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I had the opportunity to leave the social media realm and see several of my favorite photographers’ works in the real world. It got me thinking about why I follow certain photographers out of the millions who are on social media.

As a wildlife fan, I find myself skimming instagram, twitter, wordpress and snapchat for all things wildlife and nature oriented. But there are only five photographers I follow daily ~ they bring an extra dash of joy to my life with their amazing skills and ability to capture the essence of majestic creatures. All five have one essential quality in common which is required for me to follow them; they are all conservationists.

My most recent follow is @Davidrphoto on Instagram. Of the photographers I follow, he is by far the youngest, currently a student at Stanford and his photos are from his trips to Africa. His “Youth Photographer of the Year” award-winning photo is currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit is titled: The 21st Annual Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards Smithsonian Exhibition. Windland Smith Rice was a nature photographer and conservationist.

photo-david-r

The exhibition includes short videos with footage of the moments the photographer captures the award-winning photo. I was completely enthalled watching the videos and blown away by the amazing talent. I’m especially impressed with the profound patience they possess which is required to capture the perfect shot.

photo-video-of-leopard-and-cub

Video of the “Youth Photographer of the Year” winner David Rosenzweig

If you have an interest in photography, I highly recommend attending the free exhibit when you’re in Washington DC. The current exhibit will be on display until Sept 2017. The museum is located along the National Mall at 1000 Madison Drive NW. The closest metro stop is Archives/Navy Museum (Yellow Line).

There’s more information at the Museum of Natural History and you can view the photos on Facebook. I promise you the images are stunning in person and well worth the trip to the museum.

photo-museum-of-natural-history

Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History ~ Exhibit Banners

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The Kennedy Center is a living memorial honoring President John Kennedy. The iconic Kennedy Center’s history began in 1958 as the National Cultural Center. It was a product of bi-partisan legislation signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, but as a strong supporter of the arts, President Kennedy became the driving force in raising the funds to complete the construction of the Center. He appointed his wife, Jacqueline and Mrs. Eisenhower as honorary co-chairwomen which I find fascinating since they were from different political parties but worked together on this important endeavor. Not something we see much of in today’s polarized political climate in the US. 

In January 1964, two months after President Kennedy was assassinated, Congress designated the National Cultural Center as a living memorial and renamed it: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Congress appropriated $23 million to fund it and fundraising continued with the Friends of the Kennedy Center volunteers. The volunteers worked earnestly across the country, raising money from private support and from nations around the world who respected President Kennedy and wanted to contribute to his legacy. Because the Center is a Federal Memorial, it continues to receive funding each year for the maintenance and operation of the facility but the artistic and educational programs are paid for through ticket sales and gifts from individuals, corporations and private foundations.

President Lyndon Johnson participated in the ground breaking ceremony in December 1964, and in keeping with its historic importance, he used the same gold-plated shovel which was also used in the ground breaking ceremonies for the Lincoln Memorial (1914) and the Jefferson Memorial (1938). The Kennedy Center officially opened in 1971 and the New York Times wrote a rave front page review which stated “The capital of this nation finally strode into the cultural age tonight with the spectacular opening of the $70 million [Kennedy Center]…a gigantic marble temple to music, dance, and drama on the Potomac’s edge.”

I always enjoy going to the Center and had the opportunity to attend several musicals including “Wicked”, “South Pacific” and “Book of Mormon.” I became a member for one year and appreciated their member benefits. As members, my daughter and I were able to watch a rehearsal of the National Orchestra. As a viola player, my daughter loved observing the behind the scenes of a professional orchestra.

Earlier this month,  I finally made it to one of the free performances at The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. We arrived early enough to take the last free tour at 4:30 p.m. I particularly enjoyed seeing the contributions of artwork throughout the Center which had been generously donated by several foreign governments. Click here to see the book listing all the gorgeous gifts given to the Center.

The Millennium Stage offers free performances nightly from 6 to 7 pm. The Happy Hour at the Grand Foyer bar is from 5-6 p.m. Seating begins at 5:30 and you can take your drink/food with you to your seat. The monthly calendar usually comes out the last week of the previous month. Click here for a list of upcoming performances.

