Back to the church…


I’ve never been to church twice in such a short time-span!    Last night I  went back to the National City Christian Church, and took the manservant with me, to see a performance by the Washington Sinfonietta.

A sinfonietta is a musical group larger than a chamber ensemble but smaller than a full-size orchestra.   The Washington Sinfonietta last night had:  12 Violins,  4 Violas,  4 Cellos, 2 Double Bass, 2 Flutes,  3 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 3 Bassoons, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 1 Timpani/Percussion and the Organist and Conductor.

IMG_1508The event was titled “The King of Instruments Returns” and it consisted of 3 works in a program that lasted about 2 hours:-

Symphony No. 26 in E Flat, K 184  by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Organ Concerto in F, Op. 4, No. 4 HWV 292  by George Frideric Handel

Serenade No. 1, in D, Op. 11  by Johannes Brahms

As you can imagine there was amazing sound reverberating around the church but even so, it failed to keep the manservant awake during Mozart.    He said he was building up his stamina for Brahms!

At the end of the performance I went to the restroom, leaving the manservant to read all the displays on the history of the organ.  He wondered why I was taking so long …..   I felt as if I was back on the farm priming a pump.IMG_1510a

This is Thomas Circle as seen from the portico of the church.  There is a bronze equestrian statue of George Henry Thomas in the center.  The statue was done by John Quincy Adams Ward and was erected in the Circle in 1879.  IMG_1513

We decided on a late dinner somewhere along 14th Street and had to walk quite a way before we found a place with no wait for a table.  We found this new place, Bar di Bari, with outdoor seating and the weather was perfect for sitting outside.   We shared a cheese platter while waiting for mains of veggie lasagne (me) and steak.  Oh, and I enjoyed a glass of New Zealand Savignon Blanc while the manservant paired his steak with a very nice Sangiovese.    IMG_1516a

A very pleasant Saturday evening – though I think some of us enjoyed the classical music more than others…..


From the “funny but not really” file…

About 6 years ago I signed up for local alerts – notices of disasters, community meetings and crimes delivered by email to my in-box.  Crime alerts arrive with subject lines like:  <Robbery>  ,   <Shooting> ,   <Deadly Force> ,   <Hit and Run> ,   <Homicide in X Street> ,   <Homicide Victim Identified> ,  <Suspect Sought> ,  <Gun retrieved>.
Given the number of these I get each day I’m sometimes surprised that I actually leave the house!
Of course I could unsubscribe but then I might miss something important.  So …  I generally stick to reading the <Daily Crime Report>  of summarized offenses where I can skim the streets listed and generally dismiss them as being an “away from home street”.
Yesterday this one came with subject  <robbery>.     I admit to laughing as I read it, but it’s a case of something being funny when the situation is not.  I can certainly appreciate how traumatic and definitely un-funny it would be to have a gun pointed at you.
This afternoon, at approximately 3 pm, two subjects entered the liquor store in the xx block of Y Road. They were wearing ski masks. One of the suspects brandished a handgun and demanded to know where the safe was. Ultimately, they ran out of the store partly carrying and partly dragging a black metal safe, roughly 18 inches in length, width and height. It weighed well over 100 pounds and contained a sizable amount of cash. They also took a large bottle of tequila……
At 7am yesterday morning I had come across this scene at my metro station on my way to work:    IMG_1489a
3 Transit Police vehicles, 4 MPD police cars and one young man spread-eagled at the metro entrance.   As I descended into the metro (well, surely I’d have been stopped if there was a serious situation),  there were police all over the platform.  I checked those alerts all day (which is how I came to be reading the robbery one) and never did find out what had happened!

50th Anniversary March on Washington – The Signs


On Saturday the manservant and I went down to the National Mall to the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s  “March on Washington”.    As we entered the Mall near the Washington Monument (shrouded in scaffolding whilst being repaired of damage done during our 2011 earthquake), we were offered signs to carry.  IMG_5770a The other side says “We Demand Equality for All”  but in that photo the manservant has managed to cut off the bottom of the sign as well as make me and the Monument look as though we are falling over.

