Friday, November 16, 2012

Mary McMullen's Gift Guide 2012

Gender neutral gifts! Yes! Have fun shopping. 

Slate Cheese Board

This Brooklyn Slate Company board will only set you back $25 and is tres chic. 

Do It Yourself Option: to make your own buy picking up a slab of slate from Lowes or Home Depot and glazing it yourself. Tutorial found here. Other online articles suggest using a matte varnish and then adding the oil as a conditioner/barrier.

If you want to add an exceptional cheese on the cheap, I am partial to this aged gouda from Trader Joe's. And as always, a forever advocate of Savannah Bee Company honey. This one is gold-standard.

(Go-Anywhere) Hammock

I can imagine setting this up at a friends BBQ or taking it with on a camping trip, or a trip to a beach or lake house, or even just putting it up in the back yard on a lazy Sunday afternoon. This hammock by Hammock Bliss is portable and under $50.


Who doesn't wear them? I am partial to a wood pair. They are unique enough to be cool and universal enough for anyone.

Daily Journal
I have kept a journal since I was like 12. I have it in my directive to burn all of them after death. 

These little guys make it simple for anyone to start a personal record. Question & Answer a day for adults or a version  just for kids. $12 each. 

A Fish

Probably a betta since they are so low-maintenance. And pretty. Maybe a gold fish, but for like under $20 you can get a nice betta set up from your pet store

Subscriptions & Memberships

You have to know your audience here...
Hulu Plus for the couch potato on the go
Costco for anyone who loves America and Pizza

Switch Pitch Ball

Its cool and cheap at four minis for $20. Or one for under $10.

Home Made Sweet Treat

As always I like to suggest a nice baked good for the season. This year I am partial to these chocolate mousse brownies. They are half-assed, using a box as the base saving you time and are festive with the minty deliciousness. 


Last Years Guide
And the Year Before

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Not much to begin with...

I have never had much respect for Taylor Swift. I concede; she is a very talented song writer. And marketable. Every time a song is released I think to myself "I wish _____ [insert any other country singer name here] would have recorded this song." 

Girl is so marketable, that I have come to the point where all respect has been lost. She basically recorded RED as an advert for Target Stores. Not kidding. I am sure they will never admit this. The only sell-out who sold-out more was when Jewel recorded "Intuition" for a freaking woman razor company. Truth. 

10/22: UPDATE! I WAS beyond RIGHT--- she is marketing all sorts of Red things. 

Please see: This Link To Gross Marketing and Product Sell Outage

and there are various exclusive red items at target. gag. 

10/28: UPDATE (thanks Jess) She is also hawking her CD at Papa Johns 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Counter Blog

You may have been reading the wildly popular series over at Petechat; "meet-his-groomsman"

Peter just posted the final, albeit most anticipated, installment.

It features none other than my boyfriend, Dan Nelson. 

This post, (which you are reading now) is my reaction to it. 

Original, PeteChat blog text in blue font.  NYHeartsMe reaction in red bold font.

This posts focuses on none other than my consigliere Mr. Daniel John Nelson. Ok, a few years ago they (Dan & Peter) sat around and spout off who from our real life they would cast in The Godfather. I still haven't forgiven them for casting me as Constanzia "Connie" Corleone. Also, I think we should all question their casting, since I'm pretty sure Derek Jamison was Vito. Whatever. 

When did you meet?
Great story actually. I was sitting in the SWKT at Washington Seminar orientation in Fall 2003. Ok, that is probs true... but let me tell you about the time I met Mr. Nelson- he came over to my house, he was wearing a smart argyle sweater, and he didn't talk to me for about 3 hours. 

Who does he root for? Dan Nelson is a true sports fan. Understatement of the year. BTW, Dan also roots for the rally monkey's death. 

