the monthly cocktail hour (whether we need it or not): may edition

Sunday, May 15: Welcome to my disheveled home for my monthly cocktail hour.  I know, I can hear your protests already: But, Cathy, you haven’t been having your cocktail hour on a monthly basis!  Your last one was in December! Admittedly you’re right.  You all have probably figured out by now that my consistency is questionable.  I originally intended to do them weekly, then it dropped to bi-weekly, and now I’m lucky to have one on an every 5-month basis!  So, I’m going to stick my neck out and say it’s my intention to have one every month, around the middle of each month.  I’ll even write it on my calendar to be sure it will be a priority.  I really do miss hearing from all of you in a deeper, more open way; of course a sip or two of alcohol helps us to put down our walls and loosen our tongues!

Please, come in and have a drink.  I’m afraid things are a bit of mess here in my house as our renovation is in full swing and we have no access to the kitchen or the screened-in porch or deck.  I hope you don’t mind doing a lot of mingling as there aren’t many places to sit.  We have lots of wine of both colors, Bud Light Lime (what Mike calls my fake beer), and some New Belgian Fat Tire.  I’ve also got the makings for a dirty martini, which some people have told me I should try: Vodka, olives and some olive juice.  For the people who like to socialize on the straight, I have Coke and Diet Coke Vanilla, and some  peach-pear flavored La Croix sparkling water.

Have you been enjoying the spring? Have you gone on any fun excursions?  Have you started planning your summer travels to exotic lands or will you be having a staycation?    Have you gone to any outdoor concerts, plays, or book signings? Have you seen your children off to conquer new challenges? Have you reconnected with old friends? Have you accomplished any goals?  Have you been on any retreats?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners?  Have you eaten at any good restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  Have you planted flowers and vegetables?  Have you been exercising and eating healthy? Have you been on any shopping sprees?

The weather here has been mostly miserable all spring, with rain and clouds nearly every day; when it’s not raining, like today, it’s cold and windy.  I can’t believe the swimming pools will be opening in less than two weeks.  It doesn’t seem at all like summer is right around the corner.  I know the rain is good for us, but I find it quite depressing when it never lets up.

You all know about my fun excursion to Philadelphia and then my later trip to Dallas and Oklahoma City for my friend Rosie’s wedding.  Though I haven’t finished blogging about them yet, I will soon.

We were originally planning to go to Prague and Budapest in late May for our holiday, but since we’re in the midst of our renovation and it won’t be done until mid- to late-June, we had to forego our May plans.  Instead, Mike chose to take our holiday in late August because of his work schedule.  We decided against joining the hordes of tourists on mainland Europe in August and opted to go to Iceland from August 13-25.

Mike and I ventured to into D.C. on the evening of April 20 to attend Bill Geroux’s book talk and signing at Politics and Prose Bookstore, one of the District’s longstanding independently owned bookstores.  He wrote Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats, just released on April 19. I was married to Bill from 1979-1986, and Sarah is our daughter. We actually lived in Mathews County, Virginia, where his book is set, for a year soon after we returned from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 1984. Sarah was a tiny baby at that time.  Bill has been a journalist for much of his career, working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and later for Maersk, the largest container-shipping company in the world.  Ever since we met, he’s longed to write a book, and now he’s done it, to great acclaim.  I’m very excited for him.

Before going to see Bill, Mike and I enjoyed drinks and pizza at Comet Ping Pong.  Though we asked Bill to join us, he was tied up with his publicist.  I enjoyed my wine with a pizza called The Smoky: Smoky Mushrooms, Smoky Mozzarella,
Smoky Bacon, melted onions, garlic.

I’ve still been trying to walk 3 miles every day; sometimes I also go to the gym to lift weights.  Oh, how I hate the gym!  With all the rain, I’ve been to the gym more than I care to. My eating habits have been atrocious, so of course I’m not losing any weight and my belly seems to be getting bigger by the day.  I sure hate some aspects of aging.

a walk around Lake Thoreau
a walk around Lake Thoreau

As for goals, I have too many of them, and most of them never get accomplished.  I’ve been considering starting a travel retreat business for fit solo travelers between the ages of 55-75.  I started reading Start Your Own Business: The Only Startup Book You’ll Ever Need by Entrepreneur and I’ve been slowly but surely working through the worksheets.  Last week I wrote a mission statement!  That was fun. I’m still a long way from solidifying my ideas.  Right now I’m just trying things on for size.

