Yes, it’s Thankful Thursday on Friday! I swear I started this post yesterday but things just got away from me, so without further ado:
I can’t believe it is only a week until Thanksgiving — where did 2013 go? As the year winds down and the holiday season swiftly approaches, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on some of the many things I am grateful this year.
• The opportunity to sing. On Sunday I will be able to share my voice with others during the Capitol Hill Group Ministries Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. This is just one of the unique chances I have had this year to get back to singing. During the summer I connected with a violinist and pianist to perform “To Love You More” at a house concert. It was so much fun to sing was the two of them, as well as a drummer and a cellist.
• Our big, crazy families. While my immediate family is pretty small on both sides, my husband’s family is quite large and this year we are getting an extra does of togetherness as his mom’s side is in the process of descending upon DC for Thanksgiving. We’ll have a week and a half of big (delicious) dinners, our favorite California wines, trips to museums and monuments, chilly winter walks and lots of time for talking (too bad we don’t have a fire place to gather around)! And in just a few weeks we will get to do it all over again (with my family included this time) in California.
• The many chances to travel near and far in 2013 — from Turkey to Tampa I have seen beautiful sunsets, had incredible meals, and spent time cultivating relationships new and old. I can’t imagine what life would be like without airplanes that can get me to California in 6 hours or to Istanbul in 10.
Okay, my headline might be a teensy bit misleading, but honestly I am running out of ways to title posts about this furlough nonsense. There are no “facts” in this post and probably not a whole lot of “fun.” As we approach the middle of week three of the government shutdown, finding the bright side has gotten a little tougher — When will my husband be going back to work? Will he receive back pay? If so, how long we will have to wait for that? But as I started to make this list, I see that there are a number of positive outcomes due to this unexpected three week “vacation.” Here’s what we have been up to the past few days:
• We are finally approaching the start of our long talked about home renovation project, so my hubby spent yesterday and this morning clearing out our lower back porch so it is ready to be demolished. And he didn’t just throw the stuff that was back there all over the rest of the house, he nicely organized it in the kitchen and basement. I am so glad that after months of planning, permitting, and reaching out to contractors we are nearly ready to knock things down and get this renovation started!
• I baked tiny little brioche bites from scratch on Monday. They were absolutely delicious, particularly when topped with bacon jam (which I keep trying to convince my hubby to post about…)
• It finally stopped raining so we’ve been able to sit outside a few mornings this week and catch up with folks over our usual iced mocha and chai.
• Despite our plan to not spend any money, we tried out the pretzel place (that has been open for at least a year) and frequented the new cupcake/coffee shop that is in its soft opening phase since both are only a few blocks from the house. Gotta support our local neighborhood businesses! And I got a free mocha out of the latter.
• Our garbage and recycling is still getting picked up. Definitely happy about that!
• My husband has continued cooking up a storm and if he doesn’t go back to work soon I am going to be furlough fat — while I love having home cooked meals for lunch AND dinner, I think my pants would be happier with just one big meal per day. My fingers are crossed that I fit into the dress I bought for my friend’s wedding this weekend!
• Last (and definitely least) I had a dream that we spent $400 buying cheese ($120 of which was tax!) last night. Needless to say I was a little stressed out about this decision since the government was also shutdown in my dream. I love cheese as much as the next girl, but I was very glad to wake up and discover that we had not purchased a lifetime supply of cheese!
Is that you don’t have to pretend to be busy all day. My job, like every job, has hectic times and quiet times, but when you are in an office with a boss you don’t want it to look like you are “wasting time” checking your personal email or catching up on facebook. It’s not that you aren’t doing your job, there just may not be anything to do at that moment, but no one wants to look like a slacker. So you try to get ahead on projects, check your work email a million times, review your calendar… and want to bang your head against the desk when you realize that only 5 minutes has passed and you still have nothing work related to keep you occupied.
This is why I love working from home (and for myself) — when I have work, I do it. When I don’t have work or am waiting for edits, there are plenty of other things to do — laundry or running errands or learning a new jazzercise routine or meeting a friend for coffee. For me, these other outlets are key to the idea that I am working to live, not living to work. I love my clients and I pride myself on doing every project on or ahead of schedule, but there is a lot more to life than working and by being my own boss I don’t have to spend a part of each day proving to someone else that I am doing my job.
Usually I’ll just have a quiet day here or there, but this week with Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah every day has been fairly low key. I’m so glad that this morning I could enjoy the cooler, breezy weather over an iced mocha with a friend, her son, and my newest doggie intern, Bella. Now, with Bella’s assistance, it’s time to see what I can get accomplished during this mellow Thursday afternoon.
As my faithful readers (i.e. my dad) know my husband has been working in Afghanistan since November 1. Thankfully he finished up his time in Kabul last week and returned to DC early Friday morning. The weekend was definitely a special one after all those months away. Highlights included:
• Seeing my hubby walk around the corner at the airport after clearing customs! I was so excited to give him a hug and a kiss for the first time in more than two months. It was the perfect way to start the day.
• Arriving home from the airport to see a friend had left B (and me) a welcome home bag containing a bottle of wine, some cheeses and prosciutto, crackers and some much needed croissants — it was about 8 am and we were starving. She thought we may not want to bother with running errands or cooking during the weekend, what a sweet friend!
• Walking to and from Eastern Market to enjoy some iced coffee and pastries outside our (okay, okay, my) favorite corner coffee shop. The weather was gorgeous Friday morning and being outside enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze (and chocolate muffin) was a wonderful way to spend our first morning together.
• Having a celebratory brunch at a local French restaurant that opened since B started his tour. The champagne came in these fun glasses and the food was delicious.
• Surprising B with a home improvement project (repainting the upstairs bathroom and hanging a piece of art). More on about this revamp later in the week.
