christmas eve & christmas 2016

Saturday, December 24:  Mike, Alex and I drive on this overcast Saturday to the Washington National Cathedral for our annual Christmas Eve visit. We’re a small group this Christmas, as Adam is body-surfing at a beach in Maui and Sarah is hanging with her dad, his two pugs, her dog Bagel, her stepmother and half-brothers in Virginia Beach.

In the Cathedral’s nave, we admire an owl hidden in a Christmas tree amidst poinsettia and cranberry garlands, and columns decked out in red-bowed wreaths.  We crane our necks to admire the Space Window, celebrating the Apollo mission to the moon, and the three Rose windows and all the stained glass scenes that bring the stories of Christianity to life.

an owl in the Christmas tree
an owl in the Christmas tree
Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral

I light a candle and pray for peace and love, for healing in our country after our divisive election and under our upcoming regime change, for the Syrian refugees and other people suffering because of war and famine and corruption, and for my children, who I hope will someday thrive. I also pray that I can find my quest, my own personal legend, in my life.  I squeeze a lot of hope into that one candle.

The Canterbury Pulpit depicts people and scenes relating to the Bible’s translation into English.  Stories for the pulpit came from Canterbury Cathedral in England.

Canterbury Pulpit
Canterbury Pulpit

We find the Pentagon Cross, made by Alvin Neider from fragments of the facade of the Pentagon after the attacks of 11 September 2001, in recognition that we are “united in memory, freedom, and faith, and in the hope of and love for God, our nation, and all peoples of the earth.”

The Pentagon cross
The Pentagon cross

We find HOLY CITY, a pilgrimage of sight, by Irish citizen Brian Whelan, a nine-paneled painting showing “a vision of unity amongst the three Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism.”  Says the artist: “The daily news is full of stories of faith against faith; a never-ending holy war and perversion of God’s love.  Wars, conflicts and acts of terrorism are often described with religious labels.  This is not a perspective shared by most people.  Across the faiths, we have far more in common that divides us.”

Holy City: a pilgrimage of sight by Brian Whelan
Holy City: a pilgrimage of sight by Brian Whelan

The artist says this doesn’t depict any one Holy City that exists in today’s world: “This is my aspirational vision of what a Holy City looks like.  Each of the canvases contain churches, mosques and synagogues, representing the Abrahamic faiths, painted in bright, playful and colorful forms.  An abstracted, disarming vision of cultural unity; living together in peace, acceptance and in harmony; a haven for the soul. … In this Holy City, hospitality would be offered to all pilgrims.”

For close-ups of the nine panels of Holy City, click on any picture in the tiled mosaic below.

In the Crypt level, we visit the Bethlehem Chapel, showing the genealogy and birth of Jesus, and the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea, telling the story of Jesus’ entombment following his crucifixion.

chapel
chapel
iron door
iron door
chapel
chapel

The main reason we come to the Cathedral on Christmas Eve is to see the crèches from all over the world.  We see nativity scenes made from natural materials found in Mexico, India, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, New Mexico, Arizona, Turkey, Uganda and others.

In the Jamaican nativity, the bodies are made of rolled woven mats with painted gourds for heads.  They are dressed in woven fiber and fabric garments.  The figures’ eyes are painted with touches of gold, which make them glow.  As for the Wise Men: one Magi is from Africa, one from Asia, and one from Europe, each wearing elaborate fiber headdresses that represent their home continents.

The bodies of the figures in the Singapore nativity are made from the trunk of the cinnamon tree.  While the bark is ground into cinnamon, the trunk is ground into a powder and mixed with water to form a soft dough.  The figures are then formed on a wire armature.  The entire process takes anywhere from 2 1/2 – 15 hours, depending upon the intricacy of the figure.

Singapore - joss stick powder
Singapore – joss stick powder

Finally, a crèche made of wood depicts the traditions and cultures of Alaska.  The figures of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child sit within a lodgehouse, which is set on poles to store winter provisions.  Mary is dressed in native garb, while Joseph is dressed as a Russian settler.  On the roof is a star, and a snowy owl rests nearby, representing an angel.  The animals include a caribou, a walrus, a puffin, a moose, a polar bear, and the Alaskan state bird, the ptarmigan.  Native plants are represented by the spruce tree, the fuchsia fireweed, which grows profusely along Alaskan roadways, and the Alaskan state flower, the forget-me-not.  A totem pole completes the scene.

