I’m still sick, so have a visual flashback of last week.
Okay, going back to bed now. Bye!
I’m still sick, so have a visual flashback of last week.
Okay, going back to bed now. Bye!
Christmas is over. But it was packed, and I deliberately stepped away from the keyboard for the week (although my mother might disagree with that!) There are just times I want to be experiencing things and not documenting them. That’s also why I’m terrible at taking pictures. I don’t want to see the world through a tiny square of glass. But now I’m home and back at a keyboard, so here’s the holiday rundown!
This was our year to go down to Virginia for the holiday. We’ve started alternating between going there and going up to the cabin. It’s getting harder for Mom to make the trip, but we don’t want to miss out on seeing her, so this seemed to be a good compromise. Plus then we can alternate which of my siblings we spend it with as well! And I was very happy that I was able to talk Nikki into coming down with us this year. She doesn’t always like being pried out of her cozy nest, but we all love her company and in the end she usually has a good time, so I was really glad when she agreed to come. She’s also more likely to stay awake while riding shotgun, unlike my kids! (Or me…)
Launch time was 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. I didn’t want to waste a whole day on travelling and being tired from travelling, so I left work a little early and by the time Hero got home from school, we had the car all loaded and were ready to go. The timing worked well, as we were out of the range of any major city centers by the time rush hour hit. It’s about a 7 hour drive from my house to Blacksburg, but it’s all highway driving, so in general it’s easy. This trip a little less so, as it was foggy from Harrisburg all the way down, truly biblically at some points. But our halfway point provided us not only with gas but also with Five Guys for dinner, so it was all good. We pulled in at Mom’s just before 11, unloaded and crashed.
Wednesday was grocery shopping and some errands. First, though, Hero and I went out together for a training run. We were running a 5k on Thursday and wanted to get a feel for the terrain. Well, the terrain was BRUTAL. I thought we were hilly around here, but that was nothing compared to the trail near Mom’s place. Hero and I almost came to blows at one point. It didn’t help that she’d left her good running shoes at home, and the sneakers she had were terrible for running. Finally, both of us frustrated, I told her to start walking back but I was going to go out for another fifteen minutes. Which wasn’t easy. I walked a lot more of it than I like to admit, and it didn’t give me confidence as to how I’d do the next day. By the time I caught up with Hero, we’d both had a chance to calm down and were able to talk things through. We came to the understanding that what I think of as coaching comes off to her as nagging, and that for both our sakes, we’d be better off running the race at our own pace the next day and there was no lack of love in not running together together. We got back and showered (did I mention the humidity? Because OMG the humidity!) and then went erranding. First stop ended up being Goodwill to try and find her a better pair of shoes. We did score a decent pair of Skechers for $3, and I found a fabulous bundt pan for $2! What do you need a bundt pan for, you might ask! Well, I’d just found this recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes using my favorite of their doughs. Finding that pan just seemed to be demanding that I make this, so we added the ingredients to the shopping list. Then we went looking for the yarn and fabric store I’d found out about through the Ravellenic Games, only to find they’d closed their Blacksburg store and were reopening in the new year down the road in Christiansburg. So no yarn for me. Phooey.
Grocery shopping was a hoot. It was me, Mom, Nikki and Hero and OMG, we talked ourselves into so much stuff! Good wine and cheese, egg nog and heavy cream and an ENORMOUS beef roast that is our holiday tradition. We filled three grocery totes and a couple of bags. But we would be eating well! Once we got home, we unloaded everything and I started on the cake/bread/thing. The dough had to sit for several hours and the cranberries for at least 8. By then it was naps and dinner and watching way too many episode of Alaskan homesteader shows, my mom’s current go-to TV viewing. But we were all in bed pretty early (a pattern for the week. I think Mom started getting offended by how early we all go to bed. We can’t all stay up until midnight every night like she does!)
Christmas eve was a whirlwind! We had to be up early for brunch at my sister’s. She and her husband have a great apartment on the campus at Tech where they’re faculty advisors, so they invited all their friends and us for brunch. There was a bit of excitement with the catering, but it worked out in the end, and their friends were all really nice, and thankfully for this introvert they were all extroverts, so I could stand in a corner talking to Nikki and someone would come over and join us instead of me having to awkwardly work my way into a conversation. We hung out there until about 11:30 and helped clean up before getting changed and heading over for the race.
So this race. I’d found out about it online. It’s the Frosty 5k that the local running store sponsors every year. Rachel is a triathlete, but she’d never run this, so I thought it might be fun to run together, even though I knew she would smoke me. Hero wanted to run, too, since she’s been doing the 5k training almost as long as I have. She’s had respiratory problems, though, that have kept her from finishing. We finally got her diagnosed two weeks ago with exercise induced asthma and got her an inhaler, although she hasn’t really had a chance to train with the improved breathing. No matter. This was just for fun, right? Yeah, I’m not competitive at all.