Tips for visiting The Kennedy Center:

  • If you’re 18-30, you can sign up for My Tix at kennedy-center.org/mytix which offers discounted and free tickets.
  • There’s a free shuttle between the Center and the Foggy Bottom Metro Station. Departing every 15 minutes from 9:45 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 11:45 t0 midnight on Sunday, and 4:00 p.m. to end of last performance on Holidays.
  • If you want a good seat for the Millennium Stage performances, be in line shortly after 5 p.m.

Georgetown Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center

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Springtime always brings houseguests to our home and many of our visitors are first-timers to Washington DC. Although each person has their own particular interests/dislikes, and depending on their length of stay, there are sights I suggest everyone should see during their maiden journey into the city. My top 10 Washington DC (and surrounding area) must see list is as follows:

  • The Monuments at Night ~ The monuments are spectacular anytime of day but when they are lit up, they become magical. Bonus if there’s a full moon.
  • The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage Performance ~ There are free performances of music or dance every night at 6 pm.For a schedule, click here.

Capitol Building from the top of the Washington Monument
The National Mall ~ Smithsonian Museums, National Gallery of Art and The US Capitol

  • Smithsonian Museums ~ It would take weeks to explore all the wonderful and free museums in Washington DC. Visitors should “speed-date” by walking along The National Mall and ducking into each museum to see the highlights. Visitors can return to the museum they liked best for a deeper dive into all the treasures. Some of the more popular displays are: the Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum, the Star Spangled Banner flag at the American History Museum and the Kitty Hawk at the Air & Space museum. Click here for more information on all things Smithsonian.
  • The National Gallery of Art ~ My personal favorite. Again, this could take weeks to explore but it’s worth popping into the gallery for a few hours to gaze at the paintings and sculptures which spans from the middle ages to the present. Don’t miss the: Little Dancer (Degas)Self Portrait (Rembrandt van Rijn), and the paintings by the masters such as Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and many more. For information on hours and directions, click here.

Capitol Building with scaffolding

  • The U.S. Capitol Building ~ Take a tour of the Capitol building and stop in to see the Senate in session.
  • The Library of Congress ~ The building is gorgeous especially the Reading Room. There’s an original copy of a Gutenberg Bible (circa 1455)  on display in the lobby. It’s the first bible (major book) printed in Western Europe using movable metal type and was one of the turning points from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance era.
  • Mount Vernon Estates ~ Mount Vernon is located 14 miles south of Washington DC along the GW Parkway. The house and grounds are lovely. Give yourself about four hours in order to tour the home, wander the grounds and visit the on-site museum. Mount Vernon is accessible by public transportation, boat, biking and private vehicle (parking is free). For directions and assistance on getting there, click here.

Arlington Guard

Washington Monument

  • Washington Monument ~ Tickets are free but have a $1.50 service charge per person and anyone two years and older are required to have a ticket to go to the top of the monument. Tickets go on sale three months prior and I highly recommend purchasing them online the day they go on sale. Tour buses snap them up quickly. Click here for more information. If you’re unable to get tickets online, there are a limited number of Same Day tickets distributed at 8:30 am at the National Park Service building located at 15th street near the monument. These are free same-day, timed tickets and one person can get up to six. The line forms much earlier than 8:30am so get an early start.
  • Georgetown ~ It’s a dynamic area of DC to wander around; parts of it are serene and parts are packed with people. Stop in to see the gorgeous Georgetown University campus, take a peek at The Exorcist stairs (and run up them if you’re in great shape), walk along waterfront park and stop in for coffee/pastries at Baked and Wired.

Please note: All buildings in Washington DC have security at the entrances and be prepared to go through a scanner. There are lists of prohibited items on each website. It’s best to pack lightly when touring around DC.

I’ve used my list for the last five years for about thirty first-time visitors. Only one houseguest went rogue. She preferred to visit the National Cathedral, Catholic Basilica, the Botanical Gardens and the Arboretum. That’s the great thing about Washington DC ~ there’s something for everyone!

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Attention all bibliophiles, mark your calendar ~ the 16th National Book Festival will be at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (Washington DC) on 24 September, 2016. It’ll be open from 10am to 10pm and all events are free of charge.

