Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas

I love me some Christmas but this year December has been kinda wonky.  I have been sick literally the entire month with a terrible cough.  Like coughing so hard I thought I would actually puke.  Like coughing so long I couldn't catch my breath and would almost pass out.  Like coughing so often I could only sleep in about 15 minute increments if at all.  I finally went to see the doctor a few days before Christmas because my ribs were hurting every time I took a breath.  Turns out I have bronchitis and I bruised / hairline fractured a few ribs from coughing so hard and so often.  Awesome.  The good news is that the antibiotics are working and hopefully in another week everything will be completely over.

Even though December wasn't quite normal, we did do some Christmas-y stuff.  We missed a bunch of stuff I wanted to do, but there is always next year.  I know you're just here for the photos so here they are. 

Our lit up but undecorated tree.  Don't worry, we did decorate it.

In SoCal our neighborhood had a Christmas Eve parade.  In D.C. they also have a parade of sorts.  It's just that this one takes place down the Potomac River with decorated boats.  It was really cool, even though the pictures are not so great.  It's hard to take photos at night of something that is lit up AND moving!

Santa fishing (the fish wasn't lit up right then), a lighthouse, a wreath on a mast, a turtle (with moving legs!), and an American flag.  The rest of the photos were too blurry to post.  I think we'll do this again next year. 


We went to see the National Tree on the Ellipse in front of the White House.  It was definitely not what we were expecting.

It's not that tall and it's kinda shaped funny.  It's because it is a living tree planted in the late 70's.  So yay for being green, but not so yay on the impressive scale.

Around the National Christmas tree there are smaller Christmas trees representing each state / territory (this one is Iowa's).  Towards the back is Santa's Workshop.  You walk past the White House to get to everything.

We went to the Festival of Lights, which is the D.C. temple's version of Temple Square.  It was really awesome.


We saw a Christmas concert at the Visitor's Center and then the nativity exhibit (about 100 different nativity sets from around the world).  This one was my favorite because it looks kinda like a carousel. 




I was really digging these purple trees.

This Christmas tree in the Visitor's Center was decorated by our stake.  Not that I had anything to do with it, but you know, reflected glory and whatnot.

This is the tree at the National Harbor.  Much better than the White House National tree. 
Plus, this tree's lights were choreographed to change color and pattern with the music.

This tree is at the National Patent Trademark Office.  I was a big fan.  This is what I expected the National Tree at the White House to look like.

We drove past the Capitol's tree downtown and it looked better than the White House tree, but not as good as the National Harbor tree.  All the Christmas trees in D.C. totally pale in comparison to the tree at Rockefeller Plaza. 

This is me in front of the Rockefeller tree in January 2009.  Shortly after this photo was taken we saw a guy propose to his girlfriend in the middle of the ice rink!  Sweet!  It made me tear up probably because I had just gotten engaged a week earlier!

Anyway, the Rockefeller tree really is the best Christmas tree in the country!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where's the snow, yo?

Two Novembers ago T flew to D.C. for work and there was snow.  Last December when T flew to D.C. for his interview there was snow.  And this December, when I was SO looking forward to a white Christmas, there is no snow.  Where's the snow, yo?!  Is Wyoming hoarding it again?!  Give it up to the rest of us already!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Masquerade Christmas Cocktail Party

Two nights ago T's work threw a Christmas party for their employees.  It was masquerade themed and we received masks with our invitation and were instructed to wear them (the masks, not the invitation).  Everyone was excited because the previous two Christmas parties had been at a BBQ joint and a sandwich shop.  Apparently this was a good year for T's work.

So what do you wear to a Christmas masquerade cocktail party?  It was easy for T: a suit and tie.  Me... not so easy.  Cocktail attire usually = knee length dress.  And I do have a really nice little black dress that would have worked.  But it's kinda sedate for a masquerade Christmas combo.  So I went shopping.  Duh.

I was looking for a bib necklace (like this) to sparkle up my black dress or a new dress and ended up with a new dress.  It's long but I think the metalic-ness of the dress made it okay for a cocktail party. 

The eye holes in the masks were way off and were totally cutting into our eyeballs.  But they looked and felt mostly okay after we took a box cutter to them.  So... here we are! 
Some people really went all out with the masks and wore really nice / expensive ones.  We just wore the plain ones that came with the invite which was probably good because after the first hour, everyone took their masks off.  It was just too hot.  Plus, I think most of us like having our peripheral vision.

My hair was very much not cooperating, hence the braid.  This lovely iPhone photo brought to you by one of T's buzzed co-workers.  Check out how wet T is!  It was pouring on our way in.

