Despite big life changes, it’s the little things that stand out the most.
Though I hate myself for saying something so cliche, 2017 is a year that I will not soon forget. I graduated from the University of Maryland in May and within a few months—after briefly moving back home to Pennsylvania—found myself back in the Metro-D.C. area.
While this time of transition has been nothing short of eye-opening, it’s what went into the moments between the milestones that I most fondly remember:
Music + Travel
I like jamming out to tunes just as much as the next person, but I am far from a fanatic. In fact, I’m not even sure that I can narrow my interests down to one genre, listening to anything from country music to Celine Dion.
Speaking of, my parents made one of my dreams come true by covering the cost of a plane ticket to and from Las Vegas so that I could see the “My Heart Will Go On” queen perform at Caesars Palace post-graduation. I saw her one week after her tear-jerking performance at the Billboard Music Awards. There simply aren’t words to describe her goosebumps-inducing vocals.
But the magic didn’t end there: my best friend and I went on to view the Las Vegas strip from the top of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino’s Eiffel Tower, soak up the beauty of the Fountains of Bellagio and check out OMNIA nightclub—where we quickly realized that we prefer far less intense evening adventures. During the day, our itinerary included a roughly two-hour trek to the Grand Canyon’s West Rim, exploring and sipping piña coladas poolside.
A trip like that is hard to top, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the other concerts that I attended this year, among them “Head Over Boots” singer Jon Pardi and the less-popular-in-these-parts Texas country artist Cody Johnson.
I was able to see firsthand what inspires some of their song lyrics on a short yet sweet getaway to College Station to visit Texas A&M University, where I also toured the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. Though I was only there for a little over 24 hours, I loved being able to see an endless, uninterrupted horizon. I will definitely be paying the Lonestar State another visit next year, hopefully for Chilifest 2018, a giant county music festival in the spring.
College students rarely have—or make?—time to read, and despite being a total bookworm in my younger years, I was not an exception to this stereotype. What often occupied my downtime was none other than Netflix, streaming The Crown—embarrassingly, I finished the recently premiered second season the first weekend I could—Call the Midwife and something a little more lighthearted and recommended by my mom, Hart of Dixie. The Ranch and a sprinkling of Parks and Recreation and New Girl also make the list. I usually try to justify so much time spent online by watching shows that are grounded in some sort of history, and I can say that I’ve learned a lot about the British monarchy but probably too much about childbirth in 1950’s East London.
My roommates and I recently did away with cable, but I’ve still found ways to watch NBC’s This is Us, Grey’s Anatomy—I can’t say that I enjoy Grey’s very much now that a majority of my favorite characters have been written off, but my curiosity continues to get the best of me—and Scandal. The latter is another one of those shows that I’m watching solely because I feel obligated to see how everything plays out.
As part of their new student welcome, the University of Maryland sends out-of-state students mallets, bibs and an invitation to a crab feast, or at least they did when I was an incoming freshman. I went, a total novice, proceeded to get Old Bay into cuts on my fingers, made it through one, maybe two crabs, and left feeling hungry, disgusted and determined to never waste my time picking those creepy crustaceans again. Nearly four years later, with a lot of help from my friends, I dared to try again. This time, I succeeded. Since then, I’ve even caught one or two.
But the better part of this year was spent serving up eats at the Silver Diner while still in college—whose food and fellow employees I dearly miss—and experimenting in the kitchen with a few family recipes. I also tried Shake Shack while in Vegas and have come to the conclusion that Five Guys is far better. While my level of expertise is still limited to crock pots and casseroles–and whatever inspires me on Pinterest–I enjoy making my own food and look forward to free weekends for said reason. Among some of the smells wafting around my apartment this year: tuna noodle casserole, chicken marsala, green bean casserole, a crescent roll crust veggie pizza, potato soup, taco soup and the go-tos of spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles with turkey meatballs or meatsauce. I’ve found that I’m not much of a baker—banana bread came out a little crunchy last week—but my chocolate chip pan cookies are apparently a favorite of my family and friends. I realize that this does not put me anywhere near culinary excellence, but hey, it’s neither ramen nor fast food.
Northern Virginia Adventures
I’m not proud to admit this, but I’ve been living in NoVA since September and have only very recently started venturing out of my cozy apartment. There’s a grocery store, a Starbucks and a few restaurants—HAMA Sushi a favorite among them—right across the street, so can you blame me for not wanting to unnecessarily hit the road? But now that I feel settled in and ready to take on region that I now call “home,” I’ve made my way over to Leesburg to get custom lipstick made before my eyes at Be Beauty, took in beautiful furniture and home decor at 27 South, sampled peanuts at the Very Virginia Shop, ate lunch at Kings Tavern and Wine Bar and did some holiday shopping at the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets. When I needed somewhat of a new ‘do, I was able to get squeezed in for a cut and color at The Red Door in Fairfax Corner, which was only a few weeks after I had taken advantage of the Centreville Sweetwater Tavern‘s Oktoberfest. With the parents, I visited the Reston Town Center—where we ate at Uncle Julio’s and where I bought myself goodies from Teavana—and on a second occasion sipped some cocktails at Bar Louie. Other Reston Town Center favorites feature sweets from Pitango Gelato and the Red Velvet Cupcakery.
As you can see, I can’t speak to what Arlington, Alexandria and other unexplored parts of Northern Virginia have to offer, but rather than regret the things that I did not get around to doing this year, I’m looking forward to whatever will be taken in in 2018.