NC Voter!

In San Francisco, I was registered as a permanent absentee voter. The ballots in San Francisco were usually multiple very long pages, front and back, with enough propositions in each election to go through the alphabet at least once. I collected the fliers and booklets and information packets about the initiatives and the candidates in one spot in the weeks preceding the election, then the weekend before the election I would set aside an evening, read through the literature, research pros and cons, and spend a few hours marking my ballot before then dropping it in the mail or taking it to a polling place in person on election day.

I knew that we had an election today, but didn’t receive anything in the mail – no sample ballot, no arguments for or against initiatives, no campaign propaganda. I was flummoxed. I have my voter registration card, so (I thought) I knew where to go. After some searching, I found a sample ballot online. And it was one page. Mayor, City Council, and a redistricting initiative. I researched the candidates and the initiative and drove to the polling place. The volunteers greeted me, I received a ballot, and I voted, all in about 10 minutes. I scanned my ballot and received an “I Voted” sticker. I kind of love this way of voting. IMG_2057.JPG

Beautiful Banff

We met in San Francisco in the late nineties/early naughts. We formed a fast friendship, even when one, then another, then another, then another moved away (then one moved back). We met up in new homes, on vacation, on work trips around the world, keeping in touch via group texts, Facebook, and occasional calls. When we met up it was usually in twos or threes, rarely all four of us in the same place. This year we decided to plan a long weekend away together – all four of us. As we started planning, we aimed for a spot none of us had been and decided on Banff, Canada. From the moment we landed in the airport (“Yes to YYC”) to the moment we left, Canada delighted us. Highlights of the trip included:

  • scenics drives along the Trans-Canada Highway
  • free admission to Banff National Park (Happy Birthday, Canada!)
  • an extraordinary dinner at Three Ravens
  • stunning views from our lodge (and it had a fireplace!)
  • waffles and bacon for breakfast
  • a hike around Lake Louise (I never knew water could be so breathtakingly blue) and up to Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse
  • hot tomato soup, crusty bread, and hot chocolate at the Teahouse
  • dusting of snow
  • a hike in Johnston Canyon to the Lower Falls, Upper Falls, then on to the Ink Pots
  • Thanksgiving poutine (turkey and stuffing and gravy over french fries? be still my beating heart…)
  • a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs at dusk
  • late night and early morning conversations in jammies
  • four fabulous days with three dear friends.

This really was a great idea.

America’s Castle

I feel so lucky that I’ve had visitors every week since I’ve moved to Asheville, NC (I hope it never stops!). This weekend Kyle and I decided to explore the Biltmore Estate, also known as America’s Castle. We marveled at the perfect day for touring the grounds: blue skies, warm rays, and great company. It’s a short walk through the woods from the parking lot to the house, and as you exit the forest, you’re greeted by a awe-inspiring view of the enormous yards leading up to a castle-esque structure.

Each room is more marvelous than the last. The seven-story high banquet hall with three enormous fire places side by side, facing a large pipe organ. The more intimate breakfast room with Renoirs hanging on the walls. The library with tens of thousands of books, stacked two stories high. And the views from every window. Breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, ridge after ridge after ridge. Listening to the stories behind the rooms, behind the house, behind the family. The basement, where the walls were painted with scenes inspired by the Russian cabaret group La Chauve-Souris, in preparation for a New Year’s Eve party. The kitchen, where the menu for a scrumptious Thanksgiving meal for 26 guests was recalled. And the gardens, the fabulous gardens, surrounded by hundreds of acres of green forest.

Whoever created the audio tour was artful in their final message. One of the last vignettes tells how guests to the estate marveled at the milk and ice cream served, the best they’d ever tasted. We returned our audio sets and walked out of the house, directly across from the entrance to the Ice Cream Parlor. Why, yes, I think we will have a scoop, thank you very much.