Audrey Hepburn, Meet Bob Dylan

For me, new life stages usually beget the realization that I need to change my clothes. Expectations and attitude, sure, but more importantly my wardrobe. What made this post-grad realization different, though, was that I knew it’d be permanent. For that first big college internship, I hurried out for a summertime business-casual shopping spree. But I knew that come August, like midnight for Cinderella, I’d be back in my carefree collegiate duds.

This time, there’s no expiration date on my job, and I was in need of more than those internship holdovers I wore a few Julys ago in Chicago. It was Mall Time! But serious Mall Time, not like those lazy, aimless excursions of junior high. This time, I was ready with a plan of attack, my eye relentlessly on the prize.

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24 Karat Cake

As I had hoped, three city-dwelling friends visited my suburban apartment this Saturday, plied by promises of (what else?) food, and lots of it. Formally, this gathering would be called a dinner party—but that sounds so staid, doesn’t it? I think of dinner parties as those events of my youth when children were banished by means of early bedtimes. As a child then, my biased opinion was that dinner parties must be no-fun zones washed of spontaneity and liveliness.

Of course, as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned better. Now that college is over, dinner parties are a great way for groups of far-flung friends to get together at once. They’re cheap, with only the cost of an extra bag of groceries to fuel an evening. And they don’t require screaming over music and strangers, as with nights spent at restaurants or bars. Really, I’m glad that I’ve gotten over that childhood bias, just as I’m relieved to have recovered from another one: vegetable phobia. Because when dressed up with cake batter, golden raisins, and white chocolate, carrots ain’t half bad.

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A Little More Ginger

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned redheads were made fun of for their natural coloring. In maintaining that innocence, I at least had the benefit of being female; my male counterparts likely learned about this stigma much earlier on. (And I was certainly aided in the matter by not living in the UK.)

Rather than see it as a source of shame, I was quite proud of my hair color, which I thought of as a badge of honor. I was partially brainwashed into this opinion by my mother, who (bless her heart) was always pointing out the ginger actresses in People magazine, and to this day still sends me the occasional ginger-themed article via e-mail. As any teenager might imagine, all this positive reinforcement was eye-roll-inducing at the time, but it always made me feel a little bit special at an age when everything else about my appearance felt awkward.

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Accidental Creativity

I find it easy to be creative with food when I’m handed a stack of cookbooks. I’m more than willing to flip through recipes and choose one that sounds delicious, even if it’s challenging and complicated—provided that this is happening on a Sunday afternoon, of course. If it’s Tuesday night, and my fridge is forlorn, and I’m trying to make something of my leftovers? You don’t want to hear the end of this story; it’s usually quite depressing.

But a minor miracle occurred when my leftovers included half a pan of oven-roasted tomatoes. (I mentioned them last week, and can’t urge you enough to try them yourself: the recipe is seasonless, ultra-simple, and deeply satisfying.) I didn’t have a recipe to guide me, but a few years of kitchen experience must have helped me piece together flavors. I was trying out an idea I’d glimpsed somewhere before: spaghetti sauce with lentils.

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Weekend in Annapolis

After a few weather-bound weekends at home, there was nothing that sounded better than throwing a duffel in the car and winding along the highway to someplace entirely new. But we only had 24 hours, so the destination had to be about an hour from home, and small enough to explore in a day.

Enter Annapolis, little harbor city of cobblestone streets, fantastic seafood, and about ten square blocks — all just a stone’s throw from Washington. The description “quaint coastal town” doesn’t conjure the hippest imagery, but with St. John’s College and the U.S. Naval Academy within city limits, the numerous Irish pubs there aren’t exactly empty on a Saturday night. I’d never been to Annapolis before, but its eclectic mix of adorable and rowdy ended up making it the perfect D.C. escape.

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