Christmas at Home: Week 250

Bear-Ornament-2

I was really looking forward to having Christmas in Manassas at my parent’s house. It had been five years since I’d been home for Christmas and the first one in which all of us ‘kids’ had moved out of the house.

The house hadn’t changed too much, but it felt different not having my brother shuffle out of the room at 2pm wrapped in a blue robe.

Pickle-Ornament

It was also a lot more tranquil in the morning. My sister is infamously grumpy when she wakes up for work or school.

My hair. I HATE my hair. Uggh. UGGGHHH! Why can’t I find my comb? Everything disappears in this stupid house!

It’s a bit masochistic, but I could’ve handled a few more of her guttural morning salutations.

Pom-Ornament-2

The only thing that hadn’t really changed was my sister’s dogged love for wacky decorations. It didn’t help that she had picked up temp work at a year-round Christmas store. She took home all the broken ornaments and repaired them with hot glue and glitter.

Glove-Ornament

I had helped my mom to decorate the tree, but it didn’t quite feel complete until my sister anchored a giant paper vulture to the top of the tree. Then it really felt like I was home.

Fortune-Cookie-Ornament-2

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Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Week 229

Yellow Jesus statue at Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Manizales, Colombia

We didn’t quite know where we were going when we set out Sunday morning; we were just heading in the direction of a giant yellow statue. It is quite visible, especially from our apartment in Cable.

It took us about half an hour, but we eventually found our way to a steep street lined with speakers blasting tinny melodies. The home of the yellow curiosity was Ecoparque Los Yarumos. It was early in the morning, so there were only a few families pushing their kids through the turnstile and into the park grounds. I was kind of surprised it was even open and staffed before 9am.

Barret and I had a quick stroll around before we found the cafeteria and bought two pintados. That’s the local term for a cup of milk with a splash of coffee. It comes in a sage-green plastic cup that is so thin the bottom tends to bulge from the weight of the liquid. I like the milk to coffee ratio, but Barret’s not quite convinced.

View from Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Manizales, Colombia

We found a bench near the top of the park and looked out over the city. While the view was great, it kind of felt like you needed kids to enjoy all the activities at Los Yarumos. There was a nature trail, but it was closed till the afternoon and only accessible with a guide.

Neighborhood playground: Manizales, Colombia

Not to worry though- it was a beautiful day and the walk back down was spent photographing Manizales architecture. Many of the neighborhoods are built terrace-style using cinder blocks and red bricks. The front of the house has a finished, painted texture, while the less visible parts of the house tend to be exposed brick.

Green house with purple tile work: Manizales, Colombia

I feel like the architecture is not wildly different from the US, but there are unique touches that remind me that I am somewhere foreign. The most obvious difference would be the bright color combinations. However, the tile work and the dainty decorative metal also catch my eye.

Font on an old public school: Manizales, Colombia

Even things that might seem standard are interpreted in surprisingly different ways in Colombia. Concrete sidewalks have patterns etched into them and I’ve even seen some hand chiseled curbs. It was Barret who noticed that the metal bars on windows tend to be on the inside of the house while the glass is on the outside.

Sidewalk texture: Manizales, Colombia

These are just some of the things that keep me busy during my walks or my ride to work. I might see these kinds of details every day, but I’m not bored with them yet.

Darling Quarter Night Owls: Week 200

Film still from Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Darling Quarter Night Owls, Sydney

There are no shortages of outdoor film screenings in Sydney during the summer. They run the gamut from contemporary blockbusters to classics and you probably couldn’t throw a stone without hitting someone stuffing their mouth with popcorn. (Actually, make that ice cream- Aussies love to eat ice cream at the cinema.)

Most screenings are ticketed, but I found one called the Darling Quarter Night Owls that is completely free. Each late afternoon showing begins with a short film and is then followed by a children’s movie. Around 8pm, when the sun has set ans the kids turned in, there is a classic film. The one I was most interested in was Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

While I enjoy a free film as much as the next person, the location next to a busy sidewalk meant it was hard to hear the audio. Also, since the movie wasn’t being projected, the blindingly bright LED screen that worked well during the late afternoon was a bit much in the evening. I could have comfortably worn a pair of sunglasses. My friend Jess must have felt the same way because she closed her eyes and fell asleep halfway through.

The movie variety for the entire program was good, but I think this is one film festival that’s best left to the kids.

