Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Capitol Dome

As we were walking past the Capitol Building, an interesting view came our way. It's not unusual to see construction and repair work on the buildings on Capitol Hill. In fact, I have had the opportunity to actually see some of the construction work behind the scenes on several occasions. I have a small piece of the original brick from the Jefferson Building when they broke ground for the tunnel between that building and the new Capitol Visitor Center in the Capitol. That brick piece, from the 1890's, sits on my desk at work. During the construction of the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), we had tours on two occasions mid way and before it opened. What was interesting was the kitchen area and the underground network of additional rooms and halls used for reporters, Congressional staff meetings, and one room large enough to house both the Senate and House members in the event the Capitol was not available! I also had an opportunity to climb the scaffolding that almost reached the dome in the main reading room of the Library during arch repair work. I've always wanted to be on a Capitol dome tour, but it just hasn't happened. Maybe because there was so much news coverage of the engineers climbing along the Washington Monument to assess the earthquake damage, this item is not as spectacular. But to me, it is.
Looks the same- but wait.....

What's that going on by the dome?

Obviously not afraid of heights- imagine the views!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The First Christmas House in the Neighborhood

The Capitol Christmas tree arrived yesterday; the Library of Congress tree arrived today; the White House tree showed up last week. As I was walking home after work tonight, the Republican Club had a lighted tree in the entry way and in the bay window on the second floor. Little by little the neighborhood is getting in to the spirit of the holiday. I usually put things up the day after Thanksgiving, but decided to wait until later in the month so the live branches and such don't dry out so much. And one must be creative in a tiny 500 square foot place. So we enjoy the decorations in the neighborhood, and the first one we saw was over the weekend. Quite tasteful and pretty. I especially like the Magnolia branches. I used to have a little tree in three rooms in Milwaukee, and did outside lights, and put stuff in the window boxes..... it was fun, and pretty. I do miss some things about being in a cold place for Christmas, but am quickly reminded that the frigid season lasts a lot longer than December, and am very happy to watch it all on TV.
A lot of the homes were built in the 1880's

Mary Pickford

I work on the third floor of the Madison Building - one of the three Library of Congress buildings on Capitol Hill. Also on the third floor is the Mary Pickford Theater. A variety of events are held there for Library employees, guests, and the general public. All of the events hosted there are free to the public. My husband and I attended a Beatles documentary of sorts, and viewed a program about what  Persepolis might have looked like at an event sponsored by the Middle Eastern Division. I've gone to the area a couple times for Library meetings, and pass by it daily on my afternoon walk. What strikes me about the Pickford Theater is the picture hanging on the wall of a time and place when movies were considered a great distraction that began with the silent films. We were big time movie goers in our family- just about every Sunday after dinner out, we would go to whatever was playing whenever we decided to show up, only to wait for the movie to start again until it came to the part where we first arrived. I'm not sure about the history of the Mary Pickford Theater at the Library, but I do know of her, and how things have changed since her name was so well known by just about everyone (at least my age).

On display in the lobby

The official plaque

Way before my time- a hat cleaners shop next to the movie theater!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden - Ice Skating

For most of the summer, one can go to the Sculpture Garden and have a snack, sit on the lawn, listen to jazz, watch the water works, enjoy the sculpture, the sights and the sounds. A couple weeks ago, all the water fountains in the city by the monuments and art museums were turned off for the winter. However, the beautiful fountain in the National Gallery of Art took on another look for the fall/winter season. The shooting water cascades were silenced to make way for the very slippery ice skating rink. Once it is open, it is packed with newbies, tried-it-a-couple-timers, and really good skaters that show everyone else up. I vaguely remember trying ice skating in Connecticut on a real frozen pond- with TWO blades on each skate- when I was less than 6 years old. I guess I was never much for ice skating then and when we moved to Florida- never. Living in Wisconsin did not make a difference either. I gradually began to really dislike the ice and the snow and the cold. But for those who like it, and feel the urge to pretend you're a lot younger than you really are, the option is available just about anywhere these days. From a spectators perspective, it doesn't matter- just as long as it is warm enough to enjoy the show.

More spectators than skaters

Wonder what she's thinking?

