4.30.2010

The Windows are In!

We just got notice that our Jeld-Wen windows for the sun porch/office project are in and will be delivered early next week. We are really looking forward to this project so Tuesday cannot come soon enough! S is on his way home from Japan, which means this he'll have a few days to recuperate before jumping head-first into this latest adventure at the Hive.

Now that we have confirmation that the windows are on their way, I've filed our invoice away with the rest of our 2010 tax credit receipts.
So far it looks like we're going to be able to claim the full tax credit next year, which has me day dreaming about new projects to put that cash towards. More windows? Pull-down stair access to the attic? Wood floors in the basement?

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4.28.2010

Testing Paint Colors in the Sun Porch

The sun porch turned office project is well underway, only slightly delayed as we wait for our Jeld-Wen windows to be delivered. In the meantime I've filled the holes in the bead board ceiling left from the nails that held panels of fiberboard ceiling tiles, and this week I'm testing out paint colors for the walls in ceiling.

After my success using color on our ceilings instead of flat ceiling white I've vowed to never paint a ceiling white again. Which really worked out well when I fell in love with Benjamin Moore's sea foam (2123-60) AND ocean air (2123-50). I bought "test" quarts of each, but because a quart of my favorite Aura paint cost around $20 I made sure I had another project lined up, just in case. A few brush fulls on the ceiling and wall confirmed that these colors are our winners for my new office and for that other project we have yet to reveal.
Because the panels are likely treated with some sort of oil-based paint the paint guys recommended that we use a regular latex primer instead of using Benjamin Moore's Natura primer, or just relying on the self-priming Aura. And of course our trusty paint guys were right; the knotty pine shows through this coat of paint. So the gallon of BM primer I picked up when I bought our "test" quarts of sea foam and ocean air will be put to good use. However, I'm not going to roll it on until I can figure out how to get one of the fixed-pane windows open. I have a feeling it's going to be as stinky as the Behr paint that made me a Aura convert for life.

Aren't you curious to see where we used the rest of the soft-greenish blue quarts of test paint?

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4.27.2010

Azaleas in Full Color

The azaleas are in full bloom around here and even though I posted a few photos of our shocking hot pink beauty last week, I have to share a few photos of the cool color combo going on under the kitchen window. It seems as though the white azalea is being cross pollinated with pink because there are pink blooms in among the white.
I'm quite sure we don't have one pink and one white plant in there because in several places there are two blooms, one of each color, on the same branch.
It makes sense the the shocking hot pink azalea would be the cross-pollination culprit since it's just several feet away, next to the holly bush where the robin I have yet to successfully photograph is nesting.

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4.26.2010

Outdoor Improvements Act

I'm not so into politics even though, ironically, my real job is managing a legislation-tracking publication. I pay close attention, but I just can't get passionate about any one issue since I have a tendency to get overly involved; I have to save that passion for the Hive. But putting that aside, how cool would it be for all this economic stimulus hoopla to include an Outdoor Improvements Act? I'd love some of that "free" cash being thrown around to put toward a new fence, or shed, or even that pergola/deck/porch thingy I've been dreaming about. Maybe I'll write my senator to see if we can tack it on to some obscure bill that's sure to be pushed through without any opposition....

All dreaming aside, we are working on our own outdoor improvements around here slowly but surely. Last week I picked up a set of three terracotta pots that have a metallic pewter glaze from Home Goods. I put the two smaller pots on the front steps to be planted with some ever-blooming annuals, and placed the third between the two patio loungers we had shipped from Maine.
As soon as I have a free moment to get to our local nursery, I plan to buy a couple of tomato plants and some materials to build a climbing structure for the vines. S hates tomatoes, which is fine by me and my fresh tomato-loving taste buds.

While I was at Home Goods I also bought a blue glazed pot to liven up our small picnic table and placed the boxwood bush inside it that my mom bought and left behind when she was here a few weeks ago.
Yesterday I asked the paint experts at our local Benjamin Moore store what they recommend we use to restore the cedar table's finish. When I first bought the table seven or eight years ago (from an old-time wood worker in Rangeley, Maine who is legally blind), I used a Sikkens Marine finish on it, but found that whenever it was humid out the finish would come off on my clothes. Not cool. The paint guys said that Sikkens now makes semi-solid outdoor furniture finishes, and not surprisingly, I found a shade of gray that I really liked. I've added "refinish the table set" to our to-do list.

