Stuffed full of gratitude

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Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed that over the time I lived in Seattle, I carved out a set of traditions on Thanksgiving. The Ballard Turkey Trot followed by bagels with M & J and later on dinner with M, J and any other folks we happened to rope into the festivities. So, I was really nervous about what we were going to do this year and was already trying to figure out my exit strategy so it wasn’t a huge bummer weekend. (Ironically, I was planning to visit Erik & Nerissa in the Bay Area before the universe stepped in and helped me out with that arrangement.)

Even with the new surroundings, I still found myself thinking a lot about M and that whole situation. As I prepped the sweet potatoes she’s always requested, I allowed myself to enjoy the memories of our past holidays and, without getting too woo-woo about it, said good-bye to that part of my life and wished her well. I joked to T that it was culinary equivalent of pouring out a forty for your fallen homie. (We’re so gangsta now… )

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So, it is time to forge some new traditions. This year, we were hosting Erik & Nerissa in a house that one month ago movers were loading boxes into. (Talk about something to be grateful for!) We opted to trade the Turkey Trot for a nice hike, but we decided to keep the bagels portion of the program. So, Erik & Nerissa joined us for some carbo-loading and we all headed over to the beautiful parks near our house.

They brought Kali with them, who was very happy to be here:TD15_ErikNerissaHikeWe had a nice long hike. Austin got to be off leash for a lot of it and had a great time running through the woods. The rest of enjoyed a more leisurely pace:

TD15_GroupHikeI can’t believe these views are only a few miles from my house:

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We ended up hiking for almost two hours, which was a little more than Wally had in mind. He was pretty wiped. Even Kali and Austin were pretty chill when we got home…

TD15_KaliAustinWe had some time before dinner, so we ate snacks and played some Mexican Dominoes. (There may have also been some champagne… )

TD15_MexicanDominosWe finished the game and made a huge and delicious dinner. We ate and drank good wine and had a lovely meal. Then there was Cards Against Humanity and more wine and laughing so hard my clavicle hurt. Followed by pie.

TD15_CAH(Photo courtesy of Nerissa… )

It is ridiculous how much I have to be thankful for this year. With all of the terrible things happening in the world, it seems so important to appreciate good fortune while you have it. I hope you and yours are enjoying similarly awesome holidays right now.

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Adventures in Oakland

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We’ve been settling in to our new life. It’s really weird to have mild sunny weather in November, but we’re enjoying it while it lasts. Working at home has been an adjustment, but, for the most part, I’m enjoying it. The dogs have found their own routine where they battle over who gets the chair by my desk:

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And because my office is upstairs, I try to limit Wally’s trips up and down the stairs. When I make him stay up there, he gives me his famous sad Lab face:

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T takes Austin to the office a couple of days a week, so I see this face a lot…

T found an awesome dog park really close to his office, so we went and checked it out one day after work. Not only is there tons of space for Austin to run around and chase critters, but there are gorgeous views of the bay and San Francisco:

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Why yes, that is the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. From the dog park… Crazy talk!

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We’ve been enjoying exploring the trails near our house:

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This trail is only three miles away from my very urban neighborhood. It’s crazy.

We’ve also some fun adventures. We got to spectate cyclocross with my friend Katy:

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We took Austin down to meet Erik & Nerissa’s dog Kali. Since they are basically the same special dog, they had so much fun playing.

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It was a lovely evening until T dropped a knife while carving chicken. It bounced back up and nicked his calf. With the blood thinners that he’s on, it bled A LOT, so we ended up in Urgent Care:

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Luckily, he didn’t need any stitches and was totally fine.

I had another crazy thing happen. One day, when I was getting some water in the kitchen, I heard this weird noise. It turned out to be a hummingbird. IN my kitchen. Trying to get out the closed window. I was so scared that he was going to die trying to get out (or I would inadvertently kill him trying to get him out of there.) I took a broom and he’d land on it for a moment or two before resuming his efforts. Thankfully, he moved to a new window and I could remove the screen from the one next to it. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him before his successful escape:

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It was so crazy to see one so close. I guess that’s what we get for painting our kitchen red. 😉 I’m just glad this little nugget was at the office with his dad:

Austin

Pacific Northwest Farewell Tour

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Before departing for California, I had a few more stops on my Pacific Northwest farewell tour. First up, a trip to the Oregon Coast with Susan. Baby Austin had never been, so we felt obligated to remedy that situation immediately. And I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, us or Austin. Nope, that’s not true, it was DEFINITELY Austin and his BFF Blue:

OC_BoysRunning6 They ran…

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And ran…

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And ran…

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And ran some more…

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It was so much fun to watch them. Austin chased birds and ran into the ocean and generally had the best time ever. At one point we saw some horses, so we put the dogs back on leash. Which was good, because they were VERY interested in those horses:

