the wonderful world of veena.

30 July 2014

29 of 52: celebrating pete.

That Pete Goodrich is a special one. He's been one of my favourite little brothers since I first met him in the spring of 2002, and we became even closer when he came to Rhodes as a first year when Cait and I were seniors. Neither of us are great about keeping in regular touch with each other, but no matter how long it's been or where we've been, we can pick right back up like no time has passed.

[with pete at cait and wes' wedding last october - our first reunion in 6 years!]
About 4 or so months ago, Kelly, Pete's wonderful wife, sent out an invitation for a surprise celebration to ring in Pete's 30th birthday. She began planning it early to allow people to make travel plans, and she managed to get people in from Atlanta, Boston, New York, DC, and Memphis, as well as local friends from their community in Christchurch.

[louisa dancing - but mostly giggling - to 'let it go', everyone's favourite song]
Kelly rented the beautiful River's Landing Bed & Breakfast in White Stone, Virginia, for the celebrations. It was a perfect setting, and we had the run of the house, the pool, and the pool house for the weekend. There was swimming, there was cornhole, and there were lots of food and drinks, and we spent the whole day just having fun and enjoying the company of all who had come. I loved meeting new friends and getting to catch up with Cait and Wes, with Lara and Zack, with Ansley, with Asa, with Daniel Case and his wife Catherine, and especially with Mama Andie and Papa Craig. And it was great to spend time with the kiddos, with Louisa and Mason and August.

[with the birthday boy]
I could give you all the gory details of what we did throughout the day, whether it be Asa and I dominating at cornhole, or whiling away the rainstorm in the poolhouse, chatting with Mama Andie, but I'll spare you. All I will say is that it was a wonderful weekend full of lots of wonderful people who are very near and dear to me, and I'm so thankful the timing worked out for me to be able to take part in the weekend.

[the sunday morning brunch crew. what a great group of people]
other highlights included: more family time in Charlotte, including being in town to celebrate my uncle's birthday; driving the Blue Ridge Parkway; touring Monticello in the rain; a few days to myself in Charlottesville [a little "me time" is always good now and again];

[with hema masi, one of my mum's best friends and someone who has literally known me from the day i was born]
[shrimp, jalapeno, and bacon tacos. i feel like that says it all]
[downton charlotte on a friday night]
[happy birthday, tinu mamma!]
[with dada and baa, my mum's uncle and aunt who are like adopted grandparents to me. so happy to spend some time with them after 15 years!]
[one of my favourites from my drive up the parkway]
[monticello in the rain is still pretty nice]
[a return to littlejohn's in charlottesville after 10 years. it's still good]
Time spent catching up with friends who are more like family is some of my favourite time spent.

27 July 2014

driving the blue ridge parkway.

[note: I have more - and nicer - pictures on my camera, but I've not had time / have been too lazy to upload them, so for the time being, these are just pictures from my phone. there will be multiple photo posts in a month or so]

For years I have been hearing people's stories and seeing their pictures of driving the Blue Ridge Parkway from North Carolina to Virginia and back again. And for years I have been telling myself that one day I will finally get to experience it for myself.

[rock castle gorge]
Last week, I finally got my wish.

[beauty as far as the eye can see]
While I was planning my 35-day road trip, primarily to North Carolina and Virginia, one thought kept popping into my head: I have to work in a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. And although it was a little out of my way, I decided to use my drive from Charlotte to Charlottesville to do just that.

[this was one of those spots that cannot be adequately described in words]
Now, you can just take the Interstate pretty much straight up from Charlotte to Charlottesville, making the drive in around 4.5 hours. Both states are pretty scenic, so you'll get to enjoy some views along the way, but you won't necessarily have many opportunities to stop, take a look around, hang out for a while, take pictures, and generally just take it all in.

[the great valley overlook. amazing]
BUT. If you take a slight detour and find yourself on the Parkway, you have ample opportunities to do all those things and more.

[the pine tree overlook. i spent quite a bit of time here, just looking]
The Parkway itself is 469-mile stretch of beautiful highway that goes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Shenandoah National Park and includes numerous campsites, trails, picnic areas, overlooks, and visitors centers along the way. Because the road winds through the mountains, the speed limit is only 45mph, so you have lots of time to enjoy your surroundings.

[this was the part that made me most happy -- a little walk through the woods to get to the thunder ridge overlook]
I joined the highway around mile 213 where it crosses Highway 18 and followed it to roughly mile 4, where I joined I-64 to get to Charlottesville. I spent 7 hours making my journey, stopping at various overlooks to take pictures and to just enjoy the view. I had two in particular that I knew I wanted to stop at, but I also just stopped at random whenever I saw a particularly enticing view. A few had little trails to follow to get to the viewpoints, which I enjoyed, and there was also a pedestrian bridge below the highway where you can view the James River, so of course I stopped there and went for a little stroll.

