cocktail hour between the holidays: the early december edition

Sunday, December 6:  So much for good intentions!  I planned to start posting my cocktail hour more regularly after I wrote the last one on December 1, but here I am only getting to it a month later.  Welcome to our between-the-holidays cocktail hour.  Forget the patio; we are now moving indoors where it’s nice and warm.  Mike tells me he’d rather not entertain until we’ve finished our house renovation, but as we are just getting ready to sign a contract with a contractor this week, that wouldn’t be till the spring.  I can’t wait that long to have a gathering with my blogging friends!

Please, come in and make yourself comfortable.  I’ve made some hot apple cider, and I also can make you can egg nog drink, alcoholic or not, as you wish.  Lots of great wines too and some craft beers.

I’ve been trying to keep up with you on your blogs, but in case I missed anything, I’d love to hear how you’re preparing for the holiday festivities.  Have you put up your Christmas tree yet?  Decorated your house for the holidays?  For my American friends: did you have a nice Thanksgiving? Have you been outside exploring nature?  Have you seen any holiday light shows or been to any holiday markets?  Have you had your first snow of the season?  Have you seen any good movies or read any good books?  Have you been to any plays or concerts?  Have you completed any house projects?

We just picked up our Christmas tree this afternoon, and it’s now sitting in a bucket of water until we can decorate it sometime this week.  Mike put the wreaths on the windows and a spotlight near the front door which illuminates the wreaths. Other than that, I haven’t done anything holiday-related other than to buy myself some Christmas presents, notably a new Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and a telephoto lens.  I won’t be opening it until Christmas, but it’s already been delivered. 🙂

Mike and I went on a beautiful hike on Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River on Sunday, November 8, which I wrote about here: a november rock scramble on billy goat trail.  The following weekend, we went to Shepherdstown, West Virginia and Sharpsburg, Maryland, where we stayed in a B&B, walked all around Antietam Battlefield, and had a wonderful time celebrating our anniversary.  More about that later. 🙂

I had a fabulous Thanksgiving on November 26 at my sister Joan’s house in Salisbury, Maryland. My sister Stephanie from California and my brother Rob from New Jersey couldn’t make it, but my dad and stepmother were there, as well as my sister Joan, her husband Steve and my nephew Seth.  Sadly my niece Kelsey, who is now married to Dave, had to go to Dave’s house for the holiday, so she wasn’t there.  However, in a rare alignment of the stars, all three of my children were in attendance.  It was a wonderful day.

The table's all set
The table’s all set

We drove 2 1/2 hours to Salisbury and when we arrived, my sister was busy cooking.  The table was already set.  We visited and hung out while the turkey cooked, drinking wine and eating cheese & crackers and smoked oysters.

Joan and Steve, perfect hosts as always, made sure everyone was happy and had what they needed.

Joan and Steve
Joan and Steve

Some of the kids and Mike threw a football around in the front yard.  Mike somehow ruptured the tendon on one of his fingers, causing it to dangle at the joint. Later he found out from the doctor it’s called mallet finger. As an ex-football player, he was quite embarrassed about it!

frisbee game: Top: Sarah, Alex, Adam, Seth. Bottom: Mike
football game: Top: Sarah, Alex, Adam, Seth. Bottom: Mike

Mike took a picture of my sister and me out by the pool.

Joan and me
Joan and me

When dinner was finally served, we all loaded up our plates and joined each other around the table for a wonderful meal.

Everyone except me
Everyone except me
Everyone except Steve
Everyone except Steve

After dinner and dessert, we drove back home to northern Virginia.  The next morning Sarah wanted to invite her Aunt Barbara, Mike’s sister, over for brunch.  We had a somewhat healthy version of huevos rancheros and bacon and waffles.

