Thursday, March 26, 2015

On Making Your Own Adventures

Last week at the end of the day on Friday, I was feeling weird and restless. It had been a full and productive week and I was in the mood to do something but was having a hard time coming up with a fun thing to do that didn't cost money. We're trying very hard these days to be conscious of our spending--in general but also in anticipation of our Japan trip--and at 4:00 on a Friday, the only ideas I could think of involved drinks or food.

What's a girl to do!?

I was getting mopey. My husband suggested I take a long walk and reminded me that fresh air always makes me feel better. I mulled this over. We talked about dinner. We had planned an indulgent Friday night dinner of hot dogs with some kale and brown rice on the side for health and balance. I told him we didn't have hot dog buns. Cue more mopiness on my part.

And then my husband (as he is apt to do) saved my afternoon. "Why don't you walk to that cute little food store near the park and buy us some hot dog buns?" 

Ok, I know that on the surface that doesn't sound like fun, or a very romantic suggestion on my husband's part. But the man knows me. This was exactly the adventure I needed. The store he was referring to is about a mile away from our house, a perfectly walkable distance, but in our town we are so used to jumping in the car when we need something that it wouldn't have occurred to me to hoof it.

"It'll feel like you're in New York." He knows I miss those days of walking 30 blocks without a second thought, my little bodegas where I used to pick up that one thing I was missing for dinner. The people-watching and buzz of life all around. They were little adventures.

It was a chilly day but I was already feeling my spirits lift so I bundled up, popped in ear buds and turned on my Radical Face Pandora station, grabbed a tote, and set out down the street.

The store didn't have hot dog buns.

As far as I was concerned, though, my Friday afternoon mission was completed. I was mopey no longer. I smiled to myself, thinking how funny it was that I had walked 20 minutes (one way) to buy hot dog buns at a store that doesn't carry hot dog buns. I bought some regular bread and a few ripe avocados and some lemon mint tea and began my trek home, red-cheeked and tingling and happy.

The hot dog buns were just the excuse anyway.

(Photo above is an adorable house I noticed while walking.)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Earthy Linen Napkins

I've been on the lookout for some beautiful cloth napkins, soft and faded in a deep color that hides imperfections, a rich mocha or grey-blue slate or inky charcoal. I stumbled on these stonewashed hemstitch linen beauties and they perfectly mirror the ones in my imagination. They are simple enough for everyday but sophisticated enough for special dinners. Wouldn't it be lovely to mix and match several of these earthy tones or maybe create an ombré palette? 

(p.s. They also sell these without the hemstitch, but I love the homemade quality that pretty stitching lends.)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Married Traditions

Mostly I go to this coffee shop called Shenandoah Joe when I'm in a coffee shop sort of mood. It's my favorite cafe in Charlottesville. I come here to write, to meet friends, and when I just need to get out of the house. It's where I am writing today.

But sometimes I go to this other coffee shop which is a little less funky and a little more buttoned up. Think chairs and tables and laptops instead of vintage sofas and bespectacled customers reading paperbacks. I've gone to this other coffee shop several times in the past few months, both times on a Sunday (once because I was in the area and once because Shenandoah Joe is closed on Sundays). It's a nice, solid backup cafe. 

On the first Sunday there was this sweet middle-aged couple sitting at a table in the middle of the cafe drinking coffee and playing cards. The woman had this completely contented look on her face as she shuffled the deck. She wasn't wearing makeup and he had on an old sweatshirt and I remember thinking they looked so comfortable with each other and so happy to be sharing their Sunday afternoon over coffee and cards. It made me smile. 

The next Sunday I was there, so were they. Drinking coffee and playing their card game at the same table in the center of the cafe. I pointed them out to the friend I was with and said I'd seen them before. It seemed to be their Sunday afternoon ritual.

We gazed over at them for a minute and my newly married friend said that she had been thinking about traditions in marriage and that she'd like to start some with her husband. I said I thought that was a wonderful thing to do. But I added that some of the best traditions my husband and I share aren't the ones we thought out or intentionally planned but the ones that just were, that are. The ones that are a natural byproduct of who we are individually and together.

One of my favorites is our nightly routine. I'm a major early bird and my husband loves to stay up until the wee hours of the morning. If he came to bed with me he'd toss and turn for hours and if I came to bed with him I would become a zombie in a matter of days. Our compromise is that he "puts me to bed," as we call it--ha! Sounds funny but we think it's sweet and special. We will snuggle together and chat about our days in the dark as I get sleepy and he makes sure I have a glass of water and that my phone is charging on my nightstand before he tiptoes out. 

If I had to bet I'd say that the coffee-drinking card-playing couple didn't decide this would be their Sunday afternoon tradition. I bet they did it once or twice and it stuck and now it's as natural and established a part of their week together as Monday night Downton Abbey or Tuesday night tacos.

To me, this naturalness is as beautiful as the tradition itself. It reminds me that in its simplest form, a marriage is a shared life. A life in which you don't have to leave the warm bed to get your own glass of water and are never wanting for a Sunday afternoon card partner.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Books For Spring

Isn't it funny how sometimes you have stacks of books you're dying to read on your nightstand (your figurative or literal one) and other times you can't quite figure out what to pick up next? Suddenly this spring (and it does feel like spring, weather-wise and inspiration-wise and hopefulness-wise) I'm swimming in books and loving it. Here's what's on my (literal) nightstand.

