Tuesday, November 25, 2014

more on DC!

i shared yesterday that during my weekend trip to DC i didn't manage to get any photos of anyone but instead spent all my time photographing DC rowhouses. our friends the finns and jess's mom did a much better job capturing what matters, and these photos belong to them. i'll try to compensate for my skewed priorities with my words in this post!

one of the things no one really talks about after college is how hard it is to find and create meaningful community after graduation. when you live 8 months out of the year on a floor of 16 hilarious, creative, driven and smart people perpetually running on lots of caffeine and little sleep, community comes a little more easily than in the post -college reality of different jobs, interests, levels of disposable income and street addresses. it was a treat to spend a few days with the good people i know and love from our days in school, and not just because we all enjoy laughing at and swapping memories of our epic prank war.

in the spirit of thanksgiving week, i'm grateful for old friends who know my context, and for new ones who ask good questions and are each working to make the world a better place in their own way. for shared coffee and cupcakes and somersaults on the capitol lawn. for friends who are happier than perhaps they've ever been, and for those fighting the same fights, struggling for the same things. for spending time in the company of people who know and are a part of some of my best stories, and for being welcomed by new friends with open arms. for library of congress porch yoga, rooftop beers and eastern market pancakes. 

i'm already thinking about when i can make a repeat trip. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

a surprise weekend visit to washington, DC

my best friend and college roommate lives in washington, DC where she works on behalf of religious minorities across the world. (sometimes i like to say that her job description is just kick ass and take names.) i'm impressed by her and what she does, though sometimes i get a little bummed that so much of her attention and time is spent flying across the world to obscure central asian nations where prime ministers make new jersey jokes at her. 

jess came out to visit me a few years ago when, being the good friend i am, i took us snowshoeing in -14 degree temperatures. i hadn't been to visit her in DC since we graduated from college back in 2006, until just a few weeks ago. i figured it was high time to make happen the visit we always talk about when we do get a chance to talk, and what a better time to do it than for her 30th birthday? i secretly emailed a few of her friends, found a rather reasonable airfare, google mapped and memorized the metro route from the airport to her house(google maps? MAGICAL.) and set out on my way. 

my trip went off without a hitch. i did get stuck between two armrest hogs on my flight, one a curmudgeonly old grandfather and one eritrean refugee who, an hour in, i befriended and talked with for most of the trip which made being stuck in the middle seat a little more bearable. everything ran on time, the walk to her place was simple and the look on her face when she answered the doorbell was pretty priceless:

k ::buzzes doorbell and waits::
j, answering door: what??
k, standing on the front step: ::smiles::
j: but... you're here? 
k: ::smiles and shrugs::

to make the weekend even more fun, jess's mom came to visit, her boyfriend flew in from out of state AND our friends the finns bravely drove all the way down from connecticut with their 4 adorable bubbies to surprise her for the party! 

we spent the weekend consuming delicious coffee, perusing the stalls of eastern market, chasing the finn babies around the capitol building and trying in the margins to catch up on all the years it has been since we'd last seen each other. while much too short, it was a lovely weekend and i can't wait to do it again- though i'll probably let her know in advance next time.

i didn't manage to get a photo of the two of us at all (friend fail!), but here are a few from our morning at the capitol.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

two more finished quilts!

a friend of mine from college recently got married and asked if i'd sew a sari quilt for her and her shiny new husband. she was hoping for something blue and white and, being dutch and so having an instinctive, innate love for all things delft, i couldn't say no.

this friend's parents live in bombay, and so she had her mother ship her some saris, which she in turn shipped to me, and over several months i put together this sari chevron string quilt. i do very much love how it looks, and given how long each block took me to sew, this will probably be one of a kind. (plus, i'm not sure i could convince my friends who came over to play quilt sweat shop to come over and sew another, as generous and kind as they were to help with this one!)

this second quilt i made because i needed a little immediate gratification after the queen sized, detailed sari quilt above. it's a little lap quilt made from kona grey (not pink, as it appears in the photos) and a collection of 12 different liberty of london fat quarters i won from this sweet little online shop called duckadilly, via a blog called film in the fridge.

i love the film in the fridge blog for inspiration, and several of my quilts have been inspired by hers. the last time i won something was in elementary school, when in a raffle i won a gift card to a local toy store. when i received an email that i'd won a generous giftcard to be spent on some of the most beautiful fabrics i'd ever seen, i was, needless to say, pretty pumped. (adult version of a toy or candy store, anyone?)
after receiving the fabrics in the mail, i poured over my options and in the end decided on something simple as each design speaks for itself. i also decided that the fabrics are too beautiful to keep only to myself, and so made two versions of this quilt. the one above i gave to my college roommate and am keeping its twin for myself.

i sort of cheesily think of them as those best friend heart necklaces where you keep half and give the other half to a friend, only much more beautiful and timeless. i decided to hand quilt my own, and i absolutely love it. i'm also excited after all these quilts to finally have made something to keep!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

travel: valladolid, mexico

the last of four posts on our trip to mexico.
// part one, two and three.
after visiting the ruins of coba, hubs and i spent an afternoon in the quaint little town of valladolid. as i wrote yesterday, getting there was a little more complicated than we planned, as we waited and waited for a bus in coba and, two hours past when it was supposed to come, gave up hope that it ever would. we ended up taking a cab, an option i wish we had chosen before the two hour wait!

