National Arboretum

We spent the second part of Sunday in the National Arboretum. We’d actually spent enough time in the Zoo that we got there fairly late, so we took the tram tour to get a view of what’s there, and walked around the vistor’s center a bit. There’s a ton of stuff of see there, and I definitely want to make it back down there someday to take advantage of it.

The columns in the first two pictures are old sandstone columns from the Capital building. They were placed in storage when they were replaced with marble columns, and recently moved to the Arboretum. They make an interesting statement standing in their field.


National Zoo

Our Sunday down in DC was taken up at the National Zoo, and the National Arboretum. Above is the hit parade from the Zoo. We definitely caught baby season. You can see the baby anteater and baby gorilla above. We were actually pretty lucky to the see the baby gorilla, as mom was feeling very protective that day. He didn’t out until he decided to bug Aunty. We still managed to only see about half of the place, plus they have a big project going on to improve the elephant area, so there will definitely be more to see the next time we make it down there again.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Kiila by Yarnissima
Yarn: Three Irish Girl’s Adorn Sock in the Baltic Sea colorway
Needles: Size 1.5

My Kiila socks are done. These are both my first toe up socks, and my first mystery socks. (And the picture is crap because it’s raining and apparently is going to rain for the next year or so, so I have no hope of getting good lighting. But I digress.)

The pattern was quite easy, once I managed to figure out how to cast on. I used the Turkish cast on, and had to improvise it with two DPNs rather than circs, and since I didn’t own the corresponding circ size of the 1/5 DPNs, it was a bit loose. I’ve since put in a KnitPicks order and remedied my dearth of lower sized circular needles, so I can hopefully do that better the next time. I don’t think it’s obvious, but I know it’s a little off.

The pattern itself was pretty easy, and would definitely make for a good first toe up sock. I wasn’t able to do the cabling without a cable needle (I kept losing the stitches), but it was easy to use a smaller DPN to hold those stitches instead.

I liked the Adorn sock quite a bit, though it’s definitely fuzzy, and I felt like I had to keep it groomed, or it was developing gigantic pills. Still, I love the color. I have a far bit left (it’s a short sock), so I’m thinking about making a baby hat or two out of it. It’s a good little boy color.

I’ve decided this is my last Sockdown sock for this cycle of Sockdown. This is partially because I have two weeks off in July, one of which will involve leaving North America, so I’m just not sure how much knitting time I’ll have. But I would also really like to finish the February Lady sweater in time to actually wear it for Fall. So I figure I need to commit to not casting on any new projects until one of the two I currently have on the needles is done.

Enid Haupt and Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Gardens

The other Saturday garden highlight in DC were the gardens around the Smithsonian Castle.

The Haupt Garden is behind the Castle, and actually on top of the Sackler and African History museums, which are built underground. It’s split into three sections, including a Moongate Garden, based on a garden in Beijing, and a Fountain Garden, based on a garden in the Alhambra. (It was raining so hard when we were there that they’d blocked off the Fountain Garden due to slight flooding.) The main part of the Haupt is a formal green area, and they’ve surrounded it with planters filled with exotic plants. It’s a really heat space to wonder through.

The Folger Rose Garden is on the Mall side of the buildings, between the Castle and the Arts and Industries building. It’s still a bit early in the season, but there were roses out to see.

It’s the End of the World Reading Challenge II

I’ve finished the my four books for the It’s the End of the World Reading Challenge II. I read:

I noted in my starting entry for this challenge that I signed up because Paperspine had mysteriously decided it was going to send two post-apocalyptic books that weren’t actually near each other in my queue to me at the same time. So I took it as a sign, and signed up. I then picked out a couple more books and added them to my queue. I had a number of other challenge books I wanted to read first (I did have until October after all), so I put them down around #25. Guess which books Paperspine decided to send me next?

So apparently the Paperspine computer system loves this challenge, and with that kind of encouragement, I finished it pretty quickly. Despite the seemingly depressing subject matter, I had a lot of fun reading my books. I tend to read more fantasy, so it was nice to venture over into the sci fi part of the world.

I do still have a couple of other books in my queue, that I’d put in thinking I might have trouble getting more books from the genre, so I’ve now sunk them down to the bottom of the queue. Who knows, if there’s a challenge next year, I’ll have to see if the Paperspine system gives me another sign and sends me more post-apocalyptic books out of the blue.

A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller Jr.

0060892994-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Read for the It’s the End of the World Reading Challenge II.

