the january cocktail hour: preparing for adventure in the year ahead

Wednesday, January 31:  It’s that time again – our January cocktail hour! 🙂 Please, come in out of the cold and make yourselves comfortable. I’m so glad the holidays are behind us and we can get back to the routines of everyday life. I would offer you a cocktail, my current favorite being a cucumber jalapeno margarita, but the ice maker in our two-year-old refrigerator has inexplicably stopped making ice. So, it’s either wine or beer.  For those of you who don’t drink, I have sodas and seltzer water of various flavors.  Or milk.  There’s always milk. 🙂

I hope January has been good to you so far. Have you played in snow, gone skiing, ridden dog sleds or stayed in igloos? Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you learned anything new? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you started planning your adventures for the year? Have you had any winter getaways? Have you sung along with any new songs? Have you dreamed any dreams? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes?  Have you undertaken any new exercise routines?

Our first two weeks of January in northern Virginia were wicked, with temps below freezing.  A few light snowfalls made for icy messes outdoors.  Although I’d made all kinds of exercise-related resolutions, I just couldn’t bring myself to crawl out from under my furry white blanket and leave my house.  Mike has taken to calling me his Japanese snow monkey because he’s only seen peeks of my pink face enveloped in a swirl of white hair and fuzzy blanket.  No matter.  This cozy position under my blanket has been conducive to reading, as I finished 7 of my 45-book goal for the year.  Of these, I especially enjoyed The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Whistling Past the Graveyard, and Follies.

The most rewarding and challenging thing I’ve been doing is preparing for my 2018 adventures.  I have the following plans up my sleeve:

  1. A road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: March 2-4 (a three-day weekend).
  2. A road trip to the Four Corners area, the only point in the USA where four states come together: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.  I plan to take a solo road trip to Colorado, visit my son in Denver and do some hikes there with him, then go on my way to visit Monument Valley, Navajo National Monument, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Hoventweep National Monument, Four Corners Monument Navajo Tribal Park, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park.  If Alex could come with me for part of it, I’d be thrilled, but as he has to work, he may not be able to. Logistics will be tough, because I don’t want to drive him back to Denver once I leave there. I would also love it if my daughter Sarah or my sister Stephanie could join me for any part of the trip, but they have so many obligations, I’m not sure it’s possible.   Mike does plan to join me for some parts of the trip, ending back in Denver, but we haven’t yet worked out those logistics either.  I imagine the whole trip will take at least three weeks; I plan to do it in April.
  3. A 4-5/day road trip to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY, possibly crossing the border into Ontario in late June. I might be able to meet my friend Mona Lisa for some part of this trip.
  4. The pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I want to do the route that most pilgrims do: the Camino Francés (The French Way), from St. John-Pied-du-Port to Santiago de Compostela (769 km) or nearly 500 miles.  I imagine it will take me at least 6 weeks, possibly longer, as I don’t plan to do it as a race! After I finish the walk, Mike plans to meet me in Santiago and we’ll visit Porto, Lisbon and Sintra in Portugal for our 30th anniversary.  I even have an idea about renting bicycles in Santiago de Compostela and riding with Mike to Cape Finesterre, known in Roman times as the end of the world, but I haven’t researched yet whether that’s possible.  I hope to do this in September-October.

I love preparing for trips as much as taking them. Here’s what I’ve been doing so far:

For the Camino, reading:

  1. A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago St. Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago by John Brierly.
  2. Camino de Santiago by Sergi Ramis
  3. In Movement There is Peace by Elaine Orabona Foster


I have already watched the movie, The Way, and we recently watched Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, both of which I found inspirational.


I attended a talk about the Camino by a fellow named Don Shaw at REI last night (luckily the talk made me miss the State of the Union Address, but I planned to boycott it anyway). He’s done the Camino five times using different routes. It turns out that he is also hosting a potluck at his house this Saturday to which I’ve already RSVP’d.  He started the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino, which I joined in December.  We have our first Camino group hike (8.6 miles) on Sunday, February 25.