About: The Darling Quarter Night Owls

Ride the Night: Week 189

Brochure for Sydney RIdes Festival 2014

Every now and then I have a very uninspiring week- the kind of week where I just want to lounge around the house in pajamas. I’m not saying that’s bad, but it just makes it hard to do my ‘new thing’ for the week. After browsing the weekend newsletters in my inbox, I realized that the only thing I had any chance of attending was ‘Ride the Night’. It was one of the last events of the Sydney Rides Festival, a two-week long bicycle celebration.

The only problem was that just before Ride the Night was slated to begin, storm clouds came rolling in over the city and Barret and I didn’t even have our bikes. They were still stored at our friend’s house.

“You sure you want to do this?” Barret asked before we caught the bus headed through Newtown.

“I think so.” I replied.

The weather wasn’t any better by the time we reached our friend’s house and the delicious kitchen smells also didn’t help. I was having a hard time convincing both myself and Barret that we should head into the nebulous fog that cloaked the CBD.

“I think my neighbors took their kids to that.” John mentioned as we hemmed and hawed on the comfortable couch.

In the end my project prevailed. I needed to do something new.

Ride the Night ended up being an illuminated circuit along Mrs Macquaries Road in the Royal Botanic Gardens. There were more people than I was expecting for such questionable weather, but luckily the rain stayed at bay. A few light installations were placed along the route, the most prominent being the multi-colored spheres.

Compared to the seasonal Gift of Lights drive-thru Vegas Christmas extravaganza that I grew up with, Ride the Night didn’t come close. Not by a long shot.

However, my fellow bike riders made up for the underwhelming light display. Their bikes came in an incredible assortment of styles and were covered with LEDs and bubble machines. Ride the Night wasn’t all it cracked up to be, but a night ride through Sydney is almost never a bad thing.

And, on the way back home, Barret and I found ourselves at the Night Noodle Market. It was the last evening so everything was discounted! In the end I was glad I scraped my lazy butt off the couch, but I think it goes without saying how my Sunday went- wonderfully uneventful.

About: Sydney Rides Festival

Kayaking on the Occoquan: Week 183

Polaroid of Barret kayaking on the Occoquan River: Manassas, Virginia

My parents store two kayaks along the southern side of their house. One is red, the other is orange and the both of them are covered with a few days’ worth of cobwebs. It was hard to navigate them around the corner of the house and when I finally had the right angle, I bashed into a beautyberry bush. The impact caused small purple berries and a variety of spiders to scatter across the cement.

“The spiders come be back an hour after you put them away,” my Dad warned me as he stated brushing them off with his hand. “You can’t keep them away.”

He was right but I grabbed a broom anyway. I didn’t like the idea of being trapped in the middle of the river with a spider crawling up my leg. Once the kayak was swept down I plugged in the leaf blower. The nozzle blasted all the plastic crevasses and then I positioned it so that the air created a spinning vortex of debris inside the kayak. Nimble little spider bodies swept along the walls like those dizzying theme park rides that just spin and spin and spin.

When the kayaks were as spider-free as they were going to get, Barret and I carried them down to the Occoquan. The river was one of the reasons my parents bought that house. You can’t see it from the windows, but it’s only a short stroll through the patch of trees on the other side of the road.

Because it was summer, a million miniscule bugs bounced along the surface of the water, their bodies so light that their movement doesn’t even cause a ripple. As we paddled down river we saw jumping fish and turtles resting on water-logged branches. One statuesque white heron watched us approach before it suddenly burst skyward.

Colvin Run Mill: Great Falls, Virginia

Most of the homes along the river use the water for recreation. However, it wasn’t too long ago that these bodies of fresh water were important for food and transport. The Colvin Run Mill, which is 45 minutes north of my parent’s house, is a beautiful example of an early 19th century mill. The mill is still used for grinding and the nearby gift shop sells bags of cornmeal, grits, wheat and buckwheat flour.

Polaroid of flowers at Colvin Run Mill: Great Falls, Virginia

While my parent’s bend of the Occoquan is too tranquil for a watermill, it is the perfect speed for a gentle kayak ride. There is nothing better a hot summer’s day than a shady river and the rhythmic splash of a paddle breaking the water’s surface.

How to get to the Colvin Run Mill: 10017 Colvin Run Road, Great Falls VA 22066

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