I’ve Moved…

Losing all Technorati Authority, RSS subscribers, etc. – to go to a new hosted site.

Visit the new and improved City Sparkle at http://www.citysparkledc.com

Thank you all!

Clunking Around In My Head

A few things I just had to get out, with no particular relation.

epa1098lSports vs. relationship talk. We all know that when men get together, they tend to be able to bond over sports. It frequently comes up in conversation, is the point of many countless debates and bets, and serves as a common ground for most men to stand on. For (most) women, that same common ground seems to be relationship talk. Think of the Sex & the City episode where Miranda gets so upset that all they ever talk about is men. These smart, successful women, who can’t find anything of substance to discuss. Sometimes I feel like I have that problem with my friends…and it sucks to think about. I have a very fun and busy life, why spend my lunches and dinners with girlfriends discussing relationships and men? Well, perhaps it’s just the one thing that we can all relate to.

bachelorette-partyBachelor vs. bachelorette. I have decided, from the few bachelor party pictures from friends that I have seen…that they are way more fun. I kind of wish I was a guy, in fact. Think about it. Bachelor parties (from what I can tell) usually involve some kind of cigar, taking shots, reminiscing about the old times, and more often than not a naked woman or two. Sometimes a steak dinner is involved. Bachelorette parties usually include drinking as well, but also silly plastic penis straws, little tiaras or veils, (in fact, anything penis related), and stupid games to “test” how well you know your fiancee. Occasionally a stripper is found and sometimes you get a cute t-shirt made, but usually it’s just a bunch of women screaming “whooooo” and trying to finish a scavenger hunt that involves sucking something (Lifesavers off a shirt, blow job shot), finding something (condom, boxers), or kissing someone random. Boring. Lame.

Christmas shopping. This year, I was late. Really late. Usually I am done, signed, sealed, delivered by Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter. Oh, and Christmas cards have been sent at least two weeks before (they are still sitting in the box now as I write, not going to happen this year). I am just now finishing the final touches on my gifts for family. I was in REI last night, and I hate going in there. Everytime I go there, it tricks me into thinking I need something. First of all, I am not so much an outdoorsy person. Second of all, what the hell do I need another fleece coat for, or snow pants? There were glorious snow pants there. Gloves, boots, and jackets that I wanted. Then I had to remind myself that I do not do well with the elements, and that my money would be much rather spent on high heeled boots or nice jeans and a sweater. (Or, rather, not at all since I’m still paying off a shitload of debt.) It is also funny though that the more I shop, the more I see that I want to buy. I am a Christmas decorating whore, I love it all. Or, buying it all. Bags, paper, little trinkets I don’t need, candy (obsessed with the Hershey’s miniatures mint medley). Although, this year will be my first year without a Christmas tree (even at the parents’ house). That’s kind of sad I think.

Christmas_Card_032

New Year’s Eve. So expensive. So overplayed. Yet, still participating. I will be in Georgetown for NYE this year, and am looking forward to what 2008 will bring.

Is It Real?

I was thinking last night about relationships and life. I look around at other couples (ones I know and ones I don’t) and I think, how do they do it? There are so many of my friends who are still struggling, still seeking. We’re all searching for that perfect relationship, the one that we think will knock us off our feet. I guess the question is, is it real?

Have all these people found IT, and are done? Or are they just settling? Maybe that’s too cynical of me, but sometimes I look at people and think how do they do it? How does it work for them? What makes it different than what I have, or have had?

In my experience, the feeling of head over heels falling in love, crawling out of your skin crazy for them…isn’t always real. I think that love is much deeper than that. But, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you should have that, and should always have that feeling about the one you’re supposed to be with. But to me, that head over heels feeling is more infatuation, it’s the other things (intimacy, commitment, understanding, openness, caring) that come into play that make it true love.

triangular_theory_of_love_2

There are different types of love – and there are three components that should be there: intimacy, passion and commitment. Does every relationship that works have that? All the time, from the beginning? Is that the magic formula?

Various combinations of these components result in different kinds of love: (1) liking (intimacy), (2) infatuation (passion), (3) empty love (decision/commitment), (4) romantic love (intimacy and passion), (5) compassionate love (intimacy and decision/commitment), (6) fatuous love (passion and decision/commitment), (7) consummate love (which includes all three components – the best of all), and (9) non-love (the absence of any of the three components).