[the view from thunder ridge]
There were times when I felt like I was in Coorg, driving under the canopy of the trees or scrambling over rocks to get to overlooks. There were moments I was reminded of the drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara, coming around a turn and being blown away by the sheer majesty of the view in front of you. Often I honestly forgot where I was, because I was just so distracted. There were quite a few moments where I wished I had someone else driving so that I could just stare out the windows as the view went past.

[looking out over the james river]
I had - and still have - grand ideas of taking a month or so to drive from one end of the Parkway to the other, stopping along the way to stay in guesthouses and go for treks. And perhaps one day in the near future that will happen, but for the time being I am just grateful I had the opportunity to finally see it for myself.

[I will say this, too: for most of my trip, I have been convinced that the monsoon is following me. I've kind of enjoyed it, as we all know July is when I most miss Bangalore because of the rains. But through sheer luck, the rain stayed away, and I had an absolutely gorgeous - albeit humid - day for my drive up the Parkway. It was raining when I left Charlotte, and it started raining about 30 minutes after I reached Charlottesville, but for those hours on the road, the weather was glorious, and it really made that drive incredible. So thank you, weather gods, for your most amazing gift. I won't soon forget it]

And now I am plotting how I can return to the mountains and just stay there.

24 July 2014

28 of 52: inner history nerd unleashed.

Week Two saw me head out on my own for a few days and eventually found me in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I had a few extra days in my itinerary, and when Britney mentioned that I might enjoy visiting Old Salem, I took her advice. I had a few extra days to play around with, so I found accommodation on Airbnb with Lauren and Sam - awesome people, by the way - and added it as a stop between Greensboro and Charlotte.

[front of the reynolda house. i'm a sucker for historical homes]
For a history nerd such as myself, Winston-Salem has two big draws: Reynolda House and Old Salem. I visited - and loved - both of them, as well as the smaller and lesser-known but equally impressive New Winston Museum.

[the bridge from the visitors center into old salem. you cross it and enter a different century entirely]
It was a nice mix-up of early 19th century, early 18th century, and overall Winston-Salem history, and the three tied pretty well together with each other. I found that questions I had in one were answered in another, and vice versa. I will do write-ups of all three when I can give it my full attention [read: probably in mid-August], but trust me when I say that taking that little detour through Winston-Salem was entirely worth it. These pictures are just a small sample to pique your interest :)

[the interior of the temporary location for the new winston museum. it's small, but it's thorough]
other highlights included: spending 2 days with Stu and Carrie and getting the tour of Greensboro; FINALLY learning how Buddy returned to the team in Hoosiers [thank you, collector's edition DVD and subsequent deleted scenes]; perusing the Rhodes College Faces from the 2002-2003 school year and catching up on gossip; lots of relaxing family time in Charlotte; saw Begin Again.

[setting off from fallston]
[the "alexander": cheese sticks topped with bacon and served with ranch sauce; named for stu and carrie's friend who may frequent this place on a daily basis]
[stu johnston + homemade guacamole + faces = hours of entertainment] 
[fantastic last meal in greensboro: a fried chicken biscuit the size of my face with a side of bacon thrown in for good measure]
[it's no memphis bbq, but the pulled pork at bib's downtown in winston-salem was pretty decent. but now i have my proof that memphis bbq is the best bbq]
[i took a stroll around downtown w-s and caught the sunset over the lights of the bb&t ballpark. beautiful weather, baseball, and a pretty sunset. makes for a pretty great evening]
It's weeks like these that unleash that inner history nerd of mine and remind me of how much has come before us to shape our world today.

But that's a whole other post that perhaps I will write one day.

17 July 2014

27 of 52: a few rhodes reunions.

Well, Week One of #veenontheroad is in our rearview mirror. It was a crazy week that saw me traverse the entire states of Tennessee and North Carolina, starting in Memphis and eventually finding myself in Carolina Beach, a distance of over 800 miles. And while there were certainly many highlights, I have to say that my time in Nashville, where I got to catch up with lots of Rhodes friends - some of whom I've not seen in 6+ years - was possibly my favourite.

When I arrived on Monday afternoon, I dropped my stuff off in Natasha's condo in the Gulch and found my way over to Lindsay and Steve's home. We spent some time catching up - which mostly consisted of playing with baby Evelyn - and we were eventually joined by Catherine and Drew. Steve made us a delicious dinner, and we capped it off with cookies and ice cream. Those 4 are some of my favourites from my Rhodes days, and I love that I've gotten to see them so often this year.

