December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! It's been a while since I've celebrated New Year's Eve, as my friends and I have gotten lazy in the last couple of years, and nobody has wanted or had the space to host a raucous party. This year will be another quiet one, but the hubs and I will be making dinner, pouring champagne, and ringing in the new year together. It might not be raucous, but it will be fun, and I think it fits us pretty well.

Champagne is a must for any New Year's celebration!

When it comes to resolutions, I go back and forth with thinking that they're either kind of dumb, empty promises or that they're a way to kick your butt into gear. This year I'm going with the latter. Sure, it might be kind of arbitrary to say that starting on Tuesday, you will exercise more, spend less, and finally do that DIY project, but at least it's something. Having goals for the future is a good thing, and if we need the passing of a calendar year to signify that we get a new chance to accomplish something, then that's okay.

For me, setting resolutions means that I need to think about what the coming year will bring (or what I hope it brings) and how I can contribute to making it meaningful and fulfilling. 2012 was definitely a good year for me, mostly because I got married, but 2013 will bring lots of other exciting moments. The hubs will be starting a new graduate program, I'll be starting my clinical internship, and that might require a move for the both of us. I'd love to travel more, which can be hard on a student budget, but I'd like to take that into account. There are so many possibilities for this next year!

So with all of that in mind, here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2013:

1. Complete Project DC.
Since I might be leaving DC over the summer, I'd like my remaining months here to be filled with fun moments. I don't want to leave feeling as though I didn't appreciate it enough. Even if I end up staying in DC or if I move back after a year, I'd like to work through my list before the summer ends.

2. Run a 5K race.
This requires me to get off the couch more often and work up my endurance. I know 5K isn't a very long distance, and I could probably do it now if I needed to, but being part of a race is something I've never done before, and I would love the experience.

3. Cook something from every cookbook we own.
The past few months, the hubs and I have been making an effort to cook more. It's being going really well, but I'd love to expand on my culinary skills and diversify our meals a bit more this year.

4. Read more good books.
My 100 Best Novels project is an effort to read more quality literature in my leisure time. Realistically, I won't make it through that list by the end of the year, but that's okay. I just want to put a reasonable dent in it.

5. Travel more.
This one is a little bit of a cop-out, but I'm putting it on here, anyway. The hubs and I will be taking our honeymoon in May, so that definitely counts. I'm also traveling to a few new cities stateside for interviews, and I'm trying to take the time to explore them while I'm there. Aside from those, though, I'd really like to check out some new places. If international travel isn't in our budget, then I'd at least like to visit interesting places that are closer to home yet new to us.

And those are my 2013 resolutions! What made it onto your list this year?

December 28, 2012

Welcome to Miami

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of travel for me. I’ve bounced around between New York, DC, and Miami for interviews and for the holidays, and while I had a great time, I have to admit that it can get pretty tiring! I’m the type of gal who misses her own bed after a while, so I was really happy to get back home and snuggle with the hubs and our cat. Home can be so relaxing.

Still, it was great to see friends and family along the way. Miami was a new city for me to explore, and it felt great to walk around in sandals and shorts. I actually forgot that it was wintertime, as the sunshine felt so nice and summery! Although I was technically there for business, I made sure to get in some beach time. It was a little windy, so I didn’t lay out for too long, but the feel of the sand and the sound of the waves was more than enough to put me at ease.

My first attempt at doing a panoramic photo. Not perfect, but still pretty!

My friend graciously served as my tour guide while I was there, and we had a great time driving around so I could see the different neighborhoods. We had lunch at a cute place near the University of Miami campus and stuffed ourselves silly with delicious treats.  I’m not used to being a city where so many people drive to get around, so that felt a little weird, but it was also the quickest way to explore downtown Miami, South Beach, and Miami Beach. I wish that I could have been there for longer so that I could do more beach-ing on my trip, but I definitely feel like I got a good feel for the area.

I still have a lot of other places to visit for interviews, and I plan to keep an open mind about all of them when deciding which place I like the best and ultimately where I want to be next year. Sadly, there will be no more beach destinations along the way, but I’m sure I can find some fun things to do and see even in cold weather. 

