Best Things of the Week, Vacation Edition

This week’s Best Things has just one topic: vacation!  Which means this is going to be one of those “and then I…and then I…and then I” posts, so for anyone who doesn’t find that interesting, sorry.  Here is a picture of a cute dog to make it up to you:

Gypsy dog

Happy Gypsy!

Background: a few months ago, my friend Al moved to the east coast and I began promising to visit her.  A few weeks ago, I finally followed through and bought plane tickets.  And a few days ago, after extensive preparations (got a pedicure and watched Deadliest Warrior: George Washington vs Napoleon Bonaparte), I set out for Washington, DC!

Day One: I am not where I think I am

And shortly after I landed, I left DC! It turns out Al actually lives in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.  That should tell you how much research I put into this vacation.  Having followed the heat wave from Minnesota, I landed in 95 degree weather at ten p.m.  Logically Al and I went out for mac and cheese, played with the cute dog (above), and crashed.

Day Two: Ice cream, superheroes, and America

I cannot overstate the heat.  Record-breaking, heat-advisories, grossness.  Once again using our own brand of logic, Al and I wandered around Old Town for two hours.  We saw the outsides of some beautiful historical buildings and the inside of any open building with air conditioning and/or ice cream.

Friday evening, we went to Captain America: The First Avenger.  My official review is that it was awesome. But I’m a superhero nerd who cannot wait for The Avengers in 2012 (Whedon!), and I have friends who named their cat Captain America, so…go somewhere else for an unbiased review.

Day Three: Please do not photograph the General’s dentures

Weather update: it’s still hot beyond reason.  Let’s go wander around Mount Vernon!

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

The Mount Vernon experience starts with a 20-minute video on the life of George Washington (logical) with an explanation of the museum’s highlights from Pat Sajak in colonial wear (wait, what now?).  Everything is beautiful and interesting and in every picture I took I look like I’m dying of heat stroke.  Pat Sajak suggested we try Martha Washington’s famous soup, but all we could find were pre-made sandwiches and chips.  Do not trust colonial Pat Sajak.

We made a quick dash through the museum portion and found George Washington’s dentures, and here’s proof!

Do not photograph the general's dentures

Do not even try it.

Here’s more proof!

Me with teeth

George must have had a lovely smile

After some more indoor regrouping, we went on a colonial ghost tour around Old Town.  I had a great time and Al was also there.  I love ghost tours — not because I believe in ghosts or want to be scared, but because I like the weird bits of history they present — but apparently not everyone does.  I made it up to Al by going to an Irish pub and then a karaoke bar.

Gypsy dog

I will not be documenting that portion of the evening in a blog occasionally read by my professor, bosses, mother, and some nuns, so here's that dog again!

 Day Four: Church Space Nine and the National Harbor, wait we’re in Maryland now?

On Sunday morning, Al and I got up and attended the church service at the historic Christ Church in Alexandria, the home church of both George Washington and Henry Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee.  One of the priests at our service played Kelly Taylor’s mother on Beverly Hills, 90210, and I’m not even kidding.

Nurse Jabara

She also played Nurse Jabara on "Deep Space Nine."

We fit one more tourist destination into my trip with a quick visit to the National Harbor, which it turns out is in Maryland.  So in my entire trip — billed in discussions with friends as my “D.C. vacation” — this is about all I saw of D.C.

mini DC

On the way back to the airport.

No matter where I was, the trip was fantastic.  Al and I giggled like we’ve done since college, I didn’t die of heatstroke, and did I mention the dog? Vacations and time with friends — those are the best things.

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Best Things of the Week!

1. This one should be obvious.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to write another five-hundred-word essay about how I got dorky for Jordan Knight.  Because the Backstreet Boys were also there!


I genuinely love this song.  And if I haven’t already made it clear, I had an excellent time at the NKOTBSB concert.

 

Harry Potter 7 poster

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

2. Harry Potter and the End of the Tradition
Of course I’ve read all the Harry Potter books.  Of course I went to the movie the first weekend, and of course I loved it.  But more importantly, I’ve loved the tradition that came with it: I went to every HP movie from Chamber of Secrets on with my oldest friend, CK.  Even though we haven’t lived in the same part of the state in eight years, we have always made a point to get back together for the movies.  Sometimes it winds up being the only time we get together all year, which means we spend the hour or so before the movie using all our words at once to bond/gossip.  A lot of things have changed since I was five (well, kind of), but CK is a forever friend.  She is an excellent person and she makes me feel tall.  We will have to pick another movie series to keep the tradition going; maybe The Hunger Games if Jennifer Lawrence can do justice to Katniss Everdeen.

