Treat Yo’ Self: Gemstones & Georgetown Jewelry Shops

I should start by saying that though I’ve gotten to do some fancy things in my life, I am not a fancy person.

I’m happiest when covered in sand and sea salt, preferably mid-surf session. In my ballroom/etiquette class, I was a terrible dance partner, constantly stumbling, stepping on feet, mis-executing moves. When my husband treated me to high-tea at the jaw-droppingly posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I spent much of the time wondering why they let me in, recalling every time I’d been elbows deep in blood or mud or sweat after a father-daughter hunt.

But I can’t lie: I’ve also retained into adulthood that little-girl desire to be a princess. I loved getting gussied up for Marine Corps Balls. And when a chance to snag custom jewelry recently arose, I’ll admit: I got a little giddy.

The whole process started when my sweet brother brought me back a handful of gems after his stint serving overseas: one black diamond and three tanzanite drops.

Continue reading “Treat Yo’ Self: Gemstones & Georgetown Jewelry Shops”

Libraries & Leisure

Here’s my confession: I’m a workaholic.

In the nearly thirteen years we’ve known each other, my husband and I have lived in a variety of locales: Indiana, Ireland, and the Czech Republic for college, Texas, China, Suriname, and Washington, D.C. for work. And every time we hit a new spot, I’ve vowed to prioritize getting out and experiencing whatever makes that place special.

But every time, my to-do list tugs me back: to my laptop to write, my palette to paint.

It’s a flaw I’m trying to pray through. But in the meantime, I’m super thankful when people like my brother–who’s infinitely better at sallying out to try new things–come visiting.

It’s that push I need to go forth and explore.

So my brother gets all the credit for coaxing me to visit the Library of Congress–the largest library in the world, housing millions of books, penned in 470 languages. Sad as it is to admit, this is my third stint living in D.C…. and my first trip to the Library. Which is kind of unacceptable, considering my bibliophilic little heart.

But better late than never, right?

Just a handful of the many, many highlights included:

  • The gorgeous architecture of the Thomas Jefferson building
  • A complete version of the Gutenberg Bible (the 15th century innovation that rocked the worlds of religion and books)
  • A still-in-progress replication of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, being gathered text by text from around the world
  • The Main Reading Room (one of several research enclaves accessible to anyone over 16 wishing to study… provided you can keep up with their code of conduct [Cue finger-wagging librarian])
  • The office of the Librarian of Congress (currently Carla Hayden)

Confession no. 2: I now have office envy. But it’s probably for the best that my own workspace isn’t quite so nice.

It’d be a poor fit with my efforts to combat workaholism.

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All About Aruba: 5 Hints for Making the Most of Your Trip

As mentioned in last week’s photo-gallery based post, I recently had the blessing of vacationing on the beautiful arid island of Aruba. The trip was made all the better by the company: my husband, my best friend, and her fiancé.

For my readers contemplating their own Caribbean getaway, I wanted to offer reflections on what made our Aruba trip a successful escape: Continue reading “All About Aruba: 5 Hints for Making the Most of Your Trip”

Terra Cotta Men & Mercury Poisoning

Having lived in China for over a year now, I’ve nabbed a few opportunities to venture out exploring from my home base of Chengdu. I have under my belt multiple visits to the glittering capital of Beijing; I’ve stopped in Guangzhou, an important southern port city. My husband and I visited Jiuzhaiguo and its breathtaking nature park; we made our way up to Harbin, a Chinese city located near the Russian and North Korean borders (a phenomenal trip that included visiting the world’s largest ice festival, as well as snow fox and baby tiger-snuggling moments).

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See?! Baby tiger!

But of all the Chinese spots I’ve been blessed to see, perhaps the most pleasantly surprising was Xi’an. Continue reading “Terra Cotta Men & Mercury Poisoning”

Great Wall, Great Experience

According to China’s late Chairman Mao, “Bù dào cháng chéng fēi hǎo hàn.”

Or, in our own tongue:

“He who has not been to the Great Wall is not a true man.”

This sentiment is one of a few about which Mr. Mao and I disagree. But I will give the man this: The Great Wall (aka: cháng chéng) truly is one of China’s must-see sites.

Believe it or not, this was actually a point of debate a few months back. As I worked with my parents to plan their 10-day trip to visit my husband and me in China, it became quickly apparent that we wouldn’t be able to pay homage to all China’s premier tourist locales. Since both my dad and I are surfers, we seriously considered jettisoning Beijing in favor of Hainan Island, the Hawaii of China:
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Tempting, right?

But in the end, we went the traditional China route. And I’m so glad we did. Continue reading “Great Wall, Great Experience”

Tailors, Qí Páo & Silks… Oh My!

Given the haul I collected on my trip to the Hongqiao pearl market, you may be surprised to learn that my main Chinese vice is not pearls (though probably only because I’m not living in Beijing). In fact, custom tailoring snags that title–as my poor, bursting-at-the-seams closet can attest.

It isn’t that I’ve never spent time with a tailor before. As someone whose height tops out at 5 foot-nothing, I’ve paid my fair share of visits to have pants, dresses, and blazers nipped up along hem, sleeve, and shoulder.

But prior to my move to China, that’s all tailoring meant to me–someone to trim normal-adult-sized clothes down to fit my oompa-loompa-sized body. Post China-move, I see the tailor in a whole new light. Continue reading “Tailors, Qí Páo & Silks… Oh My!”

Big Buddhas & Tang Era Tales

The secret no one tells you about living adventurously is this: sometimes you get lazy.

Living in China, I have at my fingertips some incredible opportunities to explore, to experience new things. Some days I’m great at availing myself of them; when last I attended hot pot (for more on this unique eating experience, peruse here), I said, “Hey, when in Rome” and tried the cow tendon and throat our Chinese friends had ordered up. I was actually disappointed when all the duck kidney got snapped up before I could give it a go.

Other days, however, I become incredibly slothful. Just tired in that unique way only intercultural interfaces can make you. Those days, I’ve no interest in practicing my Mandarin. I don’t want try exciting new food. I cannot even face the thought of going to the dry cleaners, knowing the visit may be riddled with land-mine-style language barriers. These are the days I’m in danger of sleeping my way through our China tour, closing my eyes when I should be jumping on opportunities that may never come my way again. Continue reading “Big Buddhas & Tang Era Tales”