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Embassy Days Part 2: Shortcut to Europe

12 May

After last week’s awesome meanderings around the world, I couldn’t wait for this weekend’s adventure: Europe. We started early and on the outskirts so we beat the crowds. Our itinerary centered around food and dogs – the two most important things in life


Egg artists

At our first stop we were greeted with tiny cups of delicious food and wine. At first we were leery of the sauerkraut, potatoes and bacon but it was perfect. As we pined for more, we wandered around the airy rooms admiring the tables of glossy travel brochures and displays of traditional costumes and modern art.

I really enjoyed looking at the decorated eggs. One woman used a technique, which my family had actually tried at Easter this year, where she used a razor to etch a continuous design around the egg. The woman said she had learned from her parents and practiced for years (seven?).


Austria was chosen because the promotional materials promised apple strudel demonstration. We didn’t see the demonstration by sampled some nice flaky pastry and juice from an Austrian fruit that I can’t remember – Red Bull and coffee were also available.

Live musicians played and little girls in dresses twirled around the room. Keeping with the food theme of the day, we tasted cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil.

Sugared and caffeinated, we boarded a shuttle and traveled to our next country.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic had the most extensive and detailed presentation,  all centered around the theme of movie. Apparently, many films —including big Hollywood blockbusters such as the “Bourne Identity” and “Mission Impossible”— have been filmed in the Czech Republic. I was excited to recognize “Closely Watched Trains,” a film from my European cinema class, on a poster.

As we walked up to the embassy, a youth choir was singing (some of them had been on the Metro with us). Then, a comedic Renaissance stage combat team demonstrated different types of fighting including swordsmanship.

And, of course, I must tell you about the food we sampled: The Bohemian spa wafers reminded me of a flat, fancy sugar ice cream cone (but in a good way – there were flavors like hazelnut). We also tried kolaches, traditional Czech pastries, from Bistro Bohem, the only Czech restaurant in DC. Mine was kind of like a pudding, but again, in a good way.


Cute summary of embassy days: younger generations carrying on traditions and teaching others

So my favorite stop of the day was of course Hungary because of the kutya – dogs! I was so excited that as soon as I chomped my way through a pretzel-type thing and made my way through security, I strode determinedly through to the embassy and didn’t stop until I found a dog.

In a room across the patio, I man had a friendly long-haired dachshund and I asked if I could pet it. Content, though slightly disappointed that that was the extent of the dog experience,  I continued down the steps and out into the embassy’s backyard and saw the most glorious sight: dogs, several of them, running around. Before I had asked a random guest to pet his dog but now I had found the real deal.

I had seen vizslas , the Hungarian hunting dog, on Animal Planet but never in person.  Their playful energy and rust-golden coat and matching eyes hooked me instantly. One super friendly sweetie covered my face in wet-tongue kisses and then tried to sit in my lap.

Talking to the dog’s owner, she told me the butt-to-owner position is a common stance for vizslas. She thought it was unique to her dog but at an event with other vizslas she saw dozens of other dogs doing it as well. They like to see what’s going on around them while staying close to you.

In addition to the vizsla, Hungary is known for the puli, a herding breed that bears a remarkable resemblance to a mop (or, as you might remember from the beer commercial, a head full of dreadlocks).


After I had fulfilled my doggie needs, my friends and I headed down to the most concentrated cluster of embassies in DC. We wanted to go to Belgium for the chocolate, but the line was too long. We wanted to go to Finland, but the line was too long. All of the embassies had lines that rivaled those of popular Disney rides during peak tourist season.

At that point, I gave up. My feet were tired and it was hot. There’s always next year.


Fire + slow shutter speed = art

2 May

While the s’mores were good, my roommate and I had more fun drawing with the flames after tonight’s bond fire.

January bonfire

8 Jan

Last night was a fairly mild for January, so my roommates and I decided to make the most of it by making a fire in our backyard. This was my first excursion to the backside of our property.

Cathleen headed up the construction of the fire, selecting the best branches from the yard and arranging them just so. She was our resident expert having built so many fires at her family’s camp in central Pennsylvania.

I gathered what I would call “urban kindling” – dryer lint and junk mail. Admittedly, our clothes smelled a little funny from all the weird stuff we burned.

The other roommates made a run for s’more supplies. I had been craving their chocolatey toasty goodness forever so the treats definitely hit the spot – even though we had to use gluten-free marshmallows because our closest grocery is a health food store.

The change of scenery (and the brisk air) made for a refreshing Saturday night. We often spend our downtime watching movies, so it was nice to hang around the campfire. Without leaving DC, I was transported back to  my Girl Scout camping trips and college retreats. There’s some kind of quiet nostalgia about watching the flames flicker as you get comfortable in your sweatshirt.

U.S. Botanical Gardens

7 Jan

The weather was so beautiful today that I decided that I had to get out of the house. My roommate Rachel agreed to make a trip with me to the U.S. Botanical Gardens.

On the way to and from the gardens, we stopped by the reflection pond outside of the Capitol.

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My favorite part of the gardens was the orchid room – so many colors! So many shapes and sizes!

There was also a cool room about  the uses and associations of plants. In addition to the quotes and poems there were interactive features that allowed you to smell herbs and spices, test your knowledge of plants or explore the associations people have with certain plants (ie: red roses for love, evergreens with Christmas, tulips with Holland).

Ending the day on a sweet note, we stopped at a crepe stand in Chinatown for strawberry and Nutella French goodness. One of the many reasons I love Chinatown.

In 2011, I…

31 Dec

…had my first multimedia projects published.

…helped the UF chapter of Get Carded win the first-ever Jaime Montoya Memorial Challenge.

… organized and ran the Catholic Gators’ first-ever Student Lenten Initiative fundraiser.

….graduated from the University of Florida, saying good-bye to a beautiful community of friends and mentors.

…witnessed the first of my friends to get married and was a bridesmaid for the first time.

…started a short-lived freelance journalist/videographer career.

…worked with children and even enjoyed it – most of the time 😉

…moved to Washington D.C. to live outside of Florida for the first time.

…started a year of service as a volunteer with a Catholic non-profit, Franciscan Mission Service.

…made new friends and enjoyed the company of old ones.

…spent my first holiday away from my family.

…cut down a Christmas tree for the first time.

… met several famous journalists.

…experienced many trials and frustrations.

…was blessed beyond measure.

Thanks for being a part of a great year! Stick with me to see what 2012 brings. Have a Happy, Healthy and Holy New Year!

Fall at the monestary

13 Nov

I’m fortunate enough to have Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America right in my neighborhood.  After Mass at the the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre (modeled after the Hagia Sophia), this morning I enjoyed walking through its famous gardens and taking photos.

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The fall foliage was a beautiful backdrop for the replicas of alters in the Holy Land and mosaics. I also strolled through the Rosary Portcio to see some of the 15 chapels with their murals and 200 plaques depicting the “Hail Mary” prayer in ancient and modern languages.

Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

12 Nov

I finally made it to the National Zoo!

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It was a beautiful fall day and my friend Kathy and I meandered through the animal exhibits, fighting our way through children and families to see the pandas and the big cats. It was a great way to catch up and enjoy the weather.

As Kathy and I walked through the small mammal house, we noticed several enclosures for Golden Lion Tamarins. Apparently the zoo has been part of a conservation program since the 1970s.


If you’re planning a trip to the zoo, keep in mind that there is LOTS of walking — or should I say climbing because there are LOTS of hills. Also, even though the Metro stop is called “Woodley Park-Zoo,” it’s still a good hike away from the zoo’s entrance. But the best part about the zoo? It’s free!