Thursday, April 10, 2014

I PLACED!!

This past weekend I ran a local 5k with some fabulous ladies from work. For most of the girls it was their first race ever and so I was there to cheer them on and make sure they finished strong. I had such an amazing time watching them do their thing - such an inspiration!

ME BEING A HAM

But it wasn't until yesterday that I found out that I actually placed in my age group. Meaning I finished within the top three! Now of course this was a very small race and the 5k running group was even smaller. But! I placed. Officially. It's on record. No one can take that from me baby! 

It's amazing how something so silly can get you so pumped! I am kind of on cloud nine. 

What gets you super hyped?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Welcome Back, Baseball!

Unless you live under a rock then I am pretty sure you are aware that this week was opening day for baseball! I always love the start of the season - always filled with such promise and excitement. This year, however, I have been less than excited to watch the games. Watching the games means that I am accepting the fact that this is Derek Jeter's last season in pinstripes... And I am just not there yet.

Even though I am not ready, it's happening. In fact, the hubs and I will be headed to our first baseball game of the year this weekend to partake in all of the festivities! I look forward to hanging out at the ball park, eating too many hotdogs and talking about a bunch of crap just to get under my husband's skin.

Welcome back, Baseball!!


Monday, March 31, 2014

26 down, 18 to go! Theodore Roosevelt: My Review

I finally can say I finished my super long biography on the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt! ::does a super happy dance::

I got the book for Christmas and started it some time in January. I was immediately in love. Instead of the dry, boring Ben Stein-type information, Roosevelt's life was shared almost like a novel which made getting through the long chapters relatively easy. Of course, it was still a biography filled with facts, dates and reviews of previous scholarship so it made getting through the book with any speed an unachievable goal.


Our twenty-sixth president was an interesting character - I knew that much from history class - but I did not realize just how interesting his life was until I sorted through this volume on his life. For example, I learned that he struggled in his early years with numerous physical ailments like asthma and lost his vision in his left eye during a boxing match during his presidency. I also learned he was married twice - after losing his first wife after the birth of his first child.

The Good:
This book is a very good read. You have to want to learn about Roosevelt, of course, but this has to be one of the better quality biographies I have read in a while. It is written more as a story rather than a biography which keeps you interested. I also feel like I will remember a bit more from this biography due to the writing style. You learn everything you could possibly want to know about Roosevelt - his childhood, the effects of the death of his father, his time at Harvard and of course his vast political life.

The Not So Good:
The book ends abruptly with Roosevelt's death. Usually the biographies I have read share the story of the president's burial, what - if any - effects his death had on ongoing political schemes and what his presidency meant for future generations. Nathan Miller simply stops at Roosevelt dying in his sleep - it left me wanting more; even after 500+ pages!

Overall Grade:
I really enjoyed this biography. In fact, I put this one down and picked up William Howard Taft immediately because I was so ready to jump into the next volume [that and I have another 18 to get through before next March!]. To me, that is a sign of a great biography - one that makes you excited to keep going. My grade? A-.

What do you like about your favorite books?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Training High

As I move into a year of relative running calmness [I am only running three half marathon's this year and one is for total fun!] I am finding different ways to love running and what it brings to my life. Recently, my mom has decided to try her very first half marathon and will be running with me in my second half of the Dumbo Double Dare in August. I have been helping her build strength in her back and in her knees and have gone on a few training runs with her. I am so proud that she has decided to try something so challenging [she has a very bad knee due to a car accident when she was younger and a back that is less than fresh] and that she is determined to not only finish this half marathon, but to do another one January.


And just a few months ago a friend from work decided she was going to try running and is now preparing to do her very first 5k. I have been working with her on training runs and giving the best advice I can - and am so excited to see her cross that finish line when we cross together in just a few short days. We are so infectious that we got a few ladies from work to sign up and so we're all going out and training together. It's awesome!

While I have a long way to go before I consider myself a top tier runner, I have been thoroughly enjoying myself help others train for their goals. It has given me a new love of running.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Washington DC: Final Thoughts

Are you sick of me talking about DC yet?! Well this will be the final blog about it, I promise!

