One Little Word

One Little Word

IMG_4208

As we move into the new year I’ve been giving some thought to  “One Little Word”  and what word I would choose.

The last couple of years have felt like my feet haven’t been on the ground.  There was falling in love; the roller coaster of loss; and the combined love and loss that stem from moving to a place where breakfast burritos are no longer stuffed with bacon, egg, cheese and potatoes but with fried chicken.

Things are starting to feel more settled.  Stephen is in the kitchen browning beef for a rich ragu we’ll serve tonight as we ring in the new year with a small group of friends. Fisher is passed out from her morning routine of running after the backyard squirrels, and I look at the Bobcat in the front yard with high hopes of lush grass in the spring when my hostas and hydrangeas will, fingers crossed, come back alongside the sod that goes in next week.

I hear a quiet whisper.  My word begins to form.

Every day I think about people, from strangers to those closest to me.  I think of lessons from the past and how those lessons inform our progress.  My heart goes out to the innocent and the guilty too; for while I believe strongly in justice, I believe just as strongly in compassion.

I think about this gorgeous planet and all of its inhabitants–animal, vegetable, mineral.  I think of those with nothing and those with seemingly everything.  And I think about the beliefs and stories of groups of people–those in countries, cities, churches, businesses and government–those who love and research and risk themselves to live the truth of their stories, for better or worse.

The whisper gets louder, it senses my doubt.

What am I taking from this world and what am I giving?  I fear doing harm–hurting people with my words, my beliefs, my lack of expertise in…basically all areas but the beauty of power naps and cookies…but I worry my silence is doing just that, hurting those who need my support.

And I finally hear my word…root.

Root, quiet and strong.

Root deeply. Take just what is essential and grow so that others may have that which they need now and long after I leave.

I don’t know what will come, or even exactly where I’m headed, but I will place my feet on the ground and begin.

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

I realize as I look back over my Christmases that, depending on the year, they have been busy, quiet, stressful, indulgent, hilarious, sad, happy or peaceful.  I’ve learned, as with most things, to embrace and appreciate what is and quietly work to change what I wish were different.

I’ve carved out my own cozy traditions over the years–a little space for the things I enjoy, that recharge my batteries and that I look forward to each year.  I’d love to hear about your traditions too if you’d like to share.

Christmas Baking

IMG_6411

I usually choose one or two things to make each season.  I’ve made marshmallows and cinnamon rolls, Chex Mix and pretzels, and frosted sugar cookies among others.  This year I was feeling humble and homey.  So soft, chewy ginger cookies and cinnamon sugar rolled donut muffins it is.

A New Ornament

IMG_6347

Every year I look for a few new ornaments to reflect major events or places I’ve been.  It’s so fun to pull them out each year and remember where I was when I bought them. I have a little copper pot from a small shop in Tuscany since I ate my weight in ribollita (an amazing Italian soup) while there, a pair of rain boots from my move to Portland and a cute front door ornament from Stephen to celebrate our big move this year.

Christmas Movies

IMG_6341

Some days require a mug of hot cocoa, cuddles with my puppy and a string of sweet and sappy movies.  I love The Sound of Music at this time of year and my DVR is about to explode with the cheesy Lifetime and Hallmark movies that are basically a riff on three different themes. Bonus points if snow, cute small towns and/or bakeries are involved.

I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and a very happy holiday season.

xo,
Becky

Weekend in New York

Weekend in New York

IMG_6213

In one of my favorite books, 84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff wrote: “I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for. I said I’d go looking for the England of English Literature, and he nodded and said: “It’s there.”

I could say the same thing about New York City.

I was 13 the first time I went to Manhattan.  I had hardly been out of suburban San Diego, was VERY into hairspray, Esprit bags, Guess jeans and riding horses.  We climbed up to the Statue of Liberty’s crown, watched the Macy’s Day Parade floats being blown up the night before, looked out from the top of the Empire State Building and ate pretzels from a street vendor before shopping on 5th Avenue.

I fell in love with the city.

I’ve been back multiple times with friends and on my own.  I ran around the market floor of the New York Stock Exchange and met the trader for Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway stock.  (His advice?  Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something and always be nice to people.)

Over the years I found a favorite restaurant in Greenwich Village that had the most amazing mac & cheese and chocolate pudding; watched someone hit for the cycle at a Mets game; wandered aimlessly through museums; had a champagne lunch before walking the leafy streets of the Upper East Side; and on the way to the airport talked on the phone to a cab driver’s sister just because he thought we could friends.

It felt so good being back in the city, holding hands with Stephen and striking out to new-to-us places.  We walked over 15 miles, watched snow fall over Central Park, found the perfect Christmas tree ornament and are already talking about when we’re headed back.

Here’s a list of where we stayed, ate and played while we were there last weekend.

Where We Stayed

IMG_6140

We stayed in an Airbnb on 5th Avenue near Union Square and it was a little jewel.  It was less than $200/night, on the 20th floor with a terrace and had one of the kindest hosts we’ve met in our Airbnb experiences.  We got to come back to this view every night:

IMG_6158

Where We Ate

IMG_6366

(East Village photo courtesy of Stephen)

Masala Wala

Our hands down favorite meal was on our last night in the city.  It had been snowing all day and we were exhausted.  We hopped in an Uber to the Lower East Side and walked into the tiniest Indian restaurant you can imagine.  We were greeted by a gracious host, wedged ourselves into a small table by the kitchen and settled into some of the best food I’ve had in a while.  Crisp samosas topped with chickpeas, chutney, yogurt and mint.  Spicy lamb vindaloo.  Bright basil chicken tucked into soft garlic naan.  We finished off the evening with warm chai tea and homemade pistachio ice cream.  It was all so good, highly highly recommend.

