the wonderful world of veena.

29 November 2014

46 of 52: beginning my farewell rounds.

One of the first things I did when I decided to accept the job in Bangalore was plot with Lindsay a time to visit Nashville. I knew I wanted to spend a few days with Evelyn - and I suppose with everyone else, too - before shipping out, and as luck would have it, last weekend worked perfectly for all of us. I checked with Natasha to see what her schedule was, and I decided to head over on Thursday to spend some time with her and Natalie, so I knew I would be getting to see most of my Nashville friends in one go.

As luck would have it, Steve finished work early on Thursday, so I got to spend some time with him and Evelyn - and later with Lindsay - before they went out for the evening and I made my way down to the Gulch. I dropped my stuff at Natasha's before the girls picked me up for dinner. We had an awesome dinner at Thai Esane followed by drinks at the newly-opened Prima [both places highly recommended, by the way] and then some much-needed vegging on the couch.

I continued to veg for most of Friday before heading back over to the Wright household. Steve had a work event, so Lindsay and I fed Miss Evelyn dinner and ordered some pizza for ourselves. We entertained ourselves with some television and caught up over a few months worth of stuff before turning in.

On Saturday we took little E to the park close to their house and then for a visit to Marathon Village, an old motor works that now houses various local shops. We grabbed some Hattie B's for lunch and then went to Drew and Catherine's to watch the Arkansas game. Steve took Evelyn home, and Catherine and I caught up while Lindsay took a nap. L and I had a late dinner at Taqueria del Sol before picking up ice cream on our way home.

[she's pretty much the coolest girl i know]
[no trip to nashville is complete without a stop by the taproom]
And on Sunday we gathered for a brunch of friends at the ML Rose -- Drew, Catherine, Natasha, Natalie, Steve Berneman, Kristin, Steve Wright, and later Lindsay and Evelyn once E woke up from her nap. It was such a fun meal, and it made me so happy to have everyone together in one place.

[my sendoff crew. love these kids]
After a quick drive to Memphis and a Grizzlies-Clippers game on Sunday evening, I packed up and drove down to Baton Rouge on Monday to see Lisa, Jonathan, and Devin. I've not been to Baton Rouge since they moved over a year ago, and I especially wanted to see them since Devin is now 2.5 and baby number 2 is due in early January.

Devin was napping when I arrived, so Lisa and I got to catch up for a bit until he woke up. We went for an early dinner to Parrain's, which was fantastic [and where I randomly had eaten on my last visit to BR in 2008]. It was the first time I had tried chargrilled oysters, and they were pretty yummy, as were all of the other goodies we had.

On Tuesday I hung out with Devin while Lisa went in to work, and we spent a few hours playing with trains and working on puzzles. He's such a bright little guy, and it was really cool being able to have a conversation with someone so small. Lisa and I spent some time chatting while Devin was napping, and once he woke up and had a snack, we met Jonathan and went to LSU's campus to visit Mike the Tiger. Because, yes, LSU has built a habitat in front of the football stadium where their mascot lives. So, you know, there's just a tiger hanging out on campus. No big deal. And after Devin fell asleep, Lisa, Jonathan, and I ordered pizza and enjoyed a quiet evening at home.

It was so great to get to see such wonderful friends and to spend some time with the next generation of cool kids. I've said it before, but I really am so grateful for the wonderful friendships I found at Rhodes and for how they endure regardless of time or distance.

I logged 1,000 miles in a week, and it was entirely worth it.

28 November 2014

veen on the road: the stuff i took.

Now that we've covered all the things I ate, the places I saw, and the books I read and listened to, how about all the stuff I took with me? Sure, why not. [note: this is my final road trip post, so we can all move on now!]

Here's what my trunk looked like when I left Memphis:

[5 weeks of my life, all packed up and ready to hit the road]
Since it was a road trip, I didn't need to worry about over-packing or baggage limits or anything like that, which was nice. I tried not to take too much stuff, but I gave myself some allowances, particularly when it came to shoes.

So let's get to it.

