Sunday, June 23, 2013

Menu Plan

Monday: Chicken Alfredo

Tuesday: Cheddarwurst, corn on the cob, cantaloupe

Wednesday: Beef and Pineapple Kabobs

Thursday Lunch: Combo of this recipe and these instructions

Thursday: Pan Fried Pork Chops, baked sweet potatoes

Friday: leftovers for dinner
Gaming snack: Jalapeno Popper Dip

 Saturday: Bacon Omelets
Putting all the ingredients on the table, people can grab what they want. I'll have to cook up each omelet separately, but I can do that.
Sunday: Ree's Favorite Sandwich. This is a menu for just me. I'll put all the ingredients on the table, and everyone can put whatever they want on their sandwiches, then I'll grill them all up.

Philly Trip: Day 5....Greatest Military on Earth

Thursday, May 30th

Before we left on our trip, the Jedi had emailed a long time friend from childhood and beyond who is now a Lt. Col. in the AirForce and is stationed in DC. The Jedi said that we would be in D.C for a few days and that we would love to get together with him and his family at some point if they were available. The Lt. Col emailed back that they'd love to see us and oh, by the way, would we like a private tour of the Pentagon?


Yesterday, while we were in Gettysburg, the Lt. Col emailed the Jedi to tell us that he would be at our hotel at O Nine Hundred. I asked the Jedi to warn the Lt Col that I didn't do any times that started with O- anything, especially in the morning and that, in fact, all my times ended in "-ish". The Jedi gave me a *look* and I don't think that tidbit got passed along.

The Lt. Col did indeed show up at 0900. We were almost ready. I count that as a victory.

The Lt. Col was last stationed in Alaska, so we immediately got an Alaskan license plate. Then, in the staff parking lot for the Pentagon, we managed to find almost every other state that we still needed, including 2 from Hawaii!

It was supposed to be a really hot day, so we visited the outdoor 911 first.

That was more powerful and more moving than I was prepared for. The designer for the memorial was inspired. Located on the exact site where the plane struck, the memorial contains 184 "bench" monuments, one for each life that was lost there. These are arranged on time lines according to the year of the individuals birth.

Under each small monument is a reflecting pool, which create rippling movements of light and shadow on the metal underside of each monument. The orientation of the monument indicates whether the person was in the Pentagon or on the plane when the tragedy occured.

The person's name is inscribed on the end of their marker. Standing at the end of the marker, reading the name and facing the Pentagon indicates the person was in the Pentagon. Standing at the end of the marker, reading the name, and facing away from the Pentagon indicates the person had been on the plane. The lines that all the bench monument make indicates the direction of the incoming plane.

It was so sobering to walk through the field of markers, knowing that these were lives lost and destinies forever entwined in a single, tragic moment of time.

Cameras are not permitted inside the Pentagon.  So, no pictures for my blog!

The Pentagon itself is just immense. It contains 7 floors and 5 concentric rings along its five sides to make 17.5 miles of corridors. Each corridor that we walked down (and we walked down a LOT of corridors), was its own museum. Each hallway told the story of an aspect of a branch of our military. There is way too much for me to list it all, so I'll highlight what really stood out to each of us.

  • Toa of Boy--two wall display of models of all the airforce vehicles from the Wright brothers flyer to modern day. Also, Tos of Boy bought an attack helicopter in the huge gift shop. It has a moving gun on its bottom, and it lights up and makes noises.
  • Sweetling--also was impressed by the model plane display. She also enjoyed the walls upon walls of military themed paintings created by service men and women. The hallway denoting a few of the humanitarian missions of the military was really cool as well.
  • Me--The 911 memorial was so profound. I also appreciated the photos and accounts of the bravery of medal of honor recipiants. One of the airforce hallways had a wall for "outstanding airmen", where each year 12 enlisted men and women from many different departments are selected to be honored for their excellence in carrying out the day to day jobs of the air force.
  • The Jedi, of course, was all about the historical displays, but he also really appreciated those that emphazed what our ground forces hve gone through.
We had lunch in the center courtyard cafe at the Pentagon. That was a Bucket List moment for the Jedi.

