes! They both ordered savory dishes, which doesn't quite make sense to me. It's the weekend! That means waffles! That means pancakes! That means sweets for breakfast.

I topped the pancakes with some green juice (sugar + green balances each other out for a healthy lunch, right?).


After, we went to the Manus x Machina exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which showcased dozens of dresses made either by hand or machine (like 3D printed dresses, who knew!). I like to keep my museum-viewing to about an hour, so this was perfect. And some of the dresses were so neat!

This one was by far my favorite. If I had the moolah, I would buy it off the stand and wear it out of the Met! 

Doesn't it just remind you of some fairy winter wonderland?

Afterwards, we celebrated our accomplishment of spending a whole hour at the museum by going to the Met roof! If you get a chance to go, don't miss this part. The view is spectacular and well-worth the however many dollars you donated below the suggested $25 dollar donation at the entry. (Sidenote: DC's museums are free. 'Nuff said.)

We then spent some time at the Carlyle Hotel bar (the drinks ain't cheap, so go split them with a friend), but the piano-playing, free snacks, and wall paintings were amazing. Apparently, Ludwig Bemelmans, the guy who wrote and illustrated the children's book Madeleine, did all the paintings here in exchange for a free room whenever he wanted one (for a year and half, according to wiki). The dim lighting, the whimsical paintings, and the live music made me feel like I was living in another century, when women put on their hats and evening gowns and went to piano bars as an evening treat. Oh, the nostalgia for a time I never knew...

Bunnies making a snow-rabbit!

(I also saw other folks, but forgot to take pictures, so they're not pictured!)

I finished the long weekend with seeing my good friend from college, Bernie. 

We chatted away about anything and everything -- how much life has changed since we met 9 years ago. I went home and thought what wonderful things life has in store for me as fireworks went off in the distance. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fourth of July (Part I)

YH, Alicia, and me

I spent July 4th weekend with my friends in New York. So much fun! (Also, so much money! NYC, you are one expensive host.)

My friend, YH, has a really cute cat named Bucky. When we were in law school, some law student found Bucky abandoned during a storm on his porch and took her in. Long story short, he ended up not wanting the cat, and YH adopted her. (I think it was love at first sight, if you believe in that sort of thing.)

Bucky isn't the type of cat that loves to be pet or picked up (like the cats I'm used to), but she did sneak into my bag! I remember when my cats, both of whom have passed away, would jump into any type of container that was open -- suitcase, tub, box. Black Kitty used to sit in my suitcases every time I packed for college. (We called our two cats Black Kitty and White Kitty because of their dark and light colorings. Super original, I know, but it was cute.)

Amazing view of the Manhattan skyline from YH's apartment.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer Fruit

I love summer. It might nudge its way to the top of my favorite seasons list just because of the fruit. Sorry, Spring!

The stands at the DC farmer's markets are overflowing with fruit. Cherries, sour cherries, peaches, apricots, gooseberries, currents, and the best blueberries I've ever had. Hands down. And I don't even like blueberries that much -- I never buy them fresh, just frozen for the smoothies. This week, I bought 2 paper-container full (Nate says it's about a pint).

And guess what's coming in August? WATERMELON. I really can't wait. Watermelon with seeds ( none of that pansy seedless stuff). I'm talking real deal.

I could probably eat an entire watermelon in one sitting. 

Also, isn't this plate super cute?

It was my plate when I was a baby, and it was my mom's plate when she was a baby. Family heirloom, real backwoods aristocrats style.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Thunderstorms

I walked out of work yesterday and marveled at this unbelievable sky.

How beautiful is that?

It makes me feel small and in awe because the heavens are looking down at me, powerful and quiet. Hiding secrets in the clouds. Whispering, let's have some fun with the littles below.

And then, two blocks before I got home, the quiet broke and out came a downpour -- summer thunderstorm season.

I waited under a tree for a while, but the rain drops only got fatter and faster, so I ran as fast as I could, clutching my bag and yelling to my mom on the phone about this crazy rain storm I was in. A guy sitting on his porch chuckled as I ran by, hopping to avoid the puddles and small rivers.

When I got home, it was like I had just taken a shower with all my clothes on. And my bag. And my phone. I was drenched and my phone may or may not be working correctly. But I'm glad for these small, fun experiences (though I'd really rather watch the summer thunderstorms from inside with a hot cup of tea).

Monday, June 27, 2016


Spanish was the third language that I learned to speak (after Russian and English). When I was in high school, I decided that I should probably take Spanish, being half-Cuban and all, and had a really fun teacher that mostly taught us how to dance merengue. I then switched high schools in my sophomore year and got a phenomenal teacher who only spoke Spanish in the classroom. I understood nothing the first day. But no better way to learn than to dive right in, and so by the time college came around, my Spanish was good enough to take the highest level language classes. What finally did the trick was spending a semester in Spain. So there I was, comfortably blabbering away by 21, putting my tongue between my teeth when pronouncing the soft c's (Spain's Spanish style). CiudadCiruela. Palacio. 

But as they say, if you don't use it, you lose it, and it's been hard to keep up my language skills without having the opportunity to practice much.  Sometimes I try to watch TV in Spanish (started on this Netflix show not too long ago). Let's be honest though: nobody wants to exercise the brain muscle when watching TV, so back to English I go. (This is why documentaries and foreign films with subtitles are not the most popular genre, my friends.)

I've been fortunate this year that most of my billable and pro bono work at the law firm has been in Spanish (thank you, Latin American clients), and I spend most of my days reading and communicating in this beautiful language.

I'm hesitant to speak Spanish out in the world, though. Afraid that I might not understand everything 100% or that I might get lost in the country-specific accents, I often say "un poquito" when someone asks if I speak Spanish. Today, though, when a woman trying on shoes next to me asked "Hablas espaƱol?" I felt brave. Si, I said. And we chatted away about what color shoes would best go with her new black, red, and white dress. Black, we decided.

On the way home, I tried to buy some watermelon from a street vendor, in Spanish, again, but only had 1.75 in cash. Twenty-five cents short. Delicious watermelon left behind.

Then, a woman needed help finding an embassy, and I navigated her, with Spanish pronunciation of English street names, to her destination. Final exchange of the day of the rolling r', the long ah's, and the v's that sound like b's.

When I got home, I was happy. Happy that I felt brave. Happy that I could casually chat with someone about shoes, or watermelon, or directions. Happy that I didn't hold back.