The Gear:

the rucksack. I have had this rucksack for 4 years, and I love it. It's survived living in India as well as excursions to London and Nepal with me, and it shows no signs of slowing down. I love that it has both front- and top-loading capabilities, so I can always easily access my stuff, and I like the numerous pockets and nooks where I can store things. Because I bought it at a place that had an Osprey oven, I was able to get the hip belt molded to my frame, so it sits perfectly on my hips.

the backpack. Last year I wrote about how my father pretty much bribed me into getting a new backpack and retiring my old LL Bean buddy. My ultimate choice was a North Face Surge II backpack, and I have really liked it. It's got a laptop compartment and padded shoulder straps, so it sits really comfortably with my computer, and I love all the tiny pockets and hidden compartments. There's a spot for pretty much everything, and it has been great both as a laptop bag and as a day pack to wander around with. [note: mine is yellow, but it doesn't seem to be available on Amazon, so the link is to my other favourite colour and possibly the one I would have chosen had it been in stock when I purchased mine]

the purse. I ordered this crossbody purse last December as an early Christmas present for myself and have loved it. I needed a nicer bag that I could also use everyday, and because I tend to sling my bags around, I needed one with a zipper so that I don't lose anything. This one gets extra points for being big enough to fit a book and for having an inner zip closure as well as two small pockets inside, perfect for my keys and my phone. And that's not including another zip pocket on the outside as well as an open pocket on the opposite side. It's held up well with everything I've thrown its way, and it looks like it will be around for a little while longer. I'm thinking of getting a more casual one so that I can trade them out from time-to-time and have put this one on my Wish List; I like the bohemian look of it, but I'm having trouble deciding on which pattern I prefer. [note: I ordered the second one, and I already love it. it's very similar to the one I already had but is much more casual]

the all-purpose tote. This was an impulse buy last year when we were going to India, and I couldn't help myself. I'm such a sucker for tote bags that can then be folded up, and this was no exception, and it has turned out to be even more useful than I anticipated. I use it for overnight or weekend road trips, and it was a great carry-all for this trip. I loaded pretty much all of my extra things into it: toiletries, extra books, extra chargers and batteries, running paraphernalia, first aid name it, it probably ended up in here at some point. It's huge, it can hold a surprising amount of stuff, and it's pretty comfortable to carry. I have loved it, and my mother has even used it for a few trips herself, so it comes highly recommended from the Rangaswami household.

the everyday tote. I bought this on a whim from Old Navy in early summer thinking it would be a good beach bag / everyday bag for my trip. My main train of thought was that it would be good for Britney's bachelorette weekend at the beach and for day trips when I wanted to carry my big camera with me. It served me well for both occasions and is still in great condition. It's got nice strong straps, which earns it an automatic two-thumbs up from me.

The Clothes:
[note: sure, I took too many clothes. if you're pressed for space or weight, you could definitely take out a few everyday t-shirts, one or two of the singlets, and possibly even a pair of jeans. to each his - or her - own]

the everyday t-shirts / sleeveless tops. If memory serves correctly, I think I took around 7 cotton v-necks, 2 or 3 cotton crew necks, and 3 sleeveless shirts. I could have taken fewer, but they don't take up much space and it was nice to have the extras when I had to stretch between laundry days.

the tank tops. one navy, one blue, one tan. they don't take up space in your luggage, and they go with everything.

the nice shirts. I took one nice sleeveless shirt, one nice short-sleeve shirt, and two nice tunics, and that was pretty much enough for the purposes of my trip.

the shorts. one denim, one black, one green, and one pair of denim bermudas. it was nice to have the variety depending on the weather and what I was doing on a given day.

the jeans. two pairs, one denim and one black. more than enough, especially since it was summer.

the cardigan. this has become my go-to cardigan, and I have gotten so much wear out of it. it's super comfortable, and it's warm without being hot, so it's perfect for the summer when it's hot outside but often chilly in restaurants or museums. and the teal colour goes with most of my wardrobe.

the skirts. one denim mini and one knee-length jersey material. they went with everything I packed and were great alternatives if I didn't feel like wearing shorts but it was too hot to wear jeans.

the rain jacket. I love that it can be a shell during the warmer months but can zip a fleece in during winter. it came in very handy during some of the super rainy days I encountered.

the running capris. I took my two most comfortable pairs, and that was more than enough.