Luckily, REI allows you to try out hiking boots and then return them if they cause discomfort.  I bought a pair of size 8 Oboz Sawtooth low BDry boots and I wore them for a five-mile walk.  My toes were hitting the end and my feet were killing me, so I’ve decided to return them.  Last night, I bought a pair of Keen Targhee low boots in size 8 1/2 and walked in them today.  They felt better, but I did feel my size 7 1/2 feet were sliding around in them a bit. I’ve been told that whatever boots I get, I need to put 100km on them BEFORE I do the Camino.  So I need to commit to a pair and get busy walking!

I have stared increasing my walking distance as it has thawed outside.  It’s not very inviting outside, as you can see from a walk on the Cross County Trail in early January.  Drab, snowy, mottled and dirty, with mostly dingy skies: days like these simply don’t entice.

An ice-over Difficult Run Stream

Walking in sub-freezing temperatures isn’t much fun, although a bit of blue sky does ease the pain.

Lake Audubon
birds at Lake Audubon
Lake Newport

I started an aerobics class to whip other parts of my body into shape: upper body, core, lower body.  I’ve also asked my son to draw up a fitness plan of calisthenics and weight lifting to build strength to carry a 16-20lb backpack.

I’ve also finished planning our Pittsburgh trip and am reading now about The Four Corners area.  I’ll write more about my planning on those later.

Family, photo outings, and restaurants:

Sarah went to her dad’s for Christmas, so even after we took our Christmas tree down, her pile of presents still sat in a pile in the corner of our living room.  Laden with gifts, I visited her in Richmond on the 19th.  She has been busy doing freelance work for Richmond Magazine, and she had an article due, so she couldn’t spend much time with me.  Before I showed up at her house, I wandered through Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden so I could get my winter dose of color.

Humpty Dumpty at Lewis Ginter
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

I especially enjoyed the cacti and succulent collection is on display in the West Wing of the Conservatory.

cacti and succulent collection
cacti and succulent collection
cacti and succulent collection
cacti and succulent collection

In the central Palm House, I enjoyed the palm and cycad collection.

palms in the Palm House

And in the semi-tropical East Wing, I wandered through tropical plants, including the orchid collection.


Outside, I walked through Asian Valley, which displays plants native to Asia and offers a place for quiet contemplation.

Asian Valley

When I arrived at Sarah’s, we enjoyed a glass of wine while she opened her presents (lots of cookbooks and a toaster oven), and then we went out to dinner at Sabai, which serves authentic Thai street food. Sitting at the bar, we shared an appetizer of Larb Gai: minced chicken seasoned with red onions, lemongrass, Thai chilies, basil, and mint in a spicy lime dressing.  Sarah ordered Koa Soi Gai:  Northern Thai style curry with bone-in chicken and egg noodles served with pickled mustard greens, red onions and spicy chili lime oil.  And I ordered Pad Se Ew: Flat rice noodles stir-fried with egg, black bean sauce, shrimp and broccoli.  The atmosphere was lively and the food was delicious.

As for the rest of the family, Alex moved successfully to Denver and is trying to adjust to his new life there.  Adam is working long hours at his job and, surprisingly, he loves it.  It’s good to see him so busy and so enthused about work.  As for me, I’ve been still attending Al-Anon and keeping the focus on myself, as no one else is my business (I keep having to remind myself of that).  Overall, I’m thankful that everything is good for the moment.  Taking life one day at a time.

Urban hikes & museum-going:

Mike and I did an urban hike in downtown D.C., stopping first at the Renwick Gallery.  Our goal was to see the exhibit of miniature crime scenes called “Murder is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.” The exhibit was packed and the crime scenes so small that it was impossible to see anything.  So instead, we just walked around the gallery, enjoying the other exhibits.


The Renwick

While waiting in a fast-moving line, we walked past The Blair House, the home of Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876), founder and editor of The Globe (1830-1845), a newspaper which championed democratic causes and vigorous journalism notably during the administration of President Andrew Jackson in whose “kitchen cabinet” Blair loyally served.

The Blair House

At the end of this post are descriptions of the places, statues and art we encountered today.  If you’re interested in them, you can read about them based on the picture captions.

The Final Stop by Rick Araluce
Parallax Gap by David Freeland and Brennan Buck

I loved this fabulous Monopoly game made with fired clay.

Shadow of Amboseli

I love this delicate piece that evokes a quiet forest in Japan.

The Renwick has a fabulous variety of art and installations.

After the Renwick, it was quite a hike to the National Gallery of Art.

