Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gingerbread House take #2

Sam and I already made one gingerbread house this season and of course used a box kit from the store. Naturally. I don't recall ever having made a gingerbread house from scratch (making one from graham crackers does NOT count) but my neighbor was appalled when she learned we had used a kit and immediately instituted "Gingerbread House From Scratch" night for the ladies in my apartment building :) I was in charge of bringing candy for decoration, so I went to the store and bought candy that I knew tasted good and I would like to eat....I probably should have taken a different approach and bought candy that would be practical for decorating with! Ha! It was all good though cause we stacked some gumdrops for trees, used the marshmallows for snow, and a couple other people brought candy as well.

The gingerbread itself was delicious but it took a little longer than we thought for it to properly cool and dry enough to be sturdy for the house, so the decorating part of the party didn't get underway until 10pm or so and by the houses were complete (what originally started as wanting to make a house from scratch for each of us turned into a total of 2 houses to collectively decorate!), one of the guys in my building must have felt sorry for us (or he wanted some candy!) and brought us all a pizza and pop to finish off the night. We even made the royal icing from scratch - egg whites and confectioners sugar. Now, according to the Food Network chefs, when you mix sugar and raw eggs together, some sort of chemical reaction takes place and the eggs become "pasteurized" (so to speak) and they are safe for, tell me, why then are we warned NOT to eat raw cookie dough with eggs in it due to salmonella?? Cookie dough has sugar in it. Maybe the other ingredients nullify the pasteurizing process??? I'm not convinced royal icing is safe to eat but apparently it is, and I've been munching on the house and no problems. So, do I go back to eating raw cookie dough? That is the predicament this made-from-scratch gingerbread house has left me with.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Tree Time Again!

The Capitol Building tree

Botanical Garden
National Christmas Tree

The White House

It's hard to believe it's Christmas once again in DC! This year, DC has gone "green" and used LED lights on the Christmas least I think that's why the lights are so florescent. They are definitely not just normal Christmas lights. The Capitol tree once again looks beautiful. It's from Wyoming this year. Cute ornaments made out of Wyoming license plates, CD's strung together, painted snowmen, paper ornaments, tin, and many more. If there wasn't a guard standing next to the tree, I would make my own ornament and go hang it on it!

And once again, the "National Christmas tree" near the White house is uglier than ever. *sigh*. I told people who were standing around that tree to go look at the Capitol tree cause it was prettier....I even told them where to park so they would get a close spot :-) The national tree is permanently in that location but I was hoping that sometime between last year and this year, a park ranger or whoever would have shaped it up a little and cut off those protruding bottom branches that make the tree look like an igloo. Also the lights just look terrible being strung vertically top to bottom instead of horizontal around the tree. This is an instance where more isn't always better. Less lights and better positioning would do a world of good for this tree! I will say the White House looked beautiful and the outside of the Botanical Garden building was very elegantly decorated. Now my goal is to go inside the Botanical Garden and see what Christmas display is up this year. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ice Ice Baby

The awesome ice slides with carpet at the bottom, thankfully, to slow you down!!

How did I spend my weekend?? Looking at 2 million pounds of sculpted ice in a venue that was only 9 degrees! Can you say BRRRRR?!?!?! But it was incredible and well worth my frozen nose afterwards. The Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland brought in ice sculptors from China to carve 2 million pounds of ice into scenes from Dr. Seuss's "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" - plus a nativity scene at the end of the event - into one production called "ICE." It was a very cool set up because when you walked in, as you waited in line to enter ICE, they had a whole museum collection of sketches, magazine/book covers, poems, etc. that belong to the Seuss estate and are on loan for this specific event. There are also videos playing that show how ICE was created and the origin of ice sculpting. The sculptors from China spent 1 month prior to the opening of ICE working around the clock in 12 hour shifts to sculpt everything. As you can see from the pictures, these are not your ordinary ice swan sculptures! The scenes are very intricate with lots of colors and details and they are least life-size if not larger for some of the pieces. The ice slide was awesome and we could go down it as many times as we wanted :) There were people standing at the top not only telling you when to go but also giving you a push so you really went flying! Ha!

