cocktail hour on the patio: the mid-autumn edition

Sunday, November 1:  Hello there and welcome!  It’s been too long since I’ve been able to host a cocktail hour on my patio, but I’m so happy to have you drop by this evening.  Since my last one on September 6, a lot has happened, at least in my life.  I can’t wait to catch up with you to find out what you’ve been up to during these two months.

It’s a cool fall evening, a little overcast, but still nice enough to sit outside.  Please, make yourself comfortable.  Would you like a glass of my new favorite wine?  It’s a Montes Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile; it’s quite mellow. I discovered it one evening when I went grocery shopping at Whole Foods.  I quite like going grocery shopping around 4:30 on a weekday afternoon.  I conveniently manage to finish up around 5:00, when the wine bar starts serving wine, and I often park my grocery cart beside me at the bar, where I sip a glass of wine.  That’s where I discovered the Montes.  Someone also gave us a bottle of Wild Boar Tavern red wine, which I haven’t opened yet. It’s from one of the Virginia wineries: Stone Tower Winery in Loudoun County.  I also have some white wine, my Bud Light Limes, and one of Mike’s Fat Tire beers if you’d prefer.  If you don’t care for alcohol, I do have some apple cider in the refrigerator. I can heat it up, with some orange juice, lemon juice, cloves and cinnamon, or I can serve it cold. 🙂

So, what have you been up to?  Have you enjoyed the change of seasons?  I don’t know about you, but autumn, especially October and November, is my favorite time of year.  I love it when the air turns crisp and cool and the orange, yellow and red leaves rustle over my head as I take my morning walks.  I also love pumpkins, scarecrows, corn mazes, mums, odd-shaped squashes, multi-colored corn cobs, and jack-o-lanterns.  It’s so festive, as if the earth is shouting its last hurrah before it shuts down for the winter.

Have you been to any plays or concerts?  Have you seen any good movies?  Have you been on any fall outings?  Have you gone away for a long weekend? Have you learned something new or met any new people?  Have you taken any fall hikes?  Have you read any good books or watched any interesting TV series?  Have you completed any house projects?

Since September 6, I received two of the boxes from China I had mailed right before I left on July 15.  Everything was intact, happily. One never knows how things that come from China will end up.

I worked the first two weeks of September on a pre-task we had to do for the CELTA course (University of Cambridge Certificate of English Language Teaching for Adults).  The actual course began on September 21.  It was a month-long highly intensive course.  It took me 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours each way to commute to the Teaching House office in Washington for the course.  In addition to the nearly 3 hour round-trip commute, I had to complete 2-3 hours of work every night.  We also had intense assignments to do every weekend until the course ended on October 16.  Preparing for and taking the course took nearly every minute of my time during that period, but it was well worth it.   I only wish I had taken the course BEFORE I started teaching abroad; it would have helped me immensely.  But alas, I guess it was better to take it later than never.  Even with all the work, I really enjoyed the course; our tutors were excellent and inspiring!

We had 9 CELTA candidates in our class.  We originally had 10, but one dropped out because he got too far behind after missing one day due to sickness.  That’s how intense it was!

At the end, because it takes 8-10 weeks to get our actual certificates, we gave mock certificates to one another.  My certificate said “the person most likely to turn in a novel as a lesson plan.” 🙂

Here are some of my fellow candidates from our final class party.  I didn’t get pictures of all of us.

For the first half of the course, half of us taught pre-intermediate adult students and the other half taught upper-intermediate.  Halfway through the course, we switched and taught the opposite group.  Here are some photos of the students, who were from countries as far-ranging as Argentina, Colombia, Morocco, Austria, Cote d’Ivoire and many others.

students with Eric in front, and me in the middle right
students with Eric in front, and me in the middle right

As you can guess, that course has been the reason I’ve been unable to blog for so long.  I could hardly breathe, much less do anything extra.

Before the class began, I took a trip to Richmond to visit Sarah and Alex.  We had a Japanese dinner at Akida Japanese Restaurant, did some shopping the next day, and then had a vegetarian lunch at Fresca on Addison.  The Fan District in Richmond has so many cute corner restaurants, I feel like I need to sample a few every time I visit there.

On Saturday, September 12, Mike and I went downtown to Arena Stage to see Destiny of Desire, a telenovela comedy by Karen Zacarias.  It was about two baby girls born in Bellarica, Mexico, one into a life of privilege and one into a life of poverty. When the two babies are switched at birth, it leads to some hilarious situations.  We enjoyed the play, even though, like a telenovela, it was meant to be overly dramatic.