I've also added "sew outdoor cushions" to the to-do list after buying a few yards of some outdoor fabric.
The blue is for a square accent pillow for each of the two adirondack chairs that we have next to each of our entry doors and the teal is for a couple of rectangular pillows for the lounge chairs. If I have any leftover teal fabric, I'll reupholster the round seat cushions on our black metal bistro set (which also needs a good coat of spray paint while we're at this whole outdoor improvements gig).

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4.25.2010

Hi, My Name is . . . and I'm an Orchid Killer

I have dozens of orchids still waiting to be moved from Maine, but with only a few at the Hive there's really no excuse for one to die of neglect. When I discovered its wilting leaves last week I thought I would be able to revive it based on its still-firm roots. But this morning the roots are mush. I guess that makes me an orchid killer.
The pink potted orchid had been displayed with its mate on the kitchen shelves to the right of the sink, which apparently is not an ideal location for me to grow orchids. In an effort to keep its mate alive, I moved the pair to the living room mantle, leaving the display shelves in the kitchen bare. Then on a trip to Crate & Barrel last weekend (with my new movers coupon) I spotted small periwinkle blue vases that would be perfect for the empty shelves. Yes, storage at the Hive is bursting at the seams and I'm sure there's something in the basement that could fit on the shelves, but I couldn't find just-right pieces for the shelves, until I saw these.
I should have no problem finding a fresh flower stem to display in each since I plan to visit our local farmers market frequently this summer after watching Food, Inc. (you really must watch it). Maybe in the winter I'll stick as realistic an orchid stem as I can find in each vase; I know I can't kill the fake ones . . . as long as I remember to dust them.

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4.24.2010

Norman Gets a Makeover for Summer

Mr. Norman is our beta fish who we rescued from an impeding flush last August. He moved from Pensacola to the Bay to the Hive with us and has cheated death several times. Given that I've nearly killed him several times with too-cold room temperatures, he's now the world's most pampered fish. I've got a strong guilt complex. So naturally Norman would be the fish whose habitat gets a makeover for summer.

Mr. Norman's new Crate & Barrel turquoise pebble abode.

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4.23.2010

Update on the Basement

You may remember the disaster we discovered in the basement a few weeks ago after a few days of heavy rain. After ripping off the wall paneling and tossing the mold-saturated insulation, we went off to the Depot to buy a dehumidifier.
We set it up and it sucked a bucket-full of water out of the room in 24 hours. But since then the humidity monitor thingy we hung in the room has remained steady at a fairly dry level, which is a good thing since the unit started to make horrible noises after only a few days and has been turned off ever since.

We're a bit disappointed because this particular dehumidifier was listed on Consumer Reports as one of their highest rated best buys. Needless to say, it's been sitting back in its box in the returns pile for a while now. Even though the room has remained "dry" even after an inch of rain fell this week, we're going to give the LG brand dehumidifier another shot and go for an exchange. Perhaps we just picked up a lemon.

We're also going to grab a gallon of dry-lock to paint on the walls before we throw up some new insulation. I was able to salvage the old paneling by washing it with a bleach/water solution. After a good scrubbing it has dried good-as-new. I'm grateful for that since we're fresh out of the Benjamin Moore paint we just painted them with less than two months ago.

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4.17.2010

A Little White Filler Goes a Long Way

After work one day this week I decided that instead of going for my usual run, I would take out a tube of white wood filler and one of the step-stools that are multiplying around here, and work on filling all the holes left from years of changing window treatment hardware.
The window trim was in pretty rough shape, especially at the top corners where it looked like curtain rod hardware had been violently ripped from each window.
Every window had several sets of holes at varying heights, which made this seemingly small project have a big impact.This window alone had six sets of holes.
Because I had the wood filler out, and because my fingers were covered in goop, I decided to finish filling the holes in the sun room ceiling too. Then, when I went to the kitchen to wash my goop-covered hands, I decided to use the filler to smooth out the crappy pane-replacement job that someone's six-year-old did on our kitchen door window.
I'm embarrassed to say that this is the after photo - look at that huge glob of goo! I promise you, I was able to smooth the filler on with my finger to a finish that barely needs sanding. That big glob is someone else's mess. But nonetheless, at least the trim on this pane now looks like it might have been original, or rather at least you can't tell from 20 feet away that someone just slapped a piece of glass and ill-fitting wood in there and called it "good enough." Clearly they didn't go to the school of "any job worth doing is worth doing right." That's right, S, that's right.