So, the down side to ICE is that it was 9 degrees in there, which is to be expected because after all it's ICE we're dealing with and it has to stay cold so we don't all end up swimming, but if you wanted to go down the slide, you had to wear the blue parka coat they provided to each guest. Just before entering the exhibit, everyone is handed a fluffy, blue parka to wear to keep warm. Sounds like a nice thing, huh?? Maybe to some people, but my mind immediately went to lice and bed bugs as these jackets are transferred from one person to another after you exit. I asked the coat attendant how they disinfect for lice and he said they spray the coats with Lysol....ummm really??? Hate to break it to them but Lysol is not a lice killer even though it sounds the same. As for bed bugs, he said he didn't know. *Sigh*. I was now faced with the dilemma of do I wear the coat, stay warm, and enjoy the slide or do I not wear the coat, not stay warm, and not enjoy the slide all for the chance that I might get lice and bed bugs?? Well.....the slide won out and I donned the coat and pretended for a couple hours I wasn't a paranoid germaphobe. Two days later, I am lice and bed bug free, so I guess it was a good choice :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The wonderful world of computers

I stared blankly at Sam's computer monitor the first time this screen appeared. I just lost all the work I had been doing, all the search pages I had open on the internet, all the information I had just inputted, and now the computer is mocking me?! Really?! This is the screen that appears when the computer crashes?! Click on the picture above to make it bigger so you can see what it says.....if you still can't read the message, it says, "Ah, Snap! Something went wrong..." The slang, teenage-ish saying "ah snap" is now the computer crash page. It's so ridiculous it's almost humorous, and in fact, every time this happens I laugh and say "ah snap" aloud, which is I'm sure exactly what the computer-screen-maker-people want to happen. Instead of users getting mad and calling an IT helpline irate, "Ah, Snap..." is so absurd that it makes you laugh. Gotta love brilliant computer geeks :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The tradition continues

It's December once again which means it's time to break out the gingerbread house kit and get to work! Every year for as long as I can remember, I've made a gingerbread house ~ never from scratch, though. Kits work just fine for me because let's be honest, decorating it is the best part. Who cares whether or not you actually made the sides and roof. Sam was in charge of decorating the Santa and Christmas tree cookies for the front and I took on the rest.....I tend to get a little possessive of my gingerbread house :-)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Our Historic Adventure

Majority of the trail was rocks!

Sam's hiking stick was more like a tree! I told him I didn't think it would fit in the car to take on our next hike :)

Today, Sam and I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail and it was awesome! The Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail form the "triple crown" of long distance hiking in the United States, so it was pretty cool to walk even a little ways on such a famous route. This was something I wanted to do since moving to DC because I knew it wasn't too far from the city where we could catch part of it, so this is one more thing to cross off my DC list :)

We passed a variety of people along the way - a boy scout troop with lots of backpacks, a father and young daughter also with a lot of camping gear, and several day-hikers like us. I guess I didn't give it too much thought beforehand and figured this hike would be like other ones we have taken, but it definitely was a lot more difficult and strenuous! The path was mainly rocks of varying sizes, so we really had to be careful not to twist an ankle or slip on the leaves, and it was continually up and down steep hills. A very small section was flat land. We didn't see any wildlife even though black bears are supposedly plentiful....the lack of bears was fine by me but Sam wanted to see one! Ha! If anyone reading this is ever near the Appalachian Trail, I suggest making time for even just a little hike because it's a really cool feeling to be part of something this monumental.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

For Your Shopping Entertainment

Yet again I am amused by the things I find living in DC. I'm not sure if these things are unique to DC or if they are common in all big cities and it's just that I've never lived in such a metropolis, but either way, I thought you might enjoy seeing my latest fascination with grocery stores ~ a cart escalator! The grocery store sort of near my house but not one that I frequent has a parking garage underground (I swear I don't even know anymore what it's like to park for free in a parking lot!) and shoppers have to take an escalator or the elevator into the actual store. I parked in the garage, rode the escalator up, and didn't really give too much thought as to what was in between the up and down escalator ~ figured it was just empty space or where an escalator used to be. I completely missed the cart signs at the top because they were facing the opposite direction. But meanwhile as I'm shopping, I'm thinking to myself that I better not buy more groceries than I can carry because I'm terrified of elevators. So, I finish my shopping, drive my cart with bagged groceries to the escalator where I begin to unload them into my arms, when all of a sudden I see the lady in front of me push her cart into the "Cart-O-Lator" and away it goes while she rides on the normal escalator next to it!! Brilliant!! I'm so excited to try this out that I load my 3 bags of groceries back into my cart just so I can use it, too. Oh the things that exist when you live in a city :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another Park Discovery

