good news

My banjo, it’s fixed! Much to my surprise, it’s not uncommon for that little piece to snap.  And even more to my surprise, my banjo had been tuned very closely to the correct notes even though I haven’t had a tuner since early July.  (Maybe I do have musical talent after all?)  There was a lot of tension on the string, which is what caused that little plastic piece to snap, but it was because the g-string was wound in reverse.  (Maybe I don’t have common sense after all?)

While Dave was fixing my banjo, I was eyeing the two Mahalo ukuleles on the wall.  I had convinced myself that if he weren’t able to repair my banjo that day, that I would simply have to go home with the soprano.  Alas, he fixed her up pretty good with a metal spike in no time.

Here’s an old picture of the gal in action:

bad news

My banjo, it broke.  😦  I lost my tuner around the fourth of July, so I’ve been self-tuning her.  I must have tuned the g-string up too much over time, making it very tight, and it snapped the string holder on the neck.  I’m going to bring it to Kingstowne Acoustic Music as soon as I possible can where hopefully Dave can fix it for me!

baltimore’s brews

The Heavy Seas beers are brewed by Clipper City brewery in a soon to be expanded warehouse.  Our guide Kelly knows her stuff and engaged the large group with great enthusiasm.  The tour focused on the production of the “pyrate” beers and specifically the equipment that is used.

The $5 tour includes 5 samples and a pilsner glass to take home.  I really enjoyed their seasonal Oktoberfest.  Their other beers were all right and the flavor of cascade hops burst through.

For dinner, we walked from the hotel to Pratt Street Ale House.  The food was general pub fare, but the beer was pretty good.  They didn’t offer a sampler, and much of what they had was exhausted from their contribution to the Baltimore Beer Week which had just ended an hour prior to our arrival.  However, what was leftover (I had the Irish Red) was pretty good.

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I found it very interesting that the bottle cap would be invented in Baltimore.  It made me proud as an American that we would be the ones to invent a way to preserve beverages.  Yes, as a country we’ve done more important things such as walking on the moon, but this is something tangible that I know average Americans appreciate every day.

local exploration: US National Arboretum

On Friday, I did something for the first time that I’ve dreamed of doing and never had the courage to actually do in the 6+ years I’ve lived outside of Washington, D.C.  I drove into the city … all by myself and for myself.

I decided to visit the U.S. National Arboretum because it is free and touted ample free parking on its website.  It took about an hour to get there even though it’s just 30 miles away from my home.  I drove past it the first time because it’s not clearly marked on New York Avenue NE.  I mean, why would anyone think that a road clearly marked several times as a service road would be an entrance to the National Arboretum? I missed the turn all together and ended up in Maryland.  Two U-turns later, I made it into the park and to the visitor’s center.

The receptionist in the visitor’s center encouraged me to visit the bonsais and the orchid exhibit.  So onward I went to view the “Orchids in the Capital” located in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum collection.


National Bonsai & Penjing Museum



Dendrobium Woo Leng



Assorted Paphiopedliums


As pretty as the orchids were, I was drawn to the permanent displays.  I learned about some magnificent oriental rocks.  These are naturally formed rocks with unique characteristics that would be brought home and put on display in the “home office.”


Scholar's Rock



Chrysanthemum Stone with Crystallized Formations



American Stone Carved by Wind


The Chinese Pavilion displayed more stones among their penjings.  A penjing is a miniature tree which is more known by the Japanese word bonsai.


Chinese Pavilion



Interior Entrance into the Chinese Pavilion



Many Chinese Penjing


I just love the little statues in the following two displays:


Rock Penjing - "Lijiang River in Spring"



Chinese Elm Penjing in Training since 2004


The Japanese and North American Pavilions focused more on the miniature trees.


Japanese Pavilion


In the Japanese Pavilion, you can find the oldest bonsai in the whole exhibit.


Japanese White Pine Bonsai in Training since 1625


Many of the famous trees had come down with root rot and were recovering in the nursery.  This is my “oh wow” tree:


Blue Atlas Cedar Bonsai in Training since 1960



Many Bonsai



Many More Bonsai


Some bonsai are from tropical climates and were kept indoors where the climate could be controlled.


