Washington DC Adventure – April 2018

My first major adventure of the season is now in the history books…..well, actually just in my memories and here on this blog, but it is “in the can”, as they say! Last year, two friends and I went on what we decided was going to be our inaugural trip to Washington, DC. We decided that there was WAY too much to see and do to cram it all into one trip, so we decided it would be an annual event so we could do shorter visits, focus on seeing a few things each year, and keep going till we saw it all or we could no longer keep it up! Last week, we made our second annual visit…..well, two of us did – unfortunately, our third partner in crime couldn’t make it this year.

Last year we focused on the basics and an overview of the city. This year, we put The National Cathedral, Smithsonians, and Cherry Blossoms on our priority list – we also wanted to see the FDR and WWII Memorials – two we missed seeing last year. As with last year, we took the train down on Monday and back on Friday – giving us full three days there to see what we could see in that time frame. Here are some of our photos:

Views from the train:

Views while walking around:

We stay at a very old hotel right downtown – the Hotel Harrington – it isn’t the Ritz, but the location is PERFECT and it has a restaurant that we love – Harry’s and there is a great little sandwich shop just around the corner called The West Wing Cafe that has the best bagels and coffee/tea for breakfast! Hotel Harrington is located on the block between 11th and 12th and E and Pennsylvania Ave. It is an easy walk to most attractions and there is a Metro Bus stop on the back corner of the block and a Metro Train stop two blocks away — so, pretty much anything we want to get to, we can do so very easily….and the rest, well, there are always a line of cabs right outside the hotel lobby! And…..it is clean and comfortable, so we put up with the lack of amenities for convenience and ease of getting to whatever we want!

Right around the corner, there is a building that has a really cool sculpture hall – we stopped in on the way to breakfast to look around!

Right behind us is an amazing building – it used to be the old Post Office, but is now Trump International Hotel – very impressive building with a statue of Ben Franklin on the corner. It is so beautiful all lit up at night! I’m going to go inside and peak around one of these trips – was going to this year, but didn’t get to it!

This curved building is very impressive, as well…..we didn’t figure out what it is, but it is pretty cool

If you needed any more proof that you CAN NOT avoid the IRS, just try to walk past the IRS building…..the sidewalk goes through an arch that extends from the building right to the street – if you want to walk around it, you have to walk out onto the incredibly busy Constitution Ave…..so, yep – even when just walking down the street in DC, you can NOT avoid the IRS!!! hahaha

The White House – we didn’t get any closer than this, this year, maybe next year…..

The SunTrust Bank building is very impressive, as well……hard to find a building in our Capital that is NOT impressive, but some are more so than others!

We had planned to visit this Smithsonian – the newest one – but, when we got there, we discovered that it is so popular, they have it set up where you can only get in if you sign up for a specific time by going online starting at 6:30 in the morning OR being there at 1:00 to try for a limited number of walk-ups. We decided to go see the WWII Memorial and then try to get in at 1:00, but when we got back at 12:00, the line was already getting long and we didn’t want to stand there for an hour on the chance we “might” get in. So, we’ll plan ahead for it next time!

By trying to get in there, we put ourselves closer to the Washington Memorial than we were at any point last year – we ended up walking right by it to get to the WWII Memorial!

World War II Memorial

This memorial is amazing…..it is the newest of the memorials on the National Mall and sits at the end of the Reflecting Pool between the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. It has a large fountain that is surrounded by a fortress looking structure on each side – one for the Pacific Ocean and one for the Atlantic Ocean – and 56 pillars that represent each state and US territory from that period – each with two bronze wreaths (one on each side) representing the mourning for those lost from that state/territory, as well as memorials representing each of the military services involved in the war and inscriptions memorializing the major events during the war. There is also a “Field of Stars” with over 4,000 gold stars – one for every 100 of the over 400,000 Americans who died in the war – with the inscription “Here We Mark The Price of Freedom”. Very emotional memorial…..