the running singlets. I took 3 or 4, and I picked up 2 at the Nike outlet store in Charlotte. too many considering how many times I actually ran, but I'm glad I had them with me.

the workout shorts. two pair. they were great for workouts and for just bumming around in.

the t-shirts. 4 short-sleeves and 1 long-sleeve. I mostly used them to sleep in, but it was nice to have some extras just in case. and the long-sleeve came in handy for my drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and for my stay in Kilmarnock when we were on the water and evenings were chilly.

the boxers. 3 pairs for sleeping.

the socks. 4 pair of running / workout socks -- I like the ones with a little extra padding, since they add some cushion for my hopelessly flat feet.

the swimsuit + cover-up. I knew I would have at least 2 opportunities for swimming, one during Britney's bachelorette weekend and one at Pete's birthday party, but since they were far enough apart, I only took one swimsuit with me, which was plenty. I picked up a cover-up from Target the week before I left for about $10, and it served me well.

the underwear / bras / sports bras. pretty self-explanatory. I took a lot of underwear so that I wouldn't need to scramble to do laundry [I did laundry 3 times in the 5 weeks: once at Stu and Carrie's in Greensboro, once at Dada and Baa's in Charlotte, and once at Ken and Ellen's in Chattanooga; I was only desperate going into Chattanooga, but otherwise I was fine].

the anarkali + bridesmaid dress. these were taken specifically for the wedding weekend, so they stayed in the car the entire time except for my time in Chattanooga and when I got to Leicester for the wedding. since they both hung in the backseat, they were not an intrusion.

The Shoes:
[note: I know I took far too many shoes, but the last two in the list were pretty much strictly because of the wedding; if not for that, I would have left them both at home. the hiking shoes were also unnecessary; if I had it to do over again, I would take my Chacos instead, since they're much more versatile]

the toms. these are probably my most-worn shoes, and one of my all-time favourites. they're so comfortable, especially for long walks or strolls, and they go with pretty much anything. I've worn one pair down to the bone and have another two that I alternate between. and I love the one-for-one model.

the running shoes. when I was in the market for new running shoes back in April, I went to Breakaway, our local running store, and got the guys there to suggest a shoe for me. because of the flat feet, I need shoes that have extra support and a low arch, and these have been great. I just got new insoles for them, and I feel like I have a brand new pair of shoes!

the birkenstocks. the best buy of the summer. I've had a pair of Birkenstock clogs for 16 years, and although they're worn down, I still wear them every now and then during the winter. at the beginning of the summer, though, I decided it might be time for a new pair, particularly a pair of comfy sandals that would be good for long days of walking [I know I harp on my flat feet a lot, but they hurt when I'm on them for a long time]. These came in so handy on my trip, and I wore them nearly every day on my excursions. They're so comfortable, they've got great support, and even after they're broken in they don't look worn-down. And since they're blue, they match nearly everything I own.

the flip flops. I'll be honest, these weren't my favourite ever pair of flip flops, and I didn't wear them too much, but they're really not that bad. they were fine for short amounts of time, but if I wore them for too long they would start to hurt my heels [that's flat feet for you].

the other flip flops. perfect for the beach, or for padding around a home with cold floors. so versatile, and so comfortable.

the flats. these are my basic black flats that I wear through every winter and then replace in the spring. they're really comfortable, and they don't pinch my feet, so I like them a lot. I'll be honest, though: I only wore them once or twice on my trip, but that was mostly because I didn't really go out for nice dinners or things where I couldn't wear sandals.

the hiking shoes. an unnecessary addition. the only time I wore them was on my drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even then I really would have been fine with just my running shoes. if I had it to do all over again, I would have switched these out for my Chacos, as those would have been good for my daily activities as well.

the rain boots. I chose to throw these in the trunk since I was driving, and I'm so glad I did. even though I probably only wore them 3 times, they were definitely worth carrying, especially when the monsoon followed me to Charlottesville and Monticello. I bought these when I was living in Little Rock, and they have proved to be a great purchase; I like that they're not standard wellies and could be worn as part of my "business casual" dress code in grad school. [note: mine are a slightly different design than those in the link, but they're the same brand and quite similar]

the nice sandals. again, only worn twice, but they were necessary to go with the Anarkali for Britney and Brandon's rehearsal dinner. and then I promptly forgot them at the Yesterday Spaces farmhouse, so they are now living in Knoxville until I can reclaim them. but they came in handy.

the wedges. only taken to be worn for the wedding and remained in my trunk for most of the journey.

