The Other Washington

Me and the MR have done our share of traveling the last few years. Visiting other countries’ capital cities, I was impressed with the museums and monuments, the statues and memorials, the abundance of history, beautiful architecture, and national pride. Somehow, I got it into my head that we just don’t have that at home. I mean Seattle has EMP and the Hammering Man. We’re famous for throwing fish at Pike Place and for inventing casual Fridays—not pomp and patriotism.

But a few weeks ago, we met the MR’s parents in the other Washington, and my whole perception changed. Our family isn’t big into politics, and we had never seriously thought about visiting Washington, DC. I’d bring it up every now and then saying we really should take the girls—kind of like taking vitamins or eating your vegetables. But then the MR’s mom suggested traveling to there to see the cherry blossoms. I like cherry blossoms.

So the beginning of the month found us with five days in DC to see the sights. It was amazing. We stayed in the Penn Quarter, just around the corner from Ford’s Theater and the rooming house where Lincoln died. Our first morning, we strolled down the block to the White House. Yes, that would be Pennsylvania Avenue.

We were a little further back than it looks like in the movies, but we were actually there next to Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden

I had tried to book a tour, but with the change in administration, all tours had been put on hold—maybe next time. I’d contacted our representative about the White House tour, and she’d signed us up for a tour of the Capitol instead. So our group of adventurers headed on to the National Mall.

As you can see, the MR (from Washington State) is wearing a windbreaker. His parents (from Nevada) are bundled up against the cold.

Our next stop was the World War II Memorial.

In the distance, that’s the Lincoln Memorial. I’d never realized how all these monuments are lined up. In our family we have this joke that if you can see it, you can walk to it; it may have started when we took the girls to Paris—you can see the Eiffel Tower for a really long ways away… While we probably could have walked to Lincoln we’d been warned that the National Mall is really quite large, and we had a tour of the Capitol coming up.

So we turned in the other direction and headed towards the Washington Monument.

The elevators to the top of the monument are being repaired through 2019, so no aerial views this time. With a few hours to kill, we headed on towards the Capitol up the streets flanked by Smithsonian museums.

We didn’t visit the National Gallery of Art, but we did wander through the sculpture garden.

We met our group in Congressman Suzan DelBene’s office, and then were off viewing art and architecture, old meeting rooms and new. Both houses were in recess, but if we’d wanted to wait around for a few hours, we could have watched them in action.

By that time, we’d walked nearly nine miles and were ready for dinner and a chance to put our feet up.

Day two, we went on the Big Bus Tour. We picked it up across the street from our hotel, and it took us right to the Lincoln Memorial. One of the things you don’t realize from the movies and TV is the shear size of these buildings.

From there, we walked over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. My sweet mother-in-law shook hands with each of the veterans she met along the wall. It was a moving experience for both her and them.

Then we were back on the bus destined for Arlington National Cemetery. More than 400,000 people are buried here; it’s acres upon acres of headstones.

After visiting the grave of John F. Kennedy, we happened upon the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just in time for the changing of the guard.

Day three, we started our museum visits with the National Air and Space Museum.

After touching the space rock, and oohing and aahing over all things that fly, we headed for greener pastures. We had noticed the United States Botanic Gardens on our way to the Capitol tour, but it was closed by the time we’d finished, so after lunch we went there.

While it was interesting, this was one of the few things on our itinerary I would not repeat.

Then we headed beyond the Capitol to the Library of Congress to enjoy the beautiful architecture inside and out.

My father-in-law teased the security about not being able to check out a book. The guard quickly gave him directions on were to go to get a library card. Maybe next time we’ll make use of the reading room.

Day four dawned wet and dreary, but no worries, we had umbrellas and the National Archives were just down the street.

So much of our history has been captured here. I listened to tapes of FDR refusing increased security around the White House after Pearl Harbor, and then joined the crowds to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

We spent an entertaining lunch watching unwary commuters emerge from the subway station only to have their umbrellas blown inside out and then trudged on to the National Museum of Natural History. I’d been hoping for American History, but somehow we wound up next door. On rainy days during spring break, these museums are chaos.

The MR”s dad was sick in bed that evening, but we took out his mom to help celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary.

That being our last night in town, me and the MR went out to see the monuments at night. It’s really quite beautiful.

