Week 13

This week was glorious because the weather finally started to warm up, and the promise of cherry blossoms was in the air! Krysta, Caroline and I walked over to the Lincoln Memorial one day because the weather was just too good not to.

Still early enough that there aren't hoardes of tourists.

Still early enough that there aren’t too many tourists.

This week was Krysta’s “unbirthday,” and to celebrate we took a long lunch at Founding Farmer’s on Friday. Even though it is very mainstream D.C., FF is still one of my favorite restaurants. Their chicken pot pie is the best I’ve ever had (sorry Mom!).

We told the waiter it was her unbirthday, and the beignets came with a candle!

We told the waiter it was her unbirthday, and the beignets came with candles!

Erica and I had been planning to go to New York, and this weekend seemed like the perfect time. We got on a bus at 6:30 Saturday morning, and we arrived in NY around 10:45. I had been to NY once before, but it was Erica’s first time so I was excited to be the person to introduce her to this amazing city!

Obligatory photo in Times Square.

Obligatory photo in Times Square.

We did some thorough planning and booked a hotel just a couple of blocks away from the bus stop, so we checked into our hotel first thing and dropped off our bags before making our way to the Rockefeller Center. Our tickets were for 2:00, so we had plenty of time to sight-see along the way.

M&M World is a very unique experience to say the least.

M&M World is a very unique experience to say the least.

Our first big touristy spot was Times Square. We of course had to stop in the Hershey store and M&M World. We did the custom fill-your-own bag of M&M’s, and it was insane to see all the flavors/colors offered. I may have went a little overboard (I think I bought a pound).

We found it!

It was so good. I can see why it’s the most popular food truck in the city!

One of my best friends Nicole lived in NY for over a year, and she insisted we stop at this food cart on our way to the Rockefeller Center, “The Halal Guys.” It is so popular that there are even imposters along the same route, but we knew we found the original when we saw the line. We had this huge container full of lamb, chicken, rice, veggies, pita bread, and their special white sauce, all for six bucks.

Intimidatingly high.

Incredibly high.

The Rockefeller Center is on fifth avenue, so we did some window shopping while we were waiting to go in. We of course had to go in Saks on Fifth Ave; I can’t even imagine actually buying something in that place. They had a fur room if that tells you anything! We also went into American Girl, which was like being transported back in time. (Erica and I were distraught to learn that our dolls -Felicity & Samantha- had been retired.)

The most beautiful view of the city.

The most beautiful view of the city.

It was finally time to go to the top of the Rock. This was probably my favorite thing we did all weekend because it gives you such an incredible view of Manhattan and an appreciation for how large it is. I especially love the view of Central Park; how cool is it that this little piece of nature has been preserved in the middle of the country’s biggest city?

Do you see a theme here? The child-geared stores were the best.

Do you see a theme here? The child-geared stores were the best.

I could have stayed up there for hours, but there was a pretty brisk wind that made it quite chilly. After we left the Rockefeller Center, we meandered up fifth avenue and ducked in and out of stores. We bought new lipstick at the MAC store, played in iconic toy store FAO Schwarz, and of course made a stop at Tiffany’s.

Inside one of Manhattan's most famous hotels, the Plaza.

Inside one of Manhattan’s most famous hotels, the Plaza.

Once we reached Central Park, we decided to take the classic carriage ride. I know there’s a lot of controversy over having the horses in the city, but ours looked well-fed and happy, and our driver was awesome. His name was Sal, and he was so knowledgeable about the history of Central Park and who lived in the surrounding buildings. The most famous person he’s given a ride to? Jackie O!

Totally worth the money.

Totally worth the money.

The dynamic duo, Sal & Shaggy.

The dynamic duo, Sal & Shaggy.

Our carriage ride was only twenty minutes, so once it was over we headed back into the park to explore on foot. We learned on our ride that Manhattan is built on granite, one of the strongest rocks, which is how the foundation can support such tall skyscrapers. We found some of this exposed granite and sat with dozens of others enjoying the last rays of sunshine.

So peaceful in the midst of a chaoctic city.

So peaceful in the midst of a chaotic city.

After we were done sunning, we set off to figure out how to work the NY subway. Let me tell you, after experiencing the metro in NY I realized just how incredibly nice DC’s metro is. The NY metro was dirty, gross, and old. It’s also amazing how many stops there are; it took us a little while, but Erica and I figured it out and always got where we wanted to go!

I love the show Gossip Girl. and Dylan's Candy Bar has been featured on it several times so I had to try it!

I love the show Gossip Girl, and Dylan’s Candy Bar has been featured on it several times so I had to try it!

On our way back to the hotel room to freshen up before dinner, we stopped at Dylan’s Candy Bar, which claims to be the largest specialty candy store in the world and is owned by Ralph Lauren’s daughter. There were two floors filled with candy and a bakery, and a third floor with a cafe that served all kinds of delights. Think of any obscure candy you’ve had as a kid and chances are you could find it here!

Living the dream.

Living the dream.

After freshening up at the hotel, we headed back out to eat a late dinner and catch a comedy show. We weren’t even very hungry because our portion was so huge at lunch, so we decided an authentic slice of NY pizza would be the perfect dinner. Although it didn’t look like much from the outside, the Yelp reviews for NY Pizza Suprema in Chelsea were off the charts so we decided to give it a whirl.

White pizza with added pepperonnis.

White pizza with added pepperoni.

Oh. My. Gosh. This pizza was delicious because it encapsulated everything I look for in a pizza – thin crust, no marinara, and the perfect amount of cheese. The best part was the hunks of fresh mozzarella sprinkled on top. Yum!

