Monday, December 6, 2010

Kate Is a Danger to Herself and Cake Mix

Tonight, I did something of which I am ashamed.

I baked cupcakes.

From a box.

As you will see, I have already paid for this act in emotional pain and suffering. Shockingly, I didn't burn myself. What? Oh, sorry, I've gotten ahead of myself.

I should start at the beginning. Over the weekend, I acquired a box of Funfetti cake mix to make cupcakes for a wedding shower. Hey, at least I make my own buttercream (featuring little sprinkles to make it look like that alleged frosting you buy in a can). I had eggs, and the only other cake ingredients are water and oil. Who doesn't have vegetable oil?

[Awkward silence as Kate stares into her cabinet in disbelief; notes that it is 9:45 p.m. and really, really cold outside; and convinces herself that no one will be able to tell if she cobbles together 1/3 cup of oil from a couple different varieties that were never meant for use in baked goods whose main appeal is the little sprinkles.]

So anyway, the batter was finished. Into the oven go 24 mini cupcakes. Ten minutes later, out come 24 not-so-mini cupcakes. Apparently I struggle with the concept of "fill the muffin cups 2/3 of the way." By this time I was getting a little antsy, so I upgraded to full-size cupcakes for the rest of the batter. But did I mention that I had gone a touch overboard for those first 24 cupcakes? I stretched the remaining sprinkly goop across the 12 cups as best I could, predicting the full-size cupcakes to come out the same size as their tiny brethren, and threw them in the oven.

At this point, I noticed that the first batch seemed a little jiggly and underbaked. Not especially interested in causing a Salmonella outbreak at a public health school, I decided to bake them a bit longer and tossed them into the oven with the other pan.

Did I mention that I have a tiny oven? Oh, and I only have one oven rack. But somehow, it seemed that all three trays fit on the rack. I was legit shocked and delighted.

Or not. Four minutes later, I went to retrieve the mini cupcakes. Remember your earth science class when you learned about tectonics and they showed you the picture of the plates stacking on top of each other like this? Yeah. This was the situation on my tragic, tiny oven rack.

[Brief moment of panic as Kate wonders if all is lost.]

Okay. I grabbed my oven mitts and successfully extricated the subjugated cupcakes from the oven. No big deal--a few slightly smooshed, but certainly nothing that a pound of frosting can't fix (seriously, a pound of frosting; I don't kid around). Now to pull the other tray away from the back of the oven... by which I mean, push it away from me with my unwieldy glove until it falls face down into the bottom of the oven. You know what else is in the bottom of the oven? Why, you're right-- it is the heating element!

Not everyone knows this, but my mom is a really talented baker and cake decorator, and when I was four years old, she baked my nursery school teacher's wedding cake. It was beautiful, but when she baked a practice cake for my class, the batter overflowed, igniting as it sat on the heating element, causing panic-stricken little Katie to beg to evacuate the house. So you can imagine my stream of thought as this debacle unfolded:

Son of a bitch! Shit. Okay. How do you get a 350 degree pan out of a tiny box, all surfaces of which are also 350 degrees? Turn off the oven and shut the door. Is that smoke? Shit shit shit fuck shit. Shut the door! Maybe without air, it will put itself out. If it worked for Mom, it can work for me. Okay, now open the window to let the smoke out; you cannot be that girl who sets off the fire alarm at 10:00 p.m. on a Monday when it is 25 outside. Mommy, can I go play in the sandbox? Where is my fire extinguisher... do I not own a fire extinguisher? Are you fucking KIDDING ME?

Fortunately, there was only a small puff of smoke, because none of the sad remains of this shitstorm was touching the heating element. So clad in pajamas and oven mitts, I removed the oven rack-- which is now named Judas, incidentally-- and began scooping partially baked cupcake batter out of the bottom of my oven with a spatula. It either looks like a baked goods murder scene or like My Little Pony pounded a couple Four Lokos and then lost its cookies. I am super excited to finish cleaning that tomorrow.

By the way, this was not fun. There was nothing fun about the Funfetti. This was Catastrophetti.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kate Has Possibly Now Seen Everything

Today, I walked home from school. As I crossed Memorial Drive on my way up Mass Ave., a state trooper stood on the corner, looking up the road (thereby missing my brazen jaywalking). I didn't give it much thought, until I saw four others cruise through the intersection on their motorcycles... which was about the same time I noticed a helicopter circling overhead.

