Saturday, September 28, 2013


LivingSocial is offering a class in hand tied floral arrangements, taught bySarah von Pallaro of Urban Petals and FlowerEmpowered.com, on select dates through November at their D.C. event space at 918 F Street.  In the class, we first learned how to prepare the flowers for the arrangement, which I kind of already knew from my prior classes in floral arrangement. However, it was interesting to learn about some of the stylistic preferences of famous European florists, like stripping the salal (Gaultheria shallon) branch of all the leaves except the top leaf for hand tied bouquets.

Anyway, on to the fun.

After the flowers were prepped, we started with a rose held in our non-dominant hand with the base of the flower cradled between the thumb and index finger.  Then, always coming at angles, we pulled salal stems/leaves around the rose to frame it in.  Then we started to build the flowers and greens around to get a dome-like shape, turning the bouquet to continue with the angle insertion motion and making sure to mix texture in with "fluffy" flowers, like the solidago (or goldenrods).  The complete list of flowers used in our fall-themed bouquets is:

  • Orange unique roses
  • Bronze cushion mums
  • Solidago
  • Hypernicum berries

Before skirting...
Once the bouquet was big and full enough, we wrapped a rubber band around the stems and began to skirt the bouquet with seeded eucalyptus and bear grass, looped around to create nice ribbon-like accents.  The great thing is now you can either wrap a ribbon around the rubber bands to finish off the look, or just stick it in a vase.  Both are beautiful!
After skirting
By the way, Urban Petals has an inspiring business model.  After events where they have provided the floral arrangements, Sarah's team will return to the site to collect the arrangements and save them from being thrown away.  Instead, they are donated to non-profit organizations to brighten the days of people who may not get the pleasure of fresh flowers on a regular basis because they are working hard and foregoing large salaries in order to better the community and others.

Posted on Saturday, September 28, 2013 by Julie

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Friday, September 20, 2013


What do I do when I'm in Philadelphia for just two hours?  OK, two hours plus a night occupied by tickets to the Oddball Comedy Fest.  See where it all began, that's what I'm going to do...the birthplace of the United States of America!

The Independence Hall area has received a very nice makeover since the last time I visited Philly. Thankfully it's not high tourist season, so I was able to get a ticket to the Park Ranger tour of the State House right away.  It also helps when you get up early and are there when the sites open.  Tickets for the tour are free, but you can only obtain them from the ticket desk at the Visitors Center on Market Street.


What is now called Independence Hall was known as the State House of Pennsylvania back when George Washington and his forward-thinking patriots signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to "form a more perfect union."  Before this momentous day, the State House was used for everyday legal proceedings in the room seen below, where the defendants literally had to stand trial.


It's the room across the hall where all of the state delegates met to declare independence from the reign of the King of England.  The chair at the front of the room is one of the few actual artifacts that were in the State House when the Declaration was signed.  That chair was the same chair where George Washington sat.  These are the discoveries that make exploring history so amazing!



The quill and ink stand that was used for the signing of the Declaration of Independence is one of the other original artifacts from the State House.  In the State House's West Wing you can view surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution of the United States.  The handwritten document originals are in the National Archives in Washington D.C.



Of course, no trip to Old Philly is complete without a stop at the famous cracked Liberty Bell, now housed in the Liberty Bell Center.  This bell used to be in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House and was used mostly for pretty mundane governmental announcements.  Its fame was cemented by a short story in 1847 that told of the ringing of this bell on July 4, 1776 - complete artistic license by the writer because no announcement was made of the meeting of the Second Continental Congress.  The Liberty Bell may have been rung with other bells on July 8th, though, for the reading of the Declaration of Independence.

As I mentioned earlier, my trip to Philadelphia was inspired by the Oddball Comedy Festival, a summer tour of some great comedic acts presented by Funny or Die.  The headliners were Dave Chapelle and, my favorite, Flight of the Conchords.


Event organizers were super strict about cameras and camera phones, so I'm very glad one person made the effort to record the FotC performance without getting caught and subsequently shared it on YouTube.  At the same time, it was a somewhat refreshing not to feel like I should be capturing the moment in photo or video and to just let myself sit and enjoy being entertained for an hour by one of my favorite comedy acts.