• Just being together — relaxing, working around the house, cooking. It was so refreshing to be able to talk face to face!
My multiple “home” reference issue started when I moved away from my hometown (Stockton, California) to attend college in Southern California. At school I used home to refer to my parent’s house, but when I was visiting my parent’s house, school was home. Now that I live in Washington, DC, I do the same thing even though I haven’t lived in California for six years.
It’s been 13 years since I really lived in Stockton, but I find myself visiting my West Coast home at least once or twice (or in the case of 2013 four times) a year. And yes, Stockton has a pretty bad rap — it had the highest murder per capita rate in the country during my childhood, was the center of the foreclosure crisis in 2008, and was the first big city to declare bankruptcy in 2012. However, Stockton is also the place I was raised, where I went to school, where I made friends, and where I met my husband. So while I love my East Coast home, I remain a California girl at heart and I can’t get on the Stockton-bashing bandwagon.
I’ve lived in a lot of “big, scary cities” (at least other people seem to think so, I don’t know how many times during the years people have asked, “don’t you think it’s a scary [neighborhood, city, etc]” when they found out I resided in Los Angeles, Sacramento, or Southeast DC. But thanks to the common sense I gained growing up in Stockton, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying. Bad things happen everywhere (unfortunately) and you just have to keep on living.
And while people focus so much attention on the bad stuff, my favorite thing about growing up in Stockton is the incredible diversity that the city offers. From birth I had friends, babysitters, crushes, teachers, doctors, etc. who came from every background. Growing up surrounded by people who may have a different skin tone, religion or sexuality than me burned deep into my mind and heart that all people are just like me, regardless of what we look like. Individuals I met in college, graduate school and after moving to DC were/are amazed about the giant high school I attended and it’s incredible ethnic breakdown. During my senior year at AA Stagg High there were about 3,600 students — roughly 15% Caucasian, 15% African America, 30% Latino and 40% Asian. It was great! I only wish more people had the chance to grow up in an environment that opened their eyes to the fact that we all are filled with hopes and dreams, despite our visible differences. This is something I know I’ll never forget.
Growing up in Stockton I was also exposed to a wide range of foods (I probably could have skipped out on the chicken feet), but I love the delicious Chinese and Mexican cuisine that I can get while visiting my West Coast home. My hubby and I haven’t found anything comparable in DC yet. Just yesterday I stocked up on my dim sum favorites to take back to DC with me. (Yes, my backpack is full of pork buns. Don’t judge me.)
Coming home also means seeing some of my favorite people from elementary school, theatre projects, and my favorite restaurants. (I swear, my whole world doesn’t revolve around food… well, not all of the time.) Even though I only get to see these friends once or twice a year, it’s special to spend time with the people who really know you. Who grew up with you. Who have so many shared experiences.
So Stockton, as I prepare to head back to my East Coast abode, thanks for everything. I’ll see you again in a few months.
My hubby and I love to eat and due to his recent drought of anything decent for dinner (or breakfast or lunch) because of his stint in Afghanistan, we did our best to make up for it during our recent travels. Throughout our time in Turkey and Greece we found ourselves saying, “This will be our nice dinner,” (as if we that would only happen one time) more often than not. Of course, we hadn’t had any dinners together in 3 months, so we had reason to celebrate daily.
Our first night in Istanbul, we sat down to dinner after our long, sleep deprived day of (separate) travel and I proceeded to order 4 mezze before B chimed in, “Um, we are at a restaurant known for it’s grilled meats… Maybe we should order some meat?” Oops. So we added a meat dish to our order to share and I’m pretty sure the waiter thought we were a little bit crazy, but we ate everything. It was during that first dinner we discovered a mezze that became our favorite throughout the trip — Ezme. Ezme is a spicy tomato spread and it was delicious. For every meal afterward, if Ezme was on the menu we ordered it.
During our stay in Selcuk a few days later we enjoyed two wonderful dinners at Hotel Bella‘s roof top restaurant. The first night the weather was perfect for eating outside where we could enjoy the view of church ruins, a nearby castle and a few storks. The food we had — cacik (basically tzatziki), ezme, white bean salad, and green bean mezze dishes along with spicy kebabs for me and fish for B — was all delicious. A bottle of local Turkish Syrah rounded out the meal so nicely that we went back the next night. For our second dinner we dined inside due to a rain storm, but the meal was still delicious and we enjoyed the decor of the room and the company of our fellow travelers as we ate on long, low sofas.
We had a number of good dinners out in Greece as well, but our favorite spot (and a place we also went to twice), was Nireas in Rhodes. We headed there knowing we were in for a fancy dinner (the Lonely Planet mentioned lobster pasta…) and enjoyed our meal and the owners so much we had to go back the next night, despite the price tag. And the price tag was really only high since we had a starter, salad, two mains, dessert and a bottle of wine. A person could dine at Nireas without getting so much, but I don’t know why you would want to! We savored the evening’s special fava bean spread appetizer, a salad, calamari and shrimp stuffed with crab meat, and a delectable dark chocolate cake the first night and the second night had spicy cheese (warm feta with a spicy tomato concoction on top), pasta with shrimp and crab cakes as the main course, and cheesecake with strawberries for dessert. Each night we enjoyed a bottle of Greek wine (both were fabulous) as well as the complimentary limoncello the restaurant’s owner had made. What made this place so fun (apart from the fabulous food and very friendly owners) was that the second night almost everyone in the restaurant had been there the night before and liked it so much that — just like us — they came back!
Throughout the trip we tried to take pictures of our meals, but more often than not when the dishes arrived they looked so tempting we just dug right in. But even without images of everything, I’m so grateful that on top of all the gorgeous sites we saw during our two weeks together, we were able to share so many memorable nights out.