After dinner we went to a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre there in Chelsea. The show we went to was improv, and based on secrets audience members wrote down before the show started. It was especially funny because my secret was one of the ones used. (No telling, Erica!) We loved the show!

Pretty area of Manhattan.

I love all of the architecture.

The next day we started off by going to the 9/11 memorial. The museum doesn’t open until May so we were only able to see the actual memorial site, which really put into perspective how devastating the event was. The bases of the twin towers comprise the memorial, and it is pretty incredible to see how huge they were.

Right by the Brooklyn Bridge.

Right by the Brooklyn Bridge.

After going to the memorial, we just wandered around and enjoyed the day. We walked up to Chinatown, which aside from Times Square is the most crowded area of NY I’ve been to! We also saw Little Italy, and then walked to SoHo to do some shopping.

Possibly my favorite cupcake to date.

Possibly my favorite cupcake to date.

After checking out SoHo (which was adorable!) we walked over to Greenwich Village to go to Molly’s Cupcakes. I did my research on Yelp to find out the best place for cupcakes, and Molly’s Cupcakes was it! Erica and I shared their three most popular flavors, and mine favorite out of the three was easily cake batter.

That is actual cake batter. How can you top that?

That is actual cake batter. How can you top that?

The cake was funfetti with a blue buttercream frosting, sprinkles, and cake batter core. Normally I would pick something chocolate over this any day, but it was absolutely amazing. I will have dreams about this cupcake.

The most peace and quiet I had all weekend.

The most peace and quiet I had all weekend was running into the American Indian museum to use the restroom.

After enjoying our cupcakes, we grabbed falafel sandwich at a hole in the wall shop with a line sprawling into the street, and then ate in Washington Park. We then headed to Battery Park to get a good view of the Statue of Liberty. The sun was out in full force at this point, and we sat on the benches right by the water and gave our feet a break.

Pretty cool, right?

This sculpture is made entirely out of flowers.

With our time in NY coming to a close, we headed to Herald Square to do a little more shopping. This is where the huge Macy’s is, which had been completely transformed. The theme of the store was “Secret Garden,” and the inside literally looked like a greenhouse! Everywhere you looked there were flowers and plants.

Tiniest restaurant I've ever seen.

Tiniest restaurant I’ve ever seen.

We went back to Greenwich Village for dinner at Westville. In my picture above you can see how small this restaurant was; there is no way it could have held more than 24 people. There were constantly delivery guys going in and out which must be how they make their money. It’s really popular because they have such a wide variety of farm-fresh sides, everything from plantains to brussel sprouts. We loved it!

Breathtaking views like this are around every corner.

Breathtaking views like this are around every corner.

Alas, two days in New York was not enough! I had such a good time going back, and of course Erica was enamored after experiencing it for the first time. It was so fun planning it together, and I can’t wait to go back!

 

 

 

 

Week 12

This was a fun, relaxed week. On Wednesday night, I went with Casey and Krysta to Rasika, my absolute favorite restaurant in D.C.! Rasika is an Indian restaurant, and serves up the best chicken tikka masala I’ve ever had.

Dinner with my girls!

Dinner with my girls!

This restaurant stays booked up weeks in advance, but we were lucky to score a spot at the chef’s table, which is first come first served. We also tried their most popular appetizer, palak chaat, and it was incredible. Crispy spinach, tamarind/date chutney, and yogurt sauce makes an excellent combination!

A variety of cookies, and none fruit-flavored. They know me well!

Unbirthdays are fun!

Caroline had her birthday earlier this semester, and Krysta and I brought her cupcakes. Caroline decided we would celebrate Krysta and I’s “unbirthdays” since our actual birthdays are later this year. Mine was Friday of this week, and they brought me cookies in tons of different flavors. So sweet!

Pancake breakfast date.

Pancake breakfast date.

On Friday night, I had a sleepover with Krysta. We watched movies, painted our nails, and then got up in the morning to hang out in Alexandria. Krysta promised me the best pancakes in the world from the restaurant Chadwick’s down by the water on King Street, and they didn’t disappoint!

Krysta introduced me to this cute cupcakery in Alexandria.

I love all the storefronts in Alexandria. So cute!

After breakfast, we wandered down King Street and did some shopping. Krysta needed a dress for her law school graduation, and we found her one! Krysta lived in Alexandria last summer, so she knows all the best places to go, including her favorite cupcakery, Lavender Moon.

I love my dad!

Best dad in the world.

Saturday afternoon, I headed back to D.C. to meet my dad, who surprised me when he called and said he was coming to see me! Dad has a job in Virginia, so he drove up to spend the rest of the weekend with me. He got in around six and was exhausted from fighting through the traffic, so we decided to go to Whole Foods for dinner (it’s only a five minute walk from my apartment).

Yummmmmm! My dad makes the best apple pie.

Yummmmmm! My dad makes the best apple pie.

While we were at Whole Foods, my dad decided he wanted to make an apple pie in my apartment (which I was obviously not opposed to). We spent the rest of the evening baking and reading our books while waiting for our pie to finish. And oh my goodness, it was incredible straight out of the oven!

I'm so happy Erica came with us.

I’m so happy Erica came with us.

I really wanted to go to Monticello this semester, and having my dad in town with a rental car was the perfect opportunity! We picked Erica up Sunday morning, and embarked on our journey to Jefferson’s estate, which is just a little over two hours from D.C.

It may not be the Potomac, but Monticello also has a gorgeous view.

It may not be the Potomac, but Monticello also has a gorgeous view.

