Flashback Friday: Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms

Living in Washington, D.C. when Josh was stationed there from 2003 to 2008 was not always easy, but there were two events that I loved, and we tried our best to experience annually: Cherry blossom time in the spring and Christmas at the White House in December.

Since it is cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C. now (article linked here about how peak bloom was March 25), I thought I would post about it. It’s been 9 years now since we moved back to SoCal after living in D.C., but I imagine that it is still much the same and still beautiful during cherry blossom time.

The following pictures are all from either April 2006 or April 2008.

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Two-year-old Corran at the Washington Monument. This boy is now taller than I am! At this age, Corran was very interested in space shuttles and rockets, so to him the Washington Monument was a “rocketship stuck in the ground.”

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Cherry tree by the Washington Monument – April 2006

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It is magical to walk under these trees. Yes, there were crowds everywhere, but somehow, it didn’t matter very much. We were all there to experience beauty.

These, of course, are not cherry blossoms! These are tulips at the Floral Library run by the National Park Service. The Floral Library was always a must-see when we were at the Tidal Basin for the cherry blossoms. It is a lovely photo opportunity and a wonderful place to take your children.

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Jefferson Memorial with cherry blossoms in foreground

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A close-up of the cherry blossoms.

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When you visit D.C., be prepared to walk, and walk, and walk some more! We went to this area numerous times when we lived there and still did not get to everything that there is to see!

-Lynn

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The White House in spring

 

Borrego Springs, California: Wildflowers 2017

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To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wildflower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

-From “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake

 

Last year, we went to Borrego Springs around this time hoping to see the wildflowers. We did get to see wildflowers last year, but not as many as when we were there in 2008. Last year, we also found these amazing metal sculptures in Galleta Meadows.

This year, we were able to go to Borrego Springs with Josh’s family. It was a fun day trip with our kids, our nephews, Josh’s parents, and his sister. During a superbloom year, there are a LOT of people who visit Borrego Springs to see the wildflowers. We left as early as we could and were in Borrego Springs by 9 AM, but there was already quite a crowd there!

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We like to stop at a turnout on the S-22 before heading into town. The overlook we stopped at last year was busy so we had to stop at a different turnout.

Our first stop in Borrego Springs was the Borrego Desert Nature Center near Christmas Circle. They offer free daily wildflower maps every year. The staff there has always been kind. The store there is also a good place to browse for books and gifts. My son, Matthias, is a rock hound and picked up a pocket-sized book about rocks during our visit last year. I wish I had taken pictures of the building when I was there. The Nature Center is located at 652 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA. The Nature Center is not related to the Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center. In fact, when we drove past the street to the Visitor Center, there was a police officer directing traffic just at that intersection!

Once we drove into town, the traffic let up a little bit but it was still very busy. It was not too difficult to find parking near the Nature Center though. Josh and I were able to run in for the day’s wildflower map.

This was today’s flower map. It’s really informative and the lady who gave it to us explained to us which places were the best to go. We didn’t make it to every place on the map unfortunately. I think we needed another day or two to hike all the trails and visit all the flower fields.

It was very sunny and quite warm while we were out so sunscreen and lots of water were a must!

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Palm Canyon Trail, Hellhole Canyon, and Little Surprise (the trail we hiked last year) would have been difficult to find parking, so we decided to go visit the flower fields off of Henderson Canyon Road. This is the area we visited when we only had two kids, Corran and Matthias, in 2008. The flowers were spectacular here.

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Desert sunflower buds – my nephew Sawyer found these for me to photograph

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Desert sunflowers carpeting the area off of Henderson Canyon Road

The desert sunflowers were everywhere here. We also saw sand verbena, desert lilies, and brown-eyed primrose across the street, away from the hills.

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Sand verbena – lovely purple flowers. When we first got out of the car, I think the scent of these flowers was what we smelled. Possibly combined with the scent of orange blossoms from an orange grove close by.
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Desert Lilies – These were my favorite flower this year. They are a little unobtrusive so you have to be looking for them or you will step right over them.
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Brown-eyed Primrose – I had to look these up once we got home, but these pretty little flowers were everywhere this year! This one is all by its lonesome but most of the others we saw tended to be in little bunches.
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We walked by the desert sunflowers on a dirt road skirting these rows of palm trees. One of the boys said these palm trees looked like they formed a cave.

 

We saw quite a few creatures during our walk, fortunately, no rattlesnakes! There were many of these caterpillars around. Later, I found out that these are white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars.

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Can you find the ladybug? Always nice to find these helpful insects around! We also saw a beetle or two as well as a lot of gnats and flies!

After taking pictures of the field of desert sunflowers, we headed down the road to the west end of Henderson Canyon Road. This was an interesting hike. We saw quite a few different flowers than we did in the flower fields.

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Saguaro Sculpture in Galleta Meadows, near the intersection of Henderson Canyon Road and Borrego Springs Road

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This is the area in which most of the metal sculptures are located. We did not visit too many of them this year, though we did make the sea serpent sculpture our last stop before heading out of Borrego Springs.

