I’ve lived in a lot of cities during my lifetime. And I’ve seen lots of dogs during that time, too. Cute dogs and ugly dogs. Big dogs and absolutely tiny dogs that probably would qualify as mice. Puppies and more mature canines.
Looks like we’re over the bright, crisp, sunny autumn days and heading into the deep gray, cold days of late December, January and February. (In fact, Thursday is the winter solstice. Vox offers seven things you should know about the shortest day of the year, including that D.C. will get only about nine hours of sunlight Thursday.)
The city I came from is known for its gloomy winter weather: 68 days of heavy cloud cover for the winter, according to this ranking. That’s a lot of days of gray. But D.C. consistently ranks for gray days, too. The Washington Post says it makes the top 25 dreariest U.S. cities during winter.
So, to cheer myself up when and where I can, I look for colors that make me happy. The completely content cat in the photo above caught my eye, along with the red forks of that great bike and the bright blue paint on the Adams-Morgan bike shop. I just happened to be passing by, and the cat was none too pleased that I was disturbing her nap.
My photo leaves a lot to be desired; I never claim to be a professional. So in the spirit of sharing during Hanukkah and Christmas, take some time to check out these wonderful examples of really good colors across the District of Columbia.
- One Photograph a Day gives me hope that all is not lost for my own skills. Each photo on this blog is like a mini masterpiece, and each one very likely has a big story behind it. Take your time to look at them all.
- Get some photography and studio/gallery news with great photos (black and white too, if that’s your thing) on exposeddc.
- I Hit The Button offers photos from many U.S. cities, the photos from D.C. will make you want to get on the Metro and see spots you’ve never visited. Or just dream about visiting them until it gets a little warmer in April.
- Longtime blogger Drew Schneider of Petworth News has a great collection of colorful, fun neighborhood photos on his Instagram account. Thanks, Drew, for bringing some color to our day and smile to my face.
- Get a little style guidance with the great photos of D.C. from lifestyle blogger District of Chic.
- Yes, of course, there is a Humans of D.C. blog. See the photos, read the stories and smile.
In all the hubbub of the last three months — moving, ending one career and working on establishing another one, navigating a big city and figuring out our empty-nest status — the holiday season has hit us like an unscheduled freight train.
As I mentioned previously, I got rid of A LOT of detritus from our previous home, including Christmas decorations, knickknacks, CDs (we didn’t really need three copies of Bing Crosby crooning, after all), tired old wreaths and cruddy Christmas wrapping paper. It felt good to clean it all out. And while I still have three bins of holiday stuff, I’m really glad it’s not the five it was before. Storage space is at a premium.
So now that Hanukkah is here, and Christmas is a little over two weeks away, I think it’s time — really time! — to make our annual irreverent Christmas cookies. My sister recently reminded me that one year my S.O. posted a photo of our best effort: Dog pee on old tannenbaum, using yellow icing. The photo above is Banquo’s ghost. Morbid, sure. But what it lacks in holiday cheer it makes up with literary sensibility. And I’m sure whomever got to eat that puppy truly savored the moment.
The point, of course, was not how lovely the treats did or did not look, or even whether they tasted like paste or melted in our mouths. The point was to sit at the dining room table together as a family unit, listen to holiday music and create miniature edible masterpieces. Or just plunk a blob of frosting on a cookie and call it a day. We laughed, we squabbled occasionally, but mostly we just had a quiet fun time. This is an experience every child deserves.
This year’s cookie session will have to wait a week so everyone can get to one location. So while I wait for my loved ones to get here, anyone want to share a great, easy recipe for Christmas cookies? No nuts or sesame seeds, please, because of allergies. (The Washington Post offers these easy treats. I tried the Brown Butter Blondies and they were to die for.) Any suggestions are welcome. Or, if you have a holiday tradition, I’d love to hear about it, as well. I welcome all inspiration!
Now, I know I put those damn cookie cutters somewhere …
This is my medicine cabinet. I’ve had many medicine cabinets, but I’ve NEVER had a medicine cabinet this devoid of junk, one so spare and clean and lacking in duplicates (I have two tubes of toothpaste only because my daughter went on a trip and used just a small amount of one, and there is a two-pack of deodorant because that’s what was available). Notice that there are no rubber duckies, no hair bands, no brushes, no safety pins, no shelf completely dedicated to drugs, rubs, ointments or remedies.
This medicine cabinet represents my new mantra of simplify, simplify, simplify. When I open it I feel empowered to keep my life simple, to buy only what I need and nothing extra. Nothing for five months from now when I might need that 500-count of antacid or enough cotton balls to remove polish from 300 nails.
This feeling is similar to the concept behind Marie Kondo‘s tidying up phenomenon: I’m trying to make my entire life easier, clutter-free but comfortable without throwing away everything I own. I don’t want to take the time to determine whether every item I own gives me joy, but I do love to see an organized closet and spice rack. I heave a sigh of pleasure when I see my tiny but tidy linen closet (bye-bye blue towels and ancient pillowcases). This is another of my “release moments” and it feels so good.