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Wally didn’t get to frolic off-leash, partly because he doesn’t always play well with other dogs and because he still has delusions of his youthful strength and stamina. Because there are two of them and one of me, I had to use my hands-free running leash set up to wrangle the two of them:

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We had some time to kill before our room was ready, so we went for lunch and taunted T with a sunny selfie:

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And then took the younger dogs for a second beach session. Austin was just as exuberant as ever, but Blue was definitely conserving his energy, stalking his prey:

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But he rallied:

OC_BoysRunning4Finally, we got the call that our room was ready. We checked into a dog-friendly room with a really great view. (And shortly after I took this picture, the fog rolled in. So, it was good that I snapped it early!)

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The hotel had all of these rabbits on the property. Austin was OBSESSED with them.

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As were Blue and Lola. Wally was too busy sleeping off the beach time… It was like Doggie TV:

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Susan and I drank wine on the balcony and then walked across the street for dinner. It was fantastic end to a wonderful day. The next morning, we went for a nice breakfast and photographed some local “art”:

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Then it was time to drop the dogs off with Susan in Salem and move on to the next phase in my trip: visiting Erin & David in Bend. I hadn’t been there since T’s race last year, so I was excited to see them and catch up. I arrived Friday night after a long day of driving for me and a trip to Vegas for Erin, so it was a chill evening of wine and chatting.

The next day, we started our morning by taking the dogs for a bike/jog. They have a contraption where you hook the dogs into a frame near the front wheel of a bike. The dog runs and you ride. It’s super fun and a great way to tire out dogs quickly! Then we went to lunch, followed by a distillery tour/tasting.

The tour was interesting and apparently all stills are really cool and steampunky:

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We couldn’t resist the obvious photo op:

Bend_ErinMeDistilleryI liked the way they did tastings. First, they give you this sheet and you can pick six things to try:

Bend_DistilleryTastingMenuThen they place them on the sheet, so you can keep track:

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They also do small, inexpensive cocktails that feature the various spirits. It was such a great way to try the products. (Not to mention, a very fun way to spend an afternoon!) David had to work, so Erin & I went to see the movie Grandma at this super cute little theatre. (We both wanted it to be better than it was… ) Afterward, we had a light dinner at this great restaurant (with the creepiest waitress!) It was so great to catch up with Erin and a super fun evening.

The next morning, we went out for a hike. Bend is a fascinating place. We started out at this really cool volcanic park:

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Then we drove to another section that was still volcanic, but with more forest:

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Erin climbed onto a rock to take a photo, but of course that meant she had to get photographed. Naturally, she rocked it:

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The hike was filled with all of these interesting twisted trees and cool combinations of lava and trees:

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I wrapped up my trip by hanging out with my parents in Portland. It was a whirlwind, but I’m so glad that I had a chance to see everyone before the big move. As I was driving, I tried to soak in all of the natural beauty of this area and bid it a fond mental “see you later”. It’s hard to believe that soon I will be in California!

Victor: Victoria

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While we were still waiting to hear if T got the job, we thought it would be nice to do a weekend getaway for T’s birthday either before everything got all crazy or to cheer ourselves up. (So happy it was the former!) We chose Victoria because I’d never been (and T was there in elementary school, which barely counts… ) Plus, it’s a pretty easy trip from Seattle on the Victoria Clipper. We bid farewell to gray, drizzly Seattle very early on Friday morning:

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We landed in Victoria three hours later. It’s a stupidly charming little town. On Reed’s advice, we decided to stay in the understated Empress Hotel:

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Despite it only being 11 am, they were kind enough to let us check into our room. And is it just me, or do beautiful old hotels always have a Shining vibe to them?

Victoria_EmpressHallwayAnd PDX has nothing on the carpet at the Empress:

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The view from our room was not too shabby…

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And I loved seeing the architectural details from the window:

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We went out to grab a little lunch and walk around for a bit. Victoria is stupidly charming.

Victoria_HarborViewAnd has a surprising amount of native art around town. Such as these totem poles that date back to 1911.

