Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Braving the Memorial Heat

It's hard to believe it's already Wednesday.

I love starting the work week a day late.  I keep surprising myself thinking it's Tuesday when it's actually Wednesday.  And nothing is more satisfying than waking up on what you think is Monday morning only to discover that you get to skip Monday and head straight into Tuesday.

Our weekend was jam packed with great food, fabulous restaurants, fun friends, copious treats, and the rather unwelcome hot hot heat.

Friday brought an early-out work day, a delicious Mexican dinner with friends (these ones, these ones and these ones) at our favorite place and a party until the wee hours of the night/morning.

Saturday brought yard work, the vengeful return of the bugs and, consequently, the return of my swollen bug bites, birthday shopping and dinner at Seasons 52 with Blake's family.

Sunday rolled around with a late morning, laundry, painting, church, a longer-than-expected nap, and some truly painful, wilting heat.  The heat was so intense, in fact, that we wimped out and didn't go to the Memorial Day concert at the Capitol like we'd planned.  We felt guilty about that decision until we were watching the concert on TV in the comfort of our own air conditioning and about half an hour in they cancelled the program due to vicious weather.  So, we then enjoyed the rain and sounds of booming thunder on the couch while we congratulated each other on making such a fine decision.  The moral of this story is that sometimes being lazy really pays off.

We braved the heat on Monday with Tiffany and Ryan to explore Annapolis.  It was beautiful, but swelteringly, drippingly hot and humid.  We roamed downtown by spending a few moments outside and then popping into the nearest air-conditioned store to browse.  I'm not sure how much Blake and Ryan enjoyed this (it's sort of a lose-lose situation for a man: be extremely hot, or spend time in women's clothing and accessory stores), but it was a fun afternoon for Tiffany and me.

You know you've got good friends when they don't judge you for being a sweaty mess all day.

We saved our appetites (aside from devouring heaps of ice cream at the Annapolis Ice Cream Company) and used my birthday gift card to eat lunch at Copper Canyon Grill back in Silver Spring (thank you Grandma and Grandpa for paying for our lovely lunch!). 

I wish we had another three-day weekend in our immediate future.  I need another one just like this one. 

Above: The Annapolis Navy band playing the Marine's Hymn on the pier in the heat.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm 26 and I still got it.

Yep.  I may be in my late twenties (what?!?!), I've still got it.  "It," of course, meaning a teenager-looking face.

Last night I answered the friendly knock on the door in my summer work-out clothes: men's basketball shorts and t-shirt.  (As a side note: don't you hate it when solicitors use the knock that should be reserved for friends and family?  You know, the knock that is more pleasure than business?)

"Hi, are your parents home?"

(Considering telling him it's my house, but then deciding I'm too tired to deal with hearing his whole pest control monologue)  "Nope."

"Ok.  I'll just come back tomorrow."

"Oh, that's ok.  Don't bother."

This is made even funnier by the fact that he was obviously about 20 years old.

Will those door-to-door salesmen never learn?

It's ok.  I guess I can understand his confusion.  I mean, can't you?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sunny Disposition

I love waking up to a sunny morning and the sound of birds through our open bedroom windows.  It always starts my day on a good note.

I think I'll probably always be enamored of our little red house and this beautiful city where we live.  There's never a time when I'm not excited to spend the day (or the evening) downtown at the museums or monuments.  I love when we have guests in town and we have an excuse to slow down in our busy day-to-day lives and go touring around the city.  Why don't we do that more often?

My Dad and brother, Jimmy, drove here from Utah last Thursday and we spent the weekend tagging along with my Dad's BYU alumni group (he was swearing BYU alumni into the Supreme Court Bar on Monday), enjoying the after-hours and behind-the-scenes tours that they'd arranged. 

After work on Monday we were given an after-hours tour of the Capitol by Senator Lee.  Of all the times I've been to the Capitol, I'd never seen some of the rooms we went in.  By far my favorite, though, was getting to walk around the senate floor.  A very cool experience. 

Jimmy's going to be living here for the summer again - working at Georgetown Law with me!  Now, if we could only get my Dad to agree to stay a little longer next time...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Next Please

The novel goes something like this:

A man lives in an urban area and every time he goes out he ends up spending much of his time in line - the cashier always calling out "Next please! Next please."

Finally all the waiting becomes just too much to handle.

And the man changes his name to Next Please, so that every time the cashier calls out he can legitimately argue that he was called to the front of the line.

Now that's pure literary genius.

I wish I could say it was my pure literary genius.  But alas, it is not.

