Tag: Maryland

DC Trip Part 1

Hello from Virginia! It is Easter Sunday and I have just finished my 3rd day of this visit. The main goal of this trip is to spend time with my nieces and it has been a success in that regard! We have had a ton of fun and I’ve got some nice rest and relaxation along the way.

It started on Friday where I was able to use mileage points to fly first class to DC. This is much better for me as the seats are bigger and it has more room. It is also pretty fun way to fly!

Then I checked into a Westin Hotel and have been enjoying the luxurious sheets and room service!

Then on Saturday it became movie night. Megan and my nieces went to see Your Name, which is an anime I love. I was nervous it might be a little complex for them but they all loved it! Here is my review of Your Name.

Later in the evening the oldest and I went to see the Power Rangers movie which she loved so much. Here is my review of Power Rangers.

Today was Easter Sunday so Madeline and I went to church where they had a lovely program with music from a special traveling choir. Then we dyed and hunted eggs

Then for dinner we had ham and potatoes which was scrumptious. For sweets there was lots of Easter candy!

It’s funny because I could feel the humidity quite strongly and it was only around 74 degrees. It’s amazing what a difference it makes. Tomorrow we are going to see some of the monuments and then Tuesday I will visit my old stomping grounds in Middletown. And then before you know it will be time to leave on Wednesday.  It always goes so fast.

Anyway it’s been a great couple of days spending time with family and relaxing.

Visiting DC

The next part of my trip started on Monday, Labor Day where I met up with my aunt and uncle Bob and Cindy (and cousins Marshall and Ellen).  They were nice enough to let me stay at their home the rest of the week and I enjoyed getting to see them again.  Get ready for a lot of photos.  See photo descriptions for details on trip.  This is a lot of photos so bear with me but I think it is the best way to share my trip with all of you!

the first thing we did was go to the capitol building for a tour . Our tour guide was a bit over-eager but it was still fun.
Each state has a statue at the capitol. Here I am by good old brother Brigham
Lady Liberty at the capitol
By the famous painting of the signing of the Constitution by John Trumbull.
the library of Congress had amazing mosaics
One thing that reminds me of Maryland is blue crabs. Bob and Cindy surprised me and got a bag of live crabs. It was a ton of fun both to cook and eat! The crabs were covered with old bay (of course, nothing else would be permitted in Maryland) and took forever to eat but that's part of the fun of it!
Me with the crabs
I love Ellen's face looking at the crabs!
Cindy with the crab

Tuesday I spent the day with my friend Adrienne and her children (especially my new friend Norah.  We bonded.).  For most of the day we went to Mt Vernon in Virginia.  This is the home of George Washington and it was beautifully preserved.  It appeared to have been recently restored.  Everything looked new and fresh with good signs and lots of volunteers.  They even had an explorer area for the kids.  The only downer was the rain, which would be a trend for my whole trip.  While I missed hurricane Irene, I made it just in time for tropical storm Lee.   Still,  I was not on the trip for sights.  I was there to see my friends.  Rain or shine!

Norah aka Martha Washington
Adrienne, Norah and Ezra at Mt Vernon
Me at Mt Vernon

On Wednesday  I had the busiest day in the city.   It all started with a ride into the city on the metro.  I went the first part of the way with Adrienne and unfortunately there was a jerk on the train.  He said that she should handle her son and that the entire train would appreciate it.  What a jerk!  Made me miss my Utah.

Anyway, I got about half way and they made an announcement saying the train was out of service and we had to get off.   With Joni meeting me I was nervous about waiting for a repair, so I decided to get a cab.  It was my first experience hailing a cab.  Its harder then they make it look in the movies!

Eventually I got a cab and made it to the Lincoln Memorial.  Just as I arrived it started to rain and pour.  I mean this was sheets and sheets of rain.  Thankfully Bob and Cindy let me borrow their large umbrella (thanks!).  Needless to say, our plans to visit all of the memorials went out the door.  At least I got to see the Lincoln and the Jefferson which are my favorite.

Lincoln Memorial
Me and good old Abe. I love Abraham Lincoln. One of my heroes
Me and Jefferson
Jefferson Memorial

So I met up with my friend Joni Miller.  We knew each other years ago in college.  She was originally the friend of my cousin but we connected quickly.  I was also close with her sister Casi.  They are great people and I’m so grateful for facebook and how it allows me to keep in touch with such old friends.  We had a wonderful time visiting with each other.

This entire trip what amazed me is how quickly I gelled with my old friends.  It was like no time had elapsed at all. There is something comforting about that.