Our drive was so pretty. At one point, we were on a winding highway with farm after farm, and I loved seeing the Virginia countryside. Monticello (“little mount”) is aptly named, as it is built on the summit of a peak in the Southwest Mountain range just outside of Charlottesville. Almost immediately I knew I was going to like TJ’s estate better than Washington’s.

Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

First of all, the house is so much bigger, and has an open-concept with tall ceilings and lots and lots of windows to utilize the natural light (we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside). I loved Jefferson’s study, which had thousands of books and all of these quirky inventions.

I could not stop laughing at this setup.

I could not stop laughing at this setup. It’s hard to tell, but this is a tiny camper complete with an outdoor bathroom.

After spending several hours wandering around Monticello, we started on our roundabout way back to D.C. Erica and I had both never been to West Virginia, so Dad decided we would jaunt over on our way back. We took the Wolf Gap trail through the George Washington National Forest, and the drive was beautiful.

In the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It was interesting because the state line between Virginia and West Virginia is basically the imaginary line that divides the Blue Ridge Mountains, or at least the peak we were on. After making our way back to Virginia, we stopped at Cracker Barrel for dinner.

Who says you can't be in two places at once?

Who says you can’t be in two places at once?

Cracker Barrel is one of my dad’s favorite restaurants, and it is rare that we go on a trip together without stopping at one. I actually somewhat miss eating at chain restaurants (it’s nice to go somewhere and know exactly what you want and that it’s going to be good), and Cracker Barrel hit the spot. I drank so much sweet tea!

I've played this game hundreds of times.

I’ve played this game hundreds of times.

I am so happy my dad came to see me, and that we got to spend quality time together. Monticello was even prettier than I expected it to be, and it was also fun to see more of the surrounding countryside!

Week 11

After my family left, I was so thankful to have a fun weekend lined up with the two girls who share the bullpen (our charming arrangement of cubicles) with me, Krysta and Caroline. While she is interning at State, Caroline is living with her aunt, uncle, and their little girls in Leesburg, Virginia, and she invited Krysta and I to spend the weekend with her.

I wanted to take Sadie home with me! Those eyes.

I wanted to take Sadie home with me! Those eyes.

Leesburg is a good forty-five minutes to an hour outside of the city, and can be even further if there has been an accident or something else occurs to hold up traffic. I loved seeing Caroline’s commute and even experiencing the D.C. traffic; by the time we made it to the house, I was much more appreciative of my thirty-minute commute!

Heaven.

Heaven.

Krysta and Caroline were shocked to find out I had never been to the grocery store Wegmans, so they took me there for dinner. It was awesome! There is tons of ready made food, an extensive selection of baked goods, and a bulk candy section. After dinner, we went to this cute little shopping area to kill some time before our movie.

We had been planning this for forever!

We had been planning this for forever!

We had all read the book Divergent, and made plans a long time ago to go see the movie together. Thankfully, the movie did not disappoint! Saturday morning, we got up and headed to the outlet malls in Leesburg, which I was so excited for. Shopping is always so much more fun when you have your friends there to give their opinions.

So much excitement.

Shopping + beautiful weather + fresh kettle corn = perfection

After finishing up shopping, we headed to this teeny tiny town with adorable antique shops and most importantly: a roadside kettle corn stand! Caroline had been telling me about this place for weeks, and we had our fingers crossed that the weather would be nice enough for the stand to be open. Sure enough, when we pulled up there they were. Our kettle corn was so fresh we watched them make it! (This involved lots of oil and sugar. Yummmmmm.)

Oh so fresh.

Oh so fresh.

The perfect popcorn-eating position.

The perfect popcorn-eating position.

After getting our delicious popcorn and looking around the antique stores, we went to check out one of the many vineyards in the Lucketts area. We ended up going to Tarara Vineyard and did a wine tasting, which was so much fun. I don’t know very much about wine, so it was cool to learn about the different types and try samples. They also had a gorgeous back patio overlooking the woods, and there were tons of people out enjoying the weather.

So thankful for these two!

So thankful for these two!

After our wine tasting, we went back to the house to have dinner with Caroline’s family. I was introduced to some new foods, salt potatoes and fiddlehead ferns, and I loved it all. Later that evening we watched Frozen with Caroline’s little cousins. They giggled and squealed through the whole movie!

Never too old for Disney.

Never too old for Disney.

It was such a relaxed weekend, and I enjoyed getting out of the city and spending time with Caroline and Krysta. Caroline’s family made us feel right at home, and I’m so happy they hosted us! There is never a dull moment in our office, and I would not have had such a good time this semester if I hadn’t spent it with Caroline and Krysta. I know that I have found two new lifelong friends. (Come see me in Oklahoma!)

Week 10 1/2

This week was so much fun because I had Monday through Wednesday off to spend entirely with my family! I can’t even remember the last time I got to spend so much uninterrupted time with them, and I cherished every moment. Being with my little brother and sister makes me feel like I’m twelve again instead of twenty-two.

This was the FOURTH snow day since I've been in D.C.!

The federal government called a snow day, the fourth one since I’ve been working.

Remember how snow was predicted for Monday? Well the weathermen got it right, because we woke up on Monday to a winter wonderland! We decided to drive out to the Air & Space Museum annex by Dulles Airport to check out the shuttle they have, but unfortunately it was closed.

The White House is only a few blocks east of my apartment, so basically I'm neighbors with the Obamas.

The White House is only a few blocks east of my apartment, so basically I’m neighbors with the Obamas.

It probably would have been wise to check to see if the museum was still open before we left our hotel, but we recovered quickly and came up with Plan B: going to historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania! Thankfully Gettysburg is only about an hour and a half outside of the district. I was so excited to visit the battlefield because it was on my “bucket list” of things to do this semester.

