And here's Reese...
Friday, June 26, 2009
And here's Reese...
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
In addition to encountering the wandering Presidents, we were on the jumbotron during the 7th inning stretch, dancing away with Screech the Eagle. And when we found out his name was Screech, at least three of us turned to each other and made an exclamation about "Saved by the Bell." Ahh, childhood memories.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
...and the back of our home (which is actually two homes)...and do you see the two windows on the top floor on the right? The reciprocating saw and I got to cut through the blueboard insulation and send it plummeting to the ground so we could put windows in. I want to spend more time with power tools, please. I cut through nails with that thing!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Last Thursday morning about fifteen of us gathered in the lobby at work and then walked over to the White House to check out the home of the First Family and all of the inner goings-on. I was secretly hoping that Michelle would pop out and offer us some coffee...or that we might see adorable little Bo frolicking about on the lawn. Well, let me just put that to rest and say that we didn't not see/greet/come anywhere near any two-legged or four-legged member of the Obama family. Stinkers. However, we did get to feel kinda important for about a second as we lined up alphabetically by last name and made our way past the security/Army/defender of the free world guy who checked our names off the pre-approved list and allowed us to proceed on to the metal detector.
Now, we'd read beforehand that the tour is self-guided, and they really mean it. You're handed a combo map/pamphlet and told to escort yourself through several rooms on the ground and state floors of the East Wing. There are security officers in each room who are there to answer any questions you may have (along with serving an actual security purpose, I'm sure) as well as a few explanatory signs posted along the way, but we made do with our handy pamphlet. There were a few other groups who seemed to have some fairly knowledgeable people leading them around, but we never could determine exactly where those people came from. Of course, no cameras allowed anywhere near this tour, but I do have a few tidbits for you, made out of words rather than images, of a few of the rooms we got to see:
- East Room - the largest room in the White House, it is used for receptions, ceremonies, press conferences, and other events. Nellie Grant, Alice Roosevelt, and Lynda Bird Johnson held their weddings here, and the bodies of seven Presidents have lain in state in this room. When we were there it was set up for a jazz concert later that evening. They only hold tours in the morning, and then they whisk away the ropes and poles and mats, put all the rugs back in place, and go on with their days.
- Blue Room - often used by the President to receive guests, and it is furnished to represent the period of James Monroe. The White House Christmas tree is placed in this room.
- Red Room - frequently used for small receptions and often a favorite room of the First Ladies. John Adams used it as a breakfast room, and Rutherford B. Hayes took the oath of office there in 1877.
- Other rooms we could take a peek in and/or walk through - library, Vermeil Room, China Room, Green Room, State Dining Room, and the entrance and cross halls.
We saw quite a few portraits along the way, including 1797 portrait of George Washington that has hung in the White House since 1800. Dolly Madison saved it when the British burned the White House in 1814 in retaliation for the destruction of some public buildings in Canada by American troops. And a couple more history bits for you...every President except George Washington has conducted the government of the nation here, and the Trumans had to move out from 1948-1952 when the severely weakened structure was rebuilt.All in all, we zipped through in about 30 minutes. We probably could have gotten a bit more out of the experience with a stop at the White House Visitor Center, but I'll probably go hit up in some random winter month when it's less clogged with tour groups.
I got to go see the President's house! From the inside!
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
#1 choice? The Phillips Collection! I've actually been wanting to check this one out for a while, and while I was concerned that it might be a little bonkers given that it was a summer weekend coupled with free admission...it really wasn't too bad. Maybe a few too many young hooligans running around, but I've accepted that as an inevitable fact of life, especially when I live in the land of tourists. This museum has pretty much my ideal mix of art housed and displayed in a really great way - modern and Impressionist art in an old mansion coupled with bright, open spaces. They have a number of pieces from Rothko, O'Keeffe, Hopper, Klee, Matisse, Picasso, van Gogh, Degas, and Cézanne, and I loved how the museum is organized - rather than grouping it by artist (with the exception of the Rothko Room, which I think is better experienced on a weekday afternoon when absolutely no one else is around) or genre or time period, the art is organized in "conversational groups" (sorry if I'm getting a little artsy on you here, but I think it's interesting), encouraging you to look for similarities and differences in the paintings and/or sculptures in the different rooms. It's definitely a different way to look at the art, which I appreciated.
