Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane/Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy

I'm dry, warm, and surrounded by functioning electronic devices. So I count myself fortunate after the last couple of days of weather chaos. Here in the DC area we escaped the worst of the storm, but I still know plenty of people who lost power or had water make its way into their homes. I feel especially lucky because I've had some flooding problems in the past, but the slow steady rain of Sandy didn't manage to overwhelm my drains and creep into my apartment.

Today and yesterday the city was all but shut down. The Federal Government and Metro trains and buses were closed. This kept pretty much everyone at home, myself included. Yesterday I stayed inside the entire day, making all kinds of soup and catching up on some magazine reading. I also watched WAY too much cable news coverage of the weather. This morning when I woke up to another "storm" day off from work, I knew I needed to get outside. The rain and winds had pretty much passed, so I rain-geared up and headed down to Rock Creek Park to inspect the damage. The creek itself was pretty high, but not as bad as I thought it would be. And there were fewer trees down in the neighborhood than after the Derecho storm of a few months ago.

Boots and Leaves

A Curve in Rock Creek

A Very High Creek

Wishful Thinking

Pierce Mill Overflowing


Friday, October 26, 2012

Civic Duty: Part I

I Voted Today.  This sentence gets more capitals because it is such an important thing to do. I vote absentee in the state of Washington, which is my official residence now that I will soon be living all over the world, and the WA ballot was chock full of all sorts of really important issues. My mom received my ballot and immediately put it in the mail to me (I may have sent her 5 or so text messages about...I'm kind of stressed about this election). And this afternoon, I did some internet research and filled in my little bubbles. Gay marriage, debt limits, legalizing marijuana. These are some pretty big issues and I wanted to make sure I was educated before making my choice.

All elections matter to everyone. But this election feels especially real to me since I will be the face of America in Norway and elsewhere, and my job is to represent the policies and work of the President of the United States. It doesn't matter whether I agree personally with my boss, I swore an oath to work for the U.S.A. and that is exactly what I will do. That being said, I do take many of the things we work on overseas very personally, so I of course have strong opinions on what kinds of views I would like to represent.

It was a beautiful fall day in DC to drop my ballet off, and now I feel some relief that my first civic duty of November is complete. Coming up on November 15, I will be reporting for jury duty (sigh), so be on the lookout for Civic Duty: Part II.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn in Shenandoah

This is my third autumn on the East Coast, and I still believe that October makes this place a very beautiful place to live (in much the same way that August in Seattle erases all memories of the other 11 chilly and soggy months along the Puget Sound).  Every October in DC demands a trip out of the city to appreciate the fall display put on by the rolling Virginia Mountains. Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge hills are lovely all year round, but they shine in the bright oranges, golds, reds, and yellows of the current season.

This past weekend was peak leaf time, meaning that the colors were out but the leaves hadn't fallen yet.   I had the privilege of riding down there in a convertible Saab with excellent company, a most civilized way to see the Virginia countryside. But first we made a much anticipated visit to Virginia's only Whiskey Distillery - Copper Fox in Sperryville. We happened upon the distillery during a prior Shenandoah trip but sadly found it closed. This time we planned ahead and made it there during tour hours. It was amazing!  I'm barely a whiskey neophyte, but I know enough to appreciate an artful process, and the making of this whiskey truly was art. The barley is sourced locally, they are the only distillery in the U.S. that malts their own grain, and they have a sauna-like room for smoking the barley. And the actually distillation is quite the chemistry experiment. Then comes the aging and eventually you have a bottle of a very fine scottish-style whiskey (for short picture version of process, see below). Copper Fox is unable to sample their wares on site, but fortunately they are widely available in the DC region.

Grains malting, meaning spending 5 days on the floor sprouting a little. 
After malting, some time in a smokey hotbox,  and a few days in an open vat, the now grain mash goes into this boiler. 

And this point I got a little confused (it's a complicated process), but from the boiler, the liquid that comes off the top goes through this still and then the product (which is very alcoholic) goes through this barrel and is ready to be put into barrels (for whiskey) or into bottles (for strong spirit). 

The whiskey goes into former bourbon barrels, where it hangs out for about a year and looses about 1/3 of it's volume. 

After Copper Fox, we headed up the mountain and onto Skyline Drive. Unfortunately my phone was on it's last little bit of battery, so I didn't get as many photos of the foliage and beautiful sunset as I would have liked, but trust me, it was great. 


Friday, October 12, 2012

into October

Wow, coming onto the halfway point in October and I'm a little sad at how fast my favorite season of the year is going by! I love, love, love the fall, with it's crispy sunny days and cool nights. No more humidity and no more sweating. I love warm sweaters and boots. So I guess it's good that I'm going to Norway and not Jamaica. I'm sure I'll get plenty of use out of my closet full of coats of different thicknesses and sweaters of every color. I was so excited about fall that when the weather was still in the 80s back in September I went to the local thrift shop and bought 5 sweaters (included 3 cashmere) for $50. Score!

Another thing that has come and gone is my birthday. I'm not longer 30. Sigh. But it was an amazing birthday weekend that spoiled me beyond belief. I was surprised on a beautiful autumn morning with a birthday horseback trail ride! It turns out that Rock Creek Park was originally created by Congress as a place for the rich to ride their horses, and this tradition continues at the Rock Creek Horse Center with lessons and trail rides. Had I known this earlier I might have signed up for English riding lessons :-).

After the ride and a relaxing wine and cheese picnic, we traveled down to Old Town Alexandria to have dinner and see the sights. Old Town is a colonial town that is now populated by shops and restaurants with plenty of tourists wandering about on Saturday night. The quiet evening was briefly interrupted by being witnesses to a purse-snatching. I felt really bad for the 10-year old girl who had her panda purse stolen by a pack of wayward teens (seriously, who does that??).

Afterwards, instead of trekking back into DC on the metro, we decided to travel back in style via the water taxi that runs between Alexandria and Georgetown. Seeing the monuments at night from the water was gorgeous, and we were practically alone on the boat. Overall an amazing day and evening spent checking things off my DC to-do list (horseback riding, Alexandria, and river boat were all on there). It was exactly what I needed for a low-key birthday to welcome the 30s.

Lincoln and Washington Monuments from the Potomac