Saturday, February 6, 2016

Yoga Wrap Up

I made it through the 30 days of yoga challenge. Sort of. It took me about 40 days to get through, because it turns out that I can't commit to 30 minutes of yoga every single day. Fridays are especially hard. If I go out after work, I won't be home for long enough to squeeze in the 30 minutes. But I kept chugging along and eventually made it to the end of the series.

Then I put on the video for the 30th day and it was introduced as a freestyle, do what you want treat for the final day. And that's the opposite of what I want. I started watching the videos so that someone else would tell me what to do. I need that structure. I'm awful at coming up with my own routine. Even if I know all the pieces. I just can't put it together into something reasonable, and I always stop after about half a workout.

After that, I just lost momentum. I tried another video, but I'd taken off for long enough that I was back to all the old aches and pains from my first forays into yoga. It was frustrating. Especially since some of the poses had started to come easier. And the cure is obviously to keep doing it every day. Or 5 days a week at least, which I can manage easily. But once you stop it's so hard to get started again. Especially when your husband just wants to watch TV and work on the puzzle and you know you ought to treasure the time together since he's leaving soon.

But he is leaving soon. Monday, in fact. At which point I'm bound and determined to get back into a routine. And stick with it this time. Even after he comes home. I will figure out how to make this work. And I will touch my toes before the year is out.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Blizzard

Winter took it's sweet time showing up this year. Christmas was a balmy 75 degrees, and even into January we weren't seeing temperatures much lower than 40. But the temperature finally dropped and a storm came through, giving us our first snow of the season.

It started last Wednesday with a light dusting. We only got about an inch, but the temperature plummeted so quickly when the sun went down that all of the roads in the area became a sheet of ice. It shook people up even more than normal because we knew we were getting hit with the blizzard starting Friday evening. The snow wasn't supposed to start until late Friday afternoon, but a fair number of people didn't go to work. The whole morning was bright and clear and eerily quiet, like some sort of ghost town.

There was a lot of concern about the evening rush hour. Everyone wanted to get home before the snow started and caused a mess everywhere. And I was a little worried that they'd decide to shut down the trains early. So I went home at 1, even though the snow had just barely started. Kevin had stocked us up with food and alcohol, so once I got home we went into full hibernation mode. We set up our extra mattress in the basement with plenty of pillows and blankets and parked ourselves there with food and wine, only venturing out to walk Kina while we could still get to the park.

On Saturday morning we woke up to a surprising amount of snow. Kevin and several other neighbors spent the morning beginning to clear off the sidewalks, and Kina had fun running around the snow maze with the German Shepherd who lives next door. It was nice to be able to let her run around without her leash, since the snow kept her from going too far. That stopped once we'd dug out to the street and the Bobcat started plowing the roads. By the afternoon there were too many other dogs and too much open space to let Kina roam free, but she had fun while it lasted.

We spent the weekend huddled up watching TV and playing games. We were lucky in that we never lost power. And both our neighbors and our HOA were great about snow removal. The snow had finished falling when we woke up Sunday morning and by Sunday afternoon our whole neighborhood was completely dug out. The rest of the area was not so lucky.

On Monday, the trains weren't running above ground, so I elected to take a sick day and stay home. It was a little strange to be taking a snow day, especially since we had no problem getting to Safeway in the afternoon and the snow had long stopped falling. But it was nice to get the extra bit of vacation.

The trains still weren't running to my stop on Tuesday, but I didn't feel like I could justify taking another sick day. I took the car we'd dug out and drove to work. The commute wasn't even too bad, since the government and schools were still officially closed. And warmer temperatures meant that the roads were clear and most of the snow banks were well on their way to melting.

It was a fantastic weekend. I'm always glad for an excuse to just hang out at home for a few days, and the snow was gorgeous. I hope we get more snow before the season ends this year, but I'll be content with a few inches. One good snowstorm is enough to keep me sated until next year. Not that I'd mind getting stuck at home again. Especially since I have plenty of sick time to use if it does happen.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Opposite of Hibernation

Traditionally, January has been a month to stay in. We don't make plans, we don't go out. We just cover ourselves with blankets and enjoy being home. But that hasn't been the case this year.

Kevin's company hold sits holiday party in January instead of December, which definitely makes it easier to fit into the schedule. It was thrown on the same day he got back from three weeks in Hawaii. So instead of spending his first night back at home, we went down to the Ritz-Carlton in Arlington. His company was generous enough to pay for the valet and provide us a steep discount on the room for the night.