Aside from the relationship aspect, it’s just life in general I wonder about. I have friends that range from 26-36 who are still trying to figure out life. I’m not saying that there is a certain age limit to knowing what you want, and how to get it…or, getting it. I’m also not saying that people can’t change and grow and change directions of their life.

rat_race

And I think, maybe sometimes, I’m not happy. Don’t get me wrong, my life is great. And I am lucky. But, certain things about my life and decisions I make seem to always drag me down. And, it’s up to me to change them. Right? I’m the only one with the control over my life, and what I can do. However, it’s hard for me to think for myself. I always ask opinions of friends, and I always end up wondering if I’m doing something for ME, or for someone else. Maybe that’s just immaturity on my part.

We all like to think that one day, it all comes together. It makes sense. Suddenly we’ll have all the answers. And maybe it’s just because I’m young that I’m feeling this way and thinking about this stuff. But, I wish I knew more.

Hah, and this was my horoscope today:

You are blessed with common sense now and you know what you are feeling and what to do about it. Your feelings are rather large today, and they might not fit appropriately into the narrow social context of your current life. If you’re not sure of exactly what’s going on, at least try not to react so strongly. Remember, a steady hand is better than a forceful one.

A Burrito By Any Other Name

For those who know me really well, you know that I am a self-professed “Mexi-Whore”. I LOVE Mexican food, and can pretty much eat it any day of the week. Fajitas, flautas, tacos (crispy), and burritos are my usual orders, and I have to get chips and salsa. There are so many people who consider Chipotle the be all and end all of burritos, but (as much as I bow down to the “Mexican McDonald’s”) I think there are better places out there. In fact there are better taco and burrito trucks and street vendors to choose from (though unfortunately I have yet to sample some of the best), so why waste your time at Chipotle?

So, with that thought, I’d like to give a shoutout to my favorite lunch and dinner destinations, which I’m sharing with you below. A few alternative runner ups will be thrown in as well. I included my personal “home base” locations as the starting points, but most of these restaurants have multiple locations.

NOTE: I may have to go in and add more detail to this list when I have more time…but this is a good start.

Feel free to chime in with your favorite local Mexican place…I do not discriminate! :)

LUNCH – Chipotle no more!

154logoTeocalli Tamale – Herndon, VA with one other location in Crested Butte, CO

The brisket says it all. In fact, I have a group of old co-workers dubbed “The Brisket Boys (and Girl)”that are dedicated to meeting there for lunch at least once a month, if not more. If you ever go here, do yourself a favor and order the “Mike’s Mex-o-Lina” brisket – we prefer hard shell tacos. You won’t regret it. We joke about stealing the metal bins of brisket, and we savor every last bite. The guacamole is good here as well, but if you’re going to skimp out, forget the chips – they often have a “store bought” flavor and are almost stale. (The only exception is if you get nachos…with brisket of course.) Teocalli also has a nice wall of hot sauces to choose from, so you can pick your poison. I would seriously think twice about moving away from the area if I knew it meant I could no longer get this brisket.

Burrito Grill – Old Town Alexandria

I’ve just discovered this place, and I’m happy to add it to my staple of lunch places near my office. I’ve only ever had a steak burrito there, but that’s enough for me. The steak is thinly sliced and not too heavily seasoned, so it has a great flavor. Combined with Spanish-style yellow rice or white rice and your choice of beans and toppings – and it’s enough to make it your meal for the day. The chips are hot, not too greasy, and have a crunchy thickness, and the salsa has a good tomato flavor. It’s simple, and good. The black beans, cheese and guacamole (with big fresh chunks of avocado) all hit the spot, and combined with the natural flavor of the meat…mmmmm. So good.

California Tortilla – Cleveland Park, Washington DC, and various other locations

I crave the honey lime dressing. I love the BBQ chicken crunchy ranch burritos. And hey, they serve it at Improv so it can’t be bad! My favorite thing to get at California Tortilla are the salads. I love the plain garden salad, with corn, black beans, cheese and tortilla strips. It’s filling and so delicious (of course, with the honey lime dressing).

