Bobble, Baby, Bobble {A Night Out at Nats Park}

Every year we go to a handful of Washington National baseball games. This year when the schedule was released we circled June 9 because it would be a bobblehead giveaway night. Not just any bobblehead, but a Tanner Roark bobblehead! Tanner Roark is Stephen’s favorite (or one of his favorite) Nationals player. (Tanner is one of the Nationals’ starting pitchers.)

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Center field gates at Nationals Park.

 

The area around Nationals Park has been developing rapidly since DC will host the All Star game in July 2018. A new Hampton Inn opened just across the street from the park with a rooftop bar and rooms that overlook the park. There is also a brewery restaurant we have wanted to try for a while but every time we’ve tried to go before, it’s been super crowded.

So we decided to go to the game and make a night of it by getting a room down by the park and making reservations at Bluejacket for dinner.

Friday evening, we took the Metro down to the park and dropped off our backpacks at the hotel. We were disappointed with the hotel. We booked a room with a view of Nationals Park and while we could see the top section of seats of the ballpark, we were mostly looking at the parking garage next to the ballpark. The room itself was small (and I say that as someone who is used to DC-sized apartments) and when we asked for more pillows, they only brought us one.

We went up to the rooftop bar to check it out and noticed how many people were lined up to get into the park when it opened at 5 pm. We decided to go on and get into the park. We wanted to make sure we got our bobbleheads!

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Stephen and Tanner Roark.

 

Once inside the park, we found a place to watch batting practice in the shade while enjoying a couple of drinks and a bag of peanuts. We had purchased the cheapest tickets for the game with the intention of never going to our seats.

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We luckily picked a good weather night to go to the game. It was mid-70s with low humidity and there was a bit of a breeze. (After Friday, our temperatures are supposed to get up to near 100 degrees with lots of humidity so we really lucked out with the weather!)

We watched a couple of innings of the game and then headed to our dinner reservations at Bluejacket Brewery. Our food was really good. Stephen pretty much licked his plate clean and I wanted to do the same but I’m a lady! The ambiance of Bluejacket was cool; it’s in an old warehouse so there’s a lot of industrial-looking lights and furniture. We both said that we would go back to Bluejacket…I mean, Stephen only tried one of their beers and they have about 20 different ones so we definitely need to go back! 🙂

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Pickle board at Bluejacket. We also had burgers which were really good!

 

After dinner, we went back to the rooftop bar at the hotel. At this point, the Nationals were down 5-1 in the game so we just stayed for a little bit and then went to our room to turn in for the night.

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The view of Nationals Park from the Top of the Yard bar at the Hampton Inn.

 

Saturday morning we woke up, ate our free breakfast, and headed back home. Overall, we had an okay experience. I think the room and hotel were disappointing and the Nationals lost but we enjoyed Bluejacket and getting our bobbleheads!

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Oh Christmas Tree {Holidays 2016}

Welp! It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated the ole blog. I’ve got quite a backload of posts so forgive me for talking about Christmas a couple of weeks late.

This is one of my favorite posts to write because all of our ornaments have a special meaning. Looking at the ornaments reminds me of all of our trips and fun times!

You might remember that we got our tree last year. It is a very pretty tree but with the flocking, it gets stuff everywhere. A couple of weeks before Christmas last year, one section of the tree went out. I tried and tried to find the bulb that was causing the issue but could not find it.

This year we were at Target and happened to see a light tool. It looks like a water gun. Basically, you hold down the button and go along the light strand. When it stops beeping, that is where the problem is located. When we put up the tree this year, we used this handy tool and were able to locate the problem bulb very quickly!

So our tree looked awesome!

In a moment of deja vu, a different section of lights went out on the tree a couple of days before Christmas this year. When we took down the tree, we used our handy tool but still couldn’t find the problem. Almost every light on the strand was burnt which indicated that the whole strand itself needed to be replaced.