The Tech:

the laptop. because I was still doing work for The Wandering Samaritan for the first few weeks of my trip, I needed the computer. and it was great for responding to emails, booking various things, and watching Netflix.

the kindle. so that I could carry as many books as I wanted with me.

the camera. to take pretty pictures along my journey.

the other camera [a sony cybershot from 2009]. because sometimes that giant camera can be a hindrance, and this one fits easily into a handbag or even sometimes a pocket.

the phone. for obvious reasons: phone calls, messages, Google Maps, pictures, and playing Bingo.

the chargers / batteries.

The Toiletries:
[note: I feel like these are pretty self-explanatory, so I won't go into details. just thought I'd list them out]

the body wash.
the shampoo + conditioner.
the razor.
the deodorant / body glide.
the toothbrush / toothpaste / floss / mouthwash.
the q-tips.

The First-Aid Kit:
I am generally a little accident-prone anyway, but it's also always a good idea to travel with a few key first-aid items in case anything happens along the way. Luckily I didn't need anything more than this during my trip, but you can add or take away items as you deem fit.

the band-aids. these are my favourites because they are waterproof and because they come in Batman and Strawberry Shortcake patterns.

the eye drops. because my eyes don't produce enough tears and so become super dry and bloodshot if I don't get enough sleep or have been driving for too long.

the painkillers. Aleve for cramps and Advil for general aches and pains.

The Running Gear:
I enjoy running, but all the accoutrements that come along with it are kind of crazy.

the armband. I am not one to carry my phone when I run, and I like this armband a lot because my phone fits in with its case on. I also like the velcro strap, so I can adjust it based on how many layers I'm wearing.

the earbuds. I lost my previous pair of running earphones, so I made do with my Apple earbuds. I like them for the volume control, but I dislike them because they fall out of my ears a lot. I have since gotten a new pair, but I'm not entirely pleased with them, either. If anyone out there has suggestions, I'm all ears.

the body glide. Katie Walsh introduced me to this last year when I was training for my first half marathon, and I have not looked back. it really helps prevent chafing, and I am still using the one I bought in August of 2013, so it's well worth it.

The Books:
I carried three paper books with me - On the Road, which I didn't even open, This is Where I Leave You, which I did, and Americanah, which I began at the end of my journey - and then read the rest on my Kindle or listened to them on my Audible app while driving.

The Gifts:
As a thank you for all of my various hosts, I carried with me bags of "Memphis Mix" popcorn from Sweet Noshings. I knew all the Rhodents would especially appreciate it, and I knew it would be a good gift for airbnb hosts as well. It really didn't take up much space, it made the car smell like popcorn for a month, and because I bought 10 bags, I got one more bag for free. Love me some Sweet Noshings.

And there you have it, everything I carried with me on my summer road trip.

27 November 2014

a day for giving thanks.

Every few years I remember to post a list of the things I am thankful for on here, and in reading my list from two years ago, many of them are still the same. I am one lucky lady, with family and friends who love and support me, opportunities for travel and adventure around every corner, and the ability to follow my dreams, wherever they may take me.

I have been reminded of just how thankful I am in the last few months. After many months of unemployment and uncertainty as to when that would change, I was offered a wonderful opportunity in Bangalore, one of my beloved home cities. During those in-between months, I was lucky enough to have a home with my parents, to have various part-time jobs, and to have the opportunity to take off on a pretty awesome 5-week road trip. I was able to visit friends near and far, to play both tourist and tour guide, and to explore this great city of Memphis. While there were days I didn't leave my house - or sometimes even change out of my pajamas - I always knew how lucky I was, despite lamenting my lack of work. I had a home, I had shelter, and I had all the little luxuries I have become accustomed to.

I am also extremely thankful for community. I have been blessed beyond measure when it comes to my friends, and I can boast that I literally have friends all over the world. They have always been supportive and encouraging, and during my time in Memphis, I have leaned on my friends when I've felt down or uninspired. It has been great being a part of this community again, and I will be eternally grateful for the time I've had with all of my friends here.