Azaleas
Azaleas

I’ve also been continuing to send out my novel, but I rarely get any response from the agents I’m contacting.  I’m not giving up yet.  I finally wrote a synopsis, still probably too long, but that was a great accomplishment as I’ve been putting it off for about 3 years!

gardens along the walk
gardens along the walk

As for books, I finished reading The Blue Between Sky and Water, the first novel I’ve read that tells the devastating consequences of the formation of the State of Israel on the Palestinians.  I also finished the Pulitzer-prize winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr that takes place during WWII France and Germany.   I enjoyed both books immensely; I also learned a lot from reading them.  I’m now reading Bill’s book, Mathews Men, as well as the novel, The Heart of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillipp Sendker.  It takes place in Burma, and since I traveled there in 2015, I find it engrossing.

Lake Thoreau condos
Lake Thoreau condos

I’m a real movie buff and I often find myself sitting in Cinema Arts Theatre for Senior Wednesdays ($5 admission for seniors!).  I’ve recently seen A Hologram for the King, set in Saudi Arabia (but of course filmed elsewhere), The Meddler, Mother’s Day, Eye in the Sky, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, My Golden Days, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Mustang and Hello, My Name is Doris.  Lately, I seem to find most movies just mildly entertaining, nothing to get excited about.  I enjoyed Mustang and Eye in the Sky, but also Hologram for the King because, having lived in Oman for two years, it brought back some interesting memories.

a walk along Lake Thoreau
a walk along Lake Thoreau

Because of our renovation, we’ve found ourselves sampling more restaurants than normal, probably accounting for my inability to lose weight.  Of course during my travels to Philadelphia, Dallas, Oklahoma City and several trips to Richmond, I’ve eaten at a lot of great restaurants.

Another day at Lake Audubon
Another day at Lake Audubon

I’ve been attending the “Commitment” Seminar Series of the Landmark Forum and am exploring what I say I’m committed to and, by looking at my actions, what I’m really committed to.  I’m also learning a lot about the character I play in life.  It’s an interesting journey, that’s for sure. 🙂

One nice thing for me is that I’ve reconnected with an old friend in our neighborhood, Beatrice.  I’ve seen her a number of times for lunch and walks; she and her husband had us over for dinner last week.  She always makes me laugh, so I’m thankful to have her in my life again. 🙂

It’s really disorienting but also interesting living through a renovation.   I have contractors in the house sometimes before I’m even out of bed; they arrive at 7 a.m. and sometimes before. They leave promptly by 3:30.  There’s never been a day when no one has shown up. Sometimes it’s just the foreman Morgan and his carpenter, Ron.  Other times the trade guys are here, Al the electrician and his son, the plumbing guy (name unknown).  This week it’s the drywall guys and on Sunday, the roofing guys came, much to our neighbors’ dismay. Next week, I think it will be the flooring guys, and then cabinet installation should begin.  Keeping fingers crossed on that. 🙂

The regulars, especially Morgan, Ron and the electricians, are the nicest guys imaginable; I’ve never seen workers having so much fun at their jobs.  There’s a lot of pounding going on constantly, as well as a boom box blaring, most regularly Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and most recently “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel, apropos considering there is a lot of sledgehammering going on. 🙂 Last week, I heard Depeche Mode singing “Enjoy the Silence:”

Words like violence
Break the silence
Come crashing in
Into my little world

That pretty much describes my life right now.  I can tell you there’s not much silence around my house lately.  Though I love these guys, I’m so happy each day at 3:30 when they leave and silence settles over the house.

So far, they’ve demolished the kitchen & deck, cut out the wall between the kitchen and family room and built a knee wall, framed the pantry and the laundry room, wired the whole area, installed the plumbing, replaced the water-damaged roof, built the sub-floor in the laundry room, insulated all the walls, and now are doing the drywall. They have almost finished the screened porch but haven’t started the deck.  What a long and involved process!

Click on any picture to see a full-sized slide show.