Washington streets

At the National Gallery of Art, our goal was to see the exhibit “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry.”  How foolish it was to attempt to see such an exhibit on the last day it was open.  Hundreds of people were in a long snaking line curled all around the perimeter of the museum.  Instead of standing in that line, we opted to drop in on a small Edvard Munch exhibit.

Across the hall, we also dropped in on another small exhibit: “Posing for the Camera.”  Many photographers were featured, but I especially loved two by Lee Friedlander of the photographer and his wife.

After this, we left by way of the fountain and began our trek back to the Renwick.

fountain in the National Gallery of Art

On our way back, we stopped for tapas and wine at Jaleo, one of my favorite D.C. restaurants.

As we continued on our way after lunch, we passed by the SunTrust Bank headquarters, where I used to work (the bank was called Crestar at the time) as a credit analyst.

Suntrust Bank

I share the sentiments of this protester!

protesters at the White House

Movies & plays

As for movies, we haven’t been to many this month, mainly because we didn’t feel like going out in the cold.  We loved The Post, which told the story of how The Washington Post, and the press in general, went up against the U.S. government during the Vietnam war over the Pentagon Papers.  The press, a vital pillar of our democracy, is under attack these days by our divider-in-chief, so I’m happy when the press wins over the government.  Especially in the case of Vietnam, the government lied to the American people for years; it was the press that finally revealed to the public the extent of those lies. The audience, a full house, cheered at the end of the movie.

Another movie we saw on Netflix was a quiet Japanese movie called Sweet Bean, which told of a doryaki pastry maker who hired a 76-year-old woman and the relationship that grew between them.  I love Japanese movies for their delicate portrayal of human emotion.

Finally, at the end of the month, we went to a matinée showing at Theater J of Everything Is Illuminated; the play was based on the book of the same title by Jonathan Safran Foer.  The main character goes to Ukraine in search of a woman who possibly saved his grandfather during the Holocaust. Some parts were hilarious, some sad; we loved it overall.

Everything is Illuminated

Then we went to Logan Tavern for a delicious early dinner.  I took a picture of the Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup, but I was so hungry, I didn’t think to take pictures of my Trumpet Mushroom ‘Risotto:” cauliflower and squash “risotto”, chimichurri, fig balsamic, & crispy Parmesan. It was so delicious, I polished it off in one fell swoop.

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup

Other stuff:

I’ve been reading a lot, working on my memoir, and still trying to catch up on editing pictures and blogging about all my travels to Japan and Czech Republic.  I haven’t begun to write about my solo trip to Cape May, NJ and Mike’s and my trip to Nashville, TN in December!

I hope you’ll tell me what you’ve been up to in January. I can’t wait to hear of your plans for the year, as well as your everyday lives and what you make of them. 🙂


Here are some of the details about the art shown above, as taken from signs at the museums, unless stated otherwise:

The Renwick

The Final Stop by Rick Araluce. Visitors find themselves transported to an anonymous subway station, an eerie subterranean world nestled within the gallery, where flickering lights and distant rumblings suggest the passage of trains and cavernous tunnels seemingly stretch for miles.

Parallax Gap by architects David Freeland and Brennan Buck.  To create Parallax Gap, nine ceilings from iconic works of American architecture were drawn, printed at large-scale, and then suspended in layers above the Renwick’s Bettie Rubenstein Grand Salon. The architects have challenged the medium’s typical role by transforming their drawings from two-dimensional illustrations to three-dimensional installations.

Shadow of Amboseli (2016) by Wendy Maruyama.

Monopoly (2007)- paint and ink on unfired clay by Kristen Morgin: Morgin’s illusionistic sculptures resemble found objects weathered by time, but they are in fact meticulously crafted assemblages made from unfired clay.  Inspired by abandoned objects from people’s pasts, she investigates age, nostalgia, and value in culture – themes rooted in the mythology of the American Dream.

Notice – Forest  (Autumn) 2002 – McDonald’s Neverland paper bag and colored pencil by Yuken Teruya born Okinawa, Japan.  Teruya transforms paper bags into magical tableaux. He cuts the silhouette of a tree into one side, then bends the paper inward to seemingly take root, leaving the lacy holes above to evoke mottled sunlight.  Teruya’s reuse of these discarded materials memorializes the trees in ingenious floating worlds and suggests a cycle of renewal.