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4.16.2010

Our New Electrician

My dad electrician had to head back to Maine before he was able to finish re-wiring the Hive. He mapped out all the wires in the entire house, which will come in really handy for the new electrician S found us during a recent trip to Indonesia.

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4.15.2010

Spring Time Discoveries at the New Beehive

We have the most amazing, shocking hot pink azalea blooming at the Hive right now.
I absolutely love it! The azalea (?) to the left of the front porch that got an outrageous pruning a few months ago is also showing some signs of life. It has an impressive showing of green given how ruthless I was with the pruners and it looks like a few white buds are trying to make an appearance.
These spring time surprises are making the Hive continue to feel brand new and exciting, especially on days when dilapidated, rusty fences and the peeling paint on the windows makes us feel like we're fighting an uphill battle.

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4.13.2010

Outdoor Lights

When my dad was at the Hive we bought supplies to install a motion sensor near the back corner of our house. We had a motion light in Pcola that we rarely used because we would always just open the garage door and enter the house through the garage. But at the Hive we have no garage and inevitably we're  left in the dark fumbling with our keys whenever we come home at night.

While we didn't have time to install the motion light, it did inspire me to search for the perfect outdoor lighting. I pulled up a bookmark at Seagull Lighting to reveal this ceiling-mount light, which I love for our porch.
I was pretty psyched to find that it's carried at Lowes. Then I discovered that the light is part of a whole collection, including this wall-mount fixture that would be perfect next to the kitchen door.

I snatched-up both fixtures and stuck them in my virtual shopping cart, only to find that Lowe's online checkout was not working. I must have tried to check-out three dozen times before giving up. Tonight I decided to give it one more (failed) shot before I called customer service. The Lowe's team was apologetic and offered a convoluted apology discount: if I can wait two to seven days they'll email me a new movers 10% discount coupon code, which I can use online. Ten percent is a nice little discount and since I'm in no rush to install the lighting I agreed to wait. So hopefully in a few days we'll buy some new matching outdoor lights.

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Violets v. Lawn

After a good run yesterday (I still hate the hills) I risked life and limb in the shed and managed to find the grass spreader without causing any more damage to my shins. I poured it full of fast-acting lime:
and set to work spreading it all over our lawn, which was sprouting more violets than grass. Then, since the weather forecast today was for rain, I spread grass seed in all the dead spots. We had two partial bags, one of shady grass seed and the other of full-sun seed, so I divvied them up and spread away.

It only took me an hour to spread the lime and seed and I know I probably should have spread some straw on top of the seed, but it was getting late, I had no straw, and I was in desperate need of a shower. So I locked up the shed, grateful that I ran out of seed and didn't have to try to put the bags away, and brought a few more cuttings to the huge brush pile at the curb.

The brush guy came today and now the yard is looking much nicer.
 
And just like last time, he jumped off his truck and raked up the few scraps before he drove off. So cool.
We're going to start looking for fence companies to give us quotes and we need to have the surveyor come out and drop pins for us. In the meantime I'd like to neaten things up a little bit more and get a couple of planters for the front porch and a large container for tomatoes to put in the space between our lounge chairs.

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4.12.2010

The Painting Bug Bites Again

When we first moved to the Hive we painted nearly every wall in an effort to tone-down the previous owner's vibrant color choices. Then when we put recessed lighting in the kitchen I reluctantly started to paint the ceilings. The problem with painting the ceilings is that most of our rooms flow together, and in such a small space, leaving one ceiling dingy and unpainted will be very noticeable. Regardless, when I painted around the recessed lights in the kitchen I just stopped at the threshold to the dining room, wrapped my roller in plastic and vowed to return to the project when the mood struck.