Posted on Friday, September 20, 2013 by Julie

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Friday, September 13, 2013

The best aspect of road trips are all of the little things you stumble upon.  Like how driving through Vermont ended up solidifying the unofficial Dairy Tour of 2013 that started with a 20 mile detour in Canada to Ivanhoe Cheese Factory.  It then continued with trips to the Ben & Jerry's original factory in Waterbury, where they gave us samples of Americone Dream at the end of the tour, and the Cabot Cheese Factory in Cabot, where we tried to see how many cheese samples we could spear with a toothpick and pop in our mouths - let's just say we were no longer hungry for lunch after that stop!  And the tour ended at a cheese shop in the middle of Prince Edward Island that smelled quite pungent when we first opened the door to the tasting room.






I already shared photos of some of the beauty of Prince Edward Island in an earlier post that highlighted lighthouses, but here are two additional gorgeous photos of island scenery.



The towns outside Boston are so rich with history, but we were only able to stop briefly in Salem and Concord.  Time constraints left us unable to do much but take photos of exteriors, save for the tour of Louisa May Alcott's "Orchard House" in Concord.

The Witch House (Jonathan Corwin House) - only house with direct ties to the witch trials
House of the Seven Gables as made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House - her home and setting for "Little Women"
Around the corner from Orchard House is the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his Walden Pond
Statues are always fun to stumble upon to understand how towns would like to be recognized.  In Salem, they had a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery from "Bewitched."  And there is the famous sea captain memorial statue in Gloucester, Massachusetts - America's oldest seaport and home of the Andrea Gail depicted in the "Perfect Storm" movie.

Bewitched in Salem
Gloucester, Mass. Seafront
If time were not a factor, I would have loved to search out and photograph a lot of the charming lighthouses and buildings along the Eastern Seaboard.  Alas, I was only able to capture Portland Head Lighthouse.  We did make the quick stop in Rockport, Massachusetts at Bradley Wharf to see "Motif #1," a red fishing shed that is supposedly the most painted building in the U.S..  I also pulled off the main thoroughfare in St .George, New Brunswick to photograph a neat pulp mill in a gorge.

Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light
Motif #1 - Rockport, Mass.

St. George, NB Pulp Mill
And other random roadtrip captures...

Lobster Cages
A Red Coat on the Freedom Trail in Boston
What a great shop sign (Salem, Mass)
Yummy Beer in Montreal
Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe Hot Apple Fritters in Onatario = AMAZING!
Fake Cronuts at Crumbs Bakeshops (Crumb-Nut) in Conneticut on the way home
Unfortunately, I was lazy and did not capture our adventure on Moncton, New Brunswick's Magnetic Hill, which is an optical illusion where you think you're on a flat piece of road, but if you put your car in neutral, you start to be "pulled" backwards.

And a final shout out to Canadian (not U.S.) Tim Hortons for their delicious chocolate glazed Timbits and for providing me with a new funny Canadian saying: "Do you want a donut with that?"


Posted on Friday, September 13, 2013 by Julie

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

There are some concerts where you just go for the opening act.  Tonight in Fairfax, Virginia was that kind of night.  Panic! at the Disco may not be very mainstream, but for some reason they have been one of my favorite bands since they first hit the scene in the summer of 2006.  I recall listening to their debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, on a constant loop in the car, which to most is strange because the songs are not your typical rock or punk songs.  Panic! at the Disco in 2013 is half of the original four - Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith.  Unfortunately, due to Spencer's current struggles with sobriety, he had to leave the Save Rock and Roll tour in its early weeks because he was not ready for the sometimes alcohol-driven tour lifestyle, so tonight's performance had a substitute drummer.  But, it was still a great show, and kudos to Spencer for making the right decision for his health!

I was very happy that, even with a new album coming out, Panic! played most of their set from the debut album.  The remainder of their set included their current hits, "Miss Jackson" and "This is Gospel," plus others like "Nine in the Afternoon," "Mona Lisa," and "Ready to Go."

