Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Trip '09

Though we were frustrated by our change in itinerary and the loss of a day on our trip, there was one advantage - our layover in Atlanta was 3.5 hours, so we had time to visit my aunt and cousin who moved there in the fall from Minnesota. They live right by the airport, so my aunt picked us up, then we grabbed some pizza and went back to her apartment. My cousin Emily, her boyfriend Joe and the kids came over and we had a nice dinner together.

Emily and Timmy...I can't believe he'll be 2 in January!

Shaun with Brynn...she was a little unsure about us. It's crazy how different she looks from the last time we saw her, when she was just about a month old.

After a visit to the roof of their apartment building to watch a few planes land, we made our way back to the airport and had a smooth flight to the Quad Cities. On Monday morning, we went out to breakfast with my mom, stopped by my aunt and uncle's house for a few minutes, and then went to my LASIK followup appointment. The doctor I saw said everything looked good. I'm still seeing halos at night, but he said they still consider you to be healing for the first 3 months, so he's not concerned at this point. After my appointment we loaded up my mom's car and made the 6 hour drive to the Twin Cities - between our luggage and all the presents and food my mom had (plus the dog), it's amazing we all fit into her little Nissan Versa!

Most of the week was just spent relaxing at home. We did make it out to a couple of movies though - Shaun, Laura and I saw Avatar in 3D and it was awesome, and all five of us saw Did You Hear About the Morgans? - which was kinda predictable, but not bad. It started snowing on Wednesday night and didn't stop until well after Shaun and I left on Saturday. Because of that I didn't attempt to make plans with friends, but that was okay, because I really appreciated the time just watching movies and playing games with my family. Laura and I even busted out the VHS tape with a couple of our favorite old-school Christmas specials (A Muppet Family Christmas and A Garfield Christmas Special, complete with 80s commercials!).

Anyway, here was our view on Christmas dreaming necessary; it was very much a white Christmas.

Stockings for all

Ruby had to put on her Christmas sweater to go was cold!

Setting the table for Christmas dinner, pretending I'm not paying attention to the photographer (and showing off one of my gifts - a sheer cardigan from my mom)

Never too many pictures of a cute dog

In contrast to our July Minnesota trip where we were constantly running around, this visit was a really nice change of pace. Unfortunately it still seemed to go by way too quickly. It definitely helped though that on Sunday, the day after we got back, we got to celebrate Christmas again with Shaun's family with presents, dinner, and some Catch Phrase.

I'm sure it's common, but I always get a little bummed after the holidays. I have to kind of wean myself off of Christmas music (hopefully by New Year's), and I start to dread the long winter months of January through March. I just have to remind myself of the fun things coming up in the year ahead, like going back to MN for Laura's college graduation in May, hopefully going to Florida for my cousin Amy's wedding over Memorial Day weekend, and some more trips in the late summer/fall if we can swing it. And in the meantime, my big TV season will keep me occupied on the dark, cold winter evenings, with Chuck and American Idol starting the second week of January. It's the little things, right?

I'll probably be back over the weekend with some kind of 2009 recap post...for now, Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stupid Snowstorm

If all had gone as planned today, I would be on a plane right now. Shaun and I were supposed to fly out of White Plains this evening, connect in Atlanta, and then fly to the Quad Cities. I have a LASIK follow-up appointment there on Monday, and then we're driving up to Minnesota to spend the rest of the week with my family. But when we got up this morning, we discovered that our flight had been preemptively canceled due to the huge storm making its way up the East Coast. At first it didn't look like there would be any flights going out this weekend, which meant we couldn't rebook online, because Delta's rebooking form only lets you pick from today and the next day. Fortunately, after an hour of hearing busy signals from their 800 number, we tried online again and found an available flight going out of Hartford tomorrow afternoon. So at least we'll get theory. The snow was supposed to start here this afternoon and we are just now getting our first dusting. Figures! I just hope this doesn't mean the storm is super slow and we'll end up with another canceled flight tomorrow.

