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So I’ve kind of made it my unofficial mission to sample all the top burger joints in the DC area.  Those of you who read this blog on a semi-regular basis (thanks Daddy!) may recall that a while back I went on and on about Five Guys vs. Elevation Burger.  Each had its pros and cons.  Well, today I think I may have gone to burger heaven.  Or hell.

Before today, I had never been to Ray’s Hell Burger.  Yeah, I know – it’s hard for me to believe it too!  I think that in some respects, restaurants can be like a city’s historical attractions. You know they are there, you’ve heard good things about them, and you figure you will get to them eventually.  And then you never do.  Even our President managed to hit Ray’s Hell Burger before I did – twice!

I visited Ray’s Hell Burger Too – the sit-down restaurant extension of Ray’s Hell Burger on Wilson Blvd. in Arlington.  Let me give you an understanding of its popularity.  The joint opened at 11AM; I got there around 12:30PM and it was already packed and people were standing outside waiting for tables.  Fortunately, there was not a long wait for a table for little ol’ me.  Here’s what I liked about Ray’s:  they keep it simple.  The menus are on one sheet of colored paper.  The manager probably prints them in the back on the office computer, using paper he picked up from Staples.  The selections are straightforward:  burger or burger.  They don’t even bother to put the soft drinks in a glass.  You want a Coke?  They bring you a bottle.

How was the burger, you ask?  Oh my God, you guys – I think that was the best burger I’ve ever had.  The famous Hell Burger is huge – like 10 ounces.  Way too much for me, so I had the L’il Devil, which is only about 6 ounces.  Mine was “au poivre” – which means that the cook pressed the patty into cracked black peppercorns before grilling – with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onions.  I also had a side of skin-on fries.  (They also offer sweet potato fries, but I just do not get that.  Don’t get me wrong – I am a fan of the sweet potato.  But when I want a french fry, I want a REAL french fry!)  But I digress.  The burger came out quickly and it was cooked to perfection.  It was piping hot, but it was clear that they added the onion, lettuce, and tomato right before they brought the burger to my table, because the veggies were still crisp.  Nothing spoils an awesome burger like wilted lettuce.  The peppercorn added a nice flavor and kick.  The fries were really good:  crisp, lightly salted, piping hot.  Prices were reasonable, too.

So after all of that, I totally get the lines out the door.  I’d totally sell my soul for another one.  🙂

Check out Ray’s Hell Burger and let me know what you think.

I think a change of scene is always good.  Especially if the new scene leads to relaxation.  I’m on Day 4 of my week-long vacation on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  As the distance between me and the DC area increased, I could feel the stress decrease.  Ah, bliss.  I’m staying with family in a lovely house on the water in Greenbackville, VA.  I can smell the salt water and feel the salt-laden ocean breeze that comes in from Chincoteague Bay.  On my first morning here, I stepped out onto the deck to find a low layer of fog, which created a bit of an optical illusion.  It seemed like our pier was floating in mid-air.

I’m using this vacation as my week to “get healthy.”  I’ve been biking in the mornings, working out in the pool with my sis, and (mostly) eating right!  I feel so great that I don’t even want to be snarky today!  Sorry folks.  🙂

Do I have to go back?


You know that old saying “sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees”?  The rough translation is that sometimes we become so focused on whatever is right in front of us that we miss everything else that’s going on.  Our blinders get in the way.  It’s so true.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been so focused on reaching my destination that I’ve totally missed all the neat things to see along the way. 

I think the same kind of “filtering” applies to the United States.  We live here, and that means we live with the challenges – the traffic, the pollution, the 24-hour news cycle.  And maybe we forget all the great stuff we’ve got here.  As a Foreign Service Officer, I think I might be able to see and appreciate this more than most because I spend so much time overseas.  Although anyone who has spent a significant amount of time outside of the U.S. could do the same.  As much as I love traveling and living overseas – and I have had lots of fun – I think it’s made me love and appreciate the U.S. even more. 

I’m still feeling the Independence Day love, so consider this post my Top 10 List of Things I Luuurrrve About the United States!  (This list will not include stuff like democracy, rule of law, equal opportunity, etc. because – obviously).  And tell me what you love.

