Monday, April 15, 2013

DC Cherry Blossoms 2013

One thing I have been wanting to do since last fall is to see DC with all of the cherry blossoms. Lucky me, the peak week just happened to fall on my birthday week! So my mom and I jumped in the car and drove the 7 hours up to DC. 

At first we had a hard time finding a hotel that still had open rooms. All of the hotels in the city were booked except for the $400+/night rooms which was a little out of our price range. We checked hotels in Arlington and Alexandria but could not find rooms there either. Eventually my mom found a room at the Hampton Inn at Fort Belvoir/Mount Vernon at a reasonable price. It was just a few miles from Mount Vernon and about a 30 minute drive to the city. When we first got to Fort Belvoir we were a little nervous. It does not look like the safest place for two women to stay alone. However when we got to our hotel we found that it was fairly new and very nice. 

After a good night's sleep at our nice hotel we went into the city. Because we knew we wanted to rent bikes for the day and that Bike and Roll has a location at Union Station we decided that it would be easiest to park our car in the garage at Union Station so that we would not have to worry about parking meters or anything. The one thing we did not like about this is that after 5 hours at the garage it charges you for a full day. 5-24 hours is $22. I think they could make a few more increments in that 19 hour range but maybe that is just me. We did decide though that it was still easier and worth the cost and for 6 hours we probably would have paid almost as much any way. 

After getting to Union Station we decided not to rent our bikes immediately because I wanted to go to the Capitol to see the new Rosa Parks statue in the State Statuary collection.  My friend Courtney who is interning for a congressman met us and took us to the statue. It was awesome! Thanks Courtney for the VIP treatment. 

Rosa Parks Statue
Rosa Parks Statue
After a quick stop by my old office we were headed back to Union Station to get our bikes. Oh but first we had a quick pit stop at the Ben and Jerry's tent outside of the station for some FREE ice cream!! Awesome little treat. 
US Capitol Cherry Blossoms
The US Capitol with Cherry Blossoms in front!
We got our bikes from Bike and Roll at Union Station. I have written about them before here, super nice people! We also found a coupon for 50% off a second bike rental just by googling "Bike and Roll DC Coupon." We biked down around the Capitol, to the National Mall, the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, over to the Lincoln Memorial, and then back to Union Station. Quite a ride!

US Capitol
View of the Capitol through the trees from the Tidal Basin

DC Cherry Blossoms
Thomas Jefferson Memorial

It really was not that crowded until we got to the Tidal Basin where we had to get off our bikes a couple of times because of all of the people. The bikes were definitely worth it though! 

DC Cherry Blossoms
Thomas Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin
Side story: when we first got to the National Mall we saw two women (one probably in her 50's and the other in her 60's) sitting on one of the benches and the older lady looked like she had passed out on the younger lady. At first we thought someone was helping them but then the older lady started throwing up and the "helpers" walked away. We pulled over to help and there was another older couple who was calling 911. If you do not know, one of the main symptoms of someone, especially a female, having a heart attack is vomiting. I immediately checked to see if the lady was conscious and breathing, which she was, while my mom went to check the names of the streets at the closest intersection to make sure the ambulance had the right names and to wave them down if she saw it. She was able to wave down and SUV of Capitol Police and they were able to radio in the exact location. Because the police were there and we heard the ambulance the other couple there told us to go ahead and enjoy our day that they would make sure everything was ok. We hope everything turned out ok. Afterwards, when we were talking about it we were shocked that the first "helpers" there walked away because the lady was throwing up. The least you can do is call 911, offer to buy a bottle of water, or go find someone who can help. 

After that excitement, we were able to enjoy our beautiful day in DC. And it was a beautiful day. Warm, sunny, and a slight breeze. Perfect cherry blossom viewing weather. 

DC Cherry Blossoms
Thomas Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin
Because Bike and Roll closes at 6 (that is my only complaint about them, they should at least wait until about sunset or a little after) we decided to see what other entertainment we could find. As a baseball fan I was very excited to see the Nationals were in town. I am a Red Sox fan so during the regular season I don't think there is a real conflict of interest pulling for a National League team, at least occasionally. 

