Washington DC Trip Part 3 – The Capitol (Steps)

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Friday after the first White House tour we traveled by metro to the Capitol & went to pick up the tickets for that tour (hence the photo outside of Congressman Joe Wilson’s office).  I just loved that anyone who could pass through a metal detector could just wander in the halls of the Congressional offices. There were staffers in all the offices and while the doors were mostly closed, they were unlocked and you didn’t need an appointment to be there. If I knew where my Congressman’s office was, I could have popped in to have a chat with his staff. Now *that’s* open government!

Think of it – everything in DC is free. It all belongs to US. Every museum & monument & government building we visited was free. THAT is pretty damn awesome.

So, the Capitol. A truly stunning building.

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This is not the side where the oath is given, I was never up close to that, but I did see it from up in the Washington monument on Sunday (that post comes later).

We entered the Capitol in the newly opened visitors center which is pretty amazing all by itself.

View of dome from visitor center glass ceiling entrance

View of dome from visitor center glass ceiling entrance

Now, here I stupidly forgot I had a camera. I’m just a terrible picture taker & often feel it’s a burden more than fun. Once inside the center, I could have and should taken more photos, especially of the version of the Liberty Statue (which sits atop the dome) that they had in there. Also should have taken more while on the Capitol tour, but other than some inside dome shots below – nada. Sigh. So off to the web I go to fill in some blanks!

Freedom statue

Freedom statue

The Capitol tour was guided thank heavens. The inside of the dome was every bit as breath taking as you’ve heard. (These are my pics amazingly)

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I really loved that painting I’ve focused on up there. Yes, it’s a painting, not a sculpture. See the man running kind of in the center? That’s the END of the painting. It starts up just to the right of that with the discovery of America. It then continues with scenes through history leading up to the Wright brothers flying their plane. Really cool.

Now to steal from the web again because I am a lame photographer:

Ronald Reagan statue in Capitol

Ronald Reagan statue in Capitol

I chose this one because you can see the base. You may need to click on this photo directly to open a larger version to really see the interesting part of this statue. Between the dark marble ledge and the lighter marble pedestal is about a 1 inch layer of broken bits of concrete. Why? “Mr Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” Yes, they are pieces of the original Berlin Wall which came down during his administration. Lovely touch.

The Capitol Tour group

The Capitol Tour group

Still only 5 of us, but when we made our way to the the restaurant for an early dinner that evening we met up with three more. We ate at Ten Penh

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- a lovely high end Asian restaurant that offered a pre performance meal that included an appetizer, entree & dessert. Sadly, I again stunk as a photographer & took no photos of the food. I should have – it was yummy! I had Lumpia Spring Rolls, Grilled Beef Tenderloin (Bi Bim Bop), and Saigon Cinnamon Sugar Dusted donuts served with Dark Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding. Altogether now YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

We raced from dinner to the Reagan Theatre of a performance of The Capitol Steps:

Capitol Steps screen shot

Go to that website right NOW and see if they will be *anywhere* near you. Then GO! Oh my gosh we laughed our cheeks off!! A couple of us literally laughed until we had a headache. Their satirical songs about current events in politics will slay you. They are so so darn spot on. The gal who played Hillary? Nailed it! But then so did all of their characters. Obama, Pelosi, Bush (W), Bill Clinton – all brilliant. One number wasn’t even using political characters – it was the Cher & Bob Dylan impersonations that had us falling out of our chairs.And Lirty Dies? Amazing!! Stunning! Tongue tying! Spoonerisms used to tell political tales. DIED laughing.

Anyway, enough telling you about, just trust me – all eight of us completely loved it. Just GO!

Despite being exhausted from the laughter, we still gathered in one hotel room and talked and laughed more into the night. Those conversations at the end of every day are the cherry on top of our reunions.

Washington DC trip report Part 2

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I’m going to combine the Friday and Saturday visits into one so as not to be repetitive. Yes, we went twice since we had two sets of tour tickets from different congressional offices and because some of the group were not there Friday morning it made sense to go again Sat morning. Good thing! A lesson we learned – guided tours stop at 10:00am. You can still get in, but it’s a wander at your own pace thing with agents in some of the rooms who can explain the portraits on the walls, but you that’s it. Fridays tickets were for after 10, Saturdays time was 9:30. So if you go, request an early time to get a guide – it makes a HUGE difference.