IMG_6365

Toby’s Estate Coffee 

My other favorite was the cutest little coffee shop, Toby’s Estate Coffee on 5th.  It was basically like sipping coffee in my dream kitchen and also happened to be located right next to the Strand Bookstore.

IMG_6159

Cafe Cluny

My favorite little restaurant in Greenwich Village, Home, closed and I was so bummed!  We tried Cafe Cluny and while it wasn’t my Home, it was delicious.  I had a great kale salad and pappardelle pasta and Stephen had tomato soup and short ribs.  We ended the meal with a cheese tray as frankly all great meals should end.

We also had solid dim sum at Nom Wah’s Tea Parlor and pickles, matzo ball soup and pastrami at Fine & Shapiro.

(We tried a couple of “famous” spots for bagels and pizza but both of us found them just meh.  Murray’s Bagels and Joe’s Pizza if you’re curious.)

What We Did

Rockefeller Center

IMG_6268

The first time I went to the city was for Thanksgiving.  I had always wanted to go back for Christmas.  Stephen and I had both watched the tree lighting every year so it was really cool to be able to see it in person, but I don’t know that either one of us wants to do it again any time soon.  There were SO MANY PEOPLE.  We went and saw a show, Wicked at the Gershwin Theater, which was wonderful.  That gave us just enough time to catch the tree, a few of the shop windows and see Saks 5th Avenue’s crazy light show.  As a friend of a friend used to say, “good to do.  Good to have done.”

Central Park

IMG_6309

Central Park is a favorite any time of year, but this was the first time I had seen it covered in snow.  It was so peaceful, stunningly beautiful and after we bought me a hat, decidedly less wet.  Strolling through holding hands is one of our favorite memories of the trip and something I’ll always remember.

Lower Manhattan

IMG_6175

I hadn’t been to the September 11th Memorial before and immediately started crying the moment we set foot near the pools.  I couldn’t bear to go in the museum, but next time I’d like to.  I still get choked up looking at this picture and probably always will.

Stephen remembered St. Paul’s Chapel from when he visited the city in high school and I had never seen it, so we walked over.

IMG_6189

The gravestones are so old, they no longer have the names and dates of those buried.  The church was built in 1766 and was once the tallest building in Manhattan.  More recently it has become known as “The Little Chapel that Stood.”  The chapel had no damage from September 11th and became a haven for rescue workers.

Staten Island Ferry

IMG_6222

In all my years of going to the city, I had never taken the free Staten Island Ferry!  We were so close, so we ran down and hopped on for the 25 minute ride.  It was a great (cold!) way to view the skyline and Statue of Liberty.  Bonus was the mix of people that ride it.  Tourists, residents and random dudes with huge, deep, knife scars on their face.  Welcome to New York!

Dim Sum in Chinatown

IMG_6242

I loved the narrow, small streets of Chinatown.  We had to direct our cab driver to the restaurant as it was tucked away on a tiny street he had never heard of.  We saddled up family style to busy tables as plates of noodles, dumplings and egg rolls were set in front of us one right after the other.

Museum of Natural History

Attach0 copy

One of my favorite stories of Stephen’s is when his former kindergartner teacher (Miss May, who we still see up at the local barbecue place her son owns) asked if he would come and talk about dinosaurs to her class.  He loved and studied them so much, she thought the kids in her class would benefit.  “What grade were you in?” I asked him, thinking he had put in years of elementary school research.  “First.”

I had the best time watching kids at the museum.  The looks on their faces as they took in the massive size of the fossils was priceless.  Knowing Stephen was just as enamored was another highlight of the trip.  He kept it in a little better, but I could still see it.

IMG_6301

My Cup Runneth Over

My Cup Runneth Over

The mornings have been foggy all week.  We wake sluggishly and pad downstairs.  Coffee is mandatory.  I’ve deemed it our couch cafe–we take one couch, Fisher curls up and takes the other.

IMG_5973

I bought this Santa mug at Target two years ago.  I tend to buy things in pairs, but in this case hadn’t, regretted it and immediately went back to the store to find another.  And. COULDN’T.

I told Stephen about it one night.  What started out as a passing comment turned into an ode to the Santa mug and the quest finding a second one had become.  They were sold out online!  The store was out! What would I do without matching mugs?! Should I take this one back and look elsewhere for a matching set?! But then what if that left me without ANY Santa mugs and why was I suddenly so crazy about mugs?!

A few days later my sister and I rushed up to Seattle to be with our dad.  We had a final weekend together before he passed away.  We talked cars and eggnog by day and by night we had the conversations only sisters can have as we navigated I-405, my dad’s townhouse and saying goodbye.

It was painful, but in that beautiful way endings can be.  Moments were strung together by an awareness time was slipping and the only thing we could do was let go and try to savor each moment.  The moments were pure and connected.  Rich with sadness, gratitude, forgiveness, love and support.  Until finally the moments with him were gone.

On our last night in Seattle, just days until Christmas, Amy and I were walking through Target so we could pick up some last minute gifts before I headed back to Portland and she headed back to California.  I turned a corner, looked up and saw something that made me tear up and laugh at the same time.

It was one Santa mug. The last mug left.

Last year as I packed up my house, two Santa mugs were wrapped in about 50 sheets of bubble wrap for the move from Oregon to Georgia.  I pulled them out last Christmas when my new house had no furniture and I was still using a Garmin to find the grocery store.  The mugs came out again this year and will be used every morning until January.

My dad still is around.  The alarm on his ever present Timex which used to go off every hour stopped and now only beeps in perfect, quiet moments where I’m talking about him or missing him.  I walked out of the airport to Stephen’s new car which had a randomly issued license place with RAY as the first three letters, my dad’s name.  But my favorite is when he shows up in my dreams.  We just talk.  About nothing. And everything.  The way that we did.  The way that we still do.