There were many plausible explanations, of course-- a horrific car crash, a dead body washed up in the Charles, a Nobel laureate on the loose at MIT. But I, of course, keyed in on one and only one possibility: my long-awaited motorcade had finally come to Boston!

I continued up the street. Just past MIT, there are train tracks that cross Mass Ave., and a crowd was gathered near the crossing, more state police waiting on their motorcycles on one side and a group of gawkers on the other. People snapped pictures and smiled and held up their small children to catch a glimpse.

As I approached, I had a moment of doubt. After all, the police were still allowing traffic onto the street, which seemed odd. But, no, this has to be it. There's an election coming! Someone on some news station said something about the President coming to Massachusetts to campaign... or something... I think. In any case, you can understand that my rationale, though sketchy, was semi-legit. This was it. This was the Presidential motorcade. Or, even better yet, this was Joe's motorcade!

I followed the crowd's gaze. They were all looking down the train tracks to the west. Hmm. Not sure if I would go with a train trip in such a contentious election season, but whatever. If a White House train ride was rolling through Cambridge, I was all for it. I looked down the track...

...and into the face of an elephant.

No, not a Republican.

A fucking pachyderm.

A whole line of them, in fact. Getting off the circus train.

The. Circus. Train.


I didn't know it was possible to be crestfallen at the exact moment that your mind becomes boggled. But I am here to tell you that it is, indeed, possible.

But the boggling continued. As I walked along, a guy asked me what was happening. I responded, in a dazed tone, that there was a line of elephants emerging from what appeared to be a circus train. He was completely unperturbed and proceeded to tell me--perfectly nonchalantly, by the way-- "Oh yeah, I forgot. Yeah, they have them walk across the Longfellow Bridge."

Of course this was the day I left my camera at home. Of course.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Small Moments of DC Withdrawal

Every time I hear a siren, I look around for a motorcade. I live next to two hospitals and go to school near a thousand, so this happens a lot.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kate Has a Laundry Problem

So, I really, really hate doing laundry and avoid it as long as possible. "As long as possible" is typically about two and a half weeks, but it varies depending on factors including weather, traumas/moments of clumsiness resulting in stains, and how much I go running. (Socks are my limiting reagent. The months that I swam exclusively were some of the happiest of my life, because I could easily go at least three weeks without doing laundry if I really used my closet to its full potential.)

Anyway, part of the problem with hating to do laundry and doing it, at most, two days a month, is that you really want to make those washes count. I don't only hate the effort involved in laundry; I'm cheap, I'm always almost out of quarters, and I have some vague liberal guilt about wasting water. So when I do laundry, I like to do all my laundry (which, by that point, is pretty much all my clothing) in one load of colors and one load of whites. If I'm really feeling lucky (reckless?), I try to fit a couple towels and a set of sheets into the mix.

By the way, at no point did I say I think this is a good idea. It's not laundry best practice, if you will. But aside from one black teeshirt that once came out kind of lint-y, it has not come back to haunt me in any way. Until last Wednesday, at least.

Wednesday morning, I got up early to go for a run. Already, I was sort of unhappy, because it was early, and also because I knew that laundry day was going to be around the corner pretty soon. It was raining lightly, which I had been expecting and which I thought might be nice running weather.

By the time I got downstairs, it was raining a bit more heavily. Okay. Not ideal, but not the end of the world. I had planned ahead and not worn a white shirt, so it's not like there was going to be a wet teeshirt contest moment in the spring break sense of the words.

By the time I got to the river, I could hear rumbling. Trucks? Sure, the road there is pretty busy. I thought I saw a flash, but I easily reasoned that away as a misfiring bulb in the lights on the Harvard practice fields.

By the time I got to the bend in the road... holy shit. Remember how I said some rain wasn't the end of the world? Yeah. At this point, it actually was the end of the world. I was pretty sure this was it. I didn't want to run over the bridge, for fear of being the tallest thing around and, consequently, getting my ass smote, so I tried an underpass and ran a quarter mile on the wrong trail. This was not going as planned. In my pocket, I had keys, a CharlieCard, and my insurance card, which I realized would come in handy when I finally got hit by lightning-- someone could toss me onto a bus headed toward a hospital.