What does he like? Nothing. Dan likes reading sports biographies, baseball, BYU, Star Wars, Quicksilver, batting cages, bow ties, bobble heads, Mario Kart, Snap Shirts, sitting on the porch, having a catch, the Crossroads of the West, Don Draper, IN-N-Out, Brigham Young's Birthplace, Jim Rome Show, Sports Reporters, Redskins Fans, IBC Rootbeer, Sundown, Magnum PI, Karate Kid, and Hulkamania. Ok, I'd say he has a mild interest in all of things, barely. 

Which Star Wars Character is he most like?No question Lando Calrissian. Obviously, Peter and I just don't agree about our real-life to movie-life conversions. Because Dan would be Darth Vader, duh. 

Things you should know about Dan- 
Notable omissions:
-Dan loves to have people fake like they are going to take a bite out of him for a snack. "Nompf"
-Once dan got kicked in the face by someone who will remain unnamed, but at one point took his shirt off. 
-Dan is a crock-pot guru.
-He also really loves bouncy-hearts. 
-Dan and I share the best all-around DC memory of all time. We will always have the moment that Military Police and Military Warden came out on their balcony for a refreshing bit of air and a nice stretch. 
-Dan started ZTF. If it is ever Friday, ask him about his tolerance level. 

I probably have a million inside jokes with Dan. He's been a great friend, and I am absolutely pumped for him to move out to CA for school. Now we just need to get Joe out here too and there will be balance in the force. WTF OMG HOW DARE YOU NOT INCLUDE ME ON THIS LIST OF DC-TO-CA TRANSPLANTS. I'm coming. 

And, lastly, here are some pictures of Dan that I have, but can't tag on facebook, because he refuses my virtual friendship...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Puerto Rico Luquillo San Juan Vacation Report Review Itineracy

What this post is about is all right there in the title. This isn't a fun vacation post, its just a guide in case you ever find yourself vacationing in PR. 

We did a quick jaunt down to the Island, and I would highly recommend taking a trip Puerto Rico for anyone on the east coast. It may not be worth it for someone who is on the West Coast, because you have Hawaii. We went over Memorial Day weekend (last week in May)

Car Rental: We flew in late Saturday and rented a car from Charlies - this was a recommendation from a friend, and beat out my prices by about $50- which is surprising because for years I've found the best car rental bargains through Costco. I assumed since I booked for an airport transfer they would be waiting for us- we had to call them for the van to come get us. Even though there were about 6 people also waiting for their shuttle it was clear they wouldn't have come with out that phone call. They didn't have our economy car so they gave us a free Jeep upgrade, which was so perfect to drive around the island with the top off. If you have it in your budget, I would say get a jeep or convertible. However, upon our return they claimed the reservation was to be returned at 1am instead of 1pm and charged us for an extra day. I didn't have my paperwork, so we just paid up- but I double checked when I got home and they were wrong. I bet they try to do this a lot, they even put it in the computer that way, so double check when you sign for your rental. I believe we paid about $25/day, all inclusive for the car rental. 

top down, windows up- jeep ride through the rain forest
We then drove straight to our condo rental in Luquillo on the East Side of the island. It took about 45 min to drive there, and there was a toll, which we had to buy a toll card but did so at the toll booth. We chose Luquillo for a few reasons- it was a centralized spot near the beaches, the rainforest, the bio bay, and was outside of the city a bit so accommodations were more affordable. 

Condo Rental: I found a beach front condo rental in Playa Azul Building 1, through - I set up the rental through the owner, who then transfered the business (payment, parking, etc) to the condo property management company. The communication was terrific and the price was great. The condo itself was safe (front desk, 24 hour security, gated parking) and the condo had spectacular views, was clean, the pool was clean, it was great. I really liked having the beach right outside and a pool to relax in whenever we found ourselves with a bit of free time. 

View from front door of condo rental

view from the balcony of the our condo rental

We woke up Sunday and had McDonalds breakfast- there is one right across the street from the condo, as well as a grocery store. However, in Luquillo they don't open most stores until after church, which translates to 11am.  McDonalds was open.

