Bittersweet

On a hot summer day in 2016, a little family rolled into Old Town Alexandria after three chilly, lonely years up north in western New York.  When we decided that Buffalo was not the right fit for our family, we narrowed down our possible move destinations to two options – Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado – and agreed that the first job opportunity that came our way would be the decision-maker.  I diligently sent resumes to law firms in both cities, but deep down I think I knew that D.C. was calling me home.  And it did, and when that day came there was really no debating neighborhoods.  We’d lived in Alexandria – albeit south of Old Town, in the Mount Vernon area – for three years before our sojourn in Buffalo.  We couldn’t imagine being anything but Alexandrians.  Old Town had been our stomping grounds when we lived here before, and we had fond memories of strolling the waterfront and trundling baby Peanut in her BOB stroller over the cobblestones.  There was no question – Old Town it was.  We didn’t even consider any other neighborhoods.

We’ve been here four years now, and we have loved pretty much every minute.  (The last few months have sucked, but that’s not Old Town’s fault.)  It has been four years of living in a quaint rowhouse, walking out the door and being within a few minutes’ stroll of favorite restaurants, playgrounds, soccer fields, the library, boutiques, coffee shops and ice cream parlors and – of course – our beloved waterfront.  Countless hours have been spent running barefoot in the grass at Founders Park.  We’ve slurped ice creams from The Creamery, run and walked miles on the Mount Vernon Trail, and finished off many a date night at La Fromagerie, toasting our good luck to live in a place that makes us happy every day.

These narrow, winding streets and chevron brick sidewalks welcomed us home after three years of exile, and they’ve given us a place to learn, grow, stretch our wings and bond as a family of four.  While there have been sleepless stressful nights, opportunities missed, and losses suffered during our time here, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

And now – we’re leaving.

We’re not going far!  This isn’t another multi-state move.  Just one county over.  The main impetus for the move is the schools – the one, maybe only, drawback to Old Town is that the schools are spotty.  There are two public elementary schools in the neighborhood; we happen to be zoned for one that (for many private reasons) we weren’t comfortable sending our kids.  So they’ve spent the past four years at a private school and, on top of the costs associated with sending two kids to private school in the Washington, D.C. area, our experience with the school has been decidedly mixed.  We had one great year.  The others have ranged from middling to horrific.  I won’t go into detail on here, but staying in that situation after this year was just not an option.  (One of the kids was fine there – the other was very much not.)  So about a year ago we decided that once our lease expired on our rowhouse, we would shove off for Fairfax County and its nationally renowned public schools.

The public schools are the main impetus for the move.  But there are other reasons to go, too.  There’s the simple fact that our lease is ending and our landlords want to sell the house – and while we’ve loved our time here, we do not want to buy this place.  And I’m looking forward to having (a little) more space – including a guest bedroom! – and a yard in which the kids can run around.  My new place has a garden that is choked with weeds right now, so I’m also anticipating many happy hours with my hands in the dirt.

Perhaps the thing I’m most looking forward to – other than watching what happens to my savings account with the lower rent and free school – is the hiking riches.  The town we’re moving to, while it’s an easy commute into the city (once things open up again, anyway) has a very rural feel and is surrounded by parks and green space.  So while I’ll miss not being able to walk out to my favorite restaurants, a ten minute drive to spectacular hiking is decent compensation.

Fairfax County Perks

  • Gorgeous natural beauty!
  • Wealth of nearby trails for hiking, running and mountain biking.
  • Family movie nights on an honest-to-goodness village green.
  • Outdoor space to stretch, run around, and garden.
  • FREE SCHOOLS!  And cheaper rent!
  • Guest bedroom – visiting family won’t have to pay for hotels anymore.
  • A sunroom!  Will I become a crazy plant lady?  All signs point to “yes.”
  • New neighborhood restaurants to discover.
  • Room for EVEN MORE bookshelves.
  • Tall, tall trees.
  • A playroom for the kiddos, and a workspace for Steve.