From the Pentagon, we rode the Metro over to Arlington Cemetary. This was my first experience with a subway (and Toa's). We had a lesson, which we reviewed often, about what to do if anyone got separated from the family on the subway.

Things we wish we knew about Arlington ahead of time....water bottles are permitted. Bring them. Hats are a good idea. I saw some women with sun umbrellas. That was a brilliant idea on their part.

At Arlington, we paid our respects at the tomb of the unknown soldier

and were fortunate enough to witness several ceremonial presentations of wreaths.

And, since we were visiting on the anniversary of the original "Decoration Day", which later bacame Memorial Day, we went to the first part of a Decoration Day Ceremony held in the old ampitheater, which was constructed just for that purpose and has been the location of Decoration Day Ceremony every May 30th for the past 145 years.

From the ampitheater we walked to the nearby Tomb of the Unknown Civil War soldier. The inscription on the monument read,
 "Beneath this stone repose the bones of two thousand one hundred and eleven unknown soldiers gathered after the war from the fields of Bull Run and the route to the Rappahannook. Their remains could not be identified, but their names and deaths are recorded in teh archives of their country; and its grateful citizens honor them as of their noble army of martyrs: May they rest in peace."

Three things impressed us most about Arlington. It's sheer size is on a scale that is difficult to imagine. It is like the Grand Canyon. The mind can only absorb a part of it through pictures, its another thing entirely to be there....and then to know that you have only seen a small portion of it.

See the white fields in the distance of the photo? Those are more headstones.

Second, the amount of reverence and respect demonstrated at the Tomb of the Unknown is just ........ That is another thing that a person must be present in order to fully appreciate.

Lastly, and most touching, was the number of graves with personal momentos recently placed on them. Flowers across the top of the headstones were common. Also common were small rocks, some with written words like "hero", placed and balanced on top of the grave stones. At one grave, a woman knelt and made a rubbing of the gravestone of a loved one or a family member.

After Arlington, everyone was quiet. Not only were we hot and tired, but the experience was a sobering one. We Metro'd back to the hotel. The Jedi went down the hall, got ice, and filled up everyone's waterbottle. Then he went out and got Chinese and brought it back to the hotel for us.

We showered and crashed for the night.

(Read from the beginning of this trip.)
(Go back to day four.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Philly Trip: Day 4......Colonial Williamsburg!

Wednesday, May 29th

This was definitely one of the stops I was personally looking forward to the most. And if I were clever enough to through in a couple more -ly suffixes in that first sentence, you know I would.

Because we had gotten in late after a long drive and an exhausting, but tremendously fun pool time, and because the day was going to be hot and long, we took our time getting out the hotel in the morning. Consequently, we got in the van at 10:24. It was already 85 degrees and sunny.

While the Jedi checked us out of the hotel. I took pictures of the kids. Cause that's what I do.

In the parking lot of the visitor's center, we drove up and down the rows spotting license plates for our traditional state license plate spotting game. Between the ones we had spotted on the highway over memorial day weekend and the ones we found in the parking lot, we only needed seven or so plates to have spotted all fifty states.

This has nothing to do with license plates, but someone was nice enough to get a picture of the four of us together in front of the visitor's center. It's the only picture I have of us together from the whole trip, so it's precious...

Colonial Williamsburg was indeed hot. But it was also way cool. I loved it. (I think it was a little hot, and a little too long for the kids to completely love it.)