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Ocotillo – with buds. We found a lot of cactus and ocotillo during this hike.
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A closeup of ocotillo buds

The beavertail cactus were in bloom. Their hot pink flowers are so bright they almost don’t look real!

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Teddy Bear Cholla with Brown-eyed Primrose

The flowers in this area were mostly desert dandelion, desert chicory, and blue phacelia.

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Desert dandelions
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There are so many wildflowers in this picture that I don’t think I can name them all. They make a beautiful picture though.
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Sand verbena and desert chicory
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Beavertail cactus with desert chicory
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Purple mat – these are tiny tiny purple flowers. You almost don’t see them unless you are looking at the ground as you walk.
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Blue phacelia – I’m glad I didn’t run into the teddy bear cholla that was right by these!

There were a few flowers that I wanted to see that we didn’t find – monkeyflowers, dune evening primrose, and canterbury bells. Maybe we will find them next year!

The flower fields are beautiful, but the trail hikes are also beautiful and a lot like a treasure hunt. We almost stopped at Little Surprise Canyon on our way out of Borrego Springs, but three of our five kids had fallen asleep! So we will have to save that hike for another time.

Some links to more information about some of the flowers and plants we saw:

Desert Sand Verbena

Brown-eyed Evening Primrose

Desert Sunflower

Beaver-tail Cactus

Teddy Bear Cholla

Purple Mat

-Lynn

 

 

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15th Anniversary Trip to Las Vegas, NV: The Food

Josh and I were married 15 years ago on January 5th, 2002, a few months after 9/11 and the day after Josh’s 22nd birthday. That certainly was a crazy time. It was even crazier a year later. We had been planning to go to Las Vegas for our 1st anniversary, but the military changed our plans. We hadn’t had any concrete plans to go to Las Vegas anyway; maybe we kind of knew that we would not be able to go.

For the next 14 years, every anniversary, we threw around the idea of trying to go to Las Vegas, but it never happened until this year. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, since we had never been there, but we ended up having a great time!

We really enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the hotels and shopping, but I think the food is what we enjoyed most.

Our first night we went to a restaurant near Paris called hexx. This is also where I discovered the only bean-to-bar chocolate seller in Nevada. I buy from Nibble here in Southern California, but hexx’s chocolate was about equal in taste and texture.

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Antipasto salad

The food here was very good, but also very expensive! It was worth the price though because everything tasted delicious and fresh. We thought about coming back but later decided we would try the buffets for the next two days.

The buffets actually worked out well for us. We would eat breakfast at our hotel (loved our free breakfast at our hotel!), head out for the morning to play tourist, skip lunch or eat a light snack (one day our light snack was macarons!), and then go to a buffet for dinner.

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The macarons we bought from Le Macaron, a shop in the Grand Canal Shops in the Venetian. Flavors going clockwise starting at the top right: Passion fruit, Hazelnut praline, Basil White Chocolate, Lavender White Chocolate, Orange Chocolate, Salted Caramel. $17.40 for 6. I think the Salted Caramel had gone bad by the time we ate it. The Basil White chocolate was good, but the Lavender was too lavender-y. I think my favorite might have been the Passion fruit.

I did some research before we went to any buffets and had read a lot about Wynn hotel’s buffet. It lived up to all the reviews. I wish I had taken pictures of the actual buffet, but it went on forever! And the dessert buffet was like a dream.

The hotel itself was gorgeous inside. So many flowers everywhere!

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A lot of the Christmas decor was still up even though it was a few days after New Year’s.

We ate too many desserts as you can see, but they were so small that we didn’t feel too bad about eating all of them! Each one was beautifully presented.

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The next day we ate at Bellagio.  They were still running their holiday pricing for their buffet so it cost us quite a bit to eat there.

We wanted to see the gardens at Bellagio, but I think they were in the middle of changing from their Christmas decor.

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There was a LOT of seafood at the buffet, so that is what I ended up eating! We don’t eat seafood at home since I am the only one who really likes it.

The dessert buffet had just as many (or possibly more!) beautiful desserts as at Wynn. There were also cannoli! I haven’t had one of those in such a long time. We used to live in Philadelphia when I was a kid (when the base was still there), and I still remember the cannoli my mom and dad would buy for us!

After our dinner at the Bellagio, we had to watch the dancing fountains. We got to watch them twice!

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We were only in Vegas for a few days so we did not get to try any other restaurants. I guess that just means we will have to go back someday!

-Lynn

 

Seven Magic Mountains: Land Art

Lynn and I took a short trip to Las Vegas, Nevada for our 15th Wedding Anniversary.  We are not gamblers, but there are many different things to do and see in the area. We may do a few posts on the area, and things we did.

While driving from Las Vegas to Primm, Nevada to go to outlet malls, we saw some brightly colored things in the distance.  They are easily seen from at least 2 miles away as you crest over a hill on the Interstate 15 South.  To me they looked like they giant blow up dancers that car dealerships sometimes use.  Lynn did a quick search on her phone to see what they are and found out that they are land art and made of giant stones.