I owe it all to the homeless man that wandered into the church building on Wednesday and night and pitched his self-published novel to me and a handful of women who were waiting for our Wednesday night activity to start.  He gave an informative monologue, announced that he had six copies of the book in his bag, and concluded that he'd be willing to sell them to us at the low, low price of $15.00 each.  Now, if we're talking Barnes and Nobel prices, that isn't half bad...but I'm an Amazon addict myself, and $15.00 just seemed a little steep.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More on Our Instariffic European Vacation

 Our first day in Amsterdam was fairly grey and dirty.  As I mentioned before, it was Queen's day the day before and it was disgustingly dirty as a result.  Crushed beer cans everywhere, piles of used joints and moulting orange feather boas, and the overwhelming smell of stale pot and urine.  Gross.

Try as I might, and even though the architecture was still beautiful, I couldn't get Blake to understand why I'd loved the city so much before.  We drove out of the city that night a little deflated because of how grim it was. 
Blake's faith in me was restored when we went back the next day and the city was almost back to the sparkling utopia of my memories.  That second day we took another canal tour, wandered the antiques district and spent a couple hours in the Van Gogh museum.  The Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum are next to each other (we had gone to the Rijskmuseum the day before) and the I Amsterdam sign is out front of the Rijksmuseum.  If you squint you can see the photo of Queen Beatrix hanging on the front of the Rijksmuseum above the I Amsterdam sculpture behind us.

After two days in Amsterdam, we jumped in the car and did the 5-ish hour drive down to Paris.  We arrived to gorgeous 70-degree weather with blue skies and puffy white clouds.  Paris traffic is pretty intense, but Blake handled it really well.  He made it around the Arc de Triomphe not once, but twice (due to my faulty navigational skills and lack of knowledge of the 16ieme arrondisement) without so much as getting honked at.  That's got to be some sort of record.  Or, at least a right of passage.
Once we got settled in at the hotel, we grabbed dinner at a bakery and then walked over to the Eiffel Tower.  Again, could the day get any more beautiful?  Even now it breaks my heart to look at it and not be there. 

I enjoyed pointing out old landmarks to Blake and reminiscing about the time we rode this same carousel for my friend Nikki's 21st birthday.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, you can't truly appreciate the beauty of Paris until you've seen it at night from the water.  All the bridges lit up, the Eiffel Tower sparking at the top of the hour.  This is most certainly heaven.
Our second day in Paris started out overcast, but even with the forecast of 100% chance of rain all we got was a few showers.  It cleared up by noon and was as sparklingly perfect as it had been the day before. 

We walked all over the city: both islands, the Marais, the Latin Quarter, Saint Germaine, the 16ieme, the Luxembourg Gardens.  My feet were sore and swollen by the end of the day, but, as all perfect days in Paris are, it was all worth it.
We ate lunch at the same no-name bakery/cafe in the Latin Quarter that Blake and I had wandered upon last year.

The sandwiches and quiches were amazing, but what I was really holding out for was the pastries.  Blake and I split three pastries between the two of us (a tarte citronne, a charlotte aux framboises and a charlotte au chocolate).  I was in a little bit of pain for the next hour or so, but you better believe I finished off every last bite.
One of the things I love so much about Paris is the abundance of bridges and public spaces.  We walked up the quais with the book sellers and across the 400-year-old Pont Neuf (pictured here). 
I used to walk by the Hotel de Ville every day on the way to class and I never got tired of it.  I feel like it's one building in Paris that is not given proper attention by the tourists.  It's gorgeous and also full of history.  Plus, it's only a short walk from Notre Dame...and it's always deserted.  So strange.
At the top of Blake's Mom's agenda, was going to the new Hermes store on the Left Bank.  After a couple of missteps, we made it.  And it was as interesting/overflowing with style as we'd hoped. 

Basically, I can't afford to even breath in that store.  Being surrounded by $2,500 blankets and $5,000 dresses was a little more stressful than I'd like (I was worried I'd accidentally bump something and get yelled at by one of the stiff, suit-clad, Frenchman milling around the store), but it was worth seeing the Mongolian wooden sculptures and the original pool-tiled floor.  Such a cool store.
Day three in Paris was spent at the world-famous Marchees Aux Puces in Saint-Ouen. 

Oh. My. Gosh. 

I was in heaven.  Perfect weather.  The best flea market in the world.  French antiques.