This was the view as we approached the World War II Memorial:   The Reflecting Pool is in-front of the WWII Memorial and is 2,029 feet (618 m) long and was lined with people on both sides. I’ve heard that there were 100,000 people there but that was not an “official”  number.IMG_5789

We got not quite half way along the Reflecting Pool  – any further forward and I would’ve felt uncomfortable with the number of people –  there was still a bit of breathing space where we stood.   IMG_5810

We could hear the speakers but not see them – not even with my camera zoomed all the way  IMG_5806

There was an array of signs from Statehood for DC,  gay rights, protection of voting rights, child slavery, equality, DREAM Act, posters featuring Trayvon Martin and just about an equal number of tee shirts displaying causes or associations (which will have to be another post because I have too many photos).   IMG_5941










The speakers stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and talked about equality, preserving voting rights, gun violence, economic disparity and promises made which are still outstanding.   (most of the quotes below I grabbed from the Washington Post and NBCWashington  –  I had a camera but no pen & notepad). IMG_5832.

Speakers included Rev. Al Sharpton who said:  “Dreams are for those who won’t accept reality as it is, so they dream of what is not there and make it possible”IMG_5808

He also addressed the young, black, males:   “Don’t disrespect your women. Make it clear that you know that Rosa Parks wasn’t no ‘ho,’ and Fannie Lou Hamer wasn’t no bitch” IMG_5805a

And he said of society that “We need to give them dreams again, not to worry about sagging pants, but sagging morality. If we told them who they could be and what they could do, they would pull up their pants and get to work.”   IMG_5898a



Cory Booker (mayor of Newark NJ) : Me and my generation cannot now afford to sit back consuming all of our blessings, getting dumb, fat and happy thinking we have achieved our freedoms.  IMG_5988

Rep. John Lewis, the last surviving speaker from the 1963 march said …  we’ve come a long way from where we were but we still have a long way to go. “We cannot give up. We cannot give out. And we cannot give in,”   IMG_5842


Attorney General Eric Holder:   Our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays of people with disabilities and of countless others across this great country who still yearn for equality.  IMG_5933



50 years ago women marched but did not address the crowd.  Yesterday Rep. Nancy Pelosi spoke, Sybrina Fulton gave a tribute to her son, Trayvon Martin,  Myrlie Evers-Williams spoke and Rev Bernice King (King’s daughter) closed the event with a prayer.   IMG_5878a






And there was a surprise live performance by Tony Bennett (at least it was a surprise to us as we hadn’t noticed that being advertised).   He sang “Just in Time”    –  there’s an interesting history of why he sang this particular song  hereIMG_5887




Freezing on Ice…


Yesterday I went with a couple of friends to ICE!  at National Harbor.   First there was a 7 minute instructional/safety video where we learnt we were about to enter a world of 9 degrees Fahrenheit,  how the sculptures were made and instructed not to touch or lick the ice.  We were then given bulky and very unflattering blue coats to put on over our own already bulky winter coats – talk about looking like the Michelin (wo)man!  I had my own “puffy” coat underneath….photo-1 copy

A woman offered to take a photo of the three of us  – one day someone will find this photo in isolation and wonder about the blue coats!   (not to mention the strange writing on the faces of 2 of the women).  MDG-1

It was a truly freezing, frozen world:     IMG_0273

ICE! was in a 15,000 sq foot custom built “igloo” which is kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  Using 2 million pounds of ice some of the sculptures are made of colored ice blocks (which didn’t look like ice),  some sculptures are illuminated internally by some of the 1,400 specially designed LED tube lights and some of the ice is engineered to support everything.   IMG_0275

A group of master carvers from Harbin, China, spends nearly a month of 12-hour shifts inside a freezer transforming those two million pounds of ice.IMG_0274

Harbin is in Northeast China where the average winter temperature is only 2 degrees F and where the temperature has been known to drop to -36 F.  Apparently Harbin stays below freezing for half the year.  So, what does one do when surrounded by ice?   Well….  you spend those dark, frozen months learning to carve it.

As part of an Ice Lantern Festival, the carvers would cut blocks of ice out of the Songhua River,  make carvings and display them amongst intricately constructed ice lanterns.    In 1963, the Mayor of Harbin created a formal competition.       The displays were government-sponsored events and organized in public parks  and are still held today.

Sadly for any local would-be ice carvers the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers do not freeze enough to provide the huge chunks of ice needed to make anything decent.  So the display is made of ice made in an ice factory.  There are 3 types of ice used –

1. Clear, “crystal” ice which is the most difficult to make.    De-ionized water is used and it takes 3 days to freeze 45 gallons of water (which makes a 400lb ice block).  IMG_0285

2. White ice which looks like compacted snow – water is frozen quickly giving it a cloudy look.IMG_0277

3.  Colored ice –  made by adding food coloring during the freezing process.   The water has to be constantly stirred as the coloring is added, and as the block freezes, so that the color is consistent throughout the block (so it’s even when they make slices through the block).IMG_0284

The 400lb blocks of ice are delivered on pallets in 36 refrigerated trucks  – 2 trucks a day for nearly 3 weeks which is about as fast as the ice factory can make it.   The blocks are moved into place by forklift and the carvers get to work.