The other thing to know – don’t bring anything! You don’t need anything except your ID. They allowed cell phones but they watched you turn them off and there was no way you were going to be able to sneak that puppy out and turn it on ;-) There are eyes everywhere! Also, no lockers. All of this is on the forms you get with you confirmation of a time but, you know, there is an idiot in every bunch right? On Saturday someone ditched a backpack on the grounds. Brilliant! It merely delayed the tour for a bit until they had gone around asking everyone about it. I assume a visitor admitted to ownership because it was only a momentary blip. On Monday though we were watching tv and the grounds were locked down due to an abandoned backpack! Media types were herded inside. The few who I follow on twitter indicated that it happened rather frequently. Groan. C’mon people! If you get lucky enough to secure a White House tour – follow the damn instructions!!

Lecture done :-) Here’s some pics of the rooms we went into that I snagged off the web since we clearly couldn’t take any of our own. Some cool tidbits of trivia will follow:

East Wing layout open for tours

East Wing layout open for tours

East Room

East Room

Those chandeliers? Stunning. Apparently it takes 30+ hours to clean each one piece by piece. Considering how they sparkled, I’d say it happens quite frequently too! I recognized this room as soon as we entered it. It’s where Obama has held some prime time news conferences and his health care town hall. As I stood in the doorway that led out to a hallway, I got a bit of a chill. This is the hallway:

East Room Hallway

East Room Hallway

Oops – guess I grabbed a thumbnail..but you get the idea. Red carpeted hallway leads into East Room and right inside the doorway (where I was standing at that moment) would be a podium where the President would stand for the press conference. I was standing where the President stood!! Weeeeee!

(yes, I know, the whole time we were in the White House we were going into places where ALL the President’s and their families have been and shoot, the entire family was right upstairs while we were there Saturday, but it was a particular thrill to stand in a spot and take in a view which was very recent. I was picturing the teleprompters & tv cameras and chairs full of reporters with the portraits of Mr & Mrs Washington on the wall behind them. Pretty awesome!

Green Room

Green Room

I am not even going to mention specific portraits in the rooms! I was impressed enough that the Secret Service agent could rattle them off. Oh, yes, our guided tour was conducted by an SS agent. He said they did the job because it helped to make them seem less scary to visitors. Good plan. Yes, he had the classic ear bud and was in the traditional dark suit. But he was not scary at all, in fact he was pretty nice & occasionally witty. He said he liked learning all the details of the house because then he could appreciate what he was protecting.  Anyway, each room has portraits of President’s, First Ladies & the occasional landscape. The furniture is all original as is the china on display.

Blue Room

Blue Room

Yes, these rooms really are as beautiful as they look in photos. More so of course as you can really see the textures. The carpets are gorgeous too.

Red Room

Red Room

When we were there Friday one of the moms noticed people touching the wall coverings and furniture as they wandered through. Aack! Are they nuts? Well, wouldn’t you know it but while we were in this room and even AFTER the SS guide told us NOT to touch anything – we saw some yahoo reach out and touch the wall when the guide was talking about it! Ugh.

Dining Room

Dining Room

The Dining Room is unique in that it only has one portrait in it – Lincoln. The painting was given to the collection under the request that it be the only one in the room. Given the many floor to ceiling windows, it works perfectly in there.

From there we exited out the north portico. Once outside we could turn on our phones & that is how I got the pictures that I posted on the very first Quickie Report. Now the cool thing about the north portico is what is ABOVE it. Here’s a more clear photo of it off the web:

North Portico

North Portico

So we were walking out of that door under the hanging light. The center window is conference/sitting room which is where Lincoln gave his last speech before his assassination. To the left as you are looking at is Sasha’s bedroom and to the right is Malia’s. How did we find that out? Because on Friday as we looked up we noticed a butterfly cutout hanging in the window on the left. We asked the SS guide about it at the end of our tour and they confirmed that the bedrooms were indeed up there.

Since we were kept strictly to the east/north end of the house, we never did see anything in or around the West Wing. The girls’ swing set is not visible from any of the public places either. Which is nice because it otherwise felt somewhat as if we were intruding when it was pointed out in one hallway that the screen blocking it off is removed when tours are over and then the family has the run of the house and that they do go everywhere.

Now for the fun trivia – yes, even cooler than knowing where the First Daughter’s bedrooms are!!

James K Polk

James K Polk

The shortest President at the time, his wife noticed that people would not even see when he entered a room so she requested that a song be played to announce his arrival. Hence, Hail to the Chief was born.

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President William Howard Taft – one of our larger Presidents was also a big baseball fan. He would regularly attend games. And part way through he would stand up between innings to stretch his legs. Let’s say – around the 7th inning? And since he was the President, everyone *else* would have to stand up too out of respect. Hence, the 7th inning stretch.