We ended up with an original oil painting by French artist Gaston Prost.  Blake bargained the owners down about $200, so we were happy campers.  And now we're proud to add Mr. Gaston's painting to our slowly growing collection of original art.
As I mentioned in my trip list post, we took a couple of detours on the way back from Paris to Heemstede, and ended up taking 8 hours to drive what had only taken us just over 5 hours before.

But, I'm just glad we didn't end up running out of gas in the middle of the Belgian countryside.  I was a little stressed there for a while.  And when I say a little, I mean a lot (complete with sweaty, shaky hands).  But, we made it to the gas station in the nick of time and were back on our merry way with much less sweat on my part.

Waking up that next morning was so sad.  I miss the canal view that I had out the window of Kirk and Ali's place in  Heemstede.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The first few days as seen on instagram

We haven't sat down to upload our pictures from Blake's camera yet, but here are my instragram photos from the first part of last week.

 Dutch stairs are always an adventure.  We both made it the whole week without tripping down.  (Two hands at all times is the secret.)

 We spent a windy/rainy day in Haarlem and enjoyed walking around the flower markets and seeing the preparations for Queen's Day in the square.

 Blake teases me about my love of tiny cars.  But, what can I say, I know a good parallel parking opportunity when I see one.

 Blake used his new camera lens to capture the tulip fields outside of Heemstede.

We spent Sunday morning walking around Den Haag (the Hague).  I love the juxtaposition of the ancient Parliament buildings against the modern architecture in the background.  Such a cool city.
 I had no idea that Amsterdam is so close to the beach or that the beaches of the North Sea are sandy and gorgeous.  We got lucky with a 65 degree evening and had dinner at a restaurant on the beach.
 Jet lag does not help me out much in the photogenic department, but the beach is gorgeous, so focus on that.
 Queen's Day brought the best weather of the trip.  70 degrees and clear.  The tulips were at their peak and I was in flower heaven. 
 Tulips have always been my favorite flower and it was dreamy to see field after field of them along the roads.
 You can't have a trip to The Netherlands without indulging in the local delicacies: pancakes.  Mine had brie, bacon, chives and pine nuts.  Delicious.

Blake's brother, Kirk, and his wife, Ali, live in a small town outside of Amsterdam called Heemstede.  It was gorgeous.  Huge trees lining quaint canals.  We enjoyed seeing sail boats go down the street from the view out our bedroom window.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Quick Trip List

This is more for me (so I don't forget what we did/ate etc. during the past 10 days), but here's a quick list of our latest (and greatest) European Adventure:

Day 1:
Arrive at Schipol airport at 8:00 a.m. Gaze in wonder at the hordes of Dutch people who are all at least 6 feet tall and constantly smiling.
Drive to Haarlem to wander the quaint cobble-stoned streets and eat lunch at V&P overlooking the city.
Drink 5-hour energy to stay awake and spend the rest of the afternoon jazzed and having to use the bathroom every five minutes.
Buy loads of tulips to decorate the house and drive through the surrounding tulip fields.
Eat a glorious cheese fondue dinner at Grande Cafe Batifol in Heemstede.  The cheese and bread were amazing.  There may or may not have been enough sherry in the fondue to get me a little tipsy...actually, that was most likely just the jet lag.
Fall into bed almost comatose at 9:00 p.m. and fall immediately asleep even though it was still light outside.

Day 2: 
Wake up early (but not too early) and have a lovely breakfast at Kirk & Ali's house.  (Blake's brother and sister-in-law just moved there and live in a quaint, perfect little town outside of Amsterdam called Heemstede.
Drive to The Hague and get lost several times along they way before landing in Chinatown and walking all over the city.  It was gorgeous. 
Go to Zara Home for the first time (it's been on my list for while) and lust over the linens.
Drive back to Heemstede for a quick rest.
Spend the rest of the day at Zandvoort on the beach on the North Sea.
Enjoy a beautiful dinner at The Beach Club in Zandfoort and walk along the boardwalk at sunset.

Day 3: 
Wake up to the most beautiful weather and drive to Keukenhof in Lisse.
Spend the next four hours absolutely mesmerized by the beautiful tulips, rolling hills, and streams of the Keukenhof.
Leave Keukenhof around 1:00 when the garden went from "pleasantly busy" to "unbearably crowded."
Head back to Heemstede for lunch and walk around the town while dodging bikes (they have the right of way over cars and pedestrians in the Netherlands!) and enjoying the karaoke-singing, orange-clad Dutch as they celebrated Queen's Day.
Eat dinner at a local pancake house where I got the most glorious brie/bacon/chives pancake (yep, pancake) I've ever had.