But I’ll Miss ALX…

  • No more playgrounds and restaurants within walking distance.
  • No more boats within walking distance, either.
  • Actually, ALX is just way more walkable in general.
  • There’s no Buy Nothing community in my soon-to-be new neighborhood.
  • I’ll miss my pretty yellow kitchen so much.
  • The whole town is just way more quaint than anywhere else.
  • And there are no McMansions here.
  • And there’s public transportation!  I’ll miss Metro so much.
  • I can’t imagine not seeing the world’s sweetest next-door neighbors every day.  No one else compares!

It’s time to go.  The moving truck rolls in next week and then it’s on to new adventures.  It’s going to be bittersweet in many ways, but we’ll still be here all the time and we’ll carry all the gifts these four years have given us.  It’s funny that I feel so mopey about this move, because I know that on balance it’s going to be an improvement in our quality of life, and we’re only moving about 25 minutes away from our current neighborhood!  But Old Town has a huge piece of my heart, and I will definitely leave some of myself here.  I hope that one day, I call these streets home again.  For now – off to experience the life in Fairfax.

Have you ever gotten nostalgic ahead of a local move?

Twelve Months of Trails: Difficult Run Stream Valley Park (Great Falls, Virginia) — May 2020

Mother’s Day 2020 dawned bright and sunny, if a bit crisp in the morning, and I had only one request – a hike, please!  Hiking has been a challenge recently: as Steve and I have lamented, now that everything is closed, it seems that everyone in the DMV has discovered our favorite pastime.  I mean, really: the trails used to be less crowded, didn’t they?  I have no problem with fellow hikers on the trail – indeed, I’m on record as saying I love seeing other folks out there enjoying public lands as much as we do.  But still, it’s hard to socially distance when everyone and their mom suddenly hikes.  Adding to the difficulty is the fact that the parks eventually recognized the issue and most of them are now closed.  (While the rest of the country looks at reopening schedules, our stay-at-home order in Virginia is continuing for at least another two weeks, maybe longer.)  So when I said I wanted to hike on Mother’s Day, I was aware that it might not happen.

But it did!  Big thanks go to Steve, who did the research and found a trail option and then a backup option.  We did end up going to our Plan B, but it ended up being great – we discovered a new-to-us trail that I can see us exploring a lot in days to come: Difficult Run Stream Valley Park.  The trailhead was easy to find, and there weren’t many people on the trail with us: other than a couple of single hiker/runners, two families and a group of mountain bikers, we had the place to ourselves.

Steve packed trail snacks: NutriGrain bars for each of us, and M&Ms for the kids.  At one point, Peanut started complaining of something “small and round” in her boot.  I told her to hang tight until we got through a muddy section and then we’d figure it out.  We squelched through the mud, then Steve turned her boot upside-down.  When the offending object toppled out of her boot, she gasped in surprise: “OH!  It’s an M&M!”  Hiking with kids, I’ll tell ya – it’s never dull.

Difficult Run was beautiful!  While I took in the peacefully bubbling stream, snapping away on my iPhone and my dad’s old Minolta, the kids were doing this:

Sitting in a mud puddle, poking tadpoles.

Got them moving eventually!

Eventually we came to a stream crossing.  It was about the time we wanted to turn back to the car, but we decided to cross the stream first, just for fun, then cross again and head home.

Daddy went first:

My turn!  View from the middle:

And of course, on the way back, we stopped and poked tadpoles some more.

So excited to live closer to trails like this one – and many more – this summer and beyond!

Have you been able to get out for a hike this month?

Uncle Dan Stories: Connecting in the Age of Quarantine

Right now, my kids are completely obsessed with a subset of family lore that we call “Uncle Dan Stories.”  They beg for them.  Every morning when we’re on our walk, at lunch while I load the dishwasher, at the dinner table – obsessed, I tell you.

Tell us about the time Uncle Dan ate the inchworm!

Uncle Dan stories revolve around my brother as a child, with all his quirks and foibles and getting-into-scrapes.  They’re always funny, often slapstick, and I’m never entirely sure about the message that the kids are getting.

Tell us about when Uncle Dan got lost at Disney World!  Tell us about when Uncle Dan got lost in the Boston Children’s Museum!

Uncle Dan Stories frequently star Grandad as a sort of antihero (Uncle Dan and the Lake Shark).  Or they’re disgusting.  (Uncle Dan and the Jalama Burger.  Or Uncle Dan and the Can of Black Olives.)

