Tax Court Dinner

photo 1About a year ago I wrote about our evening at the US Tax Court for an event Sean helped organize.  We were back again last night for the now annual Tax Court dinner.  Sean was not the only person to plan this event, but he certainly helped make it happen for a second year in a row.

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As with last year, the agenda included networking, dinner, and a program.  This year’s program focused on electronic court room presentations, and so, unlike last year, the Tax Court’s electronic court room was open.

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Sean and his colleagues argued and won a case (Sean’s first time at trial!) right in this court room!  I was happy to see it.  It’s not a very glamorous court room, is it?  Almost two years ago when Sean told me they had gotten the electronic court room for the trial I envisioned white walls and large monitors everywhere.  It’s much different than I expected.

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Unfortunately this picture is blurry, but can you see how great the stairwells are?  It’s my favorite part of the Tax Court.  There’s so much room!  I like the cement walls and big numbers.  There’s no doubt which floor you’re on.

Do you know what it means that we’ve been to two Tax Court dinners and both times can be found here on this blog?  It’s the blog’s birthday this week!  Happy birthday, Future Together!  (Our archives are small to begin with, but you read the post that started it all here.)

Phoenix

Phoenix 006Phoenix. How do I begin with you?  We spent this past weekend in Phoenix.  It was such a mixed bag.  We had the opportunity to go to Phoenix thanks to Sean’s conference schedule.  It’s been mentioned before that Sean attends and is an active participant in conferences on a regular basis.  At least three times a year, to be exact.  This first conference of 2014 was held at the Arizona Biltmore.  “The jewel of the dessert since 1929”, it touts.  Designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, it is architecturally beautiful.  In a few areas this jewel may be a little past its prime.  And my goodness, $24 for a sad salad and a bottle of water!

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As Sean moves up in his conference world and is recognized for his efforts he becomes busier each time.  Although I got a manicure, finished an entire book, and basked in glorious 77 degree weather in the middle of January, I was lonely.

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I’m a little disappointed in myself that I allowed myself to be lonely.  Or that I’m having trouble reflecting on the experience with “hey!  now I don’t have to worry about that book club book!” or “you relaxed and there’s nothing wrong with that.”  I can’t help but feel like I could have experienced Phoenix better and that I missed an opportunity.  Phoenix is a sprawling city that requires a car, so maybe I would have been better off if I could have walked to a museum.  Maybe I should have just broken the rental car rules and driven somewhere even though my name wasn’t on the reservation/gotten over my fear of driving in a strange city.  There are many maybes, and I have until September to figure them out so this doesn’t happen to me again.

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For Sean’s part, he did great!  His panel went really well, and he’s got another tax court dinner to plan and another panel to help organize for May.

Then we boarded separate planes, me back home to DC and Sean to Portland for a client meeting, and the weekend was over.  I can’t decided if this is okay or this is a habit I should work on, but I got teary when we parted.  Sean comes home tonight.  We were apart for only two nights!  Lonely on top of lonely is hard I guess.  photo 5Aiden and I are just a bunch of mopes without Sean around.

Some good things happened in Phoenix…it wasn’t all loneliness.  Two posts with much happier experiences during this trip are up next.

Office Holiday Parties Round 2

photo 3Our last and final office party was this past Friday, and it was at the Museum of Natural History.  A great space for a holiday party because of all the interesting exhibits.  I haven’t been to this museum in a long time and boy has it changed!

photo 2This is me as a cave woman.  As Sean said, we’re pretty sure they didn’t have lipstick back then.  Still fun.  Sean and I spent a lot of time in the exhibits.  photo 1Maybe borderline too much time in the exhibits.

In high school I was voted most friendly, but I heard rumors that I was also a top contender for most shy.  So while that sounds a little ridiculous that one person could be in the running for both of those categories, it’s an accurate depiction of me.  I really try to be friendly and go through all these little rituals to pump myself up for social situations, but it doesn’t always work out the way I want.  Friday was a prime example of this.  I don’t have a group at work, but here are plenty of people that I interact with.  This wasn’t enough to carry me through.  We certainly said hello to the colleagues on my team, but there a lot of time spent as just the two of us.  It wasn’t a total fail since we did speak with my colleagues, but it wasn’t a great success either.  It makes me wish I were consistently more confident in social situations.  But at least we’re done with parties like this for the year!photo 4Sean’s office is about two blocks up on the left.