On Mother’s Day, none of my children were here, but Mike took me out for a special treat at Green Pig Bistro in Arlington.  We figured we’d see them on May 14 for Sarah’s graduation, so there was no need for them to drive to northern Virginia.

me at Green Pig Bistro for Mother's Day
me at Green Pig Bistro for Mother’s Day
Mike at Green Pig Bistro
Mike at Green Pig Bistro

We enjoyed mimosas with the most delicious meals: for me, shrimp, andouille grits and poached egg; for Mike, scallops on cauliflower puree with brussels sprouts.

After our brunch, Mike wanted to go by Arlington National Cemetery to see his mom’s headstone.  Shirley’s headstone is shared with Mike’s dad’s, but Mike hadn’t seen the engraving.  Arlington National Cemetery honors those who have served our nation, usually in the military, by providing a place of serenity for survivors. The 624 acres of rolling green hills are dotted with trees that are hundreds of years old.  Mike’s parents are buried here because Mike’s dad was a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and served in WWII.

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

While at the cemetery, we thought we’d drop by to visit John Ryan Dennison’s grave.  Ryan was my friend Rosie’s son-in-law who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 at the age of 24. We sadly didn’t come prepared with flowers.  A father and mother were sitting on a blanket at a nearby grave celebrating their son’s May 8 birthday; he died also in 2006. She told us proudly that her son, unlike many young men who join the military these days for the college benefits, chose to join the military to fight after 9/11.  He wanted to be in the thick of the action and so the mother is proud of him for his service.  She has a bunch of flowers with her, and she gives us one to put on Ryan’s grave and another for Shirley’s.  What a special encounter.

For those of you who might have missed it, my daughter Sarah graduated from VCU this past Saturday.  I wrote a post about it here.

Thanks so much for joining for my cocktail hour.  I hope you’ll fill me in on what’s going on with you in the comments below.  If you prefer to write your own post with accompanying pictures for the cocktail hour, please feel free to do so and put a link here so we can read your post.  I look forward to hearing more about what’s going on in your lives.

Thanks for coming!  Drive safely and have a great week! 🙂

an outing with a fellow blogger: the national gallery of art, oyamel, & the navy memorial

Tuesday, October 20:  This morning, I meet fellow blogger Toby of Travels with Toby in Washington, D.C. Our plan is to visit the National Gallery of Art.  She is from Minnesota, but is here in Virginia helping her sister to care for her elderly mother.  Toby had lived in Washington during the late 80s and had visited the National Gallery of Art several times. She wanted to spend a few hours in D.C. revisiting the Impressionists.  Here is Toby’s write-up of our meeting: Travels with Toby: My few hours in Washington, D.C.

I arrive before Toby because I have been commuting downtown for the last month and have the commute down pat. I sit for a while in Cosi having some coffee and a yogurt parfait.  Then I make my way over to the gallery where, at the front desk, I get a brochure about the collection highlights at the museum. As I’m standing at the front desk, Toby calls and tells me she has entered the museum at the 7th St. entrance.   I head in that direction and we finally meet, after several years of reading each others’ blogs on the blogosphere.  Toby has a great love of Spain, having studied there at one time, and she hopes to retire there one day.  I believe we met through my blog: in search of a thousand cafés.  I was writing on that blog about my travels through Spain and Portugal.

The main highlight the docent pointed out to me was Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.  I show Toby the brochure about the highlights and we head directly to see the dancer.  She’s quite impressive.

According to the brochure Collection Highlights, “one of the many poor girls who danced for the Paris Opera, Marie van Goethem stands with head high, arms tautly stretched behind her.  Degas dressed her image, the only sculpture he ever exhibited publicly, in cloth garments and human hair.”

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, 1878-1881, waxed satuette
Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, 1878-1881, waxed statuette
Edgar Degas, Little Dancer, bronze statuette
Edgar Degas, Little Dancer, painted plaster

The brochure’s map points the way to the Impressionist collection.  We admire other paintings along the way, but I’m not sure what they are.

painting at the National Gallery of Art
painting at the National Gallery of Art

I know I recognize this painting, but I can’t for the life of me remember who the artist is.  If anyone knows, please tell me in the comments.  It’s driving me crazy!

painting at the National Gallery of Art
painting at the National Gallery of Art

Finally, we’re in the galleries that showcase the Impressionists.  The National Gallery has some wonderful treasures, and I’m sorry to say my photos don’t do justice to them.