My time in Washington, DC will always be treasured. I feel very fortunate that I was able to visit the Capitol and experience everything I got to explore. It is something I would suggest of every citizen - even if you aren't big into history. I always felt like something bigger than myself was going on while I was there. I was walking in the same city as brilliant men before me and activists who risked their lives to make a point and drive change. More than once I got choked up with the knowledge that I was getting a chance to see living history. I am not someone who would classify myself as overly patriotic - I am proud to be an American and could not imagine living anywhere else, but I also realize that our country has made grave mistakes and that no nation is ever perfect - but visiting the district made me keenly aware of what excellence our country has produced. Men and women who were light years ahead of their times, brilliant scientists who continued to push the boundaries and brave men and women who put their lives on the line so that I could walk the streets without worry. I was aware of all these things prior to my trip, but visiting drove it home for me. It was truly an unforgettable experience and easily one of the best vacations I have ever had.



That being said, no vacation is perfect. One thing in particular that really got under my skin was the aloofness of students who were visiting the various monuments and museums. These teens seemed to care less what they were experiencing and I felt that perhaps they should not have been there. For example, the Holocaust Museum. It is a very somber place and it tells a story of the horrific atrocities that took place and is very graphic in certain parts. Before you go in, you are asked to remain quiet, respectful and somber as it is a place of both learning but also of mourning. You never know who might be in the museum with you. There were a group of students who felt that this museum was a place to laugh and joke and tell stories, without ever paying attention to the information in front of them. I was offended at their behavior and made a comment to my husband that perhaps an age requirement should be instituted for the museum. The group was so loud, in fact, that the docent of the museum had to ask the group to leave because they were disturbing people so much. It was just upsetting to me to watch these kids brush through such an important part of history without ever feeling the tangible effects of the problem.

Other than that, though, our trip was pretty amazing. We stayed outside of the district in Arlington and I have to say - it was the best decision we could have made. Staying inside DC is very costly and we were able to get a nice hotel close to the Metro for the price of what DC wanted to charge for a Holiday Inn. If you are planning your trip to DC, my suggestion would be to stay at the Hyatt Arlington - they were courteous, professional and attentive. They even gave a list of nearby food places when we checked in. Additionally, it is very conveniently located next to the Metro - we were less than a block away which made the trip much more relaxing.

Other tips I have for you? Get a Smart Trip card on day one of your trip. It costs $2 for the card, but is reusable and has no expiration date on it. We used the card for both the Metro and the bus we took back to the airport. It was convenient and easy to carry, rather than having to worry about using up one fare card all in one day.

Learn the Metro system. DC is a big city and luckily has an amazing system of public transportation. Familiarize yourself with the Metro System before you leave so that you are comfortable among arrival. It is a fairly simple system to navigate - much less complicated than larger cities like New York, for example - but I have always found that reviewing the maps prior help relieve some stress for me. The Smithsonian station is the station to use if you are planning on visiting any of the museums and the National Mall [I wish they would put one close to the National Mall but I understand why they haven't yet] and Federal Triangle is your stop for the White House.

With that, I end my recap of my trip to Washington, DC. I hope you have enjoyed it all.

[All opinions and photos are my own and I was not paid for any review.]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Washington DC: The Capitol, Library of Congress and Monuments

Our last day in DC called for a tour of the U.S. Capitol in the morning and then no big schedule for the rest of the day. We decided we would play it by ear depending on the weather [it was supposed to be cold!] and how we were feeling. We got up bright and early and made our way over to the Metro to get to the Capitol with plenty of time for security. Getting off that train was a shock to the system, let me tell you! I was freezing!! The temperature for the day was stated to be at about 32, but with windchill it was to feel like 9 degrees - they didn't lie!


Our original tour time was set for around 10, but the nice people at the Capitol offered to get us into an early tour - score! So we grabbed our sticker badges and went to stand in line for our specific tour. The tour of the Capitol starts with a brief video on the history of the country and of the building itself. Afterwards, you are broken up into groups and taken on a brief tour of the main parts of the building. 


Our first stop was in a main portico where numerous statues and busts were held. In the middle of the room, deep under ground, was supposed to be the remains of the first president George Washington. The architects of the building wanted to have a special resting place for the first president and thought the Capitol would be perfect. However, the Capitol wasn't finished until Washington was already buried at Mt Vernon and the family was not willing to relocate his remains to the Capitol. So instead it remained an empty space for many years. Now - it is used for storage.


Our second stop was the rotunda where we got to admire the beautiful frescoes done by Constantino Brumidi. It took Brumidi twenty five years to complete his work and it is quite breath taking. Brumidi was responsible for the ceiling [pictured above] and for the faux three dimensional border right beneath the windows [pictured below].


