Monday, July 31, 2017

July Books And Mid Year Reading Check In

I am just as stunned as you are that this month is over. It just went too fast. I always have high hopes that July will be the month for everything. And then, every year, it flies by and I only did half of what I hoped for. Does this happen to you?

Reading was a lot like that in July. I planned to read my way through the month with a tall stack of books. In reality, I read two books and I spent more time doing other things. Most of my time was spent on a summer course I need to prepare for a grad program. It isn't nearly as much fun but necessary. Maybe, August will be my month for reading *fingers crossed*

I have been working my way through my Summer Reading List I created in May. I've surprised myself by sticking to the list. The Nightingale, Behind Her Eyes, and The Lightning Thief were my 3 books left to read. I started with The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah which lived up to all the good things readers shared with me. Wow, what a well written story! I have never read a WW2 book set in occupied France, so that was eye opening. 

The story follows two sisters living in occupied France. One is forced to live alongside the enemy while the other fights against them. Years and years pass, things get worse, and you wonder how did these people make it through such hardship. 

#2 Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. What a peculiar book. I was all kinds of upside down reading this book. I just kept wondering "Why?", "Why are the doors important?", "Why is this a problem?" I guess much of the plot didn't make sense. Behind Your Eyes is a typical unreliable narrator story that unravels very slowly. I don't want to give away too much because I think these books are better read without knowing anything. Overall, I just did not care for where this book went and how long it took to get there. It just was not for me!

Since this post is so very short this month, I thought I would do a little mid year reading checkin. As of July 31, I have read 26 books. I have slowed down considerable since the beginning of the year and way slower than 2016. I haven't been too excited over the books I've read this year. My books have been pretty average. Only a couple books have stood out as favorites. 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng was a favorite. That book really got down deep to my soul and touched some real life feels for me. It is not a book that I will recommend for others because I think it's very personal to the reader. If you love that book, I get it. If you don't love the book, I think I kind of get that too :) My second favorite of the year was The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn. When I started reading this book, I felt like a horrible person. I really considered putting it down because the premise of the book goes against one of my strongest beliefs. Here is this author basing an entire plot line on open marriage and I'm all "Maybe I shouldn't"??? But I did because I'm an adult and I can be a big girl despite difference of opinions. The Arrangement was so unexpected and I had some really great take aways for my closed relationship :) I do recommend this book, especially to those who have been married awhile, because it's important to be reminded to not go on autopilot with your spouse. 

My biggest reading commitment this year was my Summer To Be Read pile. At the beginning of summer, I created this stack of must read books. I stuck to it and read every book, except The Lightning Thief. I read two chapters and knew it wasn't for me. I really enjoyed Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. The Dry by Jane Harper and Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough were my least favorites.

Looking ahead, I hope to read a few more 2017 releases. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Tara Jenkins Reid is high on my list. It has a lot of great reviews and yet, my small town library doesn't have one copy. So sad! The second book on my list is Since We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate which my library doesn't have either. This might be a good time for a little reading break.  I'm feeling a little burnt out lately over books. I just want something light and happy... and funny would be nice. If you have any suggestions, please send them my way :) Until them, I'm taking a little break.

Linking up with Jana, Steph, and Narci for all the book recommendations your heart desires :)

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Washington DC Day 2

Today we are back for Round 3. When this post initially went live, I realized I hadn't written anything. Opps! I guess I was a little discombobulated like this picture with Z and the Washington Monument. I can only begin to tell you the gross things I must have laid on to get this photo. It seemed worth it at the time :)

Day 2 in Washington was a whirlwind. We put in 12 miles of walking this day. Yikes! We were all feeling it too. This was a only full day of sightseeing and we were determined to get it all in. We took the Metro (which is super easy, clean, and well utilized), so don't be nervous about that if you are planning a trip.

The White House was our first stop. Of course, this big day is the day I would forget the camera at the house. So... welcome to the Nation's most iconic sites via iPhone camera. I could just kick myself for that mistake :( But when traveling in large groups, it's a bit inconvenient to turn around and get the camera.
We walked from our Metro stop down to the Washington Monument. It was about 8am and there were no tourists around. I love when you feel like you have the whole place to yourself. 

When you face the White House from the Washington Monument, you will see a parking lot and a circle drive. If you choose to go right, then you will be on your way to The White House Visitor Center and gift shop. If you choose left, then you get to see this elaborate Eisenhower Executive Office Building where most of the White House staff has offices.

