Saturday, October 15: Welcome to our October happy hour! Come right in, get comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink. It’s the perfect day to sit out on our screened-in porch. Would you care for a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice and ginger beer), an Appletini, a dirty martini, or a Cosmos? I’m happy to say I’m expanding my bartending capabilities. Of course there will always be the old standbys of wine and beer.
I can also offer soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage.
Please, do share what’s been going on with you. I’d love to hear about the end of your summer and your early fall. Have you been on vacation or explored new areas close to home? Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement? Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home? How’s your garden? Have you had any special family gatherings?
Admittedly, I’ve been imbibing on whatever alcoholic drink I can find to drown out the sorrows and frustrations of this election season. I’ve been spending way too much time reading everything that comes along in the news and on Facebook about the election, including keeping tabs on the various polls. I have been trying to post only intelligent political articles on my Facebook page, without sinking to the level of the trolls and haters. All my Facebook friends are perfectly clear on who my candidate of choice is and ISN’T. As I don’t care to infect my blog with U.S. politics, I will not discuss my preferences here, other than to say I’ve been evaluating my friendships in light of all that I’m seeing and hearing. In addition, though I’ve never been much of a political person, for the first time in my life I’ve actually donated money and volunteered to work the phone bank during a political campaign. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely despise making cold calls of any kind, so this is a big step for me, and one of which I’m quite proud. I cannot stand by idly and not participate when so much is at stake.
I’m not going to discuss the campaign any more except for some comments I’ll make toward the end of this post regarding friendships. Enough said.
I totally missed posting a September cocktail hour because in the middle of September I organized a big party/family reunion for my dad’s 86th birthday. The only person who didn’t show up was my youngest son, Adam, who is trying to settle in and carve a life out for himself in Maui.
Soon after we returned from Iceland at the end of August, we went with my sister-in-law, my son Alex and his girlfriend Ariana to Cirque de Soleil at Tyson’s Corner. It was a spectacular show titled Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, with fantastic costumes, acrobatics and amazing feats. What a way to immerse ourselves back home after our fabulous trip abroad.
You can read about our Iceland trip on my blog about my European travels: in search of a thousand cafés.
It was hard to return from Iceland’s cool and sometimes frigid weather to the heat and humidity in Virginia. I always prefer cold weather to hot, so I was glad for the escape. But. Maybe it was the sudden change from sweltering to cold and then back to hot that caused Mike and I to both get sick on the trip, that and the tendency to go, go, go while on vacation. When we returned home, Mike got better while I got worse. I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia and I suffered through three weeks of pure misery. When I felt slightly better, I walked my daily three miles in the heat, sweated profusely, then got chilled; after these attempts at my normal routine, I was wiped out for days. I repeated this several times, thinking I was better, but then was knocked back down. Finally, I surrendered to the illness, rested a lot, drank fluids and pampered myself. Finally, by mid-September, I was fine again. What misery that was!
On September 4, Mike and I want to the Virginia Scottish Games and Festival at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia. Mike was particularly interested in watching the Border Collie sheep herding, but it turned out there was only one Border Collie and he was herding goats. Apparently this Border Collie costs $7,000! He was very keen to round-up the goats when his owner gave the signal. We watched a parade, ate haggis (which I’d never had) and Scotch eggs, and checked out the shiny British cars.
We stopped at the Living History exhibit, where a man taught us a bit about Scottish history.
The week before the Scottish Festival, we had a faux painter paint our dining room (from a deep red to a Sherwin Williams Whitetail and Intricate Ivory using a troweling process); the week after, she did our foyer (using a stippling process with a Sherwin Williams Cooled Blue, Rivulet , and Thermal Spring glaze mixture). I am pleased with the results in both areas.🙂
It’s been a long year of renovations, painting, landscaping, and KonMari-ing, and our house feels like new now. We’re exhausted by the whole process and are now ready to relax for a good long while. We still have to renovate our upstairs bathrooms, but I won’t be ready to dive into that project for a long time.
Here’s our stippled foyer. The three paintings to the right were ones I picked up at the Longji Rice Terraces in China and had framed.