Boulevard des Italiens, Morning, Sunlight (oil on canvas, 1897) - Camille Pissarro
Boulevard des Italiens, Morning, Sunlight (oil on canvas, 1897) – Camille Pissarro
painting at the National Gallery of Art
Place du Carrousel, Paris (1900) – Camille Pissarro
Seascape at Port-en-Bessin, Normandy (1888) - Georges Seurat
Seascape at Port-en-Bessin, Normandy (1888) – Georges Seurat
Montagne Sainte-Victoire, from near Gardanne (1887) - Paul Cezanne
Montagne Sainte-Victoire, from near Gardanne (1887) – Paul Cezanne
painting at the National Gallery of Art
Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878 – Mary Cassatt
Young Girl at a Window (1883-1884) - Mary Cassatt
Young Girl at a Window (1883-1884) – Mary Cassatt
an artist painting a famous painting, Woman with a Parasol, by Claude Monet
an artist painting a famous painting, Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and her son, by Claude Monet
painting at the National Gallery of Art
painting at the National Gallery of Art
Oarsmen at Chatou (1879) - Auguste Renoir
Oarsmen at Chatou (1879) – Auguste Renoir
Monet
The Japanese Footbridge (1899) – Claude Monet

Personally, I love the Cezanne paintings.  He is my favorite Impressionist for sure.

Hamlet at Payonnet, near Gardanne (1885-1886) - Paul Cezanne
Hamlet at Payonnet, near Gardanne (1885-1886) – Paul Cezanne
Paul Cezanne
Houses in Provence: The Riaux Valley near L’Estaque c. 1883 – Paul Cezanne
Paul Cezanne
Château Noir (1900/1904) – Paul Cezanne
painting at the National Gallery of Art
At the Water’s Edge, c. 1890 – Paul Cezanne

I also love Gauguin.

painting at the National Gallery of Art
The Bathers (1897) – Paul Gauguin
painting at the National Gallery of Art
Roses (1890) – Vincent van Gogh

I ask Toby to pick her favorite painting and I take a photo of her in front of it. She chooses Renoir’s Oarsmen at Chatou.

Toby with Oarsmen at Chatou (1879) - Auguste Renoir
Toby with Oarsmen at Chatou (1879) – Auguste Renoir

The gallery has some beautiful atriums and rotundas and halls, where tropical gardens abound.

an atrium at the National Gallery of Art
an atrium at the National Gallery of Art

We pick a few more of the collection highlights from the brochure, including Niagara, by Frederic Edwin Church.  According to the brochure, “Church’s powerful rendering of the magnificence of Niagara Falls made him famous virtually overnight.  The vantage point just before the precipice captures the falls’ fearsome power, which the artist emphasizes with a panoramic format and by tilting the picture plane down toward the viewer.  The glimmer of rainbows, the clearing sky, and the sunlight on the far shore (looking toward the US from Canada) reflect the commonly held nineteenth-century belief that spirituality could be found in nature.”

Niagara (1857) - Frederic Edwin Church
Niagara (1857) – Frederic Edwin Church

I love the light, shadows and dramatic skies of the three paintings below.  I guess that’s the photographer in me that is attracted to the light.

painting at the National Gallery of Art
painting at the National Gallery of Art
Buffalo Trail: The Impending Storm (1869) - Albert Bierstadt
Buffalo Trail: The Impending Storm (1869) – Albert Bierstadt
Thomas Moran
Green River Cliffs, Wyoming (1881) – Thomas Moran

I’ve always been a fan of John Singer Sargent, and I especially love his painting Repose.

Repose (1911) - John Singer Sargent
Repose (1911) – John Singer Sargent
Wind from the Sea, tempera on hardboard (1947) - Andrew Wyeth
Wind from the Sea, tempera on hardboard (1947) – Andrew Wyeth
Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) (1876) - Winslow Homer
Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) (1876) – Winslow Homer

Being a lover of all things Spanish, Toby seeks out the Francisco de Goya paintings.

Senora Sabasa Garcia (c. 1806/1811) - Francisco de Goya
Senora Sabasa Garcia (c. 1806/1811) – Francisco de Goya
another hall at the National Gallery of Art
another hall at the National Gallery of Art

Finally, we stop to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci.  According to the brochure, “Ginevra’s face displays the delicate translucence of porcelain.  Behind her, the misty landscape assumes a soft, atmospheric effect.  Perhaps an engagement portrait, this is the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in North America.”

