Trip to the Big Apple!

December 4 – 6, 2012

About a year ago we signed up to be part of a group leaving from here in Northern VA to spend a few days in New York City during the Christmas season. We made payments throughout the year, and then boarded the bus and left on Tuesday morning, December 4th.

We had a great time!

We arrived at the Edison Hotel near Times Square about 3 p.m. After settling into our room, we walked a couple of blocks to Times Square. I have to say, Times Square is crazy!! I can't imagine being there on New Year's Eve. However, the Church's presence is there, also, and among all the many, many other billboards, the Church has a beautiful digital billboard about the true meaning of Christmas. (Christmas is Worship; Christmas is Family; Christmas is Love; Christmas is Service; Christmas is Jesus Christ — with a different image for each phrase.)

We left Times Square and explored for a few blocks and that's when we discovered the most wonderful store! It's called An American Craftsman. Everything in the store is handmade by a variety of artists. They have all kinds of things - blown glass items, hand-crafted furniture, miniature hand-carved wooden scenes, fabulous pottery — every kind of beautiful thing. I couldn't afford to buy anything but we went back to the store another day, too, just to look around. It's a fabulous place!

That first night our group walked to dinner at Hurley's Irish Pub, then we all went to the Imperial Theatre to see "Nice Work (If You Can Get It)" The star was Matthew Broderick. Bob and I thought the rest of the cast were stronger players than he was, but it was a fun show, and Estelle Parsons had a small role near the end of the play. Really enjoyed the music and choreography - especially the human conveyor belt and the "I'm So Delishious" number. It was great fun!

Wednesday morning we went by bus to Macy's where we enjoyed a nice breakfast buffet and a brief fashion show. Then we shopped. Bob and I also went outside to look at some of the store windows. My favorite windows were at Anthropologie. They were gorgeous!! Every one was a winter wonderland.

From there, our bus took us to Rockefeller Plaza and we took a tour of NBC Studios. At one point during the tour they asked for two volunteers to be filmed doing a news and weather segment. I volunteered to do the news and had a lot of fun doing it. It was my first time to read from a teleprompter, and, I thought it went pretty well. Afterward, though, they told us our show was cancelled — before it even aired! My hopes of a new career in broadcast journalism were dashed. And they didn't even provide hair and make-up services!
This is a pic of me in the news anchor seat, with my "staff" behind me. The woman on the far left, Paula, did the weather report. (Personally, I think it was Paula's fault our show was cancelled.) :-)

After our tour we went to the Top of the Rock, an observation deck on the 69th and 70th floors of Rockefeller Center, and were able to photograph some beautiful views of NYC. On the way to the elevator we got this shot (below) of Radio City Music Hall, across the street.

And, here's a pic from the top — of Central Park, and surrounds. . .

Of course, on the ground, Rockefeller Plaza, itself, is beautiful, all decked out for Christmas.

Just across the ice rink from 30 Rock, is the Lego Store! They have a giant serpent — made of Legos, of course — that winds his way across the ceiling, throughout the store. And, in one of the store windows, there's a Lego scale model of the plaza. Very cool!

Since we didn't eat lunch, Bob and I opted for an early dinner (around 4:30 p.m.) at the Carnegie Deli. The deli we wanted to go to (The Stage Deli) closed a couple of weeks before we got there, so that was disappointing. But, the Carnegie came highly recommended, so we tried it out. Instead of bringing chips, or rolls, before the meal, they offer pickles!
Bob and I ordered a Reuben sandwich to share, because the sandwiches are all HUGE. It's the first time I've ever seen a Reuben served open-face. And, it was piled high! It was tasty, but I think I prefer a normal-sized, grilled Reuben. . .
Seating is pretty tight in the deli and right after I took this picture, a couple from Nova Scotia sat down next to us. They were there celebrating the wife's birthday, and had tickets to see "Evita" starring Ricky Martin, that evening.
We ordered some cheesecake to take with us to the hotel, so we could eat it after we got back from seeing "Jersey Boys" at the August Wilson Theater. I have been wanting to see "Jersey Boys" for a few years, now, and am angry that we fell victim to a change in ruling by the FCC. This used to be a clean show, but, with the ruling change, they changed the script, and now there is an almost constant barrage of the worst profanity, ever. The music was wonderful. But the show was ruined because the script was so full of obscenities. Very, very disappointing!! (And, since this kind of foul language is now considered part of the common vernacular, they don't even have to warn you ahead of time that it's part of the content.)