I am always intrigued by odd things while on road trips, so on the way back to Las Vegas, I made sure to stop and see this exhibit.  There are two exits from the Interstate, both of which have road signs.  Both exits are a couple of miles from the actual exhibit, but it is an easy drive.  There is also parking on the road side, and trails to the rocks.  It is a short walk, so just about anyone can do it.

Seven Magic Mountains is a large-scale site-specific public art installation created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. The “mountains” are large local limestone boulders stacked on top of each other.  They are either 3 or 6 boulders high, and are painted with day glow paints.  They color of the paint is amazingly bright against the drab brown of the deserts.

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This is short time exhibit.  It opened on May 11th, 2016 and will only be in place for 2 years.  If you happen to be in the area, this is a fun thing to check out.

-Joshua

 

Packards Coffee Shop and Dudley’s Famous Bakery

I am putting these two businesses together in a post because I didn’t take enough pictures at either place! I will be sure to take more pictures when we go back, since I think both of these places will be a regular stop for us when we are in the area.

Packards Coffee Shop is a small coffee shop in Ramona, CA. The main reason we wanted to stop there? The big blue box in the front!

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Josh took this picture during a job in the area
We were just passing through, so I wasn’t able to try their crepes. I think the next time we are there, I will definitely have to order some! You can take a look at their menu on their Facebook page.

Josh and I picked up some iced Vietnamese coffee, said hi to the 11th Doctor, and took a few pics of the kids with the Tardis out front. The coffee was refreshing as an iced drink and very strong! Just the way we like it.

The folks in the shop were really nice! I’d definitely stop in there again. Packards is located at 680 Main Street, Ramona, CA 92065.


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Another stop we made was Dudley’s Famous Bakery in Santa Ysabel. It is in the same marketplace as Julian Pie Company off of Highway 78.

Usually, we stop at the Julian Pie Company to get some apple pie and a dozen cider donuts to take home. This time, we stopped in at Dudley’s to eat lunch. When you walk in, there is a little gift shop to the right (my kids were immediately drawn to the rocks). The deli and shop area were straight ahead, with restaurant booths along the wall. We ordered our sandwiches at a small counter and then sat down to wait for our order. Our family of 7 took up two booths! While we were waiting for the food, I couldn’t help noticing the multiple racks of bread set up nearby, or the stacks of boxed apple pies on the table right by us! The sandwiches were really yummy, but it was the bread selection to take home that floored me. There were so many different kinds! I wish I had taken a picture of all of them in their neat rows. There were also sweets like three different kinds of streusel and cinnamon pull-apart bread. We ended up taking home this…

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Really good pie by the way, but I missed the cinnamon ice cream.

We took home these too. There was a promotion to buy 4 loaves get 1 free. I’m kind of a bread fanatic so I couldn’t resist.

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Dudley’s bread is sold in a lot of the grocery stores in our area, but I don’t think all the kinds we saw are available at every grocery store.  The rosemary and olive oil bread disappeared quickly as did the Hawaiian sweet bread. The bread in the bottom right corner is Pecan Maple and that was really, really good as a french toast! I froze the Russian Pumpernickel, which reminds me… I should probably go get that out!

Dudley’s bread can be found in about 70 locations in California. The particular location we went to is at 30250 Highway 78, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070.

Wild about Honey

At the end of August, we took a family day trip to Ramona, a town about 45 minutes from us. We love this area of San Diego County. We also love to shop small businesses, so when Josh saw Trumper’s Honey and Fruit Shack in Santa Ysabel, we had to stop. He has seen it before while working in the area but had never had a chance to stop by, probably because it is only open on weekends.

The nicest lady works in the shop and did not mind at all letting all my kids sample the honey. And it was delicious honey!

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I have been looking for raw alfalfa honey for a long time, and of course, it’s not really something you can find in the store. I hadn’t been to a farmers’ market in a while either, so when I saw raw alfalfa honey here, I HAD to get it. 32 ounces of honey for $14.99. It was a $15 well-spent because I am now using it in or on everything I can. My kids loved the raw cherry and they especially like it on pancakes!

We also got 44 ounces of raw bee keeper honey (a mix of either buckwheat and alfalfa or buckwheat and sage honey, I can’t remember) for $16.99. I think we are set with honey for a while, and I’m sure by then, we will be ready for another trip to Trumper’s Honey and Fruit Shack!

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These are some of the bee hives that were on the property by the parking lot. These are sealed so that bees don’t try to get in and form a hive. The bees live at the back of the property away from visitors.

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Some pictures of the honey and fruit shack from the parking lot. This was probably my favorite stop on our trip. I would love to come back!

Trumper’s Honey and Fruit Shack is located off of Highway 78 in Santa Ysabel.

27736 Highway 78

Santa Ysabel, CA 92070

-Lynn

One Day at San Diego Comic-Con International…

We stood in a really long line to get into the Convention Center at 9:30 AM. Turned out once we got to the front of the building, we could go in any door. Note to self for next year: Come right at 9:30 AM (if we’re not trying to get popular exclusives) and walk right in from the other side of the Convention Center without waiting in line!

We took the trolley into downtown. Usually, we don’t have Comic-Con badges so we have no reason to be in the areas that are in the pictures above.

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