Ginerva de' Benci (c. 1474/1478) - Leonardo da Vinci
Ginevra de’ Benci (c. 1474/1478) – Leonardo da Vinci

As Toby doesn’t have much time, she wants to have lunch, so we head to Penn Quarter, a short walk, where we have a fabulous lunch at oyamel cocina mexicana.  According to the website: “Oyamel Cocina Mexicana combines Mexico’s rich regional diversity with the modern urban atmosphere of Mexico City: antojitos—traditional snacks or small plates—authentic and creative tacos, ceviches, and impressive desserts.” We’re served up some chips and fresh guacamole and I order camarones al mojo de ajo negro, or “wild caught Gulf Coast white shrimp sautéed with shallots, árbol chile, poblano pepper, lime and sweet aged black garlic.”  We also order some papas al mole:  “José Andrés’ favorite potato fries in a mole poblano sauce of almonds, chiles and a touch of chocolate, topped with Mexican cream and queso fresco.”  Yum!!

The restaurant’s decor is festive, with butterflies galore, flowers on the ceilings, Mexican writing on the walls, and Mexican masks.

butterflies at Oyamel
butterflies at Oyamel

After lunch, we make our way to the nearest metro station (Archives – Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter), where we come upon the Navy Memorial. We don’t even realize what it is at first until we see the metro sign that says “Navy Memorial.” 🙂 According to the website, “the United States Navy Memorial honors the men and women of the United States Navy – past, present and future.”

Captain John Paul Jones
Captain John Paul Jones
the fountain at Navy Memorial Plaza
the fountain at Navy Memorial Plaza

Finally, we get on the yellow/green line, where we hop the train to L’Enfant Plaza; there we transfer to the Silver line to Reston, where we part ways after a brief but enjoyable meeting.

What a lovely day, and I really enjoyed meeting another of my blogging friends in real life! 🙂

cocktail hour on the patio: a stroll at meadowlark, computer dilemmas & a jazz fest

Sunday, September 6: Welcome back to my patio for our last official cocktail hour of the summer. I’m so happy to see you!  Tomorrow is Labor Day, which always marks the end of summer in the USA.  This year it’s the latest it can be because Labor Day is on the first Monday in September, which often falls before the 7th.

I don’t know about you, but I for one am happy to see summer come to an end.  Virginia summers are so humid and miserable, that I am anticipating having fall arrive with its cool and dry breezes and its glorious fall colors.

little pretties
little pretties

Would you care for a glass of chilled white wine, or would you prefer some red wine or a cold beer?  I still have some Bud Light Lime, which Mike, and many of you, think of as a sissy beer, but Mike has several types of craft beer: New Belgium Fat Tire and Starr Hill Brewery Jomo Vienna-Style Lager.  I’m not a fan of the heavier beers, but if you are, I have some to offer.  I hope you’ll make yourself comfortable and stay awhile.

Mike and his tropical leaves
Mike and his tropical leaves

Please, do tell me all about your week.  Have you been enjoying your holidays?  Have you done any interesting garden or house projects?  Have you seen any good movies or read any good books?  Have you been swimming or bicycling or hiking in the woods?  Are you teachers out there gearing up for a new school year?  Have you had any fun gatherings with friends?

As you can see from the pictures in this post, Mike and I took a long walk one late afternoon at Meadowlark Gardens.  I always like to go through the gardens at least once during every season.  You’ll see Mike in some of his silly poses, but you won’t see much of me because I rarely like pictures of myself these days.

little buds
little buds
Meadowlark
Meadowlark

I’ve been busy this week preparing for my CELTA course, which is now only two weeks away.  I’ve had a lot of work to do in preparation for that, so I’ll be happy when it’s all over on October 16, just in time for my birthday.  We’ve arranged to go to Chincoteague, Virginia on my birthday weekend, so I’m really looking forward to celebrating my big milestone and the end of that course.

the pond
the pond
rudbeckia
rudbeckia

I’ve been having a lot of problems with my MacBook Pro lately. It’s been running very slowly, most likely due to the over 75,000 pictures I have on it.  Mike knew of a friend of my son Adam’s who is good at cleaning up computers, so this friend, Zak, came on Monday.  He took my computer and when he brought it back on Wednesday, he had removed my 1TB hard drive, installed a Kingston 240GB Solid State Drive and transferred all my pictures to my Seagate external drive. I wanted him to show me how to access the photos on the external drive and when he opened it, he proudly showed me 7,500 pictures.  I said, in horror, “I shouldn’t have 7,500 pictures. I have 75 THOUSAND pictures!  I took over 6,000 pictures just in Myanmar alone!”  After much assurance that the pictures were not lost, he took the computer back to his house to find them, along with all the albums I’d created on my Photos Library.

