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Archive for September, 2013

Living in Washington, DC, has its nuisances, but it has perks as well. The nation’s capital offers more sights and activities than one could ever fully explore. Since we moved, we have tried to take advantage of these opportunities and slowly work our way through some of the local attractions. Other than my excursion to the National Mall with my brother and his gang a couple of months ago, Bart and I have generally avoided downtown during the high tourist season. Now that it’s past Labor Day, however, we decided to wander back down to the area and hit a couple of items on our Washington, DC “To-Do” list.

The first stop on our agenda was the east side of the National Mall; there were a few memorials down there that we hadn’t been to. After that, since we were just a few blocks away from it, we decided to take the¬†opportunity to walk over to the White House. We caught a vantage point from the north lawn.
White House North Lawn

White House North Lawn

We also got to see some protesters against a Syrian attack, but I assume there are people there just about every day touting some cause or another. Regardless of your personal beliefs, thank goodness for the First Amendment.
Protesters in front of the White House.

Protesters in front of the White House.

Since we had parked at a conveniently located meter for our first stops, we decided to move before we reached our final destination. Parking downtown is definitely demotivating for exploring as often as we’d like and one of the biggest reasons we don’t do it as much. Taking the metro is not cheap and takes some time, but it’s certainly more convenient; however, we had to run another errand that morning, so it wasn’t an option for this trip. After circling a couple of times just trying to find a conveniently located parking garage, I was ready to give up and go home. But before we threw in the towel, we literally stumbled upon a free parking spot just a block from our last stop. I didn’t realize there was free parking down either side of the National Mall; even if I did, I would never have counted on it for reliable availability, assuming it would always be packed to the gills. Hence we were not expecting a car to pull out of a space right in front of us, so we just snagged the spot and asked questions later. We thoroughly examined the sign and all information around it and determined that parking was, indeed, totally free, and we weren’t going to get towed or exorbitantly fined. The providential parking spot increased the enjoyment of the remainder of our afternoon by a hundredfold. Winning!

Our final stop was the Smithsonian Museum of American History, or, as I affectionately call it, the Museum of American Knickknacks. I love museums, but Bart and I have a low bandwidth for the amount of time we can spend in one before we’re ready to crash. That makes DC the perfect place for us. There are so many national museums that are totally free, so we don’t feel bad about darting into one and only seeing a few exhibits, knowing that we can come back any time we’re willing to park or take the metro.

On this trip, we saw the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the national anthem during the war of 1812. The thing is gigantically huge and has a place of honor right by the front doors. We then turned our attention to the exhibits on the lower floor, including exhibits on Maritime, Rail, and Automobile Transportation, the development of electricity in America, and American food from the 50’s to today. In that latter exhibit, we saw Julia Child’s kitchen, a precise reconstruction of her actual kitchen as it looked the day she donated it in 2001. I took comfort in her wall of beautiful copper cookware and her words of wisdom: “You can never have enough of these tools.” Thank you, Julia. As many tiny kitchens as I’ve seen in our house hunt, I cling hopefully to your words.

Words of wisdom from Julia Child.

Words of wisdom from Julia Child: “You can never have enough of these tools.”

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A few weeks ago, Bart and I wandered into a local thrift store, looking for some sort of project to occupy us, and we wandered out with this.

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Two thousand pieces of early nineties, low resolution flowery glory. What made me think that two thousand pieces was a good idea?

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Our weekend hiatus to Virginia Beach delayed our progress, and it took over our dining room table for more than a week. It was a long and winding road, but eventually we prevailed. Astoundingly, not one single piece of our thrifted jigsaw puzzle was missing.

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I am a total puzzle nerd. Growing up, I was constantly working puzzles, and I literally wore out all my puzzles by putting them together so often. My brother, also a puzzle aficionado, occasionally got me diabolical jigsaw puzzles to try to stump me (think “Where’s Waldo”) but to no avail. I totally believed my parents when they said I should go to “puzzle working school” when I grew up. I also wanted to major in Puzz-3D design in college…true story. My hopes and dreams were dashed when I realized neither of these were actually, you know, real. But that didn’t keep me from enjoying puzzles as a child and now as an adult. Bart isn’t as puzzle crazy as I am, but he enjoys them, too.

In our current state of having few obligations and more free time, we thought this might be a fun distraction for a few nights, and it turned out to be a winner. And despite (or because of?) the challenge of the first puzzle, we were inspired to try another one. This time, we picked one a little smaller and a whole lot more funky.

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It was that or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and we thought blue meanies would be more fun than that weird crowd of people.

A one-thousand piece puzzle seemed less massive yet still somewhat challenging. However, this puzzle practically fell together; I don’t know if it was more distinct objects or more fun colors, but we whizzed through it in barely over a day compared to that garden puzzle. It was a lot of fun to watch it come together, though, and I think it would be the perfect one to pull out for a puzzle night with a little help from our friends. So, if you’re into puzzles and are in the area, just swing by and we’ll have a puzzle night.

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September ushers in my favorite two months of the year. The crispness and change of Fall is topped off by the awesomeness of my birthday in October. The last few years, I haven’t loved fall as much due to dreading the cold of winter, but it seems silly to me to continue to ruin a lovely time of year by thinking about the future instead of enjoying the present. If anything, I should enjoy fall even more this year, as winter isn’t (theoretically) as harsh in the Middle Atlantic as it is in Colorado. (In truth, the cutting wind and cloudiness of a humid, eastern winter is more depressing than the crisp sunny days punctuated by feet of snow out west…but let’s try to remain optimistic here ;))

As with August, I couldn’t really come up with a good monthly challenge for September, so I guess I’ll just take it as it comes and ponder a worthy goal for October. I had proposed striving for purchasing a house as a goal for last month, but, as you know, that didn’t exactly work out. Maybe this month will be a winner?

Bart and I unofficially closed out summer and ushered in September with a pretty laid back three-day weekend. We did some chores, looked at a couple of houses, did a little shopping, went to church, and relaxed. We did the obligatory grilling for Labor Day, but I put a little twist on it by making pesto stuffed chicken breast. I just made up the pesto recipe as I went along: I used basil, spinach, asiago cheese, olive oil, and garlic as my base, and I added a little diced tomato to top it off.

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I cut some slits in two larger breasts and stuffed them with the mixture and closed with toothpicks. That worked alright, but I imagine there’s a better way to do it. I did get a little leakage, which is probably inevitable.

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Bart did a great job of cooking them up on the Big Green Egg, and I tossed together some potato salad for a side. I’m not a typical potato salad kind of person, so my version is really just boiled, diced potatoes with vinaigrette dressing. I even incorporated one finely diced celery stalk for a little crunch (I’m not a celery person, so that’s totally going out on a limb for me). So our Labor Day cook-out-with-a-twist turned out yummy and was a nice way to close out the long weekend.

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