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Life in DC

Baby Midwesterner!

Wow, a lot has happened since I last posted… Primarily, a new arrival to the Midwesterner family!  Please welcome Paige.

Lucha baby!

While it gives me heartburn that Paige will not actually be a Midwesterner, we know she will be one in heart & spirit. 😉  And we’re already getting her acclimated to the spirit of Mexico as well.

Hat tip to Dos Borreguitas for the cutest onesie!

Is the word “exposé” overly dramatic for a post about avocado prices in Arlington, VA?

Two of the highlights of life in Mexico City that we were the most sad to leave behind were 1) the amazing array of fresh fruits, vegetables and meat available to us at incredibly reasonable prices, and 2) the new world of fantastic Mexican food that we’d discovered (vastly unlike what we’d been exposed to at Chili’s in the Midwest). 😉  While the Washington DC metro area is not one of the biggest hubs of Mexican immigrants in the US, we were pleased to at least be returning to an area with lots of other Latino immigrants (i.e. from El Salvador, Bolivia, etc.).  This gave us hope that we might continue to get our bargain fresh fruit & veg fix at Latino-oriented markets to continue our Mexican cooking efforts, like my favorite smoked tomatillo salsa.  (#2, amazing Mexican food, continues to be a challenge… though our friends at District Taco have certainly done their part to keep us fat & sassy.)

Before we moved to Mexico City, we’d discovered a spot called Glebe Market less than a mile south of us in Arlington, VA.  Both the merchandise and the clientele had a Hispanic bent, and it quickly became our go-to grocery store for picking up ingredients for a nice salsa verde or some tostadas.  As John & I progressed in our Spanish lessons, we also used the check-out experience as an opportunity to nervously test out our Spanish with the staff.  We came to regard Glebe Market as a great source for cheap fruits, vegetables, and meat, but we still usually had to make an additional visit to the default yuppie grocery store (Harris Teeter) for our fancy-pants ingredients like brie, real maple syrup, raspberries, sourdough bread, sushi-grade tuna, etc.

Upon our return from Mexico, we started up this routine again– Glebe for produce, the Teet for spendy Kalamata olives & wine not sold in a jug.  But some of the luster was starting to fade– the dingy building housing Glebe Market was, well, still a little dingy.  Sure, it had a new sign, but it lacked the vibrant energy of the mercados of Mexico City (not to mention the availability of esquites around every corner).  And I was lazy– was it really worth driving to TWO DIFFERENT PLACES that are roughly FOUR WHOLE BLOCKS apart for our grocery run? (sarcasm intended)

What could possibly solve this dilemma, you might ask? Data!!! Since I am a dork with math teachers for parents, I took the receipt from our Glebe Market visit 2 weekends ago and brought it into the Teeter that same afternoon. I jotted down all the per pound or per unit prices of the fruit-n-veg like a total weirdo, and then came home and calculated what we would have paid if we’d bought the same stuff at Harris Teeter instead. (That’s right; I made a spreadsheet.  Analyzing the prices of avocados and more. Yep. Drop it.)

So any guesses what this array of items cost us at Glebe, and what we would have paid at Yuppie-landia?

Here's our fresh produce haul for your consideration. Count everything except the tofu, because I forgot to look its price up @ the Teeter. Nebraska friends-- please look away and pretend you never saw that tofu. It was the first time we bought it. I swear. Usually we just buy hulking sides of beef. Honest.

I know, I know– the suspense is killing you!!  Here’s a preview: avocados at Glebe– $1.59 each…  Avocados at the Teeter: $2.99 each….  What?!?!

Proof of my intense price-comparing efforts. When I go bat-shit crazy & start turning into one of those "extreme couponing" nutjobs, this photo will probably be held up as testimony for when people sensed I first started to go off the deep end.

Drumroll, please.  Glebe Market price: $27.  Harris Teeter price: $50

Teeter patrons are paying almost double, people!  Oh, the humanity!!

While my blog may currently exist on your mental list of “resources to look at when planning a trip to Mexico City,” please go ahead and now add it to your list of “blogs with their finger on the pulse of yuppie America that offer hard-hitting exposes of grocery prices in Arlington, Virginia with the intent of encouraging people to consider shopping at Hispanic-oriented markets that are way cheaper in part because they don’t have a big tray of provolone cheese samples lying out for you 24/7.”

Luckily, I suspect that 2nd list may have some open space on it.

Mexican Decor: more is more

I had an affinity for Mexican-themed decor at an early age, judging by this clay taco I just unearthed from my box of “Julie’s Elementary/Junior High School Stuff”.

One may wonder why I did not pursue my indisputable, God-given artistic talents instead of silly engineering.