The Archives as a back drop

During the summer, facing the National Gallery of Art

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pest Control

We decided to go to Alexandria for brunch and then stop at the hardware store next door to pick up some industrial strength ammonia. Any "big" city has it's positives and negatives. In this instance, we like to keep all the 4 legged critters at bay- and the little furry ones with the long tails are not wanted. We have a little shed on our patio that allows for extra storage (luggage and planting supplies, etc), but is also a cozy place to vacation during the winter months- or at any time of the year. Our building provides for routine pest control service, but we wanted to make sure we did our part on the patio. Since we do not have a cat to deter these creatures, I came across an article on the web that stated ammonia soaked rags drives them out and away. And by golly! It's a miracle. Since we've been using this approach over the past few months, we've had excellent results.We tried a lot of things before that, but nothing ever worked. I'm not sure I would recommend it for inside use, but that's not where we had our problem. In Milwaukee, we made sure the dog food container had a very tight lid. Can't exactly keep the shed air tight, so we're doing the next best thing. I suppose that's why a plastic shed is more practical, but it would look really tacky here.
On Washington Avenue in Alexandria is Southern Restaurant & Ace Hardware

To the cleaning materials shelf

Would like bigger bottles

The patio cushions and luggage are stored in the shed
Stay away!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cafe Deluxe Near the Cathedral

Because I work nine hour days, I have every other Friday off. And this happens to be a great Friday to have off! No, we were not about to go anywhere near a department store, mall, or shopping area. So we drove down Independence Avenue, heavily laden with traffic and tourists. The traffic was indeed ridiculous to say the least. As soon as we passed by the Kennedy Center, we were in business, making our way through Rock Creek Parkway, to Massachusetts Avenue, to Wisconsin Avenue. There, we passed by St. Albans, where Al Gore went to school -among many others- and the National Cathedral, where the scaffolding is still in place for repairs from the earthquake damage. Apparently there are millions of dollars of reconstruction work that needs to occur over several years. The Cathedral is now open for business, but the exterior repair work will take quite a while to restore. About two blocks past the Cathedral is one of our favorite spots for lunch or brunch, depending on the day. The name is Cafe Deluxe, and the sister organization is just one block down the street from us in our neighborhood. Once we find something we like, we have a tendency to keep going back, which is exactly what we did today.
Along Independence Avenue, the White House can be seen across the Mall

St. Albans, with the Cathedral scaffolding high in the air behind it

The National Cathedral seen through the now bare trees along Wisconsin Ave

Full view from the side

Cafe Deluxe- great for lunch or brunch- and hot fudge sundaes- so we're told

Fist sign of Christmas trees at the Greek Orthodox Church

Coming home`along Rock Creek Parkway- the Watergate & Kennedy Center

Ridiculous Traffic along Independence Avenue

Thursday, November 24, 2011

US Botanic Garden Holiday

The preparations for Christmas are underway. Each week, the scene changes at the US Botanic Garden as the evergreens are placed in huge pots, the tracks and trains are assembled in the international landscape, and the Capitol Hill Village is placed under the huge tree in the foyer. It's a nice time to visit because the crowds are thin and you can actually see things. We wandered through the interior building to check a particular flower in the garden area, and along the way the decorations could not be missed. In spite of the fact that they are not completely finished, one can get the idea about what to expect and enjoy the views- and all the people enjoying the views - over the next several weeks. Both Milwaukee and Chicago have Botanic Gardens and "Domes," but it just isn't the same. But, I have to say that the streets along Michigan Avenue and the memories of Christmas there are just like in the movies. But, I could not just walk over whenever I wanted, just two blocks. And that makes all the difference.

The trains & greens are in place

The Capitol Hill Village is typically placed beneath the tree

The monuments are all made of plant materials

The Bartholdi Fountain- recently reopened across the street

The Library of Congress- a nice place to be associated with!

A handful of visitors in the cactus section

The real reason we stopped by

The "other" stuff to see

A view of the Capitol

The wreaths have been added this week

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Good Eats!