Reagan & I letting Abigail pretend to be in charge. It doesn't happen very often.

Reagan and I letting Abigail pretend to be in charge. It doesn’t happen very often.

Our first stop was at the Gettysburg Visitor Center and Museum, which was so impressive. The Center was built a short time ago in 2008, and was much larger than I expected it to be. We started off by watching an incredible film detailing the Gettysburg battle, which was narrated by Morgan Freeman.

The diorama was captivating; I can't even imagine how much work went into its creation.

The Cyclorama was captivating; I can’t even imagine how much work went into its creation.

After the movie, we went upstairs to a platform to observe the Cyclorama painted by French artist Paul Philippoteaux in the late 1800′s. The painting completely surrounds the platform, and tells the story of the bloody battle. After that we headed down to the museum to learn more about the battle; we probably spent about 2 hours at the Center before heading out to tour the battlefield.

There were monuments and statues everywhere!

There were monuments and statues everywhere!

I loved how the majority of the battlefield has remained untouched by development so you can truly picture the armies clashing. If you do the full tour, it takes four hours! We just walked around a tiny part of it, and there was constantly something to read or look at.

Loved this one.

My favorite.

After having our fill of the battlefield, we headed into town to get an early dinner. Since it was St. Patrick’s Day, we decided it was only appropriate to eat at the local Irish pub. I was so excited to have authentic bangers and mash! It was a really fun environment, and a good ending to our day trip.

Fitting right in with our red hair.

Fitting right in with our red hair.

On Tuesday my family decided to knock out some of the museums while I prepared for my class. They went to the Archives and American History Museum, and I met up with them for lunch. I knew they would love Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, and I was right! The creme brûlée doughnut was a hit, and they agreed with me that the fried chicken was superb.

Meeting up at the Archives.

Meeting up at the Archives.

After I got out of class, my family was waiting and honking for me in the rental car! (Never too old to be picked up from school.) We had a relaxed evening; I took them to Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont (amazing!) and Second-Story Books. Reagan also discovered the Krispy Kreme right by the Dupont metro, so we had a fresh donut before going back to the hotel. (One of my favorite quotes from the trip, “I want a hot donut and I want to go to bed.” That came from the youngest member of our family.)

Greener than the last time I went.

I couldn’t believe my mother when she said she liked the hideous green in the dining room!

On Wednesday, my last full day with my family, we went to Mount Vernon. Considering this was my third trip to the estate in less than a year, I would have been better off buying an annual pass, but I enjoyed seeing it again with my family. They were also impressed by the beautiful view behind the house.

I did get to see the Pioneer Farm area of the estate which I had not been to before.

I did get to see the Pioneer Farm area of the estate, which I had not been to before.

After spending a couple of hours on the grounds, we went to the Mount Vernon Inn for a spot of tea and a snack before checking out the museum. It was sprinkling while we were outside, so we were all pretty damp at this point, and it was nice to warm up. I had cherry pie, and it was so good!

This hit the spot.

This hit the spot.

After leaving Mount Vernon, we stopped in Alexandria to do some shopping on King Street and eat dinner. Wednesday was also my mom’s birthday, and I had so much fun being her personal stylist in H&M. She bought several pieces and even Abigail bought something, which is a miracle in and of itself.

Birthday girl with the sweetest polka dot cake!

Birthday girl with the sweetest polka dot cake!

We had Mom’s birthday dinner at an Italian restaurant, Il Porto Ristorante, and everyone loved it! I spent the night one last time with them, and then my dad took me to work in the morning. It was so hard saying goodbye because I had so much fun with them, but luckily I had a girls’ weekend planned to take my mind off their leaving.

 

Hershey, PA: The Sweetest Place on Earth

When my family came to visit me, we finally did something we have always talked about, which was taking a trip to a chocolate lover’s paradise: Hershey, PA!

This truly says it all.

This truly says it all.

And when I say “family,” I really mean Mom, Abigail, and I have talked about taking a girls’ trip to Hershey for years. Luckily for Dad and Reagan, we let them tag along.

Just following orders.

Just following orders.

Hershey is about two and a half hours outside of D.C., so we hopped in the rental car and headed out early Sunday morning. We originally planned to go on Monday, but the weathermen were predicting snowfall for Sunday evening and Monday morning, so we decided to go Sunday.

Abigail vowed to design wider cars after this trip.

Abigail vowed to design wider cars after this trip.

It was just like old times, crammed in the back seat with my younger siblings, irritating each other all the way to Hershey. As we drew closer and closer, the excitement in the car mounted. We all squealed as we saw the welcome sign and the adorable Hershey Kiss lightposts.

Can't handle the cuteness.

Can’t handle the cuteness.

Our first stop was at “The Hershey Story,” which was an incredibly fascinating museum detailing Milton S. Hershey’s life. Here we learned about how Milton started off making caramels, borrowed money from literally everyone in his family for his enterprises and failed over and over, and finally found success with his caramels and eventually turned to making chocolate because caramels were “just a fad.”

The only passport I need.

The only passport I need.

A fun part of The Hershey Story is creating your own chocolate bar. The name is a little misleading; in reality you get bowls of melted chocolate and pour it into a mold to swirl designs on, but it was really neat because we did learn the process of making chocolate while decorating our own bars.

It's a family affair.

It’s a family affair. (My dad immediately licked the spoon in the bowl!)

Some interesting facts about how chocolate is made: the cacao beans are roasted, which brings out the chocolate flavor, and then cracked. The remaining “nibs” (which we got to sample, they are VERY strongly flavored) are crushed into a paste called “chocolate liquor.” The chocolate liquor is then separated into cocoa powder and cocoa butter (which is colorless).