I planned a big family reunion for my dad’s 86th birthday on the weekend of September 17. My sister from California and my brother from New Jersey came, as well as my sister and her whole family from Maryland. Sarah came for part of the time and Alex and his girlfriend were also here. Adam was the only one missing, sadly. We shared a lot of food and drinks and infectious laughs, especially playing Apples-to-Apples and a rip-roaring game of Charades. My siblings and I have always been game players, so it was great fun for all of us to be together and let loose with some crazy competitions.
Sadly, I am unable to post pictures of our whole family together as my sister from California does not want her picture posted, and she of course was in many of them.😦
On September 24, I went to Richmond to attend a day-long farm tour with my daughter. Sarah wrote a great blog about it: Where Farmers Grow. I hope you’ll check it out. She’s a fantastic writer.🙂
We started our tour at Victory Farms.
I didn’t know okra plants had such pretty flowers.
After touring three other gardens, we ended up back at Victory Farms, where we enjoyed a feast of small plates prepared by Richmond chefs.
Sarah’s friend Colin, marketing director of Ellwood Thompson’s, a locally-owned and independently operated natural food market, got us the tickets for this event.
Shalom Farms, our next stop on the tour, partners with community organizations and existing nutrition programs to meet the needs of families and children. Among others, their partners include after-school programs, food banks, and community kitchens. In 2015 over 200,000 servings of Shalom Farms produce was distributed through local partnerships to meet the growing needs of nutrition programs in the greater Richmond area.
We both found the work at this farm inspirational.
Shalom, a 6-acre sustainable farm at Westview on the James in Goochland, Virginia, is an agricultural learning lab for visitors and volunteers of all backgrounds. In 2014, over 4,400 volunteers and visitors gained hands-on education and experience, helping the grow over 250,000 servings of fresh produce, according to their website.
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery , our third stop, supplies its brewery operations with on-site hop, barley, rosemary, hay and pumpkin farming. We were able to enjoy a beer here and listen to some good classic rock-n-roll.
Tricycle Gardens is an urban garden whose mission is to grow healthy food, healthy communities and a healthy local food system. Their aim is to restore urban ecologies and create beautiful public spaces throughout Richmond, Virginia.
I made the mistake of standing in line at the porta-potty near the compost bins, where I was devoured by blood-sucking mosquitoes. I must have been bitten at least 20 times, and it made the rest of my time at this garden miserable!
At China Chilcano, known for its union of Peruvian Criollo, Chinese Chifa and Japanese Nikkei, we sampled some Dorado Dim Sum (pork, shrimp, jicama, shiitake mushroom, peanut topped with golden egg), Bok Choy as Sillao (Baby bok choy, shiitake mushroom, oyster sauce), and Chupe de Cameron (Pacific wild shrimp soup with fresh cheese, choclo, rice, potato, poached egg). For dessert we enjoyed Suspiro Limeña (Sweetened condensed milk custard topped with soft and crunchy meringue, passion fruit).
At the Woolly Mammoth, we saw another avant-garde play: Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops. Woolly Mammoth is always on the cutting edge with their performances, and this one is no different. In Jen Silverman’s absurdist romantic comedy, five different women named Betty collide at the intersection of anger, sex, and the “thea-tah,” according to the playbill. I enjoy it, but am always a little taken aback by the radical ideas in these plays.
Before the play, we sat and enjoyed a glass of wine, which was included in the price of our theater ticket. Mike was awfully blue and I awfully pink.🙂
We haven’t done much else these two months other than taking our trip to Iceland and recovering from said trip. I have watched a number of good movies, notably Hell or High Water, in which a divorced father (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother (Toby Howard) resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas. I enjoyed this movie and felt some satisfaction at the brothers’ attempts to get back at the bank that tried to cheat their family out of its inheritance.
I also enjoyed the atmospheric The Light Between Oceans, in which a lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat. I went to see this with my sister from California as she stayed an extra two days after the rest of the family left the reunion. After the movie, we enjoyed sushi and Sapporo and hot sake with Mike at Arigato.
