Category Archives: Vacations

Thriving In My Thrifty Week—March 24, 2019

This week, one of Patsy’s new daffodils bloomed! This past fall, she planted a few special ones amongst the yellow ones she planted the first fall we moved in here. We didn’t buy many, and they were from Winco, so I was hoping we would get a nice one or two. We were not disappointed. I notice there is another one like it about to bloom, too! Hopefully, they will multiply in time as well as the yellow ones do.

We finally got some seeds planted, and just today a few broccoli plants have popped up.

We camped for 3 nights at the beach, using the park pass. We enjoyed some exceptionally nice weather, for the Oregon coast. Patsy and I took 2 nice walks and she collected rocks. Our second walk was abruptly terminated when a sneaker wave filled my rubber boots. Then, we got a lot of cheap entertainment trying to dry out the boots:). And me! Rob made a contraption from duct tape and boards and we propped them up on that until the duct tape gave out and they collapsed. Then, he rigged up a paper plate between the 2 boots, put that over the heater in the camper, and conducted the air into each boot that way. We didn’t want to set rubber boots right on top of a heater vent. We wanted the heat to go inside. By last night, they were about dry.

We enjoyed our camp spot. We got near enough to the ocean that we could see it from the door of our camper when it was not blocked by another camper–so part of the time. It was a short walk to the beach from our site and was easy to see–I walked a few steps and soaked in the beauty a few times. Rob made a big fire, and he and Patsy sat by it a lot. They played cards. Rob roasted things over the fire. I had pre-cooked some things, cooked a lot of veggies and made salads in the camper.

I have a quilt that I started 15-20 years ago. Yes. Really. That long. It has lived in the camper for a few years now because sometimes that was the only time in an entire year I could find the time to quilt. This trip, I really made some progress on it while Patsy watched some DVD’s. We’ve been taking Mr. Jake camping the past few times, and there’s no quilting to be done when that boy is there! After all, how could I quilt with the table covered with Legos? :). This time, he’s on vacation with his family. He will get a turn later in the summer.

I finally have hope that this quilt may someday get finished. It took me quite a while to even figure out what needed to be done and find the parts and pieces, but once I did, the project started moving along. Everything still seems to be there so far!

I worked on my current quilt at home quite a bit this week as well, before we went camping. I have only 1 more 6″ square to complete of the 20 needed for the main body. Then, there is quite a bit more to do to make it larger–there are going to be 2 special rows down below, plus borders all around, but I’m really gaining on it.

We drove back this morning so Patsy could go on her Spring Break Service Project with the youth group. It’s just a couple of days long, but we didn’t want her to have to miss it.

Patsy has an interest in rocks, shells, and fossils. We found this interesting fossil-filled rock on one of our walks. She also collected 2 small rocks with fossils in them. We will hopefully see many more when we go back down to the beach. Last year, Rob and one of his best friends took her on a rock-hunting expedition. Maybe this will turn into a nice hobby for her–time will tell.

How did your week go?

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–September 9, 2018

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Down at the coast again–crazy, I know!  We took one last quick trip camping at the beach this weekend.  We were fortunate enough that Lovana had the ability to get time off and go along, so we took her down there.  She hasn’t been able to go at all this summer until now.  It was a whirlwind trip, and we are back home already.  Because I knew we were going again, I was able to leave a lot of things in the fridge of the camper last week. I left clothing enough in there for this time, and things like my embroidery were also just left in there.  After we returned this afternoon, we really cleaned it out of perishable things and things I would want.  I’m also going to wash some bedding, and actually got in the bunkhouse where the girls sleep while we were down there, and cleaned out a lot of cluttery things and wiped off the window ledges, etc.  That’s not necessarily frugal, but it counts as a feel-good moment, for sure:)

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We went clamming in Yaquina Bay, where Patsy skunked me–getting 11 clams while I only got 5, and mine were smaller:). We just cleaned and froze them, and another meal of clam chowder is on the horizon in the future.  Rob went down with us, and he did get one.  It was a different kind, and he dug for it in a different area while we were raking for ours out further.

