Farewell 2014

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This year we are ringing in the New Year with dear friends in Capitol Hill, and while I am looking forward to champagne and all the promise that the new year holds, I can’t help but reflect back on what a crazy, amazing year 2014 was.  I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with the people we love, to welcome so many new little people into our lives, celebrate milestones with so many lovely friends, and to have been able to explore just a little bit more of the world.

Here are just a few of the highlights from 2014.

Chilly temps and warm friends during a winter visit to Philadelphia.

Watching strangers rifle through our free book box.

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Spending a quiet week in Paris with my gorgeous Mama.

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A brief but colorful visit to Copenhagen.

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Trying to consume all the cheese in Vermont with a few of our besties.

Lots of time exploring New Jersey and its lovely shore now that we have family there.

2014.Austin.6 A few fleeting, but lovely trips to Texas for graduations and weddings.

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Celebrating my birthday by biking to vineyards in Sonoma.

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Sunset sails in Seattle.

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Cabins on the lake during a perfect Michigan summer.

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So many amazing weeks in California, including trips to LA, Joshua Tree and Big Sur.

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Finally made it out to Shenandoah National Park.

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And we had the best Beaujolais Nouveau party yet.

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Holiday scenes from the District

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My family came in for a few days right after Christmas and it’s been absolutely wonderful.  We’ve invited over lots of friends who were in town for the holidays and went to Zoo Lights, and made tacos and played Loteria into the wee hours.  There’s been a lot of sparkling wine, a lot of hugs, hours spent wandering around Capitol Hill, and even a magical few hours watching the Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre.  I wish they could stay forever.

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Holiday scenes from New Jersey

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December, 2014.

Merry Christmas

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We’re spending the next few days with family in New Jersey, and more family visiting from Texas.  I’m so happy to be surrounded with the ones I love best.  Merry Christmas to you and yours!

A little holiday reading:

Merry Merry

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Almost Christmastime

Christmas crackers

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I love having Christmas crackers during the holidays, but apart from the paper crown, which is amazingly fun to wear and beloved by all, I always find the goodies inside a little disappointing.  A couple of years ago, I decided to start making my own, and I think this year’s are the best yet.  This video has great instructions, but I’ve also outlined what I did below.

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I used the end of a pen to stamp white polka dots on this cheery coral paper leftover from a project.

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Once the paint had dried, I turned the sheet over and lightly secured a cracker snap to the back with a little tape.  I get my cracker snaps from Old English Crackers.  Don’t worry if they hang over the edge of your paper a bit; you can trim them back later.

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Line up three cardboard tubes on the paper, with the middle tube spaced exactly in the center, then roll the paper lightly around the tubes and secure with tape.

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Pull one of the outer tubes out from the center about 1.5 inches.  Hold the center tube in one hand and the separated outer tube in the other, and twist them in opposite directions.  This will crinkle the paper in the open space between the tubes, and create a smaller opening along the side of the central tube so that your cracker contents don’t fall out.  Cut a piece of ribbon or yarn and secure the crimped area of the paper tube.  Once secured you can remove the outer tube from that side of the cracker.

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Next you should fill the cracker with a variety of small gifts.  I like to use candy, stickers, scratch tickets, and this year I found some googly eyes.  And of course, don’t forget the tissue paper crown.

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Once you’ve stuffed your cracker with gifts, secure the other end in the same way as before.

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At this point you can trim the cracker snap so it lines up with the edge of the paper.  Use a little glue to secure it to outer edge of the cracker, and you’re all set for Christmas fun!

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Painting wrapping paper

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Last year I started experimenting with making my own wrapping paper.  Nothing too fancy, just paint and paper.  I like that I can buy basic materials and make just as much as I need, a critical idea when you live in a place with a shortage of storage.  This year I found a roll of basic butcher paper and white tempura paint, figuring it would be easy to reuse them for any occasion.  I tore off four foot sheets and experimented with patterns of lines, dots, and triangles.

