Sunday, March 9, 2014

I've got no strings to hold me down

It's not like I planned to see a lot of puppets at two separate museums in two different cities on two consecutive Saturdays, but sometimes that's how life shakes out.

Last Saturday, I was wrapping up at the annual Music Library Association conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I was rooming with my former boss and longtime friend, Myrna, who is the mother of Nancy Heiss (and company), the same friends I knew in high school and visited in Egypt a few years ago. They live in Durham, NC, now while Andrew works on a PhD and decided it would be worth the drive to come pick up Myrna in Atlanta to visit them in North Carolina for a few days. I was fortunate to have a few hours to tag along and hang out with the whole crew while we hit a few touristy spots. Their account of our adventures can be found here.

I took puppetry in college, and am a huge fan of puppetry anyway, so I was thrilled that there was a puppet museum in Atlanta that the Heisses wanted to check out. We saw Kermit, Miss Piggy, Emmett Otter, some other Muppets, beautiful marionettes, gorgeous puppets from other countries, and even a Skeksis! Dark Crystal may be one creepy movie, but to see an actual Skeksis was pretty rad.

We finished off our day with a romp in the Centennial Olympic Park and dinner at Waffle House (hashbrowns covered in sausage gravy for less than five dollars? yes please!) before I was off to the airport.

This weekend, Blake started his spring break. He'll have to do some work over the week, but he decided to take off this whole weekend from homework and I decided to take him on a date. After we helped clean our church building, we headed into DC (the deal is that I drive in DC proper, he drives everywhere else) and did something I didn't even know was possible.

We found a parking spot right in front of the museum we were going to.

We checked all the nearby signs multiple times, thinking our luck was too good to be true, but nothing seemed amiss other than our good fortune, so we paid and were set for a few hours. Granted, the museum didn't open for another 45 minutes, but still! Parking! Right where we wanted it!

Because of the wait time, we reversed our plan and went to our second site first - the old Post Office Tower. It offers a panoramic view of the entire city for free, a sort of well kept DC secret. Neither one of us had done it before, so I'm glad we made it! It's not quite as good a view as the top of the Capitol dome, which we got to visit last summer, but it was still pretty great.

Our excellent timing and good fortune continued when we walked back to the American History Museum as they were opening the doors. We didn't even have to wait at the doors like the fifteen poor schmucks ahead of us, because they all got in by the time we got across the sidewalk.

The purpose of our visit was to see the temporary Puppetry in America exhibit, since we're both huge fans of the Muppets. We were not disappointed - Bert & Ernie, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Swedish Chef, Boober, and Red. They also had the California Raisins, the Howdy Doody puppets, the original Snap, Crackle, and Pop, and a few puppets from The Corpse Bride. We loved it!

It was a much smaller exhibit than we anticipated, basically just a window display in the main entrance hall, so we also stopped by the Star Bangled Banner (yes, THE actual one) and an exhibit on the American presidency (including several dresses of the First Ladies). Living nearby a free museum, it's quite nice to pick and choose an exhibit or two for an hour rather than try to pack the whole thing into one day.

For lunch, we took the metro over to Capitol Hill (totally got on the platform just before a train arrived, an excellent feat on a weekend with track work) and split a pizza at We, The Pizza, then wandered around Eastern Market and bought some vegetables. The rest of our day involved grocery shopping, a nap, a little house cleaning, more good food, reading, and a movie at home.

Weekends in DC with my best friend do not disappoint!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The pandas are coming! So hide under your beds!


I announced on this blog in November that I really like pandas. So when the Smithsonian National Zoo announced on their new Instagram page a contest for panda lovers to submit a 15 second video about why they should be chosen for the zoo's first ever Instameet and be one of 30 people to meet the new panda cub in a private gathering, of course I submitted a video. My entry is above.

The extent of panda collection surprised even me. I kept finding things to bring out or put on (even had to be reminded about some of it) and repeatedly thanked Blake for marrying the crazy panda lady. But I decided to let my panda freak flag fly.

Fly it did. Out of 585 entries, I was one of the chosen 30! Saturday morning, we met at the zoo nice and early, before the buildings opened to the public, and were treated to a private meeting of the adorable Bao Bao. We met some of the keepers and learned some interesting panda facts before getting to the see the star of the show. She wasn't as pleased to see us as we were to see her, so she kept escaping back into her den, but the few moments she did share with us were priceless. We saw a little bit of training with her keepers and a lot a bit of cuteness.  I will now share many pictures.

Tian Tian (dad)

Mei Xiang (mom)

Panda monitoring station

Ball o' panda

Training Bao Bao

Mei Xiang

Touching panda fur (handwarmers by AnneArchy)

I even made's coverage of the event! And they didn't make me sound too much like a crazy person.
Sadly, because it was a private event, Blake didn't get to attend with me. Instead, he wandered around the mostly empty zoo, listened to the wolves howl, and made friends with the seals.

He introduced me to them once I was done.

It was a fantastic morning. Many thanks to the National Zoo for making it happen!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Once there was a snowman

The last time DC saw snow of much significance was February of 2010. Any snowfall since then has been less than two inches and while that has been enough to shut things down and cancel school here and there, it's only been for a day, not several.