Tell us about the time Uncle Dan threw up in the parking lot at Ponderosa!

Which Ponderosa?  And which time?

Tell us about the time Uncle Dan jumped in the bathtub with his jammies on!

I patiently weave the Uncle Dan stories over and over again for them, and they can never get enough.  There are favorites (Uncle Dan and the Inchworm and Uncle Dan and the Jammies in the Bathtub are the most requested) and I’ve managed to turn a couple into homeschool lessons, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself (Uncle Dan and the Merced RiverUncle Dan and Mario Cuomo.)  I’d have turned off the spigot before now, but my secret is: I too enjoy Uncle Dan Stories, although I do resist telling Uncle Dan and the Jalama Burger at the dinner table.

(Before our last FaceTime date, I warned Dan: “The kids are going to have a lot of questions for you.”  He groaned, oh, great.)

But recently it occurred to me that in their obsession with Uncle Dan Stories, my kids are tapping into a well of family connection that goes so much deeper than the time Uncle Dan pushed Christopher off the boat or the time Uncle Dan threw up at Ponderosa.  (There’s a whole series of Uncle Dan Stories that involve throwing up, beware.)

We live far from our family.  My parents are in upstate New York, as is my grandmother.  Steve’s mom and my best friend are in Florida.  I have aunts and uncles in New York and California, and the star of the Uncle Dan Stories is in Colorado.  The kids aren’t growing up in a herd of cousins like I did (although I was the eldest by several years, so always a bit apart from the rest of them) and they’re not spending their weeks looking forward to Sunday night dinners at their grandmother’s table, surrounded by a pile of relatives.  (NO MORE CHIPS, it’s golumpki tonight!)  I’m not saying that our way is wrong or bad.  In a way, there’s plenty to be said for living as a contained little unit, functional unto ourselves – although we’re not above calling in Nana and Grandad for major childcare needs – and close-knit of our own accord.

But I still want them to feel a connection to their extended family, to recognize a strain that reaches beyond our immediate family of four.  I’d been thinking of Uncle Dan Stories as a funny diversion (well, they are a funny diversion) but in this weird and uncertain age, in which we’re all living almost completely to ourselves, it occurred to me that Uncle Dan Stories are also a connection to the rest of their family, and this is something we all need right now.

We only see Uncle Dan and Aunt Danielle once a year, and that’s if we’re lucky.  (We were supposed to have a week together this summer, and now that’s not going to happen, but we have big plans to make it up to each other at the holidays.  I hope it works out.)  But thanks to Facebook and FaceTime, we’re still close.  And my most cherished hope is that my kids stay close when they’re adults – so I will always tell an Uncle Dan Story.  I hope that under all the giggles they recognize Uncle Dan Stories – and all of our family stories; there are some gems starring Nana too, like Nana and the Citronella Cake – as the glue that binds us together, and that they understand that these stories are for them because they are a part of the family.  And I hope they grow up with their own hilarious family stories about one another, and that someday their own kiddos beg for uncle and aunt stories.

Next I think I’m going to have to tell them about how Uncle Dan used to be afraid of corn.

As always, Dan, thanks for the laughs.

How are you staying connected to far-flung family in this age of quarantine?

The Spring List 2020

I am making this list against my better judgment.  As I sit down to draft the post, it’s the second day of spring and the eighth day of social distancing due to COVID-19.  Even just a couple of weeks ago, this was all unthinkable – I don’t need to tell you that, you know that – and now I am seeing posts on Facebook and Instagram about “our new normal” and all I can think is crap, I hope this isn’t the new normal.  For all my introverted tendencies, I am not a homebody, not at all, and this being tied to one place, unable to access most of my usual stomping grounds or to explore new spots… I’m climbing the walls.  And while I would woman up and adjust, I’m also trying to work from home while homeschooling two strong-willed children and keeping them from murdering each other in a small townhouse.  I’m overwhelmed and I hate this and it better not be my new normal.

So – it feels like something of a leap of faith to make this list.  And I am putting some things on here that just might not be possible.  But if I don’t keep hope alive that things will get back to normal, then I’ll fall into gloom and I don’t want to do that.  So here are the things I’m hoping and dreaming and some of them may not happen.

