Saturday, April 16, 2011

Did you know . . . about Emancipation Day?

Did you know about Emancipation Day? Honestly, neither did I until I moved to DC (I don't think I knew at least...).

Emancipation Day is a public holiday on April 16 (today) in the District (aka, DC) signed into law by DC Mayor Williams in 2005. It celebrates the day Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act which freed more than 3,000 slaves in the District. This probably sounds familiar to you, because 8 1/2 months later Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation proclaiming all slaves in the nation free. DC's Compensated Emancipation is different however. Note, the word compensated in the name. That's right, with the Compensated Emancipation Act, the government PAID slave owners for their slaves' freedom. (It also stipulated the voluntary colonization of freed and former slaves to locations outside of the US, like Africa, which was a popular argument at the time, and the Act even stipulated payment to those willing to emigrate.) The DC Compensated Emancipation Act is the only example of compensation by the federal government to slaves owners of freed slaves. In all, the government paid almost $1 million to free DC's slaves.

While the Districts' slave population had decreased in the decades leading up to the Civil War, the city was still a hotbed of slave trading into Virginia and Maryland. If you walk around downtown DC today and visit tourist hot spots like Georgetown, and even Lafayette Square directly north of the White House, you will be walking by the locations of former slave holding cells and slave markets. All of this took place directly under the noses of Presidents and Congressman in the nation's capital so, needless to say, the DC Compensated Emancipation was the first step to fixing the issue in DC and across the country.

In the District, April 16 has been celebrated with parades and festivals even before it was made a public holiday in 2005. If you haven't heard the news the last few days, you haven't heard that the tax filing date this year isn't April 15 as usual because of DC's Emancipation Day. Since Emancipation Day falls on a Saturday this year, the public holiday is actually the Friday before, April 15. So, the tax filing deadline is April 18 because of the holiday and weekend. (So, for any of you procrastinators out there, you have Emancipation Day to thank for having until Monday to file!)

Anywho, Chris and I are coincidentally celebrating Emancipation Day by visiting Lincoln's Cottage which is only a 5 minute walk from our house. Lincoln lived and visited there frequently during his presidency and for a few days this week (April 14-17) the Lincoln Flag, the American flag used to cushion Lincoln's head after he was shot, will be on display at the Lincoln Cottage Education Center. (Eeks! I'm excited!)

 (PS - I think I kinda like doing these little historical pieces about the "little known" stories of DC. Plan on seeing more "Did you knows" in the future!)

National Archives & Records Administration, "The District of Columbia Emancipation Act
Francine Curro Cary's Washington Odyssey: A Multicultural History of the Nation's Capital

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I know, I have been a horrible blogger the last few weeks. Well, really since I started blogging two months ago. Sorry, readers!

I really do have ideas about topics to write about - such as Chris' first home-brewing experience, my forays in fitness/exercise/getting in shape, our attempts at gardening (aka, my ability to kill plants instantly), and new updates on our house - but I honestly have not had time to write. Mainly because I did this stupid wonderful smart thing called "signing up for two graduate classes while working full-time." (Remember back when I set my goals list and I couldn't wait to get my Teacher Certification courses underway? Ha! Silly me!) Really, my classes aren't hard at all, especially compared to the 400+ pages of reading a week and 40+ pages of writing each semester that I've done for the last two years as a graduate student at George Mason. And, I think, it is completely possible to work full-time and go to graduate school. But really, I'm burnt out on school and have been having difficulty motivating myself to even write a 2-page reflection paper. (NOTE: I have a paper due tomorrow night and yet I'm writing this "much needed" apology blog post.) So, as you can probably guess, I have been procrastinating on 2 papers and a project all semester and now they are all finally due (one this week, one next week, and one after that).

Soooo, I am apologizing now for my lack of attention to this blog because of school, and I am apologizing ahead of time for ignoring this blog until May 6 when my classes are complete. After then, not only will I be back to writing, but I'll be back to enjoying life "after school" - actually having a life and something worth writing about!!

I cannot cannot cannot wait for this semester to be over. . . wish me luck motivation!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tourist season is upon us . . .

Is winter, followed by summer these days? 8 days ago we woke up to a dusting of snow. Today it is supposed to get up to 80 degrees. What happened to spring? (80 degrees is "it's-pretty-much summer" weather to me.)

