Scenes From My Weekend

A visit with Toby’s colleague – whose apartment has a fantastic aesthetic
and a fabulous pooch named Henri.
A pumpkin spice latte
because if you’re Stateside in the fall, it’s practically a requirement.
More coastal scenery on the drive from the OC to San Diego
An early dinner at Stone Brewery
and their smoked porter with vanilla beans
and Toby’s new camera.

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Also linking up with Communal Global

California is so friggin’ scenic

As I write this, I’m rocking out to Fun.’s “Some Nights” and “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes. Those two songs have become the soundtrack to my trip home and the epic time we’ve been having with our friends. The latter was playing while we were folding pinwheels and making bouquets out of succulents. And the bride and I grabbed each other and belted out “Home, home is whenever I’m with you” as we danced in celebration of their union and our reunion.

I’m going to remember that forever.

Toby & I drove down the coast route, the Pacific Coast Highway, our favorite way to get from Santa Barbara to L.A.

We had the top down on the convertible. The ocean was candescent with greens and blues. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

 

I asked Toby what top three qualities he appreciated most in people. He said an adventurous spirit or drive, self-sufficiency, and being unpretentious about who you are is what he valued most.

My top three are: loyalty, compassion, and an approach to life with a healthy sense of humor.

What are your top three?

Travel has expanded my definition of home. It’s not one place or one scene or one idea. But it’s a large, beautiful home. And my heart overflows.

 

A Coffee Chat

This morning, I’m sipping my coffee in a shop just a few blocks down from Paramount Pictures Studio. It’d be really cool if I could tell you that it’s because I’m starring in this new feature film, but really it’s because we just had some business at the Thai embassy nearby. It’s a cool coffee shop though, with a neat scrubbed wood and metal aesthetic. I’d show you pictures, but I left the camera in the car, so we’ll just have to make do with this flower from a breakfast in Charleston last week.

It’s a pretty flower anyway.

And it was a pretty day in Charleston too. We got to look at some of the old historic houses. I wanted to buy them ALL.

I wouldn’t say no to the Jag either.

I just LOVE colonial style architecture.

I can’t even pinpoint what I like about them. The combination of colors, maybe. How they’re so individual.

I especially love the dove gray ones, with black shutters and white trim. Gorgeous. The brick ones are a favorite too. And I adore wrought iron.

I would be so tempted to buy one, except the only one I could probably even think about getting would be a fixer-upper and there are very strict regulations governing such historic buildings. To get the proper crown moulding or precise correct treatment and details would all cost too many pretty pennies to count.

{sigh}

So I’ll stick to coveting them.

And daydreaming about how I’d decorate each of the individual rooms. I like the idea of a different theme for each room, but complementing colors for adjoining rooms and hallways. I would do that.

We took a day trip up to North Carolina to visit a friend. He took us to a Molasses Festival and we were very excited at the prospect of a whole festival dedicated to molasses. We could only imagine what goodness we might consume.

Alas, the Molasses Festival had no molasses.

It did have a camel though.

And Toby cracked a lot of jokes about all the camel toe he saw.

I rolled my eyes and sighed.

After we’d got our fill of the no-molasses Molasses Festival, we took a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to ogle the tree leaves.

Them are some pretty leaves.

We hiked to a waterfall too.

I might have been temporarily distracted by other sights.

It was a great view.

The mountains too.

I guess.

This week is jam packed. We’re having dinner with friends in LA tonight, then driving up to Santa Barbara, where we have plans to meet friends for drinks tomorrow, dinner & drinks with my boss on Thursday, a wedding rehearsal dinner on Friday, a wedding on Saturday, and then hanging out with different friends on Sunday. At some point, we may also actually get work done.

I am grateful every day that we both have jobs that let us work from almost anywhere.

Are you going to watch the debates tonight? I’m going to try to. Our friends are political junkies like us, so we may watch them together. Or we may just focus on having a good time together, being as limited as it is. It’s not like you learn anything new in debates, if you’ve been paying attention at all. They’re kind of more like pep rallies than anything else.

Well, my coffee is getting cold, and I’m not one to waste a good El Salvadoran french press. What’s in your cup this week?