  • Go to New York and see my beautiful cousin, Jocelyn, as a bride – maybe; it’s looking increasingly like the wedding will be postponed but I’m still putting it out there in an abundance of hope.  (Peanut and Nugget will be in the wedding – as a flower girl and ring bearer, respectively – and I can’t wait to see them walk down the aisle, too.  Peanut’s an old pro, since she scattered rose petals for my best friend, and her godmother, back in 2017.  I’m sure she will show her little brother the wedding ropes.)
  • Related: while in New York, spend time with my grandmother (hopefully her skilled nursing facility will be allowing visitors again) and meet my cousin Jaime’s baby boy, who will be born by then.
  • On a different note: hold and cuddle my dear friend Connie’s baby boy.
  • Get in our annual tradition of hiking through the stunning Virginia bluebells.  (Can’t miss this!)
  • Read A Shropshire Lad, by A.E. Housman.
  • Help my sweet neighbor, Zoya, with her project of planting native Virginia species along the roadsides in Old Town.
  • Make actual progress on cleaning the basement.  For real, this time!  It’s zero hour, because…
  • Move to a new house.  (We were planning to move out to Fairfax County in July, but it looks like it will be June, instead.  I’m a little sad about missing summer in Old Town, but we’ll still be here all the time.)
  • Read the Elizabeth trilogy by Elizabeth von Arnim.  I’ve read Elizabeth and Her German Garden before, but it’s time for a re-read and then I need to finally get to The Solitary Summer and The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rugen.
  • Watch Nugget play Little League – maybe.  The season was postponed until May, because of COVID-19.  But I’m still hopeful – I’ve been dreaming of being a baseball mom since the moment I found out he was a boy, when I was eleven weeks pregnant.  It’s been a long time coming.
  • Read some Beverly Nichols.  (Lots of books on this list – at least I know there is nothing to prevent those happening, unless it’s my lack of self-control at the library.)

Well, there it is.  Some things are possible – the books, especially.  Some things are going to happen whether I like the idea or not – the move.  (I like the idea.  It’s time.  But I will be sad to leave my favorite neighborhood and this little townhouse, which I’ve grown to love, even if the schools are terrible and our landlords are antisocial weirdos with no boundaries.)  And some things, I am just crossing my fingers extra hard and hoping against hope for, like the trip to NYS and time with family.  It’s precious.

What’s on your spring agenda?

The Winter List 2020: Recap

Well, it’s been official spring for a few days now, and unofficial spring – flowers blooming, Nugget in shorts – even longer, so I guess it’s time I get around to recapping the season.  It was a bit of a dud – started with a somewhat last-minute business trip and ended with the looming threat of coronavirus, with many, many hours in between devoted to getting ready for a trial that ended up being postponed.  Which means: spoiler alert, I didn’t get through too many items on my list.  But here’s the recap, in all its glory.

  • Go with Steve and the kids to see #AURORAinDC at ARTECHOUSE, an innovative art gallery that fuses art with technology to create interactive sensory experiences.  (This was a Christmas present to Steve, and we went in early January before the installation closed.)  Done – this was a bit of a cheat, because we had already been to the exhibit when I wrote the list.  It was spectacular.
  • Register and train for a spring 5K race.  Didn’t happen.  Work had me so busy I didn’t have time to get out on the trails and build my base back up the way I wanted to (and I know what you’re going to say: it’s important for mental health, yes, I realize that, but there are only so many hours in a day).  And now all the spring races are getting postponed because of COVID-19 anyway.

  • Try a new cookbook recipe once a week!  Done – or calling it done, anyway.  Not all from cookbooks – many from the internet, especially kingarthurflour.com – and I’m not sure if it was really one a week, but I had a lot of fun in the kitchen, and that’s what counts.
  • Get rid of at least ten boxes from the basement.  Not exactly – work got too hectic and I didn’t have time, plus a lot of the boxes that I would be going through are inaccessible because the movers buried them behind or underneath furniture when we moved in (another complaint about our movers, who were generally awful and rude).  I got through one box – that’s it.  Maybe now that we’re stuck at home, I can get through some more.