I started trying to replace the strand but the cords on the pre-lit tree were all tangled and a complete mess. At this point, Stephen had enough of this problem tree! We decided to just get rid of it and get a new one for next year. I can’t believe that we had so many problems with a tree that was only a year old (and one that gets stored in a temperature controlled environment). So if you know of any good Christmas tree deals, let us know!

Without further adieu, let’s take a look at this year’s pictures!

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Us with our tree!

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Stephen picked out this unique ornament.

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We picked this up in Hawaii at a local store in Makawao, Maui.

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This is a wooden chicken from Kauai. Kauai has tons and tons of chickens running around.

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The Lone Cypress tree from Pebble Beach, California.

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We picked this up in Maui. It’s made by a local artist who uses lava rock to create ornaments and coasters.

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From Yosemite, California

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Hawaiian gourd

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I picked out this life preserver ornament since it made me think of Hawaii.

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A macaron. This was the year I got into making macarons.

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The U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor

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The second of Stephen’s unique ornaments.

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The key to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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A hula girl from Lahaina, Maui.

 

 

A Week at the Beach {August 2016}

We spent a recent week in Delaware at the beach!IMG_3210[1]

We drove out on Sunday and made it to the beach house by mid-afternoon.

We spent Monday – Friday morning at a friend’s house in Rehoboth Beach. Over the past couple of years, our friend’s brother was living at the beach house full-time for his job. But, his brother recently got a new job in Florida so the beach house was open!IMG_2586[1]

The house is nice because it has a grill and a full kitchen so we ate most of our meals at the beach house. The house isn’t right on the beach but it’s only a couple of miles away and for a free place to stay, it was more than enough!

Then, Friday we moved down to the beach and stayed on the boardwalk until Monday morning.

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Enjoying a drink at our boardwalk hotel.

Over the course of the week, we went to the beach itself a few times. It was really hot when we were there…the “feels like” temperature one day was 115 degrees! It was nice to be able to get in the cool, 76 degree water when it was that hot!

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Our hotel on the boardwalk has several pet birds. This one was very friendly!

We, of course, went to the outlets and did some shopping. Other than that, we spent most of the time reading, listening to music, and relaxing.

We did try a few new places for happy hours or lunches. Here’s what we thought of each of them:

Fins Ale House – we went here for happy hour twice. It is located close to the beach house so it was convenient. But, the main reason we went twice was for the beer! They have a brewery next door (Big Oyster Brewery) and serve the beers in the restaurant. We liked all of the beers but our favorite was Noir Et Bleu (“Black and Blue”) which is a beer brewed with dried blueberries and black tea. Stephen was surprised that he enjoyed this beer so much! On our second visit, we snagged a growler of Noir Et Bleu because we enjoyed it so much!

Crooked Hammock Brewery – we went here for happy hour. The restaurant/bar is pretty cool. They have lots of yard games and hammocks for people to enjoy. However, it was so hot when we were there, we just stayed inside. The beers here weren’t as good as Fins but if the weather was cooler, the atmosphere would have been fun.

Rehoboth Ale House – we went here for happy hour one night when we were staying on the boardwalk. Rehoboth Ale House is known for serving craft beers. While we enjoyed the cheap happy hour prices on food and drinks, the beer selection was limited.

Hammerheads Dockside – we ate here for lunch one day. This restaurant sits on the marina of Indian River Inlet. Indian River Inlet is a small inlet where Rehoboth Bay flows into the ocean or vice versa. We actually had tried to eat here last year with Stephen’s dad but it was so busy, we abandoned our plan. Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise as the service was terrible. We were seated and it took 15 minutes for someone to greet us. When she did, she noted that it wasn’t her section but she would “help us out.” But, that didn’t make sense because she was serving the table behind us. Everything just took a really long time and it seemed like they were understaffed. The food itself was good but the service was terrible. Since the restaurant is a 15 minute drive from the beach house or the boardwalk, I don’t think we’ll make an effort to return.

This will probably be the shortest trip recap I’ve ever posted. We only took a few photos and spent most of the time relaxing!