We chose left on the circle drive which meant a lot of walking because we were going to the Visitor Center. I'm certain we added another mile onto our day with this mistake.

The White House is very well protected! Lots of barricades. They were adding more cement barricades while we were touring about. We joked Trump was building a model of his wall. This picture was taken on the backside of the White House. I'm not sure if it's the front of back of the White house. Do you know?

After the White House, we made it to the Visitor's Center. It's a small area across the street from the White House. 

We thought it was informative. I would suggest stopping in. It's quite small but definitely jammed pack with good stuff! And it's also free ;) I believe it's the first thing to open--tourist wise--in DC (for the early birds).

Next stop, The Smithsonian museums along the National Mall. The American History Museum was our first stop. I did not have high expectations for this museum but WOW! We spent a couple hours here and could easily spend a couple more hours. It is everything that has made our nation what it is. 
If you are planning to visit, don't skip this one.

I'm sure many would think American History wouldn't be a great fit for youngsters, but I would say YES! There are many interactive exhibits and lots of photo ops. 

The museum takes you on this journey from where we were to where we are. 
It brings your history book to life. 

For sake of time, we left the American History museum and headed next door to the Natural History museum. My kids love Natural History and sciences, so we made this a priority. 

There were some really cool exhibits. My husband and I were loving the rock and gem exhibit.

I was trying to decide which emerald (my birthstone) would make the perfect ring ;)

The Hope Diamond on display.

The Natural History museum was nice. We liked it. The downfall was the crowd. It was so very busy. And the exhibits were laid out in a twisty messy route that didn't flow very well (in my opinion).
We spent about an hour and moved on. 

Here is where we made another mistake. After the Natural History museum, we decided to back track to the Lincoln Memorial which is at one of the furthest ends of the National Mall.
Looking back, we should have started at the Lincoln Memorial in the morning and worked our way up the Mall. Lesson learned.

D really wanted to make it here. The Lincoln Memorial speaks for itself.

And probably one of the best views in Washington DC. I'm one of those people who can just sit and observe for hours. This is a prime spot for people watching.

While at the Lincoln Memorial, it would be smart to see the Vietnam Memorial and the WW2 Memorial. Distance is deceiving in DC. Everything looks a lot closer and smaller than it really is.  You don't have to walk, there are taxis, Lyft, Uber, and rental bikes. Walking just seems like the natural thing to do. At this point, we took a taxi from the Lincoln Memorial to the Holocaust Museum.

I did not take pictures in the Holocaust Museum because it didn't feel right. I will recommend visiting the museum. It was done so well. This museum is also free because EVERYTHING is free. You have to reserve tickets online to the special exhibit which requires a $1 fee. Unless, you are military, then you can walk in and get tickets to the special exhibit without reservations. We lucked out because all the special tickets had been given out for the day but we still got in. I am so thankful for that. 

We had an hour and half before the museum closed. We went through the kids' exhibit first because we didn't know how all of this would affect our 12 year old. He handled the kids part well and he decided he wanted to go to the special exhibit (which is more in depth). We made it through the first part of the four part exhibit in an hour. And my non-reader child, read EVERYTHING. 
Don't skip the Holocaust museum.

The Holocaust museum was our last stop. We were so exhausted! We walked up to the Air and Space museum which was closed for the day. We waited on the steps for our Lyft to take us back to the house. This picture was taken in front of the Smithsonian Castle. We didn't go inside though :) I'm not sure what is in there but it's along the Mall near the U.S Capitol side. 

To end our day, we ordered some of our favorite Japanese dishes for delivery. 
Living in Japan definitely spoiled us for Japanese food and sushi. 
I knew DC wouldn't let us down. It did not disappoint. 
Z and I love Japanese curry, so we were in heaven to be able to enjoy our favorite dish. 

