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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The three E's

Examiner.com: Make a resolution: 10 DC sights to visit in 2010

My New Year's resolutions?

EAT (good food ... which does include lots of yummy fruits and veggies, these pictures notwithstanding)

EXERCISE (so I can eat good food)

Hiking: free and fun!
Great Falls National Park

ENJOY (everything)

I'd like to always be as joyful as I was being a nerd and recreating The Sound of Music.

See you next year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One year, six countries, 1000s of memories

Examiner.com: The world's biggest and best New Year's parties

2009 began in Seoul, South Korea, with a full day of work... but just a few days later, it was time for a 2-week vacation to Thailand:

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand (women were required to borrow long skirts)

Things I love: sunset, warm weather, fresh curry, beach
Samui, Thailand

Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai, Thailand

It was a shock returning from steamy Samui to shivering in Seoul but luckily, another warm weather trip, this time to Cebu, Philippines, was just around the corner:

Filipino food wasn't the most exciting... but fresh fish!
Cebu, Philippines

Mactan Island, Philippines

Cebu, Philippines

Back to work, back to Seoul, where spring finally sprung

Olympic Park, Seoul, South Korea

and an old rivalry was amped up.

North Korea vs. South Korea soccer game - the DPK accused the ROK of giving its players food poisoning. ROK won.

Just before hitting the 9-month mark, it was time to swap seasons and experience winter in Sydney. Conclusion: it's fabulously unwintery.

Hyde Park, Sydney, Australia

Blue Mountains National Park, Australia

Good times galore in Australia, including meeting up with good friends and childhood idols:

Dawn French

Jennifer Saunders

Loving Australia, loving life
Manly Beach

The last few months in Korea were spent trying to cram in as much as possible and explore the peninsula

Ganghwado, South Korea - rice fields
Demilitarized Zone (North-South Korea border)

to bottom

Busan, South Korea

After a year in Seoul

Proof I did SOME teaching and not just fun!

it was time to say annyeong Korea and hello America.
Of course, that travel bug can't rest for long. Two months of being home prepared me for a long weekend in Costa Rica: beaches, rainforests and monkeys abound.
Manuel Antonio Beach, Costa Rica

Quepos, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

So now we've come full circle. From ringing in 2009 in Seoul with friends from around the world, to ringing in 2010 in Washington with my best friends from college... well, it's a pretty darn good life.

Back home in Washington: the Capitol (top) and National Cathedral

What were your 2009 highlights?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Where did the snow go?

Examiner.com: New Year's traditions around the globe

This snow is just a memory now...

It's back to greenish brown earth and bright blue skies. Not terrible but there's something exciting about snow around the holidays. And I'm not talking about the disgusting wintry mix due to hit Washington New Year's Eve -- that's just going to ruin plans for the evening, not contribute to the festivities or make things cozy and lovely.

I'm still mulling over resolutions, which I always make and break within roughly the same week. Last year, I recapped the adventures of 2008 rather than make any promises I know I'll break. Tomorrow, I'll do the same for 2009.

I did, however, prophesize last year that 2009 would be the best year of my life and while that's a hard thing to measure, it was a pretty darn good year.

Will 2010 be even better? We'll have to wait and see... but come back tomorrow for a full recap of the past year in photos.

Do you make New Year's resolutions?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cinq à sept

Examiner.com: Helpful apps for visiting Washington, DC

College students are always on the hunt for a bargain. Out of college, I'm even more budget-conscious as I think about the future: being unemployed until at least summer (by choice, but still...), extensive travel plans and the goal of getting my own place after returning from overseas.

Besides saving money, young people love food and drinks. Bargain + food + wine = happy hour.

Sometime during our junior year of college, my friends and I got in the habit of occasionally going to Bethesda's Mon Ami Gabi for happy hour. It's not just cheap food; it's GOOD cheap food. We're talking grilled salmon sandwiches, thinly-sliced steak sandwiches, mini burgers, French Onion soup... all for $5. The sandwiches come with the most delicious steak frites, well worth the $5 price tag alone.