Life is always going to have its ups and downs, but taking time to remember how lucky we are helps us keep perspective. While we in the States [and our friends north of the border] have a day set aside for giving thanks, it really is one of those things that should be part of our daily lives. I am not always great about it, but I try to take 5 minutes before I go to bed to remind myself how lucky I am and how many things I have to be thankful for.

I hope all of you out there had a wonderful day full of my ultimate trifecta: family, food, and football.

Regardless of where you are in the world, remember to give thanks.

18 November 2014

45 of 52 / 35before35: my first packers game.

Last weekend Christina and I got to fulfill a huge wish and also cross off the number 1 item on my 35before35 list:
  1. Go to a Packers game at Lambeau Field.
That's right, I finally made it to an NFL game. And not just any NFL game, but a Packers game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

At the beginning of this season the idea of going to a game kept cropping up in my conversations with Christina. Every time we got together to watch a game, we would revisit the idea, until one night we finally went for it. We booked game tickets, flight tickets, a rental car, and an airbnb stay in Green Bay. And then it began sinking in: We were going to a game in Green Bay!

As the trip creeped closer, we kept an eye on the forecast, brainstormed things to do in Green Bay and with our extra day in Chicago, and planned out all the layers we would need to carry with us.

Our flight on Friday was delayed by about an hour, so it was 6.30pm by the time we landed in Midway, collected our bags, and picked up our rental car and hit the road. We stopped on the way out of Chicago for food - overlooking the interstate, no less - and again in Wisconsin for fuel, landing up in Green Bay around 10.30pm. We were heading for the house we were staying in, but then we caught a glimpse of the stadium on the other side of the river, so we made a detour to head over there first. We were shocked to see we could pull into the parking lot outside the atrium and wander around the stadium's exterior to our heart's content. Since we had been in the car we weren't dressed adequately for the cold, so we didn't last too long, but we got a few pictures before we went and got checked in.

[eating dinner while overlooking an interstate. because that's how we roll]
[hanging with coach lombardi] 
[the atrium and pro shop]
[my new happy place]
[a lambeau field selfie. because why not]
We slept in on Saturday and then set off for the stadium. First things first, we booked ourselves onto the 7pm Champions Tour of the stadium [definitely got the last 2 tickets on the last tour of the day] and then went to Curly's Pub for Bloody Mary's and some pub fare -- cheese curds, bratchos [nachos with bratwurst], and a Flambeau Burger. All the food was good, and we stuffed ourselves silly before spending way too much on goodies at the Packers Pro Shop.

[you know you're in green bay when...]
[just looking at this picture makes me feel like i need to run a few miles]
[want a 3ft tall bobblehead? only costs you $750]
Following a drive through town - where we spotted the Zippin Pippin at its new home! - and a nap, we returned to Lambeau to take our tour of the stadium. We got to visit one of the suites, go up to the top of the stadium, test out the acoustics with some 'Go Pack Go' cheers, learn about the history of the Packers and Lambeau Field, say hi to Coach McCarthy, and walk out the players' tunnel and onto the field level. It was, to put it simply, amazing. There is so much history in that stadium, and it was pretty surreal to walk the same path as every Packer great in the history of the franchise.

[yep, that's the field behind me. with the snow falling. beautiful]
[13 of them. pretty awesome]
[the men who made the green bay legacy what it is]
[love all the artifacts and all the history] 
[this place]
[the world's greatest slip-and-slide]
[we're on the field!]
[standing on lambeau field while snow is falling all around you? pretty awesome]
To wrap up our night we ended up at Legend Larry's for drinks and some wings and to watch the second half of the Arkansas-LSU game. Arkansas won, which was awesome, and I even got one lady at the bar to chant 'Woo Pig' -- pretty great considering Bielema left Wisconsin to take the Arkansas job.

On Sunday we got up early to grab a free parking spot near the Brett Favre Steakhouse and then went to The Bar on Holmgren Way for "breakfast", which was an appetizer platter full of a lot of fried stuff. We went back to the Steakhouse to watch some of the noon games and then go to the tailgate outside: for $25 you get unlimited food and drinks - including mimosas and Bloody Mary's - and get to carouse with other Packer fans. It was alright, but it was so cold outside that we were kind of miserable by the end of it.