There it is! Our quick trip to Washington DC. If you have any questions, let me know. I would love to help. I know how overwhelming it can be to tour in a new city. I try to research as much as I can. I'm finding blogs/personal experiences offer the best information. I got most of my info from Mix and Match Mama's DC trip posts. In fact, I wouldn't have known about the White House Visitor Center without her blog post. There were a few things we discovered for ourselves as well. I didn't realize the WH Visitor Center was not attached to the White House until we visited for ourselves. And I most definitely didn't know to turn right instead of left at the circle drive...haha. I'm still bitter about that extra mile or two. 
Please don't be shy if you have questions :) I would love to share any info that can help with your trip.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

National Museum of the Marine Corps Adventure

This post is me making good on my promise yesterday in our Washington DC Day 1 post. The Marine Corps museum would get its very own post. There was just so much to see that I couldn't squish it all into the DC post. Plus Marine Corps...Marine Corps just makes sense!

 I'm sure most of you didn't even know there was a museum (this large) dedicated to the Marine Corps. I wouldn't have either if not for the Marine husband. I feel like visiting the Marine Corps museum has inducted our family into the Super Moto Marine Corps Family Hall of Fame or something. There may be a special spot for you too ;) If you're a Marine Corps family, then it seems like it should be some kind of requirement to visit.  Although, a visit is still totally optional, I admit it was pretty cool. I'm so glad we went!

I'm in love with the outside of the museum. It makes a pretty powerful statement for the Marine Corps. Everything is a little over the top in the best way. 

The inside of the museum is filled with the full history and happenings of the USMC. There is no denying this museum is 110 percent devoted to the history and operations of the United States Marine Corps. The museum is filled with pictures, paintings, weapons, and gear dating back all the way to 1775.

This was my favorite painting in the museum. Norman Rockwell. I love the details in the picture don't even need an explanation and you get it.

Another really moving painting.

There was also a pretty cool spotlight for a squadron near and dear to our hearts.

Definitely a highlight at the museum.

Before we went on our way, we popped into the boot camp section of the museum. Here is dad "explaining" what happens when you get off the bus and meet your drill instructor. Good Marine family fun ;)

 Here is a link to The National Museum of the Marine Corps if you would like more information.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Washington DC Day 1

I am so thankful for our East Coast location. Everything is within a day's drive. Traveling is so much easier when you don't have extra hotel expenses, plane tickets, and rental cars.  I love that saying "I live where you vacation". Military life has definitely spoiled us with some ideal locations.

While North Carolina and I don't always see eye to eye, I do love its location! Now, if we could have picked any East Coast duty station, I would have picked Virginia. I'm going to dare say it is one of my favorite states. I think I could have been happy there ;) But we will never know! What we will know is between our trip to VA last summer and this quick trip to DC, I still love that state!

If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, then you know we are all about a road trip.
We road trip EVERYWHERE...
Wow, my kids must hate vacations ;)

Honestly, how are you going to find these cute roadside signs when your 20,000ft above the country?
Traveling would not be the same!

So, Monday morning we took off for DC. Our plan was to stop at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA. The kids were not on board with this stop but they took one for the team (aka Dad). This museum did not disappoint. And all the kids felt the same after we finished.

I'm giving the museum its own post tomorrow for those wanting more.
That is the great thing about DC and much of the area, admissions are mostly free.
Everything we did from Day 1 to Day 3 was free. Isn't that the best?

After our museum stop, we grabbed a quick lunch at a local McDs. Teens always win the food vote :( Next stop, the Arlington National Cemetery, a short 45 minutes from Quantico. It was so easy to navigate our way to the  cemetery from the freeway. I was a little nervous about the traffic around DC. Everyone says how terrible it is but we didn't get into anything worse than Southern California traffic. The surface streets of Washington DC were crowded but we only did that once.

Arlington was humbling. 

Everything is well kept and serene. We walked from the entrance to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to JFK's grave site. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is such an experience. 
How can you not feel such incredible gratitude for our service members?
And also for those poor folks in their dress uniform is East Coast heat and humidity. 
So disciplined!

We took a quick stroll back to the JFK gravesite.

 Coming down the hill from the JFK gravesite is an area with a view of the National Mall. The Washington Monument was a clear stand out.

After our time at Arlington, we headed to our AirBnb. We didn't have a great start with that but I'm not going into details. I am curious if you've had good or bad experiences with AirBnB. This was our first time using them and I'm wondering if our experience was normal or abnormal. 

We had planned to go to the National Zoo but it didn't work out. Guess what, the zoo is free too ;) Because it's DC! So, our first day ended here and I will pick up with Day 2 on Wednesday. Tomorrow will be lots of pictures of the Marine museum. I promise it's worth it!

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