Smithsonians

After not being able to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we had to rethink our plans for focusing on Smithsonians on this trip. We had already tentatively planned to visit the Smithsonian Castle and Gardens – the Smithsonian Headquarters, so we decided to start there. As we walked along Constitution Ave, most of the other Smithsonians had HUGE lines waiting to get in — the risk we took by choosing to go during Easter Week – spring break for so many schools AND the estimated peak bloom time for cherry blossoms (the reason we chose that week). But, there wasn’t a line at the Castle, so we went inside. The building was amazing – a gorgeous castle – but, once we got inside, we were a little disappointed. The write ups about it said you could learn a little about each of the different Smithsonians and see a sampling of what is displayed at each one. But, that wasn’t really the case – there was a gift shop and an information booth and a room with what looked like a video, but we couldn’t tour any further than the ground floor and there were no real displays other than detailing the history of the Smithsonian complex. But…..the garden out back was AWESOME!!! It was a little early for much of the bloomings, but the magnolias and spring flowers were out in full force and absolutely gorgeous!!!

The lady at the information desk also told us about two Smithsonians that were tucked away underground – the entrance to both were beyond the gardens. We decided to go to one of them after we enjoyed the stunning magnolia trees for a bit. The one we visited was the National Museum of African Art and it was amazing!!! We spent quite a bit of time there and really enjoyed it!

This was my favorite display – not only because it is beautiful, but more so because of what it signifies. The display is titled Sophie-Merica shows an African woman in a traditional blue uniform for domestic workers and then a Cinderella-like skirt flowing out from beneath the uniform representing the imagination and possibilities for her future.

Ford Theater

Last year, we saw Ragtime at Ford Theater and it was such a lovely theater and an emotional experience that we decided to see another show there this year – this time we saw The Wiz! Last year, we had a better view of the box where Lincoln sat and was shot, but it was still amazing to be there and know what happened there so many years ago – a significant part of our history!

The National Cathedral

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to the National Cathedral in Georgetown. This was so incredibly awesome……I could never do justice to it in any description I could ever write! The National Cathedral is dedicated to serve as a house of prayer for all people and a spiritual home for the nation. It is the Cathedral for the people of the nation to come together to worship as one. It is officially an Episcopal church. It originally meant for another location – land was set aside in the plans for the Capital City for a “great church for national purposes” – the National Portrait Gallery is now in that original location. In 1893, it was decided to renew the plans for a National Cathedral. The current site was chosen and construction began in 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt witnessed the laying of the foundation stone. 83 years later, President George H.W. Bush attended the final piece of construction in 1990. The architecture is incredible and there is an intimate garden area for meditation outside. Inside, there are multiple chapels on two levels, as well as the High Altar at the head of the Nave. The Crypt Level is home to many dignitaries and notable American citizens – such as President Woodrow Wilson – the only American President buried in the District of Columbia, Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, the daughter of Ulysses S Grant, the architects who worked on the Cathedral, a couple Senators, some military service men, deans of the Cathedral, and many others.

The day we were there was the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a distinct honor and emotional experience to be able to sit in on a Holy Eucharist Service where the priest included an abbreviated version of Dr. King’s last sermon – delivered there three days before his death. What a blessing! We were also able to listen to an organ demonstration on the Great Organ – one of 20 largest organs in the world. It was installed in 1938 with approximately 8,400 pipes. It was expanded in 1963 and again between 1970 and 1975 to its current state, consisting of 189 ranks and 10,647 pipes. To say the sound that came from this amazing instrument took my breathe away is an understatement! What a treat to be blessed with the chance to hear the sermon and the joyful sound coming from the organ!

So – here are some photos from the National Cathedral:

In 2011, there was an earthquake that caused a LOT of damage that is still being repaired.

Statue of Baby Jesus outside the children’s chapel

The children’s chapel had baby animals on the seat cushions and everything sized for children

This crypt had a dog at the man’s feet and angels at his head

The Garden at the National Cathedral

Very little was in bloom in the intimate garden, but we still enjoyed sitting there for a bit – so peaceful and beautiful – a great place for meditation and prayer

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

We also saw a show at the Kennedy Center – we didn’t get to see one in the larger theaters or the Opera House, but the Theater Lab was a wonderful smaller theater that was perfect for the type of show we saw! We saw “Shear Madness” – a murder mystery comedy with a lot of political humor that relies on audience participation to solve the crime and it ends differently every night and changes somewhat each performance! It was very funny and very enjoyable! It was also a great experience being in that wonderful venue!