Office Holiday Parties Round 1

Sean’s firm’s holiday party was this past Saturday, and it was the first of two office holiday parties we’ll attend this month.  Although this is our fourth Christmas as a couple, it’s only the second time we’ve been able to attend his firm’s holiday party together. Every year they’ve hosted a holiday party (well, at least as long as Sean can remember) it’s been at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and this year was no exception.  It’s really a lovely space, but sometimes I wonder if they’ll ever host the party somewhere else.photo 1photo 5

We met up with some friends before heading over to the event, and I learned that club soda with lime is pretty fantastic and a much more festive drink than just plain water.  The event itself was filled with small bites, good conversations with friends, and the opportunity to tour the exhibit space, which I really appreciate.photo 4

For a few years now, instead of buying a dress or wearing a dress I already own to events like this, I’ve rented a dress from Rent the Runway.  It’s a fabulous idea.  Designer dresses for much less that you borrow for a short period of time.  As soon as Sean forwarded the save the date in October I had my dress for the evening picked out and reserved.  But it didn’t come last Friday as expected and customer service wasn’t available until Monday.  I was so bummed!  I dug through my closet and found a dress I’ve probably worn once four years ago.  When you know something is old it’s sometimes hard to realize that no one else will.  I bought a necklace at Target Saturday morning to help make the outfit feel new.  I ended up so happy in the dress and was even complimented!  I’m disappointed in Rent the Runway but really glad I had the opportunity to appreciate again something I already own.  So much so that I’ll wear the same exact outfit to my firm’s holiday party on Friday.photo 3

We ended up leaving a little early but weren’t tired when we got home at 11:00.  So we made some popcorn to supplement the small bites from earlier, and snuggled up to watch some Jeopardy and SNL.  We had lots of fun at the party, but it was the perfect ending to our night.

Life’s a Beach

Growing up my family didn’t spend much time at the beach.  When we did make it to the beach it was always during the winter.  We hung out by the pool plenty and loved the lakes of the Adirondacks, but beaches just weren’t our thing.  My most exciting and memorable beach experience is from camp.  I was about 12 and in the middle of my two-week overnight camp session I got swimmer’s ear.  My camp was on Rehoboth Bay and the closest doctor was in Rehoboth Beach,  not far but not within walking distance.  The camp had a designated driver, Andy, who was probably newly licensed.  My camp friend, Kate, and I had a big crush on Andy, who we called Andy Driver.  Although the swimmer’s ear was unpleasant, when I found out Andy Driver was taking me to the doctor the pain subsided.  After my appointment, I assumed we’d go right back to camp.  Andy suggested we walk on the boardwalk!!  We stopped for some Italian ice served with a Tootsie Roll on top!  Kate was so jealous I had a “date” with Andy Driver.

Being from the Midwest, Sean didn’t go to the beach until he was in college.  He’s never really taken to it and is very much like this:

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Okay, did we relax?  Is it over?  Great.  What’s next?  Let’s do something.

Don’t get me wrong, we were happy to recieve such a lovely invitation for a beach weekend with Sean’s colleagues.  But on the outset we just weren’t sure how it would go for us given our beach histories.photo 1

We ended up having a very nice time.  Saturday was a perfect beach day.  Not too hot and sunny.  The water was still soooo chilly!  Sean and I made it in anyway, and it was fun to bob around in the waves.

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Our hosts were dog sitting their daughter’s dog this weekend.  He was so sweet and reminded us of Aiden in appearance and to some extent temperament.

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He didn’t whine like Aiden, but he leaned on your legs when he wanted to be petted just the way Aiden does.  He loved tug of war and Sean eventually taught him how to play catch.  It was nice to have a dog around that reminded us of ours.

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While we enjoyed the beach itself, we were also very excited to be around so many farm stands selling sweet corn.

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We picked up several ears on our way out.  It’s delicious!  We had a few ears with dinner last night and will incorporate the rest into a recipe this week.  I love fresh summer sweet corn.

So a very nice weekend.  Oh, and my cookies were very well recieved!

The Art (& Anxiety) of Expressing Gratitude

In the blogs and magazines I frequently read a reoccuring topic is the hostess gift and how to shake it up.  A traditional bottle of wine is lovely, of course, but every now then it’s nice to give a host or hostess something a little different.  A few partners in Sean’s practice area are hosting the rest of the group at their beach houses this upcoming weekend and soon after we received the invite I started to think about how to shake up our hostess gifts.

Initially I thought I would arrange flowers.  I’ve taken two floral arranging classes this summer and was happy with the result both times.