The Resurrection Chapel is decorated with colorful mosaics, portraying the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection.

mosaic
mosaic

Outside, we take some parting shots of the Cathedral and then drink coffee and tea in the gift-shop-turned-cafe, amidst steam, hissing and the chatter of other pilgrims.

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral
St. Albans
St. Albans
me at the Cathedral
me at the Cathedral
a tree at the Cathedral
a tree at the Cathedral

The Bishop’s Garden is modeled on a medieval walled garden and features herb and rose beds.

Cathedral garden
Cathedral garden

On the way home from our visit, we stop at the Lebanese Taverna market, where we eat a smorgasbord of kibbeh, sambousick, fatayer cheese, arnabeet, loubieh, and fattoush. I pick up a few stocking stuffers at the market here.

Back home, after wrapping our remaining presents and preparing the chicken apple sausages for tomorrow’s Christmas brunch, we meet my sister-in-law Barbara and a friend of hers at Luciano Italian Restaurant and pizzeria for Christmas Eve dinner.

Though we’ve never done this in Christmases past, we attend my sister-in-law’s 8:00 church service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, where she sings in the choir.  We hear a wonderful and moving rendition of “Ave Maria” that brings tears to my eyes.

We spend some time at Barbara’s house for gift exchange and good cheer, and then return home, where we bid goodnight to our Christmas tree. 🙂

our Christmas tree
our Christmas tree

In the morning, in our typical Christmas fashion, we open our gifts one by one, and we have the same Christmas brunch I got from a 1992 issue of Martha Stewart Living and have been making for nearly 25 years (except the years I was abroad, when my family made the same brunch): Breakfast Frittata, Chicken Apple Sausages, Cheese Grit casserole, pancakes with cranberry maple compote, mimosas, and Barbara’s addition of a fruit salad with an orange sauce.

A good but quiet Christmas all around.

I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year in 2017! 🙂

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chinese lantern festival: a holiday menagerie

Thursday, December 22:  It’s time to get into the holiday spirit, so I go with a friend to visit the Chinese Lantern Festival at Roer’s Zoofari in Vienna, VA.  Not only does the display get me into the holiday spirit, but it also makes me nostalgic for Asia, where I saw a phenomenal lantern festival in Seoul, South Korea at the Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival.

Here, we find 40 sets of over 800 hand-crafted lanterns made by a master of the craft in Zigong, China, the center of China’s lantern tradition.

gate to the festival
gate to the festival

The 2016 lanterns highlight ‘The Wild,’ including lanterns in the form of animals from around the world, including Africa, Antarctica, Asia, America and more.

Here is an whimsical display of jellyfish, reflecting beautifully in the pond.

jellyfish on the pond
jellyfish on the pond
jellyfish on the pond
jellyfish on the pond

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

We come across a group of lizards which seem out of place in cold Virginia.

I wish you all joy, delight, adventure, and LOVE during the holiday season and in 2017.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or just happy winter solstice!  Whatever or however you celebrate, I hope you’re surrounded by family, friends, and positive vibes.  Love and hugs to all of you!! 🙂

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! 🙂

a saturday outing to middleburg & three fox vineyards

Saturday, December 10: On this beautiful Saturday, Mike and I take a drive out to historic Middleburg, Virginia, a small town in Loudoun County Virginia that had 632 residents at the 2000 census.  I imagine it’s larger than that now.  It’s a week after Middleburg’s annual Christmas parade, held the first Saturday in December, so we’re hoping to see the town decked out for the holidays.

street lamp Christmas decor
street lamp Christmas decor

Leven Powell, American Revolutionary War Lieutenant Colonel and Virginia statesman, purchased the land for the town at $2.50/acre in 1763 from Joseph Chinn, a first cousin of George Washington.  He established the town in 1787.  First called “Chinn’s Crossroads,” it was later called Powell Town, until Leven Powell decided he didn’t want the town named for him.  The name was changed to Middleburgh, and later, simply Middleburg because of its location midway between the port of Alexandria and Winchester, Virginia on the Ashby Gap trading route (now Route 50) (Wikipedia: Middleburg, ,Virginia).