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Before we left on Friday afternoon, we had a busy, productive week.  Patsy started school, and Rob and I worked many, many hours with the kids, as they are now on vacation and we will not work with them this week at all.  We got the chore routine going, by having the kids do them several days this week.  Rob took Michaela to her volunteering.  I took her to the zoo on Jake’s first day of school.  She had so much fun.  We went to the tigers 3 times, some other things twice, and skipped several animals entirely.  A cheetah decided to sit down by the viewing window, and Michaela sat there for at least 15-20 minutes, just enjoying the big cat.  I took food with us, and we re-filled the 2 water bottles purchased at the zoo in years past.  If you take the time to wash them and bring them back, they will re-fill them with soda for $1.   We also got one order of fries for us girls to share. (J went with us.). I used our zoo pass for admission.  It was a frugal, fun day.  It was so nice to have a relaxing day after all the canning I had been doing before and after watching the kids.

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I pre-cooked and prepared some of our food for camping so it would be easy while we were there.  I made it super easy, and just used the jarred sauce and didn’t even add meat this time.  We used up parmesan cheese packets that I’d had in a ziplock for ages.  They were from when the older girls ordered pizza at some point.  Lovana took us out to lunch yesterday.  It was a nice treat, and we ate the food I took the rest of the time.

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Before my sister’s family went on vacation, I was over there working with the kids.  My brother-in-law kindly offered me all the rest of the perishable food that would go bad while they were gone.  I got 2 sad bananas and made banana-coconut bread for the trip.  There was cilantro and 2 halves of white onion, so I added garden tomatoes and peppers and made Pico de Gallo.  There were corn chips in the camper, so we ate it with them.  There were some limes, so I juiced them out and froze the juice in tiny containers for when I have a recipe that calls for them, after I used what I needed for the Pico.  Rob saved them a fortune by taking them to the airport and he will pick them up.  Parking is quite expensive up at the airport.

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Rob made stuffed zucchini one night for dinner.  It was great, and a welcome meal after coming home from work.  The zucchini has slowed down to a nice level of production, and we enjoy having it in more moderate quantities.

My aunt passed a few tomatoes on to me, and I got 5 more pints with what I had on hand from my garden, plus hers.  I hope to get another small batch of pints this week, as well.  Little by little, I’m coming to the end of the canning season.  I still have a few more things I want to make, though, like salsa, salsa verde from the remaining green tomatoes once the season is over, maybe taco sauce if I can find a good recipe, some dried herbs, etc.   My focus is still on using the fresh items as much as possible while they are available, but we have started popping open a few jars.  That’s what they are for, and I’m glad to have them.

How did your week go?  Did you have any “feel-good” cleaning moments or save money in a creative way?

 

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–September 2, 2018

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This is one of my favorite times of the year.  The canning cupboard is getting full, the garden is winding down but still producing, and the weather is cooling down.  There is still more preserving to do, but a lot has been accomplished.  It won’t be long until I turn my energy to other projects, like cleaning!  There are some areas in the house that have been neglected, for sure:)

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We spent a few deliciously cool days down at the beach, camping.  While we were there we went crabbing, clamming and fishing.  Since we already had our licenses, were able to camp for free using our park pass, and took our food with us, we spent very little extra money.  It was very restful, which is good, because we hit the ground running once we returned home.

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We purchased albacore tuna from off the docks and canned it once we got home.  We got 40 assorted jars, mostly 1/2 pints.  We caught both crab and clams.  I made clam chowder, ate crab, and froze the rest.  There is just a little bit of each in the freezer, and I need to use them quickly, as they don’ t last very long.

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Before we left, I picked peaches at my sister’s and she gave me some pears.  I put them in the drawers in the fridge, and they lasted just fine until I got home.

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I bought grapes for 99c/lb at the beach and brought them home, since they would have been off that great sale price once I got back.  Marachino cherries were purchased before we left, in a big container at Cash and Carry.  They are much more reasonable that way.   I was all set to make fruit cocktail once I got home.  I also made crushed tomatoes from the ones that had ripened while I was away.