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In both classes, my instructor emphasized the importanace of having a flower recipe to map out the number of flowers and greens needed along with an idea of where the stems should be placed within the vase.  For my hostess gifts I wanted to use a pitcher as a vase.  But how would I replicate the recipe for a short vase (left picture) or the recipe where flowers are poked into foam (right) into a pitcher?  Expressing our gratitude became stressful as I questioned how to make it work, how to keep the flowers vibrant on the 2+ hour car ride, and whether we were giving enough of a gift to show our thanks.  Providing shelter, food, and a good time to a whole department of people and their families is quite a bit of effort.  Are flowers in a pitcher an adequate toke of appreciation?

Looking for something shaken yet appropriate for such effort, I scanned the internet.  A dangerous game.  This woman baked cherry pound cake to include with a gift of cut flowers. Lovely.  A pinterest search brought me to cookies which brough me to an internet search of beach themed baked goods which brought me to these adorable cookies!

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After much debate (in my head) and a few emails seeking the advice of my mother and friend, it was settled.  Beach themed sugar cookies, at least in my mind, seemed more appropriate.  More effort on my part to thank them for their’s, and something personal with the beach theme.  Plus, sugar cookies are a Christmas staple.  They can’t be that hard because everybody’s doing it.  They are hard.  Maybe I made my dough incorrectly or maybe it was because our air conditioner was on the fritz making the dough soften so quickly, but just the first step of cutting out the cookies, getting clean edges, and getting them to the cookie sheet was so difficult.  I had had a bad day on Monday.  I needed a victory and foolishly thought baking these cookies would be it.  I was wrong.  I cried.  Poor Sean.  He really wasn’t expecting me react in this way.  But he handled it so well.  He Googled and suggested. With his calm and help I got through it and made some adorable cookies of my own.

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I’m mostly happy with they way they turned out and am trying not to be too hard on myself.  But I know where the flaws are, and I’m concerned that the air conditioning problem caused them to get a little stale and chewy.  It’s done now and here’s hoping they are well received as hostess gifts.  Despite the fact that this was a bit more of a project than I anticipated, I’m excited to make Christmas cookies now!  Christmas in July, anyone?  Maybe I can make that next week’s project.  (Just kidding, Sean.)

Fore!

Sean’s firm held their annual summer outing this past Saturday at a local driving range.  We knew not many of Sean’s close colleagues were going, so we weren’t excited to head out on Saturday morning.  I especially was anxious.  I took several weeks of golf lessons for the first time in my life about a year ago.  I haven’t picked up a club since.  Lucky me that a) I remembered more than I realized from those lessons, and b) this facility is more than a driving range and turns hitting the ball into a game.  The range has targets and you get points when your ball goes into a target.

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Yes, you’ll receive more points if you hit the ball into the far targets, but if you can consistently hit them into the yellow you’ll do great.  That’s exactly what I did and totally beat Sean after the first game!

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This was the only time I beat Sean, but I was still pleased with my 26 point win!

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We ended up having a really nice time not only with the golf but also with the few friends that came.  In the end we were really glad we went.  Which tends to be how life works, isnt’ it?  I always find I’m glad I went even when it’s a struggle to convience myself I should.

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I was so happy I hadn’t forgotten everything I learned last year!  Sean was too and wondered why we weren’t golfing every weekend.  So I’m excited to come back for more practice.  Seems like it would make a nice date night.

An Evening at the US Tax Court

One of Sean’s professional involvements is with the Tax Section of the ABA. They meet three times a year and at each meeting there’s always a breakfast where ideas for panels and events for the upcoming meeting are discussed. At the meeting in Boston this past fall, a decade old idea came up for discussion: a dinner at the US tax court during the spring meeting in DC. Because of Sean’s involvement with the Inns of Court, he has regular interaction with the tax court judges and finds himself at the tax court at least once a month. So he was nominated to organize and execute! He had some help from the tax court of course, but with a guest list of 200 this was a pretty big undertaking. He worked very hard to make sure everything came together. And it did, perfectly, last night.

I was lucky enough to join Sean, and it was nice to get a small glimpse into this area of his life. He introduced me to some of the judges he interacts with and other tax colleagues. It was clear that spending an evening in the US tax court mingling with the judges was really an honor for many of the out-of-town attendees. The judges mentioned a few times that they hoped to host the event again. All in all a huge success, and actually pretty fun. Well done, Favorite!

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I appreciated that the event used New Course catering, an organization that provides culinary arts training to low-income and homeless men and women.

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I was proud of my ability to sneak a few pictures!