El Yunque Rainforest- We got there mid-morning and drove around a bit and found the trail head to La Mina Falls at this point it was around 11am and the parking was sparse, but we found an off road spot, which other regular cars seemed to park just fine, but it is on a bit of an incline. The hike was fully paved and I was tired, complained the whole way, it was humid (duh, rainforest) and there were lots of ups and downs. I did it in flip flops though, so it couldn't have been too bad. And I have hiked much worse conditions- though I kinda hated the hike (not in shape, whatever). It was very pretty and we got there before the big crowds came. We were there on a holiday weekend. To swim at the base of the waterfall you have to scramble some slippery rocks, but nothing crazy. Again, I was able to go right down the the swimming hole section just fine in my sandals, but chose not to swim because I didn't want to be wet for the uphill hike out. 

on the hiking trail
after the crowds came
la mina falls before it got crowded

We then grabbed some lunch/groceries/sunscreen/etc and headed to the beach right outside our hotel. 

At night we had booked a bio bay tour through the only motorized tour company. We drove to the Fajardo docks and it was A) Really hard to find and B) packed with traffic. We were over an hour late, but were in constant (bad) communication with the tour company and they waited for us- the other people on our tour were also late. 

Bio Bay Tour- One of the most magical nature based activities I have ever done. We chose a boat tour of the bio bay in Fajardo - there are either kayaking tours or two electric boat outfits who tour the bio bay. The kayak tours had reviews that said it was hard to navigate the mangrove tunnel at night and there were too many kayaks in each group. Also, its vacation, I wanted to be relaxed. There is only one kayak company and one boat company that does Sunday tours. Choosing sunday not only fit our plans, but gave the added benefit of having a more secluded experience in the bay, since there are ELEVEN tour companies that run tours Monday-Saturday. We went with a tour company that you have to call to book through, then bring cash to- also, you have to book in advance, we were lucky and booked about 3 weeks out, but I would suggest booking 6-8 weeks in advance. Tipping is appreciated.

As you probably know, you can not swim in the bio bay (too bad, so sad) and it is extremely hard to capture the bio luminescence with a camera (even more sad). Also I had read all over the internet that the Veiques bio bay was better. However, everyone in PR seems to think they are comparable since the Fajardo bay stopped allowing swimming a few years back. I enjoyed trolling through the mile long mangrove tunnel and the bright moon lit sky just as much as the bio lum waters. The guides were great and they give you sticks to play around in the water. Though, my favorite way to see the bio-lum was to scoop up a handful of water and watch it fall off like magic glitter. 

mangrove tunnel on way into the bio bay 
The next day we wanted to go to an off-island island. There are catamaran tours that offer snorkling, lunch, and island time or there are ferries that can take you to islands further out. From what I read online and talking to people who have been the ferry system is hard to navigate and frustrating, so we went with a private boat. 

Captain Mingo/Icacos Island- Paradise. We spent the whole day there. The difference between the beach on the main island and this small private island is drastic. It has crystal clear turquoise waters, soft white sandy beaches. You have to carry anything you want (umbrellas, chairs, food, etc) with you, and there are no bathrooms on the island. The Baby Bay people from the night before hooked us up with Mingo, and I had read about him on the internet beforehand so knew he was legit. We were able to talk to him Sunday night and make arrangements. He took us across and picked us up for $100 (3 people). He also didn't have any thing booked after us, so he stopped off shore a bit and let us use his snorkeling gear for about an hour. Great service. You can call him to book or you can find him down at the docks in a bright yellow boat in the morning/afternoons. 783-383-6509 is his cell phone. 
boat ride with captain mingo (and his young captain in training)

view from the beach on icacos island, looking at the main island
a view of the private boats docked on the beach on icacos island
snorkling off icacos island
Monday night we went to dinner at Pasta Y Pueblo in Luquillo

