Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I took another floral arrangement class from Helen Olivia in Alexandria tonight, and once again I had a blast!  This time the class was all about color...

We reviewed the principles behind various color combinations, including:
  • monochromatic (all tints and shades share same base color) 
  • analogous (use colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel)
  • complementary (colors directly opposite each other on the wheel)
  • triadic (color combinations connected in a perfect triangle)
  • split complementary (two analogous colors and one complementary color, forming a narrow triangle)
  • rectangular (colors linked in a perfect rectangle)
  • square (colors linked in a perfect square)
For tonight's arrangements, we created a monochromatic one out of purples and a triadic one out of orange, purple, and green. The monochromatic arrangement used roses, hydrangea, lisianthus, irises, and a few others, and it was wrapped in a leaf within the vase.

Front view 
Rear view
For the triadic arrangement, we used the large hibiscus again for the blue, lisianthum for the purple, miracle roses and double gerbera daisies for the orange, and mini hydrangea for the green in a cylinder vase filled with oasis.  I chose to wrap the vase in a blue satin to set off the blue against the bright orange.
Look how amazing the arrangement looks next to my bed!!!

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 by Julie

1 comment

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I can't believe I started this blog only one year ago!  In my first post ever, I concluded with this note about my motivation for writing the blog:

So, I present to you this chronicle of how I choose to live my life, not because I want to brag about my awesomeness,
 but because I want to inspire people to do things, even if it's only for a day or an hour.  Or perhaps writing 
about my travel adventures will make you less intimidated about a particular destination, or about traveling 
in general, because seeing the world is ESSENTIAL, in my humble opinion!  Lastly, I'm hoping that by 
maintaining this blog, I will, as a result, be inspired by myself to never stop learning, living, and exploring!!  

Hopefully, over this past year, I achieved my goal and have been able to entertain, to educate, and to inspire.  Based on the stats, I know it's not just my friends and family reading this thing, and that idea makes me really happy!  I can definitely say that regardless of the audience, maintaining this blog, as I predicted and desired, has definitely had me doing a lot more than what was my "normal" before.  So much that it may be more challenging next year to find new things to do and still keep up the same pace!

  • 117 Posts (this one is #118)
  • 30 places "explored"... 30 things "learned"... 57 activities "lived"
I also got ownership of my own domain, created a Facebook page to post new blogs/photos/fun things related to the blog ("like" it!), and I started another, more casual, blog called Julie Runs Amok!

It's been so fun, I wonder why I didn't think of starting this before!!


- Love, Julie

Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 by Julie

1 comment

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than learning something new!  Today's new activity to add to my ever growing adventure skillset was stand-up paddleboarding.  I've seen these paddleboards while on vacations in tropical and warm weather destinations but have never tried it myself.  This particular excursion was provided by Potomac Paddlesports, specifically their Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) 101: FUNdamentals course.  The location is one of D.C.'s most scenic natural area and a favorite for kayakers, river surfers, and paddleboarders - a little south of the popular Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River near Old Angler's Inn. You may remember me writing about the Billy Goat Trail hike earlier this summer.

In the class, we learned some basic strokes for forward and backward movements and for turning and stopping.  The first module of the course we remained in a kneeling position in order to be able to concentrate on our strokes.  Once we were in a protected area, we covered some safety issues.  The main skill was to learn how to properly get back on the board after falling off.  There are two methods, but the easiest is to use the center strap and a strong scissor kick to propel yourself back up on the board, or at least your personal floatation device (PFD) - or life vest - so that you can then wiggle into a prone position.  A more difficult remounting is from the tail.

