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.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Hiking We Will Go

Sam and I tried out a new hiking spot last weekend. This one is in Virginia - only about 15 minutes away. Gorgeous weather, beautiful scenery....and then I see the snake sign AND the drowning sign! Nothing says welcome to the park like two deadly warnings. Ha! But the real kicker was that as we were leaving the park, we stopped in the visitor center (this next part is why you should go there on your way IN to the park!) and met Park Ranger Frank who proceeded to tell us the signs are exaggerated to scare people. No joke!! Although there are copperheads in these parts, they are scared of people unless provoked and the few they have seen, actually live on an island in the park where people don't have access to it. As for the drowning sign, Frank said they just want to scare people into staying off the rocks ~ only 2 people have actually died. So there you have it --- lesson learned: ignore posted park signs! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall Fun!

October is here which officially means it's time to do all the wonderful things I love to do when the weather cools off and the leaves change color - drive in the country, walk through the woods, drink apple cider, sit around a bonfire roasting marshmallows, and carve pumpkins. I can check off driving in the country and walking through the woods, need to go to the store and get some cider yet, might have to count lighting a candle in the apartment and microwaving a marshmallow for the bonfire one, but pumpkin carving is going to happen!

This past weekend was one of, if not the, most beautiful weekend I've seen since moving to DC. The temperature was 68-73, blue sunny skies, little wisps of clouds, and a slight breeze. I wore jeans and a long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve one over it (my favorite fall look!) and was perfectly comfortable. nice to go outside and not start "glistening" immediately! I'm definitely NOT a sun worshipper! So to take advantage of the gorgeous weather, Sam and I decided to head to Butler's Orchard in Maryland, about 45 minutes from DC. It's a pretty orchard and they have a Fall festival every weekend in October - hayrides to pick pumpkins in their field, a corn maze, petting zoo, lots of little kid activities like face painting and craft tables, hay loft, giant slides, a pumpkin launching cannon, and great open-pit BBQ. We had a terrific time going up and down the slides and finding our way out of the corn maze! The hay loft on the other hand was a learning experience ~ I learned never to jump and play in hay unless you are wearing a full jumpsuit because hay down your pants is not a pleasant experience nor is trying to get it out of your pants in a crowd of people an easy thing to do!

It was a successful outing with 2 large, beautiful orange pumpkins to show for it. Now comes the carving next weekend!! Stay tuned!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wish I was Latina!

Who would imagine that the best birthday party ever would occur at an orphanage in a Third World country??? Not me! I had always heard Quinceaneras were great parties ~ music, dancing, cake - the usual, but let me tell you, nothing could have prepared me for my sister's 15th birthday this past weekend! My sister Cara, being adopted from Guatemala many years ago, wanted to return to her orphanage and celebrate the traditional "Quinceanera" that Latina girls have for their 15th birthday with all the children, nuns, and nannies in Guatemala. It was unbelievably amazing to say the least!

The birthday began at 7:30am with firecrackers and a mariachi band waking everyone up. All the children came out of their rooms and we danced for a half hour before getting ready for church. Quinceaneras traditionally have a theme color that is spread throughout - dress, flowers, cake, decorations, etc. Cara's favorite color is orange, so naturally that's what she chose, much to the chagrin of many people who tried to talk her into toning it down to a peach or salmon....she wasn't having it :) Anyways, Cara wore a gorgeous orange ball gown with a tiara fit for a queen! She had dressy white high heels for the church service and then changed into comfortable orange All Star shoes, which she bedazzled with rhinestones on the front. Adorable and very much "Cara style." After the 3 hour church service, it was off to the dining room in the orphanage for a delicious meal of Pollo Campero fried chicken, french fries, black beans, rice, fruit kabobs, coleslaw, rolls, and the best cake I've ever eaten! As the meal progressed, we were once again surprised with another round of firecrackers and yes, the mariachi band returned for more dancing. Unbelievable! There were guests from Russia, Guatemala, the US, and the Philippines all celebrating Cara's birthday.

The only thing that would have made the day complete is if my brothers had also come with us to Guatemala. Hopefully after they see the pictures and videos, they won't be such chickens :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Welcome to the Outer Banks!