After slicing or carving a piece of ice an artisan sprinkles the surface to be bonded with “snow” . He pours water onto the piece and lifts it into position – at 9 degrees F ordinary water freezes very quickly, sticking one piece to another.

I really liked this one:  IMG_0281

Not really surprisingly none of us felt we needed the thrill of going down a 20-feet tall ice slide on our backs   IMG_0279

All that cold and ice made my bladder itch  –    so off to find the port-a-loo…IMG_0288a
These were no ordinary construction site port-a-loos!  IMG_0289There was even hot water! IMG_0292
The back of the trailer exit door didn’t have a handle which had me worried for a second: IMG_0293
We went for coffee at the Gaylord Resort Hotel which still had Christmas decorations up: IMG_0294It is an impressive looking hotel – all these rooms have balconies overlooking a sunlit courtyard :IMG_0297And glass elevator banks  –  IMG_0298Then we walked down to the water: IMG_0300And looked at the sculpture called  “The Awakening”   –  it would be difficult to get a photo of this without people unless one got up with the sunIMG_0304
The Awakening is a 70 foot giant struggling to free himself.  It is made up of 5 separate pieces and was created by J. Seward Johnson in 1980 and was originally installed at Hains Point.   It was dug up and moved to the National Harbor area in 2008 after the developer (The Peterson Companies) purchased it.  Little kids are climbing on his bearded face and into his mouth which is open in mid-scream.
Then it was time to go home via two stained glass mosaic panels by artist Cheryl Foster.   This one is titled Maryland’s Bounty Panel 1 Panel 1
and this one is Maryland’s Bounty Panel 2 Panel 2

The Old Post Office …


One of the outings we had while the boys & Amanda were here was to the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Ave

The Old Post Office building came to be because of an 1890 decision to consolidate government offices into a central location.  The City Post Office would be in the basement and first floor and other Government offices including the Post Office Department would take up the other floors.

The building was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke who was the “Supervising Architect” of the Treasury from 1891-1893, a position responsible for all federal government building projects at the time.  The Old Post Office took 7 years to complete under 5 different supervising architects.  Construction started by driving 4,000 piles of Virginian pine 20 feet deep into the ground in 1892.   The building was the first steel & iron frame building in DC.  It has granite masonry walls 5 ft. thick which are self-supporting while steel girders support interior floor beams.  The granite veneer came from Vinalhaven in Maine.  The building has Romanesque arches, Romanesque Revival columns, capitals, moldings and spandrels.  There is even a dentiled cornice reminiscent of the machicolation used in medieval fortifications!  There are Byzantine sculptural capitals, French Gothic dormers & sculpture and French Renaissance detailing!

The clock tower rises 315 feet to a hipped roof accentuated by pinnacles at the belfry.  The clock face is supported by stone pilasters.  Above this is the observation deck.


Machine which controls the tower clocks

There is a 9-story light court with enormous skylight and in the building’s renovation in 1983 they added a glass elevator to give access to the observation deck above the clock.

Looking up to the Clock Tower through the massive skylight

In 1899 the Post Office Department began moving into the building.  One of the tourist recommendations in the early 1900’s was to visit the Dead Letter Office which had a museum where you could see all the mail and packages which had gone astray –  this apparently included stuffed alligators, human skulls and a lock of Charles Guiteau’s hair (Guiteau shot & mortally wounded President James Garfield in 1881).   The City Post Office remained in the building for 15 years.

Balcony of offices

The building came under threat in 1928 when Congress voted to buy all the private property around the Post Office Building, demolish everything and build Federal Buildings.   The Post Office Building was saved by the Great Depression when funds for the demolition could not be found.  In the 1960’s the building came under attack again – this time from the President’s Council tasked with making recommendations to clean up Pennsylvania Avenue.   The Council recommended the building be torn down but that the Clock Tower should be saved.   That led to the “Don’t Tear It Down”  campaign in 1970, formed to save the building.

In 1971 a Senate Committee hearing decided to preserve the building and in 1973 the Old Post Office Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Even the bottom concourse gets natural light from the skylight

Even the bottom concourse gets natural light from the skylight

The building was subsequently renovated and re-opened in 1983 as “The Pavilion at the Old Post Office”  with Federal offices on upper floors and the basement level opened up to make a concourse of shops & restaurants.   In 1976 the Ditchley Foundation of Great Britain had presented the US Congress a set of English  ringing bells as a symbol of friendship and these were placed in the Clock Tower in 1983 and  are rung at the opening and closing of Congress and on national holidays.