Until this week.

We had a great three day weekend for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and were all set to go back to work and school on Tuesday when the forecast of 5-8 inches was enough to cancel school before we even went to bed on Monday. Blake's work wasn't closed until Tuesday morning, but it was followed by at least three inches of snow and neither one of us had to be anywhere again until late Wednesday afternoon when Blake's school finally reopened.

My own three day weekend has turned into a six day weekend because even though the accumulation hasn't been nearly as much as our last huge storm, it's even colder this time and road conditions is some of the more rural parts of the region are still treacherous. I did get out for a very bundled up walk with Blake this morning, which was quite nice, but otherwise I haven't left the apartment complex since Monday. Shortly after I post this, I'll finally need to put something other than pajamas on so that I can go to choir rehearsal. Tomorrow, Friday, may be my only day of work this week, though it's possible it will get canceled too, as some other local school districts have already done so. (I work for a private school, but we do what our county school district does for weather cancellations.)

As much as I like my job, all this extra time off has been very enjoyable. Blake was with me for most of it, which was a lot of fun. We decided it was terrible packing snow, but I did get to make a snow angel. There's been plenty of food, games, books, electricity, and supplies around and, since we recently got a Roku, plenty of tv and movies to stream directly to our television. There has also been no shortage of naps and warm snuggles. I've even managed to do few chores around here. It's also good that I'm getting paid this time.
View from our balcony

Frozen culvert

Hooray for snow days/weeks!

Monday, December 23, 2013

You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise

Somehow it's already been a whole year since I married my best friend in the whole world. We're now five days into our second year of marriage and life is wonderful!

To celebrate our anniversary (and the end of another busy semester and reaching the halfway point of law school), we took a 24 hour mini-break to Staunton, Virginia, a charming small town about three hours southwest of us. We found a hotel deal on Groupon a few weeks ago and once I got off work on Friday, we were on our way.

We stayed in a lovely hotel that had been built in the heart of Staunton (pronounced Stan-ton) in the 1920s and recently restored. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas and was incredibly comfortable.

After a pizza dinner (with a gift certificate from our hotel package deal), we went to see "A Christmas Carol" in the Blackfriar's Theater at the American Shakespeare Center, which was next door to our hotel. Since I've been in and seen about a million versions of this timeless tale, I was a little afraid that it was just going to be a typical, no-frills adaptation. Lovely, but standard. I'm pleased to say I was so wrong. This adaptation was brilliant, with just enough audience interaction, modernization (mostly some present day pop culture references), and incredibly talented acting to not completely take us out of the story but be totally entertaining and still quite poignant. We LOVED it, even when Scrooge yelled right at me when I was in his way as he crossed in front of my seat.

Our evening was topped off with a drive through Christmas lights display at Gypsy Hill Park. It was fun to see what local business, churches, and families came up with, and we were pleasantly surprised by a miniature Washington, D.C., temple from the local LDS congregation.

Saturday morning we slept the heck in (so needed when we usually get up around 5 AM), had breakfast in the hotel restaurant (also part of the package), and then wandered around the shops in "downtown" Staunton. We found a few Christmas presents and decorations and enjoyed the small town ambience.

It was a great little escape and celebration and now I'm ready to enjoy two weeks off of work and spending a great deal of time with my handsome husband of a year!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Once upon a time, when I was in high school, I decided I wanted to write my lowercase Rs as miniature uppercase Rs. I thought that would be cool and add something unique to my handwriting. I trained myself to do it, and ever since then, that's how I've written them. I don't think anyone has ever really commented on it, but I like it, so there.

However, last fall, when I was substitute teaching, I started writing on whiteboards in front of children a lot more, especially my last name. Before I got married, my last name had one R, now it has two! I worried that it might be confusing to children just learning how to print, so I started trying to write more lowercase Rs. I was only subbing for a couple days a week for a few months, so once I was at a new librarian gig, I stopped worrying about my Rs again.

Now, as fate would have it, I'm working as a K-12 school librarian and teaching library and information literacy skills to K-6 graders and writing on a whiteboard nigh unto everyday. Once again, though no child has expressed concern either way, I find myself worried that miniature uppercase Rs might confuse them, so I'm trying to write more lowercase again.

Does it matter? I have no idea, but I'm trying to have clear and understandable handwriting, at least on things that my students will read. Oddly, I kind of like the look of my lowercase Rs, so I don't actually mind switching back and forth. It's affecting my handwriting in other situations, and I've probably spent way more time thinking about this than I need to.

And now you have too.

One thing I won't be changing about my handwriting is that I cross my Zs. I started doing that in as a result of multi-variable math, so that I wouldn't confuse my Zs with 2s. I haven't needed to do that kind of math for a while, but I still like the way it looks.

Do you have any handwriting quirks? And what you do think about lowercase v. miniature uppercase Rs?