December 26, 2012

Project DC: Basilica of the National Shrine

Wintertime in DC usually isn't too cold, but recently for about a week we had bad gray, foggy, damp weather that made me feel tired and sluggish. Last week we finally got a beautiful, sunny, slightly warm day that was perfect for walking around and feeling revitalized. What better time to peruse my Project DC list?

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (what a name!) is the largest Catholic church in the United States and the eighth-largest religious structure in the world, and it's right here in DC. I had passed by it before and always meant to go inside, but since I was always in a rush to get somewhere, the time never seemed right. However, when we finally got a glimpse of sunshine last week, I decided to finally check it out.

I knew that the Basilica was huge, but being inside made me feel its enormity even more. There are beautiful mosaics everywhere, and the chapels that line the sides are peaceful and lovely. I can imagine how people could feel connected to a higher power in such a striking space, and as I took my time exploring the Basilica's interior, I have to admit that I got chills.

One of my favorite things about these spaces are the candles. I love the idea of lighting a candle to pay tribute to somebody or to say a prayer. It is such a simple act, yet so beautiful with its simplicity.

I could definitely see myself going back to the Basilica for some quiet reflection. As I've written here before, I'm not a religious person, but I think that spiritual spaces can be very powerful and very meaningful. The Basilica is definitely one of those places. All in all, this was a great experience, and I look forward to continuing to discover DC's treasures. 


Want to read more about having fun in DC? Follow along as I embark on Project DC:

1. Go to the Air and Space Museum.
2. Go for a leisurely hike in Rock Creek Park.
3. Go on a White House tour.
4. Buy DC artwork at Eastern Market.
5. Visit Old Town on a day trip.
6. Take a day trip to Annapolis.
7. Go to the Newseum.
8. Go back to Jazz in the Garden when it starts up again in the spring.
9. Go to the Holocaust Museum.
10. Eat at Ben's Chili Bowl.
11. See the FDR Memorial.
12. Take the hubs to the Lincoln Memorial.
13. Go to the National Portrait Gallery.
14. Go to the Corcoran.
15. Visit the Vietnam Memorial.
16. Go inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
17. Go to more embassy events.
18. See a show at Rock & Roll Hotel.
19. See the drum circle at Malcolm X Park.
20. Mini golf at H Street Country Club.
21. Evening drinks at POV.

December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve!

I’m back in New York for the holidays, and this past weekend could not have been more perfect. For me, the holidays are all about unwinding, spending quality time with family, and enjoying the simple things. I was able to sleep in this weekend, and I spent most of my time in my red plaid pajamas being lazy. Always a good plan!

My mom and I baked Christmas cookies on Saturday afternoon for about three hours. The house smelled amazing. We filled up lots of plates with delicious butter cookies and gingerbread men and then relaxed in the kitchen, sipping our spiced tea and nibbling on gingerbread. Yum. I look forward to baking our special butter cookies every year. I know that I can technically make them whenever I want, but since I always associate them with Christmas, I like to savor them during this time of the year. I think they just taste better when it's cold outside. :)

My parents’ cats were also being extremely cute. They love the Christmas tree, and they took turns napping underneath it. Not a bad life, right? (Also not too different from what I was doing, curled up on the couch!) I also dug out  a few of their toys that had gone missing underneath the TV stand, and I think they were ecstatic to have “new” playthings. It’s amazing how a fuzzy toy mouse can make them so happy!

The hubs got in on Sunday night, and our plan today is to go into town to get a few gifts for family, and then just relax until we head to my grandmother’s for Christmas Eve. Then tomorrow we are bound for Connecticut for more Christmas festivities, and then we’ll be back in DC the next day! It’s a bummer that we can’t spend more time in New York, but work beckons. Even if it the time was too brief, I'm still making sure to enjoy my time here and making the holiday a wonderful time for family. :)

How are others spending the holiday weekend? Any special plans?

December 21, 2012

It's the end of the world...