On Tuesday I met Lauren [Winkates] Ingwersen for lunch, and we spent the afternoon catching up over the last 9ish years of our lives. In the time since I last saw her she has moved around the US, married Lance, and has just returned from a year of living in Mexico City. I had mentioned visiting the Belmont Mansion, so after our awesome lunch at Hattie B's, we headed over there for a tour [fun fact: Adelicia Acklen, lady of the house, owned 3,500 china pieces comprising 7 full china sets!]. The tour wrapped up just in time for the Germany-Brazil World Cup semifinal game, so we decided to watch it from the 12 South Taproom. Lauren was one of the most genuine people I knew at Rhodes, and it was great to see that she's still the same as she ever was. I'm pretty thankful to the powers of social media for allowing us to get back in touch with each other after all this time.

[finally tried some of that hot chicken from hattie b's. totally worth all the hype]
[with winkates outside the belmont]
And on Tuesday night, I had dinner with Missy Flinn. Missy was my second KD Little Sis, and although we were good at keeping in touch for those first few years out of college, we both fell off the train after I moved to India. She moved to Nashville at the beginning of the year and just recently got engaged, so it was a joy to get to see her and hear all about how her move has been. She's pretty good people, and we spent about 3 hours at Sambuca, reminiscing and catching up.

[super delicious fried cheesecake with ice cream for dessert]
[so much love for this awesome little sis of mine]
And in between all of that, I got to hang out with Natasha once we both returned home for the night. I was glad I stayed with her so that I was able to catch up with her in the evenings, and that view from her 21st floor balcony certainly didn't hurt matters.

[view of nashville from natasha's condo. i could get used to this life]
I went to college with some pretty cool kids, and I loved having the opportunity to spend time with so many different people in just a few short days. I'm looking forward to being back in August and finding even more long-lost pals.

other highlights included: finished reading The Giver; listened to the audio version of The Graveyard Book during my drives; homecooked food in Knoxville and Fallston; attended my first ever bridal gown fitting [not for me, obviously]; BritsBachBeachBash in Carolina Beach.

[just a guy and his grill. love this kid something fierce]
[oh, bojangles'. you get me]
[pretty north carolina fields] 
[porch living is the life for me]
[can't believe this girl is getting married in less than a month!]
[went for a nice little run along the greenway in carolina beach]
[well hello there ocean] 
[this girl]
Week One set the bar pretty high, so I can't wait to see what Week Two brings.

16 July 2014

book review: the giver [lois lowry]

Every now and then I like to read or re-read children's classics. A few years ago I re-read The Borrowers and loved it, and I just recently read The Giver by Lois Lowry.

The Giver is now a staple in elementary and middle school classrooms, but because it was published in 1993, I just missed reading it while I was in school. I have been hearing about it for 20 years, but I had never read it until now. It's been on my list for years, but it took seeing the trailer for the upcoming film to finally kick my butt into gear.

The Giver tells the story of Jonas, a 12-year-old who lives in a community enveloped by Sameness. Everyone goes about their routine the same way each day while knowing that each day will be remarkably similar to the one before. Memories don't exist of feelings, colours, emotions, anything. Everything is the Same and has been for generations.

Each year, when a new batch of students become Twelves, they are given their assigned role in the community. Each new Twelve is observed and evaluated by the Elders to find the assignment that best matches their personalities so that they can fit seamlessly into the existing Community.

When Jonas turns Twelve, it is announced that he has been selected to be the new Receiver for the Community, and thus he embarks on a journey that will change his life. He meets the Giver, the Elder who currently holds all the memories of past generations - of back and back and back - so that community members can continue on with their lives, never knowing pain or fear or happiness or love.

As Jonas explores his gift and begins receiving memories - good and bad, happy and sad - from the Giver, he begins questioning his Community's way of life. Suddenly he sees in colour. He knows the pain and terror of war. He understands the love of family. And he begins to wonder why people decided to shut those memories out and cocoon themselves in their bubble of Sameness.

These are dangerous thoughts to have, and The Giver explores how Jonas and the Giver respond to the new challenges they face.

I really enjoyed reading this one, and I have a feeling it will be one I come back to in future years. It's a short little read, but it's got a lot to think about.

And be sure to read it before the movie comes out later this year!

07 July 2014

hitting the road for 5 weeks.

This next month is going to be a crazy one, but it is sure to be a fun and adventurous one as well.

