Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cutest. Houses. Ever.

Once we started walking down some of the small side streets of downtown Charleston, I couldn't stop. There were just so many adorable homes and perfectly manicured gardens to look at. It wasn't just down one street, it was the whole area that was just so perfect. Money helps, of course. 

What I loved most was seeing ideas of how to make even small spaces so beautiful. Skinny yards wedged between homes were extravagant gardens, tiny driveways were well-landscaped, and patches of grass were highlighted with bricks and moss.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas in Charleston

It's hard to go home for the holidays when you move away from home.  Our families live in different states in the Northeast which means planning a long, costly trip; trying to avoid snowstorms; stressing about finding a potential dog sitter during a busy time; and chaotically traveling between celebrations trying to please everyone, and in turn, pleasing none.  So, with a half-guilty conscience, we found a dog-friendly vacation rental and drove five hours in the opposite direction to Charleston, South Carolina.

The truth is, we needed it.  We haven't had a good vacation since our honeymoon over a year ago, and I have barely seen my husband since he started his new job.  Tommie needed some time away from his computer to unwind.  
The place we rented for four days was located on Folly Beach (about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston).  Being able to get up each morning and walk Maya along the ocean in mild December weather was perfect.  We miss the coastline most living in Durham.  We liked going during the off-season because the beach community was quiet.  Restaurants were still open, but there wasn't any traffic.
Charleston was a charming place to spend the holiday.  I do feel bad knowing I wasn't with my family, but I'll just have to work on convincing them the south is better in the winter months.  After a couple big snow storms, I don't think that will be too hard.  
My Mom would have liked peeping over people's walls and into their windows with me.  The houses and yards in that city were the most adorable and stunning places I have ever seen.  (More Charleston creeper photos to come.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Duke Basketball

I'm not a sports person.  I spend more time pointing out the funny outfits of fans in the background than I do actually watching the game itself.
Basketball, at least, is on a short list of sports I don't completely mind watching.  It's fairly easy to follow, the game moves quickly, and the uniforms don't involve helmets and pads so I can actually distinguish one player from another.
We got to do something that's a pretty big deal in Durham...go to one of Duke's basketball games.  People go nuts around here for college basketball.  I'm hardly worthy, but it was fun to be able to see a game in the small student-filled stadium and pick out my favorite player with big arm muscles...that's how everyone watches a game isn't it?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Tree Alternatives

Downtown Durham lights the Lucky Strike water tower for Christmas, though if you ask me it could use a little more "oomph." I was more impressed by the luminaries lining the waterway.

Also, Tommie's work decorated a tree for charity along with lots of other Durham non-profits.
We don't do trees in our house, so the closest I get is decorating the mantle and putting up our little tin tree. 
While part of it is just to avoid the hassle, the other part is because real and artificial trees are not environmentally friendly. My husband is a real Grinch about it, but it does make sense when you think about every household in America that has to cut down a tree, or buy a plastic tree from China.
While I do miss the smell of fresh pine, I'm definitely willing to try some of the interesting tree alternatives out there.

Like making a tree from branches or driftwood:

Found here.

Getting a reusable wooden tree from Possibilitree or Jubilieetree:

Hanging ornaments on branches in a vase:
Found here.

Or going with a living tree we could plant afterwards:
Found here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Concert in Wilmington

Last weekend, Tommie and I went to see Passion Pit perform at Battleship Park in Wilmington, NC. 
It seems like everywhere we go, we're the old people now. The concert was mostly college kids, and while we like to pretend we can still pass as students, Tommie's feelings were hurt when someone recently told him that's just not true anymore. (At 29, we are the oldest of all all his colleagues.) On a good day we can pass as grad students.
Before the concert, we took a stroll along the riverwalk then went to our favorite nice restaurant in downtown Wilmington (Circa 1922). We had a good time as elders hanging out in Wilmington and enjoying the band in a small, outdoor venue on a pretty night. Dawson's Creek was filmed along this river and I'd like to think that it makes me cool for knowing that, but really, none of these kids even know what Dawson's Creek is.
When we found out there were multiple opening bands, which meant that Passion Pit wouldn't be on stage until 9:30 p.m., we complained about how late we were going to get home (in our defense, we did have a two-hour drive), and when a couple crazy boys started to climb the support beams holding up the tent we were under, we formed an emergency escape plan and shook our fingers at them with some middle-aged woman. Eventually, even the lead singer, at a mature 25-years-old, yelled at them to get down.
We're no spring chickens, but it's good for us to get out and try sometimes.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Meeting a Foster Family