healthy huevos rancheros
healthy huevos rancheros

I finished reading Isabelle Allende’s The Infinite Plan on November 24, which I really enjoyed.  Then I dove right in to The Outside of August, by Joanna Hershon.  I find this story intriguing because it’s told from the point of view of a daughter whose mother, Charlotte, is always escaping to foreign lands.  They can’t really figure out what she does when she goes away, nor why she feels compelled to always leave. The family feels the mother’s absence intensely when she’s absent, and they seem to always be waiting for her return. Of course, I can identify with this story as I can see a lot of myself in that mother.  It’s interesting that it’s told from the children’s point of view, and focuses on how her absence really affects the children.  Of course, in my all-too-real life, I can see the effect my absence has had on my children, although they insist that they are proud of me for following my dreams and for my bravery and adventurous nature.  They say one thing, but their actions often speak differently.  I’m nearly finished the book and am anxious to discover why the mother always felt the urge to escape to exotic lands. Maybe it will tell me something about myself that I don’t know.

I went to see the movie Steve Jobs.  It was an excellent movie and it just so happened Adam was home on the afternoon I was going to see it and asked to come along because of his fascination with Jobs.  Adam is brilliant, and like Steve Jobs, he doesn’t see the need to go to college.  He wants to change the world like Jobs did, but in a way that involves permaculture, organic farming, etc.  At this moment, I can see Adam struggling to find a direction and I wish with all my heart that he’d reconsider going to college.  One thing I’m figuring out is that I cannot force my children to do what they don’t want to do.  It’s a losing battle, and I’m learning to give it up.  I have to step back and give them the reins and see what they can figure out on their own.  But I must admit it’s frustrating to see such a struggle going on with him when he could have it so easy.

Mike and I went to see Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks and, another night, we went to see singer Madeleine Peyroux at The Barns at Wold Trap.  I really loved the movie, Spotlight, in which journalists in Boston took on the Catholic Church over the abuse of young children by priests. I was less impressed with Brooklyn, about an Irish immigrant girl.  It seemed tedious and predictable.

I had a goal to send off my novel to 10 agents by the end of November, but I only sent it out to five.  I don’t know why I’m so resistant to putting it out there.  Of course I’m afraid of rejection, but shouldn’t I be more afraid of it sitting on my computer, unseen by anyone, as it has for the last twelve years?  I hope to send it out to at least five more agents by year-end.

I’ve been doing way too much shopping, such a foolish thing to waste my time on.  But I find myself in the house all day and feeling trapped.  I just have to get out and see other human beings.  I’m considering signing up for a real estate course just for something to do where I can get out with other adults. I’ve always enjoyed looking at houses and my banking background will come in handy.  I don’t really want to teach ESL in America as the pay is horrible for the amount of work required.  And now, I don’t want to go abroad because I need to stay home for various reasons, mainly my children, Mike and the upcoming home renovation.

In 2000, I did The Artist’s Way 12-week course.  Doing that inspired me to write short stories and eventually my novel.  Now I’ve decided to undertake The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon.  I just started it on December 2 and it will take 12 weeks.  Who knows what this might open up for me.

I find myself quite depressed about all the violence that is happening in the world, especially related to ISIS: the Paris shootings, the Beirut attacks, the downing of the Russian plane, the recent killing of a governor in a state in Yemen.  The killings in San Bernardino this week by a husband and wife who pledged their support to the caliphate.  Will the violence ever end?  I have that same uneasy feeling I had after September 11, the time period during which my novel takes place.  I wrote the novel at a time when I felt shaken by world events, and those events keep repeating themselves in different forms today.  I don’t begin to know the solution to dealing with the ISIS caliphate and their violence-with-a-vengeance campaign.  I don’t even know if people such as these, people who are so hell-bent on forcing their world view on all of us, can be bargained with in a non-violent way.  Would they be wiling to bend, even a little?

Here in America, we have our own brand of terrorism as well, with disenfranchised and alienated people taking their anger to the extreme by grabbing an easy-to-access weapon and randomly shooting innocent people.  I can see the alienation that is taking over our country and we should work on correcting that deep issue rather than thinking more gun laws will solve what I see as symptoms to the problem.  I am for some gun control, especially for assault-type weapons, but I also would like to know that when I feel threatened in any way, I can go out and get a gun myself to defend my family.

No matter what, I refuse to be afraid.  I will not let these people have power over me, and I hope most Americans will refuse to stand down. I am not going to let someone else dictate to me what my life will be.