The Cherry Blossoms

The main reason we chose the week we went was specifically to see the cherry blossoms! All predictions indicated that we would likely be there during peak bloom time or just before, so we were sure we picked a good time to book the trip – of course, all was dependent on the weather and was a crap shoot for whether or not the predictions would be true. Well, as we got closer and closer to the dates, it looked like we just might end up missing them – the predictions kept slipping and being pushed out to the point that once our travel dates got here, the predictions for peak blooms was out a week after we were to leave! UGH!!! We weren’t totally bummed because the predictions were for PEAK blooms and the trees were budding and starting to open!

We had booked a bus tour that promised the best viewing of the cherry blossoms and some additional attractions. We won’t do that, again…..it was a $60 per person tour and everything we saw we either saw last year or earlier this trip…..or could have seen for FREE on our own! Granted, the cherry blossoms were incredible (more on that in a minute) and we were taken to the absolute best spot to see them and the guide did offer information we probably wouldn’t have gotten on our own, but the guide rushed us through everything to the point that we could barely enjoy the one monument we wanted to see really bad – the FDR Memorial – and it was too late in the trip to go back to see it again on our own before we left…..so, it will be on next year’s list so that we can take our time and really see it! And, there was one stop that I was particularly looking forward to that he skipped altogether – the Senate Park at the Capital Building to see the pear trees in bloom! So — our advice is to not pay for pricey bus tours — everything in DC is accessible and, with a very few exceptions, FREE! Go on your own – take guided tours at the various venues, if you choose, but don’t pay for big pricey tours! The only organized tour we took that was WELL worth it was last year when we took a DC at Night tour – that was amazing!!! Also, if you go to Union Station, just outside are buses that you can get on that cost $1 per stop (or a very inexpensive day pass) – you can take it around the loop it runs and it stops at all the major attractions and you can hop off and pick up another one. It isn’t the major hop-on-hop-off companies, like “Big Red Bus” – it is a city run thing and it is a FABULOUS way to get around and see the basics!!!

Anyway – back to the Cherry Blossoms — when Thursday came and it was time to take the tour, mother nature cooperated!!! The blossoms were not only out and gorgeous, they declared Thursday the official start of peak blooms!!! So — we hit the timing jackpot!!! And, the blossoms did not disappoint — they were so amazing!

And, BTW —- if you want to know where the best place to see the blossoms are, it is around the tidal basin in the National Mall……so start at the Jefferson Memorial and then go to the FDR Memorial and walk around the basin to the MLK Memorial and you will see them all!!! Over 3000 cherry trees all around the tidal basin and more in other areas around the National Mall…..and, I’m told there are more in Arlington National Cemetery, as well!

And, finally, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

We missed getting to see this memorial last year and it was a priority for me, this year! I was so happy to get to see it……again, disappointed we weren’t given time to really enjoy it, but we’ll definitely go back to see it again!

The FDR is a long, winding memorial that tells FDR’s story through both Presidencies, the war, the depression years, the new deal years……and includes ordinary people depicting scenes from the era and even a memorial to Eleanor – the only memorial to a first lady in the Capital….and lots and lots of his quotes and speech excerpts!

 

So, there you go! DC trip # 2…..2018……can’t wait to see what we experience next year!!!

 

A Different Approach

The source for my Daily Photo Challenge Topics has been less than challenging, lately…..and, this month it is the alphabet – AGAIN! So, I went searching for a different list of challenges and found one by a photography group that I think I’m going to like. Their 2018 list is “Places” and their 2017 list is “Things”! Their lists are intended to be a weekly challenge, so there are 52 topics on each list and they are not meant to necessarily be done in order – you just check them off as you do them so you don’t repeat. But….I plan to continue doing it daily and in order – as much as I can…..and do them together – again, as much as I can! So……I’ll target doing one “Place” and one “Thing” daily and see how it goes! I think I can get pretty creative with most of the topics on both lists……and I’m thinking they just may be challenging!

Here are my first two from April 1st:

“Cobblestone Schoolhouse”

An Old Building – Places List

“Heavenly”

Clouds – Things List

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And…..here are some other daily photos I’ve taken since my last post:

This Banana Toffee Pie was the best pie I’ve had in a very long time!!! The topic that day was “Oh My!” – perfect!