The restaurant was sort of Moulin Rouge themed.  EVERYTHING was red velvet and gold and crystal.  I'm going to do a terrible job of explaining this, but there was also a glassed in stage that had dancers about every 15 minutes.  I'm sure the dancers were meant to accent the Moulin Rouge feel, but the dancers weren't good and it was just weird choreography.  I think they were mostly ignored because everyone else was too busy taking advantage of the open bar.

We ended up staying an hour later than we expected because we wanted to see if T won the guessing game that had a $1,000 cash prize (he didn't).  We left around 10:45, but apparently the party went on all night.  After the official party ended at 11 they went to karaoke. Then a diner.  Then to Adams Morgan (a major night life area in D.C.).  So the after parties went until about 3 a.m. and everyone was late and hung over at work the next day.  So glad we are not partiers / drinkers.  We are not missing out on anything.

This is after we got home.
This dress is SUPER comfy.  I'm totally going to wear it to church this week.  I bet the nursery kids will love it.  You know, if they even ever notice what I wear.  Actually sometimes they do.  I wore my blue tights a few weeks ago and our favorite little red-headed girl told me that she liked them. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sick

So, bloggy, I'm sick.  T had it last week and now it's my turn.  Boooo.  It's not the flu, just a sore throat and stuffy head.  Anyway, my voice is all screwed up and it hurts to swallow.  I'm such a wimp.   I haven't been sick in a long time and I totally forgot how terrible being sick is.   It's terrible!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Yet another Sara Bareilles song

A while back my friend A posted this music video by Sara Bareilles on facebook.  I liked it and then didn't think of it again.  On Tuesday I heard the song playing overhead in a store.  At first I couldn't remember how I vaguely knew this song.  I figured it out and came home and listened to it four times in a row.

 This one is called "Gonna Get Over You."



I like her songs (and her look!) but I have heard that she has a mouth like a sailor (though not in any of the songs I have posted).  And I really hate it when people swear. So I'm not sure how much I want to like her.

Other Sara Bareilles songs I have posted about: Uncharted and King of Anything.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

30 months

As promised (threatened?) here are s'more of our engagement photos in honor of our big 3-0.  Or is it our second anniversary of 29?...


Umm... this is where things get not so pretty.  But my hair looks pretty!  Seriously, though.  There are about 11 photos in a row in this position where I am talking or making weird faces or blinking.

This one looks okay, though.

I'm confused here.  "Where's the cake?  I was told there would be cake. What do you mean that part isn't until the actual wedding?!"
Notice I'm not wearing my engagement ring?  We took it to be sized the day before (I told T that I thought I wore a size six ring, but it turns out I wear size four and a quarter!) and didn't have it back yet.  But that was just fine with me because I hate those engagement photos where the girl has her hand resting on the guy's arm to show off her ring.  Super tacky.


I love these white flowers.  Anybody know what they are called?



Definitely not a flattering photo of us, but my hair looks so long and lovely here that I couldn't resist.  Also, what am I doing with my hands?!  Scary!


If I could wink, this is where I would do it.  As always, more to come next month.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Shenandoah

At my Aunt J's suggestion, T and I took a leisurely drive through part of Shenandoah National Park two weekends ago.  Well, technically she suggested Blue Ridge Parkway.  And that was the plan, but we kept stopping so we never quite got to Blue Ridge, but I imagine the scenery is incredibly similar.  Oh, this is another place that we had no idea is only two hours from D.C.!


You will definitely want to bring some snacks / a picnic.  The closest town to Shenandoah National Park has next to zero food offerings and the stops in the National Park for food are very crowded.

The first half of our outing was pretty cold.  Like "it's 44 degrees outside and we are only wearing light jackets" cold.

Also, I don't know what I did to the camera settings to make these two photos look all grainy...

We pulled over at almost every outlook.

Seriously, some good views from the tops of the Shenandoah Mountains.

We hiked Stony Man trail.  We were going to do Little Stony Man, which is supposed to be really easy, but decided to do Stony Man.  It wasn't that hard at all.  It was only 1.6 miles round trip.  It was still cold and all I had was that light jacket so I wrapped the fleece blanket we keep in the car around me as we started out.  About halfway up the sun came out and significantly warmed us up (okay, also the hiking warmed us up).  This is the view from the top.  Don't fall, T!

Sometimes looking out toward the horizon the land looked so blue that it really did look like the ocean.


Seriously, the colors were gorgeous.

T rocking the self-photo.


I stopped on the trail back down to take this photo looking straight up.  I think it is my favorite photo of the day.

The sun made it warmer, but it was still cold because of the wind.  Check out my hair!


Getting out and wandering about provided us with some great views, but even just driving was lovely.


So, Shenandoah = a BIG yes to visit in the fall.  The colors in our neighborhood have been quite lovely lately, too.  Go fall!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Throw Out 50 Things

I recently read "Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life" by Gail Blanke and really enjoyed it (really, it's good stuff - read the first pages from link!).  I'm not saying that this book helped me find my life, but it definitely helped me toss a bunch of stuff out.  My goal is that each time we move we have fewer boxes of "stuff." 