Showing off my artsy side.

Showing off my artsy side.

Any of you white chocolate lovers like me? White chocolate is made entirely from the cocoa butter, which was rather nasueating when the lab techs held up a jar full of it that looked like mayonaise. Milk chocolate uses both the powder and butter, and Milton’s secret for the quality of all of his chocolate was the fresh, sweet condensed milk he added.

The finished product. I don't want to brag, but I'm pretty certain mine is the prettiest.

The finished products. I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty certain mine is the prettiest.

After The Hershey Story, we had lunch at Houlihan’s (which was really good) and then headed over to Hershey’s Chocolate World to catch the trolley tour of the town. The trolley tour was probably my favorite part (getting about eight pieces of free candy helped). Our conductor told us all about this amazing community that Milton built himself in order to provide an environment his workers would want to live and raise their children in.

So much excitement.

So much excitement!

Milton and his wife never had children, and it was her idea to start a school for boys, which is now home to underprivileged boys and girls. The school is for all grades, and the children stay with host families and are provided with absolutely everything they need. Milton left a significant amount of stock in his company for the school, which is how it is still in operation today.

Such a fun place.

Such a fun place.

After our trolley ride was over, we went into Hershey’s Chocolate World to take the free, interactive ride that imitates the chocolate factories that make the delicious Hershey products. I found it neat that Hershey still uses milk from local dairies, and continues to grow and support the community Milton started.

As you can see, I'm used to this. Always the only one awake while everyone else sleeps.

As you can see, I’m used to this. Always the only one awake while everyone else sleeps.

Since Hershey is in Lancaster county, we took a longer route back to D.C. and got to see some Amish country on our way. It started snowing on the way home, but we made it back safely. It was a magical day, and I am so thankful I was able to share with my family.

Week Ten

First of all, brace yourself for lots of pictures in this post. For Spring Break, my family came to see me! It was so nice to have their visit to look forward to after Riley left on Monday.

Love exploring D.C. with my favorite girls.

White House selfie

The only thing that kept me concentrated at work on Thursday was a pressing deadline; Mom and Abigail flew in that afternoon and I was so happy to see them! Ten weeks is a really long time for me to go without seeing my family. Thursday night I introduced them to Shake Shack and showed them around the area I live in.

My "big" little sister.

My “big” little sister.

Friday morning we started off with a trip to the White House. We could barely tear Abigail away! This was her first time in D.C., so it was fun to see all of her reactions. Our next stop? Georgetown for a little exploring and cupcake sampling of course!

It was so fun for Abigail to visit the shop in person after I mailed a dozen to her for her birthday!

It was so fun for Abigail to visit the shop in person after I mailed a dozen to her for her birthday!

Clockwise from left: salted caramel, milk chocolate birthday, peanut butter lava fudge, mint chocolate crunch cheesecake, cherry blossom, and another mint chocolate crunch cheesecake.

Clockwise from left: salted caramel, milk chocolate birthday, peanut butter lava fudge, mint chocolate crunch cheesecake, cherry blossom, and another mint chocolate crunch cheesecake.

While we were in Georgetown, we also had lunch on the waterfront at Farmers Fishers Bakers, a seafood restaurant owned by the same people that own Founding Farmers. I’ve always wanted to try it because FF is so amazing, and this restaurant was no different! I had some delectable fish tacos and savory clam chowder; it was a great introduction for Mom and Abigail to the awesome restaurant scene in D.C.

Johnny Depp - the epitome of cool.

Johnny Depp – the epitome of cool.

After leaving Georgetown, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery near Chinatown to check out the “American Cool” exhibit, which features portraits by renowned photographers of people who exemplify what it means to be cool in the U.S. along with a passage explaining how they fit this definition. They were carefully chosen according to a specific rubric, and the exhibit included people like Tony Hawk, Michael Jordan, Johnny Depp, Missy Elliott, Madonna, and Bruce Springsteen. (There were many, many others from previous decades; I just remember the people I found most interesting.)

So many questions after watching my first game. Are there no fouls? Do players not check in?

So many questions after watching my first game. Are there no fouls? Do players not check in?

After looking at the exhibit, I wanted to show Mom and Abigail the Chinatown arch, which requires walking past the Verizon Center. We noticed tons of people wearing Capitals hockey jerseys, and spontaneously decided to ask a guy on the street how much he was selling tickets for. We talked him down to $30 apiece, and we decided to go to our very first hockey game! We had so much fun watching the Caps take down the Vancouver Canucks, and it was the perfect end to a Friday in D.C.

Pretty certain he was the only person in this city wearing a cowboy hat!

Pretty certain he was the only person in this city wearing a cowboy hat!

My dad got in Friday night, and Reagan arrived early Saturday afternoon. While we waited on Reagan’s train to get to Union Station, I took my family to Eastern Market (a neighborhood just east of the Capitol) to look around at all the fresh produce and vendors marketing their handcrafted goods.

IMG_2856

Just missing our older brother Dalton & our new sister, Jordan!

We dropped off Reagan’s luggage back off at the hotel and then immediately set off to check out all of the monuments and memorials. We started at the Washington and worked our way back.

Reagan had also never been to D.C.

Reagan had also never been to D.C.

I had fun being their tour guide.

I had fun being their tour guide.

I was really excited to see the MLK Memorial because it was not complete this summer when I was here last. His likeness is so huge, and has a beautiful spot right beside the Tidal Basin. It’s a nice walk along the water because it brings you right by Franklin Roosevelt’s memorial and then to the Jefferson.

It gave me chills to see this. So inspiring!

It gave me chills to see this. So inspiring!