As a woman of childbearing age who does not want to bear her own children, I often find myself doing a tricky dance around the subject. Explaining to people that fostering and/or adopting is my first choice for creating a family is like telling people I'd rather walk across the country than take a plane or a car. It's a much harder route. Why would I do that?

Last week, I went to the doctor and listened to the "make sure you take those folic acid pills for the future baby" lecture I have heard a million times before. In the past, I would launch into a counter speech, but at some point I realized that my doctors didn't believe me; didn't understand me, and they definitely didn't care to listen to my anti-childbirth diatribe. This time, I just nodded my head, while thinking about how ironic it was that later that night Tommie and I were headed over to a couple's house to learn about the foster care system.
This couple, still in their 30's, has four children of their own and has fostered five children over the past few years. It was a welcome change to be able to discuss our plans openly with people and get their firsthand account. Even though the process is as emotional as one would expect, and the system is as frustrating as most systems are, talking to this couple made me more excited about the idea. 

People ask why put in the effort when the kids assigned to you are likely to leave after a such short time? 

After discussing one of their most difficult good-byes with a pair of siblings they thought they were going to get to adopt, the husband we were talking to looked at his wife and said, "Don't you feel like the kids were in a much better position after being with us than when they arrived?" And she answered, "They were." And if that's all I do, it's worth it.
The woman left me with a list of books to check out. I'll share them here for anyone who might be interested.

* "One Small Boat" and "Another Place at the Table," by Kathy Harrison
* "Three Little Words," by Ashely Rhodes-Courter
* "Damaged" and "Happy Kids," by Cathy Glass

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Guest Room

We had our first long-term house guests for Thanksgiving.  Tommie's parents drove down from Boston and arrived in Durham in time for dinner.  (They drive like typical commuters, while my parents don't believe in using the passing lane and would have taken double the time.)

The guest room has been a work in progress since we moved, but it's finally sanctioned as a decent place to stay.

It has our old wicker double bed that we draped with a new large blue quilt we got for sale at the outlets for $50.  Updated thrift store lamps provide lighting, and a sage green refurbished dresser from Craigslist gives some drawer and surface space.  I'm sticking to natural tones like tan, blue, green, and white in here.
I also put one of our bookshelves in the room because I like the idea of people being able to thumb through books before bed or if they get bored.  I used to like snooping through other people's libraries.
Having a house with an extra room is nice so that we can host visitors.  It's also scary having a house with an extra room so that we can host visitors.  I love my family and encourage friends to small increments  :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thankful For Warm Winter Days

I need to make a concerted effort to blog more often. I spend my days on assignment writing about things I don't very much care to write about, and sometimes that makes me cranky. Letters From A Libra is a side outlet for me to write about anything I want, and it helps keep me grounded.
I also want to keep my friends and family up-to-date on our lives in the south. This is the first time Tommie and I have truly been on our own with no family around, so its' a good way for us to share what we're up to with them...and with complete strangers on the Internet. Good thing I like over sharing with strangers.
I also don't want to loose sight of all the good things about our new life here. Like the fact that on December 3rd it is a balmy 73 degrees. I went for a run in shorts and a t-shirt; I have the slider open for fresh air, and Maya is laying in the sun. There is still a semblance of seasonal changes here, but we don't have to stop enjoying the outdoors in October.
This is Maya after she fell asleep in the sun and was so zonked she didn't notice when it turned to shade. Anyone looking outside would think we had a dead dog in our yard (I put the blanket over her earlier so her belly wouldn't burn). Luckily, no squirrels crossed her path and woke the dragon. Clearly, she's learning to like it here.