The party itself was pretty spectacular. I got to meet Kevin's new colleagues and their partners. They were a fun group of people, and between the open bar and that fact that we were staying at the hotel we had a lot of fun. The next morning was a little rough, as Kevin was fighting both a hangover and jet lag. It took us a while to get home, but the night was well worth it.

That Sunday, Zach and Sarah came over to watch the Seahawks and the Redskins in the first playoff games of the season. We had a lot of fun playing games and drinking beer while we watched football. And even though Washington lost, they made it further than I could have hoped for at the beginning of the season.

The next weekend we had planned to host one of my high school friends who was going to be in town for a funeral. I was looking forward to seeing her, but due to a mixup she had to cancel at the last minute. Instead we went down to Zach and Sarah's for another evening of games and football.

That week my aunt was in town for business, so we went out to dinner with her one night. It's nice that her work brings her out this way as often as it does. We don't get to spend much time with her when she's in town, but we always take the opportunity to catch up. This time we went down to a tapas restaurant in Clarendon and enjoyed sangria and tapas despite the freezing weather.

All in all its been a very busy month so far. It's been fun to be as social as we have been, but it hasn't left a whole lot of time for relaxation or recuperation. It's a good thing I had so much down time over the holidays. Our schedule doesn't look to be lightening up any time soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ringing in the New Year

This year, as always, I spent New Year's Eve with Sarah and Zach.

It started the year after college, when it was just me and Sarah and her dog, Lily, and wine (some of which ended up on her wall)

The next year, Zach lived in Colorado and Kevin and I were back together, so it was the four of us, barhopping on Pearl Street and then retreating to my apartment for margaritas and monopoly (or maybe that came first?)

That spring I moved to DC, and by some miracle of the universe, Sarah moved to Pittsburgh in the fall, so we were able to spend the holiday together again without traveling too far.

And so a tradition was born. Zach and Sarah hosted and Kevin and I arranged our travel schedule so that we'd always be there to celebrate with them. We drink champagne and play beer pong and rage cage, and in the morning we have mimosas and play board games for as long as we can stand it.

This year things changed, ever so slightly. I still celebrated with Zach and Sarah. I brought Kina down and spent the night and in the morning we played a couple of board games. But Kevin was in Hawaii, working.

In some ways this was harder than spending Thanksgiving and Christmas without Kevin. Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been about family, my blood relations. I spent Thanksgiving with my dad and aunt and the following days were spent visiting my mom and her sisters. Christmas was a quiet affair, but Connor came over for a few days and we drank wine and watched old TV shows. The traditions around these holidays have been in flux since my parents separated when I was twelve, but they've always centered on family. In the ways that mattered, this year wasn't any different.

New Year's Day has come to be about my found family. It's the holiday I spend with Kevin and Zach and Sarah. One of many at this point. But this is the first post-college tradition that we established, one of the things that continued to bind us together after graduation.

It was fun this year, don't get me wrong. The group of people who attend this party is ever shifting, ever growing, and it was nice to see faces both familiar and new. We played games and I had a wonderfully nerdy discussion about Star Trek with some of those new friends. There was a fancy cocktail and plenty of champagne and a dog to cuddle with at the end of the night.

But there was also a subtle loneliness, a little something missing. New Year's Eve isn't one of the holidays that can shift and slide to fit around schedules. We can make a Thanksgiving feast two weeks early. We can gather and open presents before or after the actual holiday. But the new year can only be rung in once each year. And even though I was surrounded by friends, by the bulk of my found family, the most important member of that family was missing.

2016 promises to be a good year. We're turning 30. Most of us are turning 30 on a Saturday, which will make it easy to celebrate with abandon. We're trying for a kid, which will hopefully give us more reasons to celebrate. We already have trips planned for Vermont in February and NYC in April with more of our found family, and we're hosting them in June. The calendar is filling up faster than I remember from past years. Even January, usually a month of retreat and hibernation, has already contained multiple parties.

There are times in your life when you feel like you're suddenly accelerating towards adult hood, approaching important milestones with a mix of excitement and anxiety. Things you want with all your heart that manage to scare you silly at the same time. Graduating high school. Moving into a dorm. Graduating college. Starting your first job. Moving in to your first apartment. Moving in to your first apartment together. Getting a dog.