To add a little color, I make gift tags with a little bit of butcher paper and pages torn from the stack of catalogs I get around the holidays.  Anthropologie and Boden had particularly beautiful winter catalogs this year, and I love how nicely these came out.  A bit of yarn and some of last year’s sparkly gold washi tape, and I have a simple but pretty stack of gifts waiting for Christmas Day.

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Peppermint bark time!

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I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, but over the last few years I fallen in love with peppermint bark as a holiday treat.  The simplicity of the ingredients let’s me focus on using really good quality chocolate which is great for flavor and keeps the sweetness factor in check.  However, I’ve found that the real magic is adding rice krispies to the white chocolate layer.  It creates a subtle crunch that gives this holiday treat a special something, and everyone who tries them always remarks about how much they love the crunch.  We have multiple family holiday gatherings next week and I’m planning to make a few batches to share.

Here is a link to the original recipe over at Shutterbean and here is the more in depth write-up I did about peppermint bark last year.

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Tis the season for holiday cards

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I’ve always been a big fan of mail.  Whenever I travel I try to send postcards, and though I’m rotten at remembering to send birthday cards, nothing makes me cheerier during the holidays than the annual exchange of holiday cards.  I love coming home every day to check the mail and find a small stack of colorful photos from friends and family across the country.  This year we found a gorgeous card from Minted to pair with the colorful photo we took in front of our beloved bookshelves.  In the past we always did slightly irreverent cards, but this year I just felt like doing something pretty, and I’m really thrilled with how these came out.

PS. Our cards from last year, which featured our new neighbor, the DC panda cub.

Ever green

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Picking up a little seasonal greenery to add some holiday cheer to our home.

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Long ago, it must be

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November, 2014.

Night in the city looks pretty to me

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Getting lost in Central Park after the sun had set was a little romantic, a little exhilarating, a teensy bit scary, and oh so pretty.

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November 2014.

Bookends

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Aren’t these sandstone carvings from Bethesda Terrace in Central Park amazing?  I’d love to have a set of them as bookends.

Wanderings: Central Park

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While we usually make it up to New York City a few times a year, I realized on my last visit that I hadn’t been to Central Park since I was a teenager.  This visit, in the hours between lunch with a friend in Brooklyn and dinner with other friends in Harlem, we found ourselves in the Park, walking around for hours, listening to opera singers perform in the echoing Bethesda Arcade, and enjoying the last of the fall colors and the crisp weather.

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It’s Friday, I’m in love

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Now that we’re truly in the Christmas season, I’m starting to get the itch to decorate the apartment, bake some goodies, and get a move on sending out Christmas cards.  We have a bunch of Christmas parties coming up next week, so I’m hoping to pick up some pine boughs, a wreath, and maybe a tiny tree to deck our halls this weekend.

Hope you have a great weekend!

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Here are a few links to some awesome art and photography projects to get you through your Friday.

  • Alix has been in Bora Bora and the photos are gorgeous [Cherry Blossom Girl]
  • How to fold the world’s best paper airplane [via This is Collosal]
  • A perspective-bending art exhibit in Vegas [via Medium]
  • Photographer Scott Chasserot explores people’s own ideal versions of themselves [Original Ideal]
  • I’m wild for these photos of a Parisian apartment [Garance Doré]

Photo from Central Park, New York City.  November 2014.

My lady never told me of her sadness

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Keeping up with news around the country has been so painful the last few weeks.  Lots of love to New York City today.

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A few black and white shots from our visit this past weekend, taken mostly around Columbus Circle and Lincoln Square. November, 2014.

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A year with Capital Bikeshare

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This past weekend marked my first full year of membership to Capital Bikeshare, DC’s bicycle sharing program, and I thought it would be fun to reflect a little on a year spent riding around on those distinctive red bikes.