Yesterday, as I was walking around Ikea after returning a few things that didn't fit at the Hive, the painting mood struck. It's been a while since I felt like painting, so I zipped through the showrooms and left without purchasing a thing. At 3pm I was up on a ladder in the upstairs hallway cutting in around the edges of the ceiling. I used the same gray paint that I used in the kitchen, which is one shade lighter than the wall color and infinitely better than the stained, dirty, off-white paint that was up there before. And as a bonus, I can now show you the Ikea-hack hall light that we installed about a month ago.
I was a bit discouraged that my splatter-proof roller cover and wooden pole contraption didn't reach the highest points in the stairwell.
I'll have to bring our tall ladder into the house and prop it up on the stairs like we did when I painted the walls, but for now you can see where my reach ended. I suppose checking "paint the hall ceiling" off the list cancels out this new addition to the list.
When I finished the hall I still had paint in my tray so I carried everything downstairs and moved on to the dining room. The afternoon light made it easier to see the division of wall and ceiling, which is something we had trouble with back in December when it seems like we were always painting in the dark.
The three-shade color choice shows really nicely in the dining room where the darkest is below the chair rail (the same wall color as the kitchen), the lighter color, which is the same on the walls in the living and hall ways, is above the chair rail, and then the lightest shade of gray is on the ceiling. Thankfully the dining room and kitchen ceilings look seamless and waiting a few weeks between the two jobs didn't produce any visible division lines.
When I finished the dining room, I still had a little paint left in the tray (I had refilled a few times at this point) so I decided to cut in around the light fixture and walls in my office.
I didn't have any paint left in the tray after cutting-in, but because I didn't know when the painting mood would strike again, I decided to go for another pour so I could finish the project. And then since our Directv satellite wasn't working and I couldn't watch TV, I decided to take advantage of the last rays of light on a Sunday afternoon and I started to fill the nail holes left in the bead board ceiling of the sun porch when S removed the fibrous ceiling panels.
I worked until I couldn't see anymore and then I wrapped my roller in plastic again: the living room ceiling needs a fresh coat of paint and those two bedroom ceilings upstairs look dingier than they did a day ago. I only have enough paint left for one ceiling, so I may try a slightly different shade in the bedrooms, if I'm feeling adventurous when the painting bug bites again.

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4.11.2010

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream...

About a year ago S and I had a conversation that went a little something like this:
S, probably hollering up the stairs to my office: "you put an ice cream maker attachment for your Kitchen Aid on our registry? What are you doing? When the heck are we going to use an ice cream attachment, F?"
Me: "don't worry about it, you'll love it."

We were fortunate enough to receive that ice cream making attachment from one of our wedding guests. And last night I made ice cream for the first time.
It was so delicious that it's left me wondering why the heck we waited so long to make our own ice cream. I've owned a kitchen aid for ten years, I love to cook, S loves ice cream, and I'm just now introducing myself to the wonderful world of making our own ice cream? I suppose I've always thought that homemade ice cream has to be from an egg yolk and cream recipe and since S and I rarely venture into the land of super-unhealthy, homemade ice cream seemed off-limits. But, one quick search on the iphone the other day revealed the following recipe that the poster promised would be better than any store-bought low fat gellato or ice cream.

The quantities are adjusted so the the proportions fit the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment, which I highly recommend you go out and buy. Right. Now.

Mocha Chip Low-Fat Ice Cream
6 servings

3 c. + 1/2 c. 2% milk (the recipe claims you can use any fat percentage milk)
1/4 c. cornstarch
2/3 c. sugar
2T instant coffee, dry
2 t pure vanilla extract
4t unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz. premium quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1T nuts, chopped, toasted, and cooled

Whisk together 1/2 cup of milk and cornstarch, set aside. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat combine remaining milk, sugar, coffee, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Heat to boil. Slowly add cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil, stirring until thickened. Remove from heat, add half of the chopped bittersweet chocolate and stir until melted. Cool mixture completely using an ice bath, or in the refrigerator.

Add the cooled mixture to your ice cream maker according to the manufacture's directions. Add the remaining chopped chocolate and nuts during the last few minutes of mixing. I like a really chunky ice cream, so I added more chocolate and nuts than called for in the recipe. In my Kitchen Aid, soft serve style ice cream was ready after 30 minutes of mixing. I spread the ice cream in a plastic container and put it in the freezer for another 30 minutes to allow it to harden a bit more.

