The Home of Washington is in Your Charge

Recently my Grandmother discovered that we are descendants of Ann Pamela Cunningham, the woman who saved Mount Vernon from deterioration and preserved the house for future generations to enjoy. Naturally, I need to tell the world about this connection to George Washington.

Kyle and I finally had a chance to get out to Mount Vernon for a proper visit a couple weeks ago. It was possibly the perfect early-fall day: blue skies, slight breeze, chill in the air…

The house is still very nice (however you are unable to photograph inside the house), and an entire day can be spent around the gardens and yard. Mount Vernon is just a quick trip from DC, driving it took us only about 25 minutes, however I’ve taken the metro and a shuttle before and it’s not too bad of a trip.
DSC_3728DSC_3735 DSC_3737The highlight of our visit was about 30 minutes spent with Martha Washington. She told us about life at Mount Vernon, about her first years of marriage to Mr. Washington, and what it was like to be the General’s and then President’s lady. 
DSC_3746 DSC_3755There is a very nice museum and visitor center at Mount Vernon (George Washington’s famed wooden teeth are on display!). A great deal of credit was given to my ancestor for the work she did to save the home. 
DSC_3773 DSC_3774 DSC_3775Two bulls out in the farm: DSC_3776George and Martha, along with other relatives, were originally buried in a tomb on the land, but after some years the tomb was too small to hold everyone. George was a planner, and had seen this coming so had prepared plans for a new tomb – many years after he died, the new tomb was created to his specifications and the family’s remains were moved. DSC_3785Can you believe our first president is RIGHT THERE?
DSC_3790 DSC_3792 This is the old tomb. I tried to get in but they locked it. Darn. DSC_3794 DSC_3799Mount Vernon is very romantic! DSC_3817We then went “off the beaten path” as far as Mount Vernon goes and went to visit George Washington’s gristmill and distillery. Just a few miles down the road is the site, so you’d have to drive, but it’s free to take a tour if you’re coming from Mount Vernon.

George Washington ran a very successful gristmill from what I hear – producing cornmeal and flour from his wheat and corn crops. Eventually someone had said to him, “you have all the tools to make whiskey – what’s holding you back?” (I paraphrased this, of course). So, he hired the best in the business to get his whiskey operation up and running. Some time after his death (GW died in 1799) his distillery went up in flames – which is not surprising since colonial-era whiskey-making takes a good deal of fire.

Thankfully, GW left behind detailed notes on his operation. Perfect for future whiskey AND history loving people to rebuild.

If you’d like to learn more about the distillery, check out this list for 10 Facts About the Distillery – it starts with “George Washington was the only founding father to commercially operate a distillery” … anyone else thinking, GW solidified as THE coolest founding father?

IMG_20141018_154921 IMG_20141018_155334 IMG_20141018_155418 IMG_20141018_161605 IMG_20141018_161634 IMG_20141018_161648 IMG_20141018_161816 IMG_20141018_161822 IMG_20141018_161834Twice a year Mount Vernon produces a small batch for sale, however they are unpaged and based on what was said on the tour, not the highest quality (despite costing a pretty penny). With that, the earlier inner-struggle on whether it would be worth the investment in our own Mount Vernon whiskey bottle is solved.

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Where Does the Time Go?

Nobody warned me that the days, months, years would actually fly by after a certain age. One day we’re celebrating our anniversary and the start to the summer heat, the next I’m pulling out sweaters wondering how it’s suddenly late-October and I have yet to buy a pumpkin. Before my memories start to fade, here are the highlights of our summer:

We went back to UD for our college reunion weekend. Naturally, we all acted exactly how we acted in college.

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There is a park in our neighborhood (Yards Park) that hosts bands on Friday nights all summer. It was easy to be regulars and convince friends to come visit for the evening.

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Looking back on my phone for summer photos my first thought was “Why did I take this photo?” Then I realized it was because this could possibly be my Lisa Simpson outfit (if I could only wear one outfit my entire life) – crab necklace, Ohio shirt, and polka dots. All my favorite things. And, I really love crabs. My crab necklace from Baltimore was a necessary accessory when we picked up a bushel of crabs to pick with friends on evening.

No other photos were taken because our hands were much too messy.

