Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Visit North

My husband and I gave away the free passes that I got to go to a big beautiful Bluegrass Festival today in Baltimore, and we're going to go visit his mom.

We haven't been back "home" there since Gary's funeral, and Doug talks to her about once a week to check in. She initially indicated that she was wanting to clean, organize, purge, give away the clothes, donate the books to the library book sale (ironic since that is where most of them came from) but in the weeks that followed Gary's passing, she waved us off from coming to help.

All normal, all expected.

This weekend we have an ulterior motive in going up. Doug's great aunt is turning 103, and they're having a nice open house party for her today. I really like her. She's sharp as a tack, full of amazing stories. She's a delight to spend time with, and I'm looking forward to this.

Doug let his mom know we are coming, and she said this was great. The AC in her car doesn't seem to be working, so Doug is going to bring the refrigerant recharger and see if that helps out. Gary's car hasn't been driven since we were there and she wants to get it an oil change (I'd be happy to do that). And I'm sure we'll probably do a thing or two, and if nothing else, spend time.

And that is very nice.

Yesterday I took the day "off" but ended up working about 6 of the normal 8 hours of my vacation time. It's the way it goes sometimes. I don't have a problem with it - I think I goof off enough at work sometimes that it all balances out in the end.

After Doug was finished with work, we went up to the county park and gardens just north of us to take a walk. It is a beautiful place. He came upon it during the week before I moved down, and we've gone back five or six times. Even in the winter.

It is adjacent to a big park where there is a playground, merry-go-round, and a train that covers a couple acres.

The gardens are slowly revealing themselves. Last time we were there it was all daffodils, and now the tulips and the lilacs are out doing their shows. Slowly the wisteria will begin to drip and bloom, and all sorts of different friends will shine their faces to us as we walk past.

The cloudy, gloomy day gave way to sunshine, and there were people gathered to take prom photos. Tons of pretty girls and handsome young men, done up nice, smiling in front of the rows of tulips and the newly budding trees. Couples posed in the small pavilion opening, and I noticed the light was behind them, and all the parents' cell phone photos were going to be lame or need some sort of filter and fix in order for them to look halfway decent.

There was a group of young ladies, all together, "I don't need no man" attitudes as they marched about the grounds taking selfies, and posing so parents could take their pictures. Doug and I came upon them at this spot, and the entourage of family and friends taking pictures was delightful.

As I approached from the left side of this photo I stopped. I noticed that there was an opportunity for a really cool shot from my perspective. One (I presume) dad had a super nice camera and I called out "Can I suggest an angle for a shot? Come on over here."

I started to describe that if the girl in purple leaned backwards, the girl beside her in burgundy lean a little bit back but not as much, the two girls in the center stay where they are and the two girls on the end lean forward, it was a pretty cascade, with them looking over to their right.

"Oh, you got the vision! You got the vision yes!" he laughed back and came over. He stood up on the wall to avoid having the black fence post be in their faces, and they followed direction as I assembled them. Willing and giggling, they got into place and the moms and aunties and friends were all laughing and saying "yes! yes! perfect!"

As I walked away I grabbed this shot for me, and I heard the dad say, "Okay now everyone turn and look over your right shoulders..." as he perceived another angle and another shot. More giggling and cheering resulted from the entourage.

I was so relieved that there was someone there with their kids with an actual camera. I know a lot of cel phone pictures come out just absolutely shitty, so it is nice to know someone had an actual tool for the job. And yes, yes, I know that cell phone cameras have come a long way, but so often if the light isn't perfect, if you aren't in the right spot, the pictures just look a mess. Like the one I took here below. It's not perfect, it's kind of meh. It is blurry. It isn't something that I'd want to frame as the memory of the moment. So kudos to the dad with his DSLR and what looked like the perfect lens.

Doug was standing on the path about twenty feet ahead, laughing at me. I shrugged my shoulders and said that I couldn't resist making the suggestion in what I hope is a penultimate shot of a great memory before these girls go off to their prom together.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Flowering Trees and lots of Beers

March just kind of passed us by, didn't it? I didn't have much to update. Was kind of feeling really bummed out. Work has been very busy. And I've been missing my whole Boston team. Some things happened that I don't think I should write about or mention but suffice to say, there has been upset.

Thank God for my girls in the office that I know and love, or else I'd be feeling really alone here. Doug and Geoff are great, don't get me wrong. They're my world. But the icing on the life cake is always what makes work life balance happiness, and right now my home life is the only happiness I'm feeling.

So let's talk about home shall we?

We got a bed for our guest room, which is kind of exciting. No more camping air mattress for weary travelers, but a full blown IKEA queen. A colleague in another department was moving to Spain and he and his wife were literally liquidating everything.

The day before they moved he called me "No one wants our couch! You seemed to like the couch. Do you want it? Free! Come get it!" He gave it to me free but after we've finished our taxes, he's getting some money from me.

So we got a 7ft IKEA sofa, and rearranged the living room so we are "couch rich" now. lots of surfaces to plop buttocks down upon.

As of right now, two people can sleep in the living room, two people can sleep in the guest room. And in theory, two more people can sleep on both of the air mattresses in the basement. So we can sleep 8. If need be. Or more even. Come party down!

