the december cocktail hour – the fall into winter edition

Monday, December 19:  Welcome to our December happy hour! Come right in, make yourself comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink.  We’ll be indoors today because we’re in the midst of a cold spell now, 29 Fahrenheit (-2C).  Would you care for an Appletini, a dirty martini, a glass of Scotch or amaretto?  I’m happy to say I’m expanding my bartending capabilities (or at least Mike is — he’s become quite adept at whipping up delicious dirty martinis).  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.

I’m so happy to see you.  We can mingle or we can sit, whatever is to your liking.  I’d love to hear about your holiday season.  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?  Have you had any special family gatherings?  How was your Thanksgiving?  Are you ready for Christmas?  Are you preparing resolutions for the New Year?

I’m hoping against all odds that 2017 will be a better year than 2016, which I found to be pretty miserable overall.  That being said, there were some bright spots sprinkled here and there.

Fall colors in our front yard
Fall colors in our front yard

Maybe you noticed, or maybe you didn’t, but I missed my November cocktail hour.  I was much too depressed after our election on November 8.  I could barely bring myself to get out of bed, much less write anything.  More about that later.

Before the election, and even after (it seems from now on I’ll see the world as BEFORE and AFTER that doomed day), Mike and I went out for numerous happy hours.  I like to break up the monotony of the work week with a happy hour on Wednesdays or Thursdays.  I’m not always successful at convincing him to do this, but when we do, we’re always glad to have made the effort.

We went out for a wonderful dinner at an Italian restaurant, Zeffirelli in Herndon, for our 28th anniversary.  As you know from other posts I’ve done, we also went to West Virginia for a combination birthday/anniversary trip.

I’ve been to a lot of movies over the last couple of months, including: Sully, Denial, Girl on the Train, the Brazilian movie Aquarius, MoonlightArrival and Manchester by the Sea.  I enjoyed most of them, but I lately I get impatient — movies seem too slow-moving these days.  The exception in this bunch is Girl on the Train, which is a tense thriller/mystery.  I enjoyed Manchester by the Sea, but it didn’t need to be 2 1/2 hours long!  Mike didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did.  Sully was fabulous as well, with just the right pacing.  I also enjoyed Arrival, though space movies about aliens aren’t usually my thing.

I’ve been reading like crazy.  I had a goal to read 35 books in 2016, and so far I’m up to 34.  I should meet my goal by year-end.  Since our last cocktail hour, I finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (about the Armenian genocide), A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, The Ambassador’s Wife by Jennifer Steil, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (I’ve been reading this for about 2 years!), The Artist’s Way at Work (another two-year project)Girls in the Grass (a book of short stories I started several years ago) by Melanie Rae Thon, and finally Love in a Torn Land: Joanna of Kurdistan by Jean Sasson. Of these, I have to say my favorite was The Ambassador’s Wife. I also enjoyed A Man Called Ove and The Girl on the Train.

We went to see Lillian Hellman’s play, The Little Foxes, at the Kreeger at Arena Stage Theater in downtown D.C., eating dinner beforehand at our favorite Indian restaurant, Masala Art.  This was a sort of birthday celebration, as it was the Sunday (October 23) before my Tuesday birthday.  The play was a good one; I’d read the play long ago, when I’d been on a Lillian Hellman kick.  In it,  Southern aristocrat Regina Hubbard Giddens struggles for wealth and freedom within the confines of an early 20th-century society where a father considered only sons as legal heirs.

Adam and Sarah called me to wish me a happy birthday on the 25th, but I mysteriously didn’t hear from Alex.  It turned out he was failing a class at VCU and didn’t want to admit to it, so he simply avoided me.  I was hurt, as you can imagine, and when I went to celebrate my birthday with Sarah in Richmond on October 28, I didn’t see Alex at all.  Sarah and I had a nice visit though, having lunch at The Daily (lettuce wraps and seared red tuna salad), dinner at Bamboo Cafe, and then a visit to the farmer’s market near her house on Saturday morning.

Mike and I went to West Virginia on the weekend of November 4-6.  On the Monday following our weekend, I worked for the Clinton campaign doing “Get out the vote” calls.  On Tuesday evening, while votes were being counted, we went to Coyote Grill, a Mexican restaurant (in protest of the “Build that Wall” slogan during the campaign).   We also went to see A Man Called Ove.  Mainly we were trying to distract ourselves while we waited for the votes to come in.  Once we returned home, we watched in shock and bewilderment as our nation elected the most pompous, narcissistic, and hateful man imaginable. I was so shocked and upset the next day, I could barely function.  It seems we now have a kakistocracy: government by the worst elements of society, government by the least qualified or unprincipled citizens. I can hardly look at my fellow Americans, at least the 62 million of them that voted for that man.  Since the election, our CIA and FBI agree that Russia influenced our election in favor of Trump.  Great!