I am heading out today for 5 weeks on the road. In those weeks I will be visiting Nashville, Knoxville, Charlotte, Carolina Beach, Charlottesville, Richmond, Chattanooga, and Asheville. I will be catching up with friends I've not seen in years and hopefully meeting a few new ones. I will be re-visiting places I've been before and exploring new towns and new sights. And I cannot wait for it to begin.

It has been years since I've been on a proper road trip - multiple states, random stops, lots of exploring - and I have been finding it difficult to talk about anything else. Between finalizing dates with friends, booking accommodations, planning routes, researching which museums I want to visit, figuring out budgets, and selecting audiobooks and podcasts to keep me company, it has been both a fun and a taxing process, and one that I have shared with anyone who would listen [and often those who didn't want to]. You know how they say that the anticipation of a trip is often better than the trip itself? I tend to agree with that, but in this case, I think I will be glad once the prep work is over and I am actually on the road.

I don't know yet how often or in what format I will be updating this space in the coming weeks. In some places I'll be busy, and in others I'll be directing my schedule a bit more, so it will come in stages, just like it always does. But I am excited to chronicle my adventures on here, in whatever capacity it may be, so that I can return to it in the future.

So here's to road trips and all they bring with them. Friends, both old and new. Adventures, both good and not-so-good. Memories, both big and small. And everything in between.

And especially to Bojangle's, which I fully expect to eat at least every third day while I'm on the road.

ps - I will likely be on an Instagram frenzy these next few weeks, so feel free to follow along on there, if you like. You can find me at @veen_83, and I will eventually come up with a hashtag to use along the way. Suggestions are welcome.

05 July 2014

26 of 52: ringing in the 4th.

I didn't really have any big plans for the 4th of July this year. Last weekend my mother and I had briefly discussed going to the Redbirds game, since they always have fireworks for the 4th, but we never really made a decision either way, and before either of us realized it, it was already Thursday evening and she had a lot of work.

Most of my friends were out of town, but luckily Christina was here, prepping for her move out of her apartment on Mud Island and into Katie Walsh's house in High Point. I wanted to watch the World Cup quarterfinals, and Christina wanted to see some fireworks, so we decided to head downtown and see where the afternoon and evening took us.

We started out in Bardog for a drink, some snacks, and the Brazil-Colombia match. It was pretty empty since it was mid-afternoon, but both of us forgot that they allow smoking inside, so we were both fine with leaving once the match finished.

The timing was perfect, as the match was over by 5pm, and the Redbirds were slated to get underway at 6.20pm. We headed up to AutoZone Park and managed to snag some tickets in the Field Boxes for $16 a piece. We took a wander, procured some strawberry daiquiris - complete with souvenir cups! - and people-watched for a bit before settling into our seats for the game.

[awesome ballpark in the heart of downtown]
The game itself was a little bit boring, and that is coming from someone who loves baseball games. The crowd was super quiet, and the announcer had zero enthusiasm; at one point I cheered and everyone in my section turned and looked at me like I was crazy. It was bizarre.

[the view from the bluff]
But then came the fireworks. And they were totally worth the slightly boring 9 innings. The Redbirds put on great fireworks every Friday night anyway, but they always do special shows for Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day, and last night was no exception. Because of the wind, we ended up covered in ash, but neither of us minded because the show was great.

[beautiful early evening weather for some baseball]
After that finished, around 9.15, we were walking back to the car when we realized that we could still catch the last firework show from the Mud Island River Park, set to begin at 9.30. Traffic was a nightmare anyway, so we walked down to the river and found a seat on the rocks just in time for the fireworks to begin. And wow. It was 25 straight minutes of awesome pyrotechnics, and we had a great vantage point for enjoying them.

[lots of people lined up for the fireworks action]
We figured traffic would still be crazy, so after the fireworks ended we went to Huey's for a drink and some fried mushrooms to pass the time, before finally leaving downtown around 10.40pm.

It was a fun day with a fun friend, and both managed to exceed our expectations for the day.

other highlights included: made prawn biryani by myself for dinner; overwhelmed by birthday wishes from all over the world; surpassed my $750 fundraising goal for St Jude [now aiming to raise $1,000 by December!]; lots of anticipation for my upcoming road trip;

[prawn biryani and bhindi fry. early birthday dinner]
[looks like little millie-girl missed me] 
[post 3-mile training run celebrations at waffle house]
[the boss got professional pictures taken of the peanut and the pumpkin just before pumpkin's first birthday this weekend. they're pretty adorable]
Happy belated Independence Day to my fellow Americans the world over. And remember to be thankful for the freedoms we so often take for granted.