  • Read another Trollope novel.  You know what?  I’m calling this done, even though I didn’t read any Trollope.  (I had my eye on Framley Parsonage.)  Let’s say this challenge was really read a giant Victorian doorstopper – I did that, when I read George Eliot’s final novel, Daniel Deronda.  If anything, that was a bigger challenge than Framley Parsonage would have been, because Trollope, at least, is funny.  796 pages of George Eliot is a LOT of George Eliot, you guys.
  • Make vegetarian Italian wedding soup.  Didn’t do this.  It does sound good, though, doesn’t it?

  • Send out some baby gifts that are long past due!  HA.  They’re still on my dining room table.  Sorry, ladies!  But I did attend a baby shower (for my work wife Connie) and obviously I brought a gift to that.  Connie wasn’t one of the people I meant to mail gifts to, because I knew I would be giving her gift to her in person, at her shower.  So mostly, I’m giving myself credit for something unrelated to this item, largely so that I can brag again about eating that amazing Baby Shark macaron.
  • Clean out the container garden.  This is done, but not by me – the kids weeded the back patio and yanked out all the dead plants from the container garden.  Peanut, it turns out, is a weeding machine.  I will make good use of this newfound knowledge.

  • Go for a winter walk by the Potomac.  Done, several times over.  Many a stroll down to our own sedate waterfront in Alexandria, and a wonderful, peaceful ramble alongside the more energetic part of the river up in Great Falls.
  • Light candles and snuggle under a blanket.  Calling this done.  I didn’t light candles, although I really should do that.  But there was lots of blanket-snuggling, especially after our COVID-19-prompted stay-at-home time began at the tail end of winter.  Although I’m always a blanket person, so.

Look at that!  I actually got more done than I thought I had, looking back at it.  Of course I gave myself credit for completing some tasks when… well, let’s just say I am giving myself allowances right now and I highly recommend you do the same.  Spring list coming next week, because even in the midst of all this uncertainty I have to look ahead with hope.

What was on your to-do list this winter?  Did you get it done?

Bluebells on a Battlefield

While we are all holed up at home, spring is springing all over the place!  It’s been raining and gloomy here for most of the past couple of weeks, which has made the social distancing harder to handle – especially with two energetic kids in the house.  By Sunday we all had energy to burn, and even after last week’s crowded trails, we wanted to try hiking again.  I had some good intelligence that the famous Virginia bluebells were blooming, so we decided to check them out.

We normally hike the Bluebell Loop Trail at Bull Run Regional Park.  This year, with the pandemic raging, the park is open for “passive use” only – which means hiking YES, but parking NO.  The parking lots at Bull Run Regional Park were closed, and while parking outside park boundaries and hiking in to the Bluebell Loop Trail is perfectly fine, that would add 2.5 miles each way to our hike – just from the car to the trailhead and back.  Fine for adults-only parties, but when you have two little hikers, you have to maximize every step.  Bull Run Regional Park’s social media team was suggesting other options to folks who didn’t want to park more than two miles from the trailhead, so we decided to try one of the alternatives – Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Civil War buffs, this is the famous Bull Run battlefield.  Steve and I hiked the battlefield itself years ago – pre-small hikers – but had never been to this part of the park.  We made for the Stone Bridge parking area, lured by the promise of bluebells growing on the banks of the legendary Bull Run.

Crossed the bridge over Bull Run and saw…

That famous blue glory all over the forest floor!

We were a bit early – it’s always tough to time peak bloom for any flower show, especially when it’s not a flower that grows in the neighborhood (and can be monitored accordingly).  Local friends – if you want to hit the trail later this week or this coming weekend, I think you’ll be in for a good show.  As for us –

We had plenty of visual treats to enjoy!

The trail was a bit damp, but not too muddy.  Peanut made the best shoe choice, wearing her wellies.  Nugget decided on his Keen hiking boots, which worked well, but didn’t allow for puddle-stomping.

The wildflowers were growing all over the opposite bank of Bull Run, too.