Standing on the board - not so bad after a few practices
Demonstrating the strokes
Once we got the green light, we were then taught a few different methods for standing up on the board from a kneeling position. At first, none of these felt comfortable, but after a few ups and downs, I got the hang of what move was best for me. I think the key is to learn to trust the board, and to recognize that falling off isn't so bad, of course assuming you're in a relatively deep area and not near rocks under the surface.
Next we made our way a little up river to where we could try our hand at some swifter currents and very mild white water, learning how to apply the techniques we gained to maintain control of the board.  At this point, my earlier issues with aching foot arches and sore calves from constantly balancing my body miraculously dissipated.  Maybe I was just feeling more comfortable in my ability to maneuver the board.  I recognized the area we were in as a viewpoint on the Billy Goat Trail near the steep vertical climb.  If you've hiked it, you know where I'm talking about!
Alas, Mother Nature was not especially nice to us the whole time we were out there.  At the first sight of lightning, we started to head back towards our put-in beach.  Of course when the wind picked up and the rain deluge began, our instructor said to get on our knees and "oscar mike" out of there.  I have a feeling my shoulders are going to be sore after that sprint!
Overall, it was a very fun experience, and I definitely want to do more.  You not only get a little exercise, but you're nestled in beautiful scenery too.  Through the membership at Potomac Paddlesports, you get a two year access to four outdoor lessons, coached weeknight practices that are free with a social hour afterward, all equipment for classes and practice, free rentals, and 10% member discounts. Considering that the paddleboards we used cost around $1200, it's not a bad idea to try it out for awhile before making any investments.  

Posted on Sunday, August 26, 2012 by Julie

1 comment

Seriously, who doesn't love the Sound of Music?  And how great is it that there's an event that caters to Sound of Music lovers hosted by Washington D.C.'s best outdoor venue that also allows you to bring a picnic of amazing food and wine!

Tonight was shared at Wolf Trap with people of all ages, some dressed up in homemade costumes, who just love to enjoy a classic movie in the fresh air.  My friend and I are seasoned Wolf Trap attendees, so we knew how exactly to plan for the night. The key to Wolf Trap is to expect rain and be pleasantly surprised when it stays dry.  I can only count maybe one or two times that I have gone when there has not been rain or thunderstorms in the forecast.  So we went ahead and forked over the extra $10 to get the covered loge seating.  But that didn't mean we couldn't enjoy a picnic on the lawn.  Arriving at least an hour early, we set of our stash of goodies on our blanket and enjoyed some yummy cheese, stuffed dates, and petit fours for dessert - paired with a chilled crisp pinot grigio, of course!

That first hour was spent not only noshing on our snacks and drinking our wine out of plastic mugs, but we also had a chance to do one of my favorite activities - people watching!  We saw nuns galore, girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, a very cute lederhosen wearing toddler, and some lederhosen clad adults sharing a beer and conversation, plus many more Sound of Music related costumes. (Apologies for the crappy camera phone photos!)

When we went through the entrance of Wolf Trap, we were given a goodie bag with our props for the evening.  Before the movie began, we were instructed on how and when to use the props, plus additional times when we were expected to make specific sound effects.  For any Nazi, we were told to "boo."  For the Baroness, we were expected to hiss at her - obviously because she was coming between the Captain and Maria!  And for Rolfe, this was a little confusing because we were told to bark like a dog, like Rolfe the Muppet, but then again he became a Nazi, so do we bark or boo?  Anyway, the instructions were much clearer for the props.
When the nuns sing "How do you solve a problem like Maria?," we were to hold up the question mark when they said "how" and the Maria card when they said "Maria."  On the opposite sides were the word "flibbertijibbit" and a ghost for when they sing "a will-o'-the-wisp."  Of course the fabric square was to be used after the "Favorite Things" song when Maria is denied fabric for the childrens' play clothes by the Captain.  We had to wave it and yell, "Behind you!," so she would notice the drapery.  Of course the edelweiss was used for the two occasions that song was played.  The invitation was meant to be waved throughout the ball scenes. And finally, the popper was to be "uncorked" the moment Captain von Trapp kisses Maria for the first time in the gazebo. There was a little premature popping going on in that scene, but it still made me laugh.  What an overall fun night! Everyone was so excited about the movie and enthusiastic about singing with the songs - and performing the choreography in the case of "Do-Re-Mi." It makes me want to not only come back next year but to check out a similar experience with the Rocky Horror Picture Show that plays often in D.C.  Hmmm...maybe in October...