I told Shaun that December 19 is now dead to me...I will not make plans for this day next year. Last year on Friday, December 19, there was a big snowstorm here that started mid-morning. In hindsight I should have left work at noon, but I was let out at 2:00. Apparently that's when everyone else in the whole area was let out of work, and the roads were jam-packed. That in combination with the snow turned my normally 40-minute commute into an almost 3-hour commute...I was not a happy camper. To top it off, the next day when I went to do errands, my car wouldn't start - turned out I needed a new battery. I should have figured, when I was sitting in traffic and my radio wouldn't play if I was running the fan higher than the first level. I guess I'm lucky I got home at all that day!

Anyway, the upside about today's canceled flight is that I got a free day with my hubby to just do whatever, since we obviously had zero plans. We had to join everyone and their mother at the grocery store for a few things since we also had zero food left in the house, but it wasn't too bad. We went to our favorite pizza place for lunch since they were having a "snow day special" for buy one/get one free individual pizzas. Since then we've just been relaxing at home and waiting for the snow. I'd hoped to do a Christmas baking post, but I never think to take pictures when it's light out so I'd have nothing pretty to show. I haven't done much new stuff though - I have my usual pie crust cookies, chocolate covered Oreos, and peanut butter fudge, and the new recipe I tried this year for a cookie exchange was M&Ms Minis Chocolate Cookies with Icing. They're all tasty, though the M&M one involved way too many steps for the dozens of cookies I made!

Well, hopefully in just over 24 hours we'll be landing in Moline. I hope that the snow isn't causing too many problems for anyone else out there! Stay safe, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Late as usual, but I wanted to share a few Chicago pictures and a recap. I'll leave out the boring work stuff but will say that the trip went much better than I was expecting in that regard. We got into Chicago the day after Thanksgiving and checked into our hotel, the Marriott on Magnificent Mile, and the first thing I did was take a few pictures.

Check out that view!

I could see bits and pieces of Lake Michigan through the buildings.

Michigan Avenue on Black Friday. I could hear that crossing guard all the way up on the 27th floor - with the window closed!

John Hancock building to the left

After checking on our trade show booth, I met up with my family, who had arrived Friday afternoon, and we had dinner in the Walnut Room at Macy's on State Street (the original Marshall Field's store). My mom and her family used to make a trip to Chicago every year to eat here when she was a kid, so it was cool to experience that family tradition.

This was the view from our table of the huge, beautiful tree. The whole dinner was good but my absolute favorite part was one of the desserts we all shared - Frango Cheesecake (for those unfamiliar with Frangos, it was a chocolate mint flavor). I definitely intend to find a copycat recipe and try making it someday.

Me with my mom and sister in front of the tree (we always make fun of my mom for not smiling in pictures, so I'm glad she's at least making an attempt here!)

Saturday was a long day of setup for work, and afterward I met up with my parents and sister, plus my aunt and cousins who had come into town from Iowa for the night, at Giordano's. It was absolutely packed, and even though we put our pizza order in as we were waiting for our table, we still had to wait quite awhile after sitting down. We had the stuffed pizza, and while it was good, I'm not sure if I'd say it was my favorite ever.

Laura, me and dad at Giordano's

With Brooke (my cousin Chris's girlfriend) and my cousin Ashley

This giant gingerbread house was in the lobby of the hotel. After resting a bit, we stopped here Saturday night on our way back out to the Ghirardelli chocolate/ice cream shop (yeah, definitely went to bed stuffed that night) to take a couple pictures.

My family headed out to the train early Sunday morning, and I headed out to the first day of the trade show. Seeing as I normally sit in front of a computer at work, I'd forgotten how exhausting it is just to be on your feet all day! Despite being in an unfamiliar place and away from Shaun, I slept REALLY well that week because I was just so tired every night.