Not long ago, my rickety pear tree in the back yard just fell over one Sunday afternoon.   I was able to pick a few now-ripened pears from it where it lay, and use them in the fruit cocktail.  I cut a bunch of branches off, and will put them in the weed bin once it has been emptied.  It is full now.  The tree is being removed little by little, and then Rob will chain-saw up the trunk for firewood. Ironically, we have not harvested good pears from that old tree until now:)

I also got one load of beef broth canned.  There were two packages of soup bones in the freezer that I wanted to put into a more usable form.  I still have some broth and all the bits of meat to deal with in the next couple of days.  In the next couple of months, our beef farmer will be calling to let us know that our 1/4 beef is ready.  We need to make room in the freezer for that over the next few weeks.

We watched several library movies and I read 2 books I had downloaded for free onto my Kindle before I left for camping.  Once home again, Rob took Jake to the library to pick up some books that were on hold and also took him to garage sales while I canned.  In the afternoon, since I was pretty tired from canning, I read several chapters to Jake of a much anticipated book, since it had arrived at the library!

Jake did not go camping this time, as his big sister took him to Disneyland.  Yes.  Really.  She did.  They had a blast and he arrived at my house yesterday looking like a character from Star Wars–a starfighter in full regalia.  He was so cute, but not in a mood for pictures, so I respected his decision, as hard as it was!

I grabbed a few more school supplies at rock-bottom prices, once I realized I needed a few more of certain items.

I did not have time to grocery shop on Friday, as I normally do, and I did not get time yesterday, either.  I will hang on to the weekly money for later in this week, or save it.  We have plenty to eat for now.

What did you do to save money this week?

 

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–June 25, 2018

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Patsy, Alissa and I had a wonderful time on our backpack trip. We went to Tumble Lake, which is near Detroit Lake.  It was very frugal.  We had to chip in $5 each for gas.  Some of those Mountain House dehydrated meals were donated to the youth group, and we had those a couple of times.  I actually bought one gluten-free one at the store, not knowing if there would be any gluten-free options, and I also took a bunch of other food for myself, but did find a breakfast in the available options that I could have, so used that.

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The hike was extremely rigorous.  Patsy and I were not as fast as the others, especially the football player.  So, we came along at our own pace, and enjoyed the view.  Going out was extremely difficult.  My phone’s app claims we climbed the equivalent of  27 flights of stairs.  I believe it!  But, we made it:).IMG_7370

There were tons of salamanders that the girls enjoyed playing with.  Several of the guys fished for hours, but let them all go but one, since they were so small.  The kids roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and we played a game that was like charades for hours around the campfire. One girls had an app on her phone and you chose a category, then held the phone up to your forehead so everyone could read the word.  They were to describe it to you, and you had to guess.  If you got it, you ducked your head, if not, you tipped your head back to pass, and the phone kept track of the score.  It was really fun to spend time with the kids, and they were a cheerful, happy group.  Of course, there was no phone service, but the game still worked.IMG_7392

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When we arrived home, we were SO tired, but I was super happy.  I had a really good time.  We put those things away and packed the trailer for camping.  We traded our niece for our nephew and were off again.

I did not have time to pack the usual picnic for our ride to the campground.  Instead, I just fed everyone well (Rob made omelets and there was cereal) and when we stopped at a rest area, I climbed into the camper and  grabbed snacks, bars, drinks, etc. and let them eat what they wanted.  It wasn’t the healthiest, but it worked.

I picked lettuce, snow peas, green onions, parsley, cilantro and mint from the garden to take with me.  I found some chili in the camper freezer that I defrosted and put half with some noodles to make chili Mac for our first supper when we arrived.  I also made a cornbread mix I found in the cupboard.  We used some for dinner, and some for breakfast, and I froze a bunch of it, as it made a LOT!  Usually, I make a casserole or something for the first night, but had no time to do it this trip.  I cleaned out one of the cupboards in the camper as I found a home-canned jar that had popped its seal.  I plan to clean under the seats on this trip, as I think there is food under there as well.  I have a goal to use as much food as I can this trip out of the camper since it’s been in there for a long time.  That will also save on the grocery bill, since it’s all been purchased long ago.

