Friday, December 26, 2008

DC Christmas

Hello, everyone, and Merry Christmas (belatedly, as we are writing this blog post on the 26th!). On Tuesday (12/23), we had another new experience when we went into DC to see some of the Christmas decorations. Even sights we have already seen looked new with the addition of Christmas decorations!
We started at the National Cathedral, where they had a display of creches from around the world. (It seems some people have not heard of the word "creche" before. It is French for crib - used as another name for manger. ( click here for a definition) ) This display was in the Bethlehem chapel of the cathedral and included about 40 handmade creches from 33 countries, and 12 others from 11 US states. Here are just a few of our favorites:

Top left: figures carved from the coal of South Dakota. Top right: figures cast from the ash of Mt. St. Helens, Washington. Bottom: Navity scene carved into the altar of the Bethlehem chapel in the cathedral.

Top left: Gourd nativity from Peru. Top right: Bronze, from Burkina-Faso. Bottom: Carved wood figures from Nigeria. Not shown, but one of our favorites, was a creche from Kenya made of mud and dung!

From there, we went to the US Botanical Gardens, where they adorned the vast array of flora with holiday decor. Below, find the capitol building and Washington Monument (made from organic materials such as sticks and seed pods), and a beautiful Christmas tree.

Right across the street from the Botanical Gardens is the real US Capitol, with a beautiful Christmas tree out front.

It was a beautiful sight, but I wish we could have gotten the colors of the lights to stand out more. If you look closely, you can see the podium and stands for the inauguration are under construction.
After that we went to the Ellipse to view the national Christmas tree. It is a beautiful sight on its own, and even more so with the White House in the background! We played with different camera exposures, and couldn't agree on which one we liked better for the blog .... so we are posting our top two:

The photo on the left shows the White House more vividly, but the photo on the right is closer to the real view of the tree. One of the biggest surprises of our day was to find another creche, or nativity scene, at the same site on the Ellipse as the Christmas tree!

Well, that's enough for this post. Hope you enjoyed the photos. I know it's not the same thing as seeing them in person, but we enjoyed sharing them with you. Here's hoping your Christmas was a wonderful time.
Blessings, Dan and Barb

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Watch This Space!

Dear Faithful Readers,

We have enjoyed keeping a "diary" of sorts on our blog, sharing our experiences as we have explored the sights of the area. We tried to faithfully keep our blog up to date each week, and we have enjoyed the comments you have made in response, some by posting on our blog, others by email, letters, etc. But, alas, we have let you all down in the past few weeks .... December 6 was our last post. The past two weeks have been really busy - but WATCH THIS SPACE! We will be adding more posts and pics soon!

The week of December 8-13, Barb traveled to Illinois and spent the week with her Mom, who had just had knee replacement surgery. Mom T has been recuperating in a rehab center in Lake Zurich, near Crystal Lake. By day, Barb was with Mom. By night, Barb was staying in Mom's condo in CL. Barb came home on the 13th and Mom continued her rehab. The good news is that Mom will return to her home today (Tuesday 12/23), so will not have to spend Christmas in the rehab center!!

Once Barb returned, we had precious little time to do all our Christmas shopping and get packages shipped to all our family across the US (mission accomplished!), and then finish our Christmas cards and letters and get those mailed (again, mission accomplished!). It was also a very demanding week for Dan at work, requiring him to get home late several nights. That left us little time for sightseeing, or blogging, and we didn't think you would really enjoying seeing photos if us wrapping presents!

Today, we plan to head into DC to see some Christmas sights, so we hope to have another post with interesting Wa DC photos sometime soon, so again ... WATCH THIS SPACE!

If we are not in contact with you soon, we wish you all the best for Christmas and New Years!

Love to all, Barb and Dan

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lunch with our new friends!

Today we attended a luncheon at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honoring the recipients of this year's Kennedy Center awards. Because Boeing was a major sponsor we were given free tickets! WOW!!!

This year's recipients are: Morgan Freeman,George Jones, Barbra Streisand, Twila Tharp, Roger Daltry & Pete Townsend

Morgan Freeman George Jones Barbra Streisand

Roger Daltry

And other notable guests, Glenn Close, Tom Skerritt, and Barbra's husband, James Brolin!!