This book focuses on the Abbey of Saint Leobowitz, founded after a nuclear war (called the Flame Deluge) destroys much of the world, in order to save some remnants of civilization. The documents they’re guarding come to be called the Memorabilia, and it’s the monks’ duty to safeguard this information.

The story occurs in three main parts, first in a sort of Dark Age, where the true meaning of the Memorabilia is lost, second in a renaissance where the world is rediscovering the knowledge contained in the Memorabilia, and third, when the world has reached the same technological level as just before the Flame Deluge.

Through these three time periods, it’s interesting to see the interaction of the monks with the Memorabilia, and to see their interaction with the outside world where the Memorabilia is concerned. My favorite part was the middle section, where the Abbot had to struggle with whether or not it was a good idea to place this information in the hands of people again, where the knowledge could be used for good, or ill.

The Catholic church hierarchy plays a rather large role in the story (it is a monastery after all), and there’s a surprising amount of Latin, which I admittedly can’t understand, but having been raised in that church, the overall atmosphere rang true. I don’t know if someone without that background would find this book hard going in places.

At the very end, the story addresses the question of can we learn from our mistakes. This was my BF’s least favorite part of the book, but I’m reading it at a time of saber-rattling in some of the more unstable nuclear states, and I found a strange feeling of resonance in those passages.

This is a great book. It transcends the usual reputation of the science fiction genre, and I understand why it’s considered a classic.

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

We spent our first full day (Saturday) in DC wandering around the National Mall. The Mall is boxed in by the Capital Building and Washington Monuments on the ends, and the Smithsonian Museums along the long edges. We did visit the Freer, Sackler and African Art Galleries, as well as a quick stop in the Castle, but the highlights to me were the gardens hidden among the museums.

The Ripley Garden is really a cut through between the Arts and Industries Building and the Hirschhorn Museum from Jefferson Drive (along the Mall) to Independence Avenue. It’s really lovely garden with a fountain, a variety of raised beds, and a number of container plantings. The photos below are actually taken from two different times that day, earlier in the morning during a driving rain, and then later when things had begun to dry out.

Highlights of the Ripley Garden:

Washington DC

I’m back from a long weekend in Washington, DC. It was a great trip, and I have many, many, many pictures I need to wade through. We stayed with the BF’s younger brother. This was the third time I’ve made it into the city, but the first time I’ve actually stayed in the city limits (BF’s bro lives in Columbia Heights), so it was definitely fun to experience the domestic side of the capital. I’m suddenly re-obsessed with row houses. I loved the diversity of expression, in what should be a conformist kind of place.

Anyway, I’ll be posting some more once I can get through the pictures, but I’ll start out with the reason we probably should have booked a freight flight home. I present to you my insane weekend of fabulous dining in DC:

Vegetable Samosas at Indique

Quarry House Tavern, Silver Spring, MD:

We ended up at this pub on Friday night. It’s pretty much a literal hole in the wall (complete with paper sign that probably falls off every time it rains). You should come here for the insane beer collection, their burgers, and all things fried. We started the meal with fried pickles. Believe it or not, these worked. We continued with burgers. I’m not a huge burger fan, but even I had to admit, those things we damned good. But, the crown jewel of the evening was dessert: Deep-fried double stuffed oreos a la mode. Believe it or not, this was one of the best freaking desserts I’ve ever had. Due to a probable previous order of jalapeno poppers, the batter had a faint peppery taste, and the oreos were soft. I cannot describe how good this thing was. Order it once. You’ll never need to eat it again, but you won’t be sorry.

Oyamel, 7th Street, DC:
The BF has wanted to visit this place since it appeared on No Reservations, and we managed to catch a few episodes of owner Jose Andres’ PBS show. They do decidedly modern-style Mexican tapas. We went with it, and ordered things we knew we’d never get around here. BF was admittedly the more adventurous. He ordered Chapulines, and I got to watch him discretely pick grasshoppers from his teeth.
My personal highlights were the watermelon aqua fresca (because it was so watermelony I was slightly disturbed I wasn’t chewing), Ceviche de cayo de hacha con chile y naranja (scallop ceviche with the perfect level of orange), Nopalitos (cactus salad that I can only describe as tasting green), and Papas al mole (because fries smothered in mole sauce and cotija cheese = heaven).

Rosa Mexicana, 7th Street, DC:
We met here for drinks after BF’s bro got out of work on Saturday. I have only three things to say about Rosa Mexicana: frozen pomegranate margaritas, guacamole, and Budin de Pollo. Good, better and best. That Budin was amazing. BF had sampled it last time he was in DC, and it lived up to its rep.