At some point, I made it back to the trail I had intended to follow, where there were things like light posts and guys at least six feet tall, all of which I figured could deflect the wrath of God from me. But then I realized that the people passing were staring at me, and not in a good way. Dude, come on. Yes, I looked like I had fallen in the river, but so did everyone else.

It was then that I glanced down at the front of my shirt.

It was covered in a white, foamy substance.

Does my shirt have rabies? Maybe this really is the end of the world.

Or, maybe, if you really, really overload a washing machine-- I mean, massively overload it, to a point that even you admit isn't a good idea--no matter how hard it tries, it won't be able to remove all the detergent from your clothes. This surprise fabric content can then make its presence known at inopportune times.

I think the lesson is that I need to adjust either my laundry habits or my running habits. It occurs to me, however, that perhaps this shirt is now self-washing, which would reduce my laundry pile by one shirt.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kate Realizes that She Actually Lives in Boston

Well, Cambridge, but it seems that I have gotten myself ensconced. I have a CharlieCard. I have taken the bus-- TWO buses, in fact (1 and 66, holla). I have turned on my TV and tuned in to the dulcet tones of Remy and Orsillo calling a Sox game. I have gotten lost running and found my way back home. I have even had guests over for baked goods. It seems I really live here.

And already, in one week, I have seen more celebrities in Boston than I did in DC. I mean, real celebrities. Well, celebrity. The bar from DC was pretty low.

Friday night, I called friends to find out where they were headed for the rest of the evening, and I received vague instructions to go to the South End to The Gallows. Having never been to the South End and lacking a smartphone, I was sort of hoping for a little more guidance than that, but I'm pretty intrepid. So I found myself in South Boston, dropped off at obviously not the right place. Fortunately, a friendly stranger who asked me for directions (which is amusing) pointed me to the right street.

Once on Washington Street, I still had no idea where to go. Unenthusiastic about the idea of standing on a street corner waiting for someone to respond to my texts of "Help?" I spotted a valet standing outside a restaurant down the block and decided that it couldn't hurt to ask him. I set off briskly toward him, mostly oblivious to the presence of a large man chatting with the valet. And by large, I mean really quite large.

As I opened my mouth to ask the valet my question, a guy came running out of the restaurant.

"Mister Shaq! Mister Shaq! Can I have your autograph?!"

What? I briefly looked up.

Shit. It's Shaq.

Does Shaq know where The Gallows is? Probably not. His utility for me is most likely limited.

I refocused and asked the valet about the bar I'm trying to find. Shaq calmly signed something for the dude who came barreling out of the restaurant. I assume; I honestly wasn't paying attention. I was thinking about how, if you walk too far the wrong way down Washington Street, you get shot and pushed off an abandoned building.

The valet went into the restaurant to ask the hostess if she knew where I could find this bar (the existence of which I was beginning to question). The autograph seeker had gone back inside. It was just Shaq and me.

"Hi, how are you?" I asked.

I mean, it would be rude not to say hello.

"I'm good," Shaq rumbled. Seriously, his voice is really low.

The hostess saved the day and told me how to find the bar, which obviously makes her the most important person in this story. But Shaq, it was nice to meet you, and I hope you enjoy Boston.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kate Loses Her Mind, No One Reaps the Benefits

Today I lost a set of car keys. Within 30 seconds of driving the car with which they are associated. And, I was pretty confident, within the car itself.

I've heard stories of gynecologists warning menopausal patients that they are likely to lose their car in a parking lot at some point during their perimenopausal stage. Is this some kind of warning shot across the bow? Menopause is to forgetting where you put your car in the parking lot, as PMS is to being unable to locate your keys? And if that's true, someone should alert the makers of Yaz immediately, because they could use a new ad campaign stat, since they had to pull that other one.

The most infuriating part of losing car keys is trying to find them, and I really wanted to give up, but that wasn't even an option-- a.) they belong to Grammy, and b.) I lost them right after I pulled her car into our driveway, trapping my poor little Jetta, whose keys had not gone AWOL, so I had no legitimate way to go hunt down a spare.