I went to see Learning to Drive, starring Patricia Clarkson, at Cinema Arts Theatre and then met some friends for dinner at Season 52 at Tyson’s Corner.  I also saw Lily Tomlin in Grandma the next day.  I enjoyed them both, but I especially loved Learning to Drive.

On the night of September 18, Mike and I went to see a play, Women Laughing Alone with Salad, at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre downtown, after a dinner of tapas at Jaleo. It was very risque, and highly entertaining.  The Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s mission is to produce plays that “explore the edges of theatrical style and human experience,” and this play certainly was representative of that mission.

Playbook from Women Laughing Alone with Salad
Playbill from Women Laughing Alone with Salad

The play was inspired by the 2011 blog post of the same name by Edith Zimmerman on the website The Hairpin. According to the playbill: “the eighteen photos were portraits of women, many of whom were attired in tasteful, neutral ensembles of relaxed casualwear against white or blank backgrounds, posing with bowls of salad.  Which they seemed to really enjoy! … The post went viral, becoming a known ‘meme’ or cultural thought.”  The playwright, Sheila Callaghan, created three female characters, each of whom has her “own complicated relationship toward the supposedly ‘ideal’ women depicted in the stock photos.”  The one male figure, Guy, is the fulcrum which “allows the play to enter a conversation between the sexes about how both are affected by the pathologies of the feminine and masculine ideals.”

Me at the Woolly Mammoth
Me at the Woolly Mammoth – all I need is a bowl of salad!

The week I started the CELTA course, on September 22-24, the Pope visited D.C.  We were so worried about making it downtown on metro during all the festivities, but we managed to do so quite easily as government employees opted to work at home on those days.  I didn’t see the Pope because I was busy in my classes.

On Saturday the 26th, Mike and I went to see Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, which we both found hilarious!  I also went on my own to see The Martian, with Matt Damon, and I was happy to find it wasn’t just another space movie with one mishap following on the heels of another, although it did have some of that.

On Friday, October 2, Mike and I went for happy hour and dinner at Season 52 at Tyson’s Corner.  We love that place because it has healthy seasonal food and good wine.  I like meeting somewhere during the work week to break up the monotony of work.

On Saturday, October 3, on a weekend I had my biggest assignment due for the CELTA, I took some time out to have lunch with Farah, an old friend of mine.  Every time I get together with Farah, we end up laughing our heads off at some silly thing.  This time, both of us were agonizing about our children, but we laughed so hard we were almost crying as we told stories about their “angst” and “dilemmas.”  It was great to make light of something that has been stressing me out big time since I returned home from China.

On the last week of the CELTA, on October 14, Mike and I went to see Benjamin Clementine at the Barns of Wolf Trap. According to Wikipedia: Benjamin Clementine: “Clementine is a British-French singer-poet, pianist, composer and musician from London, England.  During his spell whilst singing [as a busker] in Paris, he broke free from the traditional song structure, inventing his own dramatic and innovative musical territory and consequently became a cult figure in the music and art scene.” It was an interesting concert, unlike any I’ve attended.

On the last night of our CELTA course, October 16, all the teachers (us) and students went for beer and wine at Church Key, a craft beer bar not far from where my Chinese student Christine and her mom stayed when they came to visit.

On the Saturday after my class ended, on October 17, we walked with Adam in the morning along the Fairfax Country Cross-County trail.  I love getting outdoors for walks at this time of year.  We’ve been having a lot of struggles with Adam lately as he tries to “find himself” and it was a welcome and relaxing break from many stressful conversations.

The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT

Later that same evening, we went to see The Intern, which I adored.  I love Robert DeNiro, and having been one of the world’s oldest living interns myself for 4 months in 2007, 3 months in 2008 and 9 months in 2009, at ages 51-52, I could really relate to the story.

On Sunday, October 18, we went to The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant in Reston, to celebrate my 60th birthday with the family. It was a week before my actual birthday, but it was the only time we could get the kids to come.  Sarah and Alex were supposed to come from Richmond, and Adam was already here.  However, Sarah, as usual, didn’t plan ahead, and didn’t make it.  Alex drove up from Richmond by himself. So it was just the four of us for my family birthday, and it was really nice! (Sorry about the quality of pictures from my iPhone.  It takes the worst pictures!).