That evening, he brought the computer back and all seemed to be restored properly.  However, while I was using the pictures, I was suddenly unable to edit them and then the whole Library reverted back to the 7,500 pictures.  It took me a while to get Zak to respond, but when he did, he was able to link the 75,000 pictures to my library remotely.

a glowing globe
a glowing globe

The next day, as I tried to post pictures to my blog, again my Photos Library didn’t have any of my albums, and it only had the 7,500 pictures!  This time, Zak was very unresponsive.  Heck, if you’re going to have a business where you’re working with customers transferring data and changing hard drives, etc. you need to be responsive!!! Immediately!!  This concerns a person’s beloved DATA, things they hold valuable for whatever reasons.

varieties of rudbeckia
varieties of Rudbeckia
glowing goodies
glowing goodies

Needless to say, I lost a lot of sleep over this whole process, thinking my photos were gone forever!!  Can you imagine how I felt?  It was horrible.

On Friday, I went to the Apple Store and looked into buying a new desktop.  It would be nicer to be able to work with my photos on a desktop rather than a laptop, and I wanted to have another place to have my photos. I guess I need to look into iCloud storage or Google storage or something as well.  I ended up buying a desktop at MicroCenter and having them do the data transfer from my old 1TB hard drive.  I will pick up the new computer on Wednesday or Thursday of this coming week.

butterfly heaven
butterfly heaven
pavilion on the pond
pavilion on the pond
the pavilion
the pavilion
peeking at the pavilion
peeking at the pavilion

Other than working on my course preparation and dealing with my computer, I didn’t do much of interest on this last week of summer.  I did go to see the movie Mistress America one afternoon; I felt the best parts of that movie were in the trailer.  I can’t say I enjoyed it that much.  I really look forward to seeing Learning to Drive, with Patricia Clarkson.

cypress knees
cypress knees
water garden
water garden
bees' bushes
bees’ bushes
delicate what-nots
delicate what-nots
love these!
love these!
water lilies
water lilies
lily pond
lily pond
bamboo ?
horsetail
flower power
flower power
Jeju Dolhareubang
Jeju Dolhareubang
the Korean Garden
the Korean Garden
pond in the Korean garden
pond in the Korean garden
Mike with the bell
Mike with the bell
Bell pavilion
Bell pavilion
pavilion on the hill
pavilion on the hill
Mike in the sculpure
Mike in the sculpure
Rambling Robbie
Rambling Robbie
another sculpture
another sculpture

Our walk at Meadowlark was quite a humid one, and we headed back drenched in sweat.

fuzzies
fuzzies
more rudbeckia
more Rudbeckia
starry flowers
starry flowers
more starry flowers
more starry flowers
more green buds
more green buds
coleus
coleus

The highlight of my week was going to The 9th Annual Lake Anne Jazz Festival with our friends Karen and Michael on Saturday evening. We got to listen to several good bands while having wine and dinner at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern.  It was so much fun, and we even got to dance, something I haven’t done in ages.

Karen & Michael
Karen & Michael
Mike and me
Mike and me

I’m so glad you joined me for cocktail hour this Sunday night.  Hugs to you all and I hope you’ll come back in a couple of weeks to enjoy some of the cooler breezes of fall. 🙂

walking through days of blossoms

Saturday, April 26:  I’ve been taking 3-mile walks all winter, through the drab, icy, and freezing landscape of northern Virginia, but now my walks are filled with blossoms.  Here are a few views of my springtime visions, as seen on my daily walks, either in my Oakton neighborhood, around Lake Audubon or Lake Thoreau in Reston, around Burke Lake, or in Vienna.  All photos were taken with my iPhone as I don’t carry my camera while doing walks for exercise.

