Thursday, May 31, 2012

What I have in common with The Fresh Prince....

Really not a whole lot, but every time I even think the word Philadelphia, all I hear is... "in West Philadelphia born and raised on the playground is where I spent most of my days..."  I am sorry that you will also now have that song suck in your head A L L  D A Y  L O N G!!!!  

So back to the subject at hand, the trip to Philly!  It all started when my dad mentioned a year ago that he wanted to go to Philadelphia, well plans get made and stuff happens and it had been almost a year and I had memorial day weekend free, so I decided we could take a trip then, taking advantage of the extra day off work.  Well bus tickets were expensive and then my friend CJ figured she could ride (rather drive--cause she is oh so good at driving) up with us and see her friend and take our car for the weekend so we did not have to pay the $38/night to park in the city.

Us driving up to Philly
Well we arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday around 2pm and got started right away with a trip to the Mutter Museum.  It is a museum that has a whole bunch of crazy bones and weird diseased body parts in it.  It is rather weird to be honest, but my dad enjoyed it so that was good.
Mutter Museum
We then went and stopped in at Comcast Center, it is this huge building that looks like a flash drive and inside it has a huge wall that is a bunch of TVs put together and makes an amazing picture, we goofed off in there for a bit.
Comcast Center--looks like a flash drive

Dad with the 'people' inside comcast center
The Huge TV screens in Comcast Center

Saturday night we had dinner at the Reading Terminal Market.  I decided to enjoy some lovely Greek cuisine while Tom went with the traditional Philly Cheese steak sandwich---with the whiz!!!  It was quite yummy; since we had a big day planned, we decided to head back to the hotel for some exploring and an early night.  We enjoyed some TV and our cookies that we snagged from the Reading Terminal Market as well.

Sunday was jam packed with activities.

First we went to Independence Hall, then we walked through the area around there, seeing Betsy Ross' House, the tomb of the unknown solider, Constitution Center, and Elfreth's Alley; and that was ALL before lunch!
Dad "holding up" Independence Hall
Where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Betsy Ross' House/Flag

At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I loved this!

Elfreth's Alley--the oldest continuously inhabited street in the U.S.

Benjamin Franklin's Grave

Constitution Center
Tom King for President 2012!

China Town Friendship Gate
After we finished up, we took the Trolley around town to get to the other side of town, were we stopped off at the Franklin Institute, the Barnes Institute (most was closed off to us because it had just opened, but we got to see a little bit inside) and then the Eastern State Penitentiary.  
Dad riding a bike on that wire in the middle of the air at the Franklin Institute.  (the bike is counter weighted but it still freaked me out)

Eastern State Penitentiary

What a room would have looked like when the Penitentiary was first built.  It was pretty much solitary confinement inside your cell for 23 hours a day, you were allowed 'outside' for 1 hour and the area outside was walled in, so there was NO human contact (in fact outside times were synchronized so no two prisoners next to each other would be out at the same time).  The outside area was smaller than the size of a cell and prisoners were allowed one book--the bible.   They were supposed to think about their crime and feel regret and penitence for their crime.  The prison was advanced for its time with running water and electricity (even the white house did not have either at the time the prison was opened).  All prisoners were brought in with a hood over their heads so they could not see anyone else and the penalties for trying to communicate with other prisoners were harsh.  Most prisoners did not stay longer than 2 years and many died of TB during their stay there. The prison did away with the solitary system in 1913 and was closed in 1970, which the exception of its brief use after the Holmesburg prison riots in 1971.  So for 20+ years it was abandoned and during that time a lot of damaged happened because of the lack of up-keep, they have done a lot to improve the area for tours, but it was my favorite thing in Philly and definitely a must see!

A later cell block, notice this one has 3 floors, versus the original ones that only had 1 floor.
Sunday night we were quite exhausted, but we still managed a dinner at Maggiano's and a night time trolley tour of the city, where we got to see the boathouse at night time.

On Monday morning, we got up and went to the Zoo for the day before heading home.  

I could not resist, look at that face!

This was the momma of the family!

A sloth bear, I thought he was so cute, except for the whole, he could rip my face off part!



This polar bear was so entertaining to watch as he played with his ball toy!