Pasta Y Pueblo- Fantastic meal. Simple island foods, fish, seafood, steak with either pasta or coconut rice. Delicious. The place has five tables, a gravel floor, and is open air with a shack like room. Hard to find, put "Luquillo Sunrise Inn" in your GPS, and it is next door, right near the round about with the sculpture facing the beach. We also took a stroll down the beach afterwards. The food was the star, and I appreciated the laid back atmosphere. 
dinner at pasta y pueblo

Luquillo after dinner walk on the beach
The next day we packed up and drove back to San Juan. On our way out of Luquillo we stopped for lunch at the kioskos. Its a row of little restaurants. Some nice and had seating, some just little walk ups. Many are only opened on the weekend. They are numbered and have names. We ate El Jefe Burger Shack, #12. 

El Jefe Burgers- Fried cheese was gross. The nachos were delicious. No one got a burger because they were out of buns after the weekend. The onion rings were good/greasy. The fish and chips were ok. 

We stayed in the Radison in San Juan. It was priced right (we used the Friends & Family discount code "CarlsonF" and had no questions asked upon check in). The hotel had on site parking, was walkable to lots of food options and the beach, and had a small casino down stairs and roof top pool. We were tired and actually went to their bar and watched an episode of Hatfields & McCoys (real classy). We ordered a trio of desserts which were average at best. We took a cab ride to Old San Juan from the hotel. It was about $15. 

Old San Juan- we were dropped off at the old fort Castillo de San Cristobal but didn't pay to go inside, it was only a few dollars though. We decided to walk around the streets. There were toursity shops and a few restaurants; brightly colored row houses and such. We bought ice cream from a cart. It was like a dollar and I didn't like it. It was really hot and I didn't find anything too interesting. We made it down to the wall 
the fort at san cristobal

old san juan street
That night we went to a nice dinner out. We walked to Jose Enriques. From the Radison it was walkable, but also in a seedy part of town. We went under a freeway underpass. I was with two men and felt safe, but also urban environments aren't threatening to me. It would not be unreasonable to taxi cab there or drive if you have a car, there is ample street parking. 

Jose Enriques- The food was top notch. We shared the avocado to start, which was dressed. I then had a nice portion of fish with a fresh salad and some tropical fruit. So good. The atmosphere is smart-casual. Many there seemed to be regulars and/or celebrating special occasions. From what I overheard/witnessed they only turn the tables twice for dinner service. People seemed to all order apps/mains/desserts/drinks. It was about $30 for entrees and then additional for the other courses. Worth it. 

The next day we ate at a local cafe, can't remember the name of it, it was rated high on yelp, but the food was nothing special in my opinion- obviously forgettable. 

Flew home. 

Overall, I loved it. I'd spend less time in San Juan and more time everywhere else. Four days was a fast jaunt, but totally doable. I didn't feel rushed and I got to see a diverse amount of attractions. When I return (soon) I'd like to check out the West Coast and the Southern Ponce areas. It was also great to feel like I was in another country but have everyone speak english (enough) and take US cash. 

The weather called for sparse showers daily, but we didn't have any problems. Rained about 10 min in San Juan, but none other than that. Tropical places usually have rain or overcast for brief periods and then sunshine the rest of the time, such was the case on our trip. 

A few places did not have websites, and we had to call to book. Also, many places did take plastic, but you will want cash for tours. 



Charlies Car Rentals-

Costco Travel-

Condo Rental-

El Yunque Rain Forrest-

La Mina Falls Hike-

Baby Bay Bio Tours- 1 (787) 655-2739 or email

Captain Mingo (Private boat ride to Icacos Island)-

Old San Juan-

Pasta Y Pueblo-

El Jefe Burger Shack Kioskos #12 -

Jose Enriques-

Radison Ambassador Hotel-

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hi Mom

I had originally planned to put some humble joke right here about how I have two readers; my mom being one of them... but that isn't true. Somehow I have hundreds... so, here it is... A NEW POST. WITH PICTURES. OMG, I AM GOING TO DIE OF HAPPINESS!

