December was an unexpected month. I mean, not that exactly — I absolutely knew that December would come after November, as did everyone else who uses the Gregorian calendar or is at least four years old and living in the Western hemisphere. I mean more that this December wasn’t what I expected.
Going through the month, I felt like the days were passing too quickly and I couldn’t keep up. I searched for “Christmas spirit” everywhere but couldn’t seem to find it. I did not bake a single batch of cookies the entire month. For a girl who likes to bake at least a half-dozen recipes, bring cookies and such into work or drop goodies off at friends’ homes, and save a sampler platter to bring to her Dad in Tennessee, that was a pretty low blow for everyone involved.
While it was happening, it didn’t feel like anything. I didn’t really know what I was walking through. I didn’t really blog (sorry readers), I didn’t really work out (sorry pants), and I didn’t read very much or complete any more of the awesome online classes I started. I barely finished listening to Serial. Looking back, though, I can see that this past December was so good for me. December was a month where my loneliness was met week after week by lovely new friends.
The thing about being career-minded and married and moving to a new city as an adult is that your friends are often very far away. Instead of seeing them every other day, you see them just once or twice each year. It’s natural to feel lonely in your new city. But, if you are like me, you might not recognize that loneliness even when it is filling your life. I apparently confuse it with things like work stress, seasonal allergies, or the crippling emotional blow that is entering another winter in Chicago. (I mean, seriously. It is cold.) And then I convince myself that work stress, allergies, or cold weather are good reasons NOT to go out and spend time with new friends, which compounds the loneliness that I haven’t even noticed I have.
I can be such a dummy.
The past six weeks my Chicago people and out of town guests totally rejuvenated me. Thanks to Abby for visiting pre-Thanksgiving and reuniting me with some lovely ladies I hadn’t seen in too many months. Thanks to the awesome book release party for connecting me with people I care about but haven’t seen in ages. Thanks to little girls who take dance classes and brought me to my first-ever showing of the Nutcracker (FYI the Nutcracker is WEIRD!) — and to the awesome hosts of the post-performance shindig. Thanks to the friend who came to stay with us for a week while attending a conference in the city. Thanks to my awesome family and in-laws for fun activities and hang outs over the holidays, and thanks especially to the two couples that joined us here in our Chicago apartment for New Years’ Eve fireworks. I had forgotten how much fun it was to relax, sip on homemade cocktails, bake a cake, and just have fun.
I watched some TV and read a few books and went to some cool places over the last month, but I’ll catch you up on those things later. For now, when I think about this December, I think about you. Thanks, friends, for making this life more awesome.
As I usually do, today I’m linking up with the fabulous Leigh Kramer to share what I was into during the previous month. For great shows to watch, books to read, recipes to try and internet things to click on, check out all of the posts here.
1. Chat with a friend you miss. Tell her you are in a foul mood and then let the magic happen.
2. Make pizza for dinner. The homemade kind where you knead the dough a little. Work that frustration out.
3. Malibu and Diet [Pepsi]. Seriously, it is the best.
4. Yoga pants and a hoodie. Keep the hood up. Bonus points if your husband compliments you by saying you look like a Sith Lord.
5. Eat the pizza you made while watching Friday Night Lights.
6. Rocky Road ice cream.
7. Dance party.
8. Google other fun things and find THIS Pinterest board that promises to make a bad day better but really just makes you judge the world for being LAME.
9. But then — wait — you found THIS. And now your day is better.
Disclaimer: I think repeated posts about pieces of vacations are really boring, and I usually get tired of the re-telling and leave off the last half of vacations to avoid the lameness of it all, so this is a GIANT vacation post that may seem ridiculous. If so, here’s the short version for you: our vacation was awesome, I caught a lobster and took my picture with Nathaniel Hawthorne, so now my life is complete. The end.