Our last day, we checked the bags at the hotel and thought we were heading across the street to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, but they didn’t open till 11:30, so we hurried a few blocks in a stiff wind to the National Building Museum—one of the few requiring an admissions few to the exhibits. We were still able to see portraits of the presidents and some American folk art before eating lunch and saying goodbye to the MR’s parents as they left for the train station.

We had a few hours before going to the airport, so we checked out the White House Visitor Center, which is the next best thing to being there.

I loved the history, the beauty, and the grandeur of DC, and I would definitely go back.

Next time, I’d like to make it to Mount Vernon and to a few more of the museums. I’m not sure I’d do Arlington again, and the bus tour was a bit of a miss. We’d purchased multiple lines, so we could visit Arlington, and ended up waiting on the side of the road for more than an hour because of a motorcade. The company can’t really do anything about that, but for the price of four adults we could have booked a private tour that would have meant less standing and waiting.

With 17 Smithsonians, it was hard to choose which one to visit. Next time, the MR can go back to the Air and Space while I’m immersing myself in history. Then we’ll just meet up for lunch.

Many of the museums and Arlington have their own apps—something I haven’t got in the habit of looking for ahead of time.

After all these years, I’m glad we finally visited our nation’s capital. Thanks MeeMee for the suggestion.

What are your highlights of Washington, DC?

In other fabulous news, The Fella asked Sweet Miss to marry him last Saturday. We’re all pleased as punch. And on Sunday, Papa Larry celebrated his 80th birthday. Add in Easter, and I’d say it was a banner weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flurries of January 2017

When I started this blog five years ago, I had two girls in high school busy with sports, friends, and activities. Sweet Miss was getting ready to graduate. Now the girls are in gone to school and jobs in Oregon, and the MR has started a consulting business where he can pick and choose his hours.

Suddenly, our ties to home are much fewer, and we’ve been totally taking advantage of it. Just look back at the month: On the Road AgainFirst Stop MiamiRelaxing on Turks and Caicos, and The Beauty of Zihuatanejo. The first three posts share highlights of our recent trip, and the the last shares our trip to Mexico with the girls just before Christmas.

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Each of these places had their own beauty and charm. I promised to share a photo of the stingrays we swam with. These were fun to watch from afar after I got over my initial fear.stingray

All this traveling means, I have to plan ahead to get the blog out, so I’ve been using the “Wordless Wednesday” model here and there. I shared Our Citrus Grove and Winter Blooms recently. The tiny calamondin lime, which isn’t even a lime, but a hybrid of a mandarin orange and the kumquat, and the lemon tree make up our stunted, indoor grove. I cut up one of the limes to add to a salad—it was way too tart. The three lemons on our “tree” are ripening and will soon be part of a lemon pie. It’s our little eating hyper-local experiment.

We’ve added another bloom to the winter beauty from a plant the MR’s grandmother grew. Does anyone know what this is? The branches hang down, and the clusters of white, star-shaped flowers face down as well.

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The blooms are even prettier when viewed from below. Maybe I showed move the plant to a bookcase, so we can see these sweet flowers at their best.

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When I am home, I have time to get involved in some local groups. The Knitters and Crocheters of Duvall meet Tuesdays at Quintessential Knits, and they’ve joined up with the Duvall Bag Ladies to make sleeping mats for the homeless. I hope they add some comfort to these people’s lives.

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And finally, I took time to Learn Something New. Brioche is a challenging knitting technique with very cool results. I hope Baby Girl is enjoying her cozy cowl. I hear snow and ice is headed towards Oregon again this week and alpaca is soft and warm.

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I have a few sewing projects, and we’re talking carpet again, so I may have some home-centered posts for February. We’ll just have to wait and see.

What’s been going on in your neck of the woods?

Relaxing On Turks and Caicos

We finished off our recent get away enjoying the beach in beautiful Turks and Caicos. The water is blue; the sand is white; it was lovely. We stayed at the Windsong Resort right on Grace Bay in a beach front condo.

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If you look carefully, in the back of the picture above, you can see a number of red buoys. They mark off a protected area where the reef is developing. That meant the area around it was wonderful for snorkeling.

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People came from resorts up and down the bay to snorkel at this spot. We’ve seen more colorful coral, but the fish were plentiful, and the MR swam through quite a few schools.

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The beach attendant said these were yellow-tailed something. I want to say grouper, but that’s probably because I ate it for dinner.