Thursday, our final day in the city, we had tickets for the 11 a.m. matinee of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes Christmas Show. It did not disappoint!!!
As indicated in this shot of the chandelier in the theater lobby, this is the Rockettes 85th year of performing.

The two organists, one on each side of the stage, performed Christmas music before the show. And, the show included lots of great routines, including some with Santa, some favorites from years past, and a few new ones. The backdrops of most of the sets are digital and are fabulously done. This year, they even had two different 3-D segments.
Loved the classic March of the Toy Soldiers.
In another routine, they were on a sightseeing bus, and, with the way the bus rotated and moved, and the change of digital scenes behind them, it really looked like they were traveling through different parts of Manhattan!

The finale was a wonderful Nativity scene, and, the show ended with everyone singing "Joy to the World." They even had a number of live animals on stage, including a camel, a donkey, and several sheep.
Although we've seen the Rockettes many times on TV, (and I saw them live many years ago — a brief show — in the spring-time, before a movie) I'm really glad we had the opportunity to see this Christmas show live.

After the show, and, an hour or so delay because someone on our bus got lost, we headed back to Virginia. We enjoyed not having to do all the driving for this trip, and we met some nice people on the bus. Yet, as much as I enjoy traveling and seeing new things, it's always good to be home and to sleep in my own bed. :-)

Heather and Mark's Visit

19 – 23 October 2012

Heather and Mark drove up for a visit, arriving on Friday evening, Oct 19. Saturday, the 20th, was a beautiful, fall day and we enjoyed a trip to Mount Vernon, VA to see the home and grounds of George and Martha Washington's estate. It's only about an hour's drive from us, and we were able to go at a nice leisurely pace.

I posted most of these pics on facebook, but decided to include them here as well.
 Walking toward the house. . .

 Front of home

 View of the house from the attached portico

 The back porch

 View of the Potomac River, from the back porch

 One of several beautiful, and inspiring, gardens. . .

The blacksmith shop, for forging tools needed on the estate

We had a relaxing Sunday. Enjoyed our meetings at church, ate sloppy joes and asparagus for lunch and made a delicious, cheesy, pull-apart bread for an evening snack.

On Monday, we talked about going down to the National Mall and visiting the National Spy Museum. But, we changed our plans and went toward Manassas and Woodbridge, VA instead.

In Manassas we visited the Bull Run battlefield (first battle of Manassas). 
(Civil War battles were named differently by the North and the South. The North mostly named battles according to major rivers. The South named them for states or geographic regions. Hence, this battlefield was named for the nearby Bull Run River by the North, and was named the first battle of Manassas by the South.) 
We had a great guide and appreciated learning some of the details of that first battle of the Civil War (which occurred in July 1861.) Most of the landscape and grounds are pretty much as they were then. The second battle of Manassas was fought a year later.

The invaded farmland and (rebuilt) home of Judith Henry, the only civilian killed in that first battle. She was 85-yrs-old and bedridden, but when her family tried to remove her (at the start of the battle) she refused to go.
 Confederate cannons placed as they would have been during the afternoon of the battle.

Monument to Stonewall Jackson
In the morning of that first battle, it appeared that the North would be able to claim victory. But Gen. McDowell made a tactical error by not pursuing the rebels as they moved over a hill and into a wooded area. During a two-hour lull in which the Union Army rested, the confederates received reinforcements — including a brigade of Virginians under the command of Col. Thomas J. Jackson. Someone supposedly said, "There stands Jackson, like a stone wall." His nickname was born, and the South proved victorious that day.

 Heather and Mark walking toward the visitor's center, in the background

I'm always stunned when I see the number of casualties in the Civil War. Nearly as many Americans died in that war as in all other wars the U.S. has been involved in, combined. Perhaps it's a lesson to help us remember that internal conflict is always more destructive than attacks from without.

After seeing Bull Run, we popped over to Cafe Rio and had a great lunch, then drove to Woodbridge and spent some time at Ikea. It's always fun to browse there, and it was Mark's first time to see it.

We had to say good-bye Tuesday morning, but we made plans for another visit soon — when we actually will go to the spy museum.

Bob Got His Woodbadge Beads

Bob, with his Woodbadge beads and neckerchief.

The owl patrol flag I made for him between the first and second campouts.

