Thursday, December 29, 2011

Belize Navidad

We got back a few days ago from a Christmas trip to Belize. Surprisingly, this trip was actually a tad more eventful than the typical Ryan family beach vacay.

First let me paint a picture of what is the standard for our family - how many books can one back in the suitcase without exceeding the luggage weight limit? What movies can we bring that all members of the family would actually agree on watching together? How early do we need to get up in order to ensure prime spots for our lounge chairs? More books. Reading in the sun. Rain is not allowed. Clouds are tolerated, but only for brief spats. Bocce Ball constitutes about all the physical exertion any of us can handle.  Except for this one time when we decided to hula-hoop. With arms inside the hoop. Naturally.

To continue, the SPF 15 sunscreen bottle usually is empty by day four, so we resort to wearing SPF 8. The inevitable morning question: Will you put sunscreen on my back? Chris finished all of his books so it's time to steal his sister's reading.  Whose doing the dishes? Everyone flees the kitchen. Oh my gosh, there is another family trying to stay on the beach longer than us in the late afternoon sun....yea right, they can't win. Dips in the pool are a rare occurrence for my dad, and I've yet to see the day when he has voluntarily gotten in the ocean past his ankles. One time he did venture in, and he ended up passed out on the beach with an oxygen mask strapped to his face, along with his best friend, Frank. Mind you, they both were wearing matching Big Dog swimsuits at the time.

Well, this year we ventured just a touch on the adventurous side, and thanks to the addition of my hubby, Chris finally had a partner in crime with whom he could do boy things:

1) Fishing on the dock EVERY night we were there for the massive tarpon that swim under the lights. Each night, I waited expectantly for the boys to come in with at least 5 massive fish. The only thing that actually woke me once was the smell of hot oil at 12:30am when they decided to eat, right then and there, the one successful catch. It was about 6 inches long and maybe about 12 ounces heavy. They said it was the best fish they've ever tasted. Michael did catch a barracuda later in the week, but we didn't know that you could eat them so he threw it back. Darn.
2) Daredevil Chris and Sensible Michael kayaked to the reef one day. The reef is about three quarters of a mile offshore, and the waves break on it because it is so shallow. Because there is coral. Naturally. But Daredevil Chris heeds not the waves, and of course flips over his kayak. On coral. Scratch. Cut. Gash. Sensible Michael observes the whole thing, retrieves the wayward kayak and helps Chris back on. Without him, Chris would have been up a creek, so to speak.

Chris says "to the reef!"

Notice Michael -- water bottle, wearing a shirt to avoid sunburn, and a lifejacket. Notice Chris -- none of the above, and certainly not wasting any time to take a picture.

3) Snorkeling. Mom and I would go with Chris when he snorkeled, but after about 20 minutes, I usually have breathed in enough salt water for the year. So Chris used to be the lone ranger. Not so anymore. Michael is a fish out of water. Seriously. He did this on our honeymoon too, and apparently he did this as a boy in his backyard pool -- he lays on top of the water and doesn't move. For hours. No lie. Even Chris came back to the boat before Michael this time.

Here are my boys, two of my most favorite men in the whole world:

I can assure you that Chris doesn't normally look weird; it's just a regular occurrence in any picture he's in.

***Side note on snorkeling: it would have helped me to know that I was jumping into stingray-infested water. It is one thing to know what you are getting yourself into, but it's a whole new ball game to have no clue that giant, winged, menacing creatures are flying through the water just inches from your bare skin. No sir-ee, I was out of that water faster than you can say lickity-split.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Upper Twenties

Oh my gosh. It has happened. I am 26 years old. Officially in my upper twenties. Holy cow. Hold the phone. OH MY. Name this movie:

Hold it, hold it. What is this? Are you trying to trick me? Where's the sports? [suspiciously] Is this a kissing book? 

Wait, just wait. 

Well, when does it get good? 

Keep your shirt on, and let me read. 

C'est la vie.

My man and I went to Acqua al 2 for by birthday dinner on Tuesday thanks to the Dewey's and the West's wedding gift! Michael has been to the original restaurant in Florence, so it was fun to get to re-live the blueberry steak experience with him... only maybe it was better now because Acqua al 2 is in Eastern Market, one of our favorite parts of DC -- the city we together call home! Come visit :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DC of Late

Things we've been up to:
1) Every Christmas, Mt. Vernon opens up for night tours. We went a few weeks ago and had a ball. Literally, a ball. We learned how to dance like in Pride and Prejudice! I've always known I channeled Elizabeth Bennett, and Michael loved the movie when he watched it with me. We also met Mrs. Washington... she was so jolly, just sitting in her parlor waiting for the hubs to come home. Obviously, she was an actress, but seriously, she fit the part to a T. I wanted to give this lady a big squeeze and invite her over for some hot apple cider and Christmas caroling. Pictures are not allowed inside Mt. Vernon, but she was very plump, had poofy white hair, rosy cheeks, a beautiful gown, and basically looked like the female version of Santa Claus.