I went to Puerto Rico. You should too. Separate travel post soon. That picture was taken from the condo we rented, if you need a place, I know a gal. 

If you didn't know, putting an iphone in a vase makes it a speaker. Ghetto speakers all over that island.

Reenacting the Last Supper. Sac-religious humor is still really funny to me.

 Kappa Delta sorority reunion was everything it implies and more. J.E.M. for life. AOT. 

 Usually when you speed (cough, 25 over) and they take a picture, you get a ticket. Not when you are me. They must know who I am. 

Also, I like this song. I mean, it takes some gumption.

And I saw the Lumineers live at Wolf Trap. Rarely a group is better live, they were: 


In conclusion, this summer has been one for the record books (that was a subtle pun since it is the hottest summer DC has had. ever. record breaking heat nearly daily). I am glad I am here. Thankful daily for my friends and the life I get to have. The only regret I have thus far in 2012 is when it was 109 degrees outside, wait, that would be ridiculous, it was 7 degrees cooler than that. Ok, it was a scorcher and we were gathering for the uphill walk to the fireworks show and Eric suggested we stay inside the comfort of air conditioning and watch it on TV. We voted. It was 6-to-1. Six for staying in, one for the odyssey to the Air Force to watch the 'works. Since it wasn't unanimous and we support our friends, we went. I should have been more persuasive. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Yo. We ventured to The City and peaked in on some new art at the New Museum. The concept of the New Museum is that the art is even fresher than contemporary- its "now" art. The current exhibition is called "The Ungovernables". It is just what you'd expect. A bunch of weird art... but is it? (Is it art that is). When you think of new age fake art, it doesn't get better then what we saw experienced. 

The best/worst of the lot is Hassan Khan's Jewel (2010). There is a deep ethnic bass-tastic beat that lures you down a dark hallway into a dark room with music piped in and a film of two men dancing projected onto one wall. They are supposed to be representative of something. Who cares. They are dancing. And you just watch them dance. And it's hypnotic. And terrible. And makes you want to dance. And you do. But no one else does. And the music's so loud it seems to hide you.

In my mind I have mocked this for days. Yet, whenever I describe it, somehow the description that comes out seems so cool. 

I can't stop thinking about it. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And the winner isn't...

I typically see all the nominated films for best picture, it's just the sheer volume of movies I go to. This year I saw an all time low of all time low quality. 

Here are my opinions... THERE ARE SPOILERS.

The Artist- I am the only person I know who didn't like this movie. They stopped silent films for a reason. They are so two dimensional (literally, duh, and figuratively). The depth & breadth of expression is limited. Sure, in some ways that forces the actors to be much more; animated and stretch themselves to physically act. The problem with The Artists was not the actors acting. They did a fine job. The problem was the story. So shallow. So unrealistic. So not enough. Like his suicide attempt, seriously. And she magically knew to go to him... since she knows him so well... wait she doesn't. If it were a non-silent film, no one would like it. 

The Descendants- opposite from The Artist, Descendants is deep, complex, and still has good acting on top of all of that. It's a somber movie, one that I did not particularly enjoy watching. But it was well done. The script was thought out, the direction was pretty perfect, the characters were fully developed, and Hawaii doesn't hurt as a on-location shoot for cinematography. 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close- Ok, it was a good story and an average movie. I don't get why this was nominated really? Oh yeah, because there wasn't anything else worth nominating. 

The Help- I know exactly why this was nominated- and it has nothing to do with being a good movie. It has to do with the political sentiment of it all... which they even got that wrong. Spoiler alert: A white woman comes in and saves an unappreciated black subculture. What? 