Christmas eve… was not frosty. It was in the 60s, and it had been raining the whole afternoon and night before, so the sign in area/finish line was a muddy swamp. But the sky had cleared by the time we got there and got checked in, and there were pugs in elf costumes, so all was well, right?
We all started out together, but I didn’t see my sister once during the race. Hero and I hung together about a quarter mile (and up one brutal hill) before I headed out at my own pace. It wasn’t too bad. A couple of steep spots, but it seemed to be mostly downhill. I kept a good pace, and really only walked in spots where everyone else was walking, too, so I didn’t feel like so much of a slacker. Hit the water stop at the mile 2 marker and felt pretty good.
That’s when I ran into THE HILL.
Rachel had warned us about the hills, of course. But I was thinking in Pennsylvania terms. This… Yeah, calling it a hill was a vast understatement. It was easily a 45 degree vertical climb and it went on for three quarters of a mile! But of course starting into it, you can’t see that. I figured I’d run halfway up and then walk. Got to what I thought was halfway and realized that I wasn’t even close to the top. Which was probably why everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was walking. No one was even trying to run that beast! Bummed about my time, I hiked up to the top along with everyone else. Thankfully once we got up there, we could just make out the hi-vis jackets of the staff at the finish line through the trees, so I started running again.
Morgan was waiting as the path came out of the trees, and the high five he gave me was just the adrenaline boost I needed to get me through to the end. That last bit splashing through the mud wasn’t fun, but I was able to pour it on in time to see the clock as I crossed the line read 33:20. !!!! That was two and a half MINUTES faster than my first 5k back in June! Despite the hills! But no time for that! I raced back to the point where Morgan had met me to wait for Hero and just made it! She was struggling about as much as I had been, but using my new-found knowledge of the high five, I gave her a power boost, and Xander had another one for her closer to the finish line. She finished in 36:40, just under two minutes slower than my first race. Considering she hasn’t finished her 5k training, and did all that training with a respiratory deficit, she did amazingly!
As we were walking back to the car, she made a comment about “next time”. I think I’ve got her!
We went home and washed the mud off and just kind of putzed around for the afternoon. I made dinner, finished the cake, screwed up some knitting and by 9:30 was ready for bed. But we weren’t done. Everyone filled their assigned stockings with much sneaking and angst about there not being enough room in the sock. Mom needed whipped cream but was too tired to use the hand mixer and didn’t want to be bothered getting out her Kitchenaid. Well, what’s the point of having a Kitchenaid if not for making whipped cream? So I got it out and 5 minutes later we had whipped cream you could walk on. Yum! I was halfway into bed when I realized we hadn’t put the presents under the tree. Back out I went with the bags of goodies. Finally, FINALLY at about a quarter past 11 I was able to crawl into bed and pass out.
I was one of the first ones awake Christmas morning.
The problem with teenagers is they stop being excited to wake up early on Christmas. It was almost 9:30 before we roused everyone and started on stockings. Between stockings and tree presents, everyone had a good haul, just the right balance of clothes and stuff. I got a couple of homesteading/DIY books, a Fitbit (ooooh, stats!), some running gear, a GC to Knitpicks and a couple more for clothes. Yay! Matt, Rachel and Uly joined us for dinner.
They brought fake snowballs, which were awesome but led to a couple of falls and arguments. Of course it was raining again, so we couldn’t kick the kids outside to burn it off. One more reason snow is better than rain! And the bread/cake/thing came out good! Drier than I would have liked, so next time I might not bake it quite as long, but the flavor was very nice.
Saturday was recovery day. We got all the clean-up we could done (crowding 6 people into a two bedroom apartment leads to some inescapable disorder), and then Mom sent me and Nikki off to cash in my gift cards. I got two pairs of slacks (size 8!), and silky blouse and this blazer that I swear is made out of sweatshirt material and flannel and may be my most favorite piece of clothing ever! And everything was 50% off, so when I went over my GC amount, I didn’t feel bad about paying the extra. The running shop was just across the parking lot, so we stopped in to get our final results from the race as well. Then home for lunch and we went back out to Old Navy to return one of Hero’s gifts (white top, too small and too transparent) and spend some of our gift cards. It was pretty zooish, with all the returns and the huge after-Christmas sale, but we all scored some goodies. Hero came out best, as she found the last of these sleeveless running hoodies that they only had the display version of. But it was in her size and looks phenomenal on her! Plus she’s all about the hoods and can wear this over just about anything, so it’s the perfect article of clothing for her. Once we got home, we had naps and dinner and started packing up for the trip home.
Sunday was back to reality. Mom took us out for breakfast to her local place that serves beignets, which I had never had. They were delicious! Once we got home, it was a race to load the car and make sure we didn’t forget anything (we almost forgot our Christmas angel!) But we did pretty well and were on the road by 10. Slightly longer trip this time, as we had to take Nikki home on the way. Of course it was beautiful and warm all the way up through VA and to the PA line, but almost as soon as we crossed into PA, the fog hit, and then the rain. *sigh* We dropped her off in Philly around 4 and were home by 5:30. The worst traffic we saw the whole way home was around Philly, especially passing King of Prussia (everyone leaving the mall) and coming out of Philly to head north. Once we got home, we actually did get the car all unloaded in record time, and then I ordered Chinese food, because there was no way I was cooking after all that.