So far, only Jess has come to visit and stay over. I had two colleagues from the Boston office here, but they had hotels and didn't stay. And on New Years Eve I did rescue a friend from a night of either some rando hookup on Grindr, or sleeping on the floor at the Baltimore airport.

Maybe this spring and summer people will want to visit?

One of the more popular things to see in the DC area is happening right now. The Cherry Blossoms are in full peak and we tried to go see them right before they go "boom" as it were. The traffic and tourists and buses and everything were so awful that we bailed and left.

Allegedly, the blooms should still be good through this weekend. Maybe we'll try one more time?

Then, we tried to go see the Great Falls again, but the road is a two-lane, and we sat in traffic not moving for 20 minutes before Doug decided we'd give up, again. I guess you have to get up before dawn to go see the great falls.

We ended up at a semi-decent Irish pub. So not a full loss of that day.

What else did we see recently? We have been getting out and looking around quite a bit lately. We drive around a lot, playing Pokemon Go and taking walks in parks and stuff. Doug does a little research on a destination, and we go. Sometimes Geoff comes with, if he thinks beer may be involved (he's becoming a craft beer fan, don't ya know).

 Doug likes to go into DC on Sundays when the parking at the Metro is free. So we went in to the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers museum, which was really cool. They had a special photography exhibition called "War on our Doorsteps," which focused on the photography of Alexander Gardner's photographs of Antietam.

We've been kind of on a Clara Barton kick lately, the woman is a freaking national treasure. Doug has been very into the Civil War sites and museums. We live right near the Walter Reed National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), which is primarily dedicated to the advancements in medicine introduced during the Civil War as well as special exhibits on things like robotics, modern field hospitals, technology, and head injury recovery. That was cool. They have the bullet remnants that they pulled from Abraham Lincoln's brain... (cool!)

We took a day trip to Frederick for Restaurant Week, and they have a fantastic Civil War museum that focuses on the medical aspect of things as well...

We stumbled upon Clara Barton's homestead at Glen Echo which was unfortunately closed due to renovations.

In the woods next to the house, there were signs about a place called Glen Echo. Through the trees I could see what looked like an amusement park, and I was kind of confused. Turns out, there is an amusement park, small aquarium, and summer camp... None of the rides work or do anything, but there was stuff going on, and there was a bakery, and there were these cute little huts where you could take art lessons for glass blowing and stuff.

I'm sure at a more lively time, the place is as freaking packed as everything else around here. The history is pretty cool though, if you want to read about it.

The other day, we decided to go down to Union Market near my office to grab lunch, but that place was a shit show - completely mobbed, absolutely the most crowded food market I've ever been to. So much so that I couldn't figure out what to do and had to get outside. People were just stopping in the middle of the aisles, on the phones looking for their friends (take 2 steps to the left and get out of the middle maybe?) And a yoga class was just let out - so there were all these people with bags and yoga mats, swinging around to talk to people. I think I got hit in the face three times with a mat.

Kind of ruined my overall experience, ya know?

Probably not the best place to go at 2pm any day but especially a Sunday. It was a complete waste of time, and disappointing on so many levels.

We went to the Chinese New Year parade in February, welcome to the year of the Dog. It was beautiful and fun, and there were a lot of dogs. And we were able to stand on the steps of a church in a not-crowded side street and really enjoy the festivities, and the dogs.

On the beer front, we've been frequenting some taprooms in the area to sample their offerings. We went to the Hellbender Brewing company tap room, which was alright. The room itself left a little to be desired. There was music playing but we couldn't hear what it was, so it was literally an aural torture of some sort of bass line or noise. Ceiling speakers may be a good idea, or no music at all. I think I would prefer the patio if I go in better weather. The beer was fantastic though. I'd go back and get more of that, for sure.

We went to Waredaca brewing company  up north of us in horse country. Maryland gets really rural really fast around here. The taproom there was fantastic. What a beautiful room. Like the comfiest living room, perfect wood walls and lighting. The staff was lovely. The beer delightful. We walked around the grounds and I wanted to take pictures of the horses on the property adjacent, but they seem to be kept far away on purpose. The signage was very clear that you couldn't go beyond certain points. And I didn't have the courage to ask. Because who the hell am I to even ask, right?

Over in Rockville (yes, go ahead and sing the REM song) there is a place called 7 Locks Brewing Company. Hidden in an industrial park, they have a really large room with lots of games and lots to do. They even have a lovely library with assorted history of beer and how to drink your way around the world. Great stuff. Oh, and the beer from them is fantastic. Simply perfect. So far a favorite, and very close.

Tap rooms thus far sometimes have snack, sometimes do not, but places like 7 Locks encourage you to bring your food with, or order out from a local spot. So we got some delivery pizza there and it was only half horrible.

That's one of my biggest complaints - the vast majority of pizza in these parts is just plain awful. We've found one place that has decent pizza. Two locations, the Pizzeria is in Downtown Silver Spring, and the Trattoria is closer to our house.

I feel like I need a vacation, but I also feel like there is stuff I need to do around here, and get done, and make the house more enjoyable. I am hoping Doug and I can go get some yard furniture, or at least something for inside the back patio, and kind of fuss that up nice.

Especially now that we have the guest bed.