We went to a delicous pizza place called We the Pizza. IT is run by Spike Mendelson of Top Chef fame (and he was there. I saw him!). I guess Sasha and Malia eat there and the President next door...and it was very reasonably priced. The sausage and sweet pepper pizza was my favorite.
You can't really see but it is Julia Child's kitchen taken from her home in Cambridge. I love her
The museum was full of interactive exhibits like this train that felt like it was moving. It was funny because Joni's son Owen didn't understand what was interactive and what was traditional museum. He actually made the alarm go off on the 2nd floor! They didn't do anything but we walked away quick!
They had a neat exhibit on 9/11 with artifacts from each of the sites. It was a sobering powerful reminder
They had a spot where you could write your thoughts on how 9/11 has impacted your life. It was amazing to read the thoughts of other posters, some of whom had eye-witness experience. Also, our accounts will be archived in the Smithsonian. Now I will have something archived in the Smithsonian. So cool!

My comment on the Smithsonian card- How did September 11th, 2001 alter my life?

The other day I was watching a movie from the 80’s and it showed the old skyline with the towers and my heart broke. My heart broke for the loss of that day. And then I remember that on 9/11 the greatest thing that man could erect was taken down in one instant. Likewise, the great things and more importantly people in my life can be gone in one instance. 9/11 reminds me to express my love for them more often and to savor the ordinary times we have together. It also reminds me that there is the potential for heroics in the face of every stranger I meet.

It rained so much but Owen had a ball with the puddles. Smart Joni brought extra clothes for him to change into.
We went to Pitango Gelato. Expensive ($7 for regular size!) but it was tasty. Especially the fruit flavors.

Finally the end of the day was a visit with my friend Miriam Harmer.  We have been friends since college.  Actually I was her TA in Poli Sci 201.  Then we took an LSAT prep class and just hit it off.  Its crazy but I have known Miriam for 10 years.  One of my longest friends.  We went to a very nice restaurant in Arlington called the Carlyle. It was probably the nicest restaurant I have ever been to.  I decided to splurge and got chicken pailard with angel hair pasta (basically chicken and pasta with a butter sauce), cesar salad and warm chocolate bread pudding! It was a long lovely leisurely meal which for my money is the best way to spend an evening.  Miriam and I have a ton in common and I always learn a lot whenever we talk.  It was great hearing about her new job working for Senator Lee and her life in DC.  She’s great! (Plus, I have to admit after spending a week with a variety of wonderful children it was nice to hang out with a single friend for a night!)

Miriam and I at the Carlyle. We talked for around 3 hours. I used to wonder how my parents could just talk for hours. Now there is nothing I like more.

So that’s the trip!  What a wonderful time full of reminiscing and fantastic friends.  I have said it before but I am soooooo blessed with wonderful friends.    The trip also reminded me of how grateful I am to be an American.  I am overwhelmed by the  sacrifice that has been paid by many so that I can live the life I enjoy.  It was an honor to walk in their memorials, view their museums and see the buildings they sacrificed for.  I am proud to be an American!

Thank you to everyone who made time for me on the trip and made my stay so wonderful.  We weren’t going to let a little rain stop our fun.  Great memories, great vacation.

Visiting Middletown

So, on to my trip.  After arriving at Dulles airport I rented a car and drove to Frederick, Maryland (just next store to my ‘hometown’ of Middletown, Maryland.).

My friend Joan Saunders Orchard was nice enough to let me invade her daughters room and stay at her house for the weekend.  She has such a great family. (All of my friends have wonderful families and it was fun to witness their differing parenting styles.  They also nearly all have 2 kids!).

10 years.  It has been 10 years since I last visited Maryland.

My only excuse is that with my parents living in California life has kept me on the West coast for most of that time.  Still, thanks to the internet I have been able to keep in touch with most of my friends and it was so great to see all of them.

Rather than give you a day-by-day travelogue I have put the photos from this portion of the trip below with explanations underneath.

Aside from having a great time visiting with my friends my visit gave me several moments of clarity.

1. Its nice to know that deep down inside I am still the same-old ‘Rachel Wagner’ from high school.  While I hope I have grown wiser and more mature my heart is still the same. In walking my old paths I was reminded of both the good and bad times of my childhood and felt a sense of pride for the woman I have become.

2. I realized why I sometimes feel unique or different in Utah.  It’s because I grew up in a different culture.  I don’t know if I can explain why but I feel like in Maryland people are more accepting of individuals the way they are; whereas, in Utah the emphasis is on perfecting oneself.  Both perspectives are good and I think I am better for having both inside my heart.