Victoria_TotemPolesWhen I was a kid, my parents had visited Victoria and had high tea at the Empress and told many stories about it. I’d always wanted to go, so we decided to indulge as part of our trip. T was kind enough to go to high tea on his birthday. He’s such a good sport! (If you look over his shoulder, you can see the typical demographic for this activity… )

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Our waiter was kind enough to take our picture:

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It was quite the fancy affair, like something out of Downton Abbey:

Victoria_HighTeaChinaVictoria_HighTeaGoodies

It was definitely over-priced and a little too touristy, but it was fun. (Plus, isn’t a solid preview of your golden years the perfect way to celebrate your birthday?) Since we were on a tourist kick, I figured why not check out Miniature World? It was a quirky little museum full of dioramas, ranging from the historical:

Victoria_MiniWorld1To an interesting replica of the Trans-Canadian railroad:

Victoria_MiniWorld2Look, it’s old-timey Toronto:

Victoria_MiniWorld3And all sorts of other things. I didn’t get a picture of it, but there was a working model of a sawmill (that they couldn’t operate any more because it’s a fire hazard, but they had a video of it that was cool.) Some of the dioramas were really artistic:

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And some were clearly older, and a little… um… odd:

Victoria_MiniWorld5There was even a miniature car show:

Victoria_MiniWorld6And a circus that moved from night…

Victoria_MiniWorld7…To day:

Victoria_MiniWorld8We even saw Camelot!

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It was the perfect kind of cheesy fun. I made it up to T by letting him take a nap and them taking him to a legitimately cool cocktail bar and then an awesome tapas place for dinner. They light up the Parliament building at night. Look how pretty it is:

Victoria_NightMy phone didn’t capture the lights as well as I would have liked. Here’s a better sense of it from the next morning:

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The next day, we got up and wandered around Victoria while we waited to meet up with Khai and his lady (Andrea). We walked through a cool park, where we saw a huge group of tourists taking a picture of a peacock in a tree. And we passed this statue of Terry Fox:

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We even got to see the Clipper coming in, with today’s batch of tourists:

Victoria_Clipper

We passed these strange stairs leading into the freezing cold ocean (later on, we’d see a second set, so apparently it was a thing… ):

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And then happened upon this cool floating house neighborhood:

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They even let us wander down the dock:

Victoria_FloatingHomeDockThere were some cute retail shops mixed in with the homes. I loved these little guys:

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On our way back to the hotel, I stopped to take a picture of this super weird, (and kind of racist), statue. I particularly like the dog…

Victoria_WeirdStatue

We had an awesome brunch with Khai and Andrea and walked on a road high above the water. It was a surprisingly lovely day after the overcast, drizzly morning. Given how long it took them to get there, I was so appreciative that they made the trip! We ended our second day in Victoria at a cool Scottish pub:

Victoria_Pub

The next morning, we only had a little time to go get some breakfast before we caught the Clipper back home. While I was getting ready in the bathroom, I heard T talking to someone. I came out to see this:

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Meet T’s new friend:

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We checked out of the hotel and got into the crazy long check in line for the Clipper just as it started pouring rain. The trip home was decidedly more crowded and choppy than the trip out had been. It wasn’t the best way to end our weekend, but we will focus on all of the good parts instead. So begins our farewell tour of the Pacific Northwest…

Super fun Saturday

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Susan is in town visiting, so we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and our limited time left in Seattle to do some fun stuff. We started at Skillet for breakfast, then headed into the city to ride the Great Wheel, the only touristy activity that was on my list to do before we left. We were having one of those glorious “last gasp of summer” sunny days, so we opted to park a little farther away and walk through the sculpture garden.

SFS_WheelWe arrived at the perfect time, with a minimal amount of line/crowds. As you might imagine, it’s quite an impressive piece of machinery:

SFS_WheelMachinary

The car itself is really nice, with big floor to ceiling windows to take in the view. (There’s a VIP car with a glass floor, that we all agreed might be a little bit much… ) It goes up really high, so you get a gorgeous view of the whole area. Say hi to my office building (weird angly striped one with taller black skyscraper right behind it):

SFS_WheelView1Industrial area and stadiums:

SFS_WheelView2Even the gigantic cruise ships look minuscule from up here:

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We all geeked out pretty hardcore on the shadow in the water:

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It was a very enjoyable excursion and I was happy we’d done it. Then we headed south to do a little furniture shopping with Susan, followed by some whiskey tasting for the boy. He and I had tried to go the previous weekend, but they were closed for a private party. So, it was with great relief that we saw the open sign:

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Neither Susan nor I were particularly excited by whiskey and scotch tasting, so we hung out in the very beautiful tasting room, while T chatted with his fellow imbibers. It’s a gorgeous space:

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The barrel room:

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At some point the guy doing the tastings invited T back to see the stills, so he had us come back to see them also. Not only was the scale very impressive, I loved that they looked like something out of a Wes Anderson movie:

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T in his element. Look how cute he is!

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He bought a special whiskey that you can only get at the distillery. They really make the most of the experience. You get to fill the bottle yourself:

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It had a nice sense of ceremony. They have you sign a little ledger and fill out your label and everything. It’s pretty awesome. T was in heaven.

