Saturday, December 27, 2014


On my birthday my first thought is always that it would have been my father's birthday too. When I was already in the USA we had a game who would call whom first to congratulate. It happened that he calculated the time difference wrong and called at an unearthly hour. He was a gentle kindhearted fun interested-in-everything person. I just rushed to find a photo of him and this is from the first album I opened: 1989

First thought had been to all have lunch in a restaurant but then I preferred brunch at our place. I have some easy recipes which don't take much time. Sarah, Wade, Kathy and Caleb came about 11 am. Poor Mike had been caught by the revenge now, couldn't come and was resting.
Caleb went full steam and was a lot of fun. He showed Grandma all the things he could play with at Omi's house.

He likes to walk around with things in his hands.

William and Helen sang Happy Birthday on FaceTime. Caleb was very interested to see his cousin.

Sorry I forgot to take a picture before the brunch table was somewhat depleted. Smoked salmon (done by Mike .. Christmas gift to us and oh so good), bagels, cream cheese, a hashbrown potato casserole with peppers and sausage, little chicken pot pies (my improved version), cranberry bars, fruit salad ...

My birthday cake!

Hip hip hurray! Three times! Everybody got a piece! It's a Burr Family thing.

Helen later texted: Did Caleb bake your birthday cake?
My answer: No, but William did!
William LOVES to help to bake. He helped with Caleb's birthday cake (cup cakes) when they were here in November. There were leftovers and I froze them. At this point after Christmas everybody feels so "stuffed" that I didn't want a whole cake.
So, thank you, William, for my birthday cake! (I think this is funny)

After the others left James and I went shopping ... in two cars. There were a few things were we wanted to take advantage of the after-Christmas-sales. James was not so lucky but I was.
And then Helen and William called again. We did the gift-opening via Face Time. So much fun. Papa took the photos. Screen shots.

And now I say it again: what a wonderful day it was!
Brunch with Sarah and her family, Face Time with Helen and William several times, phone calls from Europe, a video from "our Brits" singing happy birthday and many many emails and Face Book wishes. There is no greater gift then caring. Thank you!

The video came via text and I loaded it to YouTube. I hope this is o.k. with the senders. I didn't want to loose it. Here it is!

Yes, and when I was in bed at the end of the day and thought about all of it, I got teary eyed.
Yes, I am blessed!


The weekend in D.C. was a nice "chiller" but then it got hectic again. December 21 (4th Sunday of Advent) was Chrismon Sunday at our church. That's when I give a miniature Chrismon to every child of St Martin's. They have received a card each inviting them to claim it. You can click on the tab "About my Chrismons" in the header of this blog and can find out all about it. This year's ornament was the Bottony Cross.
Finally they are all ready at the door. This is the 7th year I am doing this in this congregation (we moved here in 2008).

During the children's sermon Father Lee explains the symbol to the littlest ones.

I am proud of Helen. She started the same in her new church and gifted the Star of David to the children there. Her new friends were very excited about it and loved it.
Helen lives 600 miles away but she is good about keeping us in the loop. She texted this photo of "her men" picking out their tree.

Helen's photos of William as a shepherd ... in the church pageant

... and in the preschool.

Another photo of William playing with the toy found in the Advent-calendar-sack from Papa and Omi.

Parts of the last days before Christmas were rough. Caleb seemed to have the stomach bug, his mother had it, then his father did, and then Omi. Luckily it's a 24hour thing.
Finally ... Christmas Eve! Some last minute things but after lunch James and I had to go for one of our "fast walks" in the neighborhood. The weather was gorgeous. A coat was needed but I was very comfortable in my "hiking sandals".

My pansies like this weather too.

We had plans to go with our friend Julie to Kim and Mike's open house, then come back and chill a little at her house and then go to the late service. Wade contacted James though that he and Caleb and his visiting parents wanted to go to the 5 pm service. Sarah had to work till 10 pm. So James joined them. Here they are all in "our" pew, the third from the front on the left.

Caleb wanted to go to the front for the children's sermon too so Papa took him. If you know where they are you can see them. I don't know who took the photos because I "stole" them from FB.

When James came back we did as planned. Julie, James and I had a great time at our friends Kim and Mike. Lots of lovely family and friends. Lots of good food. The decorations in the house where eye-candy too. So nice.
I love the late Christmas service. Carol music at 10:30 pm. Service starts at 11. James was serving and I had to think of Willam again. He always wonders why Papa has a dress on then, ha-ha.
Helen, Ben and William had gone to their late service too. Later she texted these photos. So precious.