We, The People {Philly Post #3}

Sunday morning we woke up and headed up to Eastern State Penitentiary Historical Site.

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Outside Eastern State

 

Eastern State Penitentiary broke sharply with the prisons of its day, abandoning corporal punishment and ill treatment. This massive new structure, opened in 1829, became one of the most expensive American buildings of its day and soon the most famous prison in the world. The Penitentiary would not simply punish, but move the criminal toward spiritual reflection and change. The method was a Quaker-inspired system of isolation from other prisoners, with labor. The early system was strict. To prevent distraction, knowledge of the building, and even mild interaction with guards, inmates were hooded whenever they were outside their cells. But the proponents of the system believed strongly that the criminals, exposed, in silence, to thoughts of their behavior and the ugliness of their crimes, would become genuinely penitent. Thus the new word, penitentiary.

The concept plan, by the British-born architect John Haviland, reveals the purity of the vision. Seven cellblocks radiate from a central surveillance rotunda. Haviland’s ambitious mechanical innovations placed each prisoner had his or her own private cell, centrally heated, with running water, a flush toilet, and a skylight. Adjacent to the cell was a private outdoor exercise yard contained by a ten-foot wall. This was in an age when the White House, with its new occupant Andrew Jackson, had no running water and was heated with coal-burning stoves.

In the vaulted, skylit cell, the prisoner had only the light from heaven, the word of God (the Bible) and honest work (shoemaking, weaving, and the like) to lead to penitence.

As tourists flocked to Philadelphia in the 1830s and 1840s to see this architectural wonder, a debate grew about the effectiveness and compassion of solitary confinement.

The Pennsylvania System was abandoned in 1913.

Some of America’s most notorious criminals were held in Eastern’s cells. When gangster Al Capone found himself in front of a judge for the first time in 1929, he was sentenced to one year in prison. He spent most of that sentence in relative comfort at Eastern State, where he was allowed to furnish his cell with antiques, rugs, and oil paintings. Bank robber Willie Sutton joined eleven other men in a doomed 1945 tunnel escape.

By the 1960’s, the aged prison was in need of costly repairs. The Commonwealth closed the facility in 1971, 142 years after it admitted Charles Williams, Prisoner Number One. The City of Philadelphia purchased the site in 1980, intending to reuse or develop it. In 1988, with the prison site threatened with inappropriate reuse proposals, the Eastern State Penitentiary Task Force successfully petitioned Mayor Wilson Goode to halt redevelopment. The Pennsylvania Prison Society opened the Penitentiary for the first season of regular guided interpretative tours in 1994, and, in 1997, signed a twenty-year agreement with the City to operate the site. A new non-profit corporation, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc., took over the agreement 2001.

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Eastern State is mostly geared for older people but Mason loved the audio tour and he loved listening to the headphones and pushing the buttons for the next part of the audio tour. It was really interesting to see such an old prison and to hear about its history. The prison sat empty for almost 20 years so it is definitely not all fixed up but I think I prefer that it looks the way it did when the facility closed.

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Al Capone’s cell at Eastern State.

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A typical prisoner’s cell at Eastern State.

 

We were a little worried that visiting a prison on his day off might be a little too close to real life for Elliott but he seemed like he enjoyed the tour the most!

We found out during our visit that Eastern State has a huge Halloween festival that is really popular and really scary, according to our server at lunch.

After visiting Eastern State, we ate lunch and Stephen and I said our good-byes. We walked up to the train station and waited for our train back to DC. Due to debris on the track, all trains coming from New York were delayed so we had to wait an additional two hours for our train to leave. Finally, our train arrived and we were on our way back to DC after a fun-filled weekend in Philadelphia.

We, The People {Philly Post #2}

On Saturday morning, Stephen and I woke up and headed down to the Benjamin Franklin Museum. We had already arranged with everyone else to meet them at 10:45 am by our first activity. Stephen and I wake up so early and the other group had had a few busy days in Hershey so we decided to split up in the morning so they could sleep if they wanted.