Posted on Sunday, August 26, 2012 by Julie


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Time to get creative!  I recently took a pottery class at VisArts in Rockville, Maryland.  Originally, when I read the description, I thought we would be throwing clay and using a wheel to turn out some projects.  It was actually more of a clay molding class, where we had the option of making various shaped platters or a four footed vase.  I opted for the octagonal shaped platter because of my preference for clean lines. 
First, we were given boards with prepared slices of clay that were rolled out pretty thick in order to accomodate the inevitable mistakes we, as beginners, were going to make.  Step 1 with the clay was to take a plastic "rib" tool and smooth out the surface of the clay on both sides.  We were told that this serves to compress the clay molecules and prevent cracking in the kiln.  After selecting my project shape, I used a template to outline in the clay the outer edges.  Then we centered clay molds inside that outline to sketch and define the plate border.
Next, I had to select a texture using rubber mat templates.  I went with a basket weave, but I saw some neat plates being made using a wood grain texture as well.  Placing the rubber mat, texture side down on our clay, we applied generous pressure using a rolling pin to imprint the clay.  I decided that I wanted to clean up the center of the plate, so I used the rib to smooth it out.
Once smoothed out, I had to manipulate the flat clay into the plate shape, with the raised edges.  We did this by lifting the clay from the board and placing it on a piece of foam rubber.  Taking the clay mold I used to outline the center of the plate I gently pushed down the center to gain the desired angles for the edges.
For a little added decoration, I decided to stamp two flowers in the center, then add balls in the middle using the "score and slip method" - scratching the surface of the joining sides and encouraging the molecules to bind with a little water.  The final step before firing was to do an underglaze.  I chose red, as opposed to my normal favorite color blue, to shake things up.  I tried to add a little detail with different shades of red in the flower, but it wasn't working as well as it does when I am painting on dried and pre-fired pottery.
Two weeks later, I picked up the fired product from VisArts, and I have to admit that I hate it.  They did not apply a top, glossy glaze, so it looks like a hideous elementary school project.  There are also very aesthetically unpleasing raised marks on the plate where it rested on spikes in the kiln. Oh well, now I have an excuse to throw a Greek dinner party just so I can yell, "OPA!", and smash this project on the ground.  And from now on, I think I'll stick to the paint-your-own pottery studios.

Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 by Julie

1 comment

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When I got my first "adult" apartment after college, my mom gave me a Kitchen Aid stand mixer as a housewarming present.  It was all I could ask for, as a lover of baking and as it reminded me of my childhood with my mom making yummy things in the kitchen.  Probably a few years ago, I noticed a little grease leaking out of it after it was on its side for a long period of time during an apartment move, but didn't think anything of it after I cleaned it up.  The past few times I've used my mixer, though, there was a significant amount of grease escaping both from the seam of the motor cover, under the metal decorative ring, and dripping from inside the motor down the arm and onto the top of the paddle.  I thought, well that's not good - for the mixer or the baked goodies!

A little Googling and I figured out that the problem was the grease had separated, just like when a homemade mayonnaise breaks but a lot more complicated to rectify!  I called a local appliance repair shop, and they said it would cost $75-125 to repair.  Yikes!  A little more time on the computer, and I found a great YouTube video with a DIY fix, only it was for one of the flip top models and I have a lift up bowl model.