Okay, so by the end of the day, we will all be completely sick of all the apocalypse jokes, but we have to tell them anyway. Chances are, if you are reading this, the world continues to turn, and the ridiculous predictions about the world ending on 12/21/12 are inaccurate. That's okay. I don't think anyone is truly upset by this revelation.

However, it did get me thinking about what the end of the world would mean. Probably lots of horribleness. But if we skip that part and think about what we want our "lasts" to be, I think that topic is a lot more entertaining.

Last meal?
This question has always stumped me. There are so many delicious meals to choose from! I would probably be happy with any meal that had carbs and cheese. I would also want a really nice glass of red wine and a chocolate buttercream cupcake form Magnolia Bakery in NYC.

Last activity?
Probably anything that involved being with my family. If a giant asteroid were to hit the earth, I'd want to be with my family when it happens.

Last vacation?
Egypt! When I was a kid, I used to be obsessed with archeology and dreamed of going on digs in Egypt to discover ancient mummies and explore the pyramids. I haven't done any traveling in Africa before, and I think it would be a lot of fun to live out my childhood dream by at least seeing the pyramids. And riding a camel. There has to be a camel.

Last book?
My gut instinct was to say that I would re-read The Great Gatsby, but then I thought that I would probably want to re-read A Wrinkle in Time, as well. So I'm cheating and saying that I would re-read both at the same time. :)

Last words?
"I love you."

What other lasts would you want if you knew the world was ending?

December 17, 2012

100 Best Novels

In one of my recent Pondering Life moments, I realized that I am not really living my life in the way that I want. Well, kind of. In a lot of ways I am. I am doing work that I love, I'm in grad school in a field that I love, I have an awesome family and wonderful friends, and overall I feel very thankful, happy, and fulfilled. But then there are things that I think are missing, such as a consistent yoga practice, venturing out into my wonderful city more often, and reading. I established Project DC for myself to solve one of those problems and motivate myself to actually go out and see/do the things that await me in the city. That definitely invigorates me, but as far as my bookworm side, I have not been giving it enough attention.

It was actually the movie trailer for Anna Karenina, which has been called the best novel of all time, that got me thinking about how many great novels exist in the world that I have not yet read. I do love to read, but when I started grad school it seemed as though the time I used to have for reading for pleasure got pushed to the side as I focused on schoolwork. Then when I did have time, I was more interested in reading fluff books like Pretty Little Liars (don't judge me!) than something more intellectually stimulating. Reading anything is worthy, but if I'm being honest with myself, I could be doing a lot more to enrich my brain.

With the dissonance between by actions and values highlighted before me, I decided to start a new challenge. I have a list of the 100 Best Novels as determined by Modern Library, and I am going to read every single one on that list. I was relieved to see that I already have read some of them. My challenge is not to race through as many novels as possible under a time limit, but rather to work my way through the list at my own pace and to enjoy the stories created by these writers. If I want to re-read a novel I've already read, I will. If not, that's okay, too. The point is not to prove how well-read I am or to feel superior to others, but to reconnect with my love for reading. The point is to create more pleasurable moments in my life.

I'll keep updates on this blog to track my progress and maybe even post a few reviews. We'll see how it unfolds. If anyone wants to read along with me, please do!

