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.
As we enter Day 5 of the shutdown (or Day 7 if you count the weekend), I continue to embrace the positive side of this unplanned (perhaps unpaid) vacation my hubby has been forced to take. Here’s why: it’s been almost a year since he left to spend 8 months working in Afghanistan and apart from two weeks in Dec/Jan and our fabulous Turkey/Greece trip in April we spent about 7 of those 8 months apart.
While we both survived the distance, we learned that seven months is a very long time.
When he came back to DC this summer, he arrived on Friday morning and on Monday returned to his usual routine — heading to rowing practice at 4:45 am and work after that. So in the midst of this government turmoil at least we have the opportunity to spend time (a lot of time) together. And because he was home nearly all of last week to do projects around the house, we spent the weekend just hanging out — playing board games, watching Netflix, and eating too many desserts. While not as grand as sipping cappuccinos in Samos, Greece, like we did during our lazy spring days together, we had a wonderful weekend.
So on one hand we are both anxious for the furlough to end so he can get back to work — he was supposed to travel to Germany yesterday for meetings and that, of course, didn’t happen. Combine that with our upcoming major house renovations and the thought that he may not be paid for weeks on end isn’t exactly appealing. But I realize that worrying about it won’t change the outcome, so this morning I’m raising my iced mocha to toast this chance for togetherness.
As a child, I always disliked rainy days — mainly because you couldn’t go outside at recess — for some mysterious reason getting rained on was pretty much the worst thing that could happen (seeing as it is only water, I have no idea why).
But now that I work from home (i.e. I can just hide inside when it’s raining), I enjoy rainy days. It is better in the fall/winter when I can curl up with some tea, re-read Harry Potter for the umpteenth time (don’t judge me) and listen to sound of the rain hitting the roof. However I have a new found appreciation for summer rain — something we never had in California — because it makes my garden so happy. It doesn’t hurt that it makes my water bill happy, too!
Of course, there are times when I cannot avoid emerging from my cave and wandering in the rain. I realized as I was listening to it fall this morning that we have had some (very) rainy adventures the past few years in Paris, Bergen, Ephesus, Rhodes and throughout Iceland. While a sunny day in the 70s would always be preferable for exploring a new destination, if I’ve got to be out and about in the rain I’d rather do it somewhere other than DC! Plus on a trip, rain is an excellent excuse to hide out in a flower-covered gazebo for a bit or grab a drink at a cafe and watch the world go by.
When I dove into the deep end of freelancing, it was a turn I hadn’t expected to take, but making that change has been amazing. It has given me flexibility to take on projects I enjoy, travel and establish a much more pleasant work/life balance.
A year ago today I took another road I had never planned on — I passed a grueling audition to become a certified Jazzercise instructor after being a student for about five years. I spent the spring learning how to teach 10 routines and then it was audition day — a boiling hot summer morning (I was thankful to be in the morning group, not the afternoon bunch). When I arrived I selected a number and, lucky me, I was the ninth out of 10 to audition. Each of us got on the stage and led the group for two routines, but until it was your turn you had no idea which two routines you would be assigned to teach. To support our fellow auditionees, we acted as students throughout the morning. I was 16 routines in (26 if you count the “warm up” round where we each practiced teaching a routine) when it was my turn to take the stage. I felt exhausted, but I got up on stage and gave it my best shot.
As it’s my first Jazzer-versary, I passed! I was so excited that all the hard work had paid off! The process continued the next day with workshops on class planning and business training followed by another day of refining our jazzer-technique. That really just meant eight hours of exercising. Needless to say I spent that Sunday on the couch!
As a substitute instructor for the past 12 months, sometimes I have taught four classes a month and sometimes 10. In February I started teaching a regular Saturday morning class and in a few weeks I will be adding three more weekly classes to my routine… It’s going to be another adventure!
There have been challenges during this past year — most notably dealing with a mysterious knee injury for the past few months. I’ve also been on the road a lot. Between Norway, Iceland, Turkey, Greece, and four trips to California, I have spent about 12 weeks out of the past 12 months traveling, making it impossible for me to teach as many classes as were offered to me (or find time to learn as many new routines as I’d like).
During the course of my first year as an instructor, I’ve taught 72 classes, learned 68 routines, and am hopefully growing and improving with every class. I’m looking forward to seeing what year two will bring!