In my opinion, the Jefferson Memorial is the most impressive out of all of them. First of all, it’s the biggest and set off by itself, which makes it so cool to see at night from across the water. The sheer size of this memorial is overpowering, and makes a lasting impression. I also really enjoy the quotes they chose to surround his statue.

I wish I had a better camera, but this gives you an idea of how beautiful it is at night.

I wish I had a better camera, but this gives you an idea of how beautiful it is at night.

So magnificent, and always less crowded than the Lincoln because of its location.

So magnificent, and always less crowded than the Lincoln because of its location.

When I checked my Fitbit pedometer at the end of the day, we had walked almost ten miles! We were completely exhausted but it was well-worth it. On Sunday we went to Hershey, PA, (which I will have a whole post dedicated to!) and I still have three full days with my family to sight-see and make lots of memories. Can’t wait!

Cool shot of the Capitol, Washington Monument, and the moon.

Beautiful shot on the mall.

Week Nine

This was my favorite week in D.C. so far because Riley came to see me! The only thing that could possibly make D.C. better is having my favorite person in the world to experience it with.

SO happy to have him here!

SO happy to have him here!

Riley got in late Friday night, but we still managed to get up early on Saturday to check out Ford’s Theatre. Riley is a big history buff, so this was one of his must-sees.

Where Lincoln was sitting when he was shot.

Lincoln’s box.

After seeing Ford’s Theatre, we walked to Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken for lunch. I know this sounds like the strangest combination ever, but it definitely worked. Their creme brulee doughnut was on the Washington Post’s list of Top 40 dishes every Washingtonian must try, and I’ve been waiting for Riley to check it out!

DELICIOUS

DELICIOUS

We tried the maple bacon, creme brulee, and peanut butter cup doughnuts and the fried chicken. Even though I don’t particularly care for fried chicken it was very tasty, but of course the doughnuts are what really captured my attention. There were absolutely incredible!

Peanut butter cup was my favorite. I cannot begin to describe the euphoria I experienced as I ate this doughnut.

Peanut butter cup was my favorite. I cannot begin to describe the euphoria I experienced eating this doughnut.

After lunch we went back to my apartment to get ready for my surprise for Riley . . . a photo shoot on the National Mall! Okay, okay, so I may have actually enjoyed this surprise way more than he did, but we both had a lot of fun.

I love how they turned out.

I love how they turned out!

Riley and I have been dating for four years and have never had professional pictures taken, so I decided this was the perfect opportunity. Our photographer was Johnny West with ArtsGroup, which is a non-profit that develops community programs to teach children about the arts. We got beautiful pictures and helped children develop their artistic sides, win-win!

Behind us is the D.C. WWI Memorial, one of my favorites. I love its simplicity.

Behind us is the D.C. WWI Memorial, one of my favorites. I love its simplicity.

After taking our pictures, we had dinner at Vapiano, a chain Italian restaurant close to my apartment. It’s really fun because you get a “credit card” at the restaurant to charge all of your food/drinks on at the different stations.

Love having a hot date.

Love having a hot date.

We then went to the Kennedy Center to watch “Shear Madness,” a murder mystery + comedy that is improv. It’s the second-longest running play in the U.S. (25 years) after its sister play in Boston. The actors were hilarious!

Breakfast at Luna's Grill & Diner.

Breakfast at Luna Grill & Diner.

On Sunday, we went to Riley’s other must-see, Arlington National Cemetery. The weather was absolutely beautiful! We checked out the changing of the guard, the Arlington house, and the Kennedy graves.

Perfect weather

Such a beautiful place to walk through.

Love it

Lots of selfies!

Changing of the guard

The changing of the guard.

After Arlington, we went to the Natural History Museum. By the time we finished at the museum, we were exhausted and took a nap before dinner. I wanted to take Riley to a quintessential D.C. restaurant, so I made us a reservation at Founding Farmers.

mac n cheese

Strangely delightful.

Founding Farmers is a “farm to table” restaurant, so you know the dishes will have the freshest ingredients of the best quality. Riley had chicken pot pie, which was the best I’ve ever tasted, and I had their famous mac n’ cheese. It somehow seamlessly combines granny smith apples, peas, ham, and five cheeses to make the most delicious and unusual mac n’ cheese.

This was a belated fourth anniversary dinner.

This was a belated fourth anniversary dinner.

After dinner, we went to see a movie. That’s one of the mundane things I miss the most about being in the same town with Riley. (Big difference: tickets were $15.50 with a student discount. Yikes!) It was so nice to relax and just watch a movie with him, and the perfect end to a great weekend!

Last remnants of a beautiful sunset over the Potomac.

Last remnants of a beautiful sunset over the Potomac.

Riley left early Monday morning, and it was so hard to say goodbye. The only thing keeping me from being totally depressed is my mom and little sister flying in today, and my little brother flying in Saturday! I am so excited to see them!

Two Months Down: Week Eight

I can’t believe I have now been in D.C. for two whole months.  It simultaneously feels like an eternity and not very long at all. I am now halfway through my stay here, and I’m already getting sad thinking about leaving. I love this city!

We had the prettiest snowfall this week with the biggest snowflakes I've ever seen. D.C. was one giant snow globe!

We had the prettiest snowfall this week with the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen. D.C. was one giant snow globe!

On Monday, I had a Bachelor viewing party at my apartment (no judging!) with Casey, Krysta, and Erica. If you have been following me on Facebook, you know I was shocked when I learned most Californians have no idea what puppy chow is.