Of course I went in here!

The National Park Service now operates tours up the Clock Tower and it’s worth going up for the view -and it’s fun going up in the glass elevator though it doesn’t carry many at a time – I think the limit was 9.

Glass elevator crawling up on the left

The Washington Monument is the tallest structure in DC but it is still closed due to the damage it sustained in the earthquake last year.  The Clock Tower of the Post Office Building is the second tallest structure.

View one way


View to the Washington Monument

Recently the GSA called for proposals to redevelop the building and chose the Trump Organization as the successful bidder.   From the GSA press release:  “The Trump Organization proposal calls for converting the Old Post Office to a luxury hotel with more than 250 rooms, along with world renowned restaurants, a spa, and conference facilities, while preserving and enhancing all of its historic features.”

Let’s hope they do keep the integrity of the building  ……  it might be a mish-mash of styles but she’s a lovely old girl. 

Air & Space


As you know, when he’s not playing manservant to me, my husband is an astronomer so it’s not surprising that the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum is his favourite museum.  It seems that he is not alone as, according to the Smithsonian website, that particular museum is the most visited in the world.

Just how many people visit the Air & Space Museum?  An average of 9 million a year!

The museum was originally called the National Air Museum when formed August 12th 1946 by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Truman.   It was renamed the National Air and Space Museum in 1976  to take into consideration the space race of the 1950’s and 60’s.

Anyhow, the manservant loves to take visitors to the museum and step-children are not excepted.    Their first day here we got the “kids” out of the house way earlier than they wanted to ensure we’d be there at opening time to beat the crowds.  As you can see it was pretty empty when we first arrived We wandered around looking at all the interesting spacey things and had plenty of time to read all the little tags and notices.  ~ These are a few of my favourite things~

Here is the Locksmith & Amanda, jetlagged but enjoying the museum

And, following on with the space theme,  today the shuttle piggybacked into town.  Most of our office staff was down near the National Mall watching it fly overhead.  This photo was taken by a work mate as I was one of the few left to “man”  the office.

Autumn & Money


I love it when I get a ride home from work through Rock Creek Park –  and it is especially pretty in Autumn.   This was taken the Friday of the weekend Daylight Savings finished.  Now a drive home from work would be in the dark but I’d still give my friend a hard time about his streaky windscreen:      

I  would feel pretty nervous getting money out of this ATM especially once the sun went down.    Positioned next to  a Parking Lot and right on the footpath in an area known for crimes like bag snatches…



Well, after doing the washing yesterday and stressing (LOL) over those separated socks I decided I was not really in the frame of mind to make any further heavy decisions for the day.   I took to the couch with my book – The Woman from Shanghai: Tales of Survival from a Chinese Labor Camp by Xianhui Yang. 

Around lunch time I thought I would check to see what advice I was getting on my sock dilemma only to find that we didn't have internet.    Oh well, left on my own, I decided that a separation of an entire week would be too much for either of the pair to bear so I put the nice clean one back in the dirty basket. 

This school is not far from me….  their mural really appeals to us – though it is inside a locked gate and the camera has to be poked through a chain link fence:   

I hope the kids are taking notice of the message on their school wall: 

And at their front entrance:

I was definitely not feeling peaceable towards Comcast when there was still no internet as the sun went down!

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No title comes to mind …


So, how is my Remember December project going? 

Well after the first 4 weeks I had lost 10 pounds.  Then I got complacent and found a few of them again. Now, 7 weeks into the project, the net loss is 9 pounds (4.08 kilos).

Not brilliant but a loss is a loss and it is almost a dress size.  I know this not because I was out shopping, but because my current clothes now do up without bits of flesh overflowing where they shouldn't be – clothes no longer need to be "adjusted"  with safety pins and rubber bands.     A few more weeks and I will consider searching for that mother-of-the-groom dress – and getting a suitable  "frock" is going to be a whole other drama!.

We were watching Mad Men on tv Sunday night when a mouse ran out from under my chair and scurried under the manservant's chair.  " Ooooh!" I squealed "there's a mouse".

Manservant: "Yes,  I saw it -  What do you want me to do about it?"  

Well, I wanted him to get up, move his chair, catch the mouse and "dispose" of it  -  what else! 


And now some random weirdness from my neighbourhood: 

Are so many out of service they have to mark the hydrants that work?

This outdoor "office" makes me smile every-time I walk past  -  I love the artwork on the "wall":

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