I hope this entry isn't too food-obsessed, but since I cook all the time at home, I truly enjoyed getting to go out and try some new restaurants. And I would recommend most of these places if you're visiting Chicago. Sunday night I ate at Bandera with a few of my coworkers - right across the street from the hotel. It was a nice atmosphere with live music and a good variety on the menu. I had the “Hacked Chicken Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette and Peanut Sauce" and it was excellent. Monday night we ate at the RB Grille, a new, sit-down restaurant addition to the Rock Bottom Brewery. I had a burger that was just okay, but the guys really enjoyed their steaks (and beers). I loved my dessert though - a mini peanut butter cream pie for just $2.50...that made it all worth it for me!

On Tuesday night I met up with Allison, a friend from college who now lives in Chicago. We went to the Grand Lux Cafe, which is owned by the same people that own Cheesecake Factory. Given that, we wished we'd had room for dessert at the end of the meal, but we were too full. I had the Thai Chicken Pizza and it was delish. I hadn't seen Allison since last Thanksgiving so it was really nice to take a couple hours and catch up.

And on Wednesday night, my last night in town, my cousin Amy picked me up for dinner. She lives in Chicago with her new fiance, Ryan, and their Scottie puppy, Milton. Ryan was working late, so after I met Milton, Amy and I walked a few blocks from her condo over to Red Light (which, according to their website, incorporates Chinese, French, and Thai cooking styles). I had the“Mee Gha Ti” - I had no idea what to expect when I ordered it, but I ended up liking it a lot. The coconut gave it a nice sweet flavor. (All these food descriptions...I should have taken pictures, but I thought that might weird out my companions!) And of course, it was great to see Amy. We haven't lived near each other since I was in 7th grade, so I really appreciated the chance to sit and talk as grownups - even though we agreed we still feel like kids sometimes!

I tried to get some night pictures but I'm far from an expert on the manual settings...wish I could capture the view as I saw it. I couldn't stop looking out the window at the pretty lights on Michigan Avenue.

So, those were the best parts of my Chicago trip. It went quickly, but I was still anxious to get back home to Shaun and kick off my Christmas baking. Time is flying...we leave for our Minnesota Christmas on the 19th!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Decadent Peanut Butter Pie

While it's not a traditional Thanksgiving pie, my in-laws are starting to rely on me bringing this pie to the feast every other year, anyway, when we're here in CT for Thanksgiving). And the good thing is that in addition to being super tasty, it's really easy to make! I don't know if it helps nutrition-wise that I used reduced-fat peanut butter and cream cheese...probably doesn't matter when the pie includes an Oreo crust and a whole jar of hot fudge. Oh well.

I didn't get a picture of the inside, but the Jif site with the original recipe shows a slice of the peanut-buttery goodness.

Decadent Peanut Butter Pie (from Jif)

1 prepared chocolate cookie pie crust
1 cup creamy peanut butter
8 oz cream cheese (at room temp)
1/2 cup sugar
12 oz container Cool Whip
1 (11.75 oz) jar hot fudge, divided

Drizzle: 2 tbsp hot fudge and 2 tbsp peanut butter

In a medium bowl, beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Gently fold in 3 cups Cool Whip. Spoon mixture into the pie shell. Using a spatula, spoon mixture to edges of pie. Reserving 2 tbsp hot fudge, place remaining hot fudge into microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Spread hot fudge over pie to cover the peanut butter layer. Refrigerate until serving time.

Just before serving, spread the remaining Cool Whip over hot fudge layer, being careful not to mix the two layers. Place the 2 tbsp hot fudge in a small baggie and knead for a few seconds. Cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle over pie. Do the same with 2 tbsp peanut butter, going in the opposite direction of the hot fudge.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Work has been crazy lately. The biggest event of the year in our industry is a major trade show that takes place in Chicago at the end of November, so from October on, we're busy signing up for on-site exhibit services, creating press releases, packing and shipping a bunch of equipment, and lots of other fun stuff. It always gets especially hectic this week leading up to Thanksgiving. I stayed late tonight editing and printing some marketing materials, and when I went out to my car, thought to myself, "Well, at least the traffic will be light." And then I got to the highway, which was completely stopped...and if that wasn't enough, my fuel light went on, so I had to go get gas and get back on...not one of my best commutes in recent memory. But enough traffic griping for now.

