We returned from our New Orleans vacation about a week ago. We had a most lovely time. I wish we could have stayed longer.

Some highlights of the trip below the cut. Full set of pictures can be found here.

Fun! Adventure! Food! )
Photos from our recent trip to Monticello. Highlights below. Full set can be found here.

Never build a house on the top of a mountain )
Over the summer, I went to NY to see friends, visit family, and ditch my psychotic bird. I also went to the Bronx Zoo.

Some highlights of the trip are below the cut. All photos can be found here.

Zoo! )
I'm taking Maggie out on the boat this weekend. She's a smart corgi, so she knows safety is the most important thing!

Maggie in her life jacket
For the last two weekends, Maggie has had exciting walking adventures.

Last weekend she went to Great Falls park with a former coworker of mine and her dog. The two puppies had a great time getting to know each other. They were the baddest dogs in the park, but they were super cute.

Pictures from Great Falls Park )

Everyone thought my friend's dog was a pitbull and would back away from her. Then they'd see Maggie and rush over to play with her. I felt a little bad about it. Maggie was the rockstar of the park.

This weekend, Ben and I took Maggie and Noname to Claude Moore Park. Noname had to come along because last weekend she was so upset about being left behind, she completely chewed all the hair off her feet. I wasn't sure she'd be able to handle the walk today, but she managed to make it the entire way!

Pictures from Claude Moore Park )

Both dogs slept really well when we got home. I wish I had the time to take them on long walks like that every week. They are so much happier when they get to burn off all their energy.
The parental units visited for the weekend. Managed to not kill them despite my cramps and headaches and their insane ignorance.

In return, they fixed many things in the house for me.
- Put insulation and moldings around the back door
- Installed a garage door opener
- Cut down a bush and tree that were growing next to the mailbox
- Fixed a pipe in the ac closet
- Minor painting touch ups
- A couple lights repaired

In the past when they have visited, my mother has attempted to cook. It has been so awful, ben was nearly in pain. She boils vegetables until they are completely free of taste and she cooks meat until they are dry as ash. So this time, I insisted in doing the cooking. I made a cinnamon apple chicken which was really really good.
Chicken with cinnamon and apples served with saffron rice pilaf
The chicken was super moist and sweet from the apples dripping down while it baked. No one even touched the gravy. There was no need for it. (Compared to the last time my mother made turkey and I taught ben the trick of using gravy to rehydrate the corpse.) Oh, and I used 3 different types of apples, so there was a lot of variety in the flavors.

My dogs enjoyed the company. They got tons of extra attention. Since my parents left, things have calmed down back to normal and the dogs are bored.

I took them for a long walk yesterday. Poor noname had to be carried home. Maggie is still having trouble with cars. She's terrified of them. But I have been taking her down quieter streets to help her get used to cars a little slower and easier. After the walk, both dogs were too tired to cause trouble. It was so nice.
Maggie after a long walk Noname after a long walk

I wanted to take them for another long walk today, but there is construction going on down the block. There's no way maggie is going to handle that well. Even inside the house she's freaking out a little. I hope the construction is a one-day thing.
A couple photos from the botanic garden:

Garden court

More below cut )

Plus bonus: Engineers inspecting the Washington Monument for earthquake damage

Engineers inspecting the Washington Monument for earthquake damage
I don't want to be the type of person that posts nothing but her dogs, but look at these dogs! They're so cute!

Cutest dogs ever
Maggie at around 9 weeks:
Happy!

Maggie at around 13 weeks:
Smiling Maggie
The ever chill and suave Maggie:
Smiling Maggie

The ever neurotic Noname:
Noname guarding her treat
A couple nights ago I made a fancy dinner. Provincal Baked Chicken Quorn. The prep time was a little time heavy, but the steps were super easy and the dish came out delicious. I didn't have to make any modifications from the recipe to use the quorn, which was a extra bonus.

Provincal Baked Quorn - After
Yesterday rob and dani came over for the forth of july. I made waaaaaaay too much food. We spent most of the time feeling disgustingly full. But it was good to see them! Everyone has far more interesting jobs than I do. :P

The puppy did fairly well on her first Terrible Boom Boom Nightmare Day. She wanted to go inside for the worst of it, but was pretty fearless. Unlike miss noname who was shaking to death.