Friday, November 29, 2013

I said what'cha what'cha what'cha want what'cha want

It should come as no surprise that I have finished  the Shadow Children series. They are written for a somewhat younger audience than myself and are rather short books to begin with, so of course I read them quickly. They were also rather compelling and well written, so I definitely enjoyed getting caught up in a new to me series for awhile. 

What might be a surprise is that two weeks ago I bought a new Neil Gaiman book (Fortunately, The Milk) that I haven't read yet. Even I'm not sure why I haven't yet. Just been doing other things I suppose. 

I really don't have a rhyme or reason to what I tackle next on my to be read list. It just depends on my mood or reading energy level (young adult or middle grade fiction is much easier to read than much adult non-fiction, for example) or what's available when I'm looking for something new. If I'm just reading for fun, it's going to be something I want to read and that changes based on all sorts of factors. 

It's not like I'm trying to prove myself to anyone, so I'll read what I like when I like, thank you very much. If it fits into some sort of reading challenge parameters, like the A-Z challenge I am so close to finishing? Awesome. 

I've had to read so much prescribed material for school with three college degrees and my K-12 education that I balk against doing it in my reading for pleasure. I'll take recommendations of course, but if I read something another person has suggested, I'll do it when I want to, much like Eilonwy suggesting Shadow Children several years ago and me just reading it now. I'll read what I read as it strikes my fancy, and that's okay! 

How do you decide what to read when?
What I bought two weeks ago when I finally spent a gift card my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas last year. Score!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Raise the song of harvest home

I have so much to be grateful for in my life. Things are going really well right now, and I'm so glad for that. I have a really good marriage, job, home, family, and that's just the big stuff.  I know life hasn't always been this good, and there will probably be rough times ahead again, but right now life is good.

One thing I've been grateful for today is that from 2006-2012 I always had somewhere to go for Thanksgiving since I couldn't go home. At least once I was with my aunt, but every other time has been with kind and generous friends who welcomed me into their homes and, at least for a day, into their families. Being a Thanksgiving refugee wasn't always my favorite thing, but I was always taken in somewhere. 

Today, however, I finally got to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family and even in my own home. I have a new baby family now and we had a wonderful newlywed Thanksgiving together, just the two of us. We made all the essentials (turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and pie) and I finally cooked a turkey for the first time. Everything was delicious and we had a great time cooking it all together. 

I'm particularly pleased with my turkey and cherry pie, both things I've never made before. Blake said the pie was the prettiest pie he's ever seen and admitted he didn't usually eat pie crusts, but he liked this a lot. (I made a different crust for a different pie a few weeks ago, and he didn't eat all the crust.) I thought it was particularly appropriate for a newlywed Thanksgiving. 

The gorgeous and tasty turkey:

The whole spread:

It's been one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had! I hope you have also had a great day. Here's to start of a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sweet cherry pie oh yeah

True to personal form, I'm nowhere near where I wanted to be on my sewing project yet. I did acquire the necessary freezer paper, even though it took me two grocery stores to find it. So, what am I making?

Plush Adipose babies, a rather darling Doctor Who character

So far, I've cut out four of them, and embroidered the face for one. Since I didn't finish them for Saturday, my new goal is sometime before Christmas.

Also, today I made a cherry pie, and Blake called it "probably the best looking pie I've ever seen." We'll find out tomorrow if it tastes as good as it looks!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Listen girl to what I say about the man from Gallifrey

I was introduced to Doctor Who during my last semester of college when the reboot was starting. I watched the first two episodes of the show before the guy who introduced me to it and I broke up. This was pre-Netflix and I don't think my ex was exactly acquiring his recordings through legal means anyway, so no more Doctor Who for me for awhile.  

Eventually, a few years ago, I rediscovered the show on my own and this time it stuck. I fell in love and it's definitely one of my favorite shows of all time. I introduced Blake to it sometime last year (and I watched The West Wing for him - also loved it) and, thankfully, he's become a fan. Once the 50th anniversary special date was announced, we had a deadline for getting him all caught up.

We met that deadline by Saturday afternoon, just in time.

Saturday evening, after recording the afternoon simulcast of the special so we could watch it anytime, we had two other couples over for a Doctor Who themed dinner party. Four of the six of us wore Doctor Who themed shirts and we had lots of yummy Doctor Who treats.

We made:

Bowties (Blake made these)

Drums of Madness (Cucumbers filled with herbed cream cheese)



"Fish fingers" and custard

Sonic Screwdrivers

Sonic Screwdrivers the beverage (OJ and lemonade with mint leaves)
Cassandra Lasagna

Our friends made:

TARDIS brownies

Complete with marzipan Dalek

Three Doctor Bowtie pasta (three cheeses)

Slitheen eggs

Fez and Bowtie pasta

It was all delicious and the evening was a complete success. We all enjoyed the special and it was great fun to have some people to share in my nerdiness! 

For the record, my favorite Doctor is Tennant, followed closely by Eccleston. Smith is good and I accept him as the Doctor, but it's only at the end of his tenure that I'm really starting to like him. I am definitely looking forward to Capaldi! Someday, I'd also like to watch the original series, but I don't consider myself any less of a fan for not having done so yet.