Resorting to drastic measures, mixing the cereal in the bag it came in. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Resorting to drastic measures, mixing the cereal in the bag it came in. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Casey was the only one of us who had never eaten puppy chow, and she loved it! We made a huge batch and it was the perfect snack for watching The Bachelor.

I'm taking it upon myself to introduce Casey to all the delectable Southern goodies I was raised on. Next on the list? No bake cookies!

I’m taking it upon myself to introduce Casey to all the delectable Southern goodies I was raised on. Next on the list? No bake cookies!

On Monday night there was also a presentation at UCDC featuring an attorney, now in private practice, who used to be general counsel in the U.S. Copyright office. He told us, “Sometimes you have to stop learning in the classroom, and you just learn by doing it.”

My "shoe closet" at work. I decided it was easier to leave all my shoes at work than to bring a pair with me every day!

My “shoe closet” at work. I decided it was easier to leave all my shoes at work than to bring a pair with me every day!

That statement really resonated with me because this has basically been my experience with my externship. Even though I haven’t had any international classes, I’ve just been learning as I go at my externship and I’m so happy I took this opportunity.

The World Bank is such a nice building, and very tight on security.

The World Bank is such a nice building, and very tight on security.

On Thursday, I went to an event hosted at the World Bank center. I would love to work there! I heard several different languages being spoken throughout the building, and it seemed so glamorous.

The attendees were all young attorneys involved in international investment law. I met attorneys from Freshfields, which is a British law firm and one of the largest in the world with over 2,400 attorneys.

I got a great shot of the Old Post Office building.

I love this shot of the Old Post Office building.

On Saturday, I went shopping in the Penn Quarter area for some new spring clothes. In a two-block radius there is an H&M, Forever21, J. Crew, Anthropologie, American Apparel, Macey’s, Zara, and T.J. Maxx. Needless to say, I was able to easily spend several hours in this area.

The weather was perfect on Saturday!

The weather was perfect on Saturday!

On Sunday, I met Erica for church. We tried a Lutheran church near her apartment, and the congregation was so nice and welcoming. I met Casey for brunch at Co Co Sala afterwards, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in D.C. so far!

This place specializes in chocolate, so obviously I'm in love.

This place specializes in chocolate, so obviously I’m in love.

We both had the s’mores french toast, and it was incredible. The toast was almost like monkey break, and it was stuffed with homemade marshmallow fluff, caramel, and nuggets of brown sugar. We also shared a side of chocolate-covered bacon, and it was surprisingly delicate and delicious!

After this meal, even I had my fill of chocolate!

After this meal, even I had my fill of chocolate!

That night Erica came over to my apartment with one of her coworkers. We ordered Thai food from a restaurant in Dupont Circle and watched the Oscars. Now I’m enjoying my snow day, and I can’t wait for this weekend because Riley is coming to see me!!

 

Week Seven

Since I’ve been in D.C. for seven weeks, I have now also been here longer than my stay last summer; this means this is the longest time I have ever spent away from home. I never spent a semester abroad in undergrad, so I’m really thankful to have this opportunity to have an extended stay in a city with a completely different culture than what I’m accustomed to.

Funny building by me

This building is just down the street from me. How do I get a job working for them?

I love the short work weeks that follow a three-day weekend. I also personally believe we could vastly improve employee morale and productivity by making four-day work weeks and three-day weekends standard!

This week at work I was able to attend a meeting with a German member of the International Law Commission and hear him discuss some of the ILC’s upcoming work, and it was really interesting. On Friday night, I went to dinner with my fellow extern Krysta at the Kangaroo Boxing Club.

So good!

One of their happy hour specials was a pulled pork sandwich for $6, and it was well worth it!

The restaurant is in Columbia Heights, which is an up and coming neighborhood. It is also the home of the nearest Target, so it is an area I frequent regularly.

The view from federal hill

Fun fact: The headquarters/shipping center of Under Armour is in Baltimore.

On Saturday, I spent the day in Baltimore with my roommate Casey and a lot of other students from UCDC. We took a very nice charter bus from the center, and we had an awesome tour guide who was very knowledgeable about the city.

*On the way there, our tour guide pointed out this “movie set” of a fake town where Secret Service members go to train for how to protect the President. You can barely catch a glimpse of it from the highway! We also passed the NSA headquarters.

So nice to see the sun out!

So nice to see the sun out!

Our first stop was Federal Hill, which gave us a great view of the city. Did you know that Baltimore was at one time the capitol of the U.S.? I didn’t! Our tour guide also pointed out the most narrow townhouse in Baltimore, which is a mere eight-feet wide.

Beautiful stadium

Although he never played for the Orioles, the Great Bambino was born in Baltimore.

Our next stop was the Orioles stadium. Our guide explained to us that Camden Parks pioneered the shift back to “retro” baseball parks for the rest of the League. My favorite part of the stadium is how they mark where every single home run is hit.

I love the style of this train station.

I love the style of this train station.

We also went to Fort McHenry, which is famous for successfully defending the harbor against the British in the War of 1812, and for inspiring Francis Scott Key to pen a poem that would later become “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Love this

Is this not gorgeous? I would be here every Saturday!

We ate lunch at Phillip’s Seafood in the Inner Harbor, which was my favorite part of Baltimore. There are tons of restaurants with outdoor seating, shopping, street performers, and a well-renowned aquarium that I would love to come back and visit.

This Maryland lump crab cake was DELICIOUS.

This Maryland lump crab cake was DELICIOUS. (And no, I did not order two entrees. The other is Casey’s!)

After lunch, we went to visit a historic inn that was built in the early 1800′s (I can’t remember the name!), and a very enthusiastic employee gave us a tour of the hotel and told us all about the bridal packages.