Lastly, Tom doing the Rocky pose at the BOTTOM of the steps, yeah not exactly the same but we  were in between two buses so we only had like 2 minutes to spare.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip.  On the way home, CJ and Tom humored me by stopping for a late lunch in Delaware (a state I had never been to), so I could have a meal there and cross it off the is the proof that it happened:
Lunch at the Charcoal Pit, it was actually quite (VERY) tasty!
There you have it folks, Philadelphia in 2.5 days, should you desire to take an action packed trip there, I have the top picks, so let me know!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30th Book Update

Very ahead of schedule....since my goal was 26 (one book every 2 weeks), I technically only have 10 more books to read and I have started on two of those 10, but my guess is that I will probably read more than the 26 :)

List of books I have read in 2012
1. Five Love Languages
2. Sisterhood Everlasting
3. The Holocaust Diaries
4. Private #1 Suspect
5. The Fixer Upper
6. The Hunger Games
7. Catching Fire (book 2)
8. Mockingjay (book 3)
9. The Carrie Diaries
10. What Alice Forgot
11. The Purpose Driven Life
12. The Reservoir
13. Private Games
14. Mountain beyond Mountains\
15. Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide
16. Sarah's Key
 List of books I plan to read in 2012
17. I've Got Your Number (started 5/30/12, and its Sophie Kinsella so this should be done in a few days)
18. Generous Justice (started 4/20/12, reading as part of my small group).
19. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
20. The Girl who Played with Fire
21. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
22. The Horse Boy
23. The Magicians
24. Unbroken
25. Kisses from Katie
26. The Other Boleyn Girl 
27. A good and perfect Gift
28. Lexapros and Cons
29. There are No Children Here
30. The 100 thing challenge

I am a reading machine....

I finished yet another book this morning (thanks to the fact that my little dog had me up at 6am), Sarah's Key.  I loved loved loved it.  If anyone knows me, they know I have a huge affinity for books about World War II and the survival stories of those so persecuted during the Nazi German reign.  I know it is a sad, sad part of our history, but I sometimes think by reading these books, it encourages and promotes the need to NEVER forget what we did in the world.  And to remember that genocide is STILL going on to this day, so we need to know we are all in this together.  

This book was the story of strength and courage, but also sadness and reality.  It follows a young girl, Sarah, taken during the Vel d'Hiv Roundup.  I was ashamed to admit, I knew NOTHING of this particular instance in World War II history and to know that 13,000+ people lost their lives because of this and I was oblivious was a sad reality for me to face.  This story was not about Poland or Nazi German, but about France.  When the French people turned against their own because of the German instructions.  Books like this make me think, what side would I have been on during that time, would I have fought for those who could not fight for themselves or would I be concerned about protecting myself instead?  I hope you take a chance to read it and question your own self as well.  The ONLY thing I did not love about this book (aside for the obvious sadness of our history) is that the chapters go back and forth between 1942 and 60 years later in 2002, so at times I found it hard to realize whose story I was reading about, but give it a few chapters in and it starts to fall into place.  Apparently there is also a movie that follows the book closely, so I will be checking that out of the library too!

Happy Reading everyone!

Friday, May 25, 2012

15 down, 11 more to go

So I just finished reading Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide.  I always have a little bit of a hard time with books where people tell you how things should be in an ideal world....why?  Because we do not live in an ideal world and unless everyone in the world reads this book, not much is going to be done.  But it is somewhat about personal change, I have always seemed to think that politically, I am very open-minded (do not read that as liberal...two different things).  I am open minded to the topics at hand and am willing, in fact, wanting to hear both sides.  So the fact that the majority of Christians are following one belief and holding it to be truth and not wanting to hear both sides to the story seemed out of place to me.  The book talks about the role that the church has taken in preaching political party sides in the past couple of decades.  After reading the book, I do agree with most everything in it--yes, I think people are one sided on their issues, yes, I think the church tends to think that Jesus is republican or democrat, and yes, I think there needs to be a change.  But I am at a loss for how that change is going to happen.  So I am left somewhat disappointed.  But if you are interested in the role of politics in the church, it would be a good read for you!

A few of my favorite lines in the book are as follows:  "The kingdom of Jesus is neither red nor blue, left nor right, tea nor coffee.  As followers of Jesus, we represent an alternative party, the party of the kingdom of God....Love transcends political and doctrinal ideologies.  So we must put that love into practice in the church, demonstrating to the world that differences do not have to bring contention or division.  If we can't love our brothers and sisters in Christ, how can we show love to the rest of God's hurting world?"  

I also really like this part, " Left and right, blue and red are but imperfect worldly systems that are passing away.  These systems, by their very nature, create barriers of division.  The way of the cross is eternal and tears down the dividing walls that stand between us...We must not allow this polarization of extremes to pollute the message and mission of Jesus."