Christmas Day. Nothing on the calendar until 4 or 5 pm when we are invited to Sarah's. We can open the gift from Helen and Ben though. James is taking a whiff of the wonderful coffee aroma. I have to wait to try my gifts out till after Christmas. They know I love gadgets.

Couldn't resist taking a picture of this lonely bean in the bottom. Don't know how that got there. Nothing was leaking.

We were going to be 8 at the dinner (Caleb was in bed by then). James and I brought a card table and the two folding chairs we have. And salad.

First we did a lot of playing. Kathy took this picture. Mine is not half as good.

A demonstration of Caleb's gift from Kathy and Mike (his other grandparents).
A rocker!

High chair!

Desk! Made by Amish. Caleb was so fast on the move that he was always out of focus.

A gift came from an Uncle who has "real live" horses. Caleb likes his. I tried to make a VIDEO.

Wade is testing the tenderloins ... cooked to perfection. And seasoned to perfection too.

Main meal over of course we have fun with the crackers. A Burr Family tradition forever. Can't do without. (Helen sent some photos of the Christmas dinner with Ben's family. Guess what's on their heads? The box of crackers was an Advent sack gift.)
The jokes are corny, the trivia is lame and the little toys (?) but we had lots of laughter.

Next door neighbors Joy and David trying out one of the gifts (I think Sarah to Wade), a scalp massager. Another conversation piece.

Dessert. Homemade apple pie by Kathy (mmhhh). She cut the 8 pieces and served the 7 but thought not to dirty another plate. She got a lot of teasing about this. All in good fun. Apple pie and vanilla ice cream!

James and I fell into bed not only with full tummies but with very grateful hearts.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy D.C. Weekend

It's at least the third time that we spend a weekend in December in Washington D.C. So now it is a tradition.
Friday December 12 ... our train left the Amtrak Staples Mill Station at 8 am. It could not be more convenient for us. Also, a ton of memories from childhood of being put into the train to go to the grandparents for summer vacation.

The seats are comfortable and you have free internet and even charge your gadgets.

After a little over 2 hours we arrive at Union Station.

What to do first? We decided to walk to the Newseum (the museum about the news opened on Pennsylvania Ave in 2008). Absolutely incredible place. So well done!
The first exhibition was about the Berlin Wall. On three sides of the room were the explanations about what led to the wall being built, events/life during the wall's existence, how the wall came down. The fourth side was a section of the real wall. In the middle was a real one of the 300 watch towers. The explanations and documentations were to the point and very moving. Gosh, I was teary eyed.

There is so much to see and take in. But you need to go on the balcony to look towards the Capitol too. A guard was happy to take our photo. Actually he got carried away and took several. Good thing because only in one is the Capital good to see. And he was very sure that it was in every picture. A nice young man though.

Luckily not everything was serious or a tearjerker. We enjoyed the game zone.

Mmmhhh, yes, the antenna from the World Trade Center and front pages from many newspapers around the world.

It was time to leave and we were getting our coats back ... right next to this exhibition. I had a quick peek at the first couple of photos ... wished I could come back tomorrow. Oh well, time to leave. Sensory overload anyway. To wrap it up though: the Museum was awesome! Awesome! Go there with plenty of time ... and tissues.

We walked on towards the hotel Embassy Suites Washington D.C. - Convention Center ... right past the Ford Theater where we briefly stopped to have a look at the billboard. A young lady came running out if she could help. No, we didn't want to take a tour. Had already done that before. Might there be tickets available for the evening performance. We should check! Yessss!!!!
We checked into our hotel. Just in time for complimentary happy hour with nibbles.
Then off we went walking again. Dinner. Theater.
Just around the corner from the hotel this lovely display in a little park. Noticed it a moment later. Do you see the dark strip around the tree? Lights were out. When we walked around the tree to turn into that street we saw two men exploring an opening in the tree like a door. They were tourists like us.

You could see inside the tree.

And up. So interesting.

After dinner at the Capital City Brewery (food a bit disappointing) it was time for Ford's Theater. We had one regular ticket and one cheaper one because of "diminished visibility", but next to each other. We were happy with it. It was really no problem. The seats were opposite the box where President Lincoln was assassinated. Oh dear, what history.
We saw Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" and it was brilliant. Brilliant! Of course no pictures allowed during performance.

We walked back to the hotel as happy as one can be with a spring in our steps. And do you notice? The lights are fixed.

Breakfast included in the hotel. Great buffet or cooked to order omelets etc. way to much. Have to call it "brunch".
Then on to find the Metro station.

What to do today? We decided to visit the zoo. I expected the animals to be inactive in this cold and not much going on but thought it might be good for walking.

