Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Pastels of Pollen

The Cherry Blossom Series - the final Part 3. Pollen & Petals in the Tidal Basin. My allergies are flaring up just looking at it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Laws of the Blossoms

The Cherry Blossom Series - Part Two. A PSA regarding cherry blossom etiquette.

Tree climbing is against the law - punishable by arrest and/or fines up to $1500. I didn't know the trees were considered a national monument.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's Snowing Cherry Blossoms

For many years I have wanted to visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. In college I would always miss the peak of the festival due to spring break, exams, or other commitments. Shortly after graduation I moved to NJ, and I thought I would be able to make a trip to the nation's capital with ease. But the years ticked by and during each peak bloom I found myself somewhere other than DC.

With the warm spring, the end of the world looming in 2012, and the 100th anniversary of the cherry blossoms, I was convinced this would be my chance to go. Three weeks ago I told JLo to keep the 24th of March open - based on peak bloom averages and warm weather, I calculated this would be a good date to plan for.

So I began stalking the cherry blossom webcam and the national website. With the increasing temperatures, the peak bloom got pushed earlier, and earlier, and earlier, until finally, it would begin on the 20th of March and would last a mere four days until the 24th. This is the shortest bloom in many years.

But no matter - I decided not to let this deter me. I was going to visit anyway, even if I arrived eight hours after the peak bloom. However my bad luck would only increase: after two weeks of sunny, 75 degree days, Saturday would bring the rain and the cold. And there is no rest for the wicked; the work week does not adjust for life. There was no way JLo and I could escape work on a weekday. So I sighed and figured 2012 would go by another year without cherry blossoms.

430am on Saturday, March 24th, I woke up for no reason at all. I flipped on my laptop and checked the hourly forecast. In DC, the rain had been pushed back to 10am.

I shook Jonaid awake. By 530am we were on the road; we passed Philly before sunrise; we were in Baltimore just in time to drive through the heart of a thunderstorm; but still we went on. By 8am we were at the cherry blossoms, and what luck, the thunderstorms hadn't struck in DC.

At 8am there were some tourists and a lot of joggers. For the first hour of our walk around the Tidal Basin we weren't crowded and people were polite. We visited the Washington Monument, many memorials, had a bagel at the National Mall (which, JLo actually thought was a shopping center... to be fair, it has been years since I've been in DC and even longer for JLo). We did our four-and-a-half mile walk and finished just as the rain was starting around 1130. We left the Tidal Basin and noshed at We, The Pizza during a downpour, followed by a tour of the National Botanic Garden as the sun came out and skyrocketed the humidity. Exhausted, we made the journey back home and promptly passed out. At 5pm. On a Saturday. It was wonderful.

I love DC! There are so many places I want to live in this world. It is unfortunate you cannot pick all of them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Old College Mailbox

Swung by my college's bookstore in vain to try to get an alumni sticker for my car. I'm cursed - every time I go back the bookstore is closed. So I visited my old mailbox instead - #443.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Think Locally

At a coffee shop in Gettysburg, PA (the ragged edge - phenominal, if you haven't been), they put up clocks all around the top. The time reads the same for every clock - well, except Narnia - and below are the names of the towns surrounding Gettysburg. 'Think Locally,' the paint reads.

So clever! I love that place. FedEx me a scone and an iced green tea, please!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day Parade

Reportedly, the second largest in the country - and on Saturday, a record breaking high temperature somewhere in the upper 70s. Many people were scantily clad. It was a blast.

The view up from our spot

Parade Fanfare

The City

Joe Biden (left) & a super sketch (but funny!) photographer.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Green (Red?) Scotch Experiment

If you recall, last year for St. Patrick's Day we conducted a Green Beer Experiment. This year we again performed this testing to verify the results were reproducible. However, after several green beers (and some pink and orange ones due to 'grab bag' m&ms) we decided to plop one in the scotch.

What turned out was something that may be useful on Halloween. The color seared onto the bottom of the glass and kind of stayed there. The white shell of m&m still remained in tact, almost like an eyeball. It was pretty skeevy. And when the scotch was gone? My dad reported the peanut had gone soft.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Riverhorse Brewery

Looks like the horse needs some dental work. Does that dude have a name BTW? Anyway it was a beautiful Saturday to visit Lambertville, NJ. $1 to try all four beers on tap, can't beat it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Breakup Scheme during a Recession

A recent conversation JLo and I had.

JLo: I'm giving you two weeks notice towards our relationship.
Me: What?
JLo: Two weeks notice.
Me: Layoffs? Bad Economy? Girlfriends take away from profits?
JLo: Yep.
Allie (via text): At least you have a drinking partner for St. Patrick's Day.
Me: I can collect unemployment at the local dive bar.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Wanted: Wine & Conversation

This would be how I broke a nail using a typewriter. That story can be part of the good conversation we have (okay, okay - I'll save that one for the 'mediocre' conversation ad).

Sunday, March 04, 2012

2012 Virginia Wine Expo

Last weekend Kate invited us to Richmond for a girls' weekend. Allie, Amanda, and I agreed, and went to wreak some wine havoc down in Dixie by attending the Virginia Wine Expo.

Typically, in the past, Wine Expos have been something of a conquest for me. I have previously made sure I visited each and every winery, tasting wines and taking copious notes. If you recall last year I sent out Screw Cork Awards to both NJ and Maryland. However at the 2012 Virginia Wine Expo, there were over 70 wineries - and with socializing with the college girls, I didn't get to visit all of the wineries and do not have quite as many notes. So, unfortunately, no screw cork awards this time around.