Anyway, I get to go to the trade show this year, for the first time since I started this job. I do think it'll be interesting, but I might be looking forward to it more if I didn't have to leave the morning after Thanksgiving. No sleeping in, watching football with friends, leisurely decorating for Christmas...I'm not too thrilled about missing out on that all weekend. Combine that with some other work issues I've been dealing with (which I may or may not talk about another time...I just try to be careful with what I say in a "public" place), and it's made me a little bummed out.

But, in the spirit of the week, I'm trying to look at the good things. Shaun and I will hopefully see some friends tomorrow or Thursday night before I leave - and squeeze some decorating in there too, so he can enjoy the tree while I'm gone. I have some friends in Chicago and am going to try to meet up with them in the evenings. And my parents and sister are spending Thanksgiving in Iowa, so last week they bought train tickets for the quick trip into Chicago and we'll get to spend some time together Friday and Saturday night. I'll see them at Christmas too, but this will be a much appreciated bonus visit and I'm looking forward to it.

And that paragraph pretty much sums up what I am especially thankful for this year - my husband, my family, and my friends. They're always there to listen to me vent (and I'm sure it's seemed like a lot lately) or make me smile, and that makes me happy*. Enjoy the holiday.

*On a slightly less serious note, pie also makes me happy. So if I'm feeling ambitious on Thanksgiving, I will try to take a picture and post the recipe for the quick and easy pie I'm making. Either way, I'll be back on December 3!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quad Cities - The Fun Part

During the weekend between my consultation and surgery, I had a nice couple of days to spend with my mom and dad. My mom is currently working in Iowa, so I stayed at her condo there. My dad came down from Minnesota to meet up with us on Saturday and brought little Ruby.

She likes the fuzzy chair in the guest room.

Aww, look at that face! She was really sweet, sleeping in my bed most nights I was there and resting with me (and not bugging me) when I was sleeping after my surgery. I missed her after I left...if the condo complex Shaun and I lived in allowed dogs, I might be bugging him for one now instead of waiting until we get a house.

I did something on my trip that I hadn't done in a few years - carved a pumpkin! Here it is out on the deck on Halloween. I was a little rusty, and one of the teeth fell out when I cut too far in, but I think it still turned out kinda cute.

On Sunday morning we drove out to Le Claire and walked around the little downtown area. We stopped at some cute shops, including My Sister's Coffeehouse. The shop itself was fun, but I was intrigued by the rabbit outside. It was just hopping around loose in the yard, so it seemed like it could be wild - but it was so tame it hopped right up to us and let me pet it.

The rabbit's cute little living quarters.

We ventured back to Bettendorf to walk Ruby along the river. This is "Skipper", a statue who looks like he's skipping stones across the Mississippi. Ruby apparently barks at him every time she walks by (and didn't fail to do so this time either).

Our animal encounters continued... We saw this groundhog as we made our way down the path, and we expected it to run away as we got closer...but it didn't. In fact, it didn't move at all. It was pretty weird, and we didn't want to take the slim chance of being attacked by a rabid groundhog, so we turned around.

Ducks or geese? I wasn't sure. Either way, it was fun and nostalgic to see them. My grandparents lived in Bettendorf for many years, and lots of times when we visited, we would come down to the river with some remnants of bread loaves and feed the flocks.

Ruby plots her attack. (Not really...she was actually surprisingly calm, considering how much energy she has.)

The I-74 bridge over the mighty Mississippi. It was nice to be back in the Quad Cities. In addition to tons of visits there when I was a kid, I lived and worked there for two years just after graduating. So while I consider Minnesota my true home, Iowa isn't too far behind.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where I've been...