An Absolute Necessity

This week has been really rainy and ugly. If there were any leaves left on the trees they will be long gone by Thanksgiving. Last year I decided to get a pair of rain boots to prepare for the wet season- and it probably was the smartest investment I have made as of late. In Milwaukee, we had snow boots that served the purpose - and I pretty much drove from point A to point B there. In the event of the "rare" snow here, I do have a pair of snow boots that I saved just in case. But because I have to walk back and forth to work every day, the rain boots became a necessity if I was to keep my feet and legs dry with the wind blowing 30-40 miles per hour! Anyway, if one ever decides to live in this town, there are certain necessities. And they include rain boots, rain shoes, and a very sturdy umbrella- not the cheapo kind that folds up and gets stuck in your purse (although I have one of those too!)
Be prepared!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Last Pepper

We had really good luck with our vegetable and flower garden this year. We had great cucumbers and two kinds of peppers, an eggplant, and tomatoes. The last pepper was picked yesterday. So as the season turns from Fall to Winter, the perennial mums are blooming, and some of the annuals are still looking rather good. The bird bath solar panel was removed, but we keep the container filled with water as long as the birds are hanging around. The myrtles leaves have long since gone, and the wonderfully blooming clematis vine needs a bit of a trim. I'm hoping I can remember next year what we planted. But if I don't (which is highly likely), I can always look back at the pictures for a reminder.
Going on a pizza tonight!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Smithsonian American History Museum- First Ladies

The Smithsonian American History Museum is probably my favorite of all the museums on the Mall. The first time I visited the museum was in high school. And I really liked the First Ladies exhibit then, and have seen it several times since. The exhibit then simply started with Martha on one end and finished with whoever happened to be in office at the time... and what stood out was how the tiny little sizes of the dresses from the 1700's increasingly grew taller (and in some cases - wider) as time went on. The new First Ladies exhibit just reopened, and today was the perfect day to check it out. It was in the 60's, the tourist traffic was quite low, so it as a great day to take a walk over before the holiday rush. The foot traffice on the Mall was very slow and easy to navigate. The museum is located at the end of the Mall (for us) near the Washington Monument. We entered the place, and went directly up to the third floor. And of course, it probably was the busiest exhibit there. An orderly line had formed at the entrance where a great selection of gowns were on display. So we started at the other end, and worked our way back up to the front, past Dolly Madison, Mary Lincoln, Lady Bird Johnson, and Michelle Obama- to name just a few. I declared history as my major when I entered college, but it changed to nursing (of all things) to ensure that I would actually get a job when I graduated. We visited Washington DC many times over the years, and have seen a lot of historical sites along the way. So I guess you could say I'm living with the history rather than just reading about it. And that is probably a lot more fun.
In front of the Air and Space Museum, transportation awaits- but no takers!

The ever present Park Police

The American History Museum is near the Washington Monument

The entrance to the exhibit

An interesting collection from a variety of periods- including Nancy Reagan's suit

Dolly Madison was always fashionable

I've read a lot about Mary Todd Lincoln

Lady Bird Johnson's simple lines are very elegant

The second Mrs. Wilson?

Even the boys find this collection interesting

"Living" history is the best

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Potomac Park

Every so often on the way home, we take a detour through Potomac Park. East Potomac Park is sort of an undiscovered place for many - more of a locals place. And West Potomac is better known with the tourists. As you head east off the freeway, you travel on the peninsula along the Anacostia River on one side, make a U turn, then head west along the Potomac River. A lot of different things across the Anacostia River can be seen from this side - the fish market and restaurants, the Army War College and Ft. McNair (where Mary Surratt and the Lincoln conspirators were hanged); and across the Potomac River on the other side are Alexandria, Reagan Airport, Arlington, and the Air Force Monument. On the peninsula itself are are a golf course, a huge park, and cherry trees all along the route. Depending on the season, the activities are distinctly different. Bikers, walkers, picnickers on the holidays, fisherman. The water level often rises above the walkways, and the place gets flooded. East Potomac Park becomes West Potomac Park, where a lot of the more familiar sites are located along the Tidal Basin- the Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr Memorials. It seems wherever I have lived, water has been close by. From the Atlantic Ocean in Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, and now the Potomac & Anacostia Rivers in DC. The water looks the same, but the stuff around it has a very unique flavor.
Ft McNair Officer housing

Along the Anacostia and the fish market, boats

The Army War College
In spring, the cherry blossoms create a fairy land

Ronald Reagan Airport on the Potomac side- about 15 minutes away

The area often gets flooded

Looking West towards Arlington
Heading West to the "other side" and the Tidal Basin

Even the pooches dress up to visit MLK's Memorial