On our anniversary day, Sunday, November 13, Mike suggested we go downtown to visit the National Museum of the American Indian.  I know he was trying to cheer me up; he always manages to have a bright outlook even when things look bleak. We went to the museum, which would have been fascinating on any other day, but I had a hard time staying focused.  By that time, it was five days after the election, but I still felt darkness enveloping me.  I still do now, and with the ongoing news about our President-elect’s continuing hate-filled rallies, his political appointments, his ridiculous tweets, and his conflicts of interests, it’s hard to find much hope for our country and today’s world.

The American Indian Museum
National Museum of the American Indian
outside the American Indian Museum
outside the National Museum of the American Indian
outside the National Museum of the American Indian
outside the National Museum of the American Indian
pond outside the National Museum of the American Indian
pond outside the National Museum of the American Indian

After leaving the museum, we walked to Union Station, passing the Capitol building.  There, I could see the grandstands being erected for the inauguration on January 20.  That depressed me so much that all I wanted to do was sit somewhere and have a drink.  I felt the hopelessness that Thoreau described:

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

Union Station
Union Station

Sadly, we were a long way from any good place to eat, so we had no choice but to walk quite a distance.  Usually I don’t mind a walk, but on that day, every step seemed a burden.  We plodded and plodded, block after block.  Finally, we settled ourselves in Oyamel, where we had some Spanish tapas and a glass of wine.  At this point, I didn’t care if I slept the rest of the day.  Honestly, I didn’t care if I slept through the next four years.  Let’s hope it’s only four, or that we’re not all living under a nightmare where our civil liberties are dismantled, or worse yet, we’re all dead from WWIII.

BB&T bank in D.C.
BB&T bank in D.C.

The only relief from our despair over the election is offered by our fabulous comedians, especially The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, the Alec Baldwin impersonations of Trump on Saturday Night Live, and John Oliver.  Thank goodness for those who can make us laugh in the aftermath of this disaster.

I’ve been trying to pull myself out of my funk.  As I swore I would, I started applying to work abroad on November 9.  Sadly, I haven’t had any luck finding a job.  I even had a Skype interview with the American University of Kurdistan.  The two interviewers seemed suspiciously jaded about the students; they described them as lazy, entitled, and unmotivated.  They said the administration wasn’t all that helpful in helping teachers get their accommodation organized or getting their visas.  I tossed and turned all night thinking I’d turn them down if they offered me a job.  I got a rejection letter the next morning.  Oh well, I guess that wasn’t meant to be.

I’ve been figuring out how I will live here in the U.S. if I can’t get a job abroad.  I have determined that I will never watch that man on television (unless in parodies or impersonations!).  I will turn the channel whenever he comes on.  I’ll continue to read trustworthy and FACTUAL journalism, such as The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other high quality publications in order to stay informed.  I will support progressive groups and I will speak up when I see people being mistreated.

We went to see the appropriately titled one-woman play “The Year of Magical Thinking,” with Kathleen Turner playing the role of Joan Didion, on November 19.  It gave me a lot of food for thought about my personal “year of magical thinking,” as I tried during 2016 to convince myself that Americans were kinder, more open-minded and progressive than what I was seeing right before my eyes — on Facebook, on news coverage of Trump rallies, etc. Over the months leading up to the election, I deleted a bunch of people from my Facebook “friends” list (mostly acquaintances but some good friends), mostly people who went to my high school in southern Virginia and who are ultra-conservative. At this point in time, I feel like I will never return to my hometown again.  Thank goodness that northern Virginia (basically the suburbs of Washington, D.C.), where I live, pushed the entire Virginia vote to Clinton, although it was by an uncomfortably close margin.  I ultimately decided on November 20 to get off Facebook altogether, at least until January 1.  I was getting way too upset reading all the fake news and the hate-filled rhetoric swirling around the election.  I honestly haven’t missed being on it, although I do miss all my friends from abroad, and the progressives who are my friends.  Staying away from social media other than Instagram, my travel inspiration, has helped my mental health considerably.

On Thanksgiving, it was hard to feel a sense of gratitude, but having family around did cheer me up somewhat.  Alex and Sarah came, as well as Mike’s sister, so we had a small group.  It ended up being a nice day.  The next day, Sarah and I went to see Nocturnal Animals, and then went for sushi, sake and Sapporo at Yoko Japanese restaurant.  Mike and Alex went for a hike in the mountains, but I wanted to have some mother/daughter time with Sarah.