Sam's skim boarding attempt

My fleet of turtles guarding my sandcastle.

The best part of living in DC is that it is close to so many awesome places I've never been! The list keeps growing but most recently I took a road trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with Sam's family for a couple days of ocean fun. It's only 4.5 hours from DC!! I've always wanted to experience the Outer Banks for a number of reasons (namely that I drive by dozens of cars everyday with OBX oval stickers on their windows!) but being 12-14 hours from Ohio makes for a waaaaaay to long car ride!

Anyways, it was a great mini vacation with the exception that it rained every single day --- thank you hurricane Carl or Earl or whoever it was out in the Atlantic! But even with the rain, the ocean was still beautiful and the sand very clean and neat to walk on. If you ever think of going to OBX, go during the off season ~ the community and beach were deserted, no traffic, and no wait at restaurants! Perfect!

So, to start off with, I learned how to catch a Blue Crab using chicken necks, proceed to kill the crab in boiling water, followed by a very stinky and messy process of removing what little meat actually is found in crabs. I'd like to hear anyone dare call me a city girl after that process!! The only thing that would have made the whole thing easier would be if I had brought my dissecting kit from college biology ~ would have made cracking the legs, prying off the shell and separating the lungs from the meat much better. At first I felt bad for the crabs because they are a beautiful bluish color and really quite pretty, but after they stared me down with their beady, roving eyes and attempted to snap my finger off, I didn't blink an eye watching them boil! Ha!

My ritual tradition when I'm at a beach is to build a sandcastle....sounds pretty routine, huh? Well, a couple years ago I went to Lake Michigan with my cousins on vacation and my cousin made a sand turtle to conquer my sandcastle. It turned into a turtle vs. sandcastle fight with the turtle prevailing. Ever since then, I always build a fleet of turtles to guard my sandcastle. I like to think it's an intimidation factor to deter people from squashing my castle --- they either think the turtles are too cute and they leave it alone, or they think only a crazy psychotic person would make turtles to guard a castle and they leave for fear the builder is lurking around :)

Another fun part of the trip was learning to skim board. Sam, his brothers, and I found some wooden skim boards at the house they rented, so we decided to give it a try. Let me tell you, it's a lot harder than a YouTube video makes it look!! The basic idea is to run parallel or at a slight 45 degree angle towards the ocean and when the tide comes in, throw the wooden surf board in the water and jump on it to skim along the surface of the water. What the video didn't tell you is that A) there's only a few seconds to throw the board down and jump on to skim before the tide retreats taking the board with it, B) falling on wet sand is very painful, and C) don't try it for the first time when the ocean waves are strong enough to hit you in the back causing additional pain from face-planting in the sand. Otherwise, it's a very fun sport!

I can now check the Outer Banks off my list of places to see, although I would love to go back!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Long overdue

Hello my faithful least, I hope most of you are still reading after my long hiatus from writing! I spent the last 2 weeks sick in bed, then in North Carolina, and then in Guatemala, so I promise great pictures and stories to come of everything except me being sick :) I intended to write and post pics tonight but after looking up at the clock, I've decided it's time for bed. Unfortunately DC traffic does not allow for extra snooze time in the mornings!! Check back tomorrow for a fleet of sand turtles, Blue Crabs that really are the color blue, and an attempt at skim boarding along the ocean. Adventures galore on the East coast :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Check This Out!

I just discovered a really cool feature to my blog! Starting in July, my blog keeps statistics on how many times people view it (page views), who my audience is (broken down into page views by country), and which post has been viewed the most. So, for everyone who thinks no one but my family reads my blog, this post is for you!

Just from July 2010 - October 2010:

Total page views: 1,916
Page views last month alone: 659
Page views by countries (yes, that's right - I have multiple countries reading my blog!!)
US - 1,806
Luxembourg - 43
Canada - 17
China - 16
United Kingdom - 7
France - 4
Australia - 3
Denmark - 3
Sweden - 3
Germany - 2
Most popular post: "If You Give a Baby a Lemon" on July 2nd.

Any day now I'm expecting a call from Good Morning America and the Today show :)