3. There is a deep comfort in knowing that once a place is home, it will always feel like home.  While things had changed (lots of new houses in Middletown and the Golden Mile in Frederick was not so golden anymore) at its heart good old Maryland felt the same.   I believe I have 4 homes Utah, Maryland, Indiana and wherever my parents are (currently California)

4.  It is also comforting to see that old friendships are constant and enduring.  There isn’t a photo but when I went to breakfast with my best friend from high school, Meredith Tolley, it was just as if we had seen each other the day before, not 10 years ago.   Growing up my parents would often introduce us to their friends and I used to wonder ‘how can they be your friend when you haven’t seen them in years?’.  As an adult, I understand.  Once a friend, always a friend.

5. I was overwhelmed throughout this trip by a deep sense of how much I am loved.  When I think of the truly lonely people out there I wonder what I did to deserve such an abundance of love in my life.  There are so many people who genuinely care for me- so much so that I can hardly keep in contact with everyone (thank you again internet).

There are literally hundreds of people I could call if I was in need of a comforting, loving voice.  I think of the people I met on my mission who had nobody and I am beyond grateful for the blessing of great love in my life.  Thank you to all my friends.  I love each of you so much.  I’m sorry for not saying it more often.

6.  Finally, it was very interesting to hear how my friends perceived our home.  In talking with them they all had such warm, kind things to say.  I always looked at our house as full of chaos.   With my Mom on bedrest for most of my freshman year and the stresses of taking care of a  toddler and new baby it certainly didn’t seem like a fun hang out spot for my friends.  I was really surprised that none of them remembered such things. Time is an interesting shaper of memories…Hmmm.

Joan and her family (her husband is taking the photo!)
the house I lived in from 92-98. Basically looks the same except for the shutters.
I visited my high school- Middletown High School. It was a walk down memory lane
Visited with my dear friend and old young women's leader Sister Nancy Potter. She made a big impact in my life. We have been pen pals for years. (Although I've been a slacker lately, she always remembers my birthday)
braved my way through DC traffic to visit the temple.
I couldn't find anyone to take my photo at the temple so self-photo it is!
Sunday I visited my friend Natalie. It was so good to see her and meet her kids. I've known here since I was 12 or 13.

On to the next part of my trip! DC!  Thanks to everyone who made time for me. It was a wonderful visit.

Swimming is Fun!

Today I had a great experience.  My friend Aimee Talley and I worked at the houses weeding for a few hours.   I HATE weeding but today doing it with a friend it wasn’t so bad.  We had a good time talking about a variety of issues and just getting in some girl talk.  After the weeding we went to my gym and I gave Aimee a tour!  It was a lot of fun to show someone my stomping grounds and have company for my work out.  By the way- if anyone wants to come with me to the gym I would love it, so far Aimee is the first one to take me up on the offer!

With a friend there I had someone who could take some photos of me at the pool.  I have been meaning to take some for the blog but was embarrassed to ask a stranger.  (I wanted to prove to everyone that I was really was working out- 5 times this week!).  For the past 16 days I’ve spent time nearly every day doing a weight routine my trainer gave me using free weights.  After that I do a different type of cardio- my favorite being swimming. Ever since I was a child I have loved swimming. I love the coolness and fresh feel of the water and the freedom I feel gliding with each stroke .  It has always been the only athletic activity I enjoy.  In fact, everything else is a chore.  I honestly hate all other kinds of exercise.  In high school I joined the swim team  where I wasn’t a star but was competitive- especially in the butterfly!  I was one of the only girls that had the upper body strength to the do the butterfly well.  What’s funny is that for 3 years I competed on the Middletown High School swim team and had a great experience, but I never won a single race, or even came close.  I am a naturally competitive, prideful person, so it is funny that this didn’t bother me.  I guess I just loved swimming too much to notice!  My last year in Maryland I even completed my lifeguard certification, which was quite an achievement given my weight at the time.  I vividly remember taking the test (you had to tread in water with a 10 pound brick for 10 minutes!) and then standing by the side of the pool exhausted waiting for Coach Cowperthwaite (her real name) to see if I’d passed.  Eventually she nodded and said “you did it!”.  “Really?”  “Holy Cow!”  I replied in disbelief.  Looking back it is still an amazing accomplishment.  I don’t see how I did it when at the time I weighed at least 220 lbs.  I think I simply loved to swim that much! Amazing!

One of the great things (basically the best thing!) about my new gym is the lap pool.  The water is the perfect temperature and it feels so good to do lap after lap.  I would honestly swim every day but my trainer recommends I alternate different cardios to work out various muscles.  Sometimes I will reward myself after a treadmill or bike work out (I particularly hate the treadmill) with a lap swim- not a bad reward!  Anyway, here are some photos of me at the gym.  I think you can see how happy I am especially in the water.

Here I go on swimming laps! I usually do 20 laps in about 30 minutes. Not bad!
Isn't that a happy face! I love this photo.

these are the great robes they have at the gym!