I found them eventually. There was about a 25 foot path in which they could have disappeared, and it took me 20 minutes to find them. I started out as a reasonable person, tracing my steps, double-checking every possible location where I could have set them. Then I tore apart the pile of belongings that I had dumped onto the backseat of the car, becoming increasingly frenzied, hearing over and over in my head that obnoxious adage about things being in the last place you look. (I mean, really. I'm pretty sure the first person who ever heard that particular nugget of wisdom never found what he or she was trying to find, because they suddenly felt stabby and refocused their efforts on locating an implement to inflict pain on the speaker.)

But, shockingly, the keys were not in the last place I looked. No. Because I gave up looking. I stopped digging through my bag (where, by the way, there were two other sets of keys). I got into the car, sulked for a moment, and prepared to call my mother and tell her I was an idiot who was sitting in one of three useless cars-- one without keys and two without the tunneling or flight capabilities necessary to move past the first. And then, as I reached for my phone, the keys made themselves known to me, their little blue fob glinting under the passenger seat.

I rejoiced. I started the car and turned on the radio and pointed the car toward the beach.

And then I remembered that in two weeks, I have to be a functional person capable of higher-level thought. Gulp.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Self-Discovery Through Packing

I think one of my friends once told me that he or she--seriously, I have no idea, and I don't discount the possibility that I hallucinated this conversation-- really likes packing before a move. Something about cataloging all your belongings, taking stock, something like that. Like I said, the details are hazy, and this concept of packing as an enjoyable activity is so foreign to my sensibility that I can't seem to piece it together.

I admit, however, that packing is an excellent opportunity for disturbing revelations.

1. I am even more idiosyncratic than I thought. I saved some of the boxes from my last move, and tonight I filled one of them with a few framed pictures and a variety of extra pillows, sheets, and towels. As I sealed the box, I noticed the label from the last time, two years ago: "Extra blankets, pillows, towels, sheets; pictures."

2. I attach sentimental value to objects, including hideous objects. Today, I finally threw out a 9-year-old tee shirt that I kept because it was from our high school production of The Heidi Chronicles. The final straw was when I put it on at the gym and attempted to stick my arm through a hole that I confused with the sleeve. And let's not even start on the neon green, strapless, terrycloth romper that we all bought as a joke for spring break senior year. I am parting with that, too, although in a possible crime against humanity I am going to donate it to a clothing drive.

3. I should not be allowed to buy any more shoes. Or bathing suits, oddly, but they constitute a much smaller problem than the shoes. The shoes have spread across the floor of my closet and slowly up the perimeter in stacks, in the manner of an invasive plant species. There were shoes I forgot existed. It's horrifying.

4. Finding shoes that you forgot existed is sort of distressing, especially when you read about anosognosia the same day. And then you find a bag of sweaters you never took to the dry cleaners. Talk about unknown unknowns.

5. The horror of discovering that you are a deadbeat who abandoned her sweaters and started a new life with her suit dresses and doesn't even send the sweaters a birthday card is easily forgotten when you find a fully functional umbrella that is at least four years old.

Tomorrow, I face the kitchen. I just hope there isn't a family of possums living in my 11x17 pan.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Harvard Network

I have mentioned before the guy who sits on the Georgetown side of the M Street bridge. I don't pass him that often anymore, mostly because the things that motivate me to cross the bridge--sangria, cupcakes, Anthro-- are bad for me in excess. But yesterday, I needed to return some things, so off I went.

I should note that it was really hot and disgusting yesterday. I believe some people would say it was 'hot as balls.' I would say it was like living in a sock. Yeah. You feel like you need a shower now, don't you? Exactly. Given the simile options I have presented, I think you can understand my decision to dress for survival instead of cuteness. In my case, that meant gym clothes, and my teeshirt du jour happened to be my Harvard School of Public Health shirt.

Anyway, I dragged my sweaty, increasingly dehydrated self down M Street, considering various places I could stop to shop, by which I mean wander around air conditioned stores feigning interest in the merchandise. I noticed that, despite the heat, our friend was in his usual post, sitting on an overturned milk crate with a newspaper and a book. I stopped to say hello.

And then I noticed his Harvard Business School shirt.

"Heyyyy!" we both said.