I just loved how two traditions that we’ve all just taken for granted as “we’ve always done it that way” and that seem so formal were born out of rather every day events & needs.

And that does it for Part 2. I promise more personal pictures in the next installment. I just had to document what I could remember of the White House before details seeped out of my porous memory. You’ll see that while we didn’t formally walk in the Breast Cancer 3-Day, we may have logged as many miles on our own not quite prepared for it feet ;->

DC Report Part 1

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(I didn’t add an ‘of x’ to that since I really don’t know how much I will break this up, I just know I better start!)

After the challenges of getting in to Pittsburgh in August, the non stop Southwest flight to Baltimore Thursday morning was a breeze. Even having spaced on printing my boarding pass as soon as it was available and getting a kind of late (B46) position in line, I lucked into a window seat towards the back with a lovely elderly couple. We left on time and aside from some turbulence over the midwest, we made great time time an landed 40 mins early. The Supershuttle ride was a tad adventurous (often bumpier than the airplane!) but I arrived very quickly after my roommate from Maine & Alto2 from Florida so they were in the lobby to greet me. Right away I noticed something that made me smile – also gathering in the lobby were groups of Breast Cancer 3-Day walkers! The DC event was taking place while we were there. I loved being in the middle of them all & cheering for them whenever we saw them all weekend. Definitely added to the spirit of our weekend especially one of the moms who was with us has successfully battled breast cancer since the last time we saw her.

Alto2 had scoped out a restaurant for us to have dinner nearby in Chinatown. After 2 more moms arrived, we set out on foot (there would be a shit-ton of walking this weekend!).

Entrance to Chinatown in DC

Entrance to Chinatown in DC

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The restaurant was called Burma and it turns out that my friend from high school who I saw on Monday morning knew the original owners. Former Burmese embassy employees who lost their jobs with the upheaval in Burma & the overthrowing of the govt they worked for. The couldn’t go back safely so they opened a restaurant and settled in to DC  – smart! Also, very good food. We figured it must be darned authentic since we saw a Tibetan monk dining there too :-)

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My dinner companions Thursday night. Please note there is a gal there with colored hair. Does anyone remember my roommate from Pittsburgh? Well, SHE has a streak in HER hair, and there I am again with another brightly colored roommate in DC ;-)

Side note – I secretly WANT to have a streak like that in my hair, but it just would not fly with the job I have. Darn it! I’ll be the crazy retired lady with long gray hair and a purple streak in it 30 years from now. Watch for it ;->

As always when we gather, each night is spent sitting in someone’s hotel room in our jammies talking away the night. We generally solve the problems of the world, and maybe one or two of our own :-)

Friday morning we set out for White House tour #1. Two of our moms had secured WH & Capitol tour tickets for the weekend but for different days and times. Friday we had a 10:30 appt. So we made our way on foot to the check in spot on the east side of the grounds near the Treasury Dept building. It was HOT! A word about DC weather – WTF?!! The temps swung all over the damn place! Friday was sunny and in the 80s easily. It ‘cooled’ down to 77 by midnight. 77?? Then Sat it *dropped* down into the 60s & rained a bit. Nutso.

You can’t bring *anything* into the WH so no pictures. There isn’t even a locker to store your things like there was at the Capitol so we all just had our ID’s with us in our pockets and not much else. Also, guided tours stop at 10 (which we did not know before) so we just had to wander around the visitor access area on our own, peeking into rooms and just trying to figure out what we were seeing. Kinda of a bummer, BUT…Friday was exciting because we knew the press was gathering on the west side rose garden for the President to speak right when we were there about the Nobel Peace Prize award. Now, THAT was a shock for everyone to wake up to that morning wasn’t it? Out of the blue! While I’ve since read up and seen some commentary showing how the Committee has in the past handed out the award to people who have simply *started* a movement vs having actually accomplished its goal, it still is odd. As an American I am proud, not only of his recognition, but to find out that American’s dominated the award in *many* categories this year. Anyhow, that sure created a buzz on the street and for us to be on site while that was all unfolding was pretty thrilling!

Even without a guide, I recognized the East Room as the place Obama has already held some press conferences. The room this weekend was laid out differently so I was actually able to stand in the doorway of the room that has the red carpet hallway leading into it and look out at the room from the vantage point Obama has at the podium. I got a huge kick out of that!

I’ll dig up some online photos as I roll into the Saturday guided tour when we learned some cool bits of trivia.