13 October 2012

About nineteen months ago Bob embarked on a journey to earn the BSA Woodbadge award. The first camp out was held in Feb 2011, the second one in April, 2011, and then each scouter who attended had an individual list of goals to complete in the following months.
Earlier this year, Bob completed all of his requirements, and, at a ceremony held Oct 13, 2012, at the McLean Stake Center in Falls Church, VA, he received his Woodbadge beads and certificate. He was one of 17 scouters to receive the award that day, including our stake president, Lynn Chapman. (It was an unusually large group!)
Most of the scouters who started with Bob earned their Woodbadge. A few people who started out with him were beaded in June. (But, only one other person from the Owl Patrol was in the ceremony with him this month.)
I didn't realize until Bob set out to do this how much was involved in earning a Woodbadge award!

It's In The Bag

6 October 2012

Not long ago I ran across a book that has really helped me feel focused in terms of my food storage. For many years, we've had basic, long-term food storage and have kinda, sorta rotated/used it. And, I've always had extra amounts of our staple foods on hand.
However, I've struggled some with knowing that I actually have a three-month supply of meals that we can use to sustain ourselves, short-term.
Then I found the book It's In The Bag. I really love this concept! You store your food as individual meals, rather than just by having lots of assorted supplies on hand.
Each bag holds the supplies for one dinner meal. On the outside of the bag is the list of what's inside, plus a list of any extra items you will need to make the meal, and a sticker with a "use by" date. (Date is based on the nearest use by date of any of the items in the bag.)
Once I read about this, I knew I wanted to do it. So, I ordered some bags on-line, popped into the local Office Depot to get some paper CD sleeves, and set out to decide what will be in my bags. By looking at what I have on hand, I was able to quickly put together the meal cards for quite a few bags. Then, since I decided I'd like to have three bags each of 30 different meals, I went looking for other ideas for meals made from shelf-stable items.
It's In The Bag includes quite a few meal plans, but, most of them where not the kind of meals Bob and I would be likely to eat. Fortunately, there are many other resources available, and I soon had all the choices I wanted.
Once my meal plans were in hand, I designed the cards for my bags. Like this:
My bags arrived a few days ago and I've been busy assembling them ever since. Of course, I started with what I already had on hand, then made a list of other items I need. (I'm not planning to fill all 90 bags at once, but I have about 70 bags completed. The other 20 will get filled a few at a time over the next few weeks.)
A work in progress. . .
These are my initial set of bags — about 35 meals on these shelves.

If I use one of these bag meals per week, in less than two years I will have rotated through all of them. I'm so excited that I will actually be storing what we eat, and eating what we store — in a more organized way than ever before! It's taking a little bit of time to get it together, but, will be easy to maintain. Once I use one of the meals, I have a hook I'll put the empty bag on. Then, when I go grocery shopping, I'll buy the supplies to refill it, revise the "use by" date, and put it back on the shelf. (I'm trying to place the bags on the shelf in order according to the use by date.)

I quickly found, though, that I need more shelving.
Here's my overflow, at the moment. . .
For now, I may use a shelf in the garage (since we're into cooler weather) and work on a more long-term solution from there. . .

It makes me very happy to feel this focused about our three-month food supply!! Yay!!!

Living Room Change-up

6 October 2012

For some time now I've been wanting to change the throw pillows in my living room. I've had these same pillows for quite a few years and they were looking a bit tired. So, a couple of months ago I went fabric shopping. Loved looking at all the many choices of colors and prints!
Yesterday, I finally finished sewing them and I'm very happy with the outcome. A whole new look for under $100.

Now, Bob and I can snuggle into them and watch General Conference on BYU-TV all weekend. What could be better!!

Women for Mitt Rally

8 September 2012

     Yesterday morning I went to a Women for Mitt Rally! It was held at the Twin Oaks Riding Academy, in Leesburg, VA. Ann Romney was the featured speaker. Other speakers included women who are county officials, as well as some wives of state-wide candidates for office. (i.e. Susan Allen, wife of Senator [and former Governor of VA] George Allen, and others.)
Ann Romney looked great and spoke well at the rally for her husband, Mitt.

Pictured here is our bishop, Randall Smith, and his wife Nancy. Nancy owns the Twin Oaks Riding Academy where this event was held. I saw her a couple of days before this and she was so excited! Said she was just called out of the blue and asked if she would host the event at her riding stables. She said, "Sure" . . . and the rest is history. They got a few VIP minutes with Ann Romney before her speech.

 Candice Jones (left), also in our ward, is shown here with Susan Allen.

 Here's Candice with Ann Romney.

And, as is happens, we have two Nancy Smiths in our stake. This Nancy Smith (in green, center front) is someone I see each week in Scripture Study Class. Her husband is on the high council. There were several others there I knew from church, as well.