The resulting ice cream was better than my favorite Edy's Slow Churned flavor, and way more fun to make. It's too bad that S wasn't home to have any, otherwise I assure you, he would have liked it. Perhaps I'll make him a little chocolate-chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream to show him just how great the Kitchen Aid ice cream making attachment can be.

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4.10.2010

It's Good to Have Staff

We had a few days that felt more like August than April last week while my parents were visiting so when they weren't in DC touristing they were out in the yard attacking some spring tidying.

First my mom pulled out my new Liberty of London garden gloves and garden loppers and went after the aucuba japanica shrub that hadn't been touched in years, if ever.
It was our main source of privacy in our side yard-backyard, but it was totally out of control and had a lot of snow damage from our record-breaking winter.
I was surprised that the entire area was made up of only two hugely overgrown shrubs. After two full days in the shrubs, my mom had accumulated a huge pile of brush in the driveway.

Meanwhile, my dad joined in and spent a full afternoon pruning our crepe myrtle and dogwood trees, which also had not been pruned in at least a decade.
After my mom mowed the grass, we moved one of the adirondack chairs from the front porch to the back door: 
And we played around with various configurations of the mismatched lawn furniture S and I have each accumulated, in an attempt to make the yard look neat and pulled-together despite the dilapidated fences and crappy shed.
 While I fired up the grill for dinner the staff moved the brush pile to the street for pick-up.
 It's good to have staff.

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4.09.2010

Birds Nests & Rotten Wood

A robin has built a nest in a holly tree directly next to our front door. I'd love to show you a photo, but in an attempt to get a nice close shot I stepped on the porch rail, which is how I discovered that the porch rail was rotten. We no longer have said rail, I have a huge bruise on my shin, a scratch on my calf and a cut on my hand. And I never actually got a good photo of the nest. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

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We're Hooked on Monograms

Our 2009 wedding revolved around our monogram that was inspired by an invitation sample that S liked. Everywhere we turned for over a year we saw this:
So it's really no wonder that when I saw monogram hooks on Anthropologie's web site, I just had to go out and buy an f and an s for the Hive. And I had the perfect place to use them: in our itsy bitsy tiny bathroom.

The back of our bathroom door has seen better days; it has at least a dozen holes from a whole variety of hooks and towel bars. So I armed myself with white wood filler and the drill and set to work removing all those hooks and bars that were placed in such weird places. One towel bar was two feet off the ground, weird. A few very short minutes later, we each had our own special place to hang our towels.
It's kind of like a little reminder of our f|s wedding every time we reach for a towel.

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4.08.2010

One Giant Electric Puzzle

The Hive failed inspection for a few electrical problems; ungrounded outlets in the kitchen, hidden junction boxes, wires outside of junction boxes. It obviously wasn't a deal breaker and we were confident that we could fix everything that was "wrong."

A few weeks later when the Hive was ours and our first shipment of stuff arrived, I plugged our new toaster into a kitchen outlet, turned it on, and all the lights in the surrounding areas dimmed. And that's how we discovered that 90% of our house is wired to one 15amp circuit. My dad was standing in the kitchen with me when the lights dimmed, and since he's a self-taught pro with the electricity (and how could he not be when all his homes have been 100-200 years old), we named him king (or queen bee) of "fixing" the electricity issues. Unfortunately, his first visit was consumed with wiring an outlet for our electric dryer, changing all our two pronged outlets to properly grounded three prongs, and oh, lots and lots of snow, so splitting up our 90% issue had to wait until another trip.

Fast forward to cherry blossoms and we have ourselves another visit from our electricity king.
It's not that we can't fix the electricity issues ourselves, it's just that we're spread so thin that without my dad's help we'd likely be carefully selecting which outlet to use when vacuuming, running extension cords for the kitchen aid, and turning off the kitchen lights when toasting bread, for a very long time to come.

So on these past few hottest days of the year so far, my dad has been keeping cool in the basement, isolating wires and working this giant electric puzzle.
I've been hanging out in my office, hollering down every now and then when I notice a light go out in one of the other rooms, and popping down for an update whenever I need another glass of water. He's run up and down the stairs dozens of times testing every outlet with each circuit tripped. We're now proud owners of that shiny new circuit tester he's holding, which is getting quite a workout.