He grilled me about my interests in public health for minute or two and then wished me luck, adding, "You have a wonderful personality; you'll do well in public health." (Note that he said nothing about a good personality having anything to do with Harvard-- I bet he really did go to HBS.) I'm going to miss running into him. Do you think it's too cold in Boston for people to sit on the sidewalk at the end of a bridge, just being pleasant?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kate Begins to Extricate Herself from DC

Just when it seemed I would never write here again, I am back. I have missed this, and besides, I am quitting my job, soon, so I'm going to have some time to kill.

Yes, it is the end of an era. In 17 days, my DC life will be packed away, and I will drive up I-95, have a little vacation (July and August lazing at the beach-- I feel so French), and then start my new adventure in Boston. I'm preparing already, getting my immunization records so I can prove to my grad school that I will not start a diphtheria epidemic and trying to become a Celtics fan. So far, both of these things are going well, although I am already a Red Sox fan, so I know that the Celtics' lead could blow their lead in the blink of an eye.

It's starting to sink in that I'm leaving. We had a going away party Friday night, since it was probably the last weekend night that we'll both be here, and today I showed the apartment to prospective tenants. It was actually kind of fun, even though no one took me up on my offer of a beer, courtesy of the keg that is still hanging out in our living room. Based on everyone's feedback, either our apartment is enormous and our decorating job is super cute, or every other apartment currently on the market is a catastrophic shit hole, making ours a beacon in the wilderness by comparison.

The best part, aside from the flattery, was meeting the people looking at the apartment. There were a few engaged couples and some girls who coincidentally went to college with my cousin, but my favorites were the girls who were looking for their first post-college apartment. As I showed them around and answered their (many) questions, it struck me that they are Marissa and me circa 2007. They had looked at a million apartments already, trekking around DC in the miserable heat, nervous about missing out on a good place, freaking out about the application ("What does she mean, "previous landlord?" Should I say 'college?' 'My parents?'). Granted, I have not really matured that much as a person in terms of apartment hunting ("Hi, Mom. I think I found my apartment, but you know how I am about snap decisions, so I just need you to talk to me a little and tell me that I'm not being a spendthrift or an idiot"). In fact, I guess the closest comparison I have is the week before the room draw in college, when the underclassmen would come look at our suite and try to figure out if their beer pong table would fit next to the futon. But it was nice to be on the outgoing side of the equation, assuring them that the utilities aren't expensive and that the other tenants don't mind the occasional party.

In any case, this feels like it was a good warm-up for the next big event, my last day of work on Friday. Fortunately, I don't think I have to give tours of my cubicle.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kate Gets Old, Becomes Reflective

I turned 25 today. If you want to get technical about it, I turned 25 about an hour ago. It is snowing here, as it was in Connecticut that night. Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter today, just as he did in 1985. Actually, just as he does most years. Honestly, Phil can suck it-- there are much better groundhogs out there. No, not you, Staten Island Chuck, but keep fighting the good fight.

Speaking of Essex Ed, how convenient was that for my parents? If there's a freaking parade for your kid's date of birth, do you really need to throw an elaborate party? When we moved to Annapolis, people didn't believe us when we tried to explain the concept of a Groundhog Day parade. "No really, it's great. Everyone stands on Main Street, and you bang pots and pans to call the groundhog, and then they bring out the giant costumed groundhog and when it's over they place him in the middle of the rotary at the top of the street!" What part of that doesn't sound completely believable?

People make a big deal about turning 25. "Ooooh, quarter-life crisis!" Really? I don't know. It clearly helps that I have a definite idea of my trajectory for the next couple years (grad school/poverty). But I figure I balance that out by maintaining my heading on the crazy cat lady track (minus cats). Nevertheless, I see no particular need for an existential crisis.

Furthermore, I think the whole quarter-life thing is a little presumptuous. I'm a science nerd, and I get excited about advances in medicine, and I work out and try to consume more vegetables than beer (not hard--I've gotten really boring lately). But honestly, I am pretty sure I am not going to live to 100, so the whole quarter-life ship has sailed. [Note: I will retract this statement in 10.5 years when my grammy turns 100.]

But I guess 25 is kind of a legit milestone. As my roommate so astutely and depressingly put it, I am now a member of the 25-40 demographic grouping, which I think means I have to eschew ironically cheering "WOOOOOO, COOOOLLLLLLLLEGE!" in favor of sincerely cheering "Hooray, fiber!"