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We are really working on our camping skills, so for the Fourth of July holiday we went down to the family farm for some R&R.
IMG_4536.JPGIMG_4542.JPGIMG_4541.JPGIMG_4539.JPGThis summer I was busy with a “summer job” giving Segway tours around the city. It’s not over yet but it has been a total blast meeting people from all over the world to share with them my city’s history. I’m not going to lie, it’s been really nice having a willing (and paying) audience for my cheesy jokes. Remind me to tell you about the bushes outside of the White House…

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My parents surprised me one weekend with a visit to DC! I wanted to give them the full “DC Local” treatment since they normally come in the winter or over a holiday. We hit up Yards Park (I told you we went every week), visited the famed pandas at the National Zoo, and even grabbed some crabs from the fish market. All in a DC weekend.

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We also had a jam-packed weekend with one of our most favorite families. Not pictured: the parents.

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Went to the best and most entertaining concert of my life: Arcade Fire. I have never had so much fun at a concert.

IMG_4751.JPGSent some of our best DC friends off to London for a year of adventure and schooling:

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Went to Cincinnati for Labor Day and I got to see the WEBN fireworks for the first time (believe it) after a wild night in OTR.  Spent a lot of quality time with Mom’s kittens and my grandparents.

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Whew. I think that last photo sums it up! Now that I’ve gone through all of our photos, I realize we had quite a packed summer, full of travel and good friends – what more could we have asked for?

Born to be Brooklyn Hipsters

With as many times as I’ve been to New York, it’s somewhat shocking that I’ve never made it out to Brooklyn. Ok, I never thought I needed to go to Brooklyn – until I got there and saw that it’s exactly where I belong (when I’m in NY of course).

Brooklyn is beyond cool. Even in our most hipster outfits we were certainly not cool enough to blend in completely.

Hipster Outfit Checklist:

  1. A tank top that screams “I just threw this on”
  2. Ripped jean shorts that could have definitely come from a thrift shop
  3. Polka dot sneakers (which could be classified as ironic since they’re not hipster, which makes them hipster)
  4. Aviator sunglasses
  5. Backpack

Alright, in a normal day I’m pretty opposite on the Hipster Scale as I was going for, so I’d say my attempt moved me a significant distance.  I’ll take it.

To save some money we took the 6:30 AM train out of DC, which put us into NY by 10:00 and in Brooklyn by lunchtime after we met up with my girlfriends.  It was worth the pain of getting up and out that early, since it saved us a night in a hotel.

The first stop was Smorgasburg: an outdoor flea-market of deliciousness.

Smorgasburg was overwhelming in the most exciting way.  There are more than 100 food vendors, and their foods range from the atypical to the “WHAT IS THAT!?” – try picking somewhere to source your lunch, you can’t.  Think you’re going to find a hot dog and hamburger place? What about a turkey sandwich? GO BACK TO WHEREVER YOU CAME FROM! (that’s what I’d assume someone would yell if you asked that inside Smorgasburg).

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Nice view of the city from here. Suckers over there, stuck between buildings while we’re over here chowing down on delicious cheap(ish) food, sitting on the green grass in the sun…

This photo below is of the hotel I’m going to try to stay in on my next non-work trip to Brooklyn. I have no idea what the actual name of the hotel is, but if the inside is as cool as their sign, I’m sure it will work out.

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Our one and only tourist destination planned for this trip was the Brooklyn Brewery. Thankfully the group was on board because the line to get in was ridiculous (totally shocking that this has gone mainstream… so not hipster).  Once we were inside it was clear we made the right decision and stuck it out – the place was very cool, and the beer was cheap(ish).

DSC_3489 DSC_3492* DSC_3494 DSC_3499 DSC_3505Would we do the visit to the Brooklyn Brewery again? Probably not.  Would I recommend it to others? If they’re in the area and the line doesn’t look too long.

After the brewery we hit up an indoor beer garden around the corner with some friends that live in the NYC area.  It was inside an old factory building, very little signage on the outside and they served large beers.  To our surprise, a band showed up and brought the entire building to it’s feet dancing.  The band included a drum, trombone, saxophone, trumpet and a tuba.

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Let’s go back!

Tour: Bluejacket Brewery

What to do on a cold, wet Saturday morning? Grab a beer, of course! Recently a brewery opened up in our neighborhood and I couldn’t have more good things to say about it. Good beer, good people, and awesome atmosphere.

On Saturdays they have started giving brewery tours, and we had gotten lucky to have a tour given by the head brewmaster for the company – which gave us insight into how they set up the operation and what their plans are for the future.