After Panic's set, Fall Out Boy came on stage.  I like some FOB songs, but to be honest, I feel like I can't understand about 80% of what Patrick Stump is singing.  They do have some great songs with an uplifting beat that I play on my running playlist!  I stuck around the show long enough to hear some of those, then opted to make it an early night since I've got a very early morning start tomorrow.  Here are some of the videos I took tonight:

Panic! at the Disco

Fall Out Boy
I also dug into my old files and found Panic! videos from their first national tour in 2006.  Now that was a very entertaining concert - songs and staging!

Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 by Julie

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Sunday, September 8, 2013


Boston is two things to me: the Freedom Trail and Fenway.  This quick stop to one of my favorite cities was a first time for my friend/traveling buddy, so we hit the red painted/brick line, dubbed the Freedom Trail, for all but two of the stops during the afternoon and then enjoyed an evening with the "Green Mon-stah" of Fenway Park and the resident "Red Sawx."

The Freedom Trail is a great example of how to show off a city's best attractions to visitors. Starting in Boston Common, it's easily accessible by the Boston "T" underground rail system and the thick red line is very simple to spot on the ground.

We opted to download a free tour app on our phone to guide us through the 2.5 mile walk (of which we probably did just shy of 2 miles). Here's a stop by stop view of our tour... (Apologies for the quality of the photos since I forgot to put the SD card back in my camera from the night before, so I had to use my phone.)

1. State House - built in 1798 on Beacon Hill on land once owned by Massachusetts' first Governor, John Hancock
2. Park Street Church (1809) - located on the site of the former Boston town granary storage building
3. Granary Burying Ground (1660) - find the graves of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Boston Massacre victims, and many other notable Bostonians
4. King's Chapel and Burial Ground (1688) - Church of England church ordered by King James II, first burial ground in Boston
5. Benjamin Franklin Statue (1856) - former site of the first public school in America
6. Old Corner Book Store (1712) - one of Boston's oldest surviving structures, home to the nation's leading publisher from 1833-1864 where they published works from Stowe, Longfellow, Emerson, Hawthorne, Whittier, Dickens, and Alcott.  Obviously the Chipotle sign is NOT original to the structure.
7. Old South Meeting House (1729) - where tea tax protest meetings were held prior to the Boston Tea Party
8. Old State House (1713) - seat of the British Government prior to the American Revolution
9. Site of the Boston Massacre - just behind the Old State House, where five colonists were killed by British soldiers on March 5, 1770. 
10. Faneuil Hall (1763, rebuilt) - known as the Cradle of Liberty, this shopping area and meeting hall hosted inspirational speeches by prominent Bostonians and protests against the Sugar Act and Stamp Act.  
Mike's Pastry in the North End - not an official Freedom Trail stop but should not be missed for authentic Italian desserts (Hanover Street a block from Paul Revere's House)
11. Paul Revere's House (1680) - Boston's oldest building, purchased by a 35 year old Paul Revere who lived in the home from 1770-1800.
12. Old North Church (1723) - the oldest church building in Boston and the site where the famous "one if by land, two if by sea" lantern warning was hung in the steeple to send a message to Paul Revere across the Charles River in Charlestown that he was to deliver to American soldiers in Lexington and Concord about British troop movements.

Other stops on the Freedom Trail are Copp's Burial Ground (the photo I took was "meh" composition-wise), then across the bridge in Charlestown are the Bunker Hill Monument and the U.S.S. Constitution (final stop).  I've done these last two in past Boston visits, so they were skipped for time reasons this round.

And now, some photos from Fenway Park!  If the Red Sox are in town when you're visiting, there is no excuse for not taking the Green Line - which is my favorite and the "cutest" T line, by the way - to the ballpark!  Fenway is one of the few original ballparks and can't be missed, even if you don't like baseball!! Or are a Yankees fan!!  They still keep track of the scoreboard by hand, people!









And if you're looking for some good beer, try Boston Beerworks across from Fenway (and in other parts of town).  How can you resist beers so cleverly named after Boston landmarks?


Posted on Sunday, September 08, 2013 by Julie

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