A list of authors already scheduled to attend (from the Library of Congress website):

  • Kwame Alexander, Newbery Medal winner
  • Douglas Brinkley, prize-winning historian
  • Christopher Buckley, author of such satirical works as “Thank You for Smoking”
  • Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and author
  • Philip Glass, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Winston Groom, author of “Forrest Gump”
  • Stephen King, best-selling, prize-winning author and literacy advocate
  • James McBride, National Book Award winner
  • Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
  • Joyce Carol Oates, prize-winning author of more than 70 books
  • Ed Piskor, alternative comics artist
  • Michael Ramirez, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Diane Rehm, NPR host and author
  • Salman Rushdie, Man Booker Prize winner
  • Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Bob Woodward, Pulitzer prize winner and author of 17 No. 1 best-sellers
  • Luis Alberto Urrea, prize-winning author of “The Devil’s Highway”
  • Gene Luen Yang, Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

More authors expected to sign-on in the coming months.

For those who are unable to attend, but want to follow along, there’s an free app available. Click here.

 

 

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It’s easy to impress first-time visitors to Washington DC. A lot of people have a negative preconception of the capital city and they are pleasantly surprised when they see all it has to offer. By far, the most common comment I hear from first timers is “We didn’t realize DC is so green and beautiful.” Followed closely by “There are a lot of good looking guys here.”

Last week, I invited a long time Northern Virginian to go into the city with me. Since she hadn’t been to the city in a long time and had already seen all the typical tourist sites, I decided to expand her horizons a bit.

My first suggestion was for her to visit the Madison Building located at 101 Independence Avenue SE to get her Library of Congress Reader ID card.  The free Reader card gives a person access to multiple reading rooms including the stunning Main Reading Room. It’s best to register online prior to going to the ID office where they will take a photo then print your ID card. It takes less than ten minutes. Click here for all the information needed to obtain a reader ID card.

Library of Congress Reading Room I
Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress
Library of Congress the stacks

Once she obtained her card, we decided we should utilize our cards. There are several reading rooms to choose from but, since we’re both interested in photography,  we headed to the Prints and Photographs room. The head researcher was incredibly helpful and we really appreciated her taking the time to explain in detail how to find photos both online and in the reading room.

We then ventured a couple of blocks over to the Russell Office Building  (2 Constitution Avenue) to visit Senator Warren’s (VA-D) office for gallery passes. Both the Senate and House galleries are open to visitors whenever either legislative body is in session. I’ve been to both galleries on a few occasions and find it fascinating to watch our Representatives in action.

The galleries are not part of the U.S. Capitol tour but passes to enter either gallery may be obtained from the offices of your respective Senator or Representative. For International visitors, go to the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center to inquire about gallery passes.

The passes are good for one year (October to October) and when the House of Representatives is not in session, visitors with passes may visit the House gallery on weekdays from 9:00 am to 4:15 pm. The House gallery is closed on holidays and sometimes due to unplanned temporary closures.

The Senate gallery is open during scheduled recesses and visitors are admitted to the gallery weekdays from 9:00 am to 4:15 pm. The Senate gallery is closed on holidays (unless the Senate is in session), and during any recess or adjournment of less than one week.

Both the Senate and House are closed on weekends, unless they are in session.

To get your gallery passes, you’ll need to visit your respective Senator and Representative. If you’re not sure who your elected officials are, please go to League of Women Voters and enter your zip code.

If you’re a local or frequent visitor, you may want to get your own Reader card to do research or visit a Senate session to see you government in action.Library of Congress rain day II

At the United States Capitol

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Although I get strange looks when I mention I enjoy visiting historic cemeteries, it doesn’t deter me checking them out. They are interesting and peaceful. Recently I left busy M Street, with all its hustle and bustle of Georgetown’s shops and restaurants, and walked eight blocks up to Oak Hill Cemetery located at 30th and R Streets.

Oak Hill Cemetery was founded in 1849 through an Act of Congress and by Mr. W.W. Corcoran donating the land for the cemetery. Corcoran was a banker and philanthropist who also created the original Corcoran Gallery (now known as the Renwick Gallery).

The Gatehouse and Gothic Revival styled Chapel were designed by James Renwick in 1850. Renwick also designed the Smithsonian Castle building and St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Having visited Congressional Cemetery last August when they had visiting goats, I prefer the grounds at Oak Hill. The hilly, twenty four acres overlooking the Rock Creek are beautiful with mature trees, lots of plants and trails throughout the area.