The book talks about how as followers of Jesus, it is okay, if not healthy to have political debates among each other, all along keeping the idea of love and respect in mind.  Jesus preached about LOVE, not about specific issues.  Jesus LOVED all of his sons and daughters, what better example is there to follow in the world?  Certainly not any president I have ever known.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

7....going on 8 and counting...

That is the number of weekends in a row that I have not been at home for the whole weekend.  Keep in last weekend I was only in Norfolk for Friday night through about Saturday evening at like 10pm.  But I counted it cause I did not get the whole weekend at home.  With that being said, here is a look at my life upcoming...

This weekend = Philly
Next weekend = Lake Anna Saturday-Sunday
June 9-10 = Charlottesville Wine weekend

DRUM ROLL PLEASE....the weekend of June 15-17, I will be in Richmond for the whole weekend!  Wow, whatever will I do with myself....I thought you might ask, so I have decided to have a yard sale at my good friend, CJ's house (thanks CJ)!

Last night my friend, Anna and I were talking a little bit about over-commitment, so say I have a little problem with this is probably a huge understatement, but I do kind of enjoy a busy life...what can I say?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekend Recap

Friday I left work and headed to Norfolk to see my sister, brother in law, and nephew and to help with their yard sale on Saturday morning.  It was a quick trip but productive and fun.  The weather was wonderful and my nephew was so cute!  

Perfect Day for a yard sale!

Corbin made so much money at the Yard Sale cause he is so cute!

I left there Saturday afternoon and came back to Richmond.  My friend CJ and I went to hit up the Lebanese Food Festival in Richmond where we got the best tasting thing in the world, Zalabia -- it is a Lebanese donut with like a honey glaze....HEAVENLY!

Sunday morning, I decided to sleep in and do a few things around the house before I headed over to CJ's where we spent the afternoon in her back yard pool....

It was a great relaxing time.  Then Sunday night I had our final youth group its back to work this week, then Philadelphia for a long weekend coming up!

Friday, May 18, 2012

In case you were wondering...

I started reading the book "Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide" last night.  I don't even have this one on my list, so I may have to add it but I am excited to read it, it was a freebie on Amazon for Prime users!  Next up after that is "Sarah's Key," I am picking it up at the library today!  Happy Reading and have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Books Reviewed

So I know it has been awhile since I have given a good book review and since I have read quite a few books since then, I will update you on a few of my recent reads.

What Alice Forgot
This book was a fairly easy read and it was engaging, it reminded me a lot of the style of writing that Sophie Kinsella does in her books (which if you know me you know i love ANYTHING by Sophie Kinsella).  So obviously I enjoyed this book.  It is a story about a women who feel at the gym and temporarily looses her memory from her last 10 years of life.  She forgets she has any kids at all.  It is a feel good story and the writer grabs you and makes you want to read more.  I think it is a great book for any girls who just want a simple read in their life.

The Purpose Driven Life
Ehh, I could take this or leave it.  It is a 40 chapter (meant to be read one chapter a day for 40 days) book that I found extremely hard to get through in 2+ months, so obviously its not my best read.  But if you take it for what it is--self help, finding out your purpose in life, I think you will enjoy most of the chapters.  I can honestly say I got a little something out of at least 70% of the chapters in the book, so I think, if you have the commitment, it is worth a try.

The Reservoir
This was a bit of a disappointment.  It was a recommended read from my friend, Kristi.  My problem was not necessarily with the book itself, I loved that and could not put it down, but my issue came with the ending, all that lead up and I HATED how the author chose to end this book.  I want closure and a nicely tied up little bow and you will NOT get that from this book.  If you go in knowing that I think you will love and appreciate the book for what it is.  The best best part of this book is that it is based in Richmond, Virginia in 1885.  So I know and could relate personally to a lot of the locations in the book, which meant that I got that much more into the story.  The author claims this book is loosely based on a case in Richmond history but he took some artistic liberties with a lot of the story line, so in all fairness, the ending may have a LOT to do with how the actual trial turned out in real life.  But honestly if you can make the plot better, can't you change the ending too?

Private Games
So, you all know I am a HUGE James Patterson fan and I have yet to find even one book of his that has disappointment me and this one was no exception.  This is the 3rd book in the Private series, Private #1 Suspect (that I read earlier in the year) is the second, and Private is the 1st (I have not yet read this one).  This book is actually about the 2012 London Olympic Games so it was fitting to read this right before the games take place.  It was super interesting and since my mom had already read it, At about 75% of the way through, I told her who I thought was behind it all...and I GOT IT RIGHT.  I almost never figure it out, but I was impressed with myself that I figured out the killer before the end of the book.  Overall, if you like murder mystery, might I just suggest reading all of Mr. Patterson's novels!