I really like the author's "Rules of Dis-engagement" for throwing things out.  If it (the shoes, photo, book, etc) weighs you down, makes you feel bad about yourself, just takes up space, or is not contributing anything positive, out it goes.  It doesn't matter if it is expensive or if someone important gave it to you or if it is still functional, just throw it out.  If you can't decide if you want to keep it or toss it, then toss it. 

Throwing out 50 things is harder than you think because 5 pairs of shoes = 1 item.  20 old magazines = 1 item.  It took me just over a month to finish this book, mostly because I didn't read the next chapter until I had finished throwing out stuff from the previous chapter (this is definitely the way to read this book).  I was not so much into this book toward the end when it started talking about clearing the mental clutter because I wanted to get rid of stuff NOW and mental clutter takes a while.

Keeping track of what / how many things I tossed really motivated me to toss out more (for the record I didn't toss anything that belongs to T).  So here's my list of things I tossed or donated to Goodwill.

1  5 pairs of shoes 25  7 books
2  4 pairs of pants / shorts / capris 26  5 textbooks
3  2 belts 27  1 jacket
4  4 bags 28  3 pillows
5  6 tank tops 29  1 dress and veil
6  5 bracelets 30  3 bowls
7  1 watch 31  1 combination lock
8  1 shrug 32  17 dead pens
9  1 bra 33  old school papers
10  9 shirts 34  photos
11  3 cooking items 35  paint samples
12  1 set of curlers 36  craft paper scraps
13  1 mascara 37  3 craft supplies
14  1 make-up brush 38  fabric scraps
15  18 hair ties 39  old ideas about who I wanted to be career wise
16  2 eyeshadow sets 40  old records (bank and car)
17  2 hair products 41  12 magazines
18  1 lotion 42  2 plaque awards
19  7 make-up samples 43  2 games
20  1 body spray 44  the fear that I peaked in high school
21  1 giant water bottle 45  letting one thing ruin my day
22  twisties and rubberbands 46  high need for security
23  ugly green RIT dye 47  comparisons to others my age
24  1 serving dish


I didn't quite make 50 things, but 47 (with 114 individual items!) isn't too shabby.  Getting rid of stuff is such a good feeling! 

Anybody else doing a purge?  What are you getting rid of?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gettysburg

Just to be upfront, this is a very long post.

A few Saturdays ago T and I visited Gettysburg.  It's only about two hours away from D.C.!  How did we not know this sooner?!  If you visit D.C. for four or more days, definitely take a day (really, it will take all day) to visit Gettysburg.  It's worth it.  If you're really into Civil War stuff, plan on two days in Gettysburg.

Our drive to Gettysburg started out very foggy.  That should be the Potomac River 15 feet directly behind me, but it was so foggy you couldn't see it!

We started our visit by stopping at the Visitor's Center.  We skipped the cyclorama painting, the film, and the museum mostly because they all cost money and those things together take two hours and our visit lasted all day as it was! 

T with Lincoln.  (Our guidebook came with augmented reality content for iPhones.  Basically you download an app then if you act like you are going to take a photo of a certain site, a historical figure associated with that site comes into frame and you can resize and move them to appear in your photo.)

I didn't realize how huge area wise the Battle of Gettysburg was (about 25 square miles!).  Considering how big the area is there are several different touring options.  You can get a free map at the visitors center and follow the auto tour route, buy tickets for a bus tour with narration, buy any number of CD audio tours, or hire a licensed battlefield guide who will drive your car for a two hour tour.

T and I chose to buy an audio tour (Gettysburg Field Guide second edition narrated by Wayne Motts put out by TravelBrains) because it seemed to be the best combination of information, flexibility,  and affordability.  The audio tour we bought has a lot of human interest type stories in addition to facts and mostly follows the auto tour route.  The CD tells you when to listen; sometimes while you are driving to the next location and sometimes while you are parked at a location.  The CD came with a guide book that has battle maps that were pretty helpful because there was a lot going on in the Battle of Gettysburg.  The guide book has almost everything word for word as the CD (deaf people like history, too!).  If you're going to visit let us know and we'll loan you our CD and guide book!

The leaves were starting to turn in Gettysburg!

If we visited again with more than just the two of us I think we would hire the guide.  It's strange that the guide drives your car but it makes sense because they know where everything is.  Anyway, at several places we overheard the licensed guides talking and they were fantastically knowledgeable and friendly.

Before we left the visitor's center we picked up a list of free guided tours and times.  Since our audio tour doesn't cover the Soldier's Cemetery, we planned to go on that free tour (about 45 minutes long) in the middle of the day.