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In the spring of 2013, I was starting to feel more comfortable biking around town and decided to try commuting into work via bicycle.  I have a gorgeous little Dutch-style bike from Public Bikes, and I loved the idea of building more exercise into my routine while cutting out some of the stresses of taking the metro or the bus (we don’t have a car).  There aren’t great north/south bike lanes on my side of town, but I quickly figured out that I could travel on the bike path through Rock Creek Park, DC’s greenbelt, and avoid riding through traffic almost entirely.  Summer and fall of last year as a bike commuter were so amazing!  I was spending so much less money on transportation, riding through the park was gorgeous, and the one down-side of the ride, a steep hill alongside traffic just before I got home, was nerve-wracking but had left me with killer legs.

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Then, in late fall, Daylight Savings Time ended and I realized that I couldn’t safely bike home in the dark through poorly lit Rock Creek Park.  Riding through the city felt too dangerous, especially in the after-work rush with scant bike lanes and poor visibility.  I was pretty devastated at the thought of being stuck on public transportation all winter, and I kept wishing I could just ride in to work in the the mornings and magically transport my bike back to my apartment in the evening.  And then it hit me: Capital Bikeshare!  In the mornings, when there was daylight, I could pick up a bike at the kiosk on my block, drop it off right outside my office, and then take the bus or metro home in the evenings when it was dark.DSC_0664

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I signed up.  A one-year membership to Bikeshare is $75.  A few days later you get a handy little key-fob in the mail, and you have unlimited 30-minute rides for a whole year.  So, if you’re wondering what I’ve thought of using Bikeshare, I’d have to say, it’s been great and I just signed up for year two!  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Overall, I had 137 rides using Bikeshare last year, mostly for commuting.  That’s pretty good considering (1) I only ride one way, (2) I  traveled for about nine weeks last year, and (3) we had a terrible winter that was often too snowy and icy for safe riding.
  • My commute averages 24-27 minutes depending on my energy level and if the park is looking really photogenic that day.
  • I like the one-way rides so much that it’s now my new routine all year.  My leg muscles aren’t quite as killer, but I ride more often now that I don’t dread struggling up that crazy hill in traffic.
  • Bikeshare’s website makes it super easy to locate kiosks and check bike availability.  I don’t use the app, but only because my phone is crap.
  • My local kiosk is incredibly popular so sometimes bikes can be scarce.  This is my biggest annoyance overall, but there is another one a few blocks away that usually has bikes.
  • Rickety bikes that make weird noises are annoying though workable. You get better at identifying and avoiding them.
  • The bike bells are broken about 25% of the time, but that isn’t a huge deal.
  • I’ve had one mid-ride flat tire.  Not bad for a whole year of riding, and super not bad considering that all I had to do about it was walk the bike to the next kiosk, hit the red button for repairs (and turn the seat around to warn other riders), and grab another bike.
  • Bikeshare charges an extra fee if you go over the 30 minute limit.  This only happened to me once and I was on a slow ride with a very pregnant friend, so we knew it was likely.  The extra time was less than half an hour so the additional cost came out to $1.50.
  • In DC it tends to rain in the afternoon, so it’s really great to ride to work when the weather is still nice, and grab a bus in late afternoon when it’s pouring/snowing/sleeting.  No more choosing between leaving my bike at work overnight or riding through awful weather.

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I was also mulling over the finances of using Bikeshare as opposed to bus and metro commuting, and thought the cost breakdown was pretty interesting, too.

  • A $75 membership fee spread out over 137 rides comes out to about $0.55 per ride.
  • Bus fare is $1.75 per ride if you use a SmartTrip card.  137 rides on the bus would be $212 at regular fare.
  • Metro fare is $2.15 minimum during peak hours (which is when I commute).  137 rides on the metro would come out to $294.55.

So overall I have to say that I’ve loved using Bikeshare and I’m excited to see how many rides I can get in over the next year.  It almost feels like a challenge to beat this year’s total!

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Have you ever rented a bike or used a bikesharing program?  We’ve had a few experiences with both over the last year:

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Another lovely Thanksgiving

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Another lovely Thanksgiving spent in New Jersey, this time with 100% more cute baby nieces.  All the cuteness plus a lot of desserts and visiting with friends and family made for a wonderful holiday weekend!  Hope yours was great, too!.

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