Untitled #192 (1989) burdock burrs and apple wood by John McQueen.

Woman and Child (2002) by Akio Takamori, born Nobeoka Miyazaki, Japan 1950.

Raft (1997) by William Morris.

Downtown D.C.

General Casimir Pulaski is a bronze equestrian statue at Freedom Plaza,13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Pulaski immigrated to North America to help with the American Revolutionary War. He distinguished himself throughout the revolution, most notably when he saved George Washington’s life. Pulaski became a general in the Continental Army and reformed the American cavalry as a whole. At the Battle of Savannah, while leading a daring charge against British forces, he was gravely wounded, and died shortly thereafter (Wikipedia: Casimir Pulaski).

At the National Gallery of Art

Edvard Munch: Man’s Head in Woman’s Hair: It is unclear whether the woman is imagined by the man, or if the man’s head floating in the woman’s hair is a figment of her mind…Perhaps she is thinking of him sympathetically, or he is recalling a woman he encountered.  One figure conjures the image of the other, producing the image of the thought.

Lee Friedlander: Los Angeles: Friedlander and his new bride, Maria, seem eager to embark on their journey together through life.

Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California: Maria Friedlander candidly wrote in the introduction to her husband’s 2004 book, Family: “There are no photographs of arguments and disagreements, of the times when we were rude, impatient, and insensitive parents, of frustration, of anger strong enough to consider dissolving the marriage… a book of pictures doesn’t tell the whole story.” Nevertheless, she concluded, Friedlander’s pictures are about “the celebration of the small moment that only Lee saw.  [They are] Lee’s gift to me of my own private memoir in pictures.  I look at it and feel the moments both revealed and evoked, the joy and the hard times – it’s all there.”


Happy February, everyone! 🙂




26 thoughts on “the january cocktail hour: preparing for adventure in the year ahead

  1. I didn’t have time to read all of this, Cathy, as I need to get ready to go out for supper with the neighbours, but I’m so envious oof your 4 corners trip! It sounds like all my wildest dreams bundled into one 🙂 🙂 What an organised person you are. You’d have laughed, Cathy! I turned up for an exercise class at the wrong time and place this afternoon. 🙂 Poor instructions and poor Portuguese! Had a glass of white in the sun instead. Cheers darlin! I like the sound of that Margarita though.

  2. Wine, beer, or even water would be just fine with me. I haven’t much to share, however, as I’ve been practicing that fluffy blanket thing in my big chair a lot this winter – despite the fact that it’s been much drier than usual and lately, warmer. I think I’ve about mastered the fluffy blanket thing, and expect to find a degree in the mail any day now. I check my email and Facebook far too often these days, read some, play silly iPad games some – to the point where an overnight charge is not always enough. I think that’s sad. Maybe.

    1. There should be a fluffy blanket club for people who like to stay warm and cozy inside all winter! We could both get degrees in that! It’s good you’re finding fun and entertainment in the iPad games; if it’s pleasurable, I’m all for the activity. Not at all sad. 🙂

  3. January was still summer school holidays for me and, for once, we didn’t go anywhere! Just being home was heaven. I crocheted, read books, crocheted, pottered about in my rose garden and crocheted a little more. Now I’m back at work and we are looking forward to the Easter break and school holidays. We have tickets to two competitions at the Commonwealth Games, which are being held at the Gold Coast. How exciting. All your travel plans sound wonderful.

    1. Sounds like a nice thing, to just stay home and relax for a while, Carol. I saw the pics on Instagram of your colorful crochet flowers. I love them! Not too long till Easter holiday on April 1! Your trip to the Gold Coast sounds fun, although, as for me, I’m no sports fan. I’m sure you’ll have a grand time! Thanks, I’m so excited about my travel plans. 🙂

      1. I love the flowers too – it’s part of a flower for every day of 2018 project. Only 334 more to make! It depends what the sport is whether I watch or not. I wouldn’t watch soccer for a million dollars, but I do love cricket and tennis. We will be seeing an athletics session and the big boys at the weightlifting. That should be a sight!

  4. You have been very busy! The orchids in particular are beautiful. The Four Corners trip sounds amazing: we have been to some, but not all, of those places and I’d love to revisit some day (when America comes to its senses).