As I mentioned previously (perhaps too many times!), H and I spent Columbus Day Weekend investigating the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine coasts. It was a wonderful trip. We tried to squeeze in a lot of activities while still relaxing (and catching some college football) during our short visit. Here’s a quick run-down for you:
Day One: Salem, Massachusetts, York, Maine, and Portland, Maine
First stop, Salem. I’ve been wanting to visit Salem for ages. [Random side story — Junior year of college, my little sister in KD and I drove up to Charlottesville, VA for fall break and made a stop in Salem, VA — which turned into a running joke about “where are all the witches?” Wait, what? Massachusetts?]
So, I was pretty excited about this whole trip idea. I had this dream that the witch museums would be out of control and that there would be gallows and history everywhere. And, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. Instead of lots of witch history, there were a lot of Halloween-related gimmicks. So that piece of the journey was a little disappointing. However, the Witch Trials Memorial, installed twenty years ago, was beautiful. Surrounding a graveyard in which Cotton Mather’s brother was buried, was a rectangular area surrounded by a stone wall on three sides, with memorials to each victim of the hysteria in 1692-1693.
However, much to my history-loving delight (and not exactly to H’s delight), there were tons of other fun historical items on our agenda! We had a photo shoot with the statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne in the town center, toured the House of the Seven Gables, and visited the home of his birth and upbringing (which has recently been moved onto the same property as the House of the Seven Gables). Fact: did you know that when Hawthorne was alive, the House of the Seven Gables really only had three gables? The owner had torn down the other four gables to make the home more stylish. Since that time, preservationists built the other gables back onto the house.
Also, there was a lot of pirate history (still pretty gimmicky, so we skipped the live-action museum, haha), but the ships [real historians know that “boats” are submarines and on-top-of-the-water vessels are always called “ships” — don’t you forget it!], custom house, and National Park were very entertaining. The water was also beautiful, and made for a pretty wonderful day.
Next on the list, a quick stop on the Maine coast in York, to see the beautiful lighthouse and eat the best ice cream in the world. Well, I can’t really say for sure that this is the best ice cream in the world, but it was mighty fine and came highly recommended by our friends up north.
Then, we were back in the car and on our way to our evening destination: Portland. Portland was a weird little city. We stayed just outside of the city on Friday night at a bed and breakfast we loved, but where our hosts basically told us that Portland was only good for eating and drinking beer. We were okay with that. We spent the evening in a huge room overlooking the river, and enjoyed dinner that was so delicious we forgot to take photos, but included a huge bowl of the most delicious mussels I have ever eaten in my entire life.
Day Two: Scone-off, Lobstering, and the Great Shopping Experience of 2012
We woke up Saturday ready for some action. Our B&B served us fantastic eggs
benedict for breakfast. We were very happy food-wise, but the coffee was a bit weak for us so our first stop in the Old Port area was for a dark-brewed beverage. We stopped first at a “famous” bakery to get pastries and coffee, but quickly discovered that they probably were not going to have the coffee we wanted. So, we bought a maple scone to save face and then headed to the another coffee shop. There, we ordered two mugs of drop coffee, a second scone, and sat down to read the local paper and plan out our day.
So even though we’ve already eaten a delicious breakfast, we are sitting not an hour later at Crema devouring two scones and two coffees. Don’t judge — it was mandated by the circumstances, and it was fun and delicious.
Then, after a few hours of exploring the Old Port area’s shops and offerings, we boarded our Lobster Cruise with Lucky Catch and baited traps, pulled up traps, evaluated our catches, secured lobster claws with rubber bands, and explored the islands off the coast of Portland. This was perhaps the most exciting part of our entire trip — we wore the gloves and aprons and went all in.
Our guides taught us how to tell if a lobster is male or female and what the laws are in Maine which protect and increase the number of lobsters in that state. At the end of our cruise, we went over to J’s Oyster House and I ate my first lobster. It was not as delicious as I anticipated and quite a lot of gross. I prefer crab legs, shrimp, and steak any day!
