Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear!

Tolerance of Diversity
That's what it's all about

In my opinion, I think you're allowed to have your own opinions, values and beliefs, but don't force them on others or make them feel like their satanical because they don't hold your same opinions, values and beliefs! You can share them in a peaceful way, but be respectful when others disagree. Why argue about it?

I HATE that.
I hate how so many political shows are just ARGUING!
It drives me INSANE.

Can't we all just get along?
Be accepting of DIVERSITY?

While still firmly maintaining your own
opinions, values and beliefs??!

Maybe you think I am not realistic. But that is your opinion of me, if so, and that's OK! You can respectfully disagree, but just don't try and argue with me to get me to change my opinion, because I think AMERICA can be a peaceful and tolerant nation... if everyone gave it some effort.

I am actually sad I didn't go to this rally yesterday. I heard about it all week long and saw Jon Stewart on the Oprah show recently talking about the rally. I didn't even really know who he was before this, but I usually think these rally things are just for political activists. It's also very unappealing for me to think I am one of a gazillion people trying to navigate through the city and it doesn't sound too appealing to sit outside and listen to speeches about people complaining about the other political party setting up America for destruction. But, after reading his speech today, I am a new fan!

I chose two quotes from his speech that I think were simple statements, but so profound!

"If we amplify everything we hear nothing. ... Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. ..."

You don't have to accept their views
but don't create a volcano from a molehill

Also, I feel like American politics are all about secret spies each candidate has trying to scrounge up anything possibly negative and then AMPLIFY it a gazillion times. I am SO sick of the political ads on TV right now slamming the other candidate when I have no idea what the candidate supporting the slamming actually believes. Why can't we just talk about the issues rather than telling me that so and so hit someone in Kindergarten and never said sorry!

Quote 2:

"Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together"

This is what AMERICA needs

And, as my little brother always said so
lovingly when we would argue as kids,
"Can't we all just get along??!" :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

'Tis the Season!

For Pumpkins and Apples... which also leads to baking!!
And my personal favorite -

In September, my home teacher brought up the conversation of some of our favorite things about Fall. Of course, there was the leaf peeping, Halloween/Thanksgiving, the apple picking, and the pumpkin carving (not my personal favorite though!). But, his most favorite of all was "Dinner in a Pumpkin"?

What? What the heck is that?!! Well, he described it simply by saying it's a casserole in a pumpkin and you can put in whatever ingredients you want!

I had never heard of this, but was dead set on trying it. So, we set our next HTing appt to be a dinner at our house where he would make one and we would too!

Tonight was the night! I was so excited about this. Thanks to my roommate, it turned out to be a huge success! (She was the one who gutted the pumpkin... EWE! I really don't like doing that! And, she was the one who watched over it while it cooked!)

We made a simple one with ground beef, tomato juice, rice, green beans, cabbage and some spices.

The pumpkin!!!
Notice the warm brown color from the baking. YUM!Our dinner. YUM!!
And, this was out HTers.
He made a mushroom, chicken broth, sausage, onion one.

Afterward, we also scooped out the pumpkin, which was cooked and so yummy as well! I have dinner for a few nights and this will definitely become a tradition for me this time of year!

BUT, Saturday was also awesome! Not only was it a perfect Fall day, but I got to enjoy it by getting out of the city and spending it with some amazing people!

We went to
Hollin Farms in Delaplane, Virgina. Never heard of that town before and still couldn't tell you exactly where we were, but it was beautiful!

Our drive out there was filled with sights of brightly colored leaves changing color and rolling hills. The farm (or the
pumpkin patch) was at the top of the hill, so I took this picture of our amazing view. There were gourds in front of us (down the hill), a corn maze to the right, and pumpkins and leafy greens to pick behind us.
We thought there were apple orchards as well, and there were, but the apples were already picked for us. Here is a picture of the
mammoth pumpkin patch!
It was just such a beautiful day that we took our sweet time walking around and enjoying it. Honestly, if there had been a lounge chair I would have laid down to take a nap in the beautiful sun and fresh air!
I blend right in don't I?
Chelsea and Michele
Amazing and Gorgeous friends of mine!
yep... we're looking into the sun
squinty eyes!
On the way home, we capped the experience by stopping in a small town and eating at the local diner. We were there with the locals, as well as the assisted living center group, but that just made the experience all that much more worthwhile!