By the way, anyone thinking of entering my healthy recipe contest please get me your entries by this Friday September 17th.  Remember it can be any type of recipe as long as it is healthy and delicious.  I really will give a prize and post the winning entry on this blog.  Please send away!  (Thanks to those who have already submitted!).

Thoroughly Uncool


I like to think of myself as a fun person- as a social person that people enjoy being around and for the most part I am. However, as I get older it seems to get harder to make friends and form groups?  Does anyone else find this to be the case? I don’t know if it is because I have such great friends and do not feel the need to make new ones or if other people are too busy, or perhaps I’m not as agreeable as I used to be? It’s funny because I think my skills as a host have only improved as I’ve gotten older- and yet there seems to be less to host!

What brought all of these thoughts up is I have been trying to organize small groups for our church ladies organization called Enrichment.  These groups are supposed to focus on a variety of topics and help all the women in the congregation feel included.  In past wards I have had success in gathering girls for book clubs, cooking groups, and movie nights, but not in this ward.  It is like pulling teeth to get anyone to come to anything.  Yesterday we had book club and I picked a Jane Austen- Persuasion (so good!)- and I am embarrassed to say nobody came except for my roommate.  A bunch of people had said they could come on Sunday but then nobody showed.   Only 2 called with excuses (one had a flooded basement and another had a bad flu).  On a side note- whatever happened to the notion of RSVP’ing.  I grew up in Maryland where a little of that Southern hospitality creeped into the culture.  If you said you were going to be somewhere, you better be in a hospital if you don’t show up.  At least a call explaining why you can’t come should be common courtesy.

Don’t worry- I wasn’t devastated or anything merely disappointed that I couldn’t talk about the book and that my pretty tea party went unappreciated. Boo hoo!  Thankfully Megan had read the book for her book club last month and so I called and we had a good discussion.  Plus, my cute nieces and sisters are coming into town so we will have a tea party together! (In fact, on Saturday we are going to the Princess Festival in Lindon- how fun will that be!).  The whole family is arriving tomorrow, and I can’t wait.  It has only been a couple months since I saw them but it feels longer.  Baby Nelle is crawling and pulling herself up already! Wow!

I am not intending this posting to engender pity- I have great friends, and I have a full life.  I am merely puzzled by my recent inability to attract new friends.  It isn’t just with Enrichment but the few times I have had parties the turnout is low.  I used to be able to always attract a crowd. Weird, hah? I’ve even offered to have a party up at the rental homes with a hot tub and pool table, but nobody has taken me up on it.  What do you all think?  Is there an age where movie nights and game parties are passe?

This is a funny entry on SWPL that applies to the need to host dinner parties.  Enjoy!

Though many would have you believe that white people come of age at Summer Camp, it’s simply not the truth. Immediately following graduation but prior to renovating a house, white people take their first step from childhood to maturity by hosting a successful dinner party.

It is imperative that white people know how to host a good dinner party as they will be expected to do it well into retirement.

At the most basic level, these simple gatherings involve 3-6 couples getting together at a single house or apartment, having dinner and talking for 5-6 hours. Though it might seem basic these events are some of the most stressful situations in all of white culture.

Hosts are expected to deliver a magical evening. The food must be home made with fresh, organic ingredients, the music must be just right (ambient, new, but not too loud), and the decorations inside the house should be subtle but elegant. The ultimate goal is to do a better job than the couple at the last dinner party while attempting to make everyone jealous and sort of dislike you.

The dinner party is the opportunity for white people to be judged on their taste in food, wine, furniture, art, interior design, music, and books. Outside of dictatorships and a few murder trials, there might not be a more rigorous judgment process in the modern world. Everything must be perfect. One copy of US Weekly, a McDonalds wrapper, a book by John Grisham, a Third Eye Blind CD, or an Old School DVD can undo months and maybe even years of work.

Even before guests arrive the pressure on the host is immense and it does not let up once people begin to arrive. While eating, drinking, and conversation are expected to fill up 5-6 hours, sometimes it’s just not enough. In order to fill the silence, white people will often turn to board games (Cranium!) or Wii Bowling. This lets everyone have fun together without having to really talk to each other, which is usually more fun anyways.

It is strongly encouraged to bring a gift to these dinner parties, usually either wine or some kind of dessert. If you are able to bring a particularly rare dish from your culture, you will be the star of the party. To seal the deal, be sure to explain as much as you possibly can about the dish: history, availability, and the proper way to eat it. Every white person at the party will be taking mental notes and will be in your debt for introducing them to something new and authentic. If a white person says they have eaten the dish before, it is best to respond by saying “you ate a watered down version. They don’t even sell this to white people, it’s that intense. Even I had to show ID.”

The entire party will universally acknowledge you as the top guests, even the hosts will appreciate you for bringing diversity to the table in both food and person form.