    1. I guess I’ve been busy, Anabel, although I really only had two outings in January. It seemed like all I did was stay inside trying to keep warm. I’m excited about traveling out west, but am going to steer clear of the crazies whenever I see them!

  5. I’ll join you with a seltzer water please. 🙂 It seems like you’ve been very busy Cathy – it sounds like every moment was filled! Your plans for the coming year sound very exciting – and so organised to have so much planned already. My January was very hectic for the first three weeks, and time for blogging and reading was almost non-existent, but I’m getting started now on catching up. The first three weeks of the year were taken up with packing up our house in the UK and making all sorts of arrangements in preparation for us moving to California for a couple of years. I had no idea just how much work it takes – we’ve been working at it since September, but there are certain things that can’t be done until the last minute. I’m here now, and enjoying the lovely weather and the beaches (only for walking – I don’t think I’ll be doing any surfing!).

    1. Thanks for joining, Elaine! I figure if I don’t plan things, nothing will ever happen, so I have to be organized. So, where did you move in California? Do you have family there? What will you do after a couple of years? The weather there is great, isn’t it? My sister lives in Reseda and while it was below freezing here in Virginia, she called to tell me it was a balmy 80 degrees. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures in California. 🙂

      1. Is it your work of your husband’s, Elaine? What kind of work? I’m sure you’ll love it there near San Diego. Can’t wait to read more as you explore the California area. I’ve been to a lot of places in California as I used to live in Idaho and my sister lives in L.A. Have fun!! 🙂

  6. What a busy year you have ahead of you Cathy. The Camino will be an amazing challenge and just preparing for it is going to take time too. I saw the movie, the Camino 6 times and thought it was vert good. Hope your weather warms up soon

    1. Yes, Pauline, it does seem like a busy year, especially with all the preparation I have to do for these trips. Even plotting out my road trip and making sure I have enough time in the various stops is challenging, but fun. And making sure to walk a lot and build strength at the gym is time consuming. Especially as I have an iffy knee and already twisted it on a 7.2 mile hike last week. I’m still pushing ahead! I hope it warms up soon too! I’m so tired of being cold. 🙂

  7. Just popping back to ask how the Camino meetings are going? What a happy year in prospect for you, Cathy! No mention of Adam so no dramas there, I hope. I’ve just booked a couple of days down in Jerez before we head back to the UK. Dancing horses and flamenco here I come! But not for another couple of weeks. Still got Algarve blossom and lovely walks to enjoy. Sending hugs, darlin! 🙂 🙂

    1. Hi Jo! I went to a potluck with the Camino people on February 3; it was fun to talk with others who have done the pilgrimage (many numerous times by different routes) and others who are planning to go. I haven’t walked again with them as they don’t start their walks till the end of February, but I went on a hike with the mid-Atlantic hiking group last week; I somehow twisted my knee and was in pain on the last two miles of the 7.2 mile walk! Now am working on strengthening upper and lower body with a plan that Alex gave me. I’m really excited about my Four Corners trip and have started plotting that out. As for Adam, I mentioned him and here’s what I wrote: “Adam is working long hours at his job and, surprisingly, he loves it. It’s good to see him so busy and so enthused about work.” This is still the case, and we just try to take things a day at a time without having any expectations. It’s tough because we’re always dreading another episode, but hoping for the best.

      I had never heard of Jerez so I looked it up. Both dancing horses and flamenco sound wonderful! Lucky for you to be able to enjoy the Algarve in early spring, Jo. I’m so envious! It’s all gloom and rain in our forecast. I’m so sick of winter!

      I just finished writing up my days in Koyasan in Japan, so only one more day to go! I can’t believe it’s February and I’m still writing up something I did in August! Also working on my Prague story. We’re going to Pittsburgh on March 2-4. We’ve never been, so it will be an adventure, I hope.

      Happy Trails, Jo. Can’t wait to hear about your trip to Jerez. 🙂

  8. Thanks for inviting to a cocktail party even if you can’t serve a cucumber jalapeno margarita. It seems like you have a great year of travelling ahead of you. Particularly the Camino de Santiago will be quite an adventure. Besides travelling, it seems like you are busy enough. 🙂

  9. Catching up and just want to say I love the conservatory photos – of course! Especially the succulent collection one that shows contrasting shapes. Also love the Renwick artwork, all interesting!

Leave a Reply to bluebrightly Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s