Our king of electricity is marking every wire with "lettered" white electrical tape  as it comes out of the box and moves through the basement and upstairs. (Tip: white electrical tape sticks better and longer than masking tape on everything you want to mark, including plastic containers in the freezer)
The master key, written in the nearly illegible handwriting that only a lawyer or doctor can produce, is nearly three pages long and riddled with exclamation points at such discoveries of at least four circuits that only supply one outlet each(!).
We're getting close to a point where splitting the "murphy pin" circuit is possible, but this giant electric puzzle is turning out to be a lot more intense than our home inspector could have even predicted.

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4.06.2010

First Mow of the Year

It's absolutely beautiful at the Hive this week and after all that rain we had last week, it can only mean one thing: the grass is growing like weeds. We're the first to admit that our yard looks a little trashy; between the rusty chain link fence, the rotty picket fence, and the shed waiting for a big gust of wind to blow it down, we're looking a bit rough around the edges. If I could snap my fingers and make the place look immaculate, I would. But, DIY means we're weekend warriors, tackling each project one step at a time. And with only a dozen or so weekends under our belts here at the Hive, the majority of which were spent inside, it's no wonder we're still not proud of our yard.

Even though we have fences worthy of a brush fire, some weird lattice covered posts, and concrete pavers that just need to go, we do what we can to make the place look as neat as possible. So, the other day S dug our lawn mower out of the shed and gave our lawn the first mow of the year.
While we were rummaging through the shed we also pulled out some grass seed that is formulated for shady areas. S managed to find the hand-held grass spreader, which was quite the feat since we no longer have a nice garage with everything in its specified shelf like we had in FL. We spread some seed on the newly created walkway behind our house and gave it a good soaking with the hose that we also pulled out from the shed.
The birds immediately flocked to the seed. I lied and told S that the birds don't like grass seed, that they were only looking for worms, so he wouldn't shoo them away. It's surprising what I can pull off with a straight face. Thankfully, after only a few days we're starting to see signs of life as little blades of grass are sprouting from the dirt.

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4.04.2010

A Break for Thanksgiving, Cherry, Easter Sunday

We intended to wake early and head straight to the Tidal Basin to be some of the first visitors of the day to the cherry blossoms. When I woke up and saw 7:45 on the alarm clock I knew an AM visit to the blossoms was not going to happen. Instead I gave my parents the grand tour of the Hive and showed them all the improvements we've made since the last time they were here in December:
I think they were most impressed that everything they saw leaving their house on a big moving truck a few weeks ago actually fit in the Hive.

After breakfast we walked to a nearby church holding an 11:15 service. I left my phone at home, otherwise I would have sneaked a few photos of the sanctuary. The color choices were really quite pretty - steel blue walls, white trim with the slightest blue tint, and a gray-washed wood ceiling all of which went together so nicely and highlighted a large, round stained glass window at the front of the church, near the peak of the gable end, which had tons of blue glass. It was all really quite pretty.

Back at the Hive we pulled out a bunch of those pots and pans hanging from the ceiling and put a big turkey in the oven. I know, Easter is a ham holiday, but apparently my dad was hammed-out and we were almost out of the frozen t. dinners that S rations like they're his last meals, so turkey it was.
Then we hopped in the car and drove to the airport, where we parked and walked over the 14th Street bridge into D.C. to see the cherry blossoms.
But don't be fooled by the beautiful flowers, it was an absolute mob scene everywhere we looked, or tried to walk. And the walkway around the basin is blocked-off in parts for construction, so we weren't able to make our way around the entire route. It was nuts.

The cherry blossoms are lovely, but to be perfectly honest, I was way more impressed with the display in and around the parking lots at Dulles that I saw when I picked my parents up the other night. Plus, the huge old magnolia blooming outside my office window is pretty amazing too.

Now I'm looking forward to touring the neighborhoods of Arlington when the azaleas are in bloom in a few weeks. Hopefully our azaleas join in the show, especially after the rather ruthless pruning I gave the overgrown beasts a few weeks ago.

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