But, for the most part it instructed me on what to do. I just had to get my friend to help completely detach the motorhead from the base in order to take the housing off because the screws were super tight.
Cleaning as I go
Grease that needs to be removed
All cleaned up and ready for new grease
Anyway, one can of KitchenAid food grade grease purchased off of Amazon and two rolls of paper towels later (what a messy cleanup!), and my 10+ year old KitchenAid is back in business, and I can add appliance repairwoman to my resume. I did hit one speed bump putting it back together.  The two large black plastic screws on the side of the housing have spring loaded carbon brushes behind them.  If you ever take them out, you must note how they are positioned because if not put back just the way you found them, with the dog-eared side hitting a tiny, barely visible square notch in one corner, the electrical current won't flow through the motor.  By the way, you do not need to remove these screws for this fix!  I didn't realize that until it was too late.

I must confess that I did end up buying a new KitchenAid mixer anyway with a higher wattage, but that just means I can do twice the baking and my older mixer now has a kid brother -- a stronger, faster, and bigger one!!

Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 by Julie


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Thailand for the first time as part of my three country Southeast Asia tour I booked through my favorite company, Exotissimo Travel.  My too-short stay was based out of the old part of Bangkok, and included visits to Ayutthaya and all the most popular destinations in the city.  Bangkok is rich with treasured historical sites and temples that bring visual pleasure with their amazing display of color and detail.  My favorite places were the wats, or temples, that were decorated with remnants of broken shipments of china plates.  Religious icons, flowers, and intricate designs were created and combined like one giant mosaic project.  You can find the best examples of the use of china on the facades at Wat Arun and Wat Pho.  Also at Wat Pho, you can view the 15 meter high and 43 meter long golden Reclining Buddha statue laying on his side, head propped up by his right hand.  His slippers are decorated on the bottom with 108 panels depicting the symbols of the Buddha, all designed using inlaid mother of pearl.
Wat Arun
Wat Pho

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
The Grand Palace was the official residence for the Kings of Siam, later Thailand, from 1782 to 1925 and now serves as location for royal events.  It is a complex of many buildings topped with gold spires and traditional angular, steep roofs made of red and green tiles.  One of the buildings within the palace walls contain the famous Emerald Buddha, a 45 cm tall figurine made of green jadeite and dressed in gold robes.  The legend of the Emerald Buddha's existence dates back to 43 BC.
Grand Palace
Grand Palace

Grand Palace
While staying in Bangkok, you can't pass up a trip just outside of the city to the old capital of Siam: Ayutthaya. Founded in 1350 by King U Thong, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. What remains today are the foundations of buildings and ruins of several temples from the former capital that once was home to a population of up to 1 million people. In 1767, the city and its treasures were destroyed by the Burmese army, during one of their final invasions of many that occurred over a span of more than 200 years, and its people were subjected to terrible acts of violence by the conquering power. Wandering around the old grounds of the kingdom, you can still find some interesting sites, like the sacred Buddha head engulfed in banyan tree roots or the tombs in Wat Ratchaburana. In the modern town of Ayutthaya, you may see vendors selling rooster souvenirs of many sizes, including a 20 foot gold sequined rooster!  Locals purchase the roosters and place them by the King Naresuan Monument because he is one of the country's most revered leaders, as he had many military accomplishments and led the Thai independence from Burma in the late 16th century.  King Naresuan is often pictured with a rooster and his love of cock fighting was well known, so to honor his legend, locals leave him their purchased roosters.
Buddha in the tree at Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat and Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana

If you have some extra time on your vacation, hop a plane to enjoy one of Thailand's fantastic beach destinations.  I chose to explore the popular destination of Phuket and went SCUBA diving around the Phi Phi islands, whose reefs were surprisingly undamaged from the tsunami.  "The Beach," starring Leonardo Di Caprio, was filmed on the Phi Phi islands, and there are some places where the water is the most interesting shade of blue/green.  Beware if your boat captain pulls up near a shore filled with monkeys - those little buggers can swim fast and climb aboard like little pirates because they've been conditioned to expect boats to bring them bunches of bananas.  Another beautiful island I want to try the next time I'm in the country is Koh Samui.

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 by Julie