I am pretty sure that I did not eat rhubarb until I was well into my 20s and my father-in-law had a hankering for it while visiting us in DC. We picked some up at the grocery store (who knew it looked like celery?) and made a crisp. It was tart and tasty, but I didn’t give it much thought once it was gone.
Some time passed and then my sister-in-law returned from a trip to her parents with some stray rhubarb that had been growing like weeds in their yard. She planted it and waited to see if it would take off. And take off it did! When my hubby and I started gardening in our own backyard, his brother and sister-in-law generously donated a hunk of rhubarb root to us and it has been going strong ever since. Well, except at the very end of last summer when I thought it was totally dead. Yet 7 months later when I returned from Turkey the plant had gone from nothing to so big I could already pull stalks from it—I guess it was just napping in the interim.
Since I have already been harvesting the rhubarb I wanted to make sure to use it, but I didn’t want my husband to miss out on getting to enjoy whatever I made. So on Sunday I cooked up some rhubarb sauce to put over ice cream when he gets back from Afghanistan. I figured if I made it on a day that wasn’t so hot, I could freeze it and we can use it later this summer without having to turn on the stove.
I set to work boiling sugar (c. 1/2 cup) and water (1/3 cup — this was way too much water) while I chopped up the rhubarb. When the sugar water was good and hot, I added in about 4 cups of rhubarb chunks and let it cook down. Because there was so much liquid, I ended up simmering it for about 40 minutes to try and get some of the extra liquid to cook off. If you started with less water, the sauce could probably be ready in as little as 15–20 minutes of cooking.
And that’s it! Easy peasy. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how it tastes…
Each time we take a big trip — France/Jordan, Costa Rica, Norway/Iceland, and now Turkey/Greece — we design and print a photo book that includes a handful of the thousands of pictures my hubby took during our adventure. I love the books because it means our photos will last as opposed to tons of 4×6 prints floating around. But since I am not scrapbooking the images myself, we have never had a place to keep the little things we picked up along the way — things like entrance tickets for museums and other sites, museum pamphlets, city maps, or business cards from restaurants we really enjoyed.
We’ve been hard at work on our Turkey/Greece book and it’s almost finished, but for the first time I thought, “Why not capture the tickets and other tidbits and include a picture of them in the book?” So above are samples of my attempt to incorporate many of the random pieces into one collage shot per country. Now we will be able to look back and see how beautiful the entrance tickets to sites in Istanbul and Ephesus were as well as what our favorite restaurant in Rhodes was called and where we stayed in Samos. By including these pieces in two photos within the book it means we can keep the memories, but minimize the clutter because who really needs a road map of Samos laying around? Probably not us anymore.
Whenever we travel we try to bring something home from our adventure that will remind us of our time away. When we visited Jordan, it was a few mosaics that we could hang in the living room, some salt scrubs and a mud mask from the Dead Sea, and Za’atar and Sumac — two super tasty spices that we fell in love with. From Norway it was reindeer sausage (that was confiscated at customs upon our return, sad) and wool socks. And from Iceland it was a tiny handmade wool sweater for a wine bottle which, I admit, sounds bizarre but is totally adorable! Plus every time I grab a glass or a bottle from the wine rack, I am reminded of our whirlwind trip around Southwestern Iceland.
As we started our travels in Turkey we kept our eyes open to see what might be a wonderful reminder of our trip once we were back in DC. We avoided going the traditional Turkish rug route (which was easy to do since we already have rugs from Pakistan and Afghanistan in the house) and opted for hand-painted tiles (small, as pictured above, and large) that we can use as part of a back splash in our kitchen (whenever we remodel it) as well as a variety of spices and teas. We enjoyed our dining experiences throughout Turkey so much and bringing a few Turkish flavors home will allow us to relive the memories.
Each of the items we purchased were sealed in air tight pouches, but when I got home I found some empty containers around the house that would allow me to show off our Istanbul treats before we partake. The teas include “relax” tea (it looks so pretty with its rose buds), mint-lemon tea, and Ottoman apple which smells heavenly thanks to its blend of cinnamon, cloves and allspice. For the spices we picked up a “salad” blend to use on cucumbers and tomatoes this summer and a BBQ spice blend. I’m looking forward to giving each of these items a try, but for now whenever I walk by the containers on the shelf they remind me of special time spent with my husband and that makes me smile.