Beautiful day + Fun Activity + Very fun friends

And, last but not least. This week I stayed late one night because the kids' parents had to go to an event. I decided to make it fun and have a "Halloween" themed dinner. I went online and found some fun and yummy recipes! The kids loved it!!! Here is the menu:

Mummy Meatloaf & Swamp Creatures
Boo Cups (so yummy and rich!)
Spooky Eyes :)
I LOVE this time of year!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A break from travel adventures... to talk about my renewed faith in justice in our Nation's Capital!

There is justice in our Nation's Capital. Not in a particular state that touches it to the south (or maybe it's just the county in the state that touches it to the south, which also has a famous cemetery named after it,...that has no justice).

I have lived in this such county for just over one year. Just 13 months! And, my faith in their police force and
judiciary system is absolutely zero. I had heard some horror stories before moving into the county, but disregarded them because I am "special" (!!!) and I live in the United States of America where everyone is treated with respect and dignity and where justice is served fairly!

Well, BOY was I wrong! My first complaint is with their police force that sit and wait like a tiger that hasn't eaten in a month. I have received three traffic violations in less than 1 year! One was given justly as I was speeding because I was running late. The other two, however, were not.

One of them was for going 35 in a 25 school zone. Well, I WOULD have gone 25 if the sign had not been hidden behind a TREE! And the officer that pulled me over must have been having a bad day because I ended up filing a complaint to his director because of the manner in which he treated me for this minor offense... I obviously hadn't just killed someone or
threatened this officer with a gun. He needed to chill out. Fortunately, my complaint was reviewed and I agreed to dismiss it in the end, but I wanted him to know that just because he has power and authority over the normal everyday citizen, he CAN NOT treat people that way.

The other ticket was for not stopping at a stop sign, but I LITERALLY stopped long enough to let a pedestrian cross if he wanted to and since he didn't, I turned and got pulled over for NOT STOPPING! Ha. No, it wasn't for not stopping for long enough, just NOT stopping at all! This
infuriated me. I feel like these police officers are desperate for violations, so they just pull over any individual after waiting long enough for someone to make an infraction. I asked for a trial for both of these. I literally took pictures of how badly the tree was hidden for the first one, printed them out and brought them. The judge was rude and obviously not happy to be there. He didn't even look at the pictures, asked the officer what had happened, and cut me short while I was giving my explanation.

SO, not only did I have to pay it, I HAD TO PAY an extra $20 or $30 for the
PRIVILEGE of asking for a hearing! Ha, I couldn't believe it and that's where my faith in the system here started to dwindle last fall.

When I got the other ticket last spring, I again thought it was totally unfair and it was my word against the officer. But, I thought a fair judge would at least let me explain my side and possibly cut the ticket in half... anything... something! Well, yet again, they always side with the officer even when they're not telling the truth. I was CRUSHED. What country did I live in again?? And, yet again, I pd the fee just for the
PRIVILEGE of listening to the officer lie.

Lesson learned: NEVER appeal a ticket in said county to south of DC unless you want to pay even more money and lose your faith in our judiciary system.

BUT, my faith was restored in our Nation's Capital judiciary system! For the past couple of months, I have had terrible car luck. Long story short, my car had to have major repairs done, including one part that needed to be mailed to MA and fixed and returned! It took 2 whole weeks! But... going back to the end of July/early August. I had recently registered my car is Virginia. At that time, they told me my emissions sticker was good for one more year. Not knowing anything about cars, I thought, GREAT. I am all set. It's registered with new
license plates and all stickers are still valid.

I left on my fabulous vacation to Alaska and Seattle ad upon my return found a ticket on my car for having an expired safety sticker. Who knew there were two different inspection stickers? Not me! Well, because of the issues my car was having, I knew it wouldn't pass inspection and I only had 1.5 days before leaving for Nantucket for two weeks. What do I do with my car?? It can't stay on the street! Well, before I figured this out, I decided it was OK to park it on this residential street in DC because cops NEVER
parole those streets! The family I was now working for agreed with me and thought it was safe as well. Or, so we thought. After my first day of work, I found I had a ticket on it! UGH!