both of us were pretty hungry and heat exhausted by the time we arrived in the city center, plus it was so very hot outside that we quickly surrendered our ambitions of finding a quaint, mom-and-pop restaurant for lunch and ate at the first taco place we could find. from there, we kind of just shuffled through the streets from church to church and then bought a liter of water and several ice creams (paletas) in a little air-conditioned convenience store to recover. 

pro tip: don't visit during siesta, or don't be shy to knock on doors- we only saw the outsides of all of the churches we visited. we were, however, successfully able to locate a map after learning that 'map' is 'la mapa' in spanish, so i give us points for that one.
to see:
iglesia san servicio: right in the center of town, this church is beautiful and dominates the town square.
iglesia santa lucia: on a quiet square, covered in papel picado flags.
convent de san bernadino de siena: we did not walk to the convent of san bernadino, though i wish we did! 
iglesia de la candelaria: catholicism meets mayan legend at this little church 10 minutes' walk from the city center. la virgen de la candelaria is the patron saint of valladolid and well known all over the yucatan. 

plus, the buildings around the town center are colorful and built colonial style, entirely unlike tulum pueblo. they and the church of san servicio are why we decided to visit!

the owner of our hotel in tulum said that there is a craft market in the parking lot of the prison selling the best hammocks for the best prices around. he also told us that in mexico, prisoners have to earn their food and so by purchasing a hammock you are quite literally allowing someone to eat. we looked for the market but halfheartedly, as we don't own trees from which to hang a hammock.

lastly, there are several limestone sinkholes called cenotes (say-note-ays) in the area that are worth visiting (cenote zaci comes highly recommended by a friend), though as our trip was only a few hours long we did not venture to see them. we were also told that people really only go to cenotes to dive and not really to swim. FALSE. it's our fault, though, for asking someone who was self-admittedly a little drunk. 

if we did this trip over again, i'd plan to spend a night in valladolid either before or after a trip to the ruins instead of trying to see everything in several hours in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

travel: coba ruins, mexico

part three on our trip to mexico!
{images all mine}
while in mexico, we debated back and forth for quite some time as to whether or not we should travel out to chichen itza.
chichen itza pros: it's one of those must see before you die places, it's the biggest, best preserved and most well-known mayan ruin, it's a UNESCO world heritage site. also, for those not afraid of heights (read: husband), the pyramid is open for climbing. 

chichen itza cons: it was several hours away from where we were staying, meaning the bus would get us there at the hottest and busiest time of day and would require us to spend more money than we'd want to on the fare. we also heard the hawkers were relentless and the entrance fee was a little steep.

we chatted with the owner of our hotel and he suggested we go to coba or ek balam instead. the bus to either was much shorter and less expensive than chichen and would allow us an afternoon to visit the little city of valladolid. he mentioned that as coba was relatively recently excavated and even then, only in part, exploring there made one feel a little like indiana jones gallivanting through the jungle. sold. 

getting there: navigating the mexican public bus system was relatively easy. we were able to book second class tickets to coba at the tulum bus station on the day of our trip. we took the first bus out, arriving half an hour after the park opened. it's also possible to hire a cab, but with how easy and affordable the bus was we saw no need to do so.

the bus dropped us off at what seemed like the only intersection in town, right on the edge of the lake. we wandered a bit before finding the entrance which really shouldn't have been as difficult as we made it. when in doubt, ask questions!

getting away was a little more challenging. the town of coba is very small and the buses aren't frequent. we were supposed to be able to catch a bus around noon from the "bus stop" (the plastic chairs outside el bocadillo restaurant) which would take us the remaining 30- 45 minutes into valladolid town center. however, the bus never showed up. we waited almost two hours before agreeing to hire the first taxi that gave us a fair price, getting us into the city at the hottest time of day. but more on valladolid tomorrow!

to see: i'm pretty confident that coba is only on the map because of the ruins, so aside from a few tourist-oriented restaurants, there isn't much else there. there are several lakes which the ruins are situated between, but i read somewhere that there are crocodiles (alligators?) residing there and to ask local children where the best, safest swimming hole is. no thank you.

so, the park! we did a little reading up on the ruins before visiting- both in our guidebook and via random googling- and i'm glad we did. there wasn't much to read signage- wise once there, and i'm a pretty big fan of knowing a little something about where i'm going and what i'm seeing while traveling. you can hire a pedi-cab/ cycle rickshaw at multiple points in the park, or you can rent bikes and pedal from place to place. as with the ruins at tulum, the walk from the entrance to the different ruins isn't bad. most of the individual ruins require you to park your rented bike a little ways away and walk up anyway, so we saved our pesos for some paletas/ ice creams at the end. 