Trip tips for others planning on visiting (things we had wished we had known).
  • Hats are a must. Get a sun hat or a ball cap for each person in your family. Wear them. There are lots of big shady trees, but on a bright sunny summer day in a southern state, you will want a hat to shade your eyes and head.
  • Sunscreen is also a must.
  • Water bottles are allowed in the village. Bring at least one for each person and plan on refilling it. Carry a backpack or two to put them in.
  • Admission tickets are expensive BUT, if you are traveling on a tight budget, tickets aren't required to walk around the town, enter some of the shops, or watch the outdoor dramas. Tickets are required for the shuttle bus, most of the participatory and demonstration shops, and any indoor tours, dramas, or events. We did tickets and I found them worth it, but if tickets were outside of our budget, a partial experience would be better than none.
  • Food is also expensive. I don't know what the rules or regulations are about bringing in food. Certainly no one inspected any of our bags at any time. A huge cooler on wheels wouldn't work on the crushed shell walkways anyway, but some lunch items in backpacks would probably go unnoticed and be fine.
  • The cool stuff closes at 5. (And well before 5, you and your family will be beat.) Plan on getting there early and take a mid day break if needed.
Our favorite things in Colonial Williamsburg--

Sweetling got a tri-cornered hat to add to her collection. (Photo in the gardens of the Governor's Mansion. We started our time in Williamsburg with a tour of the mansion. I highly recommend it.)

Toa of Boy, and Sweetling too, got to help stomp the mud for bricks. (There were lots of trade craftsmen demonstrating how things were made and done at the time. We visited many of them...but this was, for obvious reasons, a boy favorite.)

Mommy loved the costumed characters.

They stayed in character all day. They would walk down the street discussing issues of the times with each other.

One gentleman advised me to make sure I took Sweetling to her harpsichord lesson, since that was the way to ensure she could be matched with a good husband.

The Jedi loved the fife and drum parade at the end of the day. (Which we only have a video of. Videos don't load as gracefully on my blog as I would like, so I'm just going to save myself the frustration of messing with.)

We left Colonial Williamsburg at 5:58 and found a Dairy Queen to get some Blizzards (and a few chicken fingers and onion rings as a light dinner.) I couldn't manage even a small blizzard, so I ordered a "mini" Blizzard. Toa of Boy patted me on the back and said, "That's ok, Mommy. You are just a cute little thing."

(Read from the beginning.)
(Go back to day three.)
(Go on to day five.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Philly Trip: Day 3...... Waves of Fun

Tuesday, May 28th

This morning we managed to roll out of the hotel room at 9:19. Still not fabulous time, but there were extenuating circumstances that I'm not going to elaborate on here. In Canton, the sky was overcast and the temperature was a cool 63.  The forecast called for rain all the way through West Virginia.

This did not bode well for our intended recreational "layover".

Fortunately the skies were mostly clear by lunchtime. We sopped at Ridgeview BBQ, because it had made some bbq book. The ribs were cooked to what the general public (those rubes) tends to prefer....fall off the bone tender. Sadly, even I found them to be over done, and I like my ribs a little too cooked by KCBS standards.

Our lunchtime disappointment aside, the most important feature of the day was still on our travel menu....Waves of Fun Waterpark in Hurricane, West Virginia.

THAT was a huge success!

It generated my favorite quote of the trip to-date....

"I've been pantsed by a pool!"

Admission was extremely reasonable. The grounds were spacious and well kept. Fun 80s music played over the loud speakers. (Sweetling called the music "retro", but as her loving mother, I shall forgive her applying that adjective to the tunes of my teenage years). The water slides had little to no lines and were super fun, and the giant wave pool sent lots of varieties of waves through the water on frequent regular intervals.

We purposefully left the camera in the car so that we could all enjoy the pool. But I grabbed a couple of pictures of the park, and right before we left, the Jedi went out to the car and brought the camera in to make one video of the waves. He caught the tail end of a wave cycle, and the kids and I were starting to wear down, so we had moved to a gentle section of the wave pool. (The biggest of the waves knocked the Jedi off his feet). 

We were there for three hours, though we could have easily stayed for five to six hours and not grown bored. As it was, we left at 6pm with a lot of driving still ahead of us.

At my request, we stopped a little chain restaurant called "Biscuit House" for dinner. I don't know where in West Virginia we were, but I had seen a couple signs for them at various exits. I knew we were in the right place, when we pulled into the parking lot and the back of the restaurant had a small dumpster labelled "Used Cooking Oil".  I got a "Mountaineer" biscuit sandwich while Toa got the "Mary B" and the Jedi got a "Herd". I should have got a side of grits. Sweetling and Eswin each got a side bowl of fried apples. The biscuits were big and hot and flaky and delicious. Everyone enjoyed their dinner.