We made it to the Benjamin Franklin Museum right when they opened at 9 am. The Benjamin Franklin Museum is located where Ben’s house was in Philly.

The outside of the Museum has “ghost houses” showing the outline of Ben’s house. There are a couple of port holes where you can see the original foundation of the house. Once inside the museum, all of the exhibits are located downstairs.

The museum is fairly new and was opened in 2013 so there were a lot of interactive and multi-media exhibits. I got to play a game like Oregon Trail where I picked my profession. I chose printing apprentice and then I had to make all of the decisions to get to my apprenticeship in Philadelphia from Boston. For example, I had to choose if I wanted to sail on a faster ship but cost more money. We also learned about Ben. As a book lover, I loved that he started the first public library. Ben was a very civic-oriented individual. He started the first group of firefighters. We also learned that Ben had gout from drinking too much red wine and eating too much preserved meat.

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At the Benjamin Franklin museum

 

Following our visit to the Benjamin Franklin Museum, we headed to meet the rest of the group for our first tour.

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Stephen and Mason doing their best Rocky!

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Mason and I got our picture taken with George Washington!

 

Our first activity was a walking tour of Philadelphia, led by someone dressed in Colonial attire. Our guide was Clark and he took us on a fantastic walking tour! We saw Ben Franklin’s grave, Elfreth’s Alley, Betsy Ross’ house, and the outside of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

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Mason met Benjamin Franklin!

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Elfreth’s Alley…the oldest continual habited residential street.

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Us with Independence Hall in the background!

 

During our tour, Clark gave us a lot of information about Philadelphia and its history. He was a very good tour guide. By the time our tour was over, we were all hungry for lunch and ready to cool off for a bit.

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All of us with our tour guide Clark. He was awesome!

 

We went to La Scala which was close to the Liberty Bell and enjoyed some pizza and iced tea. After our lunch, we went for our tour of Independence Hall.

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Inside Independence Hall

 

Our tour of Independence Hall was led by a woman who was not the most friendly or welcoming. We were convinced she was a teacher before she was a tour guide but she said she only taught for a few days and then quit.

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Us outside of Independence Hall.

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The best picture of the weekend. None of us have a great smile and Stephen got cut off.

 

Regardless, it was an interesting tour and it was pretty brief, only lasting about 15 minutes in the Hall itself.

Following our tour of Independence Hall, we had enough time before our next activity to stand in line for the Liberty Bell. Mason was super excited about seeing the Liberty Bell and our earlier peek at the Bell wasn’t satisfactory.

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After seeing the Liberty Bell, we boarded our next activity which was a Ducks Tour of Philadelphia. We picked this out because we would get to see some historical sites but it would also be fun and engaging for Mason (and everyone else). Our Ducks tour took us up to see the Rocky statue outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art as well as some other sites we had already seen that morning on our walking tour.

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Then, we got to go in the Delaware River! Of course, we had to get Mason a quacker and he had a lot of fun quacking at us!

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After our Ducks tour, we walked up to the hotel to refresh ourselves and have a drink. Then, we went to dinner at Max Brenner’s. Max Brenner is a restaurant known for its dessert and chocolate courses but they have a regular food menu as well. We all enjoyed our dinners and of course, enjoyed roasting our own marshmallows for dessert!

After dinner, Mason really wanted to go the pool and have a pool party so we spent a little time in the hotel pool which was freezing cold and not very comfortable. Then we all went to bed because that was a long day!

We, The People {Philly Post #1}

A couple of weekends ago, we went up to Philadelphia! Mom had a conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania and brought Jim, Elliott, Ashley, and Mason with her. After Mom’s conference was over, the whole gang headed to Philadelphia to meet us for the weekend.

We left DC in the early afternoon and took the train up. The train ride was about 2 hours long but we didn’t mind…the seats on the train are much more comfortable than airplane seats and we didn’t have to sit in traffic all afternoon! Once we arrived in Philly, we walked to a bar close to our hotel because Oklahoma State was playing baseball to qualify for the College World Series!