I tried to dump as much food as possible on rob and dani before they left. I failed. I have so much food. I won't have to cook for a week.

Today is my first official day on puppy leave. She is fast asleep right now after some furious playing. Which means I have time to post puppy pictures! Yay!

Must eat the penguin

Maggie discovers the vegetable garden

Playing

Sitting in the grass

Too tired to play anymore
For the record, Maggie is not a fan of me taking pictures of her all day. She'd much rather I put the camera down and play with her.

Put down that camera and play with me

But I still managed to get a couple of cute shots.

Maggie eating a squirrel

Maggie trying to make friends with Noname

Ben and Maggie
Yesterday was Endangered Species Act Day. I spent the day at the US Botanic Garden, manning a table at their ESA Day event. They very generously gave us a free table. All we had to do was provide the educational materials. The two assistants were there with me. The naive one picked everything up really fast and wasn't much of a problem at all. The stupid one was....very slow. And tended to scare people off.

You know something is wrong when people REFUSE free stuff.

The event was packed in the morning. About five schools came cruising through. The high schoolers were all snobby teenagers who made a point of ignoring me and talking to their friends as I discussed endangered wildlife. They were blocking my table! Of course they all took free temporary tattoos as they left.

The ghetto school was awful. They tried to take everything we had. We were afraid we'd run out before noon. They took ALL our re-usable grocery bags. They took STACKS of our coloring book pages. After the first person took ALL our otter coloring pages, I had to stay alert and go, "Sorry, please only take one each. We need to share these with everyone." I got stink eye from the teachers for that. Sorry, but my job is not to subsidize the crumbling dc school systems. And then the kids kept running off with our display plush animals. I'd have to chase them down and go, "Sorry! That's for display only!" When the teachers gave me a hard time, I told them they could have the toys for $25 each. I got more stink eye for that, but I got my displays back.

By the afternoon, it slowed down significantly. Turns out I didn't need to worry about running out of materials. Most of the people who visited my table in the afternoon were foreign tourists (had some fun trying to remember my spanish and japanese) and other non-profits at the other tables.

Overall, the day was stressful and tiring, but it was really good to be out of the office. The US Botanic Garden is amazingly beautiful. I wish I had taken a picture of the Garden Court. It's the first room you enter. It totally made me gasp.

After the event ended, I spent some time walking around the garden, taking pictures. Of course my camera died about 15 minutes in. *Sigh* Guess I will need to go back. The place isn't very large though, only took me an hour to see everything, so I am sure next time I am in DC, I can set aside a little bit of time to take pictures of everything I missed.

Here are a few of the pictures I was able to capture.

Fountain with Flowers Fountain Flowers

More pictures )

There were a lot of other neat exhibits. My pictures cover maybe 25% at most. It was weird walking from the desert exhibit to the Hawaii exhibit. The desert was so hot, Hawaii felt positively chilly! And then I went into the primeval forest exhibit and was hot all over again.

The center of the large greenhouse was the jungle exhibit. It was pretty neat because you could also walk along the canopy. All the flowers were up at the top!

Then I went outside to the National Garden. They had a butterfly garden, but I guess it's not that time of year because it was mostly filled with bees. From there, the path went to the First Ladies Water Garden which was a fancy fountain. It was hot and I was tempted to splash in it, but there were people around who would have looked at me funny. After that was a long winding Regional Garden filled with plants that are native to the area. Some of them had signs indicating how native americans and early colonists used those plants. I thought that was neat.

The end of the path led to the Rose Garden, which is not what I imagined rose gardens to look like at all. I had in my head perfectly manicured rose bushes, without a single petal out of place. This garden allowed the roses to grow about as wild as the ones in front of my house. (I only trim them back when they start grabbing me along the walkway.) Not that there was anything wrong with that, but it was just very different from my expectations.

I liked how none of the roses looked like the sad, fragrance-less, tulip-like things that pass for roses at florists. And they all smelled quite nice. I did stop to smell the roses. And I managed to grab a picture with my phone. My phone seems to only be able to handle good photos in super bright light.



I decided to skip the final section, Bartholdi Park, because it looked like there was a lot of construction going on. I am uncomfortable around cranes and other large construction vehicles.