And…….the altar at my church on Easter Morning!

Catch ya on the flip side!!!

Beach Bound Love Bug

I met my friends, Tom and Janette, for lunch at Rohrbach’s in Gates, today. They just happen to have recently returned from their annual winter stay in Hawaii and they brought me back a cute little gift……something I saw he had posted a photo of on his blog while in Maui. I LOVE IT!!!! It just so happens that my Daily Photo Challenge topic for today is “I Wish” and I knew this was the perfect photo for it!!! I really do wish I had a cool VW Bug and I truly wish I could be driving it around the beaches on Maui……or anywhere tropical! hehehe Unfortunately, this one is a bank and can’t be driven, but……a girl can dream, can’t she?

The shot I used for my Daily Photo Challenge

Thanks so much for thinking of me, Tom and Janette……always a real joy to meet up with you! 😀

And, some other recent photos, while I’m here:

Taken today at a business next door to the restaurant where we had lunch!

Lunch yesterday at JoAndy’s — a great little place on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation

I’ll be back soon……

Maple Season Adventure

I went on my first adventure of the 2018 Adventure Season on Friday! Our Cobblestone Society hosted a day trip / bus tour for Maple Season. We started out at 9:00 am, made two stops, and got back home about 3:30 pm. And, it was a fantastic day!!! The weather cooperated – I won’t say it was “perfect”, because it was pretty cold, but the sun was shining all day and the sky was a gorgeous blue with just wisps of white clouds.

Here are some of the photos I took to capture our adventure to learn about all things maple….which, by the way, is a MAJOR produce for our state – second only to Vermont – and the Maple Tree is our state tree!!!

First stop was the Merle Maple Farm in Attica, NY, where we learned all about the process of tapping trees, getting the sap to the sugar shack, and producing pure maple syrup and maple sugar! This is the first I’ve heard words like “Permeate”, “Retentate”, and “RO” since I left the Pharmaceutical Industry…..I’m proud to say I understood everything he was saying about the process of extracting and purifying the sap into syrup products!!! 😀

As fate would have it, my Daily Photo Challenge topic for Friday was “Candy”!!! This was my choice for the challenge – Maple Sugar Candy!

The next stop was Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn in Angelica (Short Track), NY where we had all-you-can-eat Buckwheat Pancakes with fresh pure maple syrup…..and some ham and sausage, too! I’ve had pure maple syrup in the past (at Cartwright’s, as a matter of fact) and thought it was OK, but still preferred the taste of Aunt Jemmiah – I thought the artificial stuff had a better flavor and is thicker! But, this was AMAZING!!! I do believe it has changed my mind about pure maple syrup!!! And, the pancakes…..OMG……what a meal — I ate four – two more than I should have, but I couldn’t help myself! A few of us also went downstairs to see the antique equipment and the processing room.

I’ll leave you with this chart found at Merle’s……..it shows the difference between the different natural sweeteners! Maple Syrup may be second highest in calories, but it is soooooo rich in nutrients – they are definitely NOT empty calories! We also learned that maple syrup can enhance most any flavors — adding maple syrup to your recipes will bring out the flavor of whatever you’re making without adding an overwhelming maple flavor. It is especially good with any tomato based foods – it can enhance the flavor and balance out the acidity to result in a truly amazingly tasting meal!

All this talk and touring of Sugar Shacks brought this wonderful old song to mind……

Birds of a Feather…..

If you read my earlier post, today, you know that I had a “free” day with nothing on my calendar, but a lot that I could have done to catch up after a busy month! Well, I did take advantage of the day with no set plans……but not to catch up……I turned it into a “me” day!

First, I ran a few errands and had some lunch. Then, picked up a platter I painted last week and drove out to the Rez for gas.

Then, I spent a lot of time hopping from one overlook to the next at the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge looking for birds and cool things to photograph…..I found a few overlooks that I haven’t been to before and saw a LOT of geese and several swans and other cool stuff I thought might make a good photo…..and, they did!!! The weather was good for it — cold, but very sunny and the water and sky were the most gorgeous blue!!! Here are some of the photos I took:

I ended the day by picking up a take-out plate from the Albion Rotary Club annual ham dinner…..YUM!