visiting so early in the morning was the best! for the first several hours we were there, we had the place virtually to ourselves, only sharing with two other couples and several hippies performing some sort of prayer at the base of the pyramid. on our way out we were a little overwhelmed by the waves of visitors walking in. 

in all, we really enjoyed our visit to coba. if we had been able to stay a night in valladolid or another town closer to chichen and not had to spend 6 hours on a bus in one day, we may have done it. as we booked our hotel for the entire week before arriving in mexico, we didn't regret skipping out on chichen itza in favor of these ruins which were a little more off the beaten path.
tomorrow, valladolid!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

travel: tulum, mexico 2.0

back in june hubs finished his master's degree, a feat which we decided necessitated a proper vacation. when i asked him where he might want to go after one degree and before starting the next, he said "somewhere where we can sit on a beach for a week."

well, cross off iceland, ireland, morocco and turkey. as i said before, mexico wasn't on our wanderlist, but upon arrival we quickly discovered why people vacation in the caribbean: it's close (one hour different from mountain time! direct flight! everyone is so friendly and helpful!) and it's ridiculously beautiful. we spent a good week kicked back in the white sand, swimming in the turquoise waves and exploring mayan ruins and it was pretty darn close to perfect. 
to see:
the beach. obviously. there are several spots where the public can access the beach, but most of the shoreline is owned by private hotels. even so, we were surprised by how few people were actually on the public beach each time we went. there are plenty of rather pricey restaurants within walking distance from the public beach. we paid a highly inflated price for a bottle of water one day, but enjoyed raspberry margaritas during a happy hour special just next door another afternoon.

pro tip: be sure to have a decent idea of where the public beach is, or don't be afraid to ask for help. we ended up riding 22km/ almost 14 miles on beach cruisers on our first day in town along the beach road because we weren't entirely sure where we were going and weren't confident in our spanish abilities. 

the ruins:  go early to beat the crowds and the sun, and wear your suit so you can swim. the guides will tell you it's a long walk from the entrance to the ruins, but really, it's not. it's just hot outside.
the town: there isn't much in the town besides restaurants and shops catering to tourists. even so, we did enjoy wandering the main street, poking around in the pottery shops and sipping coffee while reading books at a cafe. our lonely planet guidebook said that the town was a dusty little place and not to waste time there, but we disagree! plus, it was nice to do something other than lie in the sun at the beach all day, especially when needing to recover from insufficient sunscreen application from days prior.

our guidebook and several people on tripadvisor suggested taking taxis from place to place, particularly to the beach. we decided against that because we'd rather have spent our pesos on tacos, and because you miss so very much while sitting in the silence of an air-conditioned car. 
to stay:
we stayed at teetotum hotel and we didn't regret it for a second. after trolling every single listing on trip advisor, almost booking at several places and feeling non-committal about all of them, we took the plunge with teetotum as they had single digit negative reviews. upon arrival, we never looked back. 

the thing about staying in tulum is that you can choose to a) stay by the beach and pay through the nose, b) stay on the beach but stay "jungle side" where you'll pay slightly less but have to cross a public street to get to the beach, c) stay in town and spend your time taxi-ing/ riding bikes to the beach, or d) you can stay between and get the best of all options. we were rather happy with our decision to stay between, as we could ride bikes to town and buy tacos, then ride bikes to the beach to eat said tacos. instead of only eating at our hotel (the restaurant was amazing, but you know- variety), we got to try a few different places and spent some time exploring. plus, teetotum had bike rental included in the cost of our stay. SOLD.

we also considered luvtulum and zama's, as they are on the beach, but wanted to get more for our dollars by staying somewhere between.
to eat:
el pollo bronco: hubs found this place while walking (biking?) down the main street through town. 60 pesos for half a roast chicken, tortillas and salsas. SO GOOD. i have dreams about it even now.

taco carts! i made fun of hubs for suggesting that we get a "bag of tacos" to go but it turns out that you can actually do that if you know how to say "to go" in spanish (it's para llevar, for the record.)  our favorite place was called honario, around the corner from the scotia bank. order cochinitas and thank me later.

also try tortas from a taco cart and the empanadas at el pequeno buenos aires (but don't bother with a main course there. it's pricey and not that great.)
up next: mayan ruins and the town of valladolid!

Monday, September 22, 2014

kenosha pass

this past saturday morning, hubs and i headed up to kenosha pass in the hope that we'd be able to catch the aspens turning fiery yellow.

we had the same idea as the rest of the city of denver, but even the crowds were worth the views! the aspens glowed so fiercely in the morning sun that they seemed to have a light all their own. we hiked a few miles along the colorado trail to a point overlooking a valley below and then drove down to have lunch and poke around the town of fairplay.  i was most interested in seeing the ghost town of south park, but was a little disappointed to find that in order to walk through the street you had to pay an entrance fee. even so, i can now check this little former mining town off my to-visit list where it has been for 8 years.

the trees were so beautiful i'm hoping we can get out again this coming weekend. we haven't been to see the leaves turn since hubs moved out here in spring of 2010, so we've got a little lost time to make up for.
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