I’m looking forward to a restful week!

 

Washington D.C. 2018–#7–Mt. Vernon

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We spent a day at Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home.  We spent the entire day getting there on the Metro and a bus, enjoying the site, and going back on the bus, then Metro.  It was so informative and so fun!  We had a lovely day, which actually got up to the low 80’s, which was pretty hot.  Around 11, we ate lunch at the inn.  It was delicious and we had no trouble finding a gluten-free option.

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Of course, I loved the gardens.  I also enjoyed the farm section and the walk around the estate.  I got some flower seeds that had been collected from the gardens and brought them home for Patsy and I to plant in the garden–sunflowers and spider zinnias.

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I sure wanted the butterfly to open up for the picture, but it wouldn’t.

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The building in the background is the greenhouse.  We went in there for a presentation by an actress, who was acting the part of a slave woman from the time period.

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We loved the actress and actor.  She played the part of Martha Washington and he was a soldier.  She told many, many stories as if she was George’s wife, and stayed in character amazingly well. He did not stay long, just played a song or 2, talked a tiny bit, then went off to march around outside.  We stayed in there for a long time, but could have stayed all afternoon and they say we would not have heard the same story or information twice.

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This woman was my personal favorite.  We stayed and listened to her until she left.  She was playing the part of the slave who was the seamstress for the plantation and was so convincing that there was a time where I had tears in my eyes.  She took questions from the audience and answered as though she was really the character.  It was amazing!  We saw a few more people who were dressed up and acted out different parts, such as the blacksmith, and another slave, and a footman/servant.

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We toured the mansion and the outbuildings.

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The carriage was so cool and perfect.

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We ended our visit by walking down by the river.  We saw the boat that some people rode on, the barn, the fish shack and the lower pastures and gardens.  Then, we caught a shuttle from the lower area back to the visitor’s center and grabbed a drink at the cafe.  We had so much fun, but were definitely ready to go back to the townhouse.  It was a great day.

Washington D.C. 2018–#6–Supreme Court, Conservatory, Air and Space

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Our first tour of the day was at the Supreme Court.  It was a lovely walk from the Metro to the building, and I was awed at the sheer size of the columns in front of the Supreme Court.

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This is a model of the room where we had a very informative tour, once again reinforcing many things we had studied in preparation of our visit.  The woman in charge did a great job explaining the process involved with the Supreme Court and cases that were heard there, and I was delighted with the whole thing.

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Upon a tip from a reader, we ate in the cafeteria at the Supreme Court.  It was great!  It was much quieter than the cafeteria at the Capitol Building, decorated up in a fashion that we knew which building we were in, and the food was delicious.

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We spent quite a bit of time peering up into the spiral staircase.  There are 2 of them in this building, and they are amazing.  A kindly worker who was passing by informed us that there are only 5 of these in the world, and 2 of them are in this building, and yes, indeed, he climbed up and down every day.  We didn’t see anyone climbing, but the staircases were not open to the public, or I would have gone up!

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Our next stop was the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory.  I could have stayed there for the rest of my life.  It is divided into sections, with plants from every region on earth, and the orchids are SO beautiful.

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The center section is a huge greenhouse, with a catwalk that allowed us to view it from above.

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There were many full-sized trees growing.

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We had an amazing time before we headed down the street some more to the Museum of Air and Space.

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We had checked the website, and read that the museum would be open until 7.  Sadly, it closed early that day for a private event, and we only had about an hour and a half/2 hours there.  Still, we saw what we could and enjoyed it very much.