This was at our first stop, McPherson Ridge.  Don't worry, I didn't really know any of the specifics of the Battle of Gettysburg before this and it is still very confusing to try to keep everything straight. To make things even more confusing, there are monuments and memorial plaques literally every 50 feet.  If you stopped at every monument or plaque, it would take days.  This is a pretty typical looking monument.

Here's the up close.

And even closer up close because the numbers blow my mind.  The 1st Brigade started with 21 officers and 445 men.  Total they lost 15 officers and 322 men.  That's 75 percent.  Gettysburg is a very sobering place.

After our first stop we zipped over to the Soldier's Cemetery for the tour.  As always, the National Park Rangers are excellent tour givers.  I highly recommend taking one of the tours.  The Cemetery was supposed to be for Union soldiers only, but a couple of Johnny Rebs ended up in it by accident.  The gravestones are arranged in big arcs.  The arcs are arranged by state and regiment and each gravestone has as much information is known about each soldier.  Some are blank, some just have a regiment number, some just have ranks, and some have names.

This cemetery is where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address.  There is a monument to that speech in the cemetery.  It's the only monument in the world dedicated to a speech.

This is a memorial for the 1st Minnesota.  The 262 men of the 1st Minnesota rushed 1,700 Alabama soldiers on Cemetery Ridge.  Within 15 minutes 82 percent of the regiment was killed, wounded, or captured.   Their charge gave just enough time to rush reinforcements in and hold the Union line.
The quotes on either side of the monument "All time is the millennium of their glory" and "These dead shall not have died in vain."

 The Gettysburg countryside is so picturesque. 

T with one of the cannons at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.  The Memorial was dedicated in 1938 by FDR on the 75th anniversary of the battle.  About 1,800 Civil War Veterans were present that day, all in their 90's. Pretty sure this is where they got the idea for the eternal flame for JFK.

Gettysburg is lovely country.  This is the McClean house and barn.

The North Carolina Memorial.  You can see the wounded officer pointing the way, the color bearer in the back, a battlefield rookie, an old veteran saying words of encouragement into the ear of the rookie, and a battle hardened soldier leading the way. (That's a description we overheard one of the the licensed field guides giving, otherwise I would have no clue.)

Virginia's Memorial with General Lee and his horse Traveler on top.  It's really strange for me to think of Virginia as being a southern state.


With General Lee in front of the Virginia monument.

Louisiana Memorial.  I really had no idea what was going on here, but it's kind of out there so it fits Louisiana.  Later I read in the guide book that there is a fallen artilleryman and the "Spirit of the Confederacy" is rising over him.

Gettysburg is just so lovely in the fall time.

On Little Round Top looking over the Slaughter Pen towards Devil's Den.  Little Round Top is where 350 men of the 20th Maine held off two regiments from Alabama.  If the 20th Maine had lost Little Round Top, most historians agree that the Union would have lost the Battle of Gettysburg.

At the bottom of Little Round Top with Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, leader of the 20th Maine.

With Lee at Devil's Den.  Before they charged the hill, Confederate sharpshooters hid behind these boulders firing at Union soldiers on Little Round Top.  The area between Devil's Den and Little Round Top is known as The Slaughter Pen for obvious reasons.  This location was supposed to have a sharpshooter show up, but Lee did instead.  So I took another photo with Lee.

The Pennsylvania Memorial.  These bronze tablets go around the entire monument and hold the names of every Pennsylvania soldier who fought at Gettysburg.

T looking good at the top of the Pennsylvania Memorial.

How wonderful is it that the men of Pennsylvania wanted to honor the women?  Pretty wonderful.
I think it is interesting that in the North the Civil War was often referred to as "The War of the Rebellion" and in the South it was often called "The War of Northern Aggression."

This is a New York monument.  If you see a monument that is bigger or unusual looking, odds are that it is a New York monument.  I think they have more monuments than any other state.

The one mile field that the Confederates ran through during Pickett's Charge.  They were trying to reach the stone wall in the foreground.  And they did for just a moment before they were pushed into retreat by Union forces, ending the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg is wonderful and sad.  It is full of amazing stories of brave soldiers on both sides and a heavy reminder of the price of war. 


If you visit (and really, you SHOULD visit), don't go in summer - it will be sweltering hot and you do get out of the car quite often to check out memorials and read plaques.  Start by visiting the visitor's center when it opens and picking up the list of free guided tours at the info desk.  Then take the audio tour (stopping at whatever point to go to the cemetery tour then get back on track with the audio tour).  T and I ate in town, but it was kind of a hassle because none of the tour stops are in town and parking in town is hard to find, even in the fall.  I would bring a picnic and eat it at one of the stops (we saw a ton of people doing this and wished we had planned ahead).

Gettysburg is one of the places I really want to visit again.