DINNER – Not your average Chi-Chi’s

Rio Grande Cafe – Reston or Ballston, VA, and various other locations

The fajitas are amazing, and the portions of meat you get are insane, you can easily split it. Salsa is always fresh and spicy, and every meal I’ve had there leaves me satisfied.

Mi Rancho – Silver Spring, MD

The margaritas here are delicious, perfect to sit on Mi Rancho’s huge deck in the summertime and enjoy a few. The chips and salsa compliment the margaritas with their salty light crunch, and the sopapillas wash it all down with gooey sweet pillows.

Guapo’s – Shirlington/Arlington, VA, and various other locations

One of my go to choices, Guapo’s never disappoints. I love the tacos, burritos and fajitas here. The queso is good and comes with thicker chips than the normal chips and salsa. The fajitas come with generous portions of meat and the tacos have shredded beef if you ask.

Lauriol Plaza (and Cactus Cantina) -Washington, DC

Ah, is it worth the 45 minute plus wait? Sometimes… if only for the scenery. The pitchers of margaritas here will be my downfall one day, but a hot summer day with a swirl margarita on the deck at Lauriol…a DC rite of passage.

Silverado – Annandale, VA

Part of the Great American Restaurant Group, the fajitas here are enough for two (especially the jumbo portion). But, the real star here is in the salsa…seriously if they bottled it up and sold it I would be a lifetime customer.

Tortilla Factory – Reston/Herndon, VA

The fajitas here don’t come out with the sizzling greasiness of most other places, instead a hefty portion of meat is served chargrilled with awesome rice, black beans, tons of onions and peppers, and sides of guacamole and sour cream. The chips here are decent, and the salsa is fresh, tomato-y and spicy. Chicken fajitas are the way to go.

South Austin Grill – Old Town Alexandria and various other locations

You can’t go wrong with the queso, made with beer it’s a guaranteed to be gone in a flash. Fajitas, tacos and burritos are all decent, but the chips can be too thick and oversalted sometimes.

On the Border – Reston and Tysons Corner VA, and various other locations

I love the flautas here. They are my favorite thing to order. The salsa is spicy and the queso is processed tasting but still pretty good.

RUNNERS UP – In a pinch

Chevy’s – Pentagon City or Fairfax,VA, and various other locations

The thing I like the best about Chevy’s is the smoky salsa. The other food is mediocre, although the dessert with the ice cream rolled in coconut and caramel is pretty good.

El Paso Cafe – Arlington, VA

Apparently President Bush likes to frequent this joint. The fajitas are good and slightly spicy. Chips and salsa are mediocre, and the salsa is hit or miss with spiciness.

Rosa Mexicano – Washington, DC

My first experience there wasn’t that great, but I think I need to try it again to make an accurate evaluation. However, the guacamole was pretty darn good. Plus, if I am going to pay for more expensive Mexican, I’d rather go somewhere like Lauriol Plaza.

NEED TO TRY

Zapata’s True Mexican Food Restaurant – Columbia, MD

I hear the mole is to die for.

Oyamel – Washington, DC

Not sure if I’ll like it, but I’ve heard good things about it.

Alero – Cleveland Park, DC and Dupont

Heard it’s pretty decent…

BONUS: BEST CHIPS AND SALSA

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Personally, I’m addicted to the light crispy chips at Rio Grande with the smoky spicy salsa. Mi Rancho however, might give Rio Grande a run for its money with its fresh salsa and delicate chips. I love the fresh tasting chunky salsa at Guapo’s, and I can’t say no to Lauriol Plaza either. But everytime I go to Silverado, whether it’s for salads, filet mignon, or fajitas…I order chips and salsa. They are that good.

If I had to rank, I would say:

  1. Silverado
  2. Lauriol Plaza
  3. Mi Rancho
  4. Rio Grande
  5. Guapo’s
Posted in Food. 7 Comments »

Does Love Evolve?

heartssssssAs we grow up, our tastes change. We learn to like (and love) different things, from food to types of music to various hobbies, and we learn to accept the things that we cannot change.

But through this evolution, how does love fit in? Can your definition of love change?

I think that we all have a base idea and concept of what love "is" or "should be" – and we certainly know it when we feel it. But, the love we feel when we’re 15 can be different than the love we feel at 25, or 30, or 40.