We then headed back to the house, where T hung out with the dogs while Susan and I went for pedicures:

SFS_Pedicure1I chose a fun bright red, which is a big departure from my usual burgundy or more subtle shades.

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Afterward, we had a little time to relax in the backyard, before getting dressed up to go to an early birthday dinner for T at Terra Plata. They seated us on their beautiful rooftop deck:

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We had a fantastic time. The food was both lovely and delicious. We shared many fantastic things, including fresh garbanzo beans, (pictured on the right):

SFS_TerraPlataSFS_beetsSFS_Crudo

We followed dinner with a few cocktails at Sun Liquor. It was an action-packed day, but, we all agreed, pretty much perfect. Since there are a limited number of days before T starts his new job, it felt like we’d really maximized our fun time.

Holy cow!

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So, I was all set to write another rambling blog post about canning projects and races canceled by wildfires when a fairly exciting development occurred. A fantastic job opportunity with T’s current company popped up in Northern California. It has been our plan to move back there at some point, but apparently the universe has decided that time has come, because I’m pleased to announce that T got the job and we are moving to California! (!!!!!!!!)

T’s been traveling a ton lately, so I’d decided to work down at my parent’s house in Oregon for a few days, so I was there when he got the good news. I’d already taken the day off to go to the State Fair with my mom, which was good because lord knows, no work was going to happen! Susan was kind enough to watch the dogs for me, since the fair is in the same town she lives in, so we met her for lunch beforehand. Margaritas with the moms:

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I love the Oregon State Fair. It’s just a rad, old-fashioned state fair, that’s been around for quite some time:

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We always spend the bulk of our time looking at the animals. It’s fun to get a glimpse into a whole other world. Like this dude talking on a cell phone while walking his cow:

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(Shortly after I took this picture, a lady came up to him and asked to take a close-up picture of the cow. He sort of stopped and let her, while continuing his phone conversation. The combination of her delight at the cuteness of the cow and his total lack of interest or enthusiasm in the transaction was comedy gold. My mom and I could not stop laughing… )

Of course, we had to check out the horses. They were getting ready to show draft horse two-teams, so some of them were all dolled up, while others got to lounge in the stalls. It was fun to watch which horses were mad about that. Sometimes it was the ones in the stalls and sometimes the opposite:

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Goats are super hot right now:

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Our very favorite was this Boer’s goat who was a total love bug/ham:

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Here he is snuggling with one of his owners:

HC_SnugglyGoatWe were completely charmed by him.

One of the other highlights was walking through the quilts section with my mom. They used to have them high up on the walls of the exhibit hall, but they’ve changed to more of a quilt labyrinth with the quilts at eye-level. It was cool to be able to see the details and my mom would explain how they were done. It was really interesting.

The next day, I headed back up to Seattle, picking the boy up at the airport on my way. We met up with Jenn & Bryan for drinks/dinner at Essex/Delancey to celebrate the boy’s new job.

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I’m going to miss seeing them as often as we do now, but we’ve sworn that there will be visits and future adventures. Plus we know have the magic of social media, so I know we’ll be able to keep in touch. I’ve gotta say, 2015 has been one crazy year.

Fireworks

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It’s been quite the summer so far, (more on that in another blog post), so I’ve been excited to have a 4th of July visit from Erik & Nerissa on the calendar. Erik’s birthday is at the very end of June, a few days earlier than their arrival, so we prepared a little mini-birthday celebration – cupcakes and Goldschläger (long story). We opted to divide the cupcakes into quarters, so we had Erik hold his candle while we sang Happy Birthday…

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It may have been Erik’s birthday, but Nerissa brought us a present from her recent business trip to Japan – exotic KitKat bars. (Green tea and red bean flavors, in case you can’t tell.) I actually wish they sold these in the states, they were delicious.

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I’d originally worried that we were going to have our typical gray and rainy 4th of July weather, but we actually had the opposite extreme – temps in the 90’s. Here the dogs demonstrate our primary coping mechanisms… Option one, hang out in front of the fan:

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Or Option Two, hang out under the shady tree in the backyard:

FrogDogVoila, Option Two!

LawnGroupWe finally got to take them to Essex/Delancey:

CocktailEssexWhat a nice-looking group:

EssexGroupErik showing off his fruity cocktail:

ErikCocktailOn the night of the fourth, we opted to stay home. It was lovely. We grilled, drank wine, watched the fireworks from our back porch and stayed up late playing Mexican Dominos. #murica

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We stayed up way too late, but it was lots of fun!

MexicanDominos1We wrapped up the visit with a delicious dim sum brunch at Din Tai Fung. (Pro tip, if you go mid-morning on a holiday Sunday, there’s no wait!) We stuffed ourselves with dumplings and then wandered around Capitol Hill. It was the perfect end to a lovely visit.