  1. American TV.  I love that there are channels devoted to golf, to home improvement, to WWII!  I may not watch all of these channels, but I love the fact that I could if I wanted to.  I love that if I’m feeling bored and lazy on a Sunday afternoon, I can scroll through the channel guide and find something to entertain me.  I love that we recognize that sometimes, other nationalities do it better, and that’s why we have BBC America and Univision and all of the other channels out there.  And I especially love that I can usually find an episode of “Law & Order” on some channel, somewhere.
  2. Big box stores.  I know they can be a pain sometimes, but you learn to appreciate them after you’ve spent three years going from little shop to little shop to buy your dinner:  fruits and vegetables here, dairy there, meat someplace else.  There are times when I really love the fact that I can buy apples, free weights, and motor oil all in one place.
  3. American consumerism.  I love that my grocery store is open until 10 or 11 PM, that Wendy’s is open late on weekends, and that it’s totally normal for stores to be open on Sunday.  You have no idea how many times I walked to the market in my Roman neighborhood on Sundays only to discover that it was closed.  (Because I’m a slow learner).  Don’t get me wrong – I also recognize that it might be better if we weren’t such a 24/7 culture, but I do appreciate it when I decide that I must have a bag of Funyuns on Sunday at 3PM.
  4. Online bill pay.  Love this.  This is so great for someone like me who is overseas a lot.  And it sucks to have to stand in line at the post office to pay your bills (I’m looking at you, Italy).
  5. Ethnic restaurants.  I bet that in almost every city in the U.S., you can find an ethnic restaurant.  In the DC area there are hundreds – if not thousands.  If I feel like eating Mexican today, my biggest problem is figuring out which Mexican restaurant (and I don’t mean Taco Bell).  America’s the land of immigrants, and it shows in our restaurants.  I love that.
  6. Washington, DC:  our nation’s capital.  I love this town and I feel really lucky to work here and live nearby.  It’s a great town, and I love the fact that there’s so much to do here that’s FREE.  You don’t have a lot of cash?  No worries – visit the Smithsonian Museums, go the National Zoo, have a seat in one of the parks and people-watch.  DC’s not perfect, but it’s still a great place to be. 
  7. I love American accents and idioms.  And I love that sometimes we can’t understand each other.  I love that we say “y’all” in the South and “youse guys” in NY and “you” someplace else.  I know accents aren’t unique to the United States, but I still love to hear ours:  from the southern drawl to the flats of the Midwest to the classic New York-speak.  I just love it. 
  8. American music.  I don’t think I appreciated it until I saw and heard the appreciation of non-Americans.  Think about it:  America is responsible for some really terrific sounds.  Jazz.  Bluegrass.  Country/Western.  Hip hop.  Rock.  And we keep innovating. 
  9. American order.  This might sound like a strange thing to appreciate, but I really do love the fact that (for the most part) Americans respect lines and lanes.  If you walk into a crowded Starbuck’s, rest assured there will be a line.  Lots of traffic on the road?  Every car will be in its lane.  You don’t always find this in other countries.
  10. Humor.  I think every culture has its own humor.  Sometimes it doesn’t translate well.  I’m a horrible joke-teller in English; imagine how much worse I am in another language and culture!  I love that, in the U.S., if I tell the story correctly, people will get my snark.  They may not think it’s especially witty, but they “get” it. 

So, notwithstanding the occasional rant about the Metro and my generally nomadic lifestyle, I really love this country. 

Now watch:  some jerk will cut in front of me at Starbuck’s and the love affair will be over.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I apologize for that.  I’ve been busy!  Living my life…and stuff.  No idle hands here.

You may remember that a while back, I wrote about various knitting projects:  the first scarf, the hat, even a pair of socks.  Some of you might think those are pretty basic.  You’d be right – they are.  (Although I challenge any of you to turn a heel on a sock without making any holes).  I had some other projects in the works, but didn’t write about them because they were connected to events in other people’s lives.  I’ve since gotten permission to blog about those other people.

My sister is super-preggo – she’s due in late August.  Since I was getting into the knitting thing, I thought it would be fun to knit a blanket for my niece.  I wanted to do something more than the basic stockinette stitch, but I also didn’t want anything too complex that would cause me to pull my hair out.  I came up with this and gave it to her at her baby shower last week.  I had a little time on my hands, so I whipped up a pair of matching booties.

I know what you’re thinking:  “okay, the blanket’s alright, but it’s not that hard.  You said you were going to rock a sweater dress.”  Yeah, I said it.  And I still want to do it. But as they say in Italy, “piano, piano.”  (Slowly, slowly).  I’m working my way up to the dress and frankly, I’d like to shed a few pounds before I pour myself into a curve-hugging sweater dress.  Maybe by winter.  In the meantime, I took a class to learn how to knit a sweater.  This is a top-down raglan, which means I knit it in one piece from the top (shoulders) down.  So, suck it haters!  And check me out.


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