Inspired by Life

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The White House Kitchen Garden

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” 

― Marcus Tullius Cicero

I couldn't agree more with Cicero! Now, if I could only find my missing green thumb :) 

Last Friday, Aaron surprised me with tickets to the White House Garden. This opportunity comes only twice a year, and we were off to see where the First Lady potters about, no pun intended, in her spare time.  The tour is self-guided and one gets to walk through the grounds, in front of the White House directly looking at the South Lawn.  I tried my best to  use my zoom lens to see the Obamas, or at least their dog, Bo, who apparently made an appearance at the last Garden tour. No such luck. 

Former First Lady Patricia Nixon first opened the grounds for seasonal tours and since then, guests from all over the world have visited the South Lawn. The White House grounds are the oldest and most continually maintained landscape in the United States. 

John Adams was the first president to live in the White House and requested a garden to be planted before he arrived there. But, he was defeated shortly after by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson made plans for planting trees and establishing pathways that wound around the grounds. John Quincy Adams formally established the gardens, and is claimed to have planted over a thousand plants during his time in the White House. Andrew Jackson added an orangery to grow fruit in the winter. 

The weather started out a bit overcast but seemed to clear up quite a bit as the sun came out to play. It was lovely to be standing on the White House grounds with the imposing building of power behind you, and looking over a wide expanse of lush green grass and a view of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial in the far off distance.  Incredible! 

Rutherford B. Hayes started the Easter Monday tradition of children rolling eggs on the South lawn, and now draws 30,000 guests every year. 

We walked up the path to the Rose Garden, where many a press conference had been held, announcements made, and meetings with world leaders had transpired. The West Wing of the White House was the backdrop to the Rose Garden.  It is quite something to wander around in places where decisions that have changed the course of nations have been made. Well, not really wander, if you take into consideration all the security guards scattered around the grounds :) They are part of the landscape :D

A closer view of the West Wing.

The Oval Office. 

Off the south end of the Oval Office is a putting green, private pool and even a playground. 

In March 2009, the First Lady and two dozen local students broke ground on the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn. It features over fifty varieties of seeds including many heirloom seeds. In its first nine months, the garden yielded over a thousand pounds of produce. Not bad, eh? 

There is one bed in the garden that is named for Thomas Jefferson and the plants in this area are from seeds that have been passed down from those Jefferson planted at this home Monticello.  In addition to the garden, the White House also has a beehive on the grounds,  on the opposite side of the garden. 

While we toured the garden, we were entertained by the United States Army Band who played several patriotic tunes. We took in the beauty of the flowers around the grounds, and walked out of there with the strains of music floating through the trees. 

A wonderful tour.  Hope you enjoyed it too!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Patch 2012

Our very first pumpkin patch photograph! 

These pumpkins at Carter Mountain were giant pumpkins and I imagined them turning into a horse-drawn carriage and Cinderella stepping out of them. Yes, my imagination tends to take flight 
quite often :) A moderately-sized pumpkin at this patch weighed a mere 40 pounds! 

Happy October!

Carter Mountain Orchard

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." ~ George Bernard Shaw

This weekend, we were invited by our friends, Rachel & David Trichler, to spend a harvest weekend with them in Charlottesville, VA.  There were plans to go apple picking, putt putt-ing, lots of baked apple treats, and Trivial Pursuit. How could we refuse? 

Our Friday night combined a fun road trip to Charlottesville with the Trichlers, and an inaugural stop at Wegmans (Aaron and I had never been to Wegmans before - it is a glorious grocery store). After having my car towed in DC, then going into the sketchy part of DC to retrieve my car, cooking some Indian food for 20 people for a church event, packing our small suitcase, and finally getting on the road, I was happy to arrive at Rachel's childhood home.  We spent some time socializing with her lovely parents, Sam and Joleen Bodily, and a fun couple, Evan and Madison Fitzpatrick, and their gorgeous baby, Holland. 

On Saturday, our whole group went out for some physical activity—running, biking, walking, and playing in the playground with Holland. Rachel and I went on a little walk along the river on meandering path in the forest. 

Isn't it just beautiful? I love the fall season! 

Our next activity was Carter Mountain Orchard. I looked forward to this event with great excitement as it was my very first time picking apples.  We drove up there in a sweet little Saab convertible which was almost 21 years old while Aaron and David did some light reading on our way up there.  It seemed like everyone had decided to go apple picking this weekend, so we had some extra time to take in the sights :)

Carter Mountain was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Gorgeous views of the fall colors everywhere you turned. The weather was lovely, and the company, enjoyable. 

We had some lunch, ate the best apple cider donuts, drank the sweet nectar of apples, and equipped with bags to carry our apples, we set off to pick to our hearts content. The boys went to one part of the orchard and the girls to the other. We did have a bit of a hike to get to those juicy fruits but the views were well worth it! 

We picked a lot of apples—enough to bake while we were there and enough to bring home two dozens of them. 
Rachel and David are great to hang out with, and we loved getting to know them, spend time with their family and friends, and take in the beauty of our surroundings. 