1. "Ulysses," James Joyce
2. "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," James Joyce
4. "Lolita," Vladimir Nabokov
5. "Brave New World," Aldous Huxley
6. "The Sound and the Fury," William Faulkner
7. "Catch-22," Joseph Heller
8. "Darkness at Noon," Arthur Koestler
9. "Sons and Lovers," D. H. Lawrence
10. "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck
11. "Under the Volcano," Malcolm Lowry
12. "The Way of All Flesh," Samuel Butler
13. "1984," George Orwell
14. "I, Claudius," Robert Graves
15. "To the Lighthouse," Virginia Woolf
16. "An American Tragedy," Theodore Dreiser
17. "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter," Carson McCullers
18. "Slaughterhouse Five," Kurt Vonnegut
19. "Invisible Man," Ralph Ellison
20. "Native Son," Richard Wright
21. "Henderson the Rain King," Saul Bellow
22. "Appointment in Samarra," John O' Hara
23. "U.S.A." (trilogy), John Dos Passos
24. "Winesburg, Ohio," Sherwood Anderson
25. "A Passage to India," E. M. Forster
26. "The Wings of the Dove," Henry James
27. "The Ambassadors," Henry James
28. "Tender Is the Night," F. Scott Fitzgerald
29. "The Studs Lonigan Trilogy," James T. Farrell
30. "The Good Soldier," Ford Madox Ford
31. "Animal Farm," George Orwell
32. "The Golden Bowl," Henry James
33. "Sister Carrie," Theodore Dreiser
34. "A Handful of Dust," Evelyn Waugh
35. "As I Lay Dying," William Faulkner
36. "All the King's Men," Robert Penn Warren
37. "The Bridge of San Luis Rey," Thornton Wilder
38. "Howards End," E. M. Forster
39. "Go Tell It on the Mountain," James Baldwin
40. "The Heart of the Matter," Graham Greene
41. "Lord of the Flies," William Golding
42. "Deliverance," James Dickey
43. "A Dance to the Music of Time" (series), Anthony Powell
44. "Point Counter Point," Aldous Huxley
45. "The Sun Also Rises," Ernest Hemingway
46. "The Secret Agent," Joseph Conrad
47. "Nostromo," Joseph Conrad
48. "The Rainbow," D. H. Lawrence
49. "Women in Love," D. H. Lawrence
50. "Tropic of Cancer," Henry Miller
51. "The Naked and the Dead," Norman Mailer
52. "Portnoy's Complaint," Philip Roth
53. "Pale Fire," Vladimir Nabokov
54. "Light in August," William Faulkner
55. "On the Road," Jack Kerouac
56. "The Maltese Falcon," Dashiell Hammett
57. "Parade's End," Ford Madox Ford
58. "The Age of Innocence," Edith Wharton
59. "Zuleika Dobson," Max Beerbohm
60. "The Moviegoer," Walker Percy
61. "Death Comes to the Archbishop," Willa Cather
62. "From Here to Eternity," James Jones
63. "The Wapshot Chronicles," John Cheever
64. "The Catcher in the Rye," J. D. Salinger
65. "A Clockwork Orange," Anthony Burgess
66. "Of Human Bondage," W. Somerset Maugham
67. "Heart of Darkness," Joseph Conrad
68. "Main Street," Sinclair Lewis
69. "The House of Mirth," Edith Wharton
70. "The Alexandria Quartet," Lawrence Durrell
71. "A High Wind in Jamaica," Richard Hughes
72. "A House for Ms. Biswas," V. S. Naipaul
73. "The Day of the Locust," Nathaniel West
74. "A Farewell to Arms," Ernest Hemingway
75. "Scoop," Evelyn Waugh
76. "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," Muriel Spark
77. "Finnegans Wake," James Joyce
78. "Kim," Rudyard Kipling
79. "A Room With a View," E. M. Forster
80. "Brideshead Revisited," Evelyn Waugh
81. "The Adventures of Augie March," Saul Bellow
82. "Angle of Repose," Wallace Stegner
83. "A Bend in the River," V. S. Naipaul
84. "The Death of the Heart," Elizabeth Bowen
85. "Lord Jim," Joseph Conrad
86. "Ragtime," E. L. Doctorow
87. "The Old Wives' Tale," Arnold Bennett
88. "The Call of the Wild," Jack London
89. "Loving," Henry Green
90. "Midnight's Children," Salman Rushdie
91. "Tobacco Road," Erskine Caldwell
92. "Ironweed," William Kennedy
93. "The Magus," John Fowles
94. "Wide Sargasso Sea," Jean Rhys
95. "Under the Net," Iris Murdoch
96. "Sophie's Choice," William Styron
97. "The Sheltering Sky," Paul Bowles
98. "The Postman Always Rings Twice," James M. Cain
99. "The Ginger Man," J. P. Donleavy
100. "The Magnificent Ambersons," Booth Tarkington

December 14, 2012

The time I entered the Cherry Blossom race (lottery)

Sooo those who have known me for a while know that despite my participation in middle school and high school field hockey (and track and lacrosse for a brief time), I am not a particularly athletic individual. I'm pretty sure that my field hockey career confused my parents, but they supported me, anyway. In college, I didn't do any sports and had to be seriously persuaded by my ultra-athletic roommate and best friend to walk across campus to go to the gym. These days, even the 15-minute walk to my yoga studio seems too hard. (It's cold outside!)