Other than being hit on by a real creepy guy – twice – at two different overlooks (same creeper), it was an amazing day!!!

Playing Catch Up

March has been an unbelievably busy month…..as I sit here looking over the calendar, I see that I had very little white space and lots of scribbles with times and notations and events and I wonder “when did I get anything routine done?”!!! But, I did! Isn’t it funny? No matter how busy we are…..no matter how much we think there just isn’t enough hours in the day…..we always seem to find time for what needs to get done…..and for what we really want to do! That last part seems to be the key…..we make time for the things we REALLY want to do – the things that are important or that NEED to be done……the rest just falls aside or waits to politely leave space for the good stuff and the necessary stuff! And, that is the main reason that my calendar ALSO has quite a bit of white-out and crossed out times that are replaced by something better or more necessary that came up! Life is short…..do what matters and forget the rest!

So, now I’m playing catch up with the things that waited politely for their time to fit into the plan! I am happy to report that, today, I have NOTHING on my calendar! NOTHING! See?

So, today I play catch up…..or maybe I let myself get sidetracked and do something fun…..doesn’t matter…..cause I have NOTHING on my calendar! 😀

I do have to go to Medina to pick up a platter I painted at a Paint Night last week, so who knows what that little side trip might open the doors to…..we’ll just have to see where the day takes me!

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But, for now, let’s talk PEARLS……I love pearls – they are so classic and are appropriate to wear with anything and everything! Pearls can add the finishing touch to an elegant little black dress or add some fun to a pair of jeans and a t-shirt! Some of the most elegant woman of our time rarely were seen without pearls….and were quoted attesting their love of pearls:

So, why am I going on and on about pearls this morning? Well, I recently discovered a new on-line trend on Facebook – pearl shucking!!! You join a Facebook party with a consultant – I follow a local girl who does it, but you can find ones from all over the country! Then, if you want to, you choose a piece of jewelry from their on-line catalog. The consultant, then, goes through the orders in the order she receives them……she sets out a variety of oysters and describes them all…..when it is your turn, you pick out the oyster you want her to shuck and she opens it to find your pearl! It is so exciting waiting to see what you get — it could be white or a variety of natural colors and could range in sizes! Whatever you get in your oyster is what she sends off to have set in the jewelry piece you selected! Even if you don’t choose to get a piece of jewelry, it is fun watching what everyone else gets…..but, if it is YOUR oyster, the anticipation is sooooooo exciting……and addicting!!! 😀 I have gotten several pieces – most have not arrived, yet, but the ones I have received are really awesome! My oysters have provided me with white, cream, peach, lavender, and even black pearls – I even got twins once!!! So far, my favorite pieces are a “Companion Ring”  with a large cream pearl and a slightly smaller peach pearl and this “Angel by My Side” necklace I got in honor of my Mom (my first purchase)!

I can not wait to get the other pieces I have on the way!

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Now, here are some of my favorite photos from the Daily Photo Challenge over the past couple of weeks….I’ll include the topics that inspired them:

Two

Food

Loud

Silent

Starts with B

HA!

Green

Bread

Season

Oh No!

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So, until next time…….remember:

Some Assembly Required Nightmare

OK, so I needed a new desk chair…..the old one was just that – OLD – it didn’t swivel well anymore, wouldn’t roll easily, it was lumpy and not very comfortable anymore and the leather on the arms was worn/torn to the point that all that was left was the foam that I couldn’t stop myself from picking at! It was at least 15 years old…..maybe more…..you know that is like 150 in chair years!!! So, I searched and found a new one I liked on the Office Depot web site and ordered it. It came in like 3 days! I was busy over the weekend, so didn’t think about assembling it until today.

First…..the box was mangled when it got here – one of the spokes on the base was sticking out a hole in the side and the top looked like it had been torn opened and taped back up by a pack of wild gorillas leaving gaps and holes! I was sure there were going to be pieces missing, but surprisingly it was all there and nothing was damaged – all good!

I mentioned needing to assemble a new chair to my brother this afternoon and he offered to come over and help, but…….macho me…….I said, no – I think I can do it – I’ve assembled chairs before – I’ll just call you if I run into trouble! Hindsight, being 20/20 – so they say, I know, now that was an offer I should not have refused! The box and description said that everything I would need is included – no additional tools or materials would be necessary!