Salmon sandwich avec steak frites

Wine is half-off by the glass, meaning that dinner, a glass of wine, tax and tip come to around $10. Pas mal!

The deals are only available in the bar area and only from 5 - 6:30, so it can be hard to get a table but well worth the wait. If nothing else was in our favor, Jenna gave the evil eye to anyone loitering and not finishing dinner quickly enough so we could sit down.

If you live in the DC area and want to discover other yummy, budget-conscious happy hour places, check out this story I recently wrote. Researching it, I found even more great places I can't wait to try!

Wine: red or white? White, all the way!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Twinkle twinkle

Examiner.com: Ringing in 2010 on a budget

Is anyone else completely unmotivated to get outside now that it's bitterly cold? When it's warm, I love to be active outdoors, even if it's just a long walk. Now that it's winter, I'm perfectly content to stay inside by the fireplace and read the day away.

(If I were ever forced to move somewhere truly freezing, like North Dakota, I'd probably just give up. The Mid-Atlantic is cold enough for me, thankyouverymuch.)

Thankfully, I managed to drag my lazy butt out of the house to take some pictures of the Christmas lights twinkling under a blanket of snow.

It rained nearly all day yesterday and so much of the snow is gone. Suddenly, you can see the grass again! It's kind of sad because almost everything looks clean and pretty under a thick layer of the white stuff -- except the roads, which were covered with a gross, brown slush.

Never fear, Washingtonians: more snow is in the forecast! Yes, just when you thought it was over, it's just beginning. The Farmers' Almanac calls for a long, cold winter -- are you prepared?

Cold weather: love it or hate it?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Santa Claus CAME to town

I hope that EVERYONE -- whether or not you celebrated Christmas -- had a very happy day yesterday. It was cold and rainy here in Washington, which means that whatever you did yesterday, it was a nice to be warm inside with friends and family.

Christmas cocoa

It was a lovely day filled with way too much good food, way too many presents and lots of family. Notice I didn't say "way too many family." ;)

As has been the case for years, the morning was spent eating and opening gifts at my mom's house before driving to my aunt and uncle's house in Alexandria, Va., for more food and presents with my dad's extended family.

Delicious vegan pumpkin bread

Tradition is a huge part of all holidays, no matter what your religion. Every Christmas as far back as I can remember has followed the same pattern: waking up early (although not nearly as early as when we were kids and the sky was still dark as we opened presents) and opening gifts next to the fireplace before eating brunch.

My grandmother made stockings for each of her grandchildren -- isn't this pretty?

Once everything has been unwrapped, it's time to eat. Egg-and-cheese strata, homemade cocoa and fresh cranberry relish are the norm, with the addition this year of vegan pumpkin bread and tamales.

NPR just did a story about tamales as a Texas Christmas tradition and sure enough, we've enjoyed them during several Christmases spent with my Houston-based aunt -- this year's varieties were chicken and black bean. Yum!

After opening presents with my dad's family, we broke out some classic English party games: Pass the Parcel, Spoons and Charades.

After chowing down on all the usual holiday meal fixings -- and lots of veggies! -- there were two vastly different desserts: ice cream cake, the crowd-pleaser, and a traditional English Christmas pudding, a harder sell.

English Christmas pudding

Christmas pudding, like fruitcake, is something you either love or hate. While the smell can be off-putting, I grew to like the taste while living in London and being served the fruity cake a few times.

You can't beat its presentation, either: alcohol is poured on top of the cake and then lit, creating deep blue and orange flames as the liquor burns off.

My big gift this year was an iPhone, which will come in handy while traveling Down Under and hopefully diminish the time and money required at Internet cafes. It's much easier to have wireless immediately at-hand!

Also appreciated were an external hard drive, a wooden bud vase from my aunt, a really interesting cookbook and, naturally, lots of socks and underwear.

Did Santa bring you everything you wanted?