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

2014-04-16 10.07.04
Blossoms at Lake Audubon
2014-04-14 10.05.13
Blossom in my Oakton neighborhood
Cherry blossoms at Lake Audubon
Cherry blossoms at Lake Audubon
Redbud
Redbud

“It is a very beautiful day. The woman looks around and thinks: ‘there cannot ever have been a spring more beautiful than this. I did not know until now that clouds could be like this. I did not know that the sky is the sea and that clouds are the souls of happy ships, sunk long ago. I did not know that the wind could be tender, like hands as they caress – what did I know – until now?”
Unica Zürn

tulips in Vienna
tulips in Vienna
Tulips at Vienna Town Green
Tulips at Vienna Town Green
tulips in Vienna
tulips in Vienna
opening tulip from Vienna
opening tulip from Vienna
Vienna Presbyterian Church
Vienna Presbyterian Church
a blossom in front of the Vienna train
a blossom in front of the Vienna train
blossoms around Lake Audubon
blossoms around Lake Audubon
blossoms along Lake Audbon
blossoms along Lake Audubon
Along Burke Lake
Along Burke Lake
Along the 5 mile Burke Lake trail
Along the 5 mile Burke Lake trail
Our house in Oakton
Our house in Oakton
bleeding hearts around Lake Thoreau in Reston
bleeding hearts around Lake Thoreau in Reston
Reston golf course
Reston golf course
A view over Lake Audubon in Reston
A view over Lake Audubon in Reston
little buds at Lake Audubon
little buds at Lake Audubon
Trees and clouds in Oakton
Trees and clouds in Oakton
Oakton trees
Oakton trees
trees in Oakton
trees in Oakton
a tunnel of blossoms around Lake Audubon
a tunnel of blossoms around Lake Audubon

As you can see, I’ve been having a little fun with some apps on my iPhone, including Instagram and Snapseed.  Oh, it’s so lovely to take a walk on a fine Virginia spring day.

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
Kobayashi Issa, Poems

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

a sunday walk around lake audubon

Sunday, February 16:  Today, we take a 3 1/2 mile walk around Lake Audubon in Reston, Virginia.  Reston is a planned community that was founded in 1964 and is one of the nicer suburbs of Washington, D.C.  Lake Audubon is one of four artificial lakes in Reston.

Lake Audubon in Reston
Lake Audubon in Reston
No Skating
No Skating

Since the lake is small, only houseboats and canoes are allowed.  All around the shoreline, we see little party boats covered in snow and hemmed in by ice.

Canoes aren't much use now
Canoes aren’t much use now
houseboats
houseboats

I’m not sure of the prices of homes here, but I can imagine they’re expensive.

colorful canoes
colorful canoes
houseboat on Lake Audubon
houseboat on Lake Audubon

I enjoy walking in Reston as the community has 55 miles of paved pathways and natural surface trails through woods and around neighborhoods and lakes.

bridge across to the dam
bridge across to the dam
only a small part of Lake Audubon is not frozen
only a small part of Lake Audubon is not frozen
summer deck
summer deck
across Lake Audubon
across Lake Audubon
summer beckons
summer beckons

I’ve been walking a lot since I returned home from California, at least five days a week, despite it being one of the worst winters we’ve had since 2010.  In February 2010, right before I left for Korea, we had two huge blizzards which shut Dulles International Airport, causing my flight to be postponed.  Apparently the winters since I left have been very mild.  I get the feeling the bad weather is following me. 🙂

promises of blue sky at Lake Audubon
promises of blue sky at Lake Audubon
footbridge over part of Lake Audubon
footbridge over part of Lake Audubon

getting settled: taking care of feet, computer space, transport & the hair disaster

Saturday, July 27:  First things first: I must get a pedicure.  I head out first thing this morning to take care of this essential piece of business. I have to explain to the Vietnamese ladies at Paradise Nails where I’ve been the last year, as I had to do last year when I was home and the year before.  I’m a regular there, but obviously not too regular in the last 3 years.

Then I head to the Apple Store at Reston Town Center to find out about getting more space on my hard drive.  All during my last months in Oman and my entire trip through Spain and Portugal, I’ve been receiving messages on my MacBook Pro:  Your startup disk is full!  I have been deleting files right and left, but I’ve now reached the point where I have nothing else I want to delete.