The museum space is a combination of the Phillips house (a Georgian Revival home dating to 1897), a former apartment building next door to the Phillips house, a modernist wing, a courtyard, and other amazing gallery spaces. I really enjoyed taking in not only the art, but also the details of this remarkable old home. One of the fireplaces had marble tiles, each one intricately detailed with its own fleur-de-lis, and they actually encourage you to take a seat on the furniture in the home and admire the art...as opposed to roping it off and yelling at you when you come within five feet.
In connection with the jazz festival, I listened to a great pianist in one of the larger rooms in the Phillips house along with some interpretive fiddling/violin/impressive-foot-pedal-action that was the musician's interpretation of the art in one of the larger modern gallery spaces. Also in connection with the jazz festival...an "instrument petting zoo" where kids (or anyone, really, but you can bet I wasn't going anywhere near the germ collection known as the reed instruments) could try out all kinds of different instruments. Allow me to describe this for you. Ummm...loud. Yup, that pretty much sums it up. Although one of the little guys was actually getting pretty good with that snare drum.
I absolutely loved the Phillips Collection, and I will definitely be going back for their extended hours on Thursdays and Sunday concerts starting back up in October. Isn't this city great?
From the Phillips Collection I made my way over to the Woodrow Wilson House, which happens to be Washington's only presidential museum. Wilson lived here after his presidency, and it houses quite a few historical artifacts and gifts he received from diplomatic leaders. Did you know that diplomatic relations with Ethiopia were established during the Wilson administration? Neither did I, but I became acutely aware of it when I encountered native dances and all kinds of coffee in Woodrow's pretty nice gardens. I think I'll call him Woody from here on it - Woodrow just sounds so stiff and formal. Anyway, I think I would get more out of the home by actually taking a tour, but it was interesting to walk through the home and check out some of the items on display (they had a movie room!), and I always find it fascinating when these homes smack in the middle of the city, have expansive lawns and gardens. So pretty! And outdoorsy!
After Woody's house, I was up for...the Textile Museum! That's right, textiles. Have their own museum. Right here in our nation's capital. It's conveniently located about two houses down from Woody, so I figured a fairly quick stop would be worth the short trip. I didn't spend too much time there, but I did invest in a little quality time with the Amish quilts and turbans and ceremonial robes from all around the world. Oh, and you know how I mentioned special events were going on this weekend in conjunction with the whole "free admission" bit? Apparently that includes sheep shearing demonstrations at the Textile Museum. That's right, back on the huge lawn behind the museum they had a couple of sheep. I definitely was not expecting to see any sheep on my museum adventures, but I patted them on the head and went on my merry way.
Having not quite tapped out my art limit for the day, I decided that my merry way should take me over to Artomatic, a massive collection of local artists' pieces spread over nine stories in a warehouse, complete with music stages, dance troupes, and all kinds of other crazy artsy stuff. It's basically intended as a gallery space for all of these local artists over a month-long spread, and if I had some extra cash to throw around and some more space on my walls, I might be tempted to pick up some really great photography shots to liven up the apartment. Right besdie all the art I might actually want to purchase...resides all kinds of crazy stuff. A display of art made out of Peeps (yes, those marshmallow guys that pop up around Easter - my personal favorite was "Top Peep" where they were displayed in a kitchen setting ala "Top Chef"), life-sized Obama family finger puppets, miniature drag queen Presidential busts, and plenty of other crazy stuff. There was so much I didn't even get to, so odds are I might make a return trip before it closes on July 5. Not necessarily to buy anything, but I could take in a concert while wandering an industrial space filled with crazy art - pretty cool in my book.