Back to more pleasant things.  We haven’t yet had any snow in northern Virginia, but we have had many rainy and dreary days.  I love to go outside to walk every day, if possible, and the weather has put a damper on that.  The weight I lost over the last couple of months is slowly creeping back, so I need to pull back on my eating.  But on these cold and dreary days, comfort foods are calling my name.  We’ve been making a lot of soups, the perfect remedy to cold winter days.

Here’s one view along my favorite 3-mile walk around Lake Audubon.  We’ve had a lot of gray skies like these lately.

Reflections on a gray day around Lake Audubon in Reston
Reflections on a gray day around Lake Audubon in Reston
Lake Audubon
Lake Audubon

SCAN0001We went this past Friday night to Mike’s company’s holiday Christmas party.  I haven’t gotten dressed up like that in years, and I have to say, I really don’t like getting dressed up! I’m always so uncomfortable wearing pantyhose and walking in heels.  I don’t know why on earth someone can’t invent some comfortable pantyhose!

It was a fun gathering with lots of fantastic food, especially crab cakes and a pasta bar and a great salad bar.  It was nice to meet many of Mike’s coworkers. The best thing about the party was this crazy photo booth thing where you got inside and did silly poses and the photo booth printed out a column of pictures.  It was so goofy and loads of fun!

Finally, on Saturday, we went to Richmond where Mike went to the University of Richmond vs. William & Mary football game and I met Sarah and Alex for lunch at Fresca…on Addison.  Later that evening, we picked up Alex and his girlfriend Ariana, and we all went to the Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and then had a Cuban dinner at Kuba-Kuba.  I’ll post something about that later.  It was great fun and got us all in the mood for the holidays. 🙂

I know I’ve talked a lot about what’s been going on with me, but I hope you’ll tell me what’s happening with you in the comments.  I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Hugs to you all and thank you for coming.  Have a holly jolly Christmas and a happy New Year!



12 thoughts on “cocktail hour between the holidays: the early december edition

  1. I think I will pass on the cocktail because it’s still a bit early for me, but I would love to join you just to visit for awhile. Reading your words this morning, I hear from you more happiness, more satisfaction with your life, than I think I’ve heard before. It’s as if you’re settling in, finding your place and your peace, although that process is not yet complete. I have enjoyed your weekend ventures with Mike, although I do not always comment. Sometimes it feels like hitting that “like” button says what I have to say – I liked what you had to say and have nothing to add. Other times, like this, I feel a need to ramble on. I’m having trouble maintaining an attitude, a mood, that is not bleak. It seems the world is on a road to self-destruction – there is nothing I can do, and I hate having no control. If we defeat ISIS, then what? It seems terrorist groups have been around forever, beginning, in my memory, with Hitler – there have been many other cult leaders in my time, men that are able to recruit and brainwash those who have not found their way in life – Charles Manson, Jimmy Johnson, Osama Bin Ladin – will there be an end? Or will what appears to be an acceleration of violence be the end?
    Yech! Gloomy thoughts. Much more pleasant are your pictures of your happy Thanksgiving with your family, your views as you go on your walks, your classy appearance for the Christmas party. Appreciate that you do not have to wear pantyhose every day – I think that was one of my favorite things about leaving a professional world where I had to wear heels and pantyhose everyday, exchanging it for a rural life spent in jeans and flat, comfortable shoes.
    I hope the sun continues to shine on you and your holidays are full of joy and love. Now it is time for me to move on and try to get something done.

    1. I can certainly understand your passing on the cocktails, Carol, as I meant to post this Sunday night but wasn’t able to finish until Monday morning, certainly a very inappropriate time for cocktails!

      It’s funny. isn’t it, how things come across sometimes? You note that you hear more happiness, more satisfaction with my life than you’ve heard before. And yes, with Mike, all is well and I’m very happy about that. However, as I’m jobless right now and having mighty struggles with my youngest son, I think what I feel mostly is burdened and anchored, rather than the nicer term of “settling in.” I wish I could feel more at peace, but with major emotional upheavals going on all around me (with my son), it’s hard to maintain my equilibrium, or any semblance of serenity. All of this angst constantly in my face just makes me want to escape again! Oh well, hopefully this story with him will work itself sooner rather than later; we’re having to resort to the “tough love” approach, which isn’t fun for any of us.