Wrong. Much was going on and it was great fun. Almost our first sighting was a young panda climbing in a tree. Yes, that evergreen one.

Lucky for us he/she came down for us to have a better look. Going back to his/her mummy in the house.

I have never heard a lion roar like that before. What a show he put on. Unfortunately by the time I got my camera ready he was done. Waited, made a couple unimpressive clips, waited, moved on. Of course when I was gone he did it again. Ha-ha.

On the other side the females and kids. Playing. Having fun.

We saw a lot more but you get the idea. A snack in the cafe there and then a taxi to the Washington National Cathedral. James had bought tickets for the Cathedral Choral Society "Joy of Christmas" concert at 4 pm a long time ago.

We had a little time so we looked around. Unfortunately because of the concert there was no access to the yearly display of some of their hundreds of nativities. These doors were very interesting too.

Yes, we were a bit early.

I took pictures of several different pew cushions. Always on the look-out for Chrismon designs! I have the Alpha and Omega done already though.

Do I need to say how much we enjoyed the concert? If you were not in the Christmas spirit you were now. Part of the concert were also the Hylton High School Troubadours in medieval costumes. Of course there was also audience participation with the text printed in the program brochure.
Caught a taxi right away and back to the hotel ... before happy hour ended. We decided to walk to China town for dinner. It's only a few blocks. Soon we pass a band playing outside a nice looking restaurant. Change of plans.

You should have reservations for Del Frisco's but if you don't they give you the option to sit at either the bar or a communal table upstairs or downstairs. We opted for the communal table downstairs. A family was already sitting there. Parents with two young teenage girls. Oh how much fun it was. We had very lively conversations.
The place was not cheap but the food was so good. Very special.

Next morning: breakfast at the hotel again. Since it was Sunday they offered a more elaborate omelet. But look what I tried: grits! I poured honey over it. Still not a great fan.

There is no metro station close to the National Cathedral so we took a taxi again. There are always some conveniently ready at the hotel.
We had been told the day before that service was at 11 but actually was 11:15 which was great because I had a little more time to look at the nativities "downstairs". You have to go through the gift shop to see the exhibition. I enjoyed it as much as last year (since they are always different).

There is always a sign so you know where each is from with a little about it. The sign below belongs to the photo above.

From Russia

From Finland

From Hungary

From Germany. Have one just like it but tiny.

Top left: Congo
Top right: Sri Lanka
Bottom across: Venezuela

From Peru

From Sweden

A stitching from San Blas Island

Peru again ... gourds

From Burkino-Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta, on the West African coast. Made of bronze.

I took a few pictures after the service which was very nice. The sermon was first class. James found it online for me.

I really like blue paraments and vestments for Advent. It's so festive. I made some about 30 years ago for our first church in Kentucky at the lake. Should find a picture.

Timing worked very well the whole weekend. There was a taxi right there which brought us to
The Kennedy Center. More info here.

Since we had checked out of the hotel we had our backpacks with us which we could check at the coat room. We had time for a little lunch and stroll around. At the entry to the cafe was this: childhood memories again. My father was the king of gingerbread houses!

The Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument

The Washington National Cathedral on the hill. Doesn't look so far but it was quite a ride.

A quick photo before it starts. The Washington Chorus presented "A Candlelight Christmas". James had bought these tickets a while ago too. I think this was the third year for us. Brilliant again. It starts in the dark by the about 150 choristers entering from the back with candles and singing. Goosebumps! The conductor Julian Wachner was funny and made us get up and sing too once in a while. I think there will be a fourth year.

The concert was at 2 pm so we probably were out just after 4 pm. We stood in line for the shuttle bus to the metro station for just a little while but then decided to walk. Another couple joined us. It was not far and quite pleasant after sitting for so long. The underground worked like a charm. By now we know how it works and how to get tickets (for the right fare). Ha-ha, at every visit, if there is time before the train home leaves, we end up at "The Dubliner". This time we sought it out on purpose. All in good fun.
There was a wonderful family with 4 children of all ages at the next table. They were done with the main course except for a boy of about 8 or 10. He obviously is a very picky eater. He wanted dessert though. Everybody did. He reasoned with his parents that he had two stomachs. One for the main course and one for dessert. One was full and one was not. Guess which one was empty.

The train was scheduled to leave at 7 pm and was right on time. James did what comes easy to him. I am proud of my selfies. It was difficult.

The train actually arrived at Staples Mill Station about 15 minutes early and we were home before we should have arrived. How is that for a perfect end to a perfect weekend?