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Roses on the Ascension

20 May

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The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America has beautiful gardens and I’d have to say the crowning jewels are the roses.

This morning I decided to attend Mass at the monastery and snap some shots before the roses fade away for the season. When I found myself at the Ascension Chapel, a praying visitor reminded me that it was the chapel’s feast day, the fortieth day after Easter which commemorates Christ’s ascension to heaven.

Climbing on the portico walls to find good lighting and healthy flowers, I was accompanied by huge bumblebees. While they were buzzing around, their determination was so focused that I didn’t need to worry about them bothering me. It was fun to just watch them do their late springtime thing.


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.

Cherry Blossoms

19 Mar

I’ve waited all winter for this: the famous DC cherry blossoms. As a Floridian, I shivered my way through all three snow flurries and slipped on my first patch of ice. I shivered in my bed at night and walked to work with chattering teeth and a frozen nose.

But over night the cold disappeared and the city blossomed. Yards are decked with perky bright daffodils and tulips of yellow, pink, orange, red and purple. Yet all these little flowers are nothing in comparison to the majesty of the cherry blossoms down by the Tidal Basin.

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They’re truly an enchanting sight.  Walking around the water, it felt like I was in Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Strolling along, little petals float off the trees and swirl around

The blossoms were surprisingly…white. I definitely expected them to be pinker. My roommate and I found about five solidly pink trees. Perhaps the trees get pinker with time?

One million tourists visit the capital every spring to see the trees, and this year is the 100th  anniversary of the gift of the blossoms from Japan.

Since February the city had been tracking the progress of the blossoms.  Reports say that they’re supposed to peak this week, starting tomorrow.

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.

Vandaveer and Ben Sollee in concert

20 Nov

Vandaveer joins Ben Sollee for a special number (cell phone pic)

You’ve never heard of Vandaveer or Ben Sollee?!

Well, I hadn’t either until my roommates invited me to their concert. You have to check them out.

Roomies Rachel and Susie (cell phone pic). Thanks for inviting me!

Vandaveer is my roommate Susie’s favorite band right now. They’re a folksy duo lead by a songwriter from Kentucky. Their set included several ballads, one of a ghost and one of a murdered girl. But not all their songs were so dark.

Ben Sollee is also from Kentucky. My roommate Rachel loves him for his signature instrument, the cello. He was classically trained but now plays a genre-bending mix of rock, folk. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine I was standing in front of Paul Simon. As if the cello and Simoneque sound weren’t wonderful enough, many of his songs had great meaning behind them. He’s definitely now one of my favorite artists.

I haven’t been to many concerts, and I found the experience of live music to be simply amazing. Our early arrival at the small venue meant we were only a few feet away from the musicians. (Side note: The Red Palace on H-street is a bar that Robert Ripley would appreciate for its mummies and oddities. I don’t know how he would feel about the cat Al that walks up and down the bar to his cardboard box.)

Before a song, the artists would talk about it, why the wrote it, what it means to them. That’s something you don’t really get from a CD or MP3 recording and I really enjoyed that personal sharing.

Watching Ben and his percussionist Jordan Ellis play together was like watching a jam session or a playoff as the musicians went back and forth, feeding off of each other’s energy. That passion and fun get lost in the translation of music to recording too sometimes.

Ben Sollee signs Rachel's ticket (cell phone pic)

After the concert, Rachel got her ticket signed by the performers. After she got Ben’s autograph, he stepped up to Susie and I, “Hello, friends.”  While Susie was a bit starstruck, I was at a loss for words. What do you say to a  musician you didn’t know but heard for the first time  right there from the front row? I didn’t want to look ignorant. We settled on “Your music is so inspirational.”


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.