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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