I still had time to kill before ben could leave work, so I decided to head over to a local yarn store and pick up some gifts for people. I walked all the way over only to discover they were closed! Their blog says they were closing early for their child's graduation. Pooo! Maybe next time I am in the area, I guess...

After that, I went home. While I was waiting at the bus stop for ben, the Witch of the Wasteland hobbled over, wheezing and coughing with every step. She made the most awful breathing sounds once she sat down in my bus shelter. And then SHE PULLED OUT A PACK OF CIGARETTES and started to chain smoke. I don't know what is going to kill her first - heart disease or lung cancer.

I abandoned the bus shelter at that point because I like oxygen. I was annoyed because the shelter had stickers all over the place saying, "no smoking!"

Ben showed up not too long after. I was starving and tired, so we decided to go out to eat for dinner instead of making something at home. We tried out a place called Thai Tada, which is like the sister restaurant of another thai place we like. Some of the chefs at the original place wanted to try out their own recipes, so they split up and formed the new restaurant. The food did taste very familiar, but presentation was far more modern.

I ended up going to bed very early when we finally got home. It was a long day!

We're supposed to go to ikea today and get a bed for the guest room, but ben is still sleeping so who knows now if that's going to happen. It's already after noon!
A while back, our marketing agency produced a package that was direct lobbying. (Asked members to contact their representatives about specific legislation.) I assumed that psycho boss knew and was ok with it since she reviewed the copy. But she apparently did not know what direct lobbying was. So she was surprised when we got dinged against our lobbying cap.

In response, psycho boss set up a meeting with our lobbying guy to teach us all what lobbying was. I was kinda really annoyed by this since I have sat through this meeting twice already. Our marketing agency account rep was supposed to attend too, but she conveniently decided to take the week off and not 1) send someone in her place or 2) tell us she was going to be out.

I send them a polite but firmly worded email with a copy of the presentation, telling them they absolutely had to review and understand it because otherwise we could lose our nonprofit status. Though honestly I don't think these people care.

When I got home, I decided I refuse to stress about them anymore tonight. So I had a nice dinner. Slow cooker vegetarian chili with a fresh spring salad on the side. And then my dog and I took a nice walk. She had several very good poops and sniffed several new people.

After that, I did some weeding in the garden. The weeds had been trying to take over the strawberry patch. One weed was growing right on top of the strawberry plant! How is that possible?

I also took a look at my other garden. If nothing else grows, at least I'll have zucchini. That appears to be the only thing surviving. My tomatoes did not get eaten by squirrels. This time they just curled up and died on their own. I suspect they were not adequately hardened off. Annoying. The cantaloupe and cucumbers are still seeds, but that's expected since I only planted them Sunday.

Once I washed off a bit, I took pictures of my knitting projects - the sweater I am stuck on and the socks I finished a while back. Behold!
Monochromatic Tubey Sweater - In progress My first socks

And then I enjoyed some dessert (homemade rice pudding with freshly grated cinnamon) while I watched an episode of Good Eats on making hamburgers (A Grind is a Terrible Thing to Waste). I want to make my own burgers for the Fourth of July. In theory, it'll not only taste better, but also reduce our chances of catching a nasty bug like e coli.

When my episode was over, I decided to go through the box of old clothes my mom sent me. I kept two or three shirts for sentimental reasons. The others all went into a bag for goodwill because they were comically small. The bottom hem stopped at my belly button for one too many shirts.

While trying on shirts, a GIANT spider came crawling out from under my dresser. The thing was nearly the size of a quarter. Normally I can handle spiders but THAT was not a normal spider. I used up all my courage, but I managed to trap him in a cup and slide a piece of paper underneath to carry him outside. I did a very graceful fling-the-cup-and-run-like-a-little-girl move before I slammed the door shut.

Now I have to go to bed in that room, knowing there was a giant man eating spider living in it. What if there are baby man eating spiders? I'm going to die in my sleep.
Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed artichokes look very nice, but take far too long to make and are a pain to eat.

In other news, my bus driver missed our exit today. It was the last exit before the airport, so we had to go all the way there and then turn around. It only delayed us about 10 minutes. If that happens to be the worst bus incident I have for the rest of the year, I will be very happy. (Please no buses igniting into flames like last summer.)
1. I need to learn to take fewer pictures.
2. Finally done going through all 200+ zoo pictures.

Lion Pride

A couple more zoo pictures )

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