This is where I am right now. Coming up on the next big milestones and hitting the gas. Time is doing that funny thing where it speeds up sometimes and then slows to a crawl at other times. I'm looking forward to the changes that are coming this year, but part of me is scared, too. The homebody part of my that doesn't want anything to change, ever, must be soothed and coaxed and convinced that change is for the best. The anxious part of me that wants the change now, damnit, just get it over with, must also be soothed and calmed and reminded that time keeps moving forward and all we can do is plan.

I think the manner of ringing in the new year was an appropriate portent for how this year will go. We put rage cage aside, just as we're leaving our twenties behind. And if I occasionally feel lonely in the coming year, as I expect to, it will only be temporary. Traditions come and go and change with the years. Family is forever, and 2016 will hopefully see its expansion.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Looking Forward

I don't have a list of goals for 2016 like I did for 2015. There are things I want to do, projects I'm working on. But things will come as they come. Instead, I have a bigger, more nebulous goal in mind. It's the closest I've come to having an actual New Year's resolution in years.

In 2016 I want to learn to be more flexible.

This started on the yoga mat (oh god, I'm turning into one of those people). Physically, flexibility is something that has always eluded me. I took ballet classes for ten years and only did the splits once. I could barely touch my toes in all that time. If I'm honest, a lot of that is because I just didn't care that much. Now I do. And I'm seeing enough improvement to keep myself motivated. I'd like to be able to touch my toes, to fold in half, to splay out my legs and put my elbows on the floor. So I'm working at it and improving bit by bit.

It extends beyond the physical, though. I like my routines. I rely on them. I get stuck in them. As nice as it is to have them to fall back on, especially when I'm sick or exhausted or stressed, they can occasionally become a hindrance. It's been especially difficult dealing with Kevin's ever-changing and last-minute travel schedule. I'm hoping to figure out how to get better a this in the new year. I want to be able to go with the flow a little more, to not have my entire day thrown off when plans change or something unexpected happens.

Maybe this doesn't really count as a New Year's Resolution. It's been on my mind, and it's something I've been actively working on since mid November. But I'm still working on it. If I'm honest, I'll probably be working on it for my entire life. In this time of looking forward and setting new goals, this is the one I want to focus on.

Here's to a new year and a more flexible me. See you on the other side.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking Back

Coming up on the end of the year, and I thought this would be a good time to go back and see how I did with my resolutions. Without further ado:
  • Plant some herbs. I'd love to have fresh basil and mint and maybe thyme available in my kitchen. And I think I can handle a small, indoor herb garden.
    • I tried this! I had an herb garden for several weeks. Then the cat got mad and ate the entire thing and threw up all over the bathroom. At least he did it in the bathroom. No more herbs for me.
  • Plant some tomatoes. Tomatoes are supposed to be easy, and it'd be great to have some nice, fresh ones available to eat. Especially since I just found an easy marinara sauce recipe.
    • Man, I didn't even attempt this one after the disaster of the herb garden
  • Learn to make jambalaya. Last year I conquered risotto and the year before that it was soup. This year: jambalaya. (My first attempt was a little too soupy. Next time will be better.)
    • I did this! I made jambalaya several times. Each was better than the last, and I now have go-to recipes for a quick jambalaya-tasting dish (~25 minutes) and a more involved version. Yay!
  • Bake some bread. We've got this lovely stand mixer that I never, ever use. I want to use it more. Bread could be fun, right?
    • Nope, this didn't happen at all. Maybe next year? But it's so much easier to buy.
  • Make pasta from scratch. See above, re: stand mixer. With pasta making attachment
    • We did do this! Several times. We even did ravioli once. It was fun and delicious but also lots of work considering pasta is usually around $1/lb
  • Cook more new things in general. I already moved the cookbooks out of the cupboard to help with this. If I see them everyday, I'll be more likely to actually use them.
    • I think I did this? It's hard to quantify. I cooked some stuff, though
  • Learn to knit? I mean, probably not. But also it could be fun. And something to do while I'm watching TV
    • Definitely did not do this.
  • Start building up a home gym. I want to start small: a foam roller, a mat, a set of dumbbells. Eventually I'd like to be able to cancel my gym subscription. I just need to get in the habit of working out at home first.
    • I have a home gym! Mostly I use it for yoga, but those dumbbells still sit there and mock me.
  • Lose some weight. It's such a cliche. For real this year, though 
    • Actually I think I gained 5 pounds? Whatever
  • Bike to work at least once. I'm doing decently on the exercise bike, and my office really isn't too far away. I'm planning to buy a bike in March or April and get out more. Especially if this summer is as gorgeous as last summer was. (I hope I didn't just jinx it.)
    • I rode my bike to work a ton last Spring. For three months I was biking to work at least twice a week. Then it got hot. Then it got dark. But come April I should pick this up again.
  • Reorganize the library/living room. I want to get a couple more bookcases for the living room and start moving some books down there. Because my library is actually overflowing.
    • I did this, and I love it. But now it's time to reorganize yet again Or maybe get rid of some books?
  • Pay off my student loans. This is definitely happening this year. It's barely even a goal. Still you have to put down something that's guaranteed. It makes the rest of the list easier.
    • I did this, too! Goodbye student loans. Now we just need to pay off the car. And the house. 
 As for my reading goals, well I think that was an utter failure. I did complete Wheel of Time, which was well worth my time. I'm really glad that I read that series, and also that I waited until it was finished to read it. And while I did inject some diversity into my reading habits, I still mostly read books by white men. I guess that all I can do is keep trying.