Thanksgiving Blessings

We had a wonderful trip to Dad and Mom Zuspan's in Texas for Thanksgiving! All 5 of the kids were able to meet up with us there and Cindy came home early from Malaysia so that she could be a part of it. What a jam-packed weekend we had!! Here are just a FEW of the pictures we took!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time for Indoor Sports

Brrrrr!! With November came colder weather, so it was time to stop sightseeing outside and make it an indoor sport! So on November 22nd we made our first visit to see the inside of a local site, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. We enjoyed it very much, but there was way too much to see in one day. Not to worry, though, because we know some of you are going to want to go there when you come to visit, so we'll get back there again. We have far too many photos, but here are a few of our favorites...

We have to start with the Wright Flyer - the actual machine that Orville and Wilbur flew at Kitty Hawk over 100 years ago.
And a collection of classic airplanes in the "America by Air" gallery.
On to the space gallery, we found the lunar lander:
Last but not least, the Gemini IV, the capsule flown in 1965 during which the first manned space walk took place. (How would you like to spend a week in this little can?)
Well, that's it for this post. Hope you can come out soon so we can show you the Smithsonian in person!
Coming soon to a Blog near you: our wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wild Kingdom

Our property here in Virginia backs up to a county park with expanses of natural woods. We see our fair share of wildlife from day to day, mostly deer, fox, woodchuck, and birds. Barb calls it our own little wild kingdom. Here is a view from our back door just a few days ago. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More pics, with less words

In a break from the past few posts, this will be one of few words. Just more sights from our exploration of DC a couple weeks ago. Hope you enjoy.

Here is Union Station, the main rail station in the district. It has some beautiful archtecture:

Here is a beautiful autumn shot of the capitol building:
Chinatown, seems every city has a China district, and so does DC:

but how many cities have a Chinese Starbucks???

And finally, some neat old churches ....

I know there are people out there looking at our blog - post a comment will ya?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Honor Flight

How do we honor those who gave so much so that we can have our freedom today? I confess that it has been all too easy to take what I have for granted. But with each passing year, I realize more and more what they have done for us. And as our kids grow, and perhaps grandkids will come some day, I am even more thankful .... for those who did so in the past, and for those who are doing so right now in the middle east. So how can we honor them? By flying our flag on Veteran's Day? By thanking them when we can? How about this .......

Recently we learned of a non-profit group called Honor Flight whose mission it is to bring WWII veterans to Washington DC to see the WWII Memorial, which was built in their honor, and other war memorials while they are still able. Honor Flight raises funds so that the vets do not have to pay a thing, as many of them can not afford it anyway. Last Saturday, the weekend just prior to Veteran's Day, we were visiting the Memorial to the US Marine Corp, also known as the Iwo Jima memorial, in Arlington. This statue is a well known replica of a famous WWII photo, taken as the Marines raised the US flag on Mt. Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima. As we were taking it in, a bus arrived and began unloading many, many elderly men, most in wheel chairs. This, we learned, was an Honor Flight from Dayton, Ohio. We watched as they proudly checked out the memorial and even more proudly posed for a group photo.

We talked to the "chaperones" while they were getting lined up and learned more about these men. We found out that two of them personally knew one of the six men who hoisted the flag that day so long ago. We could do little but stand in solemn respect as their photos were taken. We were so touched by the sight of this all, we both walked down the line of men, shook each one's hand, and thanked them for their service. Then we stood to the side, watched, and cried.

Learn more about Honor Flight at:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

On Saturday, 11/8, we went to experience the new 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. The memorial was just opened to the public on 9/11 of this year, 7 years after the tragedy occurred. As you will see from the pictures below, it is very unique in its design and had a way to evoke our emotions about that day. It was almost surreal to stand at that point and imagine the airplane flying in and hitting the building.

This is marker at the entry of the memorial.

And another that lists all 184 victims.

Sorry for the shadow, but this inscription tells the date and time of the event.

Each of the 184 victims has a bench in their memory. Each bench is inscribed with a name of a victim. The benches are aligned with the flight path of the airplane. The benches that point toward the building represent those who were on the airplane. The benches that face away from the building represent those who were in the building. Under each bench is flowing water.

As I said earlier, each bench is inscribed with a name of one of the victims. This particular bench remembers Dana Falkenberg, a 3 yr old who was travelling with her family.

Note the other inscriptions underneath. These are the other members of Dana's family who were travelling on this airplane together. In all cases where people were travelling together, this was done to keep them linked together in the memorial. They have a bench of their own with inscriptions of their travelling companions or family members.

It was sobering for us to stand in the middle of this and remember ..... let us never forget!