We were also excited to swim with turtles on multiple occasions. One little guy swam up to the surface, peaked at me and swam back down as if to invite me to follow. We were close friends for the next five minutes till he swam away.

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Stingrays liked to swim through a channel out past the buoys. It was so fun to watch them gracefully moving together totally synchronized. We haven’t quite gone through all of our photos, but I’ll see if we can’t find the stingrays for you.

This is not the place to go for a vibrant nightlife. Our resort was fairly low-key after dark. Our first night, we ate on-site, and the food was good but nothing special. So the other nights, we headed down the beach to restaurants the MR had scouted out on his morning runs.

Kitchen 218 at the Beach House along with Zest and Stelle both of which are at Gansevoort were all quite nice. At Kitchen 218, we were able to choose the fish, the preparation method, and the accompanying sauce. At times, I think I’d rather the chef made all those choices, since he or she knows more about it than I do. Then at Stelle, the beachside restaurant, the waiter led me and the MR over to a boat featuring their freshly caught fish, and we were able to choose. This would be a great opportunity for a family-style meal with a larger group. That’s where we ordered the local delicacy conch—it may be an acquired taste.

While eating our dinner at Zest, we were impressed by the feel of the resort. It was beautiful, refined, and felt very luxurious.

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Most of the restaurants are open air which works out well 90-percent of the time. Our second night, we followed the music to the restaurant at the resort next door, and watched as the large group at the beach-front table grabbed their plates of food and ran to cover.

I watched the sunrise tint the sky on our last morning there and sighed with contentment.

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This is a beautiful place. This is the MR’s favorite beach ever, and we’ve been to quite a few beaches from Nice and Greece, to Roatan and Maui. When we can leave a place as relaxed and refreshed as we were, I do believe we’ll go back.

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What’s your favorite beach destination? 

 

First Stop Miami

Earlier this month, we spent four days in Miami. We enjoy exploring a new city and seeing the sights. Neither of us have spent much time in the South—I don’t think Disney World really counts.

We didn’t know what to expect but were hoping for sunshine and a little heat in the midst of winter. We stayed at The Palms in an area known as “middle beach”. We had a lovely view, and the hotel backed up to the beach board walk. The MR made good use of it jogging in the mornings, and it gave us easy access to “south beach”.

view-from-the-palms

Our first day, we stumbled upon the Art Deco District setting up for a fair. They have a visitor’s center and tours and all sorts of excitement for the architecture/Art Deco enthusiast. We chose to simply wander about taking in the sights.

art-deco-collage

We made sure to visit the everglades. Our tour picked us up at the hotel, and we were off. We’d wondered which direction they’d take us and were surprised to go just outside town to arrive at our destination. Miami appears to be next to (or perhaps in the middle of) a huge swamp.

One of our guides warned us not to try to take a photo next to any of the statues at the park, because they don’t have any statues…

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Apparently, that’s been a bit of a problem. A knee-high fence seperated us from this beasty, but luckily alligators are afraid of humans. The guides explained that most attacks arise from people feeding gators, and thus no longer posing a threat in the animals’ minds. Crocodiles on the otherhand are much bigger and more aggressive.

After a short program, I had the opportunity to hold Snappy. This three-year-old alligator with his mouth bound was still at a manageable stage.

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Then we were off to the fan boats by far my favorite part of the tour.

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The guides give you earplugs as you step on the boat, so you know it’s going to be noisy. But I loved the wind, the spray, the birds in flight, and skimming across the water.

everglades

Alligators need to raise their bodies to a certain temperature in order to digest their food. That’s why you see them so often lying in the sun. The guides were able to point out animals right and left as we made our way through the park.

alligator-in-the-grass

One morning, we walked to the Holocaust Memorial. This is a very disturbing place. What I thought were tarps on a table, I saw on second glance where statues of corpses. While it’s hard to think about the horrible loss of life, it’s important to remember what hate and intolerance leads to.

holocaust-memorial

Our last day in Miami, we decided to check out Wynwood a neighborhood where arists have taken over the streets. Along with the established Wynwood Walls set aside for specific artists, the businesses around this area have embraced this form of expression covering their walls with paintings. I loved the energy and vibe of this neighborhood.

wynwood-walls

We had a bit of a crazy experience with our Uber driver. She thought Wynwood was ugly, so she took us to the downtown park marina. We then walked back to our original destination. On our way, we wandered throught the Museum Park which is still under construction. Some day it would be fun to explore the modern art museum and the science museum. Maybe the next time we visit, we’ll get past the front doors.