In the last minute, unplanned scramble that this was, I had neglected to grab a module or prep any materials for a solo game for the Jedi. In the car earlier, I had sent a frantic email to Christopher Robin, and she emailed me a module. I saved the pdf to my phone, and was able to run an adventure for the Jedi in the hours between West VA and Colonial Williamsburg.

I have no idea what time it was when we arrived at the hotel.

(go back to Days 1 and 2)
(go forward to Day 4)

To Philly....through Canton

Day One (Sunday, May 26th)

We left Cincinnati late in the morning. Very late in the morning. 11:17 worth of late in the morning. contrast that with our California trip a couple of years ago where we managed to pull out of the driveway at 6:18 a.m.

This trip is not going to be the clockwork ballet that the California trip was.

Our late departure caused us to scrap our first intended lunch stop (Holy Smoke in Columbus). Instead we grabbed Wendy s through a drive-thru and ate in the car.

Not a nice trade, my precious. Not a nice trade at all.

Once in Canton, we realized we had little to complain about. The Jedi's sister and nephew had just flown in from California, and had been in airports or on planes for some nightmarish number of hours and hadn't eaten in over 12 hours.

We all went to Friendly's.

The Dungeon Lord and his family joined us and, after dinner, the Dungeon Lord and the Jedi polished off a crowd pleaser with ease.

The Dungeon Lord and his family are now renting Nana's house. We headed over there after dinner. That was difficult for the Jedi, though the Dungeon Lord had done a wonderful job of renovating the old house.

When the Jedi was in high school and in college, he and his friends had gathered round the table in the kitchen extension to play D&D. For at least part of that time, his toddler nephew would sit in Uncle Jedi's lap and roll dice. Now that the nephew is all grown up and has done three tours of duty in Afghanistan (where he and other service men would play rpgs when the power went out and it was 120 degrees), the Jedi thought it would be cool to invite Nephew to join to join us for a game in the old place. I volunteered to run a Pathfinder module, so that the Jedi, the Nephew, and the Dungeon Lord could all play through the adventure together. Sweetling decided she wanted to join the game as well. We stayed up way too late, we had a great time, and a hat of disguise was used extremely creatively to achieve the party's objective with minimal bloodshed.  

Day Two (Monday, Memorial Day, May 27th)

Jedi's Sister and Nephew joined us at the cemetery to decorate Bapa's grave.

I had picked up and brought 48 small flags along. Last year, our family had found an older, minimally maintained cemetery in our area. We took some hand trowels and small grass shears and flags and found, cleared off, and decorated the graves of veterans. However, the cemetery Nana and Bapa are in was well kept and flags had already been placed to mark the veterans' graves.

After hugs and farewells to Sister and Nephew, our family stayed and walked through the cemetery to look for any veterans' graves that might have been missed. Sweetling and Toa of Boy each took a handful of flags and fanned out on their own. They each found a few graves to decorate. Toa of Boy also found a rabbit home and brought me over to view his discovery. We decided that a cemetery would be a great place for a rabbit to live.

We left the cemetery just a little before lunch and picked up Pizza Oven to take to Mama M's house. We stayed and had a pleasant visit over there for a while.

My brother and his family had come down with a stomach bug, so our trip to drive out to visit their home in East Nowhere got cancelled and we had the afternoon and evening free. We took a nap at the hotel and then drove around and found a mini golf course. The facility actually had three levels of courses and we chose the "Just for Fun" course. Toa of Boy got two holes--in-one! His first ever! The Jedi and I each had a couple ourselves. Sweetling did amazingly well....but her ball hopped over the hole, and she was "robbed" from claiming a hole-in-one. Apparently I went into a temporary brain coma and forgot to grab any pictures of the course. Not even one of the ball eating giraffe. (I grabbed this one from the ProPutt website).

We picked up Chinese for dinner, took it back to our room, and watched Rat Race.