Mountains Beyond Mountains
Loved Loved Loved this book!  I had mentioned to my friend, Kathryn, a while back that I love non-fiction books about human kindness, World War II, or human services.  Well she thought I might enjoy this book and I did.  It follows Dr. Paul Farmer on his journey through third world countries as he helps to set up and administer health care to the poorest of the poor in the world.  It was a great reality check for me and I like reading books that put me in my place.  So read with an open heart and open eyes and I think before long, you will be checking out Partners in Health website to see what you can do to attempt to help out in this suffering world of ours.  (Side note: even if you do not intend to read the book, I would suggest checking out the website, most of the employees work as volunteers or below wage jobs so almost all of the money goes directly to those in need across the world and just cause we are lucky enough to live in the U.S. does not mean we should neglect the problems of our neighbors around the world).

I have not yet decide what book will be next you  can probably see, I do not always go in order from my list so it is anyone's guess right now...we will see how the mood strikes me tonight (mystery, non-fiction, fiction, comedy....who knows)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bahamas Recap

Well I have been back 3 days so I figure it was about time for a blog post about my trip.  For starters, it was AWESOME!  I could totally see myself living in the Bahamas, I think that would be amazing! To truly capture the beauty of this small but amazing country (or commonwealth, not sure what we call it), you are going to need to visit yourself; but to wet your appetite for beauty, I will do a little recap through pictures....

So we got to the Bahamas on Friday night and explored for awhile but were tired from traveling, so we had dinner and called it a night.  Saturday we woke up and went over to Atlantis for a day at the water park.  Then Saturday night we went to the little shopping area, where they had a "Junkaroo" mini are some pictures.  Words cannot describe this, the people (only men) are dressed up in crazy colorful outfits and playing awesome music and dancing around.  I looked it up on wikipedia and here is the explanation: 

"Junkanoo is a street parade with music, which occurs in many 
towns across The Bahamas every Boxing Day (December 26), 
New Year's Day and, more, recently in the summer....."

This was the Junkanoo leader, he was an amazing dancer

Members of the band

This is harborside at Atlantis, the place where we stayed.  I loved the colorful houses!

This is a picture of the Royal Towers at the Atlantis Resort

Here is a picture of the little Harbor outside Atlantis, it gives you a good idea on just how big those boats are!

I loved the beautiful colors of all the flowers there.

My favorite boat in port, it was called "Pipe Dreams" and it was HUGE

Beautiful Palm

A Lot of beautiful Palms!

So about mid-week, I had my fair share of SUN, so we took the afternoon off from the poolside/beachside and my mom and I went to look through all the amazing aquariums of Atlantis...Straight from the Atlantis website, there is: " 14 lagoons, eight million galls of salt water and more than 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species."  This is supposedly the biggest marine aquarium in the world and it was are just a few pictures:

Notice the HUGE fish at the bottom

Rays (sting, manta, baby), they were all over the place

Eels!  EEK!

I found Nemo in all of that vast water!

In this one part of the aquarium, all these fish were huddled together, I thought it was funny and figured that might be where they are getting fed. 

This picture is from above at 3 of the 100+ tank windows they have.

A nice contrast of the resort and nature.  

My mom and I got Ben and Jerry's ice cream in the Bahamas!

The bridge in the middle of the resort is the $25,000 a night room (with a 4 night minimum), apparently that is where Michael Jackson used to stay when he would come visit.

A shopping day in town.

Take about fresh catch, this man was catching conch and selling it right from his boat.  Conch is the big local favorite--they eat it live with lime and onions!  YUCK!

Tom on the water taxi

On Thursday, dad and I went to Blue Lagoon beach and did a dolphin and sea lion encounter--it was AWESOME!  We got to hug, kiss, dance, and pet these beautiful creatures.  

Then on Friday, my parents friend, Donny, took us out on his boat to a secluded island (no electric or running water) where only a few people build little weekend places to sort of camp in a house.
Mom feeling so Zen on the boat ride

Dad "trying" to fish!

Me, captain for the day!

The water there was so clear, this water is about 4 feet deep and you can see the almost translucent  fish in the water.

Paradise FOUND!

On the roof of a make shift "house" there!

Playing in the water!


Footprints in the sand

The Bopsie, our boat for the day.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip, lots of walking, lots of reading, lots of sleeping, lots of relaxing, and most of all LOTS OF FUN!  Now where to next....