I had been exercising so well before my CELTA course, and now that it’s over, I’m back to it with a vengeance.  One of my favorite places to walk is around Lake Audubon in Reston.  This is my favorite view.

view of Lake Audubon
view of Lake Audubon

On Monday evening, the 19th, I had dinner at Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling with one of my oldest and dearest high school friends, Nancy, who lives near me in northern Virginia.  She’s a schoolteacher and is really busy, but we try to get together at least once a year. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures of our fun evening together.

On Tuesday the 20th, I met Toby of Travels with Toby: My Few Hours in Washington, D.C. at the National Gallery of Art. She was mostly interested in seeing the Impressionists, but we saw a number of wonderful artistic delights too.  I’ll write a post about it soon.  It was so nice to meet Toby after reading her blog over the last couple of years; we enjoyed a fun lunch at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana before she had to go back to Reston to pick up her mother.

me and Toby at the National Art Gallery
me and Toby at the National Art Gallery

On Friday the 23rd, painters arrived to paint our three upstairs bedrooms, which hadn’t been painted since the boys were little and still had babyish wallpaper borders, stars on the ceilings and stenciled star borders.  The biggest bedroom is now a robin’s egg blue and the two smaller rooms are a Sherwin Williams “Online” gray.

Finally, the highlight of my October was a trip Mike and I took for my birthday weekend to Chincoteague.  Leaving Saturday morning, we drove 3 hours to Assateague and then to Chincoteague, where we stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast, Channel Bass Inn, run by a Barbara, a fun-loving Brit who makes some heavenly scones, and her husband David.  We took some short hikes in Assateague, saw a few of the famous wild ponies, hiked and bicycled in Chincoteague, and ate some great seafood.  I’ll write more about that later.

As you can see, it’s been a super busy time for me, but I hope things will settle down now that my course and my birthday are over.  I can’t wait to hear about what you’ve been up to, so please leave some comments below about your autumn adventures.  If I don’t answer right away, please be patient; do rest assured that I read them as soon as you comment. 🙂

Thanks so much for dropping by.  It’s so nice to see you after my two-month blogging hiatus. 🙂

20 thoughts on “cocktail hour on the patio: the mid-autumn edition

    1. Yes, Carol, I’m so happy to have some time to just take walks, write, and just be… until Thanksgiving that is! It’s been way too busy, but I’m so excited to have finished that CELTA. Even if I never teach again, it was a great course. 🙂

  1. woo hoo! thanks for the shout out 🙂 it was a packed few hours but so much fun! thanks for indulging me and meeting at the museum. and thanks for the added bonus art items, oh those Degas…..loved it! yes, you have been quite busy indeed! I agree with Carol, time for some deep breaths. Love your photos as always 🙂 especially the woods photos, looks so peaceful in the middle of that busy, busy metro area. every time I go back I’m amazed how much more developed everything is. when I lived there both Herndon and Reston were “nothing” towns. not so any more! wow….we are winding down from a busy Halloween/kidlet birthday weekend. she is 16 as of about two hours ago and now it’s time to plan my Thanksgiving meal. enjoy your week!!

    1. You’re welcome, Toby. I do plan to write a blog post about it soon, whenever I can catch up!! It was fun to explore the art gallery with you, and to finally meet you in person. I’m so glad you squeezed me in on your busy trip to northern Virginia.

      Surprisingly, in the midst of all this developed area of northern Virginia, there are some very nice trails, especially along the Potomac and Great Falls, and all through Fairfax County on the CCT. I do like to get out and walk on them as often as I can. Congratulations on your daughter turning sweet 16. What was her actual birthday? Mine was the 25th. Happy planning for Thanksgiving. 🙂

  2. Spencer took the CELTA course through Cambridge one summer while he was in Oman.
    At that time it was in Istanbul.
    As for his current studies at Boulder, it has something to do with statistical modeling and program development in educational and social programs. That’s about all I know.
    Glad to see all is well with you.
    Oh,,,by the way, we are planning a big renovation of the cottage and making it our year round living.


    1. Hi Ron, I know you can take the CELTA many places in the world, but I knew I was going to be home so I took it here. Statistical modeling? Oh dear. I don’t like to work with numbers! Good for him!

      That’s exciting about the cottage renovation and moving into there year-round. Will you sell your other house, then?