Nationals Park
My friend Samantha and I at the game
The Nationals were playing the White Sox in DC so we headed over to the stadium and met my friend Samantha there. We found parking about 3 blocks from the stadium for $20. Although someone told us you can find it cheaper, we opted for the safe looking, populated area for a little more money. 

Although I have only been to a few different ball parks, I really liked this one. It made me think of an updated version of the Braves Turner Field. It is also one of the easiest parks to walk up and get tickets. Unlike many other ball parks we have been to, you simply walk up to one of the ticket machines outside of the park, choose the game, ticket price range, how many tickets, swipe your credit card and you are on your way. 

The tickets were also very reasonably priced. The cheapest tickets were $13 but of course those are in the nose bleeds. After looking at the different options available we found some great seats for $22 that were in the second deck above the right field wall. One of the last Braves game we went to we paid a lot more than that for much much worse seats. These were great though-- a good view of the field and in a home run section, although none were hit to us that night. And the weather made it an absolutely perfect night for baseball! 
Nationals Park
View from out seats. Not bad for $22!!

The stadium had great food too and not terribly expensive. They have everything from local places like Ben's Chili Bowl and the  Shake Shack to burgers, hot dogs and chicken cooked over the out door grill. 

Oh and the Nats won! All in all, a great ending to a great day! Check back later for my next post about day 2 at Mount Vernon!

I'll be linking this post to Between Naps on the Porch! Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Painted Toms

This past weekend we had a bridal shower at our house for my cousin Danielle who is getting married in May! We were so excited to be able to love and support her and walk with her on this new and exciting journey. 

I am a gift giver. I love to give thoughtful gifts that I know the person will love and appreciate. I am also a lover of Toms, especially painted Toms. Recently at the Justice Conference, Toms had a booth where they were not only selling Toms, but had professional Toms artists there to paint whatever you wanted to on them. Of course I could not resist and had this pair painted. 

hand painted Toms
A Toms artist finishing up my Toms

Custom Toms
My Toms
Customized Toms
Side view of my Toms
A little birdie told me that my cousin Danielle needed a new pair of Toms and, being the artist in the family, I knew she would love some of the designs I had seen on Pinterest and Etsy so I decided to try to find the artist in me.  

Her Toms are done in her wedding colors, grey and yellow, have her new monogram on the sides, and her wedding date on the back. 

Custom Toms
Date on the back
It was a lot of work and I am not nearly as fast as the professionals at Toms but I think they turned out great and everyone loved them, especially Danielle. 


I have had some people ask me about them so if you are interested in a pair of your own or for the bride in your family check out my Etsy shop

Monday, March 25, 2013

Suits and Social Justice

For the past year or so one of my favorite shows on TV has been the law drama "Suits" on USA Network. It is tactfully written with a good plot and not nearly as predictable as many other shows on TV now a days. I was out of town when the season finale aired last month and have just now had the opportunity to blog about it. 

As interesting as it is, over the last season I have grown increasingly concerned with some of the content featured in the show. The more I watched the more profanity I noticed, and I consider myself to have a relatively high tolerance for profanity. It was not just that the characters cursed, but how and when they cursed. It wasn't the occasional d*m* or sh*t but the excessive use of GD, which, for me, crosses a line that the other words don't. It was the fact that at times it seemed as though these vulgarities were thrown in just for the sake of being thrown into the script, so people know these are "bad a**" lawyers. 

I know what these comments will seem like to many people, that I am young and naive and don't know how the real world works or how people in the real world talk. And you are wrong. I know how people talk. For goodness sakes, I just graduated from college and there is no shortage of it there. I was even at a healthcare conference with my parents recently and upon entering the hotel heard a twenty-something year old at the conference using horrific language in the loudest voice he could muster with my mother, whom he did not know, right next to him. That kind of behavior is classless and poorly represented not only him but the company he worked for. 

And the same goes for television. Let's be honest, it's nothing but sloppy and lazy writing. If you have to throw out that many obscenities to prove  how bad or tough you are, are you really that tough? Are you really that crafty of a writer that you have to add unnecessary expletives to establish the character of the role?