I think my whole life, there’s been a minimalist curled up inside me, but there was always a need for more diapers, more paint remover, more tubs of hand cream and endless amounts of school supplies like No. 2 pencils, binders and reams of loose leaf filler paper.
As my new heroes, minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, say, getting rid of junk gives me “freedom from overwhelm.” It’s lovely and because of my move this year, I’m committed to being more deliberate in other areas of my life. I cleaned out closets and bins, storage rooms and garage eaves. I gave away nearly half of what we once owned, and I’m proud of two things:
- I gave items we didn’t need to others who did need them
- I can live without all of those things that I once thought were essential
I think living to excess with tons of stuff crammed into our homes is especially an American trait. But that’s a topic for another blog.
Now, if I could just get my children to subscribe to my newfound dedication to freedom from stuff, we might have even more decluttered rooms. And then I can tackle this crazy messy desk where I work …
It’s cold and it snowed. Being the second week of December, of course it is. But this isn’t the Midwest, it’s not the Northeast, it’s not mountainous terrain. It’s the Mid-Atlantic and snow doesn’t happen here very often. Nor does it stick around very long. And this snow is no different. The sun came out today, a Sunday, and things got melty, making all the brown and gray leaves that never got raked (OK, the leaves in my yard) all mushy and slippery. But it was beautiful while it lasted. Intricate, sharp-edged flakes coming down in clumps, staying on our mittens long enough for us to marvel at each shape.
Here’s the best news ever: No shovel needed. We had four (4!) shovels before we moved, plus a snowblower and several brooms. But I sold the snowblower, and donated or left on our tree lawn three of those shovels, so now there is one lonely snow mover. I hope to never use it again, to be honest. Nice to have it, but let’s just not ever need it. Another of what I call a “release moment”: A release to not worry about clearing a giant, long, double-wide driveway, our front sidewalk — maybe even our neighbors’ sidewalks.
The shock of sheets of frigid snow blowing back into your face and down the neck of your jacket as you clear it off your driveway.
The back-breaking hoisting of piles of hard boulders left by the plows at the base of your driveway. (Thank you, plow drivers, for clearing the streets. But come back and get this crap at the end of my driveway!)
Getting up and outside at 6 a.m. to clear a path wide enough to get the kids to school and yourself to work — and pray that each community or city on your commute has made a strong budgetary commitment to enough salt to last the winter.
THIS is among the reasons I’m OK with leaving the Midwest where I grew up, where I lived for decades, where I raised my family. I know I haven’t lived through a D.C. summer in decades as well, but the fall was FINE, and so far, the winter has been even more fine. I could live with this. In fact, I could handle these swings in temperatures from the upper 30s to mid-60s for months if I have to, as long as I don’t have to put up with slushy gray streets and tundra-like cold until April. Hallelujah, it’s warmish and it’s almost Christmas!
Just like my blog’s subhead, I started in the middle of the story of our move. So let’s go back a couple of months, which will help frame the rest of my story.
S.O. made a major career coup last spring, and headed to D.C. by himself to start on his adventure. (More on that portion of the transition later.) I stayed back in the Midwest to get everyone acclimated to the idea of a move, and to actually make the move several months later. What a colossal, Herculean effort, if I don’t say so myself. Here’s what I did in 3 months: Continue reading →
One thing about moving to a big city that I don’t think I ever will become accustomed to is getting to the grocery store. Sure, there are several Giant stores near me, a Whole Foods, a 7-Eleven and such. But either parking is nonexistent or proves to be such a headache that I dread the idea of taking the car out to get a big load of food. So my options for groceries then come down to:
- A big run with the car when I feel like I have enough caffeine in my system to navigate crowded streets, nasty drivers, tight parking spaces and validating parking tickets.
- Several smaller runs throughout the week where we heft a couple of bags with just the necessities and we walk the mile there and back.
What makes it is easy to do the latter is being empty-nesters with the occasional child visit or entertaining. In a way, it’s liberating to gauge what we crave for dinner during the day, and stop on our way home to get it. Easy peasy, done and done.
I realize that I fell deeply into that suburban trap of weekly trips to the grocery store, where there was ample (and free) parking, maybe even a Starbucks in the store for a quick jolt before you hit the toilet paper aisle. Or Target runs on Sunday afternoons to pick up glue for school projects — and oh! that pair of jeans for 12.99.
Not anymore. Target stores are few and far between in the city. Is my bank balance benefiting from this dearth of big box stores and easy grocery store access? No, because there is still Amazon.
But between all the walking, hauling and precision purchasing each week, my heart and thighs are probably in as good shape as any 30-year-old’s and we’ve saved perhaps THOUSANDS on gasoline for the vehicle. So the tradeoff is a win.