We were careful to take precautions on the trail – we left as early as possible to avoid crowds (even so, there were definitely folks on the trail) and were cautious about touching anything.  We also leapt off the trail to give people distance, and most reciprocated by kindly and responsibly walking all the way on the other side of the wide trail, at least six feet away from us.  With the exception of two women who thoughtlessly breezed down the middle of the trail despite our attempting to give them plenty of space, everyone was responsible and considerate about personal distance.

I wait all year for this fabulous floral spectacle, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.  It was a lot of fun to check out a different spot – while I missed our usual stomp along the Bluebell Loop Trail, mixing it up is good, too.  And there’s a lot to explore out Manassas way – we really should make a point of getting here more often, and checking out some different scenery.

This weekly trail time is keeping my sanity intact – barely!  Missing our annual bluebell hike was unthinkable, so I’m glad we were able to take some precautions and make it happen.

What are your local spring spectacles?

Twelve Months of Trails: March 2020 – Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, D.C.

Well!  How about a hiking recap, while we’re all stuck inside?  So – a couple of things about this.

  1. You may be thinking, “I remember January’s monthly hiking recap, but where was February’s?”  Good question.  The answer is that we didn’t hike in February.  I know.  Grrr.  I was preparing for a federal jury trial (which didn’t end up happening) and on the rare occasion when I was able to poke my head out of my laptop and suggest a hike, I got voted down.  I know.  Double grrr.  So for the first time, I’ve missed a month in a hiking challenge.  But that’s the explanation.  Or maybe you didn’t notice, in which case – Nonni, look, is that the Pope?
  2. This should go without saying, but STAY HOME.  Follow the instructions of your state and local authorities (since the feds are useless).  To be honest, I wish we hadn’t gone on this hike.  Roosevelt Island is a fairly popular trail running spot in D.C., so I expected to see some people out and about, but I was shocked at how crowded it was – too crowded.  And clearly not with regulars, because the normal hiking and trail running crowd would be following recommendations for social distancing, and not all of the people out on the trails were doing that.  We were able to avoid people, but only because we were actively trying to do so.  Next time, we either won’t hike, or we’ll pick something much more remote.  It’s sad, because I needed this trail release, and now I feel guilty about it.

Well, that’s that.  To the recap?

It was a long week stuck in the house with the kids.  We took a few walks in the neighborhood, and spent a couple of hours digging in the Lloyd House garden before the City of Alexandria closed all fenced-off parks, but I was desperately in need of a nature release – I think we all were.  We decided (unwisely) to go somewhere close to home, and drove fifteen minutes up the Parkway to Roosevelt Island.  I love the view of Georgetown from the footbridge.

Social distancing on the trail!  None of us are sick.  We did encounter other people on the trail and tried to give them their space, but a lot of folks weren’t following recommended guidelines, which was alarming.

Nugget brought his birdwatching binoculars with him.  He’s all about observing things lately, which is very cool.  We didn’t see too many birds this time – a few, but nothing especially exciting – but we heard a lot of birdsong.

Mom, come quick, I see something!  A habitat!

Checking out a nest.  There was a smallish black bird up in a tree that might have been a red-winged blackbird, but we didn’t have a good angle, so couldn’t say for sure.

Serene.  Just us, nature, the other hikers we were trying to avoid, and some ducks pooping in the water.

I did like seeing the brave little flowers poking up from the dead leaves.  Spring is here, it came, even though everything else is weird and scary and uncertain.  Spring is here.  And right on schedule, Steve asked me: “When do the bluebells bloom?”  (The answer: usually mid-April, but everything has been early this year because we really had no winter to speak of.  I follow Bull Run Regional Park – the park at which the bluebell trail is located – on Facebook, and they’re posting regular updates.  So far, plants, but no blooms yet.)

Peanut brought Willa on our hike, which was an appropriate choice.  Willa, of course, loved all the nature.  Also, it’s not like Peanut reading is a new development, but every time she stops to read a trail-side placard I am amazed and impressed and charmed all over again.

Blossoms!

AND EVIL, EVIL POLLEN.

It felt good to get out on the trail.  I hope we can do it again – a week is a long time to be stuck indoors – or on a small patio – with two energetic children (and also try to work full-time).  It’s definitely been a challenging week, and we’re nowhere near the end of this; there’s a long slog to get through before things get better.  I will need hiking to get me through, but we’re going to have to go somewhere more remote next time.  I feel a little guilty about this, but I also know that we all needed it.