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Michaela’s favorite was Amelia Earhart’s plane.  She even found a t-shirt with a picture of it, and bought it in the gift shop.  After all of that, we went back to the townhouse.  We had quickly slipped into a pattern of calling an Uber from the Metro station so we would not have to navigate the streets in the dark, and because our legs were tired.  This day was no exception, and we once again ate dinner using the groceries we had ordered in, and the things in the suitcase we had brought, plus a few odds and ends from the fridge.  By this time, though, everyone was beginning to drag (ya think?), and we decided that the next day would be a little less action packed.

 

Washington D.C. 2018–#5–Bureau of Engraving and Printing and White House

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The evening before, we stopped at Crystal City underground mall for some dinner, and so the girls could experience the mall.  Of course, they would have liked to stay at the mall forever, but we did go back to the townhouse fairly early because the next morning, we needed to be at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing very early for our scheduled tour.

We packed very, very lightly for the day.  We put our passports, cards, and money in our pockets because we had been warned that security was going to be the tightest we had seen when we went to the White House later that day.

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We had a great time looking at the money presses and hearing about how money was printed and distributed.   I do want to point out that the picture is from the visitors center, not from the actual process of money making.  There’s nothing like a speech stating that, “If you even so much as take your phone out of your pocket you will be arrested and your phone will be confiscated!”  They did not want photos taken, and trust me, none were!

After leaving that tour, we walked some distance to the White House.  Although we had driven past it several times, and even walked past it once, it is hard to see since it is tucked back amongst some trees.  We were eager to get inside and look around, and felt blessed to have received tickets, as they are very hard to get.

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The walk was lovely, and the cherry blossoms were such a gorgeous sight.

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Michaela was extremely interested in Abraham Lincoln during this entire trip, and was delighted to find a statue of him at the White House.  Alissa, on the other hand, was starting to feel sick to her stomach.

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Although we had been warned numerous times about the fact that there are no available bathrooms, no drinks, no eating or drinking, etc., etc., etc., she felt badly enough that her mom finally asked an attendant if there was any restroom nearby that they could go to and come back.  Boy, oh boy, those secret service men and women sprang into action.  Before we knew it, my aunt, Ja’Ana and I had been sent on to look at the green room, red room, blue room and dining room, while Alissa, her mom, and Michaela (who plaintively said she wanted to stay with mama), were all whisked away to a hidden bathroom.  After some time, Alissa felt well enough to continue, and they were escorted to where we were hanging around upstairs.  Later on, the secret service woman tracked the girls down, and gave Alissa and Michaela little metal badges and told Alissa she was sorry she had such a hard time during her visit.  I though that was so nice of them.

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IMG_6708In the meanwhile, we saw the upstairs several times, and even got to listen in on a man who was obviously giving a tour to a bunch of schoolchildren, and learned a lot about the dining room.

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You may notice that the rugs are rolled up for all of us tourists.  When they want to use these rooms, they take away the barriers, roll out the rugs, and have their party/event.  It was made clear to us that if an occasion arose, all tours could be cancelled with no notice.  I’m glad it didn’t happen to us.  We loved our self-guided tour.

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Of course, I had to admire their piano.  I wondered if it sounded good, but didn’t play it.  Obviously.  But, it was lovely.

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After our tours, we went back to the townhouse so everyone could rest.  Along with Alissa not feeling well, Ja’Ana had been fighting with a low-grade fever, headache, and stuffy nose all week. (It turned out that she had a sinus infection the whole time!  Poor kid) So, we rested for the remaining part of the afternoon and evening, in preparation for our tours and outings the following morning.

 

 

Washington D.C. 2018–#4–The Capitol Building, Tidal Basin, and Kennedy Center

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My aunt had contacted Representative Kurt Schrader’s office to arrange for a tour of the White House, if we could get one, months ago.  His aide, Adrian, got us several tours.  We were so grateful.

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The Capitol Building was our first one.  We found our way to Kurt Schrader’s office in a different building and were guided through underground tunnels by the aide, until we emerged at the Capitol Building.  Security was quite intense, and we were just beginning to get used to what would be our new norm–emptying all pockets, putting cell phones in little dishes, and going through the security gate.  There, we me another aide/intern(?) and he gave us our own tour around.  The other groups had around 50 people in them, and we had 6.  So, you can imagine, we could hear everything well, and were able to learn a lot on this tour.