The next day I drove and tried to park in the driveway, but there were some problems with that, so the family told me they would pay for my ticket if I got another one. They were sure I wouldn't get one two days in a row... BUT, low and behold, I DID! UGH!!! Fortunately, this one they paid for.

I kept putting off paying this ticket because I thought I had 60 days to pay it. Well, if you read the fine print, after 30 days, the ticket doubles! Now it was $100!! I decided I would go in and ask for a walk-in hearing to see if I could plead my case and get some of it taken off. It was worth a try!

So, I left early in order to be the first one at the door.
Surprisingly traffic was incredibly light and there was someone pulling out from a parking spot right in front of the building when I arrived!! Luck was on my side. I got there very early and had to wait outside before they even started sending people through security. Through a series of "luck" and "being at the right place at the right time", I was also then able to be moved to the front of the hearings and got the very first hearing of the day!!!!

I went into this room with the hearing officer and one other person appealing her ticket. This officer was very nice, explained what would happen, answered our questions, etc. I liked him so much better than the others! He was very formal, but that's expected as well. It's not my personal friend I am going to plead my ticket with!!

It was an interesting experience and I liked it much better than my previous experiences. It's just you and the officer talking. He's writing in the computer what you say, you show him any supporting documents, give your plea, etc. He listened to my explanation and never cut me off. I waited while he kept typing.
Finally, he said he was DISMISSING the ticket because one ticket had already been paid and I had gotten the safety sticker on my car!! WAHOOO!!!

I felt so lucky and grateful!! And, even if I had lost, DC
doesn't have an extra 30 something dollar fee just because you have the privilege of coming in to talk to a hearing officer. Wish my county in Virginia would learn something from its nation's capital :) They know how to be just, fair, and how to treat people with the respect and dignity they deserve even if they don't have the same power and authority that you do!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Vacation!!!!! August 2010

(A Little out of order in blog posting...)

August – Time to relax, travel and enjoy some beautiful places!

I am really not a traveler. I haven’t done too much of it in my life besides traveling between Boston and Philly, and flying to Utah for college. It’s just not a driving passion of mine… but that might change even more after what I did in August 2010.

I quickly realized as July came to a close that I (the one who never really traveled anywhere) was going to be traveling for most of August because of a trip I had planned and with my new job! That was exciting, a bit stressful, and crazy for me to think about. I would be going to very different parts of the world requiring different items/clothing for me to bring along, so organization and forward thinking was key for me as I didn’t have much time to changeover between trips! (about 24 hrs)

Well, my first excursion was one I had planned just about six weeks before we left… kind of on a whim. I had been yearning to take a cruise earlier in the year, but it never came to pass. I needed a vacation. A REAL one. I usually only traveled to family's houses for vacation time… but since I was turning THE BIG 30, it was time to venture out a little bit more! And, I wanted to spend my 30th birthday someplace other than the East Coast, where I have lived for 25 years of my life!!

I had heard some amazing tales from friends who had taken a cruise to Alaska and had looked into it before, but never too seriously To make a long story short… through a series of random events, I stumbled upon a great cruise to Alaska that was perfectly laid out in the time I had allotted to take vacation in August. This trip would also allow me to visit my grandparents in Seattle, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years…. and the whole thing just sounded exciting to me!

When I called my mom to tell her about it, I think she thought it was another one of my crazy ideas and that I would realize this within a few hours or days and move on as I do with my other crazy ideas. She's always so supportive while probably secretly praying I'll come to my senses! Well this didn't happen this time. Within a day or two I had convinced my mom that not only was I going, but that she was too!! Ha, ha, ha!!!

So, Wednesday August 4th, my mom and I took off for Seattle, Washington! I had done a TON of research on the area and felt pretty prepared for it… but the best part about traveling is what happens when you get there… what you stumble upon, etc.

I had forgotten how long the flight was to Seattle and got very restless by the end! Ha, I don’t know how I would ever handle a flight to Europe or even Hawaii! We arrived late and stayed in a hotel close to the airport. On Thursday morning we went into the city to rent our car from a location close to the pier where we would be boarding our cruise on Sunday. The weather was beautiful and I remember feeling how refreshing it was to not be swamped down by humidity (which we had all summer long in DC).