Once again the weather was gorgeous in DC - I'm really liking Fall here!! - so Sam and I decided to pull out the hiking gear (well, let's be honest, our "gear" consists of jeans, jackets, and tennis shoes) and find a new place to explore. We ended up at Rock Creek Park in DC, which is twice the size of Central Park in NYC! It's a beautiful area for biking, hiking picnicking, and even horseback riding - there's an equestrian center in the park but I think it's only for people to board their own horses, not to rent to the public. We stumbled upon a great path that wound up and down hills in the woods alongside a creek and provided a stunning array of colorful leaves. My pictures really don't do it justice, but you can see from a couple of them the reds and yellows that are still in season. Most of the leaves were crunching beneath our feet, but the ones still on the trees were breathtaking, especially the yellow tree. I stood under the branches and stared up at the contrast of a clear blue sky and bright yellow leaves.....magnificent! There were also quite a few neat bridges along the way. I must say the architecture in DC is really cool ~ the buildings downtown, the historic row houses and Brownstones, and the bridges everywhere. Two thumbs up to the architects who designed everything....two giant thumbs DOWN for the engineers who constructed the city in a weird spoke of roads! Ha!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Y'all come on and meet the Queen of Butter!

One of the many delicious exhibitors giving away samples!

The closest I got to the celebs! Ha!

I snuck this picture of Paula and her husband Michael on the large screen television at the show. Tickets to her show were $97-500, so Sam and I decided to stick to sneaking pics :)

That's right, I'm talking about Paula Deen but no, I didn't actually get to meet her....just her cardboard cutout, which I wanted to buy but it wasn't for sale. If you don't know who Paula is, I suggest you A.) step away from the computer, go turn on the Food Network channel, and just watch it until Paula's show comes on, or B.) check out her website Paula is my favorite TV personality and yesterday I was on cloud 9 as I walked around the Metropolitan Cooking Show at the DC convention center. It was THE place to be with Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, and Paula Deen being the featured chefs. Wow! All three definite A-listers in the world of cooking....I mean really, if Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, and Matthew McConaughey were all in the same room as Bobby, Rachel, and Paula, I'd stalk the chefs for their autographs first! The cooking show had over 300 exhibitors giving away samples of baked goods, sauces, jellies, candy, coffee, etc. Sam had it right when he said it's trick-or-treat for adults!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Walk Now for Autism Speaks

I had the awesome privilege last weekend of walking on the national mall to raise awareness and funds for Autism Speaks. It's the largest autism science and advocacy organization that funds research, increases awareness of the growing prevalence of autism spectrum disorders, and advocates for all those affected by autism. Needless to say, it's a great organization and Sam and I walked on behalf of the many children I know with autism. It was a beautiful morning for a 3 mile walk! A little chilly but the sun was shining and with tens of thousands of people all in one location, it warmed up very quickly! Ha! For anyone out there who has always wanted to be part of something bigger than yourself, check out Autism Speaks and get involved. 1 in 110 children are diagnosed with autism and 1 in 70 boys are diagnosed. Time to change those stats!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Future of Waffles

I am a self-proclaimed kitchen gadget aficionado, no question about it. Topping off my list of favorite stores are Williams-Sonoma and Crate and Barrel, but I must say, Macy's is creeping up there with the extensive Martha Stewart collection of kitchenware. Anyways, while browsing in Macy's today, I came across the most genius waffle maker ever!!! Not only does it make Belgium waffles, which, let's be honest are the greatest waffles because the wells are deep enough to hold a pool of syrup in each one, but this waffle iron makes 2 belgium waffles at a time! 2!!!! It's a double-decker waffle iron!! Can you feel the excitement??? I don't have any kind of waffle iron at the moment, but the most annoying thing about fixing waffles for more than one person is only one person can have a hot waffle and that's the person served last ~ everyone else is sitting at the table with a cold waffle and cold pools of syrup politely waiting for everyone to get their food. This is a huge breakthrough in kitchen gadget technology. 2 thumbs up for waffle chefs everywhere!