Scenes From My Weekend

I spent my weekend in the Carolinas (North & South).
It began with a day trip to Charleston,
where we consumed biscuits & gravy and ginger pumpkin bread
before doing a walking tour of the houses.
I just love colonial style architecture.
We ended that day at the Tattoed Moose,
where I ate duck fat fries & vanilla porter.
Then we took a day trip up to Lenoir, NC.
We went to a Molasses Festival
that had a camel, but no molasses.
There were pretty soaps though. And old tractors.
And men in kilts tossing logs, Highland style.
Then I got to watch autumn happen
up in the Blue Ridge Parkway
which is one part of the Appalachians.
What a sight.

Simply stunning.

What did your weekend look like?

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Also linking up with:

A Coffee Chat

This morning, I’m sipping my coffee in South Carolina, where I’m feeling the brisk chill of autumn for the first time in two years. I haven’t been this cold since we were in Poland! We flew in yesterday and it’s really only now dawning on me that I’m back in the States, as is evidenced by the sucking dry of my skin and hair that the climate change has wreaked, causing me to run to the store for moisturizers to bathe in, and the fact that I get to pull out my woolly socks.

Woolly socks make me happy. Except at night. I can’t sleep with socks on, no matter how cold my feet get – much to my husband’s chagrin, as he becomes my personal heater. I just know he misses me putting my icicle feet up in between his legs and my frigid hands up on his stomach every night. The gasping sounds he makes are certainly signs of affection.

And now we’re back in a place where I can wear my woolly socks and still make my husband gasp. It’s a far cry from sweaty tropics and mosquitoes. People have been calling us globe trotters, but I feel like we haven’t been trotting the globe so much as flinging ourselves about it. I’m discombobulated.

Only a little bit though. I just had to say that because I like the word “discombobulated.”

But it especially gets weird when I’m here and I hear other people talk about their memories of Thailand. Or when I’m answering work emails and making plans, giving directions in Thai.

I’m sure that by the time I adjust to being here, we’ll be boarding our next plane out.

I kvetch, but truthfully, it’s been great to be back. I got to hang out with my sister and cousins, while drinking some of my favorite beer (and melting in a puddle of bliss).

Rogue Brown Hazelnut Nectar Ale…oh how I missed thee.

And I took my nieces to the skating rink and taught them how to skate.

It was wobbly at first.

But they soon got the hang of it.

And, despite being a tiny bit afraid, they had a blast.

And so did I – I’m so glad to have had the chance to do something like that with them. Missing watching them grow up is one of the hardest parts of being away, so this feels extra special.

Anyway, this week, I’m looking forward to a little down time and catching up with Toby’s mom. I hope to get some writing done, and maybe a little reading. A fun day trip to Charleston is also in the works.

I may even do a little of this again.

Don’t worry; there’s nothing back there but more woods and maybe a creek.

Seriously, how is it that two weeks ago I was eating sticky rice with impoverished children in a community center in a rural village in the north of Thailand? And a couple of weeks before that, sipping cocktails on a rooftop bar in the center of high society in Bangkok? Then last week, baking cookies and driving a convertible in California, and now eating chili and cornbread in the deep backwoods of the South? Flinging myself, I tell you.

At least good food is always involved.

What’s in your cup this week?

(Dis)Orient-ated

Being back home after two years away feels a bit like walking away from a board game for a minute to go to the loo, only to come back and find the pieces have shifted but you can’t quite put your finger on how. Something is different, you suspect, though you’re not sure what.

Or maybe it’s a matter of simply being confronted by the faults of memory.

I’m not sure I can sum up the experience, other than to note trifling observations:

* Streets and highways sure are wide in California. It feels both spacious and empty.

* I’m struck by both the cleanliness and conspicuous wealth. Economic downturn? It’s either well-hidden, or my benchmarks have shifted. (Of course, this is southern California. Next week, I’ll get a glimpse of a different sector of America.)

* Before I left for Thailand, I couldn’t speak Thai very well. It’s both welcome and strange to be able to speak with Thai family and friends now, getting to know them in ways I couldn’t before.

*It’s strange to speak Thai in America at all. My brain has to do a shift, much like it does when I have to switch to driving on the other side of the car, and on the opposite side of the road.

And yet…

And yet.

Though I’m walking through this half-wake state, like being in a dream that feels so real, even when there’s something decidedly different, the greatest part of me is simply soaking it all in.

I soak in the gorgeous California sun. The hours of play with my nieces. Real conversations with my nephew. Hugs shared with my sister and laughs with my brother. The anticipation of seeing more family and friends. Going home to Santa Barbara. The smell of fresh, clean air. The promise of beaches and a crisp autumn breeze.