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There were beautiful frescos on the walls and ceilings of the rotunda.

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Looking up was breathtaking.

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There were statues everywhere.  We were told about several of them, and allowed to wander about a bit, admiring which ever ones we wanted to see.  Of course, Ja’Ana ran over to Rosa Parks.  You may notice:  Rosa Parks is STILL sitting down!  We got a real kick out of that:)

After our tour, we went upstairs to the House of Representatives, hoping to see them in session.  After another round of security, and having to leave our cell phones and other personal items in a check room, we were disappointed to find out that they were out to lunch and would not be returning for more than an hour.  So, we enjoyed looking around in the required silence, and went downstairs to eat in the cafeteria.

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The flowerbeds were beautiful, and we admired them as we walked toward our next destination.  Our plan was to hop onto the “Hop-on, Hop-off” bus again, as our ticket was still good.  After running back and forth a bit, we did manage to catch up with the bus, and got on.

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We rode past the Jefferson Memorial.  The Red loop was the one that would take us around the Tidal Basin, where many famous memorials were located, so we stayed on that one this time.

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We hopped off at the Lincoln Memorial.  We all wanted to see Abraham Lincoln, but Michaela really, really was in love with everything associated with Lincoln, so we couldn’t miss that one.

I was amazed by how big the memorial is.  I’ve seen it on t.v. and seen pictures, but it does not do justice to the amazing size of the entire structure.

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The view from the top was amazing, and of course, there were a few jokes from the girls about how we needed to run through the water like Forest Gump:). Thankfully, they restrained.

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Then, we walked over to the Vietnam Memorial Wall.  For me, this one was more sobering because I was alive during this conflict.  I was very young, so it did not touch me very closely, but my aunt knew school friends who had gone.  So, it was a meaningful experience for all of us.

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I saw that some schools had left memorial wreaths at the Wall.  I thought that was touching.

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After a conversation with a very helpful gentlemen, who assured us that the Foggy Bottom Metro station was just a block or so this way, and 2 or 2-1/2 blocks that way, we set off walking.  It became a joke for the rest of the trip.  Those were the longest blocks I’ve ever seen.   We walked and walked and walked!   The route did take us past the State Department, and up a hill to the station.  We grabbed some lunch, then took the shuttle to the Kennedy Center, where we watched a play.

After the play, we took the shuttle back to the station and rode back to the townhouse, where we sank into bed and let our tired legs get a good rest.  The entire time, Michaela was still laughing because she thought the Metro station had such a funny name.  It was good to see her in such a good humor.  This may have been the day we got 17,000 steps.

 

Washington D. C. 2018–#3–African American Museum

IMG_6614 Gail and I crept downstairs well before 6:30 in the morning to try to get tickets to the African American museum,  Alissa had decided to sleep on that couch after a non-successful night of non-sleep on the basement couch, and we all started punching the “get tickets” buttons on our phones.  Much to our amazement, Alissa scored and got through.  She got 4 tickets for 3:30, and so when I got in, I got the 2 more required.  Gail never got through.  So, we were so glad there had been 3 of us trying. Although it was late in the day, we were delighted to have received any tickets at all!

We decided to take the yellow loop on the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus during the morning, as we had those tickets to use as well.

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We started this loop near the Washington Monument, and it took us to another part of town, including past the Kennedy Center.

Then, we went to the African American Museum.  I didn’t take any picture inside.  It was so well done, we were enthralled.  We rode a massive elevator to the bottom floor, and then followed the exhibits and ramps up, all the way to the 3rd floor, symbolizing the rise of the black people from slavery to where they are now.  It starts with slavery, then moves on to the Civil Rights movement, and beyond.

In the 2 hours we had before it closed, we were able to really take in those 3 floors.  There were a couple more floors above the main level that Ja’Ana and Alissa may have skimmed through, but the rest of us ended up on a large bench with our feet up, ready to return to the townhouse.