Friday, November 5, 2010

And here's another one!

As if the traditional ice cream truck wasn't enough, I found that pizza truck as well near Eastern Market, and now today I saw this Curbside Cupcake truck! What is it with people wanting to eat from trucks???

Thursday, November 4, 2010

'Tis the Season...of course!

Is it just me or does Christmas come a little bit earlier every year??? I know the date hasn't changed but I guess retail stores are anxious that it may come in October this year and therefore need to be ready. Perhaps Santa should send all the retail bigwigs a memo January 1st of every year stating that he will still NOT be showing up until December 25th. Perhaps then consumers can enjoy EVERY holiday of the year at the appropriate time and give due diligence to each one. I was in Macy's 2 weekends ago and noticed all the Christmas trees, ornaments, and garland strung throughout....2 weeks ago was October 23rd....Christmas isn't until December 25th....there are 2 more holidays in between.....I don't know what else needs to be said. Before you start thinking I'm anti-Christmas or anything, let me assure you that second only to my youngest brother, I could be the most "Christmasy" person on earth (there's really no competing with my bro who wore a Santa hat pretty much all through Kindergarten followed by a Christmas tie in high school the majority of the year and who can be found dressed like Santa head to toe at any point throughout the year). I go all out at Christmas and put my Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving - key word there is AFTER. I decorate a gingerbread house every year, display more than one nativity in my apartment, have an iPod playlist just of Christmas songs, light the Advent wreath at dinner every night, bake cookies, take great joy in shopping for and wrapping presents, have enjoyed caroling on many occasions and hope to drag Sam along this year, watch every Christmas cartoon and movie on TV (going to be hard this year seeing as how I don't have cable), and I buy new ornaments for my tree throughout the year from new vacation spots I visit. I'm really quite a Christmasy person, but I also like to give pumpkins and turkeys the respect they deserve.

So, Merry Christmas in November cause apparently I'm late in celebrating this year!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ta Da!!!

I know you have all waited on pins and needles since reading my previous post from the pumpkin patch to see our carved pumpkins....well.... Ta-daaaaa!! Here they are! Sam decided to go the fierce, monster route, while I settled on a friendly, goofy looking one. We scoured the internet for pumpkin patterns thinking we would do something elaborate but when it came down to it, the traditional art of carving a face won out. Sam added the extra 3D effect of not only carving teeth but also shaving away the outer pumpkin skin....I promptly copied it with my pumpkin eyes and then hollowed out the middle to give even more depth. Top notch pumpkin carving!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The so-called National Zoo

Some kind of weird bird with a cone on it's head and massive cankles!

Adorable little bird! I wanted to put it in my pocket and name him Fluffers!

Finally visited the zoo! I think it's funny how everything in DC is called "The National____" just because it's in the nation's capital regardless of how good it actually is. When I hear a place is "The National___" I naturally think it must be amazing to be something that represents the entire country. In reality, we should have a voting system to determine what gets to put "The National" before it's name so that when tourists go there, they are wowed and think what an awesome representation of all zoos or aquariums or art galleries found in America. I'm sure you can tell where I'm going with this whole rambling......... the National Zoo in DC should not really be the zoo that represents the US. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice place and very pretty but here are a few points as to why it should have to change it's name to just Zoo:

1) It's built on a hill making it very un-handicap friendly. Immediately upon entering the zoo you start going downhill, so by the time you have visited all the exhibits, you have an extremely long uphill climb back to the entrance/exit. As tired as I was by the time I hiked back up to the exit, I can only imagine how exhausted someone pushing themselves in a wheelchair going uphill would be! Geesh!

2) There are no hippos --- a national zoo should have the largest variety of animals and I know there are other zoos in the US who have hippos.

3) The zoo is free - which is great!! - but parking is $20 for 3+ hours. I'd rather pay admission for the zoo and have free parking because at least that way you feel like you're getting something for your money instead of paying to borrow a square of asphalt for a few hours. The mindset of that whole setup is flawed.

4) I didn't see any animal topiary sculptures. There were pretty plants and gardens but I wasn't wowed. A nice elephant made out of a bush would have been nice.

So, overall the zoo was nice and I liked going to a new place in DC. One more to cross off my list :) But was it national zoo worthy??? I didn't think so.