After a hearty southern pancake breakfast, we were ready to pour and roar.

Fun fact: I pregame every wine festival with pancakes. As a result, to this day, I have not ever had a hangover due to partaking in a wine festival.

So here are some of my notes, in order of visitation:

1st - At Ingleside we learned 2007 was a great year for wine as Virginia had fantastic weather. The Blue Crab Blanc and/or Red are cheap buys here, and would easily please the crowds.
3rd - The 2009 Church Creek Rose at Chatham Vineyards is aged in french oak, and slightly less sweet than I had been tasting otherwise in roses. Very tasty.
4th - The Ginger Wine at Sans Soucy Vineyards is like none other - so unique, in fact, that Amanda bought three bottles. They combine this with their Blackberry to create a sangria that is truly delicious. They also had a bottle with a cat on it that future cat lady Kate was ecstatic about trying, however it was slightly disappointing.
5th - Introduced as the newest winery in Virginia, aka the 211th, Little Washington opened in VA on 11-11-11. They have a 'Dirt Road Wine Club' where you go out for a walk and try unique wines from across the nation (a very cool idea). This woman pouring, the owner's wife, was the most charismatic wine pourer we ran into all day - although later on, when we saw her again in another area of the wine festival, she did not recognize us (or maybe didn't hear us as we said hello).
6th - Davis Valley Winery - they were also selling Jello Shooters, which was dangerous. Their Autumn Red and Corot Noir are the same grape just aged in oak or stainless steel, respectively.
7th - Afton Mountain was where Kate announced she was 'feeling it'. Here, we were explained how to guage residual sugars: 0% is dry, 1-5% is slightly sweet, and 6% + is a dessert. Their Festa Di Bacco bottle is very cool.
8th - Lake Anna Winery's Chardonnay Barrel Select has a "bacon flavor" according to Amanda, and a "meat finish" according to Allie. Kate and I did not come up with either of those flavors. This is one winery I've wanted to visit in person for awhile now. I hear it is beautiful.
9th - Stinson Vineyards - The labels were so clean; I loved how simple they were. Allie noted she liked how when you looked at them you could instantly tell what kind of wine it was - you didn't have to search.

Thomas Jefferson! You need to slow down a bit. Don't ride a horse and drive, you know.

10th - Blenheim Vineyards gave giant pours.
11th - The Byrd Cellars Dry apple tasted like Dill to me. The '09 Syrah tasted like winter; more specifically, something I would drink on my deck while my dad was grilling, in the cold air. We also tried their Norton, an organic grape that has been grown for over 200 years in Virginia. This was a first for me, the norton grape.
13th - Wintergreen Winery had a raspberry fruit wine that I felt I should pour on my toast. Here, we also learned 2009 was a wet year, creating a softer grape.
14th - I noted at Barren Ridge Vineyards the petit verdot burns going down. Also at this point, the Pittsburgh Penguins score became 8-1 (Allie subscribes to ESPN notifications; the score updates were going on nonstop throughout the day). But looking at their website, this winery looks beautiful! I will have to visit in person.
16th - Kate noted the Petit Manseng at Chestnut Oak Vineyard had flavors of coconut.
17th - The wine pourer at Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery kindly offered to take our picture (shown above). Here, we learned meads differ from other wines as they add honey, not sugar. Kate purchased the Hunter's Moon - a liquid which made us feel like we should have a Harry Potter party as we were drinking it. A spicy, pumpkin mead, it tasted like fall.
18th - At Vintner's Cellar of Yorktown Kate picked up a wine slushie (see below) while Amanda called the Strawberry White Merlot "Dangerous". This terminology accurately depicts the wine here; all tasting like Kool-Aid so they are likely refreshing on a hot summer day, as well as easily getting you intoxicated. Our wine hose here also poured some black raspberry merlot over pound cake - I didn't like it, but others were impressed. This does present a unique idea, though, and could be something to try with other wines.

21st - Cardinal Point resides in a region of eight wineries and two breweries. It looks like I have a destination to relocate to.
23rd - The only note I have on my Prince Michel tasting sheet is 'Allie is Aggressive'. This is not in my handwriting.
24th - Glen Manor has a very grassy, earthy sauvignon blanc.
25th - Democracy Vineyards gets their name as the owners were/are lobbyists.
26th - At New Kent Winery a nearby taster mistakenly heard the term 'Niagara Grape' as 'Viagara Grape', and subsequently was a bit excited, no pun intended.
30th - Well Hung Vineyard - I don't have any notes but I do have a photo:

All in all, I believe I hit 34 wineries. Amanda and Allie hit a few more. I loved all of the flavored chip dip vendors on the side, and the arts/crafts around were fun as always. Amanda at one point walked to 'get some dip' and the winery she walked away from thought she was going to 'dip' as in do chewing tobacco. Many wineries offered three-bottle discounts, interestingly. I haven't seen those at wineries/festivals previously.

I was slightly disappointed with the venue. It was in a convention center so the lighting and atmosphere was unattractive. Everything echoed, and frankly, concrete and glass is a sad combination. When something broke anywhere in the room, you'd hear the echo of the shatter followed immediately by a crowd "awww" in unison. Another thing was no outside food or drink - not even water! Free water bottles were provided by, though. Made me miss the northern festivals, BYO picnic & enjoy the sunshine. But February drinkers perhaps cannot be choosers, and it was a thoroughly good time anyway.