After all of this art and history business (which gave rise to a totally-Picasa-worthy kind of day...I'll let you know when the pics are all up, you know I needed some serious food. Another DC Tex-Mex attempt at Tortilla Coast...and it was ok. Not stellar, but not terrible. At least the chips and salsa were tasty! Such an important benchmark. Rio Grande is still winning in this Texan's opinion. And even though I'm sure I had plenty to eat, it didn't stop me from picking up a toasted marshmallow shake at Good Stuff Eatery, snapping a sneaky picture of Spike (of Top Chef fame, which isn't really that famous, but is kinda food-famous in my world), and walking as far as Union Station before giving out and taking the Metro two stops home. Oh, and I'm quite partial to seeing the Capitol from the back...much fewer people, and it's pretty peaceful to sit on one of the benches with a milkshake and take in the sunset. Not a bad way to end the day.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Us being the crazy baking fools that we are, the first thing we did when I rolled into town around 10:30 was...go to the grocery store. I mean, we needed supplies for our chocolate adventure! Our chocolate adventure in the form of chocolate madeleines with toasted almonds and coffee! They are really, really delicious and remarkably rich. Go ahead and make some.
More food adventures for the weekend consisted of:
- traveling into the depths of the forest for a Carolina barbecue adventure at Allen & Son. Crazy Carolinians do this whole vinegar "sauce" and pork thing, which is vastly different from my Texas knowledge of thick, tomato-based sauces and beef beef beef. My verdict? Both are quite tasty, just in very different ways.
- a stop at this amazing drive-through/walk-up burger place that appropriately goes by the name of Cook Out. That burger tasted like it came straight off a backyard grill, and they have about a million amazing milkshake options. I highly recommend peanut butter fudge, even if you end up throwing away half of it because you just can't eat anymore.
- refreshing afternoon treats at Locopop, where I learned that the name is actually Locopop and not Local Pop...funny what gets lost when you just chat over the phone. This place makes awesome ice cream pops - I had chocolate chile, which both froze my mouth and set it on fire. How amazing is that?
- Mexican food at Carrburritos! Fish tacos for me and nachos for my sis...nothing to say here but yum.
- the discovery of Grown-up Soda (GuS!) at parker and otis, a totally adorable market/restaurant/store thing where we enjoyed refreshing beverages...and where I bought a bacon shirt!! That's right, it may not be the "I heart bacon" or "bacon is a vegetable" variety, but it's completely awesome. I can't wait to wear it. Too bad I can't wear jeans and a t-shirt to work.
- ballpark deliciousness at a Durham Bulls game on Friday night - mmmm, beer and hot dogs and french fries. Perfect summertime fare.
I did just make a bulleted list of what we ate during the weekend, right? Sorry about that. You know I love the food. Oh, we also made blueberry baked oatmeal! And had brunch at Foster's Market! Ok, I'll stop.
I had a fantastic time with my sissy! We had food adventures and shopping adventures and forest adventures and explored her awesome school, complete with our own personal tour of the basketball mecca known as Cameron Indoor Stadium. And when I say our own personal tour...I mean that we just walked in and explored the place. Doesn't that seem wrong?? That you can just walk in?? I know the United Spirit Arena is locked up tighter than Fort Knox when there's nothing going on in there, but you can just walk in to this hallowed arena and explore to your heart's content? It was kinda awesome - we shot pretend free throws and sat at the announcer's table and parked ourselves on the very same seats the team sits on and ran out into the middle of the court and fake-dunked on a lowered hoop. And while some may consider Cameron the most religious site on campus, the Duke Cathedral should probably take that honor. It's gorgeous! And enormous! And just all-around impressive.
Getting away from the basketball for a bit, we also had some good girly times - plenty o' shopping, getting pedicures, and watching a silly girl movie balanced out our time exploring a basketball stadium and going to a baseball game. I love minor league baseball games! Where else do you get between innings entertainment like "termites in the pants" and Rooter Man? We also took in a concert on Saturday night in Carrboro - Josh Ritter. I had never heard of him before, which is not unusual for me, but I completely trust my sister's judgment in music...so we went and had a fabulous time. He was the happiest concert-player I'd ever seen. It was like we were his very first show and he just couldn't believe we liked his music. So endearing! Go check him out on iTunes and support the happiness.