I’ve been warned that living abroad can be isolating because it makes you unrelatable. I can see that. Being back feels welcome and strange. I feel welcome and strange. But I look at our full-to-the-brim and overflowing itinerary of people to see and hug and be with…and I don’t feel isolated at all. I feel loved, and I feel love. The surface of the earth may rumble and shift, but the flowing heat of the core does not change. And neither do the connections we have with the people who matter most. That kind of love is immutable. It’s the kind you can bet your bottom dollar on.

And heck, even if it could change, I wouldn’t let it.

It’s good to be home.

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Hyacynth’s!
BE SURE TO CATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK
And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!

A Coffee Chat

Guess what? I whisper from behind shaky hands. I think I’m done. With my manuscript. It’s done. Tomorrow, I’m going to do one more run-through to make sure I haven’t missed anything (because I’m obsessive like that). But basically, I think it’s ready to ship out–and sink, soar, or barely float, whichever way it goes.

{BIG BREATH.}

So what’s in your cup today? Do you have any big news to share? Little joys to celebrate, or big kvetches to get off your chest? A week ago, I decided to try to start cutting down on the sugar I consume. I stopped putting sugar in my coffee and discovered I actually don’t need the sweet anymore, and then I wanted to see what other sweets I could live without. I decided to avoid processed sugars as much as possible, and try to only eat naturally occurring sugars like the ones in fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and dairy. (And NOT, say, the sugars naturally occurring in my cookies.)

A Thai fruit called “noi nah” or “custard apple”

It turns out, I’ve noticed I’ve gotten way more sensitive to what has sweet in it and sometimes even find some fruit crazy sweet. On Saturday, I had some ice cream and it gave me a bit of a headache which I’m pretty sure wasn’t just brain freeze.

What surprised me more is that I haven’t really had sugar cravings either–which is big because they’ve been a pretty constant (and obnoxious) part of my life.

But, like I said, it’s only been a week and I haven’t yet put it through the PMS test, so we’ll see how long this lasts.

The custard apple is one of my favorite fruits, but like custard desserts (flan, creme brûlée), one I can only eat on occasion lest I overdo it.

Speaking of Saturday night…I’m still basking in the glow of a fabulous, and much-needed girls’ night out. I went out with two lovely ladies and, together, we consumed a large dinner of fried morning glory, stir-fried eggplant, and a stuffed omelette served with a side of ruminations on life lived abroad and what it’s like to go home. We followed that up with sizable cocktails (mine involved gin, triple sec, and lemon juice) and wedding horror stories, then capped off the evening with ice cream and giggles about what women really want from their men.

That whole part I wrote above about how I’m avoiding sugar? Clearly, that does not apply to a girls’ night out.

As my friends drove me to catch my bus home, we had a conversation about irony, a concept that I’m finding difficult to convey outside Western culture. I tried to explain that it’s when things happen in a way that’s opposite of what’s expected, but usually in a way that’s funny. I used the example of the first Thai movie Toby and I went to see. It was a story about two tough guys who were in a gang but totally had each other’s back, fighting off rival gangs…and then they would occasionally break out into song, passionately singing “Friends are for-ev-AH!” Toby and I cracked up–but it was clearly a sincere moment and every one else in the theatre was getting all teary-eyed, meanwhile Toby and I were laughing like jerks. Because in American movies when gang members break out in song, it’s either a musical or possibly something along the lines of Superbad. I tried to explain the humor, but my Thai friend explained that Thai guys would be very sincere about that sentiment, so the humor was lost.

And there I was, confronted with a revelation about American culture. The stereotype about Asian culture (especially men) is that they keep their emotions hidden and never reveal how they’re feeling. It’s mostly true in Thailand, especially with anger. People are taught from a young age not to show anger in public. Westerners, on the other hand, are known for being loud and expressive and leaving everything on display. But I’m pretty sure if an American guy (past the age of, say, 8) went up to a group of his friends and was like, “We’re going to be friends forever!” he would probably be laughed at. Yet here in Thailand, men can apparently share such sentiments and not be denounced as a schmuck.

Ironic.

On that note, I’m going to head out. I’ve got a cooking date with my mom! YUM. Have a great week everyone and thanks for stopping by for a chat over coffee!

 

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