From the WH we then were metro bound to get over to the Capitol end of town to pick up tickets for our tour there. We had to go into the congressional office building so the mom who secured those tickets to pick them up from the congressman’s aide. So, being the political uber geek that I am, I just LOVED being able to go into one of their office buildings and walk down a hallway seeing who else’s office was on the floor/wing we were on. It was odd. No rhyme or reason we could see. Not by party or state or alpha order. I only recognized one name and it made me laugh out loud and I HAD to take a picture. If we were not in such a hurry to get out for lunch before our tour, I would have thought to have my friend take a picture of ME pointing at the sign and saying “No, YOU lie!”

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I’ll finish up this version with my photo I took to honor a mom who was missing this year due to swine flu – yep, she got it *just* before the trip and while she is fine now, her whole family went down with it and we are all very very grateful that she stayed home!! But, we missed her and we particularly missed her photographers eye. One thing she loves to do is take photos of the food we have. So this one’s for for her – French Fries I had at lunch at a walk up cafe outside out the Capitol:

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Quickie DC report

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I’m sitting in the hotel restaurant having lunch as I wait for my airport shuttle. Last one here. It’s been the usual weekend of wonderful company with tons of laughter (gobs really), counselling, great food and sightseeing. Here’s the few photos I took with my phone that I can post right away. The rest, and there are a lot, will have to wait until later this week when I can get them off my camera. It’s been so liberating NOT having the laptop!!
We had to leave cameras behind on White House tours so here’s a few from the North lawn as we exited the grounds on Sat and then a Capitol shot and the Washington monument from yesterday.

And we’re off!

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Flying in from many parts of the country – almost all 4 corners – we shall gather and begin the 4 day therapy sessions. From what I understand, our destination is plenty prepared for all that hot air :-)

See ya when I get back. Not dragging the laptop around this time (yay!!!). So any posts would be minimal. Most likely just going to twitter.

Have a great weekend!

Summer project – surprise pictures

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This weekend a dear friend from DailyKos sent me an email letting me know he had enjoyed my post on the hike that SportsBoy and I took. Of course he enjoyed it – I took him on the same hike when he was out here to visit last year! More than that though, Eddie C loves pictures and happy stories. He’s been the most recent host of a long running series on the blog called Got a Happy Story? Started on Friday nights back in 2005 the hosting duties have changed hands over the years and it’s also switched to Monday nights but the theme is the same – let’s spread some cheer. Give that the blog is largely rather deeply political – and back in 2005 was mired in the depression of another 4 years of Bush – we needed a place to go to exchange stories of a brighter nature :-) Well, Eddie is (quite thankfully) inundated with work this summer and in need to guest hosts and he very sweetly asked me to host one week. So, before I could scare myself out of it, I said yes. Then I promptly freaked out to one of my other Kos friends since I’ve written a grand total of 3 diaries in 4 years there!! Aaaaaaacccckkkk!!!

Still, in the spirit of adventure that try to embrace during the summer weeks while the boy is gone, this is a fun assignment. So I wisely chose the Monday after the 4th of July weekend to give me time to come up with something good. Eddie had loved the photos from the hike and suggested something about the Torrey Pines trails and flaura and fauna and bird life. I’m still pondering the gist of the diary, though I think I will highlight a particular day on the trail that was rather spectacular. Of course, I have no pictures from that day, but, I decided to dig around to find a series of pictures showing SB on the trails. Growing up on them specifically. Looking for prior photos tonight, I remembered the stack of photo CD’s from the pre-digital camera days.

JACKPOT!

So I shall share with you some flashbacks. Just a sneak peak tonight as I just finished downloading the first 5 discs. There’s about 9 more and my whole body is stiff from last night’s work out so I want to lie down, but check out these cutie pies:

Music Man and Sports Boy Jan 2002

Music Man and Sports Boy Jan 2002

Sweet Prince and Sports Boy Feb 2004

Sweet Prince and Sports Boy Oct 2003

August Moms Baltimore - Oct 2003

August Moms Baltimore - Oct 2003

There’s your tease – back with more over the coming days!

Consider this a call out August Moms!

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August Blogroll

All right ladies – I am calling you out! We all jumped into this blogging thing together a couple of years ago (some of you had to be dragged into it, I know) and I think we’ve all had quite a bit of fun right? We’ve all made new friends, perhaps dragged other friends in and introduced them to each other (Robin, Wreke, Dee, Heidi, Calvin, etc) my apologies if this hasty post leaves anyone out who I’ve ‘found’ thanks to the August Moms.