I finished up my Memoir Writing class on November 14 and I was inspired to write 7 chapters.  I also got a lot of positive feedback, which was encouraging.  I’m considering taking another class in the spring.  Having deadlines encourages me to get words on paper.

In my ongoing attempts to keep fit, I’ve been doing an old exercise video from the 1980s, The Firm, which is aerobics with weights.  I do that on rainy or other bad weather days.  It’s funny to watch the people in the video with their 1980s haircuts.  I’ve done that video so much over the years that I have it all practically memorized and can repeat verbatim the instructor’s directions.

I gave up the Pilates class that I started in early fall.  No matter how many times I try yoga or Pilates, or any other slow-moving or stationary exercise, I get bored out of my mind and am looking at the clock the whole time.  Mike says I am hopelessly impatient, and he’s right.  I am.  I doubt I’m going to change at this point in my life. 🙂

I’ve also been continuing my 3-mile walks, varying my routes here and there. I’ve enhanced my daily walks considerably by listening to audiobooks.  Since our last cocktail hour, I’ve listened to: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, and finally All the Breaking Waves by Kerry Lonsdale.  Though they’ve all been good, I especially loved Circling the Sun and The Glass Castle.  You can read any of my reviews on Goodreads by following the link on my sidebar.

Here are a few views from one of my walks around Lake Newport in Reston.

grasses around Lake Newport
grasses around Lake Newport
Lake Newport
Lake Newport
Lake Newport
Lake Newport

We’ve been watching a lot of TV series and movies on DVD or Netflix, in addition to our movie theater outings.  I’d already seen Downton Abbey, but Mike hadn’t, so we’re watching that together.  I love it as much the second time as I did the first! We’re also watching the first season of True Detective, which I saw in China but Mike hadn’t seen. Others we’re watching include Madam Secretary, Longmire, Stranger Things, The Night Manager, and Dicte (Danish). We finished and LOVED Rita (Danish) and Borgen (Danish); we’ve also watched Lovesick, Love, Rules of Engagement, Top of the Lake, Island at War, and Indian Summers. Ones I didn’t care much for include: Olive Kitteridge and Mildred Pierce (I hated the awful daughter!)

As for movies we’ve watched at home, the good ones include: Remembrance, The African Doctor, The Words, Night Train to Lisbon, and Besieged.  The ones I didn’t care much for: Money Monster and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

On Dec 7-8, I went to Richmond, this time to visit Alex and to see his new apartment.  He moved in last August, but I hadn’t had a chance to see his new abode since he moved in. After enjoying a glass of wine in his cold apartment (he hadn’t had the gas turned on yet), Alex and I went to Blue Bee Cider, Virginia’s first urban cidery in Scott’s Addition.  Sarah joined us.  Then we all met Alex’s girlfriend Ariana at Tarrant’s Cafe for dinner.  There, we had quite a boisterous conversation about a recent incident in Richmond that involved the restaurant Balliceaux.  Apparently one of the employees wore blackface to a Halloween party hosted at the restaurant with the intention of “trying to be offensive” and people flooded the restaurant’s social media pages with angry messages. Alex had wanted to try the restaurant this evening, but Sarah refused, saying people were boycotting it.  We got into a big discussion about whether the business should be boycotted over an employee’s behavior.  Sarah and I felt, especially in our current political climate, that boycotting is the appropriate response.  We must reject such behavior and boycotting a business that turns a blind eye is the perfect response.  Alex disagreed that the business should have to suffer.  Since the incident, which caused a lot of outrage in Richmond, the restaurant apologized, and the employee apologized and resigned.  (You can read more about the incident here: WRIC News: Blackface costume sparks controversy and Richmond music promoter resigns after backlash for blackface Halloween costume, calls incident ‘my worst nightmare’).

All in all, we had quite a lively evening!

Alex doesn’t have a place for me to sleep, so I booked an Airbnb house in Church Hill.  It was a bit of a weird experience because I thought the owner would be there and I kept looking to meet him.  He did come in late in the evening; somehow I heard but didn’t see him.  My “bedroom” had only a screen separating the bed from the hallway – there was no door to close – so it was a little disconcerting.  Though the house and the neighborhood were really nice, I’m not so sure I would stay there again.  In the morning, I took a walk around the neighborhood and took this picture looking down at an old Lucky Strike factory before my phone battery died.