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Living in a small town with a strong farming history, it’s fun to visit a city and get a chance to dress up and go out at night.

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Even with four-inch heels, it’s a bit of a stretch getting the two of us in a selfie.

We checked out Los Fuegos at the Faena Hotel of first full day in the city. It was conveniently located within walking distance of the Palms, and I’d enjoyed listening to an interview with the chef on The Splendid Table (a podcast for foodies). Chef Francis Mallmann’s food preparation focuses on fire, so I knew it would be right up the MR’s alley. We arrived a bit early and enjoyed a drink in the very cool, retro bar before heading to our table. The food was great, and we enjoyed a relaxed evening there.

The next night, we wandered down the street to a tiny Italian restaurant. When they greated us with “buonasera”, I knew we were in the right place. I love stumbling on little mom and pop restaurants—good food and good people.

Our last night found us at the Broken Shaker. This is a hip-trendy place. Looking around, the clientelle resembled my kids way more than me. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the vine-covered bar area where we were seated. It reminded me of casual living room groupings rather than a regular bar. We didn’t have reservations, but the hostess told us on the phone that there was seating. She meant in the bar; we thought in the dining room. We shared some small bites and headed out. Next time, it pays to plan ahead when you’re headed to an up-and-coming place.

broken-shaker

All in all, we had a good time in Miami. I didn’t get my Cuban coffee, I wouldn’t mind a more organized tour of the Art Deco district or Wynwood, and I’d like to visit the design district. I think we’ll just have to go back.

Ever visited Miami? What are some of your favorite vacation spots?

Put in your ear plugs for this fan boat video.  ​

The Beauty of Zihuatanejo

Before Christmas, we took the girls for a long weekend in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. We’ve been to the western coast many times and decided to venture out and go somewhere new.

Zihuatanejo is further south, has less tourists, is a little quieter, and has a little more heat. We loved it.

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The MR booked a suite at the Viceroy on Playa la Ropa. The concierge gave us a tour of the property before escorting us to our room. After a day of travel the hammock looked so inviting.

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We were greeted with flower petals on the beds and fruity teas. It’s so nice to be pampered.

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The key came in a little amulet that you could wear around your neck. How many swim suits have pockets, right? Our bed was draped in fabric, and each day we had a new design in flower petals at its foot.

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The staff delivered a tray of coffee, tea, and pastries every morning. I chose to enjoy mine seated on the lounge on our patio. A full breakfast at the onsite restaurants was also included.

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We spent most of our time under the palapas enjoying frequent swims in the bath water-warm ocean. The MR booked a snorkeling cruise with Captain Moses. So one morning, we hiked out into the waves, climbed onto his boat, and spent the morning snorkeling in beautifully clear water near Manzanillo Bay (I think). We did not go to the popular Ixtapa Island snorkeling destination. It was great to be on a small boat, just the four of us, the captain and his nephew, and we encountered just one other boat at our snorkel spot.

The water was clear, the fish were plentiful, and we had a great time. On the way back, we stopped at Playa las Gatas to see “Jesus in the Water”. The King of Kings statue is a bronze statue the local people had made as a symbol of their faith and commitment. After featuring in masses around Mexico, the statue was submerged off the protected beach in 2007.

The MR ran to town one of the first days on his morning jog. He was surprised to find a market area filled with pinatas. Our concierge explained that these were part of the Los Posadas pre-Christmas celebration. People travel house to house searching for a place to stay just as Mary and Joseph did long ago (or as he put it Maria y José).

On one of our lazy beach days, me and Sweet Miss went in search of playing cards. The hotel boutique was closed, so we stopped by the front desk to see if they knew whether any were available. They didn’t have a set, but the concierge offered to stop in town and pick some up for us. The next day, down on the beach, he brought me a set of Uno cards. Now that’s service.

We did enjoy a few trips to town as a family. We tried out some of the local restaurants, we wandered through the market, and we made our way down to the boardwalk along the beach.

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Have I mentioned this was a truly lovely place? I haven’t even shown you the sunsets.

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Our last night, we enjoyed a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings for $40 a person. The exchange rate right now is amazing. 