I've been busy lately...last Monday, November 2nd, I got LASIK! I didn't broadcast it too much beforehand, because when I went to go ask for the time off, my boss gave me a hard time and told me I shouldn't do it, so I thought other people might say the same. I know that's incredibly silly, especially when most people I talked to had only had good things to say, whether they or someone they knew had the surgery. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Regardless of my brief hesitation, I decided that after 18 years of wearing either glasses or contacts, it was time to make a change. The ophthalmology practice I used to go to when I lived in the Quad Cities was offering special pricing and financing this fall, and the doctor that performs the surgery there was recently ranked one of the top five in the country. Even with the airfare to get there, it was a better deal than my current practice here, and they also offer a more advanced technology - blade-free LASIK. Everything just seemed to line up and I decided to go for it. I had to wear only my glasses for two weeks prior, as even soft contacts can change the shape of the cornea. I used to only wear glasses before bed so I hadn't bothered to get them updated in that was a little rough. I did plenty of squinting in that time. Me in my lovely glasses:

I flew in Thursday night and had a consultation the Friday before I was scheduled for surgery - the technicians put in several sets of drops and ran a bunch of tests involving staring into various machines and not blinking. I also did more sets of, "Which is better, one or two?" than I've ever done before. The dilating drops they used were very strong, so there had to be at least 48 hours between the appointment and the surgery. It was a nice look for Halloween:

I slept well all weekend and really didn't start to get nervous until a few hours before the surgery. Fortunately, they prescribed a Xanax for me to bring with me and take shortly before the procedure. When I got there, I again received many eye drops, including numbing drops, and I took the Xanax. Just a few minutes later they said I could go into the operating room, so I leave it up to you whether the pill had already kicked in or it was just my own bravery that got me through the surgery...ha. I did have a tiny moment of, "what am I doing?!" as I climbed onto the chair and looked at the machine, but the assistants in the OR struck up a conversation to relax me, and a technician gave me a little foam football to squeeze if I needed to. My parents were behind a window and they were also able to watch the surgery on closed-circuit TV - they probably had a tougher job than I did!

Heather provided a detailed account of her LASIK a couple years ago and her description helped me know what to expect from a patient's point of view. The flap creation was definitely the most painful part because they use suction to keep the eye in place, and even with the numbing drops it was strong enough to make me feel pain below the surface - not to mention I briefly lost vision. I was definitely squeezing the football at that point.

After that, one eye at a time, they taped my eyelashes back on the top and bottom, put in another device to keep me from blinking, folded the flap back, and used the laser to reshape the cornea. It was very weird being able to tell all that was happening yet not feel it. All I had to do was focus on one red light as the blue lights of the lasers flashed for around 40 seconds per eye. They smoothed out each flap when it was done, putting plenty of drops in my eye, and like that it was over.

Immediately after the surgery, I could see, but it was very cloudy and hard to tell how much improvement there was. My doctor briefly examined my eyes in another room and said everything looked good. He put goggles on me (sorry, didn't get a goggle picture!) and then put some sunglasses over those (another lovely missed photo opportunity) since it was a bright day. We were in and out in 35 was kind of unbelievable.

I went back with my parents and slept for a couple hours, as recommended. The drops wore off during that time, so anytime I woke up briefly, my eyes stung. When I got up to have dinner though, I felt pretty good - still cloudy, but no light sensitivity and no more pain. I started my regimen of antibiotic drops, anti-inflammatory drops, and artificial tears - the first two so strong they left an icky metallic taste in the back of my throat.

The next morning, before flying home, I had a follow-up appointment. I had worn the goggles through the night, which was a little difficult, but the doctor told me I didn't have to wear them every night for a week (as my instruction sheet said), because the chance of "flap dislodgement" is much lower after 24 hours - lovely, eh? I had a quick vision test and I was already somewhere between 20/25 and 20/20, and they said it would only get better.

For about five days, I felt like I had a permanent eyelash in my right eye, but fortunately that's gone away. I also came away with some "eye hickeys" from the suction:

But those are continuing to fade, just like a bruise. My only remaining side effect is seeing halos around lights, especially at night, but that is normal for awhile, and can likely be corrected if for some reason it doesn't go away. I'm going to swing through both the Quad Cities and Twin Cities over Christmas, so I'll be able to have another follow-up then and make sure I'm on track.