Before I got married this past fall, I was semi-good about going to the gym about once or twice a week on average. In the past year I've transitioned from being a strictly elliptical girl to braving the treadmill. I now love the treadmill, though I realize it's a cop-out to those who are serious runners who take to the streets for their runs. Every now and again the hubs convinces me to run outside with him, but since our neighborhood has lots of hills, I usually end up feeling miserable, out-of-shape, and exhausted, vowing never to do it again. So the treadmill it was, at a steady, leisurely jog.

However, I took about a two-month hiatus after the wedding and just recently stepped back into the gym. My quads were not amused by the sudden increase in physical activity, but as I bounced around on my favorite treadmill, I realized that I really do enjoy the sensation of being active. It feels good, and it makes me feel productive. There's no good reason not to keep it up.

So in a fit of inspiration, I decided to enter the lottery for the Cherry Blossom 5K in DC. The 10-Miler is the big deal that thousands of runners participate in, but since I am definitely not in good enough shape to attempt that run, I'm sticking with the 5K. We find out in about a week if we were accepted, and I'm really hoping that we are! I know that a 5K isn't a big deal, but I've never done one before for an organized race, and I think it would be fun. Even if we don't make the cut, I'm determined to find another race in the area. I can do this!

Has anyone ever run in a race before? Any good ones in the DC area that I should keep an eye out for?

December 12, 2012

Project DC

I have loved living in our nation's capital for the past 4+ years. DC is a great city, with so much energy and wonderful things to do and see. As a grad student, I haven't had a ton of free time to do all of the things I'd like to do, but I have taken the time to appreciate a lot of wonderful things. The hubs and I are devoted DC United fans (they're our local MLS soccer team), we take walks through the National Zoo, and when my parents visit we do fun touristy things like stroll by the Capitol and explore the Library of Congress.

Sadly, this year might be our last living in DC. The hubs is applying to PhD programs, and I'm applying to programs to finish up my own degree (I have to do a year-long, full-time clinical placement). We're both applying all over the country, and right now we don't know where we'll be. It's likely that we'll be in different cities (wahhh!), which doubly sucks, but until we know for sure where we'll end up, I'm determined to make the next few months extra special.

There are still so many things I want to do here! DC is filled with important museums and monuments, and I certainly want to make sure I've seen the ones that I am most interested in, but there are also experiences that I want to have before I leave here. The realization that I could leave a city where I've lived for five years without taking full advantage of what it has to offer is scary and stressful, and it's kicked my butt into gear. I've decided to launch Project DC to track all of the things that I want to do and motivate myself to go out and do them. This is what I have so far:

1. Go to the Air and Space Museum.
2. Go for a leisurely hike in Rock Creek Park.
3. Go on a White House tour.
4. Buy DC artwork at Eastern Market.
5. Visit Old Town on a day trip.

6. Take a day trip to Annapolis.
7. Go to the Newseum.
8. Go back to Jazz in the Garden when it starts up again in the spring.
9. Go to the Holocaust Museum.
10. Eat at Ben's Chili Bowl.
11. See the FDR Memorial.
12. Take the hubs to the Lincoln Memorial.
13. Go to the National Portrait Gallery.
14. Go to the Corcoran.
15. Visit the Vietnam Memorial.
16. Go inside the Basilica of the National Shrine
of the Immaculate Conception.
17. Go to more embassy events.
18. See a show at Rock & Roll Hotel.
19. See the drum circle at Malcolm X Park.
20. Mini golf at H Street Country Club.
21. Evening drinks at POV.