      1. Ya,,, we will have to sell the other house to free up money for the cottage.
        As it stand now just the taxes for the cottage are $12,000 a year and as it looks going up to about $13,500 next year. How’s that for a 1 bedroom cottage!!! They’re killing me. After the addition, I expect to pay around $15,000, just in property taxes. It looks like the town would like me to sell out and have someone build a mega home so they can get $25,000 or more per year in taxes. That’s what’s happening all around me. They’re getting between $650,000 to $700,000 for a lake front lot, then the mega home goes up.

      2. I can’t believe the taxes, Ron! I bet they are trying to drive out the small cottage owners and replace them with mega mansion owners! That is really a shame as it ruins the character of that wonderful lake. 🙂

  3. What a whirlwind! It is amazing to me though that all your children do not have the same (a) wanderlust and (b) clear-cut detemination to know what they want with to do with their lives, with you as such a strong role model – and where training, studying, travel and life-long education with clear goals in mind (at least from this outside observer’s view point) play such a strong role in determinining one’s life’s purpose!! I suppose that comes with being a parent, you just cannot always help your kids “find themselves” when they have no single apparent burning desire that can be easily identified over time and into adulthood.

    I think you always knew you wanted to be a writer, and that you had to find a way to be paid to travel. And you did. I also knew what I wanted to do from childhood and though I did not plan my life around my two goals (to be a teacher and to work for the United Nations) per se, I must have had a plan all along as I made both happen … eventually. It must be so hard to know how to offer guidance and support when even one of your kids is unsure where her or she needs to be or what they need to be doing at this stage of life. Yet, I know from your posts that both your boys have such strong ideals and skill sets where fitness and the environment and health are concerned, I would think they would easily find options which would allow them to shine on all three fronts.

    Do you think Adam may be spoiled for choices or does he just not know which of his interests interests him the most? (how is that for an ESL sentence!? Using the same word as a plural noun and a verb!). I just read a fascinating article on Generation K, though I think Adam is a millennial Generation X. Does he identify as either? What challenges does he see? What is holding him back from finding meaning in his life? It is fascinating to me as I am not a parent as you know. I would kill to have the choices people in their early 20s or so have nowadays, especially when it comes to living and working overseas with a visa with something like joining the military as a civilian, or the Student Work Abroad Program in Canada or the Peace Corps in the USA. Perhaps a year or two with the Peace Corps would help him come to some decisions, as the best way to help yourself is to help others worse off. That is my philosophy anyway. Has Adam ever considered doing something like that?

    It freaks me out as a Canadian when you write that you can go to a bar in a Whole Foods supermarket!! Hahaha! We are only now broaching the prospect of being able to buy beer in corner shops!! We only have government regulated liquor and beer stores here, though in Quebec the laws are a bit more lenient but buying booze or even having a bar in a supermarket? My head almost exploded when I read that!!! Hahaha!

    I will take a glass of that Chilean wine though, please! Their wines are full-bodied, smooth (with a bit of water to take the edge off) and best of all, not that expensive for the most part.

    I am enjoying my “new” job, I am heading into my three-month probation period being over next week. I am not too concerned that I won’t make it through, but seriously, I wish I had something to do all day as I am mostly just here to answer the phone. I am considering taking some online certification courses in either French or Spanish (prefereably both) but I want to hold off on paying for something like that just now. AFter all my boss is 72 and while he is in great health as far as I know, and his dad is still around and doing well, I will wait a bit to sign on to something like that as certification, as you know, is very expensive. But it would certainly give me something productive to do all day, that is for sure.

    Well, that is my bit of cocktail hour chatter!! I will wait to get in touch until after your Thanksgiving is over, as you have barely had time to let your feet touch the ground for a while now! I think of you taking walks in the autumn weather clothes you looked so forward to wearing again! You look amazing, so fit and slim, and for sure all your clothes that you love will fit you as you want them to fit again!! You are such an inspiration and such a role model!! I do hope your kids realize how lucky they are to have such an adventurous, talented mother and such a compassionate father in Mike! I love your stories of your “date nights”! I wish I had something like that, but since I don’t I can enjoy being a fly on the wall when I read your posts!!

    Have a terrific week!! And happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!


    1. Hey there. First, I hope you don’t mind, but I changed your references to “Alex” to “Adam,” as he’s the one who’s struggling to find himself right now! Alex is now attending VCU, living in Richmond, and seems to be on his way to finding himself quite nicely in the exercise science/ physical therapy field. Adam is passionate about the environment, permaculture, etc, but can’t figure out how to direct his passion.