Evergreens were everywhere. Downtown Seattle was much smaller than I remembered, and I thought the incline of the streets by the pier were absolutely crazy to drive on… or build a house on! I would never drive on them in the snow and I would HATE to drive a manual car on them! The piers were beautiful. We didn’t get to walk around because we wanted to head toward Whidbey Island in order to get there before the ferry traffic got bad later in the day.

So, off we drove to the north about one hour until we got to Mukilteo, WA. Even though it was only 2 o’clock in the afternoon we still had to wait for three ferry’s to come and go before we got on one. (I would hate having to live here and do this in the summer when the ferry traffic is so bad! But, that's probably why there are two or three ice cream shops to go to while you wait... my dad's favorite part of taking the ferry!)

The spot we were put was one of the ones I dreaded as an adult, but wished we would have as a child!

Almost like you could really just float into
the river if your brake suddenly stopped working!
(we're the black car)
My mom!

Here’s a picture of me on the ferry boat
and my grandfather’s house is behind me!
a bit windy...

I thought it was really interesting that my mom had actually NEVER seen my grandparents house on Whidbey Island. She had come with my dad when his parents had purchased the land, but never saw the finished product and they’ve lived there for over 28 years or so! I’ve been many times in my life, but somehow keep forgetting that my parents divorced when I was seven and we didn’t all travel together! So, anyway, I was excited to show her around. Ha ha… there’s not much to show but it has grown a bit over the years!

After dinner and time spent talking with my grandfather, I went with my mom into “downtown” Langley, which is the place where all the tourists come to shop, eat ice cream and enjoy a relaxing day. It’s a very cute two or three blocks that sit right on the water, but that’s it! We walk around and it was such a beautiful evening that I asked a man sitting there reading his book to take a picture of us!

My mom and I

On our way out I noticed the gorgeous
flowers outside the small Langley Public Library.

The next morning I noticed a picture of my brothers and I when I was probably ten or so. I had my mom take a picture of me now… with what I looked like then! Still some of the same features, but I have tamed my hair a little bit!

After some more time with my grandfather, and watching the deer and animals on his front yard, my mom and I took off for the north part of the island to visit my grandmother in her assisted living home. It’s about an hour north from where my grandfather lives and it was a pretty drive with everything being so green from all the rain they get!

This was the first time I had been to my grandmother’s new home. She’s been there for about a year now I think because her Alzheimer's is getting worse and my grandfather couldn’t care for her safely anymore while still trying to maintain the house and some of his social life. It has been an adjustment for both, and I know my grandfather misses her not living at home, but I do think it was a good decision.

I was happy that she recognized me at first and it was neat to talk to her and spend time with her. My mom and I arrived a little before lunch, so we stayed while she ate. For lunch, one of her friends came to sit with us. Her name is “Skipper” and she is hilarious and full of life! She came to the table singing and then got my grandmother singing along with her… just songs from when they were younger. I think they would have gotten up to do a dance too, but lunch was ready! The two of them laughed and joked with each other throughout lunch and it was refreshing to watch! Skipper is full of life and just makes you want to smile and be happy when you see her! She has such a positive outlook and HER MOTTO IS: Life hands you what it hands you. Make the best of it and ENJOY it! Skipper was so happy and not sad or complaining about anything, although I am sure she had things to complain about.

Nana and I
Skipper and Nana

It was sad to say goodbye but we knew we had a long drive to Bellevue and needed to get started. We drove back along the only road connecting the island to the mainland and stopped by Deception Pass. It was an overcast day… but here are some pictures. It was quite beautiful!

Our drive from there was an adventure! We were hungry for lunch and I thought Quiznos sounded like a good option.I went on my phone and found a few locations just off the highway on our drive. We tried FOUR different addresses Quiznos gave us on the internet and they were all NO LONGER operating! They had been turned into other restaurants. Well, the first one we went to… it was frustrating. But, we decided to try one at the next exit. Again, same thing. There was another one listed a few exits away. We decided three strikes and you’re out. Well, NOT REALLY! Because this one was closed too!!! If I hadn’t been so hungry at that point, I would have thought this was funny because we really were on a wild goose chase! I just couldn’t believe their website could be that wrong! So, after the third strike, my stubbornness kicked in and I WAS DETERMINED to find a quiznos. So, for the 4th one, we went even farther off the exit than we should have and yet again---- NOT THERE!