Fact: George Washington was fascinated with exotic animals! I never knew this, but apparently George would bring animals to his home to entertain his guests and grandchildren.

Aladdin, a camel.
2) The other night, Sarah and Steve came over for dinner and then we walked to Serendipity for dessert. Serendipity 3 recently opened on M Street, and while it's not quite as charming as the two in NYC, the sundaes were great. And HUGE. In fact, Michael actually felt sick from too much sugar.

Maybe that is why we decided to take a 6 mile walk the next day.

3) No lie! I charted our walk on We walked to meet friends for brunch, and since the weather outside was frightful delightful, we just kept walking. We ended up on Theodore Roosevelt Island to say hi to Teddy himself. Speak softly and carry a big stick.
Key Bridge from Georgetown to Rosslyn
3) Speaking of the Key Bridge, we also had my work Christmas party last Friday night at the American History Musuem. Did you know the Star Spangled Banner was penned by Francis Scott Key during the war of 1812, not the Revolutionary War? My history major self was appalled at how unaware I was. I thought Key wrote the song while seeing the flag flying high over Ft. Sumter, but how on earth would that make sense as Ft. Sumter was were the Civil War began. And how on earth would the Revolutionary War make sense as the flag didn't even exist then. Ahhhhhhhhh. Triple fail.

4) Look who came to town! I started with a picture of some Powells, and I'll end with a picture of some Powells. Your Powells.
When Abigail and I first moved to DC in February 2009, the first restaurant we went to with Mrs. Powell, and really the only restaurant that I knew of, was Cafe Milano. And here we are again, almost three years later, still in DC! Amazing. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree

Did you know that ornaments are expensive? Oh. But of course you knew. I was late on that bandwagon. I have gone to Bed Bath and Beyond, Ross, Ace Hardware, and the grocery store, and all of these places have ornaments. The problem is that they are either quite pricey or just plain UGLY. I wish I had taken a picture of some of the things I saw. Two words come to mind: cheese and ball. Wait, make it three words: cheese, ball, and 1972. This is probably my fault - I must not be going to the right stores.

I did find one place where I really loved the ornaments: Sur La Table. And it seems they are having a sale right now! Holy cow, I just may have to splurge and get a little copper teapot right this minute. And definitely the red cheese grater. But still, unless I bought 20 of them, our little Christmas tree from upstate New York would still be a bit sparse. So, what to do?

Solutions come in all shapes and sizes, and tonight, they came in the shapes of cranberries and popcorn.

Here's our tiny tree. We love her.

And the tree skirt? Here's the story behind that gem: Abigail (MOH in my wedding) and I were at her family's ranch in Walnut Springs, Texas during one of my many visits to their ranch during our high school years. There was a house on their property that had been abandoned since 1993 (we know this because we found magazines, Christmas cards and coins in the house, and the latest date we found was 1993... we were detectives, you see.) The house was and is called Tara -- like Scarlett O'Hara's plantation from Gone with the Wind -- and the name was certainly fitting for this home: huge, white, ominous, solemn, maybe haunted -- not from ghosts of the Civil War like the fictional Tara, but from what felt like an erie, hurried abandonment. The house had been utterly untouched for 10 years, but it felt like someone was going to open the door at any moment and brush his teeth, take a shower, and cook a meal. There was dental floss in the bathroom drawer, clothes in the closets, sheets on the beds, and logs in the fireplace. Yet everything was OLD. Ten years is quite a while for things to go untouched. Naturally, Abigail and I were enthralled.

While walking through the upstairs, I happened to open a hall closet and discover two beautifully patched, bright and bold-colored, twin-sized quilts. Oh wow. Oh the colors! Abs look at this! I gawked and squawked and ooooed and ahhhed. Something about patchwork quilts get to me -- the colors, the patterns, the oldness, the effort it takes to make them --  and that was the first time I realized I love quilts. I now have 4 of them in my apartment, which is a lot considering the limited space we have.

I didn't really think too much about those quilts after that. Several months later, it was my birthday and Abigail came over with a birthday present. Oooo! A present. I opened it up and lo and behold, she had remembered how much I loved those quilts and had gotten one of them dry-cleaned (probably twice because those quilts were dirrrty) and wrapped it up for me. What a gift I will always treasure from a dear friend. And will also use as a darn-good Christmas tree skirt.