Anyway . . . despite the snow and 80 degree weather combo, Spring is finally upon us in DC. The key indicator being the Cherry Blossom Festival. It's a big deal here. A BIG deal. The news even reports the bloom schedule in the weeks leading up the "Peak" bloom dates. This is the 3rd year in which Chris and I have lived in the DC area and have had the joy of experiencing all that is the Cherry Blossoms (sarcasm font needed). Don't get me wrong, they are beautiful and are a great historical tradition in the city and even worth wrestling through crowds to see and photograph, but to me (and probably other Washingtonians), the Cherry Blossom Festival only means that from then until October you must avoid the National Mall and surrounding streets. Because, when the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom, tourists take over.

Thunder clouds rolling over the Tidal Basin's Cherry Blossoms
For example, this past weekend Chris' mom made her annual trip to town to see the Cherry Blossoms. We walked the Tidal Basin, which was crowded but manageable. We used the metro, which was mildly crowded, but nothing crazy. And then, we decided to go to a "trendy" burger place for lunch - Good Stuff Eatery. We've been to Good Stuff before, and it is goooood. If you haven't heard of this place, it was opened by Top Chef Season 4 and Top Chef All Stars contestant, Spike Mendelsohn. They have fresh and yummy burgers (including an Obama Burger), hand-cut fries, and shakes to die for (I like the Milky Way shake with bits of actual Milky Way bar in it, Chris likes the Toasted Marshmallow shake, with a toasted marshmallow on top). Anywho, it's delicious and always has a crowd, but the crowd mob that was there on Saturday is the biggest I have ever seen. The line to order filled the entire first floor of the building and wrapped all the way outside to the corner of the street. We even watched a woman argue for our table. Awkward...

Anyway, the crowds at Good Stuff just bummed me out and reminded me that DC no longer belongs to Washingtonians. For the next 6 months it will belong to tourists. Which is fine. Heck, I was a tourist in DC not once, but twice, before we moved here. I get it. I'm just bummed that now I must navigate my way around town through the throngs of tourists lost on the corners of streets, going to my favorite places, and standing on the left of the metro escalators.

As Chris aptly stated, it is "time to put your patience-cap on" . . .

Friday, April 1, 2011

It's Not a Jungle Out There

For my St. Louis readers, do you remember that Six Flags "ride" Castaway Kids Jungle Adventure? (And yes, I looked up the "official" name) You sat in the little log boat thing and took the river through the "story" of some kids crashing into a jungle or something? And at the end there were little monkeys that popped out of the walls and people stuck gum on their mouths? (Danielle is probably the only one that knows what I am talking about . . . !)

Anywho . . . there was this song that played during your ride that just pretty much repeated the phrase "It's a jungle, it's a jungle, it's a jungle out there!" Well, when we were clearing up, "gardening," our front yard, that song kept popping into my head. It was a jungle. A jungle of ivy, awful awful ivy. (Hence, the title of this post. . . it's NOT a jungle out there any more!)

I'm talking about this ivy.

As you might be able to see, we had ivy growing around the edge of the stairs and even up the wall on the left. The ivy was strangling our monkey grass, which is already pretty resilient. And, at least in my opinion, it was ugly. And boring. (I want a fun yard!)

So, Chris and I decided early on that the ivy had to go, and the first warm weekend we had in DC we got to work. I trimmed the ivy away. Chris hacked the ivy away.
Check out those roots!
The "heart"
Based on my research googling, I knew that you had to get the roots of the ivy out. Little did we know that ivy apparently forms tree-like roots. Thick, twisted, endless roots.  When we got to what I refer to as the "heart" of the ivy operation in our front yard, I was astounded. It was even pinkish-red and vien-y like a real heart. And, as you can see, as big as Chris' head.  What we thought would be a couple hours of work turned into a whole afternoon of work. And a week of soreness. (Ivy-hacking is apparently a workout as well.)

But, then our front yard was free from ivy and looked like this. (Ivy-free, yipee!)

Look! You can see the actual ground! Ivy-free, yipee!
And, now, after another afternoon of yard work, we have an actual, and soon-to-be pretty, yard!

(our house is on a hill) or (one of us can't hold a camera straight)
Ta da!! Monkey grass trimmed, grass seed laid, new bushes in, brand-new mulch, AND, most importantly, no ivy! And, here's the "before" photo, just for your reference.

 BTW, Chris wanted to have grass in our front yard so that he could use one of these . . .
from Sears

Just cross your fingers that there are no more reports of snow this spring. We want some grass (and not a jungle!)!!
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