My Soapbox: Tonight, Bob and I went to see the movie "2016." Now I am more concerned than ever. (I used to think there were other events that might qualify to fill the prophesy that our Constitution would one day be hanging by a thread. But, now, I believe our current situation is what was meant.)
This election is the most pivotal one in my lifetime! Our very liberties and who we are as a nation are at stake. I pray every day for Mitt Romney. I am alarmed and heartsick at the thought of Barack Obama being reelected.
I used to think that the financial crisis Obama has led us into was because of his ineptness. Now I realize he has done it, and continues to do it, on purpose. I am very worried for our country.
I pray, pray, pray that people will see past Obama's rhetoric and will vote for Mitt Romney in November.

Labor Day Trip to Philadelphia

September 1–3, 2012

We loved, loved, loved our short trip to Philadelphia. (One of the advantages to living in Northern Virginia is that Philly is only a 3-hour drive away; NYC is 5 hours; Hershey, PA is 2 hours; Baltimore is 1 hour; and we're only 5–6 hours from most of our children and grandchildren.)

We gained a renewed appreciation for the founding of our nation and love America and our constitution more than ever! We took tons of pics, but I can only post a few. . .
 Outside one of the entrances to Reading Terminal Market
 Inside Reading Terminal Market. We ate a great lunch at Tootsie's.
 Independence Hall
 Front of Betsy Ross House
 This Betsy Ross reenactor— in her upholstery shop — was the best!
Me with one of the reenactors at the visitors center.
Alleyway entrance to apartment where Ben Franklin once lived,
and also rented to others
 Ben Franklin's post office
 above and below—Streets along Society Hill

Congress Hall - in 1797, in this very place, is where the first peaceful transference of power, from George Washington to John Adams, took place.
(At that time, Philadelphia was the nation's capitol.)

 This is the room where the delegates from the 13 colonies met, in Independence Hall
This is the kitchen of John and Dolley Todd (she later became Dolley Madison) They had two sons and, for a time, two of Dolley's sisters also lived with them along with a servant and a law clerk who worked for John Todd. Dolley's husband and one son died in the Yellow Fever epidemic in the early 1790's. Later, Aaron Burr introduced Dolley to James Madison, and they married in 1794. Madison became the fourth President of the U.S. in 1809. (Dolley is credited as being the first hostess to serve cake and ice cream for dessert in the White House — a tradition which spread quickly.)
 The guest bedroom — and a place for ironing and mending. (The furnishings in the Todd home are reproductions or period items such as they likely had. Because Dolley's one surviving son had a gambling habit, the Madisons ultimately sold nearly everything in order to cover his mounting debt.)
The formal sitting room, where she was most likely courted by James Madison.
He was 43 and she was 26 when they married. Dolley was a Quaker, but when
she married Madison, a non-Quaker, she was expelled from the Society of Friends.
 This is the family dining room for The Most Reverend William White, the first
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, first Bishop of Pennsylvania, and second
U.S. Senate Chaplain. He was Bishop of Christ Church in Philadelphia. Though the Todd and White homes were not far from each other, it's unlikely they would have
been in each other's homes or participated in the same social circles.
Nearly all the furnishings in the White home are original items used by the family.
 Immediately upon entering this home, the contrast between it
and the Todd house are apparent.
 The opulent dining room of the White home. The open doors on either side,
behind the fireplace show where servants could keep food warm before dinner.
Many famous people dined at this table. Among them were George Washington
and the Marquis de LaFayette.
 A sideboard in the formal dining room of Bishop White's house.
 Would love to have a pantry this size in my kitchen!
 The White kitchen
 The kitchen table—where the servants and the children ate.
 A playroom and study room for Bishop White's 11 grandchildren
who lived there for a time.
 Carpenter's Hall
It was interesting to hear the story of forging the Liberty Bell
 Another view of Independence Hall
 We enjoyed a great dinner at the City Tavern — restored to resemble what it
might have been during the time Philadelphia was the nation's capitol.

 Elfreth's Alley—America's oldest continuously residential street.
Homes here are over 300 years old. Two of the houses here have become museums,
but they were closed Labor Day (when we were there.)

 above and below—these were taken along a side street off of Elfreth's Alley

 Christ Church, where many early founders worshiped.
This window is the first Palladian used in any building in America.
 A smith-y reenactor showing wares from many different types of smiths.
The General
Wall outside of Christ Church Cemetary
(where Ben Franklin and other patriots are buried.)
Love this contemporary sculpture of Ben Franklin,
complete with kites and lightning bolts.