For now, as I keep telling people, I'm just training myself not to automatically squint when I roll over in the morning and look at my alarm clock! It's just unbelievable - I don't think I can comprehend yet that I'll never again wake up not being able to see, and never again have to mess with contacts when I'm traveling. It's pretty awesome. If you have questions or want any more details, let me know!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

One of the snacks I made for our trip to Penn State was this pumpkin bread. It's definitely not fall unless I've made some pumpkin goodies! This is yet another recipe that my parents typed up and put in a book for me when I first moved out on my own, so I'm not sure of the original source (I need to just look at my mom's collection the next time I'm there and see if I can figure all these out!).

Anyway, this is good stuff. Though chocolate will always be my favorite, I must say that the scent of pumpkin-flavored treats baking is one of the best ever. (Apologies for the less-than-stellar picture...I'm losing daylight both before and after work!)

Pumpkin Bread

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 16 oz can pure pumpkin
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 9 x 5 or 3 loaf pans, 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches. (You can use mini loaf pans too.) Mix sugar, oil, pumpkin, water, eggs and vanilla. Stir together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and nutmeg. Mix into pumpkin mixture. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 60 to 70 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; cool 5 minutes. (Maybe it's just my oven, but mine were done at around 55 minutes.) Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans. Cool before slicing. (If you use mini pans, bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Penn State Weekend

Hey, at least I'm getting around to posting about last weekend before another one has passed. On Friday afternoon (10/9), Rich and Shaun once again picked me up from work and we headed to PA. It was a long drive, thanks to the 5 miles of construction traffic near Wilkes-Barre that took over an hour to get through, and then metro Harrisburg traffic. We traveled that direction to stay with one of Rich's PSU friends in York, as we weren't able to get the camper for the weekend and stay on campus like we did last year. It's fun either way though - I mean, it's college football! (And it was Notre Dame's bye weekend so we didn't miss a game!) We had the same crowd as our Philly trip in March, minus John and Sarah, because they unfortunately had to stay in DC for the weekend to be on call for work.

Friday night we chilled at Ben's house, ordered pizza, and played games. Then on Saturday we got up pretty early (silly Big 10 and their noon games) and made the should-have-been-2-hour-but-was-actually-3-with-game-day-traffic drive to State College. In the parking lot, Ben whipped out his awesome griddle and we quickly cooked up some pancakes and bacon before heading over to the stadium.

We had a pretty cool perspective from the front of the end zone. In this picture the Penn State Blue Band is on the field - Jess is a proud former member so we had some fun band nerd moments watching and listening to them.

Touchdown Nittany Lions! It wasn't the most exciting of games, however - Penn State beat up on Eastern Illinois 52-3.

After the game, we came back and cooked some burgers and hot dogs. Here was the view from our tailgating spot...not too shabby.

Another angle...the hills of the Northeast can make for treacherous driving sometimes, but they're so gorgeous in the fall.

Beautiful sunset shots from Shaun (actually, I think he took all of these but the first one). It was a chilly, windy day, but nice to be outside to see this sky.

After we were done eating, and sufficiently frozen, we headed back to Ben's place. Even a few hours after the game ended, we ran into traffic from a truck that broke down, closing the road. Frustrating! But once we got back to the house we were able to relax, and pretty much spent the rest of the weekend playing games. We played Apples to Apples, Ticket to Ride, and lots of The Game of Things. Possibly my favorite "Things" answer of the weekend was to the prompt, "Things that take courage". There were the typical answers - "public speaking" and "blind dates"...and then there was Shaun's answer: "A vending machine in a world where the currency is courage". A lot of times we can guess Shaun's answers right away, but he continues to show his creativity to make us laugh - and we appreciate it! it's back to focusing on Notre Dame football. Will tomorrow be the first time we've beaten USC since 2001? I sure hope so! Go Irish!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Picking

I'm so slow! Here is yet another week-late post. Shaun and I went apple picking with his mom on Saturday the 26th. It's been a tradition for him to go apple picking every year, pretty much since he's been born. My family also used to pick apples often when I lived in Minnesota - I hope to get back there during apple season, since usually we're there in the summer and over the winter holidays.