(The MR pointed out I was wrong after this post went out. Not a first—I asked what I’d gotten wrong. Dinner was $25 per person for that tasty meal. Did I mention the exchange rate?)

Me and the MR are trying to plan another trip down there this spring. Captain Moses told us the fishing all depends on the moon. That gorgeous moon we saw in Cabo back in November wasn’t doing our fishermen any favors.

I would stay at the Viceroy in Zihuatanejo again in a heartbeat.

Where’s your favorite warm weather destination?

 

 

 

 

Making the Most of It

You know how you have errands, and appointments, and commitments that force you to drive all over the place? Well, why not make the most of it?

Every six months or so, I have to visit a specialist in Seattle for my MS. It’s not a big deal—simply routine. The MR comes along, we fight traffic, catch up with my doctor for a few minutes, I drop the MR off at work, and then drive home. Simple enough, right?

Well, what if we decided to explore the wonders of Seattle instead of just driving home? We could play tourists and make a day of it. That’s what we decided to do a few weeks ago when my semi-annual appointment rolled around.

We went to the doctor and then headed on over to the Seattle Center where the old fun forest amusement park has been replaced with  Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass. We’ve been to Venice twice, as a child I collected blown-glass objects, and have you counted the windows in our house? Let’s just say we like our glass.

I’d actually seen the gardens in an old episode of Top Chef and was intrigued. It was the intended destination for my birthday back in September until we were exhausted by all the running around the rest of the week and decided to stay close to home.

We wound up with a lovely, sunny day—the perfect day to visit gardens. Just walking into the place brought a huge smile to my face.


It’s whimsy, and beauty, and sparkle.


It’s abundance, and exuberance, and fun.


So much art and imagination goes into each piece. I want a ceiling of glass.


No, wait, I want giant glass bowls.


Maybe I need a giant glass still life.


I loved the inside. It was amazing, and then we reached the atrium leading to the gardens.


Perhaps we need some color and excitement at our house. I’m sure a garden of glass would scare away the deer and racoons.


The monochromatic design of many of the flower bed was stunning.


If only …


Maybe we can just have a few small pieces.


Since we were there, the MR figured lunch at the Space Needle would be a great way to finish off the day. The food’s a bit pricey, but the trip to the top is included, and the view is amazing.

I remember when Sweet Miss was little, I used to pick up a loaf of french bread as soon as we arrived at the grocery store. For 99-cents, I bought a stress-free trip while she snacked.

Sometimes pairing necessities with something fun makes all the difference.

What do you do to make the everyday special?

(By-the-by, for the first time in over a year, none of our windows are broken. The fellows from Sound View were here yesterday, and the new pane went in without a hitch. Now to schedule the window films.)

 

 

 

Inspiration and Disappointment

I wanted to call this post the Grapes of Wrath. Not because it has anything to do with the Dust Bowl, starving displaced families, or Steinbeck, but it does have something to do with grapes and wrath. Alas, I thought better of it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Earlier this month, me, and Baby Girl, and the MR traveled to Italy. We started in the beautiful city of Florence, a truly, lovely place we’d never been to before.

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After wandering the streets our first day and checking out the Uffuzi Gallery Museum, we had scheduled a Vespa ride in Tuscany beginning and ending at an ancient castle turned winery. This was the home of the Pazzis who tried to assassinate the Medicis in 1478 and were summarily executed.

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After a history of plotting and rebellion, it has turned into a family home and winery in recent years. Wandering through the barrel room and other areas of the production, we were reminded of our own wine-making efforts at home.

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Sure we only made one small bottle last year, but the MR said the grapes looked great. He thought we might be able to make up to three bottles with our banner harvest. After visiting the winery, it was time for some beautiful scenery.

Not everyone was born to drive a Vespa, so I became a passenger on the MR’s scooter. Just a short drive from an ancient and densely-populated city, we wound up in the rolling countryside the hills speckled with grape vines and olive trees.

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This was at the beginning of two weeks of adventures, and the ideas of wine-making were put on the back burner till we got home. Unfortunately, just because we’re away doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still back home. We had visitors. The MR thinks it was probably raccoons who came, climbed under the netting, moved boards holding it in place, ate the grapes, and tore up the vines.

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Oh well, there’s always next year. Now you understand my grapes and wrath.

Any tips on getting rid of raccoons?