 So this was one thing that bothered me about the show this past season and then the last episode really pushed it over the edge. Since the beginning of the show there has been a budding (and at times, dying) romance between two of the main characters, Mike and Rachel. It has been one of those together, not together, together, not together type of plots. Well, **SPOILER ALERT** in the last episode, they end up together, like reeeeeaaaaaaal together. My problem with how the writers and producers decided to portray their relationship is not that they had sex, plenty of shows have the characters under the sheets and they leave the rest to the viewers imagination. However, "Suits" left nothing to the imagination and no room for any other interpretation. Although, I have been told pornography is much more than just sex nowadays, Suits clearly crossed a line in the realm of porn. 

What is more disturbing to me is that "Suits," nor any other program on tv now, takes responsibility for or even acknowledges the effects that this type of content has on viewers or our society as a whole. It is not simply degrading to society but studies have linked "everyday tv porn" to higher uses of more explicit pornography which is a "gateway" to even more explicit acts like child pornography, prostitution, sexual assault, and human trafficking/sex trafficking. If you don't believe it consider this, the fastest growing demographic for pimps who force girls against their wills to sell sexual services is high school age boys and most of these were introduced to this "industry" through pornography. 

Like I said above, it is extremely disturbing to me that "Suits" does not seem to have any idea what type of effect this content has. This is evident in the conflicting messages they send with their brief ads for the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) about women's equal rights in the work place that aired during episodes featuring a storyline concerning a lawsuit dealing with gender discrimination in the work place. The company at fault, "Folsom Foods," was sued because they failed to promote or hire women because they felt that women are less devoted to their work because take time off for things like pregnancy or taking care of their children.

This simply doesn't add up. It appears that "Suits" and USA Network are very concerned with women  being treated fairly and not discriminated against in the workplace but, by featuring such sexually explicit content, contribute to the sexual exploitation of women and underage girls. Not to mention the fact that sex in the workplace is never a good idea and certainly does not help women break that "glass ceiling" we hear so much about. 

So I'm sorry "Suits," but I will not be watching you any more. Clean up your content and learn about the effects your materials have on society and I'll consider tuning back in.

Oh and to anyone reading this who feels similarly, USA Network wants to know how you feel! Please click here for a link to their feedback form and feel free to tell them you heard about it here. 

For more info on sex trafficking check out the Polaris Project
For more info on how pornography feeds the sex trafficking industry check out this recent study, although others are out there too.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saint Patrick's day has never been a big deal in my family. At most, if we think of in while getting dressed we may try to dig out a green shirt or something but that's about it. I actually had to look up what day it is because I can never remember when it is (it is March 17th if you didn't know). 

Saint Patrick's Day

However, last year I was doing some research on the old hymn "Be Thou My Vision" which finds its origins in Ireland and actually has some links to St. Patrick when the day found a new place in my heart.  

To most people's surprise, St. Patrick was not actually Irish but Scottish. Long before he was a saint, he was kidnapped from his homeland Scotland some time between the ages of 14-16 and taken as a slave to Ireland. In his writings he describes how God used this time of captivity to grow his faith but also a time for him to learn the language and more about the pagan culture. He was in Ireland for several years (some say between 5-6 years) before escaping. 
St. Patrick
Saint Patrick Stained Glass Window
After reuniting with his family, Patrick had a dream that the people of Ireland were calling out to him asking him to return. He then began studying to become a priest so that he might return to Ireland as a missionary to the people there. Patrick preached and shared the Gospel there for over 40 years and is credited with the country's conversion to Catholicism and he is the only missionary to have his own international holiday. 


This St. Patrick's day rather than just wearing green, looking for four leaf clovers, and drinking green beer, take a minute to pray for the missionaries around the world or send a note of encouragement to those missionaries you know.

Note: All pictures are taken from Google Images

Monday, March 11, 2013

Philadelphia- The Birthplace of Our Nation and Home of Cheese Steaks

Although our time was short in Philadelphia I already want to go back, preferably when it is warm. My mom and I flew up to attend the Justice Conference but we went a day early so that we could explore Philadelphia since we knew our conference schedule would be pretty busy.

City Hall
Part of Philadelphia City Hall lit up at night. It was massive!
We stayed downtown in the center of it all at the Downtown Marriott (I like to pronounce it with a British accent similar to Downton Abbey) which connects to the Philadelphia Convention Center. This is a great location, especially if you don't have a lot of time and need to be close to it all.