Thank you, Bodily & Trichler family! We had such a blast and plan on making this an annual tradition! 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Mom Stays In The Picture

“My mother... she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.” 
― Jodi Picoult
This morning, I was reading a family member's blog about her adorable 9-month old baby who came into her family through adoption and has been such a blessing to her. In her blog post, she linked to an article in the Huffington Post titled 'The Mom Stays In The Picture.

It was a tender, real, and honest expression of a mother who realized that it did not matter if she was perfectly dressed, had perfectly coiffed hair, and a perfect body to match, to be in the picture with her children. She talked about how her children should know that she was always in the picture, doing the myriad of things that mothers do and that go unnoticed. So, despite not being well put together and carrying some baby weight and minimal makeup (all things she expressed were reasons she did not want her picture taken), she appeased her little boy's request to have their picture taken in a photo booth at a party, and will treasure that photograph of them forever.

This article touched me and got me thinking of mothers and children. Of my mother.  My beautiful mother who gave birth to me and my sister. My beautiful mother who raised us to love God and family first, and who filled our lives with laughter, joy, and faith. My beautiful mother who has sacrificed her whole life to ensure our happiness. My beautiful mother who taught me to be independent, confident, loving, caring, strong, faithful, and happy.  My beautiful mother who has always been in the picture in my life and still is, influencing me in ways that she never dreamed about, encouraging me through her example to be the best that I can be. 

I love you, Mom. 

Irrespective of race, or the color of our skin, a mother's love is universal and binding.  I thought I should share some photographs of beautiful mothers and their babies.  To all the mothers out there—thank you.

I want to grow old and be like my mummy. 

President Lincoln's Cottage

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." ~ Abraham Lincoln

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and there was a little chill in the air as Fall began to slowly creep into the day.  As we parked our car, and made our way to the cottage on Columbus Day, I could not help but wonder what it would have been like to live here during President Lincoln's time.

I was thrilled to have this opportunity to step back in time and have a tiny brush with greatness by visiting President Lincoln's cottage.  As I walked up with the tour group to the entrance of the cottage, my mind transported itself to the time when Lincoln lived there, and I, ignoring the tour guide, imagined what it must have been like to see this tall, lanky man alight from his horse every evening, after a hard day's work and survey the land around him, lost in thought, and the weight of a nation on his shoulders.

Although this cottage was meant to be a refuge from the White House, Lincoln could not escape the reality of war that was all around him—camps and cemeteries popping up at the same rapid rate—nor the decisions he had to make.  His first visit to this cottage was three days after his inauguration and his last visit was the day before his assassination. 

Located only three miles away from the White House, this was first created as the Soldiers' Home in 1851. The summer cottage that Lincoln occupied was built for George Riggs, a prominent banker, who later sold it to the government when they pronounced Soldiers' Home as a place for disabled and retired soldiers.  Today, the land is covered with buildings, and offices, and although still green, obstruct the clear view the President Lincoln must have had. When he lived there, it was still considered rural and had wide open, green spaces. He shared the land along with 200 resident soldiers who lived in the dormitory near the cottage, the presidential guard,  and officers who managed the grounds. 

From his front door, he could see the graves of the Soldiers' Home National Cemetery multiply, and the unfinished construction of the Washington Monument and the Capitol Dome.  Mary Todd Lincoln accompanied her husband here during the summer and lived with him and their two sons, Robert and Tad. Their son, Willie, had died after drinking some bad water and contracting typhoid.  Mary loved the cottage and wrote to her friend about it saying, "We are truly delighted with this retreat, the drives & walks around here are delightful, & each day, brings its visitors. Then too, our boy Robert is with us, whom you may remember. We consider it a ‘pleasant time’ for us, when his vacations, roll around, he is very companionable, and I shall dread when he has to return to Cambridge. I presume you will not return to W.[ashington] before cool weather, thus far we have found the country very delightful."

We were not allowed to take photographs inside. The rooms were sparsely decorated and some of them had no furniture in them at all. But they were large and would have been sufficient to entertain the stream of political and social visitors the president must have had. One of my favorite rooms was, of course, the library. Although it had no bookshelves, and only had a table and chairs, the tour guide told us (yes, I finally did pay attention to the guide) that when the restoration began, they had stripped 27 layers of paint and wallpaper off the walls, and exposed the wood-paneled walls of the room. They surmised that room to be the library because of the ghosting of bookcases from wall to ceiling that went the whole length of the room. It had an enormous fireplace and a very large window. The president loved to play checkers, and would invite the guards to play with him from time to time. It was also in that room that he reflected on the war, and formulated and made one of the greatest decisions of his presidency: To issue the Emancipation Proclamation. 

On his daily commute, he passed soldiers, hospitals and contraband camps. It gave him a sense of being with the people and knowing firsthand what they went through as they fought the war.  His last visit to the cottage the day before he was assassinated.

I loved the time I spent in the place that Abraham Lincoln lived, walked and talked. I learned a lot about him and his love for this country. It increased my love for America and I appreciated the time to ponder on the lives of many who had served this country, and was grateful for their sacrifice, so that someday I could enjoy the freedoms for which they sacrificed their lives.