I'm back from a week filled with sleeping, reading, eating, present-opening, and movie-watching - all thrown into one pot and stirred until incorporated into one big Christmas blur. Everyone has been saying, "it's so hard to believe that the year is almost over" and I agree completely - how do 12 months fly by so quickly? I know "they" say the years pass faster the older you get, but for as quickly as they've been going I should be 58 instead of 28.
Given the time of year, and lots of free time between eating sessions over Christmas, I spent some time slowing down and reflecting on 2009 - and looking ahead to 2010. This year probably (hopefully?) won't stand out as "the best ever" in the grand scheme of things, but it had some really great highlights (and great meals):
Trip to Red Rock Canyon National Park, NV and Zion National Park, UT
Since my family lived abroad when I was a kid, our family trips were to places like Paris, Brussels, or Munich - so we never did the family road trips to every US national park like many of my American peers. So though my brother and I saw most of Europe and Asia's top destinations before we both turned 12 (thanks Mom and Dad!), we'd never been to places like the Grand Canyon or Hoover Dam or Niagara Falls. I checked the latter off the list during a high school New Year's Eve road trip (yep, total debauchery), but it wasn't until this year that I got to visit the other two and dig into some American culture. My friend Ben got me into rock climbing and we took a trip to Vegas to climb at Red Rock Canyon National Park. For most people (including myself) who have been to Vegas, you'd never know this incredible conservation area is just 20 minutes off the Strip - but the next time you go it's worth the trip, even if you just do the scenic drive. There's something really magical about the silence and brightly crimson cliffs of Red Rocks that makes you feel completely surrounded by nature, even though you can see the Strip from the highest point there. While we were out west, we took two day-trips: One to the western ridge of the Grand Canyon (with a Hoover Dam drive-over on the way), and another to Zion National Park in Utah. Zion was completely snow covered, which was a total departure from our shorts and t-shirt climbs at Red Rocks, and it's another one of those magnificent, very massive places that leaves you breathless.
Memorable meal: Dinner at Charlie Palmer's Aureole at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino
2010 resolution(s): Climb and camp in Yosemite, check out Joshua Tree National Park and summit Mt. Rainier. Phew.
Ski trip to Salt Lake City, UT
In February, Ben (same go-to adventure friend as above) and I took my friend Desiree up on her offer to let us crash at her lovely place in Salt Lake City for a long weekend of Utah powder skiing. I learned to ski in the Alps with my ski-savvy parents when we lived in Germany and Utah and Wyoming had long been on my list of ski destinations out west. It was great to tick one off this year, and bottom line: Utah skiing ROCKS. AND the area is just absolutely beautiful. AND (and I'm not sure if this is fact or I made this up) I feel like the mountains are just high enough so that you aren't a complete icicle by the time you get to the top of the chair lift (a big plus for me since I'm always freezing in Colorado). AND my friend Des (who is the sickest female skier I know, btw) lives there so we got to spend time with her and her equally incredible skier/fiance, Ryan.
Memorable meal: Deer Valley's famous turkey chili and a local beer for lunch on the slopes, and a bag of homemade granola at Alta for an end-of-day snack
2010 resolution: Get west this Spring to get back into my ski boots
Moving into my new place
A series of events in April led to Izzy and I moving into a new place of our own just steps from Central Park on the Upper West Side. I had been teetering on the "maybe it's time to leave NYC" line for about 9 months, but finding a gem of an apartment and deciding to stay really grounded me and helped me fall in love with New York City all over again. We New Yorkers (at least the ones I know) have sort of a love/hate relationship with the city. And the reasons we love it usually lead to the reasons we hate it (amazing restaurants = you're broke, fantastic shopping = you're broke ...you get the picture). But my move in April swung me back into love, and I've been hanging out there ever since.
Memorable meal: Having Emily and Bennett over for my first homemade, candlelit dinner party
2010 resolution: Have more dinner parties! Even though my kitchen is in a closet, the oven works and I absolutely love entertaining
Doing my friend Sarah's eye makeup for her wedding
I've mentioned before how the past two years have included a slew of weddings - and after the 5th one they started running together in a blur of taffeta, champagne-induced dancing, and friendly "hellos" with old friends. But, I had a special moment at my friend Sarah's wedding when she called a few days before the big day and asked if I'd do her eye makeup for the ceremony. I was more flattered and thrilled by her simple request than anything else she could have asked of me. We lived in a 6-(wo)man suite in college our junior year and many (ok, most) nights out began with 6 girls crammed into a small-ish bathroom vying for tiny bits of mirror to make eyelids smokey and lips kissable. Somehow I became the suite makeup artist so I had a lot of fun playing with different colors on my friends lids. Even though it had been 6 years since the days of our 6-man suite (and probably 6 years since I'd applied makeup to anyone but myself) Sarah asked and of course I said yes. The result looked great (she loved it!) and is my precious memory of sweeping shimmering shadow across her lids before she slipped into her wedding gown just hours before "I do."
Memorable meal: Driving into the ghet-to of Cincinnati to find Skyline chili with the Johnston's
2010 resolution: Make that camping trip we've been talking about for years actually happen with Sarah and her lovely new husband, Scott
Birthday dinner at my friend Alyssa's place in Brooklyn
In this city of order-in, take-out, and delivery (especially during the holidays) it meant so much to me that my friend Alyssa invited a few girls to her home to celebrate my birthday. And I say home because her "apartment" is really a 60's-style ranch home transported to the third floor of a Williamsburg apartment building. She's made the place so inviting and was an adorable hostess, complete with apron and smiley dimples. It was a simple night - just 4 friends catching up with champagne in her living room, and then eating the delicious meal she prepared in her enormous kitchen with multiple cupboards and granite counter tops (!!) in her dining room - but the fact that these lovely ladies took the time to celebrate me during the rush of the holidays reminded me what dear friends I have in New York, and how blessed I am to have them in my life. [insert teary-happy-face, here]
Memorable (homemade) meal: Roasted salmon, cheesy potato gratin, fresh haricot verts and an I-want-thirds-but-will-be-a-good-house-guest-and-stick-t0-seconds apple tort (with candles!!)
2010 resolution: Get off the island more often to see my Brooklyn girls[ed. note: photo isn't Alyssa's house - just a photo I have of us all together]
I guess it was a pretty good year after all :) Good travel, great friends, fab apartment - I'm challenging myself to top it in 2010. And based on the crowds forming around my Rockefeller Center office, 2010 is just around the corner.
I'd love to hear about your favorite 2009 moments/trips/events! Let me know why you're grateful for the past year (or why you can't wait for 2010 to arrive!).