Cafe Bonaparte in Georgetown

cafe bonaparte

Sometimes, in the middle of something, it hits me that I’ll never get it again. It happened when I came home from my run tonight and was stretching outside, when my dog saw me through the window and, after I came in to get him, jumped on the chair, my legs, the door, running to his leash when I told him to; also on Monday night, while I drove home in constant rain, after baking cookies at my brother’s apartment while the Internet guy drilled a hole in his wall; and when I overheard kids behind me on the airplane Sunday afternoon, asking their dad if D.C. was bigger or smaller than Illinois? And could all of Bethesda and all of D.C. fit inside Illinois with room to spare?

It’s like, no matter how hard or frustrating or just very good something is, you’ve got to take it, arms wide open, because it’s yours, now.

inside cafe bonaparte

Like this last weekend. Even if I tried very hard, I probably couldn’t book a top-floor hotel room at Hotel Palomar in DuPont Circle again and, even less likely, for no charge because of the right amount of credit card rewards. I couldn’t re-create the weather, or the people we met, or the way I stumbled upon a farmers’ market on my Sunday morning jog. It’s very possible, in fact, that if you went to D.C., you’d have a totally different experience, and you’d come back saying what a crazy place that was, like I did when I went to San Francisco last year, just because of the temperatures changing so much and my getting sick on the last day.

Still, though. I feel pretty sure about one thing, and that is this: You’d like Café Bonaparte. I’d put money on it.

You’d like it, at least, if you like France, or very good food, or excellent service from smiling servers in black-and-white striped shirts, set amongst a long black bar and brightly colored walls with photos of Paris.

burger at bonaparte

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take me to D.C.

georgetown

D.C. is beautiful, and that really can’t be overstated, especially this time of year with the cherry blossoms and bright blue skies and hot afternoons. Within a day or so of arriving, I’d decided I could live in Georgetown and find a job doing, well, anything, just to get to walk among professionally dressed people on cell phones, stunning historic architecture, brick walkways and fresh flowers.

the water

I mean, look at this river! Walking distance from shops and old churches, it was filled with crew teams practicing, and I could have sat by the edge, my feet dangling, for hours while the sun beat down and the cool breeze blew my hair. And that was just Georgetown.

capitol building

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a small request

brown butter tart

(Hello! Yes, I’m still in D.C., and yes, I still don’t have Internet. This is a little something I worked up for you in my absence, because I knew I’d miss you. Enjoy!)

When you decide to start a blog, there are a lot of things no one tells you. Like how you’ll learn to be simultaneously embarrassed and proud of this thing that bears your name and can be read by anyone. When talking to new people, and the subject of blogging comes up—you won’t know whether to admit you have one or to clear your throat and change the subject. At its worst, blogging is open diary or bland narrative. But at its best, writing your thoughts down will start to feel like talking to an old friend. You’ll actually look forward to sitting down at the computer screen, organizing your memories, and by extension your life, into a few paragraphs of type. When things are gray —as they are often for me—putting them into black and white can be a great kind of therapy.

Of course, therapy was never meant to be read by the world. And therein lies the problem.

When I started this blog, I think 14 or so people read it. Total. Even that was a little strange, as they were all my friends, and I’d see them sometimes and not know if I should ask them about it or wait for them to bring it up. Now, hundreds of you read it every day, and I have no idea who you are, but for those of you who leave comments from time to time or send me e-mails.

It seems a little one-sided, you know? You read about my family and my weekends and my botched artichokes, and I don’t know very much about you but that you’re nice enough to stop by.

Let’s do something about that, OK?

I have a few ideas.

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Breakfast at Blueberry Hill

blueberry hill

Oh, boy. I have so much to tell you.

There’s the weather, of course, which we always talk about, and how yes, it’s been rainy, but I rather like the rain, and it doesn’t at all ruin spring for me (plus, it should be 80 degrees very soon!). Then there’s Uncle Lindy, and what a gift it was that he could recognize and talk to me when I visited Friday night, when he hugged me from his hospital bed and asked if I’d been baking those pies and cookies.

I should also tell you that, actually, there have been good gifts flowing from every side—losing power for over two hours at work on Monday meant great conversation with my coworker Alicia, as well as hot dogs from the Buona Beef nearby, while we stared out the windows and watched the rain; hearing how people have been losing their jobs has shown me the grace of their needs still being provided for; and some very good messages at my church this week have centered my thoughts on what is valuable.