The night we flew in we got there too late to go see anything but too early to just hang in the room or go to bed. Thankfully my mom is an awesome trip planner and found out that there was a Macy's across the street from our hotel. I know what you are probably thinking, "You go to a famously historic city and you go shopping?" Before you judge us for being shallow or unpatriotic or frivolous, let me explain.

Macy's in downtown Philadelphia has the largest functional pipe organ in existence. The organ was built in 1911 and has 30,000 pipes and sits right above the shoe department. The best part is, they have organists who play it twice a day Monday-Saturday, once in the morning and once in the evening.


My mom, a pianist who took organ lessons in college, loved it! It was probably the highlight of her trip. We were able to go and hear it played twice, and, yes, do a little shopping as well (only because they had an unbelievable sale going on though!).

The next day was our official "touring day." Although I'm sure many people think it is cheesy, our family has found that one of the best ways to see a city for the first time is to do a "hop on, hop off" bus tour. Our favorite is the Big Bus Company which has locations all over the world, including Philly. Unlike every other Big Bus Tour we have taken, which has been a double decker bus, our tour was on a trolly car. Later the tour guide explained that during the busy tour season they use the big double decker buses but during the off season they use the trollies because they are warmer. It was really cold so I didn't mind.

Our tour started right outside our hotel and took us by almost all of the famous sites and learned a lot of neat facts about Philadelphia. For example, the inventor of the game Monopoly was from there and that is where all of the railroads, the electric company and water works come from or that we get the word "penitentiary" from Philly's East Penitentiary because the Quakers would give each prisoner there a Bible and tell them they needed to ask for penance. These are some of the things we saw:

Me and the Rocky Statue
Betsy Ross
Betsy Ross's House
Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin's Grave- Awful picture but the best I could do. The tour guide said people leave pennies on his grave. Ironic since Franklin was the one who said, "A penny saved, a penny earned." 
We rode the trolley around straight through the first time and then got off at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It was so cold we had to pretty much run from building to building.

Me and the Liberty Bell
Of course if you have read my previous blogs about DC or the Capitol you know how much I love historic sites. Philadelphia was no different. There is nothing quite like standing in the room where our nation's government began, where men, knowing the risk, made the decision to break away from tyranny and establish a "more perfect union." More simply put, there is nothing quite like standing in the footsteps of history.

First House Chamber
Me at a Congressman's desk at the first House Chamber
Needless to say, we couldn't go to Philadelphia without getting a Philly Cheese Steak. We didn't have time to seek out the best in the city, but we were able to get one at Reading Terminal, which has hundreds of food vendors. Reading Terminal (pronounced "redding") is the former home of Reading Railroad, an actual train terminal that is now out of commission.

Reading Railroad

Our Philly Cheese Steak

Reading Terminal is also where you can find Bassett's Ice Cream, America's oldest ice cream company, which began making and selling ice cream in 1861. Naturally we had to have a taste and it didn't disappoint.

Reading Terminal
Bassett's Ice Cream

Reading Terminal Market
Another great trip in the books! Can't wait to go back to Philly and explore some more!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Oscar Results and Comments

Sorry it has been awhile for me. I have been in and out (more out than in) of town for the past 3 weeks, but now I'm home and have some catching up to do!

So the Oscars did not turn out well for me this year. Obviously I am most excited about Anne Hathaway winning best supporting actress. However, many of the other categories I did not agree with especially, as you may imagine, Best Picture.

I got a few right and a good many wrong, and, of course, feel like my choices frequently got robbed. However, I am excited for Ben Affleck, I think he is a pretty cool guy, but I still don't think Argo deserved it. I also thought the First Lady's presentation was odd and extremely out of place and made the whole thing look rigged (Affleck and fellow producer George Clooney are both major Obama supporters). In my opinion, organizations should always avoid the appearance of any kind of fraud or deceit, especially in this day and age where everything is so highly scrutinized. It also does not help that Argo has a political element to it, adding to suspicions. 

I also was not a big fan of the host or his hosting. I do not understand why they go to so much trouble to make the event "funny." I enjoyed parts like the cast of Les Mis singing as well as Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum dancing. Those were classy. But as for the rest, leave it for Family Guy Seth McFarlane. 