Looking to the James River from Church Hill
Looking to the James River from Church Hill

Last Wednesday, December 14, Mike and I met at Tyson’s Corner for another happy hour at Earls Kitchen and Bar.  We’d never been there before. You all know how much I love trying out new places. 🙂 We enjoyed some craft beers and I had mushroom soup (with sherry) and Baja Fish Tacos: two corn tortillas with crispy battered cod, jalapeno pineapple salsa, cabbage slaw and avocado crema.  Mike had Pork Carnitas Tacos: two tacos filled with marinated slow cooked pork with pico de gallo, in corn tortillas.  Yum!!

The open area they’ve added to the mall since I went abroad has an ice rink and a festive Christmas tree.

I know I shouldn’t wait two months between cocktail hours because I have so much catching up to do that I talk too much.  Please, do share what you’ve been up to!  I’ll shut up now. I sure hope you have happier news and a better outlook than I have. 🙂

Happy holidays! Merry Christmas and happy new Year!!

Happy holidays and cheers to you all!
Happy holidays and cheers to you all!

I’m really hoping for a better year in 2017.  I hope the best for all of you too! 🙂

15 thoughts on “the december cocktail hour – the fall into winter edition

  1. I’ve got a sick feeling in my stomach today. While I knew how the electors were going to vote, I just kept hoping I’d wake-up from the nightmare.

    But have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. I was hoping against all odds that the electors would “do the right thing,” but of course I didn’t really believe they would. Time and fate just march on relentlessly toward Inauguration and probably the most destabilizing four years we have ever known. Oh well, no way out of the nightmare now.

      Until things start to fall apart, we have to keep moving forward. So in that vein, I wish you and Paul and Laura a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 🙂

  2. It’s nice to hear from you. I’m starting to get back into blogging – for now – I might try a food blog next year instead. My job is keeping me really busy though. The part-time hours are nearly full-time. On the other hand, full-time in my profession is usually a 60 hour week, so 40 a week is much better.

    Enjoy the holidays!


    1. Hi Nancy! It’s nice to hear from you too! Wow, interesting that you’ll be starting a food blog. I hope you do. Richmond has some great restaurants, so you’d have plenty to explore and to write about. My daughter who lives there has started her own blog: I don’t know how you’ll find the time with your “part-time” job that sounds full-time to me. But I’d certainly follow you, so please send me the link when you start it. I’m thinking of trying something new in 2017 as well. Hopefully I will get my dream up and going. Happy holidays to you too! 🙂

      1. Thanks for the note back. I’m starting to think I might not have time either. I came back from seeing my daughter with a really bad cold and am not getting anything done while home on vacation. But yes, if I start another blog, I’ll let you know. Thanks for the link to your daughter’s blog! Sorry you’re not getting any nibbles on the job applications. It’s a tough market out there, especially for women our age.

  3. I’ll have a dirty martini please, I have no idea what is in one so I hope it tastes nice! You have been busy! I can’t remember the last time I went to a real cinema and we don’t have netflix or anything like, in fact other than the odd film on TV the only time I watch movies is when I am travelling long haul and watch them on the plane! I do read though, but mainly crime or thrillers, I like the Scandi noir even though the killings are usually gruesome. So some times I read some chick lit just for the lightheartedness of it. Your happy hours and meals out look so nice I am going to ensure that the OH and I go and have lunch out at least once a week. We say we will do but then get put off by the weather or something. Next year we WILL do it! And I am going to start exploring more, and walking more, and eating better and drinking less alcohol. So best make the martini a BIG one, because it may be my last for a while.

    I do hope you find some happiness next year on the work front, but it does seem that things are going well for you and Mike and that must be good. I am sorry about the election, not what we wanted either. The man needs locking up! I do sincerely hope that people around him can prevent him from doing too much damage to your country and the world. You have some beautiful scenery near you – I’d walk every day if I had a lakeside like that to walk around. Have a good festive season Cathy, doing what you like to do, and I shall send you lots of wishes for your dreams to come true next year…
    Take care xx

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by, Jude. Let me warn you, a dirty martini isn’t for the fainthearted. It’s got gin or vodka, dry vermouth, and olive brine, so it’s quite salty. The first time I tried one, I made a horrible face, but now the drink has grown on me. I’ve always liked salty things rather than sweet.

      I am a real movie and TV series fanatic, and I love to read, so luckily all of those things keep me occupied so I don’t focus entirely on our horrible election. Lately I wake up in the middle of the night and the reality of our situation dawns on me, at which time I go into full panic mode. I can’t sleep so I grab a book and then I can calm down enough to fall back to sleep.

      I’ve never gotten into crime or thriller books, but I do like them now and then. Like The Girl on the Train. Now I’m reading a mystery by Zoë Ferraris, City of Veils; her series takes place in Saudi Arabia, which has some similarities to Oman. I’m glad you enjoy your thrillers and chick lit; anything that makes us happy is good, right? I tend to go more for literary fiction and inspirational books, even books on writing, which I don’t read straight through but only read now and then for inspiration.