I soon found out they failed to mention that I would need to solicit the services of an octopus…..or two……to help me complete the assembly!

I carefully removed all the pieces, checked them off the diagram to ensure I had everything, laid them out in the order of the assembly per the directions I read fully before starting, and got started!

The first caster I pressed into place on the base pinched my finger – OUCH! I was more careful with the other three. First step done with just that minor drama.

I then put the gas cylinder in the base – went in like a charm…..no issues!

Then, I had to screw the adjustment mechanism thingy to the bottom of the chair —- on the last chair I assembled, I did this backwards and had to redo it, so I read the directions and looked at the diagram carefully to not make the same mistake……luckily, this one had a tag that said “front” – something the other one lacked! I carefully placed the mechanism on the bottom of the seat with the tension adjuster facing the front and screwed in all four screws……and, as soon as I finished tightening the last screw I realized they meant the round knob that adjusts the rocking tension…..not the lever that adjusts the height…..and I, despite my care to ensure the contrary, I had it on backwards!!! UGH!!! So, I removed it, turned it, and reinstalled it! No biggie……at least this time I realized it before the rest of the chair was assembled and tilted the wrong way (which is what happened the last time…..and, believe me…..it is MUCH easier to put something together the right way the first time than take it apart and try to put it back together out of order!). So, crisis averted and on I went!

The seat went on the gas cylinder easily and was done in a flash! Confidence restored!

The step where I had to put the arms on, however, is where the whole project started to head south! The directions just say to affix the arms to the sides of the seat with the screws – they do not say that it is virtually impossible for one person with just two hands to hold the arm in place beside a base that is on casters (and in my case, on a wood floor – not carpeting) while inserting and turning a screw with an allen wrench! Even using my feet and knees, I could not keep the chair from running away from me and keep the arm in place and keep the allen wrench and screw from spending more time on the floor than doing their jobs!!! But……I’m a smart lady – I have some mechanical experience and I have three advanced degrees – I should be able to figure this out! And, I did!!! I laid the base on its side and screwed the arms on from what was now the “top”…..problem solved…..arms securely in place!

Putting the back on looked easy on paper……I had to lay it face down on the seat and screw in the first two screws (no more hovering in mid air trying to screw it in place, like the arms) and then carefully pivot it up into place and screw in the last two screws! Piece of cake, right? WRONG!!! What they failed, again, to mention was that octopus that would have been a HUGE help with this step — the WORST and most frustrating step of all! You see, because of the padding on the back and the seat, the holes were several inches from lining up so I could get the screw started! I literally had to compress the cushions, hold the rolling chair still, and screw the screws into holes I couldn’t see using that allen wrench that really prefers to keep jumping out of my hand to the floor than behaving and doing what it is meant to do……all at the same time……with just two hands!!! Images from old comedy routines where it takes three people to sit on and close an over-stuffed suitcase or trunk….except, they didn’t have the added complication of casters on a wood floor!!! I was seriously considering rolling the whole mess out the back door and giving up……but, the old chair – which may have been a mess, but it was fully assembled (by me, by the way) – was no longer available to go back to……it went to the road with the trash yesterday and some lucky pickers snatched it up before the trash guys came today!

But……after some slightly colorful language, a lot of sweat, and some stress that resulted in a little headache……the chair assembly was completed! I ensured all the screws were fully tightened……I didn’t have any parts left over…….all my fingers and limbs are still intact (although I do have a little blood blister from the pinch from step one)….the adjustment mechanism worked to get it to the height I’m comfortable with……the seat is tilted the right way and nothing is backwards…….and the chair is just as comfortable as it claimed and looked on the web site…….success!!! It only took me about 45 minutes to complete – although it seemed like several hours – and that was with a couple interruptions and one “I’m done” trip to sit at the computer to “cool off”!

WHEW!!! I have a GREAT chair and about a 1,200 word blog post to show for my troubles! Now, if I can just remember to remind myself of this experience the next time I think it is a good idea to purchase something that has to be assembled, I’ll be just fine!!! 😀

My wonderful new chair……may it last me the rest of my life!!!

Until I have something else entertaining to write about…….I wish you all well and hope you never have to hear the words “some assembly required”!