The Middleburg Historic District, comprising the 19th-century center of town, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After the turn of the century, the town – sitting in the midst of rolling hills, pastures, stone fences and stately homes – became a popular destination for fox-hunting and steeple-chasing, earning it a reputation as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital” and attracting visitors from all over the country, including President John F. Kennedy (Visit Middleburg).  Today, celebrities such as Robert Duvall and Tom Selleck can sometimes be spotted here.

Middleburg is the home of the National Sporting Library & Museum, founded in 1954, which highlights the rich tradition of country pursuits. Angling, horsemanship, shooting, steeplechasing, fox-hunting, flat racing, polo, coaching and wildlife are among the subjects one can explore in the organization’s general stacks, rare book holdings, archives and art collection (Visit Middleburg).

We arrive in the town just at lunchtime, so our first order of business is to eat lunch at the The Federal Street Cafe, where I enjoy a Po’ Boy and Mike has The Left Coast, a roast turkey sandwich with creamy avocado, roasted red peppers, provolone, and spring greens served on seven grain bread.

We stroll out to Washington Street, the main street through the town, and find our first church.  When Emmanuel Episcopal Church was consecrated in 1843, it seated only 40 people.  It was enlarged in 1976 to seat 70 and then was remodeled in 1976 to accommodate a smaller organ.  It now seats 115 parishioners.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

We then walk down the street to do some window shopping.

The oldest building in town, the The Red Fox Inn & Tavern, was originally established in 1728 by Joseph Chinn as Chinn’s Ordinary and is billed as the oldest continually operated inn in the U.S.

Notables who have stayed at The Red Fox Inn include President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Ambassador Pamela Harriman, Elizabeth Taylor and the local Virginian and U.S. Senator John Warner, Joan Woodward, Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, according to the Inn’s website.

The Red Fox Inn
The Red Fox Inn

We also find the Red Horse Tavern, which seems to be in no way related to the Red Fox.

The Red Fox Inn
The Red Horse Tavern
Scruffy's Ice Cream & Coffee Parlor
Scruffy’s Ice Cream & Coffee Parlor
Santa's offerings
Santa’s offerings

Though we didn’t eat at The Upper Crust Bakery today, we’ve eaten here many times in the past.  They have, or used to have, the best ham salad croissant sandwiches ever!

The Upper Crust Bakery
The Upper Crust Bakery

Highcliffe Clothiers is an “old school” haberdashery for both men and women.

Highcliffe
Highcliffe

Middleburg United Methodist Church is a historic town church, built in 1856.

Middleburg United Methodist Church
Middleburg United Methodist Church
Middleburg United Methodist Church
Middleburg United Methodist Church

The cute shop, Middleburg Common Grounds, is one of the town’s most festively decorated establishments.

After walking up and down the main street, we decide it’s time to move on. On the way back to the car, we find this hair design place with straw angels in the window.

Hair Design
Hair Design

As we drive back toward I-66, we pass through the town of Delaplane, where we happen upon a sign for Three Fox Vineyards, a winery sitting on 50 rolling acres.  We simply must stop here for a wine tasting.

Three Fox Vineyards
Three Fox Vineyards

Holli and John Todhunter opened the vineyard in 2002.  The couple were drawn to Italy and Southern France to learn about the different types of wine.  They planted a number of grapes on 15 acres of the property: Italian varietals Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Pinot Grigio, as well as Viognier, the main white wine grape of the Rhone Valley. On the estate, they also grow Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Chardonnay, and Chambourcin are sourced from area growers, according to the website.

Three Fox Vineyards
Three Fox Vineyards

We can see the three foxes at the entryway.  Picnic tables and wrought iron tables dot the landscape — down by the creek, among the vines, on a hillside — but today is not a day for sitting outside.  The winery has a heated tented area where we enjoy a glass of wine after we finish our wine tasting and buy three bottles of wine (the tasting fee is waived if you buy three bottles).

Three Fox Vineyards
Three Fox Vineyards

We also buy some cheese and crackers because I can never drink wine on an empty stomach.  No matter that we just had lunch a short while ago!

Before leaving, I use the facilities at Three Fox Vineyards.  Here, I find the most festively decorated porta-potty I’ve ever seen.  It’s even heated. 🙂

Inside the porta-potty
Inside the porta-potty

Though it’s only 3:30 in the afternoon, it’s true that “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere!”