It just occurred to me that I could a bunch of things if I throw on a fanny pack and pretend I'm a tourist on one of those hop-on/hop-off buses. Hmmm..... I'll get back to you guys on this one!

December 10, 2012

Good person/bad person

I was scrolling through my YouTube subscriptions this weekend and watched a new video by MeekaKitty. In it, Tessa shares her thoughts on the phrases "good person" and "bad person." She says that people should not get stuck in such labels and questions what they even mean, settling on the definition that they refer to whether the sum of one's actions are for the better or for the worse. I agree with this, and I think a lot of other people would, as well. She acknowledges that if someone believes they are bad, they can give up on any effort to improve themselves, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of choosing "bad actions." This is true, too. But then Tessa adds that she thinks that most people inherently are selfish and suck anyway, so give people credit when they try to do good things. She does emphasize that people should try not to do the easy thing (i.e. being selfish) and should release these labels and focus instead on doing good things in the world.

I had a few reactions to this. First, I'm not exactly sure what Tessa meant when she's describing doing good things and bad things. She compared Gandhi and Hitler, and while they are good examples of "good" and "bad," I'm not sure how that translates into the everyday person's life. I can guess and make an assumption, but if I actually stop to seriously think about it, these are very complicated concepts. How is someone good? By giving compliments, volunteering for a charity, or going to your kid's soccer game? If you are stuck in inaction, does that make you bad? The problem I have with these labels is that ultimately, they are too simplistic and don't fit reality. What if somebody does both good and bad things? How do we label them then? We can't narrow people down into "good" and "bad" categories. People are far too complex for that.

The psychologist Philip Zimbardo has a book called "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil" that I think speaks to this matter quite well. (There's a great video clip summing up this subject below.) For the most part, people aren't inherently good or evil. We can go either way. "Good" people sometimes do bad things, and "bad" people sometimes do good things. It's too easy to say that "all people suck," and more importantly, it's also wrong.

Zimbardo defines evil as the power to hurt others. When we think of instances of evil like the abuse that happened at Abu Ghraib, he says, it is tempting to think of the people who perpetrate such abuses as "bad apples." But what if that's not the case? What if there are actually "bad barrels," or environments that allow such evils to exist? It's an uncomfortable idea because it means that under the right (or wrong) conditions, each and every one of us could potentially do bad things.

The dissonance of that idea is huge. I want to believe that I'm a good person, and so I can't do bad things. It makes people angry, depressed, stressed, etc. to think that even if they are at their core a "good person," they could do something horrible to someone. Of course, sometimes people are truly "bad," and they will do bad things under even the best conditions. But I think the flip side is so crucial to trying to understand the human condition. Good people can do bad things.

So I think it's unfair and inaccurate to say that most people suck. We all suck sometimes, and sometimes we don't suck. Those actions don't necessarily define us as human beings-- what they do is define who we are in a certain moment.

What are your thoughts on this? What does being a good person mean to you?

Want to read more about this?
     • Phil Zimbardo's book: "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil"
     • An article about how moral behavior might be inherent in animals
     • Viktor Frankl's book about a related topic: "Man's Search For Meaning"

December 7, 2012

Unusual love

At my clinical placement, one of my fellow trainees was talking about an article she had read on Jezebel called "I Fell in Love With My Shrink." The title alone is pretty intriguing, but the article is equally, if not more, interesting. The writer talks about falling in love with her therapist and the process of telling her therapist about this, namely moving forward and processing this love. She's very clear that this love was one-sided and that the therapist never crossed any boundaries, and it sounds like the therapist handled it in the best way possible. Ultimately, the writer sounds like she's still a bit in love with the therapist even though they've since terminated their work together, but she ends with the idea that she's trying to move on.

This entire scenario is fascinating to me on so many levels. First, as a therapist myself, I know that transference/countertransference are very real things. Clients have reactions to therapists, and therapists have reactions to clients. Love is a pretty complicated reaction, but then again, it's not entirely surprising. How many of us have been in relationships where we are honest, vulnerable, curious, and open? Therapy requires all of that (well, maybe not requires, but some of the best therapy involves those things). It can be a really intense emotional connection that is unlike any other relationship in the client's life. So yeah, love isn't all that weird when you consider the level of emotional intimacy that can happen in therapy.