We were perplexed as to why she gave us the sales pitch of the inn as a wedding venue, but then it all came together when we walked into the lobby of their event center and there was a bridal show!

The inn was antique and gorgeous!

I would love to come back and stay in this hotel.

One of our other stops in the afternoon was the oldest cathedral and basilica in the United States. Although I am not Catholic, it was very cool to see a church with so much history, and we received a wonderful tour from one of the church’s staff members.

It's pretty neat to be in the same building that once hosted the Pope.

It was humbling to be in the same building that once hosted the Pope.

Our last stop, and probably my favorite, was the burial site of Edgar Allan Poe. Although he was born in Boston, Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin (YUCK) in Baltimore and died there.

This is the original burial spot. Every year on his birthday, someone leaves roses and a half-full bottle of cognac.

This is the original burial spot. Every year on his birthday, someone leaves roses and a bottle of cognac.

This was hands down the creepiest cemetery I’ve ever seen. Ever. It was like something out of a horror movie, which is only fitting for Mr. Poe. As his popularity grew, they moved the poor guy from the back of the cemetery to the front.

Fun fact: The Baltimore Ravens are named in honor of Poe.

Another fun fact: The Baltimore Ravens are named in honor of Poe.

Baltimore is a very industrial and historic city, and I enjoyed our day trip there! Although I’ve flown into Baltimore three times now, I had never gotten the chance to explore the town until now.

We had a great time

I savor every weekend, and this one was one of my favorites!

On Sunday, I met up with Erica to go to church at CHBC again. Afterwards, we went to Arlington for lunch and exploring. It was a beautiful day, and we had fun simply walking around and soaking up the sun.

After this fantastic weekend, I am energized and ready for the upcoming week!

Week Six

This week was great because not only did I have a three-day weekend, but I also had Thursday off because of the snow! I can’t believe we have had two snow days in the short time I’ve been here; apparently this is not a typical D.C. winter.

For some reason, the fact that someone took the time to make this tiny snowman was very entertaining to me.

I love this tiny snowman. The fact that someone took the time to make this is very amusing to me.

I had another good week at work, but I definitely have a lot to do this upcoming week with impending deadlines. I know I’m being very vague about what exactly I’m working on, but I’m trying to be overly cautious about what I say! Please feel free to reach out to me with any specific questions about what I’m doing, and I will do my best to answer them.

One of my fellow legal externs; we had to take a picture because we have matching coats!

One of my fellow legal externs; we had to take a picture in our matching coats!

Friday, of course, was Valentine’s Day! Since Erica and I’s boyfriends are in Oklahoma, we hung out together and went to dinner and a movie near Chinatown. We ate at Matchbox, a “vintage pizza bistro” with locations in D.C., Maryland, and California, and it was delicious! They make thin, crispy pizzas in a brick oven and they are sooooo good.

Our yummy free Valentine's Day dessert.

Our yummy free Valentine’s Day dessert.

I took advantage of the three-day weekend and went to see my Penn State law friends in State College. I met them when I took a week-long Animal & Agriculture Production class last summer at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and have stayed in touch ever since.

*Side note: I have been cursed with a “nice” face. This means that out of all the empty seats on the bus, people choose to sit next to me, or will repeatedly try to talk to me even after I put my headphones in. I found this out definitively after taking the bus to and from State College.

Skiing was so fun!

Skiing was a blast!

On Saturday, I went night skiing with my friends from class – Alyssa, Sarah, and Joe – and some other Penn State law students on Tussey Mountain. When I told my little sister Abigail I was going skiing, her immediate response was, “But you hate skiing!” Although I admit that skiing and I haven’t seen eye to eye in the past, I had so much fun!

It was beautiful -- and cold!

It was beautiful – and cold!

Alyssa and I spent a good hour on the bunny slope warming up (it’s been years since either of us have skiied), and then we decided to try the larger and steeper trail. There was much laughing and graceful and not-so-graceful falling, but we made it down twice, which was enough for us!

This is the only size cone they have, which is just fine by me.

I had chocolate chip cookie dough, and this is the only size cone they offer.

Sunday morning Alyssa took me on a tour of the Penn State campus. We went to the creamery and had ice cream, which was amazing! I’m a Braum’s girl, but this ice cream would give Braum’s a run for its money. The creamery was packed with students and families, and obviously a very popular spot.

Their building is very modern and "green."

I love all of the glass and openness of the building.

I love seeing campuses of other law schools and comparing it to OU’s, so it was fun to get an inside look at the Penn State Law building. Whereas OU I would say has a very traditional style, the Penn State building is extremely modern.

Beautiful view!

With Sarah (a native Pennsylvanian) in the reading room.

The law school is very “green” and takes advantage of all the light coming in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, which also creates amazing views throughout the building. I was very impressed with their reading room, which has a great view of the football stadium.

I really don't see how this is fun to people; it's too much work!

I really don’t see how this is fun to people; it’s too much work!

While touring the law school, we saw people literally cross country skiing. It’s been forever since I’ve seen as much snow on the ground as I saw in Pennsylvania! There had to have been at least a foot and a half of snow.

Five words: kiosk made to order food.

Definitely the most tech-savvy gas station I’ve ever encountered.

Alyssa introduced me to Sheetz, a Pennsylvania gas station which is known for their made to order food. You order everything at a kiosk, whether you want a burger or specialty coffee. I had a pulled pork burrito that was delicious!

Alyssa was such a good host!

Alyssa (a Texas girl from Denton) was such a good host!

I want to give a special shout out to Alyssa for picking me up and dropping me off at the bus station, and letting me stay with her. State College is a great town, and I loved seeing more of Pennsylvania. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to catch up with my friends!