Even my parents seem to consider it a milestone, rewarding my existence with delicious dinners when Mommy Lew was in town for the weekend, some sweet bling, and a terrifying (read: AWESOME) groundhog puppet which you can see in some of the pictures of the Essex parade (I very narrowly escaped receiving one of those groundhog hats). Which got me trying to think of the most memorable birthday presents I have received. Don't jump all over me-- it's an interesting exercise trying to figure out what has stuck with you over the course of your lifetime. Aside from a few conspicuous consumption-type items I won't describe in detail, I came up with the following:

Age 21: My pearls. I'm from Connecticut-- what do you want from me?

Age 16: Driver's ed with Sal. Memorable not necessarily in a good way ("I've seen some pretty bad things happen when somebody turns away from the skid").

Age 6: Part I: Ice skating lessons at the Naval Academy. Part II: Stitches.

Age 4: I think this is the first birthday I remember, which might color my recollection, but I am pretty sure it is the defending champion in terms of joy. My parents made me a beanbag toss... thing. If you can't figure out what I'm talking about, you should probably step away from your computer and go play with a ball or a stick or something. Anyway, my dad built it, and my mom made the beanbags, and it was Scuffy the Tugboat themed, which is to say amazing. AND on top of that, my Uncle Brian brought this Sesame Street foil balloon, with which I believe I became irrationally obsessed. Anne and I volleyed with it for probably the better part of a week until we had beaten all the helium out of it, at which point my mom flattened it and put it up on our bedroom wall. Seriously, best balloon ever.

And to think that then I got to go to the parade for my birthday.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kate's Grammy Post-Game Report

I would like to say three things about the Grammys. Especially since the television coverage was clearly an attempt to turn it into some kind of three-way death match of Gaga v. Beyonce v. Taylor Swift.

1. I am a Gaga believer. I stand by my original assertion that "Just Dance" has some questionable lyrics, and I think her subsequent work proves that she was not giving it her best in terms of the extent of the crazy in that video. But I understand that she had to suck us in with something catchy and ease into the truly bizarre outfits. And now, brilliance. She showed up as a walking homage to cotton candy and/or rhythm gymnastics. From there she went on to channel Marilyn Manson as the Wizard of Oz and got thrown into a machine that spit her out soiled and accompanied by ELTON. The last outfit was possibly the least bizarre, which is saying something. It reminded me of this terrible song I sang at chorus regionals in high school-- there was this part that involved the altos sort of chanting "lightning lightning lightning." Anyway, she is wacky and awesome and really a talented vocalist.

Sidebar: Do you think her head ever hurts from all the head dresses? Do you ever want to take an afternoon off from being a performance artist? You know, hang out in your sweatpants, watch your DVR'ed Real Housewives, not spend an hour hairspraying your hair until it's a helmet?

2. Beyonce has some pipes. I mean, daaaaamn (that was two syllables, in case you were unsure). She is legit talented. Which is why the army of storm troopers that accompanied her to the stage during her performance baffled me. I get that divas like a posse, but that seemed like overkill, especially when you are up against someone who specializes in performance art, i.e. strategic bizarro shenanigans. The following (abridged) conversation occurred between my sister and me during B's performance:

Is the Beyonce infantry going to face off against Gaga Laboratories?

I feel like everyone's trying to unleash their inner Gaga.

I mean, she's killing it, but the storm troopers are a little suspect.

Maybe they'll do something interesting?

Tase an audience member?

3. Taylor Swift. I have been grumbling about her for a while--after she was on SNL, after I watched a whole thirty seconds of the Hope for Haiti telethon (No, I am not heartless. I already gave to Partners in Health and there was not enough George Clooney to sustain my attention). But now, it is abundantly clear that even though she seems like a sweet person who was sincerely excited just to be nominated and gracious in victory, even though I salute her as a tall girl, even though her songs appeal to many, many people, girl cannot sing. At least not in any key that I can listen to without cringing.

Suggestion: Taylor Swift/Kanye collaboration. Seriously. Can you imagine the publicity they would get? It would be INSANE. And more important to me, he could Auto-Tune that shit.