My favorite thing to do when reading the headstone, besides finding an unusual name, is reading the dates and putting the life of the person into perspective as to what was going on at that time in history.

Here are a few photos from my outing:

Oak Hill Chapel designed by James Renwick.

Oak Hill Chapel designed by James Renwick.

Side view of the Oak Hill Chapel

Side view of the Oak Hill Chapel

Beautiful Fall foliage and blue skies

Beautiful Fall foliage and blue skies

There are trails throughout the cemetery so you won't be stepping on any graves.

There are trails throughout the cemetery so you won’t be stepping on any graves.

Oak Hill Cemetery Gatehouse ~ designed by James Renwick

Oak Hill Cemetery Gatehouse ~ designed by James Renwick

Original Bell at the Oak Hill Cemetery

Original Bell at the Oak Hill Cemetery

The fallen leaves throughout the Garden cemetery

The fallen leaves throughout the Garden cemetery

I found a "Giving Tree" stump

I found a “Giving Tree” stump

Oak Hill Cemetery's Welcome and Rules

Oak Hill Cemetery’s Welcome and Rules

Pumpkins in Georgetown

Pumpkins in Georgetown

Sweet Bulldog Statue

Sweet Bulldog Statue

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Georgetown

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Georgetown

Walking the leafy streets of Georgetown

Walking the leafy streets of Georgetown

The cemetery overlooks Rock Creek and the Rock Creek parkway.

The cemetery overlooks Rock Creek and the Rock Creek parkway.

For more information, click here.

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CC PS Bench
My six year old self would have shuttered to know I was going to a graveyard just to explore and read the historic names on the tombstones. But my much older self enjoyed wandering through the lovely setting known as Congressional Cemetery.

Established in 1807, it’s officially the Washington Parish Burial Ground and is owned by Christ Church. In 1807, Senator Tracy (Federalist from Connecticut) was interned and until the mid-1830s, almost every Congressman who died in Washington was buried in the cemetery. Since it was associated with US Congress members it became the first National Cemetery (50 years prior to Arlington Cemetery). The cemetery occupies 35 acres and is the only place in Washington DC where a person can be buried within L’Enfants’s original city-plan. Congressional Cemetary toppled headstones

Congressional Cemetery is a feel-good story, other than the fact that it’s filled with dead people. It went through a period of neglect in the 20th century and, by 1997, it was added to the list of most endangered Historic sites. Thankfully, a group of dedicated Capitol Hill Washingtonians started taxing themselves for walking their dogs on the grounds. The taxes paid for mowing.

CC Dog friendly

Currently, the K9 Corps of the Historic Congressional Cemetery numbers in the hundreds. They pay an annual fee to walk their dogs off-leash. Other volunteers including service organizations, members of the armed forces and school groups have put in thousands of hours bringing the cemetery back to it’s original state. It’s designated as a National Historic Landmark and the association has regularly scheduled tours, fundraisers and 5k runs. The US Marine Band plays often at the grave of John Philip Sousa. Sousa enlisted into the Marines at age 13 by his father, after Sousa attempted to join the traveling circus. He excelled in the Marines, becoming the conductor for the Marine Corps Band. After the Marines, he started his own band and wrote “Stars and Stripes Forever” CC Henry Clay
Cenotaphs are monuments erected in honor of someone whose remains are buried elsewhere. There are 165 Cenotaphs for many famous people such as Henry Clay, John C.Calhoun, Tip O’Neill, etc.

CC Girl statue

Beautiful statues can be found throughout CC Music is the answer

CC A lifetime togetherInteresting quotes can be found around every corner.

And then there are the visiting goats.The Browsing Green Goats have been brought into the cemetery (paid for by an anonymous donor) for two weeks to control invasive species including poison ivy. Rather than use herbicides or expensive landscaping crews, the goats offer a wonderful alternative to battling the invasive plants. Plus they leave a good bit of helpful fertilizer. CC signs to the goats

CC Goat signFollow the signs to the goats PS Black Goat

CC Goats restingToo full to move CC Goat B&W

CC Brown goatDetails for visiting:

  • Congressional Cemetery is located at 1801 E Street, SE, Washington, DC
  • Cemetery hours are 9 am-5 pm
  • Goats can be seen from Dawn until Dusk
  • Goats will be at the cemetery until August 20, 2015
  • For more information about events (including the goats), click here

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