Midnight in Paris- My favorite of the lot. Not necessarily the best of the lot... That said, if this movie had been done by anyone else (besides Woody Allen) it would be touted as the best movie... too bad it was created by a man who produces movie greatness so regularly they forget how amazing it is. It amazes me that somewhere in someones mind was this idea and that they were able to put it in a movie script and it played well. I think they did the best with casting. Each was perfect for their role. It may have been a tinge too niche. If you aren't familiar with turn of the century american arts, you may not have appreciated some of the subtleties that really knocked this one to a whole new level inside a well crafted plot with beautiful people in a beautiful place with a beautiful message.  

Moneyball- Brad Pitt playing Brad Pitt playing Billy Bean. Also, we have seen this underdog sports movie before, it was called Rudy, Remember the Titans Miracle on Friday Night Lights.

The following were nominated, but I did not see... 
The Tree of Life
War Horse

I still can't wait for Sunday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The State of the Art of Public Speaking

If you are joining me for the first time, this is what happens: I watch the State of the Union. I type my responses live as it spills off the teleprompter into President Obama's mouth, and back out again to us as he feeds us words (like baby-birds). 

Things in BOLD BLUE are either quotes or paraphrases of President Obama. My reaction is immediately after in standard color.

Here we go... 

Last month I went to Andrews, welcomed home the troops from Iraq. A million fought. This generations has made the US safer & more respected around the world. Thank you George W. 

Joe Biden- that tie with the diagonal stripes is making the camera go wacky. 

Everyone gets a fair shot. Everyone plays by the same rules - Flat tax? flat tax? Immediate disappointment when I realize he is talking about socialism. Sigh. 

(Talking of the mortgage crisis): In 2008 the house of cards collapsed. Get it... HOUSE PUN! 

Join me to train 2 million directly to a job. HOW OMG HOW?!

Every state requires every student stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18. HOW? No really, how? 

Doubling work-study jobs in the next five years? HOW OMG HOW? We can't afford this. Wait for it, he agrees with me: we can't keep subsidizing- we can't afford it

We should take on illegal immigration... Send me a bill that affords people to stay in this country and I will sign it. SEND ME A UNICORN & I WILL RIDE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE MOON! 

Blah, blah, blah, Natural Gas, Natural Gas, Natural Gas. Attention anyone who is reading this. He is talking about fracking. ITS FRACKING. Why wont he just say that? Oh, because it is highly controversial. Oh because near fracking sights, tap water lights on fire if near a flame? See this video. Keystone pipeline? What? Huh? Oh yeah. 

(On war money): We should use 1/2 to pay down debt, & use the rest to pay for nation building right here at home. Uhhhhh- he is planning to use only HALF to pay ALL the debt. Ok, you spend $100 at war, then you will pay $50 back and $50 on some toys "infrastructure jobs" that you will reap back 30% of in taxes ($15)... someone get me a calculator. 

If you're a mortgage lender. The days of signing people up for loans they cant afford: those days are over. Where are my Clintons at? See this 1999 article. If you read nothing else, read that. I am asking attorney general to expand investigations that led to the housing crisis. Let me save you the trouble... FOUND! Here

America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn't know what they are talking about. I agree. 

Our freedom endures because of men/women in uniform who defend it. Can you have your cake and eat it too? 

Obama care- oh yeah, never mind. never mentioned. 

Hillary- the headband, really? 

Sunday, January 1, 2012


2011: Wasn't bad... but we can do better. The new year brings new hope. My birthday is in a few weeks--- so that is an added sense of renewal for me. I am excited for the what can be. 

And what you all come here for- the pictures. Here is a 2011 recap.

Top to bottom, Left to Right: 
My birthday, Times Square, Spring Picnics, Memorial Day at the Lake
Youth Conference, Independence Day, Country Concerts, Cheat Lake Bon Fire
Kua Bay Hawaii, Duck Beach NC, Ward Retreat Cunningham Falls, Hudson Valley River 
Navy Football Games, Birth of Junior, Gingerbread Houses, Christmas at National Harbor