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!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Can I just say...

...I am so excited The Office is back tonight! I am going to be glued to the TV tonight - on NBC we've got SNL Weekend Update Thursday at 8 (and Amy Poehler will be back!), Parks and Recreation at 8:30, Office at 9, and Community at 9:30. I've heard good things about Community, so I'm giving it a shot and risking addiction to yet another TV show. (We've already started to watch Glee and I'm considering trying out Flash there's a 2 hours Heroes premiere next week...yikes!)

Then at 10 I'll be watching Project Runway as usual - and as soon as that's over, Shaun gets the TV to watch Fringe, which we'll have to DVR since that's on at 9 on Fox. And I'll DVR Models of the Runway but watch it another day - gotta get some sleep at least! Especially since we have a busy weekend ahead of us... Shaun and Rich are picking me up early from work and we're heading to DC to visit John and Sarah! Unfortunately we don't have a long weekend there like we did last year, but we'll make the most of it. Hopefully I'll remember to snap a few pictures so I can post them next week!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Weekend at Notre Dame, Part 2

We were already tired after just one day of running around campus, but fortunately the game didn't start until 3:30, so we were able to sleep in and spend some more time chatting with Martha (Shaun's grandma) before heading over to campus around noon.

We got brats at one of the many food stands on the quad and found a shady spot to enjoy them...

...watched from the steps of the Main Building (the one with the Golden Dome) as the team walked out of the Basilica (where we got married!) on the way to the stadium...

...and made our way over to Bond Hall for the marching band's Concert on the Steps, where they played some of the pregame and halftime music, before following them on their march to the stadium.

The Irish Guard raises the flag for America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner.

The band forms N D and the team races out of the tunnel. "Heeeeeere come the Irish!"

We didn't take too many pictures during the game...we were too busy cheering! Not a bad start to the season...not at all.

We climbed to the top of the stadium to watch the band march out once again. That's the Hesburgh Library in the background - the mural is called "The Word of Life" but is more commonly known as Touchdown Jesus.

On our way out - you can see the brick of the original stadium. The expansion in 1997 added the upper level by simply building around the old stadium. I never went to a game in the old stadium, but I think it's cool how they preserved history like that.

We had to swing by the Dome one last time before heading to the car...this is one of my favorite sights. Even when I walked by all the time as a student, it never got old.

It was a little strange being back this time, because this is the first game we've been to where we didn't know anyone in the marching band. We felt disconnected, and it kind of made me want to go back and live there again and be a part of it. Of course, I wouldn't want to relive all four years, but there are plenty of things I'd love to experience a second time. Shaun and I started to wonder when it will feel normal to come back as an alum rather than being a student in the band.

We did have a fun evening though of reconnecting with a drumline friend who recently moved back to South Bend for a research job at ND. We chatted and watched more football at his apartment, then hit the road Sunday morning. We had decided to drive the whole way on Sunday so we'd have Labor Day to recover, but we made sure to switch up the driving every couple of hours, and it worked pretty well. It was an awesome weekend, but at the end of the day we were happy to get back to our own bed!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Weekend at Notre Dame, Part 1

We had an awesome weekend at Notre Dame! It's roughly a 12 hour drive to get there from where we live, so we left early afternoon on Thursday to make most of the trip that night. After an overnight stop in Ohio, we got into South Bend around noon and headed for Shaun's (step-)grandmother's house. We had lunch and spent a bit of time with her, and then went to campus for Friday afternoon festivities. After a quick walk around campus and trip to the bookstore, we met up with some drummer alumni to watch the current drumline warm up and march out with the band to their afternoon practice.

From there, we followed the band to the pep rally. They usually take place inside the basketball arena, but there's construction work being done on it right now, so this rally was out on the quad. Different, but still fun - and the beautiful weather helped. Above is a picture Shaun took of the team up on stage.

We grabbed dinner at Steak 'n Shake...classy, I know. But we don't have them in CT, and we always used to go there during school for a cheap meal off campus, so it's just kind of our thing. Plus the cheese fries are SO GOOD.

We came back to campus after dark and visited one of our favorite places, the Grotto (bit of info at the bottom of that linked page if you're interested). It's gorgeous, peaceful, and situated right across from one of the campus lakes - and we actually saw a couple get engaged nearby that night! It's a popular place for alums (and the occasional students) to get engaged, but I've never actually witnessed it before, so that was fun and very sweet.

We continued the rest of our evening as if we were undergrads...we'd seen a stage and a sign on the quad earlier for a free comedy show featuring Maria Bamford and Judah Friedlander, so we sat and watched in our ND hoodies, trying to blend in as best we could with the crowd of mostly freshmen. (If nothing else we could pass for grad students, right?) Anyway, I'd never heard of Maria and I'd only seen Judah as his character on 30 Rock - but they were both hilarious.

After the show ended, we rushed over to the Dome and Midnight Drummers' Circle. For those unfamiliar, every Friday night before a home football game, the drumline of the Notre Dame marching band plays their cheers and cadences for about half an hour, in the middle of campus, to help get the students and fans hyped up for the game. In the four years I was at ND, it went from an occasional gathering that would often get broken up by campus security to an official, sanctioned event occurring on every football weekend. It's kinda cool the tradition we left behind!

I don't have any pictures because we didn't get a great spot, and it was of course dark, but apparently the local news was on top of it - you can see a brief video clip here! (click the link in the middle of that page) It's crazy to see how Drummers' Circle has grown - when I was in the drumline, we didn't have a screen set up so people in the back could see, and we certainly didn't have flaming cymbals! And we had to walk uphill both ways in bare feet to get there! (Not really, but I know I'm sounding like a crotchety old alum!)

This is getting long already, so I think I'll break it up into two posts. Next up: game day!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sheila's Famous Brownies

I'll be honest: I'm not sure who Sheila is, and I'm not sure where this recipe came from. It's another one that my mom made while I was growing up, and my Googling to attempt to find the source provided no answers. So, I will just say to Sheila, whoever she is, thanks for making these. With layers of brownie, buttercream, and chocolate glaze, they're the perfect treat for a sugar - and specifically chocolate - addict like me. I think in the future I'll try to find a from-scratch brownie recipe with the right texture to make it that much better - but they're still plenty tasty this way!

Sorry the picture's not great...the pan was almost all gone by the time I got a chance to take I neglected to recruit Shaun as photographer again!

Sheila's Famous Brownies

1 - 20 to 24 oz package brownie mix, plus ingredients needed for baking
2 sticks butter (1 at room temp)
1 lb powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
2-3 tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

For brownies: Mix and bake the brownies according to package directions for cakelike brownies. Bake in a 13 x 9 inch pan. Cool on wire rack.
For frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened stick of butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the milk and the vanilla. Slowly beat in remaining powdered sugar. Beat in additional milk, if needed, to make a spreadable mixture. Spread over cooled brownies.
For glaze: In a small saucepan (or microwave-safe bowl), combine chocolate pieces and remaining butter. Cook and stir over low heat until melted and combined. Slowly pour over frosting.
Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.
The recipe says to store at room temperature, but I think refrigerated is fine too - just depends on what kind of texture you prefer.

*Completely unrelated to the rest of this post...we are leaving for Notre Dame tomorrow afternoon for the first football game of the season! So excited for the weekend - I'll be back with pictures next week!*