Here are the highlights: It was built into an old Navy building that was used for ship and munitions manufacturing – all of the windows are new but the structure itself is all original. The brewery operations are on three different levels, and the brewery has about 20 different beers in development at a time, in addition to casks aging in various specially built rooms.

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Oh and at the end you get a free tasting (which is more like half a pint) of whichever brew catches your eye! If you’re ever in our ‘hood let me know, we would love to grab a beer at Bluejacket with you!

Google Glass + Art @ National Portrait Gallery

When I see the opportunity to try out new technology, it’s not a hard sell to get me in line.  This weekend only at the National Portrait Gallery is a special piece that is pretty neat on it’s own, but you can put on Google Glasses for an interactive experience with the art.

Here is a little more on the art (excerpted from the National Portrait Gallery site):

Portrait of America, from David Datuna’s “Viewpoint of Billions” series, is a 12-foot multimedia American flag covered in hundreds of eyeglass lenses. Try on Google Glass and explore historical and contemporary figures from American culture embedded in the artwork. Videos and interactive experiences are activated by different images in the piece and by your voice!

After an hour and a half waiting in line, we geared-up and took advantage of our 3 minute viewing time.  When you put on the GG and look through the lenses on the art piece you can see little pictures and news clippings from various famous Americans (I saw JFK, Lady Gaga, George Washington…) with your own eye, and those photos trigger little videos to play through the GG (like a JFK campaign video, and a Lady Gaga performance clip).

Below are a few photos from the experience, unfortunately the last day it is in DC is today – but there are hopes (according to their PR rep I tried to BFF) to take the “show on the road” to other cities.

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20140217-104039.jpg20140217-104002.jpg My only real gripe with the event is that 3 minutes was not nearly enough time to spend with the piece. It took about a minute to figure out the Google Glasses (probably more for those a little less tech-savvy). By the time I got into the groove with navigating the piece I was being shuffled out.

Read more about the piece and artist (and experience the art from those viewing it) by visiting the artist’s site atwww.datuna.com 

Our Neighborhood: Navy Yard

The shootings a couple weeks back at the Washington Navy Yard hit a little too close to home, literally. The shooting was at the Navy Yard base, which is a contained area in our neighborhood, a few blocks from our apartment.

Just the weekend before the shooting Amanda and I went around taking photos for her blog and some photos of the neighborhood.  The week after the shooting the Navy Band played in the park. Kyle and I went to watch and took some more photos of the park at dusk.

One of the largest parts of the neighborhood is the Department of Transportation. Along the walkways surrounding the buildings are little transportation features, my favorite is the waterfalls and little boats, but there are also old bicycles you can “ride” and various places for photo-ops.

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A main feature of the neighborhood is Yards Park, a new park along the river with great water features and a bridge that can’t help but be the centerpiece. The park is usually full of families and picnics, and on weekends there is often a band playing or an event.

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All summer on this “boardwalk” space they had free yoga in the evenings twice a week. Imagine this space filled with about 50 yogis: DSC_0250

Rumor is, this will have some ice cream, pizza, and kayak rentals in by next summer:  DSC_0252DSC_0300DSC_0301DSC_0303
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There is a trapeze school in our neighborhood as well. If you look closely in this photo you can see two people going in for a catch as they swing through the air.  Notice all of the construction going on – a lot of new buildings coming soon!

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I love all of the old Navy buildings, they’re updating them and putting in restaurants and retail. It’s still pretty “up and coming” – hopefully we can stick around to enjoy all of the neighborhood changes across the next few years.

Oh, and I almost forgot – the main feature of the ‘hood – the National’s Stadium! It’s hard to say no to a game when     it’s literally a few blocks from my home. The day I took these photos, Amanda and I just happened upon tickets last minute and luckily they were right by my favorite player.

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Lake Weekend

For Labor Day weekend Kyle and I went out into Virginia to Lake Anna with a group from DC. We stayed in the National Park at their cabins and just relaxed all weekend by the lake. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather (or better food). We even took a trip to a local winery (Lake Anna Winery) for a tasting.

Here are a few photos from the trip:

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Relaxing on the porch in the morning watching Kyle run around taking nature photos:

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Getting in touch with nature by showing this rock who’s boss (by climbing it)

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Found the lake! Straight down this path …
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Wine-making grapes:
DSC_0216DSC_0205DSC_0213We had to do a little taste-test: DSC_0208 DSC_0211DSC_0218 DSC_0219

There were others with us on the trip, I don’t know why this is the only photo that offers proof we weren’t alone:
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