Greetings from the East Coast!

I've been pleasantly surprised by how well things have gone so far. My flights were all on time, my baggage arrived safely (well, mostly, but the $16 bag[tm] needs some TLC) and Andy was waiting on me in Baltimore to pick me up.

I'm such a horrendous planner—I found myself thinking several times on the way yesterday "Well, I tried to think of everything and anticipate everything about this day, but I didn't anticipate this…"I had an unusual seatmate on my Atlanta-Baltimore leg of the trip—an elderly black nun, who spent most of the trip reading a murder mystery. It was all I could do not to stare and ask questions; I was fascinated by everything from the lace on her collar (which looked to be Battenburg, a favorite of mine) to her cowl.

Her hands fascinated me. Some people like to look at faces; I like to look at hands, because sometimes they tell you more about the person than they want to admit. Whoever this lady was—and I never heard her name—she has worked, and worked hard. She had the hands of someone who has done hard physical labor in her life. But her nails were perfectly trimmed and impeccably clean.

On takeoff and landing she would close her book and her eyes and rest her head back against her chair. Her expression was one of such calm that I wanted to turn to her and drink it in, as I had no such thing.

Other things: Andy's house is quite cozy. It is also, I'm ashamed to say, more decorated than my own, and he hasn't been living in his for as long as Jeff and I have been living in ours. I reminded myself a time or two last night that Andy hasn't had to spend a significant amount of time undoing the decorating mistakes of the house's previous owners, and that my blank-canvas house is as much of progress as what he's done here.

The house is smaller than ours, and laid out completely differently. A basement, which I haven't seen (basements! such a luxury! why can't we have them in the American South?); the first floor, which consists of the kitchen, the reading room, and the living room; and the second floor, where the main bathrooms and bedrooms are. I'm currently sitting in the living room, bashing out this entry as fast as I can; I have things I want to do today.

(Of couse, I'm sitting here in pajamas and haven't even brushed my hair yet. So it's still going to be a little while before I get out of the house and go exploring)

Andy seems to have a fascination with matrushka dolls. You know what they are, even if you don't recognize the name—the dolls of smaller and smaller sizes that fit inside each other. He has three sets on the mantel, and I'm squinting in the low light but I think that there are a couple more sets over on the entertainment center. They are beautifully and lavishly painted, and it's hard to resist the urge to go over to the mantel and pick one up. The curious child in me wants to know how they're painted and wants to try putting them inside each other—just to see how it all works.

But I am a good guest. I don't touch. Doesn't mean my curiosity isn't killing me!

Only bad spot in yesterday was a small mishap I had late last night. I'd just changed into pajamas and was coming back downstairs when I forgot to keep my eyes on my feet.

An explanation: I wear no-line bifocals. (Yes, I'm 23. It's a long story.) While I do have moderate-to-strong nearsightedness, I also have very strong and very different astigmatism prescriptions for each eye. As a result, the refraction in my small glasses is pretty strong, and when walking down stairs, I have to be careful. Often I'll see a stairstep in my glasses and see it again outside of my glasses. The problem is that because of the astigmatism, they don't quite appear to be in the same place.

Woe betide the domesticat who attempts to step on the wrong stair, for she then goes crashing down the stairs.

The good part is that I'm okay. Mostly. The bad part—did I HAVE to catch my fall on the doorknob? It whacked my right arm pretty hard, and I think I'm going to have a pretty significant bruise. There's a four-square-inch area on the lower part of my right arm that I can barely stand to touch. I'll just have to wear long-sleeved shirts to cover it all up.

Vacations are a good thing. Right now, though, I think I shall go get dressed, plot out my shopping course for the day, and begin my adventure. I'm about to go drive on the Beltway….eeeeek!