We watched most of the game and then walked to the hotel to check in. Around that time, everyone else was arriving to the hotel. As soon as we checked in and took our bags to the room, we left to make it to our dinner reservations at El Vez.

Jim’s birthday was Sunday but since we had to leave on that day, we had his birthday dinner on Friday night. When Stephen and I were researching Philly restaurants, we found a few good ideas. There were a couple of steakhouse options and El Vez. El Vez is a Mexican restaurant that is the highest-rated restaurant on Yelp. We asked Jim if he wanted a steakhouse or Mexican and he wanted Mexican, so El Vez it was!

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We were a little apprehensive taking people from Oklahoma/Texas to a Mexican restaurant on the East Coast. In our experience, Mexican food on the East Coast is usually a fancy-pants type place that isn’t very good. (See, for example, the time we ate at Fuego.) However, we all loved El Vez!

Mom and Jim and then Stephen and I ordered the tacos for two (so, tacos for four?!) and we got so much food! We tasted some of Ashley’s nachos and Stephen helped Mason with his quesadilla! The food was so good but we could have had the tacos for four for all seven of us and that would have been plenty of food.

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Mason in his “special” seat at dinner.

We did have a funny moment at dinner. When we sat down, the six adults were in a circular booth and Mason was in a chair at the end. When our server came over, he said to Mason, “This is a special chair. Only really important people get to sit here but it means you have to pay for dinner.”

After our server left, Mason asked us, “Do I have to pay for dinner? I didn’t bring my piggy bank!”

We reassured him that he did not have to pay for dinner and when our server came back, Mason was sure to tell him that the adults got the bill, not him!

After our dinner, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for a busy Saturday!

 

Breaking Out of Prison {Fort Collins April 2016, Day #3}

Saturday morning we woke up and ate a new place in Fort Collins called A Cut Above. The store mostly focuses on their sandwiches during lunchtime but it was also recommended for breakfast. During breakfast, we talked about what we wanted to do for the day. Tyler and Carly wanted to do an escape room in Denver and after they described it for us, we decided to give it a try.

But, first, we headed to the movie theatre and saw “Eye in the Sky”. The weather at this point was snowing and it was cold but the escape room wasn’t until later in the afternoon. The movie itself was good, although a little intense and sad.

After our movie, we drove to Denver to do our escape room activity. If you don’t know, an escape room is where you are locked in a room and you have to escape within a certain time. The room has clues and riddles to help you figure out how to escape. The escape rooms usually have themes and the theme of our escape room was Prison Break.

The four of us started locked into a prison cell and were told that we had been wrongly convicted of a crime and we had an hour to find the evidence that would set us free and to get out of the room. The experience was fun and we enjoyed solving clues and riddles to figure our way out. The room had a screen where the ‘operator’ could give us additional clues or help us out if we were really struggling with something.

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We escaped! And then they let us take a picture in the cell!

 

I won’t say anymore about the game just because I wouldn’t want to ruin it if you decide to do one in the future. We managed to escape the room with our evidence in about 65 minutes. The operator let us go a few minutes longer because we were so close to figuring it out and escaping.

I wasn’t completely sold on the idea when Carly and Tyler brought it up but I ended up really enjoying it and thought it was a lot of fun! It’s also something very different than our normal activities.

After our escape room adventure, we drove back to Fort Collins and picked up beer, wine, and wings. We hung out with Tyler’s roommates as well as Stephen’s other brother, Chris, who was working nearby. We called it an early evening due to the snow and the road conditions.

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Most of our beer and wings crew.

 

Sunday morning Stephen woke up very early to check on the roads to the airport. The road conditions were not great so we decided to leave Fort Collins very early in the morning to allow ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport.

We made it to the airport with several hours before our flight left but Stephen (the driver) said that the roads were pretty bad so we were glad we had allowed some extra time. Fortunately, our flight left on time and we were back to DC with little issue.

As usual, we enjoyed our time with Tyler and his friends. Hopefully, when we plan to see him again this week, we’ll actually get to see him compete!