Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tourist Tuesday: The OTHER Air and Space Museum

I need to start by saying this to anyone and everyone that ever plans to visit DC - there are more than one Smithsonian museums you can visit. Shocker, I know. You can't imagine how many tourists I hear saying that they are "going to the Smithsonian," as if there was only one to visit. If you don't want to stand out as a tourist around these parts, make sure you know which Smithsonian you are going to visit. The more you know about DC, the better you will fare against all of us locals, that's all. :)

So, last week I mentioned that when my parents were in town we took them to the other Air and Space Museum. Not only are there more than one Smithsonian museum, but there are actually two Smithsonian Air and Space museums. If you're not from the DC area you probably had no idea that there are two Air and Space Museums (you may not have even known that there was one . . .) but it is definitely worth knowing that there are two.

The first one is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall. It's the one made "famous" by a certain Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian movie starring Ben Stiller, or just famous because it's probably one of the more notable Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. This museum is located directly on the National Mall and is literally filled to the brim with air and space artifacts - from space suits to the Spirit of St. Louis plane. It's really a cool museum if you've never been there, but if you are like Chris and I and my parents, you've been there plenty of times and wanted needed to check out something new.

So, we decided to visit the other Air and Space Museum - the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia. This museum is actually 45 minutes to an hour away from DC and the National Mall, and is unfortunately not metro-accessible, but if you have a car when you are visiting DC and have someone in your party who is even remotely interested in air and space flight I highly suggest you visit it. It's very cool.

The museum is actually three huge hangers - one for aircraft, one for spacecraft, and one for restoration - filled with planes, space modules, etc. When you walk in your eyes are literally flooded with aircraft, it's almost like you are blinded by planes and it's hard to even decipher what is what. See what I mean?

Of all of the planes, there were a few that definitely caught my eye. Like the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bombs in Japan.

Or the famous Concorde, the Air France plane you see behind that Boeing 707.

Then, we walked by the Restoration Hanger. I mean, how cool would it be to get to clean up and re-build these old planes? That is, if you had any mechanical experience and knew what you were doing . . . It looks cool though, right?!

Finally, we made our way to the Space Hanger. The hanger that I could not wait to get in to because of this beast. . .

Yes, it's the Discovery Space Shuttle!! How cool is that?! Seriously, this thing has been IN space.

Ok, so I might have gotten a little over-excited about the Discovery shuttle. Remember though, I'm a huge dork.

Other than that, there is a LOT of other things to see . . .

Charles Lindbergh paraphernalia.
Fabric from the Hindenburg.
A "gondola" (bottom of a blimp)
Itt's a car, it's a plane, it's a car/place!
I think we spent a couple of hours in there and never got bored. It did help that we went up in the Observation Tower that looks out over Dulles Airport and the surrounding northern Virginia area, and of course we stopped for a snack of a McFlurry and fries in the on-site McDonald's. MM mmmm fries!

A view of two of the exhibit hangers and northern VA from the Observation Tower
 And, in case you want to add a few more hours to your visit there, I suggest you check out what is showing at the museum's Airbus IMAX theater (a REAL IMAX theater). Chris and I have seen Inception and Star Trek at it, and it was ah-mazing!!

Lastly, if you plan on making the trip out there, remember to bring $15 for parking because while all of the Smithsonian museums are free to enter you do need to pay for parking at Udvar-Hazy. BUT, parking is free after 4pm and the museum closes at 5:30pm, and that might just leave you enough time to hit the hot spots! Also, the museum does provide tours if you like that kind of thing, or you can just be like us and wander around reading the plaques.

We've been to so many museums out here, and multiple times at that, so it was nice to see something not only new, but also really awesome! Everyone should have this museum on their DC to-see list, I know we'll be visiting it again!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Run for the Fallen on Memorial Day

I went three weeks without posting anything and now you get two posts in one day, what a treat, right?!

