Brick by Brick

On this blustering weekend, we decided to spend time viewing the outdoors from indoors via a visit to the National Building Museum.  Housed in an indistinguishable building on Judiciary Square, the museum opens to all four sides, with a security guard stationed at each entrance.  Their posts are old-school metal desks, giving them little more authority than a strict teacher.  The interior opens into a spacious event area, which was being set in gold tones for a dinner that evening.  Large columns extend four stories with an outline of stone busts staring down from the eaves.  The exhibits open through glass doors on two floors, and adult ticket for $8 provides access to everything, including the current Lego exhibition.

Legos were the reason for our trip and worth the cost.  The three room display held 5-foot model skyscrapers and iconic buildings, such as the White House, each with a sign that detailed the original architect and size, along with the plastic replica size, time to design and build, and most importantly number of bricks.  My husband always judges the quality of a Lego set by the number of bricks and/or the number of figures, the latter of which was noticeably missing from the still-life structures. However, the second room was full of activity with stations of colorful Lego blocks to inspire future buildings. Legos also are abundant in the gift shop, along with other trinkets and interesting objects, as well as an impressive collection of sustainability, architecture, and graphic design books.

Other exhibits showcased the building history of the city, from famous structures, infamous neighborhoods, and the arrival of the beltway and the metro. One of the most interesting parts showed the other important bricks in building history – the original fired-brick, which is anything but singular.  As noted on the signage, bricks have come from many places and many states, including Virginia.  Now used as a veneer, the structural blocks have nostalgic associations with factories, schools, and single-family homes, which perhaps explains why we attracted to our brick-faced apartment building.  Today, we saw it salted in snow for the first time.

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Fields of Fear

To get in the spirit of a season, a friend and I ventured to Cox Farms on Friday night for Fields of Fear.  We started with the Cornightmare, a maze of corn rows and interspersed with shacks of strobe lights, moving bridges, zombies, aliens, and evil clowns, and all other sorts of characters. We walked through with a group of six strangers, but came very close to them as we pushed through the features with body-sized black balloons.

After emerging successfully, we stopped by the games and concession stands, enjoying their spiced nuts and cider.  They farm keeps three bonfires raging at all times, both to stave off the cold nights and to provide additional entertainment.  They sell marshmallows by the bag and positing a bucket of sticks next to the flames for easy roasting. The only part that breaks into the romanticism is the wooden palates that they use in place of the logs.

To end the night, we boarded the haunted hayride.  The wagon tour traveled over at least four flood creeks, the last one almost reaching the wooden boards that we sat on.  With each stop, actors jumped from their hiding spots, but the most realistic element was the old tractor that almost stuttered to a stop over every large mud puddle. It never broke down, but stopped for an extended period in the old barn, where the strobe lights revealed wooden wizards working their magic and white unicorn seemingly out of place with the dark objects.

As we exited, we paused to check out the live animals on the farm and the toys and food for sale in the farm store.  Appropriately, the family’s black cat crossed our path, a fitting end to the evening.

Signs of the Season

September showers bring October flowers, in the case of the tea olive bushes that have finally flowered.  I look forward to these fragrant plants all year but had some difficult finding them in the city.  Today, I found a large shrub growing on a college campus, a sure sign that fall has set in.  I’ve heard that the tea olive only blooms in months that have the letter ‘O’, so if the cold weather wasn’t enough to usher in the new season, this plant is.

With October comes some of my favorite things: hikes through the colorful foliage, Pumpkin Spice lattes, bouquets of sharpened pencils (a reference to You’ve Got Mail) and weekends curled up in blankets with a good book or a football game.  The dog prefers the last choice, thought the cooler air has made her keen on getting places quickly again.  Fortunately, with this break in the rain, all of the runners have reemerged on the city sidewalks today.  Of course, we also had to pull out the dog’s fleece blanket again.