Smithsonian Institution

This has been a busy time for us here.  I have started a new job, so between that and getting ready for Christmas and company my posting is slowing down.  Unfortunately I don’t see this changing in the next two weeks with Christmas and New Years.  Other than getting some more groceries, I think we are all ready for Christmas.  Presents are under the tree and cookies are made.

My post today is going to be a brief overview of the Smithsonian Museums and Galleries located on the National Mall.  I’m going to have individual posts about each museum in the future.  Many people come to visit the area with the destination of the Smithsonian.  The Smithsonian Institution includes 19 museums and galleries along with the National Zoo.  On the National Mall alone there is American History Museum, Natural History Museum, American Indian Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Museum of African Art, Arthur M Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution building and the Air and Space Museum.  I am going to talk about the four main museums as we haven’t really visited the art museums.  I would like to but they usually don’t make the weekend entertainment for a toddler.

Here is our ranking of the Museums according to our toddler.

  1.  Air and Space Museum
    • Hours: 10-5:30pm
    • FREE
    • Nearest metro-L’Enfant Plaza (yellow, green, blue, orange, silver)
    • The museum has numerous planes (hanging from the ceiling, ones that you can sit in, flight simulators) and space exhibits that young children can enjoy.  There are also older kid and adult oriented exhibits about the history of flight and military operations.
  2. Natural History Museum
    • Hours:  10-5:30pm
    • FREE
    • Nearest metro-Smithsonian (blue, orange, silver)
    • Dinosaurs!  The Hall of Mammals!  African Elephant!  There are many kid friendly exhibits at this museum.  Unfortunately the Hall of Fossils is closed for renovation and will not open again until 2019.  There is a Discovering the Dinosaurs exhibit with dinosaur fossils which has been a hit.  For older kids and adults there is the spectacular Hope Diamond to check out.
  3. American History Museum
    • Hours:  10-5:30pm
    • FREE
    • Nearest metro-Smithsonian (blue, orange, silver)
    • My son’s favorite exhibit here is the transportation hall called “America on the Move.”  It is a history of transportation,  from wagons, to cars, buses and it houses a steam train engine.  For the most part the other exhibits are for older kids and adults.  A new exhibit called Wegmans Wonderplace opened on December 9th.  It is specifically aimed for children under 6.  We have not made it there yet but the rank on this list may change after the visit.  Don’t miss the First Ladies exhibit or the Americans at War exhibit if you have older kids.
  4. National Museum of the American Indian
    • Hours:  10-5:30pm
    • FREE
    • Nearest metro-L’Enfant Plaza (yellow, green, blue, orange, silver)
    • This museum has mainly adult and older kid themed exhibits.  It does house the fantastic imagiNATIONS Activity Center.  Center is interactive and family friendly.  It is a great place to go play and learn for locals and visitors.  Eilam loves building the igloo and trying to balance in the canoes.

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Great Falls Park

As the weather finally turned nice last spring, we decided to check out Great Falls Park in Virginia.  Great Falls is another fun escape from the urban life and it is only 15 miles away (granted it can get very busy here).  The Potomac River falls over a series of sharp rocks through a narrow gorge to make the Great Falls.  The Falls can be accessed from both the Virginia and Maryland side of the river.

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The Park is over 800 acres of trails, picnic areas, grassy fields and views.  We were there for a couple hours in the morning running around.  Eilam and our dog loved the fresh air.  I recommend getting there early in the day to beat the crowd.

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The eyes of child.

Great Falls

Where:  9200 Old Dominion Drive McLean, VA 22102

How to Get There:  From DC and Virginia via the George Washington Memorial Parkway  Take the 14th Street, Memorial, Roosevelt, or Key Bridge to the George Washington Memorial Parkway north. Take the exit for I-495 south (to Virginia). Use the right lane to exit onto VA-193 (Georgetown Pike). Turn right onto VA-193 west at the stop light at the top of the ramp. Drive about three miles and turn right onto Old Dominion Drive at the stop light. The entrance to the park is about one mile down the road.

Hours:  Daylight hours

Cost:  $10 per car for a 3 day pass

 

Peanut Butter Kisses

Christmas is such a special time of year and my parents provided my sister and I with such wonderful memories growing up.  One of my favorite memories was baking Christmas cookies with my mom and then delivering those cookies to friends and family members.  I loved helping her in the kitchen make the numerous batches of cookies.  We would make sugar cookies, gingerbread men, peppermint melt-away candies, spritz, snowballs, vanilla covered pretzels, and peanut butter kiss cookies.  I have tried to follow my mom’s example and have made cookies for friends and coworkers.  This year, due to small kitchen and time, I am making just two recipes, peanut butter kisses and vanilla covered pretzels.  I do love snowballs though, so I might try to get those done as well.

My husbands favorite are the kisses and since the recipe is pretty easy, I thought Eilam would like to help.  We had entered a contest for Country Pasta on Facebook and had received a bunch of baking utensils aimed for kids.  He was very excited to use these to help make cookies.  My secret to making these really great is don’t overcook them and to place the kiss while just a few minutes after they come out of the oven.  The kiss melts but maintains it shape and after the cookie cools still has a softer consistency.