Because 2 of my girls are black, I have been extremely mindful to study African American history with them over the years.  I want them to know their heritage.  So, this museum was such a visual reminder of many things we had studied and much that we had not.  Neither Ja’Ana nor I were disappointed at all.  It was worth the trouble of getting the tickets for us.

 

 

Washington D. C. 2018–#2–Getting Our Bearings

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After sitting in the sunny, but brisk, air for a couple of hours, the correct blue line bus finally arrived.  We talked to another driver, of a special “pink” line that had been created for the festival and it took him 2-1/2 hours to drive around the Tidal Basin 1 time.  It’s not very far, folks.  The traffic and crowds were just that busy.  We were starting to worry that we would not get to our next destination (Arlington Cemetery) in time,  so were quite relieved when the bus driver called to ascertain that, yes indeed, a blue one was on the way.  He did point out that we would have no bus back, though.  It was too late.  We were fine with that, and figured we would take the Metro, which we easily did.

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Upon pulling up to Arlington Cemetery, and entering the visitor’s center, My sister recommended that we buy a ticket for the tram, taking us to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, showing me where it was located on a map.  I blithely quipped, “We can if you want to, I can walk that little distance easily.”   After all, my backpack was no longer loaded with cheese, or any other heavy items, and we had walked from the Metro with all that!  Little did I know.  I am so glad her wisdom prevailed and we got the tram ride.  It was quite far, and very much uphill.

Because it was so late in the day, the tram only stopped at the tomb of John F. Kennedy, and only for 15 minutes.  We hopped off and trotted over to take a look.  After studying his death, and the history surrounding it so thoroughly last year, it was very special and amazing to pay our respects to him.

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The view from his tomb was breathtaking.

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We could see the Washington Monument in the distance, along with the rest.  We soon became accustomed to orienting ourselves with the Washington Monument since it was so tall, and easily visible.

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We hopped back onto the tram and were shuttled up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just in time for the 6:30 Changing of the Guards.  They closed at 7, so we felt fortunate to have made it in time.

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With the shadows lengthening, and dusk approaching, we watched in sober silence as the guard who was on duty was replaced with another one, all in silence punctuated with sharp clicks from their shoes, snaps and clicks from their guns, and a few choice words.  The crowd was silent and respectful, and everyone was asked to stand for the ceremony.

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I’m not sure exactly how long we stood there.  Just minutes, but so filled with meaning for me.  It was such a reminder of those brave servicemen and women who came before me, who fought and died to make America what it is for me today–a safe place where I can rear my children in freedom, a place where I can live and breathe and worship how I want to. I felt an enormous sense of gratitude to both them, and the ones that are still serving our country today.

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By this time, the wind was biting right through our coats, and the sun was beginning to dip low behind the grassy knolls covered with the uniform white gravestones.  We were only too glad to hop back on to the tram and ride to the base of the cemetery, and briskly walked a “D.C. block” to the Metro.  (D.C. blocks are very long, much longer than our blocks here.  It became a joke to us how long they were!). We were learning how to navigate the system, and that both the blue and silver lines went back “home” and what names to read so that we didn’t get on the train going the wrong way!  We went back to the condo with no trouble, and found our groceries on the doorstep, ate dinner, and went to bed.

We had already gotten up at 6 a.m. that morning, D.C. time, (3 a.m. our time which our bodies thought we were still on) to try to get tickets for the Smithsonian African American Museum, and were not successful.  The next morning, we were going to try again, and every morning, until we hopefully got tickets.  This museum is so popular that it has been over-run with guests, and although the tickets are free, they were out months ago for our trip.  The only ways to get some were to a)show up at a certain time/place/day and hope there were a few being handed out, or b)get on-line at 6:30 a.m., and repeatedly push “buy tickets” until you either got through and got some, or you didn’t.  It was the one thing that Ja’Ana had asked that we visit, and we were going to make that happen if we could.  Each person could only have 4 tickets, and we needed 6, so at least 2 of us needed to be up early to try, each morning until we were successful.