Fig Bonsai in Training since 1974 & 1976


This concludes my tour of the bonsai and penjing exhibit.

I then ventured across the little road and found myself at the National Herb Garden where I walked under a knot garden, smelled the roses, and enjoyed the ornamental plants.


Knot Garden



Under the Knot Garden





The herb garden had many plants that I knew from my kitchen but I had never seen such as a bay tree, a cardamom plant, a sesame plant, etc. etc. etc.!  I think it will be fun to arrange a vegetable and herb garden.

There are over 400 acres that I still need to explore at the U.S. National Arboretum.  And there are these columns (from the capitol building) sitting in the middle of a field that will need to be investigated:


National Capitol Columns


The trip into the city wasn’t too bad, so I think I’ll be able to visit more local parks and museums.  I have a lot of catching up to do!

my extra long weekend

Okey and I drove over to Six Meadows in Ohio on Friday where he completed the fence for Duncan.  He added the last gates to the fence on Saturday and secured any remaining escape routes on Sunday.  Now the little beagle will be able to enjoy the outdoors without getting lost on the scent of a ‘coon or deer.

The two newest farmcats made their presence known.  Before you feel too bad for the one in the tree, she climbed up there herself before Susie even had a chance to see her.

Today, we took advantage of Columbus Day being a federal holiday.  It was a beautiful day to go out on the Occoquan River one last time this year.  Susie was a good passenger, but she would get worried when she couldn’t see Okey.  Thankfully, she would sit back down and never jumped out.  It was wonderful to see all the birds along the river.  We saw mallards, loons, gulls, ospreys, geese and great blue herons.

a summary of my time in the windy city

I had an amazing time in Chicago.  I ate out a lot, and I ate a lot.  I definitely recommend Goose Island Brewery in Lincoln Park which has an impressive selection of traditional and inventive styles of crafted beers.  And the food there is remarkable.  We split our plates and had lamb burger with sweet potato fries, duck wontons (yum!), and pulled pork with potato salad.

I was excited to return to Lula Cafe in Logan Square.  Marji and I split our brunch so we could get something sweet (brioche French toast) as well as something salty (breakfast burrito, my absolute favourite thing on the menu).  I also ate at Treat which is an Indian restaurant in Humboldt Park.  I would not recommend bringing small children there because of some of the very odd paintings canvasing their walls.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with my entrée (salmon on couscous), but the appetizers were very savory and everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals (leg of lamb, chicken tiki masala, gnocci).

When I wasn’t dining out, I was feasting in.  My sisters, they can cook!  The eldest sister has a first edition of At Blanchard’s Table:  A Trip to the Beach Cookbook that she created some very tasty sides, main dishes and desserts from.  I am still drooling over the fresh fruit compote.  My middle sister made a pasta dish that made me wonder if we weren’t somehow Italian.  (We’re not.)

I am glad that I packed my running shoes.  I still feel guilty from everything that I indulged myself in, so I’m very thankful for this cooler weather which makes running more enjoyable.

I had a wonderful time with my sisters and their families.  It was also nice to see a lot of friendly and familiar faces at Marji’s birthday party.  The time spent with everyone was good although too short.

No travelling post would be complete without photographs.  Here are some random pictures from Logan Square and Treat:

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the plane that thought it could

Thursday was a “Chicago or bust” kind of day. Here is an excerpt from United Flight #395’s status updates if it had a Twitter feed:

8:30 am Flight possibly delayed or cancelled due to tornado watch.
1:00 pm Tornado watch lifted.
3:00 pm Due to overbooking of passengers, new airplane assigned to fly to Chicago.
3:04 pm Scheduled departure time.
3:12 pm New plane is towed to gate.
3:30 pm Last of passengers are boarded.
3:57 pm Take off delayed due to broken bathroom door; it won’t shut.
4:30 pm Plane backs away from gate and prepares for take-off.
4:34 pm Flight management computer down. Needs remote fix from San Francisco.
4:45 pm Queued up for takeoff.
4:46 pm Delayed due to heavy rains
4:59 pm Queued up on another runway because winds had shifted.
5:13 pm Scheduled arrival time.
5:15 pm Finally en route to Chicago.
5:16 pm Bathroom door slid open.
6:35 pm Actual arrival time.

(All times EST and approximate.)