Then, we drove up to Freeport, Maine, to visit the L.L. Bean Factory Stores and to do a little shopping. And let me tell you — those L.L. Bean stores are OUT OF CONTROL! And, there aren’t really any good deals. It’s more about the
experience. So, we bought a few things because it was so COOL to be there but spent most of our time there just hanging out and experiencing the crazy that is five separate L.L. Bean stores in one location and about five-billion-cars and twenty-billion-people everywhere. Who knew? We did both purchase new winter jackets (H’s from L.L. Bean, mine from the North Face Sample Sale) and grabbed a few select items from J.Crew (how typical…)
Day Three: Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and a Scenic Coastal Drive
We woke up mid-morning on Sunday and drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for lunch. It was a cute little city but we forgot to take photos because, frankly, it looked just like everything else we had seen all weekend. We had lunch at “Me and Ollie’s” bakery and, while the cashier was not super great at ringing up orders, our sandwiches were fantastic. Then, we hit the road back toward the airport, following Ocean Blvd. down the coast of New Hampshire. This was so much fun and really
interesting, because the coastline up north is so different from down South where both H and I have typically vacationed. We stopped at a couple of forts (obviously, I wanted to stop at more but H did not!), took photos at different look-out points, and saw exactly what we wanted to see.
The only thing missing from our trip was seeing a moose! We weren’t far enough west to really expect a moose-sighting, but we still really want to see one so we may have to venture up to Maine again in the future to mark that off our bucket lists.
I’m not sure if I mentioned this previously, but H’s brother “S” is here for the weekend and we’ve been trying to pack a lot of things into the last few days. So, my typical weekend of wearing PJs and not going outside before 4 p.m. has been replaced with (a) frantic Friday morning clean-up, (b) eating out and doing “fun activities,” and (c) feeling like a nine-hundred-year-old grandma because all I really want to do is take a bubble bath and then a nap.
But thankfully I managed to squeeze in three hours of beautiful wonderful fantastic shopping before the boys arrived. I scored a ton of basics on sale (and a few not-on-sale) so now I have the foundation for cute outfits all fall. I also bought a pair of those Old Navy super skinnies everyone has been talking about and, even though I went two sizes up so I didn’t feel ridiculous, they are pretty cute for only $19. I bought the khaki color and think I can blend them in as work pants with a fancy top and blazer. I also bought a bright green corduroy skirt, and now I feel like a rock star.
Okay, but back to the real story. Friday night was dinner at Founding Farmers (Montgomery County). Which started out in a weird half-argument between me and H because I recommended we go to Farmers & Fishers on the G-town Waterfront and didn’t believe H when he said they had a location in Montgomery County but it turned out that we were talking about two entirely different restaurants. So we were both right, only clearly I was more right because I was talking about the restaurant that H thought he was talking about.
Please note: farmers are everywhere.
Once we figured out where we were going and arrived, however, we discovered that all was right in the world because this place was awesome. I mean, seriously, look what we had for dinner:
This is gnocchi on top of beef ragu. Legit delicious.
This is H’s Chicken and Waffles. Too much butter made the waffles soggy, but overall it received high ratings. Although, not as high as my gnocchi (above).
After dinner, we stopped in at Harris Teeter and were very rudely instructed by the checking assistant that we were not following the instructions on the self-checkout appropriately. Even though the screen read “wait for cashier,” it really meant for us to keep pressing buttons to satisfy the self-checkout’s unstated needs. And apparently we were supposed to know that. So now I am boycotting Harris Teeter. And you should too.
So, mid-westerners take their beer pretty seriously. According to one friend, there’s no need to have an open bar when you get married in Wisconsin, just pop open a couple of kegs and everyone (even your grandma) will be happy. The local beer in Minneapolis did not disappoint. H and I rocked this out while we were in Minneapolis.
The most mainstream of the local beers is the Surly Furious. It was good, but a little hoppy for me. We tried the Surly at the Brits Pub, which is cool because it has lawn bowling on the upstairs patio.