Well, there is always next year. Maybe it will be better for all of us. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

And the Oscar Goes to... part three

Academy Awards

About 1 week away from the Oscars! Crazy! I actually rented Beasts of the Southern Wild at my local RedBox but have not been able to watch it yet. Since it is snowing tonight, I may just stay home and watch it!

Just fyi, these are some of the less exciting categories that I know very little about and am basically just randomly making educated guesses.

Animated Feature Film
Nominees: Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Wreck-It Ralph

My Pick: Brave

Animated Feature Film

Although I didn't get the chance to see Brave, I have heard great things about it and it is on my list to see, I'm going to go out on a limb and pick it. Dinsey/Pixar has a great record at the Academy Awards (9 nominations and 6 wins) and a great record of making quality, entertaining family movies.

The others seem to be a little bit lower quality of film. However, the one I would say to watch is Frankenweenie directed by Tim Burton. While I am not a Tim Burton fan, he is popular and considered "artsy" or something, but, it is important to note, he has never won.

Nominees: Anna Karenina, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall

My Pick: Skyfall

James Bond

This category has lots of previous nominees in it which makes it a real toss up. I'll level with you, I'm pulling for Skyfall because this is its cinematography person's 10th Oscar nomination and he has never won before. 10th times a charm, right?

Others to watch: Django and Lincoln. This is Robert Richardson's, of Django, eighth nomination in this category and he has won 3 times before (Hugo in 2011, The Aviator in 2004, and JFK in 1991), and Janusz Kaminski's, of Lincoln, sixth nomination  and he has won twice before (Saving Private Ryan in 1998 and Schindler's List in 1993).

Of these two I really like Lincoln best. Cinematically it was different. It was one of those things I cannot really put my finger on but it was very clear that it was different. Plus, it had some pretty intense war/fighting scenes. It would probably be my pick if I didn't just want Skyfall to win so Roger Deakins could break his losing streak.

Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln

Costume Design
Nominees: Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman

My Pick: Mirror Mirror

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Mirror Mirror
This is one that I had really narrowed down my pick between Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman (neither of which I have seen) and was really unsure and then just found myself writing Mirror Mirror and decided to go with my gut.

Snow White

I think these two have the best chance of winning because they are more creative films and the costume designers had much more creative liberty than the others, which are more period films and their designers had to stick more to the period than their creative side.

I think I chose Mirror Mirror primarily because of Julia Roberts dress. It is just striking. 
Mirror Mirror
Julia Roberts in Mirror Mirror

Nominees: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

My Pick: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Second Pick: Lincoln

Again, I have not yet seen Beasts but, just from watch clips and trailers, I think it is a unique film that took a lot of creative interpretation from the director. However, Lincoln is directed by Steven Spielberg who has 14 previous nominations and 3 wins. It is a historic film and a legendary director so I would not be surprised if it won but, again, I would like to see Beasts of the Southern Wild awarded for its uniqueness and the risk everyone involved took in making it.

I will add that I am very disappointed that the Academy left out Tom Hooper of Les Miserables. Like I mentioned in one of my previous Oscar posts, Les Mis is a game changer kind of film. Hooper took film musicals to a whole new level. His innovation in having the actors sing live during the filming rather than having it pre-recorded is, just that, innovative and raising the bar in the film industry and in acting. Because of this, I'm pushing for him to win as a write in!

Documentary Feature
Nominees: 5 Broken Cameras, The Gatekeepers, How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War, Searching for Sugar Man

My Pick: How to Survive a Plague

How to Survive a Plague is about the AIDS epidemic in the 80's and the politics and public opinion surrounding it. Unfortunately, I think we all know where the Academy is politically, and that typically influences their voting. Which is also why I think The Invisible War may also win. This film is about sexual assaults in the military. This has been a hot topic for a few years now and still has not made much progress. Between the two I think I would like to see The Invisible War win but I have not seen any of the nominated films to say that with any certainty.

Film Editing
Nominees: Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

My Pick: Argo

Film Editing?! Really?! If you someone can name the last three winners in this category without looking it up then I'll give you $100!! (disclaimer: not really)

This is just a random pick. I don't even know what makes a good film editor. But I have picked Argo because I think it's one of Argo's better shots at Winning. It is a good movie, just not quite Oscar quality.

Check back for my final picks and be sure to watch the Oscars February 24 @ 7 pm on ABC!