I'll keep this relatively short, but I'm a member of the Wear Blue Run to Remember running community that I wrote about back when we ran the DC Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in March. When we ran the half marathon, I wore one of the Wear Blue Run to Remember shirts in memory of our friend Jeremy and now I have another opportunity to run in his memory and in remembrance of all of the other men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country.

The Wear Blue Run to Remember community is encouraging people across the nation to join in their special Memorial Day event where everyone will pledge to run or walk miles that day in honor of our service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the Global War on Terror. I received a reminder email about the event and thought I would share its moving words with all of you:

"Thank you for joining wear blue: run to remember for our special Memorial Day event, wear blue Runs for the Fallen. We, along with runners across the nation and in countries overseas, will log miles in honor of each of our Service Members who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice in the Global War on Terror. wear blue is honored to have you a part of this active community that runs to honor the Service and Sacrifice of the American Military. Together, we ensure that no life given in Service to our Nation will ever be forgotten.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke: but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.” President James A. Garfield - Speech at Arlington Cemetery, Decoration Day (30 May 1868)

Memorial Day weekend brings to mind family barbecues, swimming pools, children playing in the sun. It is a weekend to spend with family and friends celebrating the beginning of the summer season.
But Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is different. It is the one day a year we come together to honor the Heroes, the men and women in the Armed Forces, who gave their all for the United States of America. It is a day to pause and remember the gravity of the gift and sacrifice these men and women made. It is not about politics, or religion. It is about solidarity.

Thank you for joining us as we honor and celebrate each of the lives of the 6,465 American Service Members who have died in the Global War on Terror.

With Memorial Day one week away, we encourage you to invite your friends and family to join us and pledge their miles in their own communities across the nation. We currently have 3,998 miles pledged; 6,465 men and women have given their lives in the Global War on Terror. Together, we can ensure that each of these heroes will be honored this Memorial Day.

Run with us. Remember with us. Whether it’s one mile or 50 miles, thank you for pledging your miles. Continue to pledge to never forget the Heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Join a nationwide movement and run to honor the Service and Sacrifice of the American Military."
While you're planning your barbeques and trips for this weekend, consider adding in some time for a short walk or run in memory of our military. You can pledge the miles you plan on running or walking here at their website. I have already pledged my miles, and encourage you to as well! 

In the meantime, have a great three-day weekend and stay hydrated if you're going to have the 90+ degree weather like we will!

Courtesy of Joint Base Lewis McChord, via Flickr

What We've Been Up To

Has it really been over 3 weeks since my last post? So much for my goal of posting at least once a week, sorry! You might have been wondering what we've been up to since the first of May, and if not, well, I'm going to tell you anyway : )
  • We finished up our spring semesters. Granted, I only took one class, and it was suuuuper easy, but still, class is class.
  • My pleas to the Hand-Me-Down Dresser Gods were answered and I scored not only a really awesome dresser for our guest room, but I also scored an awesome, I mean AWESOME, old sewing cabinet for a sweet $30.

The cabinet will go perfectly with my brand-spanking new sewing machine, courtesy of Chris for my birthday.
  • I finally wrapped up my beloved job (note the sarcasm) . . .
  • We celebrated Chris' birthday - I made him a fancy black forest cake and "surprised" him with the KitchenAid Stand Mixer Pasta Maker attachment for his present. (Let's just say he was "surprised" a few days before his birthday when he saw the box sitting on our porch from our mailman when he got home from work before me!)

  • We then celebrated my birthday (Chris is only 3 days older than me.) with a rainy day in Rehoboth, complete with a birthday mimosa at a sketchy diner, catching a showing of The Five-Year Engagement, and treating myself to a very fancy - at least by my terms - new wallet (thank you beach-outlet malls!).

  • One of our friends, Katie, did a blog post about our Vertical Garden on her blog, Handy Housemom. You should definitely check out her blog, she posts a lot of fun projects and even great retail deals!