Did you notice how I tagged this with pretty much every word in the book? That's just how we roll on sister-fun weekends. Complete with fireworks. Love you, sis!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
We actually did have a purpose to our shopping - a coffee table and stuff for Dana's walls. While we did find some really great stuff, you know where you can also get similar cute, really great stuff for about 1/3 the cost? Target. So while we ultimately didn't buy what we intended, I found a new dress at the Gap outlet (ok, it wasn't all cute local shops - Gap and Starbucks and the like have invaded) and we came oh so close to getting some beaded necklaces made at Potomac Bead Company. We got all excited about the plethora of beads, but when the guy behind the counter suggested we take one of their handy classes and put them together ourselves instead of paying them a slightly silly amount to do it, our enthusiasm waned pretty substantially. Oh well. I'll just find a cute necklace at Target.
Oh, and while this is something I haven't mentioned on the blog, for the last few months I've been fascinated by the stars I see on old brick buildings all over town, just like this one gracing a restaurant in Alexandria:
I've half-heartedly attempted some Google research to figure out what these darn things are but could never get a real answer. Well, I must have sharpened my Google skills or something, because I finally learned that these actually served a structural purpose back in the day as plates for rods that would brace the masonry against bowing. Silly Erin mystery solved! I've been taking pictures of these all over the place, so you can bet that a photo montage of some sort is in the works.
You're adorable, King Street! And as evidenced by your stars...old, too!
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Unfortunately, my camera battery was still tired from Europe, and I'd forgotten that my extra battery, which I was so proud of myself for remembering to bring along...already dead and not charged at all. My photo take for the day was a whopping six, so I'll entertain you with the best of those shots and wait on Dana's for a more complete story of the day. And that picture of the mansion is totally not mine...I stole it from the interwebs.
It was pretty cool to see just how the Washingtons lived back in the day...although George was traveling around so much that he didn't really get to spend a ton of time at home. When he was there, though, he was way into farming and took it pretty seriously - he always considered himself a farmer first. Well, a farmer and strong supporter of animal husbandry. Most colonial farmers or planters did not raise nearly the number and variety of livestock that populated Mount Vernon. Of course, when you have all of those animals running around (hopefully running around in their specified fenced area the majority of the time), you'll accumulate quite a bit of...well...poo. That's why George had himself a 31x12 foot dung repository near the stable. You see, all of that dung makes for some might fine fertilizer, which helped out with the farming...got this whole circle-of-life thing going on. Nice work, George. Oh, and you can actually catch whiffs of leather and straw and other stable-like smells, which briefly reminded me of home out on the plains of West Texas...and prompted Dana to say "stinky!"...city girl.
The gardens were beautiful - the Upper Garden has some sculpted areas with boxwoods in the shape of a fleur-de-lis. The landscape scholars at Mt. Vernon (yes, they have landscape scholars - wowza) speculate that this was a way both to honor his friendship with the Marquis de Lafayette and to pay tribute to the French for helping America win the Revolutionary War.
I thought it was really interesting that the house and surrounding buildings, while they look like they're made of stone, are actually constructed from pine blocks that are beveled and coated with paint and sand to give the appearance of stone. I also just learned that this process is known as "rustification" - fascinating stuff. We toured the mansion and several of the other buildings, visited George and Martha's tomb, walked through the gardens, waved at some bovine and ovine critters, and zoomed through the very detailed museum as closing time drew near. All in all, a very educational experience and semi-patriotic way to spend an afternoon over Memorial Day weekend.
Ok, so this whole thing felt a little history lesson-ish on one of our founding fathers, but isn't that what I'm supposed to do? Impart a little knowledge from our nation's capital from time to time? Nah...I think I'll just go exploring.