The Apple Store directs me to go to Micro Center in Fairfax, as they are the authorized service dealer.  Oh dear, here begins my driving to and fro in northern Virginia to do annoying errands!  To buy the new hard drive costs me $80 and to have them install it and clone all my stuff to the new hard drive will cost $150.  Already, my hard-earned money is flowing right out of my pocket into things I don’t want to buy!  But these are the necessities of life and the money must be spent.  There are so many other things I’d rather spend money on; this is certainly NOT one of them.

It will take them about 3 hours to do this process, so I’m without a computer for a while.  Throughout the rest of the day, I keep getting phone calls from Micro Center telling me it’s taking much longer than they anticipated; apparently there are a lot of pictures that are very slow to transfer over.  Surprise, surprise!  It turns out the computer will not be ready until tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Mike has gone on an 88 mile bike ride with his biking club and I am still trying to fight my way through the disaster in the basement.  This will keep me occupied for weeks, so it’s a good thing I don’t have to start work yet!

When Mike returns home, he does a bunch of research online about the list of cars I’ve told him I’d be interested in buying.  He wants me to buy a slightly used Toyota Corolla because he feels it would be the best value for the money.  I have told him I’d be interested in a Fiat, or a Toyota Matrix or Camry.  We already have a 1997 Toyota Camry and a 2004 Toyota Sienna, and so we head straight to Ourisman Toyota, where we meet the very laid back salesman, Kofi from Uganda.  I’m immediately attracted to a black Toyota Corolla; the new ones are so nice!  After test driving the Corolla, I think it’s perfect.  Especially with the new touch screens for audio and the Bluetooth! 🙂

We decide then and there to buy a brand new 2013 black Toyota Corolla. I’m never one to linger over car decisions; every time I’ve ever bought a car, I’ve just gone out in one fell swoop and bought one!  We take the money I got from the sale of my GMC Terrain in Oman and Mike contributes the same amount again, and we sit for hours buying the car.

my new Corolla
my new Corolla

As you can see, Mike is not very happy with the time it takes to do all of this, mainly because he hardly ate anything today after his 88-mile bike ride and is starving.

Mike at Ourisman Toyota
Mike at Ourisman Toyota

I drive the Corolla right off the lot.  We also bought, suckers that we are, the Environmental Protection Plan, which means I will need to bring back the car for treatment one day this week.

Sunday, July 28: Today, I must run more errands.  This seems to be the nature of my life in Virginia.  Oh how I remember this, and hate it.  I have to go pick up my computer, which is now cloned.  The only problem is that a product key is needed to activate Microsoft Office on the new hard drive.  I search the house high and low and can’t find the packaging for the Microsoft Office I bought in 2011, so now it looks like I will have to buy it again.  So irritating!

The rest of the day, I spend tackling the basement.  Unbelievable.  This clutter and disorganization is so annoying and claustrophobic after my nice clean and spare house in Oman.  Things are piling up in the garage right and left as I dispose of anything and everything in my path.  I figure anything I give to charity will benefit someone else, and any money we spent on this stuff is a sunk cost anyway.  I can’t debate or tell myself maybe we should keep this for a time when we might need it.  It simply has to go!  I’m on a rampage.

Tuesday, July 30:  Next thing, I must get my hair fixed.  It’s a mess.  I spent tons of money in Oman first getting a cut and highlights and low lights.  Six weeks later, I had it straightened; the chemicals from that process basically destroyed the original highlights and low lights and turned my hair yellow.  It was too late to do anything about it before I went on my holiday, so I had to live with it during my entire trip.  Today, to remedy the situation, I head to my trusty Diane T Salon in Vienna to get a decent cut and highlights and low lights again. I tell her to make the low lights darker and chunkier, instead of in fine strands like she usually does them.  She follows my instructions and I personally like the effect, but when I get home, Alex says, “Wow, nice hairdo.  You look like a zebra!”  What??  Oh my gosh!  Kids will say the darndest things, but I run into the bathroom and look in the mirror.  I guess he’s right, I slightly resemble a zebra. 🙂

Out in the front yard, I take a picture of Alex with my new car, and then he takes a picture of me, the zebra, with my new car.  Joy. 🙂

Alex with my new car
Alex with my new car
Zebra-lady with her new car
Zebra-lady with her new car

In the afternoon, I attend an iPhone class at the Verizon Wireless store, where I discover the thrilling things that I can now do on my new iPhone.  Welcome to the modern age!

the iPhone class
the iPhone class