[these are all the clothes i wore for the game, not including the north face fleece and shell that i added later]
[the winter wonderland we awoke to on sunday morning] 
[tailgating and pre-partying with a few thousand of our newest friends]
We left early anyway so that we could layer up some more before going to the stadium. We wanted to get there early enough to find and settle into our seats before the players ran out, and we also managed to snag a few of the seats so we had cushions and backrests - both crucial to combat cold bleachers and sore backs. Our seats were in the corner of the north end zone, and we had a great view of the entire field. Our neighbours were super friendly and rather hilarious, and we had a great time chatting with them and cheering and sharing high-fives each time the Packers made a good play.

[the view from our seats. we were pretty happy]
The game itself was so much fun. The atmosphere in the stadium was great, and the team played so well on all sides. Aaron had some great throws; Randall and Jordy both had great catches; Eddie Lacy had a great touchdown reception; Micah Hyde returned a punt for a touchdown; and Julius Peppers had a pick-six. The team was firing on all cyclinders, and Christina and I kept remarking that we couldn't have picked a better game to be at. It was pretty spectacular.

The icing on the cake was that I got to have a little roomie reunion with Inge, my Baylor roommate. She is currently doing her residency in Madison, and she just happened to be at the game with a friend whose family has season tickets. It was so great to see her, and we spent about 10 minutes chatting before going back to our seats.

[the 'haha room' reunited]
Even though we left a little early to beat the traffic - we were driving back to Chicago that night - it was still a supremely surreal experience. I can't believe that after 31 years, I finally made it to an NFL game. Getting to see my favourite team in their stadium made it even better.

other highlights included: took a tour of St Jude with Christina and Abby; Baylor alumni event at Hog & Hominy; finally got to spend some time with Pooja and meet her husband; St Jude Heroes Happy Hour [that included a free pint glass!]; super awesome seats for the super awesome Grizz-Kings game; binge-listened to the Serial podcast; Arkansas won an SEC game!; fun day exploring Chicago.

[flags at st jude representing the nationalities of patients, doctors, researchers, staff, etc. pretty cool to see]
[baylor alum event at hog & hominy. loved getting to see these two]
[can't beat this view at a grizzlies game]
[we even had seat service! #legit]
[chicago by night, as seen from our hotel room]
[and by day]
[navy pier on a blustery monday morning]
[lighthouse shining out in the distance] 
[it was such a beautiful morning, and the water was so clear]
[looking back at the city]
[the obvious picture we have to take to document our visit to the bean] 
[such a weird and cool thing]
[sipping on cocktails on the 96th floor. pretty dope. and yes, that IS bacon in my drink. and it was delicious]
[oddly enough, the best view from the signature lounge is from the ladies' room]
[deep dish stuffed pizza from giardano's. serious stuff]
the list:

  1. Go to a Packers game at Lambeau Field.
  2. Finish reading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan [I'm currently on book 4 of 19; this might end up being for my 40 before 40 list...].
  3. Visit 3 new countries.
  4. Be vegetarian for one month.
  5. Complete a full marathon [yep, definitely lost my mind].
  6. Learn a second language.
  7. Learn to scuba dive.
  8. Read one book by Ayn Rand [either The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged].
  9. See a show on Broadway.
  10. Treat myself to a proper spa day.
  11. Take a spontaneous road trip.
  12. Try at least 2 new foods.
  13. Learn to [properly] drive a stick shift.
  14. Go parasailing.
  15. Visit any / all of the following: Ladakh, Manali, Darjeeling, Amritsar.
  16. Read Gone With the Wind.
  17. Drive along the Scottish and Welsh coastlines.
  18. Take a cross-country train journey.
  19. Spend an entire weekend watching the Star WarsIndiana Jones, and The Godfather trilogies.
  20. Go unplugged and off the grid for one week.
  21. Take a cooking class.
  22. Go on a blind date.
  23. Pay for a stranger's meal.
  24. Take a spin or barre class.
  25. Go to Las Vegas.
  26. Read the books on this list that I've not already completed / read so long ago that I don't remember them.
One down, lots more to go!