It was a gorgeous fall day...perfect weather at Averill Farm.

This and all following pictures are courtesy of Shaun!

Unfortunately, due to a hail storm over the summer, the apple selection wasn't the greatest - but they were at least offering a discount. We got some Honeygold, Spartan, Rhode Island Greening, and a couple McIntosh. (Alas, none of my Minnesota Harvest favorites, Honeycrisp and Chestnut Crab.)

A tiny Spartan! (On a completely unrelated note, that's my new favorite shirt - I got it at the ND bookstore during our recent trip)

Cool clouds and a nice view of the northwest hills

Not much else has been happening - just trying not to have nervous breakdowns watching Notre Dame football. The exciting sports weekend is continuing tonight with the Vikings/Packers game now (I know Brett Favre has been kind of annoying the past few years, but I'm just happy to have the Vikes doing well for once!)...and the Twins/Tigers playoff for the AL Central tomorrow. It'd be a fitting end for the Metrodome to host one more World Series before the Twins move to Target Field next season...we shall see.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend in DC, 2009 edition

Took me long enough! We've been back from DC for a week now, but with the start of fall TV and various other things going on, I haven't had much time to blog. I still wanted to do a quick recap of the trip, because it was so much fun and we got some nice pictures!

Rich, Shaun and I got in on Friday night, had pizza and played games with John and Sarah. The three of us travelers got to stay in Sarah's apartment for the weekend - it was the first time we'd seen her place, and the first time we were able to enjoy her amazing view!

The Washington Monument is on the left; the Capitol on the right.

It's hard to see other landmarks in the picture, but there were plenty. And we apparently didn't zoom out enough, but the Pentagon is just to the left of the frame. It was pretty cool to be able to wake up and look out over our nation's capital.

On Saturday morning, we got up and hit the Library of Congress. As you can see, the inside is gorgeous, and there are a lot of cool artifacts and documents, including a large book collection that used to be Thomas Jefferson's.

After that we walked across the street to the Capitol building and explored the new visitor center for awhile. As you can see it was a gorgeous late summer day - about 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

From there we walked to the Good Stuff Eatery for lunch. I've never watched much of Top Chef, but I'd heard that Good Stuff was owned by Chef Spike from season 4. Anyway, it was pretty tasty - burgers were good, fries were great - but the chocolate shake was my favorite...yum. I'd definitely recommend it for a quick meal in the city.

We then changed pace and headed out toward Dulles Airport in Virginia to visit the Udvar-Hazy Center, the annex to the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum (we'd visited the main museum downtown last year). Shaun was like a kid in a candy store being around all the planes! Just a couple of highlights...

This is the restored Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb.

Space Shuttle Enterprise, used by NASA for test flights

We also went up in the tower that provides a view of the Dulles runways and the surrounding area, as well as a small air traffic control exhibit.

The group then made our way back to Sarah's apartment to watch the Notre Dame-Michigan State game. (Much like last night's win over Purdue, the game was way too close for comfort...but at least it turned out better than the Michigan game.)

We had another low-key night, then got up on Sunday and went to the FDR Memorial. It's a little bit out of the way and I'd never known where it was, but I'm really glad we visited. Some of the quotes on the walls are especially poignant considering the state of our economy today.

We walked back to the car while taking in some more lovely views of nearby monuments. Sarah suggested we come back sometime when the cherry trees are in bloom...I wouldn't complain!

Apparently we didn't take pictures at the Natural History Museum or American History Museum, our last stops before heading out of town. We barely scratched the surface at the American History Museum, however - we'll definitely have to go back. One of the coolest things there is the actual flag that inspired our national anthem.

Each time we go to Washington, I discover more things I want to do and I just want to keep coming back. It's quickly become one of my favorite cities - and it doesn't hurt that some of our favorite friends live there!