Beyond that, though, it was really interesting to hear this from a client's perspective and to know that yes, this woman did indeed Google her therapist until she found personal details like wedding photos, and that yes, they do indeed live in the same neighborhood. All of that can be terribly invasive (I've been on the receiving end of such Googling, and it is awkward, angry-making, and icky-feeling), but this writer's honesty in including that in her article made me realize that such actions don't necessarily come from a borderline, stalkery place. Sometimes it's curiosity or desperation. It is what it is.

I don't really know what the point of this post is, but this article really stuck out to me, and I wanted to write about it. It was interesting, and I wanted to share it.

December 5, 2012

Lessons and Carols

As part of my quest to capture the holiday season, I've been making an effort to do more holiday-related activities. I happened to see a message on my college's website about the annual Lessons and Carols service taking place Sunday evening, and I remembered how much fun I had singing in that every year when I was a student. I'm not a religious person by any means, but I love singing the hymnals and traditional songs associated with Lessons and Carols. Once I started my stroll down memory lane, I knew that I had to find a Lessons and Carols service here in DC.

Luckily, I immediately found that the Washington National Cathedral was having its first Advent service this past Sunday. I convinced the hubs to accompany me, and off we went!

The neighborhood around the Cathedral is absolutely gorgeous. So many multi-million dollar homes! But the real appeal is the Cathedral itself. Sunday turned out to be a beautiful, warmish day. It started to get a bit overcast when we headed out, but it gave the Cathedral a very romantic, gothic look.

I love this one! Thank you, Instagram, for making me feel that I can take nice pictures on my phone.

I thought this archway was neat. If you look closely, you can see that it has the face of a cat and little birds flying around its head.

Who doesn't love some Abraham Lincoln?

The service was really beautiful, and I'm so glad that we went! It made me miss singing with a group quite a bit, but I'm glad that I had the chance to sing along during the service. Truthfully, I think that the hubs was kind of bored, but it meant so much to me that he came and sang along with me. :) Best husband ever! I definitely want to go to more events at the Cathedral. It's one of the most beautiful structures I've ever seen, and I need more of it in my life!

December 3, 2012

Holiday spirit

It's December, which means that it is now acceptable to listen to Christmas carols! I love the weeks leading up to Christmas so much, and in the past couple of years in particular, I've tried to make more of an effort to be in the holiday spirit. The magic of the holidays might not be as strong as it was when I was a kid, but what makes this time of year special to me is that there are so many enjoyable activities to do in the lead-up to Christmas.

My family has lots of holiday traditions that I love. My mom and I always bake butter cookies together- yum! Every year, my dad wanders into the kitchen just as the cookies are done baking, and our cookie count goes down pretty quickly from there. :) I also help decorate the tree, and it's my job to hang up the stockings. Then there are the holiday movies to watch! A Charlie Brown Christmas  is one of my favorites, and I admit that it just doesn't feel like Christmas without it.

Christmas Eve we spend with my grandmother and my dad's side of the family. Then on Christmas Day we celebrate with my mom's side. It's a lot of fun to spend time with family. We can be a pretty wild bunch, so when we're all together, it's always a good time.

This year will be a bit different, since it's the first time that my sister won't be with us for Christmas. She'll be with her husband's family this year. It's sad to realize that the holidays as we know it are changed, and it does make me a bit anxious to think about spending next year's Christmas away from my family. The hubs and I talked about how to split our time, and since we've spent the past 3 Thanksgivings with his parents and the past 2 (soon to be 3) Christmases with mine, we're going to have to switch next year. Family and traditions are really important to me, so it's going to be hard to break the routine and experience something new. I know it's an opportunity to share my traditions with his parents, but it's still a little sad to realize that the old days are gone.

Until then, though, I do get this year with my family, and I will definitely make the most of our time together. It's only the beginning of December, and there are so many great things to do this month! First on the agenda: make hot chocolate and start baking some gingerbread!