The Opposite of Loneliness was on a recommended reading list for 20-something women in Domino Magazine. I read this short piece of Keegan's in the New York Times and loved her wise, confident writing. I checked her book out of the library and was shocked to discover that this smart young woman died days after her graduation from Yale and that this collection of her writing was published posthumously. Heartbreaking, but how powerful that her words live on.

I pre-ordered Hey Natalie Jean (written by one of my favorite bloggers)  a few months ago and Amazon says it will show up tomorrow. Hooray! Natalie is a deep and witty and lovely writer and I think her story is meaningful and important. Excited to dig into her book when it comes.

My parents sent me this hilarious article on Airbnb in Japan because we decided to use Airbnb for two nights in Tokyo. I loved the writing so much I decided to look up the reporter and discovered she co-authored this book. The book is dark and disturbing but from what I've gathered from reviews, incredibly brave and beautiful too.

My mom recently finished Lila and passed it on to me. I don't know much about it but if my mom liked it, I'm sure I will too. Fact of life.

What's on your reading list this spring? Please share!

(Not pictured: a book on Japan, and another book on Japan, and one more.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Best Everyday Drinking Glasses

The first of the dishes we received as wedding registry gifts have done what most dishes do eventually--they cracked. It happened within a span of about 10 days. A bowl slipped from my hand while I was washing dishes and it landed on a mug. They both suffered small but noticeable chips.
The salad plate wasn't so lucky. A few days after the first incident one of our small plates shattered and we had to toss it. It made me a little sad because they weren't just dishes, they were wedding gifts.

I'm happy to say though that our Duralex drinking glasses have not endured a single casualty (and not for lack of a few swift run-ins with the kitchen floor). I grew up with Duralex glasses and have always loved their classic design so they were an easy choice for our registry. We have the Picardie tumblers in both the small and large sizes plus a few tiny hand-me-down juice glasses from my parents that are probably 15 years old, and still good as new.

Now that I have my own kitchen I appreciate these glasses beyond their classic French bistro look. They are really affordable, especially for how well-made they are. They stack well. The tempered glass is suitable for both hot and cold drinks and they stand in quite elegantly for a stemmed wine glass. They feel nice in your hands, both the shape and the weight of them. And I love the variety of sizes available. The juice glasses are adorable.

Best of all the design never changes, so I'll be able to keep my kitchen stocked with my favorite glasses forever.

Tell me--what in your kitchen are you most loyal to? I want to hear about your favorites!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Banning Busy


I'm sure you've heard of the campaign to ban the word "bossy," right? I don't have hugely strong opinions on this movement as I was never called "bossy" as a child and was actually the exact opposite of bossy most of the time. I was the spindly little girl frozen to her mom's leg avoiding eye contact. But that's another story altogether. What I wanted to write about was a different "b" word that I recently declared would henceforth be banned in our home: busy.

I didn't really mean to take a two-week break from writing this blog but it happened because I was preoccupied. Preoccupied with my work, preoccupied with a lovely girls getaway with my mom, preoccupied with trip planning for Japan. I had other things going on that took center stage and I wasn't feeling particularly inspired to write and that's how it happened. I refuse to say that I was too busy. (Cringe.)

You see, I think that the word "busy" has lost its meaning. The truth is that we all have full lives. Even if we're not busy in the traditional sense--taking 5-minute showers and gulping down coffee and eating chopped salads on the go and sprinting from meeting to meeting--we're all busy in our own ways. Perhaps today's calendar isn't full but there are looming pressures or self-imposed deadlines. Maybe an emotional problem is consuming you and your brain is filled with thoughts that tug and don't let go. Maybe your attention is tied up with a big life change and you schedule in deep breaths and prayer in your free time. Maybe you really are running between meetings.

We could all claim busyness and we do, including me. But I'm calling myself out on it. As the daughter of a writer/editor I was taught from a young age that overused words and expressions quickly lose their value, and I for one don't want to be a user of empty meaningless words.

One of the worst things (I think) is when the "busy" card is used to explain away an unanswered text message or email. We live in the age of easy communication--it's never been simpler or more user-friendly to stay in touch, to craft a quick response to a friend or family member who asks a question or writes just to say hello. I can understand being too busy to send a letter in the mail but I refuse to believe that anyone is too busy to send a text! (They don't even require proper punctuation!)

All of this said, I try to be understanding when I am presented with the "b" word which for me mostly happens in my piano studio. A lot of my students are adults with jobs and families and are studying music purely for the joy it brings them, which is a rare and wonderful thing. I feel privileged to have these kinds of students and when they tell me they've been too busy to practice as much as they'd like I tell them it's ok and that we can sightread duets or listen to recordings or talk about music theory or work on scales.

It's not that I don't hold them to high musical standards because I do. But I'm a reasonable person and I recognize that having a two-year old and a husband and a full time job can be demanding. When musical enrichment, not Carnegie Hall, is the goal, I believe it's my job to be kind and to teach something valuable every single lesson, regardless of how much time was spent at the piano during the week. (My younger students don't get off quite so easily but amazingly, all of them do practice without me having to prod them.) (Prod I will if that ever changes.)

So what do you say--will you ban busy with me? If for nothing else than to sharpen our usage of the English language. Say you've been preoccupied! Active! Engrossed in the pleasures and demands of your life!

Anything but busy.

(And please, let's not say any of these things as an excuse for not replying to a text. Everyone has time to at least shoot off an emoji.)
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