Day 4:
Blake's Birthday!  (Isn't he lucky: this year his birthday was in The Netherlands, last year it was in Paris and Venice!)
Drive into Amsterdam and get lost several times trying to get off the right exit (freeways in Europe are so confusing!  Especially when all of the signs are in Dutch and are about a hundred letters long with plenty of t's and z's and virtually un-pronounceable).
Navigate through the Queen's Day refuse from the city-wide party the day before.  Try to convince Blake that the last time I was there I thought Amsterdam was the cleanest European city I'd ever been to.  (This convincing didn't go well as we were mucking through beer cans, pot, and overflowing urianals on the street, and floating garbage piles in the canals- gross!).
Boat tour on the canals.
Visit the Nightwatch at the Rijksmuseum.
Dinner at La Via where we got the most amazing housemade pasta and the tiniest glasses of coca lite that I've ever paid $3.00 for.  Darn you Europeans and your lack of re-fills or free tap water.
Cake with fresh fruit and chocolate sauce at home and a surprise gift for Blake.

Day 5:
Amsterdam again.  Fewer detours on the way there.  A LOT less garbage and far fewer overflowing urinals.  Blake starts to understand why I loved Amsterdam so much in the first place.
Several hours in the Van Gogh museum where I steathily take a picture of my favorite - The Peach Trees without getting caught.
Another canal boat tour - even more beautiful without all of the stinky floating garbage.
Dinner at Nobel in Haarlem where I had the most beautiful filet of Red Perch I've ever had.

Day 6:
Wake up, have breakfast, and get in the car to drive to Paris.
Drive 5 short hours through the misty fields of The Netherlands, the rolling hills of Belgium and the blooming mustard fields of Northern France.
Arrive in Paris to the most glorious 70-degree, blue-skied day Paris has ever seen.
Check into our beautiful, pricelined hotel - the Melia Alexandre Boutique Hotel in the 16th and wander up the street to the Arc de Triomphe.
Walk around the city being almost heartbroken at its beauty (you know when you're having the most beautiful day and it almost breaks your heart because you know it'll never be that perfect again?)
Grab dinner from a bakery and eat in the park.
Make our way to the Eiffel Tower and time our boat cruise perfectly so that half was during the sunset and half in the dark with the beautiful bridges all lit up.
Return from the boat tour and enjoy the once-an-hour sparkling of the Eiffel Tour amidst oohs and ahhs of the surrounding pedestrians.

Day 7:
Wake up and have a lovely breakfast of fresh pastries, bread and fruit from the bakery and grocery store.
Make our way to the Luxembourg Gardens.
Head from the gardens to the chic shopping area of the Saint Germaine and spend an hour in Hermes feeling deliciously out-of-place and trying not to touch the $5,000 dresses with my grubby tourist hands.
Walk to the Notre Dame and sit, overwhelmed by the beauty and the crowds, in the plaza at the center of Paris.
Have lunch in the Latin Quarter at the same bakery Blake and I ate at a year ago.  Consume 9 pastries between the six of us for dessert.
Visit my old school and meander the winding streets of the Marais.
Head back to the hotel, take another quick jaunt through Zara Home (I couldn't get enough of that place!), and take a short nap in our room.
Dinner at the XVIeme Avenue Cafe in the 16th.  Glorious sea bass cooked in loads of glorious butter.  I love French cooking.

Day 8:
Wake up and have another lovely bakery breakfast.
Pack up and check out of the hotel.
A quick drive to the Marchees Aux Puces de Saint-Ouen.
Antique hunting and general flea market euphoria for the next three hours.
Jump back in the car for the drive back to The Netherlands. 
Have the 5 hour drive turn into an 8 hour drive - complete with unexplained stand-still traffic getting out of Paris, several detours through tiny French and Belgian towns due to faulty directions and confusing highways, and almost running out of gas in the middle-of-nowhere Belgium and puttering into the gas station while our beeping car was running on fumes.
A late dinner at La Via again to enjoy the out-of-this world salmon pasta that is their specialty.

Day 9:
Wake up, pack, have a leisurely breakfast.  Take one last look around the neighborhood canals.
Head to the airport where we waited in the worst security line this side of JFK.  Actually...worse than JFK.  Much much worse.
Survive the 8-hour flight without tossing my cookies due to motion sickness.
Make it home at 5:00 p.m. to our jungle-like grass and piles of unread mail.

Phew. We fit a lot in. No wonder I'm tired.