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PEANUT BUTTER KISSES

Prep Time:  10 minutes         Cook Time:  10 minutes          Makes: about 30 cookies

 INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 C flour
  • 1/2 C sugar (plus  some to roll the balls in)
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1/2 C peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBSP milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Hershey kisses

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat over to 350 degrees
  2. Mix the dry ingredients
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix.  I use a KitchenAid mixer.
  4. Roll the dough into approximately 1 inch balls.
  5. Place the extra sugar onto a plate and roll the balls in the sugar.
  6. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes
  8. Remove and let cool for a couple minutes then place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie.
  9. Allow to cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

 

National Christmas Tree

We have had such a warm, beautiful fall.  Back home in Washington state, they have already had multiple snow storms come through.  Here, I don’t think we have had one day with freezing weather yet.  Eilam rode his bike with no jacket on Thanksgiving day.  This weekend it was in the mid-fifties and sunny.  We decided to take the opportunity to visit the National Christmas Tree.  Eilam is very excited for Christmas trees.  When asked what he wanted for Christmas, his response was always a Christmas tree.  So after getting our tiny tree for our apartment, I started talking about visiting a very big tree.  Visiting a big tree while getting to ride the train (metro) to see it, was an easy sell to my two year old.

The tree is located on the White House Ellipse.  It is free to visit.  They have one large Christmas Tree decorated with LED lights.  You can walk all the way around the tree.  Next to the tree there are toy trains running on their tracks.  Eilam was excited to see Thomas and his friends pulling their cargo and coaches.  There is also a Christmas tree for each state in the Union that you can see as you walk around the National Tree.

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So being honest, the tree was beautiful but you probably aren’t missing anything if you never see it or visit.  We did visit on a Saturday, so the crowds were probably more dense than on a weeknight.  It was difficult to maneuver the crowd around the tree and to get any kind of family picture.  I was expecting something nicer but the setting seemed rather sparse even with the trains and the other trees.  I am also a Christmas tree traditionalist.  I like the lights strung around in the branches, and ornaments, balls and bows in the actual tree.  This tree was like a net of lights draped over the tree but not actually in it.  You didn’t even need a tree underneath the net to get the same effect.  While many may disagree, I found the whole experience “meh.”   From December 9 though the 22nd there are free music programs in the evenings.

National Christmas Tree

Where:  1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

How to Get There:

Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver Line) 0.11 mile; Walk approximately one block NORTH on 12th Street, turn left/WEST on Pennsylvania Avenue and walk approximately 3 blocks toward 15th Street.

Metro Center (Blue/Orange/Red/Silver Line) 0.13 mile; Walk approximately one block WEST on G Street, turn left/SOUTH on 14th Street, turn right/WEST on Pennsylvania Avenue South, continue to the intersection of 15th and Pennsylvania, NW.

Cost:  FREE

Transition

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Mount Vernon

This is my first photo challenge (even though  the photo was taken by my husband).  The topic this week is transition.  I love this picture of my son, myself and parents walking over this rusty bridge.  I believe it is a great representation of transitions.  The colors of the leaves transitioning from summer green to fall yellows and reds.  The metal bridge becoming rusty with exposure to the elements.  The three generations walking together.  My parents as grandparents, me as a mom, my son transitioning from toddler to little boy.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Coming from the West Coast, the only battlefield I have ever visited was the Battle of Little Big Horn in western Montana.  I was a little girl and I really don’t remember much about the site.  When we moved back East, I knew that visiting some of the close Civil War sites was a must do.

On a Sunday morning in August, we drove the 40 miles to Manassas.  We only visited the Henry Hill Visitor Center and the area immediately surrounding it.  The visitor center is open from 8:30am to 5pm.  There were very little people there visiting that morning.  I am not sure if it was the time of day or if that is normal.  The area was beautiful, with lots of trails and green rolling hills.

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Eilam loved looking at the canons and running on the nice trails.  The trails had information about the area and war.  We were there probably an hour or so.  We then drove around the Park but didn’t stop anywhere else.  With a two year old wanting a nap by 1pm, we usually only have limited morning time to visit places.  With the amount of running he did that morning, it was a quick but active trip.  Overall, it was a very nice morning and if you want to get out of the city/suburban area for a nice kid friendly hike, I highly suggest visiting.

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Manassas National Battlefield Park

Where:  6511 Sudley Road, Manassas, Virginia

How to Get There:  Travel west on I-66 to Exit 47B, Route 234 North (Sudley Road). Proceed through the first traffic light. The entrance to the Henry Hill Visitors Center is on the right, just past the Northern Virginia Community College.

Hours:  The grounds are open from dawn to dusk while the visiting centers have various hours.  The Henry Hill Center is open from 8:30am to 5pm.

Cost:  $5 per day for visitors 16 years and older