I also failed to read less. As of this writing, I've read 110 books so far this year and will likely complete two more by Thursday (yeah, I know). Four of those 110 books were the Vorkosigan omnibuses, each of which contains 2 novels and 1 novella. Though that's probably balanced out by the graphic novels I included in my count. The point is that I read an absurd number of books this past year, and it did occasionally cut in to other things I could have been doing. As proud as I am of reading 100 books in a single year - it is a pretty great accomplishment - I'm once again hoping to read less next year. If only there weren't so many books that I want to read.

Then there's the writing goal. I didn't even try that hard. I half considered a few ideas, and I even came across a request for posts from a blog I frequent that I could have written something interesting for. But ultimately I didn't write anything with the intent of getting it published somewhere other than my blog. On the other hand, I now have three blogs. Maybe that counts?

Even though I didn't do everything I said I wanted to, 2015 was pretty successful. I did some cool things, read a ton of books, and generally had a pretty awesome year.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry Little Christmas

This year we celebrated a much quieter Christmas than I'm used to. But it ended up being a lot of fun, and I got to spend some quality time with my brother.

He came over in the early afternoon on Christmas Eve and we went down to the Kennedy Center for Kevin's mom's Christmas concert. Kevin usually drives to these concerts, so it probably isn't a huge surprise that I got very lost. I missed my exit and ended up doing a big loop, crossing the Potomac three separate times before we finally found our way into the parkign garage. Luckilly, we had planned to arrive half an hour early. We ultimately made it to our seats a few minutes before the concert started.

The concert was lovely, as always. It didn't include music from any other countries this year, but that turned out to be a timing thing. A choir visiting from the Phillipines performed with them on the Gala Night, the main concert event, but elected not to stay for the Christmas Eve concert. Instead, we got some fun performances from a trumpet soloist.

After the concert we went to a friend's house for champagne and appetizers for a couple of hours. The group was much smaller than normal, as Kevin wasn't the only person unable to spend Christmas in Virginia this year. Then it was back home for a dinner of sausage and pasta and movies and wine with Connor.

I got him to watch Pride and Prejudice, which I've been wanting to rewatch for a few weeks now. Then we started The Tenth Kingdom, but Connor fell asleep before long, and I wasn't too far behind him.

On Christmas morning, Connor and I slept in until after 8, probably the latest either of us has slept on Christmas. Then we opened presents and made pancakes and called dad while we took Kina for her morning walk. After that we dove back in to The Tenth Kingdom. It was on in the background for most of the day while we visited and worked on a puzzle.

We met up with Pat for an early dinner at a nice Chinese restaurant in the area. The place was unbelievable crowded, even during our 4:30 reservation. But the food was well worth the wait, and it was a nice change of pace to go out on Christmas instead of cooking and facing a heap of dishes afterwards.

After dinner, Connor and I went back home and finished The Tenth Kingdom, then rounded off the evening with a few episodes of Angel, which Connor always preferred to Buffy. Overall it was a really nice, lowkey Christmas. I'm glad I was able to spend it with the family I had here, msotly hanging out in my pajamas and watching old movies. All things considered, it was about as perfect as it could be.