      I’m glad you’ll make an effort in the coming year to go out now and then; sometimes, especially during bad weather, it’s more tempting to stay in. I have felt that way lately. But once you get out, you end up having a good time. I can’t wait to follow along on your explorations in 2017; it seems you always do a lot of exploring, so I don’t think that will be too new, right? As for drinking less alcohol, don’t stop altogether! Less is good but none is bad! 🙂

      I can’t believe so many people talked about locking Clinton up during the election when actually our President-elect is such a notorious liar and crook. I hope too that the people around him will prevent him from doing too much damage, but it’s unlikely as he’s appointing people who are against the very agencies they will be heading up, and we now have a Republican-controlled Congress and will soon have another conservative on the Supreme Court. I dread the oncoming nightmare of the next four years.

      Oh well, the “people” have spoken, and we now have to live with it.

      I love to walk around the Reston lakes. I don’t live beside the lakes but if I drive 10 minutes, I can be at Lake Audubon or Thoreau. These are loop walks, which I enjoy; in my neighborhood I have to go out and back, which is so boring!

      Happiest of holidays to you and your family, Jude. I’ll boomerang your good wishes right back to you. May your dreams come true as well in 2017!! 🙂

  4. I enjoyed our visit, an opportunity to catch up. I also found the election distressing, and am certain the result was not in accordance with the intent of our forefathers. It is what it is, and maybe it’s what is required to make some changes in our system. I read, but slowly it seems, and many books by authors not well known – because of BookBub. I have read A Man Called Ove as well as Girl on the Train. Kat arrived last night, and Gep should be here within the hour, so we will have our family holiday time.

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by, Carol. I agree that the election was not in accordance with our forefathers, and I really hope our democracy and our Constitution will survive unscathed. I’m not familiar with BookBub. I’ll have to check it out. I’m so glad Kat and Gep will be there for the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you! 🙂

  5. I don’t know what to say – what happens in America affects us all so we feel it too. And we have our own problems. One thing we are finding with Brexit is that our constitution is no longer fit for purpose, if t ever was. I suspect yours might be the same – Hilary won the popular vote after all – but at least it is written down. Ah well, like other commenters, I can only hope that 2017 will be better than 2016 and our worst fears will not come to pass. On that less than cheerful note – merry christmas!

  6. I’ll have the vodka based martini please, Cathy. Gin makes me howl and I don’t want to depress you further. 🙂 I do think that you should focus more on the good that you can do personally and ignore the wider world of politics. Not too many of them are clean as the driven snow and it’s no use to anyone getting depressed over it. I only dip into Facebook now and then so I miss most of the hate and stupidity.
    I do think the stories while you walk are a good idea. It takes me forever to get through a book just reading in the bath or on transport. But I always have the demon camera when I’m walking so I’d probably have to keep rewinding for the bits I missed.
    You do seem to have done lots, Cathy, and it sounds like you need a project to harness all that energy. Like Jude I hope that you can find a way in the New Year. Meanwhile wishing you and Mike a fabulous Christmas. 🙂 🙂

    1. The vodka martini is a good choice, Jo. It’s also a good decision on your part to stay off Facebook. For me, this election was not so much about politics, but about the dark hatred that was unleashed during the election. Now, too many people think it’s not only okay, but actually desirable, to be politically incorrect and vile and hateful: racist, misogynist, sexist, etc. This is what I saw in people I went to high school with, and that’s what really upset me. The fact that many of my childhood friends have this pent up anger inside of them is totally bewildering. As for getting involved, I have never cared one bit about politics in the past; this was the first time I have felt so strongly about any of it. I see too many likenesses in our President-elect to horrible leaders: Hitler, Mao, Putin, Erdogan, Pol Pot – leaders who have caused the deaths of millions. Enough about that though. I’m going to try in the next four years to ignore this man until he’s either impeached or voted out of office.

      I am so happy to have discovered audiobooks and to actually be able to focus on them. Since my walks are very routine, in the same places day after day, I don’t take my camera and so I can listen easily. If I were going somewhere new, I’d certainly have my camera along! I couldn’t listen to a book in those circumstances!

      I do have a lot of energy and it infuriates me when employers don’t give people over 60 a chance at employment. I’m more qualified than I’ve ever been and people would rather hire younger people no matter what experience I have. Oh well, I have some other ideas for my year if nothing materializes. But I really do have a yearning to go abroad again. Travel, as you know, is what lights me up. 🙂

      Have a fabulous Christmas, Jo! 🙂

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