A long time ago I had a discussion with my (now) boyfriend about this subject. He asked me if I had loved my ex-boyfriend. I told him that I wasn’t sure, that I thought I did at the time, but now I didn’t know. That doesn’t mean that the feelings I had at the time were any less real, more that my personal idea of what love is has changed. For example, when you are 15, you may love someone because they are exactly like you…and when you’re 25 you may love someone because they are exactly opposite, and everything you are not.

It’s hard to really quantify or articulate why we love the people that we do. The reasons may be obscure, and honestly sometimes you just don’t really know, and you have to go with your gut feeling. Your head will eventually catch up to what your heart already knows.

The idea that your concept of love changes over time can be frightening, but also exciting. It’s negative when you think of it in the way that you could marry someone and then 3-5 or 10 years later determine that you really didn’t love them after all, but in a more positive idea, it’s good that we are able to determine that love is more than a black and white issue, it’s an exciting and evolving thought and feeling. Just when you think that you can’t possibly love someone more, you find that you do. Maybe it’s when you have a child together, or it’s when you stand by their side through something traumatic (say a terminal illness). But, I think that love in its pure form and ideal definition, can only get better.

handssssAccording to studies, most men marry not necessarily when they have found the right woman, but when the TIMING is right. That said, it’s not necessarily the person that’s wrong, it’s the time. You could meet a wonderful person at age 22, be with them for four years, then decide that they are not right for you. Then, at age 30 meet someone that is similar to the amazing person you knew at 22, but this time you marry them. Why? Because YOU were ready.

A large majority (81 percent) of married men agree with the statement that "you decided to marry because it was the right time in your life to settle down."

It’s so easy to be skeptical about love and relationships, especially if you have been burned in the past. But, I think it’s reassuring to know that (if you have had a bad relationship past) love doesn’t always have to hurt, it doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t have to stay the same. If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who is able to go through the highs, lows, and questions with you.

Overall, I think that the definition and feeling of love does, and should change. Though in following that line of thinking, it makes it imperative that your partner feel the same way. I think that the best relationships come from people who not only share similar core values and beliefs, but those that are able to mature and grow together, in the same direction. I think that a good relationship should be with someone who not only understands and supports you, but makes you want to be a better person.

Happy 25th Birthday to Me!

biiirthdayI have had a great birthday weekend…dinner out with my girlfriends (finally not the youngest) on Saturday in Georgetown, Skins game (and victory!) and Fogo de Chao with my boyfriend yesterday, and tonight dinner and a movie (The Heartbreak Kid). Things are good. :)

Born October 8
You are more able to rise above petty problems and stresses this year, freeing yourself up to enjoy life from a broad, happy perspective. Getting organized and working steadily towards well-defined goals is also featured. Mental pursuits thrive, and an organized approach to life takes you places. Dramatic improvements to your romantic and social life, as well as finances, are likely this year. Your love life transforms in surprising and satisfying ways–there is nothing light or superficial about your relationships during this period of your life!

Help Me Out!

Has anyone ever done a debt consolidation program? It sounds like a good idea, finding a reputable agency that will help me get all my debt into one payment – while lowering or eliminating interest rates and still allowing me a budget to have money to live on. Part of my current problem (in addition to shopping sprees every few months) is having the money to pay my debts, but then running out of cash by the end of the pay period, so using the cards again.

I went to the AICCA website and got a few locations in Virginia that will help me…but I’d like to see if anyone out there has any advice before working with these kinds of companies. A few questions I have:

  • Will this consolidation include my car loan, or is that separate since it’s a secured loan?
  • Does my personal loan payment (which is about the same total amount of all my credit cards combined) count under this consolidation?
  • Will it mess up my credit score (which is currently good – almost 700) to consolidate like this?

I took a look at the current state of my debt, and also prioritized what bills were the most important to pay off the fastest – based on interest rate (taking advantage of the ones that have 0%) and total sum of money owed. But, I think that maybe doing something like this may be a better, more manageable option.

Somehow, over the past year, because I’m brilliant (or not), I’ve managed to consolidate and shift around my debt twice (between loans and balance transfers) and also actually increase my overall debt from April to October by over $7,000. Yep, I’m a real winner.

So, you can see…I need help. I’ve needed it for awhile.

Random side note for fun: I have 4,100 messages in my Gmail (personal address) since February 2005. Think it’s time to clean it out…

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