The Archives, Mom’s birthday — and a whole lot of cherry blossoms

Happy April! I don’t have any seemingly innocent April Fool’s jokes to play on you, and I would appreciate everyone keeping me out of their devious pranks, too. My head is still cloudy from all the allergy meds running rampant through my system. I’m not at my personal best — so you’d just be taking advantage of an invalid. Shame on you!

declaration_of_independence_stone_6301Despite the death rattle that is my cough and my general grumpiness, life does seem to be continuing! Yesterday was my mom’s birthday, so we trekked downtown to visit the National Archives and check out the blooming cherry blossoms around the tidal basin. The Archives were really neat — home to literally millions of documents, including the original copy of the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. We waited in line to get into the rotunda and saw the actual documents! I felt a little bit like a character from “National Treasure,” and a nice kid behind my mom kept talking about seeing the “laser beams” protecting the Constitution. I snapped a few photos of each — without flash, as the kindly security guard reminded us — but none really came out too great. The text on each piece is really faded. Not that this surprises me, of course — I mean, they’re only, like, 250 years old. On the Declaration, though, you can still make out the signature of John Hancock. How cool!

crowd2From the Archives, it was over to lunch at the Elephant & Castle and onward to the tidal basin — where the cherry blossoms are in bloom! Despite living in the D.C. area my whole life, I’d somehow never made it down to check them out. No more! I was stunned at how beautiful they are, and they’re not even at their “peak” blooming date yet (that’s supposed to be now through April 4, though it’s all gray out today. Not so pretty). I took photos of tourists and for tourists, often “swapping” photos with them — “Can you take a photo of the two of us, and we’ll take a photo of the two of you?” Everyone was surprisingly friendly, and that’s partially how I knew they were from out of town.

blossoms17And they were so gorgeous! I knew I would love them, of course, considering the fact that I love anything pink and I happen to adore the cherry blossom perfume from Bath & Body Works. Against my instincts, I won’t ram you over the head with a montage of my cherry blossom photos — but you can check them all out on my Flickr page, if you’re interested! Aside from the regular bloom shots, I’m partial to my paddle boat photos. The man in the photo below had his own tiny camera in one hand, and I was concerned for a second that he and his mom were going to paddle up near where we were and ask me to snap a photo for them. Not that I would have minded — I’m friendly — but the idea of leaning down to grab his camera was really scary to me. As a consolation, I felt compelled to shout to them, “Don’t worry, I’m capturing this moment for you — I’ll put it on Flickr! I’m writemeg!”

Thankfully, I refrained. I don’t think they would have heard me, anyway, and I’m kind of losing my voice.

blossoms_boat1So cameras were everywhere — seriously, everyone had one, even if it was just their camera phone. Mom and I joined the mesmorized crowds and even ran into one of her coworkers. Awesome guy that he is, my dad dropped us off right by the tidal basin and drove back around to grab us 45 minutes later. Plenty of time to snap more than 100 photos!

Since I started my photography class with Mom in February, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to, you know, learn things about photography. I’m certainly no master, but I’m happy with the way Kristie has taught us to look at the world differently! blossoms_monument4I notice angles in a completely new way now, and I’ve really started paying attention to things like shutter speed, aperture and depth of field. Two months ago, I couldn’t have told you a single thing about any of that. Following in my mother’s footsteps, I’m rarely ever seen outside without my PowerShot dangling from my wrist — but didn’t really know how to frame a great picture before. Now I’m learning — and having so much fun. Yay for adult continuing education classes! We only have two more courses after this week and I’m pretty sad about that! I’ve met some really interesting people and enjoyed the new creative outlet.

And it’s back to work today! But since I took a Tuesday off, I have a shortened week to survive. Not a problem. My boyfriend, sister and I are going to see Duff from Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes” speak at the University of Maryland, my alma mater, tonight, and I’m really stoked about that, too! I’ll be back with a full report tomorrow — and with cake in my belly, hopefully.

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Birthdays, anniversaries — all in a weekend’s work

Whew! I’m coming off a food and sugar high of fabulous eating and family time this weekend. Yesterday was my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary and we celebrated with a wonderful dinner, a fantastic cake (made by my grandmother herself — and with her original cake topper!) and tons of presents.

Everything went incredibly well! As always, I loaded up on tons of desserts. Here’s a sample of what we bit into last night:

As always, it seems too pretty to eat! But we did, of course.
After taking tons of photos.

My grandparents (right) on their wedding day -- Oct. 25, 1958

My grandparents (right) on their wedding day -- Oct. 25, 1958

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Fall party food & sunsets

Another successful family birthday party! My grandmother never fails to pull off a really fun bash. We celebrated my uncle’s big day, which is actually Tuesday . . . but who can get together during the work week? Needless to say, the food was delicious. I ate way too much but can hardly contain myself with “party food” all spread out before me. As my mother always says, “It tastes so good because you never make it for yourself!” And this, apparently, is true.

We spent much of the afternoon watching the Cartoon Network’s old “Goosebumps” re-runs from the mid ’90s with my 11-year-old cousin — a surefire good time. And hey, the Redskins beat the Eagles today! So the gentlemen were all happy — including my dad, who’s on his way back from Philly.

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Ice cream cake dreams

If you’re partying around my house, I don’t think it’s actually a celebration until we whip out the ice-cream cake. Yesterday was my boyfriend’s birthday and we commemorated the occasion in the typical fashion: via Carvel. Though my sister apparently is no longer a fan of the typical Carvel take-home cake (apparently demmed the “Lil’ Love” confection), she still approves of anything cookies & cream. So that’s what we had in honor of Palmer.

Store-bought treats are delicious, of course. And I’ve never been one to really turn down dessert. But I have to state publicly that I firmly believe my mom makes the greatest ice-cream cakes ever — and I need to get her “recipe” (or formation guide?). Growing up, Mom would make the cakes for the triple birthday party we have every year in July (I share a birthday week with both my dad and sister). I couldn’t tell you specifically what exactly goes in the ice-cream cake in an orderly fashion, but I know it usually includes: peanut butter; marshmellows; rainbow sprinkles; cookie-crumble coating; both mint & vanilla ice-cream; M&M candies or equivalent; possibly some form of nut coating on top. And I think there’s some caramel and chocolate drizzle over the top-most layer, though that could be my imagination.

Yes, the frozen ice-cream cakes of my youth were pretty awesome. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t enjoy a ready-to-go Carvel creation as well. Needless to say, all the plates were clean around my table.

Happy birthday, Palmer!