      I always enjoy how you see me as such a role model and an inspiration. I wish you were right on all counts. 🙂 I have spent my whole life trying to figure out what to do, and all the education in the world, which I’ve had, really hasn’t helped me to make decisions. I’m afraid my indecisiveness is reflected in my children. All three of them struggle with this, and obviously none of them have adopted their fathers’ traits of determination and sticking to things. All three of them do have passions, they just sadly haven’t figured out how to best make a living and proceed to a career utilizing their passions. I can understand their struggles, I just wish it were easier for them as I know the struggle all too well. I guess they will figure it out in time, although when I look at myself, I still don’t know which way to go at age 60!! As for me wanting to write and getting paid to do so, that is a big dilemma. I have yet to be paid for anything I’ve written, and I have to admit I don’t know if I could really stand to sit at a desk writing all day every day as I’m sure most successful writers do. I get too antsy and want to get out and about and be around people! Writing is a very solitary pursuit, and I’m not sure I am a person who can live that totally solitary life!

      Congratulations to you on your three-month probation period; I’m sorry you don’t have more to do at the job. That’s one thing I can’t stand about any job, idleness! I worked as an intern at the State Department’s Office of UN Political Affairs one semester, and no one ever would give me anything to do! It drove me crazy as I wasn’t get paid and I had to sit there twiddling my thumbs all day. That’s why I didn’t go back to that office for the next semester, and it probably ruined my chance of ever getting a job there. Oh well. C’est la vie!

      Getting a new certification would be a great way to occupy your time; of course I’d be worried about your boss’s age too! Who knows how long before he retires!

      I love getting outside in this wonderful autumn weather. I can’t wait to post my pics of a walk I took at the Arboretum and in Assateague and Chincoteague. And I love wearing my fall clothes, especially layers with sweaters! I do wear those boots I bought in Oman when I was with you.

      I am enjoying my “date nights” and our weekend getaway was really lovely. It was fun. I also enjoy getting together with some of my old girlfriends for dinner and happy hours!

      Thanks so much for your good wishes and your always encouraging words. Take care and happy Thanksgiving to you too! xxx

      1. Sorry about the mix-up! I did it again today in the big blog I sent you I think! I am so happy to know that Alex is doing so well finally!! I did not read this first before I wrote you this morning – you must feel relieved though this was written a while ago. I hope he is still motivated and doing well in his studies. xxx

      2. Alex is doing fine, thank goodness, and so is Sarah. Sarah’s ready to graduate on May 14 after many years of putting herself through school. I’m so happy for her. Alex is officially a sophomore, majoring in Exercise Science, with a minor in Religious Studies. He also has a girlfriend and is always working out and trying to improve himself. 🙂

      3. Hi there!! How was Easter!!?? We all the children there?? How fantastic that Sarah will graduate!! What an effort, and how much more does it mean that she had to wind up paying for it herself! What a lesson in life! What was her major?? Alex has found his way, now Adam I am sure may want to follow in his footsteps!! Is Adam also not an exercise and health and fitness fanatic? So much knowledge to be put to good use! Sadly though there needs to be certification for everything nowadays. Do you like Alex’s girlfriend? Do they travel much when they can? Oh to have a car and live in the USA!! There is so much to see!! Here I am so trapped I have never had to deal with not having a car as I was never here long enough to care about that. But, for now, I will focus on things I can change and work on, not the things I cannot, and that is very difficult some days, as you can imagine!! Ok more reading to do!!! xx

  4. All your comings and goings have left me quite breathless Cathy. I needed to open a bottle of Apple Jack’s Pippin cider and sit for a while after reading this!

    We’ve just returned home from our big adventure driving around Australia. I’m only half way through though, so I will be posting on the blog for a while yet. I still have one more week off before I go back to work and I’m enjoying having the time to write and potter in the garden.

    Have a lovely week.

    PS Happy Birthday!

    1. Happy Apple Jack’s cider, Carol! All my comings and goings left me quite breathless as well! I’m enjoying this week of writing and staying in, with no big plans for anything, at least for a while.
      I bet you loved your drive around Australia. I’ll try to catch up and keep up with your posts about it. Enjoy your last week off before returning to work! Thanks for the birthday wishes! 🙂

      1. We did enjoy our trip. It took six weeks from Darwin to home and my husband was gone for two weeks before that when he and our daughter drove from here to Darwin. That’s all in the first road trip post. You should go back and check it out.!

        Enjoy your break.

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