How do you stay sane in a quarantine?

Twelve Months of Trails: January 2020 – Wilson M. Powell Wildlife Sanctuary, Old Chatham, New York

There’s no better way to start off a new year than a first day hike – wouldn’t you agree?  By New Year’s Day, 2020, we were all a little holiday-ed out and ready for some fresh air and trail time.  In an effort to squeeze in as much upstate New York fun as we could, we were also planning to stop by my high school BFF’s house for a good long visit with her, so we targeted a trail near her home.  After kicking around a few options, we settled on the Wilson M. Powell Wildlife Sanctuary in Old Chatham.

Sharp-eyed readers may recognize pictures of the trail, because we’ve hiked it before – last Thanksgiving, specifically, with my parents.  We thought about checking out a new-to-us trail, but decided on the tried and true.

Pretty quick hike to the overlook, and a minimum of whining – I’ll take it.

This is a good way to start a new year – looking out over a beautiful vista, scheming up plans big and small for the next 365 days.  As I hiked along, I thought about what I want life to look like at this time in 2021.  I have a lot of dreams for this year.

We didn’t linger long at the overlook, because someone (cough cough NUGGET) didn’t want to hold hands with a parent up on the blustery cliff.  That’s a non-starter, so we turned around and headed back downhill (much to his chagrin).  But it was long enough to get in a good gulp of fresh January air and a dose of scenery.

Here we go, 2020 hiking!

The Winter List 2020

Somehow I fell off the wagon of making seasonal to-do lists towards the end of last year – they probably fell by the wayside with everything else when work got ridiculously busy.  I’m trying to strike a better balance in 2020, and that includes getting back into the habit of seeking out fun and joy each season, and writing about it here.  With that good intention set, here’s what I’m hoping to do this winter (including a couple of things I have already done, because as always, I’m running behind).

  • Go with Steve and the kids to see #AURORAinDC at ARTECHOUSE, an innovative art gallery that fuses art with technology to create interactive sensory experiences.  (This was a Christmas present to Steve, and we went in early January before the installation closed.)
  • Register and train for a spring 5K race.
  • Try a new cookbook recipe once a week!
  • Get rid of at least ten boxes from the basement.
  • Read another Trollope novel.
  • Make vegetarian Italian wedding soup.
  • Send out some baby gifts that are long past due!
  • Clean out the container garden.
  • Go for a winter walk by the Potomac.
  • Light candles and snuggle under a blanket.

There!  Some outdoor fun, some home organizing, some cooking and some coziness – that seems like a good season to me.

What’s on your winter to-do list?

AURORA @ ARTECHOUSE

My good friend (and former work wife) Samantha has been hounding me to check out ARTECHOUSE, an interactive art/tech gallery in DC – there are also locations in New York and Miami – for years now.  Several springs ago, ARTECHOUSE had a cherry blossom art experience, and Sam attended and has not stopped raving about it since.  She promised me that it was the kind of place that the kids would be into, and I promised her I’d look into it.  It took me awhile, but the stars finally aligned and I bought the whole family tickets to the #AURORAinDC experience that was running through the weekend after New Years.

We entered the gallery with a group of other people who had tickets for the same time slot, and everyone immediately spread out to different corners of the room.  It took us a little while to figure out how it all worked, but a helpful gallery employee explained how to “grow” the trees and create the snowflakes, and we all ran around like kids, exploring every nook and cranny of the gallery and creating our own enchanted forest.

I’ll just leave the pictures here for you.

(The kids invented a game called “summon the white stag” that involved placing their hands on the wall and chanting “White Stag.  White Stag.  White Stag.” over and over until a white stag – part of a light show cycle – appeared.  It was cute but also hella creepy.)

It was such a cool experience – I’m so glad we made it to ARTECHOUSE, finally, and now I’m keeping an eye on the website, ready to snatch up tickets again the next time there is an exhibit/experience that looks like something we would all enjoy.  Maybe Sam will join us as tour guide/babysitter.

Have you ever been to an interactive art experience?