3. Street Festivals! Extremely hot street festivals!

A friend shared a personal rule with me, and I’m trying to follow it: you can either complain about the heat or the cold, you can’t complain about both.  I personally choose to complain about the cold, so I’m really trying to keep it together during this week of extreme heat.  But then I see things like this:

Weatherman's tweet

You can't spell "damn" without MN.

And this:

94 is buckling

Not great.

When things get life-threatening, I think I can break the complaint rule and join with the rest of the Minnesotans in our unofficial state motto: “Some weather we’re having, then!”

Anyway, despite the extreme heat over the past few days, I ventured out to two separate street festivals this weekend: Highland Fest and Barbette’s Bastille Day Block Party in Uptown.  Both featured a lot of sweaty people, music, kids being super cute, and fair food, but only one featured carnival rides.  Highland Fest wins!

Best Things of the Week!

Week two of the “Best Things” feature!

1. My family gets multi-culti

Proud to be an Irish-American

I am Minnesota born-and-raised, but I am also a dual citizen of the USA and Ireland.  Such a thing is possible because my grandfather was born in Ireland.  My mother and all her siblings were automatically citizens, and my generation had the option to apply too.  Last October, my mom and I took a trip to the Irish Consulate in Chicago to drop off my application; just over a week ago, my paperwork came through.  What does this mean?  It means I can travel on an Irish passport, or move to the European Union someday, or just feel super authentic at the upcoming Irish Fair.

And proud to know some great Kenyan-Americans

My amazing sister-in-law is also a new dual-citizen: on Friday, she passed her US Citizenship test.  She’ll also maintain her Kenyan citizenship, and thanks to a new ruling by the Kenyan government, my brother is eligible for Kenyan citizenship, too.  No telling yet if he’ll do that or go Irish like me, but I know I would genuinely enjoy introducing K as my “African-American brother,” because people who are whiter than my brother include Conan O’Brien and ghosts.

2. Baby Ez and Arboretum Nostalgia

After I graduated from college, I spent a year working at Saint John’s Arboretum.  It was an interesting, bizarre, wonderful experience.  I kept a blog of my adventures which has since disappeared from the website; if I can track down what I wrote for it, I may post it here – for, uh, posterity’s sake. Future generations will need to know how hard I failed at snowshoeing!  I cannot deny them that!

FirestarterRachel

Also, I got to do this once.

Anyway, I also made a great life-long friend in my Arboretum office buddy, Cassie.  On Sunday, I visited Cassie and two of my other favorite humans: two-year-old Ira and 3-day-old Ezra.  The cuteness was almost unbearable, and the Arboretum-reminiscing with Cassie was equally excellent.

3. Lookin’ awkward on TV (but for a good cause)

In May of this year, a deadly tornado hit North Minneapolis.  Like many people in MN who saw the aftermath, I donated to the Red Cross, and signed up to be a disaster phone bank volunteer with the Salvation Army.  Today, I got to smile awkwardly at the camera on WCCO until the phones started ringing off the hook.  A good amount of donations poured in for North Minneapolis, which is impressive considering it’s been almost two months and the rest of the state has had quite a few severe storms in the meantime.  Good job, Minnesota!  No matter my citizenship, you will always have my heart.

PS: To learn how you can help the Salvation Army’s North Minneapolis Tornado Relief, and North Dakota Flood Relief, visit this website. And thanks to everyone who told me I did not look that weird on TV.

Feels like…

WHY do I live here?  It is -13 degrees, but it “feels like” -28 degrees.  For a while this morning, it was colder here than at the top of Mount Everest.  I contemplated this as the two inches of exposed skin froze during my walk to work this morning, and came to the conclusion that I am cold and angry.  I’m angry at myself, for living here and not someplace warm, such as hell.  I’m angry at math, for allowing the concept of negative numbers to so greatly impact my daily life.  And I’m angry at the weatherpeople, for giving me the concept of “feels like.”  Feels like misery, guys.  Feels like I hate you.

And it feels like it’s time to plan my vacation to Disneyworld.

Current mood: Chilly.

It is taking all of my mental energy not to buy a one-way ticket to Cancun right now (perhaps my sudden need to relearn Spanish has nothing to do with nuns after all).  Minnesota, why do I live in you?  According to weather.com, not only is it 19 degrees outside, it also “feels like 19 degrees,” which is not helpful.  Anything under freezing should just say “feels like you should stay inside today, maybe eat some soup and drink hot chocolate.”  Any negative number — and you know those days are coming — can just read “don’t even get out of bed today, it’s not worth it.”  But these things aren’t options, and neither is calling in to work “cold,” so there’s nothing for it but to pull on the ol’ long underwear, wool coat, muppet scarf, and really hip earmuffs and bitch my way out the door.

In conclusion: Eff you, Minnesota.  Eff you in your frigid ass.