      Oh well, enough about that. I am hoping the holidays will be good, and I hope that everyone in the family manages to get along and actually enjoy themselves.

      I agree with all you say about the violence and hatred in the world. Maybe there will never be an end to it, although it’s very gloomy to think that way. I wonder if people can ever learn to just love unconditionally. To accept and to work out differences peacefully. Even within our family I can see all our differences dividing us and beating us down.

      I have more hope for other families, especially yours, as I know you’ll be happy to have Kat and Gep at home. Have a wonderful holiday, Carol! And let’s hope for a fabulous 2016! It’s just around the corner. 🙂

  2. I enjoyed reading about your family activities, Cathy. You looks so beautiful all dressed up. I NEVER wear pantihose. I wear the thigh high hold-ups instead, as they’re so much more comfortable and much more glamorous. 🙂 It’s great to see you and Mike having so much fun together, and what a happy Thanksgiving you all had. 🙂 I also get depressed by all the violence we keep reading about and seeing on TV, but we just have to live our lives in our own peaceful and loving way, and hope that things will eventually get better. Happy holidays to you and your family. *hugs*

    1. Thanks so much, Sylvia. I’m glad you enjoy my “diary” of sorts. I think I need to try those thigh-high hold-ups! I always feel like I’m wearing a corset when I have pantyhose on! Yes, there is always hope where the violence is concerned. We all do have to go someday, so we may as well accept it anyway! 🙂

      1. Haha, I hope not. My due date is not till at least 90, but only if I’m in good health and have my wits about me!! Do they have the hold-ups in tights versions too (not just the sheer pantyhose)?

  3. I hope I am not too late for the hot apple cider! I haven’t tried that before, and it sounds like a great drink for the cooler temperatures of December. My Christmas preparations are coming along slowly but are on track and I hope to get started on the baking at the weekend, or the start of next week. Our tree won’t be going up until the middle of next week, just before my mum comes to stay, but I have other touches in place – tea towels, festive candles, mugs, cushion covers and so on. Your Thanksgiving celebration sounds really good, and how great that so many members of the family were able to be together. There are so many terrible things going on in the world that I have stopped watching the TV news because it is just so depressing. 😦

    1. At this season, it’s never too late for hot apple cider. Coming right up! It’s really good the way I make it with the hot cider, lemon juice, orange juice and cinnamon and cloves! I’m sure you’ve put your tree up already; I’m in the middle of decorating mine now. Not much baking for me though as I’m not a baker. That’s why I’d love to be around to sample yours!

      Yes, the world news is depressing, but we have to keep hopeful, right? What else is there but hope in dire times. At least we have the holidays and we do have a lot to be thankful for! Peace and love on the holidays, Elaine!

      1. I think I could manage to make some of that hot cider – it sounds so festive and warming too. Sadly my tree is not up yet – I had planned to have it done by now, but somehow ran out of time. I think it will have to wait until tomorrow now.
        I keep thinking how much I have to be thankful for, and should ever be complaining about anything! 🙂

  4. Fantastic to all be together like that! 🙂 And in case you’ve read the other comment first, I’m working backwards as I usually do, Cathy, so I now know about your novel. Good luck with it! 🙂
    Tree’s up, about half of shopping done and a little celebrating. You look great dressed up 🙂

    1. Yes, Jo, it was great to spend Thanksgiving together, especially with my side of the family. I sure wish we could all get together at the same time one of these years. I’ve still only sent my novel to 5 agents and no word, but I don’t know why I should expect any. I probably will need to send it to 50-100 agents!! Or self-publish it. Thanks about the dress-up. I rarely get dressed up, and that dress is one I’ve had many years but had never worn before. I’m glad it still fit. Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season. Love and hugs to you and your family for Christmas and New Year! 🙂

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