After visiting the rotunda we made our way to another part of the Capitol which houses more statues and busts. Each state is allowed to donate two statues - the only conditions are that they be made of bronze or marble and that the figure depicted is no longer living. Even though the state can pick whomever they choose - it does not have to be someone who lived in their state - Congress has to approve the donation [in an attempt to avoid duplicate people]. California sent status of Juniper Serra and Ronald Reagan. While on tour I got to see Nancy Pelosi! It was kind of a geek moment for me and I tried to get a picture of her. Unfortunately, they came out really blurry, so I won't make you guys suffer here.

After our tour, we decided to avoid going back out into the cold and instead take the underground tunnel to the Library of Congress. We also got to avoid going through security again - score! We managed to get to the Library just in time as they were just beginning a docent led tour of the building. After a brief introductory video, we were given a walking tour of the space and were able to glimpse probably the most recognizable library space of all time.


The Library houses over 58 million items [including photos, books, journals and artifacts] and over 800 miles of bookshelves. It was a pet project of former president Thomas Jefferson who felt it was necessary for the country to house a major library. He sold his collection of books - at the time numbering at over 6,000 - for $23,000. Most of his books were destroyed when the Capitol was burned in 1814 by the British. 

During our tour we found out that the idea for the architecture of the Library was to show the Europeans just how classy and sophisticated American's were. It was an attempt to show that Americans had culture and the entire building and design of the Library was done by U.S. citizens [naturalized included]. The architecture of the building is absolutely beautiful.



Our tour was brief - but covered all necessary points. After the tour, the hubs and I wandered around and checked out a few of the exhibits where we got to see original maps and photographs from an array of time periods in history. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the exhibits, so you will just have to take my word for how awesome everything was. After the Library we decided to take one final look at some of the National Monuments. 






 It was an amazing trip and one that I am so glad I was able to go on. We didn't see everything DC had to offer, but I feel like we had the best time of our trip. I can't wait to go back!

Up next: reflections on the trip and my tips for getting the most out of your time in DC!

 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Washington DC: Natural History Museum and the Archives

Wednesday was a day that called for lots of rain, wind and the potential of a tornado... So naturally the hubs and I felt that a day filled with indoor activities would probably be the safest. We got up nice and early and had some Dunkin Donuts for breakfast - because no trip back east is complete without it - and then got in line nice and early for the Natural History Museum. This Museum was definitely designed with children in mind and there were plenty of children waiting to enter the museum upon opening. One of the first things you see when you arrive is this beautiful creature.



We decided to head over to the Dinosaur exhibit first and enjoy all the bones!



We learned about the rise and fall of the dinosaurs and got a chance to watch real scientists making molds of bones to put on display for the museum. To see these creatures put together in person is surreal - they were such large animals, it is a terrifying thought that they were wiped off the face of the earth. We got to explore the Ice Age exhibit where we got to see bones of Saber Tooth Tigers and Wooly Mammoths.



We also got to explore the Oceanic section of the museum, which made me very sad to be a human, as they discussed the effects of climate change and what it is doing the animals and fish across the planet.


For whatever reason my favorite part of a Natural History Museum is always the stuffed animals. I can't explain why.


But I think the highlight of this trip was the viewing of the Hope Diamond. Infamous for it's size and blue-ish tint, it was truly a spectacular sight.

 
 After the Natural History Museum we made our way over the National Archives where you can view the original Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take any pictures but let me just say - it is worth the experience. I was absolutely star struck by these documents. Our nation was built on these documents and the men responsible were so enlightened and ahead of their time. Absolutely inspiring. If you are ever in the district, I highly recommend a stop here. Not only for these very important documents, but for the other exhibits as well. They had presidential phone recordings, video of historical trials and lots of hands on stuff you can play with to get totally immersed in the history of our country. One of my favorite parts of the Archives was listening to President John F Kennedy discuss the desegregation of schools in Alabama with Gov. George Wallace. It was like I got my own personal DeLorean and went back in time and was a fly on the wall. 

It was another fabulous, unforgettable day that I will cherish for a lifetime. Everyone keeps asking me what my favorite part of my trip was. It's been very hard to pick just one thing. On any given moment I pick the White House tour, then the DC Night Tour, then the Capitol tour. It was all amazing. All of it.

Up next: We tour the Capitol! And visit the monuments one last time.

*all pictures taken by myself or the hubs!*