And I was in bed by 7. Bliss!
I think I’m a pretty traditional Sagittarian. Philosophical, intellectual, a bit of wanderlust. The only problem is I’m poor. No matter how much I would love to travel to… well, anywhere, really, I barely have the means to leave the state. This eats at me at times, especially when my friends get to take these great trips all over. This summer was an anomaly that I doubt will be repeated for a while, barring a lottery windfall. But that doesn’t mean I don’t dream about it.
Since I broke my foot, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the couch. Great knitting time, but I need to have distraction while I’m doing it. I paged through Netflix and ended up on a couple of Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows. Which I pretty much inhaled. I can sit for hours watching these shows. It’s how I tend to experience new cultures, unsurprisingly for a fat (even former) girl. But it makes me want to climb through the screen to inhale all the smells of the places he visits. Yes, even durian fruit. I want that experience.
I’m sick of the food I normally cook.
Take these three seemingly random facts, put them together, and you get my latest project. I’ve decided that once a month, I’m going to let the kids pick a country, any country, and I’m going to make a big sampler dinner of foods from that country. It’ll give me an excuse to spend a few weeks poking through recipes and learning about the culture, and then I’ll cook 3-4 entrees, 2-3 sides and a couple of desserts so we can try everything. I’m inviting anyone who wants to to come over. Certainly my friends, but also the kids’ friends, hell, you can come to if you want! You don’t have to bring anything, but if you do, it has to be from the country du jour.
I presented this idea to the kids last night. The boys looked kind of not impressed, but Hero immediately came out with “South Africa!” Which, okay, where the hell did that come from? My second thought was, “How different could that be from other European colonial food?” I picked up my phone and started looking and wow, it’s REALLY different! Now I’m getting excited! I’ve got about a week to pull recipes together, and I’m going to cook for the dinner on the 24th. None of the ingredients seem too far out there, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. Just need a bottle of South African wine!
So expect monthly reports as I travel within the confines of my kitchen! And if you have any recipe or resource suggestions, shout them out! I need all the help I can get!
The D.C. trip was excellent! Hard to believe it was almost two weeks ago. Re-entry was a little rocky, but I blame the weather for that. It can be fall any day now!
We didn’t leave here until almost 11, but made good time and got down there by 2:30. I was most amused and a little startled to find that the hotel was the same one I stayed in when I came to D.C. for the first time my senior year in high school! We were there early enough that once we settled in, we went out to explore the neighborhood, which was basically the Pentagon.
Dinner was our only awkward food day. We didn’t get a microwave in the room, but they had one in the lobby, so we went down and nuked them in public. A little embarrassing, but it worked and was yummy! The kids went swimming, I did some spinning, and by 10:30 we were all asleep.
Saturday was day 1 of sightseeing. We caught the shuttle and the train and were downtown by 9:45 (the museums open at 10), which gave us time to explore.
We started at Air and Space, where I got a picture of my Captain America Exhibit t-shirt in its home environment (that movie was a bit of a running theme for the weekend).
Then we had lunch on the Mall before walking out towards the Lincoln Memorial and everything in between. Only one person the whole day notice it, the cashier in the gift shop at Natural History. He was pretty gleeful.
(Yes, I do seem to be travelling with a posse)
One of my favorite surprise photo ops of the trip.
By the time we walked back it was getting on to 5. We went into Natural History for an hour and a half (thanks to Steven Universe, Hero really wanted to see the gems), and then it was dinner time. That night was dinner out, so we found a relatively inexpensive fusion place that made huge naan burgers.
Xander was the only one to eat all of his.
Then home, a swim and OMG crash!
Sunday was much the same, only we did the other end of the mall. Started at American History, where we all acknowledged after an hour that we had rather stopped learning and were just looking at things at that point. Input saturation! After lunch, we walked up to the Capitol, which was undergoing some pretty substantial reno.
Pretty ironwork, though.
On the way back, we wandered through the Botanical Gardens, which the kids surprised me by really enjoying
and the Museum of the American Indian.
Dinner that night was at Chez Hotel Room, and went well. We sat up watching the first half of the special on the 2000’s, which the kids were really interested since that is all literally the length of their existence. They got confused when I kept yelling at the tv, and quiet when I got teary.
We talked about doing something on Monday morning, but by then we were all brain fried and decided to sleep late and then get on the road. Took the back ways to avoid traffic and tunnels in Baltimore, which was serendipitously beautiful, and made it home by 3. Everyone had a good time but we were glad to be home!
We don’t have any more trips planned for the summer, which I’m just as happy about. It looks like I’m going to have to get the brakes on the car done, so that takes any money I would have had for another trip anyway, and it’s probably not safe to take a long trip until I get them done. *sigh* Next paycheck.
So thanks for the memories, Washington, and we’ll see you again!