One day last week, I went to see The Queen of Katwe, in which a Ugandan girl’s poverty-stricken life becomes more promising after she is introduced to the game of chess, for which she has great aptitude. I love this movie, as I always love movies that take place in foreign and exotic locales and feature an underdog rising up to meet success.
As for books, I have read some captivating books. Here’s what I’ve read since we last met for a cocktail hour: Glaciers; And the Mountains Echoed; The Disappeared; 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. I listened to my first ever audiobook, Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (read by Hope Davis). I’ve never listened to an audiobook because I can be a terrible listener, with my mind always wandering off. But, despite a few wandering thoughts where I lost the thread of the story, I was engrossed in this book and LOVED IT!! I’m now sold on audiobooks. I’m looking forward to listening to a lot more during my daily 3 mile walks.
I’ve now added another exercise to my walks, a Tuesday-Thursday Pilates class. I’ve never done Pilates, but I’ve done Yoga. Both of them I find excruciatingly boring. But I’ve decided I like Pilates better and I think I’m getting stronger as a result of it.
In addition to Pilates, I’m taking a Memoir class at the Reston Community Center on Monday mornings. The class is for 55+ people — that includes me! I’m finally beginning to write a memoir; I’ve dreamed of doing this for a long time; because of the weekly deadlines, I now have four chapters under my belt. I’m getting positive feedback on it too, which encourages me to go on. Because of this class, I’m reading Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach. I’ve always been told that if you want to write in a certain genre, you should read a lot in that genre, so in that vein, I read and enjoyed immensely Pat Conroy’s The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son.
Of all the books I’ve read, I think I enjoyed The Disappeared the most. Here’s the review I wrote about it on Goodreads: This book tells the poignant and tragic story of a young Cambodian man who was forced to leave his country during the Khmer Rouge reign and genocide, and who, while in exile in Montreal, meets and falls in love with a 16-year-old Canadian girl. Their love is beautifully and poetically rendered, and is physical and spiritual at the same time. The story is written in 2nd person, an unusual point of view. When the borders of Cambodia open again, Serey, the Cambodian student and musician, feels compelled to return to his country to search for his family. It is over a decade before his lover, Anne Greves, is able to travel to Cambodia in search of him, and when she finds him, they live together with the dark cloud of the country’s genocide hanging over them and reverberating through their lives. Serey is secretive about his days and when Anne comes to find out he is working for the opposition, she rebels against his secrecy and fears for his life. Beautifully rendered, this book reminds us of sweeping tragedies in countries where peasants or the disenfranchised take up arms and kill off intellectuals and musicians and teachers. Like China’s Cultural Revolution, and like the Nazi extermination of the Jews, it is a dark and grim reminder of the horrible things human beings do to each other when embraced with hatred and fear.
I guess this book struck home with me because of the political atmosphere in our country during this 2016 election.
In regards to that, I’ve been looking closely at and evaluating my friendships. I read a great article posted by my favorite philosopher, Alain de Botton, on Facebook, from The Book of Life: What is the Purpose of Friendship?
The article starts with: “Friendship should be one of the high points of existence, and yet it’s also the most routinely disappointing reality.” And then it goes on to say that relationships have a purpose which are boiled down to the following: networking, reassurance, fun, clarifying our minds, and holding on to the past. I know I can look at most of my friendships and say they have one of these purposes. They say friends come into our lives for a reason, or a season.
I truly wonder if we can hold on to friends forever. Maybe I lived in a fantasy world, but I used to believe I could. Sometimes I still like to believe it is possible. But how can I really be friends with people who don’t share my basic values of inclusiveness and love for all of mankind; how can I be friends with people who harshly judge and even condemn those who are a different race, religion, or sex than us? How can I be friends with those who condone ugliness and hatred?
I’m beginning to think that I agree with the final paragraph in this article: “We should dare to be a little ruthless. Culling acquaintances isn’t a sign that we have lost belief in friendship. It’s evidence that we are getting clearer and more demanding about what a friendship could be.” That’s where I am now.
It’s been the nastiest time I’ve ever lived through in the history of my country.
So, on that note, I leave you to go forward into this great month of November, when the election will be upon us, and to make decisions with good conscience. What we decide in November will be of grave consequence to the future of our country.