For anyone wondering– no, this is not a rabbit poo taco. Those small brown pellets are obviously ground beef, accompanied by orange shredded cheese, thin pieces of green lettuce, and hearty cubes of tomatoes. (Please note that I was also way ahead of the curve on the whole “stand-n-stuff” taco shell concept.)

One might think that with this clay taco, the Mexican decor quota has been filled for our townhouse. Clearly you don’t have a sense of my enthusiasm for a good theme. Ever since John shot down my idea of a meatthemed bathroom a few years back, I have been yearning for some other way to liven up at least one of the four bathrooms we have in our townhouse. (As they say– rich in bathrooms, poor in square footage.) His resolve seemed to falter upon our return from Mexico City as we tried to distribute all our new acquisitions throughout our distinctly non-latino-feel home, and I somehow managed to convince him that a lucha libre-themed bathroom was a good idea. (He really brought it on himself by choosing a rust-orange Earthen Jug paint color for the half bath that simply screamed, “Transport me to Mexico!!”)

Before John could reflect any further, up went the plaster lucha heads & the Wrestle Pets:

Who doesn't like the feeling of being watched while you're using the bathroom?

And the lucha mirror:

"There are men who fight."

And the agave plant that even I can’t kill:

This agave is simply thriving in our half bathroom. The lack of sunlight does not appear to have bothered it.

I know, you are silently judging me right now. But let he who does not have a fish or nautical-themed bathroom cast the first stone. :)

I will, however, admit to being a bit overdue in taking down our “Back from Mexico” celebratory decor, but I’ve rather enjoyed the feeling of a constant fiesta in our living room.

Don't these papel picados liven up an otherwise borderline-classy living room?

In case you’re having trouble reading my homemade banner, here’s a close up:

It's only a matter of time before every party store is awash in these.

For those who aren’t fans of a little gallows humor, perhaps you will instead appreciate my Mexican recipe research (which counts as decor because it’s still hanging on the cupboard door in our kitchen). I realized how many of our favorite Mexican dishes we never actually made in Mexico, since great food was so cheap & readily available at amazing restaurants across D.F.  It took some effort to assess appropriate salsa & sangrita recipes, and many thanks to Lesley for several tips.

Consider a selection of these for your next Mexican-themed gathering! Our optimized sangrita recipe is in the middle column of the right-hand page in black, created after reflecting on the 5 recipes on the left. :)

And finally, some of my favorite more-subtle purchases found a home on the wall above the piano. We quite liked these lacquered photos from Michelle Westholm that provide some great snippets of Mexican life.

You can almost smell those pollos roasting...

What do you think– is it time to take down the papel picados? Should I start a business selling snarky party banners?? Does the phrase “half bath” by definition mean that it is too small to fit a life-sized mannequin wearing a Santo costume??? 😉

Mezcalerias vs. Home Depot on a Friday night…

I hope to do a more reflective “my time in Mexico & how things are different here, etc. etc.” post in the near future. But for the moment, I wanted to share a snippet that really sums it up for me personally:

Average Friday Night in Mexico City:

  • get online
  • find address for hip new mezcalería/taquería/trendy bar/tasty restaurant in Condesa/Roma dripping with hipsters
  • gather together with MBA/Embassy/blogger/other random friends
  • head out for fun night
  • think to self, “This is great; I can’t believe we get to live here for two years.”

My Friday Night Tonight in Arlington, Virginia:

  • get online
  • find hours of operation for Home Depot
  • gather together my documentation for the lamp/faucet/towel rack/toilet paper holder I special ordered
  • head to Home Depot
  • think to self, “This is great, I can’t believe Home Depot is open until 10PM on a Friday.”


I’m not necessarily saying our lives are duller here, but let’s just say that finding this toilet on the street in DC was pretty much the wackiest photo opp I’ve had in the last month.

A toilet on the sidewalk probably wouldn't even merit a second glance in DF. :)

But I do have hope! I had my first street tacos last week from District Taco‘s cart set up in our Ballston neighborhood; they were solid, with tasty salsa verde. We discovered a restaurant/bar that sells mezcal (albeit for $14 a shot). I went to a craft show & found blugrn design, who sells paper products with lucha libre imagery (two of my favorite things). I’ve been practicing my Spanish with the guys from Bolivia who’ve been helping us with some home improvements. We haven’t moved back into our townhouse yet, but once we do, I think we’ll organize a belated posada to get our social lives moving again. And of course, my job hunt continues (any hot DC-area leads are welcome!). :)

So we’re making progress. Next on our list? Checking out whether the Washington Post food critic is a reputable source for advice on authentic Mexican tacos

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