So, that's what we've been doing over the last 3 weeks.  It's amazing how much you can do in just a few short weeks, and it's amazing how refreshing a little beach trip and a family visit can be! Now that things have slowed down, it'll be back to my regularly-ish scheduled blogging. : )

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vertical Gardening

 One of our #1 requirements when we were house-hunting was to have some kind of a backyard, or whatever kind of a backyard we could get in the city. We knew it was a long-shot in finding a place with enough green space to warrant a real lawnmower, but Chris really just wanted a back "yard" to plant some herbs, relax on our adirondack chairs, and grill. That's really it. We eventually ended up putting a contract down on a short sale house that had absolutely no backyard. Imagine that. But, thankthegoodness we got tired of waiting on that short sale and fell in love with our current house, because it has a nice little backyard patio! No grass, but areas to plant some things, to sit in our chairs, and grill!

Last year, we worked on converting some of the greenery on the patio from bushes and flowers into a little herb garden of rosemary, chives, sage, parsley, dill, and oregano. It was our first time "gardening" and we definitely learned a lot. For example, did you know that dill grows out of control? Oops.

So, this year we decided to be a little more methodical in approaching our little herb garden, aka, not planting everything in the ground and giving them free reign to grow! I had been inspired by others' garden projects that I found on blogs and Pinterest and thought that something similar would be perfect for our little "yard"!

I figured that making some kind of vertical garden to hang on the brick wall at the back of our patio would not only hide the ugly, and boring, brick, but it would also make our herb plants inaccessible to the little herd of alley cats we got going on in our neighborhood. As you can guess, it wasn't hard to convince Chris to do a projects that required measurements and using tools either!

First, let me say that you can obviously literally do a vertical garden however you want, just look at those ideas that I found. They can be hung, stood, or leaned on a wall. It can be made of clay pots, mason jars, and even gutters. It'd be perfect for people who want a little planter garden in their huge yard, and even better for those of you with tiny apartment balconies. It's really what works best for you.

What we decided to do was hang ours on the brick wall at the back of our patio. We used clay pots we bought last year, some pine boards we picked up from Home Depot, "L" brackets to hold it all together, a little paint to make it pretty, and some thick rope to hang over the ledge of the brick wall, and voila!

007 003

 As you can guess, this project was really pretty simple, especially since it was completely customizable. Chris, being the "builder" of our relationship, drew out the plans, gathered the materials, and put it all together based on what we thought would work best for our yard (aka, cover up the brick wall). All he had to do was cut the pine board into the right lengths and screw it all together. He used the "L" brackets to reinforce the shelves to the back so that it could support the clay pots and plants. The shelves may not be that pretty from the inside, because of all of the brackets and whatnot, but the paint and plants cover them up just fine and at least it won't fall apart!


Chris also used some thick rope to hang it over the top of the brick wall. We figured this way it'd be easier to take down to store next fall.


If you want to build a vertical garden just like ours, Chris gave me some pretty detailed notes to share: Vertical Garden Assembly Instructions. The notes might even be too detailed, but that's Chris for ya!  ; )

 Oh, and if you are curious about what I did to contribute to this project, besides being inspired by Pinterest, I painted the darn thing! Behr's California Poppy to be exact. It's not the best paint job in the world, but I only used half the quart I bought for it so at least I can touch it up year to year.

And, you might think that I created the cute little plant labels on the shelves, but I didn't, Chris totally did. It was his "idea," so I gave him the supplies (white spray paint and a blue acrylic paint pen) and he went to town with some scrap wood. He even made little label stakes for our herbs in the ground.


Our back "yard" patio definitely looks complete now that we have something fun hanging up on that brick wall. And, in case you are in awe of our awesome Adirondack chairs, Chris definitely built those, from scratch, for us when we first moved out here to DC! (Oh, and those cute yellow and white pillows were from KMart. I'm super proud I found them!)


So, that's our vertical garden. Super simple, but perfect for a second try at our herb garden, even if we don't have a "yard" to plant anything in!

Oh, oh! And, look at these bad boys . . .


Do you see them in that little cluster in the center of the photo? Baby strawberries!! Cross your fingers that our alley cat friends (I'm talking to you Clipper/Homie Half Ear/Socks) don't snack on them before we can!

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