I’m pretty lazy after returning home.  I just can’t drink in the middle of the day!

new year’s night at meadowlark garden’s winter walk of lights – seeking pinpoints of light in the darkness

January 1:  Usually at the first of every year, I’m full of ambitions for the coming year.  I make long lists of resolutions and dream of all the places I’d like to travel, the books I’d like to read, the things I’d like to accomplish.  I do make resolutions this year, but I’m not sharing them on my blog, which I have done the last 4-5 years.   I don’t do a yearly recap for 2015, which I have also done these past few years.  This year, I just don’t have the energy.

Tonight, while our youngest son, Adam, is crashing in our basement, buried under a mound of blankets and self-pity and depression, we escape the tension in our house to walk through the Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights, hoping to find some twinkling of light in the darkness engulfing us.

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

My enthusiasm for the coming year has been buried under a burden of worry and grief.  I have watched as Adam, who was, in the school system’s terms, a “gifted” child — a person I’ve always seen as someone who could accomplish anything in his life — has self-destructed and is crashing in our basement.  In the past few months, I’ve watched as he’s alienated everyone he’s known by trying to push his radical ideas down everyone’s throats.  He can’t accept people for who they are and is constantly trying to change everyone.  He believes he needs to save the world from self-annihilation.

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

At the beginning of December, his housemates kicked him out of his house in the middle of the night.  He suddenly showed up at our house, loaded up with all his stuff, and dumped it all in our house.  After he tried to start several businesses that didn’t take off as he hoped, I could see his heartbreak, and his shame, over his failure.  He has now given up and crashed in the basement, curtains pulled, curled up in a fetal position, surrounded by darkness.  He has lost all his confidence; he’s lost his way.  His emotions have taken control of him, and I’m watching him suffer more than I’ve ever seen anyone suffer.

We’re at wit’s end, not knowing what to do.  We want him to get help, but he refuses. We know we’re finally at the point where we have to clamp down and initiate what people call “tough love.”

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

Tonight as we walk around Meadowlark Gardens, we talk about what our options are.  We decide to give him 6 months to get his act together.  We’ve already told him we want to have a talk with him at 4:30 tomorrow.  We need to formalize this so he’ll be prepared, and awake.  We will tell him we will move him into an apartment in Richmond, where his sister and brother live, a town full of young people, a great food scene, and urban gardens.  After all, he can’t afford to live on his own in northern Virginia, and living in our house is no longer an option.  Besides, as he’s alienated all his friends, there is no longer anything holding him here.  We will support him the first month, then each month our support will be reduced by 1/6 until he is on his own.  We have to co-sign on the apartment and we have to pay a premium so our obligation is no longer than 6 months.  After that, we’re cutting him loose.

carolers
carolers

He lacks a purpose, a work ethic, stick-to-it-iveness, confidence, emotional fortitude.  I think he wants to be a success, but he’s too easily defeated.  He refuses to go to school, believing instead that he can educate himself.  He does a lot of reading on his own, but I believe that lack of a college education will hurt him in the long run.  Skipping the whole college experience, one I think is necessary for a young person to transition to adulthood, has thrust him into adulthood before he’s adequately prepared. But of course, he won’t listen to his parents.  He knows more than everyone.

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

I love him so much, and it breaks my heart to see him suffering.  I want him to get psychological help, I want him to get on medication, I want him to go to college, I want him to get a job and keep busy and get control of his emotions.  But he’s an adult, and we can only sit by and watch while he makes his own decisions. He’s closed himself off to all advice we offer.  We can no longer control him, but we can refuse to support him financially.  That is our only option.

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights
pathway of lights
pathway of lights
Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

So, tonight, we go walk around Meadowlark Gardens with heavy hearts, a feeling of gloom and hopelessness all around us.  Maybe there is some scant light to be found here.  We can lay down what we will do and what we will not, and then we must hand him over to a higher power.  We simply have to continue to love him and to trust that things will eventually work out well for him.

butterfly magic
butterfly magic
flowers
flowers
Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights
gingerbread house
gingerbread house
blue lights
blue lights

On January 8, one week from today, we will move him to Richmond.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he will get his act together, and find some peace of mind and some successes in his life.

december family affairs

Monday, December 7:  This evening, Mike and I took Adam and his friend Aeryn to dinner at Sakura Japanese Steak, Seafood House & Sushi Bar for Adam’s 23rd birthday.