The Heights, 14th Street, DC:
We ended up here for a very late dinner. (Yes, this was our fourth meal that day. I did mention we probably should have gone for freight flight booking…) I had their flash fried ginger calamari appetizer for an entree. I’ll often mention that a good restaurant can be judged by the consistency of their calamari. This was a good restaurant.
This restaurant also represented two things we can’t get at home, and wish we could: 1. the ability to eat outside, and a place within walking distance of home. Yes, it was a bit of a longish walk, but it was so pleasant to be able to walk through a busy, interesting neighborhood, and then hang out on the patio, chatting, and watching things happen around us. Portland is definitely lacking in that kind of restaurant scene. (Granted, with our climate, it’s easy to understand why.)


Open City, Calvert Street, DC:
We started out Sunday morning with brunch at Open City. I first need to mention that this also happened to be Father’s Day. The place was slammed with people, but we were seated and served with almost inhuman efficiency. I had Chai Tea Waffles. Yes, you could taste the chai. And yes, it was delicious. (And we got to eat outside again.)

Yogato, 17th Street, DC:
We spent most of Sunday at the Zoo. And what do you do after going to the zoo? You get ice cream! Or in this case, frozen yogurt with a mind-boggling array of toppings in one of the quirkiest shops I’ve ever been in. Follow the link and read the rules, and you’ll see what I mean. (BF got a 10% discount by being able to name 6 of the 7 countries that have a P in their name that is not the first or last letter.)

Indique, Connecticut Ave, DC:
We had dinner Sunday night at Indique. This is by far the best Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to. Everything they made was fresh, and beautiful (see the picture of the samosas above). The naan was superb. I had Aloo Gobhi, which for something so simple, was a revelation. BF had the lamb shank. I don’t like lamb, and I thought it was amazing. BF’s bro had the Lucknowi Pathar Ka Gosht. It took us forever to order, because everything looked good. It was simply amazing. (And this was our final outdoor dining experience.)

Clyde’s, 7th Street, DC:
We finished out Monday at Clyde’s, which is also near BF’s bro’s second job. Their burgers are apparently also to die for, but I was pretty burgered out, so had a chicken fettuccine with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and corn. I’m so replicating that dish once tomatoes and corn are in season.

So, yeah. Add some snacking around the Smithsonian, and you can understand why we had a sneaking suspicion they’d be rolling us onto the plane for our flight home.

The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy – Maya Slater

Being the huge Pride and Prejudice fan that I am, I’d signed up for this book from the Early Reviewers list on LibraryThing pretty much before my brain actually consciously recognized what it was. And I was really excited when I was actually chosen to receive it.

It’s not a bad read, though Darcy’s not in character, or at least what I perceive to be his character. That was a little disconcerting at first, but I was able to overlook it once I got used to it. I really enjoyed his relationship with Georgiana, and the depth of feeling in the episodes with Wickham resonated. I also liked his reasoning for separating Bingley from Jane.

I was not a huge fan of Byron. While I enjoyed most of the other historical details in the book (which were well researched, and added a good flavor), Byron was superfluous, and honestly, seemed out of character to be a friend of Darcy’s.

I also wish there was just a bit more Lizzy. By the end, when he was thoroughly in love with her, the story worked, but he seemed to fall in love with her awfully fast, and with little detail. I suppose it could be something he just couldn’t commit to paper, but it did seem a bit odd to me.

I definitely enjoyed the book, and would certainly consider a reread, which is a first for any of the P&P sequels I’ve read.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Elizabeth I: Town and Country by JoLene Treace
Yarn: Knitpicks Gloss Lace in the Aegean colorway
Needles: Size 2 1/2 circular

I started the Town and Country scarf back on August 1, 2008. It’s been a great do a pattern repeat whenever I feel like it project.

This is my first lace weight project, and it certainly did take a long time. There were times that the skein never seemed to shrink in size, especially when I was doing the Undulating Waves scarf at the same time. (Lace weight vs. worsted weight. Not a pretty picture.) Still, I did enjoy working on it, and would like to do the other two (more difficult) patterns in the Elizabeth I set.

I enjoyed the Knitpicks Gloss Lace. It has a really nice feel to it, and the sheen from the silk is very pretty. I definitely love this color blue, and can see myself wearing this, even though I’m not actually a scarf person. I guess I’ve just been waiting for the right scarves.