Lawn bowling looks a lot like croquet but has no mallets. Instead, you just try to get your ball closer to the big ball than your opposition. And you can only roll the ball, and it’s pretty funny.
But on Saturday afternoon of our weekend in Minneapolis, H and I took a personal tour of the Fulton Brewing Company. And let me tell you — it was adorable. The location is a few blocks away from Target Field (home of the Minnesota Twins) and has no food. But, do not fear, hungry beer lovers, because Fulton has a schedule of Minneapolis’s best food trucks cycling into their parking lot and feeding the masses. And if you don’t want whatever they are serving that day, you can just order a pizza. The bartenders will help you. Minnesota has a lot of nice people, including bartenders. Wait, are people who serve beer bartenders? Beer-tenders? Keggers? What are they? Anyway, it’s pretty fantastic.
So back to the brewery tour: the guy who gave us the tour was the father of the guy who created the beer. And he was one proud papa. He told us the entire story of the creation of the beer, starting with a “Mr. Beer” kit as a birthday gift, tracing the brewing station from a single-car garage to a double-car garage to the final warehouse and ending with $20,000-per-mixer production systems and how the Minnesota state laws on beer production have just been changed and that local breweries are going to be popping up all over the state. (Good reason to move to Minnesota? check).
Also, the tour guide/proud papa told us a story about the origin of India Pale Ale (IPA): British soldiers in India wanted beer, but by the time the beer barrels reached India, the beer was spoiled. So, instead of using magic to keep the beer refrigerated, those smart British just put lots of extra hops into the beer to cover up the rotten flavor. And, those soldiers got used to drinking gross-spoiled-hoppy beer in India, and wanted it when they got back to the homeland. Doesn’t that sound delicious?
Minnesota was beautiful. They call it the land of 10,000 lakes for a reason, and while I can’t speak for the frigid ice-cold arctic* winters, living there in June was a pretty convincing alternative to the hot concrete here in DC.
This is the view of Minneapolis (not St. Paul) from the Prospect Park Tower. The tower is apparently an old water tower but H called it the Witches’ Tower all weekend and often lapsed into saying some version of “Witches are Bitches” the entire weekend. The photos are a little blurrier than normal because I am not technologically savvy and I had to use the “dusk/dawn” function to take the photos, but it was really a great view.
This photo is really terrible, I know! But, it’s not a good story if you can’t see it! [You can see an actual photo here.] Also, there was a couple quietly fighting on the only bench while we were there and it totally killed the moment…because I started giggling and H ran away and then H said he saw a snake and I almost screamed but he was totally lying, of course, because sometimes he tries to be funny but is so NOT funny. And I hope that couple made up because it would kind of ruin the Prospect Park magic if they broke up there.
*Actually, somehow in the course of my work duties last week I was informed that neither Minneapolis, Minnesota nor Anchorage, Alaska, were in the Arctic circle. My job is kind of weird.
This is a recap post. Things have been happening, we have been traveling, and I’ve just been too distracted and busy to keep up with the blog! But, I’ve been taking photos and getting ideas so I’ll have a few posts here and there catching you up on all of the things we were doing before today.
Because, you see, today I became a single lady. H left for Minnesota and I’ll be here in DC for three weeks before I can make it up for a visit. Luckily, my granny, aunt, and cousin are here visiting a.k.a. keeping me super busy so I won’t have time to feel lonely! It’s going to be a busy week with them here but I’m very excited about all of the fun things we will do together.
Leo is also doing a great job at entertaining me. Today we played tag and he totally won (as indicated by the scratch on my hand). He LOVES playing hide and
This is a photo collage of our weekend trip to explore the Antietam battlegrounds. It was a fun, hot day and we explored history a little and searched for an ice cream parlor a lot. Because we enjoy canons and bullets and bridges and all but nothing says Civil War like homemade butter pecan. And try as we might, we never found that ice cream shop. So, if you are looking for new business ideas, perhaps try opening an ice cream parlor in Shepardstown, WV? We would be regular customers, and trust me — we eat a lot of ice cream.