Adam, Mike and me at Sakura Japanese Steakhouse
Adam, Mike and me at Sakura Japanese Steakhouse

We were having a fun time and everyone was upbeat until I mistakenly made a comment which upset Adam.  The evening suddenly became very tense.  I remember when Adam was about 4 years old; he threw a temper tantrum at his own birthday party because he wasn’t getting his way.  We had to put him in his room for a time-out at his own birthday party!  This kid is a tough one, but of course I love him dearly!

Thursday, December 24: On Christmas Eve, we have our family tradition of visiting Washington National Cathedral.  First we take a walk around the Cathedral.

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral
the cottage on the Cathedral grounds
the cottage on the Cathedral grounds
looking up
looking up

It’s quite a warm today for Christmas Eve, but it’s also rather dreary.

After walking around the Cathedral proper, we walk through the crèches on display during every holiday season.  Below is my favorite, created by Zulu tribeswomen in South Africa.  Each fabric figure is almost completely covered with tiny, individually hand-sewn glass beads.  Even the zebra and lion come to pay homage to the Christ Child.

South African creche
South African creche

The Mexican beaded nacimiento was made by the Huichol Indians, noted in Mexico for the degree to which they have preserved their native speech, religion and culture.  The Wise Men bear gifts in the form of stylized flowers.  A tiny native frog also witnesses the holy birth.

The Polish form of nativity is called a Szopka and is traditionally associated with the city of Krakow.  Szopka makers utilize colorful candy and gum wrappers, as well as specially made foils.

The pottery nacimiento from El Salvador shows a small brown frog attending.  A tortilla maker, complete with her grinding stone is also present at the birth, as is a little shepherdess wearing a broad-brimmed hat.

The Jordanian nativity was created at the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp, then in Jordan. It features clothing that is thought to be similar to that worn by Mary, Joseph and the shepherds on that first Christmas Eve.

The Kenyan hand-carved crèche includes additions to the traditional animals of ox and ass, including an African antelope, and both a mother and baby elephant and rhinoceros, all commonly found in Kenya.

The Indonesian mahogany crèche was made by physically challenged people on the island of Java.

The Bolivian fabric nacimiento was made by the Aymaras and Quechuas Indians from the Altiplano region.  Each of the figures is wearing the native dress of the Bolivian Highlands.

After browsing through the crèches, we take the elevator to the tower where we have some sweeping views of northwest Washington.

the view from the tower
the view from the tower

We can see the Cathedral gardens below, so we take the elevator down and take a stroll through the gardens.

view of the Cathedral gardens
view of the Cathedral gardens

It’s plenty warm today, although a little damp.

After we leave the Cathedral, we always stop at the Lebanese Taverna Market for lunch. Then we go home to relax awhile, and finish any last-minute wrapping, before we go to Christmas eve dinner at Mike’s sister’s house.  Barbara loves to decorate for Christmas.  She still lives in her mom’s (my mother-in-law Shirley’s) house.  Though I was in China last Christmas, the first Christmas since Shirley died in July of 2014, this Christmas just wasn’t the same without her.  I really miss her.

Christmas tree at Mike's sister's house
Christmas tree at Mike’s sister’s house

We enjoy a wonderful dinner, eat lots of cookies and Barbara’s famous gold rush brownies, and exchange gifts.

Friday, December 25: On Christmas morning, it’s just Mike and I and the boys.  Sarah is spending Christmas at her dad’s house in Virginia Beach, so we’ll go visit her later.  Barbara comes over later for our Christmas brunch, also our family tradition.  I don’t know why I forget to take any pictures of us on Christmas day!

Our tree on Christmas morning
Our tree on Christmas morning
Close-up of the tree
Close-up of the tree

Wednesday, December 30:  We drive to Richmond to take Sarah her gifts and have lunch with her.  Then we go to visit my dad and stepmother in Yorktown, where we spend the night.

Thursday, December 31: Heading home, we drive up Route 17, a much quieter drive than I-95, to Fredericksburg. On our way back, we stop for lunch at Lowery’s Seafood Restaurant in Tappahannock, where I have crab cakes and Mike enjoys fried oysters.  Lowery’s is the restaurant where my mom and dad used to always stop for lunch when they came together to visit me in northern Virginia.  My dad doesn’t get up to visit us much these days as it wears him out too much to travel.

That was the end of our December, and a quiet end to 2015.  As a matter of fact, I was asleep by 10:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, snoring right through the New Year! 🙂