Gratitude

Last weekend I was in Shenandoah with Mark. After a less-than-perfect departure – I maayyyy have damaged Mark’s car while pulling out of the driveway, sorry Mark! – our trip was heavenly. There was poor cellphone reception. We hiked about the mountains, tasted wine, stuffed ourselves with delicious food, got lost in the back roads, read, relaxed, and drove along Skyline Drive at sunset.

When we came home, I saw the news that Santa Rosa, where my grandma calls home, was on fire. (Thankfully I knew that she was out of town.)  The contrast between my idyllic vacation and all the horrible disasters that have happened lately was more apparent than ever. It was hard to go back to work on Tuesday, and all week long I felt like I never quite caught up. Part of me was in Shenandoah on the top of a mountain, part of me was closely following the news in Santa Rosa, and all of me was dazed and confused.

Needless to say, I was in sore need of yet another weekend, and now that Sunday evening is here, somehow I am relaxed. Yesterday I prepared for a visit from a friend from college. This included a deep clean of my apartment and a dreaded visit to Bed Bath and Beyond to pick up sheets for my couch, which folds out into a full sized bed, and the tossing of dead house plants.

I also undertook the effort of finally, FINALLY putting up curtains on my windows. I did not admit to my friend when she arrived that evening that I had been putting this task off since March, nor did I encourage her to look at the bottom of my curtains and discover that I was in too much of a rush to hem them.

Today we hung out, I went to Pilates, read a murder mystery, and slowly pulled together the compents of a fancy lasagna with greens and ricotta.

The theme of the week was gratitude. I suppose I should try and find a more eloquent way of commuting this, but I am too hungry and that lasagna that I just pulled out of the oven looks fantastic. I am grateful that my home is in one piece, I have a job to go to, my loved ones are safe, to know that I am loved, to be just two hours away from mountains, that I only have three rooms to clean and don’t have to deal with pet hair, I have old friends, enjoy cooking, can afford to take exercise classes, and that cold beer is in the fridge.

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Fall

Suddenly the air has gone from sticky to crisp, leaves are falling, and I am craving hot chocolate. It’s fall, the time of year that I’m convinced that it’s nicer to live in DC than most anywhere else. Something about this weather and slanted sunlight make all the brick houses with their roof spires feel even more picturesque than usual.

To top it all off, I have found myself with quite the social calendar in the coming months. It kicked off in a glorious way this weekend. On Friday night, a group of Mark’s and mine’s friends spontaneously went “glamping” – glamorous camping – and rented a yurt in the Shenandoah valley. (You know it’s glamping when someone brings their espresso machine.) We stayed up late drinking wine by the fire pit and eating smores, and somehow managed to wake up early to hike Old Rag Old Rag Mountain.

In the words of the National Park Service, “Old Rag is Shenandoah’s most popular and most dangerous hike…The number of search and rescue missions each year attests to its danger. There’s no doubt that the scramble is great fun and the views are spectacular. A day on Old Rag is one of Shenandoah’s premier experiences.”

It was indeed great fun, and fear not, our troupe needed no emergency rescue, although those rock scrambles were no joke. Contortion was needed in several spots, and I did wimp out and ask my tallest mountain man friend to hold onto me as I jumped from rock to rock a few times since I’m scared of heights. The views were spectacular as promised.

We went for pizza and beer afterward, and at that moment no food or drink could have tasted better. I still feel physically exhausted a day later, and I’m not in bad shape!

The drive and to and from Shenandoah was also lovely. I like to complain about how much more beautiful the West Coast is than the East Coast, but the Blue Ridge Mountains and their surrounding rolling hills are really beautiful. I can’t wait to return.

Oddly enough, I will not have to wait long. Ages ago Mark and I made plans to go to the same area for the upcoming holiday weekend. I was a little worried when we agreed to the group trip that it would feel silly to go back so soon, but we had such a nice time this go-around that neither of us particularly mind heading straight back.

Huzzah, fall!

(Unfortunately I forgot my phone and camera, so pictures of the Shenandoah Valley will have to wait. Instead, all I can offer is a shot from this morning’s farmer’s market.)

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Laundry

Of all life’s mundane tasks that I dislike the most, laundry is at the top of the list. It’s the Sisyphean stone of chores. There are so many tedious steps involved – taking your clothes from the dirty clothes bin to to the wash machine, coming back, putting them in the dryer, returning once more to take them out of the dryer, folding the clean clothes, and finally putting them into your drawers – and, unless you were do this whole process stark naked, you are never ever done with it. There are always more dirty clothes.

Whats more, for such a long, involved process, laundry is so unsatisfying. In part I think this is because laundry and clothes are kept out of sight. It’s not like cleaning a bathroom, which never fails to delight me – a clean bathroom does not look like a dirty bathroom. In contrast, my dresser and laundry bin both look the same at the beginning and end of the laundry chore process.

(Even cleaning out closets or refrigerators, while the contents are also usually hidden from view, is a big step up. I suspect this is because the change is so much longer lasting and can be maintained, whereas laundry, as mentioned, is never done.)

Don’t even get me started on hand washing.

This is likely one of the key reasons why I look back on my time in Buenos Aires so fondly. It’s not even an option at most laundromats to DIY your laundry. Instead, standard procedure is to drop off your dirty clothes and return the next day to find them cleaned, folded, and ironed for you, at a very reasonable price.

Life has never been so good before or since then. Europe was pretty bad – there are few dryers so laundry usually air dries, further elongating the laundry process – but my trepidation towards laundry may have reached its zenith in my current home. While I’ve always struggled with laundry, (just ask my mom, she will confirm,) I now face the additional barrier of four flights of stairs to the laundry room in the basement. Four flights of stairs! This means that in order to complete one load of laundry, I must climb 12 flights of stairs. Woe to me if I do something silly, like forget that my laundry card doesn’t have enough money on it and I must go upstairs again to find cash. Or, also bad, I need to do two loads of laundry, which entails a total climb of 20 flights of stairs.

