Spending the Day Outside

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April is right on the cusp of Arizona’s unbearable summer; it’s a magical month when you can still enjoy an afternoon sitting outside, drinking a smoothie and feeding tiny pieces of your apple to hopping finches. And Earth Day, designated to loving the pretty planet we live on, is so perfectly nested in the middle of it.

The other day I was on my way to the bus stop to head to a class in Phoenix, when I decided to walk a slightly different way through campus and pick up a juice. I went past the library to this little corner of campus with an organic cafe, patches of shaded grass, a sculpture art installation, and a playground for the little ones who attend daycare at the university. And as I saw the clusters of students reading and studying or simply enjoying the afternoon, I got really, achingly sad to be leaving college. It was almost a nostalgia for the experiences I didn’t have, the days I spent rushing between classes or home rather than lingering on campus. Being in college offers so many opportunities to do just that; there are little gaps in the day between classes that you can take to yourself. What a beautiful thing!

It’s hard not to be nostalgic about my experiences as a student – both the real and imagined – but I know that there will be other, future opportunities to enjoy little things like spending the afternoon reading a book, leaving the office to get an iced coffee, or working outside for a few hours. Today, drinking coffee on my back patio, I feel like the best really is yet to come.

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Ms. Regan Goes to Washington

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A few weeks ago, Domenico and I dug out our thin, desert sweaters and scarves and flew across the country to visit Linnea at her new home in the country’s capital. For Domenico, it was the first visit to Washington. I was less of a novice, but it had still been about a decade since I’d been in the city, so we really relied on Linnea to show us around the town. Lucky for us, she was sweet enough to take us to her favorite restaurants and send us out into the world with very thorough metro directions.

Day 1: 

We got off a plane on Saturday very hungry and ready for a night out, so Linnea took us to Tryst, a coffeehouse/bar/working space that reminded me of Phoenix’s Lux. We caught up, ate tasty sandwiches, and then wandered next door to a crazy Wonderland of a blues bar where we danced to some old, blues tunes.

Day 2: 

We brunched (brunch is big in D.C. – along with beer and jogging) at Open City. After a pretty slow, leisurely morning, we were ready to see the sites, and Linnea took us to all the big ones: the White House, the Washington Monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. After all that monument-ing, we went to Linnea’s favorite museum, the National Portrait Gallery. This was a stop I hadn’t gotten to on my previous visits to D.C., so it was a new experience for me, and I have to say, I think it was my favorite museum as well. It was so rich with American art, exhibiting everything from Civil War-era photos to pop art that donned the cover of Time magazine. Of course, we had to take a few silly portraits of our own in the museum, especially when we saw the striking similarity between Domenico’s facial hair and that of Rutherford B. Hayes. That night, we enjoyed a fancy, Middle Eastern dinner at Mama Ayesha’s.

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Day 3: 

Linnea had to work in the morning, so we all got up early for breakfast at Founding Farmers. As a side note, I can’t get enough of all the history-love and plays on words in D.C.; in addition to this place, we also ate at We the Pizza and Busboys and Poets, a bookstore and restaurant named after Langston Hughes and his positions as both a busboy and poet at different points in his life.

Domenico and I were on our own for the rest of the morning, so we took the opportunity to visit the Natural History and American History Museums. So much history, guys. It was starting to get mildly exhausting, but there’s such an insane amount to see there that it seems wasteful to spend any time not touring some monument or museum. Linnea took the afternoon off, and met us for a tour of the U.S. Capitol. We also visited the Library of Congress, a.k.a. the most beautiful building in the city, and sat on the steps of the Supreme Court. This was probably our most American day of the trip, so I wore my most patriotic, vintage dress, of course. We met a friend from college for some tasty Korean food at Mandu and then took a nighttime trip to the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial. They were so beautiful at night, and it was a totally different experience visiting them after most of the crowds had disappeared.

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Day 4: 

We grabbed some pastries at Paul and headed to a tour at the NPR offices. It ended up being a truly interesting tour, and the offices are housed in a beautifully designed building. Domenico even got to stand behind the famous Tiny Desk with Bob Boilen. After our tour, we ate probably the most decadent meal in history at Astro Donuts – it included fried chicken, a maple-bacon donut, and a fried chicken sandwich on an old bay-spiced donut bun (!). We spent the afternoon at the Holocaust Museum (after which that lunch really seemed like a mistake). The museum was beautifully done and so powerful, but it left us feeling drained and definitely out of D.C.-touring mode. We had a little much-needed downtime at Linnea’s before dinner at Busboys and Poets, where we got to meet one of her closest friends in the city.

Day 5:

Whoa, it’s almost time to go home? That was pretty much the sentiment on our final day. We did manage to squeeze in a trip to the National Archives, where we got to lean over the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. (Sorry, Nicholas Cage – no alarms went off.) We also spent the afternoon at the Newseum, which was full of news-related artifacts, an evocative exhibit on 9/11, and a graffitied section of the Berlin Wall.

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Overall, it was a lovely – if brief – trip, and we were able to traverse so much of the city, which is rich with history, incredible museums, and passionate people. Some of our favorite take-aways were:

1. Everyone is on their way somewhere, often late, and they’re not going to be slowed down by your presence. I was almost run down in the metro center a couple of times, and a jogger definitely photo bombed Domenico and I in front of the Library of Congress.

2. Free access to cultural sites is amazing. The only activity we had to pay for was entrance to the Newseum, yet we saw such a wealth of museum exhibits and iconic national treasures.

3. When you walk eight miles a day, I think it means you deserve to eat a donut chicken sandwich, right?

4. Linnea is the best tour guide. She’ll be planning all of my vacations now.

Hey There, World

It’s been a while. Please excuse my absence as I’ve been holed up in my room with a pile of papers, magazines, and yes, yarn surrounding me, trapping me and making me incapable of blogging. But now finally, I’m out.

For the past month, I’ve been knee-deep in thesis work, finishing up an endeavor I’ve been working on for nine months. I’ve also been designing the Lux magazines and getting it ready for the printer. And I’ve been knitting like mad, trying to finish up some projects for a little shop in San Francisco that will be selling my work (more to come on that). Of course, it hasn’t all been work – I also sat on the steps of the National Archive in Washington, D.C. and ate Salt & Straw ice cream on the rainy streets of Portland (more to come on that as well).

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Last week, after months of careful research, interviewing, and writing, I defended my thesis to my board and my sweet family. And it was quite a success! (Note the pretty lilies my mom brought me and the smile of accomplishment I’m wearing.) I also packaged Lux up for the printers and shipped a little box of my knitting off yesterday, and I feel like the world has opened up a little bit again. Don’t get me wrong – I am wildly excited about and proud of all these endeavors. They make me feel productive and creative. They’re the culmination of my work as a writer, student, editor, and I suppose knitter. But they can also be quite draining, and together all those looming deadlines and massive undertakings can weigh on a person.

Now I hope to have time to plan a trip to Europe (talk about an undertaking), catch up on House of Cards, read my current book – Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, bake some zucchini bread, and of course, blog. And with some of those great deadlines behind me, the end of my college career looks shockingly close. Here’s to the next few months!