But the thing is, tomorrow morning, I get on a plane bound for D.C., and I still have to figure out what to bring with me, which, when you consider weather, occasion, comfort and size of my carry-on luggage, feels a lot like a difficult science project, and I was never good at that sort of thing. On top of which, I’ve decided to start running again (I can’t believe I’m typing that, which means you’ll know if I give up), beginning last night, and I’m desperate to keep up with it, meaning I’ll try to go again today.

So instead of telling you about all those other things, I’m just going to tell you about this one: an adorable breakfast place in downtown La Grange, which I visited a few weekends ago.

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It’s Not So Bad

toffee

There’s a running joke around here regarding me and cooking. Namely, that I am prone to Aha! moments, especially in the midst of trying a new recipe. And it’s true. Of course, I like to think it’s a funny quirk, you know, like the fact that I track every single thing I buy in my checkbook, or that I hate talking on the phone, even though I love talking. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cracked an egg into a blend of dry ingredients, only to look down and see the directions say not to use the yolk or, I’ve placed a cake in the oven, only to realize I omitted an ingredient. It’s not so bad. I’ve gotten used to adapting and, also, I try very hard to learn from all these mistakes.

Take this recipe, for example: easy homemade toffee made from ingredients you probably have in your pantry. Next time I make it, when the caramel glaze is sinking into the cracker layer in the oven, I won’t be worrying about the burning smell of caramel hitting the oven liner. Instead, I’ll use a rimmed baking sheet (!) that will keep the crackers from spreading and the glaze from leaking. It’s just one of those funny things you learn by doing it wrong the first time.

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this time I mean it

spinach salad

To write this post, I was trying to think back to a month ago, when we ate this salad, on a night when I’m almost sure there was still snow on the ground. I guess there must have been, since that was the night my friend Jackie came over for dinner, and she had to grip the stair railings to keep from falling on the ice on her way inside.

But listen to this: Tonight? I drove home with the windows down, the sun beating on me, and I actually was sweating, if you can believe it. All around me, the grass outside is totally green, there are flowers budding that look like lumps of cotton, and the skies are the perfect shade of blue.

I know I’ve said this before, but it is really spring here. Finally. And honestly, I’ve almost forgotten winter.

I think there’s a lot of value in forgetting sometimes. I mean, it’s not good to forget the story your friend told you yesterday at lunch, but it’s pretty great if you can forget the obnoxious thing that guy said to you at work. And this time of year, I am all for forgetting: forgetting the ice, the snow, the cold, the commutes. Forgetting that last time I posted about the weather getting better, it went and snowed.

spinach salad

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this life we have

skies that stretch

My great uncle seems to be dying. I found out Saturday, after brunch, walking next to my mom and my brother in the crisp spring air that made us hug our arms to our chests and pinch our fingers into fists.

It’s not like I knew him very well. I actually don’t think I’ve seen him since four years ago or more, at that family reunion after his daughter’s wedding. But I saw him a lot when my grandma was sick. He was healthy then, much healthier than she was, and he and his daughter—my mom’s cousin—sat with us at our dinner table and told stories about his wife, my grandma’s sister, who used to make me spaghetti and meatballs when we’d go to her house, climbing up tall steps to her back porch and into the kitchen.

And he was there for my graduation parties, and he always sent me a crisp $5 in a Christmas card, all through my growing up years. When I had to write a paper on someone who’d survived the Depression, it as just after my grandma had died, and he was the only relative from her generation left. So I mailed the interview questions to Uncle Lindy, and he filled them all out, every one, with scratchy penmanship in lines that were straight without trying. He wrote that there were no jobs then, people had to share a can of tomatoes for dinner, his paper route paid $2.50 a week. And I kept all those sheets, put them in a big green box in my cabinets.

I’m supposed to visit him in the hospital this week. But seeing him means seeing Grandma, remembering her days in the hospital, when her body was shriveled and sick, when she didn’t always know who I was. I brought her a photo album one visit, telling her about a school banquet and showing her the blue dress I wore, and she called me Nancy, my mom’s name, and she fell asleep. I don’t know if she knew we were there when we rubbed rose lotion on her legs and her arms and played music in the background, talking to her and touching her when she couldn’t respond, but most of the time I say she did.

asparagus with walnut crema

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