All this is to say that I did loads of laundry this weekend, and I am clearly not over it yet.

 

 

Adulting

I have been adulting so hard this weekend. I have cleaned out and reorganized two of my scariest closets, did my laundry, canceled my unused credit cards, spent an hour on the phone to fix my internet, exercised, signed up for automatic bill-pay for my mortgage (previously my company wanted me to fax a form in, which I never got around to, but now there’s an online option,) reviewed where my 401k contribution, and went through my clothes to make a pile for goodwill.

It hasn’t been all work and no play, though. I brunched it up my man, met up with a high school friend for dinner and made an amaretto-soaked orange cake. I have also just returned from a three and a half-hour long hike in Rock Creek Park. It was my Labor Day treat to myself. I’ve only wandered on the margins of Rock Creek Park, so it was a delightful surprise to delve a little further, let myself get a little lost, and find that I could feel far away from the city. True, there were no breathtaking vistas or lichen as there would be in the Pacific Northwest, but there were dappled forests and a nice river. It was nature enough to cleanse my soul and leave me feeling rejuvenated.

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The clock is ticking – I want to return to my day off, so this is all you are going to get this week, I’m afraid. Happy Labor Day!

Older, wiser

It was my birthday on Friday. My office brought in Krispy Kreme doughnuts, I got loads of birthday wishes, and my special friend (main squeeze? swain?) took me out to dinner at a swanky restaurant I adore and got me an awesome cookbook that I’d been lusting over but hadn’t realized I’d been so obvious about it. We sat outside, and the weather was oddly perfect. It was a wonderful day.

I am now a whole year older and a whole year wiser.

As it turns out, I am also a whole year more content. Earlier this week I was writing in my journal, and happened to flip back to what I wrote at the same time a year ago. Whereas most recently I wrote of optimism and determination, last year I wrote of a sense of unease and feeling lost. It has been a doozy of a year, but I have come out the other side and never been better. I am hurtling towards thirty years of age with joy and gratitude in my heart.

In the coming year, I aim to continue throwing myself into life and learning as I go. I’ve already got a good jump start on this resolution via my new (used) beloved sewing machine, and inaugural project, a skirt. In the time since I’ve begun my skirt, I have already learned many things, including the following:

  1. “Great for Beginners” does not mean “Great for People Who Have Only Sewed Things A few Times In Their Lives Over Ten Years Ago and Even Then Rarely Followed A Pattern”
  2. Those little markings on the patterns actually are important, don’t just tell yourself to wing it and ignore them – especially when zippers and pleats are involved.
  3. My next project will definitely not include all of the following at once, and ideally none: zippers, button holes, and pleats.

All that said, I have fallen in love with sewing, and somehow, despite the barriers, I am only one button hole away from being done with my skirt, just in time for….April. I bought the fabric a few months ago before my AC woes sapped my desire to be home over the weekends, and it’s so blatantly springy that I think I can only get away with wearing the skirt once or twice before fall really kicks in. Oh well. It’s not as if I wasn’t already itching to get a new project started!

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Returned

What a doozy of a week. I am so grateful to be home after traveling from DC to New York to DC to Los Angeles to DC again for work, and miraculously, without any delays on any of my forms of transportation!

I almost wasn’t so fortunate. When I arrived in Phoenix to catch my connecting flight back to DC, I saw that I had an hour and a half delay. Just as I had begun to hunker down in a corner with some tea, I noticed that my flight delay had gone from an hour and a half to…thirty minutes. I couldn’t believe it, and I had to glance back up at the departures information at least three times to confirm I hasn’t confused my flight with another.

Since when have flight delays ever shrunk?!

So I packed up my things, and wandered back to my gate. Which soon proceeded to board on time.

Once I had taken my seat, though, a theory developed in my mind. It turned out that the tall man wearing a suit that I had largely ignored while a few other, wiser, people took pictures with their cellphones, was not just any suit-wearing man traveling to the DC area, but MICHAEL PHELPS. (“If this airplane goes down over water, I know who I’m clinging to,” one of the passengers in front of me commented.)

Apparently, as the pilot told us later, the anticipated delay was caused by flight traffic disruptions on the East Coast due to weather. I bet dollars to doughnuts that when Michael Phelps showed up at the gate, stings were pulled to bump us up in the queue. American Airlines has had enough bad publicity these last few months without Michael Phelps tweeting about a delayed flight.

We landed at Baltimore ten minutes ahead of schedule.

***

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My trip to LA was just long enough to confirm that it has much nicer weather and better food, but I am still very happy to be back home. Unlike LA, where I felt like a weirdo for walking twenty minutes to dinner, here I’m one of many people who get around without a car. I love that almost everything I want is within a half-hour’s walking distance, and absolutely everything I need is within a half hour’s bus or metro trip. I’m also grateful to see the sky and trees, unlike in NYC where pockets of green are few and far between. Ah, I’m glad I came here.

Plus, I returned home to surprise roses, so there is that.

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Traveling

This week I am going to New York on Tuesday, round-trip in one day, heading to LA on Wednesday, in LA on Thursday, and returning to DC on Friday. I am exhausted just thinking about it.

So I will not think about it, and instead focus on enjoying my beautiful weekend with friends.

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This week someone made the flippant comment that there was no way to his heart through food. Challenge accepted. Yesterday I made homemade spaghetti and meatballs and Salted Butter Caramel-Chocolate Mousse, pictured above. If those don’t do it, nothing will.