Anyhoo – I miss you guys! I know some of you have posted now and then but….you are my ‘base’ ya know? :-)  My Reader used to be filled with your voices and it’s been pretty quiet the last couple of months. I’m hoping summer provides you some time and travels and stories to share. I loved the travel blogs we all got to follow last year and I hope a couple more of you will try that out.

Oh, and while you are pondering what to write about – here s website that was featured on the morning radio show today. RunPee.com - for the movie buffs who’s bladders can’t quite make it through that soda you bought with the popcorn, it tells you exactly the right moment in a movie that you can run and pee and how long you will have. Funny as hell and also truly brilliant! I mean – only on the internet, right?

I cannot tell a lie

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Here’s my problem: I would probably tell her yes! Really! I have some ridiculous, stubborn part of my brain that will not let me lie. Even when I *should*. Because of that I end up in some situations being rather short tempered and gruff with people who do NOT deserve that.

To Alto2 and Ramblingmom who simply asked me if I was feeling better on Sunday night: I’m sorry. I should not have snapped at you and I know you were simply concerned about me and I do, truly appreciate that.

The problem is, I could not bring myself to simply lie in that moment. To say “Yes, thank you for asking.”  I felt compelled to say no (which was the truth) and then I was primarily angry with myself at the whole situation and I mumbled that I didn’t want to talk about it. Ugh. Lovely. You see, it seems that my hormone headaches which used to come monthly are now on an every OTHER month cycle. That in itself is good of course. What was NOT so good was that October was the ON month and it hit while I was on the ferry ride in Seattle on Saturday. As usual I ate every pain medication I could find which would barely take the edge off, but after 24 hours I knew what it was and that it would NOT go away for a couple of days at least. And I got mad. And I fought internally with myself to do my best not to let what was reducing my own enjoyment of the weekend to spill over to my dear friends. It’s really not so bad. Generally I go to work and get through my day with it with no one ever knowing. It isn’t as horrid as a true migraine, but it is as persistent. But for all the walking around we were doing it certainly was challenging me. Now Squib2 and I are close enough that I knew she would understand so I groused to her a bit in our room. I felt bad enough Sunday morning that I had to go lay down after breakfast. I wanted to gather energy to go to the art museum. And that worked and I had one of the highlight moments of the weekend for me as Squib2, Alto2 and I meandered around the SAM and then had a lovely lunch in the face there. They then wanted to shop some more and I again decided it was best for me to lay down until it was time to go to dinner. Of course once the other members of our group who had done an underground tour heard that I was back in the hotel, they were concerned. When I made the decision that I could ignore the headache and enjoy dinner, I should have been prepared for the questions and had my little white lie ready. Sigh…I mean, in general it is GOOD to be 100% honest…but there are times when it is just *kinder* to provide some spin. Why does that seem so compulsively impossible for me?

Seattle food photos

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I’ve loaded all of the Seattle pictures onto my Flickr page for August Moms Gatherings. Seattle starts at the photo I posted here from the Phoenix airport. A few featured highlights:

Pumpkins and peppers from the farmers market. In keeping with the fall theme :-) I toyed with putting that up in my blog banner but then realized that I better not mess with the football team’s mojo since they are on an undefeated roll again.

Hungry yet? Look at that seafood! The size of those lobsters can only be compared with the ones I saw in Portland Maine. But really, there is no way to walk through the Pike Place Market without getting hungry. And when you do, there are so many fabulous places to eat! I must say that the food on this trip was probably the best overall that we’ve had at one of our gatherings. A better blogger (you know, one who actually does some research ahead) would link to all of the fabulous eateries we visited. Perhaps one of the other blogging moms will be a Better Blogger :-) I am a lazy one composing this at work so…just trust me that we ate well! UPDATE: I knew someone else would do the research. Oh, well, here is an obvious place I had to visit:

Best pumpkin spice latte I ever had. Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but it was pretty awesome to order at the birthplace of coffee heaven in my world.

Dim sum tarts. Aren’t they pretty? Oh that dim sum on Saturday was GOOD. We had the perfect table and the carts came fast and furious and we snatched up plates and ate and ate. Every bite was delicious.

My final bite in Seattle though was perhaps the most unusual and also very very tasty. Squib2 and I made our way back to the Pike Place Market so that I could go to Starbucks and so that she could revisit this:

A place called Piroshky Piroshky where I had a beef and onion pastry and she had a smoked salmon and then a white chocolate raspberry one. She declared them the best piroshky’s she’s had outside of Russia. of course, I had no such comparison to make, but I really enjoyed them!! It was also a lot of fun to stand at that window and watch them roll out those delicious buns. Mmmmmm.

More later..for some reason, I’m hungry now and need to find a snack!