So, my hunger took over my stubbornness and I gave up. My mom and I decided to take a different route back to the highway and stop somewhere close to the highway.

WELL, wouldn’t you know
… on our drive back towards the highway we pass a QUIZNOS! One that wasn’t listed on their main website! HA! So we stop. Mostly because I wanted to ask why their website was so out of date… and because I was starving!

Well, I am grateful for our scavenger hunt for three reasons! 1. I can look back on it and laugh… now. Not then. 2. We did get to see some parts of Washington we wouldn’t have seen if we stayed on the highway; 3. The Quiznos we did find had THE NICEST workers. It was family owned and operated. They were generous with their portions, catered to our requests and were just so nice and fun to talk to. Normally when you go to a sandwich shop, the employees slop together your sandwich and don’t even look up at you. Or, I feel they are not very good with customer service. BUT, this family was! If we we had been staying anywhere near then the next two nights, I would have been willing to eat lunch and dinner there just to support them!

Now it was off to Bellevue, Washington where (unknowingly) I had booked ourselves in one of the BEST hotels I have ever stayed in. It was a good deal when I had looked online, so I took a gamble because I had never heard of the chain before. Well, the rooms were fabulous, the free breakfast was yummy and had a good variety, the staff were so friendly and nice, the location was within walking distance to the temple (and they gave us a room with a view of it after requesting it!), there was a gym we could use for free right next door (!!!!), free internet, and it was right by the main highway into Seattle. I would stay there again in a heartbeat!

Friday night was arrived and just chilled… awaiting the VERY BIG and Special day we were going to celebrate on Saturday!

MY 30TH BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, the only thing that was not perfect about this day was the weather! It was cloudy and overcast, but in a way, I felt that was how Seattle was showing me its best on my special day, because Seattle is known for its rainy days!

I started the day with an awesome workout at the gym, then breakfast, and then it was off to the city! My mom had lived with my father there after they were first married so she mentioned shared some of her time and memories with me, which was nice. I am sure a lot has changed though!

I had done some research on what I wanted to see and do and so had my mom. I wasn’t interested in the common tourist things, like going to the top of the Space Needle (I had just been to the top of the Empire State building… not much can beat that!), or wandering around Pike’s Market. So, I chose to go to the “Underground Sidewalk”!

Now, what’s this you ask? I was confused too! But, I learned so much going on this tour (and the tourguides were funny too!) It’s a series of underground passageways and basements that used to literally be ground level in the mid-1800’s sidewalks. After a huge fire (set off by a cabinet maker accidentally overturning and igniting a glue pot) 25 streets were destroyed. City leaders decided to only use brick and stone to rebuild and they made each street one to two stories HIGHER than the original one. This also ensured that some of the toilet flushing didn’t back up on the streets when it was high-tide! (It’s so secret I couldn’t find a website for the tours!)

Skylights were installed on the sidewalks years later, and it was cool to look up when we walked under these on the tour! Retailers used to have stairs that the would use to reach this “first floor”, but it was no longer considered the ground floor. Some businesses used this space if it had not been destroyed in the fire, but when the pneumonic plague threatened the area in 1907, the city condemned this floor and it was left to deteriorate or was left as storage.

Here are the pictures:

Sink and toilet!


Next we went to Chittenden Locks where salmon pass through from the salty Puget Sound to the fresh waters of Lake Washington. It also is an area that provides a link for boats between the two. Now, THIS was SO cool! Not only did I never realize things like this existed, I was able to see it LIVE with a few boats passing through. Even though it was misty and raining, it was well worth it! It’s a process run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and it’s a system that adjusts the water levels to allow safe passage between the lake and the sound. I don’t even think I could accurately describe what a “lock” in and how it works, but if you’re ever in the area, it’s really neat to watch!

We then went underground and watched the salmon navigate their way through the locks as well since it was still the season for it.

After leaving here, we worked our way back towards the hotel. I spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready for our cruise, resting, reading blogs, and having a nice dinner with my mom (MY FAVORITE – Mexican!)… (although I spent a ridiculous amount of indecision time in trying to figure out what I wanted to eat!)

It was a wonderful day and I was so happy I got to spend it with my mom!

Sunday morning – CRUISE DAY!!!! That will start my next posting.